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The ministry has been under pressure from Union ministers Prakash Javadekar and Nitin Gadkari not to object to Maharashtra’s rules that violate Forest Rights Act

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Obesity can be counted as disability, says EU Court

Sunday, 21 December 2014 07:37 am
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A corpulent labourer whose weight thwarts the execution at work will now qualify for handicap assurance

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image“Obesity may count as disability if it becomes a hindrance in full and effective participation at work,’’ says Europe’s highest court. Disabled workers are protected from discrimination under European Union (EU) law and this ruling has now made it illegal to fire people for being too fat.

Psycho doctors’ role in CIA torture of detainees

Saturday, 20 December 2014 02:41 pm
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The torture techniques designed and administered by the two psychologists hired by CIA were not only illegal, they might not have produced desired results; the psychologists were paid $81 million

imageThe report by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) on torture of detainees after the attack on World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001, has revealed involvement of health professionals beyond their mandated role.

Estimate of world’s oldest water

Friday, 19 December 2014 04:15 pm
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The scientists estimate that there could be around 11 cubic million km of this water buried deep beneath the ground

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Scientists say that the world’s oldest water, found deep under Earth’s surface, could be holding more water than the volume of all of the world’s rivers, swamps and lakes put together. 

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Posted by Racialicious Team

Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Melissa Harris Perry, two more braincrushes just launched shows on MSNBC’s Shift streaming media brand.

Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson, is now anchoring “Changing America.

And Janet Mock, the queen of Redefining Realness, is set to launch her progressive pop culture show this week. We will update here when the clip is available.

Congratulations!

The post Janet Mock and Maria Teresa Kumar Launch MSNBC Shows appeared first on Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture.

More government, less governance

Friday, 19 December 2014 01:26 pm
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2014 sets the stage for bitter polarisation over the environment versus development debate

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Conservationists denounce the Robert Mugabe government’s capture of dozens of calves and plans to export them to China or the UAE

 

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There has been a storm of protests from international organizations and conservationists after news broke recently that the government of Zimbabwe had captured “dozens” of baby elephants and was in the process of shipping them to China and/or the UAE.

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Posted by Firdaus Ahmed


The increasing power and influence of veterans of the Indian army, known for their natural affinity towards the right wing regime in power, holds important implications especially when one considers the extent of its permeation into the serving structure. Firdaus Ahmed explains.

Science and the Indian politician

Friday, 19 December 2014 08:26 am
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If India conducted its first nuclear test many centuries ago, why did we wait till 1974 AD to conduct our second test in Pokhran? Where did all that knowledge go?

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Did our ancestors fly airplanes?

Friday, 19 December 2014 08:13 am
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The new chief of Indian Council of Historical Research may have missed out reading some recent research to verify correctness of claims about scientific achievements of India of yore

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Did Indians fly airplanes, carry out stem cell research and even use hi-tech super weapons 5,000-7,000 years ago? Epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana have been considered as a proof for these assertions by recently appointed chief of Indian Council of Historical Research, Y Sudershan Rao. 

Friday Links | December 19, 2014

Friday, 19 December 2014 06:00 am
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Posted by anneke

In Iraq, ISIL is said to have killed over 150 women and girls for refusing to get married to ISIL fighters. Seven people have been arrested in Spain and Morocco in several raids targeting an alleged network recruiting women to join ISIL, including a woman from Chile. According to a UN expert one of the Austrian [Read More...]

Three die of suspected swine flu in Hyderabad

Friday, 19 December 2014 04:57 am
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The toll has reached 13 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in this year

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image Chances of spread of swine flu have increased in India. Three people have died and more than a dozen hospitalised over the last one week of what doctors believe to be swine flu. The deaths have been reported from Hyderabad’s Gandhi Medical College and Hospital.

Three die of suspected swine flu in Hyderabad

Friday, 19 December 2014 04:51 am
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Chances of spread of swine flu have increased in India. Three people have died and more than a dozen hospitalised over the last one week of what doctors believe to be swine flu. The deaths have been reported from Hyderabad’s Gandhi Medical College and Hospital.

People approached hospital with complaint of cold, fever and headaches. These are symptoms of most forms of flu, but the severity of infection suggests H1N1 swine flu infection. However, doctors and administration are waiting results of lab reports to confirm the reason.

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Posted by Guest Contributor

By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious

A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial.

Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an eighteen year-old Korean American girl was found strangled after she went missing. Her then eighteen year-old Pakistani American ex-boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. He has been in prison since 2000, all the while maintaining his innocence.

Specifically, my friend and I had different responses to an article by Jay Caspain Kang accusing Koenig of “white reporter privilege.” She felt that Kang was too quick to read an exoticizing impulse into Koenig’s reactions when, for example, Koenig was probably startled by how “normal” a young woman’s diary seemed on the eve of its author meeting a violent death. Also, she said, Koenig the storyteller has to make her characters relatable to her listeners. But “relatability” is precisely what Kang problematizes, I replied, it assumes an underlying “colorblind ideal” that “reads ‘white.’” I brought up Julia Carrie Wong’s charge that Koenig “fail[s] to draw an distinctions between…. a first-generation Korean immigrant [experience] and [a] second-generation life in a Pakistani-American family,” and that she gives her subjects “model minority treatment.” But then… the descriptions Koenig uses were offered by the people she interviewed, not ones she coined.

So is she accountable for them?

A colleague joined in: Koenig probably assumes her audience has racial sensitivity.

I disagreed: Kang is right that the journalist comes “from the same demographic as her ‘intended audience’” in a context where “staffs of radio stations, newspapers, and magazines tend to be overwhelmingly white.”

But if being white is the fact of her experience, this colleague said, do we hold it against her?

As I walked home in the Brooklyn cold, I was thinking about this, and thinking hard. I thought about it when I passed a block away from the hospital where I was born. It was where my parents first worked when they immigrated to this country in the early 1970s, and it played an important role in the once poor neighborhood that was mostly African American, Dominican, and Puerto Rican until it was shut down because of urban disinvestment; now it’s an apartment building housing mostly white tenants on a block with skyrocketing rents. And I kept thinking about it throughout that week.

Then at a conference on the Black Radical Tradition and Cultures of Liberation, Cedric Robinson, historian and author of Black Marxism, said he believed that just because playwright Eugene O’Neill was white didn’t mean he couldn’t write about African Americans because “race is a fiction [though racism is not], while humans are incredibly complex.” In other words, questions of ethics or solidarity might have less to do with categories of identity than with what activist-scholars Gina Dent and Angela Davis suggested the next day – how you go about your work, the “questions you ask,” and your positional “reflexivity.”

The conversation with my friend made me consider Koenig as a person with a daunting project and good intentions. But I also remembered how, years ago, this same friend sent me a speech called “To Hell with Good Intentions.” It was almost fifty years ago when Ivan Illich had stood before an audience of US Peace Corps volunteers and students in Mexico and basically said, come to learn or to face yourselves, but don’t come to help. Remembering Illich made me realize that what is troubling about Serial is only partially encompassed by Kang’s and Wong’s critiques. Illich was disrupting a narrative that appeared innocuous and good even as it perpetuated social and economic hierarchies. On a far smaller scale, Serial is such a narrative.

It’s not the details in Serial per se, but how these details function in combination with what is left unsaid that unsettles. Koenig and her team do not play a thoughtful role in mediating the effects of their production on their audience and their subjects. Koenig seems largely unaware that people’s observations aren’t just objective or subjective, but shaped by ways they have internalized circulating stereotypes.

This brings me back to a few years before the tragic events of this podcast, to a suburban high school in Long Island, New York, and to a sociology teacher calling a brown girl – me — to the front of the room. He then asked the mostly white class, “Who’s her closest friend?” With hardly any debate the class came to consensus that it was another South Asian girl. Someone I couldn’t stand.

My teacher’s using me to illustrate his point made a bigger impression than his subsequent lecture about stereotypes. Or rather: together these two elements comprised a masterful lesson on how to use someone’s “difference” while simultaneously speaking about equality and “sameness.” I don’t think my teacher meant to humiliate me. He was trying to create a narrative and, in his mind I guess, needed to insert me into it to move along the plot. But that he chose me out of everyone in the class and didn’t ask me beforehand is no coincidence. And his having chose me had consequences.

In Serial, even initial observations of friends, acquaintances, and teachers were likely shaped by model minority tropes; but Koenig doesn’t acknowledge that. If my teacher used me as a kind of teaching tool, it feels like Koenig uses a teenage girl who died as the necessary victim in her mystery plot. The problem isn’t that Koenig doesn’t tell the audience more about her (she does try to pepper in a few details), but that she doesn’t lead the audience to imagine that there is. As countless writers, musicians, artists, directors, journalists, etc. have shown: rendering someone human isn’t about making them “relatable” through sameness; it’s about tapping into the complex, contradictory, fullness of someone’s being.

The “model minority” myth to which Wong alludes didn’t appear out of thin air, and it was a sharp turn from how, for example, Chinese factory and railroad laborers of earlier eras were racialized.

The term itself began to circulate in media and political discourse just around the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which wedged open a door to immigrants from the “darker nations.” That this legislation even came into being had to do with the tremendous effect of the Civil Rights Movement on challenging and broadening who could be deemed “American” and what it meant to claim that identity.

However, it wasn’t just motivated by progressive thought, but also by “professional” labor shortages (particularly in urban areas in part due to white flight into suburbs after desegregation) and efforts to forge geopolitical alliances with countries like Pakistan during the Cold War years. In the initial waves, many new immigrants had class or social privilege in their home countries and institutional connections here. My parents, for example, were given labor contracts to be medical residents and their flights were paid for as a salary advance; if they started on the ground and without money in their pockets, they were also given a ladder and the security of a paycheck. Like my parents, many post-1965 immigrants initially lived in close proximity to minorities who came from lineages of slavery, segregation, lynchings, exploitation, subjugation, and/or exclusion within the US only to find that hard-won battles like school desegregation wouldn’t initiate change without more struggle ( the Baltimore Superintendent maintained de facto segregation after the mid-1950s through districting). If democratic antiracist and antiwar upsurges within the US connected with anticolonial struggles in some of the very countries from which new immigrants came, racial divisions could also be exploited by harnessing the various prejudices and insecurities new immigrants brought with them (in part an effect of colonialism) and the way in which the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Japanese internment, and decades of excluding Asians from entering the US imprinted the psyche of differently positioned Americans just as national, state, and municipal governments were setting on devastating course of disinvestment from public infrastructures and launching a highly racialized “War on Drugs” (consider here, the main witness’s fear about being arrested).

In this churning cauldron, “model minorities” became a foil for “bad minorities.” Media promulgated “success stories” insinuated that class mobility was the product of hard work and the right attitude – not made in the trenches of history.

I don’t expect Serial to take all this on. But – dates, names, and a few exceptions aside – it’s like the podcast could have happened almost anywhere. Been about almost anyone. Taken place at almost any time. It portrays a world of relationships that don’t have social and historical density, a world in which these aforementioned events never happened – but for the way the consequences of their having happened surface unreflexively.

Moreover, in Serial, “model minority” descriptions are also “good girl” images, with unexamined misogynistic undertones. What does it mean that our shock about a murder of a teenage girl depends upon her seeming “normal” (to an imagined white middle/upper middle class audience)? Women and girls, as well as people who contest boundaries of gender and sexual “norms” in this country and beyond are habitually persecuted for acts of violence perpetrated on them. This is why it’s dangerous to hitch your audience’s sense of injustice to tropes of “relative innocence” – to borrow a term from Geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore. At one point, Koenig uses a clip to illustrate a potential juror’s prejudicial beliefs about how Muslim men treat women. But she never touches the fact that violence against women and intimate murders such as this happen all the time in the United States across every kind of demographic; it is as “American” as pie.

What Kang calls “white reporter privilege” I call weak storytelling. This weakness is accompanied by ethical oversights. I have wondered many times what it’s like for this girl’s loved ones to be subjected to widespread serial speculation about her death by people who don’t really care about her. Or what it would be like for them to walk by someone wearing a tee shirt from the subreddit Serial “community?” No doubt, addressing miscarriages of justice can hurt victims’ families, and this is not a reason to turn the other way. But it can and should frame how we take on such projects – both content and form. I stopped listening to Serial a while ago, in part because of my discomfort with how my sense of suspense and entertainment was predicated on (and simultaneously dissassociated from) people’s real pain. (I recently listened to the last few episodes in one stretch in order to update this commentary).

In our conversation, my friend had reminded me that the UVA Innocence Project is now investigating the case (friends and family of the accused attempted to solicit them earlier and failed) and that there are literally thousands of people who have signed an online petition to “free” the convicted ex-boyfriend. Now there is also a crowd source webpage to solve the crime. And listeners on reddit are raising funds for a scholarship in the victim’s name (without asking her family about using her name). I will be heartened if good comes out of these campaigns, but I am not heartened by what compels them.

Obsessive scrutiny of whether or not this young man is “guilty” of this crime circumscribes a paper thin vision of justice. It hinges on how Koenig, her team, and their listeners should stand in judgment of a Muslim American man in a post-September 11, 2001 era of rampant surveillance of Muslim Americans. It articulates with representations of dark people as strangers who white people (or “good Americans” of all fabricated “races”) must recognize, fear, or save. It depoliticizes and individualizes major social problems, and suggests the relationship between truth and justice is simply subjective at a time when private prisons are expanding exponentially and more people are caged in the United States than anywhere else on earth.

And they are predominantly people of color.

An article in Bloomberg Business Week estimates that Koenig probably paid about $2500 in phone bills to Global Tel-Link, a company which preys on incarcerated people and their families to make a profit. She doesn’t once contexualize her calls in this reality, and yet every episode opens with a recording that states the company’s name, in essence giving it free advertising. The problem isn’t that Serial centers on an individual case but the myopic manner in which it does so. When Koenig, to her credit, finally gives examples of how racism, Islamaphobia, and problems with the defense might have led to a false conviction, she brackets these details with a statement (at the beginning) that she doesn’t “buy” that racism was a determining issue even if it “crept in” and the comment (at the end) that “maybe he’s a sociopath.” In this episode, she chooses interview clips that reinforce Islamaphobic stereotypes without doing the work necessary to destabilize them.

Moreover, an episode that “deals with race” in a series whose metanarrative relies on using, scrutinizing, individualizing, and judging people who aren’t white is kind of like the difference between my teacher’s words and his real lesson.

The limitations of Serial’s narrative-ethical scope has led listeners to dig intrusively into other people’s Facebook accounts and posit speculations. The impulse to free someone might seem like an uncomplicatedly good thing.

But, many of recipients of humanitarian “aid” have spoken about the negative consequences of “good intentions” when givers don’t understand the social situation into which they are intervening. Furthermore, Michael Brown’s parents in Ferguson, Missouri or the parents of a fourteen-year old child killed in by US drones in Zowi Sidgi, Pakistan might remind us that just knowing who did it – who killed the child you raised — does not mean you get justice.

It might mean you get more injustice.

What can we make of Serial’s incredible fanfare at this particular moment in the history of race in the US? On the one hand, the non-indictment charges for policemen Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York have sparked protests throughout the country about state violence on black and brown bodies, as well as a wider public conversation about the need for systematic change. On the other hand, “Band Aid 30” has just put out a new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that presents an image of black people and “Africans” as frightening, contagious, and deathly in order to raise funds to stop the spread of ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia (thirty years ago it was about famine and “poverty” in Ethiopia): “There’s a world outside your window – and it’s a world of dread and fear/Where a kiss of love can kill you – and there’s death in every tear.”

In the midst of this – as a subsequent conversation with my friend helped me to see – Serial has seized upon a general disillusionment in this country with the (political, economic, justice) system and the desire of people with privilege to keep that world “of dread and fear” outside their windows. After all, change is hard.

So I guess it’s not a surprise that Serial has been hailed as innovative. Most truly innovative things today are labeled crazy, impractical, or too…something. That is, if they rise above the economic impediments to see the light of day. “Innovative” has somehow come to mean a new way of packaging what writer Amiri Baraka called the “changing same.”

Serial is innovative in how it invites listeners to feel sympathy, antipathy, and the desire to prove what they have figured out.

But innovations in ethical thought and action reside elsewhere – as theorist Judith Butler reminds us in the movie Imagined Life – in sites of discomfort, uncertainty, and internal struggle.

The post What’s the Verdict? Racism and the Case Against Serial appeared first on Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture.

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Rs 4,050 crore approved for solar parks and ultra mega power projects

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The President of India has sanctioned the Scheme for Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects in the country. The scheme envisages at least 25 solar parks, each with a minimum capacity of 500 MW between 2014 and 2019. The estimated financial support for the scheme—Rs 4,050 crore—was also approved (see table for break-up).

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Rules for ethical handling of captive elephants are rarely followed, says submission to prime minister by the secretary of Heritage Animal Task Force

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Kerala is becoming too hostile a place for captive as well as wild elephants. During the first ten months of this year, as many as 24 captive elephants and 92 wild elephants have died in the state. The main reason for death in the case of captive elephants is torture, and in the case of wild elephants it's the cruelty of the forest mafia.

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Report shows how corruption and lax enforcement by government is abetting illegal practices by well-connected business people

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Oil palm plantations are driving deforestation in Indonesia, according to a new report.

When one man stood up against a 35-storey giant

Thursday, 18 December 2014 08:05 am
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Posted by Shoma Chatterji


Quarter Number 4/11 tells the story of a factory worker’s failed struggle to retain his home in the face of forced eviction by a high-profile real estate development in the heart of Kolkata. Shoma A Chatterji traces the narrative that is a stark commentary on development trends within the country.

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