Thursday, 30 April 2020

How Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler met his death 75 years ago and brought the Second World War to a close

Through the fire-blackened ruins the scent of lilac rose in waves out of derelict gardens whose owners had fled or died... crocuses struggled out of the rubble. The stumps of trees amputated by the bombing were bursting with green leaf. Only the birds were missing: Douglas Botting, In the Ruins of the Reich (1985) 

Adolf Hitler took his own life on 30 April 1945, dying in ignominy in an underground shelter at the Reich Chancellery two days after his fascist ally Benito Mussolini had been assas-sinated by partisans in the small northern Italian village of Giulino di Mezzegra. With the Western Allies days away from retaking Europe, Poland in the hands of the advancing Red Army and Berlin under relentless siege, the Fuhrer was forced to concede his vision of founding a new empire to last a thousand years lay in tatters, his hope of global conquest for the greater glory of the Teutonic “master race” doomed to end in failure.

David Farrier: Deep time’s uncanny future is full of ghostly human traces // Michael Moore: Planet of the Humans

Deep time represents a certain displacement of the human and the divine from the story of creation. Yet in the Anthropocene, we humans have become that sublime force, the agents of a fearful something that is greater than ourselves. A single mine in Canada’s tar sands region moves 30 billion tonnes of sediment annually, double the quantity moved by all the worlds’ rivers. The weight of the fresh water we have redistributed has slowed the Earth’s rotation. The mass extinction of plant and animal species is unlikely to recover for 10 million years...

Late one summer night in 1949, the British archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes went out into her small back garden in north London, and lay down. She sensed the bedrock covered by its thin layer of soil, and felt the hard ground pressing her flesh against her bones. Shimmering through the leaves and out beyond the black lines of her neighbours’ chimney pots were the stars, beacons ‘whose light left them long before there were eyes on this planet to receive it’, as she put it in A Land (1951), her classic book of imaginative nature writing.

Michael Moore Presents: Planet of the Humans Book review: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History // Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change

We are accustomed to the idea of geology and astronomy speaking the secrets of ‘deep time’, the immense arc of non-human history that shaped the world as we perceive it. Hawkes’s lyrical meditation mingles the intimate and the eternal, the biological and the inanimate, the domestic with a sense of deep time that is very much of its time. The state of the topsoil was a matter of genuine concern in a country wearied by wartime rationing, while land itself rises into focus just as Britain is rethinking its place in the world. 

Data shows coronavirus deaths across the world begin to slow

The global death toll of coronavirus has continued to grow, with over 200,000 people known to have been killed by the disease. However, data shows that these numbers are at their peak or starting to flatten in countries affected by the outbreak around the world.

In early March, the World Health Organisation declared that Europe had become the epicentre of the pandemic, with more cases confirmed across the continent than had been reported in China during the height of its outbreak. At that point, Europe had also reported more cases and deaths than the rest of the world (excluding China) combined.

Weeks of strict lockdown in countries such as Italy and Spain, the top two hardest-hit countries in the continent, are beginning to pay off as their death rates begin to decrease, mirroring that of China and South Korea, which were some of the earliest countries to implement measures to curb the spread of the disease....

Global energy use suffers 'historic shock // The oil bankruptcies are just beginning

Global energy use has been dealt such a huge blow by the coronavirus pandemic that it's like wiping out demand from all of India, a country of 1.3 billion people and the world's third biggest consumer. That's according to the International Energy Agency, which said in a new report Thursday that demand for energy could crash 6% this year if lockdowns persist for many months and the economic recovery is slow. Such a scenario is "increasingly likely," the IEA said, adding that a drop of that scale would be seven times the size of the decline following the 2008 global financial crisis. Demand for electricity is poised to plunge 5% in 2020, the largest fall since the Great Depression.

"This is a historic shock to the entire energy world," Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based agency, said in a statement. "It is still too early to determine the longer term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before." Demand for coal, oil and gas has been slammed as a result of shutdowns aimed at containing the spread of the virus, which have put the brakes on economic activity and brought international air travel almost to a standstill. Oil demand in particular could drop 9%, erasing eight years of growth....

Peter Linebaugh: The incomplete, true, authentic and wonderful history of May Day

Once upon a time, long before Weinberger bombed north Africans, before the Bank of Boston laundered money, or Reagan honored the Nazi war dead, the earth was blanketed by a broad mantle of forests. As late as Caesar's time a person might travel through the woods for two months without gaining an unobstructed view of the sky. The immense forests of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America provided the atmosphere with oxygen and the earth with nutrients. Within the woodland ecology our ancestors did not have to work the graveyard shift, or to deal with flextime, or work from Nine to Five. Indeed, the native Americans whom Captain John Smith encountered in 1606 only worked four hours a week. The origin of May Day is to be found in the Woodland Epoch of History.

In Europe, as in Africa, people honored the woods in many ways. With the leafing of the trees in spring, people celebrated "the fructifying spirit of vegetation," to use the phrase of J.G. Frazer, the anthropologist. They did this in May, a month named after Maia, the mother of all the gods according to the ancient Greeks, giving birth even to Zeus.

The Greeks had their sacred groves, the Druids their oak worship, the Romans their games in honor of Floralia. In Scotland the herdsman formed circles and danced around fires. The Celts lit bonfires in hilltops to honor their god, Beltane. In the Tyrol people let their dogs bark and made music with pots and pans. In Scandinavia fires were lit and the witches came out. Everywhere people "went a-Maying" by going into the woods and bringing back leaf, bough, and blossom to decorate their persons, homes, and loved ones with green garlands. Outside theater was performed with characters like "Jack-in-the-Green" and the "Queen of the May." Trees were planted. Maypoles were erected. Dances were danced. Music was played. Drinks were drunk, and love was made. Winter was over, spring had sprung.

The history of these customs is complex and affords the student of the past with many interesting insights into the history of religion, gender, reproduction, and village ecology. Take Joan of Arc who was burned in May 1431. Her inquisitors believed she was a witch.... read more:

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

ANIL NAURIYA: Manufacturing Memory

Our history is a battleground. What we remember and what we forget is essential to the control of the national narrative

Nearly a month after Gandhi’s assassination, Sardar Patel, the then home minister, wrote, on February 27, 1948, to prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and placed the blame squarely on “a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under [Vinayak Damodar] Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through”. At the time, Patel still made a distinction between the fanatics led by Savarkar and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which he suggested was “not involved”.

However, a few months later, on July 18, 1948, Patel wrote somewhat differently to his cabinet colleague, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a past president of the Hindu Mahasabha: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha… as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible.” Even in his February letter to Nehru, Patel had recorded that Gandhi’s assassination was “welcomed by those of the RSS and the Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy”. In a letter dated September 11, 1948, to the RSS leader MS Golwalkar, Sardar Patel remonstrated with his addressee over the fact that “RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.”

Irregularities and Sub-Human Conditions in Transportation of Stranded Migrant Fish Workers

Protest Irregularities and Sub-Human Conditions in Transportation of
Stranded Migrant Fish Workers at Veraval Fishing Harbour


April 29, 2020.
Around 4,000 migrant fish workers who were working in the mechanised fishing vessels on Gujarat coast and had been stranded mainly at the Veraval fishing harbour for more than a month are being transported by bus from Veraval to Andhra Pradesh. 

The stranded fish workers were herded in some boats and were made to stay in sub-human conditions without proper shelter, food and medical facilities in contravention of the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India (copy enclosed) and the advisory on Standard Operating Practices (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (copy enclosed), Government of India. Two migrant workers died at Veraval harbour during this period. In view of this NPSSFW(I) had moved the National Human Rights Commission in the matter.

NPSSFW(I) had also requested to facilitate transportation of the stranded migrant fish workers from Veraval to  Andhra Pradesh through special sealed train with proper food, water, and medical care. But first there were plans to send these workers by sea in cargo vessels, which would take 7 to 8 days journey with tremendous hardship. Then, presently the migrant fish workers are being sent off to Andhra Pradesh in buses by road.

There have been abject irregularities in transportation of the migrant fish workers - 

1. Though it is reported that the Andhra Pradesh Government has sanctioned Rs. 3 crores for transportation of migrant workers, each migrant worker is made to pay Rs. 3,000/- before he is allowed to board the bus. [Photograph enclosed]

2. The buses are overcrowded. The migrant workers are herded into the buses as cattle at 3 to 4 times of normal capacity.

3. There has been no proper arrangement of food, water and rest during the 2-3 days of journey from Veraval to Andhra Pradesh.

4. There has been no arrangement for security, no escort is provided. This has been indispensable in view of the lockdown enforced all over the country.

5. The migrant workers were not paid any wages for the period of lockdown by the boat owners though the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India has, under D.O. No. M-11011/08/2020-Media Dt. 20.03.2020 (copy enclosed) had issued clear advisory to the employers stating that their employees, particularly the casual or contractual workers, should not be terminated or have their wages reduced during the Covid-19 affected period.

NPSSFW(I) alongwith all small scale fish worker organisations affiliated to it vehemently protest against the above irregularities as well as violation of advisories and directions of the Government of India and the apex court of the country. 

NPSSFW(I) also demands that each and every migrant worker should be paid Rs.15,000/- to compensate their livelihood loss.

Pradip Chatterjee,
Mobile: 9874432773 / 87778 91475.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Jamaica Kincaid: I See the World

It begins in this way:

It’s as if we are dead and somehow have been given the unheard-of opportunity to see the life we lived, the way we lived it: there we are with friends we had just run into by accident and the surprise on our faces (happy surprise, sour surprise) as we clasp each other (close or not so much) and say things we might mean totally or say things we only mean somewhat, but we never say bad things, we only say bad things when the person we are clasping is completely out of our sight; and everything is out of immediate sight and yet there is everything in immediate sight; the streets so crowded with people from all over the world and why don’t they return from wherever it is they come from and everybody comes from nowhere for nowhere is the name of every place, all places are nowhere, nowhere is where we all come from; the dresses hanging in a store window that are meant for people half my age are so appealing and the waist of this dress is smaller than my upper arm and I walk on; the homeopathic combination of vitamin C and bioflavonoids and zinc are on a shelf in the Brattleboro Co-op and I let them remain there, but in the Brattleboro Co-op are cuts of meat that used to be parts of animals and these animals were treated very well and given the best food to eat and that is why they are on the meat shelf of the Brattleboro Co-op; the blue sky, the blue sky and the white clouds are made less so even, modified really, when I place them next to the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds I know exist in the place where I was born and grew up, St. John’s, Antigua, nowhere, nowhere; the long lines in/at the airport and the people manning the various portals of entry and then exit to allow me to attend my oldest brother’s funeral, though he was nine years younger than I was at the time he was born but how much younger is he now that he is dead....

Zubair Ahmed: India coronavirus: Tablighi Jamaat gives blood for plasma therapy

More than 1,000 positive cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat event. The incident caused massive outrage and led to reports of Islamophobia from across the country. Plasma therapy involves transfusing antibody-rich blood into Covid-19 patients.

With the emergence of Covid-19 clusters across India directly linked to the event, there was massive outrage against the organisation and Muslims in general. Police said that the Tablighi Jamaat had ignored two orders to stop its event - attended by hundreds - even after India went into lockdown to stop the spread of the virus. They then filed manslaughter charges against the Jamaat chief, Mohammed Saad Kandhlawi. 
There were reports of harassment of Muslims from many parts of the country. Some local media ran campaigns, calling Tablighi Jamaat members "viruses" and "carriers of coronavirus". Hashtags, such as "Coronjihad" trended on social media with many people saying members had deliberately infected themselves to transmit others in crowded areas, even comparing them to suicide bombers.

How does plasma therapy work? When a person has Covid-19, their immune system responds by creating antibodies, which attack the virus. Over time these build up and can be found in the plasma, the liquid portion of the blood. However, it is still in a trial stage in many countries including India, which is testing it in a few states before approving it for wider use. Several hospitals have said it has yielded "encouraging" results, with some severely ill patients recovering after being administered plasma therapy….

'Homage to Humanity'

Monday, 27 April 2020

Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases.” 
The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be followed by even more deadly and destructive disease outbreaks unless their root cause – the rampant destruction of the natural world – is rapidly halted, the world’s leading biodiversity experts have warned.

“There is a single species responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic – us,” they said. “Recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity, particularly our global financial and economic systems that prize economic growth at any cost. We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones.”

Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz and Eduardo Brondizio led the most comprehensive planetary health check ever undertaken, which was published in 2019 by the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It concluded that human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems....

K.R. Shyam Sundar: Factory Workers Can Now Legally Be Asked to Work 12-Hour Shifts. How Will this Change Things?

On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a detailed notification outlining the conditions under which economic activities could be restarted in non-containment zones.

The order imposed a string of mandatory do’s and don’ts such as social distancing, the arrangement of private transportation for workers and medical insurance. The violation of any of these directives, the order noted, could attract severe penalties including imprisonment under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 (NDMA). Two days before that, on April 13, India’s central trade unions (CTUs) sent a letter to the Union labour minister that expressed their opposition to a proposal that would amend the Factories Act, 1948 (FA), a move which was reportedly being considered by the Centre.

The alleged amendment would have allowed companies to extend a factory worker’s daily shift to 12 hours per day, six days a week (72 hours) from the existing eight hours per day, six days a week (48 hours). This move is controversial, because 48 hours per week is what is mandated by global and ILO norms. In fact, the first convention that ILO adopted was the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 1) which India ratified in 1921 and it proclaimed 48 hours of work in a week.

While the Centre hasn’t yet amended the FA, at least four state governments – Rajasthan (April 11), Gujarat (April 17), Punjab (April 20) and Himachal Pradesh (April 21) – have issued notifications in the last few days to increase the working hours as mentioned above.

Incidentally, this has become the most popular strategy of carrying out labour law reforms in India both historically and recently....

Rana Ayyub: The destruction of India’s judicial independence is almost complete

Last week, as India rolled out plans to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirusthe Supreme Court quashed the bail petition of Anand Teltumbde, one of India’s leading scholars, and asked him to surrender to the police in the second week of April.

Teltumbde, an advocate for India’s most disadvantaged communities, including Dalits, once called “untouchables," has been swept up in a broad crackdown against lawyers, activists and dissent in general. He has been accused of supporting a banned group of Maoist militants, known as Naxalites, who seek to overthrow the government — charges he of course denies. Many of those charged have been languishing in jail for a long time.

Teltumbde’s work against the caste system in India and his fight against majoritarian politics made him a target of right-wing leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Teltumbde has been on the forefront of condemning the communal politics unleashed by Modi and has compared him to Hitler. He also rightly accused Modi of being complicit in the anti-Muslim carnage of 2002 that left more than 1,000 people dead in the state of Gujarat, when Modi was chief minister.

Teltumbde’s unfair treatment by our judiciary underscores the loss of independence by India’s institutions. The refusal by the Supreme Court to grant him bail came soon before a former chief justice, Ranjan Gogoi, joined Parliament after being nominated by the Modi government. Gogoi delivered some of the most crucial rulings in recent times that helped enable the Modi administration’s majoritarian agenda. His appointment, just four months after his retirement (and after he was accused of sexual harassment), has raised big questions about justice in the era of hypernationalism that Modi has come to represent.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Haseeb Drabu: Decoding Darbar Move

From being an independent princely state under a monarch, J&K was a legislatively empowered quasi autonomous constituent unit of the India Union. Recently it was dismembered and downgraded to a centrally administered Union Territory

In all these forms, the government whether anointed or appointed, imposed or elected, administering or governing has one constant feature: the darbar move. While the nomenclature, a vestige of the monarchy hasn’t changed, the need for it has been constantly reinvented ever since it was started 148 years ago.

Contrary to the popular belief, the reason for darbar move was not climatology: to escape the harsh winters of Kashmir Valley or the scorching summers of Jammu. Nor was it clairvoyance; the vision of Ranbir Singh. It was a compulsion; of the British to protect their Indian Empire. The great game in the Pamirs and Hindukush, which put the Kashmir valley on the international map of Russians, was afoot in the mid-19th century. 

By 1868 Russia had advanced in the Central Asia and extended its influence to Samarkand. These movements created panic in Britain and made them alive to the strategic importance of the Kashmir valley. Faced with the “Russian Peril”, darbar move was symbolic relocation for a strategic reason. It was element of “forward policy” (also known as “spearhead capital policy”) of the British in the run up to their agreement of 1873 with the Russians. This was the start of the process that culminated in the Kashmir valley becoming a frontline area of the British in 1889....

Judit Szakács - The business of disinformation

Disinformation is not always ideologically motivated. On the contrary, most fake news websites serve primarily to make money. The disinformation economy relies heavily on Facebook and Google Ads, a report on five eastern European countries shows.
Many stories have been written about the Macedonian teenagers who earned a pretty penny writing and disseminating fake news stories during the US presidential elections in 2016 (and about whether there may be more to their story). Academic literature into the fake news phenomenon also abounds.  Yet research into the commercial aspect of disinformation has largely been lacking. 

Since February 2019, the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University has been mapping individuals and companies running or owning disinformation websites in five central and eastern European countries: Bosnia and HerzegovinaHungary
MoldovaRomania and Slovakia. The goal is to collect data on independent (i.e. not mainstream), local disinformation websites in each country, explore their ownership and management, their sources of funding, the revenue they generate and their links to other entities such as businesses or political parties.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Bolsonaro sides with anti-democracy protesters

At a recent rally, President Jair Bolsonaro joined radical protesters calling for Brazilian democracy to be abolished. Other institutions, including the country's military, are speaking out against his rhetoric. Speaking at a rally with hundreds of supporters in the Brazilian capital Brasilia on April 19, President Jair Bolsonaro told his backers: "I am here because I believe in you — and you are here, because you believe in Brazil." They had gathered to protest coronavirus lockdown measures imposed by the country's governors and mayors.

The protesters also called for Brazil's Congress and Supreme Court to be shut down, and for decree AI-5 – issued by the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1968 — to be reinstated. It had allowed the junta, which governed the country from 1964 to 1985, to shut down parliament and scrap civil liberties. Protesters also carried signs demanding a military intervention with Bolsonaro at the helm. Such a move would constitute a clear violation of the constitution. "It irritated the military, in particular because Bolsonaro held his speech in front of the armed forces headquarters," says Carlos Fico, a professor of history at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

The next morning, Bolsonaro somewhat reversed his position, arguing he is in favor of Brazilian democracy and the constitution after all. Press reports indicate military figures close to him had urged Bolsonaro to row back. This flip-flopping is nothing unusual for the former army captain, Fico explains. "Bolsonaro has made such criminal statements several times before, and then taken them back again. But this time, the military figures advising him have seemingly become involved."..

'We did it to ourselves': scientist says intrusion into nature led to pandemic

The vast illegal wildlife trade and humanity’s excessive intrusion into nature is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic, according to a leading US scientist who says “this is not nature’s revenge, we did it to ourselves”. Scientists are discovering two to four new viruses are created every year as a result of human infringement on the natural world, and any one of those could turn into a pandemic, according to Thomas Lovejoy, who coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980 and is often referred to as the godfather of biodiversity.

“This pandemic is the consequence of our persistent and excessive intrusion in nature and the vast illegal wildlife trade, and in particular, the wildlife markets, the wet markets, of south Asia and bush meat markets of Africa… It’s pretty obvious, it was just a matter of time before something like this was going to happen,” said Lovejoy, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation and professor of environment science at George Mason University. 

His comments were made to mark the release of a report by the Center for American Progress arguing that the US should step up efforts to combat the wildlife trade to help confront pandemics. Wet markets are traditional markets selling live animals (farmed and wild) as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, often in unhygienic conditions. They are found all over Africa and Asia, providing sustenance for hundreds of millions of people. The wet market in Wuhan believed to be the source of Covid-19 contained a number of wild animals, including foxes, rats, squirrels, wolf pups and salamanders....

Vietnamese children donate 20,000 face masks to UK after saving up ‘lucky money’

Amid the UK’s dire shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, two children in Vietnamese capital Hanoi have apparently funded a gift of 20,000 facemasks which have been sent to Britain. Truong Thi Linh Nhan and Truong Cao Khoi used their “lucky money” saved over several years to donate the masks to help the UK tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. The masks were sent successfully by the British embassy in Hanoi last week on commercial flight which also repatriated 100 British nationals.

The embassy tweeted a letter from Gareth Ward, British ambassador to Vietnam, alongside a picture of Nhan and Khoi near Tower Bridge in London. He wrote: “I am glad that you, who are at very young ages, care about the world and have contributed to the fight against the virus. Lucky money is a Vietnamese tradition in which children are given money in a red envelope to mark the lunar new year. It is a symbol of health, peace and happiness. The embassy said the children had been saving their money up for a few years and had chosen to spend it on masks for medical staff.

Mr Ward thanked the children for making him feel “hopeful about the future”. He said: “If everyone plays a part in this fight, I believe that we can overcome this pandemic.” “These masks have been sent to [Britain] successfully on our special commercial flight last week. Many thanks Nhan & Khoi!” Many people responding to the tweet noted how bad the situation has become in Britain – the country with the sixth largest economy in the world – to inspire the charity of children in Vietnam...

Friday, 24 April 2020

Leading Saudi activist dies in detention, say campaigners

A leading activist serving an 11-year prison sentence has died in detention in Saudi Arabia, campaigners have said, highlighting the kingdom’s human rights record. Abdullah al-Hamid, 69, died after a stroke in his prison cell earlier this month, according to multiple rights groups, including Amnesty International. 

“Dr Hamid was a fearless champion for human rights in Saudi Arabia,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends, who for the past eight years had been deprived of his presence as a result of the state’s inhumane repression.” “He, and all other prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, should never have been in jail in the first place,” Maalouf added. Hamid was a founding member of the rights group the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and was sentenced to to prison in March 2013, campaigners said.

He faced multiple charges, including “breaking allegiance” to the Saudi ruler, “inciting disorder” and seeking to disrupt state security, according to Amnesty. Other ACPRA members have also been imprisoned in the past, including another co-founder, Mohammad al-Qahtani, who was jailed for 10 years in 2013, Amnesty said. Saudi Arabia has long faced international criticism over its human rights record. That criticism has grown since Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince and heir to the Saudi throne in June 2017.

The murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and the increased repression of dissidents have overshadowed what arer seen to be efforts by the prince to modernise the economy and society....

More posts on Saudi Arabia

Charis McGowan: Ocean plastic was choking Chile’s shores. Now it’s in Patagonia’s hats

In Tumbes, a village in southern Chile, discarded plastic fishing nets are crammed into gaps between parked cars and market stalls, evidence of a global waste problem that the town is working to resolve. Until recently, most discarded fishing nets in this coastal fishing village were dumped straight into the sea – contributing to the massive plastic pollution crisis that’s choking the planet’s oceans. “If you have a broken net, you throw it anywhere you can,” says Ramon Maldonado, a fisherman in Tumbes.

But a startup called Bureo – founded by three North American surfers – is collaborating with fishermen like Maldonado to keep hundreds of tonnes of discarded nets out of the ocean each year. Nets are sorted, cleaned, and cut in Bureo’s warehouse in Concepción, a city a few miles from Tumbes. Here they are turned into 100% recycled polyester and nylon pellets, called NetPlus, which are sold to companies as a sustainable alternative to first-use plastics. Today NetPlus is used in Patagonia’s hat brims, Trek bike parts, Humanscale office chairs – and even sustainable Jenga sets. Bureo joins dozens of initiatives addressing an urgent environmental question: how do we tackle our ocean plastic problem? And can we do it without reducing plastic use?...

Owen Jones: Why don’t we treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as coronavirus?
George Lakey on Capitalism, public health and the Nordic model

Ugly Truth About Singapore’s Treatment Of Migrant Workers

SINGAPORE — Seventeen men have been confined for the past 20 days in a cluttered room about one-third the size of an average tennis court. The men, like hundreds of other migrant workers living in Kian Teck Crescent dormitory in the far western reaches of Singapore, are only permitted to leave to use the communal toilet or shower facilities down the hall. Food is delivered to them twice a day, left at the stairwell for them to collect. There is no Wi-Fi access and no space to exercise or engage in recreational activities.

One of them, a 29-year-old construction worker from India who isn’t revealing his real name in this article to protect his ability to work, said most of the men in his room have spent the past few weeks sleeping their days away — only stirring when they hear the ambulances arrive, which lately has been four or five times a day, to take their friends and co-workers to hospitals and isolation facilities to be tested and treated for COVID-19. 

“Staying here is very stressful,” the worker said over the phone on Wednesday, a day after nine of his neighbors were taken away for testing. “Every day, there are more people getting sick. We keep thinking, maybe it will be passed to us also. We are very worried.” ....

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: Migrant labour and the unemployed will be demanding their rights, not our mercy

Ai Weiwei: 'I became the enemy of the established power, but without a crime'

There is no existing vocabulary to illustrate a condition that requires a special kind of reality. Once it comes to a point when the authority cannot rationally communicate or have a clear exchange of ideas or when they cannot allow the argument, then the only thing they can do is to make you feel that rationality, moral judgment and the law no longer work. They must prove to you that nothing works except power itself. And that power is identified with incomprehensible treatment..

You began an 81-day confinement on 3 April 2011. What happened that day?
That day, I woke up and prepared to go to the airport with my assistant Jennifer, who had begun working with me not long before. This was our first trip together and we were going to go to Taiwan to prepare for an exhibition opening later that autumn. Our flight was to Hong Kong where we would transfer to Taipei.

Many things happened in the days before the trip. I had been under surveillance and followed by secret police for years, but the days before the trip involved more frequent visits. There were all kinds of excuses: a fire safety check, residential registrations, many strange reasons that had not been used before. I could sense something was coming, but I could never have imagined what would happen. 

They could have come to my home in Beijing to see me and take me away if they had wanted to. They could have come and questioned me at any time, but they never directly confronted me. When we approached the immigration checkpoint that day, I knew something was going to happen. A police officer took my passport and I saw the other police gathered in the hall begin moving toward me. Another police officer came and told me he had something to discuss. I followed him into another room. From there, I was led to a car, a black hood was put over my head and I was driven to an unknown area. That was the beginning of 81 days of solitary confinement....

Magnus Fiskesjö: China's Thousandfold Guantánamos

Thursday, 23 April 2020

I Am a Mad Scientist. By Kate Marvel

NB: An excellent, forthright and timely article. Battalions of political time-servers and sneering post-truthists need to think about what this person is saying - maybe expecting them to think is already asking too much. But the rest of us can wake up, if we wish to live and want succeeding generations not to curse us. Thank you, Dr Kate Marvel. DS the core of all useful models lies something true: the inescapable facts that mass and energy are conserved, that greenhouse gas traps heat, that a virus can turn a host cell into a factory for self-replication. Misinformation, rumors & hatred may go viral, but nothing is better at spreading than a virus itself. Politicians are powerful, but science is real...

I’ve heard it a couple times already, from a journalist, a family friend, a neighbor: You must be happy about all of this. The implication is that because I’m a climate scientist, I must be excited about this time of reduced economic activity and greenhouse emissions. The Earth is healing, they say. Nature is returning. Why wouldn’t I be glad about it?

Friends, I’m definitely not happy. I’m not even sad. What I am, more than anything, is angry. I’m angry at the very idea that there might be a silver lining in all this. There is not. Carbon dioxide is so long-lived in the atmosphere that a small decrease in emissions will not register against the overwhelming increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution. All this suffering will not make the planet any cooler. If the air quality is better now, if fewer people die from breathing in pollution, this is not a welcome development so much as an indictment of the way things were before.

The pandemic will kill more Americans than died in Vietnam // Trump suggests injections of disinfectant to cure coronavirus

We've reached a horrible place, where dead bodies are being transported to Philadelphia's medical examiner in the back of an open pickup truck. More than 47,000 have now died of coronavirus in the US. Even if we assume we're at the top of the curve, tens of thousands more will die. By this time next week, it seems very possible that more people will have died in the US of Covid-19 than the the 58,000 who died in nearly of decade of fighting in Vietnam. We're already far past the more than 35,000 who died in Korea.

Who will be held accountable for Trump's nonsensical ideas?
Medical experts denounce Trump's latest 'dangerous' suggestion: Trump has stunned viewers by suggesting that injections of disinfectant could cure coronavirus, a notion one medical expert described as “jaw-dropping.”  'It is incomprehensible to me that a moron like this holds the highest office in the land and that there exist people stupid enough to think this is OK. I can’t believe that in 2020 I have to caution anyone listening to the president that injecting disinfectant could kill you.' 

The country was much smaller during those conflicts. But everyone, it seemed, had a story. The same will be true now. Even if you don't know someone who has died of this disease, you can be sure the death toll includes relatives of people you've heard of. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's brother died and Rep. Maxine Waters' sister is dying, we learned Thursday. (Read this moving tribute by a former CNN colleague to his father, who died at 69 after 28 days on a ventilator in New York.)

Krishna Kumar: Doctors and teachers carry on with their duties, no matter what crisis engulfs the world

How doctors make sense of their life is hardly a mystery. Their profession gives them a high social status. Regular opportunity to put their knowledge into practice gives them professional satisfaction. In addition, there is personal satisfaction in healing or at least helping people when they are feeling miserable. No matter what branch or type of medical practice they are in, doctors follow a stressed routine and carry on their work, no matter what the circumstances or state of the patient. 

Surgeons are probably more stressed than general practitioners, but the difference is only of degree. Anyone who sees people in pain and discomfort on a daily basis cannot avoid the feeling that he or she is carrying a burden. The range of human misery a doctor encounters daily and attempts to address by choosing appropriate remedies is vast and therefore, stressful. Doctors who serve in wars are perhaps inspired by the same kind of positive emotions and sense of duty that soldiers have. The injuries suffered by the latter have a rationale — in the idea of the nation and its borders.

No such thing can be said about injuries suffered in a communal riot. It troubles me to think how doctors feel when they face people wounded during a violent riot such as the one Delhi witnessed in the last days of February. A sense of duty alone cannot explain the relentless effort many doctors made to treat people brought in from riot-ravaged Northeast Delhi with wounds caused by guns, knives and fire. Surely, these doctors must have wondered whether their long and demanding training in health and medicine deserved to be utilised in this way....

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Flooding will affect double the number of people worldwide by 2030 // Earth Day: Greta Thunberg calls for 'new path' after pandemic

The World Resources Institute, a global research group, found that 147 million people will be hit by floods from rivers and coasts annually by the end of the decade, compared with 72 million people just 10 years ago. Damages to urban property will soar from $174bn to $712bn per year. By 2050, “the numbers will be catastrophic,” according to the report. A total of 221 million people will be at risk, with the toll in cities costing $1.7tn yearly. When WRI first developed its flood modeling tool in 2014, the predictions felt “like a fantasy”, said Charlie Iceland, director of water initiatives at WRI. “But now we’re actually seeing this increase in magnitude of the damages in real time,” Iceland said. “We’ve never seen these types of floods before.”

Floods are getting worse because of the climate crisis, decisions to populate high-risk areas and land sinkage from the overuse of groundwater. The worst flooding will come in south and south-east Asia, including in Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and China, where large populations are vulnerable....

Climate strikes continue online: 'We want to keep the momentum going'

Earth Day: Greta Thunberg calls for 'new path' after pandemic
Greta Thunberg has urged people around the world to take a new path after the coronavirus pandemic, which she said proved “our society is not sustainable”. The Swedish climate activist said the strong global response to Covid-19 demonstrated how quickly change could happen when humanity came together and acted on the advice of scientists.

She said the same principles should be applied to the climate crisis. “Whether we like it or not, the world has changed. It looks completely different now from how it did a few months ago. It may never look the same again. We have to choose a new way forward,” she told a YouTube audience in a virtual meeting to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. “If the coronavirus crisis has shown us one thing, it is that our society is not sustainable. If one single virus can destroy economies in a couple of weeks, it shows we are not thinking long-term and taking risks into account.”...

A better world needs better economics - neoliberal economics is more ideology than science

A better world needs better economics
neoliberal economics is more ideology than science. Its devotees assume a world that exists only in the believer’s minds. Its assumptions blind its followers to the systemic failure of an economy that is destroying Earth’s capacity to support life while forcing most of the world’s people into an increasingly difficult daily struggle to fulfill their basic needs. The resulting social breakdown drives violence and support for authoritarian leaders...

America Might Be Least Prepared for What’s Coming

Hospitals don’t survive financially in the United States by keeping beds open and equipment idle. Even the system that is meant to keep us from dying answers to the gods of economics.

William Davies: The last global crisis didn't change the world. But this one could / Bram Ieven & Jan Overwijk - We created this beast
We'll find a treatment for coronavirus – but drug companies will decide who gets it