Tensions and tunnels in an ever-changing border

Along the California-Mexico border (CNN)The borderlands of California and Mexico change dramatically as one drives toward the Pacific Ocean. The Imperial Sand Dunes give way to majestic mountain peaks and, eventually, the lush hills of San Diego.

The scenery reminded me of what Big Bend National Park ranger Michael Ryan told us hundreds of miles before we reached this part of the southern border.
“It’s not just one border,” Ryan said. “It changes, depending on where you are.”
    Ryan has lived along the southern border for nearly 30 years. But after a nearly 2,000-mile journey from south Texas to where the southern border reaches the Pacific Ocean, it seemed like Ryan’s words just don’t refer to the physical changes.
    The southern border is a dynamic environment, culturally and environmentally. It’s constantly evolving.

    Alicia

    Alicia Martin recalls the days, as a young girl, when a group of friends would freely run across the border to buy ice cream from a vendor on the Mexican side of the border.
    “We would just walk across, wave at the guy and go back. That’s it,” Alicia Martin said. “So this thing of a line. A border. A fence. A wall. I mean it doesn’t compute for us.”
    Those days are long gone, and the Martins know it’s not coming back either.
    The US State Department warns that the Mexican state of Sonora, which includes Nogales, is a “key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades,” and encourages American citizens to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours.
    But the Martins stress that the neighborhoods around their restaurant are safe, and say that because the borderlands are often painted as a wild and dangerous place it hurts development and growth.

    Building Trump’s wall: For Texans, it’s complicated

    The migrant’s trail: Hope, horror and hidden cameras

    What the border really looks like

    Photos: Perspectives at the Border

    After September 11, when border security became a higher priority, the Martins say intensified immigration controls and the fear of border violence dramatically effected tourism to Nogales.
    “It was like somebody came in and flipped a switch. There was nobody in town,” Martin said.
    La Roca struggled to keep its doors open. Alicia Martin’s uncle opened the restaurant 45 years ago and the thought of going out of business was painful. The couple held on and now they’re starting to see business and the energy of this border town come back to life.
    With diplomatic tensions between the Trump administration and the Mexican government starting to escalate, the Martins worry about what will happen next.
    Chris Martin argues that throwing up trade barriers, dismantling NAFTA and building walls will only bring back more depressing days.
    “They are such harsh approaches. You are treating a symptom,” Chris Martin said. “It’s education, it’s economic security, it’s economic strength that is going to keep people from migrating in droves from one country to another.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/politics/border-series-california/index.html

    Wrong about globalization

    (CNN)You can’t turn off technological revolutions. Nor is there a quick fix to stop business from going to other countries. Tariffs on China will simply mean that production will come from some other developing country.

    The best approach to the world we are living in is not denial but empowerment. Countries should recognize that the global economy and the technological revolution require large, sustained national efforts to equip workers with the skills, capital and infrastructure they need to succeed. Nations should embrace an open world, but only as long as they are properly armed to compete in it. And that requires smart, effective — and very expensive — national policies, not some grand reversal of globalization.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/us/wrong-about-globalization-zakaria/index.html

      Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue: the year Amy Adams missed out on an Oscar

      Poor Amy Adams this year the acclaimed star of Nocturnal Animals and Arrival failed to get a nomination. Nobody expected it, least of all Vanity Fair

      The Vanity Fair Hollywood issue has become a grand tradition: a shimming high point of the annual awards season, when the years hottest screen talents hop off the gruelling promotional schedule thats come to dictate their every move and wallow in an afternoon of unbridled glamour. If you appear on the cover of the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue, you know youve made it. If you appear on the cover of the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue dressed as the novelty pepper mill you got in the office Secret Santa as Diane Keaton did last year then you know youve really made it.

      At first, the cover of the 2017 Hollywood issue looks like business as usual. As usual, its been photographed by Annie Leibovitz. As usual, the cover features a mixture of A-list talent (Natalie Portman), breakout stars (Ruth Negga) and a handful of filler attendees placed there solely to confuse anyone who sees the cover 20 years from now. And, as usual, the only instruction given to the cover stars appears to be: Youre bored, youre exhausted, youre getting a little bit cross and youre starting to need a wee.

      However, inspect the cover and youll see a couple of things that distinguish it from all the others. The first is that, inexplicably, most of the actors have been made to wear clothes the same colour as the background. This means that, at first glance, all you see are a bunch of disembodied heads floating around, which is slightly disconcerting.

      The second is Amy Adams. Oh, poor Amy Adams. In its unfolded newsstand form, the cover of the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue is dedicated to the four biggest guns. Theres Lupita Nyongo, best supporting actress winner in 2014. Theres Natalie Portman, best actress winner in 2011. Theres Emma Stone, nominated in 2015 and arguably the best actress frontrunner this year.

      And then theres Amy Adams.

      Shes the first thing your eye is drawn to. Shes tall so tall that she obscures the Y in Vanity Fair but also relaxed. Shes leaning back confidently, a look of wry amusement playing across her lips. She is literally the same shape as an Oscar statuette, for crying out loud. Here she is, the lauded star of two of the buzziest films of awards season, effortlessly outshining her award-winning peers. To look at her on the cover of Vanity Fair is to see a woman who knows how good she is. Shes already been nominated for five Oscars, and this is bound to be the year she finally seals the deal. Ive got this, shes thinking. Im a lock.

      Amy Adams was not nominated for a single Oscar this year.

      Clearly, this is an outrage. Amy Adams wasnt nominated for her stagey, imperious role in Nocturnal Animals. Worse still, she wasnt nominated for her empathetic, nuanced role in Arrival a blockbuster film thats taken almost $200m worldwide and (according to Rotten Tomatoes) was even more critically acclaimed than the beloved La La Land. Amy Adams didnt just deserve a nomination this year. She deserved a statuette.

      Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/jan/27/vanity-fair-hollywood-issue-amy-adams-oscar-nomination

      V for Vendetta, Fahrenheit 451, and five other books that reflect Trump’s America

      Is Nineteen Eighty-Four too obvious? Readers suggest books with the rise of a US oligarchy, alternative facts and a president who wont live in the White House

      George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four has seen a surge in popularity since the election of Donald Trump, but other dystopian works of fiction are available. Following on from Alex Herns suggestions on Thursday, our readers offered the novels they think best capture the spirit of the times.

      V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

      To be sure, the management is very bad. In fact, let us not mince words the management is terrible! Weve had a string of embezzlers, frauds, liars and lunatics making a string of catastrophic decisions. This is plain fact.

      But who elected them? It was you! You who appointed these people! You who gave them the power to make your decisions for you!

      Clearly, we have elected the bad management that sits in office today, making catastrophic decisions. V for Vendetta depicts a state run by a dictator who rose to power after starting as an elected official, surrounding himself with people who think like him and are all too willing to carry out his extreme agenda.

      Laurel Jones, Portland, Oregon

      The Iron Heel by Jack London

      The
      The Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft factory in Untertuerkheim, near Stuttgart, in 1904. Photograph: AP

      .

      The novel accurately predicts the rise of the oligarchy in the US and the methods employed to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. From the bankrupting of small business owners and the subsequent wiping out of the middle classes, to favoured unions selling out their peers, Jack London predicted it all. The 1% existed then, and the 1% still exists now.

      As a bonus, the novels primary protagonist is an educated woman by the name of Avis Everhard, which in 1908 was a pretty big deal, given that women did not even have the vote.

      Suzi Smith, Edinburgh

      If This Goes On … by Robert A Heinlein

      When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked.

      A dystopian future, where psychological techniques are used to evaluate and manipulate the population. A religious dictator controls the US, and is eventually overthrown by the military. But Heinleins psychodynamics manipulating populations by systems of mathematics that make use of semantic indices for words quantification of the emotional impact of one word-choice over another in a given context looks much like the work done by Cambridge Analytica to assist Trump and Farage. The respected Stanford academic Michal Kosinski seems to have made psychodynamics a reality, and now Steve Bannon and Breitbart are using his ideas to rebuild fascism.

      David Holmes, Newark

      The Limits of the World by Andrew Raymond Drennan

      North
      A template for Trumps America? North Korean soldiers gather at Munsu Hill to lay flowers in front of statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP

      .

      Painting slogans on walls is hard to keep quiet. Too many people see it. They tell their neighbours who tell other people at the market. Rumour becomes fact very quickly.

      And what about our facts?

      Han tried to smile, but felt it turning into a smirk, the kind he had seen senior officers make over the years. Our facts are better, comrade secretary. He let the smirk drift from his face: he was surprised how easy it was to sound like them.

      This is a short conversation about some anti-establishment graffiti that appears in Pyongyang. It entirely resonates with the recent alternative facts debacle. The book, set in Pyongyang, consistently throws up draconian procedures of government and rules that are cropping up in Trumps rhetoric. There are terrifying similarities between the DPRK and what could be in store for the US over the next four years.

      Joseph Martin-Kelly, 32, London

      The Penultimate Truth by Philip K Dick

      Its the third world war and millions live underground, producing robots for the conflict raging on the surface. TV is piped down to them, describing how the war is progressing.

      But in reality the war is long over, and the upper society are living comfortable lives in mansions on massive estates maintained by the robots manufactured below the surface. Every now and again, they have robot skirmishes to determine who gets the nicest area to live. To maintain this, they create fake media and lies, even rewriting the history of WWII.

      The fake news and lies are reminiscent of the Trumps presidency alternative facts, but the real uncomfortable similarity is that, unlike in Nineteen Eight-Four or Brave New World, the elite arent violent, moralistic or even overtly nasty; they just do all this to maintain the status quo of their nice lifestyles. I dont think Trump has much purpose other than to advance his celebrity status and lifestyle.

      Jamie Wilson, 30, Cardiff

      Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

      Julie
      Julie Christie in the 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

      I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; its not bad at all. You heave them into the parlor and turn the switch. Its like washing clothes: stuff laundry in and slam the lid … Theyd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back!

      I think Ray Bradburys prediction of the modern obsession with TV was spookily accurate. Now we have the internet to allow TV to be watched on so many different platforms, we can watch it pretty much anywhere, and its potential for control of the masses is limitless. Its no surprise a president has been inaugurated who practically boasts that he has never read a book. Lets see if Trump starts suggesting book burnings …

      David Murphy, Bath

      It Cant Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

      .

      Published in 1935 as a response to those who regarded Nazism as something that could never take place in the Land of the Free, the book describes how a populist politician, Buzz Windrip, becomes president through riding a wave of anti-immigrant, anti-intellectual, traditionalist sentiment.

      Comparisons to Trump are obvious, but it is remarkable how prescient the novel is. Windrip promises to empower working-class white voters, and to revitalise the manufacturing industry. His speeches consist of frequently simple statements, often repeated, but lacking in any lasting tangible sentiment. His lackeys deny the official numbers that attend Windrips events, instead providing their own figures.

      The new president declines to live in the White House, opting instead for an apartment where he spends his hours in front of the TV.

      Barney Caswell, Manchester

      Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/27/v-for-vendetta-fahrenheit-451-trumps-america

      Another Bogus Obamacare Argument From Donald Trump And Paul Ryan

      If youve heard a Republican talk about the Affordable Care Act lately, then youve almost certainly heard that the law is imploding, collapsing, in a death spiral or a combination of the three.

      Here, for example, was House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a Wednesday evening interview with Greta Van Susteren on MSNBC: Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight…. Its already going away. Obamacare is leaving.

      President Donald Trump made similar remarks at a Republican Party retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, when he boasted that acting quickly to repeal the law would do the Democrats a favor because the program was bound to fall apart on its own.

      Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus pretty much every Republican with power in Washington right now has said something along these lines.

      Of course, Republicans have been predicting Obamacares demise since it became law in 2010. But now that Trump is in the White House and the Republicans in Congress are proceeding with their plan to repeal the law, sooner rather than later, the argument has new political value.

      If the programs collapse is imminent, as they say, then theres no point in worrying about the roughly 20 million people who now get coverage through the program. Because, under this scenario, no matter what Republicans do, those folks are going to end up without decent coverage.

      And if the end result of repeal efforts is a disaster with millions more uninsured, millions more struggling with less reliable or less comprehensive coverage than they had Republicans can always say things would have been awful anyway.

      The logic is sound. The premise, that Obamacare is unraveling, is not.

      Why (Some) Obamacare Marketplaces Are Struggling

      Obamacares marketplaces, where people without employer-based insurance can buy private policies, have certainly had some problems. But whether they are modest and fleeting or serious and ongoing, or somewhere in between, depends on whom you ask.

      When the law first took full effect, with all the new rules for selling coverage, insurers had to guess at what policies consumers would buy and at what price. It turns out most of them misjudged the market, with some of them misjudging it badly. They ended up attracting fewer healthy people and more unhealthy people than they anticipated, leaving them with premiums too low to cover the big medical bills they were suddenly paying. The insurers lost money, and, by last year, they had enough data to see it wasnt a fluke.

      A few carriers responded by withdrawing plans altogether (although a federal judge recently concluded that one insurer, Aetna, also had other motives). The rest increased premiums, sometimes severely creating a bunch of scary headlines and giving Republicans like Ryan and Trump the opportunity to bash the Affordable Care Act as an actuarial apocalypse. Frequently they would say the system was in a death spiral.

      Many actuaries cringe at such references, because, as Danny Vinik noted recently in Politico, death spiral is actually a term they use to describe a very specific set of circumstances that cannot really exist with the Affordable Care Act, at least in its current structure. A death spiral happens when insurers must repeatedly raise premiums in order to cover losses from patients with high medical bills, with each new increase scaring away more healthy customers, thereby creating new losses and forcing the insurers to raise premiums again until eventually only very sick people willing to pay astronomical premiums stay with the program.

      The Affordable Care Act is not really vulnerable to this because it offers financial assistance in the form of refundable tax credits, limiting what low- and middle-income individuals pay for basic policies no matter how high the premiums go. That basically guarantees that insurers will have a critical mass of healthy people paying premiums. As long as the individual mandate remains in place, imposing financial penalties on people who decline to get coverage, a death spiral is even less likely.

      A more realistic possibility is that the market deterioration of the past year continues, with yet more insurers abandoning markets and those remaining raising premiums even further, to the point that only people with subsidies find it attractive.Itd be a lousy deal for the more affluent, and itd mean higher costs for the government.

      This would represent a major failure of the law, and Gail Wilensky, a well-respected health economist who was director of Medicare and Medicaid in the George H.W. Bush administration, is among those who thinks its a very real possibility, given the state of the exchanges right now.

      They are clearly still in churn and unstable as of now, the fourth year of enrollment, Wilensky told The Huffington Post. Little insurer choice and unaffordable premiums would be and sometimes is now the outcome.

      Why The Markets May Be Stronger Going Forward

      But even the pessimistic experts agree that its too early to know whether thats going to happen or, for that matter, where.

      A key point the Republicans never mention is that Obamacare isnt one program. Its 51 programs, one for each state plus the District of Columbia. In states like Arizona and Tennessee, premiums spiked and insurer choice dwindled this year. But in states like California and Michigan, the markets are operating smoothly and most consumers shopping on the exchanges still have a wide variety of options.

      [Critics] use the most problematic of the 51 markets and even specific instances within given markets, such as particular insurance companies or counties as evidence that all the exchanges are in trouble, says Paul Hughes-Cromwick, a health economist at the nonprofitAltarum Instituteresearch group. We believe the individual market does, in fact, need some help, but it is neither about to collapse nor do its problems mean that Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight. Hughes-Cromwick went on to call such arguments absurd.

      In December, the White House Council of Economic Advisers published a report arguing that this years increases were largely a one-time correction. It noted, among other things, that this was the first year that insurers had a full years worth of data, based on claims that beneficiaries filed, on which to base premiums. This was also the year when a program designed to cover unexpected insurer losses during the early years of operation expired. (A second such program never paid out most of its money, because Republicans insisted on defunding it.)

      Meanwhile, for all the talk about high premiums, they are right about where the Congressional Budget Office originally expected them to be. And, as a recent Urban Institute report showed, premiums are roughly on par or even a little cheaper than the premiums for employer insurance, once you adjust for the different levels of benefits.

      Enrollment this year looks like it will be roughly even with last years enrollment or maybe even a little higher. If the marketplaces were crumbling, enrollment would be starting to fall. And just last month, S&P Global Ratings projected stronger insurer performance next year and even stronger performance the year after that.

      As Paul Ginsburg, a prominent health economist at the University of Southern California, said, predictions of an imminent Obamacare collapse are totally at odds with the recent analysis from S&P, which shows the exchanges stabilizing, with insurers having experienced improved results in 2016.

      Why The Real Threat To The Marketplaces May Be Trump

      David Anderson, who until recently was an official at the UPMC Health Plan in Pennsylvania and is now an analyst at Duke Universitys Margolis Center for Health Policy, agrees. The Affordable Care Act is fundamentally stable in most states. Enrollment has been increasing and insurers are projecting better results. Insurers with effective strategies tailored to local demand for high-quality, low-cost health care have been able to show profitability on the exchanges.

      Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University, concurs. The exchanges are not collapsing on their own weight, he said. Jon Kingsdale, former director of the Massachusetts exchange and now a director at the Wakely Consulting Group, feels the same way. With national enrollment increasing each year since 2014 and a full decade of market stability under much the same reforms in Massachusetts there is little evidence for [Ryans] contention, Kingsdale said.

      Of course, Kingsdale noted, making the argument that Obamacare is already collapsing does offer an obvious political advantage: Republicans can blame what they do in 2017 to destroy coverage for millions of Americans on the ACA itself. Republicans could accomplish this legislatively or maybe even through executive authority, by refusing to apply the mandate penalty or other elements of the law they dont like.

      Its worth mentioning that even if Obamacare markets were imploding, not just in some states but all states, and even if that implosion meant there were no insurers left in other words, even if you imagine a scenario much worse than any expert takes seriously that would account for only a portion of the people getting health insurance through the program.

      At least half and probably more of the newly insured are getting coverage through Medicaid, a program that the government operates and that wont be going anywhere unless, of course, Republicans decide to get rid of it.

      Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obamacare-donald-trump-paul-ryan_us_588a6a55e4b0303c0752b0d1?lrrjugqqgqgn1att9&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

      Year of the Rooster: What’s in store for world’s top leaders?

      Hong Kong (CNN)She was one of the few voices to have correctly divined Trump’s election victory. Now feted Hong Kong fortune teller Priscilla Lam is predicting that Trump will have a smooth start, but rocky end, to 2017.

      Lam, who’s based at the city’s Wong Tai Sin temple, has been reading faces, palms and the Chinese Zodiac for more than 20 years. We asked her to divine the fates of six world leaders: President Trump and his counterparts in Russia, China, Germany, Turkey and the Philippines.
      Last year, when CNN asked Lam to give her take on the candidates battling it out for the US presidency, she correctly told us that Trump would win the election.
        Here’s what she says is in store for the world’s movers and shakers in the upcoming Year of the Fire Rooster, which starts Saturday, based on their year and date of birth in accordance with the Chinese almanac.

          Donald Trump

          Lam’s prediction: The characteristic of a fire dog is over confidence and a tendency to act quickly without thinking things through. The astrological sign on the day of President Trump’s birth is earth. The element of metal in the latter half of the year will destabilize the earth.
          Since he was born in the year of fire, the spring and summer — when the weather is hot — will be good for Trump. It’s also his honeymoon period as US President. But the cooler months of autumn and winter will see him run into difficulties. There will be protests.

          Vladimir Putin

          Lam’s prediction: A dragon is strong and can go anywhere — it can swim in the water or fly in the air. It’s filled with enthusiasm. That combined with the astrological sun sign on the day of President Putin’s birth makes him a strong leader, who is a clear thinker.
          Putin’s going to have good year. The element of metal in the latter part of 2017 means money for Putin — and for Russia. The Russian economy will prosper.

          Xi Jinping

          Lam’s prediction: The astrological sign on the day of President Xi’s birth is fire — and the incoming year of the fire rooster means it’s going to be a great year for him.
          It’s double luck for the Chinese president, because the Year of the Fire Rooster is also expected to be good for people born in the year of the snake.
          The characteristics of a water snake are similar to that of the dragon. A snake can go into the sea and also travel on land. China, under Xi’s leadership, is going to make a lot of money thanks to the good fortune forecast for its leader.

          Angela Merkel

          Lam’s prediction: A horse is sturdy and wood, which is also the astrological element on the day of Chancellor Merkel’s birth, is like a big tree with its roots firmly planted in the ground. The wood element in Merkel makes her very kind hearted — which explains her generous refugee policy.
          But being so kind will bring her challenges come the summer, because the heat of the fire rooster could burn up her wood. Thankfully, she’s situated in the Berlin — in northern Germany, where it shouldn’t get too hot. She’ll be able to overcome the challenges and be successful in her bid for re-election.

          Rodrigo Duterte

          Lam’s prediction: A person born in the Year of the Rooster will face competition from the incoming Year of the Rooster — essentially it’s a cockfight.
          President Duterte’s war on drugs may not be popular among all, but it’ll make his country richer and healthier. Duterte needs to turn down his fire and take a step by step approach to dealing with the drugs problem, so he can win everyone’s support.
          That means the Philippines President is going to face a lot of opposition to his policies. The fire of this year could burn up the wood from Duterte’s year of birth.
          Luckily the astrological sign from Duterte’s birthday is also fire — so it can also be interpreted that the wood from his birth year will support the fire from his birthday.

          Recep Tayyip Erdogan

          Lam’s prediction: The astrological element on Erdogan’s birthday is water, and spring isn’t good for that, because the flowers are blooming and will take up all of his water.
          That means Erdogan is going to lose the referendum to increase his presidential powers that is scheduled for April.
          Furthermore, by reading his face — his eyes show that he’s not enjoying a lot of support from the people, and his big nostrils symbolize he’s not good at holding onto money.
          The lines around his mouth indicate that his subordinates in government are unreliable. It’s not going to be a good year for Erdogan.
          Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this piece are solely those of fortune teller Priscilla Lam.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/26/asia/chinese-lunar-new-year-world-leaders/index.html

          Tesco to buy Budgens and Londis owner Booker Group – BBC News

          Image copyright EPA

          The UK’s biggest supermarket group, Tesco, has agreed to buy the UKs biggest food wholesaler, Booker Group, in a 3.7bn deal.

          The firms said the deal would create the “UK’s leading food business”.

          Booker Group is the UK’s largest cash and carry operator, supplying everything from baked beans to teabags to 700,000 convenience stores, grocers, pubs and restaurants.

          Booker also owns the Premier, Budgens and Londis convenience-store brands.

          Under the terms of the deal, Booker shareholders will end up owning about 16% of the combined group.

          Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said he believed the deal would not face a challenge from competition authorities, as the deal would not result in Tesco owning any more stores.

          He dubbed the deal a “low risk” merger.