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30.09.2018 David Andersson

Rohingya Massacres: U.S State Department Posts Report As UN Agency Formed To Assist ICC

By Dr Arshad M Khan

Very quietly, without fanfare, in a story that went by almost unnoticed, the U.S. State Department website posted a report this week on the Rohingya massacres and atrocities.  Based on a survey, for which it contracted a Washington-based law firm (PLPG — Public International Law and Policy Group) to conduct the interviews, the report relied on 15,000 pages of supporting evidence.  It documented a planned, organized effort to terrorize and drive out the Rohingya community.  The firm, too, has posted data and legal findings on its own website.

PILPG’s investigators conducted 1024 interviews with Rohingya survivors in Eastern Bangladesh refugee camps and settlement areas.  They drafted an initial overview for the State Department followed by detailed documentation in the form of a database with more than “13,000 coded instances of grave human rights violations.”  A second report titled, “Factual Findings and Legal Analysis Report” is expected to be issued sometime next month (October 2018).

The State Department report notes specifically that any hearsay evidence was not recorded; the interviewees were eyewitnesses to the horrors.  Eighty-two percent actually saw the killings and a similar number observed the destruction and burning of huts and villages.  There are numerous aerial views of the destruction, patches of lifeless brown in a lush, green landscape.  Fifty-one percent witnessed sexual violence of which 45 percent constituted rapes — 18 percent were gang rapes.

The military were by far the worst perpetrators.  Others involved were police or armed civilians.  The  methods employed in some cases were designed to cause “mass casualties … locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya” (p. 2).

Gang rapes were common.  In one case, they abducted some 80 women to rape.  In another, a mother reported that “during a rape of roughly 100 women, her daughter was raped, then mutilated and killed … .”   Other mutilations included “cutting babies out of their pregnant mothers’ bellies … .”  Soldiers are reported to have “cut off the breasts of women they raped … mutilated genitals or other parts of their bodies” (p. 17).

Systematic, organized atrocities perpetrated by a de facto authority are considered crimes against humanity.  These include massacres, summary executions, rapes, religious persecution and the terrorism experienced by the Rohingya.  Article 7 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court is reproduced under the UN’s  definition of crimes against humanity.  Any one of the ten actions described are sufficient for guilt and in Myanmar the authorities perpetrated at least eight.

The State Department report carefully avoids calling the acts, ‘crimes against humanity,’ a term that could have legal implications and obligate it to “stronger punitive measures.”  However, the UN Human Rights Council continues to forge ahead and on September 27 it set up an agency to collect and consolidate evidence to facilitate any future prosecutions by the ICC.

The UN’s 440-page report released the previous week on September 18, documented in detail the horrific damning evidence and called for the Myanmar military and six senior generals including the commander-in-chief to be referred to the ICC.  The latter has commenced its own preliminary investigation.  Let’s hope the mercurial Mr. Trump wakes up peevish on the wrong side of the bed one morning soon.  Even that might not be enough for the generals to face justice as ICC investigations require cooperation by the Myanmar government.


Author’s Note:  This article first appeared on Counterpunch.org

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.

27.09.2018 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands PAX

This post is also available in: Italian

Global protests at BNP Paribas offices: End support for nuclear weapons production!

Don’t Bank on the Bomb, a project in conjunction with ICAN, took advantage of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons to urge BNP Paribas to withdraw their $8 billion support for nuclear weapons producing companies. The production of nuclear weapons will soon be illegal under international law when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force.

Simultaneous protests took place in more than a dozen countries today. This global day of action urged BNP Paribas to make its policy matter and stop investing in nuclear weapons producers. Though BNP Paribas has a policy restricting investment in companies associated with the production of nuclear weapons, it has provided US$8 billion in financing to 16 nuclear weapons producing companies in the last 4 years.

“The ‘bank for a changing world’ has the opportunity to deliver real change and contribute to a nuclear-free world,” said ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn. “They are investing in weapons that are inhumane and violate humanitarian law and the laws of war. They are neither a sound nor ethical investment.”

Susi Snyder of Pax, who is running the global day of action with ICAN, said: “BNP should immediately publish their exclusion list and increase transparency about where they are and aren’t investing. A leader in sustainable investment shouldn’t have anything to hide.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by the UN in July 2017 and will enter into force once a further 31 states join the 19 who have already ratified it, bans any type of assistance with the production or manufacture of nuclear weapons –  including financing the companies involved.

“If BNP Paribas wants real change in the world, it should fix its policy by referencing complete prohibition on all forms of assistance with nuclear weapons under the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” said Ms. Snyder.

The protests today called on BNP Paribas to:

  1. Increase Transparency. BNP Paribas uses a list of controversial companies to avoid investment. However, this list is private. As a first step, BNP Paribas should make this list public.
  2. Fix the policy. BNP Paribas already has a policy restricting investment in companies associated with the production of nuclear weapons. However, the policy is a failure. It can be fixed by changing the reference from the Non Proliferation Treaty (allowing them to invest in companies associated with the arsenals of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (so they can’t invest in any nuclear weapon associated company, anywhere), and applying the policy to all financial products and services it offers- including things like asset management.
  3. Divest. BNP Paribas has a number of long-term investments in nuclear weapons producing companies, and it can take time to fully disinvest, but it can announce that it will not participate in any new financial relationships with any nuclear weapon producing company and will increase the level of engagement with current companies to encourage them to stop making the key components for nuclear weapons.

More information can be found at: https://bnp-divest.org

26.09.2018 Pressenza London

Three reasons some countries are far more unequal than others
St. Francis of Assisi renounces his worldly goods (Image by Giotto di Bondone • Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
Sandy Brian Hager, City, University of London for The Conversation

Why do the richest 1% of Americans take 20% of national income, but the richest 1% of Danes only 6%? Why have affluent British people seen their share of national income double since 1980, while over the same period, the income share of wealthy Dutch hasn’t budged?

Technological change and globalisation act as powerful forces for income distribution, but these market processes cannot alone account for the continued range in top income inequality in different countries. After all, some of the most technologically advanced and globalised countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, are the ones that are the most equal.

To explain why some advanced capitalist countries are more unequal than others, we need to look beyond the market and explore the role of politics and power in shaping distributive outcomes.

Want to have a more equal society? In a critical review of recent research, I’ve found that the formula is surprisingly simple: tax the rich, vote for left-wing parties, implement electoral systems of proportional representation, and empower trade unions.

1. Tax levels

One key political factor is government policy, especially taxation. Countries that have made the biggest reductions to their top rates of income tax have seen the largest increases in top income shares. For example, in more equal France, the top rate in 2010 was only 10% lower than it was in 1950. Meanwhile, in the more unequal US it was 50% lower. At the company level, CEO pay tends to be much higher when the top income tax bracket is lower.

Tax policy plays a pivotal role in explaining top-end income inequality. But policies do not emerge out of thin air. These variations in the policies that influence distributive outcomes at the top result from social power relations, which have been shown to shape the evolution of top-end income inequality over time.

2. Politics

The formal political arena is one site where these power relations unfold. A recent study by Evelyne Huber, Jingjing Huo, and John Stephens studied the income share of the top 1% in postindustrial democracies from 1960 to 2012. They found that centre and right-wing governments in rich countries are consistently associated with increases in top income shares. Meanwhile, policies of left-wing governments generally reduce inequality at the top end.

The institutional design of the political system also matters. Electoral systems of proportional representation tend to favour left-wing parties, while systems that are led by majority rule favour right-wing ones. Certain institutional features, such as having presidents and bicameral legislatures encourage gridlock and empower special interests to block progressive policy reforms.

There are questions about the extent to which the institutional story can be generalised, but as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson show, it is crucial in explaining the spectacular rise of the super-rich in the US.

3. Trade unions

In addition to left-wing parties, strong trade unions act as a power check on top income shares. Unions can align with left-wing parties and push for egalitarian policies. Within the firm, unions can bargain to increase their wages and reduce the amount of revenue going to executive compensation and shareholder dividends.

One academic study found that unionisation decreased the compensation of top US executives by 12%. Another found that in US industries with higher levels of union membership, the gap between executive and non-executive pay was narrower. In the numerous cross-national statistical studies that I surveyed the rate of unionisation is one of the few variables consistently associated with lower top income shares.

Prompted in many ways by the pioneering efforts of Thomas Piketty and his collaborators, the study of top incomes has made remarkable progress in the past decade. But there is still room for further exploration.

The study of top incomes tends to be US-centric. There needs to be more in-depth analysis of the experiences of other countries. We need further research that investigates who the top 1% are in different countries, and how their political preferences compare to other segments of the population. We also need to explore in much greater detail the racial and gender dimensions of the income hierarchy in different countries.

Given the compelling evidence that living in highly unequal societies destroys our minds, our bodies, our relationships, our communities, and our planet, this is something we should all take seriously. The better the grasp we have of the causes of top-end income concentration in different countries, the more effective we will be in assessing what, if anything, can be done to slow or even reverse it.The Conversation

Sandy Brian Hager, Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy, City, University of London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

25.09.2018 – US, United States Countercurrents

Feeding Militarism: The US Imperial Consensus

By Dr Binoy Kampmark

The US military industrial complex reigns like a ravenous ruler in search of new funding prospects. It has done well this year, with the Trump administration pushing the sale that the imperium needs more ruddy cash and indulgent expenditure to cope with all manner of evils.  Empire must be without equal.

The dissenters to this program have been pitiably small, concentrated amongst such outliers as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.  Those on the GOP side of the aisle have barely squeaked but relative to the Democrats, their sounds have been spectacularly noisy.  There is, in fact, something to be said that, in the boisterous era of Donald Trump, the Democrats have shown very little by way of bucking any trend whatever in the continuingly expansive program that is US military spending.

As Peter Beinart observed in February this year, the Democrats might be moving to the left on the domestic front (a murmuring more than a lurch, it must be said); in terms of a foreign or defence policy, nothing of note comes to mind.  Terrified of being left behind in the rat race of reaction, the Democrats have, for instance, done their bit to promise funding for the border wall with Mexico, albeit offering a lesser $1.6 billion in 2019 to the $5 billion demanded by Trump.

Beinart took note of the remarks of Nancy Pelosi, chipper in the run-up to the budget deal that dramatically increased US defence spending.  “In our negotiations,” she enthused to fellow House Democrats in an email, “Congressional Democrats have been fighting for increases in funding for defence.”

Defence, notably when aligned with imperial cravings, supplies its own logic.  The military industrial complex is an economy within, given the armouring rationales that make a reduction of spending heretical.  Firms and employees need to be supported; infrastructure maintained. Forget those other menial things: roads, public transport, train tracks, bridges and airports can be left to one side.  To reduce the amount would be tantamount to being treasonous, an anti-patriotic gesture.

“It’s not just a matter of buying fewer bombs,” suggests Brian Riedl of the conservatively inclined Manhattan Institute.  “The United States spends $100,000 per troop on compensation – such as salaries, housing, health care – which also contributes to our defence budget exceeding that of countries like China.”  As with such empires as Rome, the entire complex entails compensation, remuneration and nourishment for the industry of death and protection.

It became clear this month that, even with short-term spending bills, this rationale would repeat itself.  Last week, the Senate considered such a bill that further supplemented the earlier budget package that would not only fund the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services departments; it would also add further largesse to the Pentagon.  By a margin of 93-7, the package was passed and the Democrats found wanting, refusing to stage any protest that might result in an expiration of government funding come September 30.

Trump, in his amoral calculations, is all for such a disruptive measure, having expressed a desire both for and against a shutting down of the government in an effort to push funding towards his pet border security projects.  “Finish the Wall!” he has intoned between sessions of hectoring, directed both at the Democrats and the GOP.

The Democrats have been weak in conviction.  “This is necessary,” explained an unconvincing Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee, “to ensure that we do not face a government shutdown in the event that we do not finish our work on other remaining bills.”

This supposedly necessitous state of affairs sees the Pentagon budget for 2019 receiving an outlay of $606.5 billion, an increase of $17 billion from 2018.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)’s words were those of the patriot turned fetishist.  “After subjecting America’s all-voluntary armed forces to years of belt tightening, this legislation will build on our recent progress in rebuilding the readiness of our military and investing more in the men and women who wear the uniform.”

As for what the appropriations will fund, 13 new Navy ships will be added to the inventory, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines.  The air arm can look forward to 93 of the previously mocked (by no less or more a person than Trump) F-35 aircraft, 58 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 66 AH-64 Apache helicopters, 13 V-22 aircraft.  A further $1.5 billion will be set aside for upgrading 135 Abrams tanks.

In the tactics that ultimately saw a grand capitulation on the part of the Democrats, a policy obscenity manifested itself: to avoid squabbling over non-defence spending bills, the Senate agreed to pack the military budget bill along with that of full-year funding for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Education. In wrapping these bills in the same ribbon, an abysmal reality surfaced: the military industrial complex finds a home in any legislative orientation, and will not be denied.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

23.09.2018 Redacción Madrid

This post is also available in: Spanish

Reasons for disarmament? All of them!

by Juana Pérez Montero

Weapons never served to truly advance the human being. They were always used for the benefit of the few at the cost of the life, pain and suffering of the great majority, even though the latter was used and continues to be used as a justification. And victories – if any – are always fleeting because they carry in their essence the revenge of the losers, in a chain of violence that finds no end.

The development of weapons as a form of survival could have been understood thousands of years ago, which surely does not mean and does not justify that the “choice” of that path by humanity was not a big mistake, which we are still paying for and from which we have not emerged, having arrived at the present day, in which the survival of the species and of the entire planet is at risk.

The arms race that we are living in has returned us to the worst moments of the so-called Cold War, is accompanied by campaigns to increase a sensitivity that is being strengthened even in schools, feeding an ideal image -associated with leisure- about the “benefit” of weapons. We are seeing it in countries of the former Eastern Europe or in England lately. These awareness campaigns are accompanied by the imaginary construction of “enemies”: countries like Russia, Iran, North Korea… (countries that do not bow down), human groups like refugees, migrants (displaced by the disasters that the arms industry itself produces), etc., increasing violence of other types like hunger, racism, xenophobia, discrimination by religious beliefs, etc., that feed the spiral of violence in a crazy race.

It is alarming the increase in military spending worldwide[1], with the United States[2] at the head and its policy of the use of force and threat, a policy that it imposes and that its NATO partners accept; some governments such as that of Colombia[3], substantially modifying the geomilitary map of the region, or Japan[4], the most obvious example of the barbarism we have reached but that today gives in to Trump’s pressures, multiplying the tension in one of the hottest areas of the planet.

This “coin” that increases in size every day, that of military spending, has two sides, both negative. The other side is the side of collateral damage, in war terms. If a country’s budget increases the item of military expenditure, rights are systematically cut and the budget is reduced in social policies (education, health, pensions where they exist, research, etc.).

Clear examples abound. The American population itself sees the arms increase while it has a very bad public health; in Spain, during what they have mistakenly called ‘crisis’, the governments in office have cut back on education, health, public pensions… while maintaining their commitments to the arms industry and increasing the military budget[5]; Txipras’ Greece betrayed the will of the people, following in the wake of previous governments, and delivered its people to the feet of the horses of the interests of Central European banks, without bothering to cut wages, labour rights, health, education, public pensions… while paradoxically buying military material[6].

This is to mention scandalous cases that have been and are in all the media, clearly because they belong to the ‘north’ of the planet. But, if we know this about old Europe or the USA, what happens and with all of Africa, much of Asia, areas with great natural resources, whose population lives in the most extreme poverty as a consequence of wars they didn’t choose and that keep them ‘entertained’ while all their resources are stolen?

There, where arms are invested in, violence increases in any form (physical, economic, psychological, moral, racial, religious, sexual…), social inequalities increase, famines, climate change, forced displacements of population, and so on.

It is very graphic to see, moreover, how this arms race accompanies the process of concentration of wealth[7]. The business of war is the biggest in the world, let’s not forget it.

Survival of humanity

In any case, today there are no situations that justify weapons and wars if we speak of survival and the defense of the interests of all humanity as we stated at the beginning of this writing. Today, sufficient accumulated wealth exists in all fields, as a consequence of the work of thousands of generations, so that all Humanity may live in dignified living conditions. And that wealth, which was generated by all, by social justice must therefore return to all. And we have all the means so that wealth can be shared.

Why do we say that it belongs to us and how could we do it? Without the need to make history always full of injustice and betrayal, let us take an example of absolute actuality and around which there are armed conflicts. We know that in the north of the planet there are greater scientific and technological advances and in the south there are elements such as coltan, which is so essential for electronic devices, so that those technological advances in the north can be realised. What wise or moral position and that opens the future of all justifies continuing to spill the blood of millions of human beings to take these resources and deny them to enjoy these advances?

Let us imagine for a moment how much energy in all fields the whole of humanity could gain if, instead of promoting confrontation, we renounce war as a resolution of conflicts (see the example of the Constitution of Bolivia 2009, in its article 10.1[8]), if we work on policies of rapprochement and cooperation, if we invest in free education, in universal health, in ensuring food and housing for all. What would happen if an education and a culture were researched and developed to disarm internal violence and eliminate all forms of external violence? We would be facing an exponential increase in the physical and psychological health of the populations, for a human being who would gain deep faith in the future, we would be putting the condition so that the different forms of violence do not find fertile ground in individual and collective consciences.

If all the resources that are diverted towards the arms race were used as a function of life and the liberation of the human being, we would have the space to move on to another stage of history, we could move on to building the true human history, as the Latin American thinker Mario Rodriguez (Silo) said[9].

So, while we find no reason to continue feeding the violence and the arms industry, we say loud and clear ‘Reasons for disarmament? All of them!

About the author

Juana Pérez, journalist and documentary narrator, is Pressenza’s editor for Spain, and a humanist activist.

1] https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/yb_18_summary_en_0.pdf

2] http://www.cipi.cu/articuloel-presupuesto-militar-de-eeuu-para-el-ano-fiscal-2018-y-el-complejo-militar-industrial

3] https://www.google.com/search?q=Colombia+support+militarily+a+la+otan&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b

4] https://www.google.com/search?q=japon+se+rearma&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b

5] http://www.centredelas.org/images/INFORMES_i_altres_PDF/informe34_cast_DEF.pdf

[6] https://www.elboletin.com/internacional/146826/grecia-segundo-pais-otan-invierte-defensa.html

[7] https://www.oxfam.org/es/sala-de-prensa/notas-de-prensa/2018-01-22/el-1-mas-rico-de-la-poblacion-mundial-acaparo-el-82-de-la=- sync:ßÇÈâÈâ

8] http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=189098#LinkTarget_3126

[9] http://www.silo.net/es

This article was initially published in Revista América Latina en Movimiento: Paz y NoViolencia: Rebeldía a un sistema violento 17/09/2018 (Rebellion against a violent system).

Translated from Spanish by Pressenza London

22.09.2018 Countercurrents

Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Brett Kavanaugh, far right sympathiser, anti-abortion, candidate to the US Supreme Court (Image by Countercurrents)

by September 21, 2018

Stage set Washington.  Object: adulterating power.  The arm of government: the judiciary.  That particular group of high ranking paladins remains up in the air as US Supreme Court appointee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh floats around in a stage of grinding limbo, as sexual allegations made start to bite.  This purgatorial state promises to resolve itself next week.

Palo Alto professor of psychology Christine Blasey Ford insists that Kavanaugh and another Georgetown Prep student, Mark Judge, locked her in a room during a party held in 1982.  What followed was what was termed an “attempted rape”, with Kavanaugh allegedly making a vain effort to remove Ford’s clothes.

That Kavanaugh has survived this long in the Me Too age as a nominee of one of the most influential bodies of US governance is a fair indicator that Trumpland has done much to disrupt a certain sensibility.  That sensibility might be hypocritical, but it is a disruption no less.  Trump, for his part, has also aided his nominee’s cause by withholding some hundred thousand documents of the judge’s records from the Bush White House on presidential privilege grounds.

This show has been given a blood rushing boost, with the parties drawing battlelines in what promises to be a squalid spectacle.  Whether it is those who back Ford, or the judge himself, the parties are jousting over grounds of fairness and how best to confront the allegations.  The Democrats insist that the process cannot go further without an investigation by the FBI.  Debra Katz, one of Ford’s legal team, has reiterated that line for her client.

Senate Republicans have rebuffed it, many seeing Ford’s spoiling role as having no significant impact on the confirmation process.  “We got a little hiccup here with the Kavanaugh nomination,” came a confident Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who was also convinced that “we’ll get through this and we’ll get off to the races.”  Senator John Cornyn of Texas suggested Ford, whether she wanted to “participate and tell her story” or otherwise would be “no reason for us to delay”.

Kavanaugh has done himself few favours, though he has tried to water down speculations about any reactionary tendencies that might manifest should he actually make it to the bench.  His record as a staunchly conservative jurist who has more than sniffed the glue of criticism offered against Roe v Wade suggests that a regressive trend in Supreme Court jurisprudence might be in the offing.  This is hidden behind the language of a studied objectivity.  Before the Senate judiciary committee, he explained that, “A good judge must be an umpire – a neutral and impartial arbiter who favours no litigant or policy.”

He is also a creature happy to reflect about his time as a testosterone charged student – in certain company.  In 2015, he remembered those days fondly before an audience at the Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, reflecting on the comments of his dean from that time: “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep.”

His statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee was an effort, in part, to convey an image that has taken something of a battering.  Wanting to earn plaudits on the pro-women ledger, he expressed pride at his mother’s efforts to become one of “the few women prosecutors at the time”.  He peppered his delivery with references to coaching female basketball teams, including those of his daughters.  “I love coaching.  All the girls I have coached are awesome,” came the crawling observation from Kavanaugh’s opening statement, suggesting a manager all too keen on being liked.  It’s all the casting game, the show of decent appearances.  “A majority of my 48 law clerks have been women.  More than a quarter of my law clerks have been minorities.”  In this, shallowness plays all ways: ticking the boxes of what, on the surface, looks like compliance and observance.

The show of having Blasey and Kavanaugh presented like celebrity life stock for political purchase is something that does little to consider accusations and grounds.   This is Trump’s deforming legacy: the show matters far more than either outcome or substantive details.  For that reason, GOP strategists concerned that Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual proclivities might somehow find their way in disturbing the President’s popularity have missed a beat.

One such individual is Liz Mair, a consultant for the Republicans.  “Trump already has a problem with suburban women,” Mair is noted as saying in USA Today.  “The way this is going, I don’t see any great upside here for the GOP.”  Mair should be retained for other tasks, have tripped over the obvious point that Trump’s aggressive, engaged voters find groping hands, dedicated misogyny and callousness less significant that the Making America Great Again Show.  It should be remembered that the consequences of the “Access Hollywood” tape was guaranteed, cycle-news notoriety that did wonders to enhance a profile rather than diminish credibility.

Lisa J. Banks, also representing Ford, was none too impressed with the show, though she did concede her client’s willingness to work with the judiciary committee.  “The committee’s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding.”  For his part, Kavanaugh insists on a categorical and unequivocal denial. “I remain committed to defending my integrity.”

The politics of calculation in this instance is everything.  At the moment, the Republicans are doing their best to ensure that Judge Kavanaugh gets confirmation before the mid-term elections, slotting him in before any inevitable entropy.  A Democratic-controlled Senate, should it eventuate, will make the prospects of getting this marred creature onto the bench significantly more difficult.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

22.09.2018 – Sana’a, Yemen Redacción Madrid

This post is also available in: Spanish

The oppression of Baha’is by the Houthis reaches unprecedented levels in Sana’a, Yemen

On 15 September, more than 20 members of the Bahá’í community in Yemen, including all their national leaders and minors, were falsely accused of espionage and apostasy at a Houthis-controlled Sana’a court hearing.

The accusations, inspired by religious motives, made by the de facto authorities in Sana’a at the hearing, followed the recent hate speech promoted by the leader of the Houthis. In recent years, there has been an escalation in the level of activity to oppress Yemeni Baha’is, including a death sentence in January and mass arrests.

The trial began only with the presence of the judge, prosecutor and other court officials; neither the accused Bahá’ís nor their lawyers were informed of the court session. The next hearing is scheduled for September 29 in Sana’a, to which the judge has summoned those absent from the first court session, including several women and a teenage girl.

“The charges are extremely alarming and mark a severe intensification of pressure at a time when the community is already threatened and the general humanitarian crisis in the country requires urgent attention,” said Bani Dugal, senior representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations.

“We have reason to be concerned about the security of the Bahá’í community in Yemen. We urge the international community to call on the authorities in Sana’a to immediately abandon these absurd, false and unfounded accusations against these innocent people who have been maliciously accused merely for having practiced their faith.

“The way in which the Houthis are attacking the Bahá’í community in Yemen is disturbing, as it is very similar to the persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran in the 1980s, during which Bahá’í community leaders were rounded up and killed,” added Ms Dugal.

In a televised speech earlier this year, the leader of the Houthis vilified and denounced the Bahá’í Faith, further intensifying the ongoing persecution of the Bahá’í community in Yemen. Abdel-Malek al-Houthi accused the Baha’i Faith of being “satanic,” said it was “waging a doctrinal war against Islam,” and urged Yemenis to defend their country from Bahá’ís and members of other religious minorities on the pretext that “those who destroy people’s faith are no less evil and dangerous than those who kill people with their bombs.

In 2016, more than 60 people – women, men and children – participating in an educational meeting organized by Bahá’ís were arrested as part of a massive crackdown on this religious community.

Hamed bin Haydara, a member of the Yemeni Bahá’í community and arrested since 2013, was sentenced to public execution for his faith earlier this year and is now one of six Bahá’ís imprisoned in the country for practicing his faith. After a lengthy judicial process and a cruel imprisonment of almost five years, a final court hearing was held in January 2018, at which the accused was prevented from attending and sentenced to death.

It is understood that Abdu Ismail Hassan Rajeh, the same judge who presided over Mr. Haydara’s farce case, is overseeing the current case.

Despite increasing pressure from the international community, six Bahá’ís remain in prison. Reports indicate that the Houthis are monitoring and trying to identify Bahá’ís in all areas under their control.

For more information, visit: https://www.bic.org/situation-in-yemen/reports-situation-yemen

 

Translated from Spanish by Pressenza London

20.09.2018 – London, UK Silvia Swinden

Fracking mechanism to produce radioactive waste
A fracturing operation in progress (Image by Joshua Doubek • CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

A new piece of research published by Science Daily demonstrates the way “slick water and black shale in fracking combine to produce radioactive waste: Research papers explain the transfer of radium during hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas”.

“Radioactivity in fracking wastewater comes from the interaction between a chemical slurry and ancient shale during the hydraulic fracturing process, according to Dartmouth College research…

“The study, detailed in twin papers appearing in Chemical Geology, is the first research that characterizes the phenomenon of radium transfer in the widely-used method to extract oil and gas. The findings add to what is already generally known about the mechanisms of radium release and could help the search for solutions to challenges in the fracking industry…

“The stuff that comes out when you frack is extremely salty and full of nasties,” said Mukul Sharma, a professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth and head of the research project. “The question is how did the waste become radioactive? This study gives a detailed description of that process.”…

“The research confirms that as wastewater travels through the fracture network and returns to the fracking drill hole, it becomes progressively enriched in salts. The highly-saline composition of the wastewater is responsible for extracting radium from the shale and for bringing it to the surface.

“Radium is sitting on mineral and organic surfaces within the fracking site waiting to be dislodged. When water with the right salinity comes by, it takes it on the radioactivity and transports it,” said Sharma.”

Water pollution, small earthquakes…

The potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing include air emissions and climate change, high water consumption, water contamination, land use, risk of earthquakes, noise pollution, and health effects on humans. Air emissions are primarily methane that escapes from wells, along with industrial emissions from equipment used in the extraction process. Modern UK and EU regulation requires zero emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Escape of methane is a bigger problem in older wells than in ones built under more recent EU legislation. Wikipedia

In spite of all the potential problems governments continue to issue licences for the exploitation of shale gas against the wishes of the local people where those activities are to take place. In the UK Frack Off  campaigns to stop fracking sites, and other grassroot organisations in various countries raise the alarm when new sites are proposed. However the science of the risks associated with this technology is only just emerging, and is certainly ignored when it does, in the name of profit.

20.09.2018 – Brooklyn, New York Pressenza New York

On International Day of Democracy, International Leaders Call for More Open Public Institutions
One year after NYU Tandon’s Governance Lab convened thought leaders at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy to lay the foundation for CrowdLaw, more than 100 government and citizen groups have already implemented its practices to improve governance through 21st century technology and tools. (PRNewsfoto/NYU Tandon School of Engineering)

Published on www.prnewswire.com and provided by NYU Tandon School of Engineering and The Governance Lab.

Sept. 13, 2018  — As the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Democracy on September 15 with its theme of “Democracy Under Strain,” The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering will unveil its CrowdLaw Manifesto to strengthen public participation in lawmaking by encouraging citizens to help build, shape, and influence the laws and policies that affect their daily lives.

Among its 12 calls to action to individuals, legislatures, researchers and technology designers, the manifesto encourages the public to demand and institutions to create new mechanisms to harness collective intelligence to improve the quality of lawmaking as well as more research on what works to build a global movement for participatory democracy.

The CrowdLaw Manifesto emerged from a collaborative effort of 20 international experts and CrowdLaw community members. At a convening held earlier this year by The GovLab at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy, government leaders, academics, NGOs, and technologists formulated the CrowdLaw Manifesto to detail the initiative’s foundational principles and to encourage greater implementation of CrowdLaw practices to improve governance through 21st century technology and tools.

Beth Simone Noveck, professor in the Department of Technology, Culture and Society at NYU Tandon and director of The GovLab, explained the timely significance of the CrowdLaw Manifesto as governments around the globe face greater public distrust and threats to democracy.

“This manifesto shares what we see as the future of governing, which moves beyond viewing public opinion and petitions as the main form of civic engagement,” Noveck said. “Technology enables us to collectively ask and answer how we should redesign our governing practices to solve the complex policy challenges of the 21st century at local, national, and global levels. We ask citizens throughout the world to join us as signatories to this manifesto and thereby encourage democracy to put down strong roots in communities everywhere.”

The global embrace of CrowdLaw principles is demonstrated by international launches planned for the Crowd Law Manifesto: at Reworks Agora in Agora, Greece – the birthplace of democracy – on September 16,  and at Nesta’s Designing Collective Intelligence event in London on September 17.

More than 30 organizations and 80 individuals working on citizen engagement and democracy worldwide have already signed the manifesto. Signatories include

  • Madrid City Council
  • Sabine Romon, chief smart city officer, General Secretariat, Paris City Council
  • Ben Kallos, New York City Council member, District 5 (Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, East Midtown, East Harlem), New York City Council
  • Audrey Tang, digital minister of Taiwan
  • Raffaele Lillo, chief data officer, Digital Transformation Team, Government of Italy
  • Mukelani Dimba, civil society co-chair, Open Government Partnership

“The successes of the CrowdLaw concept – and its remarkably rapid adoption across the world by citizens seeking to affect change – exemplify the powerful force that academia can exert when working in concert with government and citizens,” said NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević. “On behalf of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, I proudly sign the CrowdLaw Manifesto and congratulate The GovLab and its collaborators for creating these digital tools and momentum for good government.”

“One of the most urgent debates of our time is about the exact role that these new technologies can and should play in our societies and particularly in our public decision-making processes,” said Victoria Alsina, research professor in the Department of Technology, Culture and Society at NYU Tandon and coordinator of the CrowdLaw Initiative at The GovLab. “By exploiting technology to engage a broader and more diverse constituency in the lawmaking process, CrowdLaw has the potential to enhance the quality of lawmaking practices and to transform fundamentally the source of authority undergirding the legislative process.”

In July 2018, the GovLab debuted the CrowdLaw Catalog as an online platform to bring together real-world examples of CrowdLaw projects from 39 countries. With over 100 cases of public participatory lawmaking listed, the online portal aims to help civic leaders create new projects or bolster existing ones, and encourages users to continue adding more CrowdLaw cases to increase research and evaluation of these practices.

To complement its work on CrowdLaw, The GovLab at NYU Tandon together with NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge is launching a lecture series, “The Future of Democracy.”

Drafters and signatories of the CrowdLaw Manifesto explained its importance in spreading democracy:

“CrowdLaw is an exciting new concept that seeks to encourage deep citizen engagement throughout each phase of law and policy-making processes. Instead of passive participation in public governance through democratic rituals such as voting every four or five years. CrowdLaw innovations enable active citizenship continuously. I believe this can be an essential part of the arsenal for pushing back against the retreat of democracy that seems to have become a defining feature of politics globally.” – Mukelani Dimba, co-chair, Open Government Partnership

“Democratic governance institutions need to experiment and adapt if they are to harness rapid technological change rather than be overwhelmed by it. CrowdLaw provides just that sort of innovation by delivering with a wide range of tools that elected officials can use to engage citizens in policy-making processes. The Design4Democracy.org coalition – a growing group of democracy and human rights organizations, which NDI supports – is committed to ensuring the technology industry embraces democracy as a core design principle. CrowdLaw is a shining example, the embodiment of this philosophy.” – Scott Hubli, director of governance programs, NDI

“In a time of major threats to democracy, such as populism, technological manipulation, and greater complexity, CrowdLaw is the most interesting and inspiring idea I’ve ever heard on how we can improve the quality of our laws and public decisions, and save democracy.” – Josep Lluis Marti, vice-rector and associate professor, Pompeu Fabra University

“I have signed it. You have all my good wishes and support. I think this is a good idea and needs to be expanded.” – Sam Pitroda, chairman, Pitroda Group, and former advisor to the prime minister of India on public information, infrastructure and innovation

To learn more about CrowdLaw, visit crowd.law or contact crowdlaw@thegovlab.org. To sign the CrowdLaw Manifesto, visit http://manifesto.crowd.law.

16.09.2018 Pressenza New York

This post is also available in: Spanish

Conversation with the Chilean Writer Jorge Marchant Lazcano

By Jhon Sánchez and translated by Yani Pérez

I met Jorge Merchant in an elevator. It was the summer of the 2009 and as soon as he said “Hello,” I recognized his Chilean accent. I introduced myself with the name of Cecilio Bolocco, an allusion to the Chilean actress and Miss Universe, Cecilia Bolocco. We laughed a little, and I told him that I was a writer. I didn’t see him again until the summer of 2010 when I ran into him by coincidence in a coffee shop. We spoke for a little while and again, he vanished. This coincidence repeated itself three years in a row until we finally decided to go together to see a Frank Sinatra exhibit at the library of Lincoln Center. In January of 2015, we would meet again when I was on vacation in Chile and this is when he autographed my books. Jorge, we were destined to meet.

JS: So far, I have read only two of your novels, Sangre Como La Mia and Cuartos Oscuros. The two novels take place in New York and make reference to the cinema. Could you comment on how your narrative has evolved since you started writing fiction?

I started writing fiction at the end of the 70s, when I was very young. My first novel Beatriz Ovalle was released in Buenos Aires (Editions Orion, 1977). During the first years of Pinochet’s dictatorship getting published in my country, Chile, was extremely difficult because we didn’t have publishing houses. When the novel was released in Chile, it turned out to be a great publishing and commercial success. After publishing a couple of books more, I disappeared from the literary circle and dedicated myself to writing TV series. That was a good way to learn a trade and make a living during the last dark years of the dictatorship and the uncertain early years of the protected and the somehow betrayed democracy of the 90s.

I wrote for the theater as well and in the 2000’s – a century after, hehehe – I went back writing novels with a historical saga during the 20s in Chile: Me parece que no somos felices (Alfaguara, 2002). This was a re-entry into the Chilean literary circle. In 2006, I made a great leap towards what I wanted to express my more intimate essence: I had been diagnosed with the HIV virus since 1995 and I was still alive, so it was necessary to rescue the difficult journey from which many from my generation never came back. It took me a couple of years to write Sangre Como La Mía (Alfaguara, 2006). I needed the maturity required to go inside an indispensable painful story yet charged with silence. Taking into consideration that Latin America and particularly, Chile – a very conservative country – talking about homosexuality was a theme semi hidden. I wanted to tell the story from the beginning, since before the AIDS epidemic. I wrote about the 50s, the decade I was born in to narrate a family history involving three generations of gay man, unusually united by blood: the father, the son and a maternal uncle.

That has been my basic evolution as a writer. The theme of homosexuality has grown from the edges, other voices, other perspectives; it has never disappeared from my writing. It’s the gravitational center of human behavior that has turned out to be more complex, more open and as time passes more questioned, given that the West has open its perception towards this “difference” that until—not so many years ago, was considered an illness and a crime.

JS: Sangre Como La Mía and Cuartos Oscuros share similar themes: the cinema, AIDS, the gay life in New York, the aging process. Speaking of cinema, would it be fair to say that while Sangre Como La Mía describes the cinematography industry with a nostalgic feeling, the antique theater auditoriums, the great premieres, Cuartos Oscuros, on the other hand, alludes to what the cinema has turned out to be today? The title not only refers to the gay dark rooms for sexual encounters, but also to the darkrooms where photographers work with their negatives and projection booths from where filmmakers show their work. It’s like the love that could never be. What do you think?

Exactly. First, I would like to explain why New York has been the stage for these novels. In 2003, my love partner, with whom I had lived with for about twenty years in Chile, had to move to New York. He was practically dying because of AIDS. He couldn’t get adequate medications in Chile and got asylum in the United States. He saved his life and opened a new door for me. Although I wasn’t able to seek asylum due to my innumerable commitments in Chile, I started to travel every year and I stayed for several months. Emotionally and solitarily, I immersed myself in this city and became acquainted with AIDS organizations in New York. In addition, I had been always been a great reader of North American literature and since my childhood, I was a devout viewer of Hollywood movies. I was familiar with New York since the eighties and this made me an active part of the tragedy that was taking place in this city. I discovered its obscurities when everything was collapsing. This was the natural stage for these stories and for the development of these characters. It was also necessary to have Chile as the departing point for my Chilean characters. My protagonists transformed into anonymous travelers discovering their own lives through these cultural leaps. They are pariahs everywhere. Cinema is the window to illusion. In the case of the fifties and sixties, a glamorous window that speaks from a relatively sparkling New York but with the looming discrimination of West Side Story, and later, the extreme violence of Midnight Cowboy and of Cab Driver. In Cuartos Oscuros (2015) the magic of the past has completely disappeared leaving only the ruins from the antique cinematographic palaces where the timeworn character of my novel arrives from a pilgrimage. There nobody cares what happens on the screens anymore.

Since many decades ago, the big stars have disappeared and the only thing that is left is their ghosts in the hallways having hard sex. Perhaps love could have occurred in some cases, but for most of those beings, it went past them.

JS: In your narrative there is a dialogue between cinema and literature. Furthermore, the stories are spun around movie theaters. Why is this important? Do you believe that new technologies such as Facebook, Tweeter, virtual experiences, video games etc. are able to create a similar dialogue?

There exists a dialogue between cinema and literature: Douglas Sirk (the author of those intense melodramas as Imitation of Life or Written on the Wind) speaks to Paul Auster or Philip Roth, without any of the two parties realizing it. Patricia Highsmith’s novels jumps from Hitchcock’s hands. James Dean is Cal in Eli Kazan’s movie, but it still summarizes the brutal tension of John Steinbeck. Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift transformed the idols from a far away generation of young boys in the scenes of A Place in the Sun , but we have to return our attention to Dreisser’s gigantic pages. Maybe there is a risk if we realize that we’re referring to the Anglo-Saxon culture, and that we didn’t realize before until we fully entered in what we usually call “gay culture”—that in our countries, I believe, it was created very late. Our realities were locked out and we turned out to be a bad copy of that alien reality. This is what happens to the character of Jaime in Sangre Como la Mía, when he sees The Misfits and believes that Clark Gable’s house in the Nevada desert looks like a poor house like those from certain towns in Chile.

I have aimed to reflect all of that in my novels, without theory because I hate theory. I have tried to make my characters have flesh and for that I have created addicts to literature and cinema. The addicts to the literature are usually more discreet. The addicts to cinema are talkative and possibly more frivolous. Each will speak from their own experiences. And who is better to speak about homosexuals than homosexual spectators; those who have filled the rooms with their unspeakable dreams for decades and decades, unable to talk about the pressures that they suffered during their childhood so they would remain silent. Regarding to the experiences in Facebook or other networks, I don’t care very much and I do not believe that they have something serious to add in relation to cinema and literature yet, except in one to one relations. Groups in the networks are confined and speak only among themselves.

JS: Let’s talk about the theme of AIDS, which is present in both books. It is not the death penalty story as told during the 80’s and 90’s, but the history of exile to the United States seeking medicine. In relation to AIDS, is there a difference between the narratives from the past and the narratives from the present?

I have dealt with of the theme of AIDS from my Latin American perspective. A lot of time has passed since David Leavitt faced this theme of the gay culture perspective—accepting that this theme completely involved homosexuals—challenging Reagan’s affront with a novel as The Lost Language of the Cranes (1986). During the years when Leavitt wrote his first works, the dead abounded in the big cities in North America. Here, in our countries, we barely were able to recognize the tragedy because the media hid it and it barely had any discussions with the medical arena. We approached the theme many years after. In France as well there were anticipatory works such as To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life from Hervé Guibert (1991), and in 1999, the Mexican writer, Mario Bellatin dared to write a wonderful and metaphorical story, Beauty Parlor where a hairdresser converts his hair salon to a shelter for the dying. We have arrived late to all of that because of the gap with the center of the world. In my case, we had to record discriminatory experiences to narrate our stories, and without doubt, the lack of medicine forced us to exile, not only as an adventure, but also as a narrative migration.

JS: Which are the stories about AIDS in Chile that we should be familiar with? Are there Latin American authors whom we should be acquainted with?

Probably, if I wouldn’t mention Pedro Lemebel many would think that this is incomplete. He is a Chilean writer often read in this regard, although he is considered to be a chronicle writer yet his exultant and colorful language has won him great prestige. But it’s better to go to the basics: Carlos Monsivais from Mexico. We cannot forget Fernando Vallejo from Colombia, and certainly, we have to go to the roots of homosexuality, before the AIDS, with the voices of the memorable Argentinian writer Manuel Puig, or the Cuban Reinaldo Arenas, or even further, Virgilio Piñera, also from Cuba.

But no one has spoken of AIDS with the realistic vigor than the Anglo-Saxons who have covered the story completely with authors like Alan Hollinghurst, David Leavitt or Harold Brodkey. There lies the history that never can be forgotten.

JS: One day on the beach you said, “Jhon, you have to read Philip Roth. ” Philip Roth, who died Recently, has been a great influence in you literary career. Would you like to share with our readers how he has influenced your narrative and what other authors are important to you?

Philip Roth is among the best writers in the United States from the last 30 years, according to an article published by the New York Times Book Review Book Review in in May 2006. At the top of my head and in my opinion, American Pastoral (1997), Roth deals with the great fears of the contemporary American man. It is necessary to face our own individual demons in a society that encloses itself and encloses in its own selfishness. This kind of societies grow and grow in all of the western world, reinforced by the merciless neo-liberalism, making us into the same desolate monsters. There are scarce possibilities to reverse this so Roth’s works are almost premonitory of the wild world that awaits us in the short term.

The big writers are visionaries; Scott Fitzgerald did it during the 20s and 30s, or Steinbeck, or William Styron, or Mary Mc Carthy, or James Purdy, to name a few of the North American writers who I keep reading with passion.

JS: Cuartos Oscuros fascinates me. The novel creates suspense with an unknown character with whom the narrator let’s himself embark on all kinds of adventures. It’s funny, mysterious, very tragic and almost magical ¿ Where can we find other examples from that kind of narrative? Is it precisely that unknown and blind character who creates the suspense or do we need something else?

It’s true that Cuartos Oscuros comes closer to that certain kind of North American narration. For example, Paul Auster’s style where, he uses a magical way to unveil the story like peeling layers off an onion. But I also believe it’s an expression of the Latin American narrative. Salón de Belleza –old fashioned name—something from Reinaldo Arenas and for certain, a lot from the Argentinian Manuel Puig, to whom I celebrate in this novel through a series of experiences imagined in New York, mixing them with main characters. Latin America was for many years the paradise of magical realism—to which I do not subscribe. On the contrary, my character is one of these mysterious characters, these blind people, who walk first in our cities as in the work of the Argentine Mario Sábato.

JS: And of course, Cuartos Oscuros , speaks about a reality of gay life: the tribute to the youth. Those who turn a certain age are left behind to have sex in the dark rooms and the video sex stores. What is the challenge for gay people who arrive at a certain age? How is it possible to face the aging process within the cultural tendency towards idolatry with youth?

Cuartos Oscuros is precisely the contrary. In these times of hedonism, of superficial triumphs from youth that only looks at itself, of the triumph of a recent homosexuality that never had won any sort of battle, I wanted to render tribute to old age. I did it without a morbid curiosity but parting from my own reality. I am 68 years old and at the time I wrote the novel, I was facing an arid period in my personal life. In some moments, I felt outside of reality, between travels, from Santiago to New York, without belonging to any part. So on more than one occasion, I thought of “burning down the ships.” ” A friend’s suicide gave me courage to go all the way to the deepest part of the well and try to pull through without any need to die. Love, is alive again, and this made me look at everything with new eyes. But what was left was the record of this blind man and the writer who follows him: they act as creatures that could be saved through sex.

JS: I cannot pass up the chance to ask you about the title, Cuartos Oscuros, is this a metaphor to the photographic dark room, and to the projection booths? From that point of view the movie has a vintage feel, a call to recover a lost past in cinema and our lives?

That title makes reference to those rooms described in that place in Queens [the movie theater from the book is set in Queens]. It has a lot of vintage appeal because those places are disconnected from reality. Elderly men only go there without an interest to watch the actual movie. For that, they have the DVD’s in their houses to repeat the old ritual of watching it twice or three times. Even so, some people, including a woman, said to me, “We all have our own dark rooms, our own secrets that can be part of our conscience, where it is difficult to leave.

JS: Sangre como la mía is a well-written book that can be re-read numerous times. It has one of the best opening sentences I have ever seen in literature. This is because it creates interest and injects a dose of the character’s emotions in the present and future, “In one of those moments I was already dead but I hadn’t even realized it. Just like William Holden in that unforgettable movie that I was about to watch.” Well, this is an AIDS story so the question is, after the diagnosis, how is it possible not to die in life or to continue living?

That “opening sentence” follows the initial image that I had conceived for this novel. I thought to give the title “Dead Man Speaking” that relates to the initial moment of William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. It was then when the idea to write a novel about AIDS popped into my head. For many years, the death penalty and this disease went hand in hand. This is why William Holding floating in a pool in Hollywood telling his own story would turn into a wonderful element to start this novel and to continue it along with iconic images of North American cinema. In a way, this character starts to live again after his death by the power of the narrative and creative invention.

JS: You guys in Chile are celebrating the Oscar of A Woman Fantastic, a movie with a Latin-American and LGBT themes. What does all of this mean for Chile? For Latin America?

The movie by Sebastian Lelio came out at an opportune moment in Chile. The right-wing Sebastian Piñera was ascending to power for a second time. The theme around a transsexual character opened an intense debate for a homophobic and conservative right. El Palacio de la Moneda, has to reluctantly celebrate the triumph and Daniela Vega, its protagonist, an icon of sexual difference. In any case, for her, it has not been that easy because the country is very much divided regarding underlying values. There is a great part of the Chileans that even now continue denying Daniela her gender identity and continue saying the Daniela is Daniel. Without a doubt, A Fantastic Woman is a great artistic and cultural achievement for Chile, cementing the international career for its director: His next project is the North American version of his previous movie, Gloria, where the protagonist interpreted by Paulina García who won the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear, will now be played by Julianne Moore in the English version. Furthermore, after A Fantastic Woman, Lelio directed a great British movie Disobedience where Rachel Weitz plays a Jewish lesbian in the heart of a closed orthodox Jewish community in London.

JS: We hope to have more novels set in New York with that Chilean flavor.

Jorge Marchant Lazcano is a Chilean writer, born in Santiago, Chile, in 1950. A Journalist, he is graduated from Universidad de Chile. He is one of the most interesting Chilean writers of the moment, although he is not massively read. His narrative has gone through different stages: his first novel, Beatriz Ovalle (1977) was influenced by Manuel Puig’s first pieces (especially his novel Boquitas Pintadas); Mr. Marchant went through a period of pseudo historical novels. Novels such as Me parece que no somos felices (2002) Y La joven de blanco (2004). Now he transitions to a more mature and surprising stage with his novels, Sangre como la mía (2006), El amante sin rostro (2008), La promesa del fracaso (2012) and Cuartos oscuros (2015). Currently, he is working on incorporating a mixture of the lessons he has learned from the past on a novel that is influenced by writers such as E.M. Forster, August d’Halmar and Edward Carpenter, set in England in1907.


Jhon Sánchez: A native of Colombia, Mr. Sánchez arrived to the United States seeking political asylum. Currently, a New York attorney, he’s a JD/MFA graduate. His most recent short stories published in 2018 are Pleasurable Death available on The Meadow, and The I-V Therapy Coffee Shop of the 21st Century available on Bewildering Stories. On September 21, the British magazine Fiction On The Web will release his short story “‘My Love, Ana,’—Tommy”. https://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/

Yani Pérez is an Ecuadorian born, Brooklyn raised poet and playwright.  Her work can be found in literary journals and websites such as Brooklyn Paramount, By the Overpass, Having A Whiskey Coke With You, Napalm and Novocain, Jellyfish Whispers, Barbie in a Blender Anthology and Storm Cycle 2012: The Best of Kind of a Hurricane Press. She reads her poetry in literary events throughout the city. She assists with literary workshops and publicity at IATI Theater. She also does marketing for artists, theaters and businesses. When not writing, plays, poetry or marketing materials, she teaches English at the university level. Her current research entails the merging of American and Hispanic concepts in second and third generations to accommodate the duality of Latinos in America. She received her M.F.A in Creative Writing from Long Island University/Brooklyn

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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