What Is Striking In India Is The Indifference Of The Privileged- #Noamchomsky

At 84, Noam Chomsky remains the sharpest, most acute, most unrelenting critic of power, particularly American power. He speaks to Priyanka Borpujari about the evolution of protest; the disconnect between the misery he sees on the streets of Delhi and our elites’ chest-thumping pride; the narrow concerns of mainstream media; and his starring role in a Gangnam Style parody.

2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Noam Chomsky, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

, 84, Linguist & Activist, Photo: AP

You have been protesting wars, from Vietnam to Iraq. And then, there has been the Occupy Wall Street movement. What have been the similarities and differences in protest movements over the years?

People do not know this, but it was very tough to oppose the Vietnam war. In the early ’60s, if I was giving a talk, it would be in somebody’s living room or a church with very few people. Right here in Boston, a liberal city, we could not have an outdoor demonstration in the Boston Common until about 1967. Any demonstration would be broken up by force. In March 1966, when we tried to have an indoor demonstration at a church downtown — since we could not have a public one — the church was attacked.The Boston Globe, which was supposed to be a liberal newspaper, denounced the demonstrators. The Harvard University faculty would not even hear about it; nobody would sign a petition. It was a few years of hard slogging. Finally by 1967-68, there were two or three years of intense activism, before it declined. The ’60s were very significant but it was very condensed. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was a very conservative campus until about 1968 and then it became very radical, perhaps the most radical in the country.

Since the late ’60s, activism has expanded but with less visibility, and it is a part of a general consciousness about all kinds of things. In the 1980s, there was a huge anti-nuclear movement. But the most significant phenomenon in the ’80s — although it did not leave much of an impact in history because it did not involve the elites very much — were the solidarity movements with central America. This solidarity was coming mostly from rural United States, like rural Kansas, and the Evangelicals, with tens of thousands of people going down to central America just to be with the victims, to help and defend them. This had never happened before, that people from the imperial state went there not just to protest, but to live with the people and participate with them. And a lot of these people stayed on. So it had a great effect over rural United States.

Towards the end of the last millennium, solidarity was visible on a new kind of global justice movement, on particular issues, like Israel-Palestine. There has been a massive shift in that. I used to have police protection on this (MIT) campus, right until the 1990s, when I talked about it. But now it is the most lively issue on the campus. I am asked to give talks about it all the time. So it’s not militant activism, but there’s a culture of independence and opposition, which I think is pretty bright.

So, who is listening to dissidents like you?

Well, anybody who is willing to talk has people listening. There aren’t too many people who are willing to go around and give talks all the time. The few of us who are willing, are deluged. Every night, I turn down a dozen invitations. When I do give talks, there is a real hunger for something different, but there is very little supply. You can almost count on the fingers of your hands the number of people who are willing to spend their lives going around and giving talks.

But on the other hand, you are in Cambridge, so you get to hear a little about . In the United States almost nobody knows anything about the outside world — people don’t know where France is.  would be some word that they might have heard in school in passing. It is a very insular society.

What about India baffles you the most?

I have followed India carefully, and have been there a number of times. It is an exciting country in many ways with its rich culture. But what is really striking to me about India, much more than most other countries I have been to, is the indifference of privileged sectors to the misery of others. You walk through Delhi and cannot miss it, but people just don’t seem to see it. Everyone is talking about ‘Shining India’ and yet people are starving. I had an interesting experience with this once. I was in a car in Delhi and with me was (activist) Aruna Roy, and we were driving towards a demonstration. And I noticed that she wasn’t looking outside the window of the car. I asked her why. She said, “If you live in India, you just can’t look outside the window. Because if you do, you’d rather commit suicide. It’s too horrible. So you just don’t look.” So people don’t look, they put themselves in a bubble and then don’t see it. And those words are from somebody who has devoted her life to the lives of the poor, and you can see why she said that — the misery and the oppression are so striking, much worse than in any country I have ever seen. And it is so dramatic. There is a lot of talk about how India is slated to be a major power, and I can’t believe it, with all its internal problems; China too for that matter, but less so.

When my wife and I went to India a couple of years ago, my friend Iqbal Ahmed had told me that I would discover that the press in Pakistan is much more open and free than the press in India. I did not believe him first but when I looked into it, he explained, “The English language press in Pakistan is for you and your friends, and the government just lets them say whatever they want, because there are so few of them to cater to, just a couple of hundred thousand people.”

You have hailed the Mexican newspaper La Jornada as “maybe the only real independent newspaper in the hemisphere”. Do you think something similar can be founded in India?

It could. The interesting thing about La Jornada is that the business world hates it. They don’t give it any ads. It is the second largest newspaper in the country with a very high level of journalistic acumen and very smart people, and they are all over the country. You see people reading this newspaper on the streets. Actually, I noticed that in Kerala, the only part of India where you can see people reading on the streets.

In the recent past, India witnessed a scam that exposed the deep nexus between journalists and businessmen, but nothing happened…

That is a bit different here (in the United States). One good thing about this country is that there is very little state repression, no censorship, so they can speak out what they can. On the other hand, the internalisation of doctrine here is just overwhelming, that is, with the intellectual community in the universities. And it is partly a reflection of the freedom, I think. You get an impression that everything is free and open because there are debates that are visible: the Democrats are debating the Republicans, and the press does its share of condemning. But what people don’t see — and the seeming openness of the debate conceals it — is that it is all within a very narrow framework. And you can’t go even a millimetre outside that framework. In fact, it is even taught in journalism schools here as the concept of ‘objectivity’ — that means describing honestly what’s going on inside that framework and if there is something outside, then no, that is subjective. You see that all the time and that is a big domestic problem.

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

Life outside the bubble The misery and oppression in India are striking, says Chomsky, Photo: Ishan Tankha

For example, domestically, for the population, the big problem is jobs. They don’t care about the deficit. For the banks, the problem is deficits. So the only thing discussed (in the ) is deficits. You do have an occasional different viewpoint, but it doesn’t show up at all in the  coverage of the deficit. During the 2012 presidential elections, the two countries that were mentioned way more than anyone else in all debates were Israel and Iran. And Iran was described as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s what’s repeated in the  all the time. There is an obvious question that no journalist would ask: who thinks so? They don’t think so in India; they don’t think so in the Arab world, they don’t think so in South America. The only countries to think so are the United States and England. But that you can’t report.

And then comes the question: is there anything you can do about it? This is quite spectacular when you talk about the media because it does not say this. There is something very obvious one could do about it — move to establishing nuclear-free zones. There is an overwhelming support for that all over the world. In fact, in December 2012, there was supposed to be an international conference in Finland to carry it forward under UN auspices. But in early November 2012, Iran announced that they would participate. Within days, Obama called off the conference. Not one word about that in the newspapers. Literally, not one word. The same in England. I don’t know about India; probably not there too.

On a less serious note, how did you come to feature in mit’s Gangnam Stylevideo?

I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were just a bunch of kids who seemed to be having some fun.

Did you have fun?

I was just saying what they wanted me to say.


(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

Woman Indian scientist at MIT raises hope of creating artificial human liver


, TNN | Jun 3, 2013,

LONDON: In a big leap towards creating an artificial human liver, a scientist of Indian origin from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has for the first time managed to keep live liver cells functional outside the body.

Dr Sangeeta Bhatia, who is presently professor of health sciences and technology has identified a dozen chemical compounds that can help liver cells not only maintain their normal function while grown in a lab dish but also multiply to produce new tissue.

The liver is the only major organ in the human body that can regenerate itself if part of it is removed.

However, researchers trying to exploit that ability in hopes of producing artificial liver tissue for transplantation have repeatedly been stymied.

Mature liver cells, known as hepatocytes, quickly lose their normal function when removed from the body.

“It’s a paradox because we know liver cells are capable of growing, but somehow we can’t get them to grow outside the body,” says Bhatia, from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Speaking to TOI, Dr Bhatia, who originally belongs to a Sindhi family in Mumbai said “The main finding is that we identified chemicals that make liver cells grow outside the body. Cells grown this way can help can incorporated into engineered livers that we are building to treat patients with liver disease. The human liver cells (hepatocytes) can also be used for drug testing to improve drug safety”.

“We have showed that human liver cells could be used to build engineered liver tissue and that this liver tissue could function once implanted in the body. So far, we are able to do this in mice. We need to make them bigger in order to help patients with liver disease.”

She added “Tissue engineering has already created artificial skin and cartilage and bone that has helped many millions. Artificial trachea and bladder and blood vessels are also in humans. We will follow the same path that others have laid out for us for the liver”.

“The main challenges are to get the liver cells to function like liver cells so they can support the patient, getting enough liver cells for a patient (billions are needed), and ways to implant them so they have enough nutrients through blood vessels (this is called vascularization). We think we have made good progress on the functional side begins to address the cell sourcing and vascularization issues,” she added.

Bhatia has developed a way to temporarily maintain normal liver-cell function after those cells are removed from the body, by precisely intermingling them with mouse fibroblast cells.

They studied how 12,500 different chemicals affect liver-cell growth and function.

The liver has about 500 functions, divided into four general categories: drug detoxification, energy metabolism, protein synthesis and bile production.

David Thomas from the Broad Institute, measured expression levels of 83 liver enzymes representing some of the most finicky functions to maintain.

After screening thousands of liver cells from eight different tissue donors, the researchers identified 12 compounds that helped the cells maintain those functions, promoted liver cell division, or both.

Two of those compounds seemed to work especially well in cells from younger donors.

Publishing their breakthrough in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, the team says cells grown this way could help researchers develop engineered tissue to treat many of the 500 million people suffering from chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis C

In future studies, the MIT team plans to embed the treated liver cells on polymer tissue scaffolds and implant them in mice, to test whether they could be used as replacement liver tissues.

They are also pursuing the possibility of developing the compounds as drugs to help regenerate patients’ own liver tissues.


A thousand mirrors: Nakbas near home-their homeland, our homeland #Sundayreading

Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 5:00 IST | Agency: DNA

This 15th May, the Nakba was remembered in many parts of the world. It is the Palestinian day of catastrophe. Palestinians fled their lands in the wake of the 1948 war — never to be able to return.

They hold on to keys, real and symbolic, asserting their right to return to their lands, adding flesh to ‘the struggle of memory against forgetting’. Palestine has become a codeword for injustice to a people who had to flee their homes unwillingly. Most leading university campuses in the West have some form of Palestine solidarity activism.

The present author was denied a competitive position due to his involvement with such initiatives at one point. Palestine spills over to general activism against militarism and occupation. Activist forces, however marginal and removed from the Middle East, support Palestine. The Nakba was a time when millions were frantically trying to prevent knots from untying — ancient knots out of which selfhoods emerged and thrived. Leaving behind the land of ancestors is something subcontinentals know too well.

Once, I was chatting with a friend who is very passionate about Palestinian rights, their denied statehood and most importantly, their right to return to their ancestral homes in Palestine from their diasporic homes, including many in refugee colonies.  He is a Bengali baidya, born and raised in the CR Park locality of New Delhi. The discussion turned to ancestral origins and he revealed his family was from Dhaka. I asked him, so what about your right to return? He looked perplexed. I said, I am guessing your East Bengali family, like most others, did not flee Dhaka voluntarily.

Like Palestinians, their ancestral abode, even if razed or occupied, is as sacred to them. The Rs 20,000 per square foot property value of CR Park almost hid the earlier name of this ‘posh’ locality — East Pakistan Displaced Persons (EPDP) Colony. Most ‘EPDP’ colonies are not ‘posh’ — especially those inhabited by people from backward castes. Such colonies, authorised and unauthorised, have been the site of state repression, including large-scale massacres, as in Marichjhhapi in 1979. My friend answered ‘that is different’. Yes, there are differences from Palestine, but what prevents anyone from seeing the similarities?

Palestinians are not the world’s largest or longest displaced people. What determines its pre-eminent position in the ‘global’ mindscape? Imperialism, that unfashionable word, also determines the pecking order of resistances and solidarity causes, inside our heads. If the child of Bengali refugees cared only about Bengal and nothing about Palestine, that would be termed ‘insular’ and ‘inward’ looking. Our sensibilities are skewed indeed.

People who question such fundamental things as the nation-states in the subcontinent do not call for the right to return of Muslims who fled Ambala and Kolkata, or Hindus who fled East Bengal. What do these blind spots reveal? What is so natural about the displacement from Ambala to Multan that it merits no call for justice and the ‘right to return’? When did the national constitution become an excuse to suspend humanity, especially with regards to homestead connections that predate all sub-continental constitutions?

It is harder to confront one’s immediate surround. We know them — the university rebel who is a docile son at home, the fire-eating caste-hating savarna who predictably marries a savarna, etc. Distant ‘cause’-mongering helps preserve the semblance of an ethical pedestalled self, and hides disturbing mismatches between rhetoric and action.

Why not have this and that — a cafeteria choice of causes.  Because not all causes stand a crucial test: does it hit home? Is one directly affected by the consequences of one’s actions in the furtherance of a cause? It matters.

The writer is a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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.

Study: Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide Linked to Cancer, Autism, Parkinson’s

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Study: Monsanto‘s Roundup Herbicide Linked to Cancer, Autism, Parkinson’s
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, may be “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment,” say authors

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer, commondreams
The active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide may be “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment,” being responsible for a litany of health disorders and diseases including Parkinson’s, cancer and autism, according to a new study.

“Negative impact on the body” from glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, “is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” according to a new study. (Photo: astridmn/flickr)
It’s “the most popular herbicide on the planet,” widely used on crops like corn and soy genetically engineered to be “Roundup Ready,” and sprayed on weeds in lawns across the US. But in the peer-reviewed study published last Thursday in the journal Entropy, authors Anthony Samsel, an independent scientist and consultant, and Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT, crush the industry’s claims that the herbicide glyphosate is non-toxic and as safe as aspirin.

Looking at the impacts of glyphosate on gut bacteria, Samsel and Seneff found that the herbicide “enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins,” and is a “textbook example” of “the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.”

The researchers point to a potential long list of disorders that glyphosate, in combination with other environmental toxins, could contribute to, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cachexia, infertility, and developmental malformations.

The herbicide’s “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” they write.

The authors conclude:

Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and, contrary to being essentially nontoxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.
The new findings may add further momentum to concerns from food safety and food sovereignty advocates who have challenged Monsanto’s grip on corporate agriculture and its genetically engineered crops.

In a “March Against Monsanto” in cities in the US and beyond, activists plan to gather on May 25 to highlight environmental and health concerns from genetically engineered crops and call out the corporatism that allows “Organic and small farmers [to] suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.

To see more about the march, go to the action’s Facebook page here.https://www.facebook.com/MarchAgainstMonstanto

The full article in Entropy is viewable here .http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416



#India – has Yo Yo Honey Singh already won ? #Rap #Vaw

Garga Chatterjee | Agency: DNA

A song that celebrates rape and sung allegedly by Honey Singh has been ‘discovered’. The tragedy in Delhi created the ground for this. If the discovery was supposed to raise awareness against the contents of the songs, that scheme has failed miserably. The number of online views of the said song has shot up steeply ever since the free publicity. Honey has denied singing the ‘Balatkari’ song.

Many people and groups, who, till yesterday had hardly heard of Honey Singh or this song, have assembled his paper and cloth idols to consign them to flames in public amidst much supportive sloganeering. This speedy move from relative ignorance to active denunciation, however heartfelt, is all too familiar. This has also given a good cover to misogynists to peddle high-decibel righteousness. If morality-fired censorship riding high on the back of a human tragedy is not immoral and cynical, I do not know what is. Even more cynical is how some such groups stand side-by-side folks who have devoted decades working at the grassroots – Honey has provided a strange equalizing opportunity, a short-cut.

Many patriotic songs are full of exhortation of death and killing of name-less ‘enemies’. ‘Religious songs’ have elements of killing demons (considered by many as euphemism for Dalits) and infidels. Most of the folks who want to stop watching Anurag Kashyap’s movies for his association with Honey, will not stop using products that are advertised using advertisements that ‘objectify’ women or boycott filmstars who publicly endorse such products. Walking the talk requires a different culture than consumer culture. We are like this only.

Honey Singh has put to tune fantasies that are known and liked widely — what many draw on bathroom walls. Some argue that the free distribution of such material creates an ambience that facilitates viewing women in a certain way – rape is a part of that way of viewing. The individual, in such a milieu, has a greater propensity to rape. The problem with such conjectures is that they do not have a clear causal relationship with criminal action. In the absence of that crucial strict causal link between action and crime, to criminalise human behaviour, however reprehensible it may be to some, leads all of us down an extremely slippery path. Theories of broad propensity are good enough. Consider the implications of this for the ‘single, migrant, underclass, male’ theory.

We should strive towards a fuller understanding of the popularity of songs such as these. The sad use of ‘impressionable children’ to grind their own axe has to stop. There is no evidence that grandfathers from ‘purer’ times are any less likely to grope. And why should everything be ‘family friendly’ anyways? Media ‘explicitness’ as a cause for sexual violence also tacitly legitimizes the ‘titilation’ theory. The less said about that, the better. We have more to lose by sacrificing free expression than the supposed gains of censoring Honey Singh.

There is an anxiety that unless there are curbs, Honeys will take all. There is a tacit acknowledgement that there is no robust alternative on offer. And there is the rub. There is a secret fear that there is no cultural repertoire that is up-to-date and ‘presentable’ as alternative to ‘the youth’. Beyond religion and sex, the relationship of the market with non-sexual elements of ‘Lok-sanskriti’ is faint. Real ‘Lok’ is important in production, consumption and propagation. When profiteers limit ‘Lok’ only to consumption, we have a problem. Organised industry has a certain idiom it is comfortable with. Socially rooted cultural produce without corporate intermediaries, say, the Baul-shahajiya minstrels, thrive in a supportive ecology. One cannot take away the ecology and then expect that it will continue its own evolution, as if nothing changed.

No number of ‘folk-music’ festivals in Delhi can provide alternatives in the backdropwhere ‘folk’ are systematically displaced and brutalized on a daily basis. Music and art, in their many shades, spring forth from life. Without it, it is simply a plant without roots — destined to die sooner or later. The new world selectively cuts roots. Hence Honey lives. After the destruction of rooted cultural idioms and ways of life, from where does one expect songs of life to spring? What will the songs be about – since sadness and pain are ‘unfit’ for modern consumption? Even the idea of songs from struggles of the displaced is met with the some kind of mental cringe, if not a mental block. Consumption is the basic framework in the new world. And there are no holy hills, groves, cultures, homelands, people. Honey Singh has sung the allegorical anthem of the new world. He may have sung it a bit too loudly, at an inopportune time.

Garga Chatterjee is a postdoctoral scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Anonymous hacks MIT after Aaron Swartz’s suicide

Hacktivist group defaces university pages after the school promises a full investigation into MIT’s role in events leading up to the Internet activist taking his life.

Steven Musil

 January 13, 2013 9:34 PM PST

Anonymous‘ message on an MIT page (click for larger image).

(Credit: Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET)


Just hours after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pledged an investigation into its role in events leading up to the suicide of Aaron Swartz, online hacktivist group Anonymous defaced the school’s Web site.

Swartz, a Reddit cofounder who championed open access to documents on the Internet, committed suicide on Friday. The 26-year-old was arrested in July 2011 and accused of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. He faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted.

After MIT President L. Rafael Reif issued a statement this afternoon promising a “thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present,” Anonymous targeted at least two MIT Web sites. Lacking the loose-knit group’s usual feisty language, the message posted on the Web site was a call for reform in the memory of the late Internet activist.

After calling the prosecution of Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section reservedly labeled “Our wishes:”


  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.


CNET has contacted MIT for comment on the apparent hacking and will update this report when we learn more.

Critics of the prosecutors in the case say the feds were unfairly trying to make an example out of Swartz. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” Swartz’s family said in a statement released yesterday. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

CNET has also contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office and will update this report when we hear back.



MIT president calls for “thorough analysis” of school’s involvement with Swartz

English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event.

MIT‘s role in Swartz’s JSTOR incident spurred a formal response today.

by  – Jan 14 2013, 5:15am IST, http://arstechnica.com/

Less than 48 hours after Aaron Swartz’s tragic suicide, the institution involved in his high-profile JSTOR incident (that eventually lead to federal charges) has issued a statement.

MIT President Rafael Reif e-mailed the members of the university community this morning to address the situation, despite Swartz never having a formal affiliation with the school. Reif emphasized he was compelled to comment not only because of MIT’s role in the JSTOR incident, but also because Swartz was beloved by many within the MIT community. The president’s tone was clear throughout: “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”

In light of such an acknowledgement, Reif appointed professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of the school’s involvement, “from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present.” Reif asked Abelson to outline options MIT had plus the decisions the institution made, and he promised to share the report with the MIT community once it’s received.

The moment of infamy came back in 2010, as Swartz logged onto MIT’s network to scrape millions of academic papers from JSTOR. Administrators booted his laptop off the Wi-Fi network, but Swartz then entered an MIT network closet and plugged his laptop directly in. From there the feds got involved: Swartz was arrested and charged with multiple counts of computer hacking, wire fraud, and other crimes. The situation still hadn’t been resolved as late as fall 2012, when the feds ratcheted up the charges in September. Swartz faced more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charged.

Reif’s full statement is below (and it can also be accessed on the MIT Tech blog, along with the outlet’s other Swartz coverage). As plenty continue to grieve, murmurs of small protests on the MIT campus emerged this morning and thousands have taken to Twitter to participate in the #pdftribute, a slew of academics posting PDFs in honor of Swartz.

Reif’s original e-mail

To the members of the MIT community:

Yesterday we received the shocking and terrible news that on Friday in New York, Aaron Swartz, a gifted young man well known and admired by many in the MIT community, took his own life. With this tragedy, his family and his friends suffered an inexpressible loss, and we offer our most profound condolences. Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism.

Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011.

I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.

I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT. I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.

I hope we will all reach out to those members of our community we know who may have been affected by Aaron’s death. As always, MIT Medical is available to provide expert counseling, but there is no substitute for personal understanding and support.

With sorrow and deep sympathy,

L. Rafael Reif

#Aaron Swartz, Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide

Michael Francis McElroy/The New York Times

Aaron Swartz in 2009. One person remembered him as a “a complicated prodigy.”


Published: January 12, 2013

An uncle, Michael Wolf, said that Mr. Swartz, 26, had apparently hanged himself, and that a friend of Mr. Swartz’s had discovered the body.

At 14, Mr. Swartz helped create RSS, the nearly ubiquitous tool that allows users to subscribe to online information. He later became an Internet folk hero, pushing to make many Web files free and open to the public. But in July 2011, he was indicted on federal charges of gaining illegal access to JSTOR, a subscription-only service for distributing scientific and literary journals, and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents, nearly the entire library.

Charges in the case, including wire fraud and computer fraud, were pending at the time of Mr. Swartz’s death, carrying potential penalties of up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

“Aaron built surprising new things that changed the flow of information around the world,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York who served in the Obama administration as a technology adviser. She called Mr. Swartz “a complicated prodigy” and said “graybeards approached him with awe.”

Mr. Wolf said he would remember his nephew, who had written in the past about battling depression and suicidal thoughts, as a young man who “looked at the world, and had a certain logic in his brain, and the world didn’t necessarily fit in with that logic, and that was sometimes difficult.”

The Tech, a newspaper of the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyreported Mr. Swartz’s death early Saturday.

Mr. Swartz led an often itinerant life that included dropping out of Stanford, forming companies and organizations, and becoming a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

He formed a company that merged with Reddit, the popular news and information site. He also co-founded Demand Progress, a group that promotes online campaigns on social justice issues — including a successful effort, with other groups, to oppose a Hollywood-backed Internet piracy bill.

But he also found trouble when he took part in efforts to release information to the public that he felt should be freely available. In 2008, he took on PACER, or Public Access to Court Electronic Records, the repository for federal judicial documents.

The database charges 10 cents a page for documents; activists like Carl Malamud, the founder of public.resource.org, have long argued that such documents should be free because they are produced at public expense. Joining Mr. Malamud’s efforts to make the documents public by posting legally obtained files to the Internet for free access, Mr. Swartz wrote an elegant little program to download 20 million pages of documents from free library accounts, or roughly 20 percent of the enormous database.

The government shut down the free library program, and Mr. Malamud feared that legal trouble might follow even though he felt they had violated no laws. As he recalled in a newspaper account, “I immediately saw the potential for overreaction by the courts.” He recalled telling Mr. Swartz: “You need to talk to a lawyer. I need to talk to a lawyer.”

Mr. Swartz recalled in a 2009 interview, “I had this vision of the feds crashing down the door, taking everything away.” He said he locked the deadbolt on his door, lay down on the bed for a while and then called his mother.

The federal government investigated but did not prosecute.

In 2011, however, Mr. Swartz went beyond that, according to a federal indictment. In an effort to provide free public access to JSTOR, he broke into computer networks at M.I.T. by means that included gaining entry to a utility closet on campus and leaving a laptop that signed into the university network under a false account, federal officials said.

Mr. Swartz turned over his hard drives with 4.8 million documents, and JSTOR declined to pursue the case. But Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney, pressed on, saying that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.”

Founded in 1995, JSTOR, or Journal Storage, is nonprofit, but institutions can pay tens of thousands of dollars for a subscription that bundles scholarly publications online. JSTOR says it needs the money to collect and to distribute the material and, in some cases, subsidize institutions that cannot afford it. On Wednesday, JSTOR announced that it would open its archives for 1,200 journals to free reading by the public on a limited basis.

Mr. Malamud said that while he did not approve of Mr. Swartz’s actions at M.I.T., “access to knowledge and access to justice have become all about access to money, and Aaron tried to change that. That should never have been considered a criminal activity.”

Mr. Swartz did not talk much about his impending trial, Quinn Norton, a close friend, said on Saturday, but when he did, it was clear that “it pushed him to exhaustion. It pushed him beyond.”

Recent years had been hard for Mr. Swartz, Ms. Norton said, and she characterized him “in turns tough and delicate.” He had “struggled with chronic, painful illness as well as depression,” she said, without specifying the illness, but he was still hopeful “at least about the world.”

Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author and online activist, posted a tribute to Mr. Swartz on BoingBoing.net, a blog he co-edits. In an e-mail, he called Mr. Swartz “uncompromising, principled, smart, flawed, loving, caring, and brilliant.”

 “The world was a better place with him in it,” he said.

Mr. Swartz, he noted, had a habit of turning on those closest to him: “Aaron held the world, his friends, and his mentors to an impossibly high standard — the same standard he set for himself.” Mr. Doctorow added, however, “It’s a testament to his friendship that no one ever seemed to hold it against him (except, maybe, himself).”

In a talk in 2007, Mr. Swartz described having had suicidal thoughts during a low period in his career. He also wrote about his struggle with depression, distinguishing it from sadness.

“Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel. Everything gets colored by the sadness.”

When the condition gets worse, he wrote, “you feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none. And this is one of the more moderate forms.”

Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.

Farewell to Aaron Swartz, an extraordinary hacker and activist


Yesterday Aaron Swartz, a close friend and collaborator of ours, committed suicide. This is a tragic end to a brief and extraordinary life.

Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way. His contributions were numerous, and some of them were indispensable. When we asked him in late 2010 for help in stopping COICA, the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills, he founded an organization called Demand Progress, which mobilized over a million online activists and proved to be an invaluable ally in winning that campaign.

Aaron Swartz at CCC

Other projects Aaron worked on included the RSSspecificationsweb.pytor2web, the Open Library, and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere. Aaron helped launch the Creative Commons. He was a former co-founder at Reddit, and a member of the team that made the site successful. His blog was often a delight.

Aaron’s eloquent brilliance was mixed with a complicated introversion. He communicated on his own schedule and needed a lot of space to himself, which frustrated some of his collaborators. He was fascinated by the social world around him, but often found it torturous to deal with.

For a long time, Aaron was more comfortable reading books than talking to humans (he once told me something like, “even talking to very smart people is hard, but if I just sit down and read their books, I get their most considered and insightful thoughts condensed in a beautiful and efficient form. I can learn from books faster than I can from talking to the authors.”). His passion for the written word, for open knowledge, and his flair for self-promotion, sometimes producedspectacular results, even before the events that proved to be his undoing.

In 2011, Aaron used the MIT campus network to download millions of journal articles from theJSTOR database, allegedly changing his laptop’s IP and MAC addresses when necessary to get around blocks put in place by JSTOR and MIT and sneaking into a closet to get a faster connection to the MIT network. For this purported crime, Aaron was facing criminal charges with penalties up to thirty-five years in prison, most seriously for “unauthorized access” to computers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

If we believe the prosecutor’s allegations against him, Aaron had hoped to liberate the millions of scientific and scholarly articles he had downloaded from JSTOR, releasing them so that anyone could read them, or analyze them as a single giant dataset, something Aaron had done before. While his methods were provocative, the goal that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — is one that we should all support.

Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, and particularly their punishment regimes. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism, and taking such an act in the physical world would, at most, have a meant he faced light penalties akin to trespassing as part of a political protest. Because he used a computer, he instead faced long-term incarceration. This is a disparity that EFF has fought against for years. Yesterday, it had tragic consequences. Lawrence Lessig has called for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We agree.

Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world. May you read in peace.

#India- Why subsidise the rape capital? #Vaw

Garga Chatterjee | Agency: DNA | Sunday, December 23, 2012

There should be no doubt at this point — Delhi is the rape capital of South Asia. No amount of regular manicuring of Lutyens lawns and NewDelhi-Gurgaon-style faux ‘cosmopolitanism’ can take away that fact. The rape capital epithet comes from simple numbers. Delhi is comparable in population size to Kolkata and Mumbai. If rape were to be considered a ‘natural’ human pathology, the number of rapes would be proportional to the number of humans. The thing is, when it comes to cities within the territory of the Indian Union, it is not.

The numbers speak for themselves. Let us take the National Crime Records Bureau figures for 2011. The number of registered cases of rape were as follows — Mumbai (221), Kolkata (46), Chennai (76), Bangalore (97) and Hyderabad (59). If one adds them up, the number comes to 499. Add Lucknow (38), Patna (27) and Coimbatore (9). The total comes to 573. This is one more than 572, the number of rapes reported in Delhi in 2011. This is not to say that the 46 rapes in Kolkata are somehow ‘normal’. But number and scale matters. There is clearly something wrong about Delhi and we can ignore that at our own peril.

From bus drivers to poor male labourers, the middle-class/upper-middle-class of Delhi has willy-nilly implicated all but itself. It is important to note the nature of prescriptions of rape prevention. These include profiling people who drive buses and the sort — a veiled reference to some imagined class bias in rapes. That gives away the underlying assumption — poor men rape not-so-poor women. There is no evidence to show that this is indeed the case, but the high decibel propaganda war in the elite-controlled media could care less about evidence, especially when it imagines itself to be the victim, as a class.

Rape is as much about power and impunity as it is about sexual violence. Nowhere in the subcontinent are power and impunity engaged in an embrace as tightly as they are in Delhi. There is empirical evidence from various parts of the world that affluent people are more likely to rape with impunity than those less so. Nowhere in the subcontinent is affluence so closely related with power than in Delhi. What are the implications of this for the rest of us?

Since 1990 and especially so in the previous decade, the central government has built up Delhi, showering it with goods, subsidies and helping make it an employment destination for the rest of the Indian Union. Other cities haven’t received this help — cities where women are less likely to be raped. Delhi and its surrounds are showered with money that Delhi does not produce. It is peppered with infrastructure that India’s provinces have toiled hard to pay for.

It is lavished with highly funded universities, art and cultural centres, museums that are designed to sap talent from India’s provinces and handicap the development of autonomous trajectories of excellence beyond Delhi. Revenues extracted from India’s provinces are lavished in and around Delhi by making good roads, snazzy flyovers, water supply infrastructure, urban beautification projects, new institutes and universities, big budget rapid transport systems like the metro and numerous other things that India’s impoverished wastelands as well as other towns and cities can only dream of.

All this results in investment and employment opportunities — it is not the other way around. Most people from other states are in Delhi not because they necessarily love it, but because the artificial imbalance that central policies have created between Delhi and other cities makes this an inevitable aspiration destination. This has resulted in a staggering internal drain of young people to Delhi — not by choice as in the case of Mumbai, but largely by braving potential adversities for women.

The elite of Delhi and the regional elites who wish to see their children in Delhi in perpetuity have, by dint of their grip on the central government, made a ‘world-class city’ for themselves. By choosing to do this at a location where power, impunity and rape-rates are the highest among cities, it has conspired against the rest of the Union, specifically against women.

Women should not have to choose between a lesser likelihood of being raped and creating a better life from themselves. The inordinate subsidisation of the rape capital by the central government has to stop. Women then will not have to come to Delhi to further their aspirations and dreams. They can then choose to boycott Delhi and still have a life that they aspire to. This requires a cutting down to size of the imperious rape capital. Cutting down to size should not raise eyebrows in a nation-state that vows by democracy. It is called distributive justice.

Garga Chatterjee is a postdoctoral scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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