-Mark Leonard In the three decades since the end of the Cold War, global leaders have been integrating the world’s economy, transport and communications, breaking down borders in the hope of making war impossible. In doing so, they have unwittingly created a formidable arsenal of weapons for new kinds of conflict and the motivation to keep fighting. Troublingly, we are now seeing rising conflict at every level, from individuals on social media all the way up to nation-states in entrenched stand-offs. The past decade has seen a new antagonism between the US and China; an inability to co-operate on global issues such as climate change or pandemic response; and a breakdown in the distinction between war and peace, as overseas troops are replaced by sanctions, cyberwar and the threat of large migrant flows. As a leading authority on international relations, Mark Leonard has been inside many of the rooms where our futures, at every level of society, are being decided – from Facebook HQ and facial-recognition labs in China to presidential palaces and remote military installations.
-Doug Green, publisher, The Mirror Daniel Ellsberg has died; he was 92 years old. He suffered from pancreatic cancer. A graduate of Harvard, he volunteered to go to Vietnam as a marine, a decision that made him determined to do everything he could to stop the war. His notoriety came from him helping to write – and then releasing in 1971 – The Pentagon Papers, a monolithic 7,000-word, top secret document, which detailed two decades of lies about the war in Vietnam. The papers were released to the New York times and ultimately led to the impeachment of Richard Nixon. The “Plumbers”, set up in the basement at Watergate, was done so to discredit Ellsberg – their primary goal. The White House established this plan to destroy him; however, through their illegal activities and practices Ellsberg was found not guilty of treason. At one stage he was facing prison time of 115 years. In 2003 he wrote a book called Secrets, about his foreign policy career and the FBI undertook a nationwide search for him to no avail. At the same time, he continued to distribute copies of The Pentagon Papers. Funnily enough, Secrets came out in the same year that the false war on Iraq was declared. A documentary about Daniel Ellsberg’s life, ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’ was released in 2010, nominated for an Academy Award. It is hard to find these days to watch. To the end he was supporting those against nuclear weapons and of Taiwan. He was a long-time friend of Noam Chomsky. He lived by his convictions…the type of person we need more of in the world today.
Trump’s unprecedented call for protests is the latest sign of his aim to degrade America’s institutions
-Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Human Rights Center, University of Dayton In a social media post on March 18, 2023, former President Donald Trump announced that he would be arrested on March 21 on charges stemming from an investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Bragg’s office is probing hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, which were allegedly made to spare candidate Trump embarrassment on the eve of the 2016 presidential election. Scholar Shelley Inglis spent more than 15 years with the United Nations, where she advised governments and democracy advocates on how to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance. We asked her about Trump’s post. What did you think about when you heard his call for protests? Let me begin by quickly describing populism, because it’s important to my thoughts about Trump’s post. Populist movements portray “the people in a moral battle against elites,” as scholars Jane Mansbridge and Stephen Macedo describe it. Some level of populism is inherent in democracies where candidates appeal to be elected by “the people.” But what I call autocratic populists use this narrative to claim they are the sole voice of “the people” and those against them are “bad” or even “evil.” They undermine any and all opposition to them and attempts to hold them accountable, including independent institutions like courts, elections and the media. This is how such populists become so dangerous for democracy and the rule of law. Members of the media set up cameras in front of the courthouse on March 20, 2023, in New York, ahead of former President Donald Trump’s anticipated indictment. AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez Trump has that autocrat’s populism, in which he says that not only is he anti-elite but that he is “the only one” who can represent the people and […]
#poisoning #fluoride #drinking water Cariola Carabel https://ocultoaplenavista.blogspot.com/ In Vermont, USA, a few days ago, a town employee was found to have reduced fluoride levels in the municipal water for the last 5 years. A mother was reported to be outraged because her children’s dentist had recommended against supplemental fluoride because fluoride was already added to the town’s water. What this shows is that adding fluoride to water is a medical decision that affects everyone, whether someone has had already significant amounts of fluoride or not; whereas taking supplemental fluoride or using fluoridated toothpaste is a personal choice. It has been argued that poorer people cannot afford fluoridated toothpaste and are thus helped by water fluoridation. In fact, as I shall show, poor people are the ones most harmed by the measure. In any case, the solution would seem to be to guarantee that poor people have enough money to buy basic necessities, or to prescribe poor people free toothpaste and fluoride tablets where necessary, and educate everyone on the importance of oral health and good diet for avoiding tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. Does any of this matter? We assume that fluoride added to water must be innocuous and, of course, good for our teeth. But is it? In fact fluoride is a neurotoxin that in 21 out of 23 studies was found to reduce children’s intelligence and should be categorised like lead, mercury, arsenic… It is a component of many insecticides and rodenticides (in these cases generally as sodium fluoroacetate). Excess fluoride causes stains on teeth, hypothyroidism, and possible bone disease (because excess fluoride collects in the body’s calcium, i.e. bones and teeth), including weakened bones. It also collects in the pineal gland (more of that later) and may cause mental impairment, tiredness and gastrointestinal problems. Those with impaired kidneys are unable to process fluoride, resulting […]
Vijay MishraEmeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Murdoch University. The Chautauqua Institution, southwest of Buffalo in New York State, is known for its summer lectures – and as a place where people come seeking peace and serenity. Salman Rushdie, the great writer and influential public intellectual, had spoken at the centre before. On Friday August 12, he was invited to speak on a subject very close to his heart: the plight of writers in Ukraine and the ethical responsibility of liberal nation-states towards them. Rushdie has been an outspoken defender of writers’ freedom of expression throughout his career. In the audience of around 2,500 at Chautauqua was Hadi Matar, 24, of New Jersey, who jumped on stage and stabbed Rushdie in the neck and the abdomen. The fatwa and the spectre of death It was more than 30 years ago – February 14, 1989 (Valentine’s Day) – when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 88, the then spiritual ruler of Iran, condemned Rushdie to death via a fatwa, a legal ruling under Sharia Law. His crime was blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses, on a number of levels. The most serious was the suggestion that Muhammad didn’t solely edit the message of Angel Gibreel (Gabriel) – that Satan himself had a hand in occasionally distorting that message. These, of course, are presented as hallucinatory recollections by the novel’s seemingly deranged character, Gibreel Farishta. But because of a common belief in the shared identity of author and narrator, the author is deemed to be responsible for a character’s words and actions. And so the author stood condemned. Blasphemy against Muhammad is an unpardonable crime in Islam: a kind of divine sanctity surrounds the Prophet of Islam. The latter is captured in the well-known Farsi saying, Ba khuda diwana basho; ba muhammad […]
In ‘The Man Who Broke Capitalism’, David Gelles, “Corner Office” columnist for the New York Times, focuses on Jack Welch (1935-2020), CEO of GE from 1981 to 2001, whom he sees as “the personification of American, alpha-male capitalism, a pin-striped conquistador with the spoils to prove it.” Welch joined GE in 1960 after completing a doctorate in chemical engineering, soon rising through the company’s ranks. Notoriously “impatient, impulsive, and crass” as well as ambitious and energetic, when he took over as CEO, he lost no time inaugurating his vision—and that of economist Milton Friedman—of “maximising profits at the expense of all else.” GE had been known as a caring company that gave its workers exceptional benefits. Welch shattered that reputation, enacting massive layoffs, carrying out extensive mergers and acquisitions, and turning GE into “a giant unregulated bank.” When Welch ascended at GE, writes Gelles, “half of GE’s earnings came from businesses dating back to the Edison era: motors, wiring, and appliances. Yet Welch, an extremist in all he did, drastically overcorrected.” Instead of trying to fix American manufacturing, he effectively abandoned it, and would soon start shuttering factories around the country and shipping jobs overseas. His influence was far-reaching. By the time he retired, 16 public companies were run by men “who had studied at his knee.” However, remarked a Goldman Sachs board member, “they were just cost cutters. And you can’t cost-cut your way to prosperity.” Gelles capably traces GE’s downfall from being the most valuable company in the world in 1993 to its begging for a bailout in 2008, and he exposes the many business titans who followed Welch’s strategies. He sees hope, however, in the “handful of idealistic capitalists”—leading businesses such as Unilever, PayPal, Patagonia, and Seventh Generation—who consider their companies’ impacts on employees, the environment, and society. […]
A landmark, radically uplifting account of our species’ progress from one of the world’s pre-eminent thinkers – with breakthrough insights into the power of diversity and our capacity to tackle climate change. In a captivating journey from the dawn of human existence to the present, world-renowned economist and thinker Oded Galor offers an intriguing solution to two of humanity’s great mysteries. Why are humans the only species to have escaped – only very recently – the subsistence trap, allowing us to enjoy a standard of living that vastly exceeds all others? And why have we progressed so unequally around the world, resulting in the great disparities between nations that exist today? Immense in scope and packed with astounding connections, Galor’s gripping narrative explains how technology, population size, and adaptation led to a stunning “phase change” in the human story a mere two hundred years ago. But by tracing that same journey back in time and peeling away the layers of influence – colonialism, political institutions, societal structure, culture – he arrives also at an explanation of inequality’s ultimate causes: those ancestral populations that enjoyed fruitful geographical characteristics and rich diversity were set on the path to prosperity, while those that lacked it were disadvantaged in ways still echoed today. As we face ecological crisis across the globe, The Journey of Humanity is a book of urgent truths and enduring relevance, with lessons that are both hopeful and profound: gender equality, investment in education, and balancing diversity with social cohesion are the keys not only to our species’ thriving, but to its survival.
-Paul Cleary A David-and-Goliath story set in the ancient landscape of the Pilbara. In the space of just fifteen years, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group has become a global iron-ore giant worth $70 billion. But in its rush to develop, FMG has damaged and destroyed ancient Aboriginal heritage and brokered patently unfair agreements with the traditional owners of the land. When FMG has met resistance, it has used hard-nosed litigation in pursuit of favourable outcomes. This strategy came unstuck when FMG encountered several hundred Yindjibarndi people and their leader, Michael Woodley, who left school in Grade Six and was from then on immersed in his traditional culture. Woodley has led his community in an epic, thirteen-year battle against FMG, all on a shoestring budget. Clear-eyed and humane, Title Fight reveals the Wild West of iron-ore mining in the Pilbara. It tells the story of how a small group of Indigenous Australians fought tenaciously to defend their spiritual connection to Country. And, at a moment of national reckoning with our colonial and ancient past, with our relationship to the land, it asks some critical questions: Who does the land belong to? Who gets to choose what it’s used for? And whose side are we on?
By Brian Klaas “Does power corrupt, or are corrupt people drawn to power?” So asks Klaas, a professor of global politics at University College London, at the outset of this absorbing survey. The answer is yes. The author delivers a provocative argument to support that claim, whether discussing the case of an African strongman who cannibalized his political enemies or the martinet president of a homeowners association. Two memorable examples come early: One is a “psychopathic pharmacist” who organised the survivors of a 1629 shipwreck on an Australian island to commit more than 100 murders at his whim. The second is a similar marooning, four centuries later, in which a group of young Tongan men lived for more than a year in a flatly organised shared-power-and-responsibility system. That all survived may have been a fluke given that we tend to create hierarchies in which “upstarts who would’ve previously faced ostracism, humiliation, or death now had a real prospect of becoming genuinely powerful.” Because power thrives on conflict, the rate of violence increases; because people fear violence, powerful people who offer security thrive. Hierarchy itself isn’t bad, writes Klaas; it’s just that it attracts corrupt people who flourish in competition. Today, “much of the world is dominated by systems that attract and promote corruptible people.” Some make no effort to disguise their corruption (Putin, Trump, etc.); others are more sophisticated. Is it nature or nurture? “We don’t know,” writes Klaas. The implications are far-reaching. For example, since police work attracts former soldiers who enjoy exercising power, real police reform will involve not hiring such people. To keep people from abusing power, those with power within a hierarchy must be rotated and kept an eye on, given that “watched people are nice people.
Jill Lepore Ms. Lepore’s lively, surprising and occasionally salacious history is far more than the story of a comic strip. The author, a professor of history at Harvard, places Wonder Woman squarely in the story of women’s rights in America—a cycle of rights won, lost and endlessly fought for again. Like many illuminating histories, this one shows how issues we debate today were under contention just as vigorously decades ago, including birth control, sex education, the ways in which women can combine work and family, and the effects of ‘violent entertainment’ on children. ‘The tragedy of feminism in the twentieth century is the way its history seemed to be forever disappearing,’ Ms. Lepore writes. Her superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century. Lepore’s brilliance lies in knowing what to do with the material she has. In her hands, the Wonder Woman story unpacks not only a new cultural history of feminism, but a theory of history as well. Lepore specialises in excavating old flashpoints—forgotten or badly misremembered collisions between politics and cultural debates in America’s past. She lays out for our modern sensibility how some event or social problem was fought over by interest groups, reformers, opportunists, and “thought leaders” of the day. The result can look both familiar and disturbing, like our era’s arguments flipped in a funhouse mirror….Besides archives and comics Lepore relies on journalism, notebooks, letters, and traces of memoir left by the principals, as well as interviews with surviving colleagues, children, and extended family. Her discipline is worthy of a first-class detective….Lepore convinces us that we should know more about early feminists whose work Wonder Woman drew on and carried forward….A key spotter of connections, Lepore retrieves a remarkably recognisable feminist through-line, showing us 1920s […]