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Sunday, 10 June


The future of trade unions "IndyWatch Feed"

Unless democracy is reinstated as the movements guiding principle, organized labor will fail in any form.

Fight for 15 PA, SEIU 32BJ, and other unions representing fast food workers, home care workers, airport and retail workers rallied and marched around a South Philly McDonald's on Labor Day, 2017. Credit: Flickr/Joe Piette. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

British and American unions live in contradictory times. Scarred by 40 years of demoralisation and decline and with a tumbling membership, stringent legal restrictions on their work and fading political influence, they may also now stand on the cusp of a revival.

A wave of recent battles on both sides of the Atlantic, notably the ongoing teachers strikes in the US and an unprecedented 14-day strike by British university staff, might anticipate a coming upsurge in trade union action. Smug corporate types like to dismiss unions as industrial dinosaurs, killing time as they wait for the comet to land and finally bring about their extinction. We might yet get to see the smirks wiped from their faces.

The sharpest edge of this contradiction involves workers at the bottom of the occupational pyramid: the least-skilled, lowest-paid, largely female, migrant and non-white precarious layer of the workforce who British and American unions have historically struggled to organize. In the past several decades they have seldom tried.

The failure of unions to organize precarious workers has gone hand in hand with a failure of internal democracy. Falling membership in the past 40 years stems in part from union leaders not doing enough to draw on the talents and abilities of their members. An active membership, with real space to debate and change what their union does, is essential if unions are to organise precarious workers and bring about their own revival.

Different traditions within the British and American unions have addressed these questions in their own distinct ways. Each has their own take on what unions should and shouldnt do, and each has their own approach to organizing precarious workers and fostering democracy within the labor movement. As unions teeter between revival and further decline, its worth thinking about what these traditions ar...


Dont panic oh no! "IndyWatch Feed"

By Molly Pollock

The food was excellent, the Burgundy flowed, liqueurs were served, conviviality reigned. Boriss mouth loosened. And somewhere in the room a recording device, probably a mobile phone, was switched on.

Boris was speaking at a dinner, a private gathering of about twenty Tories, members of Conservative Way Forward a Thatcherite campaign group at the Institute of Directors in London. For an hour he punched the air, thumped the table and ruffled his washing mop of hair with his hands. Boris was in his element.

It took little time for the hand that had enabled the recording to pass it to Buzzfeed who promptly published a report of it. It then flew around social media and appeared on other news media websites. Boris had spoken. Boris had, to this private gathering, spoken his real, unvarnished thoughts.

Worrying madness

It comes as no surprise to many that he venerates Trump, increasingly admires him and believes theres method in his worrying madness. Boriss admiration even led him to suggest The Donald would be ideal to negotiate Brexit. He likes the thought hed go in bloody hard, although acknowledging things wouldnt go smoothly and there would inevitably be a few breakdowns, chaos even, causing a belief that hed gone mad (dont we already think that!). But Boris was intrigued by the thought, musing that Trumps intervention might see Brexiters plans actually come to fruition rather than Mays wishy-washy compromise.

The risk was grave, he averred, that Brexiteers risked getting not the deal they hoped for, but a cobbled-together compromise far worse, without the freedom to trade widely, instead being locked in orbit around the EU. Hence, no doubt, his wish that Trump the action man could take charge. The government, so feart of short-term economic disruption, risks tossing away the opportunities Brexiters believe in, he avers, leaving the meagre, damaging EU offer.

Concerns about disruption at borders were ridiculed, and as for the border...


Extreme-right sympathisers just spectacularly proved how gullible they are "IndyWatch Feed"

The extreme-right always prey on the ignorant and easily manipulated, but this latest piece of fakery they just fell for just goes to prove how gullible and ignorant extreme-right sympathisers really are.

Before we get to the fake photo, it's first necessary to point out that the Free Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) protest that did happen in London was populated by a bunch of Britain-hating fascists and gullible idiots who actually fell for the lamentable argument that Yaxley-Lennon had been jailed for "free speech" rather than for deliberately and knowingly breaking a court order in an effort to disrupt a court case against child sex offenders, risking the collapse of interlinked trials (a crime he pleaded guilty to).

The mixture of fascist thugs, gullible idiots, and paedophilia defenders who turned out to support the extreme-right hate preacher and serial cri...


Peter Robinson was talking about much more than a border poll. The Assembly must become boycott proof "IndyWatch Feed"

It was Peter Robinson pulling the pin out of the grenade and proposing  generational border polls that attracted most attention. But he had a good deal more to say at Queens that was  more important or at least more urgent.  He kept it lofty, generalised and above all brief, to avoid getting drawn into detail or appearing to lecture his successors. But his meaning is pretty clear .

While he had to say he was optimistic about the future, he felt that now might be make or break time for the Assembly.  Although it had a fair run since St Andrews it always seemed to him impermanent and  obviously  vulnerable. Now he is looking for permanence and stability. That is what future negotiations should be about, rather than keep trying to apply sticking plaster, like the abortive draft agreement with Sinn Fein. Interestingly,  he does not assume that Sinn Fein are strategic wreckers.

I firmly believe that seeking to find agreement based on the issues contained in the published working draft alone will just not work. When, as is here and now the case, progress is gridlocked, and parties have taken and publicly cemented themselves into fixed positions, the likelihood of a deal within the confines of that existing agenda would be virtually impossible.

I believe there are strong reasons to go beyond balancing the party wish lists and confront more fundamental issues.

I return to the subject of negotiating a broader deal, I can almost hear the deep intake of breath in some quarters. If agreement cannot be reached on the present agenda or even by carefully adding some balance to it, surely, some will say, it will never be achieved if it is stuffed with unresolved issues from past talks.

Let me make something clear. I am not talking about every party pushing its own agenda, obsession, or hobby-horse. I am talking about those matters that impact upon the smooth operation, permanence, continuity and stability of the institutions. I say this because I feel sure a new Assembly tripping over the debris of unresolved, critical problems will collapse and because I believe another collapse would be fatal for devolution and harmful to the future of Northern Ireland. Each collapse drains public confidence and I am not convinced the Assembly could survive a further one.

So he  returns to what defeated him as First Minister, Assembly reform.

Some of the existing arrangements almost invite disruption. The facility for a leading party to terminate the Assemblys term duration either for electoral advantage, or at the height of a political storm, inevitably upsets the existence of arrangements that have been slowly and painfully bu...


Two Graves ***** "IndyWatch Feed"

Two GravesIt is said that revenge is a dish best served cold, but before anyone considers taking the law into their own hands in retribution for a crime or injury, it is best to note what Confucius had to say on the subject: Before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves in other words, one for the victim and one for oneself. That is the inspiration for the title of Gary Youngs first full-length feature film, Two Graves, which had its West End premiere at the British Urban Film Festival in the Curzon cinema in Soho last night. A middle-aged pathologist, Margaret (played by Cathy Tyson), cant find closure on the death of her son until she has extracted a confession of murder from the young man, Finn (Neal Ward), whom she believes to be guilty, enlisting the help of a bitter young former junkie, Zoe (Katie Jarvis). But incapacitating him with an epidural and slicing off one of his fingers leads to a totally unexpected revelation and a nightmare sequence of events in which Finns father, a vicious gangster called Tommy (David Hayman, in truly sinister mode), becomes a key protagonist. By now, like in a Greek tragedy, it is clear that things are going to end badly, and as in a classical drama, despite some flashbacks, there is unity of time and place, as the action unfolds one day in the ruins of an abandoned shipyard. The horror and suspense are alleviated by a few flashes of black humour, but the tension is increased by shots of circling seagulls and a chilling soundtrack. This is film noir at its blackest....

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Saturday, 09 June


Brexit, Parliament and the British Constitution: why a Peoples Vote is the only legitimate constitutional means of resolving Brexit "IndyWatch Feed"

" If... the people legitimately... set parliament and government the task of working out a way of leaving the EU, then... the people should also be able mark their homework and pass a verdict on their efforts."

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis delivers a speech in London, June 6, 2018. Leon Neal/Press Association. All rights reserved.

The first clause of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states:

Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

But as has become apparent, in the case of the UK, nobody really knows what those requirements actually are and a significant amount of energy has been consumed over the last two years in disputes over what the respective roles, responsibilities and powers of Parliament and the executive are, what the precise status of the referendum is and who, if anyone, is responsible for interpreting it. The Miller case exposed confusion and uncertainty even over who had the power to begin the process.  There is no clear constitutional guidance, either, on how or by whom it should be executed, scrutinised or concluded and, crucially, how and by whom the outcomes should be approved or legitimised.

This messiness reflects the UKs famously uncodified constitution, which means its basic rules are not systematically laid out in a single, document which governs the relationships of key elements of the political system. This means that the UK constitution is very flexible which has served it well in some respects, not least in adapting to European Union membership.  But it means, above all, that the constitution is political.  Above all, sovereignty and power in the British constitution has not been a matter for the courts, as in many codified systems, but has rather been established and maintained by political struggle, which is why the resolution of the question of who should trigger Article 50 by the courts is somewhat problematic in the UK context.

A key principle of the British constitution is the notion of parliamentary sovereignty...


Boris Johnson and the pure millennium bug stuff "IndyWatch Feed"

Im really glad Boris Johnson, in private remarks, chose to draw a comparison between the Brexit process and the Millennium Bug. Ive often thought this comparison was apt and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs comments have given me a great excuse to write about my own short experiences dealing with the bug.

I was working at the HQ of a large Irish financial institution between the summers of 1999 and 2000 as part of my placement year/internship prior to graduating in the summer of 2001. Like many major institutions, it had implemented an elaborate programme of testing to ensure there were no issues that could disrupt its business following the changeover. Also, like many institutions in the worlds of finance and government, it had a mature IBM mainframe installation whose workload included bespoke business applications that, in some cases, dated back to the 1960s.

The idea that someone might have a computer program still running 30 or 40 years after it was first written might seem odd to people more familiar with the simple PCs they use at home or at work which often have a three or four year lifecycle. But these mainframe systems are almost unrecognisable as computers in comparison to those we normally use. IBM, even at that point, were the only serious player in that market, and their designs were intended to be indestructible, highly scalable, and capable of dealing with heavy workloads. These systems are designed the way a civil engineer would design a bridge; to remain in service for decades, rather than being heavily reworked, or discarded and replaced, every few years.

Of course, people writing programs in the 1960s, and even up through the 1990s, did not think about the switch to the millennium, especially as storage space was so expensive, so they stored and managed dates with two digits to represent the year. The older the application, the more likely that it would have this issue. Anything that used the year to perform a calculation could behave in an unintended, and potentially catastrophic, way. Not all of the potential bugs were obvious.

During the course of said institutions Year 2000 mitigation programme, scores of programs and systems were examined in an on-site test facility set up and isolated for that purpose, where the clock would be rolled forward to the changeover point and the correct behaviour of each system confirmed. Bugs were found, fixed and retested until there was confidence that every system worked correctly. Based on what I saw, had this work not been done, and had these kinds of bugs been replicated across other large business and government bodies, the entire financial system along with major government services, especially those to do with taxation and welfare distribution, could quite easily have ground to a halt.

Since that time, ignorant people have suggest...


Kim Jong-un to Trump: bring it on "IndyWatch Feed"

Trump thinks he's the top deal-maker. Pyongyang's summit plans suggest not.

lead Former North Korean military intelligence chief, Kim Yong Chol delivers letter to Donald Trump from Kim Jong-un as Mike Pompeo looks on outside the Oval Office, June 1, 2018. Olivier Douliery / Press Association. All rights reserved.

An unpredictable United States president could still turn everything on its head. But with days to go before Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are due to meet in Singapore, it looks probable that a chequered summit will actually go ahead. Preparations are now in overdrive, with senior United States officials working towards commencement on the resort island of Sentosa at 9am on 12 June.

Along the way, Trumps people have carefully downgraded their initially inflated expectations, and now see the personal encounter as a mere getting-to-know-you session. But a political dividend is feasible, the White House thinks: a pledge to conclude a formal peace treaty on the Korean peninsula, thus upgrading the 1953 ceasefire which ended the Korean war. Trump could showcase this as a brilliant example of his deal-making skills, in the process justifying renewed talk of a Nobel peace prize. South Korea's government would welcome the outcome as a step towards real progress.  

Even as the opportunities from Singapore are minimised, Trumps team retains a bullish front. His champion Rudy Giuliani says that the president's earlier bold cancellation of the summit, after the release of a polemical message from the DPRK's vice-foreign minister Choe Son-hui, had forced Pyong...


The Free Tommy Robinson mob are Britain-hating fascists, gullible idiots, and paedophile protectors "IndyWatch Feed"

On Saturday June 9th 2018 hundreds of extreme-right fanatics descended on London to demand the release of the jailed former-EDL leader and radical extreme-right hate preacher Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon).

These #FreeTommy extremists are trying to cite "freedom of speech" as an excuse for the behaviour that got Yaxley-Lennon jailed, but they're just demonstrating that they don't know what they're talking about.

Yaxley-Lennon was sentenced to 13 months in prison after pleading guilty to contempt of court and violating the terms of his previous suspended sentence to hold a protest outside a court case involving a paedophile grooming gang.

The case he disrupted was subject to reporting restrictions because it's linked to several other cases, meaning that his intervention risked collapsing the case he was protesting outside, and several criminal cases, which would have allowed the alleged child abusers off the hook.

Freedom of speech obviously does not stretch to allowing people to ignore court judgements, and to risk allowing alleged paedophiles off the hook for their crimes by deliberately and knowingly undermining the criminal cases against them.

Yaxley-Lennon was handed his suspended sentence last year after committing contempt of court during a rape trial in Cantebury, and was warned at the time that any further efforts to disrupt the British justice system would see him jailed.

Yaxley-Lennon knew that he was committing contempt of court by risking the collapse of the paedophile grooming trials, he knew that he would be jailed for it, but he did it anyway, and then he immediately pleaded guilty to what he'd done.

It's beyond obvious that he's deliberately playing the martyr in order to build up even more publicity and support, and that all the people jumping on the #FreeTommy bandwagon are too dimwitted and gullible to see that they're being played...


God votes in India, abstains in Britain. Part 1. "IndyWatch Feed"

Once Britain moved beyond religious nationalism, religion itself became a spent force, though not one prevented from speaking truth to power. Contrast India.

lead Lambeth Palace from the south. Circa 1685. Wikicommons/ Anonymous - A picture from the collection of the Museum of London. To the north, many of the riverside buildings off of Whitehall and the Strand may be seen. Some rights reserved.

A lot depends on where you come from. It affects your way of seeing.

Arriving from the India of the eighties, it seemed only normal to hear the Dalai Lama addressing a congregation in a Christian church in London. Coming from India in 2018, one gets anxious hearing Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi chants in a Brighton church. Some fanatic Christians may come and disrupt the well-advertised multi-faith event. They may be provoked further by the weekly prayer meeting being held in the neighbouring Bahai Centre. Nothing of the sort happens. No one arrives to protest.

Multi-faith prayers mark the Brighton churchs reopening as Saint Augustines Centre for the Arts, Spirituality and Wellbeing! The church building fell into disrepair as the number of worshippers dwindled and it remained disused for 10 years. A real estate developer made the church appear in its new avatar! He bought the building, renovated it and rechristened it. The reincarnation of this Brighton church is not a miracle. Such incidents keep happening in Britain.

The new owner is a Christian with an interest in other faiths. He looks enchanted by the Sufi prayers. This writer is unable to concentrate on the words o...


Self-confident & outward-looking, Feile An Phobail is a perfect fit for Modern Ireland "IndyWatch Feed"

I was somewhat taken aback when I first heard that Arlene Foster had tweeted her concern at Taoiseach Leo Varadkars decision to attend the opening of Feile an Phobail yesterday. Having attended many events at the Feile since the late 1980s, I was conscious of the fact that many Unionist politicians- and known loyalist figures- have been involved in its programme of events annually.

In what can only be interpreted as a shockingly poor piece of research, the DUP Leader clearly failed to realise that her own party colleague, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, actually opened the Feile in 2012, exposing the cynical and ignorant nature of her concern at the Taoiseach following suit six years later.

Alas, its just another day for Arlene.

The Taoiseachs visit to St Marys University College campus to launch Feile An Phobail was the second of three statement visits on the day, coming after his very well received trip to the headquarters of the Orange Order and site of the Museum of Orange Heritage- which I wrote about on Slugger after visiting it some three years ago.

It is notable that nationalist and republican comment on Leo Varadkars visit was universally positive, with the Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast, Deirdre Hargey, making a point of welcoming the Taoiseachs trip to the Orange Museum in her speech at the Feile launch.

As this Slugger article from two years ago illustrates, the Feile has an established tradition of encouraging and inviting voices to be heard and narratives to be told that are not common wit...


Italys dangerous direction on migration "IndyWatch Feed"

Italys anti-immigrant stance will no doubt be welcomed by Hungarys Viktor Orban, whose government is currently trying to criminalize people working for groups that assist asylum seekers.

lead Salvini campaigning in Sicily in November 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.After almost three months of jumping up and down in place, the newly invested Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has hit the ground running in the worst possible direction. The head of the anti-immigrant party, the League, Salvini has positioned himself as the strongman in the unlikely coalition government recently formed with the ideologically fungible Five Star Movement.

In a speech to supporters on May 31, the night before he was sworn in, Salvini upped the inflammatory rhetoric and doubled-down on the Leagues worst campaign promises. He announced plans to cut the budget for reception centers for asylum seekers and, in an unnerving call-and-response with the excited crowd, said that sending all irregular migrants back home was a top priority.

On June 3, Salvini went to Pozzallo, a Sicilian port where many rescued migrants and refugees disembark, to thunder that the good times are over for undocumented migrants and to insinuate that nongovernmental organizations saving lives in the...


The jihadogenous urban structure "IndyWatch Feed"

These individuals feel coerced by the predicament of being neither French nor Arab, neither Pakistani nor English... they bear the stigma of double non-identity.

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

lead The boys from the hood or banlieue film, La Haine.(1995).

By jihadogenous urban structure I mean an urban setting that is the venue for jihadist callings, at a much higher rate than in the other districts of the city.

In Europe, one of the significant and even essential factors of jihadist radicalization is the city. Not any city. But a type of district within the city that we may call the jihadogenous urban structure.

In almost all European countries there are neighborhoods where the number of young people leaving for Syria (foreign fighters) as well as the number of followers of internal jihadism (homegrown jihadists) are much higher than the national average. The trial of the survivors of twenty young people who joined Syria between 2013 and 2015 from the southern French town of Lunel is a case that is replicated in other European countries in more or less similar forms. In Lunel, it is the social housing district of Abrivados, in which a significant number of young people were indoctrinated by the extremist Islamic holy war ideology.

Jihadist concentration in some neighborhoods may be due to two distinct types of effects:

- because, within these neighbourhoods, young people have known each other through formal or informal networks, friends, or members of the same family and their ties; the district may be that of the middle classes, without any apparent sign of disadvantage among candidates for the holy war; this type of neighborhood and the calling of the middle classes toward...


The Churches are backing themselves into a corner of Northern Irelands narrow ground. The laity should take over "IndyWatch Feed"

Following on from the testimony of  Gerry Lynch and Elizabeth Nelson, its  hardly a surprise that the continuing revolution in faith and morals over abortion and  LGBT rights won elsewhere but not here,  is splitting the churches. True to ancient form, the leaderships of the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches are treating what is actually a clash of moralities as challenges to authority.  The Catholics appeal to canon law, the Presbyterians to the Bible. And that is still that. For all the blows incurred to the very idea of authority over endless abuse  scandals and  the treatment of children born out of wedlock,  the authority of the ministry remains the essential  core of these unique iinstitutions.

In a nuanced piece that pleads for more understanding of the Catholic Churchs position, William Scholes in the Irish News, quotes

 Armagh priest Fr John McKeever, who works in canon law, saying in this newspaper yesterday, anyone who obstinately persists in advocating views contrary to Christian teaching, has in effect excommunicated themselves from the life and faith of the Church.

A priest would have to say that such a person would be unable to receive or celebrate any sacraments, including marriage.

The Church, like any other society, needs to be able to use its laws in order to protect its identity and the rights of its members, especially the most vulnerable.

Scholes sees the limitations of McKeevers argument but goes on to ask:

But if the Churchs reality has changes, is it also fair that the  la carte Catholic also encounters a new reality when they come calling on the local priest for a rite they regard as their right, despite such casual disdain for broad swathes of Christian belief?

In reply one can ask why  did the Church decline to excommunicate those who had such  a casual disdain for human life so as the commit murder in a political cause?  As it happens it  had a  quite a good answer in its own terms, that it is its prime duty to save souls, proclaim the superiority of love over evil and allow for the possibility of repentance. Surely the same answer should be applied to what are becoming recognised in our societies as social rights?

Another answer is to ask who nowadays rules on what Christian belief is?  Whose church is it anyway? To be sure, the dwindling ranks of  full timers who are the clergy are bound to take a lead but they no longer have a monopoly. Scholes concedes supremacy to them too easily.  The whole great edifice system of centralised power of the Catholic Church, even though...


Presbyterians, Salvation, and God "IndyWatch Feed"

We cremated my friend James on the freakishly warm Friday before St Patricks Day, between the two bouts of even freakier snow. We did this after a celebration of the Supper of the Lord Jesus Christ who was his Saviour and the anchor of his life. The daffodils bobbed in the sunshine as we took his coffin through the traffic from the church in the shadow of St Pauls Cathedral to the crematorium in East Finchley, his terminus ad quem before his voyage to heaven. As an Angus-born and Edinburgh-reared son of the Kirk, he came to mind after this weeks shenanigans at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast.

James lived with MS for thirty years, something unimaginable when he was first diagnosed in the late 1980s. His continued life was a miracle, but it was also a struggle. I never knew the wordsmith, cyclist and cook that his older friends wrote about (movingly here and here). By the time I met him, sixteen years ago, his disease had robbed his legs of the power to walk, left his hands unable to handle a pen or a carving knife, and made his speech slurred and slow.

What he was never robbed of was his indomitable spirit, his twinkly smiling eyes, or his dry humour. Nor did MS prevent him throwing the legendary champagne-soaked parties in his Barbican flat, attended by a mix of characters who had little in common but their friendship with this delightful bon vivant: nonagenarian grand dames from Islington garden square mansions would rub shoulders with middle-aged actors struggling long past any hope of stardom and recently arrived twenty-somethings from Doncaster or Brazil, penniless but sure theyd make their fortune in London.

I never heard him complain about his lot: at most he would sigh wistfully that people should avoid getting MS if they could, not that they can. In that I saw a shadow of the boy, many decades before, whose father died when he was only nine, who then had to grow into a man far too soon and just get on with it.

When his disease had already quite seriously progressed, he met Michael, and they fell in love, and eventually they tied the knot. By that stage he needed a power chair to even get around the flat. Both knew their lives together would be spent in sickness rather than in health, in worse much more than better, and that death would part them sooner rather than later.

Despite all this, and despite the rather low calorie blessing their vicar was able to offer after their civil partnership thanks to the guidelines of the Church of England, neither James or Michael ever quavered in their faith in Christ. James was a faith practised in worship, every Sunday morning for decades spent in his beloved St Vedasts, a little jewel of Sir...


New media and press regulation in an Independent Scotland "IndyWatch Feed"

Mark McNaught sets out the case for how media regulation should operate post Independence. Could be controversial

By Mark McNaught

Newsnet was founded and grew largely as an alternative to the abysmal quality of the press in the UK, especially in Scotland. Public trust in the UK press is lower than almost anywhere in the Western world. Media barons like Rupert Murdoch and vile (just retired) editors like Paul Dacre poison the public discourse and virtually run the UK government.

Once independence is achieved, Scotland will have the opportunity to definitively repeal and replace the BBC with a citizens media fund, and create a Scottish Media Regulator to assure that the media serves the public interest, is truthful and honest, and accurately critiques but does not run the Scottish government.

As important as an independent, free media shall be for an independent Scotland, the current business models make it very difficult for media to be profitable, especially in the social media in this day and age.

In lieu of the extortionate BBC license fee (I was stupefied when I found out it was a criminal offense not to pay it), a progressive fee could finance a Scottish Citizens Media Fund, which would finance the production of news, documentaries, films, and other media.

Since I have begun following the independence movement, one thing that has been painful to observe is the amount of wasted talent in Scotland, and that so many excellent citizen journalists are unable to make a living. This fund could replace the private corporate media with a genuine citizens media, and help fund the careers of so many talented people. Think how many talented journalism graduates and media technicians there must be who could apply for grants from a SCMF, and make a career here in Scotland.

Allocation of these grants would be contingent upon applicants following a new media regulatory structure adapted to this new media age, which private commercial media would also be required to follow to acquire credentials to cover the Scottish Parliament and other government institutions.  

Its safe to say that the the current media regulatory environment in the UK is insufficient, to put it mildly. To give but one example, during the Brexit campaign, the level of xenophobia, lies and hateful rhetoric were stratospheric, inarguably putting leave over the top.

A free press is indisputably essential to a well-informed citizenry,...

Friday, 08 June


The safeguarding of morality in Nizhny Novgorod is turning into an attack on the citys Protestant community "IndyWatch Feed"

In this World Cup host city, two students involved in local Protestant life are facing deportation after interference from the security services. RU

Nosisa Shiba. Source: YouTube. All rights reserved.As the opening of 2018 FIFA World Cup approaches, security issues in Nizhny Novgorod, one of Russias host cities, are hotting up. And the clinical symptoms of this fever are shocking even those who have long since ceased to be amazed.

In May, Nizhny Novgorods Sormovsky district court charged Nosisa Shiba, a citizen of Swaziland in her final year at Nizhny Novgorod Medical Academy, with an administrative offence for publicly singing hymns at an Easter service in the citys Embassy of Jesus Pentecostal church. The local police and legal authorities interpreted this behaviour as missionary activity, incompatible with Shibas stated aims when entering the Russian Federation. As it turned out, Shibas actual offence took place in 2017, but her trial has only just concluded. The outcome was a fine of 7,000 roubles and deportation from Russia, but the court has shown some leniency and deferred her expulsion until 30 June, after Shibas final exams and degree conferral.

The trial established that the charge, based on article 18.8 of part 4 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the Russian Federation, was put forward by Major Tatarov, a Senior Special Inspector of the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Immigration Control Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and that it was, in fact, the second time Shiba had been charged with a breach of residence regulations.

The charge, of which I have a copy, reads that Nosisa, having come to study in Russia, effectively took part in a missionary conference called To Save One More Soul, organised by the Russian Association of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (RACEFP) in Nizhny Novgorod. In other words, the inspector concluded that, by singing about...


Im a first aider said man who helped restrain and handcuff Rashan "IndyWatch Feed"

Rashan Charles inquest, Day Three: A confused, shocked and panicked police officer. A member of the public who intervened without thinking. Jury asks: Who was in charge? 

Rashan Charles with his daughter (Family)

An inquest jury heard evidence on Tuesday from the man who helped a police officer restrain and handcuff young black Londoner Rashan Charles. 

Rashan, who was 20, died after being restrained by the police officer and the man described by police as a member of the public on Saturday 22 July last year. At around 1:45am the officer followed Rashan into a convenience store in Hackney, East London, grabbed him from behind, threw him to the ground and restrained him.  

The court heard that before that day Witness 1 did not know Rashan or the police officer, who is known in court by the cipher BX47. Witness 1 said he was a frequent visitor to the shop, and had stopped by that morning to buy a sandwich and a drink. He was outside the shop when he saw BX47 run inside. Witness 1 said he walked into the shop and saw Rashan on the floor, pinned down by the police officer as several bystanders looked on.

Once on the floor BX47 tried to retrieve something from Rashans mouth while pinning him down. At this point Rashan was still moving and wriggling beneath him. CCTV footage show his legs kick against a tall drinks fridge.

Witness 1: Do you want a hand? Officer BX47: Yes.

During questioning Witness 1 said that without thinking he offered to help. He told the court: The officer and Rashan Charles both didnt look comfortable. So I thought I would step in to defuse any resistance and struggle between the two.

He said the police officer had appeared panicked, confused and in shock. 

Witness 1 said that both Rashan and BX47 seemed to be in an awkward position. And: I wanted to assist both parties....


To restore trust in technology, we must go further than GDPR "IndyWatch Feed"

Privacy controls are a step in the right direction but more must be done to tackle misinformation.

A laptop with its webcam taped over A laptop with its webcam taped over. Image: Santeri Viinamki, CC BY-SA 4.0 CC BY-SA 4.0 During the past five years, a trend has emerged that can be spotted in most cafs, libraries and corporate headquarters the covering up of cameras on our personal devices. Once deemed a paranoid precaution, placing a sticker or tape over cameras on our laptops, tablets and even smartphones has now become a relatively commonplace measure. Over a third of Americans now cover up at least some of the cameras on the devices they own, according to a survey published by YouGov last year. The webcam stickers rise to ubiquity can be traced back to Edward Snowdens NSA-leaks in the summer of 2013, after which an unprecedented public discussion of digital surveillance and privacy took place. Among the headlines were stories of how Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg put stickers on their webcams, which led to a decline in public trust in the little eye above our screens. It was the first time that reports were published on how the American intelligence service, with its GUMFISH plug-in, could monitor people by hijacking their webcams. Since then, the webcam sticker has become a symbol for a growing distrust with technology and our attempt to uphold a sense of privacy. It has come to represent a physical means of protection against an unknown evil in tools we use everyday.

Last month, a landmark piece of privacy regulation came into effect in the European Union, which could have wide-reaching implications not just for how our data is used online but also for our privacy. Several years in the making, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) arrives only months after the...


Dmitry Borisov, convicted in Russia's 26 March Case, has been released "IndyWatch Feed"

Borisov was convicted for raising his foot in the air as police carried him off during a 2017 anti-corruption protest in Moscow. 

Dmitry Borisov at court. Source: Irina Yatsenko.

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

We have published a new set of useful instructions setting out what to do if you have been fined for taking part in a protest in Russia, what difficulties you might encounter if you want (or dont want) to pay the fine, and how to avoid these difficulties.

Dmitry Borisov, convicted in the 26 March Case, has been released. Hooray! He had been sentenced to one year in a prison colony for raising his foot in the air while four police officers were carrying him during the 26 March 2017 anti-corruption protest in Moscow. He was found guilty of using violence against a police officer. 

You can read our guide to the case here. In it, we tell about each of the accused, the charges on which they were convicted and the discrepancies in the prosecutions.

"No to the fan zone". Source: Telegram. A student at Moscow State University has been...


Looking at Lexit : Everyday Lexiteers - Interview 2 : Niall "IndyWatch Feed"

" I found the politicians on both sides of the argument nothing short of disgusting and the framing of the debate as appalling."

lead David Cameron announces his resignation as Prime Minister in the wake of the UK vote on EU membership.24 June 2016. Wikicommons/ Tom Evans. Some rights reserved.

As part of our Looking at Lexit series, well be asking left-wing Brexit voters about their reasons for voting Leave. Our second Everyday Lexiter is Niall, a 50 year-old Glaswegian running a social enterprise.

1. Describe your political outlook/background/loyalties.

Traditional celtic lefty with a strong belief in from each according to their means to each according to their needs with an emphasis that everyone, no matter their needs is expected to also make a contribution. My socialism considers public sector mandarins to be on the same side as the capitalist elite and that genuine accountability needs to be as local as possible.


1.2 Describe, in two or three sentences, your political utopia: what would your ideal community look like, and how would it function?

Everyone should make a valued contribution to their community in accordance with their abilities and everyone should be supported by their community in accordance with their real needs.  Accountability is held at as local a level as possible. People are entitled to use their talents and effort to gain advancement and wealth but must be regulated to avoid exploitation. Society should value fairness and appreciate tax as a means of creating happiness. The class that a person inherits should not be the defining factor in their capacity to accumulate wealth and power.


2.  What was your main reason for voting for Brexit? Do you remain happy with your decision?

I experience the EUs primary objective as the facilitation of global capitalism. The labour laws, regulation and social development policies of...


A victory for real politics? Chiinus mayoral elections in perspective "IndyWatch Feed"

32714373_1839874162718477_6334540156975972352_n.jpgBy electing a mayor who has consistently promised to fight oligarchic control and corruption, residents of Moldova's capital have voted for the return of politics. 


Andrei Nstase. CC BY-SA 4.0 Andy.redbrick / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.Andrei Nstase is the new mayor of Chiinu. The candidate from Platform Dignity and Truth won 52.57% of the vote in Moldovas capital, compared to his opponent, Ion Ceban, the candidate of the Party of Socialists, who won 47.43% of the vote.

As with all recent electoral campaigns in Moldova, the Chiinu mayoral race was a dirty electoral campaign. At one point, an audio recording of Andrei Nstase talking to his mother about her participation in a party event was leaked. But it was also a campaign marked by a lack of any grand visions of the city which could capture citizens imaginations and inspire them to dream and act.

But Nstases victory on Sunday is, in a way, less surprising than his progress into the second round two weeks ago. Before the first round of elections on 20 May, the polls and most of the political commentators put Nstase firmly in third place. Nstase, 42, was considered a potential but somewhat improbable contender for the second round. He doesnt have a strong local profile in the city: he has no experience in dealing with urban problems, and his political party has not participated in any significant local urban battle (the city was almost totally absent from his partys political agenda). Likewise, Nstases programme for the city was far from original and not much different from those of his opponents, and comprised the traditional mix of better ur...


The other and oral sectarian culture in Syria "IndyWatch Feed"

Before the Syrian uprising, relationships between Syrian sects were, like those betwen the regime and the population, governed by taqiyya [dissimulation] or even hypocrisy.

Translated by Yaaser Azzayyaat

This article forms part of a special series focused on Oral Culture and Identity in Syria. It is the outcome of an ongoing partnership between SyriaUntold and openDemocracys North Africa West Asia in a bid to untangle the roots of sectarian, ethnic and other divides in Syria.

Up until March 2011, when popular protests against the Syrian regime erupted, public and forthright discourses about sectarian beliefs or sectarian representations of the Other were simply taboo. This prohibition was imposed not only by the pan-Arab nationalist regime ruling Syria but also by Syrian society and social conventions between different sects. The concept of coexistence rather than citizenship governed relations between the sects of Syria. Citizenship provides a framework for political, legal and human rights. It is the outcome of human progress, upheld by international law as well as the constitutions of multiple nations.

To speak frankly and put what I am describing into a realistic context, let me give a few examples of the narratives commonly used by the Alawite community in reference to other sects. These narratives represent a largely imaginary perception of the Other. They fan a sectarian fear that originated in some of the historical experiences of the community in Syria and the broader region particularly the Ottoman occupation of Syria and Lebanon, and its legacy of backwardness, sectarianism and displacement.

The Alawite perspective on other sects

I was born and raised in a town in the countryside of central Hama, a governorate characterized by sectarian and ethnic diversity. I lived there u...


In memory of Razan al Najjar: Steve Bell's cartoon "IndyWatch Feed"

An Israeli army sniper shot the 21-year-old nurse while she was trying to care for injured protestors in Gaza. This is Steve Bell's tribute to her.

Steve Bell revised this cartoon to avoid causing unintended offence; more information here. All rights reserved.Razan al Najjar was a 21-year-old Palestinian nurse volunteering with the medical crews attending protesters hit by Israel Defense Forces' sniper fire during the ten-week protests at the Gaza border.

Called by the organisers the "Great March of Return", (" "), the protests were demanding that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to what is now Israel. They were also protesting about the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the moving of the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

After giving an interview earlier that day, in which she said she took pride in the aid she was providing to the wounded, Najjar and her team of paramedics approached the border in white coats and with their hands in the air. She was fatally shot in the chest.

The New York Times reports that in an interview at a Gaza protest camp last month, Najjar said: Being a medic is not only a job for a man. Its for women, too.

According to The New York Times, on 1 June, "she ran forward to aid a demonstrator for the last time. Israeli soldiers fired two or three bullets from across the fence, according to a witness, hitting Ms. Najjar in the upper body. She was pronounced dead soon after.  On Saturday, a group of United Nations agencies issued a statement expressing outrage over...


Trading sovereignty: how Ukraine's Pension Fund co-operates with the Russian authorities "IndyWatch Feed"

By sending official information requests to the Russian authorities, Ukraine's Pension Fund de-facto recognises Russian jurisdiction in occupied Crimea. RU

A visitor at the pension fund in Simferopol. Photo: Alexei Malgavko / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.Even as the Russian Federation continues to pursue military aggression in Eastern Ukraine, Ukraines Pension Fund is engaging in intensive communications with its counterpart body in Russia in order to establish whether Crimean residents who have applied for a pension in Ukraine are also receiving one in the occupied territory.

Whose pensioners?

Following the forcible annexation of Crimea in March 2014, a certain percentage of the peninsulas inhabitants left their homes and relocated to mainland Ukraine, with some departing immediately and others some time later. Given that pensioners also had to leave Crimea, the payment of pensions became an issue.

According to Ukrainian legislation, pensioners departing the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine (parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Crimea) and the zone of hostilities in the Donbas have the right to receive pensions in their new place of settlement throughout the rest of Ukraine. Pension payments for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Donbas were commenced almost immediately back in 2015, in fact. But the Ukrainian Pension Fund altered the procedure for the granting of pensions to displaced persons from Crimea, acting in disregard of current legislation and doing so on its own initiative.

A rule concocted by the Pension Fund dictates that a pensioner displaced from Crimea can only be granted a pension once an official inquiry has been sent to the Russian Federation to ascertain whether said pensioner received a pension in Russia while living in occupied Crimea. Officials in Moscow scrutinise documents in detail befo...


The migrant-led activism stamping out racial hostility in the UK "IndyWatch Feed"

Meet the pro-migrant individuals, groups and organisations who are working tirelessly to counter this governments anti-immigrant policies, pro-Brexit propaganda, and hostile environment.

Image: IWGB picketing outside University of London. Credit: IWGB.

Images of that poster depicting desperate refugees rambling to reach Europe, accompanied with the headline Breaking Point, designed to whip up a frenzy of pro-Brexit, anti-migrant prejudice, will be engrained on Britains consciousness for a very long time. As will the decision to leave the EU, driven in part through this widespread anti-immigration sentiment and fear that freedom of movement is responsible for taking the great out of Great Britain.

The Windrush scandal has pushed Britains harsh immigration policies into the limelight, forcing one ministerial resignation and an apology from the government. But people who have lived and worked hard in Britain for many years are still losing their jobs, homes, being denied NHS treatment, and even being torn away from their families. Then theres the relentless drive to make life as difficult as possible for illegal immigrants. Post EU referendum, the number of enforced removals and detentions of all foreign nationals, including EU citizens, has risen sharply. Government figures show 5,301 EU nationals were removed during the year ending 2017, a 20% increase on the previous year and the highest figure since records began. Equally distressing is the six-fold increase in the number of EU citizens being detained since 2009.

So this is Theresa Mays hostile environment.

And it is encouraging a wave of migrant-led activism. Pro-migrant individuals, groups and organisations are working tirelessly to counter the harsh consequences our intimidating Home Office, anti-immigrant policies, pro-Brexit propaganda, an...

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