Category Archives: Current Affairs

Blog for the discussion of current affairs

Facts, Opinions, and Findings of the week

Foreign banks in Britain pay fraction of tax rate, by Tom Bergin

A man walks into the JP Morgan headquarters at Canary Wharf in London May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

A man walks into the JP Morgan headquarters at Canary Wharf in London May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

Some of the biggest foreign investment and commercial banks operating in Britain paid an average tax rate of just 6 percent on the billions of dollars of profits they made in the country last year, a Reuters analysis of regulatory filings shows. That is less than a third of Britain’s corporate rate of 20 percent. There is however nothing illegal about this.

Battle Ends, Bloody Syrian War Grinds On, by Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall and Stephanie Nebehay  Report

Rebel resistance in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended in December after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment. The battle was one of the worst of a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers, and ended with victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite militias. The larger Syrian war, however, endures.

Commentary:

Earth on the Docket: Americans join wave of climate litigation, By Mary Wood, Charles W. Woodward, IV, and Michael C. Blumm  Expert Witness

Two days after America’s presidential election a court in Oregon issued a path-breaking decision in Juliana v. U.S. declaring that youth – indeed, all citizens – hold constitutional rights to a stable climate system. The case is part of a wave of atmospheric trust litigation in several countries.

Our Time to Rebel, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda   Column

It’s our turn, as American Democrats. This will be a ‘take no prisoners’ fight. Donald Trump and his minions have already shown that they will lie, obscure the truth, manipulate and deny facts, and threaten all who oppose them. And then there are the attacks and threats to be launched by his slavish, zombie-like, mainly-white-supremacist alt-Reich followers.  There are several ways to participate in this peaceful ‘rebellion.’

Britain’s tortuous road to “hard” Brexit , by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Column

It is becoming clearer just how wrenching a process it will be for Britain to leave the European Union, and beyond doubt that Britain is headed for a “hard” Brexit.

A Tale of Two Crashes, and Their Aftermaths, by Jim McNiven, Thoughtlines   Column

There are a lot of rough parallels between events in history that suggest that what one generation learns is forgotten over time. One of these is between the political/financial events in the United States between 1830-1850 and 2000-2020.

Arts:

Scandinavia Tackles Fairy Tale Gendering, by Gabrielle Richard, Université Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne (UPEC)

In Stockholm’s Nicolaigarden pre-school, the teachers do not read Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the students. Rather, its library holds children’s books that show different types of heroes and a diversity of family models (including those with single parents, adoptive children, and same-sex parents).

Magazine:

Have I Inherited the Trauma of China’s Cultural Revolution? by Shayla Love  Magazine

Shayla Love’s mother and grandparents lived through China’s Cultural Revolution – now, in a tale that traces its lineage from Chairman Mao’s brutality to scientific research on epigentics, she seeks to know the biological traces of their trauma she carries within her today.

Findings:

The launch of a massive fund chaired by Bill Gates, to invest in a carbonless future and provide “reliable, affordable energy for the world.”   The Breakthrough Energy Coalition pledged to to invest more than $1 billion in emerging energy breakthroughs “to deliver affordable and reliable energy with the goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero.” You can read the press release here.  The fund predicts increased demand for energy, but “to get there, we need different tools than the ones that have served us in the past. Breakthrough Energy is committed to investing in new technologies to find better, more efficient and cheaper energy sources. The global energy market is massive, and finding a way to open it up is an investment opportunity worth getting right.”

China and the United States engaged in brinkmanship this week over China’s seizure of a research drone in international waters claimed by China. China agreed to return the drone. Read the New York Times report here.

This year broke all records for the numbers of  migrants and refugees on the move, and also for deaths,  on average 20 each day, said a report by the International Organization for Migration. More than half of the deaths, about 7,189, were in the Mediterranean, it said. Read the IOM press release here.  Meanwhile Germany’s Parliament, responding to the political backlash to migrants in Europe, demanded the country make more effort to integrate newcomers culturally. (Read the Reuters report here.)

For something entirely different, take a break from the world-wearying news.

Alan Watts & David Lindberg – Why Your Life Is Not A Journey from David Lindberg on Vimeo.

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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.

Battle Ends, Bloody Syrian War Grinds On

By Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall and Stephanie Nebehay 

Rebel resistance in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended on Tuesday after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment that culminated in a bloody retreat, as insurgents agreed to withdraw in a ceasefire.

The battle of Aleppo, one of the worst of a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers, has ended with victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite militias….

However, the war will still be far from over, with insurgents retaining major strongholds elsewhere in Syria, and the jihadist Islamic State group holding swathes of the east and recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra this week. …. Read our full report here  

Related on F&O:

In 2013 F&O partner Jonathan Manthorpe called Syria our modern Gordian knot. Here are F&O’s works that explain and put Syria’s agony in context:

Aleppo will fall, but Syrian war will go on — Analysis, by By Samia Nakhoul October, 2016

Syria’s mobile amputee clinic, photo-essay, By Khalil Ashawi April, 2016

Heartbreak in starving Syrian town, By Lisa Barrington and Stephanie Nebehay January 12, 2015

Our selective grief: Paris, Beirut, Ankara, and Syria, by  Tom Regan November, 2015  Column

Syria: new weaponry test bed By David StupplesCity University London  October, 2015

Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State, By Humeyra Pamuk July, 2015

Al-Qaida Jihadists Suspicious of Iraq-Syria Caliphate, by Jonathan Manthorpe July 16, 2014   Column

Putin supports Syria for fear of revolution spreading to Russia’s Muslims, by Jonathan Manthorpe  : September 6, 2013 Column

Cutting Syria’s Gordian knot no simple feat, by Jonathan Manthorpe   August 28, 2013  Column

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Recommended:

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.

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Red Kettles, Fake News, Corruption: Facts and Opinions this week

Viola Desmond the choice for portrait on Canada’s next $10 bill 

Our journalism boutique lineup this week features an essay by Jeremy Hainsworth, weighing discrimination against the good done by the Salvation Army in saving lives. We focus on corruption with three pieces: Jonathan Manthorpe’s column on Transparency International’s latest findings; India’s secretive war against corruption, and how America welcomes foreign high-rollers suspected of corruption at home. Fake News is on our horizon, too, with Tom Regan’s Déjà vu  perspective and thoughts in the Notebook section below. But first, give a minute of your time to the video of Viola Desmond, and don’t miss our brief story about her, below.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I'm torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth

The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I’m torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction.

Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan   Column

We’ve been here before. Overwhelmed by fake news. Making important political and social decisions based on lies, half-truths and deliberate manipulation of facts, shaping them into something quite hideous. Perhaps even ignoring them altogether.

Canada, Fraudster’s Nirvana, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Canada was slammed in a new report on corruption. It matters because tricks –blind trusts, shell companies, anonymous accounts in tax havens — are spurring the kind of populist, enraged politics that elected Donald Trump and is behind Brexit.  Unless Ottawa ensures that Canada’s privileged classes play by the same rules as everyone else Canada, too, will experience a tide of outrage.

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Who knew? Modi’s secretive attack on black money, by Douglas Busvine and Rupam Jain

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi staked his reputation and popularity on a secretive flash attack on the corrupt “black money” his government has struggled to eradicate.

Suspected of Corruption, Finding Refuge in the U.S. by Kyra Gurney, Anjali Tsui, David Iaconangelo, Selina Cheng

Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shields them from arrest: the United States, an  increasingly popular destination for people avoiding criminal charges.

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Notebook:

How do we “know” what we “know?” Nope, this isn’t a trick question on an epistemology course. It’s the key to our lives, from the mundane (is that food safe to eat?) to social (can I trust that person?) to the most technical of calculations (how do I design a sound airplane?). Our world is built on evidence-based decision-making. In democracies, we depend on having enough citizens who know about enough stuff to make enough smart decisions — based on the best evidence available — to keep us alive. We depend on having enough citizens willing  to confront problems and fix them. And if there’s anybody left who doubts that our democracies are in crisis, the events of 2016 dispelled our illusions.

Will democracy last? Some fear for this grand experiment; see this study showing a drop in support for the very concept. Its detractors might consider what system they’d prefer: Rule by royals? Tyranny by dictators? Authoritarianism posing as Communism? I agree with Winston Churchill, who considered democracy the least bad of the options.  But our willingness to accept lies as facts — like the lies told during the UK vote on Brexit and the American election — could be its death knell.

This week F&O partner Tom Regan argued in his column, Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, that untrustworthy “news” is hardly new.

But here’s why I think fake news is so widespread today: real news can be depressing. We are a society that avoids sadness, suppresses reflection with distraction, and stocks an arsenal of drugs and therapy for depression. And, increasingly, we also refuse to embrace real news.

The root cause of “Fake News” is deeper than the culprits most often blamed:  the venality of the deceivers, the glee of those who profit, manipulations by the Russians, distrust in traditional media, the gullibility of sheeple. I contend that “Fake News” flourishes because we have a pandemic of Happiness Disorder.

Happiness is, obviously, a good thing. But happiness is neither real, nor achievable, if the only way we can feel happy is by turning a blind eye — especially when there’s a cliff in our road. Staring crises in the face is hardly happy-making — but ignoring a crisis is deadly. Democracy requires that enough of us keep watch to avoid driving off cliffs. Without enough clear sight — without some willingness to seek “knowledge” — where will we find ourselves?

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Viola Desmond, civil rights leader, circa 1940. Photo Nova Scotia Government

Viola Desmond, civil rights leader, circa 1940. Photo Nova Scotia Government

The image of civil rights leader Viola Desmond will grace Canada’s next new $10 bill, being designed for issue in 2018, the Bank of Canada announced this week.

In 1946 Desmond, a successful businesswoman in Nova Scotia, refused to sit in the “coloured” section of a theatre in Cape Breton. Police dragged her out and locked her in jail. She was later convicted and fined on a tax technicality. She lost her appeal, but her story spread far and wide, and by 1954 segregation in Nova Scotia was abolished. Desmond, who died in 1965 aged 50,  was pardoned posthumously in 2010 — by Mayann Francis, also a black Nova Scotia woman, and Nova Scotia’s then-Lieutenant Governor.

Nine years after Viola Desmond’s defiant stand rocked Canada,  Rosa Parks, by refusing to sit in the “coloured” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabma, became America’s symbol of civil rights.

Suggested reading elsewhere: Viola Desmond deserves better than a once-only holiday, by Stephen Kimber, 2014;  BLACK HISTORY MONTH: REMEMBERING CANADIAN CIVIL RIGHTS ICON VIOLA DESMOND, by  Asha Tomlinson, CBC News.

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Findings:

“The breakup of Europe, the rise of plutocrat-populists such as Trump, the failures of Mark Carney and the technocratic elite: he has anatomised all of them,’ writes Aditya Chakrabortty in a Guardian profile about Wolfgang Streeck: the German economist calling time on capitalism. “Not so long ago, such catastrophism would have been the stuff of Speakers’ Corner. Today, it goes right to the brokenness of politics.”

A remarkable multi-media New York Times feature examines the slaughter underway in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a war on drugs unlike any the world has seen. They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals” by Daniel Berehulak is a gripping photo essay, grisly and sometimes heart wrenching, documenting 57 killings.

— Deborah Jones 

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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.

Also posted in Gyroscope

Matters of Facts, and Opinions

A man hangs shirts out to dry in an open-air laundry in Mumbai, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE Ð SEARCH ÒBUSINESS WEEK AHEAD SEPTEMBER 12Ó FOR ALL IMAGES - RTSNAG5

Is Your T-Shirt Clean of Slavery? Science Will Tell. Above, a man hangs shirts out to dry in an open-air laundry in Mumbai, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade

F&O’s Dispatches this week:

Security Chief: Europe Must Brace for New Extremist Attacks, by Alastair Macdonald

 Islamic State will attack Europe again, security chiefs warned on Dec. 2, and may add car bombs, cyber and chemical warfare to its local arsenal as European militants drift home after reverses in Syria and Iraq.

Donald Trump’s Constitutional Problem, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica  Report

Despite the presence of armed forces in the street, the most violent neighbourhoods of Honduras are plagued by insecurity. Children can rarely go out and play, even during daytime. Families’ movements are restricted by gangs, who impose “invisible borders” between their gang territories. European Commission photo, by A. Aragón 2016/Flickr

Honduras is plagued by insecurity. EU/A. Aragón 2016/Flickr

Far from ending with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that he will separate himself from the management of his business empire, the constitutional debate about the meaning of the Emoluments Clause — and whether Trump will be violating it — is likely just beginning.

Porous Texas Fence Foreshadow’s Trump’s Wall Problems, by Jon Herskovitz

The rose-coloured border security fence starts in a dusty field on the Loop family farm in South Texas – about 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and a mile north of the southern U.S. border. From there, near Brownsville, it stretches about 60 miles west, but with plenty of gaps to drive or walk through. Where it exists, the fence doesn’t always stop illegal immigrants.

Is Your T-Shirt Clean of Slavery? Science Will Tell, by Liz Mermin  Report

Shoppers lured by a bargain-priced T-shirt but concerned about whether the item is free of slave labour could soon have the answer – from DNA forensic technology.

Commentary:

Disappearing the Middle East, by Tom Regan  Column

The Middle East has disappeared from American media, despite the billions the US has spent and continues to spend in the region. Americans have moved on. But here’s the rub — it won’t just go away.

Fidel Castro and the Defeat of South African’s Apartheid, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Many people questioned it then and continue to question it now, but Nelson Mandela had no doubt that Fidel Castro played a central and critical role in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa.

Castro and Trudeau, Kindred Spirits, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Canada’s Pierre Trudeau and Cuba’s Fidel Castro were brothers under the skin. It is no wonder they became life-long friends, for each could see a reflection of himself in the other.  The similarity in the backgrounds of the two men is compelling.

Starve the Beast! by Jim McNiven   Column

During America’s Ronald Reagan presidency, the phrase ‘starve the beast’ was shorthand amongst conservatives for the idea that by simply cutting back on expenditures — either through disciplined spending or by giving money away through tax cuts— people would be forced to accept smaller and less expensive government. It didn’t really work — but the idea persists, on the “left” and the “right.”

Necropolitics in Mexico and Central America, by By Ariadna Estévez, Expert Witness

There’s a standard narrative, that gang violence is forcing people to flee Central America and Mexico. But this overlooks two facts about the  humanitarian crisis and regional tragedy, and criminal violence is just part of a dangerous cocktail.

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.

Notebook: on the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro dies, age 90. Then Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses the audience as president of the Non-Aligned Movement at the United Nations in New York, in this October 12, 1979 file photo. REUTERS/Prensa Latina/File Photo

Fidel Castro dies, age 90. Then Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses the audience as president of the Non-Aligned Movement at the United Nations in New York, in this October 12, 1979 file photo. REUTERS/Prensa Latina

Before I first went to Cuba, in 1995 on a magazine assignment, a good friend who travelled widely on government business said it was the only Latin American country she knew where no children begged in the streets. I kept her comment in mind as I read up on the criticism of Cuba’s human rights and economic record.

At the airport at Holguin I encountered armed guards, enforcing Cuba’s then-rule against bringing in magazines, books or newspapers. Buildings everywhere were riddled with bullet holes, mementoes of the revolution. People were thin and food –mostly consisted rice and beans — was scant, following the collapse of its ally the U.S.S.R. Cuba’s air roiled with black oily exhaust belching from ancient vehicles; taking public transit required clambering into the back of a dump truck.  Once in Santiago, a tour guide noted matter-of-factly that Cuba used firing squads for capital punishment.

But my friend was right: there was not a beggar to be seen. Children dressed in sparkling white walked to school in lines. Almost all of the adults I met had post-secondary education; my assigned driver had a PhD in anthropology and was married to a physician. Everyone had health care. Though Cubans were poor, no one I saw was downcast to the point of being broken; I still can’t say the same of other places I’ve been in the Americas — including the U.S.

Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution has had mixed results, but as with most things in life, it’s not all good nor all bad. Cuba ranks 67th in the UN Human Development Index. Had Castro not revolted against the American corporate pirates who were then raping and ransacking the country, would it now rival perhaps Haiti (163), Nicaragua (125) or Honduras (131)?

My driver in 1995 said he hoped Cuba would change, open up to the world, allow him to travel. He was tired of being poor and hungry, he said. Then he frowned, and added, “But we have to be careful. We don’t want to lose what we’ve gained.”

Those gains — by a small, isolated and impoverished country — are revealed in an adult literacy rate of 99.8 %, and statistics that put the far wealthier United States to shame in areas like infant mortality (Cuba’s rate of 4, lower than 6 in the US); life expectancy (Cubans live to 79.1 years, Americans 78.8 years. Sources: UNICEF Cuba; UNICEF U.S.  Such are the things I’ve kept in mind lately while listening to modern critics of Cuba’s human rights and economic record.

Our works about Cuba and Fidel Castro include two columns this week by International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe — Fidel Castro and the Defeat of South African’s Apartheid, and  Castro and Trudeau, Kindred Spirits — adding to the earlier news: Fidel Castro, dead at 90. A Life in Photos; with Fidel Castro, Facts and Quotes, and an analysis by academic Mark Beeson, Fidel Castro: Anachronism, Achiever, With Tarnished Legacy.

— Deborah Jones       

Finding:

“Do you live in a bubble?” asks PBS. The American public broadcaster developed a 25-question quiz anyone can fill out to see how disconnected we might be from “from the average white American and American culture at large.” Adapted from one used by Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author, it assesses how thick or thin the walls of a respondent’s bubble might be. It’s American, of course, but this Canadian guesstimated the local equivalent of US-specific questions. Find the quiz here.

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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.

Also posted in Gyroscope

Matters of Facts, and Opinions: Castro, Trump, Burma, Nepal

Fidel Castro is dead, age 90. Read our report, fact box, and analysis. Above, People look at a picture of Cuba's former President Fidel Castro during the opening of the exhibition "Fidel" in Havana, Cuba, August 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Fidel Castro is dead, age 90. Read our report, fact box, and analysis. Above, People look at a picture of Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro during the opening of the exhibition “Fidel” in Havana, Cuba, August 12, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Notebook: Our journalism boutique this week offers reports and analysis on Fidel Castro’s death; Jonathan Manthorpe on Burma (also known as Myanmar); Tom Regan on past American Fascism; an essay on  democratic awakening by Emily Lacika, and a report on Nepal as the set of a real-life, grim, Game of Thrones.

Fidel Castro, Dead at 90: A Life in Photos, by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta  Report/Photo essay

Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader who built a communist state on the doorstep of the United States and for five decades defied U.S. efforts to topple him, died Nov. 25, 2016. He was 90. A towering figure of the second half of the 20th Century, Castro stuck to his ideology beyond the collapse of Soviet communism and remained widely respected in parts of the world that had struggled against colonial rule.

Fidel Castro, The Facts, compiled by Reuters

Cuban revolutionary and its former president Fidel Castro died, age 90, on Friday November 26.  Following are some facts about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and quotes from his friends and foes.

Fidel Castro: Anachronism and Achiever, With Tarnished Legacy, by Mark Beeson   Analysis

Twentieth-century political icons don’t get much bigger than Fidel Castro. His death will reignite debates about his place in history and the revolutionary ideas he epitomised.

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A girl showers her sister at the displacement camp for earthquake victims at Chuchepati in Kathmandu, Nepal, September 19, 2016. Picture taken September 19, 2016. To match Insight NEPAL-QUAKE/POLITICS Thomson Reuters Foundation/Navesh Chitrakar  - RTST7C9

Game of Thrones leaves Nepalis Cold. Above, a girl showers her sister at a displacement camp for earthquake victimsThomson Reuters Foundation/Navesh Chitrakar

Ethnic Cleansing Roils Burma’s Democracy Transition, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

Burma’s 50 million people languished under a most vile military dictatorship for 50 years, but that has not made them a tolerant and open-handed society. The country’s military is in the middle of a scorched earth operation against the one million minority Muslim Rohingya in Burma’s north-western Rakhine state that United Nations officials and international human rights agencies have called “ethnic cleansing.”

American Fascism: We’ve Been Here Before, by Tom Regan  Column

America, for all its talk of the love of liberty and equality, has long had a fascination for fascism and the rule of the autocrat, especially at times of economic trouble and cultural upheaval. Fascism of the kind offered by Donald Trump appeals, as a bromide against the problems of the day.

Wake-up: How the 2016 Election Changed One American Voter, by Emily Lacika

My U.S. post-election emotions have run the gamut: sadness, anger, anxiety, vindictiveness, shame. American politics is big on rhetoric about democracy, but it often falls short, especially this year when the candidate who won fewer votes has captured the White House. Sixty two million other Americans voted the same way I did, and lost –and now we are working together.

Game of Thrones in Himalayas Leave Nepalis Cold, by Nita Bhalla and Gopal Sharma

Constant feuding between a myriad of political parties has fuelled political turmoil and weak governance in Nepal, delaying efforts to rebuild the country of 28 million people despite an outpouring of aid, analysts said. Ongoing political instability in a country which has seen 24 governments in 26 years has stymied reconstruction efforts.

In case you missed them, some recent works:

China's President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and Peru's second Vice President Mercedes Araoz (L) walk after he and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd R) arrived for the 2016 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Lima, Peru November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

Read: Pacific Rim Leaders Scramble in Trump Trade Era, and Manthorpe’s analysis, Trump victory rattles Asia. Above, China’s President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and Peru’s second Vice President Mercedes Araoz (L) walk after he and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd R) arrived for the 2016 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Lima, Peru November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

Science wars in the age of Donald Trump, by Andrea Saltelli &  Silvio Oscar Funtowicz, Expert Witness

If Brexit signified the end of facts, what does the election of Donald Trump tell us? Apparently, a new battle in the history of the science wars. But the alleged “end of facts” is the result of a superficial understanding of the deeper crisis in the role of science and expertise.

Pacific Rim Leaders Scramble in Trump Trade Era, Reuters, by Rosalba O’Brien and Mitra Taj  Report

Leaders of Pacific rim nations scrambled to find new free-trade options on Friday as a looming Donald Trump presidency in the United States sounded a possible death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Trump victory rattles Asia, analysis by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

It was extraordinary to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take a detour on his flight to Peru for the Asia-Pacific summit next week, in order to scurry to New York to seek an audience with Donald Trump. That Abe would put himself through this distasteful encounter speaks volumes about the fear and dread with which not only Japan, but much of Asia, contemplates the ascension of Trump on January 20.

American Fascism: We’ve Been Here Before, by Tom Regan  Column

America, for all its talk of the love of liberty and equality, has long had a fascination for fascism and the rule of the autocrat, especially at times of economic trouble and cultural upheaval. Fascism of the kind offered by Donald Trump appeals, as a bromide against the problems of the day.

Canada’s dark time might be closer than you think, by Tom Regan   Column

After the election of 2015, Canadians probably thought they were safe from the kind of racism and bigotry that has gripped the United States after the election of Donald Trump. Well, I’m sorry to break your little “we’re so great” bubble. Vigilance is needed in Canada, too.

How should you grieve? by Andrea Volpe, Loose Leaf essay

I first learned about complicated grief while riding the subway in Boston, where I read an advertisement recruiting participants for a study. By then, I’d been a widow for about a decade.

~~~

F&O’s Contents page is updated each Saturday, or as events warrant.

Thank you to our supporters. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free, and will continue only if readers like you chip in. Please, if you value our work, contribute via PayPal or find more payment options here.

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Leonard Cohen walks to the stage as he is inducted during the 23rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York March 10, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Leonard Cohen walks to the stage as he is inducted during the 23rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York March 10, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

We focus this week on three main events: F&O marks Remembrance Day this year with a photo-essay by Greg Locke, thoughts on the poppy by Alex Kennedy, and a feature by Jonathan Manthorpe on the WWII Battle for Hong Kong. We have a story about Canadian poet, rocker and mystic Leonard Cohen, who died this week, age 82. And of course we report on America’s gut-reaching election, which ended as divisively as it began: see our reports on its medieval carnival aspects, the forgotten class who rose up in anger, and columns by Penney Kome, Jim McNiven, and Tom Regan. Details:

Reports:

Leonard Cohen, Poet, Rocker, Mystic, Dead at 82, by Alex Dobuzinskis  Report

Leonard Cohen, rock music’s man of letters whose songs fused religious imagery with themes of redemption and sexual desire, earning him critical and popular acclaim,  died on November 10, age 82

The US election as Medieval Carnival, by  Anastasia Denisova  Report

The consumption of fast food media advances fast politics, the swift, screaming and scandalous sort of politics that is so tempting to share and receive “likes” for. So the real winner of this election, in fact, is the viral state of mind.

US Election: Revenge of the Forgotten Class, by Alec MacGillis, ProPublica   Report

Donald Trump’s stunning win Tuesday, defying all the prognosticators, suggested there were many people so disconnected from the political system that they were literally unaccounted for in the pollsters’ modeling, which relies on past voting behavior.

Commentary:

Remembering War, by Greg Locke  Photo essay

I can’t do Remembrance Day anymore. Just don’t have it in me. I don’t mean it to be disrespectful.

Canadians and the Battle for Hong Kong, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs   Column

On this day 75 years ago, 1,975 men, and two female nurses, of the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were steaming across the East China Sea in the New Zealand liner-turned-troop ship, SS Awatea. This small rough-hewn and makeshift expeditionary force was bound for the British colony of Hong Kong.

Poppy: medicine, or opiate? by Alex Kennedy  Loose Leaf 

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Protesters walk during a protest in Chicago. REUTERS/Kamil Krzacznski

Protesters walk during a protest in Chicago. REUTERS/Kamil Krzacznski

America’s Dark Hour, by Tom Regan  Column

We were wrong. So very wrong.  We thought there was no way that Americans would elect a man so totally unfit to be president.

Welcome to Trumpland, by Penney Kome   Column

President Donald J Trump? The mind reels. The gorge rises. In vain, many political observers have searched for a saving grace.

Changes in Attitudes: The Best, and Worst of Times, by Jim McNiven  Column

To be Dickensian, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times. There is a lot of speculation that maybe America’s new President won’t really do what he said he would do. I wouldn’t bet on that.

 

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 please contribute. Find details and more payment options here.

~~~

Notebook:

Events elsewhere you might have missed include, in no particular order:  Daesh (Islamic State) left behind death and mayhem as it was ousted from Mosul. (Reuters) In Marrakech Morroco is hosting the latest round of climate talks, COP22 (UN). A science report suggests high levels of Vitamin D arelinked to better odds of surviving breast cancer. The European Union’s top diplomat received the International Democracy Prize for peace and democracy globally (Deutsche Welle), and space junk fell on a Myanmar jade mine. (Deutsche Welle)

Finding:

Canada’s National Film Board pays homage to Leonard Cohen with this documentary, Ladies and Gentlemen, Leonard Cohen, which follows him on a visit back to his home of Montreal at age 30.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen , Donald Brittain & Don Owen, National Film Board of Canada

And, as we also did last year, we recommend Leonard Cohen’s reading of the John McCrae poem In Flanders Fields.

Last but not least, Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time:

Remembering War

GREG LOCKE
November 11, 2016

I can’t do Remembrance Day anymore. Just don’t have it in me. I don’t mean it to be disrespectful. In fact, my respect is infinite. I have had relatives serve in the Canadian, British and American military going back to WWI. I’ve attended the National War Memorial in St John’s, Newfoundland with my father-in-law, a veteran of the Battle of Altona in Italy during WWII, and the rest of the old men many times. I have talked about war far too many times.

Today I have young friends, still in their 20s, who are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, and I see their pain. I have been to wars and “peace keeping missions” in the Balkans, Central America, the Middle East and Central Africa. Bosnia, Kurdistan, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Haiti, Congo: all beautiful places with rich cultures and decent people, but which are now synonymous with Hell for so many.

While I understand that a culture needs to maintain its ceremonies and traditions and no, we should never forget, I never want to hear canned platitudes like “ultimate sacrifice” and “lest we forget” ever again. For me it trivializes human suffering. Just official words we are trained to mouth. And, because humans do forget. Witness their continuation of self-destruction. Witness how our soldiers and other victims of war are treated.

I keep this photo gallery on my website to remind me that Remembrance Day is not just about the old men and ceremonies at sterile monuments around the country. It reminds me of the soldiers, aid workers, civilians, journalists, friends I met and worked with in Bosnia, and the people I know now still suffering from war.

Nobody comes home unscathed.

DEPLETED URANIUM IMPLICATED IN HEALTH PROBLEMS IN NATO TROOPSBosnia-2-2-c14.jpgBosnia-2-4-c5.jpgbosnia21-c31.jpgbosnia22-c62.jpg

 

Copyright Greg Locke 2016

Photographer and journalist Greg LockeGreg Locke is a founder and the managing partner, visual, of Facts and Opinions. He built the Facts and Opinions website, produces F&O’s photo essays, reports for Dispatches, writes and photographs Think magazine pieces, and contributes to the blogs. Visit his website at www.greglocke.com

 

 

 

~~~

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.

Also posted in All, Canadian Journalist, Conflict Tagged , , , |

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Below is F&O’s Fresh Sheet. We’ll have more stories later this week — see our Contents page for our newest original and curated works.

Notebook:

Current affairs are a raging flood, from breaking news about the Canada-Europe free trade dea. (Reuters) to a pipeline protest in North Dakota that activist Bill McKibben calls the “New Keystone” and writer Paul VanDevelder calls a “reckoning” that began with America’s Founding Fathers. The Middle East, especially Syria, remains unrelentingly tragic (Google). And (sigh) there’s another email kerfuffle (NPR) as the gong-show of the Nov. 8 American election dominates our attention.

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-11-28-33-amThe sobering backdrop to all of this (relative) ephemera is yet more evidence that the systems we need to survive as a species, let alone as a “civilized” species, are vanishing. The Living Planet Report 2016 report, released this week by the World Wildlife Fund, catalogues the disappearance since 1970 of 38% of other terrestrial creatures, 81% of freshwater creatures, and 36% of marine creatures. Warned the WWF with remarkable restraint, “This loss of wildlife is startling, and people are at risk, too. Without action, the Earth will become much less hospitable for all of us. We must consider our impact on nature as we make development, economic, business, and lifestyle choices. A shared understanding of the link between humanity and nature is essential to making profound changes that will allow all life to thrive for generations to come.” Read the WWF report.

Meanwhile, today marks the six-decade anniversary of the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Israel, along with Britain and France, over control of the vital Suez Canal. The aggressors were forced to back down by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations. Proving the law of unintended consequences, the crisis –AKA the Tripartite Aggression or the Kadesh Operation — changed the modern world, marking Britain’s capitulation to American cultural and geopolitical hegemony and leading to the creation of UN peacekeepers . Read more at Wikipedia.

Thanks for visiting, and please note that we’ll survive as an independent, employee-owned, no-advertising journalism boutique for only as long as you, our readers, support us.

— Deborah Jones

Reports:

Colombia’s Child Soldiers Say FARC is Family, by Anastasia Moloney

Government and FARC peace negotiators have been mulling over dozens of proposals to rescue the peace accord, meant to end a long-running war, and rejected by voters. One surprise is that FARC’s child soldiers are reportedly reluctant to leave the insurgents they view as family.

Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management, is interviewed by Reuters in Washington DC February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Facebook Feels Heat of Controversies, by Kristina Cooke, Dan Levine and Dustin Volz

Facebook has often insisted that it is a technology company – not a media company. But an elite group  directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls. Facebook has long resisted calls to publicly detail its policies and practices on censoring postings, drawing criticism citing a lack of transparency and a lack of an appeals process. Meanwhile, some governments and anti-terror groups are pressuring the company to remove more posts.

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race, by Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica

Imagine if, during America’s Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

Commentary:

Hillary Clinton Advisers Probe Prospects With North Korea, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Two seemingly unconnected incidents this week suggest Washington and North Korea are limbering up for another bout in their two decades-long wrestling match over the Pyongyang regime’s nuclear weapons program.

Hopes for UN Secretary General as Climate-savvy Leader, By Ruth Greenspan Bell and Sherri Goodman.  Expert Witness

Antonio Guterres, Geneva August 3, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers, US Mission, Public Domain

Antonio Guterres, Geneva August 3, 2012. Photo by Eric Bridiers, US Mission, Public Domain

The selection of António Guterres as the new United Nations Secretary General is encouraging news for those concerned about the global challenges brought on by climate change.

In case you missed these:

To our supporters, thank you. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We continue only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story.  Payment options are here.

 

Also posted in Gyroscope

F&O this week

Bob Dylan playing Toronto, 1980. Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr/Wikipedia

Bob Dylan playing Toronto, 1980. Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin via Flickr/Wikipedia

F&O’s Fresh Sheet this week features:

Focus on Bob Dylan, who this week won the Nobel Prize for Literature:

His Bob-ness joins Yeats, Beckett, and Eliot, by Rod Mickleburgh

In the winter of 1990, I waited with a handful of reporters and photographers in a grand salon of the Palais-Royal in Paris for Bob Dylan. More than 25 years ahead of the Nobel Prize people, the French had decided that Dylan’s lyrical prowess was worthy of the country’s highest cultural honour, Commandeur dans l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. T.S. Eliot was one of the first to receive the award in 1960. Borges followed in 1962. And now, following in the footsteps of Sean Connery (1987), it was Bob’s turn.

No, Bob Dylan isn’t the first lyricist to win the Nobel, by Alex Lubet

A Bengali literary giant who probably wrote even more songs preceded Dylan’s win by over a century. Rabindranath Tagore, a wildly talented Indian poet, painter and musician, took the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

Are Bob Dylan’s songs “Literature?” by David McCooey

Dylan’s Nobel Prize shows up what the Swedish Academy has so far ignored in their award system: film, popular music, and the emerging forms of digital storytelling. Perhaps what this Nobel tells us more than anything is that “literature” or “poetry” are categories of our own making. To move beyond the page seems long overdue.

xxx

In Commentary:

Why Putin Fears a President Clinton, by Tom Regan  Column

Why would Russian work so hard to elect Trump? There are several theories– but I believe the reason is Vladimir Putin is terrified of Clinton.

“Only White People,” the Little Girl Told my Son, by Topher Sanders  Essay

I saw the messy birth of my son’s otherness … They were playing on one of those spinning things — you know, the one where kids learn about centrifugal force and as a bonus get crazy dizzy. They were having a blast. “Only white people,” said a little girl.

International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe is on the road this week. In case you missed it, his 2014 piece about Thailand’s succession is a must-read in light of Thursday’s death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej:  Uneasy lies the head that wears Thailand’s Crown.

To our supporters, thank you. To newcomers, please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We exist only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story, each, on an honour system. Please contribute below, or find more payment options here.

Believers receive communion during a service in a chapel at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, Philippines October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Believers receive communion during a service in a chapel at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Manila, Philippines October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

In Dispatches:

Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases, by Clement Uwiringiyimana

Nearly 200 nations agreed to a legally binding deal to cut back on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners, a major move against climate change.

Drug Killings Divide, Subdue, Philippines’ Powerful Church, by Clare Baldwin and Manolo Serapio Jr

Catholic priests from the Philippines Church, an institution that helped oust two of the country’s leaders in the past, say they are afraid and unsure how to speak out against the war on drugs unleashed by new President Rodrigo Duterte. More than a dozen clergymen in Asia’s biggest Catholic nation said they were uncertain how to take a stand against the thousands of killings in a war that has such overwhelming popular support. Challenging the president’s campaign could be fraught with danger, some said.

 

Greko 1. Photo supplied by FISH-i Africa

East Africans thwart illegal fishing, by Emma Bryce

Eight East African countries are waging war on illegal fishing — and sometimes winning.

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Notebook:

The biggest, most important, most noteworthy news this week is in our dispatch listed above, Nations Agree on Binding Pact to Cut Greenhouse Gases.  Nearly 200 nations agreed this week to cut a greenhouse gas. It’s a story that’s not sexy. It’s about an Issue rife with bureaucracy, procedure, negotiation. And it’s an example of the only answer we have for the rage and misery infesting the world. It shows that we humans actually can tackle our problems, even the global-sized ones.

From elsewhere on the ‘net:

Mug shots of Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, charged in Kansas bomb plot. Photo: Police handout

Mug shots of Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, from a Kansas group police called “a hidden culture of hatred and violence.” Photo: Police handout

If this is not a case of “terrorism” I don’t know what is.  Three men in an American group called the “Crusaders” were arrested and charged in a FBI sting Friday, for allegedly plotting to blow up a Kansas mosque and apartment building, housing people from Somali.  Read the BBC report here. Like the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing by Timothy McVeigh with co-conspirators, it’s a reminder that terror comes in all skin colours, with fanaticism one common factor.

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October 16 is World Food Day. The focus, set by the United Nations, is on smallholder farmers in the poor countries most affected by climate change. And in the meantime,  the U.S. Agriculture Department said American producers have dumped 43 million tons of excess milk so far this year. The WSJ report is here.

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Opposition by one region of Belgium may have scuppered CETA, the Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which proponents hoped to sign this fall. Find the AP report on CBC, here.

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US First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech this week that will resonate throughout history. Watch below — the first six minutes are marred by technical problems — or read the full text on NPR.

A contagion of clowns struck long before Halloween loomed, marauding everywhere, garishly populating all news and social media feeds. I have not seen one decent explanation of why this is happening now — best guess is that clowns and our fears represent our crazed state of politics, economics and environmental security. This piece on The Conversation by psychologist Frank McAndrew explains that many of us dislike clowns because we can’t read them, and are unsure how to react.

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A Wall Street Journal feature, Blue Feed, Red Feed, aims to pull the tarps off our silos, and reveal the partisan and polarized compartments that trap us in polarization on social media.  “Facebook’s role in providing Americans with political news has never been stronger—or more controversial,” notes the report. ” Scholars worry that the social network can create “echo chambers,” where users see posts only from like-minded friends and media sources.” To demonstrate these the WSJ built an interactive feature.

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Two pieces in the Guardian are especially provocative. Asks Washington writer David Smith: How did WikiLeaks go from darling of the liberal left and scourge of American imperialism to apparent tool of Donald Trump’s divisive, incendiary presidential campaign? And Sarah Smarsh takes aim at journalism’s blind spots in a piece titled, Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans.

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Last but not least, F&O columnist Jim McNiven recommends US election watchers catch this 1980 video of Billy Joel, You May Be Right. “BJ predicted Trump and the Trumpites years ago,” notes McNiven.

 ~~~

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.

Also posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , , , , |

Facts and Opinions this week

 

F&O’s Fresh Sheet includes:

Most US Muslims comfortably integrated, by Tom Regan   Column

The raging Islamophobia of America’s presidential election present a very negative view of American Muslims. It is also completely false.

Nature needs a seat at the UN, by Anthony Burke and Stefanie Fishel  Expert Witness

Is our system of global environmental law and governance adequate to this crisis? No. New international institutions and laws are needed, with one fundamental purpose: to give a voice to ecosystems and non-human forms of life.

Berlin’s The ONE Grand Show, by Hannibal Hanschke, Arts Photo-essay

French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier  swapped the Paris runway for the German stage to create some 500 costumes for “THE ONE Grand Show”.From silver body suits with giant mohawks to revealing fishnet tops with huge feathers, colourful, extravagant costumes take centre stage at the new theatrical show at Berlin’s Friedrichstadt-Palast.

Aleppo will fall, but Syrian war will go on , by Samia Nakhoul  Analysis

 It may take weeks or months, but Aleppo is likely to fall to Syrian government forces backed by Russian air power and the most lethal bombardment in nearly six years of war. But that  will not mean an end to the war, military and political analysts say.

Jonathan Manthorpe is traveling.

Notebook and Findings:

leafIt’s Thanksgiving in Canada, marked by a long weekend holiday to celebrate the autumn harvest and express thanks. As a Canadian I am indeed grateful — but also in equal part frightened.

We have so much  — and so much to lose. What is frightening is that so many who are prosperous, who have power to protect our world, are complacent about both the warnings of history and looming environmental, social, political and economic risk. History, if we only look, shows that tragedies — like the one unfolding in Aleppo — are our normal. Most are caused by our own choices.

To say we are distracted from the big picture and the urgent need for smart choices is an understatement — the circus of American politics has obliterated news from the real world. Real news  includes: This month’s coming into force of the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement  and a landmark agreement to curb aviation emissions;  suffering and deaths by historic numbers of refugees, causing political and social disruption of host countries; the chilling reminder of the Cold War from America’s accusation that Russia is interfering in the U.S. election; and Teresa May’s revelation that Britain’s separation from Europe — a “hard Brexit” — will be more wrenching than some expected.

And yet every news and social media feed is full with America’s poisoned politics; it seems the entire world is hanging on every twist and turn. Can any good come of it? There’s one possibility of a silver lining: sunlight.

There’s promise in the fact that the primal, festering, muck of a dysfunctional democracy, long hidden under proverbial rugs, is writhing in hot sunshine. Writ large, this U.S.  election has shone light on inequality and the rigging of America’s democracy by the powerful and monied. Writ small, the light now shows the undercurrent of sleaze, brought to the fore by revelations of on old boast about sexual assault by the most repulsive Republican presidential candidate in American history. (His name will not foul this page, and if you have just emerged from a cave and want details, I suggest the New York Times).

For months legions of Republican supporters reveled in his bigotry, cheered on his racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and vulgarity. So? Everyone knows the behaviour of some people has always been, and will always be, deplorable; the only interesting thing about the supporters is the extravagant publicity they’ve garnered. Everyone also knows about this candidate’s long term depravity. So?

So what few acknowledged until now is that much of institutional America is equally if quietly just as deplorable, and complicit. There is no other conclusion to draw from the fact that such a presidential candidate is a serious contender for the US White House. The critics who accuse him of normalizing racist, sexist and other obscenities are wrong.  Such stuff was already “normal.” His role has been to speak the unspeakable, and expose the stains and stench.

One good thing is, sunshine is a sanitizer — and it can be the start of a cleansing. That possibility is something to be thankful for.

— Deborah Jones

In Case You Missed These:

Rosetta completes space mission with a bang/VICTORIA BRYAN  Report 

Shimon Peres funeral joins Israeli, Palestinian leaders –briefly/JEFFREY HELLER & JEFF MASON   Report

SHIMON PERES: Israeli nationalist first, peacemaker second /MARIA HOLT   Analysis

Toxic Indian lake is cost of cheap drugs/ZEBA SIDDIQUI  Report

Reporting on child deaths leads to mica mining crackdown/NITA BHALLA & JATINDRA DASH

Putin, Grand Master of the Great Game, awaits next opponent/JONATHAN MANTHORPE Column

Trump’s tribe and an absence of poetry/TOM REGAN  Column

On Capitalism and “Bullshit Jobs“/DAVID GRAEBER    Essay

The Canadian roots of the indigenous equality rights declaration/PENNEY KOME   Column

Findings:

We are a long, long way from Old Macdonald’s Farm. A New York Times feature looks at mass, and massive, agriculture with Super Size, the Dizzying Grandeur of 21st-Century Agriculture.

Ice and Longboats is a project to recreate the sounds of the Vikings, by the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP). Delphian Records, EMAP and the University of Huddersfield teamed up to create a recording using reconstructions of ancient Scandinavian instruments.

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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.