Thursday, July 18, 2019

The march of justice in India: In 40 of 41 Muzaffarnagar riot cases, including murder, all accused are acquitted

Five prosecution witnesses did a U-turn in court to say they weren’t present when their relatives were murdered - when the FIRs mentioned otherwise.
# Six prosecution witnesses turned hostile and deposed that police forced them to sign blank papers.
# Police did not produce murder weapons in court in five cases.
# The prosecution never cross-examined police on these.
# In the end, all witnesses turned hostile.

These are among the several glaring holes Indian Express found in the Uttar Pradesh government’s prosecution cases in 10 murder cases filed on the violence that swept through Muzaffarnagar in 2013, killing at least 65 people. Based on the testimonies, and holding that witnesses, mostly relatives of those killed, had turned hostile, the courts acquitted all in the 10 murder trials that ended between January 2017 and February 2019. In fact, since 2017, Muzaffarnagar courts have delivered verdicts in 41 cases linked to the riots - and delivered a conviction in just one case of murder. All 40 acquittals have come in cases involving attacks on Muslims. All these were registered and launched under the Akhilesh Yadav government. The trials spanned both his and the current BJP government. 

The only conviction came on February 8 this year, when the sessions court sentenced seven accused - Muzammil, Mujassim, Furkan, Nadeem, Janangir, Afzal and Ikbal - to life in prison for the murder of cousins Gaurav and Sachin in Kawal village on August 27, 2013, the incident that is said to have triggered the riots. The Indian Express scrutinised court records and testimonies of complainants and witnesses and interviewed officials in the 10 cases of acquittal to find that - from one family burnt alive to three friends dragged into a field and killed, from a father hacked to death with swords to an uncle beaten to death with spades - 53 men accused of murder walked free. That’s not all, a similar trend has emerged in four cases of gangrape and 26 cases of rioting, as well.

The UP government says it’s not planning to appeal. Speaking to The Indian Express, Dushyant Tyagi, District Government Counsel, Muzaffarnagar, said: “We are not filing appeals in any of 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot cases, which ended in acquittal, because in all cases, the prime witnesses were declared hostile by court after they did not support the prosecution theory. The chargesheets against the accused were filed on the statement of witnesses.” According to Tyagi, notices have been issued to all hostile witnesses under Section 344 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which mandates a summary trial procedure for false evidence.

Zack Seckler's best photograph: wild Iceland from the air

‘The pilot flew me around the volcanic coast in his tiny homemade plane – with the door open and me hanging out taking pictures’ shot this off the southern coast of Iceland, from a ultra-light aircraft, in the days before drones were ubiquitous. I love the stark nature of the Icelandic landscape and its contrasts. Deltas form from glacial meltwater running down towards the shoreline, picking up silt and different materials along the way to create these ribbon patterns. There’s all sorts of wildlife too – birds, beautiful wild horses, seals.
In Flight, 2015, by Zack Seckler.
 In Flight, 2015, by Zack Seckler. Photograph: Zack Seckler/Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
So a few years ago after a lot of research, cross-referencing Google Earth with books and photography by others, I took a red eye from New York to Reykjavik. It was kind of funny to take a jumbo jet, have three hours upon landing to rent a car, check into my hotel and nap for 20 minutes and then turn around to meet a pilot and spend the day up in the air again in his homemade plane.

You can do all the research you want for these projects, but nothing compares to actually seeing things in person. Being in an airplane above that landscape was really magical. Emotional, even.
At first, when you’re flying around in a tiny plane, opening the door and hanging out to take pictures, it’s a little nerve-wracking. You see your life flash before your eyes. But I’ve become quite comfortable doing it and am able to be extremely focused…. read more:

Bharat Bhushan - Where parties fail, can civil society succeed?

The present crop of Indian political parties have been largely incapable of taking on the BJP’s brand of authoritarian and religiously sectarian politics. Many think that the hope of an alternative politics may lie with those who work outside the framework of political parties in the voluntary sector.

Could they somehow become effective in reviving the politics of resistance in an increasingly authoritarian, majoritarian and relentlessly market-driven polity? The question may seem odd at a time when NGOs, human rights organisations, or what are broadly called civil society organisations, seem to be losing steam.

Civil society organisations have been under a constant onslaught for the past decade. What started with the ostensible aim of preventing money laundering and terrorist funding through Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) in 2010 has ended with specific targeting of civil society activists. The FCRA was the response to international pressure by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering on countries to “review the adequacy of laws and regulations that relate to entities that can be abused for the financing of terrorism”.

World Bank Pulls Out of Amaravati Capital City Project: A Major Victory to People

In a significant move, which will have repercussions at multiple levels, yesterday the World Bank has decided to pull out of the $300 million lending to the Amaravati Capital City project in Andhra Pradesh. Working Group on International Financial Institutions (WGonIFIs) and the affected communities of the Amaravati Capital City Project welcome the decision. The Bank arrived at this decision after a series of representations it received from many people’s movements and civil society organisations over the past years, and a complaint to its accountability mechanism, Inspection Panel, by the affected communities.

We are happy that World Bank took cognisance of the gross violations involved in the Amaravati Capital City project, threatening the livelihood of people and fragile environment. After Narmada and Tata Mundra, this is the third major victory against the World Bank Group. We are happy that the Inspection Panel which was created due to the struggle of Narmada Bachao Andolan played its critical role here. While we celebrate this victory of people, who stood up to the intimidation and terror of the state, we warn the government and financial institutions not to push their agenda without the consent of the people” said Medha Patkar, senior activist of Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People's Movements.

Ever since the Amaravati Capital City Project was conceptualised in 2014, environmental experts, civil society organisations and grassroots movements have expressed their anguish over the grave  violations of the social and environmental laws, financial unviability, massive land-grabbing of the fertile land in the garb of voluntary land-pooling, open threats to the complainants by none other than the then Chief Minister, along with  concerns of losing fertile farmlands and livelihoods. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America. By Lynn Parramore

Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America’s burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

New Economic Thinking

The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

An Unlocked Door in Virginia: MacLean’s book reads like an intellectual detective story. In 2010, she moved to North Carolina, where a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party got control of both houses of the state legislature and began pushing through a radical program to suppress voter rights, decimate public services, and slash taxes on the wealthy that shocked a state long a beacon of southern moderation. Up to this point, the figure of James Buchanan flickered in her peripheral vision, but as she began to study his work closely, the events in North Carolina and also Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was leading assaults on collective bargaining rights, shifted her focus.

Could it be that this relatively obscure economist’s distinctive thought was being put forcefully into action in real time?.. read more:

Moscow braces for renewed protests after opposition politicians excluded from city elections

Locked out of forthcoming city council elections, Moscow’s opposition politicians have called upon their supporters to force a rare U-turn from the Kremlin. By Tuesday afternoon, almost all of the independent candidates standing for election had been told they would not be allowed to run.
In contrast, the vast majority of the 216 given the green light were supporters of Vladimir Putin. 

Further rulings by local electoral committees tomorrow are not expected to change the overall picture.  Russian authorities have introduced demanding new rules in the run-up to the 8 September vote. For the first time, those not running on party lists have been made to collect signatures from 3 per cent of their electorate. The new regulations automatically exclude candidates if 10 per cent of their signatures are for whatever reason deemed invalid... read more:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The greatest photos ever? Why the moon landing shots are artistic masterpieces // 'We had 15 seconds of fuel left': Buzz Aldrin on the nervy moon landing

Fifty years ago this week, a former navy pilot created one of the most revolutionary artistic masterpieces of the 20th century, one we have yet to fully assimilate. His name was Neil Armstrong and his astonishing act of creativity is a photograph of his Apollo 11crewmate Buzz Aldrin standing on the Sea of Tranquillity on the moon. Not that you can see Aldrin’s face. His features and flesh are hidden inside a thickly padded white spacesuit, its visor reflecting the tiny figure of Armstrong himself, beside the gold-coloured legs of the lunar lander.
‘A triumph of human consciousness in an otherwise mindless universe’ … Neil Armstrong’s double-horizon shot of Buzz Aldrin.
This effacement of Aldrin came about because Apollo astronauts wore visors lined with gold to protect their eyes from sunlight. Yet these reflective qualities are part of what makes this such a powerful, complex image, one in which we can see two lunar horizons. Behind Aldrin, the moon’s bright surface recedes to a blue horizon against the black void of space. Meanwhile, reflected and warped by the helmet, the other horizon stretches away behind Armstrong. The photographer has incorporated the making of the image into the image, to tell the story of something new in the universe: two human beings looking at each other across the dusty surface of an alien world… 
‘A thrilling swirl of land, water and cloud’ … Earthrise by Apollo 8’s William Anders.

'We had 15 seconds of fuel left': Buzz Aldrin on the nervy moon landing

Avijit Pathak - The escape from freedom: Normalisation of surveillance

Even though Delhi Government’s decision to install CCTV cameras in school classrooms has generated an interesting debate, it is important to see beyond the classrooms, and reflect more intensely on the meaning of living in a society that normalises and sanctifies surveillance. As an ideology that seeks to become hegemonic, the practice of surveillance justifies itself through the discourse of “safety”, “security” and “transparency”. And, possibly, we have accepted it.

Hence, we no longer feel humiliated or insulted when at airports and railway stations we allow the security guards and cops to objectify us with a gaze of doubt, and touch every part of our body. In fact, we demand more and more surveillance. From shops to schools, from housing societies to office corridors, and from the living rooms to the elevators in high rise buildings — the all-pervading presence of CCTV cameras proves one thing: We love to be controlled, observed, normalised and disciplined. Even if the likes of George Orwell and Michel Foucault express their anxiety over these technologies of surveillance, most of us seem to be quite happy with it.

For me, this “escape from freedom”, to use social psychologist Erich Fromm’s vocabulary, is most dangerous. To begin with, let us see the way we have begun to define ourselves in an age that otherwise boasts of progress and development. Everyone, we are induced to think, is a potential suspect: a criminal, a terrorist, a suicide bomber, a rapist, a murderer. Trust is naive and idiotic. Doubt everybody. Scrutinise everybody. Not only that, we have also begun to believe that we are inherently irresponsible. That given an opportunity, we would escape from our responsibilities and hence we must allow ourselves to be perpetually monitored, observed and disciplined. 

In other words, we are incapable of living responsibly, peacefully and freely. And then, a terrorist attack somewhere, a young girl’s suicide in the washroom of a school, or a psychopath insulting the dignity of a woman in his office cubicle: The recurrence of ugliness shatters our confidence, and convinces us further that surveillance is good and desirable. Big Boss must control us for our own safety... read more:

A message from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

We have come across a scurrilous and mischievous publication Koun Hai Urban Naxal? published by a Rajasthani affiliate of the RSS, called the Vishvanath SAMVAD Kendra , Jaipur , and circulated in the State by the RSS This booklet not only targets particular activists including us (Nikhil and me) as "urban naxals", but deliberately seeks to discredit those working on welfare, and the philosophy and spirit of the rights-based laws themselves. It has sweeping derogatory references to activists, journalists , educationists, and a whole gamut of people who have contributed to and continue to raise their voice for justice. 

In defining “urban naxals” it has included specific references to the RTI and the process and methodology of social audit as being the mode and platform.  In attacking the RTI - a law passed by parliament and an accepted practice to protect ethics in a democracy all over the world - the booklet  has sought to include within its warped definition of nationalism and anti- nationals, anything and anyone who might create platforms for questioning authority, arbitrariness and corruption.

We don’t need to explain the background to this renewed attack on democratic freedoms and rights. There has been a consistent attempt to weaken the rights based legislations, as the BJP governments have not been able to get rid of these rights based laws. They remain a thorn in the attempts of the present establishment to stifle people’s voices and their rights.  In the notorious language of double speak, the ruling establishment has used these laws, speaking one language from Delhi, contradicted by negative propaganda at the grass roots against those who fought for and shaped these laws and now use them.

We have known about this publication for about a month. What prompts us to write this e-mail, is the urgent need to renew the campaign for all rights based laws. Public memory is very short and the generation that fought for these rights is now middle aged and older! We have realized and understood, that in facing an adversary who are masters at propaganda and the erasing and rewriting of history; the learning, discussing, and understanding of even contemporary history must to be continuous. It should cater to an ever changing and constantly newer set of young people. Surrounded as they are with propaganda masquerading as social media “news” channels, we have to make sure that young adults understand how much RTI , public monitoring and the rights based laws contribute to their well being. 

This booklet which is deliberately inaccurate and incorrect in most part, uses the typical language and mix of fact with slanderous images and labels created to misinform people. We have to therefore, once again address the continuing and continual need for political education. We feel that one of the best responses , is to write and campaign,  to promote constitutional rights, in a renewed campaign across Rajasthan and India.

The MKSS is planning to disseminate the history of the RTI, social audits and the rights-based laws through a sustained online and offline campaign. We are hoping to write in many languages in order to introduce new people and newer generations to the thoughts and ideas that led to these mass struggles. In this effort we need your support. Please write and publish through the print media , talk about and discuss these ideas, to share your own stories, wherever you are, in English , Hindi and other Indian languages. 

The  RTI, NREGA, RTF, FRA & Tribal Groups, RTE, Right to Health, dalit rights, farmers and other networks , women's organisations  and minority rights,  together  represent the pluralistic majority of the Indian people. We can come together to effectively, once again, take on and challenge this so called majoritarian and fascist take over of public narratives.

We hope that by sharing more and better information we can ensure that the distortion of history and the persecution of people’s right to speak will be understood and exposed, and democratic rights can be better protected.. 

In solidarity,

Aruna, Nikhil, Shankar, Lal Singh, Naurti Bai, Narayan, Baluji, Meera & MKSS sathies

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Death of 'barefoot lawyer' puts focus on China's treatment of political prisoners

NB: The People's Republic of China is a totalitarian tyranny. It has descended to withholding medical treatment as a means of murdering its critics. Two years ago Liu Xiaobo died in hospital in similar circumstances. Shame on all those who provide ideological justification for this brutal and lawless government. I salute Ji Sizun for his decency, courage and steadfastness in defending human rights. Rest in peace, comrade Ji. DS

I broke the small bamboo branches on the riverside, but saved one drowning person who struggled in the river. The work was more than enough.

In June, Ji Sizun received the news that he had won a prestigious human rights distinction, the Cao Shunli Memorial Award, in honour of the veteran Chinese activist who died in 2014 in police custody, after being denied needed medical treatment for months. It would be a little more than one month until he himself died while under the watch of state security. Ji, one of China’s most prominent “barefoot lawyers” spent most of the last decade in prison in his native Fujian province.

He was in a semi-comatose state when he finished his most recent sentence of four and a half years in late April and was immediately sent to a hospital. On 10 July, two months after leaving prison, Ji, 69, died of unknown causes. He joins a growing list of imprisoned political activists who have died after being denied adequate medical treatment. His death came three days before the two year anniversary of the death of Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Last month, a Uighur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti died after being detained in an internment camp in Xinjiang. “For human rights defenders in China, prison sentences are increasingly turning into death sentences,” said Yaqiu  Wang, China researcher for Human Rights Watch. 

‘A form of torture’:While Chinese detention facilities have long been criticised for their conditions, denying medical treatment to prisoners deemed “sensitive” is becoming increasingly common. Ji suffered intestinal cancer in prison and applications for medical parole were repeatedly refused, according to his lawyers. “Authorities are deliberately withholding medical treatment as a form of torture to punish, humiliate,” said Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). “While we have documented deaths of activists and ethnic and religious minorities for years, we are seeing more and more die in recent years under Xi Jinping’s brutal crackdown on civil society.”

The legacy of division: East and West after 1989

When the Cold War came to a sudden end thirty years ago, the two halves of the continent declared in unison their intention to overcome the legacy of the division. Eastern Europeans appeared eager to ritually condemn, if not to critically examine, their recent past and were especially keen on asserting and proving their ‘Europeanness.’ Westerners, too, hoped to see the countries of the former Eastern bloc transformed and potentially absorbed into an enlarged and ever deeper project of political integration. Mutual ignorance and deep-seated misperceptions seemed a temporary hindrance on the path towards the unification of the continent.

After 1989, the conviction became common that the Cold War had been an anomaly. The Iron Curtain may have enforced a perception of stark differences between the two halves of the continent, and may even have turned such differences into a fact for more than a generation, but the distinction between East and West was said to be little more than a symbolic construct. It was repeatedly asserted that the boundary separating the two halves of the continent was fluid, negotiable, and subject to deconstruc-tion. Yet the integration projects launched during the early postwar decades, which despite being restricted to one side of the Iron Curtain made increasing claims to represent Europe as a whole, drew on long-standing traditions in western European thought that marginalized and even excluded the experiences of the continent’s eastern half.  

And it was similarly overlooked that structural differences between various macro-regions of Europe had a history stretching back much further than the Cold War.... read more:

Terry Bell: Let’s ditch myths about ANC’s glorious past // Jason Burke: Jacob Zuma relishes his day in court

Accusations about the manipulation of ANC election lists are nothing new. Nor, for that matter, is evidence of corruption, nepotism and the existence of patronage networks. During the decades in exile, democratic decisions taken within the ANC were, more often than not, ignored or simply over-ridden if they did not suit the leadership. Yet now we seem to be dealing with a call to go back to some mythical past where the ANC was an apparent paragon of virtue and a shining example of ethical and democratic behaviour.

In the exile years that myth was the public relations image presented to the outside world in general and, especially after 1976, to donors. But the ANC, while rebelling against the vicious and corrupt system of apartheid, was itself a product of that system. Those who flocked to its broad church banner were a reflection of that society and time: romantics, revolutionaries, idealists, rogues and robbers, along with capitalists, socialists and the severely compromised.
So the exiled movement compromised many good people, some bad, and some decidedly ugly. Many of the good tried throughout to fight a largely losing battle to make a reality of the professed principles and policies of the ANC. They were stymied by the fact that from the earliest days of exile, unity became to the clarion call from the leadership. All else was secondary, if it mattered at all. This laid the ground for an autocratic style of governance which, at the same time, tolerated the spread of patronage networks, nepotism and corruption. This was first highlighted within the movement in 1969 by seven comrades freed from jail in Botswana after the Wankie and Sipolile incursions into then Rhodesia.

Verna Yu - 'Don't mess with us': the spirit of rebellion spreads in Hong Kong

An old Chinese idiom has become the key catchphrase of Hong Kong’s social discourse in recent days. Pien Dei Hoi Fa – flowers blooming everywhere – is the term being used to describe the emergence of local protests and so-called Lennon walls, colourful collages of sticky labels with political messages, that are popping up in local communities all over Hong Kong. Millions in this former British colony have flocked to the streets in several mass protests over the past month to fight against a proposed law that would allow individuals to be extradited to stand trial in China’s opaque courts. Now, feeling emboldened by the solidarity and big turnout at recent protests, which have made headlines across the world, Hong Kong people are now riding on the wave of their success to speak up on a range of issues, which are generally related to their discontent with the encroachment of China into Hong Kong.

Over the past weeks, there have already been many smaller scale rallies on the sidelines of the main protests, among them a couple of mothers’ rallies urging the authorities to listen to young people and numerous open-air Christian gatherings urging peace. But many more, with different themes, are in the pipeline: there are at least five planned protests or rallies over the coming week and nine until the end of the month, and lists of these are going viral on social media.

On Saturday thousands of people turned out for a Reclaim Sheung Shui protest in a town near the mainland border, a show of anger against so-called parallel traders who snap up goods ranging from foreign-made formula milk to cosmetics and medicines and resell them in China. On Sunday, a rally in Shatin against the extradition bill and a separate journalists’ march on Hong Kong island against the police’s rough handling of reporters are planned. There will be an elderly people’s march to support the young next Wednesday and a rally against pro-Beijing media in the next few weeks.

Such frequent protests are rare in Hong Kong, where people are known for their stoical work ethic in a city that has some of the highest property pricesin the world and little social welfare provision.
Many interviewed by the Observer in the Sheung Shui protest on Saturday said the millions-strong anti-extradition protests last month had become a lightning rod for them. Many have been accumulating pent-up anger against the government for policies they felt they had endured long enough... read more:

Stop begging Google, Facebook etc. to be nice Digital overlords: Fix the Internet by sidelining Big Tech

Everyone in the tech world claims to love interoperability - the technical ability to plug one product or service into another product or service - but interoperability covers a lot of territory, and depending on what’s meant by interoperability, it can do a lot, a little, or nothing at all to protect users, innovation and fairness. Let’s start with a taxonomy of interoperability:

Indifferent Interoperability
This is the most common form of interoperability. Company A makes a product and Company B makes a thing that works with that product, but doesn’t talk to Company A about it. Company A doesn’t know or care to know about Company B’s add-on. Think of a car’s cigarette lighter: these started in the 1920s as aftermarket accessories that car owners could have installed at a garage; over time they became popular enough that they came standard in every car. Eventually, third-party companies began to manufacture DC power adapters that plugged into the lighter receptacle, drawing power from the car engine’s alternator. This became widespread enough that it was eventually standardized as ANSI/SAE J563.

Standardization paved the way for a variety of innovative new products that could be made by third-party manufacturers who did not have to coordinate with (or seek permission from) automotive companies before bringing them to market. These are now ubiquitous, and you can find fishbowls full of USB chargers that fit your car-lighter receptacle at most gas stations for $0.50-$1.00. Some cars now come with standard USB ports (though for complicated reasons, these tend not to be very good chargers), but your auto manufacturer doesn’t care if you buy one of those $0.50 chargers and use it with your phone. It’s your car, it’s your car-lighter, it’s your business... read more:

Labour's Brexit challenge to the next Tory PM has come at the perfect moment

Labour’s new push for a second referendum is the right call and at the right time. Jeremy Corbyn has challenged the next prime minister to back putting his deal or no deal to the public with Labour campaigning for Remain in a new referendum. The shift brings to an end what critics have called Labour’s “constructive ambiguity” and fence-sitting over Brexit. Labour is certainly unambiguously opposed to a Tory-fuelled Brexit.

The party is making the right call. Public support for Brexit continues to weaken since 2016. More voters see Brexit as a mistake with 51 per cent supporting Remain and only 44 per cent for Leave. The will of the people has shifted undeniably as Brexit negotiations have stalled. A second vote would almost certainly have a different result. 

The pro-Remain majority grows as the risk of a no-deal Brexit increases. While neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Hunt have given a consistent guarantee that Britain will leave the EU deal or no deal by Halloween, this is the majority view of the Tory grassroots. It is they who will give the new leader their mandate and it is they that Johnson or Hunt may find impossible to ignore. 

Leaving without a deal was never genuinely considered during the referendum. Since 2016 the Tories have shifted from promising Brexit would deliver a booming economy to wanting Brexit at any cost. As the original optimism morphs into fatalism, so too we find support for Brexit beginning to wither on the electoral vine... read more..

If Antarctica Melts, Seas will Rise a Gigantic 190 Feet; It has Started Losing Ice Rapidly // $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

By Nerilie Abram, Matthew England, and Matt King 
Almost all (around 93%) of the extra heat human activities have caused to accumulate on Earth since the Industrial Revolution lies within the ocean. And a large majority of this has been taken into the depths of the Southern Ocean. It is thought that this effect could delay the start of significant warming over much of Antarctica for a century or more. However, the Antarctic ice sheet has a weak underbelly. In some places the ice sheet sits on ground that is below sea level. This puts the ice sheet in direct contact with warm ocean waters that are very effective at melting ice and destabilising the ice sheet. Scientists have long been worried about the potential weakness of ice in West Antarctica
because of its deep interface with the ocean

record start to summer ice melt in Greenland this year has drawn attention to the northern ice sheet. We will have to wait to see if 2019 continues to break ice-melt records, but in the rapidly warming Arctic the long-term trends of ice loss are clear. But what about at the other icy end of the planet? 
Antarctica is an icy giant compared to its northern counterpart. The water frozen in the Greenland ice sheet is equivalent to around 7 metres of potential sea level rise. In the Antarctic ice sheet there are around 58 metres of sea-level rise currently locked away. Like Greenland, the Antarctic ice sheet is losing ice and contributing to unabated global sea level rise. But there are worrying signs Antarctica is changing faster than expected and in places previously thought to be protected from rapid change.

On the Antarctic Peninsula – the most northerly part of the Antarctic continent – air temperatures over the past century have risen faster than any other place in the Southern Hemisphere. Summer melting already happens on the Antarctic Peninsula between 25 and 80 days each year. The number of melt days will rise by at least 50% when global warming hits the soon-to-be-reached 1.5 limit 
set out in the Paris Agreement, with some predictions pointing to as much as a 150% increase in melt days... read more:

 $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar
The desert outside Tennant Creek, deep in the Northern Territory, is not the most obvious place to build and transmit Singapore’s future electricity supply. Though few in the southern states are yet to take notice, a group of Australian developers are betting that will change. If they are right, it could have far-reaching consequences for Australia’s energy industry and what the country sells to the world. Known as Sun Cable, it is promised to be the world’s largest solar farm. If developed as planned, a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of panels will be spread across 15,000 hectares and be backed by battery storage to ensure it can supply power around the clock.

Overhead transmission lines will send electricity to Darwin and plug into the NT grid. But the bulk would be exported via a high-voltage direct-current submarine cable snaking through the Indonesian archipelago to Singapore. The developers say it will be able to provide one-fifth of the island city-state’s electricity needs, replacing its increasingly expensive gas-fired power....

Trump 'pulled out of Iran nuclear deal to spite Obama': Kim Darroch in new leaked memo // Iran in Crosshairs Again: It is Always – Always – about the Oil

Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal to spite his predecessor Barack Obama, the UK’s former ambassador reportedly suggested in a new leaked diplomatic memo. Sir Kim Darroch claimed the US president’s actions amounted to “diplomatic vandalism” and were fuelled by “personality” reasons, according to a document seen by The Mail on Sunday.

The ambassador’s comments are said to have been made in May 2018 after Boris Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time, made a failed trip to the White House in a bid to change Mr Trump’s mind on leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The latest revelation came as police identified a suspect behind the leak, according to The Sunday Times. Just hours earlier, Mr Johnson and Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt criticised Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu for warning journalists they could face prosecution for publishing the memos... read more:

Iran in Crosshairs Again: It is Always – Always – about the Oil By Michael T. Klare It’s always the oil. While President Trump was hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Japan, brushing off a recent U.N. report about the prince’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia and the Middle East, pleading with foreign leaders to support “Sentinel.” The aim of that administration plan: to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Both Trump and Pompeo insisted that their efforts were driven by concern over Iranian misbehavior in the region and the need to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. Neither, however, mentioned one inconvenient three-letter word — O-I-L — that lay behind their Iranian maneuvering (as it has impelled every other American incursion in the Middle East since World War II).

Now, it’s true that the United States no longer relies on imported petroleum for a large share of its energy needs. Thanks to the fracking revolution, the country now gets the bulk of its oil — approximately 75% — from domestic sources. (In 2008, that share had been closer to 35%.) Key allies in NATO and rivals like China, however, continue to depend on Middle Eastern oil for a significant proportion of their energy needs. As it happens, the world economy — of which the U.S. is the leading beneficiary (despite President Trump’s self-destructive trade wars) — relies on an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to keep energy prices low. By continuing to serve as the principal overseer of that flow, Washington enjoys striking geopolitical advantages that its foreign policy elites would no more abandon than they would their country’s nuclear supremacy.. read more:

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Khaled Ahmed - Hazards of Identity: Modern societies are rejecting globalism for exclusionary categories.

The 21st century has hardly begun and the great promise of globalisation and “liberal inclusion” of the last century is fading. The world’s powerful states, heretofore wedded to internationalism, are turning inward and seeking their primeval identities. Nations are seeking identities away from multiculturalism and wish to protect themselves by banning immigration. Borders are being closed, and those who had crossed them decades earlier as welcome guests are being treated with intolerance.

Anthropologist Akbar Ahmed has found the rise of identity politics in Europe interesting enough for him to undertake a journey to Europe to experimentally see if his earlier theses on the subject jibe with what is happening now. His Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Identity is a kind of culmination to his three earlier examinations of “tribal” identity. As Ahmed surveys the identity-seeking Europe, he is reminded of the “inclusive” state of Abdur Rahman in al-Andalus (Iberia), in the 8th century AD. It was remembered for its “Convivencia”, or the idea of the living together of different identities, which Islam has forsaken today. Rahman was an Umayyad prince from a Berber mother in Syria. He was a descendant of the founder of the dynasty who had married a Christian woman — thus indicating the source of his “Convivencia” in al-Andalus between Muslims, Christians and Jews tolerant of multiple identities.

But, this Convivencia that one puts today in front of a Europe forsaking the Enlightenment and seeking “identity”, did not last: Ahmed compares it to what is happening today among nations. One is reminded of Jamaludin Afghani too, who opposed Syed Ahmad Khan - an ancestor of Akbar Ahmed -  in India, but proposed acceptance of Islam in Europe. Afghani possessed a lot of traditional learning that eased his entry into the Muslim societies of Turkey, India, Iran and Egypt. But he got his comeuppance in France, where orientalist Ernest Renan told him, prophetically, that his claim - that Muslims would ultimately turn to reason and modernity - will never be proved right as the Muslims will defeat his thinking just as they had rejected Ibn Rushd (Averroes) in the 12th century for having learned too much of Aristotle.

Today’s European intolerance of the Muslim minorities reminds one of an early warning by a European genius in a different context. Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) in The Origins of Totalitarianism traced the modern state’s internal cleansing to its second project: Of conquering other territories and killing off the population there through genocide. It is the imperialism of the modern state which gets internalised when it purges its own population to eliminate those who are “different”... read more:

More articles by Khaled Ahmed

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Democracy & Psychoanalysis: MINDING THE GAP

Editorial: Democracy and Psychoanalysis: MINDING THE GAP
Democracy, psychoanalysis, and ROOM share a powerful connection. They were created to contain and facilitate the many voices that comprise (and conflict with) our polities, ourselves, and, in the case of ROOM, the space between ourselves and our societies. This is not coincidental. As Jill Gentile explains in her book Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire, there is a resonance between the method of free association underlying the work of psychoanalysis and the right of free speech which is the bedrock of democracy. And how does Room fit in? Right in the middle. ROOM could not exist outside of a democracy in which free public speech was possible, nor would it exist without the analytic principle of free association that guides its submission process.

Read More

The Culturing of Psychoanalysis by Karim G. Dajani
Friendless in Palm Beach by Sheldon Bach
A Family Romance by Jeri Isaacson
Clytemnestra by Sara Mansfield Taber
#UsToo, Sigmund by Elizabeth Cutter Evert
Homage to Frank O’Hara by Kate Daniels
The Feminist Future Is Nonbinary by Catherine Baker-Pitts
A Lesbian Leans In by Ellen Marakowitz
Revisiting a Dream by Joan Golden-Alexis
A Man Who Hates Women by Raquel Berman
Making Vamik’s Room by Molly S. Castelloe

City of Women Francesca Schwartz, New York
Enough of False Heroes José Vivenes, Venezuela

ROOM 6.19
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Five New Ways In Which The Government Is Spying On You

The assembly of a surveillance state is helped by a number of willing private companies, and today, there are discussions about having AI systems watch CCTV footage, while building 360-degree profiles from our different social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Some plans are limited to specific states, or particular agencies, while others aremore national in their scope. And new projects are being developed and implemented at a worrying rate, even as the government drags its feet on actually implementing the Draft Data Protection bill. Here are five of the latest develop-ments in government surveillance that should have you worried about where things are headed.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of students should connect to the HRD Ministry
A circular from R Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, sent to the heads of all Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) earlier this month makes it clear that the government is interested in what students post on their social media accounts. The letter, which has been accessed by HuffPost India, states that the objective behind this demand is to share the achievements of HEIs through social media. The note asks HEIs to name a faculty or non-faculty member as the Social Media Champion (SMC) of the institution, with the job of opening and operating FB, Instagram & Twitter accounts for the institution, and connecting these to MHRD accounts. The SMC must also connect all students’ social accounts with the institution and MHRD.

Rachel Carrell - Some say children are in crisis. But this could be the generation that saves us

We’re having a “crisis of childhood”, according to research from the charity Action for Children. Doesn’t sound good – but it’s not a new phenomenon. It doesn’t seem like a day goes by when we aren’t given yet another warning about the bloated horror of modern childhood. Exams, bullying, gaming, social media, climate crisis, the end of human employment, the Momo hoax … everywhere you turn something is threatening our youngsters. But in many ways there has never been a better time to be a child.

It’s not that social deprivation doesn’t have a terrible effect on a young person’s ability to enjoy their early years – it always has and it always will, and growing inequality is among the greatest threats to children’s wellbeing. But as parents and professionals improve their understanding of what it means to raise a child well, the day-to-day things that once affected many children irrespective of social status – such as being smacked, being seen and not heard, being told not to cry or express negative emotions because they were babyish – are now thankfully seen as cruel and outdated.

What’s more, attachment theory – the idea that how we are loved by our caregivers as infants will affect our ability to connect to others our whole life – is becoming part of the mainstream parenting conversation. “They fuck you up, your mum and dad,” wrote Philip Larkin in 1971. Well today, at least they’re trying not to. And in particular that applies to the dads. The role of the father as merely “the provider” is over. The number of stay-at-home dads has increased 10-fold between 2000 and 2010. And even if it has dipped of late, a result of a lack of some employers’ inflexibility, suggested a recent study by Deloitte, all the evidence is that, where they can, dads are doing their bit, with the same survey finding that about 64% of fathers have asked for flexible working to fit in with their newborns... children who have more of their primary care needs provided by fathers have stronger bonds with them as they grow older, that they tend to have fewer behavioural problems, according to a study by the University of Oxford and also tend to be smarter, according to research published in the Infant Mental Health Journal... read more:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Nilanjana Roy: A Ferocious Heat in Delhi

climate change was, incredibly, not even a side issue in the country’s recent elections. It can be dangerous to question the flood of often rash development that threatens the country’s remaining forests, wetlands, and rivers - as environmental activists, human rights lawyers, and non-profit organizations in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi are discovering to their cost.

Delhi - In early April, a fire began to smolder inside the Ghazipur landfill, the trash mountain that stands like a brown, stinking sentinel, two hundred feet high, on the outskirts of New Delhi, the district of the larger city that serves as India’s administrative capital. Journalists in India write that it will rival the height of the Taj Mahal in another year, a statistic presented with a tinge of perverse pride. Ragpickers climb the shifting, treacherous slopes of the landfill, which widens into a low range of hills; hawks, black kites, and other birds of prey circle overhead.

Landfill fires break out from time to time. But over the last few years, they have become a signal that summer has arrived in Delhi. Other signs are equally stark—fierce water wars as too many citizens in slums and low-income neighborhoods line up for too few water tankers; temperatures so scorching that if you touch the railing of a city bus you see red blister spots rising on your palm; the thick plume of dust from the Thar Desert that blasts in blinding storms through my burning city. 

The trash fires send acrid waves of oily, brown, superheated smoke into the already foul air of the world’s most polluted city. Two days after the April fires start, I’m in the Ghazipur area. I step out of the car with the arrogance of a lifelong Delhiwallah, looking up at the burning garbage mountain, convinced that my lungs, already leathered and mummified by the bad air, can take it. Within seconds, my chest feels aflame. My coughs are ratchety, tubercular—a pathetic display of weakness for someone who thought she’d accustomed to the city’s fetid air by now. A child runs past, a worn cricket bat in his hand. He looks at me with pity and scorn. I’m just one of the many who are too soft for his part of Delhi.

“Heat wave” feels like too mild a term for the changes sweeping Delhi, much of northern India, and Europe. You expect a hot spell to come and go, but the blistering furnace of this summer is a steady assault on the senses, testing health and sanity. I taste dust in the fiery air, dust at the back of my throat; a thick fur of brown dust coats the windows and peels like fungus off the air conditioner filters, no matter how often you clean them.

On the last day of April, the temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit, the first time in almost fifty years that the city had seen that kind of heat; on June 9, the government issued a red alert, as the mercury reached 118 degrees. At that temperature, your eyes feel sandblasted, your skin feels on fire, the water is hot from the tap, and the leaves on the neem and amaltas trees wither and shrivel. The worst-affected of the city’s 1.98 million population are those in jobs far from the luxuries of air-conditioning or ceiling fans - construction workers, clerks who cycle for miles to their offices, delivery boys, the women who run pavement stalls. At least 100 deaths across the country have been attributed to the heat, and city hospitals have seen a spike in emergency room visits, mostly for heat stroke, severe dehydration, and lung problems - with parts of the country potentially becoming too hot to be inhabitable. Ram Bilas, the foreman of an office construction project in the satellite city of Noida, says the heat this year is beyond anything he’s experienced in his thirty-odd years on the job. “The boys can’t even stand upright after a few hours in this kind of heat, but the maliks - bosses - won’t understand this. They say the work must be completed on schedule,” he says. How do the men manage? He shrugs. “The stomach can’t go empty. They work.”...

Monday, July 8, 2019

Alison Rourke: Arctic fox: animal walks 3,500km from Norway to Canada

An arctic fox has walked more than 3,500km (2,000 miles) from Norway to Canada in just 76 days, astonishing researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute. The animal, known as a coastal or blue fox, was fitted with a tracking device in July 2017. It left Spitsbergen in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago on 26 March 2018. After 21 days and 1,512 km out on the sea ice, it landed in Greenland on 16 April 2018. Its journey continued to Ellesmere Island in Canada, where it arrived on 1 July.
The arctic fox used sea ice to travel from Norway to Greenland to Canada.
Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
“We first did not believe it was true,” said researcher Eva Fuglei, who tracked the female fox. The institute said in a research paper titled “One female’s long run across sea ice” that the Arctic fox’s journey was among the longest ever recorded. It was so long, in fact, that researchers initially questioned whether the fox’s collar could have been removed and taken on board a boat.

“But no, there are no boats that go so far up in the ice. So we just had to keep up with what the fox did,” Fuglei said. The collar transmitted data each day for a three-hour period. Moving across sea ice and glaciers, the fox moved at an average of 46.3km per day and on one day travelled a whopping 155km, when it was on the ice sheet in northern Greenland... read more:

David Adler: The three mistakes behind Syriza’s demise in Greece

Tspiras did not simply capitulate to the troika, or swap his radical ideals for hard-nosed realism. He actively refashioned his government as a rightwing force on the world stage... Syriza shows that mimicking the right does little to slow its rise. On the contrary, Tsipras’s flirtation with militarism and neoliberalism caused his party to lose its core identity, emboldening its opponents along the way.Why settle for Syriza’s centre-right pandering, many voters asked, when you could have the real thing?

In January 2015, Alexis Tspiras stormed to power as a firebrand of the radical left. He vowed to wage war against the Greek oligarchy, stand up to the EU technocracy and strike fear into the hearts of investors around the world. “Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish,” he proclaimed to a throng of supporters on election day in 2015.

But that was then. In the four years that followed, Tsipras tried desperately to endear himself to the establishment he once pledged to fight. He protected the old oligarchs and ushered in a generation of new ones. He implemented austerity measures so brutal that even Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble accused him of “putting the burden on the weak”. And he placated international investors with big promises of small taxes and golden visas. “Reforms are like a bicycle,” Tsipras told the Financial Times. “If you don’t [make] them, you fall down.”

There is a common view that the Tsipras transformation was predestined. Among rightwing observers, it is portrayed as the natural byproduct of radical politics colliding with cold reality: Tsipras simply got wise to the adolescence of Syriza’s confrontational stance. Among leftwing observers, it is portrayed as the inevitable result of the EU’s anti-democratic architecture: Tsipras had no choice but to abide by the troika of lenders’ diktat – Syriza’s dreams were dead on arrival. But this view radically underestimates both Tsipras’s agency as prime minister and the extent to which he willingly flung himself to the far end of the political more:

REBECCA SMITHERS - We Are Flushing Away Our Forests: Researchers warn that toilet paper is becoming unsustainable

Toilet paper – the one product that the majority of us use just once and flush away – is becoming less sustainable, according to research. Analysis from Ethical Consumer magazine found that major brands were using less recycled paper than in 2011, while only five of the nine major supermarkets (the Co-opMorrisonsSainsbury’sTesco and Waitrose) offered an own-brand recycled toilet paper. The large-scale use of virgin paper contributes to unnecessary deforestation

Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere

The UK uses 1.3m tonnes of tissue a year, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries, with the average British consumer reportedly getting through 127 rolls every year. But the growing trend for “luxury” four-ply and quilted toilet roll is fuelling the use of virgin pulp in an effort to create the softest product, the study claims. “There is no need to cut down forests to make toilet roll, yet this is precisely what is happening,” said Alex Crumbie, a researcher for Ethical Consumer. “With consumer attention focused on plastic, some of the big brands have slowed and even reversed their use of recycled paper in the toilet rolls they make.”

The study singles out Kimberly-Clark, one of the biggest suppliers of toilet tissue worldwide. The proportion of recycled wood pulp used by the company has fallen over the years. In 2011, just under 30% of the total fibre used was recycled, but by 2017 this figure had fallen to 23.5%. Its popular Andrex brand used to offer a recycled/bamboo range but this was discontinued in 2015. A 2017 Greenpeace report warned that large parts of Sweden’s Great Northern Forest, and the biodiversity contained within it, were under threat from the timber industry’s growing demand for virgin wood. The new research flags to consumers that the chemicals used in the production of recycled paper are far less toxic than those used to bleach virgin pulp. It also warns consumers to be wary of thinking an FSC label on toilet roll is enough to ease their cons.. read more:

More posts on childrens' campaign

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Robert Reich - There is no 'right' v 'left': it is Trump and the oligarchs against the rest

... So long as the oligarchy divides Americans – split off people of color from working-class whites, stoke racial resentments, describe human beings as illegal aliens, launch wars on crime and immigrants, stoke fears of communists and socialists – it doesn’t have to worry that a majority will stop them from looting the nation. Divide-and-conquer allows the oligarchy free rein. It makes the rest of us puppets, fighting each other on a made-up stage. Trump is the puppet master.

He has been at it for years, long before he ran for president. He knows how to pit native-born Americans against immigrants, the working class against the poor, whites against blacks and Latinos. 
Trump can make the working class believe they’re losing jobs because of 'deep state' bureaucrats and Hillary Clinton.He is well-versed in getting evangelicals and secularists steamed up about abortion, equal marriage rights, out-of-wedlock births, access to contraception, transgender bathrooms.

He knows how to stir up fears of brown-skinned people from “shitholes” streaming across the border to murder and rape, and stoke anger about black athletes who don’t stand for the national anthem. He’s a master at fueling anxieties about so-called communists, socialists and the left taking over America. He can make the white working class believe they’ve been losing good jobs and wages because of a cabal of Democrats, “deep state” bureaucrats and Hillary Clinton.

From the start, Trump’s deal with the oligarchy has been simple: he’ll stoke tribalism so most Americans won’t see CEOs getting exorbitant pay while they’re slicing the pay of average workers, so most Americans won’t pay attention to Wall Street demanding short-term results over long-term jobs, won’t notice a boardroom culture that tolerates financial conflicts of interest, insider trading and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations”... read more:

One climate crisis disaster happening every week, UN warns

Climate crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one a week, though most draw little international attention and work is urgently needed to prepare developing countries for the profound impacts, the UN has warned. Catastrophes such as cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and the drought afflicting India make headlines around the world. But large numbers of “lower impact events” that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted, said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction. “This is not about the future, this is about today.”

This means that adapting to the climate crisis could no longer be seen as a long-term problem, but one that needed investment now, she said. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.” Estimates put the cost of climate-related disasters at $520bn a year, while the additional cost of building infrastructure that is resistant to the effects of global heating is only about 3%, or $2.7tn in total over the next 20 years. Mizutori said: “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough. Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for.” That would mean normalising the standards for new infrastructure, such as housing, road and rail networks, factories, power and water supply networks, so that they were less vulnerable to the effects of floods, droughts, storms and extreme weather... read more: