Sunday, June 30, 2019

Canadian Cartoonist Michael De Adder's Contract Terminated After Viral Trump Cartoon

Michael de Adder, a Canadian cartoonist who has been drawing professionally for almost two decades, saw his contract with four newspapers terminated after his depiction of the U.S. president and the border crisis went viral.

Film review: Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen: the love affair of a lifetime

Just before her death in July 2016 of leukaemia, a friend of hers, Jan Christian Mollestad, contacted Cohen, who sent an email to his former lover, which Mollestad read out to Ihlen. It said:

Dearest Marianne,
I’m just a little behind you, close enough to take your hand. This old body has given up, just as yours has too, and the eviction notice is on its way any day now.

“I’ve never forgotten your love and your beauty. But you know that. I don’t have to say any more. Safe travels old friend. See you down the road. Love and gratitude. Leonard

Four months later, Cohen died after a fall at his home in Los Angeles.

In November 2016, the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, renowned for his plaintive ballads, died a few months after the woman who inspired many of them, his Norwegian lover and muse, Marianne Ihlen. Theirs had been a large and chaotic romance that was in many respects a product of the particular times (the 1960s) and the specific place (the Greek island of Hydra) in which they met. The relationship’s legacy was a catalogue of classic songs – So Long MarianneHey, That’s No Way to Say GoodbyeBird on the Wire – a great deal of heartache, but also a lasting sense of the creative power of love.

All of this the documentary maker Nick Broomfield explores in his tender, funny and hauntingly moving new film Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love. Broomfield is not a disinterested observer. He knew Ihlen well. They too were lovers for a while during one of the long breaks in Ihlen’s relationship with Cohen. And her effect on the film-maker was almost as influential as her part in the Canadian poet-musician’s career.

In 1968, when Broomfield was 20, he’d just finished his first year at Cardiff University, where he was reading law. His heart was not really in becoming a barrister and, on a Hellenic cruise with his parents, Rosalind Runcie, the wife of the future archbishop of Canterbury, gave him some advice. “She was the life and soul of the party,” he recalls, “and she made me promise to go to Hydra when I got off the boat.” He kept the promise and encountered a captivating new world. “There was this incredible community of artists and painters and a whole very wild attitude to life,” he says in his trademark languorous drawl, located somewhere between the home counties and southern California
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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Tavleen Singh: I wish PM Modi had pointed out that without rule of law there can be no democracy

NB: I appreciate this opinion piece. (The only substantive issue I have with it is the assumption that Mr Modi favours the continuation of democracy). Ms Singh asks what message is sent by the failure of the BJP to suspend those indulging in vigilante violence. I venture to say the message is clear and in accordance with the overall project of the Sangh Parivar: the abolition of the distinction between legal and illegal violence. The local Sangh affiliates are welcoming the violence and congratulating the culpritsThe BJP has planned a celebratory march in Indore. Given this behaviour, who can say the trial court will not be intimidated? Do we not recall that in 2014 these people were celebrating Gandhi's  assassin ?

The government has protected lynchers; and covered up the death of a judge - a relative of the Maharashtra CM threatened a lawyer pursuing the matter. The Sangh and its allies have indulged in sabotage of justice: in the Bhima Koregaon case, they have misused executive power to protect their cadre. They have secured the dismissal of cases in which their associates were implicated, by causing court records to disappear as in the Aseemanand case. There have been 67 'encounter' killings since March 2017. V. L. Solanki, the police officer who worked on the Sohrabuddin case says the government is trying to silence him: 'If a sitting judge can die suddenly, I am just an inconsequential retired police inspector. The government and the police can go to any extent to ensure everyone accused in the case gets a clean chit. They can kill too.' 

The promotion of vigilantism by virtually all political parties is no secret: violence is the ground shared by enemies. The group now in power has an ideological fixation with violence no less obsessive than the Maoists. The difference is that unlike violence in the name of tribals, peasants and workers, communal violence is acceptable to vested interests. Hindutva is the Maoism of the elite

It is no longer a matter of what the PM says or does not say - his silences have been noticeable for some years. The rule of law in India is under severe threat, and it is up to an alert citizenry to prevent it from disappearing altogether. Our ruling class is not opposed to violence and lawlessness in principle; only the Naxalite and jehadist versions of it. They will not flinch from destroying the country for narrow partisan interests. Loss of faith in justice makes physical and emotional trauma even harder to bear than with a functional justice system. Here are some comments I made on political violence and criminality a month ago. DS

From Indore last week came pictures of the son of a senior BJP leader using a bat to attack officials 
on government duty. From a village in Jharkhand came a video of the latest lynching. Tabrez Ansari was tied to a pole and, while being beaten with sticks by a mob, ordered to repeat ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’. The video of his terrified face was too awful to watch, but went viral on social media as did the news that the local police, instead of taking him to hospital, locked him up. It took him four days to die. And in his last days his family was not allowed to meet him.

In Mumbai a Muslim taxi driver, Faizal Usman Khan, was beaten by a Hindu mob, who ordered him to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as they beat him. He later told reporters that his cab stalled and, while he was trying to fix it, some men came by on a scooter and started beating him for what he thought was no reason till they ordered him to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’, till he became unconscious.

In Kolkata, a Muslim teacher, Hafiz Mohammed Shahrukh Halder, was thrown off a train because he refused to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’. He sustained severe injuries but lived. He told reporters that his attackers had first mocked him for his clothes and his Islamic beard and then ordered him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. In Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, a policeman was threatened by a local BJP legislator because he arrested his friends for rowdyism. The MLA warned him that he had the power to have him transferred.

'Hear us, see us': a plea to the UN for Indigenous women - by Lorena Allam

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner has used a speech to the UN in Geneva to demand the federal government take action on the rising rates of Aboriginal women in jail.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women represent 2% of Australia’s female population but make up 34% of all women in prison, June Oscar told the Human Rights Council on Friday.

“The root cause is that Indigenous women continue to experience disproportionate levels of trauma and intersecting forms of discrimination which cut across lines of race, gender and socioeconomic status,” Oscar said. “There is a direct connection between the fact that 80% of Indigenous women in prison are mothers and the rapidly increasing rates of the removal of Indigenous children from families into out-of-home care,” she said. Oscar called on the government to fully implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission report Pathways to Justice.

The report was commissioned in 2016 by the former attorney general George Brandis, who said the prison rates for Aboriginal people were a “national tragedy”. But the government has made no formal response to the report, which was tabled in parliament almost 18 months ago, despite consistent calls for action. A coalition of more than 35 human rights, justice and community organisations wrote to the government in September last year.

“We cannot let another generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lose their futures, their dignity and – for some – their lives because of inaction by Australian governments,” said the letter signed by Amnesty, the Australian Council of Social Service, the Law Council of Australia, Unicef, national Aboriginal legal and social services, legal academics and others... read more:

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez met Greta Thunberg: 'Hope is contagious'

In the course of their conversation, Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg discuss what it is like to be dismissed for their age, how depressed we should be about the future, and what tactics, as an activist, really work. Ocasio-Cortez speaks with her customary snap and brilliance that, held up against the general waffle of political discourse, seems startlingly direct. Thunberg, meanwhile, is phenomenally articulate, well-informed and self-assured, holding her own in conversation with an elected official nearly twice her age and speaking in deliberate, thoughtful English. 

They are, in some ways, as different as two campaigners can get – the politician working the system with Washington polish, and the teenager in her socks and leggings, working from her bedroom to reach the rest of the world. There is something very moving about the conversation between these young women, a sense of generational rise that, as we know from every precedent from the Renaissance onwards, has the power to ignite movements and change history.

GT Thank you so much for standing up and offering hope to so many people, even here in Sweden.

AOC One of the things I’m interested in hearing from you is that often people say, “Don’t politicise young people.” It’s almost a taboo. That to have someone as young as you coming out in favour of political positions is manipulative or wrong. I find it very condescending, as though, especially in this day and age with the access to information we have, you can’t form your own opinions and advocate for yourself. I’m interested in how you approach that – if anyone brings that up with you?

GT That happens all the time. That’s basically all I hear. The most common criticism I get is that I’m being manipulated and you shouldn’t use children in political ways, because that is abuse, and I can’t think for myself and so on. And I think that is so annoying! I’m also allowed to have a say – why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds? But I’m sure you hear that a lot, too; that you’re too young and too inexperienced. When I see all the hate you receive for that, I honestly can’t believe how you manage to stay so strong.

AOC I think the thing that people sometimes don’t realise is that here in the United States, because of the gap between the rich and the poor, people really identify Wall Street as a very potent political force. With our rules, politicians are allowed to accept campaign contributions on a level that is probably beyond what happens in other parts of the world. But what people don’t recognise is how strong the fossil fuel lobby is. The Koch brothers in the US have essentially purchased the entire Republican party, but people forget they made their money off oil and gas. That is where their fortune comes from. And I think that’s what we’re up against. So the severity of the pushback indicates the power that we are challenging. You can look at that with despair, or you can look at it with hope. That’s how strong we are: we’re so strong that we’re able to take this on credibly and actually build a movement against it... read more:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Scotland’s Green Energy makes Enough Electricity 1st Quarter to power 88% of Households

than in the same quarter a year earlier. Driven mainly by onshore wind, Scotland’s burgeoning green energy sector keeps breaking records, making enough electricity the first quarter of this year to provide 88% of the country’s households with electricity for a whole year.

In the past year, Scotland added just about a gigawatt of green energy, bringing the country total up to 11.3 gigawatts. One of four countries in the United Kingdom, Scotland’s population is only about 5.5 million. But in the UK as a whole, no one has gone in for renewables as the Scottish have. Its electricity production in this area is so extensive and inexpensive that Scotland has been exporting electricity to 70 other countries, including England.

Wind energy is intermittent, blowing hard at one time and barely turning the turbines at another. Some of this challenge can be smoothed out by new high density electric grids, in which Scotland is investing billions...
Bonus video: ITV News
In the quest to go green, Scotland is way ahead of the rest of the UK, with nearly all electricity produced by wind power.

Chinese human rights lawyer ‘totally changed man’ after being jailed

The wife of the jailed Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has described her husband as a “totally changed man” after she and her son were allowed to see him for the first time since he disappeared nearly four years ago. Wang, 43, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in January for “subverting state power” after a closed-door trial.
Wang Quanzhang and his wife Li Wenzu with their son.
Wang Quanzhang and his wife, Li Wenzu, with their son. The lawyer’s family were 
given access to see him for the first time in four years Photograph: Wang Quanxiu/AP
The prominent lawyer, who defended political activists and victims of land seizures, vanished in a sweep aimed at courtroom critics of Communist authorities known as the “709” clampdown because the arrests started on 9 July 2015. Wang was held incommunicado for more than 1,000 days without access to his family or a lawyer prior to his trial and authorities have repeatedly denied requests by his wife, Li Wenzu, to visit him in jail.

“He is a totally changed man … he was so agitated and anxious that I couldn’t even talk to him just then,” Li told the South China Morning Press. “My husband’s health has deteriorated during the long incarceration, he had lost so much weight,” Li told AFP. “When I asked him what he had for breakfast, he kept scratching his head. But he couldn’t remember,” she said. “It was really emotional. This was the first time my son and I got a chance to see him after being separated for four years.”

The couple’s six-year-old son, Wang Guangwei, was a toddler when his father disappeared. Li saw her husband at the Linyi jail in the eastern province of Shandong, where he was transferred in May after years spent at a detention centre in Tianjin. “I felt like he was not the earlier Wang Quanzhang,” said his sister Wang Quanxiu, who was also at the meeting. “He was very agitated when he spoke to us. He had made a draft about what to discuss and had to constantly keep looking at his notes to remind himself of what to say,” she said. Wang Quanzhang was the last of more than 200 lawyers and activists swept up in the 2015 crackdown to be tried or released... read more:

see also

Pehlu Khan was lynched, now he is chargesheeted by Congress government

NB: This action by the Congress-led Rajasthan government, is a marker of the barbaric cruelty of our justice system. We have created a heartless culture wherein murderers film themselves committing heinous crimes and high-class criminals and their thugs roam free with police protection. India's  political vocabulary, replete with terms like 'secularism', 'pseudo-secularism' and 'Hindu Rashtra', is nothing but meaningless chatter. It shows us once more that communalism is a question of ideology, and only secondarily a matter concerning xyz political party. 

It's no longer 'the idea of India' we need to discuss, but the idea of political murder. No doubt the bulk of our learned media pundits will let this pass by, as they have let so many other crimes pass in front of their eyes without blinking. Even Pehlu Khan's ghost may not rest in peace. I am so sorry, Pehlu bhai, I bow my head in shame. May Allah give you peace. Glory to modern India. DS

The Rajasthan Police have filed a chargesheet for cow smuggling against Pehlu Khan, the dairy farmer who was beaten to death two years ago by a mob of gau rakshaks in Alwar for transporting cattle, and his two sons. The chargesheet also names the owner of the pick-up truck that was used for transporting the cattle on April 1, 2017, when the lynching took place near Behror.

The latest chargesheet, in which Pehlu Khan has been posthumously charged, was prepared on December 30 last year, days after the new Congress government came into power in Rajasthan, and was presented in the court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Behror on May 29 this year.
The chargesheet accuses Khan and his sons under sections 5, 8 and 9 of the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995.

Speaking to Indian Express, Khan’s eldest son Irshad (25), who is named in the chargesheet, said: “We lost our father in the attack by cow vigilantes and now we have been charged as cow smugglers. We had hoped that the new Congress government in Rajasthan will review and withdraw the case against us but now a chargesheet has been filed against us. We hoped for justice after the government change but that didn’t happen.” Khan’s younger son, Aarif, has also been named in the chargesheet.

Last year, the previous BJP government in Rajasthan had filed a similar chargesheet against Azmat and Rafique, two associates of Khan who were also attacked by the mob that also targeted the truck driver Arjun. Jagdish Prasad, the owner of the pick-up, was also charged under Section 6 of the Act.
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More posts on Pehlu Khan
Vipin Tripathi - The Behror (Alwar) Killing: A Grave Challenge
Aatish Taseer - Anatomy of a Lynching
A lynching is much more than just a murder. A murder may occur in private. A lynching is a public spectacle; it demands an audience.

Alessandra Mezzadri: Informal labour, the majority world and the need for inclusive theories and politics

The majority of people on this planet labour in the informal economy, or are subject to labour relations that are greatly informalised. According to the International Labour Oganisation, 85.8% of total employment in Africa, 71.4% in Asia and the Pacific, 68.6% in the Arab States and 53.8% in the Americas is either informal – located in the informal economy – or informalised – in formal production realms but still de facto based on informal relations.

The total estimate of informal employment for the whole emerging and developing economies bloc is set at 69.6%. Given the considerable weight of this bloc vis-à-vis the world’s total workforce, even at a world level (i.e. including developed regions) 61.2% of total employment is classified as either informal or informalised. This huge world of informal and informalised employment includes casual labourers and the self-employed, who can either be highly vulnerable petty commodity producers or various disguised forms of wage labour, also known as ‘classes of labour’.  Once upon a time wrongly considered one of the key features of ‘backwardness’, and of the domestic ‘traditional’ socio-economic fabric of developing regions, informality has not only reproduced itself exponentially during the neoliberal global era, but it has also found new channels of transmission. 

These channels are systematically continuing to reproduce labour as a highly precarious relation in developing contexts, and are now also doing so in developed regions, with the rise of the gig economy, crowd-work and what has been called, rightly or wrongly, the ‘precariat’. The rise of global commodity chains and production networks, in particular, has produced endless circuits of propagation, redefinition and expansion for informal labour relations. In surplus labour economies like India or China, global commodity chains can rely on labour being informalised in myriad different ways. Informalisation can be based on rural-urban mobility and mediated by legal status, as in the case of China and its reliance on the hukou system, which mediates the movement of around three hundred million migrants from villages to cities every year...

The first is through their ability to deepen labour control far beyond work-time. Evidence from China, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, and also, more selectively, India, suggests that the rise of dormitories and industrial hostels is expanding the ability of employers to control labour well beyond the actual labour process. The tightening of labour control, on the basis of what Pun Ngai and Chris Smith have defined as the ‘dormitory labour regime’, has direct effects on the expansion of exploitation rates. In these contexts, any distinction between work and reproductive time becomes blurred, as social reproduction becomes fully individualised and subsumed into the value-generating process. Moreover, as noted by Hannah Schling with reference to the Czech Republic, in dormitories ‘non-waged time’ becomes fundamental to the production of compliant labouring subjects.
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The wilderness library

At 73, P.V. Chinnathambi runs one of the loneliest libraries in the forested wilderness of Kerala’s Idukki district. Its 160-books - all classics - are regularly borrowed, read, and returned by poor, Muthavan Adivasis A library? Here in the forests and wilderness of Idukki district? This is a low literacy spot in Kerala, India’s most literate state. There are just 25 families in this hamlet of the state’s first elected tribal village council. Anyone else wanting to borrow a book from here would have to trek a long way through dense forest. Would they, really?

“Well, yes,” says P.V. Chinnathambi, 73, tea vendor, sports club organiser and librarian. “They do.” His little shop - selling tea, ‘mixture', biscuits, matches and other provisions - sits at the hilly crossroads of Edamalakudi. This is Kerala’s remotest panchayat, where just one Adivasi group, the Muthavans, resides. Getting there had meant an 18-kilometre walk from Pettimudi near Munnar. Reaching Chinnathambi’s tea-shop library meant even more walking. His wife is away on work when we stumble across his home. They too, are Muthavans.

“Chinnathambi,” I ask, puzzled. “I’ve had the tea. I see the provisions. Where the heck is your library?” He flashes his striking smile and takes us inside the small structure. From a darkened corner, he retrieves two large jute bags - the kind that can carry 25 kilos of rice or more. In the bags are 160 books, his full inventory. These he lays out carefully on a mat, as he does every day during the library’s working hours. Our band of eight wanderers browse the books in awe. Every one of them is a piece of literature, a classic, even the political works. No thrillers, bestsellers or chick lit. There is a Malayalam translation of the Tamil epic poem Silappathikaram. There are books by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Kamala Das. Also titles by M. Mukundan, Lalithambika Antharjanam and others. Alongside tracts of Mahatma Gandhi are famous radical polemics like Thoppil Basi’s You made me a Communist.

“But Chinnathambi, do people here really read such stuff?” we ask, now seated outside. The Muthavans, like most Adivasi groups, suffer greater deprivation and worse education drop-out rates than other Indians. In reply, he fishes out his library register. This is an impeccably kept record of books borrowed and returned. There may be only 25 families in this hamlet, but there were 37 books borrowed in 2013. That’s close to a fourth of the total stock of 160 – a decent lending ratio. The library has a one-time membership fee of Rs. 25 and a monthly charge of Rs.2. There is no separate payment for the book you borrow. The tea is free. Black and without sugar. “People come in tired from the hills.” Only the biscuits, ‘mixture’ and other items have to be paid for. Sometimes, a visitor might get a free, if spartan meal, free... read more:

Rahul Maganti - Mega capital city, underpaid migrant workers

Most of the construction labourers at Andhra Pradesh's upcoming capital city Amaravati are migrants from several states who work long hours for months away from home, earning modest daily wages

On platform number 10 at Vijayawada Junction railway station, around 10 workers are waiting for the the Sanghamitra Express that starts from Bengaluru and goes up to Patna. The train will take them home to Belgachhi, their village in Bihar, after months of working to build Amaravati, the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh. “We were asked to show our tickets thrice by different ticket examiners (TEs) in the last half hour,” says Mohammad Alam, 24. There are several TEs on the platform. “These ‘labour people’ don't buy tickets,” one of them tells me. “So for some trains we deploy more TEs and are extra vigilant about those headed to the north and the north east.”

The labourers returning home to their village in Dagarua block of Purnia district have worked for big construction companies such as Larsen and Tourbo (L&T) and Shapoorji Pallonji Pvt. Ltd. These companies and others are building Amaravati’s ‘Justice City’ (a High Court campus), houses for MLAs, and an IAS officers’ colony, among other complexes. As the overcrowded train arrives, the TEs rush to the general compartments, catch hold of the labourers hanging off the edges, and ask to see their tickets. Meanwhile, Alam and his friends struggle to get into the bogies packed well beyond capacity. “The rush is too much. All the trains come here overcrowded because they start from Hyderabad or Bengaluru or Chennai,” says Alam, who I first met at one of the construction sites in Nelapadu village of Thullur mandal in Guntur district.

I try to get into the compartment to count the number of passengers. Around 200 male migrant labourers are travelling in a bogie meant for 50. Many are standing or sitting on the floor, trying to rest their backs. Others are sitting tightly together on the seats. “We have to travel like this for 40 hours to reach Patna. From there to our village, we have to travel another 10 hours by bus,” says 19-year-old Mohammad Rizwan, Alam’s  brother. He has set up a makeshift bed for himself – a blanket tied like a hammock to two rods. “There are 22 people from our village working in Amaravati, all related to each other,” he adds... read more:

21 Indian cities will run out of groundwater by 2020 / ‘Clean water is a luxury we cannot afford’

The world's second-most populous country is running out of water. About 100 million people across India are on the front lines of a nationwide water crisis. A total of 21 major cities are poised to run out of groundwater next year, according to a 2018 report by government-run think tank NITI Aayog. Much-needed monsoon rains have only just arrived in some places, running weeks late, amid a heatwave that has killed at least 137 people this summer. Groundwater, which has been steadily depleting for years, makes up 40% of the country's water  supply. But other sources are also running dry: almost two-thirds of India's reservoirs are running below normal water levels, the country's Central Water Commission said in June. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently created the Ministry of Jal Shakti (water power) to oversee water resource management, and reiterated his election campaign promise to provide piped water to every rural home by 2024.

But many fear it won't be enough. According to a UN human rights report, the world is fast approaching a "climate apartheid" where only the wealthy can afford basic resources in the face of fatal droughts, famine and heatwaves. In some places in India, disaster has already arrived. The four reservoirs that supply Chennai, India's sixth-largest city, are nearly dry. Hundreds of thousands of residents wait in line each day to fill their pots at government water tankers, and critical services like hospitals and schools are struggling. People are forced to wash utensils in the same dirty water, saving a few bottles of clean water to cook food... read more:

‘Clean water is a luxury we cannot afford’ 
In March this year, while carrying three pots of water in the scorching sun one afternoon, 24-year-old Manta Rinjad fainted on the deserted pathway from the well to her house. “Nobody even saw me on the street lying like a dead person,” she says. “When I woke up after 20 minutes [I saw that] I’d spilled all the water. Somehow, I walked back home and woke up my husband who made namak-sakhar [salt-sugar] water for me.”

Alabama: pregnant woman shot in stomach is charged in fetus's death

A woman from Alabama who was shot in the stomach while pregnant – with the bullets killing the fetus – has been charged with manslaughter. Marshae Jones was reportedly five months pregnant when she was shot by another woman in December outside a shop in Pleasant Grove, near Birmingham. On Wednesday, Jones, 27, was indicted by a Jefferson county grand jury on a manslaughter charge and is expected to be held in Jefferson county jail on a $50,000 bond, while the woman accused of shooting her walked free, reported

The case has raised alarm among pro-choice groups who say it is shocking evidence of how the state’s restrictive abortion laws are now being used against pregnant women. “The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ said Lt Danny Reid of Pleasant Grove police following the shooting, reported in December. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”

It comes after the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey ,signed a bill in May banning abortion in almost every circumstance – including rape and incest – posing a challenge to Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 supreme court judgment that guaranteed abortion rights across the nation. Alabama is one of 38 states with fetal homicide laws that recognize a fetus as a potential victim... read more:

Simon Tisdall - The heedless drift towards war with Iran shames Britain

Britain’s recent history with Iran is, for the most part, shaming. Nineteenth-century imperialists and traders exploited and bullied, redrawing its borders with the Raj. British armies invaded and occupied and, in the 1920s, helped to elevate Reza Shah to the peacock throne. The ensuing era of autocratic rule sowed the seeds of the anti-western 1979 Islamic revolution. At Persepolis, graffiti left by Victorian army officers still defaces its pillars.

The US has since supplanted Britain as tormentor-in-chief, but Iranians have long memories. Many would agree with Mohammad Mosaddegh who, before the 1953 Anglo-American coup that ousted him as prime minister, told the US envoy Averell Harriman: “You do not know how crafty they [the British] are. You do not know how evil they are. You do not know how they sully everything they touch.” Given this bitter legacy, and its other regional blunderings, it might be assumed Britain would fight shy of further intervention. 

Not a bit of it. This week the US slapped unprecedented sanctions on Iran’s senior leaders, suggesting diplomacy is at an end. Yet as Washington’s war drums beat ever louder, a familiar sucking noise can be heard above the din. It is the sound of Britain being inexorably drawn – again – into an avoidable, calamitous Middle East war. What is truly astonishing is not that Trump and headbanger hawks such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are gunning for Tehran – they have been spoiling for a fight ever since they wrecked the 2015 international nuclear agreement. 

Nor should we be shocked at the daily escalations, provocations, insults and punishments inflicted on Iran. That’s par for the course when Washington turns bellicose. What should really chill the blood of British citizens is the way their own government – and the two men who want to be the next prime minister – are creating a situation, largely undiscussed and undebated, in which Britain will have no choice but to support a Trump attack on Iran, and worse, will have little hope of avoiding direct military involvement... read more:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Submission by Khedut Ekta Manch to the High Court appointed committee on Limestone mining in Bhavnagar

Khet Bhavan, Near Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad 380027
Tel.: 7359051818 Email:
25th June 2019

The High Court Appointed Committee (Impact of Limestone Mining in Bhavnagar)

Respected members,
As a non-profit farmers’ organization working on issues of agriculture and rural economy, we would like to draw your attention to the very serious issues emerging in the wake of sanctioning of mining lease in the area without the prior informed consent of the thousands of families and people who are to be divested of their livelihoods.

The issue is not of livelihoods alone but of the loss of the entire ecosystem, water bodies, biodiversity and the endangered and protected lion population in the area. We therefore request you to carefully examine the issues we raise in our submission to you. We further request you to seek more information from the officials and the concerned departments on these issues.

Our demands therefore are:

1. To recommend that all mining activities be stopped with immediate effect permission and lease.
2. We also expect the committee to advise the concerned government departments to ensure that before sanctioning of any such land for non-agriculture use, prior informed consent of the affected people be made mandatory from not only the Gram Panchayat but Gram Sabha as well.

We also request the committee to advise the government that a mandatory livelihood loss survey be undertaken prior to such projects being sanctioned on agriculture land.

Thanking you,
Yours sincerely,
Sagar Rabari


Read the full representation:

Angie Zelter: After 40 years of climate activism, I feel a surge of hope

I am now 68 years of age but when I was 21, in my final year at university, I became aware of major problems then facing the world: war, poverty, acid rain, ozonedepletion, desertificationdeforestation, species loss, civil and military uses and abuses of nuclear power, pollution, population growth, consumerism and the climate crisis. I was determined to devote my life to helping solve these problems. 
 After spending three years in Cameroon, learning about deforestation for timber and cash crops such as palm oil, and the exploitation of the rich resources of Africa to the detriment of locals and enrichment of corporations and western societies, I returned home to the nuclear weapons crisis of the cold war. I joined the Greenham Common protests, founded the Snowball civil disobedience campaign and then later the anti-nuclear weapons group Trident Ploughshares. I also became involved in work on the climate crisis. 

I learned that everything is connected and that it all has an impact on the climate, on biodiversity and on the sustainability of life on Earth. I discovered more about how our reliance on fossil fuels was causing the greenhouse effect and soon joined with climate scientists and local environmentalists to start a group in Norwich that tried to educate the public. We put up maps showing how much of East Anglia and London would be under water as temperatures soared and the sea levels rose. 

This was in the early 1980s. We concentrated on what individuals could do to lower their carbon footprints – by putting up solar panels, changing lightbulbs, practising recycling and re-use, eating less meat, using public transport, shopping carefully and locally, and consuming less... read more:

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

UNICEF Data: At least 200 million girls and women alive today living in 30 countries have undergone FGM

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”[1] FGM is a violation of girls’ and women’s human rights. While the exact number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone FGM remains unknown, at least 200 million girls and women have been cut in 30 countries with representative data on prevalence. However, the majority of girls and women in most countries with available data think FGM should end and there has been an overall decline in the prevalence of the practice over the last three decades, but not all countries have made progress and the pace of decline has been uneven...

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STANISLAV MARKELOV - Patriotism as a diagnosis

Over 1 Lakh Excluded From NRC In Assam Ahead Of July Deadline

A total of 1,02,462 persons have been named in the additional exclusion list to the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in Assam on Wednesday.  PTI reported that the the names included in the exclusion list were part of the ones who were included in the draft NRC published on 30 July, 2018, but were later found ineligible.  NDTV reported that those excluded will be notified through individual letters and and can file their claims at designated NRC Seva Kendras by 11 July.

The state coordinator of NRC said in a statement that the list was published as per provisions of Clause 5 of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003. The draft NRC published last year had left out around 40 lakh people. It included the names of 2.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applications.  The NRC in Assam is being updated under the monitoring of the Supreme Court and the final list is scheduled to be released on 31 July...

There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is being speared into our national fabric. It is superficial, it is xenophobic, it is narrow. It has a lust to divide. It is not a desire to unite. Citizens are being thrown out of their homes and are being called illegal immigrants. People who have lived in this country for 50 years have to show a piece of paper to prove they are Indians. In a country where ministers cannot produce degrees to show that they graduated from college, you expect dispossessed poor people to show papers as proof that they belong to this country?

Nicky Hawkins: It’s time to change the climate disaster script. People need hope that things can change

In recent months, Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strike have turned up the heat on the climate debate. They’ve both done an astonishing job of getting the climate change back on the public and political agendas. Their warnings of impending apocalypse, disruptive tactics and robust demands that others “tell the truth” about climate change have made huge waves. Parliament has declared a climate emergency. The Guardian has updated its own editorial guidelines to use language that accurately reflects the threat that climate change poses.

These demands and promises to tell the truth are based on a core premise: if people knew how bad this was we’d do differently. My organisation studies how we respond to and are shaped by the stories the we hear. I welcome the renewed energy within the climate movement – and the recognition of the power of language. But I fear we risk underplaying the part of “the truth” that could set us free. Most people in the UK know climate change is a big problem. We understand it poses a grave threat to the future of our world. But we’re not trying to save ourselves – at least, we’re not trying hard enough.

Communications science offers some clues as to why we might be locked in this collective paralysis – somewhat able to see the problem but unable to deal with it. Our brains are hardwired to jump to conclusions without us noticing we’re doing it. When faced with serious and complex challenges such as climate change, we jump to “can’t be done” more readily than “let’s work through this problem and see the solutions”. While bleak, “nothing can be done” is a more rewarding conclusion because it’s quicker and easier to think.

The tendency to think fatalistically is fuelled by the stories we hear every day. The word “crisis” appears in our media dozens of times each week, appended to everything from poverty to patisseries, climate change to chick peas. It is background noise. Stating loudly that problems exist and have reached crisis point does not help us to move beyond said crises, especially if they are hard to understand and tough to tackle... read more:

Andy Beckett: The new left economics

For almost half a century, something vital has been missing from leftwing politics in western countries. Since the 70s, the left has changed how many people think about prejudice, personal identity and freedom. It has exposed capitalism’s cruelties. It has sometimes won elections, and sometimes governed effectively afterwards. But it has not been able to change fundamentally how wealth and work function in society – or even provide a compelling vision of how that might be done. The left, in short, has not had an economic policy.

Instead, the right has had one. Privatisation, deregulation, lower taxes for business and the rich, more power for employers and shareholders, less power for workers – these interlocking policies have intensified capitalism, and made it ever more ubiquitous. There have been immense efforts to make capitalism appear inevitable; to depict any alternative as impossible.

In this increasingly hostile environment, the left’s economic approach has been reactive – resisting these huge changes, often in vain – and often backward-looking, even nostalgic. For many decades, the same two critical analysts of capitalism, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, have continued to dominate the left’s economic imagination. Marx died in 1883, Keynes in 1946. The last time their ideas had a significant influence on western governments or voters was 40 years ago, during the turbulent final days of postwar social democracy. Ever since, rightwingers and centrists have caricatured anyone arguing that capitalism should be reined in – let alone reshaped or replaced – as wanting to take the world “back to the 70s”. Altering our economic system has been presented as a fantasy – no more practical than time travel.

And yet, in recent years, that system has started to fail. Rather than sustainable and widely shared prosperity, it has produced wage stagnation, ever more workers in poverty, ever more inequality, banking crises, the convulsions of populism and the impending climate catastrophe. Even senior rightwing politicians sometimes concede the seriousness of the crisis. ...

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Decline of the West - Boris Johnson takes to the airwaves to lie, lie and lie again / Donald Trump has now said more than 10,000 untrue things as president

Bumbling Boris Johnson takes to the airwaves to lie, lie and lie again
You can see why Boris Johnson’s carers have chosen to mothball him in recent weeks. His decline has been almost total. Johnson never did much care for the past or the future. Every day has always been a tabula rasa, one on which he was free to reinvent himself as he pleased without being bound by any commitments he may have made. Now though, he appears to barely have a present. 

Unable even to maintain the most basic rules of conversation, his words are just a scattergun of free association. Nick Ferrari began Johnson’s LBC radio interview with a few easy rapid-fire yes and no questions as if to establish a benchmark for the lie detector. It proved hard work as Johnson was such a shambles he could barely even confirm his name. Was he a coward? That should have been a no brainer. That’s the one thing on which everyone – even his friends – agree. Johnson merely looked confused. The silence was interpreted as a yes on the polygraph. Ferrari moved on to the staged photograph of Johnson and Carrie Symonds in a Sussex garden. Did he know who had taken the picture? “Um... er...,” mumbled Boris. There had been so many photos...

Kelly Oakes: The light triad that can make you a good person

Do you tend to see the best in people, or assume that others are out to get you? And are you always honest in conversation, or do you prefer to turn on the charm? Your answers to these questions partly determine how much of an “everyday saint” you are, according to a group of psychologists who’ve come up with a new way of looking at beneficent personality traits. In order to qualify, it helps if you see humans, and humanity at large, as fundamentally good – and treat them that way too.

Two decades ago psychologists came up with the now infamous “dark triad” of personality traits to understand why some people don’t think twice before cheating on a test or picking on someone weaker than them. Since then researchers have seized upon this trio – namely narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy – investigating how they relate to a variety of things including workplace success, relationship troubles, and even the seven deadly sins. 

That’s exactly why Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Columbia University in New York, decided it was time to redress the balance in favour of the brighter side of our inner lives. “It just really frustrated me that people are so fascinated with the dark side, but the light side of personality was being neglected,” he says.

Like its dark counterpart, the “light triad” being investigated by Kaufman and his colleagues comprises three personality traits that together paint a picture of someone’s overall character. Each of the traits highlight a different aspect of how you interact with others: from seeing the best in people and being quick to forgive, to applauding the successes of others, to being uncomfortable manipulating people into doing something you want.

The first trait, humanism, is defined as believing in the inherent dignity and worth of other humans. The second, Kantianism, gets its name from philosopher Immanuel Kant, and means treating people as ends unto themselves, not just as unwitting pawns in your personal game of chess. Finally, “faith in humanity” is about believing that other humans are fundamentally good, and not out to get you... read more: 

Trinamul's Mahua Moitra makes dissent heard in House. First-time MP lists the seven 'dangerous signs' of fascism

First-time Trinamul Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Tuesday humbly accepted the resounding mandate of the Narendra Modi government but pointed out that “the very nature of the over-whelmingness of this mandate, of the totality of this mandate, that makes it necessary for us to be heard today, the voice of dissent to be heard today”.

Speaking during the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha, Moitra listed seven “dangerous signs” that suggest the country is being torn apart. Moitra referred to a poster in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum containing a list of all the signs of early fascism. “Each of the seven signs I have pointed to you featured in that poster,” she said as several Opposition members and at least one BJP ally thumped their desks in the House.

The following are the seven signs Moitra listed: 

The first sign: There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is being speared into our national fabric. It is superficial, it is xenophobic, it is narrow. It has a lust to divide. It is not a desire to unite. Citizens are being thrown out of their homes and are being called illegal immigrants. People who have lived in this country for 50 years have to show a piece of paper to prove they are Indians. In a country where ministers cannot produce degrees to show that they graduated from college, you expect dispossessed poor people to show papers as proof that they belong to this country?

The second sign: There is resounding disdain for human rights that is permeating every level of governance. There has been a ten-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019. 10X. This is like the valuation of an e-commerce start-up, Sir.

Angelique Chrisafis: France loses landmark court case over air pollution

The French state has failed to do enough to limit air pollution around Paris, according to a landmark court ruling delivered after a woman and daughter with respiratory problems sued the nation. In the first case of its kind, Farida, 52, and her 16-year-old daughter, whose full names were not released by the court, sued the French state over the impact of living near Paris’s traffic-choked ringroad in Saint-Ouen. 

She had told an association fighting for clean air: “For years I had respiratory infections.” What began as nasal and throat infections got gradually worse. “I repeatedly had bronchitis. Doctors gave me antibiotics but it wasn’t helping,” she said. “Three years ago I was sent to a lung specialist who said my problems were linked to air pollution. He advised me to move. My daughter had had bronchitis as a baby then asthma while growing up.” The woman and her daughter eventually moved to Orléans and the symptoms cleared up.

The case, before the administrative court in Montreuil outside Paris, was the first brought by individuals against the French state over health problems caused by air pollution. It was backed by several environmental groups. The court said in its written verdict: “The state committed a fault by taking insufficient measures concerning the quality of air.” It said that between 2012 and 2016 the state failed to take measures needed to reduce concentrations of certain polluting gases exceeding the limits... read more:

MANTRA MUKIM - The Word and the World: Bimal Krishna Matilal on the epics

Bimal Krishna Matilal was a leading Indian philosopher and commentator of the twentieth century. Matilal does not treat the epics as the work of “seers” and his assessment largely concerns itself with the ethical tumult at the heart of these classical narratives. Besides commenting on specific episodes from the epics, there is an impulse in Matilal’s essays, as in commentaries from the more distant past, to restate these epics. Even when not transcribing them in their entirety, Matilal and his predecessors extensively quote and paraphrase the stories from them. This is to present evidence for the arguments being made, but this restating also brings back attention to certain aspects that might have been lost from public memory. 

Indian commentaries on the classical epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, tend to use a comparable critical language, one that combines close assessment of the epic with a creative recastingThe long tradition of commentaries by Sanskrit authors on the whole or part of the epics began in the eleventh century. These commentaries were tailored to the interests of the commentator, or the school of thought to which she belonged. Devabodha’s Jnanadipika, an eleventh-century commentary on the Mahabharata, is one of the earliest examples of writings on the epic, along with Abhinavagupta’s early-eleventh-century Gitartha Samgraha, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita that reads this episode of the Mahabharata as prevailing over the dichotomy of the self and the other.

Before Devabodha’s commentary, the epics were often treated as textbooks of ethical principles, as dharmashastras. For scholars such as the eighth-century Kumarila Bhatta, they were indistinguishable from texts of systematic philosophy. On the other hand, aesthetes such as Anandavardhana and Kuntaka, who wrote in the ninth and tenth century respectively, saw in the Mahabharata the success of literary archetypes. Over time, just reading the epics was not enough, and commentaries became the medium through which to approach, or appropriate, them. These commentaries were also the basis of various philosophical positions, with commentators from Karnataka, such as Vadiraja Tirtha, using them to endorse devotional movements such as Vaishnavism. Some Sanskrit scholars and commentators, such as Debi Misra and Chaturbhuja Misra, were called to Akbar’s court from Bengal to assist with the Persian adaptation of the Mahabharata, titled Razmnama... read more:

‘Climate apartheid’: UN expert says human rights may not survive

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.

Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.” The report also condemns Donald Trump for “actively silencing” climate science, and criticises the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for promising to open up the Amazon rainforest to mining. But Alston said there were also some positive developments, including legal cases against states and fossil fuel companies, the activism of Greta Thunberg and the worldwide school strikes, and Extinction Rebellion.

In May, Alston’s report on poverty in the UK compared Conservative party welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses. Ministers said his report gave a completely inaccurate picture, but Alston accused them of “total denial of a set of uncontested facts”. Alston’s report on climate change and poverty will be formally presented to the HRC in Geneva on Friday. It said the greatest impact of the climate crisis would be on those living in poverty, with many losing access to adequate food and water... read more