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Between White Supremacy and Objectivist Capitalism

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]teve Bannon is undoubtedly one of the greatest influences on the erratic policies of the man who currently sits in the White House. Those who follow the political news closely know Bannon as a conservative Catholic Crusader of sort, a white supremacist out to save Western Civilization from Islam and Sharia law. When looked at close quarters, it sounds more like the language of White supremacy and less like the language of the Christian gospels, to be sure. Less well known are his views on modern capitalism.

Bannon’s vision of capitalism comes quite close to that of an aspiring kleptocrat who would probably define it as “knowing how best to fleece investors, workers and consumers. That plays quite well for the puppet view of business and reality, the one who wrote “The Art of the Deal.” They both think of it as “enlightened” capitalism. To their way of thinking, it’s a win-win situation, in as much as it works well for both the exploiter and the exploited.

But there is a problem. The American political system still has two other branches besides the executive: the judiciary and the legislative, and Trump cannot yet rule by fiat; that may come a bit later. For the moment Bannon and Trump need to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress, which under the leadership of Paul Ryan, is more devoted to Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist” unregulated capitalism than to Bannon’s “enlightened” capitalism. Ryan is proud of having grown up reading Rand’s philosophy and sees no problem in also considering himself a good Catholic. In that attitude toward Catholicism the two are alike.

So, it is not exactly correct to say that only the ignorant white working-class voted for Trump. It includes the likes of Paul Ryan, college educated. But what is intriguing is that those educated fellows reject Bannon’s “enlightened” capitalism. What they wish to do is gut social spending, reverse progressive taxation, and deregulate business.

Given that there are a number of racists in Congress, as well, they have found little opposition to their anti-immigrant laws and the weakening of civil rights promulgated, so far, by executive order. After all, “objectivism” when translated into policy is implicitly racist: the reductions in social spending affect mostly the poor and the minorities who are mostly public sector employees and beneficiaries of program serving the poor and the underprivileged.

There seems to be harmony between White Supremacy and Objectivistic Capitalism, but it is deceptive. A point of tension is health care. Ryan wants subsidies for those with insufficient income pruned as much as possible, if not completely eliminated. Elimination remains the ultimate goal. Not a very Christian vision, to be sure.

Bannon, on the other hand, knows, even by personal experience, that whites have expensive medical problems, despite the fact that their claim to be the superior race.” So this heart-less pruning operation has to proceed carefully, or there might be a terrible backlash at the polls in 2018 and 2020. Consequently Bannon has been advising Trump not to support Ryan’s proposals too enthusiastically; pretend to do so, but let them die on the grapevine.

There is another bone of contention: infrastructure. The GOP’s traditional inclination is to spend money only on the military and law enforcement. Trump and Bannon, on the other hand, wish to introduce temporary construction jobs to rural white communities: new bridges, roads, repairs. The Republicans, while not rejecting those outright, are demanding an offset: deep cuts in expenditure benefiting the poor, mostly non-whites. That, however, may not be a sufficient offset against a trillion dollar’s worth of infrastructure.

There is a place, however, where both sides agree, there should a brutal and uncaring decimation, namely the “Administrative state,” or the government employees that supervise the economy. If deeper cuts are needed it may become problematic in as much as they may infringe of white folks’ quality of life.

So, the Caligula presidency finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The dilemma is especially acute when it comes to the President’s Russian connections, a problem that simply will not go away. Did Trump illegally collaborate with Russia’s interference in the US presidential elections? Should impeachment proceedings be initiated?

Some Republicans are resisting a non-partisan inquiry into the Russia matter. They are mindful of the fact that had the Republicans controlled Congress during the Watergate scandal, Nixon might have survived it. Trump, far from admitting anything, is doubling down with his Obama wiretap fantasy, another rabbit to throw to the media and create distraction.

Trump and Bannon probably already suspect that Pence and Ryan are now waiting in the wings. Nevertheless, the above delineated struggle between Congress and the White House, which has been going on mostly behind the curtain, is now surfacing with the heated discussions around health care.

The saddest thing of all is this: whether Bannon’s or Ryan’s social philosophy prevails, most Americans will have to suffer, if not immediately, in the long run, unless they are willing to raise the stakes against those who reject a more humane perspective on government. That possible outrage may be the only consoling silver lining on an horizon gathering dark menacing clouds.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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First EU TalentOn brings science to life in competition to solve global challenges

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By  HORIZON STAFF

Criss-crossed by a network of canals, the city of Leiden (pop. 120 000) is just 16km north of Dutch capital The Hague. It has been welcoming scholars since the first university in the Netherlands was established here in the late 16th century.

Recognised as a centre of scientific study from the 17th century onwards, it is fitting then that this year, Leiden is the European City of Science 2022 and the city threw open its doors to the first ever EU TalentOn competition, an event where young academics from all over Europe compete to find the best solutions to major challenges.

The three-day intensive event sees teams of four collaborating to develop new solutions to some of society’s most important challenges in a short timeframe.

The pressure-cooker format means that time is limited so the normally deliberative approach of scientists is thrown out in favour of a fast turnaround time from idea to solution.

Big challenges

The challenges were drawn from the five EU Missions which are Adaptation to Climate Change, Cancer, Restore our Oceans and Waters, 100 Neutral and Smart Cities and a Soil Deal for Europe. The EU Missions pool resources to devise concrete solutions to some of our greatest challenges by 2030. Follow the link for more information about the Horizon EU Missions.

Teams of four competed for cash prizes in each Mission category while the overall winner of the inaugural EU TalentOn as decided by a jury of 18 was a project called ROOTED, by the team SoilFix.

‘We developed a platform that will allow people to restore urban soils in their neighbourhoods or in the vicinity of their buildings’ said Roberta Gatta, the SoilFix spokesperson who explained the project to Horizon Magazine.

Soil community

She describes the purpose of the SoilFix platform. ‘This is a community-based project so people can spot an area in their neighbourhood where they think there is a need for some kind of restoration of the soil. They report it, start crowdfunding and make the transformation happen.’

The platform brings citizens living in urban communities into contact with soil experts who give scientific advice and partners who plan and coordinate the project. Community engagement and expert advice are key to improve soil health because even in urban areas, soil forms a complex ecosystem that needs to be kept in balance.

For example, even soil bacteria have communities and it’s far better if these microorganisms are from the local environment. ‘Our idea was to somehow restore the biodiversity of these soils and to supply local (microbial) strains to the soil,’ said Roberta.

There have also been unfortunate cases where trees planted in an urban area to green it have been welcomed initially but within a few years, the growing roots undermine nearby houses.

Within a couple of days, these four scientific strangers combined their knowledge, worked out the science and business models of the platform, and built a demonstration app they dubbed ROOTED to show how it works. They included educational elements to attract students because they are likely to be involved in such community projects.

‘Our major point is to reduce the concrete in our cities and make our cities greener,’ said Roberta, ‘And more like Leiden, let’s say,’ she said, half-joking.

Greenery lacking

The four members of SoilFix had never met before applying for EU TalentOn. They are from different countries and scientific disciplines but during the early brainstorming sessions, they found they had one thing in common. They each come from cities that have a distinct lack of greenery.

‘This was the first thing we noticed when we arrived in Leiden. The whole idea is based on the difference between Leiden and our cities.’

Beyond the scientific elements, the real challenge for the SoilFix team was to create a product. The EU TalentOn is unique in the way it introduces highly specialised academics to the world of business and challenges them to come up with consumer-facing solutions.

‘We decided to go behind the science and try to create something that everyone could understand, not only scientists. And for us this was the challenge,’ said Roberta. ‘Try something that was not entirely science, but that can share science with people.’

Comfort zones

‘Many of the scientists are challenged to get outside of their comfort zones because usually they might have several months or even years to evolve their research projects,’ said Henrik Scheel, the “Mission Navigator” and head coach for the teams at the EU TalentOn. ‘And now they’re asked in two days to define a problem and come up with a world-changing idea.’

Scheel is based in Silicon Valley, the high-tech innovation hub in California which is home to technology companies like Apple, Google and Intel. ‘Silicon Valley’ is a byword for transformative, rapid innovation. He works as an investor and business founder but also as an educator, coaching students in entrepreneurial skills.

‘I spend most my time working with young innovators around the world on helping them bring their ideas to life,’ says Scheel, ‘And solve big problems in their communities and in their countries and regions.’

With the effects of the pandemic and climate change being keenly felt, amongst other things, have there been any noticeable changes in the world of innovation in recent years in his view?

Changed innovation

One thing that’s clear to him is, ‘People are a lot more ambitious’ now. Investors and entrepreneurs have a new attitude, they want to build businesses that make money while doing good, ‘not just create another app to order pizza or hail a cab,’ said Scheel.

Another feature he’s seeing is that European start-ups will operate in the US and elsewhere but stay rooted in Europe. ‘There’s a lot of collaboration and the world has just become a lot more globalised,’ said Scheel. ‘Teams are born global and stay that way, with distributed teams that are able to grow much faster and be more agile.’

EU TalentOn’s ambition is to promote an entrepreneurial mindset in scientists. The SoilFix team are actively developing their idea to take their idea to the next level. Used to resolving challenges in a lab, they are learning how to navigate the maze of business rules and legal requirements.

But it’s as Scheel tells his students, ‘The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.’ He is a big fan of the EU TalentOn format in which academics must think more like entrepreneurs.

‘I do think one of the big opportunities here is to merge these two worlds, the start-up world and the more academic scientific world,’ he said. ‘And by bringing those things together, you can have real scientific projects that are being tested and brought to life much faster than what is currently being done.’

his article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.  

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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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