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April 19, 2019

Inside-Out: Against Prison Society [TRAILER]

For those inside, the struggle against prisons is often a struggle for survival; it’s a constant fight to preserve whatever dignity you can in a place that’s designed to grind you down. For those on the outside, it is a struggle to break through the barriers of institutionalized isolation – whether physical, technical, or bureaucratic. It’s a battle to build and maintain relationships with those the state would have you forget. Prisons are constructed to be impenetrable fortresses. The fight for their abolition is a daunting one. But no matter if you’re on the inside or the outside, their continued existence is an affront to the very notion of freedom... and one that demands resistance.

by eighty6 at April 19, 2019 08:08 PM


Stop Shopping At Stop & Shop

In one of the biggest private-sector strikes in years, tens of thousands of Stop & Shop supermarket workers have walked off the job throughout New England. The strike wave that started last year in West Virginia has finally made it to the private sector.

alt Stop & Shop workers maintain a picket line while on strike on April 12, 2019 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Scott Eisen / Getty Images.

Thousands of working-class New Englanders brought a big corporation to its knees, boldly taking the recent strike wave into the private sector.

Late last week, 31,000 Stop & Shop workers from over 240 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island walked off the job after months of fruitless negotiations between the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

In large part, the recent wave of strikes and strike threats — many of them in sectors with heavily female workforces, including massive teachers’ strikes from West Virginia to Arizona and the threat from flight attendants’ union leader Sara Nelson to shut down the airlines if Trump didn’t reopen the government — has focused on challenging austerity in the public sector. Along with last year’s eight-city Marriott hotel workers’ strike and some recent actions by nurses, the Stop & Shop action puts workers in more direct confrontation with private capital.

Part of the dispute concerns the company’s move to eliminate Sunday and holiday pay for part-time workers, which, for many, is crucial to making ends meet. But like a lot of labor fights these days, this strike is mostly about health care: the company wants to impose a big increase in employees’ share of premium costs over the next three years and double the out-of-pocket limits (to $2,000 for an individual and $5,000 for a family).

Grocery chains are far more unionized than other retailers, and it’s common for unionized grocers to whine about competition with non-union stores. But UFCW points out that Stop & Shop is the number one supermarket chain in New England, and that its Dutch parent company, Alhold-Delhaize, reported $2 billion in profits last year and paid $880 million in dividends to shareholders over the last two years.

The strike is an opportunity to show that the extractive ravages of finance capital — and labor’s role in that devastation — can be reversed. While Stop & Shop is no longer owned by a private equity firm — it was sold to its present owners in 1996 by the New York firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts — the industry has acquired many other supermarkets, with devastating consequences for workers. Everyone in the industry feels the pressure. According to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, since 2015 private equity has bankrupted seven major grocery chains, stripping their assets, burying them in debt, and throwing 125,000 employees out of work. Public pension funds play a huge role in fueling the private equity machine — a kind of assisted suicide on labor’s part.

The role of union pension funds in fueling the anti-worker menace of private equity is especially shortsighted given that the grocery industry itself constitutes an excellent advertisement for the labor movement. Unions make a huge difference in the quality of supermarket jobs. Unionized grocery workers have often made a comfortable living and enjoyed decent benefits, while non-union retail workers suffer low wages, far more sex and race discrimination, and are often lucky to get Medicaid. (Many Stop & Shop workers make more than $20 an hour, while most non-union retail workers are still, famously, fighting for $15.) The success, at times, of union organizing in the supermarket sector gives the lie to the idea that retail jobs are poorly paid because they’re “low-skilled.” Indeed, a study of the unionized grocery industry in New Jersey found that it played a similar role to that of the manufacturing industry in earlier decades. In any industry — including manufacturing — when jobs are “good,” that’s at least partly because workers organized to make them good. Although manufacturing is especially productive, as Lou Uchitelle has noted, “low wage” is not a quality inherent to a job; it means, whatever the skill involved, that workers have not yet successfully organized for their share of the proceeds.

The Stop & Shop workers’ communities have been supportive. Non-employees have been joining the picket lines, bringing water and food. In much of New England, Stop & Shop is a part of daily life, but the region also has union-friendly blue-collar culture. Customers are refusing to cross picket lines and many stores have temporarily closed for at least part of the day, though others are using scab labor. One retail consultant estimated Stop & Shop was losing about $2 million a week and that the strike could lead to a loss of up to 4 percent of its annual profit, especially since it’s happening during Easter and Passover, traditionally some of the busiest food shopping weeks of the year.

Just as the teachers’ strikes did, this strike is tying workers, their unions and their struggles with capital firmly to the political sphere. While the teachers’ strikes injected K-12 education and teacher pay into the political conversation — even propelling teacher activists into elected office in some red states — the Stop & Shop strike may be shaping the Democratic presidential primary. Elizabeth Warren and even Joe Biden have been on the picket lines, with Biden seeking to incorporate his presence there into a pro-union campaign message — which, though in line with his Regular Joe image, is at odds with his record as a champion of the credit card industry and Clintonian pro-business politics. (Bernie Sanders has, of course, tweeted his support; let’s hope he gets onto the picket line soon. We all know what side he’s on, but he shouldn’t let Joe Biden, of all people, outdo him on this spring’s most important labor fight.)

It’s scary for workers with so little savings to go out on strike. The union has a strike fund, but it can’t match their usual wages. They should be able to stay out as long as it takes to win; the union is accepting contributions here.

The stakes of the Stop & Shop strike are high. A victory will show that it’s not just “highly skilled,” educated workers like teachers and nurses that can win through large-scale strikes — and not just in the public sector. It will also help to discipline and intimidate other employers: one newspaper found competing New England grocery chains unwilling to comment on how the strike had improved their business (presumably out of management-class solidarity), though the unusually crowded aisles and parking lots told that story plainly.

Most of all, a successful strike will show other retail workers that even in the private sector, even in an area ravaged by finance adventurism, a good union and a workforce ready to fight can make their jobs better. It’s not as if deli counter work, any more than teaching, can be shipped overseas.

by Liza Featherstone at April 19, 2019 05:24 PM

InterPressService (global south)

Media Landscape Marked by “Climate of Fear”

The state of journalism and press freedom around the world is declining according to a new press index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Journalists around the world are increasingly seeing threats of violence, detention, and even death simply for doing their job, a new press index found.

In the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has found a worrisome decline in media freedoms as toxic anti-press rhetoric have devolved into violence, triggering a climate of fear.

“The scene this year is fear. And the state of journalism and press freedom around the world is
declining… but also in the traditional press freedom allies—countries in Europe and here in the
United States,” said RSF’s Executive Director Sabine Dolan during the launch of the index.

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire echoed similar sentiments about the dangers of declining press freedom, stating: “If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger…Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”

Of 180 countries evaluated in RSF’s index, only 24 percent were classified as “good” or “fairly good” compared to 26 percent in 2018.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continues to be the most dangerous area for journalists as they face violence due to ongoing conflicts while also being deliberately targeted, imprisoned, and killed.

For example, Emirati blogger Ahmed Mansoor was sentenced to 10 years in prison after criticising the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) government on social media.

He was accused of “publishing false information, rumours and lies” which would “damage the UAE’s social harmony and unity.”

The persecution of MENA’s journalists has even extended past its own borders as seen through the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

Such a chilling level of violence has provoked fear among the region’s journalists, causing many to censor themselves.

But of all the world’s regions, it is the Americas that has seen the largest dip in its press freedom score.

Nicaragua for instance fell 24 places to 114th, making it one of the steepest declines worldwide—and with good reason.

What started as protests against controversial social security reforms has turned into one of the biggest crackdowns on dissent and media in the Central American nation.
Nicaraguans covering demonstrations have been treated as protestors or members of the opposition and have been subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and death threats.

Some have been charged with terrorism including Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda Ubau, journalists for the news agency 100% Noticias.

Further north, the United States’ media climate is now classified as “problematic” as a result of an increasingly toxic anti-media rhetoric.

Over the last year, media organisations across the country received bomb threats and suspicious packages including CNN, forcing evacuations.

In June 2018, after expressing his hatred for the Capital Gazette newspaper on social media, Jarrod Ramos walked into the newsroom and killed four journalists and a staff member.

Most recently, Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested for planning a terrorist attack targeting journalists and politicians.

Such anti-media sentiment is partially fuelled by U.S. President Donald Trump who has called journalists “enemy of the people.”

“When this becomes constant, it’s almost normalised and it percolates to large segments of the
population. And this is how it has contributed to create this climate of fear for journalists,” Dolan said.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), over 11 percent of the president’s tweets have insulted or criticised journalists and news media.

In reference to a particular tweet by Trump which states that it is “disgusting” that the press can write whatever they want, former White House Correspondent Bill Plante noted that the U.S. is in a very “dangerous place” now.

“It is one thing to steer news coverage, by putting things out there or leaking certain stories or trying to avoid coverage of other things—it’s entirely another to threaten reporters and to say that news coverage shouldn’t be allowed,” he said.

This rhetoric has not only impacted journalists in the U.S., but has also spilled over abroad as world leaders from Venezuela to the Philippines use terms like “fake news” to justify human rights violations and crackdowns on press freedom.

But it is not all bad news.

Ethiopia made an unprecedented 40-place jump in the Index after new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took swift steps to improve press freedom including the release of all detained journalists.

While such progress is promising, there is a long way to go to secure press freedom globally, especially as it seemingly regresses.

“The only weapon we have is truth. The problem is that in today’s media environment along with social media, we can be overwhelmed. So we have to come out there with more effort than ever to get the truth out,” Plante said.

The post Media Landscape Marked by “Climate of Fear” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Tharanga Yakupitiyage at April 19, 2019 04:50 PM

Activists Spotlight Education for Development and Rights

Rilli Lappalainen, Bridge 47’s founder and steering group chairperson. Credit: A D McKenzie/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
BELGRADE, Apr 19 2019 (IPS)

Bridge 47, a Finland-based organisation created “to bring people together to share and learn from each other”, put global citizenship education (GCED) centre-stage at a recent annual meeting of civil society.

International Civil Society Week (ICSW) meeting was held last week from Apr. 8-12 in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade.

Co-hosted by the Johannesburg-based global civil society alliance CIVICUS and Serbian association Civic Initiatives, the event overall brought together more than 850 delegates from around the world, with Bridge 47 being the “biggest event partner”.

The organisation’s sessions had more than 170 people taking part, and four sessions. But it was their sessions on dialogue that showed how often people misconstrue what others are trying to say and how that can lead to conflict and aimed to help diverse groups bridge communication gaps.

In an exercise on silent communication, participants later explained in words what it was they’d been trying to communicate. Many of the “listeners” had got the signals wrong.

“This meeting showed how we need to act together,” said Rilli Lappalainen, Bridge 47’s founder and steering group chairperson. “It showed how we need to allow the space for dialogue, and that dialogue is the essence of peaceful society. If we really want to make a change, we need to cooperate and communicate, rather than everyone sitting in their own box.”

Lappalainen said the name of the organisation comes from Target 4.7 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set in 2015 for achievement by 2030.

Goal 4 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Target 4.7 is to ensure that by 2030 “all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”.

That is a mouthful, and some people may be put off by the usual UN-speak, but Lappalainen told IPS the simple message is that educators, rights defenders and civil society groups need to “join forces” across different sectors and to “build bridges”.

For the UN, an indicator of Target 4.7 is the “extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed” at all levels.

“This was the first time the UN recognised non-formal and informal education,” said Lappalainen. “Formal education is absolutely needed but it’s not enough, and we need to recognise the importance of learning outside of the school system. Part of our work is that we advocate for governments to give the space and respect for this kind of education.”

Officials say that GCED is an important system to teach mutual respect. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), global citizenship education is a response to the continuing challenges of human rights violations, inequality and poverty that “threaten peace and sustainability”.

The agency says that GCED “works by empowering learners of all ages to understand that these are global, not local issues and to become active promoters of more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable societies”.

Christopher Castle, chief of UNESCO’s section for Health and Global Citizenship Education, said in an interview that it was important for schoolchildren to be given the opportunity to think about values such as “solidarity and cooperation”.

In addition to children, global citizenship education can benefit youth and adults, says UNESCO. This learning can be provided in various ways, but the main method in most countries will be through the formal education system. As such, governments can integrate the concept either as part of existing programmes or as a separate subject.

The “values” of global citizenship have long been discussed, but the concept gathered momentum with the launch of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) in 2012. This identified “fostering global citizenship” as one of the three priority areas of work, along with access to and quality of education.

During ICSW, participants at the Bridge 47 events included teachers, administrators and various members of civil society groups. Tom Roche, a furniture-maker from Ireland and founder of the NGO Just Forests, said the education sessions were useful in learning to create links and to navigate divides.

“We often have to work with people who have opposing views from us,” he told IPS, “We need skills to be able to understand everyone.”

Roche said that as a carpenter, he began questioning the use of imported wood in furniture-making and became concerned about the destruction of forests. Over the years, he has developed educational resources for schools in Ireland, to inform students about the effects of society’s dependence on wood, he said.

He also gives input to policies for “responsible wood procurement”, despite lack of understanding from some associates. “People used to say: ‘oh, you’re a tree-hugger’, and I would say that ‘no, we need to be responsible about how we cut down trees,’” he told IPS.

Roche added that he was at the Belgrade meeting to show support as well for the “frontline defenders” of the environment and of forests, many of whom have been attacked and even murdered over the past decade.

“The issue is very important at this meeting, and it should be,” he said, pointing out that the GCED events provided “new ways to deliver the same message”.

Along with communication exercises, Bridge 47 said that the use of story-telling, art and satire was important to have an impact on social movement. (Amsterdam-based cartoonist Floris Oudshoorn did live drawings of the group’s ICSW discussions, for instance, covering climate change, rights activism and a range of other issues.)

“We want to encourage active citizenship,” said Nora Forsbacka, Bridge 47’s project manager. “We want citizens to speak out and take action, to reflect on our place in the world and the privileges we carry. All this requires a significant transformation in how we think about things.”

The post Activists Spotlight Education for Development and Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.


This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which was the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), sponsored by CIVICUS, and which took place in Belgrade, April 8-12.

The post Activists Spotlight Education for Development and Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by A. D. McKenzie at April 19, 2019 04:45 PM

Athens: Protest camp in front of Greek parliament after 4 evictions in 8 days

Yesterday [April 18] Greek police evicted the Clandestina refugee squat [pictured] and the queer feminist Cyclopi squat. One week before cops evicted the Azadi and Babylon refugee squats. Yesterday afternoon refugees have build up a protest camp in front of Greek parliament at Syntagma square to protest against the evictions.

The cops came in the very early morning hours to evict Clandestina refugee squat yesterday. At the same time they evicted Cyclopi. With 4 evictions in just 8 days, more than 300 people are homeless now.

Yesterday afternoon a group of about 70 refugees went to Syntagma square in Athens and started a protest camp in front of Greek parliament. The refugees demand housing, many of them are homeless after the evictions of the past 9 days.

Among the now homeless refugees are many children. One of the protesting refugees, Hessam Shaery, wrote on his Facebook profile: “There is no reason, no good logic to turning women and babies to the street.

No good justification can come forward.

If the Greek police and authorities do this, where is Europe?

Who can allow this to happen?

Please, don’t click like or sad, or angry. Tell your policitians, send aid.

We are humans less worthy than a religious building?

You risk arrest we are told. Well that would be some kind of roof at least.”

Arash Hampay wrote on his Facebook profile: ”
Homeless the refugees who were evicted today from a squat in Athens, now in a central square, Syndagma and protesting. They are around 70 people, mostly families with women and small kids.”

The Our House project supports the homeless refugees. On their Facebook page Our House wrote:

“Eviction update, peaceful protest in Syntagma

Thanks to those who brought clothes, food and blankets for the homeless women and children holding their protest through the night here in Syntagma Square, Athens.

This act of solidarity means very much to people who have been treated in this way.

Our House stand with refugees and homeless.

You are welcome to join this peaceful statement, the need for visibility of the enforcement of homeless on women and children refugees. Come down to Syntagma!!

More blankets, food and sleeping bags are needed.

More emergency shelter will be needed.

Help us help please.”

You can support the homeless refugees and the work of the Our House projekt with a donation on PayPal:

The protest in front of Greek parliament is continuing.


by sisulscz at April 19, 2019 04:35 PM

Social media restricted in Venezuela as Guaido speaks from Caracas

Network data shows that Venezuela’s state-run internet provider ABA CANTV (AS8048) has restricted access to YouTube, several Google services, Android mobile backend servers and Microsoft Bing as of 15:35 UTC (11:35 VET 19 April 2019) up until 16:30 UTC (12:30 VET 19 April 2019). The nationwide block coincides with a live-streamed public speech by Juan Guaido from Plaza Bolívar in Chacao, Caracas.

Findings are based on 500 network measurements taken across Venezuela. Unlike previous recent episodes of social media filtering, Twitter’s Periscope live video streaming service has not been significantly affected in this instance. The outage marks the continuation of ongoing ephemeral, or intermittent internet censorship imposed by the state appearing to target critical speech. Data are consistent with previous targeted disruptions during public appearances by Juan Guaidó, and during sessions of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

Venezuela saw a remission in ephemeral network filtering during the nationwide power outages through March. News media and campaign website filters nevertheless remained in place throughout that period and intermittent censorship targeting Guaidó resumed when much of the country remained offline due to chronic power grid failures.

Past incidents of network filtering in Venezuela have lasted from twelve minutes to over twenty hours, when YouTube was restricted hours before the country’s first nationwide power outage. Network data indicates that each platform disruption is consistent with methods used to block online content in Venezuela.

Note: The updated chart below has one-minute rounding to provide a clearer representation of the incident’s onset and duration:


NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

[ methodology handbook | press | contact ] Graphics and visualizations provided under a free and open license for reuse with clear attribution.

The post Social media restricted in Venezuela as Guaido speaks from Caracas appeared first on NetBlocks.

by Editorial at April 19, 2019 04:05 PM

Anarchy Bang: Introducing Episode Sixteen

Anarchist Responses To The Mainstream Nightmare

From Anarchy Bang

A couple individuals has asked how "post left" anarchists respond, in practical terms, to the rise of the right, to the impact of daily immiseration, and the general rise of the ick. I can't speak for a position I do not hold (and that generally should be thought of as a critique and not a position) but if there is something different about second wave anarchy (broadly defined as an anarchist position informed by May 68 rather than Spain of 36) let's discuss it and think about it. Insurrection rather than revolution? About individuals rather than categories? Perhaps about categories rather than classes? About reach rather than grasp? Let's talk about new(er) ideas in anarchy and how they have and have not given us more practical ideas about anarchist practice. This Sunday at noon (PST) call in for live discussion. The rest of the week for downloads and whatnot.

Join in the conversation!

Sunday at noon (PST or -7 UTC) at Email questions ahead if you like The real time IRC is a chaotic mess (and pleasure). There are better ways to connect to IRC but it involves some reading The call in number is (646) 787-8464

by anarchybang at April 19, 2019 03:30 PM

J20 Zine Series

From CrimethInc.

On January 20, 2017, 500 anarchists determined to disrupt the inauguration of Donald Trump squared off against 28,000 security personnel in Washington, DC. That day’s clashes helped set the tone for resistance to the Trump administration; in the ensuing legal ordeal, prosecutors tried to set dramatic new precedents for repressing protest activity, but defendant solidarity completely thwarted their efforts. On the two-year anniversary of J20 2017, we published a series of articles analyzing what we can learn from the actions against the inauguration and the defense campaign that followed them. Here, we present zine versions of all those articles.

The J20 mobilization and subsequent court cases were historic events. They offer invaluable lessons about how to prepare for mass mobilizations, how to understand the strengths and weaknesses of riot police in situations of public unrest, and how to organize effective support for defendants when the state cracks down. Please print these out to share with your community.

As a bonus, in addition to the J20 zines, we have added two more posters and another zine, all of which are listed in the appendix, below.

Click on the image to download Anarchist Resistance to the Trump Inauguration.

Click on the image to download We’ve Got Your Back: The Story of the J20 Defense.

Click on the image to download I Was a J20 Street Medic and Defendant.

Click on the image to download Between the Sun and the Sea: Icarus at 12th and L.

Click on the image to download Load Every Rift With Ore: Critical Reflections on the J20 Trial and Support Campaign.

Appendix: Some Other New Designs

In addition to the J20 zines, we’ve also added the following posters illustrating our analysis Against the Logic of the Guillotine and celebrating workplace theft for STEAL SOMETHING FROM WORK DAY. Ready for wheatpasting!

Click on the image to download the poster.

Click the image to download the PDF.

Alongside the serialized audiobook version of our book about borders and migration, No Wall They Can Build, we have prepared a zine design of our interview with a volunteer from No More Deaths about the context that solidarity workers face on the border today.

Click the image to download the PDF of Fighting Border Violence from Obama to Trump.


by thecollective at April 19, 2019 03:25 PM


The Corporate Campaign to Kill Bernie’s Medicare for All Bill Is Here

Bernie Sanders has long warned that the wealthy would push back against his agenda. The massive health care company UnitedHealth is starting to do just that — by trying to destroy Medicare for All.

alt Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on April 6 in Fairfield, IA. Scott Olson / Getty

The class war over Medicare for All is here. On one side is Bernie Sanders, who recently introduced new and improved Medicare-for-All legislation with the support of a burgeoning grassroots movement and historic small-donor fundraising. On the other side is UnitedHealth, the massive health care company — the fifth-largest US corporation by total revenue of any kind — whose stocks have been plummeting since Sanders revived the bill.

UnitedHealth can no longer hide their efforts to destroy Sanders’s public health system proposal: a whistleblower recently revealed that UnitedHealth’s insurance subsidiary, UnitedHealthcare, is working hard to ensure Democrats focus on reforming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) instead of pushing for Medicare for All, which will eliminate their entire industry. When asked about their stance on Medicare for All, the company’s chief executive Steve Nelson said, “We are advocating heavily and very involved in the conversation.”

They’re also warning their investors of the bill’s potential to “destabilize the nation’s health system.” Nelson explained that the company is “trying to be thoughtful about how we enter in the conversation, because there’s a risk of seeming like it’s self-serving.” Nelson, who made $7,580,440 last year at a company that pulled out of the ACA’s exchanges, is right to fear the optics.

In response, Sanders stated on Twitter:

Our message to Steve Nelson and UnitedHealthcare is simple: When we are in the White House your greed is going to end. We will end the disgrace of millions of people being denied health care while a single company earns $226 billion and its CEO makes $7.5 million in compensation.

This isn’t just a policy debate, it’s a political struggle. In fighting for Medicare for All, Sanders and his supporters are going toe to toe with one of the most powerful businesses in the world. This is just the beginning of the fight.

The Anti–Medicare for All Coalition

But UnitedHealth is not alone. UnitedHealth has spent millions on lobbying in recent years, but a new anti–Medicare for All coalition, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHC), has spent a combined $143 million on lobbying in 2018 alone. The coalition’s key partners include the American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA), and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

In addition to lobbying representatives, this coalition of for-profit insurers and providers is unleashing a full counterattack on Medicare for All with white papers, ads, polling, press events, and more. Less than two weeks after Massachusetts representative Lori Trahan cosponsored the House Medicare for All Act, she became the first target of PAHC’s Facebook ads, which misleadingly suggested that she was trying to repeal the ACA: “In 2018, Congresswoman Trahan said: ‘I’m committed to improving and strengthening the ACA first and foremost . . .’ But now she wants to repeal it with Medicare for All?”

The partnership is hammering the message that Medicare for All will cost too much, the government can’t be trusted to administer health care, and therefore we should shore up the ACA instead.

The Democratic establishment has embraced this as their vision for health care policy. Despite 85 percent of Democratic voters saying they support Medicare for All, the PAHC’s talking points in press releases and op-eds are now being parroted by House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After receiving a combined $43,740,947 in campaign donations from insurance and pharmaceutical industries, House Democrats have a vested interest in killing Medicare for All.

Fool Me Once

A national health insurance program like Medicare for All has never received a vote in the history of Congress. The first viable window for such a vote was the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill under Franklin Roosevelt and subsequently Harry Truman. The American Medical Association opened its first Washington lobbying office in 1943, the year it was introduced. With the help of partners like the AHA and Chamber of Commerce, they launched a national campaign featuring a massive amount of spending ($1.5 million in one year alone, around $15 million in 2015 dollars).

This powerful lobby bombarded the public sphere with pamphlets, posters, and letters to the editor, targeting supportive senators and accusing the government of establishing socialism or even “state slavery.” Meanwhile, Ohio senator Robert Taft introduced rival legislation comprised of subsidies and means-tested programs. In a handful of years, industry titans were able to reverse the overwhelming public support for the bill from 75 percent approval to a mere 21 percent.

When the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill reached hearings, lawmakers caved under the pressure. Despite the alignment of a Democratic Congress, supportive president, and a militant labor movement, they failed to even hold a vote.

This might sound all too familiar to the Medicare for All fight today (or the lobbyist assault on the public option ten years ago). Today, means-tested bills like Medicare X or Medicare for America are competing for attention while Donald Trump and Republicans smear universal health care as a “radical socialist” plan.

The parallels to our current moment should be a warning sign for advocates of Medicare for All. If we don’t organize a broad constituency ready to wage political struggle against these historic forces, we could see our movement undermined again.

Bernie Can’t Do It Alone

Right now a champion for Medicare for All is running for president in Bernie Sanders, and he has a serious chance of winning. Sanders has not just been consistent on policy over the years — he’s done so while foregrounding class struggle. This sets him apart from both past presidents and current contenders.

In this week’s Fox News town hall, Sanders condemned former Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini for taking a $500 million bonus after the company’s merger with CVS. He asked: “Do you think that’s how we should spend health care dollars?”

Just like his indictment of UnitedHealth, Sanders names names and draws out conflict between the working class and the wealthy few. He calls for a mass movement of millions of people to overcome this conflict and warns of the corporate interests mobilizing against such a movement.

In his recent Medicare for All press conference, he framed it clearly:

This struggle will be opposed by some of the most powerful forces in the United States. The insurance companies, the drug companies, and everyone who profits off the current system, will spend many, many hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat us.

We are getting a glimpse of this opposition now. Medicare for All’s backers should only expect more as the policy becomes an increasingly viable threat to the profiteering of private insurance companies.

by Luke Thibault at April 19, 2019 02:16 PM

Weimar Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu won reelection by outflanking Israel’s far right. If you listen closely, you can hear the rumble of fascism approaching.

alt Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at the South Portico of the White House on March 25 in Washington DC. Michael Reynolds / Getty

In June 2009, in a speech at Bar-Ilan University, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his support for a two-state solution. There were conditions, of course, but if the Palestinians relinquished their weapons, renounced the right of return, and recognized Israel’s right to exist, he would give them their state. Did he mean it? Probably not, though the question isn’t especially interesting. Netanyahu’s politics are a weather vane: they speak more to the direction of travel in Israeli politics than to the contents of his conscience. If you want to know where Israel is at, look to him.

For anyone wondering where Israel is now, Netanyahu recently provided an answer. Speaking on an Israeli news program in the final few days of his election campaign, he vowed that were he to win a fifth term, he would begin the formal annexation of the West Bank, territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Some in the media interpreted this as proof of the demise of the two-state solution, but for those on the ground, annexation would merely confirm what has been obvious for some time: that in every meaningful sense, the West Bank is already part of Israel.

In the ten years between Bar-Ilan and this election there have been over one hundred thousand new settlers in the occupied territories, taking the overall population to somewhere in the region of six hundred thousand (counting Palestinian East Jerusalem). The Green Line, which ostensibly demarcates the West Bank from Israel proper, is increasingly blurred, occluded in law as well as by the sheer accumulation of facts on the ground. It’s no longer so easy to tell where “democracy” ends and occupation begins: everyone agrees that Tel Aviv is part of Israel, but what about Ma’ale Adumim (population forty thousand), a settlement ten minutes east of Jerusalem? Israel recognizes no difference in the rights and duties of their residents — both must serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); both were able to vote in last week’s election. The large settlement blocs are now regarded as immutable, and the prospect of their evacuation as faintly ridiculous.

Just as the West Bank has been subsumed into Israel, so too has Israel been remade in the image of the occupied territories. Anti-Zionists have long argued that Israel is, as Meron Benvenisti put it, a herrenvolk democracy: a democracy for Jews and a Jewish state for everyone else. Netanyahu agrees, and with the passage of last year’s Nation-State Law, has etched this previously unspoken hierarchy into the constitution. The right to self-determination has been established as “unique to the Jewish people,” and Arabic, formerly an official language, has been demoted to one with only “special status.”

All this is to provide some context for Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “Deal of the Century,” which is set to be revealed at some unspecified time in the near future. The particulars of the plan will remain a mystery until its unveiling, but it would take a special kind of chutzpah for Netanyahu to have rhetorically established Greater Israel without his patron’s approval. Given his announcement — and the fact that Trump didn’t upbraid him for it — it now seems overwhelmingly likely that the plan will include some kind of formal recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

Not everyone agrees: some in the Israeli press have cast doubt on Netanyahu’s sincerity, pointing out that he has a history of cheap pre-election stunts intended to get his base to the polls. According to this argument, he cynically used annexation as a way of outflanking rivals on the Right who had sought to attack him as a peacenik, preparing not the settlement of Eretz Israel but the transfer of already settled land in the service of creating a Palestinian state.

But this line of thinking is something of a trap, because it assumes that Netanyahu has a set of sincere beliefs from which he sometimes deviates. It’s often forgotten that for the bulk of his career he was considered part of Likud’s moderate wing, only to shift rightwards when he began building coalitions with religious Zionists rather than liberals. Sifting through his past positions in an effort to find some animating ideological purpose is a pretty fruitless task when they so often contradict each other.

Likud moderate, then nationalist strongman, proponent of Palestinian statehood in 2009 and fanatical opponent of it in 2015: Netanyahu has observed no consistent principle throughout his career save an infatuation with power. It isn’t that he wouldn’t promise annexation to gain an edge at the polls — he unquestionably would. But he’d go through with it too, if the prize were a fifth term and immunity from his looming indictments.

Besides, that Trump’s deal would be kind to the settlers has been apparent for some time, for reasons that go beyond Netanyahu’s recent announcement. For one thing, it’s being crafted by the instinctually pro-settlement Jared Kushner, who is so close to the Israeli establishment that Netanyahu once slept in his childhood bedroom. Plus, the evacuation of Jerusalem’s settlers would be a dramatic about-face for an administration that recognized it as Israel’s capital only last May, shattering decades of diplomatic precedent in the process.

Then there is Trump’s recent recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the occupation of which Israel justifies on the basis that it was captured in a “defensive war,” an obscure legal contrivance based on a deliberate misreading of international law. Since the West Bank was captured just as the Golan was, Trump’s intervention on the latter provides him with a pretext to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the former.

If there is to be an annexation, what will it look like? How far will Netanyahu extend sovereignty, and how much will Trump recognize? Will Israel’s borders extend “from the river to the sea,” or will there be a legal difference between the settlement blocs and the more fanatical outposts?

Netanyahu seemed to suggest the former in his announcement, saying, “I don’t distinguish between the settlement blocs and the isolated ones, because each settlement is Israeli, and I will not hand it over to Palestinian sovereignty.” Despite this, it seems unlikely that he wants the entire West Bank — he is too risk-averse for the administrative nightmare of governing it without a Palestinian vassal. Accounting for this instinctual risk-aversion, for his preference for words over deeds, and for the sizable backing his plan will enjoy in the Knesset, the likeliest outcome is the application of Israeli sovereignty over the main settlement blocs, with the smaller and more remote garrisons remaining in legal limbo, to be administered in perpetuity by the IDF.

This would mesh with the likely direction of Trump’s plan, though Trump will want to claim the title of peacemaker, and to that end might also press for the establishment of a nominal Palestinian state. If this occurs, what is offered to the Palestinians will not be a state in any meaningful sense, but an amorphous cluster of Bantustans, not only demilitarized but non-contiguous. Given that accepting this miserable offer would entail foreclosing on the right of return and a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) would be under significant pressure to reject the deal. This, I suspect, is what Netanyahu secretly wants. The collapse of Trump’s deal would allow him to spin his narrative of Palestinian “rejectionism” into a unilateral annexation, but without the hassle of having a plan to be bound by, or a partner to negotiate with.

Whatever the precise shape of Trump’s plan, it will have been devised with one eye firmly on the demographics of the West Bank. Demographic anxiety lies at the heart of actually existing Zionism, and Netanyahu is keenly aware that Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” mission could not survive the absorption of two million resentful Palestinians. If full-scale annexation were to occur, now or at some time in the future, this demographic anxiety dictates that the Palestinian population would need to be shrunk to an assimilable size before it could begin.

One report, from the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, suggests something to this effect, claiming that Trump will press Jordan to grant citizenship to a million Palestinian refugees as part of his deal, offering them $45 billion in US aid as a sweetener. A similar kickback would be given to Egypt in return for its accepting an unnamed number of refugees, and a complex series of land transfers, with Jordan receiving a small amount of territory from Saudi Arabia, would then complete the scheme.

It’s unlikely that any of the Arab parties involved would assent to this. And if Israel fails to ethnically cleanse the West Bank it might be Arabs inside the Green Line who suffer. Already there is speculation by some in the Israeli media that this marks the last election where non-Jews will have the right to vote.

Palestinian Defeat

It’s a minor paradox of Netanyahu’s reign that he has been one of Israel’s most destructive prime ministers at the same time as being one of its most cautious. As the Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer has noted, Netanyahu prefers brinksmanship to all-out conflict, something evidenced by the relatively low Israeli casualty rate under his tenure. But it would be a mistake to think this indicates an aversion to war, rather than a calculation on his part that military enclosure and economic immiseration are a sufficiently effective means of muzzling Palestinian ambitions.

It’s difficult to overstate just how successful he has been in this regard. Gaza still resists, but in the West Bank all is calm. Netanyahu’s occupation has been absolute: he has presided over the transformation of the Palestinian Authority into a collaborationist regime, overseen the asphyxiation of Palestinian civil society, the total repression of any violent resistance, and made it his mission to throttle any nascent Palestinian solidarity, no matter how petty it makes him look.

Having pacified the Palestinians domestically, Netanyahu has recently set about trying to divest them of their major international alliances. The official Palestinian response to Trump’s plan has been to appeal to the Arab League’s proposed two-state solution, devised in 2002 and endorsed at every league summit since.

But in the past few years the league’s members have somewhat lost interest in Palestine, having become transfixed by the threat of Iran. Israel, with its Iron Dome technology and its armory of nuclear weapons, is an unignorable ally in the fight against Iranian regional hegemony, and every Gulf state save Qatar now prefers the unholy alliance with Netanyahu to an apparently futile solidarity with Palestine.

In the long run, this might prove to be Netanyahu’s shrewdest move of all. It’s possible that much of the Western world will soon be in the hands of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn — and perhaps others with a similar outlook — both lifelong peace activists who would be inclined to forge closer ties with Palestine (there is even talk that Corbyn would like to levy sanctions against Israel). In combination with a more mainstream, muscular Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign, this could create the political leverage necessary to reopen serious peace talks.

However, if by that time Israel has cemented its new friendships in the Gulf, it might not even have to attend. Israel’s alliance with the US is predominantly strategic, not monetary, and despite Netanyahu’s closeness to Trump Israel is already less economically dependent on America than popularly assumed.

It has a robust economy, which was mostly undamaged by the 2008 crash, and a GDP that far outstrips what it receives in US military aid. Economic discontent is muffled by the fact that poverty is distributed mostly among disparate Arab and Haredi communities, making working-class solidarity difficult. Israel could feasibly carry out its program of colonial dispossession without US support, provided that its Arab neighbors continue to look the other way.

Hitler In a Kippah

In 2014, shortly after the launch of Operation Protective Edge, a bloody, month-long IDF incursion into Gaza, the Likud lawmaker Moshe Feiglin wrote a post criticizing its execution and outlining how he thought it should be fought. Despite Protective Edge resulting in the deaths of over two thousand Palestinians, Feiglin’s concern was its squeamishness, rather than its brutality.

Admonishing Netanyahu, he advocated a “total siege,” the “elimination” of Hamas, and ultimately the ethnic cleansing and settlement of the Gaza Strip. His plan was subtitled “the steps towards achieving quiet in Gaza,” with “quiet” presumably invoked as a tacit rejoinder to the traditional focus on “peace.” Feiglin left Likud in 2015 and went on to form Zehut, a pro-weed, pro-Third Temple party that was wiped out in last week’s election; Netanyahu, meanwhile, is readying himself for a fifth term.

It would be strange to say that Feiglin is too extreme for Israeli politics, given that some of the country’s most beloved legislators have been similarly fond of eliminationist rhetoric. No — Feiglin’s problem was that he failed to reckon with the astonishing effectiveness of Netanyahu’s suffocating brand of occupation politics. Netanyahu has already achieved quiet in Palestine; now, by stealing annexationism from them, he intends to achieve quiet on the far right as well.

And if the election results are anything to go by, it looks to have worked. Despite the indictments hanging over its leader’s head, Likud performed better than it did in 2015, and Netanyahu’s annexation ploy appears to have deprived his chief rivals of their raison d’etre: along with Feiglin, Naftali Bennett — once viewed as a prime minister in waiting — saw his hard-right Hayamin Hadash party fail to reach the electoral threshold.

However, Feiglin and his comrades on the irredentist right shouldn’t be too disheartened. Though there isn’t much of an appetite for it now, if what I predicted above transpires, with Netanyahu limiting his policy to the incorporation of the main settlement blocs, their more extreme politics will insinuate themselves into the mainstream soon enough. Once the bulk of the West Bank is seized, and the impossibility of a Palestinian state becomes undeniable, questions of full-scale annexation and ethnic cleansing will follow soon behind. Palestinians can’t be assimilated, since this would entail Israel sacrificing its Jewish majority. So where else is there to go?

Feiglin has an answer: get rid of them and claim the land for ourselves. This is fascism, but fascism doesn’t emerge unbidden from the ether: it is an ideology of solutions, and it finds its support in promising to remedy problems the establishment created but is too chicken to solve. A partial annexation now would only kick the can down the road, further impoverishing the West Bank and its moribund institutions, and clearing the way for Hitler in a kippah to be unleashed upon the Palestinians in four years’ time.

A Non-Story

In 1968, a year after the occupation began, the Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote an essay envisaging a future in which Israel never relinquished its newly captured territory. What he saw was monstrous:

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police – mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech, and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the state of Israel.

Administering this situation would “degenerate” the Israeli army, fostering what he elsewhere labeled “Judeo-Nazi” tendencies in its soldiers. Leibowitz was loathed by the Right, but he was a Zionist, and his concern was for Israel’s Jewish majority as well as its morality. As he put it:

Our real problem is not the territory but rather the population of about a million and a half Arabs who live in it and over whom we must rule. Inclusion of these Arabs . . . in the area under our rule will effect the liquidation of the state of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and bring about catastrophe for the Jewish people as a whole.

This belief — that the occupation would eventually destroy the state — was the founding assumption of Israeli liberalism, and one that held through five decades of war, failed peace talks, and constant, unceasing settlement. That it turned out to be incorrect shouldn’t be held against Leibowitz, who got so much else right: not even he could have foreseen five terms of Netanyahu, or a US president aligned with the settlers.

A just peace has never been more remote, but Israel has quiet and seems to have contented itself with that. “Who talks about the occupation today?” the veteran activist Anat Saragusti recently asked. “We don’t physically see it, it hardly appears in the media, except for on the fringes, and politically it is a non-story.”

It is precisely this insulation from the reality of the occupation that has set Israel on its inertial path towards annexation. Trump’s deal, whatever it does or doesn’t accomplish, will not change that.

by Douglas Gerrard at April 19, 2019 01:43 PM

AOC Is Right About Aid to Israel

Israel regularly violates human rights, murders journalists, and is now becoming part of a global far-right alliance. Cutting aid to the country should be “on the table” — to say the least.

alt Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on April 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Alex Wroblewski / Getty

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says cutting aid to Israel should be “on the table” and “can be discussed.” This is, in fact, a moderate position.

For one thing, US military aid to Israel is already supposed to be illegal under the so-called Leahy Laws. Those laws bar the US government from giving training, equipment, and other types of assistance to any overseas security forces committing “gross violations of human rights,” which include torture and extrajudicial killing.

There is copious evidence of the Israeli military routinely killing protesters, including teenagers and medics — often from sniper positions hundreds of feet away — despite the plethora of nonlethal, high-tech options it has to repel demonstrators. One could go further back and cite the Israeli military’s indiscriminate bombing and shelling of Gaza, or the frequent reports of Israeli torture of Palestinians, documented by the United Nations and other organizations. But the recent sniper killings alone are sufficient.

But forget about the rule of law. Even by the warped moral standards of Washington, D.C., Israel has crossed a red line, with the UN determining this past February that Israeli forces had killed and wounded clearly marked journalists and medics during last year’s Gaza protests. Saudi Arabia killing a single journalist last year was considered so shocking and outrageous that its government received months of well-deserved condemnation, including from many who had previously been enthusiastic supporters of the Kingdom, leading to Congress’s historic attempt to end US support for the country’s war in Yemen. Unless the argument is Saudi Arabia would have been on solid ground if it had simply murdered Jamal Khashoggi by sniper fire, this is clearly a double standard.

Then there’s the political element. Even a committed liberal Zionist would have to admit the direction of Israeli politics is now entering scary new territory. To win the most recent election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu teamed up with far-right ultranationalists who are so toxic, even AIPAC — AIPAC! — condemned the alliance and refuses to meet with them. Netanyahu has spent the past few years cozying up to far-right, racist governments in Europe, drumming up hatred domestically, and trying to centralize power. Even Beto O’Rourke, who seems pathologically unwilling to articulate and stick to a political position, has called him “racist.”

That’s not even to mention the most central criticism of Israel: its decades-long subjugation of the Palestinian people, its flouting of the international peace process, and its continued violation of international law in regard to the conflict.

If Americans are alarmed by Israel’s actions — be they the killing and abuse of innocent people, targeting of journalists, drift towards the global far right, or treatment of Palestinians — they have a relatively straightforward piece of leverage they can use to seek to change its behavior: the billions of dollars of military and economic aid the US government sends to Israel every year, which has made the country the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since the Second World War and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the country’s defense budget. There is no other country on the planet that has this kind of arrangement, let alone an apartheid state that is openly vying to become a member of a far-right, authoritarian international alliance.

One of the most pathetic moments in the history of US leadership took place in 2016. After Netanyahu spent years ignoring Obama’s calls to halt illegal settlements, quietly tried to get his opponent elected in 2012, and made an unprecedented, widely criticized speech to Congress that he never bothered to clear with the president, in an effort to derail his foreign policy, Obama punished Israel by … negotiating the largest military aid deal in US history with the country. Why on earth would Israel ever change its behavior when its leaders have been conditioned to understand it won’t be punished by any member of the US political class, and may in fact be rewarded?

So yes, cutting or outright withdrawing aid to Israel should be “on the table” — to say the least. Decades of unflinching financial support for Israel no matter what atrocity it commits or norm it violates has given its leaders the completely correct belief they can do anything they want without consequence. It’s time to prove them wrong.

by Branko Marcetic at April 19, 2019 12:31 PM

Democratic Insiders Are Right to Be Afraid of Bernie Sanders

Party elites and big donors aren’t afraid of Bernie Sanders losing to Trump. They’re afraid he’ll win.

alt Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Park on March 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama / Getty

In 2016 the most frequent objection to Bernie Sanders’s candidacy from leading Democrats arguably concerned his electability. Sanders, proclaimed an army of insiders, pundits, and party apparatchiks, simply couldn’t win a general election against Donald Trump or any other would-be Republican nominee — especially compared to the eminently electable Hillary Clinton. Proponents of this narrative tended to dismiss a great deal of evidence to the contrary: from the size, energy, and dynamism of Sanders’s crowds to the deluge of opinion polls suggesting that there was a very real possibility Clinton might lose to several of the GOP’s prospective nominees and that Sanders could win.

However party elites may have felt about Sanders’s chances in 2016, his momentum ahead of 2020 is fast becoming impossible for them to deny. Earlier this week, an Emerson College poll showed him leading all other Democratic candidates, with most trailing far behind. A more important measure, however, is probably his fundraising returns — which not only outstrip his rivals’ but include a huge number of small donations from a much larger pool of contributors. Sanders’s adeptness at taking his message to hostile territory, evidenced by a successful appearance at a Fox News town hall event this week, only adds to the overall impression.

In a different political cosmos, Democratic insiders might be overjoyed to see a popular frontrunner generate so much enthusiasm so early in the race. Recent reporting from the New York Times, however, suggests party elites are already plotting against Sanders, complete with secretive dinners featuring players from throughout the Democratic establishment and the donor class:

The matter of What To Do About Bernie and the larger imperative of party unity has, for example, hovered over a series of previously undisclosed Democratic dinners in New York and Washington organized by the longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz. The gatherings have included scores from the moderate or center-left wing of the party, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., himself a presidential candidate; and the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden.

The report, a near-perfect distillation of Democratic insider culture and elitism at their very worst, suggests the party’s corporate-friendly faction fears a repeat of what Republican apparatchiks experienced in 2016:

From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts to the cloakrooms of Washington, mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders, in a political scenario all too reminiscent of how Mr. Trump himself seized the Republican nomination in 2016.

Nowhere in the aggrieved musings do any of the figures quoted seem to have asked themselves why Vermont senator’s message is catching on. The fact is, it’s hard to imagine a better illustration of Sanders’s diagnosis of American politics than party elites and donors meeting at secret dinners with the explicit aim of tilting the primaries in their favor before a single vote has been cast.

The report gives the distinct impression party insiders’ main objective has more to do with maintaining control of the Democratic Party and keeping its policy agenda as nonthreatening to business interests as possible than it does with removing Donald Trump from office. The outcome big donors and party elites fear most of all, it seems, is a populist candidate defeating the familiar cavalcade of conventional, corporate-friendly politicians and going on to win the presidency.

From health insurance giants to defense contractors to tech monopolies, the Democratic Party has long embraced corporate America and the rigged policy agenda its oligarchs demand. Bernie Sanders’s momentum represents a threat to their way of doing politics. Powerful actors invested in the status quo are right to be afraid: afraid, that is, that he’ll win.

by Luke Savage at April 19, 2019 11:18 AM

Chevron and Exxon Say They Can Turn Around the Failed Finances of Fracking Industry

Exxon sign

Why would major oil companies choose to invest in an industry that has failed to turn profits in the past decade?

by Justin Mikulka at April 19, 2019 10:55 AM

Some Ways to Frame “Regeneration”

Regenerative field in Belgium

Human activities have degraded ecosystems globally to the point that Earth is now in overshoot-and-collapse. We need to restore ecosystem functions in the coming decades in order to safeguard our collective future.

by Joe Brewer at April 19, 2019 10:54 AM

InterPressService (global south)

Women in Ethiopia Still Struggle Despite Leadership in Government

By Bethlehem Mengistu
ADDIS ABABA, Apr 19 2019 (IPS)

Following 2018 elections in Ethiopia, a record-breaking number of women now hold leadership positions in the country’s government. But women still struggle to rise up the ranks in other sectors.

I am thrilled to witness the fantastic changes that have taken place in Ethiopia over the recent months, with women assuming leadership positions at the highest levels of government.

The best part of this narrative is that little Ethiopian girls will now see a woman president or minister as the new ‘normal’, and no longer the exception. I find this quite inspiring!

But in my field of work – the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector – we are yet to see a sensible percentage of women in leadership roles. The participation of women is most often seen in community water supply management frameworks, where women are included within the team that manages the water supply system.

Bethlehem Mengistu

This is important as the intention is to sustain the benefits of the system by both genders, but also ensure both men and women are equally engaged. However at sector level (i.e. where policy, resourcing and planning are usually discussed and decided upon) there are very few female decision-makers.

Where are the women?
I am often one of the only women leaders in the meetings I attend.

And when the question ‘why aren’t there more women present?’ is raised, the response is often ‘there aren’t enough qualified women out there’.

This is not an accurate response. There are qualified women out there, but we need a reform in the sector’s approach to reaching those women professionals.

For example, organisations like CARE Ethiopia have achieved good results through reforming their entire recruitment process.

CARE re-graded all their job descriptions, re-advertised positions 1 to 3 times if no women applied, head hunted, instituted a competency-based assessment system with written examination (coded so the panel does not see which applicant wrote it), and assessed and reconfigured the interview questions using a gender lens.

This has brought the organization closer to meeting parity.

Lessons from a (woman) leader

However, getting women a seat at the table is not enough. Leading in a sector that is traditionally male-dominated comes with a distinct set of challenges, as I soon found out:

    • I was and still am the youngest female in most sector meetings. For some time after I assumed the directorship, most assumed I was in an administrative or a support role rather than a leadership role (until I corrected them). It’s not enough to be in a role or to sit at the table.

    • Speaking up confidently is critical (I have a colleague that is fond of the saying ‘fake it till you make it’). The greatest barrier that I and most of my female leader friends face in speaking up is fear of being ostracized or scorned – the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’.

    • I have learned that respect comes when one’s voice is heard. I have seen how our voices can help shape policy and perspective. I choose to ensure my presence is known as a leader and that it’s to be regarded as a contributor for good. Nearly three years into my current role as director, my voice is now sought after, and I can choose to be picky about how I collaborate with others.

    • Trusting my voice by learning to control self-doubt was quite tasking, but I soon learnt to spot patterns of negative thought, identify them for what they were and train myself to trust my expertise. This led to speaking up more at meetings, ensuring I usually always sat at the front and participated.

    • Celebrating unapologetically is not as easy as it sounds. I always found it interesting that many women in meetings, when introducing themselves, state their name and then their familial status while the men state their name and then their title. This is linked to the fact that the type of accomplishments that are given weight by society is what we sub consciously align ourselves with to garner acceptance.

    • Finding a sisterhood to lift and celebrate one another has been paramount to my confidence. Given that most of the issues we face as women are partly similar, I find it very helpful to surround myself with women leaders who are on a similar journey and with similar moral values. One of my mentors is a woman whom I deeply admire, and she provides me with invaluable support.

I am thrilled that this past year has been the year where barriers have been shattered, and we are seeing better gender balance in leadership. We are invited to the party, but it is important for the rules of engagement at the party to be equally accessible.

The post Women in Ethiopia Still Struggle Despite Leadership in Government appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Bethlehem Mengistu is WaterAid Country Director in Ethiopia

The post Women in Ethiopia Still Struggle Despite Leadership in Government appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Bethlehem Mengistu at April 19, 2019 10:36 AM

Axial Shift: The Decline of Trump, the Rise of the Greens, and the New Coordinates of Societal Change

Axial shifts

These three axial shifts, political, economic, and educational, are replacing the traditional 20th-century public discourse with a new axis of conversation and thought that supports a new avenue for societal renewal.

by Otto Scharmer at April 19, 2019 10:34 AM

Athens, Greece: Grenade Attack Against the Russian Consulate by FAI / FRI Revenge Cell ‘Mikhail Zhlobitsky’

We assume responsibility for the grenade assault on the Russian Consulate on Tzavella Street in Chalandri [suburb in Northern Athens] on March 22.

Each state seeks continuity, which is of particular importance both for its existence and for the preservation and expansion of its vital space. We define the vital space of a state structure as a concept that raises every economic and spatial interest. Applying this policy to us is what we commonly call imperialism. This policy is not a strategic choice of a state, but it is indistinguishable from its very existence. Automatically, each state applies or follows the imperialist policy of an alliance in that country. This position comes to overthrow the rhetoric of the holy fellowship of the smaller ones in dynamic states towards the more powerful ones, which the left has been trying to make for years and parts of the anarchist space embraces. Over the years, many alliances have been built up and, as a result, many skirmishes, depending on the interests at stake. Under the veil of these inter-axiomatic contrasts in combination with the economic and political conjuncture, discrepancies in the dynamics of each state are created or adjusted. Relationships between states have always been a dynamic condition that is modified on the subject rather than a static situation.

On the basis of the above parameters, since the middle of the last century, there are two states that have predominantly dominated the world chessboard, the US state and the state of Russia (up to 1991 as the USSR). A common mistake we find in leftist approaches is that these two states are two poles of continual conflict, deliberately disregarding the synthetic (geo) political strategies they have drawn over the years from the division of political influence zones into the Yalta conference in February 1945, as well as political support for military interventions inside Syria. A piece of the same narrative carries a highly unilateral critique of so-called “American imperialism,” while turning a blind eye to Russia’s expansive politics by burying many of the war crimes it has committed. We do not make any distinction between these two states, as we consider our policies equally hostile.
Recalling the ghosts of the past

Bourgeois democracy in Russia was established in 1991 after the fall of the communist regime. For so many years, we have perceived a pervasive nostalgia for the political management of the Soviet Union, which seems totally stupid to us because, with the justification of any political changes to the regimes, some seem to consciously ignore the same power of authority that governs the existence of the state itself. These nostalgists also ignore and often defend the USSR’s expansive aspirations by flushing this strategic choice of a state-friendly country, since they consider it a “red” war to enforce the socialist regime. They have attempted to break the criminal policy of the 1979 military intervention in Afghanistan, the long-suffering repression of the 1956 rebellion of Hungary, the violent interference and enforcement of Czechoslovakia (1968), and especially the invasion of Poland 1939, where millions of people were massacred in collaboration with Nazi Germany. Somewhere here we want to point out that when we talk about military tactics and military interventions, we mean the constant strategy of terrorizing and murdering the civilized people for the more effective enforcement of the occupying army. It is obvious to us that an army invading another country, apart from the direct frontal confrontation with the rival troops, has the political choice to diffuse the feeling of fear and insecurity in the civilian population. This is achieved through multiple bombings in various parts of the public domain (often in schools and hospitals), while at the same time destroying production structures with the ultimate goal of physically depriving citizens. It seems ridiculous and hypocritical to read tearful analyzes of the bombing of the US state, while ignoring Russian crimes.

Another tangible example of the practices of this troubled state was the management of relations with Ukraine’s anarchist black army of Nestor Machno. The then Communist leadership took advantage of the dynamics and the fighting skills of this army by doing joint ventures against the White Army Nationalists. Then, when it felt that it had nothing more to gain from this partnership, it realized that the ideological and political interests of the two sides were in conflict, since the anarchists of Ukraine did not support the communist model, and the Bolsheviks decided to exterminate them politically, of course. The Communists did not want to allow the existence of an anarchist structure in such a near-spatial field, as they had to deal with their own internal political opponents. The regime itself had mobilized, for the domestic repression of political opponents of every political origin, the Cheka (an identical organization of the Greek Communist Party’s GUN), which initially assassinated nationalists and defenders of the Tsarist regime and later anarchists, Trotskyists, and even Stalinists who chose to disagree with any decisions of the central political line in the name of sociopolitical uniformity and totalitarianism.

Power is “regenerated”, rot is perpetuated

Russia, after the restoration of the free market system in the country and the fall of communist totalitarianism, has evolved into a new type of autocracy with a democratic mantle. To rebuild its economic and political prestige, as expected, it has continued and continues to date geopolitical demands and defending its interests in transnational skirmishes. At the top of the political leadership, the same president, who is faithful to the tradition of Russia, has been steadfastly committed to creating for himself a profile as a leader who is something of a glorious tsar and a robust general secretary. At the top of the economic elite, there is a powerful class of wealthy oligarchs, which is a new version of the aristocracy. Orthodoxy, conservatism and old traditions have remained unchanged in time, despite the change of regimes and are the pillars of the new seemingly reborn Russia. These pillars have been well established since socialist times and have been preserved in a suffocating environment of very intense governmental autarchism. The above concepts compose the puzzles of an incomparable social ethics, resulting in the disciplining, apathy and inactivation of the most deprived social groups to date. While nationalism and chauvinism dominate the social sphere of Russia; at the same time, every sign of opposition to the dominant norms, every radical expression, every kind of activism, any aggressive mood for power is mercilessly hit by a powerful state mechanism that retains the reflexes of socialist repression. In particular, in February 2018, several anarchists were arrested, tortured and jailed for hanging banners saying “The FSB is the main terrorist” and for participation in Narodnaya Samooborona. A few months earlier, FSB arrested and tortured 8 anarchists to confess that they were part of the Network. The craze of state repression to eliminate anarchist action did not stop there. Last February, 10 comrades were put in state hostage, during which they were beaten and electric shocked to confess their guilt and “give up” their companions. Azat Miftahov, who is accused of building explosives and joining Narodnaya Samooborona, remained in the hands of the state in opposition to his comrades, who were eventually tortured and released.

On Oct. 31, 17-year-old anarchist Mikhail Zhlobitsky invaded the offices of the FSB (Federal Security Office and successor to the KGB) in Arkhangelsk, triggering an explosive device, causing serious damage to the building, injuring three officials and losing his own life. When the news came to our ears, there was a feeling of deep sorrow in the death of our brother who we may never have known, but we feel we’ve known for years because our choices are common to the same hateful enemies. Our feelings about Mikhail made these words, words that are not just hollow and wooden, words that are soaked and charged with rage, words that when spilled on the paper flew sparks and triggered our desire to pull the fork from the grenade and send it to the Russian Consulate’s office, giving shape to our most rabid need for revenge. The nightmare that the comrade gave birth to FSB federal cops, will be revived every time we or some other comrade decides to attack. Mikhail, like any comrade who gave his life for Anarchy, will again take flesh and bones through retaliatory actions and sow terror into the pathetic journalists and the worried cops and judges. As a minimum sign of respect for our deceased partner, we chose to give his name to the attack we made.

Strength and solidarity to the anarchists Yuliy Boyarshinov, Vasiliy Kuksov, Dmitriy Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbaev, Andrey Chernov, Ilya Shakurskiy, Igor Shishkin, Viktor Filinkov, those arrested on February 1, 2019 and Azat Miftahov.

Do you hear the noise coming from far away? They are desperate screams from torture rooms. The harsh blows of the bullets in body. The creepy sound made by the body when the current passes through it during the electric shock. They are nearby, asking for their lost comrades and wondering if they are still alive or if they are in a secret detention center. It is mourning, angry, but also numb for the little one who took revenge by giving his own life. They are our comrades and they suffer. Listen carefully…

FAI / FRI Revenge Cell ‘Mikhail Zhlobitsky’

(via AMW English)

by admin at April 19, 2019 10:00 AM

InterPressService (global south)

UN’s Empty Promises to World’s Indigenous Peoples

By Tupac Enrique Acosta
PHOENIX, Arizona, Apr 19 2019 (IPS)

The United Nations, as in so many other areas, gives lip service in support of Indigenous issues while lacking the political will and enforcement power over individual member states to comply with the protection of fundamental human rights for the Original Nations of Indigenous Peoples of the world.

It took 47 years since the 1960’s UN declaration in support of the right of “all peoples” to self-determination to be extended to Indigenous Peoples, with the adoption of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

But twelve years later, those words have not moved far off the paper on which they are written. Indigenous issues are still being subsumed under the individual domestic rubric of the member states of the UN Nations General Assembly, in defiance of the commitment to universal human rights that self-determination invokes and professes for all humanity.

It is no accident that the last four nation states to support the Declaration – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States – were precisely those nations where the Anglo-European colonizers of the British Empire globally entrenched their colonial relationship with the Indigenous Peoples subsequent to the decline of Great Britain as a world power.

The devastation and genocide of Indigenous Nations and territories continues till today, but under a new mantle of progress called “Development”

For the Original Nations of Indigenous Peoples of the Great Turtle Island Abya Yala [Americas], we know that the subjugation of Indigenous Peoples started 526 years ago with the sword and the cross are now perpetrated with trade agreements and the empty promises of dead letters from the United Nations.

It is all a reflection of the continuing pernicious influence of the Doctrine of Discovery, the series of 15th century papal bulls in which a succession of popes authorized European explorers “discovering” lands in the New World that were not occupied by Christians to consider those lands vacant – terra nullius, in the words of the Doctrine – and to seize those lands in the names of their sovereign and enslave those people who lived there.

Pope Francis, the first pontiff from the Americas, in a 2015 speech in Bolivia went so far as to apologize for the sins of the Church – not individual conquistadores, but the Church itself – in the subjugation and colonization of Indigenous peoples during the conquest of the Americas.

But even as the Pope denounced the “new colonialism” of global capital oppressing Indigenous peoples, he ignores the pleas by a wide array of Christian denominations, including the World Council of Churches, for the Church to renounce the Doctrine. It is ancient history; the Papal Nuncio at the United Nations has said.

But it is not ancient history. It remains the basis of all Indigenous land law in the United States, and across the continent. In Mexico, the entire legal infrastructure since independence from Spain in 1836 is also based on the dictates of the Doctrine, known as the legaloid concept of Original Property of the State.

That is why Indigenous peoples take Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s recent letter to the Spanish king and the Pope asking for apologies for those genocidal colonial campaigns with little more than a grain of salt.

We know the Doctrine of Discovery’s impact is still pernicious. We see it in the Trump Administration’s racist immigration and refugee policies in the United States, which refuses to even recognize the historical reality of the descendants of those Indigenous peoples who have traveled freely across the US-Mexican border region before it even existed.

We see it in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsinairo has emboldened racist attacks on Indigenous Amazonian communities in the name of promoting even more destruction of ancient forest and waterways that sustain the entire planet.

We see it in Mexico, where President Lopez Obrador has pushed ahead with the tourism-promoting “Maya Train” across the Yucatan peninsula, tearing through the jungles and rivers in Indigenous homelands without even legitimately consulting the indigenous peoples who have lived there since time immemorial.

And we see it in the continuing devastation that a capital-centered economy, with its extractive industries that destroy the air and water we all rely on for survival, threatens the very future of global humanity. The stakes could not be higher.

We had hoped the UN’s creation of the Permanent Forum and passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had started to turn the battleship of oppression at long last, but we have been disappointed. Instead of extending the universal human rights enshrined in those actions to include protection for Indigenous Peoples, the UN member states have subsumed them to the interests of the nation states that wield the most power with the UN’s halls.

That is why we will take to the streets on Monday, April 22, in New York across from the UN on the first day of this year’s session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to let delegates know that we will not be quiet, and we will not ignore the continuing impact of the racist and white-supremacist policies let loose on the Western Hemisphere by the Doctrine of Discovery.

And we will continue to call on the United Nations to live up to the commitments it has made to ensuring that the universal human rights it professes to champion before the world extends to the Indigenous peoples as it has, at least in word, committed. We call for world peace, and peace with Mother Earth.

We know the United Nations is far better at its words than at its deeds. We are here to say that is not enough.

The post UN’s Empty Promises to World’s Indigenous Peoples appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Tupac Enrique Acosta is a member of the Nahuatl Nation and serves as firekeeper for the Nahuacalli, Embassy of Indigenous Peoples in Phoenix, Arizona.

The 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) will take place 22 April 3 May 2019. The theme of the session will be: “Traditional knowledge: Generation, Transmission and Protection”

The post UN’s Empty Promises to World’s Indigenous Peoples appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Tupac Enrique Acosta at April 19, 2019 09:52 AM

[Den Haag, Netherlands] Bannerdrops in solidarity with the anarchists being prosecuted in Belgium

Today we have hung up four banners at various locations in The Hague, the Netherlands, in solidarity with the anarchists being prosecuted in Belgium. Hundreds of flyers were also thrown around.

From 2008, the Belgian State started a large investigation aiming at different struggles – but always without concessions – against detention centres, borders, prisons and the world of authority and exploitation. In its viewfinder: the anarchist library Acrata, anarchist and anti-authoritarian publications (Hors Service, La Cavale and Tout doit partir), dozens of flyers and posters, more than a hundred actions, attacks and sabotages…in other words the fight against Power in all its different expressions.

Initially charged with “participation to a terrorist group”, it is finally under the accusation of “criminal association” that 12 comrades will be on trial during the week of 29th April 2019.

In late 2008, a midst diffuse hostilities triggered by the revolt in Greece following the assassination of Alexis by police, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor launches an investigation of anarchists and anti-authoritarians. In 2010, on the basis of a list of actions that the police attribute to the “anarchist movement” and while the struggle against the construction of a new detention centre in Steenokkerzeel is underway, examining judge Isabelle Panou is assigned to the investigation, which has now fallen under anti-terrorist directive. In May, then in September 2013, a dozen house searches took place within this investigation, targeting different homes as well as the anarchist library Acrata in Brussels. It is on this occasion that the existence of an anti-terrorist investigation first emerges. This investigation is led by the anti-terrorist branch of the Federal Judicial Police backed by the State Security and the General Intelligence and Security Agency of the army as well as various anti-terrorist branches of other European countries. The investigation is closed in 2014, culminating in the referral of twelve anarchists and anti- authoritarians to the Court Chambers.

In this investigation, the Federal Prosecutor has attempted to draw up no less than 29 individualized charges. Nine comrades are accused of belonging to a terrorist organization and involvement in terrorist activities for more or less extended periods. Three of them are also accused of being the “leaders”. In addition, three other people arrested in the wake of anattack on the police station of Marolles, Brussels are accused of belonging to this terrorist group for a day,as well as various charges related to the attack. This is as far as concerns the general accusation.

This is then complemented by more specific charges such as participation in a non-authorised demonstration outside the detention centre 127bis in Steenokkerzeel (transformed into “attempted arson” and a “terrorist offence” by the prosecutors), preparation and participation in an attack on the police station in Marolles (qualified by the prosecution as a “terrorist act”), assault and wounding of police officers on several occasions, obstruction of the public road, damage in various forms, shoplifting, arson of prison guards’ cars in the Ittre prison car park, incitement to commit terrorist offences… It should be noted that these specific allegations are each aimed at specific comrades, that is to say not everyone has been charged with all the allegations.

The backdrop to this investigation that has gone on for several years and produced no fewer than 32 boxes of case files, is that the Federal Prosecutor hypothesizes that an “anarchist terrorist group” would be active, in particular in Brussels, and that the accused would have “participated” in or “favoured” those activities. For example it has produced a list of about 150 attacks, a good number of which incendiary, against the structures of domination, police stations, courts, banks, companies that enrich themselves in the business of incarceration, construction sites, cars of diplomats, Eurocrats and NATO officials, mobile phone antennas… All these attacks took place in Brussels and surrounding area between 2008 and 2013.

The invention of a terrorist group that would be responsible for all of these facts (if only by the fact of “having rendered them possible”) allows far-fetched acrobatics for the prosecution: a library becomes a place of recruitment, discussions become clandestine meetings, leaflets and newspapers of anarchist critique become urban guerrilla manuals, demos and rallies become calls to terrorism, the affinity ties between people in struggle and the resulting self-organization become “a structured terrorist group.” The invention of an “anarchist terrorist group” is obviously a rather clumsy attempt by the State to reduce anti-authoritarian and revolutionary subversion to the work of a single “structured group”. In trying to put a handful of inconvenient anarchists behind bars the State is seeking to discourage the refractory from taking direct action against what oppresses and exploits us and impose absolute silence on any desires, possibilities and critical reflections that clash with this authoritarian world.

What stands trial therefore is a mosaic of struggles, revolts, ideas, direct actions, critique, revolutionary imaginaries, agitations that have been attempting to attack dominion for years. In this, the possible trial concerns not only the comrades accused, but also each individual, every anarchist, every revolutionary, every rebel against order, every insubordinate to authority who refuses to stand idly by in the face of exploitation and oppression. What is being targeted is the search for autonomy in action, self-organization in the struggle, direct action in all its diversity, the choice to defend and spread anarchist and revolutionary ideas, to participate along with other rebels in self-organized and autonomous fights. And finally, without any doubt, a combative approach of anarchism that starts from the individual, affinity, informality.

It would be absurd to separate the repression that is striking some anarchists and anti-authoritarians today from all the repression that is seeking to subdue (often preventively) any criticism of the established order and revolt. By dint of “terrorist threats”, refugee crisis, the fight against crime and very real wars, State repression today is going into top gear. At a time when change and restructuring is shifting the grounds of social conflict faster and faster, neutralizing those who disturb their thinking and their plans is part of a process that targets the exploited and oppressed: the hardening of the conditions of survival, the militarization of borders, the imposition of massive technological control, the construction of new detention camps, etc.

To defend oneself against this repressive blow that wants to take to trial comrades on charges of terrorism is to defend any possibility and space of anarchist and anti-authoritarian action. And, through the solidarity with the accused comrades, is to resist State repression aimed at paralyzing all subversive action.

If fighting for freedom is a crime, innocence would be really the worst of all.

More information:

More info : 1.


by admin at April 19, 2019 09:48 AM

Dzmitry Palijenka arrested again, charged under three criminal articles (Belarus)

Dzmitry Palijenka was detained on March 20, 2019 on suspicion of committing a crime under part 3 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code (“Extremely gross misconduct”). He was accused of pepper spraying a
drunk man at the entrance of the block of flats where the activist was expecting a friend. The man tried to warn him against smoking and initiated the conflict. Only a week later the police raided Dzmitry’s flat and detained him.

Having spent about 20 days in detention, he was finally charged with three crimes: extremely gross misconduct, desecration of buildings or other structures with cynical inscriptions or drawings, and inciting racial, national or religious hatred or discord; intentional actions aimed at inciting racial, national or religious hatred or discord, humiliation of national honour and dignity.

The two latter crimes regard an anti-police graffiti which was the reason for his detention in January this year. The investigation must think that humiliating a cop equals inciting social hatred.

Dzmitry Palijenka has been released from prison on October 24 last year where he spent about 3 years for allegedly using violence against a road policeman who tried to stop the Critical Mass action. He was detained multiple times in the last 6 months. We believe, the prosecution is part of the plan to stop Dzmitry’s anarchist activity.

We call for solidarity actions, donations and letter support.

Dzmitry stays in the Minsk pre-trial detention center, and you can write to him at the address:

220050 Minsk, ul. Volodarskogo, 2, SIZO-1
Polienko Dmitry Aleksandrovich


by admin at April 19, 2019 09:41 AM


Athens, Greece: Migrant Squat Clandestina & Queer Feminist Squat Cyclopi Raided by Cops

Athens, Greece: Migrant Squat Clandestina & Queer Feminist Squat Cyclopi Raided by Cops
CALL for an open assembly tonight at Gkini at 19:30 for the EVACUATION OF 4 MIGRANTS SQUATS and an ANTIAUTHORITARIAN QUEER FEMINIST SQUAT. This morning two squats were evacuated. Clandestina, on Mpoumpoulinas street, a building housing migrant families. 68 people were transported to Petrou Ralli. The other squat is Cyclopi, anti-authoritarian queer feminist squat in […]


by nayeclone at April 19, 2019 09:07 AM

Athens, Greece: Grenade Attack Against the Russian Consulate

Athens, Greece: Grenade Attack Against the Russian Consulate
We assume responsibility for the grenade assault on the Russian Consulate on Tzavella Street in Chalandri [suburb in Northern Athens] on March 22. Each state seeks continuity, which is of particular importance both for its existence and for the preservation and expansion of its vital space. We define the vital space of a state structure […]


by nayeclone at April 19, 2019 08:57 AM


(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #293 - Babysitters: Neither nannies nor nurses, the cry of the pink vests (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

It is a struggle at the intersection of unionism, feminism and the movement of yellow vests. The government wants to plunge the "ass-mat" into poverty. They put on the " pink vest " and took to the streets. ---- They were mobilized, Saturday, March 9 in the morning, Place Saint-Projet, Bordeaux, wearing a pink vest ( photo ). Some were preparing to put on a yellow vest for Act XVII in the afternoon. It was the second day of national action for childminders (" assmat "), and nearly a thousand people protested in 34 counties against a reform of unemployment insurance that directly threatens their income. ---- Nursing assistants are one of the most feminized (99 %) and most precarious professions. They can keep at home up to four children, usually entrusted by young parents who have no place in a nursery. It is often work 6 days a week and 13 hours a day, if we ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 07:00 AM


Starting Thursday, April 11th, 31,000 Stop & Shop grocery store workers at over 240 stores throughout New England went on strike to fight for a fair contract- what will be the largest strike in the U.S. since a 2016 walkout by Verizon workers. Stop & Shop workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and are holding the picket line as of this writing. The primary issues are wages and rising health care costs as the parent company of Stop & Shop, Ahold Delhaize, reaped $2 billion in profits last year. Erin Flaherty spoke with Demi, a Stop & Shop worker and rank-and-file striker in the Greater Boston Area, about their thoughts and experiences during this strike. ---- Erin Flaherty (EF): Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at your job? How long have you worked there and been part of the union? ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 06:59 AM

(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL - unionism, With the repressed trade unionists of the College Republic of Bobigny (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

More than 250 people (political activists, trade unions, associations, elected officials, etc.) co-signed the appeal in defense of 3 trade unionists from the Republic school in Bobigny (93) targeted by a rather unprecedented repression in the National Education. After those of Goodyear, Continental, Téfal, Air France, the Post Office, the Ministry of Labor, it is their turn to need our solidarity ! ---- As the challenge grows in the National Education, the government makes the choice of repression. On Thursday, March 29th, three unionized teachers from the Republic college in Bobigny learned of the Créteil rector's decision to punish them: either by forcing them to transfer for two of them, or by opening a disciplinary procedure . Teachers hired for their students since 18, 22 and 27 years in Republic. All these years involved in educational projects, territorial, ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 06:55 AM

(en) London Anarchist Communists - Art as a Weapon: Art and Anarchism - Report Back

The London group of the ACG welcomed Martyn Everett to its regular series of public discussion meetings. He presented a very informative talk about how art is related to anarchism, including anarchist artists, art with anarchists as its subject and art used by anarchists to get their message across. He started with art used to stereotype anarchists as bomb throwers or people of suspicion. Since then, however, anarchist artists such as Courbet in France in the 19th century and more recently Clifford Harper in Britain have given us positive examples of the engaged artist. ---- Art has been used as a key way of getting the anarchist message across. Martyn showed us a range of examples from all over the world: book covers, posters, leaflets etc. In the discussion that followed we all felt that we need to use art more, bringing together people in struggle and artists who can ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 06:55 AM

(en) Greece, Information from anti-war / anti-NATO protests on April 6 by dirty horse APO [machine translation]

In the context of the Anarchist Campaign of Interfaith Solidarity Against State and Capitalist Barbarism, War and Modern Integration, as Anarchist Political Organization, we participated in a political call and constitution of distinct political blocks in the anti-war / anti-NATO demonstrations held on Saturday 6th April in Athens, Patras. ---- In Athens , a gathering took place at Klathymonos Square, followed by a demonstration to the US Embassy with the participation of hundreds of fighters. ---- In Thessaloniki , we traveled from Kamara to the 3rd Army Corps, where the NATO headquarters of Northern Greece are housed. ---- In Patras , a gathering took place in the annex and then a march on the main streets of the city. At a time when the bleak prospect of a global conflict comes back to the forefront and ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 06:53 AM

(en) Declaration of the fAu [Urugway] - About torturers, criminals and their Court of "Honor" (ca, it, pt) [machine translation]

They are the mummies that still sneak by, through the black galleries of infamy ---- This verse by comrade Carlos Molina well describes and catalogs the constant actions of the Armed Forces and those who hide the truth of the crimes they committed during the dictatorship. Of all that power structure that for that it has it and that's why it protects it. ---- A Court of Military "Honor" -it would have to say a Tribunal of Shame and Cynicism- understood that José Nino Gavazzo and Jorge PajaritoSilveira had to be expelled from the army for having kept silent before the prison of another military man, Juan Carlos Gómez, for the crime of Roberto Gomensoro Josman. But in the same act, Gavazzo, in fact, self-attributed the crime of Gomensoro, and that was considered an irrelevant fact by the Military Court. Silveira in turn adjudicates more crimes to ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 06:51 AM

(en) Poland, Workers Initiative: How to join the teachers' strike [machine translation]

Master! ---- You can still join the strike. If you are looking for a relationship that will formally enable and actually support - report to the OZZ Employee Initiative. ---- More and more teachers are reporting to our union because they are looking for an organization that will enable them to effectively conduct strike action. Formally, it takes two weeks to start the strike. Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions by the teaching community: ---- // How long does it take for us to formally start a strike action? ---- From the date of the founding meeting, you already operate on the rights of the temporary committee. This allows you to immediately formulate demands against the employer, enter into a collective dispute (at the latest 3 days from submitting requests), conduct negotiations, issue a referendum and possibly strike. After ...

by A-infos ( at April 19, 2019 06:51 AM

For a Subversive May 2019 In Solidarity with the Imprisoned Comrades in Italy

Against All Authority and Repression!
In Turin and Trento, 14 people are accused of forming a subversive association, inciting crime, and possessing, manufacturing and transporting explosives to a public place. Furthermore, the operation “Scripta Manent”, where the public prosecutor’s office demands a total of 204 years in prison for the attacks of the Informal Anarchist Federation and the operation “Panico”, where 3 comrades are accused of having attacked a fascist library with an explosive device, is still running.
Those who have decided to oppose any domination in the social conflict must live with the constant uncertainty of sooner or later being held accountable for their own actions by the opponents of freedom and self-determination. The idea and the longing for a society liberated from exploitation and oppression cab then be nipped in the bud.

This is especially the case for the anarchist movement in Italy. This is being tackled by the state. The affected prisoners are to be buried alive in their cells with draconian sentences. Their accomplices and the solidarity environment unequivocally profess their permanent enmity against the regime with regard to their kidnapping.
The understanding of an anarchism that has set itself the goal of fundamentally criticizing, denouncing and attacking society and its morals of alienation and incapacitation also has an international component. Therefore, the responsibility and solidarity for comrades who fall into captivity lies with all those who recognize themselves in the will to subvert and the ideas of freedom. Yes, the lived subversion puts us in danger, but it also gives us the liberating possibility and moments of self-empowerment and self-determination.

“I claim being anti-authoritarian, individualist, for insurrection and the destruction of this lurid and fetid existent and of the State-Capital! Forever your enemy! For Anarchy!”
Gioacchino Somma, defendant in Operation Scripta Manent
Aggressive Solidarity, For The Revolt!
For a Hostile May and a Whole Life Full of Subversion!
(via No Prison Society, slightly edited for clarity)
via: 325

by actforfreedom at April 19, 2019 05:31 AM

Avis de tempêtes #16

Dans le petit extrait choisi et envoyé, la dernière phrase -comme dans le PDF- est évidemment “Ni de leur paix, ni de LEUR guerre, Hurrah !” (et pas “ni de LA guerre”).
Avis de tempêtes, bulletin anarchiste pour la guerre sociale !
“Aujourd’hui, face aux guerres que l’État se permet partout dans le monde, face à la répression qu’il déclenche dans les rues et aux frontières, face au cannibalisme social qu’il attise parmi la population et sur lequel il compte bien profiter pour affirmer une fois de plus sa suprématie, les bavardages ne servent à rien. Les dénonciations ne servent à rien. Les appels à la conscience ne servent à rien. C’est d’abord par l’épreuve du feu qu’il faut passer. Audacieusement, pour déchirer le masque qui recouvre un bellicisme dont il nous voudrait tous complices. Ni de leur paix, ni de leur guerre, Hurrah !”

by actforfreedom at April 19, 2019 05:20 AM

Davide Delogu transferred from Augusta to Rossano Calabro prison (Italy)

The anarchist sardinian comrade Davide Delogu was transferred from the Augusta prison (province of Syracuse, in Sicily) to that of Rossano Calabro (province of Cosenza, in Calabria). The address to which letters, telegrams, books, etc., can be sent is as follows:
Davide Delogu
c/o Casa di Reclusione di Rossano Calabro
Strada Statale 106 Jonica n. 32
87067 Corigliano-Rossano (Cosenza)
Italia (Italy)
From 11.03.2019 and during the month of March the comrade was on a hunger strike because the new director of the Augusta prison (Angela Lantieri) who had just arrived had immediately revoked the meeting permit that Davide makes with a Sardinian comrade (the only meeting he can currently do). He had also accompanied the strike with missed returns in the cell varying between 30 and 60 minutes and daily keystrokes in the cell.
Solidarity with anarchist Davide Delogu!


by actforfreedom at April 19, 2019 05:14 AM

Russia : Network Trial Begins in Petersburg

Network case defendants Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov in the cage at court yesterday. Filinkov (left) wears a sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan, “Your taser can’t kill our ideas.” Photo by Alexander Koryakov. Courtesy of Kommersant
The Defendants Were Assigned Roles: Network Trial Gets Underway in Petersburg
Anna Pushkarskaya
April 9, 2019
The court trial in the case of the “anarchist terrorist community” Network got underway in St. Petersburg. Viktor Filinkov, a 24-year-old programmer, and Yuli Boyarshinov, a 27-year-old industrial climber, have been charged with involvement in Network. Federation Council member Lyudmila Narusova, who attended the hearing, pointed out the “ability to throw grenades,” which the prosecution included in the evidence against the defendants, was taught officially to members of the patriotic youth movement Yunarmiya.
“This case has nothing to do with the rule of law,” Narusova noted.

Filinkov and Boyarshinov’s case is being tried in St. Petersburg by the Moscow District Military Court. In January, the same court sentenced Igor Shishkin, who made a deal with case investigators, to three and a half years in prison. Subsequently, the FSB placed Network on the Russian federal list of banned organizations.
The courtroom could not accommodate everyone who wanted to attended the trial. Narusova and ex-State Duma member and civil rights activist Yuli Rybakov were in the gallery.
The defendants were applauded by the gallery as armed guards led them into the courtroom.
During the investigation, Filinkov and three young men in Penza also charged in the case publicly stated they had been tortured with electrical shocks. Boyarshinov claimed conditions in the remand prison were tantamount to torture. Both men have filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.
Lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov motioned the court to let his defendant, Filinkov, sit beside him during the hearing, rather than in the cage, since he had no criminal record or history of conflicts with the law.
The presence in the courtroom of riot police, regular police, and court bailiffs, as well as Cherkasov’s mention of international norms, how things were done at the EHCR, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s order to his underlings to explore options for banning the use of the cage in Russian courtrooms made no impression on the court. Both defendants were kept in the cage for the entire hearing.
According to the indictment, the so-called anarchist terrorist community was established no later than May 2015 by Dmitry Pchelintsev (who was arrested in Penza) and an unidentified person. They recruited the seven defendants in the case who have been investigated by the FSB’s Penza office. After cementing the group, they are alleged to have “assigned roles among themselves and explored ways of committing crimes” in order to overthrow the regime. According to the prosecution, to accomplish this objective, they planned on “establishing combat groups and recruiting individuals who shared their anarchist ideology.”
The FSB’s Petersburg office has claimed the defendants were among these recruits. Filinkov has been accused of volunteering to be the group’s “radioman,” while Boyarshinov was, allegedly, their “sapper.”
After the indictment had been read, Judge Roman Muranov asked the defendants whether they understood it.
“No,” Filinkov replied.
The prosecution claims Filinkov promised to “familiarize himself with the community’s charter, employ a pseudonym, data encryption software, and conspiratorial methods, and acquire and improve [his] combat skills.”
In addition, Filinkov was supposed to have “supplied members with communications devices,” taught them encryption, “recruited other individuals, discussed and planned crimes during meetings, attended classes on tactics, reconnaissance, sabotage, and combat, and the use of weapons and explosive devices, and acquired the knowledge necessary in extreme circumstances and combat conditions.”
“When the time came to shift to active operations for accomplishing the objective part of the crimes [sic],” Filinkov, allegedly, agreed to “mobilize and be ready to achieve the terrorist community’s objectives.”
“I don’t understand the source of these letters, nor how the indictment could be a fiction, rather than something emerging from the evidence,” said Filinkov.
After hearing similar charges made against him, Boyarshinkov said he admitted his guilt and was willing to testify before the examination of evidence.
After the hearing, MP Narusova said the incidents of combat training, as described in the indictment, had nothing to do with the law.
“The Yunarmiya officially engages in combat training under the patronage of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Children are taught to throw grenades, and they learn combat tactics. Ask Shoigu why the entire Yunarmiya is busy learning combat skills?” Narusova wondered.
“A fellow Federation Council member recently said children should be able to throw grenades,” Narusova continued.
She referred to a recent statement by Federation Council member Viktor Bondarev, who had proposed reinstating basic combat training in Russian schools. He claimed to be outraged children did not know how to throw grenades and were afraid of machine guns.
Ms. Narusova said she was drafting a law bill that would criminalize torture. She also said planned to get to the bottom of the Network case.
“This case has nothing to do with the rule of law,” Narusova noted.
In their testimony, the defendants insisted they were learning the alleged skills as a matter of self-defense, given the numbers of antifascists murdered in different parts of Russia in recent years.
In particular, Filinkov mentioned the murders of Timur Kacharava, Stanislav Markelov, and Anastasia Baburova. He reported that, during his studies at Omsk University, he and his friends had been attacked by “right-wing radicals, neo-Nazis, and fascists,” including provocateurs who, he alleged, had ties with law enforcement agencies.
According to Filinkov, the assailants in these clashes had been armed with “blades and stun guns.”
After the investigation was completed, the headmaster of the school Filinkov attended submitted a glowing letter of recommendation. The letter claims the defendant had always shown respect for the law, and was friendly, conscientious, and responsible. He had been an excellent student and won a prize at an academic astronomy competition at Baikonur.
Kommersant will be following the trial’s progress.
Translated by the Russian Reader

by actforfreedom at April 19, 2019 04:44 AM


It’s been exceptionally warm in Greenland lately and ice is melting a month early

It’s been exceptionally warm in Greenland lately and ice is melting a month early
By Matthew Cappucci
Apr 18 2019

You might have heard about the exceptional heat this year in the northern hemisphere and around the world. March was just declared the second warmest on record globally

Records have been shattered in Alaska. Scotland hit 70 degrees in February. Winter warmth has torched the U.K., Netherlands and Sweden as well — coming on the heels of Europe’s warmest year on record. But they’re not alone.

Greenland is baking, too. In fact, its summer melt season has already begun — more than a month ahead of schedule.

Marco Tedesco is a professor in atmospheric sciences at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He monitors behavior of the cryosphere — the part of earth’s water system that is frozen. He says melting of this extent shouldn’t begin until May. “The first melt event was detected on April 7,” he wrote in email.

“Air temperature anomalies were up to more than 20 degrees Celsius [36 Fahrenheit] above the mean,” noted Tedesco. His team has been eyeing Greenland’s southeast coast as ground zero for the early-season thaw. “Surface air temperature jumped to 41 degrees on April 2, up from minus-11,” he said. Temperatures dropped below freezing briefly before again soaring into the 30s, where the mercury has held steady for most of the past week.

What’s been sling-shotting this balmy air northward?

“The subtropical jet stream,” wrote Jennifer Francis, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass. It’s teamed up with the polar jet to “transport warm, moist air from near Florida northward into southern Greenland,” she explained. “Locking this pattern in place has been a strong ridge — a northward bulge in the jet stream — just east of Greenland.”

A lack of ice cover in the Arctic Ocean north of Scandinavia gave this bubble of warmth a bit of an extra boost, intensifying its warm conveyor belt into Greenland.

Going forward, “[t]hese types of patterns are expected to occur more frequently,” Francis wrote, citing climate change as the culprit. “Arctic ice cover continues to dwindle and temperatures there soar.”

But advection — the transport of air, in this case warm, from somewhere else — is just half the battle. Adding insult to injury is a shortage of cloud cover in recent weeks over Greenland. The high pressure “block” that Francis described has also helped clear the skies, allowing more sunshine to pour in and heat the ground further.

“Incoming solar radiation reached a value similar to ones we observed in August last year,” wrote Tedesco. That heats the ground even more. It’s a vicious cycle of positive feedback, indicating just how unstable — and delicate — the Arctic is.

“I call this ‘melting cannibalism,” explained Tedesco. And it could get even worse, as it preconditions the ice to be more vulnerable to melting in the summer.


by wa8dzp at April 19, 2019 04:12 AM


Resistance to British Forces in Derry

Heavily armed Crown Forces were sent to attack Republicans in advance of upcoming Easter Rising Commemorations. The event, titled Unfinished Revolution, was intended to take place April 20th, 2019. The invading forces were met with resistance. ![Resistance to British Forces in Derry]{images/derry2.png) On Tuesday, April 17th in Derry City, an armoured car driving into the Republican heartland was attacked. A provocative incursion into the Creggan housing estate was met with molotov cocktails and gun fire on Wednesday April 18th.

April 19, 2019 12:00 AM

Incendiary Attack Against Fascist German Party

Three advertising vehicles of the fascist party Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland or AfD) were burned down during the night of Thursday April 18 in Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia. Driven by racism, the AfD advocates for closed borders and concentration camps abroad for refugees. Since 2014, the party has been voted into power, meanwhile direct actions in the streets have provided resistance to their growing threat.

April 19, 2019 12:00 AM

April 18, 2019

InterPressService (global south)

Empowering Girls Through Sport

In 2014, Hanna Hemrom sought the help of her teacher who persuaded some parents to let their daughters play football. They formed the Rangatungi United Women Football Academy, which teaches football to girls, helping them feel empowered. Courtesy: Young Bangla

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

For too long, women and girls have been excluded from the playing field—literally. But now, many are paving the way in the fight against gender inequality through sports.

Sports is being increasingly used as a tool for empowering girls around the world, helping challenge gender norms on and off the field.

Studies have found that promoting sports among girls can not only help improve their physical health, but also build self-esteem, courage, and leadership.

Just last month, United Nations Women and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) joined forces to host the Women and Sports Awards which celebrated some of the change makers who have helped advance women and girls through sport.

One such role model is Po Chun Liu who overcame numerous obstacles to become the first female baseball umpire in Taiwan and make the Forbes’ 2018 list of the most powerful women in international sports.

She continues to create opportunities for girls and women to get involved with sport, helping “strike out gender discrimination.”

“It’s our responsibility to empower girls and women so they’ll realise their full potential and take charge of their life…to help a girl is to help a family,” said Liu.

IOC’s President Thomas Bach echoed similar sentiments, stating: “Sports give girls and women self-confidence…especially in countries where women’s rights aren’t a top priority yet, there’s a tremendous benefit to women’s and girls’ participation in sport.”

“In today’s world, no organisation or country can afford to let half of the population be left behind – either in sport or in society. Advancing women in and through sport is truly a team effort. By joining hands and working together, sport can inspire the necessary change and lead the way,” he added.

In the small village of Rangatungi in Bangladesh, Hanna Hemrom is leading the way to achieve this vision.

Formed in 2014, the Rangatungi United Women Football Academy teaches football to girls, helping them feel empowered.

After only seeing boys on the field, Hemrom sought the help of her teacher who persuaded some parents to let their daughters play football.

“When the other girls and I walked from home to the football fields, people use to taunt us. They said we would not be able to get married because we wear shorts and play football. But we still carried on playing,” she recalled, adding that they struggled to persuade others to play.

But with persistence and determination, girls continue to express interest and join the team, helping transform Hemrom and her fellow teammates’ lives.

“I am a Santal girl who used to be very shy and didn’t mix with Bengali girls. Football has brought me close to other girls – Muslim, Hindu and we all play together now,” Hemrom said.

“I think football is a good habit. Earlier girls in our village used to do nothing or just talk over phone or indulge in some silly things. We now play football with the girls and boys of our village,” she added.

In 2016, the Rangatungi United Women Football team competed in the under 14 national football competition and a year later, they became the champions in the Rangpur division.

Now the girls have even bigger dreams, aspiring to play for the national team and hoping to inspire others to dream big too.

Young Bangla, the largest youth forum in Bangladesh, recognised the Rangatungi United Women Football Academy as one of the top 10 youth initiatives in the country.

The post Empowering Girls Through Sport appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Tharanga Yakupitiyage at April 18, 2019 07:48 PM

FRN odditites

6780 USB pulser (no replies)

1 sec. pulses with occasional pause & double pulse at 19:20 4/18.

by BramStoker at April 18, 2019 07:26 PM


J20 Zine Series

On January 20, 2017, 500 anarchists determined to disrupt the inauguration of Donald Trump squared off against 28,000 security personnel in Washington, DC. That day’s clashes helped set the tone for resistance to the Trump administration; in the ensuing legal ordeal, prosecutors tried to set dramatic new precedents for repressing protest activity, but defendant solidarity completely thwarted their efforts. On the two-year anniversary of J20 2017, we published a series of articles analyzing what we can learn from the actions against the inauguration and the defense campaign that followed them. Here, we present zine versions of all those articles.

The J20 mobilization and subsequent court cases were historic events. They offer invaluable lessons about how to prepare for mass mobilizations, how to understand the strengths and weaknesses of riot police in situations of public unrest, and how to organize effective support for defendants when the state cracks down. Please print these out to share with your community.

As a bonus, in addition to the J20 zines, we have added two more posters and another zine, all of which are listed in the appendix, below.

Click on the image to download Anarchist Resistance to the Trump Inauguration.

Click on the image to download We’ve Got Your Back: The Story of the J20 Defense.

Click on the image to download I Was a J20 Street Medic and Defendant.

Click on the image to download Between the Sun and the Sea: Icarus at 12th and L.

Click on the image to download Load Every Rift With Ore: Critical Reflections on the J20 Trial and Support Campaign.

Appendix: Some Other New Designs

In addition to the J20 zines, we’ve also added the following posters illustrating our analysis Against the Logic of the Guillotine and celebrating workplace theft for STEAL SOMETHING FROM WORK DAY. Ready for wheatpasting!

Click on the image to download the poster.

Click the image to download the PDF.

Alongside the serialized audiobook version of our book about borders and migration, No Wall They Can Build, we have prepared a zine design of our interview with a volunteer from No More Deaths about the context that solidarity workers face on the border today.

Click the image to download the PDF of Fighting Border Violence from Obama to Trump.

April 18, 2019 06:53 PM

InterPressService (global south)

Egypt’s Food Challenge: a Good Effort but Not Enough

A bakery shop in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian flatbread, known as Aish baladi or country bread is on the table of all Egyptians, even the poorest, thanks to a smartcard system that assigns certain quantities to each family to avoid unnecessary waste.

By Maged Srour
CAIRO, Apr 18 2019 (IPS)

“Unfortunately the overall nutritional panorama of Egypt does not look well,” says Dr. Sara Diana Garduno Diaz, an expert concentrating on nutrition and biology at the American University of the Middle East. Diaz’s research focuses on dietary patterns and ethnic-associated risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

“While traditionally a country known for its lavish and welcoming food patterns, the quality of eating has been compromised,” she tells IPS.

Her findings are echoed by Oliver Petrovic, Chief of Health and Nutrition at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Egypt: “Unhealthy foods such as sugary biscuits, candy, chips and cakes, make up one-third of the foods consumed daily by Egyptian infants.”

Child consumption of sugary snack foods was associated with a 51 percent higher likelihood of being part of a ‘stunted child and obese mother’ household, Petrovic tells IPS. “Only about half of children under two consume iron rich foods,” he adds.

In a country where one in five children are stunted or too short for their age, malnutrition accounts for 35 percent of the disease burden in children younger than five, warns the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The definition of stunting, according to UNICEF, “is a measure of chronic malnutrition; it reflects inadequate nutrition over a long period, or effects of recurrent or chronic illnesses.” 

A 2018 UNICEF report on Egypt explains maternal and child malnutrition are influenced by inadequate dietary intake and disease. The report further states that inadequate dietary intake refers to poor access to “a balanced diet among the poorest sections of society, as well as poor dietary habits, lifestyle and lack of nutritional awareness across the population, as opposed to issues of food availability.”

It also notes that not being able to optimise breast feeding plays a role in this. In addition, poor sanitation and hygiene are also underlying causes of malnutrition. 

“Traditional eating practices of the entire region relied heavily on seasonal and local foods, slow cooking methods, communal eating and avoidance of food waste but more recently habits such as rushing meals and preference for cheaper sources of energy are becoming the norm,” Diaz points out.

Junk food is on the rise

And the negative consequences of this extends over time.

FAO estimates that between two and six percent of stunted children become stunted adults who are less productive than adults of normal stature. Increased morbidity and mortality; decreased cognitive, motor, language and socio-emotional development; and an increase in non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart conditions are some of the short- and long-term effects of stunting.

“It is important to be aware of the crucial importance of a proper nutrition in the first years of life. They have a profound effect on a child’s future. These years are a critical early window of opportunity to provide the nutrition, protection, bonding and stimulation that children need to reach their full potential,” Petrovic tells IPS.

“Adequate nutrition, safe environments and responsive adult caregiving are the best ways to support healthy brain development,” he adds.

On the other hand, the undernourishment rate in the total Egyptian population between 2014 and 2016 was less than five percent according to the World Food Programme. Undernourishment, according to FAO, is “an estimate of the proportion of the population whose habitual food consumption is insufficient to provide the dietary energy levels that are required to maintain a normal active and healthy life.” 

The prevalence of five percent is the same as most industrialised countries, showing that the situation is not as critical as in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, for instance, one in every three people is undernourished.

Egypt and food challenges: high score in ‘food loss and waste’, poor score in ‘dietary patterns’

But the problem lies not only with Egypt. All Arab countries face complex food challenges, as identified by the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN).

Each country  is ranked according to food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. According to the FSI Whitepaper 2018, Egypt ranked 50th out of 67 countries analysed worldwide for malnourishment, making it one of four countries not from sub-Saharan African that were ranked in the bottom 20.  The other three nations are Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia.

However, overall Egypt scored moderately for nutritional challenges. The rather good result obtained in the ‘life quality’ category, did not sufficiently offset the very low results obtained in the ‘lifestyle’ and ‘dietary patterns’ categories.

Food loss and waste: the ‘smartcard system’ in Egypt

Arab countries all ranked low in the FSI with regards to food loss and waste. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were ranked the 29th and 35th performing countries respectively for food loss and waste among 35 high-income countries, while Egypt ranked 10th out of 23 middle-income countries.

Egypt has specifically introduced a measure–a smartcard system–that has limited the problem nationally.

The programme, which impacts about 80 percent of the Egyptian population, establishes the maximum daily amount of subsidised bread that can be requested by each family member.

As a result, food waste has decreased considerably and other countries like Jordan are considering implementing this model to avoid waste on subsidised basic food items.

What can be done?

Egypt certainly lives in a situation of great vulnerability regarding nutritional challenges.

The aridity of the region places pressure on agriculture and the Nile alone is not enough to satisfy the needs of more than 90 million inhabitants. Much of the Nile water is used for agriculture and inefficient water management at local level can lead to scarcity of supply to entire communities. Moreover, climate change amplifies all these challenges.

The rise in prices of foodstuffs has also forced millions of Egyptians to adopt a less expensive but also less healthy lifestyle.

To reverse the current trends of malnutrition (high prevalence of stunting, increasing underweight and increasing overweight at the same time), requires careful consideration of the common causes and a complex, multisector approach to address the underlying causes.

“At the policy level, UNICEF and the World Bank have worked on better understanding of the problem,” Petrovic tells IPS.

“They have supported the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) in developing an investment case, with in-depth analysis of the situation and with the proposed and costed interventions needed to reduce stunting. UNICEF is also providing technical support to the Ministry of Health and Population in revising the Nutrition Strategy and developing the new and costed action plan for nutrition,” he adds.

Overall, the picture of food security in Egypt appears positive and negative at the same time. The situation must be kept under control by authorities, farmers and all Egyptians themselves.

“In my opinion it is not a question to be addressed exclusively by policymakers,” says Diaz.

“I believe the solution requires changes at an individual and community (home) level. These changes of course require support from policymakers, for example, through nutrition education programmes, micro-loans to boost local farmers and other local food production initiatives and infrastructure to improve food security.

“The policies may exist or be under developed but will remain useless unless they are accepted and implemented by the people.”

The post Egypt’s Food Challenge: a Good Effort but Not Enough appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Maged Srour at April 18, 2019 06:43 PM


How the Other Half Goes to College

Rich parents bribing their kids' way into elite schools shows how college admissions is anything but a meritocracy. But the flipside is how poor and working-class kids face barrier after barrier to attending higher education at all, as this advisor to first-generation college students explains.

alt People read on the green of Yale University April 16, 2008 in New Haven, Connecticut. Christopher Capozziello / Getty

The college admissions bribery scandal has rightfully provoked outrage at the lengths to which wealthy parents will go to secure spots in elite institutions for their children — and the extent to which those institutions are happy to play along. The thirty-three parents indicted for taking part in a scheme to cheat, bribe, and Photoshop their kids’ way into competitive colleges like the University of Southern California and Yale are celebrities, finance executives, CEOs, and venture capitalists — rich enough, in other words, to pay hundreds of thousands to inflate SAT scores and persuade coaches to falsely designate their sons and daughters as athletes, but not enough to bribe colleges the traditional way: putting their name on a building or citing a “legacy” of generations of attendees.

On the heels of the indictment came a series of stories exposing how deep the inequities in higher education go, including the finding that low-income students, should they somehow make it to an elite school, could very well end up cleaning their richer peers’ toilets to make ends meet.

Not only are the rich buying their kids admission to elite schools. Those elite schools are then practicing rampant grade inflation — to maintain the ruse, one might assume, that their attendees are exceptional for reasons other than their families’ wealth. Upon graduation, these same students are fast-tracked to positions at high-paying firms.

Despite ample proof that our supposedly meritocratic system is nothing but a long con, Americans remain enamored with elite institutions. Meanwhile, the institutions ostensibly designed to support low-income students put them at a disadvantage long before they arrive on college campuses. In my five years of working as a college advisor to first-generation college students, most of them poor and working class, I have seen how, rather than help them transition to higher education, schools, test administrators, and universities themselves create additional hurdles toward getting such students into college.

The program I work for, based out of a community-services center in Queens, New York offers SAT prep and college admissions coaching — from writing a personal statement to applying for financial aid to acclimating to campus life — free of charge to NYC public school students. Each year, our program’s graduates collectively receive millions in scholarships and grants for colleges, some of them elite universities.

This work is funded by a grant from the state Department of Education, drawing money from a larger, federal program to support community learning centers for students attending high-poverty and low-performing schools. The program was renewed in 2015; now, the Trump administration is calling for a 10 percent cut in federal funding for public education, with no increase in support for Title 1 schools. This comes despite the fact that public education funding has not returned to its pre-recession levels, teachers across the country are forced to turn to crowdfunding for basic classroom supplies, and polls that prove the public opposes such austerity measures for education.

In the federally funded program I teach for, we’ve worked with students facing homelessness, eviction, domestic abuse, and the deportation of close relatives. They possess that much-heralded “grit” colleges are supposedly seeking. Why, then, are so many additional obstacles being thrown their way?

Standardized Testing Fees

A few years ago, I attended a training at which it was explained that a student’s GPA and standardized test score are the top two factors college admissions officials use to determine whether that student should be admitted. Exams like the SAT could offer poor students an opportunity to distinguish themselves. And there’s evidence that re-taking such tests boosts students’ scores as much as paying for expensive coaching does.

But the notion that a high SAT score correlates to a student’s merit is laughable for many reasons. Of course, poor students can’t afford to take these tests multiple times, nor can they afford private tutoring or prep classes (a thirty-six-hour Princeton Review SAT course costs nearly $1,600). And should they manage to ace the SAT, all the other college admissions criteria — from extracurriculars to volunteer hours to internships to that smoothest pathway to the Ivies, a “legacy” — favor students from families with money and connections.

Having taught the SAT myself, though, I know that even motivated students who study rigorously are at a disadvantage, if they do so on their own: I spent far more time in class teaching students how to take the test, rather than how to master topics like reading comprehension.

Acing the SAT largely depends upon strategy, on understanding the exam’s particular internal logic. A good score on the SAT proves little more than that a student is good at taking the SAT. The problem is that poor students can’t afford to take the test multiple times.

The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT and AP exams, charges application fees to take the tests — $47.50 for the verbal and math SAT, or $64.50 for verbal, math, and an “optional” essay test, which many competitive colleges recommend. The fee for taking a single AP exam, which, for students who pass, can lead to receiving college credit, is $94. The College Board recently increased the cost of sitting for AP tests, despite the fact that the organization earned $200 million in 2017 and owns $1.1 billion in cash and investments.

Lest you think that charging students to take exams they cannot get into competitive colleges without is simply a way for the College Board to enrich itself, the nonprofit does offer fee waivers. If their families meet income eligibility guidelines or receive public assistance, high school juniors and seniors can receive these waivers — enough to take the SAT twice.

For the AP test, the College Board offers not fee waivers but fee reductions, lowering the cost of the exam to $53 a piece — as clear a message as any that low-income students simply should not bother to aim high. The ACT, administered by a separate organization, charges $67 for an exam with the writing section included, and offers waivers for two exams for students who meet similar eligibility guidelines.

Affluent students, of course, face no barriers to taking these exams as many times as they want.

For poor families, fee waivers can offer much-needed relief, but it isn’t easy to track them down. The College Board and ACT distribute waivers directly to high school guidance counselors — handy if your school has a guidance counselor, but many do not. It’s not unusual for waivers to get lost in the administrative shuffle at schools, putting an additional burden on poor students.

Not only do they have to somehow know that waivers are available, they must then go track them down. And there’s evidence that that very process of applying for waivers dissuades students from doing so.

Perhaps sensitive to this, the New York City Department of Education established an annual SAT School Day as part of its College Access for All program, which offers the test free to all public school juniors. But the writing section of the SAT is not included.

The DOE claims that this section is optional and not required by most colleges. This is false. Many competitive and elite universities do require or “recommend” that students take the writing section. By leaving out the writing section of the SAT, the DOE is sending a message to poor and working-class NYC students: know your place.

For New Yorkers, that’s the City University of New York (CUNY) system, which will give them an excellent education. CUNY draws world-class professors and offers competitive degrees. Bayard Rustin, Upton Sinclair, several Nobel Laureates, and many others graduated from CUNY schools. They are fine institutions.

But many of my students need to leave New York City, for a number of reasons. Maybe they live in small, crowded apartments with little space for studying. Maybe their parents have no choice but to ask them to working long hours to help pay the rent, which cuts into their school time. Or maybe they just want to try out a new environment, expand their horizons, meet people from different parts of the country, live on their own — experiences what wealthier teenagers have as a matter of course.

For that, they need access to options beyond their local university system. And they currently don’t have that.

The Lack of Guidance Counselors

School guidance counselors offer academic and personal support to students, as well as help with college applications and financial aid. Their responsibilities are wide-ranging and, particularly for students who will be the first in their families to attend college, invaluable.

But there’s a critical shortage of these counselors in American high schools. In the recent Oakland teachers strike, one of the points of contention was the city’s 600-to-1 student to counselor ratio. Nationwide, the student-to-counselor ratio in 2018 is 482-to-1, suggesting that even if your school has a counselor, it’s likely they’re spread extremely thin. (The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250-to-1.)

Even in the comfortably middle-class, suburban public high school I attended as a teenager, our guidance counselor was notorious for giving every high-achieving student the same exact list of recommended colleges to apply to. Recently, one of the students in the program I teach for was valedictorian of her class — but her school’s counselor advised her to apply only to colleges in the local CUNY system, not to the elite private schools she was qualified for and which might have awarded her scholarships.

In New York City, the DOE budget does not provide a line item for college counselors, which means that schools decide whether they’ll assign those responsibilities to another counselor, a teacher or other staff member — or not at all. Students whose families are well-informed of the college admissions process can muddle through without additional guidance, but for those who will be the first in their families to get a higher education, the lack of information from a dedicated college counselor places them at a severe disadvantage.

When leading college workshops for such students, I have been asked questions like, “What’s a campus?” and “What’s an undergraduate?” How can seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds who have never been taught the basics of college life be expected to understand how to apply for financial aid?

The program I work for as an advisor has made up for this lack for thousands of NYC students. Since its founding in 2003, it has helped high school seniors receive over $100 million in scholarships; 90 percent of its attendees go on to college at a wide variety of schools all throughout the country within six months of graduating. Over 75 percent of its students are low-income, many the first in their families to attend college, many immigrants, some undocumented.

Not every student we work with wants to leave New York to attend school — or go to school at all. College guidance helps more than just the highest-performing high schoolers. For some, it has meant the difference between no college and an associate’s degree; for others, a bachelor’s degree rather than an associate’s. And for some students, it has simply meant informing them about their options. I’ve taught at a vocational school where many students weren’t sure whether they wanted to go to college or straight to work, and have been able to help them weigh their options with greater confidence.

Recently, a student asked me, “What if I work for a few years and then decide I made a mistake and should have gone to college?” I told him he could still go to college — that it would always be there for him as an option, that I’d attended college with people my age, but also with adults in their thirties, forties, and older.

He was clearly relieved. He had been under the impression that you could only go to college straight out of high school, because no one had ever told him otherwise.

These moments are proof that these students are motivated and capable of making smart decisions about their future when given sufficient information and support. But most poor American high school students do not have access to any such support.

The College Application Process

After GPA and SAT scores, college admissions officials say they also closely consider a student’s personal statement and extracurriculars in determining whether to admit them. The statement — for which seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds are asked to reflect upon their lives and write what amounts to a short memoir — is challenging for teenagers, most of whom have never crafted such an essay before. Much of my time as an advisor is spent helping students brainstorm, draft, and refine their statements; it’s not unusual to go through a dozen rounds of revision. On several occasions, college admissions officials have told us that a student’s essay is what made the difference in their being accepted.

Our mostly low-income students are unusual in that their essays receive the level of personalized attention they do. But it’s not unusual for wealthy students to work with an expensive essay coach, who might charge as much as $1,500 to help them tell their story.

Or do more than help. My supervisor remembers, from his days of working as a private, one-on-one college counselor to affluent New York City kids, a parent offering to pay off his student loans in exchange for writing his daughter’s personal statement. (He declined.) College essay coaches say they struggle to keep to the right side of the line between guiding their wealthy teenage clients and simply penning the essay for them.

Many of the other criteria for college admissions, like extracurriculars and community service, similarly disadvantage the poor and working class. Wealthy students have the leisure time and the funds to pursue expensive hobbies or take that “voluntourism” trip to the developing world (which also makes for a solid personal statement topic.) Meanwhile, a significant number of the students I’ve worked with are busy with after-school jobs to help support their families.

When it comes time to submit applications to schools, poor students again must contend with steep application fees. In New York City, qualifying students can receive fee waivers to apply to schools in the local, public CUNY system, though according to New York state’s Higher Education Services Corporation, these waivers are given to school counselors in “very limited quantity,” and once the school’s supply is exhausted, no more are provided. Poor students, then, must race one another for waivers.

SUNY, the state university system, waives the $50 application fee for low-income students for four colleges. Students who want to apply to more than four, including private schools, can receive four more waivers from the College Board or The National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Eight colleges might sound like a lot, but given that the most competitive schools are only becoming more so, it’s not unheard of for wealthier students to apply to as many as thirty.

Many of even the strongest students I’ve worked with don’t realize that private college is an option for them. I’ve explained to countless high school seniors that their grades make them eligible for scholarships, that many private schools have large endowments that enable them to offer low-income applicants grants and other forms of aid. If I hadn’t told them this, they would have taken one look at the tuition fees and decided they shouldn’t bother applying.

When it comes to financial aid, most of our students have to take on that challenge without family help, bringing in their parents’ tax forms and going through the painstaking process of filling out FAFSA applications. Many schools claim to be need-blind, only to offer low-income students aid packages that fall $2,000 or $3,000 short — an insurmountable financial hurdle for students living in poverty. In these situations, we help students write appeal letters to financial aid departments, frequently to successful results. But of course, most low-income high schoolers do not have access to these kinds of resources and support.

A lack of information surely hinders thousands of qualified students from not only getting into competitive schools, but from applying to them in the first place. No wonder fewer than 20 percent of Americans believe the college admissions process is fair.

A degree from a competitive college comes with cultural cachet, so much so that thirty-three parents were willing to pay fortunes in bribes to persuade their wealthy peers that their children are successes. That fact alone should be ample proof that these schools are not judging applicants solely — or even mostly — on merit, and should end our fascination with Harvard, Yale, and all the rest.

At the same time, to lower-income families, a college degree means far more than a signifier of status. Graduates from the program I teach for have gone on to law school, to win Emmys, to become teachers, doctors, artists. They are proof of what happens when you fund programs like mine to provide everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, with the resources, the guidance, and the opportunities to live up to their full potential.

We’re told our system is meritocratic, that anyone who works hard and wants it enough can pursue a quality higher education and vault themselves up the class ladder. This isn’t true. The college bribery scandal is just one more indication amid the mounting evidence that our education system is set up to perpetuate class divisions, to keep people in their place. In 2017, forty-one states spent less per student than they did in 2008, as states cut funding to public education. The result is public school students routinely deprived of even the most basic information they need to succeed after they graduate.

To create a society where we all have the chance to live our potential, we must remove the barriers that poor and working-class kids face — exacerbated by the underfunded institutions that should exist to support them — to getting a high-quality higher education.

by Alanna Schubach at April 18, 2019 06:22 PM


Are Red Carpet’s $3,000 First Run Movies At Home The Best Future?

Are Red Carpet’s $3,000 First Run Movies At Home The Best Future?
By Brad Templeton
Apr 17 2019

A new service, called Red Carpet, aims to offer first-run home theatre movies at an extreme price,   That price includes being vetted, installing a $15,000 DRM box in your home and paying $1,500 to  $3,000 for a 36 hour rental of a movie on the day it opens.

That insane price is aimed at the 0.1%, and there are enough of them.  Surprisingly, other attempts to do services like this have failed, not for lack of customers but because of resistance by studios and pushback from cinema chains who don’t like encroachment on their negotiated monopoly (as an industry) on first run.

They should worry.  With my 4K HDR TV, I go to the cinema perhaps once a year now, and only because it’s a social event.   But that should not stand in the way of this being much, much cheaper.   Hollywood has resisted efforts from silicon valley, which it views as the enemy.  Red Carpet is a Hollywood insider venture.   They should not view Silicon Valley as the enemy.  Their industry grew to $43B, while cinema ticket sales have shrunk, and all that growth is thanks to the high-tech world.

The $15K anti-piracy box seems misplaced, and just there to give Hollywood the illusion that they are doing something.   Bootleg copies of just about every movie are already out there from people who bribe a protectionist or use some other means to sneak a camcorder into a cinema.  Small, high-quality 4K recording comes in every cell phone today.  No matter what encryption you put on a stream, people can camcorder their screen and get great audio.  A better approach is to fingerprint each stream individually so that there is always the fear of being caught.  Such fingerprinting can be done at the server, it does not need to be done in the home.  Yes, if somebody gets enough of the different fingerprinted streams, they could probably remove the fingerprinting, but it’s probably easier just to bribe the right cinema.

While I see no big reason to keep the cinemas happy — what exactly are they doing to do about it, stop running studio movies? — at even a tiny fraction of these prices you could require every renter to effectively purchase tickets and virtual popcorn and the closest cinema running the movie, or more simply pay them whatever profit they might lose.

At that point, why need it cost more than the cost of a movie ticket for every person in the room, or indeed less.  Forget $15,000 — a very cheap box could count the number of people in the room without needing to photograph (and certainly not store or transmit) images of the people.  You could probably do it with ultrasonics.

Yes, I can think of ways to defeat this.  Camcorder and re-stream the movie to a much larger room, for example.  Set a decent minimum viewership if this is a real problem, it’s not the sort of trick people really need to play.

Instead, they should embrace new ways to get movies to people, and to get them to pay more for them.   HDR is a good one.   The crazy people paying $3,000 to rent it should get it before it opens, not the same time.  For an extra $1,000, toss in a 5 minute video conference (other than opening night) with one of the supporting actors or crew — that will really impress their friends. Or pay more to get the director or a major star.  For $49.95, you can get the screenwriter.  (That’s a joke, or so I hope.)


by wa8dzp at April 18, 2019 05:48 PM


Paris : Orange like flames

On the night of April 10th to 11th, we torched an Orange company car on Rue Planchat in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. Mobile phones, relay antennas, electromagnetic waves, permanently connected, controlling our lives, more and more virtual lives lived … Continue reading

by Attaque at April 18, 2019 04:56 PM

Sharon Adetoro: How to Make the Movement More Inclusive? Do the Work!

student climate strike

The Environmental movement is heavily white and middle class. Both of which we are not. There is an uncomfortableness about entering that space.

by Manchester Climate Monthly Staff at April 18, 2019 03:13 PM


Ad Nihilo : A new anarchist website in French language

Ad Nihilo is an instrument for the spreading of anarchist texts of marginal tendencies within the anarchist movement. Nihilist, anticivilization, antinatalist, antispecist, queer and individualist, these are the tendencies to which we’ll give voice in this blog under construction. … Continue reading

by Attaque at April 18, 2019 03:07 PM

InterPressService (global south)

Trump’s Veto Will Trigger More US Arms to Kill Civilians in Yemen

Yemen home for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

By Thalif Deen

President Donald Trump’s decision to veto a bi-partisan Congressional resolution to end US military involvement in a devastating Saudi-led four-year conflict in Yemen– is expected to escalate the ongoing war in the trouble-plagued region.

The weapons used by the Saudis in the reckless bombing of mostly civilian targets, including schools and hospitals, are largely from the United States: F-15 fighter planes, Bell helicopters, drones, air-to-surface missiles, M60 battle tanks, laser-guided bombs and heavy artillery.

Trump’s veto on April 16 is expected to ensure the uninterrupted flow of American-made weapons into a war zone described by the United Nations as the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster”.

In its latest report released last month, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said arms imports by Middle Eastern countries increased by 87 per cent between 2009–13 and 2014–18 and accounted for 35 per cent of global arms imports in 2014–18.

Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer in 2014–18, with an increase of 192 per cent compared with 2009–13.

Currently, the US is one of the largest arms suppliers to Saudi Arabia.

Citing conservative UN estimates, Ole Solvang, Policy Director at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), told IPS some 17,700 civilians have been killed in the fighting since 2015.

An estimated 2,310 people have died from cholera according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and 85,000 children under the age of five have died from starvation.

Solvang said more bombs and weapons in Yemen will only mean more suffering and death.

“By providing such extensive military and diplomatic support for one side of the conflict, the United States is deepening and prolonging a crisis that has immediate and severe consequences for Yemen— and civilians are paying the price,” he noted.

David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, described Trump’s veto as “morally and strategically wrong-headed.”

This was Trump’s second veto, the first being the rejection of a bipartisan Congressional resolution aimed at overturning his declaration of “national emergency” at the southwestern border to keep immigrants and refugees from the US.

The death toll in Yemen has continued to rise.

Justifying US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Trump has repeatedly said that if the US doesn’t sell weapons, the Chinese and the Russians will sell them.

Asked if this a valid argument, NRC’s Solvang told IPS : “I have no idea if the Chinese or the Russians would step in to replace US arms sales. As we now know, there is no shortage of countries willing to sell arms to the (Saudi-led) Coalition “ – judging by the latest revelations out of France and the previous information out of the UK.

“The argument is basically irrelevant, and avoids the question of whether the US wants to be complicit in supporting the killing of civilians in Yemen. Congress thinks the US should not be and that’s what’s important here,” he said.

Meanwhile, US arms supplies to the Saudi-led coalition are also viewed as a move directed at Iran which is allied with the Yemenis caught in the middle of a larger confrontation between Iran on one side and the US and the Saudis on the other.

Solvang said that was also Trump’s justification for the veto.

He pointed out that the US views Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, as an Iranian proxy force, and US aid to the Coalition is part of the wider struggle in the region against Iran.

“This is not in dispute and the analysis is enthusiastically embraced by key administration officials, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has accused Ansar Allah of being the primary cause of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.”

This does not, however, relieve the US of its obligations to do what it can to protect civilians. That includes putting as much pressure on the coalition as it can – privately and publicly – to abide by the laws of war, said Solvang.

And, ultimately, if the US sees that it is not able to shift coalition behaviour sufficiently, end the cooperation or risk becoming complicit in the abuses, these obligations are the same for all parties to the war in Yemen.

Asked about the rising casualties, he pointed out that in the first three months of this year alone, NRC’s analysis of attacks on civilians reveals that civilian casualties in Hajjah and Taiz alone have more than doubled since the Hodeidah ceasefire and Stockholm Agreement came into effect, with 164 and 184 people killed respectively.

An estimated 788 civilian casualties were reported nationwide since 18 December last year. The majority of them, 318 people, were killed by shelling. Across Yemen, a total of 1,631 houses, 385 farms, 47 local businesses and 13 schools were attacked in the same period.

Meanwhile, in a statement released April 17, the 15-member UN Security Council reiterated their call on the (warring) parties to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including ensuring the protection of civilians.

They expressed deep concern at the devastating impact this conflict has had on civilians, especially Yemeni children.

And they reminded all parties of their obligations towards children affected by armed conflict, and called on them to engage constructively with the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to implement their commitments and obligations.

The writer can be contacted at

The post Trump’s Veto Will Trigger More US Arms to Kill Civilians in Yemen appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Thalif Deen at April 18, 2019 02:03 PM


Planning the Green Tech Revolution

Publicly funded research produced the technology that gave us the internet. It can do the same for the Green New Deal and the transition to a more equitable, sustainable economy.

alt A Colossus Mark 2 code-breaking computer, 1943. Wikimedia

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for a Green New Deal is a major step forward in the fight for a green economic transition and progressive social reform. While many of the plan’s goals involve investments in infrastructure and already-existing green technologies, the Green New Deal also calls for “public investments in the research and development of new clean and renewable energy technologies and industries.” As other observers have pointed out, the Green New Deal’s R&D strategy will be crucial to bringing down the cost of low-carbon energy.

In a paper released today by the People’s Policy Project, we outline a new public R&D strategy that can help achieve a more sustainable environment and a more equitable economy. We argue that existing federal innovation programs should be sharply expanded and reoriented toward producing the technology needed for a carbon-negative economy. Additionally, we suggest changes to the present system that would boost public ownership and control over the economic gains these innovation programs generate.

Since World War II, the federal government’s R&D programs have been critical to many of the economy’s most transformative technologies. The internet is one obvious example: though later advances came from the private sector, the origins of the web lie in the Department of Defense’s ARPANET project in the late 1960s. Same for the iPhone: nearly all of its components can be traced back to technology programs funded by the US government. Today, the federal government promotes innovation through an array of programs, including government-run laboratories, technology development agencies, state-led industry consortia, and public venture capital funds.

But the existing system suffers from a number of glaring flaws. R&D is overwhelmingly geared toward military purposes, and the direct gains from innovation tend to concentrate in particular geographic areas, many of which are already thriving. To make matters worse, the current system shortchanges the public sector, channeling government investments into private, profit-seeking hands without direct public reimbursement. In short, the system socializes risk while privatizing gains.

A more socially just innovation policy was once a major goal of American progressives. During and immediately after World War II, pro–New Deal lawmakers proposed expanding the government’s R&D operations to serve broad social goals and regional development. Crucially, they also wanted the government to retain its ownership stakes over the results of these programs. This progressive vision eventually lost out to pro-business alternatives and has never been fully revived.

The Green New Deal represents a promising opportunity to return to a progressive vision for industrial policy. Toward this end, we propose four core reforms:

  1. Radically scale up ARPA-E, the government’s primary program for developing early stage green technologies and launch a major carbon capture project within that program focused exclusively on carbon-negative technologies.
  2. Create a national network of Green New Deal Institutes. These can serve as industry and university consortia that, in partnership with the government, coordinate research efforts with particular sustainable technology goals.
  3. Shift the federal government’s venture capital activities toward green technology startups. The government should increase public ownership and control over these firms by placing conditions on federal financial assistance and by taking equity stakes in companies, thereby gaining leverage in corporate governance.
  4. Create a Green Innovation Fund for investments in green technology, financed in part by revenue from public ownership stakes in intellectual property generated by the technology programs listed above; interest from loans made to green technology firms; and returns from the government’s ownership shares in those firms.

Recent discussions about economic planning have triggered a reassessment of its viability in various forms. This is long overdue. Innovation policy, including the federal government’s public R&D strategy, too often flies under the radar. Innovation in the US is already planned — it just isn’t planned for a green and equitable future.

To meet the threat of climate change, that has to change. We can ensure that a fair share of the gains generated by government investment are returned to the public rather than hoarded in tax havens. And we can take steps to bring the public innovation system under real democratic control — while simultaneously creating socially necessary technology and advancing a progressive vision for the economy.

The federal government has a history of catalyzing remarkable technological advances through publicly funded R&D. The Green New Deal is a chance for a repeat performance. And this time, the planet is on the line.

by Ian Wells at April 18, 2019 01:44 PM

Index urges UK government to rethink proposals for online harms regulation over risks to media freedom

Index on Censorship has filed an official alert with the Council of Europe about risks to media freedom in proposals in the government’s recently released online harms white paper. The white paper has raised serious concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression, including press freedom.

In response to a letter from Ian Murray of the Society of Editors, which raised concerns about potential impacts on press freedom, secretary of state Jeremy Wright responded stating that journalistic or editorial content will not be affected by the proposed regulatory framework.

However, the far-reaching proposals that aim to address unclearly defined “harms” include a legal duty of care and the possibility of large fines and potentially even personal criminal liability for senior managers. These create a strong incentive to restrict and remove content, which could include “harmful” journalistic content where it appears online. The white paper includes disinformation in its list of harms.  

Index on Censorship head of advocacy Joy Hyvarinen said: “The proposed regulation to tackle online harms has not been thought through properly. Based on the proposals in the online harms white paper, press freedom impacts would be very difficult to avoid. Index urges the government to reconsider these proposals.”

No sex please, we’re British: Why is no one talking about the UK’s impending “porn ban”?

The Digital Economy Act 2017 has the potential to pose a severe threat to the anonymity of people in the UK.

Online harms proposals pose serious risks to freedom of expression

While we recognise the government’s desire to tackle unlawful content online, the proposals mooted in the white paper – including a new duty of care on social media platforms, a regulatory body, and even the fining and banning of social media platforms as a sanction – pose serious risks to freedom of expression online.

The UK government’s online harms white paper shows disregard for freedom of expression

According to leaked details, it will include a statutory duty of care, which will be enforced by a regulator. Ofcom is expected to take on the role of regulator to begin, with a new regulator established later.

Fundación Karisma: “At the heart of Karisma’s work has always been the promotion of access to knowledge and culture”

Winner of the 2019 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Digital Activism Award, Fundación Karisma is a civil society organisation fighting for digital rights in Colombia.

The post Index urges UK government to rethink proposals for online harms regulation over risks to media freedom appeared first on Index on Censorship.

by Index on Censorship at April 18, 2019 01:15 PM


How trees brought back Senegal’s national dish: with recipe

How trees brought back Senegal’s national dish: with recipe

When we visited our project in Senegal, we realised that food really can grow on (and around) trees! Senegal’s national dish is called “Thiéboudienne”, but deforestation and a drying climate have made it harder for farmers to grow the veggies needed for the stew.

This is where your searches come in! In Senegal, we’re planting trees in forest gardens, which gives farmers an alternative to growing pesticide-dependent monocultures. Trees actually help vegetables to grow by providing shade and improving the quality of the soil around them. A beautiful side-effect is that farmers involved in our project can make their traditional meal once more, using ingredients grown in their own forest gardens.


Here’s how to make a vegetarian version of the classic one-pot dish:

  • Heat oil, add onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, black pepper and garlic. Then fry for 15 minutes over medium heat
  • Add bay leaves and a cup of water
  • Add all veggies with one cup of water and cook for 25 minutes until cooked
  • Remove vegetables and add rice
  • Cook over low heat, turning often so all the sides are cooked well
  • Pour vegetables over rice to serve

Let us know how your stew turns out! And don’t forget to install the Ecosia extension and download our app to help farming communities in Senegal grow the ingredients to make theirs.

by Joshi at April 18, 2019 12:59 PM

How Libraries of Things Build Resilience, Fight Climate Change, and Bring Communities Together

Toronto Tool library

Libraries of Things are both starting to expand to multiple locations, and also connecting with other similar or complementary organizations to form local and regional networks.

by Tom Llewellyn at April 18, 2019 12:59 PM

InterPressService (global south)

CORRECTED VERSION: World Bank Dispossessing Rural Poor

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Apr 18 2019 (IPS)

The World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) project, launched in 2013, has sought agricultural reforms favouring the corporate sector. EBA was initially established to support the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, initiated by the G8 to promote private agricultural development in Africa.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The New Alliance has been touted as “a new model of partnership” for agricultural transformation in Africa. The Bank has used the EBA to address the land issue in developing countries, particularly in Africa. The US and UK governments as well as the Gates Foundation are among its strong supporters in line with their broader support for corporate agriculture.

Emulating the influential annual World Bank Doing Business report, the EBA scores countries on the ease of doing business in agriculture. It purports to measure ‘legal barriers’ to agribusiness and to prescribe reforms in twelve areas, including seeds, fertilizers, trade and machinery.

It advocates reforms in favour of agribusiness by weakening regulations over seeds, fertilizers and pesticides and strengthening foreign agribusiness power and influence. Missing from the partnership are peasants and indigenous peoples whose livelihoods depend on traditional land uses.

Dangerous new indicator
The 2017 EBA report proposed a new indicator on land, initially piloted in 38 countries, to be extended to more in the 2019 report. The Bank claims to be seeking to better protect land rights and to ensure more equity in land access. It is biased towards industrial agriculture and agribusiness, and the intent of the new indicator makes it even more urgent to challenge the EBA initiative.

As Frédéric Mousseau of the Oakland Institute emphasised, EBA best practices seek to promote large-scale ‘industrial’ or plantation agriculture, at the expense of family farmers and communities using the land in other ways, including pastoralists and those currently categorized as indigenous peoples including swidden cultivators, hunters and gatherers.

Anis Chowdhury

The EBA advocates certain reforms and policy measures, raising concerns about its likely impact, if implemented by governments. The Bank advocates formalizing (private) property rights, enabling greater commercial sale and lease of land, claiming that productivity will thus be enhanced.

UNCTAD’s 2009 World Investment Report cautioned that “Greater involvement by TNCs will not automatically lead to greater productivity in agriculture, rural development or the alleviation of poverty and hunger”.

Even joint research by World Bank and IFPRI staff is circumspect about the claimed benefits of large scale commercial farming in light of likely environmental, social and productivity impacts. Large scale commercial farming has often involved environmental degradation, forced evictions and human rights violations, worsening food insecurity and livelihood destruction.

Legal land grabbing
Since the turn of the century, large-scale land acquisitions by transnational corporations in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, have accelerated. Such land targeted by ‘investors’ has often long been used by local people who may not have property titles, often deemed unnecessary.

Land use practices have often evolved with changing demography, ecology, knowledge, technology, political systems, commercial considerations and legal traditions. Such land may be legally deemed either public or state land, and/or land to which local communities claim customary rights, but many other hybrid permutations have also evolved.

Unsurprisingly, ‘land grabs’ by new elites have encountered resistance from many of those opposing expropriation of what they see as their land. Success in delaying, disrupting or blocking new plantations, large farms and ranches has been varied and contingent on a variety of factors.

Enabling land privatization
Much public or state land in developing countries allows usufructuary rights in line with contemporary interpretations of customary practices. Natural resources, including land used in varied ways, are generally recognized as essential for sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions, and subject to either state or community management.

In many societies, land is still valued as a communal resource, often with deep social and cultural significance. Ignoring customary practices, the Bank is urging governments to privatize public land with ‘potential economic value’, to be put to its ‘best commercial use’.

The Bank has been promoting the formalization of private land ownership to encourage agribusiness investments in capital-intensive agriculture, to increase productivity. Commodifying land will enable more capital-intensive agricultural production as the Bank believes that “undocumented [land] rights pose challenges and risks to investors”.

By scoring countries in terms of ease of accessing land for agribusiness, the new EBA land indicator seeks to accelerate land privatization and to facilitate corporate access to land in developing countries. By enhancing property rights and making land a ‘transferable asset’, its use as collateral for credit is also enhanced.

Marginalizing rural poor
The Bank strategy either ignores or seeks to take advantage of the considerable vulnerability of many family farmers, worsened as the land they depend on for their livelihoods becomes a tradable asset.

The development of land markets increases commercial pressure on land, destroying the livelihoods of many depending on land and the commons—grazing and fishing grounds, and forests.

By promoting land as a marketable commodity, the land indicator inevitably enables greater concentration of land ownership. In economies with ‘formal’ land tenure systems, farmers often lose their land to creditors.

Extending such proprietary rights legally enables and thus accelerates land dispossession, concentration and grabbing. While jobs may be created for some locals, many more may be marginalized without much hope for alternative livelihoods elsewhere.

Thus, facilitating corporate agriculture by concentrating control over land use is likely to exacerbate rural poverty and overall inequality. Land titling, purportedly to protect land users from eviction, thus accelerates dispossession of current land users. Hence, the EBA should be ditched.

Instead, governments should be helped to design food and agriculture policies that empower family farmers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples to address the major challenges of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, environmental degradation, resource depletion and climate change.

To learn about the World Bank’s land indicator, read the Oakland Institute’s detailed report on the issue

The post CORRECTED VERSION: World Bank Dispossessing Rural Poor appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury at April 18, 2019 12:59 PM

“A Question of Life or Death”

The mining industry is one of the world's most dangerous industries. Globally, the death toll is at least 14,000 workers per year. But how many lives are actually lost is something that neither trade unions, national governments or the United Nations know.

Artisanal diamond miners at work in the alluvial diamond mines around the eastern town of Koidu, Sierra Leone. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/IPS

By Ivar Andersen and Linda Flood
STOCKHOLM, Apr 18 2019 (IPS)

The mining industry is one of the world’s most dangerous industries. Globally, the death toll is at least 14,000 workers per year. But how many lives are actually lost is something that neither trade unions, national governments or the United Nations know.

The men were sitting down for lunch in the canteen. January was about to turn into February but for them life would end then and there. Suddenly, a flood of mud and sludge swept in. The iron ore mine Feijao was destroyed when a dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais collapsed.

At least 206 people died in the accident, which could probably have been avoided. Leaked documents have shown that the directors of the multinational mining company Vale knew about the dangers of the dam.

Globally, the mining industry employs more than 24 million people.

Everywhere – from China to Kazakhstan – miners go to work with their lives on the line. Most of the people who die do so in silence.

The mining industry is full of informal jobs. And the number of fatal accidents is considerably higher than in most other sectors.

Getting a thorough picture of the number of fatalities is difficult. When Arbetet Global took a close look at the ten biggest mining countries, it turned out that not even welfare states like Canada had comprehensive statistics.

“In order to get these numbers you would have to contact every province, and then add the numbers together,” a representative from the trade organisation Mining Association of Canada writes.

Major mining accidents in 2019

January 19 – China
21 mine workers died when a coal mine collapsed in the Chinese province Shaanxi. Local authorities have announced that more inspectors will review the so-called high-risk mines this spring.

January 25 – Brazil
At least 206 people lost their lives in Brazil when a dam connected to the iron ore mine Feijao collapsed. More than two months later, 102 people are still missing.

February 6 – South Africa
At least 18 people died in a gas explosion in a coal mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The victims allegedly worked in the mine without permits.

February 26 – Indonesia
At least 24 people lost their lives in an illegal gold mine in Indonesia after a big earthquake. Rescue workers also found body parts that couldn’t be identified from four other people.

March 2 – India
Four mine workers died in an illegal coal mine in the state of Nagaland, in northern India. The cause of death is unknown but it is believed that the workers inhaled poisonous gas.

March 16 – China
20 mine workers died and 30 were injured in the Chinese city of Xilingol. The workers were on their way down into the mine when the breaks of their shuttle vehicle failed and the driver lost control of the vehicle.

Sources: New China News Agency, O Globo, The Times, Jakarta Post, Shillong Times
Glen Mpufane, Director of Mining at the global trade union IndustriAll, estimates that the mining industry claims thousands of lives every year.

“I would say 7,000–8,000.”

He stresses that the numbers are unreliable. Some counties have reliable statistics, but globally the reporting on fatal accidents in the workplace has major flaws.

“It’s a big handicap for us. Without reliable data it’s much harder to follow the development. And we don’t have the resources to compile our own statistics. Our investigative unit isn’t that large and we have 14 sectors to organise.”

The ILO’s department of statistics, based in Geneva, calls itself “the world’s leading source of labour statistics”. But not even here do we find comprehensive information. A quick search in the statistical database reveals huge gaps in the reporting.

“We don’t know all that much about work-related fatalities in the world. We only get data if it’s collected on a national level,” says Rosina Gammarano, economist and statistician at the UN agency.

If you want figures concerning employment, stock prices, or BNP-development, all you need to do is a quick google search.

For figures relating to health and safety in the workplace however, you’re much worse off.

Part of the explanation is that responsibility for the reporting is often divided among several departments, as opposed to, for example, financial statistics. But the main problem is something else, according to Rosina Gammarano.

“Compared to other parts of labour market statistics, calculating death tolls is a very complicated, because it’s such a sensitive issue. There are several reasons why it is so under-reported. It could be that employers are not reporting because they don’t want inspections, or that governments don’t want negative attention.”

For Rosina Gammarano and her colleagues, the unwillingness to report fatalities is a source of frustration.

“We tend to only care about what we can quantify. Without statistics, the governments, corporations, and the international community won’t care, because they wont know it’s a problem. Any if you don’t have numbers, it is also always possible for someone to claim that there hasn’t been any accidents.”

For the employees of the world, this is, literally, a question of life or death.

“The lack of statistics hides the fact that there are many, many serious accidents,” Rosina Gammarano says. “It’s only by counting them that you can make the problem visible and force politicians to pay attention to it. For us here at the department of statistics at the ILO, that’s the driving force, to make the invisible visible.”

She’s not overly optimistic.

“This isn’t something you can solve by putting an infinite number of statisticians in a room. It has to start with a genuine desire to shed light on the accidents and eliminate the risks. If governments and employers aren’t serious about wanting to improve safety, I doubt we’ll ever get good statistics.”

A decade ago, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), which has since merged with IndustriAll, estimated that the yearly number of deaths exceeded 12,000. The decrease is mainly due to lower death tolls in China.

In 2005, almost 6,000 workers lost their lives in the country’s coal mines alone, according to official statistics. In 2018, the number had decreased significantly, to 333.

The independent labour rights organisation China Labour Bulletin (CLB) deems that these numbers reflect an actual decrease, even though many deaths still go unrecorded.

“Those are the accidents and deaths that have been reported. There’s always a risk that some have been silenced, that happens regularly,” according to Director of Communication Geoffrey Crothall.

In the early 2000’s, the Chinese coal marked grew explosively. The country’s massive investments in infrastructure demanded cheap energy and regulations for this wildly growing sector was not prioritised.

According to CLB, the government has since increased the number of health and safety inspections, but Geoffery Crothall argues that the decreasing death toll mostly depends on reduced production.

Hundreds of thousands of coal mining jobs have disappeared as the Chinese economy has slowed down.

“The sector has been decreasing since 2015, demand has been dwindling, and coal workers have lost their jobs. That’s why we see fewer accidents.”

This pattern is visible all over the world. In the industrialised world, efforts to increase health and safety in the workplace has led to fewer deaths, but globally the decrease stems from the fact that the sector now employs fewer people.

In 1998, the ILO estimated that 36 million people were employed in mining globally, of which six million worked in the informal sector.

Today, the UN agency estimates that there are 24 million mine workers, including both formal and informal employment. ILO is currently collecting information as grounds for a new estimation on the informal sector, a process which involves several different ILO departments.

Trade unions say that the lack of reliable statistics complicate their work, while the ILO says that unwillingness to report deaths hides the true scope of the problem.

But even if all of this would change – if correct reporting of workplace accidents all of a sudden became a top priority on the global political agenda – would a complete picture of the human cost of the mining industry become clear.

When IndustriAll estimates the yearly amount of deaths to 7,000-8,000, it is referring to the formal sector. In the informal sector the uncertainty is too great for Glen Mpufane to dare say a number.

“But the death toll is definitely higher than in the formal sector,” he says.

“It’s a tragedy that is happening every day, with mine workers dying in Pakistan, Peru, Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and they are never added into the official statistics. The deaths we hear about are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Translation: Cecilia Studer


This story was originally published by Arbetet Global


The post “A Question of Life or Death” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Ivar Andersen and Linda Flood at April 18, 2019 12:50 PM

“Falter”: In New Book, Bill McKibben Asks If the Human Game Has Begun to Play Itself Out

Falter book cover

Thirty years ago, in 1989, Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature, the first book about climate change for a general audience. He has just published a new book; it’s titled Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

by Amy Goodman at April 18, 2019 12:41 PM


Agnès Varda (1928–2019)

Born Arlette Varda in Belgium in 1928, Varda renamed herself Agnès at the age of eighteen and trained as a photographer in France before directing her first film La Pointe Courte in 1954. She lived in the same apartment on the Rue Daguerre in Paris for almost seventy years; she died March 29. Varda’s background […]

by Hannah Proctor at April 18, 2019 12:05 PM

Bitly link shortener blocked in Egypt

Several Internet providers in Egypt restricted access to the URL shortener service on Thursday 18 April 2019, breaking an estimated 37.5 billion web links shared via the service, according to new NetBlocks internet measurement data. The restrictions, implemented for a duration of approximately 12 hours, have prevented access to current and historic links shared online using the system which is popular with news media and blogging websites.

Network data shows that the two IP addresses serving the domain were inaccessible via internet providers Telecom Egypt, Raya, Etisalat and, intermittently, Vodafone, from Thursday morning 18 April 2019. Some users of Vodafone’s mobile network remained able to access the service, while the majority of fixed line and mobile operators implementing a total block.

The underlying reason for the outage, which had been ongoing for over an hour at time of publication, remains unclear. Bitly’s corporate website,, which provides information about the company’s products, is not affected by the block.

Network data shows access to the #Bitly URL shortening service being restored across Egypt as of 20:15 UTC:

Link shortening services are used to simplify the sharing of web links and news articles via social media, and are also used in print media where the full web address is considered too long to publish. Bitly service hosted at the domain advertises 37.5 billion links published as of August 2018 with the current figure expected to be higher.

Disruption to a link shortening service prevents users from following the shortened links, including all current and historic posts shared using the service. Hence, shorteners are considered critical to the day-to-day operation of social networks and blogging sites. The built-in link shortener used by Twitter,, has been unaffected by the restrictions.

NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

[ methodology handbook | press | contact ] Graphics and visualizations provided under a free and open license for reuse with clear attribution.

The post Bitly link shortener blocked in Egypt appeared first on NetBlocks.

by Editorial at April 18, 2019 12:04 PM


Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Schear.  DLH]

Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking
How Julian Jaynes’ famous 1970s theory is faring in the neuroscience age.
Nov 9 2017

Julian Jaynes was living out of a couple of suitcases in a Princeton dorm in the early 1970s. He must have been an odd sight there among the undergraduates, some of whom knew him as a lecturer who taught psychology, holding forth in a deep baritone voice. He was in his early 50s, a fairly heavy drinker, untenured, and apparently uninterested in tenure. His position was marginal. “I don’t think the university was paying him on a regular basis,” recalls Roy Baumeister, then a student at Princeton and today a professor of psychology at Florida State University. But among the youthful inhabitants of the dorm, Jaynes was working on his masterpiece, and had been for years.

From the age of 6, Jaynes had been transfixed by the singularity of conscious experience. Gazing at a yellow forsythia flower, he’d wondered how he could be sure that others saw the same yellow as he did. As a young man, serving three years in a Pennsylvania prison for declining to support the war effort, he watched a worm in the grass of the prison yard one spring, wondering what separated the unthinking earth from the worm and the worm from himself. It was the kind of question that dogged him for the rest of his life, and the book he was working on would grip a generation beginning to ask themselves similar questions.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, when it finally came out in 1976, did not look like a best-seller. But sell it did. It was reviewed in science magazines and psychology journals, Time, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. It was nominated for a National Book Award in 1978. New editions continued to come out, as Jaynes went on the lecture circuit. Jaynes died of a stroke in 1997; his book lived on. In 2000, another new edition hit the shelves. It continues to sell today.

Jaynes was sent to prison, where he had plenty of time to reflect on the problem of consciousness.

In the beginning of the book, Jaynes asks, “This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all—what is it? And where did it come from? And why?” Jaynes answers by unfurling a version of history in which humans were not fully conscious until about 3,000 years ago, instead relying on a two-part, or bicameral, mind, with one half speaking to the other in the voice of the gods with guidance whenever a difficult situation presented itself. The bicameral mind eventually collapsed as human societies became more complex, and our forebears awoke with modern self-awareness, complete with an internal narrative, which Jaynes believes has its roots in language.

It’s a remarkable thesis that doesn’t fit well with contemporary thought about how consciousness works. The idea that the ancient Greeks were not self-aware raises quite a few eyebrows. By giving consciousness a cultural origin, says Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, “Jaynes disavows consciousness as a biological phenomenon.”

But Koch and other neuroscientists and philosophers admit Jaynes’ wild book has a power all its own. “He was an old-fashioned amateur scholar of considerable depth and tremendous ambition, who followed where his curiosity led him,” says philosopher Daniel Dennett. The kind of search that Jaynes was on—a quest to describe and account for an inner voice, an inner world we seem to inhabit—continues to resonate. The study of consciousness is on the rise in neuroscience labs around the world, but the science isn’t yet close to capturing subjective experience. That’s something Jaynes did beautifully, opening a door on what it feels like to be alive, and be aware of it.

Jaynes was the son of a Unitarian minister in West Newton, Massachusetts. Though his father died when Jaynes was 2 years old, his voice lived on in 48 volumes of his sermons, which Jaynes seems to have spent a great deal of time with as he grew up. In college, he experimented with philosophy and literature but decided that psychology, with its pursuit of real data about the physical world, was where he should seek answers to his questions. He headed to graduate school in 1941, but shortly thereafter, the United States joined World War II. Jaynes, a conscientious objector, was assigned to a civilian war effort camp. He soon wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General announcing that he was leaving, finding the camp’s goal incompatible with his principles: “Can we work within the logic of an evil system for its destruction? Jesus did not think so … Nor do I.” He was sent to prison, where he had plenty of time to reflect on the problem of consciousness. “Jaynes was a man of principle, some might say impulsively or recklessly so,” a former student and a neighbor recalled. “He seemed to draw energy from jousting windmills.”

Jaynes emerged after three years, convinced that animal experiments could help him understand how consciousness first evolved, and spent the next three years in graduate school at Yale University. For a while, he believed that if a creature could learn from experience, it was having an experience, implying consciousness. He herded single paramecia through a maze carved in wax on Bakelite, shocking them if they turned the wrong way. “I moved on to species with synaptic nervous systems, flatworms, earthworms, fish, and reptiles, which could indeed learn, all on the naive assumption that I was chronicling the grand evolution of consciousness,” he recounts in his book. “Ridiculous! It was, I fear, several years before I realized that this assumption makes no sense at all.” Many creatures could be trained, but what they did was not introspection. And that was what tormented Jaynes.


by wa8dzp at April 18, 2019 11:47 AM

InterPressService (global south)

Climbing the Coconut Value Chain in the Pacific

Adding value to coconut at Aelan Ltd. in Vanuatu. Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat.

Adding value to coconut at Aelan Ltd. in Vanuatu. Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat.

By Josephine Latu-Sanft
PORT VILA, Apr 18 2019 (IPS)

In the Pacific, coconut is king. Known as the ‘tree of life’, locals make use of every part of the tree to survive – the fruit for eating, husks for fuelling fires, fronds for making multiuse baskets, and the trunk for building houses.

Coconuts also drive economic growth, with Pacific Island countries supplying 50 per cent of the world’s copra trade. Papua New Guinea is the world’s largest exporter of copra – the dried coconut flesh from which oil is extracted – followed by Vanuatu.

However, fluctuating global copra prices can leave small Pacific economies very vulnerable.

Opening a Commonwealth workshop on micro, small and medium enterprises in Port Vila last week, Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister Bob Loughman explained: “In 2017, Vanuatu exported 1.8 billion worth of copra (roughly USD 18 million). In 2018, the global price plummeted, and as a result the value of our copra exports fell by 75 per cent.

“My question is, why is Vanuatu still producing copra? Why can our farmers and communities not produce coconut oil instead?”


Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Bob Loughman wants the country to focus on value addition and moving up global value chains. Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat.

Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Bob Loughman wants the country to focus on value addition and moving up global value chains. Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat.


Learning from experience, the island nation of 280,000 people set out to transform the way it trades with others. The aim is to move up the ‘global value chain’ – the production cycle from the field to the final product – to target higher value exports.

These aspirations have been backed by EUR 20million from the European Development Fund for the Vanuatu Value Chain Programme. But as for many other small island states, there are several key hurdles to overcome.


Challenges and opportunities

Learning from experience, the island nation of 280,000 people set out to transform the way it trades with others. The aim is to move up the ‘global value chain’ – the production cycle from the field to the final product – to target higher value exports.

In Port Vila, Commonwealth acting head of trade competitiveness, Sujeevan Perera, told delegates about a cruise ship which once docked at a Caribbean destination and exhausted the country’s beer supply. It took a month before stocks were refilled.

He said: “Pacific suppliers are mostly micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). Would they be able to fill the demands of, say, a large supermarket that needs several 50ft containers of a product each week?

“If they do not have the capacity, buyers and investors can move elsewhere.”

There are possible solutions: one is having a regional hub, supplied by other smaller countries for export to a bigger client. Otherwise, businesses could focus on high value niche markets.

The latter is a path local business owners are already actively pursuing.

Sandrine Wallez, manager of Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu (ACTIV) Ltd, is looking to export highly specialised goods such as vegan chocolate, virgin coconut oil and coconut jam.

She said: “Nowadays, people are looking for more organic products. Pacific products are already organic by default, so we should take advantage of this.

“However, we’re all facing the same problem in the Pacific: we are small, which is very difficult in this world market of bulk commodity and big volume.

“We have niche market products which have high value, but low volume, so to get out of the country is very expensive.  Sometimes it’s quite difficult to access some markets.”

She urged development partners to support Pacific businesses in finding the right customers, networking, and developing a Pacific-wide brand that competes with others across the globe.


Enhancing connectivity

The meeting in Port Vila on 10-11 April was the first to drill down into the issues faced by micro, small and medium enterprises in agribusiness, since the Commonwealth adopted its flagship programme on trade and investment. Known as the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda (CCA), it aims to unlock $2 trillion worth of intra-Commonwealth trade by 2030.

Delegates agreed the coconut sector in the Pacific has great potential. However, it needs commitment and coordination from a range of players, including government and businesses.

CCA lead Kirk Haywood said: “This first meeting of the supply side connectivity ‘cluster’, or working group, acted as a platform for members to share experiences, forge networks, and exchange solutions for common problems.

“This will be backed by further research and strategies under the CCA that would help Commonwealth countries, especially small states, benefit more from global trade.”

The meeting agreed on an action plan that will outline opportunities and challenges for small and medium agribusinesses, explore financing options, and look at harnessing technology for business development.


The post Climbing the Coconut Value Chain in the Pacific appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Josephine Latu-Sanft is Senior Communications Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat

The post Climbing the Coconut Value Chain in the Pacific appeared first on Inter Press Service.

by Josephine Latu-Sanft at April 18, 2019 11:19 AM

Maxfield Kaniger’s Kanbe’s Markets: A Piece for the Food Insecurity Puzzle

Max Kaniger

On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Executive Director of Kanbe’s Markets Maxfield Kaniger talks about the market’s model to reduce food waste and food insecurity.

by Katherine Walla at April 18, 2019 10:24 AM


As President, Bernie Should Cancel All Student Debt

The billions of dollars in student loan debt are an economic and moral crisis. Bernie Sanders should promise to wipe it all out.

alt Graduates of Spelman College listen to actor Danny Glover during commencement ceremonies on May 19, 2002 in Lithonia, GA. Erik S. Lesser / Getty

In the United States, education is supposed to be an equalizer, and higher education in particular is key to improving your life chances. At least that’s how the story goes.

But in fact, millions of people are unable to access higher education without going into debt. More than 44 million people owe student debt, and the total amount of outstanding debt in the United States has more than tripled since 2006, totaling more than $1.5 trillion — almost 8 percent of the country’s GDP.

Meanwhile, real wage growth is up less than 7 percent over the same period, while rents are up more than 47 percent in real dollars.

Rather than serving as an engine of economic advancement for the poor and working class, twenty-first-century higher education has created more inequality through the explosion in student debt. While the very rich spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe or trick their way into college, the poor, working class, and middle class are forced to pay a premium to one section of the employing class (student lenders and loan servicing companies) to obtain a credential so the families that bought their way into elite schools can exploit their labor. The burden of student debt falls heaviest on black and Hispanic students, and the disparity in the amount owed between black students and white students grows significantly after graduation.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The secretary of education has the power to wipe out most student debt with the stroke of a pen.

President Bernie Sanders could do this. If he wants to win the lifelong loyalty of tens of millions of predominantly young Americans to his politics, he should promise to cancel student debt as part of a bigger plan to advance tuition-free college for all, then follow through when he’s elected.


Student lenders and financial companies prey on poor people (and, with higher education costs skyrocketing, even on the relatively comfortable) in order to make obscene amounts of money. The largest loan servicing companies, AES, Navient, and Nelnet, had revenues of $10.74 billion, $5.67 billion, and $1.76 billion in 2018, respectively. These same companies had almost nine thousand consumer complaints filed against them for shady business practices in 2017.

And the federal government, rather than ensure tuition to higher education is either nonexistent or affordable, instead takes the largest slice of the student-debt pie for itself — while these for-profit middlemen are the bane of every student debtor’s existence, the vast majority of student debt is ultimately owned by the federal government.

Profiting from education is not a morally legitimate enterprise. Access to the wonder of accumulated human knowledge is every person’s birthright, not a business plan. College tuition should be free.

But tuition costs are spiraling, with tuition at public institutions rising almost 34 percent in the decade ending in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available. This has left many people with little choice but to take on large amounts of student debt, as evidenced by ballooning debt figures. So as we move to make college tuition-free for future students, we must also undo the damage wrought on several generations by past loan practices.

The burden of student debt is a key contributor to the decline in class mobility for people born in the 1980s and later. With wages stagnant, jobs concentrated in a handful of expensive cities, and the few existing social welfare programs in the United States difficult to access and under constant threat, millions of people delay purchasing a home, having a child, saving for retirement, or even getting medical care because of crushing student debt.

Student debt cuts so deep because it doesn’t just rip you off, it makes you feel like a failure. If college is supposed to be the key to a successful life, but you come out of it unable to make ends meet, you can’t help but feel it’s your fault.

Forty-four million people are rightly sensitive about this issue — and they’re primed to be mobilized around it.


There is a solution. As Meagan Day points out, the Higher Education Act in 1965 gives the secretary of education the power to write off federally owned student debt unilaterally, under the “compromise and settlement” provision. Doing so would wipe out an enormous financial burden on the working and middle classes overnight. The Department of Education could also purchase the roughly $64 billion in privately held student debt, then use the same authority to write it off.

One objection to this idea will be to ask if the government really can afford to forego $1.5 trillion or more in funds that writing off the debt would involve. In short, it can.

$1.5 trillion is the total amount that debtors owe the government, and only a small fraction of that is collected each year. But the federal government takes in $1.6 trillion every year just from personal income taxes. In fact, in 2017, the government had an annual revenue of roughly $3.3 trillion, 92 percent of which derived from income and payroll taxes. The remaining 8 percent includes all other forms of revenue, not just revenue from student loans.

Whatever part of the $1.5 trillion balance the government actually collects in a given year thus represents a trivial part of the federal budget. In terms of maintaining the current budget, it could simply be ignored. Otherwise, it could easily be balanced by cutting mismanaged defense spending, or just vetoing the $1.7 trillion the Pentagon wants to develop a new generation of nuclear missiles. Other options include lifting the income cap on payroll taxes or imposing a financial transaction tax — all policies that would benefit the government coffers anyway. And that’s before we even get to more politically difficult yet necessary proposals like raising the historically low top marginal tax rate.

But the funding question can come after the debt has been canceled. To date, the compromise and settlement provision has been executed very narrowly, but there are virtually no legal or regulatory restrictions on how widely it may be applied. This leads to the strategic advantage of making cancellation of student debt an early priority for a Sanders administration: most of Sanders’s proposals require new legislation, but even a Democratic-controlled Congress is unlikely to back Sanders’s legislation as proposed without significant pressure from below.

From eliminating cash bail to tuition-free college to Medicare for All to an increased minimum wage, some moderate and conservative Democrats will join Republicans in opposing pro-working-class legislation altogether. Others will try to undermine it from within, perhaps conceding the ideas are good in theory while insisting that they be applied in a narrow, bureaucratic, means-tested manner rather than in a solidaristic, class-wide way.

Because it requires no legislation, eliminating student debt would be an important early win for a Sanders administration likely to face harsh opposition from both parties in Congress. But beyond giving the impression of pro-Sanders momentum in the press, writing off student debt has the potential to galvanize millions of working people.

People who thought they couldn’t afford to have children would have an enormous obligation off their backs — thanks to President Sanders. People whose loan-scarred credit scores kept them from buying a home, or who couldn’t even think of saving for a down payment until they’d paid off their loans would be unshackled — thanks to President Sanders. People would be released from soul-crushing jobs and free to pursue more fulfilling but less lucrative occupations — thanks to President Sanders. People who have nothing saved for retirement could put the money they resentfully pay Navient into a nest egg — thanks to President Sanders. $1.5 trillion would go into stimulating the economy rather than back to a government that doesn’t need it via for-profit loan servicers that shouldn’t exist — thanks to President Sanders.

By unburdening millions of people from thousands of dollars of debt each, Sanders would directly demonstrate what his brand of “class-struggle social democracy” means in practice. He would show that these ideas are not abstract and far away, but practical, material, and immensely beneficial. And he would win the loyalty of millions of Americans by freeing them from an enormous financial burden — many of whom would be newly ready to join the fight as he geared up for the big legislative battles to follow.

How would those millions feel when they got a first taste of financial freedom, presented to them with the rhetoric of class solidarity — when they saw that Sanders’s government was truly looking out for people like them? What would Sanders be able to do with those millions ready to fight alongside him?

by Ben Beckett at April 18, 2019 10:19 AM