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Friday, 13 July


Tories intent on starving us into submission "IndyWatch Feed"

By Molly Pollock

Ministers draw up secret plans to stockpile processed food in case of a no deal Brexit says the Sun headline.

So despite two years of prevarication and shambles, blaming the EU whilst refusing to listen to it, turning a deaf ear to business leaders, manufacturers, the medical profession, economists and others, Theresa Mays cabinet has decided to stockpile food. Theyre doing this in the event of failing to reach an agreement with the EU over leaving the bloc. Some might wonder if no deal was the aim all along it might explain their ramshackle approach to the negotiations.

Protecting the state from the people?

According to the article, the Government has 300 contingency measures rustled up in a desperate attempt to keep the country running after Brexit. On social media there is speculation the government has been actively planning for such a no deal scenario for four months, with intimations of what appears to be a state of emergency scenario the army and police directed to protect government and other establishment buildings, nuclear power stations and food warehouses, with rationing of fuels and food. As a no deal affects all trade, all sectors of the economy and all society will be affected.

As part of a single energy market deal struck in the

N Ireland powerless?

wake of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland relies on electricity imports from Ireland. So, there is, according to The Guardian, even a plan for a flotilla of barges laden with energy generators to be sent to the coast of Northern Ireland to keep lights burning in the event of no deal. The scheme has been described as potty but does illustrate the Prime Ministers determination to get her own way, irrespective of who suffers as a consequence.

It may be difficult to envisage this happening, but the prime Minister appears determined to...


Dump Trump "IndyWatch Feed"

808A8666-5BFB-4B28-AAB1-CB96F9ABF5DFit was heartening to see many tens of thousands of people turn up this hot Friday afternoon to march against the views and practices of US President Donald Trump. There was a carnival atmosphere right from the moment that a giant Baby Trump in a nappy was inflated this morning and floated over Parliament Square, but at 2pm big crowds converged on Portland Place near the BBCs headquarters before marching down Regent Street and on to Trafalgar Square. There was a host of nationalities represented and lots of flags the EUs and Palestines particularly visible but it was the home-made signs that attracted the attention of the TV cameras, from the predictably scatalogical (F**k Trump) to the deliciously English (Im really rather cross). A brass band enhanced the mood. I didnt spot all that many politicians (Ed Miliband and Jo Swinson being notable exceptions) but there was every age and social group present, as well as trade unions and single issue groups holding up colourful banners, all united in their opposition to Mr Trumps current visit to the UK. As I write this, he is sitting down to tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle, and one can only hope that he will be more diplomatic with her than he has been with Prime Minister, Theresa May. In an exclusive interview with the Sun newsp...


What should I tell my kids about the 12th July? "IndyWatch Feed"

My kids always ask me what the flags are about. They find the black ones scary. But this year they were very impressed by the bunting and fresh Union Jacks in our area.

Its making me feel very British, said my five year old.

Me too, it makes me proud to be British, added the seven year old.

Thats interesting, I said, thinking about their Irish passports in the drawer. And the fact that they tried to turn bath water into holy water last night.

Do you feel British?, they asked.

How to make friends and influence people, Northern Ireland style.

A little bit, I replied, I mostly feel Irish. But its great that you feel British. And the good thing about living in Northern Ireland is that we get to be two things, Irish and British, whatever you want.

A few days later, they asked to go the 12th July parades.

Id only been to the 12th, outside of work, once before when I was little. I remember my mum ate the face of my granda for taking us, as she was attempting to bypass the Troubles somehow, keep us out of harms way. It was the early 80s. Id have probably done the same.

But, as a kid? Great craic. I was disappointed that future expeditions had been vetoed. Then slowly, over the years, I forgot it was quite fun. And this gave way to the idea that the 12th was pretty sinister, to be avoided. A sense which I carried around until I worked with loyalists, and saw how much of this was based on stereotypes and fear. And more than a little snobbery. Social class is as much as a division in this place as religion.

So this year, I decided, wed go. I wanted my kids to absorb something of the ordinary 12th. To see loyalist culture as part of the warp and weft of life here. As texture and colour. Not as something to be avoided. I was pleased to learn via Facebook that we might bump into some friends from their Catholic school, who are in mixed marriages and had family in the bands. The Woodvale Festival, Greater Shankill Alternatives and Greater Shankill ACT were putting on great events. I was feeling the small c in community.

And then it was 10th of July. And the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire, whose smoke I dutifully inhale every year, was too big and too close to the houses. So it was burned before it could be lowered. And the police van...


Trump's visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit "IndyWatch Feed"

The radical right want a no-deal Brexit so they can force Britain into a disaster capitalist trade deal with the USA.

Image: Trump Baby, Twitter, fair use.

Trump landed with a negotiating position. If Theresa Mays Brexit plan goes ahead, it would probably kill the deal, he told The Sun, referring to the trade agreement hes here to discuss.

To understand whats really going on here, we need to rewind by a week, to a tweet from the man who funded Brexit, Arron Banks: In Bermuda with @Nigel_Farage, saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track, Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens

Perhaps the most apt of omens we could ask for, the prospect of two of the men who delivered Brexit returning from a tax haven to take their country back. Because whatever Leave meant to the millions who voted for it, it has always been about something else for the elite who pushed it and for Donald Trump more than any of them.


The term Shock Doctrine was first used by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book of the same name. With the subheader The rise of disaster capitalism, she outlined her thesis: while advocates of neoliberal capitalism said it would dance hand in hand with democracy as these ideologies encircled the world, in fact neoliberalism marches in step with violence and disaster.

In Chile, the dictator Augusto Pinochet delivered t...


The Turkish election as a warning against the irresistible charms of populism "IndyWatch Feed"

We urgently need a constructive and open dialogue between different strands of thought within the populism theoretical oeuvre, if we are to develop progressive political strategies.

lead lead Donald J. Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government in Brussels, Belgium - 11 Jul 2018. Robin Utrecht/Press Association. All rights reserved.

RETHINKING POPULISM.  At a time when new political actors are mounting electoral and increasingly systemic challenges to contemporary democracies in the name of the people, there is little consensus in what the phenomenon is among academics, political activists and citizens alike. openDemocracy has been featuring articles on populist phenomena for some years (Mudde, Rovira Kaltwasser, Mouffe, Marlire, Pappas, Skodo, Sofos, Stavrakakis and Katsambekis, Gerbaudo, Gandesha, Tams to name but a few) and has been successful in stimulating a recurring interest. But despite or perhaps because of the extensive and thought-provoking research on populism, the term has come to denote a range of widely diverse phenomena.

Our aim is to bring together voices that dont often interact, either because they belong to different fields of work, or as a result of geographical distance, to contribute to a vigorous and constructive debate and the cross-fertilization of different strands within the populism theoretical oeuvre. This is not only in pursuit of theoretical and conceptual clarity, but it is also an issue of practical urgency if we are to develop effective, progressive political strategies. 

In his article discussing the Turkish presidential and parliamentary election of 24 June, Omer Tekdemir provides an interesting evaluation of the positions and discourse of the three major contenders; the left-leaning populist as he characterizes it Peoples Democracy Party (HDP), the Kemalist secular populist Republican Peoples Party (CHP) and the right-win...


Boris Johnsons resignation letter is the halitosis of a rotting body politic "IndyWatch Feed"

The UK is in the midst of a multi-layered political and constitutional breakdown.

Boris Johnson speaks at a Vote Leave campaign event, 2016. Boris Johnson speaks at a Vote Leave campaign event, 2016. Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images.

At last. After two years of weird, stifling repression, a realisation. There cannot be a Brexit Independence Day! There can be only different ways of being within our European domain. Boris Johnson, formerly the UKs Foreign Secretary and the face of Brexit, and David Davis a long-time anti-European who headed the special Brexit department, were finally obliged to sup with reality and threw up.

Both resigned from their high offices of state after a cabinet away-day meeting at the Prime Ministers country house of Chequers, on Friday 6 July. This agreed to propose to the EU a future relationship based on a single rule book for goods that will in effect be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice. The approach is spelt out in the White Paper issued yesterday. The inescapable reason for this is, as Ive shown, that our lives in the UK are inextricably part of Europes magnificent regulated space one that Britain helped to create. Given this, the Chequers proposals are the least form of integration possible. But a form of integration they are. In the words of the White Paper: the UK would make an upfront choice to commit by treaty to ongoing harmonisation with the relevant EU rules [with] participation by the UK in those EU agencies that provide authorisations for goods in highly regulated sectors.  

Boris Johnson and David Davis were finally obliged to sup with reality and threw up

Over the weekend the two senior ministers decided they could not advocate such an out...


The attack on the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala "IndyWatch Feed"

Interview: Colombian lawyer Ivn Velsquez Gmez has been the international commissioner against impunity in Guatemala since 2013. Espaol

Protest against corruption in Guatemala demanding the resignation of the ex-president in 2015. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Todos los derechos reservados.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (ICAIG) was created on the 12th of December 2006 through an agreement with the UN and the Guatemalan government, after a favourable ruling by the Constitutional Court. The agreement was approved later by the Guatemalan National Congress on the 1st of August 2007. 

The ICAIG was established as an independent international body with the intention of supporting the Public Ministry, the national police force and other state institutions, in their endeavours to investigate crimes committed by members of illegal organisations and clandestine security structures, to dismantle and charge these groups, and to strengthen institutions.

Since the commission was created, it has sentenced individuals for crimes against humanity and many others await sentencing for charges of corruption on a large scale.

It must be remembered that in Guatelama, an ex-president and an ex-vice-president are currently behind bars and many members of the military have been charged as responsible for massacres.

The prosecutor Ivn Velsquez Gmez has a positive perspective regarding the acchievements of the ICAIG, the difficulties it has had to face throughout the previous years and the potential is has to acchieve substantial changes for Guatemala. 

Jos Zepeda: Undertaking the task of contributing to the normalisation of a rule of law that ensures justice is achieved and corrupt individuals are taken to court is without a doubt a costly task economically and politically.. 

Corrupt individuals have not stood idly by up...


The Brexit White Paper: Hard Brexit with cherry-picking "IndyWatch Feed"

After wasting an incredible 15 months of the Article 50 negotiating period on their internal squabbles and distractions like Theresa May's failed vanity election, the Tory government have finally released their long-awaited Brexit White Paper.

In this article I'm going to address some crucial issues with the White Paper, but I strongly advise you to have a look through the document yourself (I'll provide a link at the end of the article) and to check out other people's analyses too, because the way Brexit is implemented is of such importance to our future as a nation that it would be grossly negligent not to investigate what the government is proposing for yourself. 

An anti-democratic shambles

If the way the Tory government released their Brexit White Paper is indicative of their approach to Brexit, we're in for an anti-democratic farce of epic proportions.

The Tories decided to completely ignore parliamentary protocol by sharing copies of the White Paper with selected members of the press at 9am, while only providing opposition MPs with copies during the new Brexit minister's speech (necessitating the extraordinary spectacle of the Speaker suspending parliament for five minutes in the middle of the speech as copies were literally thrown around the chamber).

The reason the government is supposed to provide copies to opposition MPs in advance is obviously to provide time for them to read the proposals and formulate questions in order to hold the government to account.

The de...


Why global justice must lie at the heart of the debate about Britains economic future "IndyWatch Feed"

Capitalism is an imperialistic economic system, but too often the left assumes that our economy operates in isolation.

Over the past few years there has been an outpouring of progressive proposals for the British economy. From universal basic income (UBI) to a citizens wealth fund, it is encouraging that people are trying to find real solutions to the problems of growing inequality, depressed living standards for many, and a generally dysfunctional British economy. While these ideas have attracted significant debate about their impact on the British economy, there is rarely much discussion about their impact on those living in other parts of the world, namely the global south. When discussing national economic policy, we seem to assume that our economies operate in isolation, and rarely reflect on their place in a global division of labour. However, putting these national policy options into a global context gives rise to many questions, especially when capitalism is considered as an imperialistic world economic system. To put the key question bluntly: should we support basic incomes or citizens wealth funds that might reduce inequality in the UK even if they are at least partly funded through exploitation in the global south?

Globalisation or global imperialism?

It is a strand of Marxian economic theory called dependency theory that has been most dedicated to understanding capitalism as imperialistic. Dependency theory took off in the 1960s and went out of fashion in the 1980s, but now its more useful parts are being revived to explore how imperialism works in the current age i.e. through globalisation. Imperialism in this sense doesnt just refer to formal empires such as those of 19th century Europe, but describes some countries benefiting from the extraction of resources from other countries. Dependency theorists argue against mainstream development theory, which claims that if developing countries improve productivity and tackle corruption, they will catch up to the developed world. Dependency theory argues that, on the contrary, it is impossible for third world countries to catch up because the wealth of the first world is achieved at the expense of the underdevelopment of the third world. In other words, o...


Theresa May won the Chequers game now Remainers must face reality "IndyWatch Feed"

Its time for rational Remainers to start planning for the possibility that Britain could be out the EU before the end of 2018.

Throughout more than fifty years as professional economist, rare has been the opportunity for me to claim I was right even less I told you so. However, the recent meeting in Chequers of Theresa May with her unspeakable cabinet provides me with one of those rare moments. Despite repeated and almost universal denials of the possibility of a Brexit agreement brokered by the accident prone May, a deal now seems if not imminent certainly in the offing.Throughout more than fifty years as professional economist, rare has been the opportunity for me to claim I was right even less I told you so. However, the recent meeting in Chequers of Theresa May with her unspeakable cabinet provides me with one of those rare moments. Despite repeated and almost universal denials of the possibility of a Brexit agreement brokered by the accident prone May, a deal now seems if not imminent then certainly in the offing. And, yes, I predicted it. As much as I might like to attribute my prediction to analytical brilliance, the explanation is mundane: recognising the obvious. The coming of what May dubbed a UK-EU free trade area is what any reasonably open-minded observer would have anticipated. The pieces of the Brexit puzzle have been lying around in full sight, awaiting some momentarily open-eyed person to put them together.

The Brexit jigsaw puzzle

Like jigsaw puzzles, the likely Brexit outcome is more easily assembled when one begins with the corner pieces then works to the centre. First among these is that any Brexit outcome will be determined by the most powerful actors. These are the financial interest of the City of London and German manufacturing capital. Especially important is German trade in transport equipment with Britain (including cars). German producers have a substantial surplus as a glance at the numbers shows. The Merkel government has sought and will seek a deal acceptable to German manufacturers, as May will with the barons of the City. Both governments are right-wing, whose natural constituency is big business. As with most decisions in Brussels, the other EU governments are likely to yield to German economic interests and seek compensation and reciprocity on other is...


When workers lead on enforcing labour standards: a case study of Electronics Watch "IndyWatch Feed"

Electronics Watch is pioneering a way to safeguard workers rights in the electronics industry by working with workers, buyers and brands. 

ILO in Asia and the Pacific/Flickr. CC (by-nc-nd)

Poor working conditions in the electronics industry are not uncommon. Weve seen them in the spate of Foxconn suicides in 2010, in stories of debt bondage in Thailand, and in the on-going campaigning by Samsung workers to form trade unions and receive compensation after 76 workers deaths died due hazardous chemical exposure.

A proposed solution to prevent further injustices is to use a worker-driven approach to monitoring and enforcement of labour standards.

How could this work in practice? The activities of Electronics Watch, an independent, worker-driven monitoring organisation that aims to protect labour rights and the safety of workers in electronic supply chains, suggest one way forward.

The way of Electronics Watch

Electronics Watch was founded in 2015 to support the millions of electronics workers struggling around the world to maintain their labour rights. The electronics industry is massive, accounting today for 25% of all global manufacturing trade. Since 2016 Electronics Watch has been actively monitoring factories and supporting workers to find sustainable solutions to systemic worker rights abuses.

Electronics Watch works with public sector institutions such as universities and local councils to include legally enforceable codes of conduct for electronic suppliers in their contracts. They then conduct independent investigations of factories, and use the results to raise issues with brands and suppliers, as well as to demand...

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Thursday, 12 July


549 days since the agreed institutions for governing Northern Ireland were collapsed "IndyWatch Feed"

Another interesting speech from Michel Martin in one of the Dails periodic Statements on Northern Ireland debates

No one can doubt the immense progress which has been in Northern Ireland because of the victory of democratic politics and the new beginning offered by the inclusive and brave agreement reached twenty years ago.

The problems which confront Northern Ireland and this island as a whole today are nowhere near those experienced at the height of the violence and sectarianism of the previous decades.

We should acknowledge the tremendous steps which have been taken to try and overcome entrenched sectarianism and the spiral of conflict which it fed.

On the 12th of July we should also note the importance of this day to much of the unionist community and the value which they place on it.

It is fitting that our presidents have for some years made sure that they have used their office to show the respect which is owed to this distinctly Irish tradition and the enormous good faith which has been shown by many of its leaders in helping that tradition to evolve.

This was once a day on which Catholic communities lived in real fear and it defined aggressive sectarianism.  This has overwhelmingly changed, but unfortunately not completely and recent days have again shown how a small minority can terrorise communities.

Building dangerous bonfires in built-up areas, attacking workers, burning flags and political posters, and abusive sloganeering has nothing to do with celebration of a culture; it is nothing less than sectarian thuggery

The apparent activity of the East Belfast UVF is a huge concern as is the activity of dissidents in Derry, where the attempted murder of a police officer, the throwing of 20 petrol bombs and the attacks on the small protestant community in the Fountain area of the city show a deliberate escalation of sectarian violence.

Fianna Fil strongly welcomes and supports the joint statement signed by six Assembly parties yesterday condemning the violence of recent days and the call for full cooperation with the police.

It showed that there is cross-community opposition to the tiny minority which is trying to destabilise Northern Ireland and undermine progress.



Remembering Dorothy Cotton, freedom educator "IndyWatch Feed"

We need to believe ourselves capable of something greater than the dehumanizing roles our society has given us.

This article was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

Dorothy Cotton was the director of education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Martin Luther King years. Credit: Twitter/@natcivilrightsmuseum. All rights reserved.

On June 10 2018, the world lost another veteran of the 20th century struggles for freedom and democracy. Dorothy Cotton, director of education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, when it was led by Martin Luther King Jr., passed away at the age of 88.

As an invaluable member of a legendary team of preachers and organizers, she was one of the few women at SCLC to have served in a senior leadership position. Amid the efforts to register black voters in the segregated South, SCLC came to realize that registration was not enough for a population that had been disenfranchised for centuries. Cotton wanted people to understand the mechanisms of a government that had never really represented them or their interests and, ultimately, make that government their owna process that would involve much more than voting.

She devoted herself to this work in the 1960s, ensuring that black people were taught black history and lessons important to economic empowerment, alongside classes on the constitution and ways to pass literacy tests. After the movement years, she went on to become the director of student activities at Cornell University and, among other things, supported students who were organizing in solidarity with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

I didnt meet Dorothy until long after she retired from Cornell. In 2012, Vincent Harding had asked me to join a historic delegation to Palestine that was being organized by the Dorothy Cotton Institute. I was uneasy about joining the delegationwhich was mainly veterans of the black freedom struggles of the 1950s and 60sbut eventually agreed.

It was a tremendous honor to be among such a remarkable group. Led by Cotton and Harding, the delegation was, in part, a testament to her commitment to education. Even before leaving, we read, discussed and shared insights. Since the delegation was composed mostly of African Americans and Jews, we delve...


Just imagine the mainstream media outrage if a Labour MP posted something as bigoted as this "IndyWatch Feed"

Now that the local elections have passed, the raging orchestrated Labour anti-Semitism bonfire has died down to embers, with few people ever having realised that anti-Semitism is actually way more prevalent in the ranks of the Tory party.

The reason people don't realise is that proof of rampant bigotry within the Tory party is rarely reported because it simply doesn't align with the mainstream media "groupthink" objective of undermining Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour opposition at every opportunity.

Of course there are pockets of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party (any organisation with 500,000+ members is always going to have difficulty rooting out every single person with bigoted views), and of course the Labour Party is correct to have set up robust procedures for dealing with bigots, but when the the ruling party is evidently over-run with bigots, it seems like an odd thing for the media to fixate upon.

Take the repeated calls for an investigation into rampant anti-Muslim hatred within the Tory party from Muslim groups like the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Tory MPs like Sayeeda Warsi.

These calls haven't just been ignored by the Tory party, they've been openly publicly ridiculed by Tory MPs!

And now co...


How social media users in Kyrgyzstan are turned into extremists "IndyWatch Feed"

In Kyrgyzstan, social media users are persecuted for sharing their opinions online. Its easy to find incitement to hatred where there is none. RU

Since the 2000s, social networks have been widely used both as platform for like-minded users and an instrument for spreading information and ideas. But the rapid dissemination of facts and opinions also results in an uncontrollable stream of information. As a result, we are witnessing an increasing number of posts with negative content from hate speech to open fomentation of online conflicts on ethnic grounds. And today, when expression online is under the control of law enforcement agencies, you have to take responsibility for your opinions not only according your societys code of ethics, but also its laws. In Kyrgyzstan, those responsible for monitoring expression online can now charge someone with extremism without even conducting a forensic analysis of the offending statement.

You call these stinky, boring and backwards Soviet buildings architecture? Those who regard those typical housing blocks as architecture have no idea what architecture is. All you lovers of Soviet relics, why dont you go to Russia, to somewhere in Siberia where theres plenty of this boring, poor and slave-like shit!

This is a Facebook comment by Temirbek Bolotbek, a Bishkek university lecturer, who is now facing up to seven years in prison. The comments were posted in January 2018, under a post by Dina Maslova, chief editor of the media platform In her post, Maslova published an old photo of Soviet Bishkek, then Frunze, as she recalled how cozy she found the city as a child in Soviet times.

The publication sparked controversial reactions online: some focused on the differences between Soviet times and today, while others debated the merits of Soviet architecture. In late February, Kyrgyzstans State National Security Committee (GKNB) pressed charges against Bolotbek under Part 1 of Article 299 of the Criminal Code, Incitement to...


The pre-history of post-democracy "IndyWatch Feed"

Amidst the currently contested conceptions of democracy, a review of Michael Schudsons The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (2015).

lead lead July 2, 1964 file photo, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The Democratic Study Group played a crucial role in securing the legislation.

Despite all the talk of sovereignty and the will of the people, perhaps the most striking feature of Britains fevered debates about Brexit is an absence of any real questioning of the meaning of democracy itself. Engagement with the idea of democracy is typically cut short by framing our politics in terms of a tension between democracy and liberalism, or even more starkly between populism and technocracy, whereby a politics of rights to be exercised against government is set against a politics of popular sovereignty, or, in Barnetts formulation, rights and regulation appear as a fourth branch of government.

But this might be a false dichotomy. If democracy is set against liberalism, what are we to do with (among other things) the right to know? It is clearly a right to be exercised against government, and thus seems obviously liberal. But it is also typically identified as democratic, and supports the democratic goods of accessibility of information, participation, and association. If there is a problem here, it is a problem at the level of contested conceptions of democracy.

Michael Schudsons fascinating book The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency (2015, Harvard University Press) charts a detailed legislative history of the emergence of norms, practices, and legal instruments of transparency. Yet the way that he emphasises the democratic ambivalence of transparency and situates it in a d...


The story of Saida Manoubiya: A Tunisian feminist icon "IndyWatch Feed"

By calling for women's education and freedom, Saida Manoubiya was truly a feminist ahead of her time.

Picture by author. Some rights reserved. Aicha Manoubiya, known as Saida or Lella Saida, holds a special place in the memories and hearts of the people of Tunis.

In the governorate of Manouba, west of Tunis, her shrine stands as a historical and cultural landmark of the city. It is a place for local gatherings and musical celebrations. Visitors join in eating, chatting and enjoying the folk songs praising the saint and singing her qualities.

Wandering inside, I was told to speak to Aunt Zaziya, an old woman who lives in one of the rooms in the building. There was a line of people waiting outside her door. A little while later, I walked in and sat down while she was having lunch in a humble room, surrounded by a few bags of gifts from the visitors.

Aunt Zaziya told me that people bring her sweets, to give away to visitors, and meat to cook and eat there, and she would send them away with the blessings of Lella Saida. She told me stories about couples who got pregnant after years of trying unsuccessfully and women who got married at a very old age, thanks to the saints blessings. However, when I told her I wanted to learn more about who this respected and revered woman was, Aunt Zaziya was unwilling to continue the conversation.

I got the chance to talk to some of the women there and hear those stories. Amira, 25, said that going to the shrine gives her an internal comfort. But she was unaware of lella Saidas origins, her life story or what Sufism was in general. Other regular visitors told me that Saida Manoubiya was a wise and good woman who helped the poor. However, exact details about what made her such a good woman were not common knowledge.

This lack of knowledge is in striking contradiction to the teachings of Saida Manoubiya herself, how she lived her life, and why she should be celebrated as one of Tunisias greatest women.



Lula and the future of the Brazilian coup "IndyWatch Feed"

The coup government has failed to overcome the political crisis and reactivate the economy 2 years after impeaching ex-president Rousseff. What will happen now that their main opponent is behind bars? Espaol

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert on Facebook Lula.

After more than two years of a coup dtat government in Brazil, a democratic solution has not yet become clear. The powerful factions responsible for organising the coup without a winning candidate failed in overcoming the political crisis and reactivating the economy, and are still questioning whether to knock on the door of the army barracks to continue their rein under even less democratic circumstances.

Elections are due to take place in October of this year. Luiz Incio Lula da Silva, who has been in jail for around 3 months and sentenced in a process without evidence, keeps on winning.

The results of the latest opinion poll by IBOPE published on the 28th of June confirm the same trends that previous polls had set, that voter intention for Lula is 33%. As usual, he has more than double than that of his closest contender, ex-military extreme right politician Bolsonaro with 15%, and than third place contender Marina Silva of the centre-right with 7%. 

The crisis and a way out 

Brazil has been embroiled in a 4 year-long crisis that originally began as an economic crisis but is now also social and political. Without growth for almost 4 years and with unemployment rates of 17% compared to 3% in 2014, the country is now back on the UN FAO hunger map.

Without growth for almost 4 years and with unemployment rates of 17% compared to 3% in 2014, the country is now back on the UN FAO hunger map.

Additionally, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), poverty increased 11% in the past year, and for t...


Don't Delete Your Account: online organising in times of crisis "IndyWatch Feed"

We need to build the sort of social media which allows us to build the collective identities we need.

Graham is author of "the Shock Doctrine of the left"

Back in 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, social media could do no wrong: it was spoken of in reverential terms as the handmaiden of a coming new democracy. Today, its reputation is in tatters. From Mark Zuckerberg being dragged in front of the US Congress to answer about the Cambridge Analytica data-selling scandal and Facebooks half-million pound fine in the UK, to Twitter failing to act against Nazis gaining popularity on their platform, there is a growing sense that the structure and dynamics of social media are a key contributor to our extremely polarised and chaotic political situation.

People are looking for solutions, and one increasingly popular suggestion is simply to cut away from social media altogether. Jaron Lanier's new book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now is one such example. Aside from moments of implausible pop psychology, on the whole it provides an astute and accessible analysis of what is wrong with social media. He playfully characterises social media as a 'BUMMER': Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent. He argues that social media is little more than a machine of capitalist accumulation, of which we are both its product (access to our data being sold to advertisers) and unpaid workers (producing that data through our online interactions). Where he falls down however is in justifying the theme of the book: that the answer is for us to leave.

Social change doesn't happen without collective action whether it's getting a party into power to enact national ref...


1968: The neglected intellectual legacy "IndyWatch Feed"

The journals which sprung from 1968 have shaped thinking on the left to this day.

Graffito in a University of Lyon classroom. Image, George Garrigues, Wikimedia Commons, 3.0

As to be expected, the 50th anniversary of May 68 has generated a mass of comments and stories that highlight the familiar events that provide a broad political and cultural context for what was going on at the time. However, one really important aspect has been curiously neglected. It concerns the intellectual and radical legacy of these events and, as I shall argue, it is this legacy which abides though it is now more than ever threatened.  

Of course, most of the accounts have stressed both the range and global character of the radical movements and struggles opposing the existing relations of power that foregrounded May 68. Indeed, many commentaries have underlined the fact the atmosphere sustaining radical change during the 1960s was made up of a whole cluster of events, particularly, the Civil Rights and anti-racist movement, the anti-war protests about Vietnam, the beginning of second wave feminism, and the emergence of a counterculture. And we all remember that 1968 was the year that saw the assassination of Martin Luther King in April and the disturbances that followed in cities across the USA, the Tet offensive that ended American Cold War intervention in Vietnam, the Prague Spring against Russian domination, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in June, the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City in October that stands as yet another sign of the violent suppression of left-leaning radicalism, and the Black Power salute at the Olympics Games in October that stood as a symbol of the continuing struggles against racism.

A wider picture would include the execution of Che Guevara in October 1967, seen as the exemplar of the ongoing neo-imperialist interventions against the possibility of socialist revolution in Latin America in the wake of Cuba, the start of the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Six-Day Arab-...


Opinion: George Osbornes real Future London is a crass exercise that readers wont swallow "IndyWatch Feed"

Someone needs to tell Osborne that Londoners are not mugs. The rebrand of his controversial deal with Uber, Google and others still stinks.

Image: George Osborne arriving at the Evening Standard offices. Image: George Osborne arriving at the Evening Standard offices. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Images, all rights reserved

The sleight-of-hand is not that subtle. In his panic-driven revamp of the discredited London 2020 campaign exposed by openDemocracy, George Osborne has tried to turn a 3 million commercial deal because thats what it remains into a saint-like, wholesome charity event whose only aim is apparently to save Londons future. On Tuesday, Osbornes Evening Standard newspaper launched a project, now named Future London, sponsored by six major commercial partners including Uber, Google and private healthcare firm Babylon, to make sure [London] remains the best place in the world.

Someone should perhaps tell Mr Osborne and the advertising bosses inside the Standard who are running Future London that plenty of readers actually do pay attention to whats in front of them, and are no mugs when it comes to swallowing contrived advertising messages, however well cloaked or branded.



George Osbornes Evening Standard launches delayed money-cant-buy campaign with more controversial partners "IndyWatch Feed"

Private healthcare firm and a French conglomerate with a record of lawsuits against media join Uber, Google and others in lucrative sponsorship deal.

The Evening Standard announcement of its Future London campaign, June 10. The Evening Standard announcement of its Future London campaign, June 10.

The London Evening Standard has now launched a controversial campaign funded by a 3 million deal with six major companies that were promised money cant buy news coverage.

The newly announced partners for the project include healthcare firm Babylon, whose CEO previously headed a company criticised for delivering inadequate patient care at a NHS hospital which it managed until 2015. Source London, another of the partners involved, is owned by Bollor Group, a French conglomerate that have sought to suppress criticism of its operations by suing dozens of journalists.  

The project, now called Future London, was initially delayed after openDemocracy revealed that the six companies, which include Uber and Google, were offered favourable coverage in the pages of the Standard over a two-year period, in what quickly became known as a cash-for-column inches scandal. George Osborne, the editor of the Standard and former UK chancellor, faced calls to resign over the deal, which would have swept away the ethical dividing line between independent editorial and advertising.

The atmosphere inside the newsroom after openDemocracy revealed details of the lucrative plan was described by insiders as febrile, with a spokesperson denying that the companies had ever been off...


In Russia, a spoonful of propaganda helps the pension reform go down "IndyWatch Feed"

This is how the Kremlin enacts an unpopular economic reform: deny responsibility, declare its inevitability and, yes, distract the public with a popular sporting event.

1 July, protest against planned pension reform, Omsk. Source:, Russian citizens can taste some of the bitter fruits of the Kremlins confrontation with the west: its clear that the governments planned pension reform are just the first of a series of coming unpopular policies.

On the one hand, having transformed the presidential elections into a test of loyalty, Vladimir Putin now has, in effect, the right to make any move. But on the other, the authorities have nowhere to move there is no money, as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev famously noted.

The pension reform is thus a kind of testing ground, an opportunity to develop new forms of propaganda to accompany decisions by the authorities which will definitely be unpopular among Russian society. Even according to polling data from VtsIOM (hardly the most independent of pollsters), up to 80% of people surveyed are against the reform. And this makes the reform doubly interesting.

The faceless authors of pension reform

Aristotle believed that some unpleasant animals are born from dust and dirt alone, without creators. The same thing seems to apply to Russias pension reform. The reform has many defenders, but the authors are never in sight. State and regional deputies, officials, TV presenters and even representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church all agree: raising the retirement age is defin...


The Paradox of the Positive: Re-Examining American Independence Day "IndyWatch Feed"

Ever since I moved to Belfast Ive made a point of celebrating the Fourth of July, Independence Day. While I quickly learned that the parades from my childhood dont have the same meaning here, I clung to and adapted other traditions that were a bit more portable and less sectarianized; namely, beer and barbecued meat. Also, the wearing of red, white and blue, but done discreetly, and without obvious American flag emblems masquerading as clothing (Im looking at you, bizarre, trying-to-be-patriotic boxer shorts).

My thing for the holiday over here became an American Flag Cake. Im not much of a baker, so this is just a box of Betty Crocker instant brownie mix with cream cheese frosting and topped with strawberries and blueberries in the same of the flag. It is delicious, patriotic and dripping with fat and sugar perfectly American.

But this year things feel different. The smouldering trash fire that the United States of America has become has precluded me from finding joy in even the most token of celebrations. I barbecued no meat. I made no Flag Cake. I only drank one beer (old habits die hard). But even this stuck in my throat as I was unable to tear my mind from racist immigration bans.

Children in cages.

The gutting of union rights.

The potential fall of Roe v Wade and the criminalization of abortion.

And really, I shouldnt be able to tear my mind from them. There should be no room for frivolity when nursing babies are being torn from their mothers breasts an...


Putting sex workers rights at the centre "IndyWatch Feed"

Regardless of your view on sex work, denying that it is a job only harms those engaging in it.

Sally T. Buck/Flickr. CC (by-nc-nd)

In 2018 the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) published the research Sex workers organising for change. The research documents how sex worker rights organisations in seven countries address the various abuses in the sex industry and how they deal with the daily discrimination they face. The author led the research for GAATW in Spain.

The debate around sex work has been on my mind for a long time, together with my own social and cultural prejudices and beliefs as a white western feminist. As part of my job at GAATW I have also read a lot of literature on the topic. Sadly, the vast majority of these writings have only tended to confirm one of the two prevailing and diametrically opposed views on the issue. In the highly polarised debates on whether sex work is inherently harmful to the people who sell sexual services, activists often fall into the trap of presenting two opposing, oversimplified stereotypes: the prostituted woman (an exploited victim without any agency) or the sex worker (an empowered, independent woman who made a free choice). Thus states our introduction to the new GAATW report, Sex workers organising for change.

I used to believe that a world where sex is not for sale is a better world. This belief has been highly influenced by my resistance to the capitalist logic to commodify every aspect of our lives, and was based on the idea that sex should go hand in hand with love, or affection, or some other kind of feeling that doesnt involve money. Is this a romantic notion of sex? How much is it influenced by my religious and social background?

Conducting this research allowed me to put aside my own beliefs and assumptions, while carefully listening to the realities and motivations of sex workers. Doing so exerte...


Facebook and journalism. Part one "IndyWatch Feed"

How Facebook turned into the worlds biggest news platform, with newsrooms and journalists paving the way.

lead Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Maurice Levy, CEO of Publicis Groupe, leaves Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on May 23, 2018. Domine Jerome/Press Association. All rights reserved.

On June 27, 2017, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and current head of Facebook, announced in a post that his company had reached the threshold of 2 billion monthly active users worldwide, making Facebook the most popular social network in the world.

Despite recurring scandals such as the latest Cambridge Analytica affair and the ensuing calls to # DeleteFacebook, the number of active users rises continuously. As Sam Biddle from Gawker sarcastically put it with reference to a series of scandals involving Facebook in 2014, the most valuable lesson for the company might be that it can keep creeping us out and violating its customers, over and over again, and none of us will ever delete our accounts.

In fact, despite the recent wave of outrage leveled at Facebook and its leader, the figure of monthly active users has risen to 2.2 billion in the first quarter of 2018, which according to the British daily The Guardian represents an increase of 13% compared to the same quarter in the previous year. In terms of revenue, The Guardian states that Facebook made $11.97bn in revenue in the first three months of the year, up 49% from the previous year, which represents a record for the company.

Were making progress connecting the world, and now lets bring the world closer together, Zuckerberg added in his post of June 27. Zuckerberg has indeed been trying to connect the world with ambitious projects such as Free Basic and Facebook Zero which are designed to gi...


Fines are fine, but only structural reform can rein in the platform monopolies "IndyWatch Feed"

Why we must rethink the deep institutional underpinnings of digital economy.

Facebook is being fined 500,000 by the Information Commissioner, the maximum amount possible, for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The fine is unlikely to change Facebooks behaviour. The company is worth an estimated $540 billion, and in the first quarter of 2018 took 500,000 in revenue every five and a half minutes. Some claim the fine is symbolically important. In reality it is essentially meaningless, mattering little to a company run by a man who didnt even bother to appear before Parliament when asked to explain his companys actions. If we want real change, we cant rely on small, after-the-fact fines. Instead, we will need to undertake deep, structural reform of how data is created, governed and used to ensure all of us gain the benefits from digital technology and its revolutionary potential. The fine is being levied for two breaches of the Data Protection Act over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Information Commissioner has concluded that Facebook failed to adequately safeguard the information of users and it was not transparent in how data was being harvested by others, including the apps used to extract data to build the influencing mechanisms used by Cambridge Analytica. The result was substantial and widespread breaches of privacy and, ultimately, the erosion of democratic principles and norms. Clearly, it was a scandal. But was it also the beginning of a crisis, a moment that can generate support for deep and significant reform of both Facebooks behaviour and how we regulate the platform economy more widely? This is less clear. Critically, as the Information Commissioners analysis reveals, the deep scandal didnt lie in the activities of Cambridge Analytica, but in Facebooks business model and the outcomes this generates. The revenue model of Facebook and other major digital platforms is simple: the extraction and analysis of user data to generate insights that are sold for profit. These insights from political preferences to how you react to certain emotions are also used to fine-tune the platform and make it more effective at further extracting and analysing data for profit. Ultimately, the technologies that do this are a form of artificial intelligence. All our data is now providing the raw material for training this intelligence until it becomes mature enough to offer new products that provide extraordinary services to users, and gargantuan profits and market advantage to digital platforms. This voracious appetite for data generates an expansive and circular dynamic of expansion and enclosure. Facebook expands into new sectors and offers new services to attract more user...

Wednesday, 11 July


Young people are the unsung heroes of Grenfell "IndyWatch Feed"

Meet some of the extraordinary young people bringing life to the Grenfell community.

Pele visits Stowe Youth Centre.Stowe Youth Centre was a special place. Pele visited in the 1980s. Ten years earlier, the Police Station next door on the Harrow Road had been firebombed by residents. The Harrow Road has long been an area with challenging poverty and tension because of the intersection of major estates. The youth centre provided desperately needed space, and community for young people, 70 percent of whom had no access to computers. Even politicians came to launch their white papers on education as it was so near Parliament and was considered a centre of excellence. Memorably, Garry Kasparov came to play chess with our chess club in 2007. For ten years I ran The Cut Magazine with my friend Nina Manandhar. Thirty young people would come in every Wednesday to interview and photograph those they wanted in their magazine. Interviews ranged from the Wu-Tang Clan to one of the first debates with the police on Joint Enterprise. With 1000 other youth centres in the country, we lost all our funding in the government cuts, and my inspirational boss, Michael Dipple, lost his job after thirty-three years.

Gary Kasparov visits Stowe youth centre.

Using our last savings, we were making a film about the closure of the youth centre when the Grenfell Tower fire occurred. It threw the world of the young people making the film upside down, as they lost friends. Grenfell was 10 minutes from our youth centre. Many tower residents had grown u...

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