Christopher Walken dancing in over 50 movies all perfectly spliced into a single music video.

The planet is rapidly heating. Fascism is on the rise in the Western world. America is threatening to embark on another useless war in the Middle East. These days, we could all use something to smile about, and few things do a better job at it than watching actor Christopher Walken dance.

A few years back, some genius at HuffPo Entertainment put together a clip featuring Walken dancing in 50 of his films, and it was taken down. But it re-emerged in 2014 and the world has been a better place for it. 

Walken became famous as a serious actor after his breakout roles in “Annie Hall” (1977) and “The Deer Hunter” (1978) so people were pretty shocked in 1981 when he tap-danced in Steve Martin’s “Pennies from Heaven.”

But Walken actually started his career in entertainment as a dancer. He took his first dance lessons at the age of three. “It was very typical for people—and I mean working-class people—to send their kids to dancing school,” he told Interview Magazine. “You’d learn ballet, tap, acrobatics, usually you’d even learn to sing a song,” he later explained to Interview magazine.

As a child, he also studied tap dance and toured in musicals. He even danced with a young Liza Minelli. “I’d been around dancers my whole life, having watched my parents make musicals at MGM, and Chris reminded me of so many of the dancers I knew growing up,” Minelli said according to Entertainment Weekly. “He’s talented in every way.”

Craig Zadan, Executive Producer of “Peter Pan Live!,” agrees with Minelli. “I think that if he had been around in the heyday of MGM, he would have been a big star of musicals on film,” he told Entertainment Weekly.

His dance moves were put center stage in 2001 in Spike Jonze’s video for Fatboy Slim’s song “Weapon of Choice.” Walken says he did it because one day he’ll be too old to cut a rug. “You think, ‘Well, do it now!’ You know, you get too decrepit to dance,” he told Entertainment Weekly.

Click Here: fjallraven kanken backpack

Jimmy Carter says Russian election interference makes Trump an ‘illegitimate president.’

There’s an unspoken rule among former U.S. presidents to not criticize your successors. George W. Bush refrained from criticizing Barack Obama during his presidency.

“It’s a hard job. He’s got plenty on his agenda. It’s difficult.,” Bush told CNN. “A former president doesn’t need to make it any harder. Other presidents have taken different decisions; that’s mine.”

Click Here: fjallraven kanken backpack

Barack Obama said he’d remain quiet about Trump unless he threatened the DACA program. After Trump decided to end the program Obama released a scathing Facebook post. Last year, he hit back at him again saying he capitalized “on resentment that politicians have been fanning for years.”

Former president Jimmy Carter has had no problem violating the unspoken rule and calling out his successors. He called the George W. Bush administration “the worst in history.” He also criticized Obama for his dealings with Iran and North Korea and spoke out against Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich.

Carter has also been very critical of Donald Trump, saying his campaign “tapped into a waiting reservoir of racism.”

On Friday, June 28, Carter took his criticism of Trump even further by deeming his entire presidency “illegitimate.” 

Speaking at a Carter Center event at a resort in Leesburg, Virginia, on Friday, Carter was asked by moderator John Meacham how the U.S. should respond to Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. 

Carter replied:

Meacham then asked Carter to clarify his remarks. “So, do you believe President Trump is an illegitimate president?” he asked.

“Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract, I would say yes,” the 94-year old said with a grin.

After the Mueller Report and confirmation from multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, there is no doubt that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump get elected. The only real question is whether it tipped the scales in favor of him winning or whether he would have made it to the Oval Office without foreign intervention.

It’s stunning to hear a former president call one of the members of his small club ‘illegitimate,” but what’s even more shocking is that he may be right. The sitting president of the United States was quite possibly installed by a hostile foreign power.

After all, while Clinton beat Trump in the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Trump’s victory in the electoral college was decided by only 77,744 votes in three states.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a co-founder of and author of “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know,” believes it’s “likely” that Russian interference changed the outcome of the election. 

When asked Trump would be President without the aid of Russians, she told The New Yorker, “No. If everything else is a constant? No, I do not.”

In 2018, our partners at Upworthy posted a tongue-in-cheek article endorsing Jimmy Carter for president in 2020 because the one-termer is such a fundamentally different human being than Trump. But one can hope that in 2020 they wind up sharing something in common: being one-term presidents. 

Forget billionaires: let’s build our own system to fund the transformation of society

“Gone to the Dogs,” Paul Higgins’ canine-friendly café in Carlisle, may seem an unlikely place to look for inspiration in transforming the ways we think about funding for social change. But through ‘pay-it-forward’ fundraising and ‘creative up-cycling’ to re-use resources, Higgins has made the café a center for community in which money builds connection instead of division – a radical reversal of the inequalities that lie at the heart of big philanthropy, foreign aid and government contracting.

Here’s how it works: the café’s customers write their donations on post-it notes and stick them to a cupboard on the wall. Anyone who comes in can use these donations to get something that they need, without being asked to prove that they are ‘poor,’ homeless or whatever – it’s a trust-based system: “they are just people,” Paul’s partner Julie told me in an email, “we don’t feel we have the right to vet them.”

The pay-it-forward scheme has led to other initiatives like a free soup kitchen that utilizes surplus food from the café and the city’s supermarkets, an alliance with a local animal charity to provide training and work experience to those who need it, and a furniture restoration business housed in the barn of a café customer (one homeless person who used the scheme turned out to be a skilled French polisher). That’s ‘creative upcycling’ in action – re-using spaces, skills and materials in ways that nurture ‘communities of making and sharing.’

These initiatives don’t just generate financial resources; they also build trust, solidarity, self-confidence and independence. Their central principle was elaborated as far back as 1916 by the writer Lily Hardy Hammond: “You don't pay love back; you pay it forward” – no strings attached.

Higgins latched onto this idea after he met a man sleeping rough on a Carlisle street: “I asked him to come to the café for a free breakfast,” he told Cumbria Magazine, “and the scheme was born…this is the best thing I’ve ever done.” Granted, the money raised so far isn’t on the Bill Gates scale, but what interests me is the philosophy embodied in this approach, which (if expanded and adapted in lots of different ways) could help shift power away from wealthy donors and bureaucrats in funding bodies and make the whole system healthier and more democratic.

In traditional fundraising there are ‘donors’ and ‘recipients,’ and the donors decide who gets what. In alternative systems like pay-it-forward, everyone can be a donor (not just of money but also of time and ideas), and everyone a recipient, so no-one dominates decision-making. This helps to address one of the biggest sources of dissatisfaction with current models, in which large funders target support according to their own particular priorities and interests. These interests change all the time, making funding completely unreliable, but they rarely include transforming the systems that have put them at the top of the social and economic tree.

That’s why we have to build a different system that starts from the opposite set of principles i.e. one that isn’t owned and controlled by wealthy individuals, run by distant professionals and unaccountable intermediaries, surrounded by red tape and limited to social stabilization and protecting the status-quo.

But could such alternative, decentralized funding systems work on a level commensurate with the scale and complexity of the problems that face societies today? I don’t see why not, especially when allied to elements from other systems that share a commitment to equality and democracy.

The ultimate democratic funding system would be one in which everyone was endowed with equal giving power. That’s obviously a pipedream in conditions of rising inequality, but with proposals like a Universal Basic Income gaining traction it’s not impossible, especially if redistributive taxation re-enters the political equation. US Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed a ‘wealth tax’ to pay for basic services for everyone, so why not use some of that money to create a ‘charity account’ for each person earning less than the median income?

Of course, there would be no guarantee that this would lead to more funding for radical changes in society since people would make their own decisions on how to allocate resources. But it’s much more likely that such choices would favor substantive change if they were made by those at the sharp end of poverty and discrimination – countering the increasing dominance of wealthier people in systems of charitable giving and the vehicles they use like donor-advised funds which offer them more control. Such a process would be transformative in and of itself by making the whole system more open and inclusive.

It could also to help to revive civil society by forcing charities and community groups to connect with a much broader social base, and by channeling more money to causes and constituencies that are less popular with wealthy donors and mainstream funding agencies in government. Remember that it was self-funded, democratically-governed federations of women’s groups, parent-teacher associations, labor unions, churches and community organizers that played a crucial role in every episode of large-sale social progress in the twentieth century. But self-funding requires that the great mass of society have sufficient resources to contribute to the common good.

Even in conditions of widespread inequality it’s possible to expand healthier models of funding like pay-it-forward or ‘participatory grant-making’ – where grassroots voices share in deciding how to allocate resources. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in Connecticut, for example, has endowed 29 community-level funds under the direction of local representatives. I once proposed that the Gates Foundation do something similar by sharing its $50 billion endowment with school districts in low-income areas so they could make their own minds up on how to spend it. Some of the best community foundations and the #shiftthepower movement they are fostering already work in this way.

As the café in Carlisle illustrates, commercial opportunities can also be useful so long as they are democratically controlled, with the surplus they generate used for the common good instead of private profit. In the UK, Positive News, the Bristol Cable and the New Internationalist have turned themselves into co-operatives, freeing themselves from dependence on foundation grants by issuing shares to readers to sustain their independence. The Correspondent did something similar in the Netherlands using crowd-funding. Wikipedia and other commons-based ventures have used peer-to-peer funding to finance their operations for years.

Diffusing money in ways like these also diffuses power and opportunity, but sometimes concentrated (institutional) funding is necessary when something is very expensive and takes years to bear fruit (like vaccine research), or where services like health and education have to reach whole populations rather than small groups or projects, or where there are gaps in funding that aren’t being filled by anyone else. That’s largely the responsibility of governments, but private funders like foundations also have a role to play, so long as they don’t supplant or distort public purposes or micromanage how to use resources.

These different funding tools aren’t necessarily better or worse than each other, just appropriate for different circumstances – like real tools in a toolkit – so what we really need is an ‘ecosystem’ that includes all of them and more. That’s what researchers Niamh McCrea and Fergal Finnegan concluded after studying hundreds of different models: “If the aim is building democratic power in the here and now,” they say, “off the peg ideological responses such as ‘only rely on locally-generated funds’ or ‘demand more public funding’ simply will not work – we have to get creative.”

And once we get creative we’ll be able to transform the diminished ecosystems we have today, in which self-funding, democratic and egalitarian approaches are grossly underrepresented, while concentrated funding through intermediaries is far too dominant. That imbalance virtually guarantees that the most challenging things that must be done to transform social relations, politics and economics will be starved of support. So creating and expanding those non-dominant approaches has to be top priority.

At the moment, a huge amount of energy goes into critiquing philanthropy and public-sector funding, and it’s important to keep up that pressure even if the targets are loathe to change. But perhaps if we put less time into reforming non-responsive institutions and more into building alternatives under our own control, we might actually make more progress. In other words, we might be in a better position to fund what we want when we want it, and to sideline concentrated financial power over time. After all, most of these alternatives fall within our own span of influence; we don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to pay-it-forward or experiment with other methods.

The veteran fundraising consultant Kim Klein once said that “Whoever funds your organization, owns your organization.” When we own the systems of funding and support for social change, it’s much more likely that it will be the kind of change we want to see. “You don't pay love back; you pay it forward.”

Click Here: bape jacket cheap

A pro-life activist challenged people to look at abortion photos and it backfired spectacularly.

When pro-lifers picket Planned Parenthood clinics they often do so holding signs that have disturbing pictures of aborted fetuses. They do so in hopes that pro-life people will be forced to change their opinion on abortion after being confronted by the grizzly images

Click Here: cheap pandora Rings

However, these protesters are only showing half the story.

On the other end of the abortion equation are the women put in harm’s way by laws that restrict their access to the procedure. According to the Guttmacher Institue, over 30,000 women die each year from botched abortions in countries where the practice is forbidden and 45% of all abortions performed worldwide are done so in unsafe conditions. 

When abortion is looked at from the macro level it’s tough to say which side is more “pro-life.”

A Trumblr user named stfuantichoicers perfectly illustrated this point when a pro-life activist asked pro-choice people on the forum to Google abortion pictures and see if they could still hold the same position on the issue. “Do it, I dare you. Abortion is WRONG,” the activist wrote. “Pass it on pro-lifers.”

Here’s the response.

Stfuantichoicers does a fantastic job at reframing the argument so that no one in the debate can really claim to be more pro-life than the other. Is it really “pro-life” to pave the way for the deaths of tens of thousands of women each year to protect fetal tissue? 

Pro-life people may claim their position has the moral high ground because of late-term abortions, but those are incredibly rare and only happen if the mother’s life is in danger. In this case, the pro-lifer is stepping in and asking the state to choose the life of the unborn child over its mother’s. Shouldn’t that be the doctor’s decision?

The post has recently gone viral on the Reddit r/MurderedByWords subforum where it’s had some great responses.

“Also just like… I don’t want to see pics of back surgeries either. I still support access to them,” — NoahWilzon

“What, it’s almost like something isn’t immoral simply because it’s gross!? Weird. These people need better arguments, this one is a joke.” — Smgth

“A lot of conservatives are driven by fear and disgust, and that’s what drives their political decision making,” — perfeptionactionproof

(Which is true, according to this article published by GOOD.)

“Very few people would support access to any medical procedure if their basis for support was to enjoy looking at pictures of the procedure. I don’t want to look at pictures of open heart surgery, I’m not about to oppose open heart surgery because of that lol,” — CindyButtSmacker

“The same people that are anti-abortion are generally the same people that are pro-war when the time comes. If they would see the actual results of war, and not just reporters in khaki-pocket vests, would that change their minds? Of course not. Because it’s never, ever been about the gore or loss of life to these people,” — Val_Hallen


Two Iraqi peace activists confront a Trumpian world

There’s a dark joke going around Baghdad these days. Noof Assi, a 30-year-old Iraqi peace activist and humanitarian worker, told it to me by phone. Our conversation takes place in late May just after the Trump administration has announced that it would add 1,500 additional U.S. troops to its Middle Eastern garrisons.

“Iran wants to fight to get the United States and Saudi Arabia out of Iraq,” she began. “And the United States wants to fight to get Iran out of Iraq.” She paused dramatically. “So how about all of us Iraqis just leave Iraq so they can fight here on their own?”

Assi is among a generation of young Iraqis who lived most of their lives first under the U.S. occupation of their country and then through the disastrous violence it unleashed, including the rise of ISIS, and who are now warily eying Washington’s saber-rattling towards Tehran. They couldn’t be more aware that, should a conflict erupt, Iraqis will almost certainly find themselves once again caught in the devastating middle of it.

In February, President Trump sparked ire by claiming that the United States would maintain its military presence — 5,200 troops — and the al-Asad airbase in Iraq in order to “watch Iran.” In May, the State Department then suddenly ordered all non-emergency government employees to leave Iraq, citing vague intelligence about threats of “Iranian activity.” (This so-called intelligence was promptly contradicted by the British deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS who claimed that “there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”) A few days later, a rocket landed harmlessly in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi then announced that he would send delegations to Washington and Tehran to try to “halt tensions,” while thousands of ordinary Iraqis rallied in Baghdad to protest against the possibility of their country once again getting dragged into a conflict.

Much of American media coverage of rising U.S.-Iranian tensions in these weeks, rife with “intel” leaked by unnamed Trump administration officials, bears a striking resemblance to the lead-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. As a recent Al Jazeera piece — headlined “Is the US media beating the drums of war on Iran?” — put it bluntly: “In 2003, it was Iraq. In 2019, it's Iran.”

Unfortunately, in the intervening 16 years, American coverage of Iraq hasn’t improved much. Certainly, the Iraqis themselves are largely missing in action. When, for example, does the American public hear about how female students in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, heavily bombed and taken back from ISIS in 2017, have organized to restock the shelves of the once-famed library at the University of Mosul, which ISIS militants set aflame during their occupation of the city; or how booksellers and publishers are reviving Baghdad’s world-renowned book market on Mutanabbi Street, destroyed by a devastating car bomb in 2007; or how, each September, tens of thousands of young people now gather across Iraq to celebrate Peace Day — a carnival that started eight years ago in Baghdad as the brainchild of Noof Assi and her colleague, Zain Mohammed, a 31-year-old peace activist who is also the owner of a restaurant and performance space?
In other words, rarely is the U.S. public allowed glimpses of Iraq that make war there seem less inevitable.

Assi and Mohammed are well accustomed not only to such skewed representation of their country in our country, but to the fact that Iraqis like them are missing in action in American consciousness. They remain amazed, in fact, that Americans could have caused such destruction and pain in a country they continue to know so little about.
“Years ago, I went to the United States on an exchange program and I discovered people didn’t know anything about us. Someone asked me if I used a camel for transportation,” Assi told me. “So I returned to Iraq and I thought: Damn it! We have to tell the world about us.”

In late May, I spoke with Assi and Mohammed separately by telephone in English about the rising threat of another U.S. war in the Middle East and their collective two decades of peace work aimed at undoing the violence wrought by the last two U.S. wars in their country. Below, I’ve edited and melded the interviews of these two friends so that Americans can hear a couple of voices from Iraq, telling the story of their lives and their commitment to peace in the years after the invasion of their country in 2003.

Laura Gottesdiener: What first inspired you to begin doing peace work?

Zain Mohammed: At the end of 2006, on December 6th, al-Qaeda-[in-Iraq, the precursor to ISIS] executed my dad. We are a small family: me and my mom and two sisters. My opportunities were limited to two options. I was 19 years old. I had just finished high school. So the decision was: I had to emigrate or I had to become part of the system of militias and take revenge. That was the lifestyle in Baghdad at that time. We emigrated to Damascus [Syria]. Then suddenly, after about six months, when our paperwork was nearly ready for us to emigrate to Canada, I told my mom, “I want to go back to Baghdad. I don’t want to run away.”

I went back to Baghdad at the end of 2007. There was a big car bombing in Karrada, the part of the city where I used to live. My friends and I decided to do something to tell our friends that we have to work together to promote peace. So, on December 21st, on International Peace Day, we held a small event in the same place as the explosion. In 2009, I received a scholarship to the American University in Sulaymaniyah for a workshop about peace and we watched a movie about Peace Day. At the end of the movie, there were flashes of many scenes from around the world and, for just one second, there was our event in Karrada. This movie was amazing for me. It was a message. I went back to Baghdad and I spoke to one of my friends whose father had been killed. I told him it’s systematic: If he’s Shiite, he’ll be recruited by a Shiite militia for revenge; if he’s Sunni, he’ll be recruited by a Sunni militia or al-Qaeda for revenge. I told him: we have to create a third option. By a third option, I meant any option except fighting or emigrating.

I spoke to Noof and she said we have to collect youth and organize a meeting. “But what’s the point?” I asked her. All we had was this idea of a third option. She said: “We have to collect youth and have a meeting to decide what to do.”

Noof Assi: When Baghdad was first built, it was called the City of Peace. When we first started talking to people, everyone laughed at us. A City of Peace celebration in Baghdad? It’ll never happen, they said. At that time, there were no events, nothing happened in the public parks.

Zain: Everyone said: you’re crazy, we’re still in a war…

Noof: We didn’t have any funding, so we decided let’s light candles, stand in the street, and tell people that Baghdad is called the City of Peace. But then we grew into a group of around 50 people, so we created a small festival. We had zero budget. We were stealing stationery from our office and using the printer there.

Then we thought: Okay, we made a point, but I don’t think people will want to continue. But the youth came back to us and said, “We enjoyed it. Let’s do it again.”

Laura: How has the festival grown since then?

Noof: The first year, around 500 people came and most of them were our families or relatives. Now, 20,000 people attend the festival. But our idea isn’t only about the festival, it’s about the world that we create through the festival. We literally do everything from scratch. Even the decorations: there is a team that makes the decorations by hand.

Zain: In 2014, we felt the first results when ISIS and this shit happened again, but this time, at the societal level, lots of groups were starting to work together, collecting money and clothes for internally displaced people. Everyone was working together. It felt like a light.

Noof: Now, the festival happens in Basra, Samawah, Diwaniyah, and Baghdad. And we’re hoping to expand to Najaf and Sulaymaniyah. Over the last two years, we’ve been working to create the first youth hub in Baghdad, the IQ Peace Center, which is home to different clubs: a jazz club, a chess club, a pets club, a writing club. We had a women-and-girls club to discuss their issues within the city.

Zain: We had a lot of financial challenges because we were a youth movement. We weren’t a registered NGO [non-governmental organization] and we didn’t want to work like a regular NGO.

Click Here: fjallraven kanken backpack

Laura: What about other peace efforts in the city?

Noof: In the past few years, we’ve started seeing a lot of different movements around Baghdad. After many years of seeing only armed actors, wars, and soldiers, young people wanted to build another picture of the city. So, now, we have lots of movements around education, health, entertainment, sports, marathons, book clubs. There’s a movement called “I’m Iraqi, I Can Read.” It’s the biggest festival for books. Exchanging or taking books is free for everyone and they bring in authors and writers to sign the books.

Laura: This isn’t exactly the image that I suspect many Americans have in mind when they think about Baghdad.

Noof: One day, Zain and I were bored in the office, so we started Googling different images. We said, “Let’s Google Iraq.” And it was all photos of the war. We Googled Baghdad: Same thing. Then we googled something — it’s famous around the world — the Lion of Babylon [an ancient statue], and what we found was a picture of a Russian tank that Iraq developed during Saddam [Hussein]'s regime that they named Babylon’s Lion.

I’m an Iraqi and I’m a Mesopotamian with that long history. We’ve grown up living in a city that’s old and where every place, every street you pass, has a history to it, but the international media doesn’t talk about what’s happening on those streets. They focus on what the politicians are saying and leave out the rest. They don’t show the real image of the country.

Laura: I want to ask you about the rising tensions between the United States and Iran, and how people in Iraq are responding. I know you have your own internal problems, so whatever Trump tweets on a given day might not be the biggest news for you…

Noof: Unfortunately, it is.

Especially since 2003, Iraqis have not been ones controlling our country. Even the government now, we don’t want it, but no one has ever asked us. We’re still paying with our blood while — I was reading an article about this a few months ago — Paul Bremer is now teaching skiing and living his simple life after ruining our country. [In 2003, the Bush administration appointed Bremer head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran occupied Iraq after the U.S. invasion and was responsible for the disastrous decision to disband Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s army.]

Laura: What do you think about the news that the U.S. is planning to deploy 1,500 more troops to the Middle East?

Zain: If they end up coming to Iraq, where we have a lot of pro-Iranian militias, I’m afraid there could be a collision. I don’t want a collision. In a war between the United States and Iran, maybe some soldiers will be killed, but a lot of Iraqi civilians will be, too, directly and indirectly. Honestly, everything that has happened since 2003 is strange to me. Why did the United States invade Iraq? And then they said they wanted to leave and now they want to come back? I can’t understand what the United States is doing.

Noof: Trump is a businessman, so he cares about money and how he’s going to spend it. He’s not going to do something unless he’s sure that he’s going to get something in return.

Laura: That reminds me of the way Trump used the rising tensions in the region in order to bypass Congress and push through an $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Noof: Exactly. I mean, he was asking Iraq to pay the United States back for the costs of the U.S. military occupation in Iraq! Can you imagine? So that’s how he thinks.

Laura: Amid these rising tensions, what's your message to the Trump administration — and to the American public?

Zain: For the U.S. government, I’d say that, in every war, even if you win, you lose something: money, people, civilians, stories… We have to see the other side of war. And I’m sure we can do what we want without war. For the U.S. public: I think my message is to push against war, even against economic war.

Noof: For the U.S. government I would tell them: please mind your own business. Leave the rest of the world alone. For the American people I would tell them: I’m sorry, I know how you’re feeling being in a country run by Trump. I was living under Saddam’s regime. I still remember. I have a colleague, she’s American, and the day Trump won the elections she came into the office crying. And a Syrian and I were in the office with her and we told her: “We’ve been there before. You will survive.”


On September 21st, Noof Assi, Zain Mohammed, and thousands of other young Iraqis will crowd a park along the Tigris River to celebrate the eighth annual Baghdad City of Peace Carnival. In the United States, meanwhile, we will almost certainly still be living under the Trump administration’s nearly daily threats of war (if not war itself) with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and god knows where else. A recent Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows that Americans increasingly see another war in the Middle East as inevitable, with more than half of those polled saying it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that their country would go to war with Iran “within the next few years.” But as Noof and Zain know full well, it’s always possible to find another option…

This article was originally published by TomDispatch on June 13, 2019.

The death of Rashan Charles: Why I challenge the official story

One Saturday two summers ago, in the early hours, a young black man called Rashan Charles died on the floor of a Hackney convenience store.

The police claimed that Rashan had been “taken ill” after “trying to swallow an object” and that a police officer “intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself”.

That’s not what happened.

My name is Rod Charles. Rashan was my nephew.

Last summer, here on Shine A Light, we examined the store’s security video that showed what really happened to Rashan. I shared my analysis, based on my training and 30 years’ experience with the Metropolitan Police — I retired as a Chief Inspector four years ago. We saw the visual evidence, we noted what the police officer did and what he failed to do.

Today, we’ll assess just some of the official claims that have been made about Rashan’s death. Let’s see how they stand up to scrutiny.

Police claim: officer intervened to prevent harm

In the hours after Rashan died, the Metropolitan Police claimed that he was “taken ill” after “trying to swallow an object”. A police officer had “intervened” to “prevent the man from harming himself”.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC, since rebranded as the Independent Office for Police Conduct, IOPC) echoed the Metropolitan Police story. In its first statement the IPCC claimed: “The man became unwell and first aid was provided by a police officer, police medic and paramedics.”

These accounts mislead by omission.

They fail to mention that a police officer at the scene heavily restrained Rashan, with help from a second man. Instead they direct attention towards Rashan’s own actions.

He was “trying to swallow an object”. This implies a deliberate and reckless act. Without explicitly saying so, it suggests Rashan is a drug dealer. According to this framing, the police officer is the rescuer who “intervenes” to prevent Rashan harming himself, but sadly fails.

We see on the CCTV footage that Rashan was upright, standing unaided, showed no signs of being unwell or physically distressed until after he was thrown to the ground and held down by police officer BX47. (We must refer to the police officer as BX47 because the police applied for an anonymity order and the coroner granted that request.)

After throwing Rashan to the ground, BX47 attempted a mouth search.

Far from helping, the officer’s attempts to forcibly search Rashan’s mouth were dangerous and unapproved and put him at risk of choking.

Searching a suspect’s mouth requires more than one police officer. Where someone is thought to have swallowed an object, the guidance for officers is clear: consider the subject vulnerable and obtain medical treatment without delay.

This guidance is from the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice manual ‘Response, arrest and detention’, first published in October 2013, updated in April 2017: “A person suspected of swallowing drugs should be treated as a vulnerable person. Incidents should be treated as a medical emergency.”

BX47 did not treat Rashan as a vulnerable person. Instead the officer persisted in neck and throat holds, moves likely to restrict air and blood flow. And he allowed a man described by police as just a bystander, a member of the public, to assist. He allowed this man to get astride Rashan and pin him down.

Rashan’s signs of distress go unseen or ignored, the restraint is intensified. When police officer BX47 and the “bystander” handcuff Rashan, he is limp, perhaps unconscious.

While unresponsive, he is subjected to further prolonged restraint, ceasing only after a police medic arrives on the scene.

Police claim: officer thought Rashan had a weapon

Three months after Rashan’s death we were told about a suspected weapon.

Six months after Rashan’s death the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) provided some detail: “The officer told the investigation that his initial intention was to search Rashan for a prohibited article, that is, a weapon.”

The problem is, it’s not enough for the officer to intend to search for a weapon; he must state his reasonable grounds for suspecting a concealed weapon. As far as we know, no reasonable grounds have been offered by BX47.

Secondly, if an officer suspects a person of possessing a weapon, they are required to take particular actions. They must contain and control the person. Isolate him at a distance. Failing that, take hold of him, handcuff his hands to restrict movement. Stop him reaching for a weapon to ensure officer and public safety.

But that’s not what we see in the video footage. The type and degree of force the officer used were incompatible with his claim that Rashan may have had a weapon.

The suspected weapon claim fails the test of scrutiny.

Police claim: officer saw Rashan put something in his mouth

Colin Gibbs of the Crown Prosecution Service claims that the shop’s CCTV shows the officer had a “line of sight” to Rashan as he enters the shop and appears to place an item in his mouth.

The officer has stated that “he saw Rashan making a movement of his arm and hand at this time”.

As we’ve seen, the officer enters the shop seconds after Rashan. He is in pursuit, but he has to turn a corner at the door — as did Rashan — to enter the shop.

If, as claimed, the officer suspected Rashan had concealed drugs in his mouth, his training would tell him that a neck hold and hard throw to the ground puts Rashan at obvious risk of choking.

The same goes for a forcible mouth search, which, as we’ve discussed, and for reasons that must by now be obvious, is a multiple officer tactic, carried out in controlled conditions, and should not be attempted alone. There is no UK police training that equips or enables a solitary officer to safely carry out a forced mouth search.

The claim that the officer saw Rashan put something into his mouth is not convincing.

Crown Prosecution Service claim: an independent expert on restraint techniques supports police accounts

The CPS relied upon an anonymous “restraint expert” whose identity was revealed only three months before the inquest that was held in June 2018. My multiple requests to the IOPC and CPS for earlier disclosure of the expert’s identity, for their experience and credentials, were denied.
In January 2018 the CPS claimed: “The officer has said that he carried out the move to take Rashan to the floor in order to get more control of him because Rashan’s actions had caused him to believe that he was resisting and would continue to resist being detained for the purposes of a search. Police training, guidance and practice allows this to take place in these circumstances.”

The CPS claimed this tactic met with the anonymous expert’s approval: “An expert in restraint and mouth searches (‘the restraint expert’), who provided a report to the investigation. . .considers that this was a viable and logical tactical option.”

The expert reported and the CPS accepted that: “Following the application of the handcuffs the majority of the officer’s actions appeared to be undertaken in order to provide assistance to Rashan by attempting to remove the item that the officer clearly thought might be blocking his airway.”

I have seen no evidence to date that anyone has explored why BX47 did not attempt alternative restraint options where he and Rashan could remain upright.

Two expert witnesses, Ian Read and Martin Graves, former officers of the Metropolitan Police, testified on police training and BX47’s actions. At the time of the inquest, Read was still a Met employee, Graves worked as an external trainer through his own company.

Their knowledge of police training is exemplary. But, their assessments of the actual tactics used by BX47 can’t be considered impartial.

As I told reporters at the inquest, these men had 75 years combined service to the Metropolitan Police between them, and “still have an umbilical cord to the Met”.

I believe their links to the very force under scrutiny compromises their independence. There are numerous ‘use of force’ experts serving or retired from other UK police forces who might have offered independent testimony.

Crown Prosecution Service claim: video evidence supports the restraint expert’s approval of BX47’s actions

The Crown Prosecution Service’s confidence in the IOPC’s choice of independent restraint experts is troubling. The IOPC have long disregarded the real concerns I continue to highlight.

The CPS wrote to our family on 19 January 2018, defending the decision not to charge officer BX47 with common assault.

They referred to the audio evidence from the officer’s body-worn camera where he is heard urging Rashan to “spit it out” and reassuring him: “Breathe” and “The drugs don’t matter” and “We want to look after you.”

The CPS notes that these comments came immediately after BX47 switches on his body-worn camera.

This contradicts BX47’s own claim, in his second statement that he switched it on around the point when he was moving Rashan down the supermarket aisle.

Certainly officer BX47 failed to activate his camera at the start of the incident and pursuit of Rashan, as he was obliged to do.


Crown Prosecution Service claim: BX47 provided assistance to Rashan

Why didn’t BX47 immediately summon medical assistance as soon as Rashan showed signs of distress, or immediately Rashan became unresponsive?

The CPS says BX47 provided assistance to Rashan. How exactly? According to the CPS: BX47 attempted to look into Rashan’s mouth, attempted abdominal thrusts, put his hands on Rashan’s face in order to bring a reflex motion.

But as we’ve seen, Rashan was unresponsive when handcuffed, with an adult male astride him. This state persisted throughout the period when it is being claimed that he was in receipt of first aid or medical assistance. We see no “abdominal thrusts”, only some light prodding of Rashan’s abdomen region while he lies unresponsive, handcuffed and restrained.

The restraint expert’s findings, as communicated by the CPS, are baffling. They are not supported by the visual evidence of what happened to Rashan.

I am an expert in restraint and police use of force. My credentials include:

  • National Public Order Tactical Trainer (Level 1 Public Order trained; Trainer for police officers to Level 1, 2 & 3 standards for public order)
  • Arrest & Restraint Trainer & Dept. Manager
  • Level 1 – Police Support Unit Commander
  • Advanced Public Order Trained Cadre
  • Authorised Firearms Officer
  • Firearms Tactical Advisor
  • Borough Operations Manager
  • Criminal Justice Manager
  • Principles of conflict management (City & Guild)
  • Mediating conflicts

I find significant difficulties with almost all of the tactics used, specifically from the point BX47 violently takes Rashan to ground and onwards until Rashan is clearly unresponsive, and thereafter, when Rashan remains handcuffed and under restraint until the police medic arrives on the scene.

Court should hear the evidence

Stop and search is a regular task for operational police officers. Fatalities are not expected outcomes from this routine policing tactic.

According to Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, something every competent officer knows by rote, the use of force must be appropriate to the circumstances. The officer who apprehended Rashan used a series of restraints that were not appropriate for the incident he was dealing with. Some were not approved policing tactics, to a degree that was, in my view, disproportionate and grossly excessive, and prolonged the restraint despite Rashan’s appeals (tapping his hand against fridge door), use of force continuing despite his loss of responsiveness.

I have heard evidence at the inquest, and I note the verdict: accidental death. I note the IOPC findings that, although BX47’s “performance . . . fell short of expected standards”, his failings “were not deliberate and did not amount to misconduct”.

However, the degree of conflict between official claims and the CCTV and body worn camera video is deeply troubling. The visual evidence — in my opinion — suggests that the officer has a case to answer for gross negligence manslaughter and gross misconduct.

We note:

  • The continued presence of a person astride Rashan as he lies prone and unresponsive.
  • The absence of command, control or directions to save life from any of the several officers attending that scene.
  • The extended period before removing handcuffs.
  • The significant delay, without rendering first aid and medical care.

In my view these exceed evidence for misconduct by some way. In my view, only by fair judicial scrutiny in the Crown Court can it be determined if there was breach of the duty of care, gross negligence and criminal offences causing or contributing to Rashan’s death.

Drafted in collaboration with Clare Sambrook and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for Shine A Light. Image collation by Sambrook and Omonira-Oyekanmi. As required by Coroner Mary Hassell’s anonymity order, we have obscured the faces of BX47, police medic BX48, Witness 1 (astride Rashan) and Witness 2.

In August last year Shine A Light put concerns raised in this article to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. A spokesperson said:

“BX47 did his best” says Independent Office for Police Conduct

Clare Sambrook writes: On 15 August 2018 the Independent Office for Police Conduct published its investigation report on the death of Rashan Charles. The IOPC found that BX47’s “performance … fell short of expected standards”, but his failings “were not deliberate and did not amount to misconduct”.

They said: “while the restraint technique used was unorthodox it did not cause any injury to Mr Charles’ throat nor contribute to his death.” And: “BX47 did his best in difficult circumstances.”

The IOPC confirmed that (as we revealed in June 2018— here) BX47 failed to switch on his body worn camera as he left the police vehicle to pursue Rashan. Another officer’s footage was, according to the police watchdog, “not retained” and the police were “unable to confirm if this was due to human or computer error”.

IOPC investigation reports are provided to the coroner ahead of the inquest and form an important part of its fact-finding process.

At the inquest into Rashan’s death in June 2018 the jury watched CCTV footage of what was done to Rashan. They heard evidence from long-serving ex-Metropolitan Police officers who were presented as “independent” experts on restraint. Coroner Mary Hassell directed the jury to consider whether Rashan’s death was an accident. She did not leave them the option of a more critical conclusion, such as unlawful killing or neglect. They returned a verdict of accidental death.

At the dawn of hope, trepidation: Istanbul’s elections, the Gezi trial, and civil society’s future

The victory of opposition leader Ekrem İmamoğlu in a re-run of Istanbul’s municipal elections may signal a seismic shift in Turkey’s politics, away from the populist authoritarianism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan towards a more inclusive politics.

Winning by a staggering 770,000 votes – a massive increase compared to the 13,000 margin of victory with which he carried a March 31 poll cancelled by the pro-AKP Higher Election Board – İmamoğlu’s performance surpasses that of Erdoğan himself when the charismatic leader burst onto the political scene in the early 1990s.

But as opposition strongholds celebrate, I am gripped by trepidation. In an age of populist assault on the rule of law, I am a middle class citizen doing transparent civil society work towards building a better society for all. Yet I am afraid to go to my own country which I nonetheless love: Turkey. Why? Because my close friend, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who likewise dedicated his working life to improving society for its citizens, has been in solitary confinement on legally laughable charges for over seven months. His imprisonment, together with that of philanthropist Osman Kavala, for allegedly organizing the Gezi Park protests of 2013, was a crackdown on civil society that led many of my colleagues to leave the country or stay away if they were already abroad. It is the reason for my own decision not to return home – a privileged option, to be sure. This “choice” nevertheless becomes tougher with time. As births, deaths, marriages, and longed-for friendships follow their own inexorable flow, I watch wistfully from the other side.

On trial today

Yiğit’s story is maddening in its injustice, yet banal in its frequency. A father of two little girls, he is the Turkey representative of the Bernard van Leer foundation which supports early child development and for which Yiğit continues to advocate from prison. On the early morning of November 16, Yiğit’s home was raided by police who hauled him in with a dozen other activists who had participated in Gezi. Only Yiğit was locked up in Istanbul’s Silivri prison, along with Osman, perhaps because both possess irrepressible smiles that inspire action.

Their only crime was to help nourish a golden moment in the 2000s when activists helped ordinary people to question the demonization of “Others” within a de facto diverse society. Ethnic Turks questioned family and national narratives that negated past injustices to Armenians and the present plight of Kurds. Women challenged the stifling structures of both pro-secularist and pro-Islamic patriarchies. Majority Sunnis began to talk across secularist and observant divides. Non-Sunnis – Christian and Muslim alike – began to be heard.

Initially, such efforts were accompanied by bridge-building “openings” on the part of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) towards religious and ethnic minorities. Such policies were coupled with a multi-regional outreach that positioned Turkey to realize its potential as a multicultural and democratizing “bridge” between worlds.

Yet, over a series of dramatic junctures from Gezi to successive election campaigns, rivalries within the AKP became transparent and threatened Erdoğan’s tenure. He responded by embracing the classic formula of populist governance: “us” versus “them.” This led to a shut down of the very openings he had once spearheaded, maneuvers which went hand-in-hand with stacking the courts, silencing the (critical) media, and bending the law to serve cronies’ ends.

The Gezi trial, which begins today, is but one of many in an ongoing purge. Everyone knows or is related to someone who has been summonsed. For me, it is the former rector of Hacettepe University Murat Tuncer, my close relative, who has been in solitary confinement for almost 500 days over absurd allegations that he supports the “Fethüllah Terror Organization” (an Islamist sect whose penetration of the state and alleged attempt to overthrow the government in a failed coup on July 15th, 2016, has been used to silence dissidents of all colours). For others, it might be one of some 2,000 academics who have lost their jobs, been blackisted, and are entering prison – like Zeynep Yelçe, a wheelchair-bound historian who faces 2.5 years’ jail time for signing a petition demanding an end to violence against Kurds. The pattern is one of thousands held – often for months without indictment – under conditions intended to break their spirit.

The purge presages the tactics of populists everywhere. From Orban in Hungary, Kacinski in Poland, and if presented with (a chance to fabricate) the opportunity, Boris Johnson in Britain and Donald Trump in the United States, the strategy is to equate the leader’s own fortunes with “the people.” This enables attacks on purported “enemies of the people”: the very activists who speak out for the vulnerable in the face of populist majoritarianism.

So with the Istanbul elections won, I wish I could celebrate, that I could allow that glimmer of hope to turn into joy. But until Yiğit, Osman, Murat, and countless others are reunited with their families, until political prisoners like Selahattin Demirtaş are free, until we know that we can trust in the justice sytem and have faith that the government will serve the people rather than its own political gains, I cannot rejoice.

I am angry – that people’s lives have been taken hostage, families torn apart, childhoods lost to the cynical calculus of power. And I am sad. Yet at the same time, I dare to hope – a contradictory cocktail of emotions with which we have learned to live these past ten years. It is exahausting and in those rare moments when I pause, I realize that I am suffering from chronic depression.

All we want is to live decent lives, where everyone is respected, included, and their rights recognized. To live without wondering what will strike next, without fearing for our dear ones and ourselves: a normal life.

Istanbul’s elections showed that all is never lost. We possess a resilience, and a capacity for collaboration across boundaries. Ordinary people are sick of divisive politics, especially as they see how it impacts their daily lives.

Gezi too was possible because it was a period when peace was being negotiated (by Erdoğan himself) with the PKK. The sense of “us” versus “them” that fuels populist usurption of the rule of law was at an historic low. The diversity yet unity which we experienced at that time – and which is on trial today in Turkey – was a glimpse of what society could become.

In a way, İmamoğlu has captured that vision, that desire, and made it the foundation of his campaign: the craving for solidarity, rights, law, and justice. That the individuals who dedicated their lives to such a vision – the Yiğits and the Osmans – are held hostage by the regime is an indication of how much the government has lost touch with the very people it claims to represent.

Click Here: cheap kanken backpack

Making Rojava green again

In Article 2 of its Social Contract, the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria declares that it is "based on a democratic and ecological system and on the freedom of women". In Article 57, democracy is the "way of achieving the balance between economics and ecology". Giving such importance to ecology in a direct democracy based on self-reliance and federalism is not surprising when its promoters take their reference from Murray Bookchin, founder of social ecology and libertarian municipalism, and to Abdullah Öcalan, inspiration behind the design of its democratic confederalism. What about the ecology in Syrian North-Rojava? International volunteers gathered in an assembly called the Internationalist Commune of Rojava, with the support of the Federation, lead the Make Rojava green again campaign. An inventory of the environment in Northern Syria, making proposals and explaining the actions undertaken, with a foreword by Debbie Bookchin and design by Matt Bonner was first published in english in 2018. Find out more below, and from the original French version, "Reverdir le Rojava", published by Another Future.

The Internationalist Commune, which was founded in 2017 in order to integrate foreign militants joining Rojava, is an exemplary eco-village and a model for agricultural solidarity. In this vein, it also strives to be an “academy” destined to train internationalists and the population of Rojava to “be conscious about and concerned with the environment”. It sees itself as a laboratory for the “construction of an ecological society”. Given the contemporary lack of an “environmental consciousness shared by the whole population”, the Commune launches a campaign supported by the Democratic Federation of Northern and Eastern Syria and described in the pamphlet “Make Rojava Green Again”.

In its neat composition and illustration, the brochure is reminiscent of the booklets of the USSR which inundated the world in the 50’s and 60’s of the previous century. But the comparison stops there. Even if the Internationalist Commune collaborates with the political authorities, however, what it does not do is to hide the environmental reality in Rojava as well as the administrative shortcomings. It presents an assessment of the current situation, offers suggestions, and acts.

Reviewing the Social Contract

The internationalist Commune does not deal with the issue from an institutional point of view, but an examination of the Social Contract of the Northern Syrian Democratic Federation allows for a better appraisal of its militant work in the area of social transformation. Already in article 2, the Constitution declares that the Federation “is founded on an ecological and democratic system as well as on women’s freedom”. Article 57 adds that “[i]t shall adopt the democratic system in organizing society and enabling it to live within an economic and ecological balance”. As in many foreign constitutions and international treaties, the Social Contract also includes the idea according to which “[e]cological life and balance shall be maintained” because “[e]veryone shall have the right to live in a sound ecological society” (articles 76 and 32).

Beyond statements of principle, the Social Contract orders the Federation to guarantee a vibrant living environment for its citizens. It furthermore enables the Council of the Social Contract (the constitutional judge) to censor laws which do not conform to ecological imperatives. It provides the means to the jurisdictions to control the administrative acts pertaining to the environment. Their task would certainly have been simplified had climate change been mentioned, as well as the protection of biodiversity, the protection of the interdependence of the different parameters of a balanced environment, and the principle of progressivity which would prevent any regression on environmental norms.

A deplorable environment

This might have been sufficient, asserting that ecological security is a fundamental right which gradually merges with human rights, and concluding that the Social Contract respects international norms on this issue. But as the booklet of the Internationalist Commune shows, this would ignore the fact that the Kurdish people, or at least the most politicized ones, are disciples of Murray Bookchin and Abdallah Öcalan.

It is therefore necessary to go beyond the text in order to understand the philosophy of social ecology, libertarian municipalism and democratic confederalism. They won’t be satisfied with a regulatory ecology in the long run – even if it were the best one imaginable. Nor would they impute the responsibility of ecological disorders to technology itself – as the deep ecology movement does – instead of blaming the economic and state powers that exploit it. Even though social ecology is never as such mentioned in the Social Contract, it is nonetheless present in the project of self-sufficient and federated communes. It does not content itself with stating that freedom of action shouldn’t outweigh the protection of the environment. Rather, it summons humans as masters of their own destiny to change the devastating political and economic system. There is no alternative. The Democratic Federation of Northern and Eastern Syria won’t replace the ecological vigilance and the efforts of political transformation that exist on its different levels – its regions, cantons, districts and, first and foremost, its communes. The role of the Federation will have to limit itself to the establishment of coordinated action and coordinated human, material and financial capacities.

Article 9 of the Social Contract reads as follows: “Democratic, environmental, and societal life are the basis for building an ecological democratic society in order not to harm, abuse, and destroy nature”. This means in other words, that capitalism will be overcome through a participative ecological revolution. However, this revolution will take time. Considering the way things are at this stage, we are obliged to deal with the power of modern global capitalism. By way of example, the Social Contract allows for investments in private projects, if they “take into account ecological balance” (article 42). Likewise, the right to private ownership is guaranteed “unless it contradicts the common interest” (article 43). At this first stage, ecology is not seen in opposition to capitalism but rather as a limit to a capitalism destroying nature and human health.

While stressing the responsibility of capitalism, the Internationalist Commune also points out that capitalism is not the sole system accountable. The booklet explains in detail how the policies of the Syrian state have contributed though colonial over-exploitation of its local resources. It shows that the destruction and the sabotage of a receding Islamic State are not extraneous either. Finally, even the Kurds themselves bear their share of responsibility – present and past. They have been more concerned with issues relating to immediate survival than by those relating to the future of the planet. Who could blame them?

From criticism to action

Agriculture in Northern Syria is ecologically damaged by the monoculture of wheat in the region of Cizre and of olives in the region of Efrîn. The latter is accompanied by a systemic deforestation and impoverishment of the soil. Add to this Syrian heritage the annual droughts, linked to climatic disorder, which cannot be counterbalanced by inept dikes for rivers, wells and irrigation systems that have been damaged by the war or by lack of maintenance. The aridity is made worse by the fact that water is held back by Turkish dams and by the fact that underground water in Syria is siphoned off by Turkey.

Reactions have not been long in coming. From the very start of the revolution, the distribution of land which was expropriated from the Syrian state and given to cooperatives – mainly wheat fields – was accompanied by a commitment to diversified cultivation as well as to the development of farming and the planting of trees in order to reestablish a biological diversity and contribute to alimentary self-sufficiency. The aim is to create an ecosystem regulated by a diversified production and by reasoned methods of exploitation which sometimes resume the use of ancestral agricultural techniques. These ancestral techniques, moreover, lead to a communitarian use of the land. Other examples could be mentioned which elucidate the point, in particular with reference to agricultural cooperatives or to the municipal garden and parkland services. Agricultural nurseries for instance are aiming to provide agriculturists, city agronomists and simple gardeners with a large number of plants, different types of fruit trees (olive trees, pomegranates, peach trees and grapevines), forest plants or decorative plants, in particular rose bushes, as well as ornamental plants.

The Internationalist Commune has created its own plant nursery. 2000 trees have been planted in 2018 and 50, 000 blueprints have been produced to contribute to the reforestation of areas belonging to the commune as well as other zones in the Cizre region. In particular, the Commune supports a project of the Committee for Natural Conservation in the Reforestation of the Hayaka Natural Reserve, in the vicinity of Dêrik, which plans to grow 50, 000 trees on the banks of lake Sefan within 5 years.

Of course, this process of transformation towards an ecological agricultural production faces economic, political and climate-related obstacles and even resistance against a change of habitus. Due to the lack of clean material adapted to the local soil and the drought, cooperatives and farmers are forced to use chemical fertilizers against their will. These fertilizers are polluting the soil, the air and the water. Therefore, the internationalist Commune offers different natural procedures to enrich the soil.

Worksite without limits

An ecological agriculture also implies an ecological industry. The idea to preserve nature instead of destroying it goes hand in hand with the idea not to pillage natural resources (articles 9 and 11 of the Social Contract). This is no trivial matter considering the fact that it affects several millions of inhabitants and that oil is the main resource of the country. Today, the lack of modern refineries leads to heavily polluting and unhealthy artisanal refining. Currently Rojava does not have the technical and financial means to avoid these kinds of disorders. But the time will come where justice will have its role to play in the construction of a “society which adopts a democratic and ecological approach” (article 67). Law will provide the instruments to do so, and now already “[a]ctions which harm social life and environment are considered a crime” (article 68).

The condition of towns and villages is disappointing, on an aesthetic level as well as with regard to their restoration. However, municipalities and regions all over Northern Syria have decided to redress these issues with embellishment projects and by re-establishing crucial infrastructures. This includes water recovery and water treatment as well as the assemblage of problematic waste material in cities and in the countryside – both issues being a priority for the internationalist Commune.

Everyone who is concerned agrees that educating the public remains a central part of the solution. This solution finds its beginning at school where children become acquainted with ecological issues through an active pedagogical approach – for instance by letting them cultivate a garden which will not simply be a parcel of land but rather a symbol of liberty and the desire to re-build after the brutality of war.

Concluding remarks

Salvador Zana, an old member of the economic committee of the Cizre canton, notes that “one of the most frequent criticisms voiced in the councils of the democratic autonomy and in those of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is the lack of ecological development”. Yet, despite the revolutionary principles and resolutions “the economy has barely progressed to become more eco-friendly and sustainable. The main reason for this is the difficult separation from industrial agriculture given the current conditions of war and embargo”. Nonetheless, the ecological concern is progressing in society. The efforts made by the environmental offices of the municipalities or departments to remedy a situation which in some places verges on the catastrophic can clearly be noticed. The fact remains that a lot of work remains to be done and the internationalist Commune of Rojava is aware that it will have to explore many more fields of activity.

In a few pages, the booklet “Make Rojava Green Again” sheds light on the lead role that social economy and cooperatives play in contributing to the construction of a direct democracy in Syria. The proto-state institutions of the “Autonomous Democratic Administration” are so worried about the geopolitical situation and the threat of a sudden invasion by the Turkish army or by Assad that they are tempted to overlook direct democracy. As a consequence, the International Commune calls for international solidarity because “the world can learn a lot from Rojava in many respects, but Rojava too, has to learn a lot from the world”.

Thanks go to Moh Hamdi for translating from French to English.

Click Here: cheap kanken backpack

Why we must stop Facebook's attempt to hijack our money, before it's too late

Facebook sent shockwaves through the world of finance this week with its vision to create ‘Libra’ – “a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people”.

The underlying proposition is right: digital currencies have the potential to foster positive innovation, widen access to financial services, and give people greater control over their money. And our monetary system – increasingly in the grip of a tiny group of banks and card companies – is ripe for disruption and reform.

But ceding even greater power to a self-selecting cartel of tech companies is not the answer.

Libra’s claim that the currency will be designed and operated “as a public good” with “decentralised governance” is hard to tally with an operating structure comprised of unaccountable and highly-centralised global corporations such as Facebook, Uber and Paypal.

One of the primary stated aims of Libra is to advance financial inclusion by targeting ‘unbanked’ populations on the fringes of the existing financial system. This is a laudable aim, and Libra’s white paper rightly points out that such groups can be excluded from traditional banking services because they lack sufficient funds, or the necessary documentation to open an account.

Click Here: Sports Water Bottle Accessories

But again, it’s hard to take this seriously, when the currency’s co-founders include the likes of Visa and Mastercard, whose global effort to undermine cash has only increased financial exclusion, by depriving low-income populations of their preferred – and often only – means of payment. Mastercard’s moves to undercut the UK’s cash machine network have led to an unprecedented rate of ATM closures, while Visa has been bribing US retailers to refuse payment in cash, with plans to roll out similar initiatives elsewhere.

It’s no surprise that regulators and lawmakers around the world have taken a dim view of Facebook’s plans. House Financial Services Committee chair Maxine Waters said the plans should be postponed to give Congress time to review the proposals, while French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Libra shouldn't be allowed to become a sovereign currency. With Facebook’s poor track record of responding to public concern over privacy, the spread of misinformation and hateful content, policymakers are right to be sceptical.

There’s a risk that if Libra takes off, it will be almost impossible for regulators and governments to rein in. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg was asked to address concerns over disinformation and fake news before an unprecedented panel comprised of committees from five parliaments. He refused to show up.

Libra could pose a particular threat to poorer countries, which face the same problems associated with dollarisation on steroids. If a large section of a country’s population were to use Libra instead of the sovereign currency, central banks could be left powerless to restrain inflation, or unable to stop the rapid conversion of currency into Libra during periods of financial distress.

Ultimately, Libra is just the latest effort by corporations to assert greater control over our money. With cash use increasingly restricted, we’re already almost entirely reliant on a handful of big banks to manage our money and make payments, while Visa and Mastercard have achieved almost total dominance of the card market. Visa now accounts for 98% of debit cards issued in the UK.

An impetus behind the early proliferation of digital currencies was people seeking an alternative to banking systems facing a global crisis of public trust. A poll commissioned by Positive Money found that 66% of people say they don't trust banks to serve the best interests of UK society. But if Libra were to take off, it would amount to handing control from one bastion of corporate power to another.

Instead, we need governments to fill the space created by technological innovation, with digital currencies genuinely created and governed in the public interest.

Regulators will be eager to ensure that Libra is able to redeem tokens for dollars or pounds when customers ask for it. In a speech on Thursday, Mark Carney raised the possibility that the Bank of England would give tech companies like Facebook access to central bank reserves, so that Libra can be backed in full with hard currency.

We should ask why this privilege shouldn’t be extended to ordinary citizens as well. By giving access to a public digital currency, stored securely at the central bank, governments could finally take power away from extractive middlemen like banks and tech companies. The idea is rapidly gaining traction among central banks, with Sweden launching a pilot this year with a view to launching a general-use version as soon as 2021.

This vision outlined in Libra’s white paper is to create ‘better, cheaper and open’ financial services. For this dream to be realised, the power must lie with governments and central banks, not private corporations.