Saturday, 30 November 2013

Daniel J. Zarin - Where the trees are disappearing

(CNN) -- The loss of native tropical forests accounts for more than 10% of the carbon emissions responsible for the changing climate, receiving much-deserved attention at the recent U.N. climate change conference in Warsaw.

When forests are cleared and burned, the carbon contained in the trees and other vegetation -- roughly half of their dry weight -- is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. Most of the carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activity come from fossil fuels. But native tropical forests average about 150 tons of carbon per hectare, and millions of hectares are cleared and burned every year.
Over the past decade, governments and industry have responded to growing pressure to reverse deforestation, sometimes committing to reducing it to zero. But with few exceptions, we've lacked the tools to assess accountability.

This changed when Science magazine published a groundbreaking analysis of annual deforestation on the entire planet between 2000 and 2012. With the help of Google Earth and using advanced computing techniques, University of Maryland professor Matthew Hansen and his colleagues analyzed unprecedented amounts of satellite imagery at a 30-meter scale. Their work allows anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone and a decent Internet connection to see clearly where the world's forests are growing and where they are being destroyed.

Go to Global Forest Change and click on different regions. Use the pulldown menu to see the state of forests all over the world from 2000 to 2012, using several measurements. Go to the damage locations like the swath of the Alabama tornado, Siberian forest fires, palm oil plantations in Borneo, and many more. Distant regions are close at hand, the range of forests becomes easy to grasp, and the speed at which many of the forests are vanishing grows far more difficult to ignore.

More than 60 governments have signed on to the World Wildlife Fund's pledge to achieve "zero net deforestation" by 2020. The pledge specifically excludes offsetting native forest loss with tree plantations, although regrowing forests on abandoned lands can be subtracted from any "gross" deforestation.

With the new digitized maps and data available online, civil society watchdogs can and should hold governments accountable for making progress toward their targets. read more: 

Thailand clashes: PM forced to flee as violent demonstrations escalate

A Thai government supporter was shot and killed early on Sunday at protests in Bangkok, raising the death toll to two as protesters invaded a police compound and forced the evacuation of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to a secret location.
Some reports said anti-government demonstrators had seized control of the broadcaster Thai PBS.
Police backed up by the military were attempting to protect government buildings amid the deadly street clashes between supporters and opponents of Yingluck and her billionaire brother, the ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Anti-government protesters on Sunday broke into the compound of a police sports club where the prime minister had been during the morning but she was able to leave the premises and went to an undisclosed location, an aide said.
In another area of the city police fired teargas at protesters near Government House, where Yingluck's office is located, a Reuters witness said.

On Sunday about 70,000 government supporters gathered near a sports stadium and by morning the surrounding streets were littered with broken glass and rocks from the unrest, a Reuters witness said.
Seventeen battalions of 150 soldiers each, along with 180 military police, all unarmed, were called in to boost security ahead of a deadline the same day set by demonstrators for the ousting of the government.
Fighting had intensified on Saturday after anti-government protesters attacked a bus they believed was full of government supporters. They also smashed the windshield of a taxi carrying people wearing red shirts, a pro-government symbol, and beat two people, one unconscious, police and witnesses said.

As darkness fell, gunfire erupted outside the sports stadium in Bangkok's Ramkamhaeng area, where the 70,000 backers of Yingluck and Thaksin had gathered for a rally in a show of support after a week of anti-government protests.
Around 8pm a gunman fired into Ramkamhaeng University, where hundreds of anti-government protesters had retreated after trying to block people from entering the stadium, witnesses said. One person was killed. It was not known who fired the shots.

Fighting raged in the area through the night...
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Shamim Ahmed & Faruk Wasif - BANGLADESH: Debate on "The Hindu Question"

Hindus are nearly wiped out in Bangladesh. In 1941, the percentage of the Hindu population was 28%, in 1951 it was 22%, in 1961 it was 18.5%, in 1974 it was 13.5%, in 1981 it was 12.1%, in 1991 it was 11.6% and in 2001 it came down to 9.6%. The percentage of Hindus is reducing by about 3.2%, in every 10 years. Accordingly, in 2011 there should be around 6-7 Hindus in every 100 people. Although, the national dailies estimate that the rate of reduction to be higher – if that estimate is accepted, by now the percentage of Hindu population would be about 5%.

Truly, it is very difficult to read the minds of ‘discriminatory Bengali males’. They want equality, but do not want to give up their claims on ‘the greatness’. As ‘Bengali’ they are better than ‘Jummas’; as ‘Muslims’ they are better than ‘Hindus’; and as ‘Men’ they are better than ‘Women’. To change this situation we need law, a law that would safeguard ‘Hindus’, ‘Jummas’, ‘Women’ and all other ‘Inferiors’ from the superiority of the ‘Superiors’. When Bangladesh gains social-political freedom and becomes a secular state, perhaps, this law can be repealed.

NB - The blog link on which this article originally appeared appears no longer to be functi0nal. I can only hope that it has not been censored. The full text remains available on the SACW link provided below

Nipu Sheel wails sitting on the debris of her house that was set ablaze by Jamaat-Shibir men at Banshkhali in Chittagong. The religious fanatics looted and torched houses and temples of the Hindus in the district on Thursday, following the death sentence to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee.

Islam is encircled in peace. Three of its core phonetics are: seen, laam, meem - which mean peace. Aslam means to surrender (oneself) to peace – who does that is a Muslim, which means resting in peace. This blend of sweet language and expressions of Islam, no doubt, should bring peacefulness in hearts. Yet, repeated attacks on non-Muslims in Bangladesh have turned these aphorisms in to hallow words.

The main reasons for this are, Islam as the state religion is against the peace promised by Islam, and peace cannot be established with a claim for superiority. Equality, empathy and democratic mindset are needed for peace. These are very much absent in Bangladesh. The nucleus of power in Bangladesh is pivoted around the recognition of ‘heterosexual Muslim Bengali males’, as this combines ‘ the greatest race, the greatest sexual orientation, the greatest religion, the greatest sex’. If power politics and the power of money are also added, who would be able to resist the rise of ‘the greatest sex’?

The state can. But none of AL-JP-Jamaat-BNP-Leftist alliance – who runs our state, has effective agendas to stop the communalism. The existence of AL-JP-Jamaat-BNP depends on that very rise. The non-communist leftist parties of the county and those opportunistic parties which call themselves ‘communist parties’, ally with AL and BNP alternately, supporting the rise of ‘that sex’. On the other hand, the revolutionary parties want to give democratic-revolution a chance. Amid this razzle-dazzle, the minority gets annihilated.

The ‘heterosexual Muslim Bengali males’ will be found responsible, regardless of their party affiliation or ideological bent, in all the recent carnage carried out – in Ramu, Sathia or Char Aicha. Even if, let say, this ‘males’ do not get the ‘shadow’ of the conventional political umbrella, it can create effective ‘national politics’ by developing an anxiety: ‘Islam is under the attack’; the ‘national politics’ is then forced to become ‘the umbrella’. Numerous evidences, supporting this, have been found already. The game involving an ‘Islam phobia-phyla’ is at its most dangerous now, in Bangladesh, compared to any other time.

Under this circumstance, what should the state do to protect the minorities from the attacks? Many say we cannot sit back, demanding it from the state; we, the citizen, will need to come out to save our friends. I congratulate this willingness to social protest, but how long can we protect our friends from ourselves, playing ‘hide-n-seek’? How long will this game go on?
Hindus are nearly wiped out in Bangladesh. In 1941, the percentage of the Hindu population was 28%, in 1951 it was 22%, in 1961 it was 18.5%, in 1974 it was 13.5%, in 1981 it was 12.1%, in 1991 it was 11.6% and in 2001 it came down to 9.6%. The percentage of Hindus is reducing by about 3.2%, in every 10 years. Accordingly, in 2011 there should be around 6-7 Hindus in every 100 people. Although, the national dailies estimate that the rate of reduction to be higher – if that estimate is accepted, by now the percentage of Hindu population would be about 5%.

So, the number of Hindu population has become a question. The answer to which would, perhaps, not be found fully amongst the increasing communal violence in Bangladesh. However, that is where may be we make a start. What the communal violence, in this context? The aggression and violence of Muslims and Bengalis on Hindus and Jummas. What is the correlation? (Bengali) Muslim community has systematically been killing the Hindu community. (Muslim) Bengali community has been killing the Jumma community.

This, indeed, is a poisonous tree. The question now is where is its root? In the Bengali-Muslim state arrangements, or does it lie in the claims of the rights – Hindus as Hindu and Jummas as the indigenous people? We could research the world history in search of an answer to this question. While the quality of the question may be excellent, but there is no harm in matching this with similar questions. Yet, we need to be careful, not to deem an old answer that is readily available to be a suitable answer for a new question. Specially, when a solution is sought comparing ‘the Jew’ question with ‘the Hindu’ question.

Different individuals have tried to explain ‘the Jew’ question differently in Europe. The difference in the proposed solutions offered to the question is due to differences in individual understandings for what was ‘the root cause’. According to Marx, Bruno Bauer said that
no one is free in Germany; if we aren’t free then, how would we free our (Jewish friends)? If they claim a special freedom as Jew then they become egoists. As Germans, they will have to work for the political freedom of Germany; as human being they will have to work for freedom of humans; the particular torcher and harassment meted out to them should be realised as part of reassurance of the prevailing law, not as exception to it. … Why would Germans fight to free the Jews, if Jews do not fight for Germans’ freedom? …the Jewish claim to be free in a Christian state means that Christians get rid of their religious culture. But do Jews leave their religious culture? If Jews do not leave their religious culture, how do they then expect Christians to do the same? … A Christian state can only show Christian paths to Jews; meaning, by providing special rights, it can segregate Jews from the others (non-Jew) where Jews will face social pressure from the others and in doing so the torchers on Jews will become harsher, as they with their religion stand opposite to the religion of the power…

If this is the situation how would the Jews be free? Marx provided a brief summary of Bauer’s solution to the issues as follows:

We will have to be free fist, and then others can be freed. … The toughest problem between Christians and Jews is the issue of religion. How do eliminate religious issues? By leaving the religion. Bauer’s solution states all including Jews will get civic freedom by leaving religion.
Marx was not satisfied with Bauer’s framing of the question and the proposed solution. His first criticism is – the question does not end in who will set whom free or who will be freed; a third factor is important here – what type of freedom is being discussed here?..

Bharat Bhushan - Project Modi Inc.

Project Modi Inc.
How does one understand the electoral project of promoting Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party? If “Project Modi” presents a candidate who is a champion of development and efficiency, it also portrays him as a corporate-friendly flag-bearer of aggressive Hindu nationalism. His image is contrasted to the ruling Congress Party’s, which is seen as effete, corrupt and dynastic.

“Project Modi” is first of all a personal project. Mr Modi has systematically ousted or marginalised all opponents within the party before emerging as its “tallest” leader. Organisational coups and expulsions left Mr Modi as the sole leader of stature in Gujarat. When his ambitions began to be directed towards Delhi, he managed to show up L.K. Advani as an aging contender unfit for the Prime Minister’s job. The second-rung central leaders of the party have either chosen to fall behind him or are nursing bruised egos unable to check his rise. The foremost priority of “Project Modi” is, therefore, Mr Modi himself and his campaign strategy reflects this. Coarse abuse and personal insinuations are used to diminish challengers — from within the BJP and outside.
 Mr Modi, however, is also a middle-class project. The mass agitations against corruption and for public accountability, led essentially in the metropolitan cities by social worker Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ramdev, helped create the political conditions for rise of a Bonapartist figure speaking for the vocal middle classes. Mr Modi fitted the bill by taking up the rhetoric of wiping out corruption.

London 'slave' group went from figures of fun to tiny underground commune // Tariq Ali - What the Maoist slavery sect tells us about the far left

The description in the February 1977 edition of the South London Workers' Bulletin is dramatic and breathlessly rhetorical. A hard-working young mother is harassed by a government social security officer over her involvement in a Maoist group. The woman defends herself, and then her young daughter raises a fist and starts singing The Internationale. The story concludes: "Faced with this militant solidarity, the welfare woman ran out like a rat."
The woman in question later cut her ties with the group, the south London-based Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Two others, however, did not – and seemingly lived with the group's charismatic leader, Aravindan Balakrishnan, for 30 years in conditions police allege amounted to a form of domestic slavery, until they left last month with the aid of a charity.
The astonishing story of Aisha Wahab, now 69, and 57-year-old Josephine Herivel, along with a 30-year-old named in reports as Rosie Davies, has focused unexpected attention on a tiny, far-left group, which even those involved in Brixton's radical scene of the time rarely recalled before last week. Wahab has now been reunited with her sister, Kamar Mahtum, 73. Mahtum, who flew to London from Malaysia this week, met the 69-year-old at an undisclosed location. She told the Daily Telegraph: "It was a very emotional day, very revealing, but then I was contented. I got what I wanted, and I can bring home beautiful memories. "I have a feeling that she still wants to come home, eventually. We'll work hard to persuade her."
A handful of the surviving pamphlets from Balakrishnan's group uncovered by the Guardian present a view in which the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was "revisionist scum" for rolling back Stalin's policies, and China's "great, glorious and correct" communists were poised to liberate the world.
Balakrishnan's group was seen as fringe even for the era, recalls Paul Flewers, a historian of far-left groups who was himself a follower of the Revolutionary Communist party. He said: "In comparison to the rest of us, they were like a strange sect compared to a C of E vicar. We'd have our own paper sales in Brixton at the time, by the station. They'd turn up with their flyers with pictures of Mao on them, and we'd queue up to get them. After our sales were over, we'd go down to the pub and have a good laugh at them. It doesn't seem so funny now." The pamphlets show a group that was almost as obsessed by leftist "revisionists" as by the government or the group's perpetual nemesis, the police.
An issue from May 1976, emblazoned with a profile of Mao – who at that point was months away from death and thinking more of his own succession than plans to liberate Brixton – spends seven densely typed pages railing against Britain's trade unions, or "agents of the fascist bourgeoisie within the working-class movement".
Bob Nind, who as vicar of St Matthew's in Brixton was in contact with many political and community groups, recalls a neighbourhood where unused buildings were common and every variety of organisation sprang up in cheap rented offices or squats. He said: "Many collectives were just people who wanted to make some changes in society, and wanted to make all their decisions together, which was usually fatal in the end. Others were more idealist.
"The Workers Revolutionary party would meet in the crypt of St Matthew's, where they seemed to be singing hymns most of the time. They weren't hymns but they sounded like hymns if you didn't hear the words. On one occasion, at the same time at the other end of the crypt was Chris Patten and the Conservatives. It was an interesting sort of time."
In general, Nind remembers, the far-left groups tolerated each other, with resentment aimed at a police force, which mainly lived in barracks outside the area, tensions which soon led to riots in Brixton in 1981... read more:

Tariq Ali - What the Maoist slavery sect tells us about the far left
Far-left 'splittist' sects like Comrade Bala's proliferated in the 70s – and a genuine desire for change was corrupted -- The recent Monty Python revival has come with a bizarre reminder from south London that once, long ago, there were a few tiny Maoist groups in Britain who used language that could have been cribbed from Life of BrianAravindan Balakrishnan, 73, and his 67-year-old wife, Chanda – arrested last week on suspicion of holding three women as slaves in a flat for 30 years – were leaders of a tiny sect of 25 members known as the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, invisible to the left at large. This sect had split from its father organisation, the Communist party of England (Marxist-Leninist), which itself had less than a hundred followers. The Maoists' antics were rivalled by a number of Trotskyist sects, smaller and larger, whose implosion often involved the mistreatment of women, and the story is by no means over.

The Balakrishnans' Brixton commune, it is now alleged, kept three women as virtual prisoners against their will. But it prospered. Membership declined, but property increased. The Balakrishnans pre-empted China's turn to capitalism – according to some reports they had interests in 13 properties, three more than their total membership at the time. What was the attraction of Maoism? The figure of Mao and the revolution loomed large, but the outpourings from these groups did not suggest a close reading of On Contradiction or other texts by Mao that might have stimulated the brain cells. Instead they became fantasy outfits, each with its own homegrown Mao playing on the genuine desire for change that dominated the 1967-77 decade.
As a political current, Maoism was always weak in Britain, confined largely to students from Asia, Africa and Latin America. This was not the case in other parts of Europe. At its peak, German Maoism had more than 10,000 members, and the combined circulation of its press was 100,000. After the great disillusionment – as the Chinese-US alliance of the mid-70s was termed – many of them privatised, and thousands joined the Greens, Jürgen Trittin becoming a staunch pro-Nato member of Gerhard Schröder's cabinet. In France, the Gauche Prolétarienneorganised workers in car factories, and set up Libération, its own paper that morphed into a liberal daily. Ex-Maoist intellectuals occupy significant space in French culture, though they are now neocons: Alain FinkielkrautPascal BrucknerJean-Claude Milner are a few names that come to mind. The leading leftwing philosopher Alain Badiou never hides his Maoist past.
See also:

Dhaka's vital clothing workers toil on despite teargas and death in the streets

Political turmoil has paralysed Bangladesh's capital – and some fear top western firms will pull out of the garment industry

The workers return long after the sun has set. Some walk across the concrete bridge which is the only link between the slum and the old city of Dhaka, then head towards the tenements on the far side. Others simply step off the high embankment beside the stinking river and, leaving the orange glow of three flickering street lights, disappear into the slum's narrow lanes.
In one alley, behind a mosque and a carpenter's workshop, is a row of tin shacks which are home to about 200 people. As elsewhere across Kamrangir Char, one of the biggest and poorest slums in the world, most of the men here work on construction sites or pedalling rickshaws. Women are employed as domestic staff for the city's growing middle class or, increasingly, in the booming garment industry which supplies tens of millions of cheap shirts, trousers, sweaters and socks to high street retailers in the west.
Sitting on a plastic chair outside his shack, Mohammed Jahangir is, like many of the 160 million inhabitants of Bangladesh this weekend, angered by the unstable south Asian nation's politicians. For most of last week Dhaka was paralysed by violent protests launched by the opposition party to mark its hostility to the current government's plan to hold an election in January without installing a neutral caretaker administration first. More than 20 people died as activists burned buses and threw makeshift bombs at police, who replied with teargas and live rounds. Most casualties were bystanders, caught in the crossfire.
"This is how our country is. This is how our leaders are. I am a registered voter, but I am not going to vote," Jahangir, a mason, says. "A poor man's vote never makes any difference."
His wife recently lost her 4,000 taka (£31) per month job as a timekeeper at a garments factory making trousers for a well-known western brand. Jahangir blames a downturn in orders from the west following the collapse in April of a huge complex in the north-west of Dhaka housing more than 3,000 garment workers. More than 1,100 were killed in the worst industrial accident for a decade. Many worry that the industry will now move elsewhere, worried in case more tragedies further tarnish carefully marketed brands.
"The rich get richer and the poor get poorer or they die. That's how it is here," Jahangir, 35, says. More than four million people in Bangladesh work in the garment industry and economists estimate that at least as many again owe their jobs to the demand it creates. Four-fifths of exports from Bangladesh are garments.. read more:

Egypt’s Counter-Revolution: 21 Women and Girls Harshly Sentenced, Liberal Bloggers to be Arrested

The new anti-protest law in Egypt is roiling the country. On Thursday, a student at Cairo University was killed by police using live ammunition against a student demonstration.
Youth leaders of the 2011 revolution are now also being targeted for calling for demonstrations against the law, including Ahmad Maher of April 6 and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah. Maher and other members of the left of center April 6 youth organization had also been prosecuted for protesting by the deposed government of Muhammad Morsi.

On Wednesday, an Egyptian court sentenced 11 adult women to 14 years in prison for protesting, and the teenaged girls arrested with them (one 15) were ordered to juvenile prison until they turn 21. They are members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s military-backed government, which deposed Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi on July 3, has just passed a Draconian anti-protest law. Ironically, it has much in common with a law proposed by the deposed government of Morsi, which also prosecuted protesters.

Muslim Brotherhood members widely defied the law to protest against it, despite the law’s resemblance to the one they had wanted to impose on the country last year this time. Likewise, liberals, leftists and youth activists have come out to defy the law. It establishes “protest zones” (a la George W. Bush), requires 3 days advance notice of intent to protest, police permission, allows police to use birdshot on protesters, forbids sit-ins, and imposes heavy fines and harsh prison terms on demonstrators who defy the military state. Coming in the wake of the 2011 revolution against dictator Hosni Mubarak, the law is a further attempt by what is left of the old Egyptian elite to put the genie back in the bottle and return to authoritarian governance.

Here is liberal blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah’s statement on the arrest warrant issued for him, as translated by novelist Ahdaf Sueif:

Ahdaf Soueif - Alaa Abd El Fattah’s today’s statement in English (my version)

Statement of my intention to hand myself in to the Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday mid-day:

A Charge I don’t Deny and an Honour I don’t Claim

For the second time the Office of the Public Prosecutor sends out an arrest warrant through the media – instead of my address – well-known known to them because of their history of fabricating charges against me in the eras of Mubarak, Tantawi and Morsi.

For the second time the office of the Public Prosecutor lets itself be a tool of government propaganda, this time on the orders of the murderer, (Minister of Interior) Muhammad Ibrahim, instead of the Morshid (of the Muslim Brotehrhood). Their reason: that I incited people to demand that trials should be fair and should be the responsibility of an independent civil judiciary. As though it’s bad for the Prosecutor’s Office to respect itself and be respected by the public, it must prove its subservience to any authority that passes through this country –no difference here between a Prosecutor illegitimately appointed at the instructions of the Morshid, and Prosecutor correctly appointed – but at the instructions of the Military.

The charge – it appears – is that I participated in inviting people to protest yesterday, in front of the Shura Council building, against placing – for the second time – an article in the constitution legitimizing the court-martial of civilians.

The strange thing is that both the Prosecutor and the Ministry of the Interior knew that I was present for 8 hours at First Police Station New Cairo in solidarity with the people arrested yesterday on the same charges. But neither the Prosecutor nor the MOI ordered my arrest at the time or demanded that I be questioned. This probably means that they intend to put on a show where I play the criminal-in-hiding.

So, despite the following facts:
That I do not recognize the anti-protest law that the people have brought down as promptly as they brought down the monument to the military’s massacres –
That the legitimacy of the current regime collapsed with the first drop of blood shed in front of the Republican Guard Club –

That any possibility of saving this legitimacy vanished when the ruling four (Sisi, Beblawi, Ibrahim and Mansour) committed war crimes during the break-up of the Rab’a sit-in –
That the Public Prosecutor’s Office displayed crass subservience when it provided legal cover for the widest campaign of indiscriminate administrative detention in our modern history, locking up young women, injured people, old people and children, and holding in evidence against them balloons and Tshirts –

That the clear corruption in the judiciary is to be seen in the overharsh sentences against students whose crime was their anger at the murder of their comrades, set against light sentences and acquittals for the uniformed murderers of those same young people-

Despite all this, I have decided to do what I’ve always done and hand myself in to the Public Prosecutorread more:


What makes humans capable of horrific violence? Why do we deny atrocities in the face of overwhelming evidence? A small group of psychologists say they are moving toward answers. Is anyone listening?

The former battery factory on the outskirts of Srebrenica, a small town in eastern Bosnia, has become a grim tourist attraction. Vans full of sightseers, mostly from other countries, arrive here daily to see the crumbling industrial structure, which once served as a makeshift United Nations outpost and temporary haven for Muslims under assault by Serb forces determined to seize the town and round up its residents. In July 1995 more than 8,000 Muslim men, from teenagers to the elderly, were murdered in and around Srebrenica, lined up behind houses, gunned down in soccer fields, hunted through the forest.

The factory is now a low-budget museum where you can watch a short film about the genocide and meet a survivor, a soft-spoken man in his mid-30s who has repeated the story of his escape and the death of his father and brother nearly every day here for the past five years. Visitors are then led to a cavernous room with display cases containing the personal effects of victims—a comb, two marbles, a handkerchief, a house key, a wedding ring, a pocket watch with a bullet hole—alongside water-stained photographs of the atrocity hung on cracked concrete walls. The English translations of the captions make for a kind of accidental poetry. “Frightened mothers with weeping children: where and how to go on … ?” reads one. “Endless sorrow for the dearest,” says another.

Across the street from the museum is a memorial bearing the names of the known victims, flanked by rows and rows of graves, each with an identical white marker. Nearby an old woman runs a tiny souvenir shop selling, among other items, baseball caps with the message “Srebrenica: Never Forget.”

This place is a symbol of the 1995 massacre, which, in turn, is a symbol of the entire conflict that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. The killings here were a fraction of the total body count; The Bosnian Book of the Dead, published early this year, lists 96,000 who perished, though there were thousands more. It was the efficient brutality in Srebrenica that prompted the international community, after years of dithering and half measures, to take significant military action.

While that action ended the bloodshed, the reckoning is far from finished. Fragments of bone are still being sifted from the soil, sent for DNA analysis, and returned to families for burial. The general who led the campaign, Ratko Mladic, is on trial in The Hague after years on the run. In a recent proceeding, Mladic stared at a group of Srebrenica survivors in the gallery and drew a single finger across his throat. Around the same time, the president of Serbia issued a nonapology apology for the massacre, neglecting to call it genocide and using language so vague it seemed more insult than olive branch.

Standing near the memorial, surrounded by the dead, the driver of one of those tourist-filled vans, a Muslim who helped defend Sarajevo during a nearly four-year siege, briefly drops his sunny, professional demeanor. “How can you forgive when they say it didn’t happen?” he says. “The Nazis, they killed millions. They say, ‘OK, we are sorry.’ But the Serbs don’t do that.”

Some Serbs do acknowledge the genocide. According to a 2010 survey, though, most Serbs believe that whatever happened at Srebrenica has been exaggerated, despite being among the most scientifically documented mass killings in history. They shrug it off as a byproduct of war or cling to conspiracy theories or complain about being portrayed as villains. The facts disappear in a swirl of doubts and denial.

A new Bosnian film explores how that refusal to face the truth can become bizarre, like a hallucination. In the film, one actress plays multiple characters, each a different Serbian woman with a different reaction to Srebrenica. One character, a fast talker in a white blazer, suggests the story has been manufactured. Another, wearing hoop earrings and an animal-print blouse, doesn’t deny the killings occurred but won’t discuss them either. “Money, how you live, where you vacation, that’s what we should worry about,” she says. Yet another character—again, the same actress, this time with chopped blond hair—seems weirdly pleased to broach the morbid topic. “I don’t often get the opportunity to talk about guilt,” she says.

Listening to those women is an actor playing a Srebrenica survivor, who gently prompts them to move past their superficial banter. At one point, late in the film, he reveals his own obsession: “I often think about a particular moment, a situation. When mass killings are happening and you are tied up, and when they are taking you to the pit where they throw in the dead bodies, and when you see them killing people and you know it’s your turn next, at that second, that moment right before you are killed, what do you think about?”
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Book review: FREDERIC RAPHAEL - Hitler and the hits

Hollywood’s pact with Hitler


We begin, as film treatments so often say, in a screening room in Berlin in 1933. “At the front of the room was Dr. Ernst Seeger, the chief censor from long before Hitler came to power. Next to Seeger were his assistants: a conductor, a philosopher, an architect and a pastor. Further back were the representatives of a film distribution company and two expert witnesses. The movie they were about to watch came all the way from America, and it was called King Kong.”
After the projection of the film, Dr Seeger asked Professor Zeiss, from the German Health Office, “In your expert opinion could this picture be expected to damage the health of normal spectators?”. Zeiss inquired whether the company trying to sell the film was German or American. When told that it was German, “Zeiss erupted. ‘I am astounded and shocked,’ he yelled, ‘that a German company would dare to seek permission for a film that can only be damaging to the health of its viewers . . . this film is NOTHING LESS THAN AN ATTACK ON THE NERVES OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE! . . . It provokes our racial instincts to show a blonde woman of the Germanic type in the hands of an ape. Itharms the healthy racial feelings of the German people’”.
Ben Urwand pitches us directly into the ideological midden of Auden’s “low, dishonest decade” in which Adolf Hitler and his acolytes nationalized anti-Semitism, mesmerized Europe and – are we that amazed to discover? – intimidated Hollywood. German resentment stemmed, so Urwand would have it, from Allied propaganda in the First World War, in which German soldiers were portrayed as “gorillas who threatened the purity of innocent white women. This campaign had incensed many young Germans who went on to become Nazis. But it did not seem to be on anyone’s mind anymore”.
No source is offered for this quasi-historical amalgam, but it segues (as movie people tend to say) into the revelation that King Kong was “one of Hitler’s favourite films . . . . He was captivated by this atrocious story. He spoke of it often and had it screened several times”. Given the double-edged charm, scandal and lure of the film (remade in 1976 with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange and again in 2005 by Peter Jackson), the old Hollywood question “Who are we rooting for?” takes on Freudian overtones. Alone in the dark, who did Hitler think, or wish, he was?
Back in 1931, Dorothy Thompson had written, in William Randolph Hearst’s Cosmopolitan, of the Nazi leader’s “startling insignificance . . . . He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature . . . whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones . . . . The very prototype of the Little Man . . . . I bet he crooks his little finger when he drinks a cup of tea”. Antiquarians will match Hitler’s bonelessness with Thomas Hodgkin’s description of Theodoric’s predecessor Odoacer, who was said to have been cleaved from top to bottom by a single stroke while at prayer. His last words were “Where is God?” It remains a good question.
Dorothy Thompson failed to guess at the power of publicity to boost a nobody into Germany’s saviour: Hitler became the impersonation of national vanity, at once the irresistible beast and, in his own secret view perhaps, the brutalized victim. Among the first to realize that visual images were more persuasive, easier to assimilate, and less questionable than any written manifesto, he came to think that Mein Kampf had given a dangerously unconcealed account of his intentions. Fortunately for him, as Franklin Roosevelt noticed, the English translation toned down the raging paranoia. Nazism was the triumph not so much of the Will as of modern sales techniques as conceived by Edward Bernays, a smart Jew who had emigrated to Madison Avenue but whose genius the Führer did not deny or disdain. Film proved the twentieth century’s hottest medium for recruiting emotions, commercializing appetites and swelling vanities.
Josef Goebbels’s opening move, when put in charge of propaganda, was to constitute himself producer-in-chief to the German film industry. It gave him – another little man, a clever cripple scarcely five feet tall, and a failed novelist – a ladder to glamorous company and an impresario’s supervisory clout... read more:

Shefalee Vasudev -The rise of misogyny // Tejpal’s identity politics

The thousands of comments pouring in as responses to reports on the Tarun Tejpal rape accusation case as well as other crimes against women point to an intensifying tide of misogyny in society. In the many obstacles that the evolution of India as a feminist state will face—if it ever becomes one in the long run—this could be the biggest one. A large number of male readers with time and inclination to post comments on the Internet believe that a majority of rape victims are “crazy” women out to misuse the laws framed to protect them.
While some freely abuse female victims of heinous and degrading crimes, calling them perpetrators of “injustice” against men and thus endangering the “future” of Indian society, others still continue to believe that every woman who has been molested has been deservedly punished for inviting a certain attention to herself. Some comments on Internet sites go as far as to suggest that organizations stop hiring women employees. According to them, that’s the only way to limit organizational hassles and protect “honourable” men from being labelled criminals. All may be old theories. What’s new though is the numbers steadily crossing over to the side of misogyny. On the one hand is the rise of the male feminist who was a clear oddity in India even 10 years ago, but who made a noticeable entry during the Delhi gang-rape case. On the other is the rise of the misogynists who aren’t just questioning women’s character as societies have done for centuries but are also misreading court rulings and amended laws as political conspiracies that disregard men’s rights. That’s scary. The two genders no longer wish the best for each other. They invest more in doubt than in trust.
For this piece, I attempted to list all articles on the Web about theTehelka case since last week and review the comments under them. “Whacko men, why are you wasting your time?” said one in a group of female friends I discussed this with. “They are creeps, come on, you can’t go by what the losers say,” said another. “These are the guys who eventually turn rapists,” added the first one. I don’t think it’s so simplistic. In fact, it is hazardous to group all men as predators and potential rapists. Besides, should we ignore what may be a revealing part of public opinion by assuming that such views are only being posted by so-called “creeps”? Surely, some among such comment writers are indeed of this variety and use the Internet to belt out profanities and perversions.
At the same time, let’s not forget that the most credible media sites now edit and filter reader observations, largely allowing acceptably worded views to seep in. But even if we presume that people who write under anonymous names are those whose views don’t matter on sociological turning points, the fact is that they, too, are governed by the same state, are dependent on the same police force, go through similarly disillusioning law and order experiences and whose voices will turn into votes when the next set of political leaders is elected to power.
Indians are riddled with an overall suspicion of everything: the police, judiciary, law, media, politicians and even social relationships. But misogyny is a toxic disease and needs urgent attention. More rape and molestation cases that reveal the big and small details of the trauma that victims have to live through have woken up even the skeptics to the ground realities. Yet, what is mounting is wariness between the two genders, even in urban and liberal groups. Why do so many Indian men hate women? Unless addressed, this anger could actually lead to more crimes against women, as my friend tried to point out.
Opinions stand deeply divided on every sexual misdemeanour case, regardless of police complaints, arrests or even court judgments—from the Tejpal case to allegations against Asaram Bapu; from politician Gopal Kanda’s role in the alleged sexual exploitation and abetment of suicide of flight attendant Geetika Sharma to even the Delhi gang-rape where many people (including women) questioned the victim’s sanity over “walking about at night with a male friend”. That makes it an opinionated mess out there instead of contemporary awareness and search for the real causes behind what’s going on. It is high time we talk pointedly and candidly inside organizations; with our men friends and through media channels about why Indian men and women don’t trust anyone, anything, anymore. If an injured society waits too long before worrying about healing, the wounds could become fatal.
Of the many major and mini debates sparked by the Tarun Tejpal case and Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury’s subsequent see-saw stands on the charges against him, one is on the issue of feminist identity. We are all familiar with the argument that we have not just one but several identities. Each identity has a rhetorical component acquired from the prevailing zeitgeist, the spirit of our times, but another is revealed when that one is put under stress. Our self-image is derived from the label of the day: We may be communists, secularists, nationalists, free-thinkers or feminists, stitching our public personas to accord with these labels. We may even adhere to these principles. But what the Tehelka case has shown is that identities are fragile and likely to crumble.
Chaudhury has let her feminist identity slip in the face of fire. While Tejpal’s bail application on Tuesday to the Delhi high court, with his sardonic comments on the girl’s behaviour after alleged molestation, makes it clear that the man who once professed to be a humanist, realist and feminist now thinks little of raising absurd arguments in a morally weakening case. As expected, TV channels took to furious debates on Tuesday evening. One kind of outrage replacing another seldom leads to better perspective but the way some of Indian media’s senior-most representatives continue to dissect the Tejpal case (also revealing their own rhetorical identities) deserves attention.
Last week, when the news first broke, as a journalist privy to at least some politics between different media houses, I was playing a guessing game with journalist friends and colleagues. Let’s now see who is vocal in their criticism of Tejpal—known as one of this country’s most important and incisive journalists, whose voice has added credibility to our profession. I said this with scepticism, curious how veteran journalists like Outlook’s Vinod Mehta, The Indian Express’ Shekhar Gupta, the legendary M.J. Akbar,The Pioneer’s Chandan Mitra, India Today’s Aroon Purie, The Hindu’s N. Ram and Hindustan Times’ Vir Sanghvi would react in public. Who would be the first to join the condemnation committee now that the bell has begun to toll? Some like Gupta, Akbar and Sanghvi have remained quiet but the tone and content of reportage in the publications they edit gives away what they think. For a journalist like me who has worked under some of these editors, exposure to their opinions when it is time to hang one of our own is crucial to understanding the journalism of our times. Urged by TV heavyweights like Karan Thapar, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan and Arnab Goswami, who have provoked many gradations of anger and analysis on TV, we know where the big daddies stand on this. At least what their journalistic identities are. “Did our tone become mocking or is this mocking justified?” questioned Thapar on his show Devil’s Advocate, adding the right logs into the fire.
What stands unmasked now is not only Tejpal as a seemingly desperate slanderer but also how Tarun Tejpal the journalist has come out so differently from Tarun Tejpal the rape accused. We can only imagine what Tejpal would have said as a panellist on such a debate. The fact that his rhetorical self is so contrary to his real self is no small revelation. It shows that the stands we take as opinion-makers may not be our only identity as journalists.Turning the lens inward, I have begun to wonder if frothing-at-the-mouth feminism, which works like an adrenalin pump when we take our sides as journalists, is only a politically correct, mood-of-the-moment garb instead of a personal commitment? In his book Identity And Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen wrote of myriad identities inside individuals, arguing why identity becomes destiny. In Tejpal’s case, it is ironical to see how his real self is throttling his rhetorical self, directing, in a way, his destiny. At least as a journalist. Would Messrs William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale consider this as a subject of literary debate at the 2014 Jaipur Literary Festival? Tejpal can be the poster boy this once too

Amulya Ganguli - Why an inquiry commission won’t solve Modi’s problem

The Narendra Modi government’s decision to set up a commission to inquire into the allegations of snooping by Gujarat’s official agencies of a young woman, reportedly at the behest of an unnamed “saheb”, will not mark the end of prevailing suspicions and innuendos. What is more, in its haste to defuse misgivings about the charges, the state government appears to have neglected to take into account the possible effects of its decision. 

For instance, what if the commission identifies, or fails to identify, the “saheb”. If it does, then the matter will be deeply disconcerting for the chief minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for the belief is that the “saheb” is none other than the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. The question will then arise as to why such a wide-ranging surveillance by several state agencies, including an anti-terrorism unit, was ordered. And, if the commission is tight-lipped about the identity, it will only substantiate the suspicion that its purpose was not to find out the reasons for the shadowing of the woman, but to bury the embarrassing issue.

While the outcome of the proposed inquiry lies in the future – the commission has a three-month time limit – there is a belief that the panel may have a different mandate altogether, for its terms of reference do not relate to the issue of tracking a person at all. Instead, they are, first, to ascertain the genuineness of the audio tapes about the conversations about the surveillance, reportedly between Modi’s Man Friday, Amit Shah, and a police officer. There is a hint in this particular scope inquiry of an attempt to shoot the messenger. Secondly, the commission is to find out whether there has been a violation of the legal procedures relating to the alleged tailing of the woman. 

This is all right by itself, but it is suspected that the police officer who is involved in the voice-recordings may be asked why he kept it with himself and did not hand it over to his superiors. Although the voice-recordings are now with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), this line of inquiry appears to be another attempt to dispose of the messenger. Apart from the legal intricacies, what is patent enough is the murkiness of the entire episode. Its damaging implications for Modi are obvious. Since the matter will be probed not only by the commission but also by the Supreme Court, Modi will be wary of his campaign being suddenly derailed. As it is, the court is engaged in investigating the various misdemeanours of the Modi government going back to the 2002 riots. 

There is also a fake encounter case in which Amit Shah is an accused. If, on top of all this, the Snoopgate or Stalkgate probe exposes unsavoury details, the BJP and its prime ministerial aspirant will be in deep trouble. It is worth recalling that the Modi government’s record in the matter of setting up commissions is a dubious one. After the 2002 riots, it had set up a one-man commission under a retired high court judge, KG Shah, who had earned a stricture from the Supreme Court on an issue concerning Muslims. The apex court had said that the “finding of the judge is not based on appreciation of evidence, but on imagination”. Following protests, the state government reconstituted the commission into a two-member body, comprising G.T. Nanavati and Shah. But, as its earlier decision showed, the government had little interest in an inquiry which revealed what really happened.

A similar disinclination to find out the truth was evident in the closing of as many as 2,000-odd cases pertaining to the riots on grounds of lack of evidence by a pliant police evidently acting in accordance with orders from above. It was the Supreme Court’s intervention which led to the reopening of the cases and the transfer of some of the more horrific ones for trial outside Gujarat – the Best Bakery and Bilkis Bano cases. It is just as well, therefore, that the apex court is investigating Snoopgate. But what is an occasion of general relief – over the expectation that the surveillance mystery will be impartially investigated – will be a matter of considerable concern for the Modi government, for it cannot be sure whether a Pandora’s box will be opened. 

In a way, Snoopgate is even more troubling for the state government than the 2002 riots. While the allegation about the latter is that the government was tardy, if not complicit, with regard to the outbreak, which claimed about 1,200 lives according to official estimates and more than 2,000 according to unofficial accounts, Snoopgate points to a gross misuse of official machinery for purposes with disreputable implications.
See also:

Snooping scandal: No Mr Modi, you have to answer for this
Given the handling of the issue so far, it’s likely that the BJP will hold up the father’s defence of Modi as proof that no further action is needed, but unfortunately nothing could be worse. 

Amit Shah’s alleged illegal surveillance

Suspended IAS officer to request SC to take cognizance of tapes

Gujarat surveillance controversy: Suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma speaks on TV

Gujarat snoop scandal: Why BJP’s ‘daddy’ defence is shameful