Showing posts from 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. The Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals

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 plan

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 sig

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. Th

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”. The Supreme Court, Gandhi and the RSS 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

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

PRESS STATEMENT Protest Irregularities and Sub-Human Conditions in Transportation of Stranded Migrant Fish Workers at Veraval Fishing Harbour Calls NPSSFW(I) 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 requeste

Jamaica Kincaid: I See the World

It begins in this way: © ROBERT / ADOBE STOCK. 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 s

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.  India coronavirus: The 'mystery' of low Covid-19 death rates 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

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, whic

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 co

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  coronavirus ,  the 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.

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 Rus

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 Herzegovina ,  Hungary ,  Moldova ,  Romania  and  Slovakia . The goal is to collect data on independent (i.e. not mai

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 c

'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

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 ha

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, “incit

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 i

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

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

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 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 O

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

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

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. Sam Kriss: 'Neoliberalism' isn't a left-wing insult but a monstrous system of inequality 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 treat