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Thursday, 18 October

00:43

Imran thanks Modi, and eyes joint Nobel Peace Prize openDemocracy

India led by you would never think of undoing the Partition. Your party depends on Pakistan for its existence. A secret letter accessed by the author.

lead

Dear Modiji,

Jai Sri Ram!

Since this letter is for your eyes only, I can greet you in the name of Lord Ram. This is called blasphemy in Pakistan.

I am very grateful to you for cancelling the talks between our foreign ministers. You saved me from being called a stooge of India and from political death.

I understand fully well that the cancellation of the bilateral talk will ensure your victory in the coming elections. Had the talks been held, the Congress would have sent you bangles to wear. Your party had done that to the Congress Prime Minister! A photo of the bangles going viral would have subverted your election campaign. 

The photo of the two foreign ministers shaking hands would have sullied your masculine image. In every Indian city and village, you would have been called spineless. Moreover, some of your party men would have attacked your woman minister for shaking a mans hand!

I am glad you kept your diplomats out of drafting that cancellation statement. Their polite words would not have served our common purpose. By insulting me in that official statement, you raised my political stock. I am now seen as a strong leader and you are seen as a hero for calling me names.

You will recall that your sudden visit to a corrupt Pakistani Prime Ministers home gave me a big boost. My party won the election by calling Nawaz Shariff a stooge of India. You are a true friend! Hindutva helps me as much it helps you. 

My Spiritual Guide-cum-wife understands politics in our countries. She has asked me to help you just as you helped me. So, I will launch an anti-India tirade before your elections next year. That will bring you victory. The rabid communalists in our two countries can keep both of us going for years.

Your continuation is in Pakistans interest. The rabid communalists in our two countries can keep both of us going for years. These two rival formations need each other. Ours cannot increase its base without its counterpart across the border. The rival communal groups clash in...

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Wednesday, 17 October

23:54

A new caravan from Honduras heads for the American Dream openDemocracy

It remains to be seen if Mexico will allow this new caravan to pass safely through their country as they did last April, and what the United States will do to their children when they get there. Espaol

Caravan of Hondurans who left on October 14 fom San Pedro Sula. Image: www.laprensa.hn All rights reserved.

Theyre gathering in the early morning hours of Friday 12 October 2018 outside the city. At least a hundred, nursing mothers and motherless teens, a man on crutches and another pushed by his brother in a wheelchair. Someone holds up a sign that reads, We are not leaving because we want to. Were fleeing violence, poverty, unemployment (No nos vamos porque nos guste. Huimos la violencia, pobreza, desempleo). Its daybreak in Honduras and a new caravan has formed, about half a year after an earlier group successfully reached the U.S. border, and its moving north.

By the time they get to San Pedro Sula, recently named the most violent city on earth, their numbers have grown to almost five hundred. Handwritten notes taped to the walls of the main bus station organize them into groups by their cities of origin. Choloma Corts. El Progreso. La Ceiba.

We hope they give us free passage to travel through Mexico to the border, a 49 year old man says.

An eighteen year old from Santa Barbara cradles her friends infant in her arms as she sits on the curb, her feet clad only in pink socks and white plastic slides. A HCH TV reporter asks her if shes afraid of Donald Trump. No, I believe in God. God is greater than anyone on earth. Theyre going to cross into Guatemala, and then on to Mexico. We hope they give us free passage to travel through Mexico to the border, a 49 year old man says.

The number of children and sin...

23:30

Otra caravana de hondureos hacia el sueo americano openDemocracy

Queda por verse si Mxico permitir que esta nueva caravana de migrantes atraviese su territorio de manera segura, y qu harn los EE.UU. con todos sus nios cuando lleguen all. English

Caravana de hondureos que sali el 14 de Octiubre de San Pedro Sula. Foto: www.laprensa.hn. Todos los derechos reservados.

Es Viernes 12 de octubre de 2018. Un flujo continuo de gentes se va congregando, desde primera hora de la maana, en las afueras de la ciudad. Son al menos un centenar, entre los que se encuentran madres de lactantes y adolescentes solos, un hombre con muletas y otro en una silla de ruedas, empujado por su hermano. Alguien sostiene un letrero que dice: No nos vamos porque nos guste. Huimos la violencia, pobreza, desempleo). 

Amanece en Honduras. Aproximadamente medio ao despus de que un grupo anterior alcanzara con xito la frontera de los EE. UU. Se ha formado una nueva caravana, y se est dirigiendo hacia el norte.

En el momento de llegar a San Pedro Sula, recientemente nombrada la ciudad ms violenta de la tierra, son ya casi quinientos los caminantes. Unas notas manuscritas, pegadas a las paredes de la estacin principal de autobuses, los organizan en grupos por sus ciudades de origen: Choloma Corts; El Progreso; La Ceiba Una joven de Santa Brbara de dieciocho aos acuna al beb de su amiga en sus brazos mientras se sienta en el bordillo: calza calcetines de color rosa y chanclas blancas. Tienes miedo a Donald Trump?, le pregunta un reportero de la HCH TV . No, responde. Yo creo en Dios. Dios...

23:08

More and more Swedes reading misleading anti-immigrant news sites openDemocracy

Nativist, Islamophobic websites are flourishing in Sweden as politics takes a hard right.

Headlines from the four leading Swedish anti-immigration right-wing sites. Headlines from the four leading Swedish anti-immigration right-wing sites.Barbro Sjstrand, a 77-year-old psychiatrist working at a child and adolescent psychiatry centre in Stockholm, was searching for opinions on immigration online when she found Ledarsidorna. The right-wing populist website, read by 8% of Swedish internet users each week, gave her exactly was she was looking for: a stream of news stories and op-eds vehemently opposed to Swedens famously welcoming attitude towards refugees and progressive immigration laws.

Despite voting for the centre-right Moderate Party at last months general election, Sjstrand believes that the Sweden Democrats (SD) are more trustworthy than any of the mainstream parties and expressed an interest in their hardline anti-immigration policy. The anti-EU, nationalist, socially conservative party won 17% of the vote: less than was expected but enough to cement their place as the third-largest party in parliament. Sjstrand believes that websites like Ledarsidorna, which are supportive of the SD, are more open-minded than legacy media outlets. If I say something controversial at work, most people around me become silent, said Sjstrand over Skype one Sunday, but if we dont talk with each other, we have no democracy.

Sjstrand is part of a growing number of Swedes now visiting hard-right websites for news and opinions. According to a 2018 report from Reuters Institute, the four most popular Fria Tider, Nyheter Idag, Ledarsidorna and Samhllsnytt each reach around a tenth of Swedish internet users every week; by comparison, the online news sites of national newspapers and public service broadcasters are read by between 15% to 46% of Swedes. These sites tap into anti-immigrant sentiment with stories focusing on crime committed by immigrants and refugees and their perceived damaging impact on Swedish culture.

Despite claims of impartiality, Nyheter Idag f...

22:28

The Deloitte State of the State 2018-2019 Northern Ireland Report. Grim reading but at least the photos are pretty Slugger O'Toole

Yesterday Deloitte launched their State of the State 2018-2019 Northern Ireland Report. Sir Malcolm McKibbin, former head of the civil service who has found a new home in the warm embrace of the private sector was on hand at the event to answer awkward questions from the assorted hacks and bloggers.

The key buzzwords at the launch were Strong leadership and innovation, digital transformation and impending cliff edges in public sector services.

From the Press release:

Northern Ireland must rethink how public services are delivered to overcome the challenges ahead

Strong leadership and innovation are both needed to materially improve quality of public services

New technology and smart cities are examples of proven options for the future

Here is a flavour of the type of content:

The NI economy has not grown over the past four quarters compared with growth of 1.5% in the UK and 8% in the Republic of Ireland (ROI).The NI Composite Economic Index (NICEI) shows that economic activity has actually decreased by 1.0% over the year from Quarter 1 2017 to Quarter 1 2018. It also shows that the UK has had a shorter downturn and a faster recovery than NI. Productivity growth also remains significantly below the UK average (17%) and is the lowest in the regional rankings alongside Wales.

The report generally has lots of sensible rational ideas. The issue is we dont tend to do sensible and rational very well in Northern Ireland. Emotion and inertia are more our thing. Take the Strong leadership and innovation message, these are not terms you would normally associate with our political or public sector leaders.

The report is also heavy on the cliff edge for public services warnings. I know where they are coming from but Northern Ireland has been on a cliff edge for the past 50 years. It is like the boy who cried wolf, a Nolan show cliche. We are told every day that services are on a knife/cliff edge, so it is little wonder that the response...

21:52

Only now are both sides realising that the backstop cant be blagged away Slugger O'Toole

In single interviews its entirely appropriate for the presenter to play the devils advocate role. But in a long and pressing interview this morning on Radio 4s Today programme  with Irish foreign minister  Simon Coveney, John Humphrys showed I believe a basic lack of understanding of the EU/Irish position of the backstop which partly explains why its  such a conundrum. Im pretty sure it was more ignorance than tactic. All Humphrys  could do to fill the time was to keep repeating the UK position, that you surely cant expect us to divide our country etc., and playing down the significance of the commitment  the UK has already signed up to, on the grounds that  nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  At his best Humphrys finds a clever point to undermine the case hes challenging. In this case, the only one I can think of is to ask: So theres a straightforward clash between traditional British ideas of sovereignty and the Good Friday Agreement ( even though the GFA states that the sovereignty of both states is unaffected)?  Its unsolvable isnt it? and force Coveney  to face the dilemma or seem intransigent.

Coveneys case for the backstop rested on the perceived need to protect the rights of Irish /EU citizens in the North which the GFA explicitly introduced. The trouble is, nobody contemplated  that either party would ever leave the EU at the time of the Agreement. The citizenship provisions seemed little more than warm- hearted recognition of the two identities and the right to hold either passport, or both. All familiar stuff.  But now to their horror, English MPs and others   not only hardline  Brexiteers  and probably including Theresa May  are discovering  that the right to opt for  British, Irish or both citizenships has created a Trojan horse. That would explain the increasingly strident and simplistic rejection of the backstop, which has been meat and drink  in the Irish debate ever since the referendum and partly accounts for  Brexiteer accusations of ulterior motives from Varadkar and co. The Daily Telegraph suggests today that on the essentials the Irish are unlikely to budge.

Since the June European Council, UK sources say that Dublin has become visibly more constructive in the talks process, even according to a report in the Financial Times letting it be known that it would support an all-UK customs union in the backstop agreement.

Unfortunately, this is where Irish trade interests and the European Unions desire to defend the integrity of the single market start to conflict. The EU has now refused to grant this to the British side, raising the risks of a hard no deal Brexit.

Ultimately, given Irelands desire to remain firmly aligned with the EU for...

21:45

Northern Ireland must rethink how public services are delivered to overcome the challenges ahead Slugger O'Toole

The annual State of the State report has been released by Deloitte with some fascinating observations about the challenges facing a potential future Executive in Northern Ireland.

On the lack of an Executive;

The lack of an Assembly and Executive means that decisions have not been made on reform and transformation of public services, on economic and social policies or on major planning decisions since early 2017. In that time, ambitious health reforms have slowed, the economic gap between Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic has grown without intervention and longterm infrastructure plans have stalled. In addition, in the absence of local ministers, the devolved Assembly has not been able to directly exert its influence in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

The report did contain some praise for how the Northern Ireland Civil Service has operated since the collapse of power-sharing and recognises the limits on their decision making power;

The civil servants we interviewed for The State of the State were determined to continue to implement the programmes for which they have relevant authority, acting under legal advice. However, the Arc 21 ruling on a planning decision for an incinerator has put a spotlight on the limitations of their powers, introducing further uncertainty and ramping up concerns over the viability of continued devolved government without ministers.

Believe it or not our fiscal position has actually worsened, making decisions around public services all the more difficult for a future Executive;

In the time since the Assembly and Executive were last in place, Northern Irelands fiscal position appears to have worsened. Several public sector leaders we interviewed told us that costs and demand are rising faster than their funding. One argued that ministers, if they returned, would need to reprioritise spending to core citizen services above their own areas of policy interest.

Some of the mounting problems that we are facing our outlined in pretty stark terms by the various policy-makers that were interviewed for the report.

The report lists suggestions about some changes that could be made in public service delivery which are worth reading in full but some recommendations include;

  1. Heath-charging for missed GP and hospital appointments, in certain circumstances
  2. Education- Area planning and rationalisation of the schools estate
  3. Infrastructure-tolling to fund maintenance and road upgrades, spread demand and reduce congestion
  4. Finance- Increasing the regional rate and reducing o...

21:34

Belfasts feminist film festival to host 4 days of films, discussions, panels across the city Slugger O'Toole

We want these important films to reach a new audience in Belfast and promote discussion about the things that affect womens lives here and around the world every day.

Belfasts feminist film festival WANDA proudly presents a second edition of exciting, diverse, new and retrospective films directed by women.

Over four days the festival will feature films, panels, and a quiz at locations across the city such as Queens Film Theatre, Black Box, Beanbag Cinema, and the Accidental Theatre.

WANDA runs from Thursday 1st Sunday 4th November, with sponsors including by the Belfast Film Festival and Film Hub NI. The festival features as its closing film this year the Irish premiere of Rafiki by Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu. Banned in its country of origin due to its depiction of a lesbian relationship, Rafiki is a stunning and nuanced film with a cracking female-led soundtrack.

Launching the festival today, Laura OConnor said We are excited to present our new programme, which explores some of Northern Irelands leading debates, discussing abortion on screen and the fight for equal marriage rights. We want these important films to reach a new audience in Belfast and promote discussion about the things that affect womens lives here and around the world every day.  The festival will include a fundraising event for the newly formed Rape Crisis NI.

Co-directer Rose Baker said Building on the back of last years successful approach of positioning older films with new works both politically motivated and of local interest our hope is this years programme continues to find an intergenerational, engaged and enquiring audience. We felt film and film theory and practice was the perfect way to open into wider conversations about reproductive rights, domestic labour and the telling of womens stories and giving space to womens voices.

The full programme and tickets are available at www.wandabelfast.com and on location.

Rose Baker & Laura OConnor.

20:38

#Eleno and #Elassim as the vital struggle against the fascism in Brazil openDemocracy

Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro frequently expresses contempt towards women, and his candidacy embodies the patriarchal society that we live in. Espaol, Portugus 

Ele No Protest. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved.

In A room of ones own, Virginia Woolf wrote that, for centuries women had served as mirrors with the magical powers of portraying men as being double their real size.

These mirrors, fundamental to violent actions, explain the insistence of certain characters, such as Mussolini, to make women smaller than men, because if they could be shrunk, men could not stop growing.   

Almost a hundred years later, unfortunately the mirror allegory is still a valid tool to explain male supremacy. This is especially true in the Brazilian political arena where the hate speech of leading Presidential candidate Jair Messias Bolsonaro is directed against women and other vulnerable groups.

As a former Army captain, his violent discourse illustrates how politics can be turned into a battlefield by fabricating enemies and playing upon peoples built-in prejudices.

Women, portrayed as less than men in Bolsonaros speeches, constitute the majority of Brazils population: they surpass men by 4.5 million, according to the Brazilian official data base (IBGE).

He once said to a colleague and congresswoman, for example, that he would not even rape her because she was ugly. This speech seems to fit in to a country that registered an increase in the number of rapes in 2017, with an average of 164 cases per day.

If one considers that most of the rapes remain unreported, the amount could easily reach 500,000 cases per year.

Women, portrayed as less than men in Bolsonaros speeches, constitute the majority of Brazils population: they surpass men by 4.5 million, according to the Brazilian official data base (IBGE).

...

11:27

Congratulations to Anna Burns from Ardoyne, winner of the Man Booker prize, for taking the stereotype out of Belfast Slugger O'Toole

 

The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died, begins this strange and intriguing novel that tackles the Northern Ireland conflict from the perspective of an 18-year-old girl with no interest in the Troubles writes the Guardian reviewer .

Except  it isnt about Belfast, not specifically. Neither place nor  people are named in Milkman. Ive just started reading it. This is a  dystopian society about character rather than characters.  The absence of familiar points of identification makes it a tough read, like looking at an abstract painting you dont quite understand. Orwellian, Kafkaesque, Pinteresque even at times Biblical; you name it.  Belfast people will identify the Waterworks off the Antrim Road.  But If you usually fall in into the familiar trap of trying precisely to identify scenes and types, I advise you to give up early. Itll break your heart.

Our heroine is a daily runner in the park. As she runs she reads, a distinctive feat in itself.  Running and reading are at once her escape and an irresistible challenge  in a gangland community which is both sentimental and brutalised.  That rings a bell straight away. Her detachment from  family and friends gives her not only the allure of mystery  but  rare and highly literate powers of observation and introspection. The Milkman is not a milkman but is always up to track her early run. Whats he up to, seduction or another sinister purpose? But she is no  chick to be blown in the wind. She dominates more than she complies

 Every weekday, rain or shine, gunplay or bombs, stand-off or riots, I preferred to walk home reading my latest book, she tells us. This would be a 19th-century book because I did not like 20th-century books because I did not like the 20th-century. I suppose now, looking back, this milkman knew all of that as well.

What exactly is it that the Milkman a predatory paramilitary knew? That she walked home alone, or that she was steeped in the 19th century? The latter, when you stop to think about it, is the creepier.

The Newsletter

Welcomed as a novel that will help people think about Me Too, it has also been praised for a unique first-person voice rich in the conversational language of Northern Ireland and its handling of universal problems facing women and outsiders.

Judges have said they did...

06:21

The everyday power of movement activism openDemocracy

Activism is normal; whats strange is that we dont see it that way.

Dublin Castle after the abortion referendum results were declared, 26 May 2018. Credit: Katenolan1979 via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

On September 29th 2018 I took part in Irelands annual March for Choice to pressure the government for free, safe, legal abortion following the pro-choice vote in Mays referendum. You could feel the demo coming for miles on the train: people got on displaying rows of badges in fantastic costumes and holding placards. The march was cheerful, confident and determined.

A conservative clich has it that Irish people dont protest, and that they are afraid of standing out or saying something controversial. Yet from the start of the referendum campaign people with no previous experience of activism wore Repeal jumpers in the streets, told their often horrendous stories in public, and knocked on strangers doors, usually meeting a positive response (66.4% of voters voted yes).

As this shows, it doesnt take so much for social expectations and personal behaviour to change, for a country to become a movement society where activism is a normal everyday thing rather than strange or alien and where its results can transform not just laws but lives.

Womens movements have powerfully changed the vast majority of the worlds countries over the past half-century and continue to do so, as the #MeToo movement testifies. As that movement also shows, public controversy and private transformation are not so separate. Between the high-profile challenge to a Harvey Weinstein and a non-celebrity woman quietly telling her story lies the slow and difficult process of challenging workplace cultures, community norms, family relationships and adolescent culture.

Moving further back in time, most of the worlds countries including Ireland became independent from European empires within living memory. Others overthrew fascism, state socialism, apartheid, other dictatorships and the odd monarchy. The idea that activism is something other than a normal, everyday part of human activity is just a story.

In working-class and ethnic minority communities where struggle is routine to get basic services, resist police oppression, self-organise to meet everyday needs or assert community pride, those who do much of this wo...

04:43

PEGIDA turns 4 will AfD be among the well-wishers? openDemocracy

Some have spoken out against a rapprochement between the AfD and PEGIDA. The AfD leader in Saxony insists: 'The AfD is the political arm of all non-violent, liberal-democratic citizen movements.'

lead lead 01.09.2018, Saxony, Chemnitz: Lutz Bachmann, founder of PEGIDA, makes a selfie in front of a photo of the murdered Iulia from Viersen during AfD demonstration. Ralf Hirschberger/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

Four years ago on February 20, 2014, 'Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident' (PEGIDA) staged their first-ever demonstration in the city of Dresden. About 350 people attended. Soon, the weekly PEGIDA protests turned into the most talked about issue in German politics. In the winter of 2014 and 2015, up to 20,000 people joined the 'evening walks' in Dresden. While since then a political party, the AfD (Alternative for Germany), has become the key radical right player in German politics, PEGIDA still regularly mobilizes more than 1,000 individuals. By now, their Monday gatherings have become a 'protest ritual'.

Every now and then, PEGIDA re-enters the spotlight, most recently this summer. In Chemnitz, another Saxon city about 50 miles away from the region's capital Dresden, a German-Cuban man was killed on August 26, with two individuals from Middle Eastern countries as suspects. What followed was mobilization by various far-right activists from in and outside Chemnitz, who entered the scene and exploited the death for their own mobilization purposes. Some protests involved violence against immigrants and the...

02:23

Brexit is taking our food policy in the wrong direction openDemocracy

One of the key roles of government is protecting us from ill effects of food that can take years to appear. But Brexit could undermine that.

Image: Aberdeen Angus beef cattle. Rights: Scott Bauer/CC Public Domain.

The decision around the food that we eat is among the most intensely private that we can make. Children express extremely strong preferences from the earliest ages - and these can last a lifetime. The choice about food has a direct, causal impact on our health. There is growing awareness for example that refined sugar is addictive, and is contributing to an obesity crisis.

We assume that the food that we buy is not poisonous, even if extravagances are ultimately unhealthy. We expect responsible companies to sell products that are not extremely bad for our children.

But we have a problem. There can be a conflict of interests between the producer of foods and the customer. The producer needs to sell as much food at as low a price as possible. If the ill effects are immediate and significant then customers will notice and most will stop buying the food. But if the effects are less direct and take longer, then this is not so clear.

We therefore want governments to ban hidden ingredients that will cause cancer, or otherwise make us sick. We want to go about our lives with an assurance that our food will not kill us. So who influences government decisions: is it us, or the corporations?

Take the use of growth hormones in the raising of beef for slaughter. The synthesised hormone causes the animal to grow more meat, resulting in higher profits for the company concerned - and more protein going into the human diet. The European Union has considered evidence that some hormones can cause cancer and has therefore banned their use as growth promoters, and also banned meat from other countries where hormones have been used for that reason.

...

01:07

Entrepreneurs of political violence: the varied interests and strategies of the far-right in Ukraine openDemocracy

For Ukraine's far right, violence has become a source of influence and power. 

25 April: C14 attacks and sets alight a Roma camp in Kyiv. Source: Instagram. The recent wave of anti-Roma pogroms in Ukraine has spawned a new series of texts on right-wing violence. However, a significant part of this literature still mostly relies on discourse analysis, which cannot fully explain the actions of far right organisations on the ground. Analysing far-right movements programmes and ideological statements can be useful when combined with a closer look at the actual activities of the movements in question, the way they interact among themselves and the wider social and political context. But judging a group primarily by how it presents itself to the world is misleading.

The lack of primary sources from Ukraines far-right milieu, as well as the general scarcity of research on non-EU (and non-Russian) eastern Europe, has led to an exoticised perception of central and eastern Europe as whole and one that is open to politicisation by both liberals and leftists. Public discussion thus tends to degenerate into either liberal denial of the very existence of the far-right problem in Ukraine or sensationalist and exaggerated anti-imperialist accounts of the fascist junta ruling the country.

To avoid oversimplification, I focus on the grounded context rather than ideologies and programmes of far-right groups. Here, I will try to contribute to a better understanding of the far right in Ukraine by conceptualising them as entrepreneurs of political violence a portmanteau of two established terms from different fields. A political entrepreneur is a political actor who pursues opportunistic strategies aimed at gaining popularity and influence, rather than following a specific ideological agenda. Likewise, Violent entrepreneurs is the title of an influential study of Russian organised crime by sociologist V...

00:24

In Russias North Caucasus, an unprecedented, peaceful protest openDemocracy

In Ingushetia, people have come out to protest land transfer to neighbouring Chechya. For now, the Kremlin is listening. 

Magas, Ingushetia. Image: Tanya Lokshina. As the call to prayer rolls over of Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, Russias smallest North Caucasus republic, hundreds of men busily unroll plastic mats, turning the central square into an open-air prayer ground. Allahu Akbar! The men kneel, get up, and kneel again a sea of kneeling men stretching out in front of me. Done with the prayer, they roll back the mats. Then they continue with the rally that has gathered them here out on the square. to call for the annulment of a recent agreement on the demarcation of Ingushetias administrative border with neighboring Chechnya that will see Ingushetia lose territory.

Estimates vary on how much territory would be lost to Chechnya. Official estimates put it at five per cent of Ingushetias entire current territory, totaling 1,240 square miles. Independent experts estimate seven per cent, and some of the protest organisers say the loss is up to 10 percent.

During the Soviet era, Chechnya and Ingushetia were one republic. An interim agreement on the border reached in the early 1990s, after Chechnya sought independence from Russia while Ingushetia chose in a referendum to remain in Russia, was revised on several occasions, but the demarcation was never finalised.

As many as 10,000 people have joined the rally on some days. This is unprecedented for Ingushetia, with its population of just over 450,000.

Why such great numbers? People in Ingushetia generally ...

00:17

Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain openDemocracy

And they dont like it.

Five Met police officers restraining and pepper spraying a black man in London this month. Image, Twitter, fair use.

Back in July, I rang the Met. Britains elections watchdog had just referred another major Leave campaign to the cops, for suspected crimes committed during the knife-edge Brexit campaign. This was the second referral in three months (the first related to Arron Banks's controversial pro-Brexit outfit, Leave.EU). I assumed the Metropolitan Police had done nothing about either case. After all, if Britains police forces took the crimes of rich white people seriously, London wouldnt be the world centre for money laundering. But its always important to check your assumptions.

When the police finally got back to me, they confirmed my suspicions. They hadnt opened an investigation into any of the cases referred to them by the Electoral Commission. I mentioned this in a broader story about regulators (noting you can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process). And then I popped a reminder in my diary for a fairly random date a few months thence, saying check whether Met still havent opened investigation.

Last week, we published the result of that diary entry. No, the Met still hadnt opened an official investigation, citing political sensitivities. When I tweeted the piece, it was carried across the internet on a wave of...

Tuesday, 16 October

23:14

The case for the Union is far broader than the DUPs. But is it compatible with a good deal? Slugger O'Toole

Nobody can doubt that Brexit has challenged the stability of the Union, not only in Scotland and Northern Ireland but in England too.

In a lecture in London last night he entitled The Nightmare of History, Brexit, Ireland and the English Revolution, Fintan OToole warmed to his theme, familiar to Irish Times readers, of pouring scathing contempt over the Brexit case, which he dismissed as post imperial imaginings. If hes right and  Brexit is creating a revolution at least in the minds of committed Brexiteers,  its beating a tortuous path to nirvana. Maybe thats what happens in revolutions. On the one hand its founded on the nightmare of the Leave case and dreams of Empire; on the other hand it moved OToole in Q&A to imagine  the ideal of an English republic founded on English civilisation, one of the greatest in the world. As far as I understood him, (the rhetoric rather overwhelmed the thesis), Irish nationalism has reached a more advanced stage than the current English surge. It has outgrown the narrow imaginings of the independence struggle to emerge with a greater appreciation of diversity. Indeed so. The English variety is still at the primitive stage of nightmare. Well, perhaps.

What of the DUP?  OToole shares the general opinion that theyre playing the traditional unionist game of heading straight into the last ditch to defend their idea of the Union, but with two huge differences today: first, that unlike the days of Carson, they are not the majority either in the Brexit referendum or in elections which show them with only 30% of the vote; and secondly, that they can no longer rely on English nationalist, and therefore largely Conservative, backing. There is some striking evidence to support this, as he writes today:

83 per cent of Leave voters and 73 per cent of Conservative voters agree that the unravelling of the peace process in Northern Ireland is a price worth paying for Brexit that allows them to take back control.

If we strip away all rhetorical decor, this is what the union means: the voter in Gloucestershire loves the union enough to share her money with Arlene and Michelle. And here is the really big news: if shes a Brexiteer, she damn well doesnt. In the latest Future of England survey, there is a buried landmine. It has received some attention for the breathtaking revelation that fully 83 per cent of Leave voters and 73 per cent of Conservative voters agree that the unravelling of the peace process in Northern Ireland is a price worth paying for Brexit that all...

22:05

Call for contributions: Towards a better future for precarious workers? openDemocracy

The Future of Work Round Table isn't complete without your input. We warmly invite you to join in the discussion.

Photo by Milorad Dra. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND.

On Monday the 9th of October, Beyond Slavery and Trafficking launched a virtual round table on the future of work. Produced in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, this project brought together 12 leading experts to explore 1) how and why work has changed, 2) the impact of programmes to encourage ethical consumption and investment, 3) ways of encouraging business leaders and policy makers to prioritise working conditions, 4) strategies for effectively responding to the global 'race to the bottom, and 5) practical suggestions for how existing regulations and organisations can keep up with global changes.

The round table is not yet complete. To help continue this important conversation, we are now circulating this open call for a second round of contributions which respond to specific issues and challenges from the round table. It is on this basis that we are encouraging submissions which take the following form:

  1. Responses to the individual questions and accompanying answers that featured in the round table. The five questions from the round table are summarized above (1-5), and can be found in full here.

  2. Responses to the joint funders statement which was produced by the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Sage Fund. This statement speaks to fundamental questions regarding philanthropy and funding, so we are keen to feature responses that address its specific conclusions.

  3. Responses to the original Ford Foundation report  Quality Work Worldwide  which identified a number of strategies for improving protections against labour exploitation and vulnerability, and for enabling workers to more effectively participate in shaping their terms of employment.

Since the round table covers so much ground, we are chiefly looking for contributions which focus upon specific issues and questions....

21:13

FP October 16 openDemocracy

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20:46

Our democracy isnt working its time to fight for it openDemocracy

Corporate power has captured the centralised state but Labours commitment to a Constitutional Convention offers root and branch reform, writes Jon Trickett.

Image: British Houses of Parliament. Credit: Maurice/Wikimedia CC 2.0

Throughout the 2017 General Election, Labours slogan For the Many, Not the Few took on a life of its own. In the space of just a few weeks we announced a series of policies that if enacted would initiate a dramatic shift in wealth and power from corporate elites to working people, and breathe new life into the public sphere.

The policies signalled Labours willingness to break with the austerity consensus that has dominated Westminster for almost a decade, and it opened up the possibility of the creation of a new paradigm as dramatic as that of 1945 or 1979. The prospect of real change is now once more in the air.

While much of the focus was then and is now on Labours economic policy, our programme goes beyond this. We are committed to a root and branch transformation of the archaic political structures and cultures of this country.

Labour will deliver a constitutional convention. This will bring together individuals and organisations from across civil society and it will act as the driving force behind our democratic agenda. We will renew democracy from top to bottom, from London to the regions, and across the home nations.

This is an urgent task.

Trust in politics has broken down, and without political reform our ambitions to transform the economy and society will face potentially insurmountable obstacles.

We must confront an over-centralised state

We must confront an over-centralised state, weighed down by tradition and captured by lobbyists, consultancy firms and other representatives of big business. For decades these interests have steered policy in a direction that has contributed to the state of inequality we now find ourselves in.

Because what we now have as democracy is clearly not working.

The best way to illustrate this is through the financial crash and the massive transfer of wealth and power that followed.

Although the fau...

20:05

Migrants and refugees in the Americas: a solidarity crisis openDemocracy

In Latin America, the crisis is evident in the reluctance by many states to implement inclusive refugee international standards and in restrictive migratory policies. Espaol

Source: IOM Migration trends. According to updated information based on oficial available sources (such as population statistics, migration records and estimates), the map shows the approximate Venezuelannmigrant stock in selected countries.

The world is currently dealing with the largest number of internationally displaced persons in history. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 68.5 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their countries and in Latin America the total of persons of interest for UNHCR was 8.826.832 people by the end of last year.

The dynamics of displacement are not new to the region. For decades, the continent has witnessed how we Latin Americans have been forced to leave our homes in order to save our lives and those of our families. However, ongoing displacement dynamics -such as migratory and refugee flows from Central Americas Northern Triangle- have increased in strength. Many Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans are risking their lives and safety to embark on a trip through Mexico and cross the border to the United States in order to flee poverty, lack of economic opportunities, and high levels of violence.

Latin America is experiencing new dynamics of forced displacement, many of which have developed at unprecedented speeds.

On the other hand, the region is experiencing new dynamics of forced displacement, many of which have developed at unprecedented speeds. In the last two years, we have witnessed a massive outpouring of Venezuelan nationals who have been forced to leave their country due to a breakdown in the rule of law, ongoing acts of State-sanctioned repression and violence, serious restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as...

04:39

Why are we mostly ignoring the climate crisis? The message is wrong openDemocracy

Decades of doom-mongering havent stopped global warming. We need to make this a story about people, not numbers.

Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

My wife asked last week whether climate change means its not worth having children. She was only half joking. She had asked me what the IPCC report was about and I said something like: Well, it turns out the worst of climate change is coming sooner than we all expected. Doom is coming!

We are moving back to London soon and that brought another climate issue to mind. I said it was probably a bad idea to live close to the River Thames, as floods are likely to become more frequent. Shes starting to think Canada might be a better option.

If you too ignored the IPCC report this week, I wont judge you. I skimmed The Guardian story with a mixture of resignation and despair. Thanks, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I needed cheering up! A viral headline from the BBC, later changed, summed up a the problem: Climate report: scientists politely urge act now, idiots.

The problem is that climate change doom has lost its shock value. People have lost interest. They are tuning out. Climate scientists who used to be frustrated that the media wouldnt believe them are now frustrated that no one seems to be listening. Most politicians offer perfunctory soundbites and move on. Even The Guardians ex-editor Alan Rusbridger urged readers last week: You may find it too alarming to think about, too big to worry about, or too depressing to engage with. I understand. But please dont switch off.

The challenge for us who want strong action to avert a climate crisis isnt denial any more: it is apathy, despair...

03:46

Catalonia: two half-truths don't make one truth openDemocracy

Journalists and opinion-makers have a responsibility to inform and explain, not to divide and contribute to the escalation of conflict.

lead Thousands of anti-separatists from across Spain march in Barcelona on Spain's National Day, October 12, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. Some rights reserved.

The problem runs deeper than fake news. As George Monbiot argues in his column in The Guardian, the problem is that the media frequently offers news about a fake world. In an insightful and courageous article, he warns that symbols and sensations have replaced substance and analysis. We struggle to understand because critical issues remain in the darkness. We see the world as it is portrayed, and not as it is.

Fifty-four years ago, Justice Willian Brennan Jr, wrote: public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. Brennan reasoned that erroneous statements are inevitable in free debate and that public discussion must be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.

Our understanding of freedom of the press, and our work as journalists, changed the day he wrote his decision. It follows from this that the purpose of public discussion is to have well-informed citizens capable of discerning what is right and wrong. Citizens must be informed to hold their leaders accountable.

We struggle to understand because critical issues remain in the darkness.

I want to argue that an article published at openDemocracy a couple of weeks ago,...

02:46

How did the Tories end up picking such a manifestly unfit candidate for Mayor of London? AAV


Before he was selected by the Tories as their candidate to challenge Sadiq Khan in the 2020 London Mayoral Election, few had heard of Shaun Bailey, in the weeks after his selection most of the people who have heard about him and his obnoxious views surely wish they hadn't.

Here are just a few of Bailey's views that have come to light since he was selected as the Tory candidate for one of the biggest political jobs in Britain:

  • He said that young inner city girls get passed around gangs of boys "like prostitutes" then deliberately become pregnant to get "a flat" and benefits.
  • He claimed that people celebrating Muslim and Hindu festivals like Diwali and Eid in Britain are robbing Britain of its community and turning it into "a crime-riddled cesspool".
  • He shared a bigoted Tweet attacking the current London Mayor Sadiq Khan as "Mad Mullah Kahn of Londonistan" as recently as 2017.
  • In 2010 he attempted to appeal to the reactionary Tory base by saying that black people should "stop complaining" about racism and discrimination.
  • He said that the provision of free condoms "normalises sex" and "leads to criminality".
  • He made the extraordinary claim that smoking cannabis does much "more damage to society" than people taking highly addictive and dangerous drugs like crack and heroin!
  • He claimed that good looking girls "tend to have been around" sexually, and men are so thick they imagine that women won't have sexually transmitted infections as long as they look pretty and clean.
  • ...

02:10

What it feels like as a small business owner staring into the face of Brexit Slugger O'Toole

Jonny McCormick is the Director of Rosseau Ltd and runs a podcast called Spoke. 

Im an eternal optimist. I always think things are going to go my way that the chips will fall in my favour. The few times Ive played the lottery Ive been convinced Im going to win. Every time Im boarding an international flight I think Im going to be bumped up to First Class. I remember the day before the 2016 Presidential election saying that there was absolutely no way that Donald Trump would even get within shouting distance of the presidency. There was a similar story on the eve of the UK EU referendum. I was a Remainer and I remember going to bed that evening and having a brief conversation with my wife. She had expressed some concerns which I immediately dismissed (that should have been a warning sign!) I said that there was NO WAY we would be leaving the EU. I wasnt even remotely worried about it. I think I actually said to a colleague earlier that week that it would even be close like 70/30 in favour of remain. I guess what Im trying to say is that despite all of this optimism Im often wrong but Im an optimist nonetheless.

However, when it comes to leaving the EU Im struggling to hold on to any modicum of optimism. Is there any? If so, please let me know I could do with the boost of hope. If I was still working for a large corporate organisation like I have in the past I might have been less concerned about Brexit and what it means, but since starting a business just over a year ago things feel very uncertain.

Dont get me wrong this isnt some sort of doomsday approach to Brexit Im not saying that come the end of March the bottom is going to fall out of our economy and there will be no government stability. But, what I am saying is that we just dont know and thats almost worse. When you dont know what the outcome will be its really hard to make plans. For businesses that export its clear that theyll need to plan some contingencies but for a small business thats just considering what to do next to expand their business or thinking about where they can invest some of their capital its really hard to know what to do. I know this is something Im struggling with and Id bet Im not alone.

Theres lots of thought leaders, companies, policy agencies and third sector organisations who are trying to help people navigate the uncertainty and theyre doing a good job. But, this becomes increasingly difficult when the government and our politicians cant agree on a plan. Clandestine deals, secret handshakes and midnight negotiations might be good for holding together a tenuous power-base but it doesnt help small business owners deal with the uncertainty that is growing day-by-day.

So, what do you think? What would you say to a small or medium sized business owner? Are they right to be cautious and wait until the chips of Brexit finally fall before making any decisions? Or is this approach to...

02:00

Corruption corrodes Kurdish education openDemocracy

Quality education from the outset can eradicate corruption, guarantee peaceful coexistence, and bring about social and economic justice.

Posters of candidates from different political parties are seen in Erbil of Kurdistan, Iraq, on Sept. 11, 2018. Picture by Yasser Jawad/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. Every year, thousands of parents make a lot of sacrifice and spend their lifetime fortunes so that their children can get into good schools and universities. Thousands of high school graduates passionately get admission in public and private universities. But after four years of studying, many of them end up unemployed and jobless. This reflects a misallocation of their incomes, time, energy, and age. Meanwhile, the KRG Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the Ministry of Education have failed to tackle issues of overcrowded classrooms, outdated curriculums, and favouritism.

In 2017 in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, more than ten thousand students dropped out of school in the city of Sulaimani alone, mostly due to economic problems. Out of that number seven thousand are male and 3 thousand are female. Among those, high school students constitute the lions share. According to information provided by the Sulaimani Education Directorate, in 2017 and due to austerity measures by the Kurdistan Regional Government, 1356 teachers quit and asked for unpaid leave in order to find other work.

University students are also leaving their universities and heading mostly to Europe since programs do not correspond to the demands of today in the fields of science and technology. UNIDOs survey shows that unemployment in the Kurdistan region stands at 24% for men and 69% for women, highlighting administrative, econ...

01:35

Anti-progressivism: a ghost that haunts Latin America openDemocracy

Anti-progressivism is not restricted to Brazil. It is expanding throughout the region and putting at risk the democratic advances of the last decades. Espaol

Image: Nueva Sociedad. All Rights Reserved.

As a foreign correspondent put it, on October 7th, the first round of elections in Brazil were won by an authoritarian, racist, machista, homophobic politician: someone who embodies the most regressive values is hoping to become the next president of Brazil.

He ended up with a higher number of votes than anticipated by the polls, snatched a victory in the first round and painted almost the whole country - except for the northeast with his colours.

Brazil and Latin America are facing a new scenario that is no longer just the end of the progressive cycle and its replacement by right or center-right forces within the framework of democracy, but rather a shift of the political boundaries towards new ground: the potential triumph in the second round of a candidate who, through a campaign full of Bibles and bullets, openly vindicates the dictatorship, flaunts violence, and openly despises all the values underlying the democratic system.

He is not just "another Trump". He is a candidate with fascist overtones in a country much less institutionally solid than the United States, in which political violence is already high.

The results of October 7 expand the already existing parliamentary BBB bloc (Ox, Bible, and Bullet, in reference to landowners, Evangelical priests, and former members of the security forces) to a hitherto unknown dimension. As a journalist fromEl Pas says, Bolsonaro's "B" ended up framing the other three - and left them at the gates of power.

The main reason for the growth of Bolsonaros popular support is directly related, according to historian Maud Chirio, "to the building of hostility towards the Workers' Party (PT) and the Left in general.

This hostility recalls the old Cold...

01:00

State violence and the illusions of modernity in Egypt openDemocracy

The constant state of denial that is a feature of the urban middle class and the regime is a necessity to maintain a deeply paradoxical ideological construct.

US first lady Melania Trump (L) meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian first lady Entissar Mohameed Amer at the Presidential Palace. Picture by Egyptian Presidency/dpa/PA Images. All rights reserved. Mass repression in Egypt and the use of state violence has been growing since the coup of 2013. It was inaugurated with a series of massacres committed by the Egyptian security forces against the supporters of the deposed President, Mohamed Morsi, the most infamous of which is the Rabaa massacres, where , at least, 817 protestors were killed in the worst incident of state violence in modern Egyptian history.

This wave of repression would later expand to include members of all different parts of the political spectrum, including liberal, leftist and secular activists and bloggers, as well as, non-political citizens that happened to be in the wrong place and the wrong time. This has swelled the prison population to almost 60,000 political prisoners. This is coupled with mass forced disappearances, and what appears to be clear evidence of extra-judicial killings in Sinai and the use of heavy weaponry in civilian areas, which leads to heavy casualties among the local population.

Interestingly, even though state violence has becomes a permanent feature of the lives of many Egyptians, the government and many of its urban middle class supporters have gone to considerable length to deny the existence of this phenomenon.

Those denials were not only aimed at the international community, as one would expect autocratic regimes to do, but it also includes denials targeted at the local population, mots notably the literate urban middle class, as one can distinguish by the source of the method of communication. For example...

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