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Saturday, 17 February


Parking tickets. Or here we go again. "IndyWatch Feed"

Retail NI has issued their standard response to the news that 94,252 tickets were issued for unlawful on-street parking in 2017.

Outrageous.  Over-zealous.  Clear and negative impact.  Neither sensible nor fair.

Theyve said it all before.  Ten tickets every single day of 2016 on the Lisburn Road is apparently horrendously over-zealous.  Its an unfair disparity.

But Glyn doesnt appear to understand something very very simple.

Why would a road which is two miles long and is subject to Urban Clearway restrictions between 8am and 9.30am and 4.30pm and 6pm not have more tickets than a whole town where parking rarely causes problems?

Two miles long.  Or in other words, only two or three tickets are issued per mile of kerbline each day.

Its worse than that.  Lets recycle some figures I obtained a few years ago.

From April 2014 to March 2015, 2195 tickets were issued on the Lisburn Road.

1768 of those were for parking in the Urban Clearway.  A further 63 for footway parking at any time and 16 for parking in a bus lane before 8am.  So 1847, or 84% were for obstructing commuters journeys and worsening congestion.

Less than 16% were for overstaying limited parking bays or parking on double yellows.

And theres the problem.  If you cant get parked because people leave their cars well over the time permitted, you will go elsewhere.

Lets take a wee example:

Say you arrive at a parking bay with a one hour time limit at 9.35.

Suppose the traffic attendants only visit once every 70 minutes.  Thats one hour plus 10 minutes grace period.  And say they were there at 9.25 towards the end of the clearway period.  Because theres no point coming back when they dont know who has overstayed, they come back at 10.35 and record everyones number plate.

If someones been there since before 9.25, they issue tickets.  And they move on.

They come back at 11.45.  Your car was parked at 9.45, but that doesnt matter because they didnt see it until 10.35.

You return to the car at 11.55.  Youve been parked for 2 hours and 20 minutes, but if youd only been 15 minutes earlier, you would have missed getting the ticket.

This is what we...


The Guardian view on... cultural genocide "IndyWatch Feed"

When Britain's liberal newspaper parrots the lines of hardline nationalists opposing diversity, something interesting is going on.

Grafitti calling for an Irish Language Act. Image, BBC, fair use.

Sometimes, the best way to understand the shape of a specific nationalism is to look at its more liberal adherents. The bellicose blusertings of flag-wavers are roughly similar in each country: you can try to distinguish between your Nigel Farages, Donald Trumps, Modis and Erdogans, but the heat at the surface can make it harder to delve into the depths of national meaning.

Whats often more interesting is the bits of a hegemonic nationalism that are so embedded that even those who blush at words like nationalist will repeat them in what they think is a calm, rational tone. And its with that in mind that we should turn to the Guardians editorial page.

For context, the Northern Irish Assembly collapsed more than a year ago under the pressure of a DUP financial scandal and the broad crisis of Brexit. This week, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, went to Belfast hoping to secure a deal to reassemble the Assembly. One of the key stumbling blocks was that the DUP was unwilling to sign up to an Irish Language Act.

There is much more to be said about whats really going on in this process, and the various motivations of the many parties to the negotiations. But set those aside for a moment. Because it was in this context that the Guardian published an editorial under the headline: The Guardian view on Northern Ireland talks collapsing: the lost language of power-sharing, which included this paragraph: 

The darker truth here is that Sinn Fin has chosen to weaponise the language question for political ends, less to protect a minority than to antagonise unionists. Unionists have duly been antagonised. The Gaelic language is the main tongue of a mere 0.2% of the Nor...


Early Man *** "IndyWatch Feed"

A8AC253F-61C3-488B-AEE1-C53CF31BE7ACI have long been a fan of Nick Parks stop motion animated films. I cant count the times Ive watched the Wallace and Gromit movies made all the more special because my late, inimitable friend Peter Sallis voiced the character of Wallace and I laugh each time. Shaun the Sheep, longer and more ambitious, turned out to be a gem as well, but I worried that as Aardman Animations grew from its modest beginnings to its current global mega-status whether it would be able to maintain the magic. So I went to see Early Man this afternoon with a certain degree of trepidation. Its all on a much grander scale than its predecessors, with a large cast of human figures (albeit Stone Age and a Bronze Age ones). The central character is a goofy but courageous youth, Dug, who takes on the  Bronze usurpers with the aid of his faithful sidekick, a determined and bright, semi-canine wild boar. Surreally, the battle between the two civilisations takes place on a football pitch, which enables Nick Park and his colleagues to spoof the beautiful game, its players and commentators, offering some amusing referencing for dads (and some mums) accompanying their children to see the film. The outcome is inevitable; in true British tradition, the underdog must come out on top. And there is even a romance in the offing f...


Arlene and Mary Lou are at least explaining themselves. But how much does Stormont matter now? "IndyWatch Feed"

tiocfaidh r l 

 Pat Leahy in the Irish Times

The extent to which coaxing the DUP back into powersharing is secondary for Sinn Fin was captured perfectly by McDonalds speech at her ardfheis coronation at the RDS last weekend. If Sinn Fin was primarily concerned with helping Arlene Foster to bring her party back into Stormont then McDonald wouldnt have rounded off her peroration with that rousing Tiocfaidh r l!Never mind that it was unscripted; it wasnt accidental.


 Arlene Foster writing in the Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Feins position has been that devolution can only be restored on their terms. It is one which demands respect but is unwilling to offer it. It is a party president who talks of her unionist brothers and sisters but shouts up the rebels and Tiocfaidh ar la at those same brothers and sisters. Perhaps it is purely coincidence that the Sinn Fein online bookshop is currently sold out of the Tiochfaidh Ar La badges it stocks There is no coincidence however in the choice to shape those words on the badge in the image of an Armalite rifle.

Mary Lou McDonald on the Late, Late Show    

Sinn Fin leader Mary-Lou McDonald has defended saying, tiocfaidh r l during her first speech as president at the partys ardfh...


Lets stop rearranging the border deckchairs "IndyWatch Feed"

The distracting haze of our daily media sideshow such as a severed wheel clamp, Jamie Brysons travel plans or a loaf of bread brings with it the side-effect of obscuring an otherwise glaring point about our political tug-of-war.

As sure as a new day brings with it a new issue just divisive enough to keep the airwaves full of noise and drama without the effort of digging too deeply, it will also bring more and more material in support of two basic facts: 1, The Union isnt going to stay the same for the DUP forever and, 2; a United Ireland isnt going to happen for Sinn Fin in anything close to its desired form or under sole Sinn Fin ownership.

These two factors lead to one overarching and all-encompassing question. Well get to that in a second.

Meanwhile, with constitutional change inevitable in the decades to come, we have one major party in a position of defenceand hope it lasts forever and the other basing its existence on eyeing a prize it cannot win.

In this environment, supported politically by a see-saw of voting that, too, cannot last much longer, every effort to govern Northern Ireland locally is doomed to failure without asking this of ourselves: Northern Ireland WILL see a constitutional crisis soon enough due to changes in views held by the population (and not the red herring of demographic shift re religious groups) as well as outside factors such as Brexit, ScotRef 2 and a border referendum, so why not stop everything until we tackle our constitutional and identity questions right now?

The alternative? Well face the same debate in the future, with possible violent and/ or economy-destroying consequences, and todays political parties will have achieved nothing except to be able to say at least it didnt happen on my watch.

Therell never be a good time to face this down. But we will have to confront it.

Why not now?


The problem with a defensive position is that, to borrow an unfortunate old Troubles analogy, those who oppose you only need to be lucky once. Meanwhile, the person defending needs to be lucky all the time.

And outside the bunker? The world keeps changing. And changing fast.

In recent times, recent days even, the DUP have managed to:-

  • Drive a Brexit line between themselves and more liberal Unionists
  • Humiliate the Tories (again, and will not be forgotten for this in the future)
  • Abandon the airwaves to the far-right
  • Cause soft-Unionists and neithers to talk about a United Ireland in new ways
  • Move further away from fut...


Boris Johnson described by known Russian spy as good friend "IndyWatch Feed"

Heres a photo of Boris Johnson with a good friend of his:

Boris with Russian spy

Sergey Nalobin  on the left is a pro-Putin Russian intelligence agent based at the Russian embassy in London who has been exposed as the main agent charged with forging contacts with leading UK politicians.

Sergeys good friend on the right is apparently quite an important figure in the Tory Party and Im told holds a fairly important position in Theresa Mays government.

Shhh! Whatever you do dont tell MI5!



Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russia pulls strings in UK



Active interpretation: at the meeting place of research and creative practice "IndyWatch Feed"

The concept of hospitality was central, as audiences engaged with imagined and real others, while the gallery space extended a welcoming invitation for public participation, creative re-interpretation and multi-vocality.

Young participants engaging with The New Union Flag installation shot: Photo: Marcia Chandra. All rights reserved.In the time since the Brexit referendum, and in the midst of an alleged refugee crisis, when our social fabric is becoming increasingly divided and protective against an imagined invasion of others, Who Are We? A Tate Exchange project, which welcomed more than 5,000 visitors in its 6 day incarnation last March responded to processes of othering and division. It emerged as a collaborative exploration of notions of identity, belonging, migration, and citizenship.

Located on the fifth floor of Tate Exchange and at the periphery of Tate Modern, the exhibition space became a civic landscape where viewers were encouraged to physically navigate a shared space and become as Rancire would argue, active interpreters inventing their own translations of the artworks. A collective of twenty-two installations addressed different facets of migration, inviting audience members to respond to important questions around belonging, human rights and (im)mobility.

Writers including Claire Bishop (2006), Grant Kester (2014) and Nicolas Bourriaud (2002) have contributed to our understanding of participatory, collaborative and relational art and the potential of socially engaged art practice. As.....


VIDEO: Can radical social democracy save us? "IndyWatch Feed"

Paul Mason, Dr Faiza Shaheen, Anthony Barnett and Dr Johnna Montgomerie discuss whether radical social democracy offers a way out of the crisis of neoliberalism, and what that means for future economic policy. 


Paul Mason, Dr Faiza Shaheen, Anthony Barnett, Dr Johnna Montgomerie and Laurie Macfarlane discuss whether radical social democracy offers a way out of the crisis of neoliberalism, and what that means for future economic policy. 

Paul Mason, Dr Faiza Shaheen, Anthony Barnett and Dr Johnna Montgomerie discuss whether radical social democracy offers a way out of the crisis of neoliberalism, and what that means for future economic policy. 

The debate is part of a new series by Paul Mason exploring what radical social democracy means during the next decade. Pauls first essay in the series can be read here


* Dr Faiza Shaheen is Director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS)

* Anthony Barnett is co-founder of openDemocracy and author of The Lure of Greatness. 

* Dr Johnna Montgomerie is Deputy director at the Political Economy Research Centre, Goldsmiths University of London. 

CC by NC 4.0


fp 16 feb 2018 "IndyWatch Feed"

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By defending Russian journalist Ali Feruz, we defend ourselves

This week, Russian activists helped drag journalist Ali Feruz who faced deportation to Uzbekistan out of immigration detention. We need to extend this solidarity to others inside the system. - free thinking for the world
Image Caption: 
"Migrant lives are important". A column in support of Ali Feruz at the 19 January anti-fascist march in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. CC BY 4.0 Dmitry Horov. Some rights reserved.

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Friday, 16 February


Blind spots in cultural terminology "IndyWatch Feed"

One long-standing problem in Northern Ireland is the fact that many things have multiple names, the choice of which can be both revealing and controversial. Derry/Londonderry is the most well-known example, and the name of Northern Ireland itself (or the avoidance of it) can also cause friction. However, such problems can be glossed over by simply ignoring the speakers choice of terminology, as it does not introduce ambiguity into the discussion.

Less obvious are those things that do not have their own names and which, if discussed at all, tend to hide behind the names of related but distinct things. This is a more difficult problem than the above examples, because dealing with it is not as simple as mentally substituting Derry for Londonderry one must often expend some effort to unpick what the speaker actually intended to say.

One such example is the ambiguity between the island of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Careful speakers will make the effort to disambiguate them, but it becomes tricky when using derived terms such as Irish. Still, it is a well-known problem and that awareness prompts people to call for clarification when the speaker has been sloppy, or when the context is unhelpful.

I have been reminded recently that there is a less-appreciated, even insidious, blind spot in our terminology, and that is for words describing the communal divide. It used to be common practice to use protestant and catholic, but in recent years it is more acceptable to use unionist and nationalist, despite the obvious limitations. This has prompted the emergence of the clunky acronyms PUL/CNR, but even those fail to capture the essence of the concept.

To help explain, please indulge me in a personal reflection (this may also have the interesting side-effect of helping Slugger commenters more accurately pigeonhole me).

I am not a Protestant, nor an adherent of any other church. Whatever way Im wired, I dont have the capacity for religious belief. I understand the desire for certainty, hope and joy, but religion does not fill that void.

I am not a Loyalist. Im not a paramilitary, but neither am I an Orangeman or a monarchist. Orangeism leaves me unmoved, and its arguments ring hollow. I have no interest in royalty or its trappings, and although I can tolerate the monarchy as a purely symbolic institution, I am strongly against both inherited power and the establishment of any church.

Nor am I a Unionist. I am comfortable with the current constitutional arrangement (or was, until Brexit), but I strongly believe in making the border as invisible as possible. I think some form of federal Ireland is probably the only viable long-term solution, if the Gordian Knot of economic dependency can be untangled. But neither am I a nationalist although national identity can s....


One day without us: mining Twitter, framing solidarity "IndyWatch Feed"

Expressions of migrant solidarity through the #1DayWithoutUs campaign sought to counterbalance xenophobic sentiments, offering a multiplicity of migrant voices and experiences in the UK today. 

One Day Without Us. Source: Instagram. All rights reserved.According to its organisers, the 2017 One Day Without Us action sought to emphasise the variety of work migrants undertake to help keep the UK afloat. The movement, organised online under the hashtag #1DayWithoutUs was being tweeted about 85 times per minute at its peak on the 20th of Feb 2017, while nearly 20,000 tweets went out under the hashtag in the 48 hours leading up to the event.

Using Twitter scraping and analytics tools (such as tags, discover text, 'r' and Excel), Photini Vrikki and I explored the stories, themes and key influencers within the movement, which had resulted in dozens of separate events across the UK.

Expressions and stories of migrant solidarity, primarily through the cross-media and cross-platform campaign of #1DayWithoutUs group, sought to counterbalance xenophobic sentiments, often by offering a multiplicity of migrant voices and experiences in the UK today. 

On 5th February 2018, a rather different use of Twitter arose with US president Donald Trump sparking a backlash from UK politicians by attacking the UKs NHS on Twitter, arguing that "thousands of people are marching" in the UK because the NHS is "going broke and not working". His tweet came after ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage appeared on Fox And Friends, one of the president's favourite news shows, talking about th...


"At the first shock I couldnt help but groan and shake" "IndyWatch Feed"

More details emerge around the Russian anarchist case, in which several people were tortured by the security services.

In late January, Moscow birdwatcher and guide Anton Mironenko-Marenkov was investigated for holding an illegal mass demonstration. Illustration: Anastasia Vilkul.

This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.

As Russias presidential election draws closer, our weekly bulletin becomes ever more depressing. But this week we conclude with two items of good news.

The case concerning alleged torture of anti-fascist activists during an investigation into terrorism in Penza and St Petersburg continues:

They told me to sit on the bench without raising my head. They blindfolded me, tied my hands and pushed a sock into my mouth. I thought they wanted to get my fingerprints on something or other. But they connected wires to my big toes. At the first shock I couldnt help but groan and shake. They repeated the procedure until I promised to say whatever they told me to say. After that I forgot the word no altogether and agreed to say whatever the officers told me to say.

- Shakurskys mother was fired from her job as soon as the first publications about the Penza case appeared in the media.

- Military prosecutors in St Petersburg have not investigated the allegation of torture made...


The relationship between the two governments hasnt been everything it should have been "IndyWatch Feed"


Cue Arlene saying it is all over, in our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an executive being formed. Her Majestys government, to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

As the UUP leader pointedly noted Tuesday, the no deal came after 402 days of deadlock. From what I can figure, the idea for three interlocking acts came from a senior civil servant, possibly the same one who decided to call the British PM and (at very late notice, it seems) the Taoiseach before the DUP had had time to share the idea with their officers never mind the wider parliamentary parties.

As you can hear from the pledge made by Arlene Foster that there would be no Irish Langauge Act, had it carried through, that would have been political suicide for the DUP. Questions are now being asked internally of Simon Hamilton the most senior of the negotiating team, but there are also questions to be asked about why the party appeaqrs not to have even had a contact group for them to report to.

However close the DUP negotiation team thought they were to a deal, it hadnt passed muster by the time it got back to the officer team never mind the wider party (almost all of whom had been kept in the dark throughout negotiations).

By the time it had come into headquarters, the DUP signalled to the British PMs office that it would not be worth her while coming over. Regardless of that, Mrs May came, and insisted on Leo coming too only to see the deal crumble before their very eyes.

It begs huge questions about the amount of time a resources being put into this issue by both governments. Brian is right argue that direct rule must mean much closer co-operation between the two governments, not in order to make the arrangements greener, but so that someone has a grip on the drift in Northern Irish relationships.

It fell to the leader of the Irish opposition to point out the bleeding obvious yesterday on Morning Ireland

I think going back to David Cameron and Enda Kennys time in office I think there was a bit of the foot off the pedal.

There was a view it should be left to the parties in Northern Ireland, but we now know from bitter experience that the dysfunctional relationship between the parties in In the north, particularly between Sinn Fein and the DUP, would not produce the results that are required.

We do need to maintain the broad sets of relationships between the British and Irish governments, between all parties in the north to nurse and sustain the institutions to were created by the Good Frida...


London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule "IndyWatch Feed"

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border. Good luck to them with that.

On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to prevent the interests of Northern Ireland going by default. And in doing so the two governments must consolidate  the GFA relationship, avoiding like the plague a line up that identifies Westminster only with the range of DUP and general unionist interests and  the Oireachtas  likewise with nationalism.

Too much  moaning about the Conservative-DUP pact is humbug and usually partisan-inspired. It was a natural consequence of the Westminster arithmetic after the disastrous election result  for the Tories.  For all the present inhibitions, who doubts that a similar result would benefit Sinn Fein in the Dail  in similar circumstances? A disposition in favour of the  Union need not be any more of  a violation of  impartiality than its nationalist reflection.

More frequent and frank intergovernmental contacts however should have headed off  the  unacceptable floating of an amnesty for security forces alone which so damaged the British governments impartiality at a critical time. It seems  their own antennae, once so acute, had fallen into disuse. They need to be re-activated, if necessary with Dublins help. The risk of breaching the DUP pact can be exaggerated. They have nowhere else to go and careful management should avoid  the risk of self-harm. The Northern Ireland Secretary should be included in the pact management co-ordination group, from which her  predecessor  was unwisely omitted.

Its conceded that Westminster will have to pass a Northern Ireland budget when Parliament resumes next week.  Being sensitive to claims that the pact with the DUP compromises their impartiality within GFA definitions, the UK government will not want to ruffle Dublin and Northern nationalist feathers.  But the next stage, implementation of a budget plan, is another matter. Sensitivity is all very well but it must not become an excuse for impotence and inertia.

The British seem alone in divining signs of hope for reviving inter party negotiations anytime soon.  Stalling for diplomatic reasons would be an abdication of responsibility and a complete surrender to the identity politics as defined by the warring local parties. This can easily be avoided.

If one is really necessary, there should be no problem in adopting the grand term of...


By defending Russian journalist Ali Feruz, we defend ourselves. Now we need to repeat it "IndyWatch Feed"

The solidarity campaign for Ali Feruz, who faced deportation to Uzbekistan, has been successful. What can we learn from it?

A column in support of Ali Feruz at the 19 January anti-fascist march in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. CC BY 4.0 Dmitry Horov. Some rights reserved.This article originally appeared in Russian on Socialist News.

For almost a year, people have campaigned in support of Ali Feruz, a journalist with Russian independent media Novaya gazeta. He was first detained in March 2017 on suspicion of breaking Russian migration legislation. This came after the refusal by the Russian authorities to grant him asylum after he fled Uzbekistan, where he had been arrested and tortured by the brutal Karimov regime. For the last six months, after a Moscow court decided to deport him back to Uzbekistan, Ali has been held in a special prison for foreign citizens on the outskirts of Moscow.

Yesterday, at 11.10am, Ali Feruz flew to Germany. The story of this journalist and activist, a friend and colleague, has caused a stir in public discussion for the most part, thanks to the active campaign in support of Feruz. It goes without saying that Alis release is a victory for everyone who took part in the #HandsOffAli campaign

Until his arrest in August 2017, Ali covered the exploitation of immigrants in Russia and the crimes of Uzbekistans regime. He volunteered for human rights organisations, was an LGBT activist and a member of the Independent Trade Union of Media Workers. It was precisely because of these connections that when a Russian court threatened to deport Feruz to Uzbekistan where Ali faced the threat of further imprisonment a huge campaign was mobilised. Rights activists, trade unionists, LGBT activists everyone joined in. And Socialist Alternative was one of the driving forces behind the public campaign in defence of Ali.

Freedom for Ali is a victory, but a better outcome would have been to allow Ali to stay, live and...


Combating fake news: an impossible feat? "IndyWatch Feed"

The recent explosion of fake news around the world has serious real life consequences in the political sphere. How will Latin America approach this in the light of upcoming elections? Espaol

Los Angeles International Airport, Source: Wikimedia Commons. All rights reserved. We are currently immersed in an era of informational misrepresentation. Fake news (#Fakenews), as it has been referred to, has become a type of political tactic used to manipulate public opinion that has been highly criticised but has also proven highly effective.

In Latin America, the cases reported have been numerous: in Argentina the web page Chequeado is collecting information regarding recent incidents, and a similar project is underway in Colombia called ColombiaCheck. 

This issue is distressing for countries of the region considering many will experience two years of intense electoral campaigning. In 2018 alone there are 14 confirmed electoral processes, and a similar quantity is expected for the year 2019.

This issue is distressing for countries of the region considering many will experience two years of intense electoral campaigning.

These processes will be carried out in a context of significant political polarisation that can easily turn into a breeding ground for manipulation of information for political purposes.

However, as many Latin American organisations have already denounced in an open letter, fake news is not a recent phenomenon, but a strategy of media monopolies against independent and community based forms of media.

The desire to control information and to construct the truth has always existed, the difference is that now the network of digital technologies enables the fabrication of information and its publication on the net. It is for these reasons that it is important to deal with not just the perspectives of fake news but also to approach disinformation, manipulation, and the concentration of the med...


Despite the political stalemate, are most of us neithers? "IndyWatch Feed"

More people in Northern Ireland identify as neither, than as unionist or nationalist. I did a double take when I read this in Katy Haywards Guardian piece yesterday. It doesnt feel like it right now. It couldnt possibly be true?

Its true.

Here are the latest figures.

This isnt reflected in the way we vote though. So, does this mean the neithers are secretly at loggerheads? Probably not. In Katys words,

The electoral dominance of Sinn Fin and the DUP is not an expression of passion for hardline nationalism and unionism it is a consequence of moderate voters fear of what hardline nationalism and unionism would mean for the fragile stability of this place. So centre-ground voters end up gaming the system and voting for the party best placed to block the hardline position that they most fear. And as they do, the complexity, the messiness, the nuances of Northern Ireland is wiped over by the simple narrative of distrust and division and blame.

As we navigate our way through this mess, which surely we will, its worth remembering that there is more to us than a simple binary. Most of our entangled lives make a mockery of it on a daily basis. Nowt wrong with being a unionist or a nationalist. Its just that we usually forget about the huge swell of people in between. Maybe one day our politics will reflect this. Until such a time, Im going to pin this graph to my bathroom mirror to remind myself that things are rarely as stark as they seem.


Whom should I marry? Genealogical purity and the shadows of slavery in southern Senegal "IndyWatch Feed"

Hard choices are made when arranged marriages collide with a slave past.

Photo by author. All rights reserved.

It is early morning. Demba is driving Mamadou, Ndilla and me towards the Senegalese town of Velingara, on the eastern side of the Kolda region. All of a sudden, Ndilla cries the jiyaabe! and points to a troop of Guinean baboons that has appeared in the fields beside the road. A small joke, as Fulfulde, the majority language for this part of Senegal, uses the expression black monkeys (baadi mbaaleji) to talk of that part of the population consisting of jiyaabe (sing. jiyaado): people of alleged slave ancestry. Baboons are black, big and sturdy: these three qualities are stereotypically associated with slaves in Fulbe communities throughout West Africa. In contrast red monkeys (baadi mboodeji) attaches to the rimbe (sing. dimo), people like Demba, Mamadou and Ndilla who are of free (or noble) ancestry. In addition to be smaller and leaner than baboons, red monkeys, which are actually green monkeys, sport a clear and red-flashed fur.

Ndilla called my attention to the baboons beside our car because the oral history we have been collecting in the Kolda region uses the metaphor of the black and the red monkeys to describe regional political conflicts, as well as collaborations between the jiyaabe and the rimbe that have taken place since the second half of the nineteenth century. In popular wisdom, the physical signs of rimbe ancestry include long limbs, light-coloured skin, and curly, soft hair, which men and women of past generations styled in braids. The marker of the jiyaabe is blackness, although there are dark rimbe and light skinned jiyaabe. Stereotypes address also intellectual and moral qualities. People look at the intelligence remarked Ismailou, another of my rimbe friends. The rimbe tend to consider their own children brighter than the jiyaabes ones.

Racism in Senegal?

Is the metaphor of the black and red monkeys a clue to undergoing racial arguments? Government, media and public opinion confine racism to the lives and experiences of Senegalese abroad (either in the colonial homeland of France, or in the many destinations of the...

Hidden in plain sight: forced labour constructing China "IndyWatch Feed"

Invisible coercion through withheld wages, lack of employment contracts, and discrimi-nation of migrant workers is widespread in China's construction sector.

Construction Worker on Bamboo Scaffolding in Xingpingzhen, Guangxi, China. Chris Goldberg/flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

To most people, the Chinese New Year equals colourful parades and amazing fireworks, but at year-end construction workers in China are above all concerned about the question: do I get paid this year?

Thousands dont. Hundreds of thousands receive something not even close to the promised salary. Wage arrears protests have been booming in the months leading up to the New Year on 16 February. Far from every protest gets violent, but when they do, losses are bigger than just the annual pay. Many bloggers show photos of workers beaten to a pulp.

Attacks on employers happen too, although less commonly, such as when the 31-year-old construction worker Cato stabbed his employer in an argument about his pay in November 2017. Multiple cases of worker suicides and employer homicides are registered each year, and a local court counted 18 murders related to wage arrears within the last year in Beijing alone. Approximately 70% took place in the two months before New Year. Wage arrears and debt have become one of the most common motives in murder cases according to Beijing Intermediate Court no. 3.

Living on IOUs

Wage arrears in the construction sector account for over one-third of all protests in China registered and published online by China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong based organisation. Many reports have documented the massive scale of withheld wages and lack of payment. A 10,000 questionnaire survey by Little Bird, a Chinese labour NGO, concluded that over 75% of construction workers received, or expected to receive, salaries less frequent than half-yearly. Most hoped to get paid eventually by year-end, despite legislation stipulating that salary must be paid on monthly basis.

Chinas construction sector accounts for 55 million workers according to official statistics. Rural migrants comprise the vast majority. Half of all construction workers are estimated to have been deprived of paym...


The need for an agreed history "IndyWatch Feed"

History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. Oh Mr. Daedalus, if only you had been in Northern Ireland in 2018. History is everywhere in our political reality, and also somehow nowhere. It is slippery and vague, not unlike the content of a nightmare the moment the dreamer jolts awake.

I turned 18 a few weeks before I voted for the first time, and that vote was on the Belfast Agreement. It was, to me, a no-brainer. I was excited to vote, turning up at the polling station before it even opened with my father who was on his way to work. It felt like an important moment, like a milestone, like surely now the only direction was forward. A few months after that, I started university. I had decided on Politics and History well in advance, and the mood seemed buoyant throughout that time; Northern Ireland was studied with optimism. Students flooded in from abroad to learn the lessons of peacemaking and compromise. There was surely no way back. By the time an Executive actually sat, with Paisley and McGuinness cast as the Chuckle Brothers, it honestly felt remarkable. If those men could work together given their respective pasts, surely anyone could. Right?

But here we are in February 2018 and, in the same week as talks to restore the Assembly collapsed, Jamie Bryson has been invited to Westminster to contribute innovative ideas to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Earlier this week, I had a sobering moment that I have been turning over in my head ever since. I teach some courses to adult learners, and in one of those courses we recently discussed the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s. My students are all grown adults, educated, accomplished, and mostly old enough to remember that time. Some of them honestly did not know that before 1969 one (wo)man one vote did not apply in Northern Ireland. One told me that she mentioned this to an older relative. He told her thats propaganda.

The popular adage says that history is written by the victors, but in the case of Northern Ireland we simply cannot afford to be glib or dismissive about how our story is told. We cannot trust politicians to pronounce on the history of this place and its many bloody episodes; their interests are far too vested, their own knowledge and interpretation far too mired in the us and them narrative at which they excel. Whataboutery, the national sport.

One example of this is the Irish language, appropriately enough. While the DUP, Mr. Bryson and others claim that they object to an Irish Language Act on the grounds that it is effectively a move by Sinn Fin to impose cultural supremacy, that they have somehow weaponised the language and hoodwinked other parties into supporting the Act. To claim this requires either a literal or tactical ignorance of the past; with access to Google and the will to learn anyone can find out about the ways i...

Thursday, 15 February


Syria's wars: a new dynamic "IndyWatch Feed"

The Israel-Iran antagonism risks fusing with the Russia-United States one.

Fire and smoke rise after a mortar shell hit an electricity generator in Syria, on Feb. 10, 2018. Ammar Safarjalani/PA Images. All rights reserved.Israel's aerial strike against Iranian and regime targets in Syria on 10 February reinforces concern that a new front is opening in the Middle East's many-sided conflicts. The risk of outright confrontation between Israel and Iran has increased, even as Turkey, Russia, Kurdish forces, and the United States are engaged in further action to the north. That so many combatants are involved, with different agendas, means that further escalation is an ever present possibility.

The details of the Israel-Iran episode show how unsteady the strategic situation now is. It began when Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces launched a drone from Tiyas airbase, which is about 100 kilometres east of Homs in west-central Syria. The drone was tracked across the Israeli border, then shot down by an Israel airforce (IAF) attack-helicopter. Eight Israeli strike-aircraft retaliated almost at once by destroying the command-centre deep inside Syria. A Syrian anti-aircraft missile hit one of these F-16 planes as it returned to Israel, seriously injuring one of the crew. 

This incident, the first time that the IAF has admitted losing a plane since the large-scale invasion of Lebanon (Operation Peace for Galilee) in 1982, helps explain the decision to launch multiple raids on the Syrian air-defence system. Even so, these fell short of Israel's usual policy of massive retaliation against any attack, an approach sometimes explained with reference to Israel...


Whats to be done with Oxfam, part 2? "IndyWatch Feed"

Is it gratuitous to link the scandal engulfing Oxfam with the need to transform NGOs and foreign aid?

Credit: Wikimedia/Chris ReynoldsCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Tensions between reform and transformation are hardwired into the NGO community and look set to continue, unless or until some large scale shock arrives to force through more fundamental changeslike the end of foreign aid, or the removal of public credibility in the wake of some massive scandal, or a blanket ejection of foreign organizations by Southern governments. But those prospects seem remote. Whats to be done with Oxfam? August 1 2016.

Well, be careful what you wish for. Eighteen months after I wrote these words that scandal has come to pass, though exactly how massive it is a matter for debate. As allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by a small number of Oxfam staff in Haiti, South Sudan and Chad, and in some of its shops in the UK have exploded around the charitys head, there have been many forceful and legitimate demands to tighten up procedures, make reparations and strengthen accountability so that such instances are prevented wherever possible and dealt with decisively when they do happen. Case closed, you might say.

Except that critics have used this opportunity to castigate Oxfam, NGOs and foreign aid in much more general terms. What has occurred proves that charities are corrupt and incompetent, they say, that they have no ethics or moral value, and that aid should therefore be abolished. Even friendlier critics like Larry Elliot,...


UK diplomats met, talked Brexit with Trump aide linked to Russia probe "IndyWatch Feed"

More details emerge of controversial meetings between UK foreign office officials and George Papadopoulos.

George Papadopoulos, LinkedIn, fair use.

A Trump aide who has admitted lying to the FBI about his Russian links met a Foreign Office minister and discussed Brexit with a team leader of the British Embassy in Washington, just weeks before the US presidential election.

George Papadopoulos had three separate meetings with British Foreign Office officials in September 2016, we can reveal for the first time. Last October it emerged that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his Russian connections.

On September 10 2016, Papadopoulos discussed Brexit, UK/US relations, US foreign policy and the presidential campaign during an official meeting with an unnamed team leader of the British Embassy in Washington.  

Less than a week later, on September 16, the head of the UKs then North America Department met the Trump aide at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London. The meeting covered a number of current affairs issues but no minutes were taken or briefing prepared, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) response from the FCO.

The FCO disclosure reveals further details of the extent of Papadopouloss contacts with senior UK officials. Also, in September 2016, Papadopoulos met with Tobias Ellwood, at the time a Foreign Office Minister, while Ellwood was in New York for the UN General Assembly. The FCO describes the meeting as informal and says it has no further information. Ellwood has since been appointed as a Minister for Defence.

Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Brexit, called for the UK government to publish a complete account of the meetings.   

With investigations into Mr Papadopoulos' contacts with Russia of global interest, anything less than total transparency about UK meetings with him will leave a nagging doubt about their purpose and impact, said Brake.

The meetings further undermine Trump campaign claims that Papadopoulos was a just junior...


Speaking truth to power is dangerous: the violence perpetrated against Armenian political activists "IndyWatch Feed"

The womens protest became dangerous and a threat to the status quo when they questioned and criticized these mens ability to fulfil their proper role.

open Movements
The openMovements series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.

lead lead Screen shot: scenes at Yerevan Municipal councillors' meeting, February 13, 2018.As the world watches the latest incidences of sexual assault and abuse being exposed through the #Metoo campaign, in Armenia violence against women appears to be the socially accepted norm. 

On 13 February shocking scenes unfolded at a Yerevan Municipal meeting when two female city councillors, wearing surgical gloves and masks, brought a jar of polluted sewer water to the council meeting.  Councillors Marina Khachatryan and Sona Aghekayan, of the Yerkir Tsirani party, brought the glass jars full of sewer water to the council session to highlight the situation of residents in Yerevans Nubarashen district. They felt compelled to take such an extreme measure because complaints of the areas residents protesting that sewage from Nubarashen prison had been seeping into their neighbourhood had been repeatedly ignored.

When the two female councillors entered the hall with the jars to highlight this problem, they were brutally attacked by several men at meeting. The men who attacked them, primarily members of the ruling Republican Party, were angry that the women dared to bring the revolting water into the council chamber. 

This violent attack on the women was caught on camera, leading to an outcry on social media and a protest later in the day as activists against the violence perpetrated on Khachatran and Aghekayan. The incident is significant fo...


#HeartUnions - why young workers need trade unions more than ever "IndyWatch Feed"

Can't book medical appointments because of unpredictable shifts? Can't book leave because your boss doesn't like you? The reality of modern work doesnt have to be this way.

Image: McDonalds workers striking last year.

The world of work is getting tougher for almost everyone, but younger workers are having a particularly bad time. And many young workers dont even know how badly theyre being screwed over theyre just grateful to have a job.

This week its the TUCs our annual Heart Unions Week, and part of our activity is focused on supporting young workers.

From care workers who dont get paid for all the hours they work, to retail workers who get abuse from customers and no support from management young workers all deserve better.

Many young workers will rush to cover a shift they were only get told about on the day - but never get any flexibility back when their childcare falls through. And all too often, they dont get decent training and cant see a way forward to a better job.

When we spoke to young workers, it was no surprise how many were worried about interpersonal issues like rude and abusive customers or clients, or managers playing favourites. Lots were worried that there are few opportunities or support to get ahead. And of course, many were worried about how to cope with low pay and unpredictable hours.

We heard some real horror stories too. Like the man working in retail who rarely gets any leave approved because the manager doesnt like him. We heard from workers who get no training to do their jobs and have to pick it up from colleagues. And we talked to a woman who cant go to the dentist because she never knows her shifts far enough in advance.

These stories werent isolated examples and they show just why young workers need unions. We know that when workers come together in a union, they can change their workplace for the better helping stop unfair treatment, campaigning for equality, and pushing for better pay and decent conditions. Unions are also a great way to get ahead - helping more than 250,000 people each y...


Sri Lanka local elections: the return of Rajapaksa "IndyWatch Feed"

After his recent win, Mahinda Rajapaksa urged his voters not to attack the losing side, saying: No matter what they did to us we must set an example.        

lead Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa greets supporters after landslide victory in the Local Government Election, February 12, 2018. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved. Sri Lanka celebrates its seventieth year of independence in 2018 in a country where ethnicity has been a deadly factor, and local elections can turn violent. This years election, held on 10 February, however, has been one of the most peaceful the country has known. The turnout was over 75%, which shows that people are keen on exercising their right to vote.

The current government attributes the nonviolent character of the election to a new election system. As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, of the United National Party (UNP), explained: "the reason is that the most competitive and conflicting preferential voting system that was in the previous elections is not seen in the new system we introduced.  

Wickremesinghe added that introducing the new election system would give the current administration an advantage in the upcoming general election. Sri Lanka suffered from a protracted civil war between 1983 and 2009, so a peaceful election is certainly a welcome blessing t...


Evangelicals in South Africa are 'broadcasting hate masked as morality' "IndyWatch Feed"

Christian right groups are adding to an already dangerous environment for women and LGBTQI individuals, by pushing 'family values'  but not for everyone.

"Giving homophobia a red card," reads a poster for the 2012 Soweto Pride march. Charles Haynes/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved.The website of the Family Policy Institute (FPI) in South Africa greets you with a large banner photo of a man, woman and child on the beach. The woman is holding her pregnant belly with one hand as the couple play with their son on the sand. This is, supposedly, perfection. Utopia encapsulated in a picture.

Founded a decade ago by a man named Errol Naidoo, FPI is a fervent opponent of reproductive choice and LGBTQ rights. It describes itself as protecting family values but apparently only the values of certain, so-called 'traditional' families. It calls for the defense of faith, family and freedom and has a number of international allies.

Last year, Naidoo travelled to Budapest, Hungary for the 2017 World Congress of Families summit of ultra-conservative movements. There, he claimed that all kinds of wickedness came into South Africa in the 1990s, after the end of the apartheid regime, when the doors were thrown open and an ultra-liberal constitution was imposed on us.

In response to this supposed crisis, FPI says it has the single-minded objective of making the restoration of marriage and the family the cornerstone of South African social policy. As such, it aims beyond influencing its own supporters at impact...


If young, and in Mexico, you are forever at risk of forced disappearance "IndyWatch Feed"

In Mexico, whether guilty or innocent, victim or victimizer, everybody knows that it is best to stay as far away as possible from the police. Espaol

On January 23, a picture of a young man who had been hit by Mexico City police officers and thrown into a patrol car, and whose whereabouts since then were unknown, began to circulate on Facebook.

It all started when Marco Antonio - the missing young man - and a friend of his were getting back from a visit to a museum. They were walking along a street in the north of Mexico City when they came across a wall with a graffiti that caught their attention and Marco Antonio asked his friend to take a picture of him standing in front of it.

As he was posing for the picture, a couple of policemen passing by apparently thought that the young man was about to assault someone and jumped on him trying to nail him down. In Mexico, whether guilty or innocent, victim or victimizer, everybody knows that it is best to stay as far away as possible from the police, so Marco Antonio ran to a Metrobus station to avoid being arrested.

But the two police officers caught up with him, knocked him down, beat him and requested a patrol car to move him. As he lay on the ground and was being beaten, a passer-by managed to take a picture of him that was the picture which circulated on social networks to denounce what had happened and spread the word that, since then, his whereabouts were unknown. A call for help went out, asking people to contribute any information that could lead to him.

The image of the young man on the ground was a powerful piece of evidence of the abuse and enforced disappearance which he had been subjected to by the police, even though he had committed no crime.

The image of the young man on the ground was a powerful piece of evidence of the abuse and enforced disappearance which he had been subjected to by the police, even though he had committed no crime. Indignation through the social media increased w...

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