by James Billot
Friday, 21
April 2023
Campus Wars

Academics punished for speech soars over last three years

A new report finds a surge in sanctions against professors

Attempts to sanction academics for their speech have soared over the last three years, a new report has found. Research by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) shows that the number of college and university scholars subjected to attempted punishment in the past three years (509) almost matches the corresponding number for the 20 years prior to 2020 (571).

The astronomical rise coincides with Donald Trump’s election and the #MeToo movement, which sparked a surge in sanction attempts. Between 2017-2019, there were 252 sanction attempts, compared to a total of 319 over the previous 17 years. But these figures are dwarfed by what the report describes as a “tsunami of sanction attempts” shortly after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. In 2020 alone there were 151 sanction attempts, with 87 occurring in response to race-related expression (58%). ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Monday, 17
April 2023

Christine Lagarde: the world is turning multipolar

The ECB President warned that the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting

Christine Lagarde today warned that the world “may be becoming more multipolar”. The ECB President claimed during a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York that “the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting faster”.

“We are witnessing a fragmentation of the global economy into competing blocs, with each bloc trying to pull as much of the rest of the world closer to its respective strategic interests and shared values,” Lagarde said. “And this fragmentation may well coalesce around two blocs led respectively by the two largest economies in the world.”

Citing several causes for these changes — the pandemic, the Ukraine war, the “weaponisation” of energy, inflation and the China-US rivalry — Lagarde argued that there would be “more multipolarity” as geopolitical tensions mount. As one of two twin challenges, this new “global map” would have “first-order implications” for central banks, Lagarde continued.  ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Friday, 14
April 2023

Farmer protests sweep across Eastern Europe

Anger over cheap Ukrainian imports is spilling onto the streets

Across Europe’s East in recent weeks, farmers have been protesting over Ukrainian grain flooding local markets and undercutting prices. Thousands of farmers in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland formed long convoys of tractors, blocking border crossings with farm vehicles that has resulted in the resignation of at least one leading minister. 

Poland, Romania and Hungary, all of which border Ukraine and are members of the EU, have struggled with a glut of grain and other Ukrainian agricultural products since last year, when tariffs on goods from Ukraine were lifted. Logistical difficulties in moving the Ukrainian grain out of central European states has pushed local prices down, threatening the livelihoods of farmers in the region. Ukrainian farmers, for their part, say the protests are political. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 12
April 2023

One in ten Democrats supports Robert F. Kennedy Jr

The anti-vaccine activist is second only to Joe Biden among party candidates

Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is polling at 10% among Democratic voters, a new Morning Consult Survey has found. A week after his campaign launch, the Democratic challenger has leapfrogged rival Marianne Williamson, who comes third with 4% support.

Respondents were asked to choose who out of three candidates — RFK Jr., Marianne Williamson, and Joe Biden — they would vote for if the Democratic presidential primary or caucus was held in their state today. The President is comfortably ahead of his two rivals, securing seven out of 10 primary voters even though he has yet to formally declare. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Tuesday, 21
March 2023

How Nature journal hurt Trump supporters’ trust in science

A new study shows that endorsing Biden had a polarising effect on its readership

A leading science journal’s endorsement of Joe Biden in 2020 resulted in a significant reduction in trust among Donald Trump-supporting readers, a new paper has found. At the same time, trust among Biden supporters rose only slightly.

Performed in late July and early August 2021, the experiment randomly assigned participants to receive information about Nature’s endorsement, while the control group were given irrelevant information about the journal’s new website design. Both Trump and Biden supporters were presented with the author’s summary of the messages conveyed in Nature’s 2020 editorial.  ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Friday, 17
March 2023

Alastair Campbell: I wish Iraq had never happened

Tony Blair's former press secretary came close to expressing regret

Speaking to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Alastair Campbell has indicated that he wished the whole sequence of events had never happened. The former press secretary to Tony Blair said on the Rest is Politics podcast that the invasion was one of those things that “you wish it never happened”.

“It’s one of those things that you just put into the category that you just wish it had never happened,” he said. “You wish that you knew that Tony Blair and the government had never been put in that position.”

The comments struck a different note from Campbell’s previously defiant statements. Seven years after the invasion, he said that he stood by “every word” of the Iraq War dossier, insisting that Britain ought to be “proud” of the country’s role in the war. Bedevilled by claims that the war was illegal, he then gave an Oxford Union speech explaining why the government had chosen to invade.  ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Thursday, 16
March 2023

Norway’s top epidemiologist: Sweden handled Covid well

Preben Aavitsland says its response was unfairly demonised

One of Norway’s leading epidemiologists has claimed that criticism of Sweden’s Covid strategy was excessive. Preben Aavitsland, who served as Director for Surveillance at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, argued that other countries “hid their own insecurities by scolding Sweden” because the country “undermined their mantra that we had no choice”.

In comments made to Swedish paper SvD, Aavitsland explained that while Norway’s “harder line” may have prolonged the lives of old people, he added that the model of “long, hard lockdowns” that was inspired by Italy and China made Sweden “the contrast they did not want”. Sweden “forced them to explain to their citizens why they acted as they did,” the epidemiologist explained. “For these people, it would have been better if everyone had done the same”. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Tuesday, 14
March 2023

Ron DeSantis’s mysterious position on Ukraine

Is the Florida Governor a hawk in dove's clothing?

Yesterday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis provided a statement to Tucker Carlson, saying that protecting Ukraine’s borders is not a vital American interest. “While the US has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party,” it read, “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”

Anti-interventionist attitudes are now a common feature of the populist Right, particularly on the issue of Ukraine. Prior to the midterm elections, then-House minority leader Kevin McCarthy asserted that there would be “no blank cheque” for Ukraine, while other MAGA Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene argued that America had “done enough”. Last night Donald Trump, with typical understatement, claimed that he was the only person who could prevent World War III. “With this administration, we could end up in World War III, because they don’t speak right,” said Trump. “They act tough when they should act nice, they act nice when they should act tough,” he added. ...  Continue reading