Among the hundreds of thousands of secret US State Department cables recently released by WikiLeaks, the controversial whistleblower website, a cache reveals US diplomats defending the interests of big pharmaceutical companies, even at the risk of the hosting nation’s own public health priorities. The memos dutifully detail the many embassy meetings with local Big Pharma reps, during which US officials are presented with laundry lists of issues to raise with one or another local government ministry. Invariably the goal of the exercise is for pharma to pressure the US to pressure the host country to give favorable treatment to expensive brand name drugs, typically by preventing in-country manufacturing or marketing of far cheaper generic versions.
Separate cables show such industry profiteering tactics threatening to taint US diplomatic relations in emerging nations such as Hong Kong, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and India. Overall, a familiar picture emerges of a diplomatic corps if not held hostage by, at least a captive audience to, the financial interests of the biggest American pharma companies as they come into covert conflict with developing nations that quite naturally prioritize the health care of their people over the high margins that Big Pharma has come to expect. With several hundred drugs and vaccines in development to treat addiction, the scourge of hundreds of millions worldwide, the affordability and accessibility of these innovative (and, no doubt, expensive) medicines will become a pitched battle in global public health over the next decade. The outcome of the skirmishes sketched in the WikiLeaks cables will help decide whether profits or people prove victorious.
The cables by no means paint a uniform portrait of government lackeys doing industry's bidding. Many memos betray a between-the-lines irritation at pharma's monomaniacal self-interest. Still, there is a disturbing silence on the obvious moral or ethical objections to industry demands for high price, long patents, and other protections despite the cost in human lives. Only a single cable—from the outgoing US ambassador to Poland in 2009—lays bare the vast greed that drives these complex, highly technical negotiations.
The developing nations, contrary to what you might expect, in many ways hold the best cards in this political game. Emerging nations have the fastest-growing economies, the most upwardly mobile middle classes, and the biggest untapped markets in the world. And in their impressive pushback against Big Pharma, India has been the 800-pound gorilla over the past decade. A democracy with well-educated but relatively inexpensive brain power, the pharma industry views India not merely as a market but as a potential new hub of drug development and testing.
Aware of its advantage, India has played hardball, starting with its approval of local generic HIV drugs for its hundreds of thousands of citizens with the virus—a defiant challenge to Big Pharma, which had refused to discount its own brand-name AIDS drugs to affordable levels. (In the US, HIV treatment costs as much as $15,000 a year; the Indian generic knocked out knockoffs with a $350 price tag.) In addition, India’s supreme court has been fearless in shooting down foreign pharmas when they sue for patent infringement by Indian generic companies. When an emerging nation's entire legal and legislative apparatus unite to oppose industry interests, the company can either fold its hand or fold up its tent. When drug companies retaliated by boycotting India and refusing to sell new drugs there, they attracted universal opprobrium for denying sick people medicines.
DELHI, India (WOMENSENEWS)--It is a mellow December morning in Delhi. Soft sunlight filters through the trees that line the boulevards of the city's stately Krishna Menon Marg neighborhood.
Suman Krishan Kant, however, is oblivious to the tranquillity outside the windows of her well-appointed bungalow.
The prominent social activist is reviewing and paying bills while files wait on the table for her attention. The elegant waiting room outside is beginning to fill in with men and women hoping to meet with her and enlist her advocacy with government agencies on their behalf. One of them, for instance, is a widow who hopes Kant will help her application for an increase in her pension.
It is the beginning of another working day for the president of the country's all-women's political party.
In October, Kant, the widow of former vice president Krishan Kumar Kant, joined with other influential women to launch the United Women's Front to address issues such as women's illiteracy, early marriage and tokenism in parliament, where women hold just 8 percent of seats. To qualify for official party status, the group had to muster at least 100 members and pay about $300 in registration fees.
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KOLKATA, India, Sep 5, 2011 (IPS) - It was with some trepidation that Nivvedan, a student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Bombay, helped launch ‘Saathi’ (Companion), catering to the needs of people with different sexual orientations on campus.
Yet, when Saathi held its first meeting in July it attracted not only students but also alumni and even some members of the faculty. "There’s a lot of confusion around sexuality in our society. We have encountered it in our campus too," Nivvedan told IPS.
Nivvedan expects Saathi to grow as "students who need support gain better confidence in the sessions. Right now most of them would rather discuss things in an informal way with other fellow students."
"I believe the issue of sexual orientation, homosexuality etc. should be discussed and awareness created right from student life," said Nivvedan, acutely conscious of the fact that the initiative is the first one of its kind on an Indian campus.
Ketan Tanna, activist with ‘Gay-Bombay’, an informal group of "like-minded gay people," says: "None of the colleges in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) has active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism or any guidance cell, so this is a first."
The initiative by IIT-Bombay suggests that gay rights are slowly gaining acceptance into India’s conservative society and that its decriminalisation by an order of the Delhi High Court order in 2009 is beginning to have an effect. MORE
Nepalese Recount Hazards of Foreign Household Work
KATHMANDU, Nepal (WOMENSENEWS)--Sapana Bishwokarma, 26, has no answer when asked about the father of the 2-year-old boy who plays beside her.
She says her body trembles with fear each time she recalls her son's father. Tears trickle down her cheeks.
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Kashmir: The militant in her: Women and resistance Kashmiri women defy state oppression by being on the frontlines.
Relegating women's engagement in conflict situations to the passive space of victimhood is an anticipated outcome of the unequal distribution of power in gender relations. However, this narrative obfuscates their role as active participants, which is of equal, if not greater, significance - and which has increasingly become an accentuating facet of their participation during the recent years of the conflict.
In the early stages of the armed struggle, broad-based support for the independence movement was apparent, and resulted in the creation of both dissident men and women. However, men and women formed their opposition to Indian rule largely in different ways. Men took to combat, women to facilitating the men's fight, or by registering their support for azadi through popular protest.
Women also became facilitators of combat by acting as couriers for arms, informers for militants, provided them shelter and food, and at times helped them escape capture during the sudden and dreaded Indian military raids or "crackdowns", which continue to happen in civilian areas. Their motivation came from the general feeling for independence running deep in the masses - as a result of which, the Indian Armed Forces were always looked at as the "other", and militants and other dissidents as their "own".MORE
via : ontd_political
Libyan Women Challenge Mindset Created by Tyranny
BENGHAZI, Libya (WOMENSENEWS)--While rebel fighters battle for a democratic future in the west of Libya, a handful of women back in the rebel capital of Benghazi are working on showing people what democracy actually means.
The small group, going by the name Abeer or Express, will be hosting its most ambitious project to date later this summer, after Ramadan is done--the First Libya Youth conference to spread the ideals of democracy.
The organizing group for Express is very small. It lists only six people as its core members--five young women and one young man--but its goal is ambitious: to ensure that democracy and personal freedom flourish in Libya.
For 42 years--since Col. Moammar Gadhafi's 1969 coup--the country has known mainly autocracy and secret police acting on the colonel's behalf.
Members of Express say Libyans crave democracy but aren't quite sure what it means.
Fourth-year medical student Halima ben Jomiah, 22, is the founder of the group. Two years ago, she stumbled across the subject of human development and self improvement in books like "Do Not Grieve" by Sheikh Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni and "The Leader In You," the 1936 classic by Dale Carnegie. Ever since, she's been hooked, reading about psychology and how to realize human potential whenever she could find the time.
Ben Jomiah, her sister and her friends decided that for the revolution to succeed, people have to have correct attitudes about democracy: not being afraid to speak, but at the same time, having the respect to listen.
They called their group Express in order to focus on personal expression as a form of civic participation.
As a first step, the group has interviewed dozens of Libyans to get a sense of their hopes and dreams and what is standing in the way. Express has also solicited opinions from advanced researchers in human development, such as Egypt's Sherif Araba and Libya's Omar Gnaiber.MORE
Turkey The Muslim Women’s Media Archives: Kadınlar Dünyası
In Turkey and beyond, it is a common misconception that struggle for women’s rights is a new phenomenon. This struggle is thought of as not organic to the Muslim world, but imported from “the non-Muslim West.” This particular misconception has not only nurtured the neo-colonialist rhetoric of “liberating Muslim women,” but has also played an important role in the debate surrounding whether women’s rights or feminism can ever be “Islamic.”
Unfortunately, little has been done to research historical women’s rights movements in the Muslim world, even though there were many examples that clearly disprove this misconception and could provide a lot to the debate. For instance a simple research in the archives of periodicals that were published during the last two centuries of the Ottoman Empire expose a great availability and diversity of women’s publications, some of which are very focused on women’s rights. One such magazine is Kadınlar Dünyası [“World of Women”]. While its name suggests an early-twentieth-century Cosmopolitan, it was famous for its radical rhetoric and strong emphasis on women’s rights at the time of its publication.MORE
PAKISTAN After the Flood, Green Homes
KARACHI, Jul 28, 2011 (IPS) - Subhan Khatoon’s brand new home is nothing like the one that got washed away, along with all her worldly goods, in the 2010 monsoon floods that submerged a fifth of Pakistan and left 2,000 people dead.
Before that deluge, Khatoon, 45, could not have dreamed of owning a well-ventilated house with such luxuries as an attached toilet and a clean kitchen.
Khatun was lucky that the district administration of Khairpur identified her village Darya Khan Sheikh, on the banks of the Indus in Sindh province, as one of the worst affected, and her house as one that had been completely destroyed and, therefore, merited replacement.
Paperwork over, architects and engineers from the voluntary Heritage Foundation (HF) began designing Khatoon’s new home using locally available materials under its ‘Green Karavan Ghar’ initiative, which runs a similar rehabilitation project in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The vision behind the HF initiative is the use of local materials and a workforce backed by students from schools of architecture and engineering.
Established in 1984 by Yasmeen Lari - incidentally Pakistan’s first woman architect - the HF basically documents historic buildings and works for their conservation, but came forward to help with post-disaster reconstruction.
"These young professionals must learn to respect the traditional ways of building and also get hands-on training both technical and humanitarian in nature," Lari told IPS.
They have already handed over 104 homes in two villages in Sindh, all built with bamboo, lime (as opposed to cement) and mud. Not only can these be made speedily, they are cost-effective at Pakistani Rs 55,000 (647 US dollars) and have a low carbon footprint. MORE
KATHMANDU, Jul 28, 2011 (IPS) - The recent gang-rape of a Buddhist nun and her expulsion from her sect have sparked a debate about the deep-rooted religious traditions and biases that foster discrimination and violence, especially against women, in this South Asian state.
The public outcry against the nun’s expulsion forced the Nepal Buddhist Federation to reconsider, saying now that once she recovers, the victim can return to her nunnery.
But it is only a minor triumph. While public debate on a discriminatory socio-religious practice led to its retraction, thousands of women continue to be victims of other religious rituals in Nepal.
The expulsion debate started after the 21-year-old nun was attacked on June 24 while travelling in eastern Nepal. Bad weather disrupted the journey and the young woman, easily recognizable as a nun by her shaved head and red robes, was persuaded by the bus driver to spend the night in the vehicle.
But more suffering awaited the victim. A joint statement supported by 15 organisations— including Nepal Tamang Lama Ghedung, an organisation of Buddhist monks, Nepal Buddhist Federation, and Boudha Jagaran Kendra (Buddhist Awakening Centre)— condemned the attack but said she had lost her celibacy and her religious status. The rejection triggered widespread debate, with Buddhist groups from across the world criticising it.
"There is a great deal of shock and disbelief at the very idea of such an action by both Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the U.S. and abroad," wrote Matthew Frazer, an American who established the Yeshe Tsogyal Foundation to defend Buddhists targeted by violence or abuse. "Such an action reflects badly not only on Nepal, but on Buddhists in general to the rest of the world. It will set a very perilous precedent that can be used to take similar actions against future victims."
For reals? She got raped and therefore she can't be a nun because her celibacy was TAKEN FROM HER??!?!?? How about NO.
For much of the Western world, physical pain ends with a simple pill. Yet more than half the world's countries have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain.
Freedom from Pain shines a light on this under-reported story. "For a victim of police torture, they will usually sign a confession and the torture stops," says Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch in the film. "For someone who has cancer pain, that torturous experience continues for weeks, and sometimes months on end."
Unlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose and is easily made. The treatment of pain is complicated by many factors, including drug laws, bureaucratic rigidity and commercial disincentives.
In India, the first stop in the film and the world's largest grower of medicinal poppy for developed countries, there are severe restrictions to the use of morphine domestically. In 27 out of 28 states in India, narcotics laws are so strict that doctors fear prescribing it, and patients literally scream for relief. Drug companies have little incentive to manufacture morphine for the domestic market because of reporting requirements and small profit margins.
In the Ukraine, the film reveals that access to pain medication is halted by outdated, Soviet-style bureaucracy, arbitrary limits on doses, and a lack of oral morphine. As a result, many patients experience prolonged bouts of untreated pain, particularly in rural areas. In the Ukraine, we learn that Artur, a former decorated KGB colonel suffering from prostate cancer, sleeps with a gun under his pillow - his only way out, should he decide his pain is too great. MORE
Poppies for Pain Relief
Millions of individuals worldwide suffer from acute or chronic painwithout adequate access to pain medication. The problem is particularly acute in the developing world, as Time Magazinechronicled last year:
Whether you will have access to pain treatment depends largely upon where you live. Africa, which has most of the world’s AIDS victims, is a painkiller wasteland. In India, more than a million cancer and AIDS sufferers die each year in extreme pain as cumbersome regulations and paperwork make it nearly impossible to get prescription painkillers. (India produces much of the world’s legal opium, yet nearly all of it is exported to Western pharmaceutical companies.)
The geography of pain relief is so skewed that the seven richest countries consume 84% of the world’s supply of legal opiates, according to the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent agency that enforces U.N. conventions. For the estimated 10 million people who are suffering from untreated pain, relief is often found only on the black market, or in death
This gaping unmet need and global inequity is becoming the subject of various calls for change, by pain experts, by cancer treatment advocates, by international organizations, and by the human rights community. As Brent Foster explains in this podcast, the reasons behind the inequitable global distribution of pain medication are complex – like many intractable global social problems that get too little attention by policymakers.
However, a significant (and solvable) aspect of the problem is simply the relationship of supply to demand: the need for analgesics like morphine far outweighs the available supply. In part, this is due to the fact that such analgesics are produced from opium, the sap of the poppy. Since the same plant extract can also be used to produce heroin, a significant amount of political effort is now being expended worldwide to actually inhibit, rather than encourage, opoid production. This fuels shortages of analgesics.MORE
Getting Relief in Wartime: Opioids, Pain Management, and the War on Drugs
Profile from the War on Drugs: Joseph Casias
The Government's Cruel War On Pain Medication
The Pain Relief Network Archives
ETA: Depending on narcotics via annaham
KATHMANDU, May 26, 2011 (IPS) - With the May 28 target for a new constitution approaching and Nepal’s coalition government admitting it would not make the deadline, women are pushing for rights they want enshrined in the document.
The campaign made them bear the brunt of a government ban on demonstrations around parliament announced on Tuesday, ahead of a critical ballot battle between Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and the opposition parties with the beleaguered premier seeking one more year to draft the new constitution.
Even before the ban became public knowledge, riot police swung into action, beginning an assault on the women coming from almost 70 of Nepal’s 75 districts who have been holding peaceful meetings in front of parliament, asking for the protection of their rights.
Police said they had arrested 32 women demonstrators, including some of Nepal’s best-known rights activists like Tulasalata Amatya, president of Shanti Malika, a network of nine organisations working for women’s empowerment.
Others arrested were Rita Thapa, founder of Tewa, a non-government organisation working for the economic self-sufficiency of women’s groups in villages, and Stella Tamang, founder of Bikalpa Gyan Tatha Bikash Kendra Ashram, a school for children from her Tamang community, who are the worst victims of human trafficking.
The demonstrations started on the Nepalese New Year on Apr. 14. Over 40 women’s organisations from across the country gathered on the pavement opposite parliament to sing, dance and address passersby for six hours a day. It was intended to remind the nearly 600 MPs that women existed and that they expected the constitution to be finished by May 28, guaranteeing their rights.
On May 15, when it was clear that work on the constitution was not making any progress, they lengthened the vigil to 12 hours.
"The constitution of 1990 said during elections, political parties would have to field at least five percent women," says Sharada Pokharel, a former MP and president of Women’s Security Pressure Group. "But the last census, conducted in 2001, showed women accounted for 51 percent of the population. So we want the new constitution to give us 50 percent representation in all state institutions." MORE
KATHMANDU, Jul 12, 2011 (IPS) - Every time Bijaya Dhakal goes out to meet people and tell them what she does for a living, the simple task becomes an act of courage requiring nerves of steel. Dhakal is the founder of Nepal’s first and only organisation of women sex workers now trying to make the state and society listen to a community long hushed by poverty and discrimination.
A widow who had not completed school, the 35-year-old mother of two became a sex worker after struggling to raise her family on the meagre wages she earned in a factory. For almost eight years, she led a double life, working in the capital Kathmandu and returning to her village sporadically, with her family believing she worked for a non-government organisation.
"Sex workers suffer at the hands of the police and, at times, their customers who beat them up or rob them. Yet they can’t complain because the moment people learn what they do, a change comes over them," Dhakal says.
"Landlords throw them out, and even doctors and nurses at the hospitals loathe touching them for fear of contracting some disease. I began to wonder one day, how long can we stay hidden? If we continue to hide, how will our needs and demands be met?"
Six years ago, Nepal’s growing gay rights movement inspired Dhakal to cast aside the veil of anonymity and start Jagriti Mahila Sangh. Jagriti means awakening, and Dhakal hopes it will catalyse sex workers hidden in the 75 districts of Nepal to unite for a change in their lives. MORE
BHUBANESWAR, India, Jul 1, 2011 (IPS) - In eastern Orissa state’s tribal hinterlands about 200 ‘seed-mothers’ are on mission mode - identifying, collecting and conserving traditional seed varieties and motivating farming families to use them.
The seed-mothers (bihana-maa in the local dialect) from the Koya and Kondh tribal communities have reached 1,500 families in the Malkangiri and Kandhamal districts and are still counting. These women are formidable storehouses of knowledge on indigenous seeds and biodiversity conservation.
Collecting, multiplying and distributing through exchange local varieties of paddy, millet, legume, vegetables and leafy green seeds, the seed-mothers already have a solid base of 80 converted villages.
As they spread their message through the hinterland, targeting another 140 villages, the women also promote zero dependence on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Considering that Malkangiri is Orissa’s least developed district, with literacy at a low 50 percent and isolated by rivers, forests, undulating topography and poor connectivity, the achievement of the seed-mothers is admirable.
The struggles of Malkangiri farmers with climate change is visible in the Gudumpadar village where seed-mothers are passionately reviving agricultural heritage and convincing the community to stay with local seeds and bio-fertilisers and pesticides.
"This is the best way to cope with erratic rainfall, ensure the children are fed and avoid the clutches of moneylenders," says 65-year-old seed-mother Kanamma Madkami of Kanjeli village, who has multiplied 29 varieties of local millet and paddy seeds. MORE
The International Museum of Women's online exhibit on women and the economy, features slideshows, podcasts, videos and essays on women from countries such as Sudan, Denmark, Philippines, USA, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina and how they view issues such as poverty, business, family, rights, money and much more.
Economica, IMOW's online interactive exhibit sets out to explore women's contribution in the global economy. Picturing Power and Potential, was a juried photography exhibit showing different ways in which women participate in the economy and are agents of change.
For example, the exhibit's Community Choice Award winner was Brenda Paik Suno, a third generation Korean-American who took pictures of a Jeju Granny of the Sea, a woman who is part of the tradition of female divers of the Jeju Islands who have harvested the sea for generations:
White House Communications Director Dodgey When Asked about War on Women
Daily Kos Associate Editor Kalli Joy Gray: I'd like to ask you about a different kind of war, and this is a war that I am particularly concerned about.I... didn't know that the Hyde Amendment was renewed every year. Are we for real??? Instead of making progress so that the damn thing LAPSES, we keep passing it like its no big thing????
White House Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer: Okay.
Gray: The war on women. [Audience applause.] We're seeing an unprecedented number of attacks on women at the state and federal level—everything from contraception to health care to food stamps, um, drug-testing of women receiving welfare in Florida. Women in Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, are talking openly about a war on women. So, I want to know if the president agrees with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and our new DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz: Is there a war on women?
Pfeiffer: Well, what I can say is that there is no question that there is a sustained effort from Republicans at the federal and state level to, uh, undo a lot of the progress we've done. I think the most, uh, prominent example was the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, uh, during the government funding battle a few months ago, which the president, uh, at that point told the House Republicans that if they wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, that they were going to have to shut down the government over it. We see this in Indiana, where, uh, Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law an effort that would, uh, illegally defund Planned Parenthood, and the federal government is involved in a lawsuit to stop that. And so he, the president, is very concerned about all of these efforts, uh, and the ones on the federal level that we can play an active role to stop, including the use of the veto pen, uh, the president will do that.
[Note from Liss: Notice that Gray asked him a yes or no question: Does the president agree that there is a war on women? And instead of straightforwardly answering her question, Pfeiffer mansplains the problem to her, as if she and her audience are stupid and/or unaware of the issues affecting women. The thing is, he implicitly answers yes just by his reflexive defensiveness; there's no need to defend the president's record if you don't agree that there's a war on women—but he won't say it, because openly acknowledging there is a war on women is to then admit that the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act ain't fucking enough. Gray, fortunately, zeroes in and does not let him off the hook.]
Gray: Yes, but we also saw during the healthcare debate that, when it comes down to it, women's issues take a back seat for the "larger" issues, so, for example, the president said that accepting the Hyde Amendment, which punishes poor women in this country, was an acceptable status quo and that we needed to put that aside for the bigger picture. So, I'll ask again: Is there a war on women?
Pfeiffer: [pause] Let's talk about healthcare for a second, which is— [Gray laughs mirthlessly at his obvious evasiveness; the audience laughs; Pfeiffer holds up his finger, gesturing to her to hold on and listen.] The, the, the Hyde Amendment— ["Just say yes!" someone shouts from the audience] The Hyde Amendment was, uh, was the law of the land, and so—
Gray: It's renewed every year. It is not the law of the land. It is renewed every year. [Audience applause.]
Pfeiffer: Right, and, and if we tried to repeal it in health reform, there would be no health reform. And that, that was, that was the choice. It was a very simple choice, and so—
Gray: It was a simple choice?
Pfeiffer: It was, well, it's, you have two options—it's simple in the fact that you have two options; it's not an easy choice! [He says this like Gray is being a jerk.] You have two choi—you have two options: And it was no health reform and make that attempt, which would've failed and would most certainly not have passed the United States Senate, so that's the choice you have to make.
[He says this in this really matter-of-fact way, as if anyone would question the decision is an asshole, and when he says "the choice you have to make," I wonder who that "you" is supposed to be, really, because it's definitely not the women who are left without any choice because of the Hyde Amendment.]
Perspective On 9/11 And The Invasions Of Iraq & Afghanistan.
Infographic: Casualties From The War On Terror, 9/11, And The Invasion of Iraq
The stats breakdown are as follows:
September 11th Victims: 0.28%
American Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq: 0.55%
Afghan Civilian Casualties: 4.39%
Iraqi Civilian Casualties: 94.78%
Also, the comments are pretty... uhmazing.
[Stats were transcribed in TABW blog.]
Bhutanese Refugees: The Story of a Forgotten People
Bhutan’s 650,000 people comprise three main groups, along with other small groups.
The Ngalongs of the western mountains and the central Bhutanese with whom they have intermarried form the elite. They form a minority alongside the more numerous Sharchhops (“easterners”). Both Ngalongs and Sharchhops are Buddhist.
The Lhotshampa, who live mainly in the south of the country, are the third largest group in Bhutan. Originally from Nepal, they speak Nepali and most practise Hinduism.
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Government Repression of Southern Bhutanese[Lhotshampas]
In 1985 the government began its defense of Drukpa culture and traditions. A new citizenship act was passed that applied new criteria of citizenship, and made them retrospective, declaring all previous legislations null and void. The new citizenship Act of 1985, One Nation One People policy, Driglam Namza, Compulsory Labour, and No Objection Certificate were the vivid government repressions against the Nepali speaking Lhotshampas that resulted the democracy movement of 1990.
One Nation One People Policy
In the name of national integration, government's drive for "One Nation One People'' policy made all the southern Bhutanese liable to a fine or imprisonment if they ventured out in anything other than western traditional costume, and Nepali language was removed from the school curriculum. Many southern Bhutanese were fined and imprisoned for not complying with this order. The wearing of 'gho' and 'kira' , traditional Drukpa male and female garments was unsuited to the heat of southern Bhutan.
Driglam Namza, an ancient code of social etiquette of the western Bhutanese which dictates how to eat, how to sit, how to talk, how to dress or how to bow before the authority, and what hair style to adopt, was made mandatory to all the Bhutanese despite their cultural diversity.MORE
No Homecoming for Bhutanese RefugeesKATHMANDU, Apr 20, 2011 (IPS) - A knock on the door of his home in Bhutan one midnight turned middle-level government official Balaram Paudyal into a fugitive overnight, after he managed to elude policemen arresting him for "anti-government activities", and then fled the country.
Twenty-two years later, Paudyal is living in a refugee camp in Nepal, along with thousands of fellow Bhutanese driven away in the 1980s. Last week, Bhutan agreed to resume talks to have them repatriated, raising hopes of a possible homecoming. But those hopes were dashed the next day, when the government insisted on screening the refugees, and verifying their identities.
The refugees have reacted with anger, saying Bhutan is simply stalling. "Nepal and Bhutan jointly verified refugees of Khudunabari, one of seven camps, some years back," says T. P. Mishra, the 28- year-old editor of the Bhutan News Service (BNS) that operates from exile. "Though most of them were categorised as genuine Bhutanese, not a single refugee has been repatriated."
( Read more... )
Former Afghan MP Malalai Joya was on tour this week in the U.S. Her bio is out ("A Woman Among Warlords").
Speech where she was ejected from parliament:
Criticism of U.S. Occupation
Let me know if you need a transcript. The Democracy Now videos come with transcripts.
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( Read more... ) President stresses rural sanitation drive ( Read more... )
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Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds
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Discussing nuclear energy (in Lithuania and the wider Baltic region in the wake of Fukushima. Also, Sweden is dropping its traditionally neutral stance in affairs of war.
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Grybauskaite: EU should arouse women desire to learn to use information technologies and seek careers in this field ( Read more... ) 2009 Dalia Grybauskaite: Lithuania’s ‘Iron Lady’ ( Read more... )
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Three older dictators bowing under the stress of freedom demands?
Former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in grave condition in hospital
Egypt domino effect: Hosni Mubarak 'very sick'
There were reports around the time that Mubarak was being thrown out that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was sick with the stress. I don't see much of those reports anymore so maybe they were rumours...
Al Jazeera English
Live Blog - Libya Finally!
Live Blog - Bahrain
Middle East protests - Live Which include updates on Iran, Iraq and Algeria plus Yemen.
The Arabist Blog looks interesting.
The LA Times
and they link to the fact that Jordan is still having protests too.
LIBYA: Google map marks protest, violence, deaths
Feb 17..Have Yemen protests reached a turning point?:In biggest showing yet, thousands of anti-government protesters turn out in Sanaa
Link to stuff you have seen!
ETA: A cautionary note: Learning from past revolutions
[On Feb 20]: Morocco protests will test regime's claims to liberalism:Facebook groups are calling the country's youth on to the streets of cities including Casablanca, Marrakech, Rabat and Tangier on Sunday to demand constitutional reform and proper democracy
ETA 2 NEw Yorker says Bahraini Protests have been going on since the eighties
The Bahraini opposition—some of whose factions have been influenced by Iran, but which, in total, is by no means a proxy for Tehran—has persisted with its resistance and illegal street protests. The street battles this week are typical of what has been going on in Bahrain, without much attention, on and off since the nineteen-eighties.
Read more Bahrain’s Long Revolution
And One MORE thing: Mass protests as Egyptians mark "Victory Day" (Roundup)
Oh GOD. The last thing I SWEAR /o\ Blogpost by Saudiwoman, which has been recced to me more than once, and was linked to the Guardian page: The Arab Revolution Saudi Update Please note that Saudi Arabia is suspected to be all up in the Bahraini revolution because it fears that its Shia population would be encouraged to start demanding rights.
Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority concentrated in its eastern oil-producing hub that also complains of discrimination. Any spread of unrest into the world’s biggest oil exporter risks pushing crude prices above the 2 1/2-year high reached this week. Authorities arrested 38 people after clashes involving Shiite pilgrims in the holy city of Medina two months ago.MORE
Now, when I'm 25, I can say that while the death in the face of standing up for the right to be free is disturbing, upsetting and I don't know if I would ever have the strength to do the same, it is humbling to be a witness, no matter how distant, to these times in a place in the world I call home.
Bahrain: Protesters occupy Bahrain square. In case you didn't know. Bahrain has a Shi'ite majority and is ruled by a Sunni elite and the government has been naturalising foreign Sunni nationals and workers in order to create a "demographic advantage". Sounds familiar. People are staying in the streets and in the squares 24/7. That really is the only way to do it.
Iran: They are quaking in their boots. When you call for the death of the opposition leaders and the people in charge are in a bind.
Libya: Benghazi, Libya 'rocked by protests'. This is huge you guys. This is Gaddafi's place. I'm seriously in awe.
Not as many links as yesterday, but also not as much time and many links are out of date already. The changes and reports are coming in double-time and I really recommend Twitter as another on-the-spot News aggregatpr, it's amazing how much information you can get from sharing information and just reading what people on the ground have to say.
First they came, the invisible whites, and dealt death from afar
“First they came, the invisible whites, and dealt death from afar.”The murderous rocket attacks by remote-controlled drones being carried out on a nearly daily basis in Pakistan (and Afghanistan and Yemen and Somaila) should be cause for mass revulsion, shame, protests in the streets. But no. Try hard to find a candidate for office from either party criticizing them. Even the scary crazy Tea Party people are down with Obama on this one!
—Joseph Conrad, An Outcast of the Islands
And, in a recent poll, only 3 percent even mention Afghanistan or “the war” (which war?)—at all— as one of America’s most important problems. So drone attacks are not exactly a red-button issue with the American voter. But … just imagine it happening to you, or to your family. Johann Hari puts it into perspective well with this simple little thought exercise:
Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street,( Read more. Somewhat disturbing imagery under the cut. )
What do you even say to this?
Scammed in Afghanistan
The announcement by the New York Times that one of the supposedly prominent Taliban with whom the Karzai government has been negotiating turns out to be an impostor is only the latest depressing indication that the whole Afghanistan boondoggle is shot through with flimflammery. ...The incident set me thinking about all the impostures of that war, which are legion. Let us begin with the frankly dishonest discourse about it of both our twenty-first century presidents, who maintain that the US is fighting “al-Qaeda” in Afghanistan. But there is no al-Qaeda to speak of in that country, if by the term one means the mainly Arab Pan-Islamic International that sees Usama Bin Laden as its leader. US forces in Afghanistan are fighting disgruntled Pashtuns, for the most part. Some are from Gulbuddin Hikmatyar’s Islamic Party. Others from the Haqqani family’s Haqqani Network. The Reagan administration and its Saudi allies once showered billions of dollars on Hikmatyar and Haqqani, so they aren’t exactly eternal adversaries of the US. Some insurgents are from the Old Taliban of Mullah Omar. Still others are not so much terrorist cartels as tribes and guerrilla groups who are just unhappy with poppy eradication campaigns, or with the foreign troop presence (they would say ‘occupation’), or with how Karzai has given out patronage unequally, favoring some tribes over others. The insurgency is almost exclusively drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group.
So the war is not about al-Qaeda.
So what IS the war about?
I am astonished. And I really see no reason WHY I should be so surprised at this 10,000th indication that my gov't is lying to me and using my tax money to do sorts of things that I am SO not happy with. But there it is. I am astonied. Again. But! There's more! Take a look at whats been happening to Afghani children:
This information vacuum is why a British diplomat even thought the public might buy as plausible his assertion that children in Kabul are safer than those in New York or London.
Aljazeera English has a report on the ensuing controversy:
Quite apart from the bombings in the Afghan capital, far beyond anything in Western capitals, some 1,795 children were killed or wounded in conflict-related violence from September 2008 to August 2010 (admittedly in the whole country and not just in Kabul). Moreover, there are powerful crime syndicates and kidnapping rings in the capital and drug addiction is spreading among even children and youth. He wasn’t speaking of infant mortality, so it isn’t fair to slam him on the grounds that a fifth of Afghan children die before reaching age five. But knowledge of the truly horrific health statistics of Afghan children might have instilled some caution about making Panglossian statements.
Aljazeera English has video on drug addiction even among the very young in Kabul:
Oh dear principles of peace and justice for all mankind. What is this shit I do not even. No. No. No. NO. Is there no hope for our policy leaders to get some kind of "road to damascus moment" and take a good look at their lives and choices? Cause this is all BS. How the HELL is it that these people think it best to spend money blowing the hell out of people on the other side of the world instead of putting that cash to use to fix our myriad problems right here in the US? I am so fucking TIRED of being cynical when it comes to american politics.
How a Tiny Town Sent an International Water Giant Packing:In the fight for water independence, Felton, California has become a symbol of what can be achieved.
In 2008, weeks after communities all over the United States celebrated the Fourth of July, the tiny town of Felton, Calif., marked its own holiday: Water Independence Day. With barbecue, music, and dancing, residents marked the end of Felton’s six-year battle to gain control of its water system. The fight, like the festivities, was a grassroots effort. For when a large, private corporation bought Felton’s water utility and immediately raised rates, residents organized, leading what was ultimately a successful campaign for public ownership and inspiring other communities nationwide.MORE
World's Water Supply: Here Are the Haves and Have Nots
British-based risk consultancy Maplecroft has released a new report showing which countries have the most precarious and stable water supplies. The report is intended to help guide investors, underscoring just how serious water supply is getting when it comes to the world economy. From farming to manufacturing, investors in various industries are starting to seriously weigh where they put their money based on how secure water supplies are or will be, and companies with interests in areas with unstable water supplies are having to put water efficiency in a place of priority. Though it focuses on areas of risk, the report also reveals whole new areas in water where investors may want to pile in funds.
Reuters reports, "African nations led by Somalia, Mauritania and Sudan have the most precarious water supplies in the world while Iceland has the best, according to a survey on Thursday that aims to alert companies to investment risks... A "water security risk index" of 165 nations found African and Asian nations had the most vulnerable supplies, judged by factors including access to drinking water, per capita demand and dependence on rivers that first flow through other nations."MORE
The Price of Water: A Comparison of Water Rates, Usage in 30 U.S. Cities
A first of its kind survey of residential water use and prices in 30 metropolitan regions in the United States has found that some cities in rain-scarce regions have the lowest residential water rates and the highest level of water use. A family of four using 100 gallons per person each day will pay on average $34.29 a month in Phoenix compared to $65.47 for the same amount in Boston.
The survey, conducted by Circle of Blue over the last several months, also found that average daily residential water use ranged from a low of 41 gallons per person in Boston to a high of 211 gallons per person in Fresno, Calif.MORE
Philippines: Manila Water Crisis
Metro Manila, the national capital region of the Philippines, is now experiencing a water shortage crisis with millions enduring water supply rationing. Desperate for a bath, disgruntled residents have taken to breaking a water pipe in Malabon City. Filipino bloggers try to make sense of the crisis. Blackshama's blog finds the fact this rationing is done during the rainy season worrisome.
August is historically the wettest month. Unless weather patterns change, next month may be the driest August. September is the last month of the wet season and then the dry begins. The only thing to be done is to lessen water use.MORE
Will Drinking Water for Millions be Devastated by Natural Gas Drilling?
The ordinary tap water available to 12 million residents in the New York Metropolitan area has been reliably clean and flavorful since 1842, when an aqueduct was built to bring pristine water from upstate to the city. For years the prideful city's water is a consistent winner in blind taste tests. Easy to take for granted, it comes as a shock to learn it is now endangered by natural gas drilling.
For a couple of years there have been media reports from Pennsylvania to Texas of drinking water so tainted that folks are able to light the water from their kitchen tap on fire. There have been more than 300 instances of contaminated water in Colorado since 2003, and more than 700 instances in New Mexico, according to Bruce Baizel, senior staff attorney with Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. In West Virginia a once lushly forested area has been transformed into a dead zoneMORE
Community Water Solutions in Action in Laos
XIENG NGEUN, Laos -- With just 13.4 percent of the country’s 6.3 million people having access to piped water at present, Lao authorities would have to work more than double time if the rest of the population are to have clean and safe water within a decade.
Here in Xieng Ngeun however, no one is waiting for the government alone to provide the townspeople with their water needs.
Located 25 kilometres south of the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang and part of the province of the same name, Xieng Ngeun boasts of having Laos’s first water-supply and sanitation project in which the community has taken part in all its stages, from planning to implementation.
One Year After Ontario Ban: Over 80 Percent Decline of Pesticides in Surface Waters
In April 2009, it became illegal to sell or apply pesticides for cosmetic lawncare in Ontario, Canada. It seems like a no-brainer risk versus benefits analysis: the benefit is ...hmmm, just cosmetic...while the risks are real, documented, and pervasive. But somehow the allure of a green, weed-free lawn keeps conquering rationality. A year later, does the preliminary data on the effectiveness of Ontario's cosmetic pesticide ban prove it is a good idea?
The scope of the pesticide ban is described on the News Ontario website:
Pesticides cannot be used for cosmetic purposes on lawns, vegetable and ornamental gardens, patios, driveways, cemeteries, and in parks and school yards. There are no exceptions for pest infestations (insects, fungi or weeds) in these areas, as lower risk pesticides, biopesticides and alternatives to pesticides exist. More than 250 pesticide products are banned for sale and over 95 pesticide ingredients are banned for cosmetic uses.
If you are a World Cup fan or a golf player, you might be asking yourself: but what about a perfectly groomed playing field? The Ontario ban provides for the continued use of some banned pesticides for special applications, under strict oversight of the Ministry of the Environment. Other exceptions include combatting poisonous plants or disease-carrying insects.MORE
In New Mexico, Ancient Traditions Keep Desert Waters Flowing
New Mexico has a spiritual power emanating from the landscape -- its rios, mesas, llanos, sierras -- that informs our traditional cultures.
Native Americans live each day in a vibrant relationship with everything around them. For them, New Mexico is not just a place to live. It is a way to live.
Similarly, Indo-Hispanos have created an intimate relationship with the landscape over the past three or four centuries. They built acequias -- communal irrigation systems—not only to sustain an agricultural lifestyle, but also to caress and sustain the Earth and its natural creatures.
Acequias evolved over 10,000 years in the deserts of the Middle East and were introduced into southern Spain by the Moors during their nearly 800-year occupation. Spanish colonizers took acequias to the New World. Acequias included specific governance over water distribution, water scarcity plans, and all other matters pertaining to what was viewed as a communal resource. The mayordomo, or watermaster, of the acequia made decisions about water distribution among community members, with the consent and advice of the acequia members.
This communal system of irrigating was a response to the scarcity of water in arid regions and was key to the survival of agricultural communities. In many instances, the acequia governance system was also used to settle other community conflicts, especially in areas like New Mexico, located far from the seat of government in Mexico City. The irrigation system that evolved over centuries and that was implemented in New Mexico was created to ensure a formal civil process to resolve water-rights issues, especially in dry times. Each irrigator had one vote to elect the mayordomo. The mayordomo had ultimate authority over water disputes and his word was final. He derived his authority from the communal power vested in him by all of the irrigators.MORE
Ugandans Return Home to a Demolished Water Infrastructure
AUSTRAILIA: The Biggest Dry is Global Warning of Water Scarcity
The Price of Hydropower Pursuits in Patagonia
War on Water: A Clash Over Oil, Power and Poverty in the Niger Delta
The Himalayas, A Special Report
On Monday more than 40 nations gather in Washington to attend the nuclear security summit - the biggest gathering outside the UN on US soil since the 1945 San Francisco summit on forming the United Nations. But Iran is not invited and Israel's prime minister decided not to attend. So where is the real threat today? And what of nuclear proliferation and the world nuclear order, is it fair? Does it work?
Taking Action: President Obama's Nuclear Security Summit
Nuclear Summit Wrap-Up
Opinion: Reporting on Iran should seem familiar
Iran reacts to becoming a US nuclear target
Gates Worries about Iranian Nuclear Research, while Khamenei blasts US for Hiroshima
( Greek gods analogy to explain American military's murder of civilians )
Ceremonial EviscerationBoth incidents elicited shock and anger from critics of American war policies. And both incidents are shocking. Probably the most shocking aspect of them, however, is just how humdrum they actually are, even if the public release of video of such events isn't. Start with one detail in those Afghan murders, reported in most accounts but little emphasized: what the Americans descended on was a traditional family ceremony. More than 25 guests had gathered for the naming of a newborn child.
In fact, over these last nine-plus years, Afghan (and Iraqi) ceremonies of all sorts have regularly been blasted away. Keeping a partial tally of wedding parties eradicated by American air power at TomDispatch.com, I had counted  five such "incidents" between December 2001 and July 2008. (A sixth in July 2002  in which possibly 40 Afghan wedding celebrants died and many more were wounded has since come to my attention, as has a seventh  in August 2008.) Nor have other kinds of rites where significant numbers of Afghans gather been immune from attack, including funerals , and now, naming ceremonies. And keep in mind that these are only the reported incidents in a rural land where much undoubtedly goes unreported.
Similarly, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, recently expressed surprise at a tally since last summer of at least 30 Afghans killed and 80 wounded at checkpoints when US soldiers opened fire  on cars. He said : "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Or consider 36-year-old Mohammed Yonus, a popular imam of a mosque on the outskirts of Kabul, who was killed in his car  this January by fire from a passing NATO convoy, which considered his vehicle "threatening." His seven-year-old son was in the back seat.
Or while on the subject of Reuters employees, recall  reporter Mazen Tomeizi, a Palestinian producer for the al-Arabiya satellite network of Dubai, who was killed on Haifa Street in central Baghdad in September 2004 by a US helicopter attack. He was on camera at the time and his blood spattered the lens. Seif Fouad, a Reuters cameraman, was wounded in the same incident, while a number of bystanders, including a girl, were killed. Or remember the 17 Iraqi civilians infamously murdered  when Blackwater employees in a convoy began firing in Nissour Square in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. Or the missiles regularly shot from US helicopters and unmanned aerial drones into the heavily populated Shiite slum of Sadr City back in 2007-08. Or the Iraqis regularly killed at checkpoints  in the years since the invasion of 2003. Or, for that matter, the first moments of that invasion on March 20, 2003, when, according to  Human Rights Watch, "dozens" of ordinary Iraqi civilians were killed by the 50 aerial "decapitation strikes" the Bush administration launched against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the Iraqi leadership, missing every one  of them.
( There's so much that it makes no sense to bold. )
Its a convincing analogy I must say, and dear GOD I had NO idea that so many people had been killed like this. I am feeling extremely sick at the moment and the fact that this is what my tax dollars are paying for, and all that the news is reporting on is PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ARE GETTING GOOD WAGES OMG OMG ALERT ALERT HOW DARE THEY NOT TAKE STARVATION WAGES OUR TAX DOLLARS!!!!!! But then as that asshole that Diane Sawyer put on to justify the Wikileaks video said, its just the Fog of War. eh? ANd aren't we Americans lucky that we are the ones creating that Fog from afar, instead of living smackdab in teh middle of it.
Why Afghans Dig Empire Graveyards
While Americans think of the war in terms of 9/11 and terrorism, Afghans are not afflicted with such a myopic view. They see the war in the context of a much longer history that is shaped by their country's mountainous geography and strategic location between Iran to the west, Russia to the north and India and Pakistan to the south and east - and of their own ability to defend it against the world's greatest empires.
Or, as noted in the resignation letter of Matthew Hoh, an American diplomat who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan last September: "I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul. The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency."
Throughout the 20th century, Afghanistan's people confronted the same existential questions as people in other non-Western countries. What aspects of modern Western technology and culture could they adopt without losing what they valued in their own way of life?As elsewhere, different classes within Afghan society answered this question according to their own interests, and the resulting divisions left Afghanistan vulnerable to opportunistic exploitation and intervention by foreign powers, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union and the United States.
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