Showing posts from November, 2018

Robert Fisk: Middle East dictators always end up bringing their western allies down – now they've got their coils in the White House

Trump, like his dangerous Middle Eastern allies, doesn’t want to live in heaven. He craves the pleasures of leadership. He enjoys risk. He believes not in history or morality. He believes in himself. That is why a lot of Arab despots rather like Trump. They have much in common..  Except for understanding. And here’s the problem. Arab dictators, delusional though they may be, have got us taped. They see through our lies and our arms sales and our lust for oil and our fraudulent desire that Jeffersonian democracy embrace the Muslim world. But we simply do not comprehend the Middle East.  Middle East dictators, we like to believe, live in heaven. They have palaces, servants, vast and wealthy families, millions of obedient people and loyal armies who constantly express their love for their leader, not to mention huge secret police forces to ensure they don’t forget this, and masses of weapons to defend themselves, supplied, usually, by us. These tyrants – autocrats or “strongmen” if th

Anna Stavrianakis - History won’t look kindly on Britain over arms sales feeding war in Yemen

The war in Yemen has killed  as many as 57,000  people since March 2015, left  8.4 million  people surviving on food aid and created a  cholera epidemic . The British government claims to have been at the forefront of international humanitarian assistance, giving more than  £570 m  to Yemen in bilateral aid since the war began. Yet the financial value of aid is a drop in the ocean compared with the value of weapons sold to the Saudi-led coalition – licences worth at least  £4.7bn  of arms exports to Saudi Arabia and  £860m  to its coalition partners since the start of the war. Relatively speaking, aid has been little more than a sticking plaster on the death, injury, destruction, displacement, famine and disease inflicted on Yemen by an  entirely man made disaster . Britain and the US have been the key supporters of the Saudi-led coalition, providing arms, intelligence, logistics, military training and diplomatic cover. This has provoked criticism: in the US, a Democrat congress

Richard Wolffe - The threads of Trump Inc are fraying

We now live in a world where America’s truly worst president ever insists that cash is king.  The great unraveling has begun. Between the latest guilty plea by Donald Trump’s fixer and the breakdown of a guilty plea by his campaign chairman, the threads are fraying on the scheming enterprise that is Trump Inc. The man pulling at the many loose ends of this loosey-goosey business is working methodically in ways that are only clear in hindsight.  Robert Mueller , the special counsel, is a strategic mastermind cornering a gang of simpletons watched by a peanut gallery of gawkers and hecklers. The spectacle is both fascinating to watch and essential to the rebuilding of the rule of law.  The United States urgently needs to resume its role as a global example of good government. Especially when its own government is rotten to the core. Republicans in Congress may  refuse  to investigate the Trump administration, but Mueller and the courts are reaffirming that it matters when people b

Farmers’ protest in Delhi: Traffic disrupted as thousands march to Parliament

Thousands of farmers from across India are marching from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament, in demand for an end to the agrarian crisis in the country as well as a special sitting to discuss the situation. Farmers, who have banded together under All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), had gathered in New Delhi on Thursday. Photos Farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh came in trains, buses and other modes of transport converging at the Ramlila ground to join the protest. The AIKSCC claims that this rally is “one of the largest congregations of farmers” in the national capital in recent times... read more:

Purushottam Agrawal - Nehru's Spectacularly Indian Vision and the Wrath of the RSS

The Modi government's efforts to 'democratise' the Nehru Memorial and Museum and Library (NMML) by embarking on, among other things, building a 'Museum of Prime Ministers' on the Teen Murti premises is seen by many as an effort to "dilute" the memory of India's first Prime Minister in popular consciousness. In this essay, former Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Nehru scholar Purushottam Agrawal explains why the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the current government, bears such a deep hatred for Nehru....  Fundamentally uncomfortable with democratic institutions and intellectuals, the RSS, he says, would like to obliterate the memory of Nehru who was a great institution-builder and intellectual himself. Not just that, the first Prime Minister of India, though a rationalist and moderniser, was also deeply rooted in his tradition, which helped him connect with the people: this conn

Scientist in China defends human embryo gene editing

The Chinese scientist who  claims to have altered the DNA of twin girls before birth  – without going through the usual scientific channels – said he was proud of his work, and claimed another woman enrolled in his trial was pregnant with a similarly modified baby. The scientist, He Jiankui, spoke to hundreds of colleagues and journalists on Wednesday at the International Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong. He said details of the first births from the trial, which used gene-editing technology known as Crispr-Cas9, had been submitted to a scientific journal, which he did not name. Nor did he say when the results might be published. In a planned presentation, He, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology, in Shenzhen, described how he used Crispr-Cas9 to modify a gene called CCR5 in a number of embryos created through  IVF for couples with HIV-positive fathers. The modification was intended to mirror a natural mutation found in

'He's a black man with a gun': Emantic Bradford's shooting divides city of civil rights. Is American policing a racist murder machine?

Local police in Birmingham, a city whose name remains deeply symbolic of the civil rights struggle and fight against racial segregation, shifted their narrative multiple times about how Bradford had died. First, he was identified as the suspect in the shooting. Then they said he wasn’t the suspect but had brandished a gun. Then police backed off that claim too. The real shooter, meanwhile, remains at large. The entire incident is resonant of many recent cases of police shootings of young, black men, reinforcing a notion that they must behave differently than other races in America’s public spaces – merely to avoid being shot by law enforcement. As late night TV comic Trevor Noah noted in a passionate commentary on the case: “The second amendment is not intended for black people.” Racism has triumphed once again in Mississippi The shooting has left many beyond Bradford’s friends and family traumatised, especially those who witnessed the shooting. Rashad Billingsley, 18, an empl

Rick Wilson - Sensing Defeat, Trump Cries 'Witch Hunt'

For two years, Donald Trump had fun amidst the mess. He reveled in stage-managing a reality-television version of an executive branch staffed by weak-willed and morally vacant appointees selected more for their ass-kissing skills than for any remote talent in governing or even any talent at all. He consumed every ounce of scenery, and his every desire, whim, and impulse were carried out by White House minions unable to say no. Republican Members of Congress may as well have sported “Property of Donald Trump” forehead tattoos. During those halcyon days, the power of the Republican House was used to obstruct justice, block the Mueller probe into Russia’s pro-Trump efforts, and to attack the intelligence community in order to protect Team Putin. They were a blocking force against investigations into his taxes, finances, and his administration's misdeeds. Trump has never displayed even the most cursory interest in governing or leadership, but he loves the roar of the crowd, the h

ARI BERMAN - The United States Is Becoming a Two-Tiered Country With Separate and Unequal Voting Laws

Phoebe Einzig-Roth, an 18-year-old freshman at Atlanta’s Emory University, moved to Georgia in August and was excited to vote in her first election. But when she went to her polling location near campus on Election Day, election officials told her she’d been flagged as a noncitizen. Even though she’d brought three forms of identification - her Massac­husetts driver’s license, passport, and student ID—she was forced to cast a provisional ballot. Three days later, she went to confirm her citizenship at the local election office, where she was assured her vote would be counted. But she kept checking Georgia’s online “My Voter Page” and there was no record it had been. She posted a picture of herself on Facebook wearing an “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker and wrote, “The thing that infuriates me the most about voter suppression is not that it happened to me, but that it happened, and is continuing to happen to thousands of people all over the country, and most of the time, nothing is don

RSS and Modi brazenly intimidating the Supreme Court

NB : Now that the CJI is not doing their bidding, the Sangh Parivar is abusing judges who in their eyes refuse to assist the RSS plan to instigate communal frenzy prior to the 2019 elections. The RSS' commitment to justice is a joke: who caused the crucial file in the Aseemanand case to disappear, and the trial court judge to resign in disgust? These people are shameless and brazen in their threats of disorder. Who is Indresh to instruct SC judges to resign? How can the Prime Minister  make demands of the SC? The whole world should note the RSS ' utter contempt for the Indian  constitution and lawful governance. They talk and behave as if the entire country and all state officials are their bonded slaves. We must not be silenced, nor allow this hooliganism to triumph. DS Ayodhya: Indresh of RSS slams CJI-bench, claims govt is ready with a law Claiming that the Centre plans to bring a law on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute but has been silent in view of the Mod

Domestic Violence Is The Most Common Killer Of Women Around The World

The most dangerous place for women is in their own homes, a new report from the United Nations concludes. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the “ Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related Killing of Women and Girls ” on Sunday to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women .  The report analyzed the violence perpetrated against women worldwide in 2017, looking at intimate partner violence and family-related killings such as dowry- and honor-related murders. Last year, 87,000 women were murdered around the world, and more than half (50,000 or 58 percent) were killed by partners or family members. Over a third (30,000) of those intentionally killed last year were murdered by a current or former intimate partner. This means that, globally, six women are killed every hour by someone they know.  U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described violence against women as a global pandemic   in a Sunday statement marking the

Power of the sun – how solar is improving community life in Africa. By Beetle Holloway

As everyday activities go, flicking a switch barely even registers. But when Ibrahima Ciss pushes the small plastic lever by his door, a broad smile rises on his face. The 61-year-old is chief of Khaye Sérère, a rural Senegalese village in the western Thiès region, but he’s also the proud owner of a personal solar system, which is providing his home with electricity for the first time in his life. Due to their remote location and low incomes, only  10% of rural households  in west Africa have access to electricity. Most rely on an unhealthy concoction of candles, kerosene lamps and battery-powered torches, but new solar initiatives are providing an alternative. In December 2015, Dakar-based  Oolu Solar  came to Khaye Sérère offering a solar home system (SHS) that allowed households to charge small electrical items and power lamps; Ciss was one of its first clients. “Before Oolu, I used to use one or two candles every night,” Ciss explains, sitting on a low, wooden bed, a lens-s

This is what Trump’s caravan 'invasion' really looks like

Those walking to the US to seek asylum have been demonized by Trump, who sent more than 5,000 soldiers to await them at the border. Bryan Mealer traveled with the most vulnerable among them By the time I reach the migrant caravan in late October, they’d been traveling for two weeks since leaving  Honduras , having covered over 600 miles. Leaving from San Pedro Sula, one of the deadliest cities on Earth, they’d set out over mountains, through forest and rivers, and along the way became both an international menace and a symbol of hope. Most days, they tell me, afternoon rains had soaked their belongings. Ants had bitten them where they slept. Crossing into Mexico, riot police had attacked them with clubs and teargas. But for the most part, they say, people had displayed extraordinary kindness. Farmers had greeted them on the roads with sliced oranges and bags of water and strangers had given them rides. Every day brought these tiny, unexpected miracles: a plate of beans when t

Not heeding 'advice' of Constitution will result in 'descent into chaos', warns CJI Gogoi

It is in "our best interest" to heed the advice of the Constitution, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said on Monday and asserted that not doing so would result in "sharp descent into chaos". The Constitution is the voice of the marginalised as well as the prudence of the majority and continues to be a guide in moments of crisis and uncertainty, the CJI said at the inaugural function of Constitution Day Celebrations here."It is in our best interest to heed the advice of the constitution. If we do not, our hubris will result in sharp descent into chaos," he said.  Constitution Day, also known as Samvidhan Divas, is celebrated on November 26 to commemorate the Constitution being adopted. The Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949. It came into effect on January 26, 1950."The constitution has become an integral part of the lives of the Indian people. This is not an exaggeration, one need only to look at the as

Hell on Earth for an Activist Murdered With Acid in Ukraine

The deputy mayor of Kherson was a tireless opponent of corruption. Then some thugs were hired to pour sulfuric acid on her. It took her more than three months to die. Ever since Handziuk entered politics in 2006 to become the youngest elected deputy mayor of her hometown of Kherson, she stood out: blonde, round-faced, jolly, fearless, passionate, unstoppable. She was always ready to crack a sarcastic joke or two, always owning up to her decisions. She dressed informally, comfortably, never looking like an ordinary bureaucrat. In private life, she still had her little girl’s habits. She asked friends to bring her peanuts in chocolate from Poland, and her favorite sweets had a clown on the yellow package. She brought stuffed teddy bears in her backpack on her trips abroad with her husband. At work she was a natural team builder, gathering a community of revolutionaries around her. Together they took part in the Orange Revolution in 2004, then in the Revolution of Dignity cente

Vivek Deshpande, Lalmani Verma: For RSS, VHP, target is Supreme Court, goal is temple

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat regretted that “Ram temple was not a priority for the Supreme Court” as speakers at VHP meetings in Ayodhya and Nagpur on Sunday criticised the court for putting off the Ayodhya case till January, and called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enact a law to end the delay.  Speaking at the VHP’s ‘Humkar Sabha’ at Nagpur, Bhagwat said, “It has become obvious that Ram temple is not a matter of priority for the Supreme Court.” Adding that “Hindus have always abided by the law and shown enough patience”, he said, “Though law is necessary, can society run only on the basis of law? Can any question be raised against matters of faith? Will you continue to evade the truth and the feelings of people?” ( NB : He means law is subject to the will of the RSS. DS ) Rakesh Sinha - History Headline: The familiar drumroll of Ayodhya More threats and lies from the RSS Bhagwat added that the time for “patience” was over. “About one year ago, I had said dhairya rakho. T

Chicago hospital shooting: Police officer, 2 employees and gunman dead

Woman who heard the Chicago hospital shooting: "You can't go to the hospital, you can't go to school, you can't go to church, you can't go to the grocery store. You cannot go anywhere...You just never know when you walk into a place if you're going to come out alive"  An officer and three others, including the gunman, are dead after a shooting at Chicago's Mercy Hospital, police said Monday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said a doctor and a pharmaceutical assistant were the other victims. Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, identified the slain officer as  Officer Samuel Jimenez .  Guglielmi said the gunman was killed, but it's unclear if he took his own life or was killed by police. In a later tweet, Guglielmi called it a "domestic-related active shooter." Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the incident began in the parking lot with an argument between a man and a female hospital employee he was in a relationship wi

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Trump Is Finally Small

The final factor in Trump’s diminution had to be the  appalling (!) White House (!) statement   defending the Saudi Arabian royal family from his own CIA’s finding that they had been complicit in the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That document has been widely  read   and  deconstructed  for its  lies, exaggerations, and untruths , but it should also be briefly celebrated as the perfect distillate of  Trump’s moral reasoning : By the president’s own ethical lights, no criminal who might make us wealthy can ever be condemned. The holidays can be tricky when one has begun to reflexively assume the posture of being pinned under the breakfront as the crazy racist grandpa shrieks year round. For many of us, the echo of Donald Trump’s voice, his tweets, his boasts and threats, are what wake us up at 4 a.m. and what makes us afraid to contemplate summer plans or even buy green bananas. But after  two deeply destabilizing and in fact traumatic years  of soaki

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Away from the spectacle

The nature of the 26/11 attack, its reach and scale, its televised vividness, and its subsequent political significance, makes it a pivotal event in the politics of the Subcontinent. It is constantly remembered to mourn the victims, and to acknowledge the city that bears the scars of this national humiliation. Yet in a strange way, the remembrance of 26/11 has itself produced a different kind of amnesia. Bombay lost its identity twice. Its renaming to Mumbai was a sign of its politics becoming parochial. The renaming of its iconic film industry “Bollywood” was a sign that this increasingly vernacularised politics paradoxically took cultural referents from America; Indian culture could be measured only in the context of globalisation. In a way, the designation 26/11, with its constant allusion to 9/11, was understandable: Both were acts of terrorism that inflicted suffering in a politics of spectacle. But the consequence of this iconic remembering has been that the history specific

Bethan McKernan - Who are the Houthis and why are they fighting the Saudi coalition in Yemen?

The Saudi- and United Arab Emirates-led coalition fighting in  Yemen  is under unprecedented pressure from the international community to end its involvement in the war after the killing of the Saudi journalist  Jamal Khashoggi . Since the coalition intervened in 2015,  Yemen  has become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN. Rights groups say up to 56,000 people have been killed, half of the 28 million-strong population are starving and the country is suffering the worst cholera epidemic in modern history. But who are the coalition fighting, and why has the war descended into a stalemate? Yemen’s Houthi rebels are a decades-old resistance movement, born in opposition to Saudi Arabia’s religious influence. Although they cannot hold out forever against the coalition’s air power and blockades, they say they are determined not to give up. The Houthi movement was founded in the 1990s by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a member of Yemen’s Zaidi Shia minorit

KumKum Dasgupta - The murderous attack on green activists in Meghalaya is an assault on our collective future

Social activist Agnes Kharshiing is a well-known name in Meghalaya. Along with being a human rights activist, she is also an environment defender of repute.  On November 8,  Kharshiing and another activist , A Sangma, were in the East Jaintia Hills district to track and document cases of illegal mining. (In 2014, the National Green Tribunal imposed a blanket ban on coal mining, once the driver of Meghalaya’s economy.) While the two activists were conducting their investigations, a group of 30-40 people encircled their car and attacked them brutally.  Both are in hospital with severe injuries. Sources, a Hindustan Times report said, point towards coal mafia being involved in the attack as Kharshiing had shared several pictures of trucks ferrying coal illegally and their dumping grounds. However, authorities are yet to confirm the identity of the attackers.  According to ‘Defenders of the Earth‘, a report released by international NGO, Global Witness, in 2017, being an environmenta

NORMAN BIRNBAUM - Modes of denial: On the legend of US liberal hegemony

For all its loathing of Trump, the US liberal elite shares with him a common delusion: that US hegemony can persist in the 21st century. Trump is not the cause of the disruption but a consequence of it At the memorial service for the late John McCain, our divided political elite came together to voice their apprehensions about our democracy. Better late than never; having indulged in an increasingly preposterous American moral imperialism for decades, it is indeed time for them to reconsider. A good place to begin would be with the cliché, common both here and abroad, that Trump is undermining or has already destroyed a ‘liberal world order’. But what ‘liberal world order’ are we talking about? When NATO was founded in 1949, it included Portugal and Turkey, hardly exemplary democracies. Franco’s Spain was a  de facto  member since its military alliance with the US in 1959. The UK fought a bitter war in the early fifties in a futile attempt to keep Kenya, and France vainly def

A different way to fight: For Gandhi, satyagraha was the only way to stop terrorism. By David Hardiman

Do Mahatma Gandhi and his legacy have anything to offer us in the face of attacks by terrorists? Gandhi himself was deeply concerned with the question as to how non-violence could displace violence in political life. In his own day, he was faced with revolutionary nationalists who believed that imperial rule in India could best be fought through targeted violence against British officials and institutions. Gandhi was strong in his condemnation of such a strategy. We can see this in his reaction to the assassination by an Indian student called Madan Lal Dhingra of a retired Indian civil servant, Sir Curzon Wyllie, when he came to speak to a group of Indian students in London in 1909. Vinayak Savarkar, who was a friend of Dhingra, argued that he acted as a Hindu patriot. Gandhi was horrified by the killing. He stated that Dhingra acted in a cowardly manner, and that he had been “egged on by this ill-digested reading of worthless writing”. Wyllie had gone as a guest of the Indian stu

Aarti Tikoo Singh: Sabarimala and the Liberal Regression // Keerthik Sasidharan - The churning of tradition

Several secular liberal intellectuals in India are conflicted over the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala. Their main argument is that a secular state and judiciary must refrain from intervening in religious matters. First of all, India is not secular in the Western sense. Secularism in India means equality of and respect for all religions, as conceived by our Constitution. That is why in India, you can’t jest about religion, let alone, draw cartoons and paintings without risking serious consequences.  You try satirizing religion and you will end up getting arrested like my “Hindu Right wing” friend was for cracking a joke on a Hindu temple, last week. Now in this scenario, religion remains deeply embedded in the state and the state remains attached to religion in both peace times and conflict too. The very nature of politics, hence, revolves around religious identity. This is no secularism; it is no separation of religion and state, of the European Enlightenment kind.  There

Arun Kumar - Two Years after Demonetisation, the Nightmare Continues for India's Informal Economy // With due respect, Finance Minister

Demonetisation is like a bad dream etched in our memories. Weddings were postponed and  medical treatment was curtailed  for lack of money. Long queues formed outside banks. Small businesses  closed due to lack of working capital  and their workers returned to their villages. Indians who never generated black money  were the worst affected . Yet, the narrative that demonetisation would destroy the wealth of the corrupt was widely accepted. This was because of the misperception that ‘black means cash’. If cash was squeezed out, the black economy would disappear at one stroke – justice being meted out to the corrupt. The Prime Minister said that for long-term gain one had to bear short-term pain. He likened it to ‘ ahuti ’ in a ‘ yagya ’. If the pain does not end in 50 days, Modi said, the public could give him any punishment and he would accept it. Two years later, the pain persists but the government only continues to justify its error. It has refused to admit to the long-term d

RONALD ARONSON - The Philosophy of Our Time: Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential Marxism

You don't arrest Voltaire : President Charles de Gaulle in May 1968, ordering Sartre to be released after he was arrested for civil disobedience Nearly forty years after his death in 1980, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is best remembered as the father of existentialism. We are most familiar with him as the theorist of freedom, authenticity, and bad faith in philosophical treatises such as  Being and Nothingness  (1943) and literary works such as  Nausea  (1938) and  No Exit  (1944). But eclipsed in this popular image is an appreciation of the staggering range of his dozens of volumes of published work, especially the fruit of his political activity from the end of World War II until his death - a period marked most notably by a rich and sustained engagement with Marxism. Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with Che Guevara in Cuba, 1960 (wikipeda commons) Far from being consigned to the ash heap of history, the mid-century encounter between Marxism and existential