News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


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News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Few other Japanese leaders in living memory have left as deep an imprint on their country as Shinzo Abe. One of the most transformative politicians of the postwar era, he was shot dead at the age of 67 while giving a campaign speech in the western city of Nara ahead of elections to the upper house.

When he stepped down as prime minister in 2007 after only a year, most people assumed he would fade into an undistinguished career on the backbenches. Yet just over a decade later, he had become Japan’s longest-serving premier, with a host of major political reforms to his name and even his own globally recognised brand of economic stimulus, Abenomics.

In 2012, when Abe reclaimed the helm of state in a landslide election, the Japanese economy, once the second largest in the world, had flatlined for two decades. Though many had tried, none had succeeded in rousing it out of stagnation. Facing tough odds, Abe took a three-pronged approach of dramatically increasing the money supply, boosting government spending, and driving through structural reform.

His “Abenomics” combination was to deliver a massive jolt that aimed to lift inflation to 2%, stimulate consumer spending, and reinvigorate the “animal spirits” of Japan’s capitalist class. The bold neoliberal move shook awake a moribund stock market and drove substantial gains for Japan’s big export companies. The excitement of change and an open future propelled Abe into the global spotlight as he declared, “Japan is back”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The prime minister’s fake populism led to his undoing—and will keep haunting his country.

Not too long ago, I heard one of the leading Brexiteers describe his political philosophy in a room full of CEOs and senior politicians. He started by talking to this elite group about the great division between “elites” and “the people,” the victors and the victims of globalization, the haves and the have-nots of modernity. The longer he spoke, the more his words began to seem rote, remote, and stale. The energizing slogans of the Brexit campaign of 2016 sounded hollow and clich​​éd in 2022.

Partly, this is because the slogans were not true. Globalization was indeed bad for some people and good for others, but those groups didn’t split neatly along a rural-urban or rich-poor divide, or along any other easily defined demographic line. Some farmers in the distant countryside turned out to be huge beneficiaries of Britain’s European Union membership. Some of the least-well-off Britons benefited from foreign investment. Besides, many of the people loudly attacking the “elite” were not actually among globalization’s losers themselves. Boris Johnson was the standout example of this phenomenon: He attended Eton and Oxford (just as in America, where all of the loudest “anti-elitists” seem to have gone to Yale or Harvard Law School), and his campaign was paid for by hedge-fund managers and billionaires.

More important, Brexit, the solution to the problem Johnson and his supporters described, was based on a series of lies. The electorate was promised that departure from the EU would lead not only to fewer immigrants but to greater prosperity, more welfare spending, less crowded hospitals. Instead, six years after the vote, Britain is less prosperous and more unequal. Brexit reduced the U.K. GDP by at least 1.5 percent even before it took full effect; the U.K. has the highest inflation rate in the G7; small businesses, especially importers, have been crushed by Brexit-related red tape and supply-chain problems. Though committees have been set up to look for “benefits from Brexit,” few are available. Brexiteers instead crow about the British vaccine campaign or British support for Ukraine, both of which would have been perfectly compatible with EU membership.

Of course, Brexit is not why Johnson has now resigned, or why his cabinet melted down, or why his popularity plunged. But it is an essential piece of the backstory. If British politics were a Faulkner novel, Brexit would be the long-ago tragedy that haunts all of the main characters, even if they hadn’t been born when it happened. Why did a story about a jolly drinking session his cabinet held during COVID lockdown do so much damage to Johnson? Partly because he was already suspected of dishonesty about Brexit, and “Partygate” reconfirmed the image of him as a liar. Why did his Conservative colleagues ultimately decide not to remove him as prime minister when they voted last month? Partly because Johnson is so closely associated with Brexit that a rejection of him looked like a rejection of Brexit, the policy that the party still claims as its greatest achievement. Why are Conservative and Labour politicians alike shocked by his admission that he met a former KGB officer, now a wealthy oligarch, at a private party in Italy while he was still foreign secretary, with no other officials present? Partly because the role of Russian money and influence in the Brexit campaign has never been fully explained.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

In Kyiv, restaurants and cafes are open, and some cultural venues have reopened their doors to visitors. But Russian missiles have recently struck the Ukrainian capital. Photographer Fabian Ritter, from Germany’s DOCKS collective, spent three weeks with young people in the city getting to know their outlook and documenting their new everyday lives, as they grow up and find their identity, while being confronted with Russian aggression.

Of course, no one is really in the mood for a party: almost every young person knows someone who is fighting or otherwise affected by the war. Many have family members in more dangerous areas who often don’t want to leave their homes. And every day the media present further news coverage of the invasion. Although Kyiv can sometimes evoke a past normality, the threat of Russian missiles is never far away.

All the while, more than 100 soldiers die every day on the frontlines; and the Russian army appears to be increasingly attacking civilian targets, including residential buildings and shopping centres.

Young people in the capital are trying to support their home country as much as possible: volunteering, collecting and sorting donations, activism and raising awareness on social media.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

James Caan, the American actor renowned for his role as Sonny Corleone in the mafia epic The Godfather, as well as a string of key films in the 1970s, has died aged 82.

The news was released by his Twitter account on Thursday. A statement read: “It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6. The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

Notorious for a hell-raising party lifestyle, Caan cut a swathe through Hollywood in the 1970s and early 80s, before abruptly quitting acting and for what the actor described a “pretty scary period” disappearing from public view, before engineering a comeback in the late 1980s, winning acclaim for films such as Misery, The Yards and Elf.

Caan was born in 1940 in the Bronx, New York City, the son of a kosher butcher. Keen not to follow his father into the meat trade, Caan initially aimed for a career as a football player, but got interested in acting after studying at Hofstra University in New York state – where he met future collaborator Francis Ford Coppola. Caan then joined the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre; his first significant acting credit was a small role in the 1961 Broadway production of Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole, a second world war play by William Goldman and his brother James.

After a string of minor film and TV appearances, Caan achieved leading man status in 1965 in Howard Hawks’ stock car racing drama Red Line 7000, following it up with a role alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in Hawks’ 1966 western El Dorado. Caan was cast by a then-little-regarded Robert Altman in the 1967 space film Countdown, but his first significant association with the Hollywood new wave came with the 1969 film The Rain People, directed by Coppola, in which Caan played a hitchhiking former college football star who is picked up by Shirley Knight’s dissatisfied middle class housewife.

After playing the lead in a disappointing 1970 adaptation of John Updike’s celebrated novel Rabbit, Run, Caan achieved a major breakthrough with Coppola’s The Godfather. Caan originally auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone that eventually went to Al Pacino, and was favoured by the studio executives, but after Coppola insisted on Pacino, Caan was given another plum role, Corleone’s older brother Sonny. Caan received his only Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor, for the film, and his work remains notable for Sonny’s gruesome death scene, for which Caan said he was fitted with over 140 “squibs”, or explosive blood pellets, to simulate gunshot wounds.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 08.07.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In March, a Republican lawmaker named Danny Bentley took the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives to advocate for a bill that would strip many forms of reproductive-health care from residents of the state. A pharmacist and one of the bill’s sponsors, Bentley promised to clear up some “misconceptions” about RU-486, or mifepristone—a synthetic steroid that is the critical ingredient of the abortion pill, a two-dose regimen that allows people to safely end early-stage pregnancies without surgical intervention. Bentley claimed that RU-486 was created during the Second World War, and that it was initially called Xyglam B—an apparent reference to Zyklon B, the lethal gas used in concentration camps. “The person who developed it was a Jew,” Bentley said, adding that the inventors were likely motivated by “making money.”

The abortion pill was created in the nineteen-eighties; mifepristone was the 38,486th molecule developed by the French drug company Roussel-Uclaf, hence the name RU-486. It was never called Xyglam B or Zyklon B. Bentley’s fabulations were likely inspired by anti-abortion groups that have long tried to exploit a tenuous link between the two products: Roussel-Uclaf was owned by a German company that once belonged to another German company, a subsidiary of which helped manufacture and sell Zyklon B.

Bentley was correct, however, that RU-486 was developed by a Jewish scientist. He was born Étienne Blum, in Strasbourg, in 1926 and took the name Émile Baulieu upon joining the French Resistance in the nineteen-forties. As Étienne-Émile Baulieu, he led an extraordinary life: dodging Fascist paramilitaries; hobnobbing with art-world luminaries; enraging the Pope; and, in the course of a seven-decade career in biochemistry and neuroscience, becoming a seminal figure in the fight for reproductive rights. Last month—exactly two weeks before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade—I visited Baulieu, known as the father of the abortion pill, in his office, in Paris. He told me that he wasn’t much bothered by misrepresentations, such as Bentley’s, of his legacy. (Bentley apologized for his comments after complaints from anti-defamation organizations.) He had absorbed worse: the Vatican once denounced RU-486 as “the pill of Cain: the monster that cynically kills its brothers.” Baulieu’s policy had always been to brush it off. But he was deeply troubled by the threat to reproductive freedom in the United States. “It’s scandalous,” he said. Later, he wrote to say that the Dobbs decision “calls into question a fundamental right of women that we would have thought was legally, politically, and morally guaranteed.”

Bentley’s bill passed the Republican-dominated Kentucky legislature easily, but was temporarily blocked by an injunction in federal court. For the moment, abortion remains legal in the state; however, Republicans are supporting a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to make it harder to challenge these laws in court.

The abortion pill—not to be confused with the morning-after pill, which delays ovulation, is typically taken in two stages. First, mifepristone blocks the body’s receptor for the hormone progesterone, thereby disrupting the gestation process in its early stages. Misoprostol then provokes contractions so that the uterus expels what’s left of the pregnancy, causing heavy bleeding and cramping. (According to Planned Parenthood, medication abortion feels, for most people, “like having an early miscarriage.”) In 2020, medication abortions accounted for an estimated fifty-four per cent of reported American abortions, making it, for the first time, the most common means for ending pregnancies in this country.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.