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Saturday, 18 November

01:48

The hypocrisy of the hard-right "taking us back to the 1970s" mob. AAV


We're all familiar with the endlessly recycled right-wing propaganda trope about how Labour are supposedly "taking us back to the 1970s" aren't we?

We're also well aware that the right-wing narrative that the 1970s was unrelentingly crap is an absolute myth, and that despite the oil shocks and the periods of industrial unrest it was a time of affordable housing, full employment, decent wages, rapidly improving social conditions, great music, train fares that cost less than just doing the trip by car, free university education, and the highest levels of social mobility the UK has ever seen.

We also know that stuff like facts and evidence don't matter a jot to the people who mindlessly regurgitate right-wing propaganda tropes as if they're visionary political insights rather than something they've just mindlessly absorbed from the right-wing gutter press.

It barely takes a puff of critical thinking skills to tear this "back to the 70s" trope to shreds, yet the mindless political rote learners just can't do it.

Just look at the headline policies in the Labour manifesto and consider these facts:

  • The rip-off private energy companies only formed after the privatisation of the National Grid in 1990 (long after the 1970s).
  • The shambolic Tory privatisation of the railways happened in 1994 (long after the 1970s).
  • The Royal Mail was only sold off at significantly below its true market value in 2013...

01:15

Critique of the Classical Theory of Education Crisis All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski

Glenn Rikowski

CRITIQUE OF THE CLASSICAL THEORY OF EDUCATION CRISIS

 

 

Glenn RikowskiVisiting Fellow, College of Social Science, University of Lincoln, UK

 

 

 

 

This is a paper prepared for the International Centre for Public Pedagogies (ICPuP), International Seminar for Public Pedagogies at the University of East London for 21st February 2018. See the post below for details.

The paper is now available on Academia, see: https://www.academia.edu/35164258/Critique_of_the_Classical_Theory_of_Education_Crisis

 

ABSTRACT

The Classical Theory of Education Crisis is the default theory utilised by educational theorists for understanding the constitution and explanation of education crises in contemporary society. Following a brief outline of the concept of crisis, and the histiography of the notion of education crisis from the Second World War to the neoliberal recession of 1980-82, there is a an outline of The Clas...

01:04

This week, Russian citizens have been arrested for displaying Nazi symbols, protesting in the presence of Putin and... intolerance towards Cossacks openDemocracy

Our partners at OVD-Info give us the latest on freedom of assembly and political detentions in Russia. 

OVD-Info report makes it to the top of Yandex's news aggregator, Russia's most popular search engine.

We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly. 

This week we report on how OVD-Info found its way to the top of the Yandex search engine, whats wrong with the charges against a defendant in the 26 March case, and how Russian police gather information from people who have been arrested.

We begin with the news

The FSB has opened a criminal investigation against Vyacheslav Maltsev, the leader of the Artpodgotovka movement, for organising a terrorist group. Despite this, Maltsev apparently has no problems at all. He recently stated that he has been given political asylum in an EU country.

Vyacheslav Maltsev. Source: Youtube. Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for preparing (non-existent) acts of terrorism in Crimea, has spent the past two weeks in solitary confinement. Sentsov had been moved to the White Bear prison...

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Friday, 17 November

23:50

"I'd like to hear an example of a country where Corbyn and McDonnell's ideas have worked" AAV


The bald man in the BBC Question Time audience demanded answers from the Labour shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, but he wasn't remotely interested in what she had to say, because he'd already diligently rote learned his political opinions from the right-wing media.

When he said "I'd like to hear an example of a country where Corbyn and McDonnell's ideas have worked" you might have imagined that he was interested in listening to the answer, but when Thornberry replied "most of central Europe" and when pressed to name specific countries she said "Germany" and "Sweden" he sneered derisively as if she was the delusional one.

Thornberry's response elicited cackling and sneering from the Tory tribailists in the BBC audience, but that just goes to show how these people have been led like sheep into believing that Jeremy Corbyn is some kind of terrifying left-wing extremist, rather than a centre-left democratic socialist who is proposing economic policies that are perfectly normal across Europe and the rest of the developed world.

Of course there is no country on Earth where a government has come to power and enacted absolutely everything in the Labour Party manifesto, but significant elements of Labour's economic policies are absolutely commonplace across the developed world.

One of Jeremy Corbyn's most prominent headline policies is the abolition of  tuition fees (which should more accurately be described as Aspiration Taxes) and making university education free. University education is free (or very low cost) across most of Europe, including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and let's not forget Scotland either. If Ger...

21:13

Frontpage 17th November openDemocracy

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21:08

Libya: damned if we do and damned if we dont openDemocracy

Given the complex attitudes towards foreign interventions in Libya, we need a clear strategy that stands up to local, regional, and international scrutiny.

Soldiers of the Libyan UN-backed government forces gather on a street in Aziziya, Warshaffana, Libya, on Nov. 10, 2017 hours after taking control of the largest military camp in the area. Picture by Hamza Turkia/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.Frustrated by the lack of media time given to local Libyan reactions to international actions, I have just finished a project funded by the Remote Control Project to interview a wide range of local stakeholders (including civil society activists, businessmen, officials, Islamist leaders, former ministers and former fighters) to elicit views on the less-well known but ongoing international military intervention in the Libyan conflict since the NATO campaign to topple Gadhafi ended in 2011.

The responses highlighted the damned if you do, damned if you dont dilemma faced by governments currently seeking to contain the spread of violent extremist groups in the country and protect their own security. On the one hand, foreign intervention has generally elicited a negative response in Libya, where pride in national sovereignty and mistrust of international intentions run deep. Then, on the other, there is a keen sense of abandonment following the ousting of Gaddafi when the international community left the country vulnerable to meddling by a wide range of local and regional actors.

How to resolve the conflict in Libya remains one of the most difficult and important questions facing policy-makers today. The country has been mired in crisis ever since the toppling of the former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadhafi in 2011. Beyond the humanitarian costs of the ongoing turmoil, the boost in available weapons has fuelled conflicts across the continent. Libyas proximity to Europe has also raised fears about ...

21:06

Nationalism needs the inspiration so desperately needed in these early days of that better nation. Slugger O'Toole

Aaron Murray, political researcher working in London. He is also on Twitter @aaronmurray87

Engraved on the Canongate wall of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood is a phrase Alasdair Gray described as inspiring but not boastful. Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation it reads. Widely attributed to Gray, it is the creation of Canadian poet Dennis Lee from his exploration of citizenship, Civil Eligies. In recent years it became a credo of the Scottish nationalist movement in advance of 2014s independence referendum.

The call encapsulates what inspired so many in the movement for an independent Scotland. Often branded as narrow-nationalists, the Yes movement was not without fault, but in its ranks were those who sought not just a different state, but a better nation. Even the most hardened unionist would find it difficult to critique the work which went into imagining a new Scotland. The case for independence was often branded idealistic and naive, but only because those behind the movement refused to limit their vision to a new passport and a more powerful parliament.

In Ireland the constitutional question is back in a way few could have foreseen even a decade ago. The hedgerow border, so irrelevant over the last two decades, is threatening to make a return and on a weekly basis we hear personal stories of how it could divide hinterlands, halt economic cooperation and ruin some lovely gardening if erected in its former guise.

High time, you would imagine, for the endeavour needed in the early days of that better nation. But nationalism in the north, where any debate on unity will ultimately be held, seems high on confidence, but bereft of ideas, filled with outrage but short on solutions and where flexibility and new coalitions are required, it tends to its old guard and die-hard believers.

At Augusts File an Phobail in Belfast Deputy Leader of Sinn Fein Mary Lou Mc Donald delivered a talk titled A United Ireland is inevitable. Inevitability is the descriptor of choice in nationalist circles. Content with organising the victory parade before securing qualification, proponents of unity are using language which is at best premature, at worst exclusionary and arrogant. What does talk of inevitability say to loyalist communities who fear the imposition of a united Ireland? It says little of a shared journey to a new Ireland which would protect all persuasions and cultures. It fails to recognise the body of work required to put flesh on the bones of the nebulous concept of Irish unity. And, ultimately, it sends a tacit message to believers to sit back and wait for the promised land without moderating their own views.

Within nationalism there are sporadic takes on persuading the majority of the citizens of the north who look sceptically at unity. Sinn Feins Matt Carthy wrote convincingly on the subject last year. Colum Ea...

20:09

The Holylands: a manifesto for urban renewal Slugger O'Toole

Emmet McDonough-Brown is an Alliance Party Councillor for Botanic.

Since my election in 2014, Ive devoted a fair bit of time and effort to the challenges faced by the Holylands and its community of settled residents. I wont rehearse the full and inglorious history of how we arrived here but the experiences that residents have endured are just awful.

I consider myself an optimist though (which is why I joined Alliance!) and it has always been my view that the issues are fixable. Heres my quick-fire set of proposals which, I feel, would improve the area and help restore it to an area of residential character:

1. Reduce the number of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

2. Re-introduce wardens

3. Make those responsible for anti-social behaviour fully accountable

4. Encourage Housing Associations to acquire homes and make them available for family use

5. Enforce bye-laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in public places

6. Police the area and implement fixed penalties for urination, disorderly behaviour, breach of the peace, etc.

7. Consider additional legislation to force the closure of pubs and off-sales to maintain public order

8. Support the residential core both financially and technically to re-assert its primacy

9. Use Landlord Registration to drive improvements in the quality of housing stock

10. Require universities and colleges to make on-site accommodation available

11. Invest strategically. Support projects which will build community and cohesion

This is not an exhaustive list and isnt presented in any particular order. The organisations and agencies which can assist (Belfast City Council, PSNI, QUB/UU/BMet, Housing Executive) have been too flat footed for too long. A step change is urgently needed.

Legislation and policy change doesnt happen overnight, I accept, but many of the issues relate to day to day decision making by statutory agencies. Police could target enforcement action tomorrow; the Council could support residents with resource tomorrow; and universities could part-fund a warden scheme tomorrow. Why dont they?

Landlords are often (fairly) singled out not only for contributing to the decline of the area but of extracting profit while doing so. Where is their sense of civic duty; if their tenants cause harm in the community, do they really think they can shirk responsibility? Some of the larger ones seek to actively frustrate efforts to improve the area. That cannot be right.

Its taken a long time to get this bad and will take time to improve. Im committed to playing my part. Can everyone else say the same?

19:00

Working for former masters in Madagascar: a win-win game for former slaves? openDemocracy

Workers and landowners in the Malagasy highlands see sharecropping as an arrangement where both benefit, but that only holds as long as the former masters benefit most.

Rice fields in Madagascar. Georgia Popplewell/flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Despite being formally illegal since the 1970s, sharecropping is one of the more common working agreements between landowners and their labourers in the highlands of Madagascar. Sharecropping agreements are often represented as a sort of win-win game by both landowners and tenants, particularly for rice cultivation, the main agricultural sector of the island. They have allowed otherwise landless families to install themselves in fertile regions for anywhere from a few years to several generations while keeping two-thirds of the production for themselves. At the same time, landowners, without moving a finger, obtain rice to satisfy domestic consumption or to resell, prevent others from illegally occupying their land, and maintain a strong emotional and economic link to the land of their ancestors (tanindrazana) and their family tombs, a crucial benefit if they have moved to urban areas.

Tenants must maintain the fields and provide their own fertiliser. They may occupy the local house of the landowners at no cost, and in the intercropping period plant crops other than rice. These help the land to regain its fertility and can provide sustenance or additional income for the family. In regions where labour is scarce and the landowners have other, more important sources of revenue such as a position in the government or a flourishing trade activity tenants furthermore can be relatively confident that they will not being evicted in the long run and that the landowners will look the other way if they keep slightly more than their share of the harvest.

Despite their benefits, sharecropping arrangements conceal a number of practices and representations that reinforce power structures and economic inequalities. This is particularly important in a post-slavery context such as that found in the Malagasy highlands, where slave ancestry is strongly stigmatised and the descendants of slaves continue to face persistent economic subordination. It is therefore crucial to consid...

11:43

Moment of truth for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island openDemocracy

Australia can end this human rights tragedy. Wherever they end up eventually, the Australian government needs to immediately bring these men to safety.

Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson interviewing Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island in September 2017. 2017 Human Rights Watch SYDNEY Since October 31, hundreds of men have barricaded themselves in an abandoned complex on a naval base where security forces have previously shot at and attacked them. Exhausted, with no power and no running water in the tropical heat, they stockpiled food, dug water wells, and collected rainwater in trash cans to drink. Now, they are dehydrated, starving, and scared.

These men are not in a war zone, though many of them have fled war in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. They are refugees and asylum seekers trapped on remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They are there because of Australias harsh refugee policies.  

The UN has described the situation as an "unfolding humanitarian emergency." On October 31, the Australian and PNG governments closed the regional processing center where these men have lived for the last four years. Other less-secure facilities are available in a town a 30-minute drive from their current location. But these men, refugees and asylum seekers, refused to leave, terrified by escalating violence against them by some local residents in the town and frustrated by the lack of a long-term solution to their predicament.

Since July 2013, male asylum seekers traveling by boat to Australia have been sent to Manus Island, while men, women and children have been sent to the isolated Pacific island nation of Nauru. As Paul Tyson wrote for openDemocracy, in real terms, it is the boat people themselves the Australian government has criminalized, dehumanized and demonized, and it is against them that Australian politicians on both sides of p...

10:51

Famine in Yemen finally reaches western headlines openDemocracy

While it is worth discussing whether the missile in the November 4 attack came from Iran in the first place, the outcome is unarguable. It has dramatically worsened an already abysmal situation.

lead People gather in the site of an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, on November 11, 2017. The Saudi-led coalition has been bombing northern Yemen for several days. Mohammed Mohammed/Press Association. All rights reserved. Yemen is finally making the headlines of mainstream media in UK. Why now? Since early this year, UN and other humanitarian agencies working in Yemen warned the world that the country is about to suffer an unprecedented famine. Earlier this was discussed alongside the expected famines in Africa.  In recent months little has been heard about any of them while the situation continued to deteriorate. 

At the outset, readers need to remember that the UNs 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan only intends to reach 7 million people with its emergency assistance, although it estimates that 21 million are in need: it is only hoping to reach one third of people needing help. This is partly due to the lack of funds: as of mid-November, 1.5 months before the end of the year, it had received only 57% of the funds required to reach this small percentage of desperate Yemenis.

When looking at UN and other humanitarian achievements, it is important to remember how many of the millions of Yemenis are not even targeted by assistance from the international community as a whole, which means us as Northern taxpayers, among others. 

Military failure leads to humanitarian war

With the exception of coalition forces taking control of Mokha port in the southern part of the Red Sea earlier this year, military stalemate prevails since September 2015. Throughout the period there has been limited ground fighting between  the Saleh-Huthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition whose ground forces include the Yemeni official army, various Salafi, Islahi and other militias variously supported by Sudanese and Emirati troops. Daily air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition get occasional publicity and have destroyed much infrastructure, including thousands of schools and medic...

09:55

Fox/Sky: more twists and turns openDemocracy

The 21st Century Fox bid to buy the 61% of Sky it doesnt own has provoked a formidable level of opposition. Will that count when push comes to shove?

lead Culture Secretary Karen Bradley in the House of Commons, explains she intends to refer 21st Century Fox's 11.7 billion bid for Sky to the competition regulator for further investigation, September 2017.Press Association image. All rights reserved.Who would want to be a media regulator? The whole idea of cross-media regulation is bedevilled by confusion. The 2002 Enterprise Act had built into it two separate definitions of sufficient plurality (the condition that needed to be protected to avoid a media merger being blocked): plurality of viewpoints in relation to newspapers, and plurality of ownership in relation to media enterprises (the legal definition of broadcasters).

Why was this? There was a simple explanation: newspapers regularly present viewpoints, but broadcasters are regulated in the UK, with providers of news and current affairs content required to observe due impartiality and due accuracy, under the terms of Ofcoms Broadcasting Code. They are not allowed to express their own views, except in very narrow circumstances (so the BBC is allowed to defend its funding mechanism on its own channels). It follows that, legally, there could not be a plurality of viewpoints in broadcasting. What is required is a sufficiency of the number of owners: a definition seen as a surrogate for plurality where viewpoints as such are banned.

As I will show later, this concept is a mirage, but that has not stopped Ofcom smuggling the phrase sufficient plurality of viewpoints in media enterprises into the assessment process for the Fox/Sky bid, with the CMA now following suit.

This week, the CMA has published a transcript of its first ex...

09:08

No more white saviors openDemocracy

Its time to let people lead their own movementsand support them in doing so.

The White savior: a person of privilege who picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good. YES! Illustration by Fran Murphy.

The time were living in requires an extraordinary understanding of who we are, what were working toward, and how to get there. As people committed to social justice in the time of Trump, we have a twofold challenge: resisting an administration that came into power through an election won on the dehumanization of marginalized people, while also being mindful not to reproduce the devastating hierarchies that mimic that power. So far, weve largely come up short.

A new book by Jordan Flaherty, "No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality," offers insight into how the practice of saviorism injures our movements and provides visions for an alternative and much-needed praxis.

Youre no doubt familiar with the White savior: a person of privilege picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good. As Flaherty explains, the savior mentality cannot exist without turning people into objects who need rescuing.

It is as old as conquest and as enduring as colonialism, he writes. As an activist and a journalist, Flaherty has witnessed firsthand the harms of saviorism and neatly lays out countless examples of its failureperhaps most poignantly when he writes about Brandon Darby. Flaherty cites numerous articles and other activists for his well-researched chapter about Darby, a man hes known for several years.

Darbys origin myth, as it were, begins in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when, Darby says, he rescued Robert King, a Black Panther who spent three decades in solitary confinement until his conviction was overturned in 2001. Darby, along with anarchist organizer scott crow, had taken a boat to Robert Kings house [and] faced down state troopers who got in his way. Shortly after, Darby became a leader in Common Ground, an anarchist-leaning volunteer group that brought thousands of young, mostly White volunteers to work on rebuilding New Orleans,  Flaherty writes.

What followed, as described in No More Heroes, is a case of disaster masculinity, a term coined by scholar Rachel Luft to describe the familiar practice in which charismatic men (often Whitebut not always) poise themselves to presumably lead a marginalized group to freedom. What ensues is destructive abuse and exploitation against the very p...

08:49

Lezing van Dick Gevers over anarchistische schrijver Octave Mirbeau Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam

Anarchistische Groep Amsterdam & Boekhandel Het Fort van Sjakoo Presenteren lezing over Octave Mirbeau De anarchist, vertaler en uitgever Dick Gevers geeft, ter gelegenheid van het 100e sterfjaar van de Franse anarchistische schrijver Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917), een lezing over het leven, werk en de ideen van deze intrigerende anarchist en schrijver. Als pamflettist, kunstcriticus, roman- en [...]

07:01

"Diversity, Ofcom and the BBC: the 1 billion gap" openDemocracy

Next year, will the BBC Chair Sir David Clementi get a grip on diversity and close the BBC's 1 billion diversity gap?

lead Screenshot: Sir David Clementi giving the keynote speech at the BBC/RTS Cambridge Convention, 2017. Youtube.In his I Have A Dream speech at the March on Washington1963, Martin Luther King declared that the American constitution was a promissory note that had been returned marked insufficient funds. For diversity, the BBC Charter has become a promissory note that has been returned marked insufficient commitment and inadequate regulation.

Two years ago, Sir Peter Bazalgette, then Chair of the Arts Council, told the Lords Communications Committee inquiry on the BBC:

The fundamental principle here should be that public money should be spent for the benefit of everybody, and the products of that public money programming, arts events, whatever they happen to be should draw on all the talents of the country, not only to reflect the country but to bring forward those people for their personal fulfilment as well.

Last year the new BBC Charter appeared to deliver this. It came with a new clause, Article 14 which had the word Diversity attached to it. Article 14 promised diversity in both internal and external supply of BBC output and services.  

BBC external supply amounts to 1 billion annually. Last year, 433 million was spent with the independent production sector, and hundreds of millions more with rights holders, performers, talent directors, production resources and musicians.

Ofcom has now announced its final plans for regulating the BBC and nothing is being done by Ofcom to hold the BBC to account for employment diversity in this 1 billion expenditure and there are no signs that the BBC Board is doing anything either.

Baffling

Ofcom specifically excluded the Diversity Article 14 from its consultation on BBC regulation. Equality experts remain baffled by this and Ofcom has never explained why.

Ofcom was reluctant to take on regulation of the BBC and it didnt want to get involved in regulatin...

06:27

(Re)imagining the future in Bolivia openDemocracy

Is popular and indigenous opposition to a popular indigenous government a sign of betrayal and disappointment, or is it more complicated?

open Movements
The openMovements series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.

lead Poster for the Encounter in the Times of Fragmentation, Cochabamba, Bolivia (taken from Facebook.

On June 8, in Cochabamba, Bolivias city of eternal spring, national and Latin American activists and intellectuals met to discuss a left-wing, anarchist, and environmentalist indigenous critique of president Evo Morales left-of-centre popular-indigenous government.

At the Encounter in Times of Fragmentation, Bolivian activists talked of being betrayed. The popular rebellion against neoliberal economic inequality and post-colonial racial discrimination, which brought the Morales-headed MAS[i] coalition to power, had been co-opted and fragmented in the name of governability and economic growth. The hope of autonomy and community self-determination had remained largely unfulfilled. Activists, the majority of whom were indigenous women, discussed how to regain their political autonomy and powers of self-determination, and thereby recover the possibility of the future they had imagined.

Social movements, even as there is an ongoing scholarly debate about their exact definition and their chances of success[ii], are about imagination and hope. Protest participants need to be able imagine a better future, and hope that they can achieve it. They are about making the future possible again.

Movement ac...

05:16

republicans are in the absurd position of locking everyone out of the agreed all-Ireland structure Slugger O'Toole

Still puzzled why we still have no governments nearly a year after Sinn Fein and the DUP agreed on a Programme for Government? Youre not alone. Despite the embarrassment of the Public Inquiry into RHI (the ostensible reason for the breakdown), the atmosphere is pretty docile.

The switch of focus to a bunch of issues, which as Newton Emerson points out in the Irish News under the Belfast Agreement, can only effectively be dealt with under devolved power:

there is still a Stormont-sized hole in the system. Far from honouring outstanding commitments, expecting BIIG (British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference) to pass an Irish language act over Stormonts head, for example, would be a fundamental breach. The agreement also states that BIIGs operation will involve no derogation from the sovereignty of either government.

The Stormont-shaped hole pops up elsewhere too, perhaps explaining why Sinn Fin has not mentioned the agreements other east-west structure. The British-Irish Council (BIC) comprises both governments, the devolved administrations and the crown dependencies.

Nor has Sinn Fin mentioned the only north-south structure, the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) and its cross-border bodies, because that would invite jeers about leaving the north without ministers.

Establishing a precursor to NSMC was the row that wrecked the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, damning us to 30 more years of violence. Unionists bitterly opposed its resurrection in 1998, yet now republicans are in the absurd position of locking everyone out of the agreed all-Ireland structure.

And this..

the other structures of the agreement deserve renewed attention.

As well as providing a general guarantee and safety valve on devolution, they are the perfect vehicles to address Brexit and border issues, which are set to put Stormont under years of further pressure.

The reason Brexit is so toxic to devolution is that all Stormont can do is argue about it most of the decisions required are outside its control. Customs, immigration, trade deals, international relations, the common travel area and border security remain vested in London, making BIIG rather than Stormont the agreed forum to discuss them.

East-west and north-south EU issues are specified in the agreement as the remit of BIC and NSMC respectively (which does not mean Brexit breaches the agreement, only that the issues will change.)

The inclusion of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands in BIC has sometimes made it seem less than serious. Suddenly, those territories special customs arrangements with the EU help make BIC relevant.

Drawing Stormont mi...

04:21

Why are the BBC ignoring the shocking death toll that comes with Tory austerity dogma? AAV


Just imagine the howls of outrage in the mainstream media if the British Medical Journal had published a study that showed that the policies of a Labour government had led to 120,000 deaths, which were described as "economic murder" by one of the study co-authors.

The British Medical Journal have published such a report, but the conclusion is that the excess 120,000 deaths are the result of massive ideologically driven Tory cuts to the NHS and social care system.

Co-author Professor Lawrence King of the Applied Health Research Unit at Cambridge University said that "it is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits it is bad economics, but good class politics". He added that the results of the study show that the Tories have overseen "a public health disaster" and claimed that "it is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder".

The report also suggests that without a significant increase in health spending there could be an additional 150,000 excess deaths between 2015 and 2020.

150,000 excess deaths is an awful lot of to imagine, so to put it into perspective, this report suggests that Tory austerity dogma comes with a death toll the equivalent of a September 11th 2001 scale terrorist attack every single month for five punishing years.

...

02:52

Making Britain Great Again in a different way openDemocracy

By thinking big and making connections, Labour can raise people and country.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn walks with Prime Minister Theresa May, as they carry wreaths during the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London. Dominic Lipinski/PA Images. All rights reserved.The minority Conservative government in Britain struggles on in disarray. It is unable to follow through on its election pledges, even borrowing some from the Labour opposition. All the while it is plagued with deep internal divisions over Brexit. It is not impossible that the government could fall at any time. In this parlous condition, the Conservatives find a semblance of unity in the terrifying prospect of Jeremy Corbyn, prime minister.

On current form, Labour would enter an election campaign as favourites to be the largest party. But to get an overall majority it would still need an unprecedented turnaround in voting intentions in Scotland. Two of the eight polls in the past six weeks put Labour level with the Conservatives and the others give them a lead of two-to-six points. This is at a time of remarkable chaos on the government benches, including the forced resignation of two cabinet ministers.

Most people, as Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report observes, scarcely follow political news. That explains in part why even recent upheavals have not had the effects that many pundits expect. But politicians can still help to chart a new direction that can inspire, and ingather fresh support. So what does Corbyns Labour Party need now to do? 

A big push

Several columns in this series have pointed to the issue of defence and security as being a problem for Labour (see, for example, "Corbyn's Labour: now look outwards" [16 June 2017], "...

01:33

Catalonia: a cry for understanding and recognition openDemocracy

In Catalonia, there has long been no other option: independence is the only remaining route to social justice after Spains dismissal of all attempts to dialogue over the years.

Traditional castellers (human towers) in front of a banner demanding freedom for the political prisoners at Vila de Grcia square in Barcelona. Jorge Sanz/PA Images. All rights reserved.On the 2nd of November, a Spanish judge sent the Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and seven cabinet ministers to prison without bail, using an outdated penal code from Spains Francoist regime. Extradition warrants were also issued for Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and several of his ministers, who are currently in Brussels. Once again, thousands of Catalans took to the streets day after day to demand freedom for our political prisoners and to denounce Spains abuses of power and misuse of the law, culminating in the mass demonstration last Saturday 11th of November which stretched across more than a kilometre of Barcelonas space.

With the same aims, a general strike took place all across Catalonia on Wednesday November 8th. Its novelty was the mass blocking of roads and railways, with particular focus on those leading to France and mainland Spain, in order to bring our outrage to the national and international attention with the hopes that, eventually, pressure is put on the Spanish government to stop its repressive tactics and to free the political prisoners. Abroad, it could falsely seem that the Catalan question only erupted on October 1st. However, understanding our political context is necessary in order to truly make sense of how we got where we are today and why did we declare independence unilaterally.

I regret that my protest is collapsing your transit, but your indifference is collapsing my country.

The history of repression in Catalonia is long, but our...

01:25

The invisible #MeToo: how anonymous testimony can help survivors of sexual abuse openDemocracy

A college campus project showed me how anonymity can give survivors critical freedom to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.

#MeToo protest in Paris. #MeToo protest against gender-based and sexual violence in Paris, October 2017. Photo: Somer/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.If you spent any time on social media recently, it would have been almost impossible to miss #MeToo. First created by black activist Tarana Burke in 2006, the hashtag resurfaced in the wake of sexual harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein.

#MeToo originally aimed to empower low-income women of colour who had experienced sexual violence. The hashtag identifies survivors of abuse who share their stories, and fosters solidarity by clearly letting others know: you are not alone.

It is a growing movement and a global phenomenon. #MeToo and related hashtags have been tweeted 1.7 million times in more than 85 countries. In France, theres #BalanceTonPorc. In Italy: #QuellaVoltaChe. In Latin America: #YoTambien.

#MeToo and related hashtags have been tweeted 1.7 million times in more than 85 countries.

Online media has enabled us to share stories that reach around the globe, and connect with others in creative and sometimes challenging ways. In the process, it is transforming solidarity movements for those who had previously been repeatedly and systematically silenced.

In the US, for three years I was an activist against sexual assault on college campuses. I spoke about bystander intervention strategies, reporting options for survivors...

00:03

Karelia: a story of autocracy and resistance openDemocracy

For years, Karelia was a last holdout for Russias liberal Yabloko party. But a series of arrests has seen its supporters drummed out of this northern province.

lead Petrozavodsk in the mist. Photo CC BY-SA 2.0: Mikhail Kryshen / Flickr. Some rights reserved.
At 52, Svetlana Chechil, a member of Russias liberal Yabloko party and the former head of a municipality in Russias northwestern Karelia Republic, was the oldest inmate in the womens ward of Penal Colony No. 9. Chechil was a sort of mother to the other inmates, teaching the younger women to knit, and tutting when they cursed.

In a case described by Yabloko as groundless, absurd and politically motivated, Chechil was convicted of official misconduct in April 2016. She was found guilty of or illegally turning two hectares of agricultural land into an area for holiday cabin development her former district covers the western shoreline of Lake Onega. Today, that land lies as fallow as its been for decades. New municipal head Alexey Luchin explains that because Chechil failed to go through proper channels to change the lands status, she was sentenced to a year and a half behind bars.

Chechils imprisonment is one in a growing number of instances of intimidation against the opposition in Karelia following the election of a Yabloko-backed mayor in the republics capital of Petrozavodsk in 2013. Until the crackdown, Karelia had one of the strongest branches of Yabloko in Russia

Opposition via Skype

Founded in 1993, Yabloko once stood at the forefront of Russias liberal opposition, but has seen its influence wane over the last 15 years. The party hasnt won a seat in the federal Duma since 2003, but remained influential in Karelia well into the last decade.

Everyone I spoke with attributes this holdout to a single figure: Svetlana Chechils cousin, Vasily Popov.

Since the 1990s Popov has been one of the main organisers of the opposition in my hometown, Petrozavodsk, a city of 270,000. Like his cousin Svetlana, Popov, 53, recently spent some time behind bars. But unlike Chechil, he has nothing but praise for the Spanish jails where he was held. The climate was favourable, the inmates friendly...

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Thursday, 16 November

23:51

The tragedy of the Venezuelan opposition openDemocracy

The opposition camp in Venezuela is more divided than ever. Yesterdays reasons for unity have now become reasons for breaking it up. And Chavismo is winning some breathing space. Espaol

Photo courtesy of Nueva Sociedad. This article is being published as part of the partnership between Nueva Sociedad and democraciaAbierta. You can read the original article here.

The regional elections of October 15 were a true catastrophe for the opposition in Venezuela. Few times in history has an electoral event had such overwhelming consequences: practically, the destruction of the loser nothing less. The Democratic Unity Table (MUD), the alliance of parties that, with some success, had been confronting Nicols Maduro, has dissolved and the parties that made it up, each with its own interpretation of what happened, have now regrouped into three large blocks which are more or less opposed to each other. The candidates who, until the day before the elections, had been well placed in the polls, are now blurred to the point that nobody seriously considers them as potential candidates for the forthcoming elections in 2018. And the opposition voters, who are still in a majority, have sunk into hopelessness and do not know if to give up and accommodate as best they can with the situation, or to find a way to move abroad.

How was this hecatomb possible? How is it that, after four months of protests that practically paralyzed the country, with a government disapproval  rate of about 80%, international condemnation and sanctions, the worst economic crisis in the history of the country and the possibility of a default in the very short term, Maduro can claim victory and such a huge one at that? 

The answer to these questions is key to understanding the changing Venezuelan situation and to extracting some useful lessons for political analysis. The way in which each side played their cards, with one side being able to gather its forces while the other dispersed theirs, the i...

The tragedy of the Venezuelan opposition openDemocracy

The opposition camp in Venezuela is more divided than ever. Yesterdays reasons for unity have now become reasons for breaking it up. And Chavismo is winning some breathing space. Espaol

Photo courtesy of Nueva Sociedad. This article is being published as part of the partnership between Nueva Sociedad and democraciaAbierta. You can read the original article here.

The regional elections of October 15 were a true catastrophe for the opposition in Venezuela. Few times in history has an electoral event had such overwhelming consequences: practically, the destruction of the loser nothing less. The Democratic Unity Table (MUD), the alliance of parties that, with some success, had been confronting Nicols Maduro, has dissolved and the parties that made it up, each with its own interpretation of what happened, have now regrouped into three large blocks which are more or less opposed to each other. The candidates who, until the day before the elections, had been well placed in the polls, are now blurred to the point that nobody seriously considers them as potential candidates for the forthcoming elections in 2018. And the opposition voters, who are still in a majority, have sunk into hopelessness and do not know if to give up and accommodate as best they can with the situation, or to find a way to move abroad.

How was this hecatomb possible? How is it that, after four months of protests that practically paralyzed the country, with a government disapproval  rate of about 80%, international condemnation and sanctions, the worst economic crisis in the history of the country and the possibility of a default in the very short term, Maduro can claim victory and such a huge one at that? 

The answer to these questions is key to understanding the changing Venezuelan situation and to extracting some useful lessons for political analysis. The way in which each side played their cards, with one side being able to gather its forces while the other dispersed theirs, the i...

23:38

Paradises of the earth: activism and film production openDemocracy

Hamza Hamouchene, producer of the groundbreaking web documentary Paradises of the Earth, talks about the reasons that led him to embark on this amazing project.

Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.Just a few years ago, it never crossed my mind that I would be a producer of a documentary film or a web video series in the context of my work as an activist around issues of extractivism, sovereignty on land and natural resources and environmental justice. I remember then when a friend was surprised by my reluctance to embrace the idea that I should be producing films/videos to further my political activism. Now, you can see that I have changed my mind and realised that videos and pictures can tell a story better than a thousand written words. This change came about when I met Nadir Bouhmouch, a Fanonian and committed filmmaker, whose brilliant work can be inscribed in the tradition of militant cinema that is centred on peoples struggles and issues of justice at the grassroots level.

Based on my experience working on the Maghreb/North Africa region, it has become a conviction of mine that progressive and radical work at a regional level is crucial and indispensable. There are strong historical ties between the people in this region where a uniting vision existed in the past and was promoted by progressive and important anti-colonial figures. Moreover, these countries are all facing an acute assault to open up to multinationals and imperialist capital, resulting in forms of resistance that tend to be similar.

It is for this reason that I am passionate about trying to link up the struggles and different communities and organisations affected by extractivism and neo-colonial plunder of land and resources. And what a better way than organising international solidarity caravans to sites of community resistance against different forms of dispossession?

Throughout my previous visits to sites of fossil-fuel and mining industries in the Maghreb, I saw pollution, environmental destruction, prevalence of various diseases, dispossession and under-development. It is possible to state that the poverty in these areas is related to the existence of significant natural resources. This is the paradox of ex...

Paradises of the earth: activism and film production openDemocracy

Hamza Hamouchene, producer of the groundbreaking web documentary Paradises of the Earth, talks about the reasons that led him to embark on this amazing project.

Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.Just a few years ago, it never crossed my mind that I would be a producer of a documentary film or a web video series in the context of my work as an activist around issues of extractivism, sovereignty on land and natural resources and environmental justice. I remember then when a friend was surprised by my reluctance to embrace the idea that I should be producing films/videos to further my political activism. Now, you can see that I have changed my mind and realised that videos and pictures can tell a story better than a thousand written words. This change came about when I met Nadir Bouhmouch, a Fanonian and committed filmmaker, whose brilliant work can be inscribed in the tradition of militant cinema that is centred on peoples struggles and issues of justice at the grassroots level.

Based on my experience working on the Maghreb/North Africa region, it has become a conviction of mine that progressive and radical work at a regional level is crucial and indispensable. There are strong historical ties between the people in this region where a uniting vision existed in the past and was promoted by progressive and important anti-colonial figures. Moreover, these countries are all facing an acute assault to open up to multinationals and imperialist capital, resulting in forms of resistance that tend to be similar.

It is for this reason that I am passionate about trying to link up the struggles and different communities and organisations affected by extractivism and neo-colonial plunder of land and resources. And what a better way than organising international solidarity caravans to sites of community resistance against different forms of dispossession?

Throughout my previous visits to sites of fossil-fuel and mining industries in the Maghreb, I saw pollution, environmental destruction, prevalence of various diseases, dispossession and under-development. It is possible to state that the poverty in these areas is related to the existence of significant natural resources. This is the paradox of ex...

23:28

Why did the Tories scrap Amendment 58? AAV


The ever deceptive Tories have continually tried to create the fiction that they have no intention of using Brexit as a Trojan Horse to launch ideologically driven attacks on workers' rights, consumer standards, equal rights legislation, environmental protections, animal welfare laws and the like.

On the evening of November 15th 2017 they proved these promises to be outright lies when they voted against Labour's amendment to add Clause 58 to the EU withdrawal bill.


All Clause 58 sought to do was prevent the Tory-DUP government from bypassing parliament in order to revoke EU derived workers' rights, equal rights, workplace safety legislation, consumer protections, and environmental standards (see image).

The amendment sought to ensure that if the government wants to revoke any of these rights and standards, they must submit legislation to parliament in order to do it, rather than just using Brexit as an excuse to scrap them on the sly with no democratic scrutiny whatever.

...

22:47

Gordon Brown: the ghost in the machine openDemocracy

Who is Brown really trying to convince in this account of his life in politics? Perhaps ultimately, himself.

Image: Gordon Brown at Davos, 2009. WikiCommons.

Gordon Brown, like him or loath him, was a titan of a figure in British politics for close on two decades.

Browns call for understanding and redemption in his autobiography - My Life, Our Times- comes with much baggage. Including, it seems, for the author himself, who makes great show of suggesting he had be reluctantly dragged into writing it: For me, being conspicuously demonstrative is uncomfortable to the point where it has taken me years, despite the urging of friends, to turn to writing this book.

Gordon Browns life story could be gripping and compelling. It contains all the hallmarks of good drama. Here is a man gifted with rare talents and drive, who knew he wanted to serve. At an early age comes tragedy when he is deprived of eyesight in one eye. This does not stop the young Brown but only makes him more determined and resolute.

His inexorable rise to the top is captivating. A bright star in Scottish and British Labour from an early age, Brown makes a mark from the moment he is elected an MP in 1983, forms a partnership with Tony Blair, is central in the creation and success of New Labour. And then at the height of his power and persuasion, he allows it all to go horribly wrong. Despite everything, he eventually attains what he has long yearned for - to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and in so doing saves the world from calamity in the banking crash. And yet all the while a hunger, yearning and emptiness gnaw away at him.

Brown is a fascinating tour guide of all things related to Brown although not an entirely convincing and reliable one. He is, on first reading, a clear writer who appears to know how to present the key facts and analysis of complex, seemingly intractable problems. He is a voracious reader and writer of numerous books over more than forty years.

In the Brown account of his rise to the top however, there is no cri...

Gordon Brown: the ghost in the machine openDemocracy

Who is Brown really trying to convince in this account of his life in politics? Perhaps ultimately, himself.

Image: Gordon Brown at Davos, 2009. WikiCommons.

Gordon Brown, like him or loath him, was a titan of a figure in British politics for close on two decades.

Browns call for understanding and redemption in his autobiography - My Life, Our Times- comes with much baggage. Including, it seems, for the author himself, who makes great show of suggesting he had be reluctantly dragged into writing it: For me, being conspicuously demonstrative is uncomfortable to the point where it has taken me years, despite the urging of friends, to turn to writing this book.

Gordon Browns life story could be gripping and compelling. It contains all the hallmarks of good drama. Here is a man gifted with rare talents and drive, who knew he wanted to serve. At an early age comes tragedy when he is deprived of eyesight in one eye. This does not stop the young Brown but only makes him more determined and resolute.

His inexorable rise to the top is captivating. A bright star in Scottish and British Labour from an early age, Brown makes a mark from the moment he is elected an MP in 1983, forms a partnership with Tony Blair, is central in the creation and success of New Labour. And then at the height of his power and persuasion, he allows it all to go horribly wrong. Despite everything, he eventually attains what he has long yearned for - to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and in so doing saves the world from calamity in the banking crash. And yet all the while a hunger, yearning and emptiness gnaw away at him.

Brown is a fascinating tour guide of all things related to Brown although not an entirely convincing and reliable one. He is, on first reading, a clear writer who appears to know how to present the key facts and analysis of complex, seemingly intractable problems. He is a voracious reader and writer of numerous books over more than forty years.

In the Brown account of his rise to the top however, there is no cri...

22:12

What do Britain and Greece have in common? AAV


The mainstream media rarely draw attention to the ongoing collapse in the value of UK workers wages.

They rarely bother to explain that the real terms value of workers' wages are lower than they were 10 years ago, and that this decline is set to continue into the 2020s.

They rarely bother to explain that the percentage of people living in poverty despite being in working families has been soaring.


And they steadfastly ignore the fact that the only country in the developed world that has suffered a comparably severe collapse in the value of workers' wages is crisis-stricken Greece.

To hear Tories scaremongering that the UK could end up like Greece if the public don't re-elect the Tory party is utterly laughable. Wealthy Tory MPs and their cheerleaders in the right-wing press may be financially insulated from the dire consequences of their austerity wealth transfer con but ordinary working people certainly aren't.

Judged by the collapse in the value of our wages, the UK has already ended up like Greece in the experience of ordinary working people.

We all know that prices have been rising way faster than wages. 


We've all seen people we know struggling on exploitative zero hours contracts, and fake self-employment scams in the gig economy. 

...

21:59

The reception for the Loughinisland documentary No Stone Unturned shows that legacy issues will stay marginalised Slugger O'Toole

The low key reception given to the documentary No Stone Unturned, the film documentary on the UVF  murders  of six  randomly selected Catholics in their local Loughinisland  pub in 1994 which is currently being  given a brief screening at the Queens Film Theatre, is the latest example of how presumed familiarity with the underlying problems of  Northern Ireland has produced if not quite contempt, at least widespread deadening  indifference.

Warm congratulations nevertheless go to The Detail team especially their reporter Barry McCaffrey who cooperated closely with the filmmaker Alex Gibney to produce a convincing piece which is low on rhetoric and trails no political coat.  But the essential collaborators were the Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire and his team who  in a powerful report last year exposed the extent of collusion,  and an RUC detective who described  vividly how he was  thwarted by the Special Branch from pursuing  inquiries with those who always were and remain the suspects.  When the identity of an anonymous written confession obtained by McCaffrey was revealed, it allowed the films producers to begin to match names to the anonymised identities of Maguires 2016 report which quashed the whitewash that was his predecessors account.

The focus of the documentary expands from the Loughinisland findings of protecting one of the killers who was a police informer to the  notorious Glenanne Gang and thence to the widest claims of collusion between the authorities and loyalist paramilitaries.

The linkage to the top is plausible but so far unproven. What is discredited is the  bad apple theory which blames only  errant police officers for the murder of innocent Catholics up to 70 the film said, taking place after the Loughinisland killings of 1994.

And there the matter rests, with whatever effect on the peace process. As the BBCs great investigator John Ware asked in the film: what did the tangled web that was collusion actually gain?  Did it become simply a deadly habit?

Following the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, police reform was one of the...

20:52

Frontpage 16th Nov openDemocracy

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Why Poland is on fire
openDemocracy.net - free thinking for the world
Image Caption: 
The place in Warsaw where Piotr Szczsny set himself on fire. Wikicommons/ Mateusz Opasiski. Some rights reserved.

Frontpage 16th Nov openDemocracy

OD
Show on Front Page: 
Show on Front Page
Landscape
Hide in waterfall: 
Do not include in section waterfall ?
Why Poland is on fire
openDemocracy.net - free thinking for the world
Image Caption: 
The place in Warsaw where Piotr Szczsny set himself on fire. Wikicommons/ Mateusz Opasiski. Some rights reserved.

20:25

Prescription drug deaths. Do we not care because most of the victims are poor? Slugger O'Toole

This weeks BBC Spotlight on prescription drug addiction made for grim viewing. We have covered prescription drug abuse before but when you see the faces of the victims and their distraught families it really brings the scale of the issue home to you. There was the mother who can look out her bedroom window and see the grave of her son. The father who was just numb with grief. The mother who had converted her living room into a mini shrine for her dead son.

So far this year in Belfast alone there have been 37 prescription drug deaths, most of them in North Belfast. While it is an issue across Northern Ireland it does seem to be largely affecting young men in working-class areas. That this is the same group that is also most affected by suicide does seem to be a cruel double whammy.

Campbell College hit the headlines a few months ago when some pupils were suspended for smoking cannabis. If God forbid pupils at Campbell College or any of our Grammar schools started dying from drug overdoses you get the feeling that the response from the great and the good would be more substantial.

With prescription drugs, there has always been an element of them being a chemical cosh for the poor. Mothers little helper and all that. We cant remove people from poverty, so all we can do is dope them up.

The most depressing thing about the situation is we act like these issues are impossible to solve; we shrug our shoulders and move on. The BBC had an interesting video about how Iceland reduced its teenage drink and drug abuse levels. The percentage of 15-16 year-olds getting drunk was reduced from 42% to 5%, a staggering reduction. The video is only 3 minutes and well worth a watch.

If there is the will we can fix a lot of these societal issues. But unfortunately, our concerns seem to be elsewhere.

19:40

For Westminster, Northern Ireland still isnt a priority. Slugger O'Toole

Patrick Thompson is a postgraduate student at Queens University, specialising in Northern Irish and Labour politics

Last week a strange piece appeared on the news agency Bloombergs website about the Irish dimension of Britains decision to leave the EU. It was titled Irish Border Throws Unexpected Hurdle to Brexit. The notion that there is an open question around what Brexit means for the UKs only land border isnt groundbreaking. But the idea that this is a surprise most definitely is. Either they havent been paying attention or someone needs to talk to the editors at Bloomberg about the meaning of the word unexpected.

Headlines aside, there has been plentiful coverage on the island of Ireland about what Brexit will mean for the border between the North and the Republic. In short, no one knows. However it has become apparent that the government in Westminster is only just waking up to existence of the border question.

From talk of high tech solutions recent inflammatory comments from a Tory MP that there should be no surrender on the border, the governments approach swings between the ridiculous and the dangerous. A Hard Border is undesirable, but there has been precious little discussion of how to avoid it. Can a special status be secured for Northern Ireland? How will travel and trade between the North and the rest of the UK work? Could customs checks be applied at British ports but not at the Irish border? Questions such as these are barely being asked by politicians, let alone answered and it has come as a shock that the government of the Republic also have a stake in the border. Even without the Souths political investment in the EU project and ability to veto any potential deal, the idea that the Dublin government, and the people who elected them, dont have a important stake in the border is absurd. Yet we find British MPs angry that the Taoiseach is willing to intervene.

The practicalities of administering a new border that is geographically inconsistent are complex. Talk of automated cameras on roads to track border crossings ignore the reality. This is a frontier that is crossed by rivers, gardens and even peoples houses. One that even at the height of British military presence in the North, could not be entirely secured. It has always been porous. Unlike many of the nations in mainland Europe, the UK has little experience dealing with land borders and should the threatened no deal Brexit occur, there will be chaos.

At the same time, James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has spent much of 2017 in negotiations to restart power sharing at Stormont. The latest in a series of political lightweights to hold the role, Brokenshire has overseen months of deadlock as deadline after deadline has p...

19:00

The problem of working for someone: debt, dependence and labour exploitation in Chad openDemocracy

Precolonial elites used to enslave the farmers of rural Chad, now they hold them in debt bondage. How much has changed, how much has not?

Women sowing okra in Chad. alina/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Exploitation in the agricultural sector usually results from the subordinate position of workers engaged as farmhands or sharecroppers. Their weak bargaining position vis--vis land owners prevents them from fighting back against low salaries or unequally shared harvest revenues. This does not mean, however, that a farmer is secure when he owns the land he farms. He is not. Small farmers dependence on agricultural cycles force them to borrow money to buy inputs at the beginning of the seeding season and, consequently, to quickly sell the crops after the harvest when the prices are lower to repay the debt. This dynamic has been described in various African contexts where small farmers are engaged, with urging from the state, in farming cash crops like cocoa or coffee.

In this article I want to tackle a case where the weakness of farmers towards traders puts them in positions of extreme exploitation, namely the debt contracted by farmers producing cereals in the Gura region of central Chad. Here farmers are pressed to take loans from the traders of their main crop, often at such high interest rates that they become locked into debt and obliged to give most if not all the harvest away to service that debt. In this situation, the farmer maintains ownership over the land he farms but loses control of its products.

Cereal harvest and debt in central Chad

The Gura region is a mountainous area in central Chad that has been inhabited by scattered groups of non-Muslim farmers for centuries. The target of slavers raids in former times, the people of the Gura region were brought under the protection of the colonial government in the first decade of the twentieth century, only to then be forced to farm the land to pay for a new head tax. This crafted a new economic system where precolonial elites took control of trade, extracting surplus from agricultural production by putting local small holder farmers in debt to them.

This dynamic is reported across the Sahel in locations where the climate and agriculture cycle lend themselves to millet and...

Climate migration will only be a crisis if we make it into one openDemocracy

Migration caused by climate change doesnt have to be a crisis. In fact, with the right planning, migration can become a powerful form of climate adaptation. 

Tilling soil in Senegal. IFPRI -IMAGES/Flickr. CC (by-nc-nd)

Last year 23 million people were displaced by extreme weather. As climate change alters the atmosphere, we can expect this kind of human displacement to increase. The displacement of people is now fundamentally linked to climate change.

It is therefore right that the international climate change negotiations happening this week look at this kind of displacement. However it would be a mistake to think that the climate negotiations can fix climate-linked migration and displacement. Or even to think that climate-linked migration is something that needs to be fixed.

Migration as climate adaptation

A new way of thinking about climate change and migration has emerged recently that attempts to harness the power of migration as a way of coping with climate change. Conventional ways of looking at climate-linked migration see it as an apocalyptic problem. News coverage often focuses on the numbers of climate refugees who may be on the move.

However human movement does not have to be chaotic or problematic. Millions of people across the world are currently migrants. It may be that migration will also become a key way for some people to adapt to the worst impacts of climate change. This is very different to conventional adaptation projects, which usually focus on helping people adapt where they are now.

Migration as adaptation aims to help people move in an organised and dignified way to somewhere safer. This could potentially happen in a number of ways for example by helping people finance their move, or by providing education and training to help them find work in new places. And by building infrastructure like decent...

'White slavery': the origins of the anti-trafficking movement openDemocracy

A nineteenth century drive to protect the morality of white women created the concept of human trafficking, and its legacies live on in border control systems and slavery-based campaigning.

Kendra Miller/flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN Trafficking Protocol), adopted in 2000, is often credited with the first international definition of human trafficking and with marking the beginning of the regulation of trafficking in persons, both in the domestic and international spheres. History shows us otherwise. The foundation of modern anti-trafficking legislation in England was created during the years of 1885 and 1912 through a series of legal interventions in both the domestic and international spheres. The legacies of those laws are still present.

The dominant white slavery discourse at the turn of nineteenth century was largely constructed around the crude juxtaposition of dangerous, foreign men and innocent, white women. The similarities with modern-day anti-trafficking rhetoric are striking. Both narratives, particularly in popular culture and the media, toy with details of innocence and ruin of the victim, coupled with the demonisation of foreign men. Anxieties about race, nationality, and immigration underpinned much of the debate on trafficking. Indeed, the racially neutral term 'traffic' only replaced 'white slavery' in international law in 1921, with the League of Nations International Convention to Combat the Traffic in Women and Children.

From white slavery to trafficking

In England, the campaigns against white slavery culminated in a rally in Hyde Park, London, in August 1885, when tens of thousands of people demanded that white slavery be outlawed and the age of consent for girls be raised. The measure that was adopted first was the Criminal Law Amendment Act (CLAA) 1885.

The CLAA 1885 was significant for creating a definition of a trafficked girl the involuntary prostitute.1 It made it an offence to procure any girl or woman under twenty-one years of age, not being a common prostitute, or of known immoral character,...

The problem of working for someone: debt, dependence and labour exploitation in Chad openDemocracy

Precolonial elites used to enslave the farmers of rural Chad, now they hold them in debt bondage. How much has changed, how much has not?

Women sowing okra in Chad. alina/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Exploitation in the agricultural sector usually results from the subordinate position of workers engaged as farmhands or sharecroppers. Their weak bargaining position vis--vis land owners prevents them from fighting back against low salaries or unequally shared harvest revenues. This does not mean, however, that a farmer is secure when he owns the land he farms. He is not. Small farmers dependence on agricultural cycles force them to borrow money to buy inputs at the beginning of the seeding season and, consequently, to quickly sell the crops after the harvest when the prices are lower to repay the debt. This dynamic has been described in various African contexts where small farmers are engaged, with urging from the state, in farming cash crops like cocoa or coffee.

In this article I want to tackle a case where the weakness of farmers towards traders puts them in positions of extreme exploitation, namely the debt contracted by farmers producing cereals in the Gura region of central Chad. Here farmers are pressed to take loans from the traders of their main crop, often at such high interest rates that they become locked into debt and obliged to give most if not all the harvest away to service that debt. In this situation, the farmer maintains ownership over the land he farms but loses control of its products.

Cereal harvest and debt in central Chad

The Gura region is a mountainous area in central Chad that has been inhabited by scattered groups of non-Muslim farmers for centuries. The target of slavers raids in former times, the people of the Gura region were brought under the protection of the colonial government in the first decade of the twentieth century, only to then be forced to farm the land to pay for a new head tax. This crafted a new economic system where precolonial elites took control of trade, extracting surplus from agricultural production by putting local small holder farmers in debt to them.

This dynamic is reported across the Sahel in locations where the climate and agriculture cycle lend themselves to millet and...

Climate migration will only be a crisis if we make it into one openDemocracy

Migration caused by climate change doesnt have to be a crisis. In fact, with the right planning, migration can become a powerful form of climate adaptation. 

Tilling soil in Senegal. IFPRI -IMAGES/Flickr. CC (by-nc-nd)

Last year 23 million people were displaced by extreme weather. As climate change alters the atmosphere, we can expect this kind of human displacement to increase. The displacement of people is now fundamentally linked to climate change.

It is therefore right that the international climate change negotiations happening this week look at this kind of displacement. However it would be a mistake to think that the climate negotiations can fix climate-linked migration and displacement. Or even to think that climate-linked migration is something that needs to be fixed.

Migration as climate adaptation

A new way of thinking about climate change and migration has emerged recently that attempts to harness the power of migration as a way of coping with climate change. Conventional ways of looking at climate-linked migration see it as an apocalyptic problem. News coverage often focuses on the numbers of climate refugees who may be on the move.

However human movement does not have to be chaotic or problematic. Millions of people across the world are currently migrants. It may be that migration will also become a key way for some people to adapt to the worst impacts of climate change. This is very different to conventional adaptation projects, which usually focus on helping people adapt where they are now.

Migration as adaptation aims to help people move in an organised and dignified way to somewhere safer. This could potentially happen in a number of ways for example by helping people finance their move, or by providing education and training to help them find work in new places. And by building infrastructure like decent...

'White slavery': the origins of the anti-trafficking movement openDemocracy

A nineteenth century drive to protect the morality of white women created the concept of human trafficking, and its legacies live on in border control systems and slavery-based campaigning.

Kendra Miller/flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (UN Trafficking Protocol), adopted in 2000, is often credited with the first international definition of human trafficking and with marking the beginning of the regulation of trafficking in persons, both in the domestic and international spheres. History shows us otherwise. The foundation of modern anti-trafficking legislation in England was created during the years of 1885 and 1912 through a series of legal interventions in both the domestic and international spheres. The legacies of those laws are still present.

The dominant white slavery discourse at the turn of nineteenth century was largely constructed around the crude juxtaposition of dangerous, foreign men and innocent, white women. The similarities with modern-day anti-trafficking rhetoric are striking. Both narratives, particularly in popular culture and the media, toy with details of innocence and ruin of the victim, coupled with the demonisation of foreign men. Anxieties about race, nationality, and immigration underpinned much of the debate on trafficking. Indeed, the racially neutral term 'traffic' only replaced 'white slavery' in international law in 1921, with the League of Nations International Convention to Combat the Traffic in Women and Children.

From white slavery to trafficking

In England, the campaigns against white slavery culminated in a rally in Hyde Park, London, in August 1885, when tens of thousands of people demanded that white slavery be outlawed and the age of consent for girls be raised. The measure that was adopted first was the Criminal Law Amendment Act (CLAA) 1885.

The CLAA 1885 was significant for creating a definition of a trafficked girl the involuntary prostitute.1 It made it an offence to procure any girl or woman under twenty-one years of age, not being a common prostitute, or of known immoral character,...

10:22

Western countries are more secure without nuclear arms openDemocracy

NATOs current nuclear strategy is untenable. Crises during the Cold War reveal that nuclear strategies become dangerous exactly in the circumstances they are intended to deter, in political confrontations.

lead The Soviet statue at the UN in New York of St. George slaying the dragon, a powerful statement on the potential for agreement on nuclear disarmament. The dragon is made of parts from the scrapped Soviet and US intermediate nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant. Is the wests own example more persuasive than admonitions and threats? To me, this is the missing question in the ominous brinkmanship over North Koreas nuclear arms threats and looming crisis over Irans nuclear options, should the nuclear agreement crumble under pressure.

If we think nuclear arms are our ultimate assurance of security, why shouldnt other countries think the same? A critical look at the role of these doomsday weapons in western defense strategy is now imperative.

This year three events should call our attention to the question: are we more secure with or without nuclear arms?

How my journey into the heart of communism made me a strong believer

Stanislav Petrovs death this year reminds me of my first real job as a Visiting Lecturer from Norway at the University of Greifswald in the academic year of 1980 81, under the just recently signed cultural exchange treaty between our two countries, Norway and East Germany.

My journey into the heart of Communist Germany, not long after Timothy Garton Ash,[1] was considered daring at the time. This was when Reagan became President, Angela Merkel was a budding physicist and dissenter somewhere else in East Germany, and just a few years before Putin had been posted to the Dresden KGB branch office. Stanislav Petrov was an officer in the Soviet Strategic Missile Force where a few years later, he was to save the world from nuclear war by deliberately misreading some instructions.

Although not that far away, East Germany in 1980-81 was practically terra incognita. Consequently, I returned home an expert I thought, confident that I had uncovered...

Western countries are more secure without nuclear arms openDemocracy

NATOs current nuclear strategy is untenable. Crises during the Cold War reveal that nuclear strategies become dangerous exactly in the circumstances they are intended to deter, in political confrontations.

lead The Soviet statue at the UN in New York of St. George slaying the dragon, a powerful statement on the potential for agreement on nuclear disarmament. The dragon is made of parts from the scrapped Soviet and US intermediate nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant. Is the wests own example more persuasive than admonitions and threats? To me, this is the missing question in the ominous brinkmanship over North Koreas nuclear arms threats and looming crisis over Irans nuclear options, should the nuclear agreement crumble under pressure.

If we think nuclear arms are our ultimate assurance of security, why shouldnt other countries think the same? A critical look at the role of these doomsday weapons in western defense strategy is now imperative.

This year three events should call our attention to the question: are we more secure with or without nuclear arms?

How my journey into the heart of communism made me a strong believer

Stanislav Petrovs death this year reminds me of my first real job as a Visiting Lecturer from Norway at the University of Greifswald in the academic year of 1980 81, under the just recently signed cultural exchange treaty between our two countries, Norway and East Germany.

My journey into the heart of Communist Germany, not long after Timothy Garton Ash,[1] was considered daring at the time. This was when Reagan became President, Angela Merkel was a budding physicist and dissenter somewhere else in East Germany, and just a few years before Putin had been posted to the Dresden KGB branch office. Stanislav Petrov was an officer in the Soviet Strategic Missile Force where a few years later, he was to save the world from nuclear war by deliberately misreading some instructions.

Although not that far away, East Germany in 1980-81 was practically terra incognita. Consequently, I returned home an expert I thought, confident that I had uncovered...

09:38

Sinn Fin policy decision has implications for abortion referendum process Slugger O'Toole

The Sinn Fin Clr for their 2017 Ard Fheis has been released with details of 171 motions for delegates to debate and vote on.

Many of the motions will pass uncontested but how Motions 144 to 151 are voted on will decide how the party approaches what will be one of the main political issues for Ireland in 2018 abortion.

Two of the motions call for Sinn Fin elected representatives and Sinn Fin members respectively to be allowed to vote according to their conscience. Another motion calls for the eighth amendment of the constitution to be retained. Similar motions have been comfortably defeated in previous years and this will be expected again on Saturday.

The motion from the Ard Chomhairle is significant in that it advocates abortion where a womans health is at serious risk. It also reasserts the partys opposition to the criminalisation of women who decide to have an abortion.

This has the potential, if implemented, to take the abortion issue away from the courts and hand it to health practitioners. It would firmly frame abortion as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

However a number of delegates wish to see the party go further. Other motions up for debate propose basing party policy on the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly which advocated allowing abortions for the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.

The Ard Fheis motions and the partys position on abortion takes on a fresh importance as the Eighth Amendment Committee are due to conclude their work within the next few weeks.

Those that wish to see the party take a more pro-choice stance, that have increased significantly in number in recent years, are concerned that the party TDs and Senators could be placed in a position where they have to vote against the holding of a referendum or dilute the substance of any proposed ballot.

As recent polls indicate public opinion on abortion is shifting both north and south. Sinn Fin wont be the only party that will be reviewing its policy for the future

07:28

Khazarian mob takedown: Hundreds of Saudi arrests followed by hundreds of U.S. arrests GMMuk Michael Aydinian

I rarely receive accusations of being a doom & gloom merchant & frankly it surprises me. Of course Im not. Its not my fault were ruled by unbelievably greedy, paedophile loving, war-mongering liars. I merely tell it how it is & I cant help but feel were in the khazi. However, today Elaine Kauai sent me an article by Benjamin

06:55

Going back to Zimbabwe Slugger O'Toole

The drive way was exactly as I remembered albeit a bit overgrown. There was a hut by the gate and a woman emerged, rubbing her eyes. It was the holidays but the dilapidated buildings gave the impression the school had been closed for many years. The driver spoke to her in Shona, gesturing at me she used to be a student here and wants to have a look. She looked at me suspiciously and the gate was opened.

We drove slowly, past the swimming pool now empty. Past the old sanatorium which now had weeds growing from the window. The swings had gone but the old tree which had claimed countless bones stood strong the only thing that had. The classrooms to the left were missing panes of glass. The driver parked at the roundabout and I walked to the old school hall. The doors were all closed bar one where the latch had worn and a sharp tug set it free. The red velvet curtains on the stage were stained and frayed, a hole in the ceiling directed a shaft of light on the floor once gleaming and polished was now covered in dust. The very same portrait of President Robert Mugabe hung at the back of the room and I remembered how we sang the national anthem every morning in this hall.

I remembered this place so well when a new phrase war veterans was introduced into our vocabulary, or being feverish with malaria, I could still smell the sweet flowers of the Jacaranda trees and feel the warm gravel burning under my feet. I remember nights in the dormitory when we whispered about boys from under our counterpanes and snuck out into the courtyard to gaze at the stars. I remembered the other nights when our whispers turned to worry fears of the future. The rumours and tension that had slowly eased their way into our integrated world unnoticed and with their arrival they took the last moments of our childhood.

Seventeen years since I left Zimbabwe and so much had changed. My parents had moved here so their children would grow up free from the shadows of troubles, they were inspired by the newly independent Zimbabwe. My mother (the daughter of anti-apartheid activists) was seduced by its proximity to South Africa and political hope. The road between Marondera and Harare had been a good, smooth one. The route we would take every few months to the city for a cinema trip and walk round the shiny Capitals shops, almost twenty years on and I recognised every acacia tree, every kopje.

Today the driver had zig-zagged across the road to avoid the potholes, stopping at the police blocks that regularly punctuated the road. The new Zimbabwe dollar was only recently back in circulation and the fine for not having a radio license, a fictional document, was issued in US dollars. As we drove off the driver explained he always pretended he had left his drivers license at home, once you handed it over to the police it would cost you to get it back. The police havent been paid he explained.

When...

05:49

Last week on OpenGlobalRights: climate change, womens health, and the dirt on clean energy openDemocracy

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated childrens and womens rights in relation to climate change, the value in watering down rights rhetoric, and false promises behind clean energy.

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, as part of our newly launched theme on climate change, Alice Thomas highlighted how children are bearing the brunt of climate change yet are being left out of climate negotiations. Leah Davidson continued this discussion with her article on the importance of intergenerational cooperation to combat the detrimental effects of climate change. In addition, Eniko Horvath and Christen Dobson noted that in new developments with supposedly clean renewable energy, human rights must take priority, while Hwei Mian Lim put forward a compelling argument on how climate change is putting womens health at risk. Lastly, Astrid Puentes Riao presented the case of Brazils Belo Monte dam as a tragic example of how not to produce clean energy.

We are also partnering with the University of Dayton Human Rights Center to discuss the social practice of human rights, and in this new series, Tony Talbott suggested that watering down human rights rhetoric could actually help strengthen human rights in some circumstances.

Sideboxes

Last week on OpenGlobalRights: climate change, womens health, and the dirt on clean energy openDemocracy

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated childrens and womens rights in relation to climate change, the value in watering down rights rhetoric, and false promises behind clean energy.

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, as part of our newly launched theme on climate change, Alice Thomas highlighted how children are bearing the brunt of climate change yet are being left out of climate negotiations. Leah Davidson continued this discussion with her article on the importance of intergenerational cooperation to combat the detrimental effects of climate change. In addition, Eniko Horvath and Christen Dobson noted that in new developments with supposedly clean renewable energy, human rights must take priority, while Hwei Mian Lim put forward a compelling argument on how climate change is putting womens health at risk. Lastly, Astrid Puentes Riao presented the case of Brazils Belo Monte dam as a tragic example of how not to produce clean energy.

We are also partnering with the University of Dayton Human Rights Center to discuss the social practice of human rights, and in this new series, Tony Talbott suggested that watering down human rights rhetoric could actually help strengthen human rights in some circumstances.

Sideboxes

02:18

The quiet battle for control of the internet openDemocracy

The recent and intensifying push by governments to promote a concept of digital sovereignty represents a real and rising threat to the internet as a force for good.

Wuzhen, May 23, 2017: Chinese Go player Ke Jie and other guests attend the opening ceremony of the Future of Go Summit before a match between him and Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang province, May 23, 2017. Xu Yu/PA Images. All rights reserved.Earlier this fall, on the morning of the 20th of September, Spanish police raided the offices of the organization in charge of managing the domain name commonly used by Catalonian websites, '.cat'. The ensuing seizure of the registrys computers, arrest of its director for sedition, and deletion of domains promoting the October 1st independence referendum sound like a scene from some dystopian cyberpunk future.

This heavy-handed instance of online censorship by Spanish police is part of a growing focus by governments on controlling the twenty-first centurys public square, the internet.

Most internet users today take for granted their ability to instantly retrieve information and communicate across an open and secure, globalized web. However, the internets structure is continually evolving and regularly contested. Just because the internet has so far operated in line with principles inherited from its original creators, emphasizing interoperability and free expression, does not mean it always must or will. 

Increased control of the internets global infrastructure by authoritarian state actors would, of course, lead to more fragmentation and more censorship. 

In fact, the recent and intensifying push by governments to promote the concept of digital sovereignty represents a real and rising threat to the internet as a force for good. 

China, the worlds most sophisticated online censor, will host the fourth iteration of its Wuzhen Summit this December. The Wuzhen Summit is Chinas attempt to create an alternative to the Internet Governance Forum (an annual multi-stakeholder forum for global policy dialogue on internet governance issues) that reflects it...

The quiet battle for control of the internet openDemocracy

The recent and intensifying push by governments to promote a concept of digital sovereignty represents a real and rising threat to the internet as a force for good.

Wuzhen, May 23, 2017: Chinese Go player Ke Jie and other guests attend the opening ceremony of the Future of Go Summit before a match between him and Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo in Wuzhen, east China's Zhejiang province, May 23, 2017. Xu Yu/PA Images. All rights reserved.Earlier this fall, on the morning of the 20th of September, Spanish police raided the offices of the organization in charge of managing the domain name commonly used by Catalonian websites, '.cat'. The ensuing seizure of the registrys computers, arrest of its director for sedition, and deletion of domains promoting the October 1st independence referendum sound like a scene from some dystopian cyberpunk future.

This heavy-handed instance of online censorship by Spanish police is part of a growing focus by governments on controlling the twenty-first centurys public square, the internet.

Most internet users today take for granted their ability to instantly retrieve information and communicate across an open and secure, globalized web. However, the internets structure is continually evolving and regularly contested. Just because the internet has so far operated in line with principles inherited from its original creators, emphasizing interoperability and free expression, does not mean it always must or will. 

Increased control of the internets global infrastructure by authoritarian state actors would, of course, lead to more fragmentation and more censorship. 

In fact, the recent and intensifying push by governments to promote the concept of digital sovereignty represents a real and rising threat to the internet as a force for good. 

China, the worlds most sophisticated online censor, will host the fourth iteration of its Wuzhen Summit this December. The Wuzhen Summit is Chinas attempt to create an alternative to the Internet Governance Forum (an annual multi-stakeholder forum for global policy dialogue on internet governance issues) that reflects it...

01:57

From the boat race to Azerbaijani jails - how dirty gas sells itself to elites openDemocracy

A new report exposes the network of lobbying and hypocrisy that risks locking Europe into decades of unnecessary fossil fuel expansion.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is at COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, talking about financing climate solutions.

Yet this week it is also facing mass protest over its possible multi-billion euro loan to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The pipeline would transport Azerbaijani gas from the Turkish-Greek border to the heel of Italy. The $4.5bn TAP is the last leg of the BP-led Euro-Caspian Mega-Pipeline, or Southern Gas Corridor as the industry calls it. The entire Euro-Caspian Mega-Pipeline costs $45bn and is mired in human rights abuses, corruption scandals and numerous illegalities - but its still going ahead.

New research from Corporate Europe Observatory exposes the web of lobbying and PR that has allowed the pipeline to to get this far, roping in prestigious London universities and top politicians along the way.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipelines shareholders include oil and gas majors BP and Azerbaijani state-owned SOCAR (1), along with gas pipeline builders and operators from Italy (Snam, 20%), Belgium (Fluxys, 19%), Spain (Enags, 16%) and Switzerland (Axpo, 5%).

But construction is being held up by communities along the pipeline whose livelihoods are being threatened. In Greece, farmers have been organising themselves through the courts and on the ground, while in Italy local communities have been physically putting themselves in the way of the diggers. The military has just locked down two local villages to ensure construction begins. In Azerbaijan, local activists and journalists opposing TAP and the entire Southern Gas Corridor have been thrown in jail on trumped up charges. Azeri President Aliyev has been keen to silence dissent and quash any hint his corrupt regime is rigging elections and violating human rights.

The recent Azerbaijani...

From the boat race to Azerbaijani jails: how dirty gas sells itself to elites openDemocracy

A new report exposes the network of lobbying and hypocrisy that risks locking Europe into decades of unnecessary fossil fuel expansion.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is at COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, talking about financing climate solutions.

Yet this week it is also facing mass protest over its possible multi-billion euro loan to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The pipeline would transport Azerbaijani gas from the Turkish-Greek border to the heel of Italy. The $4.5bn TAP is the last leg of the BP-led Euro-Caspian Mega-Pipeline, or Southern Gas Corridor as the industry calls it. The entire Euro-Caspian Mega-Pipeline costs $45bn and is mired in human rights abuses, corruption scandals and numerous illegalities - but its still going ahead.

New research from Corporate Europe Observatory exposes the web of lobbying and PR that has allowed the pipeline to to get this far, roping in prestigious London universities and top politicians along the way.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipelines shareholders include oil and gas majors BP and Azerbaijani state-owned SOCAR (1), along with gas pipeline builders and operators from Italy (Snam, 20%), Belgium (Fluxys, 19%), Spain (Enags, 16%) and Switzerland (Axpo, 5%).

But construction is being held up by communities along the pipeline whose livelihoods are being threatened. In Greece, farmers have been organising themselves through the courts and on the ground, while in Italy local communities have been physically putting themselves in the way of the diggers. The military has just locked down two local villages to ensure construction begins. In Azerbaijan, local activists and journalists opposing TAP and the entire Southern Gas Corridor have been thrown in jail on trumped up charges. Azeri President Aliyev has been keen to silence dissent and quash any hint his corrupt regime is rigging elections and violating human rights.

The recent Azerbaijani...

01:49

Video games and socio-political change: interview with Victor Fleurot (2084/) openDemocracy

Why not use a medium at the heart of technological changes to express critical ideas on socio-political developments?

lead Games for the Many 'a UK non-profit workers cooperative of games designers, developers and artists trying to make a difference, created the viral election game CorbynRun in 2017that reached over two million people.

Victor Fleurot, co-founder of 2084/ and the Civic Game Jam series, delivered a workshop on video games and socio-political change in the Transeuropa festival, which took place on 24-29 October in Madrid. In the festivals context of promoting pan-European processes of solidarity, participants in the workshop were able to plan the design of video games with a focus on activism and civic innovation using the new formats and interactive mechanisms offered by digital games.

Joan Pedro-Caraana (J.P-C.) Could you explain the main idea of the Civic Game Jam?

Victor Fleurot (VF): The Civic Game Jam brings together game developers and activists to make video games on social and political issues. The third edition will take place in Berlin on 18 November at the BTK University of Art and Design. We want to show that games can raise political awareness, challenge existing practices and open new channels for civic engagement.

J.P-C. What organisations are behind this initiative? Could you explain the process that led you to come together for this?

VF: The series is a joint initiative by visual activism platform 2084/, game community website Berlingamescene.com and the BTK University of Art and Design in Berlin. The dedicated team of ten volunteers also includes game designers, workshop facilitators, students and civic games enthusiasts.

We all share an interest in exploring video games as a medium for political narration and civic engagement. As it turned...

Video games and socio-political change: interview with Victor Fleurot (2084/) openDemocracy

Why not use a medium at the heart of technological changes to express critical ideas on socio-political developments?

lead Games for the Many 'a UK non-profit workers cooperative of games designers, developers and artists trying to make a difference, created the viral election game CorbynRun in 2017that reached over two million people.

Victor Fleurot, co-founder of 2084/ and the Civic Game Jam series, delivered a workshop on video games and socio-political change in the Transeuropa festival, which took place on 24-29 October in Madrid. In the festivals context of promoting pan-European processes of solidarity, participants in the workshop were able to plan the design of video games with a focus on activism and civic innovation using the new formats and interactive mechanisms offered by digital games.

Joan Pedro-Caraana (J.P-C.) Could you explain the main idea of the Civic Game Jam?

Victor Fleurot (VF): The Civic Game Jam brings together game developers and activists to make video games on social and political issues. The third edition will take place in Berlin on 18 November at the BTK University of Art and Design. We want to show that games can raise political awareness, challenge existing practices and open new channels for civic engagement.

J.P-C. What organisations are behind this initiative? Could you explain the process that led you to come together for this?

VF: The series is a joint initiative by visual activism platform 2084/, game community website Berlingamescene.com and the BTK University of Art and Design in Berlin. The dedicated team of ten volunteers also includes game designers, workshop facilitators, students and civic games enthusiasts.

We all share an interest in exploring video games as a medium for political narration and civic engagement. As it turned...

01:00

Navigating unsafe workplaces in Costa Ricas banana industry openDemocracy

Deeply rooted gender and class hierarchies mean that gender-based violence does not end at home - women are also vulnerable to workplace abuse.

Banana processing factory in Costa Rica. S. Rae/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

In 2015, I worked as a regular employee on two banana farms in Costa Rica for a year to collect ethnographic data on the work conditions in the banana sector. As a woman, I was tasked to work alongside other women, as per the rules of the farms. This type of involvement allowed me to form close bonds with the other women workers, with whom I shared experiences, work, meals and other aspects of my daily routine. The close proximity I shared with these women helped me understand the gender-specific dynamics of the Costa Rican banana industry and their broader implications.

Women working on Costa Rican banana farms are exposed to and suffer from different forms of exploitation, including sexual violence. Gender is an important factor shaping power relations on the shop floor, and this was particularly evident during my time at Cach Farm. My research also showed that, even when women are able to escape different forms of violence in their homes, they often end up encountering the same patterns of gender-based abuse in the workplace; hierarchies enabling the domination of men over women at home are thus reproduced at work. Gender often intersects with other forms of power, such as established hierarchies in the workplace. For instance, while female workers expressed being threatened by their male superiors, they did not experience abuse or harassment from their male co-workers, who occupied relatively similar positions of power.

Even when women are able to escape different forms of violence in their homes, they often end up encountering the same patterns of gender-based abuse in the workplace.

For context, violence against women is highly prevalent in Costa Rica. Between 2010 and 2017, 337 729 requests for various protection measures were made to the police an average of 132 requests every day, the majority...

00:41

MP demands answers on DUP Brexit funders fine openDemocracy

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP grilled the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on a secret fine charged to the DUP's dark-money Brexit funders.

An MP has today asked the government why the DUPs main Brexit funder was fined 6,000, after openDemocracys revelations on Saturday.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, the SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire, used Northern Ireland Questions to ask the Secretary of State James Brokenshire why the DUPs Brexit donors had been charged a record fine by the Electoral Commission. The secretive donors to the Tories' partners in government are protected from public scrutiny by Northern Irish secrecy laws.

Speaking in the chamber of the Commons, Docherty-Hughes said:

At the weekend, an investigation by openDemocracy revealed that the Constitutional Research Council an organisation with close ties to the Scottish Conservative Party had been given a record fine for failing to disclose the origin of the 425,000 donation to the DUP during the EU referendum.

Can the Secretary of State enlighten the House today as to why the Constitutional Research Council was given the fine in the first place?

On Saturday, openDemocracy published our research into a mysterious fine charged by the Electoral Commission to an unnamed regulated entity. Our investigations have found that the fine was issued to the DUPs controversial Brexit backers, the Constitutional Research Council, and that the only law it can have broken, given the size and nature of the fine, is of complying with rules requiring them to tell the Electoral Commission where their funding comes from.

Little is known about the Constitutional Research Council, other than that it is chaired by Richard Cook, who is former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives. openDemocracys previous investigations have shown that Cook founded a business in 2013 with the former head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service and a Danish man at the centre of a notorious Indian gun-running incident. 

On Friday, openDemocracy asked Cook himself whether his organisation was fined 6,000 for failing to disclose where it gets its money from. He declined to comment.

...

Wednesday, 15 November

23:56

A hyperlink to absurdity openDemocracy

The implementation of the Kremlins law on undesirable organisations is reaching farcical proportions.

Source: Facebook / Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice. All rights reserved.
We actually thought we had mopped up our website and got rid of those  undesirable  hyperlinks, but we missed one, Anya Sarang told me, chuckling ruefully. Sarang is the head of the Andrei Rylkov Foundation, a prominent Russian group working to advance responsible drug policy. This week, a court in Moscow fined the group 50,000 rubles (US$862) for involvement with an undesirable organisation. The charges stem from a 2011 hyperlink on the groups website to a publication on the website of the Open Society Foundations (OSF), which Russian authorities banned two years ago.

Russias 2015 law on undesirable organisations, authorizes the prosecutor generals office to ban from the country any foreign or international organization that it alleges undermines the countrys security, defense, or constitutional order.  OSF is one of the 11 organisations, mainly American donor institutions and capacity building groups, already blacklisted.

Once designated undesirable, an organisation can no longer carry out any activities in Russia. Moreover, the law provides for administrative and criminal penalties for Russian groups and citizens that cooperate with undesirables administrative fines for the first two violations, and then a maximum six-year prison sentence.

The law forbids Russian groups or individuals from accepting funding from undesirables, but otherwise does not specify what cooperation with an undesirable organisation may entail

The law forbids Russian groups or individuals from accepting funding from undesirables, but otherwise does not specify what cooperation with an undesirable organisation...

23:29

Poland on fire: voices from the provinces openDemocracy

There is a growing atmosphere of hatred in which anyone who opposes the current government is labeled the worst sort, or even Soviet murderers.

lead The place in Warsaw where Piotr Szczsny set himself on fire. Wikicommons/ Mateusz Opasiski. Some rights reserved.Thursday October, 19 at 16.30: An ordinary day, an ordinary man stands on the steps of the Warsaw Palace of Culture and Science. He is reading something through a megaphone to inattentive passers by. Just another protesting voice in the Polish capital. Except, once finished, this 54 year old man, who would become known for some time simply as Piotr S., then sets himself ablaze, performing an act of self-immolation to the sound of a song by Chopcy Placu Broni coming from a tape-recorder.

Freedom. I love and understand freedom. I dont know how to give it up On the ground lie strewn the pieces of paper from which he had been reading a manifesto outlining 15 points of protest against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). Ten days later, on October 29, he dies in hospital. It begins to sink in that this was a decisive, considered and dramatic political act. Where at first the media and politicians stay largely silent, following his death they now rush to assess his sanity, his past and his intentions.

All this he foresaw. He openly admitted that he struggled with depression for eight years but this was nothing to do with that, though he knew politicians would try to make it so. Depression does not equal derangement. So how should he be understood?

                                                        *   *   *

Piotr Szczsny, as his full name was revealed to be post-mortem, chemist, former youth Solidarity activist, and management trainer for NGOs, had on that grey ordinary day travelled up to Warsaw from his home in Niepoomic, a small town near Krakow in the South of Poland. 130km west, in a small town called Rybnik in U...

21:02

Manus Island and spiritual warfare openDemocracy

Things are not going to change for the better without some sort of national repentance and the casting off of our hideous idols.

lead lead Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Asia Engagement, Mr Hong Lim, meeting Malcolm Fraser in 1981 to discuss Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees arriving in Australia. He praised Mr Fraser for his humanity.As I write a horrifying humanitarian disaster, entirely made by successive Australian governments, is looming on Manus Island.

As a child I came into political awareness in the 1970s. The Fraser governments open armed response to the plight of Vietnamese boat people with the full support of the ALP is etched in my experience as a defining feature of who we then aspired to be as a people.

We were leaving the white Australia policy permanently behind. We were strongly adhering to our UNHCR obligations and had a profoundly humane and compassionate immigration policy towards boat arrival asylum seekers.

Growing up in cosmopolitan Melbourne, we were a people open to the world and most of my best friends were and remain from migrant families. What happened to those cosmopolitan, human rights upholding, warm and welcoming values? What changed to make us a people fearfully protective of our (apparently threatened) national sovereignty?

What changed?

In all the analysis of what has changed and how we should respond to this deep shift backwards towards the politics of prejudicial fear and a disregards for our UNHCR obligations, I have not seen anything written about spiritual warfare.

But I think this is central.

Spiritual warfare is the ongoing battle for communally assumed first loyalties public worship. What our highest collective object of worth is, is our god. Crudely put, our god is now the economy, stupid. Well, its not the economy actually, its the pursuit of personal wealth what the New Testament calls Mammon. The post-war boom came to an end when Nixon dropped the gold standard and sent the 1970s into a global economic tail spin. But at that time we had grown accustomed to a steady rise in living standards, which was remarkably evenly...

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