Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Sir Richard Branson has fallen into that dangerous media category also occupiedby the likes of Robbie Williams, Chris Tarrant and Tony Blair – theover-exposed. One day they were all the darlings of the media, up on a pedestal; the next,they were over-exposed and heading earthwards. It can be a simple trigger – onesong too many about yourself, another contrived pause for the audience, or thatlast insincere promise. The press may have tired of them, but that doesn’t mean they have becomeunpopular with the important people – the public. Their songs still get tonumber one, they still attract huge TV ratings and still live in DowningStreet. And they still inspire, entertain or lead large numbers of people. Despite Richard Branson’s love affair with the press being over, he hasdelivered all three of these things for more than 30 years, and the people lovehim. Whenever there is a poll for a hypothetical leader, Branson always wins –if the public had had their way, he would be the Mayor of London and theDemocratic Republic of Britain’s head of state. Branson may have pulled one publicity stunt too many (surely it was a crimeagainst humanity for him to don a wedding dress for the launch of VirginBride), but I challenge you to name a better British business leader. In fact,just try naming 10 British business leaders, good or bad. In a square mile ofgrey suits, Branson is a noisy maverick, a bit of fun. But does being exuberant and fun make him the Greatest Briton in Managementand Leadership? To win this title – and I am confident he will win – I have toprove three things. First, that he is a great businessman; second, a greatleader and, finally, a great Briton. His business record is no joke. While he claims to have only recently workedout the difference between net and gross, the 53-year-old has created abusiness empire of more than 270 branded companies. He is personally worth acool £1bn. While many have accused him of being a lucky chancer, this could not befurther from the truth. Branson does take chances, but he manages the riskcarefully. Look at his launches into the cola and mobile phones markets. In hiswar with the Coke giants, Branson ensured that the costs of producing VirginCola were negligible, so his risk only relates to the size of the marketingbudget. In the mobile phones market, the expensive part is setting up andmaintaining the communication network. But Branson hooked up with T-Mobile anduses its network, cutting overheads and allowing it to deliver better value tothe customer. This sort of opportunism, and his habitual re-investment in hisbusinesses, has led to the Virgin Group having an annual turnover of £3.5bn. But is he a great leader? People work for Virgin because they want to workfor Branson. He has imbued all of his companies with his enthusiasm, andconsequently, Virgin constantly vies with the BBC and the Foreign Office forthe top spot in graduates’ employer wish lists. Mike Broad is assistant editor of Personnel Today”Convention dictates that a company should look after its shareholdersfirst, its customers next and last of all worry about its employees,” saysBranson. “Virgin does the opposite. For us employees matter most. It justseems common sense to me that if you start with a happy, well-motivatedworkforce, you’re much more likely to have happy customers. In due course theresulting profits will make your shareholders happy.” A great Briton? Undoubtedly. We love an underdog, and Branson alwayspositions himself as the little man. He took on British Airways over their‘dirty tricks’ campaign and had his day in court. OK, he was less successful attaking on the ‘fat cats’ of Camelot – but he still received great publicsupport. “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparentlyunachievable challenges, and trying to rise above them,” he says. We also love a self-made man. Branson doesn’t have an Oxbridge degree, or arich daddy. He is one of us (despite owning a Caribbean island). There have also been the big gestures. He flew to Baghdad to rescue the‘human shield’ prior to the Gulf War, and bid to run the National Lotteryfranchise on a not-for-profit basis. But he is no saint. He had an early run-in with the authorities over musicbootlegging, and more recently journalists made a lot of the offshore financingof his businesses to reduce his tax liabilities. While legal, it is hardly thework of a great philanthropist. In contrast, Bill Gates is spending his timecreating the world’s largest charity. But surely this just adds to Branson’s charisma; he’s a scruffy,balloon-flying maverick, who gets his kicks from challenging the establishedorder and creating businesses that he can be proud of. He doesn’t have a highercalling, but who cares? The 35,000 employees who have helped him create one ofthe world’s leading brands certainly don’t. “Some people say that my vision for Virgin breaks all the rules and istoo wildly kaleidoscopic; others analyse it down to the last degree and thenwrite academic papers on it. As for me, I just pick up the phone and get onwith it,” he says. Gates may be a great philanthropist, and one of the few businessmen with apersonal and corporate brand as strong as Branson’s, but who would you ratherhave lunch with? And, more importantly, who would you rather work for? Branson’s CV1950 Branson is born in Surrey1968 After leaving school with few qualifications, Branson launches Studentmagazine1971 Opens first Virgin record shop in London1973 Virgin record label is launched and releases Mike Oldfield’s TubularBells1984 Takes to the air with Virgin Atlantic1993 Wins libel action against British Airways2000 Fails in bid to run National Lottery2001 Significant expansion of Virgin companies, including Atlantic, Mobile,Money and ActiveMake your vote countHere’s a reminder of the nominees Geoffrey De Havilland Nominated by Linda Holbeche,director of research at Roffey ParkGeoffrey de Havilland was a pioneering pilot and led theaviation industry. He designed, tested and built planes that were vital to ourcountry’s success in the Second World War, such as the Mosquito fighter-bomber.He was a bold risk-taker, but treated his staff fairly. He ensured good workingconditions in his factories, trail-blazed sponsored apprenticeships, and wenton to launch the first commercial jet liner. Ernest BevinNominated by Brendan Barber,general secretary elect of the TUCDespite being the illegitimate seventh child of an impoverisheddomestic worker, Ernest Bevin rose to sit alongside Winston Churchill in theWar Cabinet. A manual worker until the age of 30, he rose rapidly through theunion ranks, working ceaselessly to deliver better living standards forworkers. In later life, he became foreign secretary and helped create thesettlement that led to Britain’s withdrawal from the Empire.Alexander Graham BellNominated by Paul Pagliari, HRdirector of Scottish WaterAlexander Graham Bell had a visionary understanding of thepower and potential of communication. On 7 March 1876, Bell patented thetelephone at the tender age of 29 – six years after immigrating to America. Heshrank the world and started the information revolution that continues in ourworkplaces today. He helped establish the Bell Telephone Company, and lobbiedvociferously for the education of deaf people.Mike Brearley Nominated by Tim Yeo, Shadow Secretaryof State for Trade and IndustryMike Brearley was one of the finest England cricket captainsever. He led the team in 31 test matches, winning 18 and losing only four. Hewas an inspired leader and motivator, and will be remembered for bringing homethe Ashes in 1981 – overcoming seemingly impossible odds. Following hiscricketing retirement, Brearley wrote a definitive work on leadership entitledThe Art of Captaincy.John ReithNominated by Will Hutton, chiefexecutive of The Work FoundationThe greatest test of leadership is an organisation’s ability toprosper over time. John Reith achieved this as the first director general ofthe BBC. Unlike so many organisations in the UK, the BBC works. Its strongreputation for creativity and professionalism has created extraordinaryloyalty. The BBC informs, educates and entertains as part of its duty to thepublic – and it was Reith who unwaveringly insisted on this ethic.Anita RoddickNominated by Max McKeown, leadingmanagement authorAnita Roddick created a $1bn, top 50 brand in The Body Shop,and yet profit was never her motive. She wanted to create an organisation thatdelivered more than shareholder value – one that brought ethics into business,inspired women, and gave its staff the best working conditions and benefits.Roddick stood down from the board last year, promising to campaign for humanrights in the future. Jack Jones Nominated by Stephen Bubb, chiefexecutive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary OrganisationsIn the 1970s, the press claimed that Jack Jones – then generalsecretary of the T&G union – ran the country. He brokered the pioneering‘social contract’ between the Government, industry and the unions, which sawthe unions restrain pay claims for the good of the economy. He also forged theidea of ‘industrial democracy’, which led to employees being treated asstakeholders.Adrian CadburyNominated by Geoff Armstrong,director general of the CIPDSir Adrian Cadbury led his family firm towards being a globalplayer – as Cadbury Schweppes – and pioneered business thinking on managementethics, governance and social responsibility. He articulated the valuesunderpinning progressive people management, and showed practices could bedesigned to draw the best from employees. He led the seminal review ofcorporate governance in the 1990s that bears his name.Ernest ShackletonNominated by Ruth Spellman, chiefexecutive, Investors in PeopleLeadership in the 20th century was typically hierarchical, butErnest Shackleton led by example. Despite all three of his polar missionsending in failure, he brought every member of his party back safely, againstthe odds. He offers a tangible role model not based on modern managementtheory, but on real-life experience. Through his experiences, we realise theimportance of building teams and recognising the strength of individuals.Richard BransonNominated by Mike Broad, assistanteditor, Personnel TodaySir Richard Branson has entertained and inspired his staff andthe public for more than 30 years. He has risen from running a strugglingstudent magazine in a basement flat to driving a global brand that turns over£3.5bn. His companies – which employ 35,000 people – are all imbued with hisvalues of opportunism and fun, and Virgin Group has become the pre-eminentemployer of choice. The greatest briton: Richard Branson by Mike BroadOn 18 Feb 2003 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.
Industry news The US Navy’s 11th Virginia-class attack submarine was christened in Groton, Conn., Nov. 2, during a late-morning ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) shipyard.The ceremony marked the official naming of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784). The ship is currently under construction by both GDEB and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, through a teaming arrangement.Ship sponsor Katie Fowler, wife of retired Vice Adm. Jeff Fowler, was on hand to officially christen the submarine by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine against the back of the boat’s sail. “In the name of the United States, I christen thee North Dakota. May God bless her and all that sail in her,” said Mrs. Fowler just before giving the bottle a brisk swing.During keynote remarks, Commander Submarine Forces Vice Adm. Michael Connor told more than 4,500 dignitaries, Sailors, and shipyard personnel in attendance that the Navy needs the nuclear-powered attack submarine as soon as “practical.” “The Submarine Force eagerly awaits the day when USS North Dakota will assume the watch and establish a legendary reputation worthy of the name North Dakota,” said Connor. “There’s still much to be done, and there is not a moment to lose.”PCU North Dakota is the second Navy ship named after the 39th state. The first was a Delaware-class dreadnought battleship.SSN 784’s name was chosen in honor of North Dakota’s proud military heritage. Seventeen North Dakotans have been awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in combat.In future years, the attack submarine will deliver speed, agility, stealth, endurance and firepower to combatant commanders directing U.S. military operations around the globe.Virginia-class subs have improved stealth and sophisticated surveillance capabilities. Their special warfare enhancements enable them to meet multiple mission requirements.North Dakota will be able to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea-based forces. Its reactor plant is designed so that it will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing time at sea.North Dakota’s construction will continue during the next few months as its 138 crewmembers prepare to evaluate the ship’s seaworthiness and operational performance during sea trials. “The Navy and the nation count on our submarine force to deliver relevant and powerful capabilities where and when it matters, and nothing is more important to meeting that commitment than building the most capable submarines in the world,” said Rear Adm. Ken Perry, commander, Submarine Group 2.In addition to surveillance missions, North Dakota will be able to perform anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; deliver and support special forces; and conduct mine delivery and minefield mapping operations. “Every phase of submarine construction requires world-class expertise and close partnership, and today’s christening at Electric Boat signifies a key milestone in that partnership toward delivering North Dakota to the fleet,” Perry added.PCU North Dakota is scheduled officially join the Navy fleet once commissioned in early 2014.The submarine measures 377 feet in length and has a beam of 34 feet. It will displace 7,800 tons and be capable of operating at more than 25 knots under water.[mappress]Press Release,November 4, 2013; Image: US Navy Share this article Back to overview,Home naval-today US Navy Christens 11th Virginia-Class Attack Sub November 4, 2013 US Navy Christens 11th Virginia-Class Attack Sub
Oxford University has expressed uncertainty over a government-proposed plan to introduce a post-qualification admission (PQA) system, despite being encouraged to back it by the Department for Education and Skills.The Director-General for Higher Education at the DfES, Sir Alan Wilson, outlined a move towards a PQA system in a paper launched on 9 September. In the foreward he states, “Under a PQA system, applications would be made when exam results are known. This would enable students to apply for places that best matched their ability and needs. Higher Education Institutes would consider applications on the basis of more accurate information about students than at present. This would allow them to make better quality decisions, based on reliable and fair assessment of each student’s ability.”Oxford University is amongst the institutions showing resistance to the PQA plan. A spokesperson for the University told Cherwell that Oxford “supports the idea [of PQA] in principle as long as it does not affect the University’s ability to maintain a high calibre of students. The fair way to do things is to assess everyone at once and give all the places at once, and the proposals wouldn’t allow that”. The University is still to respond formally to the PQA proposals sent out over the summer.Currently students are accepted by universities based on predicted grades, over half of which turn out to be incorrect according to a recent study by the Sutton Trust. The same study claims that the current system has disproportionately negative effects for students from lower-performance schools, as they are more likely to be predicted grades below their actual achievements.Under the PQA plan, universities would offer places to students at two different times during the year. The first offers would be made, as they are now, based on predicted grades and other achievements. However, universities would be required to set aside a stipulated number of places available only to students applying after the release of their final examination results.Wilson spoke about the implementation of the potential changes, “We are clear – and all the soundings we have taken so far confirm our view – that it is not the Government’s role to impose or to be primarily responsible for implementing change.“We heard strong arguments though that such a complex and far-reaching programme of reform is unlikely to be successful if it is left to develop in a wholly piecemeal fashion. We suggest that there is a clear need for leadership and co-ordination of the reform programme and that this role is for the various sector stakeholders acting in partnership.”ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005
As communication rapidly evolves in today’s global society, one Notre Dame alumnus is helping the Vatican incorporate new media into its mission. Thaddeus “TJ” Jones, a 1989 graduate of Notre Dame, was present when Pope Benedict XVI officially launched the Vatican’s website, news.va.com, and wrote the first papal tweet on the eve of the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. News.va is an aggregator website that pulls together content from all of the different Vatican news sources into a single web page. Jones is the news.va project coordinator and an official at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. “If you want to get your word out, you have to look at how best to do it,” Jones said. “We wanted to engage with more social media in the way other organizations do already and be present in the dialogue of new forms of communication.” Jones said 35,000 people became followers of the news.va site within the first hour after Pope Benedict XVI’s tweet, which read, “Dear Friends, I just launched news.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.” The way the world communicates has evolved and changed over the years, Jones said, and the Vatican strives to keep up with new forms of communication. “The Vatican has an important message, and we have a duty to improve the way we get this message out,” he said. He said the Catholic Church is a community of believers that spans the globe. “News.va is meant to get the news out about the Pope to this universal church. Our idea was to bring news about the Pope to one portal to get information to the people,” he said. News.va brings together content from a variety of Vatican news sources, including the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore The site is available in English, Italian and Spanish and French. The main page also includes links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr pages. “The look of the website is inviting and not too formal,” Jones said. “We are trying to present the site in an attractive way for our audience.” Although the site has been successful so far, Jones said improvements are in the works. He said there are plans to make the site completely media platform compatible by augmenting the video selection and improving the live streaming of papal events. “Our goal is to make the site accessible to everyone,” he said. Jones has worked at the Pontifical Council since 2003. He is also involved in assisting television networks in broadcasting major papal events like Christmas, Easter, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to his current position, Jones had worked for 10 years at the Vatican Radio. He said his experience as a reporter gave him excellent background for coordinating the news.va site. He also said his Notre Dame education helped to prepare him for his work at the Vatican. “The Catholic atmosphere at Notre Dame is enough to give you a sense of what it means to belong to the Catholic Church. My Notre Dame education gave me an ethical foundation,” Jones said. “There’s an emphasis at Notre Dame of making a morally and ethically informed person, an excellence in preparing a person spiritually and intellectually.”
Griff Rhys Jones in ‘The Miser’ Two-time Olivier winner Griff Rhys Jones, Olivier winner Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith have been tapped for two new productions in the West End. Sean Foley is set to direct the revivals of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser and Molière’s classic comedy The Miser.The Dresser, starring Stott (Broken Glass) and Shearsmith (Betty Blue Eyes), tells the heart-breaking story of an ageing actor-manager and his long-suffering dresser as they struggle to keep the show on the road against the backdrop of a down-at-heel regional theatre in wartime. The production will play a limited engagement October 5 through January 14, 2017. Opening night is scheduled for October 12 at the Duke of York’s Theatre.Jones (Oliver!) will return to the London stage to lead an ensemble cast in a revival of The Miser, which has been newly adapted by Foley and Phil Porter. The show is set to start previews on March 1, 2017, officially opening on March 13 at the Garrick Theatre. The limited engagement will end on June 10. View Comments
Small improvement in April jobs and employment numbersThe Vermont Department of Labor has announced that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April 2008 was 4.5 percent, down one-tenth of a point or essentially unchanged from March and up four-tenths of a point from a year ago.”The combination of a small improvement in both Vermont’s unemployment rate and job counts may indicate some stability in Vermont’s labor market even in this period of economic slowdown.” said Patricia Moulton Powden, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor. “This is especially good news for Vermont, because the national economy continued to lose jobs in April.”Vermont’s observed seasonally adjusted monthly changes in the employment levels, unemployment levels and unemployment rate are not statistically different from March values. For comparison purposes, the US seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March was 5.0 percent, down one-tenth of a point from March 2008. Unemployment rates for Vermont’s 17 labor market areas ranged from 3.4 percent in Hartford to 8.3 percent in Newport. Local labor market area unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted. For comparison, the unadjusted unemployment rate for Vermont was 5.0 percent, down three-tenths of a point from March 2008.Seasonally adjusted job levels fell as compared to March (-1,400 jobs or -0.5%) but grew slightly over April of 2007 (+300 jobs or +0.1%). We typically see a sizable decline in job counts from March to April as cold weather activities cease, but the summer recreation and construction seasons, have not yet begun. It appears the seasonal adjustment process may be overstating the monthly decline. The largest adjusted declines were observed in construction, (-700 / -4.1%). All other measured industry sectors showed very small gains or losses.Before seasonal adjustment, Total Non-Farm jobs fell by 3,650 or -1.2% from March to April largely due to typical seasonal influences. Annual unadjusted job growth improved slightly at 300 jobs or +0.1%. Seasonal job gains were seen in construction (+900 / 6.5%), but the segment remains in decline showing a 700 job annual loss or -4.6%. Professional & Business services grew by 500 over the month and 150 or 0.7% over the year. Leisure and Hospitality shed 4,800 seasonal jobs over the month but grew 150 jobs or 0.5% annually. Local Government Education gained 300 jobs in April and state education lost 300 jobs, but these are both related to vacation schedules and do not reflect any significant changes in the sector.
Read senior reporter Sebastian Rotella’s report on terrorists and Europe’s revolving-door prisons. I saw the movie “Sicario” the other day. And it reminded me why the border still haunts me.“Sicario” is an important contribution to a cinematic genre that examines the dark realities of the U.S.-Mexico border. The film centers on an FBI agent in Arizona who joins a shadowy, CIA-led task force pursuing a Mexican drug lord. She becomes alarmed by secretive, brutal methods that leave a trail of corpses. She discovers that the unit’s mysterious Colombian “consultant” is an assassin (sicario) unleashed by the U.S. government on the cartels.“Sicario” has drawn admiring reviews, commentary about the tough subject, and criticism in Mexico. My editors asked me to assess its portrayal of the underworlds of the U.S.-Mexico border.I covered the borderlands for the Los Angeles Times in the 1990s and return there now and then. I’ve spent years reporting about mafias, justice and intrigue across the Americas and around the world. And I’ve written fiction and nonfiction in which the border plays a big role.My first novel, “Triple Crossing,” describes the troubled dreams of a rookie Border Patrol agent: “The border seethed on the edge of his sleep. Haunting him. Disembodied faces surging up out of the riverbed at him.”That image comes from personal experience. I still see the faces of people I knew — heroes and outlaws, bigshots and grunts — who lived intensely and died violently.I remember interviewing a reformist police chief days before rogue federal cops assassinated him. I see a young prosecutor in a Tijuana diner telling me about investigating the chief’s murder — 18 months before killers butchered him in front of his house. I relive an early-morning phone call with sad news about a gentle, doomed warden who let me explore one of the world’s strangest prisons: a savage village where gangsters lived with their families, inmates ran shops and eateries, and gunfights erupted on the basketball court at high noon.So I watched “Sicario” with a wary but respectful eye. I once wrote that the storytellers of the border know there is no better story in the world. But it’s a hard tale to tell, especially for Americans. Even if you speak fluent Spanish and have walked both sides of the line.Overall, I found “Sicario” artful and thought-provoking. The focus is intentionally narrow: Villeneuve portrays a battleground obscured by a permanent fog of war. The film succeeds in evoking the menace, paranoia and ambiguity of the turf.“Sicario” falls short for me in other aspects. While it has impeccably realistic moments, the federal agents broke the rules with a casualness (and lack of consequences) unlike anything I’ve reported on. I also would have liked more depth in the depiction of the Mexican side, though there’s a limit to what can be done in two hours.The first thing I look for in a drama like this is the authenticity of the characters — how they compare to the swashbuckling and ferocious ones I’ve met.Josh Brolin is convincing as the chief of the task force, a brash spy who drops enigmatic lines about his plan to “dramatically overreact” against the cartel that has murdered dozens of people on the U.S. side of the border.Benicio Del Toro’s role as the brooding, relentless sicario is the best thing about the film. An early scene in which he shudders awake from a nap establishes him as a man who has nightmares — and inflicts them on others.The FBI agent played by Emily Blunt is refreshingly unglamorous. Her clashes with the CIA/Pentagon crew have a real-life basis in conflicts among U.S. agencies. Her mystified indignation becomes less credible, however, as she continues to tag along with the marauding unit.The lack of Hispanic characters on the U.S. law enforcement team surprised me. This is not an abstract issue of diversity in Hollywood; traveling the borderlands, you meet many sharp Hispanic federal agents making the most of their language and cultural skills.The film sticks to a largely north-of-the-line viewpoint. A nice subplot about a Mexican police officer seemed underdeveloped. That’s a recurring pitfall in this genre: exploring a Mexican reality with limited presence of actual Mexicans.“Sicario” does include a spectacular sequence in Ciudad Juarez. With Delta Force operators riding shotgun, the U.S. task force zooms in to pick up and bring north a cartel figure for questioning. The tension builds to a claustrophobic shootout in a monster traffic jam at the port of entry. The scene triggered my residual paranoia from many a border crossing.Officials in Ciudad Juarez were upset about scenes showing cadavers hanging from downtown viaducts and firefights and explosions lighting up the night. They pointed out that crime has gone down since the city was the world’s murder capital. Nonetheless, it’s legitimate to depict the anarchy and bloodshed that have periodically engulfed Juarez, Tijuana, Acapulco and other Mexican cities.Above all, “Sicario” puts a spotlight on U.S. antidrug policy. It imagines a world in which federal agencies have decided to fight dirty. Del Toro’s Colombian water-boards a suspect at a U.S. military base, physically abuses a corrupt U.S. cop in a vehicle in Arizona and runs up the body count elsewhere.I understand that movies take liberties in the name of drama. The director has said he’s making a larger point about moral choices, about the excesses of vengeful covert action. I had reservations, however, about the premise of the black-ops campaign.First of all, most takedowns of drug lords end in arrest and prosecution. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement put money and effort — from high-tech intercepts to training and vetting foreign units — into building cases against kingpins and battering through their concentric circles of firepower and political protection.I’m not suggesting abuses don’t happen. I’ve covered brutality and corruption in U.S. agencies. But the brazen excess depicted in the film is pretty rare on U.S. soil. American intelligence and law enforcement operatives do work closely with foreign counterparts who are brutal and corrupt. Agents have told me about teaming with Mexican investigators who pursued traffickers diligently, but weren’t given U.S. leads about a certain drug lord because they were on his payroll.Another story about misconduct-by-proxy: U.S. agents once helped local forces arrest a suspect in a Latin American nation. The Americans waited awkwardly outside while the locals began their interrogation. It went badly and the U.S. agents had to rush in to revive the suspect with CPR.The larger argument of Villeneuve and scriptwriter Taylor Sheridan is that the drug war risks turning us into the very monsters we are trying to defeat.It’s tempting to agree — at least about the futility. Despite considerable blood and sacrifice, the basic story in Mexico hasn’t changed much over the past two decades.In 1993, I covered the capture of Joaquin (Chapo) Guzman, the boss of the Sinaloa cartel, and the discovery of his first smuggling tunnel between Tijuana and San Diego. Guzman has escaped from prison twice. His operation still uses tunnels. The latest headlines suggest his days are numbered, but he has reigned for a quarter century.I do see glimmers of hope. Look at the remarkable transformation of Colombia, the result of Colombian tenacity backed with U.S. resources. Or Peru’s defeat of cartels, narco-guerillas and a malevolent spy chief. Or Guatemala’s recent strides against high-level mafias. The driving force in those cases was dogged police work, not death squads.Tangible progress has also happened in Mexico, including Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. “Sicario” portrays part of the problem. But it doesn’t venture into the Mexican political labyrinth that is the root of the crisis.My reporting in Latin America has convinced me the conversation needs to be about more than drugs. Mafias profit from an array of rackets: extortion, migrant smuggling, political thievery. The region’s greatest single problem is lawlessness in high and low places alike. Weak justice systems protect the elites.In a column this week in Spain’s El Pais newspaper, a Mexican academic declared that a “pact of impunity” dominates his society.“Ample sectors of the political class have established regional alliances with criminal actors,” wrote Alberto J. Olvera of the Veracruzana University. “The regime can’t and doesn’t want to reform itself. A gigantic mobilization is necessary of a united civil society focused on the fight against impunity.”Signs of such a mobilization can be seen in Mexico, Central America and elsewhere. The vanguard includes brave cops, journalists, activists, and citizens in the streets. Things will change not with the capture of Chapo Guzman, but when the police start arresting senators, governors, bankers and others in suits and ties.The longer that takes to happen, the more likely the dirty war depicted in Sicario could one day become a reality. Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.
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Historically, lawn jockeys were painted black. In a nod to political correctness, the museum painted them white — a move they no doubt found highly offensive yet necessary in today’s climate. Doing so again diminished the contributions of minorities to racing.Horse racing has been the sport of the rich and white. The John Hendricksons may be found at the backstretch, but they aren’t humping the hay bales, shoveling manure, grooming horses, or doing any of the physical labor. That’s left to an unseen underclass. Horse racing at Saratoga, as with all tracks, benefits from cheap labor and poor conditions doled out to the poor, mostly people of color. Draping Confederate flags over white lawn jockeys is a welcome nod to racing’s racist past and opens conversation to current treatment of backstretch employees.If John Hendrickson wants to pretend this is an act of vandalism, the district attorney will probably oblige him in his charade. That’s a perk of the powerful. Convincing a jury that an act that damaged nothing and cost nothing is vandalism may be harder.James vanDijkSaratoga Springs More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationSchenectady, Saratoga casinos say reopening has gone well; revenue down 30%EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen? Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion Re Jan. 25 article, “Confederate flags spur talk of racism”: I appreciate National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s President John Hendrickson’s state of high dudgeon over recent events at the racing museum. I feel similarly vexed when the powerful privileged unleash wrath and invective on the poor or disenfranchised for doing something that tarnishes the luster of the racing elite. Who is racist here? Is it Saratoga’s elite at the racing museum or the people who draped Confederate flags over the all-white lawn jockeys?