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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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