Showing posts from February, 2020

3 obvious — and 5 less obvious — tips to be safe in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak

Image The familar ones: wash your hands frequently and properly; cover your mouth (with your arm) when coughing or sneezing; avoid close contact with those who are already infected. Before brushing off the above as obvious, we should ask ourselves: do we do these with complete consistency? Can we do better? Consider also the following less obvious but equally important behaviours: 1. Disinfect your mobile device screen twice per day  — it is a portable  petri dish , accumulating bacteria and, yes, viruses. Antibacterial wipes are necessary here, as they generally kill viruses as well. Clean your device at least twice daily, once at lunch and once at dinner time (or linked to another daily routine). A  recently published study  estimates that viruses like COVID-19 may be able to persist for up to nine days on smooth glass and plastic surfac

Yogendra Yadav: Delhi riots neither designed nor conspiracy. It’s far more dangerous // // Modi’s Reckless Politics Brings Mob Rule to New Delhi // HC judge who pulled up Delhi police over failure to register FIR's against BJP leaders is transferred

NB : After the recent riots and the display of impunity enjoyed by criminals (and in light of events unfolding over the past few years), it is clear that the Modi regime is focussed on securing absolute power by the following  methods: Using constitutional freedoms to destroy the democratic freedoms of their critics Undermining public faith in constitutional institutions Using freedom of speech to spread hatred and intimidation Neutralising the police and criminal justice to secure impunity for selected criminal acts Intimidating the judiciary Manipulating electoral regulations and procedures to their advantage Constantly stoking up communal issues to drown all problems in religious conflict Condemning Maoist violence whilst engaging in or encouraging communal violence Confusing and confounding all conversation so that truthful speech becomes impossible Undermining environmental regulations Neutralising or intimidating the free press and other media Using social media to

Michael Bennet, US Senator: Facebook is the authoritarians' platform of choice. Mark Zuckerberg, will you fix that?

Dear Mr Zuckerberg: Recently, you wrote in the Financial Times that “Facebook is not waiting for regulation” and is “continuing to make progress” on issues ranging from disinformation in elections to harmful content on your platforms. Despite the new policies and investments you describe, I am deeply concerned that Facebook’s actions to date fall far short of what its unprecedented global influence requires.  Today, Facebook has 2.9 billion users across its platforms, including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. In dozens of countries, Facebook has unparalleled power to shape democratic norms and debate, and as a result, elections. I am concerned that  Facebook , as an American company, has not taken sufficient steps to prevent its platforms from undermining fundamental democratic values around the world. Globally, misuse of Facebook platforms appears to be growing worse. Last year, the Oxford Internet Institute reported that governments or political parties orchestrated “s

Gui Minhai, detained Hong Kong bookseller, jailed for 10 years in China

A Chinese court has sentenced Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai to 10 years in prison for “providing intelligence” overseas, in a case that has highlighted China’s far-reaching crackdown on critics.  A court in Ningbo, an eastern port city, said on Tuesday that Gui had been found guilty and would be stripped of political rights for five years in addition to his prison term. The brief statement said Gui had pled guilty and would not be appealing against his case.  'My hair turned white': report lifts lid on China's forced confessions Magnus Fiskesjö: China's Thousandfold Guantánamos Gui, a China-born Swedish citizen ran a Hong Kong publishing house that acquired the independent bookstore Causeway Books, popular for gossipy titles about China’s political elite. Gui was one of five people associated with the store who disappeared in 2015, in a case that rippled across  Hong Kong , prompting fears about China’s growing grip over the city where the publishing industry

Violence continues in Delhi // In plea to Supreme Court, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad blames BJP’s Kapil Mishra for Delhi clashes

NB : This is the capital of India under Messrs Modi and Amit Shah: open calls to violence by their political allies and front-men, shameless partisan behaviour by the administration.  To their defenders, I can only say that nothing remains to be defended or papered over. The Indian state has been overrun by a brutal political faction which owes allegiance to the ideological project of the RSS. Its modus operandi is to target poor people in the name of religious affiliation and disrupt ordinary life on a daily basis. It is an indication of the central place of communal politics for the Indian ruling class that this has been going on for decades. Gurudwaras were burnt in 1984 , mosques are being burnt today. Here's a Reuters photograph of a man being beaten by scores of 'patriots'.  The entire Citizenship Bill matter is a ruthless and  unnecessary fabrication - its sole intent is to disturb normal life for some more decades, just as the Ayodhya issue has done. The S

Noam Chomsky: Internationalism or Extinction (Universalizing Resistance)

Building on a friendship initiated in Sandinista Nicaragua of the 1980s, Wallace Shawn - a committed activist but someone who is best known as an accomplished dramatist and actor - interviewed scholar and linguist Noam Chomsky. In their discussion, Shawn reflected on Chomsky’s words and called on him to address the ever-challenging question: how do we convince the people who were not in the room to care, to take action, given the scope and urgency of our current political crises?  The following transcript is excerpted from their conversation, which can be read in full in Internationalism or Extinction , edited by Charles Derber, Suren Moodliar and Paul Shannon.  WALLACE SHAWN: Many of the people who do know about the consequences of nuclear war and climate change are quite well-educated people who are resented by a lot of people. Do you have any thoughts on how, I mean there is a class difference that Trump supporters who laugh at the idea of global warming and climate change hav

Nathan Robinson: After Bernie Sanders' landslide Nevada win, it's time for Democrats to unite behind him

.. Let’s be clear: the other candidates were crushed, and Nevada was yet more evidence that there is no longer much serious opposition to Sanders. Michael Bloomberg  fizzled completel y in his big debut, and Democrats would be  out of their minds  to enrage every Sanders supporter by nominating  a Republican billionaire . Joe Biden has lost badly in all of the first three contests, and it’s very clear that he can’t run an effective campaign. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign  has nearly gone broke  and in desperation she has  resorted  to relying on the Super PACs that she previously shunned. Pete Buttigieg can’t win voters of color or young people (and has accurately been  described  as sounding like “a neural network trained on West Wing episodes”).  A diverse support base is Bernie Sanders’ trump card in the battle for the White House As Matthews says: it’s over. Bernie is dominating the fundraising, dominating the polls, and winning every primary. I am not sure Jacobin is right  t

Kenan Malik: Beware the politics of identity. They help legitimise the toxic far right

Hate is a poison that… is responsible for far too many crimes,”  said the German chancellor , Angela Merkel, after the killing of nine people in a far-right terror attack on two shisha bars in the German town of Hanau last week. “This is neither rightwing nor leftwing terror, it’s the crazy act of a deranged man,”  responded  Jörg Meuthen, a spokesman for the virulently anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). It’s an argument that’s becoming as depressingly familiar as the attacks themselves. The Hanau killings follow  the murder last June  of the Christian Democrat politician and champion of refugee rights Walter Lübcke and  an attempt in October  to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle. Days before the attack, German police made raids across the country to take down a terror cell  allegedly planning  to plunge Germany into a “state of civil war” by attacking Muslims and asylum-seekers.

Pavan Dahat: Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad Dares Mohan Bhagwat To Contest Elections

NAGPUR, Maharashtra : Addressing a public meeting right next to the  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s  administrative headquarters in Nagpur’s Reshhimbagh area on Saturday, the  Bhim Army  chief   Chandrashekhar Azad alias “Ravan”  demanded a ban on the ultra-right organization and dared its chief  Mohan Bhagwat  to contest elections.  The Bhim Army chief’s event was held at the Reshimbagh ground, which is situated right next to the RSS’s administrative headquarters Smriti Mandir in Nagpur and hardly a kilometer away from its official headquarters in Mahal area of the city. The local police had denied permission for this rally fearing law and order issues it could create but the Nagpur bench of Bombay  High Court granted permission  for it on Friday.  The court’s permission came with certain conditions including not to give a political or inciting speech in this rally. But that did not stop Azad from targetting the RSS and its chief whom he accused of conspiring to end reservation fr

Kate Kirkpatrick: Simone de Beauvoir believed love to be an ethical undertaking

The desires to love and be loved are, on Simone de Beauvoir’s view, part of the structure of human existence. Often, they go awry. But even so, she claimed, authentic love is not only possible but one of the most powerful tools available to individuals who want to be free. So what, exactly, is this authentic love? In  The Second Sex  (1949), Beauvoir argued that culture led men and women to have asymmetrical expectations, with the result that ‘love’ frequently felt like a battlefield of conflicting desires or a graveyard for their disappointments. Surely, she argued, the situation could be improved – and everyone is ‘judge and party’ in the question of how to love well. Beauvoir’s account of ‘authentic love’ in this book was the product of more than 20 years of philosophical reflection. As a young philosophy student in Paris, she had already recognised that some conceptions of ‘love’ legitimated injustice and perpetuated suffering.  As a teenager, she began a project of revalu

Oil and Gas Firms “Have Had Far Worse Climate Impact Than Thought”

The oil and gas industry has had a far worse impact on the climate than previously believed, according to a study indicating that human emissions of fossil methane have been underestimated by up to 40%. Although the research will add to pressure on fossil fuel companies, scientists said there was cause for hope because it showed a big extra benefit could come from tighter regulation of the industry and a faster shift towards renewable energy. Methane has a greenhouse effect that is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for at least 25 percent of global heating, according to the UN Environment Programme. In the past two centuries, the amount of  methane in the atmosphere  has more than doubled, though there has long been uncertainty about whether the source was biological—from agriculture, livestock or landfills—or from fossil fuels. There were also doubts about what share of fossil methane was naturally released and what share wa

Christiane Ritter: Why this forgotten feminist nature writer deserves to be celebrated

In 1933, an Austrian housewife called  Christiane Ritter  travelled with her hunter-trapper husband to spend the winter in the icy wilderness of Svalbard. Five years later, she published an extraordinary book about how “the peacefulness of nature” affected her. It’s a radical, feminist text that speaks to the disconnection from the rest of nature we are experiencing at unprecedented levels today. It’s hard to believe it was written over 80 years ago. I read the book before and during a research trip to Svalbard for my book  Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild . It’s a cult classic in some circles, but it deserves to be more widely known. It proved that women could thrive, let alone survive, in a tough environment like the Arctic tundra.  A Woman in the Polar Night  is remarkable for a few reasons. First, accounts written by women about hanging out in the wilderness in the early 20th century are hardly two a penny.  At the time, few women were published, let alone female

Ahmet T. Kuru - Execution for a Facebook post? Why blasphemy is a capital offense in some Muslim countries

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was  sentenced to death  in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.  Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to  U.S. Commision on International Religious Freedom .  Hafeez, whose death sentence is under  appeal , is one of about  1,500 Pakistanis  charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place. But since 1990  70 people have been murdered  by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including  one of Hafeez’s lawyers  and  two high-level politicians  who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was  acquitted in 2019 , she fled Pakistan. 

Samanth Subramanian: How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart

Soon after the violence began, on 5 January, Aamir was standing outside a residence hall in Jawaharlal Nehru University in south Delhi. Aamir, a PhD student, is Muslim, and he asked to be identified only by his first name. He had come to return a book to a classmate when he saw 50 or 60 people approaching the building. They carried metal rods, cricket bats and rocks. One swung a sledgehammer. They were yelling slogans: “Shoot the traitors to the nation!” was a common one.  Later, Aamir learned that they had spent the previous half-hour assaulting a gathering of teachers and students down the road. Their faces were masked, but some were still recognisable as members of a Hindu nationalist student group that has become increasingly powerful over the past few years. 1948: Assassination of Gandhi 1948: Supreme Court, RSS and Gandhi The real tukde-tukde gang      The group, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP), is the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).