Monthly Archives: June 2016

Brexit, aboriginal day, Colombia, a poem: Matters of Facts, and Opinions

Dawn breaks behind the Houses of Parliament and the statue of Winston Churchill in Westminster, London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Dawn breaks behind the Houses of Parliament and the statue of Winston Churchill in Westminster, London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

‘Explosive shock’ as Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton  Report

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

 Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

Brexit Factbox: Who, where, when why – and what next, by Alastair MacDonald, Report

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain. Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory.

An American “Brexit” revolt? Not likely, by Tom Regan, F&O Summoning Orenda columnist

Immediately after the Brexit vote, to take Britain out of the European Union, the hyperventilating United States  media found umpteen different ways to say “It could happen here.” This American media chorus is wrong.

Joyful rebels sign ceasefire with Colombian government, by Marc Frank and Carlos Vargas, report

A historic ceasefire deal brought Colombia’s government and leftist FARC rebels close to ending the longest running conflict in the Americas. Capping three years of peace talks in Cuba, it sparked celebrations, and set the stage for a final deal to end a guerrilla war born in the 1960s out of frustration with deep socio-economic inequalities.

Note to our readers: Facts and Opinions will take a summer break next week, returning on July 10.

Commentary:

The Revolt of (some of) the 4.5%, by Jim McNiven, Thoughtlines  Column

One of the American presumptive presidential candidates has been creating a big nationalist fuss about ‘Making America Great Again’. Somehow, according to this interpretation, the country’s just not given the respect it had in the past….

Canada’s National Aboriginal Day, by Deborah Jones/Free Range Column

Time, some vast and today unfathomable sweep of time, may eventually heal the wounds in the people, families and communities left by Canada’s treatment of its first peoples; of even the theft, abuse and murder of generations of children. For now, on the first day of summer each year, Canada celebrates National Aboriginal Day.

Singing is the best revenge, by Penney Kome/Over Easy Column

Heightened security will greet a major Denver music festival, from  July 2 – 6. For a week, the U.S. city’s music venues will showcase 6000 singers in 130 groups.

Arts: 

 

Georgia O'Keeffe - Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie's II, 1930 Oil on canvas mounted on board. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Burnett Foundation ©Georgia O'Keeffe Museum via The Tate

The Tate Modern in London debuts its Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition July 6. Said the museum, “with no works by O’Keeffe in UK public collections this exhibition is a rare opportunity to see over 100 of her remarkable paintings outside the US.” Image: Georgia O’Keeffe – Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930 Oil on canvas mounted on board. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Gift of The Burnett Foundation ©Georgia O’Keeffe Museum….. visit the Tate site.

Fearful Symmetry — a poem, by Stephen Collis, excerpt

A poem  from the Chapbook New Life, available this month by Above/Ground Press.

Note to our readers: Facts and Opinions will take a summer break next week, returning on July 10.

FINDINGS:

NASA updated our image of the Big Blue Marble this month. Read Jim McNiven on Robert Goddard's role in the technology that made possible space exploration.

NASA updated our image of the Big Blue Marble this month. Read Jim McNiven on Robert Goddard’s role in the technology that made possible space exploration.

“Act locally, think globally.” We’ve all heard that one. But the mayors of more than 7,100 cities, in 119 countries, just put it into practice, announcing their commitment to tackle climate change. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy represents some 600 million people, more than 8 per cent of the world’s population. Read about it on the covenant site.

Also on the climate front, a new paper in the science journal Nature Climate Change, Why the right climate target was agreed in Paris may convey hope. The researchers, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said limiting temperature rise within survivable limits “is possible, yet requires transformational change across the board of modernity.” Their work, remarked a Washington Post report, suggests that the  Paris climate agreement has what it takes to stabilize climate change. “That’s a pretty big deal,” wrote Chris Mooney.

Brexit became a household word overnight. But in the larger context, are all of Europe’s fault lines deepening dangerously?  Conflict experts told Common Space the European Union is in for a rocky time, even without Brexit, due to “nationalistic and racist politics” and with economic conditions …. continue reading at Common Space.

When even the IMF warns America about its poverty levels, people listen. The U.S. economy “is in good shape” — but is threatened in future by declining labor force participation, falling productivity growth, polarization in the distribution of income and wealth, and high levels of poverty, said the International Monetary Fund, after an annual analysis. It said about one in seven people are impoverished, and recommended raising the minimum wage and offering paid maternity leave. … find the IMF press release here.

William Koch’s recent sale of 20,000 bottles of wine for $21.9 million prompted Oliver Roeder of FiveThirtyEight to look into this rarefied underground.  “… wat I found was a high-end wine market, and a blockbuster auction, with notes of geography, chemistry, economics, culture and thousands of years of history — with a detectable aroma of bullshit.” …. read The Weird World of Expensive Wine.

Elsewhere, Nepal banned its citizens from working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria because of the recent slaughter of 13 Nepalis and the ongoing terrorist threat. Thousands of migrants were rescued on the Mediterranean this week. South Africa’s top court ruled that 800 corruption charges against  President Jacob Zuma will stand. Game of Thrones production will not be affected by Brexit, said HBO, responding to stories warning filming in the UK would be disrupted. Pope Francis named the mass killings of Armenians — a red hot button in Turkey — “genocide.” Rulings by America’s top court put paid to an amnesty plan, and upheld affirmative action at a Texas university — a case, reports ProPublica, not quite as the plaintiffs presented it.   In Bangladesh, Buddhist monks served food to Muslims breaking their fast at sunset.

— Deborah Jones

Updated June 25 to include Tom Regan’s column

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

In England’s Mean and Truculent Land

Vote leave supporters stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union.     REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

Vote leave supporters stand outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
June 24, 2016

When I was born in 1944 my parents lived a few hundred yards from where George Vancouver grew up in Kings Lynn, on England’s North Sea coast where the thrills of the horizon and the world beckon.

In moments of inexcusable hubris, I sometimes fantasize that Vancouver and I, two Norfolk boys raised a few streets apart, neatly bracket the story of the British Empire.

The difference is that he was one of the heroes of the beginning while I, even in my most illustrious moments, am only a chronicler of the end. By some lights, my life has been a long last dance.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of 10 Downing Street with his wife Samantha as he prepares to speak after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, Britain June 24, 2016.    REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron walks out of 10 Downing Street with his wife Samantha as he prepares to speak after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

In my early years after the Second World War Britain’s Empire was still almost intact. And even though my school days were buffeted by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s 1960 “winds of change” speech to the South African parliament, some of my classmates went off to be the last generation of British district officers in West Africa and elsewhere. The era of imperial decline was unstoppable, and quite rightly so. After over 50 years as a journalist – 40 of them as a foreign correspondent – I have lost count of the number of times and places where I have seen the union jack rung down at midnight.

The shrinking and diminishing of Britain stopped, however, when it joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973.

The early years were tough as the British economy adjusted to the new realities and Margaret Thatcher’s political revolution in the 1980s changed Britain’s view of itself and the world. But membership of what is now the European Union (EU) has been good for Britain, and the booming, modernized British economy has been good for the EU.

So what happened on Thursday, when British voters opted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU, is perplexing. It looks like a short-sighted and self-destructive act of mindless petulance.

The English urban blue collar, Labour Party supporters and rural Conservatives who powered this drive to leave the EU appear to have been driven by a sense of frustrated powerlessness. The opportunity to kick the establishment classes in the shins – if not higher – was too tempting to miss. The majority is lashing out in blind rage, not a considered valuation of the future of the country.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron called the referendum at a time when it appeared – briefly – that his party might lose support to the right-wing and charmless United Kingdom Independence Party. His prime purpose, though, was to silence noisy and rebellious Tories on his own backbenches and among his cabinet ministers.

But Cameron and the monumentally underwhelming Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn both clearly felt that the benefits of EU membership are so self-evident that serious campaigning for the “Remain” ticket was unnecessary. Cameron made only half-hearted attempts earlier this year to negotiate a new deal with Brussels aimed at securing British sovereignty over issues like immigration. He came away with nothing substantial. This was just the kind of thoughtless lack of attention to public opinion that so irritates many voters.

Both Cameron and Corbyn will pay for their disdain with their jobs. Cameron announced on Friday morning he will step down by the time of the Tory party annual conference in October. Corbyn too is toast, though he may not realize it yet.

Among the many stupidities in Cameron’s management of the referendum was allowing a simple majority for victory. The “Leave” vote of 52 per cent is decisive, but it is also divisive. Nearly half the population wants to stay in Europe. Lines have been drawn for turmoil in British politics for years to come. On a matter of this importance to the future and stability of the country a two-thirds majority for change would have made much more sense.

The majority of voters dismissed the economic arguments for Britain remaining in the EU as irrelevant to their concerns. What bugs the majority is the perception that the country is being flooded by immigrants, over whose entry the British people have no control. Brussels is blamed for foisting this cultural erosion on Britain and constantly sucking more and more sovereign powers from the Westminster parliament. And to add injury to insult, Britain, the EU’s second largest economy, contributes massively to Brussels’ coffers for the privilege of being abused.

None of these beliefs stands up to much scrutiny. They are the same kind of mythologies that energize Donald Trump’s supporters in the United States.

They may be myths, but they have changed the world. Britain’s departure from the EU will be a journey across new territory full of terrors and treacherous terrain.

To start with, there is now huge political uncertainty in Britain.

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group's headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016.       REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Vote Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson speaks at the group’s headquarters in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

The most likely person to succeed Cameron as Tory party leader and Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, the engaging but thoroughly untrustworthy former Mayor of London. Johnson made himself leader of the “Leave” campaign, though a widely held view by those who have watched him from up close is that he is driven by political ambition rather than Eurosceptic philosophy.

The indications so far are that Johnson will seek what is known as an “EU-lite” relationship with Europe. Two non-EU members, Norway and Switzerland have this kind of free market relationship with the EU. However, these deals require Norway and Switzerland to confirm to most EU rules, including the free movement of people which so infuriates the majority of British voters. Switzerland and Norway are also required to pay Brussels large amounts of money to finance the relationship. But neither country sends members to the European Parliament or has officials in the Brussels bureaucracy. The result is that Switzerland and Norway have to comply with the EU’s diktats without having any voice or influence in their creation.

It seems highly unlikely that British voters will think that still having to obey the EU’s rules without having any say in their writing is any advance on what they have now.

All this will play out over the next four years. The process for Britain’s departure will be set in motion when the London government invokes Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. This envisages a two-year period when London will negotiate with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the remaining 27 EU members the terms of Britain’s departure and its future relationship with the EU. That timetable is not fixed and it will probably extend into three years or so. But the new Conservative government will probably want to get the deal done before the next British election due in May, 2020.

By that time there may not be a Britain as we know it now. Among the several social and political divisions revealed in the results of the referendum vote is a clear divide between England and Scotland. The Scots voted 62 per cent to stay in the EU with only 38 per cent opting to quit.

Leave supporters cheer results at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Leave supporters cheer results at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

In 2014 a referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom was defeated only narrowly. The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, who is also First Minister of the regional government, said on Friday that a new independence referendum is now “highly likely.” Given the Scots’ attachment to the EU, it is almost certain they would opt to leave the United Kingdom, which they joined in 1603.

Similar reassessments will go on in Northern Ireland. With Britain out of the EU, Northern Ireland’s border with the Irish Republic will close. The free movement of people and goods across the border is an important element in the peace arrangements that brought an end to the 30-year-long terrorist war between Irish Nationalists and Ulster Unionists. The closing of the border again will prompt the people of Northern Ireland, including the unionists, to re-evaluate where their long-term interests lie.

By the time Britain departs the EU it might consist only of England and Wales, though it is by no means certain that the Welsh are dedicated partners in the Brexit adventure.

The country that finally leaves the EU could well be only an English recalcitrant rump of Britain.

However unappetizing, the Brexit example is seen by many as a danger to the entire EU project. Euroscepticism is flourishing in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. There will undoubtedly be pressure in all three countries for their own referenda on quitting the EU.

In other countries central to the EU project and the continued integration of the member states, such as Germany, France and Italy, there are unlikely to be demands for departure votes. But in all three of those countries, as well as in other EU member states such as Hungary and Poland, right wing parties are winning growing support. This is largely a result of the EU’s shambolic response to the flood of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, but it is challenging the assumption, by the high priests of the EU, that ever faster and deeper integration is the only way forward.

Britain is the EU’s second largest economy, after Germany, and its departure is going to rattle the economic underpinnings of Europe until a new relationship is worked out. Brexit will also force the EU architects to re-examine what they are building, and to whose benefit. The EU needs to tackle its democratic deficit that allows nonsense like the creation of the unsustainable euro common currency and other efforts to force members into a political union for which they are neither ready nor willing.

Britain under several prime ministers of all political stripes has been quarrelling with Brussels almost from the moment the country joined the EU. It is a grim commentary on the culture of the EU that Britain has to stamp its foot and storm out of the room to get attention. If that is the outcome of Brexit, then something positive may yet come out of what looks at the moment like a debacle.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact — including for syndication/republishing of Jonathan Manthorpe’s columns –message: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Related on F&O:

Small Stampede for the Brexit, by Jonathan Manthorpe, June 11, 2016

It is unlikely that Britons are going to give a conclusive answer to the question whether they should remain in the European Union or leave it when they mark their referendum ballots on June 23.

Sadiq Khan: British dream reality for London’s first Muslim mayor, by Parveen Akhtar

In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor. …read more

The Trump virus goes global, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Trumpery – the political disease that is convulsing the United States and which is characterized by  incompetence, boastfulness and danger – appears to be mutating into a world-wide epidemic. Like America’s Donald Trump, London’s Boris Johnson and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines are riding a wave of public disgust for traditional politicians.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

The Boris Show heads for prime time, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who unashamedly lusts to be Tory Prime Minister of Britain, clearly relishes his role as a source of public entertainment. In his nearly two decades in the public eye, Johnson has made buffoonery a high political art form. And public delight at his verbal indiscretions, temperamental inability to parrot contemporary political correctness, willingness to make a fool of himself, and genial, basset-hound features have aligned into considerable political backing.

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists.  Details here.

 

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , |

Brexit (UK referendum on European Union), etc.

By Diliff - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35972521

The hemicycle of the European Parliament. Photo: Diliff/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia

Citizens of the United Kingdom vote tomorrow today* on Brexit, the referendum on whether Britain should leave Europe. The impact, no matter which way the vote goes, is already global.

We’ll have a wrapup on the weekend. Meantime, here are some suggestions of where to follow the breaking news:

In case you missed it:

Here’s F&O’s International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe’s take on Brexit, from June 11, and an academic’s analysis last month on forecasts.

Small Stampede for the Brexit, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O, column

It is unlikely that Britons are going to give a conclusive answer to the question whether they should remain in the European Union or leave it when they mark their referendum ballots on June 23.

Which Brexit forecast is trustworthy? by Nauro Campos, Brunel University London.

At one extreme, Economists for Brexit predict that the main economic consequence of Brexit is that UK incomes in 2030 will be about 4% higher. In the middle, studies suggest UK incomes by 2030 will be will be unaffected. And At the other extreme, various studies (including the Treasury, the LSE, the OECD, and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research reports) indicate substantial losses to the UK economy, of about 7% by 2030. How does one think this through? An economist offers suggestions.

Our new works in the past week:

Last but not least, recommended: a Finding:

*updated/edited June 23

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Tagged , |

Canada’s National Aboriginal Day

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
June 21, 2016

It’s fitting that today, on Canada’s 20th National Aboriginal Day, Historica Canada released a new Heritage Minute video about the death of a young man.

It tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack.  Historica Canada, the non-profit organization that produces Heritage Minutes, noted that his death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.

The greatest stain on Canada is that for 100 years the state not merely sanctioned but often sent police to seize aboriginal children from their families, then imprisoned them in residential schools run by religious and state institutions.

Some children were sent by willing families, some received valuable educations, some benefitted. But it’s well-documented how many of those children were sexually, physically, and mentally abused, and/or neglected — often to the point of murder. It’s well documented that many never made it home at all, and how few of the survivors came home intact.

It’s a horror spelled “GENOCIDE” that Canadians and Canadian institutions did their best, with few exceptions, from almost the first contact with European peoples, to wipe out not only aboriginal culture but entire peoples.

And it’s an incalculable loss that as a modern country took shape in a globalized world, the knowledge and culture of aboriginal Canadians was ignored, often suppressed; that the leadership potential of aboriginal women and men was squandered.

Is it possible that Canada is now turning a corner?

While protesting that they were not fully included in government meetings, First Nations were at the table before a rare First Minister's meeting March 2, 2016, in Vancouver. Above, President Natan Obed of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Métis National Council President Clément Chartier, and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde. © Deborah Jones 2016

President Natan Obed of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Métis National Council President Clément Chartier, and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, in Vancouver prior to a First Minister’s government conference. © Deborah Jones 2016

Can we call this progress? While protesting that they were not fully included in government meetings, First Nations were at the table before a rare First Minister’s meeting in March, in Vancouver. They were not full partners, but their voice was loud and clear.

Is the existence of a day for aboriginals progress?

Here’s what is new, to me as a Canadian born to immigrant parents, who as a teen attended a public school in the NorthWest Territories with a large aboriginal residential school population: instead of being ignored, downplayed, sneered at or frowned upon by most of the public, it’s now possible for Canada to hold a National Aboriginal Day that is a coast-to-coast celebration of aboriginal culture and of the accomplishments in all realms of aboriginal Canadians.

Anecdotally I observe that First Nations — legally called Metis, Inuit and Indian — are increasingly accepted and sometimes celebrated by non-aboriginal Canadians as fellow citizens, with unique status, in Canada’s multicultural fabric. An example: when the new federal cabinet was sworn in in 2015, First Nations culture prominently featured in music and dance.

Some of this acceptance has been forced on the country: over decades, decisions by courts at all levels upheld numerous aboriginal rights and land claims, such as the 2014  Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Progress is a tricky concept, and there’s a long and harrowing road to reach normalcy, let alone some version of redemption. The damage runs deep.

Each Valntine's Day the Women's Memorial March is held in Canadian communities. It began in the early 90s in Vancouver's Downtown East Side to honour, remember and protest the scores of women who have gone missing from the area. © Deborah Jones 2016

Each Valentine’s Day the Women’s Memorial March is held in Canadian communities. It began in the early 90s in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side to honour, remember and protest the scores of women who have gone missing from the area, including the victims of serial killer and pig farmer Robert Pickton. Above, marchers in Vancouver on Feb. 14, 2016. © Deborah Jones 2016

A two-year federal national inquiry is slowly getting underway into missing and murdered  aboriginal women in Canada  — some 1,200 women and girls, estimated a 2014 Royal Canadian Mounted Police report; fully 4,000, says the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Meanwhile, plenty of people protest that aboriginal men, too, have gone missing or been murdered, in unknown numbers but which are certainly greater than for non-aboriginal men.

Statistically, the picture is grim for aboriginal Canadians. A quick scan of any census or report shows that the nearly 1.5 million Indian, Inuit and Métis Canadians fare far less well than all others in terms of longevity, health, education and prison incarceration.

Time, some vast and today unfathomable sweep of time, may eventually heal the wounds in the people, families and communities left by Canada’s treatment of its first peoples; of even the theft, abuse and murder of generations of children.

For now, on the first day of summer each year, Canada celebrates National Aboriginal Day.

It’s something.

Copyright Deborah Jones 2016

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com (including for reprint inquiries.)

Further information:

Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (summary)

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, British Columbia, commissioner Wally Oppal, 2012

Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times (2008), by Olive Dickason and David T. McNab

A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada (2008), by John Ralston Saul

Related stories from our archives:

Canadian Court Expands Aboriginal Rights. By Deborah Jones (2014)

Canada’s top court greatly expanded aboriginal rights in Canada’s westernmost province, in what may stand as a landmark decision affecting control of a vast swath of land and resources, in British Columbia and beyond. The case, Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, was sparked in 1983 when the provincial government licenced a commercial company to log the Chilcotin. The licence was disputed by the Chilcotin residents who lived there long before the mid 1800s when — without their consent — England claimed the land as a colony, and named it British Columbia.

The Case of the Serial Killings: Gruesome details in Pickton pig farmer trial. By Deborah Jones. (2007)

Wedged between white-capped mountains and sparkling blue ocean, Vancouver is lauded for multicultural livability, ranked worldwide as a top travel destination and is preparing to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. But lately a grim pall has blanketed the western Canadian city of 2.2 million, for reasons far worse than the freak winter storms. The harrowing details of a grotesque serial killer case are bringing to the surface the city’s seamy underworld, usually confined to the squalid 10-block open drug and sex market known as the Downtown Eastside. The seaminess surrounds the trial of pig farmer Robert William Pickton, charged with murdering 26 drug-addicted prostitutes.

~~~

DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a founder and the managing partner, editorial, of Facts and Opinions. Her bio is here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , |

Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

Commentary and analysis:

hc_Al_Hussein_smllVerbatim: Hate, mainstreamed — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. By Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein  Excerpts

Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers. Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions which act as checks on executive power are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods. These trends bleed nations of their innate resilience.

O Canada … Oh, grow up , by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda F&O columnist

Canada’s debate over changing its anthem to make it gender neutral is immature. Seldom has so much ink and indignation been spilled over such a simple matter. Making Canada’s national anthem more open to all people is of course a good idea. It is the very essence of Canada itself.

African democratic reform falters and falls, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Two events make it depressingly clear that after political and social advances Africa is slipping back into its bad old ways. On Thursday, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced that yet again there is no one worthy of receiving its latest prestigious and lucrative prize for excellence in African leadership. And in Angola, President Eduardo dos Santos put his daughter, Isabel, in charge of the state-owned oil company.

 

Mo Ibrahim. Photo Chatham House via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Mo Ibrahim. Photo Chatham House via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

 

Hissène Habré: a pivotal case for international justice in Africa,  by Pierre Hazan  Analysis

On May 30, in an African court, history was made. In an unprecedented move, a former president was convicted of human rights abuses by a foreign court. In another historic ruling, the accused was also sentenced on counts of sexual abuse and the rape of a prisoner. The conviction of Chad’s former dictator, Hissène Habré, comes at a crucial time for international justice in Africa.

Squib: Bloomsday, by Deborah Jones, Free Range F&O columnist

I would like to love Ulysses. I don’t. Perhaps James Joyce was just playing a big joke on us?

Reports

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Massacre at U.S. nightclub, ISIS claims responsibility. By Barbara Liston

A man armed with an assault rifle killed and injured scores of people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which President Barack Obama described as an act of terror and hate.

A cluster bomb is pictured on the ground of a field in al-Tmanah town in southern Idlib countryside, Syria May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi - RTSFBBFFinancial firms invest $28 billion in making banned cluster bombs. By Alex Whiting

More than 155 financial institutions have invested billions of dollars in companies making cluster bombs, weapons which are banned under international law because of their impact on civilians, a pressure group said. The firms include those in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and Britain, countries which have signed a convention banning the weapons.

Going green helps Rust Belt cities revive. By Winifred Bird

Gary, Indiana is joining Detroit and other fading U.S. industrial centers in an effort to turn abandoned neighborhoods and factory sites into gardens, parks, and forests. In addition to the environmental benefits, these greening initiatives may help catalyze an economic recovery.

Kate Lynn Blatt, a transgender woman, walks up to Salem Belleman's Church in Mohrsville, Pennsylvania, United States, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton Fighting for transgender rights in the U.S. By Reuters  Report/Photo-essay

Kate Lynn Blatt once lived as a woman at home but went to work in a battery factory as a man, a painful phase in her gender transition that would later propel her to the forefront of a constitutional battle for transgender rights in America.

Expert witness

Sexuality as a spectrum, and the wisdom of Indonesian Bugis. By Sharyn Graham Davies  Expert Witness

What if gender were viewed the same way sex researcher Alfred Kinsey famously depicted sexuality – as something along a sliding scale? An ethnic group in South Sulawesi, Indonesia – the Bugis – views gender this way. This spectrum of sex is a good way of thinking about the complexity and diversity of humans.

Magazine

U.S. Army armored personnel carrier (APC) spraying Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Photo: U.S. Army Operations in Vietnam R.W. Trewyn, Ph.D. , (10) APC Defoliation National Archives: 111-CC-4966 originally found in Box 1 Folder 9 of Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. CollectionA Father’s War, A Son’s Toxic Inheritance. By Stephen M. Katz for ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot, as told to Mike Hixenbaugh and Charles Ornstein  Magazine

The package from my father delivered a warning: A handwritten note attached to a stack of Veterans Affairs medical records. During the war, before I was born, Al had sprayed Agent Orange along riverbanks in Vietnam, often soaking his uniform in the herbicide. The exposure, he wrote, had caused him serious health problems, including a neurological disorder, and he believed it also might have harmed me. My mind raced as I thought of my own troubled medical history.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

African democratic reform falters and falls

Mo Ibrahim. Photo Chatham House via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

Mo Ibrahim. Photo Chatham House via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
June 17, 2016

Two events in the last few days make it depressingly clear that after a few years of great political and social advances, Africa is slipping back into its bad old ways.

On Thursday, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced that yet again there is no one worthy of receiving its latest prestigious and lucrative prize for excellence in African leadership. Only four times since the award was launched 10 years ago have the judges found democratically elected leaders who qualified by having willingly left office when their mandate ended.

The second event this week gave focus to the foundation’s bleak assessment. In Angola, President Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the south-west African oil state for nearly 40 years, announced that his daughter, Isabel, 43, will be put in charge of the state-owned oil company Sonangol. To all intents, Sonangol is the Angolan economy and Isabel dos Santos is already judged by Forbes to be Africa’s richest woman by dint of being daughter of the president. Putting Isabel in charge of Sonangol looks very much as though Eduardo dos Santos is securing both the succession and the family fortune.

Please chip in at least .27 cents to continue reading. Real journalism — reporting and analysis — is not free, and it’s not supported by either governments or the tooth fairy. Details below, or click here.

The thumbs down on Africa’s leadership by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation follows the publication in April of its regular assessment of the state of governance and human and social rights in Africa. The latest exhaustive assessment concluded that while overall governance in Africa improved between 2000 and 2008, “since then it has been stagnating.”

Indeed, over much of Africa there has been a marked deterioration in human and political rights, the rule of law and sustainable economic opportunity.

The improvements in governance in Africa in the first years of the century flowed from enthusiasm for the newly-created New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). The inspiration for this initiative was that the time had come for Africa to take responsibility for its own future. To that end, NEPAD committed Africa’s 54 countries to pursuing good government, democracy, human rights, conflict resolution, and an attractive environment for economic growth.

It is on these principles that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has judged the continent’s progress and, in the last few years, lack of it.

In a commentary on the foundation’s analysis, the British-based Oxford Analytica, which describes itself as “a global analysis and advisory firm drawing on a macro expert network to advise clients on strategy and performance in complex markets,” foresees Africa returning to an era of instability.

Oxford Analytica points to rising authoritarianism, declining respect for civil liberties and opposition disillusionment with electoral politics highlighted in the foundation report.

While much of this abandonment of the NEPAD principles is undoubtedly home-grown, Oxford Analytica points to two external forces. One is the reduced emphasis by Western donor countries on human and political rights development as a prerequisite for aid. The other is the increased availability of aid from authoritarian regimes like China and Saudi Arabia. Beijing and Riyadh put no stock in encouraging the development of broadly democratic values and are much happier dealing with pliable petty despots than with open and representative systems.

It is not only in Africa, of course, that countries have discovered that money from the current Chinese and Saudi regimes comes with a heavy dose of the corruption virus.

Mo Ibrahim, 70, has been described as Britain’s “most powerful black man.” He was born in Sudan, then a British colony in all but name, of a Nubian family. He got his first science degree at Alexandria University in Egypt, then also a British domain. Ibrahim went on to get his masters degree in electrical engineering at the University of Bradford in England, and a doctorate in mobile communications from the University of Birmingham.

With mobile communications clearly the coming thing, Ibrahim was snapped up by British Telecom, the state telephone company, and became technical director of its Cellnet subsidiary. But in the late 1980s Ibrahim struck out by himself, founding his own consultancy and software company, which he later sold to the electronics giant Marconi for a small fortune.

In the later 1990s Ibrahim founded what has become Celtel. This company aimed at Africa where it has sold over 24 million cell phones in 14 countries. In 2005 he sold Celtel for $US3.4 billion, and set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation with an endowment of about half that money.

The aim of the foundation is to encourage the NEPAD principles, and one of those is to persuade Africa’s leaders, who are notoriously averse to retirement, to ride off into the sunset when their shelf life is done. Ibrahim’s approach to getting Africa’s “Big Man” leaders to move on is crudely practical. He pays them off.

To be eligible for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize the African leaders must have been democratically elected and must give up office when their mandate is over. No Presidents-for-Life need apply. To those qualified and chosen the foundation gives an initial payment of $US5 million followed by a pension of $US200,000-a-year for life. But although this is the world’s most lavish prize for statesmanship – far exceeding the $US1.3 million of the Nobel Peace Prize – it is, sadly, not enough. Only leaders of the smallest and poorest African countries find the Mo Ibrahim prize seductive. For most the lure of being President-for-Life and the over-stuffed tax haven bank accounts that go with it are far more attractive than a paltry $US5 million and the $US200,000-a-year beer money.

This is why only four former African leaders have merited the award in the 10 years of its existence. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was made an honourary laureate in 2007, but this was really a bit of publicity to kick off the prize. Otherwise, the winners are not household names, even in Africa. There was President Hifikepunye of Namibia, President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, President Festus Mogae of Botswana, and President Joaquim Chissano – probably the most widely known — of Mozambique.

There are no foreseeable circumstances under which Angola’s Eduardo dos Santos would be eligible for the prize, or be bothered to seek such a small sum. He may have presided over one of the poorest countries in Africa since 1979 where about 70 per cent of the 22 million people live on less than $US2 a day, but dos Santos and his family are rolling in wealth.

Dos Santos is one of the few remaining classic African revolutionaries from the colonial era. As a schoolboy in the early 1960s he joined one of the organizations fighting against Portuguese rule, the Marxist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He went into exile and wound up in the Soviet Union, where he earned degrees in petroleum engineering and in radar communications from the Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute in Baku. During this period he met and married a Russian woman, Tatiana Kukanova, the first of dos Santos’ three wives and the mother of Isabel.

After the Portuguese withdrew from most of their colonies in 1975, Angola fell into a three-cornered, tribal-based civil war. The MPLA kept control of the capital, Luanda, and much of the north of the country, including its oil reserves. The diamond fields of the south financed the forces of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas Savimbi, allied to South Africa and the United States. The civil war continued until Savimbi’s death in 2002.

After independence in 1975, dos Santos rose through the ranks of the MPLA, and in 1979 became the party’s leader and Angola’s president. Elections, all of highly questionable authenticity, have come and gone and he has remained firmly in charge especially since the end of the civil war. In recent years dos Santos has not bothered to hold presidential elections. Now and again there have been parliamentary elections, which the MPLA inevitably wins. Dos Santos has taken the view that as he is head of the MPLA, that automatically makes him president again.

From the start, dos Santos turned Angola into one of Africa’s premier kleptocracies. International oil companies loved dealing with a president with a degree in petroleum engineering and a no-nonsense approach to the cost of doing business. But dos Santos’ acquisitive instincts have gone well beyond the oil industry, which now accounts for 98 per cent of Angola’s exports and 75 per cent of government revenues. During and after the civil war he cornered control of several natural resource industries as well as other emerging companies.

To its credit, the MPLA retains a strong strand of anti-authoritarianism. In a fit of revolutionary pique a few years ago the Angolan Parliament passed laws making it illegal for the president to have equity holdings in companies or organizations. Dos Santos did the sensible thing and swiftly transferred his assets to his daughter, Isabel.

She is undoubtedly a woman of talents – she has a degree in electrical engineering from King’s College in London – but her billing as Africa’s most successful businesswoman is only partly justified. Forbes figures she’s worth $US3 billion, and that most if not all that money came her way either directly or indirectly through her father. As former Angolan Prime Minister Marcolino Moco told Forbes a few years ago: “There is no doubt that it was the father who generated such a fortune.”

The supposition, of course, is that Isabel is holding the family fortune in trust for her father so that he has a safe and secure retirement. When that might be, however, is anyone’s guess. In 2001, Eduardo dos Santos did say that he would step down soon, but it never happened. And in March this year he said he would retire in 2018, after elections due to be held next year. However, given his past equivocation on this subject, no one is holding their breath.

More than that, he is being purposefully obtuse about who his successor might be. Speculation has focused on Manuel Vicente, the state oil company boss who became vice-president, then to dos Santos’ son Jose Filomeno, and most recently to his daughter Isabel.

With Isabel’s appointment a few days ago to oversee the restructuring of the state oil company Sonangol, her name has leapt to the fore. In essence, she now heads the Angolan economy.

Sonangol needs restructuring because so much has been looted out of its treasurer chest that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been called in to cast its magic over Angola’s debt problems. Last year the dos Santos government borrowed $US10 billion — $US6 billion from China – just to fund health, water, electricity and road projects.

When the IMF first got involved in 2012 one of the first questions that turned up in Sonangol’s books was a missing $US32 billion, equivalent to a quarter of Angola’s entire gross domestic product. Well, thankfully, the IMF was able to put minds at rest by deciding that the missing oil money was linked to “quasi-fiscal operations.” Apparently this means money that Sonangol spent on the government’s behalf, but which didn’t get recorded in the official accounts. That’s all right then.

Yet there is reason to question whether dos Santos will try to make Isabel head of the MPLA and Angola’s head of state. She has little party political experience and, like most organizations with revolutionary Marxist backgrounds, the MPLA doesn’t like having people foisted on it who have not fought and bled on the frontlines. Also, Angola remains a strongly patriarchal society where the concept of a woman leader has not yet permeated the political culture.

So Isabel’s role will probably be to look after daddy’s pile and coming to terms with the disappointment that there’s no Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize in her future either.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Further information:

Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Related on F&O:

Hissène Habré: a pivotal case for international justice in Africa.  By Pierre Hazan  Analysis

On May 30, in an African court, history was made. In an unprecedented move, a former president was convicted of human rights abuses by a foreign court. In another historic ruling, the accused was also sentenced on counts of sexual abuse and the rape of a prisoner. The conviction of Chad’s former dictator, Hissène Habré, comes at a crucial time for international justice in Africa.

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists.  Details here.

 

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , |

Massacre at US nightclub

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Massacre at U.S. nightclub, ISIS claims responsibility, by Reuters

 A man armed with an assault rifle killed 50 people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which President Barack Obama described as an act of terror and hate.

Police killed the shooter, who was identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a Florida resident and U.S. citizen who was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, but U.S. officials said they had seen no immediate evidence linking the militant group to the massacre …. read more.

Recommended elsewhere: Frederic Lemieux, a criminologist at George Washington University, writes about the six things Americans should know about mass shootings.

Related on F&O: analysis from our archives:

America’s gun cult, Switzerland’s firearms culture, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

In the ranks of “barbaric cultural practices,” the United States’ addiction to firearms is among the most deadly. The results of gun violence in the U.S. are in the same order of magnitude as the fruits of terrorism in the entire world. But the epidemic of gun slaughter in the U.S. is not entirely down to the simple availability of firearms in, it seems, almost every home. The Swiss also have firearms readily available, but they do not massacre each other at nearly the same rate as the Americans.

Why ISIS is winning, with America’s help, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

The attacks in Paris were as much a sign of ISIS’s weaknesses, as a demonstration of its ability to strike. If Western governments had grasped the opportunity to turn this horrible tragedy against ISIS, we might have pulled off a small but important victory against these murderers. Instead, we played the hand that ISIS dealt us like a bunch of hillbilly rubes at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.

Waiting for America’s next mass murder, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

We won’t have to wait long. He’s out there right now. We don’t know his name, or where it will happen, but he will do it. We’ll know his name within the next week or so. It will be a he. Very few mass murders are committed by shes. It’s hard to even think of any. He’s likely early, maybe mid-20s.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Facts and Opinions that matter, this week

The coffin of late boxing champion Muhammad Ali arrives for a jenazah, an Islamic funeral prayer, in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The coffin of late boxing champion Muhammad Ali arrives for a jenazah, an Islamic funeral prayer, in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Muhammad Ali in 1966. Photographer unknown, Dutch National Archives, The Hague

Muhammad Ali in 1966. Photographer unknown, Dutch National Archives, The Hague

MUHAMMAD ALI: the final goodbye to “The Greatest,” by Nick Carey and Steve Bittenbender

Fans chanting “Ali!” and throwing flowers lined the streets of Muhammad Ali’s hometown in Kentucky on June 10 for a funeral procession to celebrate the boxing champion who jolted America with his showmanship and won worldwide admiration as a man of principle.

Muhammad Ali: Remembering when Clay/Ali bestrode the world, by Rod Mickleburgh

It’s been said many, many times, but it remains true. Never again will we see the likes of Muhammad Ali.

What Muhammad Ali, conscientous-objector, taught me, by Penney Kome, Over Easy column

As a young teen studying at the Illinois School of Ballet, I didn’t follow sports much, which is probably why I didn’t recognize the big man right away.  The top of my head came to his elbow. My dad was 6’2″, but this guy was really big. A block away, it hit me: I’d just crossed paths with champion boxer Muhammad Ali.

Don’t fear Trump, fear his followers, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda column

It’s not Donald Trump but his followers, who defend him so ferociously, that really give one pause — particularly when one considers what they will do after their “Messiah” loses in the fall.

Small Stampede for the Brexit, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

It is unlikely that Britons are going to give a conclusive answer to the question whether they should remain in the European Union or leave it when they mark their referendum ballots on June 23.

Court awards reporter-turned-politician $200,000 in defamation case. By Brian Brennan, F&O Feature writer and Arts columnist

Arthur Kent, a war correspondent who left U.S. television journalism to enter Canadian politics, won a defamation lawsuit against Canada’s largest newspaper publisher and one of its former columnists. Arthur Kent was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages.

How to fix the Toxic State of Public Discourse, by James Hoggan, book excerpt

When I first began thinking about writing I’m Right and You’re an Idiot, I sat down with Steve Rosell and Daniel Yankelovich, two eminent pioneers in an evolving field that uses dialogue to deal with highly polarized public conflict. I wanted to learn more about the power of dialogue, how to mend broken conversations and achieve clear collaborative communication so we can triangulate issues in innovative ways and find creative solutions.

The Collapse of the Caliphate, by Jim McNiven

The Islamic State “Caliphate” has been reduced to three major urban areas, Raqqa, Mosul and Falluja. None of them have dependable resupply routes for either military goods or civilian needs. Short of their opponents falling into disarray and not pressing on, an unlikely hope this close to the end, things for ISIS can unravel simply by waiting. So, what comes after the Caliphate?

The Search for the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Ronen Zvulun

A three-week excavation at the Dead Sea is the first part of a national campaign to recover as many artefacts as possible, particularly scrolls, left behind by Jewish rebels who hid in the desert some 2,000 years ago, before they are snatched up by antiquity robbers.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves after attending a service of commemoration to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq, at St Paul's Cathedral in London October 9, 2009. Queen Elizabeth joined families and politicians on Friday for a service to honour British service personnel who fought and died during the war in Iraq.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor   (BRITAIN POLITICS CONFLICT ROYALS MILITARY RELIGION SOCIETY)Last but not least, I introduce today a modest new feature on F&O under my Free Range column. It’s a section of my own opinions, random thoughts and wonderings that, being less formal than essays and more opinionated than reports, I’ll call Squibs. These opinions are entirely my own, and do not represent the position of Facts and Opinions, or any of our collaborators. Today, I have some thoughts about Queen Elizabeth II …. read more.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Small Stampede for the Brexit

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
June 11, 2016

It is unlikely that Britons are going to give a conclusive answer to the question whether they should remain in the European Union or leave it when they mark their referendum ballots on June 23.

Recent polls show “Leave” supporters marginally ahead of those wanting to stay. The pro-“Brexit” vote is between 45 per cent and 48 per cent, according to half a dozen polls. The vote to remain is about five percentage points less.

But a poll published on Thursday and conducted by the market research company Opinium in tandem with the European Centre for Research in Electoral Psychology shows that about 18 per cent of voters are undecided. Most of those don’t expect to make up their minds until the last few days of the campaign.

So there is still everything to play for and the result is likely to be only a marginal victory for which ever side comes out on top.

Please chip in at least .27 cents to continue reading. Real journalism — reporting and analysis — is not free, and it’s not supported by either governments or the tooth fairy. Details below, or click here.

This will leave Britons divided about the future of the country. Though, given the nature of the campaign debate and the leading characters involved, muddled is probably a better description of the British state of mind. “Divided” implies passionately held views whose advocates will take years to resolve their differences, if they ever do. Yet these months of campaigning have been a singularly bloodless affair, notable more for the eccentricities of the leading figures involved than any sense that Britain’s long and colourful history is approaching a decisive moment.

The issues appear straightforward. The Brexit campaign says that since the EU morphed from being a purely free trade area into a political project aimed at creating a European federation, more and more sovereignty has slipped from Westminster across The Channel to Brussels. Britons, say the Brexit campaigners, are no longer masters in their own home.

The “Leave” campaign has focused on immigration and the free movement of people to live and work in any of the 28 countries of the EU. Immigrants are taking jobs from Britons and driving down wages, say the Brexiters. Mistrust of foreigners has taken hold with many voters despite independent analyses showing that Britain has a shortage of skilled workers and that this is driving up wages.

And voters should not fear that leaving the EU will have dire economic consequences, says the “Leave” campaign. Britain will easily sign free trade agreements with the old Dominions like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as with the United States, and, indeed, with the EU as Switzerland and Norway have done.

David Cameron

David Cameron

The Britain Stronger in Europe campaign is a cross-party group led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. It has focused largely on what it says will be the terrible economic buffeting Britain will take if it leaves the EU. The “Remain” campaign is backed by a strong chorus of bankers, business leaders, economists and men-in-suits of various disciplines.

But these legions of doomsayers have not had a conclusive effect on the voters, largely because Cameron’s campaign has brought new depth of meaning and nuance to the word anaemic. His arguments have been made with such turgidity that Cameron deserves to lose the referendum just for being so incredibly boring.

Turgidity seems to have been his strategy. Cameron fears that if any passion or colour is injected into the campaign it would benefit only the Brexit side. He has made it firmly clear to his 27 fellow EU leaders as well as the union’s senior officials that he wants them to stay out of the debate. People like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have buttoned their mouths at Cameron’s insistence. They have been left with the clear feeling Cameron thinks that any expression of hope on their part that Britain stay in the EU will be counterproductive and only bolster the Brexit side. For that reason, Cameron was not happy when, a few weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Britons to stay in the EU.

With such a lacklustre campaign advocating “Remain,” it is a wonder the polls show both sides so evenly matched. That must be because the champions of Brexit are a cast of characters from whom anyone with any sense would hesitate to buy a used car.

READ: Boris Johnson: schemer or charmer? -- Jonathan Manthorpe

Boris Johnson

The British public’s affection for Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London and now Tory backbencher who made a political career by playing a loveable, naughty sheepdog, appears to be wearing thin. His dishevelled appearance and colourful refusal to abide by rules of political correctness have carried him this far. But in retrospect, his eight years as Mayor of London, which ended early in May, were singularly unproductive. There is no doubt that his main aim in leading the Brexit campaign is to oust Cameron as Tory leader and become the British Prime Minister. And with Johnson, there is always a problem about believing what he says. He is singularly untrustworthy, and his path through life is littered with friends, and especially women, whom he has betrayed.

Boris as TV personality, and even as mayor, is entertaining, but do you really want him in 10 Downing Street and leading Britain along the lonely post-EU path into the unknown?

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party – Ukip – has lengthy credentials as a champion of the campaign to get Britain out of the EU. Oddly in the circumstances, his main political platform is as a long-running Member of the European Parliament. His several attempts to get elected to the Westminster Parliament have failed, but voters pay far less attention to whom they send to the Strasbourg parliament. A small, highly organized campaign can often win a seat in the European Parliament, which is why it contains more than its fair share of odd balls.

Farage appeals to hardcore Little Englanders, but for most people he is the pub’s loudmouth bore — entertaining for about five minutes on first meeting, and then to be shunned.

What no one has figured out with any certainty is what happens on June 24 if a majority of British voters opted to leave the EU the day before. There is a mechanism for EU members to leave under Article 50 of the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon. This envisages a two-year period when the remaining 27 EU members would negotiate Britain’s departure. The ignominy of this would be that Westminster would lose the initiative. Its exit voucher would be a matter of bargaining and squabbling among the other 27.

And the two-year timetable is not hard and fast. It can be extended, and it is easy to imagine that the EU’s most powerful members and institutions would see it in their interest to stall the process for as long as possible. There are real fears that Brexit might spark a rush for the exit by other countries that are unhappy with loss of sovereignty and governing powers to Brussels. There are even predictions that Britain’s departure could trigger the collapse of the entire EU, especially as a political federation. Thus, in the EU bureaucracy and pivotal countries like Germany and France there will be no desire to make Britain’s departure easy, quick or painless.

There is also the prospect that a vote to leave could start the break-up of the United Kingdom. The Scots in particular are strong supporters of EU membership. A Brexit vote would undoubtedly encourage the Scottish Nationalist regional government to launch another referendum on Scottish independence, this time with more likelihood of winning than in the 2014 ballot.

Cameron has said that if the leave faction wins on June 23 he will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – before himself heading off into political retirement. But there is another route Britain can go if the Brexit vote wins. The Westminster parliament can simply repeal the 1972 European Communities Act that enabled Britain to join what was then the European Economic Community. It is far from certain, however, that the British Parliament would back a unilateral declaration of independence from the EU.

Cameron was pressed into staging this referendum because of pressure from his backbenchers, about half of whom support Brexit. But in the House of Commons as a whole, there is a clear majority that wants Britain to remain in the EU. If there is only a slim majority for Brexit, and especially if there is a low voter turnout, MPs can justifiably question the political legitimacy of the result and balk at revoking the European Communities Act.

Thus a vote for Britain to leave the EU is unlikely to produce a “Freedom at Midnight” moment. Instead it will open the gate to a long and gruelling trudge through a muddy field, with no clear view of the destination or what the eventual outcome will be.

 

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Further information sources:

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

~~~

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists.  Details here.

 

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , |

Court awards reporter-turned-politician damages, costs, in defamation case

By Brian Brennan
June 2016

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court on Nov. 16, 2015. © Jeff McIntosh 2015, used with permission

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court on Nov. 16, 2015. © Jeff McIntosh 2015, used with permission

An award-winning Canadian war correspondent who left television journalism to enter politics won a defamation lawsuit against Canada’s largest newspaper publisher and one of its former columnists. Arthur Kent was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages.

Kent, who acquired the nickname “Scud Stud” while reporting for NBC News on Iraqi missile attacks against Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, launched the defamation suit against Canwest. The media chain, now-defunct, was formerly the corporate owner of the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal and other Canadian newspapers. In February, 2008, it published an opinion piece by political columnist Don Martin that Kent characterized in court as “poisonously false.”

Court of Queens Bench Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf ruled that the current corporate owner, Postmedia Network, is liable because it continued to publish the Martin column online for more than two years after it purchased Canwest’s newspapers and archival databases in 2010. She criticized Canwest for “exercising virtually no editorial oversight over the article prior to its publication,” and said some of the factual material in the column did not meet the test for accuracy.

Postmedia’s lawyer had asked that “nominal” damages be awarded if the judge was to rule in Kent’s favour, but she disagreed.

“I find that Mr. Kent is entitled to significantly more than nominal damages,” she wrote in her 60-page decision. “He suffered substantial distress and damage as a result of the defamatory statements in the article.” She said that while some of the opinions expressed might be regarded as fair comment – as argued by the defence – the article as a whole “would cause right-thinking members of society to think less of Mr. Kent.” (The classic definition of defamation includes any published material that tends to “lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking men.”) Justice Strekaf said the column contained a “harshly critical personal tone” not found in other newspaper commentaries on the Kent campaign.

The judge said the damage to Kent’s reputation was “exacerbated by the exaggerations and sarcastic tone in the article.” The overall tenor of the article, she said, was that Kent is a “politically naïve, arrogant, has-been journalist with a huge ego whose election campaign is in disarray and who is doomed to become an ineffective MLA if elected.”

Court testimony had revealed that Martin used information from unnamed Conservative party sources to contend that Kent’s campaign for a seat in a Calgary, Alberta provincial riding was failing because the “self-absorbed” star candidate refused to toe the party line and become “a mere infantry private who exists only to follow orders.” Kent suffered a narrow defeat in the election.

[See Reporter-turned-politician sues media giant for defamation ]

Martin acknowledged in court that he didn’t make direct contact with Kent for comment before his column appeared. The judge cited this failure as being unfair to Kent, and also pronounced as unfair the failure by the media defendants to provide Kent with an opportunity to respond to the Martin column after publication. Kent testified that he had submitted a 754-word rebuttal to the column that Postmedia refused to run either in edited form or print as a letter to the editor. Kent added that Postmedia also refused to publish an apology or issue a retraction. A Postmedia editor said the rebuttal, which named old guard party supporters that Kent refused to have on his campaign team, was rejected because it was “defamatory in nature.”

A contentious paragraph in the Martin column – which he retracted during the trial – asserted that a number of Alberta Conservatives had referred to Kent as “the Dud Scud.” “This statement does not qualify as truth or reportage,” ruled the judge. Martin had admitted under cross-examination that perhaps one – not several – Conservatives had used the “dud scud” phrase to describe Kent, but he could not remember who that source was. “I’d write it differently today.” None of the witnesses acknowledged using the phrase.

Kent, who pursued the lawsuit for more than seven years, said the judge’s ruling reinforces the fundamental principles of responsible journalism: “No genuine journalist will be anything other than reassured and encouraged by this decision. Truth still matters in journalism. Truth, accuracy and balance matter on the internet.”

He added that it took him years to obtain e-mails and other records from the corporate defendants to substantiate his case.

Martin, who now works as a television presenter for Canada’s CTV News network, had no comment on the court decision. Nor did his current employer. A spokesperson for Postmedia would only say the company is “reviewing the decision.” The judge said that if the two sides were unable to agree on legal costs, they could provide written submissions within 45 days of the decision.

Copyright © Brian Brennan 2016

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists.  Details here.

Reference:

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, ruling in Arthur Kent vs Don Martin, The National Post Company, Canwest Publishing Inc., National Post Holdings Ltd. and Canwest Mediaworks Inc.

UPDATE: Kent awarded $250,000 in legal costs in defamation lawsuit

By Brian Brennan
January 2017

A Canadian war correspondent who left television journalism to enter politics has received $250,000 in legal costs – $972,990 less than he sought – after winning a defamation lawsuit against Canada’s largest newspaper publisher and one of its former columnists.

Arthur Kent had been awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages plus $60,000 in interest in June 2016 when he won his case against Postmedia Network and its political columnist Don Martin. Kent and his lawyers said it was the first time in Canadian judicial history – “certainly since World War Two” – that a journalist and news company were found guilty at trial of defaming an election candidate. They also said it was “a first in the age of Internet publication.”

Kent, who acquired the nickname “Scud Stud” while reporting for NBC News on Iraqi missile attacks against Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, launched the defamation suit against Postmedia’s predecessor, Canwest. This media chain, now defunct, was the corporate owner of the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal and other Canadian newspapers. In February 2008, the chain published an opinion piece by columnist Martin about Kent’s bid for elected office. Martin claimed in his column that unnamed Conservative party sources, who opposed Kent’s candidacy, referred to him as “the dud scud.” Kent described the column in court as “poisonously false.”

Court of Queens Bench Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf ruled that Postmedia was liable because it continued to publish the Martin column online for more than two years after it purchased Canwest’s newspapers and archival databases in 2010. She criticized Canwest for “exercising virtually no editorial oversight over the article prior to its publication” and said some of the factual material in the column did not meet the test for accuracy.

The judge said that because most of Martin’s sources had only negative things to say about Kent, the columnist should have made a more reasonable attempt to contact Kent, and done more to verify the reliability of his critics’ comments. She noted that the widely-cited ethics guidelines of the Canadian Association of Journalists state that people who are publicly accused or criticized should have an opportunity to respond – even if only to decline comment – before the accusations or criticisms are published.

After winning the case, Kent’s lawyers asked the judge to award him $1,222,990 for his legal costs, incurred over a period of more than seven years. The Postmedia lawyers responded that each side should pay its own costs.

In reducing Kent’s claim to $250,000, Justice Strekaf ruled that many of the legal fees he incurred related to “matters that did not advance the litigation.”  She added he was not entitled to costs associated with a separate, unsuccessful lawsuit he launched against Conservative party members he accused of conspiring to undermine his campaign.

Kent, in a written statement, said he and his lawyers are “taking careful measure of several specific findings” and that “full comment must wait for another time.” He added he did not pursue the suit for monetary gain. “I did it to reveal the truth and set the record straight.”

While pleased with his court victory, Kent said “there has to be a just economic outcome as well.” Echoing comments made in a 2011 speech by Canada’s Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, he noted that most Canadians – except for the wealthy – don’t have adequate access to the justice system because of the high costs involved. “Through my journalism, and at law,” said Kent, “I am obliged to even the dollars and cents side of the access-to-justice ledger. Just watch me.”

[See Court awards reporter-turned-politician $200,000 in defamation case ]

Postmedia made three offers to settle the defamation case before it went to trial. They ranged from $150,000 to $325,000. All were rejected by Kent and his lawyers, partly because none involved an admission of wrongdoing or an undertaking to retract, correct, or apologize for the offending column. “The concept of an apology or retraction is baked into defamation law,” Kent’s lawyer Michael Bates told the judge. He added that the conditions for accepting the third and final offer were “literally absurd” because they stipulated that Kent could not say anything publicly about the settlement or file the decision with the courts. That, said Bates, gave Postmedia “all of the benefits with none of the obligations or responsibilities.”

Kent also sought an injunction prohibiting Postmedia and Martin from republishing the offending column. Justice Strekaf dismissed this application on grounds that Kent failed to demonstrate there was “any meaningful prospect” the article might be republished. Postmedia’s lawyers had characterized Kent’s concern about republishing as “pure speculation.”

Former columnist Martin, who now works as a television presenter for Canada’s CTV News network had no immediate comment after Kent won the original case. He has since told iMediaEthics that he behaved responsibly by trying to get Kent’s side of the story before publishing.

“Columnists are under no legal or ethical obligation to contact a public figure who is the subject of a fair comment analysis,” said Martin. “But I contacted the email address on a news release, and that seemed a reasonable step. He had the better part of a day to respond and didn’t.”
Martin disagreed with the judge’s comment that what he called a quest for truth was, in fact, a search for negative information about Kent. In one email, for example, Martin had asked a source if she had “any more dirt” on the candidate. “I do not share (the judge’s) supposition that seeking the truth in a politically controversial situation to be inappropriate,” Martin told iMediaEthics. “There wouldn’t be much investigative journalism if we only went digging for positive news.”
Postmedia representatives told iMediaEthics they had no comment on the judge’s original ruling other than to say they would not appeal. “We do not wish to relitigate the case in the media.”
Under Alberta’s Rules of Court, the two sides have one month to decide whether or not they will seek leave to appeal the costs judgment.

Copyright © Brian Brennan 2017

 

Brian BrennanBrian Brennan, an Irish journalist living in Canada, is a founding feature writer with Facts and Opinions and a contributor to Arts dispatches and the Loose Leaf salon. He is the author of the Brief Encounters series. (Payment required). His profile of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the first original feature in the journal’s inaugural issue, won Runner-up, Best Feature Article, in the 2014 Professional Writers Association of Canada Awards. Brennan was educated at University College Dublin, Vancouver’s Langara College, the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the National Critics Institute in Waterford, Connecticut.

Visit him at his website, www.brianbrennan.ca

Brian Brennan also plays jazz piano, for fun and profit.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers.We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from partisan organizations. Thank you for your patronage, and please tell others about us. Most of our pages are outside our paywall. To help us continue, we suggest a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or for use of the entire site at least $1 for a day pass, and $20 for a year. With enough supporters  paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our ability to offer original works.  Visit our Subscribe page for more details. 

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |