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The battle of Brexit has finally been joined as Boris Johnson is blown out of the water by his own brother.
When the Argentinian dictatorship of General Galtieri seized the Falkland Islands, known to them as the Malvinas, in 1982, Parliament echoed with the rage of wounded, Anglo-British patriotism. It endorsed the dispatch of a task force to ensure Britains claim. As the ships sailed across the equator the balance of public opinion opposed the use of force. Then, Thatcher ordered HMS Conqueror to torpedo the antiquated Argentinian battleship Belgrano. The nuclear-powered submarine sunk its target. Over 300 of its crew drowned in the South Atlantic. The ruthless display ensured war would follow. Opinion swung decisively behind the Prime Minister. While some of his soldiers and pilots fought hard, Galtieri's bravado display of puffed up aggrandisement collapsed, humiliated by an utter lack of preparedness for a real battle.
Today, it is the Generalissimo of Brexitannia, Boris Johnson, who has been torpedoed. After two long years of preparation the battle of Brexit has finally been joined by a well-aimed, perfectly executed strike which has holed the Leave campaign that he led below the water line. The torpedo was the stunning resignation statement of his younger brother Jo Johnson MP. Johnson junior was Theresa Mays loyal Minister of Transport. Now, he has pulled out of the government denouncing its negotiations with the EU as a catastrophe of statecraft while clinically skewering his brothers braggadocio. He has pledged to vote against the prime ministers deal with the EU should it reach the House of Commons, where its defeat is now likely. He has called for a Peoples Vote instead, to endorse remaining in the European Union.
Johnson junior was a Remainer, like all sensible ruling class conservatives including the prime minister, and he backed her attempt to deliver a Brexit that works. But the prime minister could not escape its contradictions. As I...
No country in the world is as dependent on remittances as Kyrgyzstan. But this money is often used by families to survive, and allows the state to avoid its obligations to its citizens.
This article was originally published on Kloop, a Kyrgyz investigative website. We translate it here with their permission.
Altynai, 24, doesnt know what she will do if her parents stop sending money from Russia. Shell be in a hopeless situation without those 20,000 soms (220) a month this money is her only way of surviving. For the past three years, Altynai (name changed) has been living with her grandmother, whose pension isnt enough to buy anything.
She says that residents of her village in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan frequently leave to work abroad. Theres never enough jobs here in Leylek district, which is bordered by Tajikistan on three sides. There are no new enterprises being opened. Most people work for low wages in state institutions.
Indeed, over the past decade, more and more people have been leaving Kyrgyzstan to work abroad. In Russia alone, there are more than 800,000 Kyrgyz citizens on the migration register. Most of them come to work. In 2017, they made money transfers to Kyrgyzstan totalling $2.5 billion which was more than the total state annual expenditure.
Now firmly established as a Christmas Tradition, join us as we look back on the year in politics with the Cinderella and widow Twankey of local commentators Allison Morris and Alex Kane.
Our good friend, comedian Tim McGarry will get everyone into the mood when it comes to our politics if you dont laugh you will cry. Your host for the evening will be the best thing to come out of Lisburn since Coca-Cola, Alan Meban. The event is sponsored by MCE Public Relations.
Location: The Dark Horse Bar, Belfast (this venue is wheelchair friendly).
Date: Wednesday 19th December 2018
Time: Doors open 6:45, show starts 7:15pm.
This event always sells out so grab your tickets now or you are not going.
Slugger does not get any funding. This is a fundraising night to keep Slugger Lit into 2019!
While we still can, let us ask, "Will AI exacerbate discrimination?" as the productive forces of mental health are restructured within a techno-psychiatric complex. (Poem, 3,575 words.)
'You sound a bit depressed' we might say
to a friend,
Not only because of what they say but how they say it.
Perhaps their speech is duller than usual, tailing off between words,
Lacking their usual lively intonation.
There are many ways to boil a voice down into data points;
Low-level spectral features, computed from snippets as short as twenty milliseconds
That quantify the dynamism of amplitude, frequency and energy,
And those longer range syllabic aspects that human ears are tuned to,
Such as pitch and intensity.
A voice distilled into data
Becomes the training material for machine learning algorithms,
And there are many efforts being made to teach machines
To deduce our mental states from voice analysis.
The bet is that the voice is a source of biomarkers,
Distinctive data features that correlate to health conditions,
Especially the emergence of mental health problems
Such as depression, PTSD, Alzheimers and others.
And of course there's the words themselves;
We've already trained machines to recognise them.
Thanks to the deep neural network method called Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM)
We can command our digital assistants to buy something on Amazon.
Rules-based modelling never captured the complexity of
But give neural networks enough examples,
They will learn to parrot and predict an...
Like feminism, harm reduction is a philosophy that encourages us to do away with the false distinction between good and bad women.
People who use drugs face widespread stigma and criminalisation. This is well-known. But drug policy discussions often centre on men. The experiences of women, trans and gender non-conforming people who use drugs are ignored and silenced though they face particular challenges accessing care and the gendered stigma of being perceived as unfit parents and fallen women.
In May, I participated in a meeting that AWID (Association for Womens Rights in Development) co-organised in Berlin with feminists and women who use drugs from across eastern Europe and Central Asia. We carried very different experiences and backgrounds, but had a common purpose: to learn from one another and connect the dots between drug policy and feminism in the region.
Women shared their experiences with using drugs including shaming and violence from doctors, sexual violence, criminalisation and stigma within their communities. We looked at how feminism could help push for responses centred on their unique experiences. Three days and many conversations later, I was convinced that drug policy was a feminist issue.
Feminism calls on us to see the specific experiences of all women, including women who use drugs. Women face particular challenges...
All we can do it count heads and count down, for the cabinet to take a decision or non-decision on Theresa Mays negotiating plan or face up to the serious option of No Deal. They have until Wednesday to agree proposals for triggering a late November EU summit and 21st January to seal the deal or bid to extend Article 50. Or for the Tory party to throw Mrs May out and plunge Britain into an unprecedented political crisis. At least when they toppled Neville Chamberlain in 1940 and Anthony Eden in 1957 after the Suez debacle, obvious leaders and strategies were right at hand.
From the sidelines, Boris Johnson calls for cabinet mutiny
No member of the Government, let alone the Cabinet, could conceivably support them, or so you would have thought. And yet the awful truth is that even if the Cabinet mutinies as they ought it will make little difference
The so-called Chequers proposals are in truth very far from dead. The essence of the idea that the UK should remain in the customs union and the single market for goods and agri-food is what the backstop entails. And you can be absolutely sure that this idea will be at the heart of the deal that I have no doubt the Prime Minister will shortly and magically secure.
She will delay for as long as she reasonably can, and then she will say that unless MPs sign up to this surrender, we will have the chaos of no deal. As a scare tactic, it is infamous. The Government has deliberately and flagrantly failed to prepare the UK to walk away from the talks, the better to be able to bludgeon MPs into voting for surrender. As a scare tactic, it is also false: yes, there might be some temporary effects, but as with the Millennium Bug I do not think the planes would fall from the sky or that medicines would have to rationed, or any of the other nonsense. And it is also false as a pair of alternatives.
There is a much, much better way forward for this country ...
If philanthropic foundations want to positively affect the lives of workers, then they should use their money to hold the powerful to account and to help workers be heard.
On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.
Three funders the Ford Foundation, the Sage Fund, and Open Society Foundations recently wrote about their strategic priorities when funding interventions in the world of work. The Ford Foundation was the most detailed, identifying their five areas for strategic interventions as follows:
My assessment is that the conventional human rights framework the third strategy on this list requires reinforcing. Despite all of the talk of new and different approaches, there remains considerable value to actually holding governments accountable for existing standards which they have agreed to uphold, yet frequently fail to do so. The final strategy organising workers also deserves special emphasis and needs further funding to amplify and transmit workers voices.
Despite all of the talk of new and different approaches, there remains considerable value to actually holding governments accountable for...
You might have missed the centenary of the Day the Guns Fell Silent on 11th November, as commemorated with terrific originality in the Pages of the Sea project devised by the film director Danny Boyle. Ireland was well represented by three very different people in three spectacular beach locations. Boyles brilliant Olympic 2012 opening ceremony in London displayed the British gift for creating new traditions without irritating venerable traditionalists with dogmatic lessons about the iniquities of war and the British Empire etc etc. (Perhaps Boyle should take us on?)
For him in the Olympic opening ceremony, British history was about the foundation of the NHS and the horrors as well as the achievements of the industrial revolution. Showing an altogether different side of the Queen, he had Daniel Craig as James Bond commission her in the flesh to parachute jump into the stadium as a double. Yesterday we saw the Queen in a new tradition of her own, as an observer of the wreath laying at the Cenotaph for the second year of the retirement of the Duke of Edinburgh from public life .
On Sunday morning portraits of individuals killed in the war were created on sandy beaches throughout Great Britain and Ireland when the tide was out and were washed away when the tide came in. The fleeting existence of the portraits symbolised the transience of life in war in particular, together with its longer lasting memory.
Rifleman John McCance from Dundrum who died at Passchendaele in 1917 was depicted at nearby Murlough. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial along with 35,000 others.
A huge artists impression of First World War nurse Rachel Ferguson was displayed at Downhill beach. Miss Ferguson, from Moneymore, died in 1918 while working for Queen Alexandras Imperial Military Nursing Service.
By Russell Bruce
Powerful film made by Michael Russell. Scottish poems, songs and writing of the First World War made by Eala Bhan Ltd for BBC Scotland to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the war and shown on 11th November 1998. Devised, written and produced by Michael Russell of Eala Bhan Ltd , directed by Ishbel Maciver and featuring Bill Paterson, Elaine C Smith, Norman MacLean, David Hayman and Iain Anderson.
Michael has arranged to show it #Colintraive this evening. Brings back memories of working with Michael on various projects during our time in Argyll, including a film festival Dorothy and I ran for two years with Michael and David Bruce (no relation). Courtesy of Western Ferries we screened Seawards the Great Ships on the open deck as darkness fell on an October evening on the Clyde.Seawards the Great Ships 1961 ...
Trumps ability to create a shared mood among voters was honed in the world of professional wrestling.
In 2017 Donald Trump posted a clip of himself on Twitter wrestling an avatar of CNN to the ground. In the thirty-second vignette he seizes an individual with CNNs logo where the head should be and pummels them. The point was to position himself as a defender of truth, flattening media enemies who spread disinformation about his reign.
It was a predictable move: Trump is a recurring character on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), body slamming its CEO Vince McMahon, buying its Monday Night Raw program and remaining unperturbed by an egregiously racialised boogeyman who regularly appears in the ring. He is the only US President to be inducted as a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
His immersion in this world might appear to be just another instance of the absurdly comic combining with the brutally terrifying in his presidency, but it is much more than that: the collision between Trump and wrestling provides an insight into his tactics and the broader contemporary transformation of electoral politics. The WWE taught Trump how to fuse the interests of big business with a mass of people coagulated around shared rage.
Nationalist populism is an odd phenomenon in the ways in which it creates alliances between voters who occupy structurally opposed positions. Trump has managed to combine support from the corporate world, evangelical Christians, rural southerners and ex-union Democrats in a way that confounds existing psephological models. Transcending, at least to some extent, distinctions between left and right, this alliance melds together the ultra-rich with the people they have actively disempowered.
Theres an obvious inconsistency here: big capital fattens itself on the democratic choices of its victims. But this also suggests that ideology a...
I found pictures of the Armistice Day commemorations in Paris today deeply moving. President Emmanuel Macron spoke with dignity against nationalism and war. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stood next to him, underlining how these two great European powers, which had fought each other three times during a period of just 75 years, are now allies and the mainstay of the European Union a body which now unites not just most of the countries of Western Europe but also the formerly Communist states of central and Eastern Europe. It was good that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were present, too (even if Trump blotted his copybook by pulling out of an earlier, related engagement because rain was forecast). Despite some recent tensions in the Wests relations with Russia, the Cold War, which kept us teetering on the verge of nuclear Armageddon, is long over. Scores of nations were represented at senior level in Paris, but shamefully Theresa May was not there. Apparently she thought it more important to be at the Cenitaph in London rather than participate in this unique, truly global event. Reportedly she sent David Lidington MP (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancas...
Jonny McCormick is the Director of Rosseau Ltd and runs a podcast called Spoke.
In the true nature of a soapbox post, this is a one perspective rant but Id love to hear your thoughts on what Im saying so please do let me know what you think in the comments!
We constantly hear about the brain drain in Northern Ireland. How our talented young people (and increasingly people of all ages) are leaving to find work and opportunities further afield. Its easy to find reasons for this:
The political context I dont need to go into a lot of detail here Im sure but the current political impasse and genuine lack of will to solve it is completely exhausting. Aside from disengaging and ignoring it entirely, its hard to see how politicians are going to improve things for people choosing to make a life here
Lack of comparable opportunities this may be a slightly more controversial one and Im sure lots of people will disagree given that there is lots of inward investment in job creation, etc. But, when these jobs are compared to comparable jobs in places like Dublin, Bristol or London the salaries and opportunities are not commensurate. By way of example, a solicitor could earn somewhere between 3 and 5 times as much in London or the South of England and whilst the cost of living is higher its certainly not comparably higher
Discriminating social progress again there will be many who disagree but a restrictive and, I would argue, regressive approach to social progress is a major draw for people to pursue additional freedoms elsewhere
But what I want to talk about is actually much more foundational and personal. My brother and his girlfriend are currently in the process of moving from living in Australia to Northern Ireland. Going against the direction of the usual exodus theyre starting to look for houses, jobs and other things needed to settle and build an enjoyable life.
My brothers girlfriend is a teacher and is understandably wanting to continue in that career when she returns so shes applying for teaching posts. Having secured half a dozen job interviews shes gone back to request an initial interview via Skype given shes currently 10,000 miles away. Each request has been summarily dismissed, almost as if the interviewing panels are frustrated at being asked to make this accommodation in the 21st century. Aside from the fact that she managed to secure her current teaching position in Australia via a Skype interview, it seems bizarre to me to narrow your talent pool because you dont want to talk to them on a computer instead of in person.
This is indicative of what I mean by complaining about the problem of brain drain but not actually doing anything to try and stop or reverse it. It may be one example, but Id wager that there are many more stories just like it out there. If we genuinely want to secure a prosperous, peaceful, diverse Northern Ir...
By Russell Bruce
This 100 year image heads an ONS statistical note released today and they have mislaid over 400,000 British Imperial military deaths.
If we are to reflect on a worldwide conflict on the 100th anniversary should we not be inclusive? I have difficulty with the British attitude and the words used to mark a conflict that engulfed Europe, countries that were allies and countries we fought for four blood stained years in mud and gore. More than ever it is a time to stress the need to continue to work for cohesion and peace on our continent.
Oh I forgot for a moment. Britain is disengaging with Europe, makes silly noises about a future frictionless partnership of unknown detail or likelihood.
No now is the time to remind us of Empire. Think only of the sacrifice of our own people and the sons of Empire that came to help. Agreed, the number is horrific 700,000 deaths on battlefields of glaur where methods of engagement had changed out of all recognition to conflicts of previous centuries. Only the number is wrong and 400,000 British Imperial military deaths have been forgotten.
So for some context, the total number of military and civilian casualties was close to 40 million for all of Europe. That is more than the population of Britain in 1918, which then stood at 38,287,300. The total number of deaths of military personnel was 9,700,000 and 10,000,000 civilians are estimated to have died. The Entente Powers (Allies) lost around 5.7 million soldiers and the Central Powers lost about 4 million.
The wounded are also usually forgotten when figures are quoted. If we are to remember them also then the impact on life and death more than doubles.
Even worse the Office of national statistics has lost close to 400,000 British Empire military deaths in the conflict. According to The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Annual Report 2007-2008 the actual number of UK military dead totalled 885,138. Add in Australia 61,928, Canada 64,944, Indian Empire 74,187, New Zealand 18,050 Newfoundland 1,204 and South Africa 9,463 and we find the sub total of all military British Imperial Forces deaths came to 1,114,914....
What is the lesson of the historical sequence of socialist Yugoslavia and its disintegration for our own dystopian moment?
Imagine, not knowing anything about socialist Yugoslavia, suddenly waking up in the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina to encounter monumental sculptures like those impressive and gigantic monuments in Sutjeska or Petrova Gora you might be prompted to ascribe it to some alien civilisation.
This is in fact what happened when the Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers for the first time exhibited photographs of Yugoslav socialist monuments at the Breese-Little gallery in London in 2013. The Guardian soon published an article with the title The second world war memorials that look like alien art, and very soon the Internet was full of images of socialist architecture and sculpture from all around ex-Yugoslavia that was regularly described as alien.
When in summer 2018 the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) in New York opened a much awaited and acclaimed exhibition under the title Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980, this alien civilisation suddenly once again became introduced to the world. It turned out that the mysterious alien art was not coming from outer space, but that, this whole time, the alien had been dwelling among us it was called the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. However, even if MoMA provided a convincing name for these strange, extraterrestial objects (calling it a concrete utopia, which can mean both concrete as the material used to build the monuments and concrete as real existing utopia), the true question is not so much Who built such monuments?, but much more Why did they build them? And, moreover, a question which hopefully brings with it some insights for our current predicament: is socialist Yugoslavia (with its architecture, but also its political, social and economic system) really something to be regarded as...
On this eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, it is our duty not only to stand up against antisemitism, but all sorts of oppression.
Eighty years ago, on 9 November 1938, an order was given by Nazi German authorities to terrorize and arrest German Jewish citizens, resulting in tens of thousands of people being sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, marked a violent escalation against Jewish people. This escalation of violence was a continuation of antisemitic policies instituted in 1933, but was also part of a long history of discrimination against Jewish people.
In the October issue of The American Historical Review, the most prominent professional history journal in the United States, historians have taken on the task of understanding "the vexed history of anti-Semitism." In a "roundtable discussion", historians debate the origins of the term itself, which only appeared in the late nineteenth century. They discuss alternative terminologies, such as Judeophobia, which Jewish historian Jonathan Judaken "defends as an overarching category for the field" In his writing, Judaken pushes us to understand and differentiate ancient Judeophobia and medieval anti-Judaism, Nazi anti-Semitism and contemporary anti-Zionism. Judaken prompts us to understand both continuities and changes. Searching to understand the origin of the word "anti-Semitism", historian David Feldman locates its usage in the 1870s after political and civil equality for Jews is achieved in Germany in 1871.
As Feldman points out, the prominent British-Jewish journalist, editor and activist Lucien Wolf wrote of antisemitism in an entry commissioned for the Encyclopedia Britannicas eleventh edition, which came out in 1910. In that entry, Wolf writes, "In the political struggles of the concluding quarter of the nineteenth century an important part was played...
For the latter half of this week I have been in Madrid for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Congress. Our hosts were Cuidadanos, the still relatively new kid on the block in Spanish politics, yet according to an opinion poll published today, they are level-pegging with the conservative Partido Popular (PP), on 22%. Only a fortnight ago, ALDE had to hold an emergency Council meeting in Brussels, to refuse membership to a Catalan party, PdeCAT, for reasons too complicated to go into here, but surprisingly there was no fallout from that at the Congress. This was mainly because the central focus of the Madrid gathering was the ALDE manifesto* for next Mays European elections, which was duly passed this lunchtime. But there was a plethora of other issues discussed over the three days of the Congress. I successfully moved, on behalf of the UK Liberal Democrats, an emergency motion on Saudi Arabia, which I will post on this blog on Monday, when I shall return to London and have access to a desktop computer.
El Mozote horrors survivors do everything, tirelessly, to demand justice and to make sure that no one has to live through what they faced ever again. Espaol
When arriving at the plaza of El Mozote on Thursday, August 30th, it was difficult to conceive everything that had occurred there. In the same place where about a thousand people had been executed at the hands of the Salvadoran army, today, a stage was being prepared. In a few moments, a local band would play to welcome the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) that was visiting for the first time one of the villages where the largest documented massacre in the recent history of Latin America took place, 37 years ago.
Everything had been prepared in a marathon production. This town, which has no more than two paved streets and is located in the middle of the mountains, was the point of attraction for an international meeting. The objective: to identify what had changed in El Mozote and its surroundings based on the sentence that the IACHR Court issued in 2012.
An exhibition of photos, located on the memorial that houses the square, would be the preamble to a tour in which judges from the Inter-American Court, representatives of the State of El Salvador, the organizations that facilitated the international process, and some of the protagonists, participated. The images exhibited portrayed women who participated in experiential workshops to signify what had lived there.
There were 3 days. Between December 10th and 13th, 1981, in the face of the internal armed conflict that El Salvador faced for 12 years, it marked the turning point for El Mozote, La Joya, Rancheria, Los Toriles, Jocote Amarillo, Cerro Pando and other surrounding places.
The order was to destroy everything. Do not leave traces of the place, which, according to military intelligence, served as shelter for the guerrilla forces.
In 72 hours, the Atlacatl battalion, led by Domingo Monterrosa, along with units of the Third Infantry Brigade of San Miguel and the Command Center of San Francisco Gotera, executed the mass murder...
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