Wednesday, May 31, 2017

IIT Madras students protest against assault on PhD scholar who participated in beef fest

Around 80 IIT Madras students staged a protest outside the dean’s office on Wednesday demanding the expulsion of students accused of beating up PhD scholar, R Sooraj, for participating in a beef festival. The accused students, believed to be members of a right-wing group, have a history of violent behaviour and are “a threat to campus safety”, one of the protest organisers told Scroll.in.

The beef festival was held on Sunday evening by a group of 70-80 students in protest against the Centre’s directive banning the sale of cattle at animal markets for slaughter. Many say the directive violates personal rights and will hurt India’s cattle traders, who are largely Muslims. Students associated with two other groups – Revolutionary Students Youth Front and Democratic Youth Federation of India – also participated in the protest outside the campus on Wednesday. Police detained some of the agitating students while they were staging a rasta roko demonstration… 
read more: 
https://scroll.in/latest/839218/iit-madras-students-protest-against-assault-on-phd-scholar-who-participated-in-beef-fest

PAVAN KULKARNI - Savarkar, a Staunch Supporter of British Colonialism / How Savarkar Escaped Conviction For Gandhi’s Assassination

How Did Savarkar, a Staunch Supporter of British Colonialism, Come to Be Known as ‘Veer’?
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) – mythologised in popular imagination as ‘Veer Savarkar’ – not only refrained from participating in the freedom struggle after the British released him from prison on account of his relentless pleas for mercy, but also actively collaborated with the English rulers to whom he had declared his loyalty. At the time when Subhas Chandra Bose was raising his Indian National Army to confront the British in India, Savarkar helped the colonial government recruit lakhs of Indians into its armed forces. He further destabilised the freedom movement by pushing his Hindutva ideology, which deepened the communal divide at a time when a united front against colonial rule was needed. Post independence, Savarkar was also implicated in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder. 

Such is the man who was declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be “the true son of Mother India and inspiration for many people”, in his Twitter salutation to Savarkar on his birth anniversary on May 28 last year. In 2015, commemorating Savarkar on his 132nd birth anniversary, the prime minister bowed before a portrait of the Hindutva icon in remembrance of “his indomitable spirit and invaluable contribution to India’s history”. Finance minister Arun Jaitley was quick to follow up on the act. “Today, on birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar, let us remember & pay tribute to this great freedom fighter & social-political philosopher,” he tweeted. And somewhere in the stream of Twitter accolades from numerous BJP ministers that followed, the TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai joined the chorus, albeit with a caveat. While he disagreed “with his ideology”, Sardesai said he honoured Savarkar’s “spirit as freedom fighter”… read more
https://thewire.in/140172/veer-savarkar-the-staunchest-advocate-of-loyalty-to-the-english-government/

How Savarkar Escaped Conviction For Gandhi’s Assassination
Five months after India’s independence, on January 14, 1948, three members of the Hindu Mahasabha – Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte and Digambar Badge, an arms dealer regularly selling weapons to the Mahasabha – arrived at Savarkar Sadan in Bombay.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dalai Lama: "I am fully committed to the oneness of humanity"

Prayer doesn’t bring a peaceful world. We can pray for a thousand years and nothing will happen
I am a Buddhist, I have a daily practice of prayer but I do not believe prayer brings a peaceful world. We can keep praying for a thousand years and nothing will happen. We should be realistic. If you have the opportunity to meet the Buddha or Jesus Christ, ask them to bring peace to this world and they will certainly ask you, who creates violence? If god created violence, then yes, it’s relevant to appeal to god. I am certain that Buddha and Jesus Christ would tell us, you have created the problem, so it’s your responsibility to solve it.

We are all social animals and compassion, care and concern for others brings us together. Animals may be violent but only human beings make war. However, this may be changing. In the early part of the 20th century, when one nation declared war on the other, every citizen joined the war effort, without asking questions. This has no longer been the case from the latter part of the 20th century. When a government declares, or contemplates war, quite often citizens speak up against it. Many Americans were against the Vietnam War and during the Iraq War, millions expressed their desire for peace. So humans, I feel, are becoming more mature. They also know that war brings with it immense destruction. There are no winners. Everyone suffers. I am an admirer of the European Union. I think if the European Union hadn’t been formed, there would have been fighting among member states. Therefore, this is an indication that people are fed up with violence. People now consider common interest to be more important than just personal national interest and I admire this. I think there is hope.

On a world without violence: I think theoretically it’s possible. Now it all depends on our efforts, mainly through education and closer contact. The only way to remove suspicion is close friendships.

Great Barrier Reef can no longer be saved, Australian experts concede

The Great Barrier Reef – a canary in the coal mine for global warming – can no longer be saved in its present form partly because of the “extraordinary rapidity” of climate change, experts have conceded.
Instead, action should be taken to maintain the World Heritage Site's 'ecological function' as its ecological health declines, they reportedly recommended. 

Like coral across the world, the reef has been severely damaged by the warming of the oceans with up to 95 per cent of areas surveyed in 2016 found to have been bleached. Bleaching is not always fatal but a study last year found the “largest die-off of corals ever recorded” with about 67 per cent of shallow water coral found dead in a survey of a 700km stretch.

Now experts on a committee set up by the Australian government to improve the health of the reef have revealed that they believe the lesser target of maintaining its “ecological function” is more realistic. In a recent communique, the expert panel said they were “united in their concern about the seriousness of the impacts facing the Reef and concluded that coral bleaching since early 2016 has changed the Reef fundamentally”. “There is great concern about the future of the Reef, and the communities and businesses that depend on it, but hope still remains for maintaining ecological function over the coming decades,” it said.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/great-barrier-reef-dying-coral-bleaching-global-warming-australia-climate-change-a7761351.html


Joshua Wong, the student who risked the wrath of Beijing: By Tania Branigan

Cometh the hour, cometh the boy. Very much a boy: 17 and looking even younger behind his black-rimmed spectacles, with baggy shorts accentuating his skinniness and shaggy hair in need of a trim. Bright, well-mannered and slightly geeky, everyone’s son was about to become an international celebrity. In September 2014, an unprecedented wave of civil disobedience swept Hong Kong, with tens of thousands of people pouring on to the streets to call for democratic reforms. The shock wasn’t just seeing riot police deployed in the heart of a city regarded as apolitical, money-focused and essentially conservative. It was the numbers and sheer youth of these peaceful demonstrators, umbrellas held aloft to ward off teargas and pepper spray, as they confronted – peacefully, tidily and very, very politely – the wrath of Beijing.

The Face of Protest, in the words of Time’s cover, was teenager Joshua Wong. Fortune named him one of the world’s greatest leaders. It was the detention of Wong and other student protesters – for storming into the blocked-off government complex – that first brought sizeable crowds to the streets of Central district, and the heavy-handed response of police that catalysed that extraordinary, exhilarating moment known as the umbrella movement. But when I tracked him down after his release he dodged personal questions and, indeed, most others. He didn’t like the idea of movements getting hung up on stars.

Two-and-a-half years on, the battle has shifted from the streets to the polling booths. Wong, now 20, has co-founded a new party, Demosisto, and is studying for a politics degree, although, he says: “Sometimes it feels as if I major in activism and minor in university.” Earlier this month he was in Washington, testifying before the cameras to US senator Marco Rubio’s congressional-executive commission on China. When I meet him, in London, he is promoting the modestly titled Netflix documentary Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower. “Being famous is part of my job,” he suggests in the film. He’s even smartened up, with shorn hair and a rather dapper jacket… read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/14/joshua-wong-the-student-who-risked-the-wrath-of-beijing-its-about-turning-the-impossible-into-the-possible



Isis: The Origins of Violence – a brave documentary that will start many a fight. By Mark Lawson

One of the peculiarities of this week’s Bafta TV awards was the BBC receiving more prizes than Channel 4 by a ratio of 19 to 1. This may have been because of voters punishing the network for poaching The Great British Bake Off. But the results were unrepresentative of the state of television, because there is a sort of programme that only Channel 4, among British broadcasters, would and could make – and Isis: The Origins of Violence is a stark example.

Presenting foreign documentaries is often thought of as a glamorous profession – free air travel and hotel accommodation in hot places in exchange for a few pensive walking-talking shots – but this invitation to historian Tom Holland promised an explosion on his Twitter feed, and possibly one under his feet. While visiting sites of Isis atrocities that have not yet been made safe, he was required to address the philosophical question of whether Islamic doctrine contains a strain of thought that can be used to justify extreme violence and even genocide.

Although Holland rightly emphasised that the “vast majority of Muslims” find the deeds and reasoning of Isis abhorrent – and acknowledged that the west has its own history of bloodily targeting foreign lands in the name of God – this remained a courageous film exploring questions left unspoken in large parts of the media through a combination of liberalism and fear. Many articles have explained the origins of jihad and the Islamic State dream of a global caliphate, as Holland does, but he heads from there into rare depths.

As an essay of ideas, the film most resembles the work of Adam Curtis, although, rather than delivering his monologue of quizzical authority out of shot as Curtis does, Holland is constantly on screen, looking brooding on the tube or metro, or walking through ruins. There is one direct overlap between Isis: The Origins of Violence and Curtis’s trilogy The Power of Nightmares (2004)Both deal with the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian official executed in 1966 for attempting to assassinate President Nasser. Qutb’s rhetoric calling for a fundamentalist enforcement of Islamic laws as a bulwark against western decadence inspired first al-Qaida and then Isis, which – in the closest this topic has to a joke – was formed by terrorists expelled from al-Qaida for having views thought too brutal… read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/may/17/isis-the-origins-of-violence-a-brave-documentary-that-will-start-many-a-fight

see also





Monday, May 29, 2017

Mukul Kesavan - Lynch mob republic // Jharkhand lynching: NHRC asks DGP to file report within 4 weeks

These three years have seen the State fuse with the street to create a vigilante nation. If India's first national movement was a mobilization against foreign rulers, the new nationalism, the principal style of which is vigilantism, is directed at the enemy within. 'Vigilantism' used in this way needs an explanation. Vigilantes are ordinarily defined as people who take the law into their own hands. For example, Amitabh Bachchan (with the aid of Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra) dominated the box office in the Seventies and Eighties as the vigilante hero who tried to set an irredeemably corrupt world to rights. Films like Zanjeer, Deewaar and Coolie defined a new genre in Hindi cinema.

Plain vanilla vigilantism of the Bachchan sort is different from vigilante nationalism in two ways. First, it's a form of individual heroism whereas contemporary Indian vigilantism is organized and collective. Secondly, the filmi vigilante is at odds with the 'system' and the corrupt State that underwrites it. The modern Indian vigilante, on the other hand, is in a patron-client partnership with the State; this is not an adversarial relationship.  Modern vigilantes bend the system to their will and take the law into their hands with the tacit or explicit blessing of the State and in the name of the virtuous Nation. This is a Nation that is insufficiently realized because its coming into being has been thwarted by a false nationalism and a corruptly administered republic. The new vigilante is insurgent in this thwarted Nation's cause.

Even under Narendra Modi's new management the routines of the State and its institutions - courts, bureaucracies, uniformed services - aren't sufficiently responsive to the cause of the Nation. They need to be aided by organized citizen auxiliaries and revitalized by the spirit of vigilante nationalism which is simply an expression of the popular will, unmuffled by bureaucratic flannel. Since we're talking about State-vigilante coordination, it's important in this context to distinguish vigilante nationalism from vigilante counter-insurgency. Vigilantes of the sort who belong to militias like Salwa Judum or Sulfa or the Ikhwan force are renegade mercenaries. They are creatures of the State who serve a counter-insurgency purpose. Vigilante nationalists, on the other hand, are the soulmates of an ideological party, bound to it by a common purpose: the forging of a Hindu nation.

Yogi Adityanath's provincial government is the first fruit of this fusion of the State and the street. Adityanath is best understood as Uttar Pradesh's Chief Vigilante. His democratic mandate legitimizes his private vigilante militia, the Hindu Yuva Vahini. The anti-Romeo squads who police Hindu-Muslim romance, the cow goondas who patrol UP's highways attacking cattle transporters and butchers are examples of the state government of India's most populous province informally sub-contracting out law enforcement functions to avowedly Hindu militias. The political patrons of these vigilante nationalists sometimes prioritize the galvanizing of the nationalist street over the maintenance of law and order. There have been a series of beatings and lynchings in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party which have resulted in Muslims at the receiving end being booked and their assailants defended by BJP office bearers, ministers and chief ministers. Undeterred by the violence, BJP state governments have made the cattle trade conditional on so much paperwork that they have effectively laid the groundwork for protection rackets run by vigilante militias…

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the director general of police in Jharkhand to file a report within four weeks into the alleged lynching of few men, who were suspected to be child-lifters.

Joshua Robertson - Australian convict pirates in Japan: evidence of 1830 voyage unearthed

An amateur historian has unearthed compelling evidence that the first Australian maritime foray into Japanese waters was by convict pirates on an audacious escape from Tasmania almost two centuries ago. Fresh translations of samurai accounts of a “barbarian” ship in 1830 give startling corroboration to a story modern scholars had long dismissed as convict fantasy: that a ragtag crew of criminals encountered a forbidden Japan at the height of its feudal isolation.

The brig Cyprus was hijacked by convicts bound from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour in 1829, in a mutiny that took them all the way to China. Its maverick skipper was William Swallow, a onetime British cargo ship apprentice and naval conscript in the Napoleonic wars, who in a piracy trial in London the following year told of a samurai cannonball in Japan knocking a telescope from his hand.
Swallow’s fellow mutineers, two of whom were the last men hanged for piracy in Britain, backed his account of having been to Japan.

Western researchers, citing the lack of any Japanese record of the Cyprus, had since ruled the convicts’ story a fabrication. But that conclusion has been shattered by Nick Russell, a Japan-based English teacher and history buff, in a remarkable piece of sleuthing that has won the endorsement of Australian diplomatic officials and Japanese and Australian archival experts. Russell, after almost three years of puzzling over an obscure but meticulous record of an early samurai encounter with western interlopers, finally joined the dots with the Cyprus through a speculative Google search last month. The British expatriate all but solved what was for the Japanese a 187-year mystery, while likely uncovering vivid new detail of an epic chapter of colonial Australian history.  “If you’d said I was going to go hunt and find a new pirate ship, I’d have gone, ‘you’re crazy’,” Russell told Guardian Australia. “I just stumbled on it. Boom. There it was on the screen in front of me.

“I immediately knew and as soon as I started checking, everything just fitted so perfectly.”
The ship anchored on 16 January 1830 off the town of Mugi, on Shikoku island, where Makita Hamaguchi, a samurai sent disguised as a fisherman to check the ship for weapons, noted an “unbearable stench in the vicinity of the ship”... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/28/australian-convict-pirates-in-japan-evidence-of-1830-voyage-unearthed


Amitabha Pande - Political expediency cannot trump justice

NEVER before in its history has the Indian Administrative Service witnessed a perversion of justice as terrifying as that evidenced in the conviction of HC Gupta (former Coal Secretary) for his role in the alleged coal scam. Gupta is not just another retired senior civil servant but an icon who represents the gold standard for rectitude and probity in public service. When such an officer is made a scapegoat, we realise how deep the rot has gone into the entrails of our government and body politic.What really is the case against HC Gupta? The charge is that Gupta, as Chairman of the Screening Committee for coal block allocations, conspired to ignore a deliberate misrepresentation of facts by the applicant relating to his company's net worth and existing capacity to secure an allocation despite his ineligibility under the Ministry guidelines. Though the final decision was taken by the Ministers and the Secretary Coal was only making a recommendation, this negligence on the part of Gupta and his two junior colleagues meant that the Ministers were misled into accepting the recommendation. 

This "lack of due diligence" amounted to a conspiracy to cheat involving criminal misconduct because the applicant indirectly derived a pecuniary benefit from this "omission". In all this, did Gupta and his colleagues derive any pecuniary or other benefit themselves? No. Was there any mala fide intention on their part? Was the due procedure for processing applications circumvented or short-circuited? Were any of the multiple levels of scrutiny in that an application must go through, avoided? Is there any evidence or charge that the officers succumbed to political pressure in making their recommendation? Was there any knowing conspiracy to withhold information from the decision-makers? Were the three officers convicted the only ones who handled this and 1,422 other applications for 38 coal blocks and were they personally responsible for proper verification of the information provided to them? Have others in the long chain of scrutiny and screening of these applications been charged or convicted? Have the Ministers in charge of taking the final decision on all applications been charged with conspiracy? Have officials down the chain of command in different ministries responsible for scrutiny been similarly charged? Have five years of investigation into allegedly one of the biggest “scams” in government history yielded any evidence of large-scale bribery, political-level corruption, deal fixing, blatant cronyism, political manipulation and extortion that allegedly took place and have any persons been charged for these offences? No, no and no.

Is this then not bizarre and perverse? We need to unravel the multiple layers of perversity in which this case is wrapped to fully understand its ramifications. First, at the macro political level. CAG Vinod Rai's disastrously flawed audit of coal block allocations perversely interpreted the screening-committee procedure for allocations — a practice based on the extant policy — as an irregularity that had caused a massive presumptive revenue loss. This, in turn, was made out to be a "scam"..
read more:


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Violent Thoughts About Slavoj Zizek by Simon Critchley

Slavoj Zizek has been telling lies about me. He attacked a recent book of mine, Infinitely Demanding, in the London Review of Books. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse, but I will spare the reader the grisly details. What I would like to do here is to use this debate as a lever for trying to think about the difficult question of the nature and plausibility of a politics of non-violence and try and explore what I see as the complex dialectic of violence and non-violence. Those with an eye for detail might notice that the following represents both a clarification and a shift in the position on violence and non-violence presented in Infinitely Demanding.

I would like to begin by discussing Zizek’s recently published book Violence and then expand and deepen my focus by way of a reading of Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’. This will lead to a thinking through of the idea of divine violence and an interpretation of the Biblical commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’, the injunction to non-violence. In conclusion, I will turn to the specifics of the political disagreement between myself and Zizek, which turn on the question of the relation between authoritarianism and anarchism.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Before Yogi Adityanath’s visit, Dalit villagers got shampoo, soap to ‘clean themselves’ // GST’s Cultural Statement: Sindoor Is Pure, Blood Is Dirty

NB: No amount of soap can cleanse the minds of patriarchs and racists - DS

A DAY before Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s visit on Thursday, the 100-odd Musahar Dalit families of Mainpur Deenapatti village in Kushinagar district received two bars of soap, ‘Lifebuoy’ and ‘Ghari’, a sachet of shampoo, and instructions to “clean themselves” before attending the public meeting. “I got the soaps from the Anganwadi women. I didn’t get the shampoo, but others did. I was told to take a bath with the soap before going for the meeting. We already use soap which we buy from the local shop. What’s going to change with just two bars of soap,” said Keshri, a villager in her sixties.

The village, mainly consisting of thatched huts, saw a lot of activity in the week leading to Adityanath’s visit. Villagers pointed out the new pavement made of cement and bricks, about a dozen freshly-dug pits for construction of toilets, repaired hand-pumps and posters of Swachh Bharat Mission. “About two years ago, the area was in the grip of cholera. The handpumps were installed then, after a visit by the district magistrate. Many people don’t bathe for two or three days. We are trying to change that, but not much can be done when we live in such poverty. We are all labourers, we don’t have enough land to construct a house. Many children still don’t get adequate nutrition. Yogi Baba ke aane se fark padega (Yogi’s visit will make a difference),” said Dharmendra Prasad, a school dropout who works as a farm labourer.

Prasad said they had informed officials that most of the handpumps pump out water which is yellow and stinks. “Earlier, many children used to get Japanese Encephalitis. Many got tuberculosis. The situation has become slightly better in the last few years. Officials have assured us that they will do something. This is the first time that there is focus on our locality. We have also been given new ration cards to help us get wheat and rice,” he said.

Most of the huts are not more than 15X8 feet. Each family has about four to six children. “My husband works as a labourer in Chennai. I have to feed four children. I sometimes work as a labourer. If we earn Rs 50-60 in a day, we need to buy wheat and rice with that money,” said Durgawati. Her youngest child is six months old, while the oldest is an 11-year-old girl.

Dinesh, another villager, and his wife, Keshri Devi, have five children. “The hut leaks when it rains, and we have to seek shelter in the corners of the hut all night. We don’t have any money to buy a tarpaulin,” said Devi, adding, “the two bars of soap are not going to last forever.” Dinesh said he and his children often suffer from diarrhoea. “It gets better when we take tablets, but then starts again,” he said. Meanwhile, Anganwadi worker Asha Kushwaha said she did not have any information on who distributed the bars of soap and shampoo. Pointing out that poverty is the primary concern, she said, “They earn so little. Their main worry is food.”

District Magistrate Andra Vamsi said the administration did not issue any orders in this regard. “But it was a programme organised to promote cleanliness. It included making villages open-defecation free and maintaining hygiene. All Anganwadi workers and ANMs (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) were given instructions to promote cleanliness, which is crucial to stop diseases like kala azar. So, whoever distributed the soaps has to be appreciated,” he said. Village pradhan Bhagwat Yadav said he was not aware about the distribution of the bars of soap and shampoo. However, he said that in the past too, the Musahars, all landless labourers, have been given instructions about maintaining hygiene.

Under the new GST regime to be effective from 1 July 2017, sindoor, bangles and bindis have been exempted from tax. However, sanitary pads are still considered to be "luxury" goods and will be taxed at the rate of 12% (lower than the earlier 14.5%). The campaigns run and petitions signed to exempt sanitary napkins from taxes did little to stir the patriarchal mindset of the ruling regime. What does this imply about the attitudes of the Hindu majority in India? Firstly, the sindoor-choodi-bindi trio is a traditional Hindu metaphor for a married woman. Indeed, assertion of marital status is hardly so explicit in female followers of other religions. Unmarried women are not required to adorn themselves with these accoutrements and widows are prohibited from wearing them

Now on to sanitary pads—according to a study by AC Nielsen in 2011, sanitary pads are used by merely 12% of the 355 million women who menstruate in India. Nearly three quarters of women admitted that their families could not afford sanitary pads. Yet the ruling regime has evidently put the needs of Hindu married women before those of every female in the country who has attained puberty and menstruates. Healthcare and education have always been the last priority for India, exemplified by its meagre allocation of GDP towards these sectors. We are obviously a lot more proactive about safeguarding cultural practices… read more:

Friday, May 26, 2017

The CIA's Intervention in Afghanistan Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Paris, 15-21 January 1998

The CIA's Intervention in Afghanistan: Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,  President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser  Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998 

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter, Dies at 89

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

Translated from the French by Bill Blum. The URL of this article is: 


Sikhs And Hindus In A Punjab Village Joined Hands To Build A Mosque Ahead Of Ramzan

In a shining instance of communal harmony and the spirit of brotherhood, members of the Sikh and Hindu communities came together to build a mosque for their Muslim brethren in a village in Punjab.
A report in the Times Of India mentioned that in the village of Ghalib Ran Singh Waal, which is dominated by Sikhs and Hindus, a mosque was inaugurated just as the month of Ramzan is going to begin. Earlier, the Muslim community had to visit nearby villages for their namaaz.

The TOI report quoted Liaqat Ali, a resident of the village, as saying that their long cherished demand has been fulfilled and that the beautiful Hazrat Abu Bakar mosque is an Eid gift for them.
The village of Ghalib Ran Singh Waal has a population of 1,300, out of which around 700 are Sikhs, 200 Hindus, and 150 are Muslims. The Muslims had mostly settled in the village after the partition.
The Shahi Imam of Punjab, Maulana Habib Ur Rehman Saani Ludhianvi, said that it is a big gesture of brotherhood on part of the villagers. It was a long pending demand of the local Muslim community which will now be able to pray in its own mosque, the TOI report said.

Although the resolution to construct the mosque was passed in 1998, it was only last year that construction began with the help of the villagers. Village sarpanch Jagdeep Kaur mentioned that her village is the epitome of communal harmony. She also said that a temple is now being made with the combined efforts of the villagers. The village also has a Nanaksar Gurdwara, where members of all the faiths go to pay their respects.


Jaswinder Kumar, a resident of Ghalib Ran Singh Waal, said that there had hardly been any instance of communal violence in their village. Fellow resident, Om Kumar, added that they wanted to tell those fighting in the name of religion that they should instead work together. "Our village is a perfect example of how members from various communities can come together in a peaceful manner, and respect each other's faith," he said.

Book review: How the Nazis Made Art Fascist

Benjamin Martin: The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture
Reviewed by IAN BEACOCK

Keystone/Getty Imagges
Cary Grant was there. So was the distinguished silent film star Mary Pickford. Tyrone Power, handsome swashbuckler of stage and screen, showed up with his new wife, the glamorous French actress Annabella. As they did every summer, the world’s rich and famous had descended upon Venice to toss back flutes of prosecco at the Biennale and step out at the Film Festival. In August 1939, however, the guest of honor was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist and the cultural czar of the Third Reich. Goebbels made a dramatic entrance by gondola, gliding down the Grand Canal as swastika flags rippled from bridges and windowsills. Italian newsreels show the propaganda minister sunning himself aboard a sailboat and leading a nighttime rally in the Piazza San Marco. Within weeks of Goebbels’ Venetian tour, German tanks thundered into Poland. Europe was once again at war.


Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany formalized their military alliance in May 1939. Yet both powers recognized that hegemony in Europe and the Mediterranean required the projection of cultural influence as much as the force of arms. And so they set about remaking European civilization in their own image. During the 1930s, Berlin and Rome built a right-wing network of international organizations for film, music, literature, and academic scholarship. These bodies lent prestige to the Nazi–fascist project while laying the groundwork for a new idea of Europe itself: not liberal and cosmopolitan but racially pure and authoritarian—a sharp rebuke to the mixed, messy democratic modernity of France, Britain, and the United States. The Venice Film Festival was the finest jewel in the Nazi–fascist cultural crown, founded by Mussolini’s regime in 1932 as an aesthetic counterweight to Hollywood commercialism.

This is the story narrated with great erudition and grace by Benjamin Martin in his new book The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture. The insidious spread of what Martin calls “the soft power of Nazi and fascist imperialism” is a staggering tale of geopolitical and intellectual ambition. It is all the more astonishing for having been overlooked for so long. Drawing upon libraries and archives in five different countries, Martin’s work is a dazzling transnational history of ideas and institutions as well as a major contribution to our understanding of fascism and the Third Reich: Martin reveals how cultural initiatives unlock the political imagination of the interwar radical right. It was in concert halls and boardrooms and along red carpets that sinister ideologues like Goebbels most fully revealed their plans to remake European civilization and overturn the global order.

The book also lands with more shuddering force than its author could have anticipated. More than any moment since the 1930s, we suddenly face the prospect of a world system principally shaped by the extreme right. .. read more:


PATRICK BLANCHFIELD: Mirror Stage President

No amount of coverage seems to be enough, and what coverage there is always falls short


Can we diagnose the omnipresent? It might be more productive to read Trump as a symptom. The vector of contagion - those screens - leaps out. Trump, of course, isn’t just at home on screen - he is personally at home with them, surrounded by them. In some respects, this is typical: just another 70-year-old white man who begins his mornings with television, monitors television throughout the day, and retires, fairly early, to watch more television at night. Like many such men, he’s said to occasionally respond to the television by talking at it angrily, and, also like many such men, he is particularly fond of Fox News. What sets Trump apart from the stereotype is that what he primarily watches on TV is himself. What for us is a screen is for Trump a mirror, and he gets to have mirrors everywhere… It’s here that a little bit of psychoanalysis can help

SIGMUND FREUD only made one trip to the United States, in 1909. What he saw didn’t impress him. For all its shortcomings, the Austro-Hungarian Empire - the era’s other highly diverse, federalist nation - at least maintained a robust welfare system, gave official recognition to multiple religious confessions (including Islam), and offered a pretense, however tenuous, of multi-ethnic solidarity. “America,” by contrast, “[was] a mistake; a gigantic mistake, but a mistake.”.. In the US, Freud saw a society of runaway exploitation held together—uneasily—by a cynical rhetoric of “progress,” sham protestations of universal equality, and a cult of national exceptionalism and divinely ordained manifest destiny. Instead of producing leaders who represented the nation at its best and brightest, American democracy, Freud believed, had a habit of producing ones who embodied its worst; the US was “the psychological poverty of groups” exemplified. Then as now, Americans have never taken kindly to such criticism; Freud anticipated American resistance to psychoanalysis as a matter of course, observing to Carl Jung, his traveling companion on that US tour, that “we’re bringing them the plague.”


He wasn’t wrong. Nothing quite captures Americans’ ambivalence toward Freud’s great export as our oft-professed contempt for what we like to call “armchair psychoanalysis.” The term is synonymous with uninformed commentary and fatuous pontification, delivered in the same mode - and from the same piece of furniture - as our other great vice: armchair quarterbacking. But our condemnations of armchair psychoanalysis hardly diminish our appetite for it - or its ubiquity. Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave the term a novel spin when he condemned a federal judge in Hawaii for blocking President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration from Muslim-majority countries. “Judges,” Sessions said, “don’t get to psychoanalyze the President to see if the order he issues is lawful.” In Sessions’s view, apparently, considering Trump’s immigration order alongside his numerous on-the-record statements about pursuing a “Muslim ban” is neither basic common sense nor jurisprudential due diligence: it’s so much “psychoanalysis.” .. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, Trump’s critics argue that it’s long past time to revisit the so-called Goldwater Rule, the portion of the American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics that bars psychiatric professionals from making statements about the mental health of public figures whom they have not personally examined. “Does Trump need to lie to my face for me to know he lies all the time?” asked one prominent psychologist last month. “He does lie to my face—every night. I watch TV!”.. read more:
https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/mirror-stage-president/

OMAR ROBERT HAMILTON - Refugee Stasis

The camp is the end of the liberal order, the end of the post-WW II world, the end of human rights.

“My friend,” TZEZHS4XS01082016 says when a new man—young, well-fed, bored—appears on the other side of the wiring. “Please. My name. I haven’t heard it.”

THE BOY DIDN’T SLEEP IN THE TENT last night. He has someplace he goes. In the city maybe. It’s better, there’s more space when he’s gone. But TZEZHS4XS01082016 can’t help but feel jealous. TZEZHS4XS01082016 hasn’t been able to leave the camp for months. He could leave if he wanted, but what if they called his name while he was out? He lifts his wrist up, clicks on the light on his watch. 07:31. Why even check the time? It annoys him every time he does it. It’s best to forget the time. What do you need to know the time for? He checks under his pillow for the plastic, the paper within. He worries that he’ll unfold and fold it so many times that it will tear, that some crucial letter will become illegible. But he still needs to check it.

The January snows fell hard. A rivulet of muddy water runs past his tent.
His nylon tent sags heavy under the snow.
He presses his feet into his sodden shoes. Feels his jacket to see if it has dried. It hasn’t. Nothing has. But he has to go outside. He has to listen for his name.

The camp spreads high up the hillside, tents, barbed wire, containers, rubble, trash, people, waiting. Moria. Every day people come and people go, but he stays. Moria. The camp of listening. Every day they read names out and hand papers back through the metal fence at the center of the camp. But whose names? Whose papers? TZEZHS4XS01082016 has been here so long. Sometimes people pass through within a week. And some, it is true, have been here even longer. If they would just give him a sign, an appointment, a look at a list, anything. If he knew they weren’t going to call his name he would walk into the city, he could maybe buy some shoes, he’d spend the day keeping warm inside his tent. But there is no list, no sign, no answers, there is only waiting.

There is movement inside the fence. The Greeks have arrived. The young men with neat beards and soft chins stand behind the razor wire with new papers in their hands. They mangle names with their accents. People from the camp gravitate quickly toward them, listening for a familiar sound. “Abdooola!” the call rises. “Abdoooola!” TZEZHS4XS01082016, his paper tight in his hand, presses forward to the fence. Maybe today. “My friend,” he says through the metal wiring. “My name. I haven’t heard it.” TZEZHS4XS01082016 presses his precious document up against the wiring. “Look. My friend, please look.”

The man, half his age, does not look at him. He flicks to his next paper, calls another name out toward the camp.  Maybe they called TZEZHS4XS01082016 months ago and he didn’t hear it...


What Orwell Saw - and what he missed - about today’s world By THOMAS E. RICKS

While spending the last three years immersed in the works of George Orwell for a book I was researching and writing, I often was struck by how often his writing speaks to the problems of today. That’s especially impressive, given that he died in 1950. The dystopian future Orwell portrays in 1984 helps illuminate our post-9/11 world. In the novel, the government of “Big Brother” carries on a perpetual war that, as in American life today, “involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at.” And just as young Americans today have lived with that anti-terror campaign all their lives, so too 1984’s hero, “Winston,” “could not definitely remember a time when his country had not been at war.” 

Orwell would not be surprised that the U.S. government, prosecuting such a war, officially endorsed the use of torture, for the first time in its history. Nor would Orwell have been surprised by President Trump’s limited vocabulary of words like “sad,” “bad” and “amazing.” In 1984, the government purposely dumbed down language, with “excellent” and “splendid” replaced by “plusgood” and “doubleplusgood.” Yet Orwell was hardly all-seeing. He never visited the United States, and so perhaps as a result did not grasp the resiliency of capitalism. He wrote in 1943 that “an economy ruled by the profit motive is simply not equal to re-arming on a modern scale.” That assertion might have been true of the Britain of the 1930s, which had a declining economy that had failed to adequately fund innovation. But over the last eight decades, the United States has proved his assertion to be incorrect three times- first during World War II, then again during the Eisenhower-era Cold War buildup, and finally in the post-Vietnam rebuilding of the American military, when Reaganite defense spending combined with computers to create a powerful new U.S. military machine built around precision-guided weapons and the swift transmission of data.

As a consequence, Orwell also underestimated how intrusive Western states and companies could become. This was in part because his views on the limitations of capitalism were formed by what he observed in mid-20th century Britain - that is, a nation caught in stagnating, late Industrial Age capitalism. The highest goal of that ageing structure was efficiency, which meant that companies sought profits by having managers squeeze a little more money out of existing systems and workers. Hence he thought that industry could only succeed through ever-greater repression of labor. “Unless there is some unpredictable change in human nature,” he concluded, “liberty and efficiency must pull in opposite directions.”

Orwell could not see that with the dawn of the Information Age several decades later, efficiency would become far less economically significant than innovation and adaptiveness. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and myriad other late-twentieth-century companies did not offer faster typewriters. They created entirely new products, such as handheld computers and applications for them. They were hardly efficient in doing so, because innovation is necessarily a wasteful process, producing many more failures than successes. For example, the extraordinary ups and downs in the career of Apple’s Steve Jobs of Apple were beyond anything Orwell witnessed in his own country. Nor were these new companies built on repressing their employees: They could compete only by lavishing money, stock options and other benefits on workers capable of imagining and developing attractive new products.


But Orwell likely would have been fascinated about the next step these innovative new corporations took... read more:
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/23/george-orwell-1984-modern-day-215177




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fascist, Go Home! After Bombing, Manchester Residents Shut Down Anti-Muslim Demo

In the aftermath of Monday’s tragic bombing, the people of Manchester showed little patience with the racist opportunists of the extreme right English Defence League, quickly confronting EDL attempts at provoking a xenophobic and anti-Muslim backlash. The immigrant-scapegoating EDL picketed outside of the Arndale Mall Tuesday, spewing Islamophobic slurs and hoisting the Union Jack. The demonstration followed shortly after the panicked evacuation of the shopping center.
However, the far-right horde was quickly outnumbered by counter-protesters. One man, filmed by Reuters, strongly denounced the EDL fascists while onlookers clapped and nodded.


“The people of Manchester don’t stand with your xenophobia and racism,” he said, adding, “The people of Manchester are going to stick together, no matter what religion you follow, no matter what the color of your skin is. “We’re not going to stand with people like you,” he shouted at the right-wingers. “We’re going to stick together because together we are stronger and the people of Manchester are not going to be afraid of who is responsible for this violence,” he continued.

International Hawkers' Day: Sustainable Consumption, Sustainability in Value Chain and Hawkers. By T. Vijayendra

International Hawkers' Day May 26

Sustainable Consumption, Sustainability in Value Chain and Hawkers

T. Vijayendra

Life on earth can be divided in two parts – plant life and animal life. The difference between the two is that plants produce their own food whereas animals, humans included, live directly or indirectly on food produced by plants. To sustain themselves, humans consume goods and services not only from plant sources but also from inanimate sources such as minerals. These are called renewable and non-renewable resources respectively. Non-renewable resources are finite in nature by definition; in other words, the more we use them, the scarcer they get. Renewable sources, like plants, trees and agriculture, are by definition renewed in nature; both by natural processes and helped by human efforts.

Now, a rough definition of sustainability is that we consume resources in such a way the same level of resources we enjoyed is available to succeeding generations and all other forms of life. This issue was not important in history because our population was small and levels of consumption per capita was also small. Today, both have increased substantially.

The large heart of the working class: the small town in America's Deep South that welcomes 1,500 refugees a year. By Katy Long

Clarkston, a small town in Georgia, has received over 40,000 refugees over the past 25 years. They come from every corner of the globe. This year there are more Congolese than Syrians; past waves of refugee resettlement have brought Bhutanese, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalis, Sudanese, Liberians, Vietnamese. All have landed in an otherwise unremarkable city in the Deep South, pop: 13,000. 
Hekmatullah, an Afghan refugee, pours chai as his wife Waheeda watches on. Hekmatullah worked as a journalist for 25 years before coming to America. He now works in a retail distribution center in Atlanta.
Hekmatullah, an Afghan refugee, pours chai as his wife Waheeda watches on. Hekmatullah worked as a journalist for 25 years before coming to America. Photograph: Jessie Parks for the Guardian
Look beyond the 1970s strip malls, apartment complexes and parking lots, and there are sights rarely seen elsewhere in America. Beige storefronts are topped by signs in Amharic and Nepali scripts, with evocative English translations: Balageru Food Mart, African Cultural and Injera Grocers, Numsok Oriental Grocers. Women gather nearby wearing bright African headscarves, and others cross the street in traditional Asian silk dresses, long black hair braided down their backs.

But foreigners are not the only migrants to Clarkston. The self-proclaimed “Ellis Island of the south” is now seeing not only refugees and poor immigrants arrive. Its reputation has prompted a swell of middle-class professional Americans, who – in the words of the city’s 34-year-old mayor, Ted Terry – are “in search of all the trappings of diversity”. Terry, who has a hipster beard, checked shirt and odd socks, was welcoming a delegation from the Middle East, who had come to see how Clarkston manages its diverse refugee community. “My goal with Clarkston is to showcase it,” he explained. “I didn’t make this place a compassionate community – yes, we enshrined it in an official way, but it was a compassionate and welcoming community long before I got here.” 
A refugee woman and her children inside the Friends of Refugees community garden in Clarkston, Georgia.
A refugee woman and her children inside the Friends of Refugees community garden in 
Clarkston, Georgia. Photograph: Jessie Parks for the Guardian
How does this happen? How does a dusty, working-class city in the south not only manage to house 1,500 refugees per year, but make their welcome integral to the town’s sense of identity? It turns out the story of Clarkston is not just about who is being welcomed: it’s also a story about who is doing the welcoming. In the corner of Clarkston’s downtown parking lot is a bright red food truck selling artisanal coffee, the kind of sleek minimalist outfit that would not look out of place in San Francisco or New York, under the logo reading “Refuge Coffee”. It was founded by a recent American arrival... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/24/clarkston-georgia-refugee-resettlement-program

Nick Hopkins - How Facebook flouts Holocaust denial laws except where it fears being sued

Facebook’s policies on Holocaust denial will come under fresh scrutiny following the leak of documents that show moderators are being told not to remove this content in most of the countries where it is illegal. The files explain that moderators should take down Holocaust denial material in only four of the 14 countries where it is outlawed, if reported. One document says the company “does not welcome local law that stands as an obstacle to an open and connected world” and will only consider blocking or hiding Holocaust denial messages and photographs if “we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk”. A picture of a concentration camp with the caption “Never again Believe the Lies” was permissible if posted anywhere other than the four countries in which Facebook fears legal action, one document explains. Facebook contested the figures but declined to elaborate.

The social media service has also decided that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers should be regarded as a “quasi-protected category” – so they will not receive the protections given to other vulnerable groups. Documents show Facebook has told moderators to remove dehumanising speech or any “calls for violence” against refugees. Content “that says migrants should face a firing squad or compares them to animals, criminals or filth” also violate its guidelines. But it adds: “As a quasi-protected category, they will not have the full protections of our hate speech policy because we want to allow people to have broad discussions on migrants and immigration which is a hot topic in upcoming elections.”

According to the documents, comments permitted under the policy include ones such as: “Islam is a religion of hate. Close the borders to immigrating Muslims until we figure out what the hell is going on”; “migrants are so filthy”; “migrants are thieves and robbers”; and “Mexican immigrants are freeloaders mooching off of tax dollars we don’t even have”. The documents show moderators have been told they do not have to delete comment such as “Fuck immigrant” and “Keep the horny migrant teenagers away from our daughters”... read more:



‘Nature’s Grandchildren’

‘Nature’s Grandchildren’ 
Aseem Shrivastava's essay for a new website on Radical Ecological Democracy
Can we be human in the absence of nature, asked Rabindranath.

To Civilization
Give back the wilderness, take away the city
Embrace if you will your steel, brick and stone walls
O newfangled civilization! Cruel all-consuming one, 
Return all sylvan, secluded, shaded and sacred spots
And traditions of innocence. Come back evenings
When herds returned suffused in evening light,
Serene hymns were sung, paddy accepted as alms
And bark-clothes worn. Rapt in devotion,
One meditated on eternal truths then single-mindedly.
No more stone-hearted security or food fit for kings -
We’d rather breathe freely and discourse openly!
We’d rather get back the strength that we had,
Burst through all barriers that hem us in and feel
This boundless Universe’s pulsating heartbeat!

(Rabindranath Tagore, Sabhyatar-Prati, from Chaitali, 1896, Translated by Fakrul Alam)

Deeply resonant with William Blake’s poem London, in which the poet laments “the mind-forg’d manacles” of the great city which left “marks of weakness, marks of woe” on “every face” he met, Rabindranath’s poem Sabhyatar-Prati is only one among thousands of poems, songs, plays and stories where he illuminates how metropolitan humanity’s growing alienation from the natural world continues to enervate it, draining it of the vitality it once had and which it could possess again if ecological integrity could be restored to our relationship to nature. 

Rabindranath believes that the inevitable ecological alienation involved in metropolitan life cripples our cognition profoundly, leaving humanity in a condition of an ultimately destructive spiritual destitution. Intimacy with the natural world from a formative age is the only way to restore humanity to spiritual and ecological health. This, to him, is the core of his practical religion as well as his pedagogy. Writing about Vishwabhaati University (which he set up in Birbhum in Bengal) in his essay Creative Unity, he writes:   

‘The one abiding ideal in the religious life of India has been mukti, the deliverance of man’s soul from the grip of self, its communion with the Infinite Soul through its union in ananda with the universe… This religion of spiritual harmony is not a theological doctrine to be taught, as a subject in the class, for half an hour each day. 

World is plundering Africa's wealth for 'billions of dollars a year'

More wealth leaves Africa every year than enters it – by more than $40bn (£31bn) – according to research that challenges “misleading” perceptions of foreign aid. Analysis by a coalition of UK and African equality and development campaigners including Global Justice Now, published on Wednesday, claims the rest of the world is profiting more than most African citizens from the continent’s wealth. It said African countries received $162bn in 2015, mainly in loans, aid and personal remittances. But in the same year, $203bn was taken from the continent, either directly through multinationals repatriating profits and illegally moving money into tax havens, or by costs imposed by the rest of the world through climate change adaptation and mitigation.


This led to an annual financial deficit of $41.3bn from the 47 African countries where many people remain trapped in poverty, according to the report, Honest Accounts 2017. The campaigners said illicit financial flows, defined as the illegal movement of cash between countries, account for $68bn a year, three times as much as the $19bn Africa receives in aid.

Tim Jones, an economist from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “The key message we want to get across is that more money flows out of Africa than goes in, and if we are to address poverty and income inequality we have to help to get it back.” The key factors contributing to this inequality include unjust debt payments and multinational companies hiding proceeds through tax avoidance and corruption, he said. African governments received $32bn in loans in 2015, but paid more than half of that – $18bn – in debt interest, with the level of debt rising rapidly… read more:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is this the most perfect love story

The time was June 1975, and I was hitchhiking around Switzerland and France the summer before grad school in Chicago. I had ended up in Neuchâtel that day by chance; the ride I caught was going there. The youth hostel was somewhere up the hill, but I was hot and thirsty, so I plopped down on the terrace of Café Pam-Pam. Finally I spoke to her, asking as best I could in French if she’d like to play, pointing at the chessboard. She responded in French, “Pardon?” I tried to carefully repeat my question. She responded in English, “Perhaps we should speak English.”

Maïf, short for Marie-France, was 19 and had lived in Neuchâtel all her life. She was at the cafe, her regular after-school hangout, for a coffee, cigarette and game of pinball. She’d just finished a day of Baccalaureate exams to graduate from high school. Over the next two days, Maïf showed me her town. We walked along cobblestone streets up to the 12th-Century castle where she’d played as a young girl with her German shepherd, Kathy. We sprawled on the grass by the lake, the white Alps in the distance. We stayed out until dawn at a low-key club where she gave me a coin for the jukebox and asked me to punch in G5 for her favourite song by George Benson. We were joined for a while by a suave older guy she knew. He clearly disliked that she was with me.

During those two days together, we never even kissed. I was smitten, but she had a boyfriend in Canada, and would soon be joining him at university to study English. I was too shy to tell her how I felt. So I left. I stuck out my thumb again and caught rides to… somewhere that I’ve completely forgotten. Then, after a few days, I gave in and went back to Neuchâtel, back to Café Pam-Pam. Before long, here came Maïf on her little black scooter, putt-putting up the hill. After a coffee, she took me to her house around the corner, where her grandmother made us an omelette for lunch. I’d never had an omelette for lunch. We ate in the kitchen at a table that’s still there.

I stayed one more night in Neuchâtel. I still had more exploring to do before flying back to the US, and it was too painful to stay longer. We said goodbye in front of her house, and there we finally kissed, but just on each cheek as Europeans do with friends. As I turned and walked away, Maïf let out a low groaning sound. Any idiot would have turned around and gone back to her forever.


By September, I was living in Chicago, going to grad school, and Maïf was in Ontario at university. We wrote each other once. Her boyfriend had gotten otherwise involved. I called her and she said maybe she could come to Chicago soon. But when I called again a couple of weeks later, she told me she’d met someone. We lost contact. For 32 years... read more:
http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170519-is-this-the-most-perfect-love-story


The Bombing at a Manchester Ariana Grande Show Was an Attack on Girls and Women

The victims of Monday’s bombing will almost certainly be mostly girls and women. The Grande fan demographic also includes a number of older millennial women, gay men, and general lovers of pop music, of course, but her live concerts are largely populated by tween and teenage girls and their moms. By staging the attack at a Grande show, the perpetrator or perpetrators chose to target children who may or may not have had an adult around to help them through an emergency situation.

And they targeted fans of an artist whose global brand is one of blissful, unsubdued feminine sexuality. Grande has long been the target of sexist rhetoric that has deemed her culpable for any sexual objectification or animosity that’s come her way. Her songs and wardrobe are sexy, yet she’s maintained a coy, youthful persona; the combination has led some haters to argue that she’s made her fortune by making people want to have sex with her, so whatever related harm befalls her is entirely her fault.

Like her pop-superstar predecessor Britney Spears, Grande has advanced a renegade, self-reflexive sexuality that’s threatening to the established heteropatriarchal order. If the Manchester bombing was an act of terrorism, its venue indicates that the attack was designed to terrorize young girls who idolize Grande’s image. Terrorism works by making people afraid to go about their daily lives, doing the things that make them feel human and whole: going to work, shopping at the mall, traveling by plane, dancing to Latin music at a gay club, singing along to a fun pop tune that lets young women envision themselves as powerful, sexual beings. All concertgoers whose nights ended in panic or tragedy on Monday will suffer some degree of post-traumatic consequences in the coming months and years. But the teens and children in the audience, who are still in the middle of developing their conceptions of themselves and the world, may find those notions irrevocably altered… 
read more:

see also

Monday, May 22, 2017

Against Discouragement By Howard Zinn

In 1963, historian Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. In 2005, he was invited to give the commencement address. Here is the text of that speech, given on May 15, 2005.

So all of you, settle into your chairs, take off your hats, feel the comforting heat of that sun beating down, and consider the words of Howard Zinn as he urges the students of Spelman College not to be discouraged, not to despair, but to enter the world with their heads held high, imagining what each of them might do for him or herself -- and for the rest of us. Tom

I am deeply honored to be invited back to Spelman after forty-two years. I would like to thank the faculty and trustees who voted to invite me, and especially your president, Dr. Beverly Tatum. And it is a special privilege to be here with Diahann Carroll and Virginia Davis Floyd.

But this is your day -- the students graduating today. It's a happy day for you and your families. I know you have your own hopes for the future, so it may be a little presumptuous for me to tell you what hopes I have for you, but they are exactly the same ones that I have for my grandchildren.
My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings.

Saharanpur violence: Dalits defy Delhi Police ban to protest at Jantar Mantar

The capital’s favourite protest venue - Jantar Mantar – turned blue on Sunday as thousands of Dalits led by the Bhim Army, an organisation fighting for the community’s rights, staged a demonstration against the recent violence in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Despite being denied permission by Delhi Police to hold a rally, protesters dressed in blue gathered on the call of Bhim Army Ekta Mission, led by 30-year-old lawyer Chandrashekhar to fight against “oppression” by upper castes.

Cries of Jai Bhim rent the air at Jantar Mantar as several smaller organisations such as Dalit Sangarsh Morcha, Yuva Shakti Dal and youths from different parts of Western UP and Delhi also showed up to lend their support. The protest comes after the recent violence involving Dalits and Thakurs in Saharanpur during the birth anniversary celebrations of Maharana Pratap. The skirmish took place on May 5, when a mob, allegedly from the Thakur community, ransacked and burned down 25 houses belonging to Dalits, and injured 15 members of the community in Saharanpur.

Chandrashekhar, who is wanted for his alleged involvement in the clashes between the police and the protesters on May 9, also addressed the gathering. “We have come here to fight oppression. If you kill one Chandrashekhar, thousands more will rise. The RSS and Hindu right organisations have been oppressing us for centuries, but we are not weak,” he said. He also gave out phone numbers to protesters to call for help if they were being oppressed. He also said he was willing to surrender to police.

Two Turkish teachers on 75-day hunger strike detained by police / Turkey: 'Professional annihilation'of 100,000 public sector workers in purge

Two Turkish teachers who are on their 75th day of a hunger strike have been detained by police in Ankara. Nuriye Gülmen, a professor of literature, and Semih Özakça, a primary school teacher, have been on strike for more than 10 weeks after losing their jobs following the failed coup against the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, last July. Surviving on a liquid diet of lemon and saltwater and sugar solutions, the pair have lost significant amounts of weight and doctors said this month that their health was deteriorating. A source close to the strikers said their muscles had atrophied.
Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça on Sunday
Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça on Sunday. Photograph: Altan Gocher/Barcroft Images

Police are concerned the strike will become a “death fast” rather than a hunger strike. The detention appears to have been motivated by fears that the strike could be taken up as a cause celebre and evolve into a larger movement like the Gezi park protests in 2013, when hundreds of thousands of people protested against plans to build a replica Ottoman barracks in central Istanbul. Gülmen tweeted a message of defiance shortly before the detention, saying: “Political department police are trying to enter the house. They are now breaking the door. Damn fascism! Long live our hunger strike resistance! We want our jobs back! We have not and will not surrender!” A lawyer, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, tweeted that the two hunger strikers were tired but well, although he said they had been “knocked about quite a bit” during the arrest.