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ARRESTED AT MANO RIVER… 9 Tubes of Cocaine

6ARRESTED AT MANO RIVER…

9 Tubes of Cocaine 

BY PAT KAWA IN BO

A team of Police personnel led by Crime Officer Assistant Superintendent of Police, Francis L. Dauda (aka) “Con of the Mano River Police Division” was on Tuesday 17th July 2018 arrested a 34- year- old Nigerian national, named Isaac Chukwunonso was found with an unlawful possession of nine tubes of substances suspected to be cocaine at Jendema on the Sierra Leone – Liberia border.

According to the Southern Region Police Media officer attached to the Bo West Police Division, Sergeant Foday Mohamed Fofanah said the Nigerian National, Isaac Chukwunonso believed to be a notorious cocaine trafficker ran out of luck on that fateful day when a team of Police personnel who were on their normal  routine patrol within Jedenma along  the Sierra Leone –Liberia boarder spotted the Nigerian National attending to nature in a nearby bush and was trying to remove the substance suspected to be Cocaine  from the  feces he had deposited in  the bush.

Sergeant Foday Mohamed Fofanah informed this reporter that the police team saw the Nigerian National and his unsuspecting action. The team advanced towards him and noticed his panicking mood. When interrogated, he confessed that he had swallowed Cocaine in Guinea and wanted to remove the quantum he had swallowed. How he was going to remove it was the stage he explained to him and was allowed to remove it from the feces.  The Regional Media Officer told this medium that the Police was quick to have arrested the Nigerian National with nine tubes of the substance suspected to be Cocaine.

When  Isaac Chukwunonso was further interrogated,  he disclosed that he had been a  drug trafficker for a brief period  and he was on transit to Liberia from Guinea where he was going to market the drug “I will  come to Freetown, where I have a bigger market from Liberia” He said.

ASP Frances L. Dauda the Crime Officer at the Mano River Union Police Division immediately informed the Assistant Inspector General of Police South, Kapr Saidu Kamara and the Regional Crime Officer South, ASP A.B. Kamara of the Bo West Police Division about the arrest of the Nigerian National and the exhibits of nine tubes of substance suspected to be cocaine.

Isaac Chukwunonso has reportedly been transferred to Bo under a heavy Police escort. He has been brought down to Freetown for further investigation. The Regional Crime Officer, ASP Kallon has confirmed to this medium. In a similar development, another Nigerian National, Oluchi Stanly Uzoho was on June 29th 2018 found in possession of brown substance suspected to be heroin when he disembarked on KQ Air line at the Lungi International.  Oluchi Stanley Uzoho was interrogated and arrested based on intelligence received. The suspect was intercepted when eventually the drug was discovered in his possession. He is reported to have travelled on Kenya Air ways and landed at the Lungi International Air Port where he was caught with the drug.

Cartoon

 

 

 

ISSUES

Crafting Anti-Corruption Policy from ACC Judgments: The Access Report

By Amira Hudroge

Anti-corruption is one of the most topical rules of law concerns in Sierra Leone. The efficiency of rule of law institutions is optimized when they operate collaboratively in good faith and are not just an expression of monocracy but of liberal democracy, since these bureaucratic institutions can equally be employed as political pawns. Corruption has been a hallmark of Sierra Leonean politics across political regimes. Corruption continues to affect the nation’s economic development as can be seen in the effects of unlawful procurement processes for lucrative government contracts, and of tax evasion in the extractive industry. It also affects the exercise of socio-economic rights in the form of impeded access to basic public amenities. Against allegations of political interference and bribery within the justice system, corruption affects the consolidation of the rule of law. Clearly, corruption touches and erodes Sierra Leonean lives in a spectrum of ways daily.

The ACC established in 2000for the investigation and prosecution of corrupt practices, also houses the Systems and Processes Department (SPRD). The SPRD takes a systemically reformative approach to combating corruption by seeking to identify “loop holes of corruption in the MDAs” and replace them with transparent and accountable systems. It comprises the Systems and Processes Review, Monitoring and Compliance, and Policy and Ethics Units. The Systems and Processes Review unit seeks to identify structural vulnerabilities and develop best practices within MDAs, the Monitoring and Compliance unit monitors MDAs to ensure they comply with Systems Review recommendations, and the Policy and Ethics Unit develops and implements ethical procedures for MDAs and anti-corruption policies in both private and public sectors.

As of 2016, the ACC had charged 51 cases to court in total (CARL Press, Max Katta) and by 2017, it put the number of convictions secured at 105 i.e. excluding the outcomes on appeal (The Sierra Leone Telegraph, Abdul Rashid Thomas.) The public spectacle value of the trials has translated into somewhat emotive media coverage, but intensive PR efforts by the ACC have secured some limited public attention for the SPRD. Understandable, since trials of government officials are publically perceived as political indictments, (the ACC would beg to differ), and while politics can be populist and emotive, policy speaks to “drier” perhaps less titillating Science, or at least purports to. Simply put, the development of anti-corruption policy is not sexy.

In July 2016, the Access Report funded by the U.S. Government’s Bureau for Law Enforcement Affairs was submitted to CARL and CGG. The work, a curious hybrid between policy developmental work and conventional case reporting, was inspired by an exhortation from leading authorities in anti-corruption policy for it to be developed by employing contextually rich case studies which fuse quantitative and qualitative research methods. While the quantitative may discern generalities and quantifiable trends from structured data aggregation, the qualitative may discern key particularities giving a human dimension to the subject. Interviews of knowledgeable insiders may be both quantitative and qualitative depending on their design. Beyond ascertaining how things worked, qualitative analysis (predominantly employed in the Access Report), is discursive analysis, i.e. of the discourse surrounding the case, and aims to secure subjectivities; what the sentiments were around work.

Sierra Leone ranks 93/ 113 countries on the World Justice Project’s rule of law index for 2017-2018 and the Access Report typified the role of the rule of raw in enhancing democratic governance, with the ACC, straddling the divide between law and governance, using the supreme authority of the law to optimize governance through accountability processes that involve transparency. Pitted against the scale of corruption, the very nature of the process and high public expectations, the seeming hyper-mediatization of the ACC’s activities is actually vital. The AU and UN conventions against corruption enshrine dissemination obligations on anti-corruption agencies of information related to their efforts, recognizing this as a critical component of the anti-corruption machinery. In line with this paradigm, the Access Report sought to detect gaps in law and policy formulation/implementation that could help foster corruption and to counter the concerns raised by the disturbing neglect of case reporting. As s. 170 of the 1991 Constitution identifies common law (court decisions) as one source of law, the lack of case reporting is in itself a major rule of law concern since it engenders access to information, judicial transparency and accountability issues, which themselves raise a host of rights issues. When my work, “The Anti-Corruption Commission Case Reports,” was published in 2015, there was a lot of interest expressed by members of the justice sector in revitalizing case reporting, but alas, the glimmering lights all too quickly got siphoned off into that black hole we regretfully hear so much about.

The Access Report’s Recommendations were geared towards realizing the aims of its wider “Accountable Governance, Justice and Security Project” to improve the effectiveness of justice and security institutions and government practices. The Report sought also to increase access to information and to enhance institutional transparency, in order to further reinforce accountability, civic participation and public confidence. Since the work identifies issues in both law and policy innovation/implementation at the levels of the commission of offence and of the trial process(potential legislative and policy reformative action), it is not strictly speaking policy-focused; a near inevitability, as policy development operates as a continuous feedback loop at various stages of governmental action, simplistically mirroring GAP analysis.

Anti-corruption policy development is still a budding field and like all public policy must deal with the unpredictability of human nature. The sheer breadth and complexity of the phenomenon collectively labeled corruption, the infinitely varied nature of reality and the distinctive nature of corruption in the developed and developing world, are why anti-corruption policy development must be highly contextualized and why the qualitative method must accompany the quantitative. And though we must forge on bravely, the truth is that there is at least for now, limited empirical evidence on what works; the efficacy of anti-corruption trials and other modes of anti-corruption is unclear. What is certain is that any impact that reformative efforts might have, depends on enforcement and responsive governance.

While I was policy lead at the ACC, the anti-corruption policies’ project targeted MDAs based on studies from the Systems and Processes review unit, decisions taken by the ACC Management, donor directives, the preponderance of public complaints and trials. No clear research and drafting methodology behind these works was articulated, no e-docs or e-databases indicated any process. Neither qualitative nor quantitative research methodologies were truly being employed. Research is a highly intuitive process largely at the analytical stage, not at the outset of garnering information, when intuition may inform a broad framework of action, not replace it. “Surveys” of institutions were conducted with only one questionnaire, leading questions employed during interviews, and all this data might not necessarily inform the progress of the process, no broad stroke preliminary analyses being madefor contextualization. This reliance on an ad hoc, largely predetermined rather than truly investigative approach and on drafting meetings with institutional reps., churns out mainly uninventive works and wastes great opportunities to devise creative solutions. Fusing qualitative and quantitative analytical modes, I surmised that unlike most issues raised which we were either not mandated or ill-equipped to handle, the lynchpin of combating corruption here was through increasing awareness of the activities of internal disciplinary mechanisms, enhancing their efficiency and improving their interaction with the ACC. This experience and the Access Report’s Findings lead me to believe that the ACC’s policy development methodology would be greatly enriched by absorbing the “fused quantitative and qualitative methods within contextually rich case studies“approach.

 

Despite the Access Report’s limitedness, twice or thrice the number of cases could be reported and analyzed in like manner by justice sector institutions in areas problematic for the consolidation of the rule of law; for e.g. MSGWCA could funnel conclusions derived from contextually rich SGBV case studies into both its pre and post legislative enactment policies in that area of dire urgency and JSCO could use the same method with regards to corporate responsibility. The Report’s Findings relate to; Information/Knowledge Management; Conspiracy and Procurement; Financial Control and Management and Diligent Case Preparation. The Findings are based on a circumscribed view of the available jurisprudence (8/30+ ACC judgments). I cannot avouch that they would subsist, were the parameters of this review to be drawn more widely. However, the salience of issues consistently identified across most of the judgments, selected only on the basis of their notoriety, and the fact of their being tried during the single tenure of Commissioner Kamara is exceedingly persuasive. The finding that; “the MDAs concerned failed to make IM/KM (…) central to their organizational management styles (…) resulting in a generalized practice (…)of non-reporting,” is credible because it is derived from 7/8 cases, as with a lot of the Findings. By contrast, the finding that; “the absence of provisions in the GBAA/FMR on the Finance Officer (FO) and the Director of Financial Resources (MOHS) or the relationship between them fostered a culture of programme officers (…) hogging the financial management of donor funds, (and) bypassing FOs,” is derived from intra and not interjudgment analyses. However, the validity of such intra judgment analyses is substantiated by analyses of laws and interviews; methodological authenticity that renders the Report’s incisive conclusions compelling.

The recommendation that; “IM and KM should be incorporated (…) into current MDA management (…) strategies,” and “durable KM/IM systems should be built,” would seem to apply across all MDAs including the ACC, as my experience testifies. Retrieving information from the ACC was quite the rigmarole. Additionally, IM/KM is intricately woven into the four areas above and would have tightened the efficiency of the controls in each, had it been prioritized. Faced with the perennial research conundrum of how knowledge can be consolidated and human efforts maximized in the absence of a foundation of knowledge, the ACC should take the lead and put its own house in order first.

The Report is geared towards policymakers, legal professionals, the justice sector and the interested public. Its reach would be wider if further broken down, but then the value of certain nuances and complexities would be lost. Its public confidence utility is best achieved when employed by policy advocates in their public discussions as the credible basis supporting their positions and work. Its Recommendations regarding public procurement based on the PPA 2004 and PPR 2006 were drafted before the ratification of the PPA 2016, but have proved constructive since their foci remain unaddressed by the new law.

External Consultants grapple with the same constraints as other unsupported seekers: lack of electricity, water, poor library facilities, poor internet, a culture of sexual harassment, the tendency for institutional knowledge to sometimes reside purely within living repositories, again invoking IM/KM.Despite constraints and the discrete selection of cases covered, the Access Report represents a unique opportunity to begin to address the gap in case reporting, while simultaneously developing impactful and effective policy.  As such, I readily admit that unearthing previously concealed information, assembling and presenting it in a novel light, does come with the territory and that if anything, I feel instead privileged in bringing to birth the modest but solid foundations on which future seekers, innovators and strategists can sturdily build…should they choose to do so.”Everything begins with an idea.” ―Earl Nightingale.

The Access Report can be found on the following websites:

https://www.facebook.com/skmsl.salone/posts/1664862423632502

http://www.democracy.gov.sl/media-center/report/189-ncd

http://www.democracy.gov.sl/media-center/report/191-commentary-on-access-report

https://www.sierralii.org/

https://www.sierralii.org/book/selected-acc-judgments-synopses-and-governance-based-perspectives

http://www.sierra-leone.org/ACC-Jurisprudence.html

http://unimak.edu.sl/wordpress/archives/3303

Editor’s Note: The Author, Amira Hudroge is an independent consultant that has worked as a legal and policy analyst for the ACC, CARL and CGG. She has also worked in International Criminal Tribunals including the Special Court and the ICC. She holds an LLB (Univ. of Westminster) and LLM (UCL).

BUSINESS AND BANKING

Nigerians bury cash in backyards as mobile money stumbles

A currency dealer counts bundles of naira banknotes for exchange on the ‘black market’ in Lagos, Nigeria.

Every few days, Tasiu Abdurrahman takes the money he makes from selling spices in Nigeria’s biggest northern city and buries it in his yard.

The 55-year-old closed his bank account eight years ago after growing disillusioned with standing in long lines for hours to deposit or withdraw cash. Abdurrahman is one of about 50 million of the unbanked in Nigeria, which despite having Africa’s largest mobile-phone market, is only just opening up to the technology to bring banking to its estimated 200 million people.

“My business partners need cash,” said Abdurrahman as he juggled two mobile phones at his ginger and tamarind stand, one of many dotting the streets in Kano. “If they all opened bank accounts, I would be happy to.”

Financial inclusion in Nigeria — which vies with South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy — has gone backward as the regulator blocked network operators from applying for mobile-money licenses that would allow cash transfers without the need for a bank account. Between 2014 and 2017, the percentage of banked adults dropped nearly 4 percentage points to 39 percent, while the sub-Saharan African average increased more than 8 percentage points to 43 percent.

The Central Bank of Nigeria this month announced it is not on track to reach its target of increasing financial inclusion to 80 percent by 2020. It is now reviewing the path it took in 2012 with a “refreshed strategy” and has also signed a cooperation agreement with the Nigerian Communications Commission to improve the penetration of financial services using mobile phones.

Less than 6 percent of Nigerians use their handsets to transact using mobile money, compared with 73 percent of Kenyans, where more than two-thirds of adults have a bank account, according to the World Bank. That’s even though there are more than two phones for every bank account in the West African nation.

“We’re taking baby steps when we should be running,” Yomi Ibosiola, an associate director at Deloitte Nigeria’s data analytics practice, said in an interview in Lagos, the commercial hub.

Cellular phone operators would invest more if they were allowed to lead the way, said Emeka Oparah, a spokesman for Bharti Airtel’s Nigerian unit, which has 40 million subscribers.

“Right now, we’re only providing a platform for some people to use, if it becomes our business, we will invest in it,” Oparah said. The government should adjust its policies “if it wants to move very quickly.”

Fidelity Bank allows people to open an account using a mobile phone, said Chief Operations and Information Officer Gbolahan Joshua. It is also using agents to offer banking services, such as small payments and deposits, through informal branches, he said, adding the lender has 3.9 million customers.

“When you open an account on your mobile, you can receive money but you cannot make payments,” Joshua said. “You need a Bank Verification Number to make transactions on that account you opened on mobile. Since the targets for financial inclusion are people that don’t have BVN already, some infrastructure needs to be deployed, like mobile BVN.”

There are efforts being made to remove those obstacles. One includes issuing identity numbers to 70 million people by the end of next year and pulling together the government’s various identity verification systems into a centralized database, which will make it easier for people to plug into financial services.

The central bank in March also announced an initiative that would allow the number of banking agents to increase to 500,000 within two years, from 100,000, according to estimates by Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access, a research organization.

Standard Bank Group’s Stanbic IBTC is using agency banking to strengthen its retail base, even if it means losing money in some areas, Chief Executive Officer Yinka Sanni said. “You must see it as part of investing in the long-term interest of Nigeria,” he said. “It will enhance what we do in the future.”

Most of the biggest lenders are focused on business banking. Zenith Bank, the country’s largest lender with the equivalent of $15.4 billion in assets, makes about 6 percent of its revenue from retail banking and about 58 percent from corporate.

There are not enough incentives for people to open bank accounts, especially among the poor, said Ameya Upadhyay, a principal in the investment team of Omidyar Network Fund Inc., which has invested in a Nigerian startup providing mobile-money services and a company that gives loans to small- and medium-sized businesses. About 87 million Nigerians live on less than $1.90 a day, according to Vienna-based World Data Lab’s World Poverty Clock.

“You have to create a ‘pull’ to these accounts and that happens when those accounts are meaningful to people’s everyday lives,” he said, such as increasing the number of merchants with pay points or offering more insurance, savings or lending products. “People don’t eat accounts.” Abdurrahman, the Kano spice merchant, agrees and is also unconvinced about using his phone to transact.”I may decide to go for mobile money if more of my suppliers have it,” he said. “But for now I am very comfortable keeping cash at the shop to pay for supplies and keeping the rest at home.”

The Doctor’s Page

Vaccinating Against an HIV Rebound

New research has raised expectations that an effective HIV vaccine is on the horizon. But it has also heightened concerns that so-called rebound effects – like the re-emergence of practices that expose people to HIV infection – will pose new challenges in the decades-long struggle to eliminate the virus.

When I began my career as an HIV activist in Botswana two decades ago, the thought of a vaccine seemed fanciful. Even after the country hosted vaccine trials in the mid-2000s, many of us on the frontlines of the fight against HIV doubted that such a breakthrough would ever happen. But this month, research published in The Lancet upended our pessimism. Clinical trials involving 393 people in East Africa, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States have yielded encouraging immunogenic responses and a “favorable safety and tolerability” profile. While these findings are preliminary and the sample size small, it is nonetheless exciting to imagine that the world may be on the verge of a viable vaccine. To take advantage of the benefits, we must begin preparing for its arrival now.

These are challenging times in the global effort to end HIV. Though health-care workers have focused on containing the epidemic for nearly four decades, infection rates remain stubbornly high. In 2017, there were 1.8 million new cases, and some 15.2 million people were unable to access HIV treatment In West and Central Africa, only 2.1 million of the 6.1 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy.

This history suggests that even with a vaccine, many complex social, economic, and cultural issues will continue to complicate the war on HIV. We must think carefully about how to introduce a vaccine without unintentionally encouraging “rebound effects,” like the re-emergence of practices that expose people to HIV infection.

While an HIV vaccine would no doubt be a game changer, it would be only one of a diverse range of tools needed to contain one of mankind’s deadliest pandemics. For a vaccine to have the greatest impact, we must continue to promote other forms of prevention – such as condom use, medical male circumcision, and use of pre-exposure prophylactics for at-risk populations.

Vaccine-related rebound effects are guiding research on other diseases, particularly malaria. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, researchers are currently assessing how human behavior might change if a malaria vaccine became widespread. In ongoing pilot programs, scientists are trying to determine whether people will scale back their use of bed nets and insecticides to control exposure to mosquitoes. Such a response would be worrying, especially given that previous studies have shown that the efficacy of malaria vaccines can wane over time.

A similar behavioral shift in response to an HIV vaccine could be devastating. In many parts of the world, condom provision is in decline, while some individuals – like sex workers, drug users, and members of the LGBT community – have difficulty accessing HIV-prevention services, owing to legal restrictions or discriminatory practices. With scientists optimistic that a vaccine is forthcoming, there is no better time to ensure that traditional transmission interventions remain a priority for policymakers, politicians, and donors.

Just as important, activists must continue working to remove the structural barriers that stop people from using prevention services in the first place. After all, it is these same obstacles that will likely keep people from accessing a vaccine in the future.

Moreover, it is not too early to consider how an HIV vaccine would be paid for. In its recent report, UNAIDS warned that, given the absence of new donor commitments, the 8% increase in spending on HIV in 2017 is likely to be a one-off gain.

Around the world, donors are cutting development aid to middle-income countries while domestic health-care spending costs are increasing. These trends have coincided with a global reduction in funding for HIV prevention services and research. Given tight finances, we must consider how developing countries will balance funding for vaccines with other HIV prevention needs.

On a recent visit to Myanmar and Vietnam, I witnessed the progress that governments, donor agencies, and community activists are making in the fight against HIV. But I also heard many stories of how declining budgets are forcing organizations to make impossible choices about their prevention efforts. These are decisions no government should have to make, and the international community must marshal the political will to ensure that HIV prevention continues to be supported.

For now, I share the excitement of many that a new tool to tackle HIV may be on the horizon. This prospect will be a topic of much discussion when prevention strategists gather in Amsterdam this week for the 22nd International AIDS Conference. But, no matter what becomes of this latest vaccine-related discovery, the world will still have a long way to go before HIV is eradicated. To increase our chances of success,  the prevention programming must remain at the top of the agenda.

 

COMMENTARY

From Brexit to referendum

The consequences of the Brexit self-delusion are now becoming obvious, as Britain’s government finds itself unable to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic plan to leave the EU. If this situation persists, Britain will have only one alternative: another referendum to reconsider the impossible result of the 2016 vote. If something is impossible, it does not happen. If a country votes to make two plus two equal five, this “democratic decision” will eventually be overridden by the rules of arithmetic, no matter how large the majority or how loudly “The People have spoken.” This is the story now playing out in Britain as Theresa May’s government stumbles toward the final act of the Brexit tragi-comedy.

In 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union while keeping “the exact same benefits” they enjoyed as EU members. David Davis, May’s former minister responsible for negotiating Brexit with the EU, used that phrase repeatedly in Parliament, and it was then taken up enthusiastically by May herself. The promises by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the chief Brexit campaigner, were even more fulsome:

Britons would have complete freedom to live, work, and study throughout Europe; untrammeled access to the EU single market; and full participation in whatever political institutions a post-Brexit government might feel like cherry-picking from the EU orchard. In short, the 2016 referendum was a vote for two plus two equals five.

The consequences of this self-delusion are now becoming obvious, as Britain’s government finds itself unable to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic Brexit plan. If this situation persists, Britain will have only one alternative: another referendum to reconsider the impossible result of the 2016 vote.

The Times now estimates that there is a 50% probability of such a referendum. When Justine Greening, one of May’s recently sacked cabinet ministers, became the first senior Conservative to propose this option, the objections raised to it were no longer about the principle of a second referendum, but about the difficulty of deciding the right question and method of casting votes.

A new referendum is rising to the top of Britain’s political agenda because of the self-defeating behavior of the Conservative Party’s hardline Brexiteers. When Davis and Johnson resigned from May’s cabinet, chaotic parliamentary rebellions – from both the Euroskeptic and pro-European factions of the party – ensued. As a result, the main opposition Labour Party now sees a realistic chance of bringing down May’s government and triggering a general election by uniting with either hardline Brexiteers or pro-European Conservative rebels to kill whatever Brexit plan May ultimately puts to Parliament. Labour opposition makes every Brexit option almost certain to be blocked.

Start with the threat of a “no deal” rupture, whereby Britain would crash out of the EU with no agreement at all on a new relationship. This is now totally implausible, because all of Britain’s opposition parties, plus the clear majority of Conservative MPs whose primary loyalty is to business interests, would block it.

Almost as improbable is a “hard Brexit,” in which Britain and Europe agree to an orderly separation, but with no preferential arrangements for future trade. This, too, would be voted down by all the opposition parties, along with dozens of centrist Conservatives. Some of the Brexit hardliners also would oppose any such agreed separation, because it would force Britain to pay a large EU exit fee and to follow European rules for an open border with Ireland, in exchange for no commercial privileges at all.

May’s latest plan for a more cooperative “soft Brexit” now also faces insuperable opposition from Johnson and Davis, plus several dozen followers. These hardliners have denounced May’s new plan as “Brexit in Name Only” and a plot to turn Britain into an EU “vassal state.” Labour is now willing to enter an unholy alliance with them in the hope of precipitating a government collapse.

This leaves one final option: a parliamentary rebellion to stop Brexit. “Exit Brexit” is the official policy of the Liberals, the Greens, and the Scottish National Party. But all serious Brexiteers, plus the vast majority of Conservative MPs and the Labour leadership, who feel obliged to follow the “instructions” of the 2016 referendum obviously will not support this option.

If May find herself unable to muster a parliamentary majority for any version of Brexit, resignation and a general election will not be her only recourse. One goal unites all the Conservative factions, regardless of their views on Europe: to avoid a general election and the risk of Labour winning power. This means that May could attach a referendum proposal to her preferred version of Brexit, justifiably claiming that Parliament’s response to the 2016 referendum should either be ratified or rejected by another popular vote. The criminal investigations launched recently into illegal spending by Johnson’s official Leave campaign, and allegations of Russian funding for former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s parallel campaign further justify a final referendum.

The Labour leadership would probably oppose a new referendum, because it would derail their efforts to force a general election. But, crucially, the Liberals and Scottish Nationalists would enthusiastically support a referendum as long as it offered voters the option of keeping Britain in the EU. As a result, May would have no trouble assembling a parliamentary majority for a legislative package that bundled her Brexit plan with a referendum to decide between it and the status quo alternative of remaining in the EU.

Logic suggests that such a referendum would reverse the 2016 decision to leave the EU, because any specific Brexit proposal presented by the government would be far less attractive than the utopian delusions that managed to secure only a narrow majority two years ago. But, by next year, the British people could be so angry with Europe that they vote Leave again. If so, Brexit could go ahead on whatever terms May negotiates, and nobody could complain about the consequences or costs.

Whatever the outcome, voters would have made an honest choice between genuinely and properly articulated options. That would be true democracy, instead of the demagoguery of two plus two equals five.

 

 

 LETTER

 

 

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Both the Guardian and the New York Times recently ran major articles about George, see below. In the New York Times’ lengthy profile on his life and philanthropy, George spoke of his enduring commitment to open society, “I’m standing for principles whether I win or lose.” The Guardian presents a serious examination of his role as a public intellectual. Long reads, but both very interesting.

All best,
Michael Vachon
The New York Times Magazine
George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears, He is Losing.
By Michael Steinberger
July 17, 2018

On a clammy Tuesday morning in Paris at the end of May, George Soros, the world’s second-most-vilified New York billionaire (but worth many billions more than the other one), addressed the European Council on Foreign Relations, an organization he helped found a decade ago. Described by the woman who introduced him as a “European at heart,” the Hungarian-born Soros, who made his fortune running a hedge fund and is now a full-time philanthropist, political activist and freelance statesman, was there to share his thoughts on salvaging the European Union. Wearing a dark suit, tieless and with the collar of his blue shirt outside the lapel of his jacket, Soros took the stage with the determined stride of an 87-year-old who still plays tennis a few times a week. But there were some concessions to age. He gave his speech sitting down and used a desk lamp to illuminate the text. (In fairness, the hotel conference room hosting the event was morosely dark.) He turned the pages with his right hand while keeping his left hand on his left knee, as if propping himself up. There were moments when he seemed on the verge of losing his place, although he never did.

In person, Soros is quite charming, with a wry sense of humor. But his writings — he has published 14 books — and speeches can be a little wooden, and this occasion was no exception. He barely acknowledged the audience, which included the president of Serbia and the prime minister of Albania, except to say, “I think this is the right place to discuss how to save Europe.” But apart from urging the European Union to direct more aid to Africa, which he said would ameliorate the refugee crisis that has led to so much of the recent political upheaval in Europe; his remarks were more descriptive than prescriptive. The European Union, he said, faced an “existential crisis.”

The Guardian
The George Soros Philosophy—and its Fatal Flaw
By Daniel Bessner
July 6, 2018

Unlike most of the billionaire class, George Soros is not an out-of-touch plutocrat, but a provocative thinker committed to progressive ideals – which is what makes his failures so telling. In late May, the same day she got fired by the US TV network ABC for her racist tweet about Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Roseanne Barr accused Chelsea Clinton of being married to George Soros’s nephew. “Chelsea Soros Clinton,” Barr tweeted, knowing that the combination of names was enough to provoke a reaction. In the desultory exchange that followed, the youngest Clinton responded to Roseanne by praising Soros’s philanthropic work with his Open Society Foundations. To which Barr responded in the most depressing way possible, repeating false claims earlier proffered by rightwing media personalities: “Sorry to have tweeted incorrect info about you! Please forgive me! By the way, George Soros is a Nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth – were you aware of that? But, we all make mistakes, right Chelsea?”

Barr’s tweet was quickly retweeted by conservatives, including Donald Trump Jr. This shouldn’t have surprised anyone. On the radical right, Soros is as hated as the Clintons. He is a verbal tic, a key that fits every hole. Soros’s name evokes “an emotional outcry from the red-meat crowds”, one former Republican congressman recently told the Washington Post. They view him as a “sort of sinister [person who] plays in the shadows”. This anti-Semitic caricature of Soros has dogged the philanthropist for decades. But in recent years the caricature has evolved into something that more closely resembles a James Bond villain. Even to conservatives who reject the darkest fringes of the far right, Breitbart’s description of Soros as a “globalist billionaire” dedicated to making America a liberal wasteland is uncontroversial common sense.

In spite of the obsession with Soros, there has been surprisingly little interest in what he actually thinks. Yet unlike most of the members of the billionaire class, who speak in platitudes and remain withdrawn from serious engagement with civic life, Soros is an intellectual. And the person who emerges from his books and many articles is not an out-of-touch plutocrat, but a provocative and consistent thinker committed to pushing the world in a cosmopolitan direction in which racism, income inequality, American empire, and the alienations of contemporary capitalism would be things of the past. He is extremely perceptive about the limits of markets and US power in both domestic and international contexts. He is, in short, among the best the meritocracy has produced.

Read the rest of the article here:

After you read the Guardian article, here is George’s Letter to the Editors there:
To the                           Editors:
Daniel Bessner has written a thorough and insightful examination of my philosophy and actions over a lifetime (How George Soros thinks, The long read, 6 July) but his assessment itself suffers from a fatal flaw – a set of mistaken assumptions about the beliefs and convictions underpinning that philosophy and those actions. Bessner says I believe “in a necessary connection between capitalism and cosmopolitanism” and that I believe “a free society depends on free (albeit regulated) markets”. He further asserts that my “class position made [me] unable to advocate the root-and-branch reforms necessary to bring about the world [I desire]”. To the contrary, I have been a passionate critic of market fundamentalism at least since I first discussed the phenomenon in my essay The Capitalist Threat in the Atlantic Monthly 20 years ago. Moreover, I have been a steadfast promoter of what Bessner calls the “root-and-branch reforms” that could bring about the better world that I and many others desire – for example, I would cite the positions I adopted regarding reforms after the financial crisis of 2008. Anybody who reviews the record will see that my proposals were far from the mainstream “centre left” approach that eventually prevailed. In the same vein, regarding eastern Europe post-1989, Bessner writes: “It was more than a lack of political will that constrained the west during this moment. In the era of ‘shock therapy’, western capital did flock to eastern Europe – but this capital was invested mostly in private industry, as opposed to democratic institutions or grassroots community-building, which helped the kleptocrats and anti-democrats seize and maintain power.” I agree. But Bessner continues: “Soros had identified a key problem but was unable to appreciate how the very logic of capitalism, which stressed profit above all, would necessarily undermine his democratic project. He remained too wedded to the system he had conquered.” To the contrary, my interventions were entirely in support of “democratic institutions and grassroots community-building”, and I urged others, including governments, to follow me in this approach.

Likewise, Bessner’s conclusion that my status “as a member of the hyper-elite and [my] belief that, for all its hiccups, history was headed in the right direction made [me] unable to consider fully the ideological obstacles that stood in the way of [my] internationalism” is unfounded. I don’t think I have ever expressed an optimism that history is headed in the right direction. Martin Luther King famously said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. I am less of an optimist, which is why I have spent my life actively trying to bend the arc in a positive direction. But recognizing that I am a biased evaluator of my life’s work, I will submit it to the judgment to history.

Sincerely,
GeorgeSoros

 

 

 

 

 

 

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