Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Weekend Edition

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Edward Said, 1986

Friday, October 18th, 2019

by CHRISTOPHER SYKES

VIDEO/You Tube

Edward Said (1935-2003). Palestinian-born intellectual and world-famous literary critic. Author of ‘Orientalism’ and ‘The Question of Palestine’. Professor of English Literature at Columbia University, NYC until his death. From the BBC series ‘Exiles’. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Said

Hussaini Brahmins and the tragedy of Karbala

Friday, October 18th, 2019

by ABDUL RASOOL SYED

Radhika Budhwar, Hussaini Brahmin VIDEO/You Tube

Hussaini Brahmins are a great source of inspiration for all those who believe in plurality and unity in diversity, and also who wish to uphold the truth irrespective of colour, cast and creed

“For Lahore, like my elders, I will shed every drop of blood and give any donation asked for, just as my ancestors did when they laid down their lives at Karbala for Hazrat Imam Hussain.” Sunil Dutt

The tragedy of Karbala reminds us of a great sacrifice given by Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) alongside his kinsfolk and companions for the sake of Islam. He sacrificed everything what he had in terms of men and material only to uphold the dignity and veracity of Islam.

Yazid, the incarnation of evil, tyranny, hypocrisy, mendacity, and malfeasance wanted Imam Hussain (AS) to take a pledge of allegiance on his hand and thereby affirm his despotic and immoral style of governance. Imam Hussain (AS) rejected his coercive and illegitimate demand. Imam Hussain (AS) realised that his submission before Yazid would be tantamount to an endorsement of his autocratic and unjust government that was erected in utter contravention of the pristine and democratic principles of Islam.

Thus, the fierce battle between truth and falsehood ensued on 680 A.D. Imam Hussain (AS), the epitome of selflessness, intrepidity, courage and forbearance with his small contingent of faithful followers faced the storm of tyrant forces valiantly. Nearly, all of the members of Imam’s (AS) household and companions were martyred one by one even six years old infant Hazrat Ali Asghar was not spared, and was decapitated ruthlessly.

Accounts reveal that seven brave Brahmin warriors from Lahore died while fighting for Imam Hussain (AS) in the battle of Karbala. According to one account, their father Rahab Dutt, an old man who traded with Arabia in those days, had promised the Holy Prophet (SAW) to stand by his grandson in his fight to uphold the truth.

It is said that when Rahab Dutt found out that enemies had surrounded Imam Hussain (AS) and his family in Karbala, and wanted to spill the blood of innocents; he along with his seven sons reached to help him. His seven sons laid down their lives for the sake of Imam Hussain (AS) in the battle of Karbala

Daily Times for more

Amazon vs. the socialists in Seattle

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

by KSHAMA SAWANT

PHOTO/Backbone Campaign – CC BY 2.0

In what may turn out to be a preview of the U.S. presidential election, with the ruling class hellbent on stopping Bernie Sanders at all costs, big business in Seattle is carrying out an unprecedented assault of corporate PAC money against socialist and progressive candidates in this year’s elections.

The corporate elite are deeply concerned about the rise of socialist politics, whether my election and reelection as a socialist City Councilmember in Seattle, Bernie’s self-described democratic socialist presidential campaign, or AOC’s election to U.S. Congress. Our victories in Seattle, including our historic $15 minimum wage law and landmark renters rights wins, and the growing national fight for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, are all completely unacceptable to the ruling class.

In Seattle, already $450,000 has been spent by Amazon, with nearly $2 million in corporate cash overall, and it seems clear they’re just rolling up their sleeves and getting started. The $1.5 million dollars in Corporate PAC money amassed during this year’s primary alone has already blown all prior city records out of the water.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and big business are infuriated by our movement’s victories and are fearful of what it would mean if socialist and DSA candidate, Shaun Scott, and left candidate Tammy Morales join us in City Hall. Now they’re determined to block our struggle for rent control and prevent a Seattle Green New Deal. Last but not least, they have a powerful aversion to any form of taxes on big business, as was on display with the Amazon Tax struggle last year.

A Corporate Tax Haven

As he has himself publicly acknowledged, Bezos largely based his decision to launch Amazon in Seattle on his desire to dodge taxes. Washington State has long been a corporate tax haven, having the most regressive tax system in the entire nation. More than anywhere else in the U.S., the tax burden falls most heavily on working and middle-class people, while big business pays next to nothing. This is no small part of why Seattle has become one of the most deeply unequal cities in the nation.

The region’s corporate elite means to keep it that way. Bezos made national headlines last year when he bullied Seattle to stop the Amazon Tax on the largest 3% of businesses in the city, aided by corporate-bankrolled Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Democratic establishment. Over a modestly-sized tax, Amazon executives acted like mafia dons: threatening to move 7,000 jobs unless the City Council backed down. After the Council passed it unanimously anyway, under the pressure of our movement, Amazon’s lobbyists went to work in the backrooms. Less than one month later, our corporate tax to fund housing and services was repealed, with only myself and one other councilmember voting in opposition.

It bears noting that in spite of the majority of the Council caving on the tax, Amazon moved those 7,000 jobs anyway. Which just goes to show, once again, that bowing down to bullies doesn’t work.

Counterpunch for more

The death of Alexander the Great: One of history’s great unsolved mysteries

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

by ANTHONY EVERITT

Alexander the Great’s death is an unsolved mystery. Was he a victim of natural causes, felled by some kind of fever, or did his marshals assas­sinate him, angered by his tyrannical ways? An autopsy would decide the question, but it is too late for that.

The trail is long cold. All who recalled the terrible fortnight of his dying had their own reputations to protect and they were not under oath when publishing their memoirs. The secret of Alexander’s end will not be discovered by poring over disputed narratives, but by as­sessing his interaction with others. Who were the men and women he knew, and who his friends and enemies? What did they think of him and he of them? Where lay their loyalties, and where the imperatives of self-interest?

In the year 323 BC, Alexander enjoyed an overdue vacation in the deluxe metropolis of Babylon in Mesopotamia. This was one of the great cities of the Persian empire and over the centuries had grown ac­customed to looking after the needs of invaders. Its Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. A few weeks there of uninterrupted leisure and pleasure were just what Alexander and his careworn soldiers needed.

The youthful Macedonian monarch had spent a good ten years fighting his way nonstop through the Per­sian empire to its Indian frontier, deposing the Great King and seizing power himself. After winning victories in the Punjab and along the Indus River, he marched back to civilization through a searing desert, losing thousands of his men for lack of water before reaching the safety and the comforts of Mesopotamia.

Alexander was still a handsome man in his prime whose triumphant past augured a shining future. His next and imminent project was to establish commercially viable townships along the Arabian coast. A port had been specially built near Babylon to house a new fleet. Mean­while the army prepared to march south by land. Victory was taken for granted, but after that, who knew what?

For now, in late May, as the unrelenting heat of summer ap­proached, he needed a good rest. Babylon had all the necessary facili­ties. There was water everywhere; the river Euphrates on its way to the Persian Gulf passed through the center of the city and poured into the moats that lay alongside the lofty defensive walls of baked mud brick. And beyond the walls lay swamps and lagoons bursting with wildlife, irrigation channels, and reservoirs. Wine was sent round to every unit in the encampment, as were animals for sacrifice to the gods.

Literary Hub for more

Muhammad is like Jesus

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

by ALEXANDER GöRLACH

Author and Islam critic Hamad Abdel-Samad has unpacked the stereotypes about the prophet of the Muslim faith and compiled them in a new book. But this is not religious criticism’s finest hour.

They say that Muhammad was a human butcher, one who married a child and put whole populations to the sword. These allegations are nothing new: people have been bringing them against the Prophet of the Muslim faith for hundreds of years. Now Hamed Abdel-Samad, a self-described “critic of Islam”, has compiled these historical resentments anew, and it’s assumed that this work will find a large following. A civilized and above all else scientific criticism of religion arose very differently in the West, where the criticism was at its core a critique of the revelation: can it be that a god speaks in this world? Why does he do that? Who does he choose as his addressee? Out of this revelatory criticism grew the institutional critique of the church and its claim to power ¬– which had indeed deviated from the original revelation.

As a consequence of the past centuries, most people from the West are metaphysically unsuspicious of the old revelation criticism: religion (from the heritage of the Enlightenment) contributes to the teaching of values and is the pillar of morality… good honest piety. From theological dogma, the cause of the religious schism and the Thirty Year’s war, morals and ethics have come to the foreground, promoting people to live good and successful lives. In such a spiritual environment, to speak of a Christian or Atheist Europe only gets us off track. Western Europe no longer has religious roots in the sense that a certain revelatory belief could lead its population to take up arms. In his unsurpassed work, “Crowds and Power”, Elias Canetti puts things into perspective: people in Europe don’t believe in the afterlife anymore. That makes the military mobilization through the guise of Christianity impossible.

Religions provide the grand narratives

Up to the crusades church officials steadfastly stood by promises to warlords that eternal life is granted to soldiers that killed as many infidels as possible on the field battle. This is argued extensively by historian Thomas Asbridge in his work about the crusades. Young European men, masquerading as knights, roving around in large numbers, became increasingly a danger to the local populations of Europe, which led to this papal defense position to send them abroad. And history books are full of the carnage and massacres the young, power-hungry Christians perpetrated in the Holy Land. More surprising seems the fact that the great First Crusade army, according to Asbridge, bought their provisions on the way to Constantinople rather than pillaged for it. But that’s just a marginal side note.

The European for more

‘Democracy was hollowed out in the past five years’

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

by TEESTA SETALVAD

VIDEO/Studio Sangharsh/You Tube

The activist and secretary of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) Teesta Setalvad has been relentlessly battling the State government in her search for justice for the victimsof the Gujarat pogrom. She has suffered various forms of persecution because of her crusade. As someone who has closely observed Gujarat politics, she spoke to Frontline on the State and the move towards majoritarianism:

“Gujarat is where it all began in the late 1980s and took a sharp, dramatic and murderous turn from the early 2000s. The genocidal pogrom of 2002 was a culmination of this, after which the laboratory experiment—cocking a snook at the Indian Constitution and its inherent principles of equality before the law and non-discrimination—took a different form: silencing dissent, questioning the minority and the different world view, all aided by Indian corporate capital. Remember the whitewashing first began here and it would not have been possible without the tools of market, capital and technology. This is important to understand because of what it says about our rich: they largely approve of this shift or turn in Indian democracy into a majoritarian state, culturally and religiously.

“The mass electronic media helped in the whitewashing by simply not interrogating the ‘Gujarat model’. Remember the amoral politics of this process magnified multiple times after policies like demonetisation and an irrational imposition of GST [goods and services tax]. Industry and manufacturing suffered, the informal Indian economy was killed. Many of those affected by the Modi government’s policies were supporters of the regime, but they did not publicly criticise it. Fear? A bit. Acquiescence to the anti-minority hate? More likely.

“In the past five years, women like Maya Kodnani, a former Minister convicted in 2012 for conspiring with and abetting a murderous mob to turn on the minority constituents of Naroda Patiya, was acquitted by a High Court. Any outrage? None. Babu Bajrangi [who was convicted in the Naroda Patiya massacre case] gets bail and the State and Central governments ensure it. We [the CJP] are the only ones who oppose this.

“Within all this, the political opposition floundered in not convincingly making out a mass communication campaign based on rights. First-time voters today have no lived image of India’s first Prime Minister jumping off his official vehicle to stop communal violence. Yes, that was Nehru, who today is reviled and mocked at by a bunch of IT cell techies who have a sense of neither history nor politics.

“But what of those who do oppose the regime? The political opposition took the goodness of the Indian people for granted (I still believe that we are inherently secular), refused to acknowledge that lakhs of people are missing from the electoral rolls. It stopped sending creative messages on Indian democracy, history, syncretism. Worst of all, it fought separately, simply not realising that a splintered, fractured opposition sends out a message that it is opportunistic. The refusal of the Congress to be unequivocal about condemning not just the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 but the targeted communal violence in general made it worse.

“All this having been said, it was not the ‘magic’ of Modi-Shah that helped the BJP sweep the elections. It was an imbalanced election—money power was garnered by them. Without this, Amit Shah’s 24×7 organisational machine (all paid volunteers of this project) could not have worked. Indian democracy was successfully hollowed out in the past five years. This will continue and accelerate, giving further impetus to the hollowing out of Indian democracy.”

Frontline for more

What multilingual nuns can tell us about dementia

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

by UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO

A strong ability in languages may help reduce the risk of developing dementia, says a new University of Waterloo study.

The research, led by Suzanne Tyas, a public health professor at Waterloo, examined the health outcomes of 325 Roman Catholic nuns who were members of the Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States. The data was drawn from a larger, internationally recognized study examining the Sisters, known as the Nun Study.

The researchers found that six percent of the nuns who spoke four or more languages developed dementia, compared to 31 percent of those who only spoke one. However, knowing two or three languages did not significantly reduce the risk in this study, which differs from some previous research.

“The Nun Study is unique: It is a natural experiment, with very different lives in childhood and adolescence before entering the convent, contrasted with very similar adult lives in the convent,” said Tyas. “This gives us the ability to look at early-life factors on health later in life without worrying about all the other factors, such as socioeconomic status and genetics, which usually vary from person to person during adulthood and can weaken other studies.”

Tyas added, “Language is a complex ability of the human brain, and switching between different languages takes cognitive flexibility. So it makes sense that the extra mental exercise multilinguals would get from speaking four or more languages might help their brains be in better shape than monolinguals.”

The researchers also examined 106 samples of the nuns’ written work and compared it to the broader findings. They found that written linguistic ability affected whether the individuals were at greater risk of developing dementia. For example, idea density—the number of ideas expressed succinctly in written work—helped reduce the risk even more than multilingualism.

Medical Express for more

Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

by WILLIAM TROLLINGER

Christian fundamentalists have become a politically powerful group since the movement’s foundation in 1919.PHOTO/Raul Cano/Shutterstock

These days, the term “fundamentalism” is often associated with a militant form of Islam.

But the original fundamentalist movement was actually Christian. And it was born in the United States a century ago this year.

Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive. And, as Susan Trollinger and I discuss in our 2016 book, it has fueled today’s culture war over gender, sexual orientation, science and American religious identity.

Roots of Fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalism has roots in the 19th century, when Protestants were confronted by two challenges to traditional understandings of the Bible.

Throughout the century, scholars increasingly evaluated the Bible as a historical text. In the process they raised questions about its divine origins, given its seeming inconsistencies and errors.

In addition, Charles Darwin’s 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” – which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection – raised profound questions about the Genesis account of creation.

Many American Protestants easily squared their Christian faith with these ideas. Others were horrified.

Conservative theologians responded by developing the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Inerrancy asserts that the Bible is errorless and factually accurate in everything it says – including about science.

This doctrine became the theological touchstone of fundamentalism. Alongside inerrancy emerged a system of ideas, called apocalyptic or “dispensational premillennialism.”

Adherents of these ideas hold that reading the Bible literally – particularly the Book of Revelation – reveals that history will end soon with a ghastly apocalypse.

All those who are not true Christians will be slaughtered. In the wake of this violence, Christ will establish God’s millennial kingdom on Earth.

Christian fundamentalists have remained consistent in their core beliefs for a century. PHOTO/Shutterstock

Setting the stage

A series of Bible and prophecy conferences spread these ideas to thousands of Protestants across the United States in the late 19th century.

But two early 20th-century publications were particularly key to their dissemination.

The first was author Cyrus Scofield’s 1909 Reference Bible. Scofield’s Bible included an overwhelming set of footnotes emphasizing that the errorless Bible predicts a violent end of history which only true Christians will survive.

The second was “The Fundamentals,” 12 volumes published between 1910 and 1915 which made the case for biblical inerrancy while simultaneously attacking socialism and affirming capitalism.

“The Fundamentals” provided the name of the future religious movement. But there was not yet a fundamentalist movement.

That came after World War I.

The Conversation for more

Sudan red alert no. 2

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

by VIJAY PRASHAD

What Happened in Sudan?

  • On 19 December 2018, an uprising began in Sudan. This uprising would culminate in the removal of Sudan’s president–Omar al- Bashir–from power on 11 April 2019. The army staged a conser- vative military coup to abort the revolutionary tide and keep the same old policies. It dissolved the parliament and established a two-year military regime led by the Transitional Military Council. The revolutionary forces–galvanised into the Alliance of Freedom and Change, with the Sudanese Communist Party and the Sudanese Professionals Association at the front–continued their march forward, determined to make a full revolution. The clash be- tween the Transitional Military Council and the Alliance of Freedom and Change continues. It could either result in an Egypt-like solu- tion, where the military regime masquerades as a democratic par- ty, or it could move forward with a revolutionary democracy.

Why Did the Sudanese People Rise?

  • In 2018, the range of negative social pressures rose as a result of the stagnation of Sudan’s economy. The growth rate fell to -2.3% that year. This was a result of at least four reasons:
  1. Wars. Omar al-Bashir had been in power since 1989. He over- saw two deadly wars in this period. The first war was between the north and south of the country, a war that in its second phase last- ed from 1983 to 2005. This war resulted in the death of two million people, the displacement of four million people, and the partition of the country into Sudan and South Sudan in 2011. The second war was in the province of Darfur, which resulted in the death of millions and the destruction of that vast, marginalised region that has been deeply impacted by the desiccation of the Sahara Desert. Both conflicts weakened Sudan.
  2. Oil. Sudan’s economy is dependent on oil exports, with most of the oil in the southern part of the country. With the partition of Sudan, the country of Sudan lost 75% of its oil reserves to South Sudan. Nonetheless, in 2008, 21.5% of Sudan’s GDP came from oil exports (and drove a growth rate of 11.5%). When global oil prices collapsed in 2014, Sudan’s economy went into rapid decline.
  3. IMF. By 2017, Sudan had an external debt of over $50 billion–61% of its GDP–with about 84% of it in arrears. Sudan owed 89% of this debt to countries and to commercial banks (the rest to international financial institutions). In November 2017, the IMF rec- ommended that Sudan’s government cut bread and fuel subsidies and devalue the Sudanese Pound. The government followed the IMF advice. Already, 50% of the Sudanese population lived in pover- ty. The situation went out of control after the subsidy cuts and the devaluation.
  4. Since 1976 Sudan has drifted into the worldview of political Islam. The US-backed dictator Jaafar al-Nimeiri allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood that year. A mass uprising erupted in April 1985, resulting in the overthrow of the al-Nimeiri regime and open- ing the way for the restoration of a democratic process. Attempts were made between 1985-89 to reach a peaceful solution to the civil war in the South and to abolish the Sharia law that was intro- duced by al-Nimeiri and the Muslim Brotherhood alliance. However, the democratic process was short-lived. In June 1989 the Muslim Brotherhood staged a coup, toppled the democratically elected gov- ernment, and dissolved parliament, political parties, trade unions, and all civil society organisations. It imposed the most reactionary regime resulting in the continuation of the war in the South, the dismissal of over 250,000 workers and civil servants from work, and the establishment of ‘ghost houses’ where leaders of the demo- cratic forces were tortured (and some killed). Omar al-Bashir, who inherited this regime, continued the Muslim Brotherhood agenda. Rather than tackle the serious political, economic, and social prob- lems in Sudan, the governments of al-Nimeiri and al-Bashir hid behind a harsh cultural agenda (which included blasphemy laws, laws against women’s rights, and policies against the diversity of Sudan’s peoples and culture). Both al-Nimeiri and al-Bashir fell be- cause they had no answer to economic crises; their only response was repression against IMF riots.

How Did the Sudanese People Rise?

Monthly Review Online for more