Book review - 'Love’s labours should be lost': Maria Stepanova, Russia's next great writer

Vladimir Nabokov - one of Stepanova’s many literary companions in In Memory of Memory - once wrote: “I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is . ”      Years ago, Maria Stepanova visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC to do research for a book she would end up working on for 30 years. After telling him of her plan, the museum adviser replied: “Ah. One of those books where the author travels around the world in search of his or her roots – there are plenty of those now.” “Yes,” replied Stepanova. “And now there will be one more.” In Memory of Memory  is an astounding collision of personal and cultural history, and Stepanova’s first full-length book published in English, translated by Sasha Dugdale. It is a remarkable work from a writer who has won Russia’s most prestigious honours (including the Big Book award for In Memory of Memory , the NOS literary prize, the Andrei Bely prize and a Joseph Brodsky

This obscure energy treaty is the greatest threat to the planet you’ve never heard of

The Energy Charter Treaty allows fossil fuel companies to sue governments for taking action on climate change. It must be stopped before it’s too late.   On 4 February the German energy giant RWE announced it was  suing the government of the Netherlands . The crime? Proposing to phase out coal from the country’s electricity mix. The company, which is Europe’s biggest emitter of carbon, is demanding €1.4bn in ‘compensation’ from the country for loss of potential earnings, because the  Dutch government has banned the burning of coal  for electricity from 2030. If this sounds unreasonable, then you might be surprised to learn that this kind of legal action is perfectly normal – and likely to become far more commonplace in the coming years. RWE is suing under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a little-known international agreement signed without much public debate in 1994. The treaty binds more than 50 countries, and allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for dec

José Zepeda: Prison has not discouraged Cuba’s leading dissident

José Daniel Ferrer is a prominent Cuban dissident and human rights activist, who was one of 75 dissidents imprisoned during a 2003 government crackdown known as the Black Spring. After eight years in prison, he was released in 2011 and has been permanently harassed ever since, spending more than six months in jail in 2020. He is the founder of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), an umbrella organization hosting many Cuban opposition organizations since 2011.  José Zepeda : Has your imprisonment made you reconsider your position on non-violent resistance? José Daniel Ferrer : The most comfortable thing for the regime would be for us to be the violent ones, for us to be the kind of people they try to portray us as. But, as they know, these are lies, and they have to disfigure our reality to try to justify the repression. They know that our position is precisely non-violent; it is one of reconciliation, dialogue, and a profound willingness to find solutions to the serious problems t


There are two certain ways to lose a friend: one, have an affair with his wife;  two, start a discussion on politics. The first can occasionally be a tempting prospect, for as the wise guy said: all best things in life are either illegal, immoral or married to someone else. Having an affair just got easier too, with the Supreme Court ruling that adultery is not a crime. But a word of caution for my friends in the army who may be breaking out the champagne bottles - the Ministry of Defence has filed a review petition in the SC asking that it should continue to be illegal for army types. Apparently ( the govt. feels) that the Army operates in peculiar conditions and the guys at the borders cannot really keep their sights on the Chinese and the Pakis if they are looking over their shoulders all the time to see who's inviting their spouses for a drink in the oui hours of the night. I agree. The SC does appear to be making things difficult for our Army Commanders- first it amends Arti

Juan Cole - Biden’s Double Standards: Iranian Civilians under severe US Sanctions but not accused Saudi Murderer Bin Salman

The Biden administration on Friday declassified and released a  CIA assessment  that Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman bears responsibility for the murder of  Washington Post  columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 3, 2018.  President Biden will not, however, impose sanctions on Bin Salman. Apparently the only punishment will be that Biden won’t talk to the crown prince, only to his father, King Salman. CBC: “U.S. intelligence report blames Saudi crown prince for murder of Jamal Khashoggi” But in fact, secretary of defense Lloyd Austin just spoke with Bin Salman earlier this week, because the latter holds the portfolio of minister of defense, and so is the proper counterpart for military relations.  On Feb. 19, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of the Central Command that covers the Middle East, said that the US was seeking more “back up bases” in Saudi Arabia in case of hostilities with Iran…

Jatinder Kaur Tur & Mandeep Punia: Dalit activist Shiv Kumar's medical report describes illegal detention, torture and PTSD / Chitleen K Sethi: Nodeep Kaur gets bail, medical report shows bruises caused by blunt object

A medico-legal examination submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 22 February found that Shiv Kumar, a Dalit labour-rights activist and president of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, faced severe custodial torture at the hands of the Haryana Police. The court had directed a medical examination in a plea by Kumar’s father, Rajbir, which accused the police of illegally detaining the activist on 16 January, when he was participating in the farmers’ protests in the state’s Sonipat city. The report which was conducted by experts from Chandigarh Government Medical College and Hospital found the Shiv Kumar had multiple fractures, broken nail beds, several injuries and psychiatric symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Prashant Bhushan: Police, NIA, ED Have Become Huge Organised Criminal Gangs Human Rights Watch Report on India 2020 Delhi 2020: The Real Conspiracy; Episode 1: What the Delhi Police Chose Not to See Rajbir’s petition sought an independent investigation int

Gautam Bhatia - Safoora Zargar and Disha Ravi: Similar cases, (same judge), vastly different verdicts

The  order  granting bail to environmental activist Disha Ravi in a sedition case is remarkable not so much because of its outcome, but because of the short shrift that it gives to the state’s hysterical accusations of conspiracy-by-Google-Docs. In ordinary circumstances, this would not be remarkable either – judicial scepticism towards the state’s claims of far-reaching conspiracies to justify keeping people in jail, when there exists no evidence linking them to  actual  violence, should be par for the course. However, that has conspicuously not been the case in recent times, at all levels of the judiciary. Consequently, what makes the bail order remarkable is how (sadly)  uncharacteristic  it is. Indeed, the order stands in stark contrast to the  order  of June 4, 2020, that denied bail to Safoora Zargar, in what have come to be known as “the Delhi Riots cases.” A comparison between the two, therefore, merits scrutiny. In the aftermath of Disha Ravi’s bail, it did not escape publ