A murderous history of Korea

May 23rd, 2017



More than four decades ago I went to lunch with a diplomatic historian who, like me, was going through Korea-related documents at the National Archives in Washington. He happened to remark that he sometimes wondered whether the Korean Demilitarised Zone might be ground zero for the end of the world. This April, Kim In-ryong, a North Korean diplomat at the UN, warned of ‘a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment’. A few days later, President Trump told Reuters that ‘we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.’ American atmospheric scientists have shown that even a relatively contained nuclear war would throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population: ‘A regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.’ How is it possible that we have come to this? How does a puffed-up, vainglorious narcissist, whose every other word may well be a lie (that applies to both of them, Trump and Kim Jong-un), come not only to hold the peace of the world in his hands but perhaps the future of the planet? We have arrived at this point because of an inveterate unwillingness on the part of Americans to look history in the face and a laser-like focus on that same history by the leaders of North Korea.

London Review of Books for more

What was done

May 23rd, 2017


This short satirical film from Bella Caledonia (by Edinburgh filmmaker Bonnie Prince Bob) filmmaker was originally banned by YouTube when it was released three weeks ago (it has since returned). As far as we are concerned it is a brilliant piece of propaganda that should go viral once again.


Here are some choice (and hilarious) lines describing the reign of the “chimera,” Margaret Thatcher:

The lunatic chimera and her henchmen wreaked an epic trail of destruction. Whilst the city of London was coated in the shiny glistening ejaculate from deregulated markets, industries that sustained the common people—such as mining, ship building, and steel manufacturing—were obliterated, consigning entire communities to poverty and atrophy.

And a small taste of the excellent historical overview that ultimately leads to Corbyn’s fictional—though entirely possible—ascendance:

A humiliating diet of bread and circuses, in conjunction with benefits sanctions, zero hour contracts, rampant unemployment and food poverty was inflicted on the people… Yet it was here, quite incredibly—in this bleak and depressing climate of casino capitalism; where public money was siphoned into private pockets; where human values were second to capital gain; and where lies transcended the virtue of truth—that Corbyn’s miraculous revolution begun.

Try to read the subtitles to the various news clips if you are not doubled over with laughter—you’ll probably want to watch it more than once.

Original Post from Bella Caledonia

Two weeks ago we launched the new film by Edinburgh film-maker Bonnie Prince Bob and his team, What was Done.

The film treads the line between dark satire, social vision and playful dystopia.The Canary compared it to Armando Iannucci’s Time Trumpet…

This is fake news with a purpose. These are bad dudes.

The film’s now had over 200,000 views across all mediums despite being ignored by most of the Scottish media and blogosphere and kicked-off You Tube (it’s back now).

Brilliant futuristic reminiscence of the Corbyn story by @nonideefixe

—The Agitator

The finest political art to come out of Scotland ever.

—Kevin Williamson

Best political satire Ive ever watched. Brilliant 33 mins

—Rob Gray

What an amazing piece and makes me so grateful to be able to call Scotland my home. #Resistance at its best. I’m posting on FB and sharing as much as possible.

—Rachel Du Bois

It is absolutely brilliant, hopefully it will be available on June 9th for the world to see.

—Josephine Williams

Absolutely stunning work and infinitely superior to anything our state-broadcaster could produce. Under the horror and scalpel-sharp humour this is a love letter to what remains of Labour’s soul. Scotland is leaving but there’s still time for England. Let’s hope they’re watching. Share it and back this major talent’s future projects.

—Phantom Power

So **Loved** this .. brilliantly done .. but FB censor ship has begun .. must have terrified some at the top ..more power to ya elbow..!

—Eileen Murtha Brown

If you haven’t seen it already, go watch and share…

For the mobile-friendly link go to the Daily Motion site here: http://dai.ly/x5khzvv

MRonline for more

Corporate media mourns for humanitarian imperialism but is silent on Congolese suffering

May 23rd, 2017


PHOTO/Yasuyoshi Chiba

With allies like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Washington is causing immeasurable suffering on the Congolese people because they happen to sit on $24 trillion worth of resources that are critical to the American war machine. If Americans want to act in solidarity with the Congolese they should stop pretending that US foreign policy is rooted in justice, and instead support citizen movements like TELEMA that are fighting for change in DRC.

462 military observers, 1,090 police personnel, 18,232 military personnel. At 19,784 uniformed personnel, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission on the planet.

With President Trump proposing billions of dollars’ worth of cuts to the United Nations, this 17-year peacekeeping mission (named MONUC prior to 2010) may soon look dramatically different. In between the corporate media’s insatiable appetite (often used for ratings) for Russian conspiracy theories, we have heard some rumblings about the international consequences of Trump’s budget proposal.

Despite 5 million Congolese civilians murdered or dead from starvation/preventable diseases the Congolese can only be tangentially mentioned in the U.S. press. The indifference is glaring when you consider that it is our American allies: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Joseph Kabila regime who routinely murders/detains civilians to preserve his rule, who are primarily responsible for the death toll. Yet, in spirt of this inherent responsibility, the discussion of Congolese peace is primarily centered around achieving American imperial goals.

CNN’s Peter Yeo warns, “If signed, such an order would seriously endanger US foreign policy and national security interests, and put millions of lives at risk”, and Americans should “[r]emember why the US provides these funds to the United Nations in the first place. Promoting global peace and security abroad through the UN prevents conflicts abroad and minimizes the number of people who need to flee, efforts that are directly aligned with President Trump’s policy to keep Americans safe.” Another CNN, report concluded these UN cuts would be “devastating to the war on terror.”

Conflating the peacekeeping missions and other humanitarian UN programs, Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy added that Trump’s $1 billion cut “reflected the White House’s clear desire to jettison America’s traditional role as the champion of the downtrodden and embrace that of a military powerhouse to be feared.”

Pambazuka News for more

Japan’s casino plans can take pointers from Macau, Singapore

May 22nd, 2017


Fireworks explode over Parisian Macao as part of the Las Vegas Sands development during its opening ceremony in Macau, China. September 13, 2016. PHOTO/Reuters Bobby Yip

Tokyo now debating the legislation that gaming companies need as they consider investing billions of dollars in Japan resorts

The Japan Gaming Congress held earlier this month was the first major conference to bring together all the potential players since a bill was passed in December toward licensing casinos in the country.

The attendees included regional and national government representatives, casino gaming operators and suppliers; and potential lenders and investors.

By most accounts, by the time the conference ended on May 11 at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo, the excitement was palpable at the prospects of developing casinos and related entertainment facilities in Japan.

This is perhaps unsurprising as investment bank CLSA estimates gaming revenue in Japan could surpass US$25 billion a year. Some estimates put it much higher.

Regardless of the revenue numbers used, Japan is seen as the coveted prize in the gaming industry and will be on par with Singapore and Macau, the two best markets financially today.

However, the elephant in the room at the Tokyo congress was the lack of detail to define any potential gaming investment in Japan.

AsiaTimes for more

Alcohol’s Influence on Campus

May 22nd, 2017

The Chronicle of Higher Education

One of the lessons that many students seem to learn at college, and that some of them carry over into their alumni years, is how to drink to excess. The risky behavior can be associated with negative outcomes like illness, sexual assault, accidental death, even murder. This 44-page collection describes how hard it is for colleges to restrain drinking, especially with so many bars and liquor stores surrounding campuses and so many students encouraging their friends to drink.

The Chronicle of Higher Education for more

‘Poor to be taxed more, rich to get more perks’ — Bayan Muna on DOF’s tax reform bill

May 22nd, 2017


MANILA — Partylist group Bayan Muna led a picket in front of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 10, to jump-start their planned protest actions against the “anti-poor tax reform package of the finance department.”

“While this tax reform measure is giving more incentives to the rich, it is, on the other hand, further burdening the ordinary consumers and the poor who will bear the brunt of the impact of the proposed new taxes,” said Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate. He called on the people especially the organized sectors “to oppose, launch and participate in more protest actions against the deceptive, anti-people House Bill 4774 being pushed by the Department of Finance.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate said the poor will be hit the hardest in the excise tax on oil and the expanded value added tax (VAT) alone. “Most likely those who will suffer gravely are the commuters, house wives, students, drivers, small operators, OFWs — majority of the people since all products and services will cost more with the tax hike,” added Rep.Zarate in Filipino.

“Unfortunately, this is what the neo-liberal economic managers of the Duterte administration, led by Finance Sec. Dominguez, wanted,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate. The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion bill is a key component of the DOF’s overall tax reform package.

Based on published reports, the latest version of the bill tempered the increases in auto excise tax. Although it maintained largely the same provisions in a previous version a few changes were made including a lower rate of increase.

An initial estimate of the independent think tank IBON Foundation found that in the DOF’s Tax Reform Package, the richest will pay around Php178.3 billion less in reduced personal and corporate income taxes, estate and donor taxes, and capital income taxes.

On the other hand, consumers will be paying about Php341.6 billion more for VAT on previously exempt items and on higher excise taxes on petroleum products. Additional taxes will also be paid by consumers for every sugary beverage they buy.

Bulatlat for more

Weekend Edition

May 19th, 2017

Catch-22 for the Indonesian government

May 19th, 2017


On Sept. 24, 2015, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, hundreds of Muslim pilgrims, including 139 Indonesians, died in a stampede and other Hajj-related incidents, in Mina, Saudi Arabia. The picture shows victims surrounded by other pilgrims.

during the Hajj of 2015 in Mecca
127+12 Indonesians died in accidents linked to it
(hundreds of others died too)

Indonesian government didn’t recompense the near ones of the dead

the Saudi government did offer
one million riyals, or about $267,000 compensation
to the crane accident victims and their families
during that Hajj (12 killed and 49 injured)
alas, the offer remained unrealized,
as the money never came

to the grievances of aggrieved Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia
the Saudi authorities have never paid much heed
it didn’t even inform the Indonesian regime when it beheaded 2 maids
who were accused of killing their cruel bosses
(hundreds of Indonesians are on death row in Saudi Arabia)

on the other hand,
the hard core Saudi version of Islam – Wahhabism/Salafism
is making inroads at breakneck speed
the Institute for the Study of Islam and Arabic (LIPIA) in Jakarta
is a Saudi evilchild that teaches Wahhabi Madhab
where tuition is free
but no national language of Indonesia can be seen here
even the bathroom signs are in Arabic
the “Saudi alumni” occupy high public positions

the Indonesian government can’t ask Saudis to fulfill obligations
and pay up compensation promised victims and families
nor can it stop the Saudi cultural/religious onslaught

how come?

for the Indonesian government it’s a Catch-22 dilemma

the Saudi King and his family control Mecca and Medina
world’s two holiest cities for Muslims
the Kaaba in Mecca is where Hajj is performed

(one of the five pillars of Islam is Hajj
Muslims are required to perform Hajj, at least, once in their lifetime
if physical/financial health permits them to do so)

Indonesia has the most Sunni Muslims in the world
over 200 million (Indonesia’s population is 263 million)
many of them would like to go on the pilgrimage
but cannot go because
the Saudis allow only a limited number of people
(this year the quota was increased by 10,000)

if Indonesian government confronts Saudis on issues it has with it
the Saudis will cut the Hajj quota further limiting its numbers
then the Indonesians people will get mad at its government
for annoying the Saudis and getting country’s quota reduced …

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

Meet King Tut’s father, Egypt’s first revolutionary

May 19th, 2017


In Berlin’s Neues Museum, Akhenaten’s bust bears the scars of upheavals ancient and modern. Smashed by the king’s successors in the 14th century B.C., it was also damaged as a result of being moved during World War II.

Akhenaten upended the religion, art, and politics of ancient Egypt, and then his legacy was buried. Now he endures as a symbol of change.

Sometimes the most powerful commentary on a king is made by those who are silent. One morning in Amarna, a village in Upper Egypt about 200 miles south of Cairo, a set of delicate, sparrowlike bones were arranged atop a wooden table. “The clavicle is here, and the upper arm, the ribs, the lower legs,” said Ashley Shidner, an American bioarchaeologist. “This one is about a year and a half to two years old.”

The skeleton belonged to a child who lived at Amarna more than 3,300 years ago, when the site was Egypt’s capital. The city was founded by Akhenaten, a king who, along with his wife Nefertiti and his son, Tutankhamun, has captured the modern imagination as much as any other figure from ancient Egypt. This anonymous skeleton, in contrast, had been excavated from an unmarked grave. But the bones showed evidence of malnutrition, which Shidner and others have observed in the remains of dozens of Amarna children.

“The growth delay starts around seven and a half months,” Shidner said. “That’s when you start transition feeding from breast milk to solid food.” At Amarna this transition seems to have been delayed for many children. “Possibly the mother is making the decision that there’s not enough food.”

Until recently Akhenaten’s subjects seemed to be the only people who hadn’t weighed in on his legacy. Others have had plenty to say about the king, who ruled from around 1353 B.C. until 1336 B.C. and tried to transform Egyptian religion, art, and governance. Akhenaten’s successors were mostly scathing about his reign. Even Tutankhamun—whose brief reign has been a subject of fascination since his tomb was discovered in 1922—issued a decree criticizing conditions under his father: “The land was in distress; the gods had abandoned this land.” During the next dynasty, Akhenaten was referred to as “the criminal” and “the rebel,” and pharaohs destroyed his statues and images, trying to remove him from history entirely.

National Geographic for more

Jinnah would have regretted making Pakistan

May 19th, 2017


Every year on Christmas Day, we in Pakistan remember Quaid-e-Azam Mahomed Ali Jinnah, who is said to have been born on that day in 1876. There are remembrances and tributes; a change of guard; TV shows dedicated to the memory of the man who is credited with (and in some circles blamed for) the creation of Pakistan. Was the creation of Pakistan right or wrong is a debate that has raged on for 7 decades now. However what is never debated or discussed is whether or not, given the state that we are today, would Mr. Jinnah even want to be remembered as the founder of Pakistan? That Mr. Jinnah would have been disappointed with many things in Pakistan today is old hat, but let us take this a step forward: would he have regretted making Pakistan if he could see what we have done in this country? As an amateur biographer and admirer of the man that he was, regardless of how one views his most notable achievement, I have pondered over this question several times. Even though the democratic government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in my view, is doing all it can to steady the ship, economically, politically, culturally and socially, there were certain events this past year that has convinced me that if Mr. Jinnah of 1947 could travel through time and space and see what has become of his creation, he would most certainly give up the idea of making Pakistan. I will endeavour to explain why through this blog.

First of all the question of whether Pakistan’s creation was right or wrong is an exercise in futility because Pakistan is fait accompli, regardless of what one’s conclusions are about it. What is far more important is to understand the historical process which led to the creation of a country envisaged as a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. This historical process has its roots partly in the consciousness of upper classes as well as the rising Indian Muslim bourgeoisie and salaried classes – i.e. to use Hamza Alavi’s term “Salariat” – which feared exclusion from political power at the hands of three times more numerous Hindus in the inevitable post-British democratic India. This gave rise to Muslim nationalism and can, as an idea, be traced all the way back to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who exhorted his followers not to join Indian National Congress, the main political vehicle of Indian nationalists. The idea of Muslim nationalism was born and brought up in Aligarh Muslim University.It was this idea that led to formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the Muslim demand for separate electorates soon thereafter.

However it is equally important to note that Jinnah’s political upbringing had entirely different roots. Having been called to bar in London and from a family of merchants rather than landed elite, Jinnah escaped entirely the trends that were in vogue amongst Aligarh Muslims. A confident young lawyer, who succeeded in the legal practice at a time when the profession was dominated by British and Hindu lawyers, Jinnah had very little practical use for ideas of Muslim exceptionalism at that time. More importantly he saw himself as an Indian first second and last, with the fact that he was a Muslim being entirely incidental and largely confined to his name, which in any event he abbreviated to M A Jinnah. Amongst his closest friends and associates, there were hardly any Muslims in that early period. The few Muslims who did get entry into his circle were like him, incidental Muslims. It is well known that Jinnah followed none of the dietary prohibitions prescribed by his religion. Nevertheless after a dispute with the Aga Khan, owing possibly to his sister Mariam Bai’s marriage outside the Ismaili community, Jinnah had nominally converted to Khoja IthnaAshari Shia Jamaat in 1901. If however he had any religious convictions he kept them absolutely private.

Daily Times for more

(Thanks to Razi Azmi)