Sales of Mind, Body, Spirit Books Boom In UK Amid ‘Mindfulness Mega-Trend’

Alison Flood reports for The Guardian:

Image result for mindfulness mega-trendThe UK’s “mindfulness mega-trend” shows no sign of running out of breath, with sales of “mind, body, spirit” books booming, against a background of slowing sales elsewhere on the shelves.

Topped by Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim’s The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, a guide to “how to be calm in a busy world” that has sold more than 43,000 copies this year, sales of titles offering spiritual assistance are up by almost 13.3% in volume in 2017, according to sales monitor Nielsen Book. This sits against a total consumer market drop of 1.6% on the same measure.

Rhonda Byrne’s perennial bestseller The Secret is the next-best performer, with 29,000 print sales. Other hits include Eckhart Tolle’s 1999 guide to spiritual enlightenment, The Power of Now, Gabrielle Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back, Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and Dominique Loreau’s L’art de la Simplicite: How to Live More With Less.

In fourth place is the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Joy, with sales of more than 12,000 copies so far this year. Its premise perhaps best sums up what anxious book buyers have been looking for this year: “How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?”

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Feeling Bad About Feeling Bad Can Make You Feel Worse

Yasmin Anwar reports for Berkeley News:

Image result for pressure to feel happyPressure to feel upbeat can make you feel downbeat, while embracing your darker moods can actually make you feel better in the long run, according to new UC Berkeley research.

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” said study senior author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.

At this point, researchers can only speculate on why accepting your joyless emotions can defuse them, like dark clouds passing swiftly in front of the sun and out of sight.

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” Mauss said. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The study, conducted at UC Berkeley and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tested the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health in more than 1,300 adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Denver, Co., metropolitan area.

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Andrew Bacevich: Trump’s Handling of North Korea, His First National Security Crisis, is Very Troubling

Amy Goodman speaks with Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel and professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University. (Democracy Now!)

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War and Install Viceroy to Run Nation

Amy Goodman speaks with longtime investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn about the White House considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force—with at least 90 aircraft—to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. The plan’s consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire with machine guns and threw grenades into the crowded public space. (Democracy Now!)

Trump Deportations Lag Behind Obama Levels

Ted Hesson reports for Politico:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are pictured here. The U.S. is deporting people more slowly than during the Obama administration despite President Donald Trump’s vast immigration crackdown, according to new data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

From Feb. 1 to June 30, ICE officials removed 84,473 people — a rate of roughly 16,900 people per month. If deportations continue at the same clip until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, federal immigration officials will have removed fewer people than they did during even the slowest years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 people from the country, a rate of more than 20,000 people per month.

In fiscal year 2012 — the peak year for deportations under Obama — the agency removed an average of roughly 34,000 people per month.

The lower rate of deportations doesn’t mean Trump has embraced a hands-off approach to immigration enforcement. But it may mean that deportations are lagging behind arrest rates or removal orders, which by all accounts have soared since Trump took office.

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Trump Aide Gorka: U.S. Is Now a Hyperpower

MarketWatch reports:

Despite its saber rattling of late, North Korea poses “a very, very insignificant threat in terms of scale,” according to White House national-security aide Sebastian Gorka, particularly vis-à-vis a United States that, in Gorka’s estimation, is no longer a mere superpower: “We were a superpower. We are now a hyperpower.”

Nobody, he said during an appearance on the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends,” and “especially North Korea,” comes close to matching the U.S.’s military might. On Twitter, President Donald Trump appeared to claim credit for vouchsafing that status via the signing of an executive order: “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”

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Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War

Jake Johnson reports for Common Dreams:

U.S. President Donald Trump and Pastor Robert Jeffress participate in the Celebrate Freedom Rally at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on July 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C.After President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” on Tuesday, many began to worry about the prospect of nuclear war.

Not Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress.

Shortly following the president’s remarks, Jeffress—who is also one of Trump’s “evangelical advisers“—released a statement declaring that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un,” the leader of North Korea.

Jeffress went on to say he is “heartened to see that our president…will not tolerate any threat against the American people.”

“When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it,” Jeffress concluded. “Thank God for a president who is serious about protecting our country.”

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Photo Essay: The North Korea Washington Doesn’t Want Americans To See

Doug Bandow writes for Forbes:

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, long has been called “the Hermit Kingdom,” as the ancient Korean monarchy was known. The moniker long irritated DPRK officials, though 25 years ago when I first visited it was more accurate. There weren’t many Western travelers and engaging in common American activities, such a jogging, which I did every day, garnering stares from virtually everyone—though, even more weirdly, virtually no one made eye contact. On this trip, in response to an invitation from the Institute for American Studies of the Foreign Ministry, there were few stares.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration plans to ban travel by Americans to the North as of September 1. That’s a mistake, since U.S. visitors both educate North Koreans and are educated by North Koreans. It is a process that encourages social transformation and long term change in the DPRK, which is desperately needed in a system of monarchical communism which holds an entire population in bondage.

Although more Westerners visit the North today, Beijing remains the primary entry point. You can fly in on Air Koryo, as I did, or Air China, though the latter is known to adjust its service to reflect both economics and politics. Perhaps someday American airports will display Pyongyang as a destination. But not in the near future, since it soon will be illegal for Americans to travel to the DPRK. At least, their passports will be tagged as invalid for travel there. But Pyongyang could accept them anyway. I suspect Americans will continue to visit, just as Americans routinely traveled to Cuba illicitly despite the only recently modified ban.

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U.S. Ramps Up Border Militarism as Trump Appoints DHS Head General John Kelly to Chief of Staff

Amy Goodman speaks with two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist John Carlos Frey, whose new investigation in partnership with ABC’s “20/20” is titled ‘Life and Death at the Border’. (Democracy Now!)

Donald Trump Is Pushing America’s Special Forces Past the Breaking Point

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

Donald Trump Is Pushing America’s Special Forces Past the Breaking Point With little policy guidance or public attention, the Donald Trumpadministration has further expanded former President Barack Obama’s use of lethal counterterrorism operations in nonbattlefield countries — namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. During the final 193 days of Obama’s presidency, there were 21 such operations. Over a comparable number of days under President Trump, there have been five times as many operations: at least 92 in Yemen, four in Pakistan, and six in Somalia.

The workhorse for these expanded missions is the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a sub-unified command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). We know that JSOC, and not the CIA, is the lead executive authority for these operations because they are overt, rather than covert. Military officials have publicly explained the missions, and the Defense Department has even issued press releases about them. (The only operations undeclared were the reported four drone strikes in Pakistan — a country that the CIA has been bombing intermittently since the summer of 2004.) Operations in Yemen and Somalia — which fall under Title 10, the part of U.S. law that outlines the role and authority of the armed forces — are broadly acknowledged and even reported to Congress every six months.

Despite that, the public knows relatively little about the organization carrying them out. We can catch glimpses inside JSOC from anecdotal reporting or from rare histories, like Sean Naylor’s masterful Relentless Strike. But the extent of America’s understanding of the primary military command responsible for “direct action” operations is best summarized by President George W. Bush’s declaration in 2008: “Listen, JSOC is awesome.”

Through a series of discussions and interviews over the past few years, I have uncovered insights into how the command has evolved, how the congressional oversight of its lethal operations is really exercised, and what the limits are to what JSOC, however “awesome” it may be, is able to accomplish.

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The Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing and All Too Short

Matt Taibbi wrote for Rolling Stone:

I already miss Anthony Scaramucci. Of course, he hasn’t officially been fired yet (checks Twitter), or committed suicide by jumping into boiling steak fat at his Gotti-esque Hunt and Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan (checks Twitter again). But it sure seems like he’s not long for this earth. Even by Trumpian standards, has any federal official had a more disastrous rollout?

The big headline this morning is that the new White House Communications Director got upset and decided to call Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and go full-on Glengarry Glen Ross without asking for background or off-the-record privileges.

In the call, Scaramucci hounded Lizza to give up his sources, threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, and gave what Saddam Hussein would have described as the mother of all quotes in an effort to bash fellow backstabbing Trump insider Steve Bannon:

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President.”

Bannon declined to comment on Scaramucci’s charge that he sucks his own cock.

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Newly Declassified Documents Confirm U.S. Backed 1953 Coup in Iran Over Oil Contracts

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with Professor Ervand Abrahamian, author of Iran Between Two Revolutions, about the newly declassified State Department documents which show oil contracts played a key role in the U.S.-backed 1953 coup in Iran that led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. (Democracy Now!) 

The Real Scandal: Americans Don’t Care About Afghanistan

Andrew J. Bacevich writes for The American Conservative:

“Dwelling on the past is just not useful,” not at least in the opinion of Brigadier General Roger B. Turner Jr., U.S. Marine Corps. General Turner’s current duty station is Afghanistan, where he commands a modest conglomeration of Marines and sailors known as Task Force Southwest.

We might empathize with General Turner. After all, what’s the point of getting hung up on the past when you are facing a dauntingly tough job in the here-and-now? That job requires Turner to do what a run of previous U.S. military commanders have been attempting to do without notable success for almost sixteen years: to pacify Helmand Province. Were he to reflect too deeply on the disappointments of those sixteen years— the U.S. troops killed and wounded, the billions of dollars expended, all to no evident purpose—Turner just might reach the conclusion that he and his charges are engaged in a fool’s errand conceived by idiots.

We don’t want brigadier generals entertaining such heretical thoughts about basic U.S. national security policy. Their proper role is to implement, not to formulate; to comply rather than to question; to do or die not to wonder why. So General Turner’s reluctance to dwell on the course that the Afghanistan War has followed since U.S. troops entered that country in 2001 qualifies as prudent and perhaps even necessary.

Unfortunately, the officials who issue Turner his marching orders seemingly share in his reluctance to contemplate the past. The people back at the White House and in the Pentagon who should be thinking long and hard about why America’s longest war has gone so badly even as it drags on and on appear incapable or unwilling to do so. A willful amnesia prevails.

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Trump Intel Chief: North Korea Learned From Libya War to ‘Never’ Give Up Nukes

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front L) inspecting the command of Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 534.    AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS    REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP    ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS        (Photo credit should read KNS/AFP/Getty Images)The media is now filled with headlines about North Korea’s missile teston Friday, which demonstrated that its ICBMs may be able to reach the continental U.S. What isn’t mentioned in any of these stories is how we got to this point — in particular, what Dan Coats, President Donald Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, explained last week at the Aspen Security Forum.

North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un is not crazy, said Coats. In fact, he has “some rationale backing his actions” regarding the country’s nuclear weapons. That rationale is the way the U.S. has demonstrated that North Korea must keep them to ensure “survival for his regime, survival for his country.”

Kim, according to Coats, “has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.” In particular, “The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes …  is, unfortunately: If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them.”

This is, of course, blindingly obvious and has been since the U.S. helped oust longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. But U.S. officials have rarely if ever acknowledged this reality.

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John Oliver’s Alex Jones Segment Explored Bizarre Products Sold By InfoWars

Lani Seelinger writes for Bustle:

Image result for john oliver alex jonesLast night on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver delved into something that it’s usually more pleasant to stay far, far away from: Alex Jones and Infowars. Instead of just showing the usual clips of Jones spouting conspiracy theories, John Oliver’s segment on Alex Jones explored the collection of strange products that Jones, or as Oliver dubbed him, “the Walter Cronkite of shrieking batshit gorilla clowns,” sells on the Infowars website.

In one of his four-hour long broadcasts, Jones complained about John Oliver just taking his words of of context. Oliver, then, segued into his main segment of the night by pledging to do exactly the opposite. “People are right,” Oliver said, “That people don’t present [Jones] in his full context. So tonight, we’re going to do that.”

Oliver then dedicated quite a lot of time and energy to showing that rather than just lecturing people on the evils of chemicals in tap water, Jones actually lectures people about the evil chemicals in tap water and then pivots right around to selling products meant to get rid of those chemicals. “If you play small clips in isolation, he looks like a loon,” Oliver said. “But, if you play them in context, he looks like a skilled salesman spending hours a day frightening you about problems like refugees spreading disease and then selling you an answer.”

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Dystopian Future Has Come to Pass

Ed O’Loughlin writes for The Irish Times:

Image result for player piano vonnegut[…] The degenerate autocracy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World runs on soft power – sex and drugs and suggestion. George Orwell foresaw an inhuman future controlled by the stark yet artful lies of a brutal surveillance state. But Vonnegut, who had worked at General Electric just after the second World War, saw a future where engineers and managers would sincerely do their best to improve the world by building ever more efficient machines to do all the work for us. The result: a new form of dystopia.

In Player Piano’s future America, the old professions and trades have been automated, one by one, until only the oligarchs, engineers and senior managers still have real jobs – and even they are beginning to automate themselves out of existence. Everyone else of working age has been drafted to the army (but without loaded guns, for fear that they’ll mutiny) or assigned to a catch-all, make-work programme called the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps – “Reeks and Wrecks”.

Doctors and lawyers, but not dentists or barbers, are already obsolete. Theoretical science faculties in the surviving universities, being of little practical use, have been amalgamated with the remnants of the schools of liberal arts, their old facilities taken over for yet more schools of engineering. A few writers are still tolerated, but they have to conform to one of 12 practical, sure-sale genres, such as dog story of the month, or else go into public relations.

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Trump and the Christian Fascists

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

Donald Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump’s ability to force the Christian right’s agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had 81 percent of white evangelicals behind him.

Trump’s moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty” and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the Johnson Amendment, along with his nominations of judges championed by the Federalist Society and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power—Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right.

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Why Autocrats Fear LGBT Rights

Masha Gessen writes for the New York Review of Books:

July 26, 2017, was a personal anniversary for me: one year earlier I had written a piece in which I argued for setting aside the idea of a Trump-Russia conspiracy (yes, this idea was with us a year ago) for the much more important task of imagining what a Trump presidency might bring. I wrote that Trump would unleash a war at home and while it was difficult to predict the target, “my money is actually on the LGBT community because its acceptance is the most clear and drastic social change in America of the last decade, so an antigay campaign would capture the desire to return to a time in which Trump’s constituency felt comfortable.” This was a thought exercise; even as I made an argument that I believed to be logical, I could not believe my own words. On Wednesday of this week, one year to the day since I made that prediction, President Trump announced, by tweet, that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military—a policy reversal that would directly and immediately affect thousands of people.

Many commentators immediately branded this move a distraction, an attempt to draw attention away from the Russian-conspiracy story, the health care battle, or anything else they deem more important than the president’s declaration that a group of Americans are second-class citizens. This is not only a grievous insult to transgender people but a basic failure to understand the emotional logic of Trumpism. This is a logic that Trump shares with most modern-day strongmen, and it was this logic that made his attack on LGBT rights so predictable, even while he was literally draping a rainbow flag over his body last year.

Trump got elected on the promise of a return to an imaginary past—a time we don’t remember because it never actually was, but one when America was a kind of great that Trump has promised to restore. Trumps shares this brand of nostalgia with Vladimir Putin, who has spent the last five years talking about Russian “traditional values,” with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, who has warned LGBT people against becoming “provocative,” and with any number of European populists who promise a return to a mythical “traditional” past.

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Declining Sperm Count Could Lead to ‘Extinction’

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

In the first systematic review of trends in sperm count, researchers this week reported in the journalHuman Reproduction Update a significant decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from Western countries.

They found a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration, and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who were not selected based on their fertility status. In contrast, no significant decline was seen in South America, Asia and Africa, although far fewer studies have been conducted there.

The study also indicates the rate of decline among Western men is not decreasing: the slope was steep and significant even when analysis was restricted to studies with sample collection between 1996 and 2011.

Dr Hagai Levine, of Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, the lead author, told the BBC that if the trend continued humanity was in deep trouble. “If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future. Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.”

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The Washington Post Worships Principled, Humanitarian McCain That’s Never Existed

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Washington Post: What We Can All Learn From John McCainIn a fawning editorial Saturday (7/22/17), pillar of the national security establishment the Washington Post fell over itself to commend a John McCain that never existed, instead lavishing praise on a well-curated PR facsimile developed over decades.

After praising McCain for issuing a “toughly worded criticism” on Twitter of Donald Trump for allegedly ending an entirely pointless, destructive and likely illegal CIA program supporting unnamed “rebels” in Syria (the highest act of moral courage for the Post is gunrunning to CIA proxies), the Fred Hiatt–run editorial board proceeds to paint McCain as the antidote to the problem of “partisan warfare, where politicians will say just about anything at all, true or untrue, to gain an advantage.”

This is clearly meant to be an opaque shot at Trump, but the Post is too cowardly to say so outright, much like McCain was too cowardly to actually vote against any of Trump’s cabinet—aside from the OMB director who McCain only opposed because he believed he would cut defense budgets. Never mind, the Washington Post had a childhood hero to worship:

And all over this world, Mr. McCain is associated with freedom and democracy. He has championed human rights with verve and tirelessness — speaking out against repression and authoritarianism, and inviting — no, cajoling — his colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to bear witness with him on trips abroad. He has frequently welcomed victims of repression to the corridors of the capital, too, giving them succor and encouragement in the fight against tyranny.

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Despite What the Press Says, John McCain Has a Long and Distinguished Record of Horribleness

Mehdi Hasan writes for The Intercept:

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) answers questions from reporters as he walks to a meeting of Republican senators where a new version of their healthcare bill was scheduled to be released at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. The latest version of the proposed bill aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also knows as Obamacare. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)What sort of person takes a break from taxpayer-funded cancer treatment and flies 2,000 miles to cast a vote that could result in 22 million people losing their health insurance and tens of thousands of them also losing their lives, then makes a big speech about how messed up the whole process is?

Perhaps the same sort of person who relentlessly agitated for an invasion and occupation of Iraq that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and led to millions of others being displaced from their homes?

Or maybe the same sort of person who put personal and party interests ahead of the national interest when he picked the know-nothing, far-right demagogue Sarah Palin, the ur-Trump, as his running mate in 2008?

Meet John Sidney McCain III: veteran Republican senator from Arizona and former GOP presidential candidate, who endured horrific torture and abuse at the hands of the Viet Cong between 1967 and 1973, and who was tragically diagnosed with brain cancer last week — and who has also been a loathsome human being for most of his eight decades on this planet.

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We’re Moving Toward a Cashless Society, and Lots of People are Going to be Left Behind

Jan Dawson writes for Recode:

This week, I was driving in my neighborhood when I spotted that most American of sights — a bunch of kids running a lemonade stand, waving signs and trying to flag down passing cars. In some ways, it seemed like a great business opportunity — the temperatures where I live have rarely dipped below the high 90s lately. And yet I didn’t stop — not because I don’t like lemonade (or kids), but because I simply don’t carry cash anymore, and I’m fairly sure the neighbor children weren’t taking credit cards.

This got me thinking about all the people and sectors of our economy that are still dependent on cash, and how they might be affected by our increasingly cashless society.

Cash is in decline

Whether anecdotally or based on solid data, I think most of us have a sense that cash is in decline. One study from last year suggests that cash is the preferred payment method of just 11 percent of U.S. consumers, with 75 percent preferring cards. In other markets such as China, cash is dying out even more quickly, with mobile payments increasingly eating into both its share and that of cards. Though my local dry cleaner in New Jersey was a rare (and suspicious) exception, I very rarely come across businesses that don’t take cards, to the extent that it now really takes me aback when it happens. For many of us these days, credit and debit cards — and to a lesser extent, mobile payments — are making cash largely irrelevant. I still have a huge jar of loose change I accumulated over many years, and which now mostly gets used for the occasional school lunch or visits from the tooth fairy, but not much else.

But not for everyone

However, assuming that this pattern holds for everyone would be a mistake. There are still big sectors of the economy and large groups of people that remain heavy users of cash and are heavily dependent on it, and as others move away from it, that’s increasingly going to cause them problems. Sadly, this likely applies most to some of the more vulnerable and marginalized parts of our society, who will be least in a position to make the changes necessary to keep up as the rest of society moves on.

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The Troubling Return of Al Gore

Emily Atkin writes for New Republic:

It’s the year 2015, in Paris, and negotiations over an international climate accord are falling apart. India‚ the world’s fourth-largest polluter, is wary about signing onto the deal, fearing the commitments are too strict for a developing country with high energy needs. So Al Gore whips into action—by pulling out his cell phone. He dials Larry Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, and says, “Elon suggested I call.” Naturally, the former vice president is on a first-name basis with the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. But Elon Musk is more important to Gore as the chairman of SolarCity, which The New York Times describes as “the nation’s leading installer of rooftop solar panels and a renewable energy darling.” Gore is thus connected with SolarCity’s president, and asks him to give the company’s intellectual property to India, free of charge. “SolarCity could be the corporate hero of Paris,” Gore says into the phone. “Think about it.” The company eventually agrees, and India signs the agreement. Gore saves the day—and perhaps the planet.

This is not a first-hand account of the negotiations over the now-historic Paris agreement, but rather how they’re portrayed in Gore’s new documentaryOn its face, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power brings viewers up to date on both Gore and the planet since his Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. (Spoiler: The planet has been getting hotter, and Gore’s been working to solve the climate crisis.) But the film also completes the lionization of Gore that began with its antecedent. If An Inconvenient Truth cast him as a brave voice in the wilderness, An Inconvenient Sequel is a victory lap of sorts. Gore’s dire warnings have come true, the movie posits, but he’s been working tirelessly behind the scenes to stave off a global catastrophe—and achieving tangible results.

But apropos of this week’s release of An Inconvenient Sequel and a book of the same name, Gore, 69, is thrusting himself back into the spotlight as America’s top spokesperson for climate change activism. He’s granted myriad interviews in recent weeks—including The New York TimesCBSInterviewFast CompanyCNNStephen Colbert, and NBC, but not, alas, the New Republic—to promote his latest projects and deliver a relentlessly optimistic message. “Is there hope, Al Gore?” Colbert askedhim. “Absolutely,” he replied. “Go see the movie and you’ll see there is tremendous hope. We are going to win this.” He told CBS, “Those who feel despair should be of good cheer, as the Bible says. Have faith, have hope. We are going to win this.”

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Leftwing Breitbart? Chapo Trap House is a Strong New Voice in Resistance to Trump

Edward Helmore writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Chapo Trap HouseIt has been called the leftwing alternative to Breitbart – a subversive, humorous and politics-focused new media presence that has attracted a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chapo Trap House has mostly attracted followers of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, but recently it burst into the mainstream US media when a dispute erupted between the podcast’s provocative, hard-left commentators and the New Republic, a stately institution of polite neoliberalism.

As part of a takedown of the “dirtbag left”, the century-old commentary magazine noted that a phrase used by Chapo’s Brooklyn-based hosts had prompted outrage in some quarters.

In a recent edition, co-host Will Menaker said – not for the first time – that Clintonian liberalism was the architect of its own defeat. “But get this through your fucking head,” he said. “You must bend the knee to us. Not the other way around. You have been proven as failures, and your entire worldview has been discredited.”

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Washington DC’s Role Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Goes Deeper Than You Think

Matthew Alford, teaching fellow of propaganda theory at University of Bath and the co-author of National Security Cinema, writes for The Conversation:

The US government and Hollywood have always been close. Washington DC has long been a source of intriguing plots for filmmakers and LA has been a generous provider of glamour and glitz to the political class.

But just how dependant are these two centres of American influence? Scrutiny of previously hidden documents reveals that the answer is: very.

We can now show that the relationship between US national security and Hollywood is much deeper and more political than anyone has ever acknowledged.

It is a matter of public record that the Pentagon has had an Entertainment Liaison Office since 1948. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established a similar position in 1996. Although it was known that they sometimes request script changes in exchange for advice, permission to use locations, and equipment like aircraft carriers, each appeared to have passive, and largely apolitical roles.

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Manufacturing Bob Marley

Hua Hsu writes for The New Yorker:

Image result for bob marleyWhen Bob Marley died, on May 11, 1981, at the age of thirty-six, he did not leave behind a will. He had known that the end was near. Seven months earlier, he had collapsed while jogging in Central Park. Melanoma, which was first diagnosed in 1977 but left largely untreated, had spread throughout his body. According to Danny Sims, Marley’s manager at the time, a doctor at Sloan Kettering said that the singer had “more cancer in him than I’ve seen with a live human being.” As Sims recalled, the doctor estimated that Marley had just a few months to live, and that “he might as well go back out on the road and die there.”

Marley played his final show on September 23, 1980, in Pittsburgh. During the sound check, he sang Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” over and over. He asked a close friend to stay near the stage and watch him, in case anything happened. The remaining months of his life were an extended farewell, as he sought treatment, first in Miami and then in New York. Cindy Breakspeare, Marley’s main companion in the mid-seventies, remembered his famed dreadlocks becoming too heavy for his weakened frame. One night, she and a group of women in Marley’s orbit, including his wife, Rita (to whom he had remained married, despite it being years since they were faithful to one another), gathered to light candles, read passages from the Bible, and cut his dreadlocks off.

Drafting a will was probably the last thing on Marley’s mind as his body, which he had carefully maintained with long afternoons of soccer, rapidly broke down. Marley was a Rastafarian, subscribing to a millenarian, Afrocentric interpretation of Scripture that took hold in Jamaica in the nineteen-thirties. By conventional Western standards, the Rastafarian movement can seem both uncompromising (it espouses fairly conservative views on gender and requires a strict, all-natural diet) and appealingly lax (it has a communal ethos, which often involves liberal ritual use of marijuana). For Marley, dealing with his estate probably signified a surrender to the forces of Babylon, the metaphorical site of oppression and Western materialism that Rastas hope to escape. When he died, in Miami, his final words to his son Stephen were “Money can’t buy life.”

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When Did Music Journalism Stop Wielding the Axe?

Luke Turner, co-founder of The Quietus, writes for Crack Magazine:

Image result for music journalismAs a result of changes in how we consume media, music journalism is increasingly in flux. This unstable climate, The Quietus’ Luke Turner argues, has all but stamped out the flames of negative criticism. Who are critics writing for today, and why should they resist the suppression of honest reviews?

It’s a curious sensation to watch something you love being bludgeoned to death in front of you. I’d not want to do it to anyone’s cat, dog, or gerbil. But albums are a different matter and, at the moment, there’s not enough stomping going on. At The Quietus, the online music magazine I co-founded, I recently wrote a hatchet on risible trip-hop nostalgists Public Service Broadcasting for their dire LP Every Valley, a tacky and inept album that turns the collapse of the Welsh mining industry into a gin-in-a-jam-jar musical turn at a bunting-strewn village fête.

The online reaction was not merely people agreeing or disagreeing with what I’d written, but surprise that such a critical review had been published. Bootings are, it seems, becoming a thing of the past – a relic of the print music press of the 80s and 90s. This is a troubled time for music-focused editorial websites generally. It’s recently transpired that writers for MTV News – which had undergone a politicised makeover not long ago – had their editorial freedoms restricted after Chance the Rapper and Kings of Leon threatened to no longer work with the channel. A new “reshuffle” has seen many MTV writers get the axe, while Vice announced the end of its dance music portal Thump. In both cases, writers have been laid off to prioritise video content.

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The Rise of the ‘Megafarm’: How British Meat is Made

Andrew Wasley and Madlen Davies report for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

In Herefordshire the river Wye curls through market towns, forests of oak and yellow fields tall with rapeseed. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty – walkers come to the area to traverse Offa’s Dyke, go fishing or catch a glimpse of herons, bats or polecats. Which makes the sight just down the road from the church in one small village somewhat unexpected.

A short walk along a public footpath a few miles from the river brings you to a field where large white polyethene tunnels stretch dozens of metres down a hill. They are met at the bottom by five mammoth sheds – each as long as a football pitch. Tall metal silos rise up from between the imposing units.

It looks like something out of a sci-fi film – but it is in fact a typical modern UK farm. Inside the warehouse walls, nearly 800,000 chickens are being bred for slaughter at any one time.

This facility is one of nearly 1,700 intensive poultry and pig farms licensed by the Environment Agency. A Bureau investigation shows that the number of such farms in the UK has increased by a quarter in the last six years.

Many of these units like the one in Herefordshire are giant US-style “megafarms”. Our investigation has discovered there now nearly 800 of these throughout the UK. The biggest house more than a million chickens, 20,000 pigs or 2,000 dairy cows, in sprawling factory units where most animals are confined indoors.

The growth in intensive farms is concentrated in certain parts of the country where major food companies operate and many are in the process of expanding. In Herefordshire, intensively-farmed animals outnumber the human population by 88 to one.

The two biggest farms we have recorded have the capacity to house 1.7 million and 1.4 million chickens apiece.

Behind the data lies a fundamental debate about what we want to eat as a nation, and what price we are prepared to pay for that food.

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Joshua Green on his new book: Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency

Amy Goodman speaks with Bloomberg journalist Joshua Green, the author of a new book titled Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency. (Democracy Now!)

How a Racial Theorist Tied to Mussolini and Hitler Influenced Steve Bannon

Amy Goodman speaks with Bloomberg journalist Joshua Green about two men who influenced Steve Bannon’s philosophy: the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, whose ideas became the basis of fascist racial theory, and René Guénon, who developed an anti-modernism philosophy called ‘Traditionalism’. Green writes about Evola and Guénon in his new book titled Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. (Democracy Now!)