In the Twenties and Thirties sheep were brought in to keep the grass under control in London parks:
In the Twenties and Thirties sheep were brought in to keep the grass under control in London parks:
Which foreign leader, according to an Indonesian organisation dedicated to promoting world peace, is worthy of their annual award? Not, perhaps, the obvious choice:
Indonesia's Sukarno Center, an organization based in Bali that describes itself as "dedicated to the citizens of the world in the field of humanity and world peace," announced on Thursday that it is giving Kim an honor that it has previously bestowed on Mahatma Gandhi and Myanmar's political dissident turned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The center is named after Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement who was the country's founding president for nearly 22 years. His daughter Rachmawati Soekarnoputri delivered the announcement after meeting with the North Korean ambassador to Jakarta.
"We will give the award to [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un because he has been consistent in carrying out the ideals of the great leader Kim Il-sung, which is to fight imperialism," Rachmawati was quoted as saying in a report published by the Jakarta Globe.
She noted that the Sukarno Center had previously awarded this prize to Kim Il-sung, Kim's grandfather and the founder of North Korea. "So this will be a sequel," Rachmawati added, "where we give the award to Kim Jong-un for his persistence in fighting neocolonialism."
The award is typically meant for leaders who work toward "peace and development," the newspaper reported...
The Photographers' Gallery currently have an exhibition of the late Shirley Baker's street photography in Manchester and Salford; from 1961 to 1981, but mostly from the Sixties, at a time when the old slums were being cleared away.
They're calling it, and the accompanying book, Women, Children and Loitering Men. To our ears that surely has an unpleasant connotation of sexual predation, but the only men loitering here are the old and the unemployed, so I've no idea why they thought that was a suitable title. Provocative, perhaps? Anyway, title aside, the exhibition is wonderful.
Here's an interview with the woman with the pram in that last picture.
More pics here.
Shirley Baker previously.
For the Kurds, it looks like the same old story. Antony Loyd in the Times (£):
Against the overall backdrop of Arab collapse in the Middle East, not since the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, which called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan before being overturned by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, had Kurds’ aspirations for self-determination — if not independence — looked so ripe.
In Syria, not only had the Kurds proven themselves to be doughty fighters, they had won a major public relations coup in the fight for western public opinion. The secularism of the YPG, its female commanders, the 40 per cent representation of women in the committees governing the Rojava cantons, and the inclusion of Christians and Arabs in local ruling bodies: all provided a refreshing alternative to the bleak visions of Islamic State, and a bolder image than the perceived duplicity of Turkey in the fight against the jihadists.
Meanwhile in northern Iraq, Kurds continued to reap the benefits of their staunch alliance with the coalition in operations against Islamic State, even as Baghdad’s links to their autonomous region weakened daily. And in Turkey’s election in June the HDP, a political party rooted in the desire for Kurdish rights, leapt over the 10 per cent threshold required for parliamentary representation, depriving President Erdogan’s AKP of a majority in parliamentfor the first time since 2002.
Yet if the 30 million Kurds spread across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran needed any reminder that their wartime relationship with the West was based on short-term tactical needs rather than any support for independence movements, it came with last month’s agreement between the US and Turkey to co-operate in clearing Isis’s forces from a 60-mile strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border.
The deal allowed the Obama administration to use Turkish air bases to attack Isis on a new front, while providing Turkey with a new degree of border security, as well as blocking further YPG advances across the Euphrates.
No sooner had the deal become public than Turkish jets were in action, bombing PKK targets in northern Iraq far more heavily than Isis positions in Syria, fuelling suspicions that Turkey’s real agenda was to keep Kurdish territorial and political ambitions in check under the fig leaf of joining the coalition in its fight against the jihadists.
By the middle of last week, of 1,302 people arrested in Turkey in an operation described by government officials as a “fully fledged battle against terrorist groups”, 847 were accused of links to the PKK and only 137 of links to Isis.
The strikes have effectively ended peace negotiations between Turkey and the PKK, which were already strained since a 2013 ceasefire, and resulted in a bitter round of mutual recriminations between the HDP and AKP, leaving many Kurds with the impression that by reviving conflict with the PKK, Mr Erdogan is trying to undermine support for his political rivals before possible fresh elections, duping the US and Nato into support along the way.
Although the wheel is still in motion, it seems that once again the Kurds may have fallen foul of history.
Update: in the same vein - Jonathan Spyer:
Why, then, has Erdogan decided to move against the Syrian Kurds?
Since January, Kurdish political stock has been steadily rising in the West. In the Kurdish YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units), the US found a reliable, non-Islamist ally that was willing and capable to act as a ground force against Islamic State in northern Syria. The combination of the YPG on the ground, and the USAF in the skies proved sufficient to save the besieged town of Kobani, and then to push the jihadis back to Tel Abyad in the east and to the outskirts of Jarabulus in the west.
These victories, however, were worrying from the Turkish point of view. First, as a result of their eastern advance, the Kurds were able to unite two of the three cantons they have established along the long Syrian-Turkish border. The creation of a corridor linking the Jazira canton, which stretches from the Syria-Iraq border to the town of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), with the reconstituted Kobani enclave gave the Kurds control over a long and contiguous stretch of border.
No less important, the favorable publicity accruing to the Kurds because of their fight against Islamic State, and the presence of women fighters and secular Western volunteers in their ranks, served to turn the Syrian Kurds from a forgotten minority into the recipient of favorable and growing Western attention.
Still worse, from the Turkish point of view, the entirety of the remaining border area not under Kurdish control (with the exception of a tiny enclave around the town of Azaz) was in the hands of Islamic State. The logic of the situation thus appeared to suggest that a Kurdish offensive west of the Euphrates to drive Islamic State from the region, with the help of US air power, might be in the offing.
An offensive of this kind would have driven Islamic State from the border in its entirety. But it would almost certainly have had the additional effect of enabling the YPG to unite the Kobani enclave with the third Kurdish canton in northern Syria, established around the town of Afrin.
This, in turn, would have given de facto control of the entirety of the 800-km. border between Syria and Turkey to a Kurdish autonomous entity ruled over by the PYD (Democratic Union Party). The PYD is the Syrian franchise of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The PKK is (or was) engaged in a stalled peace process with the government of Turkey. Core issues remain unresolved. Erdogan could not tolerate the emergence of a de facto Kurdish sovereignty stretching along the entirety of this border.
This is the mission on which Erdogan is now embarked. It appears to have dimensions beyond northern Syria. The attacks on the PKK in Qandil and the threats to strip HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) parliament members of immunity may point to a broader political logic. Erdogan may be seeking to leverage the crisis with the Kurds for political gain, fanning the fires of Turkish nationalist sentiment to mobilize votes in a renewed general election.
He may be hoping to achieve the sought for parliamentary majority, which eluded him in elections earlier this year, and which he needs to bring about constitutional reform and expanded powers for the presidency.
But most urgently, the Turkish move into Syria is directed against the advances – physical and political – made by Syria’s Kurds in the course of the past year. Just how far Erdogan will go in pursuit of the goal of turning back the clock in Syrian Kurdistan remains to be seen. But contrary to much Western reporting, Turkey’s entry into the war in Syria does not constitute a belated reconciling by Ankara of a Western-led agenda vis-à-vis the war. Rather, Erdogan is carrying out a bait-and-switch move, founded on partnering with Sunni Islamist groups in order to reduce or destroy Kurdish aspirations.
An uptempo number from bluegrass pioneers the Stanley Brothers, with three-way harmonies, fast licks, and innovative camera angles:
From 1966, I believe, which would make it just before the early death of brother Carter, the guitar player. Ralph, the banjo player, is still alive and going strong at 88. He enjoyed something of a late revival with his acappella O Death, from O Brother Where Art Thou? - here from 2008. The film title must have seemed appropriate somehow to Ralph, after all those years on his own.
The classic Rank Strangers, from the same show.
Along with the Louvin Brothers, one of the main influences on the Everlys.
The North Korean practice of exporting labour to foreign countries has a long and sordid history. I've done a few posts on the subject over the years - in the Czech Republic, in a Siberian logging camp, and, more recently, here, where workers are encouraged to greet probing questions from foreign journalists with violence. The men live under tight supervision, and the bulk of their pay is paid straight to North Korean middle men. They are, in other words, slave labourers.
According to Marcus Noland up to 40 countries worldwide benefit from the arrangement. Public shaming reportedly pushed Qatar into sending home some of the North Koreans working on its FIFA World Cup sites.
Here's a report on the 2000 or so North Korean workers in Mongolia. They're exploited as forced labour, yet Mongolia is a signatory to the International Labor Organization 's Forced Labor Convention No. 29, which supposedly outlaws such practices:
North Korea operates a global network of forced laborers, according to North Korean defector Lim Il. Lim, who escaped a life of slave labor at a construction site in Kuwait, said North Korea's leadership makes hundreds of millions of dollars from its slave labor force in the Middle East, Russia and other countries, including Mongolia.
Lim has said North Korea's system of slave labor earns the regime more than $1.8 billion annually.
A figure, by the way, that Noland believes to be a considerable exaggeration.
Russia is one of the main markets for this. Stephen Sackur had this report last week for the BBC, from Vladivostok. The labourers have no choice - Sackur manages an anonymous interview - and the Russian employers are happy to turn a blind eye.
In today's Daily NK, there's a report suggesting that, in Russia at least, there may at last be a chink of light:
More North Korean workers dispatched to Russia are abandoning their posts due to harsh working conditions and wage exploitation. This also comes as Russian authorities are increasingly turning away from apprehending and repatriating them following UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s visit to the country in May, Daily NK has learned.
“North Korean workers dispatched to Russia earn roughly 800 to 1,000 USD a month, but most of those wages are expropriated as ‘loyalty fees’ to the North’s foreign currency earning companies,” a source in Russia close to matter told Daily NK on Wednesday. “More workers from the North are abandoning their jobs because they receive so little in comparison to Russian laborers even though they work on similar levels, so complaints have been mounting.”
This news was confirmed by an additional source in Russia.
In the city of Chita, roughly 300 North Koreans from Cholsan and Nakwon enterprises have been dispatched, and of those a growing number have been deserting their posts. “Even in May, a few North Korean workers dispatched to construction sites deserted their posts and were apprehended by Russian police after they were found working at a different company nearby the city of Chita. But they’re safe and well,” she explained, noting that under Kim Jong Il’s rule, most overseas workers were dispatched for logging, but now an increasing number of people are being sent to construction sites instead.
However, one of the conditions discouraging workers from acting on their inner yearning is the fact that many of them are dispatched alone with family members left back in the North. They fear “something bad will happen to them,” the source asserted, adding that workers moonlighting for extra cash often say “they would run away on the spot if it weren’t for their families.”
For those who do escape, UN chief Ban Ki Moon’s visit is thought to have played a significant role in the relaxed regulations bolstering their chances to avoid repercussions. In many cases, according to both sources, the Russian authorities have been turning a blind eye to North Korean laborers escaping their posts and, in some cases, even extending a helping hand.
Needless to say, this is in stark contrast to the past when law enforcement officials actively cooperated with the North Korean mission to capture workers who have escaped.
“In the past, North Korean authorities would ask Russian authorities to arrest workers who have escaped and the police would do so. This is why most deserters would flee to areas far away or hide in the mountains,” the source explained. “But now, even if they’re caught by the police, they are not handed over to North Koreans officials.”
In light of these escapes, North Korean enterprises are stepping up monitoring from security officials and boosting efforts in self-criticism sessions that are carried out during the week, she concluded.
Some good coming from a Ban Ki Moon initiative? Well, it was bound to happen eventually...
It was no surprise last week to see George Monbiot in the Guardian taking aim at David Cameron's "the struggle of our generation" speech on the threat of Islamic extremism. Cameron, he sneered, was a little man trying to fill Churchill's shoes, inflating the evils of Islamism while ignoring the far greater perils that threaten us:
Diet, smoking, alcohol, loneliness, the slow collapse of the NHS, child poverty, air pollution, traffic accidents, lack of exercise, even the wrong kind of bedroom slippers are likely to kill far more people in this country than Islamist terrorists will manage.
All (except the last) should demand more resources and political effort than are deployed to confront Islamic extremism. In the longer term, climate change, antibiotic resistance, soil loss and nuclear proliferation by states (including our own) are orders of magnitude more dangerous. But a Churchillian struggle against an identifiable enemy is grander and more glamorous than the battle against faceless but much greater threats. It is also politically less costly, as it offends the interests of neither corporations nor billionaires.
Terry Glavin, writing from a Canadian perspective, provides the necessary riposte:
“In Canada, you’re way more likely to be killed by a moose than a terror plot,” some junior advertising-jingle wags pointed out to amusing and viral effect earlier this year. Around the same time, celebrity pseudo-journalist and stolen-files trafficker Glenn Greenwald was pointing out that Canadians are more likely to die from being struck by lightning, or from a random intestinal bug ingested during a restaurant meal, or by falling down in a bathroom, than from a terrorist attack.
All of which is true. But if you’re the sort that thinks these vaudeville talking-points situate the phenomenon in its only sensible political context, here’s the point you’re missing: it’s not always about you, or your personal safety, or the sophisticated aversion to fearmongering you no doubt believe you possess.
It’s about Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, Bangladesh and quite a few other places where hundreds of millions of people, particularly women and children, are obliged to live every day under the threat of both organized and random Islamist terror....
It’s also about the obsequious cringing that was the preferred response of so much of the Anglophone elite to the massacre of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January. It’s about a toxin that has already badly torn at the fabric of Canada’s multicultural ideal and condemned hundreds of thousands of Canadian Muslims to tolerate life under a foul black cloud of suspicion and mistrust. It is emptying the Middle East of its Christians in pogroms and ethnic cleansings of a ferocity unseen in more than 1,000 years.
Among the people of the industrialized world, just the ISIL iteration of it – the Al Qaida mutation that has metastasized into an oil-rich, Portugal-sized nightmare state where the borders of Syria and Iraq used to be – haunts the sleep of a great many people who are not easily frightened. Just two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released the results of a massive global polling effort revealing that the menace of ISIL occupies a rank higher than even global warming as an issue of grave concern among the citizens of Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, Korea, Jordan, Lebanon, Australia, Indonesia and Palestine.
Terrorism is a greater threat to us than global warming? Please.
Laugh all you like about this, but those will be cheap laughs, because these anxieties cannot all be chalked up to fearmongering. And the closer you look at the Pew poll’s numbers what you notice is that respondents were not asked to pick a contest winner. It’s quite possible to be deeply concerned about both ISIL and global warming as profoundly difficult challenges to the global order – and to be also concerned, as most poll respondents indicated, with the Iranian nuclear program, Russian and Chinese belligerence, cyberattacks and global economic stability....
It’s all good for a laugh. But if we’re all just going to line up according to our partisan dispositions and pit the greatest challenges to global and national security in a kind of competition with one another, there will come a point when it’s not going to be funny any more at all.
This, from Ronen Bergman in Tablet, is as damning as anything I've seen on the Iran deal - though of course, as Bergman stresses, the sources are not, by their nature, unimpeachable. What Information Collected by Israeli Intelligence Reveals About the Iran Talks:
In early 2013, the material indicates, Israel learned from its intelligence sources in Iran that the United States held a secret dialogue with senior Iranian representatives in Muscat, Oman. Only toward the end of these talks, in which the Americans persuaded Iran to enter into diplomatic negotiations regarding its nuclear program, did Israel receive an official report about them from the U.S. government. Shortly afterward, the CIA and NSA drastically curtailed its cooperation with Israel on operations aimed at disrupting the Iranian nuclear project, operations that had racked up significant successes over the past decade.
On Nov. 8, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw him off at Ben Gurion Airport and told him that Israel had received intelligence that indicated the United States was ready to sign “a very bad deal” and that the West’s representatives were gradually retreating from the same lines in the sand that they had drawn themselves.
Perusal of the material Netanyahu was basing himself on, and more that has come in since that angry exchange on the tarmac, makes two conclusions fairly clear: The Western delegates gave up on almost every one of the critical issues they had themselves resolved not to give in on, and also that they had distinctly promised Israel they would not do so....
It is possible to argue about the manner in which Netanyahu chose to conduct the dispute about the nuclear agreement with Iran, by clashing head-on and bluntly with the American president. That said, the intelligence material that he was relying on gives rise to fairly unambiguous conclusions: that the Western delegates crossed all of the red lines that they drew themselves and conceded most of what was termed critical at the outset; and that the Iranians have achieved almost all of their goals.
Interesting, from Jieun Baek, at Politico: How to Smuggle $1,000 Into North Korea.
The next time Kevin talks to his mother, she asks him for $1,000. She gives Kevin a phone number. When he hangs up after about a minute, Kevin then calls that number and tells the stranger on the line that he got a call from someone (he uses a pseudonym to protect his mother’s identity). Every time, the phone number is different.
The stranger on the other line is usually a girl, a Joseonjok girl. The woman gives Kevin a South Korean bank account number, to which Joseph wires $1,000. He then sends the woman a text message using Kakao Talk (a Korean smartphone application that’s similar to Whatsapp), texting that he sent the $1,000. After receiving the message, the Joseonjok lady sends a message to another Joseonjok living in North Korea. This person will then notify Kevin’s family via their legal domestic cell phones that the money has arrived so that Kevin’s mother can go to that individual’s location, or the underground financial house, to pick up her $700 in Chinese RMB. The two middlemen take 30 percent of the requested money and split the commission. The whole transaction, part of the small underground financing system inside the country, can take place in as little as 20 minutes.
Cell phones are essential in allowing for these illicit networks, activities and conversations to exist. The legal cell phone networks inside North Korea, of which the Egyptian telecom company Orascom owns 70 percent, will not allow ordinary North Korea citizens to make international calls. So the estimated 200-2,000 calls made between North and South Korea every day make use of cell phone networks throughout China (especially close to the border, where the cellular connection from the Chinese towers are powerful) and North Korea. The networks themselves are not illegal. It’s the use of them by North Koreans that constitute the illegality. Some people who have been caught making international calls have been publicly executed. The North Korean government has very elaborate machinery and systems to detect cellular usage, which compels people to walk miles from their homes to make a call that lasts a few minutes, then walk a few more miles away from the location of the first call in order to avoid being detected. And yet these networks, and North Koreans’ use of them, are proliferating.
Also smuggled to Kevin's mum - medicine, mobile phones, DVD player....
Though I somehow doubt that Kevin is his real name.