Showing posts from October, 2018

China's hidden camps What's happened to the vanished Uighurs of Xinjiang?

“They want to delete Uighur identity” China is accused of locking up hundreds of thousands of Muslims without trial in its western region of Xinjiang. The government denies the claims, saying people willingly attend special “vocational schools” which combat “terrorism and religious extremism”. Now a BBC investigation has found important new evidence of the reality. On 12 July 2015 a satellite swung over the rolling deserts and oasis cities of China's vast far west. One of the images it captured that day just shows a patch of empty, untouched, ashen-grey sand. It seems an unlikely place to start an investigation into one of the most pressing human rights concerns of our age. But less than three years later, on 22 April 2018, a satellite photo of that same piece of desert showed something new. A massive, highly secure compound had materialised. It is enclosed with a 2km-long exterior wall punctuated by 16 guard towers. The first reports that China was operating a system of int

Carlotta Dotto - Last Hong Kong bookshop selling titles banned in China shuts

NB: Who says ideas aren't important? The all-powerful Chinese Communist Party is terrified of books. DS The last bookshop in  Hong Kong  selling titles banned by the Communist Party on the mainland has closed, marking the last chapter of the city’s historic independent publishing scene. Human rights activists and publishers have raised grave concerns over the closure of the People’s Bookstore, a tiny shop in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district, known to be the last source of literary contraband in the city, in the latest example of China’s tightening pressure over the city. The Guardian spoke to locals familiar with the matter who believe bookseller Paul Tang closed the shop under pressure from the government. A frequent visitor of the shop, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the city “was once the place where mainland readers came looking for the truth. But today, you’re afraid to even mention these forbidden topics.” THE DISAPPEARED China’s global kidnapping campaign

Pakistan SC acquits Asia Bibi, orders immediate release

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel had reserved its ruling on Asia Bibi's final legal appeal against execution (Asia Bibi v. The State, etc) on October 8. The appeal challenged the Lahore High Court’s October 2014 verdict upholding a trial court’s November 2010 decision sentencing Bibi to death for committing blasphemy in 2009. What you need to know about Asia Bibi's trial Human rights in Pakistan - the continued persecution of Asia Bibi Asia Bibi's final appeal against blasphemy to be heard in Pakistan Supreme Court TLP threatens to paralyse country if Asia Bibi is acquitted "The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed," said the CJP in court, adding th

Ben Chu: Brazil's failure to live up to its great economic promise has handed power to the far right

There are few things more depressing than the sight of financial traders perking up in response to the electoral success of racist, misogynist, homophobic, pro-torture authoritarians. Brazilian markets have been the latest to follow this dismal pattern. When it became clear earlier this month that Jair Bolsonaro was likely to win the presidential election in Brazil the stock market got a jolt and the currency went higher. Those indicators are expected to extend their gains today on confirmation of Bolsonaro’s final victory in Sunday’s runoff over Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party. Yet surely we have learned over the past decade that markets are not infallible. Could traders’ response to Bolsonaro’s success not just be immoral, but actually misguided in its own narrow terms? Bolsonaro promises control of public finances and inflation, a programme of mass privatisations, tax cuts for individuals and companies, and public pension reforms. The combination of authoritarianism and fre

Humanity has wiped out 60% of animals since 1970, major report finds

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.  The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the  vast and growing  consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else. “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at  WWF . “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” “This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sa

Lt Col Eric Simeon's hundredth birthday - October 29, 2018

Today is my father's birth centenary, he was born in Allahabad, the second child of his parents, J.J.  Simeon and Florence Addy on October 29, 1918; just before the end of the First World War. He had two sisters, Sheila and Roma. He studied at St Joseph's school, where he made some of his oldest friends: Nariman Gazder and Manilal Dave. (He used to say that they were friends from the time their legs didn't touch the floor when they sat at the desks in their classrooms). Among his close friends from Government College Allahabad were N.B Menon, Asphandiar Moddie, Jagat S. Mehta and 'Rajju' Haksar. I mention them because I know their children will remember my father and loved him. One of his friends, Sultan Ali, went away to Pakistan in 1947. Eric Joseph Simeon joined the Indian Army in the Intelligence Corps in Bombay in December 1943. It was at the Censor Station that he met my mother Georgina Pinto-Lobo , and her elder sister Leonildis, both of whom worked as tr

Bharat Bhushan - Prime Minister Modi's luck turns: Govt stares at institutional erosion

NB : An excellent analysis. My only caveat is that institutional erosion is the crux of the Hindutva ideologues plan for India - the Sangh Parivar dreams of rendering the Indian Constitution a nullity; destroying the distinction between legal and illegal violence; making their cadre safe from the repercussions of law; and establishing an ideological dictatorship. But social reality has a habit of disrupting the best laid plans; and whatever be the results of the 2019 elections, Mr Modi and his henchmen will go down in history as selfish, ruthless and unscrupulous men. DS When the  Narendra Modi  government came to power, the  prime minister  with his boastful claim of a 56-inch chest seemed like a man-in-charge. He wanted his hold over the government to be total. Even his ministers were not allowed to appoint their personal staff without his clearance. Anyone who was associated with the previous government was kept out of key posts and trusted bureaucrats were shipped in – most

Great War Armistice Centenary - Indians in the trenches: voices of forgotten army are finally to be heard. By Harriet Sherwood

They were the forgotten voices of the first world war: 1.5 million men, mostly illiterate villagers from northern  India , fighting under the command of colonial masters who repaid their bravery and sacrifices with brutality and prejudice. More Indians fought with the British from 1914 to 1918 than the combined total of Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African troops. Some 34,000 Indian soldiers were killed on battlefields in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. But the part they played in the war has been largely whitewashed from history. Now,  just before the 11 November armistice centenary , the last testimonies of the British Empire’s first world war Indian servicemen – 1,000 pages of veteran interview transcripts – have been offered to the British Library. The first-hand accounts paint a picture of racial segregation and discrimination alongside extraordinary bravery and an awakening hunger for civil rights and independence. Oral histories were taken from In

Swati Chaturvedi - CBI Director Alok Verma's Interest in Rafale Tipped Scales Against Him

New Delhi:  The government’s  2 am decision to oust director Alok Verma  as the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation came hot on the heels of not just his request for sanction to arrest an official considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also his interest in the controversial Rafale deal.  Last week, the CBI  filed an FIR charging Rakesh Asthana  – special director in the CBI and a Gujarat cadre police officer propelled to prominence in the agency by the PMO – with bribery and corruption. Since official sanction from the government is needed to arrest any officer above the rank of joint secretary, Verma had placed a request but permission was not granted. The Wire  has also learned that Verma – who was selected by a high-powered collegium including the Chief of Justice of India for a protected tenure “not less than two years” that ends in January 2019  – had been readying himself to initiate a preliminary enquiry (PE) in to the  Modi government’s controver

Mitali Saran: Dear men, please understand that sexism is the unjust air we breathe

A striking feature of the last few weeks has been the number of well-meaning men who, before this current round of the #MeToo phenomenon, ‘had no idea’ that sexual harassment, abuse, and assault is so rampant. Their blissful ignorance is as enraging as the violations that women face all their lives, because it goes to the very heart of male privilege. That privilege is that they never needed to know, because they are unaffected by it. Those who know, severely underestimate its extent—most stories circulate among women because male privilege has fashioned a world in which being uninformed about these stories costs a man nothing, and telling these stories publicly costs women enormously.  Men who know how widespread  sexual harassment  and abuse are, and who do nothing differently, are complicit in maintaining that privilege. Those men who perpetrate violations upon women, do so regardless of what they know, because male privilege ensures that they will pay no price for doing so - i

Book review - Who We Are And How We Got Here: David Reich

Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich Reviewed by Shobhit Mahajan Paleogenetics: A Leap Into Our Branches In 2010, a team of paleo geneticists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, led by the Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo published an astonishing result- they had managed to sequence the entire Neanderthal genome and found that there had been interbreeding between the Neanderthals and the West Eurasian humans. In a sense, the field of paleo genetics had finally come of age. Paleo genetics or the science of using genetics to study ancient humans and other populations relied heavily on the enormous advances in the technology to extract and sequence genomes since the Human Genome project. David Reich, a member of this team went on to establish his own laboratory at Harvard. Reich’s new book is a popular exposition of the revolutionary potential of paleo genetics to understand humanity’s origins and “histories”. The workhorse of pa

Punjab Blasphemy Law Violates Constitution and is an Attack on Democratic Rights of Citizens

People’s  Alliance  for Democracy and Secularism Punjab Blasphemy Law Violates Constitution and is an Attack on Democratic Rights of Citizens                           Press Release 12.10.2018 Punjab assembly recently passed a bill for an addition to IPC clause 295 to give life imprisonment for any ‘injur:y, damage or sacrilege’ of four religious books, (Guru Granth Sahib, Koran, Bible and Geeta) ‘with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people’. This is the first time in independent India that a punishment usually given for willfully murdering another human being has been recommended for defilement of religious books. In an article in Times of India (6/9/2018), Punjab chief minister Capt Amrinder Singh of Congress has justified the bill and tried to explain its context. From 2015 to 2017 before the last assembly elections, the state had witnessed more than one hundred cases of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs who form the majority

Laurie Penny - The Great Stink: It’s time for men to stop worrying about who they are, and start thinking about what they do

.... I have watched the collective inability to deal with the fact that “good” men might not always do good things fracture communities and friendships. I have been involved in restorative justice processes in activist circles. Restorative justice is meant to be a way of delivering some sort of restitution within communities without involving the legal system — and a lot of communities have legitimate reasons not to want the police poking around in their lives. That’s what it is meant to be in theory. In practice, what it has often turned out to mean is a lot of women doing a lot of emotional heavy lifting and being variously demonized for causing trouble while men promise to change and don’t. Mukul Kesavan: The #MeToo reckoning Truth is best defence, says Priya Ramani after Akbar's statement Some months ago, I was part of a large group of women, many of them victims and survivors, wondering what to do about a repeat rapist who many of us still cared for deeply. Because I a

Nosheen Iqbal - Top linguist: ‘I’m leaving the UK because of the disaster of Brexit’

One of Britain’s most celebrated young linguists, a master of 15 languages and author of two books, is quitting the UK, blaming “a dangerous political atmosphere” following the  Brexit  vote and “the financial brutality” of living and working here. Alex Rawlings, 27, was reading languages at Oxford in 2012 when he won a competition to find the UK’s most multilingual student.  Tweeting about his decision  last week, he wrote: “Just booked a one way flight out the UK. Not an easy decision to leave family and friends behind, but there’s a bad atmosphere in the country and I need to get out.” Speaking to the  Observer  this weekend, Rawlings, who now works as a language teacher and app developer, said he was stunned by the public apathy about Brexit. “This whole country is on the brink of the worst disaster since the second world war, and everyone is just sipping coffee, going about their daily business as if nothing is happening.” Rawlings, who is half Greek and retains a Greek pas

Civil society protests illegal raid

SOLIDARITY FORUM FOR DISSENT Bangalore Over the past week, we have been witness to raids by Enforcement Directorate of the Indian Finance Ministry on the offices of The Quint and Greenpeace India, two key civil society organisations of India, in Delhi and Bangalore respectively.  We were to learn later that The News Minute office also had ED officials dropping in, key journalists were questioned and copies of documents of taken. In the case of Greenpeace, the raid was absolutely illegal, as the ED officials had no warrant to search the office. Yet, they illegally entered Greenpeace office in Bangalore, detained key officials, searched documents and took away copies of several documents, all without any authority vested by the due process of law.   We consider this as not merely an attack on these organisations alone, but on civil society in general, media included. We note that those who are critical of the Government, as also those who are exposing and challeng

Anna Nemtsova - Russia’s Big Space Fail Exposes Putin Era’s Soviet Reflexes

Russian citizens learned the news about the accident from NASA and not from Roscosmos the state-corporation responsible for launches... Some of Russia’s most-read online publications, including and Moskovsky Komsomolets, pointed out that in the past, Soviet authorities kept the nation in the dark. “It  seems Roscosmos is solemnly following the Soviet tradition of keeping secrets about technological accidents and catastrophes for as long as it’s possible,” said. “The USSR neither published news about accidents of space ships, nor about the Chernobyl catastrophe.” MOSCOW – Just 119 seconds after the Soyuz rocket and capsule lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Thursday, there was a serious malfunction. It aborted the flight at the near-weightless edge of space, endangering the American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut aboard. And coincidentally, perhaps, it stalled an investigation into  alleged sabotage  at their destination, the International Space Station. Th

Khaled Ahmed - Follies Of Faith: Imran Khan’s cave-in on Ahmadi issue underlines a continuing injustice

In 2011, pamphlets were distributed in Faisalabad, Punjab, calling on Muslims to kill Ahmadis, displaying names and addresses of 50 prominent Ahmadis who were to be eliminated. The pamphlets were signed by the student wing of the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Federation, boldly listing their website and phone numbers. No one stopped the hate campaign: Finally, six Ahmadis were shot dead. This was nothing unusual. On average, 25 of them are killed by fanatics every year who think Pakistan has to be purged of Ahmadis. Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan got into trouble with the religion he so openly espouses as the country’s leader. He set up an Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to resolve Pakistan’s economic crisis and appointed Atif R Mian of Princeton University Department of Economics, and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy as a member. He had earlier announced in a public gathering of his party that he would bring in this brilliant America-based economist. The reaction was immediate

Saudi isolation grows over Khashoggi disappearance

Saudi Arabia  has found itself further isolated over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after the business world turned its back on a high-profile investment conference in the kingdom and US officials claimed audio and video recordings had captured the moment the journalist was murdered in Istanbul. The Future Investment Initiative conference, to be held in Riyadh later this month, was rapidly turning into a fiasco on Friday after  most media partners   and several  top business allies pulled out . More were expected to follow. All said they had been disturbed by the circumstances of Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi consulate in Turkey and the lack of credible responses. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi criticised the regime – and paid with his life Saudi Arabia has been under pressure to explain what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the consulate building at 1.14pm on 2 October.  Turkey  has claimed the exiled journalist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bi

Inside the psychiatric hospitals and churches of China – in pictures

Lu Nan’s new book Trilogy brings together three projects – The Forgotten People, On the Road and Four Seasons. Spanning 1989 to 2004, the photographs document social care, faith and rural life in China and Tibet.  Trilogy is available from  Gost Books . All photographs: Lu Nan/Magnum Photos

Prof. G. D. Agarwal dies in efforts to save the Ganga

Prof. G. D. Agarwal, who has been on an indefinite fast since 22nd June demanding effective action to clean Ganga, has died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 86.  Dr. Agarwal refused to take water two days ago, as none of the State Governments of the Gangetic basin, the Central Environment Ministry, the Water Resources Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office did anything at all to respond to his Sathyagraha and take action to clean the Ganga and save her for posterity. Dr. Agarwal also demanded government must stop construction of hydroelectric projects along the river’s tributaries and enact the Ganga Protection Management Act to ensure the river has a chance to come back to life. Tapasya - Prof. G.D.Agarwal's Fast-unto-Death Dr. Agarwal has served as a faculty member of IIT Kanpur, guided the Central Pollution Control Board as Member Secretary in taking tough action against industrial and urban polluters, and ensure our rivers flow free and healthy. He inspired th

India most dangerous country for women with sexual violence rife - global poll // Women in Hindi media suffer a toxic culture of harassment – but #MeToo is ‘unthinkable’ for them

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India is the world’s most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labour, according to a poll of global experts released on Tuesday.  War-torn Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women’s issues, followed by Somalia and Saudi Arabia. The only Western nation in the top 10 was the United States, which ranked joint third when respondents were asked where women were most at risk of sexual violence, harassment and being coerced into sex. The poll was a repeat of a survey in 2011 that found experts saw Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for women. Experts said India moving to the top of poll showed not enough was being done to tackle the danger women faced, more than five years after the rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi made violence agai

Harry Cockburn - Massive reduction in meat consumption and changes to farming vital to guarantee future food supply

A massive reduction in the quantity of  meat  being consumed combined with huge changes to farming techniques are essential to guarantee our planet’s future ability to support humanity, a major new report has warned. The analysis, which examines future population projections across the planet and the impact of current farming techniques on the  environment , warns rapid change is vital as  global warming  causes pronounced impacts on  food  production. For every degree celsius of additional temperature rise, global wheat yields are estimated to drop 6 per cent, while global rice yields are estimated to fall 10 per cent, the authors said. The warning comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  has warned  the planet is currently “nowhere near on track” to keep the rise in temperatures below 1.5C. Under current climate commitments by world leaders, the Earth will be 3C warmer by the end of the century, the IPCC said.  But growing populations will mean farming 50

From Newcastle and New Zealand to the Killing Fields of Cambodia

In 1978, three young men on a gap year strayed into Cambodian waters and were discovered by members of the Khmer Rouge. Holly Baxter retraced the steps of John Dawson Dewhirst, and his tragic companions, to uncover a haunting tale Thirty minutes away by car is the most prominent of the sites known as the Killing Fields, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre. This is where the inmates at S-21 were transported to after their confessions had been written up, rewritten and perfected by the head of the prison, the ruthless Khmer Rouge operative and former maths teacher known as Comrade Duch. At Choeung Ek, visitors nowadays are met with rows and rows of human skulls dug out from the mass graves into which slaughtered people were thrown for crimes that included being able to speak French, wearing spectacles or loving a family member “too much”. The skulls, piled high, stare out from behind polished glass. It was June 1978 when Hilary received her final letter from her brother John. “He used