Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 2013

Is it becoming an Illusion? This “Two-State UN demand” between Israel and Palestine?

The last 3 decades are littered with the carcasses of failed negotiating projects billed as the last chance for peace in Israel.

All sides have been wedded to the notion that there must be two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli.

For more than 30 years, experts and politicians have warned of a “point of no return.” Secretary of State John Kerry is merely the latest in a long line of well-meaning American diplomats wedded to an idea whose time is now past.

You see a barrier in the West Bank city of Hebron, with barbed-wire coils, hills scarred by patrol roads and weather-beaten guard posts, Israel has been shaped like few other countries by its borders.

Josh Cochran
IAN S. LUSTICK Published this September 14, 2013   on nyt Sunday Review: Two-State Illusion

True believers in the two-state solution see absolutely no hope elsewhere.

With no alternative in mind, and unwilling or unable to rethink their basic assumptions, they are forced to defend a notion whose success they can no longer sincerely portray as plausible or even possible.

It’s like 1975 all over again, as the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco fell into a coma:

The news media began a long death watch, announcing each night that Generalissimo Franco was still not dead. This desperate allegiance to the departed echoes in every speech, policy brief and op-ed about the two-state solution today.

True, some comas miraculously end (Not Sharon).

Great surprises sometimes happen. The problem is that the changes required to achieve the vision of robust Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side are now considerably less likely than other less familiar but more plausible outcomes that demand high-level attention but aren’t receiving it.

Strong Islamist trends make a fundamentalist Palestine more likely than a small state under a secular government. (Not feasible: Palestinians are the most educated people in Near East)

The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as the evacuation of enough of the half-million Israelis living across the 1967 border, or Green Line, (600,000 just in the newest settlements) to allow a real Palestinian state to exist. While the vision of thriving Israeli and Palestinian states has slipped from the plausible to the barely possible, one mixed state emerging from prolonged and violent struggles over democratic rights is no longer inconceivable.

The fantasy that there is a two-state solution keeps everyone from taking action toward something that might work. (Like what other alternatives?)

All sides have reasons to cling to this illusion:

1.  The Palestinian Authority needs its people to believe that progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyles of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers and civil servants, and the authority’s prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent.

2. Israeli governments cling to the two-state notion because it seems to reflect the sentiments of the Jewish Israeli majority and it shields the country from international opprobrium, even as it camouflages relentless efforts to expand Israel’s territory into the West Bank. (That’s not true, this clinking argument, otherwise it would have taken place 10 years ago…)

3. American politicians need the two-state slogan to show they are working toward a diplomatic solution, to keep the pro-Israel lobby from turning against them and to disguise their humiliating inability to allow any daylight between Washington and the Israeli government.

4. Finally, the “peace process” industry — with its legions of consultants, pundits, academics and journalists — needs a steady supply of readers, listeners and funders who are either desperately worried that this latest round of talks will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, or that it will not.

Conceived as early as the 1930s, the idea of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea all but disappeared from public consciousness between 1948 and 1967.

Between 1967 and 1973 it re-emerged, advanced by a minority of “moderates” in each community.

By the 1990s it was embraced by majorities on both sides as not only possible but, during the height of the Oslo peace process, probable. But failures of leadership in the face of tremendous pressures brought Oslo crashing down.

These days no one suggests that a negotiated two-state “solution” is probable. The most optimistic insist that, for some brief period, it may still be conceivable.

Ian S. Lustick is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza” and “Trapped in the War on Terror.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 15, 2013, on page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Two-State Illusion.

Pictures from the past? Elvis in the army,

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” was coined by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in 1911.

It’s a simple notion that applies to many aspects of our lives, but especially to historical photography. Sometimes, one simple picture can tell you more about history than any story you might read or any document you might analyze.

These photographs all tell stories about the historical figures or events that they represent.

Once taken simply to document their present, they now help us witness the past. Many photographs only become iconic shots years later, as we understand their importance and historical context.

From historical landmarks and famous people to the basic daily routines of the past, these pictures portray the past in a way that we can empathize with and understand more intimately.

Perhaps the wars, poverty, fights for freedom and little miracles of the past have lessons for us that we can use today?

(via sobadsogood)

Women With A Gas-Resistant Pram, England, 1938

Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty, 1885

Elvis in the Army, 1958

Animals being used as part of medical therapy, 1956

Testing of new bulletproof vests, 1923

Charlie Chaplin at age 27, 1916

Hindenburg Disaster, May 6, 1937

Circus hippo pulling a cart, 1924

Annette Kellerman promotes women’s right to wear a fitted one-piece bathing suit, 1907. She was arrested for indecency

Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, 1901

106-year-old Armenian Woman guards home, 1990

Baby cages used to ensure that children get enough sunlight and fresh air when living in an apartment building, ca. 1937

The original Ronald McDonald, 1963

Disneyland Employee Cafeteria in 1961

Advertisement for Atabrine, anti-malaria drug, in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Soldier shares a banana with a goat during the battle of Saipan, ca. 1944

Little girl with her doll sitting in the ruins of her bombed home, London, 1940

Construction of the Berlin wall, 1961

Unknown soldier in Vietnam, 1965

Bookstore in London ruined by an air raid, 1940

Walter Yeo, one of the first to undergo an advanced plastic surgery and a skin transplant, 1917

Suntan vending machine, 1949

Measuring bathing suits – if they were too short, women would be fined, 1920′s

Martin Luther King with his son removing a burnt cross from their front yard, 1960

Hotel owner pouring acid in the pool while black people swim in it, ca. 1964

Lifeguard on the coast, 1920′s

Artificial legs, UK, ca. 1890

Mom and son watching the mushroom cloud after an atomic test, Las Vegas, 1953

Mother hides her face in shame after putting her children up for sale, Chicago, 1948

Austrian boy receives new shoes during WWII

Hitler’s officers and cadets celebrating Christmas, 1941

Christmas dinner during Great Depression: turnips and cabbage

The real Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, ca. 1927

Last prisoners of Alcatraz leaving, 1963

Melted and damaged mannequins after a fire at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, 1930

A space chimp posing to camera after a successful mission to space, 1961

Illegal alcohol being poured out during Prohibition, Detroit, 1929

Princeton students after a freshman vs. sophomores snowball fight, 1893

A beautiful suicide – 23 year-old Evelyn McHale jumped from the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building and landed on a United Nations limousine, 1947

First morning after Sweden changed from driving on the left side to driving on the right, 1967

Tale of two struggles?  Syrian resistance development

It is a tragedy of history when so many people regardless of sect, ethnicity, religion, and gender join in nonviolent resistance to demand freedom for all, and achieve so much with so little during such a brief time, only to have their accomplishments go largely unrecognized.

Worse, their struggle devolve into a fight with oppression on its own violent terms – as if these could be complementary to nonviolent resistance, an effective method to protect people, or a proven instrument to defeat a brutal regime. This happened in Syria.

Maciej Bartkowski and Mohja Kahf posted on OpenDemocracy this September 23, 2013: The Syrian resistance: a tale of two struggles

The recent book Recovering Nonviolent History finds that a number of nonviolent campaigns in national liberation struggles were overtaken by violent resistance.

One major reason for abandonment of civil resistance in favor of armed struggle is failing to educate citizens of what civil resistance can achieve, and with what benefits for a people’s liberation.

The narrative void about civil resistance during ongoing conflict is often filled by armed insurrectionists with their own ideology discourse, which tries to discredit the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance and underestimates the costs of violence. How this happened in Syria is the story that follows.

Part I: Nonviolent and violent conflict

Civil resistance

The impact of the nonviolent resistance in Syria – before it was largely overshadowed by an armed uprising in early 2012 – was tremendous. It mobilized hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of until-then apathetic citizens, produced hundreds of “leaders” from people who were mostly unknown except locally, united diverse cross-sections of the Syrian population, both rural and urban, as no other internal struggle since the anti-colonial period, and shook and weakened Baathist one-party rule.

Widespread, organized, yet non-hierarchical, nonviolent resistance succeeded in weakening the power of the regime to a degree that armed resistance (notably in Hama in 1982), a few valiant souls from an intellectual elite (such as the signatories of the Damascus Declaration in 2005), and one ethnic group isolated in their armed rebellion (the Kurds in 2004) had all failed to accomplish. All this was achieved while the ranks of civil resisters were being decimated by massacre and detention, and when they had to undergo a mounting humanitarian crisis.

Protesters hit the streets in mass numbers on March 18, 2011, in Daraa, Banyas, Homs, and Damascus.

Banyas protesters reached out to the city’s large Alawite population, singing “Peaceful, peaceful-neither Sunni nor Alawite, we want national unity,”

In Damascus, protesters underscored multi-sectarian unity by holding up a sign with a cross and crescent and the words “No to repression, Yes to freedom,” while an earlier protest on March 15 in Damascus had featured a voice with a coastal Alawite accent saying, “We are Alawites, Sunnis, people of every Syrian sect, and we want to topple this regime.”

Alawite symbol of double-pronged sword, cross, crescent, and star with national flag colors, carried by protesters in Tal, (mostly Sunni town in Damascus countryside), April 2011.

Killings of unarmed protesters backfired on the regime.

In one video uploaded on March 23, 2011 in Dara, a man shouts, in a desperate voice, to armed troops,

Some of you have honor – don’t shoot! You have brothers & sisters, you have brothers – your daughters – your mothers & fathers in your town – they’re just like us, don’t shoot! …This earth is big enough for all of us! You don’t have the right anymore to take all of it for yourselves!

Scenes like this in the months of nonviolent resistance countered the regime narrative that “armed gangs” were driving the resistance.

Protests spread to Salamiya, hub of Syria’s Ismailia Shia population. Misyaf, a town with large Christian and Alawite populations alongside Sunnis, was another early multi-sectarian protest locale.

Chilling scenes of peaceful protesters suppressed by troops in Dara caused Muntaha Atrash, daughter of a national hero from the anti-colonial struggle, to reprimand the president by name on Orient Television (owned by a secular, non-Islamist Syrian in the Gulf) in her quavering elderly voice, declaring outright that the regime narrative was false and refuting its accusation of sectarianism.

The civil resistance group Pulse (Nabd), begun by Alawite activists, emerged in Homs by summer; a Kurdish nonviolent group Ava, formed around June 2011; women were at the vanguard of a nonviolent protest series organized in Salamiya, called The Street Is Ours (al-Share Lana).

Non-sectarianism shone during Syria’s most massive rally, of an estimated 400,000 in Hama’s Clock Tower Square in July 2011, full of scenes of cross-religious embrace, women’s participation, and nonviolent conduct.

This broad-based appeal would have hardly been possible, had not the uprising been unarmed.

With the regime insisting it was battling “armed gangs,” protesters clapped and raised both hands while marching to show that they were not hiding weapons. In Daraya, Yahya Shurbaji popularized the nonviolent concept of “fraternization,” whereby in order to make human contact with regime soldiers and soften their hostility or perhaps even motivate their defection, protesters distributed water and flowers to soldiers at protests.

By April, protesters in many towns had begun to self-organize, forming a non-hierarchical structure of local committees which sprang up all over Syria to coordinate nonviolent resistance.

As regime detention swept and relentless violence took members, resistance groups dissolved and regrouped under new names. With similar adaptability, protesters innovated dodge-and-feint street tactics.

Wael Kurdi, an Aleppo University student, developed a “flying protest:” protesters gathered on the agreed-upon street after announcing a fake location on government-monitored phone lines, marched and video-taped for eleven minutes, dispersed and hid or destroyed banners before security arrived, and went to safe-houses to upload the videos.

Dodge-and-feint tactics enabled protesters to protest another day, as did marching in narrow alleys rather than open squares on the Egyptian model, and holding protest signs backward over their heads, so faces in videos could not be identified.

Street protests, whose number rose to 920 in different locations in one week during this nonviolent phase and declined to fewer than 300 during the autumn 2011 when violent resistance began mounting, played an important role not only in publicizing the movement’s message but in giving people a personal sense of empowerment, long absent under the police state.

One young activist, “Rose,” expressed why protesters did not stop demonstrating, even knowing they could be killed: “We do other activism, but we will not stop demonstrating: to taste freedom, if only for ten minutes!”

Narratives of defectors from the regime cite its targeting of lethal force on the unarmed and innocents as a key factor that broke the grip of loyalty to the regime. Massacres of unarmed protesters and the death in regime detention, under apparent torture, of Hamza Khatib (reportedly thirteen years old) were specifically recalled by the first defecting Alawite officer of record, Afaq Ahmad, who worked in the Dara branch of Air Force Security. Ahmad defected days before Hamza’s mutilated body was returned to his parents on May 24, 2011.

The regime responded to its defection problem by introducing snipers and tanks, among other tactics, to reduce contact between soldiers and protesters. This, however, did not stop defections, which occurred in this phase mostly among conscripts although a handful of officers defected. Some at the army defectors’ camp in Turkey would form the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Reports of field execution of attempted defectors proliferated. In response to defections, Assad began using only three of his army’s twelve divisions, the three manned by Alawites, to force the sect to retrench around the regime. A number of high-level military defections occurred after violence spiked at the end of 2011 – though in some cases advanced preparation for defecting occurred during the nonviolent resistance phase – but these defections were increasingly by Sunnis. This set the stage for the violent polarization of Syrian society.

That the government kept responding to nonviolent protests with violent means was frequently asserted by observers as an indication of the failure of nonviolent resistance in Syria, with the concomitant assertion that nonviolent actions could succeed only when a regime behaved humanely. Yet evidence suggests that, while it lasted, nonviolent resistance was in fact a powerful weapon against the Assad regime, forcing it to be on the defensive, react to events, and commit mistakes that often backfired, leading to more resistance and solidarity across diverse groups.

Armed rebellion

Besides formal regime forces, the government allowed armed loyalist militias to kidnap, loot, rape during home invasions, and traffic women to rape farms. The existence of these roving informal militias contributed to the belief that armed defense was necessary and could protect people against these violations. Reportedly the regime itself saturated certain areas with arms, to push protesters into becoming the “armed gangs” which it claimed to be fighting from the outset. Many brigades at this stage were native to local communities, making them accountable.

Peaceful protests continued but with fewer participants: many former protest locales were becoming unsafe. In some instances, the protests occurred, according to participants, only because armed rebels helped barricade areas against regime troops.

This “protection” was of short-term, as the presence of a brigade drew increasingly indiscriminate and more powerful regime fire – including later airstrikes – to such areas. This triggered calls for arming the rebels with more powerful weapons, rather than returning to nonviolent resistance.

The trickle of foreign fighters beginning in late 2011, who entered Syria on their own or with support of foreign governments, further jeopardized unarmed resistance and reinforced the mutation of the overall conflict into civil war.

Amazingly, it was during this period of increasing violence on both sides that those who remained committed to nonviolent resistance achieved new levels of creativity and organization. Some 3 dozen revolutionary newspapers, many of them distributed in hard copy on the ground (some highlighted here), emerged.

In September 2011, Freedom Days Syria emerged as a coalition of dozens of nonviolent resistance groups. Members of groups in this coalition implemented new, highly creative nonviolent resistance methods.

For example, several young underclass women at Damascus University released thousands of small papers from the highest dorm tower, containing messages of freedom and human rights, causing regime security agents to be assigned to using all their security training for the job of picking up the subversive litter from campus grounds for days, and pursuing the activists for three weeks.

This led, on November 3, 2011, to the 23-day detention and torture of then 18-year-old Yaman Qadri, young mastermind of the scheme, which caused a ripple effect as her diverse classmates demonstrated for her, and were themselves detained, spurring more protests not only in Damascus but in their respective hometowns across Syria. Nabd, a nonviolent group in Homs formed initially by Alawite activists in spring 2011, redoubled its behind-the-scenes efforts at conflict resolution among Alawite and Sunni villages and city neighborhoods.

The Syrian Revolutionary Youth group, active in Homs and Damascus, was launched in May 2012 and spearheaded both nonviolent direct actions and socio-economic organizing in direct rebuttal to the claims that “the revolution has become totally militarized and that there is no room for peaceful protest.”

So, too, the Stop the Killing campaign that lasted from April to July 2012 and held at least 26 demonstrations in diverse geographic locations, drawing in many minority members, was an attempt to refocus energies toward nonviolent resistance after militarization had become the dominant resistance.

Meanwhile, civilian structures on the ground in Syria were working toward unified self-governance. Unity did not come to fruition on a national level, but reached the next, community-centered, level: Regional Command Councils (in Damascus, Homs, and so on) integrated many aspects of resistance work: the underground clinic system, an alternate economy, schools, media, and transportation; in effect, they created alternative local governance.

Local Free Syrian Army units had liaison on each council, in an attempt to bring armed rebels under civilian leadership.

Councils thus integrated both civilian and armed flanks.

Eventually, mixing violent and nonviolent resistance jeopardized people power, particularly when violence became the main driver of resistance from early 2012 onward. Assad redoubled his military efforts and could then show his supporters and neutral Syrians that he was their only protector against violent extremists.

Armed struggle also helped Assad to foster skepticism about the revolution among Christians, Alawites, and other communities – something that he could not achieve during the first months of resistance.

The populace now faced daunting conditions in many cities and towns. Nonviolent activists remained engaged in civic organizing but, often, in the form of full-time relief work, operating field hospitals and distributing basic goods to displaced populations, and educating displaced children.

When armed resistance fully overtook civil resistance during 2012, it gained exaggerated influence over the outside world’s view of the Syrian conflict.

Once the revolution embraced using violence, the only way it seemed possible to prevail over Assad was to acquire more arms. Because the fate of any armed resistance that is weaker than its adversary is necessarily determined by external assistance in the form of weapons, army training or air strikes, the door is opened to all the negative consequences that stem from outside military involvement.

By contrast, nonviolent resistance does not historically need military intervention to prevail. It might welcome help from external civil society groups, but what it needs most of all is the force of its own mobilized citizens. Such struggle comes with fewer overall costs for the society and greater self-control over the internal trajectories of the resistance and its eventual outcomes.

Note: My first post on Syria insurgency

A Girl, a rape victim sentenced to be lashed: What’s Saudi law? 

“The victim’s sentence was increased because her lawyer had spoken out…”

Again, who “has shown ignorance?”

When the defense attorney for a raped Saudi Arabian woman appealed a Sharia Court decision that the 90-lash sentence against his client was unjust, what resulted was more than doubling of the punishment meted out to the woman who was raped and beaten by 7 men, as reported by the women’s rights-centered news portal The Clarion Project on Sept. 22, 2013.

Timothy Whiteman, Wilmington Conservative Examiner, published this Sept. 24, 2013:

A yet to be publiclly identified female gang rape victim was initially found guilty and sentenced to 90 lashes for violating the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia‘s (KSA) rigid Islamic law on segregation of the sexes.

The Kingdom’s General Court determined the woman sat in an automobile with an old school chum to whom she was no blood relation, hence, she violated Islamic Sharia Law of gender segregation.

The victim’s lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem had plead to the international community for help in freeing his client or at least pressuring the Saudi government to grant an appeal.

From Bad To Worse…

And an appeal he got — along with an increase in sentence from 90 lashes to 200 along with a six month prison sentence tacked on for good measure.

The KSA Ministry of Justice implied the victim’s sentence was increased because her lawyer had spoken out to the world’s news outlets.

As carried by the government’s official Saudi Press Agency:

For whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows to appeal without resorting to the media.

The statement also said that the “charges were proven” against the woman for having been in a car with a strange male, and repeated criticism of her lawyer for talking “defiantly” about the judicial system, saying “it has shown ignorance.”

The Lead Up…

The victim was attacked in 2006 while she was attempting to retrieve a photograph from a male high school student she knew.

While in her acquaintance’s vehicle, two other men got in the car and drove the woman and her friend to a secluded area where five other men met them.

It was in this remote area where all seven men raped the woman.

The Clarion Project also cited that the woman’s friend was in turn “attacked” by the assailants, but it is unclear if he was beaten, raped or both.

The Price of Questioning Saudi Law…

Abdul Rahman al-Lahem has since been banned him from further defending the woman. The most obscurantist of absolute monarchies KSA has confiscated his law license and summoning him to a disciplinary hearing later this month.

Note: Has Saudi Arabia signed on the UN declaration of women’s rights

I do love sleeping and lying in bed…

Those who says “I’ll have more than my share of sleep when I’m dead…” are missing the great stories when you dream and relax in bed.

Those who actually train for not sleeping, or sleeping short naps, do suffer from mental disorders and need to check with their physicians…

When I manage deep sleep periods, my system needs only 6 hours of sleep, including siesta time in the afternoon.

Otherwise, I love to linger in bed before I fall to sleep, forcing a smile on my face, maintaining the smile as long as my unconscious permit it, re-forcing the smile on, learning to disobey a couple of my unconscious orders, observing how my mind wanders, thinking, and taking my time to breath properly, focusing on my exhaling of the noxious gases that the body generates.

All in all, maybe I spend 9 hours in bed daily, including siesta.

I figured out that inhaling comes natural, but exhaling deeply and properly requires frequent conscious daily sessions. Forceful exhalations are best for relaxing your body and mind.

I believe that my bed is the ideal location for quality time, all mine and for my pleasure and privacy.

Obviously, sweet dreams with colorful images and complex sounds and smiling faces and exotic postures… are always welcomed, but I don’t mind nightmarish dreams, horror and unsettling dreams: It is all part of the game and you have got to join the play, if you wish it or not...

Actually, I refrain from joining in plays or games, and feeling forced to dream whatever comes around is sort of learning to join the game…

I do love sleeping and lying in bed.

Loving the bed is an excellent training ground for the occasional illnesses that rivet you in bed for a few days… and letting your positive reflections make the best of this trying period…

I am learning that if you consciously exhale forcefully, most of the physical ailments and uneasiness are resolved or alleviated…

Occasionally, mother wakes me up in catastrophe, like changing the gas canister, an event that occurs when preparing the morning coffee. After satisfying her desires, I revisit my bed in order to wake up properly, according to my well-oiled habit before starting another day…

Who is Financing Harvard’s Capital Campaign? Taxpayers to the rescue, again?

Public funds for higher education are hard to find.

States have slashed billions from university budgets while the federal government is struggling to keep the Pell Grant program afloat.

It came as a shock when government officials on Saturday announced plans to give $2-billion in taxpayer funds over the next 5 years to a single private university that mostly educates rich people and already has an endowment bigger than the gross domestic product of Bolivia.

Kevin Carey published this Sept. 24, 2013: “How Taxpayers Are Helping to Finance Harvard’s Capital Campaign?”

Actually, government officials didn’t do the announcing. Harvard University did it for them, by launching a $6.5-billion capital campaign, the largest ever.

Harvard, which has an endowment of more than $30-billion, is a “nonprofit” organization, according to a close, technical reading of the law.

That means donations to the campaign are tax-deductible. If we conservatively estimate a 28% marginal federal income-tax rate for donors (the top rate is 39.6 percent), and a similar effective rate for corporate donations, that’s $1.8-billion in forgone revenue.

State income-tax rates vary from zero to more than 10 percent; assuming 5 percent, on average, yields $325-million more, or $2.1-billion total.

Nominally, that represents a savings for donors.

But presumably donors want to give a certain amount of their income to charity. If you reduce the cost of giving by a third via tax preferences, they’ll just increase their donations by that amount.

Which means that Harvard is the real beneficiary of those tax expenditures.

One could argue that the money would have gone to some charity, and therefore the cost to the taxpayers is fixed.

But I feel comfortable asserting that Harvard exists somewhere on the very outer statistical reaches of the universe of nonprofit organizations in terms of wealth and prestige.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless it ain’t. Which means those tax breaks are being diverted either from government services far more likely to help those in need or from nonprofit services far more likely to help those in need.

Most charitable contributions yield no tangible benefit for the donor. Even high-flying social charity balls pay off in mere standing.

University donations, by contrast, are a well-understood part of the shadow admissions-preference market. In other words, taxpayers are spending billions subsidizing the process by which members of the One Percent Club purchase scarce places in the ruling class for their children.

Harvard’s timing is impeccable.

The wealthiest Americans have recovered all the money they lost during the Great Recession and then some, while legions of potentates and businessmen worldwide are eager to buy a piece of the elite American dream for their kids.

Over the last decade, private universities have separated from their public competitors, ramping up spending and poaching faculty members and students. Now they can run up the score.

Plus, they really can’t help themselves.

As the former Harvard president Derek Bok once wrote, “Universities share one characteristic with compulsive gamblers and exiled royalty: There is never enough money to satisfy their desires.”

This gross misallocation of public resources will only subside under 3 scenarios:

1.  if donating your money to absurdly rich universities becomes socially unacceptable.

2. if the shadow admissions-preference market is abolished, perhaps as part of the emerging framework of legal scrutiny derived from affirmative-action litigation. Or

3.  if policy makers change the tax code.

The hard part is distinguishing colleges and universities that really are worthy of public subsidy.

But the more the rich get richer, the easier that will be.

This entry was posted in Cultural priorities, Money, Politics. Bookmark the permalink

Nepalese Slaves working on Qatar World Cup Infrastructure?

Dozens of Nepalese migrant laborers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labor abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar.

Many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks.

The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of laborers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

Pete Pattisson published in The Guardia this Sept. 25, 2013 World Cup construction ‘will leave 4,000 migrant workers dead’
Analysis: Qatar 2022 puts Fifa’s reputation on the line

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also reveals:

1• Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.

2• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.

3• Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.

4• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.

5• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.

Link to video: Qatar: the migrant workers forced to work for no pay in World Cup host country

We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us,” said one Nepalese migrant employed at Lusail City development, a $45bn (£28bn) city being built from scratch which will include the 90,000-seater stadium that will host the World Cup final.

“I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

The body tasked with organising the World Cup, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told the Guardian that work had yet to begin on projects directly related to the World Cup.

However, it said it was “deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City’s construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness”. It added: “We have been informed that the relevant government authorities are conducting an investigation into the allegations.”

The Guardian’s investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night,” said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27.

“When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Almost all migrant workers have huge debts from Nepal, accrued in order to pay recruitment agents for their jobs.

The obligation to repay these debts, combined with the non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their place of work, constitute forced labour, a form of modern-day slavery estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe.

So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an “open jail.

Nepal embassy record

Record of deaths in July 2013, from all causes, held by the Nepalese embassy in Doha.  Photograph:  /

“The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar,” said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded in 1839. “In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Qatar has the highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population in the world: more than 90% of the workforce are immigrants and the country is expected to recruit up to 1.5 million more labourers to build the stadiums, roads, ports and hotels needed for the tournament. Nepalese account for about 40% of migrant labourers in Qatar. More than 100,000 Nepalese left for the emirate last year.

The murky system of recruitment brokers in Asia and labour contractors in Qatar leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

The supreme committee has insisted that decent labour standards will be set for all World Cup contracts, but underneath it a complex web of project managers, construction firms and labour suppliers, employment contractors and recruitment agents operate.

According to some estimates, Qatar will spend $100bn on infrastructure projects to support the World Cup. As well as 9 state-of-the-art stadiums, the country has committed to $20bn worth of new roads, $4bn for a causeway connecting Qatar to Bahrain, $24bn for a high-speed rail network, and 55,000  hotel rooms to accommodate visiting fans and has almost completed a new airport.

The World Cup is part of an even bigger programme of construction in Qatar designed to remake the tiny desert kingdom over the next two decades. Qatar has yet to start building stadiums for 2022, but has embarked on the big infrastructure projects likesuch as Lusail City that, according to the US project managers, Parsons, “will play a major role during the 2022 Fifa World Cup”.

The British engineering company Halcrow, part of the CH2M Hill group, is a lead consultant on the Lusail project responsible for “infrastructure design and construction supervision”. CH2M Hill was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee. It says it has a “zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices”.

Halcrow said: “Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment. The terms of employment of a contractor’s labour force is not under our direct purview.”

Some Nepalese working at Lusail City tell desperate stories. They are saddled with huge debts they are paying back at interest rates of up to 36%, yet say they are forced to work without pay.

“The company has kept two months’ salary from each of us to stop us running away,” said one man who gave his name as SBD and who works at the Lusail City marina.

SBD said he was employed by a subcontractor that supplies labourers for the project. Some workers say their subcontrator has confiscated their passports and refused to issue the ID cards they are entitled to under Qatari law.

“Our manager always promises he’ll issue [our cards] ‘next week’,” added a scaffolder who said he had worked in Qatar for two years without being given an ID card.

Without official documentation, migrant workers are in effect reduced to the status of illegal aliens, often unable to leave their place of work without fear of arrest and not entitled to any legal protection. Under the state-run kafala sponsorship system, workers are also unable to change jobs or leave the country without their sponsor company’s permission.

A third worker, who was equally reluctant to give his name for fear of reprisal,  added: “We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job. The police could catch us at any time and send us back home. We can’t get a resident permit if we leave.”

Other workers said they were forced to work long hours in temperatures of up to 50C (122F) without access to drinking water.

grieving parents Nepal

Dalli Kahtri and her husband, Lil Man, hold photos of their sons, both of whom died while working as migrants in Malaysia and Qatar.

Their younger son (foreground photo) died in Qatar from a heart attack, aged 20. Photograph: Peter Pattison/

The Qatari labour ministry said it had strict rules governing working in the heat, the provision of labour and the prompt payment of salaries.

“The ministry enforces this law through periodic inspections to ensure that workers have in fact received their wages in time. If a company does not comply with the law, the ministry applies penalties  and refers the case to the judicial authorities.”

Lusail Real Estate Company said: “Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor. We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Based on this investigation, we will take appropriate action against any individual or company who has found to have broken the law or contract with us.”

The workers’ plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.

“Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar’s extreme heat on a few hundred footballers,” said Umesh Upadhyaya, general secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions. “But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match.”

• Read the official response to this story

Note: Scale of abuse in Qatar

• The Guardian’s investigation into modern-day slavery is supported by Humanity United. Click here for more information

About Time? Enforcing UN declarations of Women Rights, and Everywhere?

Victims of cruelty, torture, and murder… women’s rights to safe treatment as men are not enforced by the UN World community when these infamies are being subjected to women and young girls.

The inalienable ethical doctrine of human rights shouldn’t discriminate against genders, race or religious belief…

The custom was to focus on male’s benefits when drafting conventions and drawing up lists of rights.

For centuries, even in modern history, the declarations defined woman’s rights as relative to man’s rights…

In modern warfare and civil wars, 90% of the casualties are civilians, and 75% of these are women and children.

Women constitute 80% of all refugees and displaced persons, fleeing the atrocities of wars, preemptive wars, ethnic cleansing wars…

Rape and sexual violence routinely target women.  These cruelties are adopted as strategic tools of war and instruments of genocide

And yet, women are vastly under-represented in the process of ending conflicts.

In the last 25 years, only one woman in 40 peace treaty signatories was female.

Although the 4th Geneva Convention in 1949 finally came around to prohibit wartime rape and prostitution, it didn’t become crimes against humanity until 2001.

In many countries, women do not enjoy sufficient education and access to forms of publication. Consequently, few women exercise their rights to free expression.

It is troubling that that so few women feature on lists of prisoners in troubled countries, although they form the majority of demonstrators: Women are not counted as serious offenders to mention them as prisoners of free opinion…

A discussion paper prepared for UNICEF points out that early forced sex of married under-aged girls has not been recognized by the western nations as a form of sexual abuse,,, except where warlords and traffickers have recruited girls as sex-slaves…

Rapists, domestic abuses, “honor crimes” have consciously dehumanized the women victims in order to exercise “full control” over their lives…

Declaration of specific rights achieves two target:

1. They establish values, which the signatories agreed to defend

2. They challenge the impunity that was enjoyed by torturers and murderers for centuries.

You may read the declaration of rights of women

Note: Extracted from “The Public Woman” by Joan Smith




September 2013

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