Showing posts from November, 2019

Barbara Ellen - Donald Trump's cartoon machismo

Oh dear. Was  President Trump’s tweet  of his head digitally added on to the body of  Rocky Balboa/Sylvester Stallone  rather too psychologically revealing? The image seemed to say everything you needed to know about Trump’s delusional self-image.  Eric Baradat/@realDonaldTrump/AFP via Getty Images Well, I say “needed”. How much does anyone need to know about any man – world leader or regular Joe – who mistakes male heft and musculature for true power? Before we begin, a minor quibble: the tan of Rocky’s body isn’t an exact match for Trump’s face. The former says “Italian-American”; the latter whispers: “Overzealously applied mortuary makeup that does little to dispel the question marks over Trump’s health sparked by his  recent unscheduled ‘medical check’ .”  But I digress – it’s the internal monologue that counts. The Trump/Rocky hybrid is saying: “Behold my might! This is the real Trump – not that old guy, so flaccid and orange he’s starting to resemble a morally corrupt

Juliette Garside: Maltese businessman charged over murder of investigative journalist

A businessman has been charged with the murder of Malta’s best known investigative journalist,  Daphne Caruana Galizia . Local tycoon Yorgen Fenech, the 38-year-old head of a gambling and property empire, was arraigned on Saturday evening, and charged with participating in a criminal organisation, complicity in causing an explosion, and complicity in the murder of Caruana Galizia.  He has pleaded not guilty.  Fenech has been held in custody and his assets have been frozen on request by the police. His lawyers did not request bail. The journalist, who had exposed corruption at the highest levels within the Maltese government, died when an explosive device  planted under the driver’s seat of her rental car was detonated  on 16 October 2017. The assassination and subsequent accusations of a cover-up have provoked international condemnation, and pitched  Malta  into its biggest political and constitutional crisis since the former British colony became an independent country in 1964.

Book review: The Dark Side of Reason

Justin E.H. Smith - Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason Reviewed by William Davies This new fascination with irrational decision-making coincided with the global financial crisis. Gurus such as Ariely, Thaler and Sunstein helped to modify a free-market ideology according to which consumers and investors are smart enough (smarter than regulators, at least) to calculate risks for themselves. But this sort of thinking also gained popularity just as the combination of social media and smartphones was first ensnaring hundreds of millions of people into an unremitting system of data capture and feedback. The extent to which we are  predictably  irrational is conditioned by how much of our behaviour the predictor is privy to. And since the launch of the iPhone and the lift-off of Facebook in 2007, the quantity of human irrationality available to be scrutinised and exploited has grown exponentially.

Neil Levy: Is virtue signalling a perversion of morality?

People engage in moral talk all the time. When they make moral claims in public, one common response is to dismiss them as virtue signallers. Twitter is full of these accusations: the actress Jameela Jamil is a ‘pathetic virtue-signalling twerp’, according to the journalist Piers Morgan; climate activists are virtue signallers, according to the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; vegetarianism is virtue signalling, according to the author Bjorn Lomborg (as these examples illustrate, the accusation seems more common from the Right than the Left). Accusing someone of virtue signalling is to accuse them of a kind of hypocrisy. The accused person claims to be deeply concerned about some moral issue but their main concern is – so the argument goes – with themselves. They’re not really concerned with changing minds, let alone with changing the world, but with displaying themselves in the best light possible. As the journalist James Bartholomew (who claimed in 2015 to have

Hundreds of thousands of students join global climate strikes

Hundreds of thousands of young people have taken to the streets from Manila to Copen-hagen as part of the latest student climate strikes to demand radical action on the unfolding ecological emergency.  School and university students around the world walked out of lessons on Friday with large turnouts in Madrid, where world leaders will gather on Monday for the latest UN climate summit, and Sydney, where protesters demanded action after devastating wildfires. In London, crowds called for the climate crisis to take centre stage in next month’s election and condemned Boris Johnson for not taking part in Thursday night’s televised climate debate. Millie Hedley, 17, from Watford, said: “I can’t vote, which is very annoying, but I try to do as much as I can to let the government know that all these students here, we want our voices heard.” Frida Roper, 17, said she was suffering from severe “eco-anxiety” as evidence mounted of the scale of the climate breakdown.  “I watched the climat

From Siberia to Australia: the age of fire is the bleakest warning yet

a worldwide counter-revolution is under way, intended to paralyse action on climate, environmental loss, extinction, toxic air water and food. It is  financed by “dark money ” from a terrified fossil fuels sector through shady institutions. It pours hundreds of millions of dollars into global propaganda to discredit climate and environmental science, seduce government and deceive the public. More sinister still is the growing control of the fossil fuels lobby over governments and the world media – not only in floundering western democracies, but also Russia, China, Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia...  It is the ominous seepage of  methane  from the world’s oceans, tundra, swamps and fossil fuels, threatening runaway heating of 7 to 10 degrees or more. It is the drift of  billions of tonnes of soil  from lands that feed us into the blind depths of the ocean, placing food security on a knife-edge as  farming systems fail  amid a turbulent climate and degraded landscapes.  It is the risin

Ideas of India Archive

NB: This is a magnificient contribution to Indian historiography. Rahul Sagar and his collaborators deserve the thanks of the Indian public and indeed of all those interested in an honest exploration of the past. DS Starting in the early nineteenth century, ambitious Indians began flocking to newly-founded schools and colleges offering instruction in modern languages and sciences.  Among the habits they acquired was reverence for contemporary British periodicals such as  Athenaeum ,  The Quarterly Review ,  The Saturday Review ,  The Contemporary Review ,  The Fortnightly Review ,  The   National Review, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine , and  Nineteenth Century . Not unreasonably, they came to view these periodicals as exemplars of public debate and deliberation. Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Once upon a time there was another public, another India As the century progressed, these increasingly urbane Indians ached to discuss subjects  closer to home. They answered this need by fou

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Once upon a time there was another public, another India

The single best thing ever written on the idea of the university in India is Ashutosh Mukherjee’s Convocation Address to Mysore University in 1916, and published in the now inaccessible Dacca Review (October 1918). It literally anticipates every single debate we have on the idea of the university - from finance to governance, from pedagogy to the romance of research - but with a rigour, insight and generosity that is a reminder of how small we have become. This should be compulsory reading for everyone concerned with higher education If you want to resist the will to simplicity, the flattening of public discourse, and the potential slide into barbarism that characterises our times, you could do worse than to turn to an astonishing new resource that has for the first time been made available to the public. Rahul Sagar, an academic at NYU, and his associates have laboriously created the single most comprehensive, and searchable, database of over three lakh articles published in all I

Khaled Ahmed - The Reign Of ISIS: Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate was the most shameful phase of Islam known to history

NB: The quest for death in God's name (or any other supposedly divine entity) is the purest expression of nihilism and hatred of life: DS President Donald Trump declared that on October 27, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the “caliph” of the terrorist organisation Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), killed himself in a hideout with a suicide jacket in the Idlib province of northeastern Syria, next to the Turkish border, when approached by a team of American commandos. His bodily remains were collected and thrown into the sea, a repeat of what was done to Osama bin Laden after he was killed by American commandos in Pakistan in 2011. Al-Baghdadi created a caliphate in Syria-Iraq in 2014 under an interpretation of Islam that the Muslims had been nursing off and on as a rejectionist-nihilistic worldview: Kill the infidel and enslave their women and carry out a permanent jihad against whatever world order holds sway. He actually believed that Prophet Muhammad himself practiced this e

'Our house is on fire': EU parliament declares climate emergency

The European parliament has declared a global “climate and environmental emergency” as it urged all EU countries to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The vote came as scientists warned that  the world may have already crossed a series of climate tipping points , resulting in “a state of planetary emergency”. Intended to demonstrate Europe’s green credentials days before a crucial UN climate conference in Madrid, the vote also ratchets up pressure on Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European commission,  who declared this week that the EU would lead the fight against “the existential threat” of the climate  crisis. Although passed with a comfortable majority, with 429 votes in favour, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions – MEPs across the political spectrum warned against making symbolic gestures. Environmental campaigners said the declaration was not backed by sufficient action. “Our house is on fire. The European parliament has seen

Dan Collyns - Peru’s potato museum could stave off world food crisis

With a climate changing faster than most crops can adapt and food security under threat around the world, scientists have found hope in a living museum dedicated to a staple eaten by millions daily: the humble potato. High in the Peruvian Andes, agronomists are looking to the ancestral knowledge of farmers to identify genetic strains which could help the tubers survive increasingly frequent and intense droughts, floods and frosts. The Potato Park in Cusco is a 90 sq km (35 sq mile) expanse ranging from 3,400 to 4,900 metres (16,000 feet) above sea level. It has “maintained one of the highest diversities of native potatoes in the world, in a constant process of evolution,” says Alejandro Argumedo, the founder of  Asociación Andes , an NGO which supports the park. “By sowing potatoes at different altitudes and in different combinations, these potatoes create new genetic expressions which will be very important to respond to the challenges of climate change.”  Under a cobalt sk

Andy Borowitz - Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans

MINNEAPOLIS ( The Borowitz Report )—Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.  The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them. “These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.” More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.” While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain ma

Stephen Moss: Pointless emails: they’re not just irritating – they have a massive carbon footprint

A new study commissioned by energy company OVO  reckons Brits send more than 64m unnecessary emails every day, and that if every adult in the UK sent one fewer “thank you” email a day we would save more than  16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – equivalent to 81,152 flights to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road .  These are the sorts of stats beloved of green energy companies trying to get a bit of free publicity. But it’s all true, according to Mike Berners-Lee,  a professor in the environment centre at Lancaster University , author of  How Bad are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything , and brother of Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web. True in very general terms anyway: he probably won’t vouch for all those flights. How can one little email destroy the planet, I ask Mike Berners-Lee, who advised OVO on the research. “When you are typing, your computer is using electricity,” he says. “When you press send it goes through the network, and it takes elect

JNU: Protesters bring top India university to its knees

"I told the policeman I was a blind student. I asked him to stop hitting me as I couldn't even run away. But he said why did you join the protest if you were blind?" Shashibhushan Samad is lying on the bed at his JNU dorm room, recounting a protest rally on Monday where thousands of students clashed with police. Many received injuries and had to be taken to hospital. For almost four weeks now, students have been protesting against an increase in accommodation fees at the top university. Under the new proposed fees, students will have to pay between 1,800 rupees ($25; £20) and 3,600 rupees ($50; £40) every year for housing on campus. They were previously paying between 120 rupees ($1.60) and 240 rupees ($3). They will also have to pay for other services - such as electricity and sanitation - which they say they have never had to do before. Many say that the new structure is prohibitive, particularly for students from poorer backgrounds, and will affect its standing

'Everything is not fine’: Nobel economist calls on globe to end obsession with GDP

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is warning the world that unless the obsession many world leaders have with gross national product (GDP) comes to end, there will be little chance of adequately fighting back against the triple-threat of climate destruction, the scourge of financial inequality, and the crises of democracy now being felt around the globe. In  an op-ed  in the  Guardian , Stiglitz says that these interrelated crises of environmental degradation and human suffering have solidified in his mind the idea that  “something is fundamentally wrong with the way we assess economic performance and social progress.” Defining  GDP as “the sum of the value of goods and services produced within a country over a given period,” Stiglitz points to the financial crash of 2008—and the so-called “recovery” which has taken place in the decade since—as evidence that the widely-used measurement is not up to the task of providing an accurate assessment of the economy, let alone

Hong Kong Democrats Score Landslide Victory In Local Elections Amid Political Crisis

(Reuters) - Pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong romped to a landslide and symbolic majority in district council elections after residents turned out in record numbers on Sunday to vote following six months of anti-government protests in the embattled city. Hong Kong voters deliver landslide victory for pro-democracy campaigners In a rare weekend lull in the unrest that has embroiled the financial hub, democratic candidates across the city of 7.4 million secured more than half of the 452 district council seats for the first time, against a strongly resourced and mobilized pro-establishment opposition. Hong Kong’s district councils control some spending and decide a range of local livelihood issues such as transport, and they also serve as an important grassroots platform to radiate political influence in the city ruled by communist China. Some winning candidates said the result was akin to a vote of support for the protest movement, and could raise the pressure on Hong Ko

Chile security forces' crackdown leaves toll of death and broken bodies

At least 23 people have been killed in anti-government protests and 2,300 injured, with scores blinded by non-lethal projectiles.    Hastily cramming spare clothes into his rucksack, Romario Veloz left his mother’s home in the Chilean beach city of La Serena on the afternoon of 20 October to attend his first ever protest. Days earlier, the first sparks of what would become a firestorm of unrest had broken out in the South American country, as  thousands of people took to the streets  to demonstrate against political exclusion and economic inequality. A student of civil engineering and freestyle rapper, Veloz, 26, was born in Ecuador, but had moved to  Chile  with his mother when he was nine. He told his family that he was going to protest so that his daughter Maite, five, could grow up in a fairer society. But as the crowd neared the city’s bus station, Veloz was struck by a soldier’s bullet, and according witnesses, never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead that even

Leaked documents on Uighur detention camps in China - key revelations // China’s mass indoctrination camps evoke Cultural Revolution

This past weekend, The New York Times’ China correspondents, Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy,  published  an expose of over 400 internal Chinese government documents relating to Beijing’s mass detentions of Uighurs , Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region of Xinjiang. This trove of documents includes 96 internal speeches by Chinese President and Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Xi Jinping, as well as hundreds of speeches and directives by other CCP officials on the strategies of surveillance and control implemented in the region. The documents confirm  previous analyses  by researchers on key aspects of the Chinese government’s so-called “reeducation” system for Uighurs. They also reveal new details on both the timing and rationale for the mass detentions and the extent of opposition within the CCP to this approach. Most importantly, however, the documents confirm Xi’s high level of personal involvement in driving the campaign of repression in Xinjiang....

Academics Letter of Solidarity With Iranian Protesters

NB : Academicians wishing to sign this letter may do so from the link provided at the bottom. DS We, the undersigned academics, proudly proclaim our support for the brave Iranian protesters fighting against austerity, rampant government corruption and repressive state violence in favor of democracy. We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s use of violent force against peaceful protesters and call on the Iranian government to release those demonstrators it has arrested. We call on the international community to condemn these killings for what they are, a state-led massacre of unarmed civilians. In under three days, well over one hundred defenceless protesters have been killed by Iranian security forces. Internet access has since been restricted to unforeseen levels and will only provide the regime with more cover with which to defy protester's rights. We hereby call on the international community to do what is possible to restore internet access

Sacha Baron Cohen's scathing attack on Facebook: 'greatest propaganda machine in history'

In a speech last night at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen  attacked  Facebook and other social media platforms for enabling the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation.  The speech was striking in its sincerity – Baron Cohen appeared as himself, rather than “in character” as one of his satirical personas – and its blistering tone. Describing  Facebook  as “the greatest propaganda machine in history”, Baron Cohen argued that the company, which does not vet political ads for truthfulness, would have allowed Hitler to run propaganda on its platform.  Here is the full transcript, from his  prepared remarks : Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason – the era of evidential argument – is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is

Book review - A Hard Case: Victor Serge’s Notebooks: 1936-1947

Victor Serge’s Notebooks: 1936-1947 Reviewed by J. Hoberman Victor Serge was born into exile in 1890 and died in exile 57 years later. The child of Russian radicals who fled to Belgium in the wake of the plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander II, Serge (né Victor Lvovich Kibalchich) embraced anarchism and was jailed for writing in support of a band of notorious, quasi-anarchist French bank-robbers known as the Bonnot Gang. He subsequently participated in the abortive anarcho-syndicalist Catalan uprising of 1917, was again imprisoned and then made his way across Europe to his parents’ now revolutionary homeland, where he made common cause with the Bolsheviks. Dispatched in the mid-1920s to Germany and Vienna as a Comintern agent, Serge came to know many of the world’s leading revolutionaries. He returned to the Soviet Union to join the anti-Stalin opposition, led by Leon Trotsky. With the opposition’s defeat and his resulting expulsion from the Communist Party, he became a full-tim

Clashes in Colombia as hundreds of thousands protest against government

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets in a show of support for the country’s embattled peace process with leftist rebels – and to protest against its deeply unpopular government. Pensioners, students, teachers and union members joined marches across the country in one of biggest mass demonstrations in recent years. In the capital, Bogotá, police helicopters whirred overhead, while riot police fired teargas at protesters who had blocked bus routes before dawn. Despite torrential rain, thousands of people thronged the city’s historic Plaza de Simón Bolívar, singing the national anthem. The marches began in Bogotá largely without incident, although a few clashes broke out near Bogotá airport between protesters and riot police around midday. As the rain cleared, more confrontations broke out across the city in the early evening. Explosions could be heard across the city. Teargas was fired in the Plaza de Simón Bolívar and at the campus of the National Uni

Soaring fossil fuel production set to greatly exceed Paris accord's goal

The world’s top 10 fossil fuel-producing countries are on track to extract far more oil, gas and coal by 2030 than scientists say the planet can handle without experiencing  catastrophic warming , according to a report published Wednesday. The first-of-its-kind analysis - conducted by scientists at six organizations, including the nonprofit Stockholm Environment Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme―measured for the so-called production gap between the goals set in the  2015 Paris climate accord  and projections for fossil fuel production in China, the United States, Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom. [...] “The discrepancy between national policies―the climate change policies and fossil fuel production policies―highlights there is much more that needs to be done both at country level and international climate negotiations to put a sharpened and increased focus on fossil fuels,” Niklas Hagelberg, the UN Environ

Woman Saves A Scorched And Screaming Koala With The Shirt Off Her Own Back

The Red List of Threatened Species had already classified the koala as vulnerable, but the species is being threatened even more by devastating bushfires that have already burned more than 2.5 million acres of Australia’s east coast. But one recent act of bravery has given the country hope in fighting the blaze. After spotting a koala crossing a road amongst the flames in New South Wales, a local woman named Toni rushed to the animal’s aid, wrapping it in her shirt and pouring water over it. The hero said she was planning to take the injured koala to the nearby Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, a facility that is taking care of up to 15 affected koalas....

‘The clock is ticking’: race to save 2 million from statelessness in Assam

When she was one, Suro Devi was rescued by a sewer cleaner from a rubbish dump in Assam, northeast India. When the state of Assam started a massive exercise to  register its citizens  in 2015, Suro Devi did not have a birth certificate, information about her parents, a voter list with her name on it, or anything to prove that she had lived in Assam before 25 March 1971. She seemed destined to be left off the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and become stateless, and perhaps spend the rest of her days in a detention camp. Thousands In Lawyer Fees, Debts: A Nightmare Awaits Assam’s Poor Left Out of NRC // Assams new detention centres But Zamser Ali, a citizenship rights activist based in Assam’s capital, Guwahati, heard about Devi’s case. He knew that documents were not the only thing that could prove your origins. He managed to track down five eyewitnesses to her rescue from the dump. And in August, when the draft NRC was published, Devi’s name appeared on it. “You have to be

Joshua Leifer: Trump is systematically ending the viability of a future Palestinian state

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s  announcement on Monday  – that the US will no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories a violation of international law – is, in many ways, a near-perfect encapsulation of the Trump administration’s approach to Israel-Palestine. Couched in grotesque doublespeak, it claims to advance “the cause of peace” while signaling US approval of Israel’s brutal, perpetual military rule over the roughly 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. It is part and parcel of the Trump administration’s  ongoing, concerted efforts  to undermine international legal frameworks for addressing human rights violations (and not just in Israel-Palestine). And it is yet more proof, not that more was needed, that the Trump administration is actively pursuing a  post-two-state-solution agenda . Donald Trump has dragged America's global reputation to an all-time low Indeed, for an administration marked by erratic decision-making a

Bharat Bhushan: As Narendra Modi's image takes a global beating, even India gets singed / Nitin Sethi: Modi PMO Ordered Illegal Electoral Bond Sale Before Vital State Polls

The  rule of law  and impartial judiciary that India prided itself on have also come under question. In a stinging indictment, The Washington Post remarked that 'BJP partisans increasingly dominate the courts.' This has been evident to Indians for quite some time. One only has to glance at the global headlines on the Ayodhya verdict to fathom how the Indian judiciary is being viewed. Hugging world leaders, taking ‘selfies’ with them and organising mega-events in foreign cities to burnish Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image, have started bringing diminishing returns. The world is waking up to recognising the Modi regime for what it always was – illiberal and majoritarian. The domestic media is far too domesticated to point to the emperor’s new clothes. It has been left, therefore, to the western media to point out that he runs an autocratic, authoritarian, Hindu majoritarian government. And that must hurt. Why else would the government begin by punishing an easy targ

Barbara Ehrenreich - The Humanoid Stain: Art lessons from our cave-dwelling ancestors

IN 1940, FOUR TEENAGE BOYS stumbled, almost literally, from German-occupied France into the Paleolithic Age. As the story goes, and there are many versions of it, they had been taking a walk in the woods near the town of Montignac when the dog accompanying them suddenly disappeared. A quick search revealed that their animal companion had fallen into a hole in the ground, so - in the spirit of Tintin, with whom they were probably familiar - the boys made the perilous fifty-foot descent down to find it.  They found the dog and much more, especially on return visits illuminated with paraffin lamps. The hole led to a cave, the walls and ceilings of which were covered with brightly colored paintings of animals unknown to the twentieth-century Dordogne - bison, aurochs, and lions. One of the boys, an apprentice mechanic, later reported that, stunned and elated, they began to dart around the cave like “a band of savages doing a war dance.” Another recalled that the painted animals in the

Lily Kuo - Show no mercy': leaked documents reveal details of China's Xinjiang detentions

Hundreds of pages of leaked internal government documents reveal how China’s mass detention of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang came from directives by Chinese leader,  Xi Jinping , to “show absolutely no mercy” in the “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism”.  More than  400 pages of documents obtained by the New York Times  show the government was aware its campaign of mass internment would tear families apart and could provoke backlash if it became widely known. Beijing has repeatedly refuted criticisms of its  crackdown in the predominately Muslim region , which has seen more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities sent to camps where they are often subjected to political indoctrination. China has organised tours of the camps, which it describes as voluntary “vocational training centres” intended to provide “students” with job skills. The documents, leaked by a member of the Chinese political establishment who hoped to prevent Xi and

Hannah Ellis-Petersen: Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected president of Sri Lanka

The election of Rajapaksa could be a decisive moment for  Sri Lanka . Referred to as “the terminator” by his own family, Rajapaksa is known for his nationalistic and authoritarian leanings and is still facing allegations of corruption and torture.  “It is all our worst fears realised,” said Hilmy Ahmed, the vice-president of the  Sri Lanka  Muslim Council. “Sri Lanka is totally polarised by this result and we can see through the votes there is now a clear divide between the Sinhala Buddhist majority and the minorities. It is a huge challenge to see how the country could be united.” The election took place seven months after the  Easter Sunday attacks , in which saw self-radicalised Islamist extremists bombed hotels and churches, killing more than 250 people.  Rajapaksa, a former army colonel who served as secretary of defence when his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president between 2005 and 2010, played on fears stoked by the attacks and put security at the forefront of his campa

Graham Readfearn: The scientist who predicted the bushfire emergency four decades ago

From his lounge in Brunswick, Melbourne, 72-year-old Dr Tom Beer has been watching the fury of an unprecedented Australian bushfire season unfolding on his television screen. “I feel really sorry for the firefighters who’ve got extraordinarily tough jobs ahead, and it’s only going to get tougher,” says Beer. “But I feel maybe I was not enough of a prophet crying in the wilderness.” Back in 1986, Beer was working as a CSIRO meteorologist looking at bushfires when he was asked by his boss, Dr Graeme Pearman, to go and find out what the greenhouse effect might mean for the future of fires. Beer’s findings in 1987, published in 1988 as “Australian bushfire danger under changing climatic regimes”, became the first study in the world to ask what climate change was going to mean for wildfires.  “It seems obvious, but actually we found the correlation was not temperature and fires, but relative humidity and fires. Temperature goes up, it gets drier, and then the fires go up,” says B

Nandini Sundar: Ayodha verdict: Five Acres in Lieu of Citizenship

The Muslims of India approached the Supreme Court for affirmation of their citizenship. Instead, they were given five acres of land.  In their verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, the bench recognised “it is necessary to provide restitution to the Muslim community for the unlawful destruction of their place of worship.” But in sharp contrast to their lengthy exegesis on other issues – like the indubitability of faith, the archaeological evidence for a temple below the mosque, the way that historical texts must be read – there is absolutely no discussion of what ‘restitution’ means, and more importantly, what it might involve in this specific context. The end of the 20th century might well have been regarded as an ‘age of restitution’ given the wave of apologies, reparations and truth commissions, like the US government’s reparations to Japanese Americans for internment during WWII, the Australian and Canadian governments’ apology to their native populations, or truth commissions in Guat

Christophe Jaffrelot, Pradyumna Jairam: The BJP's ambitions of rewriting history

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty Four Extreme positions are not replaced by moderate ones but rather by extreme ones, though of the opposite kind :  Friedrich   Nietzsche, in  The Will to Power History, like truth, becomes a person apart, a metaphysical subject, of which the real individuals are merely the bearers . Karl Marx, The Holy Family. (I would add that the same could be said of the sovereign nation-state, a metaphysical subject coursing through historical dream-time; with all individuals mere particles of the Nation. DS) The will cannot will backwards… That time does not run backward, that is his wrath; ‘ that which was ’ is the name of the stone he cannot move. And so he moves stones out of wrath and displeasure, and he wreaks revenge on whatever does not feel wrath and displeasure as he does.  Thus the will, the liberator, took to hurting; and on all who can suffer he wreaks rev