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Thursday, 19 April


Motivated by justice: defending the worlds courageous people openDemocracy

Australian human rights lawyer and member of the legal team defending Wikileaks since 2010, talks about the hacker from Queensland who chose to fight against surveillance capitalism. Interview.

lead lead Photograph: George Hughes / Illustration: Celia LeoudiYorgos Boskos (YB): How did you get involved in the first place with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange?

Jennifer Robinson (JR): Julian first reached out to myself and a colleague of mine, the Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, in around September 2010. This was just before WikiLeaks was about to publish the Iraq war logs. Julian was in London, preparing that release, which came several months later, at the end of November. He was working with the Guardian and a group of other international newspapers.

It was around the time when there was concern about what might happen in Sweden, where there was an open investigation into sexual allegations that had previously being dropped. It now seemed that Julian might have to answer those allegations. So, Julian required assistance and advice. It was also the time, of course, that Chelsea Manning was arrested, and a US criminal investigation in grand jury had been announced.

YB: What was your first impression on meeting Julian Assange?

JR: Here was a man with a small group of volunteers and a backpack. And in his interactions with me what he was really doing was making his very brave decisions about what to publish. There were a lot of public threats being made against him at that particular time. He was incredibly security-conscious - conscious of the fact that they were pursuing him, trying to find ways to prosecute and investigate him. So apart from his remarkable work, the other factor was the strength of the state response that was building against him. He was perceived to be the most powerful man in the world, in that period. And why? Because he had access to that information.

YB: During your TEDx speech in Sydney in 2013, you stated that courage is contagious. Do you think that this courage is sufficient to beat the political and judicial establishme...


Theresa May's despicable response to the Windrush scandal AAV

The Tories know that their treatment of Windrush citizens has been absolutely despicable, but instead of taking personal responsibility for it and resigning, they've resorted to the most ridiculous campaign of bluster, smears, misrepresentations, and outright lies.

The absurd Data Protection excuse

When a whistleblower revealed that the Tories had deliberately destroyed the archive of landing cards from the Windrush generation the first Tory instinct was to lie their way out of trouble.

The Tories initially tried to claim that the archives were destroyed because of Data Protection concerns.

The first thing to note is that this is a Tory government that wilfully sold off our private NHS medical data to drug companies and health insurers without our consent. To hear them suddenly pretending that they care about data protection laws is most absurd.

The next thing to note is that Data Protection rules have a very clear exemption for material of historical importance. You'd have to be completely cracked to imagine that the boarding cards of the Windrush generation who came to help Britian rebuild after WWII had no historical significance whatever and needed to be lobbed into a skip.


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Wednesday, 18 April


Who were the 18 MPs who bravely voted against Theresa May's anti-immigrant lunacy in 2014? AAV

Back in 2014 the then Home Secretary Theresa May introduced new immigration rules designed to create a 'hostile environment' for immigrants. The introduction of these harsh new immigration rules was clearly a ploy to appeal to the extreme-right ultranationalist demographic, and it coincided with a significant upsurge in anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Tories, and especially from Theresa May.

In light of the Windrush scandal the Tories simply cannot pretend that they were not warned about the serious consequences of this piece of legislation. They were warned, and these warnings are recorded on the Hansard parliamentary record.

During the debate Diane Abbot raised concerns that these harsh new powers could have negative impacts on could have on "people who are British nationals, but appear as if they might be immigrants" (people like the Windrush generation and other perfectly legal migrants from the Commonwealth).

Theresa May completely dodged this question with the kind of evasive waffle we've all become so familiar with since she became Prime Minister.

The Lib-Dem MP Sarah Teather (who went on to quit parliament in disgust at...


Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government Slugger O'Toole

This morning I  came across this classic clip from The Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. Ever after 40 years, it is still a great send-up of our political system. Enjoy.

A self-perpetuating autocracy

King Arthur: Old woman!
Dennis: Man.
King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
Dennis: Im 37.
King Arthur: What?
Dennis: Im 37. Im not old.
King Arthur: Well I cant just call you man.
Dennis: Well you could say Dennis.
King Arthur: I didnt know you were called Dennis.
Dennis: Well you didnt bother to find out, did you?
King Arthur: I did say sorry about the old woman, but from behind you looked
Dennis: What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.
King Arthur: Well, I am king.
Dennis: Oh, king eh? Very nice. And howd you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If theres ever gonna be any progress
Peasant Woman: Dennis! Theres some lovely filth down here Oh! How do you do?
[Dennis joins the Peasant Woman in the nearby filth patch]
King Arthur: How do you do, good lady? I am Arthur, king of the Britons. Whose castle is that?
Peasant Woman: King of the who?
King Arthur: The Britons.
Peasant Woman: Whore the Britons?
King Arthur: Well, we all are. Were all Britons, and I am your king.
Peasant Woman: Didnt know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
Dennis: Youre fooling yourself. Were living in a dictatorship! A self-perpetuating autocracy, in which the working classes
Peasant Woman: Oh, there you go, bringing class into it again.
Dennis: Well, thats what its all about! If only people would
King ArthurPlease, please, good people, I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
Peasant Woman: No one lives there.
King Arthur: Then who is your lord?
Peasant Woman: We dont have a lord.
King ArthurWhat?...


La evolucin de la participacin democrtica openDemocracy

Repensar la representacin implica ampliar la comunidad de deliberacin y redefinir no slo quines pueden decidir en temas pblicos que les afectan, sino cmo se toman las decisiones. English, Portugus

Creado por Maria Boehling para Flickr. Algunos derechos reservados.

Este artculo es un extracto de un artculo original publicado en el eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta y se puede encontrar aqu.

Actualmente, se puede decir que la connotacin de la participacin ciudadana est cambiando y, dentro de su proceso de redefinicin, vemos cmo diferentes formas y desarrollos comienzan a tomar partido y a ampliar el sentido de lo que en antao significaba participar, elegir, debatir e interactuar.

Sin duda, la participacin es uno de esos temas que se convierten en el eje transversal de muchas discusiones pblicas, ya que constituye una de las reas que puede redefinir nuestras democracias en cuanto a los sistemas de gobierno.

De esta forma, observamos cmo diversas iniciativas de la sociedad civil comienzan a tener un amplio campo de accin en este aspecto, haciendo uso de las tendencias tecnolgicas que ofrece Internet.

As, iniciat...


The evolution of democratic participation openDemocracy

Rethinking representation involves expanding the deliberative community and redefining not only who decides on public issues, but how those decisions are made. Espaol, Portugus

Created by Maria Boehling for Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This piece is an excerpt from an original article published as part of the eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta series, which can be found here.

Currently, it could be said that the meanings of citizen participation are changing, and within this process of redefining this concept, we see different forms and advances aligning themselves and extending the connotations of what once meant participating, debating and interacting. 

Without a doubt, participation is among those subjects which are becoming the transversal axis of many public discussions, as it constitutes one of the issues capable of redefining our democracies with regards to the very systems of governance.

In this vein, we observe how many civil society initiatives are broadening their scope, and making use of the technological tendencies offered by the internet.

Initiatives like Democracia en Red (Democr...


A evoluo da participao democrtica openDemocracy

Repensar a representao implica ampliar a comunidade de deliberao e redefinir no s aqueles que podem decidir sobre os temas pblicos que os afectam, mas tambm como se tomam as decises. English, Espaol

lead Criado por Maria Boehling para a Flickr. Alguns direitos reservados.

Este artigo um extrato de um artigo original publicado no eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta e pode ser encontrado aqu.

Atualmente, pode-se dizer que a conotao da participao cidad est mudando e, dentro desse processo de redefinio, vemos como diferentes formas e desenvolvimentos comeam a tomar partido e ampliar o sentido do que antes significava participar, escolher, debater e interagir.

Sem dvidas, participao uma questo, como tantas outras, que se torna o eixo transversal de muitas discusses pblicas, uma vez que constitui uma das reas que podem redefinir nossas democracias em termos de sistemas governamentais.

Desta forma, observamos como vrias iniciativas da sociedade civil comeam a ter um amplo campo de ao neste aspecto, aproveitando as tendncias tecnolgi...


The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean: the role of EU states, civil society and art openDemocracy

As the EU turns away from international human rights commitments, asserting border controls at almost any cost including that to humanitarian activists, what role can art play?

lead lead Italian rescue ship Vos Prudence run by NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres arrives in July, 2017, in the port of Salerno carrying 935 migrants, including 16 children and 7 pregnant women rescued from the Mediterranean sea.NurPhoto/ Press Association. All rights reserved.In the context of the refugee crisis[1]in and around the Mediterranean, the European Union is devoting its resources to the exclusion of refugees and migrants using increased surveillance and militarization of its borders, by affiliation with entities and States for whom human rights are not a priority. With an enormous death toll at sea and huge numbers arriving, civil society across Europe has mobilized to manifest alternative values of hospitality to welcome refugees and solidarity towards those at the borders. This paper will survey human rights reports and activist materials to consider these two phenomena, before asking questions about the scope for artists to respond to the refugee crisis. 

Four years ago, in October 2014, Operation Mare Nostrum, the Italian governments humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean to rescue people in boats in peril on journeys from Libya, was terminated. The replacement Frontex (EU) mission, Operation Triton, part-funded by voluntary contributions from the Irish state, has a markedly lesser focus on search-and-rescue and an increased focus on surveillance and border security.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that deaths at sea have risen nine times since the ending of Operation Mare Nostrum.[2] Its ...


Just imagine what could happen if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister AAV

It's a good job Theresa May is a "moderate" isn't it? Unlike that scary hard-left extremist Jeremy Corbyn.

Just imagine if Jeremy Corbyn got into power.

I bet he'd immediately invite bigoted Northern Irish terrorist-backed sectarians into his government.

I bet Corbyn would sell off our British public infrastructure to undemocratic nations like China and to tyrannical middle east dictatorships too, and then fight tooth and nail to stop it ever coming back under British control.

I bet he'd repeatedly try to bypass parliamentary democracy, then sneer at anyone who objected to his terrifying autocratic tendencies.

I bet Corbyn would use his mates in the media to continually smear the political opposition, attack judges and academics who dare to scrutinise what he's doing, and...


The Europeanization of schooling: what is a European education? openDemocracy

In an ambitious future, education as a common good means an education enjoyed by the whole community, built by citizens culturally capable of influencing, acting and imagining alternatives.

March 17, 2017 Students and teachers protest in Palermo, Italy. A nationwide strike called by unions against implementation of the Law 107, better known as the good school law. Antonio Melita/ Press Association. All rights reserved. Whether we are specialist or not, we all know more or less where the education system of our countries stands. We are all aware that our school systems are coordinated, monitored and assessed according to some vague European standards or criteria.

In general we dont object to that: we consider the Europeanization of our education systems as a guarantee of quality, of good functioning and also as a sign of that international cooperation, of European integration, which we increasingly need to fend off provincialism and nationalism.

Everything fine, then? No, not exactly. Unfortunately, things are more complicated than they appear. Let us see why.

The Europeanisation of education systems is a recent development. Theoretically, education should be the responsibility of member states: education in European countries has always been a national affair, functional to the consolidation of the identity and culture of a community. Each educational system has had its own history, linked to the evolution of its policy, geography, traditions, language and society. 

As it happens, however, although education formally remains a national competence, since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, a new 'orthodoxy', based on the comparison of education systems, has been gradually introduced into the educational policies of the whole continent.

This new orthodoxy brings two problems. 

First of all, it has been imposed as a matter of fact rather than a concerted policy.  Some refer to "government without government" to characterize the process which, from the Lisbon Strategy of 2000 to the Rethinking Education Communication of 2012, up to the current ET2020 strategy, has always moved along the same line: education must be "reshaped" in terms of skills t...


How women in the Balkans are using social media to fight sexism openDemocracy

Women are primary targets of bias and online harassment in the Balkans. Now, a growing number are using the internet to fight back.

Facebook logos on a computer screen. Facebook logos on a computer screen. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Bosnian science journalist and blogger Jelena Kalini often anticipates disagreements when she comments on social media posts. But she did not expect Bosnian writer Goran Samardi to flip a Facebook discussion about pregnancy in late February into a sexist intrusion into her private life.

I can 'milk' some of 'it' into a coffee cup and freeze it for you if you want to get pregnant, Samardi privately wrote to Kalini following a public chat on her Facebook wall. The two were only acquaintances. Kalini was shocked by his message and shared a screenshot of it on Twitter with the comment this is the bottom of the bottom.

On social media, people started reacting and sharing the screenshot. Some commentators criticised her decision to share the private message from Samardi. She explained that she intended to publicly expose the insult, because she wanted people to know about it.

Traditional patriarchal rules, gender stereotypes, and a disregard for gender equality demands are pervasive in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and other countries of the former Yugoslavia. Online, women are primary targets of bias and harassment. But now, a growing number of women across the region are also using the internet to combat sexism.

Online, women are primary targets of bias and harassment. But now, a growing number of women across the region are also using the internet to combat sexism.

Bosnian journalist and activist Masha Durkali was among the first social media users to respond to the so-called coffee cup case. In a lengthy Facebook...


The Border Force row exposes differences between British and Irish citizenship that have to be settled Slugger O'Toole

Leaving aside the delicious irony, I would guess that Sinn Fein are right: the attempt to limit recruitment for the UK Border Force to British passport holders is discriminatory and would be overthrown  in court.  Why should anyone have to produce a passport for a job in Northern Ireland anyway?  This has echoes of the malign Windrush problem. without feeling the  pain yet,   Up to now only when you go abroad and need to produce a passport has the issue of citizenship arisen ; but it  is not quite as cut and tried as the unionist academic Graham Gudgin writes in the FT.

Brexit will make some sort of change  to citizenship for Northern Ireland people, but exactly what change is far from clear.  The ability of the European Court of Justice to disapply certain categories of UK legislation only recently recognised in the UK disappears after Brexit unless it is restored for NI in some form to remain compatible with the GFA legislation.  If not there could be different rights for British and Irish citizens and that would surely be intolerable. What is hardly mentioned is that everybody in NI of whatever citizenship description, retain their full British citizen rights and entitlements  if they move to GB and full Irish rights and entitlements if they move south .

Or so I believe. Perhaps like WIndrush cases, anomalies will be exposed under challenge but this has not happened so far. But Brexit may make  the difference.

The legal situation is pretty recondite but behind it lies  a political issue. If 40 % of the population call themselves Irish citizens, what leverage does that give the Irish government in the affairs of Northern Ireland if citizenship rights are no longer identical? How do citizens assert their  citizenship preferences  without displaying a passport and claiming different rights if rights eligibility diverges?  The Border Force row could become a test case.


Isle of Dogs **** Jonathan Fryer

Isle of DogsWes Andersons quirky imagination and deep love of film guarantee that anything he directs will give cinephiles much food for thought as well as entertainment, and in his latest stop-motion animation offering, Isle of Dogs, there is so much content that at times it is hard to digest. The basic plot is simple, however, like any good fantasy or fairy tale: a cat-loving despotic mayor in a dystopian future Japanese city banishes all dogs to an island used as a giant garbage dump. But his 12-year-old ward is distraught at the loss of his guard-dog, Spots, and sets off to find him. Meanwhile the dogs have started to organise themselves and a plan is put into place to turn the tables on wicked Mayor Kobayashi, with the aid of a feisty American girl exchange student in a blond fright wig. However, this simple tale is framed in settings of immense complexity, stuffed full of cultural and cinematic references. There is a distinct irony in this, as so much classical Japanese theatre uses almost no scenery, leaving the audience to imagine the location from the context of the words and action, whereas in Andersons film there is so much visual detail that at times ones mind is totally consumed by taking it all in, to the extent that ones concentration drifts away from the story. All the classic Japanese stereotype scenes are there, from sushi preparation to sumo wrestling and falling cherry blossoms, much to a soundtrack of dramatic taiko drums. But other references are more nuanced, including not only homage to...


Who is the winner in post-ISIS Syria? openDemocracy

ISIS may have been defeated, but the battle for Syria's political soul is far from over.

The news of the liberation of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, was greeted with great enthusiasm by Tehran, Moscow, Washington and Europe. Since then, many commentators and media outlet began to anticipate who is the main winner in Syria in the post-ISIS era. 

However, before attempting to answer this question, it is crucial to discuss the objectives of the powers involved in the Syrian battlefield. 

By mid 2014, the Syrian conflict reached its violent peak when ISIS penetrated the Syrian borders and proclaimed Raqqa as its political centre. The rise of ISIS in the region created anxieties not only in the European capitals but in Tehran, Baghdad and Erbil as well. 

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, the Iranian government supported Assad's Syria, its traditional ally in the region. Since the beginning of the Iranian revolution in 1979, Assad's Syria supported Iran against Saddam's Iraq. Syria also provided a platform for Iran to strengthen its ties with its Lebanese allies, Hezbollah and the Palestinian factions of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. 

During the post Hafez al-Assad era, his successor, Bashar al-Assad continued supporting Iran in fortifying a frontline against Israel. Both Tehran and Damascus portray their alliance...


Gassing and selective applications of a Red Line: lest we forget openDemocracy

The gassing of people is considered exceptionally inhumane, officially a categorical red line dividing good from evil. This belief now threatens to trigger an escalation with unpredictable consequences.

lead Otto Dix, Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor). 1924. Tate Liverpool.As new rockets fly into Syria, it is time to consider the legal grounds on which the bombing is legitimised. This is important because it threatens to destabilise the already precarious region and displace, yet again, thousands of victims that the west is reluctant to accommodate.

The experience of chemical warfare in Britain has a complex history. British troops were one of the first to fall victim to chlorine gas attacks during the Battle of Ypres on January 2, 1915. Talented German chemists, among them the tragic Jewish Nobel Prize Winner Fritz Haber, were responsible for spearheading the chemicalisation of twentieth and twenty-first century warfare. British troops were one of the first to fall victim to chlorine gas attacks during the Battle of Ypres on January 2, 1915.

The legacy of WWI continues to haunt present-day reactions to chemical warfare. It was not so much the case that German gas attacks caused many causalities or to deny that the deaths that did occur were excruciating; it is rather the case that they dealt a major psychological blow to army morale, whilst awakening dystopian nightmares among the general British public.

The experiences of WWI would incentivise calls for laws against, what the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk calls, atmospheric terror. The Geneva Convention brought western countries together to formulate an international legal architecture on the prohibition of asphyxiating, poisonous and other gaseous and bacterial methods of warfare. This was not the first attempt to impose laws on gassing, but instead a continuation of a centuries-long effort to ban poison and gas from the battlefield. Some of the earliest proponents of international law, including Grotius, were keen to forbid poison in times of war.



How the Kremlins anti-corruption agenda masks federal control in the North Caucasus openDemocracy

But is there room for real political subjectivity between local and national corrupt power? RU

Vladimir Vasilyev at meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, October 3, 2017. Photo CC BY 4.0: Some rights reserved.Should we welcome the anti-corruption campaign launched by Moscow in Russias regions? This question is no less ambiguous than this one: Should we take part in the Russian presidential elections? With both supporters and opponents of the recent election boycott armed equally with logical arguments, this is a hard one to answer. But the fact that the results were known in advance renders the discussion somewhat meaningless.

Its a similar situation with Russias anti-corruption agenda. On the one hand, its obvious: corruption is an evil that must be eradicated by any lawful means. On the other, behind the good intentions of the Russian state lurks the ruinous prospect of a super-centralised Russian state. As with the countrys elections, Russian society is faced with the problem of its role in legitimising the methods of Kremlin rule.

Attack on the clans

Vladimir Putins unexpected visit to Dagestan on 13 March confirmed experts conjectures that the appointment of Vladimir Vasilyev as acting head of the republic last October was linked, among other things, to the forthcoming presidential elections.

Commenting on Vasilyevs appointment, sociologist Denis Sokolov reminded us that People Against Corruption, a party with links to the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Dagestan, and one that has united many oppositionists, was prevented from participating in the Peoples Assembly elections of September 2016 on account of...


We can acknowledge Powell as a significant historical figure, without resurrecting his politics Slugger O'Toole

The decision by the BBC to broadcast Enoch Powells Rivers of Blood speech on Saturday was always going to be controversial.

The speech, made by Powell 50 years ago on 20th April, had a long-term impact on British politics, and transformed the climate on race relations in Britain.

In the speech, Powell spoke out against Britains liberal immigration laws, predicting dire consequences for the country if immigration was to continue unchecked.

He also attacked the race relations legislation that the Labour Government was bringing before Parliament, designed to outlaw discrimination on racial or ethnic grounds. He used highly offensive language to describe the impact of immigration on society.

As a result of the speech, he was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet and was labelled a demagogue and a racist. He became one of the most popular, and also one of the most feared and hated, politicians in Britain.

No full recording exists of the original speech. Instead, it was read out by the actor Ian McDiarmid, who was recently cast as Powell in Chris Hannans play What Shadows. The BBC defended the programme on the grounds that there was rigorous journalistic analysis of the speech and denied endorsing Powells views.

The prospect of Powells words being aired on national radio inevitably caused great upset.

Andrew Adonis tweeted that Powells speech was the worst incitement to racial violence by a public figure in modern Britain. The BBC should not be broadcasting it on Saturday. Since the broadcast, he has promised to refer the matter to Ofcom.

As someone who has spent many years researching Powells career, I shared some of the misgivings about the broadcast. Hearing his words from 50 years ago is still shocking. Dramatizing the speech in this way was also playing a slight trick on the audience.

The fact that the speech was never previously broadcast in full is historically significant: there is no recording of Powell delivering his most famous line I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood (famously misquoted as Rivers of Blood).

Powell later claimed that he wished he had left this phrase in the original Latin, though this was only a half-acknowledgement of the taboo surrounding the speech.

However, the voicing of Powells words in the context of a serious radio programme should not be seen as a celebration or endorsement of the speech. It is important to understand why it is still being talked about fifty years later.

Amol Rajans robust concluding remarks could leave no one in any doubt as to his views on Powell or the speech. It is impudent to ask whether the speech was racialist or racist, he said, Make no mistake. It was both.

For some of Powe...


RHI Inquiry: Dr Crawford Im not inviting a comment from you, thank you. Slugger O'Toole

Coming back to Slugger (after a few weeks mostly out of the saddle), the most interesting item appears to be the RHI Inquiry. It is clear Sir Patrick Coghlin does not share the view of previous members of the judiciary that Stormont is a delicate flower.

The BBC reports that he

cautioned the public that if they heard something sensational in media coverage they should seek out the evidence themselves.

He said the inquiry had gone to great lengths to ensure there was a live stream of it.

He said he was not criticising the media but it was difficult to assess a witness contribution until they had finished their testimony.

Thats the only fair way to do it, he said.

At that point, Andrew Crawford suggested that some elements of the media were being selective in their reporting.

Sir Patrick stopped him continuing and said: Dr Crawford Im not inviting a comment from you, thank you.

Quite. There are many threads in this story and it is the judges onerous task, alone, to tie them all up at the end. What strikes me in the interim is how far we seem to be from the overheated reporting that helped crash Stormonts democratic institutions.

I wrote (either here on Slugger or on Twitter) about the time the story broke of the irony in how an environmental policy, an area often subjected to embarrassingly supercilious derision by the DUP, has caused them such deep public embarrassment.

But, rather than paying too much attention to the policy (as alleged in many initial news reports), it looks like DUP spads spent little (or no) time considering the environmental and financial effect of a properly constructed RHI scheme.


This is what will happen if we allow Theresa May, Western politicians & the media to keep lying about Assad & Russia GMMuk Michael Aydinian

Watch this clip & tell me how you feel. Ive said it a million times Theresa May, most Western politicians & the media are lying their arses off! Now Ive got to the point where Im fed up saying  WERE THE ONES ANTAGONISING RUSSIA! ASSAD HAD NO REASON TO GAS HIS OWN PEOPLE. WHERES THE GODDAMN EVIDENCE! STOP TELLING


I want to talk about my miscarriage openDemocracy

I am heartbroken, and Im begging you to ask me why.

Credit: Flickr/Anil Kumar. CC BY-ND 2.0.

I had been moving through the world with a secret. I dreamed of this secret as a little girl, through adolescence and even more regularly once I was married. But I had to keep this secret close in case it slipped away. I couldnt let it out until I knew for certain that my secret was here to stay.

My entire being changed the moment I found out that I was pregnant. I felt new light inside of me. Now it was my time to gripe about the struggles of new motherhoodgrievances Id been aching to have. My new narrative would be anchored in sleep deprivation, cracked nipples and hair loss. I couldnt wait to be a part of that world, part of The Club.

When you are trying to conceive you want nothing more than to experience those struggles, as opposed to the monthly cramps, tampons and ovulation monitors that remind you of your lack of fertility. A combination of working in healthcare and wanting a baby for as long as I can remember equipped me with extensive knowledge on pregnancy, childbirth, and new motherhood.

I knew the risks of miscarriage and how common this tragedy occurs. I knew that one in four women will lose their baby in the first trimester. Knowing this, I resisted letting myself speak too freely about my excitement. Even when I let people in on the secret of my pregnancy I reiterated the facts about miscarriage.

Several days after multiple positive pregnancy tests I announced my secret to my immediate family, and then to some very close friends a few weeks later. But I was still just out of reach of the supposed safety of 12 weeks. Stay silent until then. That way no one will ever know that you were even pregnant.

Why do we do this? Miscarriages happen all the time. We know that they are random physiological errors that can happen to anyone and not the result of poor care. Going to work was tasking. I was nauseous, exhausted and foggy. Perhaps if I had not kept my secret so close for so long, my employers would have had more empathy and compassion for what I was experiencing. Perhaps they would even have shared in my excitement and offered support. Perhaps they would have supported me when I experienced my loss.

I miscarried the day of my first ultrasound. I noticed blood between my legs that night and as I stood up, I knew. My secret was leaving my body, and I felt like I was being wrung from the inside out. I couldnt control my tears as I tried to wake up from this nightmare. M...


FP April 18 openDemocracy

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Do not include in section waterfall ? - free thinking for the world
Credit: Flickr/Anil Kumar. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Tuesday, 17 April


Facebook, privacy, and the use of data openDemocracy

How to think about this, what to call for, and some links to help.

lead lead Apr 10, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. USA Today/Press Association. All rights reserved.Would you give up your firstborn child for free WiFi?

Of course not if you knew these terms and conditions. Except that is exactly what scores of people did when they were asked if they wanted free WiFi at Picadilly Circus, London. Nobody bothered to read the terms which contained a clause that forces you to give up your firstborn child.

The same level of unknowing vulnerability applies to Facebooks terms and conditions. You freely enter into a contract that is nonnegotiable and impossible to read, and yet carries implications far beyond the platform.

We now know that Facebook not only took our data, but also gave them to Cambridge Analytica, among many others. But which others? We dont know.

Why not? The answer to that question breaks up into three pieces:

The first is that Facebook is a de facto monopoly. Its business model is based on avoiding competition at all cost. Buying Instagram was a perfect example.

The second is that the authorities by and large ignore Facebooks monopoly position. They seem to think that, just because a monopoly is de facto, it can be left alone.

Of course, European law is quite clear on the question of monopolies: they are bad. The ...


Sacked Wetherspoons social media team claims misuse of data for VoteLeave scam Pride's Purge

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin claims he closed down the groups social media accounts because they were taking up too much time.

But a (now deleted) Twitter account from former Wetherspoons social media team members, claims the accounts were shut down and deleted because the firm was in fear of being caught for social data misuse connected to what it called the #VoteLeave scam:

A cached copy of the deleted account can still be seen here.



Uma nova forma de geografia openDemocracy

Libertemos a nossa forma de ver a realidade, aprofundemos novos olhares e enfoques, e teremos novas ideias e perspectivas para os problemas de gesto do bem comum. English, Espaol

Fonte da imagem: Wikipedia. Mapa original de John Snow mostrando a aglomerao geogrfica de casos de epidemia de clera em Londres em 1854, elaborado e litografado por Charles Cheffins.

Este artigo um extrato de um artigo original publicado no eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta e pode ser encontrado aqu.

Embora os mapas sejam um recurso til em termos de poder e tomada de deciso, estamos vivendo em um momento de transformaes e redefinies do que sempre chamamos de "territrio".

Este, que normalmente est relacionado ao conceito de espao delimitado e definido por limites administrativos, hoje ultrapas...


A new form of geography openDemocracy

One of the risks of conventional politics is seeing the world through ideas which are subsidiary to a certain, old way of understanding the geography and the geometry of concepts. Espaol, Portugus

Image: Wikipedia. John Snows original map showing the clustering of cholera cases during the London Epidemic of 1854, drawn and lithographed by Charles Cheffins.

This piece is an excerpt from an original article published as part of the eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta series, which can be found here.

Despite the fact that maps are a useful resource in terms of power and decision making, we are currently living through a period of transformations, redefining what we have always referred to as territory.

Although this concept is usually associated with the idea of a delimited space, defined by administrative borders, today it goes beyond geographic traditions.

However, these historical features of maps become limits to innovation, seeing as they create mental and imaginary barriers. Borders that, although perhaps no longer in existence, our senses insist on perceiving, due to our previous programming that tells us we mus...


Una nueva forma de geografa openDemocracy

Uno de los riesgos de la poltica convencional es ver el mundo con las viejas ideas subsidiarias de una manera de entender la geografa y la geometra de los conceptos. English, Portugus

Fuente de la imagen: Wikipedia. Mapa original de John Snow que muestra la agrupacin geogrfica de los casos de clera en la epidemia de Londres de 1854, dibujada y litografiada por Charles Cheffins.

Este artculo es un extracto de un artculo original publicado en el eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta y se puede encontrar aqu.

Pese a que los mapas son un recurso til en trminos de poder y toma de decisiones, estamos viviendo en medio de una poca de transformaciones y redefiniciones de aquello que siempre hemos llamado territorio, ya que normalmente se relaciona al concepto de espacio delimitado, definido por lmites administrativos, pero hoy su concepcin va mucho ms all de las geografas tradicionales.

Sin embargo, estas caractersticas histricas de los mapas se convierten en aspectos que limitan la innovacin, ya que generan barreras mentales y, muchas veces, imaginarias.

Fronteras que, aunque probablemente ya...


We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money openDemocracy

openDemocracy investigations raise fresh questions about Arron Banks's wealth and the real source of the Brexit campaign's largest donations.

Arron Banks. Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.Brexit donor Arron Banks likes to boast about his money. Reported estimates of his fortune vary from 100m to 250m. In his book, The Bad Boys of Brexit, Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.  

Banks was the biggest backer of the Brexit campaign, donating more than 8m. In spring 2016, the one-time Ukip donor gave 6m in loans to Leave.EU. These loans - a huge sum for a British political campaign - were due to be repaid by the end of 2017. But Banks has not called in these debts, openDemocracy has learned.

You might imagine that a man who could afford to just write off 6m in loans to Leave.EU must have significant disposable income? Perhaps. After a major openDemocracy investigation last year found serious questions about the extent of Bankss wealth, the Electoral Commission announced that it is investigating whether, in the run-up to the Brexit vote, Banks and one of his companies broke campaign finance rules requiring transpar...


Feeling Yerevans pulse: the new media talking about Armenias blind spots openDemocracy

A year ago, the media platform EVN Report was founded to surface everyday concerns and what the media leaves behind. As Armenians take to the streets again, its become an invaluable resource.

16 April: opposition politician Nikol Pashinyan speaks to a crowd in central Yerevan. Image: Roubina Margossian.

Read the latest in our ongoing Unlikely Media series. As part of this series, we profile new independent (and independently-minded) publications from across the post-Soviet space, and interview editors who are trying to make spaces for alternative journalism, political commentary and reporting.

These are turbulent times for Armenia. Following constitutional changes in 2015, the country transitioned from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. Some dismissed the move as a tactic by president Serzh Sargsyan to stay in power after his final presidential term expired in April 2018. The naysayers were proven right; two days ago, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia elected Sargsyan as its candidate for prime minister. Today, parliament votes on his appointment.

For many younger Armenians, its the final straw. Over the weekend, hundreds of opposition protesters marched in the Armenian capital and beyond to Reject Serzh. Theyve occupied streets, seized the public radio building, and ground Yerevan to a halt. The new independent media platform EVNReport has been indispensable in bringing perspective to these events.

The publication was born in the fallout of an earlier episode of mass unrest in Armenia. In July 2016, a motley assortment of nationalist veterans seized a police station in suburban Yerevan, killing two in the process. As riot police besieged the occupied building, Kajik Grigoryan, a 58-year old unemployed man, set himself alight as protests broke out.

Meanwhile, 49-year old Artur Sargsyan approached the fighters and gave them food, for which he was charged with supporting an armed terrorist group. After a long stay in prison without adequate medical assistance, the bread bringer died in hospital a year later. At the request of...


Last Chance for EU Citizens? Jonathan Fryer

EU citizens register to voteToday, Tuesday 17 April, is the last chance for people to register to vote in the local elections on 3 May, if they are not already on the electoral roll. This is particularly important for citizens of EU countries other than the UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, as it is unlikely that they will retain their voting rights after Brexit, so this may be the last opportunity they have to make their voice heard. The franchise in all UK elections is currently given to all legally resident Commonwealth and Irish citizens, but other EU nationals dont have the right to vote in the national parliament elections. However, everyone will lose their vote for the European elections, which are due in June next year, as the UK will no longer have the right to send MEPs to Brussels/Strasbourg. In London, which has all-out elections in all 32 boroughs, there are a large number of EU citizens; in some wards, one or two thousand, which means that their participation in next months elections could swing the result. Thats why a number of community NGOs, as well as several political parties, are urging them to register and to vote, to send a strong anti-Brexit message to 10 Downing Street (and to Labours Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter). A strong performance b...


The Windrush generation and the long history of not being quite British enough openDemocracy

Britain has an ignoble history of exploiting Caribbean people when they were useful, then casting them aside as insufficiently British when they were not.

Image: Windrush arrivals in 1948, PA Images archive, all rights reserved.

Recent reports of the current Home Office crackdown on Commonwealth elders come as a horrifying surprise, but they tell of a history we have not faced. How did we get here?

Black soldiers and empire

The history begins in 1795 with the West India Regiment (WIR). The British army recruited from the Caribbean colonies to help fight for the British Empires interests. Recruiting from the Caribbean was economically resourceful for the empire since around 90 per cent of white troops who died when stationed in the area, did so from disease.

By the turn of the 20th century, the British Empire routinely recruited from colonies to assist in its wars. The British Army created a second infantry, the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR), to help support British interests in the First World War. It used the WIR to fight West and East African campaigns.

Alongside the West Indian regiments, Black British soldiers also served in the army as early as World War One. Walter Tull is perhaps one of the greatest forgotten legends. Born to a Barbadian carpenter, Tull went on to have an outstanding career in football, playing for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town before becoming a well-respected military sergeant.

Tull died in battle, but to this day, Tull has not been awarded any posthumous honour for his military efforts.

As Phil Vasili writes: According to The Manual of Military Law, Black soldiers of any rank were not desirable. During the First World War, military chiefs of staff, with government approval, argued that White soldiers would not accept orders issued by men of colour and on no account should Black soldiers serve on the front line."

The British Army was reluctant to award outstandin...


Orbn, get lost to the tulipy cunt. Hungary threatens the European Union a photo essay from Budapest openDemocracy

"I joined a massive demonstration against the Orbn supremacy a week after the election, on Saturday afternoon 14 March. It completely filled Budapests wide avenues between the Opera and Parliament."

lead lead Orbn, get lost to the tulipy cunt. A famous Hungarian curse put to a new use. All photographs the author's own.The election victory of Viktor Orbn his third in a row in Hungary last week is a much greater danger to the European Union than Brexit. A clearly undemocratic Premier now threatens to overturn the rule of law and install himself as an effective dictator based on popular mobilisation, stirred by noxious racist and xenophobic strobes.

The menace follows his overwhelming election victory last week on Sunday 8th March. The recipient of billions of euros in EU support, much of which is apparently misappropriated by regime corruption, and benefiting from German permission, Orbn is arguably now coming to represent actually existing Europe.

Hungarys capital city voted against him and his party, Fidesz. The town is still covered in election posters. Idealistic images of the leaders of the fragmented opposition parties stare out from lampposts. From Jobbik, the rightist party that came second, to centrist and leftist movements like Momentum, founded last year, that gained just 3% of the vote and failed to enter parliament. A brief post-election report is filled with their now gloomy faces in defeat and resignation.

The thought that together they had 51% of the total was little consolation. The electoral system introduced by Orbn loaded the votes in his favour and gave him a two-thirds parliamentary majority, enough to do as he wishes with the constitution.

The countryside of this modest, 10 million strong people, backed Orbn to the hilt, after two terms in power and outrageous examples of corruption, support for Fidesz grew. Basically a significant part of Hungarian society wanted this type of governance to continue. This is not because these people are stupid, tunnel-visioned, or unprincipled. The words are those of...


Black Tunisian women: ceaseless erasure and post-racial illusion openDemocracy

Four black women from all walks of life speak up about their experiences. They can no longer be silenced.

Rania, in a protest against racism. All rights reserved

I was six years old when I came running to my mother complaining about a grade that a teacher gave me and I still remember the look she gave me and then said: little girl, you have to study hard and work twice as hard as your peers, life is hard for people with our skin. If you fall, no one will be there for you. 

This memory still resonates with Houda, a 27 year old civil engineer. Supported by her friend Sabrine, she tells her story with excitement and a bitter sadness. Both girls grew up in the deep south of Tunisia and both emphasized the role of the black woman in their community. A role that requires a lot of sacrifices but little reward in exchange.

Sabrine and Houda, the faces of the strong black woman. All rights reserved.

Because you have a whole community on your back , your whole family says Houda with a confident tone, as a black woman, I am always thinking of how to improve the situation of my family and only with education and work are we able to do that. My mom was always my source of inspiration, she was the driving force of the whole family

The black body experience: sexualization, exotification, and myths

Rania and Maha, even though both of them come from different backgrounds, have chosen to be a walking manifestation of activism. Maha, a social geography researcher and Ph.D student, reveals I dont straighten my hair anymore, I keep it natural, I feel authentic. The pride in her voice cant go unnoticed and f...


The false promise of the Nordic model of sex work openDemocracy

The model of criminalising only the clients of sex workers is becoming increasingly popular, but what do those working with sex workers in Finland actually think of it?

Red Umbrella March for Sex Work Solidarity in 2016, Vancouver, Canada. Sally T. Buck/flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I'm Essi Thesslund from Pro Tukipiste-Finland. We started 27 years ago, and we mainly work with workers in the erotic industry and sex industry. Ten years ago, we started also working with victims of trafficking. However, our position regarding so-called anti-trafficking work has always been quite critical. This is because, coming from the Nordic countries, the discussion around trafficking has been framed within a criminal justice approach to controlling prostitution, and whether we should criminalise the clients of sex workers.

Sam (oD): Ive heard you say elsewhere that there is no such thing as the Nordic model. But as anybody with an interest in the topic knows, there is something that is being sold as the Nordic model the basic idea of criminalising the clients but not the workers. This is becoming more popular, so I wanted to ask you to respond very directly to the suggestion that this causes no harm to the women involved. What are your thoughts on that?

Essi: I think it's very hard to have a person who is selling, a person who is buying, and to then criminalise one part of that transaction. How would that not affect the other part of the transaction? And what we have heard we have had many Swedish advocates coming to show us how they implement their policy is that they surveil sex workers to catch clients. We see this kind of policy as a violation against sex workers integrity and right to privacy. It seems to be difficult to get the clients without harassing the sex workers.

Finland didn't adopt the Swedish model, which does this. The Finnish model is the partial criminalisation of sex buyers. Finnish law differentiates between different kinds of sex work. Sex work is not illegal. It's legal to buy and legal to sell if the person is working individually. But its illegal to buy sex from sex workers who are working under a pimp, or from victims of trafficking, or from minors.

It seems to be difficult to get the clients without harassing the sex workers.

The partial criminalisation used to be implemented in some cases, but not so much anymore. In practice it has been hard to prove that the clients should have known that the person had been under working under...


Syria: stop asking questions! openDemocracy

Who gets to decide who is involved in pseudoscience and misdirection? Who asks the questions and who gets bamboozled? What role should the media play?

Times front page, April 14, 2018.The morning after the US-led airstrikes on Syria, The Times devoted its front page to an attack on academics who had questioned the rationale for the bombing. The headline article Apologists for Assad working in British universities was accompanied by a two-page spread claiming that the academic Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media was trying to shut down debate. For good measure, The Times also denounced the Working Group as Assads Useful Idiots in its editorial column.

A leading national newspaper singling out individual scholars as agents of disinformation and cheerleaders for despotism who, it strongly implied, should not be employed at British universities, raises urgent questions of academic freedom.

The Times maintained its support for the idea of untrammelled academic inquiry as sacrosanct, but argued that the work of the Group does not count as legitimate academic inquiry. Instead, it said, this coterie of Assad apologists is engaged in pseudoscience and misdirection, peddling obscurantism and sophistry. These are not serious academics pursuing a search for truth, but rather agents of disinformation whose work is a violation of the ethos of academic research.

I must declare an interest here: I am on the international advisory board of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. I can attest that the aim of the group is not to act as apologists for either the Syrian or Russian governments. Rather, its aim is to analyse media coverage and critique the propaganda claims that surround the conflict. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that western media have acted as conduits for such propaganda, but dont just take my word for it. 'Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press says former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer....


Partners in piety: inside Ukraines evangelical business empire openDemocracy

This church will really change your consciousness and reform your life. But at what cost? RU

The Resurrection church in Vydubychi, Kyiv. Photo courtesy of the author.Sunday services at Kyivs Vozrozhdeniye, or Resurrection, church attract hundreds. Most travel by metro, trudging the last bit through an industrial estate to Vydubychi, a historic area on the edge of the city. The church itself is an immense metal box, painted to look like a blue sky with a few clouds floating in it. Above it, a banner showing a happy (traditional) family: Dream, act and win. Resurrection. With the surrounding industrial landscape, the building appears like a ray of light in a kingdom of darkness.

Precious, anointed ones, come this way. The security guys organise the crowd with ease, directing them to the few empty seats left. The interior could pass for a Eurovision venue a floodlit stage with a large screen, spotlights and multi-coloured lighting effects. The priests wear shiny red suits and bowties. The women wear dramatic make-up, and their hair is done to perfection. The services are rousing, often with an acapella prayer and a musical finale that brings the more impressionable members of the congregation to ecstasy.

The congregation, hungry for spiritual spectacle, repeat the words of the chanted prayers and shout Amen in American fashion, waving their arms in the air. A few speak in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit. Many have brought notebooks to note the important bits of the sermons there are many of these, one after another.

The preachers talk about strength of character and faith, and quote passages from the scriptures, each in their own style, but all loud, full of inspiration and accompanied by guitar riffs. In between times, people are exhorted to sign up for church events and activities: going on a crusade; enrolling on bible courses where they can render powerful praise and worship unto God and hold healing sessions, not to mention summits at which Muntyan expounds his teachings about the fourth dimension, which will really change their consciousness and reform their lives. All these events cost money.

Although there is a lot of talk of prosperity in the church, most of the followers of the...


Bang! Bang! youre deid

By Russell Bruce

That was nae fair, getting big Jenny tae tuck her skirt intae her knickers jist as you went sneaking roun ma back. Pure Daily Mail diversion. clever though All gie ye that. Calls for ma team tae hive a tactical meeting the nicht.

Theres the bell, 16 minutes an the monitors oot.

Same time tomorrow then

From playground games life progresses to some kind of normality for most people, but to a very small number of individuals they get their hands on the actual trigger. To war, or not to war? For May and Macron this was their first opportunity to engage in military action. May made a clear reference to this in her first public statement and was obviously delighted to be seen holding Trumps hand again.

Few countries have the geopolitical complexity of ruthless dictator Bashar al-Assads Syria. Calculations may have been carefully made but the wisdom of the action is highly questionable. A number of ancillary considerations are not without meaning.

I am reminded of The Glass Bead Game by German author Hermann Hesse. It was not published in Germany until after WWII due to Hesses anti fascist views. The rules and description of the game are not tightly defined. Some have invented actual games with their own interpretation. I always saw it as a chess-like game in multiple layers with connectivity operating on both the horizontal and vertical axis. Making unexpected connections was certainly part of what Hesse wanted to engage his readers with.

The US did not want to hit any Russian targets. The Russians decided to stay out of things leaving Assad exposed to the16 minute barrage on three of the identified chemical weapons facilities or sites with delivery potential. At least two target possibilities were abandoned because of the danger of Russian or civilian collateral damage.

There is almost virtual universal agreement that the use of chemical weapons should meet with international condemnation. Sixteen minutes of high explosive impact does not solve this issue. In the wake of the action, and behind the scenes, detailed and separate evaluation is being undertaken by the US Pentagon and the Russians.

The difficulty of bombing Syria was always a fraught calculation because Assad had a Russian air defence system installed to discourage such attempts. With a missile fired the equivalent of every 8 seconds this was a chance to find out how many would make it through to target. It is certain that the sequence and frequency of missile firing bursts, from three locations, was pre-timed in great detail.

The Russians have a newer, more sophisticated system installed at their Syrian bases. They were not going to expose or engage it. Assad was on his own when the sky suddenly glowed with high explosive projectiles.

The Russian military bases in Syria are the Russians core reason for being involved, that and a Russian natural g...


Why are the UK establishment class waging ideological war on the OPCW? AAV

Anyone who has been paying attention for the last few weeks must have noticed that the Tory government has launched a sustained ideological attack on the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

This UK establishment attack on the Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation seemed to begin as a means of having a dig at Jeremy Corbyn over his insistence that the rules of the Chemical Weapons Convention should be followed in relation to the Salisbury poisoning.

Seeing Tories and the yapping dogs of the mainstream press attacking and ridiculing the OPCW seemed like the latest absurd manifestation of the anti-Corbyn agenda. It seemed that people were so unhinged in their desperation to criticise Corbyn that they'd actually resort to demeaning and ridiculing an organisation that is dedicated to ridding the world of chemical and biological weapons in order to score points against him.

But then the Syria airstrikes made it absolutely clear that this is way bigger than the myopic anti-Corbyn agenda of the British establishment class, these people have undeniably declared some kind of crazed ideological war on the OPCW.

The first thing that a lot of people noticed was that Theresa May rushed the decision to carry out airstrikes to jump the gun on the OPCW inspectors ...


FP April 17 openDemocracy

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The dividing line between authoritarian Russia and liberal democracies is growing ever thinner. - free thinking for the world
Staring at shadows: Moscows Kremlin at night. CC: ePsilon/Flickr. Some rights reserved.


The myth of the Swedish education miracle openDemocracy

The Swedish model is not especially efficient or good, but it is the one that has pushed as far as possible the post-authoritarian logic in modern European education.

lead A portrait painting of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793. Wikicommons/Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. Public domain.When it comes to education, the public debate in France, as in Germany, seems to have taken a very cartoonish shape. Its reached the point where we can predict almost exactly how the debate will go. The discussion will start with someone from the left wing highlighting Sweden as being the model to follow. A country which supposedly achieved high results while giving more room to creativity, imagination and free-time. The debate will unavoidably end with some right-winger replying that Sweden has a very high suicide rate, that the Swedish are not really happy in general even slightly neurotic and that this so-called model would damage the French art de vivre. On top of that, the new Swedish generation is said to be ill-mannered.

The problem I have with this debate is simply that all of the above is wrong. Firstly, Sweden's performance in terms of education, as measured by the PISA test, is very low. As an example, the country only ranked 27th in science, behind.... France. Secondly, the suicide rate in Sweden is absolutely not as high as claimed. With a suicide rate of 12 in every100,000, the country is about the European norm, even better, their rate is lower than Frances. Thirdly, when it comes to ill-mannered kids, anybody who has been to France recently knows that Frenchman really have no right to say anything about this.

In other words, in 10 years, and despite everything that has been written and said on the matter, nobody has taken 5 minutes to check the facts on Google....

But this debate says something extremely interesting about French society. The irrelevance of facts in the ongoing discussion is no...


Cowardly attacks on female politicians appearance not just the work of social medias losers Slugger O'Toole

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart has today rightly highlighted the unacceptable nature of personal abuse that was directed at her on social media recently.

Comments were directed at her and party leader, Arlene Foster, after the latter had posted a photograph of the pair on Twitter.

Lockharts intervention was welcomed by Sinn Feins Northern Leader, Michelle ONeill:

The personal abuse meted out to high profile figures in politics can be deeply unsavoury, and is usually attributed to accounts with anonymous profiles behind which individuals hide to avoid being directly linked with cowardly comments that can be misogynistic, racist, homophobic or sectarian in nature.

Lockhart is correct to raise this issue.

It is equally important to call out the actions of elected representatives and commentators who resort to similar language on screen or on social media to denigrate political opponents using looks or appearance as a weapon.

A number of years ago, Carla and Arlenes party colleague, Sammy Wilson, made this comment about two female elected representatives:

The other two Sinn Fein ministers are two women. I cant remember their names but their sisters called Cinderella.

There is only one way to interpret Wilsons words. He has form in this regard.

Coming from a prominent elected representative, the significance of Wilsons utterances to a party gathering would have a considerably greater impact on account of his status as an influential, high profile figure.

If Carla Lockhart speaking out makes a difference t...


The timeline of shame AAV

In March 2018 the Saudi tyrant Mohammed bin Salman began a month-long tour of Western nations, securing new arms deals with Britain, the United States, and France.

In early March 2018 the brutal Islamist tyrant received a warm Tory welcome in London. Against a backdrop of widespread criticism of the repressive Saudi regime and their ongoing campaign of war crimes in Yemen, Theresa May agreed a new arms deal with the Saudi regime to supply them 48 Typhoon jets. This deal was signed off by the UK government despite their full knowledge that the Saudis have been using British-manufactured weapons to commit horrific war crimes.

Later that month Bin Salman rocked up in the United States to meet Donald Trump. The President of the United States demeaned his office and his nation by begging the Saudi tyrant to "share the wealth" by buying more American-manufactured weapons. The trip concluded with a new $670 million deal to supply the repressive kingdom with anti-tank missiles and spare parts for tanks and helicopters.

And then Bin Salman appeared in Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron. The trip concluded with...

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