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Friday, 17 August

07:09

Margaret Hodge has completely lost the plot in her latest anti-Corbyn rant AAV


Labour are once again ahead in the polls, and like clockwork Margaret Hodge has emerged to badmouth her own party in the most extraordinary manner. In this article I'm going to look at just some of the desperately cynical, wantonly offensive, and downright dishonest nonsense she spewed in her interview with Sky News.

Muddying the water

Hodge said a lot of off-the-charts nonsense in her interview, but I've got to start with the most cynical and dangerous of her assertions. In an effort to have a stab at Jeremy Corbyn she claimed that there's "a fine line between being pro-Palestinian, and being anti-Semitic".

This is blatantly untrue. One involves having a bit of basic human decency and expressing solidarity towards the victims of decades of brutal Israeli repression. The other involves being a disgusting bigot who hates Jewish people for no reason other than that they're Jews.

There is no "fine line" between decency and indecency, and this effort by Margaret Hodge to claim that there is, is nothing but a cynical effort to intimidate decent people out of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians for fear of being labelled a racist bigot for having done so.

Trivialising the Holocaust
...

06:25

Lezing over de PKK: Dit vuur dooft nooit Fort van Sjakoo, Amsterdam Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam

Op zaterdag 8 september tussen 17.00 en 19.30 vindt er in boekhandel Het Fort van Sjakoo een lezing over het boek Dit vuur dooft nooit, geschreven door Frederike Geerdink, plaats. In de lezing zal voornamelijk aandacht zijn voor de verbinding die de PKK maakt tussen de vrouwenstrijd, anti-kapitalisme en het afwijzen van de natie-staat. Na [...]

05:29

The price on everything is love: how a Detroit community overcomes a lack of city services. openDemocracy

A range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts address basic needs that arent met by local government.

Jessica Ramirez in front of the storefront that houses Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO). Credit: Kevon Paynter for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.

A multitude of voicemails and text messages from desperate neighbors flooded Jessica Ramirezs cell phone on a brisk morning in October 2013. Winter was coming.

Using social media to reach potential donors as well as those seeking help, Ramirez created a makeshift donation center on the sidewalk outside her Southwest Detroit home. There, the community organizer and her neighbors handed out warm clothing to children and recycled beds, dressers and microwaves to new mothers who needed furniture.

When school began the next year, she was at it again, donating reams of school supplies she had collected from businesses and individuals. Everything was being done out of my home when I started, Ramirez says.

Recognizing her efforts, the property manager of an abandoned local storefront gave her use of the facility. Thats when her charitable acts became a community shopDetroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)where kindness and generosity, not money, is the currency of exchange. Their motto: Teamwork makes the dream work.

I would love to see us not need this anymore, she says.

In the meantime its showing people the community still cares.

Decades of economic and population decline, a depleted tax base, and critically underfunded city services have forced Southwest Detroiters to self-organize, establishing a local network of goods and services to fill in for missing city services. The result is a range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts, like DHEO, that seek to address broader needs that are going unmet by local government agencies.

The Congress of Communities, for example, is a charitable programming organization that, among other things, offers anti-domestic violence trainings to Southwest Detroit residents in 2010. The trainings aimed to improve public safety at a time when it took police nearly an hour to arrive at a crime scene. 

A coordinated effort called Detroit Mowers Gang organized volunteers with gloves and protective eye gear to mow overgrown grass in the citys abandoned lots and public playgrounds. The so-called weed vigilantes get together every other Wednesday to do what the city d...

04:57

Yet another Tory Brextremist is cashing in by betting against Britain on the sly AAV


The Tory Brextremist Steve Baker has been caught investing over 70,000 in a company advising its clients to invest in gold in order to avoid the financial hit of a Tory "no deal" Brexit.

This isn't just any old Tory either. Baker was until recently an actual government minister working under David Davis (the guy who wasted practically all of the Article 50 negotiating period before huffing off in a strop because Theresa May's hard-right economically ruinous Chequers proposal wasn't hard-right or economically ruinous enough for his tastes).

Before Theresa May invited this ideological fanatic into government, Baker was actually the head of the secretive ERG group of Tory Brextremists which is now headed up by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The company Baker has invested in is called Glint Pay Limited, and they've regularly advised clients to invest in physical gold in order to financially insulate themselves from the negative economic impact of a Tory "no deal" Brexit.

This is far from the...

04:47

Touting and the ethics of gathering information Slugger O'Toole

A number of years ago the Andersonstown News carried on a front page headline the phrase: Ten Pound Touts.  Ten Pounds Touts was a reference to what was perceived at the time (and indeed is still perceived by some people) as the practice by the RUC/PSNI of recruiting as informers (touts) young people involved in car crime, anti-social behaviour, or low level crime. These youths were/are given small amounts of money for doing this allegedly as little as a tenner.

In other words, the police wouldnt prosecute the young people in return for them being willing to pass on information about other people involved in crime.  It is unlikely that the use of children (anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child in law) as informants is at anything like the level that people in local neighbourhoods believe it to be. Nonetheless, while or if the practice continues, so will the urban myth of the widespread use of the 10 Tout.

This alleged practice bothered me then and to this day it still bothers me.  There was a recent editorial in the Guardian newspaper raising major concerns about the practice of children being used as Covert Human Intelligence Sources or CHIS for short, to use the official terminology.

The use of children as informers

Legislation exists to allow for children to be recruited at times as CHIS for one month. But this may change to allow them to be used for several months.  For me this raises several issues including the most basic one of a childs safety.  My question: when is it ever safe to use a child as an informer? I believe that using a child as a CHIS places him or her in considerable danger. I wonder what safeguarding concerns are raised by the practice?

The police will understandably say there are all sorts of checks and balances and it will only be with the most stringent guidelines in place if any child is recruited as a CHIS. Though I recognise the police now have a greater willingness to engage with groups within society, by its very nature the intelligence branch will be very limited in talking about the practice. Such secrecy makes it more difficult for the public to understand what is going on.

Vulnerable people

There is also the issue of vulnerability.  Is it ever ethical to recruit a child as a CHIS? The younger the person is and the more vulnerable he or she is, the more this raises ethical issues.   The Guardian editorial made this point: the most vulnerable gang members are often the most dangerous.

I believe as a principle the police should not recruit any child or indeed any vulnerable person as an informer.  But that has implications for the nee...

04:27

The legacy of infinite war: special ops, generational struggle, and the Cooperstown of commandos openDemocracy

US Special Operations Command continues to thrive. Its budget, its personnel numbers, and just about any other measure you might choose (from missions to global reach) continue to rise.

lead lead Gates decorates McChrystal with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal at his retirement ceremony on July 23, 2010. Wikicmmons/Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison. Some rights reserved.

Raids by US commandos in Afghanistan. (I could be talking about 2001 or 2018.)

A US drone strike in Yemen. (I could be talking about 2002 or 2018.)

Missions by Green Berets in Iraq. (I could be talking about 2003 or 2018.)

While so much about the War on Terror turned Global War on Terrorism turned World War IV turned the Long War turned generational struggle turned infinite war seems repetitious, the troops most associated with this conflict the US Special Operations forces have seen changes galore. As Representative Jim Saxton (R-NJ), chairma...

03:33

A war close to home openDemocracy

The slow-burn effects of ISIS's dispersal are coming to the west.

lead lead Police officers by the barrier outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London the day after a suspected terror attack where a silver Ford Fiesta crashed into it. Stefan Rousseau/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

In London, police are questioning a 29-year-old UK citizen of Sudanese origin, Salih Khater, following an incident on 14 August outside the Houses of Parliament when a car hit cyclists and pedestrians, injuring three, before crashing into a barrier. The authorities describe it as a terror-related incident. In Washington, a report finds that Trump's White House is sanctioning the expanded use of armed-drones in  the campaign against Islamist paramilitaries across much of Africa and western Asia.

The two events may seem unconnected, but a closer look shows otherwise. This weeks incident is the sixth in eighteen months, following Westminster bridge, London bridge, Manchester Arena, Finsbury Park mosque, and Parsons Green underground station. Counter-terrorist police report that seventeen more attacks have been thwarted over that period: thirteen Islamist and four from the extreme right.

The Independent says that four of these attacks were against parliament or government departments, and as of June the police and security forces were working on 676 suspected plots. The alert level in the UK, almost seventeen years after the start of George W Bushs "war on terror" remains at severe. Notwithstanding the long and bitter wars in the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia, evolving conflicts across the Sahel and Trumps extraordinary claim that ISIS has been defeated there is no end in sight.

In the United States, two Obama-era officials compare the use of armed-drones...

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Thursday, 16 August

23:24

A nation divided? The identities, politics and governance of England openDemocracy

Image: England flags on the Kirby estate, South London, during the 2018 World Cup. Credit: David Mirzoff/PA Images, all rights reserved.

England is deeply divided. We are divided by our poverty and our prosperity; between London and the South East and most of the rest of England; yes, within the wealthier regions too.

In many parts of England, city centres may prosper while nearby towns lose their purpose and their able young people.

The lines that divide us are being re-drawn. Poor white working-class children from towns and the seaside are now less likely to do well in school, than most ethnic minority kids of the large cities. But race and faith, prejudice and discrimination still have the power to divide us.

We are divided by our experiences and our values. Age, class, and higher education are strong predictors of which of us is likely to hold individualistic cosmopolitan liberal views, and which a more communitarian social conservatism.

These differences dont map readily onto the familiar divides of class, of left and right. Older working-class voters may be less keen on rapid immigration and diversity than their university educated grandchildren but are strong supporters of public ownership and the NHS. Young liberals may to be less keen on redistribution and the welfare state; more likely to blame poverty on the individual.

We sometimes lack the ability to talk to each other. One persons resistance to change in their community is anothers clear evidence of racism

England is by far the largest part of the union. It is here that the forces that have torn us apart on Brexit are most violent. And it is England and England outside London in particular that is taking the whole of the union out of the EU.

Despite the apparent return of two party politics in 2017, it was still the case that the elections in each nation were contested by different parties, won by different parties, and, to a large extent, fought around different issues. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales have their own...

22:49

How Turkmenistan spies on its citizens at home and abroad openDemocracy

A mix of traditional techniques and new technologies allows the Turkmen regime to follow its citizens every move.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Photo: Kremlin Pool / Zuma Press / PA Images. All rights reserved.New documents obtained by openDemocracy can today reveal how Turkmenistan's regime is spying on its citizens abroad, in order to scrutinise who they are in contact with and what they post. The documents, which comprise the period between 2008 and 2014, also reveal the key role Turkmenistans Embassy in Turkey has played in spying on Turkmen citizens in that country. 

According to Freedom House, Turkmenistan is one of the worlds least free countries, where the flow of information is severely restricted and tightly controlled. Since 2006, the Central Asian state has been part of Reporters without Borders list of enemies of the internet. Having an internet connection is punishingly expensive and satellite dishes have been dismantled. Turkmen Telekom, the only internet provider, is run by the government. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, VKontakte have all been blocked, alongside numerous news websites.

In the mind of the authorities, censorship helps to guarantee political stability and the durability of the regime by controlling what information Turkmen citizens have or, more accurately, dont have access to. However, the new documents seen by openDemocracy reveal how the regime is attempting to track its citizens abroad, as well as at home. With Turkmen students present in significant numbers at institutions in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, it is legitimate to wonder whether the Turkmen Embassies in those countries exercise the same degree of control, too, and whether this practice continues to this day.

Tried and tested

The system is simple, if laborious. The education attach at the embassy requests a complete list of all Turkmen students from Turkish universities, as well as the courses they are enro...

22:06

Looking at Lexit : Everyday Lexiteers - Interview 3 : Oliver openDemocracy

" When viewed in [the] Europe-wide context, it becomes clear that a vote for Leave is not a vote for UKIP or for neoliberalism. In fact, it may deprive such forces of the international structures which sustain them."

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem arrives at the Finance Ministry after his meeting with Greek Fin. Minister in Athens on September, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.

As part of our Looking at Lexit series, well be asking left-wing Brexit voters about their reasons for voting Leave. Our third Everyday Lexiter is Oliver, a recent graduate now working as an editorial assistant.


Describe your political outlook/background/loyalties

Becoming disenchanted with Obama was a significant part of my political education. I went to his inauguration at the age of eleven and got swept up in the euphoria, only to look back on the 2008 inaugural ceremony and question my uncritical participation in it. I later joined the Irish Socialist Party and began campaigning against the EU-IMF austerity regime which had been devastating the country since the crash. The group did a lot of good work, but was run by tunnel-visioned ultra-leftists whose outlook was too obstinate to be effective. They ended up expelling me after I wrote a satirical play about Trotskyist fringe parties.

I moved to England in 2015 and became a member of Corbyns Labour. I usually describe my outlook as Leninist, in the sense that I believe socialist principles should always complement the concrete analysis of concrete situations, and that revolutionary politics should allow for maximal flexibility and improvisation without yielding to reformism.

Describe, in two or three sentences, your political utopia: what your ideal community would look like, and how would it function?

I think that any revolutionary act creates new possibilities which lie beyond ones current cultural horizons. For me, socialists should try to create that space of possibility by exploiting capitalisms contradictions, supporting its oppressed groups, and creating forms of collectivism to counter its atomising eff...

22:05

Why are the mainstream media ignoring the brazen extreme-right takeover of the Tory party? AAV


After Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in 2015 the party membership swelled with hundreds of thousands of new members, mainly traditional Labour folk enthused by the party's first democratic socialist leader in decades.

The mainstream media were horrified by this surge of support for a guy who threatens the hard-right neoliberal orthodoxy that has served people like them so well for the last four decades, at the expense of millions of the rest of us, so the attacks on these new Labour Party members have been pretty much constant ever since.

The Labour membership surge

Ever since the Labour membership surge mainstream media hacks and opponents of democratic socialism have worked tirelessly to discredit it.

Aside from all of the abuse ("trots", "dogs", "rabble", "thugs", "Nazi stormtroopers") two themes have constantly stood out, the idea that left-wing people joining Labour are "entryists", and that Corbyn supporters are a "cult".


Anyone who is familiar with the history of the Labour Party would surely put up a counter-argument that the likes of centre-right pro-privatisation Thatcherites like Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, John McTernan, Margaret Hodge, and Alistair Campbell were the "entryists" who took over the party, and that the post-Corbyn membership surge is the mass home-coming of those who were driven away from the party by the right-wing pro-privatisation pro-austerity Tory lite agenda between 1997 and 2015.

But still the mainstream media persists in portraying the hundreds of thousands who jo...

21:57

The long and winding road to Irish unity Slugger O'Toole

Of its nature this is a long-term policy, requiring patience, understanding and forbearance and resolute resistance to emotionalism and opportunism. It is not the less patriotic for that

TK Whitaker, Note on North-South Border Policy, 11 November 1968

There is no denying that the idea of a United Ireland has more momentum now than ever before. Out of the Brexit chaos, and the Stormont vacuum, it tempting to ask: is the time for patience is coming to an end? And is the time for exploring the details of a long-term policy of a United Ireland finally upon us?

Certainly, there is plenty of evidence that there is now something in the water. The glare of the Brexit spotlights on the Irish border of all places, the resulting scrutiny of the constitutional arrangements either side of it, and the fact that a growing majority of people in Northern Ireland absolutely dont want what it will likely entail, are prime and obvious factors as to the sudden emergence of what was until recently, a dormant, almost extinct, notion even for many nationalists. Another is the almost total sense of disillusionment with Stormont, and its seemingly never-ending cycle of failures and disappointment. Rapidly-changing demographics and social and political attitudes represent another limb, as is the increasingly unfavourable comparison of the Norths economy with the South.

Suddenly, envious glances southwards are coming from all directions even recent sporting success in Hockey and Rugby can be used as very real examples of what the Island can achieve by North and South working together as part of the same team. And what makes the growing public discourse so fascinating is for once, its universality; interest in a New and Agreed Ireland, and what it could achieve, is for the first time, looking capable of grabbing significant numbers of votes from previously unthinkable places.

History can make a fool of anyone, but as Northern Irelands centenary slowly approaches, it feels as if important initial milestones have already been reached when former leaders of the main Unionist parties, and no less than the British Prime Minister herself, have even recognised the threat to the Union in various ways. In purely statistical terms, the 44% of all respondents surveyed in Lord Ashcrofts June polling who indicated that theyd even vote for unification if a vote was held the very next day is remarkably high. Of course, polls are there to be disputed, but even a sampled margin of 5% for remaining in the UK must be uncomfortably close for any Unionist. More surprisingly still, a clear majority preference was expressed from the all-important and supposedly middle ground voters of the Alliance Party to leave...

21:42

BBC Diversity getting through The Moral Maze openDemocracy

"This story starts with an invitation to appear as witness on The Morality of Diversity in the BBC Radio 4 The Moral Maze series, presented by Michael Buerk..."

lead lead lead Eno Alfred Adeogun. All rights reserved.

This story starts with an invitation to appear as witness on The Morality of Diversity in the BBC Radio 4 The Moral Maze series, presented by Michael Buerk. The programme describes itself as Combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining moral issues behind one of the weeks news stories.

The story doesnt quite end with this when I wanted to give an example of BBC failure to recognise BAME merit:

Albury: Can I give you an example?

Buerk: No you cant

Albury: If I cant give you an example, I might as well leave if you cant deal with facts?

Buerk: I keep repeating, we havent got somebody from the BBC to answer that thing, so you have made your point.

Albury: But the BBC know what Im going to say * its a waste of time.  I am giving you examples and you are refusing to hear them.

Outside the studio, I tweeted: 

Why did the BBC invite me to discuss diversity and then refuse to let me give an example of BBC ignoring BAME merit or quote from BBC Board member Tim Davies diversity report? 

The Mail on Sunday reported: I was muzzled on Moral Maze for trying to criticise the BBC's record on diversity, says an equality campaigner who appeared on the Radio 4 show

A former Ofcom bigwig emailed me:

Frankly I too was amazed at how shoddy a production it was, not only the ridiculous attempt to prevent you offering even modest criticism of the BBC, but the fact that their level of thoughtfulness, insight or willingness to debate seriously never got above that of the lounge bar loudmouth. Michael Buerk, a man I have admired in the past, sounded bored and mentally off duty. 
I suppose like many people of my...

21:25

No, the racial diversity of a country does not perfectly predict pro-immigrant attitudes openDemocracy

Given the political salience of immigration and how affected we are by our own perceptions of immigration, it is critical that we get the details right.

lead Official government anti-immigrants banner in Miskolc, Hungary, during elections on 31 March 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.

The Economist recently published an article titled European xenophobia reflects racial diversity, not asylum applications. Despite the misleading title, the article actually purports to show that the ethnic and racial make-up of a country is strongly correlated with increases in pro-immigrant sentiment in Europe. It illustrates this using a scatterplot, where points represent the share of a countrys population with non-western ancestry in 2014 by the increase in average level of positive attitudes towards non-EU migrants before and after the so-called migration crisis. The line through this scatterplot is steep, suggesting a powerful association with serious real-world implications. Indeed, it implies that increasingly diverse societies will ultimately mean more tolerance for new diversity. Depending on your political persuasion, this is either a reason to celebrate or cause for alarm.

However, for scholars studying the relationships among diversity, anti-immigrant sentiment, and voting for the radical right, this article raised serious questions most fundamentally whether this finding reflects reality. As discussed in a recent article for the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, the relationship between diversity and reactions to diversity, such as voting for a radical right party, is far from straightforward, making The Economists result somewhat of an outlier in a large body of research.

Measuring overall racial and ethnic diversity

Almost immediately, we found reason to be skeptical of the The Economists claim. One of the variables the share of a countrys population with non-western ancestry in 20...

21:14

Scottish independence needing more minds than hearts, brave or not openDemocracy

For Scotland, the question of self-determination is intimitely tied to the question of land

Eigg. Photograph, James Gray, some rights reserved.

From the white sands of Camusdarach beach on Scotlands sparsely populated west coast, on a clear day at least, a distant slither of land draws your eyes out to sea. Called Eigg for the iconic notch of rock towards its southern end, the island carries a modern tale of how residents freed themselves from rule by absentee landlords.

Its some story one that nationalists like to tell in arguing the case for more powers being given to the people of Scotland. By freedom they mean independence from the United Kingdoms three other countries England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For absentee landlords, think successive British governments based in Westminster.

Telling stories is one thing, however compelling. Getting people to listen, let alone to take heed, takes uncommonly inspiring narrators. Thats a tall order right now with plenty of Scots, like their fellow Britons, tied up in knots over Brexit.

Yet crises focus peoples minds, as Eigg residents can testify.

Islanders attentions more usually look to vagaries of West coast Scottish weather and tides far more pressing than politics. Indeed Maggie Fyffe describes a day of splendid sunshine and oil-calm waters as we speak on the phone, the sort when whales might honour the islands ferry travellers with a splash by.

Fyffe arrived on Eigg with her partner Wes in 1976, invited in by the new owner Keith Schellenberg to create a craft enterprise. They were among a couple of dozen people drawn by the charismatic Yorkshire-born businessman, a former Olympic bobsleigher and vegetarian. Plans for a tourism-led revival ticked all the boxes for reversing an exodus of locals and the places gradual demise. The collective future looked set fair.

Things didnt work out that way with broken promises of work, and long-lease rentals in renovated housing among many things that so...

21:12

Bernadette McAliskey guest speaker at The Mccluskey Civil Rights Summer School this saturday. Slugger O'Toole

The theme of this years summer school is 50 Years On The Civil Rights Challenges in Ireland Today Tackling Poverty, Sectarianism, Racism and Inequality.

Here is the agenda

10am Welcome by Chair Professor Paul Arthur

10.30am Tribute to Dr Conn and Patricia McCluskey by civil rights activist Michael McLoughlin
Reflections on civil rights and honouring the role of Con and Patricia McCluskey and the Campaign for Social justice

11am Keynote address by Les Allamby Chair of Human Rights Commission
Theme: The Problem of Racism and Sectarianism on the Island

11.40am Panel Discussion: Asylum Speaker, migrant worker testimonials

Denise Wright South Belfast Roundtable, Dympna McGlade, Stephen Smith Craigavon Intercultural Programme (tbc)

LUNCH

2.00pm Equality in Ireland Today
Rainbow John ODoherty and Dr Grainne Healy Together for Marriage Equality, Amnesty International and Together for Yes Campaign (tbc)

3.00pm Political Panel How do we Tackle Poverty, Sectarianism, Racism and Inequality Today?
Dolores Kelly MLA, Cllr Chris McGimpsey, SF and WP

4.00pm Close

Organised by the 1968 Civil Rights Commemoration Committee. Media Partner: Slugger OToole.

DATE AND TIME

Sat 18 August 2018, 09:30 16:00 BST

LOCATION

The Junction, 12 Beechvalley Way, Dungannon, BT70 1BS

Tickets are free and you can book here

20:23

Ten years after the crash, civil society has come a long way. But much more remains to be done openDemocracy

The public still dont think that the financial system is working in their interests.

Ten years ago I spent the summer after graduating waitressing in Cafe Uno in Cambridge. The most political campaign for me that summer was the fact that I was getting paid below minimum wage because they could top up my salary with tips. At the same time, the western world was on the verge of financial collapse that would not only change the course of my future work, but also deliver such a shock to the world order that nothing would ever be the same again. So what has changed in ten years?Ten years ago I spent the summer after graduating waitressing in Cafe Uno in Cambridge.Ten years ago I spent the summer after graduating waitressing in Cafe Uno in Cambridge. The most political campaign for me that summer was the fact that I was getting paid below minimum wage because they could top up my salary with tips. At the same time, the western world was on the verge of financial collapse that would not only change the course of my future work, but also deliver such a shock to the world order that nothing would ever be the same again. So what has changed in ten years? Im guilty of banging the angry drum that nothing has changed, and saying that finance is still totally self-serving. In absolute terms, this is true. The vast majority of new loans continue to pour into financial and property markets, and this hasn't really changed since the crash. Lending to the productive economy, including SMEs, has not grown. It was the failure to reform the financial sector, and the vacuum of conversation about what must be done, that allowed the conversation to morph into the need for austerity, which was of course completely untrue. But looking under the bonnet of the headline figures about our stagnating economy, rising food bank use and record high stock prices, there is some good news. We are building an army of voices who didnt exist ten years ago. The public know that things are not fixed. Today we at Positive Money have released a poll showing 66% dont think banks work in their interests, and 63% are worried about another crash. The conversation is changing. Here are ten things that have changed over the past ten years, including some huge achievements, that should be cause for hope and celebration.

1. Occupy captured the publics imagination

The Occupy movement struck a chord with many of us. It said that the system is unfair and broken, and we need something new. People camped outside St Pauls, and there were book groups, workshops and lots of other activity that encouraged people to wake...

20:02

The BBC and Cliff Richard: in terms of press freedom, this is a sideshow openDemocracy

The BBC has dropped the idea of appealing against the award of damages to Cliff Richard for invasion of privacy, but continues to muddy the waters with fake legal arguments.

Image: Sir Cliff Richard speaking last month after being awarded damages against the BBC. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Images

On August 15th the BBC finally threw in the towel. On the last day before it had to decide whether to seek permission from a Court of Appeal judge to take the Cliff Richard case to appeal, it announced it would not challenge the judgement. The BBC now faces rulings by Mr Justice Mann, the trial judge, on how much of Cliff Richards costs it will need to pay, which will inevitably take its total bill well above the current 1.9 million. The amount could rise perhaps to 2.25 million, making the decision to name the entertainer as the subject of a police investigation easily the most expensive editorial error in the BBCs history.

Yet whilst admitting defeat the BBC continued to churn out false claims about the significance of the case, and continued to be supported by outside journalists who seem not to have read the original judgement.

The BBC claims that Mr Justice Manns ruling makes it illegal to report the fact of a police investigation into an individual, which is wholly untrue. As the judge went to great lengths to explain, all he did was exercise the dual elements in the 1998 Human Rights Act, balancing freedom of speech (article 10 of the Act) against the right to privacy (article 8).

No new legal precedent

Under the Act, there is no absolute right to freedom of speech, nor to privacy. What the judge said was that the presumption of privacy in principle extends to those being investigated by the police, unless a public interest argument trumps that presumption. He did not say anything to the effect that it would normally be illegal to name the subject of an investigation, as the BBCs legal correspondent claimed on its own news programmes on Wednesday. The judge emphasised that he was just looking at this particular case, and was not creating any precedent.

An obvious example of public interest would be as the judge put it a desire to shake the tree: encouraging other possib...

20:02

A torture scandal makes Russia pay attention openDemocracy

Graphic footage of a prisoner being tortured has gripped the Russian public. But the lawyer who helped expose this torture needs state protection.

Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta recently released footage of how Evgeny Makarov, a prisoner in Yaroslavl Colony No 1, was brutally tortured in June 2017. Source: Novaya Gazeta. Last month, a gruesome torture scandal broke out in Russia one that finally means the authorities cannot continue to ignore the gravity of the problem.

On 20 July, Novaya Gazeta, a leading Russian independent newspaper, published a 10-minute video of penitentiary officials viciously beating a prisoner in a penal colony in Yaroslavl, 266 km from Moscow. The beating was clearly meant as a punishment for an inmate who not only misbehaved but, notably, had filed many complaints with the prison service about mistreatment.

The officials went about the beating in a businesslike manner, stretching their victim on a table and methodically hitting him with batons. The video, recorded with the body camera of one of the torturers over a year ago, was leaked to Irina Biryukova, a human rights lawyer with the Public Verdict Foundation, an independent group that assists torture victims. Biryukova shared the video with Novaya Gazeta after months of futile efforts to force the authorities to investigate. 

Over two million people watched the shocking video in the first 48 hours after its release. As a wave of public indignation was rising, the countrys chief criminal investigation agency swiftly opened an investigation into abuse of authority with the use of violence, and 12 suspects have been arrested pending trial.

The case of Evgeny Makarov is horrific and very specific both because the video made the abuse proceedings impossible to deny and because officials suppressed the video for almost a year

The victim, 25-year-old Evgeny Makarov, was transferred to another penitentiary and eventual received government protection. The deputy head of the Russian Penitentiary Service publicly apologised to the victim and his family, promised full accountability for all the staff in...

18:21

Yair Netanyahu: a scandalous man openDemocracy

Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest son has been at the center of many scandals from corruption to social media activity.

Yair Netanyahu. Picture taken from Facebook. In recent years, the 27-year-old Yair Netanyahu, the eldest son of Benjamin Netanyahu, has gotten heavily involved in political affairs. Most of Yairs social media activities and statements notoriously bring about problems and scandals for the Israeli Prime Minister's family. Some of these statements have become his source of international recognition, though Israelis know him for numerous scandals over the past five years.

Media outlets always cover Yairs lavish lifestyle. Haaretz reports that he is guarded at all times and has an official driver and uses an official car. This is all financed from the state budget, but so far the Israeli government has refused to publish the amount of these expenses.

The release of a recording in which the younger Netanyahu under the influence of alcohol reveals his fathers financial corruption regarding a $20 billion deal for future natural gas drilling raised the public outcry. [The statement was full of] nasty things about women and other things that should not have been said. Don't represent the person I am, the values I was educated on and what I believe, reportedly said Yair. Moreover,...

16:35

Time for Ireland to re-embrace Wellington as a great Irishman? Slugger O'Toole

Theres still a few Summer Schools to go before the political season returns in the south (traditionally after the National Ploughing Championships, but there are few performance like this one from Eoghan Harris in Kilkenny at the weekend

Eoghan Harris: Full Kilkenny Festival Talk from Eoghan Harris on Vimeo.

He looks at Wellington and Daniel OConnell and their very different roles in the passage of the Catholic Relief Act 1829) and makes the case that Wellington should take his place alongside Hugh ONeill and OConnell as as a great Irishman.

He points out that Wellington had argued in favour of Catholic Emancipation as early as 1807 and that as PM he played a key role in persuading the Cabinst, then the Tory parliamentary party and finally the King that the case was unanswerable.

His unifying theme is that though their politics were very different both OConnell and Wellington were Aristotelian empiricists whose idea of Irishness was that it was enough to simply be born on the island (the famous horse and stable remark was OConnells reference to Wellington, not the Dukes own words).

Turns out its an important distinction, with contemporary resonances far beyond the strictly antiquarian in an increasingly remote period of history. According to Harriss Aristotlisn v Platonist lights, there is no requirement for anyone to prove their Irishness to the satisfaction of others, rather its a birthright that cannot be impaired or removed by the perfectible standards of self appointed others.

Wellington monument Silhouette by Wellington monument Silhouette is licensed under Wellington monument Silhouette

06:42

Italy's governing Five Star party dismissed concerns that the Morandi Bridge could collapse as a fairy story AAV


At least 39 people were killed when the Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed, sending 20 cars and three HGV's falling 45 metres to the ground, and crushing everything below under vast mounds of concrete.

The initial response of the Italian government was quite extraordinary. The Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the fascist Northern League party Matteo Salvini actually attempted to deflect blame for the tragedy onto the EU, and then set about deliberately deflecting attention onto Mediterranean refugees.

Salvini's desperate attempt to blame the EU for 'budget restraints' that supposedly prevented Italy from repairing or replacing the bridge is absolutely ridiculous.

Of course the EU has imposed ruinous austerity measures on countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain, but nobody in the EU has ever vetoed a bridge repair budget, (in fact the EU has distributed vast amounts of money for public infrastructure projects like road upgrades).

Then came the revelation that Salvini's Five Star coalition partners actually opposed repair work to the bridge, and publicly dismissed concerns that it could collapse as a children's fairy story ('favoletta') in 2013.

The Five Star party hastily removed the offending article from their website once people began looking at it, but it still exists in archive form as you can see here.

Only the very worst of Internet illiterates imagine that you can simply make a story go away by deleting the page in question, but this IT illiteracy is something that the Five Star movements have in common with their UKIP allies in the European Parliament,...

04:44

Theodor Adorno and the Prague Spring 1968 openDemocracy

There was nearly society-wide consensus that as a power, the communist party could create a more democratic and humane society than those in western liberal capitalism.

lead Alexander Dubcek, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, on his arrival at the Central Committee building, Sept.12,1968. S & G/ EMPICS Archive/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

In the interview Whos Afraid of the Ivory Tower? (1969) for the German magazine Der Spiegel, Theodor Adorno answered the question of What is to be done with I do not know. I can only analyze relentlessly what is. In a period that was still charged with the revolutionary enthusiasm of 1968, Adorno was professing pessimism, negativity, and doubt. He perceived the student protest movement, where gung-ho optimism was supposed to shout down objective doubts about the real possibilities for social change, as pseudo-activism. The events, demonstrations, and strikes were doomed to failure by the conditions of the time. They might evoke the psychological feeling of something revolutionary, but they were far from ushering in a society free from capitalism and the rule of the bourgeoisie, and their repercussions could be the exact opposite of what the proponents of direct action had promised.

The student protest movement of 1968 and the ivory tower

Adorno foretold that Baudelaires concept of the ivory tower would have mileage in the years to come. In an article entitled Resignation, Adorno conceived of the activity of the student protest movement as drawing an exit on the enclosing wall of a social system to which at that moment there were no alternatives. These walls arouse justified feelings of being closed in, and of being subject to manipulation and unfreedom. But any exit from the walls of the system, however, is not on offer.

Adorno did not claim that all the actions of the 1968 protest movement were pseudo-activities. He supported the student blockade of the Springer Presse building, which, given the manipulation of information and the media witch-hunt against the protesting students, he considered legitimate. He also joined in the protests against the passage of...

03:59

Hungary and the end of democracy openDemocracy

Hungary has taken its leave of democracy and has transformed itself into a dictatorship.

lead lead Gabor Vona, president of the Jobbik party, marks the 170th anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian revolution against the Austrian Empire, March, 2018. Attila Volgyi/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Since Viktor Orbn was returned to the office of Prime Minister of Hungary in May 2010, he and his party Fidesz Magyar Polgri Szvetsg (Fidesz-MPSZ; Hungarian Civic Alliance) have transformed the political system of Hungary in a sustained way.

Democratic participation and participation rights have been massively restricted. Their goal is to fight against the (liberal) individual and to struggle instead for the (ethnic) collective: it is not about the individual human being as subject, but instead about the human being as part of a very specific cultural community. In 2012, the Journal of Democracy" was still talking about "Hungary's Illiberal Turn" using Hungarys own chosen propaganda term for talking about the country as an "illiberal democracy". Today, one must attest that Hungary should no longer be understood in terms of a democracy at all. Moreover, the processes of demolishing democracy can only be understood if one realizes that two radical right-wing parties, Fidesz and the party Jobbik Magyarorszgrt Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary), are working in a mode of functional task-sharing.

Founded in 1988, the radicalisation of Fidesz can only be understood in the context of its relationship with the party Jobbik, founded in 2003. This is because Fidesz and Jobbik practice a de facto division of labour in Hungarian politics. While Fidesz leads the way in dismantling Hungary's democratic structures in constitutional and legal norms, turning Hungary into a nationalist dictatorship, Jobbik is advancing a racist, anti-Roma and antisemitic struggle against democracy on the street with assaults and extensive expulsions of the homeless, among other groups.

With these two parties, as I have...

03:08

I wanted to wail, to scream at them: What in the world are you doing to my daughter? Are you human or not? openDemocracy

An interview with the mother of Anna Pavlikova, an 18-year-old facing extremism charges in Russia.

Anna Pavlikova. In mid-March, Russian law enforcement arrested ten people in Moscow on charges of creating an extremist organisation the previously unknown New Greatness organisation. According to OVD-Info, which monitors politically motivated arrests in Russia, FSB officers organised New Greatness from the inside providing funds, stimulus, direction, a meeting space and even training several participants how to use Molotov cocktails before declaring it to be an extremist organisation and detaining its members. Charges against seven of the suspects are based on the testimony of the remaining three people who are under house arrest. These men are believed to be security service agents who infiltrated the organisation. Indeed, one of them wrote the organisation's charter. 

Moscow resident Anna Pavlikova was 17 when she was arrested as part of the investigation into New Greatness. Since her arrest at home on 15 March, Pavlikova's health has significantly deteriorated. Regardless, her detention has been extended on several occasions: apparently she is a particularly dangerous suspect.

Thus, a Moscow court refused to place Pavlikova under house arrest on 9 August. But after an unsanctioned public meeting was announced in support of her and another defendant, Maria Dubovik, on 15 August, Russia's Supreme Court ordered that Pavlikova's request for house arrest be heard in court, and investigators requested that Pavlikova should be transferred to house arrest. The court is expected to hear this request on 16 August. 

Alexander Chernykh, a correspondent for Kommersant, interviewed Anna Pavlikovas mother Yulia at the request of OVD-Info in May. 

Yulia, your daughter Anna was 17 when she was arrested. Tell me how the police conducted her detention.

Someone started trying to break into our flat around half five in the morning. There was loud knocking and yelling. The whole family was jolted awake, we didnt understand what was going on at all. Some man we didnt know said that we had flooded his apartment downstairs. We didnt know this neighbour, but we inspected our flat anyway eve...

01:33

Research the revenge: what were getting wrong about Russia Today openDemocracy

Data-mining and analysis will not reveal what makes Russian propaganda tick.

 

(c) Jaap Arriens/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.I personally know many people who work at RT, and I have known some of them for over 20 years. When we first met in the stormy 1990s, some of them, like myself, were working for foreign TV bureaus in Moscow, others for independent radio. All those aspiring young people were enthusiastic, cosmopolitan, spoke a number of languages and loved bourgeois traits (which, yes, includes golf).

These boys and girls eventually hit western medias glass ceiling. In the early 2000s, the big TV and news media bureaus in Moscow were curtailed either due to economic constraints or decreasing interest in Russia. Very few of the capable producers, field reporters and editors continued their careers at the BBC, Australias ABC News, German public service broadcaster ZDF or Reuters. Western media, once enchanted with perestroika and glasnost, and later the seismic events of the Yeltsin era, trained and taught this local staff, myself included. In the 2000-2004 period, most of these people lost their comfortable jobs, failed to qualify for transfers to other countries or find places for themselves at the Moscow offices of other foreign media outlets.

A decade later, most of them were working for Russian state television and other state media such as the newly born Russia Today. Today, they are the bosses and leaders of this TV channel, which is now regarded as a major threat to western democracy.

It is well known that Margarita Simonyan, RTs editor-in-chief, developed some sort of hostility to the USA after a FLEX exchange she attended at the age of 15. A girl from the bustling seaside resort of Sochi found herself in Bristol, New Hampshire (population 1,688 in 2010) not exactly the centre of the universe. Imagine someone who grew up at the seaside of Miami beach being diverted to an obscure depopulated village in Karelia, northwest Russia? You may fall in love with lakes and rocks, even with the nice cumbersome people who live there, but youll never sympathise with the country which sent you to the middle of nowher...

01:12

Free Shahidul Alam: the Bangladeshi photographer exposing injustices around the world openDemocracy

Alam must be released immediately to continue his vital work as a voice for the powerless.

Shahidul Alam Shahidul Alam. Image: Rahnuma Ahmed.On 5 August, the internationally acclaimed photographer Shahidul Alam was arrested by Bangladeshi police for making provocative comments about student-led mass protests which gripped the country for more than a week.

Alam was forcibly taken from his home in the capital Dhaka by at least 25 police officers hours after accusing the government of clinging to power by brute force in an interview on Al Jazeera TV. On Saturday, more than a 100 people were injured at a demonstration when police fired rubber bullets into a crowd. The protests were spurred by the killing of two schoolchildren by a speeding bus on July 29. Tens of thousands of students have since taken to the streets to demand improvements to road safety.

Alam was charged last week under section 57 of Bangladeshs Information Communications Technology Act, a broad law that prohibits electronic communication which prejudice[s] the image of the state. Human rights organisations have accused the government of using the law to suppress free speech and detain critics. Prior to his court hearing, Alam told reporters he was beaten while in custody. Police have denied the allegations but a high court judge has ordered an investigation into Alams treatment. He remains imprisoned in Dhaka.

As a photographer, Alam has travelled to some of the most forbidding and dangerous crises zones in the world to tell the story of those at the centre of them. He has tackled challenging and difficult issues with dedication and courage. His work has documented the lives of homeless children, those affected by HIV/AIDS, women who have been beaten and scarred in acid attacks, human rights activists, and people who have been trafficked. 

Over four decades, Alam has made an important contribution to the field photojournalism both in Bangladesh and further afield. His photographs have been published in several major media outlets, including The New York Times, Time Magazine and...

00:28

Dealing with bigotry accusations Tory style: Purge your accusers! AAV


In 2016 Zac Goldsmith ran a despicable anti-Muslim fearmongering operation during his campaign to become Mayor of London. This campaign included several high profile Tories hiding behind parliamentary privilege to smear an innocent man as a terrorism supporter, and culminated in an absolutely despicable BNP-style propaganda piece designed to associate his Muslim rival Sadiq Khan with the 5/5 London terrorist attacks.

This bigoted Tory anti-Muslim campaign went right to the top of the Tory party, and it's being cited as one of many examples in calls for an inquiry into Tory anti-Muslim bigotry.

One of the leading figures calling for an investigation into Tory anti-Muslim bigotry is the Tory peer Mohamed Sheikh.


It hardly seems like a coincidence that Zac...

Wednesday, 15 August

23:41

Important message about Newsnet Newsnet.scot

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We apologise for the inconvenience, and we hope to see you in our new home very shortly.

Best wishes,

The Newsnet Team

The post Important message about Newsnet appeared first on Newsnet.scot.

23:22

How to break the impasse on Labours anti-semitism mess openDemocracy

Labour should adopt the IHRA code, with the Home Affairs Select Committees caveats

Chuka Umunna MP, who was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee when it published its report into antisemitism.

Labour and anti-Semitism. Its an almighty mess. As each summertime day goes by another fateful twist: a long-forgotten speaking engagement, a mislaid wreath-laying. Each episode greeted by an avalanche of  criticism and never mind the rights, wrongs and facts of the matter. The summer silly season may have provided a mediated amplification, but this is still a mess of considerable proportions. And whatever our stake in it, its a mess showing no signs of going away, which is surely what the vast majority of Labour members simply, if sometimes wrongly, want to happen.

Entrenchment by both sides has produced an impasse. This does nobody any good, most importantly of all for the serious and legitimate cause: opposing antisemitism a cause helped neither by overblown claims that a Jeremy Corbyn Labour government poses an existential threat to Jewish life in this country nor by campaigners claiming that this is simply another coup against the Corbyn Labour leadership.

But politics isnt defined by principle it is given meaning by change made possible by compromise. Knowing how to give, and take, without losing our sense of purpose is the art of politics. Anything else leaves us on the sidelines while the rest of the world moves on, without us. This is what both sides in this most intractable o...

21:44

Subversive Magic and Libraries Presentation All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski

Ruth Rikowski
Framlingham Castle

SUBVERSIVE MAGIC: LIBRARIES, EDUCATION AND CAPITALIST FUNCTIONALITY PRESENTATION POWERPOINT

 

Ruth Rikowski, London South Bank University & Series Editor for the Chandos Information Professional Series

This is Ruth Rikowskis presentation at the recent International Conference on Critical Education VIII, held at the University of East London, 25 28 July 2018.

The Presentation PowerPoint can be viewed at: http://www.academia.edu/37142301/Subversive_Magic_Libraries_Education_and_Capitalist_Functionality_Presentation_

 

 

ABSTRACT

A Magical Marxism as writers such as Andy Merrifield and Derek Ford have noted can illuminate the future whilst helping to shatter the shackles of the past. Shining this light on libraries and education in contemporary capitalism allows us to glimpse the subversive magic which, on the one hand is dreaded by representatives of capital, and on the other generates hope for humankind. A brief autobiographical account of how libraries ho...

20:56

Jeremy Corbyn should demand an apology from Chris Grayling over his defamatory comments AAV


On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme the Tory government minister Chris Grayling told an absolute whopper of a lie about Jeremy Corbyn. Unsurprisingly the Today programme presenters didn't think to call Grayling out on his lie, they just left it there, further rotting away the BBC's own shockingly degraded reputation, as well as his.

The lie Grayling resorted to was a claim that "Jeremy Corbyn attended the funeral of terrorists" in Tunisia.

Here are the actual facts:
  • At the invitation of the Tunisian Prime Minister in 2014, Jeremy Corbyn attended a remembrance ceremony for the victims of an Israeli terrorist atrocity (the 1985 bombing of the Palestinian government in exile in Tunis that was even condemned by Margaret Thatcher at the time).
  • The event was not a "funeral" in any way shape or form because nobody was buried there on the day Corbyn visited.
  • There is no evidence that the Black September members who were buried in the graveyard in 1992 were "terrorists" or Munich "plotters" as alleged in the shockingly dishonest Daily Mail front page that kicked off this latest anti-Corbyn smear campaign. 
  • ...

20:55

The case of the Sarost 5: black holes of responsibility in the central Mediterranean openDemocracy

With EU states brushing away their responsibilities to provide a port of safety for people rescued at sea, weaker parties are left to deal with the consequences of this deadly approach.

lead Boat with about 120 migrants on board coming from Tunisia, that arrived on the coasts of Sicily in March, 2012. Cremaschi/ Associated Press. All rights reserved.

For nearly three weeks 40 people who left from Libya were kept from disembarking in a safe port. They were stationed a few miles off the coast of Tunisia, in front of Zarzis. I have been in constant contact with members of the crew of the Sarost 5 a supply vessel for the Miskar oil rig off the Tunisian coast and people amongst the rescued, over recent weeks.

The stories told by the migrants are horrific: there are testimonies of torture, horrendous prison conditions and forced labour in Libya, and of 5 days spent drifting on sea, before the rescue took place. For three weeks they were forced to wait on a vessel unfit for so many people whilst negotiations supposedly took place between the EU and the Tunisian state. Despite international human rights law, and obligations under maritime law to rescue people in distress at sea, no state was willing to take them in. They were left in a vacuum of responsibility.

Beyond the legal argument, this case, which was minutely documented by Alarm Phone, illustrates the politicisation of the responsibility for allocating a port of safety (POS) in the past months in the central Med. To be brought to safety, it is no longer enough to endure the crossing in a flimsy dingy beyond Libyan territorial waters and hope to be rescued by a bigger vessel. Now, people can either be legally pushed back to Libya (a documented 'hell' for migrants) if the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) in Rome calls the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Tripoli and the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) manages to conduct the rescue. Or, as in this recent development, people have to endure being at sea for another two weeks, left in the dark as to when, whe...

20:50

Do you agree?: What #MeToo can teach us about digital consent openDemocracy

The conversation around sexual consent could radically change the way we think of consent online.

It started in the beginning of April. It was late at night, and I was swiping mostly left on the famous dating app Binder. One guy sent a message inviting me to experience his enormous talent. Rolling my eyes to yet another tempting offer, I unmatched him. Bored and tired from these original solicitations, I decided to watch another Chelsea Handler comedy special online and go to sleep.

In the morning, when I opened Facebook I saw a new message from a person I didnt recognise. Hi hotstuff, did u see what I sent you yesterday? Im free toni8, lets meet! And heres a preview pic to help ur imagination ;). Gross! Oh god I havent even have my coffee yet, how the hell did this guy find my personal Facebook account? Then I remembered, that for some reason, we have mutual friends. He must have searched my name and found me. I blocked and deleted the talented guy, thinking this is surely a one time thing. But it wasnt, it was only the beginning. Suddenly, I started receiving messages from other guys: hey, remember we dated that one time a decade ago? Let's stay in touch, heres a pic in case you forgot ;)". An hour later: "hey, remember we talked a couple of years ago in a pub? Let's hang out, k?". Pissed off and annoyed I decided to close my Facebook account, I might not remember anyones birthday anymore, but I cant handle this shit. But then the next hour, I received a message in my Gmail inbox. Then another message on Twitter and WhatsApp. They just kept coming, like zombies haunting me ghosting was no longer a thing, apparently. Guys who I swiped right and left on, dated or even just talked to once in the past found all my online accounts, even my Hotmail. THATS IT! I am deleting all my accounts!!! Im going offline, they cant find me here!. Disconnected from everything, I sat in my living room and felt relieved. No more intrusions, I thought with a smile. And just when I was enjoying the silence, I heard a knock on the door...

Even if dont participate in the wond...

20:01

Could the skills system hold the answer to Northern Irelands productivity problem? Slugger O'Toole

In Northern Ireland were well-used to hearing bad economic news. What sits underneath much of this comes down to productivity the value of what we produce by every hour of work.

In fact, productivity here is almost a fifth lower than the UK average, and whilst the UKs productivity rates are lower than some of our key competitors, which in itself is a significant structural problem, in Northern Ireland we have some of the very worst productivity rates in Europe.

This is concerning because productivity is a crucial ingredient in increasing living standards and underpinning economic growth, so when productivity stalls across the UK, pay rates, prosperity and growth are affected too.

With automation and technological change likely to sweep across the economy in the coming years, and with Brexit looming large, finding new ways to boost productivity will be crucial to our economic future.

At the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), we believe that what we call the skills system secondary schools, colleges, apprenticeships and universities should be at the heart of improving productivity in Northern Ireland, and in doing so deliver increased living standards and help tackle inequalities.

However, current Northern Ireland Skills Barometer research shows that many people have the wrong or inappropriate skills to meet the workforce needs of the economy. Were producing lots of graduates, and thats a good thing, but not always meeting the skills needs of businesses.

Equally, were letting many down, as too many people in Northern Ireland have no qualifications and we have too little provision available for people to reskill or upskill throughout their careers.

Even where we have skilled workers, theres evidence were not using those skills very well in our economy. Instead, we have what amounts to a worrying stand-off in the Northern Ireland economy, whereby too often employees dont seek improvements in their skills because they believe that they will not be well-used by their employer.

Equally, employers have too often avoided investing in the skills of their wo...

19:55

Tackling the trolls: how women are fighting back against online bullies openDemocracy

Refusing to be silent, women are leading research, campaigns and new strategies to stop trolls and create safer online spaces.

Some of the abuse the author received on Facebook in 2012. Image: screenshot.Back in 2012, I went to the police to report an incident of online harassment. A man had called me an obscene name, threatened to find out where I lived in order to post my details on 4Chan, and wrote she must pay!!. He accepted a caution.

This wasnt my first incident of online abuse.

There was the rising academic and popular environmentalist who commented on everything I wrote, in a way that amounted to sustained harassment. When I wrote a piece on abortion rights, he called me a fucking baby killer.

In recent years, Ive been told to drink floor polish and that I need to be raped. Ive been repeatedly called a bitch and a cunt. People have responded to my articles with images of dead babies. Last month, I was told to shut my libtard cock-holster.

Feminist activists have received endless abuse leaving some with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. I know of women who have received bomb threats; friends who have had their faces Photoshopped onto obscene images.

When I wrote a piece on abortion rights, he called me a fucking baby killer.

Women, however, are refusing to be silent, striking back against online abuse and taking action to tackle the trolls. From governments to...

19:44

Why there needs to be checks on mainstream economics openDemocracy

Pluralist economics can make the mainstream profession more aware of its significant blind spots.

This summer I attended a behavioural science school at the University of Warwick.This summer I attended a behavioural science school at the University of Warwick. Among the speakers was the economist Paul Frijtas, who said something that sparked my attention: Individually economic ideas can be fantastically idiotic, but as a whole they provide the bureaucracy with a framework for thinking about the right things, communicating and looking at the data. This is quite a disarming rejoinder for us critics of mainstream economics, in that it already concedes most of the substantive points we might make about unrealistic assumptions, limited methodology and empirical issues (many of which Frijtas himself did not shy away from making for the duration of the School). Instead it throws up a different challenge: are any of our alternatives feasible, practical and comprehensive enough to provide a general framework for thinking about economic problems? We may call for adopting a variety of perspectives pluralism but I am increasingly of the view that none of them can suffice in this regard.

Pluralism as a check

Any call for utilising pluralist economics needs to be clear on exactly how it would be put into action. Like it or not, the mainstream has a wide range of tools ready for use in situations, from business cycle management to competition regulation; from environmental protection to health policy; and for estimating the effects of both early education and criminal rehabilitation programs. Although there are many schools of economics which would ideally be incorporated into the pluralists toolkit, none of them are sophisticated enough to replace mainstream economics entirely. Schools such as feminist, behavioural and ecological economics are non-starters because they are designed to highlight specific (and important) features of the world which the mainstream has historically missed, rather than to present a full alternative vision of economics. There are several approaches which are more general, including the well-established schools of Austrian, Marxist, and post-Keynesian economics. But it would be difficult to persuade institutions which utilise economics to embrace the former two for the simple reason that they usually object to the existence of these institutions altogether. Many Austrians would like to get rid of all governmental functions but the ones that facilitate basic market operations, which is not helpful for an economist working in the Gover...

19:18

UK Labour supports a United Nations Emergency Peace Service openDemocracy

Whats radical one year may be accepted the next.

Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address, 1961. Wikicommons screengrab. Some rights reserved.

 We the people share a problem one thats defied solution since the United Nations was founded how to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war? The worst wars may be elsewhere for now, but they are not going away.

Over the past decade, the incidence of armed conflict tripled. Last year, UN officials warned of the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. Then, the world also simply watched as nearly a million Rohingya people were ethnically cleansed from Myanmar. Now, sixty-nine million people are desperately fleeing war, violence and persecution. In June, the International Crisis Group reported deteriorated situations in: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Somalia, Somaliland, Mali, Niger, Taiwan Strait, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Iran and Yemen. More recently, the Global Peace Index 2018 estimated the annual cost of war and violent conflict at a staggering $14.7 trillion (US). Even children recognise thats unsustainable.

UN peace operations definitely help, but theyre now relegated to post-conflict stabilization putting a lid on a crisis once the fighting slows to allow the start of a peace process. For every operation, the UN faces an arduous process of renting the highly-valued resources of its member states, negotiating around their terms and accepting their conditions.  Instead of UN rapid deployment to prevent worse, routine delays allow worse. Now, it usually takes six-to-twelve months to deploy. As a result, conflicts tend to escalate and spread, setting back the prospects for development and disarmament for decades. Then, they also require larger, longer UN operations at far higher...

17:45

The great Greek wildfires openDemocracy

With incentives for property speculators being as high as ever and budgets shrunk to a bare minimum, the Greek fire brigade might not have faced its hardest test yet.

lead lead Greek PM Alexis Tsipras pledges demolition of 3,200 illegal constructions in Attica region in wake of deadly wildfires, Lavrio, Aug. 7, 2018. Marios Lolos/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Like the Grenfell Tower fire that shook London in 2017, the Greek wildfires of 2018 cost the lives of dozens of people. This too is a story of austerity cuts prioritised over human safety. Unlike, the 2017 fire that shook London, the Greek wildfires were fuelled by a property speculation raging out of control.

Dozens of people died in heart-breaking circumstances. In one case 26 people including children were trying to head to the sea, escaping the raging fires. They were able to come close to the shore, only to find the only access to the beach, down a cliff, was blocked by the fence of a private property. There shouldnt be private property there, in a forested area, a few metres from the shore. But firemen found that the 26 perished embracing each other.

The Athens fire made international headlines, as one of the most extreme manifestations of the changing climate and the unusually high temperatures that are observed across the Mediterranean this summer. In Greece the debate has shifted towards the governments poor management of the crisis. All existing evidence is pointing towards a gross mismanagement of the fire by the Syriza government. Like their conservative predecessors in the New Democracy party who badly managed the wildfires of 2007, which also resulted in several dead, Syrizas cabinet seems to have wildly underestimated the extent of the catastrophe.

The exact conditions that led to fire consuming a good part of eastern Attica and the deaths of so many have not yet been established. Investigations, however, have established that the fire started as a result of...

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