Nelson Mandela would have made a fine peace journalist #Sundayreading


By Steven Youngblood
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University

At a fundamental level, Mandela and peace journalists share an understanding of the importance of language. One key tenant of peace journalism is that the words we as journalists use matter—that they can either soothe or inflame passions. Mandela might have gone one step further, noting not only journalists’ responsibility to choose their words carefully, but also their duty to use language in a way that bridges divides and brings people together.  Mandela said, “Without language, we cannot talk to people and understand them. One cannot share their hopes and aspirations, learn their history, appreciate their poetry and savor their songs. I again realize that we are not different people with separate language; we are one people with different tongues.” (http://africa.waccglobal.org/what%20is%20peace%20journalism_.pdf )

Another value peace journalists share with Mandela is a commitment to ongoing dialogue, like the kind begun under Mandela’s post-apartheid Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is continuing that work today, offering “a non-partisan platform for public discourse on important social issues…that contribute to policy decision-making.” (nelsonmandela.org)  Peace journalists, of course, can provide this platform, but not just to those in power. We seek to give a voice to all parties, with a special emphasis on giving voice to the voiceless.

I hope Mr. Mandela would be proud of the work that one group of peace reporters just concluded in Lebanon.  These reporters told the stories of Syrian refugees living in Beirut in a way that demystified the stereotypes about these individuals while fostering a dialogue within Lebanese society about how to accommodate and protect 440,000 refugees.

Many of Mandela’s principles not only align with peace journalism, but also lay out a blueprint for successful peace journalists.

This blueprint for peace journalists can be found, succinctly, in the UN’s written declaration of July 18th as Nelson Mandela International Day.  The UN declaration “recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the uplifting of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.” (masterpeace.org).

This statement is not only Mandela’s legacy, it is his charge to all of us, but especially to those of us who subscribe to the notion that we as journalists have a higher responsibility. This means that we must study and understand conflict resolution, and apply that knowledge to balanced reporting that gives proportionate voice to those who seek peace rather than exclusively to those who rattle the sabers of violence.  Mandela’s legacy charges peace journalists with facilitating meaningful dialogues on race, and empowering those in our society who are marginalized (women, children, and the poor).  This means that along with peace journalism, we should practice development journalism, using our platforms to focus attention on societal problems and solutions.

Most of all, this legacy charges journalists with putting the spotlight on the Nelson Mandelas in each society—those who seek  peace and reconciliation. Mandela’s statement during his 1964 trial is a testimony to the positive power of language, and to journalism’s responsibility to give voice to those who seek a peaceful path.  Mandela told the court, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (transcend.org)

 

#India – Who Is Qualified To Be A Whistleblower ?



In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has argued about the basic qualifications required to expose wrongdoings by organisations. Reports Ankit Agrawal
BY  ANKIT AGRAWAL  , Tehelka

Last month a two member bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice MY Eqbal of the Supreme Court of India gave it’s verdict on the civilian case of Manoj H Mishra v/s Union of India and Others. The civil suit was filed by Mishra to contest his sacking from the Kakarapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP) at Surat, Gujarat.

Mishra was working as a tradesman at the power-plant when on the night of 15 July 1994 Surat recorded an unprecedented rainfall of 480mm in 10 hours, causing massive flooding inside the complex. More than 25 feet of the turbine, adjacent to the nuclear reactors, was submerged before dawn. In fact, some of the barrels that contained nuclear waste were also washed away by the floodwater. Even though, the emergency was declared on the next day, due procedures, which includes alerting State authorities and deputing assistant health physicist to check contamination and radiation, weren’t implemented. Worried, Mishra wrote a letter to the editor of  Gujrat Samachar  mentioning flooding inside the nuclear facility, improper safety precautions and flouting of Action Plan for Site Emergency. Pointing towards corruption, he demanded an inquiry by a high-level committee. Subsequebntly, he was sacked by the inquiry committee for criticising the project and passing confidential information to the media.

Mishra contented this punishment in lower, high and the Supreme Court and argued that he acted as whistleblower keeping in mind the best interest of people and the nuclear facility. While dismissing his case the SC delved into the concept of whistleblower and referred to the Indirect Tax Practitioners v/s RK Jain, which defines whistleblower as “a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organisation or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organisation. The revealed misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations and corruption.” Following this reference Justice Nijjar observed in judgement, “In our opinion, the aforesaid observations are of no avail to the appellant. It is a matter of record that the appellant is educated only upto 12th standard. He is neither an engineer, nor an expert on the functioning of the Atomic Energy Plants. Apart from being an insider, the appellant did not fulfill the criteria for being granted the status of a whiste blower. One of the basic requirements of a person being accepted as a whistleblower is that his primary motive for the activity should be in furtherance of public good. In other words, the activity has to be undertaken in public interest, exposing illegal activities of a public organization or authority. The conduct of the appellant, in our opinion, does not fall within the high moral and ethical standard that would be required of a bona fide whistleblower.” The court further says that Mishra breached confidentiality agreement by alleging about widespread corruption in the organisation.

RTI and whistleblowers protection activists are miffed following the judgment. Prashan Bhushan, a senior advocate, who appeared for Mishra in the court, termed this judgment a “fallacy of justice”. He said, “By informing the media about the near-catastrophic accident and poor response by the authorities, Mishra did a public duty therefore he was a whistleblower.” Shekhar Singh, RTI activist, points out two dangerous points in the judgment, expertise of the whistleblower and purity in motive. He says, “What is the sort of expertise one wants to be a whistle blower? The judgement falls flat when compared to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011 as it doesn’t have any mention about the purity of intention. Important thing is to expose the wrongdoing.”

Google chief Larry Page calls Internet spying threat to freedoms #FOE #Censorship


AFP: SAN FRANCISCO, JUN 08 2013, 10:13 IST
Google Inc.jpg

Google chief Larry Page branded Internet spying a threat to freedom and called for governments to be more revealing about what they try to find out about people’s online activities. 

“We understand that the US and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety – including sometimes by using surveillance,” Page said in a blog post yesterday.

“But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”

Page put his personal stamp on the California-based Internet giant’s denial that it opened any doors for US intelligence agencies to mine data from its servers.

Google and other technology firms on Thursday were adamant that they did not knowingly take part in a secret program called PRISM that gave the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI back doors into servers at major Internet companies.

“We have not joined any program that would give the US government or any other government direct access to our servers,” Page said.

“Indeed, the US government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers,” he continued. “We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.”

The program was reportedly set up in 2007 and has grown “exponentially” to the point where it is now the most prolific contributor to President Barack Obama’s Daily Brief, the US leader’s top-secret daily intelligence briefing.

Some of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley were involved in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube, reports said.

However, Internet titans denied providing intelligence agencies with back doors to networks and held firm that they only cooperated with legal “front door” requests for information.

“This episode confirms what we have long believed – there needs to be a more transparent approach,” Page said.

Google routinely publishes transparency reports listing numbers of requests for user data by governments and how they were handled.

 

#India – Stifling Dissent in the name of Public Interest #WTF


Date: 1 June 2013
Subject: Whose public interest? | Jayati Ghosh in Frontline

Preoccupations
Whose public interest?

The government of India has taken the stifling of dissent in the name of public interest to great lengths without encountering any resistance.
IN the United States, the Barack Obama administration is facing a lot of heat in a scandal that his Republican opponents say is “as big as Watergate”. This is not so, but clearly the issue has been taken seriously enough by the U.S. government to cause some heads to roll almost immediately.

So what exactly happened? In 2010, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifted government limits on independent political donations by corporations and labour unions in federal elections. This enabled a surge of political spending, which, as it happened, went mostly to conservative groups as they tended to be better supported by big business.

The task of one department of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, the tax administration agency of the U.S. government) was to determine whether applicants observed the political activity limits and deserved tax-exempt status. It is alleged that between 2010 and 2012, this agency subjected conservative groups to special scrutiny, especially those associated with the right-wing “Tea Party” movement that wants lower taxes, smaller government and generally opposes Obama.

There is no evidence that tax-free status was actually denied to any of the organisations in question. Nor was there any question of otherwise inhibiting their functioning by placing restrictions on their activities. What this adverse targeting essentially did was prolong the period of time involved in reviewing the application for tax-free status and therefore delay the eventual recognition. (Incidentally, since such recognition gets granted with retrospective effect, the financial implications are also not so severe.)

Even in this relatively minor negative light on those with differing political opinions, the resulting public outcry has been loud and vociferous, and the response of Democrats and the administration has been immediate penitence. The IRS expressed regret, the criteria for scrutinising applications were immediately changed to make them more “neutral”, Obama announced how angry he was and promptly fired the head of the IRS, Steven Miller, while the person in charge of the offending department announced his early retirement.

These measures have failed to quell the anger and outrage. A Tea Party group based in California has sued the IRS, in the first of what may be several lawsuits against the agency’s supposed targeting of opposition elements. Some argue that by targeting it the IRS has brought the Tea Party back from the dead—the “intimidation” by the state has become a rallying cry for several public protests led by conservatives. The Obama administration continues to be on the back foot on this despite its relatively quick measures to undo the damage.

Indian situation Contrast this with what is happening in India at the moment. The Central government has blatantly used the recently amended Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act and other instruments available to it not only to target political opponents but, more worryingly, to target and suppress any forms of democratic dissent, especially those trying to bring out the voices of the people against the excesses of corporate power. And it is doing so with little opposition and almost no public outrage.

The most recent and egregious example of this relates to the INSAF Trust, a coalition of more than 700 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across India mostly engaged in grass-roots activities and people’s struggles. According to its website, INSAF was formed soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid primarily to promote and defend the interests of the people, and is devoted to resisting corporate-centred globalisation, combating communalism and defending democracy.

The organisations that are part of INSAF generally see themselves as facilitators of struggles oriented towards ensuring the human rights of citizens in India, not instigators of such actions.

On April 30, the Home Ministry issued an order summarily freezing the bank accounts of INSAF and suspending its official clearance to receive foreign funds. The terse order simply states that “acceptance of the foreign contribution by the said association is likely to prejudicially affect the public interest”.

That such a charge can be levelled arbitrarily against an association of organisations devoted to defending the democratic rights of deprived groups in particular, and strengthening the secular fabric of the polity and society, is really of grave concern. But the more appalling thing may be that such a draconian measure on the basis of this laconic and unsubstantiated charge is now completely legal under the revised Act that regulates foreign contributions in India.

The rules of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, came into force on May 1, 2011 (ironically, on May Day, the day that is supposed to celebrate workers’ struggles). Rule 3 states that the Central government “may specify any organisation as organisation of political nature on one or more of the following grounds:

(i) organisation having avowed political objectives in its Memorandum of Association or bylaws;

(ii) any trade union whose objectives include activities for promoting political goals;

(iii) any voluntary action group with objectives of a political nature or which participates in political activities;

(iv) front or mass organisations like students’ unions, workers’ unions, youth forums and women’s wing of a political party;

(v) organisation of farmers, workers, students, youth based on caste, community, religion, language or otherwise, which is not directly aligned to any political party, but whose objectives, as stated in the Memorandum of Association or activities gathered through other material evidence, include steps towards advancement of political interests of such groups;

(vi) any organisation, by whatever name called, which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like ‘bandh’ or ‘hartal’, ‘rasta roko’, ‘rail roko’ or jail bharo’ in support of public causes.”

There are several aspects of this rule that should be of great concern to every citizen. First, it is up to the government to decide which organisations fit this bill. Second, it contains an extraordinarily and even dangerously wide-ranging definition of undesirable political activity by an NGO. According to this new FCRA, any organisation that seeks to defend the interests of workers and peasants in any situation can be proscribed for being “political” even if it is not aligned with any political party. Third, even non-violent means of protest such as strikes and jail bharo (which were the lifeblood of the national movement, for example) are not to be tolerated.

Sweeping coverage This sweeping coverage effectively prevents most forms of democratic dissent and opposition from being expressed. It allows the government of the day to pick on any group it dislikes for whatever reason and just stop it from functioning. It stifles dissent generally, of course, but can also muzzle in particular those who attempt to raise their voices on behalf of the marginalised in society and those who are adversely affected by economic policies and processes that do not recognise their basic rights as citizens. This is especially the case because such people typically do not have access to the increasingly corporatised media or any other ways of working through the system.

In classic Orwellian doublespeak, therefore, such an order can really serve as a means of destroying those who are genuinely working in the public interest. It is worrying that this law was passed with so little discussion and open debate and so little apparent concern about how it could be misused by a government. Maybe one of the reasons that INSAF is unpopular with the government of the day is that it actually brought a case against this law on the grounds that it denies the rights of Indian citizens—a matter that is pending in the Supreme Court.

In any case, this issue is far too important to be ignored, as INSAF is just the current victim and there may be others next in the firing line. It portends a really disastrous and undemocratic trend towards authoritarianism, which is in any case a system that large capital is generally far more comfortable with. There have already been some straws in the wind in this direction. The current government’s intolerance towards anyone who openly disagrees with its own policies and narrow interpretation of national interest (particularly when such arguments conflict with the interests of national and international—indeed, “foreign”—capital) was evident in its handling of the protesters against the Kudankulam nuclear plant and the blatant citing of “the foreign hand” even when the protests were dominantly of the locally affected population. But now the net is being cast even wider, and apparently even without any particular need to cite either evidence or acceptable reasons for such aggressive state action.

So this treatment of INSAF may even be a test case—if the government in India gets away with this blatant abuse of power and undemocratic use of legislation to stifle dissenting voices, it may get further emboldened to adopt even more openly dictatorial methods. It is in our collective interest to assert the true significance of “the public interest” and show that it cannot be appropriated for its own purposes by whatever government is in power.

 

Connected and Alone #Sundayreading


By Pritha Kejriwal & Sayan Bhattacharya,  Kndle Magazine

Professor with the Massachusetts Institute of TechnologySherry Turkle has continuously explored the psychological dimension to human-technology relationship. In this age of simulated sex, 3D and sociable robots, are we headed for a new meltdown? Have we lost conversation? A ten minute time that stretched into a half an hour long conversation, that could have stretched further, if not for the appointment diary.


 

In reference to your book Alone Together, when do you think this complete dependency on technology happened? If you were to analyse that, why did it happen? Late capitalism or just our vulnerabilities…

Well I think it sort of took us by surprise, I mean I see there is something very specific about this technology. I think it seduces us in very particular ways. I’m not talking about all technology, I’m talking about our vulnerability to a very particular technology and the very particular technology that I’m talking about makes us three offers we can’t refuse. One that will always be heard.Two, that we can put our attention to wherever we wanted to be, andthree, that we never have to be alone.

And it’s that third offer, that we never have to be alone that turns out to be extraordinarily seductive in ways that I don’t think people ever had a chance to think about or anticipate because people always had to be alone before this. And now people are at a point, when given that possibility of never having to be alone, people start to not be able to tolerate people alone. I mean I study people at traffic lights, when it’s red, they pull out a device. I study people at STOP signs, they pull out a device. I study people at the check-out line of the supermarket, they pull out a device. So there’s a new total intolerance for the experience of being alone. I study people who think they can’t have a thought without texting it, a kind of dependence, I call it “I share therefore I am”. So my own particular theory of this work, this technological moment really centres around our vulnerability to particular affordances of digital technology and the way it captures us, given what it’s offering us right now. It doesn’t have to do with larger network social analysis, it has to do with the affordances this technology and our psychological vulnerability to what it offers and it turns out that we’re so vulnerable indeed to the point, that I think it’s changing the way we think, the way we relate to each other, the way we allow our children to grow up, the way we are tending to each other, the quality of our relationships in a way that I don’t think does justice to who we are.

 

Is this the intolerance towards being alone or is it that we are becoming lonelier and getting into a vicious cycle?

I agree that there is a vicious circle and I think you are right. You could say that our situation, our lack of community makes us more lonely and so we leap on a device that gives us an illusion of companionship, without the demands of intimacy. I wouldn’t want to say that there isn’t a piece of that in this dynamic but I’ve also watched environments with a strong sense of community, dissolve with the advent of this technology. So I’m not personally convinced of an analysis where we were lonely and thus jumped on technology that solved our problem really in the form of a symptom because when you watch community college students living in a dorm, who now don’t want to have conversations with each other.

How problematic is that? Why are the communities breaking down?

An analysis in terms of loneliness, a sort of a working class loneliness where these kids are literally living in dorm rooms and don’t want to talk to each other, you are left with that seduction of being able to hide from each other, even as we are constantly connected to each other, the comfort of being in control, a question of why we need that kind of control, you know what is there about that kind of control that is so appealing is one that plagues me.

To kind of highlight the superficiality; some time ago, at a conference, this lady who is a tribal activist in our country and who has been doing a lot of on ground work to fight against this takeover of land by the corporates etc. she said that “my Facebook friends are increasing by the day, you know I have like a 1000, 2000, 5000 friends on Facebook and the more friends I have, there are less and less friends with me to work on the ground”…

Well, that is my analysis and that is basically what I’m saying. Politically, this concerns me because in my country where I’m very politically active, people feel that political action means “liking” something on Facebook and I’m concerned with people going door to door in for Barack Obama and instead they’re going to a website and “liking” it. I’m trying to get them to drive 3 hours to go to Hampshire. It’s ironical that I wasn’t in America during the elections but I spent the last 8 months on the election and getting people to go to New Hampshire for the election, getting young people to go has not been easy. But they like the logo on the website and they think that’s political action. So that is very concerning and this is a different problem that people begin to think that if you are doing something, you do it online, that’s a different problem and of great concern to me.

Coming back to the sociological part of it, since we are talking about Facebook. At least in the cities we keep hearing about relationships breaking apart because of a certain update, but we also hear about old friends coming together thanks to Facebook. So on one level, do you think social networking brings about a level of transparency?

What do you mean by transparency?

 

 

As in maybe without the availability of Facebook, a wife wouldn’t be able to know that her husband is cheating on her…

You see things on Facebook that you wouldn’t see otherwise, yes… Hmm. (pauses). But what a way to get transparency! Like Tiger Woods was caught cheating on his wife, you get to know who’s cheating, you get to see, you get to stalk ex-boyfriends, ex- husbands. There’s got to be a better way of having transparency in relationships, that’s not what Facebook is for. The internet, email, Facebook, texting; it’s not a way to have conversations. I cannot be convinced. It’s a way to keep up with friends, it’s a way to share activities, updates, photos, going on’s, it’s a way to maintain relationships with far flung people. It’s not a way to sit down and get close. Now saying I get to find out if my husband is cheating on me because I can friend him on Facebook, this is not what Facebook is for, I mean that can’t be a plus, I really don’t want to go there.

And there are people taking up different personalities online…

Even Facebook, forget about multiple personalities, the point is that when you do a profile, you are putting forward your best self and we get used to putting forward a persona instead of our self in all our complexities.

That’s one side of it but there are also people, for example celebrities whose entire lives are on Twitter or on Facebook, minute by minute account…

Ya but that’s not necessarily them. I know people who have hired somebody to be their PDA’s- their Personal Digital Assistants. Initially PDAs were like your smartphones or something, now the PDAs are your Personal Digital Assistants where you hire somebody to do your Tweeting for you, do your Facebook for you. When you’re a celebrity, many people are never doing their own stuff. You think Barack Obama, instead of being the President up there, he sits around all day doing his Twitter for you? So you hire a professional to be your online self. It’s a full time job.

Why this urge to make the private completely public?

This is because having a digital persona has become a part of the new social presence and that is the new way of serving our identity. People don’t feel fully a part of the mix unless they have that account. People expect me to have a blog, I don’t have a blog. I need to have a life so when I say “I don’t have a blog, I have a life”, so they say “why don’t you hire somebody to do your blog for you?” It is expected of me to have a blog. Because I have a life, I try to go to the gym, I try to do my work, my research, reach out to my students, I have to write my lectures, but not to have a blog for somebody like me or that I don’t really have a Twitter feed, I log into my Twitter account probably once a month. It’s like not doing these things are considered socially unacceptable. So this is part of the new digital identity and I don’t think these are mysterious questions. To me this is just part of the immediate changes and new forms of expression that have become easy, have become available and people would use them. I don’t think that’s surprising or mysterious, I think the more interesting questions are, what people choose to use them for and and what the cost is.

So I know perfectly well that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t do my serious writing because I wouldn’t be able to do the kind of writing and the kind of thinking I need to do or the kind of research and interview. If we’re all going to be blogging, people like me are not going to be researching. My concern is not that “oh we have this new medium and a lot of people want to use it”, my concern is that there needs to be some people who say “well, we just think about this effect” and I know that you can’t be a professor, a mother, have a personal life, blogging every day and doing my kind of research. So I don’t think that the mystery is that this new thing is there and a lot of people want to use it. I think it’s more that people need to centre on their priorities and know that what their capabilities are.

Like you said that it’s important to learn how to be alone so that you don’t feel lonely…

I mean solitude. It is only if you have the capacity of solitude, which is the capacity to be with yourself and to gather yourself that you have the capacity to connect with other people and really experience them as others. You just don’t turn to other people to make yourself feel whole and you use them the way I write about it in my book. It’s like using the spare parts to make yourself feel whole and that’s not a relationship. The trouble with connecting with everybody all the time is that everybody is just using other people as spare parts and if you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll only know how to feel lonely. So the link between solitude and capacity to have conversation is important.

Just as we let capitalism have its way and the Laissez-faire, it just had to be the way it was and then we saw a meltdown in 2008 where everything just crumbled and this internet revolution, this Face-booking, seems to be connected in some way. Do you see that if we let it be just the way it is going – this entire lack of intimacy, this breaking down of personal connections etc. will there be a meltdown here as well?

What I think the danger is for me, for young people is that when you have conversations with other people is when you learn to have conversations with yourself. So it’s not just that I want people talking to each other, I want them to have the capacity of self-reflection. So the meltdown is going to be a generation of young people who don’t have the capacity for self-reflection and the capacity of a conversation, empathy, listening, now what does a meltdown like that look like? It’s not like a fiscal cliff, it takes the form of a discourse in relationships and more. The kind of meltdown I see, that you could observe is more in the area of my work. It’s more political where I talk about the fact that when we use emails and when I study companies and institutions where in order to get a quick response, we ask each other simple questions to get simple answers. So we dumb down our whole discourse, it’s like we put ourselves on cable noose. I think that’s an interesting point. That’s more how I see a kind of danger that you could actually, physically and I think you see that politically as well, where we start to dumb down our political conversations, we start to dumb down the way we talk about global warming, we start to dumb down climate change, we start to dumb down when we talk about economics, we start to dumb down when we talk about migration. We talk about these things in sound bytes because we are almost like intolerant of the long form. There is a sort of sense that “let’s move this along”.

Finally, if Sylvia Plath were alive, what would she make of multi lifing because she writes in Bell Jar  “I can’t live all the lives that I want to, I can’t read all the books that I want to, I’m very limited by my individual identity”…

You mean, she could go on the internet and be many identities? That’s a speculation! I think the question is whether or not on the interne,t she would find the richness of the identity and be satisfied. Maybe 15 years ago I think it would have been very thrilling to her and in the end I think she might have found the richness of the identity, not on the internet but I don’t want to speak for Sylvia Plath.

India – Who decides what we eat?


The new biotechnology Bill will allow biotech firms to tamper with our food
Devinder Sharma

Devinder Sharma

11-05-2013, Issue 19 Volume 10

Illustration: Vikram NongmaithemIllustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

In March, US President Barack Obama signed the HR 933 continuing resolution — popularly known as the Monsanto Protection Act — that effectively divests the federal courts of their constitutional power to stop the planting or sale of genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops regardless of the health and environmental consequences. In other words, whether you like it or not, despite the havoc it can play with your life and environment, you have no choice but to quietly accept GM foods.

On 22 April, amidst the noise over the 2G Spectrum and Coal blocks scams, the government introduced in Parliament the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013. The jubilation that followed in the Association for Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (ABLE) was telling of how industry and the government work in tandem in this country.

Setting aside all concerns expressed by the 2004 Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology, led by eminent scientist MS Swaminathan, the Bill is a hurried attempt to remove all possible obstacles in the promotion of the risky and controversial technology. In a lot of ways, the BRAI Bill is a precursor to the Monsanto Protection Act in the US. While the US government has removed all regulatory hurdles in the promotion of GM crops, the BRAI Bill too makes the task much easier for biotech firms by providing a single-window, fast-track clearance for GM crops. In the garb of “confidential commercial information”, it imposes restrictions on the application of the Right to Information Act. It also has certain clauses that limit the jurisdiction of the courts. The BRAI Bill, therefore, provides a strong and legally-tight protective shield to biotechnology companies.

The need to curb transparency and accountability arises only when something dangerous has to be kept hidden from public glare. It first begins by pro-industry scientists occupying senior government and university positions to create scare by misrepresenting facts in the name of ‘science-based’ debates.

Writing in The Guardian, George Monbiot points to the particular instance when the chief veterinary officer of UK had “discounted fears that BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) could jump from one species to another”. The failure to acknowledge a scientific fact led to the emergence of mad cow disease.

In India, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has been aggressively pushing for the use of GM crops in the name of food security. When the environment ministry questioned the veracity of scientific claims, and imposed in 2010 a moratorium on the genetically engineered food crop — Bt Brinjal — the GM industry was pushed on the backfoot. Adding to its woes was the 2012 report of the Standing Parliamentary Committee, which found “biotechnology regulation to be too small a focus on the vast canvas of biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health and therefore recommended an all-encompassing Biosafety Authority”.

Subsequently, after seven states — West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala — refused to go in for open field trials of GM crops, the only option left was to bulldoze public resistance through a legally binding mechanism. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) then swung into action, and knowing that the MOEF is no longer a natural ally, moved the introduction of the Bill to the Department of Science & Technology, which incidentally is a promoter of the technology. The conflict of interest is clearly visible. But a defiant PMO continues to look the other way.

At the same time, citing “public interest”, the Bill has taken away the hold states have over agriculture and health. States can no longer refuse permission; they are left with only an advisory role.

What makes the Bill a subject for a serious national debate, besides of course looking into the role being played by the PMO in promoting corporate welfare, is that it impacts everyone in the country. Whether you want to know or not, the Bill provides biotechnology companies with unlimited powers to tamper with your food, health and environment. In the end, the decision is ours whether you would like the government and the GM firms to decide what you eat.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 19, Dated 11 May 2013)

 

Crocodile tears on the West Bank #Palestine


GITHA HARIHARAN, The Hindu

Expressions of solidarity for the Palestinian people have little meaning unless they become a powerful collective voice that can build pressure on Israel

The day U.S. President Barack Obama came to Ramallah, I was supposed to go to Haifa. The plan was to see one bit of ’48 — the Palestine that Israel took over during the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948. But the roads closed in Ramallah and Jerusalem; the checkpoints were on high alert; my visit to Haifa was cancelled.

I walked around Ramallah, uphill, downhill. The police whizzed past in trucks and vans; several protests were to be held. I saw one of these. Many of the banners bore a prominent key: the key to return, the right of the Palestinian people to return home.

As the day wore on, Obama and Palestinian President Abbas stood stiffly next to each other on television screens. Unlike the official images of the day before in Israel, the Ramallah meeting showed the leaders cold and unsmiling. What they said officially, said little about the misery and hope of real people. Perhaps, leaders get used to talking about the people they speak for in people-less terms. But the Palestinians were not missing. Despite the official cacophony of speeches, the barricaded and gun-toting security, I had no trouble seeing the people who become phantoms in official meetings. I had already seen them in stubborn flesh and blood in the days leading up to Obama’s visit. I had been to Jerusalem, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, and several villages on the road between Ramallah and Nablus, and the road between Bethlehem and Hebron. I had seen what people wrote and drew on the illegal wall Israel has built through their land and lives. I had heard what those I met had to say.

Apartheid wall

Obama, like all tourists and pilgrims, went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a church beautiful because it is simple. But the beauty that spoke to me was elsewhere — in, for instance, the brave hope of the key of return I saw everywhere in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. (The giant key above the rough arch at the camp entrance says on it: Not for sale.)

But before that hope in the future can be stoked, the unfolding present intrudes. One of the inescapable images of the present, in Bethlehem and elsewhere, is the wall Israel has been building despite its being declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. This Separation Barrier, which Palestinians call the Apartheid Wall, snakes its way across, between and around hills, farms, groves, villages, roads and houses throughout the West Bank, separating people from their neighbours, their schools, their hospitals, their shops, their land, their trees, their crop, their wells and springs. The wall is made of concrete. In places it is supplemented by, or growing into a wall from, electrified fencing, deep trenches, roads for patrol vehicles, electronic ground and fence sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles, sniper towers and razor wire. The wall does not run along the Green Line; it runs through the West Bank, on occupied Palestinian land. The plan is for the wall to be as long as 650 km.

In Bethlehem, the wall blocks the old entrance to the city from Jerusalem. A house I visited used to be across Rachel’s Tomb, a shrine visited by different communities. The house is now walled in on three sides. The house is called Sumud House; sumud means steadfastness.

If a third Intifada is brewing, the wall is one of the faces of the enemy. The wall across the Aida Refugee Camp, which was set up in 1950, has rows of Intifada martyrs painted on it.

Part of the wall is burnt; a watchtower with sniper-windows stands charred, testimony to the anger of people in the camp. The graffiti on this part of the wall sends sharp and eloquent messages, and not just to the Israelis: “No one can talk about the camp better than the people of the camp,” says one. An activist spoke to me ruefully about the numerous delegations that visit the wall, spray-paint words and images of solidarity on it. “We tell them to speak to people first,” he said. But many come with their readymade messages; like other genuine causes, this last bastion of colonialism can also be turned into a solidarity cottage industry.

Najwan Darwish, a poet I was on a literary panel with in Ramallah, read a poem about the bleak situation in Palestine today: “I tried once to sit in one of the vacant seats / but the word reserved was lurking there like a hyena. / I did not sit. / No one did. / The seats of hope are always reserved.” Darwish added, “I hate the word suffering. Suffering makes me think of victims.”

He was also wary of the word solidarity: too many people use solidarity merely as a means of self-expression. But solidarity is important, of course; we have the South African model in relatively recent memory. We also have the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to build international pressure on Israel.

This is the way I unravelled this call to revisit solidarity. Having seen and heard what I did in Palestine, it would be impossible to shy away from solidarity. But my own little solidarity means nothing by itself; it can only mean something if it grows into an Indian solidarity. And Indian solidarity can only mean pressuring our government to end the deepening “strategic” relationship between India and Israel — an alliance that means the purchase of arms from Israel, joint investment and industry ventures, collaborative research and educational programmes, and cultural exchange. Israel the occupier spends a great deal on building Brand Israel that can be sold in countries like ours. Our solidarity with Occupied Palestine is only worthwhile if we make sure India does not contribute to subsidising the Israeli colonial war machine.

(Githa Hariharan is a writer.)

 

#India- Vote for universal PDS #mustshare


 

Vote for universal PDS. click the planning commission site below and vote for universal PDS.

Every vote counts .

Although this system of voting will never reach those who really need to Vote ????

http://12thplan.gov.in/

 

29 Signs -Global Elitism Transforming Society Into A Total Domination Control Grid


united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web

 

 

 

 By Michael, thetruthwins.com
The elite want to tightly control almost everything that we do, say and think.  When most people think of “tyranny”, they think of thugs with guns and little dictators running around barking orders at everyone.  But that is not how the elite are accomplishing their goals these days.  They want us to actually believe that we have freedom and that we are choosing our own leaders, but in the background they are exerting “soft power” in a way that is absolutely ruthless.  They fund the political campaigns of our politicians, they own nearly all of the large corporations and financial institutions, they exert very tight control over the media and their agenda is being promoted through the education systems of virtually every nation on the planet.  What the elite are doing is not illegal.  In fact, they use the government and they use the law to accomplish their purposes.  That is one reason why the elite love big government.  For them, it is an instrument of control.  The larger the government is, the easier it is to watch, track, monitor and control the rest of us.  As you read this, a “total domination control grid” is being constructed all around us that is far beyond anything that George Orwell ever dreamed of.  This system is advancing on hundreds of different fronts, and it is getting tighter and more restrictive with each passing day.  We may think that we still have a certain degree of liberty, but if you start doing things that the system does not like, the system has a way of getting you back in line very quickly.  In the end, it is all about control.  There are many among the elite that actually believe that a tightly controlled society that is dominated by government institutions that they control is what is best for humanity.  Many of them honestly believe that society would descend into chaos without a strong hand guiding it.  Many of them truly are convinced that those that are “enlightened” are doing a noble thing by guiding humanity into the “bright future” that the elite are designing for them.  But of course the freedoms and the liberties of the common people must be greatly limited in order to get us to that “bright future”.  We are like cattle that need to be penned in for our own good.  This is how the elite actually think.  I spent many years being educated by them and rubbing shoulders with them.  They should not be trusted.  Once our liberties and freedoms are gone, they will be nearly impossible to get back.  And once the elite have total control, we will be faced with a tyranny unlike anything humanity has ever seen before.
The following are 29 signs that the elite are transforming society into a total domination control grid…
1. A new bill in the U.S. Senate would allow more than 20 different government agencies to read your email without a search warrant.
2. Next generation facial recognition cameras that can identify a person in less than a second and “send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision” are being put up in southern California.
3. A highly sophisticated surveillance grid known as “Trapwire” is being installed in major cities and at “high value targets” all over the United States.  Unfortunately, most Americans do not even realize that it exists.
4. Police departments all over America are beginning to deploy unmanned surveillance drones in the skies over their cities.  But don’t think that a drone is not watching you just because you don’t live in a major city.  The truth is that the federal government has been using unmanned surveillance drones to spy on farmers in Iowa and Nebraska.  There could be a drone over your house right now and you might not ever know it.
5. Individual politicians know more about you than they ever have before. The amount of information that the Obama campaign has compiled on potential voters is absolutely frightening…
If you voted this election season, President Obama almost certainly has a file on you. His vast campaign database includes information on voters’ magazine subscriptions, car registrations, housing values and hunting licenses, along with scores estimating how likely they were to cast ballots for his reelection.
6. The UK is often five or ten years ahead of much of the rest of the world in implementing “Big Brother” police state measures.  Over there it is now against the law to insult someone with your speech.  If you say something that is “likely” to insult a Muslim or a homosexual you could end up being dragged in front of a judge.  It is only a matter of time before we see these kinds of laws all over the planet.
7. Could you imagine the government telling you what the temperature inside your own home can be?  A new law in France would do exactly that…
Heating a French home could soon require an income tax consultation or even a visit to the doctor under legislation to force conservation in the nation’s $46 billion household energy market.
A bill adopted by the lower house this month would set prices that homes pay based on wages, age and climate. Utilities Electricite de France and GDF Suez will use the data to reward consumers who cut power and natural gas usage and penalize those whom regulators decide are wasteful.
8. Control freak bureaucrats love to tell others how to run their lives.  For example, one man down in Orlando, Florida was recently ordered to rip out the vegetable garden that he was growing in his front yard.  Will we eventually get to the point where even the smallest details of our lives are micromanaged by the government?
9. Most Americans don’t realize this, but the DNA of almost every newborn baby in America is collected and stored by the government.  What plans do they have for all of this DNA?
10. All over America, schools are beginning to require students to carry IDs with RFID microchips in them wherever they go.  Fortunately, some students are fighting back…
The San Antonio sophomore who opposed microchipping student IDs that would track their every movement has inspired a groundswell of 300 students in her huge district who now refuse to wear the identification chips over religious, personal privacy, safety and civil liberties concerns. In addition, some 700 other people have signed petitions opposing the microchipping program.
11. There is more crossover between our education system and our law enforcement system than ever before.  An increasing number of schools in the United States have police officers roaming their hallways, and today there are more than 70,000 children behind bars in America.
12. When you rely on FEMA to take care of you, it can literally feel like you are in prison.  The following is a description of what life is like in one FEMA camp that was set up in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy…
“Sitting there last night you could see your breath,” displaced resident Brian Sotelo told the Asbury Park Press. “At (Pine Belt) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletived).”
Sotelo said Blackhawk helicopters patrol the skies “all day and night” and a black car with tinted windows surveys the camp while the government moves heavy equipment past the tents at night. According to the story, reporters aren’t even allowed in the fenced complex, where lines of displaced residents form outside portable toilets. Security guards are posted at every door, and residents can’t even use the toilet or shower without first presenting I.D.
“They treat us like we’re prisoners,” Ashley Sabol told Reuters. “It’s bad to say, but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.”
13. Your cell phone collects information about you wherever you go, and law enforcement authorities in the United States requested that cell phone data be turned over to them more than a million times in 2011 alone.
14. The federal government has created an iPhone app that is designed to encourage all of us to take photos of “suspicious activity” and report our neighbors to the authorities.
15. The U.S. government is increasingly using spyware to monitor the behavior of their employees while they are at work.
16. According to three NSA whistleblowers, the agency “has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email.”
17. Private corporations are gathering every shred of information about you that they possible can. One of the largest companies involved in “mining our data” is known as Acxiom.  It turns out that Acxiom has compiled information on more than 190 million people in the United States alone…
The company fits into a category called database marketing. It started in 1969 as an outfit called Demographics Inc., using phone books and other notably low-tech tools, as well as one computer, to amass information on voters and consumers for direct marketing. Almost 40 years later, Acxiom has detailed entries for more than 190 million people and 126 million households in the U.S., and about 500 million active consumers worldwide. More than 23,000 servers in Conway, just north of Little Rock, collect and analyze more than 50 trillion data ‘transactions’ a year.
18. We are being trained to give up our privacy and our dignity in the name of “security”.  For example, what the TSA did recently to one woman who was dying of leukemia was absoutely shameful…
A dying woman says a a security pat-down at Sea-Tac Airport left her embarrassed in front of crowds of people.
Michelle Dunaj says screeners checked under bandages from recent surgeries and refused to give her a private search when she requested one.
19. According to one recent survey, nearly one-third of all Americans would be willing to submit to a “TSA body cavity search” in order to fly.
20. Law enforcement authorities all over the United States will soon be driving around in unmarked vehicles looking inside your cars and even under your clothes using the same backscatter technology currently being used by the TSA at U.S. airports…
American cops are set to join the US military in deploying American Science & Engineering’s Z Backscatter Vans, or mobile backscatter radiation x-rays. These are what TSA officials call “the amazing radioactive genital viewer,” now seen in airports around America, ionizing the private parts of children, the elderly, and you (yes you).
These pornoscannerwagons will look like regular anonymous vans, and will cruise America’s streets, indiscriminately peering through the cars (and clothes) of anyone in range of its mighty isotope-cannon. But don’t worry, it’s not a violation of privacy. As AS&E’s vice president of marketing Joe Reiss sez, “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be.”
21. A company known as BRS Labs has developed “pre-crime surveillance cameras” that supposedly can identify criminal activity before it happens.  These cameras are being installed at major transportation hubs all over San Francisco.
22. According to Gizmodo, the Department of Homeland Security will soon be using laser-based scanners that can scan your body, your clothes and your luggage from 164 feet away…
Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away. From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you.
And without you knowing it.
The technology is so incredibly effective that, in November 2011, its inventors were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel to work with the US Department of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel is a company founded “in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of the CIA and with the support of the U.S. Congress.” According to In-Q-Tel, they are the bridge between the Agency and new technology companies.
Their plan is to install this molecular-level scanning in airports and border crossings all across the United States.
23. A complex network of automated license plate readers carefully track the movements of millions of vehicles as they move in and out of Washington D.C. and the surrounding suburbs.  Most people do not even know that they are there.
24. The FBI is spending a billion dollars to develop a biometric identification system that will reportedly be far more sophisticated than anything that law enforcement in the United States has ever had before….
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics, that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals — but it is how this biometric data is captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates.
Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has been pilot testing a facial recognition system — and soon, detectives will also be able to search the system for other biometrics such as DNA records and iris scans.
25. If the government decides that you are a “bad guy”, they can put you on a “no fly list” that will ban you from flying indefinitely.  This can be done to you at any time, without any notice, and you won’t be told that it has happened.  In fact, as one prepper discovered recently, you might only find out that you are on the list when you try to board a flight.
26. Those that revere individual liberty are now being labeled as “potential terrorists” in official U.S. government documents.
27. A National Guard whistleblower recently revealed that members of his unit were told that “doomsday preppers” will be treated as “terrorists” when civil unrest breaks out.
28. One family in Idaho recently had their home raided by a SWAT team because a computer identified them as “constitutionalists” after someone had phoned in and complained about a domestic disturbance at their address.
29. Today, the mainstream media in the United States is totally dominated by just six giant corporations.  Those corporations own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and large numbers of popular websites.  The way that almost every American looks at the world is being constantly influenced by these media corporations every single day.
Please share this list with as many people as you can.  We desperately need to wake people up while there is still time.

 

 

 

Mothers Are Taking Leadership on Gun Control


By Allison Stevens

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The day still haunts me–from 25 years ago–when my junior high school went into lockdown after a mass shooting at the nearby grade school. Now, after Newtown, women with children are taking responsibility for getting something done.

Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.
Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.

Credit: sea turtle on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–In the hours after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,Shannon Watts, a mother of five, founded One Million Moms for Gun Control in Indianapolis.

The group is holding demonstrations in New York City on Jan. 21 and co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Jan. 26 to build momentum for legislation to restrict access to guns.

MomsRising, a national grassroots advocacy based in Seattle, is urging its members to petition Congress and the National Rifle Association to stop blocking common sense gun regulations. The group is also calling on Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., and the largest gun dealer in the country, to stop selling assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yesterday its members rallied at the Wal-Mart in Danbury, Conn.–minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School–to ask the retailer to stop selling such weapons.

Veronique Pozner, a mother of one of Sandy Hook’s slain first-graders, has said she wants to play a part in the discussion about the federal response to the rampage.

Moms, in other words, are speaking out as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden try to build consensus for a controversial gun-control package that could include a push for background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Obama is also reportedly considering using the power of his executive office to restrict access to guns.

When mothers speak about slain children, they awaken the primordial parent in all of us, and we are collectively driven to protect our young–at all costs and against all odds.

Compounded Fear

I’m a mother now, and for me the fear is compounded. I don’t want my own children to go through the kind of mass-shooting ordeal that I did.

Twenty-five years ago in my hometown of Winnetka, Ill., a deranged babysitter opened fire at our local elementary school and shot six first graders, killing one, a little boy named Nicholas Corwin. That day is scorched in my memory. I was in junior high school, and my school was in lockdown until we were told that it was safe to emerge because the murderer–Laurie Dann–had shot herself. (Yes, ours was one of the rare mass shootings by a female, the one that must always be cited as the exception to discussions of how young men, with untreated mental illnesses, are the usual perpetrators of these horrific crimes.)

Obama is calling on us, as a society, to come together to make all our children safer.

“We bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children,” Obama said in a memorial service after the Newtown shooting, wiping away tears throughout the speech. “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

If history is any guide, mothers’ powerful advocacy role may turn out to be crucial to our national response to Newtown.

Historical Responses

Back in 1903, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a prominent labor activist, launched the fight for child labor laws with a famous march of “mill children” to the Long Island home of President Teddy Roosevelt.

In the 1980s, Candace Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving and sparked a national movement that has lowered drunk-driving related fatalities by more than 40 percent, according to the Department of Transportation.

Dennis and Judi Shepard started an organization to combat hate crimes after their son Mathew was beaten and left to die because he was gay.

Jeanne Manford founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAGG) after her openly gay son was beaten and hospitalized; and Cindy Sheehan led the anti-war movement in the last decade after her son was killed in the war in Iraq.

The list goes on.

Mothers, of course, have been pushing for gun control for years.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York whose husband was killed and whose son was severely injured during a shooting on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, won a seat in Congress on the issue and ever since has been the leading voice for gun control in the U.S. Congress.

In 2000, hundreds of thousands of mothers descended on Washington, D.C., to participate in the Million Mom March, which took place about a year after the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Now, the bereaved mother Pozner could emerge as a key leader in what happens next.

“As the mother of a 6-year-old victim of a cold-blooded massacre of school children, I am puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I have had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington,” she said in a recent statement.

I have a hunch that if we give moms like Pozner the space to tell their painful stories, people will listen, and act, to prevent more gun violence. I know I will.

Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C. She works for a public relations firm whose clients include MomsRising.org. These opinions are her own.