Weekend Edition

July 10th, 2020

AMLO has no self-respect

July 10th, 2020


“Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claps as President Donald Trump delivers a statement before a dinner at the White House, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Washington.” PHOTO/© Associated Press/Evan Vucci/MSN News

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is known as AMLO

AMLO visited Washington DC and met President Trump on July 8, 2020

the visit was to celebrate the NAFTA 2 signed in November 2018

i.e., the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement

the treaty is pro-corporations; the labor is not a big beneficiary

Pete Dolack/Laura Carlsen points that out in Counterpunch magazine

however, the NAFTA 2 came into effect on July 1, 2020

AMLO was not the signatory – he took oath on December 1, 2018

at that time, AMLO’s supporters happily chanted:

“¡Presidente!” “You are not alone.” “It’s an honor to be with Obrador”

AMLO promised:

“I will not let you down.”

Trump announced his presidential candidacy in June 2015

in his speech, Trump’s oral member ejaculated his racism

“… [The Mexicans are] bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

is AMLO a criminal? did he bring drugs? is he a racist?

no no no

Trump had left a little window open in his 2015 speech

“And some [Mexicans], I assume, are good people.”

yes, AMLO is a good Mexican; Trump needs him at this point in time

Trump has election coming in November

Mexican/Latino votes would be helpful in the election

so an invitation to AMLO and Canada’s Trudeau

Trudeau who signed the agreement knew the visit was not important

AMLO had no self-respect to refuse an invitation from Trump

a guy who called Mexicans with such names, including, “killers

AMLO jumped the border wall Trump built on the US-Mexico border

AMLO came to pay his obeisance to the racist tyrant

also to thank Trump “for his gesture of support and solidarity”

because Trump sold ventilators to Mexico

thanks is due when when the things are given freely – not SOLD

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Chechnya is trying to exterminate gay people. Our silence only emboldens Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov.

July 10th, 2020


Activists display placards in front of the Chancellery in Berlin on April 30, 2017, during a demonstration calling on the Russian president to put an end to the persecution of gay men in Chechnya. PHOTO/ John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Torture. Rape. Murder. I cannot get the gruesome images of these brutal crimes out of my head. “Welcome to Chechnya: Inside the Russian Republic’s Deadly War on Gays,” which premiered at the Sundance Festival in January and airs on HBO next week, is one of the most harrowing films I have ever seen.

“Imagine in the 21st century, in a supposedly secular country,” says David Isteev, at the start of this acclaimed documentary, “you have cases where people are killed simply because they are homosexual — where they are maimed, where the families of these people are urged to kill their children and siblings. It’s unreal.”

“Welcome to Chechnya” follows Isteev, emergency program coordinator for the Russian LGBT Network, and his fellow activists as they risk their lives trying to protect gay Chechens from being targeted both by the authorities and their own families.

Chechnya is a small Muslim-majority republic in southwestern Russia. It is also a place where gay people live in terror. Since 2017, there have been a series of state-sponsored anti-gay purges across Chechnya, in which hundreds of gay men have been arrested and detained in secret prisons. The purges were first revealed by the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in April 2017 and later corroborated by Human Rights Watch, among others.

“We documented a large-scale, vicious, anti-gay purge” marked by  “torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings,” Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, told me in a phone interview from Moscow. In 2017, a detainee told Human Rights Watch, “They electrocuted us, beat us with pipes, kicked us, and punched us, they made other inmates beat us, they called us names, spat in our faces.”

The Intercept for more

Why killer cops go free

July 10th, 2020


DRAWING/Nathaniel St. Clair

Introduction to Why Killer Cops Go Free

On Wednesday, I watched Senator Tim Scott’s pitiful presentation of the Republican’s predictably weak answer to the murders of black men and women by the police. Can you imagine hanging out with Trump, McConnell, and Lindsay Graham? How Scott has to swallow his pride as they say dumb ignorant racist things? Senator Scott, like the television black pundits and guests, are seen as compatible with the interests of the networks’ advertisers. Like them, Scott is being promoted as a star. Many of the on-air black commentators are Baldwin clones, like Elvis imitators, who are attempting to appeal to the conscience of white Americans. They try to out eloquence each other instead of presenting facts. They lack Baldwin’s theatrical flair and depth. They are hemmed in by their networks’ salesmen. Whenever I become frustrated with the lack of a variety of black opinions in the media, I vent to my friend, the journalistic workhorse Richard Prince. He cited Don Lemon’s show as a sign of progress.

On June 10, 2020, Lemon said that if he said what he really wanted to say on CNN he couldn’t pay his mortgage. Don Lemon does the best he can, but most of those who referee and comment on race are white moderators and their guests, who anchor shows that take up hours of the day, which is why the truth can never be told on a media that lacks diversity.Even those who remain are in danger of being bought out or fired. If they speak up they’re in danger of receiving the Roland Martin treatment. The CEOs at CNN and Comcast, Jeff Zucker, and MSNBC’s Brian L. Roberts’ are responsible for the muting of Don Lemon and others. Zucker didn’t renew the contract of a pundit. Why? Because he talked about white supremacy too much. Both Zucker, Roberts, and their salesmen count on white supremacist cash to buy their advertisers’ products. Joy Reid has defied the requirement that the network tokens don’t come on too strong. Is that why they haven’t given her the show that was moderated by Chris Matthews? Ari Melber loves black people and loves rap. Why doesn’t he demand that she have that hour? Both CNN and MSNBC crowd their weekends with black, brown and yellow commentators, the journalistic equivalent of being placed at the back of the bus.

Lemon can’t say that the American police are a terrorist entity whose job is to hobble the advancement of blacks through intimidation, harassment and murder.Death squads backed up by a racist criminal justice system. A few bad apples my eye. Corruption and racism are widespread. It’s bad enough that criminal banks have cost black homeowners billions by dumping junk mortgages on them when they were eligible for conventional loans, but the police grab hundreds of millions by sticking up drug dealers,and pimps– a Marshall Plan benefitting whites based on revenue from the black underground economy. They can at least leave behind a couple of bucks so that we might invest in community projects, which is how other ethnic groups funneled money from the underground economy. They support each other no matter how murderous their fellow officers might be, black or white. What does it tell you about the lack of morality among its personnel when Atlanta police would support a sick depraved individual who would kick a dying man after shooting him in the back! They’re conducting a “sick out” and CNN is worried about their morale. You can imagine the morale among those bodies in the funeral home where Rayshard Brooks is being prepared for burial.

Counterpunch for more

The migrant and the moral economy of the elite

July 9th, 2020


The lockdown has revealed the brutality of India’s chronic disregard for the rights of migrant labourers – millions who don’t need our passing concern, but full justice.

“The movement of individuals shall remain ‘strictly prohibited’ between 7 pm and 7 am except for essential activities.”

– Ministry of Home Affairs circular (as reported by India Today, May 17)

The circular offered ‘relief for migrant workers by allowing inter-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses’ (IF two neighbouring states could agree on it). But said nothing about the millions voting with their feet on the highways.

Those curfew hours condemned them to walking between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the hottest phase of summer, with temperatures touching 47 degrees Celsius.

A month earlier, Jamlo Madkam, a 12-year-old Adivasi girl, working in the chilli fields of Telangana, set out on foot to reach her home in Chhattisgarh after the lockdown halted work and income. This child walked 140 kilometres in three days, then fell dead of exhaustion, dehydration and muscle fatigue, 60 km from her home. How many more Jamlos will such curfew orders create?

First, the prime minister’s March 24 announcement stoked panic, giving a nation of 1.3 billion human beings four hours to shut down. Migrant workers everywhere began their long march home. Next, those the police could not beat back into their urban ghettos, we intercepted at state borders. We sprayed people with disinfectant. Many went into ‘relief camps’, a relief for whom it is hard to say.

The Mumbai-Nashik highway seemed busier under lockdown than in normal times. People moved any way they could. Bimlesh Jaiswal, who lost one leg in an accident years ago, travelled 1,200 km from Panvel, Maharashtra, to Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, on a gearless scooter, with his wife and three-year-old daughter. “Who shuts down a country with a four-hour notice?” he asks. Come on Bimlesh, you know the answer to that one.

Meanwhile, we said: “Hey, we’ll organise trains everywhere and send you guys home.” We did, and demanded full fare from hungry, desperate people. Then we cancelled some of those trains, as builders and other lobbies needed to stop their captive labour from fleeing. Those and other controversies dangerously delayed the launch of large-scale train services. On May 28, the government told the Supreme Court of India that 9.1 million labourers have been shifted to their native places since the Shramik Special trains started on May 1. And the fares, the Solicitor General told the court, in some cases the originating state would pay, in some cases the receiving state. (No contribution here from the Centre.)

It gives you a glimpse, but only a glimpse, of the scale of what is going on. We do not know how many millions more are trying register for travel on those trains. We do not know how many millions are on the highways. We do know they desperately want to go home. And we know there are powerful lobbies that don’t want that and, in fact, feel the need to restrain and discipline that labour. Several states extended working hours to 12, including three BJP-ruled ones that did not mandate overtime for the additional hours. A slew of labour laws were suspended, for three years, by some states.

Rural India Online for more

AP’s Kashmir photographers win Pulitzer for lockdown coverage

July 9th, 2020

A masked Kashmiri protester jumps on the bonnet of an armoured vehicle of Indian police as he throws stones at it during a protest in Srinagar PHOTO/Dar Yasin/AP

India’s unprecedented crackdown on Indian-administered Kashmir last August, which included a sweeping curfew and shutdowns of phone and internet services, was difficult to show to the world.

But Associated Press news agency’s photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand found ways to report it. Now, their work has been honoured with the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography.

The prize winners were announced virtually on Monday owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

Pulitzer board administrator Dana Canedy declared the winners from her living room via a livestream on YouTube rather than at a ceremony at New York’s Columbia University.

In a statement on their website following the announcement, Pulitzer said the Kashmiri photographers were selected for their “striking images of life” in the disputed Himalayan territory.

The Pulitzers are generally regarded as the highest honour that United States-based journalists and organisations can receive.

‘Important and superb’

Snaking around roadblocks, sometimes taking cover in strangers’ homes and hiding cameras in vegetable bags, the three photographers captured images of protests, police and paramilitary action and daily life.

They then headed to the local airport to persuade travellers to carry the photo files out with them and get them to the AP’s office in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

“It was always cat-and-mouse,” Yasin recalled on Monday in an email. “These things made us more determined than ever to never be silenced.”

Yasin and Khan are based in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, while Anand is based in the Jammu district.

Anand said the award left him speechless. “I was shocked and could not believe it,” he said.

The AP’s president and CEO Gary Pruitt said their work was “important and superb”.

“Thanks to the team inside Kashmir, the world was able to witness a dramatic escalation of the long struggle over the region’s independence.” 

Six-year-old Muneefa Nazir, a Kashmiri girl whose right eye was hit by a marble ball shot allegedly by Indian Paramilitary soldiers on Aug. 12, stands outside her home in Srinagar, Indian controlled K

Six-year-old Muneefa Nazir, a Kashmiri girl whose right eye was hit by a marble ball allegedly shot by Indian soldiers on August 12, 2019 [Mukhtar Khan/AP]

Conflict has flared for decades in the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both the nuclear powers.

The tension hit a new turning point in August, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Hindu nationalist government stripped Indian-administered portion of Kashmir of its semi-autonomy, and divided the Jammu and Kashmir state into two federal territories.

India poured more troops into the already heavily militarised area, imposed a months-long curfew and harsh curbs on civil rights, and cut off internet, mobile phone, landline and cable TV services.

Al Jazeera for more

Technology: Ushering in world peace or an existential crisis?

July 9th, 2020


Doha Debates teamed up with UNESCO-Qatar and the UN Department of Policy and Peacebuilding Affairs’ Innovation Cell to host the discussion PHOTO/Courtesy of Doha Debates

Al Jazeera speaks to experts and grassroots workers on whether tech is a force for good or a tool in hands of powerful.

Can technology unlock world peace? A panel of leading global experts was asked the question at the Doha Debates forum held in Qatar last December.

The three experts – Allison Puccioni, Subbu Vincent and Ariel Conn – deliberated on whether technology will potentially play a role in helping usher in lasting world peace or create an existential crisis for humanity.

Speaking at the debate in Doha, Puccioni, a world-renowned practitioner of imagery intelligence, said the increasing use of technology has helped democratise information that will eventually “help create a more equitable world”.

“Today, we can access from our smartphones the kinds of information, that a few decades ago, was held only in the hands of the most clandestine echelons of elite intelligence agencies,” she told the audience in her opening remarks.

A few years ago, Puccioni worked at a company where she was tasked with working with satellite imagery, YouTube videos, Twitter sentiment and other open-source information to track the Nigerian armed group Boko Haram.

“That sort of information before may have only part of intelligence agencies … but when the media has access, it has the capacity to hold governments accountable,” she added.

While it would be “impossible” to argue that challenges created by technology do not exist, Puccioni told Al Jazeera the availability of information to a larger audience is a good thing in the long run.

‘Putting ethics into technology’

Vincent, director for the Journalism and Media Ethics programme at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, in the US, preferred to take the “middle road”.

“There’s always been grounds for optimism. But it’s been hyped up so much that people have forgotten that technology is really an amoral thing. It is designed without a moral sense,” Vincent added.

Vincent said that while technology has been used as a force for good, helping to mobilise people, it has also been used “to spread lies, disinformation and hate speech, amplify conspiracy theories, sow discord and divide people,” he told Al Jazeera.

“In the hands of good actors, it can be used for good. In the hands of bad actors, it will be used for bad,” he said.

‘Existential crisis’

The third participant in the debate, Conn, believes technology may have created an “existential crisis” for humans.

Conn, a former director of Media and Outreach for the Future of Life Institute, pointed out the connection between technology and warfare and how, throughout recent modern history, it has been used to bring about immense destruction.

“Technology is primarily developed for military prowess, for profit or both. And unfortunately, war is far more profitable than peace,” she said in her opening remarks.

Al Jazeera spoke to grassroots activists, tech workers and entrepreneurs to comment on the debate and how technology has impacted their work.

Al Jazeera for more

The CIA coup against ‘the most loyal ally’ is history’s warning in 2020

July 8th, 2020


Gough Whitlam was a transformational prime minister. PHOTO/AAP/Mick Tsikas/The Conversation

The Australian High Court has ruled that correspondence between the Queen and the Governor-General of Australia, her viceroy in the former British colony, is no longer “personal” and the property of Buckingham Palace. Why does this matter?

Secret letters written in 1975 by the Queen and her man in Canberra, Sir John Kerr, can now be released by the National Archives – if the Australian establishment allows it. On November 11, 1975, Kerr infamously sacked the reformist government of prime minister Gough Whitlam, and delivered Australia into the hands of the United States.

Today, Australia is a vassal state bar none: its politics, intelligence agencies, military and much of its media are integrated into Washington’s “sphere of dominance” and war plans. In Donald Trump’s current provocations of China, the US bases in Australia are described as the “tip of the spear”.

There is an historical amnesia among Australia’s polite society about the catastrophic events of 1975. An Anglo-American coup overthrew a democratically elected ally in a demeaning scandal in which sections of the Australian elite colluded. This is largely unmentionable. The stamina and achievement of the Australian historian Jenny Hocking in forcing the High Court’s decision are exceptional.

Gough Whitlam was driven from government on Remembrance Day, 1975. When he died six years ago, his achievements were recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. The truth of the coup against him, it was hoped, would be buried with him.

During the Whitlam years, 1972-75, Australia briefly achieved independence and became intolerably progressive. Politically, it was an astonishing period. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”.

The last Australian troops were ordered home from their mercenary service to the American assault on Vietnam. Whitlam’s ministers publicly condemned US barbarities as “mass murder” and the crimes of “maniacs”. The Nixon administration was corrupt, said the Deputy Prime Minister, Jim Cairns, and called for a boycott of American trade. In response, Australian dockers refused to unload American ships.

Whitlam moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement and called for a Zone of Peace in the Indian ocean, which the US and Britain opposed. He demanded France cease its nuclear testing in the Pacific. In the UN, Australia spoke up for the Palestinians. Refugees fleeing the CIA-engineered coup in Chile were welcomed into Australia: an irony I know that Whitlam later savoured.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Gough Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”.

In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation and supporting Aboriginal strikers, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

At home, equal pay for women, free universal higher education and support for the arts became law. There was a sense of real urgency, as if political time was already running out.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of such a “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” for the CIA.

Whitlam’s enemies gathered. US diplomatic cables published in 2013 by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

John Pilger for more

Enlightenment later

July 8th, 2020


Will reason survive rationalism?

According to the best-known telling of the tale, Hippasus, a Pythagorean of the fifth century b.c., was drowned in the sea by his fellow philosophers while on a fishing voyage. Hippasus had disclosed a secret that, if made public, risked destroying the credibility of his school’s commitment to a cosmos governed by perfect mathematical harmony: The relationship between a diagonal of a square and its side cannot be represented as a ratio — it is “irrational.” This legend sets the stage in Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason, Justin E. H. Smith’s urgent missive to a Brahmin class wracked with anxieties about a world that seems to have lost its grip on reason.

Smith, a philosopher of science at Paris Diderot University, is motivated by an urgent sense that a milestone reassessment of the Enlightenment’s legacy, and of the role of reason in public life, is underway in the United States and elsewhere. The emergence of prominent public voices with open counter-Enlightenment sympathies — such as Steve Bannon and Peter Thiel — and the resurgence of jingoistic populism are good reasons to take notice. So too is the fierce battle being fought between self-styled defenders of the open society, such as Steven Pinker and Jordan Peterson (however tenuous their grasp of the philosophies they claim to champion), and heirs to the left-wing critical tradition that views Enlightenment ideals as instruments for the powerful to oppress the marginal.

Smith is troubled by lapses into self-destructive unreason — the erosion of trust in institutional medicine, the corrosion of political discourse, progressivism’s increasingly draconian tactics of self-policing, and the global resurgence of nationalist mythology — which he attributes to a crumbling commitment to liberal democracy. He is wary, however, of uncritical defenses of the Enlightenment’s legacy, both because making final judgments about its nebulous history is prohibitively difficult, and because champions of Enlightenment rationalism often voice facile notions about the history of Western liberalism and its rivals. Smith criticizes Peterson, for example, for failing to notice that the murderous Communist regimes of the twentieth century bear an important genealogical relationship to liberal democracies. Irrationality paints an alternative picture.

New Atlantis for more

New film explores U.S. suppression of key footage from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

July 8th, 2020


Herbert Sussan in 1983


Elite Japanese and American film teams shot the most important and disturbing film, including rare color images, in the aftermath of the atomic bombings. Then it was buried by U.S. authorities for decades as the nuclear arms race raged.

Last month, I completed work on my first film, writing and directing a documentary titled Atomic Cover-up. Below you can watch via a link four brief clips. The story for me began, however, thirty-eight years ago this month. That day also helped set me on the path to spending four weeks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki soon after, and subsequently writing three books on the subject (including one to be published in July), hundreds of articles, and a lifelong engagement with political and ethical issues surrounding nuclear warfare.

In June 1982, the grassroots antinuclear movement in the U.S. (and much of the world) was cresting. The June 12th march and rally in New York City would draw well over half a million protesters, with some observers calling it the largest such gathering in the country’s history. Many new films with nuclear themes suddenly appeared, including the popular Atomic Cafe.

As someone who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, I had experienced the terror of the most dangerous years of the nuclear arms race, but I had never attended an “anti-bomb” protest. My knowledge of the debate surrounding the dropping of two atomic bombs over Japan in 1945 was only skin-deep.

But one day in June 1982, I took notice when the Japan Society in New York announced it would screen the first movie drawing on footage shot in vivid color in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by an elite American military team, then suppressed for decades by the U.S. government. One of the U.S. Army officers who was part of that team would discuss the film and its suppression for the first time. I was a member of the Japan Society–they had even arranged my recent interview with film director Akira Kurosawa–and always loved a good “cover-up.” So I attended the event a few days later.

The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus for more