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2815SACW - 2 Feb 2014 | Sri Lanka: extremist mill / Bangladesh: violence / Pakistan: Act Against Terrorism /India: AAP's missteps; Maoists Everywhere?; kangaroo courts/ No to Okinawa Military Base / USA: Creationist Textbooks / Ukraine: fascists / France: $200 Minus $200 / Solidarity with women of Spain

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    Feb 1, 2014
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      South Asia Citizens Wire - 2 February 2014 - No. 2808
      [year 16]


      1. Some thoughts on political violence in Bangladesh | David Bergman
      2. Sri Lanka: Remembering Neelan Tiruchelvam on his 70th birth anniversary | D.B.S. Jeyaraj
      3. Sri Lanka: Rotten leaders - Grist to an extremist mill | Kumar David
      4. Pakistan: Civil Society Demands Decisive Action Against Terrorism
      5. Pakistan: Censorship, book bans and Malala: exposing closet Talibans | Beena Sarwar
      6. The Sultans of Pakistan | Christophe Jaffrelot
      7. Middleclass Fascism In Pakistan | Muhammad Moiz
      8. South Asia: SAAPE's Poverty and Vulnerability Report 2013
      9. India: A Poll Without Real Alternatives? - AAP's costly missteps | Praful Bidwai
      10. India: Maruti Suzuki Workers' Union's March Culminates in Delhi - Photos of Public Meeting 31 Jan. 2014
      11. India: Bengal's 'shalishi adalats' - a law on to themselves similar to kangaroo courts in name caste or 'community'
      12. India: Report of Justice M B Shah Commission of enquiry for illegal mining of iron ore and manganese in the state of Odisha [Vol.1 and 2]
      13. India: Role the RSS and Jana Sangh in Communal Riots - A 1969 publication of Communist Party of India
      14. India: Battered and Betrayed - A report of visit to Muzaffarnagar | Hasina Khan and Saumya Uma
      15. India: 'Orthodox of All Religions Unite' - Who is Celebrating the Judgment on Article 377 !
      16. India: Everywhere, a Maoist plot | Nandini Sundar
      17. The Disappearing Left in the "Emerging" India | Daya Varma
      18. India: Big Money Baba Asaram (newspreport and cartoon)
      19. In Solidarity with Women Opposing Anti Abortion Law in Right Wing Spain - Photos and URLS from Europe
      20. Selected songs by Pete Seeger - What Did You Learn In School? | Guantanamera | Talking Union | Union Maid | Joe Hill | Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram
      21. Over One Hundred International Scholars, Peace Advocates and Artists Support Local Residents’ Decision to Refuse New Military Base Construction in Okinawa
      22. Selections from Communalism Watch
      - India: Modi, Mulayam and Muzaffarnagar | Sukumar Muralidharan
      - India: 2002 Gujarat Riots - Aaj Tak Coverage 02-03-2002 Videos
      - India: Secularism and democracy continue to be major poll issues (editorial - Kashmir Times)
      - India: New scourge in Assam - Editorial in The Hindu
      - India: NDTV debate on 1984 anti-Sikh riots: only politics, no justice? following call for a Special Investigation Team by AAP govt
      - India: RSS Men Were Involved in Delhi's Anti Sikh Pogrom of 1984 - A Hindustan Times clipping
      - India: ABVP men disrupt seminar on Muzaffarnagar riot at DU [Delhi University]

      :: Full Text ::
      23. Bangladesh: Verdict on 10 Truck Arms Haul Case - Heroes punished, villains rewarded
      24. India: No To Nature (editorial, The Telegraph)
      25. Indian Mass Murderer's Allies Find a Friend in the GOP | Amitabh Pal
      26. India: A Maid’s Pay and Moral Choices | Ellen Barry
      27. Voices of Brazil: the health worker who believes in the power of protest | Sam Cowie
      28. USA: Texas Charter School System’s Use of Creationist Textbooks Violates The Constitution, Americans United Says Church-State Watchdog Asks Texas Education Agency To Prohibit Responsive Education Solutions’ Use of Anti-Science Materials Or Revoke Its Charter
      29. In Ukraine, fascists, oligarchs and western expansion are at the heart of the crisis | Seumas Milne
      30. France: $200 Minus $200 | Claire Lundberg
      31. I haven’t been nearly mad enough | Jenny Diski

      by David Bergman
      With the January 5 ‘elections' unable to provide the government with the requisite political or moral legitimacy to govern the country, Awami league politicians have focused on shoring up their right to govern by pointing to the need to deal with the violence committed by the opposition parties during the pre-election vehicle burning and post-election communal attacks. This strategy has also had the added benefit of helping the government to justify the joint forces' operation to remove ‘terrorism' from the country, which has since the elections resulted in a spate of deaths of opposition leaders and activists.

      remembering Neelan Tiruchelvam and celebrating the sanctity of life on his 70th birth anniversary.

      There is an old adage that every people gets the government it deserves; this is true except when nations are subdued by force, say foreign occupation or military dictatorship. The same is true of communities. Arguably, the Sinhala-state and chauvinism was an imposition on the Tamils of which the LTTE was a manifest excrescence; but also had the Tamils chosen another path such as Karalasingham pleaded for in Way Out for the Tamil Speaking People their destiny would have been different. I see no other liberal-democratic options for the Tamils than what they tried from 1948 to 1983 culminating in disaster. The alternative was the left which they rejected. To say the left "betrayed" the Tamils is a post-1972 narrative, for 25 years before that the left tried but the Tamils were immune; stone-deaf and midnight-blind. But yes, two wrongs don't make a right.

      terrorist assaults, since the beginning of the year alone, have caused over 210 deaths, more than half of these being civilians. The list of the injured is equally high, while the state of insecurity among the citizens remains grave and critical. We also condemn the policy of holding terrorist forces as strategic assets to be used to gain advantage in the regional equation vis-à-vis our neighbours.
      It is obvious; the government is absolutely non-serious in addressing the issue of terrorism and in establishing its own writ across the country. The ugly backlash of this policy is being borne by the citizens in the form of daily acts of terrorism, economic downturn, social discontent and murder of family relatives and friends.

      by Beena Sarwar
      Recently, an editor in Karachi told the well known defence and policy analyst Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa “not to bother writing anymore about the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or any other militant outfit, religious party or even the cricketer-turned-politician's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).” She was told not to even mention TTP and affiliated organisations.

      6. THE SULTANS OF PAKISTAN | Christophe Jaffrelot
      How a few wealthy dynasties dominate the nation's [Pakistan] politics, and get even richer.

      Which political party in Pakistan has in the previous year presented itself as the one and only Pakistani political party, free from all dogmas like rightism and leftism, and lack of any ethnic, provincial or racial attachment? Which political party has been resorting to mob politics to achieve its political ambitions? Which political party has a leader who is looked at as a hero, a superman, and as the embodiment of an “ideal Pakistani”?

      The current report Crises, Vulnerability and Poverty in South Asia: People's Struggles for Justice and Dignity focuses on the crises, vulnerability and poverty in South Asia. The report features the voices of people against the injustice and indignity caused by the crisis-led vulnerability and poverty across the sub-continent and suggests sustainable alternatives. The broad effects and impacts of the economic crisis on vulnerability and poverty have been analysed along with its impacts on various socio-economic groups.

      by Praful Bidwai
      A month after storming to power in Delhi following a spectacular electoral debut, the Aam Aadmi Party has tarnished its image by taking three false steps. First, its law minister Somnath Bharti and women and child welfare minister Rakhi Birla indulged in obnoxious vigilantism. Second, AAP's top leadership, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, defended their conduct and even commended Mr Bharti's actions. Third, AAP's official Hindi organ “Aap ki Kranti” on January 24 recorded on its website “shortlisting of Bangladeshi infiltrators” as one of the 15 achievements of its government.

      The Maruti Suzuki Workers' Union's march, which began at Kaithal, reached Delhi in a fortnight. These photos were taken at Jantar Mantar on 31 January 2014.

      Outposts of feudalism still thrive in vast swathes of rural India, ranging from khap panchayats in the north to caste-based gatherings of village elders in the south.; The death sentences imposed by the 'shalishi adalats' [in Bengal] are usually executed in utmost secrecy and the whole village takes an 'omerta' or oath of silence, thus foiling any effort by the law enforcement machinery to bring members of such kangaroo courts to justice.

      The Odisha illegal mining scam amounts to Rs. 59,203 crore and illegal iron and manganese ore amounting to 22.80 crore tonnes was extracted illegally from the state for almost a decade, reveals Shah Commission report. Read first two volumes of Justice M B Shah Commission Panel report on illegal mining of iron ore and manganese in the state of Odisha.

      [From SACW Archive Project]
      This publication examines the role of the Right wing RSS and its political arm the Jana Sangh in inciting riots in Ranchi (1967), Srinagar (1967), Meerut, Aurangabad, Karimganj and other places

      A visit to the camps in Muzaffarnagar was made on 19 and 20 January 2014. The objective of the trip was to obtain a first hand account of the present status of the victim-survivors of the communal violence, more particularly women and girls, the challenges they face and the extent to which the state government and the district administration have fulfilled their responsibilities to facilitate reparative justice for the victim- survivors. The visit was also intendedto report back to a larger group of concerned women‟s rights activists in Mumbai. The visit was facilitated byJoint Citizens‟ Initiative (JCI). Given the paucity of time, we visited three camps in Muzaffarnagar district and conversed with victim-survivors, members of local organizations working with the victim-survivors as well as officials of the district administration.

      The recent judgment by the Supreme Court which has recriminalised homosexuality might have baffled a broad section of peace and justice loving people but it has definitely emboldened many a self proclaimed leaders of religion and purveyors of morality who today feel vindicated. For them it is a moment of celebration

      by Nandini Sundar
      By going to town as the Chhattisgarh police and media have recently done on my alleged Maoist links, the real questions have been sidelined. As citizens of this country, do we have the right to protest democratically and constitutionally, and as journalists, researchers or human rights activists, are we free to pursue our vocation?

      by Daya Varma
      The article "The Emerging Left in the Emerging World" by Jayati Ghosh presents a frank and penetrating analysis of the present and the future of the left. However, Ghosh is an eminent Indian political economist and one could have expected her to deal in somewhat greater detail with the condition of "the emerging left" in India. Perhaps her reluctance to do so is because she belongs to the left fraternity and does not wish to confront what is most dear or of most concern to her.

      18. INDIA: BIG MONEY BABA ASARAM (newspreport and cartoon)
      They say there is no business like God business. Reports claim this 'guru' amassed some Rs 10,000 crores.

      URLS to reports from France, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK (in French and English) and also protest photos

      20. SELECTED SONGS BY PETE SEEGER - What Did You Learn In School? | Guantanamera | Talking Union | Union Maid | Joe Hill | Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram
      Pete Seeger the American, political activist, song writer, singer, folk musician dies on 28 January 2014. A select few songs by Seeger are posted here

      over one hundred signatories, including the pioneer of peace studies Johan Galtung, physician and anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott, biologist and science broadcaster David Suzuki, peace educator Betty Reardon, political scientist Karel van Wolferen, and Pulitzer-prize winning historian Martin Sherwin. Other signers are leading authors, scholars, and filmmakers, representatives of various peace organizations, and citizens who have been committed to ending military colonization of Okinawa.

      - India: Modi, Mulayam and Muzaffarnagar | Sukumar Muralidharan
      - India: 2002 Gujarat Riots - Aaj Tak Coverage 02-03-2002 Videos
      - India: Secularism and democracy continue to be major poll issues (editorial - Kashmir Times)
      - India: New scourge in Assam - Editorial in The Hindu
      - India: NDTV debate on 1984 anti-Sikh riots: only politics, no justice? following call for a Special Investigation Team by AAP govt
      - India: RSS Men Were Involved in Delhi's Anti Sikh Pogrom of 1984 - A Hindustan Times clipping
      - India: ABVP men disrupt seminar on Muzaffarnagar riot at DU [Delhi University]

      ::FULL TEXT::
      Tarek Mahmud, Chittagong
      (Dhaka Tribune, January 31, 2014)

      They risked their lives to challenge the people offloading the ammo onto trucks from two trawlers at the Chittagong Uria Ferliser Limited jetty

      Two people were punished, tortured and harassed because they did the right thing, and someone else, who did the exact opposite, was awarded with a presidential medal.

      On the night of April 1, 2004, it was Sergeant Alauddin and Sergeant Helal Uddin Bhuiyan, who discovered that 10 truckloads of arms and ammunition were being smuggled through the Chittagong port.

      They risked their lives to challenge the people offloading the ammo onto trucks from two trawlers at the Chittagong Uria Ferliser Limited jetty.

      They were told that the authorities were aware of the “goods” being offloaded and threatened with dire consequences. They were also told that the arms and ammunitions were being transported for the separatist Indian group United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa).

      However, Alauddin and Helal braved the threats and called in security reinforcements to round up the smugglers and the arms stash.

      However, instead of being rewarded for bravery, these two sergeants were framed in fake arms cases, fired from the force and brutally tortured in custody – during the tenure of the BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance government.

      In 2005, two other men, nabbed with AK-47 rifles in Feni and Noakhali, told law enforcers that they got the weapons from Alauddin and Helal.

      “Then, we were suspended and made accused for supplying those two with the rifles. We were tortured in custody as part of an attempt to twist the sensational cases [filed in connection with the 10-truck arms haul],” Alauddin recounted.

      The torture in custody was so brutal that they had never been the same person again – neither physically nor mentally, Alauddin said. “One of Helal’s legs was broken.”

      However, the two policemen were later proved innocent and got back their jobs in 2011 – during the tenure of the Awami League-led government.

      At present, Alauddin is serving as an inspector of the Special Protection Battalion (SBPn) at Ganabhaban – the prime minister’s official residence – and Helal as a traffic sergeant with Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP).

      According to Alauddin, on the night of the arms haul, they, along with other policemen, picked up five suspected Ulfa men from the jetty area.

      He and Helal later came to learn that the five men they had rounded up were later released from the custody of Abdullah Hel Baki, the then DC (port) of CMP.

      “We mentioned the names of those five in our first information report. But, they were freed. Later, we were forced to tear up some of the pages of the FIR. There were some indirect pressures for concealing Ulfa’s connection with the haul,” Alauddin described.

      Additional Superintendent of Police Md Moniruzzaman, investigation officer of the 10-truck arms haul cases, said the release of those five men and the framing of the two sergeants were part of attempts to hide the involvement of Ulfa and the higher authorities of Bangladesh with the smuggling.

      Abdullah, who played an obedient role to the then government by releasing the Ulfa men and hiding facts, was awarded with the President Police Medal in 2005 – the same year Alauddin and Helal were framed with false arms cases, fired from the force and tortured in custody.

      Sources from the police said not just the medal, DC Abdullah and his assistant Mahmudur got a number of promotions and recognitions during the BNP-Jamaat-led government’s tenure.

      “We seized the biggest ever arms haul in the country’s history; yet we were made victims. Someone else took all the credits and also got all the recognitions, although he was guilty of hiding facts and letting suspects go. He did those following the then government’s orders,” Alauddin continued.

      If the five Ulfa men were not released, the investigation would not have taken such a long time, said ASP Moniruzzaman, investigation officer of the arms haul cases.

      Abdullah Hel Baki is currently an additional deputy inspector general of police and Mahmudur a superintendent of police in the Sylhet range. Both have been made officers on special duty (OSD).

      A special Chittagong court yesterday sentenced 14, including two cabinet members – Matiur Rahman Nizami and Lutfozzaman Babar – of the then BNP-led 4-party alliance government, to death in connection with the arms haul.
      - See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/law-amp-rights/2014/jan/31/heroes-punished-villains-rewarded

      Editorial, The Telegraph (Calcutta), January 30 , 2014

      It is important to note that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is not inherently a “gay law”. It criminalizes sex that is “against the order of nature” between consenting adults: sex that is not, at least potentially, reproductive. So consensual anal and oral sex — together with a variety of other sexual acts that have accreted in annotations to the law over the years (and are lushly depicted on the walls of many an ancient Indian temple) — between heterosexual as well as homosexual individuals becomes criminal behaviour under this law. Its origins are in the twisted joylessness of Victorian prudery, which pushed back the spiritually enlightened unsqueamishness of Indian sexual mores by several centuries. It is, however, true that cruel, corrupt and abusive keepers of the law — usually the police — often use this particular law to brutalize and blackmail men having any kind of sex with men in situations of terrifying powerlessness for the latter. And with the new lease of life that this law has been given by the judiciary, its actual and symbolic power to persecute vulnerability is being used with renewed aplomb — within the family, for instance, to suppress a young man or woman trying to come to terms with his or her sexuality.

      So, for many principled reasons, and at many levels of political engagement, the drive to remove Section 377 from the IPC and thus decriminalize what is effectively a whole range of sexual practices and identities, is something that every Indian citizen committed to democracy — and within democracy, to the sanctity of human rights — must stand up for clearheadedly. If the courts, including the highest, have refrained from doing so, possibly for the sake of correcting their reputation for judicial activism, then the other institutions of the modern Indian State — especially Parliament — must get their acts together, rise above partisan interests and electoral insecurities, think boldly, rationally and humanely through their own prejudices, evasions and confusions, and prove to themselves, to millions of concerned citizens and to the rest of the world that Left, Right and Centre could come together on urgent and universal questions of human dignity, equality and privacy. Messrs Gandhi, Modi, Kejriwal and other aspiring (or veteran) leaders of the nation must realize that to do anything less would, in fact, be going against the order of nature.

      by Amitabh Pal
      (The Progressive - Jan. 31, 2014)

      An apologist for a mass murderer is running for Congress in California.

      Dr. Vanila Singh is in the race for the seventeenth Congressional district, challenging two Democrats, Congressman Mike Honda and former Obama Administration trade representative Ro Khanna.

      Singh has been defending an Indian politician named Narendra Modi, who quite possibly could be the Prime Minister of India in a few months. However, after she was called out for doing so, she unconvincingly disavowed her position in an effort to distance herself from a political patron's super PAC.

      In 2002, as the head of the Indian state of Gujarat (the home state of Mahatma Gandhi, believe it or not), Modi presided over an anti-Muslim pogrom that left thousands of people dead. Official complicity in the killings was glaring.

      “In many cases, the police led the charge, using gunfire to kill Muslims who got in the mobs’ way,” Human Rights Watch said in a report issued at the time. “A key state minister is reported to have taken over police control rooms in Ahmedabad [the state’s largest city] on the first day of the carnage, issuing orders to disregard pleas of assistance from Muslims.”

      After initially ignoring the bloodbath, the Bush Administration, in response to pressure from human rights groups, issued a ban on Narendra Modi visiting the United States.

      Singh wants that ban lifted. Her carefully worded backpedal on the matter does not deny this.

      “It would be regretful if certain groups that have certain agendas would make the policy for the United States,” Vanila Singh told SFGate.com, referring to the successful lobbying by human rights organizations to deny Modi a visa.

      Singh would seem to be doing the bidding of a Chicago entrepreneur named Shalabh “Shaili” Kumar, a supporter of Modi -- although she denies this.

      Over the past decade, Modi has gone from strength to strength. He has been re-elected to head his state a number of times and has now been chosen as the prime ministerial candidate of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party for this summer’s national elections. The fact that he is persona non grata for the United States is a black mark that his back [. . .]

      by Ellen Barry
      The New York Times
      JAN. 28, 2014

      NEW DELHI — A few years ago, the Indian filmmaker Nishtha Jain set up a camera in her apartment. She wanted to tell a story about a relationship between unequals.

      Lakshmi, her 21-year-old housemaid, crawls across the floor with a rag, polishing the marble, while Ms. Jain, reading at a table, lifts up her feet and sets them down without a glance. Lakshmi prepares two cups of tea and gives one to Ms. Jain, who is seated in a chair, then, though a second chair is empty, sits on the floor to drink her own. Asked to join Ms. Jain and her friends at a lunch table, Lakshmi dissolves into helpless giggles. “See, they are sitting together like white people,” she tells her sister later. “And I am one black person amongst them.”

      When Ms. Jain reviewed the footage for her 2008 documentary, “Lakshmi and Me,” a few scenes made her cringe — which was, in a way, the whole point of the project, which she described as “morally exhausting.” The disparity between middle-class Indians and their household staff is a subject no one is eager to talk about, even in the tidal wave of commentary over the case of Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat who was charged with visa fraud in New York in relation to her treatment of her maid.

      A superabundance of cheap labor is built into every aspect of life here. Domestic workers are at the bottom of the work force, wage-wise and class-wise, and in 2010 they earned a national average of about $1.30 a day.

      Hunt for an apartment in New Delhi’s wealthy neighborhoods and this immediately becomes clear: Spacious homes feature tiny, airless spaces known as “servants’ quarters.” Elevators are sometimes marked with signs reading “Not for use by servants.” Landlords asked about installing dishwashers often respond with blank stares, because servants wash the dishes.

      It is difficult to find anyone here who does not take advantage of low wages, including liberals and foreigners. I pay our nanny a salary of around $240 a month, and provide free lodging — twice the legal minimum wage for unskilled labor in Delhi, which is home to millions of poor people seeking work. One American friend, giving me advice before I moved, said the right thing to do was to employ as many people as possible. But even trying to make fair choices in this environment is morally exhausting.

      Ms. Jain’s film is an attempt to grapple with that disparity — not just inIndia, she said in an interview, but anywhere, including the West, where poor women and migrants look after the children of the rich. When she began filming, Ms. Jain was paying Lakshmi 600 rupees, or about $9.50, per month for 45-minute daily cleanings, “less than what I would spend on a fancy dinner,” she reasons in a voiceover, “but that’s what everyone pays.”

      No one abuses Lakshmi, a birdlike beauty who began working at the age of 10 collecting garbage in Mumbai, but the footage is difficult to watch at times anyway. The camera lingers on one of her middle-class employers, a well-meaning, educated woman who sits on a couch playing computer solitaire while Lakshmi — heavily pregnant and with a diagnosis of tuberculosis — passes back and forth doing household chores.

      “We really look like jerks,” Ms. Jain said. “This film was a damn bold and really tiring thing to do, because we look like creeps, and this is what we are. We cannot wash our hands of this. We are accepting a certain inequity.”

      It is not uncommon to hear discomfort of this kind here, but legislative solutions seem remote. A National Policy on Domestic Workers, which would extend minimum wage laws to protect workers in this sector, has been foundering in Parliament since 2011.

      As for Lakshmi, the documentary gave her a sort of neighborhood celebrity. On her husband’s insistence, she withdrew the money from two funds the filmmaker set aside — one for her, and another for her daughter’s education — to buy land in South India, where she has given birth to two more daughters, each time hoping for the boy her husband wants, Ms. Jain said. When the two women last spoke, she was full of regret, and spoke of returning to Mumbai.

      “She was very unhappy,” Ms. Jain said. But then she was gone again, leaving no phone number behind.

      A version of this article appears in print on January 29, 2014, in The International New York Times

      by Sam Cowie
      (The Observer, 26 January 2014)
      'Politicians receive so much money. If I could change one thing it would be to reduce their salaries,' says health worker Ines Ferreira de Abril

      Inês Ferreira de Abril's position in the community where she lives and works is halfway between guru and local hero. Walking through the tight red-brick maze of the Borel-Indiana favela, a poor settlement of some 20,000 just a 10-minute cab ride from Rio's Maracanã stadium, she is stopped every five minutes by well-wishers and those seeking advice.

      These exchanges highlight some shocking failures of Rio's public health system: the head of a local residents' association whose young son died from an undiagnosed cancer; an elderly woman who has waited three years for a rheumatologist appointment; a diabetic who pays for her insulin when the local Posto de Saude – the government-run health clinic where Inês is based – runs out. According to Inês, these situations are commonplace. "It takes so long to arrange specialist care," she says. "People end up spending their hard-earned money on private appointments and buying medicine they should get for free."

      Inês grew up in Borel-Indiana and was drawn to working in the public health system 12 years ago when she found out she was pregnant with her third child. She earns R$850 (£250) a month working at the Posto de Saude from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.

      "Living in the community, in reality, we work 24 hours a day. People always need help – they knock on our doors in the middle of the night, ask questions at the bus stop. Therefore the low salary is a problem," she says, sitting in the home she's been in since she was five. A laptop and a copy of the Bible lie on the glass living-room table. "The politicians receive so much money. If I could change one thing in Brazil, it would be to reduce their salaries. I wish I could change the corruption, too."

      Inês took part in a few of the popular protests that started in Rio in June 2013. The last was October's teachers' protest that called for better salaries, working conditions and improved career prospects. She says public education and healthcare are "unvalued" services. "If things are bad, you have to go to the street and show the government your discontent. The street is the place for protest," she says. "But I don't believe in vandalism. When you're breaking traffic signs, bus stops, it's public money we have paid."

      When asked about the famed Black Bloc – the masked anti-capitalist anarchists inspired by their European counterparts of the same name who hijacked the teachers' protest – Inês sighs and shakes her head. "That's what the government does – hides behind masks. We need to show our faces, to show who we are and our dissatisfaction."

      Inês hopes the protests will lead to health professionals being valued so they are less likely to switch to the lucrative private healthcare sector. She says doctors come to the Posto de Saude at Borel-Indiana, gain experience and then leave, often after only a year or so, which is disruptive. "They prefer to work in the private system because there are better working conditions and better pay. They have everything they need: equipment, medicine, research."

      Along with higher salaries, Inês believes public health workers need facilitated career paths as well as incentives and help to study further. "An informed person can complain, shout and inconvenience the government. An uninformed person can't," she says. "A healthy, informed Brazil is a better Brazil."

      January 30, 2014

      The biology curriculum used by a system of taxpayer-supported charter schools in Texas promotes creationism in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.

      In a letter today to the Texas Education Agency’s Division of Charter School Administration, Americans United warned officials that Responsive Education Solutions must not be permitted to continue to aggressively undermine the theory of evolution while receiving public funds. Americans United told the agency to either prohibit the use of this curriculum or revoke Responsive Education Solutions’ charter.

      SEE A U letter to the Texas Education Agency’s Division of Charter School Administration

      by Seumas Milne
      (The Guardian, 29 January 2014)

      The story we're told about the protests gripping Kiev bears only the sketchiest relationship with reality

      We've been here before. For the past couple of months street protests in Ukraine have been played out through the western media according to a well-rehearsed script. Pro-democracy campaigners are battling an authoritarian government. The demonstrators are demanding the right to be part of the European Union. But Russia's president Vladimir Putin has vetoed their chance of freedom and prosperity.

      It's a story we've heard in one form or another again and again – not least in Ukraine's western-backed Orange revolution a decade ago. But it bears only the sketchiest relationship to reality. EU membership has never been – and very likely never will be – on offer to Ukraine. As in Egypt last year, the president that the protesters want to force out was elected in a poll judged fair by international observers. And many of those on the streets aren't very keen on democracy at all.

      You'd never know from most of the reporting that far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings. One of the three main opposition parties heading the campaign is the hard-right antisemitic Svoboda, whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok claims that a "Moscow-Jewish mafia" controls Ukraine. But US senator John McCain was happy to share a platform with him in Kiev last month. The party, now running the city of Lviv, led a 15,000-strong torchlit march earlier this month in memory of the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera, whose forces fought with the Nazis in the second world war and took part in massacres of Jews.

      So in the week that the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army was commemorated as Holocaust Memorial Day, supporters of those who helped carry out the genocide are hailed by western politicians on the streets of Ukraine. But Svoboda has now been outflanked in the protests by even more extreme groups, such as "Right Sector", who demand a "national revolution" and threaten "prolonged guerrilla warfare".

      Not that they have much time for the EU, which has been pushing Ukraine to sign an association agreement, offering loans for austerity, as part of a German-led drive to open up Ukraine for western companies. It was Viktor Yanukovych's abandonment of the EU option – after which Putin offered a $15bn bailout – that triggered the protests.

      But Ukrainians are deeply divided about both European integration and the protests – largely along an axis between the largely Russian-speaking east and south (where the Communist party still commands significant support), and traditionally nationalist western Ukraine. Industry in the east is dependent on Russian markets, and would be crushed by EU competition.

      It's that historic faultline at the heart of Ukraine that the west has been trying to exploit to roll back Russian influence since the 1990s, including a concerted attempt to draw Ukraine into Nato. The Orange revolution leaders were encouraged to send Ukrainian troops into Iraq and Afghanistan as a sweetener.

      Nato's eastward expansion was halted by the Georgian war of 2008 and Yanukovych's later election on a platform of non-alignment. But any doubt that the EU's effort to woo Ukraine is closely connected with western military strategy was dispelled today by Nato's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who declared that the abortive pact with Ukraine would have been "a major boost to Euro-Atlantic security".

      Which helps to explain why politicians like John Kerry and William Hague have been so fierce in their condemnation of Ukrainian police violence – which has already left several dead – while maintaining such studied restraint over the killing of thousands of protesters in Egypt since last year's coup.

      Not that Yanukovych could be mistaken for any kind of progressive. He has been backed to the hilt by billionaire oligarchs who seized control of resources and privatised companies after the collapse of the Soviet Union – and fund opposition politicians and protesters at the same time. Indeed, one interpretation of the Ukrainian president's problems is that the established oligarchs have had enough of favours granted to an upstart group known as "the family".

      It's anger at this grotesque corruption and inequality, Ukraine's economic stagnation and poverty that has brought many ordinary Ukrainians to join the protests – as well as outrage at police brutality. Like Russia, Ukraine was beggared by the neoliberal shock therapy and mass privatisation of the post-Soviet years. More than half the country's national income was lost in five years and it has yet fully to recover.

      But nor do the main opposition and protest leaders offer any kind of genuine alternative, let alone a challenge to the oligarchy that has Ukraine in its grip. Yanukovych has now made sweeping concessions to the protesters: sacking the prime minister, inviting opposition leaders to join the government and ditching anti-protest laws passed earlier this month.

      Whether that calms or feeds the unrest will be clear soon enough. But the risk of the conflict spreading – leading political figures have warned of civil war – is serious. There are other steps that could help defuse the crisis: the creation of a broad coalition government, a referendum on EU relations, a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system and greater regional autonomy.

      The breakup of Ukraine would not be a purely Ukrainian affair. Along with China's emerging challenge to US domination of east Asia, the Ukrainian faultine has the potential to draw in outside powers and lead to a strategic clash. Only Ukrainians can overcome this crisis. Continuing outside interference is both provocative and dangerous.

      30. $200 Minus $200
      Having a baby in Paris gave me a crash course in socialized medicine—and a new, very French definition of “costly.”
      by Claire Lundberg
      (slate.com - 27 Jan. 2014)

      When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had been living in France for only about six months, and hadn’t yet received my Carte Vitale, France’s universal health care card. The day I went for my first sonogram, my midwife warned me that I should brace myself for a big bill. “Since you don’t have your Carte Vitale yet,” she said, “it’s going to be costly.”

      I’m an American, and accustomed to American medical costs—I’d always worked for small businesses, where company insurance usually came with high co-pays and out-of-network deductibles. So of course I tensed up. “How much will it be?” I asked the midwife fearfully. “Will it be—more than 1,000 euros?” (That’s about $1,300 at today’s exchange rate.)

      She looked at me like I was crazy. “No, it won’t be that much!” she exclaimed.

      The final bill for the appointment was 150 euros, or about $200, which I paid in full, and for which I was later reimbursed in full.

      In other words, “$200 minus $200” counts as a “costly” medical bill in France.

      France is a proud welfare state, where public spending accounts for 53 percent of GDP—the second-highest percentage in the developed world (only Sweden’s is higher). The U.S. is the third-lowest, at 36 percent (ahead of Ireland and South Korea). Having a baby so soon after moving to France gave my husband and me a crash course in one of the largest components of the French welfare state: its medical system, which has often been called the best in the world.

      France’s health care system is a public/private hybrid: Everyone is covered to a certain extent by the government’s Assurance Maladie, but most people also have private insurance, called a mutuelle, that is either offered through their employer or bought on the private market. There’s a thriving private insurance market in France—one that the Affordable Care Act can only dream of. Private medical insurance is advertised on the sides of buses and alongside movie previews in theaters, and there are plans geared toward numerous niches: college students, freelance professionals, and people who work in restaurants, to name a few.

      Because my husband worked at a French company, he immediately began paying into the system, which covered me as well while I wasn’t working. In addition, my husband’s employers provided a choice of mutuelle; the top-of-the-line plan, which we signed up for, cost about 50 euros ($68) a month. By contrast, in the U.S., I’d been paying about $350 a month with an additional $50 co-pay for each doctor’s appointment.

      I was adjusting to the outlandish notion that I would know the exact cost of my health care services before buying them.

      Our first task was to find a place to have the baby. I’d suspected I was pregnant for two weeks before I took a pregnancy test, not wanting to be overly anxious. This was my first mistake. “You must call the maternités now—vite! Vite!” my friend Anais practically yelled at me when she heard. And she was right: Six weeks pregnant, I was already too late to get a spot in many of Paris’ public maternity wards. Only then did I learn that most Parisian women call the hospital the day they miss their period. I have a friend who walked to her local hospital with her pregnancy test in hand the minute she found out.

      This kind of crowding, especially in bigger cities, is one of the downsides of a government-run health care system. On the upside, had I managed to book a bed in one of the public wards, my birth would have been completely free, paid for entirely by the government’s Assurance Maladie. Everyone pays into Assurance Maladie through charges that are taken directly from their paycheck. (Unlike Americans, French employers and workers quote salaries as net, not gross—so your salary is what you receive after deductions for health care and other social services.) From the sixth month of pregnancy to 11 days after a child’s birth, the government covers a woman’s medical expenses in full.

      In full—except for the costs of a private clinic if you’ve missed out on a public ward. There are plenty of private maternités in Paris, and I found a great one, with an English-speaking midwife who agreed to follow my pregnancy from the outset, as I still had no regular doctor. But how expensive would it be?

      Luckily, transparency in the price of medical care is a legal requirement in France. The government sets what they consider fair prices for all appointments and procedures, and then reimburses these for everyone at 70 percent. This is not unlike Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S., but because the French government system covers the entire population, it has more bargaining power to keep prices low. For example, a private appointment with a midwife is calculated at a base cost of 28 euros—the same price it would be at a public clinic or hospital. The government will reimburse the patient 18.50 euros of this, even if the midwife charges more; the rest the patient pays out of pocket and/or has covered by a mutuelle.

      It’s not uncommon in the bigger cities, particularly in Paris, for a doctor to charge more than the government’s recommended price. But these overages, called dépassements, don’t come anywhere near what an American specialist might charge. In fact, under French law, a doctor must issue a receipt explaining any dépassement above 70 euros before beginning the test or appointment. (France is also arguably more creative than U.S. health care providers in keeping childbirth costs down. For example, women who are likely to have complication-free births are usually referred to a Level 1 maternity ward, which has an operating room in case a C-section is necessary but no neo-natal unit or full hospital facility attached to the clinic. In the U.S., most women deliver at a full-service hospital, even if it’s likely they will experience no complications.)

      Not only was I getting accustomed to a radically different idea of what constitutes “expensive,” but I was also adjusting to the outlandish notion that I would know the exact cost of my health care services before buying them.

      In the U.S., meanwhile, it’s often impossible to get a price for a delivery out of a hospital. Estimates vary by orders of magnitude: This California study of 100,000 complication-free deliveries showed that new mothers were charged anywhere from $3,296 to $37,227, with no clear medical reason for the massive discrepancy.

      By contrast, for my complication-free delivery and five-day stay in a private clinic, my total out-of-pocket cost was 400 euros, or about $542.

      Last fall, I watched the rollout of the Affordable Care Act with great interest from across the Atlantic. I’m self-employed, and I’m just not sure how my husband and I would have been able to pay our medical bills under the old system if we’d stayed in the U.S. The ACA is an improvement, but I don’t think we should count Obamacare’s average monthly premium of $328 as a success. That’s still a lot of money for a middle-class family—and that’s before co-pays, in-network deductibles, and all manner of hidden costs. From my French-ified perspective, a single-payer system—with strong government oversight to keep the price of medical care low—seems like the only way to go.

      A final note: If you have a baby in France, expect to bring your own towels to the hospital. While there are no $10 aspirins, there’s not much in the way of other amenities, either. But for great, affordable health care, I’m just fine with bringing my own shampoo.

      Claire Lundberg is a writer, literary scout, and former New Yorker now living in Paris.

      by Jenny Diski
      (London Review of Books - Vol. 36 No. 3 · 6 February 2014)

      The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times by Barbara Taylor
      Hamish Hamilton, 296 pp, £18.99, February, ISBN 978 0 241 14509 8

      ‘Madness is a childish thing,’ Barbara Taylor writes in The Last Asylum, a memoir of her two decades as a mental patient. The book records her breakdown, her 21-year-long analysis, her periods as an inmate at Friern Mental Hospital in North London, and in addition provides a condensed history of the treatment of mental illness and the institutions associated with it. Taylor was in the bin during the final days of the old Victorian asylums, before they were shut down in the 1990s, and their patients scattered to the cold liberty of the underfunded, overlooked region of rented accommodation or life on the street known as ‘community care’. Loony-bins. ‘Bins’, we called them for short, as Taylor does, just as we called mental illness ‘madness’ and ‘being crazy’. We recall our secret stashes of meds we’d only pretended to swallow and were keeping in bulk for a rainier day, and reminisce together about the time we tipped too far into our roles and were held down by half a dozen nurses while another injected us with a major tranquilliser. (‘Haloperidol?’ ‘No, chlorpromazine. The first time, anyway.’ Comparative demerits then explored.) In public the conversation has the same steely glint of challenge in one direction and moue of camaraderie in the other that you sometimes see when Jews tell stomach-curdling Jewish jokes, while the uncircumcised grope in their bag of possible socialised reactions for a way to respond.

      I say ‘we’, because reading The Last Asylum was an uncanny experience for me. I spent inmate time in several asylums, mostly in the late 1960s, long before Barbara Taylor’s breakdown (although we are of a similar age), later in Friern itself, only a few years before her various stays there, and also in the controversial ‘patient-run’ Paddington Day Hospital, mentioned by Taylor as the model for the Pine Street Day Centre that she attended, both of which were closed down as a result of the fear they aroused in the authorities. (I decided, after several conversations with professionals about those times, that when talking about institutions you can distinguish between inmates and staff because the former were ‘in’ them while the latter worked ‘at’ them.) As I read, I saw myself flitting through the pages of Taylor’s account like a precursor-ghost, or perhaps more a tetchy sprite, engaged in a debate with her text, ticking off the similarities between her experience and mine and weighing up the differences. Once I bumped into my own name and a description from my first novel of a ward round I suffered during my own very brief stay at Friern, which I fled to evade the threatened sectioning that would have allowed them to put me under lock and key and submit me to the treatment of their choice. (‘Mm, lobotomy or ECT, it’s a toss-up … ’) I thought it a mistake to miss out the most objectionable thing about that experience of twenty or so suited doctors and social workers sitting in a circle interrogating me: on the coffee table in the centre of the circle, the open gold cake box with a half-finished cream gâteau inside that no one thought to offer me.

      This, then, is not even a pretence at a neutral, objective review. On the contrary, I was struck by the thought that rather than a professional, or even adult reading, I was grabbing a miniature shadow-analysis for myself. I observed my responses to Taylor’s suffering (competitive), her experiences (comparative) and her analyst’s heroically determined interaction with her (part impatience, part envy), and found them looking more and more like the transference and counter-transference that analysts and analysands speak of with such awe. At any rate, the Poet said he’d never seen me so exercised about a book I was reviewing when he got back from work to find me spluttering, ‘I should have been MUCH madder than I was. I haven’t been NEARLY mad enough.’ (‘Probably not. A bit late now, eh?’ he said, hopefully.) ‘She describes what the worst of her anguish feels like, but it’s what I feel like every hour of every day. I need an analysis, five days a week for 21 years or the rest of my life, AT LEAST, whichever is longer.’ (‘You can’t afford it, and I’m about to retire,’ he said.) ‘And I want to be LOOKED AFTER by a coterie of close, concerned friends.’ (‘What friends? You haven’t got any.’) ‘And phone my shrink in the middle of the night and when he’s on holiday demanding that he help me.’ (‘You don’t much like being dependent.’) ‘But I SHOULD have been! I’ve been cheated out of a proper madness.’ Then, as if my fifty minutes were up, I heard myself, the supposedly detached reviewer, me-me-me-ing, furious and wounded, deprived, jealous and greedy. It was quite startling. When I came across that sentence, ‘Madness is a childish thing,’ I thought of H, from my nine months in the Maudsley at the end of the 1960s, with whom I still argue about which of us was really mad or maddest when we were best friends in the bin. ‘You were really mad, I was just, you know, angry.’ ‘No, you were much madder than I was. I just couldn’t express myself. Actually, you still are madder.’ It’s never quite clear whether my claim (or hers) to be the saner is a statement of superiority or a confession of failure. It comes back to me vividly that part of being mad, as I understood it, was that you never felt mad enough or properly mad, compared to others who were genuinely suffering. Or you suspected that you were probably only acting mad, while the others were actually mad, and felt extreme guilt as a result; an impostor, and a loser in the anguish stakes. Others have told me it was the same for them.

      As ever, living, reading and thinking around the subject, I return to the complete mystery of why some people are knocked flat and incapable by what seem like only the mildest of dysfunctional backgrounds, compared to others whose childhoods were devastated by cruelty and deprivation, let alone those who grow up with famine and war, yet seem to find a way to live their lives as if they were their own. And all that space in between the extremes of near harmlessness and full-blown misery: the whole regular family muddle and mess that everyone has to survive, or not. Like physical pain, which each individual is asked to assess on their own scale of one to ten, how much hurt you have received and how devastating it has been for you is too subjective to bear much comparison. I try not even to imagine the possibility of spending a crazed lifetime not just debating the one and ten of both kinds of pain against others’ assessments, but forever redefining the four, five and six. Whatever hurts you hurts, and however damaged you’ve been is how damaged you are. Yet despite my intermittent insight into my crooked reading of her book, it was impossible to get through Taylor’s singular and carefully structured account of her personal anguish and where it took her, without my childish, intrusive self chattering a comparative commentary. As with my own experience of psychotherapy, and life in general, self-knowledge on its own doesn’t seem to change anything very much.

      Taylor describes herself when she was at her most ill as totally panic-stricken, unable to tolerate being herself. Being intolerable to oneself is a feeling I know, one that seems almost impossible to convey effectively. You try this way and that to write it, or describe it, but always fail to do more than point at the name of the experience. Perhaps in an attempt to get closer to the physical and emotional reality of it, Taylor intersperses her chronological narrative with notes or recollections of sessions with her analyst, V, whom she saw at his consulting room five days a week, before, throughout and after her periods in hospital. On one of these worst of times, she lies on the couch, with V sitting behind her in the prescribed way, desperate to convey her feelings and to get V to do something to help her:

      What am I going to do? I can’t live like this; I can’t be me any more; I can’t be like this, I can’t survive outside hospital! … Where are you? Where are you? Oh, what am I going to do? I can’t live like this … I CANNOT FEEL LIKE THIS! It is impossible to feel these things and live! Who will help me? I want to die! Where are you? Do something for me!

      The condition Taylor speaks from is familiar, and is the most terrible condition on earth, for all one’s awareness, even at the time, of what in all conscience appears to be the much greater real-world sufferings of the poor and oppressed. Her analyst lets Taylor know that he recognises the degree of her desperation: ‘“The worst feeling in the world” was how V described this naked defencelessness to me. “People will do almost anything to avoid feeling it.”’ She speaks of her ‘stranded, homeless’ feelings: ‘Homeless feelings are boundless; they sweep all before them.’

      This hopeless, helpless narrative is one I recognise very well. It runs on and on in me, like a mantra, unvoiced much of the time, in dreams and anxieties or simple visceral feeling, and has done for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, in my madder (saner?) moments, I’ve spoken it out loud, as Taylor does, demanding help, unreasonably because I know all the while that the help I want isn’t available for the asking, or even there to be given, since I don’t know what it is that could help, and I’m pretty sure that no one, psychoanalyst or psychiatrist, GP, lover or best friend, knows either, beyond their professional or humane conviction that talk and interpretation, medication or a cuddle will allow you to get an insight or a rest. It’s the knowing you won’t get help however urgently you want it that ratchets the feeling up into madness, a spiral that runs out of control. It is not that ghastly notion of the ‘inner child’ we hear so much of, but Taylor’s ‘madness-is-childish’ that speaks, howls this stuff, while the despair, non-mad-non-child, knows no one can possibly ever care enough or do enough, however much they want to, even though it’s their job and you pay them, or they love you for some reason, or simply would do anything to get some respite from your demands. The despair comes from knowing that no one is going to help, that only finding some way of getting on with it is going to help, and getting on with it is the very last thing you are capable of. Except that you have to. But you can’t. (See Beckett, if you will.) There’s nothing moral about it, it’s just the adamantine way of the world. In such a state, and I would say, such a near truthful state, the reason anyone gets to this ten of interior suffering isn’t really the thing that needs most urgently to be dealt with, yet it is precisely the job of psychoanalysis to investigate just that.


      Taylor was brought up in Canada in the 1950s by self-involved, actively socialist parents. She was and still is a respected academic historian of radical movements and feminism from the 18th to the 21st century. How she got any work done or proceeded in her career is baffling. For two decades she battled intolerable feelings of rage and deprivation, as well as punishing nightmares, and used drink, drugs and sex copiously in her attempts to escape it all. She acknowledges that she was surrounded by devoted friends and feminist comrades who looked after her, helped her, kept her alive. In addition, all through her hospitalisation and her worst moments of self-loathing, she managed to visit V five days a week. Which is to say that she had some fundamental optimism that she could be helped by psychoanalysis. It isn’t clear whether the pain from her childhood that she investigates in her analysis is the result of thoughtlessness or actual cruelty on the part of her parents. She was looked after by nannies from the local unmarried mothers’ home, all of whom had just given up their babies for adoption. Their silent grief, which must have suffused the house, was never acknowledged or discussed by her mother: ‘And why not give a girl, who has just lost her child, responsibility for your own little ones?’ The young women came and went, giving Taylor much to grieve about too, their losses and hers. It emerges through the book, and the analysis, that her parents were intellectuals and writers manqué. Taylor felt the pressure on her to win prizes, to be a writer – which is apparently what all thinking and politically active people aspire to and require from their children. She recalls moments of aggression from her father and too much intimacy in the way his hand touched or brushed against her as an adolescent; he was openly a philanderer, which caused third parties to appear in the house, father’s and mother’s lovers, their role also not spoken about. Her mother, she recognises, was self-centred and disappointed, and disappointed too in her daughter who wasn’t the genius her parents required, and wasn’t wanted in their dramatic romance and political activism. She comes to realise that she was imperfectly loved and cared for. She developed tics and compulsions. She tried to fill up the void with eating, drinking, sex and drugs. ‘I am starving. Nothing I put into me satisfies me. I could devour the world, but I chew myself (my nails, my hair) instead. When I eat, I keep on eating. There is no repletion, no stopping point.’

      V does what analysts do and offers his patient interpretations that relate to their immediate situation in the consulting room and repeat the past the analysand is stuck in:

      I think you want to feel fed. But you are afraid.


      Yes, fed. Full, satisfied.

      (Long silence) Why afraid?

      Because if I ever find out that you feel fed by me,I will make you suffer for it … You believe that I would stop doing whatever I had done that satisfied you. That’s what you think would happen … Stop analysing you, stop feeding you, stop seeing you … That would be your punishment for feeling well fed by me.

      At this point in the therapy I’ve had I’ve always muttered something like ‘You, you, you. This isn’t about you …<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)