MIL-OSI Global: A memory pill? Cognitive neuroscience’s contributions to the study of memory

Source: The Conversation – Canada – By John Bergeron, Emeritus Robert Reford Professor and Professor of Medicine, McGill University

During the first weeks of the new year, resolutions are often accompanied by attempts to learn new behaviours that improve health. We hope that old bad habits will disappear and new healthy habits will become automatic.

But how can our brain be reprogrammed to assure that a new health habit can be learned and retained?


Read more: Making New Year’s resolutions personal could actually make them stick


Hebbian Learning

In 1949, Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb proposed the theory of Hebbian learning to explain how a learning task is transformed into a long-term memory. In this way, healthy habits become automatically retained after their continual repetition.

Synapses transmit electrical signals. Svitlana Pavliuk

Learning and memory are a consequence of how our brain cells (neurons) communicate with each other. When we learn, neurons communicate through molecular transmissions which hop across synapses producing a memory circuit. Known as long-term potentiation (LTP), the more often a learning task is repeated, the more often transmission continues and the stronger a memory circuit becomes. It is this unique ability of neurons to create and strengthen synaptic connections by repeated activation that leads to Hebbian learning.

Memory and the hippocampus

Understanding the brain requires investigation through different approaches and from a variety of specialities. The field of cognitive neuroscience initially developed through a small number of pioneers. Their experimental designs and observations led to the foundation for how we understand learning and memory today.

Donald Hebb’s contributions at McGill University remain the driving force to explain memory. Under his supervision, neuropsychologist Brenda Milner studied a patient with impaired memory following a lobectomy. Further studies with neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield enabled Milner to expand her study of memory and learning in patients following brain surgery.

Milner’s breakthrough occurred while studying a patient who had undergone removal of the hippocampus on both sides of the brain leading to amnesia. She noticed that the patient could still learn new tasks but could not transfer them to long-term memory. In this way, the hippocampus was identified as the site required for the transfer of short-term memory to long-term memory where Hebbian learning takes place.

Memorabilia from the 100th Birthday Symposium for Dr. Brenda Milner. Kathleen Dickson, Author provided

In 2014, at the age of 95, Milner won the Norwegian Kavli Prize in neuroscience for her 1957 discovery of the importance of the hippocampus to memory.

Also rewarded with the Kavli in 2014 was neuroscientist John O’Keefe, who discovered that the hippocampus also harboured place cells to create a cognitive map enabling us to go from one location to another through our memory. O’Keefe also received the 2014 Nobel Prize in medicine.

That repeated neuronal activation in the hippocampus actually leads to memory was uncovered by neuroscientist Tim Bliss; for this research, Bliss received the Lundbeck Foundation’s Brain Prize in 2016.

Taken together, Milner, Bliss and O’Keefe established the paradigm of Hebb and his famous axiom: “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Memory in non-human animals

Major advances in non-human organisms teach us about memory mechanisms that can be applied to humans. Columbia University’s Eric Kandel was awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in medicine for his astute choice of the sea slug (Aplysia) to understand Hebbian learning.

Kandel produced conclusive evidence that memory was a consequence of the repeated signalling to a neuron responding to a learning task that would trigger the production of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The end result was new protein expression leading to increases in synaptic connections.

The next leap forward occurred at McGill when molecular biologist Nahum Sonenberg uncovered a key mechanism that regulates memory formation in the hippocampus, namely, the protein synthesis initiation factor. The discovery revealed that during memory formation, it is the protein synthesis initiation factor in neurons of the hippocampus that affects the reprogramming necessary for the generation of the “wiring” of new synaptic connections.

A memory pill?

The work of Sonenberg shook the world of scientists working on how protein synthesis was controlled. One of the most prominent in the field, molecular biologist Peter Walter was contacted by Sonenberg. Together, they identified a chemical compound they named ISRIB that would affect the same protein synthesis initiation factor whose importance was discovered by Sonenberg.

The results were spectacular, with an amazing improvement of memory in mice after administration of ISRIB. Walter has now extended this to include memory restoration in mice recovering from brain trauma.

Today, any advances are eagerly scrutinized since memory disorders in humans — from age-associated memory impairment to dementia to Alzheimer’s — are at near pandemic levels in the elderly. The World Health Organization estimates 10 million patients per year are diagnosed with dementia alone with a total global number estimated at 50 million.

John Bergeron gratefully acknowledges Kathleen Dickson as co-author.

ref. A memory pill? Cognitive neuroscience’s contributions to the study of memory – http://theconversation.com/a-memory-pill-cognitive-neurosciences-contributions-to-the-study-of-memory-109707

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: Gillette’s #MeToo-inspired Super Bowl ad represents a cultural shift

Source: The Conversation – Canada – By Andrea Benoit, Academic Review Officer, University of Toronto

Gillette has already dropped what is likely to be the most talked about 2019 Super Bowl commercial. “We believe” refers directly to the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment and bullying, and the commercial has generated lots of buzz because of its use of images of “toxic masculinity.”

The ad depicts the ways that harmful forms of masculinity have become normalized, in relationships and the workplace and through media representations in TV shows, ads and news. It then asks men to be self-reflective about their attitudes and behaviour. Criticism for the ad has been harsh on social media, with some men indicating they would boycott the brand.

The new Gillette ad has made some men angry.

The commercial is on track to becoming one of the most disliked ever: a week after Gillette posted it on YouTube, it had more than 24 million views, 1.1 million dislikes and 658,000 likes. In facing its own perhaps complicit past in perpetuating damaging gender stereotypes in its advertising, Gillette has offered a behaviour-change challenge to men. It is a tactic that has instead made male consumers feel attacked, victimized and angry.

But is the ad meant to attract men or women? And in the face of such resistance, does the commercial have any potential to accomplish the social change that Gillette is asking men to make?

Cause marketing as a way to stand out

Gillette acknowledges that advertising plays a role in influencing culture. Indeed, advertising is one of the most prominent forms of social communication. However, advertising’s ultimate goal is always to grow sales and build brand identity and value, not to instigate social transformation.

Gillette’s commercial is an unusual example of the now ubiquitous commodification of social causes. However, it is relatively rare to see a social cause so explicitly embedded in advertising for products directed to men. And this one seems to be disliked by its target audience. This is a real problem for Gillette because they are aiming to refresh its 30-year-old brand.

Because many products are functionally effective and similar, the challenge is to differentiate similar products within a category. Enter cause marketing.

Cause marketing campaigns feature a consumer product that represents a partnership between a brand and a social cause. Consumers purchase the product and a portion of sales are donated to the social cause (sometimes the charity is the brand’s own). And a consumer movement is seemingly born.

Procter & Gamble, Gillette’s parent company, took this cause marketing approach in 2015. The #LikeAGirl advertising campaign for Always tampons challenged internalized female stereotypes with the aim of keeping girls’ confidence high during puberty and beyond.

Always #LikeAGirl ad campaign.

Reflecting consumers’ aspirations

Gillette’s new campaign is called “The Best Men Can Be”, an update of its tagline from 30 years ago, “The Best a Man Can Get.” It promises to donate $1 million per year for three years to American non-profit organizations dedicated to educating and helping men become their own “personal best.”

A great brand resonates with consumers at particular historical moments. Powerful advertising tells authentic stories to consumers about the function that consumer objects play in their lives, and their own place in the (capitalist) world in which we exist.

By invoking stories or myths about how the world works, and attaching beliefs and values to a product, a brand identity and values come to life, enacted in daily rituals within a cultural context in which these consumer goods have meaning to consumers.

Procter & Gamble’s #SharetheLoad ad for Ariel laundry detergent by BBDO topped the list of best world ad campaigns for two years in a row (2017-18).

Nike is an example of a brand that repeatedly accomplishes this. Its 2018 Colin Kaepernick ad touches on racial discrimination, the #Takeaknee movement and the transformative power of sport.

The Gillette ad instead enters the banal world of a man and his daily shaving routine. Gillette is not presenting an aspirational lifestyle choice in the same way Nike does.

Instead, the Gillette ad enters a man’s personal space, without his permission, and forces him to face his masculinity head-on. Gillette tells men that “something finally changed” as it flashes a clip of a newscaster speaking of “allegations of sexual harassment.” The ad imposes an inescapable self-reflection into their daily routine saying, “you can’t hide from it” anymore.

Men are now obliged when looking into the mirror to ask themselves, daily, if they are “the best” they can be. Unlike the Kaepernick Nike ad, this is not the aspirational story advertising typically tells us about our place in the world.

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

Instead, Gillette’s commercial calls for men’s painful contemplation about their daily lives, during their daily ritual of shaving. The ad is seemingly about shaving, but it is also about how men treat their wives, partners, friends, kids and colleagues.

This call for self-examination, now attached to the dull, unavoidable and very personal daily ritual of shaving, is making a lot of men uncomfortable. But it is precisely this kind of confrontation and introspection that is needed if any real change can take place. And it is this introspection that the women and men of the #MeToo moment have called for men to do.

Is the ad speaking to men or women?

Gillette’s approach is risky. It is a brand that has relied more on product functionality than creating a compelling brand story for 30 years.

The new Gillette ad is ostensibly speaking to men, using “our” and “we,” but is the ad speaking to men or is it directed towards women? Although men are picky about their razors, women generally do most of the household shopping.

Women are accustomed to associating lifestyle products with “feminist” social issues — breast cancer, positive media representations of female beauty — and they make consumer choices that appear to support these movements, a phenomenon sociologists Robert Goldman, Deborah Heath and Sharon L. Smith called “commodity feminism.”

But men are not used to seeing social causes attached to their favourite products in the same way. Does Gillette’s campaign represent a new starting point for accepting advertising that speaks to men about social issues? The Dove “Real Beauty” campaign in the mid-2000s marked a cultural shift in promotional culture directed at women. Does this Gillette ad represent the parallel for men?

A daily reflection and assessment of one’s attitudes connected to the cultural shift which #MeToo has helped to bring about might be a good start, “because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow” and they will inevitably need a close shave.

ref. Gillette’s #MeToo-inspired Super Bowl ad represents a cultural shift – http://theconversation.com/gillettes-metoo-inspired-super-bowl-ad-represents-a-cultural-shift-110080

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: The urgent need for Democrats to embrace progressive policies

Source: The Conversation – Canada – By Bruce J. Berman, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies and History, Queen’s University, Ontario

The vigorous agenda of social reform and expanded government services, particularly in health and higher education, promoted by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries, and now by a new class of Democrats in Congress, has much in common with mainstream European social democracy.

That senior Democratic party politicians perceive it as radical suggests that a big part of the party’s problems lie in its commitment to an ideology of free markets and deregulation of capital, and a concurrent lack of concern for issues of class and inequality.

This has left the Democratic Party’s liberalism excessively focused on issues of equal access for racial and ethnic minorities, women and sexual minorities.

It’s all created an opening for Republicans and the political right to denounce the party as led by disconnected “liberal elites” promoting “affirmative action” and “political correctness” while ignoring the interests of ordinary working- and middle-class Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks during a news conference with members of the Progressive Caucus in Washington on Nov. 12, 2018. Ocasio-Cortez is considered one of the new progressive faces among Democrats. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Democratic party needs a revised image grounded in a new reality that will address basic issues of inequality, access and fairness. The central focus of a progressive program of reform must be to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, regardless of their race, gender or sexuality, and expand opportunities for personal and social mobility.

Real campaign finance reform will be critical in levelling the playing field. Sanders and other politicians have demonstrated that it’s possible to raise substantial funds by accepting only small donations. It is better for the democratic process to raise $150 million from a million citizens than from 50 or fewer millionaires.

Tax corporations

In terms of economic policy, the value of public goods needs to be recognized again. A necessary first step will be to restore the tax on corporate profits to its previous level and refashion genuinely progressive income tax, returning even to the levels of the 1950s, a period marked by vigorous economic growth and increasing real income for most Americans.

This will make possible a significant increase in public revenue for public purposes.

This should be accompanied by a broad-based increase in the minimum wage and a restoration and reaffirmation of collective bargaining rights for public and private sector workers. A revival of anti-trust laws and a closer regulation of finance capital will restore competition, curb risky speculation and help prevent a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008.


Read more: How the 2008 financial crisis helped fuel today’s right-wing populism


Inequality is the underlying problem that is eroding social trust while devastating the well-being of individuals and communities across the country. After declining in the post-Second World War years, inequality since the 1980s has grown to grotesque proportions that have resulted in a tiny plutocracy with a combined wealth equal of more than 90 per cent of Americans.

In their book The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson document the heavy toll that persistent and growing inequality is taking on individuals, communities and on society as a whole..

Eroding prosperity

Further, in his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, author Robert D. Putnam vividly demonstrates how growing inequality and declining public resources have eroded the well-being of children and families in a mid-sized American city.

Renewed progressive policies need to make economic equality, health care and education central. The goal must be to eliminate poverty and discrimination that leave a large part of the population incapable of making the necessary productive contributions to tackle the challenges of the next 30 years.

Instead of access to health and education being rationed by cost, it must be enshrined as a fundamental right of citizenship and a critical foundation of the public interest.

In specific policy terms, a number of initiatives would flow from this commitment.

In addition to minimum wage, tax reforms and the restoration of collective bargaining, an educated population equipped with the skills required for the modern world is obviously of critical importance.

Public education must be reinforced with resources and up-to-date facilities. We need to reverse the trend of declining public support for secondary and higher education.

Policies that divert public resources to private schools managed by community groups and provide tax and financing incentives to profit-making companies across a range of trades — from beauty schools to training for medical assistants, paralegals and mechanics, many of which rely on federal funds for tuition — should be curtailed or eliminated.

Fund public education

Instead, public education must be funded in ways that reduce what has become a ruinous trend of student debt.

In its present form, the American health-care system is financed through a ramshackle mess of private and public funding that’s a laughing stock among other advanced countries.

It should be replaced by a coherent single-payer public health- care insurance system that provides quality levels of care for all citizens and regulates the behaviour and costs of the pharmaceutical industry.


Read more: Drug ads only help Big Pharma’s bottom line, so why are they allowed?


A reformed tax system that distributes individual and corporate responsibilities in a fair and equitable fashion would provide growing resources to meet the individual and collective needs of all Americans.

This is the time to begin implementing the policies to meet these urgent priorities.

Commentators on the right often complain that such ideas are too costly, that they’re unaffordable.

And it’s true — these are not priorities for the right. The right’s solution is to push the costs on to users.

But the result is that health care and higher education have become unaffordable for many Americans. And the institutions of U.S. democracy are the collective property of all citizens. A reformed tax system that distributes burdens in a fair and equitable fashion would provide more than enough resources to put health care and education within reach for American citizens.

The time has come for Democrats to start vigorously pushing these urgent priorities and restore the promise of a secure and decent future for all Americans.

ref. The urgent need for Democrats to embrace progressive policies – http://theconversation.com/the-urgent-need-for-democrats-to-embrace-progressive-policies-109180

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: Sign language needs policy protection in Ghana

Source: The Conversation – Canada – By Mama Adobea Nii Owoo, PhD Student, University of Toronto

In 1957, when Ghana gained independence from British colonial rule, African-American educator Andrew Foster established the first school for the Deaf in Ghana.

In so doing, Foster consolidated and echoed Kwame’s Nkrumah’s independence day declaration of freedom for Ghanaians. While Nkrumah championed African independence movements across the continent, Foster, a graduate of Gallaudet University in Washington, is the man who modelled equal education opportunities in Ghana.

Andrew Foster, centre, with his two most successful proteges: Seth Tetteh-Ocloo (left) from Ghana and Gabriel Adepoju (right), a Nigerian. Tetteh-Ocloo went on to lead the Ghana National Association for the Deaf. Courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives, Author provided

Today, Ghana has about 16 schools for the Deaf. However, equal educational opportunities elude Deaf people in Ghana and students encounter many challenges. Chief among them is the fact that Ghana has no formalized sign language policy and therefore doesn’t systematically or adequately fund sign language services in schools for Deaf people.

Ghana urgently needs an official Ghanaian Sign Language (GSL) policy. Such a move has the potential to humanize Deaf education and alleviate the linguistic discrimination that Deaf students face. Furthermore, the work of GSL educators with Deaf students would finally find the support it needs and deserves.

Multiple sign languages in Ghana

People who take hearing for granted may not have considered the fact that sign languages are languages and require safeguards — just like spoken languages, for the sake of people and communities who rely on them.

As a doctoral researcher of language policy, I study how Ghana implements educational language policy for speakers of minority languages.

In my research with sign language professionals, I have discovered that just as a multitude of spoken languages exist in Ghana (81 in total), the Ghanaian Deaf community is also linguistically diverse.

Sign language researcher Victoria Nyst has identified four sign languages in Ghana. Ghanaian Sign Language (GSL) is widely used in schools and is a spin-off from American Sign Language (ASL). But GSL incorporates some locally constructed signs.

Sign languages in Ghana. Author provided

GSL is estimated to be used by the majority of Deaf people in Ghana. But statistics about the Deaf in Ghana are not well documented.

The Ghana National Association for the Deaf (GNAD) says approximately 0.4 per cent out of Ghana’s population of almost 29 million is deaf, or 110,625 people; by contrast, the Ghana Statistical Service, reports 211,712 as deaf.

Research shows that sign language is often viewed as an aberration in Ghana. The Deaf are often derogatorily referred to as mumu, meaning dumb.

In this way, a mainstream Ghanaian way of seeing equates deafness and sign languages to a defective way of being and speaking.

No official sign language policy

In Ghana, the Persons with Disability Act, 2006 (Act 715) enshrines the rights and treatment of Persons with Disability (PWDs).

Yet when compared with regional and global disability legislations, Act 715 is seriously deficient for many reasons — among them, the fact that this act provides no policy pertaining to GSL.

Researchers have called for the Ghanaian government to strengthen local policy for PWDs and to fully conform to provisions outlined in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Ghana ratified this convention in 2012, but the country has yet to follow UNCRPD measures and protections to support sign language learning and promote the linguistic rights and identity of Deaf communities.

Schooling challenges

Due to inadequate interpretation and translation services in Ghanaian schools for the Deaf, Deaf students gradually forfeit schooling.

Schools serving Deaf students in Ghana have developed in a provisional and stopgap fashion. Schools offer varied levels of academic instruction and vocational skills training, but Deaf students receive the same instruction and national level assessments as their hearing counterparts and it’s up to the teachers to make it work.

Thus educators in schools for students who are Deaf work in a context common for many minority languages — as language policy researcher Terrence Wiley names it, a “null policy” context, with language needs met with a significant absence of policy. Educators develop de facto policies and strategies to address gaps and promote their students’ academic, social and emotional welfare to lessen marginalization the students experience.

Using GSL to resist ‘disciplinary power’

Educators and the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) are challenging stereotypes and empowering Deaf students to participate in policy surrounding their welfare.

For example, GNAD created a drama using GSL before the 2016 Ghanaian elections to promote awareness of civic rights. In the drama, Deaf people both taught the public about signing as a valid mode of communication and about how to vote.

Drama created for 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections by Ghana National Association of the Deaf.

The creation of GSL dictionaries for use offline and online is another instance of unofficial language policy and planning.

The recent introduction of sign language into a mainstream school curriculum is an unprecedented attempt by sign language educators to break communication barriers between Deaf and hearing people in Ghana.

But the fact that instruction in Ghana’s specialized schools for the Deaf is still based on curriculum for hearing schools illustrates that Ghana’s language policy is still being used as what language policy researcher James Tollefson calls “a form of disciplinary power.”

This is to say the institutional neglect of a language policy supporting the needs of Deaf people continues to serve as a means of differentiating the Deaf from the hearing.

Much more can and must be done to recognize GSL. The Ghanaian government must implement accessibility standards to counter the alienation Deaf students face.

ref. Sign language needs policy protection in Ghana – http://theconversation.com/sign-language-needs-policy-protection-in-ghana-109774

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: Memo to Iowa congressman: Western civilization was never just western

Source: The Conversation – Canada – By J.M. Opal, Associate Professor of History and Chair, History and Classical Studies, McGill University

“White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

These sentiments, shared by U.S. Congressman Steve King of Iowa in an interview with the New York Times, have unleashed a political firestorm.

Taking heat from all sides, King sought shelter behind the last part of his indecorous cri de coeur. He says he was referring only to “western civilization” when he asked “how did that language become offensive,” and not to “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”. In other words, he’s just defending “western civilization.” What’s wrong with that?

Nothing, really. Except that much of western civilization — a catch-all term for the wealth, power and culture of Europe and North America — came from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America.

There never was a West without the Rest.

Explorers and exporters

The first European nation to venture beyond the Mediterranean world was Portugal, a country born in conflict with the Muslim powers of North Africa at the tail end of the Crusades. During the 1300s and 1400s, the Portuguese sailed to the nearby archipelagos of Madeira and Cape Verde, using Moorish and West African slaves to grow sugar.

Guided by the compass, a Chinese invention, the Portuguese rounded the Cape and moved into the Indian Ocean, bringing back spices, silks and silver. Some of their countrymen took the south Atlantic currents to Brazil, from which they returned with Indigenous-grown corn. This crop flourished back home, feeding a population boom in Portugal much as American potatoes later did in Britain.

By the mid-1500s, Portugal had a string of trading posts and sugar plantations along the African coast and offshore islands, all worked by Black slaves. They also exported slaves to Brazil and the Spanish Caribbean, transforming the demography of the New World and the economy of the Old World.

Growing rich with sugar and slaves

The Protestant upstarts of Europe, the Dutch and English, followed suit around 1600. Their ships attacked Portuguese and Spanish colonies from Sumatra to Santo Domingo, and their overseas investors copied Iberian practices by using enslaved Africans and Americans to grow cash crops.

An English expedition led by Francis Drake captured the port town of Cidade Velha in the Cape Verde islands that had recently belonged to the Crown of Portugal in November 1585 during the newly declared Anglo-Spanish War. Giovanni Battista Boazio, CC BY

In many ways, the transfer of world power from southern to northern Europe happened on the far eastern end of the Caribbean, on the tiny island of Barbados.

After learning how to grow foodstuffs from Indigneous captives taken along the Essequibo River of present-day Guyana, the British colonizers of the island resettled Portuguese sugar growers (and their highly skilled slaves) displaced by Dutch attacks on Brazil and Angola.

By 1660, Barbados looked much like Cape Verde 100 years before, with a small European minority growing rich off the backs of an enslaved African majority. This model then moved to Jamaica, the Carolinas and other parts of the British Americas.

Experiments on slaves

The British got more out of their New World colonies than sugar and tobacco. For in America, far away from the lawful subjects of Christendom, they could try out new theories and ideas on Black or Indigenous bodies, even if those theories and ideas had Black or Indigenous roots.

For example, British doctors conducted all kinds of experiments on Caribbean slaves during the late 1600s and early 1700s. Among their most important projects was inoculation against smallpox, which West African and Ottoman peoples had practised long before Europeans.

By the 1730s, Barbados had controlled smallpox by subjecting every slave to inoculation. This policy gradually made its way back to Europe, where doctors had to be more careful with their patients. After decades of mass inoculations, Dr. Edward Jenner switched from using live smallpox material to vaccinia, and one of the great terrors of humankind began to fade away.

Europeans plus the rest of the world

Sugar, corn, potatoes, vaccination: these were just some of the benefits that Europeans took from Africa and the Americas from the 1500s to the 1700s. They made Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands richer in every sense, paving the way for the intellectual and political advances of the Enlightenment, industrialization and the democratic revolutions.

Would Europeans have made such progress anyway? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know, because it never happened.

A photo Rep. Steve King sent out in a tweet in 2016 to show his support for far right Dutch politician, Geert Wilder. Twitter

What did happen was that the various peoples of western Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas came into constant contact with European expansionists, provoking all kinds of environmental, medical, social and economic change.

In short, King’s version of the past is a thin, bleached caricature of vast human dramas in which a huge array of cultures and nations played a role.

Because his Republican colleagues in the U.S. Congress are eager to blame him for their party’s poor reputation with the growing number of racialized voters, King’s political days are numbered. Now, it is up to those colleagues to tell better truths about our origins and connections, embracing rather than erasing the messy universality of the world we have inherited.

ref. Memo to Iowa congressman: Western civilization was never just western – http://theconversation.com/memo-to-iowa-congressman-western-civilization-was-never-just-western-109949

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: There’s no Brexit Plan B – this is still Plan May

Source: The Conversation – UK – By Kenneth Armstrong, Professor of European Law and Director of the Centre for European Legal Studies, University of Cambridge

In her statement to the House of Commons, the UK prime minister has failed to offer any real clarity on where her government’s Brexit policy is heading. Rather than unveiling a Plan B, she set out Plan May with some procedural bells and whistles.

Number 10 followed her statement by saying there will not be another meaningful vote on Brexit until February.

Significantly, the prime minister has refused to take a no-deal Brexit off the agenda. Following parliament’s decisive vote not to approve the texts of the withdrawal agreement and political declaration negotiated between the UK and the EU back in November, a no-deal Brexit is now the default position unless something else changes.

Three things could change. First, with the March 29 deadline looming without a Brexit deal, parliament could decide to shift the goalposts by requiring the government to seek an extension of the Article 50 negotiation period. This procedural device was originally proposed in a private member’s bill promoted by Conservative MP Nick Boles, but it is likely to be superseded by an alternative proposal from Labour MP Yvette Cooper in which a refusal by parliament to approve the texts agreed between the UK and the EU would lead to a request to extend the negotiation period.

In terms of Article 50, the UK can make such a request, but it still needs the unanimous consent of the EU27. Assuming that consent was given, it would simply delay a no-deal Brexit. Something would have to happen during this extension to change the parliamentary arithmetic to produce a majority to back a deal. The most obvious way of doing that would be if a general election was held, forcing the political parties to lay out their visions of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Former Conservative leader William Hague has been talking up the possibility of an early election. The risk, however, would be that a divided nation produced a hung parliament with no better consensus on what is in the national interest.

A different possibility would be to make revocation of the Article 50 withdrawal notification the new default. This wouldn’t just take a no-deal Brexit off the table. Any failure by parliament to approve a deal would mean that parliament instructed government to bring the withdrawal process to an end. Following a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union in December, this is a real alternative. The problem is that this goes further than changing the default on Brexit; it reverses Brexit itself. It is hard to see how this could occur without another referendum. And, as the prime minister made clear in her statement, she believes that no majority exists in the House of Commons for another referendum.

But even if a referendum were to take place following parliament’s failure to approve a deal, the referendum would be a straight choice between remaining in the EU and a no-deal Brexit. So even on this scenario, a no-deal Brexit could still occur.

Corbyn has refused to enter talks until no-deal Brexit is ruled out. PA

The third option is to focus on substance. Here the prime minister identified the Irish backstop, the future relationship, and protecting social, environmental and citizens rights as areas where action might need to be taken. Leaving aside the issues of rights where the UK is in a position to take unilateral action, any “Plan B” would need to address the Irish Protocol contained in the withdrawal agreement and the future relationship set out in the political declaration. Changes to the Irish backstop means opening up a legal text which the EU has said it will not do. Almost all the negotiation time in 2018 was spent trying to resolve this issue.

But even in terms of the hard numbers, flipping the votes of the DUP and Brexiteers who objected to the backstop is unlikely to give the prime minister the majority she would need. She would still need a wider coalition to either accept the deal or at least abstain rather than voting against it. That’s why attention still needs to be paid to the future relationship.

What the prime minister has offered, however, is simply to involve parliament and voices outside of parliament more closely in shaping the UK’s position on the future relationship with the EU, with the important caveat that it is “government’s responsibility to negotiate” with the EU. In short, while parliament and the devolved administrations – may expect to be better engaged, the government does not intend to hand control of Brexit over to MPs. It still appears to be Plan May.

ref. There’s no Brexit Plan B – this is still Plan May – http://theconversation.com/theres-no-brexit-plan-b-this-is-still-plan-may-110140

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: How the Trump brand is faring, two years after the president’s inauguration

Source: The Conversation – UK – By Sian Rees, Associate Professor in Public Relations, Marketing and Branding, Swansea University

Donald Trump’s presidency has been a rocky one to say the least. Facing controversy, competition and more, Trump’s approval rating has only once managed to reach the 45% he achieved at his inauguration in January 2017.

Trump is a very different kind of politician, one who relied on his businessman brand, rather than a political background, to win the White House. From the very beginning of his campaign, he has used commercial branding principles to create loyalty and desire around strong brand values. Even before announcing he would run, Trump trademarked the slogan “Make America Great Again”, and has already trademarked “Keep America Great” for a re-election campaign.

Trump has always been good at branding. Building on the success of his father’s real estate business, Trump made his name focusing on luxury tower blocks in Manhattan, including the iconic 58-floor Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. In 1987 he published The Art of the Deal, which cemented him as a celebrity businessman. This fame was later bolstered by his hosting of US television programme The Apprentice, as well as other frequent media appearances.

Forbes now estimates Trump’s net worth to be US$3.1 billion, with his “brand businesses” – which license the Trump name to buildings and other products for a fee – worth US$170m of that.

Trump the brand

To be successful, a brand must be two things: visually ubiquitous and “authentic”. Logos, symbols and names must be repeated in physical environments and communications that build the brand’s authenticity. An obvious example is Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan being embroidered on red trucker hats, which he himself models frequently at political rallies, which makes his branding seem more genuine.

The ability to be perceived as authentic comes from avoiding a traditional, polished approach. Instead authentic brands are more transparent, show “warts and all”, and are imbued with personal meaning. Consumers will see a brand or product as authentic when they feel they can identify with it, and when they feel that there has been creativity and sincerity in the process of its creation.

For Trump, this authenticity is frequently bolstered through his language and impulsive use of social media. Whether we agree with his sentiments or not, there is an authenticity to Trump’s brand voice. What you hear, is what you get. Trump is a master of short, sharp phrases – “drain the swamp” and “build the wall”, for example – which are easily memorable and appeal directly to the patriotic, protectionist ideology of his middle American voters.

This type of simple, of-the-people language has continued into his presidency too. Trump’s January 2018 State of the Union address was a rousing, yet straightforward, speech that focused on a core brand message of American patriotism: “This is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.” This theme was repeated later that year in his address to the United Nations, where he withdrew from a number of UN initiatives, emphasising that “America is governed by Americans.

The American Dream

The idea that Trump is the only one able to give everyone the American dream is fundamental to his political brand. In his inaugural address Trump claimed that America was a successful nation that had suffered “carnage” at the hands of other countries, Washington politicians and terror groups. American workers were left without jobs, factories shut down and the country’s wealth stolen and dispersed internationally.

Trump presented a powerful business vision and plan, positioning himself as a leader ready to deliver actions and not words. He would put “America First”, protect the American people and create jobs for American workers. The speech was highly evocative of the American dream, with Trump emphasising that his election would put the “forgotten men and women” of America back in power:

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

The authenticity Trump achieved from positioning himself as a symbol of the American dream based on the success of the Trump commercial brand) is impressive. However, according to Forbes the Trump corporation is currently in decline, with a US$2 billion reduction of the organisation’s net worth. Forbes attributes this partly to global devaluation of commercial property space due to e-commerce, but also to the fact that Trump’s polarising politics have moved the brand on from being associated with luxury to representing “divisiveness, embarrassment and questionable morals”, as one of their sources put it.

Associations are one of the strongest ways in which brands affirm their values and encourage users to align with them. Think of Coca-Cola’s clever Christmas marketing, or Nike’s success in aligning with top athletes. Successful brands are in tune with their stakeholders’ concerns, and the society and environment in which they operate. But big brands including Nascar, the PGA tour and more, have pulled away from the Trump brand for fear of being aligned with the wrong values.

The question for Trump as he heads into the second half of his presidential term is whether the relationship between the commercial brand and the political brand has run its course. Mounting dissatisfaction with his xenophobic and misogynistic views may mean he becomes inauthentic for a growing number of American voters, and even the Trump organisation has developed business propositions without the Trump name. The current partial government shutdown means that it is not only the commercial Trump brand which is in trouble. The president’s perceived ability to be able to deliver the American dream is at serious risk too, and this is likely to undermine any bid for a second term.

ref. How the Trump brand is faring, two years after the president’s inauguration – http://theconversation.com/how-the-trump-brand-is-faring-two-years-after-the-presidents-inauguration-109682

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: How the Trump brand is fairing, two years after the president’s inauguration

Source: The Conversation – UK – By Sian Rees, Associate Professor in Public Relations, Marketing and Branding, Swansea University

Donald Trump’s presidency has been a rocky one to say the least. Facing controversy, competition and more, Trump’s approval rating has only once managed to reach the 45% he achieved at his inauguration in January 2017.

Trump is a very different kind of politician, one who relied on his businessman brand, rather than a political background, to win the White House. From the very beginning of his campaign, he has used commercial branding principles to create loyalty and desire around strong brand values. Even before announcing he would run, Trump trademarked the slogan “Make America Great Again”, and has already trademarked “Keep America Great” for a re-election campaign.

Trump has always been good at branding. Building on the success of his father’s real estate business, Trump made his name focusing on luxury tower blocks in Manhattan, including the iconic 58-floor Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. In 1987 he published The Art of the Deal, which cemented him as a celebrity businessman. This fame was later bolstered by his hosting of US television programme The Apprentice, as well as other frequent media appearances.

Forbes now estimates Trump’s net worth to be US$3.1 billion, with his “brand businesses” – which license the Trump name to buildings and other products for a fee – worth US$170m of that.

Trump the brand

To be successful, a brand must be two things: visually ubiquitous and “authentic”. Logos, symbols and names must be repeated in physical environments and communications that build the brand’s authenticity. An obvious example is Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan being embroidered on red trucker hats, which he himself models frequently at political rallies, which makes his branding seem more genuine.

The ability to be perceived as authentic comes from avoiding a traditional, polished approach. Instead authentic brands are more transparent, show “warts and all”, and are imbued with personal meaning. Consumers will see a brand or product as authentic when they feel they can identify with it, and when they feel that there has been creativity and sincerity in the process of its creation.

For Trump, this authenticity is frequently bolstered through his language and impulsive use of social media. Whether we agree with his sentiments or not, there is an authenticity to Trump’s brand voice. What you hear, is what you get. Trump is a master of short, sharp phrases – “drain the swamp” and “build the wall”, for example – which are easily memorable and appeal directly to the patriotic, protectionist ideology of his middle American voters.

This type of simple, of-the-people language has continued into his presidency too. Trump’s January 2018 State of the Union address was a rousing, yet straightforward, speech that focused on a core brand message of American patriotism: “This is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.” This theme was repeated later that year in his address to the United Nations, where he withdrew from a number of UN initiatives, emphasising that “America is governed by Americans.

The American Dream

The idea that Trump is the only one able to give everyone the American dream is fundamental to his political brand. In his inaugural address Trump claimed that America was a successful nation that had suffered “carnage” at the hands of other countries, Washington politicians and terror groups. American workers were left without jobs, factories shut down and the country’s wealth stolen and dispersed internationally.

Trump presented a powerful business vision and plan, positioning himself as a leader ready to deliver actions and not words. He would put “America First”, protect the American people and create jobs for American workers. The speech was highly evocative of the American dream, with Trump emphasising that his election would put the “forgotten men and women” of America back in power:

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

The authenticity Trump achieved from positioning himself as a symbol of the American dream based on the success of the Trump commercial brand) is impressive. However, according to Forbes the Trump corporation is currently in decline, with a US$2 billion reduction of the organisation’s net worth. Forbes attributes this partly to global devaluation of commercial property space due to e-commerce, but also to the fact that Trump’s polarising politics have moved the brand on from being associated with luxury to representing “divisiveness, embarrassment and questionable morals”, as one of their sources put it.

Associations are one of the strongest ways in which brands affirm their values and encourage users to align with them. Think of Coca-Cola’s clever Christmas marketing, or Nike’s success in aligning with top athletes. Successful brands are in tune with their stakeholders’ concerns, and the society and environment in which they operate. But big brands including Nascar, the PGA tour and more, have pulled away from the Trump brand for fear of being aligned with the wrong values.

The question for Trump as he heads into the second half of his presidential term is whether the relationship between the commercial brand and the political brand has run its course. Mounting dissatisfaction with his xenophobic and misogynistic views may mean he becomes inauthentic for a growing number of American voters, and even the Trump organisation has developed business propositions without the Trump name. The current partial government shutdown means that it is not only the commercial Trump brand which is in trouble. The president’s perceived ability to be able to deliver the American dream is at serious risk too, and this is likely to undermine any bid for a second term.

ref. How the Trump brand is fairing, two years after the president’s inauguration – http://theconversation.com/how-the-trump-brand-is-fairing-two-years-after-the-presidents-inauguration-109682

MIL OSI – Global Reports

MIL-OSI Global: Is there any point in recycling?

Source: The Conversation – UK – By Katy Wheeler, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Essex

To sort or not to sort, that is the question. Lots of people wonder whether it’s really worth their time and effort to separate, wash and store recyclable materials – especially if it takes more energy to recycle, or if the plastics sent for recycling end up in overseas landfill. The truth is, the issue is complex, and even experts can’t agree on the economic and environmental benefits of recycling.

There are four popular arguments, typically used by organisations and individuals to promote recycling: that it reduces landfill waste, that it saves public money, that it creates jobs and that it encourages consumers to reduce waste in the first place. Let’s consider each of these in turn.

Recycling reduces landfill waste

A landfill site in Essex, 2011. Katy Wheeler., Author provided

Images of putrefying waste in landfill sites, generating greenhouse gas emissions and polluting the environment, are one of the most compelling reasons for recycling. The 1999 European Landfill Directive set targets to reduce biodegradable waste, and in response the UK government increased tax on landfill disposal, introducing an escalating duty, which currently sits at £88.95 per tonne.

Then, in 2003, the Waste and Recycling Act established kerbside collection of recyclable materials. Rising levels of recycling and incineration, as well as the escalating landfill tax, have certainly reduced the proportion of waste dumped on landfill sites in the UK.

But the National Audit Office revealed that some of the plastics that residents separate for recycling are being exported overseas, to places such as Malaysia and Vietnam, where there are insufficient checks to ensure this material is actually recycled. The industry is also facing investigation for fraud and corruption, over these matters. So it could be that millions of tonnes of UK recycling is simply ending up in landfill in other parts of the world.


Read more: China bans foreign waste – but what will happen to the world’s recycling?


Part of the problem is that there are limited facilities to recycle mixed plastics in the UK. It costs a lot of money to separate and recycle different types of plastic, using specialist machinery. But there is infrastructure for plastic bottle recycling in the UK, which is why many council schemes historically only collected this type of plastic.

Recycling saves public money

It costs a lot of money for local authorities to manage household waste. Disposal facilities owned by private companies, such as Veolia and SITA, charge local authorities gate fees per tonne of waste – around £107 per tonne for landfill and £86 per tonne for incineration. Local authorities in England produced 22.4m tonnes of waste in 2017, of which 45% was recycled – so that’s a lot of money saved.

Variations in collection systems across England and in material streams (such as paper, glass, cans) make it difficult to predict the cost per tonne of recycling, but it does cost significantly less than disposal, because the material can be sold. Aluminium cans are one of the more profitable materials in your waste and are sold by local authorities or waste contractors to be melted down and made into new cans.

Crushing it. Shutterstock.

In the UK, campaigns such as Recycle for London’s Nice Save use a moral message to emphasise the savings that local authorities can make when people recycle. But this is partly because laws such as the landfill tax have made recycling the cheaper option. The prices of different recyclable materials can fluctuate, which can limit the savings made. But this depends on the contracts local authorities strike with private waste management companies, and who takes on the risk.

In any case, UK citizens might wonder why taxpayers foot the bill for recycling, when in other parts of Europe producers are responsible. The government’s new waste strategy for England does include plans to extend responsibility for packaging to producers, by introducing a deposit scheme for bottles and asking producers to pay to cover the cost of recycling. But it’s not clear how this will work with existing private waste contracts.

Recycling creates jobs

The charity Green Alliance claimed that recycling and reuse could create over 200,000 new jobs in the UK. Compared to disposal, recycling does create jobs, because waste sorted by consumers provides feed stock for an economy in global materials. How consumers sort their waste – whether in one box or separate boxes – leads to different supply chains and labour processes.

For example, if you’re putting all of your dry recyclables into one box, these materials will need to be taken to a special facility that employs people to sort them by hand, alongside machine processing.

Dirty work. Stoyan Yotov/Shutterstock.

Many jobs in the recycling industry are low skilled and dirty work. They are often performed by migrant labour, or within the precarious informal economy overseas. Yet there are also mid-skilled, professional jobs – such as public and private waste service officers, who manage and supervise operations – and these opportunities will grow if the government creates incentives for producers to use recyclable materials, or invests in systems to promote reuse.

Recycling encourages waste reduction

There are, of course, more effective ways of dealing with waste than recycling. Reusing, reducing and preventing waste – for example, by choosing products that are less packaged, refusing disposable coffee cups or buying secondhand – are all better options. Environmental organisations and influencers have targeted keen recyclers with this message, in the hope that they will take further steps to live more sustainably.

But there are only limited changes a person can make to their shopping habits, in a marketplace where packaging is embedded within infrastructures of provision. So responsible waste management is really a responsibility shared between governments, producers, local authorities, waste companies and citizens. In particular, the companies that create the materials that become household waste have huge power to reduce it.

On the whole, it probably is worth the effort to sort your waste, despite some problematic practices, because recycling does drive down the amount of waste going to landfill and demand for recycling services will help drive improvements and oversight. There’s still a long way to go, before the UK can manage its waste sustainably as a society – and it’ll only get there if governments and citizens keep up their efforts to improve this process.

ref. Is there any point in recycling? – http://theconversation.com/is-there-any-point-in-recycling-109550

MIL OSI – Global Reports