Suncor to abandon Terra Nova offshore oil field

Terra Nova FPSO offshore oil production platform and supply ships at well 350km south east of St John's. Photo by Greg Locke © 2009 Copyright.

Terra Nova FPSO offshore oil production platform and supply ships at well 350km south east of St John’s. Photo by Greg Locke © 2009 Copyright.

St. John’s, Newfoundland (May 27, 2021) – Calgary based Suncor Energy, lead operator of the Terra Nova offshore oil field on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, says it will most likely be abandoning the oil field if it cannot come to an agreement with its seven partners.

Mark Little, the CEO of Suncor, told investors on Wednesday that the floating production platform will be decommissioned if an agreement is not found.

The Terra Nova FPSO was supposed to go to a dockyard in Spain last year when the COVID-19 struck. The ship is now tied up in Bull Arm, Newfoundland in need of a major overhaul that is estimated to cost $500 million.

It will represent the loss of approximately 850 direct jobs, thousand in the supply sector and royalty revenues to the provincial economy.

The project began in 2002 and was the second offshore oil field to go into production following the Hibernia project. This would represent a premature end to the field which is estimated to have 80 million barrels of recoverable oil remaining and 10 years more lifespan.

Suncor’s partners in the Terra Nova are ExxonMobil Canada Properties, Equinor Canada (formerly Statoil), Cenovus Energy subsidiary Husky Energy, Murphy Oil Company, Mosbacher Operating and Chevron Canada Resources.

Final decision is expected on June 15th.

Posted in All, Business, Canadian Journalist, Current Affairs, Energy

Muskrat Falls hydroelectric – Who buried the risk assessment report?

Muskrat Falls, Labrador. Site of a proposed hydro electric project by the governments of Newfoundland and Quebec. This is downriver from the Churchill Falls Hydro project in Labrador. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017 DCS Files

Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River, Labrador in 2006 before construction of an ill-conceived hydro-electric project by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Photo by Greg Locke ©2017

ROGER BILL
November 25, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — The man in charge of finishing the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the Churchill River in remote central Labrador calls the venture a “boondoggle”. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has established a commission of inquiry to determine why the project is wildly over budget and years behind schedule. A good place for the Commissioner, Judge Richard D. LeBlanc, to start is to find out who buried the warning that there was a “very high risk” of a multi-billion dollar cost overrun barely four months after the massive project was green-lighted in December, 2012.

 

The warning came in the form of a risk assessment undertaken by SNC-Lavalin, the engineering company retained by the Nalcor Energy, the provincial government agency managing the project. SNC-Lavalin officials, who were responsible for construction management and procurement on the project, conducted the risk assessment when initial prices for some major construction elements came in well above the original estimates in the $6.2 billion December, 2012 budget. The experts at SNC-Lavalin warned their Newfoundland client the project could go over-budget by an additional $2.4 billion. The warning was buried for four years.

 

Some critics of the Muskrat Falls project argue that warnings were ignored long before 2013but when the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment finally surfaced in June of this year it was too much to ignore and according to Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier Dwight Ball too late to put the brakes on the project

 

 According to Nalcor Energy’s CEO, Stan Marshall, the Province is now staring at a total cost of $12+ billion to bring the megaproject in two years behind schedule and the Province wants Judge LeBlanc to inquire into “any risk assessments, financial or otherwise” and whether “Nalcor took possession of the reports” and “made the government aware of the reports and assessments”

 

Judge LeBlanc will find that, yes, there was a risk assessment done by SNC-Lavalin in April, 2013 and maybe Nalcor Energy took possession of it or maybe not, and according to the provincial Minister of Natural Resources in April, 2013, no, the provincial government was not made aware of the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment.

 

Ed Martin, former president and CEO of Nalcor Energy. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017

Ed Martin, former president and CEO of Nalcor Energy. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017

What is a matter of public record is the following: Ed Martin, Nalcor Energy’s CEO, parted company with the provincial government in 2016. Whether he was dismissed or resigned is still a bit of a puzzle, but he was succeeded by Stan Marshall, a very successful executive with the private energy company, Fortis Inc. Stan Marshall says he heard about the 2013 SNC-Lavalin risk assessment from a former SNC-Lavalin engineer, but could not find a copy of it in Nalcor Energy’s files. Finally, Stan Marshall says he asked SNC-Lavalin for a copy of the risk assessment, received it, gave it to the provincial government, and it was released by the Premier and Minister of Natural Resources on June 23, 2017 (External Link to CBC story)

 

A spokesperson for SNC-Lavalin told The Telegram newspaper and www.allnewfoundlandlabrador.com that they “attempted” to hand over the risk assessment to Nalcor. Ed Martin, the former Nalcor CEO told the media the risk assessment was never “presented” to him. Premier Dwight Ball told the media that he had been advised that the risk assessment results were presented by SNC-Lavalin at a meeting attended by Nalcor officials including Ed Martin. Obviously, either Premier Dwight Ball has been poorly advised or Ed Martin is not telling the truth or the word “presented” has a very narrow and specific meaning in the world of engineers and consultants that outsiders fail to understand.

 

The expression “attempted to hand it over” makes one wonder if an official of SNC-Lavalin held the nine-page risk assessment document in their hand and reached out to give it to a Nalcor Energy official who refused to accept it. Or, maybe there was a meeting where the SNC-Lavalin, motivated by what is described in the risk assessment as a sense of “urgency” to convey their findings verbally briefed Nalcor Energy officials on the results of the risk assessment, but did not have the report in hand. When engineers are under oath and lawyers from Judge LeBlanc rather than journalists are asking questions about who told who what and who gave what to who then the people who will ultimately pay for the “boondoggle” will know who buried what.

 

What does not take any clarifying are the words of Tom Marshall, the provincial Minister of Natural Resources in 2013. When the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment surfaced in June, 2017. I asked Tom Marshall if he saw the risk assessment in 2013. He said, “I never saw that report.” Asked if he had been advised of the risk assessment findings Mr. Marshall said, “No.” Did he think Ed Martin, the Nalcor CEO who he met with regularly at the time, held back the risk assessment’s findings Mr. Marshall said, “That would be terrible. I can’t fathom if that is the case.” Would it have made a difference if he had known? “It would have rung all kinds of alarm bells”

 

Eleven months after the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment warning Tom Marshall’s successor as Minister of Natural Resources, Derrick Dalley addressed the House of Assembly to reassure members that the government’s oversight of the Muskrat Falls project was “robust.” Mr. Dalley said, “senior staff with the Department of Natural Resources and Finance have met regularly with Nalcor’s CEO and their staff. As well, the provincial cabinet has had regular meetings and ongoing reports from the CEO of Nalcor”

 

For those who gamble on political affairs the question Mr. Dalley’s assurances in 2014 raise is this; what are the odds that Judge LeBlanc will hear testimony from one single senior staff or cabinet member who met regularly with the CEO of Nalcor who will recall hearing the words, “SNC-Lavalin risk assessment” or “serious concerns” or “very high risk of cost overruns” in any of those meetings?

 

Two days later the Minister again sought to reassure the members of the House of Assembly that there was no very high risk of cost overruns, “Nobody is putting my signature on a paper that costs my children $6 billion and $7 billion into the future. I can tell you the work is done. The oversight is there” he said.

 

When the Muskrat Falls Inquiry releases its schedule of witnesses make a note of the date of Mr. Dalley’s appearance.

 

Copyright Roger Bill 2017

~~~

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.

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 All, Canadian Journalist, Energy, Environment Tagged , , , , , , , |

Dear Americans: Enough, Already

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
August 19, 2017

Lacking ear plugs strong enough to block the din from America blasting the world, or a mega-phone loud enough to counter the babble, I’m resorting to two letters.

Dear non-Americans:

A sign at the Women’s March protesting President Donald Trump’s inauguration in Vancouver, Canada, on January 21. © Deborah Jones 2017

There’s a big world out there. Please remember that fact as we remain transfixed on America’s latest horrific but predictable melt-down. Yes, a raging super-power warrants some global attention. It does not require us to gorge on outrage, 24/7.

We are riveted wholly on the United States at the expense of other things, many in desperate need of our attention. We risk burn-out, gawping at America’s raging inferno. Stuff, important stuff, is at risk elsewhere — and just as it demands vigilance, America’s freak show is diverting our eyes and minds, and crushing our appetite for the information we need.

Please, just for a moment, ignore America’s bigots, racists, Nazis, supremacists of all sorts, culture wars. Turn away from the anger and grief pouring out of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Choose any random sample of other urgent issues, and pay attention. Suggestions:

The deadly terror attacks in Finland and Spain; the hundreds who died in a landslide in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Venezuela imploding in  a political and economic crisis and seeking any kind of ally; Kenya’s explosive politics.

Note the trillion dollars, countless jobs and whole communities at stake in just-started talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Ponder the new twist on the peril facing Afghanistan, where America has now led a war for 16 years — foolishly helped by the professional militaries of many other nations. Afghanistan is still in ruins, arguably much worse. Now, American authorities have suggested sending in mercenaries to do what their soldiers could not. Think that will end well? At least, please, think about it.

Most of you who are reading this still live in democracies, albeit flawed. Most of us have voices that can matter — but only if we use them.

~~~

My dear American friends:

You have my sympathy, but I for one can’t bear witness 24/7. Even if I could, you don’t deserve my, or the world’s, attention.

The fact is, just-more-than 19 per cent of you in the US, of voting age, voted for your current president. Another just-less-than 20 per cent voted for Hilary Clinton, his only feasible opponent (after your undemocratic Democrats stomped on Bernie Sanders).

What of the more-than 60 per cent of you who sat out and allowed idiots* to take over your country? You, who were apathetic? You, who failed to get your point across and convince others? (ie, politics in a democracy). You, who were too divided to come together for the big stuff you’re now screeching about? You, yes you, have some ‘splainin to do.

But, please, explain and talk to each other.

The rest of us in the rest of the world are deafened by your noise. I’ve tried to tune you out and turn you off for most of each day, but now you have sucked all of the oxygen from everyone’s air. And, frankly, we need that oxygen to deal with very real stuff that’s not all about you.

Copyright Deborah Jones 2017

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com (including for republishing.)

*Idiot stems from the Greek idios; it refers to a private person who is, literally, ignorant, in a culture that values the body politic, or “politics.”

If you value this story, the author would appreciate a contribution of .27 cents, Canadian, to help fund her ongoing work and pay for this site. Click on paypal.me/deborahjones to be taken to Deborah Jones’s personal PayPal page.

Credible world news sites:

Reuters World news France24BBC; Financial Times; The Economist

~~~

DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a founder 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 ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , |

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.”

 

 ~~~

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:

 ~~~

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

Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet, from Newfoundland to Israel

Palestinian visitors gather at a look-out point on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem May 11, 2017. Picture taken May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Commentary:

Broad alliances trump Trump for Israeli security, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Israel lives in a hostile neighbourhood, and has always had trouble making and keeping trustworthy friends.

Nothing’s Happening, by Jim McNiven   Column

There’s an old saying around the stock market: ‘Sell in May and go away’. Basically, it means that usually nothing much financial happens in the summer. This year, that might also be the slogan for a lot of other parts of society.

Roger Ailes’ special place in hell, by Tom Regan  Column

When Roger Ailes died this month, response was mixed.It was Ailes’ personal foibles that led to his downfall. But I want to concentrate on his legacy in journalism, where he left a very dark mark, called “thug journalism.”

Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached, by Tom Regan   Column

For all the bad news that Trump faces, he will not be impeached: his fellow Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

India’s Maoist uprising morphs into women’s armed insurgenc, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Women guerrilla fighters are at the forefront of an emerging insurgent war in India aimed at protecting women from sexual violence and human rights abuse.

Why Ramadan is called Ramadan, by Mohammad Hassan Khalil

The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, started Friday, May 26, 2017. Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil  answers six questions about the significance of this religious observance. The Conversation

Reports:

Newfoundland’s fourth offshore oil project set to sail, by Greg Locke

While Canada’s oil sands projects and the North America fracking companies are under scrutiny and financial distress, Newfoundland prepares to bring its fourth major offshore oil project online.

Israel marks 50 years of struggling, “United Jerusalem” by Maayan Lubell

A half-century after Israel captured East Jerusalem, the holy city remains deeply divided by politics, religion and ethnicity – and struggling with grim economic realities.

Real-life “Iron Man” has high hopes for jet suit, by Mark Hanrahan

The British inventor of an “Iron Man”-style jet suit has lofty hopes that his project, which started out as fun experiment, could become a practical tool for industries ranging from entertainment to the military.

Gulf States Curbing Opposition, by Sami Aboudi

Since the 2011 Arab Spring, Gulf states have stepped up efforts to curb dissent with tough new cybercrime laws, sentencing offenders to prison terms for Web posts deemed insulting to rulers or threatening to public order. But in the past two years, unnerved by low oil prices and the slow progress of a war in Yemen targeting the influence of arch foe Iran, Gulf authorities became even less patient with dissenting voices in the media, analysts and rights groups say.

UK investigates use of personal data in political campaigns, by Reuters

Britain said it was investigating how politicians and campaigners use data to target voters with online advertising to make sure they comply with electoral laws and do not abuse people’s privacy.

NOTEBOOK:

For some perspective on what will matter long after the latest political outrage has faded in Washington, London, or Moscow, set aside time, soon, for the sobering interactive feature by the New York Times on the melting of Antarctica —  and how changes to its vast ice sheets will affect the world. World leaders are urging the United States to stay the course on tackling climate change. But one academic has an interesting contrarian’s view of the Paris Agreement: the world would be better off if Trump withdraws from the Paris climate deal, argued Luke Kemp, of Australian National University, in Nature Climate Change. He explained his view here, in The Conversation: “Simply put: the US and the Trump administration can do more damage inside the agreement than outside it.”
Recommended read elsewhere: Kafka in Vegas, by Megan Rose, ProPublica/Vanity Fair

Fred Steese served more than 20 years in prison for the murder of a Vegas showman even though evidence in the prosecution’s files proved he didn’t do it. But when the truth came to light, he was offered a confounding deal known as an Alford plea. If he took it he could go free, but he’d remain a convicted killer.

Misc:  As the Cannes Film Festival wraps on May 28, check out stories on France24. For an “odd news”break, the BBC reports on “Why humans, chimpanzees and rats enjoy being tickled.”

 ~~~

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 only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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 , , , |

Journalism Matters: fresh sheet for May 13, 2017

Read Cash and Chemicals: Banana Boom Blessing and Curse. Above, a worker waits to deliver his harvest at a packing line inside a banana plantation operated by a Chinese company in the province of Bokeo in Laos April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Trying to listen in Trump’s America, by Tom Regan   Column

In the heart of America, there are long, flat stretches of emptiness in the spring. Fields, only recently plowed and sown with the fall’s harvest, still look barren and soggy. No majestic fields of wheat or corn greet the eye.  This is a trip to Trump country.

Trying to listen in Trump’s America, by Tom Regan

Signs like this one dot the American Mid-West. Photo by franleleon, Creative Commons

Moon Jae-in, 19th President of Republic of Korea, holds his first press conference on May 10. Photo: Korean Culture and Information Service, Jeon Han, public domain

Trump-Kim smackdown leaves South Koreans cold, by Jonathan Manthorpe    Column

The election to the South Korean presidency on May 8 of Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-in is primarily a demand by the country’s voters to reform government, erase corruption and improve social justice.

Everyday chemicals affect brain, IQ — study, by Barbara Demeneix  Expert Witness

All vertebrates – from frogs and birds to human beings – require the same thyroid hormone to thrive. Every stage of brain development is modulated by thyroid hormone and, over millions of years, the structure of this critical hormone has remained unchanged. But, increasingly, the trappings of modern life are preventing it from playing its critical role in human brain development.

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth, by Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR

The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: the health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.

Cash and Chemicals: Banana Boom Blessing and Curse, by Jorge Silva  Photo-essay

Kongkaew Vonusak smiles when he recalls the arrival of Chinese investors in his tranquil village in northern Laos in 2014. With them came easy money, he said. Three years later, the Chinese-driven banana boom has left few locals untouched, but not everyone is smiling.

These three firms own corporate America, by Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk, & Javier Garcia-Bernardo

A fundamental change is underway in stock market investing, and the spin-off effects are poised to dramatically impact corporate America.

Traffic cones are seen on the bank of the River Thames during low tide in London, Britain January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

London’s Secretive Dark River, by Stefan Wermuth

London’s River Thames has been the lifeblood of the British capital since the city’s origins as a Roman garrison town around 2,000 years ago. The artery through which the world’s trade passed at the height of the British Empire, its banks were lined with factories that drove the industrial revolution but left its waters biologically dead. Now, with power stations transformed into galleries, the river is home to seals, the occasional porpoise and has become a much-loved open space.

~~~

To our supporters, thank you. Newcomers, welcome to reader-supported Facts and Opinions, employee-owned and ad-free. We will continue only if readers like you chip in, at least 27 cents, on an honour system. If you value our work, contribute below. Find details and more payment options here.

Posted in Current Affairs

Journalism Matters this week: F&O’s fresh sheet

Venezuela spins at the rim of a black hole,  by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Demonstrators clash with police during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Reuters

Venezuela is being sucked into a political and social vacuum. The awful probability is that the vacuum will be filled by violence. That’s usually what happens when human societies lose their way.

Why America’s health care is so bad, by Tom Regan   Column

America is the only advanced nation in the world without a universal healthcare system. There are two reasons for this: 1) the companies that provide healthcare, and make billions and billions doing so, spend lots of money every year making sure politicians don’t mess with their golden goose; 2) the American notion of individuality.

Feminists mourn Wendy Robbins

Feminists across Canada and abroad are mourning the sudden death of Professor Wendy Robbins, a Canadian sociologist who championed women in academia, health care, and activism.

How One Major Internet Company Helps Serve Up Hate, by Ken Schwencke, ProPublica

The widespread use of Cloudflare’s services by racist groups is not an accident. Cloudflare has said it is not in the business of censoring websites and will not deny its services to even the most offensive purveyors of hate. Based in San Francisco, Cloudflare operates more than 100 data centers spread across the world, serving as a sort of middleman for websites.

Journalism at risk from surveillance, data collection: UNESCO report, by Julie Posetti  Expert Witness

The ability of journalists to report without fear is under threat from mass surveillance and data retention. My UNESCO report Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age shows that laws protecting journalists and sources globally are not keeping up with the challenges posed by indiscriminate data collection and the spill-over effects of anti-terrorism and national security legislation.

 ~~~

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

Press freedoms at tipping point: RSF

Press freedom is declining globally, warns Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans frontières, today releasing the 2017 World Press Freedom Index showing press freedoms “in the worst state we have ever seen.”

“Once taken for granted, media freedom is proving to be increasingly fragile in democracies,” said an RSF analysis. Authoritarian regimes and dictatorships are not the only culprits for abuse, it said. “In sickening statements, draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators. ”

Even the leading European democracies  have declined, notably Finland and the Netherlands, said RSF.

“By eroding this fundamental freedom on the grounds of protecting their citizens, the democracies are in danger of losing their souls,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

From FSF’s press statement:

Media freedom has retreated wherever the authoritarian strongman model has triumphed. Democracies began falling in the Index in preceding years and now, more than ever, nothing seems to be checking that fall.

RSF’s “global indicator” has never been so high (3872). This measure of the overall level of media freedom constraints and violations worldwide has risen 14% in the span of five years.

As we have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms, this 2017 World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries.

European countries  — which also rank high on assessments of citizen happiness and economic competitiveness — ranked at the top of 180 countries, led by  Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Canada dropped four spots in one year to 22. France and the United Kingdom ranked 39 and 40 respectively, with the United States at 43. Mexico is far less free, at 143; Russia at 148, and China at 176. Dead last is North Korea. The biggest change is in Italy, which jumped 25 spots year over year to 52nd place.

RSF bases its results on a questionnaire about pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. It explains its methodology here.

Compare press freedoms where you live to other countries using RSF’s table, 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 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 All

Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet

Ferryland, 50 kilometers south of St Johns, is the backdrop to Newfoundland’s first icebergs of spring. Heavy Arctic ice pack and icebergs cause havoc with shipping and fishing operations, but tourists flock to the Canadian province to see them. Photo © Greg Locke 2017

French election a pivotal European test, by Richard Maher Analysis

French CRS police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French voters go to the polls on April 23 for the first round of what has been the most unorthodox, unpredictable and potentially momentous presidential contest in recent French history. It could have repercussions far beyond the continent.

Security issues dominate key French vote, by Leigh Thomas and Marine Pennetier  Report

The killing of a policeman by a suspected Islamist militant pushed national security to the top of the French political agenda on Friday, two days before the presidential election.

A daughter’s freedom vs her sibling’s lives, by  Zohra Bensemra  Feature/Photo-essay

Zeinab, 14, (2nd L) poses for photograph with her family beside their shelter at a camp for internally displaced people from drought hit areas in Dollow, Somalia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

As the village wells dried up and her livestock died in the scorched scrubland of southern Somalia, Abdir Hussein had one last chance to save her family from starvation: the beauty of her 14-year-old daughter, Zeinab.

In Commentary:

Trump ain’t seen nothing yet, Iran to top agenda, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Trump is going to have to up his global game if he wants to be regarded as anything more than a gormless and dangerously unpredictable Vaudeville act. His opportunity looms as Iran, its nuclear development program and its involvement in Middle East conflicts, bubble to the top of the agenda.

Trump’s gurus taken off air, by Penney Kome   Column

Alex Jones, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes inspired some of US President 45’s wildest claims

When is free speech not “free” on campus?  by Tom Regan  Column

Of all the things that I value the most about living in a democracy, freedom of speech is probably the most important. And so when I read about actions by students lately to limit the rights of conservative or far right speakers on several American campuses, my first reaction is one of rage. How dare they? But it’s not that simple.

In case you missed them:

Demands grow for South Africa’s Zuma to go, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Demonstrators carry banners as they take part in a protest calling for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings It is fitting symbolism that one of the most intense of the many mass demonstrations in recent days, demanding the removal of South African President Jacob Zuma, was in the square in front of Cape Town’s City Hall. It was in this same square on the evening of February 11, 1990, that tens of thousands of South Africans thronged to hear the first public speech by Nelson Mandela after his release from Victor Verster Prison earlier that day.

Legalized weed in Canada an idea whose time has come, by Tom Regan   Column

Canada, based on a campaign promise made by the Trudeau government, introduced legislation to make recreational marijuana use legal in Canada by July 2018. It’s about time. I’m glad to see that Canada has chosen to take the lead on this issue.

Trump and Yellen may not be such an Odd Couple, by By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir   Analysis

Trump and Yellen: not an odd couple? Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference after a two day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Trump and Yellen: not an odd couple? Federal Reserve REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

At first glance, U.S. President Donald Trump and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen may have little in common. Yellen is an academic economist and veteran of Democratic administrations who is committed to an open global economy, while Trump is a real estate mogul with an electoral base suspicious of the economic order Yellen helped to create. Yet the two may have interests in common now that Trump is president and both want to get as many Americans working as possible.

Findings from the world wide web:

The European Space Agency this month issued a stark warning about a pollution source few consider, awash as we are in an ocean of plastic, an atmosphere of greenhouse gases, and degraded soil. Space, warns the ESA, is littered with thousands of objects smashing into each other — including into vessels humans may want to send up for exploration or, in the wild hopes of some thinkers, escape from an unlivable earth. Find the ESA statement here, or read a Washington Post story for a bit more context.

~~~

The New Yorker reports on the death this month of guitarist Bruce Langhorne, age 78, from complications related to an earlier stroke.  “For anyone who, in the mid-nineteen-sixties, frequented the smoky, caliginous folk clubs of Greenwich Village, the muscular, smiling Langhorne and his acoustic guitar were a recurring vision: he played with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Richard and Mimi Fariña, Peter La Farge, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Harry Belafonte, and a bevy of other revivalists.” Most of the world, though, is most familiar with him as Bob Dylan’s sideman, and the hero of  “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and survives on an honour system. Try one story at no charge; chip in at least $.27 apiece for more. If you value no-spam, no-ads, non-partisan, evidence-based, independent journalism, help us continue. Please share our links and respect our copyright.Details.

Posted in Current Affairs