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Saturday, 21 October


From a barrier to a bridge: reclaiming economics a tool for change openDemocracy

We need a new generation of economics educators, communicators and commentators

Economics is having an image crisis. Its all around us, and yet few of us are able to relate to the subject, let alone feel the agency to transform it. At a time where our dominant economic models are failing us, individuals arent equipped to effectively participate in discussion of the subject - exasperating an already non-functioning democracy. The subject urgently needs to be transformed from a barrier to a bridge for people to engage in critical, grounded and informed political debate. For most people, economics is recognised as simultaneously ubiquitous and important, but an inaccessible, distant and abstract force over which we have little control. People know its all around them, but what it even is (let alone how we can affect it), is a mystery to most. At Economy, were working to unpack how people experience the subject, what the barriers to engagement are, and what needs to change in order for it to become a tool to build an economy created by everyone. One of our first findings last year was that only 12% of the UK feel that politicians and the media tend to talk about economics in an accessible way that makes it easy to understand. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is even starker in lower income families, dropping to 7%. When it comes to elections, for many the highpoint of the democratic calendar, only a third of us feel that information about the economy in the media is useful enough to help us make an informed voting choice. The perception of usefulness of economics is lower than the pitiful average in not only those from a lower socio-economic background, but also the young. In the election this year, our research found that nearly 60% of young people did not feel the information they could access was useful enough to inform their vote. And yet we know that democratic malaise is not the issue; passion, excitement and energy in politics amongst the young is at an all time high. The problem lies in how the subject is communicated. The single biggest request from the people we speak to is always the same: Explain it in laypersons terms!. This statement is often closely followed by a complaint that economic information is not presented in a manner relevant to their lives, and it is often shrouded in meaningless, inaccessible terminology. This sentiment is found in over 70% of participants. Its a clear message: economics, as spoken about in the public sphere, needs to eliminate jargon, simply and define difficult vocabulary, and drop assumptions about the levels of understanding of its audience. Answers like this are common in our interviews: When people talk about the economy, its just talking about...


Gobsmacking hypocrisy! Daily Express uses European Convention on Human Rights to defend itself! Pride's Purge

Arch-Brexiter the Daily Express has campaigned tirelessly not just for Britain to leave the EU but also to leave the European Convention on Human Rights:

So its more than a bit surprising to discover the Express has been trying to argue (unsuccessfully) in the courts that its rights have been infringed under Article 10 of the European Convention:



Deputy Chairman of Conservative Association forced himself on journalist Pride's Purge

Only a few British newspapers have mentioned the fact that brave journalist Kate Leaver has revealed right-wing hack and QC Rupert Myers once forced himself on her after going for what she thought would be a friendly drink.

It then transpired that Myers has a history of sexually harassing many women:...

09:18 Counterinsurgency and Social War Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam

[ 4 november 2017 19:00 tot 5 november 2017 00:59. ] Saturday november 2nd we are screening another documentary by the collective. We will have a short introduction before and room for discussion afterwards. The bar and library will be open. The documentary is in ENGLISH, we will have dutch subtitles if these are available. Space opens: 19:00 Starting time 'Counterinsurgency and Social War': 20:30 sharp Summary: ADAPT AND [...]


Beyond the Abuse Scandals? Review of Maher and OBriens Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism Slugger O'Toole

There is much insightful reading in a new collection of essays edited by Eamon Maher and Eugene OBrien, Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism: From Galway to Cloyne and Beyond (Manchester University Press, 2017).

Maher, who lectures in Humanities at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, has co-edited a number of collections on Irish Catholicism in recent years all of which have made a valuable contribution in conversations about the future of the Church.

Titles such as Contemporary Catholicism in Ireland: A Critical Appraisal (2008) and The Dublin/Murphy Report: A Watershed for Irish Catholicism (2010) were published by Columba, a popular press based in Dublin that has since folded.

And while Manchester University Press has produced a beautiful hardback edition of Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism, its 85 price tag is prohibitive compared to Columbas much more affordable range.

But setting the price aside, Maher and OBrien, who lectures in English Language and Literature at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, have assembled a fascinating series of contributions. In most chapters, the writing and argumentation are accessible to both popular and academic audiences.

Maher and OBrien ensure that all the contributions are read in light of the clerical abuse scandals.

The scandals are emphasised not only in the subtitle of the book but also in their Introduction. So in the opening pages of the book, they contrast the euphoria of Pope John Paul IIs visit to Ballybrit Racecourse, Galway, in 1979 at a special mass for young people, with how priests and religious were abusing children across the island.

They reproduce a particularly harrowing passage from the 2009 Ryan Report on Child Abuse, detailing abuses at St Josephs Industrial School, Ferryhouse, Clonmel, about events that happened on the same day as the Popes visit to Limerick (p. 3):

The other boy was sent for, and Fr Stefano described how the two boys sat in my office and unfolded to me a most horrific story of what had been happening to them. The boys told Fr Stefano story after story of cruelty and abuse. The worst, as far as he was concerned, was the abuse of one of the boys during the Popes visit to Ireland in 1979. The whole school went to see the Pope in Limerick, except for one of the two boys who was not allowed to go because of his record of absconding. Br Bruno volunteered to stay back and supervise him. The boy told Fr Stefano that, when the rest of the boys left, this Brother cam...


Remembering Vietnam Jonathan Fryer

Vietnam War helicopterRecently Ive been watching the stupendous 10-part series of one-hour films on the Vietnam War, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, screened on BBC4 but also available through BBCiPlayer. The project took ten years to put together, from contemporary news footage, home videos, interviews with survivors or families of those killed, Vietnamese North and South as well as American. There are also extremely telling tapes of US presidents J F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon talking to top advisors, hoping to believe that everything was going well, whereas it became increasingly obvious that victory against the Communists or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, against the Vietnamese people was impossible. Tonight I watched Episode 6, covering the first half of 1968, which had some iconic moments, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the US as well as the Tet offensive, when tens of thousands of North Vietnamese troops spirited into the South, hoping their assaults on major cities would lead to an uprising by the South Vietnamese, who would overthrow the corrupt regime of Nguyen Van Thieu and welcome them with open arms. That did not happen, though casualties on all sides were horrendous and the old imperial capital of Hue was largely destroyed. US propaganda portrayed the Tet Offensive as a failure for the Communists, arguing that the 510,000 US troops now in Sou...


Babi Czech Republic: too thin a gruel? openDemocracy

There is always a chance that, owing to unforeseen domestic or external dynamics, the Czech Republic may yet slide into illiberal isolation. But it will be not be by design.

lead lead Andrej Babis, founder of the liberal-populist ANO-party, hands out his book, 'What I dream of when for once I get some sleep' to voters in West Bohemia's Pilsen, Czech Republic, 07 October 2017. Michael Heitmann/Press Association. All rights reserved.Central European politics is taking a dangerous turn. After the success last weekend of right-wing populists in Austria, todays elections in the Czech Republic are likewise set to deliver a more Eurosceptic, and less liberal, government in Prague.

The ultimate fear is that Andrej Babi, a Slovak-born oligarch and media mogul whose ANO (Yes) party will come first with over 25 per cent, will align himself with extremists to steer the country down the same illiberal and isolationist path as Poland and Hungary. This possibility lends the election a sense of existential threat unfamiliar to Czech democratic politics after 1989. But how real is the fear?

Much of the anxiety has do to with Babi himself and rightly so. Should Babi become prime minister, the sheer concentration of political and economic power in his hands would spell trouble for the integrity of Czech democratic institutions. Given that he currently faces charges for EU subsidy fraud, he might be tempted to subvert the rule of law or seize control of the public media. Beyond Babis, there is concern over the late surge of the far-right Party of Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) of Japanese-born entrepreneur Tomio Okamura, which champions a Czexit referendum and could easily cross 10 per cent.

The worst-case scenario for both the Czech Republic and Europe would be the unholy alliance between a power-hungry Babi and a xenophobic Okamura, possibly aided by the unreformed Communists and cheered on from the castle by the pro-Russian President Milos Zeman.

In theory, such a configuration could trigger a pattern similar to Hungary or Poland: oligarchic centralization wrapped in nationalism and hostility towards the European project.

In reality, however, fears of Orbanization of...


How mainstream media churnalism works AAV

One of the most common complaints about the mainstream media is the way that instead of holding the powerful to account, a significant proportion of these so-called journalists are more than happy to act as mouthpieces for governments, corporations, bankers, arms dealers, and billionaires.

Here's a fantastic example of a mainstream media hack lazily regurgitating a press release from a press agency representing the interests of the multinational biotechnology corporation Monsanto, and presenting it to readers as if it's news.

Here's a screen shot of the press release (link here)

And here's a screen shot of the article published in The S*n (no way am I posting a link to that vile right-wing propaganda rag, Google it yourself if you really want to look at the whole thing)



The Spanish political establishment are plotting to attack Catalan political and social autonomy AAV

The right-wing Spanish governing party (PP) and the pseudo-socialist opposition party (PSOE) have announced that they've concocted a plan to seize control of the autonomous region of Catalonia.

Just days after the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont decided to disappoint the secessionist movement by appealing for talks with the Spanish government instead of unilaterally declaring independence (like he said he would before the referendum), the response of the Spanish political class has been to completely ignore the calls for dialogue, and to further escalate the situation by threatening to launch a Spanish nationalist power grab in the region.

The Article 155 plan that the two main Spanish political parties have concocted isn't just to scrap the Catalan parliament and impose Madrid rule until new elections are held, they've also decided to take over local Catalan language TV and radio stations (TV3 and Catalunya Rdio), and take over running of the Catalan police force (los Mossos) [source - in Catalan].

The reason the Spanish political establishment in Madrid want to exert control over the Catalan police is obvious. They're furious that the Mossos didn't join in with the Guardia Civil and Federal Police to violently repress the October 1st independence vote. In fact the Mossos were actually seen protecting non-violent civilians from the brutality of the Spanish police, and the head of the Mossos was hauled to Madrid to be question...


Solidariteitsbar voor anti-G20 gevangene Peike Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam

Waar: Anarchistische Bibliotheek, Eerste Schinkelstraat 14-16, Amsterdam Wanneer: zaterdag 28 oktober 14:00 bibliotheek open 17:00 Eten 19:00 Update / infopraatjes over zijn zaak daarna bar tot 23:30 De G20 is een bijeenkomst van de leiders van de 20 meest gendustrialiseerde landen die besluiten nemen over de economische koers van de wereld. In juni 2017 kwamen de zelfbenoemde wereldleiders, waaronder mensen [...]


Brexit dark money revelations trigger MP's question on 'foreign interference' openDemocracy

openDemocracy's investigations into Leave donor Arron Banks and the DUP make global headlines, prompting calls for transparency. 

Ben Bradshaw in the House of Commons (fair use)

An investigation by openDemocracy has made global headlines this week and triggered questions in the UK parliament about 'foreign and possibly Russian interference in western democracies'.

Citing our series of revelations this week on the 'dark money' that funded the Brexit campaign, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw yesterday asked Andrea Leadsom, the Speaker of the House:

"Has she seen the very worrying series of reports this week by openDemocracy, on the role of dark money in the EU referendum, including revelations of illegal donations to the DUP and new questions today over the real wealth of Arron Banks, the main financial backer of Leave?

Given the widespread public concern over foreign and particularly Russian interference in Western democracies, will she assure this house that the government and the Electoral Commission will examine these reports very carefully and reassure our country that all of the resources spent in the referendum were from permissible sources?"

The story was then quickly picked up by The New York Times, The Guardian, the Financial Times and Bloomberg.

Arron Banks, the donor who gave the Leave campaign over 9m and whose sources of wealth we investigated in yesterday's story 'How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?' declined to comment to reporters following up the story. However he tweeted:

"The series of inv...

Friday, 20 October



Please get me moved from here! Pregnant woman in G4S asylum housing openDemocracy

Refugee and asylum seeking women are shockingly over-represented in the records of UK maternal deaths. Yet pregnant women and infants continue to be placed in dangerous housing.

Rear window of Sharons G4S asylum home (all images by John Grayson)

One showery September morning I stood outside a large red brick house, just off the town centre in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

Id been told that the hostel was being used by the security company G4S as accommodation for pregnant women asylum seekers, and lone mothers with babies. One of the growing number of lone mother and refugee children hostels in the UKs asylum market.

Old carpets had been dumped in the hostels back yard, a blocked drain overflowed. It didnt seem a safe place for children to play.

Leaky ceilings and filthy carpets

Come and see, carpet is too dirty for my baby! Rita shows me to her room, introduces me to her fourteen month old son. Friends had provided a play-mat to cover the filthy carpet.

Safe for toddlers? Back yard, Sharons homeRita and her housemate Janet were showing me round the hostel. In the kitchen Janet said: This kitchen is the only room we can meet and let the children play. She showed me damp patches on the kitchen ceiling where water had leaked from the bathroom above.

We looked in on the lo...


By the weird laws of the suspended Assembly an ex MLA continued *legally* taking her 55k salary Slugger O'Toole

It turns out the Principal Deputy Speaker (dont ask about the title, it was the product of another wee DUP/SF deal) has been quietly taking money for a job shes no longer in a position to do (she didnt stand in March).

In contrast to her fellow (just ordinary, upper caps) Deputy Speaker Danny Kennedy, she chose not resign and to continue taking the money. [Nice work, if you can get it? Ed]

Sinn Fein seemingly hung her out to dry: Caitriona Ruane was no longer an MLA after March this year.
Any arrangements she may have come to with the Assembly were her own affair.

Bowing to pressure [Relax, it happens Ed], Ms Ruane said last night she has resigned and

donated the salary to charities and community groups, including an Irish language group, a group for the elderly, an LGBT group and a charity for children with disabilities.

Alex Attwood of the SDLP is also paid the full amount, but routinely gives the bulk of it back [since it is public money isnt that what Catriona should do? Ed] and retains 5,500 for his role as an Assembly Commission member.

On The View last night, Colum Eastwood is reported:

Mr Attwood wanted to resign from the Assembly Commission but couldnt step down from the role while Stormont is not functioning.

Hes still doing the job as a commissioner, he still goes to the meetings and represents the party. If we could change that situation, wed do it tomorrow and Alex would be very glad to do it.

Ms Ruane, on the other hand, was clearly hoping no one noticed, sitting tight watching the money roll in from the magic money tree. That is until the press took a much closer interest:

I never anticipated that the election of a new speaker and deputy speaker would be so protracted and I have come to the conclusion that now is the time to tender my resignation.

How, you might ask, can the former South Down MLA afford to pay that salary back? [Good question! Ed] Well, her party is currently the wealthiest on the island, so a wee sub might do the trick.

But the acquittal of a Sinn Fein councillor on charges of benefit fraud in 2015 after the court accepted that his expenses were paid directly to the party and not him, raises a question about just who was benefiting from Ms Ruanes decision to keep the money.

However, since shes also in receipt of an MLAs contributory pension (1/50...


A simple question for pro-Brexit Tories AAV

Here's a simple question for pro-Brexit Tories.

Let's assume for a moment that the Tory strategy of continually talking up how great a "no deal" Brexit would be is a simple ploy to frighten the EU27 into giving the UK a good Brexit deal.

Of course many would argue that a ruinous "no deal" cliff edge Brexit is actually the desired Tory endgame, because it would cause a de facto coup (the Tory government would have total free rein to scrap citizens' rights and liberties, and to rewrite thousands of laws to their own benefit) and it would trigger an unprecedented frenzy of disaster capitalism (mega-rich speculators picking up distressed British assets on the cheap like vultures stripping a carcass). But let's leave this suspicion to one side, and pretend that the only possible reason for Tory ministers to continually talk up how fantastic a "no deal"  Brexit would be is to goad the EU into giving the UK a great Brexit deal.

If this is true, and there are no ulterior motives (rights-scrapping, asset-stripping ...), perhaps some Tory Brexit supporters could explain why the Tory government is steadfastly refusing to release any of the economic impact assessments they've done on the economic consequences of a "no deal" Brexit?

If the "no deal" Brexit scenario is as fantastic as Tory ministers keep claiming, then why won't they back up their assertions by showing us some supporting evidence?

Oh - and don't use that pathetic excuse the right-wing propaganda rags have...


After Raqqa: what will it take to get to peace in Syria? openDemocracy

While the ruins of Raqqa have changed hands, the drivers and impacts of the war remain open wounds.

Destroyed houses in the Al Dariya neighborhood in western Raqqa. Picture by Morukc Umnaber/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. Expelled from Raqqa or what remains of it - ISIS may be on the way to defeat. Yet with the conditions that gave rise to it still largely in place, the threat could merely recede to emerge in new forms on different fronts. Despite the positive fanfare surrounding the progress of the coalitions campaign, the dilemmas facing western decision-makers about how to protect Syrians and push for a lasting end to Syrias bitter war are as acute as ever.

While the ruins of Raqqa have changed hands, the drivers and impacts of the war remain open wounds. The Syrian war will not end with Raqqa, and the Assad regime that nurtured the jihadist threat in order to cling to power is as malignant as ever. Fearful repression remains the norm for people in regime areas, while Russia and Iran will continue to prop up an unrepentant and emboldened regime, using the smokescreen of fighting terrorists to attack civilians and hospitals and starve the population in opposition areas into submission. The successor to al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, remains strong in Idlib. Turkey has engaged militarily to temper the ambitions of Kurdish militants. And to compound these challenges, there is increasing evidence to indicate that the US-led coalition is responsible for a significant uptick in civilian casualties since President Trumps inauguration.

Perception of abandonment has driven many desperate Syrians into the arms of well financed and equipped jihadist groups since early in the war

Even though the vast majority of Syrians despise ISIS, the destruction and killing in Raqqa will add to the grievances of the many Syrians who feel abandoned by the international community. For six years, the international community has persistently failed not only to protect Syrians from the regime, but also to get aid through to besieged and hard to reach...


No answers on 2016 attack against international election observers in Georgia openDemocracy

An incident involving international election observers during Georgia's 2016 parliamentary election raised questions that the official investigation is still yet to answer.

October 2016: Scenes of disturbance at a polling station in Jikhashkari village in the southern district of Marneuli. Image: Luka Pertaia / Netgazeti. Just before midnight on 8 October 2016, the day of the parliamentary elections, a group of men stormed into a polling station in Jikhashkari, a village in Western Georgia. The station was closed for the counting of votes, but the attackers were able to get past the police guards and into the polling station. There were at least four police officers present in and around the station, while other units were nearby.

The attackers threw ballots and papers around, disregarding the protests of the polling station commission. They disrupted the vote tabulation, in a manner that resulted in the annulment of the elections at that precinct, and acted in an intimidating and threatening manner. Then they turned their attention on three international election observers who were present.

Weve had the privilege of working closely with Georgian civil society organisations for the last 15 years. While these years have been marked by disturbing and dramatic events, such as the war in August 2008, there has also been progress in some important areas, such as freedom of expression and access to effective courts of law.

While relations with neighbouring Russia remain strained, relations with Europe have improved to the extent that Georgians now travel visa free to the EU. There are many reasons for these developments, but key has been the willingness of the people to participate in public affairs and express their opinions through elections that have generally become more free and fair over the last 15 years.

In the Caucasus region, free and fair elections do not come about by themselves. They are hard-fought achievements. Georgian civil society and key human rights institutions have worked with Parliament, the Central Electoral Commission and the media to protect the right to vote. In this, they have been supported by internationa...


Harvey Weinstein: Italian media coverage of the scandal has been predictably outrageous openDemocracy

The Italian media has failed, once again, to focus on systems of power and abuse. Actress Asia Argento has been treated particularly harshly. 

Harvey Weinstein. Harvey Weinstein at the "Fk Me I'm Famous Party" in Cannes, May 2011. Photo: Bellak Rachid/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Over the last two weeks, Harvey Weinstein  co-founder of Miramax studios and one of the most powerful men in Hollywood has been accused of using his power and his position to sexually assault and harass dozens of women who worked with him: assistants, employees and actresses.

Its also become clear that concerns about Weinstein's actions were known in the industry, but that they went largely unspoken, and unchallenged. As if Weinstein was too powerful to touch.

The scandal has attracted worldwide attention  particularly in Italy. One of Weinsteins named accusers is Italian actress and director Asia Argento.

Argento told The New Yorker that she has been sexually assaulted by Weinstein in an hotel room in 1997, when she was 21. She described how the incident marked her for life, and how she felt that she had to continue sexual relations with him for several years afterwards. She said she did not speak out before out of fear that Weinstein would crush her.

Asia Argento. Asia Argento in Cannes, May 2012. Photo: Hahn-Marechal-Nebinger/ABACA/PA Images. All right...


Victims of the Peace Lessons from David Boltons Conflict, Peace and Mental Health Slugger O'Toole

If there is one book that should be required reading for our MLAs, it is David Boltons Conflict, Peace and Mental Health: Addressing the Consequences of Conflict and Trauma in Northern Ireland, published this year by Manchester University Press.

The book is a timely reminder that while the Assembly remains suspended and political progress remains stalled, victims and survivors of violence continue to live with the consequences of the past.  Bolton eloquently describes their plight (p. 3):

In Ireland, whilst the dead of our civil conflicts are held sacred by one side or another (seldom by all), the suffering survivors run the risk of being abandoned because we cannot politically agree on how they ought to be helped. Whilst the rest of the world moves on, those who are disabled by their experience of hostility, loss, injury or trauma are caught in an unsatisfactory present. Left in a liminal state a no-mans land between the past and the emerging future with nowhere to go back to yet feeling unable to go forward surviving victims of the conflict become, also, victims of the peace.

Bolton is right to use the provocative phrase victims of the peace.

This is because trauma- related mental health issues often present themselves years after the traumatic event(s), and because trauma can be passed on from one generation to the next. These two facts alone should instil a sense of urgency among those with the power to invest in our mental health services as part of a broader project of dealing with the past.

Bolton is a retired social worker and senior manager in the health service in Northern Ireland. He was integrally involved in shaping the immediate response to the Enniskillen and Omagh bombs and establishing the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation (NICTT), which addressed the Omagh bombs longer-term legacies.

Bolton draws on these experiences to great effect, providing a balanced account of what has worked well in responding to trauma in Northern Ireland, as well as highlighting the need for mental health issues to become a greater priority in the present.

Boltons account of the response to the Omagh bomb describes how it drew on earlier experiences of the Troubles as well as contemporary research about the needs of those affected by it. This is a powerful example of good practice. Likewise, the NICTT worked effectively with clients over the course of its life (2002-2012).

Regrettably, it seems when NICTT closed due to lack of funding, there was...


Peace-building versus human rights in Ukraines Donbas openDemocracy

13654189_1762518223963655_138236124276395719_n.jpgDiplomatic games are being played in and around Ukraine. But officially recognising a Russian invasion is the only way toward peace. RU


September 2014: Burnt out rocket launchers and the remains of munitions lie amongst the rubble of a Ukrainian Armed Forces field camp near Dmitrivka in the north of Lugansk Oblast, Ukraine. (c) Jan A. Nicolas/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Human rights dont exist in a warzone. The conflict in Ukraines Donbas region is now in its fourth year. Ukrainian civil society, human rights activists and international organisations such as the UN and OSCE are trying to solve and stabilise the situation. But despite the fact there is only one conflict, there are different views on how to resolve it. There are also different views regarding the territories controlled by illegal armed groups under the guise of the so-called Donetsk Peoples Republic and Luhansk Peoples Republic.

Currently, the OSCE and UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission operate in the territory of Ukraines Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the Donbas. The UNs mission is to monitor the general situation in the ATO zone. The OSCE monitors and records violations in the Donbas, as well as acts as a mediator in negotiations. According to Ukrainian human rights defenders who regularly travel to the conflict zone in order to document human rights violations, representatives of the OSCE dont always record instances where Ukrainian sovereignty is violated, as well as evidence of Russian state aggression. What is the reason for this: a lack of desire to recognise the obvious fact of war? Or is it something else?

In my view, the key point of contention between human rights defenders and peacebuilders at the UN and OSCE has to do with the shift in emphasis from external aggression to internal conflict. While rights defenders are recordi...


My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest. openDemocracy

He wanted to know how institutional racism has made an impact on my life. Im glad he asked, because I was ready to answer.

Yesterday I was tagged in a Facebook post by an old high school friend asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled not only to publish his query, but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a few folks on Facebook.

Heres his post:

To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this White Privilege of which Im apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what Im now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), Im somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. Im not saying Im colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).


So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how Im missing whats going on. Personal examples only. Im not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.

Heres my response:

Hi Jason. First off, I hope you dont mind that Ive quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what youve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding. Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism Ive experienced in my lifetimein fact I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterdaybecause I realized many of my friendsespecially the white oneshave no idea what Ive experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened.

There are two reasons for this: 1) because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the 70s and 80sits shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out...


Palestinian winemaking under occupation openDemocracy

The stories of two Palestinians reviving winemaking as a source of livelihood in Palestine and a reminder of the rich cultures and history that is often obscured by the conflict.

Picture by Sari Khoury. All rights reserved. Wine is not usually what springs to mind when thinking about Palestine. As Lebanese, Turkish, and Cypriot winemaking flourishes and the controversial Israeli wine industry booms, Palestinian wine has received far less attention in recent history, overshadowed by news of occupation and bloodshed.

Israeli vineyards often use native Palestinian grapes on land stolen from farmers during the 1948 Nakba. Similarly, many newer Israeli wineries come from illegal West Bank settlements but are labelled as products of Israel.

With the exception of Latroun and Cremisan monasteries which both run on foreign funding and instruction, the rich Christian heritage of winemaking in and around the famous Palestinian cities of Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem as well as the northern Galilee region have been relegated to the domestic market until recently. Now, a new wave of entrepreneurs and winemakers are reviving Palestinian wine not only as a source of livelihood but also as a way of reminding Palestinians and the world of the rich cultures and history that is often obscured by focus on the conflict.

Nemi Ashkar and Sari Khoury are two such examples showing they can make a high quality product despite the choking restrictions of the Israeli occupation. They both produce a range of great wines from historic Palestinian sites: the village of Iqrit inside present-day Israel, and Bethlehems picturesque mountains in the occupied West Bank.

Returning home: Nemis story

Nemi Ashkar comes from the northern Galilee village of Iqrit which was occupied in November 1948 by the Israeli army and its inhabitants dispossessed. He grew up in the region but was exiled from his village, whose population is forbidden from returning except to visit their church and graveyard. Iqrit has since been under the control of the Israeli Land Authority, which manages 93% of Israeli land and ensures that it can only be rented and cultivated by Jewish citizens. 



ISIS, a global franchise openDemocracy

What do a Somalia truck, a Filipino city, and a Niger start-up have in common?

Explosion site near Safari hotel in Mogadishu, in which more than 300 people were killed on 14th October 2017. Faisal Isse/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.The war against ISIS in Raqqa is nearing its end. But in all likelihood, the group will transform itself into an insurgent force, thus reclaiming the status it had until 2013. The four-year caliphate will then be propagandised, in two ways: as an example of what can be achieved against the formidable power of the worlds strongest military coalition, and as a symbol of what will surely come again. Even if this is wishful thinking from ISIS, it is worth reflecting on current developments in three other regions which point to the evolving nature of this new era of irregular war: the Philippines, Somalia, and Niger.

Manila: elusive victory

The military forces of Rodrigo Duterte's government are reportedly close to retaking Marawi, on the southern island of Mindanao. The city was overrun in May by paramilitary groups allied to ISIS. The expected brief operation turned into a five-month siege in which more than 1,000 people, including many civilians, may have died. Thousands more have left the city, large parts of which have been destroyed.   

Two aspects of the Marawi operation have long-term implications. The first is that dislodging the determined and well-organised insurgents required the extensive use of air-power and artillery. This repeats the experience of Ramadi, west...


Why does the UK Data Protection Bill exempt the risk profiling industry? openDemocracy

Anyone trying to open a bank account or send money overseas must undergo extensive risk assessment by private data-brokers, which amass non-credible data and falsely blacklist the wrong people on a speculative basis.

Flickr/Al Ibrahim. CC BY-SA 2.0.The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the most important pieces of human rights and consumer protection legislation of the 21st century. It extends the rights we have as citizens and overhauls a framework developed in the 1990s that governs the way states and corporations can collect and use information about us. The GDPR also allows the free movement of personal data across the EU and the governments decision to seek to implement the measure in full, regardless of the Brexit negotiations, is a mark of its importance.

However, the bill transposing the GDPR into UK law is complex and labyrinthine. As the GDPR must be applied by May next year, the government has set a tight legislative timetable for its passage, and the bill has already had its second reading in the Lords.

Yet to be raised is the significance of the exemptions set out in Schedule 2 to the Bill, which, as drafted, would potentially remove entire industries dedicated to vetting, profiling and blacklisting private individuals from the reach of the law. Whether intentional or not, the language it contains means that private companies that vet people on behalf of banks, employers and landlords could claim exemption.

Those actors who the bill proposes to exempt do not simply act on a case-by-case basis; instead they compile large, pre-emptive and often highly speculative databases that result in de facto blacklisting.

The scope of the exemptions is striking, but one particular and apparently deliberate application stands out: vetting in the financial sector. Under UK and EU law, anyone trying to open a bank account, send money overseas or enter into various financial transactions must undergo an increasingly extensive risk assessment in accordance with anti-money laundering and counterterrorism con...

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