Showing posts from January, 2020

Richard Wolffe: Republicans march over the impeachment cliff – taking their self-respect with them

How will the nation’s Republican senators look anyone in the face and say they have any rights to keep in check a corrupt and criminal president? How can they pretend to be Trump’s victims when they marched themselves off a constitutional cliff?  And how on earth can they pretend to the world that their vision of America – where a president can happily use military aid to coerce a foreign government to smear his political rival in an election – is the model for democracy? Let’s be honest. There was little drama or suspense in Trump’s impeachment trial, save for the bat-excrement quality of crazy that tumbled out of Alan Dershowitz’s mouth. According to Harvard’s emeritus law professor, presidents are  unimpeachable  as long as they think they are acting in the national interest when they use their power to corrupt their own election.   This could have been valuable analysis for Richard Nixon, but it also serves to question the value of a Harvard law professor. Perhaps it’s only t

The Quiet Start Of Brazil’s War On The Amazon

SAWRÉ MUYBU, Brazil ― It was like any other day in this remote corner of the Amazon , where macaws squawked and coasted on colorful wings overhead and the hot sun beat down on the gushing Tapajós River. Aboard a dirty, makeshift skiff belching diesel exhaust, gold prospectors sucked up murky sand from the riverbed to pan for the glinting metal. This time, though, they brought up something else: a perfectly intact set of ceramic plates and bowls. It was a bizarre find. But the prospector figured it might ingratiate him and his fellow fortune seekers with the Munduruku, a local Indigenous tribe of roughly 12,000. He chugged the skiff over to a Munduruku village and came ashore.  Juarez Munduruku, the village chief, was immediately alarmed. The Munduruku believe another set of their tribesmen live parallel lives underwater. The village, he said, risked consequences for disrupting their aquatic brethren. Sure enough, within days, a little girl in the village fell ill. She couldn’t bre

The King Trump defense is terrifying

There is a crime against the Constitution going on right underneath the chief justice's nose. Because any self-respecting institutionalist who has devoted his life to the defense of the Constitution and separation of powers should be able to recognize how dangerous and disingenuous lawyer Alan Dershowitz's argument is on behalf of President Trump.  US legal system at breaking point " If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment, "  Dershowitz said  on Wednesday.   With this argument, Dershowitz completely conflates a president's self-interest with the national interest. If a president thinks "'I'm the greatest president there ever was. If I'm not elected the national interest will suffer greatly,'" Dershowitz believes "that cannot be impeachable." This is not consistent with the vision of the found

Bapu tujhko salaam

From  The Abolition of truth    posted five years ago, in 2015: सत्य   की   हत्या Gandhi was an optimist of the soul. We need him as much today as we needed him in 1948. Even those who hate him need him, an old horse upon whose tired back we can off-load all our remorse and anger and pain.  Well may the 'Parivar' hail his assassins (there were more than one). They seek to kill him yet again, to wipe out the last sweet traces of his memory from our minds. But to do that, they would have to abolish the very human capacity to love, smile and befriend people. As Gandhi said,  The force of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth. We have evidence of its working at every step.  As long as we retain those capacities, they will fail.  On January 31, 1948, as India and indeed the whole world was plunged in grief (barring those whom Sardar Patel accused of distributing sweets), the Hindusthan Standard published a black front page, with three simple sentences: Gandhiji

Trust our expertise or face catastrophe, Amazon peoples warn on environment

Ecosystems will continue to collapse around the world unless humanity listens to the expertise of indigenous communities on how to live alongside nature, a prominent Amazon leader has warned.  Tuntiak Katan of the Ecuadorian Shuar people, who is vice-president of the pan-Amazon organisation representing communities in the river basin, said governments were spending millions of dollars on environmental consultants while largely ignoring the land management skills of the planet’s indigenous people that could help combat the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Speaking to the Guardian from the Ecuadorian Amazon, Katan, who became  the first indigenous representative at a UN climate  action summit last year, said environmental “catastrophes” such as the  fires  that devastated the world’s largest rainforest in 2019 would continue unless the contributions and human rights of indigenous people were respected. Indigenous communities support around 80% of the planet’s biodiversity despi

Jon Henley: How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?” With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information,  Finland  – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school. In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016. In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them o

Indigo, Air India Bar Kunal Kamra, Aviation Minister Advises Other Airlines To Follow Suit

NB : Yes, Mr Minister, you're right: Offensive behaviour designed to provoke & create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable & endangers safety of air travellers.  Here are some examples of offensive behaviour on the ground: Union minister Anurag Thakur leads 'golimaaro saalon ko' slogans at rally ...' ShaheenBagh protestors will 'rape yoursisters and daughters', says BJP MP Parvesh Varma I could cite scores more examples of foul-mouthed utterances by your leaders, including the use of terms like termites and insects to describe entire communities (what is the 'design' behind such hateful speech Mr Minister?). Does it cause you any qualms of conscience? You don't mind serving a government that deliberately provokes ill-will and communal tension among India's citizens, yet you are allergic to some straight speech by Kamra. What a shining example of good governance.  DS .... While Goswami can be seen sitting in

BJP MLA trashes CAA for creating ‘civil war-like’ situation

“When villagers struggle to get a ration card, how will they be able to prove their citizenship? You (BJP) talk of unity and integrity but inflame passions,” Tripathi said NB : This person has shown courage in adopting a genuinely patriotic approach on our social fabric, and in criticising the divisive politics of his leaders. He deserves appreciation. I thank him and hope that other BJP leaders will emulate him. DS Even as the Narendra Modi government refuses to back down on  Citizenship (Amendment) Act  despite protests nationwide, a  BJP  MLA from Madhya Pradesh has taken a different stand, saying the law was creating a “civil war-like situation in every street”. BJP MLA Narayan Tripathi said though the CAA was not beneficial to the country, the controversial measure would consolidate the saffron party’s vote-bank. H e said the BJP should either follow Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution or “tear and throw it away”, as it is clear that the nation cannot be divided on religiou

Rita Tushingham on life after A Taste of Honey: 'It was a shock when the 60s ended'

One day nearly 60 years ago, Rita Tushingham was walking through Soho with her friend, the late British actor Paul Danquah, when a passerby yelled: “Blacks and whites don’t mix!” Tushingham looks troubled by the memory. “It happened to Paul a lot,” she says. “I remember he shouted back, ‘Don’t worry! She’s only been on holiday and got a tan.’” That was Britain in 1961, before London swung, before sex between men was decriminalised, before a black man and a white woman walking in Soho might pass unremarked. There’s  a photo in the National Portrait Gallery  of the pair that very year, her leaning in care-free, him eyeing the street as if on alert for the next racist.  At the time, Tushingham and Danquah were filming the now-celebrated  A Taste of Honey , adapted from the play by Shelagh Delaney. “It had everything – race, class, gender, sexuality, poverty,” says Tushingham of her first film role. She played something cinema had never seen before: a bored teenager from the rough e

Kavita Panjabi: Women at Kolkata's Park Circus Prove the Indian Republic Has Come of Age // Rohit Vemula’s mother and dadis of Shaheen Bagh unfurl the Tricolour at the protest site.

A republic truly comes of age when its women too claim it. The 71st Republic Day of India marked a proud year for this nation when its republic truly came of age. When millions of women begin to insist that the state is a matter of  res publica , a public affair, and not the private estate of rulers to decree as they please, then it marks a turning point in the history of the nation. When women take over public spaces in small towns and big cities across the country with the power we are witnessing today, then theirs is a force not to be underestimated; and when they claim in unison that it is their historical rooting in the soil of Hindustan that will determine their nationality, as well as the the place of their graves, then the authority of papers indeed does seem to decline. Rohit Vemula’s mother and dadis of Shaheen Bagh unfurl the Tricolour at the protest site The real tukde-tukde gang           On this Republic Day, Kolkata’s Park Circus Maidan wore a festive look,

Naomi Larssen: Beaten, mutilated and forced to undress: Inside Chile’s brutal police crackdown against protesters

The National Human Rights Institute concluded in its  annual report  that the state’s response to the mass protests “produced, as a whole, the most serious and multiple violations of human rights committed since 1989”, referring to the 17-year dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet that ended in 1990. The national police force has not been purged or reformed in the 30 years since Breathing air thick with teargas and smoke from makeshift barricades on Valparaiso’s street corners, Carla Casoni remembers feeling her skin and eyes burn with the chemical-infused water used as a common police tactic to disperse demonstrators. “I lost vision temporarily so I was an easy target for the police,” she says. Casoni is one of nearly 30,000 people who have been detained, many arbitrarily, in more than two months of unrest that has swept across  Chile .   Just days before Casoni’s detention in the port city on 22 October, Chile had imploded into a social uprising initially sparked by a student

Workers need a bold vision to bring about a more equitable society

For the past 45 years, just about all of the income gains of America’s increasing productivity have gone to the elite and upper-middle class, while real worker wages have remained  roughly flat . Today, the top one-tenth percent of earners, those earning more than $1.5m a year, own as much of the nation’s wealth as the entire  bottom 90% . This obscene concentration of wealth, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression, is unsustainable and a threat to our democracy. To understand how such extreme inequality has emerged, one must consider the role of race in forging political  alignments . Hidden in plain sight – and too often ignored by progressives – has been the use of  strategic racism  to consolidate economic and political power for the few at the expense of everyone else. This strategy coerces the white working class to maintain the status quo and sacrifice their vertical positioning of growing personal inequality in exchange for the solidification of ra

Bharat Bhushan: Amit Shah's campaign reminiscent of Sanjay Gandhi

NB : A very perceptive piece. I would add that this is the Sangh Parivar's work. The Shah - Modi regime is their gift to the Indian people.  DS The first six months of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term have heralded the coming of age of trusted lieutenant  Amit Shah.  Without doubt the face of Modi 2.0, strong parallels can be drawn between his style of functioning and that of Sanjay Gandhi, the bete noir of the Emergency and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s son. Of course there are differences between the cast of characters then and now. Unlike  Indira Gandhi  and Sanjay Gandhi, neither the Prime Minister nor his Union Home Minister Amit Shah, come from ‘entitled’ political families. They have had to work their way up, dedicating themselves in the service of the ideology of Hindutva. Prime Minister Modi’s faith in his Home Minister, unlike that of a mother in her darling son, has been built on his good counsel and excellent performance in both party organisation and e

SHALINI LANGER: Why 8-year-old Sageer Ahmad’s death should make us rethink our fractured world order

What do eight zeroes in a cheque mean to an eight-year-old? Perhaps this: That, if and when that 200-km track to make life in the Capital “easier” gets built, people standing on it might, if only for a moment, recall Iffan, Sageer and Topi Shukla, and the other children pedalling uphill, in forsaken corners of the country. If they closed their eyes, they might just spot a red bicycle on it, with two boys, racing against the wind, their heads thrown back, laughing. They say Sageer Ahmad loved his red bicycle. They say he either pedalled it on the terrace of his one-room house shared by 15 or, like that day, when no one was looking, slipped out into the street. They say the streets were very narrow but, in his Bajardiha locality of Varanasi, children had few places to play. They say it were the narrow streets that killed him, when a mob returning from Friday prayers and protesting against the  Citizenship Amendment Act , ran amok, and over him, following a police lathicharge. They say

A Rare Species of Tree Was Saved from Australia’s Wildfires. And Then Something Amazing Happened.

This piece was originally published in   the  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  and appears here as part of our  Climate Desk Partnership .  Buried amid the horrific news from Australia about climate change and out-of-control wildfire was something positive. According to an  Associated Press story  last week, “Firefighters winched from helicopters to reach the cluster of fewer than 200 Wollemi Pines in a remote gorge in the Blue Mountains a week before a massive wildfire bore down… the firefighters set up an irrigation system to keep the so-called dinosaur trees moist, and pumped water daily from the gorge as the blaze that had burned out of control for two months edged closer.” This news had particular significance to me for a number of reasons. For example, the successful protection of this endangered species could hint of things to come - if we play our cards right. For another, I know the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. (Though I have not been to that grove of trees - wh

JOSHUA KEATING: Forever Wars Don’t End. They Just Go Corporate.

The U.S. increasingly relies on private contractors in a vast number of overseas military operations, creating a status quo that both obscures the extent of the U.S. military’s reach and creates a host of new dangers. If Trump moves ahead with troop withdrawals - the Pentagon is  reportedly considering  a major drawdown in Africa even as conflicts with jihadi groups in Somalia and  West Africa  intensify - these contractors could take on an even greater role. President Donald Trump speaks frequently about his desire to bring U.S. troops home from places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and bring a close to the “endless wars” he inherited. Just last Wednesday he  boasted that  “we left Syria.” This isn’t even true  in an official sense , but troop numbers also only tell part of the story. Some boots are not being counted at all. In a stunning  report on Wednesday , the New York Times revealed details of a Jan. 3 attack by the Somali jihadi group Al-Shabab on a base in neighbor