Author Archive: mrdsk

Pentagon Warns of Heavy Casualties in a New Korean War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

While the content of a high-profile White House meeting in which the entire US Senate was briefed about North Korea has not been totally made public, official attempts to emphasize the non-military efforts being made appear to be just one aspect of the story, as the consequences of a military conflict appear to also have been discussed.

Military officials emphasized the increased naval buildup around the Korean Peninsula, and preparations being made for a new Korean War, while also offering some frank warnings that North Korea would certainly retaliate against an American attack, and that such a retaliation would include major attacks against US forces in South Korea, and the South Korean capital of Seoul.

This was something the Senate was warned about, but has been surprisingly rarely discussed in public as the US masses forces in the area and talks up “taking care of” North Korea one way or another. Indeed, the White House has gone out of its way to dismiss North Korea’s retaliatory capabilities.

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The Media Bubble is Real — And Worse Than You Think

Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty report for Politico Magazine:

Lede-Shafer-ByDataPoint.jpg[…] The answer to the press’ myopia lies elsewhere, and nobody has produced a better argument for how the national media missed the Trump story than FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, who pointed out that the ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink. “As of 2013, only 7 percent of [journalists] identified as Republicans,” Silver wrote in March, chiding the press for its political homogeneity. Just after the election, presidential strategist Steve Bannon savaged the press on the same point but with a heartier vocabulary. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” Bannon said. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no fucking idea what’s going on.”

But journalistic groupthink is a symptom, not a cause. And when it comes to the cause, there’s another, blunter way to think about the question than screaming “bias” and “conspiracy,” or counting D’s and R’s. That’s to ask a simple question about the map. Where do journalists work, and how much has that changed in recent years? To determine this, my colleague Tucker Doherty excavated labor statistics and cross-referenced them against voting patterns and Census data to figure out just what the American media landscape looks like, and how much it has changed.

The results read like a revelation. The national media really does work in a bubble, something that wasn’t true as recently as 2008. And the bubble is growing more extreme. Concentrated heavily along the coasts, the bubble is both geographic and political. If you’re a working journalist, odds aren’t just that you work in a pro-Clinton county—odds are that you reside in one of the nation’s most pro-Clinton counties. And you’ve got company: If you’re a typical reader of Politico, chances are you’re a citizen of bubbleville, too.

The “media bubble” trope might feel overused by critics of journalism who want to sneer at reporters who live in Brooklyn or California and don’t get the “real America” of southern Ohio or rural Kansas. But these numbers suggest it’s no exaggeration: Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize. And it’s driven by deep industry trends.

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The Convicted Con Artist Of The Winter White House

Tarini Parti reports for BuzzFeed News:

[…] The Rinkuses are the gatekeepers to the Winter White House — or at least Ari wants people to think so. Before she landed her job at Mar-a-Lago, Heather worked for one of the companies owned by the family of Betsy DeVos, the wealthy former chair of the Michigan Republican Party who is now Trump’s education secretary. Ari, a stocky former used car salesman, frequently holds court over a vodka soda at a local bar, bragging about his and his wife’s connection to Trump and his team while trolling for investors for business deals he’s peddling.

The tale of the Rinkus couple — one a repeat felon and the other a Trump employee who interacts regularly with top government officials — raises the curtain on the way Trump’s sprawling business holdings can sweep minor figures into his political orbit. For a man with a serious criminal record, Ari Rinkus has been in remarkably close proximity to the president. He has parlayed that access — and the perception of access — to his own advantage, sources said, while pursuing potentially lucrative government contracts on behalf of a foreign company.

Reached this week, Heather Rinkus had no comment, and Ari, told what this story would contain, changed his account. He said that in previous exchanges with BuzzFeed News, he had exaggerated his access to the president and his family. He told similarly inflated tales to other people, he said, but insisted that he had not done so to gain government contracts or seek investments. Raising money, he acknowledged, would violate the terms of his ongoing probation for the Ponzi scheme.

The White House declined to comment, referring questions to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization said it had no business relationship with either Heather or Ari Rinkus. Mar-a-Lago did not respond to emails and a phone message.

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Corbynism Might Not Actually End – Even If Labour Loses the Election

David Jeffery and Tim Bale write for The Conversation:

Image result for corbyn long readBecause the general election looks set to produce an impressive win for the Conservatives, its main interest lies not in the result itself but in the result of that result. The House of Commons will look very different on June 9, and the implications of that could turn out to be very big indeed. That’s especially true for the opposition.

For Labour, heading for what many of its own people fear will be a very big defeat, it’s all about who comes after Jeremy Corbyn. True, he may not step down immediately. But he is unlikely to stay for long after the party’s first post-election conference in September. There, Corbynistas hope to make a change to party rules that would make it much easier to get a left-wing successor into the contest to replace him. The aim is to require just 5% of MPs and MEPs to nominate candidates for leadership, instead of the current 15%. That would significantly shift the balance of power in these contests from parliament to party members.

There is also a possibility that those urging Corbyn to stay on would allow him to step down straight away if they could find a successor capable of getting 15% of MPs and MEPs to nominate them prior to any rule change, thereby triggering yet another summer leadership contest.

Second-guessing the composition of the post-election Parliamentary Labour Party, then, is more than just a parlour game. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the question is an existential one.

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Noam Chomsky: CIA Targeting of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is “Disgraceful Act”

Amy Goodman recently spoke with Noam Chomsky about the U.S. government targeting of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. (Democracy Now!)

Noam Chomsky on the GOP: Has Any Organisation Ever Been So Committed to Destruction of Life on Earth?

Amy Goodman recently spoke with Noam Chomsky about comments he made regarding the Republican Party’s committment to the destruction of life and being “the most dangerous organisation on on earth”. (Noam Chomsky)

The End of Foreign Aid As We Know It

Bryant Harris, Robbie Gramerand Emily Tamkin report for Foreign Policy:

Image result for kissinger foreign aid trump[…] Bolstering the economic support fund while gutting development assistance has raised fears in the development world that the Trump administration is more interested in using foreign assistance to achieve short-term political objectives than his predecessors.

“Historically, the ESF is used primarily as a means of helping political allies in ways that we want to provide funding to them but with less emphasis on development outcomes,” said Steven Radelet, the former chief economist at USAID.

According to Natsios, the former USAID administrator, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger similarly diverted funds during the Cold War. Natsios pointed to the consultations that current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has had with Kissinger and believes that the elder statesman may be influencing the administration’s attitude toward foreign aid restructuring.

“I think Dr. Kissinger is one of our greatest Secretaries of State. He has, however, not been one of our supporters over the long term for development assistance, said Natsios. “Dr. Kissinger’s analysis, in my view, is completely wrong.”

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The Hungarian Rise And Fall Of Sebastian Gorka

Mitch Prothero writes for BuzzFeed:

Deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka participates in a discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 24, 2017, in National Harbor, Maryland.Sebastian Gorka — national security aide and all-round Donald Trump attack dog — failed his way upwards to the White House, having been denied security clearance to work in the Hungarian parliament, defeated in a local mayoral race in the 2000s, and widely dismissed as an opportunist.

Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president who focuses on counterterrorism, was denied security clearance in 2002 to serve on a committee investigating the then-Hungarian prime minister’s past as a communist secret police official during Soviet times. That denial, local security officials and politicians told BuzzFeed News, effectively ended his career as a national security expert in Hungary.

Washington’s standards may be lower than Budapest’s. Gorka has been widely criticised for his lack of qualifications and connections with fringe political groups since joining the Trump administration. In the past few months, his ties with far-right Hungarian groups and past as an editor at Breitbart News have raised questions about both his ideological views and his judgment. But, back in Hungary in the 2000s, he wasn’t seen as an extremist, but instead a self-promoter, who exaggerated claims about his past, including his work for the British intelligence services.

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Donald Trump’s Failing Presidency

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

The 100-day mark may be an artificial measuring stick for a U.S. president. Obviously much can happen in the remaining 1,361 days of a four-year term. But Donald Trump’s decisions in his first three months in office have put him on an almost irreversible path to failure.

He now appears to be little more than a traditional Republican with more than a little dash of Kardashian sleaze in him, a boorish reality-TV star reading from a neocon script that could have been written for many of his GOP rivals, except he delivers his lines with worse grammar and a limited vocabulary, favoring imprecise words such as “beautiful” and “sad.”

Trump also has the look of a conman. He sold himself as a populist who would fight for the forgotten Americans, but is following domestic policies aimed at comforting his super-rich friends while afflicting his most loyal blue-collar supporters.

He promises a tax package that will give huge breaks to the already well-to-do; he backed a Republican health-care plan that would have left 24 million Americans without insurance but saved billions for billionaires; he shows no sign of delivering on his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan although he keeps pushing his “beautiful” wall across the entire border with Mexico; and his hectoring of U.S. companies to stop exporting jobs has been more show than substance.

On the foreign policy front, Trump has broken his vow to move away from endless war and needless confrontation – and avoid their extraordinary costs in blood and treasure. After months of getting newspaper-slapped by the mainstream media over Russia-gate, Trump has put his tail between his legs and become a housebroken dog to neocon dogma. He also licks the hand of Israel and Saudi Arabia as he and his team keep repeating the favorite Israeli-Saudi mantra that “Iran is the principal sponsor of terrorism.”

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World Press Freedom Index 2017 Finds Democracies Are Clamping Down

Alistair Walsh and Wolfgang Dick report for DW:

Infographic Freedom of press - best and worst from each continentPress freedom deteriorated in two thirds of the world’s countries, according to the Press Freedom Report published on Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF.)

“The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming for all those who understand that, if media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed,” RSF Secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

RSF, the non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Paris, has consultant status at the United Nations. It investigated freedom of media and journalists in 180 countries and found democracies, as well as dictatorships, had increasingly clamped down on press freedom.

Researchers found that high-level politicians had used their power to quash media reports – a trend which was particularly frightening, according to Michael Rediske, Chief Executive of the group.

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Are Governments Finding New Ways to Suppress the Media?

Martine Dennis speaks with Mohamad Elmasry, Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Martin Schibbye, a Swedish Journalist who was jailed for more than a year in Ethiopia, to discuss the new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists about the suppression of the media around the world. (Al Jazeera)

Counties Where the American Dream Is Dead

Thomas C. Frohlich writes for Wall Street 24/7:

Image result for American Dream Is DeadThe expectation that children born in the United States will do better than their parents is the bedrock of the American dream. Rates of upward income mobility have fallen sharply in recent decades, however, and in some areas they are close to zero.

According to recent research on intergenerational mobility, the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents is down from approximately 90% of children born in 1940, to 50% of children born in the 1980s.

Economic research organization The Equality of Opportunity Project considered average incomes of 26-year olds raised in the bottom quartile in 2,973 U.S. counties. A 26-year old from this background who earns more than the national average for his age and income group is said to have managed upward income mobility.

The researchers found neighborhood environments have substantial effects on children’s long-term economic outcomes. The probability of earning in adulthood more than $26,090 — the average annual income for the bottom quartile nationally — goes down every year of childhood spent in nearly 1,000 counties. To highlight the substantial geographic variation on this pattern, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 50 counties where the average incomes lost are greatest.

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America’s Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Replaced by Robots

Vincent Del Giudice and Wei Lu report for Bloomberg:

Image result for America’s Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Replaced by RobotsAmerica’s working class is falling further behind.

The rich-poor gap — the difference in annual income between households in the top 20 percent and those in the bottom 20 percent — ballooned by $29,200 to $189,600 between 2010 and 2015, based on Bloomberg calculations using U.S. Census Bureau data.

Computers and robots are taking over many types of tasks, shoving aside some workers while boosting the productivity of specialized employees, contributing to the gap.

“Technological developments have increasingly replaced low- and mid-skilled jobs while complementing higher-skilled jobs,” said Chad Sparber, an associate professor and chair of the economic department at Colgate University.

This shift is predicted to continue. About 38 percent of U.S. jobs could be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The “most-exposed” industries include retail and wholesale trade, transportation and storage, and manufacturing, with less-educated workers facing the biggest challenges.

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Warning That ‘Dark Ads’ Misleading Voters Are Bigger Threat Than Fake News

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Related imagePolitical advertising that is only seen by its intended recipients is a greater cause for concern than “fake news” in the spread of misinformation, according to the director for a leading fact-checking charity in the UK.

So-called “dark ads” have emerged as a method of advertising that utilises data obtained by the likes of Facebook and Google to customise political campaigns.

They can be served directly to users of Facebook and via Google’s widely used double-click  technology which serves ads to millions of websites.

These two giants account for around a half of the UK £10bn a year digital advertising market.

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Wikipedia Founder Launches ‘Community-Driven’ News Service

Press Gazette reports:

Image result for wikitribuneWikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is launching a crowd-funded news service where supporters can pay for a say in the topics being covered.

The internet entrepreneur has created Wikitribune, a news initiative which says it will see professional journalists and community contributors produce “fact-checked, global news stories”.

The new site will be free to use, but also accept donations from monthly “supporters” who will then be able to suggest topics to be covered – while the site also says it will publish full transcripts of interviews where possible as part of transparency plans.

“Wikitribune is news by the people and for the people,” Wales said.

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Not the Onion: UN Vote Allows Saudi Arabia on Women’s Council

Alex Mihailovic speaks with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and author of Kingdom of the Unjust, about the ultraconservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia being elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (RT America)

French Elections: Macron Expected to Knock Out Le Pen on May 7th

Sharmini Peries speaks with Alex Main of the Centre for Economic Policy and Research about the 2017 French elections. (The Real News)

Why the Fuck Is No One Talking About Nukes?

Alexander Zaitchik writes for VICE:

 

Image result for because it's fun t-shirt[…] Why is it so hard to talk about nuclear weapons the way we did 30 years ago?

For starters, nuclear weapons have always been synonyms for death, and people don’t like thinking about death. (This goes triple for “megadeath,” the unit-measure for every million people killed in a nuclear war.) Nuclear weapons also involve, not one, but two apparent paradoxes. The first cuts through morality and human nature: How can we be so smart, and yet so dumb? How can we barrel down a highway lined with flashing neon signs reading, “Horrific Mass Suicide, 1 mile”? The second paradox is just the physics mindfuck of it all: An atom can flatten a city. Like the vastness of our expanding universe, it doesn’t seem real. It can’t be.

Even during the Cold War, nobody wanted to think about nukes. It took Hiroshima, Nagasaki, a series of major crises, a superpower standoff, and a media focused on the gruesome details of nuclear war to spark even a modest global disarmament movement. The world of 2017 is a different place. There is no binary Cold War frame. The shared culture that could focus a conversation with something like The Day After is no more. The attention span required for sorting through our nuclear dilemma—also pretty close to gone. Nothing embodies this better than the devolution of the “peace” symbol: Born as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group that organized mass sit-ins in downtown London, it is now hippie marketing shorthand used to sell hazy nostalgia for a nonpolitical counterculture.

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We Must Never Forget That Genocide Begins With Groupthink

Stella Morabito writes for The Federalist:

[…] Humans are very susceptible to groupthink, ignorance, propaganda, agitation, and psychological manipulation that weakens their resolve. People are also often all too eager to blame their own problems on convenient scapegoats. These human flaws clarify why “Never forget” is the cry associated with the Holocaust and all crimes against humanity.

This is why everybody must respect the study of history. After all, studying history is about remembering. It’s about learning from experience, which is why we must emphatically reject any attempt to water down the accurate teaching and study of history.

There is a startling déjà vu in the air. Those who study history can feel history repeating itself in the wholesale persecution and slaughter of Christians in the Middle East. We can feel it in the intensified challenges to Israel’s right to exist and in the jihadist terrorist attacks in the name of Islam that are becoming almost mundane headlines. Elements common to both genocides also seem to be re-emerging in today’s restless world: new technologies that potentially deliver greater lethality; realignments of world powers; great displacements of peoples; and, more than ever before, the pivotal role of propaganda and information warfare in inciting aggression.

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U.S. ‘Deep State’ Sold Out Counter-Terrorism to Keep Itself in Business

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman outraged many readers when he wrote an opinion piece on 12 April calling on President Trump to “back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria”. The reason he gave for that recommendation was not that US wars in the Middle East are inevitably self-defeating and endless, but that it would reduce the “pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah”.

That suggestion that the US sell out its interest in counter-terrorism in the Middle East to gain some advantage in power competition with its adversaries was rightly attacked as cynical.

But, in fact, the national security bureaucracies of the US – which many have come to call the “Deep State” – have been selling out their interests in counter-terrorism in order to pursue various adventures in the region ever since George W Bush declared a “Global War on Terrorism” in late 2001.

The whole war on terrorism has been, in effect, a bait-and-switch operation from the beginning. The idea that US military operations were somehow going to make America safer after the 9/11 attacks was the bait. What has actually happened ever since then, however, is that senior officials at the Pentagon and the CIA have been sacrificing the interest of American people in weakening al-Qaeda in order to pursue their own institutional interests.

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Serb Officials Warn of Another War in the Balkans

Dušan Stojanović report for The Associated Press:

Serbian officials warned on Friday of another war in the Balkans if Albanians try to form a joint state with Kosovo in the war-weary European region and the West does not reject such a plan.

The angry reactions from the Serbs came after Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said an interview with Politico journal that a union between Albania and ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo cannot be ruled out if European Union membership prospects for the Western Balkans fade.

Serbian government minister Aleksandar Vulin said he expects the EU and NATO to denounce such statements, otherwise there could be another war in the Balkans.

Vulin said that a new war in the Balkans would also include Macedonia and Montenegro which have large ethnic-Albanian populations.

Most of the Balkan wars were over attempts to create joint ethnically pure states, such as “Greater Serbia,” or “Greater Albania.” It is traditional desire by nationalists on all sides.

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Jane’s Report Sees ISIS Benefiting From Assad Downfall

Tom O’Connor reports for Newweek:

RTSE5EJWith many in the U.S. foreign policy community backing both the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the defeat of the Islamic State group (ISIS), a new report could raise some cause for concern. The report says Assad’s military has been the most engaged faction against ISIS over the past year of Syria’s conflict, making it an extremely risky target for a U.S. foreign policy that is intended to stop the jihadists’ advances.

The report published Wednesday by the London-based IHS Jane Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, one of the world’s leading security analysis agencies, says 43 percent of ISIS’s battles between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 were fought against the Syrian military and its allies, which include Russia, Iran and pro-government militias. Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a majority-Kurd coalition of Arabs and ethnic minorities, accounted for 17 percent of the action against ISIS.

Under former President Barack Obama, Washington long maintained that Assad must be ousted, but U.S. support for rebels faded as ultraconservative Sunni Muslim groups like ISIS grew among the Syrian opposition and Washington then focused on battling jihadists. President Donald Trump further emphasized the need to defeat ISIS, and his administration last month abandoned the Obama-era regime change approach in Syria. However, more recently there have been suggestions that the U.S. may at some point pursue further action against Assad.

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Pictures Reveal Inside of Afghan Caves at ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Blast Site

The Telegraph reports:

Afghan soldier patrols the area where US forces dropped GBU-43 bomb for the first time against caves used by Islamic State Pictures have emerged of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) tunnel network in Afghanistan which the US targeted with “the Mother of All Bombs”.

The US dropped the bomb – its largest explosive short of a nuclear weapon – on April 13 targeting what it said was a tunnel complex used by the jihadist group’s Afghan affiliate.

The GBU-43/B weighs 21,600lbs (9,797-kg) and was dropped from a cargo plane. It has the equivalent power of 11 tonnes of TNT explosives.

But Reuters photographs from the scene of the blast in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan gave an ambiguous sense of the bomb’s power.

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The Most Dangerous Moment in U.S.-Russian Relations Since Cuban Missile Crisis

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speaks with Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University, about U.S.-Russia relations after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Moscow. They are also joined by British journalist and author Jonathan Steele, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, to discuss U.S.-Russia relations in reference to the situation in Syria. (Democracy Now!)

French Parties Unify Against Le Pen: ‘This Is Deadly Serious Now’

Adam Nossiter reports for The New York Times:

Not since World War II has the anti-immigrant far right been closer to gaining power in France. With her second-place finish on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has dragged her National Front party from the dark fringes of its first 40 years.

But that remarkable accomplishment is so alarming to so many in France that as soon as the preliminary results were announced at 8:01 p.m., virtually all of her major opponents in the 11-person race called for her defeat in the second-round runoff on May 7. They implored their supporters to vote for the candidate projected to come out on top on Sunday, the centrist, pro-European Union former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a political novice and outsider.

The first-round showing by Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen represented an earthquake, as they effectively broke the French political establishment. On the right and the left, the two parties that have governed France for more than 50 years suffered a severe defeat. They have been pushed aside in a wave of popular anger over the country’s stagnant economy and shaky security.

The rapid-fire endorsements of Mr. Macron, coming from across the political spectrum, represented a dynamic that has always prevailed in France when the National Front approaches executive power — the cross-party, anti-far right alliance the French call the “Republican Front.” The question now is whether that front can hold this time, as well.

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The Trouble with Emmanuel Macron

Cole Stangler writes for Dissent Magazine:

Related image[…] On a basic level, the success of the thirty-nine-year-old founder and leader of the independent En Marche! movement is puzzling. How can a candidate associated with such unpopular ideas—a backer of finance, François Hollande, and a neoliberal EU—be doing so well?

For one, thanks to some top-notch branding and messaging. From the very beginning, Macron has posed as a renegade candidate, promising to take on “the system” and shake it up. “From the inside, I saw the emptiness of the system,” he thundered in his opening campaign speech last November. “This system, I refuse it.”

Speaking before a crowd of London-based expats in February, Macron declared that he was proud of his “immaturity and inexperience.” And striking a similar chord in a recent interview with Brittany’s regional newspaper, he claimed to be “the only outsider” in the race.

The posturing belies his actual career. However you choose to define “the system”—ultra-tight political cliques in charge of parties and governments, cultural elites with friends in high places, or brute economic powers fueling inequality—Macron embodies it.

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Macron vs Le Pen: A Deeply Divided France Set For An Almighty Collision

Oliver Gee writes for The Local:

Macron vs Le Pen: A deeply divided France set for an almighty collisionEmmanuel Macron’s and Marine Le Pen’s voters couldn’t be more different. They represent a divided France, both geographically, socially and most significantly in how they see the future of their country.

The presidential runoff vote represents a clash of two very different France’s. The first round is over – centrist Macron brought in 23.75 percent of votes, ahead of National Front (FN) leader Le Pen on 21.53 percent, according to final results.

In other words, 8.53 million French people voted for Macron, compared to 7.66 million for Le Pen.

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U.S. Tobacco Industry Rebounds From Its Near-Death Experience

Jennifer Maloney and Saabira Chaudhuri report for The Wall Street Journal:

Image result for U.S. Tobacco Industry Rebounds From Its Near-Death ExperienceIt’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.

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The Crisis of Western Civilization

David Brooks writes for The New York Times:

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.

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‘Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide’ Uncovers Lost Evidence

Tim Arango reports for The New York Times:

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.

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