Monthly Archives: June 2017

F&O this week: Kohl, Grenfell ashes, Trade Jungle, Singapore schadenfreude, US discourse

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl sits next to Christian Democrat party (CDU) leader Angela Merkel during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of German unification in Berlin September 27, 2000. REUTERS/Michael Urban/File Photo

HELMUT KOHL delivered German reunification and the Euro, by  Noah Barkin  Obituary

A towering figure of post-war European politics, Helmut Kohl pushed through German reunification and was a driving force behind the creation of the euro during a 16-year reign as German chancellor that spanned the tumultuous final decades of the 20th century. Kohl died June 16, 2017 at his home in Ludwigshafen. He was 87.

U.S. Capitol Police keep watch on Capitol Hill following a shooting in nearby Alexandria, in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

London’s Grenfell Inferno Reveals Policy Failures, by Joseph Downing   Expert Witness 

I grew up in social housing. It provided a stable and secure (albeit overcrowded and cold) home for my family, for life. As fire tore through Grenfell Tower, just 500 metres from where I was staying in London, I witnessed the complete and terrible destruction of 120 homes just like the one I grew up in. Yet as the ashes settle, it is clear that the threat of ruin extends well beyond Grenfell Tower.

Commentary

Down and Dirty in the Trade Game, by Jim McNiven    Column

Nationalize Google.ca? Put a special tariff on US software purchases? The international trading system is the way it is because the US thought a rule-of-law system was in its best economic interest. Going back to the law of the jungle may not be in the works, but just in case, we Canadians had better dust off Sir John A’s National Policy.

Singapore rocked by ruling family feud, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

The ruling Lee family of Singapore has created for itself, at other people’s expense, such a charmed nepotistic dynasty that anyone can be forgiven for wallowing in schadenfreude and drinking deep the pleasure of seeing them come a cropper.

American Civil Discourse in Serious Trouble, by Tom Regan   Column

The bi-partisan outpouring of unity that followed this week’s shooting at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, was a welcome respite in the never-ending deluge of hate-filled rhetoric that overwhelms political discourse daily in the United States. But it was only a moment.

Findings: 

A special report on obesity by Harvard Public Health that asks, Can we stop the epidemic?  — Harvard

The 70s ushered in two crises: AIDS/HIV, and obesity. The first has been aggressively tackled, and is today less of a threat. Obesity rates continue to soar, and to kill. America has the worst obesity rate in the developed world. Excerpts:

“It was incited not by a sudden wave of individual gluttony (even toddlers are afflicted) but by a radical and toxic change in our food environment. The public health establishment spent decades leaning on people to change their behavior. Today, researchers are beginning to wonder if it’s time for an entirely different approach…..

“The modern food era has spread out a smorgasbord of hyperpalatable, flavor-enhanced, additive-laced, convenient, and relatively affordable foods that are high in added sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt, and engineered to overcome our internal homeostatic eating signals. Our bodies and brains are all but helpless in response.”

“While weight is, of course, partly a matter of personal responsibility, America’s obesity epidemic is mainly driven by upstream influences from industry, federal policies, and social norms. Today, people are beginning to perceive those upstream forces.”

Aeon magazine is a font of interesting pieces and ideas. Recommended, in the current digital edition, is this think piece by Andre Spicer,  professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London: Had a good think lately? Not busy-work, ticking off to-do lists or keeping-up-with-stuff. Just sitting. And thinking. Is it so hard?  Excerpt:

“Today, we live in a culture of thoughtlessness. The American Time Use Survey found that although 95 per cent of respondents said that they did at least one leisure activity during the previous 24 hours, 84 per cent had spent no time at all relaxing or thinking. A study by researchers at Harvard University found that when we engaged in thought that was not directly related to present activity (so-called mind-wandering), we tended be less happy. A recent study by psychologists at the University of Virginia asked subjects to simply sit in a room and ‘just think’ for 6 to 15 minutes. In the room was a button allowing subjects to electrocute themselves if they wanted. The researchers found that the majority of subjects would rather electrocute themselves than just sit quietly and think. One person electrocuted himself 190 times during this short period.”

 

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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

F&O Fresh Sheet

The platform controller signals that the train can leave at Komsomolskaya metro station in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Going Underground in the Moscow Metro, Photo-essay by Grigory Dukor

Rub a dog’s nose for luck. Look back to Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Marvel at a mosaic spaceman. Maybe even watch a ballet. Moscow’s metro is one of the busiest and most visually stunning underground systems in the world. Created as a showcase for the Soviet Union, its elaborate, spacious stations are adorned with mosaics, marble statues and stained glass that tell the story of the communist state.

An array of solar panels are seen in Oakland, California, U.S. on December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

“Green” investment funds spring back, by Ross Kerber  Money – Report

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s election last November, investors pulled nearly $68 million from so-called “green” mutual funds, reflecting fear that his pro-coal agenda would hurt renewable energy firms. But now investors are pouring money back in.

Commentary:

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Interior Minister Amber Rudd, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson and moderator Mishal Husain attend the BBC's live televised general election debate in Cambridge, Britain, May 31, 2017. Jeff Overs/BBC Handout via REUTERS

Manthorpe: UK Election no longer a sure bet for Theresa May.Jeff Overs/BBC Handout via REUTERS

Theresa May’s election victory no longer certain, by Jonathan Manthorpe Column

Six weeks ago, when Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election, it seemed a foregone conclusion this was simply a formality to boost her parliamentary majority and strengthen her hand in negotiating Brexit from the European Union. Not any more.

Regan: America’s Confederate icons must go. Above, Stone Mountain, by Jim Bowen

America’s Confederate icons must go, by Tom Regan  Column

t has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers. Because that is what the Confederacy was.

Last but not least, listen to Bob Dylan’s lecture on literature, months after he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature:

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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