Eurasia Review: ‘Obstruction Of Justice’ Isn’t What People Think It Is – OpEd

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By William L. Anderson*

With the release of the long-awaited Mueller (Special Counsel Robert Mueller) report, we see partisan politics at work again, and the results are what one might expect.

Those that have supported President Donald Trump or believe that he has been the victim of a contrived “investigation,” while others, like David French of National Review , a self-described “Never Trumper,” are shocked, SHOCKED! at Trump’s behavior. Writes French:

I’ve finished reading the entire Mueller report
, and I must confess that even as a longtime, quite open critic of
Donald Trump, I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness
of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special
Counsel’s Office. We’ve become accustomed to Trump making up his own
facts on matters great and small, but to see the extent to which his
virus infected his entire political operation is sobering. And the idea
that anyone is treating this report as “win” for Trump, given the sheer
extent of deceptions exposed (among other things), demonstrates that the
bar for his conduct has sunk so low that anything other than outright
criminality is too often brushed aside as relatively meaningless.

Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News, no stranger to those associated with the Mises Institute, even believes Trump can be prosecuted
for obstruction of justice, declaring, “Depending on how you look at
them (the accusations), there might be enough to prosecute.” And
Napolitano could be correct, given the very low legal bar prosecutors
must hurdle to pursue such charges. James Comey prosecuted investment banker Frank Quattrone
15 years ago for a 22-word memo to investment bankers at Credit Suisse
telling them to “clean up those files.” Comey was able to convince
Manhattan jurors that Quattrone’s memo amounted to “obstruction of
justice” even though federal investigators found no criminal behavior at
Credit Suisse and in Quattrone’s investment bank activities. (A federal appeals court overturned the conviction
and Quattrone entered into an agreement with federal prosecutors that
observers said essentially was a victory for the defendant.)

In other words, there was no underlying crime, so Quattrone could not
have covered up wrongdoing, since it had not happened. Likewise, as Nick Gillespie of Reason points out
, Trump did not engage in a conspiracy with Russian agents to illegally
influence the 2016 presidential election, so it is absurd to claim that
Trump was “covering up” a crime. While it is true that one can be
charged and convicted of obstruction of justice even in the absence of
an underlying crime, nonetheless we should be critical of such laws, as
actions often can be interpreted in differing ways.

Although readers may believe that federal criminal law is like state
law, that is not true. For the most part, in a state court, where
charges like murder, robbery, and rape are adjudicated, someone has been
identifiably harmed. Thus, the question one asks at a trial is whether
the person being tried committed those crimes. (There is a disturbing
increase in false charges in sexual assault and child molestation cases
in which there was no assault or wrongful act in the first place. That
being said, however, the majority of criminal cases tried in state
courts feature an actual victim.)

Contrast state criminal law with its federal companion. Unlike their
counterparts in state courts, jurors often find themselves determining
guilt or innocence based on a confusing set of facts. I have noted in
previous articles that in state courts, there is a victim and the
central question is whether the accused person was responsible for that
harm. In federal courts, however, the players generally agree about what
the defendant did, and so jurors are expected to determine if the acts
were criminal or not.

Take the federal obstruction of justice statute, for example. The law is defined as follows:

18 U.S.C. § 1503 defines “obstruction of justice” as an
act that “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter
or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to
influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.”

The problem here is that a clever and ambitious federal prosecutor
can interpret the statute very liberally, especially if the original
criminal investigation falls apart, as was the case in the so-called
Trump Russia probe. Take Trump’s firing of James Comey from his position
as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Comey was a
political appointee who served at the pleasure of the president, and he
could be fired at any time for any reason.

When Trump fired Comey, however, Comey and Mueller hinted darkly that
the firing actually was a crime, since it constituted (in their view)
obstruction of justice. That is stretching things, to put it mildly,
even in the world of federal courts. Comey is no stranger to creative
prosecutions in which prosecutors stretch the meaning of criminal
statutes to a point where they no longer can be recognized. For example,
he charged Martha Stewart with a number of crimes,
including “securities fraud,” which he based on her public statements
that she had not engaged in insider trading. Ironically – or, perhaps,
not ironically – Comey didn’t charge Stewart with insider trading.

The “securities fraud” charge was especially rich, given Comey’s own
criminal behavior in the case. While the federal investigation was
underway, Comey’s office illegally leaked grand jury material to the
media, and especially the New York Times and Wall Street Journal
, that was aimed at damaging the stock price of Stewart’s company,
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. When Stewart claimed to the press that
she had not committed insider trading, Comey claimed that her actions
were aimed at illegally propping up her company’s stock price and
constituted fraud.

So, when Comey was breaking the law to damage the MSL stock, that was
considered an acceptable act by the media and political classes.
However, when Stewart told the truth, she was illegally influencing the
stock price of her own company. The dishonesty boggles the mind.

The same James Comey who has publicly claimed that his firing was a
criminal act is the same James Comey that conducted what only can be
called a sham “investigation” of Hillary Clinton after it was revealed
she had conducted so-called top-secret U.S. State Department business on
a private, unsecured email server, which is prima facae evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Regarding whether Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy to “obstruct
justice,” perhaps Judge Napolitano is correct. If Comey could
successfully obtain guilty verdicts against Quattrone and Stewart, then
no doubt Mueller or another federal prosecutor could convince a jury
consisting of Washington, D.C., Democrats that Donald Trump broke the
law.

Whether Trump did break the law is quite another matter. The White
House, for all the bluster against Mueller, did cooperate and cooperated
with the special counsel more readily than did the Bill Clinton White
House cooperate with special prosecutors in the infamous Whitewater
investigation. (In fact, the Clinton White House illegally leaked grand
jury information to a reporter at Newsweek and then publicly claimed the special counsel had done the leaking.)

Like so much of federal criminal law, the obstruction statute easily
becomes a weapon in the hands of vindictive prosecutors like Comey who
seek convictions against high-profile people, not because the people
broke the law, but because such prosecutions are politically useful. One
doubts that anything Trump did impeded Mueller’s investigation for even
a second. For that matter, Mueller’s former lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissman, is known for being unethical and allegedly engaged in outright intimidation of witnesses when he was involved in the Enron investigation and prosecution.

Lest one forget, the original reason for the investigation – to look
for evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian nationals to
engage in election fraud – turned out to be a non-starter. The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN
and MSNBC to the contrary, there was no collusion and the shady way
that the FBI acted in using a fabricated dossier paid for by the Hillary
Clinton campaign as the basis for calling for a special prosecutor
casts doubt on the veracity of the FBI agents and others involved in the
investigation. Furthermore, the false dossier also was used as an
excuse by the Obama White House to obtain a FISA court order to wiretap the Trump campaign , an action that Attorney General Bob Barr has called spying.

For all the talk about justice, the legal double standard involving
federal prosecutors and investigators is very telling. The FBI is
empowered to lie under oath, intimidate witnesses, hide evidence, and
generally run amok, and federal prosecutors are free to engage in
felonious leaking of grand jury material to the media, hide evidence,
lie in court, and engage in other lawbreaking, all without fear of
facing any legal consequences.

Those being investigated or accused of crimes, however, must play by a
different set of rules. They are not permitted to publicly proclaim
their innocence (even if they are innocent), nor are they allowed to
question any actions prosecutors and the FBI are doing, even if
government agents are breaking the law or engaging in unethical
behavior. The accused are subject to being tried on nebulous charges of
“obstruction” or “lying to the FBI,” or some other nebulous accusation
that often is contrived. If Donald Trump didn’t understand that state of
affairs when he became president, he surely does now.

*About the author: William L. Anderson is a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.

Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute

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Eurasia Review: Ukraine Has Gotten Over Russia, But Russia Hasn’t Gotten Over Ukraine – OpEd

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Russians have been so obsessed with Ukraine for five years to the point of forgetting about their own country’s problems, Liliya Shevtsova says; and Moscow has done what it can to keep Russia at the center of Ukraine’s reality.  But as the election of Vladimir Zelensky shows Ukraine has gotten over Russia. The question is: can Russia get over Ukraine?

Russia’s obsession with Ukraine over the last five years says an awful lot about Russia, the political analyst says.  It shows that Russia has no idea about how to consolidate itself, and it shows that hostility to Ukraine has become “an instrument for the legitimation of the authorities” (echo.msk.ru/blog/shevtsova/2412371-echo/).

Moreover, she continues, the excessive focus on Ukraine to the exclusion of Russian realities highlights the cowardice of the Russian elites who would like to attack America but won’t because they fear the consequences and thus attack Ukraine. And it shows that the positions Russians take on Ukraine “has become a criterion of loyalty to the Russian elite.”

The fixation Russians have about Ukraine “cries out about our complexes and inabilities” to cope with the current situation in and around Russia, Shevtsova says. “Having made Ukraine an internal (and in fact the key!) question of Russian politics, we admit that we have not been able to find out own stimuli of development and unity.”

As a result, “Russia has turned out to be unprepared for Ukraine’s flight” from it.  And now that Ukraine has made it clear that it intends to continue that flight, Russia suffers from “a phantom pain” just as someone who has lost a leg or arm but continues to feel pain from something that is no longer there.

Russians are constantly trying to come up with something that will force Ukraine to turn back, but all of their ideas – be it giving passports to people in the Donbass or cutting off oil – only have the effect of reinforcing the desire of Ukraine’s to pursue their drive to separate themselves from Russia and join Europe.

Russians don’t understand this in large measure because there has arisen “a class of politicians and experts whose profession is to get angry about Ukraine. Even liberally thinking people speak about Ukraine condescendingly, telling Ukrainians what they need to do because they “aren’t ready to say what Russia must do.”

These people evaluate Ukraine in terms of Russian realities and thus do not understand what is going on. They can’t imagine a country in which “someone can throw challenges at the leader and the leader will respond by arguing with him as an equal.” That is unthinkable in Russia and so Ukraine must be a failure because it isn’t Russia.

“Poroshenko’s defeat is described by Kremlin interpreters as a systemic failure,” Shevtsova says. They cannot understand that the exit of one leader and the entrance of another as a result of elections speaks to the vitality of the system: Ukrainians have won the right to choose leaders, they have the right to make errors and to correct them again through elections.”

These Russian commentators can’t understand “how Ukrainians can live without a harsh ‘vertical’ telling them how to live” – just as Ukrainians can’t understand how Russians are willing to live under its diktat. Nonetheless, Ukraine works: its economy is growing and Europe will take it in.

Despite all its problems, Shevtsova says, “Europe understand that its security requires the incorporation of Ukraine and not leaving it in a dead zone as a failed state and source of tension with Russia.”

Russian experts want to convince everyone that Ukraine is on the world’s “periphery,” but “precisely this ‘periphery’ has called forth the confrontation of the West with Russia.”  Ukraine has problems but it would be far more effective to help it solve them than try to exploit and exacerbate them to leave it ever more hostile at Russia.

Today, Russian analysts are obsessed with what kind of president Vladimir Zelensky will be, forgetting that he “will not be the single center of power in Ukraine which has been able to establish a system of checks and balances.  It is possible that more important than Zelensky will be the new balance of forces in the Rada and the new prime minister.”

This is something Russians cannot understand, Shevtsova stresses.

One curious aspect of the situation in Ukraine is that Ukrainians are beginning to have more positive feelings toward Russia, but Russians do not understand why this is so. “It isn’t because Ukrainians have suddenly felt sympathy for Russia but because Russia has ceased to be the main problem for them.”

The Ukrainians “want to forget about us and think about their own worthy life. Without us!” Being rejected by someone is insulting, but “encountering indifference is still more offensive.  But if Russia wants to return its dignity and vision of the future, it is going to have to get over Ukraine and occupy itself with its own affairs.”

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Eurasia Review: Secular Jew Makes Surprising Discovery About Christians And American Slavery – OpEd

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By John B. Carpenter*

Christians ended slavery.
Do you think that’s a conservative simpleton’s mock-worthy bombast,
embarrassing the rest of us with his black-and-white, unapologetic
caricature of American history? No. It is the considered conclusion of a
Nobel laureate, a former communist, a secular Jew, and arguably the
foremost scholar on American slavery.

Robert Fogel (1922-2013), the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was president of Cornell University’s American Youth for Democracy,
investing eight years promoting communism. Meanwhile, he married Enid
Morgan, an African-American woman, consequently suffering the ugliness
of American racism personally. Eventually, he rejected communism.
Apparently, the data didn’t support it.

Fogel was driven by data, perhaps the purest pursuer of empirical
truth I’ve ever met in academia. He pioneered an approach to history,
called “cliometrics,” that relied on quantifiable evidence; that is,
countable documentation. Like any historian, he read diaries and
pamphlets for the color they throw on the times, but for his
conclusions, he sought hard facts. For example, whereas other historians
might look to the likes of Fanny Kemble, a British actress who married a
Southern plantation owner, to piece together the lives of the slaves,
Fogel believed such sources were too filtered through bias. Campaigners,
like Harriet Beecher Stowe, tended to dramatize. Cliometrians, though,
seek government records, the business ledgers of plantations and the
like. 

Fogel’s bean-counting approach led to his discovery that
plantations, organized in a business-like fashion with their “gang
system,” had an assembly line-like efficiency. Hence Southern slavery
was fantastically profitable. He calculated, in his books Time on the Crossand Without Consent or Contract,
that Southern slavery was 36% more efficient than free Northern farms
even though, generally, the soil in the North is better. Propelled by
slavery, the economy in the South grew twice as fast as the North’s in
the decade prior to the Civil War. He concluded that if the Civil War
had not been sparked when it was, the South would have continued to
outpace the North, adapt slavery to industrialization, been
unconquerable if a later Civil War had broken out, and likely would have
spread slavery indefinitely. Slavery was on the ascendancy at the
outbreak of the Civil War.

Furthermore – and here it sounds scandalous – most Southern slaves
were treated materially well by their “owners.” The average slave
consumed more calories and lived longer than the average, white,
Northern city-dweller. Contrary to popular myth, slave families were
rarely divided up — only about 3% were — and slave-owners rarely used
their slaves for sexual indulgence, with only about 2% of slave births
being by white fathers. Because of these superficially positive findings
about slavery, some critics misunderstood Fogel and attacked his work.
But it withstood the criticism, earning a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1993. 

The moral question: If Southern slavery was profitable, even
providing for the slaves a relatively decent material life, then why is
it evil? If slavery is wrong, then, we have to look beyond the beans
that can be counted, the dollars that can be earned, the efficiency that
can be charted. The answer is found in a system of morality that comes
from beyond mere materialism. 

Fogel saw that the American institution of slavery was evil because
it depends on unrestrained domination. One group of people determine, in
God-like fashion, the fate of others. Slavery was, for Fogel, a “Time
on the Cross.” This was the original objection of Christian
abolitionists and that caught Fogel’s eye. Christians provided the
other-worldly ethics that ended a system that worked in this world that
had been normal. But Christians believed that normalcy and efficiency
were no excuse if it offended the next world.

Fogel was so convinced that evangelicals had been a force for good in America that by 2000 he wroteThe Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism.
In it he argued that Christians will lead America, once again, toward
moral progress. I took his class at the University of Chicago, as an
evangelical learning from a self-professed secular Jew. I wrote a paper
in which I argued that he was wrong about the present and future. He
invited me to his office and plied me with questions. I didn’t change
his mind but the next year he invited me to be his teaching assistant.
He tasked me with presenting the lecture on his findings on slavery.
During one after-class chat, he told me that he was astounded to
discover that Christians ended slavery. He said something like, “Here I
was, a professor in some of America’s leading universities and I had no
idea that Christians had done that.” Fogel concluded that it was not
economic forces that brought about the end of slavery but a moral
revolution rooted in Puritanism. Christians, mainly from Puritan New
England and Quaker Pennsylvania, turned the tide of popular opinion in
the North against slavery. Remember, originally every state was a
slave-state. Slavery was normalcy for America too at its founding. That
changed because Christians increasingly agreed that slavery was evil,
transforming what had been a slave-holding country into a house divided.

Today some Christian intellectuals scold the church for
being complicit in slavery. They’re right, of course. But only half
right. What they fail to see is that slavery was a universal human
institution for all history. Normalcy. It’s impossible to isolate one
group as responsible for it because all were. If we go back in anyone’s
ancestry far enough, we’re almost certain to find a slave owner. We’re
all the sons and daughters of slaves and enslavers. The question is not
who enabled slavery. Everyone did. The questions is, who, after
millennia of this fallen institution, stopped it. Today, many Christians
don’t know enough of their heritage to answer that question. 

Our legacy of ending slavery shouldn’t be so buried. William
Wilberforce and John Newton, of “Amazing Grace” fame, are favorite
sermon illustrations. Lesser known is the fact that one of the earliest
books against slavery in the Anglo-American world, The Selling of Joseph
(1700), was written by a Puritan, Samuel Sewall. A Quaker anti-slavery
book preceded it by just a few years. Jonathan Edwards is often
condemned for owning slaves. Lesser known is that his disciples, like
Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803) and his own son, were founders of the
abolition movement. Jonathan Edwards the younger, on September 15, 1791,
gave an impassioned sermon, based on Jesus’ golden rule, condemning
slavery. The theological movement birthed by Edwards and the Great
Awakening, the New Divinity, inspired ministers who denounced slavery in their evangelistic preaching. The
Christian roots of other abolitionists, from Britain’s Granville Sharp,
to John Wesley, to Charles Spurgeon, and America’s Tappan brothers, who
with William Lloyd Garrison founded the American Anti-Slavery Society,
should be recounted in our churches and our apologetic conversations.
Christianity’s commitment to freedom was so pronounced that Frederick
Douglass, who decried the hypocrisy of slave-holding religion vividly,
did not convert to Islam and become “Frederick X,” but professed, “I love the religion of our blessed Savior.” 

Sure, there were plenty of professed Christians – and regrettably
some real ones – who defended slavery to the end. Robert Lewis Dabney
(1820-1898), an otherwise orthodox Presbyterian theologian, wrote a
defense of slavery so unashamed even erstwhile Confederates were
embarrassed by it. There’s no excuse for such complicity with slavery,
especially so late in history. But Dabney and Robert E. Lee and the
pious Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson take their place among the
normal of history. Slavery had been the norm, business as usual. What is
striking is when normalcy is disrupted, the bolt from the blue.
Abolition was that bolt, a revolutionary shock breaking into history.
Where did it come from? It wasn’t the long arc of history inevitably
bending toward progress. It was a transformation from above. 

The former communist Nobel laureate proved how Christianity freed the slaves. Sure, we have normalcy to be ashamed of. But, more remarkably, we have the miracle to be proud of.

*About the author: John B. Carpenter holds a Ph.D. in Church history with a concentration in New England Puritanism. He is pastor of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in North Carolina. 

Source: This article was published by the Acton Institute

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Eurasia Review: Bhutan: Oasis Of Peace – Analysis

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By Giriraj Bhattacharjee*

In the entire South Asian
region, Bhutan is the only country which has remained free of even a
single terrorism-related fatality, or for that matter, incident, for
over a decade. Specifically, on December 30, 2008, four Bhutanese
foresters were killed and another two injured after their tractor was
blown up by an improvised explosive device (IED) planted on the road
about four kilometres west of Singay village in the Sarpang District.

Between, September 5, 2004, and
December 30, 2008, Bhutan recorded a total of 13 fatalities, including
eight civilians and five militants. The first incident involving a
fatality took place on September 5, 2004, when two persons were killed
and 27 sustained injuries in a bomb explosion at the Sunday market
shopping area of Gelephu town.

Between September 5, 2004 and the present (data till April 21, 2019), according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal
(SATP), South Asia (including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal,
Pakistan and Sri Lanka) as a region recorded 126,755
terrorism/insurgency linked fatalities (including 44,482 civilians,
15,614 Security Forces, SF, personnel and 66,659 militants). Of these,
Bhutan accounted for a mere 0.01 per cent (the data does not include
fatalities in Afghanistan and the Maldives). 

Unsurprisingly, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2018, Bhutan is ranked at 135 among 163 countries in the list, towards the bottom, among the most peaceful countries. In the 2015 index Bhutan was placed at the 107th position (out of 162 countries). In the very first index
published in 2012, which mapped and ranked countries based on the
terror incidents that were reported from 2002 to 2011, Bhutan was ranked
72 out of 158 countries.

The prevailing peace has helped Bhutan’s overall development. According to a 2018 United Nations document,
Bhutan’s GDP has more than tripled in the last 10 years (2008-18)
alone, and per capita income has increased to USD 2,719. Poverty in
Bhutan more than halved between 2007-2012, and reduced even further
thereafter. According to the Asian Development Bank, the population
living below the national poverty line in Bhutan fell to 8.2 percent in
2017 as against 12 percent in 2012.

Nevertheless, a few lingering
issues remain unresolved and remind the people of Bhutan of a relatively
turbulent, albeit brief, phase in the past. Among these is the issue of
repatriation.

According to reports, around 6,500 Lhotshampa (Bhutanese of Nepalese decent) refugees were
still living in two camps in the Jhapa District of Nepal. 
Approximately 105,000 Lhotshampa were expelled in the 1990s due to
implementation of the Citizenship Act of 1985 and the subsequent
nation-wide Census of 1988. Notably, the Lhotshampas refugees in Nepal
had helped the Bhutan Communist Party – Marxist-Leninist-Maoist
(BCP-MLM) grow and foment trouble in
Himalayan Kingdom. The BCP-MLM has been dormant since 2010 when it,
along with other ‘political parties in exile’, formed an umbrella group
and vowed to pursue a unified democratic movement led by Rongthong
Kunley Dorji. Dorji died on October 19, 2011, and was replaced by Kesang
Lhendup as the new President of the Druk National Congress on December
18, 2011. In a 2012 interview, Lhendup, when asked about the future
plans, stated that the organization would “continue to take forward the
unfinished works of our late President for the establishment of
inclusive democracy in Bhutan…”

In February 2019, after more than a decade, Nepal has decided to hold the 16th round of ministerial-level talks with Bhutan to repatriate the remaining 6,500 Lhotshampa. The 15th
round, held on December 22, 2003, had failed. After the breakdown of
talks in 2003, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees helped
resettle over 112,800 Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin, then staying
in Nepal, in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark,
Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Another issue of concern was
the existence of camps of Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) operating in
the northeast in Bhutan or along the Indo-Bhutan border. Though the
presence of camps of IIGs in Bhutan is no longer reported, violent Bodo
militants do use the Indo-Bhutan border to carry out insurgent
activities. Consequently, India’s Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)
has approved the laser-based aerial mapping of the Indo-Bhutan border
along Assam. Reports suggest that the difficult terrain along the border
has become a significant hideout for insurgents, especially members of
the banned Saoraigwra faction of the National Democratic Front of
Bodoland (NDFB–S).
Intelligence agencies believe top leaders of the group are hiding
somewhere along the Indo-Bhutan border. It is useful to recall here,
that Bhutan had carried out operation all clear in 2003, expelling a number of Indian insurgent formations then operating from its soil.

Meanwhile, Bhutan held its
third National Assembly Elections on October 18, 2018. The Druk Nyamrup
Tshogpa (DNT) party won the elections, securing 30 of the total of 47
seats. Lotay Tshering, the President of DNT, became the new Prime
Minister of Bhutan. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), which bagged 17
seats [and that had won the maiden elections in 2008] assumed the role
of the main opposition party for the second consecutive term. The
People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which also contested the elections,
failed to qualify for the second round of elections and consequently to
win any seat. PDP garnered 27.2 per cent of votes in the first round,
while DNT and DPT registered 32 per cent and 31 per cent votes,
respectively, entering the second round of polls. According to Bhutan’s
Constitution, only two political parties can take part in the final
round of General Elections. In 2013, PDP, had won 32 seats and emerged
victorious, while DPT, with 15 seats, had assumed the role of the
opposition.

Bhutan has largely been an exception in an otherwise violence-riven South Asian region. Constant vigil and cooperation in the security sphere with neighbours will be necessary to ensure that this remains the case.

*Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

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Eurasia Review: India: Declining Terror, Persistent Vulnerabilities – Analysis

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By Ajit Kumar Singh*

For the seventh consecutive
year, beginning 2012, overall terrorism-linked fatalities across
multiple theaters of conflict in India remained in three digits, with
2018 registering a total of 935 fatalities, including 216 civilians, 183
Security Force (SF) personnel, and 536 militants. Such fatalities
remained in the four digits for 18 consecutive years between 1994 and
2011, with year 2001 registering a peak 5,839 fatalities (1,693
civilians, 721 SF personnel, and 3,425 militants). 

However, annual fatalities declined for seven consecutive years, between 2006 and 2012, but have followed a cyclical trend thereafter.
Terrorism-linked fatalities in 2018 (935 fatalities) increased in
comparison to 2017, at 803 fatalities (206 civilians, 170 SF personnel,
and 427 SF personnel). In 2016, there were 898 fatalities, as against
722 in 2015, 976 in 2014, 884 in 2013, and 803 fatalities in 2012.

Meanwhile, 84 Districts
recorded terrorism/insurgency linked fatalities in 2018 (the same number
as in 2017), down from 94 in 2016, 93 in 2015, 100 in 2014, 103 in
2013, and 122 in 2012. Fatalities have already been reported from 37
Districts in 2019 (data till April 21, 2019).

Moreover, the total number of Districts afflicted by chronic conflict variables was down to 170 in 2018, as against 184 in 2017. There were a total of 191 such Districts in 2016; and 205 in both 2014 and 2013.

India presently has a total of 719 Districts.

These numbers clearly indicate
that there has been considerable overall improvement in the security
situation, but an analysis across different theaters of conflict
demonstrates that the gains are not similar.  

Islamist terrorism outside Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has been contained to a large extent. Pakistan-backed Islamist terror formations, as well as Islamic State (aka Daesh)
and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the last two of which
have been attempting to make inroads since 2014, have failed
comprehensively in their ambitions [al Qaeda has, in fact, trying to
create a network in India at least since 1996, and established AQIS,
dedicated to the South Asian region, in 2014). There was just one
Islamist terrorist attack in India, outside J&K, through 2018. It is
useful to recall that, in 2008, Islamist terror formations operating
out of Pakistan had carried out 10 attacks in India, outside J&K,
resulting in 352 fatalities, the largest number recorded in a single
year since 2000, when the SATP database commenced tracking such
incidents. There is, of course, little room for complacence,
particularly in view of the intermittent ‘lone wolf attacks’ by Daesh-inspired
individuals across the globe, and the continuous stream of IS-linked
conspiracies and arrests over the past years. According to the SATP
database, a total of 167 Daesh
sympathizers/recruits have been arrested and another 73 persons have
been detained, counselled and released, in India (data till April 21,
2019). Another 98 Indians were believed to have travelled to Syria, Iraq
and Afghanistan to join IS – microscopic numbers in terms of the
country’s huge Muslim population. Of the 98 who travelled abroad to join
Daesh, 33 are confirmed to have been killed. The increasing
trend of fringe Islamist terror formations in several countries
associating with Daesh is a source of concern for India as well.

Insurgent violence in the Northeast region has seen a continuous downward trajectory 
with 2018 recording the lowest insurgency-related fatalities since
1992. Incidentally, except for Arunachal Pradesh, all the other six
insurgency affected states – Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram,
Nagaland and Tripura – registered a declining trend in fatalities.

The region did, however,
witness multiple and widespread agitations and a tendency to increasing
ethnic and communal polarisation through 2018 and thereafter due to several factors, most prominently including the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of India’s Parliament) on January 8, 2019, and the preceding troubles over
the National Register of Citizens. The agitations even jeopardised
ongoing peace talks with the ULFA-Pro Talks Faction (ULFA-PTF), and also
saw a number of other erstwhile militant organizations across the
region strongly opposing CAB.

The Maoist insurgency is also on a decline,
though fatalities increased from 333 (109 civilians, 74 SF personnel,
150 Naxalites) in 2017 to 413 (109 civilians, 73 SF personnel, 231
Naxalites) in 2018, essentially as a result of increasing fatalities in
Maoist ranks. SFs secured an improved kill ratio in 2018, at 1:3.16, as
against 1:2.02 in 2017. The 2018 ratio is the second best recorded since
the SATP database commenced tracking the conflict, after 3.69, in 2016.

Nevertheless, the intermittent
and audacious attacks of the recent past clearly indicate that the
Maoists still possess the wherewithal, albeit diminishing, to strike at
will. Cadres of the Communist Party of India–Maoist (CPI-Maoist) triggered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast and subsequently opened fire, targeting the
convoy of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Legislative Assembly
(MLA), Bhima Mandavi, in a forested patch near Nakulnar village under
the Kuwakonda tehsil (revenue unit) of Dantewada District in
Chhattisgarh’s ailing Bastar Division, on April 9, 2019. Those killed
included MLA Mandavi and his three Personal Security Officers (PSOs), as
well as the constable-driver.

There have also been some worries in
Punjab in recent times. Between 2008 and 2015, Khalistani terrorists
failed to inflict even a single fatality in the State, but three years
in a row, between 2016 and 2018, lethal terrorist strikes have been
mounted. The grenade attack at Nirankari Bhavan on November 18, 2018,
which resulted in three fatalities, was the last incident in a chain of
efforts to revive Khalistani terrorism in the Punjab.

It is, however, J&K that has recorded the most significant surge in violence, after an extended phase of declining violence between
2001 and 2012. Total fatalities recorded J&K in 2018, at 451, are
the highest after 2008, at 541. Worryingly, fatalities among civilians,
at 86 in 2018, are also the highest in this category since 2007, at 164.
Indeed, with an intensifying polarization and intentional political destabilization, the State appears to be headed towards a heightened phase of terrorism.

Union Home Minister Rajnath
Singh while addressing the Inaugural Session of the Conference of
Directors and Inspectors General of Police in Gujarat on December 20,
2018, thus observed,

Security scenario in the North-East region has witnessed steady improvement in recent years… We achieved major operational successes in core areas of CPI/Maoist… The communal situation during the current year remained under control, with a decrease of 12% in communal incidents as compared to the corresponding period in 2017… Law enforcement agencies… have managed to overcome the first tide of propaganda and mobilization by Islamic State… In concerted counter-terrorism operations, Law enforcement agencies have arrested nearly 125 terrorist suspects as against 117 arrested in 2017… The new phase of Islamic State propaganda emanating from Afghanistan-Pakistan region is also being countered effectively…

The Minister further stated, in the context of J&K,

…Attempts by militants to infiltrate in large numbers, intermittent attacks by militants and efforts at local recruitment continue… The separatists also exploit every possible situation to agitate the people to fan further anti-India sentiments, which leads to law and order situation…

The Government of India (GoI) as well as respective states affected by Insurgencies in the Northeast, the Maoist belt, terrorism in J&K and in Punjab,
have adopted several measures through 2018, as in the past. The Central
Government also, initiated several schemes to further strengthen
India’s existing internal security apparatus. On December 12, 2018, GoI disclosed
that it had sanctioned the raising of six additional battalions of the
Borders Security Force (BSF) on January 1, 2018. All these battalions
have since been raised for deployment. A proposal to raise additional
battalions in ITBP is also under consideration. Though an April 30,
2018, report stated that four new CRPF battalions with 1,148 staffs in
each battalion will be raised at Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Group
Centres at Neemuch, Avadi, Rangareddy and Amethi, there is no further
information available in this regard. The Government, however, informed
Parliament on February 12, 2019, that “at present there is no decision
of the Government to raise additional battalions in Central Reserve
Police Force (CRPF)”. Earlier, on April 4, 2018, the Union Government informed Parliament,

To equip the security system with state-of-the-art technology in view of the increasing terrorist and Naxalite activities in the country, the Government has approved an enhanced outlay under the umbrella scheme of “Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF)” with a total outlay of Rs. 25,061 crore. Under this umbrella scheme, a sub-scheme of “Assistance to States for Modernization of Police” with an outlay of Rs. 7,380 crore has been approved for the period from 2017-18 to 2019-20. This sub-scheme is in continuation of the scheme of Modernisation of State Police Forces. Under this sub-scheme central assistance to States is provided for acquisition of security/surveillance/communication equipments, modern weaponry, forensic equipments etc.

Nevertheless, wide deficiencies
persist. There has been no decisive improvement since the 26/11 Mumbai
attacks, after which the Government had declared its intention to bring
about radical transformation. The first responders to any terrorist
threat, the Police Force, remain enormously neglected. While the
Police-Population ratio was 134.3 (policeman per 100000 population) as
on January 2, 2009, it has crept up to an arguable 150.75
by 2017 (as on January 1, 2017, the latest data available), much lower
than the a ‘desirable’ Police-population ratio of 220 per 100,000 for
‘peacetime policing’. The number of vacancies across the country in the
apex Indian Police Service (IPS) has actually increased over time. On
July 19, 2018, Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh, in a
written reply to the Rajya Sabha, disclosed that there were 970
vacancies in the IPS or 19.64 per cent of the total 4,940 posts. As on
January 1, 2010, of 4,013 authorised posts, in the IPS, just 3,383 were
in position, leaving a deficit of 16.7 per cent.

Moreover, huge vacancies
persist in the entire Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), which have
been increasingly used as lead counter-insurgency Forces in the country:
166,896 vacant posts as on January 1, 2017, against a sanctioned
strength of 1,154,393 (actual strength: 987,497). In 2010, the total
vacancies were 100,830 (sanctioned strength 874,483, actual strength
773,653).

More worryingly, the implementation lag on decisions related to security is getting longer, as underlined in a report
submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) to the
Parliament on April 5, 2018, where referring to Coastal Security Scheme
Phase II (CSS II) it sated,

Ministry [Home Ministry] sanctioned (November 2010) 10 large vessels and 23 Rigid Inflatable Boats6 (RIB) to be centrally procured at a cost of Rupees 302.30 crore. These vessels were required to exercise watch and vigilance at islands and along the coast line and were to be stationed at 10 strategic locations where MOCs were being set up. Ministry floated limited tender enquiries in June 2016 for procurement of the large vessels and RIBs more than five years after approval of the scheme and finalized tenders for these vessels in December 2017. Thus, a critical component of CSS-II has been delayed for more than six years after approval and the objective of strengthening vigilance at strategic locations through regular patrolling has yet to be achieved…
Under the scheme, ten Marine Operational Centers (MOCs) were to be set up as nerve centers to undertake patrolling, raids and surveillance in remote/scattered islands. MHA suggested (November 2010) completion of all preparatory works for the MOCs by 31 March 2011… Audit noted that only one out of the ten planned MOCs could be set up and operationalized in Kadamtala. The Department attributed (November 2017) the delays to involvement of various stakeholders in the process of obtaining clearances. The reply is not tenable as there was no evidence of concerted action on the part of the Department to take advance action and actively pursue the requisite clearances.

While the SFs have been able to bring down the level of terrorism / insurgency across most of the afflicted regions over the past few years, political mischief both at State as well as the Central level has allowed threats to persist and, in some cases, escalate. The Governments lethargic approach towards capacity building remains a major impediment to sustaining and consolidating the gains secured at great cost and sacrifice.

*Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

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Eurasia Review: Robert Reich: America Has Already Fired Trump – OpEd

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The question on everyone’s mind is whether Trump will be impeached. In other words, will America fire Trump?

Well, I have news for you. America has already fired him.

When the public fires a president before election day – as it did with Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover
they don’t send him a letter telling him he’s fired. They just make him
irrelevant. Politics happens around him, despite him. He’s not
literally gone, but he might as well be.

It’s happened to Trump. House Democrats are moving against him. Senate Republicans are quietly subverting him. The courts are pushing back. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told him to end the shutdown.

The
Federal Reserve is running economic policy. Top-level civil servants
are managing the day-to-day work of the agencies. States are taking up
the slack: California, for example, is now running environmental policy.

Departments
and agencies are being run by lobbyists and insiders busily carving out
loopholes, cutting taxes, and slashing regulations on behalf of the
wealthy and big corporations.

Isolated in the White House, distrustful of aides, at odds with intelligence agencies, distant from his Cabinet heads, Trump has no system to make or implement decisions.

His tweets don’t create headlines as before. His rallies are ignored. His lies have become old hat.

Even America’s adversaries just humor him. Kim Jong Unand Xi Jinping give him tidbits to share with the American public, and then do whatever they want.

Action and excitement have shifted elsewhere – to Democratic challengers, even to a 29-year-old freshman congresswoman too young to run for president.

Energy
is now coming from the grassroots – from people all over the country
who are determined to reclaim our democracy and create an economy that
works for all.

According to polls, most Americans want
Medicare-for-All and higher taxes on the wealthy. And they don’t want a
wall along the southern border.  

Now, don’t get me wrong. Trump
is still dangerous, like an old land mine buried in the mud. He could
start a nuclear war. And his court picks are a terrifying legacy.

But in an important sense, he’s already gone. 

Mr. President: In the words you yourself have often used, “You’re fired.”

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Eurasia Review: Ukraine: Why ‘OU’ Lost By A Landslide – OpEd

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With the landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelensky, who won 73 percent
of the vote, the comedian will become the president of Ukraine.
Understanding how this occurred becomes easy when people review US
government documents published by Wikileaks about the outgoing
president.

Who is “OU”? Our Ukraine. In a classified diplomatic cable from 2006 released by Wikileaks.org, U.S. officials refer to Poroshenko as “Our Ukraine (OU) insider Petro Poroshenko.” “Our Ukraine” has been in the pocket of the US government for 13 years.

The US government knew he was corrupt. A separate cable also released by Wikileaks makes
that clear. The May 2006 cable states “Poroshenko was tainted by
credible corruption allegations, but wielded significant influence
within OU; Poroshenko’s price had to be paid.” The US government knew he
was corrupt, but allowing his corruption was a price the US was willing
to pay to have Our Ukraine serving as president. 

The document also describes the “bad blood” between Poroshenko and 
Yuliya Tymoshenko. This bad blood continues to this day as Tymoshenko
came in third in the first round of the elections, and it seemed to
continue through the General Election, as those who voted for her, voted
for Zelensky — or against Poroshenko. The memo describes the
Tymoshenko-Poroshenko relationship writing, “there is a thin line
between love and hate,” and describing how  “Tymoshenko and Poroshenko
might appear in public, shake hands, agree to ‘do business’ together”
but a coalition between them was unlikely to last.

Joe Biden, who is expected to announce a run for president, is emblematic of the corruption of the US in Ukraine. Wikileaks reports,
Biden pledged US financial and technical assistance to Ukraine for
“unconventional” gas resources (i.e. fracking). And, not only was his
son Hunter put on the board of the largest private gas company in
Ukraine (along with a long-time Kerry family friend and financier) but
when that gas company was threatened with investigation, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he
threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 saying
that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion. Biden claimed he
gave the country six hours to fire the prosecutor before he left Ukraine
or he would bankrupt the country. OU fired him.

Why did Biden want him fired? The prosecutor was leading a wide-ranging corruption investigation into the natural gas firm –
while Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of directors. Corruption is
a major problem in Ukraine, and Biden contributed to it, bringing US
corruption to Ukraine. After Poroshenko replaced the prosecutor with one
to Biden’s liking a Wikileaks document shows he was prepared to move forward with the signing of the third $1 billion loan guarantee agreement

Now the two pro-US politicians, Tymoshenko and Poroshenko, have been replaced by a political unknown in Zelensky, or “Ze,” as he’s more popularly known.
The incoming president has been vague on what policies he will pursue
but says he wants to negotiate peace with Russia over eastern Ukraine,
saying he was prepared to negotiate directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine is sick of corruption. Adding to Poroshenko’s corruption, the US brought more corruption. Not surprisingly, corruption under Poroshenko worsened.
The country is tired of the conflict between Kiev and East Ukraine and
Zelensky said he would try to end the war. And, the country has become the poorest in Europe as the promise of close ties with the US have not resulted in the benefits promised.

While the country has gotten poorer, Poroshenko remains one of
the wealthiest men in Ukraine. He has been surrounded by corruption
scandals as various businessmen close to him have been caught up in scandals involving corruption. The common view is Ukraine has gotten poorer as Poroshenko has gotten richer.

All this was predictable with what the US knew about OU, and thanks to Wikileaks should not be a surprise to anyone.

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Eurasia Review: Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings – OpEd

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The number of dead is bound to rise, already standing at more than three hundred. The bombs, worn by seven suicide bombers, struck at three churches during the period of Easter Sunday worship, and three hotels. As the dead were counted and the wounded accounted for, the situation through the glass darkly was a troubled one. Information relayed had either been ignored or discounted. In some cases, it never reached necessary recipients.

While the individuals behind the bombings were hardly forthcoming about their handiwork, there were suggestions as early as April 4 from Indian security sources that one group was readying to initiate various attacks. National Thowheeth Jama’ath, an Islamic group, had piqued the interest of police enough to lead to the identification of members and their addresses on April 11.

One of the suicide bombers, it transpired, had also been arrested some few months prior on suspicion of vandalizing a statue of Buddha. Such acts of serious desecration were not alien to the NTJ; the use of bombings on such scale was, however, not their forte.

On Monday, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, confirmed what had already been a fast held suspicion: even after the warning of April 4, the prime minister and his associates had been “completely blind to the situation.”

The picture painted by the minister seemed a gruesome admission of defiance in the face of detailed warnings. Intelligence agencies had “informed, from time to time, starting from April 4, 48 hours before the attacks and finally ten minutes before the tragedy struck. They gave warnings about a possible attack on April 4 for the first time.” From then on, the National Intelligence Chief Sisira Mendis kept the Inspector General Police (IGP) abreast of the “imminent attacks” having “actually informed that an organisation called ‘Thowheed Jamath’ planned suicide attacks and had even mentioned their names.”

Scenes of confusion and dangerously comic dysfunction unfolded in the government. Despite various organs being informed about the threat – the ministerial security division (MSD), the judicial security division, and security divisions of former presidents and the Diplomatic Security Unit, there was a failure, according to Senaratne, “to warn the Prime Ministerial Security Division (PMSD) and the Presidential Security Division (PSD) of the attacks.” When the PM attempted to convene a security council meeting, no one turned up. When the President had made a previous effort to do the same thing, there was a delay of 20 minutes. He had to “sit in the State Defence Minister’s room for some time.” Nor was the Tourism Minister, John Amaratunga, briefed. “Unfortunately, I did not know anything about it.”

Efforts to minimise, contain and deflect have become standard fare, with blithe ignorance forming the central defence. Rich lashings of blame are also in full circulation. This gives the air of monstrous acceptance: we bungled, but haven’t we before? Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, on Monday, felt that the intelligence assessments had not warranted a serious, full security response, despite the level of detail supplied, and their frequency. “Intelligence,” he stated disingenuously, “never indicated that it’s going to be an attack on this magnitude. They were talking about isolated incidents. Besides, there is no emergency in this country. We cannot request the armed forces to come and assist as we can only depend on the police.”

Having claimed the received intelligence pointed to mere potential “isolated incidents” (the suggestion here is that a monstrous act, when seen as an isolated one, can be rationalised according to a security and ethical calculus; in short, more permissible), Fernando proceeded to normalise the entire episode. “It’s not the first time a bomb went off in this country. During the height of the war, when emergency regulations were in force and roadblocks installed at every two kilometres, bombs went off. Why are you trying to isolate this unfortunate incident?”

At the highest levels, the Sri Lankan government has suffered political sclerosis. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have been waging wars cold and hot against each other for some time. When Wickremesinghe was re-appointed after being sacked by the cranky Sirisena in December last year, in turn replacing a cantankerous Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President extolled his own democratic credentials. While he held a personal dislike for his appointee, he also respected “the parliamentary tradition”.

The post-attack reaction is also proving to be an unhinged affair. Sri Lankan authorities immediately imposed a social media blackout. Dazed and confused as officials are, the idea of not containing an agitated public as inquiries are conducted seemed a grave threat. Besides, a country bathed in the blood of decades of communal violence continues to teeter before the next provocation, the next inflammatory message of inspired retribution.

There was little pride in asserting that the group was “a local organisation”, with all suicide bombers having been Sri Lankan citizens. But not wishing it to be an entirely indigenous affair, Senaratne wished to speculate that, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.” Another source of blame had been identified.

As Fernando surmised, it would be foolish to put too much stock in future efforts on the part of the government. Yes, assistance was being sought from Interpol, the FBI and the Australian Federal Police. But he could not “take confidence with terrorism. No country in the world can assure that it’s not going to happen. But we are trying our best.” A brutally frank response, though hardly a cleansing exculpation.

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Eurasia Review: Ron Paul: (Government) Spending Is Theft – OpEd

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Imagine being robbed every time you receive a paycheck, but once a year getting some of the stolen money back because the thieves took more than they intended. Would you be happy about it? If you are like most Americans the answer is yes, since most people are grateful when they get a partial “refund” of the taxes the government withheld from their paychecks. A tax refund means more taxes were taken out of your paycheck than you legally owed — in other words, thanks to withholding you gave the government a no-interest loan.

Withholding, which was supposed to be a “temporary measure” to help finance World War II, is an insidious way of minimizing the pain of, and thus opposition to, taxes. Because people never actually get possession of the money the government withholds, they don’t miss it. Imagine how great public demand for an end to the income tax would be if every month we had to write a check to the IRS.

This year, most Americans are owing less in taxes because of last year’s tax reform. Unfortunately, the benefits of the tax cut are going to be temporary because Congress and the President refuse to cut spending. In the two years that Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, federal spending increased by approximately 7.5 percent, or around $300 billion. Thanks to the GOP’s spending spree the federal deficit will reach $1 trillion this year, while the federal debt is now over $22 trillion dollars. This does not count the almost $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities which includes over $70 trillion in future Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Spending is going to increase for the foreseeable future. House Democrats have proposed increasing welfare spending by 5.7 percent to $630 billion and warfare spending by 2.1 percent to $664 billion. Many Republicans are complaining that the budget underfunds the military, while progressives say it underfunds domestic programs. Few in DC are willing to cut either welfare or warfare.

Government spending diverts resources from the private sector, thus damaging the economy and lowering our living standards. This is true whether the spending is financed by direct taxes or debt. Deficit spending, and the resulting pressure on the Federal Reserve to monetize the debt, increases the hidden and regressive inflation tax.

Government statistics are manipulated to understate the inflation rate. The Republican tax plan helps government hide the true inflation level by authorizing the use of the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI). Chained CPI makes it easier for the government to understate the effects of inflation by pretending that you are not negatively affected by price increase if, for example, you can still by hamburger instead of steak—even though the only reason you are buying hamburger is because Federal Reserve-caused inflation has made steak unaffordable.

Bill Rice, Jr., writing in The American Conservative, blames CPI manipulation for what he calls “shrinkflation.” Shrinkflation is when producers reduce product size to avoid, or minimize, price increases, so consumers pay more for less.

Tax cuts that are not paired with spending cuts are deferred tax increases. Unless the people and the politicians kick the welfare-warfare habit they will soon face increases in inflation and other taxes. The key to avoiding this is to restore a proper understanding of sound economics and the philosophy of liberty among the people. Politicians will only cut spending when the people stop demanding security and start demanding liberty.


This article was published by RonPaul Institute.

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Eurasia Review: Snake-Inspired Robot Slithers Even Better Than Predecessor

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Bad news for ophiophobes: Researchers from the Harvard John A.
Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed
a new and improved snake-inspired soft robot that is faster and more
precise than its predecessor.

The robot is made using kirigami — a Japanese paper craft that
relies on cuts to change the properties of a material. As the robot
stretches, the kirigami surface “pops up” into a 3D-textured surface,
which grips the ground just like snake skin.

The first-generation robot used a flat kirigami sheet, which
transformed uniformly when stretched. The new robot has a programmable
shell, meaning the kirigami cuts can pop up as desired, improving the
robot’s speed and accuracy.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a first example of a kirigami structure with non-uniform
pop-up deformations,” said Ahmad Rafsanjani, a postdoctoral fellow at
SEAS and first author of the paper. “In flat kirigami, the pop-up is
continuous, meaning everything pops at once. But in the kirigami shell,
pop up is discontinuous. This kind of control of the
shape-transformation could be used to design responsive surfaces and
smart skins with on-demand changes in their texture and morphology.”

The new research combined two properties of the material — the size
of the cuts and the curvature of the sheet. By controlling these
features, the researchers were able to program dynamic propagation of
pop ups from one end to another, or control localized pop-ups.

In previous research, a flat kirigami sheet was wrapped around an
elastomer actuator. In this research, the kirigami surface is rolled
into a cylinder, with an actuator applying force at two ends. If the
cuts are a consistent size, the deformation propagates from one end of
the cylinder to the other. However, if the size of the cuts are chosen
carefully, the skin can be programmed to deform at desired sequences.

“By borrowing ideas from phase-transforming materials and applying
them to kirigami-inspired architected materials, we demonstrated that
both popped and unpopped phases can coexists at the same time on the
cylinder,” said Katia Bertoldi, the William and Ami Kuan Danoff
Professor of Applied Mechanics at SEAS and senior author of the paper.
“By simply combining cuts and curvature, we can program remarkably
different behavior.”

Next, the researchers aim to develop an inverse design model for more complex deformations.

“The idea is, if you know how you’d like the skin to transform, you
can just cut, roll and go,” said Lishuai Jin, a graduate student at SEAS
and coauthor of the article.

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation. It was coauthored by Bolei Deng.

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Eurasia Review: Scapegoats Of Wrath, Subjects Of Benevolence: Turkey’s Minorities Under Erdoğan – Analysis

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By Aykan Erdemir *

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkish government over the course of the last
16 years has demonstrated a mixed track record with regard to religious
minorities, characterized both by gestures of benevolence, as well as
egregious scapegoating and persecution of the same groups. This has been
especially true in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in July
2016. What appear to be inconsistencies in the Turkish government’s
rhetoric and policy toward minorities are, in fact, various modalities
of a coherent neo-Islamist strategy of instrumentalizing minorities.
Erdoğan has used this strategy to consolidate power at home and to
pursue foreign policy goals abroad.

When 47-year-old Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, he claimed to have broken with his Islamist past and defined the orientation of his new party as “conservative democratic,” likening it to the Christian Democrats of Europe.1 This promise should have entailed a sharp break in rhetoric and policy with his mentor Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of five successive Islamist parties between 1970 and 2011. Erbakan was known for his anti-Semitic and anti-Christian worldview and rants.2

What differentiates Erdoğan’s neo-Islamism from Erbakan’s Islamism
is the systematic dissimulation effort the former has undertaken to
portray his party’s ideology as democratic, inclusive, and tolerant.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Erdoğan has been building a majoritarian
and authoritarian regime, pursuing social engineering, and pivoting
Turkey from the transatlantic alliance and its values.

Taken at face value, the AKP’s 16 years of behavior while in power offers a bewildering array of contradictory discourses and practices, ranging from ostensibly warm embraces of minorities to the vilest smears and hate speech. In Erdoğan’s schizophrenic rhetoric, for example, the word “Armenian” has appeared both as a term of endearment, as in his call to “our Armenian brothers,” as well as a word of insult that he felt the need to precede by, “I beg your pardon….”3,4

For example, at the policy level, Erdoğan has overseen the most ambitious restitution process for non-Muslim minority foundations in the history of the Turkish Republic.5 At the same time he has also made damaging attempts to block those same foundations from holding elections for their boards, thereby bringing these institutions to the brink of extinction.6

Making sense of the apparent contradictions in the Erdoğan
government’s policy and discourse toward minorities requires situating
them in their respective contexts, as well as mapping the domestic and
global parameters that shaped them. What appears to be contradictory at
first glance fits into an overall neo-Islamist game plan that reinforces
sectarian hierarchies, institutionalizes discrimination, transforms
rights into discretionary benevolent acts, and solidifies majoritarian
hegemony.

An holistic and contextualized look at the AKP’s rhetoric and policy
reveals the following four modalities of the Turkish government’s
policy:

  1. Scapegoating of, and incitement against, minorities to mobilize
    the electorate, solidify the ranks of loyalists, and strengthen
    majoritarian hegemony at home.
  2. Propagating conspiracy theories about minorities to divert the Turkish public’s attention from the government’s policy failures.
  3. Performing acts of neo-Ottoman “benevolence” to portray the regime
    and its leadership as “tolerant” at home and abroad, while also
    highlighting and reinforcing sectarian hierarchies between the ruling
    majority and subject minorities.
  4. Implementing policies ranging from benevolent to nefarious toward
    minorities to ensure favorable treatment or to extract concessions in
    international relations.

The AKP’s Early Years

The AKP’s rise to power with the general elections in November 2002—a year after Erdoğan’s founding of the party—was the result of Turkey’s 2001 economic crisis and the ensuing electoral discontent that reshuffled the country’s political landscape and eliminated mainstream political parties from parliament.7 During the AKP’s early years in power, Erdoğan was busy providing assurances both to Turkey’s pro-secular electorate and to the country’s Western allies that he was a moderate politician who had left his Islamist past behind.

A key tactic Erdoğan deployed in those early years was to signal his “reformist” approach by pursuing a more liberal attitude toward minorities.8 Turkey is home to a wide range of ethnic and religious minorities. While Kurds comprise almost 20 percent of the population, the country is also home to Arabs, Circassians, Georgians, and Albanians, among others. In addition to the Alevi community, who make up approximately 10 percent of the population, other major faith communities include Armenians, Jews, the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Christians, Latin Catholics, Protestants, and the Bahai. Although Turkey is nominally a secular state that stipulates equal treatment of all citizens, successive governments across the political spectrum had failed to accommodate the country’s cultural diversity and guarantee citizens freedom for and from religion—a shortcoming Erdoğan saw as an opportunity.

The principle of secularism (laiklik) is enshrined in the Turkish Constitution’s preamble as well as its articles 2, 13, 14, 68, 81, 103, 136, and 174.9 Most Turkish politicians and voters across the political spectrum, however, fail to perceive secularism as separation of religion and state, and freedom both for and from religion. Hence, the term continues to be perceived and implemented as the state’s control over religion. In practice, this peculiar understanding leads to a sectarian regime: Sunni Islam of the Hanafi rite, the government’s preferred and privileged form of faith, dominates all other faiths and confessions. It was Erdoğan’s neo-Islamist rule that brought this underlying logic to the fore with full force, aligning the energies of his party, state bureaucracy, the media, and loyal followers to institutionalize majoritarian and sectarian regime.

Erdoğan’s attempts to reach out to religious minorities, by
restituting confiscated property, restoring a number of churches and
synagogues, and closer engagement with faith leaders were welcomed not
only by minority communities, but also by Erdoğan’s liberal allies in
Turkey and interlocutors in the European Union. As such, these policies
played a key role in legitimizing Erdoğan. But at the same time, he was
busy consolidating his rule by gradually eliminating all institutions
that could serve as checks and balances.

Erdoğan’s outreach to minorities were less an attempt to
institutionalize equal treatment of all citizens before the law, and
more a demonstration of his tolerance and benevolence toward subjects,
echoing the Ottoman treatment of subjects.

Over the years, as Erdoğan increasingly consolidated his one-man
rule, he felt less need to secure the support of liberal allies at home,
or the legitimacy that Turkey’s European Union accession process
granted. This, in turn, diminished his need for spectacles of tolerance
and inclusion, and gradually gave way to scapegoating minorities to
rally his support base.

In 2014, Erdogan claimed that “new voluntary Lawrences,” referring to the British army officer T.E. Lawrence who orchestrated Arab revolts against Ottomans during World War I, were “disguised as journalists, religious men, writers and terrorists,” accusing them of “making Sykes-Picot agreements” once again to carve up Turkish territory.10 In 2017, he again used the same trope of “new Lawrences,” in an anti-Kurdish and anti-Semitic polemic about the independence referendum of the Iraqi Kurdistan.11 Over the years, the presentation of Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities as fifth columns susceptible to foreign meddling has become one of Erdogan’s key strategies to sustain his rule.12

Turkey’s 2016 abortive coup, the ensuing state of emergency, and Erdoğan’s ongoing alliance with the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) have intensified further this toxic climate for minorities, as they became systematic targets of state-sanctioned hate and prejudice.13

The Toxic Climate of Post-Coup Turkey for Minorities

State-sanctioned scapegoating of, incitement against, and persecution of Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities are not unique to the AKP’s 16-year rule. In fact, there is a long-established pattern that can be traced back to both the Ottoman and Republican periods.14 What merits special attention is the way in which the AKP has over the years systematized and institutionalized such practices through a well-funded and meticulously orchestrated campaign, involving state and party apparatuses as well as print, visual, and digital media.15

Turkey’s draconian state of emergency has undermined human rights, the rule of law, due process, and attorney-client privilege, precipitating an especially toxic climate for Turkey’s most vulnerable groups.16

Although Turkey’s religious minorities were quick to demonstrate their loyalty to their homeland in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup attempt, they still became victims of a wave of hatred and violence for their supposed “complicity” in the coup. The day after the abortive attempt, the religious leaders of the Jewish, Armenian, Greek-Orthodox, and Syriac communities denounced it in a joint declaration, joined later by representatives of the Alevi and Shiite faiths. These gestures, however, did not suffice to shield them from the rising anti-minority sentiment of government supporters. 17,18,19

On August 7, 2016, in a demonstration of solidarity, Turkey’s Jewish and Christian religious leaders joined the “Democracy and Martyrs” rally, the government’s million-strong anti-coup demonstration in Istanbul.20 In denouncing the coup plotters, however, three of the government officials who spoke at rally insulted religious minorities by tarring the plotters as “seeds of Byzantium,” “crusaders,” and as a “flock of infidels.”21

The hate speech targeting minority communities at the rally was later echoed in Turkey’s pro-government media, as part of an alarming trend to connect the coup plot to religious minorities. A pro-government journalist insisted two days after the abortive coup that Fethullah Gülen—a U.S.-based Sunni cleric who is widely considered by the Turkish public to be the coup’s mastermind—had a Jewish mother and an Armenian father, and is a member of the Catholic clerical hierarchy.22,23 Another pro-government daily even published a fabricated Vatican passport to show that Gülen is a Catholic cardinal.24 The Greek-Orthodox ecumenical patriarch was slandered for “plotting” the coup with the CIA, while another pro-government columnist claimed that the plotters might be hiding in churches.25, 26 Unsurprisingly, it was not long before incitement led to physical attacks against religious minorities.

Churches in Malatya and Trabzon—the scenes of lethal attacks against Christians a decade ago—were the first to be targeted.27, 28 Later, an Armenian high school in Istanbul was vandalized. 29 An Alevi worship hall (cemevi) there and homes in Malatya were next, while Christian tourists were harassed in Gaziantep.30,31

Attacks against religious minorities have remained at the elevated level reached shortly after the failed coup. On March 6, 2018, a lone gunman fired a shot through the window of the Saint Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon, a city on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.32 This was the fifth confirmed attack against the church since the assassination of its priest Andrea Santoro in 2006.33 Saint Maria was one of the churches targeted in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup attempt, as mobs attacked its gates with hammers and broke its windows.34

In February 2018, an incendiary device damaged Saint Maria’s front door a day ahead of the anniversary of Father Santoro’s assassination. 35 Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, who assumed office as the vicar apostolic of Anatolia in 2015—a seat vacant since the murder of his predecessor Bishop Luigi Padovese in 2010—referred to the arson attempt as “one of the many episodes of intimidation and vandalism that affect the Trabzon church every week.”36,37,38 Bizzeti complained about assailants who regularly damage the gates and desecrate the church grounds with trash.39 When Trabzon’s local media published the bishop’s concerns, the governor’s office denied that there were weekly attacks and claimed that authorities had been taking necessary precautions.40

State-Sanctioned Incitement on Television

Since the abortive coup, revisionist historical dramas disseminating anti-minority conspiracy theories—funded by or broadcasted on state-run or pro-government outlets—have become the most effective form of propaganda. Studies show that Turkish citizens on average watch four hours of television every day, and two thirds of this time is spent watching TV series, many of which glorify the Ottoman past and indoctrinate viewers with neo-Ottoman and pan-Islamist ideology.41

What is most alarming is the role of Turkey’s state-run media outlets in smearing and scapegoating religious minorities, using state funds for incitement, particularly against Jews and Christians. The most notorious example is Payitaht Abdülhamid The Last Emperor, a historical drama funded and broadcasted by Turkey’s state-run Turkish Radio Television, TRT. It is a blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Christian series.42

The villains in The Last Emperor bear a keen resemblance to all of the Turkish government’s bogeymen, religious or otherwise. In the show, Jewish conspiracies often meld together with those of Britain and other European powers, the Catholic Church, socialists, Young Turks, and Freemasons. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself often refers to such a grand conspiracy, overseen by a nebulous puppet-master he calls “the Mastermind.” In turn, “Mastermind” was the name of a documentary aired on a leading pro-government news channel, which, among other insights, “revealed” that Jews have dominated the world for the past 3,500 years.43

Meanwhile, each episode of The Last Emperor has led to an upsurge in hate speech and incitement online. One Twitter user, after watching this state-funded drama, vowed to turn the territory between the Euphrates and Nile rivers into Jewish graveyards.44 Another Twitter user said, “The more I watch The Last Emperor, the more my enmity to Jews increases. You infidels, you filthy creatures.”45

Incitement Through the Courts

Since the abortive coup, Turkey’s courts and law enforcement system
have taken a leading role in smearing and scapegoating minorities. This
is best illustrated by the farcical case against U.S. Pastor Andrew
Brunson. For over 20 years before his sudden detention in 2016, Pastor
Brunson, a Presbyterian minister from North Carolina, had preached
peacefully in Turkey’s third-largest city, Izmir.

Following the attempted coup in July 2016, Turkish authorities initially charged Pastor Brunson with membership in an armed terrorist organization. 46 Later, they added charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the government, although there was no evidence to support any of these accusations. 47 However, under Turkey’s draconian state of emergency, he could have faced up to seven years of pretrial detention, and, if convicted, served a life sentence. 48,49

Brunson’s attorneys were only able to receive the indictment 17 months into his arrest, in March 2018, and then only after it had been first leaked to the media.50 The 62-page indictment is a muddled collection of conspiracy theories based largely on ludicrous accusations from three “secret witnesses.”51 In October 2018, a Turkish court convicted Brunson of aiding terrorism but sentenced him only to time served, allowing him to leave the country.52

Until his arrest, Pastor Brunson was a well-respected member of his community and did not quit his post even after surviving a far-right militant’s armed attack in 2011.53 When Turkey’s religious minorities, particularly Christians and Jews, became scapegoats following the abortive coup in July 2016, Brunson, like many other church leaders, came under increasing pressure.

Turkey’s pro-government media was shameless in its smear campaign against Pastor Brunson. The media claimed that the pastor would have become the next director of the CIA had he been successful in helping to coordinate the attempted coup against Erdoğan.54 When there was a bomb attack against wardens of the maximum-security prison where Pastor Brunson was being held, a story accusing the CIA of masterminding the attack ran under the headline “The Pastor’s Bomb.”55

Such smear campaigns also have had a detrimental effect on the Christian community at large. In its 2018 Human Rights Violations Report, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches stated that during Brunson’s case “many churches and individual Christians were made targets,” and “[a]s a result of this case a climate of insecurity has reigned in the small Protestant community.”56

The conspiracy theories in the Brunson indictment also included outrageous accusations against volunteers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including allegations that “English teachers at Turkey’s military high schools have been members of the LDS church since the 1990s,” and that they all have the same identifying feature: a missing finger! The indictment’s targeting of the LDS Church put their volunteers in Turkey at risk, leading to the decision to reassign all of them to other countries, “due to a prolonged period of heightened political tension in Turkey.”57

In addition to helping propagate a conspiracy theory that the U.S., and more specifically Christians, were responsible for the 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish government’s targeting of Pastor Brunson was also aimed at extracting concessions from Washington. Following the coup, Erdoğan launched a campaign of hostage diplomacy, emulating Iran’s tactic of holding Western nationals captive.58 Turkish authorities have arrested on dubious charges not only U.S. citizens and consular staff, but also British, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, and Swedish nationals, including journalists, academics, human rights activists, and a Christian pilgrim on his way to Jerusalem.59

In September 2017, shortly after issuing an emergency decree giving himself the authority to trade foreign nationals held in Turkish prisons for individuals incarcerated abroad, the Turkish president publicly offered to release the pastor, proposing a prisoner exchange with the United States that would involve the extradition of Fethullah Gülen.60,61

This offer, however, was a red herring. Gülen was one of Erdoğan’s closest allies for more than a decade after the Turkish president’s rise to power in 2002.62 Had the U.S. extradited Gülen, and if he then had appeared before a court of law in Turkey, his testimony could have revealed embarrassing details of their partnership, thereby hurting Erdoğan at the ballot box.63

When Erdoğan made this swap offer in September 2017, he was actually aiming for an exchange that involved Reza Zarrab, the Turkish-Iranian gold trader who was scheduled to stand trial in New York in November for evading sanctions against Iran.64 The Turkish president wanted to prevent Zarrab from revealing information to U.S. authorities that might implicate his own role in sanctions, evasion and corruption.65,66

Zarrab’s attorneys confirmed swap rumors by stating to the judge that they had been looking for a “diplomatic solution,” a euphemism for a trade that would release a sanctions-busting suspect in exchange for an innocent hostage.67,68 Pastor Brunson’s case illustrates clearly how religious minorities have become scapegoats, exploited to cover up embarrassing developments at home and abroad, as well as pawns to be used as leverage in bilateral relations.

Erdoğan and the Turkish courts have also cooperated in propagating anti-Semitic conspiracies. On November 21, 2018, Erdoğan told a meeting of local elected officials that “the famous Hungarian Jew Soros” was a force behind Osman Kavala, Turkey’s leading philanthropist and civic activist, who, Erdoğan claimed, had “financed terrorists” during the nationwide anti-government protests of 2013.69 He added that George Soros is “a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and he spends it this way.”

Turkish authorities detained Kavala on October 18, 2017 and held him without an indictment for 478 days, denying him bail 19 times without the prosecutors questioning him even once. Similar to the Brunson’s case, Kavala’s attorneys first learned about the 657-page indictment against him from pro-government outlets. The Turkish president and prosecutors accuse Kavala of masterminding the Gezi Park protests of 2013, as well as the abortive coup of 2016, demanding that he be sentenced to life in prison.70

Erdoğan’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories linking the countrywide protests of 2013 to a Jewish plot concocted by Kavala, Soros, and his Open Society Foundations (OSF) prompted the foundation’s November 2018 decision to leave Turkey. 71 Reacting to the OSF’s announcement, a pro-government daily echoed Erdoğan’s anti-Semitic rants: “The Open Society Foundation of Jewish speculator George Soros, who is an aide of the great devil the United States and Zionist Israel, fled Turkey.”72,73

Spectacles of Benevolence and Tolerance

Amid systematic smearing, scapegoating, and targeting of Turkey’s minorities, the Erdoğan government has also choreographed spectacles of benevolence and tolerance toward those same minorities, intending to polish its tarnished image at home and abroad. In 2009, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan held a meeting with religious minority leaders in Turkey, promising reforms and pledging to embrace them with “respect and love.”74 Turkey’s former Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, in an op-ed he later penned for Project Syndicate, argued that “after decades of official neglect and mistrust,” Erdoğan’s listening to religious minority leaders’ “problems and concerns” was “a clear signal of his government’s intent to buttress their sense of civil inclusion.”75

Erdoğan has continued to choreograph spectacles of tolerance, even while his government started propagating anti-minority conspiracies following the 2016 failed coup attempt. On January 7, 2018, Erdoğan unveiled Istanbul’s Bulgarian Orthodox Sveti Stefan Church, after a seven-year restoration project, together with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, only a week after Bulgaria had assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.76 Although Erdoğan stated during the ceremony that “it is the responsibility of the state to ensure everyone can worship freely,” Turkey’s state-run media noted that “the church had been restored under so-called rules of reciprocity” in exchange for Sofia’s green light for the restoration of the mosque in Bulgaria’s second-largest city, Plovdiv.77

Erdoğan’s meticulously-planned spectacle was aimed at winning the
good graces of the European Union’s rotating president, Bulgaria. At the
same time, Erdogan was bolstering his own international image as a
patron of minorities abroad, while also proving to his followers that he
could defend the rights of Muslims in former Ottoman territories by
astutely extracting concessions from Western Christian powers.

The Turkish government has also put a similar plan to use through Turkey’s Syriac Christian minority. When Erdoğan announced his plans for a cross-border operation in northeastern Syria, both the Syriac Military Council and the Syriac Union Partyissued statements in December 2018 that this could lead to the destruction of their communities. 78,79 In the U.S., analysts raised concerns that the proposed American pullout—and the subsequent arrival of Turkey’s Islamist proxies—could endanger minorities, including Syriac Christians and Yazidis in the region.80

Shortly after these discussions, the Turkish government announced its decision to issue the first permit in the history of the Republic of Turkey to build a new church. Coincidentally, it was a Syriac Christian church, a project that had been stalled since 2013.81 The demonstration of benevolence toward Syriac Christians at home, however belated, was an attempt to disavow fears that Turkey and its proxies would pose a threat to Syriac Christians in Syria. Journalists who scrutinized the project more closely, however, discovered that the plot of ground in Istanbul, which the Turkish authorities had allocated for the Syriac church was a Catholic cemetery that had earlier been seized by the state. The conflict that the project triggered between Catholic and Syriac communities was only resolved through the intervention of Pope Francis.82

Although anti-Semitism in Turkey has spiked under the Erdoğan government’s rule, fueled by systematic propaganda in Turkey’s state-run and pro-government press, Erdoğan has made sure to include meetings with Jewish leaders during his trips abroad, including Washingtonand London.83,84

The Washington meeting in April 2016 led to a Haaretz contributor questioning Erdoğan’s motives by asking, “Is Erdogan trying to co-opt U.S. Jewish leaders to launder his reputation?”85 As for the London meeting in May 2018, Turkey’s pro-government media announced it with the headline, “Anti-Zionist Jewish group condemns Israel in meeting with Erdoğan in London,” thus using it as an opportunity to advance the Turkish president’s Islamist talking points.86

Modalities of Erdoğan’s Minority Policy

The Erdogan government’s four modalities in implementing policies
vis-à-vis minorities—ranging from scapegoating and incitement to
performing acts of benevolence and tolerance—aim to shape public opinion
and strengthen majoritarian and sectarian hegemony at home, while also
pursuing foreign policy goals. These modalities will continue to shape
the status of minorities as the Turkish president looks for ways to
extend his rule, which is already into its sixteenth year.

Erdoğan’s key strategy since the 2016 abortive coup has been to strengthen his alliance with the ultranationalist MHP.
The ongoing Islamist-ultranationalist partnership has not only resulted
in a hardline approach to the Kurdish question both at home and abroad,
but also the scapegoating and smearing of Turkey’s religious
minorities. The loss of Turkey’s European Union membership prospects,
which was the main driver of democratic reforms in the early 2000s, has
further exacerbated the rise of authoritarianism and chauvinism in
domestic politics.

Given the ongoing downturn in the Turkish economy, and the failure
of the Islamist-ultranationalist alliance to deliver in domestic and
foreign policy, it is likely that Erdoğan’s ruling bloc will double down
on its efforts to scapegoat minorities. This will represent an attempt
to divert the electorate’s attention away from the government’s
mismanagement and corruption, and will also further worsen the
precarious conditions of Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities.

Turkey’s minorities’ best hope, at this point, would be to avoid becoming scapegoats of Erdoğan’s wrath, and to receive his benevolence as his loyal subjects.

*About the author: Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, former member of the Turkish Parliament

Source: This article was published by the Hudson Institute

Notes:

  1. Karl Vick, “Secular Democrat or Zealot?” The Washington Post, November 10, 2002, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/11/10/secular-democrat-or-zealot/895c46b0-eee2-44f4-9081-a47161a852a0
  2. Svante E. Cornell, “Erbakan, Kısakürek, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism in Turkey,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 23 (2018), https://www.hudson.org/research/14375-erbakan-k-sak-rek-and-the-mainstreaming-of-extremism-in-turkey
  3. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı, “Bizimle ve Ermeni Kardeşlerimizle Sorunu Olan Diasporadır, Ermenistan Devleti’dir” April 18, 2015, https://www.tccb.gov.tr/haberler/410/31859/bizimle-ve-ermeni-kardeslerimizle-sorunu-olan-diasporadir-ermenistan-devletidir
  4. “Erdoğan: Afedersin Ermeni Diyen Oldu,” Bianet, August 6, 2014, https://m.bianet.org/bianet/toplum/157616-Erdoğan-afedersin-ermeni-diyen-oldu
  5. Mine Yıldırım, “What does Turkey’s Restitution Decree mean?,” Forum 18 News Service, October 6, 2011, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1621
  6. Mine Yıldırım, “Minority foundations still cannot hold elections,” Forum 18 News Service, March 5, 2019, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2459
  7. Soner Çağaptay, “The November 2002 Elections and Turkey’s New Political Era,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, 6, no. 2 (2002): 42-48.
  8. Dilek Kurban, A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey, Minority Rights Group International (2007), https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/old-site-downloads/download-739-A-Quest-for-Equality-Minorities-in-Turkey.pdf
  9. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Anayasası, https://www.tbmm.gov.tr/anayasa/anayasa_2018.pdf
  10. Marc Champion, “Erdogan of Arabia,” Bloomberg, October 14, 2014, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2014-10-14/erdogan-of-arabia
  11. “Barzani has thrown himself into the fire, says Erdoğan,” Hürriyet Daily News, September 28, 2017, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/no-more-lawrence-games-in-region-turkish-president-erdogan-120082
  12. Aykan Erdemir, “How Conspiracies Sustain One-Man Rule in Turkey and Beyond,” The Brief, October 18, 2018, https://the-brief.co/how-conspiracies-sustain-one-man-rule-in-turkey-and-beyond
  13. Aykan Erdemir, “After the Coup: Backlash Against Turkey’s Minorities,” The Globalist, August 22, 2016, https://www.theglobalist.com/coup-backlash-turkey-religious-minorities-conflict-Erdoğan
  14. Şener Aktürk, “Persistence of the Islamic Millet as an Ottoman Legacy: Mono-Religious and Anti-Ethnic Definition of Turkish Nationhood,” Middle Eastern Studies, 45, no. 2 (2009), 893-909; Ayhan Kaya, “Multiculturalism and Minorities in Turkey,” Challenging Multiculturalism: European Models of Diversity, ed. Raymond Taras (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013).
  15. Aykan Erdemir and Merve Tahiroğlu, “The Islamist Takeover of Turkish Media,” in Digital Dictators: Media, Authoritarianism, and America’s New Challenge. Ilan Berman, ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018).
  16. “Report on the impact of the state of emergency on human rights in Turkey, including an update on the South-East,” Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, March 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/TR/2018-03-19_Second_OHCHR_Turkey_Report.pdf
  17. Tek çıkış yolu demokrasi” [Democracy is the only way out], Cumhuriyet, July 16, 2016, http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/568631/Tek_cikis_yolu_demokrasi.html
  18. “Halkın İradesine Darbeye Hayır” [No to coup against the people’s will], Caferi ve Ehl-i Beyt Derneği, July 21, 2016, http://www.ehlibeytder.com/kursumuz/halkin-iradesine-darbeye-hayir-h3712.html
  19. “Religious leaders stand together against coup attempt in Turkey,” Hürriyet Daily News, July 16, 2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/religious-leaders-stand-together-against-coup-attempt-in-turkey-101690
  20. “United we stood for a hopeful tomorrow,” Şalom, August 11, 2016, http://www.salom.com.tr/SalomTurkey/haber-100144-united_we_stood_for_a_hopeful_tomorrow_.html
  21. Pinar Tremblay, “Is Gulen an Armenian?” Al-Monitor, August 12, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20170930061900/https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/ru/contents/articles/originals/2016/08/turkey-is-fethullah-gulen-armenian.html
  22. “Most Turks believe a secretive Muslim sect was behind the failed coup,” The Economist, July 28, 2016, https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21703186-president-Erdoğan-blames-gulenists-putsch-and-has-launched-massive-purges-most-turks
  23. Can Kemal Özer, “Şerefli Milletin Yiğit Evlatları Tarih Yazdı” [Brave Sons of Honorable Nation Have Made History], Yeni Söz, July 17, 2016, http://www.yenisoz.com.tr/serefli-milletin-yigit-evlatlari-tarih-yazdi-makale-14422
  24. “Feto’ya kardinal pasaportu verildi (A cardinal’s passport was issued to Feto),” Takvim, October 8, 2016, https://www.takvim.com.tr/guncel/2016/10/08/fetoya-kardinal-pasaportu-verildi
  25. “Turkish press accuses Bartholomew of complicity in failed coup,” Vatican Insider, September 1, 2016, http://www.lastampa.it/2016/09/01/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/turkish-press-accuses-bartholomew-of-complicity-in-failed-coup-nSsF1RHaikPpZTR7YQSQLO/pagina.html
  26. Ersoy Dede, “Firari general, kayıp G3’ler!” [Fugitive general, missing G3s!], Star, August 3, 2016, http://www.star.com.tr/yazar/firari-general-kayip-g3ler-yazi-1130644
  27. “Turkey: churches targeted during attempted coup,” World Watch Monitor, July 19, 2016, https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2016/07/turkey-churches-targeted-during-attempted-coup
  28. “Church attacks in Trabzon and Malatya,” Agos, July 18, 2016, http://www.agos.com.tr/en/article/15936/church-attacks-in-trabzon-and-malatya
  29. Miran Manukyan, “Tıbrevank’ın duvarına ırkçı yazı” [Racist graffiti on Tibrevank’s wall], Agos, August 13, 2016, http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/16213/tibrevankin-duvarina-irkci-yazi
  30. “Tension rises in eastern Turkish province amid reports of march on Alevi neighborhoods,” Hürriyet Daily News, July 18, 2016, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/tension-rises-in-eastern-turkish-province-amid-reports-of-march-on-alevi-neighborhoods-101758
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“Get FBI out of Counterintelligence” – Google News: Cyber crime cost organizations $2.7 billion in 2018 – FCW.com

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Cyber crime cost organizations $2.7 billion in 2018  FCW.com

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Eurasia Review: The Need For Bilingual Education In Afghanistan – OpEd

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Although Afghanistan a linguistically diverse country, yet only two languages, Pashto and Dari, are used as mediums of instruction in schools. Bilingual education is, so far, alien to Afghanistan. This article will discuss the need for, and challenges of bilingual education in Afghanistan.

Specifically, I will discuss the amazing linguistic diversity in Afghanistan and then argue that there is a pressing need for experimenting with bilingual education in the country. By the use of the term experiment, I recognize that it will be a challenging and probably a significantly gradual process and that a quick-and-easy-fix is not going to be possible. Also, I will briefly reflect upon the benefits of bilingual education in the current literature and outline recommendation to the Afghan Ministry of Education regarding how to approach the inclusion of minority languages in education.

Language Diversity in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is home to East Iranian, West Iranian, Indic, Turkic, Mongolic, and Dravidian languages (Bashir, 2006; Barfield, 2010; Kieffer, 1983). Over 40 languages originated from these branches are spoken in the country (Lewis, Simons, & Fenning, 2013). Pashto and Dari hold the statutory status of national languages (Afghanistan Constitution 2004, Article 16) and the de facto languages of wider communication (Bahry, 2013).

The language ecology of Afghanistan is by far more complex than the one portrayed in the media (Schiffman, 2011). With Dari and Pashto as the de facto languages of wider communication, the inclination is that Dari is spoken when people from these two linguistic backgrounds communicate between them. Bahry (2013) adds that such an “asymmetrical bilingualism” is seen not only between Dari and Pashto but between other minority languages too.

For instance, Brahui language speakers tend to communicate in Balochi language with Balochs as opposed to communicating in Brahui with them. Bahry (2013) therefore proposes that it would be more accurate if language dynamics of Afghanistan are looked at in the frameworks of ecology, diglossia and bilingualism, and language hierarchy. Another feature of different linguistic groups in Afghanistan is that they have historically been lived among their own groups with little cross-group interaction. Furthermore, different ethnic groups have engaged in civil war that for a period in 1980s and 1990s was fueled more by ethnic rather than ideological differences.

Another recent urgent issue in Afghanistan is the internal displacements as people flee conflict from different parts of the country. These people mainly head towards provincial capitals and Kabul. Some of internally displaced kids are transferred from schools in their native community to schools where they have migrated.

The issue, though, is that these kids are especially vulnerable because they usually come from a comprehensively ethnically monotonous communities to cities that are diverse but where their mother tongue is often not the language of instruction. Parents of such kids, often do not want to send their kids to schools because they feel that children have already gone through an intensive emotional experience of fleeing a warzone and that attending schools in a second language would only add to their feeling of segregation and marginalization.

Despite the diverse, complex, and complicated linguistic context, students that come from linguistic backgrounds other than Pashto and Dari, have to go to schools where their mother tongue is not the language of instruction. Not only has this implications for students’ learning achievements and psychological wellbeing, but has consequences for social integration and community involvement in education.

Mother-Tongue Based Education Debate in Afghanistan

Historically, as said earlier, only Pashto and Dari served as mediums of instructions in schools However, when Hanif Atmar sworn in as the minister of education in 2006, he promised to provide mother-tongue education in Afghanistan. The reform could not, however, be considered a mother-tongue based bilingual education initiative for following reasons.

First, the reform did not include minority languages in a sort of bilingual education classes in which two languages are to be used in some specific proportions at the same time. Instead, classes were segregated. For example, in Kabul, Pashto speaking students were segregated from Dari speaking students and then, they had to get education in only one language. This is not, by definition, bilingual education.

It is particularly interesting that people’s reaction to this reform was rather ambivalent. At the time, I was a student of grade 12 and I remember teachers, students, and analysts interviewing by radios would exhibit mixed reactions: some said it was a positive move because it was students’ right to be educated in their mother tongue while others commented that it would have negative consequences in relation to ethnic unity and expressed concerns about the capacity of the MoE in effectively implementing the reform.

It is important to note that this reform cannot be considered bilingual education because in bilingual education, instead of one language in a class or instead of having segregated classes for different languages, two languages are used at the same time in instruction in a class in some specific proportions. In spite of the reform initiative being not complete and its ineffective implementation, it nonetheless challenged the status quo and initiated the mother-tongue based education discourse in Afghanistan.

The relevance of Bilingual Education

Considering the sparse distribution of population in Afghanistan and, except for large cities and provincial capitals, the tendency that people of individual linguistic backgrounds live together with relatively less intergroup interaction; it can safely be assumed that at least minority languages speaking children in early grades struggle with Pashto and Dari. Therefore, it follows that the MoE should take bilingual education more seriously.

Students benefits from bilingual education in two, quantifiable, and non-quantifiable ways. The quantifiable benefits to students include increased enrollment, improved attendance, improved retention, higher test scores, better acquisition of second language while also retaining their first language (e.g., Kosonen, 2005; Ball, 2010; Cummins, 2000; King & Mackey, 2007). In general, It is reported that when children are enrolled in mother-tongue education, they develop certain types of perceptive and metalinguistic awareness sooner and better than those who are enrolled in schools where language of instruction is different from their mother tongue (e.g., Bialystok, 2001;King & Mackey, 2007).

On the other hand, there are non-quantifiable benefits to children. For instance, bilingual education brings about access to an emotionally enabling learning environment that fosters psychological and emotional well-being of students which leads to improved self-esteem and motivation (Wright & Taylor, 1995; Rubio, 2007). This then results in smooth transitioning between home and school (Kioko, Mutiga, Muthwii, Schroeder, Inyega, & Trudell, 2008). When children do not have access to bilingual education, they feel the discontinuity between home and school culture which leads to their lower self-esteem and poor motivation leading to overall poor academic achievements (Baker & Prys Jones, 1998).

Its relevance is even further signified considering the continuous push for community-driven development (CDD) in Afghanistan. Afghanistan launched the Citizen’s Charter (CC) National Priority Program recently. CC envisions the provision of basic services (education, health, infrastructure, agriculture) to remote communities with the help from and support of local community councils such as Community Development Councils (CDCs), School Management Shuras (SMSs) and Education Sub-Committees (ESs).

This is particularly important because against the backdrop of increased security concerns and entrenched state capacity, the role of local councils that comprise of local people has increased. The government strives to enable communities to plan and monitor service provision to the people, particularly, in remote areas.

Specifically in education, there are two local councils involved: SMS and ES. SMS is comprised of common villagers, teachers, and students. An SMS monitors education provision in a school and support school administration with provision of in-kind contribution and advisory role. ES on the other hand has the same functions for a community based education class.

MoE has lately placed immense emphasis on the importance of community participation in education through these councils. In fact, the MoE has established a district department called the Department of Social Mobilization and School Shuras (DSMS) to strive to engage communities and local people in education provision and oversight. The MoE can effectively engage all communities only when these communities have a sense of belonging to schools and if their languages are given importance, they would be more likely to be mobilized.

While it is true that parent may still prefer the learning of Pashto or Dari over their minority languages, however, considering the fact that bilingual education does not replace Pashto and Dari with other languages but, as discussed earlier, will even result in more effective acquisition of these languages by minority language speaking students. Therefore, once communities realize that bilingual education is not subtractive but additive in terms of language acquisition, they will welcome the reform and will be happy with it because, as I have explored this, parents want their children to along with learning Pashto and Dari, they need to learn their first language too.

The Inclusion of Minority Languages in Education – a Proposed Approach

It is critical to understand that inclusion of minority languages in a bilingual education model in Afghanistan is going to be characterized by genuine logistical and financial challenges. The challenges MoE faced in implementing the teaching of languages textbooks for six additional third official languages is a clear testimony to this as the relatively easy-to-implement reform of teaching language textbook at schools for those six languages turned out to be heavily characterized by challenges which have persisted up to the present day.

Pashai’s grammar, for example, was written for the first time in 2014 as a doctoral dissertation (Rachel, 2014). Furthermore, there are four varieties of Pashai, and intriguingly they share only 30% lexical similarity: north-eastern, northwestern, southeastern and southwestern (Lewis, Simons, & Fenning, 2013).

Considering all this, it is clear that developing a textbook for Pashai was not an easy job. When it was printed and distributed to Pashai speaking areas, it came to light that it was written in Southeaster dialect and so teachers could not teach it in areas of three other dialects. It was therefore distributed but recalled back from majority of Pashai speaking areas. Although the issue with Pashai textbook could be the extreme case of it, but it is safe to say that the MoE faced similar challenges with other six third official languages also.

Not only that, having segregated classes for Pashto and Dari in Kabul faced extreme challenges. I was working with the MoE as Structure Development Manager in the year 2011 and we had an official tour in Kabul city to explore what support schools needed. Almost every school that had established segregated classes to accommodate Pashto education, was struggling with having qualified teachers who could teach Pashto. Teachers and parents believed that after almost five years of the reform, teaching quality in Pashto was still way more inferior compared to teaching in Dari.

Frequently cited reasons for this included, among many more, the limited number of teachers, inability to hire new teachers who could teach in Pashto, unavailability of textbooks in Pashto, the capacity of school administrations to effectively oversee education in Pashto.

I therefore propose a gradual process in which the MoE will take on only six third official languages in stage one. Stage one shall, in turn, have different sub stages in the sense that one language shall be included in bilingual education with Pashto or Dari in only one area. This way, the MoE will be able to focus on only one additional language in only one area for at least a couple of years.

For example, the MoE may only start with Uzbeki language which is considered to be the third largest language after Pashto and Dari. The MoE may only introduce bilingual education in Jozjan province where Uzbek ethnic group is form the overwhelming majority of local residents. This way, the MoE can pull in material resources, time, and expertise to ensure there is a smooth transition into bilingual education in one language in one area. MoE can only take on another language once it has ensured there is flawless bilingual education in Uzbeki.

I propose mother-tongue based bilingual education method in which, for example, Uzbeki and Dari will be used in some specific proportions. In grade one, the use of Uzbeki to Dari could be 9 to 1. This shall reverse with each subsequent grade and by reaching grade five this could become 1 to 9 and ultimately in grade six, students will transition into Dari-only education. This way, there will be a smooth transitioning from a bilingual to monolingual education and by grade six, students will have already learned their mother tongue and will have developed cognitive skills in their own language.

Additionally, Dari or Pashto speaking students will have also learned Uzbeki by grade six. This type of bilingual education has been preferred as it is considered to be the best approach (Collier & Thomas, 2004)

Given that developmental efforts in Afghanistan are still considerably reliant on international donors, it is therefore critical to initiate the discourse on the relevance of bilingual education first so that there is a consensus between the Afghan ministry of education, non-governmental organization that are active in education service delivery in collaboration with the ministry, and international donor agencies such as USAID and UNICEF.

It is baffling that UNESCO has been actively advocating for bilingual education globally but there is still little discourse on the relevance of bilingual education in Afghanistan in reports by UNESCO and other international organizations such as the World Bank. I strongly believe that it’s time to experiment with bilingual education in Afghanistan first by initiating an honest discourse among the ministry and other partners followed by gradual albeit committed process of including minority languages in a form of bilingual education in Afghanistan and I hope that this article will contribute into initiating such a discourse. When it is decided to have bilingual education in Afghanistan, it is important for the ministry of education to initiate a public awareness program so that the reform is viewed favorably by education service providers as well as communities and the public at large.

*Abdul Hamid Hatsaandh has a master’s degree in Education Policy candidate at Harvard University and is  a Fulbright Scholar from Afghanistan.

Bibliography

  • Afghanistan (2004). Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. (http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/af00000_.html)
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  • Bahry, S. A. (2013). Language in Afghanistan’s Education Reform. In Language Issues in Comparative Education (pp. 59-76). Sense Publishers, Rotterdam.
  • Baker, C., & Prys Jones, S. P. (1998). Encyclopedia of bilingualism and bilingual education. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters
  • Ball, J. (2010). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in early childhood and early primary school years. Victoria, Canada: Early Childhood Development Intercultural Partnerships, University of Victoria.
  • Barfield, Thomas J. (2010). Afghanistan: A cultural and political history. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Bashir, Elena (2006). Indo-Iranian frontier languages. Encyclopedia Iranica, Online Edition, November 15, 2006
  • Benson, C. (2002). Real and potential benefits of bilingual programmers in developing countries. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 5 (6), 303-317
  • Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy, and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bühmann, D., & Trudell, B. (2008). Mother tongue matters: Local language as a key to effective learning. France: UNESCO.
  • Collier, V. P., & Thomas, W. P. (2004). The astounding effectiveness of dual language education for all. NABE Journal of Research and practice, 2(1), 1-20.
  • Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of educational research, 49(2), 222-251.
  • Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power and pedagogy. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
  • Education Law of Afghanistan (2008).
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  • King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins.
  • Kioko, A., Mutiga, J., Muthwii, M., Schroeder, L., Inyega, H., & Trudell, B. (2008). Language and education in Africa: Answering the questions. Nairobi: UNESCO.
  • Kosonen, K. (2005). Education in local languages: Policy and practice in Southeast Asia. First languages first: Community-based literacy programmes for minority language contexts in Asia. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok.
  • Lehr, Rachel. 2014. A descriptive grammar of Pashai: The language and speech of a community of Darrai Nur. Phd dissertation, University of Chicago.
  • Pinnock, Helen (2009). Language and education: The missing link. Reading and London, England: CfBT Educational Trust and Save the Children UK.
  • Rubio. M-N. (2007). Mother tongue plus two: Can pluralingualism become the norm? In Children in Europe, 12, 2-3.
  • Schiffman, Harold (Ed.) (2011). Language policy and language conflict in Afghanistan and its Neighbors. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill
  • Simons, Gary F. and Charles D. Fenning (eds.). 2017. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twentieth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://ethnologue.com.
  • Skutnabb-Tangas, T., & Toukomaa, P. (1976). Teaching migrant children’s mother tongue and learning the language of the host country in the context of the sociocultural situation of the migrant family. Helsinki: Tampere.
  • UNESCO (2008a). Mother Tongue Matters: Local Language as a Key to Effective Learning. Paris: UNESCO.
  • UNESCO (2008c). Mother Tongue Matters: Local Language as a Key to Effective Learning. Paris: UNESCO.
  • Wilson, W. H., Kamanä, K., & Rawlins, N. (2006). Näwahï Hawaiian laboratory school. Journal of American Indian Education, 42-44.
  • Wright, S. C., & Taylor, D. M. (1995). Identity and the language of the classroom: Investigating the impact of heritage versus second language instruction on personal and collective self-esteem. Journal of educational psychology, 87(2), 241.

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Eurasia Review: India’s Missing Women – Analysis

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Societies must address gender bias in children’s nutrition, health care, education and other opportunities that leads to higher mortality rates.

By Riaz Hassan*

Gender bias in mortality has resulted in fewer women in India and
other parts of the developing world. This problem did not attract much
attention until Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen used sex ratios to assess the
cumulative effects of gender bias in mortality, estimating the
additional number of females of all ages who would have been alive if
there had been equal treatment of the sexes – close to 100 million in
South Korea, India, China and other nations. Sen referred to those women
as “missing” because they had died as result of discrimination in the
allocation of survival related goods.

This is not a minor social and cultural issue, but one of the major catastrophes of modern times. For example, the number of “missing women” in early 1990s is larger than the combined deaths from all famines in the 20th century, also exceeding the combined death toll of the two world wars. Potential consequences of such imbalances, research suggests, include large numbers of frustrated men who cannot find partners, possible violence as well as a growing sex industry and sexual trafficking.

Imbalanced: UN sex-ratio projections for 2018 rely on 2015 data; some nations have more men due to parental preferences and uneven distribution of resources like health care; others have more women due to low fertility rates and aging populations (Source: Statistic Times)
Imbalanced: UN sex-ratio projections for 2018 rely on 2015 data; some nations have more men due to parental preferences and uneven distribution of resources like health care; others have more women due to low fertility rates and aging populations (Source: Statistic Times)

Boys outnumber girls at birth everywhere in the world. For every 100
females born, there are 106 males. After birth, nature tends to favor
women. Women, in general, tend to live longer than men if they receive
the same health care and nutritional allocations. This biological
advantage for higher frequency of male births over females is linked to
human evolution. But social and economic inequities and cultural
patterns have a deleterious effect on gender equality. Expressions of
these inequalities are not uniform in general – for example, in India,
Pakistan and China such expressions tend to disadvantage women in
obtaining equal access as men to survival-related goods such as
nutrition, economic opportunities, health care and medical attention.
This relative neglect of women has led to higher rates of morbidity and
mortality resulting in a lower proportion of women in many parts of the
world than would not have been the case if they had received equal care.

India accounts for 40 million of the missing women. Only China with
41 million has larger number of missing women. The good news is that
public health and welfare policies in India have reduced the female
disadvantage in mortality in recent years, reflected in improved sex
ratios between 1991 and 2011. During this period, the sex ratio, or the
number of females per 1000 males, increased from 927 to 940.
Counterbalancing this improvement is a significant decline in the sex
ratio of children under the age of 6 years, from 945 to 914 during the
same period. In other words, the marginal 1.4 percent improvement in sex
ratio during this period was offset by 3.3 percent decline in child sex
ratio.

The net result of these two trends is that improvement in the sex
ratio has not produced gender balance in India. The reason for this is
the radical medical advances in the past two decades that created a new
female disadvantage through sex-specific abortions aimed at the female
fetus, which has counterbalanced reduction in female mortality. Modern
techniques to determine a fetus’ sex have made sex-selective abortions
possible and easy, and these are widely used in countries with cultural
norms of male preference. As a consequence, sex ratios have become more
imbalanced, increasing the magnitude of missing women.

A recent study on the subject in the British medical journal Lancet by team of Indian medical scientists led by Prabhat Jha offers significant evidence on the practice of selective female abortions in India. The researchers reviewed data gathered from three rounds of nationally representative National Family Health Surveys carried out between 1990 and 2005 and examined sex ratios by birth order in 0.25 million births to estimate the scale of selective abortions of girls. The study compared sex ratios of second-order births after firstborn girls with the second-order sex ratios after firstborn boys – and the influence of a mother’s wealth and education. The findings revealed a statistically significant fall in sex ratio for second-order births when the first-born was a girl from 906 per 1000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005.

The
practice of female-fetus abortions is much more prevalent among mothers
with 10 or more years of schooling than mothers with no education as
well as in wealthier households compared with poorer households. After
adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, the number of selective
abortions of girls rose from zero to 2 million in 1980 to 1.2 million to
4.1 million in 1990s, and 3.1 million to 6 million in this century. A 1
percent decline in child sex ratio from birth to 6 years of age implied
1.2 million to 3.6 million more selective abortions of girls. The study
estimated that selective abortions of girls totaled about 4.2 million
to12.1 million from 1980 to 2010, with a greater rate of increase in the
1990s than in the 2000s.

India’s sex ratio statistics mask the large variations among individual Indian states. Some states have significantly lower sex ratios compared with the national norm. Using the sex ratio for India as a benchmark splits the country into remarkably almost contiguous halves. The states in the north and the west have sex ratios significantly below the national benchmark figure led by Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Evidence shows that between 2001 and 2011 the child sex ratios in the predominantly Hindu and with relatively higher economic-growth rate northwestern districts of India declined significantly due to increasing selective-female abortions. The states in the other half with sex ratios above the benchmark are concentrated in the south and the east with Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal leading the pack.

Deep-rooted challenge: While India has made strides to reduce uneven sex ratios at birth, gender bias in mortality rates results in uneven sex ratios among regions (Source: 2011 India census and Maps of India)

Some of the differences may be due to cultural factors that coincide
with the rise in support for Hindu religion parties in the northern and
western states. In 1999 and 2014 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party
won more than 75 percent of its parliamentary seats from these states.
Both developments – the rise of Hindu religion parties and the practice
of selective abortions of female fetuses – are relatively new phenomena,
and deeper understanding requires further research.

A growing body of empirical evidence shows that sex-selective
abortion has risen sharply in the last two decades among more affluent
and educated families, making this a national crisis. The scale of the
problem of selective-female abortions requires urgent public policies
and interventions to stop the practice of premeditated selective
gender-related abortions. The practice exists because of entrenched
discrimination against women in private and public domains of Indian
society. The use of medical technologies to decide whether to abort a
female foetus is illegal in India, but poor monitoring and
implementation of relevant laws have not improved the situation. India,
in particular, must improve status for women, ensuring equal social and
economic rights. Societies must raise public awareness, educating
parents and societies on the consequences. Stringent monitoring and
enforcement, targeting clinics and health providers, are required to
stop the practice.

*Riaz Hassan is Emeritus Professor of Sociology Flinders University, Adelaide Australia, and visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies National University of Singapore. He is also a senior fellow at the Asian Institute, University of Melbourne.

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Eurasia Review: China Is Now At The Crossroads – OpEd

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In recent years, China has been praised for achieving rapid and remarkable economic growth and industrial development. China has been the driver of world economic growth in the last decade or so and the world applauds China’s contribution to global economy.

China has achieved such progress by skillfully adopting liberal policy of encouraging and inviting multi national companies, which are in the forefront of technological developments, to invest in China and enter into technical and financial collaboration with Chinese companies. Given the fact that China’s market potential is very large and faced with the problem of nearly saturated market for several products in US and West European countries, multinational companies felt enthused by the proactive policies of Government of China and came forward to invest in massive way and liberally share their technology expertise in China.

China has facilitated smooth investment by multinational companies by implementing proactive policies and setting up several industrial parks with integrated infrastructure facilities and also ensuring peaceful industrial climate, without labour unrest and bureaucratic hurdles.

It has been a win win situation for both China and multinational companies based in USA, Western Europe and Japan, as the interests of both of them have been elegantly met.

Gains for China

When multinational companies invested in China in a big way introducing their updated technology practices, Chinese technicians and engineers and scientists inevitably got exposure to modern technologies and have updated themselves. In the process, the technology base of China has got considerably strengthened, prompting growth of R&D and product development efforts by the Chinese companies.

Certainly, China could not have achieved such rapid economic and industrial growth without massive investments by multinational companies and introduction of sophisticated technology practices by multinational companies in industrial, management and services sector.

When multinational companies invest its money and technology in countries like China, India and Middle East to boost their own business prospects, it inevitably results in transferring technology of high standards to the recipient countries.

Now, China is in a position where it can further build it’s technology base by it’s own efforts, even without needing more support from multinational companies anymore in the same scale.

Concerns about China’s long-term intentions

While the world is impressed by the enormous economic and industrial growth achieved by China, suspicions are also getting strengthened as to what could be the ultimate objective and aim of Chinese government, apart from industrial and economic growth.

Many actions of Chinese government in the political sphere and in tackling human rights issues in the past few decades have caused misgivings about China’s long term intentions. Many tend to think that China’s intentions and goal are not much different from that of Hitler’s Germany, when Hitler wanted to dominate the world and emerge as undisputed world leader and control the entire world under his thumb.

China invaded Tibet and brutally suppressed the protest movement in Tibet, which resulted in the respected the Dalai Lama having to leave Tibet and enter India as a refugee along with his devotees and supporters. Many more Tibetian who stayed back in Tibet and who did not accept China’s invasion were massacred.

China is now claiming Arunachal Pradesh, which is integrated part of India, as its own territory .

China is now violently suppressing the Uyghur in China who are asking for religious freedom. There are many different groups of Muslims in China. But in Xinjiang, which is predominantly Uyghur, Chinese government has created both a surveillance system and internment camps with over a million people and many persons have even disappeared.

China has warned the world against raising any questions regarding the policy of China in tackling the unrest amongst Uyghur. China is trying to repeat “ its Tibet success” in the case of Uyghur.

With its money and trade power, China has ensured that no Muslim country would protest against China’s suppression of Uyghur. Even Turkey is not saying much, though the Uyghur consider themselves ethnically belonging to Turkey.

World is developing deep suspicion that Chinese leadership, just like that of Hitler, has no ethical or moral commitment and will go to any extent to achieve its self centered goals and objectives.

Whither big ‘leap forward?’

China built large capacity in multiple fields in the manufacturing and services sectors in variety of ways As a mater of fact, in the case of several products, the manufacturing capacity built by China is several times more than what the world needs today and in the next few years.

China is now facing piquant situation, China is facing problems in marketing its products leading to lower capacity utilization and closure of units. China today desperately needs world market for its survival and for sustaining the growth.

It is estimated that 20% of the China’s investment project are facing push back.

China’s Industrial firms posted their worst slump in profits since late 2011 in the first two months of this year 2019, as increasing strains on the economy in the face of slowing demand at home and abroad took a toll on business.

The sharp decline in profits suggests further trouble for China’s economy, which expanded at its slowest price in almost three decades last year. The Government has already lowered the economic growth target this year to 6 to 6.5% from the actual rate of 6.6% in 2018. Profits made up by China’s industrial firms in January-February 2019,slumped 14.0% year on to 708.01 billion Yuvan ($105.5 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on its website. It marked the biggest contraction since Reuters began keeping records in October 2011.

Profits in the auto sector were down 37.1 billion Yuvan from a year earlier, while those in the oil processing industry fell 31.7 billion Yuan.

The drag was mainly due to price contractions in key industrial sectors such as auto, oil processing, steel and chemical industries, Production and sales are slowing as well.

OBOR initiative – A desperate move

Finding the situation untenable and dangerous for the future economic and social stability of China, Chinese government has hit upon the idea of launching One Belt One Road initiative to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending and investment.

The strategy is to spread the Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with weak economy with unsustainable debt and with projects executed with China’s loan and technology .China expects that it would find huge market for its products abroad with the OBOR scheme and it will also serve its ambition of gradually gaining control not only over the world market but over the world itself.

In the process of launching OBOR scheme, China, hopes to achieve twin objectives of increasing the dependence of other countries on China and directly or indirectly controlling their economy.

Projects are being built under OBOR scheme in weak countries, that are desperately needing investments .

Pakistan is now one of the major victims of China’s economic aggression by allowing China’s schemes under the economic corridor projects. Apart from countries like Pakistan, Kenya, Sri Lanka and others and recently even Italy has agreed to sign up the Chinese plan.

Of course, there are signs that many countries are realizing the gravity of the trap being laid by China and are becoming more cautious, so that they would not expose themselves to Chinese dominance and control.

Lessons from Hitler’s Germany

While Chinese leadership has the same ambitions like that of Hitler’s Germany, China has learnt from the bitter experience of Hitler and has reworked the strategies .

While Hitler indulged in military warfare to control the world, China, has chosen the softer path of economic and trade warfare. It wants to dominate the world by economic and trade power and achieve “bloodless coup” .

Why trade war with USA?

Realizing the China’s long term intentions and alarmed by its strategies, US President Trump launched trade war with China. The objective is to weaken China’s economic power and affect its capability to dominate the world economically and by its trade power.

To what extent that President Trump would be successful in trade war with China remains a mute question at this stage, as interests of US economy is also affected to some extent.

At the crossroads

Having created huge industrial capacities and finding OBOR strategies facing resistance in some quarters and not providing the benefits to the level of expectations , coupled with trade war with USA and accused of human rights violation and expansionist ambition, time has come for China to reassess its future plans.

Certainly, given the present predicament, China can not have its way by browbeating the world.

The fact that China is forced to support and defend Pakistan based terrorist in the UN forum and has no alternative other than opposing the move of several countries to control and checkmate the dreaded Pakistani based terrorist, clearly indicates China’s confusion. China is afraid that any support that it would extend to control the terrorist would result in terrorist groups joining together and attacking interests of China in Pakistan and even violently acting against thousands of Chinese managers and technicians presently working in Pakistan under the “Economic corridor projects”. Obviously, this shows that China has become vulnerable.

China has to step back

China is now realizing that economic and trade power has its limits, just like Hitler realized that military power has its limits.

China’s occupation of Tibet several decades back continue to haunt China and remains as talking point in world forums. It shows the true face of Chinese leadership to the world community and the present conditions in Tibet is remaining as standing monument for China’s ruthlessness.

Unlike Hitler’s Germany ,which was totally defeated in its efforts to dominate the world with its military power, China’s softer strategy of using economic and trade power ‘to dominate the world may not result in the type of annihilation that Hitler faced. But, China’s influence in the world will be seriously challenged, unless it would give up it ambitions to win the whole world. If China, would not alter it aims and goals, it will have to pay its price before long .

Whether this weakening of China, which is now at the cross roads, will lead to liberation of Tibet from China’s aggression will be the subject of considerable debate and discussions in the coming days.

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Eurasia Review: Indonesian Presidential Election: After The Big Fight, Results And Implications – Analysis

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According to ‘quick count’ polling results, incumbent president Joko Widodo has apparently won his re-election bid. However, his rival Prabowo Subianto is also claiming victory and is expected to challenge the final results when released on 22 May 2019.

By Alexander R Arifianto*

Indonesia’s presidential elections took place on 17 April 2019, after an eight-month political contest that was characterised by some as “the most polarised election campaign in Indonesian history”. This was marked by populist rhetoric and identity politics largely attributed to supporters of Prabowo Subianto – who is challenging incumbent president Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo for the second time.

By the evening of 17 April, most independent polling agencies which
conducted ‘quick count’ surveys to predict the presidential election
winner was forecasting President Jokowi’s re-election. His margin is
predicted between 54 to 55 percent to Prabowo’s 45 to 46 percent. If
this prediction holds, it means Jokowi has slightly increased his margin
compared to the 2014 presidential election, in which he prevailed over
Prabowo with a margin of 53.2 to 46.9 percent.

Voter Turnout Key to Jokowi’s Victory

Despite earlier concerns that the election results might be close,
Jokowi managed to prevail over Prabowo once again thanks to the higher
than expected turnout among Indonesian voters. Turnout was especially
decisive among millennial voters between the age of 17 to 35 years.
Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
estimated this year’s voter turnout at approximately 80 percent of all
eligible voters – approximately 154 million. This is a 10 percent jump
from the number of Indonesians who voted in the last presidential
election in 2014.

Much of Jokowi’s support was gathered from Central and East Java
provinces – where he also won with a significant margin in 2014. In
addition, he won in provinces with a significant number of non-Muslim
voters, including North Sumatra, West Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Bali,
East Nusa Tenggara, Papua, and West Papua.

Meanwhile, Prabowo won in provinces where there is a growing trend of
Islamic conservatism over the past decade or so, as a significant
number of his supporters are members of religiously observant as well as
conservative groups – many of them participated in the Defending Islam
movement against former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in 2016
and 2017.

The provinces Prabowo is projected to have won in 2019 include West
Java, Banten, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, and South
Sulawesi − the latter was won by Jokowi in 2014 thanks to the help of
outgoing vice president Jusuf Kalla.

Prabowo’s Response to ‘Quick Count’ results

Prabowo’s response to the apparent Jokowi victory is a repeat of his
2014 election playbook. He claimed to have won the election with a
margin of 62 percent, even though no credible polling agencies were
backing that claim. He also made allegations that the election was
marred by significant numbers of irregularities and that polling
agencies were showing fake quick count results because they were working
as consultant for Jokowi’s re-election campaign.

Like in 2014, these claims were not backed with hard evidence.
However, Prabowo’s supporters have begun to attack ‘quick count’
pollsters from survey companies like Indikator Politik, Saiful Mujani
Research and Consulting (SMRC), Charta Politika, and Indonesian Survey
Circle (LSI) on social media, notwithstanding these companies’
reputation for producing generally accurate ‘quick count’ results since
2004.

The final result of the presidential election is expected to be
announced by the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU) on 22 May 2019.
Prabowo is widely expected to make a legal challenge on this result. It
will be up to the Indonesian Constitutional Court (MK) to arbitrate. Its
ruling is expected to be issued within two weeks – approximately around
7 June 2019.

A New Aliran Politics?

Members of the 2 December 2016 movement (‘Alumni 212’) who supported
Prabowo have issued a warning that they will stage mass protests against
the election results in Jakarta and other cities for the next several
weeks. However, last Friday’s protest did not materialise.

This was due to warnings from Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Chief of
Staff Hari Tjahjanto that it will “crack down on all efforts that will
disrupt public order and unconstitutional actions that damage the
democratic process”. Nevertheless, the group might try to stage the
protests in the next few weeks.

Some observers have assessed that a new aliran (‘stream’)
politics is emerging in Indonesia − similar to the divisions that
emerged between nationalist, Islamic, and Marxist-leaning parties during
the 1950s. However, what is different from the 1950s is that today’s aliran politics seems to be based on regional and religious divisions.

The first group consists of Muslims belonging to pro-moderation
movements like Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah who mainly live in
Central and East Java, along with non-Muslims living in provinces
outside of Java. The second group consists of conservative Muslims
living primarily in the west coast of Java Island, Sumatra Island, South
Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, and Maluku Island.

New Form of Aliran Politics Emerging?

While the 2019 Indonesian general election is now concluded, the
contestation for the Indonesian presidency is not over yet, as Prabowo
refuses to concede defeat and is likely to challenge the election
results until a final ruling is obtained from the Constitutional Court.

In addition, the bitter polarisation between Jokowi and Prabowo
supporters might continue through the remainder of Jokowi’s second
five-year term in office. If the elections result in a new form of aliran politics between different groups within Indonesian society, this could last for at least one generation, if not more.

*Alexander R Arifianto PhD is a Research Fellow with the Indonesia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. This is part of an RSIS Series on the 2019 Indonesian presidential election.

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Eurasia Review: Switch From Hunting To Herding Recorded In Ancient Pee

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The transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding is
considered a crucial turning point in the history of humanity. Scholars
think the intensive food production that came along with the Neolithic
Revolution, starting around 10,000 B.C., allowed cities to grow, led to
technological innovation and, eventually, enabled life as we know it
today.

It has been difficult to work out the details of how and when this took place. But a new study published in Science Advances
begins to resolve the scale and pace of change during the first phases
of animal domestication at an ancient site in Turkey. To reconstruct
this history, the authors turned to an unusual source: urine salts left
behind by humans and animals.

Whereas dung is commonly used in all sorts of studies, “this is the
first time, to our knowledge, that people have picked up on salts in
archaeological materials, and used them in a way to look at the
development of animal management,” says lead author Jordan Abell, a
graduate student at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The team used the urine salts to calculate the density of humans and
animals at the site over time, estimating that around 10,000 years ago,
the density of people and animals occupying the settlement jumped from
near zero to approximately one person or animal for every 10 square
meters. The results suggest that domestication may have been more rapid
than previously expected. They also support the idea that the Neolithic
Revolution didn’t have just one birthplace in the Fertile Crescent of
the Mideast, but rather occurred across several locations
simultaneously.

At the ancient settlement of A??kl? Höyu?k in central Turkey,
archaeological evidence suggests that humans began domesticating sheep
and goats around 8450 BC. These practices evolved over the next 1,000
years, until the society became heavily dependent on the beasts for food
and other materials.

Abell explains that it can be difficult to reconstruct the scale and
pace of this evolution using bone fragments and fossilized dung. So he
and his colleagues asked themselves what other clues might have been
left behind by a bunch of animals onsite. “And we thought, well, humans
and animals pee, and when they pee, they release a bunch of salt,” says
Abell. “At a dry place like this, we didn’t think salts would be washed
away and redistributed.”

As it happened, co-authors Susan Mentzer from the University of
Tübingen and Jay Quade from the University of Arizona, where Abell
worked on this project as an undergraduate, had previously documented
some unusually high levels of salts around A??kl? Höyu?k, and were
perplexed by what they meant. Using this data and others, the new study
supports the idea that the salts likely came from the urine of humans,
sheep and goats. The study uses the abundance of the salts over time to
track the growth of the community and its animals over a period of 1,000
years.

Working with Turkish archaeologists, including Istanbul University’s
Mihriban Özba?aran, who heads the A??kl? Höyu?k dig, the team collected
113 samples from all across the site — from trash piles to bricks and
hearths, and from different time periods — to look at patterns in the
sodium, nitrate and chlorine salt levels.

They found that, overall, the urine salts at A??kl? Höyu?k increased
in abundance over time. The natural layers before the settlement was
built contained very low levels of salts. The oldest layers with
evidence of human habitation, spanning 10,400 to 10,000 years ago, saw
slight increases but remained relatively low in the urine salts. Then
the salts spike during a period from 10,000 to 9,700 years ago; the
amount of salts in this layer is about 1,000 times higher than in the
preceding ones, indicating a rapid increase in the number of occupants
(both human and animal). After that, the concentrations decrease
slightly.

Abell says these trends line up with previous hypotheses based on
other evidence from the site — that the settlement transitioned first
from mostly hunting sheep and goats to corralling just a few, then
changed to larger-scale management, and then finally shifted to keeping
animals in corrals on the periphery of the site as their numbers grew.
And although the timing is close to what the study authors expected, the
sharp change around 10,000 years ago “may be new evidence for a more
rapid transition” toward domestication, says Abell.

Using the salt concentrations, the team estimated the number and
density of people plus sheep and goats at A??kl? Höyu?k, after
accounting for other factors that might have influenced the salt levels.
They calculated that around 10,000 years ago, the density of people and
animals occupying the settlement jumped from near zero to approximately
one person or animal for every 10 square meters. By comparison,
modern-day semi-intensive feedlots have densities of about one sheep for
every 5 square meters.

Although it is not currently possible to distinguish between human
and livestock urine salts, the urine salt analysis method can still
provide a helpful estimate of sheep and goat abundance. Over the 1,000
year period, the team calculated that an average of 1,790 people and
animals lived and peed on the settlement every day. In each time period,
the estimated inhabitants were much higher than the number of people
that archaeologists think the settlement’s buildings would have housed.
This indicates that the urine salt concentrations can indeed reflect the
relative amounts of domesticated animals over time.

The researchers plan to further refine their methods and
calculations in the future, and hope to find a way to differentiate
between human and animal urine salts. They think the methodology could
be applied in other arid areas, and could be especially helpful at sites
where other physical evidence, such as bones, is lacking.

The study’s results also help shed light on the geographic spread of
the Neolithic Revolution. It was once thought that farming and herding
originated in the Fertile Crescent, which spans parts of modern-day
Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian
Territories, then spread outward from there. But mounting evidence,
including today’s study, indicates that domestication and the transition
to Neolithic lifestyles took place concurrently over a broad and
diffuse swath of the region.

Anthropologist and co-author Mary Stiner from the University of
Arizona said that the new method could help to clarify the larger
picture of humanity’s relationship to animals during this transitional
period. “We might find similar trends in other archaeological sites of
the period in the Middle East,” she said, “but it is also possible that
only a handful of long-lasting communities were forums for the evolving
human-caprine relationships in any given region of the Middle East.”

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Eurasia Review: China’s Borrowing Buys Time For Economic Growth – Analysis

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By Michael Lelyveld

China narrowly avoided a drop in its economic results for the first
quarter with a record surge in bank loans following complaints from
small businesses that tax cuts provided little relief.

Last week, officials hailed the government’s economic efforts as the
National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced that gross domestic
product rose at a 6.4-percent rate. The result matched the growth of
last year’s fourth quarter, but fell short of the full-year 2018 pace of
6.6 percent.

The economy “enjoyed stable performance with growing positive factors
and stronger market expectation and confidence,” the NBS said in its
press release.

By beating consensus forecasts of 6.3 percent for the period, the
official figures remained within the upper part of the government’s
target range of 6 percent-6.5 percent GDP growth for this year.

A variety of reports suggested a “rebound,” “renewed signs of life” and a bottoming out of declining growth rates this year.

But the official reports illustrated how easily China’s economic outlook could be decimated by a decimal point.

Hours before the NBS announcement, Reuters reported that China’s
anticipated growth was expected to record “its weakest pace in at least
27 years,” raising concerns of a sharper drop and job losses this year.

Even after the official numbers came out, the London-based Financial Times wrote that “the country is facing its slowest rate of economic growth in 30 years.”

Some analysts have dismissed the official figures entirely.

“The Chinese published GDP numbers are absolute garbage,” said Leland
Miller, CEO of the China Beige Book advisory firm, CNN Business
reported, citing remarks made in February.

“It’s certainly the consensus that these numbers are unreliable.”

For the time being, the forecast-beating figures helped the
government win the battle for headlines, which is all that stock markets
normally have time for. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index closed
slightly higher on the announcement, gaining 0.29 percent.

Government slashes VAT

But behind the official figures and the skepticism, there remained
concern over China’s economic policies and GDP growth defenses.

The big question in the weeks before the quarterly results became
public was whether economic policymakers had turned over a new leaf.

After years of pumping up GDP with stimulus from bank loans and debt,
the government has tried turning to tax cuts to spur consumption
growth.

On April 1, the government slashed its value-added tax (VAT) rate for
manufacturing to 13 percent from 16 percent and trimmed the VAT for
transportation, construction, and other industries to 9 percent from 10
percent.

The VAT cuts were the largest part of a 2-trillion yuan (U.S. $297.7
billion) package of reductions in taxes, fees and corporate social
security payments as the government sought to ease business burdens and
slow the economic slide.

The incentives took effect quickly after Premier Li Keqiang unveiled
them in his work report to China’s annual legislative sessions on March
5, conveying urgency over the economy’s decline. All the cuts were
larger than expected, the South China Morning Post said.

The fiscal steps won favorable reviews from some economists after years of warnings over loose lending and rising debt.

Gary Hufbauer, nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute
for International Economics in Washington, said earlier this month that
the cuts would provide “significant support” to the economy, with a
stimulus equal to 2 percent of GDP.

“The impact would have been greater if the same revenue cuts had been
made in corporate taxes, but still the impact should be meaningful,”
Hufbauer said.

Income tax cuts

The business breaks followed cuts of up to 50 percent in personal
income taxes for mostly middle and lower-income wage earners that began
last October.

Both batches of benefits were aimed at boosting consumption after the
steady erosion of retail sales growth, which fell 1.2 percentage points
to 9 percent last year.

Growth of 8.1 percent in November was the lowest in over 15 years, The Wall Street Journal said.

According to official data, consumption accounted for 76.2 percent of
China’s economic growth last year. Despite the NBS insistence that
consumption remained the “dominant driving force,” its reported
contribution fell to 65.1 percent in the first quarter of this year.

At the start of 2019, retail sales did not do much better, despite
last year’s tax cuts. The NBS recorded growth of 8.2 percent for the
first two months of the year. Stronger activity in March boosted first
quarter growth to 8.5 percent, but the level still fell below last
year’s rate.

The size of this year’s tax package, following last year’s 1.3
trillion yuan (U.S. $193.5 billion) worth of breaks, raised the question
of whether it would have a major impact on economic growth.

Record lending by banks of 5.8 trillion yuan (U.S. $864.8 billion) in
the first quarter appears to reflect government doubts that tax cuts by
themselves would be enough to stop the decline.

The tax reductions planned for this year are roughly equal to 62
percent of the new yuan-denominated loans issued by China’s banks in
January alone.

The huge volume of loans in the first quarter exceeded Switzerland’s GDP, Reuters said. New lending during the period soared 19.3 percent from a year before, according to official data from 2018.

Not a solution

Some economists say the VAT strategy is not a solution for China’s economic growth problem in any case.

“We have no evidence of tax cuts ever stimulating the Chinese
economy,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington.

“What will boost the economy is fewer state firms, which absorb capital but do not generate economic growth,” Scissors said.

Reports suggested that the benefits of VAT cuts will not be distributed evenly.

In a March 20 report, the South China Morning Post interviewed a series of officials at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who expect little benefit from the breaks.

“Those boasting that these policy tax cuts are unprecedented and
sufficient, I bet they have never been a boss of a small factory like
ours,” one business owner said.

A common complaint among struggling SMEs is that their margins are too small to give them much of a boost from the VAT cuts.

“For those enterprises with annual output valued at more than 50
million [yuan] (U.S. $7.4 million), the VAT tax cuts should have certain
economic value, but for us, as small-sized enterprise producing grain
and oil processing equipment, it helps little,” another business
operator told The Post.

SMEs and privately-owned companies have been more concerned about
problems with high costs and limited access to loans as banks continue
to favor lending to state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The government appears to be responding gradually to SME complaints.

On April 7, the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and
the cabinet-level State Council jointly issued a guideline that “called
for more attention to the problems impeding further growth of SMEs,” the
official Xinhua news agency reported.

Two days later, Xinhua said the government plans to help SMEs by
“facilitating their direct financing in the capital market,” including
fast-tracking initial public offerings (IPOs).

But no mention was made of bank lending problems or the low SME benefits from VAT breaks.

On April 17 at a State Council meeting, Premier Li addressed the
issue, setting a target to increase state bank loan approvals to micro
and small-sized enterprises by 30 percent this year, the official
English-language China Daily said.

Steelmakers pocket VAT savings

Concerns about the inadequacy of the tax cuts have not been limited to SMEs.

China’s steel producers also say their margins are too small to pass
the savings on in the form of reduced product prices, leaving the
intended impact on economic growth in doubt.

A commentary by the industry website www.mysteel.net on March 19 said
the VAT cuts “will surely help the domestic manufacturers to better
weather the slowdown in the national economic growth,” but that would be
“no guarantee to lower prices.”

“Lower tax … does not necessarily lead to lower prices in the
industrial products, though it provides more room for the manufacturers
… when the market situation calls for such moves,” it said.

In other words, China’s steelmakers are inclined to pocket the VAT
savings instead of passing them on to customers like automobile
manufacturers, who could then lower car prices to revive slumping sales
and help to raise GDP.

In the first two months of the year, steel industry profits plunged
49.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Development
and Reform Commission (NDRC), the government’s top planning agency.

Last year, car sales fell 2.76 percent after decades of growth,
according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Sales
lost 4 percent in January, 18.5 percent in February and 12 percent in
March, Bloomberg News said, citing the China Passenger Car Association.

“The slowdown in auto sales was the main contributor to weaker consumption growth last year,” an NDRC official said in January.

But the poor profits in the steel industry may block the pass-through of VAT savings to car makers and consumers.

“In the end, it depends on how high the profit margin is for each
particular sector, as for steel mills, the margin is so thin for the
time being that there is no way for us to reduce our steel prices to
fully or even partially reflect (the) three percentage-point
difference,” said a steel mill official cited by mysteel.net.

On April 1, Xinhua reported that several foreign makers of consumer
products, including car companies, had reduced retail prices in
anticipation of the tax cuts.

But the reactions of the SMEs and steel producers seem likely to
limit the effect on GDP, persuading the government to keep turning over
the old leaf of boosting the economy with more bank loans.

“Cutting taxes now, while borrowing is expanding, suggests the
central government doesn’t think tax cuts will work, either,” Scissors
said.

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Eurasia Review: Climate Change Has Worsened Global Economic Inequality

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A new Stanford University study shows global warming has increased
economic inequality since the 1960s. Temperature changes caused by
growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere have
enriched cool countries like Norway and Sweden, while dragging down
economic growth in warm countries such as India and Nigeria.

“Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” said climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author of the study published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “At the same time, the majority of rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

The study, co-authored with Marshall Burke, a Stanford assistant professor of Earth system science, finds that, from 1961 to 2010, global warming decreased the wealth per person in the world’s poorest countries by 17 to 30 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between the group of nations with the highest and lowest economic output per person is now approximately 25 percent larger than it would have been without climate change.

Although economic inequality between countries has decreased in
recent decades, the research suggests the gap would have narrowed faster
without global warming.

Ideal temperature for economic output

The study builds on previous research in which Burke and co-authors analyzed 50 years of annual temperature and GDP measurements for 165 countries to estimate the effects of temperature fluctuations on economic growth. They demonstrated that growth during warmer than average years has accelerated in cool nations and slowed in warm nations.

“The historical data clearly show that crops are more productive,
people are healthier and we are more productive at work when
temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold,” Burke explained. “This
means that in cold countries, a little bit of warming can help. The
opposite is true in places that are already hot.”

In the current study, Diffenbaugh and Burke combined Burke’s
previously published estimates with data from more than 20 climate
models developed by research centers around the world. Using the climate
models to isolate how much each country has already warmed due to
human-caused climate change, the researchers were able to determine what
each country’s economic output might have been had temperatures not
warmed.

To account for uncertainty, the researchers calculated more than
20,000 versions of what each country’s annual economic growth rate could
have been without global warming. The estimates in the paper capture
the range of outcomes delivered by those thousands of different routes.

“For most countries, whether global warming has helped or hurt
economic growth is pretty certain,” said Burke. Tropical countries, in
particular, tend to have temperatures far outside the ideal for economic
growth. “There’s essentially no uncertainty that they’ve been harmed.”

It’s less clear how warming has influenced growth in countries in
the middle latitudes, including the United States, China and Japan. For
these and other temperate-climate nations, the analysis reveals economic
impacts of less than 10 percent.

“A few of the largest economies are near the perfect temperature for
economic output. Global warming hasn’t pushed them off the top of the
hill, and in many cases, it has pushed them toward it,” Burke said. “But
a large amount of warming in the future will push them further and
further from the temperature optimum.”

Dragged down by warming

While the impacts of temperature may seem small from year to year, they can yield dramatic gains or losses over time. “This is like a savings account, where small differences in the interest rate will generate large differences in the account balance over 30 or 50 years,” said Diffenbaugh, the Kara J. Foundation professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). For example, after accumulating decades of small effects from warming, India’s economy is now 31 percent smaller than it would have been in the absence of global warming.

At a time when climate policy negotiations often stall over questions of how to equitably divide responsibility for curbing future warming, Diffenbaugh and Burke’s analysis offers a new measure of the price many countries have already paid. “Our study makes the first accounting of exactly how much each country has been impacted economically by global warming, relative to its historical greenhouse gas contributions,” said Diffenbaugh, who is also Kimmelman Family senior fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

While the biggest emitters enjoy on average about 10 percent higher
per capita GDP today than they would have in a world without warming,
the lowest emitters have been dragged down by about 25 percent. “This is
on par with the decline in economic output seen in the U.S. during the
Great Depression,” Burke said. “It’s a huge loss compared to where these
countries would have been otherwise.”

The researchers emphasize the importance of increasing sustainable
energy access for economic development in poorer countries. “The more
these countries warm up, the more drag there’s going to be on their
development,” Diffenbaugh said. “Historically, rapid economic
development has been powered by fossil fuels. Our finding that global
warming has exacerbated economic inequality suggests that there is an
added economic benefit of energy sources that don’t contribute to
further warming.”

Diffenbaugh is also an affiliate of the Precourt Institute for
Energy. Burke is a center fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for
International Studies and, by courtesy, at the Woods Institute for the
Environment.

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Eurasia Review: Asian Leaders Show Solidarity With Sri Lanka, Deplore Easter Sunday Attacks

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Political and clerical leaders across South and Southeast Asia
deplored the terrorist bombings that targeted churches and hotels in Sri
Lanka, killing nearly 300 people, as Colombo cast blame Monday on an
Islamic extremist group.

Officials from Muslim-majority nations in the region and the
predominantly Catholic Philippines – countries that have all dealt with
terror threats from religious extremists and Islamic State-linked groups
in recent years – spoke out against the coordinated suicide attacks
that struck the capital Colombo and other cities in the
Buddhist-majority island-nation.

“The bombings in Sri Lanka are a humanitarian tragedy, as the bomb
blasts took place at a time when Christians were celebrating their
religious holidays. The several bombings across Sri Lanka will remain a
stark page in the history of human life,” Zainut Tauhid Saadi, deputy
chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the top Islamic clerical body
in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, said Monday.

“Inhuman acts are not justified by religious teachings,” he added, according to the state-run Antara news service.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo joined other world leaders in condemning the attacks in Sri Lanka.

“On behalf of the Indonesian people, I wish to convey our deepest
condolences and sympathies to the people and government of Sri Lanka and
all families of the victims,” Jokowi said in a message posted on
Twitter a day earlier.

Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest in Sri Lanka since the end of a
civil war a decade ago triggered by demands by the Tamil Tigers, a rebel
group from the ethnic Tamil minority, for independence from the
Buddhist-majority country. The Tamils are Hindu, Christian and Muslim.

The Easter Sunday attacks took place less than a month before Sri
Lankans were to mark the 10th anniversary of the defeat of the Tamil
Tigers after a war that lasted 26 years. The island has since largely
been peaceful except in more recent years when intercommunal tensions
flared between Sinhala-Buddhists and minority Muslims, according to
reports.

On Monday, top Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim expressed sadness
that the April 21 attacks “were done during the most important date for
the Christians worldwide – Easter Sunday.”

“We have to make a stand that any attacks or invasion on any worship
houses, be it a mosque, temple, [or] church, has to be condemned by
peace-loving people,” Anwar, a prime minister in waiting in multi-ethnic
and multi-religious Malaysia, said in a statement.

“After what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, I would like to
call on all Muslims to take a lesson from the tragedy and together echo
the peace solidarity with the Christians in Sri Lanka,” he added,
referring to mass shootings by a suspected Australian white supremacist
that killed 50 people at mosques in New Zealand’s third largest city
last month.

At least 290 were confirmed dead and 500 injured in the weekend
violence in Sri Lanka, also the deadliest terror attack to take place in
South or Southeast Asia in years.

It eclipsed the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India’s financial capital that
left 166 people dead, and the 2002 Bali attacks that killed 202 people
in Indonesia’s deadliest terror act. Both attacks were carried out by
Muslim extremist groups, according to local authorities.

More than 30 foreigners were killed in Sunday’s carnage, including
Zayan Chowdhury, an 8-year-old boy related to Bangladeshi Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina, according to Bangladesh’s envoy to Colombo and other
officials.

Zayan was the grandson of Sheikh Selim, a top leader of Bangladesh’s
ruling Awami League who is Hasina’s cousin. Zayan was killed and his
father, Mashiul Haque Chowdhury, injured in a bomb explosion at the
Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, one of several hotels in the Sri Lankan
capital that were attacked Sunday, officials said. The family was
vacationing in Sri Lanka when they were caught up in the explosions.

“One Bangladeshi (Zayan) was killed and another was injured in the
attacks. We have no more information about casualties of any other
Bangladeshi people in the attacks,” Bangladesh Ambassador M. Riaz
Hamidullah told Benar by phone on Monday.

Zayan’s father was hospitalized and the boy’s body was scheduled to
be flown back to Bangladesh on Tuesday morning, Bangladeshi officials
said. On Sunday, Hasina condemned the attack but, as of late Monday, she
had yet to issue a statement reacting to Zayan’s death.

In Dhaka, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the country’s
security services and police were ready to ward off any terrorist
threats in the wake of the Sri Lanka attacks.

“We are very much alert. We don’t have any information of any possible attack in Bangladesh,” the minister told journalists.

In July 2016, at least 29 people were killed during an overnight
terrorist siege mounted by Islamic State-aligned gunmen at a café in the
Bangladeshi capital. However, the home minister and other officials
have since denied allegations that IS has a presence in the country.

Other than Bangladesh, there were no reports of citizens from
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand being wounded in the
blasts, officials from those countries said.

The Indonesian embassy in Colombo said there were 374 Indonesian expatriates living in Sri Lanka.

“The government calls on Indonesian citizens in Sri Lanka to remain
vigilant and cautious and to follow directions from local security
authorities,” the embassy said in a statement.

On Monday, Sri Lankan Health Minister and government spokesman
Rajitha Senaratne identified a local group that calls itself the
National Thowfeek Jamaath as being responsible for the attacks, adding
that all seven suicide bombers involved in the raids were Sri Lankan
citizens, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, reports emerged that the Sri Lankan government had
received warnings weeks earlier from neighboring India that churches in
Sri Lanka were the targets of terrorist plots, according to media
accounts.

‘Barbarism’

On Monday, Anwar’s wife, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, condemned the attacks as an “act of barbarism.”

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah also deplored
Sunday’s violence as an “inhuman and uncivilized act that targeted …
innocent lives during the Easter celebration.”

Like Indonesia, Malaysia is mainly Muslim but both countries have
small Christian minorities. Last May, Christian churches in the
Indonesian city of Surabaya were targeted in deadly bombings by
IS-linked extremists that killed 13 civilians.

“Christians in Malaysia are filled with horror, shock and dismay
that, on this most Holy Day, such despicable acts of destruction can be
contemplated and carried out upon innocent citizens of Sri Lanka and
foreign nationals,” the Christian Federation of Malaysia said in a
statement Monday.

Christian leaders in Indonesia and the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines issued similar statements.

The governments of Thailand, another Buddhist majority country, and the Philippines also condemned the slaughter in Sri Lanka.

“Our nation, together with the rest of the world, is outraged by
these latest senseless acts of terror and violence,” Philippine
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“As we recall our recent commitment to boost ties with Sri Lanka and
the warm relations between the leaders our of countries, we express our
sincere solidarity and offer our heartfelt prayers to the citizens of
Sri Lanka as well as to the other people who have been affected by this
horrific attack.”

The restive and predominantly Muslim Philippine south was where
IS-linked militants took over the city of Marawi in 2017, in a siege
that lasted five months and unleashed a vicious battle with government
forces.

In late January 2019, twin suicide bombings killed 23 people at a
church on southern Jolo island, in an attack blamed on IS-aligned
militants.

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Eurasia Review: Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World Of Fashion – OpEd

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The interconnected environmental catastrophe is the result of a
particular lifestyle; a materialistic way of life relentlessly promoted
by mass media and governments throughout the industrialized world and
beyond. Consuming stuff, most of which is unnecessary, is the key
ingredient; excess is championed, sufficiency scoffed at. Far from
addressing need, satisfying desire is the driving impulse; the object of
desire changes with every new fad of course, discontent is thereby
ensured, unlimited consumerism maintained.

This pattern of insatiable shopping is evident within the polluting
world of fashion perhaps more than any other sector; when we should be
buying less, more clothes are produced and sold year on year. Worldwide,
almost 100 billion items of clothing are made annually (400% more than
twenty years ago), a third of which end up in landfill, increasing at a
rate of 7% a year.

The global fashion industry is a major source of environmental
contamination, as well as human exploitation. Every item of clothing
that is produced carries with it an environmental cost in terms of
energy, water, chemicals and land use. The choice of fabrics – natural
or man-made – production methods, transportation, dyeing and printing,
customer care, all are areas that cause pollution.

According to the United Nations Climate Change, “around 10% of global
greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s) are churned out by the fashion
industry, due to its long supply chains and energy intensive
production.” The industry consumes more energy than aviation and
shipping combined. In search of greater profits most manufacturing is
now undertaken in China and India, where labor costs are lower,
coal-fired power plants predominate, GGEs are highest and, in many
cases, employee rights are non-existent. By moving production to
developing nations, western companies outsourced, jobs, as well as the
pollution and environmental impacts, threatening the health of local
people.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) relates that textile
factories in China, where “over 50%” of the worlds clothing is now made”
spew out around three billion tons of soot every year burning coal,
contaminating the air leading to respiratory and heart disease. Textile
mills are estimated to generate 20% of the world’s industrial water
pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic. Textiles
are the largest source of synthetic fibers in the oceans, micro-plastics
get into the water system every time garments are washed; the UK House
of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on fashion reports that “a
single 6kg domestic wash has the potential to release as many as 700,000
fibers.”

As well as textile production, the manufacture of leather goods has
also largely been shipped to China – where most items are made – and
India. Leather production is an intensely cruel and poisonous process.
The animal welfare charity, PetaUK, reports that globally more than 1
billion animals are killed every year – cows, calves, water buffalo,
horses, lambs, goats and pigs –and, in China, dogs and cats. Huge
amounts of water are used in highly polluting tanneries; most wastewater
and solid waste (hides and skins etc.) are dumped into rivers,
riverbeds or farmland, causing contamination of the water and land. In
Kanpur India e.g., everyday 50 million liters of highly toxic water is
produced, 80% released untreated; the River Ganges receives most of it:
holy it may be, clean it is not. The impact on human health is often
fatal; chronic conditions such as heart disease, tuberculosis, asthma,
mental disabilities, skin discolouration are widespread among people
living near leather factories, which are shipping almost all their
production to industrialized countries.

Polluting and poorly made

Different fabrics have different levels and types of environmental
impact; synthetic fibers like polyester are made from crude oil (fossil
fuel), producing much higher levels of GGEs compared with natural
materials: Nature Magazine state that “A single polyester t-shirt has
emissions of 5.5 kg CO2, compared with 2.1 kg CO2 for one made from
cotton.” But polyester can be recycled, although not indefinitely, is
more stain-resistant, can be washed in cold water and dries quickly.
Conventional cotton (non-organic), which is used to make almost half of
all clothing, has its own environmental consequences; cotton farming
uses 3% of the world’s arable land, causing deforestation and loss of
biodiversity, and is responsible for 18% of all pesticides, 25% of
insecticides. Some of these are highly toxic and dangerous to human
health, e.g. Endosulfan, banned in many countries but widely used in
India, is linked to several thousand deaths of cotton farmers and their
families. Cotton is also a very thirsty crop: the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 2,700 liters (715 gallons) of water –
on average the amount one person drinks in two and a half years – is
used to make a single cotton t-shirt.

In regions where water is scarce, cotton production has an intensely
damaging effect: in Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea, which was the fourth
largest lake in the world, has all but dried up because the rivers which
fed the lake, were diverted by irrigation projects to supply cotton
farmers. The disappearance of the great lake is a man-made environmental
tragedy.

Huge amounts of water are also used in the dyeing process, the World
Resources Institute states that globally 5 trillion liters (1.3 trillion
gallons) of water are used each year for fabric dyeing, enough they say
to “fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

The most polluting area of the apparel industry is ‘fast fashion’.
Like all businesses, fashion is about profit: more profit is generated
when people buy more clothing, more often. In the 1980s, when any
remaining constraints on Neo-liberalism were removed, ‘fast fashion’ was
introduced as a way of increasing the profits for clothing companies by
making people buy more; the practice is now widespread among high
street brands and has been picked up by designer labels.

Under the fast fashion umbrella up to 50 ‘cycles’ are produced every
year; prices are lower, turnarounds quick, and overproduction common.
Items are poorly made and so cheap they are sometimes not even worn
before being discarded, at best lasting a matter of weeks before being
dumped in landfill. The fast fashion fad has increased consumerism,
contributed to a ‘throw away’ mentality, leading to huge amounts of
waste; it has done enormous environmental damage and should be stopped
as a matter of urgency. If companies will not voluntarily halt fast
fashion practices governments should force them to do so. The global
need is not for the corporate profit, the behavior to be cultivated is
not more consumerism, it is saving the planet and encouraging drastic
reductions in consumerism.

The Fashion Industry Charter

Aware of the widespread and varied environmental destruction that
fashion is causing voices within the industry and beyond have been
calling for action to change destructive practices for some time. Last
year a group of organizations came together, and under the umbrella of
the United Nations Climate Change, created the Fashion Industry Charter
for Climate Action (FICCA), launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in
December.

The FICCA commits signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by
30% by 2030 and achieving zero emissions by 2050, to phasing out
coal-fired boilers, using ‘climate friendly’, sustainable materials and
low carbon transport among other measures. The list of 43 founding
companies includes Adidas, Burberry, Esprit, Guess, Gap, H&M,
Kering, Levis, Puma, PVH and Target; associated NGOs have also pledged
to support the initiative and encourage sustainable practices.

Creating sustainable fashion is a core theme of those working to
reduce the catastrophic impact on the environment. This entails looking
at production methods and water use, curtailing demand, moving from
conventional to organic cotton and from virgin polyester to recycled
polyethylene terephthalate (PET), collecting and recycling unwanted
garments. ‘Sustainable fashion’ needs to be seen as part of sustainable
lifestyles, this requires the promotion and adoption of what we might
call Sustainable Values, principles that encourage expressions of
social/environmental responsibility and cooperation, ideals that promote
simpler lifestyles – we must consume less, shop based on need only and,
when we do shop or buy services, ensure we do so in an environmentally
responsible manner; repair clothes, buy good quality items that last
longer and recycle.

Governments need to introduce public information policies aimed at
making people aware of the environmental impact of living a certain way
and introduce maintenance classes in schools; all product-based
companies should be required to make easily accessible the full
environmental impact of their products and methods, as well as the human
cost, so people can make well-informed choices. Advertising has an
important role to play in this, it needs to be closely regulated and
reformed so that it gives out facts about products not propaganda.

All aspects of life are interconnected; the environmental catastrophe
cannot be faced without the socio-economic mayhem being addressed,
social justice created and ways of living inculcated that tend towards
unity in all areas of life. Competition and conformity need to be
expunged from society, particularly within institutionalized education,
the focus on image challenged and rejected, the tendency to imitation
curtailed.

If we are to collectively overcome the greatest challenge humanity
has ever faced, environmental considerations need to be at the forefront
of our daily lives. A shift in living is required, a movement away from
lives based on desire and the pursuit of pleasure to simpler lives
based on meeting need, cultivating right relationships with others and
the natural world and living harmlessly. The responsibility rests with
all of us to live well and to pressurize our governments to act to halt
the environmental catastrophe before it’s too late.

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Eurasia Review: Pennsylvania Residents Shoulder Health Impacts Of State’s Oil And Gas Waste

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More than 80 percent of all waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas drilling operations stays inside the state, according to a new study that tracks the disposal locations of liquid and solid waste from these operations across 26 years. Numerous human health hazards have been associated with waste from oil and gas extraction, including potential exposure to compounds known to cause cancer.

The study is the first comprehensive assessment of Pennsylvania’s
waste-disposal practices, tracking from 1991 – when the state began
collecting waste-disposal information – through 2017. In southwestern
Pennsylvania, most solid waste goes to landfills in the county where it
was produced, the study also found, while in northern counties along
state borders, solid waste generally moves to neighboring states of Ohio
and New York.

“Tracking waste across space – the distance and direction it travels
and where it ends up – and across time helps us determine who is
absorbing the potential health burdens associated with these waste
products, both from recent operations and from legacy pollution across
the lifetime of the state’s oil and gas operations,” said Lee Ann Hill, a
researcher at Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy
(PSE) and lead author of the study, which was published in Science of
the Total Environment on April 22.

Oil and gas development produces high-salinity water that can
contain strontium and radium – substances classified as known human
carcinogens. Solid waste includes cuttings from drilling that can bring
naturally occurring radioactive materials including uranium, radium, and
thorium, up from the subsurface to the surface, creating the potential
for human and environmental exposures to these toxic compounds.

Previous studies have tracked only subsets of oil and gas
waste-disposal data. For example, many past studies have focused just on
waste from high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the process used at scale
since 2008 to extract oil and gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale
formation. But the PSE-led study also tracks waste from conventional oil
and gas development, which has taken place in Pennsylvania since
records have been kept and continues today. Conventional drilling
operations accounted for nearly one third of all waste, the data showed.

“We know that many of the hazards and risks associated with waste
from oil and gas extraction exist for both conventional and
unconventional operations,” Hill said. Yet, researchers note,
legislation passed in 2016 strengthened disposal location tracking for
unconventional oil and gas operations, but similar reporting practices
were not required for conventional operations. “From a public health
perspective, it doesn’t really make sense that conventional operators
are held to a different standard,” she says.

Where does it go?

Solid waste mainly goes into landfills. Some of the state’s liquid
waste – 7.6 percent, or 30 million barrels over the study’s time period –
is sent to municipal or other water treatment plants, which discharge
into surface waters like rivers after limited treatment. Studies have
shown that despite treatment operations, pollution remains in sediment
downstream from release sites. For example, radium persists in sediment
for many years and strontium, which accumulates in bones of living
things, much like calcium, has been found in the shells of riverbed
mussels downstream of treatment facilities.

More than half of the liquid waste that remains in Pennsylvania was
reused in extraction operations, the study found, a practice that can
result in more concentrated levels of salinity and chemical residues
with each subsequent use. Researchers note that the pervasiveness of
this practice raises questions about how to treat or dispose of these
more concentrated waste streams in the future, when drilling operations
slow or cease, diminishing the demand for wastewater reuse.

For more than a third of liquid waste from all oil and gas
operations – 35 percent – the final location is unknown, often because
reporting reflects only intermediary locations for transfer or storage.
“This finding illuminates what we don’t know,” Hill said.

The study concludes that a uniform cradle-to-grave reporting system
should be put in place to properly assess hazards and risks to human
health and the environment posed by waste streams from all types of oil
and gas production. “Understanding where and when waste enters our
environment helps scientists and communities quantify human exposures to
these contaminants and measure environmental impacts,” she said.

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Eurasia Review: Elections Unlikely To Solve EU’s Problems – OpEd

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With about a month to go until the European Parliamentary elections,
speculation is rampant about what will materialize. Will these elections
be another run-of-the-mill polling process or something truly
transformational?

Brexit, migration and the scourge of the far right have monopolized the
debate. Yet traditional issues such as the economy may still affect the
outcome of elections in which more than 400 million people can vote.

Yet perhaps these elections will not run to the pundits’ predicted path.
A recent European Council for Foreign Relations and YouGov survey
challenged a host of lazy myths. The elections are far from predictable
at a time when establishment parties are under the cosh. Some 70 percent
of voters have yet to make up their minds. Projections indicate about a
third of MEPs will be anti-EU — a significant bloc. The two largest
alliances, the European People’s Party and the Party of European
Socialists, will lose ground, according to polls, and possibly even
their combined majority.

Immigration will be a significant factor, but the YouGov poll showed it
only ranks third amongst voters’ concerns. Remember that the surge in
immigration was in 2015 and, in 2019, the numbers are way down. Only 15
percent of voters see migration as a threat to the EU, and only in
Hungary is immigration seen as the No. 1 threat. In certain states, more
people are worried about their nationals leaving and decreasing the
population. This is understandable perhaps if you are from Romania,
where in the last decade one in five people have left. Islamic extremism
is, however, a massive concern — the top fear for most EU voters.

Yet nationalism is another anxiety. Many EU voters do feel European as
well as being devoted to their national identity. Outside of Britain,
most electorates are not keen on seeing the EU being torn apart, and are
nervous at the impact of the extreme right.

The elections have specific country elements. They will be a test for
Emmanuel Macron of France. It is his first electoral challenge since
becoming president and comes in the wake of the “gilets jaunes” protests
that have lasted since November. In Italy, the tensions between the
governing coalition partners, Northern League and Five Star, may mean a
fractious coalition, but even so the League should top the polls.

Far-right parties will no doubt continue to prosper Europe-wide. As it
stands, nine governments in the EU include anti-EU parties. The Europe
of Freedom and Direct Democracy and Europe of Nations and Freedom will
be the likely beneficiaries. The True Finns party has just secured 17.5
percent of the vote in the recent national elections. Spanish voters go
the polls on April 28, with the far-right Vox likely to win the first
seat by a far-right party since the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.
The Forum for Democracy may win more than 12 percent of the vote in the
Netherlands.

Brexit looms massively over the vote. Barring a last-minute deal,
British voters will elect 73 MEPs, with many arguing that the European
elections will be a referendum on Brexit. The newly formed Brexit Party,
with Nigel Farage at the helm, has surged into the lead in some polls,
just ahead of Labour.

Yet this could be very misleading. Typically, European elections have
attracted a very small turnout, just 35.6 percent last time; and, given
the disillusionment with politics at the moment, it is hard to see why
2019 will buck the trend. More often than not, the European elections
have been a protest vote. The debate is likely to be weary and tired
rather than passionate and informed. Many voters will stick to their
party allegiances rather than back opposing candidates from other
parties just because of Brexit. In all likelihood, the results may be no
more than mildly indicative rather than in any sense definitive.

Moreover, the pro-Remain parties have failed to coalesce on a shared
platform that would have improved their impact and visibility. If you
crave Brexit, you know who to vote for. For a Remain voter, it is not
clear at all.

All this will reinforce the fears of EU leaders who do not want Britain
to participate. The Parliament will be far more Euroskeptic with British
members.

This election season has only highlighted what has been clear for a long
time: Europe is divided north from south, west from east, on
ideological lines and on identity. European voters want change. For a
host of reasons, many feel that neither their national system nor the
European system works for them.

The likelihood is that the logjam in Brussels will not be altered by the
outcome of the elections. A tipping point has yet to be reached. None
of the core challenges facing the EU will be resolved here, whether it
be Brexit, the economy, climate change, immigration or extremism of any
form. The EU, especially since enlargement, remains too cumbersome and
unwieldy. The danger is that disenchantment with democratic and
semi-democratic institutions failing to deliver and refusing to change
course will only put these issues on ice for future years.

  • Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). Twitter: @Doylech

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