It’s a great time to be a cigarette company again.
Far fewer Americans are smoking, and yet U.S. tobacco revenue is soaring, thanks to years of steady price hikes. Americans spent more at retail stores on cigarettes in 2016 than they did on soda and beer combined, according to independent market-research firm Euromonitor International. Consolidation and cost cutting are boosting profit. Big Tobacco shares are on a roll.
Two decades ago, such a boom didn’t seem possible. The industry faced a future of increasing regulation and declining sales, as older smokers quit and fewer young people picked up the habit. States were suing for billions of dollars. Bankruptcies for some players seemed just around the corner.
Things didn’t turn out so badly, though. Costs from an avalanche of legal settlements and regulatory requirements have been heavy, but they haven’t put any big players out of business. Cigarette makers found they could more than make up for falling volumes with higher prices.
Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as The Story of Civilization. They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.
That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.
This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated. It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.
Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
For more than a century, Turkey has denied any role in organizing the killing of Armenians in what historians have long accepted as a genocide that started in 1915, as World War I spread across continents. The Turkish narrative of denial has hinged on the argument that the original documents from postwar military tribunals that convicted the genocide’s planners were nowhere to be found.
Now, Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who has studied the genocide for decades by piecing together documents from around the world to establish state complicity in the killings, says he has unearthed an original telegram from the trials, in an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
“Until recently, the smoking gun was missing,” Mr. Akcam said. “This is the smoking gun.” He called his find “an earthquake in our field,” and said he hoped it would remove “the last brick in the denialist wall.”
The story begins in 1915 in an office in the Turkish city of Erzurum, when a high-level official of the Ottoman Empire punched out a telegram in secret code to a colleague in the field, asking for details about the deportations and killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia, the easternmost part of contemporary Turkey.
[…] What should the world expect from President Le Pen? A partial answer can be found in her 144-point campaign platform. It promises radical, jarring change that starts with rewriting the constitution; enforcing the principle of “national preference” for French citizens in hiring as well as the dispensing of housing and benefits; reinstating the franc as the national currency; shutting down the country’s borders and suspending its participation in the EU free-travel zone; pulling out of NATO’s integrated command structure; and slashing immigration to one-tenth of its current annual level.
Yet the chances of seeing such plans implemented, even fractionally, are slim. As some of her aides admit, Le Pen’s program represents her vision of France, not a roadmap to get there. In order to see it through, the newly-elected president would first need to consolidate her power by winning control over the lower house of parliament in a June election — or by rejigging the system to allow her to rule with a much narrower level of support.
Taking such challenges into account, POLITICO put together one scenario of Le Pen’s first 100 days based on hours of talks with senior party officials, European diplomats, MEPs, financial analysts, country experts and regular people. What emerges is a narrative of constant crisis mixed with long stretches of institutional paralysis, starting on Day One.
[…] In societies around the world, anthropologists have observed a phenomenon called “ritualized warfare,” a sort of pantomime of battle most famously observed among the Dani people of Papua New Guinea, who would regularly line up in formation to shout insults and shoot arrows at warriors from rival villages with no decisive outcome. The practice results in a lot of noise and relatively little bloodshed, allowing both sides to advertise their courage and vent emotion while avoiding catastrophic loss of human life.
The practice might look familiar to the new president. On the campaign trail, Trump called the press “dishonest” and “scum.” He defended Russian strongman Vladimir Putin against charges of murdering journalists and vowed to somehow “open up our libel laws” to weaken the First Amendment. Since taking office, he has dismissed unfavorable coverage as “fake news” and described the mainstream media as “the enemy of the American people.” And there’s been a string of symbolic, almost gratuitous little slaps: He not only rejected the traditional invitation to the White House Correspondents Association dinner, but announced the Saturday beforehand that he’d be holding a rally the same night, meaning some reporters will have to skip their own professional event to cover his. Not since Richard Nixon has an American president been so hostile to the press—and Nixon largely limited his rants against the media to private venting with his aides.
But behind that theatrical assault, the Trump White House has turned into a kind of playground for the press. We interviewed more than three dozen members of the White House press corps, along with White House staff and outside allies, about the first whirlwind weeks of Trump’s presidency. Rather than a historically toxic relationship, they described a historic gap between the public perception and the private reality.
The battle over whether Britain should be in or out of the European Union was funded mostly by multimillionaires, according to an analysis by the team behind The Sunday Times Rich List.
Those on the forthcoming list, which features only people worth £110m or more, accounted for 71% of loans and donations to the “leave” and “remain” campaigns in the five months leading up to the vote last June.
Almost two-thirds of the cash that bankrolled the successful Brexit campaign came from just five of the country’s richest businessmen.
The quintet together channelled nearly £14.9m to Brexit-backing campaign groups. Eurosceptic organisations received a total of £24.1m in donations and loans between February 1 and polling day from all sources.
After The New York Times wrote about the sexual harassment claims leveled at Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and the settlements made by the company and O’Reilly himself, James Murdoch, according to 21st Century Fox sources, kept repeating with horror to his friends and executives: “This is on the front page of The New York Times!”
These sources say James Murdoch’s longtime annoyance if not disgust with Fox News became cold fury after the Times‘ April 1 story — even though several of the O’Reilly settlements had happened when James was CEO of the parent company. This was a similar reaction to what had followed the harassment suit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson against Fox News chief Roger Ailes in July. Every time Fox controversies spilled over into the wider world, James took it personally. “It was somehow against him,” says one person close to the Murdochs.
Fox News is a business he should not be in, he had told people before, despite its major contribution to 21st Century Fox’s bottom line — 20 percent of its profits came from Fox News last year, the biggest-earning division in the company. Presumably, he meant the in-your-face world of conservative cable news with its mega personalities. Indeed, James regarded many of the people at Fox News as thuggish Neanderthals and said he was embarrassed to be in the same company with them.
Pundits across the U.S. are amplifying the calls for further military intervention in Syria, as the Trump administration indicates regime change may be back on the agenda. The U.S. attacked the Syrian government on April 6, launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a major air base, destroying 20 percent of its planes, according to the Pentagon.
Major media outlets, most politicians from both sides of the aisle and irascible war-hawk writers applauded the Trump administration’s strike with gusto. The uniformity with which the commentariat has embraced the attack hearkens back to six years ago, when many of these same people and publications cheered as NATO overthrew Libya’s government, plunging the oil-rich North African nation into chaos from which it is still reeling.
The 2011 war in Libya was justified in the name of supposed humanitarian intervention, but it was a war for regime change, plain and simple. A report released by the British House of Commons’ bipartisan Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016 acknowledged that the intervention was sold on lies — but by the time it was published, the damage was already done.
Today, Libya is in complete ruins. There is no functioning central authority for swaths of the country; multiple governments compete for control. The genocidal extremist group ISIS has, in Libya, carved out its largest so-called caliphate outside of Iraq and Syria.
Sharmini Peries speaks with Jean Bricmont, author of Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War, who says that if leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon wins, he does not have enough of a social movement behind him to fulfil his campaign promises. (The Real News)
- Does the French presidential election hold one last surprise?
- French election 2017: Voters go to the polls in wide-open contest
- French elections 2017: Disintegrating left-right divide sets stage for political upheaval
- The twists and turns of France’s strangest ever presidential election
- A Complete Breakdown: Extremists on Left and Right Push France to the Brink
- Trump Hopes Paris Attack Boosts Le Pen, One Day After Obama Calls Macron
- France’s Election Is Trump vs. Merkel vs. Modi vs. Corbyn
- How France’s hotly contested election could shake markets
- France’s Bernie Sanders Started His Own Party and Is Surging in the Polls
As U.S. Prepares Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald Says Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press Freedom
Amy Goodman speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald who responds to reports that the Trump administration has prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Democracy Now!)
- Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms
- The Unprecedented Danger of Prosecuting Julian Assange
- The US Charging Julian Assange Could Put Press Freedom on Trial
- A WikiLeaks prosecution would endanger the future of US journalism
- If the US Could Prosecute Assange, It Would Have Already Done So
- Julian Assange on Trump, DNC Emails, Russia, the CIA, Vault 7 and More
- US Preparing Charges Against Julian Assange
[…] Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?
If you’re wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.
What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.
The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.
In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters’ need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.
In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how “Because it’s her turn” might fly as a public rallying cry.
- Why Hillary Clinton Really Lost
- Clinton camp revelations prompt mole-hunt
- 7 Takeaways From a New Book on the Clinton Campaign
- ‘Shattered’ Charts Hillary Clinton’s Course Into the Iceberg
- Hillary Clinton only has herself to blame for her 2016 loss
- Clinton staffers toyed with using ‘because it’s her turn’ as a campaign rallying cry
- Clinton’s campaign failed because she took the “Team of Rivals” concept too far
- New book reveals what Bernie Sanders really thought of Clinton’s campaign message
- Hillary Clinton ‘Refused to Prepare’ For Populism, Insiders Reveal
- Clinton aides deny infighting captured in ‘Shattered’ book
The apparent and surprisingly abrupt demise in Steve Bannon’s influence offers a major potential opening for neoconservatives, many of whom opposed Trump’s election precisely because of his association with Bannon and the “America Firsters,” to return to power after so many years of being relegated to the sidelines. Bannon’s decline suggest that he no longer wields the kind of veto power that prevented the nomination of Elliott Abrams as deputy secretary of state. Moreover, the administration’s ongoing failure to fill key posts at the undersecretary, assistant secretary, and deputy assistant secretary levels across the government’s foreign-policy apparatus provides a veritable cornucopia of opportunities for aspiring neocons who didn’t express their opposition to the Trump campaign too loudly.
Ninety days into the administration, the military brass—whose interests and general worldview are well represented by National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster and Pentagon chief Gen. James Mattis (ret.), not to mention the various military veterans led by National Security Council (NSC) chief of staff Gen. Kenneth Kellogg (ret.) who are taking positions on the NSC—appears to be very much in the driver’s seat on key foreign policy issues, especially regarding the Greater Middle East. Their influence is evident not only in the attention they’ve paid to mending ties with NATO and northeast Asian allies, but also in the more forceful actions in the Greater Middle East of the past two weeks. These latter demonstrations of force seem designed above all to reassure Washington’s traditional allies in the region, who had worried most loudly about both Obama’s non-interventionism and Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, that the U.S. is not shy about exerting its military muscle.
Nor could it be lost on many observers that Bannon’s expulsion from the NSC took place immediately after Jared Kushner returned from his surprise visit to Iraq hosted by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford—reportedly the culmination of a calculated strategy of seduction by the Pentagon. Kushner has emerged as the chief conduit to Trump (aside, perhaps, from Ivanka). The timing of Bannon’s fall from grace—and Kushner’s reported role in it—was particularly remarkable given that Kushner and Bannon were allied in opposing McMaster’s effort to fire Ezra Cohen-Watnick from the NSC just a week before Kushner flew to Baghdad.)