Monday, 30 April 2018

Ali Abunimah - Israel's Massacres of Gaza Protesters Force Liberal Zionists to Face Oppressive Reality

As the Israeli military continues to mow down unarmed protesters in the illegally occupied Gaza Strip on a weekly basis, some of Israel's most high profile supporters have begun to speak out against its brutal oppression of the Palestinians. Early this April, one of Hollywood's biggest actresses, Natalie Portman, ignited a firestorm when she announced that she would not be attending a major awards ceremony in Israel, in protest of its violence in Gaza. 

In response, the Genesis Prize Foundation, which oversees what has been described as the Jewish Nobel Prize, cancelled its prize ceremony in Israel. Natalie Portman has been a longtime vocal supporter of Israel. She was born in Jerusalem, and has dual US and Israeli citizenship. But now, even some of the most prominent liberal Zionists, that is, liberal supporters of the Zionist political movement and the Israeli ethnostate, even they are publicly criticizing Israel's extreme right-wing government.

Since March 30th, Palestinians living in the illegally Israeli besieged Gaza Strip have held weekly peaceful demonstrations, as part of what they call The Great March of Return. The Israeli military has responded by massacring unarmed protesters. At least 40 Palestinians have been killed, including journalists and young teenagers. More than 5,000 Gazans have been injured. Israeli soldiers have shot thousands of unarmed Palestinians with live ammunition.

Joining us to discuss the growing divide between what liberal Zionists say about Israel and what's actually happening on the ground is Ali Abunimah. Ali Abunimah is the director of the Electronic Intifada. He is also the author of several books about Israel/Palestine. Thanks for joining us.

ALI ABUNIMAH: Thank you, Ben,
BEN NORTON: So, Ali what do you think about this whole media scandal with Natalie Portman? We saw that, in fact, a member of Israel's far right ruling party, Likud, in fact called for Portman to be stripped of her Israeli citizenship. What does this say about the Israeli government and some of its liberal supporters?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Yeah, and not just for her to be stripped of her Israeli citizenship, but she's been denounced even as an anti-Semite by people in Israel, and government figures, and so on. The key point here isn't really about Natalie Portman as a person, because I've seen people debating this back and forth, about whether Natalie Portman deserves praise, people noting that Natalie Portman has a long history of supporting Israel. And even after she announced she wouldn't go, she denounced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and so on… hear the interview:

Ten journalists among 36 killed in Afghanistan attacks

Ten journalists have died in Afghanistan in a coordinated double suicide bombing in Kabul and a shooting in the eastern Khost province, on the deadliest day for media workers in the country since the fall of the Taliban. Nine journalists died in the Afghan capital when they gathered at the scene of the first of two blasts. Ahmad Shah, a BBC reporter, was shot dead in a separate incident in Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.

In Kabul, a suicide attacker riding a motorbike blew himself up in the Shash Darak neighbourhood, near the Nato headquarters and the US embassy, at about 8am. A second bomber, holding a camera and posing as a journalist, struck 20 minutes later, killing rescue workers and journalists, including an Agence France-Presse photographer, who had rushed to the scene. At least 25 people were killed and 45 injured in total. Hours later, a suicide bomber targeting a Nato convoy in southern Kandahar province killed 11 children at a religious school located near where the explosion occurred. 

At least 16 people, including five Romanian Nato soldiers, nine civilians and two police officers, were also wounded.  AFP paid tribute to its chief photographer in Kabul, Shah Marai, who was among those killed in the capital. “This is a devastating blow, for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency,” AFP’s global news director, Michèle Léridon, said. “We can only honour the strength, courage, and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.”.. read more:

Michelle Wolf has nothing to apologise for. Her critics do, though. By Arwa Mahdawi

Let me tell you a few deplorable things that happened in America this weekend. Nearly 43 million people woke up in poverty in the richest country in the world. And 3.2 million Americans woke up without health insurance. A further 36 people died because of gun violence, bringing the total number of gun deaths in the US this year to 4,627.

All of that is deplorable. What is in absolutely no way deplorable or shocking or outrageous or unacceptable is a joke about eye shadow. You probably know what I mean, it was headline news on Sunday. But if you missed the controversy, the summary is that a comedian called Michelle Wolf 
made a gag about Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner in DC.
“I think [Sanders is] very resourceful,” Wolf said about the White House press secretary. “Like, she burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye.”
Wolf was referencing Sanders’ well-documented history of defending Trumps brazen lies. Earlier this month for example, Sanders defended Trump’s racist claims that women from Central America are raped at “levels that nobody has ever seen before”. She also justified Trump’s entirely unfounded claims that “millions and millions” of illegal votes are cast in America’s elections by saying that the president “strongly feels” that is the case. Sanders lectures the press about accuracy but spends her days helping Trump fuel racism and hate with shameless lies. Sanders, in brief, is a morally bankrupt person and Wolf was holding her to account. 

Sanders may be a morally bankrupt person but guess what? She’s also a wife and mother and it is really very mean for Wolf to stoop so low as to mention Sanders’ eye shadow. Can you imagine the devastating psychological impact of having a comedian reference your affinity for a smoky eye? Can you imagine how damaged her kids must be by the reference to their mum’s makeup?

Personally, I can’t imagine any of this, but it seems plenty of other people can… read more:

1968: When the Communist Party Stopped a French Revolution. By Mitchell Abidor

Part of a series reflecting on the tumultuous political events of 1968 and their legacy fifty years on

 For fifty years, the events of May–June 1968 in France have had a collective hero: the striking students and workers who occupied their factories and universities and high schools. They’ve also had a collective villain, one within the same camp: the French Communist Party (PCF) and its allied labor union organization, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), which together did all they could to put a brake on a potential revolution, blocking the students and workers from uniting or even fraternizing.

This reading of the events is often found in histories, most recently Ludivine Bantigny’s 1968. De Grands soirs en petits matins. I heard it fairly consistently from rank-and-file student and leftist participants in the May events whom I interviewed for my oral history of May ’68, May Made MePrisca Bachelet, who helped the students at Nanterre organize their occupation of the university administrative offices on March 22, 1968, and who was present for every decisive moment of the May–June days, said of the CGT leaders that “they were afraid, afraid of responsibility.” Joseph Potiron, a revolutionary farmer in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, said the strikes “ended when the union leaders pushed the workers to return to work.” For the writer Daniel Blanchard, the occupations were a fraud: “The factories were very quickly occupied, not by the workers but by the local CGT leadership. And this was an essential element in the demobilization of the strikers.” Éric Hazan, at the time a cardiac surgeon and now a publisher, viewed the Communists’ actions as “Treason. Normal. A normal treason.”

There is an element of truth in this characterization of the Communists, though only an element: the party line modified with events, and the general strike and factory occupations would not have been possible without Communist participation. In late April, before the beginning of les évènements, the PCF had issued warnings against the anarchist-leaning March 22 Movement, formed at the University of Nanterre and led by, among others, Daniel Cohn-Bendit; the party secretariat instructed its cadres to ensure the students not be allowed to approach factory workers should they march to the factories. On May 3, the party newspaper L’Humanité carried an article about the students at Nanterre headlined “The Fake Revolutionaries Unmasked.” But by May 7, just days after the beginning of the uprising on May 3, the party leadership spoke of “the legitimacy of the student movement.” Though the Communists continued to stand firmly against students entering the occupied factories, this change in party attitude opened the door the following week to the CGT and PCF’s call for the workers to go on strike throughout France and join the students on the streets. In fact, the first major worker-student march was the first workday after the violence of the Night of the Barricades on Friday, May 10.

Huge marches that included both students and workers were held, starting May 13, when the workers joined the students on strike. But the unity was deceptive. Alain Krivine, the founder and leader of the Trotskyist Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire, said about these marches that “there were common worker-student demos but we didn’t have the same slogans: they had theirs, we had ours. There was never any real connection with them.” Hélène Chatroussat, at the time a Trotskyist in Rouen in Voix Ouvrière, admitted that when they went to factories and saw the workers behind the gates occupying them, “I said to myself, they are many, they’re with us… so why don’t they tell the Stalinists [the PCF] to get lost so we could come in and they could join us?”.. read more:

Time for a riot: how the art of 1968 caught a world in turmoil

Photography: ‘The moment a country lost its sense of self’: On 19 August 1968, Josef Koudelka 
returned to Czechoslovakia from Romania, where he had been living among and photographing Romany Gypsies. The following day, Soviet tanks appeared on the streets of Prague. For seven days, the 30-year-old Moravian-born photographer roamed the city with his East German Exakta Varex camera loaded with movie film, the only stock he could find at short notice. The resulting images, some of which were smuggled out of the country, but many of which were not seen until decades later, captured the tumult of a traumatised city. They are recognised as one of the most powerful photo-journalistic essays of the 20th century.

Koudelka photographed teenagers blocking the paths of Soviet tanks, old people imploring the young Soviet soldiers to return home, flag-waving youths clambering over army vehicles. He returned to his apartment only to find more film or succumb to exhaustion. His images of defiance have, in the interim, become infused with a romantic, even elegiac quality. Their atmosphere is echoed in photographs of more recent upheavals, most notably the Arab Spring protests.

Everything is uncertain except the hand of a passerby curled into a fist – and the hands of a watch

This image, which he titled Hand and Wristwatch, is of a different order: a singular moment of calm and stillness. Here, there is no movement, no noise, only the almost empty street and that anonymous arm in the foreground, stretching out into the frame. It captures not just the moment the troops entered Prague but also the eerie atmosphere of an entire city and country helplessly losing its sense of itself. Look closely and you can see a small group of people who have left their work to gather on the pavement. In the background, those blurry vehicles may be tanks. Everything is uncertain here except the hand of a passerby, curled into a fist, and the hands of the watch that signal the moment when everything changed utterly for the citizens of the invaded city. 

This may be Koudelka’s only conceptual photograph, but it resonates as an iconic image of a tumultuous political moment in which there is no tumult – only an eerie silence in which time itself seems to have come to a halt. Sean O’Hagan.

Music: ‘The sound of hippy idealism curdling’: The events of 1968 took some time to percolate through pop: it wasn’t until a year later that Thunderclap Newman would reach No 1 with a song urging the listener to “hand out the arms and ammo … because the revolution’s here”, and that a mood of increasing militancy would really start being reflected by black artists. Of the musicians who did react quickly to 1968’s tumult, the Rolling Stones were audibly re-energised and the Beatles baffled – “you can count me out … in,” sang John Lennon on Revolution. The most incendiary music made in immediate response to the year’s events, a recording of Nina Simone performing at the Westbury Music Fair three days after Martin Luther King’s assassination, was bowdlerised before being released, not least to remove the sound of Simone urging the audience to avenge King’s death by any means: “I ain’t about to be non-violent, honey.”.. read more:

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Book review: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey

Catherine Nixey - The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World 
Reviewed by Tim Whitmarsh

If there is a weakness in this book, it stems precisely from its Gibbonian roots. This is, fundamentally, a restatement of the Enlightenment view that the classical heritage was essentially benign and rational, and the advent of Christianity marked civilisation’s plunge into darkness...

A more critical review: "this is a book of biased polemic masquerading as historical analysis.."

The theologian,” wrote Edward Gibbon in his classic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “may indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption, which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.” Gibbon was a child of the European Enlightenment, and he viewed his task as a historian of early Christianity as a dispassionate, scientific one: to see things as they are, rather than as the pious would want them to be. The conclusions he reached were, perhaps inevitably, controversial in his day. The pre-Christian Roman empire, he believed, was characterised by “religious harmony”, and the Romans were interested more in good governance than in imposing religious orthodoxy on their many subjects. 

A distinctive feature of early Christianity, by contrast, was for Gibbon its “exclusive zeal for the truth of religion”, a blinkered, intolerant obsessiveness that succeeded by bullying and intimidation, and promoted a class of wide-eyed mystics. Indeed, Christian zealotry, was, he thought, ultimately responsible for the fall of the Roman empire, by creating citizens contemptuous of their public duty.

This spirit permeates Catherine Nixey’s book. In her view, the standard modern picture of the Roman empire’s conversion remains, even 200 years after Gibbon, glossed by Christian triumphalism. 
History, she believes, has given the Church an undeservedly easy ride. Pre-Christian Rome tends to be imagined as cruel, arbitrary and punitive; it is thought to be, in her fine phrase, “a chilly, nihilistic world”. Christianity, conversely, is painted as brave, principled, kind, inclusive and optimistic. The task she sets herself – her own melancholy duty – is to rip away this veneer and expose the error and corruption of the early Church.

This is also, however, a book for the 21st century. What concerned Gibbon was the clash between faith and reason; for Nixey, the clashes are physical ones. This is, fundamentally, a study of religious violence. Her cover displays a statue of Athena deliberately damaged: its eyes have been gouged and its nose smashed, and a cross has been etched into its forehead. The story of this defacement is told in her prologue and reprised in her final words. The events happened in Palmyra in the late fourth century, when some of the oasis city’s magnificent temples were repurposed as sites of Christian worship. Her choice to begin in Palmyra is, of course, a careful one. When she speaks of the destruction wrought on the architecture of the Syrian city by “bearded, black-robed zealots”, the reader thinks not of marauding fourth-century Christian fundamentalists but of television images from recent history. 

“There have been,” she writes, and “there still are … those who use monotheism and its weapons to terrible ends.” What is revealing about that last sentence is not the connection she draws between savage practices in Christian late antiquity and in the name of Islamic State but the phrase “monotheism and its weapons”. Many modern commentators like to speak of religious terrorism as a horrific distortion of religious truth; for Nixey, monotheism is always weaponised and waiting only for someone to pull the trigger… read more:

Friday, 27 April 2018

Samuel Osborne - Armenian genocide: Thousands march around the world to demand recognition for atrocity

Thousands of people have marched around the world to commemorate the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks & demand recognition for the atrocity as a genocide. Armenians and many historians consider the killings during the First World War to be a genocide.
Although Turkey, a successor to the Ottoman Empire, accepts many Christian Armenians were killed in fighting during the war, the Muslim-majority country vehemently denies the killings in 1915 amounted to a genocide.

On Tuesday, thousands of Armenian-Americans took to the streets of Los Angeles, waving Armenian and American flags and carrying signs reading “1915 never again” and “Turkish denial must end.”
The city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, marched alongside the demonstrators, saying in a speech the genocide was “a human tragedy.” “To be a part of the human family we must accept our tragedies,” Mr Garcetti said. “And all of us will say, ‘Never again.”’

Many called for a formal recognition of the genocide from countries such as the United States, Turkey and the United Kingdom, where it is recognised by the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but not England. Donald Trump has called it “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century” but stopped short of using the word genocide. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the country has a responsibility to share the pain of its Armenian citizens over the “1915 events.” In Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, tens of thousands of Armenians marched to a hilltop memorial dedicated to the victims of the massacres... read more:

More posts on the Armenian genocide

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Gaza Border Protesters, Wound 400

GAZA, April 27 (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot dead three protesters along the Gaza border on Friday, Gaza medics said, hours after the United Nations human rights chief criticized Israel for using “excessive force” against demonstrators. Israeli troops have killed 41 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,000 others since Gaza residents began staging protests along the border fence on March 30 to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The troops were holed up behind fortifications on their side of the 40km (25-mile) border fence and fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters at five locations on the Gazan side. Gaza medical officials said two protesters who were struck by bullets were in critical condition in hospital and 600 others were wounded.

The Israeli military said 10,000 Gazans were participating in what it described as “riots,” and that some had tried to breach the border into Israel. It said troops “had operated in accordance with the rules of engagement” to stop people crossing the border.. read more:

Colin Gordon - A Dismal Report Card on Global Inequality

The global maldistribution of wealth and income is now so stark, we have taken to comparing the incomes or fortunes of just a few individuals to vast swaths of the world’s population. Behind those jaw-dropping ratios, there is a more complex story that plays out across time and across regions.

The World Inequality Report 2018 painstakingly documents the dimensions of income and wealth inequality, around the globe, within and across countries. Boiled down to one sentence, the conclusions of the 2018 Report echo those of Branko Milanovic and others: Wealth and income inequality are widening within countries, even as global development slowly narrows the gap betweencountries. These patterns are evident in the summary of regional trends below. The share of income going to the top 10 percent has increased moderately in Europe; it starts high and stays high in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East; it has taken off—for different reasons—in the United States, Russia, and Asia.

This work reflects the efforts of scores of researchers, following the lead of Thomas Piketty and colleagues, in assembling long runs of comparable wealth and income data, for much of the world, and for much of the last century. That data has been maintained since 2011 in the World Inequality Database; the annual report, released late last year, offers us a snapshot of telling trends and patterns. With this, and future annual reports, the researchers hope to “fill a democratic gap and to equip various actors of society with the necessary facts to engage in informed public debates on inequality.”

Their innovative data collection (across time and across settings) relies heavily on fiscal data (that is, from tax returns)—a source that both provides much longer and complete long runs of data (since 1913 in the United States) than the Census or other survey sources, and which captures the concentration of wealth and income at the very top of the distribution in ways the survey data cannot.

The research team is determined to turn more of the conversation to wealth inequality. Not only is wealth inequality much steeper than income inequality in almost all settings (the highest-earning 1 percent in the United States take home 20.2 percent of national income; the richest 1 percent claim 41.8 percent of all wealth), but—in a world where capital income is displacing labor income—it is increasingly the root cause of income inequality as well… read more:

Book review: Where do atheists get their values? John Gray's Seven Types of Atheism

Reviewed by Patrick Freyne

John Gray is a self-described atheist who thinks that prominent advocates of atheism have made non-belief seem intolerant, uninspiring and dull. At the end of the first chapter of his new book, Seven Types of Atheism, he concludes that “the organised atheism of the present century is mostly a media phenomenon and best appreciated as a type of entertainment”.

He laughs when I remind him of this sick burn. “I wrote the book partly as a riposte to that kind of atheism,” he says. “There’s not much new in [new atheism] and what is in it is a tired recycled version of forms of atheism that were presented more interestingly in the 19th century. In the so-called new atheism people are [presented with] a binary option between atheism, as if there was only one kind, and religion, as if there was only one kind of religion. [It’s] historically illiterate.

“They don’t even know when they’re repeating ideas from the 19th or early 20th century . . .They don’t know anything of the history of atheism or religion. They’re also very parochial about religion. They take religion to be, not even monotheism or Christianity [but] contemporary American Protestant fundamentalism . . . It’s a parochial, dull debate. I thought of having a subtitle called Why the God Debate is Dead.” In Seven Types of Atheism, Gray explores the rich philosophical history of non-belief and enlivens it with entertaining tales of humanists like August Comte who so believed in human co-operation he designed clothes that couldn’t be put on without assistance and “god-haters” like the Marquis de Sade whose life was lived in debased defiance of the divine.

Gray chose his title with reference to Seven Types of Ambiguity by the poet, critic and “misotheist” William Empson, in which Empson said “that far from ambiguity being a defect in language, it’s what makes it so rich. Without ambiguity we couldn’t deal with the world. I think the same is true of atheism and religion. They’re fluid. They’re multiple. They’re plural... read more:

Van Badham: Seven signs of the neoliberal apocalypse

The pressing need is not to pray for intercession; Varoufakis’s call is right – “collective, democratic political action” is the genuine alternative, and it’s broader democratic investment in the institutions of parties, movements, academies and media that always builds the world to come. That is, after all, what the neoliberals did. And look – just look – how far they got.

For 40 years, the ideology popularly known as “neoliberalism” has dominated political decision-making in the English-speaking west. People hate it. Neoliberalism’s sale of state assets, offshored jobs, stripped services, poorly-invested infrastructure and armies of the forcibly unemployed have delivered, not promised “efficiency” and “flexibility” to communities, but discomfort and misery. 

The wealth of a few has now swelled to a level of conspicuousness that must politely be considered vulgar yet the philosophy’s entrenched itself so deeply in how governments make decisions and allocate resources that one of its megaphones once declared its triumph “the end of history”. It wasn’t, as even he admitted later. And given some of the events of the contemporary political moment, it’s possible to conclude from auguries like smoke rising from a garbage fire and patterns of political blood upon the floor that history may be hastening neoliberalism towards an end that its advocates did not forecast.

Three years ago, I remarked that comedian Russell Brand may have stumbled onto a stirring spirit of the times when his “capitalism sucks” contemplations drew stadium-sized crowds. Beyond Brand – politically and materially – the crowds have only been growing. Is the political zeitgeist an old spectre up for some new haunting? Or are the times more like a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “the combination of inequality and low wage growth is fuelling discontent. Time to sing a new song.” In days gone past, they used to slice open an animal’s belly and study the shape of its spilled entrails to find out. But we could just keep an eye on the news.

Here are my seven signs of the neoliberal apocalypse... read more:

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Korea summit: Kim Jong-un promises 'a new beginning' as leaders meet – live updates

Kim Jong-un and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, come face to face at the inter-Korean meeting in the demilitarised zone. Follow all the developments and reaction with our live blog

Other than the leaders themselves, one of the few people allowed in on this morning’s intimate meeting was Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, proving how much of a close confidante she is to him.
Kim Yo Jong has already become something of a celebrity in South Korea after she attended the Winter Olympics in February, making her the first member of her family to cross the border to the South. Moon mentioned this her celebrity status his opening comments, which apparently made her blush. Kim Yo Jong was also by her brother’s side during his inaugural visit to China to meet Xi Jinping, and it is very likely she will also attend the summit with Trump next month... read more:

Govt has struck at the very heart of judicial freedom: former CJI RM Lodha

NB: Our 'patriotic' government is engaged in nothing less than the full-scale dismantling of the autonomy of the judiciary and the submission of justice - especially criminal justice - to ideological control. Crucial evidence disappears from court resulting in the acquittal of Hindutva activists accused of terrorist activities; the mysterious death of a sitting judge in a criminal case implicating the BJP Party chief has been hushed up; and the suicide letter of the ex-Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh has been consigned to oblivion. This letter contained allegations of corrupt practices against senior members of the judiciary (including the sitting Chief Justice); and personages across the political spectrum. All this is happening in front of our eyes, with the connivance of the country's highest judicial official and in blatant disregard of norms and conventions of lawful governance. 

The Master of the Roster has magically congealed into His Master's Roster. Ironic indeed, that men with no respect for norms and conventions should demand respect and deference whilst engaged in dismantling those very conventions! Your status is conferred upon you by the chair you occupy sir, you were not born with it. When you do not defer to norms and propriety, by what logic do you demand that others defer to you? How do you appeal to the conscience of others when you show no signs of possessing one yourself? Do you really believe that the death of Judge Loya and the suicide of Kalikho Pul require no further investigation? Is this what our last court of appeal is reduced to? 

Present situation in Supreme Court disastrous: Former Chief Justice RM Lodha

Truly it has been said that a totalitarian polity is akin to a secret society functioning in broad daylight. So let us laugh and read Franz Kafka who had written a parable about the gatekeepers of the Law a century ago. Bharat Mata ki jai etc. DS 

Four former Chief Justices of India and another four former judges of the Supreme Court have expressed their concern over the current standoff between the Supreme Court and the Government and have questioned how CJI Dipak Misra has let the government stonewall the Collegium’s recommendations. In fact, the government’s “segregation” of the recommendations — to reject the nomination of Justice K M Joseph, the Chief Justice of Uttarakhand to the Supreme Court, and to accept the elevation of advocate Indu Malhotra “strikes at the very heart of the independence of the judiciary,” former Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha said in New Delhi on Thursday.

“What governments do by segregating recommendations, is (to) throw plans of the Collegium for seniority or ensuring a certain succession of future Chief Justices out of the window. By simply sitting over the file for weeks and then picking one and not the other, a whole new succession comes into play. This is interference in the judiciary, apart from, of course, rejecting names that the government doesn’t find favourable.”

Justice Lodha added: “The Chief Justice of India, in such a situation, should immediately call a meeting of the collegium and take up the matter with the government. If the reiteration must be done, it must happen immediately.” Significantly, he underlined: “The Chief Justice cannot sit over the file either, indefinitely, as can’t the government.” The Memorandum of Procedure, which lays out the terms of engagement between the Centre and the judiciary, “as is established and operational” does not talk of segregation but the “settled convention is that the government cannot segregate the names,” Justice Lodha said. Justice Lodha should know.

Eleanor Ainge Roy - World's longest penguin dive, of more than half an hour, is recorded

Scientists in Antarctica have recorded the world’s longest penguin dive, an astounding 32.2 minutes under the water; a full five minutes longer than the previous record. Emperor penguins, which live only in Antartica, are the tallest and heaviest penguins in the world, and have the best diving ability. They can dive as much as 500 metres down in some of the world’s harshest and coldest seas.

The record dive emerged after 20 emperor penguins were tagged with satellite transmitters in 2013, to better understand their foraging and diving patterns. The research was conducted by Marine ecologist Dr Kim Goetz from the New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, Dr Gerald Kooyman from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Dr Brigitte McDonald from Moss Landing Marine Labratories. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Although Goetz and her team were aiming to study the behaviors of breeding penguins, they tagged the wrong birds, tracking 20 non-breeding birds that spent most of the next year hunting in the remote eastern Ross sea; usually a challenging environment for scientists to study animal behavior, due to its distance from human bases. Goetz and her team discovered that emperor penguins travel and dive further than anyone thought possible; travelling distances between 273km and nearly 9,000km in the study period, and conducting dives that lasted between one and 32.2 minutes.

Before the team’s findings the longest recorded emperor penguin dive was 27.6 minutes, which is “impressive” and mysterious, said Goetz, given emperor penguins’ physiology suggest they should be capable of comfortably diving for periods up to eight minutes; after which they run out of oxygen and their anaerobic system kicks in, placing a significant strain on the body and requiring a longer recovery time. “What we don’t know at this point is if it’s becoming harder [for them] to find food and they have to dive deeper, or for some reason they are veering off course and they can’t find an ice hole, and if they can’t find an ice hole, they can’t come up to breathe,” said Goetz.

“But if an animal is going deeper and expending itself and using all its oxygen to get down there, it is usually because it is worth it.” Most of the fitted trackers stayed in place for more than six months, and more than 96,000 dives were recorded between March and the end of 2013. Penguins dove longer and deeper during the day and twilight than at night, and their dive rate was significantly higher during the day (5.5 dives per hour) and twilight (5.6 dives per hour) than at night (0.4 dives per hour).

Goetz said the next phase would require placing cameras on the birds to record exactly what they were doing under the ice – and what they were hunting for that was worth the effort. “This study showed that animals go far further than we thought – this has a number of different implications for their survival ... understanding their entire life cycle, especially when birds are not restrained by chick-rearing duties, is critical to predicting how emperor penguins might respond to environmental changes.”

Dear Humanities Profs: We Are the Problem. By Eric Bennett

NB: This comment on the issues connected to 'multi-culturalism' and 'deconstruction' is written about American literary and media studies departments, but is relevant in other continents. DS

Now that we have a culture of higher education in which business studies dominate; now that we face legislatures blind to the value of the liberal arts; now that we behold in the toxic briskness of the four-hour news cycle a president and party that share our disregard for expertise while making a travesty of our aversion to power, the consequences of our disavowal of expertise are becoming clear. The liquidation of literary authority partakes of a climate in which all expertise has been liquidated. In such a climate, nothing stands against demagoguery. What could?

That English departments have contributed to this state of affairs is ironic to say the least. A lifetime ago, literary studies was conceived precisely in opposition to the specter of demagogues. The field was funded and justified on the presumption of its value as a bulwark against propaganda and political charisma. Our predecessors feared more or less exactly what we now face. The discipline we’ve deconstructed was their answer to it...

Even the most devoted relativist cannot behold Fox News or Breitbart and not regard these media outlets as propagandistic in the most flagrant sense. Eisenhower would have balked. Promoting conspiracy theories, granting vile charisma a national platform, amplifying peccadillos into crimes and reducing crimes to peccadillos, they embody everything that literary studies was meant, once, to defend against — not through talking politics, but by exercising modes of expression slow enough to inoculate against such flimsy thinking. Yet the editorial logic of right-wing media resembles closely the default position of many recent books and dissertations in literary studies: The true story is always the oppositional story, the cry from outside. The righteous are those who sift the shadows of the monolith to undermine it in defense of some notion of freedom.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the longstanding professorial disinclination to distinguish better from worse does not inspire confidence. The danger of being too exclusive, which the canon once was, pales before the danger of refusing to judge.

Can the average humanities professor be blamed if she rises in the morning, checks the headlines, shivers, looks in the mirror, and beholds a countenance of righteous and powerless innocence? Whatever has happened politically to the United States, it’s happened in stark opposition to the values so many philosophers and English professors, historians and art historians, creative writers and interdisciplinary scholars of race, class, and gender hold dear.

We are, after all, the ones to include diverse voices on the syllabus, use inclusive language in the classroom, teach stories of minority triumph, and, in our conference papers, articles, and monographs, lay bare the ideological mechanisms that move the cranks and offices of a neoliberal economy. Since the Reagan era our classrooms have mustered their might against thoughtless bigotry, taught critical thinking, framed the plight and extolled the humanity of the disadvantaged, and denounced all patriotism that curdles into chauvinism.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Interview 'We're doomed': Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention. By Patrick Barkham

We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year.

From Malthus to the Millennium Bug, apocalyptic thinking has a poor track record. But when it issues from Hillman, it may be worth paying attention. Over nearly 60 years, his research has used factual data to challenge policymakers’ conventional wisdom. In 1972, he criticised out-of-town shopping centres more than 20 years before the government changed planning rules to stop their spread. In 1980, he recommended halting the closure of branch line railways – only now are some closed lines reopening. In 1984, he proposed energy ratings for houses – finally adopted as government policy in 2007. And, more than 40 years ago, he presciently challenged society’s pursuit of economic growth.

When we meet at his converted coach house in London, his classic Dawes racer still parked hopefully in the hallway (a stroke and a triple heart bypass mean he is – currently – forbidden from cycling), Hillman is anxious we are not side-tracked by his best-known research, which challenged the supremacy of the car. “With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”.. read more:

Zoe Williams - ‘Raw hatred’: why the 'incel' movement targets and terrorises women

When a van was driven on to a Toronto pavement on Tuesday, killing 10 people and injuring 15, police chief Mark Saunders said that, while the incident appeared to be a deliberate act, there was no evidence of terrorism. The public safety minister Ralph Goodale backed this up, deeming the event “not part of an organised terror plot”. Canada has rules about these things: to count as terrorism, the attacker must have a political, religious or social motivation, something beyond “wanting to terrorise”.

Why have the authorities been so fast to reject the idea of terrorism (taking as read that this may change; the tragedy is very fresh)? Shortly before the attack, a post appeared on the suspect’s Facebook profile, hailing the commencement of the “Incel Rebellion”, including the line “Private (Recruit) … Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161.” (“4chan is the main organising platform for the ‘alt-right’,” explains Mike Wendling, the author of Alt-Right: from 4Chan to the White House.)

There is a reluctance to ascribe to the “incel” movement anything so lofty as an “ideology” or credit it with any developed, connected thinking, partly because it is so bizarre in conception.
Standing for “involuntarily celibate”, the term was originally invented 20 years ago by a woman known only as Alana, who coined the term as a name for an online support forum for singles, basically a lonely hearts club. “It feels like being the scientist who figured out nuclear fission and then discovers it’s being used as a weapon for war,” she says, describing the feeling of watching it mutate into a Reddit muster point for violent misogyny... read more:

Asaram case: Self-styled godman’s journey from puritanical preacher to rape convict // Asaram sentenced to life in prison for raping devotee // Police officer who led probe received 2,000 threats

Asaram case: Self-styled godman’s journey from puritanical preacher to rape convict
Asaram started his own ashram in Ahmedabad with just ten followers. Asaram’s next big stop was Surat, where he found a large number of followers among tribals. As his followers grew, he attracted politicians to his crowded satsangs or religious discourses. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party governments in the state gave Asaram land to expand his ashrams. His wife Lakshmi Devi, daughter and son Narayan Sai, who is in jail in a separate rape case, helped him manage the ashrams and other establishments.

Asaram’s troubles began in 2008 when the mutilated bodies of two cousins and gurukul mates Dipesh Vaghela (10) and Abhishek Vaghela (11) were found from the Sabarmati river bank near his ashram in Motera. Some vital organs were missing from the boys’ bodies. Shantilal Vaghela, Abhishek’s father, staged an indefinite fast accusing Asaram of killing the boys for black magic rituals. He ended his fast after the administration appointed an inquiry commission by retired judge DK Trivedi.
Gujarat police booked seven of Asaram’s followers in 2009 for the death of the two children and filed a chargesheet against them in September 2012. Asaram was not implicated in this case and the BJP government is yet to table the inquiry commission’s report. Asaram was also hit by a land-grabbing controversy in Surat. The matter is still sub-judice.

Alex Ross: How American Racism Influenced Hitler // Book review: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

In 1928, Hitler remarked, approvingly, that white settlers in America had “gunned down the millions of redskins to a few hundred thousand.” When he spoke of Lebensraum, the German drive for “living space” in Eastern Europe, he often had America in mind.

History teaches, but has no pupils,” the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci wrote. That line comes to mind when I browse in the history section of a bookstore. An adage in publishing is that you can never go wrong with books about Lincoln, Hitler, and dogs; an alternative version names golfing, Nazis, and cats. In Germany, it’s said that the only surefire magazine covers are ones that feature Hitler or sex. Whatever the formula, Hitler and Nazism prop up the publishing business: hundreds of titles appear each year, and the total number runs well into the tens of thousands. On store shelves, they stare out at you by the dozens, their spines steeped in the black-white-and-red of the Nazi flag, their titles barking in Gothic type, their covers studded with swastikas. The back catalogue includes “I Was Hitler’s Pilot,” “I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur,” “I Was Hitler’s Doctor,” “Hitler, My Neighbor,” “Hitler Was My Friend,” “He Was My Chief,” and “Hitler Is No Fool.” Books have been written about Hitler’s youth, his years in Vienna and Munich, his service in the First World War, his assumption of power, his library, his taste in art, his love of film, his relations with women...

Why do these books pile up in such unreadable numbers? This may seem a perverse question. The Holocaust is the greatest crime in history, one that people remain desperate to understand. Germany’s plunge from the heights of civilization to the depths of barbarism is an everlasting shock. Still, these swastika covers trade all too frankly on Hitler’s undeniable flair for graphic design. (The Nazi flag was apparently his creation—finalized after “innumerable attempts,” according to “Mein Kampf.”) Susan Sontag, in her 1975 essay “Fascinating Fascism,” declared that the appeal of Nazi iconography had become erotic, not only in S & M circles but also in the wider culture. It was, Sontag wrote, a “response to an oppressive freedom of choice in sex (and, possibly, in other matters), to an unbearable degree of individuality.” Neo-Nazi movements have almost certainly fed on the perpetuation of Hitler’s negative mystique.

Americans have an especially insatiable appetite for Nazi-themed books, films, television shows, documentaries, video games, and comic books. Stories of the Second World War console us with memories of the days before Vietnam, Cambodia, and Iraq, when the United States was the world’s good-hearted superpower, riding to the rescue of a Europe paralyzed by totalitarianism and appeasement. Yet an eerie continuity became visible in the postwar years, as German scientists were imported to America and began working for their former enemies; the resulting technologies of mass destruction exceeded Hitler’s darkest imaginings. The Nazis idolized many aspects of American society: the cult of sport, Hollywood production values, the mythology of the frontier. From boyhood on, Hitler devoured the Westerns of the popular German novelist Karl May. In 1928, Hitler remarked, approvingly, that white settlers in America had “gunned down the millions of redskins to a few hundred thousand.” When he spoke of Lebensraum, the German drive for “living space” in Eastern Europe, he often had America in mind.

Among recent books on Nazism, the one that may prove most disquieting for American readers is James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law” (Princeton).

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Hartosh Singh Bal - Death of Judge Loya: A critical examination of the ECG and the post-mortem demonstrates the failings of the Supreme Court verdict

NB: This article, along with Shanti Bhushan's petition listing ten instances of bench fixing, shows who is committing contempt of court. You cannot utilise your formal authority to throw all principles of fairness (such as not sitting in judgement in a case involving yourself) - to the winds; and then behave as if your status precludes any fair criticism. It is for the Hon'ble judges to answer to their respective consciences as to who has undermined the authority of India's judiciary - the so-called Master of the Roster or those who are criticising his questionable behaviour. DS

The judgment repeatedly asserts there is no reason to doubt the testimony of the judges. But an inquiry would not have cast any doubt on their accounts - rather, it would have allowed the judges to dispel the lack of clarity on crucial points such as the ECG.

The Supreme Court judgment on petitions demanding an inquiry into the judge BH Loya’s death begins by stating that the “petitioners seek an inquiry into the circumstances of the death” of the judge. It concludes: “The documentary material on the record indicates that the death of Judge Loya was due to natural causes.” Over its span, the judgment ends up doing exactly as the petitioners sought—inquiring into the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death—but without enabling the scope of investigation that an independent inquiry would have allowed.

Two medical documents were essential to determining whether the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death were suspicious—an ECG purportedly conducted on Loya at Dande Hospital shortly before his death, and the post-mortem report prepared at the Government Medical College in Nagpur. Though there are a range of issues in the judgment that need to be examined, even a scrutiny limited to the manner in which it deals with these documents is enough to indicate that an inquiry broader in scope than the court allowed itself would have resulted in a different conclusion.

Rana plaza, five years on: safety of workers hangs in balance in Bangladesh

Deep cracks had appeared in the eight-storey building outside Dhaka the day before. That morning, workers who had been producing clothes sourced by major international brands had begged not to be sent inside. Managers would not relent. More than 2,000 people filed in. Some time before 9am, floors began to vanish and workers started falling.

Rana Plaza took less than 90 seconds to collapse, killing 1,134 people. Unions called it a “mass industrial homicide”. Standing in the rubble, Khatun promised to quit her job in a nearby garment factory. “Even if I don’t have any other work, I won’t do it.” Revulsion over Rana Plaza forced brands and retailers to act. The full list of companies who were sourcing clothes from the building remains unclear, but had previously included PrimarkMatalan and others. 

About 250 companies signed two initiatives, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, and the less constraining Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Both were designed to improve safety dramatically in 2,300 factories supplying western brands. Both complete their terms this year.
Few dispute that the Accord and Alliance worked. “I think right now, of the developing countries with a ready-made garment sector, Bangladesh is the safest,” says Rob Wayss, executive director of the Accord. Progress is less obvious for workers in at least 2,000 factories that do not supply major western brands, and are inspected either by the Bangladesh government, or not at all. Union activity across the sector remains stifled. And, analysts ask, how sustainable are the improvements? What happens when the Accord and Alliance end?

Khatun never did quit. She has worked in garments since the age of 11, one of successive generations of Bangladeshis brought out of poverty, marginally, by an industry that now employs close to five million people, earning the lowest wages of any garment workers in the world. Yet some things have changed in the factory where she works. “The owners are careful about safety nowadays,” she says. “If we complain, they take action.”

Facing the threat of being cut off by western buyers, thousands of factory owners have invested in fire doors, sprinkler systems, electrical upgrades and stronger foundations, eliminating more than 97,000 identified safety hazards in facilities covered by the Accord alone… read more:

Monday, 23 April 2018

Call to Defend Rojava from Turkish attack - An Open Letter

A home in Afrin, March 31, 2018 Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

When Raqqa fell in 2017, after a long siege by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), it was generally thought that ISIS was defeated, save for some mopping up. But in January of this year, Turkey invaded Afrin one of three cantons in Rojava, also called the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. This meant that scores of SDF fighters had to leave the battle against ISIS in order to defend their homes, families, and neighbors in Afrin

After extensive air strikes, the city of Afrin fell on March 18 confronting the already troubled region with yet another humanitarian crisis, as thousands fled to escape the Turkish army and its Syrian National Army allies (which include jihadist rebel groups and some fighters who are either openly aligned with al-Qaeda or even recent members of ISIS)Many of those who fled Afrin are now sleeping in open fields or in tent cities, lacking the most elementary necessities. Those who remain have been subjected to the same kind of ethnic discrimination, looting, and sexual violence that ISIS perpetrated against the Yazidis in Iraq. At least fifteen girls have been reported as having been abducted, and their families fear they are being held as sex slaves.

We, the undersigned, are launching the Emergency Committee for Rojava as part of a global campaign to draw attention to this new crisis and to Afrin’s call for support.  

Amelia Gentleman - Britain’s reputation has been shattered by the cruelty of the government’s immigration policy

Retirement-age citizens who have lived and paid taxes in the UK for decades have been detained, made homeless, sacked or denied benefits and NHS treatment because they have struggled to prove they are British. Seven days ago, the government had barely acknowledged the scandal. Everything changed this week. In the space of five days, the prime minister was forced to apologise twice for the hurt caused to victims, while the home secretary said she was sorry for the “appalling” actions of her own department and issued a strong rebuke to her staff. Amber Rudd said she was “concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual”.

See Labour MP David Lammy denounce official racism
Son of Windrush couple refused passport and misses daughter’s wedding
Home Office urged to act on Windrush in 2014
The shame, indignation and sadness caused by the Windrush scandal

What happened to prompt this sudden admission of culpability? How was it possible for the government to ignore for so long the Guardian’s detailed reports of the tragic problems unleashed on passport-less Windrush-era citizens by Theresa May’s flagship immigration policy, the “hostile environment for illegal migration”, that she launched in 2013 as home secretary? A series of articles were published in the Guardian, prompting shock from our readers and indifference from the government. We documented the cases of people such as Paulette Wilson, 61 (former kitchen worker at the House of Commons, made homeless, detained and threatened with removal to Jamaica, after 50 years in the UK), Michael Braithwaite, 66 (sacked as a special needs teaching assistant after 56 years in the UK), Hubert Howard, 61 (sacked and unable to visit his dying mother after 49 years in UK), and Albert Thompson (not his real name, denied NHS cancer treatment and told it would cost him £54,000 after four decades paying taxes).

These were people who had contributed for decades and whose lives had been destroyed by Home Office harassment over their immigration status. All of them are here legally, but none of them have the documentation to prove it. May’s tightened immigration rules mean officials have begun demanding to see papers, often targeting those who they suspect (judging by accents and skin colour) may not have them. When the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, raised Thompson’s case with May in parliament last month, she said she was not aware of it. Obviously the prime minister is busy, and maybe doesn’t read the Guardian much, but it is curious that no one in her office thought this issue serious enough to brief her on it.

It reveals something about Britain that these cases did not attract noisy universal condemnation sooner. Several victims speculated on whether this would have happened to them if their skin were a different colour. The fact that some of these cases go back two or three years and never made the headlines, and were not highlighted by MPs, also says something uncomfortable about racism in this country... read more:

Kate Lamb - 'A vigilante state': Aceh's citizens take sharia law into their own hands

Everyone in the village saw it, either in the flesh or later when it was immortalised on YouTube. Local children even stuck their heads through the grates of a fence to watch, their attention trained on the spectacle in front of them: a young couple being doused in sewage. Humiliated but compliant, the couple sat on the edge of a well in Kayee Lee, a village in the Indonesian province of Aceh, as the liquid ran off them in thick black streams. By the time Roswati arrived at the scene, about 70 people had gathered to watch her son and his girlfriend being publicly shamed in the courtyard of the mosque, the village equivalent of the public square.

“They were standing there looking at them like thieves,” says Roswati of the local youths involved. “I asked them, ‘Why did you do this,’ and they said, ‘Wait till we burn your house down.’ Roswati and her husband, both rice farmers, had been visiting friends in a nearby village, leaving their son, 24-year-old Maulizan, and his girlfriend Shirley, 19, at home alone. In the sharia-ruled province of Aceh, that is a criminal offence. Known as khalwat, or the “seclusion” or “indecency” law, in Aceh it is prohibited for two mature people, not married or blood-related, to be together alone in an isolated place. The offence is punishable by caning and a fine of up to 10m rupiah (£508).

But Maulizan and Shirley weren’t arrested and charged by Aceh’s sharia police. Instead, it was a posse of young men from the village that burst into the house, demanded to see their IDs and then forced them down the dusty village road to the mosque. In March there were four such cases in the provincial capital and surrounds alone, where ordinary Acehnese took it upon themselves to play judge and jury, raiding, arresting and shaming people who had allegedly violated Aceh’s militant moral laws.

A few unmarried couples, two university students suspected of being gay, and a transgender woman accused of soliciting for sex, were all rounded up – not by known vigilantes but ordinary residents, before they were eventually handed over to the sharia police. Five are still in custody pending trial at the religious courts. Based on a special autonomy agreement, Aceh is the only province in Indonesia 
that can legally adopt sharia bylaws. Formalised in 2014, its criminal code outlaws alcohol, adultery, homosexuality, pre-marital sex and gambling, and regulates what women can wear. Last year the province attracted international condemnation after two gay men were flogged, 83 times, for having sex. The effect of the punishment, the first in Aceh’s history, rippled through the province. The public spectacle attracted thousands and included sermons by religious scholars on the dangers of homosexuality, reinforcing already deeply entrenched homophobia.

Kamal Fasya, an anthropologist from Aceh’s Malikussaleh University, said of the recent vigilantism: “It has happened again and again. Young people, especially uneducated young people such as in Kayee Lee, shaming them, hitting them in public. “It’s like an infection,” he adds. “It’s contagious.”
In several cases this March it was young Acehnese men, some as young as 15, who carried out the attacks with the backing of their village chiefs. Not once were they themselves reprimanded or arrested. In another case the attack was unplanned. On 12 March, a man delivering water to a beauty salon claimed he caught its transgender owner having sex with a man. He called in the mechanic next door and together they restrained the couple, confiscating the keys for their motorbikes so they couldn’t escape, and called the police… read more:

World's first ocean plastic-cleaning machine set to tackle Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Scientists are preparing to launch the world's first machine to clean up the planet's largest mass of ocean plastic. The system, originally dreamed up by a teenager, will be shipped out this summer to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California, and which contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. 

The Global Crisis of Plastic PollutionScientists across the globe are increasingly finding wildlife that has been killed after ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic. Ninety percent of sea birds, for example, have been found to have plastic in their bellies. And the problem is only getting worse: The estimated 19 billion pounds of plastic that ends up in the ocean every year is expected to double by 2025. These plastics will not only kill more animals; they’ll decimate coral reefs, and damage human health as microplastics enter the food chain.

It will be the first attempt to tackle the patch since it was discovered in 1997. The experts believe the machine should be able to collect half of the detritus in the patch – about 40,000 metric tons – within five years. In the past few weeks they have been busy welding together giant tubes that will sit on the surface of the sea and form the skeleton of the machine, creating the largest floating barrier ever made. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) spans 617,763 sq miles - more than twice the size of France, and contains at least 79,000 tons of plastic, research found last month.

Most of it is made up of “ghost gear” – parts of abandoned and lost fishing gear, such as nets and ropes – often from illegal fishing vessels. Ghost gear kills more than 100,000 whales, dolphins and seals each year, according to scientific surveys. Seabirds and other marine life are increasingly being found dead with stomachs full of small pieces of plastic. Creatures eat plastic discarded in the sea thinking it’s food but then starve to death because they are not feeding properly.

Others are trapped and die of starvation or are strangled or suffocated by ghost gear. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year, according to the US-based Plastic Oceans Foundation. Up to 90 per cent of the world’s plastic items are never recycled, and scientists believe nearly every piece ever created is still in existence somewhere, in some form, with most going into landfill or the environment. Single-use plastic, such as water bottles and nappies, take 450 years to break down… read more:

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Master Of The Roster: Shanti Bhushan’s Petition Points To Ten Instances Of Chief Justice Dipak Misra “Hand-Picking Benches”. By KAUSHAL SHROFF

“One reason why the impeachment motion is important is because of the serious danger which emerges from the CJI being blackmailed by the government via the medical college bribery case.... The abuse of power by the CJI as the master of roster poses a serious threat to the democracy as the entire Supreme Court is being controlled by the government” : Prashant Bhushan

Times are tough for the chief justice of India. On 20 April, 64 members of parliament from seven opposition parties submitted a petition to Venkaiah Naidu, the vice president and chairman of the Rajya Sabha, seeking the removal of Dipak Misra as the chief justice. The move marks the first time in India’s judicial history that an attempt has been made to remove a sitting chief justice of the country. Concurrently, the Supreme Court is presently hearing a petition filed by Shanti Bhushan, a senior advocate and a former union law minister, concerning serious allegations about the allocation of cases by the chief justice and the registry. The petition notes that the manner of allocation clearly reflects “a pattern of favouritism, nepotism, and forum shopping.”
Misra assumed the office of chief justice in late August last year, and within three months, the differences between sections of the bar and the bench became evident, particularly during a hearing in a case concerning corruption allegations against two benches of the Supreme Court. Both benches included Misra. In his order dismissing the case - popularly termed the medical college bribery case
- Misra stated that the chief justice “alone is the master of the roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted.” Soon after, differences emerged within members of the bench as well—in January this year, four senior judges of the Supreme Court held an unprecedented press conference to register their concerns about the manner in which the court assigned cases “selectively to ‘benches of their preference’ without any rational basis.”

Shanti Bhushan’s petition is listed for hearing before a bench comprising AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, on 27 April. With the petition and the motion for Misra’s removal, the concerns over Misra’s allotment of cases have again come under the spotlight. The petition claims that while listing cases, the chief justice places “matters of general public importance and/or political sensitivity before only certain benches.” Kamini Jaiswal, an advocate in the Supreme Court, said the motion to remove Misra was “necessary.” “Things are moving from bad to worse,” she added. “I have been in the Supreme Court for over 30 years and I have never seen the Supreme Court so low.” The advocate Prashant Bhushan said, “One reason why the impeachment motion is important is because of the serious danger which emerges from the CJI being blackmailed by the government via the medical college bribery case.” He added, “The abuse of power by the CJI as the master of roster poses a serious threat to the democracy as the entire Supreme Court is being controlled by the government.”

In his petition, Shanti Bhushan seeks to allay these fears by requesting directions from the court regarding an adherence to certain rules of procedure while allocating cases. The petition argues that the “master of roster” cannot be an “unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India by hand-picking benches of select Judges or by assigning cases to particular Judges.” It further states that the authority of the chief justice as the “master of roster is not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power” and that it “must necessarily be exercised by him in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court.” The petition also lists a series of cases that it alleges “reflects and establishes the gross abuse of powers.” Ten such cases from the petition, and the allegations relating to them, are listed below: read more:

see also
Mecca Masjid blast case: Aseemanand acquitted, along with RSS man convicted for Ajmer blast