Showing posts from October, 2012

Our Words Are Our Weapons: Against the Destruction of the World by Greed

Calling lies "lies" and theft "theft" and violence "violence," loudly, clearly, and consistently, until truth becomes more than a bump in the road, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage, whether it’s misogyny or racism or poisoning the environment. What protects an outrage are disguises, circumlocutions, and euphemisms -- “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture, “collateral damage” for killing civilians, “the war on terror” for the war against you and me..:  Rebecca Solnit In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty was accompanied by “the rectification of names,” a ceremony in which the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again. It was like a debt jubilee, only for meaning rather than money. This was part of what made

Dilip Hiro on Washington's Pakistan Meltdown

In 1948, George Orwell published his classic dystopian novel  1984 , flipping the numbers in the publication year to speed us into a future that is now, of course, 28 years in our past.  In that book, he imagined a three-superpower world of regularly shifting alliances in which war was a constant but its specific nature eternally forgotten.  As he wrote, “To trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one.” Of course, predicting the future is a perilous thing.  Instead of three squabbling superpowers ruling the globe, we have one (in  visible decline ), and yet there are some eerie real-world parallels to Orwell’s fiction.  By 1984, for instance, the U.S. and the Saudis were  funneling  huge sums of money and vast quantities of weaponry through Pakistan’s intelligence outfit, the Inter-Services I

WHO ARE THE GUILTY? Report of an inquiry into the causes & impact of the riots in Delhi (October-November 1984)

A fact-finding team jointly organised by one People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and people's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in the course of investigations from November 1 to November 10, has come to the conclusion that the attacks on members of the Sikh Community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, far from being a spontaneous expression of "madness" and of popular "grief and anger" at Mrs. Gandhi's assassination as made out to be by the authorities, were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration. Although there was the handiwork of a determined group which was inspired by different sentiments altogether. The People’s Union For Democratic Rights and People's Union For Civil Liberties place on record their gratitude for the valuable information given by the survivors of the carnag

Kinder, gentler Maoists will stop brutal execution methods

Maoist rebels in India will put an end to their most brutal methods of execution, a senior rebel leader has told the BBC. Maoist rebels are known to have killed their victims - mostly security forces or civilians suspected to be police informers - using brutal methods.  But rebels say they will now shoot their enemies, rather than hacking people to death or slitting throats.  They say this follows an internal row over the 2009 killing of a policeman.  Francis Induwar was killed by rebels in Jharkhand in 2009 by having his throat slit. His killing sparked off a debate among the rebels, Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson Manas - who uses only one name - told the BBC.  Subsequent killings were also heavily criticised by human rights groups. Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and the landless poor.  The areas where the Maoists are most active are some of the least developed in the country and in desperate need of infrastructure.  "We have now

Is Sandy a taste of things to come?

We should not be surprised. That's the view of many climate scientists as they survey the destruction wrought by the superstorm that ravaged the Northeast this week. The melting of Arctic ice, rising sea levels, the warming atmosphere and changes to weather patterns are a potent combination likely to produce storms and tidal surges of unprecedented intensity, according to many experts. Recognizing the threat, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is developing a strategy for mitigating the growing risk from storm surges and flooding along the city's 500 miles of coastline. In such a densely-populated area of so much expensive real estate, surrounded by a complex web of estuaries, tides and ocean, it is a huge challenge. And in the face of global changes, even a city as inventive as New York can only do so much. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted in 2007 that the global average sea level would rise between seven and 23 inches by the end of this century.

Noam Chomsky, "The Most Dangerous Moment," 50 Years Later

The Week the World Stood Still  The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World  By Noam Chomsky The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended -- though unknown to the public, only officially.  The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis.  Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history.  Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documenta

Tibetan mountain finch rediscovered after 80 years

It has been missing for 80 years but Sillem's Mountain Finch has now been rediscovered on the Tibetan plateau by a trekker who was too ill to leave camp. The mountain finch has been an enigma ever since its discovery in 1929, not least because it wasn't identified until 1992.  Two specimens of the sparrow-sized grey and white bird with a russet head were collected by Dutch ornithologist Jerome Alexander Sillem on an expedition to the Karakoram mountain range in 1929.  Nowadays this is the disputed border region of China, India and Pakistan and a no-go area for birders. The specimens were labelled as a race of Brandt's Mountain Finch ( Leucosticte brandti ) and consigned to a drawer in the Amsterdam Zoological Museum.  And there they remained until 1992 when a modern-day Dutch ornithologist, Kees Roselaar, opened the drawer and realised the two specimens were a distinctive species in their own right. And he named the new species   Leucosticte sillemi   - after the or

A concerned dragon: China’s fresh overture to Tibetans: Jayadeva Ranade

More than 56 Tibetans have now set themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies since the series of self-immolations began in the Sichuan town of Aba in 2009. Read more »  www.tibetnewsonline.blogspot. com As China prepares to usher in a new leadership at the 18th Party Congress scheduled to open in Beijing on November 8, there is mounting concern in senior echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the rising resentment in the ethnic Tibetan minority.  Particularly worrying would have been the self-immolation on October 15, by the grandfather of the 10-year old Beijing-recognised VIIth Gungthang Rinpoche, which highlights the strained relationship between Tibetans and Communist authorities. A new feature is that recently thousands of Tibetans, disregarding heavy armed police presence, assemble at sites of the self-immolations to pray for the deceased and mark the spot. In a recent apparent bid to ease these tensions, Chinese authorities quietly sent an emissary and conta

China protesters force halt to Zhejiang factory plan

The huge growth in China's economy has come at a huge environmental cost.  Many Chinese are becoming more environmentally aware and are deeply concerned about pollution On Friday, crowds opposed to the expansion attacked police in the city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province.  Officials from Ningbo's city government announced on Sunday evening that work on the project would now not go ahead.  Environmental protests have become more common in China. They come ahead of a once-in-a-decade change of national leaders in Beijing. Protesters gathered again in Ningbo on Sunday, marching on the offices of the district government. They are opposed to the expansion of the plant by a subsidiary of the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation.  "There is very little public confidence in the government," protester Liu Li told the Associated Press.  "Who knows if they are saying this just to make us leave and then keep on doing the project," she added. Read more: http

A Very Unusual Camera That Emphasizes Time Over Space

The abstract-seeming images here are not the result of some wacky Photoshopping.  Jay Mark Johnson ’s photos are actually incredibly precise. The reason they look like this is because he uses a slit camera that emphasizes time over space. Whatever remains still is smeared into stripes, while the motion of crashing waves, cars and a Tai Chi master’s hands are registered moment by moment, as they pass his camera by.  Like an EKG showing successive heartbeats, the width of an object corresponds not to distance or size, but the rate of movement. Viewing the left side of the picture is not looking leftward in space but backward in time.. Johnson—an architect, painter, political activist, cinematic special-effects designer, and student of cognitive sciences—probably would not have come up with the idea, himself, were it not for a chance discovery. He had purchased a $85,000 rotating slit-scan camera for high-resolution panoramas. (The camera records vast landscapes sliver by sliver.) Find

Controversy over Jaipal Reddy's transfer from Oil Ministry - NAPM condemns UPA reeling under Reliance Pressure

Jaipal Reddy, who is seen as the biggest loser in the cabinet reshuffle, is deeply upset by his transfer from the Oil Ministry to Science and Technology, widely perceived as a demotion.  Mr Reddy's aborted term as Oil Minister has been attributed to his run-in with Reliance Industries, owned by Mukesh Ambani. The minister refused to comment on his exit, but supporters say his options are limited, and while he is reportedly considering registering some sort of protest with his party, he will have to ride out the impact of his move. Mr Reddy took over as Oil Minister last year, replacing Murli Deora. He took on Reliance on multiple fronts over its DG gas fields in the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin off India's east coast.  Once India's second-biggest producer of natural gas, the DG fields have been under-performing.  The Reliance-led consortium has said the problems are related to geological complexities. But Mr Reddy had asked arbitrators to look at the matter.  Reliance says i

Hannah Arendt’s conception of Sovereignty

A CONVERSATION ON HANNAH ARENDT’S CONCEPTION OF  SOVEREIGNTY Elisabeth Young-Bruehl and Jerome Kohn The original dialogue was published in French in a volume entitled  Hannah Arendt: Crises de l’Etat-nation ( 2007) . JK.  A word about the backstory to the following conversation may be in order. Elisabeth and I met in 1968 in Hannah Arendt’s seminar on “Political Experiences in the Twentieth Century.” Studying under the guidance of a woman who had lived through the worst of those experiences, and probably better than anyone understood their unprecedentedness, was itself a remarkable experience – one we’ve talked and written about before. In Arendt’s seminar we also learned something no less remarkable about the art of thinking. If in its purest form thinking is a world-withdrawn activity, a swift, silent dialogue conducted by the thinking ego with itself, Arendt showed us by her own example that thinking also can be active in a conversation between people who, while not with

Burma clashes force 22,000 to flee homes

More than 22,000 people have been forced to flee the latest flareup between ethnic Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in  Burma , a leading UN official has said, as victims of the sectarian violence flocked to already packed displacement camps along the country's western coast. Some of those escaping the violence arrived in wooden boats outside the capital of Arakan state, Sittwe, on Sunday and headed to the nearby Thechaung camp, a place already home to thousands of Rohingya who took refuge there after a previous wave of violence in June. "I fled my hometown, Pauktaw, on Friday because there is no security at all," said 42-year-old fisherman Maung Myint, who arrived on a boat carrying 40 other people, including his wife and six children. "My house was burned to ashes and I have no money left." Another Muslim refugee said she fled her village, Kyaukphyu, on Thursday after attackers set her home on fire. "We don't feel safe," said 40-year old

Working class heroes: Architect Martand Khosla recreates the world of Delhi’s labour

Martand Khosla’s first work of art found an unlikely canvas, but one that gave him a wide viewership: the cover of last year’s critically acclaimed book  A Free Man  by journalist Aman Sethi. Khosla, who is an architect by training, made the frontal portrait of the man – a worker at one of the buildings he had designed – in 2009, with rubber stamps: symbols of state authority that are inextricably linked to the lives of workers. The image led to a wider series, which together with a larger body of work from the last three years, makes an appearance in  City of Hope  –  his first solo exhibition.  “I felt very compelled to look at the issues I deal with as an architect. I get to look at the macro scale – master plans and how the urban organism is growing, stretching and expanding outwards,” Khosla told  Time Out . “At the same time, I’ve always had a relationship with the people who are actually building the buildings that I have designed over the years.” Khosla’s architectural prac

Two Tibetan cousins set themselves on fire in China

Two Tibetan cousins set fire to themselves in their village to  protest Chinese rule, bringing the total number of self-immolations this week to seven, the highest since the protests began last year, a rights group said on Saturday.  The London-based group Free   Tibet   said cousins Tsepo, 20, and Tenzin, 25, called for independence for Tibet as they set themselves on fire on Thursday in front of a government building in their village in Biru county north of Lhasa, Tibet's main city.  Tsepo reportedly died and Tenzin's condition was unknown after he was taken away by authorities, Free Tibet said. Dozens of ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire in heavily Tibetan regions since March 2011 to protest what activists say is Beijing's heavy-handed rule in the region. Many have called for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader.  The protests have intensified as Beijing nears a once-a-decade power transfer in early November. On Friday, a 24-year-ol

Obituary: Comrade SITARAM SHASTRY

S itaram Shastry died on 24.10.2012 by jumping in front of a running train between Adityapur and Gamaria station near Jamshedpur . It was at a place where the train was going over bridge some thirty feet above the river. His body was thrown down. It lay near the calmly flowing river. He was about 72 year old. A week before he was diagnosed as having throat cancer. His daughter Kanti Prabha (Chinu) and her husband had come from Delhi to take him to Delhi for treatment. On the day they were supposed to fly out, he left home early morning and did not return. When contacted on his mobile he said he will not come back and that they should not try to look for him. Then he switched off his phone. From 1968 onwards, till his death, Sitaram had been a full time revolutionary/social activist. Till then he had worked for LIC in Jamshedpur and was a union leader. That year, like many other places in India , a lot of young people turned towards revolution. In Jamshedpur quite a few TELC