Showing posts from October, 2019

Surveillance via WhatsApp: Rights lawyers, activists, DU professor, Defence journalist

Rights activists and lawyers working in tribal areas, an Elgar Parishad case accused, a Bhima Koregaon case lawyer, a Dalit activist, journalists reporting on defence and strategy and a Delhi University lecturer are among more than two dozen people in India whose phones have been alleged targets of surveillance by operators using Israeli spyware Pegasus via WhatsApp. Pegasus spy software On Thursday, The Indian Express reported that Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which sued Pegasus-developer NSO Group in a US federal court Tuesday, confirmed it was aware that journalists and human rights activists in India were targeted for surveillance and it had contacted each one of them. In the latest vulnerability, it is alleged that operators penetrated smartphones through missed video calls to install the spyware. A Reuters report from Washington said senior government officials in multiple US-allied countries were targeted earlier this year with hacking software that used WhatsApp to take over

Myanmar actors jailed with hard labour for show poking fun at military

A court in  Myanmar  has sentenced five members of a traditional theatrical troupe to a year in prison for their gibes about the military. The members of the Peacock Generation thangyat troupe were arrested in April for performances during celebrations of Myanmar’s traditional new year in which they poked fun at military representatives in parliament and military involvement in business. The military is a powerful political force in Myanmar even though the country has an elected government. Thangyat combines dance and music with verse that often has a satirical edge. The five were convicted on Wednesday under a law prohibiting the circulation of information that could endanger or demoralise members of the military. “This is an appalling verdict. Punishing people for performing a piece of satire speaks volumes about the dire state of freedom of expression in Myanmar,” said Joanne Mariner, research director for southeast Asia for the human rights organisation Amnesty International

Shaju Philip - Kerala’s Maoists

NB : The elephant in the room: its the establishment and the ruling class that engages in violence via lynching, communal murder and 'encounter' killing. Those who celebrate Gandhi's assassination need not complain about Maoist violence. DS Over the last decade or so, Kerala has seen overt and covert Maoist activities in the northern districts of Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Palakkad, and Malappuram. In 2018, Wayanad, Malappuram, and Palakkad joined the Centre’s list of 90 leftwing extremism (LWE) affected districts across the country. The ripples of the Naxalbari uprising in North Bengal in the late 1960s reached Kerala as well. North Kerala, including Wayanad, was a hotbed of the ultra-Left movement, and A Varghese, a CPM leader who turned to Naxalism, and K Ajitha, who is now a prominent feminist activist, inspired a series of revolts against landlords. The so-called ‘Spring Thunder’, however, suffered a blow when Varghese, who had won the hearts of tribals, was

Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee - If we’re serious about changing the world, we need a better kind of economics to do it

In 2017, a poll in the UK asked: “Whose opinion do you trust the most when they talk about their field of expertise?” Nurses came first – 84% trust them. Politicians came last. Economists were second from bottom on 25%.This trust deficit is mirrored by the fact that the consensus of economists (when it exists) is often systematically different from the views of ordinary citizens. The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago regularly asks a group of about 40 prominent academic economists their views on core economic topics. Working with the economist Stefanie Stantcheva, we ran a survey: we selected 10 of the questions that were asked of the Booth panel and put them to 10,000 Americans. On most of these issues, our respondents were sharply at odds with economists. For example, every single member of the Booth panel disagreed with the proposition that “imposing new US tariffs on steel and aluminium will improve Americans’ wellbeing”. Only a third of our respondents shared

Sex tapes and acid attacks: Anupama Chandrasekhar, the playwright shocking India

Anupama Chandrasekhar isn’t one to shy away from a tough subject. The Indian playwright has written about acid attacks, sex tapes and her home country’s culture of patriarchal violence. “I have been asked so many times, mostly by men, ‘Why don’t you write comedies, or plays that celebrate India?’” she says. “I tell them: on the day that these things don’t happen any more, I will happily start writing bedroom farces.” Her latest play, When the Crows Visit, takes Ibsen’s Ghosts as its inspiration. This may seem something of a departure, but Chandrasekhar found a surprising degree of affinity within the drama. “Here is a white, male, Norwegian playwright from the 19th century,” she says, “and yet, as an Indian woman in Chennai in the 21st, I find so much resonance in his work.” It is a brilliantly creepy play, building up tension and horror through the crows that bridge the worlds of the living and the dead. There is one vital – and shocking – twist in her splicing of India with Ibsen

A baby woke up from a coma and smiled at his dad. Now his family is raising money to save his life

As 14-week-old baby Michael began to wake up from a five-day coma, he recognized his dad and smiled in the precious way that only babies can. "It's a moment I will cherish with every inch of my heart," Emma Labuschagne, Michael's mother, told CNN. "To be really honest, it's got to be the happiest moment of my life. He is a living miracle, and we have never felt prouder of him." Michael's parents, Emma and Stuart Labuschagne, said they were horrified when they found their baby had stopped breathing in the early hours of March 16. Michael suffered a cardiac arrest in their home, and paramedics shocked him with a defibrillator and injected him with adrenaline to stabilize his heartbeat. When they arrived at the hospital, doctors placed Michael into a medically induced coma to protect his brain from further damage…. read more:

Amazon deforestation could be stopped by ‘miracle tree

Amid devastating wildfires and clearances for agricultural land in the  Amazon , a tree species that can help keep soil fertile could provide a sliver of optimism for the grave situation in the rainforest. The inga tree – also known as the ice cream bean tree – can not only grow on the very poor soil left by destructive slash and burn land clearing, but can ultimately improve the soil and make it fertile enough for other species to return. Meanwhile, the beans can be sold by farmers, leaves from the trees can be fed to cattle, and they can be coppiced to create firewood – giving people several reasons to invest in growing them. The reason the trees, of which there are hundreds of species, are uniquely useful is that they fix nitrogen into the soil, which is a key nutrient for plants... read more:

WILLIAM J. ASTORE - Killing Me Softly with Militarism: The Decay of Democracy in America

( ) – When Americans think of  militarism , they may imagine jackbooted soldiers goose-stepping through the streets as flag-waving crowds exult; or, like  our president , they may think of enormous parades featuring troops and missiles and tanks, with warplanes soaring overhead. Or nationalist dictators wearing military uniforms  encrusted with  medals, ribbons, and badges like so many barnacles on a sinking ship of state. (Was Donald Trump  only joking  recently when he said he’d like to award himself a Medal of Honor?)  And what they may also think is: that’s not us. That’s not America. After all, Lady Liberty used to welcome newcomers with a torch, not an  AR-15 . We don’t  wall ourselves  in while  bombing others  in distant parts of the world, right?  But militarism is more than thuggish dictators, predatory weaponry, and steely-eyed troops. There are softer forms of it that are no less significant than the “hard” ones. In fact, in a self-avowed democracy lik

Robert Fisk: Trump may have claimed to kill al-Baghdadi, but he has brought Isis back to life

Usually, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. But in the heavenly White House this weekend, it worked the other way round. Lord Trump took the life of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and then gave life back to Isis by telling us all that he’d promised to send its surviving murderers to the borders of the UK and other European nations. How the Isis lads must have chuckled at this extraordinary offer. How their comrades still gestating within our frontiers must have taken heart at such a suggestion. We have raged mightily and for years against the vicious cult of Isis. But we counted without the Trump cult. True, Trump’s particular insanity is not as costly in innocent lives as that of Isis (unless, of course, you happen to be Palestinian or Kurdish or one of Sisi’s 60,000 political prisoners). And given that the Americans and the Russians have both claimed to have killed Baghdadi before, it might be wise to let the statutory three days pass just in case the wretched man pops up on ye

Obituary - Vladimir Bukovsky: Dissident who exposed the Soviet use of psychiatry against political prisoners

 It was  Yuri Andropov  – the KGB boss and future head of the politburo – who drew up a secret plan to use psychiatric facilities to “treat” dissidents. It was based on  Nikita Khrushchev’s  belief that anti-Soviet consciousness was a mental disease. Political opponents including Bukovsky were detained without trial. There was no appeal. They were injected with psychotropic drugs. It was Bukovsky who brought this abhorrent practice to the attention of the west. The campaign to end it became a demand from human rights groups during the  cold war . The Soviet Union eventually dropped this state policy. Bukovsky unmasked the role played by doctors and Soviet medicine, and delegitimised those at the top who gave them orders. Bukovsky later transferred his antagonism to other Soviet and Russian leaders, in particular to Putin, of whom he said, “I think he’s evil.” He was pessimistic about Russia’s future. The KGB was still in charge of a country which, he predicted, was destined t

Republicans have embraced an ideology of grievance and it’s a threat to public safety // Four-star US army general compares Trump to Mussolini after ‘watershed moment’ for America

Republicans have embraced an ideology of grievance and it’s a threat to public safety Nate Kalmoe, an assistant professor of political communication at Louisiana State University and an expert on political violence,  explained to me in 2017  that regardless of whether people lean right or left, those whose ideological positions are at least in the neighborhood of the mainstream tend to “have a greater commitment to nonviolent approaches to politics” than those on the fringes because they “are socialized into nonviolent norms of how participation is supposed to work.” Kalmoe is one of a number of scholars whose  research has found  that violent political rhetoric can incite violence by people who already have aggressive personality traits. But the connection between embracing a conspiratorial view of how the world works and political violence is less well understood. Intuitively, if you are a maladjusted person who believes that dark, unseen forces are arrayed against you and you

Ashutosh Bhardwaj - In the forest, a voice: On Diwali, Ramayana show us the light, warn us against darkness // Pratishtha Pandya: Forgive me (a poem)

Soon after Rama enters the aranya, Sita delivers a lecture on Kshatriya dharma. A rare instance.. when Sita advises her husband to be cautious... Sita warns that his use of force may damage the forest and his own reputation. Of three grave evils, she notes, two - the “habit of telling specious words” and “vile desire for other’s women” - are absent in him. However, he should be particularly careful about the third, “cruelness without enmity.. That third tendency to torture others’ lives without enmity, that which will usually be effectuated unwarily, has now suddenly chanced before you," Sita says - a clear warning against collateral damage. She fears that in his fight against the demons, Rama may inflict injury on innocent humans and non-humans living in the forest... Even if he ignored Sita’s advice, Rama, nevertheless, lived by ethics and righteousness. For the contemporary market and the state, the forest is a space to be brought under domination. The collateral damage is i

The Derozio Affair - An Annal of Early Calcutta. By Rudrangshu Mukherjee

Hindu College was set up in Calcutta in 1817 as a pioneering institution to impart Western learning to its students. In 1831, its most outstanding teacher, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, then only 22 years old, was compelled to resign. A look at the circumstances that forced his resignation attempts to reconstruct Derozio’s ideas and his teaching methods. The episode offers a glimpse of the intellectual ambience of early 19th-century Calcutta. EPW, September 9, 2017 On 25 April 1831, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was compelled to resign from Hindu College in Calcutta. He was, in his time, without doubt the most outstanding and inspiring teacher of the college, which in 1831 was only 14 years old. His resignation and the circumstances behind it are important not only to the history of the college, but also for an understanding of the intellectual ambience of Calcutta during the embryonic period of what has come to be known as the Bengal Renaissance. Bypassing the euphemism “resignation’’ -

One Million Chileans Jam Capital In Protest Against Government / Chile's congress evacuated as inequality protests paralyse Santiago

At least 19 people have died in the turmoil that has swept the South American nation. The unrest began as a protest over a 4-cent increase in subway fares and soon morphed into a larger movement over growing inequality in one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries.  The lack of leaders and a list of clear demands in the protest movement show the shortcomings of Chile’s unpopular, discredited political parties, said Marta Lagos, head of Latinobarometro, a nonprofit survey group in Chile.  “There is a failure of the system of political parties in its ability to represent society,” Lagos said. SANTIAGO - Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched peacefully in Chile’s capital Friday, intensifying pressure on a government struggling to contain deadly unrest over economic hardship. The huge throng surged toward a central plaza as participants blew whistles, banged pots and pans and carried Chilean flags and posters demanding change. The diverse crowd included students, workers, pare

Greta Thunberg Issues Rallying Cry Against Facebook Over Lies, Death Threats

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg  issued a rallying cry against Facebook , saying she may quit the social media platform due to its failure to curb the abuse that is frequently leveled against her. The 16-year-old from Sweden wrote in a post on Wednesday that “the constant lies and conspiracy theories” that are spread on Facebook about her and others “of course result in hate, death threats and ultimately violence.”  “This could easily be stopped if Facebook wanted to,” Thunberg wrote, and the company’s failure leaves her, “like many others, questioning whether I should keep using Facebook.” “I find the lack of taking responsibility very disturbing,” she added. “But I’m sure that if they are challenged and if enough of us demand change — then change will come.” Thunberg’s comment was in response to a video of Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) challenging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerber

Niko Kommenda: SUVs second biggest cause of emissions rise, figures reveal

Growing demand for SUVs was the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018, a new  analysis  has found. In that period, SUVs doubled their global market share from 17% to 39% and their annual emissions rose to more than 700 megatonnes of CO2, more than the yearly total emissions of the UK and the Netherlands combined. No energy sector except power drove a larger increase in carbon emissions, putting SUVs ahead of heavy industry (including iron, steel, cement and aluminium), aviation and shipping. “We were quite surprised by this result ourselves,” said Laura Cozzi, the chief energy modeller of the International Energy Agency, which produced the report. The recent dramatic shift towards heavier SUVs has offset both efficiency improvements in smaller cars and carbon savings from electric vehicles. As the global fleet of SUVs has grown, its emissions have increased more than fourfold in just eight years. If SUV drivers were a nation,

Five brothers, five countries: a family ravaged by Syria's war. By Michael Safi

The brothers haven’t seen each other since 2012. Their story highlights the deteriorating plight of Syrian refugees. The last time all five brothers were together was in August 2012, inside a bomb shelter in southern  Syria . It was Ramadan, and each night they broke fast to the sound of artillery and airstrikes pounding their besieged neighbourhood above.  A few days later, the Syrian army broke into the area, and each man fled. “We never expected it would be the last time we’d see each other,” says Farid, the oldest of the five men. “Even with the shelling and bombing, we never thought we’d end up the way we have now.” Once it became too dangerous to stay, each of the five brothers followed different paths, taking some risks, avoiding others.  Now they find themselves scattered around the world, living in five different countries, facing five different futures. Across the Middle East, the situations of the more than 5 million Syrian refugees created by the civil war, already

Trees and flowers

Fragrant wisteria tunnel at the Kawachi Fuji Garden. (Fukuoka)  The garden displays about 150 wisteria plants of 20 different species.  K. Fukunaga/JNTO This Map of the World Shows Where Our Trees Grow

Ayşe Durakbaşa - Feminism in Turkey: History and contemporary agenda

Turkey’s recent political history, under the increasingly authoritarian rule of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), seems to shackle the republic’s foundational principles and its laicist regime. This development is fraught with extremely unfavourable consequences for women in Turkey. In what follows, I will give an overview of the historical background explaining different positions on women’s issues in Turkey today. I will then present the current state of research on women’s history in Turkey and the history of women’s movements there. In the mid-1980s, a second wave of Turkish feminism triggered an increased interest in feminist academic research. Women’s studies and gender studies became an important area of research within both the social sciences and the humanities, initiated by feminist scholars and academics mostly educated in western universities. Until now, much of the literature has emerged from universities’ women’s studies programmes, as well as graduat

How liberalism became ‘the god that failed’ in eastern Europe. By Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes

Across central and eastern Europe, many of the democracies that emerged at the end of the cold war have been transformed into conspiracy-minded majoritarian regimes. In them, political opposition is demonised, non-government media, civil society and independent courts are denuded of their influence and sovereignty is defined by the leadership’s determination to resist pressure to conform to western ideals of political pluralism, government transparency and tolerance for strangers, dissidents and minorities. In the spring of 1990, John Feffer, a 26-year-old American, spent several months criss-crossing eastern  Europe  in hope of unlocking the mystery of its post-communist future and writing a book about the historical transformation unfolding before his eyes. He was no expert, so instead of testing theories, he buttonholed as many people from as many walks of life as possible. The contradictions he encountered were fascinating and puzzling. East Europeans were optimistic but appreh

ExxonMobil is still bankrolling climate science deniers

According to the company’s latest  grantmaking report , it gave $772,500 to 10 such groups in 2018, which does not include its annual dues to trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, which  opposes a carbon tax . In addition, ExxonMobil continued to promote gridlock directly on Capitol Hill. Two-thirds of the  $1.65 million  it spent on congressional election campaigns during the 2017-18 election cycle went to  climate science   deniers . Nearly half of ExxonMobil’s 2018 donations to nonprofit denier groups went to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Another 30 percent went to the American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute, which have been ExxonMobil grantees for 20 years. All told, the company has spent some  $37 million  since 1998 on a network of denier organizations—a sorry record of support that ranks second only to Charles Koch and his brother, the late David Koch, owners of the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries.... https://www.alternet.or

Thomas Moller-Nielsen: What is Zizek for?

Consider the following passage: What would be my - how should I call it - spontaneous attitude towards the universe? It’s a very dark one. The first one - the first thesis would have been - a kind of total vanity. There is nothing, basically. I mean it quite literally. Like, ultimately - ultimately - there are just some fragments, some vanishing things, if you look at the universe it’s one big void. But then, how do things emerge? Here, I feel a kind of spontaneous affinity with quantum physics, where, you know, the idea there is that the universe is a void, but a kind of a positively charged void, and then particular things appear when the balance of the void is disturbed. And I like this idea spontaneously very much, the fact that it’s not just nothing, things are out there. It means something went terribly wrong, that what we call creation is a kind of a cosmic imbalance, a cosmic catastrophe, that things exist by mistake. And I’m even ready to go to the end and claim that the on

Salute ! Hong Kong Legislature Withdraws Extradition Bill That Sparked Months Of Unrest

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday formally withdrew planned legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but the move was unlikely to end months of unrest as it met just one of five demands of pro-democracy protesters.   The rallying cry of the protesters, who have trashed public buildings in the Chinese-ruled city, set street fires and thrown petrol bombs at police, has been “five demands, not one less”, meaning the withdrawal of the bill make no difference. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had said many times the bill was as good as dead and said that other demands, including universal suffrage and an amnesty for all those charged with rioting, were beyond her control. Protesters are also calling for her to stand down and for an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality during a long hot summer of running battles on the streets. “There aren’t any big differences between suspension and withdrawal (of the extradition bill)...

Alzheimer's treatment

In an unexpected reversal, pharmaceutical giant Biogen said it will pursue US Food and Drug Administration approval for aducanumab, an experimental treatment for early Alzheimer's disease,  Biogen and its Japanese partner Eisai announced  on Tuesday. Phase 3 clinical studies of aducanumab were discontinued in March. The trials were halted because results of a futility analysis found they were unlikely to meet their primary goals at completion. On Tuesday, Biogen announced that a new analysis, which included more patients, showed a significant reduction in clinical decline in one trial. Results for some patients in another study support those findings, as well. The data showed that patients who received aducanumab experienced significant benefits on measures of cognition and function, including memory, orientation and language, according to Biogen...

India's Annual Crime Report leaves out data on Lynching, Crimes Against Activists And Journalists (Satyamev Jayete)

Why data on Lynching, Crimes Against Activists And Journalists Was Left Out Of NCRB Report The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) did not include a number of parameters in  its latest report  as data assessed were “vague” and “unreliable”, the home ministry said. A Home Ministry official said the parameters which were not included in the NCRB report include lynching, crime against RTI activists, journalists, social activists, besides others. “NCRB did not include murder due to lynching and other heads as data based on these parameters was assessed as ‘vague/unreliable’,” a home ministry official said. Reports say  data on killing by khap panchayats, murder for religious reasons and murder committed by influential people had also been excluded. The NCRB, under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, is responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code and special and local laws in the country. The annual crime data for 2017 was released after a

Mailers from the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists

Lebanon’s ‘October Revolution’ must go on! -  by Rima Majed    Palestine: “No Liberation Without Free Women”  by Joseph Daher    Solidarity with Iraq Popular Protests: Statement from Alliance of MENA Socialists    Includes Turkish translation Video of San Francisco Event in Solidarity with Iranian Women Political Prisoners;  Video of event sponsored by Clarion Alley Mural Project and United4Iran.  Produced by Labor Video Project.    No to the invasion and occupation of northeastern Syria by the Turkish army: Statement from Alliance of MENA Socialists -  Includes

Intense ocean acidification portends ecological catastrophe: ‘We have been warned’

The acidification of the Earth’s oceans, which climate scientists warn is a dangerous effect of continued carbon emissions, was behind a mass extinction event 66 million years ago, according to a new study. Small-shelled marine organisms survived the meteorite that struck the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, according to researchers at the GFZ geosciences research center in Potsdam,  Germany, but the subsequent sharp drop in pH levels in the ocean caused the marine life to go extinct. “We show ocean acidification can precipitate ecological collapse,” Michael Henehan, who led the study, told  The Guardian.  Researchers examined shell fossils in sediment dating back to the time period just after the meteorite struck the planet, which showed that the oceans’ pH dropped by about 0.25 units in the 100 to 1,000 years after the strike. “In the boundary clay, we managed to capture them just limping on past the asteroid impact,” Henehan  said. ... As  Common Dreams   reported  in

Apoorva Mandhani: Judge Loya's Confidants Died Mysterious Deaths

NB : This report on the deaths of Judge Loya and his two friends appeared in 2018. Our 'free and unfettered' media continues to ignore this matter; as it has ignored the suicide of an ex Chief Minister who alleged high-level corruption in the judiciary; and has also failed to pursue the manner in which criminal cases involving allies of the Sangh Parivar seem to end up in favour of the accused, with no one being held responsible for heinous crimes.  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 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