Book Review: Harvesting by Lisa Harding (novel) – The London Economic

Let us speak then of victimless crimes, the pretense that somehow by expunging certain acts from the criminal justice system we are in fact advancing civilization, casting aside the repressions, the myths, the lies our churches told us for centuries upon centuries that those acts were evil when of course we the educated sophisticates know ever so much better that they are not evil merely pleasures that do no harm to no one else. If I choose to smoke a little dope, wheres the victim? Well there are one or two or several dozen victims you know, the ones exploited and yes occasionally killed by the higher levels of the drug trade. Then legalize it, you say and I will agree but lets not pretend that getting whacked out of our skulls leaves no fingerprints on anyone elses soul.

Perhaps the word soul makes you uncomfortable, makes you wish that this what is this, a book review or a sermon? piece of writing would just move along and get to the plot and sentence structure, leaving this talk of souls behind. Oh no, I beg your pardon but we cannot speak of this novel Harvesting without a few good words about souls.

I actually believed for a good many years that prostitution was a victimless crime. That position was very much part of the values in the home I grew up in; all other parties being long since dead, I am not causing anyone any blush of embarrassment, no averting of the eyes when the Priest speaks from the pulpit at Sunday Mass. No, both my mother who was a journalist and my grandfather who was a properly progressive MP felt that prostitution fulfilled a need in society. After all, men who were single or men who were (much worse than single) in unhappy marriages or (much worse than unhappy marriages) married to women who because of frailty could no longer satisfy mans need for sexual pleasure, why those men require somewhere to go. Otherwise, just think of what the rape and abuse statistics would be like!

Then of course if one studies enough or actually listens to the women in ones life, the realization dawns finally that if one out of three women and there are higher estimates than that have been or will be sexually assaulted at some time in their lives then how does that justify the supposed noble purpose of prostitution? And there too, why is the focus on the needs of the men? Kingsley Amis might have said that male virility is like being chained to the devil, but hold on a minute. People quit smoking, heroin, drinking and eating meat and they seem to survive. Are you really telling me that a period of abstinence is all that hard (or pardon me, I suppose I might have said difficult)?

What of the women? Ah well, theyre paid for it so thats no bother. Its just business dealings, a commercial transaction, everybody knows what theyre doing so there is no victim there. After all, if we didnt have prostitution we wouldnt have the stage musical Sweet Charity or the movie Pretty Woman. How bad can prostitution be when it inspires romantic comedies?

The Irish novelist Lisa Harding makes an incredibly wise choice in Harvesting. The story of two young girls, one Irish and one Moldovan, thrown together as captives in an under-age sex trade prison, has no description of sex in it whatsoever except for only the most allusive. At first, I thought that Harding had made this choice for literary, character-based reasons; by not including the specifics of what these grotesque clients did to these girls that would so reflect the effects of repressed memory, willed amnesia and so forth. Now while that may have entered into Hardings consideration, I suspect that she had a much, much more chilling reason to leave the sex on the cutting room floor. She did not want this novel to be at all titillating. Think about it. Harding clearly did, and I imagine it was a chilling thought imagining a book about exploitation of children for sexual purpose being passed about with the hot bits dog-eared and highlighted. Well done to the author in avoiding that.

Without ever being pedantic or at all lecturing, Harding builds a case step-by-step against this so-called victimless crime by framing it in the narrative voices of Samantha and Nico. Samantha is the street-wiser or the two, receiving the attention of the older boys at her Dublin school as a pseudo-replacement for an alcoholic mother and an often absent father. Nico is a farm girl, raised in a male-dominant family that betrays her upon reaching puberty by selling her to a sex trader.

It is not just the families that fail the two young women. Time and again, whether it is the drivers who take the victims to their clients, the clients who realize the girls are under-age, the barmen who serve them, the social services who do too little, or the police forces who allow these operations to exist, the systems of civilization fail. At one point Samantha escapes from hospital and when she realizes that she has effectively escaped into captivity she thinks that she must be in the news, the goal of a nationwide search. Of course she isnt. To whatever degree we think about such things as teen prostitutes gone missing, we either shrug it off, ignore it, assume shell grow out of it, or at a darkest level wonder if perhaps shes searchable on Pornhub.

Harvesting is not a light-hearted read, a book to be tossed into the beach bag for a summer weekend day trip. Although, you know, perhaps it should be. There you are with your partner and the kids, the latter playing on the beach, and you lift your eyes from your book and look at the people further down along the sand. What are they looking at through their Ray-Bans? Are they looking at your children? And more what are you looking at and thinking?

The sexual exploitation of women is as old as society itself. It exists in all nations, all cultures, throughout all history. Slavery, which we like to pretend had been eradicated in the nineteenth century, still exists. The rights of children are still ill-defined when it comes to parents custodial rights. True justice will only occur when we face the ills that pervade within our cultures, acknowledge them, yet never accept them. One novel, no matter if it is as well-written and gripping as Harvesting is barely heard as a muted whisper against all the media that assumes girls or women exist purely for sexual pleasure. And yet, Lisa Hardings voice is still a voice, and one whisper joined by the whispers of her readers can in combination become a shout. That, at least, supplies us some hope.

Be seeing you.

Harvesting

Lisa Harding (New Island Books 2017, Trade Paperback) 308 pages

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Book Review: Harvesting by Lisa Harding (novel) – The London Economic

The Evolution of Beauty reveals the true power of sexual attraction – New Statesman

Perhaps, with the ascension of Ruth Davidson to political superstardom and the glorification of Sir Walter Scott on current Scottish banknotes (south of the border, were going for Jane Austen on our tenners), we will all revisit Ivanhoe. The story, youll recall, is set during the reign of the Lionheart King, who is away on crusade business, killing Muslims by the thousand. Like the good Christian monarch he is.

Scotts narrative has a prelude. A Saxon swineherd, Gurth, is sitting on a decayed Druid stone as his pigs root in the dirt. Along comes his mate Wamba, a jester. The two serfs chat. How is it, Gurth wonders, that swine when it reaches the high tables of their masters is pork (Fr porc); cow becomes beef (Fr boeuf); and sheep turns into mutton (Fr mouton)?

The reason, Wamba explains (no fool he), is 1066. Four generations have passed but the Normans are still running things. They have normanised English and they eat high on the hog. How did pig become pork? In the same way as minced beef sandwich, in my day, became Big Mac.

Ivanhoe should be the Brexiteers bible. Its message is that throwing off the Norman Yoke is necessary before Britain can be Britain again. Whats the difference between Normandy and Europa? Just 900 or so years. Scott makes a larger point. Common language, closely examined, reflects where real power lies. More than that, it enforces that power softly but subversively, often in ways we dont notice. Thats what makes it dangerous.

Weve thrown off the Norman Yoke but it remains, faintly throbbing, in the archaeology of our language. Why do we call the place parliament and not speak house? Is Gordon Ramsay a chef or a cook? Do the words evoke different kinds of society?

Matthew Engel is a journalist at the end offour decades of deadline-driven, high-quality writing. He is now at that stage oflife when one thinks about it all in his case, the millions of words he has tapped out. What historical meaning was ingrained in those words? It is, he concludes, not the European Union but America that we should be fearful of.

The first half of his book is a survey of the historical ebbs and flows of national dialect across the Atlantic. In the 18th century the linguistic tide flowed west from the UK tothe US. When the 20th century turned, it was the age of Mid-Atlantic. Now, its all one-way. We talk, think and probably dream American. Its semantic colonialism. The blurb (manifestly written by Engel himself) makes the point succinctly:

Are we tired of being asked to take theelevator, sick of being offered fries andtold about the latest movie? Yeah. Have we noticed the sly interpolation of Americanisms into our everyday speech? Its a no-brainer.

One of the charms of this book is Engel hunting down his prey like a linguistic witchfinder-general. He is especially vexed by the barbarous locution wake-up call. The first use he finds is in an ice hockey report in the New York Times in 1975. Horribile dictu. By the first four years of the 21st century the Guardian was reporting wake-up calls some real, most metaphorical two and a half times a week. The Guardian! What more proof were needed that there is something rotten in the state ofthe English language?

Another bee in Engels bonnet is the compound from the get-go. He tracks it down to a 1958 Hank Mobley tune called Git-Go Blues. And where is that putrid locution now? Michael Gove, then Britains education secretary, used it in a 2010 interview on Radio 4. Unclean! Unclean!

Having completed his historical survey, and compiled a voluminous dictionary of Americanisms, Engel gets down to business. What does (Americanism alert!) the takeover mean?

Is it simply that we are scooping up loan words, as the English language always has done? We love Babel; revel in it. Ponder a recent headline in the online Independent: Has Scandi-noir become too hygge for its own good? The wonderful thing about the English language is its sponge-like ability to absorb, use and discard un-English verbiage and still be vitally itself. Or is this Americanisation what Orwell describes in Nineteen Eighty-Four as Newspeak? Totalitarian powers routinely control independent thinking and resistance to their power by programmatic impoverishment of language. Engel has come round to believing the latter. Big time.

In its last pages, the book gets mad as hell on the subject. Forget Europe. Britain, and young Britain in particular, has handed over control of its culture and vocabulary to Washington, New York and Los Angeles. It is, Engel argues, self-imposed serfdom:

A country that outsources the development of its language the language it developed over hundreds of years is a nation that has lost the will to live.

Britain in 2017AD is, to borrow an Americanism, brainwashed, and doesnt know it or, worse, doesnt care. How was American slavery enforced? Not only with the whip and chain but by taking away the slaves native language. It works.

Recall the front-page headlines of 9 June. Theresa on ropes, shouted the Daily Mail. She was hung out to dry, said the London Evening Standard. Stormin Corbyn, proclaimed the Metro. These are manifest Americanisms, from the metaphor hanging out to dry to the use of Stormin the epithet applied to Norman Schwarzkopf, the victorious US Gulf War commander of Operation Desert Storm.

These headlines on Theresa Mays failure fit the bill. Her campaign was framed, by others, as American presidential, not English prime ministerial. But the lady herself ispure Jane Austen: a vicars daughter whose naughtiest act was to run through a field of wheat. She simply couldnt do the hail to the chief stuff. Boris, the bookies odds predict, will show her how that presidential stuff should be strut. He was, ofcourse, born American.

Engels book, short-tempered but consistently witty, does a useful thing. It makes us listen to what is coming out of our mouths and think seriously about it. Have a nice day.

John Sutherlands How Good Is Your Grammar? is published by Short Books

Thats the Way It Crumbles: the American Conquest of English Matthew Engel Profile Books, 279pp, 16.99

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The Evolution of Beauty reveals the true power of sexual attraction – New Statesman

The world where the truth matters not (Book Review)- The New … – The New Indian Express

The post-truth age.

Title: Post-Truth – The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back Author: Matthew D’Ancona Publisher: Ebury Press/Penguin Random House UK Pages: 164 Price: Rs 399

Populists pandering to parochial identities, polarising multi-ethnic societies, posing extravagant claims but backtracking without any blushes after securing their objective (while the public doesn’t seem to care), reversing rationalism, demonising dissent and blaming the other/outsiders for all ills. Welcome to the “Post-Truth” world where the truth is no longer an obstacle – and its very concept is contested.

But Donald Trump, the Brexiters, the climate change deniers, the anti-vaccination or anti-immigration crowd, even our own infallible leaders, and the like proliferating all around are consequences, not causes of the “Post-Truth” phenomenon.

And it is not only rooted to these people or issues, contends British political journalist Matthew D’Ancona, noting that even Trump’s eventual departure from office will not mean its end since the phenomenon is not only a mere contest between two competing ideologies of the political spectrum.

Therefore it is necessary to know why it this different from politics so far, how did we get to such a state of affairs, and why should we care.

It is a new strain of politics, shows D’Ancona in this book, one which goes beyond the usual tactics of less than the full truth, exaggeration and hyperbole or spin seen so far but is far more worrying because of its unwholesome underpinnings, response of particularly credulous public and reach and impact of digital technology and social media which facilitate it.

“We have entered a new phase of political and intellectual combat, in which democratic orthodoxies and institutions are being shaken to their foundations by a wave of ugly populism. Rationality is threatened by emotion, diversity by nativism, liberty by a drift towards autocracy. More than ever, the practice of politics is perceived as a zero-sum game, rather than a contest between ideas. Science is treated with suspicion, and sometimes, open contempt.”

And “at the heart of this global trend is a crash in the value of truth”, with honesty and accuracy no longer prized in such politics.

D’Ancona notes Trump figures quite a bit but clarifies his book is not about him or the the far right or any other ideology, but seeks to explore truth’s “declining value” for society and its implications.

“If indeed we live in a Post-Truth era, where do its roots lie? What are its principal symptoms? And what can we do about it?” he asks and seeks to go to some quite unexpected areas to find the answers.

For its roots, he, tracing warnings from George Orwell in the age of totalitarianism, seeks to lay some culpability on Dr Sigmund Freud and his system of therapy giving primacy to emotions to the post-modernists and their attack on the notion of any objective reality.

But D’Ancona also shows how blame also lay in eroding trust in institutions spanning the governments, parliaments, big business (especially banks in 2008), media and experts of all stripes, which led to to “an uprising against the established order and a demand for ill-defined change”.

And there was no shortage of politicians, to use this trust deficit- not only out of unscrupulousness but also of zealotry (sometimes closely linked to bigotry too) and the conviction they are right.

The symptoms of this phenomenon are too well known for anyone who follow the revolt against the status quo, seen most in the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise. D’Ancona is particularly scathing on the latter, terming him “a soiled Gatsby” or an entertainer with a talent for emotional narrative who has successfully “recast the presidency as the most desirable role in show business” and pointing how erroneous his statements are.

D’Ancona not only describes this “pernicious trend” of Post-Truth and its dangers but also calls on anyone who is worried about it not to sit passively for it to dispel but fight to defend respect for the truth, and rational, scientific thinking against its practitioners’ “plutocratic, political and algorithmic firepower”. He also offers a selection of strategies, ranging from vigilance to verification, and even satire, to confront it.

Ultimately it is up to us to determine if we want to think independently or allow someone’s prejudices to determine our choices and future.

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The world where the truth matters not (Book Review)- The New … – The New Indian Express

Do Animals Need More Freedom? – Colorado Public Radio

Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right. Martin Luther King Jr.

News headlines these days often center on animals. Stories seem increasingly to be of two types. The first involves reporting on what might be characterized as the inner lives of animals. Scientists regularly publish new findings on animal cognition or emotion, and these quickly make their way into the popular press. Here is a sampling of some recent headlines:

The other type of news story focuses on individual animals or a particular group of animals who have been wronged by humans in some significant way. These stories often create a social media frenzy, generating both moral outrage and soul-searching. In particular, these stories highlight instances in which the freedom of an animal has been profoundly violated by humans. Some of these recent hot-button stories include the killing of an African lion named Cecil by an American dentist wanting a trophy head; the killing of a mother grizzly bear named Blaze, who attacked a hiker in Yellowstone National Park; the case of a male polar bear named Andy who was suffocating and starving because of an overly tight radio collar placed around his neck by a researcher; the euthanizing and public dissection of a giraffe named Marius at the Copenhagen Zoo because he was not good breeding stock; the ongoing legal battle to assign legal personhood to two research chimpanzees, Leo and Hercules; the exposure of SeaWorld for cruel treatment of orcas, inspired by the tragic story of Tilikum and the documentary Blackfish; and the killing of a gorilla named Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo, after a small boy fell into the animals enclosure. The fact that these events have created such a stir suggests that we are at a tipping point. People who have never really been active in defense of animals are outraged by the senseless violation of these animals lives and freedom. The growing awareness of animal cognition and emotion has enabled a shift in perspective. People are sick and tired of all the abuse. Animals are sick and tired of it, too.

Yet although we prize our freedom above all else, we routinely deny freedom to nonhuman animals (hereafter, animals) with whom we share our planet. We imprison and enslave animals, we exploit them for their labor and their skin and bodies, we restrict what they can do and with whom they can interact. We dont let them choose their family or friends, we decide for them when and if and with whom they mate and bear offspring, and often take their children away at birth. We control their movements, their behaviors, their social interactions, while bending them to our will or to our self-serving economic agenda. The justification, if any is given, is that they are lesser creatures, they are not like us, and by implication they are neither as valuable nor as good as we are. We insist that as creatures vastly different from us, they experience the world differently than we do and value different things.

But, in fact, they are like us in many ways; indeed, our basic physical and psychological needs are pretty much the same. Like us, they want and need food, water, air, sleep. They need shelter and safety from physical and psychological threats, and an environment they can control. And like us, they have what might be called higher-order needs, such as the need to exercise control over their lives, make choices, do meaningful work, form meaningful relationships with others, and engage in forms of play and creativity. Some measure of freedom is fundamental to satisfying these higher-order needs, and provides a necessary substrate for individuals to thrive and to look forward to a new day.

Freedom is the key to many aspects of animal well-being. And lack of freedom is at the root of many of the miseries we intentionally and unintentionally inflict on animals under our carewhether they suffer from physical or social isolation, or from being unable to move freely about their world and engage the various senses and capacities for which they are so exquisitely evolved. To do better in our responsibilities toward animals, we must do what we can to make their freedoms the fundamental needs we promote and protect, even when it means giving those needs priority over some of our own wants.

The Five Freedoms

Many people who have taken an interest in issues of animal protection are familiar with the Five Freedoms. The Five Freedoms originated in the early 1960s in an eighty-five-page British government study, Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept Under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems. This document, informally known as the Brambell Report, was a response to public outcry over the abusive treatment of animals within agricultural settings. Ruth Harrisons 1964 book Animal Machines brought readers inside the walls of the newly developing industrialized farming systems in the United Kingdom, what we have come to know as factory farms. Harrison, a Quaker and conscientious objector during World War II, described appalling practices like battery-cage systems for egg-laying hens and gestation crates for sows, and consumers were shocked by what was hidden behind closed doors.

To mollify the public, the UK government commissioned an investigation into livestock husbandry, led by Bangor University zoology professor Roger Brambell. The commission concluded that there were, indeed, grave ethical concerns with the treatment of animals in the food industry and that something must be done. In its initial report, the commission specified that animals should have the freedom to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs. These incredibly minimal requirements became known as the freedoms, and represented the conditions the Brambell Commission felt were essential to animal welfare.

The commission also requested the formation of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to monitor the UK farming industry. In 1979 the name of this organization was changed to the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and the freedoms were subsequently expanded into their current form. The Five Freedoms state that all animals under human care should have:

The Five Freedoms have become a popular cornerstone of animal welfare in a number of countries. The Five Freedoms are now invoked in relationship not only to farmed animals but also to animals in research laboratories, zoos and aquariums, animal shelters, veterinary practice, and many other contexts of human use. The freedoms appear in nearly every book about animal welfare, can be found on nearly every website dedicated to food-animal or lab-animal welfare, form the basis of many animal welfare auditing programs, and are taught to many of those working in fields of animal husbandry.

The Five Freedoms have almost become shorthand for what animals want and need. They provide, according to a current statement by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, a logical and comprehensive framework for analysis of animal welfare. Pay attention to these, it seems, and youve done your due diligence as far as animal care is concerned. You can rest assured that the animals are doing just fine.

Its worth stopping for a moment to acknowledge just how forward thinking the Brambell Report really was. This was the 1960s and came on the heels of behaviorism, a school of thought that offered a mechanistic understanding of animals, and at a time when the notion that animals might experience pain was still just a superstition for many researchers and others working with animals. The Brambell Report not only acknowledged that animals experience pain, but also that they experience mental states and have rich emotional lives, and that making animals happy involves more than simply reducing sources of pain and suffering, but actually providing for positive, pleasurable experiences. These claims sound obvious to us now, but in the mid-1960s they were both novel and controversial.

It is hard to imagine that the crafters of the Five Freedoms failed to recognize the fundamental paradox: How can an animal in an abattoir or battery cage be free? Being fed and housed by your captor is not freedom; it is simply what your caregiver does to keep you alive. Indeed, the Five Freedoms are not really concerned with freedom per se, but rather with keeping animals under conditions of such profound deprivation that no honest person could possibly describe them as free. And this is entirely consistent with the development of the concept of animal welfare.

Welfare concerns generally focus on preventing or relieving suffering, and making sure animals are being well-fed and cared for, without questioning the underlying conditions of captivity or constraint that shape the very nature of their lives. We offer lip service to freedom, in talking about cage-free chickens and naturalistic zoo enclosures. But real freedom for animals is the one value we dont want to acknowledge, because it would require a deep examination of our own behavior. It might mean we should change the way we treat and relate to animals, not just to make cages bigger or provide new enrichment activities to blunt the sharp edges of boredom and frustration, but to allow animals much more freedom in a wide array of venues.

The bottom line is that in the vast majority of our interactions with other animals, we are seriously and systematically constraining their freedom to mingle socially, roam about, eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop, have sex, make choices, play, relax, and get away from us. The use of the phrase in the vast majority might seem too extreme.

However, when you think about it, we are a force to be reckoned with not only in venues in which animals are used for food production, research, education, entertainment, and fashion, but globally; on land and in the air and water, human trespass into the lives of other animals is not subsiding. Indeed, its increasing by leaps and bounds. This epoch, which is being called the Anthropocene, or Age of Humanity, is anything but humane. It rightfully could be called the Rage of Humanity.

We want to show how important it is to reflect on the concept of freedom in our discussions of animals. Throughout this book, we are going to examine the myriad ways in which animals under our care experience constraints on their freedom, and what these constraints mean in terms of actual physical and psychological health. Reams of scientific evidence, both behavioral observations and physiological markers, establish that animals have strongly negative reactions to losses of freedom.

One of the most important efforts we can make on behalf of animals is to explore the ways in which we undermine their freedom and then look to how we can provide them with more, not less, of what they really want and need.

Excerpted from The Animals Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce (Beacon Press, 2017). Reprinted with Permission from Beacon Press.

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Do Animals Need More Freedom? – Colorado Public Radio

Pleads Not Guilty – TMZ.com

EXCLUSIVE

UFC face-breaker Cyborg Justino is digging in for a fight in her battery case — pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor charge for allegedly attacking another UFC fighter at an athlete retreat back in May.

Justino was cited for battery for allegedly punching Angela Magana in the face at the UFC center in Vegas on May 21 after she confronted Magana about comments on social media.

Video surfaced of the confrontation between the two — and while you don’t exactly see Cyborg connect with the punch, you can definitely hear it.

If convicted, Cyborg faces up to 6 months behind bars if the judge really wanted to throw the book at her. She’s due back in court in August.

But she may have other problems. Magana told TMZ Sports she plans on suing the UFC star and has already met with a lawyer.

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Pleads Not Guilty – TMZ.com

Review: ‘Astrophysics for People in a Hurry’ by Neil DeGrasse Tyson … – Lincoln Journal Star

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, W.W. Norton & Company, 222 pages, $18.95

Astrophysics is a branch of science that may seem beyond the grasp of most individuals, including this humble reviewer. Fortunately, readers curious about pursuing the marvels of the cosmos have Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his predecessor, Carl Sagan, to hold our hands on the journey.

Tyson, who recently became Americas first recipient of the Stephen Hawking medal for science communication, intended Astrophysics for People in a Hurry as an introduction to his ever-evolving field. Surprisingly, the book immediately rose to No. 1 on the New York Times nonfiction best seller list.

As readers familiar with his 13-part television series, Cosmos, A Space Time Odyssey, already know, those who might feel overwhelmed by the subject matter should be reassured. Tysons feather-light approach to each ponderous topic is never intimidating.

What other scientist would bother with a reminder that Chuck Berrys music was deemed one of the diverse sounds of our planet which would be included on the Voyager space probe? Tyson even recalls the Saturday Night Live aliens response which requested us to send more Chuck Berry.

And what other author would be able to gently connect such diverse subjects as dark matter, the origin of the universe, and the infinitesimal components of quantum physics? He relates the discovery of the invisible electromagnetic spectrum to the realization that telescopes could be built to perceive wavelengths beyond those seen by the human eye. Thus the discipline of astrophysics was born.

By linking the cosmic explosion of stars to the formation of the basic chemical elements, he joins humankind to the entire inanimate universe.

Tysons book will make the reader ponder how Homo sapiens arrived upon this small blue pebble we call home and what wonders are yet to be discovered.

J. Kemper Campbell, M.D., is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist who felt more intelligent by simply carrying this book around.

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Review: ‘Astrophysics for People in a Hurry’ by Neil DeGrasse Tyson … – Lincoln Journal Star

Somizi says he has HIV, cancer or diabetes | The Citizen – Citizen

In an interview with City Press published on Sunday, popular entertainer Somizi Mhlongo spoke about his upcoming memoir, Dominoes: Unbreakable Spirit.

He writes in the book that he was diagnosed with a terminal disease in 1999 that had the capacity to take his life within six months and is incurable. He says he wont name the illness for personal reasons.

Somizi apparently debated whether it was worth seeking treatment and living with the chronic illness. The 44-year-old maintains that hes never felt the need to tell people what his ailment actually is.

I havent had the courage or the need to say which one it is between cancer, HIV and diabetes.

He was apparently told he only had a month to live, but God had other plans for him more than six years ago.

Somizi explained that by cultivating a positive mind-set he was able to rise above his affliction despite numerous days when it all felt like too much.

He also reveals how difficult his life became afterhe was falselyaccused of sexually assaulting aman and needed to go on anti-depressants to deal with the stress. His cars were repossessed, his mortgage was in arrears and he was completely broke after jobs in the entertainment industry apparently dried up.

Today, the choreographer is an Idols judge, has his own reality show and numerous promotion and endorsement deals.

The only sustainable solution for his life, he says, had been to stop drinking and having casual sex and turning to prayer and spiritual enlightenment.

He also credits Rhema Bible Church and friends there for giving him peace.

Despite how surprising it may seem, Somizi maintains hes never taken drugs despite havingnotoriously drug-troubled friend Brenda Fassie (who died of an overdose) often offering him narcotics.

Mandoza and Bricks allegedly also did cocaine in his presence.

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Somizi says he has HIV, cancer or diabetes | The Citizen – Citizen

Jonah Goldberg: Free speech isn’t always a tool of virtue – Arizona Daily Star

Theres a tension so deep in how we think about free expression, it should rightly be called a paradox.

On the one hand, regardless of ideology, artists and writers almost unanimously insist that they do what they do to change minds. But the same artistes, auteurs and opiners recoil in horror when anyone suggests that they might be responsible for inspiring bad deeds.

Hollywood, the music industry, journalism, political ideologies, even the Confederate flag: Each takes its turn in the dock when some madman or fool does something terrible.

The arguments against free speech are stacked and waiting for these moments like weapons in a gladiatorial armory.

Hollywood activists blame the toxic rhetoric of right-wing talk radio or the tea party for this crime, the National Rifle Association blames Hollywood for that atrocity. Liberals decry the toxic rhetoric of the right, conservatives blame the toxic rhetoric of the left.

When attacked again heedless of ideology or consistency the gladiators instantly trade weapons. The finger-pointers of five minutes ago suddenly wax righteous in their indignation that mere expression rather, their expression should be blamed. Many of the same liberals who pounded soapboxes into pulp at the very thought of labeling record albums with violent-lyrics warnings instantly insisted that Sarah Palin had Rep. Gabrielle Giffords blood on her hands. Many of the conservatives who spewed hot fire at the suggestion that they had any culpability in an abortion clinic bombing, gleefully insisted that Sen. Bernie Sanders is partially to blame for Rep. Steve Scalises fight with death.

And this is where the paradox starts to come into view: Everyone has a point.

The blame for violent acts lies with the people who commit them, and with those who explicitly and seriously call for violence, Dan McLaughlin, my National Review colleague, wrote in the Los Angeles Times last week. People who just use overheated political rhetoric, or who happen to share the gunmans opinions, should be nowhere on the list.

As a matter of law, I agree with this entirely. But as a matter of culture, its more complicated.

I have always thought it absurd to claim that expression cannot lead people to do bad things, precisely because it is so obvious that expression can lead people to do good things. According to legend, Abraham Lincoln told Harriet Beecher Stowe, So youre the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war. Should we mock Lincoln for saying something ridiculous?

As Irving Kristol once put it, If you believe that no one was ever corrupted by a book, you have also to believe that no one was ever improved by a book. You have to believe, in other words, that art is morally trivial and that education is morally irrelevant.

Ironically, free speech was born in an attempt to stop killing. It has its roots in freedom of conscience. Before the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the common practice was that the rulers religion determined their subjects faith too. Religious dissent was not only heresy but a kind of treason. After Westphalia, exhaustion with religion-motivated bloodshed created space for toleration. As the historian C.V. Wedgwood put it, the West had begun to understand the essential futility of putting the beliefs of the mind to the judgment of the sword.

This didnt mean that Protestants instantly stopped hating Catholics or vice versa. Nor did it mean that the more ecumenical hatred of Jews vanished. What it did mean is that it was no longer acceptable to kill people simply for what they believed or said.

But words still mattered. Art still moved people. And the law is not the full and final measure of morality. Hence the paradox: In a free society, people have a moral responsibility for what they say, while at the same time a free society requires legal responsibility only for what they actually do.

Read more from the original source:

Jonah Goldberg: Free speech isn’t always a tool of virtue – Arizona Daily Star

We Are At The Dawn of a New Era of Innovation. Will You Still Be Able to Compete? – Inc.com

I recently appeared as a guest on Wharton Professor David Robertson’s radio show, Innovation Navigation. David is an old pro and recently published an excellent new book on innovation, The Power of Little Ideas, so it was an interesting, wide ranging discussion that covered a lot of ground.

One of the subjects we touched on was the new era of innovation. For the past few decades, firms have innovated within well understood paradigms, Moore’s Law being the most famous, but by no means the only one. This made innovation relatively simple, because we were fairly sure of where technology was going.

Today, however, Moore’s Law is nearing its theoretical limits as are lithium-ion batteries. Other technologies, such as the internal combustion engine, will be replaced by new paradigms. So the next few decades are likely to look a whole lot more like the 50s and the 60s than the 90s or the aughts, in which value will shift from developing applications to fundamental technologies.

As Thomas Kuhn explained in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, we normally work within well established paradigms because they are useful for establishing the rules of the game. Specialists within a particular field can speak a common language, advance the field within well understood parameters and apply their knowledge to solve problems.

For example, Moore’s Law establish a stable trend of doubling computing power about every 18 months. That made it possible for technology companies to know how much computing power they would have to work with in the coming years and predict, with a fairly high level of accuracy, what they would be able to do with it.

Yet today, chip manufacturing has advanced to the point where, in a few short years, it will be theoretically impossible to fit more transistors on a silicon wafer. There are nascent technologies, such as quantum computing and neuromorphic chips that can replace traditional architectures, but they are not nearly as well understood.

Computing is just one area reaching its theoretical limits. We also need next generation batteries to power our devices, electric cars and the grid. At the same time, new technologies, such as genomics, nanotechnology and robotics are becoming ascendant and even the scientific method is being called into question.

Over the past few decades, technology and innovation has mostly been associated with the computer industry. As noted above, Moore’s law has enabled firms to bring out a steady stream of devices and services that improve so quickly that they become virtually obsolete in just a few years. Clearly, these improvements have made our lives better.

Still, as Robert Gordon points out in The Rise and Fall of American Growth, because advancement has been contained so narrowly within a single field, productivity gains have been meager compared to earlier technological revolutions, such as indoor plumbing, electricity and the internal combustion engine.

There are indications that’s beginning to change.These days, the world of bits is beginning to invade the world of atoms. More powerful computers are being used for genetic engineering and to design new materials. Robots, both physical and virtual, are replacing human labor for many jobs including high value work in medicine, law and creative tasks.

Yet again, these technologies are still fairly new and not nearly as well understood as traditional technologies. Unlike computer programming, you can’t take a course in nanotechnology, genetic engineering or machine learning at your local community college. In many cases, the cost of the equipment and expertise to create these technologies is prohibitive for most organizations.

In the 1950s and 60s, technological advancement brought increased scale to enterprises. Not only did mass production, distribution and marketing require more capital, but improved information and communication technologies made the management of a large enterprise far more feasible than ever before.

So it would stand to reason that this new era of innovation would lead to a similar trend. Only a handful of companies, like IBM, Microsoft, Google in the tech space and corporate giants like Boeing and Procter & Gamble in more conventional categories, can afford to invest billions of dollars in fundamental research.

Yet something else seems to be happening. Cloud technologies and open data initiatives are democratizing scientific research. Consider the Cancer Genome Atlas, a program that sequences the DNA inside tumors and makes it available on the Internet. It allows researchers at small labs to access the same data as major institutions. More recently, the Materials Genome Initiative was established to do much the same for manufacturing.

In fact, today there are a wide variety ways for small businesses to access world class scientific research. From government initiatives like the manufacturing hubs and Argonne Design Works to incubator, accelerator and partnership programs at major corporations, the opportunities are endless for those who are willing to explore and engage.

In fact, many large firms that I’ve talked to have come to see themselves as essentially utility companies, providing fundamental technology and letting smaller firms and startups explore thousands of new business models.

Innovation has come to be seen as largely a matter of agility and adaptation. Small, nimble players can adapt to changing conditions much faster than industry giants. That gives them an advantage over large, bureaucratic firms in bringing new applications to market. When technologies are well understood, much of the value is generated through the interface with the end user.

Consider Steve Job’s development of the iPod. Although he knew that his vision of “1000 songs in your pocket” was unachievable with available technology, he also knew that it would only be a matter of time for someone to develop hard drive with the specifications he required. When they did, he pounced, built an amazing product and a great business.

He was able to do that for two reasons. First, because the newer, more powerful hard drives worked exactly like the old ones and fit easily into Apple’s design process. Second, because the technology was so well understood, the vendor had little ability to extract large margins, even for cutting edge technology.

Yet as I explain in my book, Mapping Innovation, over the next few decades much of the value will shift back to fundamental technologies because they are not well understood, but will be essential for increasing the capability of products and services. They will require highly specialized expertise and will not fit so seamlessly into existing architectures. Rather than agility, exploration will emerge as a key competitive trait.

In short, the ones that will win in this new era will not be those with a capacity to disrupt, but those that are willing to tackle grand challenges and probe new horizons.

View post:

We Are At The Dawn of a New Era of Innovation. Will You Still Be Able to Compete? – Inc.com

The Perverse Presidency of Donald Trump – New York Magazine

President Donald Trump speaks at Kirkwood Community College on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

I was mulling, as one does, over this presidency, and something crystallized in my head that I had not quite grasped before. Its policies are best described as simply perverse. The new Senate health-care bill is just the latestshining example. As Peter Suderman explains, it certainly isnt based on any serious conservative ideas about reforming health care; it has no vision of how it wants health care to be organized; the loss of health care for the working poor will be most intense in Republican districts; and, just as important, a huge amount of it is simply kicked into the future and could easily be forestalled or nullified by future Congresses and presidents. For good measure, by ending many of the taxes in the bill that make it work, and by removing the individual mandate, itriskssendingthe insurance markets into a deeper crisis.

So what on earth is the point? For Trump, it seems to me, the whole point is to have a win. He doesnt give a shit about what the bill actually contains. Hell just lie about it afterward and assume his cult followers will believe him. For Ryan, its just a way to make a future tax cut for the superrich more budget-friendly, while pushing the political costs of shredding Medicaid onto some future sucker.

And then you think about those tax cuts Ryan wants so badly. We are told that these cuts will spark so much growth they will pay for themselves and more. And yet if there is one thing we really do know by now, it is that this strategy has spectacularly failed and failed again to work. Reagans tax cuts left the U.S. with an unprecedented peacetime deficit; George W. Bush inherited a small surplus and, after his tax cuts didnt spur higher growth, handed Obama a Treasury close to bankrupt. In Kansas, the exact same strategy has incurred so much debt that a supermajority of the legislature, led by Republicans, have junked it. To pursue it a third time on a national scale is the definition of madness.

The only theme I can infer is this: Whatever Obama did, Trump will try to undo.

We are also living in an era of extreme inequality. Any responsible politician would be trying to find a way to ameliorate this, if for no other reason than it is deeply dangerous for the stability of our society and the health of our democracy. And yet the policy of the Republicans is to further increase such inequality to levels beyond even the robber-baron era. Again, the only word for this is perverse.

Ditto, for that matter, the idea that coal is the future of energy, and that climate change is a hoax. There was absolutely no point in withdrawing from the nonbinding Paris Accord which is why Trump is now lying by claiming, as he did last Wednesday night, that it was binding. It was an utterly pointless way to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and cede leadership to China. There wasreally no point at all in trashing the modest opening to Cuba under Obama, poisoning relations, and then just fiddling with the details.

Elsewhere in foreign policy, we have just begun a deepening of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history, with no strategy in place. Weve also junked the very careful limits that Obama put on the war against ISIS, leading to increasingly dangerous conflict with the Russians. And we now have a broader Middle East policy that has needlessly junked the core gain of the Obama years. The opening to Iran gave the U.S. far more leverage in the region, balancing out our previous Sunni commitments with a Shiite counterweight. Now Trump has fully committed the United States to one side of an intra-Muslim divide, while trashing Qatar, which houses the most important military base in the entire region. Again: perverse.

And what on earth was the purpose of equivocating about the criticalcommitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, undermining the core underpinning of the Atlantic alliance and then affirming it anyway? We havent even gotten commitments to more defense spending from the Europeans, apart from what Obama had managed to get them to agree to already. But what we have achieved is an unprecedented rupture in relations with most of the key European allies.

It is also, frankly, perverse to ignore Russias blatant attempt to disrupt our elections and to keep reaching out to Putin when the Congress will rightly deepen sanctions anyway, and Putin willpursue his own ambitions regardless. None of this is coherent strategy, and almost all of it counterproductive.

The only theme I can infer is this: Whatever Obama did, Trump will try to undo.The perversity is the flip side of spite.

Nathaniel Franks new book on the long fight for marriage equality, Awakening: How Gays And Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America, has one thing going for it: Its a professional work of history. The only book on the movement we have so far wasnt. Jo Beckers hagiography of Chad Griffin, Forcing the Spring my review is here was an outright attack on everyone who had worked for the cause decades before Griffin tried to pass himself off as the gay Rosa Parks (yes, the book actually called him that). Awakening is therefore by default the best account we have, but its also a truly impressive, nuanced, fair account in its own right. Its astonishing to me that the New York Times and the Washington Post have yet to review it.It relays the lung-filling highs and stomach-churning lows of the long trek toward gay dignity. Better still, it brings into focus the small band of disparate individuals who somehow brought what was unimaginable into reality. Many people think marriage was won overnight. This book proves it wasnt.

But its chief merit is that it explains for straight people and the younger gay and lesbian generations just how deeply divisive this issue was in the gay world for so long all the way back to the 1950s, when the story really starts. The core gay divide in the gay world has always been between those who wanted equality and dignity in mainstream society and those who wanted to revolutionize and subvert the mainstream itself. Civil marriage was an issue where this divide was perhaps deepest. You can go back to the old gay magazine, One, published by the Mattachine Society, and see exactly the arguments that erupted later. In 1953, Frank notes, it ran an essay called Homosexual Marriage? The question mark was more like a gasp. In a screed against the normalization of gays, it worried thatequal rights means equal responsibilities. Equal freedoms means equal limitations. A decade later, in 1963, a counterpoint appeared: Lets Push Homophile Marriage. The term homophile itself was an attempt to redefine gay men as more than just sexual. The argument: It seems to me that when society finally accepts homophiles as a valid minority with minority rights, it is going first of all to accept married homophiles. We are, after all, closest to their ideals. In some ways, the gay-rights movement has spent the last few decades having that same fight over and over again.

But it is, of course, more complicated and interesting than that. Marriage equality was both subversiveandintegrationist. It subverted nascent gay culture and traditional heterosexual assumptions. And yet it was also a uniquely powerful symbol of integration, equality,and a common humanity. It was based on a submerged reality, which was that many gay men and especially lesbians had always been in committed relationships and that that experience was a vital bridge with heterosexuals, who usually comprised the rest of our families. The proof of that is in the number of gays and lesbians now in civil marriages: around a million.

Nonetheless, for the longest time, the fight for marriage had almost no constituency in the post-1969 gay world too conservative for some, way too utopian for others and was kept aloft by a tiny group of activists, lawyers, and writers, who never gave up, despite setbacks at almost every turn. The biggest gay-rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, for example, remained hostile to pushing for marriage all the way through to the mid-aughts.The central figure from the get-go, Evan Wolfson, had to fight the rest of the movement continuously to keep the dream alive. Its easy, in the wake of victory, to forget that story but Frank covers its nuances better than anything else Ive read. And he gives everyone their due. Toward the end of the book, he focuses a little too much on the litigation and not enough on the culture, but this is a small flaw in an otherwise indispensable account.

What resolved the gay divide, in the end, was the religious right. When George W. Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, as Frank explains, almost everyone in the gay movement realized that something fundamental to our human dignity and civil rights was at stake. Old ideological divisions briefly evaporated in the heat of the struggle, and the fast-rising support for the idea among gays and lesbians themselves turned into a grassroots revolution. The long game eventually, cumulatively brought the breakthrough.What began as as light covering of snow, easily brushed away, became, snowflake by snowflake, a drift, which eventually precipitated an avalanche. We live in the wake of it.

The other day, I managed to see the new documentary by David France, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, at the Provincetown Film Festival. It shines a piercing light on another cleavage in the gay world. And thats the long tension between gays and lesbians and transgender people. Theres an astonishing clip in the movieof a gay-rights rally for New York Pride in 1973, when a transgender instigator of Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera, forced herself onstage and grabbed the microphone. And as she began her impromptu speech, you can see and hear the crowd booing, shouting, and heckling at the interloper. Its a riveting and horrifying moment. For all the high-flown talk about the LGBT community, the truth is, these three groups have often had little in common apart from marginalization. Many gay men have sadly long been uncomfortable around transgender people; and many lesbians have bristled at times at the notion that transgender women are trulythe same as women who have been physiologically such from birth.

And then there was Marsha P. Johnson, an icon of Stonewall and the lost gay world of the West Village in the 1980s and early 1990s. I actually dont know quite how to identify her. She dressed as a woman but also as a man. Her family refer to her in the film interchangeably as he and she. She floated through all these divisions and seemed to belong in every camp. Was she a drag queen? Or transgender? Or a cross-dresser? In the end, I think, her charisma transcended all these identities. She was an individual, and in some ways, a saint. Gentle, African-American, always beaming, bringing outcasts into her home, shimmering through Pride like a vision of divine love, she seemed to have no enemies in an often contentious community. And she died like a martyr, her body suddenly washing up at the Christopher Street piers in 1992, quickly designated a suicide, with only the most cursory of investigations.

No one who knew her believed she killed herself. And the movie tries, all these years later, to solve the mystery of her death. Sadly, it doesnt quite deliver the payoff you want, but you learn so much along the way it doesnt really matter. As an evocation of a different era, the movie is quite wonderful. I have just two quibbles. Theres an implication that the Stonewall riots were instigated by trans people of color, who were then erased by the white cis middle class. Thisis far too pat. Its critical that the key trans figures at Stonewall be recognized. Ditto gay men of color. Putting them front and center on that fateful night is vital for the historical record, and Im glad this movie exists for that reason alone. But you only have to look at the actual photographs of the riots to see masses of young gay white men as well, lining up on the streets, jumping into the melee. And in some ways, it was the rebellion of those with much more to lose that marked a shift in consciousness.

Theres also a statement in the movie that there was no gay-rights movement before Stonewall. This is just untrue, and it erases the legacy of the early gay rights pioneers in the 1950s, like Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Harry Hay, who founded the movement in the terrifying era of the lavender scare. People who risked their lives and careers marching in front of the White House in the 1950s, who started the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, who laid the foundations for marriage equality, gays in the military, nondiscrimination in employment, and coined the term Gay is Good, deserve not to be forgotten. This movie wipes them from history.

But there I go again, I suppose. It wouldnt be a gay movie without an internal gay controversy. And the internecine fights will never fully end because the accident of homosexual orientation more than any other knows no single demographic, or gender, or race, or class. To form a coherent movement out of that massive, random diversity was never going to be easy. Pride Marches this year have beendisrupted and halted by groups connected with Black Lives Matter who oppose the mainstream corporate support and openly gay police organizations that so many of usregard as huge achievements of integration, rather than blights.Butpurist factionshave always triedto impose a singular vision on a very non-singular group of people. It has always been that way, from the very beginning. Love breaks through every human identity, and so must a movement rooted in the search for love. And of that divisiveness and contentiousness, spats and feuds, marches and countermarches, and rare, fleeting moments of unity, I am, in some, yes, perverseway, proud.

See younext Friday.

D.C. might still be revolving around legislative gridlock and investigations. But the electoral landscape would be very different.

A U.S. representative said he couldnt back the resolution which condemned violence against women because it supported safe abortion.

Obamacares popularity seems to be peaking just as Republicans get closer to taking it down in legislation that is not popular at all.

The Saudi-led coalition wants the tiny Gulf state to cut off ties with Iran and close Al Jazeera, ultimatums Qatar isnt likely to meet.

Change is slow. Thats why we have to keep working.

She met with a handful of Republican senators this week, but they couldnt agree on a plan.

The president also admitted that his tape bluff was an attempt to intimidate Comeys testimony.

A quick break from the off-camera briefings.

Inclusion of this House deal in the Senate bill shows McConnell playing the long game. But it could encourage shakedowns by fence-sitting senators.

This is why the Senate bill can ignore everything the moderates demanded and still probably pass.

His singular policy aim appears to be overturning anything Obama accomplished.

GOP senators, governors, and medical groups expressed concerns, but the initial lack of enthusiasm may be part of McConnells plan.

About a dozen representatives met on Thursday to discuss whether theres a way to force her out ahead of the midterms.

Theresa Mays government is low on goodwill from the U.K. public, and the European Union.

The ten-year proposal calls for vastly reducing the jail population and building new jails elsewhere, among other welcome reforms.

By the end of the year, 600 jobs will have been cut.

This is not a health-care bill, Obama said, but a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.

While McConnell might make some accommodations to moderates, these key areas are non-negotiable.

Link:

The Perverse Presidency of Donald Trump – New York Magazine

The Wonderful World of Binary Categorizations – Geopoliticalmonitor.com

A new Cold War knocks on our doors, suddenly. Why so? How did it previously cease?

The end of the Cold War came abruptly, overnight.

Many in the West dreamt about it, but nobody really saw it coming. The Warsaw Pact, Red Army in DDR, Berlin Wall, DDR itself, Soviet Union one after the other, vanished rapidly, unexpectedly. There was no ceasefire, no peace conference, no formal treaty and guaranties, no expression of interests and settlement. Only the gazing facial expression of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who circles around and unconvincingly repeats: We now better understand each other.

On the contrary, Bush (the 41st US president) calmly diagnosed: We win, they lose! His administration immediately declared that US policies, including all military capabilities, will remain unchanged but with a different pretexts to respond to the technological sophistication of the third world powers and to radical nationalism (meaning any indigenous emancipation). The world-is-flat mantra saw the non-West rest still enveloped in the Huntingtonian clash. Hence, the so-called normative revolution from the Atlantic followed shortly, in which the extensive (assertive) rights were self-prescribed on the global south. Thus, the might-makes-right interventions were justified through the new (de facto imperial) doctrines: humanitarian intervention, R2P (incl. Kouchner-Lvy bombing for a noble cause), doctrine of preemption, uninhabited access to or beyond the grand area, as well as the so-called Afroasia forward deployment, as a sort of the enlarged Brezhnev and Monroe doctrines combined together, etc.

Simultaneously, Washingtons darling, Francis Fukuyama, published his famous article The End of History? and the book which followed. Tounderline how sure he was about that claim, he even dropped the question mark in the title of the book.

Was this sudden meltdown of the Soviet giant and its Day After intrinsic or by design?

Brutality respected?

The generous support, the lavish and lasting funds that Atlantic-Central Europe enjoyed in the form of Marshall Aid has never reached the principal victim of WWII Eastern Europe. Despite the weak ethical grounds, this was due to ideological constrains in the post-WWII period. Total WWII devastation of the East and their demographic loss of 36 million people (versus only 1.2 million in the West), was of no help.

Moreover, only eight years after the end of WWII, the West brokered the so-called London Agreement on German External Debts (also known as the London Debt Agreement or Londoner Schuldenabkommen). By the letter of this accord, over 60% of German reparations for the colossal atrocities committed in both WW were forgiven (or generously reprogramed) by their former European victims, including quite unwillingly several Eastern European states. The contemporary world wonder and the economic wunderkind, Germany that dragged world into the two devastating world wars, is in fact a serial defaulter which received debt relief like no one else on the globe four times in the 20th century (1924, 1929, 1932 and 1953).

Despite all the subsidies given to the West, the East recovered remarkably fast. By the 1950s and 1960s, many influential western economists seriously considered communism as better suited for economic advancements, along with a Soviet planned economy as the superior socio-economic model and winsome ideological matrix.

Indeed, impressive Soviet results were a living example to it: A backward, semi-feudal, rural country in 1920s, has won WWII and in parallel it evolved into a highly industrialized and urbanized superpower all that in just 30 years. Spain needed two centuries (and never completed), Holland 130 years, the UK 110, Germany 90, Japan 70 years to revolve from a backward agricultural cultivator into an industrial giant. Moscow achieved that in only 30-35 years, all alone. Thus, by the mid-1950s besides its becoming a nuclear power the Soviet Union was a pioneer of cosmos exploration, sending a woman into orbit while many in the West still struggled with elementary gender equality this was an ethical and technological blaster. Morality of communist narrative as well as its socio-economic advancements appealed globally.

Master-blaster

If all the above is true, why then did the Soviet Union collapse? Was it really a bankruptcy caused by the Afghan intervention and its costly space program? And finally, if the U.S. collapsed earlier with the so-called Nixon shock, why did America become stronger afterwards, while after the Gorbachev-era bankruptcy of the Soviet Union, the Russian historical empire melted away so rapidly?

There are numerous views on it. Still, there is nothing conclusive yet neither in the form of a popular nor scientific consensus.

Some years ago, I had the honor to teach at the famous Plekhanov University of Economics in Moscow. It was a block-week with students of the Plekhanovs elite IBS program. Twelve days in Moscow proved to be an excellent opportunity to ask these questions to some of the most relevant economic authorities among academic colleagues.

The line of answers was quite different to anything Ive usually heard or read in the West. Muscovites claimed that right after Nixon shock, the Soviet Politburo and Gosplan (the Soviet Central Planning Economic Body overseeing the entire economic performance of the Soviet Union and, indirectly, its satellites) sat jointly in an extensive closed session. They debated two items only:

After much debating, answer to both questions was a unanimous NO.

Consequently, the logical conclusion was: The Soviets need to save the U.S. as to preserve balance of power. Without equilibrium in world affairs, there is no peace, stability, and security over the long run a clear geostrategic imperative.

Indeed, right after the Nixon shock, an era of dtente has started, which led to the Helsinki process and its Decalogue (that remains the largest and most comprehensive security treaty ever brokered on our planet). The U.S. was left to re-approach China (so-called Triangular engagement). Soon after, it recognized the Beijing China (One-China policy), and closed the chapter on Vietnam.

Simultaneously, Americans (re-)gained a strategic balance elsewhere, like in Latina America and (horn of and western) Africa, with a brief superpowers face-off in the Middle East (Yom Kippur War) which though bloody and intensive did not damage the earlier set balances.

Why goodbye?

Why, then, the instability in todays world?

Apparently, Washington did not really consider these two questions when it was their turn. Soviet planetary stewardship was misused and Gorbachevs altruism was ridiculed. As a consequence of today, the edges of the former Soviet zone from Algeria to Korea and from Finland to the Balkans are enveloped in instabilities. On top of it, the Chinese powerhouse is unstoppable: Neither of the Western powers alone nor a combination of them is able to match the Sino-giant economically. Asia, although the largest continent, is extremely bilateral. Its fragile security structures were built on the precondition of a soft center.

A bear of permafrost worried about global balance and was finally outfoxed, while a fish of warm seas unleashed its (corporate) greed and turned the world into what it is today: a dangerous place full of widening asymmetries and unbalances. Climate, health, income, access to food and water, safety and security each regionally and globally disturbed. Exaggerated statement?

For the sake of empirical test, let us apply the method of sustainability on this short story of 21st century geopolitics. As per tentative definition, Sustainable Development is any development which aims at the so-called 3Ms: the maximum good for maximum species, over maximum time-space span comprehensive stewardship.

How did our superpowers behave? Was our 3M better off before or after 1991?

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (in his just released Global Trends Report) notes the unprecedented asymmetries of todays world. The facts are as heart-freezing as my Moscow winter years ago. The UNHCR notes: Every 113th person on this planet is displaced. Of the 65.6 million people forcibly displaced globally, 10.3 million became displaced in 2016 This equates to one person becoming displaced every 3 seconds less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

You are either with us or against us is a famous binary platform of Bush (the 43rd US president). Indeed, our planetary choice is binary but a bit broader.

An End of history in re-feudalization or a dialectic enhancement of civilization. Holistic or factionary. Cosmos (of order) or chaos (of predatory asymmetries) simple choice.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the authors are theirs alone and dont reflect any official position of Geopoliticalmonitor.com.

Excerpt from:

The Wonderful World of Binary Categorizations – Geopoliticalmonitor.com

Euthanasia pioneer alarmed by what he unleashed – WND.com – WND.com

The Dutch psychiatrist whose lawsuit opened the door to allowing assisted suicide in the Netherlands for people suffering depression is now having second thoughts.

Boudewijn Chabot

Boudewijn Chabot, in an article titled Worrisome Culture Shift in the Context of Self-Selected Death, decries the new practice of allowing psychiatrists without a therapeutic relationship with a patient to determine whether assisted suicide is permissible under the law.

Wesley Smith, a leading bioethics expert and opponent of assisted suicide and euthanasia, writes in a column for National Review that he predicted the development.

Euthanasia consciousness changes mindsets. It alters societal morality, he said. It distorts our views of the importance of vulnerable lives. It leads to abandonment and various forms of subtle and blatant coercion. Over time, it cant be controlled.

Was Terri Schiavos death really assisted suicide? Get the book that powerfully and comprehensively tells Terris Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman at the WND Superstore

The Netherlands became the first nation to allow assisted suicide after a series of court cases in the 1980s formalized the criteria for it, culminating in a 2002 law.

Chabot was prosecuted in the early 1990s for assisting the suicide of a deeply depressed woman who wanted to die after the deaths of her two children. He met with the womanfour times over several weeks but never actually treated her, Smith recounted.The psychiatrist then supplied her with poison pills, which she took.

Smith said Chabots lawyer told him in an interview for his book Forced Exit that the Dutch government never had anyintention of actually imprisoning or even sanctioning Chabot.

The purpose, the lawyer said, was to set a precedent to allow deep psychological suffering to justifyassisted suicide.

Smith said the DutchSupreme Court in 1994 ruled, essentially, that suffering is suffering, whether physical or emotional, and its the suffering thatjustifies assisted suicide, not the disease itself.

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Two decades later, he said, Dutch psychiatrists euthanize mentally ill patients, whose organs may be voluntarily harvestedafter their death.

Now, he said, Chabot has been stricken by conscience, recognizing euthanasia groups have recruited psychiatrists to kill.

Chabot argued in his paper that without a therapeutic relationship, by far most psychiatrists cannot reliably determine whether a death wish is a serious, enduring desire.

Wesley J. Smith

Even within a therapeutic relationship, it remains difficult. But a psychiatrist of the clinic can do so without a therapeutic relationship, with less than ten in-depth conversations?

Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institutes Center on Human Exceptionalism, is a consultant for the Patients Rights Council who has been named by the National Journal as one of the nations top expert thinkers in bioengineering for his work in bioethics. He is among the worlds foremost critics of assisted suicide and utilitarian bioethics.

Chabot, in his article, recounted three reports of euthanasia of deep-demented persons who could not confirm their death wish.

One of the three was identified as having been done without due care; her advance request could be interpreted in different ways. The execution was also done without due care; the doctor had first put a sedative in her coffee. When the patient was lying drowsily on her bed and was about to be given a high dose, she got up with fear in her eyes and had to be held down by family members. The doctor stated that she had continued the procedure very consciously.

Smith commented that Chabot is examiningthe social and moral wreckage he helped unleash and wonders: Where did the Euthanasia Law go off the tracks?

Chabot writes that theeuthanasia practice is running amok because the legal requirements which doctors can reasonably apply in the context of physically ill people, are being declared equally applicable without limitation in the context of vulnerable patients with incurable brain diseases.

In psychiatry, Chabot writes, an essential limitation disappeared when the existence of a treatment relationship was no longer required. In the case of dementia, such a restriction disappeared by making the written advance request equivalent to an actual oral request.

Lastly, Chabot says, it really went off the tracks when the review committee concealed that incapacitated people were surreptitiously killed.

Horrible picture

In February, a Dutch doctor carrying out a lethal injection on an elderly woman ordered her family to restrain her when she resisted, creating what even euthanasia advocates called a horrible picture.

The case in Amsterdam, the National Catholic Register reported, was one of several similar instances of resistance, including a sex-abuse victim in her 20s, a 41-year-old alcoholic, a woman with ringing in her ears and now an Alzheimers patient.

In nearby Belgium, euthanasia was broadened three years agoto include children.

Alistair Thompson of the anti-euthanasia advocacy group Care Not Killing told the Register its a typical slippery-slope scenario.

The problem is that the law always evolves. Its always pushed on, a little bit, and a little bit. Once youve crossed the Rubicon, it becomes people who are not mentally competent, people who are frail or weary of life, he said.

In the Netherlands, assisted suicide is legal for infants up to a year old and for children over the age of 12. But doctors are already investigating allowing it for all children.

Duty to die

In the United States, six states allow doctor-assisted suicide, beginning with Oregons 1994 Death with Dignity Act, which was approvedby a voter referendum, 51 to 49 percent.

In an interview last fall with WND and Radio America, Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, warned that where doctor-assisted suicide is legal, it moves from what is generally called a right to die to a duty to die.

He pointed out that former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm made that argument in 1984, stating elderly people who are terminally ill have got a duty to die and get out of the way. Let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.

Was Terri Schiavos death really assisted suicide? Get the book that powerfully and comprehensively tells Terris Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman at the WND Superstore

Hunt said that while assisted-suicide advocates paint the practice as the ultimate act of personal liberty, in every case where this is legalized, you are inviting government and youre inviting insurance companies to get involved in this decision and that is a very, very bad deal.

In Oregon, the Medicaid system has become involved with end-of-life decisions, Hunt said.

They would send letters to terminally ill cancer patients saying, Were not going to pay the $4,000 per month required for you to stay alive, but well pay the $100 for you to kill yourself.’

Another argument in favor of doctor-assisted suicide is that it mainly happens at the very end of life when the pain becomes unbearable. Hunt said the facts simply dont bear that out.

What the research actually shows is that most people who choose doctor-assisted suicide do it out of depression or theyre afraid because of their lack of mobility, their quality of life, he said.

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Hunt said in places such asthe Netherlands, physically healthy young people access doctor-assisted suicide over relationships gone bad or the loss of a job.

He said the push for doctor-assisted suicide is especially horrifying for the disabled and those with special needs.

If you look at the organizations that are trying to stop this, it is primarily led by the disabled community, Hunt said. They understand what this is creating in the law. This is creating an entire classification of people that can be killed or choose to be killed.

We should be investing in great palliative care and good hospice care because doctor-assisted suicide brings with it a whole parade of terribles that we do not want in our society, Hunt said.

Original post:

Euthanasia pioneer alarmed by what he unleashed – WND.com – WND.com

Would-be Liberal candidate for Prahran pulls out of race after sex book storm – The Age

A Liberal preselection candidate who wrote a book about hissexual exploits titledAroundthe World in 80 Babeshas withdrawn from the race.

In revelations that reignited concerns about the Liberals’ vetting process, former self-described “dating coach” NigelGohlcame under fire on Friday after the contents of his book resurfaced ahead of next month’s preselection battle for the state seat of Prahran.

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‘Around the World in 80 Babes,’ a fictional dating guide, has landed an aspiring Liberal candidate in hot water ahead of next month’s preselection battle for the state seat of Prahran.

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It has been a nightmare on Elgin Street. For several months, remote control on car keys in a tiny part of Carlton had stopped worked, until the surprising culprit was found.

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Angry rainbow-clad protesters waited in vain for tennis legend Margaret Court at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Melbourne on Thursday night.

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Nearby residents said they felt their homes shake after a tanker and car crashed in Tyabb. Vision courtesy: Seven News.

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Dozens gather at a Liberal fundraiser in Melbourne to protest against Margaret Court who is expected to attend the fundraiser.

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Motorists and commuters face 16 days of pain during the school holidays as work ramps up on the Metro Rail Tunnel.

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Colander wearing John McKenzie has a different take on the Jesus bikes warning of a fiery afterlife, so he’s been pasting over them with a more upbeat message.

‘Around the World in 80 Babes,’ a fictional dating guide, has landed an aspiring Liberal candidate in hot water ahead of next month’s preselection battle for the state seat of Prahran.

The book is the story of a modern Casanova who spends his days pursuing women around the world,”from European princesses, to Englishslappers, to American cheerleaders”.

Its blurb explains that “chicks, babes, women and nudity” were among MrGohl’sfavourite things.

It also warns that the content may some offend women, but most men will be throwing “high fives” at the end of each chapter of this “true story”.

From its first sentence, the bookboasts of bringing a woman to “her third orgasm during an intense 40 minute session”.

Much of the book follows in a similar fashion, with graphic details about dating conquests, sexual positions and eventhe ability to “fart freely in bed”.

While the book was published in 2005, several party members raised concerns in recent weeks about the way it depicts women an issue that is likely to prove particularly sensitive in Prahran, a diverse electorate with high numbers of young people,LGBTIresidents, and families.

And after seeing The Age’s story, Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy was reportedly furious, making it clear, according to sources, that Mr Gohl “would never be part of his team”.

The Liberals are keen to regain Prahran after losing the seat to the Greens in 2014, but the revelations only hours after a candidate for the electorate of Sandringham held a controversial fundraiser with Margaret Court have come at a difficult time for the party.

The preselection battle is now a two-way contest between Rory Grant (a staffer to federal minister Christopher Pyne) and Professor Katie Allen (from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute).

Mr Gohl, now 42 and married, declined to comment to The Age, other than to confirm he had withdrawn.

However, it is understood that he has previously defended the book on the grounds that it is essentially a story about finding love.

After it was published, he appeared in various media segments and YouTube videos providing relationship advice and espousing his views on women.

For instance, in a short chat show, hosted in 2007,he declares that the business world is still a “masculine world because that’s where the best decisions are made”.

When told by the presenter some of the best managers are women, Mr Gohl says “but they act masculine to do so. And they’re not found attractive by other men because they’ve got too many masculine traits”.

Fairfax Media understands that Liberal Party state director Simon Frost had spoken at length to Mr Gohl about the book, but the former author had not been asked to withdraw.

“Unlike Labor, Liberal Party members have the right to preselect our parliamentary candidates. Every party member is free to nominate. It would be inappropriate to comment further,” Mr Frost said on Thursday.

On Friday, Mr Frost did not comment other than to confirm that Mr Gohl had pulled out of the preselection contest.

Link:

Would-be Liberal candidate for Prahran pulls out of race after sex book storm – The Age

Talking Policy: Peter James Hudson on how Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean – World Policy Institute (blog)

Puerto Rico’s current debt crisis has parallels with fiscal problems in Cuba in Haiti in the 1920s and 1930s. In his new book,Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized The Caribbean, Peter James Hudson discusses how banks backed U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean, and how this sometimes violent history has shaped the region.World Policy Journalspeaks with Hudson about the influence American financial institutions held and the resistance their meddling helped ignite.

WORLD POLICY JOURNAL: Why is the history of banks and financial institutions so important to your understanding of the history of the Caribbean?

PETER JAMES HUDSON: There are two different ways I could answer that question. The first way is a more roundabout way, and it involves my own trajectory as a scholaras someone who, as a graduate student, was deeply influenced by social and cultural history and by cultural studies. Right before I started studying the history of banking, a lot of my colleagues and friends were doing history from below. There was a real emphasis on workers and peasants and slaves as the makers of history, as well as questions of resistance by marginalized people and questions of the consciousness of marginalized people against forms of oppression. I was living in New York at a time when there was a visible presence of bankingon Wall Street, obviously, but also a more recent push by institutions like City Bank or Wells Fargo to rebrand themselves and expand their territory. It got me thinking about the limits of history from below and the limits to work that focuses on the peasant or the slave or the worker. I felt that one really needed to think about the institutions that structure the decisions of marginalized people, that structure the lives of marginalized people, and that, in some ways, help create the cultural and political and economic context through which marginalized people live and fight. I realized that banking and financial institutions are huge in this regard and define our lives in so many ways, but we rarely talk about them, especially in a historical sense. That led me down the path into the histories of institutions like JPMorgan Chase and Citibank.

The second answer to the question, which is more direct, is the sense that the Caribbean has always been a place of foreign exploitation from the early days of sugar or cattle or tobacco up through the 20th century, when it’s a place of offshore financial havens, hidden tax shelters, and the flags of convenience of merchant vessels and insurance companies. The Barbadian essayist and novelist [George Lamming] had an anthology called The Enterprise of the Indies, referring to Columbus’s exploits there, and I think that the enterprise of the West Indies or the Caribbean is something that continues to shape the region. It still remains a place of foreign exploitation, and I think that there needs to be more work done to understand these institutions on an economic and political level, where that money is coming from or going to, and what the role of countries in North America and Europe is in that exploitation.

WPJ: In your book, Bankers and Empire, you discuss American banks expansions into Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. How did banks influence countries in the Caribbean?

PJH: Haiti became independent in 1804 and then went under U.S. rule in 1915, whereas throughout that time the rest of the Caribbean remained to some degree under either British or U.S. influence: Puerto Rico and Cuba under the U.S. or Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, etc. under Britain. The nature of the relationship between financial institutions and questions of politics and sovereignty is complicated. In the case of Haiti, City Bank, the precursor to Citibank, had made itself powerful enough by World War I that it was in control of the Haitian National Bank, controlled Haitian monetary policy, distributed the Haitian debt, was largely in charge of sugar production on the island, and ended up having an impact on the migration of Haitian workers to American-owned plantations in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The folks at City Bank basically had a direct line to the U.S. State Department, and it was largely due to their direct influence that U.S. Marines landed in Haiti. They didn’t simply pick up the phone and say, this needs to happen tomorrow, but they created the conditions and influenced the secretary of state and made it so that intervention was almost an inevitability.

In places like Cuba, the influence is a little bit more complicated. In many cases, Cuban politicians squabbling within the islands would use the threat of intervention to their own advantage. They would claim that a political party that was in power was undermining the sovereignty of the islandundermining the sovereignty of the Caribbean peopleand, in a paradoxical way, would say “we need U.S. military intervention to help stabilize the country to return our sovereignty.” But in many ways this was also tied to questions of finance. By about 1926, JP Morgan, City Bank, and the Chase Manhattan Bank of New York were very involved in both Cuban sugar production and the floatation of Cuban sovereign debt. The Cuban president at the time, Gerardo Machado, very clearly stated that the work of the Cuban government was to protect interests of foreign capital in Cuba. He would do anything in his power to accomplish that, and he went so far as to suppress labor unions, execute militants and protestors, and basically impose a reign of terror on the island toward the end of the 1920s until he was deposed in the early 1930s. He was supported by the U.S. government until a point of crisis when the U.S. finally decided that it couldn’t support him anymore. But in all cases, there is a direct line between the national palaces of the Caribbean and Wall Streetand, beyond Wall Street, bankers in Montreal and Toronto.

WPJ: In addition to writing about how banks and the U.S. government worked together to impose imperialist policies, you also write about how they sometimes came into conflict. How did banks use these investments to push or circumvent financial regulations?

PJH: Let me give one example. In 1985, Harvard University Press published Citibank, 1812-1970, commissioned by Citibank president Walter Wriston. The book was not simply the kind of vanity history often published by corporations to mark their anniversaries. Instead, it was written as a policy documentas a means to explore the banks history as well as a path forward, especially in regard to the legislation and regulations governing banking. To that end, the book identifies the period from around 1893 to the Great Depression as critical to the bank. These were years of great profitability, which came from the rapid modernization of the institution. They attempted to circumvent regulations while pressuring politicians to ignore the new financial entities that the bank, in partnership with corporate lawyers Shearman and Sterling, was in fact operating illegally. In circumventing banking legislation, they (along with many other banks of the time) created a parallel entity, a securities affiliate, that became one of the primary institutions to engage in activities expressly prohibited by the National Bank Act: owning stock in other national banking associations, working as an investment bank, and organizing branches (especially foreign branches).

In terms of pressuring politicians, City Bankers including Frank A. Vanderlip and Roger L. Farnham had long conversations with President Taft and members of the Attorney Generals office wherein they effectively convinced them to blunt an investigation into the legality of the National City Company (the security affiliate), while squashing a report that suggested it should be dissolved. The report didnt come to light until the Pecora Commission hearings of the 1930sleading to the dissolution of the National City Company and passage of legislation restricting the combination of commercial and investment banking. Meanwhile, during the 1920s, the expansion of the City Bank came largely through the expansion of the National City Company. The president of the bank during this latter period, Charles E. Mitchell, was castigated in the 1930s for his speculative and unsound banking practices, but was portrayed in the 1980s as a sort of prophet of deregulation. When Travelers Life and Citicorp merged in 1998, in many ways it represented the beginning of a return to the golden age of deregulation and freedom of the 1920s.

WPJ: Puerto Rico just declared a form of bankruptcy. Do you see any relationship between this and the histories of banks in the Caribbean that you write about?

PJH: First, without going into the history of Puerto Rico over the last 120 years or so, I think this is a continuation of colonial policy. Puerto Rico’s lack of sovereignty since 1898 and its attachment to U.S. financiers and businessmen has continued in different forms over the past century or so, but I also think there are parallels for Puerto Rico in other parts of the region.

What Puerto Rico is going through now in terms of its $70 or $80 billion of municipal debt very much reflects what Cuba was going through in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when it had contracted all kinds of debt through the Chase Manhattan Bank. This debt is a bit different from Puerto Rico’s contemporary debt, but it was ostensibly taken on to build a municipal highway, to build schools and sanitariums, and to provide unemployment relief. But most of the revenue generated from that debt simply went back to the banks, and in some cases, into the pockets of government officials. By the early 1930s, people were setting up against both the Cuban government and the banks, arguing that there was no way the country could take on more debtthat it was fiscally insane, and given the fact that sugar prices had been plummeting for a decade (sugar was the main source of revenue for the Cuban government) and there was high unemployment, there was no way that Cuba would ever be able to repay this debt, it didnt make sense to take on more, and it didnt make sense to actually pay it back since it was contracted under an illegal regime. And so there was a discussion within Cuban society about this being odious debt. It was debt was contracted under Machado, and Machado, at a certain point, had ceased to be the legitimate representative of the Cuban government and so wasn’t in the position to actually take on the debt. So they defaultedas the Puerto Ricans have doneon a number of payments. Eventually, they lost the battle over odious debt and over the debt repayments, but I think that refusal based on the fiscal crisis of the Cuban state is something that parallels the Puerto Rican situation.

I also think that one of the parallels of contemporary Puerto Rico and the Caribbean of the 1920s is the role of civil society in protesting against the debt, and the fact that it’s civil society saying, “We have a stake in the solvency of our country, we have a stake in the sovereignty of our country, and we’re going to take the protest into our own hands.” To me the most important group here has been the students at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, who just finished a two-month strike against the modes of austerity that that regime had imposed on them with the raising of tuition fees and the attempts by the Puerto Rican state to actually get the budget of the university. They had been protesting, from what I understand, as early as 2010 against these modes of austerity. Even before the sovereign debt crisis exploded onto North American consciousness in the last year or so, Puerto Rican students have consistently been involved in the fight against these regimes of debt.

The parallels are in Cuba, where the Cuban students were some of the most prominent protestors against the Machado regime and in favor of the return of sovereignty, and in Haiti under the U.S. occupation. The end of the occupation began in 1929 at an agricultural school, where, when the occupation government refused to continue funding groceries for students, students protested. This protest spread from one school to many schools, which soon led to a general strike, and then it led to a nationwide protest that hadn’t been seen since the early days of the occupation in 1915. Eventually, a number of commissions were sent by the United States to Haiti, and they eventually recommended the withdrawal of the U.S. Marines and, finally, the nationalization of Haiti’s banking system. The parallels I see are both in the role of foreign finance in determining the sovereignty of these countries and in the critical role of civil society and those people who have most at stake in Caribbean society in refusing the burdens of debt and refusing the regimes of imperialism that basically bankrupt multiple generations.

*****

*****

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Visit the Talking Policyarchive pagefor more World Policy interviews!

[Interview conducted by Maya Singhal]

[Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons]

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Talking Policy: Peter James Hudson on how Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean – World Policy Institute (blog)

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: Definition & Evidence

The last shore-dwelling ancestor of modern whales was Sinonyx, top left, a hyena-like animal. Over 60 million years, several transitional forms evolved: from top to bottom, Indohyus, Ambulocetus, Rodhocetus, Basilosaurus, Dorudon, and finally, the modern humpback whale.

The theory of evolution by natural selection, first formulated in Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.

Evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.

The theory has two main points, said Brian Richmond, curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. “All life on Earth is connected and related to each other,” and this diversity of life is a product of “modifications of populations by natural selection, where some traits were favored in and environment over others,” he said.

More simply put, the theory can be described as “descent with modification,” said Briana Pobiner, an anthropologist and educator at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who specializes in the study of human origins.

The theory is sometimes described as “survival of the fittest,” but that can be misleading, Pobiner said. Here, “fitness” refers not to an organism’s strength or athletic ability, but rather the ability to survive and reproduce.

In the first edition of “The Origin of Species” in 1859, Charles Darwin speculated about how natural selection could cause a land mammal to turn into a whale. As a hypothetical example, Darwin used North American black bears, which were known to catch insects by swimming in the water with their mouths open:

“I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale,” he speculated.

The idea didn’t go over very well with the public. Darwin was so embarrassed by the ridicule he received that the swimming-bear passage was removed from later editions of the book.

Scientists now know that Darwin had the right idea but the wrong animal: Instead of looking at bears, he should have instead been looking at cows and hippopotamuses.

The story of the origin of whales is one of evolution’s most fascinating tales and one of the best examples scientists have of natural selection.

To understand the origin of whales, it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of how natural selection works. Natural selection can change a species in small ways, causing a population to change color or size over the course of several generations. This is called “microevolution.”

But natural selection is also capable of much more. Given enough time and enough accumulated changes, natural selection can create entirely new species, known as “macroevolution.” It can turn dinosaurs into birds, amphibious mammals into whales and the ancestors of apes into humans.

Take the example of whales using evolution as their guide and knowing how natural selection works, biologists knew that the transition of early whales from land to water occurred in a series of predictable steps. The evolution of the blowhole, for example, might have happened in the following way:

Random genetic changes resulted in at least one whale having its nostrils placed farther back on its head. Those animals with this adaptation would have been better suited to a marine lifestyle, since they would not have had to completely surface to breathe. Such animals would have been more successful and had more offspring. In later generations, more genetic changes occurred, moving the nose farther back on the head.

Other body parts of early whales also changed. Front legs became flippers. Back legs disappeared. Their bodies became more streamlined and they developed tail flukes to better propel themselves through water.

Darwin also described a form of natural selection that depends on an organism’s success at attracting a mate, a process known as sexual selection. The colorful plumage of peacocks and the antlers of male deer are both examples of traits that evolved under this type of selection.

But Darwin wasn’t the first or only scientist to develop a theory of evolution. The French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck came up with the idea that an organism could pass on traits to its offspring, though he was wrong about some of the details. And around the same time as Darwin, British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace independently came up with the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Darwin didn’t know anything about genetics, Pobiner said. “He observed the pattern of evolution, but he didnt really know about the mechanism.” That came later, with the discovery of how genes encode different biological or behavioral traits, and how genes are passed down from parents to offspring. The incorporation of genetics and Darwin’s theory is known as “modern evolutionary synthesis.”

The physical and behavioral changes that make natural selection possible happen at the level of DNA and genes. Such changes are called mutations. “Mutations are basically the raw material on which evolution acts,” Pobiner said.

Mutations can be caused by random errors in DNA replication or repair, or by chemical or radiation damage. Most times, mutations are either harmful or neutral, but in rare instances, a mutation might prove beneficial to the organism. If so, it will become more prevalent in the next generation and spread throughout the population.

In this way, natural selection guides the evolutionary process, preserving and adding up the beneficial mutations and rejecting the bad ones. “Mutations are random, but selection for them is not random,” Pobiner said.

But natural selection isn’t the only mechanism by which organisms evolve, she said. For example, genes can be transferred from one population to another when organisms migrate or immigrate, a process known as gene flow. And the frequency of certain genes can also change at random, which is called genetic drift.

Even though scientists could predict what early whales should look like, they lacked the fossil evidence to back up their claim. Creationists took this absence as proof that evolution didn’t occur. They mocked the idea that there could have ever been such a thing as a walking whale. But since the early 1990s, that’s exactly what scientists have been finding.

The critical piece of evidence came in 1994, when paleontologists found the fossilized remains ofAmbulocetus natans, an animal whose name literally means “swimming-walking whale.” Its forelimbs had fingers and small hooves but its hind feet were enormous given its size. It was clearly adapted for swimming, but it was also capable of moving clumsily on land, much like a seal.

When it swam, the ancient creature moved like an otter, pushing back with its hind feet and undulating its spine and tail.

Modern whales propel themselves through the water with powerful beats of their horizontal tail flukes, but Ambulocetus still had a whip-like tail and had to use its legs to provide most of the propulsive force needed to move through water.

In recent years, more and more of these transitional species, or “missing links,” have been discovered, lending further support to Darwin’s theory, Richmond said.

Despite the wealth of evidence from the fossil record, genetics and other fields of science, some people still question its validity. Some politicians and religious leaders denounce the theory, invoking a higher being as a designer to explain the complex world of living things, especially humans.

School boards debate whether the theory of evolution should be taught alongside other ideas, such as intelligent design or creationism.

Mainstream scientists see no controversy. “A lot of people have deep religious beliefs and also accept evolution,” Pobiner said, adding, “there can be real reconciliation.”

Evolution is well supported by many examples of changes in various species leading to the diversity of life seen today. “If someone could really demonstrate a better explanation than evolution and natural selection, [that person] would be the new Darwin,” Richmond said.

Additional reporting by Staff Writer Tanya Lewis, Follow Tanya on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+.

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Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: Definition & Evidence

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Islamic parties intimidate, fear atheists in Iraq – Al-Monitor – Al-Monitor

Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Iraqi National Alliance party, speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 29, 2016.(photo byREUTERS/Khalid al Mousily)

Author:Ali Mamouri Posted June 22, 2017

NAJAF, Iraq Iraq’s Islamicmovements and political parties have intensified their rhetoric in recent weeks against atheism,warning Iraqisabout its spread and the need to confront atheists. Suchmovements and parties worry that public sentiment is turning against Islamicparties in politics and that this could be reflected in upcoming elections, scheduled for the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.

TranslatorSahar Ghoussoub

In alecture this month in Baghdad, Ammar al-Hakimhead of the mostly Shiite Iraqi National Alliance party, whichholds the overwhelming political majority in parliament and governmentwarned against the prevalence of atheism.

Some people resent Iraqi societys adherence to religious principles and its connection to God Almighty, hesaid. Hakimcalled for confronting these extraneous atheistic ideas with good thinking and with an iron fist against the supporters of such ideasby exposing the methods they use in disseminating their ideas.

Hakims message is contrary to the Iraqi Constitution, which guarantees freedom of belief and expression and criminalizes incitement against others and against compelling others to adopt or reject a specific faith.

During Ramadan,religious lectures in Shiite cities in Iraq’s center and south the main base of the Islamic parties attackedthe spread of secular and atheistic ideas, which are viewed as threats to Iraqi society.

Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikihas extensive influence among the politically ambitiouspro-Iranian factions within the Popular Mobilization Unitsmilitary organization. Hewarned May 30 of a supposeddangerous conspiracy by secular and nonreligious movementsto take power from Islamic parties and gain control for themselves.

Atheism in Arab culture, as described by contemporary Egyptian philosopher Abdel Rahman Badawiin his book, The History of Atheism, covers a vast range of ideas and behaviors. To Badawi, atheism includes agnostics, emerging secular movementsthatrejectthe political role of religion, andthose who criticize various aspects of religion.Secularism and atheism are thus often intertwined in the discourse of political Islam through the use of terms such assecular atheist trends and ideas.These ideas inspire fear in manypolitically-oriented Islamic movements.

According to Sayyid Qutb, a founderof political Islamwho is widely studied by Islamists in Iraq, separating religion frompolitical rule is tantamount to infidelity to Godanddenying divine governance.

DefunctKurdish news agencyAKnews conducted a nonscientificpoll in 2011about faith. When asked if they believed in God,67% of respondentsansweredyes;21%, probably yes;4%, probably no;7%, no;and 1% had no answer.

In a country that has not seen a national census for three decades, it’s not possible to provide official numbers for members of different faiths and beliefs. It isespecially difficult to know the size ofthose communities thatholdtaboo beliefsin a conservative society such as Iraq, which views these outsiders with disdain and wherethey are threatened by military groups andpoliticalleaders, some of whom demand theybe beaten “with an iron fist.” Much of what information can be gleaned comes inanecdotal form. Since 2014, after the Islamic State swept through Iraqi territory, many reportsfrom various quarters have observed that more people are skeptical ofIslamic beliefs and are rejecting Islam altogether,influenced by the negative image of Islam portrayed by extremist groups.

A prominent book storein Baghdad has seen more young people buying books on atheism fromprominent nonbelievers such as Saudi writer Abdullah al-Qasemiand British philosopher Richard Dawkins.Even in a holy city like Najaf and within the Shiite religious establishments, Al-Monitor spoke to several religious students who not only have begun to question the fundamental beliefs of Islam, but the basic principles of religionin general. They would be ostracized by society in a heartbeat if they expressed their views freely.

Human rights activist, writer and satirist Faisal Saeed al-Mutartold Al-Monitor that atheists in Iraq face very difficult circumstances under a government with a majority of Islamic parties and with the dominance of Islamic militias over society.

Faisal, who followsIraqi atheists’activities on social media, said, I clearly see that the numbers of atheists is rising in different areas in Iraq. Faisal recently founded the Ideas Beyond Bordersorganization, which defendsIraqi atheists and helpsthem organize and claim their rights.

Many atheists have been forced to flee Iraq because of harassmentand threats.Jamal al-Bahadly, an atheist who is vocal about his views on social networking sites, said he received death threats from Shiite militias in Baghdad, forcing him to leave the country in 2015. He emigrated to Germany.

As an atheist, I was deprived of the most basic civil rights in Iraq. I feel that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not include me and my fellow atheists in Iraq,”Bahadly told Al-Monitor.Iraq voted in favor of the declaration in 1948 at the United Nations General Assembly.

Leaders of Islamic movements repeatedly say they’ve seen a rise in the number of atheists in Iraq. Their statements of concernfuel even more concern amongthe ruling Islamic parties, who feara decline in their political power.

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Islamic parties intimidate, fear atheists in Iraq – Al-Monitor – Al-Monitor

‘If you smell ammonia, you will die’: Space Station astronaut describes emergency in space – Yahoo News UK

In training, they had told us, If you smell ammonia, dont worry about it, because youre just going to die.

Then the alarm went off, and it said ATM and Samantha went, Thats atmosphere! Its ammonia! We put our oxygen masks on and ran to the Russian section youre supposed to take your clothes off, because if you have ammonia on your clothes, it can kill you.

Those are the words of Space Station Commander Terry Virts, describing to Yahoo News the moment astronauts were evacuated from the US section of the International Space Station in January 2015 and moved into the Russian side after a signal raised concerns of an ammonia leak.

Houston called us and said, This is not a drill, execute ammonia response. The Russian Prime Minister called us, and said, Hey American colleagues, you can stay in the Russian segment. We spent the whole afternoon staring at each other. If there had been an ammonia leak, the station would have died.

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But the world in general never knew that story. At the end, they said, False alarm but keep your gas masks on just in case. When we went back, it was like a ghost ship. Things were floating about. It was eerie like an Alien film a lot of things beeping.

After that, I went back to the Russian segment and left a bunch of spare clothes, just in case.

Virts was speakingto Yahoo News at the Starmus science festival in Trondheim ahead of the launch of his book View From Above: An Astronaut Looks at The World later this year.

Virts, 49, is a highly experienced pilot and astronaut who flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour prior to a 200-day mission on the International Space Station starting in 2014.

Virts shot to worldwide fame due to his photographs including an iconic shot where he did the Vulcan hand signal to honour Star Treks Leonard Nimoy after his death.

He says that spending 200 days in space offers a new perspective on life on Earth, You look down, and you cant see borders. You think, Why are we fighting? Youre with the Russians, and you think, I love these guys.

Im not a hippie guy, Im a realist but you think life is hard enough to fight disease, and grow food. Why do we fight?

The only borders you can see clearly are ones like India/Pakistan and North Korea/South Korea.

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In one of Virts most iconic images he took 300,000 while on the Space Station South Korea is seen glowing with electric light, while North Korea is shrouded in darkness.

Virts says that people often ask him about that image. He says, That border between North Korea and South Korea is the most striking photo of the human condition I took from space.

For Virts, the most intense part of his 200-day mission on the Space Station were spacewalks outside the station itself.

On a space walk, youre in command youre basically a spaceship. Your suit has water for cooling, theres a rocket pack. Its a spaceship. Theres maybe ten layers of metal but your visor is a very thin layer of plastic. If you poke a hole in it, youre going to die.

Theres a picture of this robotic arm that youre doing work with then the most beautiful sunrise youve never seen. Every once in a while, youre hearing from God. Youre seeing things no human should see. Then you think, I should get back to work.

Virts says that he feared he would be depressed when he returned to Earth but the problem he is now facing, having travelled 84 million miles above our planet, is that he has too many countries he wants to visit.

Virts says, The problem with flying in space, your bucket list gets too long.

Starmus festival, hosted by NTNU, Norway, Trondheim, http://www.starmus.com. Starmus is the worlds most ambitious science and arts festival with Professor Stephen Hawking as keynote speaker, 11 Nobel laureates and Buzz Aldrin, Oliver Stone, Brian Cox and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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‘If you smell ammonia, you will die’: Space Station astronaut describes emergency in space – Yahoo News UK

The Donald rides again – Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Donald is back, and hes keeping the Democrats up at night as they try to find a way back into American politics.

I said that to myself as I listened to the president address that huge crowd of some 6,000 people in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wednesday night.

There were reports that the line to the stadium was more than a mile long four hours before his scheduled arrival. Some camped out overnight to make sure they got seats.

When President Trump did address them, his bouncy enthusiasm, his asides that had me laughing aloud before I knew it or pumping a fist in the air and, yes, his patented Donald J. Trump confidence (he did mention a few times that the GOP is now 5-0 against Democrats in special elections contests since he took office four months ago) all reminded me of his nomination and general election campaigns. In them, his broke every political rule in the book.

No American had campaigned that way in my lifetime. He came off Wednesday again as unscripted (though he read from a teleprompter much of the time) and said things national-level politicians dont say. They still dont. Only he does. But he actually did it all even better, even than he did as a candidate.

Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans yes, theyre still around make fun of his having appointed wealthy men like Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary and as his economic adviser Gary D. Cohn, who was not just a Wall Streeter but one from Goldman Sachs, the very same outfit he dumped on as candidate Trump.

Populist-sounding presidents just dont do something so stupid, Trump haters state and restate.

On Wednesday, the president took that argument spouted by his detractors and wrapped it around their necks.

In those particular positions, I just dont want a poor person does that make sense? he said. Six-thousand ordinary people leaping to their feet and shouting yes was the answer that reverberated in newsrooms and board rooms of every major news organization. Whether anybody in those organizations actually heard it is another question.

The Donald/Mr. President chastised communist Chinas President Xi Jinping for not slapping communist North Koreas missile-rattling leader Kim Jong-un upside the head hard enough to knock some sense into him.

Even while blowing a few kisses Mr. Xis way, Mr. Trump made it clear he, as president of the United States, (and perhaps Defense Secretary Mattis?) would take it from here, thank you, President Xi. If that doesnt keep Mr. Kim up at night, hes not paying attention.

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The Donald rides again – Washington Times

Will Ferrell on Donald Trump, Michelle Obama and His New Movie – New York Times

The question that inevitably gets asked for every comedy is: How much is improv in the movie? And how much is scripted? And its really hard not to mess with people. Ill just say, On this movie, 14 percent is improvised. And theyll go, Oh! How do you know? and Ill say, We have a logarithm or We run it through a computer that analyzes it. [laughs]

A preview of the film.

What appealed to you about playing a nice guy who transforms into a thuggish casino boss?

One thing I thought was great was getting to play a couple who are both equally committed to the premise. Usually in a movie, one of them the wife, the husband is in on the plan and the other is, like, Whats going on? But here, for better or for worse, theyre both like, O.K., lets just do it. They get to be funny together. I liked that.

You and Amy Poehler will both do whatever it takes for a laugh.

Shooting the scene where were walking home drunk and she urinates in the front yard? There was all this talk about [in a sincere, worried voice] How do we shoot this? and being very professional. And Amy goes, Ill just pull my pants down! and I thought: Oh, my god. This is great!

One of your first successes on Saturday Night Live was playing a dad who toggles between grilling hamburgers and shouting at his kids to get off the shed.

The Get Off the Shed sketch, I did that at the Groundlings, and it worked right away. Just the combination of regular backyard barbecue conversation Hows your golf game? juxtaposed with flying off the handle, screaming at your kids for a benign reason. That was such a delicious combination to me. It was also always inherently funny to me to play a dad who thought he had a high-stakes position, but its really very low stakes. Sort of like the comedy version of Willy Loman. Playing the befuddled father whos just earnestly trying his best has always struck me as funny. I dont know why. I cant say thats who my dad was.

Was gambling a part of your parents lives?

My dads a musician. He had his own lounge acts, then played with the Righteous Brothers on and off for 20, 25 years. He played a lot in Vegas. I have a nostalgic view of Vegas because as kids wed go stay with him for a week at the Riviera and see the Strip with all the lights. Then combined with that were the cautionary tales wed hear of people losing all their money and thinking, Thats not for me.

Is it true that Michelle Obama is a fan of your and Adam McKays Funny or Die sketch The Landlord?

Yes. We were invited to come to the White House for a Christmas party that is only for the cabinet, the executive branch, their spouses and family. The invite was first for me to come dressed as Buddy the Elf. And I was like, Um, yeah, I dont have that costume. So then they said, Come and read The Grinch. Which was interesting because there were no kids. Im reading it to, like, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. [laughs] But afterward, we got to sit at the first ladys table. Michelle Obama, one of the nicest people, said, Ive got to tell you, my staff and I watched The Landlord all the time. Then she just started doing lines, like, Give me my money, bitch! The Landlord helped launch our site and shut down all our servers. So the fact that she was a fan? That was high praise.

Speaking of viral videos, the recent speech you gave at U.S.C., your alma mater, has more than two million YouTube views. Did that surprise you?

I didnt realize that itd get that much reaction. Im used to writing things that are sarcastic, not things that are supposed to be funny, but also insightful and earnest. So it was an interesting challenge to find that middle ground. But also my family was there, my parents were there, and I got to sing a Whitney Houston song.

Did you ever get a reaction from our 43rd president to your eerily spot-on impression of him?

I happened to call Jimmy Kimmel on the day when [President George W. Bush] was going to be on promoting his book. And Jimmy said: Its so funny youre calling. Im having W on, and Im going to ask him about how he felt about your impersonation.

How did he respond?

He said: I loved it. Thats part of the gig. Youre going to get made fun of. Thats freedom of speech. And at that moment, he really looked like the adult in the room compared to the current guy [in office]. I get the narcissism because I feel like every president has an element of that, whether they hide it or not. But the thin skin part? Thats amazing. Youre kind of like: Really? Cant you just go with it? When [President Trump] wasnt going to have any part of the correspondents dinner you wanted to go: Do you realize that at that dinner you get to make fun of people too? Theyll make fun of you, but you get to punch back. I think it hurts so much so even the allure of getting to punch back isnt enough.

If you were back on S.N.L., who in the current administration would you want to send up?

I would have loved to have done Jared Kushner. Or Reince Priebus. No one really knows what that guy does. This is more of a sketch, but Amy and I were talking about the bizarre cabinet meeting where they had to compliment [President Trump]. It would be fun to do a sketch where you have a bunch of empty chairs, but Trump doesnt notice, and Im the one guy who pops from chair to chair, maybe with different wigs, and keeps complimenting him.

Hollywood makes few dramatic movies about middle-class worries now. So can comedies fill that gap?

I love comedies where we get to either make very direct satirical comments about whats going on or indirect. I think its great when we can slide that stuff in. But is that the only way were going to get people to listen? It seems to be more and more that way. When you feel like you get more real news by watching The Daily Show or Samantha Bee, thats saying something.

A version of this article appears in print on June 25, 2017, on Page AR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Now Its Time to Wield an Ax.

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Will Ferrell on Donald Trump, Michelle Obama and His New Movie – New York Times