Showing posts from July, 2019

Julian Borger - ‘Brought to Jesus’: the evangelical grip on the Trump administration

The influence of evangelical Christianity is likely to become an important question as Trump finds himself dependent on them for political survival...  In his speech at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said that in his state department office: “I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and his word, and the truth.” The secretary of state’s primary message in Cairo was that the US was ready once more to embrace conservative Middle Eastern regimes, no matter how repressive, if they made common cause against Iran. His second message was religious. In his visit to Egypt, he came across as much as a preacher as a diplomat. He talked about “America’s innate goodness” and marveled at a newly built cathedral as “a stunning testament to the Lord’s hand”. The desire to erase Barack Obama’s legacy, Donald Trump’s instinctive embrace of autocrats, and the private interests of the Trump Organisation have all been analysed as driving forces behind the administration’s foreign

K.A. Shaji: Kerala Nuns Who Fought Rape-Accused Bishop Mulakkal Feel Alone And Scared

NB : The intimidation of the complainant nuns by the Church hierarchy is a disgrace. Human rights and women's organisations should protect and stand up for these persons, who have clearly taken on powerful forces simply for refusing to submit quietly to molestation. DS As the case against Franco Mulakkal drags on, the six nuns who shook the powerful Catholic Church say they have been isolated from the world and their community. Kottayam, "Four plus six,” is how the watchman puts it when asked how many nuns are inside the St Francis Mission Home, the local congregation of the Missionaries of Jesus, housed on a five-acre campus a few miles away from Kuravilangad in Kottayam. The differentiation is deliberate - the six nuns, whom he considers rebels, were responsible for bringing a top clergyman before the Indian judicial system for the first time over allegations of sexual assault and rape. This group includes the 46-year-old nun who accused then Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulak

Parkland survivor tells Trump 40,000 Americans dying a year from gun violence ‘a pretty damn good’ national emergency

David Hogg , a survivor of the  Parkland high school shooting , has told  Donald Trump  that the 40,000 Americans who die each year from gun violence is a “a pretty damn good” national emergency to deal with. As the president prepares to address the nation about the partial government shutdown and what he has termed a national crisis at the US-Mexico border, the 18-year-old student said there were genuine issues Mr Trump could be tackling. Most Democrats, and others, have accused the president of not telling the truth about the situation regarding immigration and has created the so-called crisis for political reasons.  “If we really want to start talking about the national emergency like the president likes to talk about, 40,000 Americans dying annually from gun violence is a pretty damn good one to start off with,” Mr Hogg told CNN. The teenager, who became one of several students campaigner for gun regulations and background checks after a former classmate stormed into Marjory

Bharat Bhushan - Shielding the govt: The use and abuse of intellectual storm troopers

This is an authoritarian political project which seeks to perpetuate itself democratically. Promoting communalism and fear are instruments for achieving its goals. Its objectives, however, are not limited to gaining political power... It also seeks to change the way the citizens think. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given two great enemies to the Indian people, one external and the other internal. Pakistan is the external enemy. And the internal enemy comprises minorities and the intellectual critics of the government. When 49 public figures wrote to the prime minister, drawing his attention to mob-lynching and to ‘weaponising’ religious slogans like “Jai Shri Ram, neither the prime minister nor the government chose to respond. The response instead came from 62 public figures, some direct beneficiaries of the Modi government’s largesse, who are ideologically inclined towards the BJP. Confronting those who are critical of the government, it seems, is being “outsourced”

Matthew d’Ancona - The Vote Leave gang now running Britain do not want to govern...

To call this a “coup” is wrong. Much as it may seem otherwise, no rules have been broken (unless you count the  breaches of the law  committed by Vote Leave in 2016 or Cummings being  found in contempt  of parliament after failing to appear before a select committee inquiry). But it is certainly a hostile takeover. The wretched balancing act of Theresa May’s premiership is no more. This is politics by purge...

Shaun Walker: Russian opposition leader ill after exposure to 'undefined chemical

Russian opposition politician  Alexei Navalny  has been hospitalised, with symptoms that one of his doctors said appeared to be “the result of harmful effects of undefined chemical substances”. Navalny was taken to hospital on Sunday morning from jail, where he was serving a 30-day sentence after being arrested last week for calling people to attend an anti-government protest. Russian Justice: Sergei Magnitsky’s Torture and Murder in Pre-Trial Detention Solidarity with Memorial: Russia’s most prominent civil rights group in danger Unnao Rape Survivor, Lawyer On Life Support, 2 Relatives Dead After Truck Crashes Into Their Car The protest went ahead on Saturday, and prompted the most  forceful police response to protests in the country for years , with more than 1,300 people detained by officers. People were protesting against the refusal of electoral authorities to register independent candidates for the Moscow city council elections in September. Although there was

Unnao Rape Survivor, Lawyer On Life Support, 2 Relatives Dead After Truck Crashes Into Their Car

NB: Inconvenient people conveniently disappear in India. Judge Loya  disappeared, as did two of his friends to whom he had confided after receiving threats. Accidentally, of course. In this case, the woman's father, two aunts and one witness have all died suspiciously since she accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Senger of raping her.  And if cases actually get to court, then files mysteriously disappear .  Readers may please note that the Superintendent of Police Sunil Kumar Singh is already fabricating evidence:  “ There were showers and the truck driver lost control over the vehicle which rammed into the car ”; even though 'the truck driver had fled from the spot'. So the SP knows what happened to the driver without interrogating him? This is a fascinating case of telepathy, fit for case studies at police academies the world over. Either divine providence is hard at work on behalf of the Sangh Parivar, or justice has been high-jacked by criminals. DS A car in which the surv

You cannot have Ambani owning TV channels when he owns half the nation: Journalist Sandeep Bhushan

NB: Congratulations to Sandeep Bhushan and Caravan for keeping alive the spirit of independent, critical journalism. DS India’s rapidly evolving television news industry has come a long way since the days of Doordarshan’s plodding monopoly. With the influx of private players in the post-liberalisation era, newsrooms began diversifying vastly in ideologies, tone and tenor. Television news, especially in the English language, expanded its disproportionate influence over India’s national conversation, owing, particularly to its proximity to power.  Today, Indian newsrooms operate in a near-opaque environment with minimum regulatory oversight, coupled with increasing pressure from the establishment to toe the state’s line.  The senior journalist Sandeep Bhushan’s upcoming book  The Indian Newsroom  is an attempt to deconstruct the agenda-driven journalism purveyed by corporate ownership, and the concentration of editorial powers in the hands of a star-elite within the studios, am

Steve Bannon Documentary, 'The Brink', Will Leave You Cold

NB : These open conspiracies are now operating with impunity. Meanwhile the mass media is so compromised that the global scheme to promote ultra-chauvinist governments is allowed to g by without investigation and reporting. Much like the manner in which the criminal justice system in India has been manipulated in co-ordination with compliant media managers and craven op-ed writers...  From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise , backed by billionaire oligarchs (they  include our own Great Leader, by the way). Those interested may look for an article by Hannah Arendt in 1945, titled The Seeds of a Fascist International , published in Jewish Frontier  1945; and republished in Essays in Understanding , 1994:  DS Steve Bannon Documentary, 'The Brink', Will Leave You Cold There is plenty of evidence of the kind of man that Steve Bannon wants people to think he is in  The Brink , Alison Klayman's fly-on-the-wall documentary about the former Trump advisor and Breitb

Tom Phillips - 'He wants to destroy us': Bolsonaro poses gravest threat in decades, Amazon tribes say

Indigenous leaders who say Brazil’s new president is trying to force them from their lands are braced for a new era of ruin As a blood-orange sunset drifted towards the forest canopy, Raimundo Kanamari sat on the riverbank and pondered the future of his tribe under Brazil’s far-right president. “Bolsonaro’s no good,” he said. “He wants to destroy the lot of us, bomb our villages. That’s the news I heard.” For all Jair Bolsonaro’s  well-documented hostility to indigenous rights , an aerial assault on the Amazon seems far-fetched. But campaigners believe that under Brazil’s new administration indigenous communities face their most severe threat since military rulers  bulldozed highways through the region  nearly five decades ago, leaving behind a trail of death and environmental destruction. “Not since the dictatorship have we lived through such a tough moment,” said Jaime Siqueira, the head of  the Indigenous Work Centre (CTI) , a Brazilian NGO supporting indigenous communiti

From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs - George Monbiot

Today corporate power is overlain by – and mutating into – oligarchic power Seven years ago the impressionist Rory Bremner complained that politicians had become so boring that few of them were worth mimicking: “They’re quite homogenous and dull these days … It’s as if character is seen as a liability.” Today his profession has the opposite problem: however extreme satire becomes, it struggles to keep pace with reality. The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists. This trend is not confined to the UK – everywhere the killer clowns are taking over. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán and a host of other ludicrous strongmen – or weakmen, as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? Why are the technocrats who held sway almost everywher

Lily Kuo - Hong Kong: why thugs may be doing the government’s work // 'We saved ourselves': Hong Kong train attack victims describe 30-minute ordeal

NB : Chinese government appears in its true colours: as hoodlums. DS At a pro-government rally on Saturday, one speaker made a disconcerting proposal for disciplining Hong Kong’s young protesters. “Do we have canes at home? Bring out your canes,” said Arthur Shek, a co-founder of the Economic Times newspaper. “Find a long one to beat your son. If you don’t have a cane, what do you do? We can still go to a hardware shop to buy a 20mm PVC pipe.” The next day, dozens of men in white T-shirts and masks descended on a railway station in Yuen Long where they  beat commuters with long bamboo rods and pipes . Footage showed several men punching and kneeing demonstrators  returning from an anti-government march . Photos showed commuters with bloodied faces and blood smeared on the station floor. At least 45 people were taken to hospital. Shek has since apologised for his comment made in jest, but it is one of several details linking the attack to pro-government camps, at least in inten

Karida massacre: fears of a new era of tribal violence in Papua New Guinea

“I am so worried about my women,” says Janet Koriama, president of the Hela Council of Women over the phone from the local capital of Tari, having just spent a night near the scene of the massacre. “Families have lost everything,” says Koriama – their food gardens, shelter, clothes. Last Wednesday, Koriama says another woman was killed “and one had her hand cut off while looking for food to feed their hungry children”. Koriama is desperately trying to enlist defence forces to bring around 2,000 women and children displaced by tribal fighting into shelters she’s coordinating with local churches. But reports indicate that while soldiers have been deployed as promised by prime minister James Marape, who is also the  local MP for the area, their mission is focused on capturing the killers, dead or alive. ⁠  Even if they succeed, this will be of little comfort to Koriama and other local leaders fearful about what this massacre signals. While tribal conflict is deep rooted in Hela, they

Narendra Dabholkar Murder: No Political Will To Investigate Conspiracy, Says Rationalist Avinash Patil

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has not disclosed anything about the status of investigation to the people of Maharashtra in the past five years. Actual probe has been done by Karnataka Police, says Dr. Narendra Dabholkar’s successor Avinash Patil. Next month, it will be six years since Dr.  Narendra Dabholkar , a well respected rationalist and campaigner against superstition from  Maharashtra , was murdered while he was out on a morning walk in Pune. Since then, three more anti-fascist activists who were effective campaigners against right-wing ideas and politics―Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh—have been murdered and investigating agencies believe the murders may be linked. Members of the Sanatan Sanstha have been accused of executing the murders but no one has been convicted so far.  "Remember Gandhi. Remember what we did to him": last threat to Narendra Dabholkar from right-wing organizations // "If anyone must die, let it be me" - Dabholk

A white man’s country

NB : If they wanted a white man's country they should never have imported all those slaves.  DS Just as Trump and his backers make historic racism newly visible, the American anti-racist past needs to come more fully alive. Racism may be momentarily more visible and better funded, but the 20th-century campaign for democracy is as much a part of American history. The idea that some US inhabitants deserve the land, deserve to stay and to occupy it, and that others must go - to be exterminated (Native Americans), to be exiled (black people), to be driven out (Chinese and Japanese people), to be barred from immigrating (Italians, Jews and other southern and eastern Europeans), to be removed (Mexicans) and, briefly, challenged as citizens (Irish Catholics) - has changed shape over time in terms of the permitted stayers and the non-permitted exiles. But the conviction that only some people – that is, white people (however defined) – deserved US citizenship based on race held

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 jus

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. 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

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 T

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 Andola

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 des

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.  Russian Justice: Sergei Magnitsky’s Torture and Murder in Pre-Trial Detention Solidarity with Memorial: Russia’s most prominent civil rights group in danger 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

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 11 crewmate  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. NASA 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

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

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 nation

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. I n 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 lawye

The legacy of division: East and West after 1989

22 articles 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 litt

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.

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 t

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 p