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Friday, 19 January

09:34

Hope for Russias hopeless elections openDemocracy

Im not participating in this shit could become the main political slogan at Russias upcoming presidential elections. RU

Source: cikrf.ruFor the first time ever, it seems Russian society is consolidating ahead of presidential elections not out of desire for victory, but because none of the alternative candidates have a chance at winning  and thus, no chance for real change. In conditions of deep political apathy, when people say to one another this is going to last for another six years and theres no chance to stop this, more and more active citizens in Russia find comfort arguing about how not to vote, rather than who to vote for.

The idea of boycotting the elections isnt new. It has always made me feel awkward just like anything thats overly emotional or unrealistic. But in light of the effective campaign carried out by Alexey Navalny, and the Central Election Commissions refusal to register him as a candidate, the opposition politicians old call to action began to look different. The rather widespread support for the boycott from an increasingly large circle of activists, politicians and political analysts was unexpected.

Elections in Russia are a rare time when opposition-minded citizens can state their position loudly and not only on the street

In terms of its effectiveness, a boycott is a desperate measure. But elections in Russia are a rare time when opposition-minded citizens can state their position loudly and not only on the street. A political boycott supposes a broad coalition made up of very different social groups (perhaps were witnessing the creation of it right now). On one side of the barricades, theres the forces who unite around Navalny...

01:55

Anti-feminism and anti-gender far right politics in Europe and beyond openDemocracy

The proclaimed support of the EU for gender equality is seen as one element in a wider programme of colonization, whereby what was once Marxism is now replaced by gender politics. Book review.

lead Christiane Taubira when she was French Justice Minister in 2013. Bernard-Salinier/ Press Association. All rights reserved.The rise, over the last two decades, of the neo-nationalist, populist right is now a well-established fact across the political landscape. But the precise permutations taken and modes of organisation and affiliations on specific issues such as anti-LGBTQ rights, which many of these groups have pursued, is often less well-known. Two recent books, one by Bruno Perreau titled Queer Theory: The French Response (2016 Stanford) and the other edited by David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar titled Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe, (Rowman and Littlefield 2017) make significant inroads in filling this gap, each of them focusing on Europe, and in particular on questions of sexuality and gender.

Natural order

It transpires that campaigns against civil unions, same-sex marriage and full parenting rights to LGBTQ people were initiated largely from within the Roman Catholic church dating back to the late 1990s. There is a good deal of traffic between lay conservative Catholic campaigners, members of Opus Dei, as well as clerics, who acted as intermediaries bringing to the attention of Vatican scholars, developments from feminism and subsequently queer theory, each of which are perceived as threats to the family and the natural order.

Over the space of a few years feminism and queer theory has come to be subsumed by the term gender theory which is then demonised as a totalitarian force, for its attempts to undermine the differences between men and women and the sanctity of holy matrimony as the only rightful institution for the bringing up of children.

This invocation of the spectre of Stalinism is clearly a deliberate ploy to instil fear of the...

00:50

ISIS and Tunisia-Iran: a deeper link openDemocracy

The anger and ideals of excluded young people contain a story of the world's disorder.

"In 2018 the market basket is empty": this man attends a speech by the general secretary of the Tunisian General Labour Union during the Tunisian revolution's 7th anniversary, 2018. Chedly Ben Ibrahim/PA images. All rights reserved.Two recent columns in this series examined ISIS's future after the loss of its caliphate. The group, it was suggested, might in future pursue a threefold course: build on its affiliations with paramilitary groups across the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia; increase its attacks in the far enemy countries of the west; and transition towards a new insurgency in Iraq (see "The next war: ISIS plus expertise", 21 December 2017); and "ISIS: the comeback", 4 January 2018).  

The Iraqi part of this strategy is already well underway. A grim series of attacks in and around Baghdad has taken hundreds of lives in the past year, even during the coalition assaults on Mosul and Raqqa. The latest hit the capital early in the morning of 15 January, when two suicide-bombers detonated their devices at Tayaran Square where day-labourers gather for work. The results were terrible: at least thirty-five people killed and ninety injured. Some of the Shia dead were carried off for burial that day in the holy city of Najaf.  

Such operations confirm that ISIS paramilitaries remain active and are able to strike, including in the heart of Baghdad. In this respect the intense military campaign to dislodge the group from its former areas of control is double-edged. The United States-led coalition's aerial pounding inflicted huge damage on Iraqi urban centres, with hardly any sign of reconstruction so far. That risks the further marginalisation of the Sunni...

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Thursday, 18 January

23:29

US Senate launches attack on Nicaragua poverty programmes openDemocracy

The so-called NICA Act, if passed, would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. Espaol

Nicaragua's President, Daniel Ortega (L), and OAS General Secretary, Miguel Insulza (R) during Central American Integration System (SICA) summit, Managua, Nicaragua, August 8, 2012. Photo: German Miranda/dpa/aa

In an extraordinary move on the day before the US Senates Christmas recess, two Democratics sided with right-wing Republicans to introduce the so-called NICA Act which, if passed, would require the US government to veto loans from international financial institutions to Nicaragua. While it is still a long way from becoming law, the bill suddenly looks like a more serious threat to that countrys social progress.

The NICA act got support from right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, long hostile to progressive governments in Latin America, originally sponsored the bill. It was not surprising when it got support from other right-wingers like Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But now Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Durbin (D-IL), who have both been prominent in challenging US support for the right-wing government in neighbouring Honduras, have put their names to the NICA Act too.

Why is it being promoted? Ever since the former guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega won election for a new term as president of Nicaragua in 2006, he has faced renewed hostility from the United States, even though of a much softer form than was the case during the Contra war of the 1980s. His opponents focus continually on his supposed grip on power, especially after the courts overturned a constitutional ban on presidents running for second and subsequent turns of office.

Their frustration intensified when his wife Rosario Murillo became his vice-president after the last national elections, even though she has been a key figure in the government from the start.

Most recently, his critics focussed their attention on the arrangements for last Novembers municipal electi...

22:40

Happy 18th birthday! Youre out openDemocracy

Tougher internal controls under Macron are only giving police more powers, allowing them to conduct identity checks in emergency shelters. Brutality towards migrants is likely to become even more common.

lead Children inside the former Liniere camp in Grande Synthe, northern France. Many who couldn't cope with life inside reception shelters had ended up in this camp.On New Years Eve, when cities were cheering and watching fireworks, Jahid called me from his shelter in France. He had been there since spring 2017, and had been living with the hope that his life would be sorted out in the not-too-distant future.

The underage refugee I had met in Lampedusa eighteen months ago was entitled to protection, and as such was promised by the French authorities that he would be given an immigrant card within two years that would ensure his indefinite leave to remain in the country. Ten months later, however, he was abruptly informed that his entitlement to protection will be coming to an end in five months time when he reaches eighteen.

Where will he go? What can he do? I have as few answers as he does.

This is the agonising cycle of life for tens of thousands of refugee and undocumented children and teenagers in Europe. Their lives are held hostage by the border regime across the continent, and they are experiencing hardship and destitution like many adult refugees. The majority of these children and youths are unaccompanied and without resources, and barely even understand why their misery continues beyond their arrival in Europe.

35 million, that is 15%, of the estimated 232 million migrants worldwide, are children and youths under the age of twenty. The majority of them are in developing countries, rather than in Europe. In 2016, more than 63,300 unaccompanied minors entered the EU (half of them Syrian and Afghan refugees). Among them, more than 25,000 reached Italy via the Mediterranean sea route.

As the worlds wealthiest continent, Europe has nevertheless been unable or unwilling to offer protection...

22:23

A new round of Stormont talks can succeed only if they focus on the need to govern. And British-Irish passivity must end Slugger O'Toole

The local media are reporting po-faced that another last chance round of talks about restoring the Executive is about to begin. The interesting fact is that all five Assembly parties will be invited. Other than that, further comment seems redundant for now. The replies will be pored over for clues about any shifts of position. Nothing has emerged so far about the chairing role, neutral, mediating or steered, and whether the two governments or one of them will present any actual proposals. Without them I fear the talks are doomed.  As usual, nothing has emerged yet about the shape of the agenda or who goes first. It would be nice if somebody in the media  was at least to inquire.

At the same time, the background to the talks is rich in incident and comment. What does the McElduff affair tell us about Sinn Feins current approach to politics as a new leader is about to take the stage?  Malachi ODoherty  sees it as a qualified victory for the modernisers  but quotes chapter and verse about how far he believes they have to go.

Whoever leads the party next will have to accept that Sinn Feins evolution away from the IRA has further to go. .. Now the question for McDonald is whether she can hold the line there and insist she is not ashamed of the Shankill bombing, the shooting of civilians fleeing the Bayardo Bar bombing, the execution of supposed informers fingered by the chief informer Freddie Scappaticci.

For shame, once admitted to the discussion, has much to say that has gone unsaid for far too long.

Did her Killarney speech reveal a DUP leader sufficiently flexible and imaginative to cut a new deal?   The headline, Tone deaf Arlene gives us a foretaste of  Newton Emersons Irish Times piece. While it spins ingenious swirls of  interpretation from her words and record, it resolves itself in a contradiction.

If only she could strike the right tone, circumstances would be transformed.

It would be difficult for anyone to find the right tone in Fosters position.

And that is the problem of so much comment. Lacking so much hard information in a situation where omerta even about  political strategy is fatalistically  taken for granted, the discourse is overwhelmingly about ideology, attitudes and history.

The parties are like churches who launch off into another round of dispute about free will and the Virgin Birth when they should be getting together to set up food banks for the starving poor.

In the great series of nuclear disa...

20:46

The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt openDemocracy

The process of repression is outsourced to the citizenry who indirectly secure absolute power for the regime. It is a vicious cycle with the masses being both the victims as well as beneficiaries of repression. 

El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Streets of Old Cairo. March 2016. El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Autocracies, to maintain their hold on power, rely on heavy doses of repression. Their power appears to be heavily centralized in the upper echelons of the social order, however, the reality is much more complex.

Autocracies mould their masses, who are both the victims of repression and its beneficiaries. Beneficiaries in the sense of smaller autocrats also repressing those below them in the social order. As such, repression is decentralised, creating fertile ground for societal repression, the main victims of which are those on the margins and the weaker segments of society such as minorities, women and the poor.

This repression is recreated at all levels of society as well as in a number of situations at schools, the work place, and even within families and homes. With a state policy that condones this form of repression, a society with extremely limited margins of freedom is created in both the public and the private spheres, with the burden lessening as one moves up the social ladder.

Inequality is accepted as a natural condition, as those on the social margins are dehumanized, repressed and violated. This is an essential method for the preservation and the propagation of an autocratic system. 

Autocracy in the classroom

When one looks at Egypt and the lineage of repression, which I have personally experienced, one can only see that repression penetrates all layers of society. A simple example is that of the school system, and the levels of violence children of the lower classes are exposed to.

In 2015 a chi...

20:20

Who drills, wins openDemocracy

When it comes to oil, Norway just cant help itself.

This week, a governing coalition was finally formed in Norway, a full four months after the general election which saw the minority government of Conservatives and populist-right Progress party remain in power. The new coalition platform now includes the Liberal party, Venstre, who have controversially joined forces with the Progress party for the first time, despite repeatedly denying this was a possibility during the election campaign.

Arguably, very little of Norwegian politics has any real international significance, barring a few issues. Two exceptions that come to mind are the potential influence Norway is having on Britains post-Brexit options, as well as the way the country manages its gigantic pension fund (the worlds largest sovereign wealth fund). But the most significant area is related to oil and gas activity, since Norway has for many years been among the worlds largest petroleum exporters by volume. Only the gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and U.A.E. are bigger exporters per-capita. A fair amount of the responsibility for the global climate crisis can justifiably be laid at the feet of Norway, which has become one of the worlds richest countries as a direct result.

Norwegian environmental organisation Natur og Ungdom protesting in Paris 2015. Photo by Helene Lind Jensen

Internationally, the political situation related to oil and climate has shifted significantly in the past year. President Macron has proposed an ecological transition law, intended to end the granting licences for oil and gas exploration in France. The World Bank has announced that it will no longer finance upstream oil and gas. The number of...

19:45

No future in Karabash, one of Russias most polluted towns openDemocracy

With its population dropping, this choking copper town in Russias Urals is struggling to survive. RU

In the mid-90s, the annual volume of plant emissions into the atmosphere was more than 118 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide; per person in the city - about 7 tons. Photo: Ivan Chesnokov. All rights reserved.Karabash, a small town in Russias Urals, is known all over the world for its shocking environmental pollution. The copper-smelting plant has been polluting the ground and air of this company town since the beginning of the last century, and in the mid 1990s Russias Environment Ministry declared the town an environmental disaster zone.

Both residents and experts put Karabashs high mortality rate from cancer and respiratory diseases down to the towns copper plant. In the towns early years, its population reached 50,000, but this number has gradually decreased to its current 11,000. Local authorities and plant management claim that the environmental situation is getting better, but residents dont believe them. While 2017 may have been Russias Year of the Environment, theres been no noticeable improvement in Karabash.

Ive long since given up drinking the tap water, says Vladimir Kartashov, who has lived here all his life. I go to a spring and fill up large bottles. Im sitting drinking tea with Vladimir and his friend Vyacheslav Serov in a well-worn kitchen in a typical five-storey block of flats. This neighbourhood is regarded as the newest in town: it has food shops, several cafes where you can have a meal for 200 roubles (2.20) and a library. The flats are as far away from the smelting plant as possible until a few years ago they were safe from toxic emissions, but this is no longer the case.

Sometimes I sit here in the kitchen or the living room in the evening and I can feel gas seeping through the closed windows, says Kartashov. If you let a few drops of car oil [contaminated by copper pollutants] drop on a hot car exhaust pipe, you can taste it at the back of your throat.

A hundred year...

19:11

Frontpage 18th January openDemocracy

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17:00

Darkest Hour - what does a rash of Winston Churchill portrayals tell us about Brexit Britain? openDemocracy

Are our finest hours all behind us? What of the untold Churchill stories? And who can speak for Britain, today?

Image: Darkest Hour promotional poster, Working Title. Reproduced under Fair Use.

Winston Churchill is everywhere at the moment. It is as if there are only two narratives about Britains past: the Second World War and dramas about people of privilege, class and money.

The Churchill industry can cover both strands, and for some his is the last uncontested great story of Britain. To others he is the last statesman who unreservedly represented the moral case for Britain; whereas for many on the left he has long been a problem figure. And whilst this is about our past and the dark days of 1940, is also about the storm clouds gathering today - from Brexit to the widespread cynicism in politicians and institutions.

In the last year Churchill has been portrayed in the film of the same name by Brian Cox, the peacetime Churchill featured in Netflixs The Crown, and most recently, played by Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour. Oldmans portrayal concentrates on that watershed period in the Second World War in May 1940 where the Chamberlain Government totters and then collapses, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and the War Cabinet debates whether to continue the war effort or to seek out peace terms.

This critical period has been covered in-depth by John Lukacs Five Days in London, May 1940 and more recently by Nicolas Shakespeares Six Minutes in May: How Churchill unexpectedly became Prime Minister. Darkest Hour opens with Labour leader Clement Attlee concluding the parliamentary debate that brought down Chamberlain as Prime Minister. Its a brave opening for the film the debate was known as the Norway debate, and its subject, the disastrous British campaign fought in Norway for which Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty was largely responsible.

This parliamentary occasion, lasting over two days in May 1940, was one of the great House of Commons moments. Speeches had consequences. Tory rebel Leo Amery who in 1939 had famously criticised Chamberlains patriotism by asking Labours deputy leader Arthur Greenwood to Speak for England - concluded his intervention by urging Chamberlain (and invo...

16:07

From PFI to privatisation, our national accounting rules encourage daft decisions. Its time to change them. openDemocracy

Countless daft decisions have been encouraged by national accounting rules which defy all economic logic. Taxpayers are now paying the price.

Public versus private is back. After the liquidation of Carillion, the governments use of private companies and outsourcing to deliver public services is under close scrutiny. Now the National Audit Office has added to this with a new report which reviews the costs and benefits of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back.Public versus private is back. After the liquidation of Carillion, the governments use of private companies and outsourcing to deliver public services is under close scrutiny. Now the National Audit Office has added to this with a new report which reviews the costs and benefits of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The conclusion will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever scrutinised any PFI deals. It finds that PFI projects can be 40% more expensive than doing it directly with public money. This begs the obvious question: why did we ever enter PFI contracts in the first place? The answer is provided on page 11 of the NAO report: PFI is off-balance sheet for national accounts purposes, which means it results in lower recorded levels of government debt and public spending in the short term. Time and time again, governments and other public bodies have been lured into using PFI, even when it costs taxpayers much more over the longer term. But while part of the reason for the proliferation of PFI undoubtedly stems from political short-termism and an irrational fear of the national debt, there is another culprit which is rarely discussed: Britains rather peculiar approach to measuring public finances. Now be warned: this is not the sexiest topic. But it has had an enormous impact on the way that our economy has been run in recent decades, so try and bear with me. Whenever the government establishes a new body or privatises or nationalises an existing one, the resultant body must be classified for National Accounts. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) decides the treatment in the National Accounts by applying international accounting standards. If a body is deemed to be controlled by government or a public corporation, then it will be classified as in the public sector. If not, then it will be classified as in the private sector. So far so good. Once a body has been classified a...

05:49

Fireworks nights openDemocracy

There feels like a massive push towards diversifying the arts. It makes me feel uncomfortable when at the centre of that push we find mainly white, middle class people.

lead Art is just a word. Common Wealth. Jon Poutney. All rights reserved. Rosemary Bechler (R): Rhiannon, we are catching up with participants in our Team Syntegrity non-hierarchical conference in Barcelona last June, to see what impact it had. It's great to be back in touch. Could we start with some background on your work and what kind of process of change most interests you? 

Rhiannon White (Rhiannon): I grew up on a housing estate in Cardiff and we didnt have a theatre near where I lived. When I was a kid I loved making theatre, telling stories and bringing people together. When I did eventually go into the theatre, it felt pretty alien, judgmental and a bit bourgeois! Not a place where kids from a council estate should be! I made it my mission in life to shake it up a bit, and create theatre where people could feel like it belonged to them. Along with Evie Manning I set up Common Wealth. There were loads of empty buildings in Bristol where we lived and we would squat those empty buildings and make massive shows in them. We took theatre outside of the theatre.

We made a show about domestic abuse and we made it on a street full of people, inside a house. The house where we held the performance had neighbours either side. That show showed us that people have a real appetite for theatre regardless of where they come from. One woman in her fifties came to our show four times, and she had never previously been to the theatre. When we heard about that, we realised that was what we felt like when we came together because we wanted to make theatre. We wanted to share that experience, but on a massive scale.

So basically we set ourselves up as a theatre company and decided that we wanted to make works for people who might think theatre is not for them. Our work isnt just theatre: it includes visual arts, and music and is multidisciplinary.

...

04:22

Out of time: the fragile temporality of Carillions accumulation model openDemocracy

Carillion is the epitome of the modern financialized firm. Its liquidation tells us much about risk in modern capitalism, and raises serious questions about state outsourcing.

Look anywhere on Carillions website and we see metaphors for its supposed tangibility and strength, from the way it advertises its Tarmac Group heritage to its list of construction achievements which in fact precede its inception. The website projects an image of a company steeped in all things concrete and solid. However, as Carillion moves into liquidation it is evident it was anything but. By 2016 Carillions tangible fixed assets were just 3.3% and stocks 1.8% of its total assets.Look anywhere on Carillions website and we see metaphors for its supposed tangibility and strength, from the way it advertises its Tarmac Group heritage to its list of construction achievements which in fact precede its inception. The website projects an image of a company steeped in all things concrete and solid. However, as Carillion moves into liquidation it is evident it was anything but. By 2016 Carillions tangible fixed assets were just 3.3% and stocks 1.8% of its total assets. Much of its balance sheet was instead made up of intangibles (37.7% of total assets), of which almost all was goodwill (35.5% of total assets) (Figure 1). The value of that goodwill depended on Carillion continuing as a going concern, which is not now an option. Creditors now want their money back, but Carillion do not have assets which can be sold to make them whole. Carillion is the very epitome of the modern financialized firm and its liquidation tells us much about risk in this phase of financialization. The Carillion financialization story is not one of distributional struggles between stakeholders in linear time, where dividends and share buybacks come at the expense of either wages, employment or investment in a zero-sum way. Employment and average labour costs actually rose between 2012 and 2016. Carillions financialization story is about how firms manipulate their balance sheet to intervene in the temporalities of income and obligation; and how this may create unanticipated inter-temporal tensions. This view of financialization owes more to critical accounting than political economy. Critical accountants such as Hines (1988); Hopwood (1986); McSweeney (2000); Morgan (1988); Robson (1982, 1984) have long argued that accounting is a process which constitutes financial reality...

04:17

Cities of London and Westminster Jonathan Fryer

City of LondonTheresa May is hanging onto power with all the tenacity of a terrier refusing to let anyone take its bone away. But there is always a possibility that the Conservative Government only in office because of an arrangement in the House of Commons with 10 Ulster Protestants from the Democratic Unionist Party could fall some time this year, as the complexities of Brexit become clearer. If so, the Liberal Democrats are well-prepared, with prospective parliamentary candidates in place in most seats. In my case, I have been selected for the Cities of London and Westminster, which includes the City, Londons prime business and banking area, as well as the southern half of Westminster borough, including the Houses of Parliament and much of the West End.

...

04:11

Theresa May is letting Ben Bradley keep his job AAV


As the rest of us were celebrating the New Year, the Tories decided to quietly sneak out an announcement that they'd appointed the vile hard-right polemicist Toby Young to their new (and supposedly impartial) universities watchdog.

Within a matter of hours it became clear that the Tories had failed to do even the slightest due diligence on the guy they were handing a job to. Not only did Toby Young have a disgusting back catalogue of misogynistic, homophobic, and downright disgusting Tweets, he'd also been attending secretive pro-eugenics conferences full of white supremacists and paedophilia apologists, and writing articles attempting to rehabilitate the concept of eugenics.

Eventually, after a nine day shit-storm over his repulsive comments and views, Toby Young resigned, and any sensible and/or vaguely competent political party would have looked into how they managed to appoint someone with such an appalling track record, but not the Tories.

On the very same day that Toby Young resigned over his back catalogue of despicable articles and Tweets, Theresa May appointed the recently elected Tory MP Ben Bradley as Vice Chair for Youth.

Apparently his job would be to get more young people to engage with the Conservative party.

Had they bothered to check Bradley's Internet history before appointing h...

02:32

How to stop the next Carillion - 7 steps to public ownership openDemocracy

Jeremy Corbyn is right - this is a watershed moment for the ideology of privatisation that has plagued our public services for over 30 years.

Image: Carillion, improving the image of construction? Rights: Geograph.org.uk.

Here are seven steps we can take to address the root causes of the Carillion crisis and build up a robust public sector that wont be vulnerable to this kind of disaster.

Lets futureproof our public services by bringing them into public ownership. Heres how.

1) Stop outsourcing

Of course the government should bring all of Carillions public service contracts in house, permanently, where they should be across schools, hospitals, prisons and railways. It should also stop outsourcing altogether.

Weve been arguing against outsourcing since our launch in 2013. Our #PrivatisationFails resource shows that these profit-driven companies have failed us again and again. G4S at the Olympics. Atos failing disabled people. Richard Branson suing the NHS.

This is not a coincidence. Public services are mostly about caring for people. Private companies are driven by profit. This means corners are cut so that shareholders get their share.

The Institute for Economic Affairs says government cant run things. Its time to put that tired old mantra to bed. Research shows that councils can save money, improve quality and increase flexibility by bringing services in house.

Private companies are good at doing many things. Running public services isnt one of them.

2) Bring PFI deals in house

As People vs PFI have powerfully shown, Private Finance Initiatives are institutionalised systems for the theft of public money meant for public services. The collapse of Carillion gives us a chance to end this discredited policy. Its fantastic that Labour has taken a brave new position and is now committing to doing just that.

Helen Mercer has laid out...

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Wednesday, 17 January

23:42

Belfast to retain its four Westminster seats in new Boundary changes Slugger O'Toole

Good work from David Young, of the Press Association

the revised map that was accessible on the Commission website on Monday is significantly different. Belfast retains its four seats, with radical changes to the constituency landscape beyond the city. All the new named constituencies in the first draft are gone.

The commission, which is an independent body funded by the Northern Ireland Office, has conducted a number of public consultation exercises on its first proposals and is anticipated to officially publish revised proposals at the end of the month.

The map that briefly went public on Monday envisages the creation of a Causeway constituency on the north coast, merging part of East Londonderry with part of North Antrim and a small section of East Antrim.

The remainder of North Antrim is renamed Mid Antrim and takes in parts of East Antrim and South Antrim.

South Antrim, in turn, takes part of a defunct Lagan Valley. Another portion of Lagan Valley merges with a section of Strangford, and a small part of South Down, to become Mid Down. South Belfast is also expanded to take in parts of Lagan Valley and Strangford. Like Lagan Valley, the Strangford name is gone. The remaining chunk of the constituency is absorbed into a significantly larger North Down.

The remaining parts of East Londonderry are absorbed by enlarged West Tyrone and Mid Ulster constituencies. Unlike the expansion proposed under the first draft, Fermanagh and South Tyrone remains largely unchanged.

23:00

Irans protesters are secularizing the 1979 revolution openDemocracy

What we see happening in Iran is the emergence of a new discourse that combines old traditions and new ideas that will strengthen a home-grown democracy.

SalamPix/ABACA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Iranian demonstrators set fire to the building of Hozeh Elmieh whilst protesting high prices and the poor state of the economy under President Hassan Rouhani. Qazvin, Takistan, Iran, January 01, 2018. SalamPix/ABACA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Through the slogans chanted by protestors one can clearly see that large sections of the Iranian public no longer have hope in reform and, unlike in the Green movement, are directly targeting the political system of the regime. 

Furthermore, the new constitution being introduced by secular andIslamic opposition separates state from religion and does not include any official religion. As Abolhassan Banisadr has repeatedly argued, the religion that was usurped by the state should return to its real place, the hearts of believers.

Iran will soon see the birth of a home grown and secular democracy.

All the indicators are telling us that even if these protests recede in the short term, Iran will soon see the birth of a home grown and secular democracy.

One of the main slogans during the 1979 Revolution was Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic! In numerous interviews made while he was in Paris at the time, and distributed all over Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini stated that Iran would become a democratic country under the Islamic Republic and that the legitimacy of the system would come from popular votes an...

22:49

Taking politics out of the NHS? Or constructing an elitist consensus? openDemocracy

As certain wings of the Labour party join calls for consensus on the NHS, a reductive global healthcare consensus has already been established in the meeting rooms of Davos, McKinsey and the World Bank with pivotal support from Blair-era peers and NHS appointees.

Image: Flickr/Garry Knight.

Our manifesto was a key reason for our gains in the 2017 general election. Now its ideas need to be developed and radicalized.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

At the Labour Conference following the election result, emboldened delegates voted historically and unanimously for complete renationalisation of the NHS in England in the words of Alex Scott-Samuel, Socialist Health Association Chair. Since then shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth has further committed Labour to halting the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) which devolve the national service into local footprints with reduced accountability and the potential for marked reductions in healthcare provision, commercial control of both the public estate and the commissioning function, and a final bridge to a US-style system. Prior to the election in June, Ashworth had only said such plans would be reviewed on a case by case basis, but is now obviously responding to a new confidence among party members. 

A month later however, and no doubt partly in response to these developments, ninety MPs signed a letter calling on the Prime Minister to set up a cross-party convention on the future of the NHS and social care in England, saying that only a non-partisan debate would be able to deliver a "sustainable settlement". One-third of the MPs who signed the letter were Conservatives, and while the exact political balance is unknown, signatories from the Labour Party include Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna, Hilary Benn, Frank Field and Caroline Flint. They say the failure of normal party politics to secure the future of the system means a consensual approach is the only way to ensure action is...

22:35

Trump's only interests in Latin America are migration, drugs, energy and technology openDemocracy

The new U.S. National Security Strategy must be read within the framework of the distance between statements and facts. This has come to mold Trumps uncertain and unpredictable foreign policy. Espaol

Spectators on the beach view an aerial demonstration during the National Salute to Americas Heroes Air and Sea Show May 28, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Credit Image: Brandon Kalloo Sanes/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire) PA Images. All rights reserved.

In the middle of December 2017, the Trump administration announced a new National Security Strategy (NSS). It is a series of premises and objectives based on the doctrine of political realism (as explicitly assumed in the document), oriented towards reestablishing Americas position of power in the world. It summarizes the goals to follow in order to protect American interests which are the interests of a privileged and influential decision-making minority, though they seem to be presented as the interests of the American people.

It is important to note that one of the characteristics of the Trump administration in terms of foreign policy is the gap between incendiary discourse, full of threats and vehement rhetoric, and its decision-making, which on occasion tends to minimize such positions from the supposed punishment it was to inflict upon the Chinese, to the threat to immediately leave the North American

Free Trade Agreement and its apparently total opposition to free trade such that the NSS must also be read within the framework of this distance between statements and facts that has come to mold an uncertain and unpredictable foreign policy.

The new Strategy represents a change in priorities, granting a greater leading role to the realist principles of power and peace through strength rather than favoring influence, in contrast to the Obama administration and its soft power diplomacy.

In general terms, the pillars of the NSS (protecting Americas homeland, people and way of life; promoting prosperity; preserving pea...

21:39

Apply for a 50.50 feminist investigative journalism fellowship openDemocracy

We need your help to track the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. Apply for 50.50's inaugural feminist investigative journalism fellowships.

We need your help to track the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. Apply for 50.50's inaugural feminist investigative journalism fellowships.

50.50 is the section of the independent media platform openDemocracy.net covering women's rights, gender and sexuality. We are looking for two part-time feminist investigative journalism fellows to work with editors Claire Provost and Lara Whyte on in-depth and investigative reports for the series tracking the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights.

Fellowships will run for three months, and can begin in March or June 2018. Each fellow will be expected to work with editors on 2-3 reports, and to prepare for and attend weekly (virtual) editorial meetings. Fellows will be paid per story up to 330 ($450) per report. They will also receive ongoing mentorship and practical training. Workshops will be arranged, where possible, on specific topics such as Freedom of Information requests, interview skills, and feature writing, depending on projects and fellows' needs.

Fellows may be based anywhere in the world. Previous experience in journalism, research, and multimedia storytelling is welcome. Most importantly, you are a creative, critical thinker and collaborative team player. We're looking for young women and trans writers, from anywhere in the world, with ideas and enthusiasm for original, feminist investigative journalism. Applicants between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, living in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, are particularly encouraged to apply. 

These are not full-time positions, and can run alongside other responsibilities. They may suit freelancers or researchers wishing to pivot towards investigations. You should be able to dedicate approximately 7-8 hours to this fellowship each week. You must be comfortable researching and writing in English (with other lan...

21:19

Frontpage 17th January openDemocracy

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20:36

Carillion must now also face justice for blacklisting trade unionists openDemocracy

When you invite blacklisting human rights abusers to run the NHS and school meals, dont be surprised when vampire capitalism attempts to suck the taxpayer dry, writes Dave Smith.

Image: Blacklist Support Group protest against Carillion's involvement in Anfield stadium redevelopment, 2016, Twitter.

On Monday, the Cabinet Office went on Twitter to ask if anyone had been affected by Carillion. I replied:

Yes, I was #blacklisted by #Carillion for raising safety concerns on their building sites. Can the government help me by setting up a public inquiry to bring those responsible to justice?

I got over 1300 retweets in the first 24 hours, which as Im not a celebrity or a newspaper columnist felt like going viral. But what it demonstrates is how the Carillion saga has outraged public opinion. And quite rightly.

I am just one of several thousand construction workers blacklisted by major construction companies including Carillion. Their secret database meant workers who complained about asbestos or unsafe electrical installation were denied work on major construction projects. This resulted in unemployment, mortgage repayment difficulties and family tensions. In some cases, blacklisted workers committed suicide.

Back in 2009, I took an Employment Tribunal against Carillion. Six years ago today I was in court and their lawyer handed the judge a document in which the company admitted blacklisting me because I was a union member who had raised concerns about safety on one of their building sites. Carillion even provided the name of the senior manager based at their Wolverhampton HQ who supplied the information to the unlawful blacklist, this included a copy of my official safety representatives credentials. Despite this admission, I still lost the case.

The reason for the decision was like so many others in the building industry, I was not employed directly by Carillion but via an employment agency and as such was not protected by UK employment law. The written judgement in my case states that:

We have r...

20:00

Last week on OpenGlobalRights: protecting landless peoples, HIV activism, and the right to a healthy environment in the Americas openDemocracy

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated a UN convention to protect rural workers and landless peoples, why HIV activists use rights language, and the need for the Inter-American Human Rights system to catch up on climate change.

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, Shivani Chaudry discussed a groundbreaking UN declaration on protecting the human rights of peasants, rural workers, and landless peoples. Kristi Heather Kenyon argued that local HIV activists are increasingly adopting rights language for its empowerment effects, and not necessarily because they expect legal change. Finally, Juan Auz questioned why the Inter-American Human Rights System is lagging so far behind on climate change, arguing that a core problem is the absence of the right to a healthy environment in the organizations core human rights convention.

We continuously publish new content and create different themes for debate and dialogue. Stay informed by subscribing here for weekly updates. Interested in writing for us? Click here for submission guidelines.

 

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17:12

Tory vice chair deletes comment saying unemployed should have vasectomies Pride's Purge

Tory Britain:

The directors responsible for the Carillion bankruptcy should get MILLIONS in pay-offs:

Carillion fat cats still earning up to 55,000 a MONTH even after quitting

The workers made redundant by the Carillion bankruptcy should get VASECTOMIES:

Tory vice chair urged jobless to stop having kids or UK would drown in wasters

Yet more Tory eugenics

17:11

What I didnt write about Zhanaozen openDemocracy

In 2011, a seven-month-long strike in a Kazakh oil town came to tragic end. Six months after I reported on the Zhanaozen massacre, I returned to a city where silence had won.

Protesters at Union Square in San Francisco holding a demonstration criticizing the government of Kazakhstan's response to the recent 2011 Mangystau riots. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Amineshaker / Wiki. Some rights reserved.This text originally appeared at Batenka.ru in Russian. We publish a translation of it here.

In December 2011, an oil workers strike in the city of Zhanaozen in south-west Kazakhstan dissolved into a riot. Security forces opened fire on protesters. According to unofficial statistics, up to 64 people were killed and 400 wounded. Novaya Gazeta correspondent Elena Kostyuchenko arrived in Zhanaozen immediately after the disturbances and wrote about what she saw. Half a year later, Kostyuchenko chose to return to the city but found herself unable to write anything. Now she explains why.

I had 12,000 roubles on my card, which I thought would be enough. For some reason, I didnt want to ask our editorial team to cover the trip. I didnt even want to mention it to them. I agreed with my colleague Artemyeva that she would cover for me. For several nights in a row, I took a taxi to the airport, planning to buy a ticket and fly there and then. But every time, I arrived too late and didnt make it. I would return home on the airport express train. I finally boarded a flight on my fourth attempt.

It was a cold May. Half a year earlier in the city of Zhanaozen, policemen had fired on striking workers. Back then, the city was surrounded by the army. Clashes erupted on its streets by night, while police raids intensified and all communications were cut off. I was somehow able to obtain evidence that at least 64 people had been shot, while the authorities maintained there had been only 15 fatalities. I had planned to return, in order...

09:20

Can polarisation be eroded by design? openDemocracy

How can society encourage more nuance and compromise when entrenched opposition is baked into consumerism and politics?

Credit: Pixabay/geralt. CC0.

"People love those who are like themselves said Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics over 2,300 years ago. In 2018 were still tackling the same problem: how can we create cohesive communities that understand each other despite their differences?

Research from the writer Jonathan Haidt  shows that polarisation between Republicans and Democrats has been getting steadily worse in the US for decades. Whats more, it seems that these different groups now regard each other with even more suspicion, and truly believes that the other acts for nefarious reasons.

In the UK, both of us work on projects that aim to reduce polarisation. Jazza is a vlogger and podcaster known for bridging the political divide by interviewing the NRA (among others) on his YouTube channel, and founding the Right Dishonourable Podcast which he hosts with Jimmy Nicholls. Nicholls voted to leave the European Union; Jazza to remain.

Alice is the founder and editor of the...

Can polarisation be eroded by design? openDemocracy

How can society encourage more nuance and compromise when entrenched opposition is baked into consumerism and politics?

Credit: Pixabay/geralt. CC0.

"People love those who are like themselves said Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics over 2,300 years ago. In 2018 were still tackling the same problem: how can we create cohesive communities that understand each other despite their differences?

Research from the writer Jonathan Haidt  shows that polarisation between Republicans and Democrats has been getting steadily worse in the US for decades. Whats more, it seems that these different groups now regard each other with even more suspicion, and truly believes that the other acts for nefarious reasons.

In the UK, both of us work on projects that aim to reduce polarisation. Jazza is a vlogger and podcaster known for bridging the political divide by interviewing the NRA (among others) on his YouTube channel, and founding the Right Dishonourable Podcast which he hosts with Jimmy Nicholls. Nicholls voted to leave the European Union; Jazza to remain.

Alice is the founder and editor of the...

04:03

The myth of trickle down justice Slugger O'Toole

If wealthy people win battles to secure their rights, is it likely the benefits will eventually filter down to those without the same clout?

I ask the question because while its a given that high earning women at the BBC are entitled to the same rate of pay as men doing similar work, its not necessarily going to do very much for their poorly paid counterparts within the media industry.

Similarly if Hollywood cleans up its act and ensures that young stars are not sexually exploited, I suspect it wont do a lot to prevent the harassment that ordinary women face in the workplace.

Real change comes from the bottom up. Its the stories of women, without power or influence, whove successfully fought discrimination in the workplace, that will encourage and prompt others to follow suit and force managements to mend their ways. Media celebrities wont prove role models for anyone but themselves.

To be fair social media campaigns like MeToo help to focus attention on an issue. And the involvement of high profile figures helps the process. But ultimately I dont think the world will change because of a facebook or Twitter storm. In so far as I understand the sociology of this, social media campaigns erupt in an explosion of anger or indignation but only last as long as there are scalps to be won. When the fury has subsided and the caravan has passed on, what lasting value will have been established?

Boringly, its serious, low key, unshowy work which delivers fundamental social change. I used not to believe this. As a student in England I went on my fair share of demonstrations even the odd sit in. Chanting slogans and waving placards, we thought we could make a difference. Not a bit of it. Our right to march simply reflected advances won by earlier generations. We didnt create new freedoms, we simply exploited those already secured.

Union activity at a grassroots level will deliver far more effective results on womens pay than a campaign to get more female executives on to the boards of FTSE listed companies though its the latter that I see getting the media attention.

If already well paid professionals or managers of either sex want to win further advancement, well and good, but its a myth that somehow their success has anything much to do with the working lives of everyone else.

03:38

Fighting in the left corner openDemocracy

We are an organization with one staff member, and a limited amount of energy because nobody in the political and activist left wants to talk about Brexit!

lead MIchael in thought in the market place for ideas, Team Syntegrity 2017, Barcelona.Rosemary Bechler (R): We are keeping track of the Team Syntegrity process and its impact, and participants seem quite happy to do this. In your case, Michael, I have an added reason for a catch-up, because I felt guilty as your host as well as a facilitator of the event not something that one normally combines! that I didnt register the algorithm preventing you from participating in the transforming and rebuilding the left discussion which is where so much of your expertise in various fields lies.

I should have done something about the fact that you werent really able to contribute as you would have wished.

So, well, why dont we give you the opportunity to talk through what you were thinking about, and update us on that as we approach the end of 2017. We can just feed it back into the post-event stream of consciousness that we are tracking! Does that make sense?

Michael Chessum (M):  Sure! It wasnt that big a deal. I had a great time!  I dont normally think of myself as a dogmatist leftist but surrounded by pirate people, I found myself fighting in the left corner pretty well throughout.

So what have I been up to? Well, I still work in Another Europe is possible.  Since the days of the radical Remain campaign, we have been grant-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and I am fully-funded, working in Global Justice Now, just around the corner.

For the last year our main priority has been the Progressive Deal for Europe, based on our six progressive reasons for EU membership which gives you a series of flashpoints to fight over:...

Fighting in the left corner openDemocracy

We are an organization with one staff member, and a limited amount of energy because nobody in the political and activist left wants to talk about Brexit!

lead MIchael in thought in the market place for ideas, Team Syntegrity 2017, Barcelona.Rosemary Bechler (R): We are keeping track of the Team Syntegrity process and its impact, and participants seem quite happy to do this. In your case, Michael, I have an added reason for a catch-up, because I felt guilty as your host as well as a facilitator of the event not something that one normally combines! that I didnt register the algorithm preventing you from participating in the transforming and rebuilding the left discussion which is where so much of your expertise in various fields lies.

I should have done something about the fact that you werent really able to contribute as you would have wished.

So, well, why dont we give you the opportunity to talk through what you were thinking about, and update us on that as we approach the end of 2017. We can just feed it back into the post-event stream of consciousness that we are tracking! Does that make sense?

Michael Chessum (M):  Sure! It wasnt that big a deal. I had a great time!  I dont normally think of myself as a leftist dogmatist but surrounded by pirate people, I found myself fighting in the left corner pretty well throughout.

So what have I been up to? Well, I still work in Another Europe is possible.  Since the days of the radical Remain campaign, we have been grant-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and I am fully-funded, working in Global Justice Now, just around the corner.

For the last year our main priority has been the Progressive Deal for Europe, based on our six progressive reasons for EU membership which gives you a series of flashpoints to fight over:...

02:12

Not a Saudi Arab spring: Mohammad Bin Salman, a threat not a reformer [Part 2] openDemocracy

Mohammad bin Salman is now MENAs main threat to peace, stability, and hope for democratization in the Arab world.

A boy walks on rubble of a house destroyed by recent airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, on Dec. 29, 2017. Picture by Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. WhileThomas Friedman was taking Mohammad bin Salmans claims about fighting corruption at face value, many were seeing extortion, and an abuse of power. Consider what follows, all of which also mysteriously escaped Friedmans journalistic acumen:

In the summer of 2015, while vacationing in Southern France, MBSpurchased, on a whim, one of the biggest and most expensive yachts in the world from Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler (who incidentally made his fortune selling vodka), after spotting it once in the bay. The deal was finalized right there without further waiting, for a staggering $500 million (twice the cost of the most expensive house in the United States, itself already the ultimate billionaires dreamland.) While indulging himself with such lavish luxury purchases, His Highness was pushing for and implementing economic reforms of the IMF type, meaning, drastic austerity measures, budget cuts, salary cuts, freezes of government contracts and so on and so forth, following the drop in oil prices which has since resulted in the KSA losing a stunning ...

01:52

The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media openDemocracy

This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes.

Picture by Zo Carle, with permission. Last November, an online discussion between two prominent Syrian writers triggered waves of recriminations across and against both. The accusations and counter-accusations between Razan Ghazzawi, a political dissident and feminist activist, and Yassin Haj Saleh, a leftist political dissident, reignited earlier discussions on the role of feminist struggle in the Syrian uprising and the patriarchal nature of its elites. The focus was on the balance, legitimacy and place of the different intersecting struggles within the uprising: specifically (and most of all) those concerned with gender and class.

The original conflagration was started by an outrageous Facebook post by a young opposition Syrian activist and writer that carried a call for the rape of a pro-regime woman in Gaziantep, Turkey. This was as blatant an example as there could be of the pervasive patriarchy in the so-called secular Syrian oppositional sphere and the ubiquity of symbolic (as well as physical) violence against women in Syria in general.

The comment itself, as well as the cultural strains it represents, is unacceptable and should be condemned, and the failure to unequivocally and immediately condemn it constitutes in itself an issue to be discussed.

At the same time, to view this violence solely from the lenses of gender collapses the complexity of the issue and its intractable link to class, culture and the broader context of violence in the country. Indeed, there are serious, pertinent, and difficult, debates to be had about the intersection of these struggles in Syrian context. This complexity must be taken into consideration if the aim is to bring about a serious cultural transformation in this domain.

Unfortunately, what could have been a significant opportunity for a fruitful (if conflictual) debate gave way to a series of recriminations, personal accusations and counter-accusations that mainly furthered the polarisation. Of course, to ignore the issue was indeed not an option. Moreover, we ho...

The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media openDemocracy

This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes.

Picture by Zo Carle, with permission. Last November, an online discussion between two prominent Syrian writers triggered waves of recriminations across and against both. The accusations and counter-accusations between Razan Ghazzawi, a political dissident and feminist activist, and Yassin Haj Saleh, a leftist political dissident, reignited earlier discussions on the role of feminist struggle in the Syrian uprising and the patriarchal nature of its elites. The focus was on the balance, legitimacy and place of the different intersecting struggles within the uprising: specifically (and most of all) those concerned with gender and class.

The original conflagration was started by an outrageous Facebook post by a young opposition Syrian activist and writer that carried a call for the rape of a pro-regime woman in Gaziantep, Turkey. This was as blatant an example as there could be of the pervasive patriarchy in the so-called secular Syrian oppositional sphere and the ubiquity of symbolic (as well as physical) violence against women in Syria in general.

The comment itself, as well as the cultural strains it represents, is unacceptable and should be condemned, and the failure to unequivocally and immediately condemn it constitutes in itself an issue to be discussed.

At the same time, to view this violence solely from the lenses of gender collapses the complexity of the issue and its intractable link to class, culture and the broader context of violence in the country. Indeed, there are serious, pertinent, and difficult, debates to be had about the intersection of these struggles in Syrian context. This complexity must be taken into consideration if the aim is to bring about a serious cultural transformation in this domain.

Unfortunately, what could have been a significant opportunity for a fruitful (if conflictual) debate gave way to a series of recriminations, personal accusations and counter-accusations that mainly furthered the polarisation. Of course, to ignore the issue was indeed not an option. Moreover, we ho...

Tuesday, 16 January

23:30

Shame on you, Sadiq Khan London deserves better than more stop and search openDemocracy

The London Mayor's plan to increase stop and search wont stop knife crime in London but will further damage community policing already hit by cuts.

Image: London Mayor Sadiq Khan with police officers in Southwark. Stefan Rousseau/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Sadiq Khans pledge last week to combat knife crime in the capital by increasing stop and search wont work. It will only leave Londoners over-policed and under-protected. The tactic typically targets black and minority communities, damaging relations that are vital to intelligence gathering and fuelling the kind of frustration that leads to unrest.

By promising more intelligence-led searches, Khan has reversed his pre-election commitment to decrease the practice. This is a knee-jerk reaction to a week of political criticism following a spike in stabbings and four New Years Eve deaths in the capital.

The evidence shows stop and search is not effective. A 2016 Home Office study evaluating the increase of weapon stop-searches in London under Operational Blunt II in 2008/09, found that there was no discernible crime-reducing effect from a large surge in stop and search activity at the borough level during the operation.

In New York City, use of stop-frisk has fallen by 98 per cent, to 12,000 searches in 2016. And the murder rate is at an all-time low. Police there have praised advanced analytics for helping them control violent crime and admitted that the department had previously ...

22:43

Imagination and will in the Anthropocene openDemocracy

How can we face up to the enormity of environmental collapse? How can we collectively build a politics for the Anthropocene? An interview with activist and former climate diplomat John Ashton CBE.

How can we face up to the enormity of environmental collapse? How can we collectively build a politics for the Anthropocene? Laurie Laybourn-Langton interviews activist and former climate diplomat John Ashton. Laurie Laybourn-Langton (LL-L): Youve been at the forefront of combatting climate change through your role at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and by founding E3G, the climate change thinktank, among others. The concept of the Anthropocene goes beyond climate, to bring in the wider picture of environmental degradation and its causes. Is the word a useful addition to the vernacular to provide focus in a way that climate change or the environment, arguably, did in the past? John Ashton (JA): I would argue that the idea of the Anthropocene goes further. Its about the relationship between human beings and nature, but its also about the relationship between human beings and each other. The ecological fabric and the social fabric are inseparable. You cant address a problem unless you can talk about it, and you cant talk about it unless you can name it. But my gut feeling is that the word Anthropocene is never really going to be part of anybodys vernacular, but at least it plants a flag in the ground. I think it will be much easier to build a politics of the Anthropocene from the left because of its focus on collective responsibility and justice. For me there is nothing more fundamental to the Anthropocene than trying to address the enormous injustice which is inherent in the way we collectively conduct ourselves at the moment. We have built a political and economic system which is based on plunder, and the most heinous example of that plunder is that which is being and has been carried out by my generation I am 60 years old. Were not wrecking our futures nearly as much as were wrecking the future of your generation. Your generation can no longer take it for granted that you have a prospect of a better life than mine, whatever that means. This is an extraordinary conclusion to be reaching because it would represent a collapse of everything we thought we had built, particularly with and since the Enlightenment. If I were your age, I would probably be fearful of the future rather than looking forward to it. LL-L: There is a view that, in an era of potentially exponential environmental change, exponentially accelerating technical ability will enable us to address it. Therefore, we will be fine because we will invent our way out of the problem. Do you agree? JA: I think thats nonsen...

22:01

Mexico before the election storm openDemocracy

Mexico's federal elections will be held on July 1, 2018, and the following federally elected offices will be renewed: the President of the Republic, 128 members of the Senate and 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies. Espaol

A follower of Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador (AMLO) holding a flag with the image of AMLO, September 9, 2012 at the Zocalo in Mexico city, Mexico. Photo: Susana Gonzalez/dpa/ef PA Image. All rights reserved.Although the electoral campaign officially opens in March, the main candidates for the presidency of Mexico are already defined and take advantage of the pre-candidacy period within their parties and coalitions to proselytize and position themselves in the race.

Thus begins a marathon campaign: six months of wasteful spending of public resources, showers of promises, spots, adverts, posters, slogans, chants, debates, discrediting, accusations, rumors, intrigues and, given the countrys context and the actors who inhabit it, also some episodes of violence whose magnitude and scope are difficult to foresee.

Progressive candidate Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador (AMLO for short) got into the pre-election struggle early, as is his custom, and has been intensifying his touring of the country since last year and working on the design of the program and his campaign team - both, by the way, noticeably more conservative than in his previous two runs for the presidency.

AMLO has chosen a rather less leftist and more popular-national and plebeian profile, with a hint of anti-neoliberalism and democratization calls in an anti-oligarchic sense.

AMLO is currently leading the polls, to a large extent because of his early start, because this is his third try, because of the visibility and the media exposure he gets for his charisma and the attacks of his opponents, and because he has created a national party fashioned in his image and likeness. The Movement of National Renewal (Morena) has displaced the Party...

19:42

Frontpage 16th January openDemocracy

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19:22

A second referendum on the deal with the EU: a multi-option poll openDemocracy

More than anything else, perhaps, the UK now needs something which is not just accurate but also inclusive.

lead Ramon Llull/Raimundus Lullus (1232? - 1316. Wikicommons/ from the collection of Friderici Roth-Scholtzii Noriberg. Some rights reserved.To identify the nations collective will, we need to collate the voters individual wills. This cannot be done in a yes-or-no? (remain-or-leave?) vote in which some people say only what they do not  want. So, logically, the 2016 referendum did not and could not identify the will of the people. This is confirmed by the fact that, today, nobody knows what the collective will actually is, and hence all the arguments about whether Brexit is to be soft or hard or whatever? Nobody knows what the collective will actually is, and hence all the arguments about whether Brexit is to be soft or hard or whatever...

If that ballot had been multi-optional something like the UK in the EU, the EEA, the Customs Union or the WTO? each voter could have voted for what they actually wanted, and, if people had voted sincerely rather than tactically to use the terms from social choice science the most popular option could have been identified.

The correct procedure would have been to set up an independent commission, so to determine which options best represented the national debate; this was done in New Zealand in 1992, before they had their five-option referendum on their electoral system.

Multi-option polling

Consider the theory. When the House of Lords debated Lords reform in 2003, they took five majority votes on five options, but lost all of them.

If Brexit had been four majority votes on the above four-options, and if, as in the Lords, voters had cast a preference only once, then in the EU could have got 48% and each of the other three a part of 52%.  In other words, the 2016 referendum should probably have been a victory for remain in the EU. The 2016 referendum should probably have been a victory for remain in the EU.

So what should happen now?  At the very least, academia and th...

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