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Friday, 23 March

00:08

The return of the Ultras Ahlawy? openDemocracy

Are communities that are not directly political more effective today? More capable of resisting repression and able to maneuver and challenge the states iron fist?

Amr Sayed/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Feb. 1, 2016 - Cairo, Egypt - Al Ahly fans, the ''Ultras'', light flares and shout slogans in the club's training stadium, marking the fourth anniversary of killing al-Ahly fans known as the ''Port Said massacre''. Amr Sayed/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.The Ultras recent re-emergence in a football match between Al-Ahly and Monana was phenomenal. Their famous flames lit up the stadium and their famous song liberta resurrected the moribund spirit of the January 2011 revolution.

How could such youngsters emerge again, suddenly and confidently, after years of repression? How could they sustain themselves for more than half a decade of public vilification, massive incarceration, and torturous killing? What is the secret of such extraordinary endurance?

Social movement literature does not seem to take the Ultras seriously. The reasons are plenty; their limited political ambitions and their association over non-political grounds (football) make their struggle seem negligible.

But amidst these suffocating political conditions, this glimpse of hope should not be overlooked. Their pioneering reemergence amidst the gloomy silence of almost everyone else encourages us to rethink our understanding of social movements and how worthy they are of serious analysis.

Might it be the case that traditional, i.e. politically-oriented, social movements like Kefaya or the Revolutionary Socialists, for example, are no longer the ideal model of social organization? Are communities that are not directly political more effective tod...

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Thursday, 22 March

23:56

The next big Brexit issue- the future rights of EU/Irish citizens in the North Slugger O'Toole

Another big Brexit theme has been overshadowed by the border conundrum the future of citizens rights in Northern Ireland.   The argument is that many of these will go unprotected when the UK withdraws from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rulings of the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, a key UK government aim. The Charter has greater force than the non-EU European Convention of Human Rights which is written into UK law in the Human Rights Act 1998 and is a keystone of the Good Friday Agreement. The Charter is stronger, as the constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor explains in detail,  ( Times article here )   because the EU can extend and strengthen rights and allows British Acts to be disapplied if they are in conflict with them. He gives examples and argues for a new UK Bill of Rights.

The last Labour government tried and failed to get an opt-out from the Charter. Instead, the Charter has recently been used to great effect in the British courts. Last autumn, two employees sued foreign embassies for unfair dismissal, failure to pay the minimum wage and holiday pay, and breaches of Working Time Regulations. One embassy claimed immunity under the State Immunity Act but the Supreme Court overruled.

In 2014, David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Tom Watson, Labours deputy leader, used the Charter to appeal against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014 which would, they believed, limit the confidentiality of communications with constituents. Though a leading Brexiteer, Davis sought to use the EU Charter to ensure the rights of MPs.

The Government proposes to incorporate almost all EU law into domestic law. It will then consider which to retain, which to modify and which to repeal. But the Charter is not being incorporated. There are good reasons for this. Some provisions of the Charter, for example the right to vote for and stand in European Parliament elections, will be irrelevant after Brexit. Others, such as the right to free movement in the EU, go against government policy. Nevertheless, Brexit will reduce our rights and the protection given by the courts.

Parliament needs to consider how our rights are guaranteed after Brexit. Dominic Grieve MP, a former Attorney-General, has argued for a British Bill of Rights with new rights added to those in the Human Rights Act. Many say the Human Rights Act protects unpopular minorities such as suspect...

21:54

25 Years of the National Literary Trust Jonathan Fryer

gruffaloLast night I was at the Plaisterers Hall in the City for a fundraising dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of the National Literary Trust. This is an independent charity working with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literacy skills to succeed in life. Its a shaming part that in some of the poorest parts of Britain hundreds of thousands of primary school children are unable to read or write, which severely handicaps their chances in later life. Parents and the home learning environment have the greatest effect on how a child develops language and literacy skills. So much of the work done by the Trust focuses there. The charitys Patron is the Duchess of Cornwall, who gave a short unscripted speech last night, and was joined by three dozen successful writers, including Tony Bradman, Chair of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), on whose table I sat. My own engagement with the National Literary Trust has been through the Ruth Rendell Award for the promotion of literacy, as I have been one of the judges choosing the winner in the first two years of the awards existence. As one might expect from the location, there were a lot of financial high-flyers at the dinner last night and with the help of an auction including pictures of the Gruffalo drawn on the spot by Axel Sheffler, 175,000 was raised...

21:51

fp selection 22 march 2018 openDemocracy

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Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines. Photo: Marie-Rose Shakalili.

21:09

Feminist legal mobilization for abortion rights in Latin America openDemocracy

Legal mobilization for abortion rights, or the use of the law and the courts by feminist actors in their pursuit of abortion legalization, is a recent development in Latin America. Spanish

This article is published in collaboration with:

Legal mobilization for abortion rights, or the use of law and courts by feminist actors in their pursuit of abortion legalization, is a recent development in Latin America. 

Its development is part of the turn towards law and the legal field by some sectors of social movements in the region that has taken place after the democratic transitions of the 1980s, and subsequent constitutional and judicial reforms carried out in most countries of the region mostly since the 1990s. 

These reforms, carried out since the 1990s, expanded the legal opportunities for social actors, through the creation or empowerment of Constitutional Courts, the enactment of new fundamental rights and the incorporation of new legal remedies.

Counting on a new institutional environment and new instruments for the defense of rights, leftist forces and progressive actors that had formerly seen the legal system as an instrument of oppression, started reappraising the democratic rule of law and set out to consider the legal arena as a possible venue for acchieving their demands. 

This process has involved changes in the strategies, framings and organizational structures of civil society actors in order to carry out new forms of collective action, including i...

19:31

Resisting the gig economy: the emergence of cooperative food delivery platforms openDemocracy

Examples from Spain, France and Germany show how the power of unions and cooperatives can be combined to fight back against gig employers.

In the UK seven million people from working households are in poverty, and real wages have seen a 10.4% drop in the last decade (more than anywhere else in Europe). At the same time the 1,000 wealthiest people in the country got richer by billions after Brexit. Platform companies are helping to widen the gap between rich and poor by paying poverty wages while producing bubbles with unjustifiably high asset prices and low productivity. Alisher Usmanov, the fifth richest man in Britain, initially made his money from mining steel and iron ore but has now grown his fortune by investing in companies such as Spotify and Airbnb. Deliveroo doesnt own its restaurants or employ its riders, but is worth more than the UKs second biggest food chain Wetherspoons. Deliveroo saw its losses increase by over 300% in 2017. But that didnt stop its founder giving out 4.5 million in share bonuses to directors and treating himself to a generous 22.5% pay rise, all while Deliveroos riders are denied a minimum wage, sick leave and holiday pay. With profits from share ownership going to a small minority, coupled with stagnating wages, the wealth gap between labour and the owners of capital in the economy is ever diverging. Its time to think not just about a fair share of income but also fair distribution of ownership, something cooperative food delivery platforms could be a leading example of.

Couriers in Europe

After the first strikes of UK Deliveroo riders in 2016, mobilisations rippled through to France, Spain and Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, with strikes taking place in Bologna only two weeks ago. In Germany couriers began organising with the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers Union (FAU) last year. The FAU provided a horizontal and open space for the Deliverunion campaign to flourish, mobilising over 100 riders to direct action and winning a pay bonus per km. With no paid staff or organisers, support came from members from other sections, such as primary school teachers and carers, a reminder that unions dont act or make decisions in themselves but that workers act in their name and with their resources. The FAU union has gathered a group of developers to create its own online platform, where riders can login to discuss what to include in their collective agreement and vote on it. This tool allows couriers to take an active part in developing demands and making decisions without having to be physically present at union meetings. It is also a mobilising tool, to vote on strike actions and spread messages across the workforce quickly. If digital platfor...

18:55

DRC mining industry is a prime example of how corporate power threatens womens rights openDemocracy

This is why feminist activists are mobilising behind a proposed international treaty to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations.

Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines. Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines. Photo: Marie-Rose Shakalili.On a research trip to the Kamituga gold mine in her home province of South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), activist Marie-Rose Shakalili noticed something thats often minimised in stories about mining in her country: that women work disproportionately hard, breaking up stones, transporting and sifting them, grinding them into powder.

Shakalili described a brutality of gendered roles in mining operations in the DRC, with women finding that their labour is undervalued at each step. For a basin of crushed rocks, a woman might earn the equivalent of $3 a day, but since its backbreaking work, they often feel the need to bring [their] children to assist them, she added.

Women who are active in the mining sector lead very difficult lives, Shakalili continued. After finding an almost total lack of research and statistics on their conditions, she travelled to Kamituga to speak directly with women working in some of the region's many artisanal and small-scale mine sites where people mine informally using rudimentary tools and sell (mostly) unprocessed products to traders and companies.

Women work disproportionately hard, breaking up stones, transporting and sifting them, grinding them into powder.

A 2016 report from the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), released just a few months before Shakalilis research, is one of the few other studies of womens experiences in the DRCs informal mining sector.

Based on a survey conducted in Katanga province, it described alarming trends including labour and sexual exploitation on mining sites and security forces (state and private) appeari...

17:52

Council of Europe: don't compromise on human rights in Russia! openDemocracy

After congratulating Vladimir Putin on re-election, the COE must hold Russia accountable and require the same respect for fundamental freedoms as it does from other countries.

In the past year, Russia has seen numerous violations of freedom of assembly, as well as politically motivated criminal investigations dogged by poor evidence and procedure. (c) Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. While Vladimir Putin won the recent presidential election, he made his country fail a much more important test: the test of human rights, freedoms, and space for civil society and independent voices. So why has Thorbjrn Jagland and the Council of Europe welcomed him as a winner? 

President Vladimir Putin came to power just three years after Russia joined Europes human rights club in 1996, the Council of Europe. Russias record of cooperation with the body on human rights is one and the same with Putins record. It is not a good one, and it has become increasingly fraught in recent years. Yes he wins the elections, but he has failed the human rights test that should set the standards for Europes premier human rights body.

Yet, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjrn Jagland rushed to congratulate President Putins on his re-election, in a letter sent on Monday 19 March. This came shortly after the OSCE election observation mission concluded that the presidential election took place in an overly controlled legal and political environment marked by continued pressure on critical voices.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees free elections in all member states, which must ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature. Elections are the grandstand event in which the freedoms of a country are tested with the world watching. In this case, Russias lack of freedoms was exposed for all to see

The OSCE statement on the controlled environment is not just a good reflection of the time around elections, but also of what we have seen daily as the situation for civil society organisations, human rights defenders, journalists, activists and others. 

Instead of abid...

06:17

Mark Durkan suggests renewal review of Good Friday Agreement Slugger O'Toole

Former SDLP Leader, Mark Durkan speaking in Dublin tonight has suggested a renewal review of the Good Friday Agreement.

He told his audience;

As the Brexit negotiations intensify, its welcome that the EU27 have continued to voice a strong commitment to protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. Its critical, however, that such a commitment extends to protecting it in its promise and potential as well.

The full potential and flexibility of Strands Two and Three must be harnessed to protect and preserve relationships across this island and across these islands. It is the full prospectus of Strand Two for enabling, developing and delivering cooperation, common policies and actions including through joint implementation for mutual cross-border and all-island benefit which needs to be safeguarded and even nurtured in the coming negotiations.

In spite of the narrow interpretation of the agreement by some, as a negotiator in the all-party talks and subsequently in fora which developed the outworking of the text, I was very clear that its terms were designed to deepen areas of co-operation, particularly relating to economic development.

The Agreement is not a cherished treasure to be encased and remembered in sepia-tone. Its structures offer a toolkit for a lot of the creative, imaginative and flexible solutions that will be needed to minimise the damage which Brexit will cause.

As we approach its twentieth anniversary, its clear that we should now have a renewal review to explore how its Strands can be deployed and developed to deal with the challenges facing us. With a spirit of renewal, we can find power in the agreement to drive continued partnership on this island and between these islands that guides the creation of future constructive relationships.

 

04:57

Spycop victims walk out of Undercover Policing Inquiry, demanding Mitting step down or appoint an expert panel openDemocracy

Campaigners and victims of political policing withdrew en masse from the Mitting Inquiry today, frustrated at the judge's insistence on protecting the identity of police officers involved in deceptive relationships and infiltration of the Lawrence campaign.

Image: Police spies out of lives

No justice, no peace and sack Mitting now were the cries from campaigners and victims of political policing as they blocked the main entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice, after storming out of the latest hearing of the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI).

Campaigners held aloft a large banner with the words "Tear Down the #Spycops Inquiry's Brick Wall of Silence".

The frustrated group of men and women left Court Room 73 where the latest Inquiry hearing was held - in protest at Sir Mitting's decision to keep most undercover police officers' identities a secret. They were unhappy, too, at his perplexing insistence on accepting at face value claims that police have been acting in good faith and that undercover names need to remain concealed. Calling himself an "old fashioned man", Mitting apparently considers it highly improbable those officers who were married would have engaged in any improper behaviour while undercover. A proposition that is difficult to challenge so long as Mitting insists on keeping the cover names of those very officers secret.

There are three major problems with the Inquiry, Suresh Grover of the Monitoring Group (the support group for victims of race-based hate crimes) commented outside the Royal Courts. The first is the delay. The Inquiry was set up four years ago and as yet hasnt even started hearing evidence from police officers and from those directly affected by spying...principally because of police obstructions within the Inquiry using all sorts of legal loopholes to delay naming either the undercover or real names of police officers.

All the names that have come out have really come out because of the way campaigners have put the information in the public themselves.

Grover went on, The second is that we have had no disclosure of our files. We dont...

03:55

Of red tape and Brexit red herrings in the war between business and the environment openDemocracy

We shouldnt be demonising regulations that are there to protect our future, as red tape. Part two of a three part series.

Image: Sethoscope via Wikimedia, Creative Commons license.

David Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition government launched the Red Tape Challenge in April 2011. The government said it was challenging the public to help cut unnecessary regulations. The real aim, it seems, was to confirm the Tory reputation as being good for business, and the idea the economy could be jolted back into life through a few cuts here and a restructure or two there. It also reinforced the story that regulation, or bureaucracy, was the scourge of British life.

The Red Tape Challenge included yet another house building review (see part one of this series for the history of recent reviews).

Again, the doors to the house building lobby remained open. The review was, according to the government, set up to identify...unnecessary regulatory barriers to growth and associated costs to the house building sector, while ensuring necessary protections are maintained...[it] will examine any aspects of regulation or the way it is implemented which could be made simpler, more cost-effective, efficient, proportionate, or consistent.

The Wildlife and Countryside Link, which represents environment charities, observed: A review of biodiversity regulations was also undertaken, to which 84 percent of responses were in support of keeping or strengthening existing regulations and only two percent were in support of removing or weakening them. (Emphasis added).

George Osborne, then chancellor, personally took up the cause of the house builders. In doing so, he came out strongly against our dozy great crested newt and its EU protectors. He demanded a review of the implementation of the birds and habitats directives, and its impact on business and developers, in November that year. Osborne made...

03:28

Marielle Franco and Brazil's future: hope or barbarity openDemocracy

Marielle's legacy and the repercussions of her death symbolize both the best and the worst of Brazilian society today. The building of a real clash of narratives is under way. Espaol

Protest Against Murder of Marielle Franco. Source: Fabio Caffe, Favela em Foco. All Rights Reserved.

The murder of Rio de Janeiros councillor Marielle Franco on March 14, 2018, has come as a shock in Brazil, in Latin America, and the world.

No wonder: it was a political crime against one of the leading figures of the new Brazilian left, at a time when Rio de Janeiro is experiencing acute misgovernment and Brazil is undergoing a worrying democratic regression. 

Marielle was born in Mar (population 130.000), one of the largest favela complexes in Rio de Janeiro. She grew up there and there she lived through constant violations of human rights, intimidation, gunfire and the perpetrators impunity.

She became a very young mother and that led her to fight for womens rights, particularly black women living in favelas. It was hard for her to pursue a formal education but, contrary to the odds, she became a graduate student, which moved her to fight for quality public education and for democratizing university.

She lost loved ones, including a friend who was killed by a "stray bullet" in 2005 during a shootout between police and drug traffickers.

This event, in turn, made her a tireless fighter...

03:26

An atlas of real utopias? openDemocracy

TNI today presents its Atlas of Utopiaspart of the Transformative Cities initiative, sharing 32 stories of radical transformation that demonstrate that another world is possible, and already exists.

Credit: Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Affordable housing for women workers in Solapur, India. Credit: Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.
- Eduardo Galeano

In an age of Trump and trolls, it may be strange to talk about utopia. Not only has a divisive reactionary right-wing privileged minority surged to the fore, but social inequality, militarism and the climate crisis have worsened too. There does seem, however, to be one arena for hope for progressive solutions and that is in the city. Worldwide, mayors are increasingly a progressive and fearless voice advancing bold agendas on climate change, welcoming refugees and trialling new forms of democratic participation.

The question remains: can these cities offer solutions that address multiple systemic crises instead of pursuing, as Greg Sharzer suggests, a way to avoid, rather than confront capitalism by focusing on piecemeal reforms around the edges? Can a group of cities really offer any fundamental solutions to a crisis created by the immense power of corporate capital?

To try and a...

02:41

Climate (in)justice in Argentina openDemocracy

Like a tailor fitting a suit, the Argentine government is ready to alter basic environmental laws to adjust them to corporate interests. Espaol

Mining Camp in Veladero, province of San Juan, Argentina. Source: Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved.

In November 2017, the Argentine Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Sergio Bergman, declared at COP23 that all (environmental) laws are valid and will not be changed () The information going around is just gossip: it does not come from the government, and there is no ground for debate. The gossip () is just something that came out after a meeting with the mining representatives, thats all.

Mr. Bergman intended to shut down the rumours that the government was willing to modify the two main environmental laws in Argentina: the Native Forest Law and the Glaciers Law.

But just a few days later, after a meeting between government representatives and the mining sector, President Macri confirmed the decision to alter the Glaciers Law.

The Macri Government appears determined to maintain the relationship between public policy and transnational corporations.

The governments attempt to push an extractivist agenda is not, by any means, an isolated move it is an international trend.

Just two examples from Latin America show this: In Brazil, where responsibility for the Mariana catastrophe two years ago lies in the hands of the Brazilian corporation Vale and the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton; in Colombia, where members of the Wayuu community are regularly being killed at the British, Swiss and Australian-owned ...

02:17

La (in)justicia climtica en Argentina openDemocracy

Como un sastre ajustando un traje, el gobierno argentino est dispuesto a modificar leyes medioambientales bsicas para adaptarlas a los intereses corporativos. English

Campamento de la Mina Veladero, provincia de San Juan, Argentina. Fuente: Wikimedia Commons. Todos los derechos reservados.

En noviembre de 2017, el Ministro de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible de Argentina, Sergio Bergman, declaraba en la Conferencia de la ONU sobre Cambio Climtico (COP23) que "todas las leyes (medioambientales) estn vigentes y no van a modificarse.

(...) La informacin que est circulando no es ms que un rumor: no emana del gobierno y no da pie al debate. Se trata de un rumor (...) que surgi tras una reunin con los representantes de la minera, eso es todo".

La intencin del Sr. ministro era acallar el rumor de que el gobierno estaba dispuesto a modificar las dos principales leyes ambientales argentinas: la Ley de Bosques Nativos y la Ley de Glaciares.

Pocos das despus, sin embargo, tras una reunin entre representantes del gobierno y del sector minero, el presidente Macri confirmaba la decisin de modificar la Ley de Glaciares.

El gobierno de Macri parece decidido a mantener la relacin existente entre polticas pblicas e intereses de las corporaciones transnacionales.

La voluntad del gobierno de impulsar una agenda extractivista no es, de ningn modo, un fenmeno aislado se trata de una tendencia internacional.

Solo dos ejemplos en Amrica Latina: en Brasil, donde la responsabilidad de la catstrofe de Mariana, hace dos aos, recae en la empresa brasilea Vale y la anglo-australiana BHP Billiton; en Colombia, donde van cayendo asesinados miembros de la comunidad Wayuu en la mina...

01:39

Not just a job: supporting refugees into sustainable employment openDemocracy

Persistent barriers to work are creating brain waste, serving as a loss for employers, society and refugees themselves.

lead Syrian refugees (who cannot be identified for legal reasons) at a charity in London after they arrived from Calais to the UK via the Safe Passage legal route. Jonathan Brady/Press Association. All rights reserved.More must be done to help refugees into work. That was the verdict of the recent UNHCR study into the UKs efforts to integrate Syrian refugees.

No one feels this more than Rahim. He worked for 20 years as a mechanical engineer in Sudan only to find himself rummaging through bins in London for food. He often wonders how hell rebuild his life after arriving on the shores of Europe with nothing but his life spared and his family thousands of miles away.

I am trying to forget it, he tells us, quietly.

We are there to ask Rahim about his job prospects and the support hes getting from a flagship programme run by Renaisi, RISE (Refugees Into Sustainable Employment), but this now appears trivial given how much hes already overcome just to be here, sat in front of us, and articulating his story with quiet dignity and calm. Like so many other refugees in London, Rahim is highly skilled yet struggling to find work.

Like so many other refugees in London, Rahim is highly skilled yet struggling to find work. Its a familiar tale of unemployment, of underemployment, of tacit experience which Rahim has yet to master, and of untapped skills and potential.

Employment is the most significant factor favouring long-term integration of refugees and critical for the journey towards belonging, and yet significant barriers remain. A lack of clarity over working rights and a lack of recognition of refugees qualifications can deter employers from hiring r...

01:31

Want to know why your Council tax is going up again? AAV


If you want to know why your Council Tax bill is going up, but the services your local council provide are worse than they've ever been before, I've got the answer for you.

The reason that councils across the country are increasing Council Tax bills whilst simultaneously cutting what they actually spend on services is that the Tory government have slashed central government funding for local governments by 67% since 2010, and they're still slashing away at the Communities and Local Government budget now.

This sustained Tory attack on local government funding means that councils have way less money to spend on maintaining local infrastructure and services.
  • Local councils have far less to spend on waste services, so these ideologically driven Tory cuts are the reason that a huge number of councils have reduced bin collections to fortnightly.
  • Local councils have far less to spend on local amenities like libraries, public toilets, leisure centres, and public spaces like parks and indoor markets, so these ideologically driven Tory cuts are the reason that they're being closed down and sold off to property developers.
  • Local councils have far less to spend on running their planning departments, so these ideologically driven Tory cuts are the reason that simple planning applications are taking longer than ever to process.
  • Local councils have far less to spend on highway maintenance, so these ideologically driven Tory cuts are the reason that our roads are deteriorating so badly.
  • Local councils have far less to spend on youth services, so these ideologically dri...

00:40

Amnestys #ToxicTwitter report calls for rules on abuse to be enforced Slugger O'Toole

Twitter was founded 12 years ago today and Amnesty have launched their #ToxicTwitter report to remind the social media giant that they need to put more substance behind their recent statement that they would stand with women around the world to make their voices heard and their presence known.

Amnesty have collected interviews and testimony from women who experience violent threats, sexism and racism on a daily basis. Often its the already marginalised who experience the most intense abuse on Twitter (as well as other social media platforms).

One of Amnestys contentions is that Twitter isnt putting their own rules on abuse and hateful conduct into practice, or showing us how they deal with abuse when its reported.

Women in Northern Ireland were among the 86 women who provided testimony from the UK and US.

Irish News journalist Allison Morris explained:

Some of the things that have been put on Twitter about me have had people say they know where I live, Ive had people say that theyll be outside my work, Ive had people not just threaten me but also say things that, you know, are clearly veiled threats against my family.

...

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Wednesday, 21 March

23:39

Everyone is crying - it is time for a limit on immigration detention openDemocracy

The Yarls Wood hunger strike has now lasted 28 days. Uniquely in the EU, the UK imposes no time limit on immigration detention. Why?

Image: Yarl's Wood protest, Darren Johnson/Flickr.

Last Friday, I visited people detained at Yarls Wood, where a protest against immigration detention, including a hunger strike, has been going on for a month. The seven women and one man were clear from the outset that uncertainty over how long they would be held is a killer. 

One person said that prison is better because you know how long you will be there. They also described the trauma of detention. We cant go anywhere, do anything, we are constantly watched, we cant access papers we need.

Yarls Wood is supposed to be a 'removal centre', but instead many people there have ongoing cases, including asylum cases, and would be able to fight them better from outside, with access to relevant documents, witnesses and other evidence. In fact, the figures show that the majority of people detained will eventually be released back into the community; the trauma and cost of detention for nothing.

The people I spoke to do not understand the reason for their detention. They complied with the signing process which requires them to report regularly at Home Office or police buildings. They were in touch with the Home Office there was no risk of absconding. One detainee I spoke to has been in the UK for 24 years. Detention has separated her from her family, her friends and her support network. 

The detainees I spoke to have lost hope that due process is being followed. I have heard about people being removed from the country when there are ongoing judicial reviews. I have heard that the monthly reporting processes and reviews are hopeless. I have heard of caseworkers just cutting and pasting from old decisions to detain. I even heard of a person being served with a notice that clearly referred to a different detainee. 

Many have lost faith in the bail process, which is difficult to access. M...

23:24

Another dangerous National Us: you cant have a more integrated society in a hostile environment openDemocracy

The UK Governments strategy is not for an integrated society, focusing on what government and society could and should do, but for integrated 'communities', code word for everyone else.

lead Tony Blair delivers a speech about Europe during a CBI event at the London Business School in central London, in June 2014. Philip Toscano/Press Association. All rights reserved. After a bit of fanfare, a couple of catchy soundbites and a few top-line proposals leaked a day or two before the release, the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Governments (DHCLG) Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper was released on March 14. 

The Green Paper places much emphasis on the importance of social integration which is referred to as meaningfully mixing with people from different backgrounds. Although the remit for both the review and the Green Paper was wide and intended to address the whole population, the emphasis in both has tended to be new migrant and minority communities.

The title  Integrated Communities Strategy  gives a hint to the direction the report is taking. The paper sets out the Governments strategy to create not a more integrated society, which would put the focus on what the government and society at large could and should do together, but integrated communities, code word for everyone else.

Barnum circus specimens

The paper is the official response to the so-called Casey Review of 2016 whose focus in turn was on our most isolated and deprived communities. It is not only that the others need to be made to integrate more and better, but that they are also constructed as isolated from mainstream society, some kind of Barnum circus specimen interesting, even fascinating but totally alien to us, always and by definition from somewhere else.

In this narrative, isolation, deprivation, lack of participation are always constructed as having little to do with the conditions of ones stay in Britain and factors such as structural discrimination and huge wealth inequality. Instead, the onus of integrating is always and inexorably on them.

Thousands of pa...

21:00

The Funeral Murders of 1988: did respect for the dead contain the reaction? Slugger O'Toole

I must admit I groaned at the prospect of shock treatment in a Troubles anniversary documentary by a lone film maker about terrible events thirty years ago. Although we were spared nothing, I was quickly reassured. Vanessa Engles clear sighted  inquiry without an agenda was rewarded with authentic and sometimes chilling candour from the relatives of IRA dead and loyalists alike. What the film contributed in particular, was insight into how two aspects of the  peculiar ethics or etiquette of the Troubles played out : the controversial circumstances of killing and respect for the dead. There were limits which were dangerously exceeded but in the end respect for the limits may have contributed to containing the response.

In The Funeral Murders, Engle follows the horrific sequence of events in March 1988, from the funeral of Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Daniel McCann, the three IRA shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar; the attack on the funeral crowd inside Milltown Cemetery by the loyalist Michael Stone who killed three mourners and injured sixty; and ending with the lynching of two soldiers in plain clothes at the consequential funeral of the one of Stones victims who was a member of the IRA.

On the Gibraltar killings no attempt was made to pass judgment between the official inquest verdict that the three were lawfully killed and the belief held by many more than the IRA and their loved ones, that they were executed in cold blood. Their operation to detonate a bomb in a car park full of soldiers rehearsing for a parade had been tracked by British and Spanish intelligence for months and the car with the bomb equipment in it was miles away.

 Funeral Murders gave us vivid examples of a basic disconnect of the Troubles, over how the IRA community still believe it was perfectly legitimate to shoot to kill unsuspecting police officers or soldiers but was an absolute outrage when police officers or soldiers replied in anything like kind. They are absolutely right of course: security forces are supposed to operate within the law. IRA supporters recognise no such constraints. Its not so much the belief itself thats particularly worth considering   its either a monstrous hypocrisy or from a different ethic but how the memory and the emotions with it have changed over 30 years.

At the time these events were particularly incendiary because so much of the gruesome action was captured on video, either by journalists or by the armys heli-tele in the air.  In his powerful witness account Gerry Moriarty writes that he feared civil war. In that hes supported by the highly experienced veteran of Troubles investigative journalism...

20:00

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Weve ended up with an internet built not for us but for corporations, political parties, and the states increasingly nebulous "security" demands. 

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16:46

The Skripal attack and the post-Soviet practice of extraterritorial security openDemocracy

Traditional methods of national security fail to address extraterritorial security and the context of global authoritarianism and kleptocracy in which it emerges.

The restaurant in Salisbury near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill by exposure to a nerve agent. (c) Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images.The attempted assassination of Sergey Skripal and his daughter with a sophisticated nerve agent appears to be an act of aggression by the Russian government. After a period of shock and anger, we have now entered what may be an inconclusive debate about the precise nature of Russian state involvement and whether this can be proved. 

Assassinations of exiles overseas arenothing new. It has also long been known Russia is a country in which the state, business and crime are intertwined around ruling andkleptocratic elites. In this light, disconnecting the Russian state from its oligarch allies or loyal criminal bosses (vory) is difficult in that the power of each of these groups is produced via their relations with the others. In short, the Russian state gets things done through its loyal oligarchs and vory, and vice-versa. This phenomenon also extends beyond Russia. Authoritarian states operate in a world of globalisation, where populations are mobile and communications and capital easily cross borders. Controlling their population outside their borders becomes increasingly important for countries such as China, Russia or Turkey. 

The UK has for many years played host to a series of practices ofextraterritorial security...

16:27

How Russia and Uzbekistan cooperate on the kidnap trail to Central Asia openDemocracy

People leave Uzbekistan seeking safety and work in Russia. But what they find is prosecution and abduction.

The detainee of the FSB of the Russian Federation in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is a supporter of the international terrorist organization Islamic State banned on the territory of the Russian Federation. Still image from video, provided by the DSP FSB. Photo: RIA News. All rights reserved.In the last six years, the number of people charged with extremism offences in Russia has risen more than three-fold. Many of them have migrated from Uzbekistan, seeking safety in Russia from poverty and political persecution.

The Russian judicial system, however, has no intention of offering them protection. On the contrary, it fabricates terrorist and religious extremism charges against them and hands them back to the Uzbek security services, in circumvention of all international agreements.

A flight from death

The story of Tatyana and Bakhodir Karimov doesnt just illustrate the indifference of the Russian judicial system, but demonstrates the complicity between the Russian and Uzbek Special Services.

Tanya and Bakhodir met in 2010 in Samara, in southwest Russia, where Bakhodir arrived six months before he met his future wife. Migrating was not his own idea: I grew up in an educated family: there were five doctors among my brothers and sisters, he tells me. I was the eighth child. The authorities have been harassing my family since 1996. My brothers were unwilling to take part in the cotton harvest. Its no secret that there is forced labour in Uzbekistan.

Bakhodirs brothers consistently opposed the forced labour system and refused to allow their medical subordinates to work in the cotton fields. In 1999, the regime of Islam Karimov started widespread repressions against opponents of the government. Members of Bakhodirs family were placed on a blacklist.

...

11:01

The Booze-up that Changed the Course of History Slugger O'Toole

Being as I am a fan of AJP Taylor, I have long been of the view that Cock-Up- rather than Conspiracy theories of History tend to hold more water that the great events of the past were shaped more by blunders and mishaps than devious cunning and ingenuity. This is borne out by, among other things, the various misunderstandings that shaped the development of the French Revolution, and eye-popping governmental incompetence that lay behind the outbreak of the Russian Revolution.

The course of wars, like that of revolutions, can also be rooted in mistakes or accidents, and there were few more serious than that of the sudden breakdown in discipline among the victorious German soldiers who featured in Ludendorffs last great offensive on the Western Front in the First World War in March 1918. It was Germanys last best hope of winning the war, and they came shocking close to doing so in those early spring days. Earlier that month they had got the Russians to sign a punitive peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk, and so could transfer many of their troops (though not all as some were needed to hang on to their conquests in Ukraine and the Baltic) westwards and this was at a time when US President Woodrow Wilsons promised American soldiers hadnt yet arrived at anything like their full numerical strength.

Allied soldiers, and locals, resting outside a building with German graffiti (pic: National Library of Scotland)

The attack began in the morning of 21 March 1918, and inside a week the Germans had made stunning gains, advancing twenty miles, and coming within five miles of the strategically crucial city of Amiens (situated as it was on the River Somme, smack-bang between the British and French lines). In Berlin, the Kaiser, confident of final victory, ordered a public holiday in celebration. Yet, after a week the advance in the Albert and Champagne sectors suddenly halted, and the initiative ultimately lost, with the German high command forever ruing a missed opportunity thereafter. And while it did have something to do with matters like the British and French forces tougher-than-expected resistance and the Germans over-extended supply lines, t...

07:33

Culture shift: redirecting humanitys path to a flourishing future openDemocracy

Its time to build a new worldview around a deeper sense of connectedness.

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in Yunnan Province, China.. Credit: By Jialiang Gao, www.peace-on-earth.org - Original Photograph via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

What do all these ideas have in commona tax on carbon, big investments in renewable energy, a livable minimum wage, and freely accessible healthcare? The answer is that we need all of them, but even taken together theyre utterly insufficient to redirect humanity away from impending catastrophe and toward a truly flourishing future.

Thats because the problems these ideas are designed to solve, critical as they are, are symptoms of an even more profound problem: the implicit values of a global economic and political system that is driving civilization toward a precipice.

Even with the best of intentions, those actively working to reform the current system are a bit like software engineers valiantly trying to fix multiple bugs in a faulty software program: each fix complicates the code, leading inevitably to a new set of bugs that require even more heroic workarounds. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the problem isnt just the software: an entirely new operating system is required to get where we need to go.

This realization dawned on me gradually over the years I spent researching my book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanitys Search for Meaning. My research began as a personal search for meaning. Id been through a personal crisis when the certainties on which Id built my early life came crashing down around me. I wanted my life going forward to be truly meaningfulbut based on what foundation? I was determined to sort through the received narratives of meaning until I came across a foundation I could really believe in.

My drive to answer these questions led me to explore the patterns of meaning that different cultures throughout history have constructed. Just like peeling an onion, I realized that one layer of meaning frequently covered deeper layers that structure the daily thoughts and values that most people take for granted. It was a journey of nearly ten years, during which I dedicated myself to deep res...

Culture shift: redirecting humanitys path to a flourishing future openDemocracy

Its time to build a new worldview around a deeper sense of connectedness.

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in Yunnan Province, China.. Credit: By Jialiang Gao, www.peace-on-earth.org - Original Photograph via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

What do all these ideas have in commona tax on carbon, big investments in renewable energy, a livable minimum wage, and freely accessible healthcare? The answer is that we need all of them, but even taken together theyre utterly insufficient to redirect humanity away from impending catastrophe and toward a truly flourishing future.

Thats because the problems these ideas are designed to solve, critical as they are, are symptoms of an even more profound problem: the implicit values of a global economic and political system that is driving civilization toward a precipice.

Even with the best of intentions, those actively working to reform the current system are a bit like software engineers valiantly trying to fix multiple bugs in a faulty software program: each fix complicates the code, leading inevitably to a new set of bugs that require even more heroic workarounds. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the problem isnt just the software: an entirely new operating system is required to get where we need to go.

This realization dawned on me gradually over the years I spent researching my book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanitys Search for Meaning. My research began as a personal search for meaning. Id been through a personal crisis when the certainties on which Id built my early life came crashing down around me. I wanted my life going forward to be truly meaningfulbut based on what foundation? I was determined to sort through the received narratives of meaning until I came across a foundation I could really believe in.

My drive to answer these questions led me to explore the patterns of meaning that different cultures throughout history have constructed. Just like peeling an onion, I realized that one layer of meaning frequently covered deeper layers that structure the daily thoughts and values that most people take for granted. It was a journey of nearly ten years, during which I dedicated myself to deep res...

07:32

Anything can still happen in Europe openDemocracy

Old and new international dynamics are simultaneously at play in Europe. Many voters don't know what to make of this chaos.

lead Toni Iwobi, Italy's first black senator elected from The League, arrives at an event at Palazzo delle Stelline, in Milan, Italy, on March 9, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.A tidal wave of Euroscepticism has swept the continent. Online platforms have helped. No doubt. Social media as well, quite naturally. Prominent old media are certainly behind it, supported by billionaires whose interests are in marked contrast with those of Brussels, especially over anti-money-laundering policy.

Even so, you can't escape the impression that Euroscepticism is rising from below, from masses of individuals with no hidden agendas. The losers of an eleven-year global crisis triggered by unfettered international markets and unregulated banking speculations the EU had hardly anything to do with.

Their lives are on hold. They see many more foreigners in their neighbourhoods today, speaking unfathomable languages, allowed in by EU-made porous borders. The former can't find work and when they do it is badly paid; the latter stoically endure, take up to three jobs and get blamed by right-wing politicians for diluting the national blood and left-wing opinion makers for not voting and supinely accepting low pay.

Albanian, Romanian and Polish couldn't be any more different from one another, yet they all sound the same to the vast majority in western Europe. This unfortunate perception can produce the political effect of compact, hungry hordes invading. With more joining in from Africa and the war-torn Middle East. Agitators say the EU invites them in, despite evidence to the contrary, like the billions spent on a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of incomers.

The ever more agile far right

Stirring up xenophobic feelings is some politicians' favourite tool; but it's not as if they know nothing else. They're strategically rather astute. The far right the most Eurosceptic across any nation's respecti...

Anything can still happen in Europe openDemocracy

Old and new international dynamics are simultaneously at play in Europe. Many voters don't know what to make of this chaos.

lead Toni Iwobi, Italy's first black senator elected from The League, arrives at an event at Palazzo delle Stelline, in Milan, Italy, on March 9, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.A tidal wave of Euroscepticism has swept the continent. Online platforms have helped. No doubt. Social media as well, quite naturally. Prominent old media are certainly behind it, supported by billionaires whose interests are in marked contrast with those of Brussels, especially over anti-money-laundering policy.

Even so, you can't escape the impression that Euroscepticism is rising from below, from masses of individuals with no hidden agendas. The losers of an eleven-year global crisis triggered by unfettered international markets and unregulated banking speculations the EU had hardly anything to do with.

Their lives are on hold. They see many more foreigners in their neighbourhoods today, speaking unfathomable languages, allowed in by EU-made porous borders. The former can't find work and when they do it is badly paid; the latter stoically endure, take up to three jobs and get blamed by right-wing politicians for diluting the national blood and left-wing opinion makers for not voting and supinely accepting low pay.

Albanian, Romanian and Polish couldn't be any more different from one another, yet they all sound the same to the vast majority in western Europe. This unfortunate perception can produce the political effect of compact, hungry hordes invading. With more joining in from Africa and the war-torn Middle East. Agitators say the EU invites them in, despite evidence to the contrary, like the billions spent on a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of incomers.

The ever more agile far right

Stirring up xenophobic feelings is some politicians' favourite tool; but it's not as if they know nothing else. They're strategically rather astute. The far right the most Eurosceptic across any nation's respecti...

07:12

Northern Ireland vs East German states in the 21st century Slugger O'Toole

The Northern Ireland peace dividend has not been as great as Germanys unification dividend.

If you want to learn more about the cost of German unification you can do so here

 

 

06:30

#DeleteFacebook is a monumentally stupid campaign for the political left to be pushing AAV


We all know the left has a spectacular propensity for self-harm, from factionalism and splits, through to the alienating language that so many on the left tend to use, but the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data scandal has unleashed a truly spectacular self-harming campaign on the left.

Left-wing people are taking to Twitter to call for others to #DeleteFacebook.

Of course Facebook has some very serious problems, including the alleged misuse of Facebook data to create psychological warfare tools to rig elections, their hosting of disgusting terrorism-inspiring extreme-right hate chambers like Britain First for years, their continued promotion of fake news, and their willingness to allow political parties and campaigns to spread outright lies through targeted dark ads.

I'm clearly not denying Facebook has serious problems, but to focus on all of the problems and refuse to recognise that Facebook was the scene of a massive left-wing victory during the 2017 General Election is wilful myopia.

After decades of hard-right neoliberalism completely dominating the means of communication, suddenly Facebook provided a voice to people to express an alternative.

03:25

If the Tories had any sense they'd make hapless Ben Bradley delete his Twitter account AAV


The Tory MP Ben Bradley isn't just a nasty piece of work who defames his political opponents, calls for the sterilisation of poor people, and joked with Iain Duncan Smith about castrating a journalist who dared to criticise him, he's also a remarkably dim bulb who couldn't spot a public relations own goal if it slapped him in the face.
 

Fresh from creating the most viral political Twitter disaster British politics has ever seen with his apology for defaming Jeremy Corbyn, Ben Bradley must have thought that he'd scored a magnificent public relations goal by announcing the defection of two Ashfield councillors from Labour to the Tories.

'Oh good' he must have thought, 'a chance to bash Jeremy Corbyn by citing "Momentum" as the reason for the defections'.

The problem of course is that these defections don't really do anything to make the Tories look good, but do an awful lot to reinforce the Labour left narrat...

03:20

Call for participants: Middle East Forum openDemocracy

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openDemocracy is looking for participants for the Middle East Forum.

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Call for participants: Middle East Forum openDemocracy

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openDemocracy is looking for participants for the Middle East Forum.

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01:19

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. Focus on decentralizing power openDemocracy

We need open and robust debates. We cannot afford anything less than this. Too much is at stake. Part Three.

lead Screenshot of MaidSafe - The New Decentralized Internet website.Cambridge Analytica is on the cover of every newspaper. The company managed to get hold of millions of data points of very sensitive data from Facebook users. Most reporters focus on the meaning of consent in the digital age and Facebook's inability to enforce it. Most reporters covering the Cambridge Analytica story are missing out on the big picture. The scale of the operation was only possible because Facebook has too much data about too many people. Cambridge Analytica is a cautionary tale about the risks of centralizing data and control over the flows of information. The internet and the web were designed to decentralize data and power. Cambridge Analytica's use of Facebook is an example of what a system with a single point of failure leads to.

This piece strives to show the bigger picture: How big players exerting power over internet access, device, platform, and data markets have become a liability. Cambridge Analytica is but a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. The plot will thicken. We need to talk... now.
Juan Ortiz Freuler.

Many claim the internet is broken. As Ive argued in these articles here and here these claims are often examples of misdirected anger. The social contract is broken. Inequality is rising, and the tensions associated with injustice are spilling into online space. Since the internet facilitates the collection of structured data and statistical analysis, it allows us to measure and reveal the overarching social tensions as never before. Media and unsavvy researchers often take a narrow focus that places the blame on the messenger, instead of talking about the broader problems that underpin the symptoms of the sick society their investig...

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. Focus on decentralizing power openDemocracy

We need open and robust debates. We cannot afford anything less than this. Too much is at stake. Part Three.

lead Screenshot of MaidSafe - The New Decentralized Internet website.Cambridge Analytica is on the cover of every newspaper. The company managed to get hold of millions of data points of very sensitive data from Facebook users. Most reporters focus on the meaning of consent in the digital age and Facebook's inability to enforce it. Most reporters covering the Cambridge Analytica story are missing out on the big picture. The scale of the operation was only possible because Facebook has too much data about too many people. Cambridge Analytica is a cautionary tale about the risks of centralizing data and control over the flows of information. The internet and the web were designed to decentralize data and power. Cambridge Analytica's use of Facebook is an example of what a system with a single point of failure leads to.

This piece strives to show the bigger picture: How big players exerting power over internet access, device, platform, and data markets have become a liability. Cambridge Analytica is but a drop of water trickling down the visible top of an iceberg. The plot will thicken. We need to talk... now.
Juan Ortiz Freuler.

Many claim the internet is broken. As Ive argued in these articles here and here these claims are often examples of misdirected anger. The social contract is broken. Inequality is rising, and the tensions associated with injustice are spilling into online space. Since the internet facilitates the collection of structured data and statistical analysis, it allows us to measure and reveal the overarching social tensions as never before. Media and unsavvy researchers often take a narrow focus that places the blame on the messenger, instead of talking about the broader problems that underpin the symptoms of the sick society their investig...

01:16

Time to halt the NHS gravy train for management consultants openDemocracy

New evidence has emerged that management consultants make NHS hospitals less, not more, efficient. Which will be little surprise to the NHS staff who have to deal with them.

The recent collapse of Carillion not only threw a long overdue spotlight on the billions leached from the NHS and other public services by the Private Finance Initiative but also severely dented the notion that private knows best when it comes to running public services. The public sectors use of management consultants has grown exponentially since the early 1990s to the extent that the use of consultants by the public sector now accounts for over a fifth of the total turnover of management consultancy firms. For as long as Ive worked in the NHS (I joined as a trainee accountant in 1990) a view has persisted that, whether were caring for patients or supporting those who do, no matter how hard we work or how good at our jobs we are well never quite be as efficient as our private sector counterparts; forever the lower league journeymen to their Premier League superstars.

Ive lost count, down the years, of how many times Ive seen management consultants (more often than not from one of the Big Four accountancy firms) brought in, at considerable expense, to do jobs that people in the NHS with vastly more experience in the relevant area could have done much better for a fraction of the cost. The sums involved, when viewed in isolation, often arent headline grabbing but collectively they add up to a substantial flow of money out of the health service and into the coffers of huge multinational corporations. How much exactly? Well, precise figures on how much the NHS as a whole spends on management consultants are difficult to come by but in December 2014 the British Medical Journal reported that NHS spending on management consultants had risen to 640 million per year (compared to 313 million in 2010) as they cashed in on the chaos created by the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act with some consultants charging a whopping 4,000 per day for their services.

To illustrate the impact of the health services often unnecessary use of management...

Time to halt the NHS gravy train for management consultants openDemocracy

New evidence has emerged that management consultants make NHS hospitals less, not more, efficient. Which will be little surprise to the NHS staff who have to deal with them.

The recent collapse of Carillion not only threw a long overdue spotlight on the billions leached from the NHS and other public services by the Private Finance Initiative but also severely dented the notion that private knows best when it comes to running public services. The public sectors use of management consultants has grown exponentially since the early 1990s to the extent that the use of consultants by the public sector now accounts for over a fifth of the total turnover of management consultancy firms. For as long as Ive worked in the NHS (I joined as a trainee accountant in 1990) a view has persisted that, whether were caring for patients or supporting those who do, no matter how hard we work or how good at our jobs we are well never quite be as efficient as our private sector counterparts; forever the lower league journeymen to their Premier League superstars.

Ive lost count, down the years, of how many times Ive seen management consultants (more often than not from one of the Big Four accountancy firms) brought in, at considerable expense, to do jobs that people in the NHS with vastly more experience in the relevant area could have done much better for a fraction of the cost. The sums involved, when viewed in isolation, often arent headline grabbing but collectively they add up to a substantial flow of money out of the health service and into the coffers of huge multinational corporations. How much exactly? Well, precise figures on how much the NHS as a whole spends on management consultants are difficult to come by but in December 2014 the British Medical Journal reported that NHS spending on management consultants had risen to 640 million per year (compared to 313 million in 2010) as they cashed in on the chaos created by the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act with some consultants charging a whopping 4,000 per day for their services.

To illustrate the impact of the health services often unnecessary use of management...

00:34

How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires openDemocracy

An authoritarian surveillance state is being built in the US, while a massive land grab for power, by billionaires via our data, subverting British democracy, is well under way. 

lead Alexander Nix, left, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, and Matthew Freud, Founder & Chairman, Freuds, on Centre Stage during day three of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Flickr/Sam Barnes/Web Summit. Some rights reserved.The scandal deepens. What were the roles of Cambridge Analytica, the abuse of Facebook data, the permissiveness of Mark Zuckerbergs company, shady funders and Russian bots in Trumps election, Brexit and other dark abuses of democracy? One part of the story is the extraordinary passivity of the corporate media in face of glaring evidence. Another, the courageous role of reporters and mavericks such as the Observers Carole Cadwalladr and the UKs ByLine (with whom openDemocracy partners). Cadwalladrs riveting interview with Christopher Wylie being just the latest example. Their persistence helped to break the complicity and have now brought in bigger news organisations like the New York Times and Channel 4.

They, at last, are providing the resources needed to expose more of the truth and force legislators and regulators to act or at least to appear to act, what will actually result remains to be seen. This breakthrough also opens the way for the larger argument to take place about what such corruptions mean and how they relate to the social and economic influences on voters and the political choices we are offered. Here, American in-depth analysis is outstanding, two recent examples being by Tamsin Shaw in the New York Review of Books, Jane Mayer in the New Yorker and Lily Hay Newman in Wired (on how NSA hacks are widely ava...

How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires openDemocracy

An authoritarian surveillance state is being built in the US, while a massive land grab for power, by billionaires via our data, subverting British democracy, is well under way. 

lead Alexander Nix, left, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, and Matthew Freud, Founder & Chairman, Freuds, on Centre Stage during day three of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Flickr/Sam Barnes/Web Summit. Some rights reserved.The scandal deepens. What were the roles of Cambridge Analytica, the abuse of Facebook data, the permissiveness of Mark Zuckerbergs company, shady funders and Russian bots in Trumps election, Brexit and other dark abuses of democracy? One part of the story is the extraordinary passivity of the corporate media in face of glaring evidence. Another, the courageous role of reporters and mavericks such as the Observers Carole Cadwalladr and the UKs ByLine (with whom openDemocracy partners). Cadwalladrs riveting interview with Christopher Wylie being just the latest example. Their persistence helped to break the complicity and have now brought in bigger news organisations like the New York Times and Channel 4.

They, at last, are providing the resources needed to expose more of the truth and force legislators and regulators to act or at least to appear to act, what will actually result remains to be seen. This breakthrough also opens the way for the larger argument to take place about what such corruptions mean and how they relate to the social and economic influences on voters and the political choices we are offered. Here, American in-depth analysis is outstanding, two recent examples being by Tamsin Shaw in the New York Review of Books, Jane Mayer in the New Yorker and Lily Hay Newman in Wired (on how NSA hacks are widely ava...

00:14

Britains collusion with radical Islam: Interview with Mark Curtis openDemocracy

From Syria to Saudi Arabia, historian Mark Curtiss new book sets out how Britain colludes with radical Islam and how the British media is failing to inform us.

Image: Theresa May and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 2018. PA Images/Victoria Jones, all rights reserved.

A former Research Fellow at Chatham House and the ex-Director of the World Development Movement, British historian Mark Curtis has published several books on UK foreign policy, including 2003s Web of Deceit: Britains Real Role in the World, endorsed by Noam Chomsky and John Pilger. Ian Sinclair asked Curtis about the recently published new edition of his 2010 book Secret Affairs: Britains Collusion with Radical Islam.

Ian Sinclair: With the so-called war on terror the dominant framework for understanding Western foreign policy since 9/11, the central argument of your book that Britain has been colluding with radical Islam for decades will be a shock to many people. Can you give some examples?

Mark Curtis: UK governments Conservative and Labour have been colluding for decades with two sets of Islamist actors which have strong connections with each other.

In the first group are the major state sponsors of Islamist terrorism, the two most important of which are key British allies with whom London has long-standing strategic partnerships Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The second group includes extremist private movements and organisations whom Britain has worked alongside and sometimes trained and financed, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. The roots of this lie in divide and rule policies under colonialism but collusion of this type took off in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. After the jihad in Afghanistan, Britain had private dealings of one kind or another with militants in various organisations, including Pakistans Harkat ul-Ansar, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Kosovo Liberation...

Britains collusion with radical Islam: Interview with Mark Curtis openDemocracy

From Syria to Saudi Arabia, historian Mark Curtiss new book sets out how Britain colludes with radical Islam and how the British media is failing to inform us.

Image: Theresa May and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 2018. PA Images/Victoria Jones, all rights reserved.

A former Research Fellow at Chatham House and the ex-Director of the World Development Movement, British historian Mark Curtis has published several books on UK foreign policy, including 2003s Web of Deceit: Britains Real Role in the World, endorsed by Noam Chomsky and John Pilger. Ian Sinclair asked Curtis about the recently published new edition of his 2010 book Secret Affairs: Britains Collusion with Radical Islam.

Ian Sinclair: With the so-called war on terror the dominant framework for understanding Western foreign policy since 9/11, the central argument of your book that Britain has been colluding with radical Islam for decades will be a shock to many people. Can you give some examples?

Mark Curtis: UK governments Conservative and Labour have been colluding for decades with two sets of Islamist actors which have strong connections with each other.

In the first group are the major state sponsors of Islamist terrorism, the two most important of which are key British allies with whom London has long-standing strategic partnerships Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The second group includes extremist private movements and organisations whom Britain has worked alongside and sometimes trained and financed, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. The roots of this lie in divide and rule policies under colonialism but collusion of this type took off in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. After the jihad in Afghanistan, Britain had private dealings of one kind or another with militants in various organisations, including Pakistans Harkat ul-Ansar, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Kosovo Liberation...

00:06

Vince Cable is actually complaining about the consequences of flogging the Royal Mail! AAV


In the Autumn of 2013 Vince Cable was the Tory/Lib-Dem Coalition minister who sold off the Royal Mail to a bunch of private profiteers at way below its market value. In 2017 he has the absolute brass neck to complain about the consequences of that sale.

Vince knew that he was ripping off the public by flogging the Royal Mail at way below its real market value, but he simply didn't care.

Vince knew that public opinion was dead set against the sell-off, with 67% of the public against to just 20% in favour, but he went ahead anyway.

Vince knew that Royal Mail sorting offices across the nation were sitting on prime bits of development land worth billions, and that the sale of just a few of these sorting offices would recoup the entire 2 billion price he flogged the Royal Mail off for.

In hindsight the sale of the Royal Mail has been described as "crony capitalism at its worst" and the widespread predictions that the private owners would cash in on the property portfolio have come true.

When Vince Cable flogged off the Royal Mail in 2013 he valued the 6.25 acre Mount Pleasant sorting office at 29 million. Just a few years later in 2017 the private owners flogged it off to developers for 193 million. 
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Tuesday, 20 March

22:58

How an indigenous woman left her mark on a tumultuous presidential campaign in Mexico openDemocracy

Marichuy didnt gather the necessary number of signatures to run for president, but that hasnt stopped a movements campaign for political representation.

Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved. Marichuy's supporters gather at the National Autonomous of Mexico in November 2017. Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved.Mexico has been kidnapped by those in power, and with your help were going to get her back! said Mara de Jess Patricio at a political rally on 11 February. Her supporters filled the plaza outside the Palacio de Bellas Artes a historic cultural hub in the heart of Mexico City to listen to the woman that they hope can bring about a radical change in Mexican society.  

Marichuy, as Patricio is commonly known, is an indigenous Nahua healer from the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. She was nominated by the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), a coalition of 58 indigenous groups, as their spokesperson to represent them in this years presidential campaigns.

Though she did not succeed in collecting the required number of signatures to stand in the elections, expected 1 July 2018, the CNI says they will not be deterred. After the 2018 elections there will be many more and we are going to carry on fighting, said councilwoman Yamili Chan Dzul, from Yucatn in southern Mexico, at the February rally. We are going to keep moving forward. This [campaign] is a call for us to awaken our consciousness.  

Gathering the 866,593 signatures 1% of the average number of registered voters in each state that independent candidates need to enter the race for president proved problematic for the CNI.

Throughout their campaign for Marichuys candidacy, the congress argued that the mechanism for collectin...

How an indigenous woman left her mark on a tumultuous presidential campaign in Mexico openDemocracy

Marichuy didnt gather the necessary number of signatures to run for president, but that hasnt stopped a movements campaign for political representation.

Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved. Marichuy's supporters gather at the National Autonomous of Mexico in November 2017. Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved.Mexico has been kidnapped by those in power, and with your help were going to get her back! said Mara de Jess Patricio at a political rally on 11 February. Her supporters filled the plaza outside the Palacio de Bellas Artes a historic cultural hub in the heart of Mexico City to listen to the woman that they hope can bring about a radical change in Mexican society.  

Marichuy, as Patricio is commonly known, is an indigenous Nahua healer from the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. She was nominated by the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), a coalition of 58 indigenous groups, as their spokesperson to represent them in this years presidential campaigns.

Though she did not succeed in collecting the required number of signatures to stand in the elections, expected 1 July 2018, the CNI says they will not be deterred. After the 2018 elections there will be many more and we are going to carry on fighting, said councilwoman Yamili Chan Dzul, from Yucatn in southern Mexico, at the February rally. We are going to keep moving forward. This [campaign] is a call for us to awaken our consciousness.  

Gathering the 866,593 signatures 1% of the average number of registered voters in each state that independent candidates need to enter the race for president proved problematic for the CNI.

Throughout their campaign for Marichuys candidacy, the congress argued that the mechanism for collectin...

22:50

The oldest sins in the newest ways openDemocracy

Why Facebooks business model leaves us exposed to the abuses of Cambridge Analytica.

That Cambridge Analytica used millions of Facebook profiles to create tools to target and manipulate US voters comes as no surprise to those who watch and work in large digital firms. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, many simply already knew. Secondly, activity of this kind data accumulation and analysis to build tools of manipulation is foundational to the business model of large digital platforms. Over the last half century, improvements in information and computer technology have precipitated the development of platforms that act as intermediaries between the provider and user of a service. For Uber, a passenger uses the app to gain access to a seat in a drivers car. In the case of Facebook, the holder of a Facebook profile is a supplier, voluntarily giving up intimate data that is analysed and sold to advertisers, who, in turn, target the profile holder with goods of a type and in a way that maximise their propensity to purchase. Our economic and social worlds are being remodelled by these firms. The many varieties of platform have stretched their operations across a broad range of markets, from groceries to transport. Though their activities are broad, platforms are united by an insatiable impulse upon which their business models are founded: the extraction and analysis of data. In using Facebook, you create data actively, by liking pages or typing intimate status updates, or passively, through location services. All this data is captured. It is then analysed to, among other things, build inferred profiles of you and your network what issues drive you to vote, which products youre likely to consume, your sexual preferences, your dreams, fears, and the issues that most exercise you, your nearest and dearest, or anyone that is similar to you. If it can be captured it will be used. Two things then happen. Firstly, these profiles are used to sell advertising in ways and at a scale beyond the wildest imaginings of the past. Digital advertising is now the largest advertising medium in the world, with Google and Facebook accounting for over 80% of digital advertising outside China and upwards of 20% of total global advertising. Secondly, data and analysis are used to improve the algorithms that power the platforms and produce the insights. Opening up the worlds knowledge is not the primary motivation of Google engineers as they frantically scan book after book, but the rapid development of its machine...

The oldest sins in the newest ways openDemocracy

Why Facebooks business model leaves us exposed to the abuses of Cambridge Analytica.

That Cambridge Analytica used millions of Facebook profiles to create tools to target and manipulate US voters comes as no surprise to those who watch and work in large digital firms. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, many simply already knew. Secondly, activity of this kind data accumulation and analysis to build tools of manipulation is foundational to the business model of large digital platforms. Over the last half century, improvements in information and computer technology have precipitated the development of platforms that act as intermediaries between the provider and user of a service. For Uber, a passenger uses the app to gain access to a seat in a drivers car. In the case of Facebook, the holder of a Facebook profile is a supplier, voluntarily giving up intimate data that is analysed and sold to advertisers, who, in turn, target the profile holder with goods of a type and in a way that maximise their propensity to purchase. Our economic and social worlds are being remodelled by these firms. The many varieties of platform have stretched their operations across a broad range of markets, from groceries to transport. Though their activities are broad, platforms are united by an insatiable impulse upon which their business models are founded: the extraction and analysis of data. In using Facebook, you create data actively, by liking pages or typing intimate status updates, or passively, through location services. All this data is captured. It is then analysed to, among other things, build inferred profiles of you and your network what issues drive you to vote, which products youre likely to consume, your sexual preferences, your dreams, fears, and the issues that most exercise you, your nearest and dearest, or anyone that is similar to you. If it can be captured it will be used. Two things then happen. Firstly, these profiles are used to sell advertising in ways and at a scale beyond the wildest imaginings of the past. Digital advertising is now the largest advertising medium in the world, with Google and Facebook accounting for over 80% of digital advertising outside China and upwards of 20% of total global advertising. Secondly, data and analysis are used to improve the algorithms that power the platforms and produce the insights. Opening up the worlds knowledge is not the primary motivation of Google engineers as they frantically scan book after book, but the rapid development of its machine...

22:37

Salisbury attack: establishing responsibilities war paradigm vs. crime paradigm openDemocracy

What difference would it make to describe what happened as an international crime, the approach taken by Jeremy Corbyn, rather than in the language of military force?

lead Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the start of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, 2016.Theresa May described the Salisbury attack as an unlawful use of force against the UK. This is the language of military force. It is less strong than armed attack, a descriptive that would have triggered a NATO Article V response, but nevertheless it is couched in the language of war and thereby implies that proportionate counter measures can be taken. Yet we could also describe what happened in Salisbury as a heinous crime and, if we are assuming that Russia was responsible, a crime committed against its own citizens indeed a massive violation of human rights.

What difference does the wording make? The military framing implies a geo-political response against the Russian state, which is the approach adopted by Theresa May, starting with the expulsion of Russian diplomats. It is an expression of disapproval but what does it achieve? It is already being countered by tit-for-tat expulsions of British diplomats and indeed by escalating the conflict through the closure of the Consulate-general and the British Council.

Effectively what it does is to create an imaginary war, in which both Theresa May and Vladimir Putin can claim to be strong in facing their enemies. Indeed, this was perhaps the motivation. It strengthened President Putin a few days before the Presidential elections in which turn-out seems to be have been around 60% lower than the 70% Putin was aiming for. And it offers a kind of Falklands moment to Theresa May at a moment when opinion on Brexit is shifting against her; Russian interference in the referendum and implicit support for Brexit is all about weakening the European Union. If indeed this was the motivation, then Mays response just plays into Putins hands. If indeed this was the motivation, then Mays response just plays into Putins hands.

A further problem with the geo-political approach is that it pr...

Friday, 02 March

19:55

Apply for a 50.50 womens rights and corporate power reporting fellowship openDemocracy

We need your help to investigate womens rights and corporate power around the world. Apply for a 50.50 reporting fellowship.

Berta Ziga Cceres. Berta Ziga Cceres (centre), daughter of murdered activist Berta Cceres. Credit: Daniel Cima/CIDH/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0) Some rights reserved. We need your help to investigate womens rights and corporate power around the world. Apply for a 50.50 reporting fellowship.

50.50 is the section of the independent media platform openDemocracy.net covering gender and sexuality. We are looking for one part-time reporting fellow to work with our editors on stories related to extractive industries, corporate power, tax justice, and the rights of women, trans and gender non-conforming people. This fellowship aims to demystify how the global economy works and is in partnership with the Association for Womens Rights in Development (AWID), as part of its project to share knowledge around economic justice.

The fellowship will run for five months, starting 30 April 2018. The fellow will be expected to work on 1-2 articles each month, and to prepare for and attend weekly (virtual) editorial meetings. The fellow will be paid per piece produced, from 150 ($210) for a short article up to 300 ($410) for a more in-depth report. They will also receive ongoing mentorship and practical training. Workshops will be arranged, where possible, on topics such as Freedom of Information requests, interview skills, and feature writing, depending on the fellows projects and needs.

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

This is not a full-time pos...

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