On growth and equality, two trajectories

by Gerry Rodgers* – Indian Express

Inequality has figured prominently in Brazil’s economic reforms. India’s liberalisation regime focused on removing poverty, but strains caused by inequalities are sharpening.

Thirty years ago, income distribution in India was regarded as relatively equal, at least in international comparison. Meanwhile, Brazil was breaking world records for inequality. Today, inequality in India is high and increasing, while in Brazil it has declined substantially since the 1990s. As a result, on many measures India is now more unequal than Brazil.

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The Future of Plastics

By William S. Becker *

In the classic movie “The Graduate”, Dustin Hoffman plays a young man who has finished college without knowing what his career should be. One of his father’s friends takes him aside and whispers a single word of advice: “plastics”.

The guy was right. Plastics is the third-largest manufacturing industry in the United States today. The industry has its own trade association, trade show and hall of fame. According to an industry website, its 900,000 workers in the United States produced about 107 billion pounds of plastics and resins in 2013. The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that plastic products will double worldwide by 2036.

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American Hubris, or, How Globalization Brought Us Donald Trump

By William Greider* – The Nation

It was “free trade” mania, pushed by both major political parties, that destroyed working-class prosperity and laid the groundwork for his triumph.

Americans are tormented these days by an awkward contradiction—the loss of American triumphalism. Instead of leading the world to higher ground, the United States has become the fumbling fall guy. The popular faith usually invested in America’s global leadership lies in ruins. Lots of people are blaming Donald Trump.

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Climate change: Mike Pompeo is a disaster for the planet. Why do Democrats back him?

Sarah Meyerhoff* – The Guardian

Pompeo is extreme in his denial of climate change. We must pressure Democrats who have backed him to change course

“Ignorant, dangerous, and absolutely unbelievable.” This is how Mike Pompeo, then the nominee for CIA director, described the idea that climate change threatens our nation’s security in his 2017 Senate confirmation hearings. It’s also how our generation and many to come will remember any senator who votes to confirm Pompeo as our next secretary of state.

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President Trump’s Syria Strikes Are Not About Syria

Blog Post by Robert M. Danin* – Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

The airstrikes conducted by the United States, Britain, and France on Saturday against Syrian military targets were about upholding a nearly century-old prohibition against chemical warfare, not about Syria’s seven year-long war that has killed more than half a million people. Indeed, the limited coalition airstrikes are a clear reflection of President Donald J. Trump’s extremely circumscribed objectives.

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Keeping Power in Check – Media, Justice and the Rule of Law

By Alison Small *

NAPIER, New Zealand, Apr  2018 (IPS) – Rarely has the press been as powerful as it is today. Thanks to the advent of social media, the use of which has grown exponentially, the combination of the formal press, newspapers, television and radio is now strengthened, and itself even kept in check by social media. Jo and Joanne citizen have found a voice, not infrequently with the power of a political and social tsunami.
What does this mean for the greater good? Is this helpful to governments to have so much feedback, so quickly?

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American and British Reporters Reach Douma, Syria: Discover There Was NO Chemical Weapons Attack

by George Washington – Washington’s blog / Zero Hedge

Forget what the Syrian government or the Ruskies say.

The first Western journalist has interviewed doctors at the hospital in Douma, Syria which supposedly treated chemical weapons victims and is announcing what really happened.

In the following 1-minute clip, award-winning journalist Robert Fisk – writer for Britain’s Independent for almost 30 years – explains that the video of victims struggling to breathe are real, but that they have nothing to do with a chemical weapons attack:

Here’s a transcript:

I’ve just been in the town of Douma. I found the clinic where the film of the children frothing at the mouth and having water thrown at them was made.

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Earth, Wind and Liars

By Paul Krugman* – The New York Times

Peter Thiel, Facebook investor and Donald Trump supporter, is by all accounts a terrible person. He did, however, come up with one classic line about the disappointments of modern technology: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” O.K., now it’s 280, but who’s counting?

The point of his quip was that while we’ve found ever more clever ways of pushing around bits of information, we are still living in a material world — and our command of that material world has advanced much less than most people expected a few decades ago. Where are the technologies transforming the way we deal with physical reality?

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John Bolton’s Extremism Is Perfectly Aligned With the Most Bellicose Israeli Policies

By Mairav Zonszein* – The Nation

Whether he consciously puts Israel’s interests first or whether he believes they are identical to US interests doesn’t really matter—the outcome is the same

In an ominous coincidence of timing, John Bolton assumed his role as national-security adviser on Monday, right as news broke of an air strike on a military airport in Syria operated by Iran, widely assumed to be carried out by Israel, and just two days after 70 Syrians died and hundreds more were wounded in an apparent chemical attack by the Assad regime in Douma. Exchanges of blame and threats between Russia, Iran, Israel, and the White House have overshadowed the consternation and horror with which many in Washington have reacted to Bolton’s appointment.

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Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency

By Adam Davidson* – The New Yorker

On May 1, 2003, the day President George W. Bush landed on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in front of the massive “Mission Accomplished” sign, I was in Baghdad performing what had become a daily ritual. I went to a gate on the side of the Republican Palace, in the Green Zone, where an American soldier was receiving, one by one, a long line of Iraqis who came with questions and complaints. I remember a man complaining that his house had been run over by a tank. There was a woman who had been a government employee and wanted to know about her salary. The soldier had a form he was supposed to fill out with each person’s request and that person’s contact information. I stood there as the man talked to each person and, each time, said, “Phone number?” And each person would answer some version of “The phone system of Iraq has been destroyed and doesn’t work.” Then the soldier would turn to the next person, write down the person’s question or complaint, and then ask, “Phone number?”

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Risks and Effects of Trade Protectionism : The Role of the State in Capitalism

GEORGE PERENDIA – Wall Street International Magazine

In his recent, excellent analysis, Roberto Savio has probably rightly brought to our attention the quickly growing issue of the social costs of robotisation (see Robots, unemployment … and immigrants). Nevertheless, however alarming the issue, the risks of automatisation probably did not find their fair place among the top most likely and the highest impact “risks” as perceived by the those surveyed ahead of this year’s Davos World Economic Forum [1], but instead, much more, towards those least expected and the least severe risks. Whilst automatisation hovered somewhere among other, mostly human-caused and the state institutions nowadays, usually, well manageable risks, such as deflation and inflation, the most severe was deemed danger from WMD [2] (although deemed similarly unlikely) and, the similarly severe but very likely variety of climate and natural disasters.

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Hungarian journalists admit role in forging anti-migrant ‘atmosphere of fear’

Daniel Nolan and Shaun Walker in Budapest – The Guardian

Employees of state TV network describe how channels pumped out pro-government messaging ahead of Victor Orbán’s election victory this week

A leading editor at Hungary’s state television network punched the air in jubilation as he took a phone call on Sunday evening. Shortly afterwards, his subordinates realised what he had been told: Viktor Orbán had secured a resounding victory in the parliamentary election.

Orbán and his Fidesz party achieved a third consecutive supermajority in the Hungarian parliament after a campaign primarily fought on an anti-migrant platform. International monitors would later complain about the campaign’s “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric” and note that public television “clearly favoured the ruling coalition, at odds with international standards”.

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The Guardian view on Syria: don’t blindly follow Donald Trump

Editorial

Syria’s civil war has seen seven years of numbing brutality. A single attack will not affect its outcome

Given recent history, it would take an extraordinary event and set of circumstances to arise for military intervention by Britain in the Middle East to be considered an option. This country contributed to the wreckage of Libya and Iraq, which were mistakes entered into because our leaders entertained prophecies of exaggerated catastrophe. The argument over the risks of inaction being greater than the risks of action has surfaced again in Syria with a chemical gas attack, orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, that left dead children foaming at the mouth. The slaughter of helpless civilians defines modern evil. The latest atrocity in Syria’s agonising civil war should stain our conscience. Mr Assad is a murderous tyrant and his continued rule in Syria is an affront to humanity. That the Assad regime is shielded by his backers in Moscow and Tehran for their own self-interest should garner contempt. These are all awful features of a war, characterised by numbing brutality, that is entering its seventh year.

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Environment: Scott Pruitt’s Civilization-Threatening Lie

By Justin Gillis* -The New York Times

From the day he walked into Congress as the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt has been trying to foist a colossal lie on the American public.

“Science tells us that the climate is changing, and human activity in some manner impacts that change,” he said that day, 14 months ago. “The human ability to measure with precision the extent of that impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue, as well they should be.”

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Lula da Silva: Condemned by the courts, absolved by history

 Boaventura de Sousa Santos*

The Lula da Silva case blatantly shows that something is rotten in the Brazilian judicial system. It brings to the fore procedures and practices that are incompatible with the basic principles and guarantees of democracy and the rule of law, in a way that needs to be denounced and democratically opposed.

Totalitarianism and the selectivity of judicial action. The principle of the independence of the courts is one of the basic principles of modern constitutionalism. It ensures that citizens have the right to a justice that is free from pressures and interference on the part of political or factual powers, whether national or international.

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The Good Friday agreement is so much more than a ‘shibboleth’

Opinion, Fintan O’Toole* – The Guardian

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the treaty’s recognition that identity is complex and changeable seems all the more vital

Twenty years ago, when the Good Friday agreement was signed, there were many emotions in the air: hope, relief, a kind of giddy fatigue. There was, however, no euphoria. This was partly because everyone knew the conflict that was being brought to an end had been slow and sordid. It had been allowed to drag on long after victory for any side had become an obvious impossibility. There was too much sorrow, too many lives lost or blighted for no purpose, for unabashed exultation to be either warranted or decent.

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Ten reflections on today’s crisis

By Roberto Savio*

Rome,  Apr (Other News) –  It is now clearly evident that w e are in a period of transition, even though we remain uncertain as to its outcome.

The political, economic and social system that has accompanied us since the end of the Second World War is no longer sustainable.

The exponentially growing inequalities have, according to Amnesty Internati onal, taken us back almost to levels seen in Victorian times – albeit now at a gl obal level. Ten years ago, 652 people had the same wealth as 2.3 billion people. Now there are eight.

Today’s eighteen-year-olds, according to projections of the International L abour Organization, will retire with an average pension of 632 euros a month.

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Donald Trump Actually Thinks He’s Popular

By John Nichols* – The Nation

The president’s pattern of lying to himself—and to fellow Republicans—sustains bad policy and failed governance 

Donald Trump is so out of touch with reality that he thinks he is popular.

He’s not. And Americans, no matter what their partisanship, no matter what their ideology, should be worried that their president is lying not just to them but to himself.

Trump has been obsessed in recent days by a Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracking poll that was published April 4. It put his approval rating at 51 percent. “Still Rising: Rasmussen Poll Shows Donald Trump Approval Ratings Now at 51 Percent,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday, as part of a pattern of tweets claiming that he’s experiencing a popularity surge.

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Hungary’s liberals brace for a torrid four years after Orbán’s landslide

Shaun Walker* – The Guardian

Crushing victory means PM now has power to remould Hungary and possibly even the entire EU

Budapest. Viktor Orbán embarks on another four years in power newly emboldened, after winning a crushing victory in a parliamentary vote on Sunday that will give him the power to remould Hungary.

With most of the votes counted by Monday morning, a two-thirds majority looks likely for Orbán’s Fidesz party, which will allow the government to pass constitutional changes. The party won 49% of the vote in the national list and took the majority of constituency mandates, a far better performance than even Fidesz insiders were expecting.

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In John Bolton, Trump Finds a Fellow Political Blowtorch. Will Foreign Policy Burn?

By PETER BAKER *- The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Shortly after Ambassador John R. Bolton was sent to represent the United States at the United Nations, an institution he had long scorned as an anti-American citadel of corruption, he hosted President George W. Bush for a visit.

“Are you having fun?” Mr. Bush asked.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” Mr. Bolton replied.

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