Showing posts from February, 2019

Simon Tisdall - The art of no deal: how Trump and Kim misread each other

Trump’s inability to lay a diplomatic glove on Kim in the Hanoi rematch also means North Korea’s dictator has again emerged unscathed over his regime’s appalling human rights abuses. When it suits him, Trump is quick to use human rights as a stick to beat governments in Iran or Venezuela. In his  2018 State of the Union address , before he got chummy with Kim, Trump declared: “No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.” Trump was right, or at least his speechwriter was. Kim presides over a gulag of forced labour camps of appalling inhumanity. North Koreans are subject to  arbitrary arrest, torture and indefinite incarceration  without trial. The regime’s corrupt and incompetent economic management has caused mass starvation.  Yet in Hanoi, his confected fury forgotten, Trump made no mention of these ongoing abuses, nor did he try to do anything to curb them.  When asked about an American student, Otto Warmbier

Shiv Visvanathan: Think like a civilisation

The biggest casualty of unquestioning enthusiasm for war is democracy and rational thought This essay is a piece of dissent at a time when dissent may not be welcome. It is an attempt to look at what I call the Pulwama syndrome, after India’s bombing of terrorist camps in Pakistan .  There is an air of achievement and competence, a feeling that we have given a fitting reply to Pakistan. Newspapers have in unison supported the government, and citizens, from actors to cricketers, have been content in stating their loyalty, literally issuing certificates to the government. Yet watching all this, I feel a deep sense of unease, a feeling that India is celebrating a moment which needs to be located in a different context. Peace needs courage:  It reminded me of something that happened when I was in school. I had just come back from a war movie featuring Winston Churchill. I came back home excitedly and told my father about Churchill. He smiled sadly and said, “Churchill was a bully. H

Robert Fisk: Israel’s fingerprints are all over India’s escalating conflict with Pakistan

India was Israel’s largest arms client in 2017, paying £530m for Israeli air defence, radar systems and ammunition, including air-to-ground missiles – most of them tested during Israel’s military offensives against Palestinians and targets in Syria. Israel itself is trying to explain away its continued sales of tanks, weapons and boats to the  Myanmar  military dictatorship - while western nations impose sanctions on the government which has attempted to destroy its minority and largely Muslim  Rohingya  people. But Israel’s arms trade with India is legal, above-board and much advertised by both sides. The Israelis have filmed joint exercises between their own “special commando” units and those sent by India to be trained in the Negev desert, again with all the expertise  supposedly learned by Israel in Gaza  and other civilian-thronged battlefronts. Locals flee homes as India and Pakistan exchange gunfire- follow live Peace as a punctuation mark in eternal war Pakistan can

Courttia Newland: ‘I had to submit to being exoticised by white women. If I didn’t, I was punished

Social media is a slippery ally, on occasion doing as much to hinder as help the cause of social justice, but it has been exemplary at charting the numerous cases of white women caught in “acts of oppression”. The Memphis property manager’s  insistence that a black man shouldn’t wear socks in a swimming pool  (she called the police when he refused to leave), for instance. Or the woman who rang 911 after seeing  a group of black people barbecuing in a park in Oakland , California. Or the employees who called the police on  black men “loitering” in a Philadelphia Starbucks  while waiting for a friend. And the woman who  threatened to report an eight-year-old black girl  selling water in San Francisco – and even a black woman  sheltering from the rain  in New York. ..... So, I fully support any movement that seeks to address the rampant misogyny and patriarchy driving our society, which of course includes men of colour on too many occasions, I wonder if it’s possible to have a conversa

In Middle East, Impunity for Human Rights Abuses reigned in 2018: Amnesty

Beirut (AFP) – “The crackdown on civil society actors and political opponents increased significantly in Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia,” the rights watchdog said in its  annual regional report .  “Is it acceptable for activists to undergo arbitrary detention, torture, sexual harassment … and even enforced disappearances simply for expressing their opinions in a peaceful way,” Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef told a press conference in Beirut on Tuesday. The annual report said “global indifference to human rights violations” had fuelled “atrocities and impunity” in the region in 2018. It cited the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul On October 2, saying the “case has not been followed by concrete action to ensure those responsible for his murder are brought to justice”. It applauded “rare action” from countries like Denmark or Germany which suspended arms supplies to Riyadh, but noted that “

JUAN COLE - New Archeological Evidence for the Kaaba, Sanctuary of Peace, in Early Islam

During the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, believers circumambulate the square ‘House of God’ called the Kaaba. It is said to have predated Islam, and to have been cleansed of idols by the Prophet Muhammad in January of 630, when the town of Mecca swung to his leadership by acclamation. There is some new archeological evidence for the Kaaba in the form of Arabic rock inscriptions in Western Arabia, photographs of which have been published on Twitter. I should underline that this evidence was put up on Twitter by Abdallah Muslih Al-Thumali and Mohammed Almaghthawi, respectively. All I’m doing is reading my Twitter feed and am grateful to these intrepid rock climbers who are bringing us this new evidence. The inscriptions have also been published: Sa’d bin Rashid, al-Suwaydirah : al-taraf qadiman, atharuha wa-nuqushuha al-Islamiyah, Riyadh, 2009. Belief in sacred sites like the Kaaba was widespread in that part of the world from ancient times. In the Hejaz and Transjordan, a sacred

The Survival of the Richest: The Real Wall. By NOMI PRINS

In January, as the billionaire summit in Davos was about to be held, Oxfam  summed our world :  'Billionaire fortunes increased by 12% last year-or $2.5 billion a day-while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11%... the number of billionaires has nearly doubled since the financial crisis, yet wealthy individuals and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades, thanks to the new tax law championed by Trump.' Like a gilded coating that makes the dullest things glitter, today’s thin veneer of political populism covers a grotesque underbelly of growing inequality that’s hiding in plain sight. And this phenomenon of ever more concentrated wealth and power has both Newtonian and Darwinian components to it. In terms of Newton’s  first law  of motion: those in power will remain in power unless acted upon by an external force. Those who are wealthy will only gain in wealth as long as nothing deflects them

Israeli Bulldozers uproot 300 Palestinian-Owned Trees near Jenin

JENIN (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers razed dozens of dunams and uprooted hundreds of Palestinian-owned trees, on Monday afternoon, on lands belonging to residents from the Bartaa village, southwest of the northern occupied West Bank district of Jenin. According to local sources, Israeli forces along with bulldozers stormed the area and began to raze about 28 dunams (6.9 acres) of land. In addition, bulldozers uprooted 300 almond and olive trees. Sources added that the razed land belonged to Jamal Sharif Amarneh. According to Palestinians and rights groups, Israel’s main goal, both in its policies in Area C, in which more than 60% of Palestinian land is under full Israeli control, and Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, is to depopulate the land of its Palestinian residents and to replace them with Jewish Israeli communities, in order to manipulate population demographics in all of historic Palestine. The movement of Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian land, and furthe

Kim Sengupta: Zarif's fall isn’t just dangerous for Iran – it will bolster America’s flawed view of the Middle East

The  offer of resignation from Mohammad Javad Zarif , the Iranian foreign minister, is of great importance to Iran and the outside world. His departure will significantly weaken the reformist government of  Hassan Rouhani , strengthen the country’s hardliners and help the  Trump administration ’s quest for regime change in Tehran. The grave concern about what is unfolding was shown by  150 out of 290 members of the Iranian parliament  signing a petition urging Zarif to stay within hours of him announcing, via Instagram, he was leaving, and other MPs saying they too will be putting their names on it. A Victim of Trump? Iran’s Centrist Foreign Minister Mysteriously Forced Out The Tehran Stock Exchange index fell 1.1 per per cent in 24 hours, and the country’s business people and bankers’ association expressed anxiety about the reaction of foreign investors – whose numbers are  already dwindling  after the reimposition of American trade sanctions – to the news. Zarif was the k

'Disgraceful, Unedifying': Ex-Army Men Call Out Modi's War Memorial Speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hailed by many for taking the initiative to make a war memorial for Indian soldiers slain in wars post-Independence. However, his markedly political speech, targetting the Congress, has irked many including former service personnel.  While inaugurating the National War Memorial in New Delhi, the prime minister lashed out at the  Congress saying,  “From Bofors to AgustaWestland chopper deal, all the investigations are pointing to one family and it says a lot. Now these people are making all efforts to make sure that the Rafale aircraft doesn’t arrive in the country.” Several former members of the Indian armed forces criticised Modi’s speech, calling it inappropriate for the occasion.  Col Pavan Nair VSM (Retd) not only found the speech inappropriate, but said that it should have been the President inaugurating the memorial.  Speaking to  Huffpost India , Col Nair said, “I have heard the part when he mentioned the family and dynasty. [It is

Vatican treasurer found guilty of child sexual assault

Cardinal  George Pell , once the third most powerful man in the Vatican and Australia’s most senior Catholic, has been found guilty of child sexual abuse after a trial in Melbourne. A jury delivered the unanimous verdict on 11 December in Melbourne’s county court, but the result was  subject to a suppression order and could not be reported until  now.  A previous trial on the same five charges, which began in August, resulted in a hung jury, leading to a retrial. Pell, who is on leave from his role in Rome as Vatican treasurer,  was found guilty  of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 as well as four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. The offences occurred in December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, months after Pell was inaugurated as archbishop of Melbourne. Brutal and dogmatic, George Pell waged war on sex – even as he abused children He is due to be sentenced next week but may be taken into custody at a plea hearing

Hartosh Singh Bal: After Terror, Polarizing Politics in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party seem to be exploiting the deaths of paramilitary soldiers in a terrorist attack for political gains ahead of national elections. On Feb. 14, a 19-year-old drove a  vehicle filled with explosives  into a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in Indian-administered Kashmir and killed 49 soldiers. Jaish-e-Muhammad, or the Army of Muhammad, a Pakistan-based terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.  Over the past five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has governed India and been part of the local government in Kashmir as well, thus controlling India’s policy approaches to the disputed, conflict-torn region. Mr. Modi embraced a militaristic approach and shunned a political process involving dialogue with the separatists in Kashmir. Consequently, the number of civilian and security personnel killed in the region have increased, and a growing number of young Kashmiris, like Adil Dar, the 19-year-old s

Average intelligence on Earth has come down by 10 points, says Mr. Mathrubootham

'My children have you thought about life in your retirement age?’ Respected Sir/Madam, What to say, only that we are living in 100%  kalikaalam  these days. All the buffoons are becoming president and prime minister and starting political party and all. Meanwhile all the intelligent fellows and useful members of society are dying. By the time I am gone from the world, our society will be like climax of superhit 1986 Priyadarshan Malayalam film  Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu  in which entire cast of hero and heroine and villain and side-hero and side-villain and Kerala Police and all are fighting each other inside a marriage hall looking for gold treasure. Non-stop comedy. Mrs. Mathrubootham and I went for first day first show and laughed and laughed like diesel generator. Next day I went to sleep with garlic in my armpit in order to get mild fever, then took three days sick leave, and we saw film six times. Sir/ Madam, whenever you get chance in your office please

Abinash Dash Choudhury - Confusion over Aadhaar afflicts Jharkhand tribal groups; 43% go hungry due to procedural obstacles

The bright sun shining over the vast idyllic fields of Jharkhand’s Latehar district is only a mirage. The shadow of hunger sparkles even brighter here. In Sewdhara, a hamlet nestled deep within the forests, 50-year-old Sonmati Kunwar is sitting under a neem tree to weave  soop  — a bamboo basket used for winnowing. A widow with no land of her own to cultivate, she is dependent on minor forest produce and casual labour to subsist. Every morning, she leaves her children and walks into the forests surrounding the village to collect bamboo; dries it for over a fortnight in the sparing winter sun, and shreds it into pieces to make it possible to weave. "If I work for very long, and without rest, I will complete two baskets in a day," she explains, her eyes still set on the  soop . For the next few days she will clean the fully woven baskets and dry them. Later, she will carry her produce to the local market in the block headquarter, about two hours away from the village, on f

Samar Halarnkar - My wife faces a union minister, his 97 lawyers. It takes special courage to do that

My wife Priya [Ramani] is amongst the 14 women journalists who have named union minister MJ Akbar for a range of inappropriate workplace behaviour. I have known of her close shave with predation ever since I have known her, about 20 years. Even though, Akbar did not, in her words – which he now gratefully quotes –“do” anything, there were others who apparently suffered worse and whose experiences are now public. No one ever spoke up against powerful men because the misuse of power and authority was considered normal. There were no redressal mechanisms within media companies, no one took such complaints seriously, and the only ones who stood to lose from going up against powerful men were the women. When women younger than her started to share traumas and experiences far worse than hers, and references grew in the media world to “the elephant in the room”, a man more powerful than others like him, my wife decided she could no longer stay quiet. She has always had a strong sense o

Genevieve Fox - The myth of the gendered brain

Rippon has analysed the data on sex differences in the brain. She admits that she, like many others, initially sought out these differences. But she couldn’t find any beyond the negligible, and other research was also starting to question the very existence of such differences. For example, once any differences in brain size were accounted for, “well-known” sex differences in key structures disappeared. Which is when the penny dropped: perhaps it was time to abandon the age-old search for the differences between brains from men and brains from women.  Are  there any significant differences based on sex alone?  The answer, she says, is no. To suggest otherwise is 'neurofoolishness'   “The idea of the male brain and the female brain suggests that each is a characteristically homogenous thing and that whoever has got a male brain, say, will have the same kind of aptitudes, preferences and personalities as everyone else with that ‘type’ of brain. We now know that is not t

Spike Lee implores US to regain its humanity during Oscars speech

The film-maker gave a heartfelt and political speech after winning the best screenplay Academy Award for BlacKkKlansman “Before the world tonight, I give praise to my ancestors who built our country, along with the genocide of our native people,” Lee said. “When we regain our humanity it will be a powerful moment … The 2020 election is around the corner – let’s all mobilise and be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.” “For 400 years, our ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought to Virginia and enslaved. They worked the land from ‘can’t see’ in the morning to ‘can’t see’ at night. My grandmother – who lived 100 years young, a college graduate even though her mother was a slave – my grandmother, who saved 50 years’ of Social Security checks to put me through college. She called me Spiky-poo …” Lee said that his grandmother had put him through film school... read more:

A message and an appeal

'I am German, and still waiting for the Germans to come back; they have gone to ground somewhere'  Victor Klemperer  (1881-1960) This is a message for my students, old and recent; for comrades in the struggle against communalism; and fellow citizens. The message is simple (there is also an appeal below): it is a crime against humanity to attack, intimidate and vilify entire groups of people, whether defined by religious, regional or any other identity, for the crimes or wrong-doings (real or imaginary) of a few. The ascription of collective guilt; and/or the inter-generational transfer of guilt to entire communities, is a poisonous doctrine associated with anti-semitism, Nazism, and communal killings akin to what took place in 1984, 2002, etc.  When you punish people not for what they have done, but for what they are, it is an act of pure evil. Qualitatively it is evocative of genocide and death-camps.  It is a crying shame that senior religious personages of our deepl

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) condemns mob violence against Kashmiri students and traders

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) condemns mob violence against Kashmiri students and traders after Pulwama attack Press Release 23.02.2019 Kashmiri students, traders and workmen have suffered violent attacks in different parts of the country after a suicide bomber of jihadi terrorist oraganisation JeM killed more than forty CRPF jawans in Pulwama in Kashmir valley. Students in Dehradun, Ambala, Jaipur and Yavatmal were physically threatened and forced to leave. Two institutions in Dehradun have given a written undertaking to the student union led by ABVP that they will not admit Kashmiri students from the next session.  According to one report at least 10 Kashmiri students have been booked and 24 rusticated and suspended from colleges for what officials have termed as ‘anti-national’ social media messages. Traders in Bihar and West Bengal were attacked and their shops destroyed. Kashmiri workmen in a sugar mill in Muzaffarnagar were asked to leave. In

Naeem Akhtar: The aftermath of Pulwama marks the retreat of political engagement with Kashmir // Mukul Kesavan:The road to ruin

Naeem Akhtar: The aftermath of Pulwama marks the retreat of political engagement with Kashmir Quite understandably, the Valentine’s Day atrocity in Pulwama, which caused the biggest ever loss of lives of security forces to violence in the three-decade-old strife in Kashmir, sent shockwaves across the world. The outrage and anger were unprecedented, given the fact that the fallen bravehearts came almost from every state. The very sight of body bags triggered calls for revenge. Our Men Didn’t Die So Someone Could Spread Communal Hatred: CRPF Punjab Shines a Light, Embraces Fleeing Kashmiri Students Ramachandra Guha: Why attack young Kashmiris for a crime committed by someone else? STANISLAV MARKELOV - Patriotism as a diagnosis While the country is trying to come to terms with the loss and is looking to the political and military leadership to come true on its pledge to root out terrorism, there has not been an adequate focus on its impact on ground zero — Kashmir. Nor has

Vanuatu Has One Of The World’s Strictest Plastic Bans

 Ocean plastic has become a scourge around the globe, floating in the remote seas off Hawaii and washing up  in the ice fields of Antarctica . It wreaks havoc on marine life and is even polluting our food chain . The United Nations recently ” declared war ″ on marine litter after finding that a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.  Vanuatu, which has a total population of over 275,000, is responsible for less than .1 percent of marine plastic debris, according to global waste statistics. Pacific island nations as a whole are estimated to contribute less than 1 percent of the world’s mismanaged plastic waste that feeds into the oceans. By unshackling itself from the ease and convenience of plastics, Vanuatu’s leaders hope to set a standard that the rest of the world - especially top plastic consumers like the United States - can follow.  More posts on plastics But American policymakers have had a much tougher time banning far less than Vanu

‘Govt Cares for Neither Tribals Nor Forests’: Lawyer Ritwick Dutta // Millions of forest-dwelling indigenous people in India to be evicted

The Supreme Court, on 13 February, in  Wildlife First & Others  [Petitioner(s)]  versus Ministry of Forest & Environment and Others,  ordered over 16 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, to initiate the process of eviction of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) from forestland. The petitioners had demanded that all those whose claims over traditional forestland are rejected under the Forest Rights Act (2006), should be evicted by state governments. A three-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee passed the order, giving states time till 27 July to evict Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs), and directed the states to submit a report on it. The Supreme Court order has drawn much flak from both environmentalists and tribal right activists. Millions of forest-dwelling indigenous people in India to be evicted Following are excerpts fro

Achille Mbembe: Deglobalization

‘We see less and less of what is there for us to see and more and more of what we desperately want to see, even though what we want to see does not correspond to any original reality. Perhaps now more than ever, other people can stand before us as a concrete, tangible and physical presence and yet be no more than a spectral absence, an equally concrete, almost phenomenal void. This is what happens to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.’ Digital computation is engendering a new common world and new configurations of reality and power. But this ubiquitous, instantaneous world is confronted by the old world of bodies and distances. Technology is mobilized in order to create an omnipresent border that sequesters those with rights from those without them. Every sphere of life has been penetrated by capital and subjected to quantification. In this context, borders have become nothing other than the violence underlying our world’s order, a war against mobility that is filling Europe

Rajeev Khanna - The Reasons Why Gujarat Samachar Has Switched Sides

Youth who grew up on tales of the Gujarat Model are now unemployed and restless AHMEDABAD: The right wing has a problem on hand in Gujarat, a state often referred to as the laboratory of Hindutva. The very narrative of the Sangh Parivar and its affiliate the Bharatiya Janata Party is now emerging as a counter-narrative, with sections of people here openly reminding the governing party what it used to claim and what it has delivered. The most glaring example of this phenomenon is in the stand taken by the state’s leading daily Gujarat Samachar, and the response from what observers call the ‘Suvarn elite wedded to Sangh Parivar’s brand of nationalism and patriotism’, with the battle raging on social media and on the ground. On February 15, the day after the Pulwama attack that killed more than 40 paramilitary personnel in Kashmir, Gujarat Samachar carried a banner headline that read, 56 ni chhati ni kaayarta: aatankiyo befaam, 44 jawan shaheed  ( The cowardice of a 56-inch chest: ter