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21 August 2017

With Bannon Back At Breitbart, What Will #WAR Mean For The White House?

Steve Bannon
It’s #WAR, but who is the enemy now? EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

By Scott Lucas, University of Birmingham

Did Steve Bannon jump or was he pushed? Bannon’s opponents spoke of a firing, while his allies – and Bannon himself – said he had planned to resign for weeks. Turns out both sides were right. But that is only the start of a tale in which the final chapters are not yet written.

Within hours of leaving his post, Bannon was back as executive chairman of Breitbart. Staff at the right-wing publication, including senior editor Joel Pollak, had already declared “#WAR” on the White House as soon as their boss’s departure was announced.

A Bannon friend said: “Steve’s unchained. Fully unchained.” Another said: “It’s now a Democrat White House”.

At a staff meeting, Bannon refined the blunt declarations. The line that Trump himself would not be attacked was repackaged as a “war for Trump”. That war would be against Trump’s enemies – but not the counter-protesters at Charlottesville or even the “fake media”. The war would be waged on those considered the president’s foes within the White House.

Breitbart has already lined up its first target: national security adviser H R McMaster. The hard right had been set against McMaster since the spring, when he pushed Bannon off a key committee of the National Security Council. Then, with leverage from the appointment of Kelly as chief of staff, McMaster removed four of Bannon’s allies from the council. This tussle led Bannon’s camp to counter-attack on social media, calling for “McMasterOut”.

Donald Trump with McMaster
Trump with McMaster earlier in the summer. EPA
On the Sunday immediately following Bannon’s departure from the White House, Breitbart led with an article: “HR McMaster Endorsed Book That Advocates Quran-Kissing Apology Ceremonies.” The next day the site was blaming McMaster for Trump’s response to the deaths of ten sailors aboard the USS John McCain in a collision near Singapore. According to the article, McMaster failed to brief the president properly, which is why the commander in chief initially reacted to the news by saying that’s too bad.

Bannon and his allies had been whipping up an electronic and social media campaign against McMaster for some time. They tried to rally opposition to a review of Afghanistan policy, with Bannon pushing for a privatisation of the US intervention.

The prelude to the war came after Charlottesville when Bannon supported Trump in his message that both sides were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville — thereby tacitly supporting the white supremacists, even while other advisers warned him against such statements.

Kelly hit back. His allies spread stories that Trump disliked Bannon’s leaking, especially about White House in-fighting, and the books and articles portraying the chief strategist as the power in the executive. Bannon also helped design his own demise – unwittingly or deliberately – by committing “suicide by journalist”. Piqued by a story in The American Prospect about North Korea, he called up the journalist to complain about the government’s approach – which he blamed on generals like McMaster. The enemy, he said, was China in an economic war. He also boasted about his influence, claiming he could have people fired in the government.

The article was quickly presented to Trump. On Friday morning, in a staff meeting, the president said his right-hand ideologue would be leaving that day.

The beginning of the end
The Bannon-Breitbart campaign to vanquish McMaster, and then maybe National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, and then maybe Kelly, and then maybe even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump will get the publicity accorded to a dramatic story.

Framed as a valiant fight against the “deep state”, it will have its vocal partners. We’ll hear from alt-right polemicist Mike Cernovich, who accused McMaster of manipulating intelligence reports to Trump. We’ll also get insight from “Pizzagate” agitator Jack Posobiec, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (“McMaster’s sold out”), and even ex-KKK grand wizard David Duke.

It is unlikely to succeed. The retired generals in the White House have succeeded in containing the machinery around Trump, even if the president cannot be restrained on Twitter. They will have the power of executive agencies behind them. Most of the media will have no desire to aid and abet Bannon. Posobiec may appeal to the wonders of social media and InfoWars but, as Charlottesville showed, the alt-right is discovering that it may not even have a secure position on that battleground.

Still, the campaign will be a most unwelcome flank attack as Trump finds himself surrounded on all sides: the Russia investigation, the failure to pass a single major piece of legislation since January, the questions over ethics and conflicts of interests, the looming deadline for adoption of the federal government’s budget, and the white supremacy spectre.
Once upon a time – even last week – the mantra “Trump still has his base” was being invoked to minimise the threat to the president. Now even that base is fragmenting.
The Conversation

For the occupant of the White House, it is now Total #WAR.

About Today's Contributor:
Scott Lucas, Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Say Aloha To American Girl's Newest Historical Character, Nanea Mitchell

American Girl's newest BeForever character, Nanea Mitchell, a Hawaiian girl growing on the island of Oahu in 1941.
American Girl's newest BeForever character, Nanea Mitchell, a Hawaiian girl growing on the island of Oahu in 1941.

Today, girls everywhere will say "Aloha!" to American Girl's newest BeForever character, Nanea Mitchell, a Hawaiian girl growing up on the island of Oahu in 1941. Nanea's story explores what life was like for islanders in the weeks leading up to and the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the U.S.'s entry into World War Two. In bringing this significant period in history to life for girls today, Nanea's story illuminates how the courage, patriotism, and aloha spirit of the Hawaiian people inspired a nation at war and shows how one girl can make a meaningful difference in the face of big change.
"At its heart, our BeForever line is about building a bridge of understanding, helping girls today see the interconnectedness—the feelings, experiences, hopes, and dreams—that exists between themselves and girls from long ago," says Katy Dickson, president of American Girl. "We hope Nanea's powerful story of resilience, responsibility to others, and contributing for the common good—or kokua, as it's known in Hawaii—will resonate with girls and show them they have the power within to face the obstacles that come their way."
Written by Newbery Honor Award-winning author Kirby Larson, the Nanea series introduces readers to 9-year-old Nanea Mitchell. Nanea loves her close-knit extended family, dancing the hula, fishing with her father, and playing with her dog, Mele. Nanea is also eager to "dip her paddle in" to be useful at home and at her grandparents' store. 
When Pearl Harbor—the naval base where her father works—is attacked by Japan, the peaceful existence the Mitchells and their neighbors enjoy is replaced with martial law, and rumors of additional attacks and frequent air-raid drills have everyone on edge. Amid the chaos and uncertainty, Nanea embraces her spirit of aloha and deeply held belief in kokua—doing good deeds and giving selflessly—to do her part for the war effort and help restore peace to her beloved Hawaiian home.
In addition to the stories, the Nanea collection features a beautiful 18-inch doll featuring an all-new face mold, hazel eyes, and dark brown hair, plus several 1940s-era, Hawaiian-inspired doll outfits and Nanea-inspired apparel for girls. Numerous authentic-to-the-era accessories round out the play experience, including Nanea's Hula Outfit and Hula Implements and Nanea's Family Market, with 90 pieces, including a wooden store with a movable counter, food, supplies, displays, and more. 
To help ensure the historical accuracy and cultural authenticity of Nanea's story and products, American Girl worked closely with a five-member advisory board who provided their expertise in Hawaiian culture, language, and history to inform all aspects of Nanea's development—including the doll, books, outfits, and accessories.
To support Nanea's inspiring message, from August 21 until the end of 2017, American Girl will be collecting donations for the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program to help provide comfort and care to the members of the military, veterans, and their families. American Girl will match every dollar donation made at or at any American Girl store in the U.S. up to a maximum total donation of $75,000. American Girl is also giving $575,000 worth of its signature 18-inch dolls to the American Red Cross to provide a bit of cheer to children in times of crisis.
And, to engage girls in Nanea's world and her inspirational message, American Girl is also introducing the following activities and events:
  • Nanea Island Inspiration Sweepstakes: American Girl has partnered with Visit Oahu on a sweepstakes for the chance to win a fun-filled family getaway for four to Oahu, which includes round-trip travel on Hawaiian Airlines, a four-night stay at The Royal Hawaiian, tickets for four to the Aha Aina Luau Show, a visit to two attractions at Pearl Harbor, and a Nanea doll.
  • Nanea Retail Events: On August 25 and 26, American Girl's retail stores are hosting special debut events to introduce girls to Nanea's world in 1941 Hawaii. Girls will enjoy a hula demonstration, a fun free craft, a doll drawstring bag giveaway, and a chance to win a Nanea doll. Nanea-themed events will also be held at the American Girl stores throughout the year.
  • Nanea Videos and Online Play: Behind-the-scenes videos on Nanea's story and development, along with fun Hawaiian-themed craft and activity videos, are available on American Girl's YouTube channel at Girls can also visit the Nanea-dedicated site at for book excerpts, games and quizzes, wallpaper, and much more.
  • Nanea Learning Materials: A free, downloadable teacher's guide, which explores themes and issues covered in the Nanea book series, is available at
The Nanea product collection will be available on August 21, 2017, at; through American Girl's catalogue, at all American Girl retail locations nationwide at American Girl specialty boutiques at select Indigo and Chapters in Canada and El Palacio de Hierro locations in Mexico City
The Nanea books can also be purchased through retail and online booksellers.
SOURCE: American Girl

Bonus Video:

18 August 2017

Citing Charlottesville Unrest and its Harmful Effect on Children, First Book Provides Resources for Educators Serving Kids in Need

White supremacists in Charlottesville
White supremacists in Charlottesville
Our nation is reeling from the unrest in Charlottesville and the hateful rhetoric that is reverberating across the country. These groups and their acts of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, and homophobia are repulsive and counter to our belief in the fundamental rights that First Book has championed as leaders in the fight for educational equity.
Among those most vulnerable to this climate of violence and terror are our nation's children, in particular, children from low-income areas, including communities of color, immigrants, rural communities, and other underserved populations. First Book stands with these communities every day, providing desperately needed educational resources and supporting the heroic educators and other caring adults who work to lift these children up. These outrageous acts of hate are not only antithetical to all we believe in, but do insidious and lasting damage to these children, families, and communities – and to all of us.
First Book is committed to supporting those working in the lives of children in need with resources to help kids and families who are struggling. First Book will shortly announce an initiative to increase the supply of books and educational resources to elevate empathy and understanding, including diverse and inclusive books, and social and emotional learning guides to help children navigate their feelings and fears.
As a tangible next step, we are making a gift of new books to educators serving children in need in the Charlottesville area and beyond to help them begin to restore a sense of normalcy. We are in continuous conversation with our more than 325,000 First Book members across the country – the largest network of educators serving children from low-income communities – as to what they need and how we can best support them during this time.
We have seen first-hand the power of stories to blunt hate, create empathy, and change lives. That is our focus. Our responsibility to these children, families, educators, and communities is unwavering. As we reach this new level of crisis in our country, we are reminded that this work – while always important – has reached a new level of urgency.
First Book logo.
First Book logo. (PRNewsFoto/First Book)

About First Book 

First Book transforms the lives of children in need. Through a sustainable, market-driven model, First Book is creating equal access to quality education — making everything from brand-new, high-quality books and educational resources, to sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more – affordable to its member network of more than 325,000 educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 160 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in more than 30 countries. First Book currently reaches an average of 3 million children every year and supports more than one in four of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs serving children in need. With an additional 1,000 educators joining each week, First Book is the largest and fastest-growing network of educators in the United States exclusively serving kids in need.
Eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up at For more information, please visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

SOURCE: First Book

15 August 2017

Fox's "The Simpsons" Voiceover Star Nancy Cartwright to Receive Backstage Vanguard Award at Voice Arts

Voiceover actress and producer, Nancy Cartwright
Annual Voice Arts Awards honoring the best talent in the voiceover industry will be presenting the 2017 Backstage Vanguard Award to legendary voiceover artist and Emmy Award winner Nancy Cartwright. Nancy is best-known for being the voice of Bart Simpson on Fox Network's long running show "The Simpsons." 
In addition to her voiceover work, Nancy founded and operates her own production company, Spotted Cow Entertainment. She is also an active supporter of non-profit organizations such as The Make a Wish Foundation, The Way to Happiness and The Citizen Commission on Human Rights. 

The Backstage Vanguard Award is presented during a special segment of the That's Voiceover!  Career Expo 2017, and is sponsored by the non-profit Society of Voice Arts & Sciences (SOVAS). 
The Voice Arts awards feature nearly 100 categories across multiple genres. Previous award winners include, Jon Hamm, Kate Winslet, James Earl Jones, Katy Perry and Lena Dunham.
"We are thrilled to be presenting the Backstage Vanguard Award to Nancy. She is in a class of her own and we are privileged to have her here, in person, accepting this award. This year's That's Voiceover!, and Voice Arts Awards will feature some of the top names in entertainment," says Emmy Award-winning producer and SOVAS CEO, Rudy Gaskins
That's Voiceover! Career Expo 2017 will be held at The Times Center, with the Voice Arts Awards Gala taking place on Sunday, November 5th at Lincoln Center. Good Morning America called the Voice Arts Awards, "The Oscars of voiceover acting."
In addition to Nancy, award winning actress Lily Tomlin will be in attendance this year to receive the Voice Arts Icon Award for lifetime achievement. The Voice Arts Awards also celebrates the power of the voice to impart change in the world. 
The 2017 award ceremony will present the second annual Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor to acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. The Muhammad Ali Voice of Humanity Honor was awarded to President Barack Obama last year. 

This award has the full support of the Muhammad Ali Center and was created in consultation with Muhammad Ali, prior to his passing in 2016.   
Visit SOVAS.ORG for entries in the craft categories and event ticket availability.

SOURCE: Society of Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS)

14 August 2017

Charlottesville, Donald Trump, And The Dark Side Of American Populism

Citizen militia march in Charlotttesville, August 12
Citizen militia march in Charlotttesville, August 12. EPA/Virginia State Police
By Todd Landman, University of Nottingham

Charlottesville, Virginia is home to the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson; he was a slave owner, but today stands as a symbol of the US’s egalitarian ethos and political myth. But on August 12, some seven months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Charlottesville saw a far uglier side of the US on display: a Unite the Right rally bringing together people and organisations who resented the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Civil War general, Robert E Lee.

On the eve of the rally, the university’s Charlottesville campus became the site of a march of torch-bearing white supremacists, evoking the Klan rallies seen throughout the 20th century. Tense clashes between marchers and counter-protesters ensued, and the next day, the rally itself turned violent.

Radical right marchers turned up along with citizen militia groups (their guns on full display thanks to open carry legislation) and clashed with anti-fascist and other groups who stood up to them. Then 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr ploughed his car into a group of protesters, and has now been charged with the second degree murder of Heather Heyer, who died after he ran into her.
The context for these events is as old as the US itself. The country was borne of violence: a revolution that overthrew British rule, violent suppression of the Native American population, a violent Civil War that took over 600,000 lives, and a philosophy of “manifest destiny” that expanded the American nation across a continent.

Much of this violence was social and political. The Civil War has been seen as the true American revolution; it pitted a social and political order based on rugged individualistic capitalism against one of plantation economics and strong social hierarchy, including the system of slavery. The southern model was defeated, the slaves emancipated, and Confederate leaders and sympathisers left to mourn their project as a “lost cause”. But the culture of white supremacy was far from defeated, and radical right-wing social movements and organisations have troubled the US ever since.

The most notorious group, the Ku Klux Klan, was borne of Southern Democrats’ resentment of emancipation; over the years, it has been invigorated by other radical right groups founded on a powerful ideology of “Christian Identity”, a commitment to the racial superiority of white people and a mission to secure white power and dominance. (The Southern Poverty Law Centre has spent decades documenting and mapping their prevalence, discourses and actions across the US.)

To this day, there are strong social elements in the south and elsewhere that resent the the outcome of the Civil War and the consequences of reconstruction. To them, those consequences include the enfranchisement of women, the Civil Rights movement, Supreme Court rulings such as Brown v Board of Education (which desegregated schools in 1954) and Roe v Wade (which legalised abortion in 1973), and the overall advance of a progressive social agenda – one that to them culminated in the election and presidency of Barack Obama.

This politics of resentment gathered steam during the Trump campaign, and as the events in Charlottesville demonstrate, it’s now flourishing under his presidency.

Fanning the flames
During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s rhetoric was caustic and divisive. He described differences between groups as if they were essential and irreduceable; he named Mexicans and Muslims as having special attributes, lesser qualities, and who were in need of special measures, such as a “complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the US and a 2,000-mile border wall to keep out Mexican “rapists and murderers”.

His rhetoric also legitimised interpersonal violence more generally. He boasted that he could shoot someone and not lose votes, and encouraged participants at his rallies to use physical force against dissenters.
Now he’s president, Trump is trying to follow through on this rhetoric with executive orders and new legislation. This essentially gives licence to the US’s radical right elements to pursue their ends more zealously – and tellingly, Trump’s initial response to the events in Charlottesville was muted and non-specific.

Trump failed to name the right-wing violence as white supremacy, or to specifically condemn it; instead, he lamented the violence on all sides. The job of denouncing white supremacist racism was left to his daughter Ivanka and his vice-president, Mike Pence, who used much stronger language. After something of an outcry at his vague words, he finally took to Twitter to rail against “all that hate stands for”.

Many asked why Trump did not unequivocally condemn the events. But to explicitly condemn these groups would alienate a significant portion of his electoral base – something specifically pointed out to him by former Klan leader David Duke.

The protesters in Virginia, who came from across the US, closely resemble many who attended Trump rallies during the campaign – and much as he did post-Charlottesville, when asked by a journalist to specifically condemn the violence at those events, Trump declined.
The Conversation

While many of grievances Trump issued during the campaign are legitimate – the decline of the manufacturing, steel, and coal industries, decaying infrastructure, and so on – the rhetorical framing of the campaign galvanised a right-wing populism that had been in abeyance for much of the 1990s and early 2000s. In mid-2017, this dark side of populism is clearly very much awake.

About Today's Contributor:
Todd Landman, Professor of Political Science, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Social Sciences, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation

10 August 2017

Roald Dahl's Imaginormous Challenge Announces Five NEW Lucky Golden Ticket Winners!

6 year old Imaginormous Winner, Giselle Decker, enjoying her unicorns at Dylan's Candy Bar
This summer, for the first time since Charlie Bucket won the prize of a lifetime, Penguin Young Readers, along with some of Mr. Wonka's most trusted advisors, has chosen five children from across the United States to become the 5 NEW lucky golden ticket winners!
Roald Dahl's Imaginormous Challenge, which recently concluded its first year, received over 20,000 imaginative story ideas from American kids aged 5-12 across the U.S.—a  record breaking entry level! 
This past weekend, three of the children experienced once in a lifetime opportunities to work with incredible partners to transform their 100 word story ideas into something that would make Willy Wonka proud. 
From the youngest winner, Giselle Decker, at just 6 years of age, who imagined a unicorn kitty named Bubblegum and had her story idea transformed into a 3D printed, edible candy, to Anusha Senapati, an 11-year-old whose idea about a paralyzed girl who longs to dance was transformed by the cast and crew of "Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on Broadway into a choreographed dance number, each winner had the opportunity to work with industry leaders to help them realize their full creative potential.
Eleven-year-old Imaginormous winner Lucy Franks said of getting the chance to work with New York Times bestselling author Adam Gidwitz: "It was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to work with Adam Gidwitz, an author whose books I've read and enjoyed. He helped me develop my story and I left the session with some wonderful ideas. I can't wait to complete and share my story."
The final two winners' experiences are currently in the works: eight-year-old Sage Marie Spaeth will fly out to Hollywood to visit Warner Bros. Animation for her winning experience at the end of August, and eleven-year-old Cole Ritchie's winning idea is currently being transformed into a playable Minecraft experience, which will be available in a few weeks.
The full line up of Golden Ticket winners and their Imaginormous experiences are:
1.    Theatrical Creation Winner: Anusha Senapati, Age 11, Hometown: Acton, MA    
 "Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" on Broadway turned Anusha's winning story idea into a marvelous, theatrical creation.
2.    Hollywood Pitch Winner: Sage Marie Spaeth, Age 8, Hometown: Teaneck, NJ
Sage and her family will fly out to Hollywood, courtesy of Mr. Wonka, and pitch her story idea to a major Hollywood Executive at Warner Bros. Animation!
3.    Immersive Minecraft World Winner: Cole Ritchie, Age 11, Hometown: Heber City, Utah
A team of Minecraft builders are transforming and reimagining Cole's winning story idea into a playable Minecraft experience for Cole and the world to enjoy.
4.      Become an Author Winner: Lucy Franks, Age 11, Hometown: Sparta, NJ
New York Times bestselling, award winning author Adam Gidwitz (Tale Dark and GrimmThe Inquisitors TaleThe Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to be a Jedi?), is working with Lucy to transform her idea into her very own short story book!
5.     Candy Creation Winner: Giselle Decker, Age 6, Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
Following in Willy Wonka's footsteps and with the help of Dylan's Candy Bar, Giselle's idea was turned into a magical, edible creation – a 3D-printed piece of candy!
The Golden Ticket winners also won the chance to see the new Broadway musical "Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in New York City the first weekend in August and are now traveling on an incredible family trip for four to the UK provided by Norwegian Air, which has two aircraft with Roald Dahl as its tailfin hero.The first was introduced last year, and the second was just put into service this summer.
Additionally, key stationery sponsor Post-it® Brand is proud to reward the teachers of the five winning children with special Post-it® Brand  educational materials, and the winning teachers will also be gifted with a Roald Dahl library of books valued at $500.00 from Penguin Young Readers.
If you didn't win in 2017, do not despair! It has been confirmed that the Challenge will be coming back bigger and better then ever in 2018. Roald Dahl's Imaginormous Challenge is all about inspiring imaginative story ideas in children 5 to 12 years of age. Recurring annually, the challenge aims to capture a million story ideas from children across the United States by 2020.
Go to TODAY to find out more about entering next year.  Remember, all it takes is 100 words to enter – and the prizes are set to be just as spectacular in 2018.

SOURCE: Roald Dahl Literary Estate

9 August 2017

China Is The Key To Avoiding Nuclear 'Fire And Fury' In North Korea


File 20170809 26073 11t3vve
The news of an exchange of threats between the U.S. and North Korea is reported in Tokyo on Aug. 9, 2017. AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
By Greg Wright, University of California, Merced

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship.

North Korea got the world’s attention – and Trump’s – when it successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time on July 4. In response, the United Nations approved new economic sanctions against North Korea which, predictably, inspired a bellicose response from the rogue regime.

Trump threatened that further provocations will be met with “fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

In response, North Korea issued a threat of its own – missile strikes on the U.S. territory of Guam.

With tensions escalating, it is important to be realistic about how we can get out of this mess.

In short, any nonmilitary solution will rely on China choosing to apply its massive economic leverage over the North Korean regime. This is a point that Trump clearly recognizes. In July, he tweeted that Chinese trade with North Korea “rose 40 percent in the first quarter,” highlighting China’s reluctance to punish North Korea for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

While the poor quality of the data hinders a detailed analysis, Trump’s overall sentiment is correct. China has increased its trade with North Korea in recent years and done little to forestall North Korea’s nuclear ambitions besides backing the most recent round of U.N. sanctions. China’s foremost objective seems to be promoting greater stability from its volatile neighbor.

Yet a quick look at the data, however murky, shows just how much leverage China has, if it wishes to use it.

North Korea’s primary patron
In general, exports from one country to another can be mostly explained by the distance between them and the sizes of their markets, a pattern that holds for China and North Korea.

Geographically, they share a long border, which makes China a natural, though not inevitable, partner for trade. As a case in point, North Korea also shares a long border with South Korea, but these countries have almost no trade between them. In addition, North Korea shares a small border with Russia, with whom it has little, though ever-increasing, trade, as I discuss below.

China’s large market, proximity and – most importantly – willingness to trade with North Korea has led to a situation in which North Korea has become highly dependent on trade with what has become its primary patron. About half of North Korean exports and imports go directly to and from China and most of the rest of its trade is handled indirectly by Chinese middlemen.

North Korea’s dependence on its neighbor has grown hand-in-hand with China’s increasing economic dominance of East Asia, which gained momentum 15 years ago when China joined the World Trade Organization. Since then, both Chinese gross domestic product as well as its annual trade with North Korea have increased nearly tenfold, to around US$11 trillion and $6 billion, respectively.

North Korea imports nearly everything from China, from rubber tires to refined petroleum to pears, with no single category dominating. Meanwhile, coal constitutes about 40 percent of North Korean exports to China, followed by “non-knit men’s coats.”

Time to use that leverage?
However, recent events – such as the use of front companies by Chinese firms to evade sanctions imposed on North Korea and China’s reluctance to cut off energy supplies to the country – have led to some uncertainty about the extent to which China is willing to use this economic leverage to rein in North Korea’s military ambitions.

On one hand, China claims that coal imports from North Korea have recently been stopped as part of an effort to punish the regime for recent missile tests and the suspected assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. If true, this would be an important signal of China’s willingness to support U.S. concerns about the missile program as it would represent a loss of about a third ($930 million) of North Korea’s import revenue.

However, there is evidence that coal shipments in fact never ceased. And, in any case, China may have dramatically increased its imports of iron ore from North Korea to offset the lost coal revenues.

This is consistent with the idea that China carefully considers the resources and revenue that are available to the North Korean regime at any moment, and uses trade as a lever to control them. In this way, China walks a fine line between providing too many resources, and thus allowing the regime to prosper, and not enough resources, such that North Korea is in danger of collapsing. Ultimately, trade may be used as a lever to do some light scolding, but China’s overwhelming concern is preventing North Korea’s collapse.

Further evidence that China has tight control over the North Korean economy comes from a recent report from C4ADS. The research group found close, and often common, ownership ties between most of the major Chinese companies who do business with North Korea. This suggests that trade with North Korea is highly centralized and thus easily controlled.
Trucks cross Friendship Bridge from China’s Dandong, Liaoning province, to North Korea’s Sinuiju. Reuters/Thomas Peter
Russia: North Korea’s other ‘friend’
China is not the only country that North Korea trades with, though the others currently pale in comparison. Other top export destinations include India ($97.8 million), Pakistan ($43.1 million) and Burkina Faso ($32.8 million). In terms of imports, India ($108 million), Russia ($78.3 million) and Thailand ($73.8 million) currently sell the most to North Korea.

Russia in particular may soon complicate U.S. efforts to isolate the regime. While still small, Russian trade with North Korea increased 73 percent over the first two months of 2017 compared with the same period of the previous year.

But whereas China is legitimately worried that an economic crisis in North Korea could lead to a flood of refugees or all-out war, Russia likely sees engagement with North Korea in much simpler terms, namely as an additional way to gain geopolitical advantage relative to the U.S.

A way out?
Nearly all experts agree that there is no easy way to “solve” the North Korea problem. However, one plausible approach is to encourage South Korea and Japan to begin to develop nuclear weapons programs of their own, and to only discontinue these programs if China takes meaningful steps to use its trade with North Korea to reign in the regime.

Threatening to introduce new nuclear powers to the world is clearly risky, however stable and peaceful South Korea and Japan currently are. But China is highly averse to having these economic and political rivals acquire nuclear capabilities, as it would threaten China’s ongoing pursuit of regional control. In short, this is a sensitive pressure point that could be used to sway the Chinese leadership.

One way or another, China must become convinced that the costs of propping up the North Korean regime through trade are higher than the costs of an increased probability that the regime will collapse.

The Conversation[This is an updated version of an article originally published on July 6, 2017.]

About Today's Contributor:
Greg Wright, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Merced

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Bonus Picture:
Image via Trumpton FB Page

19 July 2017

"Families Like Yours" Documentary Celebrates LGBT Families At World Premiere

Families Like Yours -Movie Poster
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the business voice of the LGBT community, is proud to announce the world premiere of Families Like Yours, a powerful documentary exploring the love, compassion, sacrifice, and success of LGBT families in America. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dk Realizadores, NGLCC, and Wells Fargo underwrote the film's production. Deutsche Bank and Hilton presented the premiere screening in New York City on July 17, 2017.
Through candid interviews and humorous real life stories, Families Like Yours demystifies LGBT families and their lives, showcasing that they are just as loving, busy, and complicated as any other family.  

Families Like Yours follows five families as they attempt to balance work and school, rush kids to sports practice, and deal with diaper duty. From all across the nation and in all different stages of family life, from conception to grandchildren, these families represent a cross-section of the modern American family-- the only difference is that they are LGBT families.
"It has never been more important to showcase the richness of diversity in America. LGBT families are a fixture of every community in this country, and Families Like Yours demonstrates why love, dignity, and respect for all is a virtue that should unite each of us," said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson, who is an Executive Producer on the film along with NGLCC Co-Founder and CEO Chance Mitchell. "This film is dedicated to the brave and inspiring LGBT families across the nation who overcome discrimination and fear as they work hard, give back to their communities, and strive to achieve the American Dream just like everybody else."
Award-winning filmmakers Rodolfo Moro and Marcos Duszczak are the creative team behind a parallel film in ArgentinaFamilias por Igual. The film was widely praised, receiving several prestigious awards that added momentum to Argentina's LGBT equality movement.
Families Like Yours will next be screened at the 2017 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, ahead of submissions to film festivals and LGBT conferences around the world.
More information and the official trailer can be found at 

SOURCE: National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

18 July 2017

'Chinks In The World-Machine' – On The Casting Of The 13th Doctor Who

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The Whovian Life via Twitter
By Una McCormack, Anglia Ruskin University

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of going into space. She would sit on the floor in the library, cross-legged on the carpet before a big shelf of books and read about a machine that could travel in time and space. She would put on the television, and see the Doctor and the TARDIS, and wish that she could be there too. She wanted to be on the Enterprise, and the Liberator and the Millennium Falcon – and she imagined great adventures, in which she saved the world, the galaxy, and (why not) the universe.

Unfortunately, a Catholic girls’ school in the 1980s was not a great place to harbour such ambitions – and there weren’t many kindred spirits dreaming these particular dreams. They became private stories, told to myself at odd moments, just before falling asleep – but not to be shared. After all, what kind of girl likes Doctor Who? What kind of girl wants to jaunt around time and space?

Doctor Who - The 13th Doctor
At long last! BBC/Colin Hutton

To say that I am delighted at the news that Jodie Whittaker has been chosen to play the 13th Doctor is a huge understatement. I enjoyed the whole media build up immensely. I was greatly entertained watching good friends rapidly bring themselves up to speed on the rules of tennis in order to predict how long a Wimbledon final might be – so that they could make sure they were on hand when the announcement was made. I watched the trailer with refreshed wonder and a whoop of glee at the reveal.

I remembered how happy friends had been when Christopher Eccleston was cast as the ninth Doctor back in 2004, how glad they were that now there was a Doctor who seemed like them. I hoped that they would be glad now that there was a Doctor who was like me.

Remaking the world
For me, science fiction – speculative fiction – is a genre that asks us to think about possibility. All good fiction, of course, asks us to expand our horizons by sympathetically imagining the experience of others. But the apparatus of speculative fiction provides us with particular, useful tools to re-imagine what that “other” might be – and to imagine the kinds of worlds that would be needed in order to make radically different kinds of being possible.

Alien life, yes; but also the kinds of human life and organisation that might be brought about by technological or scientific advance – or the radical re-imagining of how power, authority and resources might be e distributed among us. Its best writers, such as Ursula Le Guin, seem to have the power to remake the world.

Science fiction grows up
Science fiction has not, historically, been generous to women. Mothered by Mary Shelley (in Frankenstein and The Last Man), the genre, throughout the first half of the 20th century, becomes predominantly a form of heroic literature, steeped in fantasies of mastery and conquest.

Women were rarely present in this literature, except as trophies or temptations. We survived, in the arresting phrase coined by the great science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr (aka Alice Bradley Sheldon and Raccoona Sheldon): “by ones and two, in the chinks of the world-machine”. A surge of feminist Utopian writing in the 1980s marks the beginning of a shake-up of the genre, which can now delight and surprise in many ways.

Casting a woman as the Doctor seems like something that should have happened years ago. Television is expensive, success is not assured, and risks with a flagship property can be difficult to justify. The incoming production team should be commended for this decision, choosing in Whittaker an actor of great talent whose presence will surely revitalise this ever-changing, fascinating, British institution.

Having a woman as the Doctor will not solve the conditions of vast and cruel inequality under which millions of women live today. It will not alter the grotesquery of the most qualified woman in history being passed over for the job of US president in favour of an overgrown child who wanted a toy and now doesn’t know what to do with it.

But representation and visibility do matter. What I have enjoyed most about this casting news is thinking about how this Doctor – a woman Doctor – was going to be the one that my little girl would grow up seeing. She will be her Doctor. The hero, the adventurer, the person to whom the text turns for moral and intellectual authority – that is a woman now.

The ConversationA little more of the glass ceiling has cracked. A spanner has been thrown into the workings of the world machine. We are reminded that something different is possible.

About Today's Contributor:
Una McCormack, Lecturer, Creative Writing Faculty, Department of English and Media, Anglia Ruskin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

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