Mardin in beautiful Syria — Posted 07Apr17
Mardin is located in Southeastern Anatolia in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins. One of the oldest cities of Upper Mesopotamia, Mardin is perched like an eagle’s nest atop a 1083-meter peak. Many written sources refer to the city as ‘Merdin’, meaning ‘fortresses’, in light of the many fortresses in the region.
Mardin is set on the slopes of the mountains that form the northern Mesopotamian border. Certain areas of these mountains eroded over time to form volcanic plateaus. The province is covered in lowland plains, and its soil is clayey and limy. Mardin’s history dates back to Subarian times. In 335 BC, the city was taken by Alexander the Great, and was later ruled by many other conquerors. Mardin was annexed by the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and became a border city of the Turkish Republic in 1923. With its ancient architecture dating mostly from the 12th-15th centuries and its elegant, fairytale houses, Mardin is a veritable open-air museum.
Houses and Streets
The houses of Mardin are carefully arranged in tiers on themountain slope so that the roofof each houseserves as thecourtyard of the one above. Mardin houses feature intricately carved decorative stonework. The city streets are connected via a network of passages known as ‘abbara’ that sometimes pass directly under the houses. The abbara provide shelter from the hot sun in the summer and fromthe cold and the rain in the winter.
Untruths on Facebook — Posted 05Apr17
“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They are the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.”
Many Guardian readers will have seen this quote, attributed to a 1998 interview with Donald Trump in People magazine, in their Facebook news feed.
Facebook’s fake news: Mark Zuckerberg rejects ‘crazy idea’ that it swayed voters
It’s a great quote, but he never said it.
It typifies the kind of fake news and misinformation that has plagued the 2016 election on an unprecedented scale. In the wake of the surprise election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, pressure is growing on Facebook to not only tackle the problem but also to find ways to encourage healthier discourse between people with different political views.
Rather than connecting people – as Facebook’s euphoric mission statement claims – the bitter polarization of the social network over the last eighteen months suggests Facebook is actually doing more to divide the world.
Labour’s Lost Leader — Posted 04Apr17
Yvette Cooper (born 20 March 1969) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford since 2010, having been the MP for Pontefract and Castleford since 1997.
Cooper was born on 20 March 1969 in Inverness, Scotland. Her father is Tony Cooper, former General Secretary of the Prospect trade union, a former Non-Executive Director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and a former Chairman of the British Nuclear Industry Forum. He was also a government adviser on the Energy Advisory Panel. Her mother was a maths teacher.
She was educated at Eggar’s School, a comprehensive school in Holybourne, and Alton College, both in Alton, Hampshire. She read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and graduated with a first-class honours degree. It was there that she became friends with her future colleague, James Purnell. She won a Kennedy Scholarship in 1991 to study at Harvard University, and she completed her postgraduate studies with an MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics.
She served in the Cabinet between 2008 and 2010 under Prime Minister Gordon Brown as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and then as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. After Labour lost the 2010 general election, Cooper was appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary, then became Shadow Home Secretary in 2011.
On 13 May 2015, Cooper announced she would run to be Leader of the Labour Party in the leadership election following the resignation of Ed Miliband. Cooper came third with 17.0% of the vote in the first round. Cooper subsequently resigned from her position as Shadow Home Secretary in September 2015. In October 2016, Cooper was elected chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Cooper’s placing in the leadership contest seems underwhelming, until you factor in the rapid rise of the momentum group and the vast number of far-left labour members who joined en masse to ensure the election of Jeremy Corbyn to Labour party leader under rules for membership introduced by Ed Milliband.
Cooper has also been criticised for sounding shrill when making points in the Commons.
Again, this is unfair, as Members have to often almost shout to be heard above the braying of MP’s during some debates.
The shrill comment is I think misogyny rather than fair criticism.
A truer representation of her abilities would be her questioning of Teresa May when May was giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on immigration.
Cooper demonstrated an impressive tenacity and grasp of the bigger picture and her questioning left May visible discomfited and on the back foot.
One can imagine her at Prime Minister’s questions being considerably more incisive than the toothless Jeremy corbyn:
Theresa May should listen to a “proper immigration debate” after failing to slash the number of foreigners coming to Britain, a senior MP says today.
Mrs May was Home Secretary for six years when she repeatedly missed a Tory target to cut net migration below 100,000.
As Prime Minister, she is set to put cutting migration at the heart of Brexit talks.
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has launched a nationwide inquiry where it will tour the country taking evidence about immigration.
Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper urged Mrs May, whom critics accuse of being a control freak PM, to act on the findings.
She said: “Theresa May has a reputation for doing things her own way but on something as important as Brexit I hope that she will listen to people from all over the country.
A brief guide to populism — From The Week 09Dec16
The defeat of Matteo Renzi in this week’s referendum is just the latest expression of the wave of populism sweeping the Western world
What is meant by the term?
“Populism” is a slippery concept which is used as a pejorative by critics, and not by the groups to whom it is applied. It denotes a movement that stands outside and against the political establishment, and is deeply suspicious of established institutions – the main parties, the media, the leading interest groups, the system of lawmaking, the banks – which populists feel to be stacked against outsiders. Since such groups are by definition cut off from conventional channels of organisation and communication, they rely heavily on charismatic leaders to drum up support, and are often accused of pandering to the racial
Is there a “populist” ideology?
Not so much an ideology as a rhetorical stance that paints politics as a battle between the people and a corrupt elite. “Populists claim they and they alone speak in the name of what they tend to call the ‘real people’,” says Professor Jan-Werner Muller, author of What Is Populisms’ Nigel Farage, for instance, called the June referendum “a victory for the real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people”. Populist leaders cast their opponents as frauds. “They make it personal: their opponents must be crooked and corrupt,” says Muller.
Is modern populism a distinctively right-wing movement?
Its most striking victories – UKIP in the referendum, Donald Trump in the US – have certainly made it seem so. Most European “populist” parties are on the far-right, whether in France (where the National Front’s Marine Le Pen is a strong contender for next year’s presidential race); in Austria (where the far-right Freedom Party narrowly lost this week’s presidential election); or in the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Finland (where right-wing nationalist parties are all riding high). Yet the term is also used to describe groups on the opposite side of the political spectrum, from the socialist Democratic contender Bernie Sanders in the US, to left-wing movements in southern Europe such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. Indeed, the populist phenomenon is often taken as a sign of the redundancy of the old Left/Right distinctions: Italy’s Five Star Movement, which led the charge for the No vote in this week’s referen¬dum, is avowedly neither (see Box).
Where did the term originate?
In Ancient Rome: the populares were a political faction in the late Roman Republic, who championed the interests of the populus (the people) against the optimates (the aristocrats), and bypassed the senate by using referendums, still a favoured populist move today. The modern variant of populism, however, is usually seen as arising in the US – in the 1850s, the American Party was formed by native-born Protestants to campaign against the influx of Irish and German immigrants.
Left, the People’s Party, known as “the Populists”, was started by farmers in the Midwest and south in 1892, to express their rage at the grasping eastern elites of “the Gilded Age”; they wanted to nationalise railroads and break up monopolies. Many of their demands were successful: their plan for a progressive income tax was adopted in the 16th Amendment to the US constitution.
Did it flourish in the 20th century?
Fascism is sometimes identified with populism, and the two movements do share common features: xenophobia, the cult of the leader, intolerance of criticism. Populism, however, is an authoritarian form of democracy, not an outright rejection of it. In 20th century Europe, its most famous examplar was Pierre Poujade, whose Poujadist movement of French farmers and small businessmen briefly flourished in the 1950s. Several US politicians also made their name as populists, including the flamboyant 1930s Louisiana governor Huey Long, who denounced the rich and called on them to “share our wealth”; and the snarling segregationist George Wallace, governor of Alabama.
What accounts for the rise of populism today?
Populist movements thrive whenever economic and social change marginalises a once central political constituency – be it small farmers in late 19th century America, or small shopkeepers in mid-20th century France. Today, globalisation and technological change have greatly weakened the industrial working class and left large parts of the middle and the lower classes behind, an actuality accentuated since the 2008 financial crisis. Mass immi¬gration, too, has left many feeling displaced. But such upheavals have not been reflected by a realignment of the traditional parties. On the contrary, the once-distinct parties of the Left (social democrats) and Right (Christian democrats) have drifted together, both tending to offer free-market economics and social liberalism under PR-savvy leaders, and in Europe, support for what is widely seen as the distant, foreign and undemocratic EU.
How successful are the populist parties likely to be?
Until recently, conventional wisdom had it that in the West, populist groups might influence mainstream parties but would never win elections. Now, we seem to be in uncharted waters; in the Netherlands and Czech Republic, to take just two examples, right-wing populist parties lead the polls. One key reason for this is that social media have dramatically reduced the organisational costs of building up a political movement. Twitter and Facebook enable leaders such as Trump and Beppe Grillo to express their views directly, appealing above the heads of the traditional media. It’s still the case, however, that most of Europe’s populist parties are, at best, in third or fourth place in terms of vote share. Furthermore, if they do gain power, they immediately become tainted by their association with the hated elite and the compromises of power. Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras was once adored for his promise to tear up EU austerity agreements: polls now show him to be among Greece’s least popular leaders in recent history.
Quotes about democracy
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” — Churchill
“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” — Churchill
“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” — Jefferson
Paul Starr introducing The Society of Equals
by Pierre Rosanvallon, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer
The sharp rise in inequality since the 1970s has created two puzzles. The first is an intellectual puzzle concerning the root causes of the widening gap in income and wealth, its social consequences, and its moral significance. The second is a practical and political puzzle, at least for those who are disturbed by increased inequality. What can and should be done about it? Depending on the answer to the first, the second may be more or less difficult. If rising inequality is primarily the result of economic changes brought about with new information technology, returning to a more equal distribution of income poses a daunting, perhaps impossible challenge. The global transformation of contemporary capitalism is not about to be undone. But if the causes of rising inequality lie chiefly in government policy on such matters as taxes, the remedy is at least clear, though certainly not easy.
According to the received wisdom of the mid-twentieth century, the recent increase in inequality was not supposed to happen. In 1955 the economist Simon Kuznets proposed that income inequality rises during the first long phase of industrialization and then falls, a view that corresponded to the evidence at the time. In the United States, after earlier increases, economic inequalities declined significantly during the 1940s (“the great compression,” Claudia Golden and Robert Margo call it). France and other industrialized countries also saw reductions in inequality between 1914 and 1945. Then, for the three decades after World War II, wages rose in line with increased productivity, governments expanded social programs while maintaining progressive tax rates, and a growing majority of people achieved a middle-class standard of living.
This, it seemed, was the destiny of democratic capitalism: disparities in income and wealth would remain, but they would be substantially smaller than in the past and they would be of diminishing moral significance as economic growth lifted incomes for nearly everyone. Poverty, once a mass phenomenon, came to be seen as a problem of minorities in both the arithmetical and ethnic senses of that word. To improve conditions for poor, stigmatized blacks and other minorities was to solve what remained of the old problem of social class. So closely was inequality identified with poverty that the two terms were often used as if they were interchangeable.
That understanding of inequality has now broken down in the United States and to varying degrees in the other economically advanced democracies. Inequality today refers not just to the divergence of the poor from the middle class, but also—indeed, especially—to the outsized gains of the rich in an era when middle-class incomes have stagnated. In the United States, according to the economist Emanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, the richest 10 percent increased their share of total pretax income from about 33 percent in…
The central argument of your leader column that “most people would like to live in a society that is fair, where merit is rewarded and every child has a similar chance of health and happiness” is very questionable (The class ceiling: entrenching disadvantage, stalling mobility, 26 January).
What we have witnessed during the last seven years is a wide range of social and economic policies with the prime purpose of reinforcing the belief that individuals are responsible for their own destiny.
This is reflected in policy failures to address increases in child poverty, child ill health and homelessness (Poverty is killing UK children, warns report, 26 January; Rise in rough sleeping for sixth year running, 26 January), as well as the chronic underfunding of social care and cuts to a wide range of national and local government services.
The cumulative impact is seen in how mega-inequalities are justified as “individual achievement”, in how little sympathy is afforded to refugee children and adults, and in how the homeless are kicked and urinated on.
Perhaps the worst psychological consequence – and the “success” of these policies – is how the most vulnerable blame themselves for failing to manage.
Your analysis should start from questioning the assumption underpinning the consensus for the “fair society” and recognising the need for comprehensive policies to address the wide range of inequalities, something lacking in current political debate from all parties.
Emeritus professor, University of York
• How many landmark reports does it take to persuade governments that poverty in the UK is jeopardising children’s health? The 1970s Neuberger report on nutrition research recommended research done on the “cause of low birthweight and its associated handicaps”. The Black report of 1980 spelled out the wide nature of the problem and what should be done. The Winterton 1990-91 Commons select committee report on maternity services requested action on low birthweight and the inequality of health. The Acheson report of 1998 and that of Derek Wanless in 2005 echoed these sentiments, arguing for prevention and adoption of the principles laid out by the Black report of 1980. The Marmot review of health inequalities was published in 2010.
Do we have to beg for an end to this disregard of the evidence that links low incomes, high rents, freezing weather, debt and hunger to ill health and a shortened life?
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Sovereignty posted 11th December 2016
52% of the population, the winning margin in Junes Leave/Remain referendum, can’t dictate the natute of ‘Brexit’. This is because this is already pre-determined within Article 50 of the Treaty.
Once the UK Government ‘triggers’ Article 50, the process must be completed within two years.
Unseasonably mild weather for Early December may persuade imbeciles that Global Warming is true. Just wait till the first deep frost arrives in a couple of weeks.
Football Predators 8th December 2016
The simple fact is that every football club, not just the names mentioned so far i.e. Crewe, QPR etc. will have had sexual predators operating within their youth teams. The question is which of the clubs acted expediently, to deal with such individuals; which of the clubs paid hush money to victims!
o Mardin in Syria – the chemical terror
o Untruths on Facebook
o Labour’s lost leader
o Quotes on Democracy
o Climate Change
o Football Predators