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Friday, 15 December


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The business of migration control in Spain openDemocracy

The migration control industry is a complex business. It carries out and influences a system designed to stop the flow of people, not to handle it. Espaol

Photo: Ilias Bartolini/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

When the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published, a few weeks ago, the complete list of the 33.293 deceased migrants identified since 1993 on their way to Europe, its goal was a very simple one: to highlight the fact that each line in that somber list "tells a story": the story of Faisal, Frederick, Zhang, Pape or Safi, who died holding her baby. They are - like many others who are mistreated on their way and are considered delinquents or legal ghosts at destination - the losers of this migratory system.

The question, then, is an obvious one: if they lose, who is winning? This was the starting point of the research project that PorCausa Foundation launched more than a year ago. The result is the first mapping of the migration control industry in Spain, a complex and extraordinary business that feeds almost exclusively on public resources and that carries out and influences a system designed to stop the flow of people, not to handle it.

Our analysis started from a double hypothesis: the first is that in Spain - as in the rest of the European Union - an ecosystem of economic actors who receive increasing amounts of public money for carrying out the policies of migratory control has been consolidating over the years. The second is that these same actors have come to acquire a position of strength within the system that enables them to influence the drift of the norms and political decisions which affect them. This phenomenon - known as political or regulatory capture - is similar to the one occurring in other industries, such as the pharmaceutical or defense industries.



The 5 unsung Labour heroes of the Amendment 7 vote AAV

Much credit has been given to the 11 Tory MPs who joined forces with the opposition parties to defeat Theresa May's authoritarian scheming by bravely voting in favour of Amendment 7 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, but there are five unsung heroes on the Labour benches too.

Of course the Tory "Mutineers" led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve deserve credit for having put country above party for once. 

They'll obviously always be tainted by their numerous votes in favour of imposing ruinous Tory austerity dogma that has done so much damage to the British economy, public services, workers' wages, and productivity, as well as severely retarding the nation's future economic potential through the lowest levels of infrastructure investment in the developed world. However they definitely deserve credit for doing something right for a change, and standing up for the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, especially given the torrent of abuse they knew they'd suffer at the hands of the Daily Mail and the extreme-right for daring to do the right thing.

The five unsung heroes on the Labour benches are Dennis Skinner, Graeme Morris, Ronnie Campbell, John Mann and Roger Godsiff.

As you may already know, these are all pro-Brexit Labour MPs, but they all made the important distinction between backing Theresa May's objective of turning Brexit into an anti-democratic power grab, and conducting Brexit in a democratic manner.

Their ability to make this distinction between an authoritarian Tory Brexit and a Brexit conducted in a democratic manner led them to vote alongside the majority of their Labour c...


The good conscience of French intellectuals: the case of Thomas Gunol and the French left of Jean-Luc Mlenchon. An open letter openDemocracy

Our right to live freely in the Diaspora is under attack, from both Christian and Zionist supremacism.  

lead Screenshot: Muslim slam poet, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan reciting her poem, This Is Not a Humanising Poem. YouTube.Jews like us find ourselves in an interesting predicament these days. On the one hand, we fear the return of overt antisemitism, as witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a mob of white supremacists marched, torches blazing, chanting, Jews will not replace us. On the other hand, the very thing that threatens our safety as Jews the white Christian tradition of Jew hatred is used against us when we argue that the colonial occupier, Israel does not represent us.

Anti-Zionist Jews from France, where calling for boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel has been made an offence, to the US, where our colleagues have been hounded out of universities for daring to speak about the crimes of Israeli colonialism, are under threat. The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dared to tell all Jews that he went to Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attack as a representative of the entire Jewish people. Our right to live freely in the Diaspora is under attack, from both Christian and Zionist supremacism. 

There has always been a right and a wrong way to be a Jew in the Diaspora. The historian Enzo Traverso put it well when he wrote in 1996 that the emancipation of the Jews of France was a revolution from above. For those Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews, revolutionary emancipation did not equate with freedom. Forced to assimilate, the Jews were the objects not the subjects of their emancipation.

Today, there is still a right and a wrong way to be a Jew and it is still dictated to us by the agents of white supremacy. Jews must side with the state, forget that antisemitism is foundational to the birth of European modernity, and identify it exclusively with Muslims and the Islamic world. But the only way to understand antisemitism is in terms of its place in the racial archipelago. How antisemitism relates to antiblackness, racial colonialism, and Islamophobia is integral to understanding b...


The prospect written between the lines of this weeks letter is of Sinn Fin sidelining itself. Slugger O'Toole

I Newton Emerson points out the irony of that letter Chris blogged the other day, signed by 200 members of nationalist civil society.

We appeal urgently to you Taoiseach, it concludes, and to the Irish Government, to reassure us of your commitment to stand for equality and a human-rights based society and your determination to secure and protect the rights of all citizens in the North of Ireland.

Varadkars office responded promptly by saying the way to address these issues is to restore devolution. Given Northern nationalisms growing ambivalence and even hostility towards Stormont, that may not have been quite the response desired.

The passion behind those who signed the letter is clear and unambiguous. Theyre really not happy with the way things are panning out in Northern Ireland. You can see the same disgruntlement daily on social media channels.

Sinn Feins increasingly reflexive and ever expanding abstentionism and the unfortunate timing of the letter as a solution hoved into view, means that

now Brexit, the context behind Sinn Fins strategy, is starting to yield to political solutions in the partys absence. This looks like losing and the resulting unease and confusion naturally extends to the wider nationalist community, which gives Sinn Fin over 70 per cent of its vote.

Unionists are increasingly told they do not understand how angry nationalists are, how this has destroyed moderate acquiescence to the union and how it will trigger an imminent Border poll and Irish unification.

Yet for Sinn Fin, anger has reached its limit as a policy. Polls show the partys support has peaked, while centrist Alliance and Green voters the critical swing constituency are dismayed by the suspension of Stormont.

Anger-as-suboptimal-agency is an element which commentators often miss in the heady tribal atmosphere of what passes for politics in Belfast these days. It is a direct result of that confusion Newton mentions above, which Ill come back to at the end.

He also notes, nationalist anger only makes it harder for Sinn Fin to restore devolution.  So, the Taoiseachs direct and uncomplicated response to Mondays letter was chillingly direct. Nor is it likely to be the end of the matter:

Dublins tough stance on Brexit is t...


We have plenty of reasons to protest apart from Platon openDemocracy

Still angry at a new road tax collection system, Russias truck drivers have now been forced to register as a foreign agent. So theyre going on strike, again. RU

Mikhail Kurbatov. Photo: Yulia Koroleva. All rights reserved.Russias truck drivers have been battling against a new road toll system for more than two years now with varying degree of success. The independent Union of Truck Operators of Russia (OPR) has become the backbone of this protest, and was formed specifically in response to a new road tax introduced in 2015 and its electronic collection system. The union now has more than 500 members, with 7,000 supporters regularly donating money. In December, OPR was forced to register with the Ministry of Justice as a foreign agent. The truck drivers decided to respond with a ten-day national strike.

With kickoff fast approaching, Mikhail Kurbatov, a long-haul truck driver from Nizhny Novgorod and one of the unions founders, told oDR about how law enforcement is trying to scare truckers off, why truck drivers arent ready to accept the regulations around road tax collection and how they plan to ban to get rid of the Platon system entirely.

Why did long-haul truck drivers started to protest?

Mikhail Kurbatov: It all started when the Platon electronic tax collection system [ETC] was put into operation in 2015. Platon ETC is a specialised heavy truck tolling system: the driver must register with it and then install a cabin-mounted device that calculates the distance the truck travels and the amount of toll to be paid. Currently the toll size is one rouble 91 kopecks per kilometer. The initial fine for non-compliance is 400,000 roubles (5,000) increasing up 1,000,000 roubles (12,600) for the second offence.

Protests against Platon ETC have built up gradually. Many tr...


What violence in Latin America? openDemocracy

In partnership with the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Santiago de Chile, we debate the multiple realities we face today when tackling multiple and complex forms of violence in the region. Espaol

"Bullets from the military police ('PM') only kill black people". Protest in So Paulo, 2014. Image: Oswaldo Cornetti/fotos pblicas. Some rights reserved.Latin America faces an increase in the use of violence as a way to resolve its daily conflicts. The overwhelming organized crime presence in most Latin American countries has brought the overflow of homicide rates to quadruple world rates, and violence has put already too many places in a state of emergency or epidemics.

Although the countries with the highest homicide rates are Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Venezuela; regional averages often obscure bloody local realities. Take the reality of cities as diverse as Acapulco in Mexico, Trujillo in Peru or parts of Greater Buenos Aires in Argentina, that also see a very high prevalence of violence. Thus, when it comes to integrate the geography of violence into our analysis, and if we want to tackle the diversity of phenomena that tarnish today the Latin American daily life, we must recognize that it also involves taking a specific and localized focus.

The picture is thus multidimensional. In many countries, not previously known by its violence rates in the past, crime is now higher than it was just a decade ago. Available surveys show that almost a third of the citizens of Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile, among other countries, has been the victim of a crime in the last 12 months. A situation that also characterizes a process of erosion of the quality of daily life that is currently taking place in too many countries.

The visibility albeit too slow and too late of violence against women that strikes in multiple scenarios, ranging from street harassment to thousands...

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Thursday, 14 December


Scrapping anti-Terror laws naivety or opportunity? openDemocracy

As the government awaits the first report of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Theresa May has reason to be worried.

Image: LK Aldama/PA News/All rights reserved

This month, Max Hill QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, is due to submit his first annual report on the operation of key anti-terrorism laws in the UK.

The government has reason to be concerned. Theresa May has long been a pioneer of tough anti-terror legislation and has made clear she would be prepared even to get rid of human rights laws that supposedly detract the war against terror.

Hill, on the other hand (the second Independent Review since the office was created), not only opposes the introduction of new measures, but has also expressed his views that special anti-terror laws are unnecessary and should be abolished.

The point is that terrorism is crime and all terrorists are criminals. As such, they should be arrested, charged and brought before the courts, and the more that can be done under general criminal legislation the better, he said.


The governments response so far has been to accuse him of schoolboy errors or breathtaking naivety. But leaving to one side Hills wide-range experience litigating anti-terror cases, it is unlikely to be a satisfactory response for long.

Hills concerns about counter-terrorism legislation are...


Pourquoi nous lanons openMedia openDemocracy

Tirez une croix sur la fausse information. En ditant des publireportages ou en achetant le silence, les gros capitaux pervertissent la libert de la presse de faon proccupante. Voici comment nous allons agir. 

Homme lisant un journal, 21 mai 2012, by Flickr/Frank Knaack. CC-BY-2.0.Nous pensons tous savoir ce qu'est une fausse information. Mais selon si vous avez soutenu Donald Trump ou qu'il ait rpugn, que votre vote ait t pour ou contre le Brexit, ou encore, selon les amis que vous avez sur Facebook, votre perception a sans doute pu tre influence.

En moins de 18 mois, le terme de fausse information t si utilis et exagr qu'il s'est dsormais vid de tout sens. 

(Wouaw ! Encore tant de fausses informations lances aujourd'hui. Peu importe ce je que fasse ou dise, ils n'criront ni ne diront la vrit. La Fake News Mania est hors de contrle!) 

Quand le  pas d'info  est info, sponsoris par HSBC

En 2015, avant que la fausse information ne soit encore considre comme une chose part entire, une histoire srieuse marqua le site web d'openDemocracy : la dmission violente de Peter Oborne du Daily Telegraph. Accusant le journal d'avoir fait cesser les investigations menes alors sur le compte d'HSBC - l'un des principaux annonceurs du Telegraph - cet vnement fit les gros titres de la presse internationale.

Oborne, qui est l'un des plus clbres commentateur du parti conservateur britannique, rvla par ailleurs que ce genre de  protection  ditoriale s'appliquait un certain nombre d'autres annonceurs majeurs du Telegraph, tels que la grande chane de supermarch Tesco. Jay Rosen de l'Universit de New York dclara que ces rvlations taient   l...


Westminster asserts its power over the executive and Whitehall Slugger O'Toole

To all those who think Westminster is irrelevant, last nights development could prove significant, if not actually decisive

It certainly wont bring the government down, but it WILL give the DUP and other Brexiteers some serious headaches in landing a deal that must meet parliamentary approval, and its a reminder that Parliament still actually matters.

NIs only fully active opposition MP, Sylvia Hermon contributed to this narrowest of majorities. Of course, they will still have to tread carefully, triggering a no deal is at present, unthinkable.


Where is the mainstream media condemnation of the extremist blue-kip takeover of the Tory party? AAV

Remember when Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader and the mainstream media had an absolute fit over it? Remember when the hundreds of thousands of new Labour Party members he attracted were continually smeared by the press as "infiltrators" and "entryists"? 

Then there was the way that any talk of democratising the Labour Party from within was described as if democratic re-selection of MPs was some kind of terrifying ideological "purge", rather than a means of actually holding them to account for their actions.

And the way that everyone involved from Corbyn all the way down to the hundreds of thousands of Labour members and supporters who voted for him were repeatedly smeared as "extremists".

Despite all of this rhetoric Corbyn's election and re-election as Labour leader were actually fantastic demonstrations of grass roots democracy in action. 

An out-of-touch clique of right-wing Labour MPs plotted to get rid of him in the summer of 2016, but ordinary Labour voters unified behind Corby...


Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat openDemocracy

Asef Bayat talks about revolutions and revolutionary ideas, the place of ordinary people in social transformation, and what we can learn from the Tahrir moment.

Asef Bayat. Picture courtesy of author. Some rights reserved.

Interview by Heba Khalil ; video by Linda Herrera

Asef Bayat is the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In his new book, Revolution without revolutionaries: making sense of the Arab Spring (Stanford University Press, 2017), he explores the meaning of revolutionary struggle in the post-Cold War era, a time when the very idea of revolution had dissipated.  

In this interview, Heba Khalil presses Bayat on questions around the history of revolutions and revolutionary ideas, the place of ordinary people in social transformation, and what we can learn from the Tahrir moment.

Watch the video by Linda Herrera


H: Your new book is provocatively titled Revolution without Revolutionaries. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?

A: When I say revolution without revolutionaries here I mean revolutions without revolutionary ideas. Those were revolutions in terms of those spectacular mobilizations, those extraordinary protests. They were quite remarkable in terms of the tactics of mobilization how to mobilize, resist, and manage to bring so many people to the streets. In the Egyptian case, Tahrir square became a global space, it became a model for o...


Brexit isn't the only thing parliament needs to demand a vote on right now - the NHS is too openDemocracy

In January, Jeremy Hunt will attempt to sneak through secondary regulations, without parliamentary debate, what some have called the biggest change to the NHS since its creation. Do enough MPs care enough to stop him?

Jeremy Hunt is trying to sneak through legal changes that will fundamentally change the NHS - with no scrutiny and no debate.

So, no surprise there.

The next step for Jeremy Hunts plans to overhaul the NHS is the introduction of Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs). ACOs are the latest incarnation of other controversial NHS plans that have been cooked up since Camerons infamous 2012 Health & Social Care Act meant the government had less responsibility to secure comprehensive, universal healthcare. Leading campaigners, doctors and journalists have scrutinised these latest plans and found them both vague and alarming. In the words of this sites editor, these so-called Accountable Care Organisations arent accountable, and they dont really care.

The ACOs (which arent, legally, accountable public/NHS organisations) are being put in charge of allocating resources, according to leading health campaigner Professor Allyson Pollock with private partners having larger contracts and more and more of a role in decision making, it seems. Kailash Chand of the BMA has also said ACOs are a trojan horse for privatisation particularly as they talk of integrating payment systems for both health and social care without addressing the fact that social care has already been mostly privatised. Chand has also warned that GPs will no longer be independent advocates for their patients under this new system of outsourced decision making.

We now know that Hunt plans to change 10...


Give a Christmas donation and help keep Slugger lit into 2018 Slugger O'Toole

They say Christmas is a time for giving and what better cause than to fire some cash towards your favourite politics site?

As we never tire of telling you Slugger does not get any funding so we rely on readers like you to keep the good ship afloat. None of the team gets paid, but we do need cash to cover the running costs of the site.

We respect our readers so we never take the easy route of plastering the site with ads that will melt your head. We also believe that being reader supported helps us keep our independence.

Go on give us a donation. You will get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Just click the donate button below:


Igor Yasin: If theres no freedom of assembly for LGBT, theres none for anyone else openDemocracy

Russian activist Igor Yasin on attitudes towards LGBT in Russias regions, why the opposition has a homophobia problem, and how to assert your rights and still be heard. RU

Igor Yasin. Photo(c): Yulia Koroleva. All rights reserved.Life isnt easy for representatives of Russias LGBT community who dont hide their sexual orientation. A 2013 law on gay propaganda has, in effect, legalised LGBT discrimination. Today, when Russian courts examine offences committed against LGBT people, they often do not even establish hate as a motivating factor.

As part of oDRs series on Russian civic activists (check out our other articles here and here), I spoke to Igor Yasin, one of the leaders of the Rainbow Association, an organiser of public meetings in support of LGBT and co-chair of the Union of Journalists, about attitudes towards LGBT in Russias regions, why the Russian opposition has a homophobia problem and how to speak about your rights and be heard.

How did you come to activism?

Igor Yasin: I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Egypt, at Cairo University, where I got interested in politics. I first took part in street protest in 2003, in anti-war demonstrations. When I returned to Russia, I decided to figure out what was happening here politically. At that point, Id already realised left-wing views chimed with mine. I began searching online about organisations and found AKM [Avantgarde of Red Youth, the youth wing of Working Russia; its leader is Sergey Udaltsov - ed.], and spoke to a few of its activists. Later, I found Socialist Resistance, which was then renamed to the Committee for the Workers International. Back then, this was one of the few organisations that was organising in support o...


Gary Lineker hounded after retweeting video of Israeli soldiers locking Palestinian children in cage GMMuk Michael Aydinian

Well done Gary Lineker for having the balls to say, seeing the IDF cage young Palestinian boys was sickening. If you read his response to the obligatory hounding any time anyone criticises Israel, well done again Mr. Lineker. Sure. Palestinian kids throw stones. The Israelis & their deluded supporters have an unhealthy knack of justifying their barbaric acts by singling out


Out-of-touch Tory claims life better for British workers now because coffee tastes better than in 1997 Pride's Purge

Well now.

Tory MEP and leading Brexiter Dan Hannan thinks life is better for British manual workers now because coffee tastes better than it did in 1997.

No, really.

He does:

Mind you, Hannan also thinks the NHS is a relic and a 60 year mistake which he once told Americans he wouldnt wish on anyone.

But who needs affordable healthcare and hospitals when theres Starbucks, eh?

hannan coffee


Sisi, the guardian of sexual morals openDemocracy

Alisdare Hickson/flickr. Some rights reserved. 25 June 2016, Solidarity with Egypt's LGBTs in Prison - A Man with a Message at London's LGBT Pride in the Square. Alisdare Hickson/flickr. Some rights reserved.During a Mashrou Leila concert in Cairo last September members of the audience raised a rainbow flag. A few days later, after images had gone viral, a campaign of repression by the Egyptian regime followed.

At least 75 people were arrested under Egypts repressive and vague laws of promoting debauchery. Sixteen men were then sentenced to three years for inciting debauchery and abnormal sexual relations.

The tactics the regime used were designed to humiliate and torture. The suspects had to undergo forced anal examinations to medically ascertain whether they were indeed homosexual. A procedure that has no medical or biological foundation. 

This wave of repression was accompanied by intense public debate about the rights of the LGBT community in Egypt; a debate that was anchored in the morality of the middle class, and its Victorian views of sexuality.

In a country that is suffering from economic and social crisis, soaring inflation and a plethora of security challenges, the latest of which has claimed the lives of 305 civilians, one would expect that such issues would not garner much attention. &nb...


Im really just a slave how hotel chains exploit agency loopholes and dehumanise workers openDemocracy

Alenka, like so many others, hopes for a better life but is caught up in a catch-22, valued only for the absence of a smudge on a bathroom mirror.

In her mid-twenties, Alenkas days revolve round the physical grind of her job, her insecure employment status, the pitiless supervisors who decide whether and when she will work, and her powerlessness to change things. She is a hotel cleaner, one of the countless women - they are invariably women - whom guests might brush past in the corridor but seldom acknowledge on their way to and from the elevator. Her English is spare but correct; and she is proud of her fluency. She responds to my questions with a smile and a visible effort at cheerfulness that contrasts with the quiet melancholy of what she has to say.

Operating under a well-known brand name, the hotel where Alenka works stands on a crisp, refurbished fringe of central London. Business executives stay there for convenience, and families choose it because - though hardly cheap - it is less expensive than its sisters in the West End.

The staff are mostly Eastern European and many have little English, she tells me - except for a couple of older English women who have what she calls proper jobs.

Proper jobs? I ask.

They started working there years ago and were hired as full-time employees. Whereas the rest of us, She paused for a moment, searching for clarity. We dont have steady jobs. Were all on zero hours contracts.

I asked if she could show me her employment contract but she said she wasnt sure she had ever had one. Could she ask the hotel for a copy, I asked?

None of us knows where their office is.

 I dont work for the hotel. I work for an agency. We all do, including the housekeeper. We get paid every two weeks but we never get to see anyone from the agency. None of us knows where their office is. They didnt even see me when I applied for the job. The housekeeper interviewed me. After the interview, she filled up some papers, asked me to sign them and said I was hired....


No point in talking about north south bridges if you lack the courage (or capital) to build them Slugger O'Toole

Brilliant from Gerard Howlin, who points out that the only party which has not protested against a new north-south interconnector is the DUP. Even Sinn Fein (whom he doesnt mention by name) have been all over the southern protests like a rash:

No physical infrastructure epitomises partition more than electricity. Our road system predates 1922. They may have been sundered in places, and checkpoints and customs posts put on it at other points, but the lines on the map, whatever the reality on the ground, all crossed the border. Not so with electricity.

New-fangled electric wires, when they came in the 20th century, were developed as separate networks in the North and Republic. Burn everything British but their coal was the slogan of the economic war in the 1930s. In fact, we ultimately developed electricity generation dangerously dependent on imported fossil fuels.

There is an energy security issue of course those who remember having to queue for petrol know the reality of that. There is global warming, and we are way behind on our climate change commitments.

The fact that we only now have our first minister for climate action in the Cabinet underscores how far back we are from where we need be. Then there is politics, and there is vested interest, and a combination of both along the route of the proposed interconnector.

Some protest has been a parody of Men Behind the Wire dressed up in waxed jackets and sheepskin coats. EirGrid, a public company, supplies the Armoured cars and tanks and guns, came to take away our sons.

Thats funny up to a point. The politics less so. The project is as Fianna Fil as water charges. The party was in government when it was launched as an overhead, as distinct from underground, project. Its Fine Gael to its fingertips, because it is the Government to which that wholly owned and totally controlled state company has reported to for the past six years.

Whatever about its wider base, and genuine concerns that undoubtedly exist, this anti-pylon protest is well funded.

Perhaps more significant, ultimately, than the shenanigans locally is the DUP. In its February 2016 submission to the Northern Ireland Planning Appeals Commission, MP Jeffery Donaldson, formally writing for his party, said the planning application dating back to 2009, is arguably the most important currently under consideration in Northern Ireland.

Cutting to the chase, he explained that power plants in Ballylumford and Kilroot will have to close. As things stand in the absence of the propose...


Listen up Theresa, you don't actually need a dick to be a misogynist AAV

Theresa May has resorted to a crude display of dick-counting in order to score cheap political points against Labour. She was trying to make the absurd case that because she's a woman and Jeremy Corbyn is a man, the Tories are somehow more female-friendly than Labour.

The glaring problem for Theresa May and her Tory colleagues is that they have repeatedly voted in favour of imposing ruinous austerity dogma on the British economy. Not only does Tory austerity dogma (or deliberate under-investment as it could also be described) provably cause vast amounts of social and economic damage in general, but 86% of the burden of it has been loaded onto the shoulders of women from poor and ordinary women.

The reality is that Theresa May and her Tory mates are the misogynists who believe in economically punishing millions of women from poor and ordinary backgrounds for the reckless gambling of the wealthy (and mainly male) bankers who trashed the global economy and caused the soaring UK budget deficit in the first place.

On the other hand Labour and Jeremy Corbyn want to scrap the Tories' ruinous and discriminatory austerity agenda, and implement numerous policies that would benefit women across the UK too. For example the Labour policy of a 10 minimum wage would benefit millions of women, because the vast majority of workers earning poverty pay are female.

So while Theresa May and her elitist Tory chums fo...


Free Russia Forum: sanctions and boycotts openDemocracy

Russias opposition remains weak and divided but the latest forum in Vilnius could hint at consolidation down the road. RU

Garry Kasparov - one of the organizers of the "Free Russia Forum". Photo(c): Andrei Kalikh. All rights reserved.In early December, Vilnius once again hosted the fourth Free Russia Forum. This, the Russian oppositions main annual get-together, is normally described by the pro-Kremlin media as a fugitive migr coven, but is nothing of the sort. A good half of the participants actually reside in Russia, but there is a compelling reason for holding the Forum elsewhere it just wouldnt be allowed to happen at home.

Like-minded people criticise the Forum for trying to bring together oppositionists of all hues (it is attended by Democrats, left-wingers and Russian ultra nationalists). This means that it rarely arrives at any concrete conclusions: people come, argue and go home again, giving the media an excuse for further criticism in its wake.

I shall therefore refrain from analysing panel sessions with titles such as The Putin Regime in the International Arena, Russia caught on the FSBs Hook and The Centenary of the October Disaster. Their speakers academics, politicians and journalists did an excellent job of describing the place and role of todays Russia in the international political sphere. I would rather concentrate on the Forums product the concrete recommendations for further opposition activity that came out of it. Three other discussions were devoted to these questions: fighting the Kremlins propaganda machine; what to do about the forthcoming elections and the possibility of further sanctions.

Running the propagandist gauntlet

The forum began with the traditional Russian game of Run from the Propagandist. To get into the auditorium where the sessions took place, delegates had to run the gauntlet of reporters and Russian TV crews milling around in the foyer. The security people wouldnt let these into the auditorium, so people with cameras and microphones squeezed up to...


Irelands only eternal peace flame extinguished because of environmental factors Slugger O'Toole

Is the Cosmos trying to tell us something?

Technical problems that have extinguished Irelands only eternal peace flame have been described as deeply disappointing. The flame, housed in Londonderry city centres Peace Garden, has not burned since late October.

It was first lit in 2013 as part of the Bright, Brand New Day peace initiative. Its organiser said the flame has been beset by problems since its installation.

It fell to Reverend David Latimer of First Derry Presbyterian Church to say what the rest of us must be thinking:

Perhaps it is a sign that peace is never straightforward, never without its bumps and bends in the road.

Michael Longleys more worldly take on the matter:

On the one hand, Im interested in how we avoid tearing one another to pieces. Peace is not that, peace is the absence of that, peace is the absence of war: the opposite of war is custom, customs, and civilization. Civilization is custom and manners and ceremony, the things that Yeats says in A Prayer for My Daughter.

We have a vocabulary of how to deal with one another and how to behave, a vocabulary of behavior, as well as things to say to one another . . . and out of that come laws and agreed ways of doing things . . . and that in daily life are a bit like form in poetry.

And this from Umberto Eco

Universal peace is like the desire for immortality: so difficult to achieve that religions promise immortality not before but after death. However, a small peace is like the act of a doctor who cures a wound: not a promise of immortality, but at least a way to postpone death.


Christian legal army in hundreds of court battles worldwide openDemocracy

Womens rights advocates say controversial US legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom is exporting extreme ideologies worldwide against sexual and reproductive rights.

The Supreme Court of the United States. Washington, DC. Credit: Flickr/Kjetil Ree. Some rights reserved.The international wing of a controversial US Christian legal army is involved in hundreds of court battles and advocacy projects around the world, including cases defending opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage, often using freedom of expression and religious freedom arguments.

ADF International, the global arm of US group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has 580 ongoing legal matters in 51 countries, and an advocacy and operations budget of 3,754,822 (3.3 million), according to its 2017 Annual Report, published last month.

We are committed to shaping a world in which religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family are robustly protected and culturally embraced, says the report, with a goal to build a powerful and strategic alliance that extends to every corner of the globe.

50.50 reviewed dozens of legal and advocacy cases that ADF International says it has supported against countries from Sweden to Romania to Colombia to Canada. These include support for anti-abortion health care workers; opponents of same-sex marriage and adoption rights; and a pastor accused of hate speech for criticising the promotion of homosexuality.

Recently, the annua...

Wednesday, 13 December


Digital giants are trading away our right to privacy openDemocracy

Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation. 

HRI Susana Malcorra is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Argentina.In a few weeks time, trade ministers from 164 countries will gather in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). US President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of unfair treatment towards the US by WTO members, making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.

To avoid a failure ministerial, some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the digital ministerial". Argentinas MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level.

It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isnt the connectivity gap or digital divide that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, h...


: openDemocracy


People attend the burial of a mosque attack's victim in Bir al-Abed of North Sinai, Egypt, on Nov. 25, 2017. Picture by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. .

. 2015 ( 17 ) 2016 ( 26 ) 2017 ( 45 ...


The Tories and DUP are plotting to use Brexit as an excuse to tamper with democracy in Scotland and Wales. AAV

Remember when the Brexit campaigners told us all that voting Leave would give the Tory party (and their uber-nationalist DUP mates) the pability to amend the powers of the Scottish parliament and the Welsh Assembly with no democratic oversight of their actions whatever?

No. Me neither.

Well on the evening of December 12th 2017 the Tories and their DUP backers/puppet-masters joined forces to defeat Amendment 158 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill by 315 votes to 291.

Amendment 158 sought to prevent the Westminster government from misusing the powers they were awarding themselves to amend EU derived laws in order to undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

This safeguard is vitally important because there are plenty in the Tory and DUP ranks who would dearly love to restrict the power of the devolved parliaments, if not scrap them altogether. 

All 13 of the Tory MPs representing Scottish seats voted with the government to let them keep the power to alter or revoke devolved powers from their own national parliament without any parliamentary scrutiny of what they are actually up to!



Tory Party pockets cash from pro-Brexit US firm putting British farmers out of work Pride's Purge

Sugar producers, Tate & Lyle campaigned heavily for Brexit.

Thats not surprising, as Tate & Lyle uses sugar produced by US farmers and so has to pay tariffs on its products in the EU, unlike its biggest rival British Sugar which uses sugar produced by British farmers.

So its interesting to note that the Tories pocketed massive amounts of cash from Tate & Lyle in October when it accepted the US multinational as their main sponsor for their party conference:

Also interesting to note is that as a result of the Brexit vote, Tesco has now also stabbed British farmers in the back by...


To become a bit more human: Review of Beln Fernndez, Letter from Iran openDemocracy

In Letter from Iran Beln Fernndez reminds us that wepeople everywhereare not Washington cyphers but flesh-and-blood human beings who must keep being defiant in order to retain that status.

Esfahan, Iran. Picture by Nick Taylor / Some rights reserved (CC BY 2.0)As a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman represents the acme of establishment journalism. As the man who came up with the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, he might better fit W. B. Yeats depiction, viz. There is nothing in [journalists] but tittering jeering emptiness. Yet Friedman is actually much worse than a hamburger purveyor since, as Beln Fernndez has scathingly demonstrated, he is The Imperial Messenger, complete with guerdons, garlands and garbling. Friedmans Iran is only scantily parodied in the clever spoof The New York Times Op-Ed generator as a country where a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. [] If corruption is Irans curtain rod, then freedom is certainly its faucet. What might a curtain rod and faucet have to do with Iran? Meaning here is overridden by function, something Karl Kraus warned of. A Friedman-style journalist kills our imagination with his truth, he threatens our life with his lies. One reads his rubbish and a desire to smack him red-mists any rational imagining of what he is actually saying. But the message being drummed in is that America must impose its mindset on those who are foreign to it, with nuclear weapons if necessary. He literally threatens everyones lives.

Beln Fernndez is another kind of journalist, more like that described by Marguerite Duras. Every journalist is a moralist [], someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees []. This journalist isnt after establishment awards but offers a gift that only asks in return a response in the same coin: that we see ourse...


Last week on OpenGlobal Rights: governments stifle dissent and obscure motivations for violence against the Rohingya openDemocracy

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated how NGOs can speak out against governments that muzzle them, why activists should stop labelling the violence in Myanmar a religious conflict, and how science can help stop modern-day slavery. 

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, David Kode outlined that rising clampdowns in many countries on NGOs that speak out against their governments. Elizabeth Shakman Hurd argued that the repeated insistence to label the violence in Myanmar against the Rohingya as a religious conflict obscures the real issues at hand. Finally, Zoe Trodd wrote about the challenges of ending modern day slavery and a new science-based research agenda that hopes to tackle this problem.

We continuously publish new content and create different themes for debate and dialogue. Stay informed by subscribing here for weekly updates. Interested in writing for us? Click here for submission guidelines.




Homeopathy and the NHS Slugger O'Toole

So the NHS may finally be clearing its shelves of homeopathic practice and remedies.  To address the current funding crisis, the NHS has announced that a number of remedies which are either ineffective, frankly dangerous or both will no longer be available.  Homeopathy is one of them and rightly so.   No doubt some, perhaps Prince Charles a strong advocate for homeopathy, will protest that this move will adversely affect the health of the nation but they will be in the minority and frankly, if they really believe this, then it is they who need therapy.

Some year back I was forced to seriously consider the formation of a new professional body Pharmacists for Science with a single aim of promoting science among colleagues.  Like Vicars for God, Police for the Law and Teachers for Education there should be no need for such a professional grouping but given the passion for the promotion of rubbish remedies such as homeopathy I really feared that pharmacy was in serious danger of losing science as the bedrock for the profession.

At that time a London based pharmacy was supplying homoeopathic Swine Flu Formula but it was the complete failure of government agencies to regulate effectively in this case that was of greatest concern.  This was frankly a dangerous practice but regulators struggled to close it down.     Other examples included homoeopathic remedies for mental block; the Berlin Wall in C30 dilutions.  The logic seemed to be that the blockade of Berlin was overcome by the fall of the wall therefore a dilution of the wall (fallen down bits) might help to overcome mental and emotional blockades.

My discovery of these unsavoury episodes was quickly followed by the appearance of Paul Burnett, then the Superintendent of Boots the Chemists now CEO of the Pharmacy Professional body RPS in GB, in front of a parliamentary committee.  MPs were seeking an answer to the question why our cash strapped NHS was paying for homoeopathy. Paul stood firmly by homoeopathic remedies and his customers right to choose.  Customer choice it seems is paramount to Boots policies and principles. I would disagree; rather informed patient choice should be king and if pharmacists, pharmacy staff and shelf barkers fail to clearly inform customers in any pharmacy that homoeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebo then we act, in my view, unethically.

Indeed Boots, perhaps alarmed by a number of protests outside stores, got the message and their websites now reflects a better, more scientific approach to homeopathy stating that the practice is poorly regulated and there is no evidence of efficacy beyond a placebo effect.   They also seem to have modified their range and offering of homeopathic remedies.

Homeopathic remedies are still sold in pharmacies only because they make a profit.  Homeopathy is just nonsense and it goes like this.  The first principle of homeopathy is what they call the law of similars...


Trumps Election Victory One year on Slugger O'Toole

A year ago, I took a little flak in a Slugger article for suggesting Trumps surprise victory in the 2016 election might not have been won fairly and squarely. It was pointed out that Trump scored a decisive victory by the Electoral College rules, and it is fair to say, (as he did), he would have fought the campaign differently had it depended on winning the popular vote. While the story as yet to fully unravel, we know much more now than we did a year ago.

To begin with, It has been shown that many electronic voting machines in the US are extremely vulnerable to hacking, so much so, some states are returning to paper ballots to protect the integrity of the democratic process.[i] No less a body than the National Security Agency said:

despite recent denials by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the NSA is convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.[ii]

So far, smoke but no fire, no one has been able to say X amount of votes were altered but if any hacking was done properly, it would be impossible to quantify it. What is clear and becoming clearer by the day, is that there were numerous meetings between members of the Trump Team and the Russian government before the election and that General Flynn, who was a senior member of the Trump team, has admitted lying to the FBI about such contacts, begging the obvious question, Why lie if there is nothing to hide?

Setting that aside, no one can accuse the Republican Party of not pulling out all the stops to win. In the states they control, voter suppression laws were introduced, supposedly to stop voter fraud, but in reality to make it more difficult for likely Democratic voters African-Americans, other minorities and young college students to actually vote. Taking North Carolina, a key battleground state as an example, concerns were raised that was exactly what the GOP was up. One Democrat declared a few days before the election:

To those in North Carolina, the pattern of purging voter rolls is reminiscent of efforts to curtail the black vote through strict voter ID laws struck down by a federal court earlier this year for targeting African Americans with almost surgical precision. The supreme court denied a request in August to reinstate the law.[iii]

Wisconsin, a traditionally Blue state, was a huge victory for Trump and perhaps the biggest surprise result of the election, but was Trump helped by the fact that 200,000 voters, again mostly likely-Democratic voters, were purged from the electoral register?[iv] As Trump won...


UK Labour leader receives peace prize amid media silence GMMuk Michael Aydinian

At a time when our standing in the world has plummeted, youd think the UK media would at least have something to say about Jeremy Corbyn being awarded an international peace prize? This was for a speech he made at the UN no less, arguing the case for disarmament & peace. How can it be? Time & again, we see Netanyahu

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