The US Has Become Too Big, Too Diverse, and Too Corrupt to Survive



We’re getting close to the end now. Can you feel it?  I do.  It’s in the news, on the streets, and in your face every day. You can’t tune it out anymore, even if you wanted to.

Where once there was civil debate in the court of public opinion, we now have censorship, monopoly, screaming, insults, demonization, and, finally, the use of force to silence the opposition. There is no turning back now. The political extremes are going to war, and you will be dragged into it even if you consider yourself apolitical.

There are great pivot points in history, and we’ve arrived at one. The United States, ruptured by a thousand grievance groups, torn by shadowy agencies drunk on a gross excess of power, robbed blind by oligarchs and their treasonous henchmen and decimated by frivolous wars of choice, has finally come to a point where the end begins in earnest.

The center isn’t holding… indeed, finding a center is no longer even conceivable. We are the schizophrenic nation, bound by no societal norms, constrained by no religion, with no shared sense of history, myth, language, art, philosophy, music, or culture, rushing toward an uncertain future fueled by nothing more than easy money, hubris, and sheer momentum.

There comes a time when hard choices must be made…when it is no longer possible to remain aloof or amused, because the barbarians have arrived at the gate. Indeed, they are here now, and they often look a whole lot like deracinated, conflicted, yet bellicose fellow Americans, certain of only one thing, and that is that they possess “rights”, even though they could scarcely form an intelligible sentence explaining exactly what those rights secure or how they came into being.

But that isn’t necessary, from their point of view, you see. All they need is a “voice” and membership in an approved victim class to enrich themselves at someone else’s expense. If you are thinking to yourself right now that this does not describe you, then guess what? The joke’s on you, and you are going to be expected to pay the bill…that “someone else” is you.

In reality, though, who can blame the minions, when the elites have their hand in the till as well? In fact, they are even more hostile to reasoned discourse than Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, or Antifa. Witness the complete meltdown of the privileged classes when President Trump mildly suggested that perhaps our “intelligence community” isn’t to be trusted, which is after all a fairly sober assessment when one considers the track record of the CIA, FBI, NSA, BATF, and the other assorted Stasi agencies.

Burning cop cars or bum-rushing the odd Trump supporter seems kind of tame in comparison to the weeping and gnashing of teeth when that hoary old MIC “intelligence” vampire was dragged screaming into the light. Yet Trump did not drive a stake into its heart, nor at this point likely can anyone…and that is exactly the point. We are now Thelma and Louise writ large.

We are on cruise control, happily speeding towards the cliff, and few seem to notice that our not so distant future involves bankruptcy, totalitarianism, and/or nuclear annihilation. Even though most of us couldn’t identify the band, we nonetheless surely live the lyrics of the Grass Roots: “Live for today, and don’t worry about tomorrow.”

The “Defense” Department, “Homeland” Security, big pharma, big oil, big education, civil rights groups, blacks, Indians, Jews, the Deep State, government workers, labor unions, Neocons, Populists, fundamentalist Christians, atheists, pro life and pro death advocates, environmentalists, lawyers, homosexuals, women, Millenials, Baby Boomers, blue collar/white collar, illegal aliens…the list goes on and on, but the point is that the conflicting agendas of these disparate groups have been irreconcilable for some time.

The difference today is that we are de facto at war with each other, and whether it is a war of words or of actual combat doesn’t matter at the moment. What matters is that we no longer communicate, and when that happens it is easy to demonize the other side. Violence is never far behind ignorance.

I am writing this from the bar at the Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna, Austria. I have seen with my own eyes the inundation of Europe with an influx of hostile aliens bent on the destruction of Old Christendom, yet I have some hope for the eastern European countries because they have finally recognized the threat and are working to neutralize it.

Foreign malcontents can never be successfully integrated into a civilized society because they don’t even intend to try; they intend to conquer their host instead. Yet even though our own discontents are domestic for the most part, we have a much harder row to hoe than Old Europe because our own “invaders” are well entrenched and have been for decades, all the way up to the highest levels of government.

That there are signs Austria is finally waking up is a good thing, but it serves to illustrate the folly of expecting the hostile cultures within our own country to get along with each other without rupturing the republic. Indeed, that republic died long ago, and it has been replaced by a metastasizing mass of amorphous humanity called the American Empire, and it is at war with itself and consuming itself from within.

Long ago, we once knew that as American citizens each of us had a great responsibility. We were expected to work hard, play fair, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and serve our country when called upon to do so. Today, we don’t speak of duty, except in so much as a slogan to promote war, but we certainly do speak of benefits for ourselves and our “group” of entitled peeps. We will fail because of our greed and avarice.

The United States of Empire has become quite simply too big, too diverse, and too “exceptional” to survive.

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#Big #Diverse #Corrupt #Survive



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Dr Miriam Stoppard: “Long Covid symptoms are more diverse than we feared” – Miriam Stoppard



At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when we knew ­precious little about the virus, the standard message was most people recover from mild ­infections in two weeks and serious ones in three.

This is clearly not true. NHS England has estimated nearly half of hospital patients need ongoing support.

Their symptoms vary so much over a huge range of intensity and duration that many people feel they’re not being believed and are not getting the support they need.

A team of researchers and doctors have reported long Covid doesn’t easily fit into a single syndrome. They describe at least three: post-intensive care syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome and long-term Covid syndrome, which each have their own set of symptoms.

For people still suffering symptoms beyond three weeks, the common denominator is profound fatigue.

However, there are so many ­symptoms being reported that doctors are cautious to attribute them to a single cause, meaning people find getting help is difficult.

Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London knows more about this than most from his Covid ­Symptom Study.

He’s identified six clusters of ­symptoms, two of which are ­associated with longer-term ­symptoms, ­indicating a possible way of predicting early on what might occur later. “If you’ve got a persistent cough, hoarse voice, headache, ­diarrhoea, are skipping meals, and have shortness of breath in the first week, you are two to three times more likely to get longer-term symptoms,” he said.

Turns out long Covid is about twice as common in women, and age is a factor too.

But Spector added: “We seem to be getting different symptom clusters in different ages, so it could be there is a different type in younger people compared with the over-65s.

“As we get more data we should be able to break it into these groups and work out what is going on, which could help us get early interventions for at-risk groups.”

Nisreen Alwan, who has long Covid, said in the BMJ: “You learn your patterns, learn what brings on utter exhaustion or the other symptoms, and try to avoid those things.”

She adds a wide range of other symptoms including breathlessness, a cough, muscle and body aches, and chest heaviness or pressure, but also skin rashes, palpitations, headache,  fever, diarrhoea, and pins and needles.

“A common feature is the relapsing nature of the illness, you feel you’ve recovered, then it hits back,” she said.





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Joe Biden has picked his economic team – but who makes the cut in his diverse financial department? | US News


Joe Biden is pressing ahead with forming his government by announcing his picks for some of the top jobs in his economic team.

A number of his choices are set to make history – together they make up the country’s most diverse economic leadership team ever.

His picks include the first woman to head up the US Treasury, the first black person to deputise and the first women of colour leading the Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisers.

The president-elect is also clearly keen to surround himself with heavyweights. Many of his nominees have decades of economic experience, in government, in academia and at America’s central bank.

The transition team said this team would help “lift America out of the current economic downturn and build back better”.

Janet Yellen – Nominee for Treasury Secretary

If confirmed, Janet Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its nearly 232 year history.

She is a highly regarded economist having formerly chaired the US Federal Reserve and worked as a senior economic adviser to President Bill Clinton.

She led America’s central bank between 2014-2018 and served as vice chair before that. Markets rallied last week when it was first made clear last week she would be appointed.

Image:
Janet Yellen will be the first woman treasury secretary

She is widely credited with having helped lead America through the recession following the 2008 financial crash and has spoken about the need to address challenges ranging from inequality, financial exclusion and climate change.

Donald Trump broke with the tradition that usually sees presidents reappoint their predecessor’s choice to head up the Federal Reserve for a second term, hence Yellen only served one four year term at the bank.

Her breadth of experience and beliefs are likely to make her palatable to both progressive Democrats and Republicans.

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Joe Biden appoints first-ever US climate envoy

Who else is on the list?

This will be the most diverse economics team in American history.

For the first time the Deputy Treasury Secretary will be black. Nigerian born Wally Adeyemo served in a number of economic advisory positions under Barack Obama and is currently the CEO of the not-for-profit Obama Foundation.

In addition to Janet Yellen there will also be three other women in senior positions, two of colour.

Neera Tanden, a former adviser to both Obama and Hillary Clinton and CEO of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress has been appointed to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Cecilia Rouse, a labour economist and senior academic at Princeton University, is Biden’s pick to serve as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Both will be the first women of colour in their roles.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12:  Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Heather Boushey (C) participates in a panel discussion about the release of a new report authored by Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz published by the Roosevelt Institute May 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. The report, titled "New Economic Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity", discusses the current distribution of wealth in the U.S. and offers proposals for modifying that distribution.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Heather Boushey will serve on the Council of Economic Advisers

Ms Rouse has previously served on the CEA and earlier this year she organised a letter signed by 100 economists calling for more action to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Underneath her on the CEA, Biden has appointed Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey. Both have distinguished economic backgrounds and both advised Biden during the presidential campaign.

Why has Neera Tanden’s nomination caused controversy?

Neera Tanden is the daughter of Indian immigrants and as well as being a longstanding Hillary Clinton ally, she served as a healthcare adviser to President Obama playing a role in formulating the Affordable Care Act – or ‘Obamacare’.

But her nomination to lead the US Budget Department has drawn criticism from both the left and the right.

This matters because her appointment needs Senate confirmation, and unless the Democrats can win two razor tight Senate runoffs in Georgia, it’s likely to be controlled by the Republicans.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 29: Neera Tanden participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel  on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
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Neera Tanden is facing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans

Progressive Democrats don’t like her because she’s been an outspoken critic of key figures from that wing of the party including Bernie Sanders.

They see her politics as too far to the right, some have today circulated old tweets from her supporting, amongst other things, Donald Trump’s policies on social security.

While on the other side Republicans don’t like her because of her record of very public criticism and jibes aimed at their leaders.

A spokesman for one Senate Republican said she “stands zero chance of being confirmed”.

Confirming Ms Tanden in her position may be Biden’s first major test in the Senate.



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New Zealand has just elected one of the most diverse parliaments in the world. Here’s how it stacks up


But in New Zealand, that was just the start.

Almost half of New Zealand’s newly sworn-in Parliament are women and 11% are openly LGBTQ. Both New Zealand’s Indigenous Māori and people with Pacific Island heritage are represented at a slightly higher rate than in the general population.

Politicians from diverse backgrounds aren’t just making up numbers in Parliament — they’re in key positions of power.

Eight of Ardern’s 20-strong cabinet — the highest-ranked lawmakers — are also women, and a quarter are Māori. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will be the first openly gay politician to hold that role in New Zealand. And foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, who wears a moko kauae or traditional Māori face tattoo, is the first Indigenous woman in New Zealand’s history to represent the country in that position.

“It looks like New Zealand looks,” said Jennifer Curtin, a professor of politics and director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, of the country’s government. “We’re not male, pale and stale anymore.”

Here’s what New Zealand’s new Parliament looks like

New Zealand already had a relatively diverse Parliament. Following the 2017 election, 38% of New Zealand’s MPs were women — a record in the country. Now it’s 48%.

The proportion of openly LGBTQ lawmakers has also increased from 7% to 11%.

Māori representation has slipped, however, from 23% at the last election to 21%. That’s the lowest level of Māori representation since 2014, but it is still higher than the total proportion of people who identify as Māori in the general population — around 17%.

Diversity in the New Zealand Parliament

Almost half are women, a record in New Zealand. Last election, 38% of MPs were women.

More than one out of 10 parliamentarians are
LGBTQ
, the highest proportion in New Zealand’s history.

One fifth are Māori, New Zealand’s Indigenous people. That’s higher than the general population, but the lowest proportion in Parliament since 2014.

New Zealand’s Parliament has had Māori seats since 1867, soon after the country was founded, but these have sometimes been seen as tokenism. Until 1967, Māori candidates were only allowed to contest a limited number of Māori seats, and it was only in 1975 that Māori were able to choose whether they wanted to be on the Māori electoral roll.
Kelvin Davis, who is Māori and the deputy leader of Ardern’s center-left Labour Party, said he was happy with the level of Indigenous representation in New Zealand’s Cabinet. “I think (the level of representation in Cabinet) is a first ever and we’re proud to be a part of that,” he said, according to public broadcaster Radio New Zealand (RNZ).
Labour MP Louisa Wall, who is Māori and lesbian, says that the increase in LGBTQ representation will create an even more progressive society. New Zealand introduced same-sex civil unions in 2004, and in 2013, Wall spearheaded a bill to make same-sex marriage legal.
“We have come a long way and for me it is about representative democracy. We reflect our larger New Zealand population,” Wall said, according to RNZ.

Curtin said that having a representative legislature meant there was a range of perspectives at the decision table. “Diversity in itself is good,” she said. “Anything that disrupts the homogeneity and the dominance of the White majority, or the colonizers, of this place.”

Here’s how that stacks up globally

Out of thousands of active lawmakers across the globe, just 194 are openly gay in 42 countries, according to data collated by Andrew Reynolds, from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Of those countries, New Zealand now has the highest proportion of openly LGBTQ lawmakers, at 11%, according to his data. (Previously it was the United Kingdom, at 8%.)

In New Zealand, 3.5% of adults identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or another sexual identity other than straight, according to a 2018 Statistics New Zealand survey of approximately 12,000 households. The surveyors, however, said the result “may underestimate” the true proportion as the data was collected via face-to-face interviews.
When it comes to gender New Zealand doesn’t have the highest proportion of women lawmakers in the world — that title goes to Rwanda, where 61% of seats in the country’s lower house are occupied by women. The country lost so many men during the 1994 genocide that women stepped in to fill key leadership roles.
But New Zealand’s 48% female legislature is the highest of all OECD countries, alongside Mexico (where a 2014 law dictates gender parity in politics), and well above the global average of 25%.

New Zealand’s closest neighbor, Australia, only has 31% female representation in its lower house, while Pacific Island countries have an average of 6%.

When it comes to the overall population, there are slightly more women than men in New Zealand — globally there are slightly more men than women, according to the CIA World Factbook.

As for ethnic diversity, the country is still lacking when it comes to representation of Asian New Zealanders, for example, who make up 15% of the country’s general population, but only hold 7% of seats in Parliament.

But demographer Paul Spoonley, a professor at Massey University in Auckland, said a parliament didn’t need to perfectly match the overall makeup of the general population to be representative — although warned if it was too different the public might lose trust in their lawmakers.

“I think it’s really important that a political system represents the diversity including the ethnic diversity of a population, and that’s because they bring that voice and experience,” he said.

But there’s still room for improvement

The significance of all this is that New Zealand’s Parliament looks more like the general population — which in turn makes it more representative.

But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

While one in four New Zealanders have a disability — defined by Statistics New Zealand as a long-term limitation in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities — Curtin said she was not aware of any MPs with disabilities. That’s something disability advocate Jonny Wilkinson has also criticized, saying that the country’s “largest minority group” still isn’t represented.

And Spoonley, the demographer, pointed out that diversity includes making sure a range of ages and socioeconomic backgrounds are represented.

“It’s not a finished project,” Curtin said.

Not everyone in New Zealand is happy about Ardern’s diverse Parliament. Right-wing blogger Olivia Pierson said Mahuta’s moko kauae wasn’t fitting for a foreign diplomat and that her appointment showed Ardern had “gone full wokelette on stilts.”

While New Zealand may have a diverse Parliament now, there’s no guarantee for the future.

The country’s right-leaning parties have less diverse representation than its left-leaning parties, so a switch in government in 2023 could mean a less inclusive Parliament. New Zealand’s main opposition party, National, has only two Māori MPs and only 30% of its lawmakers are women. No current National MPs are openly LGBTQ.

National leader Judith Collins — who famously asked “is there something wrong with being White?” — has dismissed concerns about diversity, arguing that her party has a “diversity of thought.”

Curtin says she hopes that there’s a “contagion effect” where parties on the right decide to become more diverse so they can attract voters.

“We have seen ebbs and flows on the representation of women before,” she said. “It’s not a given that this degree of diversity will hold beyond the next three years.”



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The US is more racially diverse than ever. Here’s how that could impact this week’s election


In an America that is becoming increasingly diverse, yet more divided, experts say the battle lines between the Democratic and Republican parties are slowly shifting.

And while race and ethnicity may not tell the whole story of this week’s presidential election result, or indeed future elections, demographic shifts have reshaped the United States’ pool of eligible voters. 

With growth in the populations of Hispanics (people who are from, or are descendants of, Spanish speaking countries) and Latinos (people who are from, or are descendants of, Latin America – also referred to as Latinas and the gender-neutral Latinx), along with Asian Americans, these groups are forming larger parts of the electorate. Meanwhile, the share of non-Hispanic, white eligible voters, while remaining the majority, is slowly declining. 

Professor Shaun Ratcliff from the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre said these shifts are making the country’s south-eastern states, which have increasingly become Republican strongholds, more competitive. 

Latinos voting at a polling station in Los Angeles.

Getty Images North America

“Population change happens at a snail’s pace. It’s not one of those things where overnight the battle lines shift, and you have a new electorate,” he told SBS News. 

“It’s something that takes generations. But it does change things.”  

Just how diverse is America? 

As of July 2019, the US has a population of 328.2 million, according to the United States Census Bureau 2019 data – up from 308.7 million in 2010.  

Of the 2019 population, 76.3 per cent of Americans ticked ‘white alone’, while 60.1 per cent said they were ‘white alone, not Hispanic or Latino’. 

Hispanics are projected to become the largest minority group in the 2020 electorate.

Hispanics are projected to become the largest minority group in the 2020 electorate.

Pew Research Center/SBS News

The US Census Bureau does not consider Hispanic or Latino ethnicity to be a race. Hispanics were also asked in 2019 to select one or more races to define themselves. As such, those who selected ‘Hispanic or Latino’ made up 18.5 per cent, while ‘Black or African American’ and ‘Asian alone’ categories made up 13.4 per cent and 5.9 per cent, respectively. 

‘American Indian’ and ‘Alaskan Natives’, as well as ‘Native Hawaiians’ and ‘Other Pacific Islanders’, made up 1.3 and 0.2 per cent of the population, while 2.8 per cent identified as being of ‘two or more races’. 

Professor Ratcliff said the US has been a diverse country for quite some time – notably due to its large African American population which stemmed from hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans being brought to the country from the 1600s onwards – but there have been some more recent shifts. 

“In some parts of the US, Hispanics and Latinos have also been a large part of the population, particularly in south-west states like Arizona and New Mexico that were once part of Mexico. That population has grown a lot in recent decades,” he said.

So, too, has the population of Asian Americans, Professor Ratcliff added. “They’ve probably been a bit less politically significant than Hispanics and Latinos, just because of where they have moved to. But they’re still an increasingly important voter bloc.” 

How is diversity reflected in the people who can vote?

Between 2000 and 2018, the country’s electorate grew from 193.4 million to 233.7 million, according to Pew Research Center’s analysis of US Census Bureau data. Voters who were black, Asian or another race or ethnicity made up 76 per cent of that growth. 

In that time, the biggest growth was among Hispanics, as a share of eligible voters across all 50 states. The share of white voters declined in every state, with 10 states experiencing double-digit drops. 

Most of the growth in the electorate since 2000 has come from Hispanic voters.

Most of the growth in the electorate since 2000 has come from Hispanic voters.

Pew Research Center/SBS News

Pew said such gains are particularly large in south-western states including Nevada, California and Texas, along with battleground states such as Florida and Arizona. In Florida, for example, two-in-10 eligible voters identified as Hispanic in 2018 – almost double their share in 2000. 

The research centre predicts a record 32 million Latinos are projected to vote in the 3 November election, accounting for about 13.3 per cent of all eligible voters. The proportion of black voters is about 30 million, or 12.5 per cent. 

 

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters among minority groups, according to Pew, with the number doubling in the 18-year time period. More than 11 million Asian Americans will be able to vote this year, making up almost five per cent of the electorate. But it remains a smaller voter bloc than African American and Hispanic voters. 

As the nation’s demographics are shifting, so too are those of Congress. Of the 116th and current US Congress’ 535 members (100 in the Senate and 435 in the House of Representatives), there are 131 women, 51 Latin Americans and 20 people who are either Asian American, Native American or Pacific Islander American – all of which are record highs. There are also 56 African Americans.

How could minority groups impact the election?

According to Pew, how such demographic shifts might shape electoral outcomes is “closely linked” to partisan preferences of different groups. 

Black, Hispanic and Asian registered voters have historically leaned towards the Democratic Party, which maintains a “wide and long-standing advantage” among these voters, it said. But where black voters have solidly supported Democratic candidates, Hispanics were less consistent in their support over Republicans. 

Professor Ratcliff said these minority groups have “become increasingly Democratic” on the whole. 

“If we go back to the early 1990s, Asian Americans, for example, who were a smaller group then, were much more Republican-friendly. Hispanics and Latinos were more Republican-friendly, too. It has been the last 20 years those two groups have shifted heavily to the Democratic Party,” he said. 

“African Americans have been a pretty solid lock for the Democrats since the 1960s, but other minority groups have not always necessarily been as favourable.” 

There is of course, as Pew acknowledges, diversity within groups, sometimes depending on their country of origin. A 2018 National Survey of Latinos found Hispanic eligible voters of Puerto Rican and/or Mexican descent were more likely to identify as Democratic than those of Cuban descent, who tended to lean Republican. 

How different Hispanic groups lean based on 2018 data.

How different Hispanic groups lean based on 2018 data.

Pew Research Center/SBS News

According to exit polls analysis from Pew, in 2016 then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton secured about two-thirds of the Latino vote, a 10 per cent drop from the cohort’s support for Barack Obama in 2012.

Donald Trump secured 58 per cent of voters among white, non-Hispanic voters, compared with Mrs Clinton’s 37 per cent. He only secured eight per cent of African American voters, which was similar to his Republican predecessor, Mitt Romney, in 2012. 

Professor Ratcliff said the Democratic Party’s consistent strength with minority groups has helped to offset their weakness among white voters. 

“That’s important because these groups are growing faster than the white population, on average. As the US population is becoming more diverse, the percentage of the electorate that is white is slowly shrinking,” he said. 

“It’s not going to be tomorrow when all of a sudden white voters are a minority; they were still 70 per cent of the electorate last election. But it’s still getting a bit smaller every year, and particularly in some key states like Florida.”

A future America: California vs. Texas

For Professor Radcliff, the next few decades will be decided based on whether American politics follows the path of California or Texas. 

“California is a good example of what could be one possible future for the US,” he said. 

“People tend to think of it as being this liberal, left-leaning state that has always elected Democrats, but we forget that Republicans won the three elections in the 1980s,” he said. “California used to be a great place for Republicans.” 

Voting in Inglewood, California.

Voting in Inglewood, California.

That was until 2016, when Mrs Clinton won Orange County in a first for the Democrats since 1936. One of the reasons for that was the state’s growing Hispanic and Asian American communities, Professor Radcliff said, and its hard line on illegal immigration. 

“As a whole, Republicans get 35 per cent of the vote in California, because of the favourable demographics in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, which are great for the Democrats,” he said. 

“I’m not saying the whole country will turn into California. But as you become increasingly diverse, either the Republican Party appeals to these minority voters and wins them over, or it doubles down on its support amongst white voters.”

The other future for America, Professor Radcliff says, is what is evolving in Texas. 

El Paso Democrats Rally for Gore

The Democratic Party headquarters in El Paso, Texas.

Hulton Archive

“Almost the opposite has happened in Texas. Whereas California became more Democratic, Texas became more Republican as it became more diverse,” he said. 

“The Republicans did that by winning 70 per cent of the white vote in Texas. That has helped them lock the state down for the last 20 years. But even that is starting to erode.” 

But there’s more to it than just demographic change; states can change, too, Professor Radcliff said. 

“Even in Texas now, winning a large proportion of white voters isn’t enough as that part of the electorate shrinks.”

“There’s no guarantee they can hold onto white voters forever, as younger voters grow up in a different America to their parents.”  



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Progress: New Zealand elects diverse gov’t, crime rates drop, and more


1. Canada

A nationwide initiative is helping First Nation and municipal leaders redefine their relationships. Funded primarily by Canada’s federal government, the First Nation-Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative aims to promote regional problem-solving, joint economic development, and reconciliation between neighboring communities. With the help of third-party mediators, participating partners have been able to confront the painful history of colonialism – including ignored treaties, exclusion from major development decisions, and forced assimilation – and right past wrongs. “If it appears to be uncomfortable, and you seem almost out of your place, then I think that’s a certain indicator that you’re doing something groundbreaking,” said Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation’s Chief Paul Prosper.

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett (on screen) discusses a dispute between commercial and Mi’kmaw lobster fishers on Oct. 19, 2020.

Today, nine partners are finishing the program, having worked together to address water supply issues, improve transit infrastructure, and launch united tourism strategies. The initiative will welcome a new cohort in 2021, with the hope of focusing the partnership model on post-pandemic recoveries. (Reasons to be Cheerful)

2. United States

Violent crime declined in the United States for the third consecutive year, according to new estimates from the FBI. The rate of violent crime – including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – dropped 1% in 2019, with an average of 367 cases per 100,000 residents. This is the second lowest level since violent crime rates peaked in 1991 at 758 per 100,000. In 2014, there were 362 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program uses data from thousands of agencies at the federal, state, local, university, and tribal level to compile annual reports on crime throughout the country. The overall number of violent crime cases, not adjusted for population, also declined for a third year in a row, with 0.5% fewer reported offenses in 2019 than the year before. In 2015, a Brennan Center for Justice analysis concluded that many factors are each responsible for a small percentage of the drop in crime, and that a range of efforts would be better public safety investments than mass incarceration. (Department of Justice, VOX)

3. Guatemala

Conservation groups in Guatemala are helping a growing number of refugees find work as park rangers. FUNDAECO, a Guatemalan nongovernmental organization that works in national parks and reserves across the country, has partnered with the United Nations refugee agency on the empleos verdes (“green jobs”) program, placing candidates in ecotourism, trail maintenance, and park management positions. 

FUNDAECO is currently employing 55 refugees and hopes to place at least 100 candidates. Rangers who fled gang violence in places such as Honduras now work to prevent illegal activity, such as logging and poaching, in national parks that house important species. To avoid fostering resentment among Guatemalans looking for conservation work, FUNDAECO also hires one local for every refugee placement. Alexis Masciarelli, a U.N. refugee agency spokesperson based in Guatemala, said having a permanent job helps “bring back [refugees’] dignity and their capacity to contribute to a new community and feel more settled.” (Mongabay)

4. Tunisia

In a move hailed by anti-racism advocates, a Tunisian court will allow a man to change his name to remove a word associated with slavery. “Atig” – or “liberated by” – is a common part of many family names in Tunisia, having once been used to denote a freed slave from people still in bondage. Black Tunisians make up 10%-15% of the population, and although the country was among the first to abolish slavery in 1846, critics say the government has done little to acknowledge the discrimination descendants face, including unequal employment opportunities and racial stereotypes in the media. The ruling will open doors, activists say, for other Black Tunisians to shed the stigmatized label. “Every person born in Tunisia is born free so I don’t see why we keep that on paper,” said Saadia Mosbah, who campaigned for the right to change names. “In history books OK, but not on our identity.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

5. Thailand

Villagers of Ban Boon Rueang are being recognized for their novel approach to community forest management and advocacy. When the government announced plans to infill wetlands for development, the northern village mobilized supporters in academic and conservation fields and presented their case to the national human rights commission, prompting authorities to withdraw the proposal. Nearly 300 families manage the wetlands today, mainly using traditional methods, and protecting their livelihood and culture in the process. 

Evictions from forests and farmlands have risen in recent years in Thailand as villagers struggle to protect natural resources against tourism and mining, but the Ban Boon Rueang victory is part of a growing trend of successful community pushback. The United Nations recently awarded the village its Equator Prize for “outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” and for its use of social media campaigns to highlight forestry management models that are inspiring similar communities. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

6. New Zealand

New Zealand is welcoming its most diverse Parliament ever. Of 120 parliamentary seats, the ruling Labour Party won 64, more than half of whom are women, and 16 are Indigenous Maori. The incoming Parliament will feature the country’s first Latin American, Sri Lankan, and African MPs.

A remarkably diverse roster of new members will soon join their colleagues in the Parliament Buildings in Wellington, New Zealand, pictured here on July 5, 2020.

It also has the highest percentage of LGBTQ representation in the world, with 10% of the seats to be held by openly LGBTQ candidates, which surpasses the percentage in the United Kingdom’s Parliament. Massey University Professor Paul Spoonley noted the new leaders include several millennials as well. “What we have seen is a departure of many of the older, male, white MPs including some who have been in Parliament for over 30 years,” he said. (Reuters, Radio New ZealandAustralian Broadcasting Corp.)



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The Booker Prize 2020 shortlist is the most diverse to date — here’s what you need to know


When this year’s Booker Prize shortlist was announced, the first thing everyone was talking about was: where is Hilary Mantel? The second was: this is not business as usual.

This year’s shortlist is notable for featuring four debut novels, and four works by writers of colour, among them Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga, who was arrested in July in Harare for anti-government protests.

The majority of the writers are American or based in America, and despite the Booker being a UK prize, only one British writer made the cut: Douglas Stuart.

Among the novels vying for the 50,000-pound ($AU88,250) prize are an ode to the working-class women of Thatcher-era Glasgow, a tale about Ethiopia’s female freedom fighters in the 30s, and a dystopian vision of motherhood and community in an America ravaged by climate change.

There’s plenty to sink your teeth into.

To help you navigate the shortlist, we’ve asked three experts — Claire Nichols and Sarah L’Estrange from ABC RN’s The Book Show, and Kate Evans from ABC RN’s The Bookshelf — to share their thoughts on each book.

The winner of the Booker Prize will be announced on November 19.

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Alongside being a writer, Dangarembga is also a filmmaker, playwright, and the director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust.(Supplied: Allen & Unwin)
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The main character in this novel, Tambudzai, is best thought of as an anti-hero, although she describes herself as a failure. When we meet her, aged 40, she is unemployed and living in a youth hostel in Harare, Zimbabwe — despite having done well at school and landed a job in advertising. Her life’s downward spiral is a source of constant confusion for Tambudzai: the script has not gone to plan.

This Mournable Body is the final in a trilogy that has followed Tambudzai since she was a girl in 1960s and 70s pre-independence Rhodesia (in the novel Nervous Conditions), then into the jubilant independence era of Zimbabwe (The Book of Not). The story picks up in the 90s, when the gloss and promise of independence have worn off, although the physical and emotional scars from the war remain.

Tambudzai’s problems can be read as a parallel for the trajectory of the country as a whole; her pain is the pain of her countrymen and women. But the fact that the story follows a woman, not a man, means we also see the duel impacts of racism and sexism on her life. It is a destabilising read, particularly as her disappointments turn to despair, but it is a fascinating insight into how political forces in Zimbabwe affect the daily lives of ordinary people. SL

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

The book cover of The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, black and white graphics
Cook’s dystopian debut novel asks big questions about humanity itself.(Supplied: Simon & Schuster Australia)
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The New Wilderness begins with an unforgettable scene, as a lone woman gives birth to a dead child in the middle of a wild landscape. We soon learn that the woman is Bea, a former interior decorator who has escaped the polluted City for a precarious new life in the Wilderness State.

The Handmaid’s Tale meets Survivor in this compelling piece of speculative fiction, which presents a world catastrophically altered by climate change. Bea and her five-year-old daughter Agnes left the polluted City when the air became too toxic for Agnes to breathe. When we join them, the mother and daughter have spent four years with the Community, an experiment that started with 20 former City-dwellers living off the land in the last remaining area of wilderness.

Four years in, there are only 11 members of the Community left, and as with any group of people, there are annoyances, flirtations and fights. The author, Dianne Cook, is masterful at portraying the crumbling group dynamics in an environment where a moment’s inattention can have disastrous consequences. Mother Nature is always ready to strike — with a gushing river, a wild dust storm or circling coyotes just a moment away.

The New Wilderness is a powerful read that asks big questions about humanity itself. You’ll be hooked from the first page. CN

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

The book cover of The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, the outline of a black woman, brightly coloured background
The Shadow King is Mengiste’s second novel.(Supplied: Allen & Unwin)
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This novel, the first by someone of Ethiopian descent to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is set during the Italian invasion of 1935, and highlights the little-known history of the Ethiopian female fighters who defended their country against Mussolini’s forces alongside the men.

The story unfolds primarily through the prism of the young servant Hirut, who works in the house of upper-class couple Kidane and Aster. It is made clear that Hirut’s life is worth little and will amount to nothing beyond her obligation to serve others. But with the advent of war, she is taken to the frontlines to cook and clean for the soldiers — and it is here that her destiny changes, and she becomes a fighter.

The story also unfolds through vignettes about photographs taken during the war, radio reports, and stories about characters on the Italian side. In this way, the reader is invited to question what version of events makes it into history books. It is a passionate and compelling read about a war whose significance was perhaps lost in the subsequent horrors of World War II. SL

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

The book cover of Real Life by Brandon Taylor with an image of a young black man
Debut novelist Brandon Taylor is a black, queer, former biochemistry student.(Supplied: Faber Factory)
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Wallace is a twenty-something graduate student completing a biochemistry degree at an unnamed university in the American Midwest. He spends long hours in a lab, meticulously working to breed new strains of nematodes. It’s quiet, solitary work, and Wallace seems to carry that solitude with him wherever he goes. When socialising with groups of friends he is distant and uncomfortable, and as a black, queer man, he keenly feels his differences to the people around him.

The book is set over one summer weekend, when Wallace embarks on a new relationship with a fellow student, Miller. The relationship is at times passionate and tender, but also confusing and volatile. Miller insists he’s not gay, but aggressively pursues Wallace — who is dealing with demons from his own difficult past.

Real Life is written by debut novelist Brandon Taylor, himself a black, queer, former biochemistry student. Taylor says the first draft of the book, which deals with themes of racism and abuse, was written in just five weeks. For a debut work of fiction, it is remarkably assured and beautifully written. Wallace and his friends are fully-rounded, recognisable characters and Wallace/Taylor’s observations about the world around him are fresh and surprising. Real Life is a quietly powerful book that I loved. CN

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Book cover of shuggie bain by douglas stuart, a black and white image of a kid sitting on top of a pole
Shuggie Bain is set in the 1980s in Glasgow’s run-down public housing.(Supplied: Pan Macmillan)
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This is a novel you can hear as you read it: heavy with Glasgow accents and extravagant with swearing; cursing unemployment and useless husbands and lack of food and a woman who looks at your man the wrong way. It also has a smell, of the dregs of beer and last night’s grease, poverty and sadness.

But Agnes Bain, whose life and family is at the centre of the novel, makes sure her home is spick and span, her hair is done and that her own beauty and vivacity is on show. Her life is also shaped by the violence of despair and the furtive drinking of a truly dedicated alcoholic; a husband who has left in his black cab, stranding her in a grim suburb beside a freshly closed mine. This is early-80s Scotland, and Thatcher’s new world order.

Agnes’s assurance and defiance take effort to maintain, what with the grinding struggle to survive, the judgment of other women and the lure of the drink.

Her youngest son, Shuggie, still adores her, while her other children work out how to escape. His life, too, is not easy — a queer boy in an unforgiving landscape — and it’s his view of his mother that also shapes the book. And while the characters and challenges of these people make for a compelling story, it’s the texture and tenderness of the writing that make it something exciting and remarkable for a debut novel. KE

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

The book cover of Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, purple background, spikey green plant in foreground
Doshi is another debut novelist on the 2020 Booker shortlist.(Supplied: Penguin)
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Mothers, daughters and memory are at stake in this sharp-edged novel, whose fluid style slips over and around its spiky edges and barbed asides. It almost reads like a wry, smart memoir — as Antara grapples with her mother Tara’s mental decline.

Tara is forgetting things, but she remembers enough to humiliate her adult daughter, driving her mad with everyday irritation. But it’s Antara’s whole childhood that is at issue here, growing up in Puna, India, where there was nothing ‘benign’ about the neglect the child experienced. The two of them spent time in an Ashram, with Tara in thrall to a guru — but now, in the present, it’s difficult for Antara to express or confront or mediate her rage at these contested memories, when Tara herself is slipping away.

This novel is not simply a tussle between the two women. We meet Antara on her own terms, as she remakes herself away from her upbringing, paring away traces of the things she doesn’t want because, she says, “I wanted a home and marriage free of grey, fuzzy edges”. Her mother creates those smudged edges though, and she can’t escape them — so the story circles back to this complicated, intense relationship; to a present defined by an elusive past. KE

Tune in to ABC Radio National at 10:00am on Mondays for The Book Show and midday Fridays for The Bookshelf.



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New Zealand’s next Parliament is set to be the most diverse ever


Wellington: New Zealand’s next Parliament is set to be the most inclusive ever, with several people of colour, members from the rainbow communities and a high number of women.

The ruling Labour Party was handed a resounding mandate in the election over the weekend, as voters rewarded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her decisive response to COVID-19.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to media on her way to a meeting with her newly elected MPs at Parliament on Tuesday.Credit:Getty Images

Labour won 64 of the 120 parliamentary seats, and more than half of those are female candidates. It also has 16 indigenous Maori MPs, the first leader of African origin, Ibrahim Omar, and Vanushi Walters of Sri Lankan origin.

“This is the most diverse parliament we have ever had in terms of gender, and minority ethnic and indigenous representation,” said Professor Paul Spoonley from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University.



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New Zealand’s next Parliament is set to be the most diverse ever


Wellington: New Zealand’s next Parliament is set to be the most inclusive ever, with several people of colour, members from the rainbow communities and a high number of women.

The ruling Labour Party was handed a resounding mandate in the election over the weekend, as voters rewarded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her decisive response to COVID-19.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to media on her way to a meeting with her newly elected MPs at Parliament on Tuesday.Credit:Getty Images

Labour won 64 of the 120 parliamentary seats, and more than half of those are female candidates. It also has 16 indigenous Maori MPs, the first leader of African origin, Ibrahim Omar, and Vanushi Walters of Sri Lankan origin.

“This is the most diverse parliament we have ever had in terms of gender, and minority ethnic and indigenous representation,” said Professor Paul Spoonley from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University.



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