Hong Kong protesters remain on streets

October 2nd, 2014


You Tube

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have turned parts of Hong Kong into a massive street party on Monday night, with the mood turning festive just a day after riot police had deployed tear gas.

The huge crowds defied government calls to go home after Sunday’s chaotic scenes, bringing key districts of the Asian financial hub to a standstill, as they vowed to stay put until the Chinese government grants them free elections.

Sunday’s violence saw riot police fire clouds of tear gas as they struggled to control the protesters, in one of the biggest challenges to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous city.

The anger gave way to a lighter atmosphere on Monday night as riot police retreated, leaving huge masses of protesters in control of at least four major thoroughfares around the city.

Although there were few police on the scene, some protesters feared a repeat of Sunday’s clashes, donning goggles and masks to protect themselves against tear gas.

The demonstrators are furious over last month’s announcement by Beijing that while it will allow the city’s next leader to be elected in 2017, it will insist on picking the candidates, with critics branding the move a “fake democracy”.

Al Jazeera for more

Ebola prediction: One million dead by next January

October 2nd, 2014


WHO’s Ebola Response Team and Centre of Disease Control, Atlanta predict that more than a million people are likely to be dead from ebola by January 2015. These are indeed grim figures and far worse than the 10 thousand dead that WHO had estimated only a month earlier while planning its response. While the public health systems in the three most affected states – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – are near collapse, the global response to the epidemic has beendisastrously inadequate.

It is not that ebola itself has undergone any change. It is the response to ebola that has failed and is creating this disaster. Experts predict that unless emergency measures are taken, not only will ebola kill very large numbers, it is also likely to become endemic in Africa.

A quick look at the figures. The number of patients are doubling every 2-4 weeks in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, showing clearly that it is a still rapidly expanding epidemic. The cases reported are also gross underestimates – the actual numbers are at least 2-3 times higher. The CDC calculations show that if action is taken immediately, then the figures of those infected would reach a high of about 3,500 cases per day, start dropping by December, and be nearly zero by end January, next year. If we delay, the intervention by a just month, the figures would rise to 10,000 per day and would take much longer to brought under control. If the intervention is delayed by 2 months, the figures of those infected daily would rise to about 26,000 per day and continue to rise exponentially for quite some time thereafter. With 70% mortality, we are looking at nearly 20,000 dead per day from ebola, a frightening figure. As of now, this is not simply a worst case scenario but a very possible one, as the world seems more concerned with other issues than controlling ebola in some poor West African countries.

Why did this 25th occurrence of ebola then generate such a disaster? There are two reasons for this. One is the countries themselves – though they have enormous mineral resources, they are very near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index. They suffer from the resource curse: they fall prey to the rich and powerful countries and their corporations because of their mineral wealth. They are also countries the worst affected by the neoliberal globalisation in which all public expenditure including public health systems have been cut down drastically. These countries have been destroyed earlier by colonial loot, and thenthe civil wars that were instigated by global capital to secure their mineral wealth. Remember blood diamonds from Sierra Leone and Charles Taylor’s gift of one to Naomi Campbell? While Charles Taylor, the then President of Liberia, was charged with war crimes for trading in blood diamonds, De Beers the diamond monopoly emerged unscathed, in spite of benefitting from the same trade.

News Click for more

An evaluation of South African novelist Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)

October 2nd, 2014


“Sailors gag on stinking meat, children refuse to go to school. No one knows where the end of suffering will begin.”Burger’s Daughter

South African writer Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, died on July 13 at the age of 90. She was a remarkable figure in many ways and a writer whose works, created under the police repression and state surveillance of the apartheid regime, conveyed to readers an indelible hatred of oppression and injustice.

Gordimer was born into a middle-class Jewish household in 1923. Her father had emigrated from Lithuania and opened up a watch repair shop in a gold-mining town near the capital of Johannesburg. Her mother was born in London and emigrated to South Africa with her family.

Nadine’s upbringing was secular, and there appears to have been liberal dissent in the household about the conditions for blacks in South Africa, especially on the part of her mother, who founded a nursery school for black children. Gordimer later remarked that her father had “whole Jewish pogrom syndrome,” and this too may have played a role in her opposition to the oppression she saw around her as she grew up. She was to write movingly about the plight of Jews under tsarist rule.

Because her mother suspected (wrongly) that her daughter had a heart condition, Gordimer was educated in a convent and by private tutors, and kept away from physical exertion of any kind. As a result, she read voluminously, and published her first fiction as a teenager. She attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg for a year, during which time she first met and socialized with blacks. This “was more or less the beginning of my political consciousness,” she told an interviewer many years later.

In 1949, her short-story collection Face to Face was published, and her first novel, The Lying Days, an examination of her own upbringing, appeared in 1953. She achieved international prominence early on with the publication of her short stories in the New Yorker magazine.

The postwar period was a time of intensifying social and political crisis in South Africa. Racial segregation and the disenfranchisement of blacks and other non-whites became codified as apartheid in 1948 under the National Party government. The apartheid regime successfully bid, with US support, to become a bulwark of anti-communism on the African content.

In 1960 the arrest of a close friend and the Sharpeville massacre, in which police killed 69 blacks during a mass protest against the discriminatory pass system, prompted Gordimer to draw closer to the banned African National Congress (ANC).

World Socialist Web Site for more

Krugman, Putin, and the NYT

October 1st, 2014


But Krugman has still been unable to escape from the biases and prejudices of the spokespersons and ideologists of the imperial and warfare state, dramatically illustrated in his recent column on “Why We Fight Wars” (August 17, 2014). His remarks here are sadly reminiscent of the themes of the NYT editors, reporters, and approved op-ed columnists. He may over time have been able to rise above Friedman’s “flat earth” absurdities, but he swallows whole the Friedman-Keller-Brooks-Kerry-Power (etc.) party line on the non- U.S./NATO source of any war threat, and on Putin’s villainy.

He tells us that war was once a struggle for gain and still is in the case of contemporary civil strife. But for modern wealthy nations like the United States, war “doesn’t pay.” It is “very, very expensive,” and it is hard to attack and exploit sophisticated economies “without killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.” But how about unsophisticated economies that sit on golden eggs (oil) underground? He never discusses such a case, although Iraq would seem hard to ignore. Also the wars and display of military muscle that allowed the United States to establish a privileged position in Saudi Arabia and other oil and mineral rich states, make for gains to an elite that cannot be overlooked.

Thus, the first and possibly most shocking fallacy in his argument is its failure to distinguish between the interests of the elite, on the one hand, and ordinary citizens and society as a whole, on the other. Doesn’t war pay for Lockheed-Martin, GE, Raytheon, Honeywell, Halliburton, Chevron, Academi (formerly Blackwater) and the vast further array of contractors and their financial, political, and military allies? An important feature of “projecting power” (i.e., imperialism) has always been the skewed distribution of costs and benefits.

Z Communications for more

Declare war on war

October 1st, 2014


As of September 21, the 33rd International Day of Peace, there were approximately 33 armed conflicts raging around the world, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme. Thirty-three armed conflicts, $1,765 billion of annual global military expenditure, 875 million small arms in circulation and the dormant presence of 20,500 nuclear warheads. The world is heavily invested in war and the measures needed to defend against it. To put $1,765 billion in perspective, the UN’s regular budget for peace, security, human rights, humanitarian affairs and international law is $2.7 billion.

Armed violence is fuelled by a complex ecosystem of history, vested interests, strategic motives, economics, resources and political power. Not only are all armed conflicts differently constructed, it is difficult to draw accurate lessons from one civil war for another. But what if each constituted a larger global problem we could collectively respond to? What if a simple economic model could be used to deal with the industry of war? Think of any industry — hybrid cars, soap, cereal. An industry flourishes when it is able to provide its consumers something they want. The only way to destroy an industry is by doing three things: destroying demand, eliminating supply and providing alternatives.

Indian Express for more

Rishi Manchanda: What makes us get sick? Look upstream

October 1st, 2014

You Tube

The plight of the Shabak: Religious repression by the Islamic State in Iraq-Syria

September 30th, 2014


The policy of forced conversions of religious minorities in the areas of Iraq and Syria held by the Islamic State has led to a wide displacement of people and a refugee flow into Turkey. Even Muslim Shi’ites have been attacked by the Sunni militants of the Islamic State. Attention has been given to the fate of Christians, mostly the Chaldean and Assyrian churches, as they are international Christian organizations, and because of the power of the Vatican, which has observer state status at the United Nations and the World Council of Churches, which has non-governmental Organization consultative status with the UN. Both organizations were active during the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on September 1st,2014 on Iraq and have continued to be active on the issue during the regular session during September 8-28 of this year.

In an earlier article for Toward Freedom, I highlighted the dangerous position of two religious minorities, the Yazidis and the Mandaeans. There is another religious minority mentioned by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the start of the Special Session as being persecuted. These are the Shabak, mentioned, but with no information given as to who they are. The Deputy High Commissioner gave a list of repressed minorities but the list included ethnic minorities such as the Turkomans (the term used in Iraq for ethnic Turks) as well as religious minorities.

Thus there was just this short note on the Shabak, which is a separate religion, though sometimes considered as a minority current among the Shi’ites. To make things more complex, the Shabak are originally found largely among one ethnic group, pastoralists who came from Central Asia, probably Kirghistan during the 15th century. They inter-married with Turkomans and Kurds and thus largely lost their ethnic character. Today, they are identified by their religious beliefs. As with the Yazidis and the Mandaeans, they are members of no international religious organization who can highlight their difficulties. Thus there is a need for non-sectarian human rights organizations to focus attention on them.

Toward Freedom for more

Rule by the majority

September 30th, 2014


Where is India, now that the BJP has been in power in Delhi for a period? Bharat Bhushan, writing in the Business Standard, uses the excellent expression “ambient intolerance” to describe our present situation. The Hindutva agenda — together with all that underlies it — is rapidly permeating the very air we breathe. (http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bharat-bhushan-ambient-intolerance-goes-up-114072901247_1.html)

He writes elsewhere that the PM, N.D. Modi, made a gift to the

“Pashupatinath temple of 2,500 kg sandalwood (worth Rs. 4 crore at the Karnataka government’s Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium rate of Rs. 16,000 a kg) and of 2,400 kg of ghee” and asks, “Had the Indian government wanted to gift sandalwood to Nepal, should it have been linked with Modi’s personal visit to the temple?” His conclusion is, “What we are witnessing is not just Hindu rituals in the public sphere but their use to create a predominantly Hindutva public sphere that marginalises others. Rituals are mere instruments [and powerful symbols -- MD].” (http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bharat-bhushan-pm-as-pilgrim-or-indianness-redefined-114081401189_1.html)

Ather Farouqui, writing not about the political leadership but about the popular “Kaun Banega Crorepati” television show, points to “the complexity and frequency of the questions derived only from the Hindu universe which are asked in such a matter-of-fact manner that it assumes that everyone would know…. perhaps it is assumed that everyone [who] lives in this country should know, via a process of osmosis, everything there is to know about ancient Indian myths and legends related to the Hindu pantheon.” (http://www.sacw.net/article9393.html)

What does the dominance of the majority entail? Harsh Mander writes in the Hindustan Times, “In the three months since Narendra Modi’s spectacular triumph, many corners of the country have begun to smoulder in slow fires of orchestrated hate and distrust against India’s Muslims….


The culpability for each of these clashes lies with the communal organisations bent on fomenting animosities. But it is shared equally by the shamefully weak-kneed (or actively prejudiced) responses of the state and district administrations in these states…. After characterising the millennium of Indian history when the majority of its rulers were Muslim as an era of slavery, the studied silence of the otherwise garrulous Prime Minister about these attacks is both deafening and ominous. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/harshmander/this-silence-on-the-rising-communal-tempers-is-deafening/article1-1256008.aspx)

There is an explanation for this “studied silence”. An editorial in the Indian Express asks, “So who is in charge in the BJP? And why is no action being taken against those like Adityanath and Thakur who are openly stoking communal tensions on the ground, especially in poll-bound states, in flagrant defiance of the forward-looking and development-oriented image courted by the Modi-led BJP at the Centre? Or is the party playing true to its own worst stereotype — of always speaking in two voices, carefully choreographing the interplay between them and their alternation?” (http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/adityanaths-party/)

The answer to the last question is stated neatly by Prarthna Gahilote, who writes that the PM, N.D. Modi, is being projected as “a great leader”, specifically “one who allows the proxy raising of communal temperatures by his own party MP, Yogi Adityanath, while successfully projecting himself as ‘seemingly secular’ with his silences.” (http://www.outlookindia.com/article/I-Pradhan-Sevak/291887)

The emperor, to whom no blame can adhere, has earlier too fiddled before a giant fire started by his legions.

Mukul Dube can be reached at dube.mukul@gmail.com

We have always been omnivores (letter)

September 30th, 2014


It is a fact that our species, homo sapiens, has always been naturally omnivorous. I use the word “naturally” to refer to biology. The false reasoning behind vegetarianism seems to be that humans who do not eat meat are higher on the evolutionary scale than those who do eat meat. Without doubt it is related, in India, to notions of caste and purity. While PETA has every right to hold its beliefs, I do not think it has the right to seek to convert those who eat meat. It was also foolish, because people are unwholesomely sensitive to matters religious; and, in a blazing expression of human irrationality, diet has come to be related to religion. Some do not eat beef, others do not eat pork, still others will eat a jangali murgha but not one that has been reared by other humans… so it goes. This denies the fact that our ancestors, in times before all these wretched religions came to exist, ate everything that was not harmful or poisonous. We have always been omnivores.

Mukul Dube can be reached at dube.mukul@gmail.com

Tajikistan: Labor migrants play for pride in own football league

September 30th, 2014


A player with the Roof of the World team shakes off three players with Alamut during the final of the tournament in Moscow.

It’s not all work and no play for a group of Tajik labor migrants living in Moscow. Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising expat, labor migrants have their own thriving, 16-team football league.

The mastermind behind the league is Anzor Nazarkhudoev, who left Tajikistan’s Pamir region for Russia over a decade ago. He settled in Moscow, scratching out an existence as a laborer. Over time, however, he managed to save some money and open a small business that sells goods at a Moscow market. Throughout his time in Moscow he remained in close contact with other Tajiks from the Pamirs, so much so that he’s now considered the unofficial “mayor” of the Pamiri community in the Russian capital. The idea to form a football league comprising teams of mainly Pamiri Tajiks came to him five years ago.

In putting together the league, Nazarkhudoev was motivated in part by his own experience. He was a decent player as a young man in Tajikistan, when a civil war erupted in the country in 1992. The fighting lasted over five years, putting an end to Nazarkhudoev’s football-playing days. “When the war was over, and order was restored, my youth had already passed by,” he said. He doesn’t want the current generation of young Tajiks to miss out on good times, like he did.

“There is a lack of places where our young [Tajik] compatriots] can meet. So, the idea about a [football league] came to my mind, Nazarkhudoev said. “The guys [labor migrants]… just work and work every day. … In order to bring some color to their gray everyday lives, they can play football.”

The league comprises 16 teams, with each paying an entry fee of 10,000 rubles (roughly $266). Each team plays every other team in the league twice during the season, followed by a playoff round among the top teams to determine the champion. By far the biggest operating expense for each team is the stadium rental fee for games, a cost of about 1.3 million rubles (over $34,000). With more than 1.1 million Tajiks believed to be working in Russia these days, many of them in Moscow, there’s no problem with filling team rosters. Far more guest workers want to play than there are spots available.

Eurasia Net for more

(Thanks to reader)