Saturday Special: Need to Find An Alternative to Failing Prisons

68% of people released from prison in the US are rearrested within three years. In recent years, the use of imprisonment as a response to crime and violence has risen steadily across the globe.

More than 10 million people around the world are currently behind bars. As our social systems are being reshaped by Globalization 4.0, it is time to consider whether our current approach to prison and punishment is keeping us safe.

Most criminal justice systems around the world are increasingly reliant on prisons. Globally, the number of prisoners has grown by almost 20% since the turn of the millennium and continues to rise.

The players involved in the prison industry include hedge funds, architects, utilities and construction companies, and a number of multinationals employing free or reduced-cost prison labour.

Overall, prison expenses make up a significant portion of government budgets: in the US, $81 billion is spent annually on public correctional agencies alone (not including private prisons).

Is the investment in prisons justified?

One major consideration is whether prisons are effective or not in achieving their stated objective of keeping society safe.

In most countries, the evidence is clear that they are not. In the US, two in three (68%) of people released from prison are rearrested within three years of release. In England and Wales, two in three (66%) of young people and nearly half of adults leaving prison will commit another crime within a year.

However, a handful of countries are bucking this trend. In Norway, only one in five (20%) of adults leaving prison are reconvicted within two years of release. Similar reoffending rates are seen across the Scandinavian nations. In Uruguay’s National Rehabilitation Centre, the recidivism rate is just 12%; in Germany, it’s 33% within three years.

What’s causing the difference in reoffending?

The common thread is that the most effective prisons are the ones that look least like prisons.

In most countries, including the US and UK, prisons prioritise punishment: they limit access to families, education and employment. Prisoners can be locked in their cells for 23 hours a day. Overcrowding, drugs, gangs and riots are common, and amenities like food and access to healthcare are basic.

But reoffending rates are lowest in prison facilities that minimise the focus on punishment: those that try to mirror life in the outside world.

In these facilities, prisoners can wear their own clothes, live in their own rooms with private showers, cook their own meals, access paid work and receive conjugal visits. Some have internet access throughout.

These prisons prioritise relationships and decency: they focus on rehabilitating prisoners through therapeutic interventions, employment and education. They are a far cry from being centres of punishment.

Some cities have already started applying this logic to other public institutions designed to tackle crime, veering away from a punishment and prison-based approach.

Glasgow, for example, was branded the European murder capital by the World Health Organisation in 2005. Over the past decade, knife crime has plummeted.

The shift is not due to an increase in punishment but rather, a major change in the role of the Scottish police force. Over the past decade, they have introduced a public health approach, working collaboratively with health, education and social services.

Before arresting and prosecuting violent perpetrators, they ask what caused the act of violence, how they can reduce the associated risks, and what best practice approaches would prevent future offences.

In Eugene, Oregon’s third-largest city, medics and crisis workers are the typical first responders to emergency calls – not the police. This approach is tailored, more effective and cheaper, providing city residents with both financial and social benefits.

An extension of this approach could see a gradual replacement of the entire traditional police service with an emergency response team, with specialised response units for mental health, neighbourhood disputes, domestic violence, drug crime, and serious violence.

Localised, person-centred services would tackle the root causes of offending with the real solutions, sustainably reducing crime and improving safety for everyone.

Another popular approach for delivering accountability outside the traditional criminal justice system is restorative justice. In this process, which originated in indigenous communities, the victim chooses to meet with the individuals or representatives who caused them harm.

In a facilitated face-to-face conference, they agree a resolution, repair the harm caused and find a way forwards – for example, a heartfelt apology, commitment to receive professional treatment, community service or a donation. Restorative justice ensures perpetrators of crimes take responsibility for the harm that they have caused and that victims of crimes are empowered to be a part of the process.

A 2001 UK government-funded study found that in a randomised control trial, restorative justice reduced the frequency of reoffending by 14% and the majority of victims were satisfied with the process.

A separate study showed that diverting young people who committed crimes from community orders to a pre-court restorative justice process would produce lifetime cost savings of £7,000 per person, and save society £1 billion over a decade.

How do we move to a new paradigm for delivering punishment?

Rethinking our traditional punitive approaches to reducing crime through public health diversions, restorative justice or other means could provide us with major wins in increasing public safety, reducing crime and cutting costs.

While it will require comprehensive cross-departmental engagement to achieve systems change, much of the work has already been done. Academic research, non-profit evaluations and city trials reveal clear best practice that can be implemented and scaled globally.

Technological advances could help us make some of these changes more efficiently. Bringing 21st Century digital tools into the public sector would enable often siloed government departments to communicate, share data and recognise patterns through artificial intelligence.

Database integration would enable a joined-up social services system, and a coordinated emergency response team. Developments in public health technology can enable individuals to better manage their physical, mental health and social care needs.

Technology is not, however, a panacea and these innovations could have unintended consequences.

There have been attempts to replace human criminal justice decision-making with algorithms, for example with judicial sentencing or police dispatching. While this has clear efficiency and cost benefits, trials have seen the algorithms incorporating and exacerbating pre-existing racial biases and prejudice.

Some countries have tried to reduce prisoner numbers by using electronic tagging, monitoring and restricting offenders’ geographic and temporal movements. Critics have called it a false structural change: rather than tackle the root causes of offending to sustainably reduce reoffending, tagging just replaces one prison with another, keeping people locked in their homes and local communities.

As to tech solutions within prisons, they miss the point. Improving a failing system is not the answer, when the institution itself is fundamentally flawed. There’s only so much we can do to reform prison, when the evidence points to the best solution being an entirely different system.

Globalization 4.0 is a call for us to reimagine what our public institutions should look like. With surges in violence and new threats like cybersecurity and terrorism, alongside pressing needs to cut government expenditure, we have a lot more to lose if we don’t act soon.

As a society that created the internet and has sent a spacecraft to Mars, we are more than capable of implementing a better solution to reduce crime than a failing 200-year-old Victorian prison model.

Our prisons and the way we approach punishment should be at the top of the list for an overhaul. By updating our global approach to tackling crime, we have a unique opportunity to make our world a safer and a better place for all of us.

Thank you for Art, Books, Movies & Music!

What would life be without books, movies, art and song! Have you ever thought of what such a banal existence would do to us?

What a debt of gratitude we owe to creative expressions of the human mind! To those creative spirits who dedicate their lives to creating art, movies, stories, songs and poems — leading us to hours of introspection, entertainment, catharsis and epiphany.

Sometimes I worry what would happen if people stopped writing books or making movies. What if I complete reading all the worthwhile books in the world and watching all the good movies, and there is no more to be had? I shudder at the idea of such a banal existence. What if artists stopped painting and poets stopped writing poems? What if here had been no Shakespeare? A horrifying thought! Not only would literature have been so much poorer, but our lives also so much less explained or understood!

Life would be so dull and painful without the benefit of the works of creative minds – works that tease our brains, help us explore our hearts, and as Pablo Picasso said “wash the dust of daily life off our souls.”

The best expressions of creative artists do not tell us anything directly, but make us look beyond what is seen, read or heard, to figure our own truth and feel our own emotions. The best art is that which has a transformative experience since it touches our emotions and helps us focus on a truth we can relate to. We have all been moved at some point by a good book, a mellifluous song, an exquisite painting, or a great movie.

Such an immersive experience brings together people of diverse backgrounds and culture. The same outstanding art, movie or book is enjoyed and discussed across the world. It arouses similar emotions in people despite cultural and sociological differences, and differences of gender or social stature. People may agree or disagree because everyone’s experience of creativity is personal, but what is important is that the creative arts make such a debate possible!

Any work of art invites you to experience, to think and to discover. It is an intellectual experience, but also a highly emotional one. The quest of a good artist, writer or songster is to unravel contemporary life with an honesty that has less to do with reality, and more to do with the artist’s engagement with his own filters of imagination, creative unrest and constant search for ideas and explanations. In Oscar Wilde’s words, “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”

What happens to us when we are in the middle of a good book or movie? Our own faculties of imagination and intuition come into play to unravel the artist’s vision. To tell the truth, I am so caught in the grip of my imaginative experience that after some days I am left with the story and visuals that stay in my head – finding it tough to recall whether it was a book I read or a movie I watched! Often I lose sense of time or place while in the middle of a book, movie or song. The emotional rollercoaster a good artistic expression can take us on is a good way to purge our own emotional overload. For me this works especially through haunting music and great lyrics. It also takes care of the numbness that many feel as a result of overexposure to negative news.

When we watch a movie or lose ourselves in a good song, we give ourselves up to the experience, with no worries of everyday life, no responsibilities or the pressures of being good or right all the time. Movies and books also help us untangle issues as we sit in relative comfort watching the lives of others going through similar experiences. We enjoy the artistic rendition of emotions – negative and positive – in a safe, controlled environ as the piece of work unfolds, and this helps us process our own lives.

Creativity in this manner frees us from the humdrum, the banal, the stressful or depressing, helping elevate us and enhance our reality. When everyday life shackles us, a great way to escape is through engaging with the creative expressions of others!

Brexit, the Future of Europe- Agenda of Secretive Bilderberg Group Talks

It may not be the new world order conspiracy theorists imagine, but Bilderberg is still one of the most influential groups in the world. And this secretive group of some of the world’s top politicians, bankers and businessmen met yesterday for its 67th annual conference. Since its inaugural meeting in May 1954, the Bilderberg Group has been an annual forum for elites from Europe and North America to discuss important issues away from the eyes and ears of the press.
According to the group’s website, “Every year, between 120-140 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, labor, academia and the media are invited to take part in the meeting. About two thirds of the participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; approximately a quarter from politics and government and the rest from other fields.” This year’s meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, lasts from May 30 to June 2.
According to a press release, topics for discussion include China, Russia, Brexit, the future of Europe, climate change, the future of capitalism, the weaponization of social media, the importance of space, the development of artificial intelligence, and the danger of cyberthreats.
The chairman of Bilderberg 2019 is Henri de Castries, a French count and retired insurance tycoon. Other noteworthy guests include German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Google chief Jared Cohen and Microsoft ceo Satya Nadella.
The meetings are held under Chatham House Rule, meaning participants may use the information that is presented, but they may not reveal the identity of the speaker.
Due to the secrecy surrounding Bilderberg discussions, the conference has become a popular target of conspiracy theorists claiming that Bilderberg members secretly work with the Illuminati, the Freemasons or a secret cabal of shape-shifting lizards founded by the ancient Babylonian sorceress Semiramis.
Back in reality, it is true that the group was cofounded by two controversial figures: Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Polish political adviser Józef Retinger.
Bernhard, the former German prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld, was an SS intelligence officer attached to the main industrial supporter of the Nazi regime, I. G. Farben. The prince resigned from the Nazi Party in 1934 and married Princess Juliana, the future queen of the Netherlands.
Józef Retinger was thought to be an agent of the Vatican. According to British political commentator Rodney Atkinson, he was expelled from the Allied countries during World War i on suspicion of helping the superior-general of the Jesuits, Wlodimir Ledóchowski, plot the creation of a Central Europe Catholic federation. Retinger founded the European Movement in 1947, leading to the establishment of the Council of Europe in 1949.
Prince Bernhard and Retinger founded the Bilderberg Group primarily to create trans-Atlantic support for the idea of a United States of Europe.
Richard Aldrich, a professor at the University of Warwick, wrote in 1997 that the three groups most responsible for the European Union are: the Bilderberg Group, Retinger’s European Movement and Jean Monnet’s Action Committee for a United States of Europe. “Bilderberg was founded by Joseph Retinger and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1952 in response to the rise of anti-Americanism in Western Europe and was designed to define some sort of Atlantic consensus amid diverging European and American outlooks,” he wrote in Diplomacy and Statecraft. “It brought leading European and American personalities together once a year for an informal discussion of their differences.”
Belgian viscount and former Bilderberg chairman Étienne Davignon bragged in the 1990s that the Bilderberg Group helped create the euro currency.
While the Bilderberg Group may not be the secret world government of conspiracy theory lore, it is still a highly influential group. “[T]his group is not a tight-knit group of conspirators setting out to destroy nations,” explained Rodney Atkinson in a 2001. “They’re the kind of people selected on the basis that they might say yes to international supernational corporatism, which is the foundation, of course, of the modern European Union ….”
Many Bilderberg supporters have legitimate concerns about the need for a trans-Atlantic alliance to counter the rise of Russia and China. Tragically, America is responsible for creating many of the globalist movements that threaten it today—and nowhere is that more true than in Europe.
The U.S. government cooperated with the Catholic Church, European politicians and even former members of the Nazi Party to build a European superstate capable of helping it oppose the Soviet Union. Britain and America have trusted in nations that will turn out to be enemies. Building up the EU and Germany will prove to be one of the most foolish decisions these nations have made. Both America and Britain will be suddenly and violently conquered by this rising superpower.

Weekend Special: Humans Have Been Causing Extinctions Since Eons

What triggered the decline and eventual extinction of many megaherbivores, the giant plant-eating mammals that roamed the Earth millions of years ago, has long been a mystery. These animals, which weighed 1,000kg or more and included the ancient relatives of modern elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes, reached a peak of diversity in Africa some 4.5m years ago during the Pliocene epoch (between 5.3m and 2.6m years ago). After this, their numbers slowly declined, in a trend that continued into the Pleistocene (2.6m years ago to roughly 11,000 years ago).

Both the Earth’s climate and hominins – our early human ancestors – have in the past been blamed for this change. However, a recent paper argued that the gradual extinction of megaherbivores occurred because of long-term environmental changes and that developments in hominin behaviour – such as wielding tools and using fire – did not impact megaherbivore decline.

While this seems to be true of the early decline in megaherbivore population, we argue that our ancient human ancestors may well still have contributed to more recent megaherbivore extinctions. What’s more, we’re repeating the pattern today.

Ancient hominins in a land of giants

The genus Australopithecus is among the best known hominins from the Pliocene. Dating as far back as 4.2m years, they shared food and water-rich woodland and grassland environments with a dozen species of large herbivores, including three giraffids, two hippos, two species of rhinoceros and five species of proboscideans – a trunked and tusked group of animals that includes modern elephants and extinct mammoths and mastodons.

Australopithecus were omnivorous – but there is no evidence that they hunted large mammals. In fact, its likely that megaherbivores played a beneficial ecological role for these early hominins. Thousands of years of grazing and migration gradually opened up wooded environments, which created the perfect blend of woodland and grassland in which early hominins thrived. In these Pliocene landscapes, our ancestors and the ancestors of modern elephants, rhinos, giraffes and hippos coexisted in relative harmony.

However, major climatic and environmental changes were to separate the fates of hominins and megaherbivores. Starting in the late Miocene epoch (the period just before the Pliocene), and continuing into the Pliocene and subsequent Pleistocene, ocean waters started cooling, atmospheric CO2 started decreasing and, in eastern Africa, grasslands began expanding, reducing woodland cover. There is also evidence of increasingly frequent fires.

Early hominins such as Australopithecus, comfortable in both grassland and woodland environments, were well-adapted to these changing climatic and environmental conditions, as shown by their rich fossil record at several sites in Africa. However, megaherbivore species that were only comfortable in wooded environments struggled to survive.

Changing behaviour of hominins

By the time more sophisticated hominins such as Homo erectus emerged 1.8m years ago, megaherbivores had already been in decline for more than two million years, according to the recent study’s authors. But that doesn’t mean that Homo erectus didn’t hammer the final nails into the collective megaherbivore coffin. We believe that current archaeological records are too poor to document the effects that hominin behavioural innovations such as tool use had on large mammal extinctions in the Pleistocene period.

For example, we don’t know how the early use of fire – likely as much as 1.5m years ago – influenced landscapes and foraging patterns of large herbivores. There is also no clear indication as to when hominins started hunting large herbivores. Could they have hunted large mammals during droughts, as some carnivores do today? We believe that the question of what role hominins such as Homo erectus had in the decline of megaherbivores remains open, despite the recent study’s findings.

As we approach more recent periods of Earth history, there’s strong evidence that our species, Homo sapiens, played a major role in the wave of global megaherbivore extinctions that occurred toward the end of the Pleistocene era, between about 50,000 and 10,000 years ago. By this time, hominins were expanding over much of the globe and had become sophisticated hunters of large animals. It was during this period that species of mastodons, woolly rhinos and giant ground sloths, among many others, were finally wiped out.

A new wave of extinction

Of course, in modern times, humans are responsible for causing such profound biodiversity losses that we may be undergoing a “sixth mass extinction”, a calamity comparable to the worst biodiversity crises in Earth’s long history of 4.5 billion years. The current evidence shows that human encroachment and hunting are collapsing the natural environments of large herbivores such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes and hippos, sending their populations spiralling into decline.

But in the sea of bad news of ongoing extinctions and habitat degradation, there are some islands of hope that all is not lost. At the southern end of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is witnessing a renaissance of biodiversity, with populations of elephants, hippos and other mammals actually increasing. Gorongosa shows us that with long-term planning and collaboration with local populations it is not too late to allow degraded ecosystems to recover and that – if given the opportunity – nature has an astonishing capacity for resilience.

Understanding the current biodiversity crisis from the perspective of deep time may help guide our efforts to conserve and restore the ecosystems we need for our own survival. Modern species of elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes and rhinoceroses are survivors from the deep past. Elephantids appeared in the fossil record of eastern Africa at about the same time as the first hominins and probably helped to shape the landscapes where our hominin ancestors thrived. It is paradoxical that the single surviving hominin species is now driving modern-day megaherbivores, along with many other forms of life, to extinction. We do so at our peril.

Alpha Leadership Explicated

Nothing is certain in a start-up eco-system, even if you possess a dynamic idea designed through descriptive and determined market analysis and research, still no one can unfailingly know if your product will succeed, how an investor will receive the start-up idea and is ready to write the first cheque to your business or whether a company will survive past the one-year mark. So how can you increase your odds of? Beating the odds through Alpha leadership?

A start-up Entrepreneur masters the leap of success by encountering a series of challenges and opportunities like – Securing angel investors, trying to transform a web visitor into customer, cracking a purchase order out of a cold sales call, cash flow management while waiting for the check to arrive. Every day, the market is changing, companies are started, new innovative products launched, sales made and commerce conducted. Clearly, start-up entrepreneurs can definitely overcome the odds and here’s how to be on the winning side of the entrepreneurial in equation with “Alpha Leadership”.

Alpha Leadership in Real Terms

Want to dominate the Market?? Then let us understand the real concept of Alpha Leadership which means a leader like a wolf should know to organise their business into family-like units.

The term “alpha,” coined the first letter of the Greek alphabet, means “something that is prior,” First” or “the beginning.” In fact, it is interesting to note that “leading” and “leadership” comes from the Old English word lithan(one of the rare English words that actually has an English origin), which literally means “to go.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, leadership means “to guide on a way, especially by going in advance.” It is significant that the root of the word leadership does have to do with “power,” “command,” but nothing with “dominance,” etc. It has to do with going somewhere together, bridging the gap with others. The idea is not so much about “being number one” as it is about “leading the way” through one’s own actions.

Thus, in its truest expression, leadership is intrinsically about “going first,” and influencing others as much by one’s actions as by one’s words. From this perspective, effective leadership can be viewed as the ability to involve others in the process of accomplishing a goal within some larger system or environment. That is, a leader leads or influences a collaborator or group of co-workers towards achieving to some end in the context of an organization, social community, and environment.

Crafting the Speciality of Alpha Leadership with Leadership lesson’s below.

Quoting The Great Nelson Mandela, he said – “It always seems impossible unless it is done”. So if you have the courage to begin then you have the courage to succeed. Do you know, what is so common between James Bond and Ethan Hunt from the Movie Mission Impossible? They both are the Alpha Leaders. They practically describe the most fascinating Mantra’s to pull off the difficult missions which seemed to be impossible. So to transform the impossible task to possible, Let us explore the dynamic qualities an Alpha leaders must possess.

  1. Optimise the level of Confidence – Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without “hope and confidence”. The Alpha leaders can only inspire teammates with boundless confidence. How to discover the level of self-confidence and boost the confidence within?
  • Choose your role Model and follow one’s style of implementation to the core.
  • Your mental diet largely determines your character and your personality and almost everything that happens to you in life. You develop a positive attitude and persona when you follow positive affirmations – “I love myself” “I can do it”, we believe 95% of your emotions are the way you think and talk about yourself. So if you think you are a leader, you become one.
  • Positive Visualisation: Perhaps the most powerful tool in for the Entrepreneurs. You must have the ability to visualize and see your goals as already accomplished.
  • Body Language of an Alpha leader at work: Body Language is the best trick to make you the most effective leader.
    • Think before you speak
    • Look thoughtful, glance away and make eye contact while speaking
    • To create more professionalism use your hands while talking
    • Dress like a boss.
  1. Leaders are dealers in hope and always look for a Brighter Tomorrow: Every Alpha leaders knows to plant the seed of hope no matter how much the situation is tuff. Your primary job as a leader is to inspire people to hope for something better: to create a vision that spurs them to want to do what needs to be done.
  2. Alpha Leaders are inclusive: Inclusive leaders must create competence in their behaviour. Inclusion is the skill that makes diversity work, and diversity is proven to make companies more successful. Inclusive leaders must be people-oriented, great listeners, able to tap into the talents and motivations of their teams. They are patient, understanding, soft-spoken, and genuinely interested in others.
  3. Leaders create a great team which have a Dynamic Depth: Alpha Leader must create a group which should have its own unique nuances and dynamics. A team with positive group dynamics tend to have team members who trust each other.

A team with good group dynamics may be constructive and productive, and it may demonstrate mutual understanding and self-corrective behaviour. Collective Decision making held more accountable for fruitful outcomes. Team Dynamics is the most crucial component of effective leadership.

  1. Nothing is permanent, things can change in instant: Alpha Leaders are those who are successful in modifying their style and approach of leadership in response to uncertain and unpredictable circumstances.
  2. Wise leaders learn and grow from their mistakes – You can demonstrate alpha leadership when you acknowledge your mistakes. Learn from your own flaws and try not to cover up or blame anyone else for the same. If the leader does not learn from their mistakes they will revisit them.
  3. Alpha Leaders finishes well– Finish what you have started. Maintain the leadership posture until you complete your task and master what you have aimed for.

The Security Aspect of Climate Change

Climate change threats – from worsening water shortages in Iraq and Pakistan to harsher hurricanes in the Caribbean – are a growing security risk and require concerted action to ensure they don’t spark new violence, security experts have warned.

“Climate change is not about something in the far and distant future. We are discussing imminent threats to national security,” said Monika Sie Dhian Ho, general director of the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank.

The drying of Africa’s Lake Chad basin, for instance, has helped drive recruitment for Islamist militant group Boko Haram among young people unable to farm or find other work, said Haruna Kuje Ayuba of Nigeria’s Nasarawa State University.

“People are already deprived of a basic livelihood,” the geography professor said at a conference on climate and security at The Hague. “If you give them a little money and tell them to destroy this or kill that, they are ready to do it.”

Iraq, meanwhile, has seen its water supplies plunge as its upstream neighbours build dams and climate change brings hotter and dryer conditions to Baghdad, said Hisham Al-Alawi, Iraq’s ambassador to the Netherlands.

“Overall we are getting less by nearly 40 percent of the waters we used to get,” he told the conference.

Shoring up the country’s water security, largely by building more storage and cutting water losses, will take nearly $80 billion through 2035, he said.

Faced with more heat and less rain, “we need to be wise and start planning for the future, as this trend is likely to continue,” he said.

‘Existential crisis’

The threat of worsening violence related to climate change also extends to countries and regions not currently thought of as insecurity hot spots, climate and security analysts at the conference warned.

The Caribbean, for instance, faces more destructive hurricanes, coral bleaching, sea-level rise and looming water shortages that threaten its main economic pillars, particularly tourism.

“We’re facing an existential crisis in the Caribbean,” said Selwin Hart, the Barbados-born executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Ninety percent of the region’s economic activity – particularly tourism, fishing and port operations – takes place on the threatened coastline, he said.

Hurricanes, in recent years, have flattened the economies of some Caribbean nations, with Hurricane Maria in 2017 costing Dominica about 225 percent of its GDP, according to World Bank estimates.

But as the global emissions that drive climate change continue to rise, “there’s not a realistic chance of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement”, Hart suggested.

The agreement calls for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels to hold the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

The failure to cut emissions means the Caribbean, while doing what it can to become more resilient to the growing risks, also needs “to plan for the worst-case scenario”, Hart said.

It is trying to do that by building coordination and assistance networks among Caribbean states and looking to shore up access to food and water, among other changes, said Ronald Jackson, of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

Often that work requires persuading officials from very different ministries – finance, tourism, agriculture, water, energy and security, for instance – to sit down together and coordinate plans, said Jackson, the group’s executive director.

And the work has to be done quickly, he said. Last October the world’s climate scientists warned that to hold global temperature hikes to 1.5 degrees C, global energy systems would have to dramatically shift in the next dozen years.

“Before the 1.5 degree report came out we were looking at a much longer time frame” for change, Jackson said. “But now it’s the 2020s, early 2030s. We’re out of time. We have to act now.”

Military officials around the world have increasingly recognised the risks associated with climate change, and moved to shore up bases against sea-level rise, curb military emissions, adopt clean energy and analyse changing risks.

At the Planetary Security conference at the Hague on Tuesday, they announced the creation of a new International Military Council on Climate and Security, made up of senior military leaders from around the world.

The panel aims to help build policy to address climate security risks at national, regional and international levels, backers said.

“Climate change fuels the roots of conflict around the globe and poses a direct threat to populations and installations in coastal areas and small islands,” said General Tom Middendorp, a former Dutch defense chief who will chair the new council.

“It should therefore be taken very seriously as a major security issue that needs to be addressed. The military can and should be part of the solution,” he said.

Cryptography Over Ages

Cryptography, cyphers, secret codes. Words that summon up images of a world of covert messages, clandestine meetings and international espionage. Those associations were reinforced recently when Queen Elizabeth II of the UK unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the centenary of GCHQ – the Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham, England.

The plaque unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth also contained a secret code of its own, which was made up of a series of dots and dashes under letters and numbers in the plaque’s dedication. Taken together the highlighted characters spell out the message hundred years – not the kind of classified material likely to get any spymasters feeling hot under the collar, nor a level of encryption you’d need a quantum computer to decipher. But a fitting touch to this particular memorial.

The dots and dashes mean: Can you crack the GCHQ plaque code?

GCHQ was formed in the aftermath of World War I. It’s where the British military’s signals and intelligence units developed expertise in cracking coded German messages – one of which was the so-called Zimmermann telegram of 1917. Zimmermann, the then German Foreign Minister, had concocted a plan to keep the US out of the war by provoking disturbances along the Mexican border. This, it was hoped, would distract attention from US merchant ships being sunk in the Atlantic by German submarines.

But by intercepting and decoding the Zimmermann telegram, British intelligence publicized the German plan, which helped turn public opinion in America toward joining the fight.

The wisdom of the ancients

Despite the illustrious 100-year history of GCHQ, the practice of cryptography actually goes back thousands of years. One of the earliest examples dates back to around 200 BCE and was devised by the Greek historian Polybius. In a Polybius square, letters fill out a grid of 25 spaces and each letter is identified by its coordinates in the square. This allows for strings of numbers to be used as encoded messages that will only make sense to someone with a copy of the same Polybius square.

In the example below, a message reading ‘44 23 15 13 11 44 43 11 44 34 33 44 23 15 32 11 44’ would translate as the cat sat on the mat. Whether Polybius was in possession of either cats or mats, however, is unclear.

According to Nicholas McDonald of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah: “The earliest known text containing components of cryptography originates in the Egyptian town Menet Khufu on the tomb of nobleman Khnumhotep II nearly 4,000 years ago.”

The hidden message from Menet Khufu.

Image: University of Utah

The Spartans were also known to have developed a form of cryptography, based on wrapping parchment around a polygonal cylinder and Julius Caesar used a basic cypher to encode his messages – moving along the alphabet by a pre-agreed number of letters. But there’s a lot more to encryption than making it tricky for people to read your messages and despite its interesting historical roots, it is one of the fundamentals of business and personal life here in the 21st century.

Cryptography is at the heart of all secure digital communications – the emails you send, the websites you visit (well, a growing proportion of them) and the apps you use. It allows for data to be scrambled and rendered unreadable by everyone except the intended recipient. Its use can range from your bank card details being sent to a retailer via their online store to messaging apps such as Whatsapp or Telegram. It’s also hugely important to the internet of things (IoT) where data is seamlessly communicated between smart sensors and corporate networks.

Someone’s knocking at the (back) door

It transpired just a few years ago that international terrorist groups and organized criminal gangs were communicating via encrypted messages. This led to calls from politicians in Europe, the US and beyond for government intelligence services to be given the tools to intercept and read those messages. It’s an issue that was thrust centre stage amid one of America’s worst mass shootings of recent years.

On the morning of 2 December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people in the Californian city of San Bernardino. Approximately 20 others were injured. The attackers were tracked down later that day and in an ensuing gun battle were both killed. Determined to find answers regarding the killers’ motives, the FBI soon sought help from Apple to unlock an iPhone belonging to Farook. Apple, however, refused to comply.

A legal row broke out over the obligations, rights and wrongs of tech firms providing a back door to government agencies that would allow them to bypass encryption. The Justice Department described the situation as unfortunate, saying: “Apple continues to refuse to assist the department in obtaining access to the phone of one of the terrorists involved in a major terror attack on US soil.”

It was a view that garnered much support in the public domain but which Apple’s CEO Tim Cook called a “potentially” chilling breach of privacy: “The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.” The problem, as Apple and many others in the tech industry see it, is that providing any kind of back-door access for official use would weaken security.

The end of the (encrypted) world as we know it

The next stage in the development of encryption may involve the use of quantum computers, which will add layers of complexity that are currently not possible. But until quantum cryptography becomes commonplace, there is a fear that this new groundbreaking technology could render current encryption next-to-useless. Attempts to hack encrypted services are thwarted by the use of long, complex prime numbers which can only be determined by the use of cryptography keys.

Encryption effectively shows you the answer to a puzzle or question and will only let you in if you know what the right question is. So, if the answer is 18, the question might be 3×6 or 2×9. But when the answer you’re dealing with is a very long prime number and the calculations are a complex sequence of multiplication, division and subtraction, a simple guess will never crack the code. A series of guesses, using a computer, could take hundreds of years. But a quantum computer could, theoretically, run through all the possible permutations of your encryption keys simultaneously. 

Way To Recreate Trust In Employers & Employees

The debate about the future of work has largely focused on jobs – what they will look like, the decline of well-paid jobs for lower skilled workers, and how jobs will be impacted by AI and automation.

However, there is a bigger conversation that is worth having: it’s about the changing relationship between employer and employee – a relationship that is drastically different from 30 years ago and one that must evolve to better match the shifting demands of today’s workforce.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, the relationship between employers and employees guaranteed workers job security and financial stability with generous benefits. It was a ticket to the middle class. In exchange, workers pledged their loyalty to one company, often spending their entire careers there. Employees were given the opportunity to move up, earning greater pay and securing their families’ futures and their own retirements.

But this relationship has become outdated for the type of economy and workforce we have today: Technology has created a new class of worker – one that increasingly works “on demand” and often on his or her own terms. It’s also now much easier for people to change jobs with online recruiting tools, and likewise easier for employers to use these same tools to recruit replacements and find new talent. While this workplace flexibility may have brought great benefits for both parties, it has also disrupted work-life balance for many.

Taken all together, Americans’ attitudes toward work and the organizations they work for have changed. A 2017 Gallup survey of US workers found that employees were mainly indifferent about their jobs with only a third of people who were surveyed saying they felt engaged at work. Employers and employees don’t need each other in the same way we used to, which has inspired a fluid, opt-in attitude toward work for many, and less employer investment in the employee experience and benefits.

While the relationship between employers and employees has changed, the things we fundamentally need from each other have largely stayed the same. Each side wants stability and security: employers still want the stability and security of a consistent, productive workforce with the right set of skills; and employees want the stability and security of steady, liveable wages and a great place to work, where they feel comfortable to be their authentic selves and aspire to do and be more.

Although our needs haven’t changed, the ways we meet them have. Fortunately, we have an opportunity to return to a more mutually beneficial, less chaotic place for employers and employees by forging a new understanding between them. As business leaders, perhaps we should take the first step in rebuilding this vital partnership, allowing us to once again inspire loyalty and trust in each other.

The new relationship will require a new set of tenets that meet the needs of today’s workforce. Here are a few thoughts on things we can bring to the table:

1. Purpose-driven, meaningful work that links employees’ jobs to larger societal issues and reminds them that their day-to-day activity is contributing to important progress in the world.

2. Multi-dimensional growth opportunities that are not just linear and allow people to explore different skill sets and passion points within the same company (in effect, employees should have opportunities to “have different careers” within the same organization).

3. Benefits that accurately meet demands of people today such as higher costs of child and eldercare, chronic health issues, challenges to mental and emotional well-being, the crushing expense of student loans, etc. These benefits should also be modular to allow employees to choose what is most important to them.

4. Inspired leadership that is a living example of empathy for workers. Corporate leaders should foster a culture of mentorship and sponsorship, and an environment where every employee feels “looked out for” regardless of background. This also includes a diverse C-suite that lives the values of the business and are visible, accessible leaders, and not just figureheads.

5. An environment that embraces diversity and inclusion, and that is a safe place for people to be their authentic selves at work. Work-life integration is so common now that we can’t compartmentalize in the way we used to when work was a purely nine-to-five gig. We each need to be able to talk about our lives and experiences and be met with empathy.

If we are serious about creating fulfilling jobs and meaningful work for a 21st-century economy, we have to start by redefining and modernizing the employer-employee relationship so that all parties opt in. CEOs have a responsibility to co-create a new relationship with workers – one that will not only create better value for business, but that will treat employees with dignity and help tackle the demands of today’s work-life balance.

Together a new employer-employee relationship can expand what the old one did for decades, create shared prosperity and hopefully build better and more meaningful work and lives for millions.

The Robot Revolution Should Worry Women, Not Men

The way we work is changing at an unprecedented rate. Digitalization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are eliminating many jobs involving low and middle-skill routine tasks through automation.

The new research finds the trend toward greater automation will be especially challenging for women.

More than ever, women will need to break the glass ceiling.

On average, women face an 11 percent risk of losing their jobs due to automation, compared to 9 percent of their male counterparts. So while many men are losing their jobs to automation, we estimate that 26 million women’s jobs in 30 countries are at high risk of being displaced by technology within the next 20 years. We find that women’s jobs have a 70 percent or higher probability of automation. This translates globally to 180 million women’s jobs.

We must understand the impact of these trends on women’s lives if we are to gain gender equity in the work place.

What policies can countries implement now to ensure that women contribute to the economy, while moving toward greater automation?

Women at higher risk

Hard-won gains from policies to increase the number of women in the paid workforce and to increase women’s pay to equal men’s may be quickly eroded if women work predominantly in sectors and occupations that are at high risk of being automated.

Women who are 40 and older, and those in clerical, service, and sales positions are disproportionately at risk.Nearly 50 percent of women with a high school education, or less, are at high risk of their jobs being automated, compared to 40 percent of men. The risk for women with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 1 percent.

The automation of jobs effects people in different countries. Men and women in the United Kingdom and the United States face about the same amount of risk for job automation. In Japan and Israel, women’s jobs are more vulnerable to automation than men’s. Women’s jobs in Finland are less vulnerable to automation than men’s.

Opportunities and challenges

Women are currently underrepresented in fields experiencing job growth, such as engineering and information and communications technology. In tech, women are 15 percent less likely than men to be managers and professionals, and 19 percent are more likely to be clerks and service workers performing more routine tasks, which leaves women at a high risk of displacement by technology.

More than ever, women will need to break the glass ceiling. Our analysis shows that differences in routineness of job tasks exacerbate gender inequality in returns to labor. Even after taking into account such factors as differences in skill, experience and choice of occupation, nearly 5 percent of the wage gap between women and men is because women perform more routine job tasks. In the US this means women forfeit $26,000 in income over the course of their working life.

There are some bright spots. In advanced and emerging economies, which are experiencing rapid aging, jobs are likely to grow in traditionally female-dominated sectors such as health, and social services―jobs requiring cognitive and interpersonal skills and thus less prone to automation. Coping with aging populations will require both more human workers and greater use of artificial intelligence, robotics, and other advanced technologies to complement and boost productivity of workers in healthcare services.

Policies that work

Governments need to enact policies that foster gender equality and empowerment in the changing landscape of work:

Provide women with the right skills. Early investment in women in STEM fields, like the program Girls Who Codein the US, along with peer mentoring, can help break down gender stereotypes and increase women in scientific fields. Tax deductions for training those already in the workforce, like in the Netherlands, and portable individual learning accounts, like in France, could help remove barriers to lifelong learning.

Close gender gaps in leadership positions. Providing affordable childcare and replacing family taxation with individual taxation, like in Canada and Italy, can play an important role in boosting women’s career progression. Countries can set relevant recruitment and retention targets for organizations, as well as promotion quotas, like in Norway, and establish mentorship and training programs to promote women into managerial positions.Bridge the digital gender divide.

Governments have a role to play through public investment in capital infrastructure and ensuring equal access to finance and connectivity, like in Finland.

Ease transitions for workers. Countries can support workers as they change jobs because of automation with training and benefits that are linked to individuals rather than jobs, like the individual training accounts in France and Singapore. Social protection systems will need to adapt to the new forms of work. To address deteriorating income security associated with rapid technological change, some countries may consider expansion of non-contributory pensions and adoption of basic income guarantees may be warranted.

Automation has made it even more urgent to step up efforts to level the playing field between men and women, so that all have equal opportunities to contribute to, and benefit from, the new more technology-enabled world.

Historical Warnings on the Perils of Popularity

In November 1937, an extraordinary essay titled ‘The Rashtrapati’ appeared in a respected Calcutta journal. Written under the pseudonym Chanakya, it soon became known that the author was in fact Jawaharlal Nehru, who had just led the Congress party to victory in elections in a majority of Indian provinces. Ten years before Independence, Nehru was already widely viewed as pre-eminent among leaders of the freedom movement; but he was clearly concerned about the implications of his popularity.

In the biting essay, reproduced in Patriots, Poets and Prisoners:Selections from Ramananda Chatterjee’s The Modern Review 1907-1947, “Rashtrapati Jawaharlal ji” accepts the adulation of the crowds he passes through with a practiced smile that fades in private. “Jawaharlal cannot become a fascist. And yet he has all the makings of a dictator in him—a vast popularity, a strong will directed to a well-defined purpose, energy, pride, organisational capacity, ability, hardness, and, with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and the inefficient. His flashes of temper are well known and even when they are controlled, the curling of the lips betrays him. His over-mastering desire to get things done, to sweep away what he dislikes and build anew, will hardly brook for long the slow processes of democracy.”

‘Chanakya’ says he who rides a tiger cannot dismount, but the people can try and prevent him from going astray. “We have a right to expect good work from him in the future. Let us not spoil that and spoil him by too much adulation and praise. His conceit is already formidable. It must be checked. We want no Caesars.”

Thence we travel 12 years into time, to November 25, 1949, the day before the Constituent Assembly approved our new Constitution, when there was a spirited debate on democracy and B.R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the Drafting Committee, made a long an passionate valedictory speech. I quoted from it in a 2014 column and here’s a more complete citation:

“The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not ‘to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions’,” Ambedkar said. “There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish patriot Daniel O’Connell, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

And finally, we move on to October 14, 1976, when Lord Hailsham, twice Britain’s Lord Chancellor and a leading Conservative, delivered the David Dimbleby lecture on BBC One, arguing for a written constitution and curbs on unbridled parliamentary power. Britain had been rocked by years of militant worker unrest. “The time has come to take stock,” Hailsham said, “and to recognise how far this nation, supposedly dedicated to freedom under the law, has moved towards a totalitarianism.” Elections were being won on a small minority of votes (Britain has the same first-past-the-post system as India).

 “It follows that the majority in the House of Commons is then free to impose on the country a series of relatively unpopular measures not related to current needs, using the whole powers of the elective dictatorship to carry them through,” Lord Hailsham said. In 1978, he published a book, The Dilemma of Democracy, predicting, as Phil Tinline noted in a recent documentary on Radio 4, “a siege economy, a curbed and subservient judiciary, and a regulated press. Elective dictatorship, (Hailsham) said, would impose uniformity on the whole nation, in the interests of what it claims to be social justice”.

Those turbulent times led to Margaret Thatcher’s sweeping victory in the 1979 UK election at the head of a resurgent Conservative Party, to 11 years of her iron-fisted rule, marked by rising unemployment, falling inflation, the privatisation of industries and utilities, and the crushing of the coal miners’ strike in 1984-85.

Here in India, we are living through a curious conflation of Britain’s 1970s socialism and Thatcher’s 1980s free-market reforms. Whoever wins the 2019 election, we have an economy marked by rising rural distress and unemployment but low inflation, a discredited judiciary, and a prostrate press. Will we have five years of ‘elective dictatorship’ with low vote margins and total control of the Lok Sabha, or of coalition chaos that cannot tame our economic drift? We will know next week.

Again in Canada, a weak directionless government based on unethical values can be thron out, but Greene Part and NDP are waiting in wings to support this populist government for the sake of their pound of flesh

The Requiem is Not for Democracy, but for Illogical Liberals

Five years after the election of Modi as Prime Minister of India and three years after the twin shocks of President Trump’s triumph in the Republican primaries and the narrow win for “Leave” in the Brexit referendum, the evidence has never been stronger that the world has entered an era of anti-liberalism.

Now, the voters across Europe go to the polls to vote in EU parliamentary elections that could deliver a quarter or more of the seats to the continent’s right-wing populists and nationalists. Meanwhile, the election of Modi and the surprise victory in Australia of Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition, which leaned heavily on populist themes have cleared the decks for reelection of Trump.

These events follow on the heels of many others. Brazil, Colombia, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Turkey, Russia, Israel, and Japan are all led by right-wing nationalists or populists, or their governing coalitions include parties firmly in that camp. In many other countries, such parties have been founded and won legislative seats. There is no sign yet that the rising tide has crested, or how high it may go.

But what does the shift amount to? Is it a temporary anomaly that can easily be reversed, as Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden likes to imply? Or is it, as many others warn ominously, a sign that democracy itself is under siege

Both options are wrong. The trend is far too widespread for it to be the result of a fluke that can be quickly and easily reversed. That doesn’t mean that the insurgents won’t suffer defeats; Biden or some other Democrat may well beat Trump in 2020. But it does mean that the political challenge posed by Trump and the other populists and nationalists is likely to persist for some time to come.

As for the question that The New York Review of Books has plastered across the cover of its most recent issue — “Is democracy dying?” — the answer, quite clearly, is no: Democracy is not in jeopardy. Liberalism is.

It is imperative that we learn to recognize the difference and uphold the distinction. Democracy is nothing more or less than political rule by the people. In ancient Athens, this meant that political offices were allocated by lot: anyone who was a citizen might be called upon to serve. In modern democracies, political offices are won through electoral contests, with the majority or plurality winner of the vote gaining power and serving as a representative of the people.

Liberalism, by contrast, is a modification of government meant to produce balance, fairness, and wisdom. It includes the protection of individual freedoms (rights), an independent judiciary, a free press, and the rule of law, including professional civil servants and bureaucrats who are guided by expertise and a sense of public spiritedness. When these liberal norms and institutions, which aim to regularize and restrain the exercise of government power, are combined with democratic elections, the country is called a liberal democracy. But liberalism can be applied to other forms of government as well.

Whether liberalism is combined with democracy, monarchy, or another form of government, it adds an element of elevation, since it makes distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable uses of government power, good and bad applications of the law, and worthwhile and foolish policy goals. These ongoing acts of ranking and judging place liberalism in tension with contrary political impulses. In a liberal monarchy, the norms and institutions of the liberal state will come into conflict with the will of the king or queen. In a liberal democracy, tensions are more likely to arise between the liberal state and the will of the people, expressed through both elections and public opinion (with the latter measured by opinion polls).

Over the past several decades, this classical understanding of liberalism has become more complicated and muddled, as the center-left and center-right parties that have governed so many of the world’s democracies have associated their own constellation of contingent policy preferences with the liberal order itself. To support liberal democratic government as such has meant favoring policies of economic and cultural globalization, including the relatively free movement of people, goods, services, and capital around the globe, along with the practical consequences of those policies, including high rates of immigration, economic growth in cosmopolitan cities with high levels of education, and economic decline in lower-density and rural regions.

The result has been that as political movements have risen up to oppose these policies and their consequences, these movements have not just targeted the politicians and parties that championed them, but “liberalism” itself. And they have done so in the name of democracy.

Such populist appeals are not wholly disingenuous. This can be especially hard to see in the United States, where the Constitution’s myriad counter-majoritarian features make it possible for a candidate and party to win the presidency and control of Congress while losing the popular vote. In that context, a populist-nationalist upsurge can take — and in 2016, did take — an anti-democratic form.

But in many other countries, the populists are actually popular. Brexit was approved by a majority. Jair Bolsonaro won the presidency of Brazil with 55 percent of the vote. The populist-nationalist coalition that governs Italy won a solid majority at the polls. The party of the most explicitly and aggressively anti-liberal populist in the world — Viktor Orbán — won Hungary’s 2018 election with slightly less than 50 percent, but the runner-up was the even further right-wing Jobbik party with an additional 19 percent.

Across the world, democracy is delivering anti-liberal results. Liberals should be honest about what this means — among other things that they are failing to persuade sufficient numbers of voters to entrust them with power, and that this failure has begun to discredit the very norms and institutions that make our democracies liberal in the broader and deeper sense. The result is likely to be a spike in corruption and a decline in freedom for everyone who isn’t owed a favor by the ruling party.

How liberals might do a better job of persuading increasingly hostile voters to give them continued, or a renewed, chance at power is anyone’s guess. What’s not mysterious is how counter-productive it is when liberals respond to popular opposition by lashing out in condescension at the those who withhold their support. Whether such condescension takes the form of an epithet (“deplorables”) or an insinuation that voters are too stupid to recognize the wisdom of casting ballots for politicians who promise to enact liberal policies, it wounds pride and triggers a sense of dishonor among voters that can ensure a deepening of hostility to liberalism.

Liberalism and democracy have gone together for a long time. But there’s no guarantee the pairing will last — or that they can easily be brought back into alignment once the ties between them have been severed.

Wake Up, Dragon Weaponizes AI

 At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, the philanthropist George Soros caught everyone’s attention when he warned that the Chinese government’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) presents an “unprecedented danger” to its citizens and to all open societies.

His reading of the situation was prophetic. Last month, The New York Times confirmed Soros’ fears when the newspaper revealed that the Chinese government is using AI-powered facial recognition systems to monitor and target members of the Uighurs, a persecuted Muslim minority in China. Human Rights Watch, in its recently released report titled “China’s Algorithms of Oppression,” provide additional evidence of Beijing’s use of new technologies to curtail the rights and liberties of the Uighurs.

In the province of Xinjiang, where the majority of Turkic minorities reside, surveillance cameras equipped with face scans are omnipresent on street corners, mosques and schools. Commuters travelling between towns must go through security checkpoints where police, with the help of a mobile app, can access information ranging from their religious practices, political affiliation, use of social media platforms and even blood type. In this ecosystem of intense social monitoring, even legal routine behaviour, such as exiting through a backdoor, can be treated as suspect and serve as grounds for dubious arrests.

China has already faced international condemnation for its large-scale arbitrary detention of the Uighurs. The Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and the Asia-Pacific Center for the Responsibility to Protect, in their report titled The Persecution of the Uighurs and Potential Crimes Against Humanity in China, have signaled that approximately one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities are placed against their will in “re-education” facilities.

The report cautions: “If urgent measures are not implemented to end the current state of systematic persecution, there is a clear and imminent danger of further crimes against humanity occurring.”

Social credit system

China’s willingness to use AI to control its wider population and stamp out disorder is already well reflected in its nascent social credit system. Developed in concert by private entities and the state, AI-powered algorithms collect data on an individual’s financial and social behaviours to calculate their social score and determine if they pose a threat to the Communist Party of China.

Citizens with low creditworthiness are publicly shamed as their names and faces appear on billboard size displays. However, the use of AI-based facial recognition systems to target minorities pushes this systematic repression one-step further. This is the world’s first case of a government using AI to carry out what many human rights experts consider mass atrocity crimes.

Though The New York Times reported that only Chinese companies developed the facial recognition software, Western tech giants are also catering to Beijing’s authoritarian needs.

In April, Microsoft was accused of being complicit in the design and research of AI facial recognition systems used by the Chinese government for state surveillance. Microsoft Research Asia and the Chinese military-run University of Defensive Technology co-authored three papers on AI and facial analysis last year.

The company defended its controversial partnership by stating that its employees’ research “is guided by our principles, fully complies with US and local laws”. Given the harmful potential of these technologies, Western companies should be more wary of such collaborations.

The truth is China’s use of AI to persecute the Uighurs is a global wake-up call for the international community and demonstrates the need to establish a global human rights framework for this emerging technology.

Privacy rights

Beyond its use by repressive regimes, AI can directly interfere with human rights in democratic and open societies. The infinite collection of personal data by AI systems for micro-ad targeting limits the rights of privacy. AI-enabled online content monitoring impedes freedom of expression and opinion, as access to and the sharing of information by users is controlled in opaque and inscrutable ways.

Vast AI-powered disinformation campaigns — from troll bots to deepfakes (altered video clips) — threaten societies’ access to accurate information, can disrupt elections and erode social cohesion.

An equally frightening scenario is the use of AI in conflict situations. Human Rights Watch has warned that AI could be used in the future to target certain populations in war zones through deploying lethal autonomous weapon systems, commonly known as killer robots.

Many important voices are beginning to wake up to AI’s threat to human rights, particularly in the absence of regulation and oversight. In his report to the United Nations General Assembly on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye stated that “a great global challenge confronts all those who promote human rights and the rule of law: how can States, companies and civil society ensure that artificial intelligence technologies reinforce and respect, rather than undermine and imperil, human rights?”

With China aggressively lobbying for Huawei to build the next generation cellular network in Western countries, including Canada, policy makers should pause and reflect on a legitimate question. That is, how will China’s use of AI powered surveillance technologies be applied to Huawei’s 5G network?

While states through history have used new technologies against civilians, AI has the power to augment the scale, scope and proliferation of monitoring, surveillance and repression. AI’s ability to collect inestimable amounts of personal data per minute at relatively low costs gives state agencies the capacity to conduct levels of intrusive surveillance that pure manpower could never achieve.

What was once in the realm of Orwellian fiction is now being realized in China. As summarized by MIT researcher Jonathan Frankle, “this is an urgent crisis we are slowly sleepwalking our way into.”

Clearly greater collaboration between states will be necessary to prevent AI-enabled human rights abuses and work to ensure authoritarian regimes do not export their technology and practices to other countries. The international community must set in place a human-rights framework that will protect citizens from AI’s most dangerous and lethal applications.

While individual countries are free too act in their own jurisdictions, only global cooperation will establish the norms and rules that are needed to protect citizens the world over from the growing nefarious use of AI.

Inhabiting the world of food porn

There were times when going for an eat-out used to be a very simple activity, with the only prerequisite of carrying the wallet along. One would order favourites from the menu, reaffirm the choice against price stated in the right column, savour a tasty dish and pay the bill. Just that!

These days however, eating-out has become slightly complicated. Wallet is only the second most precious thing. The first important accessory to carry to a restaurant is obviously a smartphone with a high pixel camera. The moment food reaches dining table in a restaurant, it is treated like a gorgeous, nicely dressed-up new beauty in town, waiting to be photographed in vivid clicks and assorted arrangements. As if its first glimpse is the most desirable thing world outside (read, Social Media) is waiting to look at! So the photos must be shared at the earliest, and in such delectable manner that even a grub looks like an ‘absolutely out of this world’, devilishly tempting, insanely irresistible food!

Right underneath your eyes, the poor virtuous ‘virgin food’ from the kitchen just changed to ‘Food Porn’!

Recently, a close friend of mine shared a picture on her instagram of what looked like an exotic Neapolitan Marinara Pizza served alongside red chili sauce. The food plate looked so extraordinary different that I couldn’t resist calling her up to ask, where could I get to taste this delicacy? Her reply swept me off the floor. It had taken our very innovative friend just a few clicks on the dining table and slight “foodstagramming” to makeover a traditional Utthapam, loaded with colourful veggeis and laal-chutney, to make me (and others) swoon over her culinary….errr…wait, photographic skills.

She isn’t the only one. Aren’t we surrounded with people who, thanks to their higher pixel smartphones and DSLRs, have turned to gourmet with refinement personified or lucky mascots binging on yumminess to die for?

‘Food Porn’ is now everybody’s business! What was meant to be glorification of food, with creative photo capturing for display on advertisements, infomercials, blogs, cooking shows or other visual media, mostly commercial, has now either become a hobby of novices or an attempt to dreadful butchering of Chef’s creativity with the lens.

While the poor Chef delivers his food-art, say a Fish Sizzler, expecting his guests to experience pleasures of aroma, music of the sizzle, soft melting in the mouth and (later) share a word about it, it is possible he would find some unrestrained folks instead — flashing their cameras on the food from all possible angles, even repositioning the table, crockery and the garnish on top, yelling with cheers of ecstasy — while the sizzle dies, aroma fizzes out and the fish in the dish begins to look like yesterday’s home-made curry.

An effort to build a special moment of savouring a dish to last forever is actually lost forever with annoying flashes very sixth second. No wonder, the culinary fraternity in many parts of the world have put their foot down and imposed ban on food porn in hotels.

How I wish a similar ban could be imposed in parties at our homes as well! Remember the last time you attended any birthday party? The moment host would give away first glint of the scrumptious cake and everyone was about to join the “Happy Birthday” chorus, someone from the family would dramatically appear in an avatar to take angular pictures of the fragile newly-born cake. Meanwhile, poor little birthday boy (or girl) would annoyingly wait until the entire hullabaloo over filming would be over and he would get to blow off the candles. And even before the cake would be cut into pieces, it would be time for its déjà vu appearances and reappearances on livefeed of various websites (facebook, twitter, instagram and on whatsapp family groups) for long distance friends who, in probable assumption of the host, had been direly waiting to get one glimpse of the prettiest ever cake.

Whatever one may say, food porn has turned amateur kitchen kings into hashtag ‘food blogger’ with their camera and smart captioning. People try their hands in culinary skills, be it then a square or a rectangle chapaati, and flaunt it in public with beckoning captions. So, a half-baked homemade chocolate cake with rubber like sponginess would possibly read on facebook as “a huge brownie melting ball of chocolate chips, dripping in fudge and sugary syrup oozing down the side.”

After all, food is about gratification of all five senses, so what if the toughest organ of the body, the tongue, comes last in order? We would be fools to believe that food blogging takes a lot of hard work, intensive research, palatable exploration and good writing skills, right? All it requires is a good camera and a social media account, not even an official blog!

Which is what makes me think, linking the word ‘porn’ with food is not all that vulgar. Both food and sex lead to derive pleasure, stimulate senses, relish the memory and bright up any dull day.

A fifty something, half-bald Uncle Higgins residing in my colony, who is suffering with diabetes for over three decades now, gratifies his relinquished desire for food by watching cookery shows and photos of cakes, desserts and puddings. Even if he can’t engorge on sweets, he leaves no chance to stimulate his appetite, increase cravings and then test his willpower to resist. Yes, Uncle Higgins indulges in food porn, much needed to keep him happy! The joy that flashes in his childlike eyes makes it totally worth an experience.

Wisdom, nevertheless, lies in choosing the place and time to indulge in food photography. While taking photos of amazing food available in different parts of the world for a meaningful purpose would count as a perfect ‘Food Porn’; an attempt to waste precious moments taking silly snaps for publicity would rather be a ‘Food Mourn’.

Bon appétit or Bon crappétit, it’s time we choose!

A significant alternate view on the history of Hinduism

 I don’t have any religion but am a student of comparative religions and the history of religions. Being a non-believer, it gives objectivity.

Sanjay Sonawani, a Marathi writer has proposed a rather different view about Hinduism than the one propounded by Hindutva ideologues. His books, Origins of the Vedic Religion: And Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation and a recent book, The Origins of the Caste System: A New Perspective challenge commonly held views about the origin of Hinduism and caste. If his thesis is true, then it will have social and political impacts in India by reshaping the beliefs of hundreds of millions of people.

According to him, Hinduism is a jigsaw puzzle and current theories of Hinduism and caste don’t fit. The main theory is that the Vedic religion is the source of Hinduism but Sonawani believes it is not possible for the fire-worship and non-idol worshipping Vedic belief system to have suddenly morphed into fertility-occultism and idol worship. From Kedarnath, Kashi and Somnath across to Hampi, many Hindus follow an ancient Shaivite and fertility worship tradition which is fundamentally different to the Vedic religion. Sonawani believes that Khajuraho or Konark cannot have possibly arisen from Vedic thought. And of course, if the Vedas are indeed the source of the “common” variety of Hinduism, why are Vedic gods missing from places of Hindu worship?

Apparently some scholars have reconciled this problem by claiming that idol worship was added to Hinduism during the Purana era. This, however, does not reconcile with archaeological proofs about the remote ancestry of fertility worship. Also, the ritualistic practices of the Vedics are based on Vedic guidelines (Vedokta) while Hindus conduct their rituals with Puranokta (based on tantra).

Sonawani’s research shows that Hinduism and the Vedic religion are entirely distinct. Moreover, and this is likely to be even more important if true, he finds that jati (commonly but mistakenly associated with caste) is entirely unrelated to Hinduism, being a mere economic occupational category prevalent in ancient Indian society. He shows that jati was not rigid and its relative rigidity is only a thousand years old. He believes that this happened because of economic forces and opportunistic attempts by the Vedics during India’s medieval economic crisis to graft their varna system on jatis. If this is true, then jatiswould dissolve quickly once the Indian economy liberalizes and the poor get an opportunity to rise.

These are bold claims but have been tested widely in Maharashtra. Sonawani’s three editions in Marathi have received innumerable responses but no one has been able to refute his thesis. So it is time for the nation’s scholars to look into it and work out whether this proposal makes sense.

Sanjay Sonawani finds that the Vedic religion came into ancient India via a relatively few Vedic refugees from South Afghanistan. These refugees had fought numerous wars with their co-religionists (the Zoroastrians) and had been forced to flee. But entirely separately, for thousands of years, India had seen the evolution of an occupational jati system. The jatiswere mobile, being based on technical expertise and innovation. Occupational guilds were an expression of the economic clout of these jatis which remained dominant at least till the tenth century A.D. and also issued their own coins.

Socio-political and economic circumstances began to change for the worse from the tenth century, including a series of terrible famines and the take over of trade by new Muslim rulers, so the guilds finally collapsed. These crumbling guilds established defensive barriers to entry in order to minimize competition. These events led to the fabled self-reliant villages, where occupations become more and more hereditary.

In the meanwhile, the Vedics had, after almost two thousand years, managed to finally gain a small political foothold during the Gupta era through royal patronage. This gave them the opportunity to proselytize, with their first goal being to create and increase the number of Brahmins. They now had the resources to motivate priests of ancient Hindu temple to convert into Vedic Brahmins. Sonawani shows that Hinduism did not have any Brahmins and, in fact, till today a number of Hindu temples do not have any concept of Brahmin. By “upgrading” these priests, the Vedics were now able to take over many valuable Hindu assets and rewrite Hindu texts to introduce varna. Once the Vedics had managed to persuade Hindus to install them at the top of the pyramid, the rest was easy.

The economic collapse that took place a thousand years ago gave the newly converted mass of Vedic Brahmins the opportunity to link the by-now more rigid jati system with varna, by claiming that the poor economic condition of the “lower” jatis was the outcome of actions in their previous births. Caste assemblies inadvertently reinforced this message of segregation of jatis in their economic self-interest to shut out competition. At the same time, the Vedics launched a major attack on the ancient system of tantra, gradually causing the Hindus to suspect their own previous worldview. A sense of impurity and pollution was introduced into Hinduism, leading to the development of untouchability. Despite this, many Hindu rituals and idols continued to remain tantra-centric and a significant level of social and occupational mobility remained.

With the arrival of the British, the Brahmins gained a further opportunity to advance their Vedic agenda. The Brahmins were the first to explain Hinduism to the British. The British liked to think about Vedic supremacy and claimed that it came from the West. The magnitude of the seeming takeover of Hinduism by the Vedics seemed so significant that the British thought that this could only have occurred as a result of a major invasion. The Aryan Invasion Theory was therefore promoted and received a huge boost. The British began consciously preferring the “higher” varnas for administrative appointments and did not study of the tantra traditions and the religion of the common people outside the big towns.

They also started classifying Indian people into five different “races” and began looking for a racial link between jati and race – if true, this would further support their sense of superiority. In this conducive atmosphere, some Vedics began dreaming of a full-fledged revival of the Vedic religion – something even the Brahmins had ever thought of trying in the past.

With power in their hands, the modern caste “system” was now ready to be created. The British census provided a convenient tool. During the census, many jatis sought to “upgrade” their varna by changing caste names (today, of course, many jatis seek to reduce their official social status, it being more profitable to do so). In this manner, the superficial and half-baked British histories of India and Hinduism manage to obscure what had been widely known till their time – that Hindu and Vedic religions were distinct. Subsequent generations of Indian elites have grown up with this distorted British view, given also the fact that many Vedics managed during British times to launch pro-Veda movements.

This racist history of Hinduism had strong political implications. The elites from the “lower” jatis, who had been mis-educated through British interpretation of Indian history, now underwent an identity crisis. Many blamed Brahmins and the Manusmriti, having forgotten that they (the jatis) had themselves chosen to hunker down into a hereditary system a thousand years ago. Anti-Brahmin movements began and many caste conflicts became violent.

Sonawani’s research demonstrates that while Manusmriti is problematic in some ways, its intent and reach was extremely limited – only to the very few Vedics at his time. It had no role in humiliating the “lower” castes since it was never used against them. To grasp this Sonawani asks us to understand the origin of the Shudras. Shudra was the name of a tribe into whose lands the band of Vedic refugees first settled. The Vedics later broadened the use of this term to mean all non-Vedics. Manu notes the existence of many neighbouring Shudra kingdoms which shows their political and economic clout in comparison to the Vedic refugees. At the same time, the Vedics were able to hire a few low income Shudras as personal servants. It was to prevent the intermixing of the Vedics with these servants, something which was starting to occur, that Manu dictated his humiliating commands against the servants. These commands were not intended, nor could the feeble Vedics refugees possibly have applied them to the broader Shudras (the Hindus).

According to Sonawani, it is very clear that Vedic project to graft varna on egalitarian Hinduism did not quite work out as intended. The mapping of jatis to varna is a failed project. Many similar jatis have been mapped onto different varnas in different parts of India because of local economic conditions. Thus, a jati is touchable in one region of India but untouchable in others. This further proves that there is no link between jati and varna. The “caste system” is therefore, in Sonawani’s view, a figment of the imagination of historians who have been tutored in ignorant British interpretations of history.

Sonawani believes that Hinduism is entirely egalitarian and must be rescued from the embrace of casteist Vedic religion. He believes that underlying Hinduism is entirely consistent with liberalism.

I would like to see significant and urgent research on Sonawani’s thesis across the archaeological and history departments of various universities of India and the world.

Now, It is Turn of ASEAN to Face Elections

After India, the election fever moves east.  This year, four member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are undergoing national elections: Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and potentially Singapore. Home to over 213 million youth, ASEAN possesses an ethnically diverse nature with differing political norms in each of its member states.

Each country’s national elections present tremendous opportunities for transformative leadership while also instigating the influence of political power on entire populations. As we call on the global citizenry to leave no one behind, what does it really mean for a young person in ASEAN to contribute to systemic political transformation in the region?

In Indonesia, a demographic dividend will see the country’s youth population rise until 2030, allowing for higher productivity, family welfare gains and aggregate economic growth. While there is optimism that a larger youth population will provide for greater development prospects, there is also concern about religious intolerance and radicalism among youth.

While young Indonesians between the ages of 16 and 30 hold a 98.98% literacy rate, the country still lacks a coordinated national youth policy and each of the eight national policies pertaining to youth define youth differently and without proper youth-based evidence.

By bolstering existing youth-friendly mechanisms and keeping in mind the devolved governance model of their country, Indonesian youth have a substantive role to play in raising positive aspirations and muting existing, fragmented policy bottlenecks. In the recent election, close to a 100 million were aged below 40, proving a thirst for political activism among the younger Indonesian generation.

Through mobilising around national youth bodies such as the National Committee of Indonesian Youth and Gerakan Pramuka, which has almost 22 million members and is the largest national scouting organisation in the world, Indonesian youth can truly shape policy.

At the same time, the direct appeals to youth by both candidates Jokowi and Sandiaga indicate a clear will for youth engagement by politicians, especially through social media campaigns like #YukMemilih (Let’s Vote). Youth in Indonesia have a clear role to play in informing how their politicians are ameliorating youth employment prospects, amplifying educational outcomes, and rejuvenating citizen-led policy formulation.

In Thailand, where a national youth policy exists, a crop of young politicians illustrates robust potential for leadership continuity. With an interesting business-state relationship that has ruled the Thai political system over the years, these younger political candidates are investing in their country’s governance through registration of their new political parties.

Like Indonesian youth, through new age tools like social media, Thai young leaders are demonstrating a commitment to break past a historic two-party deadlock. In addition to these vocal political candidates, the close to seven million first-time voters who came out to cast their ballot in this year’s election are an indication of a new type of politics, one where an appetite for liberal reforms and a fresh take on the existing order play a heavy hand.

In countries like Singapore and the Philippines, where national youth policies do not exist but national youth bodies do, young people need to increase how they impact state-based youth coordinating bodies. While easier said than done, Singapore’s National Youth Council and the Philippines’ National Youth Commission have youth development plans that lay out a long-term horizon on key priority areas for youth policy. Such documents, however, can only be effective if young people are providing data-based, consultative feedback to their politicians on an ongoing basis.

“Everything’s ready except the east wind,” an ancient Chinese proverb, translates to how everything can be ready but that which is crucial. In this case, these words could not hold more true. What Asean needs in a year of rigorous elections is a mentality that young people can get involved past just an election cycle and rather, where beyond it, they can ignite new types of political legacies, realising that the future sustainability of governance lies in their direct control.

Sunday Special: Traits Common to The World’s Rarest Personality Type

While we’re all unique, there are traits, characteristics and personal strengths and weaknesses associated with categories of personality types that can help you learn far more about yourself than you would simply staring in a mirror.

In particular, the Enneagram of Personality is an ancient typing system that identifies which primary type you most closely align with, according to the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI®) test. Learning more about your primary type can help you gain greater self-awareness regarding the patterns you often act out unconsciously in your life and relationships.

Of the nine Enneagram personality types — the Reformer (type 1), the Helper (type 2), the Achiever (type 3), the Individualist (type 4), the Investigator (type 5), the Loyalist (type 6), the Enthusiast (type 7), the Challenger (type 8) and the Peacemaker (type 9) — the rarest is Type 4: the Individualist.

Part of the reason you don’t meet a lot of Types 4’s is that this personality type tends to keep to themselves and are often introverts. You are more likely to encounter a Type 4 in a small group or one-on-one situation.

If you identify with the Type 4 personality, you like to connect with others at a deep heart level.

If you recognize these as your 5 greatest personal strengths and weaknesses, chances are you possess the personality traits and characteristics of a rare Enneagram Type 4, aka the Individualist.

1. You live through your emotions and often feel misunderstood

You feel like no one understands you. You want to fit it with others, but you also don’t want to fit in if you are expected to be like everyone else. You want to find your own unique niche in life.

Finding your true vocation can be a difficult goal to achieve, but it’s hard because you are also very hard on yourself. You always think there is something better to come even if it is staring you in your face.

2. You go to great lengths to show the world how different you are.

Maybe you like to wear leather. Perhaps, you like to color your hair. Or you dress in very funky clothes that get you a lot of attention. You always seek to stand out from the rest.

You have a flair for design, color, and beauty. Your home stands out from others in how you decorate your house or apartment. You have a gift for knowing what looks good in a room and you always have your eye out for art that will make your home unique.

3. Every day, you go through many emotions that are neither good nor bad

If you are a Type 4, you often have your favorite emotions — powerful feelings of sadness, aloneness, and misunderstanding. When you are stressed, it is easy for you to feel despair.

These emotional energies become your way to deal with your stress. Unfortunately, it only makes things worse for you and the people who love you. It’s like you get stuck in one emotion and you can’t get out of your irritableness and depression until you get back into living in the moment.

If you are a Type 4, the best way to get out of your depression is to find a practice that helps you become grounded.

And there are many ways to become grounded or stay present. Find a practice that will help you open up to the wisdom of your body, mind, and heart. Take a few moments, several times a day, to intentionally breathe to help you find your equilibrium.

4. Connecting with the wisdom of your body can be difficult

Thus, it is essential for you to pay attention to your body by paying attention to the sensations of your organs and muscles.

A great way to become more aware of the sensations of your body is by taking part in a body scan meditation. You can find excellent body scans on the Insight Timer app. And you can do it on your own.

Lie down and start focusing your attention on your feet. As you move your awareness up your body, spend at least 30 seconds on each part of your body — feet, lower legs, knees, and so on.

You may find this hard, and it takes time and practice to become aware of your body, but it is worth the effort.

5. Others you meet may find you intimidating

Due to the intensity of your emotions, some people will not be prepared to communicate with you at the deep level that you would like. Give them time and they will be touched by your desire to connect, heart-to-heart.

You are a beautiful person! You are unique! You are special!

Trust that you have something important to contribute to the world. Remember, we all have a bit of Type 4 in us. Sometimes, your answers to your big questions are a lot closer than you think. Pay more attention to what is rather than dreaming of what could be.

When you feel stuck in an emotion, find a way to ground yourself. Remember that feelings are in constant flux and they change from moment to moment.

When you ground yourself, you will know what you are feeling in each moment.

Learn to enjoy the moment. Fully experience all of what life is offering you a moment-to-moment with all the ups and downs.

When you feel down, know that it will pass. The wisdom of your body, mind, and heart will show you the way

Paradox of ‘White Male Privilege’

A new theory of social justice has arisen. An impressive new term has entered the public lexicon: “intersectionality.” This is essentially a matrix for measuring the scale of your deprivation, and the benefits the rest of society owes you.

What is intersectionality? Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989. It’s an attempt to categorize and formalize people according to their race, gender, age, wealth, class, religion, disability and sexual orientation in terms of how disadvantaged they are in society. This concept enabled black feminists to argue that the feminist movement was ignoring racial grievances. White women were at a disadvantage, they said, but blackwomen were at a double disadvantage.

What does this mean in 2019 America? It is playing out in Democratic politics in a specific way. The party is attacking itself. Leftist politicians who are bona fide progressives, even cutting-edge revolutionaries, are being criticized as not leftist enough. Why? They lack appropriate intersectionality.

Nearly two dozen Democrats are vying to replace Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. And as they jockey for the highest office in the land, they are promoting and pushing into mainstream discourse some ideas that, until recently, would have been considered astonishingly radical.

One came from presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in the midst of a public apology for a harmless joke that his wife was raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” “I’ll be much more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage,” he said, “and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege. Absolutely. Undeniable.”

Ah yes, “white privilege.” Whiteness automatically confers unjust advantages on a person, we are now told. Not only that, maleness gives a person more unjust advantages. Heterosexualitygives even more. And being content with your biological sex—being “cisgendered.” And wealth. We are informed that society is a competition, and people who have these advantages are starting the 100-yard dash with a 50-yard head start.

People with such privileges must recognize this and apologize, we are informed. Society must award preferential treatment to minorities, women, homosexuals and transgenders. It must punish the wealthy and support the poor. Then we will have a truly fair world.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren believes true fairness requires giving reparations to black Americans. At a televised town hall interview, she answered a black woman who asked for “a public apology for 400 years of free labor” by saying, “I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country. And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, of people who are studying this, who talk about different ways we may be able to do it and to make a report back to Congress, so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal” (emphasis added throughout).

According to this view, the problems afflicting the black community today are the residual effects of a practice that was abolished more than 150 years ago. The solution is to place our faith in a “congressional panel of experts” to decide on reparations. Then we can all just accept what the experts say, unanimously comply, at last put our slave-owning past behind us, and enjoy racial harmony. Who could possibly envision such a marvelous plan not working out?

O’Rourke and Warren are two prominent white people who have tried to downplay their whiteness. Warren infamously labeled herself an American Indian; in 1996, she was billed as Harvard Law School’s “first woman of color.” Beto O’Rourke is using a Spanish nickname, but his real name is Robert Francis O’Rourke. Why do these things if whiteness automatically affords such vaunted privileges?

The truth is that America is full of white people who work hard, who struggle, who face setbacks, who miss opportunities, who get overlooked, who get pushed aside, who are mired in debt, who must toil away at mundane jobs, who are effectively stuck in their circumstances, the same as black people, Hispanic people and others. Yet they are being lectured by politicians, media commentators, wealthy academics, celebrities and professional athletes about their “white privilege.” They are being told that society lacks equality, they are at fault, and that politicians and bureaucrats need to artificially normalize for any factors that give one person an advantage over another.

This thinking is insidiously wrong. The more we indulge it, the more individual lives will be destroyed, and the more we will tear our country apart..

A Fancy New Word

Sen. Bernie Sanders led the socialist groundswell in the 2016 presidential election. He excited flocks of youths to engage in politics and to embrace big-government, spendy socialist thinking. He is running again in 2020, but many on the left are less excited this time. Why? As Rich Lowry explained in Politico, “In the language of the modern left, the straight, cisgendered Sanders is burdened by his utter lack of intersectionality” (February 20).

Senator Sanders was asked on Vermont public radio how he, being old, rich, white and male, can lead a diverse Democratic Party. He said: “We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age. I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society, which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”

Sanders wants to move America “toward a nondiscriminatory society” based on merit and values. Most Americans would say we already are the most nondiscriminatory society on Earth and in history. The trouble for Sanders is, his political party is crowded with crusaders moving America toward a far more discriminatory society.

Predictably, these people attacked Sanders for his statement. Neera Tanden, from the Center for American Progress, posted this: “At a time where folks feel under attack because of who they are, saying race or gender or sexual orientation or identity doesn’t matter is not off, it’s simply wrong.” Former Clinton aide Jess McIntosh wrote: “This is usually an argument made by people who don’t enjoy outsized respect and credibility because of their race, gender, age and sexual orientation.”

People who are to the left of even Bernie Sanders are broadcasting that they do not want a society where you are judged by your abilities and what you stand for. They want a society where you are judged by race, gender and sexual orientation. They want to level the playing field, which means discriminating in these areas, bestowing advantages on those not white, not male, not straight, not “cisgendered.”

The less white you are—the less of all those privileged things you are—the more deserving you are of reparatory privileges. The more the government should use its power to take from others and give to you. They want to solve discrimination—by discriminating.

‘A Sad Descent Into Tribalism’

The truly liberal American ideal is that race should not matter. Martin Luther King Jr., an icon among liberals, dreamed of a nation where people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet those who claim to be his successors proclaim that people should be judged not by their character, but by their color, as well as their sex. But these are actually the most primitive aspects of a person’s identity. Human societies have been discriminating and judging each other based on these attributes for thousands of years!

More than any other nation ever, America has been a place where people of any race and any background can make a success of themselves, educationally, vocationally, financially, culturally, morally.

Leftists are dismantling this ideal. They are convincing people that this nation is actually the most unfair and discriminatory. And somehow, they are persuading people that the solutionis to exalt race, sex and class as the defining aspects of their identity.

They want more diversity. Not intellectual diversity, not ideological diversity, not diversity of ability. No—they just want diversity of skin color, sex and “gender identity.”

This revolutionary effort to characterize our land of unprecedented opportunity as a country that victimizes a literal majority of its people (nonwhites, women and many others) has been shockingly successful. But it is also creating some problems of its own.

“Now the revolution cannot figure out its own hierarchy of authentic grievance groups,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote. “So it has agreed on a loose ‘intersectionality,’ in which over a dozen and often overlapping victim cadres agree that each degree of nonwhite-maleness adds authenticity and becomes a force multiplier of left-wing radicalism.

“Among leftists, Kamala Harris, as black and female, trumps Cory Booker who is just black, who trumps Elizabeth Warren who is exposed as just female, who trumps Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders who are reverse threefers as white, male and heterosexual” (American Greatness, March 3).

Hanson correctly described this development as a “sad descent into tribalism.” That is exactly what it is. It is not enlightened. It is not sophisticated. It is not just and fair. It is tribal. It is primitive. It is absurd.

And it is terribly destructive, individually and nationally.

A Dangerous Lie

There are countless factors that determine success or failure in life. That is why there are people who manage to overcome tremendous setbacks—family dysfunction, extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, bodily limitations—and become spectacular successes. That is also why there are those who have tremendous advantages yet become spectacular failures.

Success comes from hard work. It comes from diligence and discipline, from driving oneself in pursuit of worthy goals, making good choices, living the right way, having the right mindset. It comes from surmounting obstacles, again and again, and sometimes chance. But character determines what happens when someone catches the occasional good.

The people decrying “white privilege” are believing a lie: that you reach success not by climbing up to it, but by bringing everyone else down.

Their message is: Focus on what the world isn’t doing for you. Don’t count your blessings—complain about your burdens. Don’t dream about possibilities. Don’t seize opportunities. Open your eyes to all the obstacles people are putting in your path! Your failures are someone else’s fault. Find people to blame! Resent those with success. They’re just unfairly privileged.

This thinking draws people’s energy away from responsibility, self-motivation, resiliency, improvement, achievement, contentment and happiness—and redirects it toward dissatisfaction, envy, hypersensitivity, offense, blaming others, protest and destruction. It traps them in their failures.

Radical leftists don’t want people to become diligent, disciplined, driven, resourceful, persevering people who take responsibility for their own lives. After all, if more people judge themselves and others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character—what would they need the leftists for?

Leftist leaders have the temerity to contend that they know—based on a short list of superficial identity markers—exactly who in society is privileged and who is marginalized. Somehow they can measure how much of each individual’s success or failure was earned, and how much was unfairly obtained because of bigotry against others. And with their unerring wisdom, they and their panels of experts will settle scores, resolve injustices of generations long buried, negate the effects of all prejudice and bias. They can do all this without being biased toward whatever decision will give them the most votes and the most power.

If we will just surrender more of the power we have over our own lives and give it to them, finally America can be a land of justice for everyone.

This is hubris on an epic scale. Beyond that, carrying out these utopian fantasies would take an unimaginable level of authoritarian power. It is beyond delusional to believe that congressional and bureaucratic panels and experts—and ultimately their armed agents—picking winners and losers based on identity will actually make the world a better place.

The Real Author

Here is a fact: Virtually everyone could focus on how unfair life is, if they wanted to. Human nature is adept at finding ways that life should be giving us a better shake.

Well, the world is unfair. Truly equal opportunity has never existed in any society in human history!

Ironically, America has gotten closer to offering equal opportunity than any society ever has—yet people are being deceived into viewing it as the most unequal, unfair society in history. This is a remarkable propaganda triumph by Satan—aimed at fracturing our society and turning us against each other so we will rip ourselves apart.

Sadly, this is exactly what we are doing. And the more we believe this terrible error—the more we try to “heal” ourselves by demanding apologies for privilege and reparations for past wrongs—the more destructive this trend will become. Just watch. Look at the fruits.

Separatism in Kashmir and Balochistan: A Study in Contrasts

Kashmir and Balochistan are a study in contrasts – separatism in the first is fuelled by Islamism while the second is a victim of it. If there ever was a contrast in ideology and circumstance fit to be highlighted, it would be Baloch and Kashmiri separatism. From time to time, one hears talking heads on Indian TV juxtapose the Baloch independence struggle with Kashmiri separatism in the clumsiest way possible – by suggesting that Pakistan has no right to talk of anti-terrorism operations in Jammu & Kashmir while it conducts counterinsurgency operations with far greater brutality in its own restive province. Or that India could support the Baloch struggle as payback for Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in J&K. To say that this is a false equivalence would be an understatement.

First, consider that separatism in J&K is a case of Islamic radicalisation and invidious exploitation of multicultural democracy. Islamists in Kashmir have ethnically cleansed non-Muslim Kashmiri sons of the soil from their ancestral homesteads, making them refugees in their own country. On the other hand, the Baloch struggle for independence is led by secular and moderate Muslims against exploitation and colonisation, who also resist the injection of radical Islam into their youth by Pakistani government and army backed terrorist organisations.

Baloch culture forms a part of the rich tapestry of the Indian subcontinent. Their historical homeland, Balochistan, sits at the junction of three cultural spheres – the Indian subcontinent to the east, Persia to the west, and the Arab Gulf countries that are just across the waters from this province’s idyllic coastline. Their ideological and cultural currents draw upon this innate diversity.

Second, Indian Kashmir is a state that receives much greater central government aid per capita than any other state in the country, and the standard of living is hugely subsidised. Between 1961 and 2011, J&K’s literacy increased from 13% to 69%. On the other hand, Balochistan witnesses the ruthless economic exploitation of its rich natural resources, keeping the impoverished local populace in a state of dire deprivation. In 2017, Unicef declared that half of all children in Balochistan suffer from effects of malnutrition, while infant and mother mortality remain unmatched by any other Pakistani province.

Those Baloch youth who educate themselves and articulate their identity or complain of injustice are the prime targets of extrajudicial ‘disappearances’ and assassinations by the Pakistan army and frontier corps. Deliberate targeting of the Baloch intellectual class has been noted in all human rights reports from that region. Thus, the local population is kept impoverished and uneducated, and the youth routinely culled. This is exactly what Pakistan did in Bangladesh in 1971.

Third, Kashmir is a province where there is no suppression of local culture, religion or language by the Indian state. On the contrary, it is the Islamists who have radically Islamised the culture at the direct expense of native historical culture and religion both Hindu and Sufi. Kashmiri Islamists also actively suppress the rise of Kashmiri Muslim women to positions of power, education or the performing arts, ruthlessly enforcing the veil. The internet is used as a means of intimidating and bullying Muslim Kashmiri public figures who do not toe their line.

On the other hand, Baloch nationalists are fighting to preserve their language from forced Urduisation, and their culture from creeping religious radicalisation. Pakistani history textbooks describe the Baloch and other ethnic minorities in blatantly insulting terms. The internet has been shut down in large parts of Balochistan for years now – especially those parts that have a high number of educated Baloch residents. This is the Pakistani government’s method of suppressing communication and freedom of speech.

Fourth, Kashmiri Islamists are fighting to maintain their pampered “special status” within India – because of heavy government subsidy at the expense of the Indian taxpayer. It is this addiction to the gravy train as well as the intoxication of religious and racial supremacism that is the driving force of Kashmiri Islamist separatism in India – not negative discrimination within India, not economic exploitation, and not a lack of cultural or religious freedom. On the other hand, the Baloch struggle is a fight against all of these forms of suppression and exploitation.

It is the Pakistan army which has a parasitic relationship with the economy of Pakistan as a whole, and Balochistan in particular. In fact, unlike the Kashmiris who enjoyed complete control over their land, the Baloch are helplessly watching the usurpation of their land and are forced to migrate out of Balochistan.

Finally, separatism in J&K is a matter of concern for votaries of multiculturalism and believers in the potential strengths of civilised diversity while Baloch National Movement spokesperson Nabi Bakhsh compares the colonisation of his land with the plight of Native Americans. Drawing a false equivalence between Balochistan and Kashmir only serves to discredit the Baloch cause internationally. It sounds petty, manipulative and most of all, ignorant.

Saturday Special: The skills students need to bounce back from failure

Teachers, parents, and academics have become increasingly concerned about the increase of mental health distress in students. Many schools have begun to address this issue by focusing on building student resilience.

Academic resilience is a person’s ability to respond effectively to long-term academic challenges, such as chronic underachievement. Australian psychologists Andrew Martin and Herbert Marsh proposed that building students’ academic buoyancy is one way to help promote long term resilience.

Academic buoyancy is the ability of students to rebound from daily setbacks that are a normal part of schooling, such as a poor grade on a test, negative feedback from a teacher or being cut from a sports team. Certain students bounced back from daily challenges better than others.

Buoyant children and youth recognise that the daily setbacks associated with school are temporary and non-threatening. A failing grade does not endanger long-term success and even final year end tests can be re-done. Critical feedback in school is a necessary part of learning, not the end of the world.

Academic buoyancy has been linked to another psychological construct – workplace buoyancy. Students who are able to rebound effectively from daily school-based challenges are also better equipped to face workplace challenges.

Regardless of the profession, employees and employers face uncertainty and stressful situations they need to deal with effectively each day.

Buoyant adults are persistent, feel control over their professional growth and are confident in their ability to execute their daily tasks. They effectively plan ahead to meet deadlines. Adults who are effective members of the workforce have practised these skills during their school years.

What can educators and parents do to help children deal with daily setbacks in school and navigate everyday stress?

Sail through life with the ‘five Cs’

Academic buoyancy can be built by addressing all of the “five Cs:” composure, confidence, commitment, control and coordination.

1. Composure

Anxiety can strip students of the calm, confident mindset that they need to successfully meet daily academic challenges. Children experiencing anxiety become very focused on their belief that they are in danger, and rather than listening to instruction or reviewing skills, they are constantly looking for evidence their fear is justified.

Research into academic buoyancy has revealed that more buoyant students are generally less anxious.

2. Confidence

Confidence is a student’s belief in their own competence in a subject area.

For example, if a student believes that mathematics is their strength, then they will see a low math score on a quiz as a temporary problem that can be fixed through review. If they see themselves as incompetent in math, they may see a low score as a reflection of their inability instead of as a prompt to practise more.

Endless rote practice of skills or memorization of basic facts is less effective for building student confidence than having a positive relationship with a teacher who has set high expectations for achievement or who provides students with a realistic sense of their capabilities.

3. Commitment

Commitment relates to a child’s persistence to complete a task.

Buoyant children and youth understand that successful learning requires time and effort. They also understand that a failure in the present does not predict failure in the future, so they welcome feedback from expert educators on how they can improve.

Playing board games can help children by both developing skills and persistence. If the intent is to improve reading and writing, playing word games (such as Scrabble, Bananagrams and Quiddler) with an adult can help students with both spelling and remembering words.

4. Control

Children and youth need to believe that they can achieve better outcomes in the future, and that they have the ability to overcome daily challenges. Because their future learning is under their own control, a low grade or critical feedback does not impact their ability to improve their overall achievement.

Children and youth who feel control over their ability to learn recognise that having a low grade can be remedied through changing their approach to studying or meeting with their teacher to gain deeper understanding into the course concepts.

Those students who feel that they lack control might not take the necessary steps to improve their grades because they attribute their failure to an external force. Rather than seeking ways to improve their understanding of a topic, they might blame their parents, the teacher or the educational system for their failure to thrive.

5. Co-ordination

Buoyant children and youth have learned strategies to manage their time and plan ahead to complete school assignments or tests. Learning to break down larger or difficult assignments into smaller tasks, with daily deadlines for completion, is a key life skill.

Educators and parents can role model co-ordination skills by teaching backward design planning.

I recommend that the teachers embrace this instructional design while teaching , after learning through experience that students can be fantastic procrastinators who wait until days before a deadline to start major assignments.

To help students create stronger submissions, they should create assignments with progressive deadlines that eventually lead up to the final due date. This kind of assessment aims to to boost students’ self-regulation.

For example, if you have assigned an essay, then you should create deadlines for brainstorming, research, outlining, rough draft, feedback and then the final copy for grading. As a result of deliberately breaking down each aspect of the writing process for the students, you would find the quality of writing the students produce is significantly better.

Tugboat parents and educators

In a time of helicopter, snowplow and bulldozer relationships between children and adults, perhaps tugboat parenting can be the next trend. The sturdy tugboat guides, nudges and — only when necessary — pulls the ship to shore.

Daily stress exists for students. By building buoyancy, children and youth can ride the turbulent waves instead of being crushed.

The time to begin a #MenToo movement

A few weeks ago, half a dozen women accused former vice-president, Joe Biden of inappropriate contact, right before he was supposed to announce his participation in the upcoming presidential race. It is a known fact that Joe Biden is the co-author of the Violence Against Women Act, initiated 25 years ago to reduce sexual harassment and violence against women in America. Yet Joe Biden, now a presidential candidate, a longtime champion of ending sexual assault on women, faced a problem when several women came forward accusing him of inappropriate behaviour committed a decade ago. He even had to apologize for making some of them feel uncomfortable by giving them a hug without their consent or for giving them a big slow kiss on the forehead or rubbing his nose against their noses.

This, fortunately, resulted in several supporters of the #metoo movement asking for discretion and not labelling everything as sexual harassment. Some even went as far as claiming that the #metoo movement had gone overboard. Other women in America started admonishing us that this was the last straw on the camel’s back and that there was an attempt to emotionally castrate men, especially in western countries.

Let me add to the above incident another story unfolding in the land of the highest gender equality and economic equality.  In less than a month, there will be general elections, and in a small country like Denmark, both elections and the prospective results get announced on the very same day. According to almost all polls, it is getting clear that the winners this time will be the Social Democratic Party led by a young woman, Mette Frederiksen. She is the leader of the party and we will see that in her government several leading ministerial portfolios will be granted to women.

Simon Simonsen is a male member of the Social Democratic Party of Denmark. He, too, is a contestant in the race for a seat in Parliament. A couple of weeks ago, he started a major debate in Denmark speaking up for marginalized men and fathers. Protesting against Joy Mogensen, the mayor of the city of Roskilde, who has decided to be solo mother, getting inseminated by an anonymous donor, he wrote that “a tragedy of Shakespearean dimension” was unfolding in Denmark. Half a million men in Denmark are childless and still, Danish women are choosing to be solo mothers, resulting in a society devoid of social cohesion, argued Simon Simonsen. The concept of solo mothers is different from that of single mothers, who after attempting a relationship decide to divorce or stay single. Solo mothers do not want any involvement of men at all, right from insemination to child rearing; they prefer to do it all by themselves as women are now economically independent and do not seek a relationship to make ends meet.

Simon Simonsen came very close to being excluded from his political party right before the elections were to be announced. But then there was a hue and cry and people across several party affiliations came out in support of him.  He was, after all, raising a debate on an important political issue, that of gender equality. Does gender equality not apply to men? Wondered many in Denmark, including women.

Men are not subjected to sexual harassment but are increasingly becoming victims of false and fake sexual accusations. Men here in Scandinavia are afraid to initiate relations, not willing to flirt and, as mentioned earlier, they often feel emotionally castrated. The recently approved legislation in Denmark and Sweden are very strict against sexual harassment. It is becoming almost necessary to have some form of proof of consent from a girlfriend to make sure that after a disappointment she does not turn against you, filing a false rape report.

Is this what gender equality should mean for men? In my lectures across the several Scandinavian countries, I have met several grown-up children who have no knowledge of who their fathers are, only a scant idea of who they might probably be. These countries are signatories to the convention of children’s rights but have not taken any serious step to help children maintain regular contact with both their parents.

Every fifth man in Denmark above the age of 50 is childless. Gender equality has benefited women. From the post of Prime Minister to leading positions in the academic world, women are now occupying privileged posts.

Men, on the other hand, have become a polarized gender. Amongst well-paid directors, editors, CEOs of companies, you will still see white men dominating the sphere, but right at the rock bottom of the Scandinavian societies are lonely men, single men, jobless men, who are dying earlier and, when alive, leading a poor social and excluded existence.

I am confident that Scandinavian men like Simon Simonsen will find tremendous solace in the initiative of starting a #mentoo movement.

Gender equality means upliftment of all irrespective of gender. The time has come to stop inappropriate false accusations of rape and harassment. Too many men’s lives are destroyed by falsely accusing them of acts which often are born out of mutual consent. The time has come to stop painting a picture of men as sexual beasts and predators. Men, too, can love and show compassion. Too much legislation has been approved in countries of both western and non-western origin, jeopardizing the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Possibly,  the time has come for all those who value justice and equality for all, irrespective of race and gender, to protect innocent victims of false accusations.

China’ Forays in Latin America:China to Build ‘Panama Canal on Railway Tracks’ Across Latin America?

China might join Peru and Bolivia in building an intercontinental railway across Latin America, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told Reuters on May 17.

Peru and Bolivia “need a third partner to help turn it into reality,” Vizcarra said. Asked if China would be a good fit for the role, he said, “Yes, of course, because we need a partner that benefits from the project.” China would benefit, he said, because it is among the largest buyers of commodities that the railway would transport from Bolivia and other countries in the region to Peru’s Pacific coast.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Latin America in 2013 and discussed the idea of a coast-to-coast railway. The planned line, called the Central Bi-Oceanic Railway, would stretch some 2,330 miles from Peru’s Pacific coast through landlocked Bolivia across Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. Proponents said it would overhaul Latin America’s trade and political landscape, and European nations have also expressed interest in helping build it. Because of the project’s scope and expected economic benefits, it was nicknamed “the Panama Canal on Railway Tracks.”

After studying the plan, Peruvian officials said the $60 billion price tag that China put on the project ($35 billion of which Peru would pay) was too high. “With that money,” Vizaccara said in September 2016, “we could build a lot of projects to benefit Peruvians.”

But last month, Peru signed onto the Belt and Road Initiative, a globe-girdling Chinese infrastructure project designed to better connect the world’s economy to China. Now Peru appears eager to get the railway project on track, likely within the Belt and Road framework.

This is only the latest indication of China’s deepening influence in Latin America. China is now the number one trade partner not just for Peru, but also for Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. China’s trade with Latin American nations has soared from just $10 billion in 2000 up to $306 billion last year. As more Latin American nations sign on to the Belt and Road Initiative, this volume is expected to significantly increase. And a survey by the cadem polling company last month showed that people in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela now have a more favorable view of China than of the United States.

Latin America has to play a key role, particularly as it grows closer to European powers. The most powerful European nations already have maintained considerable influence in parts of Latin America. And after China forms this “brief alliance” with Europe, the influence that China is now building in Latin America, with such projects as the Central Bi-Oceanic Railway, will translate into even greater European sway over the region.

With this level of control in Latin America, the European and Asian powers will be geographically positioned to lay siege to the United States. With a German-led Europe, possessing great maritime power, North America will be surrounded on the east by Europe and the south by Latin America.

 Now Panama, like numerous other sea gates around the world, is under China’s control or moving rapidly in that direction. The control the Asian and European nations have over these strategic locations will play a key role in allowing them to block the U.S. out of world trade.

In the near term, these trends show that America and some of its allies are headed toward unspeakable catastrophe. 

Weekend Special: Facial Recognition: Dawn of Dystopia?

Every couple of months, Officer Michael Zinn of the York Area Regional Police Department in Pennsylvania ran a photo of a man through the department’s facial recognition software. In a year and a half of searches, the result was always the same: No hits.

The man was a suspect in the July 2016 sexual assault of a 15-year-old, but his identity remained a mystery. The photo came from the cellphone of the victim, who had exchanged text messages and pictures with the suspect before the assault.

Then last December, Officer Zinn ran a search again, comparing the man’s picture with database images of mug shots and driver’s licenses. This time, he got a possible match. “It was a really good feeling,” he said. “If it wasn’t for facial recognition, it would still be an open case. We really didn’t have a whole lot of leads to go on.”

Facial recognition technology raises fears of a dystopian surveillance state, with vanishing privacy and a high potential for abuse. Such concerns led San Francisco this week to ban any use of facial recognition by the police and other city agencies.

But it is also a powerful and efficient tool that, much like DNA analysis, offers a way to bring policing into the modern age and help catch wrongdoers or solve crimes that have gone cold.

It has been used to arrest men accused of child sex abuse, including a fugitive who had fled to Nepal and a man in Oklahoma who had been at large for two decades. It has helped nab a trio of jewel thief suspects and people who the authorities said were trying to enter the country under fake names.

The man in Pennsylvania, Robert Kusma, 33, was arrested and charged days after Officer Zinn identified him, and the police said he admitted to the assault. He has not yet entered a plea in the case, and his lawyer did not respond to attempts to contact him.

It is difficult to say exactly how many of the nation’s 18,000 police departments use facial recognition or how they deploy it. Some departments have been caught using it without the public’s knowledge, or to search crowds of protesters for people with outstanding warrants.

But since the San Francisco ban, several agencies have come forward to argue that it is counterproductive to forbid any use of what they call a valuable tool that generates investigative leads.

Some departments, including the New York Police Department, have policies that say that a possible match found by facial recognition does not constitute an identification or probable cause for an arrest.

“We never make an arrest based solely on facial recognition,” said Capt. Chuck Cohen of the Indiana State Police and executive director of the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center since late 2015. The state police have used it for a decade, scanning images of people against databases of pictures in state records and using algorithms to produce a list of individuals who could be a match. The Indiana State Police run the fusion center, which provides help to the more than 600 local law enforcement agencies in the state.

In one recent case, state police using facial recognition were able to identify a suspect in an attempted murder in Central Indiana, after a friend of the victim recorded a verbal argument between the suspect and the victim that escalated into a physical attack. The victim, who was shot, did not know the assailant’s identity.

“In this case, local law enforcement had a very good video image of the person, but couldn’t identify him,” Captain Cohen said. “This was not the only piece of evidence, but it was a lead.”

In a twist, the agency has also used facial recognition to track down crime victims, this time in a case in which a man was extorting girls and women over the internet to perform sexual acts or mutilate themselves. Some of them may never have been found but for facial recognition, using video that had been collected by the man, Captain Cohen said.

In one case in Phoenix in 2017, the police used a perpetrator’s own cellphone to identify a suspect. Witnesses saw a knife-wielding assailant chase a man into the street and stab him several times. When the attacker fled, he left his cellphone behind; the police sent selfies from the phone to the state Department of Public Safety, whose facial recognition unit produced a potential match. The suspect in the case, Roberto Santiago-Escobar, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault last year.

But there are no national guidelines for how facial recognition should be used. Several states, including Maryland and Indiana, allow the police to search large databases such as driver’s license photos. But in Oregon, they search only against images collected in criminal proceedings, like mug shots. Private companies may offer to run images against photographs collected from more disparate sources, like social media.

“With regard to driver’s licenses, it is an ethical dilemma because we are searching the faces of citizens who never consented to this type of search in the first place,” said Chris Adzima, senior information systems analyst at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, which has been using facial recognition technology for about two years. “When you take your photo at the D.M.V., it is not considered a public record.” He said that the sheriff’s office has used it for cases ranging from “murder to shoplifting and in between.”

The technology has been most effective in solving property crimes, like package thefts, pulling images from video doorbells and surveillance cameras, he said.

The police have used facial recognition to identify a suspect already in custody. After the killings of five employees at a newspaper in Annapolis, Md., last June, the police apprehended a suspect at the scene who refused to identify himself. The police used a scan through the Maryland Image Repository System of mug shots and driver’s licenses, which helped reveal his name, Jarrod Ramos.

“We would have been much longer in identifying him and being able to push forward,” Timothy Altomare, chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said at a technology conference.

The use of facial recognition by law enforcement to identify suspects raises particular concerns because of high inaccuracy rates and striking racial disparities in how the algorithms can correctly identify people.

And there are open questions about whether defendants are informed by prosecutors about how they were identified and given pertinent information that might be used to challenge that identification. Two new reports from the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology say facial recognition has been deployed irresponsibly by the police and conjure images of a futuristic surveillance state in Detroit and Chicago. Clare Garvie, an author of both reports, believes that a moratorium on facial recognition is necessary, given the lack of regulation around the technology.

“There is a fundamental absence of transparency around when and how police use face recognition technology,” Ms. Garvie said. “The risks of misidentification are substantial.”

In a case in New York detailed in one of the reports, a police detective noted that a suspect resembled the actor Woody Harrelson, so he ran a picture of Mr. Harrelson through the facial recognition software. “This celebrity ‘match’ was sent back to the investigating officers, and someone who was not Woody Harrelson was eventually arrested for petit larceny,” the report said.

The New York Police Department declined to say whether the man had been convicted, but defended its use of the technology, saying that all leads were verified through investigation and that facial recognition had led to arrests in homicides, rapes and robberies and had even helped identify a woman with Alzheimer’s.

“The NYPD has been deliberate and responsible in its use of facial recognition technology,” the department said in a statement. “We compare images from crime scenes to arrest photos in law enforcement records. We do not engage in mass or random collection of facial records from NYPD camera systems, the internet, or social media.”

The Georgetown report, relying on documentation from the department, cited two cases in which potential suspects were identified by facial recognition software — one person arrested based solely on a possible match, and a second individual identified by a facial recognition comparison and then a text message to the crime victim. In neither case, the report states, was a lineup or in-person identification conducted.

According to internal police department documents obtained by Ms. Garvie, from 2010 through 2016, more than 2,800 arrests were made as a result of facial recognition comparisons. In 2018  alone, more than 8,000 cases involved the use of facial recognition as an investigative tool.

Indian Crypto Market Gets Stablecoins – An Alternate Currency Beats Bitcoins

Cryptocurrencies have taken the world by storm, in the process transforming the way we view money. To be sure, it hasn’t happened overnight – as anyone who has been around since the early days can attest – but a new class of cryptocurrencies called stablecoins are positioned to fuel the next stage of growth and adoption across the world.

Stablecoins, as their name suggests, are cryptocurrencies designed to minimize exchange rate volatility. Often, the stablecoins’ exchange rate is controlled by linking the stablecoin’s price to fiat currencies like the US dollar, or commodities like gold. With this steady reference value, users can avoid the price swings of cryptocurrencies and local fiat currencies, ensuring that whether they’re saving their earnings or purchasing goods, the price of their stablecoins won’t fluctuate dramatically against the US dollar.

This is especially important in markets like India, which remain under-serviced by banks and financial institutions despite recent progress in creating bank accounts. According to a 2017 survey by the World Bank, while almost 80% of Indians have a bank account, less than half are active.

So, while globally, the growth of cryptocurrency has been phenomenal, the market in India has grown at a slower pace. Regulatory uncertainty, inadequate technology infrastructure and lack of awareness have held India back from seizing the opportunities of a rapidly evolving crypto market.

As a simple, stable, and secure means of transacting in a digital environment, stablecoins could be the answer to helping India take the leap into cryptocurrencies and solve some of the key challenges facing the country’s economic infrastructure.

Challenges like:

Cross-border remittances

Many Indians living outside the country contribute significantly to the economy by sending remittances to their families back home. According to reports, the flow of inward remittances has been pivotal in financing India’s trade deficit (43 per cent in 2017-18). India continues to be the top recipient country with US$69 billion of remittances in 2017, sent by a large pool of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled Indian migrants across the globe.

Considering the scale, the remittance process and associated costs assume critical relevance. Stablecoins have the potential to positively change the lives of migrant families in different states across India, helping to alter the system of sending salaries home through the many traditional Western Union-type operators, losing time and money in the process. Stablecoins could provide a much faster, secure and cheaper alternative to workers and their families across the country, or even globally, by using digital wallets to receive stablecoins from anywhere in the world without the worry of price volatility.

Insurance

Bitcoin is notoriously volatile, and hence, it cannot be easily used as a form of insurance – either personal or as a collateral to an asset. Stablecoins, on the other hand, can be the foundation to insure any number of assets. In an expanding market like India, this could prove beneficial for investments that rely on market volatility.

Peer-to-peer transfer

Following the ban on cryptocurrency by the RBI last year, the peer-to-peer mode of transactions has now emerged as a commercially viable option for the burgeoning crypto investors in India. However, in a peer-to-peer transaction, when a seller and a buyer initiate a transaction, the seller’s crypto asset will be locked in escrow. This does not hedge the asset against price fluctuations. If the price depreciates, the buyer loses out, and vice-versa. With stablecoins, that issue is resolved owing to its high exchange rate stability.

Retail payments

Two years after demonetisation of old currency notes, retail digital payments in India saw a massive jump, witnessing a total of 16.7 billion cashless transactions in 2017-18, up 127 per cent from 2015-16. Apart from mobile banking, Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPI) like e-wallets and prepaid cards have also jumped in volumes in the last two years to 3.45 billion in 2017-18, up a whopping 362 per cent! Given these statistics, and the increasing adoption of cryptocurrency, the Indian market presents a huge opportunity for retailers to start accepting crypto as a method of payment.

However, price volatility makes using cryptocurrency for daily transactions inconvenient. Here, the case for stablecoins becomes strong, since it combines the accessibility features of other cryptocurrency means, with a stable valuation. This makes it an attractive option for consumers as well as retailers.

Rent

Every day, lakhs of people from Tier II cities migrate to metros for better employment opportunities. In some cities, sky-high rentals are commonplace. Worse yet, currency volatility and inflation cause uncertainty around steady costs of rent every month, which affects both owners and tenants.

With stablecoins, both parties can guarantee a fixed price and return. Neither party will have to worry that the rent they pay today will change in value tomorrow.

In line with the current government’s leaning towards building a cashless Indian economy, stablecoins can be a great contributor to the payments market in India. Especially now that cashless transactions in India have already reached the US$ 64,775 million mark this year, and are predicted to reach a whopping US$1 trillion annually by 2025.

Overall, stablecoins will provide a foundational layer for crypto assets that will generate immense value for the digital assets ecosystem while also helping to address real economic challenges

The Battlefield Might Be The Arctic

‘Russia’s icebreakers make it king of the Arctic, and America is just a pauper.’ Our entrance into St. Petersburg via boat could have been difficult and dangerous had it not been for Russia’s famous icebreaker ships that came through a few weeks earlier. Through the window of our cabin on the M/S Princess Anastasia, we saw miles of ice that had been shattered to make way for commerce and tourism in the waters around the nation’s former capital city.

Russia’s icebreakers in the Baltic Sea are a significant economic asset. But there’s another region where Russia’s expanding fleet of icebreakers is making a more meaningful difference, not only economically but also militarily: the Arctic.

Historically, the frigid Arctic has been relatively free of the geopolitical struggles among world powers that have beset most other regions. But in recent decades, due to thawing ice and improving technology, this has begun to change. The region has become increasingly important to the Arctic nations: the United States, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. And none has been more determined to dominate it than Russia, which is accomplishing its objectives largely with icebreakers.

Energy and Minerals

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic holds 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of oil. It also contains vast caches of minerals, such as gold, zinc and platinum. Altogether these resources are worth an estimated $30 trillion, and the Russians are tapping into them at unprecedented rates.

The Yamal liquid natural gas plant is one notable example. Located almost 380 miles north of the Arctic Circle, yamal in the local language literally means “end of the world.” Temperatures drop lower than 58 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and for seven to nine months each year the waters around this wasteland are frozen solid in ice up to seven feet thick. Until mining facilities are opened on the moon, you will not find a more hostile environment for industry than the one surrounding Yamal lng.

But thanks to a new fleet of 15 Arc7 icebreakers that can carry liquefied natural gas shipments, the Russians can keep operations humming year-round as they extract and transport Yamal’s 44 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. “[T]he lng icebreaker carrier … will allow lng to be transported not only during the summer months, but also all year long,” Hellenic Shipping News wrote (April 16).

Grand Vision, Tightening Grip

During a visit to Yamal lng in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that the plant and its icebreakers are part of a larger vision to dominate the region. “This is perhaps the largest step forward in our developing of the Arctic,” he said. “Now we can safely say that Russia will expand through the Arctic this and next century.”

A major part of this expansion is development of the Northern Sea Route, which runs along Russia’s Arctic coast from the Kara Sea to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. With this route, Russia can ship gas from Yamal and other Arctic locations to energy-thirsty Eastern nations weeks faster than the time required to go west around Europe and through the Suez Canal. In the case of China, the most energy-thirsty nation of all, the Northern Sea Route cuts shipment times by as much as 15 days.

And Russia is now tightening its grip on this route in a troubling way. Moscow announced in March that foreign ships must submit a request 45 days in advance, bring a Russian maritime pilot aboard for the crossing, and pay hefty transit fees. Any vessel that fails to comply can be detained and even “destroyed,” Moscow said. Even if a foreign vessel abides by all the requirements, authorities say they can reject any request for passage with no explanation.

The worrisome—and illegal—part of these new Russian rules concerns the Bering Strait, which lies between the U.S. and Russia. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (unclos) says waters within 200 nautical miles from a given nation’s coast constitute that country’s exclusive economic zone (eez), and the nation has control over them. But international straits such as the Bering are excluded from eezs. The unclos guarantees freedom of navigation through them.

Russia, however, insists that the Northern Sea Route, including the Bering Strait, is subject to its new rules. Due to this illegal policy, U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Sean Fahey recently warned that “the rights and freedoms all states enjoy to operate ships and aircraft in the maritime domain” might soon become “the most important strategic issue” in the Arctic.

But because of an ever widening “icebreaker gap” between Russia and the rest of the world, Russia’s grip on the Arctic will only get tighter.

‘King of the Arctic’

“You can’t explore the depths of the Arctic, or traverse its seas, if you can’t get to it,” Terrell Starr wrote for Foxtrot Alpha in “Russia’s Icebreakers Make It King of the Arctic, and America Is Just a Pauper” (Jan. 26, 2017).

With 54 vessels, including seven nuclear-powered models, Russia already has the world’s largest fleet of icebreakers by far. A distant second place, with 10 ships, goes to Finland. Canada has seven, as does Sweden. The United States has five, none of which is nuclear.

The number of icebreakers alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Only Russia and the U.S. operate “heavy” icebreakers, which have the power to break through thicker ice packs. But here again, Russia has a major advantage with two operational heavy icebreakers and four more in refit. The U.S. has just one—the 42-year-old USCGC Polar Star—and it operates in Antarctica, on the other side of the globe.

Russia’s heavy icebreakers are considerably newer, and they remain in the Arctic year-round. Putin says that by 2035, Russia will have 13 heavy icebreakers, including nine nuclear-powered behemoths. At the end of the year, Russia’s 33,000-ton Arktika-class of heavy nuclear icebreakers will undergo sea trials. Not far behind will be the 71,000-ton nuclear-powered Lider-class, which will be the world’s heaviest icebreaker many times over. The Polar Star, in comparison, weighs around 10,000 tons.

“The highways of the Arctic are icebreakers,” U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan recently said. “Russia has superhighways, and we have dirt roads with potholes.” As Russia’s fleets keep growing, the U.S. and other nations will find it ever more difficult to challenge Putin’s control of the Arctic.

Military Matters

In the last few years, Russia has rushed to revive many abandoned Soviet military bases in the Arctic. Thanks largely to its icebreakers, the Russians have revamped airstrips and radar facilities on numerous islands, established four new Arctic brigade command units, opened 16 ports, built new air bases, and deployed anti-ship and ground-to-air missile systems to the region.

“The modernization of Arctic forces and of Arctic military infrastructure is taking place at an unprecedented pace not seen even in Soviet times,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor in chief of Moscow Defense Brief, told Reuters (Jan. 30, 2017).

With these bases and missiles, Russia can guard its energy claims and enforce its new rules for the Northern Sea Route even if other Arctic nations dispute their legality.

‘A Dangerous New Era’

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Russia trudged through the next decade as a depleted and exhausted nation. It was outside the mainstream of international affairs, and many Westerners ignored it.

Then Putin came to power and began to right the ship and change its course. In August 2008, he shocked much of the world by invading the former Soviet nation of Georgia and bringing one fifth of its internationally recognized territory under Russian control.

Since then, Putin has continued using his power to prevent Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries from developing closer relations with Europe. He made Russia a major player in the Middle East, where it has weakened U.S. influence, assisted the brutal Syrian regime, and helped Iran keep pursuing nuclear weapons. Putin has also transformed Russia’s military into a modern and more lethal 21st-century force, including his militarization and control of the Arctic.

It is clear that Putin is restoring Russia’s power and boosting its international relevance back toward Soviet levels.

Vladimir Putin’s rule indicates that we are entering into the worst crisis ever in man’s history. The rise of Putin’s Russia, including its dominance of the Arctic, signals that nuclear World War might be not far off. That is a fact that should sober every one of us.

Ramazan in Custody

The month of Ramazan is over and Muslims all over the world who were fasting have completed the holy ordeal. From the far-flung near Arctic towns in Norway and Iceland, to the tropical locales of Indonesia and Malaysia, local customs, special foods and spiritual regeneration are all front and centre for fasting Muslims. So it is nearly everywhere except next door to Pakistan, in Xinjiang, China’s predominantly Muslim province.

One post on the website of the Food and Drug Administration of Xinjiang says “food service places will operate during normal hours in Ramadan”, and more importantly, “During Ramadan do not engage in fasting, vigils and other religious activities”.

According to the Save Uighur website, “China is the only place in the world where Muslims are not allowed to fast. Uighurs and Muslims have been forbidden from fasting for the last three years.” Other reports point out that Ramazan restrictions apply in particular to schools and government offices.

Religious freedom and Islamic solidarity have both been forgotten when it comes to standing up to China.

According to a report in the New York Times, China has imprisoned a million ethnic Uighurs in vast internment camps. In one, at the edge of a large desert in western China, hundreds of Uighur Muslims are forced to participate in a high-pressure indoctrination programme in which they must learn Chinese and job skills and essentially delink themselves from their religious identity.

This is only one of several internment camps currently operated by the state, all of them fenced in and guarded by armed guards. One man from the camp said that he had been rounded up for reciting holy verses at a funeral. After three months at a camp, he and others were asked to renounce links to their previous lives. Many of those who have been sequestered in these camps, all of which include some sort of brainwashing element, are expected to offer up similar renunciations.

The crackdown on Uighur Muslims is linked to a large surveillance programme that is being tested by the Chinese government. In Kashgar, the main city in Xinjiang and one with a vibrant Muslim history, cameras and surveillance are reportedly found everywhere.

The goal obviously is to replace human intelligence of spies and snitches with technology. Regular checkpoints force the Uighurs to show their national identity cards and undergo questioning by guards who are armed. Sometimes the police take Uighur phones in order to see if they have installed the compulsory software that allows the government to monitor their calls. At other times, what the police erase makes no sense (one man complained that a police officer had erased the picture of a camel), but in all cases they have the power to decide whether or not a person will be allowed to proceed through the checkpoint.

Nor is this the only means of controlling and monitoring the population. The government controls internet and telecommunication already, which means that anyone saying anything against it, or even someone seen to show excessive allegiance to one’s faith, is at risk. Neighbourhoods in Kashgar have ‘monitors’ that are assigned the task of monitoring several families to ensure that they are not violating rules such as secretly fasting despite its prohibition.

With China’s growing power in the world, not least in Muslim countries like Pakistan, few are interested in speaking out about the inhumane and unwarranted crackdown on Muslims. Many Muslim countries owe large sums to the Chinese and any kind of vocal opposition or taking up of the Uighur issue will likely hurt their chances of continuing to attract China’s money to their own shores.

The United States, in its most Islamophobic moment to date, is similarly uninterested. US trade talks with China concluded last week without even bringing up the issue of the Uighurs and the religious repression that makes up their lives.

Religious freedom and Islamic solidarity have both been forgotten when it comes to standing up to China. The few who are still trying are the minority. A Turkish activist recently tried to initiate a campaign to “fast from China” via which Muslims who are fasting would abstain from using and buying Chinese goods such as mobile phones, clothing and electronics. It is unknown how much attention his campaign, which follows the hashtag #FastFromChina, will attract in the future.

Others, such as groups of American Muslims have been trying to draw attention to the curbs on fasting in China by travelling to the country and observing Ramazan there. Because they are Americans, China cannot crack down on them for fasting and they hope that their public fasting in China will draw attention to the millions of Uighurs who cannot fast in their own country.

Pakistan itself gets more and more indebted to Chinese loans, Chinese-built infrastructure and technology by the day, the hour and the minute. It is perhaps because of this that none of these efforts to speak out for the Uighurs have gained any traction at all in a country that is so geographically close to where such egregious abuses of religious liberty and freedom are taking place.

This month, Pakistanis are freely fasting (even while forbidding non-Muslim minorities from public consumption of food and all restaurants shut) but few seem to have spared a moment to consider the fates of the people who, just like them, would like to observe the tenets of their religious faith.

Self-absorbed and turning away, none of Pakistan’s religious scholars, or television anchors or military brass or civilian ministers, seem to be interested in speaking up about what is happening next door. If they do not have the guts or the gumption to do the right thing, then what can one expect of ordinary Pakistanis who may be fasting but yet are not quite interested in doing the right thing so others may do the same?

Teaching Needs to Adapt in the Age of Globalization

Classrooms in many parts of the world are increasingly diverse. International migration patterns have significantly changed the cultural make-up of many industrialized societies and, by extension, their school-aged populations.
Such changes are particularly seen in traditional destination countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In this increasingly globalized landscape, schools face significant challenges. Researchers have documented lower educational outcomes such as student achievement and graduation rates for immigrant students in the majority of countries around the world.
In response to these outcomes, more research is being devoted to understanding and supporting conditions for equitable learning. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is one idea to support these conditions. CRT is concerned with teaching methods and practices that recognize the importance of including students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.
To date, much focus in the field of CRT draws attention to the need for a greater diversity of role models and learning experiences in the classroom, and an expansion of teachers’ capacities to truly support and affirm diverse students.
As education researchers who have worked with teachers in training, and teachers in K-12 schools as well as teacher educators in Australasia, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, U.K. and the U.S., we argue that more attention needs to be paid to an overlooked aspect of CRT: both education systems and individual teachers must develop culturally responsive assessment and evaluation practices to boost student success.
How to recruit and prepare teachers?
CRT is sometimes also called culturally relevant teaching. This mode of teaching aims to be aware of how culture, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, language, gender identity and religious background may impact students’ learning experiences.
In many school contexts, student diversity far exceeds the diversity of teachers. Such an imbalance means students do not always encounter educator role models who reflect diverse cultural backgrounds throughout their schooling.
Thus, one aspect of promoting CRT is increasing efforts to attract a more representative demographic of teachers.
Recent analysis from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that in most OECD countries the typical person who expects a career in teaching at age 15 is a female with no immigrant background.
The findings are based on a question to 15-year-olds on 2006 and 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment surveys: “What kind of job do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?” (4.5 per cent of non-immigrant respondents said teaching; only 3.1 per cent of immigrant respondents said teaching).
The OECD survey did not capture racialized identity. But more fine-grain analyses within the traditional Western destination countries suggest racialized people and Indigenous groups are particularly underrepresented among teachers.
For example, Canada’s largest and most diverse province (Ontario) has a significant teacher diversity gap as evidenced by fairly recent demographic data.
Racialized people represent 26 per cent of the provincial population, yet comprise only nine per cent of the 117,905 elementary school and kindergarten teachers and 10 per cent of 70,520 secondary school teachers.
Targeted teacher recruitment efforts are one strategy to improve racialized teacher diversity. Enrolment targets or quota admissions are others.
Specialized programs for Indigenous peoples such as the teacher program focused on Aboriginal Education at Brock University or Maori Medium Teacher Education in New Zealand demonstrate efforts to grow the number of Indigenous peoples in teaching.
But strategies such as as diversified recruiting, quotas or specialized programs would take time and will likely struggle to keep up with changing student demographics.
Hence, providing relevant cultural training and professional development for aspiring and experienced teachers becomes even more important.
Such training needs to extend beyond traditional multicultural education approaches, or what has been called a “tourist” curriculum characterized by occasional or “highlight” additions.
Instead, training for teachers must model a multi-dimensional approach that includes integrating content from diverse cultures and experiences, and critically examining how cultural identity impacts learning.
Our experiences with teachers and teacher education programs globally reaffirm research findings about recognized practices in teacher education that impact student success.
For example, teachers programs should help teacher candidates critically consider their own identities in relationship to societal inequities and prejudice; optimally, with growth and maturity, they learn how to model deep inclusion.
Assessment literacy: The missing link
We also want to draw attention to an area that has been neglected in broader discussions of CRT – namely, assessment and evaluation strategies.
Most educators now accept that student assessment is the beginning point for instruction, not simply the end. That means assessment can be a powerful support when used throughout learning stages to provide meaningful feedback to students. Teachers need to carefully consider assessment and evaluation before they begin a lesson or unit of study and to use assessment to monitor students’ learning.
However, assessment continues to operate in more traditional ways: it continues to be used primarily as a measure of students’ final learning in courses through tests and exams or through large-scale provincial, state or national testing programs.
Teachers’ competency in using assessment to support student learning and to accurately report on it is called “assessment literacy” — so named for the ability to “read” a class to develop fair, relevant and supportive assessment.
Teachers must learn culturally responsive frameworks to develop fair practices for obtaining accurate information about students’ learning. Our research suggests competency in developing assessment can be enhanced through effective professional development.
The issue of fair assessment also raises questions about system-wide standardized testing, often used for accountability purposes. Standardized testing can be biased, for example reflecting foremost the experiences of white middle-class students.
Thus we acknowledge the need to combine the dual movements of CRT as focused in teacher recruiting and training with greater attention to responsive assessment.
Unless that happens, CRT will only find limited success in creating classrooms that ensure learning and achievement is attainable for all

Europe’s Sinister Russian Plot

Across the pond, Europe has its own Russia collusion scandal, wherenations will be holding elections for the European Parliament from May 23 to 26. Polls indicate euroskeptic parties will do well, winning up to a third of the seats.

I’m not going to make a prediction about the results. But I will make one about Europe’s response. If the euroskeptics win big, expect mainstream politicians to blame Russia and fake news. It’s a convenient excuse for the failure of mainstream pro-Europe parties, and a convenient excuse for them to grab more power.

For months, European officials and pro-Europe mainstream public figures have been laying the groundwork for this excuse. Back in November, European Commissioner for Justice and Consumer Policy Vera Jourova warned the European Parliament about “allegations of dark financing from undisclosed third-country sources” and named Russia as the top culprit. In February, former nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and 14 other political leaders launched an initiative to combat Russian election meddling. On May 12, the New York Times reported that “a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades.”

“European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks,” the Times wrote, “including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.”

Just today, Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group in the European Parliament wrote that euroskeptic parties “have essentially become a Russian fifth column within the European Union.”

The trouble is, there’s very little actual evidence of substantial Russian interference. “We are not seeing the automated, networked activity with an obvious Russian fingerprint across these elections,” said Sasha Havlicek, head of London’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue, according to a Washington Post article published this morning.

“European leaders commissioned reports about foreign meddling, enlisted intelligence services in efforts to be vigilant, and pushed social media companies to police their platforms,” noted the Post. “But the worst fears about Kremlin involvement have not manifested, officials and analysts said.”

But this hasn’t stopped the flood of hysterical articles.

I don’t deny that Russia tries to influence elections and spreads fake news. I’ve written on the subject myself, long before the mainstream press started paying attention. But if euroskeptic and other fringe parties do well this week, it won’t be because they received some dodgy donations from Russia or favorable press from RT.

They may have some small effect—but it will be dwarfed by some much bigger factors. European voters are voting against pro-euro politicians because they are angry at their policies. They’re fed up with EU politicians flooding their countries with migrants. They’re fed up with the ongoing economic crisis that is the eurozone. They’re fed up with a political class that ignores their concerns and never seems to change. They’re fed up with a European Union that is not a democracy in any real sense.

As a mainstream pro-Europe politician, addressing those concerns is hard. It’s much easier to blame the Russians.

Besides, if you want to point fingers at Russian collusion, the mainstream pro-European German government’s pipeline dealings with Vladimir Putin are far more significant. A former German chancellor is playing a major role in a Russia-owned company, palling around with Mr. Putin and even attending his birthday party. If there’s a Russia collusion scandal in Europe, that’s it.

But still mainstream politicians—even politicians in Germany’s own government—brazenly accuse others of working with Russia.

We saw this in Britain’s Brexit referendum. Former Labour Party Minister Ben Bradshaw said that it was “highly probable” that Russian cyberwarefare caused Britain’s Brexit vote. That idea has been repeated by left-wing news outlets. The Guardian, especially, has spent months gleefully peddling left-wing conspiracy theories about Russia. It even claimed that then UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage ferried data between Donald Trump’s campaign and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on a usb stick as part of one vast Russian conspiracy to steal both the Brexit vote and United States presidential election. A London School of Economics academic claimed that Russian interference means that the Brexit referendum is invalid.

All this is despite the fact that only 105 Russia-linked Twitter accounts posted in the run-up to the vote. Facebook said that Russia spent a total of 73 pence (us$0.93) on ads during the vote—reaching a total of 200 people.

Who knew stealing an election was so cheap?

But there is a sinister side to all of this.

In December, the EU announced that it was launching a “war on fake news.” Channel 4’s FactCheck (hardly a euroskeptic institution) warned that this isn’t simply about getting the facts—some officials “clearly believed that the battle against misinformation was actually a battle against euroskeptics. They saw their mission in this fight as defending the EU and its institutions.”

“Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, the European Parliament’s vice president, laid this out in stark terms, admitting the campaign against fake news should aim to stop certain politicians from winning seats in the EU’s next election,” it continued (emphasis added). The article went through the EU’s own documents that outline their war against fake news, before concluding that the effort “seems explicitly designed to protect the EU and its institutions, and stop euroskeptic politicians making progress in elections.”

How much more will they step up elections if euroskeptic politicians make great strides this week?

They are already putting pressure on social media companies to clamp down on “fake news” (anti-EU news). The EU has also stepped up its monitoring of the news media—issuing regular reports on news articles that are shared widely on social media.

It’s easy to see the EU launching a push to control the press if it blames an election setback on Russian fake news. It’s already threatening social media with more regulation if the companies don’t voluntarily sign up for the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation.

This is concerning, given the EU’s track record of labeling everything it dislikes as “disinformation.” In 2015, the EU set up the EU vs. Disinformation campaign and the Disinformation Review. The trouble is, much of what it identified as disinformation is actually true. Even the Dutch Parliament complained, calling for the Disinformation Review to be shut down. Here are some of the claims that this EU taskforce has labeled as disinformation:

  • “The European Commission is one of the most undemocratic institutions. These people [EU commissioners] were not elected by anyone, and they are not accountable to EU citizens.” That’s true. EU commissioners are appointed by national governments. They are often unknown to most voters. Their appointment can be blocked by the EU Parliament, but once they are in office, EU Parliament (the part of the EU that most resembles representative government) cannot fire them. That’s not accountability.
  • “The EU Parliament is a place of corruption; voting in the elections is worthless.” The rebuttal by the EU Disinformation Review doesn’t begin to address the issue of corruption. But what else do you call an intuition where members routinely claim expenses for running offices that don’t exist—and has a tame court to block journalists from digging into the story. Whose members repeatedly vote themselves all kinds of perks, submit all kinds of dodgy expense claims, and pay a special low rate of tax?
  • “Voting in the EP elections will bring no benefits to the Latvian people.” Apparently the EU can see into the future, because the Disinformation Review has labeled that forecast as “disinformation.”

And on the list goes—all these examples are just from the last couple of months. And all this comes after they got a telling off from the Dutch Parliament. Before then, the Disinformation Review bureaucrats were even more liberal with what they branded as “disinformation.”

These are the kind of stories the EU wants erased from social media. And if the social media companies don’t get rid of them now, EU legislators and bureaucrats will pass laws or enact regulations to make it happen. Soon you may not be allowed to call European leaders “corrupt,” call the EU “undemocratic,” or deny that Europe brings “benefits.”

Germany’s ambitions for the Internet should concern everyone, even those who don’t have a computer. The EU’s behavior on this issue exposes the dictatorial nature of this German-dominated entity. We see the same spirit in this European version of the Russia collusion scandal. Those at the top of the EU view themselves as the preordained masters of the universe. If people vote against their policies, it cannot be because they are wrong. Instead, it has to be the result of some outside, malign actor—Russia. And the public cannot be trusted to choose for themselves what they read. By voting against the EU, they’ve proved that they’re too stupid to be trusted with that responsibility. To help them vote in a more “educated” way, the EU must select what news they’re allowed to see. Thus, each setback for the EU merely becomes yet another reason why the EU must do more.

It’s the same spirit behind the Russia collusion scandal in the U.S. Those opposed to President Donald Trump see themselves as smart, sophisticated, default leaders of America. If they lose an election to someone like Mr. Trump, they think that something is badly wrong and that they must find a way to regain power. And again, Russia is a convenient excuse.:

The late Otto von Habsburg was from the famous Habsburg dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire and a member of the European Parliament. He said, “The [European] Community is living largely by the heritage of the Holy Roman Empire, though the great majority don’t know by what heritage they live.” … The EU is not a democratic organization—it is an imperialistic empire. The world will learn this very soon. …

Mr. Habsburg also said, “We possess a European symbol which belongs to all nations of Europe equally. This is the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.” Hitler called his Nazi empire the Third Reich, after the First Germanic Reich of Charlemagne and the Second Reich of the German empire. The EU is about the Germans ruling more than just Germany: They want an empire! They want to control the Internet—and that is only a stepping-stone to controlling the world! This spirit is why the EU’s instinctive response to any problem is more control.

The EU elections this week are an opportunity for you to watch that in action. If the pro-Europeans do badly, or are seriously challenged, expect them to push for more regulation of the Internet, social media and the press. 

pe, nations will be holding elections for the European Parliament from May 23 to 26. Polls indicate euroskeptic parties will do well, winning up to a third of the seats.

I’m not going to make a prediction about the results. But I will make one about Europe’s response. If the euroskeptics win big, expect mainstream politicians to blame Russia and fake news. It’s a convenient excuse for the failure of mainstream pro-Europe parties, and a convenient excuse for them to grab more power.

For months, European officials and pro-Europe mainstream public figures have been laying the groundwork for this excuse. Back in November, European Commissioner for Justice and Consumer Policy Vera Jourova warned the European Parliament about “allegations of dark financing from undisclosed third-country sources” and named Russia as the top culprit. In February, former nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and 14 other political leaders launched an initiative to combat Russian election meddling. On May 12, the New York Times reported that “a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades.”

“European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks,” the Times wrote, “including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.”

Just today, Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group in the European Parliament wrote that euroskeptic parties “have essentially become a Russian fifth column within the European Union.”

The trouble is, there’s very little actual evidence of substantial Russian interference. “We are not seeing the automated, networked activity with an obvious Russian fingerprint across these elections,” said Sasha Havlicek, head of London’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue, according to a Washington Post article published this morning.

“European leaders commissioned reports about foreign meddling, enlisted intelligence services in efforts to be vigilant, and pushed social media companies to police their platforms,” noted the Post. “But the worst fears about Kremlin involvement have not manifested, officials and analysts said.”

But this hasn’t stopped the flood of hysterical articles.

I don’t deny that Russia tries to influence elections and spreads fake news. I’ve written on the subject myself, long before the mainstream press started paying attention. But if euroskeptic and other fringe parties do well this week, it won’t be because they received some dodgy donations from Russia or favorable press from RT.

They may have some small effect—but it will be dwarfed by some much bigger factors. European voters are voting against pro-euro politicians because they are angry at their policies. They’re fed up with EU politicians flooding their countries with migrants. They’re fed up with the ongoing economic crisis that is the eurozone. They’re fed up with a political class that ignores their concerns and never seems to change. They’re fed up with a European Union that is not a democracy in any real sense.

As a mainstream pro-Europe politician, addressing those concerns is hard. It’s much easier to blame the Russians.

Besides, if you want to point fingers at Russian collusion, the mainstream pro-European German government’s pipeline dealings with Vladimir Putin are far more significant. A former German chancellor is playing a major role in a Russia-owned company, palling around with Mr. Putin and even attending his birthday party. If there’s a Russia collusion scandal in Europe, that’s it.

But still mainstream politicians—even politicians in Germany’s own government—brazenly accuse others of working with Russia.

We saw this in Britain’s Brexit referendum. Former Labour Party Minister Ben Bradshaw said that it was “highly probable” that Russian cyberwarefare caused Britain’s Brexit vote. That idea has been repeated by left-wing news outlets. The Guardian, especially, has spent months gleefully peddling left-wing conspiracy theories about Russia. It even claimed that then UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage ferried data between Donald Trump’s campaign and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on a usb stick as part of one vast Russian conspiracy to steal both the Brexit vote and United States presidential election. A London School of Economics academic claimed that Russian interference means that the Brexit referendum is invalid.

All this is despite the fact that only 105 Russia-linked Twitter accounts posted in the run-up to the vote. Facebook said that Russia spent a total of 73 pence (us$0.93) on ads during the vote—reaching a total of 200 people.

Who knew stealing an election was so cheap?

But there is a sinister side to all of this.

In December, the EU announced that it was launching a “war on fake news.” Channel 4’s FactCheck (hardly a euroskeptic institution) warned that this isn’t simply about getting the facts—some officials “clearly believed that the battle against misinformation was actually a battle against euroskeptics. They saw their mission in this fight as defending the EU and its institutions.”

“Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, the European Parliament’s vice president, laid this out in stark terms, admitting the campaign against fake news should aim to stop certain politicians from winning seats in the EU’s next election,” it continued (emphasis added). The article went through the EU’s own documents that outline their war against fake news, before concluding that the effort “seems explicitly designed to protect the EU and its institutions, and stop euroskeptic politicians making progress in elections.”

How much more will they step up elections if euroskeptic politicians make great strides this week?

They are already putting pressure on social media companies to clamp down on “fake news” (anti-EU news). The EU has also stepped up its monitoring of the news media—issuing regular reports on news articles that are shared widely on social media.

It’s easy to see the EU launching a push to control the press if it blames an election setback on Russian fake news. It’s already threatening social media with more regulation if the companies don’t voluntarily sign up for the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation.

This is concerning, given the EU’s track record of labeling everything it dislikes as “disinformation.” In 2015, the EU set up the EU vs. Disinformation campaign and the Disinformation Review. The trouble is, much of what it identified as disinformation is actually true. Even the Dutch Parliament complained, calling for the Disinformation Review to be shut down. Here are some of the claims that this EU taskforce has labeled as disinformation:

  • “The European Commission is one of the most undemocratic institutions. These people [EU commissioners] were not elected by anyone, and they are not accountable to EU citizens.” That’s true. EU commissioners are appointed by national governments. They are often unknown to most voters. Their appointment can be blocked by the EU Parliament, but once they are in office, EU Parliament (the part of the EU that most resembles representative government) cannot fire them. That’s not accountability.
  • “The EU Parliament is a place of corruption; voting in the elections is worthless.” The rebuttal by the EU Disinformation Review doesn’t begin to address the issue of corruption. But what else do you call an intuition where members routinely claim expenses for running offices that don’t exist—and has a tame court to block journalists from digging into the story. Whose members repeatedly vote themselves all kinds of perks, submit all kinds of dodgy expense claims, and pay a special low rate of tax?
  • “Voting in the EP elections will bring no benefits to the Latvian people.” Apparently the EU can see into the future, because the Disinformation Review has labeled that forecast as “disinformation.”

And on the list goes—all these examples are just from the last couple of months. And all this comes after they got a telling off from the Dutch Parliament. Before then, the Disinformation Review bureaucrats were even more liberal with what they branded as “disinformation.”

These are the kind of stories the EU wants erased from social media. And if the social media companies don’t get rid of them now, EU legislators and bureaucrats will pass laws or enact regulations to make it happen. Soon you may not be allowed to call European leaders “corrupt,” call the EU “undemocratic,” or deny that Europe brings “benefits.”

Germany’s ambitions for the Internet should concern everyone, even those who don’t have a computer. The EU’s behavior on this issue exposes the dictatorial nature of this German-dominated entity. We see the same spirit in this European version of the Russia collusion scandal. Those at the top of the EU view themselves as the preordained masters of the universe. If people vote against their policies, it cannot be because they are wrong. Instead, it has to be the result of some outside, malign actor—Russia. And the public cannot be trusted to choose for themselves what they read. By voting against the EU, they’ve proved that they’re too stupid to be trusted with that responsibility. To help them vote in a more “educated” way, the EU must select what news they’re allowed to see. Thus, each setback for the EU merely becomes yet another reason why the EU must do more.

It’s the same spirit behind the Russia collusion scandal in the U.S. Those opposed to President Donald Trump see themselves as smart, sophisticated, default leaders of America. If they lose an election to someone like Mr. Trump, they think that something is badly wrong and that they must find a way to regain power. And again, Russia is a convenient excuse.:

The late Otto von Habsburg was from the famous Habsburg dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire and a member of the European Parliament. He said, “The [European] Community is living largely by the heritage of the Holy Roman Empire, though the great majority don’t know by what heritage they live.” … The EU is not a democratic organization—it is an imperialistic empire. The world will learn this very soon. …

Mr. Habsburg also said, “We possess a European symbol which belongs to all nations of Europe equally. This is the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.” Hitler called his Nazi empire the Third Reich, after the First Germanic Reich of Charlemagne and the Second Reich of the German empire. The EU is about the Germans ruling more than just Germany: They want an empire! They want to control the Internet—and that is only a stepping-stone to controlling the world! This spirit is why the EU’s instinctive response to any problem is more control.

The EU elections this week are an opportunity for you to watch that in action. If the pro-Europeans do badly, or are seriously challenged, expect them to push for more regulation of the Internet, social media and the press. 

Origin & History of Antisemitism

Antisemitism is on the march. From the far-right demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, with their “Blood and Soil” chants and their “Jews will not replace us” placards to attacks on synagogues in Sweden, arson attacks on kosher restaurants in France and a spike in hate crimes against Jews in the UK. Antisemitism seems to have been given a new lease of life.
The seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East have made the problem worse as they spawn divisive domestic politics in the West. But can the advance of antisemitism be attributed to the rise of right-wing populism or the influence of Islamic fundamentalism? One thing is clear. Antisemitism is here and it’s getting worse.
Antisemitism rears its ugly head in every aspect of public life, whether internal debates within political parties or accusations of conspiratorial networks or plots in politics and business. Or even in the accusations that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexually predatory behaviour was somehow linked to his Jewish origins.
But by focusing narrowly on the contemporary context of modern antisemitism, we miss a central, if deeply depressing, reality. Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic magazine, puts it correctly when he says that what we are seeing is an ancient and deeply embedded hostility towards Jews that is reemerging as the barbarous events of World War II recede from our collective memory.
Goldberg says that for 70 years, in the shadow of the death camps, antisemitism was culturally, politically and intellectually unacceptable. But now “we are witnessing … the denouement of an unusual epoch in European life, the age of the post-Holocaust Jewish dispensation”. Without an understanding of antisemitism’s ancient roots, the dark significance of this current trend may not be fully understood and hatred may sway popular opinion unchallenged.
Antisemitism has been called history’s oldest hatred and it has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable. It is carved from – and sustained by – powerful precedents and inherited stereotypes. But it also taking on variant forms to reflect the contingent fears and anxieties of an ever-changing world. Understood this way, it is the modern manifestation of an ancient prejudice – one which some scholars believe stretches back to antiquity and medieval times.
Ancient tradition of hatred
The word “antisemitism” was popularised by the German journalist Wilhelm Marr. His polemic, Der Sieg des Judentums über das Germentum (The Victory of Jewry over Germandom), was published in 1879. Outwardly, Marr was a thoroughly secular man of the modern world. He explicitly rejected the groundless but ancient Christian allegations long made against the Jews, such as deicide or that Jews engaged in the ritual murder of Christian children. Instead, he drew on the fashionable theories of the French academic Ernest Renan(who viewed history as a world-shaping contest between Jewish Semites and Aryan Indo-Europeans). Marr suggested that the Jewish threat to Germany was racial. He said that it was born of their immutable and destructive nature, their “tribal peculiarities” and “alien essence”.
Antisemites like Marr strove for intellectual respectability by denying any connection between their own modern, secular ideology and the irrational, superstitious bigotry of the past. It is a tactic which is employed by some contemporary antisemites who align themselves with “anti-Zionism”, an ideology whose precise definition consequently excites considerable controversy. But this continuing hostility towards Jews from pre-modern to modern times has been manifest to many.
The American historian Joshua Trachtenberg, writing during World War II, noted: Modern so-called ‘scientific’ antisemitism is not an invention of Hitler’s … it has flourished primarily in central and eastern Europe, where medieval ideas and conditions have persisted until this day, and where the medieval conception of the Jew which underlies the prevailing emotional antipathy toward him was, and still is, deeply rooted.
In fact, up until the Holocaust, antisemitism flourished just as much in western Europe as in central or eastern Europe. Consider, for example, how French society was bitterly divided between 1894-1906, after the Jewish army officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was falsely accused and convicted of spying for Germany. It saw conservatives squaring up against liberals and socialists, Catholics against Jews.
Yet Trachtenberg was undoubtedly correct in suggesting that many of those who shaped modern antisemitism were profoundly influenced by the older “medieval” tradition of religious bigotry. The Russian editor of the infamous Protocols of Zion – a crude and ugly, but tragically influential, forgery alleging a Jewish world conspiracy – was the political reactionary, ultra-Orthodox, and self-styled mystic Sergei Nilus.
Wrought by fear and hatred of the challenges to traditional religion, social hierarchies and culture posed by modernity, Nilus was convinced that the coming of the Antichrist was imminent and that those who failed to believe in the existence of “the elders of Zion” were simply the dupes of “Satan’s greatest ruse”.
So modern antisemitism cannot be easily separated from its pre-modern antecedents. As the Catholic theologian Rosemary Ruether observed:
The mythical Jew, who is the eternal conspiratorial enemy of Christian faith, spirituality and redemption, was … shaped to serve as the scapegoat for [the ills of] secular industrial society.
Antisemitism in antiquity?
Some scholars would look to the pre-Christian world and see in the attitudes of ancient Greeks and Romans the origins of an enduring hostility. Religious Studies scholar Peter Schäfer believes the exclusive nature of the monotheistic Jewish faith, the apparent haughty sense of being a chosen people, a refusal to intermarry, a Sabbath observance and the practise of circumcision were all things that marked Jews out in antiquity for a particular odium.
Finding examples of hostility towards Jews in classical sources is not difficult. The politician and lawyer Cicero, 106-43BC, once reminded a jury of “the odium of Jewish gold” and how they “[stick together]” and are “influential in informal assemblies”. The Roman historian Tacitus, c.56-120AD, was contemptuous of “base and abominable” Jewish customs and was deeply disturbed by those of his compatriots who had renounced their ancestral gods and converted to Judaism. The Roman poet and satirist Juvenal, c.55-130AD, shared his disgust at the behaviour of converts to Judaism besides denouncing Jews generally as drunken and rowdy.
These few examples may point towards the existence of antisemitism in antiquity. But there is little reason to believe that Jews were the objects of a specific prejudice beyond the generalised contempt that both Greeks and Romans exhibited towards “barbarians” – especially conquered and colonised peoples. Juvenal was every bit as rude about Greeks and other foreigners in Rome as he was about Jews. He complained bitterly: “I cannot stand … a Greek city of Rome. And yet what part of the dregs comes from Greece?” Once the full extent of Juvenal’s prejudice has been recognised, his snide remarks about Jews might be understood as being more indicative of an altogether more sweeping xenophobia.
The ‘Christ killers’
It is in the theology of early Christians that we find the clearest foundations of antisemitism. The Adversus Judaeos (arguments against the Jews) tradition was established early in the religion’s history. Sometime around 140AD the Christian apologist Justin Martyr was teaching in Rome. In his most celebrated work, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin strove to answer Trypho when he pointed to the contradictory position of Christians who claimed to accept Jewish scripture but refused to follow Torah (the Jewish law).
Justin responded that the demands of Jewish law were meant only for Jews as a punishment from God. Although still accepting the possibility of Jewish salvation, he argued that the old covenant was finished, telling Trypho: “You ought to understand that [the gifts of God’s favour] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us.” Yet Justin’s concern was not really with Jews. It was with his fellow Christians. At a time when the distinction between Judaism and Christianity was still blurred and rival sects competed for adherents, he was striving to prevent gentile converts to Christianity from observing the Torah, lest they go over wholly to Judaism.
Vilifying Jews was a central part of Justin’s rhetorical strategy. He alleged that they were guilty of persecuting Christians and had done so ever since they “had killed the Christ”. It was an ugly charge, soon levelled again in the works of other Church Fathers, such as Tertullian (c.160-225AD) who referred to the “synagogues of the Jews” as “fountains of persecution”.
The objective of using such invective was to settle internal debates within Christian congregations. The “Jews” in these writings were symbolic. The allegations did not reflect the actual behaviour or beliefs of Jews. When Tertullian attempted to refute the dualist teachings of the Christian heretic Marcion (c.144AD), he needed to demonstrate that the vengeful God of the Old Testament was indeed the same merciful and compassionate God of the Christian New Testament. He achieved this by presenting the Jews as especially wicked and especially deserving of righteous anger; it was thus, Tertullian argued, that Jewish behaviours and Jewish sins explained the contrast between the Old and the New Testament.
To demonstrate this peculiar malevolence, Tertullian portrayed Jews as denying the prophets, rejecting Jesus, persecuting Christians and as rebels against God. These stereotypes shaped Christian attitudes towards Jews from late antiquity into the medieval period, leaving Jewish communities vulnerable to periodic outbreaks of persecution. These ranged from massacres, such as York in 1190, to “ethnic cleansing”, as seen in the expulsions from England in 1290, France in 1306 and Spain in 1492.
Although it was real people who often suffered as a result of this ugly prejudice, antisemitism as a concept largely owes its longevity to its symbolic and rhetorical power. American historian David Nirenberg concludes that “anti-Judaism was a tool that could usefully be deployed to almost any problem, a weapon that could be deployed on almost any front”. And this weapon has been wielded to devastating effect for centuries. When Martin Luther thundered against the Papacy in 1543 he denounced the Roman Church as “the Devil’s Synagogue” and Catholic orthodoxy as “Jewish” in its greed and materialism. In 1790, the Anglo-Irish conservative Edmund Burke published his manifesto, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and condemned the revolutionaries as “Jew brokers” and “Old Jewry.”
From Marxism to Hollywood
Despite Karl Marx’s Jewish ancestry, Marxism was tainted at its very birth by antisemitism. In 1843, Karl Marx identified modern capitalism as the result of the “Judiasing” of the Christian:
The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner not only annexing the power of money but also through him and also apart from him money has become a world power and the practical spirit of the Jew has become the practical spirit of the Christian people. The Jews have emancipated themselves in so far as the Christians have become Jews … Money is the jealous god of Israel before whom no other god may stand … The god of the Jews has been secularised and has become the god of the world.
And there remain those, from across the political spectrum, who are still ready to deploy what Nirenberg referred to as “the most powerful language of opprobrium available” in Western political discourse, commonly using the language of conspiracy, webs and networks. In 2002, the left-leaning New Statesman included articles by Dennis Sewell and John Pilger, debating the existence of a “pro-Israeli lobby” in Britain. Their articles, however, proved less controversial than the the cover illustration chosen to introduce this theme, which drew on familiar tropes of secret Jewish machinations and dominance over national interests: a gold Star of David resting on the Union Jack, with the title: “A Kosher Conspiracy?” The following year, veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell accused the then prime minister, Tony Blair, of “being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”. It is still language that is being used now.
On the far right, white supremacists have been quick to project their own time-honoured fantasies of Jewish malfeasance and power onto contemporary events, however seemingly irrelevant. This was quickly apparent in August 2017, as the future of memorials glorifying those who had rebelled against the union and defended slavery during America’s Civil War became the focus of intense debate in the United States. At Charlottesville, Virginia,demonstrators protesting against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, began chanting “Jews will not replace us”. When journalist Elspeth Reeve asked one why, he replied that the city was “run by Jewish communists”.
When accusations of serious sexual misconduct by Weinstein were published by The New York Times in October 2017, he was quickly cast by the far right as a representative of the “eternal conspiratorial enemy” of American society as a whole. David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, would write on his website that the “Harvey Weinstein story … is a case study in the corrosive nature of Jewish domination of our media and cultural industries”.
The hatreds of our time …’
Responding to such language, The Atlantic’s Emma Green astutely commented on how “the durability of anti-Semitic tropes and the ease with which they slide into all displays of bigotry, is a chilling reminder that the hatreds of our time rhyme with history and are easily channelled through timeless anti-Semitic canards”.
There is real danger here as the spike in antisemitic hate crimes shows. This peculiar way of thinking about the world has always retained the potential to turn hatred of symbolic Jews into the very real persecution of actual Jews. Given the marked escalation of antisemitic incidents recorded in 2017, we are now faced with the unsettling prospect that this bigotry is becoming “normalised”.
For example, the European Jewish Congress expressed “grave concerns” over an increase in antisemitic acts in Poland under the right-wing Law and Justice government which won the 2015 parliamentary election with an outright majority. The group said the government was “closing … communications with the official representatives of the Jewish community” and there was a “proliferation of ‘fascist slogans’ and unsettling remarks on social media and television, as well as the display of flags of the nationalist … group at state ceremonies”.
In response to these fears, a survey investigating antisemitism within the European Union will be undertaken in 2018, led by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The agency’s director, Michael O’Flaherty, commented, correctly, that: “Antisemitism remains a grave worry across Europe despite repeated efforts to stamp out these age-old prejudices.”
Given the phenomenon’s deep historical roots and its epoch defying capacity for reinvention, it would be easy to be pessimistic about the prospect of another effort to “stamp it out”. But an historical awareness of the nature of antisemitism may prove a powerful ally for those who would challenge prejudice. The ancient tropes and slights may cloak themselves in modern garb but even softly-spoken allegations of conspiratorial “lobbies” and “cabals” should be recognised for what they are: the mobilisation of an ancient language and ideology of hate for which there should be no place in our time.

To Face Hunger, India & China Lead in New Vegetation

 China and India are “leading the world” in “greening” the landscape, a study finds, with the two countries accounting for one-third of the new forests, croplands and other types of vegetation observed globally since 2000.

The results, published in Nature Sustainability, also show that China alone accounts for a quarter of the human-caused greening observed since 2000 – despite containing only 6.3% of the world’s landmass.

In China, 42% of the greening comes from the expansion of forests while 32% comes from cultivated farmlands, the study finds. In India, 82% of the greening comes from new croplands.

However, it is important to note that greening observed in China and India is “not enough to offset” the loss of the world’s tropical rainforests, particularly in Brazil, a scientist tells Carbon Brief.

The findings also suggest that the “CO2 fertilisation effect” – where increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere bolster the growth of plants – could be a “less prominent” driver of “global greening” than previously thought, a study author tells Carbon Brief.

This is because human-driven land-use change – through the planting of croplands, forests and other types of vegetation – could be having a larger impact on global greening than previously recognised, the author says.

Green planet

Across the world, the rate of plant growth appears to be increasing. Scientists who study this phenomenon call it “global greening”.

One reason that plants could be growing faster is that humans are releasing billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year – and plants use CO2 to carry out photosynthesis. The process whereby increasing CO2 levels boosts plant growth is known as the “CO2 fertilisation effect”.

However, humans can also have a direct impact on the amount of vegetation found on Earth through the way in which they manage land.

The new study examines how both human-driven land-use change and the natural growth of vegetation have contributed to greening across the world over 2000-16.

To do this, the researchers made use of data taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (Modis) – a key sensor onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.

The high-resolution sensor captures “greening” – net gain of leaf-covered area – and “browning” – net loss of leaf-covered area – across the globe, explains study lead author Chi Chen, a PhD student at Boston University. He tells Carbon Brief:

“One challenge of the optical satellite remote sensing is the data corruption by clouds and aerosols. Our study therefore further refined Modis [data] by rigorously checking the quality flags. We also use GIS [Geographic Information System] data…to calculate and rank the net change of leaf area and the proportions of greening and browning by countries.”

Leafy landscape

The regional breakdown of new vegetation growth is offered in the table below. The table ranks the 11 largest countries by leaf-covered area in 2000 (left), net change in leaf-covered area from 2000-16 (middle) and this net change as a percentage of the total leaf-covered area (right).

Image: Source: Chen et al. (2019)

The results show that “China and India stand out”, Chen says:

“China and India, the two most populous and emerging countries – rather than the developed nations – are leaders in greening the lands through planting of trees and intensive crop cultivation. China and India account for one-third of the greening but contain only 9% of the global vegetated land area.”

China alone accounts for a quarter of the global net increase in leaf area from 2000-16, the study finds. This is equal to the greening observed in Russia, the US and Canada over the same time period.

Around 42% of the greening seen in China comes from the expansion of forests. The map below offers a closer look at greening from forest expansion in China over the study period. (Last year, Carbon Brief published an explainer detailing how China has, according to its government, planted 35bn trees since the 1990s.)

India, meanwhile, accounts for 6.8% of the global net increase in leaf area, the study finds. This is roughly equal to that in the US or Canada – which both had three times more vegetated area in 2000.

While these greening trends are significant, it is important to note that they cannot make up for the loss of natural rainforests in the world’s tropical regions, says Prof Anja Rammig, a researcher of land-surface interactions from the Technical University of Munich, who was not involved in the study. She tells Carbon Brief:

“When you read this, it seems a bit like you could conclude ‘well this greening trend is driven by land-use activity and human-land management, so we are doing great’ – but it is important to note that this will not offset, for example, loss of the Amazon rainforest. This greening trend we see from human activity cannot offset the loss of rainforest.”

This is also noted by the researchers of the study, who say in their paper:

“It is important to note that the gain in greenness, which mostly occurred in the Northern temperate and high latitudes, does not offset the damage from loss of leaf area in tropical vegetation – for example, in Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] and Indonesia.”

(It is worth noting that the study did not look at how much natural forest has been converted into croplands.)

Fertilisation effect

Another key finding of the research paper is that “human land-use” has been “a dominant driver” of global greening since 2000, the authors say.

One reason for this conclusion is that the study shows that cropland expansion has contributed the most to greening over the study period, they say. Six out of seven “greening clusters” (shown on the first map) “overlap” with regions known to have highly intensive agriculture. Rammig says:

“If you expect CO2 fertilisation to have a big effect, you’d also see strong greening in, for example, the Amazon region. But it’s not as strong there as in these highly managed regions.”

The expansion of agriculture over the time period can “be attributed to quick-growing hybrid cultivars [plant varieties], multiple cropping, irrigation, fertiliser use, pest control, better quality seeds, farm mechanisation, credit availability and crop insurance programmes”, the authors say.

In other words, much of the greening observed on Earth has had more to do with direct human interference than the indirect effect of climate change or the CO2 fertilisation effect, says study co-author Prof Ranga Myneni, a research of vegetation remote sensing from Boston University. He tells Carbon Brief:

“Some have argued that greening is a good side effect of increased CO2 concentration. These generally tend to be [climate] sceptics. We now see that land-use by humans is a major factor of greening – something not recognised before.”

Can China’s Loss Be India’s Gain?

While all the world’s attention is on US President Donald Trump slapping crippling 25% tariffs on Chinese imports, India has managed to avert a looming crisis in its trade relations with the ‘tariff king’.

The May 3 deadline for the withdrawal of dutyfree benefits for Indian exports under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) came and went.

Washington held its fire and a crisis was averted. US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer has apparently decided to wait for the Indian elections to be over after several interventions — including from key members of the US Congress who argued that terminating GSP privileges to India at this time would needlessly politicise the issue.

India would have lost benefits on exports worth $5.6 billion to the US. While small in the overall India-US trade picture, the duty-free entry into the US is important for small and medium-sized companies.

It was down to the wire. The paperwork by USTR to terminate GSP was being processed since the 60-day notice period ended on May 3. If it had reached Trump’s desk, he most likely would have signed it.

Angry headlines, jingoistic TV debates and political grandstanding would have followed. India would have retaliated with tariffs on US goods, the US would have taken further action — say, put India on the ‘Super 301’ list, via which the US imposes tariffs against countries that don’t provide ‘adequate and effective’ protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). Bilateral relations would have taken a serious hit.

Against this background, any new government — Congress-led, BJP-led or any other constellation — would have found it difficult to find resolution. But wiser counsel prevailed. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hinted at the reprieve during his visit to India last week, but his speech slamming India’s ‘restrictive’ trade policies got all the attention. But the speech was aimed at the audience of one in the White House.

Now that there is a little more time, it’s imperative that India’s response be well-coordinated and various ministries be brought on board. It seems over the last year, anyone who didn’t want to make a concession simply sat on the file with no senior person taking responsibility to see things through.

The delays and non-responses created bad blood, especially with Lighthizer, who had nothing to show for the India file. Things changed perceptibly as India’s new ambassador to the US, Harsh Shringla, and his team plunged in, did the hard work to coordinate with New Delhi and got answers.

Three letters came from the US Congress, all arguing that it was just about the worst time to force the issue. US companies that use Indian GSP exports were brought into play. Apparently, more than 450 US companies depend on various Indian exports for some part of their product. They formed a coalition and appealed to USTR.

All this could have been done last year, but wasn’t. The price of inactivity can be high with Trump. Nothing on the list of trade disputes is unresolvable with a bit of give and take and creative thinking.

Now India has apparently made an offer on IT tariffs and medical devices that is an improvement on one made in February. It’s unclear whether it will be enough, but it certainly can form the basis for further negotiations.

Actually, if India positions itself well, opportunities abound now that Trump has raised tariffs on Chinese imports worth $200 billion from 10% to 25%. Facing the tariff king is Chinese President Xi Jinping — the king for life but utterly unable to read Trump.

Instead of taking Trump’s demands seriously, Xi and his men did the same workarounds they had used with previous US presidents — make vague promises, never write them into regulations, continue to steal intellectual property and bank on the US’ addiction to cheap Chinese products.

What’s important in the unfolding scenario is the opportunity this ‘disruption’ offers for the quick-footed. Indian industry organisations should proactively explore new options, because a 25% tariff on Chinese goods provides an advantage. The US tariff list for Chinese exports affected by the latest announcement is worth studying in detail. No doubt various countries are already looking into how they can exploit the opening.

Indian companies dealing in industrial goods and components can be especially competitive. This is the time to think ahead and make a breakthrough in new sectors. Unless India-US economic ties strengthen, the full potential of the relationship won’t become clear.

Women of colour take more risks in the workplace

Working hard. Crossing every T. Being organized. These task-oriented attributes are the keys to personal and professional success, according to most women in the corporate world.

Risk-taking, on the other hand? Not so much.

Risk-taking is inherent to everything we do to get ahead in our careers. And when you’re a woman, sometimes it’s the only way we can level the playing field.

The 2019 KPMG Women’s Leadership Study showed that while 55% of women believe people who take more career risks progress more quickly than others, fewer than half are willing to take the bigger risks often associated with career advancement. This may be preventing many women from reaching their potential as business leaders.

There is a surprising caveat, though. Women of color are significantly more open to taking risks to advance their careers—57% compared to just 38% of white women.

Why this disparity?

Women of color are accustomed to being only one of few—or the only one—in many corporate settings. Women have a tough enough time in the workplace, but people of color have to lean in to this discomfort to promote themselves even more.

Despite acknowledging the positive outcomes risk-taking can produce, we often hesitate. For women, perhaps this is due to concerns with the perception of peers and supervisors. A woman who takes the risk to lead a new company division or start her own business may be perceived as overconfident, bossy, or even unqualified. One study found that more than half of women are singled out or excluded because of their gender, race, and/or ethnicity on a regular basis.

For women of color, the emotional tax of being the only one, or one of the few, has always existed inside and outside of the workplace. Despite representing 18.5% of employees in the S&P 500, women of color make up less than 5% of executive or senior-level officials and managers. Of Fortune 500 companies, there are only two women of color who are CEOs.

There is another factor in the willingness to take more risks among women of color: the belief in their ability to overcome failure.

An alarming number of women overall—more than 85%—said that they have become subsequently more cautious when they have failed at an on-the-job initiative in the past. For example, if a woman takes a risk to move to another department and receives no support from her manager or HR, she might be less likely to raise her hand for a big project or leadership opportunity.

This perception changes among women of color. In our study, 77% say they are resilient when they fail, and 54% say they have no regrets in taking a risk that failed, because lessons learned have ultimately helped them move ahead. Women of color have been groomed from early on to work extra hard to overcome barriers—so even when there is failure, they must stand up and persevere.

Success is the result of confidence as much as it is competence. Understanding the benefit of taking risks—even if the ultimate outcome is not the intended result—helps build the confidence to raise your hand and be heard.

We therefore need to work against the grain of our comfort zones and take bigger risks. That means speaking up when it’s uncomfortable, raising our hands for that stretch assignment, asking for a raise, asking for feedback, and seeking that promotional opportunity.

The first step to working out which risks to take is understanding your own personal career aspirations and identifying the technical and leadership skills you need to get there. From there, ask for what you want. Start small with asking for a new assignment, then build up to taking the lead on an upcoming project. Push past your comfort zone and prove to yourself that you can succeed in the goals you set. The more risks you successfully navigate, the more confident you’ll become, and the more risks you’ll be willing to take.

Women have more opportunities than ever to create their own corporate legacy. Working hard and mastering basic skills are essential. But so, too, are taking bold and calculated steps outside our comfort zone. It’s worth the risk to take a risk.

The Romance of the Razai

Razai is Hindi for quilt, and now that warm days are really here, I am going to miss this part of nestling. The idea of warmth as a defining human condition gets re-affirmed only when it is cold. It is then that the idea of being alive becomes synonymous with the idea of being warm. In a tropical country like ours the sun is something to hide from and warmth is a guest that overstays its welcome, the only time that the sun is welcome is in cold winter mornings. The sun seeps into the body and it gradually unshrivels, a roti rising out of the dough that is the body.

Basking in the winter sun is a pleasure of the most primitive kind, for no other physical sensation re-affirms the need that we have for the elements quite as much as the virtual imprint that the rays of the sun leave on the body. But the sun is a fickle friend, and cannot be counted upon. It appears intermittently, and disappears with great predictability every afternoon which is when the true value of feeling snug in a quilt is appreciated. The sun might produce the warmth, but we need the quilt to keep it alive by borrowing it from our bodies and feeding it back to us. The warm breath that is life comes alive for us in the magic of a quilt that tucks us in to a world without an end or a beginning.

As the winter slips away, somewhat reluctantly, from amidst us, it is time to revisit one of its primary attractions. The joy of lying snug in bed on a winter morning inside a quilt with a hot cup of tea? There is no feeling as complete or as secure and certainly none where we can savour every passing moment so completely, cloudlessly almost. Nothing is sweeter than the gradual browned warmth that seeps into us as we enter icy-limbed into the quilt, and get slowly cooked in our own natural body heat. The clammy separateness of our limbs dissolves into the warm fullness of belonging. The quilt re-circulates our own heat- made of cotton, there is nothing intrinsically heat producing about the quilt; all the warmth created is our own. The quilt suspends the warmth in time and we bask in its gloved affection.

The feeling generated by a razai goes way beyond the functional one of warming us in winters. In fact, perhaps the biggest blessing bestowed on us by air conditioning is that we can continue to use a lighter version of the quilt even in the height of summer. Sometimes, the point of the using air-conditioning is so that we can vail of the charms of the quilt. Of course, it is important the quilt makes us feel warmer, but its magic lies perhaps in the kind of warmth it helps create.

A clue to what we seek in a quilt lies in a closer examination of its cousin, the blanket. The blanket is visibly animal in origin, being roughly fashioned out of hair torn from some beast’s back. It bristles with woollen promise which it delivers with a certainty that borders on the military. The cold is banished with whiskered brusqueness, and no prisoners are taken. The blanket is both peremptory and transparent in its efficiency- the chill is dispatched without any coddling. No wonder hospitals use blankets, military establishments issue them, as do hostels. The blanket is an intrusive presence; it makes us aware at all times that we are in its protective custody, as we lie stiffly in its rough embrace. The blanket brings to mind the grizzly- cheeked kiss of the father, necessary but not enjoyable. The blanket is an implacable enemy of the cold but not a great friend of the person shivering from it.

If the blanket is all hirsute duty, the quilt is all plump maternal impulse. The quilt clasps us to its ample bosom and we surrender to it gratefully. The quilt is both snug and infinite- we lose ourselves in its commodious expansiveness even as we hold ourselves tighter. Like a mother, the quilt is a canopy of forgiveness in a cold unforgiving world. It asks no questions of us and imposes nothing of itself. It makes us bask in ourselves and find redemption without trying.

The boundary between us and the universe gets blurred- in a quilt we belong to something infinite; it as if we are being cuddled by the universe. Like a bowl of hot soup or huddling around a fireplace, the quilt makes us feel good about ourselves in a timeless and universal way. We are soothed by a sense of belonging to something larger than our individual selves, hushed by the comforting oneness we feel with the quilt around us. It is in the razai that we are momentarily able to overcome the curse of the modern age- to always be an individual.

Sleeping in a quilt is a like returning to womb-like bliss twice over. The night is in any case our daily return to the infiniteness of the womb. We let go of our adult individual selves, we abandon the formal logic that our mind imposes on us when we fall asleep and revert to a primitive state of consciousness. We twist and turn in our sleep; we mumble and moan, chaotic images tumble through the mind as we dream dreams full of elaborate improbabilities. The foetal position comes easily to us in sleep; when in doubt we go back to our first memories of comfort. The quilt too is a return to fullness; we are back in a world where our separateness is not emphasised. In a quilt, it is as if the universe has anointed us its favourite child and we can do no wrong.

If breaking with China is hard for America, making up with Russia might be harder

Whether Trump cuts a deal or escalates the economic war with China, Delhi can’t continue with its trade policy lassitude. On the other hand, the rejigging of the political relations between America, China and Russia might present Delhi with fleeting strategic opportunities that need to be seized quickly.

An India preoccupied with a bitter election may have little time for the unfolding movement in the world’s two most important strategic relationships. The first is between the world’s leading economic powers — the United States and China — that contribute nearly 40 per cent of global GDP. The second is between the world’s top military powers— the US and Russia.

If last week saw the collapse of US talks on trade with China, Washington’s focus this week is on resuming a productive engagement with Russia. As great power relations enter a period of flux, the first task of the next government in Delhi will be to cope with the volatility in the relations between America, China and Russia. A couple of summit meetings in June — the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan and the G-20 in Osaka, Japan — offer an early opportunity for the Indian leadership to assess, first hand, the nature of the new great power dynamic.

The deep economic interdependence between the US and China, according to the prevailing conventional wisdom, puts a limit on the conflict between Washington and Beijing. Equally powerful has been the proposition that the congealed anti-Russian mood in Washington and Moscow’s anti-Western truculence together prevent even a minimal understanding between the two powers.

US President Donald Trump is testing both the theses.

As US-China trade talks teetered on the brink, Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports. Trump has also threatened to impose new tariffs on all imports from China, worth $540 billion in 2018, if a deal is not done in the next few weeks. Trump’s confident escalation on trade appears to be driven by two factors. One is the belief that the US can better absorb the pain from the trade war than China. The other is the asymmetric nature of the interdependence between the two nations. China imports a lot less ($121 billion in 2018) than it exports. That significantly presents China a smaller target on which to impose retaliatory tariffs.

For the US, the problem is no longer just about a massive trade deficit with China. There is a growing sense in Washington that the threat from Beijing is “systemic” and America must respond appropriately. Washington is accusing China of stealing intellectual property from the US. It is lobbying friends and allies against letting Huawei develop the 5G telecom networks. Washington is pushing back against China’s assertive policies in the South China Sea and renewing a measure of strategic support to Taiwan.

In a major speech two weeks ago, Kiron Skinner, the chief of policy planning in the US State Department, insisted that the threat from China was civilisational. “In China we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn’t expect a couple of decades ago. And I think it’s also really striking that it’s the first time that we’ll have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

Although, her racial metaphor got rebuke from across the US, Skinner’s idea that China is different and not amenable to mutual accommodation appears to have deep roots in the Trump Administration. In pitching China as an implacable adversary, Skinner also said something about Russia that Delhi must take note of.

The Cold War contestation with the Soviet Union, according to Skinner, “was a fight within the Western family. Karl Marx was a German Jew who developed a philosophy that was within the larger body of political thought”. While there was room for at least limited cooperation with the Soviet Union, Skinner said, “that’s not really possible with China. This is a fight with a really different civilisation and a different ideology, and the United States hasn’t had that before.”

There has been persistent view within the Trump Administration that Russia is very much part of the West and must be treated differently than Beijing. The biggest champion of a positive relationship with Russia is none other than Trump. But the president’s views have had little resonance with the so-called deep state in Washington. And the allegations of Russian intervention in favour of Trump during the 2016 Presidential elections had put Trump in an awkward position.

With the official investigation deciding not to charge Trump campaign of any collusion with Russia, Trump has been liberated to renew his outreach to President Vladimir Putin. After a long call with Putin a few days ago, Trump has sent his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Russia for first substantive consultations this week. The talks are expected to cover a range of issues — from Venezuela to Syria and arms control to North Korea.

If breaking with China is hard for America, making up with Russia might be harder. Any Russian deal — small or big — will meet fierce political resistance in Washington. Few in Moscow are ready to believe that Trump has the political space to move forward with Russia. But then, Trump could well surprise the world on Russia much in the manner that he has on China and on so many other issues.

Whichever way the great power dynamic moves, there will be consequences — some bad and others good — for India. Whether Trump cuts a deal or escalates the economic war with China, Delhi can’t continue with its trade policy lassitude. On the other hand, the rejigging of the political relations between America, China and Russia might present Delhi with fleeting strategic opportunities that need to be seized quickly.

Worrisome Chinese Oceanic Game plan

Of late, China has not only steadily expanded all of its instruments of maritime power, including its shipbuilding industry, shipping companies, and maritime and naval forces but also has established artificial islands in the South China Sea and has acquired bases in the Indian Ocean in line with its objective to control the entire stretch from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. While legitimate protection for trade in the region is accepted but its hegemonistic aims have serious security implications for its neighbours and also for the International Community.

There is no let-up in the Chinese aggressive activities aimed at strengthening its hold on the artificial islands made by China in the disputed South China Sea and rapidly making acquiring naval bases in the Indian Ocean, taking advantage of the international focus moving to North Korea issue and Syria. The rapid expansion which China has made in the region has significantly and permanently changed the power equation between China on the one hand and other disputants on the other and moving fast to establish ‘three life lines’ in the Indian Ocean. A closer look at the Chinese activities in these two regions is relevant.

The development in the South China Sea are causing concerns for other claimants and those who are dependent on the region for trade. The Chinese expansionist activities in 2017 covered both the Paracel and Spratly Islands. The Chinese military build-up coupled with Machiavellian coercive activities make it difficult to think of any diplomatic settlement succeeding in the foreseeable future.

The Chinese duplicity of continued expansion in the region that is disputed while engaging other disputants for the Code of Conduct has become noticeable. Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) director Gregory Poling has aptly remarked that the other disputants and International Community need ‘to be prepared for another years-long slog of rising military tensions, sporadic clashes, and diplomatic naming and shaming, with no guarantee of successful resolution’. AMTI has concluded that Beijing “remains committed” to advancing the next phase of its activities in the sea, including construction of infrastructure necessary for fully-functioning air and naval bases on larger outposts.

The December 14, 2017 report of the AMTI pointed out that all permanent facilities on the artificial islands can be used for military purposes which China completed or began work in that year. As per this report, the following are noteworthy-

The Fiery Cross saw the “most construction” in 2017, with China’s installation of a high frequency radar array at the north end of the island, in addition to previous work done there.

The Subi Reef (Zamora) also saw “considerable” building activity this year, which included the completion of buried facilities likely for weapons storage on top of other previously identified work there such as missile shelters and radar facilities. China is also set to beef up its radar and signals intelligence capabilities at the Subi Reef.

The Mischief Reef witnessed construction of an underground storage facilities for ammunition and other military materials. China has also started work on a new communications array on the north side of the outpost.

In the Paracel Islands, China had done “smaller scale” construction at its bases, which are believed to hold major oil and gas reserves and are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. The three islands – North, Tree and Triton – witnessed significant activity in 2017. Dredging and reclamation work at Tree and North islands continued during the year while Triton saw the completion of a few buildings including two large radar towers. Constructions at Triton were considered especially important as waters around the island have been the site of several recent incidents between China and Vietnam, as well as multiple US freedom of navigation operations.

At the Woody Island, China’s military and administrative headquarters in the disputed sea, saw two first-time air deployments that “hint at things to come at the three Spratly Island airbases farther south”. The larger hangars built at each of the Spratly airbases could accommodate Y-8s revealing the Chinese intentions to use them for military purposes.

China is now making assiduous efforts to improve communications system in Chinese-occupied features in the disputed South China Sea by bringing 4G+ services in the area. On 2nd Feb. 2018, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the Chinese Navy had signed an agreement with Beijing’s three largest telecom operators to “comprehensively upgrade” civil communication system on Chinese reefs in Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) islands. It noted that China will “greatly increase the number of telecommunication base stations on some islands and reefs, such as Yongxing (Woody), Yongshu (Kagitingan), and Meiji (Panganiban)”. It is aimed at making improvements in the living conditions for civilians and military on the islands and reefs. The militarisation of the region by China is rapidly increasing. It has already established military bases and has installed an under-water surveillance system. Japanese PM Abe’s remark that China is converting the South China Sea as the Chinese lake succinctly sums up the situation.

However, Chinese intentions in the Indian Ocean are equally worrisome. Reports of China creating three life lines in the Indian Ocean ostensibly to protect its energy line in the Indian Ocean but in reality to expand its footprints in Indian Ocean cause concerns. [One is the North Indian Ocean supply line which includes bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the second is the Western Indian Ocean supply line which includes bases in Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique; the last one is the Central-South Indian Ocean supply line which includes bases in Seychelles and Madagascar.’] China had been building ports in the Indian Ocean- Gwadar in Pakistan, Hanbantotta in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar.

Besides reports of construction of a port in Maldives, acquisition of a military base in Djibouti and military assistance to Seychelles indicating the Chinese intents in the Indian Ocean also exist. This was seen by some security experts as the creation of ‘a string of pearls’, which was propounded in 2005 by Booz Allen Hamilton – a US based think-tank. In addition, China was reported to be supplying eight modified Type 41 Yuan class submarines to Pakistan to enhance the latter’s capabilities against the Indian Navy. China is also luring the countries in this region to accept its Border Road Initiative and Maritime Silk Route concepts. Recent overtures to Sri Lanka are pointers to this strategy of China.

The Chinese intents are aimed at changing the balance of power in these regions in its favour. The important aspect of the Chinese policy of converting its economic power to political concessions deserves to be noted and suitable efforts need to be put in place so that the balance of power is not destroyed. The Chinese use of coercive measures is increasing particularly against the smaller nations in the South China Sea region.

India has rightly developing closer ties with ASEAN with whom it has deep economic, cultural and political relations. Their capabilities need to be built up so that they do not become victims of the coercive policy of China. The Indian Ocean needs greater attention by India and other powers like Japan, Australia and US to ensure suitable measures to prevent any change in the power equation. The close cooperation witnessed of late between these nations is a welcome development in this direction.

The Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy needs to be given a greater push. For India Pak-China collusion in all defence related fields and the Chinese control of Gwadar port makes it necessary to keep these factors in the strategic calculus and design suitable strategy to deal with them. For a successful strategy, it is important to know your rival’s strength and intentions.

Sunday Special: The State of Digitalization

It is barely 20 years since Sergey Brin and Larry Page registered the domain name google.com, and only 10 years since Steve Jobs walked onto a stage in San Francisco and introduced the iPhone. Yet in this short period, digital technologies have upended our world. The Digital Evolution Index in HBR was introduced in 2015 to trace the emergence of a “digital planet,” how physical interactions — in communications, social and political exchange, commerce, media and entertainment — are being displaced by digitally mediated ones. We identified many hotspots around the world where these changes are happening rapidly and other spots where momentum has slowed. Two years on, depending on where we live, we continue to move at different speeds toward the digital planet.

Today’s Digital Landscape

While much has changed even since 2015, there are roadblocks on the journey that have remained surprisingly resilient. Consider the five most salient features of today’s digital landscape.

Digital technology is widespread and spreading fast. There are more mobile connections than people on the planet, and more people have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet. Cross-border flows of digitally transmitted data have grown manifold, accounting for more than one-third of the increase in global GDP in 2014, even as the free-flow of goods and services and cross-border capital have ebbed in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. While more people can benefit from access to information and communication, the potential for bad actors to create widespread havoc increases; with every year, the incidents of cyberattacks get bigger and have wider impact.

Digital players wield outsize market power. Based on their stock prices on July 6, 2017, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook were the five most valuable companies in the world. The most valuable non-American company, 7th overall, was China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group. With products that rely on network effects, these players enjoy economies of scale and dominant market share. They have deep resources for innovation with the ability to accelerate the penetration and adoption of digital products.

Digital technologies are poised to change the future of work. Automation, big data, and artificial intelligence enabled by the application of digital technologies could affect 50% of the world economy. There is both anticipation and apprehension about what lies on the other side of the threshold of the “second machine age.” More than 1 billion jobs and $14.6 trillion in wages are automatable by today’s technology, which could open the door to new ways to harness human energy as well as to displacing routine jobs and increasing social inequities.

·        Digital markets are uneven. Politics, regulations, and levels of economic development play a major role in shaping the digital industry and its market attractiveness. With the world’s largest internet user population – 721 million – China has a parallel digital market because so many of the major global players have no presence there. India, with its 462 million internet users, has a digital economy representing arguably the greatest market potential for global players; however, it operates in multiple languages and multiple infrastructure challenges, despite the government having taken sweeping actions that affect the digital market. The European Union has 412 million internet users, but its market is fragmented; it is still in the process of creating a “digital single market.” In many countries, several websites or digital companies are blocked. Around the world, digital access itself is far from uniform: Barely 50% of the world’s population has access to the internet today.

Digital commerce must still contend with cash. Retail e-commerce sales worldwide are expected to hit $4 trillion by 2020, about double of where it is now. A major hurdle is the continuing stickiness of cash, which has not been displaced by digital alternatives despite myriad options. In 2013 85% of the world’s transactions were in cash. While the Netherlands, France, Sweden, and Switzerland are among the least cash-reliant countries in the world, even in the Eurozone, 75% of point-of-sale payments are in cash. Most of the developing world is overwhelmingly cash-dependent; in Malaysia, Peru, and Egypt, only 1% of transactions are cashless. Even India’s demonetization experiment has not broken the country’s heavy cash dependence. Five months after the country demonetized 86% of its currency, cash withdrawals were actually 0.6% higher than a year earlier.

Each of these five features contains both upsides and challenges. Moreover, how strongly each of them is felt varies depending on where you are in the world. For global technology players and policy makers, it is essential to understand how the progress toward a digital planet is proceeding in different parts of the world.

Digital commerce must still contend with cash. A major hurdle is the continuing stickiness of cash, which has not been displaced by digital alternatives despite myriad options. In 2013 85% of the world’s transactions were in cash. While the Netherlands, France, Sweden, and Switzerland are among the least cash-reliant countries in the world, even in the Eurozone, 75% of point-of-sale payments are in cash. Most of the developing world is overwhelmingly cash-dependent; in Malaysia, Peru, and Egypt, only 1% of transactions are cashless. Even India’s demonetization experiment has not broken the country’s heavy cash dependence. Five months after the country demonetized 86% of its currency, cash withdrawals were actually 0.6% higher than a year earlier.

Each of these five features contains both upsides and challenges. Moreover, how strongly each of them is felt varies depending on where you are in the world. For global technology players and policy makers, it is essential to understand how the progress toward a digital planet is proceeding in different parts of the world.

Mapping Digital Momentum Around the World

As part of a collaboration between the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Mastercard, the Digital Evolution Index was created to analyze the state and rate of digital evolution across 60 countries. This evolution is the outcome of an interplay among four drivers, with about 170 indicators across them.

The inquiry started with the following questions:

1. What are the patterns of digital evolution around the world? What factors explain these patterns, and how do they vary across regions?

2. Which countries are the most digitally competitive? Which actors are the prime drivers of competitiveness: public or private sector?

3. How do countries accelerate their digital momentum?

By measuring each country’s current state of digital evolution and its pace of digital evolution over time, we created the following chart, a map of our digital planet. Countries on this chart fall into four zones: Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out, Watch Out. Some countries are at the border of multiple zones.

Stand Out countries are highly digitally advanced and exhibit high momentum. They are leaders in driving innovation, building on their existing advantages in efficient and effective ways. However, sustaining consistently high momentum over time is challenging, as innovation-led expansions are often lumpy phenomena. To stay ahead, these countries need to keep their innovation engines in top gear and generate new demand, failing which they risk stalling out.

Stall Out countries enjoy a high state of digital advancement while exhibiting slowing momentum. The five top-scoring countries in the DEI 2017 ranking — Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Finland — are all in the Stall Out zone, reflecting the challenges of sustaining growth. Moving past these “digital plateaus” will require a conscious effort by these countries to reinvent themselves, to bet on a rising digital technology in which it has leadership, and to eliminate impediments to innovation. Stall Out countries may look to Stand Out countries for lessons in sustaining innovation-led growth. Countries in the Stall Out zone can put their maturity, scale, and network effects to use to reinvent themselves and grow.

Break Out countries are low-scoring in their current states of digitalization but are evolving rapidly. The high momentum of Break Out countries and their significant headroom for growth would make them highly attractive to investors. Often held back by relatively weak infrastructure and poor institutional quality, Break Out countries would do well to foster better institutions that can help nurture and sustain innovation. Break Out countries have the potential to become the Stand Out countries of the future, with China, Malaysia, Bolivia, Kenya, and Russia leading the pack.

Watch Out countries face significant challenges with their low state of digitalization and low momentum; in some cases, these countries are moving backward in their pace of digitalization. Some of these countries demonstrate remarkable creativity in the face of severe infrastructural gaps, institutional constraints, and low sophistication of consumer demand. The surest way for these countries to move the needle on momentum would be to improve internet access by closing the mobile internet gap — that is, the difference between the number of mobile phones and the number of mobile phones with internet access.

Notably, two of the world’s most significant economies, the U.S. and Germany, are at the border of Stand Out and Stall Out, with a third, Japan, in the neighborhood. It is essential for them to recognize the risks of plateauing and look to the smaller, higher-momentum countries to explore how policy interventions could be effective in pushing a country into a zone of greater competitiveness. In the meantime, the UK’s digital momentum is stronger than its EU peers.

Clearly, the most exciting region in the world, digitally speaking, is Asia, with China and Malaysia as exemplars. We can expect to see plenty of investor and entrepreneurial interest in this region; it is critical that the political institutions are stable and supportive.

India, with many policy-led pushes for digitalization, including a Digital India campaign and initiatives to give a boost to digital payments, ought to pay attention to the overall low level of evolution in the country. This can act as a drag on any initiative. Broader, more systemic changes are needed to boost digital evolution in this type of environment.

In Africa, while the two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, remain in Break Out and Watch Out zones, respectively, digitally savvy Kenya has picked up an impressive level of momentum by assembling a thriving ecosystem. In parallel, countries in Latin America can learn some lessons from smaller, faster-moving countries, such as Colombia and Bolivia.

Toward a Digital Planet

The analysis of digital evolutions yields several implications for both public- and private-sector leaders as they explore ways to enhance the state of the digital economies across the world.

First, more digital innovators should recognize that public policy is essential to the success of the digital economy. Countries with high-performing digital sectors, such as those in the EU, typically have had strong government/policy involvement in shaping the digital economies. So do high-momentum countries (such as Singapore, New Zealand, and the UAE) as well as many Break Out countries (including China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia).

As for the U.S., it is at risk of falling into the Stall Out zone. One of us (Bhaskar) has made the point that there is a “missing political debate” in the U.S. over the digital economy, despite that fact that American digital companies and innovations are pre-dominant worldwide. To avoid stalling out and rebuilding momentum, policies need to be adopted for: public-private partnerships on digital innovations; better integration of automation, data, and new technologies into the legacy economy; investments in reskilling workers and teaching students in schools the skills and thinking to thrive in a digital world; improving access to capital and digital infrastructure and reducing the many inequities; sensible regulations that keep pace with the transforming rules of competition and have a dynamic view of protecting consumers’ interests without stifling innovation; and reimagining U.S. competitiveness in terms of its digital economy and international data flows and thinking beyond traditional manufacturing and trade of physical goods and services. Within the digital entrepreneurship sector, IPOs and exits have not been keeping pace with the record sums of capital being pumped in. More sensible and value-creating investments are needed, rather than a herd mentality that has resulted in a stampede of unicorns, while starving more complex, less fad-driven venture ideas that take on deeper problems.

Second, those working to accelerate their country’s digital momentum should focus on specifics: identifying and amplifying the country’s unique drivers of digital momentum. Depending on a country’s level of digital evolution and economic advancement, there are different drivers that are primarily responsible for digital momentum. This has different implications for what advanced economies and developing economies ought to prioritize: innovation for the former and institutions for the latter. The least digitally advanced countries must allocate limited resources wisely. Enabling internet access on the mobile phone provides the biggest bang for the buck.

Country size is also a factor. Smaller countries with strong institutions can create high value as early adopters and create a demonstration effect for the world by assembling the right ecosystem. Traditional trading hubs (such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and the UK) and emerging digital hubs (such as New Zealand and Estonia) can take the lead in creating such “smart” digitally enabled ecosystems.

In conclusion, the world’s digital economy stands at a threshold where opportunity and risk stand in balance. Even in the short period since we published the previous edition of the Digital Evolution Index, much has changed in the journey to the digital planet, and just as surprising, there are many speed bumps scattered along the way. Clearly, much of this has to do with the digital momentum being experienced in countries around the world, as well as with the systemic nature of the forces that govern digital evolution. Without question, the Stand Out and Break Out countries are benefiting from a combination of the strong rates of digitalization and the involvement of governments in orchestrating digital economies.

Will the world order as portrayed in this year’s Digital Evolution Index get overturned as transformational technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cause widespread changes or regulatory and political considerations add to the unevenness of digital markets? The picture that summarizes the state of the digital planet will evolve when it does. 

Origin of Languages

Examining the current era, we can justify that our species as the most advanced beings when comparing to other animated lifeforms on our planet. Considering our current mental prowess that allows us to read, write, understand, and even develop new languages to communicate, the above-stated classification almost becomes unarguable. However, contrary to popular belief, we weren’t simply bestowed with our current capabilities. Languages, as a mean of communication, has developed itself through innumerable years. To better understand and appreciate our present abilities, we have to acquaint ourselves with the aforementioned path of development that our present-day means of communication has traversed.

Initial Steps Towards Development.

Scientifically, Languages, as we know of today, based itself parallel to the cycle of human evolution. Our primitive ancestor, as they were still exploring their home planet, witnessed several animate and inanimate objects. Eventually, they started associating individual objects with sounds. Since their primary focus in that era was to hunt and survive, they would name the animals of that age based on the sound they would make. For example, if that strategy was to be implemented in the current age, cats would be referred to as ‘Meows’ and other animals would be named based on the same logic. As the primitive form of identification and communication developed, the need for differing terms for similar objects emerged. Catering to the same, our ancestors eventually formed the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) Language. Currently, there is no physical evidence or written instances where the priorly-mentioned PIE language has been used. The Proto-Indo-European language is commonly known as language reconstruction. Tracing back to the ancient language is achieved by comparing similar terms and techniques from varying present-day languages to reintegrate the same until unity is reached.The PIE language was estimated to be used from 4,500 BCE to 2,500 BCE before it diverged to form the basic foundation of the languages that we are aware of today. Mycenaean Greek, Archaic Latin, and Sanskrit were the first three diverging languages that utilized words and varying pronunciation for communication. Among the three mentioned founding languages, there is one that had the most influence in forging the common languages of today.

Analyzing the Influence.

Mycenaean Greek is regarded as the foundation for the modern-day Greek language. The earliest description and use of the ancient language are mentioned in the Linear B scripts that are estimated to be roughly 3,000 years old. Since it was derived from the PIE language, it was known to preserve the distinctive features of its parent language.

Talking about Archaic Latin, the earliest instances of the ancient form of modern-day Latin language can be found within the Duenos Inscription – an ancient Latin text that is approximated to be from 7th-century BCE. Archaic Latin was one of the first few languages where the word would differ in its meaning depending on the suffix, prefix, or the grammatical case of the same. The same is similar to how present-day languages distinguish and establish grammar.

The previously-mentioned languages are certainly brimming with evidence to prove their influence on their modern-day counterparts. However, there is another ancient language that has played a vital role in the development of the Mycenaean Greek and Archaic Latin languages – Sanskrit. Sanskrit, as a language, predates the earliest instances of both Archaic Latin and Mycenaean Greek. Added to that, there is also a significant amount of instances where the influence of Sanskrit can clearly be noticed on the earlier and even the modern-day languages. Owing to the same, Sanskrit is also commonly regarded as the mother of present-day languages.

The ideal analogy to understand the connection between the three languages would be to consider the languages to be roads that connect the ancient and the modern era. Vedic Sanskrit is the broader road that further divides itself into branching paths of Mycenaean Greek and Archaic Latin. The branching paths are integrated with the characteristics of the parent path but eventually develops distinctive aspects.

Examining the Common

Sanskrit has not only aided the development of ancient languages to transition into their current- age counterparts but it has also been consistently supporting the emergence of newer languages. English, being the most common language in the world, has also taken noticeable queues from Vedic Sanskrit along with Archaic Latin. Added to that, languages such as Hindi, Tamil, and Urdu have Vedic Sanskrit as the sole foundation upon which each of the same is developed on.The ancient Vedas are the earliest instances where Vedic Sanskrit is used and is inscribed. It is also worth noting that the Vedas are estimated to be from the 20-century BCE. Thus, predating the earliest known pieces of evidence of Mycenean Greek and Archaic Latin. Added to the older inscriptions, Sanskrit’s influence on both the modern and ancient languages can be noticed within relevant examples. For the sake of better understanding, the following states a few of the priorly-mentioned examples to identify the common grounds for the languages.

‘Sarpa’, in Vedic Sanskrit, is a word that is used to refer to a snake. Transitioning to the Latin language, ‘Serpentum’ is the term used to describe the reptile. From the initial observation, it is clear that Latin has borrowed both the pronunciation and the spelling from Sanskrit. In addition to the same, the word ‘Snake’ is also derived from Latin and hence, is also influenced by Vedic Sanskrit. As for the ancient Greek Language, ‘Treis’ is the term used to refer to number three. Within the predating language of Vedic Sanskrit, three is referred to by the term ‘Thri’, which not only proves the connection between ancient Greek and Vedic Sanskrit but also defines the influence of Vedic Sanskrit on English since the word ‘Three’ is used to refer to the number.

To Conclude.

There are innumerable examples and evidence that represent Sanskrit’s influence on other ancient and modern-day languages. As a conclusion, it can be said that Sanskrit has played a crucial role in developing the modern-day communication means.

The Economic Ties Between Europe & Asia

Asia and Europe are now leading trade partners, with $1.5 trillion of annual merchandise trade, overtaking each continent’s trade with the United States. A new study gathering an unprecedented range of bilateral data between country pairs pinpoints the economic, social and political ties between 51 Asian and European countries.

While the eyes of the world are on the US-China trade war, Asia and Europe are working to deepen their relationship. The two continents have made mutual connectivity between people, businesses and institutions a top political priority, and are moving quickly to build and strengthen ties, with a firm commitment to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable connectivity is the new name of the game. It has become a focal point of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), a high-level intergovernmental cooperation forum between 30 European and 21 Asian countries, including Australia and New Zealand. The European Union has also put forward sustainable connectivity in its recently adopted strategy, “Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks for an EU Strategy”.

So how are Asia and Europe connected today? Here’s what the data tells us.

Asia-Europe trade

Trade between ASEM countries accounts for about half of all world merchandise trade. Although intra-regional trade (i.e. within Europe or within Asia) is four times higher than cross-regional trade, the Asian and European regions trade more between them than between any other regions in the world.

Two major hubs stand out: Germany and China. These countries together are responsible for one quarter of the overall trade in the ASEM group, and are the main trade bridges between the two continents. Nearly one third of European goods shipped to Asia come from Germany ($202 billion), with China as the largest customer.

In the other direction, over half of China’s exports to Europe are delivered to Germany, The Netherlands and the UK ($178 billion). Russia, with its geographically central position, is the third largest trader in the ASEM group of countries. The country exports twice as much to Europe than to Asia.

Important Asia-Europe trade flows of more than $100 billion also exist between Europe and Japan, and Korea and India. Within Europe, Switzerland comes second in exports to Asia, particularly to China and India, surpassing Germany in the latter.

On the institutional side, trade relations between European and Asian countries are being strengthened. 2019 saw a new trade agreement between the EU and Japan coming into force. Such trade agreements offer an excellent opportunity to include provisions on sustainable development. The EU-Japan agreement is the first of its kind to include a specific provision on the Paris Agreement.

Diplomatic relationships are strong, and data shows that links via trade agreements and embassies are associated with a greater intensity of bilateral trade. Top traders such as China and Germany have embassies in all 50 ASEM partner countries.

Cross-border investment

Foreign direct investment (FDI) between Asia and Europe reaches close to $90 billion annually (2015-2017). This is nearly the same size as FDI flows within Europe.

The FDI landscape is dominated by two major foreign investors in each region. Over half of European investment in Asia comes from the UK and Germany, exceeding $32 billion. In fact, the UK invests twice as much in Asia than in Europe, with India receiving the greatest share. Likewise, China and Japan are the main Asian investors in Europe, collectively amounting to $12 billion.

Overall, India and China attract around half the total European foreign investment. However, some Asian countries are more appealing to foreign investors from Europe than from Asia. This is the case for Korea, Mongolia, Singapore and Russia.

But there is more to Asia-Europe relations than economic ties.

Movement of people

Asia and Europe are also bringing people and societies closer together, with around 13 million people having migrated between the two regions. Germany, the UK and Australia host the largest number of cross-bloc migrants (around 2.5 million each).

Large movements of migrants from the UK to Australia and from Russia and Kazakhstan to Germany are associated with historical, cultural and language ties. Russia is the main country of origin of migrants to Europe, followed by India.

International graduate student mobility provides access to quality education abroad, as well as the opportunity to improve language skills and explore different cultures and societies. Around 1,000 students move between the two continents every day – or about 400,000 every year.

The UK is the top destination for Asian students, with nearly three quarters coming from China, India and Malaysia. Chinese students represent almost half of Asian students in Europe. Australia is the favourite destination for European students, followed by Japan.

Asia is presently open without a visa to more than two thirds of European passport holders and Europe to one third of Asian nationalities, as visa openness policies enable students and researchers to travel easily.

Working together in research

More than 200,000 collaborations between Asian and European research institutions take place every year in the form of co-authorship of scientific publications. Cross-bloc collaboration represents close to one third of research collaborations in ASEM countries.

Researchers from institutions in Australia, New Zealand and India collaborate around twice as much with European countries than with Asian countries, and Russian researchers collaborate three times more with European ones. Cross-bloc collaboration is stronger on the Asian side than on the European side, since European countries also have a strong internal collaboration network supported by large EU-funded research programmes.

Countries such as China, Australia, the UK, Germany, Russia and France provide an intercontinental bridge for scientists. The most collaborations are between the UK and China, and the UK and Australia (more than 10,000 each), followed by Germany and China (around 7,000).

Researchers in small Asian nations find key research partners in European countries. For example, research collaborations between Laos and the UK represent around 20% of Laos’ research outputs. The same trend is seen between Mongolia and Germany, and Myanmar and the UK.

Sustainable connectivity – the way forward

While Asia-Europe connectivity is vital for peace, stability, economic prosperity and inclusive development, it’s only half the story. Sustainable connectivity needs to contribute to achieving the SDGs, part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Data shows that Asia-Europe connectivity is aligned with most of the SDGs, in particular the ones linked to the social dimension of sustainability. This means that connectivity is associated with better living conditions, more inclusive societies and greater levels of education, among others.

However, better connected countries are also associated with larger impacts on the environment, which translates into higher greenhouse gas emissions and domestic material consumption. Policy-makers are faced with the challenge of minimizing the environmental impact of connectivity, and ensuring that its benefits are inclusive for all members of society.

Saturday Special: The Untalked Environmental Catastrophe

 We hear of climate change, of carbon imprints, of antibiotic resistance, of over-population, of GMO foods, and so on. Have you heard of the impending catastrophe about which there is a deafening Silence? Why is it that the scientists and the politicians are quiet about it? Is it because they are guilty of being responsible for this loot of nature’s bounty?

Estimates suggest that between 32 and 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel are extracted from the Earth each year. Cities are, quite literally, built on sand. As global urbanization continues apace, the demand for concrete (and the sand that goes into it) increases.

By 2100, it’s estimated that up to 23% of the world’s population – a projected 2.3 billion people – will be living in the 101 largest cities.

But to house those people, industrial sand mining or aggregate extraction – where sand and gravel are removed from river beds, lakes, the oceans and beaches for use in construction – is happening at a rate faster than the materials can be renewed, which is having a huge impact on the environment.

The environmental impacts of sand mining.

Image: UNEP

How big is the problem?

Estimates suggest that between 32 and 50 billion tonnes of aggregate (sand and gravel) are extracted from the Earth each year, according to a report from the WWF, making it the most mined material in the world.

In 2012 alone, the UNEP estimates enough concrete was created to build a wall around the equator measuring 27 metres high by 27 metres wide.

While around a third of the planet’s land surface area is made up of desert, it’s the wrong kind of sand for the construction industry, because the particles are rounded by the wind and don’t bind together in cement and concrete as well as the more angular particles found in river beds and lakes. Ironically, Dubai is importing sand from Australia to keep up with its building needs.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), sand mining of river deltas, such as the Yangtze and Mekong, is increasing the risk of climate-related disasters, because there’s not enough sediment to protect against flooding.

“Keeping sand in the rivers is the best adaptation to climate change,” the WWF’s Marc Goichot told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If a river delta receives enough sediment, it builds itself above sea level in a natural reaction.”

Besides being used to build roads and cities, sand is also used in land reclamation – which is happening apace in Singapore.

By 2030, the island nation wants to become almost 500 square kilometres and has grown by almost a quarter since it became independent in 1965.

Such has been Singapore’s demand for sand, it’s become the world’s largest importer. Much of its sand has come from the Indonesian archipelago, where at least 24 islands, as well as the ecosystems they contained, have disappeared since 2005 due to mining.

In 2007, Indonesia banned sand exports to Singapore, after Malaysia did the same in 1997. Last year, Cambodia imposed a permanent ban on sand exports because of its impact on the environment.

The world’s biggest sand mine

Sand mining is also big business in China, which is undergoing rapid urbanization. The population of its financial centre Shanghai alone has exploded in the past two decades, growing by 7 million since 2000.

In 2000, illegal sand mining along the lower and middle reaches of the Yangtze River was banned because erosion was creating a threat of flooding to local populations, barges were causing accidents and armed gangs were clashing with police.

However, the ban meant miners moved 600 kilometres upstream of Shanghai to Poyang Lake, which flows into the Yangtze and is home to endangered waterbirds, including Siberian cranes and Oriental White Storks, as well as freshwater porpoise.

Using data collected by NASA’s Terra satellite, researchers found the lake was producing as much as 236 million cubic metres of sand a year – 9% of China’s total output – which the WWF says makes it the world’s biggest sand mine.

James Burnham, an ecologist with the University of Wisconsin and the International Crane Foundation, said: “Sand mining has compromised the ecological integrity of the lake by contributing to less predictable seasonal water fluctuations and to a series of recent low water events.”

Studies have also found the sediment stirred up by the mining, as well as the noise from boats, interferes with the porpoises’ sonar, so they cannot locate food.

Coastal erosion in California

Sand mining also happens in the Western world. In July 2017, it was announced that the last coastal sand mine in the US would close within three years, following protests from environmentalists over the erosion of California’s beaches.

What can be done?

While pressure on governments to regulate sand mining is increasing, more needs to be done to find alternatives for use in construction and for solving the world’s continuing housing crises.

In its 2014 report, Sand`, Rarer Than One Thinks, the UNEP Global Environment Alert Service suggests optimizing the use of existing buildings and infrastructure, as well as using recycled concrete rubble and quarry dust instead of sand.

Breaking the reliance on concrete as the go-to material for building houses, by increasing the tax on aggregate extraction, training architects and engineers, and looking to alternative materials such as wood and straw, would also reduce our demand for sand.

From Russia with love for Pompeo, no tango expected

President Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had warm words for Mike Pompeo on Tuesday in his first trip to Russia as US secretary of state. However, despite Putin’s call to “fully restore” ties, bilateral relations remain largely frozen. On the agenda Tuesday, in what was the first big meeting between Moscow and Washington since the Mueller report was released, was a plethora of issues. This included Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, counterterrorism, and arms control agreements, including the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which the Trump team has said it is withdrawing from in response to alleged Russian violations.

While both sides spoke about commitments to enhance ties, there were no apparent breakthroughs on any of these issues, although Pompeo indicated that counterterrorism and combating nuclear non-proliferation are areas going forward where more common ground can be found. Yet, amidst disagreements in many other areas, the strategic intent of Trump and Putin to uptick ties based, in part, upon what appears to be mutual regard, looks likely to be frustrated – for now at least.

For his part, the US president has given multiple indications, including in Helsinki last year when he met Putin, that he believes Russia is not a serious threat to the US and that a new era in bilateral ties is needed. He has hinted that he might drop economic sanctions if the country “is helpful”, and appears to believe there are multiple common interests over issues such as preventing Iran secure nuclear weapons, and potentially even helping contain China in a new global balance of power.

Yet Pompeo (like his predecessor Rex Tillerson) is more skeptical, and Trump and Putin’s proposed repositioning of relations with Russia looks, at the least, to be on ice, and potentially unrealisable in the short to medium term. This is, in part, because bilateral foreign relations have become frostier since 2017. The Trump team also remains under significant domestic pressure over its relationship with Russia. For while the Mueller report cleared the president of “collusion” with the Kremlin, it made crystal clear that Moscow made significant and sustained efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and that this threat to US interests is ongoing.

To this end, just prior to Pompeo’s trip, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer submitted a hard-hitting letter to the secretary of state. This urged that he tell Putin and Lavrov that any attempts to interfere with the 2020 presidential and congressional elections will be met with “an immediate and robust approach”. Yet it was not just political leaders in the US and Russia that watched the Pompeo meetings closely. Trump is being keenly watched, across Europe, for how any shift in ties with Moscow may impact Nato having previously described the military alliance as “obsolete”, sending chills down the spines of east European states.

Already, uncertainty over Trump’s Nato policy is spurring EU nations to seek to reverse around a decade of defence spending cuts, totalling around 10% in real terms. Moreover, a new European Defence Action Plan is being moved forward that will see greater continental military cooperation too. With Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi having been in Sochi on Monday to meet Lavrov, the Pompeo meetings were also closely watched in Beijing which has enjoyed a warming relationship with Moscow under the presidencies of Putin and Xi Jinping. Indeed, Xi asserted last year that bilateral relations are at “the highest-level, most profound and strategically most significant relationship between major countries in the world” and also stated Putin “is my best, most intimate friend”. The Russian president appears to share this sentiment, underlining how misguided Trump may be if he believes Moscow might any time soon ally with Washington against Beijing.

Russia has for instance announced plans for numerous cooperation projects with China including a new method of inter-bank transfers, and a joint credit agency that seeks to create a shared financial and economic infrastructure that will allow them to function independently of Western-dominated financial institutions. Both are also among the states involved in creating alternative fora to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, including the New Development Bank.

While both Trump and Putin want significantly better ties, this may prove unobtainable, not least given the growing closeness of Moscow’s relationship with Beijing under Xi.

Make Humans Extinct is Aim of Environmentalists

In the last few weeks, I have read and heard the mainstream media and supposedly credible authorities tell the common public that the most effective way for us to reduce our carbon footprint and halt climate change is to have fewer children.

On one occasion I was watching a news report along with a friend with his 3-year-old daughter, a magnificent little person who brings immeasurable meaning, joy and opportunity to his family. It is his hope that over the next few years and decades the daughter will begin to add meaning and value to her family, her friends, her local community and, eventually, the larger family of human beings.

To the radical environmentalists, however, the planet would be better off without his child. And yours.

There was a time when the importance of having children was self-evident and incontrovertible. People used to understand that the perpetuation of the human race and human progress depended on having children.

Today, such thinking is base and ignorant. True intellectual and moral enlightenment means understanding the importance of avoiding reproduction.

It is important to note that this push—subtle now, but certain to grow more aggressive—is underway even as fertility rates across the Western world plummet. Many nations are already facing a demographic crisis. Americans have a birth rate of 1.886 children per woman, ranking 135th out of 200 countries studied. The United Kingdom’s fertility rate is 1.871 children per woman, ranking 138th. Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and several other Western countries have even lower birth rates.

A fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is required to sustain a population. Measured strictly by fertility rate, the populations of Britain and America are already headed toward extinction. Yet these climate change activists want us to have even fewer children.

To be fair, the reports I heard encouraged having “fewer” children, not refraining from having children entirely. But it’s the direction here that we need to be concerned about, as well as the radical fundamental intent. This is an assault on family, the basic building block of human existence.

A growing number of people are already choosing to remain childless. And many of these people believe others must stop too. More and more people, such as 26-year-old Gwynn MacKellen from California, are actually having themselves sterilized to avoid getting pregnant. “I always knew I didn’t want kids, for environmental reasons,” she said. Men wanting to do their part for the environment are having vasectomies.

The website of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (vhemt pronounced “vehement”) states that “phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health.” This group actually advocates human extinction.

vhemt is an extreme example. In some ways, those who are less blatant are more effective. Here in the UK, the organization Population Matters warns about global population growth. This organization, which is actively supported by Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, along other influential figures, aggressively promotes having fewer children and smaller families.

Here’s a small sample from the Population Matters website under the headline “Life in a Small Family”: Smaller families can free people to devote more money and time to other aspects of their lives, such as friendships, careers, travel and activities that give them pleasure. Those who choose to be child-free will have very much more freedom, including (if they choose) to do other things to help protect the planet or help others.

People who do want to experience the pleasures and challenges of becoming parents will often find raising their children much easier if they have a small family. Children can be very expensive and having fewer opens up lifestyle choices that may not be possible with more.

Having more time and energy to devote to the children you do have can also make parenting more rewarding and fun.

This is the language of the devil. It’s polite, civilized and sophisticated, and instantly appealing to selfish interest. If you want to be happy, if you want to be affluent, if you want the freedom to pursue friendships, hobbies, entertainments, pleasures, then avoid having children. If you must have children, then only have one; it’ll be less challenging, less expensive and you’ll be a better parent. (Where is the evidence to support any of these claims?)

But it gets worse. The website states this under the headline Modern Families: While nuclear families are still the norm, in the 21st century, families come in all shapes and sizes. Choosing to be a parent also does not have to mean making children of your own and bringing more people into the world. Many parents choose fostering and adoption, providing loving homes to children who might otherwise go without.

The language is subtle, but the message is clear: If you want to be a sophisticated, 21st-century family, choose the lifestyle of an untraditional family!

That paragraph promotes homosexual relationships and opposes traditional, real family. It attacks the traditional roles within traditional, real marriage. And it attacks the most important and beautiful physical accomplishment that two humans could experience together: the creation of a son or daughter, another human being!

Ultimately, that is what this radical leftist anti-children, anti-reproduction movement is all about: the destruction of the traditional family!