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Friday, 24 November


The European Left in times of crises: lessons from Greece "IndyWatch Feed"

The prospect of government did not generate or impose novel thinking, practices, or behaviours within the Greek left.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his cabinet. PAimages/NurPhoto/SIPA USA. All rights reserved.

The following is an extract from The European Left in times of crises: lessons from Greece by Andreas Karitzis, published by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Ecuador's Institute of National Higher Studies (IAEN)

The prospect of government did not generate or impose novel thinking, practices, or behaviours within the Greek left.

It revived and enhanced (and simultaneously shrank and marginalised) elements inherent in political parties, institutions, and organisations that are de facto an extension of the state in the broadest sense of the term. But which of these elements were bolstered and which were diminished? Indicatively, we could note that in the road towards national government:

collective processes were dismantled and individual or factional strategies were reinforced even within political currents;

executive-level planning and spaces for consultation collapsed while departmentalisation, superficial political handling, and a media-oriented culture within the party were reinforced;

communication among sectors of the party apparatus and the dissemination of information were dismantled, thus boosting the emergence of multiple centres that gradually became isolated and developed competitive tendencies;

the operational alignment of the emancipatory forces underpinning a comprehensive plan was neglected in favour of personal ambitions and the corresponding strategies.

But what was the driving force of this transformation? The above mentioned changes reflectthe transformation undergone by the state and the institutions of political power in the currentframework of institutionalised neoliberalism. This institutionalisation has resulted in:

The transformation of the state functionsand their alignment with a market-driven rationale with regards to conten...


The myth of the "clean war" "IndyWatch Feed"

Trump's worldview promises low-cost military success. The blasting apart of civilian lives in Iraq says otherwise. 

lead Afghan security forces inspect the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2017. At least 10 people were killed and nine others wounded after a suicide bombing ripped through a banquet hall in northern neighborhood of Afghanistan's capital of Kabul on Thursday, police and witnesses said. PA Images/Rahmat Alizadah. All rights reserved.Many previous columns in this series focus on the transition in the western way of war since 9/11 from tens of thousands of boots on the ground to "remote warfare". This has mainly involved a much more intensive use of air-power, including armed-drones; the utilisation of long-range artillery and ground-launched ballistic-missiles; and the much wider use of special forces and privatised military corporations.

The change has been consistently analysed by a few non-government organisations, most notably the Remote Control project and Drone Wars UK, whose specific concern is armed drones. 

The states pursuing this kind of offensive war see three advantages, two military and one political:

* Their own forces take minimal casualties, meaning fewer bodybags and funeral corteges

* They believe that the tactic works in practice

* There is very little media coverage of this type of war, and in the case of some countries, most notably Britain, there has been a long-term political convention that the role of special Forces should not be subject to public debate or even scrutiny.

The U.S. Air Force is on track to triple the number of bombs dropped in Afghanistan this year compared with last year.

Warfare by "remote control" also seems to be working, not least in the three-year war against Islamic State. It is now clear that Donald Tru...


Six Things We Learned From Irelands Failed Rugby World Cup Bid "IndyWatch Feed"

Last weeks surprise decision to grant the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) to France was a huge disappointment for the Irish, who had been bookies favourite throughout the process.

As the dust finally settles on the five-year effort to bring one of the worlds largest sporting events to these shores, here are six key lessons we can draw from the experience :

  1. Ireland CAN hold events of global significance.

The positive message for Ireland in a disappointing process was that World Rugbys independent evaluation report confirmed that we are indeed capable of running an event of that magnitude. That reports Executive Summary described all three bids as outstanding and concluded that any of the three candidates could host a successful Rugby World Cup. We didnt lose out in the process because we werent up to the job. We just paled in comparison to two significantly larger, more experienced and more proven competitors.


  1. Our Infrastructure & stadia let us down.

It was no surprise that Ireland lost points in the independent evaluation report for its lack of big tournament experience. But there were two further areas where our bid could have been stronger.

The first was for Tournament Infrastructure. In just the Transport sub-category within that alone, where the desired standard was to have infrastructure that can cope with the demands of a Rugby World Cup, Ireland scored almost 2 full percentage points behind the other two bidders (out of the 100 points available across the entire evaluation exercise).

The second area where we fell short was for Venues and host cities. Almost a third of all the points available to bidders in the independent assessment exercise were allocated through this category, and we came last almost 5 percentage points below South Africa. That was with the report working on the flawed assumption that a 34,000 capacity Casement Park Belfast would be ready in Belfast by 2020 (when it currently has neither planning permission nor a government to fund it) which doubtless boosted our form artificially here. The rejection of Irelands RWC bid will hopefully now lead to the scaling back of a stadium which otherwise threatens to become a publicly-funded white elephant.

The major investment required to get the majority of stadia in Irelands bid ready for an RWC was flagged in the report as a significant risk. World Rugby required bidders to identify 8 match venues capable of hosting games across 6 host cities. Irelands bid outlined a long-list of 12 potential stadia across 9 towns and cities, which would be whittled down if wed been selected. Of the six hosts cities identified in the Irish bid as its short-list choi...


Government confirms its full transparency changes to Northern Ireland electoral laws will not be backdated "IndyWatch Feed"

Details of the DUPs dark money will remain secret.

The precise details behind a controversial 435,000 donation to Northern Irelands Democratic Unionist Party will continue to be protected in law, according to new draft legislation published by the government.

A draft order to bring political donations and loans in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom was laid before parliament in Westminster earlier this week.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, described the proposed legislative change as bringing full transparency which would receive widespread support from the people of Northern Ireland. 

Donor details before 2017 will remain confidential

However the new law will only cover funding received on or after July 2017. All donations and loans received before the 2017 cut-off will be kept confidential.

Westminster will process the law change in Northern Ireland through secondary rather than primary legislation. This means the government will not take any amendments to Brokenshires draft, with MPs examining the proposed legal changes only in a fast-tracked small all-party committee. 

When the full House of Commons eventually votes, it will effectively be on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. 

The DUP dark money 

The 435,000 donation to the DUP in 2016 was made by a Glasgow-based organisation called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). The money, a record donation and far larger than any previous DUP campaign, was used throughout the UK as part of the Brexit campaign. 

openDemocracy earlier this year published details on the CRC and its head, Richard Cook. Cook, a former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservative Party, founded a company in 2013 with a Saudi spy boss and another individual connected to a major arms scandal.

Though both Cook and the DUP have maintained they fully complied with all Northern Irelands electoral laws on donations, the Electoral Commission recently levied a 6,000 fine on a regulated entity after an investigation found deficiencies. 

The Electoral Commission were legally bound to protect donor identity and other information. However openDemocracy revealed that Richard Cook and the CRC were linked to the penalty. Although a fine w...


This week, detention and a tragic death at the hands of Russian law enforcement "IndyWatch Feed"

Attempts by Russian law enforcement in Crimea to detain a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement led to her death. 

Vedzhie Kashka, a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, died this week after Russian security services tried to detain her in Crimea.

We continue our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia. Every Friday, we bring you the latest information on freedom of assembly. 

In Crimea, Vedzhie Kashka, a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, died after law enforcement officers attempted to detain her. Kashka, 82, began to feel unwell when FSB officers detained colleagues and members of her family. On the morning of 23 November, FSB officers detained three Crimean Tatar activists. They were charged with extorting money from a citizen of Turkey and sent to a temporary detention centre. Journalist Aider Muzhdabaev asserts that, judging by the video taken during the arrests, the FSB officers edited out the moment that Vedzhie Kashka was herself arrested:

I am certain they did this because they also pushed the elderly woman to the floor. After that, she began to feel unwell. The officers became frightened and called the ambulance (this is on the video) in which Vedzhie Kashka died on the way to hospital.

Ali Feruz, a journalist working for Novaya gazeta, has been fined 5,000 roubles for writing for the newspaper without a work permit. The court ruled that the journalist should be depo...


Foolish consistency: Spains Kosovo-Catalonia conundrum "IndyWatch Feed"

By equating Kosovo with Catalonia, Spanish leaders reveal themselves as unable to distinguish between legitimate aspirations for self-rule and destabilizing separatism.

lead Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy in Brussels press conference at the end of an EU Summit. Wiktor Dabkowski/Press Association. All rights reserved.Consistency is a virtue. It demonstrates ones principles, creates predictability, and insulates oneself from charges of hypocrisy. But as with any virtue, its excessive application can prove tedious, annoying, and boorish. A foolish consistency, the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Such hobgoblins clearly haunt the halls of power in Madrid. Spanish leaders have taken a firm line against separatism everywhere because of their home-grown separatists in the Basque Country and Catalonia. As a result, Spain is one of only five EU members that does not recognise Kosovos independence. The logic is clear: if Madrid accepts that Kosovo has a right to independence, wouldnt consistency demand that it allow Catalonia the same option?

This is a clear case of foolish consistency. By sticking to such consistency, leaders in Madrid fail to highlight the essential distinctions between Kosovo and Catalonia. Worse, by failing to recognize those distinctions, the Madrid government establishes itself as unable to distinguish between legitimate aspirations for self-rule and destabilizing separatism. Even worse than that, Madrid inadvertently signals that Catalonia may have a case for independence. Worse, by failing to recognize those distinctions, the Madrid government establishes itself as unable to distinguish between legitimate aspirations for self-rule and destabilizing separatism.

Justifying secession

Separatism is a complicated and disputed matter. The international order is strongly biased in favour of sovereign states for good reason. It is not a perfect system, but it is one that minimises war, human suffering, and chaos....


Why do the BBC rate Michael Gove and the Guido Fawkes blog as more reliable sources than the British Medical Journal? "IndyWatch Feed"

In November 2017 the widely respected British medical Journal published a study suggesting that Tory austerity dogma is linked to 120,000 excess deaths since 2010.

The BBC quashed any coverage of this shocking study on the advice of a shadowy advisory group that is part-funded by organisations like the Daily Mail and the UK government themselves. Apparently the British medical Journal and the academics who worked on the study were not reliable enough to warrant any coverage whatever.

Fast forward one week and the BBC joined various other outlets in championing an absolute sham of an article from the Guido Fawkes blog accusing other websites of being "downmarket trash clickbait" in an attempt to create a furore over fake news.

It is absolutely indisputable that Tory MPs voted to defeat an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill designed to ensure that the UK government recognises animal sentience after Brexit. Here's a link to the vote on Hansard. We can all see from the public record that the Tories voted against the amendment to recognise animal sentience, making sure it lost by 313 votes to 295.



Explaining the coup in Luhansk "IndyWatch Feed"

This week, armed men occupied administrative buildings in the Luhansk Peoples Republic and the territorys separatist leader fled to Moscow. What does this herald for the conflict in eastern Ukraine?

The flag of the self-declared Luhansk Peoples Republic and a soldiers weapon at a polling station in Luhansk, November 2014. Photo (c): Valery Melnikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.

The Russian-controlled peoples republics in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine have suffered their biggest shakeup since 2014. Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the separatists in Luhansk, has apparently fled to Russia after a nervous standoff with his Interior Minister. Yesterday, fighting erupted in the village of Krymske, which saw Ukrainian government forces try to gain ground on the back of the instability in Luhansk, only to be met with a fierce counter-attack.

Plotnitsky was seen arriving at Moscows Sheremetyevo airport in a video published on YouTube Thursday evening. There was no immediate official confirmation, but Zakhar Prilepin, the prominent Russian author who is serving as a commander and adviser to Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko, told the RBC news site that Plotnitsky had taken the same flight from Rostov to Moscow. Earlier rumours about his departure from Luhansk were backed up by the fact that Plotnitsky did not appear in public all day and his website was inaccessible since around midday (his supporters claimed a cyberattack).

Whether Plotnitsky will be ousted permanently remains to be seen, but the burly former artillery officer has seen his authority slip dramatically since Tuesday morning, when the Luhansk Interior Ministry was cordoned off by mysterious armed men, thought to be fr...


Previewing this weekends DUP conference #dup17 "IndyWatch Feed"

Given the hiatus in devolved politics in Northern Ireland, this weekends DUP conference was always going to be a significant opportunity for the party to set out its thinking on the failed negotiations and their preferred way to keep Northern Ireland moving forward (to borrow their strapline).

The absence of an Executive, the absence of Ministerial statements and visits, and the absence of debates on the floor of the NI Assembly chamber have severely reduced the opportunities for DUP representatives to articulate their partys policies and ideas.

The spotlight has swung away from Stormont to shine on the partys ten MPs at Westminster who are propping up supporting the Conservative minority government, and media scrutiny is all the more intense because of the fabled 1 billion Tory-DUP deal.

I cant remember the last time I spotted a national newspaper journalist or network reporter who had flown over to cover a party conference in Northern Ireland. The unprecedented interest from the national media around 200 have been accredited according to the News Letter, latecomers at 150 a pop as reported in the Irish News has revam...


The movement to replace neoliberalism is on the ascendency where should it go next? "IndyWatch Feed"

Ten years after the crash, the movement to replace neoliberalism is in the ascendency. Well organised campaigns cover everything from the promotion of pluralism in economic curricula to the applicatio...
Ten years after the crash, the movement to replace neoliberalism is in the ascendency. Well organised campaigns cover everything from the promotion of pluralism in economic curricula to the application of new economic principles in local communities. Academics and campaigners, who prior to the crash were lone voices in the wind, have been joined by a growing chorus of economists and commentators acknowledging that neoliberalism is not working. Importantly, these now include those in mainstream institutions that have become synonymous with the status quo, such as the IMF and OECD. Meanwhile, bottom up movements, surfing a heady mix of social media and dissatisfaction with orthodox economic ideas, are beginning to score political victories across the world. This is because neoliberalism the broad set of political-economic ideas and policies which have dominated public life over the last 40 years has failed, in both theory and in practice. It is in the wake of the global financial crisis that these failures have plumbed new depths. Financial instability looms over economies shackled by insufficient investment. Living standards stagnate and work becomes ever more insecure, shattering the implicit bargain of the entire endeavour. The human costs of this experiment have been enormous, with psychological and non-communicable ill-health becoming the hallmark of a system that cares for little but profit. Inequality, itself linked to ill-health, has grown to levels unseen since the nineteenth century, leading to large power imbalances throughout society. Socio-economic mobility has been further stalled by the erosion of the public realm, from universities to the legal system. Most pressingly, neoliberalism continues to rely on a growth model that is destroying the biophysical preconditions upon which it relies, increasing the chance of collapse in the climate and other natural systems. Major changes in economic ideas have happened before Despite this, neoliberalism remains the dominant perspective of most commentary and policy-making in the UK, countries around the world, and the glo...


Continuity between Adams failed war and failing peace is to establish the conflict as eternal and perpetual "IndyWatch Feed"

A powerful piece from Newton Emerson, in yesterdays Irish Times

The first person the IRA murdered after Gerry Adams was elected Sinn Fin president was Charles Armstrong, the Ulster Unionist chair of Armagh City and District Council.

Adams became president on Sunday, November 13th, 1983. The following evening, a bomb exploded under Armstrongs car as he left a council meeting. An SDLP colleague, Pat Brannigan, risked his life by pulling Armstrong from the burning wreckage.

Armstrong left a wife and eight children, who heard the explosion from their house a few hundred yards away. Afterwards, they received threats and hate mail and were forced to move. To the IRA supporter, every victim becomes culpable by the mere fact of their victimisation.

Shortly after the attack, Adams said Armstrong was a perfectly legitimate target because he was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment as if any number of such targets were not available.

But Armstrong was also a liberal figure, respected across the community. In his final council meeting he had held a minutes silence for the murder of a Sinn Fin councillors brother, earning rebukes from the DUP.

All human life is sacred, Armstrong told the chamber. Murder, for whatever reason, must be condemned.

Armstrong was a liberal. Ostensibly, the Provos killed him because he was in the UDR and therefore a legitimate target, but as Newton points out three weeks after the Armagh bomb, the law lecturer and UUP assembly member Edgar Graham was murdered by the IRA.

If there was ever an IRA plot to kill Ian Paisley, its yet to be revealed. Liberals on both sides, as well illustrated by this particular story, were...


Paradises of the earth: politics of solidarity "IndyWatch Feed"

Nadir Bouhmouch, director of the groundbreaking documentary 'Paradises of the earth' talks about the inception of the project, and the urgency of telling North African stories. 

Picture by Nadir Bouhmouch. Some rights reserved.A testimony to Moroccos 2011 February 20th uprising, my first documentary film My Makhzen and Me began with a sequence which transported the viewer through a North Africa which had suddenly rebelled against dictatorship and social inequality. Naturally, this sequence began in Tunisia the birthplace of our glorious revolutions. Little did I know that years later I would find myself filming Paradises of the Earth in Tunisias southern margins, the very places from which the 2011 revolutions began.

Between then and now, many things have changed and not just on the geopolitical level but also on a personal, introspective level. Since then, I have taken time to reflect, to think, to find inspiration, and to learn. This long process of reflection and growth in political consciousness ran in parallel with the political and economic changes in our region, the ebbs and flows between revolution and counter-revolution.

This documentary has therefore come at an appropriate time, it is a way for me to revisit 2011. Whereas my first documentary focused on my individual interaction with popular revolt in the urban centre, this one explores a dialectical relationship between different people, from different places, and their collective interaction with the struggles on the margins. Whereas before I called for pity, now I call for solidarity. Whereas before I detached present from past, here I seek to express historical continuity as it is made by people and not individuals.

In many ways, the year 2017 for me has been a year for experimentation, a year where I try to apply the ideas which I have formed and the ideas which have inspired me over the last six years. This project is the second of three experiments I have conducted this year. One in which I am seeking ideological harmony between the modes of production I employ, the themes I choose to focus on, the filmic and artistic forms I use to express thes...


What does it mean to be a feminist father in America today? "IndyWatch Feed"

Parents must talk to their kids about patriarchy, and confront mental barriers and social pressures that enforce gender roles and inequalities.

Children's jackets. Children's jackets. Photo: Uwe Anspach/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.My sons first favourite colour was pink. He loved pink flowers, eating with pink spoons and playing with pink cars. But it wasnt long before social norms steered him towards other colours, more appropriate for boys.

More recently, hes talked about how his younger sister cannot do certain activities simply because shes a girl. My son is five years old, and my daughter is two.

How do I respond to this? Sometimes, my own internalised sense of what it means to be male, and what it should mean to be female, gets in the way. Mental barriers occasionally raise their ugly heads to prevent me from fully embracing the truly fluid nature of gender.

Mental barriers occasionally raise their ugly heads to prevent me from fully embracing the truly fluid nature of gender.

Lingering and very potent social pressures also counter any feminist perspective I attempt to ingrain in my son. Both of us learned that pink is a girls colour, and that there is a girls way of fighting and playing. Both of us learned that boys dont cry.

When I tell people that I am trying to counter such pressures, by engaging in what I hope to be transformative dialogue with my son, I am met with different responses. Some are supportive and share similar challenges in their lives. Others roll their eyes and laugh. Or, they say Im doing my son a disservice by not teaching him to toughen up.

We may be living in a feminist-leaning era with some leaders like Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau proudly calling themselves feminists. But society in the US, as in many parts of the world, has not yet reached a tipping point.



The struggle for survival whats next for Syrian journalism? "IndyWatch Feed"

Media outlets, whether state-sponsored or opposition, often seek to send a specific message to a party through their articles, without complying to any kind of journalistic standards. 

AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Syrian opponents are reporting news through their own made media units via social media websites in order to reflect the violence and incidents in Syria. Aleppo, Syria, on July 23, 2012. AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.

Most alternative media outlets in Syria that came to life after the outbreak of popular protests mid-March 2011, despite their multitude, havent offered a more professional alternative to that of state media.

The media was controlled for decades by the mindset and ideology of Syrias ruling party, which itself was deeply rooted in the state and society, and so refused to accept or even acknowledge the existence of the other, with only very rare exceptions.

This contributed to the exclusion of journalists and writers from the opposition from Syrian media, and led them to write for Lebanese and Gulf newspapers. Some even resorted to using aliases in these newspapers for fear of arrest and harassment by security forces.

Furthermore, the presence of non-governmental newspapers belonging to left-wing parties is almost unheard of, and some of the local Kurdish newspapers were banned by state security with very limited distribution.

For example, Al-Hawar Magazine has been published by the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party in Syria since the 1990s, in addition to other Kurdish newspapers and magazines by banned Kurdish parties.

It is unfair to generalise in stating that all alternative media failed: some o...


Domestic political turmoil renders the Brexit negotiations even more unpredictable. This time its not Londons fault "IndyWatch Feed"

Compared with some other key leaders, Theresa Mays position is  looking remarkably stable for a change  as she flies into Brussels today for whats being billed in London as crucial meetings with EU leaders including Council president Donald  Tusk. The Westminster lobby is reporting that shell be taking soundings over whether a British offer of a bigger divorce bill 40 billion is being mentioned off the record   would be enough to persuade EU leaders to allow Brexit talks to move on to trade talks at the full summit next month.

The big question of the moment is whether key figures such as Angela Merkel, in the throes of complex negotiations over her own and Germanys political future, and Leo Varadkar plunged into sudden crisis, will be in any position to take risks with the Commissions three conditions for moving on. On the face of it this looks unlikely. Shes unlikely to be able to exploit others weakness.  When in doubt, politicians tend to go to default and that default remains unfavourable to the prime minister.  The best she might hope for in the coming weeks is a postponement of any final EU verdict on the three conditions. But that wont stop the Article 50 clock.

The Irish Times online is changing its front page continuously. to reflect  the turmoil.

Senior Government figures are toying with the idea of holding a general election on the same day as a crucial European Union summit that will decide if Brexit talks should proceed to the next phase.

Such a scenario would see the dramatic prospect of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar flying home from Brussels to vote in his Dublin West constituency after deciding if there is sufficient progress for the talks to proceed to the next phase.

The European Council meets in Brussels to take the decision billed as hugely significant by the Government and Opposition on December 14th and 15th, and Mr Varadkar could wield an Irish veto if he deems that the Border issue has not been sufficiently death with.

However, one senior figure told The Irish Ti...


Lord Mayor of Belfast: I would not stand for an assembly that is not functioning "IndyWatch Feed"

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nuala McAllister visited an A level Politics class last week to ask students how they viewed Belfast and, in line with her theme for her year as Lord Mayor of Global Belfast, how the city could be more welcoming.

The Alliance Party politician expressed her dismay at the rise of hate crime in Belfast and explained to the students that she believed that sectarian attitudes were still prevalent in Northern Ireland. She drew a contrast between patriotism in America which she described as a good thing compared to Northern Ireland where our identity divides us. The Lord Mayor heard contributions from students who said that there were parts of Belfast they would not feel safe going into, but also some who suggested that Belfast was at its best when putting on events such as Culture Night and Belfast Pride.

Responding to a pupil who said they were discouraged from getting more involved in politics by the fact that politicians always follow their party line McAllister expressed her distaste for the strict way in which the two largest parties in Northern Ireland are run. She described the way Sinn Fein organise their party as almost military, pun probably intended, and claimed of the DUP, that while they will publicly deny this, DUP MLAs are made to sign their resignation letter on their first day as an MLA so that this can be used to enforce discipline.

When asked about her own career aspirations she said that while she had stood for her party in the previous assembly election in North Belfast she would not stand for an Assembly that is not functioning. McAllister seemed more intent on maintaining her place on Belfast City Council where she might be able to have some influence and actually get down to the work of government, rather than the theoretical elevation to becoming an MLA with no real power

The Lord Mayor also touched on the issues of sexism in politics and integrated education in her hour-long talk with students of a Belfast grammar school.


Francesc November 24 "IndyWatch Feed"

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Graffiti in Nasa, Colombia. Demotix/Joana Toro. All rights reserved.


Does migration have to be a national issue - or could it be localised? "IndyWatch Feed"

The Home Office's immigration system is in a mess. Perhaps it's time to let councils have more of a say in running it, instead.

Image: We are all immigrants, Alisdare Hickson/Flickr.

This week, a Syrian boy arrived in Hammersmith and Fulham - the first refugee to be brought to the borough from the camps in Greece.

The Home Office identified him as extremely vulnerable fourteen months ago. They agreed he was eligible to come to the UK under their very limited refugee protection scheme. Two months later a West London council, Hammersmith and Fulham, told officials they had a place for the child.

But the Home Office did nothing for a year. It is only this week that the boy arrived.

In that year, his condition has worsened. He has attempted to take his own life.

The picture is being repeated across the UK. Around the same time Lewisham offered to take 23 children. Just one has arrived. Bristol offered ten spaces and received none. Hundreds of offers were outstanding when the Home Secretary abruptly closed the Dubs scheme for unaccompanied child refugees.

Tabloid writers would have us believe that residents are hostile to migrants. But in fact Britains communities are stepping up and keen to do their bit, while the Home Office is running in the opposite direction.

If communities and councils are willing and able to take control, why cant we give them more of a role in migration strategy and policy?

Its not as if the Home Office is discharging its responsibilities effectively.

Take another example - Europeans currently resident in the UK. The Home Office admit they are struggling to recruit enough caseworkers to register EU citizens intending to stay. Deportation letters are being issued in error, causing no small amount of fear and stress.

Everyone across the political spectrum claims in principle to be committed to an unconditional European right to remain. But in practice...


Peacemaking in Colombia: lessons from the negotiators "IndyWatch Feed"

One year ago, on November 24th 2016, after more than 4 years of intense negotiations, a Final Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla was signed. DemocraciaAbierta talked to experts and advisers who were at the negotiation table in Havana. See the whole project here.

Graffiti shows the presence of guerrillas in the Nasa area. Demotix/Joana Toro. All rights reserved.

In negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla forces, the country served as a laboratory for almost every issue of modern peacemaking.

We asked the Colombian experts who acted as advisers and decision-makers in the negotiation table in Havana, Cuba, both the lessons learnt from other processes and the innovations created for each major challenge that arose: including process design, land reform, disarmament, political participation, illicit drugs policy, transitional justice, gender issues, endorsement or ratification and implementation mechanisms, and much more.

Many lessons could be learned from this impressively creative process. Anyone interested in learning about state-of-the-art of modern peace negotiations, along with the complexities of implementation, must know the Colombian case; it will be a crucial learning lab and global reference for years to come.

This project is the result of a collaboration between democraciaAbierta and the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT). It has been built upon discussions with advisers of the Colombian negotiating delegation, now members of the IFIT Brain Trust for the Colombian Transition, at a course entitled "Peacemaking in Colombia", held in Barcelona in July 2017. The project presents a wide range of opinions on the negotiations themselves, the resulting final agreement and its current phase of implementation. You can find out more about the IFIT Brain Trust here.  



A birthday in the Urals "IndyWatch Feed"

Oleksandr Kolchenko, a Crimean anarchist, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Russia. There's much to learn from his activism. 

Oleksandr Kolchenko, date unknown. This November, Crimean anarchist Oleksandr Kolchenko is celebrating his 28th birthday in a prison in Chelyabinsk, in Russias Ural region. The story of Kolchenkos arrest and trial reminds me of reports by Luke Harding about Russia during the 2000s. But what happened to Kolchenko, and Crimean film director Oleg Sentsov, is actually a story of how the Russian Federation began to act outside its borders and the bounds of international law.

Oleksandr studied in Taurida National University, Simferopol. In Autumn 2011, when former Ukraines Minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk introduced fees for a range of activities at universities, Kolchenko, together with other anarchists and anti-fascists, protested against the commercialisation of education in Ukraine. Kolchenko and his friends, their faces covered, carried the red-and-black flag. Later, he participated in protests against changes to Ukraines Labour Code, which would have restricted the rights of working people, as well as taking part in feminist actions, environmental events and anti-fascist demonstrations.

After Russias annexation of Crimea, Kolchenko was accused of belonging to the Ukrainian far-right organisation Right Sector. Initially, it was hard to say whether this was irony or a joke, a lack of political education or just Ukraines weak party system, which still cant set firm ideological boundaries for political parties. The answer, however, turned out to be rather simple. Kolchenko and Sentsov were accused of belonging to a terrorist group that had allegedly set fire to the Simferopol offices of the Russian Community in Crimea organisation and the United Russia party. This, according to investigators, was the work of the so-called Sentsov group, whose leader was declared to be the Crimean director. Representatives of the Russian authorities, who had occupied public administration buildings in the city, started their tried and tested scenario for neutralising political opponents they accused them of terrorism, thereby placing the security of Crimeas residents in doubt.

Russia considers...


Russias new foreign agent legislation will further silence independent media "IndyWatch Feed"

New legislation targeting foreign media operating in Russia has evoked parallels with the US. Heres why theyre wrong. 

Federation Council, Russia. CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia. Some rights reserved.On 22 November, Russias Federation Council approved new legislation designed to assign foreign agent status to foreign media organisations. Previously voted through by the Russian parliament, this new foreign agents law was received 154 votes, with one abstention. Theres no doubt that Vladimir Putin will soon sign the document into law. The question now is: how will this legislation, which was clearly written in a rush, be applied?

Forgetting for a moment the anti-constitutional nature of this legislation, you need to understand that its language completely destroys Russias whole system of media law. Article 1 of Russias current Law on Means of Mass Communication notes that a media is a form of periodically distributing information. The latest amendments introduce a new term (foreign media), though theres no discussion of whether this refers to an organisation or structure, and theres no further mention of the periodical element. For example, you want to sell your bike, so you put an ad up on eBay. You receive money from a distant relative in Uzbekistan, and thats it welcome to the black list. This lack of clarity on fundamental terms will destroy Russian media law. This couldnt happen in a normal legislative environment. (That said, who are we kidding.)

In the case of Russias new media legislation, a lawyer clearly wont be able to help you

The amendments careless formulations dont meet the standard requirements for legislative acts as stated by the Russian Constitutional Court, or the European Court of Human Rights. Both of these institutions have stated on different occasions: the minimal criteria for legal definitions mean that a law should, first, conform to the principle of the rule of law, and second, be understandable to citizens who have to regulate their behaviour as a result. It should be clear to an ordinary, competent citizen what they might be punished for. In extreme c...


Out of left field, Sinn Fein launched the perfect storm. So lets hear it for Leo "IndyWatch Feed"


Wouldnt you know it? Sinn Fein put down a vote of no confidence first and so set the hare running. Can Fianna Fail afford to lag fortoise-like behind? In a sprung election no-one entirely wants just now, which party  holds the initiative in the tangled web of minority government and balf in. half out opposition?  Back wbere they still feel they belong for Fianna Fail under Micheal Martin? The Last hurrah for Gerry Adams or a rushed new hello for Mary Lou, suddenly catapulted into leadership to go for broke and a share of government?  Or the tyro taioseach winning his own mandate but Fine Gaels successive tall order  third?


The immediate background on Tainaste Frances Fitzgerald, caught in  crosshairs.         (but that was yesterday) 

This was a situation not of her making but  beyond her capacity to cope and that of her officials, it seems. 

Tnaiste Frances Fitzgerald is facing a battle to save her political career as Opposition parties offered her one last chance to detail her knowledge of a campaign to discredit a Garda whistleblower.

Ms Fitzgerald will face further questions regarding her awareness of efforts by former Garda commissioner Nirn OSullivan to query the motivation and character of Sgt Maurice McCabe at a commission of inquiry examining claims of Garda malpractice.

Escalating into political crisis

A meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators in Leinster House has unanimously passed a motion in support of Tnaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

The parliamentary party issued a statement following the meeting saying it stood firmly behind Ms Fitzgerald.

Tomorrow Fianna Fil will lodge a motion of no-confidence in the Tnaiste and it will be scheduled to be debated in the Dil on Tuesday.

Should Ms Fitzgerald not resign before Tuesday the Government will fall and a December election will follow.

There is still an expectation that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fil Leader Michel Martin may talk tomorrow but neither look like backing down at this stage.

That means it is either a resignation or an election.



Election looms as Fine Gael backs Frances Fitzgerald "IndyWatch Feed"

The following is a statement from the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Chairman, Martin Heydon following a meeting of TDs this evening over the the growing crisis in Dublin;

The Fine Gael parliamentary party unanimously passed a motion tonight to stand firmly behind Tnaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

At a meeting in Leinster House tonight, the party heard from An Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar who said their colleague Minister Frances Fitzgerald was facing a trumped up charge from the opposition.

The meeting agreed Fine Gael does not want a General Election.

The Government has a lot of work ahead on which it needs to focus. Several Bills have yet to pass through the Oireachtas including; the Finance Bill, the FEMPI Bill and the Social Welfare Bill.

There is a major Brexit Summit scheduled for next month. Brexit is one of the biggest challenges facing the country in decades and Fine Gael is firmly focussed on this process.

Parliamentary Party Chairman Martin Heydon said after the meeting: What we have seen from both Sinn Fin and Fianna Fil today is a political stunt, pure and simple. We will not allow the opposition bully us.

Sinn Fin is attempting to undermine the work of the Charleton Tribunal which was set up by the Fine Gael led Government to investigate the treatment of Maurice McCabe and get to the bottom of whether or not there was a campaign against him the same Charleton Tribunal that the opposition agreed to in the first place.

History shows that Fine Gael adheres to due process and has respect for natural justice. Fine Gael stands fully and united behind the Tnaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, Deputy Heydon said.

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Thursday, 23 November


Ten reflections inspired by the Rohingya crisis "IndyWatch Feed"

The educated, middleclass layman, who is interested in the world and has a sense of social justice, but doesnt quite know what to do with it. This is about me...

lead lead Kavya Chandrasiri, who created this image, 'Accept the Rohingya' is 12 years old. All rights reserved.Two months ago, 20 days into the latest round of indiscriminate, unimaginable violence against them, I posted an article on the genocide of the Rohingya. My emotions were raw. My reaction to the stories and images coming out of Myanmar (via Bangladesh) was visceral and all-consuming. I was unable to focus on my life, my mind refused to allow me to just carry on.

Two months on, I have carried on. My emotions are less raw, the tragedy less all-consuming. This is both my guilt and my sanity. It is perfectly normal, I tell myself. But I dare not ask if perfectly normal is good enough, in the face of such cruelty, violence and hatred, so completely beyond the norm. And so, I am compelled to introspection.

This article is an outlet for this introspection and reflection. It does not attempt to add more to the mountain of coverage of the crisis: to critiquing Aung San Suu Kyi, exposing the scale of the humanitarian challenge or condemning the Myanmar military. This has all been done, and will be done again. Instead, my gaze shifts inward to myself and others like me. Me the professional whose job it is to protect, provide coverage, analyse, advocate. Me the educated, middleclass layman, who is interested in the world and has a sense of social justice, but doesnt quite know what to do with it. Me the consumer of news, armchair critic and part of the status quo. Me, who is one of Us, who if we really put our minds to it, can begin to change the world. Me, who is one of Us, who if we really put our minds to it, can begin to change the world.

I hope this article will provoke some thought and debate. I do not claim to have the answers. But I do think a first step is acknowledging th...


Russias Kuzbass coal region is on the verge of an ecological catastrophe "IndyWatch Feed"

This corner of Siberia is famous for coal production and its local kingpin. Ecologists believe there are dark days ahead for the centre of Russias export coal industry.

Sergey Sheremetyev. Photo(c): Elizaveta Pestova / Mediazona. All rights reserved.This article originally appeared in Russian at MediaZona. We are grateful for their permission to publish a translation of it here.

By regional standards, the Kemerovo coal basin in southwestern Siberia (also known as the Kuzbas), is considered an industrially developed and heavily populated area. Its governor and local kingpin Aman Tuleyev has been dubbed by the press as both the most effective governor in Siberia and one of the most authoritarian regional leaders in Russia. Hes even been called head of the Kuzbas Khanate.

Tuleyev, 73, isnt Russias longest serving governor (Yevgeny Savchenko has governed the southern region of Belgorod for 24 years), but he is definitely top dog. Tuleyev is just a year younger than his region, which was carved out of the Novosibirsk region in 1943: with the Donbas and its coal reserves occupied by German troops, the Kuzbas became critically important to the Soviet Union as a source of fuel. The scale of mining here has grown incrementally ever since.

Spichenkovo airport lies 25 km from the city of Novokuznetsk. The road is lined with private houses and large black hills slag heaps left after the open cast mining of the area. The surface layer of soil is removed by bulldozers, revealing barren rock which is then crushed by powerful machines to expose the coal beneath. The waste rock, known as tailings is then piled into heaps. This method of coal mining has only been in use in Russia for the last 10-15 years: in Soviet times coal was extracted from deep mines.

The landscape around Novokuznetsk, seen from a plane, is like nothing on earth, its fields broken up by the enormous gray quarries, sometimes kilom...


No More UK European Capitals of Culture "IndyWatch Feed"

E9C44B9C-B12A-4DDC-877A-B56FD48CE0D1The EU programme of designating cities as European Capitals of Culture has brought new life, the Arts and increased tourism to places throughout Europe, including in Britain. Liverpool was a notable beneficiary, transforming the run-down port city into a vibrant cultural centre. Three UK cities were in the running to be chosen for the accolade in 2023 Dundee, Leeds and Nottingham but the European Commission announced today that as Britain is due to quit the EU in March 2019, their bids will now be shelved. There have been predictable protests from the Brexiteer media claiming that the EU is punishing Britain by stopping further UK European Capitals of Culture. But the situation could not be clearer: if you resign your membership of a Club you forfeit your right to benefit from its facilities. Brexit is not only going to harm the UK economy (that is already happening, though were still in the EU); it will also deprive British citizens of advantages of EU membership in cultural and educational ways, too. Did the people in Dundee, Leeds and Nottingham who voted Leave realise that they were shooting their cities in the foot? Scotland, like Lo...


For Net Neutrality to even be an issue is dubious to say the very least. But to be happening when mainstream media is no longer regarded as a reputable source for news? "IndyWatch Feed"

Im sorry but once again I find myself stuck in struggling to post syndrome. For now, simply keeping up with messages & comments on FB & my website is pretty much all Im good for. However, today I saw this comment by a chap named Venner. It pleases me no end hearing how people work out the truth, especially when


Leading Brexiter makes fun of people from Nottingham, Dundee, Leeds and Milton f*cking Keynes "IndyWatch Feed"

Brexit campaign leader Arron Banks has reacted to British cities being barred from bidding to be European Cities of Culture by making fun of the British people who live there.

Particular figures of fun for Banks are people from Dundee



Education, Islam and Criticality "IndyWatch Feed"

Can a new kind of integrated knowledge-creation occur, that is outside as well as inside the post-Enlightenment western tradition? Book review.

lead Moheen Reeyad speaks in Bangla Wikipedia School Program at Government Muslim High School, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2015. Wikicommons/ Motiur Rahman Oni. Some rights reserved.A review of two books:(ed) Panjwani, Revell, Gholami and Diboll, Education and Extremisms: Rethinking Liberal Pedagogies in the Contemporary World (Routledge, 2017); and Z Sardar & J Henzell-Thomas, Rethinking Reform in Higher Education: From Islamization to the Integration of Knowledge (IIIT, 2017)

Some students coming from a background with very limited exposure to
subjects like literature, philosophy and art, may experience the world in
fixed binaries of right and wrong, or true and false, rather than in shades
of grey and moral complexities in short the works of many religious
scholars and presentation of the world in scientific and technical
education mirror each other ...
Farid Panjwani

If you are taught not what to think, but how to think, critical thought can
protect the vulnerable and impressionable from believing the false promise
of a place in paradise.
Tobias Ellwood MP

The intersection of Islam and education is a fragile, difficult place. On the one hand is a great and humane educational tradition, stretching back to world centres of learning in Baghdad, Cairo, Fes, Nissapur, Qum, Samarkand and Herat, among many other cities that flourished while Rome was a dangerous, sheep-infested ruin and London a small, unhygienic port. On the other is the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism and the widely shared sense that in some way education is one of its motors, and one of several keys to understanding, confronting and defusing it.

Exploring how these two perspectives fi...


Brexit campaign in meltdown as panicking Brexit leaders turn on each other and Regrexit gathers pace "IndyWatch Feed"

Open warfare has broken out in the Leave campaign.

In an extraordinary attack, leading Brexit campaign leader Daniel Hannan has accused the whole Leave.EU official campaign of being a wrecking operation:

In his article on Conservative Home, Hannan brands Arron Banks the main funder of the Leave campaign a charlatan



Is Rebecca Pow really so out-of-touch that she thinks people are better off than ever? "IndyWatch Feed"

When the Tory MP Rebecca Pow intervened in John McDonnell's parliamentary speech to make the ridiculous assertion that "people have more money than ever" McDonnell replied in a very polite manner.

He calmly pointed out the horrifying fact that there are 4 million kids growing up in poverty in the United Kingdom, and the majority of them actually come from working families.

That the working poor make up the majority of people living in poverty in austerity Britain should be common knowledge, but thanks to the complicity of the mainstream media, uncomfortable facts like this are barely mentioned outside of left-wing independent media sites and in the slew of damning reports on the sheer scale of the problem from the likes of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Resolution Foundation.

It doesn'...


Kafka in Greece: a struggle against tax bureaucracy "IndyWatch Feed"

Faced with Greece's near-impossible loan repayments, the country's Tax Authority is using highly dubious methods to create the illusion of a budget surplus - and it is ordinary Greeks who are paying the price.

Alexia Angelopoulou/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.Since Greece collapsed under the weight of unsustainable debts in 2010, the country has gradually sunk into a social, moral and legal abyss of a depth never before seen in the country's history, even during its darkest days.

Social cohesion is under threat as armed gangs commit contract killings, anarchists and other civil disobedience groups destroy buildings by throwing petrol bombs, attack doctors, judges and police stations and render the daily life of citizens ever more difficult and depressing. Pensioners have seen the pensions they saved for throughout their careers cut in half. The health service has failed with shortages of staff and medicines as well as a general lack of funds. Departments of universities are under siege by a minority of young with antisocial and destructive personalities, who act with impunity inside the Academic Asylum of Universities.

In Greece Academic Freedom is interpreted today not as the freedom to speak freely but the freedom to act freely and even illegally, without the police being allowed to intervene, as universities are forced to grant asylum for any activity undertaken within their campuses, however criminal. The young, educated middle class is leaving Greece in droves to live and work in other EU countries and further afield, so that Greece is losing the cream of its youth, its only hope for a better future.

The country is becoming a place of increasing lawlessness and cruelty, highlighted by the ever-present graffiti destroying the appearance and cleanliness of almost every building in its cities. If only Delacroix could paint a picture of Greece now, almost 200 years after his Massacre at Chios promoted her liberation from the Ottoman yoke!

Although a bankrupt nation, Greece has no plan or even hope of encouraging foreign investment and creating new jobs. The government is trying to manufactu...


Our constitution is being rewritten the time to fight is now "IndyWatch Feed"

We only have a few months to stop it. 

Our constitution is being rewritten by perhaps the most right-wing government in modern British history, propped up by an even more fanatical party, the DUP. This week, despite an orchestrated campaign to amend the legislation previously known as the Great Repeal Bill, weve failed to land a blow on the government. The battle is by no means over, and the renamed EU Withdrawal Bill will shortly move to the Lords. But it should be a wake-up call, that we cant just wait for another government. Vital protections, safeguards and rights are being removed from us right now, and the EU Withdrawal Bill is just the opening salvo. It will be followed by legislation on food, farming and fisheries, on immigration and borders, on trade and customs. The last of these bills was introduced into parliament two weeks ago, and carries with it serious implications for everyone in the UK as well as millions more people round the world. If you were worried about US-UK trade deal TTIP, you need to take Liam Foxs new Trade Bill seriously. If it isnt amended, we have every reason to fear a TTIP on steroids is coming our way. The Trade Bill will allow the British government to negotiate trade deals after Brexit. It is our only chance to make sure that these deals done will be open, democratic and accountable. And we only have a few months to do it. Last week Trade Secretary Liam Fox rolled out the red carpet to Trumps trade negotiators. Were not allowed to know what they discussed, but we do know that Trumps Commerce Secretary, the so-called King of Bankruptcy Wilbur Ross, has said that lower food standards will be a prerequisite for any US-UK trade deal. So TTIPs infamous chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-filled beef are likely to appear on the British menu. We also know US politicians are desperate to open the NHS to US healthcare multinationals. As things stand, MPs have no right to know whats going on in these talks or the talks that Fox hopes will commence with 16 other countries including human-rights bashing Saudi Arabia and Turkey. MPs cant set any guidelines for Dr Fox. Once he concludes a trade deal with any of these countries, they cant amend or stop that deal. If theyre very good, they might get a debate. As one newspaper editorial explained this week, the Trade Bill is a coded way of saying that Dr Fox reserves the right to do whatever he likes without pesky MPs getting in the way. Foxs behaviour to date justifies suspicion. It was, after all, Dr Fox who...


BBC uses wrong clip on Newsnight of Jeremy Corbyns reply to budget "IndyWatch Feed"

This is truly extraordinary.

The BBC has admitted it used the wrong footage of Jeremy Corbyn in its reporting of his reply to the government budget yesterday:

But the BBC only admitted the mistake after it was pointed out by social media users that Jeremy Corbyn was wearing a different coloured tie:

How is it even possible for supposedly professional journalists to use a clip from a completely different budget?

The BBC has announced their error on Twitter but of course, it is too late now, as millions of people will not have seen the oppositions real reply to yesterdays important budget announcement.

This mistake from the BBC comes just days af...


Tax us if you can: Why Philip Hammond's 'crackdown' falls short of the mark "IndyWatch Feed"

Less a crackdown, and more a tentative step in the right direction.

Yesterday the Chancellor announced a crackdown on companies that dont pay tax in the UK. From April 2019, companies will have to pay a withholding tax on royalty payments they make to their subsidiaries in low tax jurisdictions. The companies will have to make these payments even if the group has no taxable UK presence under current rules. This is less a crackdown and more a tentative step in the right direction. It will bring in just 800m by March 2023 to put this in perspective current estimates put the UK tax gap at between 34bn and 119bn and in the absence of any real effort to tackle tax avoidance and evasion many companies will continue to slip through the net. Yet in many ways this announcement is an important victory for tax justice campaigners in the UK. Not because we know something Hammond doesnt about the policy itself, but because in implementing it the Chancellor has acknowledged something that no recent government has: that as long as a company has a physical presence on UK soil, sells to UK customers, or channels its profits through UK banks, it can be taxed by the UK Government. Tax us if you can It may seem obvious to anyone that has ever come into contact with HMRC that you cant negotiate over your tax bill. But in recent years some of the worlds largest companies have managed to do just that. One of the main ways in which large companies are successfully (and legally) able to avoid tax is through profit shifting. Multinational corporate groups have subsidiaries all over the world and each of the subsidiaries is taxed at the corporate tax rate of the country in which it is based. So a subsidiary of a company that makes 100m profit in the United States would pay 30m in corporate income tax, whilst another subsidiary that made the same profit in Ireland would pay just 12.5m. Companies have lobbied for international tax law to treat their subsidiaries as legally separate entities because, they argue, it protects them from double taxation. In the above example, if the company was taxed on its global profits in both the USA and Ireland (and all the other countries in which it operates), that same profit would be being taxed over and over by different jurisdictions. So far, so fair. The issue is that companies have abused this privilege by shifting their profits from high tax to low tax jurisdictions to reduce their overall tax liability. If the subsidiary in the US doesnt want to pay 30% tax on the profits it has made there, it can use clever accounting techniques from fake loans to transfer pricing to shift those profits to Ireland where it can pay 12.5% instead, or to Bermuda where it can pay nothing. In recent years, these pract...


Another leak against the Brits, but Theresas not for budging "IndyWatch Feed"

Another leak to RTE, another bout of Irish pressure, accompanied by Irish Times columnist Stephen Collins joining a chorus of contempt for British tactics and urging his government to stand firm.

The (British position that the) Border issue should be dealt with in phase two of the Brexit negotiations dealing with future trade rather than in phase one as the EU is insisting.

This is an obvious attempt to use the Border as a bargaining tool in the negotiations that the British really care about: the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU.

Thankfully from an Irish perspective the EU wide consensus that the Border issue needs to be sorted out in phase one is holding strong at European Commission level and across the member states with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier refusing to budge from that position as late as Monday of this week.

While  I accept that deep frustration is natural, I cant  for the life of me see how it can be sorted without turning to the bigger picture on trade. And why please is it so essential to sort out the Irish border first?  The UK can hardly allow the Irish tail to wag the Brexit dog. The deadlock  lies at the heart of the entire negotiation, on the final agreement over trade,  tariffs and customs; it cant be hived off as a special category like the money. Indeed Dublin commentators  are really aware of this while joining the joust against the Brits. They are  to fear that at this stage the EU will sell them short. For in truth Ireland is a pawn in the game for both sides.

In the meantime quite a lot of fun is to be had in reading the candid opinions of the EU side, gathered by excellent diplomats of the DFA. They would be a tiny bit more worrying if they included quotes from the big players in the Merkel and Macron teams.

During a meeting in Luxembourg, the British judge in the European Court of Justice bemoaned the quality of politicians in Westminster.

Ian Forrester wondered if the British public might view Brexit as a great mistake when they realised what leaving the EU entailed.

A minister in the Czech government told his Irish interlocutors that Britains Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was unimpressive, but that at least he had avoided any gaffes during a visit in September....


The Chechen watcher "IndyWatch Feed"

Hundreds of desperate Chechen refugees are still stranded on the Belarusian border, waiting to enter the EU. Many locals are sceptical of the newcomers but some have stood up to help.

Brest railway station. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.Its night in Brest. At this hour there isnt a soul on the streets of this small Belarusian town just a few kilometers from the Polish border. Two men silently exchange glances and cross the bridge over the railway tracks, braving the strong wind. Down there, from the immense Stalin-era railway station, they look like two black dots.

They stop in the hall of the railway station. At first glance, it seems like the place is empty, but wait a moment and youll distinguish the figures of women in hijabs, surrounded by a flock of children, among the slender rows of benches in the waiting room. Theyre trying to sleep, but every few hours the security guard wakes them. Itll be a long night.

European attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis of migration is mostly focused on the Mediterranean. The situation on the European Unions eastern border barely gets a look-in. Every day, roughly one hundred people fleeing the repressive rule of Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya try their luck here, hoping to enter the EU along the so-called Eastern Route through Belarus. Most of them are turned back by Polish border guards and have to stay in Belarus.

At the crack of dawn, a woman in her early sixties approaches one of the families, gives them train tickets from Brest to the Polish border town of Terespol and explains how to behave at the border crossing point. The children listen attentively. Early in the morning they will head for Poland again, hoping never to return to Chechnya. This isnt their first attempt, and it probably won't be their last.

The Chechen Watcher

Whenever Viachaslau Panasiuk enters Brest railway station, people take notice. The human rights defender is well known here; some Chechens are always on the lookout for him.



How to get out of a gigantic mess - of Brexit, citizens assemblies, and popular sovereignty "IndyWatch Feed"

The UK is in a mess thanks to an ill-defined Leave option in the Brexit vote. More genuine popular sovereignty could have prevented the mess and could yet get us out of it.

Image: Anti-Brexit demonstration, July 2016. Flickr/Andy Worthington

What do we the people think about Brexit? A simple enough question that the referendum in 2016 answered definitively?

The referendum result is as striking for what it doesnt declare as much as what it does. In a vote between Remain and an undefined Leave option, Leave won. But the UK cannot leave the EU in an undefined way. It has to leave in a specific, determinate way. How far there is a majority for leaving on any specific set of terms is unclear.

This ambiguity around Brexit has recently been explored in a fascinating - and instructive - experiment organised by Professor Alan Renwick at UCLs Constitution Unit. Renwick and his team organised a Citizens Assembly to explore attitudes to Brexit options. Citizens Assemblies are bodies of citizens chosen at random from the general public but in proportions that represent the make-up of the population. In the case of the Brexit Assembly, as Renwick explains, there were some 47 citizens selected to create a group that was representative of the UK population in terms of class, age, ethnicity, sex, and in terms of the Brexit vote itself with 25 Leave voters and 22 Remain voters.

Citizens Assemblies use carefully structured deliberation. Its members are given the time and material to assess the issues, explore difficulties and develop recommendations based on all the major arguments. Across two weekends of structured discu...


Enough with the wilfully out-of-context bragging already "IndyWatch Feed"

The Conservatives absolutely love to use the impressive-sounding big number technique to bamboozle the gullible into believing that they're doing a great job.

On the face of it Philip Hammond's budget announcement that 1.1 million new houses have been built since they came to power in 2010 sounds good, but only if you completely ignore all context.

In reality, far from being something to boast about, this level of house building is actually the lowest since 1924.

What's even worse is that the Tories have delivered this piteously low level of house building at a time of extremely high housing demand.

Despite their ludicrous pledge to reduce net immigration to below 100,000 the Tories actually oversaw the biggest inwards surge of migration ever, peaking at 336,000 in 2015.

Immigration in itself is not harmful, but if the government of the day does not account for it by increasing housing stock appropriately and by improving and expanding local services in areas that experience high population growth, then it obviously creates problems.

Not only did the Tories fail to deliver the level of required house building to cope with their immigration surge, they also set about gutting funding for local infrastructure and services out of ideological adherence to ruinous austerity dogma.

Then there are other factors to consider too. Demographic ch...


'It's a sense of adventure' - How Vouliwatch is reinventing politics in Greece "IndyWatch Feed"

Vouliwatch is a new online platform which is revolutionising politics in Greece by introducing transparency and accountability into the country's parliament. Can it work elsewhere?

Stefanos Loukopoulos is the managing director of Vouliwatch, a new online platform which is revolutionising politics in Greece by introducing transparency and accountability into the country's parliament.

In this interview with Mohamed Shaltoot at the 2017 World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, he describes how Vouliwatch first started, how he got MPs and the public involved, and how he plans to export the platform to countries all across the world.

Country or region: 
CC by NC 4.0


How Ive Come to Love Manchester "IndyWatch Feed"

8619AE8C-F0AC-4C09-990D-BE3BBA7078DBI spent the first 18 years of my life in Manchester, the last eight of which involved a one-hour term-time daily commute from the (adopted familys) house in which I grew up in Eccles right across the city to school. Hating both home and the school (as described in my childhood memoir Eccles Cakes), I endured a very dark period in my life, so seized the opportunity of leaving school early and heading off to Asia to find a different world. Some years later, after I had emptied the house in Eccles and driven the last van load of furniture down to London, I bid Manchester farewell for the last time or so I thought. Quite apart from the bad personal memories I had of the place, the city at that time was suffering from serious post-industrial depression, the buildings were black and whole districts of back-to-back houses, Coronation Street style, were physically decaying or being knocked down. I vowed never to return. But fate had other plans. The school, with which I had had absolutely no contact since I walked out of the door in March 1969, suddenly wrote to me asking if I would speak to the sixth form about Politics and this coincided with...


Francesc November 23 "IndyWatch Feed"

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Failed utopias lead to the death of idealism, and the likes of Putin and Trump are symbols of this process. As we watch Russia struggle with history, the US and UK cannot afford to pretend that this history doesnt affect us too. - free thinking for the world
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October 1917: Red guard unit at the Vulkan factory in Petrograd. Source: Public Domain.


Northern Ireland police must stop intimidating equality activists "IndyWatch Feed"

The force can't claim to be progressive whilst cracking down on those protesting hateful conservatism and oppressive, misogynistic laws.

Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.Fuck the DUP ballsy or rude? If youre DUP politician Jim Wells, it counts as hate speech. He reported a young woman to the police for carrying a placard with the slogan at the Belfast Pride parade this summer.

Last month the Police Service of Northern Ireland questioned 24-year old Ellie Evans, who is currently waiting to hear whether public prosecutors will decide to investigate her for hate crime, or breach of public order. 

The charity worker and activist moved to Belfast from England two years ago to study at Queens University. She has also started a Fuck the DUP campaign for a more progressive Northern Ireland on Facebook and makes t-shirts to fundraise for LGBT charities in the region. 

Many university graduates in Northern Ireland leave and never return. Its almost a rite of passage: complete an arts degree, do your time in a call centre, search for better jobs elsewhere, and go.

Young people like Evans should be made to feel welcomed instead of hounded. Hateful conservatism embodied by the DUP and others in politics, combined with sectarian divisions and poor job prospects, drives us away.

Today Northern Ireland's police is trying to position itself as a progressive force while intimidating equality activists and those who dare to challenge the region's harmful, regressive laws. 

There is also an nasty irony in Evans case, with a member of the DUP, which has a long history of ignoring and cultivating hate and homophobia, considers anger against it, from an equal rights...


Brexit: So what will happen to the economy when the foreign workers go home? "IndyWatch Feed"

Over on Channel 4 there is a new darkly funny fly on the wall documentary series British Workers Wanted. It shows a recruitment company in England coping with life during Brexit. 98% of the companys recruitment staff are foreign, but what do you do when after Brexit the foreign workers start to leave?

The show follows the companys efforts to recruit British workers to do the jobs that the foreign workers used to do, but with predictably dire results. This 1-minute clip sums up the issue:

Basically, most employers prefer foreign workers. They find they are more productive and industrious than local workers. Employers it seems have a regular list of complaints about local workers they dont turn up, they are always on their phones, they have no initiative and have to be constantly monitored, they are lacking in basic skills like communication, writing and maths etc. It seems many UK workers at the lower end of the economic scale are not just unemployed, but unemployable.

There is an issue with wages. Companies are using low wages to plug the productivity gap, but you get the feeling that there is more or less full employment for anyone half sensible. The minimum wage needs to be set at the living wage level, but from the TV show, it looks like many young people are just completely unrealistic. If you are a barely literate 18-year-old with no qualifications your economic desirability is not great, to say the least.

So what will happen when you have less foreign workers to do the jobs UK workers do not want to do? Well in farming there are already issues with millions of pounds of fruit and veg rotting in the fields as there is no one to pick them. If most of your workers are Eastern European why not just move your farm to where the workers are?

Factories will try to automate as much as possible but for tasks that require manual workers, factories will just have to reduce production, outsource to abroad or even just close. This will have a knock on effect on the UK economy. Productivity will decline further, tax returns will reduce and public spending will need to be cut more.

And in healthcare? Hospitals will have fewer doctors and nurses, waiting lists will grow and more people will die. Care homes...


The postwar ID requirement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain "IndyWatch Feed"

Reading through some old Wikipedia articles pointed me to an interesting exchange in the House of Commons, back in 1948. Ulster Unionist MPs Conolly Gage and Major Samuel Gillmor Haughton rose during an adjournment debate to complain about the requirement for a permit or passport to be presented for travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Gage opens by highlighting the inconvenience of this arrangement :

As everyone knows, Ulster is as much a part of the United Kingdom as Devon or Cornwall; yet any person wanting to visit a sick child, or wanting 10 go on urgent business from Belfast to Liverpool, has to obtain a travel permit.

He goes on to complain about the fact that any danger posed by aliens to GB is not deemed to be serious when it comes to the welfare of Northern Ireland residents :

There is another matter with regard to this. The control is imposed at the ports of Northern Ireland, and so it is really for the undesirable alien that it is desired to exclude from Great Britain. It does seem rather hard, if they are so undesirable, they we should have to have them in Belfast, because the check gives no protection at all there. It seems absurd that the protection which this check is supposed to afford to Liverpool should be denied to Belfast or any port in Ulster.

Finally, Mr Gage proposes border controls :

I would only point out that the system of a check on the Border is possible. I know it has been difficult to check all contraband on the land frontier as compared with the ports, but if it can be done in the case of smugglers, then it can be done in the case of other people.

It is worth reading the rest of this exchange, not least for reference to Stormonts Safeguarding of Employment Act. Eventually, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, Mr Younger, responds. Ive picked out some of the salient quotes :

I should like to start by emphasising that the restrictions are not really very great. The objection to them is, I think, partly on sentimental or loyalist groundsthat is, an objection to being treated any differently from other persons residing in the United Kingdom. The material objections are not very considerable.

Complaints of delays are dismissed out of hand :

.. but it is not a serious hardship. There is no difficulty caused to anyone who wishes to get these documents and a relatively limited delay is caused by the embarkation system.



Reading other peoples diaries in Russia "IndyWatch Feed"

Historian Mikhail Melnichenko runs a digital archive of personal diaries from Russia's 20th century. The result is both an alternative to tightly guarded government archives and an important artistic resource. RU

Mikhail Melnichenko. Photo(c): Katerina Chopenko. All rights reserved.This article is the fourth in our series "Practically about memory". Here you can read about the project.

Mikhail Melnichenko is the creator of the Prozhito project, a digital archive of personal diaries from Russia's 20th cenutry and he is on a mission to digitise and publish as many as possible. Although Prozhito ("Lived through") was only launched recently, it is already incredibly popular, having zeroed in on the niche of increasing interest in personal histories in Russia. Today, Prozhito features 817 diaries.

You spent a long time researching jokes. When was it that you switched from one lesser literary genre to another- that is, when did you switch to diaries?

Mikhail Melnichenko: I spent too much time researching jokes, about a decade, and at some point I exhausted this topic. I realised that I dont want to write about jokes, because they speak for themselves. The quantity of commentary and analysis is not that important wherein a joke is concerned. A joke needs to be well publicised.

For the last few years during my work on jokes, I merely created a big database of jokes and was cleaning it up. It took me a year to whittle it down into a book, and then I took that book to a publisher and sat down on my couch and had no idea what to do with myself now.

I knew I didnt want to do research in the classic sense whil...


Amnesty for security forces foreshadowed in the DUP deal "IndyWatch Feed"

Just a footnote to yesterdays post on the governments floating of an amnesty for security forces.

The Irish News follows up predictably enough with angry responses to what they rightly report as the adoption of the recommendation of the Commons Defence Committee report  just before the general election.

The committee, which includes DUP MP Gavin Robinson, said that the pursuit of members of the crown forces was wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice.

It can be ended only by a statute of limitations.,

They repeat the doubtful claim that  an amnesty would correct the imbalance with former paramilitaries.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, people convicted for pre-1998 offences would serve just two years in jail, but this allowance does not apply to British soldiers or police officers.

Legal authority I quoted  spelled out how there  was no such ineligibility.  It was actually used  after a trial of soldiers in 1998.  There is no loophole to close.  But  it may be that  former soldiers in a and police officers would be reluctant to be tried under the NI Sentences Act in any numbers as it was obviously drafted  for paramilitary use. However if convicted  they could still apply to the Sentences Commissioners for early release.

Outside No 10  Gerry Adams claimed the measure had unilaterally  been included in an amendment to the 2014 Stormont House Agreement by the UK government. The  government spokesman didnt specifically deny that but said  a consultation had yet to be called.

Strange though  that Adams didnt make the obvious point, that an eventual amnesty for security forces is foreshadowed in the Conservative DUP  confidence and supply agreement. Odd that he missed a trick like that.


The UK government will work with the Executive and all parties to seek the implementation of the legacy bodies in the Stormont House Agreement, to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors. The next phase is a public consultation on implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy bodies. These are to be established so as to operate in ways that are fair, balanced and proportionate and which do...

Wednesday, 22 November


Last week on OpenGlobalRights: communities influence investment banks but the UN loses credibility "IndyWatch Feed"

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated whether community-led activism can influence big investment banks, how the three generations theory of human rights should be debunked, and why people in the global South do not trust the UN. 

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, John Mwebe and Preksha Kumar discuss Malawis Lilongwe water project as an example of how community-led activism and research can influence investment banks. Steven L.B. Jensen then sparked debate by declaring that the three generations theory of human rights has no historical or analytical basis, and in fact obscures the relationship between rights. Next, Kristi Heather Kenyon argued that the history and culture of each country determine whether top down or bottom up human rights strategies will be effective. Finally, Charles T. Call, David Crow and James Ron examine the apparent contradiction that many Republicans believe the UN curbs Americas interests, yet people in the global South often view the UN as a tool of the United States.

We continuously publish new content and create different themes for debate and dialogue. Stay informed by subscribing here for weekly updates. Interested in writing for us? Click here for submission guidelines.


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