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Friday, 13 April

02:38

Attacking Assad: to do or not to do openDemocracy

A military escalation over Syria presents huge dangers. So how else to act?

lead US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (R) and British Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce (L) veto Russian-drafted resolution on investigation by the OPCW into alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, at UN HQ, New York, April 10, 2018. Li Muzi/ Press Association. All rights reserved.The chemical-weapons attack on Douma, an area of Damascus beyond the control of Bashar al-Assad's regime, on 7 April has led to high expectation of an imminent military response by the United States, possibly with the involvement of United Kingdom and French forces. Trump's instant assurances punishment of the "animal" Syrian president fuels the sense that sudden escalation is likely. 

The American president's later tweets, early on 12 April, imply a delay in any timetable. But the prospect of dangerous military confrontation remains high. So what, realistically, could happen?

There is a spectrum of offensive options for US and other western militaries. But in broad terms there are three levels of action against the regime:

* Symbolic action involving strikes against one or more Syrian bases, most likely centred on the use of cruise missiles - but at a higher level of intensity than a year ago when the US fired cruise missiles after a chemical-weapons (CW) attack

* Major action to damage the regimes military capabilities, sufficient to deter it from further CW use and its more general targeting of non-combatants

* Sustained military action designed to terminate the regime.

This column assumes that the last, limited symbolic action, is unlikely, not least given Trumps personality, his initial tweets...

01:48

Brexits offshore secrets openDemocracy

In 2015, Arron Bankss insurance business was bailed out. Where the rescue money came from is unclearbut as the Electoral Commission probes the sources of the Leave donors campaign contributions, a group of accountants who specialise in offshore wealth preservation may hold the key.

Arron Banks (left) with Nigel Farage (centre), the day after the UK voted to leave the EU. Image, Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment.

On 19 October 2017, Alan Kentish was arrested.

The chief executive officer of STM Group, which specialises in offshore wealth preservation, was detained by the Royal Gibraltar Police under the Proceeds of Crime Act. They were investigating whether he had failed to notify the authorities of potential money-laundering by one of STMs clients.

Following his arrest, Kentish, who was released on police bail but remains a suspect in Gibraltar, resigned his directorships of two companies linked to multimillionaire Brexit donor Arron Banks.

Closely associated with Banks for more than a decade, Kentish and STM have drawn attention from authorities in several of the offshore tax havens where they operate. Kentish is appealing a directorship ban in Malta, while regulators in Jersey censured STM after probing its efforts to procure a St Kitts and Nevis passport for a Ukrainian politician on Interpols wanted list.

Now an investigation by SourceMaterial reveals that Kentish and other STM-linked directors were key figures in a bailout of Bankss Gibraltar-based insurance business Southern Rock that began in 2015, just months before Banks began bankrolling the Leave.EU referendum campaign.

The mystery cash injection was critical to the survival of Bankss insurance empire, the foundation of his wealth. Without it, it is hard to see how he could have funded his political donations while keeping the business afloat.

Banks has declined to answer questions about the origin of the bailout funds, while a spokesman for STM said the company did not supply the money or have any direct connection with the rescue.

As the Electoral Commission...

01:41

#IBelieveHer protesters face backlash after Belfast rape acquittals openDemocracy

A gruelling rape trial ended in the acquittal of rugby players, prompting online outrage, offline protests and a backlash from lawyers and mens rights activists.

A protest in Dublin, in support of the woman at the centre of the 'Belfast rape case'. A protest in Dublin, in support of the woman at the centre of the 'Belfast rape case'. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.The long legal drama that became known as the Belfast rape case concluded on Wednesday 28 March with the acquittal of four young men. Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of rape charges; their friend Blane McIlroy was cleared of exposure, and friend Rory Harrison was cleared of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. Jackson was also cleared of sexual assault.

The 11-person jury (eight men, three women) deliberated for three hours and 45 minutes before coming to unanimous not-guilty verdicts.

This case and the jurys decision have come at a time of historic mobilisation for the rights of women in the region and in the days after the verdicts thousands of people took part in protests supporting the complainant, and calling for changes in how rape cases are prosecuted, in Belfast, Dublin, Derry and Cork.

#IBelieveHer trended on social media worldwide and was met with an extraordinary backlash, with legal threats against those using this hashtag and a counter-movement of mens rights activists and tweeters under an #IBelieveThem banner.

Acquittals on rape charges are...

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Thursday, 12 April

22:57

Bombing Syria would be both dangerous and illegal openDemocracy

Britain and its Allies have helped arm warring Syrian factions, fuelled conflict, spurned refugees. Now they want to punish Assads alleged war crimes by committing war crimes of their own.

Image: Kobani during bombing by US-led coalition in 2014. PA Images/Depo photos/ABACA, all rights reserved.

Despite all the moral hand-wringing, international law forbids nations from attacking each other, outside of Security Council approval or in self-defence, and alleged use of chemical weapons is no exception. Western media and politicians are once again calling for our governments to commit what Nuremberg Judges labelled the supreme international crime. They risk further escalating the conflict despite a lack of independent verification as to what actually happened in Douma, eastern Ghouta.

Something must be done

We once again find ourselves surrounded by a hypocritical, self-righteous and war-mongering echo chamber. Liberals and Conservatives, with few exceptions, all appear to agree the question is not whether the UK and US shall be launching military strikes against Syria, but rather when, and with what level of payload.

The scene is all too familiar. Unverified (though certainly possible) use of chemical weapons. Crying children. Pictures and videos of people being hosed off in medical facilities. How can anyone not be moved to do something rather than stand by and do nothing?

Unfortunately, the only something being offered to the British, American and French public is the launching of a military assault (of an unspecified nature) inside Syria - a sovereign state - which has attacked neither Britain, America or France. Humanitarian options like taking in refugees beyond the measly 11,000 or so that Britain has grudgingly accepted thus far, are not on the table. The only response by an apparent use of violence by the Syrian government is even more violence by the self-proclaimed leaders of the free world.

The situation has reached boiling point with Ru...

22:15

No defence in Chechnya: Oyub Titiyev and the grim future of human rights in Russias North Caucasus openDemocracy

The prosecution of a Chechen human rights campaigner is a landmark step in the systematic elimination of civil society under Ramzan Kadyrov. RU

Ramzan Kadyrov and Magomed Daudov. From Ramzan Kadyrov's Instagram. The whole world knows Ramzan Kadyrov as an effective and decisive defender of human rights, who supports all human rights-oriented institutions in Chechnya... Among those behind the situation that has led to sanctions and the blocking of the Head of the Chechen Republics social media accounts are rights defenders working in various centres and committees, as well as journalists from the most unscrupulous media who win prestigious prizes and 30 pieces of silver in Washington and other western countries for their anti-Russian subversive activities I think its time to dispatch our enemies back to their bosses abroad or remove them from healthy society. If there werent a moratorium at present in Russia, it would be Salaam Alaikum to the enemies of the people and that would be the end of it.

This is an extract from a statement made in late 2017 by Magomed Daudov, the head of Chechnyas parliament, one of the most influential people in the republic and Ramzan Kadyrovs right hand man.

Daudovs call did not go unheard: on the first working day of 2018, police officers arrested Oyub Titiyev, head of the Grozny branch of the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

208 grams of pure lies

On 9 January, the weather in Grozny was miserable: an overcast morning turned into rain and wet snow that continued into the night. It was the first working day after the New Year celebrations, and people wrapped themselves up in scarves before setting out for work.

...

21:45

Twofold crisis in Ethiopia: the elites and the street openDemocracy

Ultimately, the only route to its successful end is regulation through institutional mechanisms, which means elections, whether early or within the normal electoral cycle.

lead Abiy Ahmed and Lemma Megersa, in November 2017. Wikicommons/Odaw. Some rights reserved.According to the dominant assessment, the crisis in Ethiopia reflects the absolute antagonism between two well-defined blocks. A fight between Ethiopias political and business elites (that) have decided to make their last stand to protect their wealth and power by using a military apparatus, and a revolution from below based on the political activism of millions of people who are determined to deploy nonviolent methods to overthrow a tyrannical totalitarian regime.

In this view, the first block is clinging to the status quo. Take their power away, they will become nobody overnight. Its centre of gravity is the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), perceived as a homogeneous and unified force. While Tigrayans account for only 6% of the population, the Front maintains its pre-eminence in the leadership of the military and security forces answerable to federal authority. It is a very big player in the modern i.e. non-agricultural economy, through its control over public and para-public companies. It has long been the dominant component of the four ethnic parties in the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

This ascendancy was clear with respect to the Southern Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM), but in decline for the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and even more so for the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organisation (OPDO). It also attracts apparatchiks from all over, including ANDM and OPDO. Without saying it overtly, they too have an interest in the maintenance of the status quo, even when this runs counter to som...

20:53

Russia, Novichok and the long tradition of British government misinformation openDemocracy

Few of us realise just how many people the British state employs to discredit, deceive and disrupt.

Image: Orwell's famous Ministry of Truth propaganda from his novel, 1984.

Ive learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
Its them we must fight
Bob Dylan, With God on Our Side, 1964

The hysteria over the alleged Russian role in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter is an extraordinary case study in the continuing relevance of understanding state propaganda in 21st century Britain. What happened to the Skripals has become less and less clear and we are still in no position to say that the Russians (or any other state) did, or did not, have a role. This is also a cautionary tale for the Corbyn project. The danger is not so much that people might believe the lies, but that significant figures in the Corbyn camp feel that they have to go along with them.

Whoever was responsible for the poisoning, we have had an inadequate account of what is known from the government. Instead they are adopting tried and tested Whitehall techniques to mislead and misdirect our attention.

In the Salisbury case, as Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan has shown, the government initially relied on a phrase that they though could be defended as true but which was intended to cultivate a deception. This is that the nerve agent involved in the case is of a type developed by Russia (in fact the agent was reportedly developed by and in the Soviet Union, in what is now Uzbekistan). 

The deception was spectacularly successful. The entire mainstream media went along with it. Embarrassingly, many mainstream journalists deluged Craig Murray with abuse and ridicule for raising modest questions about the government narrative. Perhaps more remarkably the Russian connection was accepted, or at least gone along with, by significant sections of the Corbynite project. There is no need to list them all, but we can mention Paul Mason who tweeted that we needed to be prepared to accept...

Russia, Novichok and the long tradition of British government misinformation openDemocracy

Few of us realise just how many people the British state employs to discredit, deceive and disrupt.

Image: Orwell's famous Ministry of Truth propaganda from his novel, 1984.

Ive learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
Its them we must fight
Bob Dylan, With God on Our Side, 1964

The hysteria over the alleged Russian role in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter is an extraordinary case study in the continuing relevance of understanding state propaganda in 21st century Britain. What happened to the Skripals has become less and less clear and we are still in no position to say that the Russians (or any other state) did, or did not, have a role. This is also a cautionary tale for the Corbyn project. The danger is not so much that people might believe the lies, but that significant figures in the Corbyn camp feel that they have to go along with them.

Whoever was responsible for the poisoning, we have had an inadequate account of what is known from the government. Instead they are adopting tried and tested Whitehall techniques to mislead and misdirect our attention.

In the Salisbury case, as Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan has shown, the government initially relied on a phrase that they though could be defended as true but which was intended to cultivate a deception. This is that the nerve agent involved in the case is of a type developed by Russia (in fact the agent was reportedly developed by and in the Soviet Union, in what is now Uzbekistan). 

The deception was spectacularly successful. The entire mainstream media went along with it. Embarrassingly, many mainstream journalists deluged Craig Murray with abuse and ridicule for raising modest questions about the government narrative. Perhaps more remarkably the Russian connection was accepted, or at least gone along with, by significant sections of the Corbynite project. There is no need to list them all, but we can mention Paul Mason who tweeted that we needed to be prepared to accept...

19:57

Not-voting is not revolutionary AAV

  
The 2018 local elections are looming and the "don't vote" brigade are once again out in force. I don't actually have anything against the concept of not voting, the people who annoy me are the ones who go around actively propagandising for other people to not-vote, as if they're participating in some kind of heroic anti-establishment revolution.

Not-voting isn't wrong in itself

Back in 2013 a friend of mine received their local election postal ballot but found that the only two candidates were a Tory (part of the coalition government they despised) and a Lib-Dem (part of the coalition government that they despised). I think their choice to tear the ballot paper into little pieces and send them off in the return envelope was perfectly justifiable.

The problem I have is with people who utter sub-Brandian platitudes like "if only everyone stopped voting then ..." because the huge glaring fault with this kind of assertion is that it's an exercise in extremely juvenile wishful thinking.

It's profoundly annoying that so many people keep repeating this kind of ludicrous appeal for everyone to "stop voting" based on the idea that revolutionary political change can be achieved through a vague hope that the powers that be will suddenly take notice if we all begin protesting against them by ... err ... doing nothing.

The PCC elections

A look at the results of the utterly farcical 2012 PCC elections in England demonstrate why this idle wish for mass non-participation doesn't have a hope of succeeding.

The average turnout for these ludicrous elections across the whole of England was just 15%, yet not a single one of the "winning" candidates refused to take up their cushy 65-95,000 per year salaries because of their appalling lack of a democratic mandate. Several of the PCCs actually took up their positions with the...

18:17

From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest openDemocracy

The murderously disproportionate violence meted out against demonstrating Palestinians is only the latest in a long series of deadly responses to popular protests. 

Palestinians stuck at a checkpoint. Picture by Global Exchange. Used with permission. On Friday March 30, over 30,000 Palestinians peacefully approached the border area of the Gaza strip to bring attention to their unfulfilled right of return to their families homes inside Israel and to highlight the ongoing plight of living under Israeli occupation. Israeli military forces responded with lethal force, deploying troops, drones, tanks, and snipers who fired on the crowds using live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets, and tear gas. 

By the end of the day, fifteen Palestinians had been killed - many of them plainly unarmed - and over 1,000 wounded. By the end of the following week, 31 Palestinian lives had been taken, including that of journalist Yaser Murtaja who was hit despite wearing a blue jacket marked with the word "press. Israeli snipers have shot and wounded five other Palestinian journalists.

March 30th was to mark the start of a of a six-week mobilization leading up to the 70th anniversary of the (Nakba) day in 1948 when the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians began following the declaration of the State of Israel. It is now the most deadly day in Gaza since heavy Israeli airstrikes ended in 2014.

The toll is shocking, but premeditated. Israel had announced in advance that the protest would be met with lethal violence and ...

From Land Day to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Palestinians have plenty to protest openDemocracy

The murderously disproportionate violence meted out against demonstrating Palestinians is only the latest in a long series of deadly responses to popular protests. 

Palestinians stuck at a checkpoint. Picture by Global Exchange. Used with permission. On Friday March 30, over 30,000 Palestinians peacefully approached the border area of the Gaza strip to bring attention to their unfulfilled right of return to their families homes inside Israel and to highlight the ongoing plight of living under Israeli occupation. Israeli military forces responded with lethal force, deploying troops, drones, tanks, and snipers who fired on the crowds using live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets, and tear gas. 

By the end of the day, fifteen Palestinians had been killed - many of them plainly unarmed - and over 1,000 wounded. By the end of the following week, 31 Palestinian lives had been taken, including that of journalist Yaser Murtaja who was hit despite wearing a blue jacket marked with the word "press. Israeli snipers have shot and wounded five other Palestinian journalists.

March 30th was to mark the start of a of a six-week mobilization leading up to the 70th anniversary of the (Nakba) day in 1948 when the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians began following the declaration of the State of Israel. It is now the most deadly day in Gaza since heavy Israeli airstrikes ended in 2014.

The toll is shocking, but premeditated. Israel had announced in advance that the protest would be met with lethal violence and ...

18:06

fp selection 12 april 2018 openDemocracy

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18:00

Whats happening to our health service? Slugger O'Toole

Director of Communications for the health and social care system David Gordon shares his thoughts after six months in the job

So where do you start when describing health and social care here?

Serious problems are in the news almost every day.

It would be wrong to ever downplay those problems.

And yet they are not the full story.

Great care is still being delivered by great staff every single day. The most recent Health Survey showed compliments from the public far outnumbering complaints.

That chimes with what we so often hear anecdotally praise and gratitude regularly voiced after personal experiences.

The most pressing challenges facing the system can often involve delayed access to care rather than the quality of care received.

Ive witnessed up close not just the dedication of staff, but an unwavering drive to innovate and find new and better ways to deliver services.

Thats right across the Health and Social Care (HSC) system from those who deal directly with the public to those working behind the scenes.

Improvements in care keep coming too.

Yet alongside that, there are deep and worsening problems.

Far too many people are on unacceptably long waiting lists.

Emergency departments have been under severe stress for many months now.

Pressures are also faced by GPs, the ambulance service and in domiciliary care, while staffing gaps across the system are adding significantly to challenges.

None of this sadly should come as any surprise.

The Bengoa report welcomed across the political spectrum detailed how an outdated system would increasingly struggle with increasing demand. Professor Bengoa likened it to standing on a burning platform.

None of the serious problems should be seen in isolation. They are all symptoms of that underlying burning platform reality.

The Department of Health Twitter account @healthdpt will be highlighting some key statistics today and tomorrow. They illustrate both the growing pressures facing the HSC, and the increased activity rates that have still been achieved. Lets not forget this has also occurred in a period of squeezed finances.

A lot of the growing demand for care is down to an amazing success story of health care longer life expectancy.

Thats a huge reason to celebrate, but it brings some of the most significant long-term policy challenges facing society.

This is far from being a Northern Ireland only problem. Health systems are under serious stress in many countries.

The details are striking.

Older people are the main users of health and social care services here.

The Bengoa report noted bluntly: In terms of costs, users aged over 65 account for more than two-fifths of HSC spending 42%, compared to their population share of 14%. Whereas the average cost of tre...

07:58

In Poland and Ukraine, history conflicts reveal the limits of the nationalist international openDemocracy

Historical issues have once again divided far-right groups in Poland and Ukraine. 

July 2016: President Petro Poroshenko kneels before the monument to the victims of the Volhynia tragedy. Source: President of Ukraine.In Poland and Ukraine, conflicting historical narratives have long been used and abused by political forces on both sides. While Ukraines Euromaidan brought some fresh air to the relations between the two countries, with Poland supporting Ukraines struggle on the diplomatic, political and people-to-people levels, contentious history is once again coming to the fore.

This time, mainstream narratives in both countries are increasingly being influenced by far right groups. Once allies aiming to form an international nationalist movement, far right groups on both sides have returned to historical misunderstandings. The increasing tensions may have a detrimental effect on the relations between the two societies. More importantly, however, they suggest how international nationalism could fail.

Mutual respect and animosity

On 4 March, the centre of the west Ukrainian city of Lviv was full of men in military outfits and dark blue jackets bearing yellow tridents. Hundreds of people carrying torches marched through the citys streets amid flags with the emblems of the National Corps, Svoboda and Right Sector Ukraines main far-right groups as well as a large black and red flag of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

The front row was made of men hidden behind balaclavas. Their banner displayed the image of the legendary Ukrainian Insurgent Army commander, Roman Shukhevych, and a message: The city of Lviv: No to Polish masters. Crowds chanted Our land Our heroes, and Remember foreigner that the host here is a Ukrainian.

It was not long before a response arrived. On 19 March, Polish far-right groups organised a retaliatory picket at the Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw. Their banners read: Stop anti-Polonism, defend the truth, A Banderite is not my brother and Ba...

In Poland and Ukraine, history conflicts reveal the limits of the nationalist international openDemocracy

Historical issues have once again divided far-right groups in Poland and Ukraine. 

July 2016: President Petro Poroshenko kneels before the monument to the victims of the Volhynia tragedy. Source: President of Ukraine.In Poland and Ukraine, conflicting historical narratives have long been used and abused by political forces on both sides. While Ukraines Euromaidan brought some fresh air to the relations between the two countries, with Poland supporting Ukraines struggle on the diplomatic, political and people-to-people levels, contentious history is once again coming to the fore.

This time, mainstream narratives in both countries are increasingly being influenced by far right groups. Once allies aiming to form an international nationalist movement, far right groups on both sides have returned to historical misunderstandings. The increasing tensions may have a detrimental effect on the relations between the two societies. More importantly, however, they suggest how international nationalism could fail.

Mutual respect and animosity

On 4 March, the centre of the west Ukrainian city of Lviv was full of men in military outfits and dark blue jackets bearing yellow tridents. Hundreds of people carrying torches marched through the citys streets amid flags with the emblems of the National Corps, Svoboda and Right Sector Ukraines main far-right groups as well as a large black and red flag of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).

The front row was made of men hidden behind balaclavas. Their banner displayed the image of the legendary Ukrainian Insurgent Army commander, Roman Shukhevych, and a message: The city of Lviv: No to Polish masters. Crowds chanted Our land Our heroes, and Remember foreigner that the host here is a Ukrainian.

It was not long before a response arrived. On 19 March, Polish far-right groups organised a retaliatory picket at the Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw. Their banners read: Stop anti-Polonism, defend the truth, A Banderite is not my brother and Ba...

05:36

What Standing Rock gave the world openDemocracy

The Indigenous struggle that goes hand in hand with protecting the Earth was made visible for everyone.

A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.

 At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.

It was a show of international solidarity between the Indigenous Sami and the Lakota. They got tattoos because of the Norwegian money invested in the pipeline, said Jan Rune Ms, editor of the Sami news division of Norways largest media company, NRK.

Rune Ms said the story about the tattoos was just one of about a hundred that his team of journalists covered over the course of the months-long pipeline battle in North Dakota. One of them, The War on the Black Snake, was awarded top honors at a journalism conference held in Trms in November. That story revealed large investments Norwegian banks had made to advance the $3.8 billion energy project, spurring a divestment campaign by the Sami Parliament.

The backstory can be told simply. As early as April 2016, Indigenous activists protested the pipelines threat to the Standing Rock Siouxs primary water supply, the Missouri River. While battles were fought in federal courts, representatives of hundreds of Indigenous groups from around the worldthe Maori, the Sami, and the Sarayaku, to name a fewarrived. Temporary communities of thousands were created on the reservation borderlands in nonviolent resistance against the crude oil project.

Police arrested more than 800 people, and many water protectors faced attack dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and, once, a water cannon on a freezing night in November. Last February, armored vehicles and police in riot gear cleared the last of the encampments. Recently, investigative journalism by The Intercept has documented that the paramilitary security firm TigerSwan was hired by DAPL parent Energy Transfer Partners to guide North Dakota law enforcement in treating the movement as a national security threat.

Oil now flows through the pipeline under t...

What Standing Rock gave the world openDemocracy

The Indigenous struggle that goes hand in hand with protecting the Earth was made visible for everyone.

A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.

 At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.

It was a show of international solidarity between the Indigenous Sami and the Lakota. They got tattoos because of the Norwegian money invested in the pipeline, said Jan Rune Ms, editor of the Sami news division of Norways largest media company, NRK.

Rune Ms said the story about the tattoos was just one of about a hundred that his team of journalists covered over the course of the months-long pipeline battle in North Dakota. One of them, The War on the Black Snake, was awarded top honors at a journalism conference held in Trms in November. That story revealed large investments Norwegian banks had made to advance the $3.8 billion energy project, spurring a divestment campaign by the Sami Parliament.

The backstory can be told simply. As early as April 2016, Indigenous activists protested the pipelines threat to the Standing Rock Siouxs primary water supply, the Missouri River. While battles were fought in federal courts, representatives of hundreds of Indigenous groups from around the worldthe Maori, the Sami, and the Sarayaku, to name a fewarrived. Temporary communities of thousands were created on the reservation borderlands in nonviolent resistance against the crude oil project.

Police arrested more than 800 people, and many water protectors faced attack dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and, once, a water cannon on a freezing night in November. Last February, armored vehicles and police in riot gear cleared the last of the encampments. Recently, investigative journalism by The Intercept has documented that the paramilitary security firm TigerSwan was hired by DAPL parent Energy Transfer Partners to guide North Dakota law enforcement in treating the movement as a national security threat.

Oil now flows through the pipeline under t...

05:12

12 things you should know about the Tory "Dear Mr Fuckingjoking" letters AAV


How can the Tories expect us to believe that they can run the country when they can't even send vile propaganda-ridden begging letters to pensioners without screwing it up by addressing them to "Youmustbe Fuckingjoking".

The blunder obviously came about because the Tories used "Youmustbe Fuckingjoking" as the default Addressee on their mailing list, then forgot to change it when they input the address.

The Tories have admitted that the offensive letter was sent out by their propaganda arm and apologised for the sweary piss-taking, but there's plenty of other concerning stuff within the content of the letter that the Tories did not bother to apologise for.


See the full letter here (credit: Laura McCormack)

Begging pensioners

Why are the Tories begging pensioners for cash when they're almost completely bankrolled by mega-rich donors, including the kinds of Russian oligarchs and Putin cronies who can afford to pay 160,000 for a game of tennis with Boris Johnson?

Instead of begging for 52 - 160 per year from pensioners, surely the Tories could just ask one of their hedge fund mates or Russian oligarchs for an extra half million or so and let the pensioners keep their cash.


A Britain fit for the future?
...

04:31

Hear My Voice a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidsons Silent Testimony Slugger O'Toole

Hear My Voice is a cinematic companion piece to Colin Davidsons Silent Testimony, a 2015 exhibition of 18 portraits of people who suffered loss during the local conflict, developed in conjunction with the WAVE Trauma Centre. The paintings are back in the Ulster Museum until Sunday 22 April and the exhibition is well worth a visit.

Brendan Byrnes short film slowly pans across the surface of the oil paintings which were hung in Riddels Warehouse, showing off the thick texture of the layers of paint and giving glimpses of the faces and features framed by beams and railings in the derelict building that is set to become home to the RUA (Royal Ulster Academy).

The original paintings and the textual descriptions are devoid of labels and community tags. Introducing the gala screening this afternoon, Senator George Mitchell spoke about visiting the paintings and said that while the eyes are windows to the soul, [they are also] the messengers of our sorrows.

In the spirit that a portrait is worth an inestimable number of words, Brendan Byrne has not overburdened his film with commentary. The portrait sitters are heard a couple of sentences at a time, giving colour about their loss but never detail. Much of what is said happens in the silence.

Twenty three minutes long, the lingering shots of the square canvases are eventually interrupted by a few scenes of archive footage in the aftermath of attacks, before returning to the faces and their piercing eyes. The audience catch glimpses of a few of the sitters at home or out for a walk, but their mouth never move. The emphasis is on being heard in the sense of being acknowledged rather than making statements.

The beauty of the brushwork contrasts with the tragedy of the stories held by the sitters.

Hear My Voice is a beautiful piece of restrained film-making. The soundtrack by Brian Byrne (no relation) adds moody piano and deep bowed strings without ever competing for attention with the imagery. Together with Richard Kendricks sharply focussed cinematography and the editing of Greg Darby, Hear My Voice is an artwork in itself.

Produced by Fine Point Films and funded by Northern Ireland Screen and BBC Northern Ireland, Hear My Voice will be screened during May in the Queens Film Theatre as well as at film festivals worldwide during the rest of 2018 before it is br...

03:22

To catch a mackerel, inshore east coast fishermen gain permanent 1000 tonne quota Newsnet.scot

By Russell Bruce

In the last article on fishing I covered an overview of the industry, the diversity of boat types and sizes. Different parts of the industry have different interests.

The Scottish government has announced the 1000 tonne handline mackerel quota for boats under 10 metres in size will be made permanent, benefitting smaller boats from Eyemouth to Shetland. A trial has been running for 4 years followed by consultation with the industry in November last year.

The permanent quota for handline mackerel catch is a system of fishing that delivers a sustainable regular income catch for inshore small boats. Faster and fresher to market these catches command a premium over the bulk mackerel land of larger vessels operating in the North Sea. Handline also permits fish species caught, but not wanted. to be returned to the sea live.

By volume, mackerel landings in total account for 166m or 30% of the landings from Scottish waters. Making permanent the 1000 tonne quota for the mackerel handline catch will benefit the majority of boats operating in the North Sea on the east coast of Scotland and provide a continuing stable income stream for boats that do not enjoy the multi-million income of the big, over 40m pelagic vessels.

Responses to the consultation

Responses to the consultation were overwhelmingly positive. On question 1: Do you agree that the allocation of mackerel to the non-sector, 10mu pool should continue? 93% of respondents agreed although this is not too surprising as under 10m boats make up the majority of east coast licensed vessels.

Inshore fishermen in Eyemouth will be able to travel south along the coastline into English waters in block IVb, which straddles Scottish and English waters. The permanent inshore quota from Marine Scotland is only available to Scottish registered boats. The removal of all handline Mackerel Entitlements associated with licences ensures an open access fishery, as is the case for all other quotas for the under 10m sector.

One of the respondents to Q1, Tommy Poleson, said: It has been an excellent boost to small boats. Businesses who fabricate fishing equipment have benefited greatly from making new and improved systems for skippers. It has allowed young aspiring fishermen like myself [to] find a relatively low cost stepping stone into the industry that hadnt previously existed.

On question 7: Should all non-sector vessels (under and over 10m in length) have access to the inshore mackerel fishery? the response was resoundingly No. Larger vessels, particularly in the North East command the dominant share of the mackerel catch.

Tommy Poleson commented: It will probably lower the value of the catch for smaller boats as they wont be able to fish in the same weather as a over 10m. [Under] 10m is predominantly a daytime fishery and landing is daily, where...

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Wednesday, 11 April

23:51

For me and my mum, Belfast was a sanctuary. And we have the Good Friday Agreement to thank for that Slugger O'Toole

Last night, as I sat with my fellow council colleagues listening to President Clinton and Senator Mitchell being awarded the Freedom of the City for their part in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, I thought of my mum. Seventeen years ago in Zimbabwe, we were down to just two (my brother, sister and father all living in different countries) and I was at boarding school. My mum had heard rumours that after weeks of shortages there was petrol arriving in Marondera, the small farming town we lived not far from. After queuing for several hours, when she got to the front of the queue it had run out. She drove home late that night on the last of her tank, only to arrive to a house where there was no electricity. Despondent and alone she picked up the phone to hear the voice of another person, and the phone lines were dead. She decided in that moment it was time for us to leave. Ironically the reasons they had left Belfast in the 1980s were the very reasons for the return: Zimbabwe then a newly independent country and there was an optimism that enticed my mother, the daughter of anti-apartheid activists. Now the hope for a better life for her child, for (relative) political stability, for opportunity for peace, lay in Belfast.

We had that opportunity to leave, something our socio-economic privilege afforded us, and I have always known that we were the lucky ones.

We arrived in Belfast in August 2000. The previous year had not been an easy one, the father of children I went to school with had been murdered and many others lived in fear the same would happen to their families. On our first trip to Tescos my mum and I spent 20 minutes in the refrigerated section just staring at the yoghurts (in Zimbabwe you had the option of 3 flavours), it wasnt like this in the 80s my mum would marvel. Nor was the lack of army presence or the sound of bombs or being searched each time you went into the city centre she would say, but for me and many of my age that is something we are still not quite able to imagine, and we are the lucky ones.

I went away to university with not much intention of coming back, I had felt safe in Belfast but I had also felt foreign. It was a surprise to me then that every holiday I would come back I would feel an overwhelming sense of relief. I realised that this was now my home, that Belfast is where I belong.

I am under no illusion of the severity of the issues and differences which still exist, for four years working for Anna Lo I would listen to the debates in the Assembly and wonder how anything worked. Even now with the Assembly collapsed, and generosity of spirit urgently lacking, somewhere in the back of my mind is always Zimbabwe, and as election after election was rigged, I have held on to my hope.

My life has been very different to what it could have been and I am grateful for that. I did not live here during the troubles, but I have witnessed the fear and uncertainty that is borne fro...

23:42

Moroccos World Cup bid and the last colony in Africa openDemocracy

Awarding Morocco the World Cup would send the message that the injustices in Western Sahara can continue without repercussions. 

Fundraising event at Athletic Bilbao stadium, to raise money destined to Saharawi refugees suffering of famine through Development NGO PTM - Mundubat. Picture by Western Sahara / Flickr.com. Some rights reserved (CC BY-SA 2.0).A day before the first ball is kicked in Moscow to launch World Cup 2018, FIFA members will for the first time vote in public to decide the host of the 2026 tournament. High-ranking football executives at FIFA and the continental confederations widely consider Moroccos 2026 World Cup once considered a pipe dream to be a serious rival to the joint North American bid of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The next two tournaments in Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 respectively have caused controversy for everything from human rights abuses to Russias annexation of Crimea and ongoing slaughter of civilians in Syria. This downward trend will continue if Morocco lands the tournament in 2026 despite its occupation of Western Sahara.

The territory to Moroccos south has suffered under more than four decades of colonial rule. Last year, FIFA adopted a human rights policy in a bid to repair its reputation for corruption and indifference to human suffering, but it has a long way to go to demonstrate that it is actually changing its ways. Although FIFA required 2026 bidders to commission and submit an independent human rights report, Morocco has ...

Moroccos World Cup bid and the last colony in Africa openDemocracy

Awarding Morocco the World Cup would send the message that the injustices in Western Sahara can continue without repercussions. 

Fundraising event at Athletic Bilbao stadium, to raise money destined to Saharawi refugees suffering of famine through Development NGO PTM - Mundubat. Picture by Western Sahara / Flickr.com. Some rights reserved (CC BY-SA 2.0).A day before the first ball is kicked in Moscow to launch World Cup 2018, FIFA members will for the first time vote in public to decide the host of the 2026 tournament. High-ranking football executives at FIFA and the continental confederations widely consider Moroccos 2026 World Cup once considered a pipe dream to be a serious rival to the joint North American bid of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The next two tournaments in Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 respectively have caused controversy for everything from human rights abuses to Russias annexation of Crimea and ongoing slaughter of civilians in Syria. This downward trend will continue if Morocco lands the tournament in 2026 despite its occupation of Western Sahara.

The territory to Moroccos south has suffered under more than four decades of colonial rule. Last year, FIFA adopted a human rights policy in a bid to repair its reputation for corruption and indifference to human suffering, but it has a long way to go to demonstrate that it is actually changing its ways. Although FIFA required 2026 bidders to commission and submit an independent human rights report, Morocco has ...

23:26

Has Labour really turned its back on pro-market NHS solutions? openDemocracy

As the NHS turns 70, just which corporate actors are queuing up to drive consensus-based reform? And is Labour prepared to sufficiently distance themselves from such ideas?

Image: Jeremy Corbyn, NHS worker Judith Clegg & Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. Ben Birchall/PA Images. All rights reserved.

The current programme of NHS reform currently underway has long been hailed as giving private firms enormous opportunity.

So as I suggested in January Labours new commitment to halt these pro-market Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) was both welcome assurance to party members, and a break with a damaging 30 year cross-party consensus on healthcare policy.

Yet soon after I wrote this, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth joined key architects of the transnational agenda of the global health industry at a conference organised by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The IPPR conference at the end of January was set up to preview a report on the NHS co-produced by the IPPR and the former Labour Health Minister Lord Darzi, who stepped down in 2009 and who in 2015 criticised Labour for its tentative moves away from a pro-privatisation agenda.

The event saw Ashworth sharing a platform with signatories to the above-mentioned consensus, including the Conservative peer Lord David Prior and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, plus economists from the Health Foundation and representatives of the health industry and leading consultancies. On the surface the event was largely about the technological drivers of change in healthcare, and how funding mechanisms can be applied to harness these. A closer look however indicates the real intent was to reinforce particular aims and relationships; ones that it would be inconsistent for Mr Ashwort...

Has Labour really turned its back on pro-market NHS solutions? openDemocracy

As the NHS turns 70, just which corporate actors are queuing up to drive consensus-based reform? And is Labour prepared to sufficiently distance themselves from such ideas?

Image: Jeremy Corbyn, NHS worker Judith Clegg & Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. Ben Birchall/PA Images. All rights reserved.

The current programme of NHS reform currently underway has long been hailed as giving private firms enormous opportunity.

So as I suggested in January Labours new commitment to halt these pro-market Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) was both welcome assurance to party members, and a break with a damaging 30 year cross-party consensus on healthcare policy.

Yet soon after I wrote this, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth joined key architects of the transnational agenda of the global health industry at a conference organised by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The IPPR conference at the end of January was set up to preview a report on the NHS co-produced by the IPPR and the former Labour Health Minister Lord Darzi, who stepped down in 2009 and who in 2015 criticised Labour for its tentative moves away from a pro-privatisation agenda.

The event saw Ashworth sharing a platform with signatories to the above-mentioned consensus, including the Conservative peer Lord David Prior and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, plus economists from the Health Foundation and representatives of the health industry and leading consultancies. On the surface the event was largely about the technological drivers of change in healthcare, and how funding mechanisms can be applied to harness these. A closer look however indicates the real intent was to reinforce particular aims and relationships; ones that it would be inconsistent for Mr Ashwort...

23:25

Framing Public Memory: What if a play park was to be named after Michael Stone, Wesley Somerville or Lenny Murphy? Slugger O'Toole

Growing up I was very conscious of my nationalism. It wasnt that I came from a very political family but my grandfather had nurtured in me a love for History, especially Irish History which I retain to this very day. I grew up with pictures of James Connolly, Patrick Pearse and Robert Emmet adorning my bedroom walls.

My contemporaries had the Bay City Rollers and all the regalia that with that, Id no comparative regalia so I fastened a tricolour to my blazer. Id promised myself that my first three boys would be James, Emmet and Pearse. I grew up and realism replaced my romanticism.

Many of our young people share that romantic view of our past. They might have Bobby Sands, Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness as their heroes. Perceived as Freedom Fighters who risked their lives for Irish Freedom.

If you think about it its easy to see them as such when not confronted with the reality of their struggle, on the surface theyve rejected violence and chose the path of constitutional republicanism and yet paradoxically claim their path of violence was legitimate.

I am a constitutional Republican; I cant think of a more apt way of describing myself. So why then do I not support Sinn Fein? Its very simple: Ive always been a constitutional republican.

I do not nor have ever condoned the use of violence particularly the sort that targets innocent people. I could never support a party that still legitimises that violence.

Unlike some republicans I was more drawn to Wolfe Tone the would be reconciler of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter as opposed to Tone the revolutionary.

As a young person I too was filled with passion and idealism but there was a constant streaming of the realities of the troubles coming through our television on an almost nightly basis that moderated my republicanism and attracted me to the true advocates of peace, the SDLP.

Under current international law, civilians are never legitimate targets in war. During the Troubles over 2000 civilians were killed, quite often targeted because of their religion like the horrific incident at Kingsmill, or the shooting of the Reavey brothers, also on many occasions collateral damage as the detonation of bombs became a common tactic of the IRA.

These are war crimes in my opinion. Carried out often by young recruits whose passions had been harnessed and utilized by very shrewd men who stayed in the background and kept their own hands clean.

Young men like Raymond McCreesh were used by the IRA, they were their cannon fodder, a replaceable soldier that would further their cause. McCreesh like many other young volunteers are still being used, they were used in life and are being used in death.

They say that History is written by the winners, SF appear to be the winners, they would almost have us believe that Gerry Adams is a saint walking amongst us, the Troubles was fought for equality and that they are serious about re...

22:41

Migration bottleneck in southern Mexico openDemocracy

Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans flee their countries, beset by extreme poverty and intolerable violence, collapsing the northern border. Mexico and the US must do much more. Interview. Espaol

Central Americans reading information they have been given about the asylum process while the queue up for a shower in the migrant hostel in Palenque. Paul Miranda. Some rights reserved.

Mexico is not doing nothing to curb northward migration, as U.S. President Donald Trump claims.

In this Q&A, Crisis Group's Latin America & Caribbean Program Director Ivan Briscoe says Washington should help Mexico meet the challenge of migrant and refugee flows from Central America, which are now concentrated in its troubled southern states.

What is the migration crisis in Mexico?

Poverty and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America (comprising El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are forcing hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to flee each year to Mexico. Most are heading north due to deep economic insecurity.

But 39.2 per cent of Central Americans surveyed in Mexico by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in December 2016 said they left their homes because they or their families were attacked, threatened, extorted or pressured to join criminal gangs; many in such circumstances would likely qualify as refugees, entitled to international protection under applicable laws.

For the past two decades, the U.S. has responded to the movement of people from Mexico and Central America with ever stronger enforcement of border controls: it was in 2000 that the U.S. arrested the largest ever number of undocumented migrants, close to two million, at its southern boundary.

But, as a U.S. political issue and matter of intense public concern, migration received a jolt in 2014 when a surge of unaccompanied minors arrive...

Migration bottleneck in southern Mexico openDemocracy

Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans flee their countries, beset by extreme poverty and intolerable violence, collapsing the southern border. Mexico and the US must do much more. Interview. Espaol

Central Americans reading information they have been given about the asylum process while the queue up for a shower in the migrant hostel in Palenque. Paul Miranda. Some rights reserved.

Mexico is not doing nothing to curb northward migration, as U.S. President Donald Trump claims.

In this Q&A, Crisis Group's Latin America & Caribbean Program Director Ivan Briscoe says Washington should help Mexico meet the challenge of migrant and refugee flows from Central America, which are now concentrated in its troubled southern states.

What is the migration crisis in Mexico?

Poverty and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America (comprising El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are forcing hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to flee each year to Mexico. Most are heading north due to deep economic insecurity.

But 39.2 per cent of Central Americans surveyed in Mexico by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in December 2016 said they left their homes because they or their families were attacked, threatened, extorted or pressured to join criminal gangs; many in such circumstances would likely qualify as refugees, entitled to international protection under applicable laws.

For the past two decades, the U.S. has responded to the movement of people from Mexico and Central America with ever stronger enforcement of border controls: it was in 2000 that the U.S. arrested the largest ever number of undocumented migrants, close to two million, at its southern boundary.

But, as a U.S. political issue and matter of intense public concern, migration received a jolt in 2014 when a surge of unaccompanied minors arrive...

21:42

Peter Robinson speaks to Nolan about Jim Wells comments Slugger O'Toole

Just a quick catch up on this story;

Mr Wells accused party leader Arlene Foster of not standing by him.

Peter Robinson made the commitment that I would return, the South Down MLA said.

Then Arlene took over as leader and Arlene, as leader of the party officers, ignored my two written requests for that commitment to be honoured, he added.

Former DUP Leader Peter Robinson spoke to Nolan today about the topic which is worth a listen and analysis from Allison Morris and Malachy ODoherty

 

21:23

Political ferment is reflected in the GFA junketings, but no sign of a breakthrough Slugger O'Toole

Will the DUP and Sinn Fein pay any attention to the eloquent pleas of the elder statesmen to return to the Executive?  On the surface the answer appears to be no, unless something is going on behind the scenes we dont know about. Local politics suffers from elder statesperson fatigue. This generation has learned how to take in their stride the high sounding generalities from popes, presidents and prime ministers past and present.  The shock of the new wore off long ago. The eloquence had a flavour of fighting the last war about it.  Nobody wanted to get down to detailed analysis for fear of spoiling the party.

As for the British and Irish governments, it is hard to imagine them being able to agree a programme of action on the future government of the North unless the border problem is sorted or at least disarmed as an incendiary device by October if not by June. I see no possibility at all of Theresa May and Leo Varadkar taking the bold lead  that Blair and Ahern are urging on them unless they can wrap  the restoration of  Stormont into a border agreement which sounds great but unlikely. Weak UK government internal coordination  is exposed when Brexit secretary David Davis insults Varadkar  in London while at the same time Karen Bradley the NI Secretary exchanges warm words with foreign minister Simon Coveney in Belfast.

After the embarrassment she suffered twice at DUP hands in jumping the gun over agreements on Stormont and EU withdrawal terms, this  normally  most  cautious  of prime ministers is unlikely to make the same mistake a third time.  While the outlines of a dual deal are faintly visible, Banquos ghost in the shape of EU 26 would be the spectre at a purely bilateral feast and they would have to be fully involved.

For me the most interesting comment came in an off- the- cuff answer to questions at the Lyric Theatre from foreign minister Simon Coveney.  It came in a report by Amanda Ferguson in the Irish Times under the headline: Tainaiste would like to see Fine Gael in North election in the future. She fed him the line so it could be clarified later as other statements of  Coveney have been. But she writes:

Michel Martin said recently that standing in Northern elections is a target for Fianna Fil.

When asked whether Fine Gael had similar plans, Mr Coveney said: I think there is a huge interest in Fine Gael i...

19:40

Re-thinking EU-Turkey co-operation over migration openDemocracy

Turkeys military offensive in Afrin is also an example of how refugees are instrumentalized to gain domestic support for foreign policy ambitions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz upon his arrival at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on January 17, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Associations. All rights reserved.From integration policies to electoral politics, migration is often discussed as a domestic policy issue. Yet rarely does its possible connection with foreign policy attract attention (see a few exceptions).

One recent example is Megan Barlows latest openDemocracy article where she argues that the Turkish government employs refugees not only as political tools for foreign ambitions, but also for reinforcing a conservative and Islamist ideology. My argument follows the same line of thought by situating Turkeys instrumentalization of refugees in the context of its co-operation with the EU over migration.

Hosting the highest number of refugees from Syria, around 3.5 million, Turkeys refugee and foreign policy have been increasingly intertwined in recent years, especially since 2015 which was a year of crisis for both the EU and Turkey. By providing a chronology of the domestic and regional events occurring since then, I suggest that the EU-Turkey Statement on refugees, and the preceding Joint Action Plan unintentionally but inextricably intertwined Turkeys national security concerns on its Syrian border with EU border control management policies. 

2015: a year of political crisis for the EU

An unprecedented and rapid refugee movement via the Aegean Sea hit Europe in the fall of 2015. The lack of internal agreement among EU Member States over a common asylum policy,...

Re-thinking EU-Turkey co-operation over migration openDemocracy

Turkeys military offensive in Afrin is also an example of how refugees are instrumentalized to gain domestic support for foreign policy ambitions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz upon his arrival at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on January 17, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Associations. All rights reserved.From integration policies to electoral politics, migration is often discussed as a domestic policy issue. Yet rarely does its possible connection with foreign policy attract attention (see a few exceptions).

One recent example is Megan Barlows latest openDemocracy article where she argues that the Turkish government employs refugees not only as political tools for foreign ambitions, but also for reinforcing a conservative and Islamist ideology. My argument follows the same line of thought by situating Turkeys instrumentalization of refugees in the context of its co-operation with the EU over migration.

Hosting the highest number of refugees from Syria, around 3.5 million, Turkeys refugee and foreign policy have been increasingly intertwined in recent years, especially since 2015 which was a year of crisis for both the EU and Turkey. By providing a chronology of the domestic and regional events occurring since then, I suggest that the EU-Turkey Statement on refugees, and the preceding Joint Action Plan unintentionally but inextricably intertwined Turkeys national security concerns on its Syrian border with EU border control management policies. 

2015: a year of political crisis for the EU

An unprecedented and rapid refugee movement via the Aegean Sea hit Europe in the fall of 2015. The lack of internal agreement among EU Member States over a common asylum policy,...

19:36

Happy birthday Agreement. May you be brought back to health and may you take us all on the road to peace and reconciliation once again Slugger O'Toole

Twenty years ago this month my wife and I had a child- our first child. As all parents are, we were absolutely jubilant at the birth of our son. Wow! We had created this wonderful, if fragile, thing together! We adored (and still adore) him.

A year or so later, I got a call to my work to say that my son was ill. He had a tummy bug and was vomiting. I was asked to come and get him from childcare and take him home. I did so at some haste. I took this wee sick child home and did all that I could: I held him in my arms and cradled him in my lap as his wee limp body with his white face just lay there feeling awful. Even though I knew that this was not a very serious illness, I was upset. Why, I asked myself, is this happening to this precious creation? I was even (and irrationally) angry at. well, I didnt really know who to be angry at.

Over the next few days, my wife and I took turns to take time off work to sit with our son. We stayed up at night and we cleaned up when he was sick. We ended up tired and feeling poorly ourselves, but he was worth the sacrifice. We cared enough for him to reassess our priorities and to sacrifice the time and energy it took to bring our precious child back to health. Thankfully, he made a full recovery. But so vulnerable was he, that without our intervention- both the support of us, his parents and the wider family- he would not have done so.

Twenty years ago, here in Northern Ireland, another fragile and wonderful thing came to life- the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. It had many parents and many extended family members. At this time of its birthday, the Agreement is sick. It is vulnerable. It is in real danger. Are we, its parents and extended family members, able to reassess our priorities in order to give it the chance to recover; the chance of further life? This will mean devoting time and energy to it and to its principles of shared and equal citizenship; of compromise and companionship; of non violent and genuine political engagement.

Are we up for it?
Are we up to it?
Do we even care?

When our eyes are on the Westminster prize or on the long game of island unity only (nothing wrong with either of these things as long as they dont supercede the fragile health of the Agreement) we neglect what was so hard to be brought to birth in 1998.

When we accept relative peace as being the real deal or we adopt a voter apathy approach to politics, we neglect the child we brought into life 20 years ago.

When we sit back and dont get involved in living out its ideals, we forget the benefits the Agreement brought us.

Happy birthday Agreement. May you be brought back to health and may you take us all on the road to peace and reconciliation once again.

18:43

Humanitarian response in Lebanon: changing social norms or reproducing them? openDemocracy

While gendered realities are increasingly acknowledged and addressed by international organisations and agencies, in practice, gendered social norms and attitudes have proven to be difficult to address. 

Informal settlement, Bekaa, Lebanon, May 2017. Picture by Lana Khattab. All rights reserved. Sitting inside a tent in an informal settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, my colleague and I were conducting a focus group with Syrian teenage girls. To my surprise, one young woman said that she does not shower during menstruation. Other girls in the group nodded in agreement and one girl exclaimed you could get a sack of water in your uterus! 

While the topic of the discussion was related to water, sanitation and hygiene or WASH, a handy acronym adopted in the international development context findings related to misconceptions came out of what initially appeared to be more of a technical discussion. In fact, we found misconceptions relating to menstrual hygiene to be widespread across all governorates and among Lebanese, Palestinian as well as Syrian girls and women. This was not the first or only time that misinformation or myths surrounding practices came up in our research, showing time and again that the root of gendered practices, based in social norms and attitudes, are not usually addressed by aid agencies.

Last year, a research team from Malm University conducted an extensive study for UNICEF Lebanon, covering all the agencys programme areas, namely child protection, education, health, WASH, disabilities, communication for development and child rights. The study is being used by UNICEF Lebanon as a baseline for their Country Programme Document 2017-2020, and by Lebanese ministries for planning and delivering services across the country. 

Gender cuts across all sectors 

The focus of the study was to examine the barriers and drivers of positive change among Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, by studying their levels of knowledge, their attitudes and practices. A wealth of data was collected through 7,000 household interviews with caregivers, 48 focus groups with paren...

18:00

The latest on OpenGlobalRights: holding home states accountable and re-thinking transitional justice openDemocracy

Recently on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated how to hold home states accountable for human rights abuses by corporations and how to re-think transitional justice for different contexts.

Recently on OpenGlobalRights, Daniel Cerqueira and Alexandra Montgomery discussed the promise a new treaty on business and human rights in holding home states accountable. Paul Seis then argued that transitional justice cannot be applied in the same way in every conflict, pointing out that it is time to re-think the entire concept.

We are continuously publishing new content and creating different themes for debate and dialogue, so stay informed by subscribing here for weekly updates. Interested in writing for us? Click here for submission guidelines.

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17:37

The Backlash podcast episode 2: "you can't eat a condom" openDemocracy

Anti-choice activists at the United Nations argue that rural women need food, not reproductive choice. But unsafe abortions kill women.

Vending machine with snacks and condoms, Berlin, Germany. Vending machine with snacks and condoms, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Berliner Verlag/Archiv/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.For our second episode of The Backlash podcast, we look at the conservative groups lobbying against women's rights at the United Nations, how they define success, and what impact these successes have on women and girls.

We hear from professor Anne Marie Goetz from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, who was at the recent UN women's talks for 50.50, and Raimundo Rojas who attended as a delegate, as well as author Clifford Bob who explains how a 'Baptist Burka' network at the UN works against women. 

We also speak to Cledwyn Atush Mamai, an organiser in Kenya's growing anti-abortion lobby, and our columnist Tiffany Mugo talks us through her recent story on teenage girls arrested in Tanzania for getting pregnant. Listen to the episode by clicking on the audio player, or you can read the full podcast transcript below.

Lara Whyte (LW): Hello and welcome to The Backlash: a podcast series tracking threats against womens rights, brought to you by 50.50, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy. Im Lara Whyte and Im your host.

Thanks for joining us this month as we track the backlash against womens rights. We will be hearing from our columnist Tiffany Mugo in South Africa; we will be in New York where last month the United Nations womens rights conference took place; but first we are going to Kenya where so-called pro-life and pro-family groups are on th...

17:13

Ireland and slavery, then and now, free event Slugger O'Toole

We know that Ireland like most countries in Western Europe got caught up in the 18th-century slave trade and Irish merchants could benefit from the produce of the West Indies.

Belfast was not exempt. The wealthy businessman Waddell Cunningham had a plantation in the Caribbean (called Belfast !) to take just one example.

However there was a formidable opposition to slavery among the citizens of the growing late-18th century town, often involving radically-minded women and a welcome was given to Ouladah Equiano, the freed slave and author who visited Belfast, staying with Samuel Neilson who would go on to be a key United Irishman.

The abolition of slavery within the British Empire that followed in the 19th century is mired in controversy over the vast compensation paid to slave owners but even more pernicious was the continued existence of a slave-owning culture in the South of the USA, an evil which as we know precipitated the American Civil War.

So where does the Reverend Isaac Nelson, Presbyterian minister come into the story- a man who has a church named after him on the Shankill and is buried in Shankills ancient graveyard?

Nelson was a vehement critic of those church leaders in Ireland and Scotland who refused to condemn those fellow-Christians in the USA who not only owned slaves but justified the practice from their reading of the Bible. Furthermore, Nelson was a keen and vocal supporter of Frederick Douglass on his trip to Ireland.

Douglass was an escaped slave and a powerful leader of the abolitionist cause. In the 1840s Nelson shared local platforms with him amidst a whirlwind of controversy. The relationship of Douglass and Daniel OConnell is well known but not the deep and committed sympathy of men like Nelson who was both an Evangelical Protestant and an opponent of human rights abuse in no certain terms.

His Evangelicalism did not stop him criticising the Ulster Revivalism of 1859 which he regarded as having American origins compromised by slavery.

The short conference on slavery and anti-slavery in Shankill Library and the adjacent former Nelson Memorial Church is appropriately located. But we will focus not just on local stories like Nelsons but our own responsibilities with regard to enslavement in todays troubled world.

slavery

Post written by Philip Orr

08:26

Winning Here Jonathan Fryer

0BC563C7-00F1-4254-A995-6EFB48B87F6DFor more than two decades, Chris Rennard was the Liberal Democrats campaign guru, masterminding successive by-election wins and astounding many media professionals by being able to predict results with uncanny accuracy (sometimes winning himself some useful cash with judiciously-placed bets at the same time). But as his memoir Winning Here (Biteback, 25) makes clear, he was something of a political anorak when he was barely out of short pants (and an orphan), cutting his teeth in the not always friendly environments of Liverpool and Leicester. His talents were soon recognised at the HQ in London, where he graduated from being a one-man campaign band to be the head of a team of 20. Ah, those were the days. Under his stewardship (later with the starring role of Chief Executive) he nurtured the growth of the Party until it won 62 seats in the 2005 general election, post-Iraq War, with Charles Kennedy as party leader. Willie Rennies by-election win soon after was the cherry on the top, taking the LibDems to an unrivalled 63 in the House of Coomons (and a hefty contingent in the House of Lords, too, including Chris Rennard himself).  But the wheels were beginning to come off the LibDem bandwagon, with Charless imminent resignation because of unchecked alcoholism, Simon Hughess sexual orientation confusion and Mark Oatens walk on the wild side. The book ends there, on a note of triumph, but with...

04:19

Look which way the praise is going AAV


Nick Griffin is the forgotten man of extreme-right politics. Not only was he deposed as the leader of the BNP, that whole party has now completely collapsed into oblivion after UKIP nicked all their support. But despite the UK political landscape being better off without him, mainstream media hacks have suddenly propelled him back in the limelight after he said he supports Jeremy Corbyn's opposition to airstrikes in Syria.

Interestingly just the day before Griffin's comments, it was revealed that actual members of the Tory party youth organisation Activate had been praising the likes of Britain first and the former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, and plotting to use their divisive hate-mongering tactics to win votes for the Tory party.

Any idiot can see that in the case of Activate the praise was coming from inside the Tory party, and being given to disgusting neo-fascist hatemongers who have inspired at least two deadly extreme-right terrorist attacks, and that Nick Griffin's praise was coming from outside the Labour Party.

But somehow one of these things was splashed all over the mainstream news, and the other was only covered on a couple of independent left-wing blogs.

Aside from the fact that it's grotesque for mainstream media hacks to resurrect Nick Griffin from the politically dead solely for the purpose of smearing Labour, there's a massive hypo...

02:31

Clinton: Keep the cranes up. Keep the voices free. Keep the votes fair. Youll figure it out. #GFA20 Slugger O'Toole

Political leaders of old and today gathered at Queens University, Belfast for a day of events focussed on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

In the morning Conor Murphy, Liz ODonnell, Lord Empey, Mark Durkan and David Andrews gathered to talk with Tim OConnor to unpick some of the machinations behind the design of the Agreement.

After lunch, the focus moved to those who had been leading the negotiations in the years up to 1998 and those who are guaranteeing the Agreement today.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley MP described the Agreement as a moment when politics triumphed over division and politics.

An Tnaiste Simon Coveney TD said that a new faith in politics and in each other took root when the Agreement was signed on Good Friday in April 1998. He spoke around the themes of needing to remember, to renew and to reconcile.

We need to keep in mind what it was like before the Good Friday Belfast Agreement and the remember why we felt such joy and optimism 20 years ago The evidence of the conflict is social, physical and psychological

On the need to reconcile, he finished his speech saying: We have a further chance and we should take it.

Senator Ge...

01:47

Post Conference Retreat Slugger O'Toole

Dominic OReilly is a SDLP Member and attended the partys recent conference

I am a mess of contradictions! Some years ago I took the decision to join a political party. Meanwhile for the last fifteen years I have been actively involved in youth ministry within the Church. To the extent that some eight years ago I entered studies for the diocesan priesthood. While I did not see this through to completion it was an incredibly fruitful time and period of growth for me.

Part of my work within youth ministry involves the facilitation and delivery of retreat programmes to young people in primary and post primary school. I love retreat days. Ive been on day retreats, weekend retreats, weeklong retreats, silent retreats and more. I love the experience of facilitating a retreat and getting to know the people I am privileged to minister to and to see how such a person can change within the course of an afternoon or series of days. A retreat day exists within a bubble of sorts. The act of retreat is one of coming away from your usual day to day activities, to reflect on your life and direction, to ask questions of those facilitating the day and hopefully being able to walk away from the day with a sense of purpose, having gleaned some truth that you can bring into your future. Ultimately at the end of the retreat day one should be able to move ever closer to those around them whomever they may be.

Having joined the SDLP approximately five years ago the spring conference is a day I rather enjoy. In some ways the conference day is like a retreat day. We have input from a variety of speakers, the day is facilitated by a number of spokespersons, there is opportunity to ask questions and at the end of the day the delegates/participants leave (hopefully) with a renewed sense of purpose in their political direction and interest. It must be noted though that the conference also exists within a bit of a bubble. We the delegates are among like minded folk who have made the conscious decision and effort to be there. Each of us is there out of conviction. No one is forced to be there and just like a retreat day; you get out of the day what you are willing to put in.

Of course the day is filled with much social media interest as we tweet and Instagram our favourite moments of the day. At my first conference two years ago I absolutely plagued my followers and Facebook friends with post after post of how fantastic the day was. This year I limited myself to a few posts and took a more concerted effort to participate actively in the day through voting on the various motions, hearing where other people are coming from and eventually getting up to speak on a particular motion; something I did not anticipate doing. There is a fantastic buzz about the conference days; we have the opportunity to discuss great ideas. There are new ideas generated in the mind and we can critique ideas which we do not agree with. There a...

00:37

I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border Slugger O'Toole

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for informal remarks in a meeting last month, in particular, that his use of the word shibboleth in its sense of password or test of membership gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech at a think-tank in Brussels still represent the most accurate description of what is actually going on when we hear of dire threats to the 1998 Belfast Agreement from Brexit.

Here are a selection from the various reports

The Guardians Anne Perkins reported

Barry Gardiner, the shadow trade secretary, has described the Good Friday agreement as a shibboleth that was being played up in the Brexit negotiations for economic rather than political reasons.

Answering questions at a thinktank session in Brussels last month, Gardiner suggested there was no reason to fear that a border with customs controls would lead to a return of paramilitary activity.

He also said: I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border and the need to have the shibboleth of the Good Friday agreement. And that is because it is hugely in the Republic of Irelands economic interest to make sure that there is no tariff and no external border there.

The remarks, from one of Labours inner group of Brexit decision-makers, strike a markedly different tone to the partys existing policy. Jeremy Corbyn restated Labours opposition to the re-emergence of a hard border as a principle of the future relationship in a keynote speech in February.

In the key passage, which also signed Labour up to staying in a customs union, the Labour leader said the Good Friday agreement, whose 20th anniversary falls on Tuesday, was a great achievement. We must continue to support the restoration of the Northern Ireland assembly and to ensure we maintain the situation of no hard border in Northern Ireland, he said.

In prepared remarks delivered in Brussels and posted on his website, Gardiner echoed that positi...

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Tuesday, 10 April

21:36

Persistent inequality (1): Why Kirchnerism lost in Argentina openDemocracy

Why did Macri win the elections? Because of the falling price of commodities? The power of the media? A change in the mood of the population?. Espaol

A man with crutches during a protest against the pension system reform, on December 18, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Gabriel Sotelo/NurPhoto/Sipa USA). AP Images. All rights reserved

This article is part of the series "Persistent inequality: disputing the legacy of the pink tide in Latin America" produced in alliance with the Institute of Latin American Studies and at the Instituite of Sociology of the Freie Universitt Berlin.

On December 10, 2015, Mauricio Macri took office as president of Argentina. He had won 51% of the votes in the second run of the elections against the pro-government candidate Daniel Scioli. In the first two years of his mandate, he has taken a number of measures which steer the country in a neoliberal direction, changing the course taken by Nstor Kirchners and Cristina Fernndez de Kirchners administrations in the previous twelve years.

What were the reasons for Macri's victory? The most widely shared explanations for this political change in Argentina mention, in the first place, changes in the economic landscape due to the fall in commodity prices.

What were the reasons for Macri's victory? The most widely shared explanations for this political change in Argentina like similar ones in several other Latin American countries - mention, in the first place, changes in the economic landscape due to the fall in commodity prices. After the "tailwind" of soybean prices stopped, Argentina faced "external constraints" basically, a lack of foreign currency - and thus came the end of the "populist" experiments and the "redistribution" processes.

A second explanation refers to the outstanding power of the media and the concentrated economic groups. A third explanation p...

Wednesday, 21 March

03:20

Call for participants: Middle East Forum openDemocracy

openDemocracy .

openDemocracy is looking for participants for the Middle East Forum.

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