Monthly Archives: December 2015

‘I Emphatically Refuse’: Muslim ACLU Activist Explains Why She Won’t Condemn Islamic Terrorism

‘I Emphatically Refuse’: Muslim ACLU Activist Explains Why She Won’t Condemn Islamic Terrorism

The deputy director of the ACLU of Michigan said in an op-ed Monday that she refuses to condemn radical Islamic terrorism in order to prove her allegiance to the United States.

Rana Elmir wrote that she’s “consistently and aggressively asked” to condemn Islamic terrorism, and is tired of having her religious views linked to atrocities like the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in Paris and San Bernardino this year.


“I emphatically refuse,” she wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

The op-ed was titled: “Stop asking me to condemn terrorists just because I’m Muslim.”

Elmir, who lectures on issues related to Islamophobia, free speech and the intersection of race, faith and gender, asserted that she “will not be bullied into condemning terror perpetrated by psychopaths who misrepresent and distort Islam for their deranged purposes.”

Elmir compared the terror created by groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram to “the terror advanced by mostly white men,” which she says happens at the rate of one mass killing every two weeks in the U.S. For example, Dylann Roof’s attack on parishioners of a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Robert Dear’s attack on a Planned Parenthood facility, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and “the slaughter of moviegoers in Colorado or Louisiana” — none of which she says she was asked to comment on.

Guilt by association is more prevalent in the case of American Muslims, Elmir argued, and the distinction between radical and peaceful Muslims is better made in silence.

“Muslims across the globe are not threats. They are threatened,” Elmir wrote, arguing that Muslim victims are wrongly pressed by politicians and journalists to publicly apologize for “the ideology that contributed to their own persecution.”

Such apologies, according to Elmir, become “admission[s] of guilt” that contribute to further Muslim oppression in America.


“The pernicious disease that is Islamophobia is spreading at home, thanks to a steady diet of repugnant rhetoric and equally misguided policies,” she wrote, citing a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2014. Condemning Islamic extremism would only serve “zealots who will never be satisfied,” Elmir wrote.

Muslims have been subject to slavery and persecution since America’s founding, she said.

“The first Muslims in the United States were brought over bound as slaves, not immigrants,” Elmir wrote. “While some American Muslims have prospered, many face challenges — poverty, unemployment and undereducation.”

But condemning or claiming terrorism through an apology is the wrong course of action, Elmir concluded.

“Terrorism is not mine,” she said.


Animal Study Points to Drug Duo That Might Aid Injured Brains to Bounce Back

Animal Study Points to Drug Duo That Might Aid Injured Brains to Bounce Back

Can two everyday drugs prevent irreversible harm from traumatic brain injury?




A blow to the head generates a hail of free radicals and inflammatory molecules that can cause lasting damage if left unchecked.  A drug that could be administered within hours, or even a day or more after the injury, could help soldiers, athletes, and everyone really.

report at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago this week showed that mice treated within hours after a lab-induced injury with a combination of an antibiotic and an antioxidant could avoid some of the neural chaos that results from a concussive blow. The apparent effectiveness of the drugs persisted even if they were not administered immediately—a desirable attribute in a traumatic brain drug because treatment is often not sought right away. So far, no drug has been approved for the condition.

Researchers from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y., combined the FDA-approved antibiotic minocycline and the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, both of which have previously been shown to have neuroprotective effects. One group of rats received the drugs 12 hours after receiving head injuries in a lab. The other ingested them a full day after. When tested a week later, the mice who received the drugs 12 hours later performed better on two tasks that tested cognition than did injured animals given only a placebo. Rats dosed after 24 hours did better than the placebo group on the easiest of the two tasks.  Minocycline and N-acetylcysteine together worked better than either did alone. “Essentially the effect you see in combination is something you don’t see when giving the drugs in individual doses,” said Michael Sangobowale, a graduate student in the laboratory of Peter Bergold, during a press briefing.

The two drugs also resulted in the preservation of myelin, the sheathing for the long, wire-like axons that stretch out like tentacles from a neuron’s central cell body—a kind of insulation essential for neurons to communicate properly.

The pragmatic approach of repurposing old drugs to meet an acute medical need makes abundant sense, even though it lacks the technological panache of a prototype for a portable PET-scan helmet—other research presented at the conference.  Patents for both minocycline and N-acetylcysteine have expired, a decided advantage because it will keep costs low. N-acetylcysteine can even be purchased over the counter at shops selling supplements. Funding for the research came from the Department of Defense.

The idea for a relatively innocuous concoction that could be administered shortly after an injury is making the rounds. Akiva Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania, who moderated a press conference on traumatic brain injury at the conference at which Sangobawale discussed his work, is also developing a treatment, a kind of sports drink intended to help brain activity return to normal following a hard hit. Cohen didn’t go into details about what’s in the drink, but his laboratory has previouslypublished in Science Translational Medicine on using precursors to the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA—molecules called branched chain amino acids—as potential treatments. Glutamate and GABA balance out brain activity to ensure that neurons are neither over- or under-stimulated.  No one expects a sports drink or the drug combo from SUNY Downstate to work miracles, but even a little protection for the brain tissue of a soldier on patrol or the climber on a remote mountain would be a welcome addition to an ice pack and an aspirin.  

As always, the giant neuroscience gathering that attracts 30,000 or so attendees every year overflowed with early, mostly unpublished, research findings on every imaginable topic related to the three-pound wonder hidden underneath the skull. Traumatic brain injury was no exception. Studies in experimental animals pointed to the disparate effects of a blow to the head. Male and female, for instance, mice display different symptoms. The rodents also experience fearful behaviors reminiscent of PTSD. And, in children, not pups, certain populations of nerve cells are more vulnerable to traumatic brain injury.

The data dump at the brain fest bombarded attendees with information about such advances as the growing understanding of a specialized class of cells that acts as hedge clippers for neurons to make sure they have just the right number of connections to their neighbors, neither too few or too many, so that communication pathways keep humming—it also chronicled how autism or Alzheimer’s might emerge when this process goes awry. 

My pick for the most amusing entry was an abstract with a headline that read: “What Happens to Mouse Hippocampal-Dependent Behavior and Neurogenesis on the Way to Mars? One Small Step for Mousekind.” It summarized a study that showed that exposure to space-like radiation—high-energy silicon particles, for instance—enhances learning and memory in adult mice. Earlier mouse studies had demonstrated that exposure to these particles did the opposite, but the tests were always carried out on young mice. In this case, mature mice learned faster on challenging lab tests after being zapped. This is decidedly good news for NASA, which funded the study. I wonder whether tanning salons will now install their own cosmic ray rooms

Muslim man shows true spirit of Christmas by delivering presents to homeless people

Muslim man shows true spirit of Christmas by delivering presents to homeless people

As a Muslim, Nubaid Haroon, aka Rambo Vlogs, doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but he’s taken to the streets to “spread love” among rough-sleepers






A Muslim man on a mission to “spread peace and love” has captured the true spirit of Christmas – by delivering presents to homeless people.

Nubaid Haroon, also known as Rambo Vlogs on social media, filmed himself giving blankets to people sleeping rough on the streets this winter.

At the beginning of his YouTube clip , he admits that, as a Muslim, he doesn’t particularly celebrate Christmas, but wanted to enter into the giving spirit.

He is then seen presenting festively wrapped blankets to less fortunate people, including Catherine, who has been homeless for 21 years.

Read more : Kind strangers save Christmas for family who had gifts stolen

Other grateful recipients include ex-solider David, 28, who has been on the streets for three years and Teddy, 47, who has spent 12 years sleeping rough.


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
Giving: Nubaid Haroon, aka Rambo Vlogs, delivered Christmas cards to homeless people


Mostly, their reactions are full of shock and gratitude, with many sharing a warm embrace with Nubaid, a young British Asian man.

He says: “I know a lot of YouTubers do giveaways but for me I really wanted to do something for people that needed it the most this Christmas.


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
“Spread the love”: The YouTuber explained why he wanted to help the homeless


“Life is unfair on homeless people and I’m in a more fortunate position than the homeless so I thought it would be nice to be Santa Claus and give out some gifts!

“I wanna spread love and I wanna make people feel appreciated so I was really happy to take on this video and to continue to spread equality!”


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
Heartwarming: Nubaid gave blankets to people, including ex-soldier David


The video, titled “Muslim Gives Presents to Homeless for Christmas” and published on Tuesday, has been viewed thousands of times.

One viewer wrote: “Dude u are so awesome.”


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
Helping the needy: Teddy, who has been homeless for 12 years, received a blanket


Another added: “Love this! I think it’s great that you shared their stories :)”

One of Nubaid’s previous videos shows him offering free hugs as he embarks on his quest to “spread love”.

Follow Nubaid’s adventures at his Twitter profile .

Muslim man shows true spirit of Christmas by delivering presents to homeless people

Muslim man shows true spirit of Christmas by delivering presents to homeless people

As a Muslim, Nubaid Haroon, aka Rambo Vlogs, doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but he’s taken to the streets to “spread love” among rough-sleepers






A Muslim man on a mission to “spread peace and love” has captured the true spirit of Christmas – by delivering presents to homeless people.

Nubaid Haroon, also known as Rambo Vlogs on social media, filmed himself giving blankets to people sleeping rough on the streets this winter.

At the beginning of his YouTube clip , he admits that, as a Muslim, he doesn’t particularly celebrate Christmas, but wanted to enter into the giving spirit.

He is then seen presenting festively wrapped blankets to less fortunate people, including Catherine, who has been homeless for 21 years.

Read more : Kind strangers save Christmas for family who had gifts stolen

Other grateful recipients include ex-solider David, 28, who has been on the streets for three years and Teddy, 47, who has spent 12 years sleeping rough.


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
Giving: Nubaid Haroon, aka Rambo Vlogs, delivered Christmas cards to homeless people


Mostly, their reactions are full of shock and gratitude, with many sharing a warm embrace with Nubaid, a young British Asian man.

He says: “I know a lot of YouTubers do giveaways but for me I really wanted to do something for people that needed it the most this Christmas.


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
“Spread the love”: The YouTuber explained why he wanted to help the homeless


“Life is unfair on homeless people and I’m in a more fortunate position than the homeless so I thought it would be nice to be Santa Claus and give out some gifts!

“I wanna spread love and I wanna make people feel appreciated so I was really happy to take on this video and to continue to spread equality!”


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
Heartwarming: Nubaid gave blankets to people, including ex-soldier David


The video, titled “Muslim Gives Presents to Homeless for Christmas” and published on Tuesday, has been viewed thousands of times.

One viewer wrote: “Dude u are so awesome.”


YouTube / Rambo VlogsRambo Vlogs give presents to homeless people for Christmas
Helping the needy: Teddy, who has been homeless for 12 years, received a blanket


Another added: “Love this! I think it’s great that you shared their stories :)”

One of Nubaid’s previous videos shows him offering free hugs as he embarks on his quest to “spread love”.

Follow Nubaid’s adventures at his Twitter profile .

Muslim volunteer group serves 1,000 meals to homeless on Christmas Eve

Muslim volunteer group serves 1,000 meals to homeless on Christmas Eve


Volunteers with the American Muslim Voice Foundation spent Christmas Eve serving a thousand meals to the homeless at Loaves & Fishes. December 24, 2015


Volunteers with the American Muslim Voice Foundation spent Christmas Eve serving a thousand meals to the homeless at Loaves & Fishes.

Some food items include baked chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes. From buying the groceries, to preparing the food, to actually serving the meals, the volunteers were busy all day.

“Giving one day of our time isn’t that much” first-time volunteer Kiran Fareed said. “Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces the children and the families is definitely a meaningful experience.”

As an American Muslim who attended Catholic school, Fareed says she knows all too well the importance of standing up for what she knows is or is not a part of her faith.

“When [my non-Muslim friends] hear all these things about Muslims, you know, with so many things being said, [I say to people] look around you and the Muslims you know who are your friends your neighbors and that’s the true faith of Islam,” said Fareed. “That’s what we believe in.”

Whether or not these Muslim volunteers believe in Christmas or not, they all believe in coming together in helping those who need a hand.

“All religions are different, but all religions are the same,” said Khalid Saeed, the President of the American Muslim Voice Foundation. “As a human, we are serving humanity. I’m a very proud Muslim, but I’m American also.”

ചിക്കൻ കൊണ്ടാട്ടം

ചിക്കൻ കൊണ്ടാട്ടം – 

Chicken Kondattam


വേണ്ട സാധനങ്ങൾ

— ———————————

കോഴി — ചെറിയ കഷ്ണങ്ങളാക്കി മുറിച്ചത്

കൊണ്ടാട്ട മുളക് (തൈര് മുളക് ) – തണ്ട് മാറ്റി ക്രഷ് ചെയ്തത്

ചെറിയുള്ളി – ചതച്ചത്

പച്ചമുളക് ,ഇഞ്ചി ,വെളുത്തുള്ളി – ചതച്ചത്

തേങ്ങ ചിരകിയത്

അരിപ്പൊടി വറ്റല് മുളക് – തണ്ട് മാറ്റി ക്രഷ് ചെയ്തത്

പൊടികൾ – മഞ്ഞൾ ,മുളക് ,മല്ലി ,ഉപ്പ് ,കുരുമുളക് ,ഗരം മസാല

വിനാഗിരി അല്ലെങ്കിൽ നാരങ്ങാ നീര്

പുദീനയില – ഉണക്കി പൊടിച്ചത്


കറി വേപ്പില

എണ്ണ –



തയ്യാറാക്കുന്ന വിധം

— ———————————

ആദ്യം കോഴി കഷ്ണങ്ങളിൽ ടൂത്ത് പിക്ക് കൊണ്ട് നല്ല കുത്ത് വച്ച് കൊടുക്കുക ,(ചെറിയ സുഷിരങ്ങളിലൂടെ കൊണ്ടാട്ട മുളകിന്റെ എസെന്സ് ഇറങ്ങി ചെല്ലാൻ വേണ്ടിയാണു ഇത്),

ഇനി ക്രഷ് ചെയ്തു വച്ചിരിക്കുന്ന കൊണ്ടാട്ട മുളകിൽ കുറച്ചും , മഞ്ഞപ്പൊടിയും ,ഉപ്പും , മുളക് പൊടിയും ,അരിപ്പൊടിയും(അരക്കിലോ ചിക്കന് 5-6 സ്പൂണ്‍) ആവിശ്യത്തിന് ചേർത്ത് ഒരൽപം വെള്ളവും ചേർത്ത്(കോഴിയിൽ വെള്ളമയം ഉണ്ടെങ്കിൽ വേണ്ട) നന്നായി ഇളക്കി കുഴച്ചു ഒരു രണ്ടു മണിക്കൂർ വയ്ക്കാം.

അതിനു ശേഷം എണ്ണയിൽ മുക്കി പൊരിച്ചു മാറ്റി വയ്ക്കാം ,എണ്ണയിൽ ബാക്കി വരുന്ന പൊടിയും എടുത്തു വയ്ക്കണം .

ഇനി മറ്റൊരു പാനിൽ ചെറു ചൂടിൽ എണ്ണയില്ലാതെ തേങ്ങയും വറ്റല് മുളകും ചേർത്തു ഒന്ന് മൂപ്പിച്ചു മാറ്റി വയ്ക്കാം ,ഒരു ഇരുപതു സെക്കണ്ട് മൂപ്പിച്ചാൽ മതി ,അധികം ബ്രൌണ്‍ ആകരുത് .

ഇനി ഇതിൽ നിന്നും പകുതി എടുത്തു വിനാഗിരി ഉഴിച്ചു നല്ല പേസ്റ്റ് പരുവത്തിൽ അരച്ചെടുത്ത് വയ്ക്കുക.

ഇനി പാനിൽ എണ്ണ ഉഴിച്ചു ജീരകം പൊട്ടിച്ചു ഉള്ളി ചതച്ചത് ചേർത്ത് നന്നായി വഴറ്റണം , വഴണ്ട് വരുമ്പോൾ പച്ചമുളക് ,ഇഞ്ചി ,വെളുത്തുള്ളി എന്നിവ ചതച്ചത് ചേർത്ത് നന്നായി മൂപ്പിക്കുക , മൂത്ത് കഴിഞ്ഞു പൊടികൾ ചേർത്തു നന്നായി വഴറ്റിയതിനു ശേഷം വിനാഗിരി ഉഴിച്ച പേസ്റ്റ് ചേർത്തു ഒന്നുകൂടെ വഴറ്റുക ,

ഇനി തേങ്ങയും വറ്റല് മുളക് മൂപ്പിച്ചതും കറിവേപ്പിലയും ചേർത്തു ഹൈ ഫ്ലെയിമിൽ വഴറ്റണം ,

വിനാഗിരി വറ്റി വരുമ്പോൾ ചിക്കൻ ചേർത്തു കൊടുക്കുക ,ഒപ്പം പുദീനയും കൊണ്ടാട്ട മുളകിന്റെ ബാക്കിയും ചേർക്കുക …

ചിക്കനും മസാലയും കൂടി നന്നായി യോജിച്ചു വരുമ്പോൾ അരക്കപ്പ് വെള്ളം ഉഴിച്ചു ഒന്ന് കൂടി ഇളക്കി ചെറുതീയിൽ ഒരഞ്ചു മിനിട്ട് വയ്ക്കാം ,

ഇനി മല്ലിയില തൂകി സെർവ് ചെയ്യാം …

* * ഉപ്പ് ചേർക്കുമ്പോൾ ശ്രദ്ധിക്കുക ,കൊണ്ടാട്ട മുളകിലും മറ്റും ഉപ്പ് ഉണ്ട്.ഗ്രേവി ടൈപ്പ് വേണ്ടവർക്ക് തക്കാളി സൊസോ പേസ്റ്റൊ ചേർക്കാം.ചോറും പുളിശ്ശേരിയും കൂട്ടിയാണ് കഴിക്കാറ്   ​

Forgotten Indian history: The brutal Maratha invasions of Bengal

Forgotten Indian history: The brutal Maratha invasions of Bengal

For medieval India history, incidents that don’t fit into an overarching Hindu versus Muslim narrative tend to be removed from popular discourse. The 1741 Maratha invasion of Bengal is one such example.
Shoaib Daniyal  · Dec 21, 2015 · 10:30 am
Forgotten Indian history: The brutal Maratha invasions of Bengal
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Road names often have a story to tell. In Calcutta, given its long continuous history, even more so.  One of those is the curiously named Marhatta Ditch Lane in Baghbazar in North Calcutta.

The lane refers to an actual ditch built in the 1740s along what was then the northern extremity of Calcutta. Its purpose? To stop the marauding bands of Maratha cavalry who were pillaging Bengal at the time.

In 1741, the cavalry of Raghoji Bhosle, the Maratha ruler of Nagpur, started to pillage western Bengal under the command of Bhaskar Pandit. Bengalis called these Marathas “Bargis” which is a corruption of the Marathi word, “bargir” (etymology: Persian) which means “light cavalry”. Malik Ambar, the celebrated Prime Minister of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate, had instituted the Deccan practice of guerrilla warfare, which at that time took the name bargir-giri. These swift hit-and-run guerrilla tactics became a part of the military heritage of the Deccan, being used to great effect by Shivaji and, eventually, by the Marathas against the hapless residents of Bengal.


In the 1740s, the bargir-giri of Bhosle’s army confounded the forces of Nawab Alivardi Khan, the ruler of Bengal. While the Bengali army tried its best and even defeated the Marathas in the few times they fought head-to-head, most of the time, the Maratha cavalry would simply skirt the Khan’s slow-moving infantry, being interested only in looting.

In the 10 years that they plundered Bengal, their effect was devastating, causing great human hardship as well as economic privation. Contemporary Dutch sources believed that the Bargis killed 4 lakh Bengalis and a great many merchants in western Bengal, writes historian PJ Marshal, “were permanently crippled by losses and extractions”.

In the Maharashtra Purana, a poem in Bengali written by Gangaram, the poet describes the destruction caused by the raiders in great detail:

This time none escaped,
Brahmanas, and Vaisnavas, Sannyasis, and householders,
all had the same fate, and cows were massacred along with men.

So great was the terror of the Bargi that, in a Gabbar-esque twist, lullabies were composed in which mothers would use the fear of a Maratha raid to get their children to go to sleep. These poems are popular amongst Bengalis even today. One of them went something like this:

Chhele ghumalo, paada judaalo bargi elo deshe 
Bulbulite dhaan kheyechhe, khaajnaa debo kishe?
Dhaan phurolo, paan phurolo, khaajnaar opay ki?
Aar kotaa din shobur koro, roshoon boonechhi 

A very inelegant translation:

When the children fall asleep, silence sets in, the Bargis come to our country
Birds have eaten the grain, how shall I pay the tax (to the Bargi)?
All our food and drink is over, how shall I pay the tax?
Wait for a few days, I have sown garlic.

The ditchers of Calcutta

Not only did the Bargis loot the countryside, but in a sign of their effectiveness, managed to raid the capital of Bengal, Murshidabad and even sack the house of one of the richest Indians at the time, the Marwari banker, Jagat Seth.

In spite of this, the Marathas never did attack Calcutta, in all probability being paid off by the British. The ditch, though, did serve to provide citizens with a nickname: ditchers, i.e everyone who lived south of the ditch, in “proper” Calcutta. Eventually the ditch was filled up and was made into what is now Upper Circular Road.

After a decade of pillage, the Marathas eventually stopped their raids after the harried Nawab, accepting defeat, handed over Orissa to Raghoji Bhosle.

Past through the lens of the present

Of course, as Aakar Patel points out in his column, this history of the Marathas is usually never given popular currency. The Marathas are often portrayed as a proto-national force, acting as agents of either India or Hindu nationalism. This is a common tendency and modern nations often construct myths where they extend themselves back into time. Many Pakistanis imagine that its Islamic nationalism existed during the time of Qutb-ud-din Aibak and many Indians think that a Hindu nationalism was furthered by the Marathas looking to set up a – to use Vinayak Savarkar’s term – “Hindu Pad Padshahi”.

Ironically, the very phrase “Hindu Pad Padshahi” is taken entirely from the Persian language, showing how seamless the transition was from the so-called Muslim Deccan sultanates and the Mughals to the so-called Hindu Marathas. And, of course, such a simplistic view of history must also leave out pillaging bands of Marathas attacking a predominantly “Hindu” West Bengal even as a “Muslim” Nawab struggles to push them out. Today’s India is so caught up with the binaries of “Hindu” and “Muslim” that it tends to see the past in those terms as well. But the past is a different country.

Note: an earlier version of this article referred to the existence of semaphore towers in Bengal being connected to the Bargi raids. This is incorrect and has been removed.

Why the Rajputs failed miserably in battle for centuries

What our textbooks don’t tell us: Why the Rajputs failed miserably in battle for centuries

They were defeated by Ghazni, Ghuri, Khilji, Babur, Akbar, the Marathas and the British.
Girish Shahane  · May 20, 2015 · 09:00 am
What our textbooks don't tell us: Why the Rajputs failed miserably in battle for centuries

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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The home minister, Rajnath Singh, wishes our school textbooks told us more about the Rajput king Rana Pratap, and less about the Mughal emperor Akbar. I, on the other hand, wish they explained why Rajputs fared so miserably on the battlefield.

A thousand years ago, Rajput kings ruled much of North India. Then they lost to Ghazni, lost to Ghuri, lost to Khilji, lost to Babur, lost to Akbar, lost to the Marathas, and keeled over before the British. The Marathas and Brits hardly count since the Rajputs were a spent force by the time Akbar was done with them. Having been confined to an arid part of the subcontinent by the early Sultans, they were reduced to vassals by the Mughals.

The three most famous Rajput heroes not only took a beating in crucial engagements, but also retreated from the field of battle. Prithviraj Chauhan was captured while bolting and executed after the second battle of Tarain in 1192 CE, while Rana Sanga got away after losing to Babur at Khanua in 1527, as did Rana Pratap after the battle of Haldighati in 1576. To compensate for, or explain away, these debacles, the bards of Rajputana replaced history with legend.

Specialists in failure

It is worth asking, surely, what made Rajputs such specialists in failure. Yet, the question hardly ever comes up. When it does, the usual explanation is that the Rajputs faced Muslim invaders whose fanaticism was their strength. Nothing could be further than the truth. Muslim rulers did use the language of faith to energise their troops, but commitment is only the first step to victory. The Rajputs themselves never lacked commitment, and their courage invariably drew the praise of their enemies. Even a historian as fundamentalist as Badayuni rhapsodised about Rajput valour. Babur wrote that his troops were unnerved, ahead of the Khanua engagement, by the reputed fierceness of Rana Sanga’s forces, their willingness to fight to the death.

Let’s cancel out courage and fanaticism as explanations, then, for each side displayed these in equal measure. What remains is discipline, technical and technological prowess, and tactical acumen. In each of these departments, the Rajputs were found wanting. Their opponents, usually Turkic, used a complex battle plan involving up to five different divisions. Fleet, mounted archers would harry opponents at the start, and often make a strategic retreat, inducing their enemy to charge into an ambush. Behind these stood the central division and two flanks. While the centre absorbed the brunt of the enemy’s thrust, the flanks would wheel around to surround and hem in opponents. Finally, there was a reserve that could be pressed into action wherever necessary. Communication channels between divisions were quick and answered to a clear hierarchy that was based largely on merit.

Contrast this with the Rajput system, which was simple, predictable, and profoundly foolish, consisting of a headlong attack with no Plan B. In campaigns against forces that had come through the Khyber Pass, Rajputs usually had a massive numerical advantage. Prithviraj’s troops outnumbered Ghuri’s at the second battle of Tarain by perhaps three to one. At Khanua, Rana Sanga commanded at least four soldiers for every one available to Babur. Unlike Sanga’s forces, though, Babur’s were hardy veterans. After defeating Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat, the founder of the Mughal dynasty had the option of using the generals he inherited from the Delhi Sultan, but preferred to stick with soldiers he trusted. He knew numbers are meaningless except when acting on a coherent strategy under a unified command. Rajput troops rarely answered to one leader, because each member of the confederacy would have his own prestige and ego to uphold. Caste considerations made meritocracy impossible. The enemy general might be a freed Abyssinian slave, but Rajput leadership was decided by clan membership.

Absent meritocratic promotion, an established chain of command, a good communication system, and a contingency plan, Rajput forces were regularly taken apart by the opposition’s mobile cavalry. Occasionally, as with the composite bows and light armour of Ghuri’s horsemen, or the matchlocks employed by Babur, technological advances played a role in the outcome.

Ossified tactics

What’s astonishing is that centuries of being out-thought and out-manoeuvred had no impact on the Rajput approach to war. Rana Pratap used precisely the same full frontal attack at Haldighati in 1576 that had failed so often before. Haldighati was a minor clash by the standards of Tarain and Khanua. Pratap was at the head of perhaps 3,000 men and faced about 5,000 Mughal troops. The encounter was far from the Hindu Rajput versus Muslim confrontation it is often made out to be. Rana Pratap had on his side a force of Bhil archers, as well as the assistance of Hakim Shah of the Sur clan, which had ruled North India before Akbar’s rise to power. Man Singh, a Rajput who had accepted Akbar’s suzerainty and adopted the Turko-Mongol battle plan led the Mughal troops. Though Pratap’s continued rebellion following his defeat at Haldighati was admirable in many ways, he was never anything more than an annoyance to the Mughal army. That he is now placed, in the minds of many Indians, on par with Akbar or on a higher plane says much about the twisted communal politics of the subcontinent.

There’s one other factor that is thought to have contributed substantially to Rajput defeats: the opium habit. Taking opium was established practice among Rajputs in any case, but they considerably upped the quantity they consumed when going into battle. Several ended up in no fit state to process any instruction beyond, “kill or be killed”. Opium rendered some soldiers incapable of coordinating complex manoeuvres. There’s an apt warning for school kids: don’t do drugs, or you’ll squander an empire.

Bajirao was Not a Hindu Nationalist, All He Fought For Was Chauth – A Form Of Tax!

Bajirao, No Hindu Nationalist, Was Hated By Most. All He Fought For Was Chauth – A Form Of Tax!

December 20, 2015


Bajirao mastani


I think I’ll write about Bajirao Mastani today. I have not seen the movie, nor do I intend to (only one Gujarati makes the cut as director of watchable pap and that is neither Sanjay Leela Bhansali nor Sajid Nadiadwala, but Manmohan Desai, a true master).

However, I have read Bajirao Mastani’s reviews and one of them said to my alarm, that the film “explores the romantic side of 18th-century Maratha general Bajirao Ballal Bhat, who fought and won 40 battles against the Mughals with an aim to create a unified Hindu kingdom or Akhand Bharatvarsha”.

Whoa, hold it right there. First, the Marathas only ever wanted a Marathi kingdom for themselves. It was not unified, hardly akhand and never Hindu. The Marathas were despised by other Hindu rulers, and disliked by non-Marathi Hindus as well, as history shows us.

Bajirao and the Marathas campaigned for one thing alone, and it was called chauth. It meant a fourth of all revenue from other kingdoms, no matter what the faith of king and subject, and at collecting this Bajirao and the rest were efficient.

Maratha extortion caused Jaipur’s Ishwari Singh to commit suicide in December 1750. Sir Jadunath Sarkar (the Manmohan Desai of our historians) writes of what followed in his four-volume classic, Fall of the Mughal Empire: “On 10 January, some 4,000 Marathas entered Jaipur… (and) despising the helpless condition of a king propped up by their arms, seemed to have behaved towards Jaipur as a city taken by storm. Suddenly the pent-up hatred of the Rajputs burst forth; a riot broke out at noon, and the citizens attacked the unsuspecting Marathas. For nine hours slaughter and pillage raged.”

Bajirao Mastani


The Marathas first invaded Bengal in 1742. Of their behaviour, the New Cambridge History of India tells us that “all authorities, both Indian and European are agreed”. A contemporary writer calls them “slayers of pregnant women and infants” and Sarkar has recorded their gang-rape of Hindu women, inexplicably stuffing the mouths of their victims with dust and breaking their arms and tying them behind their backs. The only Indian to try and protect his subjects against the Marathas incidentally, was the Mughal governor Ali Vardi Khan. So much for Akhand Bharat. But I must say that the Marathas did not behave differently from any other ruler or warrior community, and the idea of a unified Hindu sentiment exists only in the imagination of those who get their history from the movies.

What the Marathas did striking north from the south, the Sikhs did in the opposite direction (they called their extortion ‘rakhi’, or protection, and it was 10% for all Indians). It is undeniably true on the other hand that the Marathas were originals.

It is important for this romance between Bajirao and Mastani that she knew how to ride well because there were no palanquins and howdahs travelling with the Marathas as there were with the Mughals.

Bajirao Mastani

The Marathas were the Mongols of South Asia, always on horseback, and with no infantry and no giant camp behind. Even the scavengers who followed them around, the bargis, rode. When the monsoons ended, the Maratha army, about 40,000 men, rode across the Narmada and Tapi, the border that marked off the Deccan, and attacked ‘Hindustan’.

Shivaji always organised this on a particular day: Dussehra (Bal Thackeray continued this tradition of declaring war on other Indians with his fiery Dussehra speeches). After the death of the peasant king, power passed to the Brahmin peshwas of whom the best was Bajirao. As the Mughal fighting ability and finances (the two being interchangeable) declined after Aurangzeb, the Marathas began penetrating increasingly into hitherto unknown territory in the north. It was the young Bajirao, then only in his teens, who determined, rightly, in one of these raids that the Mughals had gone soft and could no longer defend the realm.

From this point on, the Marathas began holding ground instead of just taking their horses back. It is why we see Marathi names like Holkar and Scindia and Gaekwad in parts of India they do not naturally belong. Everyone grabbed what they could and held onto it, there was no Hindu or Bharat angle to any of it.

Bajirao had one good battlefield victory, against Chin Qilich Khan, first Nizam of Hyderabad. It was a positional win, meaning the arrangement of Bajirao’s force gave no space for Khan and he gave up without much fighting. Like chess. A similar situation came in Panipat, when Abdali positioned the Marathas out. Bravely, the Marathas chose to fight and were slaughtered. Scindia (Jyotiraditya’s ancestor) and Holkar, it may interest the reader, fled the field, and the man who helped Abdali with supplies ensuring his win was Ala Singh. Abdali rewarded him by making him Maharaja of Patiala, Captain Amarinder Singh’s ancestor.

Can you spot any Hindu or nationalist angle to any of it? No, because it exists only in the movies.

How Beautiful is Lebanon

41 Photos to Remind You How Beautiful Lebanon Is

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We dedicate this post to Mohammad Shaar, who inspired the #NotAMartyr selfie protest, and all those who participated, including @daniellemrad@mayafawaz and @thisisjad, as well as to all the Lebanese respondents to this survey who said they were less than proud to be citizens of Lebanon.

Here are some photos to remind you how beautiful Lebanon is – because, simply, it’s been easy for us to forget.


Adonis Waterfalls, Afqa (Via)


Adonis Waterfalls, Afqa (Via)

Anjar (Via)


Anjar (Via)

Barouk Cedars (Via)


Barouk Cedars (Via)

Batroun (Via)


Batroun (Via)

Bcharri (Via)


Bcharri (Via)

Bcharri (Via)


Bcharri (Via)

Bcharri, Qadisha Valley, northern Lebanon (Via)


Bcharri, Qadisha Valley, northern Lebanon (Via)

Faqra (Via)


Faqra (Via)



Faqra Castle (Via)

Faraya (Via)


Faraya (Via)

Faraya (Via)


Faraya (Via)

Hammana (Via)


Hammana (Via)

Hasroun (Via)


Hasroun (Via)

Jbeil (Via)


Jbeil (Via)

Jeita Grotto (Via)


Jeita Grotto (Via)

Jezzine (Via)


Jezzine (Via)

Jounieh Bay (Via)


Jounieh Bay (Via)

Maad (Via)


Maad (Via)

Mar Charbel (Via)


Mar Charbel (Via)

Mohammad Al Amin Mosque (Via)


Mohammad Al Amin Mosque (Via)

RIP Mohammad Shaar (Via)


RIP Mohammed Shaar (Via)

Moukhtara (Via)">Via)


Moukhtara (Via)”>Via)

Mount Lebanon (Via)


Mount Lebanon (Via)

Mzar (Via)


Mzar (Via)

Nahr El Ibrahim (Via)


Nahr El Ibrahim (Via)

North Lebanon (Via)


North Lebanon (Via)

Sarma (Via)


Sarma (Via)

Sidon Sea Castle (Via)


Sidon Sea Castle (Via)

Tannourine (Via)


Tannourine (Via)







Mount Lebanon Panorama (Via)


Panorama view from Mount Lebanon (Via)




Beirut (Via)


Beirut (Via)

Beirut (Via)


Beirut (Via)

Beirut Street Art (Via)


Beirut Street Art (Via)

Beirut (Via)


Beirut (Via)

Beirut (Via)


Beirut (Via)

Beirut (Via)


Beirut (Via)

Beirut by Zena Assi (Via)


Beirut by Zena Assi (Via)




How Beautiful is Saudi Arabia

37 Photos to Remind You 

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The KSA gets a bad rep sometimes, and with the day-to-day rat race of work and traffic and life, it’s easy to forget how visually stunning the kingdom is.

Take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous aesthetics of Saudi Arabia with these beautiful photos:


Hail (A. Aziz bin Hajjaj Via)


Hail (A. Aziz bin Hajjaj Via)


Hail (Via)


Hail (Via)


Dawadmi (Khalid A. Al-Saif Via)


Dawadmi (Khalid A. Al-Saif Via)


(Abdulhameed Shamandour Via)


(Abdulhameed Shamandour Via)


Al Khobar (Mohammed Al-Jawi Via)


Al Khobar (Mohammed Al-Jawi Via)


Al Masjid An Nabawi (Muneeb Mohamed Via)


Al Masjid An Nabawi (Muneeb Mohamed Via)


Al Masjid An Nabawi (Via)


Al Masjid An Nabawi (Via)


(Salem Al Atwi Via)


(Salem Al Atwi Via)


Boulders Beach (Osama Khaled )


Boulders Beach (Osama Khaled Via)


Angawi House, Jeddah (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


Angawi House, Jeddah (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


Jeddah (Via)




Corniche, Jeddah (Bilal Ahmad Via)


Corniche, Jeddah (Bilal Ahmad Via)


Old Jeddah (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


Old Jeddah (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


(Farhan Al-Salman )


(Farhan Al-Salman Via)


Gulf of Saudi Arabia (Ali Areda Via)


Gulf of Saudi Arabia (Ali Areda Via)


(Karim Hussain Via)


(Karim Hussain Via)


(Khalid A. Al-Saif Via)


(Khalid A. Al-Saif Via)


(Mohammed Al-Jawi Via)


(Mohammed Al-Jawi Via)


(Abdulhameed Shamandour Via)


(Abdulhameed Shamandour Via)


Nabatean Characters in Madan Saleh (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


Nabatean Characters in Madan Saleh (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


Old Nabatean Settlement (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


Old Nabatean Settlement (Souvenirs Heureux Via)


(Osama Khaled )


(Osama Khaled Via)


Riyadh (Saad Mdawi AlAhmari Via)


Riyadh (Saad Mdawi AlAhmari Via)


Summan (Khaled Al Juhaim)


Summan (Khaled Al JuhaimVia)


Makkah (Via)


Makkah (Via)


An aerial view of Makkah ()


An aerial view of Makkah (Via)


Haram, Makkah (Via)


Haram, Makkah (Via)


Cave of Hira, Mecca (A. Shamandour )


Cave of Hira, Mecca (A. Shamandour Via)


A view of Al Wajd from the International Space Station


A view of Al Wajd from the International Space Station


Desert near the oasis city of Al-Ula (Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Desert near the oasis city of Al-Ula (Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Asir Mountains (Via)


Asir Mountains (Via)






Darb Zubaidah (Via)


Darb Zubaidah (Via)


Great Gorge near Tabuk  (Via)


Great Gorge near Tabuk (Via)


Madain Saleh (Via)


Madain Saleh (Via)


Madain Saleh (Via)


Madain Saleh (Via)


Najran (Via)


Najran (Via)

Secret £14million Bible in which ‘Jesus predicts coming of Prophet Muhammad’ unearthed in Turkey

Secret £14million Bible in which ‘Jesus predicts coming of Prophet Muhammad’ unearthed in Turkey

  • Vatican ‘wants to see’ 1,500-year-old ancient script
  • Has been hidden by Turkish state for 12 years
  • Handwritten in gold-lettered Aramaic



A secret Bible in which Jesus is believed to predict the coming of the Prophet Muhammad to Earth has sparked serious interest from the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI is claimed to want to see the 1,500-year-old book, which many say is the Gospel of Barnabas, that has been hidden by the Turkish state for the last 12 years.

The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome, penned in Jesus’ native Aramaic language, is said to contain his early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet’s coming.

Secret Bible: The 1,500-year-old tome was is said to contain Jesus' early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet's coming

Secret Bible: The 1,500-year-old tome was is said to contain Jesus’ early teachings and his prediction of the Prophet’s coming

Ancient: The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000

Ancient: The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000

The leather-bound text, written on animal hide, was discovered by Turkish police during an anti-smuggling operation in 2000.

It was closely guarded until 2010, when it was finally handed over to the Ankara Ethnography Museum, and will soon be put back on public display following a minor restoration.

A photocopy of a single page from the handwritten ancient manuscript is thought to be worth £1.5million.


Turkish culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay said the book could be an authentic version of the Gospel, which was suppressed by the Christian Church for its strong parallels with the Islamic view of Jesus.

He also said the Vatican had made an official request to see the scripture – a controversial text which Muslims claim is an addition to the original gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

In line with Islamic belief, the Gospel treats Jesus as a human being and not a God.

Serious interest: The Vatican, under Pope Benedict XVI, is said to want to see the recently re-discovered Bible

Serious interest: The Vatican, under Pope Benedict XVI, is said to want to see the recently re-discovered Bible

Historic: The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome is penned in Jesus' native Aramaic language

Historic: The £14million handwritten gold lettered tome is penned in Jesus’ native Aramaic language

It rejects the ideas of the Holy Trinity and the Crucifixion and reveals that Jesus predicted the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.

In one version of the gospel, he is said to have told a priest: ‘How shall the Messiah be called? Muhammad is his blessed name’.


Born in Cyprus as Joseph, Barnabas was an Early Christian later named an apostle.

His story appears in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul mentions him in some of his epistles.

The date, place, and circumstances of his death are historically unverifiable.

But Christian tradition states that he was martyred at Salamis, Cyprus.

He is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Church, with his feast day on June 11.

And in another Jesus denied being the Messiah, claiming that he or she would be Ishmaelite, the term used for an Arab.

Despite the interest in the newly re-discovered book, some believe it is a fake and only dates back to the 16th century.

The oldest copies of the book date back to that time, and are written in Spanish and Italian.

Protestant pastor İhsan Özbek said it was unlikely to be authentic.

This is because St Barnabas lived in the first century and was one of the Apostles of Jesus, in contrast to this version which is said to come from the fifth or sixth century.


He told the Today Zaman newspaper: ‘The copy in Ankara might have been written by one of the followers of St Barnabas.

‘Since there is around 500 years in between St Barnabas and the writing of the Bible copy, Muslims may be disappointed to see that this copy does not include things they would like to see.

‘It might have no relation with the content of the Gospel of Barnabas.’

Theology professor Ömer Faruk Harman said a scientific scan of the bible may be the only way to reveal how old it really is.


Read more: 
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Did Cancer Evolve to Protect Us?

Did Cancer Evolve to Protect Us?

A physics-based, “atavistic” model posits that cancer is a “safe mode” for stressed cells and suggests that oxygen and immunotherapy are the best ways to beat the disease

A new theory declares cancer is the reexpression of an ancient “preprogrammed” trait that has been lying dormant. 
Credit: National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons

Could cancer be our cells’ way of running in “safe mode,” like a damaged computer operating system trying to preserve itself, when faced with an external threat? That’s the conclusion reached by cosmologist Paul Daviesat Arizona State University in Tempe (A.S.U.) and his colleagues, who have devised a controversial new theory for cancer’s origins, based on its evolutionary roots. If correct, their model suggests that a number of alternative therapies, including treatment with oxygen and infection with viral or bacterial agents, could be particularly effective.

At first glance, Davies, who is trained in physics rather than biomedical science, seems an unlikely soldier in the “war on cancer.” But about seven years ago he was invited to set up a new institute at A.S.U.—one of 12 funded by the National Cancer Institute—to bring together physical scientists and oncologists to find a new perspective on the disease. “We were asked to rethink cancer from the bottom up,” Davies says.

Davies teamed up with Charley Lineweaver, an astrobiologist at The Australian National University in Canberra, and Mark Vincent, an oncologist at the London Health Sciences Center in Ontario. Together they have come up with an “atavistic” model positing cancer is the reexpression of an ancient “preprogrammed” trait that has been lying dormant. In a new paper, which appeared in BioEssays in September, they argue that because cancer appears in many animals and plants, as well as humans, then it must have evolved hundreds of millions of years ago when we shared a common single-celled ancestor. At that time, cells benefited from immortality, or the ability to proliferate unchecked, as cancer does. When complex multicellular organisms developed, however, “immortality was outsourced to the eggs and sperm,” Davies says, and somatic cells (those not involved in reproduction) no longer needed this function.

The team’s hypothesis is that when faced with an environmental threat to the health of a cell—radiation, say, or a lifestyle factor—cells can revert to a “preprogrammed safe mode.” In so doing, the cells jettison higher functionality and switch their dormant ability to proliferate back on in a misguided attempt to survive. “Cancer is a fail-safe,” Davies remarks. “Once the subroutine is triggered, it implements its program ruthlessly.”

Speaking at a medical engineering conference held at Imperial College London, on September 11, Davies outlined a set of therapies for cancer based on this atavistic model. Rather than simply attacking cancer’s ability to reproduce, or “cancer’s strength,” as Davies terms it, the model exposes “cancer’s Achilles’ heel.” For instance, if the theory is correct, then cancer evolved at a time when Earth’s environment was more acidic and contained less oxygen. So the team predicts that treating patients with high levels of oxygen and reducing sugar in their diet, to lower acidity, will strain the cancer and cause tumors to shrink.

The effects of oxygen level on cancer have been independently investigated for many years and appear to support Davies’s ideas, saysCostantino Balestra, a physiologist at Paul Henri Spaak School and the Free University of Brussels, both in Belgium. In unpublished work that has been submitted for peer review, for instance, Balestra and his colleagues have recently demonstrated that slightly elevated oxygen levels can begin to induce leukemia cell death without harming healthy cells. “It almost looks too easy,” Balestra says. “Our preliminary results seem to show that supplying a little extra oxygen for one or two hours a day, in combination with other traditional cancer therapies, would benefit patients without any harsh side effects.” Balestra emphasizes, however, that this work was not carried out to test Davies’s hypothesis and cannot be taken as proof that the atavistic model is correct.

Davies and his colleagues also advocate immunotherapy—specifically, selectively infecting patients with bacterial or viral agents. Medical researchers are already investigating the promising effects of such an approach for artificially boosting patients’ immune systems to aid in their recovery. Immunotherapy has already performed well in treating melanomas, for instance, and its effects on other cancers are being studied. According to the atavistic model, however, in addition to invigorating the immune system, cancer cells should also be more vulnerable than healthy cells to being killed by infectious agents because they lose higher protective functionality when they “reboot into safe mode,” Davies says. Recent studies injecting clostridium spores in rats, dogs and a human patient also appear to support this interpretation, he says.

Some scientists, such as David Gorski, a surgical oncologist at Wayne State University, remain skeptical. “The ‘predictions’ of atavism are nothing that scientists haven’t come to by other paths,” he says.

Davies and his colleagues have already begun a more direct test of their theory, in answer to such criticisms. “The key to our theory is looking at the ages of the genes responsible for cancer,” Davies explains. The atavistic model claims that with the onset of cancer, cells revert to a more primitive mode and more recently evolved functions are switched off. The team therefore predicts that as cancer progresses, more recently evolved genes should lose function, whereas ancient genes become active.

To check if this hypothesis is correct, Davies and his colleagues are currently cross-referencing data from the cancer genome atlas, which identifies the genes that are involved in cancer, with various databases that classify the genes that we have in common with other species. The latter data set enables biologists to trace back genes’ ages. Any correlation that exists between the gene age and cancer will be a boost to the atavistic model. “Combining the two data sets hasn’t been done before,” Davies says. “But it’s essentially a data-mining exercise that doesn’t take much money and it’s something we’re working on now.”

Brendon Coventry, a surgical oncologist and immunotherapist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, sees value in physicists working with oncologists to piece together existing medical evidence to try to understand cancer’s origins. “Enormous amounts of money and the brightest minds in biological and medical science have failed to make a big impact in the war on cancer, so maybe it’s time for a new paradigm,” Coventry says, adding: “A cosmologist can look at the cell as an ‘internal universe’ to be explored in a new way.”


Paul Davies: Physics Could Help Fight Cancer [Podcast]
April 13, 2011

Interdisciplinary Research Partnerships Set Out to Uncover the Physics of Cancer
December 27, 2010

It’s the “clock kid” all over again: A 12-year-old Sikh boy is the latest victim of racist terrorism paranoia

It’s the “clock kid” all over again: A 12-year-old Sikh boy is the latest victim of racist terrorism paranoia

In Dallas, Armaan Singh Sarai spent 3 days in juvenile detention after a classmate said his backpack held a bomb



It's the "clock kid" all over again: A 12-year-old Sikh boy is the latest victim of racist terrorism paranoiaArmaan Singh (Credit: The Dallas Morning News)

Imagine that your twelve-year-old son doesn’t come home one day after school. You’re always worried about him because he’s not even a teenager but has already required three open heart surgeries thanks to a congenital condition. He’s not a tough kid but a “goofball,” and you’ve recently moved from San Antonio to Arlington, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where everything is bigger, including the trouble. Nobody is telling you where he is. Nobody will answer your questions. He’s just…disappeared.


School officials aren’t helping. Neither are the police. Eventually, you discover that he’s being held in a juvenile detention center. He’s born and raised in Texas. An American citizen. A kid.

Why did the Arlington police hold a twelve-year-old boy with a heart condition for three days without alerting his parents? Why did the school principal call the police in the first place?

Because his name is Armaan Singh Sarai, his working-class Indian family is Sikh, and a “bully” at his school accused him of having a bomb in his backpack.

According to a Facebook post by Ginee Haer, who identifies herself as his cousin,

“On Friday, December 11th, 2015, my cousin attended school, like any other normal 12 year old child. A bully in class thought it would be funny to accuse him of having a bomb, and so the principal, without any questioning, interrogation, or notification to his parents, called the police. Worried & frightened at home, his family was concerned as to why he had not reached home right after school. They started calling every police department in the area, only to find out he was sent to a Juvenile facility. They kept him held behind bars for three consecutive days, before finally releasing him on Monday, December 15th.”

Armaan had carried a “power bag” to school, meaning his backpack has a built-in battery charger for a cell phone. Numerous companies sell these bags, which are not cheap but popular enough to be sold out right now in several styles and categories on Amazon. “The student in front of me, who is the one who made the accusation. . . said that [the backpack] looked like a bomb,” [Armaan] Singh said, per a report in the Washington Post. “Then Friday. . . I came back to that period and he was in front of me again and he said ‘I’m going to go tell on you. I’m going to go tell on you and say all this stuff about you. I’m going to go tell on you.’ Singh said he laughed at the other student, who did the same.

But the other student wasn’t joking. He made good on his threat, telling the teacher that Armaan had a bomb. The teacher told the principal, who called the police, which came to school and “grabbed” him. Now at home because he’s been suspended from school, Armaan must wear an ankle monitor as he awaits his court date. Though he is twelve years old, it is currently unclear whether he’ll be tried as a juvenile or an adult, and what charges he will face for the crime of carrying a trendy backpack to school.

There are more than a few parallels to “clock kid” Ahmed Mohamed, who was fourteen years old and living with his family in a Dallas suburb when he was accused of bringing a bomb to school. But the specifics of Armaan’s situation more closely resemble the targeting of Veereender Jubbal, a Sikh who was set up to become the face of terrorism after the November 13 Paris attacks. Veerender is not a Muslim or a terrorist. He’s a Canadian. But, like Armaan, Veerender has a goofy sense of humor and loves to play video games, and he was maliciously targeted by racist individuals in the gaming community who knew that he had no involvement whatsoever with Islamic extremism, but went ahead and labeled him a terrorist anyways. Newspapers around the world picked up a doctored image of Veerender which had falsely identified him as one of the 11/13 Paris bombers, thereby placing his life in real danger. Since November 23, after being inundated with vitriol and threats, Veerender turned himself into “Ghost Veerender” and went on a Twitter hiatus.

In Armaan’s case, a nameless “bully” targeted the most vulnerable kid in striking range at his school: a boy with a serious heart condition who was not only the new kid but whose race and religion identified him as an outsider. The bully chose his victim well: the police are vociferously defending their actions despite no evidence of any wrongdoing on Armaan’s part. Instead, at every step of the way, the bully’s lie was supported, endorsed, and reinforced by the actions of every adult authority figure who ought to have known better. That they did not is far more troubling than a child acting cruelly. The institutional response is only comprehensible inside a racist framework that makes it seem reasonable to assume that all brown people are Islamic extremists conspiring to blow up white Americans, and presumed to be guilty rather than innocent.

“Protect and serve? My ass,” the Sikh bank clerk complains in Spike Lee’s film, “Inside Man,” 2006, about a confounding bank heist where the police are unable to distinguish the hostages from the criminals, and so they treat the victims as if they’re violent felons. “Where’s my turban?” the bank clerk asks angrily. “I’m not talking to anyone without a turban. It’s part of my religion to cover my head as in respect to God. I’m a Sikh. Not an Arab, by the way, like your cops called me outside…First you beat me and now you want my help…Fucking tired of this shit. What happened to my fucking civil rights? Why can’t I go anywhere without being harassed?”

It shouldn’t even be relevant that Sikhs are not Muslims, because being mistaken for “an Arab” isn’t the nut of the problem. What’s wrong is being attacked and bullied, period. What’s worse is the cultural condoning of such violence. Yet numerous reports have not only been tracking a surge of Islamophobia since 9/11 and the spike of hate crimes against Muslims since 11/13, but also they’ve also repeatedly pointed out–in tones of near despair—that, collectively, white Americans are fine with it. Islamophobia is so thick and pernicious that a shameful number of Republicans (and Democrats) are in favor of bombing Agrabah  just because it’s somewhere in “Arabia” — when it’s actually the fictional setting of the Disney film “Aladdin.”

Given the difficulties of countering the Disneyfied geographic imaginary, it shouldn’t be too surprising that in Texas, racist paranoia has made it possible for a bully to accuse brown kid of bringing a bomb to school, and the institutions of education and law enforcement rush to validate the accuser, not the victim. In this era of “see something, say something,” an increasingly intolerant political narrative affirms that the bully did the right thing. Things you learn by going today to school and obeying the rules.

Paula Young Lee is the author of “Deer Hunting in Paris,” winner of the 2014 Lowell Thomas “Best Book” award of the Society of American Travel Writers. She is currently writing outdoor adventure books for middle grade and young adults. Follow her on Twitter@paulayounglee

30 Days Jail Time For Israeli Sniper Who Bragged About Shooting 13 Children in a Day

Jail Time For Israeli Sniper Who Bragged About Shooting Children



It’s been several days since we first screen captured the Instagram account of Israel Defense Forces sniper David D. Ovadia, and his cached comments on the account of Palestinian Sherrii ElKaderi.

Many dozens of news sites tripped over themselves to copy and paste our report, even without having access to the sources that brought it to us. Free of the burden of citation, they noted the details we had relayed publicly, but when pressed, they could not elaborate. This led to many to suspect that the post from Ovadia was a hoax, that he had never in fact posted such comments.

For her part, ElKaderi has tirelessly confirmed the post by the IDF soldier, even who boasted of murdering 13 Gazan children in one day. An IDF Combat Engineering Corps Soldier, specifically, Ovadia posed with a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle, taunting the Palestinian ElKaderi with the now famous screen captured post. 

As we said from the beginning, it was unclear and perhaps unlikely that the Barrett was used in the commission of such crimes, as this weapon is usually reserved for the best of the best marksmen. But Ovadia’s posting of himself with the .50 caliber rifle was obviously meant to be visually intimidating to Palestinians.

As Israeli, Iranian, European and pretty much everyone but U.S. media outlets (save the International Business Times), took our report seriously, the IDF began doing an investigation of their own. Ovadia’s initial plea was that his account had been “hacked”, a claim which many proponents of the IDF incursion into Gaza quickly jumped on, as we had reported the “hacktivist” group  “Anonymous” took control of his Instagram account, deleting it entirely after our report first broke.

Ovadia thought that would be the end of it. Within hours, armies of self-described “debunkers” flooded social media, claiming that this was a “hoax”. But the IDF investigators still smelled something funny about Ovadia’s professions of innocence. They pressed on with their questioning, only to catch him in a number of lies. Finally, Ovadia confessed to having made the post, and quickly deleting it once it was clear he was going to get in trouble for his hateful comments.

Now, the IDF has announced that Ovadia is being sentenced to 30 days in jail. They assert that he did not actually shoot 13 children, but was instead using the claim to harass and terrorize Palestinians on social media. As we suspected, Ovadia has not even qualified for the .50 caliber rifle, but had posed with it to look intimidating.

Before finally confessing, Ovadia’s hateful claims of proudly carrying out war crimes led to Anonymous hacking the websites of the Mossad intelligence agency in Israel “for the brave IDF Sniper”, in reference to Ovadia, and following up by taking down the Israeli Ministry ofDefense as well, similarly attributing attack to Ovadia’s online claims.

Meanwhile, there are still people who believe they are “debunking” this story, which is now headline news in Israel. On the contrary, however, this story has been investigated, confirmed, and led to Ovadia doing some (though not enough) jail time.

(Article by Ari Simeon, M.B. David, and Isa Abu Jamal)

Muslim woman in Hijab sworn in with Holy Quran as Civil Court Judge in New York


Muslim woman in Hijab sworn in with Holy Quran as Civil Court Judge in New York


New York: Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo, a Muslim woman, took oath as a civil court judge in New York on Thursday, while swearing to abide by the U.S. Constitution placing her hand on the Holy Qur’an, Morocco World News reported.

Judge Walker took her oath respecting the sacred book of her Islamic faith, the Holy Qur’an, while also wearing a hijab.

In the United States and the majority of Western countries, politicians and members of the courts are sworn in to their positions while placing their hand on the Holy Bible when they take their oath.


readalso California mosque burnt during Friday prayer – Trump blamed


A video posted on Facebook shows the moment when Judge Walker was sworn in as a civil court judge of the 7th Municipal District at the Brooklyn Borough Hall in New York City.

“All is praise is indeed due to the Most High! I am humbled that my community has entrusted me with the immense responsibility of ensuring that everyone has notice and a fair opportunity to be heard in the halls of justice,” Walker wrote on her website.

The video of her ceremony has prompted many comments in favor her induction.

Carolyn received a Juris Doctor from New York law school. She serves as first vice-chair of Brooklyn community board 5, board chair of the George Walker Jr. Community Coalition, Inc., board member of the east New York restoration local development corporation, and a member of the 75th Precinct community council.

Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo is also a trained mediator with the New York peace institute, according to her biography.


Posted by John Prager on 13 Dec 2015*cking%20Sh*t%20(SCREENSHOTS)&type=share&

Conservatives are furious that not only is a Muslim woman a judge — but she had the audacity to swear her oath of office on a Quran rather than the Bible like a good, patriotic Christian would. There is not, nor has there ever been, a requirement that someone swearing an oath do so on a Bible, but conservatives are pretending that this was the case in an effort to justify their attacks on Judge Carolyn Walker, who chose to swear her oath on a book in which she places her faith.

“Raise your right hand, and place your left on the Bible,” writes Young Conservatives’ John S. Roberts. “That’s the way things work in America when an elected official assumes his or her post. At least, that’s the way things use to work.”

After quoting an article that points out Walker’s decision to take her oath on her holy book while wearing her religion’s traditional clothing. To most, this would be a brave decision in light of the GOP-inspired Islamophobic atmosphere in America. To conservatives, it’s “crazy.”


“I’d much rather have a judge swear on the Bible than on the Koran, because one doesn’t call for the deaths of all infidels,” Roberts writes before claiming that because Christianity is the majority religion in the United States, we are a Christian nation.

“This is political correctness gone too far, and we have to hope there aren’t more occurrences around the nation like this one in New York,” he says. “If officials can take their oaths on the Koran, what’s next? A cookbook?”

Technically, yes, anyone can swear an oath on a cookbook if they want. They could swear on a pot roast, a glass of chardonnay, or their pet poodle. What they place their hand on does not matter; what’s important is that they uphold their oath — and there’s no indication that Walker will not do her job splendidly. Unfortunately, conservatives don’t see it that way. To them, this is just another sign of “Obama’s America.” Young Cons’ readers weighed in in the comment section:


The incredibly wrong-headed and awful belief that Muslims can not be faithful to their god while also upholding the Constitution is a belief that conservatives hold almost as dear as their opinion that a Christian can remain faithful to both. Unfortunately for them, we are a diverse nation comprised of individuals of varying beliefs and backgrounds — something the Right has a lot of trouble tolerating.

Congratulations to Judge Walker, who will almost assuredly do an excellent jo

Chicago’s non-Muslim school girls wear hijab to promote acceptance of Islamic beliefs


Chicago’s non-Muslim school girls wear hijab to promote acceptance of Islamic beliefs


Chicago: Vernon Hills High School is objecting to Islamophobia and racism with an initiative called “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab.”

Over a dozen non-Muslim girls agreed to wear a traditional Islamic head scarf to better understand the Muslim faith and life as a Muslim woman.

School senior Yasmeen Abdallah, the president of the MSA, who coordinated the event said, “This event is to hopefully denounce negative stereotypes.”

“You can’t really understand or judge a person and their beliefs until you understand why they do it and what it’s like for them to do what they’re doing,” she said.

“I think it is a difficult time to be a Muslim student in our high school, in our community and in America,” School principal Jon Guillaume told the Daily Herald by praising the Muslim student’s initiative.

“I think this is an opportunity for our kids to embrace the Muslim community within the school. For other kids outside of this organization, to understand what it’s like for these girls to walk through our halls in this garment in a way that stands out from other kids. So, I’m proud of them.”

Charli Mosley, who participated in the event told the Herald that she wanted to wear the Hijab because her uncle is a Muslim and she hoped to “bring more acceptance” to Islamic beliefs.

Charli Mosley_Hijab

“I wanted to learn more about the religion, considering my uncle is also Muslim,” Charli said while wearing a red hijab. “With more people wearing a hijab around school, it could bring more acceptances to the religion and have more people become more aware.”

Illinois has the highest population of Muslims in the United States, but hate crimes and violence directed at Muslims is on the rise.

Muslim anti-Isis march not covered by mainstream media outlets, say organisers

Muslim anti-Isis march not covered by mainstream media outlets, say organisers

‘Hundreds of Muslims flooded the streets of London to condemn terrorism. Media’s response: Silence’

Organisers of an anti-Isis march in London have spoken of their frustration after mainstream media outlets failed to cover the demonstration.

Thousands of people took part in the annual UK Arbaeen Procession, coordinated by the Husaini Islamic Trust UK, on Sunday.

Although Shia Muslims take part in the march each year to mark the Arbaeen, or mourning, anniversary of Imam Husain – a seventh-century leader who fought for social justice – this year organisers decided to use the event as a platform to denounce terrorism following the recent Isis attacks in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere.

Organiser Waqar Haider said: “This year we had hundreds of placards which were basically saying ‘no’ to terrorism and ‘no’ to Isis. A very direct message.

“For us it was a controversial move to go political. Normally we don’t mix politics with mourning. However with what’s happened recently, we thought we had to make sure we as a community totally disassociate ourselves with what’s happening elsewhere in the world.”

Despite this, Mr Haider said the demonstration still failed to garner attention in the mainstream media because of “stereotyping”.

“It is the oldest annual Muslim event in London but unfortunately it is very difficult to get any media coverage,” he said.

“I think it’s because of stereotyping. People see the entire Muslim community as one community.

“[But] the Muslim community is a very diverse community, with the vast majority of us horrified by Isis.

“With our event, we had so many people from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s more of a family event in terms of people it attracts.”

Volunteer Mohammed Al-Sharifi also commented on the lack of media coverage for the event.

In a tweet, he said: “Hundreds of Muslims flooded the streets of London yesterday to condemn terrorism. Media’s response: Silence.”

His post has been re-tweeted more than 5,000 times.

Other social media users also believed the demonstration should have been more widely covered.

Mr Al-Sharifi told The Independent: “I think the reason the mainstream media hasn’t covered the story is because I don’t think it’s juicy enough to sell papers. It’s simply not interesting enough.”

“Unfortunately [some] media outlets have gone for stories that to some extent can be divisive. If a group of Muslims do something good, it’s not mentioned or the religion is not mentioned. But if someone does something [negative], it is on the front page and their religion is mentioned.”

“It’s feeding this hatred and divisiveness and demonisation, I think, of Muslims.”

He said the media had an increased level of responsibility to create a cohesive society.

“The reason my tweet went viral… is because I think people realise there is a huge disparity between what they’re being fed in the media and the reality of the day-to-day interactions they have with Muslims at work, at school.”

Mr Al-Sharifi called on the country’s leadership to counter Islamophobia. 

David Cameron praises individual who said ‘You ain’t no Muslim, bruv’

The Arbaeen processions take place in other locations around the world including Iraq, Nigeria and the US.

During this year’s event in Kano, a Boko Ha

Where was the patriotism of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha for 22 years between 1925-1947

Where was the patriotism of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha for 22 years between 1925-1947?

December 12, 2015

Historian Irfan Habib on the rightwing project of mythologizing of history

The freedom enjoyed by RSS and other Sanghis was wrested from the British with the blood of Muslims of Kerala and other parts of India. And now these cowards who licked the boots of the colonisers are the only “patriots” in India? – Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath



Teesta Setalvad:        
You famously and most recently said that the mythologizing of history seems to be a great preoccupation of the present dispensation. What exactly does the mythologizing of history entail ?
Irfan Habib:              
Well, actually there are two aspects to this. One is the aspect that developed in the early 20th century. That is, to claim for ancient India or in their words, Hindu civilization achievements that are unique that should place that civilization above every other culture. This took early forms like claiming great antiquity for the Sanskrit language and particularly for the Vedas, and to claim all kinds of scientific achievements for a very early period, achievements that are not recorded or only occur in the epics and so forth.

So they are heirs to that tradition and because of their Hindutva doctrine which goes back, of course, to their foundation, the foundation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)  in the 1920s, they have espoused that. And then, the anti-Muslim tradition, that also has early beginnings and of course that had Muslim counterparts also. So they have picked up all of those prejudices and prejudiced interpretations of medieval and ancient Indian history. For instance the Hindu Mahasabha slogan that “ we have being in under foreign rules and 1000 AD” has been picked up by them. As if all Muslim rulers were foreigners and sent money abroad, wealth abroad. That’s one aspect of mytholigising (of history). The second (aspect) is, to which adequate attention has not been paid, I think, is their distortion of the history of the national movement.

Although they were themselves founded 22 years before Independence, they did nothing against the English. So when their leaders say that the patriotism of the RSS cannot be questioned –I am quoting their recent statements — one wonders where that patriotism was from 1925 to 1947?

They took no part in the national movement. They have no heroes; their leaders never went to jail excepted Hegdewar by mistake when he was arrested for a few days. I think during the civil disobedience movement. But otherwise nothing happened. Golwalkar has hardly any harsh word for the British Government compared to his harsh words against Muslims. So their problem is that they can only revile the leaders of the national movement and now what they are doing is to pick up certain people who did not in their view can be espoused that their heroes. Their main heroes today, it seems, are Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose and Patel.

None of the three had anything to do with the RSS or Hindu Mahasabha. Obviously they can’t find any other heroes. The only thing they could say about these three people was that that two worked critical of Gandhiji, Shahid Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel was critical of Jawaharlal Nehru’s views. They had controversies, for instances reflected in some of Nehru’s writings (Tomorrow in India) against Patel. They don’t realize, of course and many people don’t realise this, that in the national movement it was quiet common to have these differences without impairing the unity against the British.

In that unity, the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha had no place. So now they building up a mythology in which the so-called ‘Hindu nationalism’ –actually that’s a misnomer –because they were never nationalist. They were communalists.
So in which the Hindu communalism is trying to be portrayed as the mainstream of the national movement. Muslims are being excluded from it — you will find no Muslim name among the leaders of the national movement– in the textbooks which the first NDA government produced and I think the same thing would happen now.



The man leaned over his creation, carefully assembling the tiny pieces. This was the hardest part, placing a thin silver plated diaphragm over the internal chamber. The diaphragm had to be strong enough to support itself, yet flexible enough to be affected by the slightest sound. One false move, and the device would be ruined. To fail meant a return to the road work detail, quite possibly a death sentence. Finally, the job was done. The man leaned back to admire his work.

The man in this semi-fictional vignette was Lev Sergeyevich Termen, better known in the western world as Léon Theremin. You know Theremin for the musical instrument which bears his name. In the spy business though, he is known as the creator of one of the most successful clandestine listening devices ever used against the American government.


The creation of Léon Theremin’s bug can be attributed to the success of his instrument. Theremin, the man, was a scientist by training. Theremin, the instrument, uses the player’s hand proximity to a pair of antennas to generate electronic sound. As a young student, Theremin was an aspiring physicist. World War One saw him enter military engineering school for radio operations. After the war, he worked on experiments as diverse as a device to measure the dielectric constant of gases and hypnosis.  Léon even did work in Ivan Pavlov’s lab.

In 1920, while working on his dielectric measurement device, Theremin noticed that an audio oscillator changed frequency when he moved his hand near the circuit. The Theremin was born. In November of 1920 Léon gave his first public concert with the instrument. He began touring with it in the late 1920’s and in 1928, he brought the Theremin to the United States. He set up a lab in New York and worked with RCA to produce the instrument.

Theremin’s personal life during this period was less successful than his professional endeavors. His wife, Katia, had come to America with him and studied medicine at a school about 35 miles from the City. For much of this time, Léon and Katia lived apart, seeing each other only a couple of times a week. While at school, Katia became associated with a fascist organization. The Russian Consulate caught wind of this and summarily divorced Léon from Katia. They couldn’t risk their rising star being associated with the Nazis.

Theremin eventually remarried, this time to Lavinia Williams, a ballerina. Lavinia was African-American and the couple faced ridicule in American social circles due to their mixed race. However, the Soviet Consulate did not have a problem with their relationship. In 1938, with the Nazi threat growing stronger, Theremin returned to Russia. He expected to send for his wife a few weeks after his arrival. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case. Léon and Lavinia never saw each other again.

Upon arrival in Leningrad, Theremin was imprisoned, suspected of crimes against the state. He found himself working in a laboratory for the state department. This was not an unusual situation. Aircraft designer Andrei Tupolev and missile designer Sergei Korolyov were two of many others who faced a similar fate.
It was during this time as a prisoner that Theremin designed his listening device.

Placing the bug

greatseal-frontThe date was August 4, 1945. The european war was over, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima was only two days away. A group of 10 to 15 year old boys from the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union arrived at the US embassy carrying a hand carved great seal of the United States of America. They presented the seal to W. Averell Harriman, the US ambassador to the Soviet Union. The seal was given as a gesture of friendship between the US and Soviet Union. Harriman hung the plaque in the study of his residence, Spaso House. Unbeknownst to Harriman, the seal contained Theremin’s sophisticated listening device. The device, later known as “The Thing”, would not be discovered until 1952 — roughly seven years later.


sealandbug-cutawayThe discovery of the great seal listening device is an interesting one. British broadcasters reported hearing American voices on the their radios in the vicinity of the American embassy. No Americans were transmitting though, which meant there had to be a bug. Numerous sweeps were performed, all of which turned up nothing. Joseph Bezjian had a hunch though. He stayed at the embassy pretending to be a house guest. His equipment was shipped in separately, disguised from Russian eyes. Powering up his equipment, Bezjian began a sweep of the building. With his receiver tuned to 1.6 GHz, he heard the bug’s audio, and quickly isolated the source in the great seal. Close inspection of the carving found it had been hollowed out, and a strange device placed behind the eagle’s beak. No batteries or wires were evident, and the device was not powered through the nail which had been hanging the seal. Bezjian removed the device from the great seal and was so cautious the he slept with it under his pillow that night for safe keeping. The next day he sent it back to Washington for analysis.

Theory of Operation

Bug-mountedThe great seal bug quickly became known as “The Thing”. It was a passive resonant cavity device, containing no batteries or other power source. It consisted of an antenna and a small cylinder. One side of the cylinder was solid. The other side consisted of a very thin diaphragm, obviously some sort of microphone. Passive resonant cavities had been explored before, both in the US and abroad, but this is the first time we know of that was used for clandestine purposes. In his book Spycatcher, British operative Peter Wright claims that the US came to him for help determining how the device worked. However he is not mentioned in other accounts of Theremin’s bug.

Regardless of who figured out the device, the method of operation is devilishly simple. The Soviets would sit outside the embassy, either in another building or in a van. From this remote location they would aim a radio transmitter at the great seal. The bug inside would receive this signal and transmit voices in the room on a second, higher frequency. It did all of this with no standard internal components. No resistors, no tubes, no traditional capacitors, or the like. There were capacitive properties to the mechanism. For instance, a capacitor is formed between the diaphragm and the tuning peg of the device.

scientific-am-bugReceive tuning (if it can be called such) was achieved by the precisely cut antenna. The RF carrier transmitted by the Russians would be received at the antenna and travel into the body of the device which was a resonant cavity. That resonant chamber was capacatively coupled to the thin conductive diaphragm which formed the microphone.

Sound waves would cause the diaphragm to move, which would vary the capacitance between the body and diaphragm, forming a condenser microphone. It is important to note that the bug didn’t transmit and receive on the same frequency. According to Peter Wright, the excitation frequency used by the Russians was actually 800 MHz. The cavity would resonate at a multiple of this base frequency, producing the 1.6 GHz output seen by Bezjian.

While bugs of this type have fallen out of favor, the idea of “illuminating” a device with an external transmitter lives on. Check out [Elliot’s] description of the RageMaster bug from the ANT catalog here. Resonant cavities have found common use as well. Every microwave oven or radar system with a magnetron uses one.

A Political Pawn

lodgeThe great seal bug disappeared for a number of years. The Russians knew we had caught them, and moved on to other espionage devices. It finally reappeared in 1960 at the United Nations. During the Gary Powers U2 incident, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. presented the seal as concrete proof that Russia was spying on the Americans.

A replica of the great seal is on display at the NSA National Cryptologic Museum.


thermogLéon Theremin was released from his camp in 1947. He married Maria Guschina. This time the state did not intervene, and the pair had two children. In 1964, Theremin became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He lost his job after an article published in the New York times was read by the assistant director of the conservatory. The assistant director stated “Electricity is not good for music; electricity is to be used for electrocution” before throwing Theremin and his instruments out of the establishment. Through the 1970’s, Theremin worked in Moscow University’s Department of Acoustics. While there he built a polyphonic version of his instrument. Stored in a back room, the instrument was looted for parts by students and professors. Meanwhile, Theremin’s instrument was returning to vogue in the western world. Electronic music was hot, spawned by instruments such as the MiniMoog, and the Arp Kitten.

Theremin finally visited the United States in 1992, reuniting with old friends. He performed in a concert at Stanfordand was interviewed by Robert Moog, who considered him to be a hero of the electronic music world. After filling in many of the blanks of his story, Theremin asked Moog and co-interviewer Olivia Mattis to be responsible when writing up their story. “But if you write that I have said something; against the Soviet government and that I have said that it is better to work elsewhere, then I shall have difficulties back home [ironic laughter]”. Even then at the twilight of his life, with the fall of the Soviet Union underway, Theremin was still looking over his shoulder, worried about what the government might do if he offended them.

Theremin passed away in 1993. The unlikely master of this spy-gadget was 97 years old.


Muslim Man is Described as ‘The World’s Kindest Man’ by a Complete Stranger. Here’s Why

Muslim Man is Described as ‘The World’s Kindest Man’ by a Complete Stranger. Here’s Why:

Verity Jones, a disabled mother from Bedford, England posted a message on a Facebook group used for selling/swapping items asking if anyone was willing to deliver some nappies for her:


Help!!! This is a long shot but has anyone got any packets of size 4 or size 4+ nappies for sale and can deliver?? And will be happy with immediate paypal or bank transfer? Ive lost my purse so am now waiting for a new visa card. Ive got no cash in the house. And im disabled so I cant even just drive to collect some from anyone. Daughter is now on her last nappy. Happy to pay whatever necessary!!! Xxx

She was in a bit of a sticky situation; she had lost her purse which contained her debit card and her daughter was on her last nappy (that’s diaper for our American readers). On top of that she didn’t have any cash at home and her disability prevented her from collecting some nappies from anyone.

She didn’t expect a result and was faced with the prospect of hoping her daughter doesn’t need to answer the call of nature having run out of nappies!

An hour later, a Muslim man called Tariq Hussain left a comment saying:


Verity I don’t have any but if no one gets back to you let me know and I will purchase some and drop off to you.

Verity got in touch with Tariq and true to his word, he dropped off the nappies. Delighted, she left a comment saying:

verity 2

Yes everyone im sorted now. Tariq, the worlds kindest man, dropped me a packet off free of charge. What a wonderful and lovely thing for a stranger to do. Xxxxxx

Verity left another comment saying:

Im embarassed to say I got all emotional lol. X

Touched by Tariq’s actions, other members of the group left many messages for him:

This has made my day, so nice to have good people still in this world”

“Wow what a lovely man”

“You are a star ! Make a me feel that there is hope in this world such a small jesters from a huge heart”

“Wow don’t normally do this but goes to show how many wonderful people are out there and are prepared to help a complete stranger and want nothing in return.”

“Tariq, up most respect. With all this crazy stuff going on lately, you are a gentlemen.”

“Brought a tear to my eye! Such an act of kindness!”

“What a lovely thoughtful thing to do thank you Tariq, restores my faith in human kind”

Lastly, Tariq responded to all the messages saying:

tariq 2

Thank you all for the lovely messages it was and honour to help a mother in distress

Well done Tariq!

By Rafiq ibn Jubair

Like this article? Then:
Muslim Aid



Bumbling Bureaucratic B@stards caused the Chennai Flood?

Delay in decision to open sluice gates caused flood of trouble

CHENNAI: The flood that ravaged Chennai last week was not a natural disaster, but one caused by the state bureaucracy’s failure to regulate release of water from Chembarambakkam reservoir (lake) in the outskirts of the city. 

Those privy to developments in the state secretariat during the last week of November say that in the wake of international weather forecast agencies predicting 500mm of rain for Chennai on December 1 and 2, public works department (PWD) officials had advised the PWD secretary and other senior bureaucrats on November 26 to bring down the water level in the reservoir from 22ft to below 18ft so the lake could absorb heavy inflow four days later. There was not much rain between November 26 and 29 and Adyar river, too, which originates from this lake, had very little water. 

The proposal to release lake water was caught in bureaucratic red tape. Sources said the PWD secretary waited for chief secretary’s nod to open the sluice gates -and whose nod the chief secretary was waiting for still remains a mystery.In effect, the disaster caused in Punjab by heavy release of water from the Bhakra Nangal dam two years ago was repeated in Chennai. 

Orders to open the Chembarambakkam sluice gates -rather flood gates -were not received till the city received was pounded with rain and the reservoir started overflowing. “The state administration maintained that the release from the reservoir into Adyar river was only 33,500 cusecs (cubic feet per second; 1 cubic ft is 28.3 litres of water), which is the maximum capacity of the gates, from December 1 night onwards. But the actual release was more than double that, and nobody has any idea how much it was because water was overflowing from Chembarambakkam after the reservoir reached its full capacity of 24 feet. The problem was compounded as Athannur lake breached, releasing about 5,000 cusecs into the Adyar,” said a highly placed source in PWD. 

In effect, Adyar was carrying more than one lakh cusecs of water on December 2 and 3, said a senior IAS official, who was coordinating rescue operations. “The city has paid the price for having a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t have the guts to act on their own.We were lucky that the reservoir, despite overflowing, did not breach,” he said. 

“Flooding of Chennai and suburbs could have been averted by better management of water release,” said Madras Institute of Development Studies professor S Janakarajan. The administration should not have viewed Chembarambakkam in isolation. The lake and Adyar river are connected to about 200 tanks, he said. Even if 33,500 cusecs had been released from Chembarambakkam, by the time the water reached Saidapet, it would have swelled to 60,000 cusecs because of additional flow from other water bodies enroute. The administration failed to gauge this and hapless people paid the price for it, he explained. 

Janakarajan said the government should view all water bodies, roughly 3,600 of them, in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts as one watershed as they are hydrologically connected to one another. “If the government cleans up all those water bodies, they can hold about 30 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water.Moreover, it will also prevent flooding in future,” he said. 

The magnitude of the disaster was more because there was no advisory issued to people living in low-lying areas, warning them that their homes could get flooded.To add to the misery, Chennai city police officers were instructed to keep their cell phones switched off (much before mobile phone towers went down) and carry out all communications only through wireless sets. Hence, people in distress could not seek help by reaching out to officials in their locality. 

TOI’s repeated efforts to get responses from the chief secretary and PWD secretary went in vain.Some pertinent questions that remain unanswered are: Whose orders were the bureaucrats waiting for to open the reservoir sluices? Will anybody be held responsible for the lapses? And, at least now, will the government put a standard operating procedure in place to keep reservoirs at safe levels? Will a better system be evolved to warn people living on river banks before gates are opened? 

Washing machines on the street 

The lack of a warning about the huge discharge from Chembarambakkam reservoir not only devastated the banks of Adyar but also submerged T Nagar and its bylanes, leaving middle and low-income colonies in distress.Tonnes of food grains from grocery shops and household items, including washing machines, are on road-side dumps in every corner of the neighbourhood. Having lost items worth thousands of rupees, the residents were picking up pieces. TNN

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    In a democracy, politics is like an act, political parties and their ideologies are narratives, politicians are actors and people are the audience. If the audience likes the narrative and actors, they clap and give them another chance to perform. Else, new narratives and new actors are brought in and the show goes on.

    The beauty of democracy is that political parties, their ideologies, political decision, and their leaders are judged every day. Any comment, decision or stand taken by it is discussed extensively, both at individual level and at collective level through media. Therefore, political parties and their leaders are very careful about the kind of narrative being put forward by them in support or against of a particular issues, incident or decision. ‘No comments’ and silence are also judged.

    The present ruling government is very careful about the kind of narrative it is putting forward. Or to be specific, it is vigilant and using every possible trick of the trade to prove two things – one, that the present-day government is the best government that independent India ever had, and two, that Modi is the most honest, patriotic, courageous and powerful leader in the world and, he is, if not god then not anything less than him, and his will is supreme like that of god.

    In order to prove these two things, his party and supporters have thrashed every logical and sensible critical narrative with illogical, foolish and non-democratic counter narratives.

    The numerical majority, noise and power of these counter narratives are so high that the subtle critical narratives are lost, and they end up proving their point.

    There are too many counter narratives used by the present ruling government. Let’s try to analyse them one by one.

    1. “They also did it”

    This is the most common counter narrative used by the present-day government. The party leaders say, ‘Why didn’t you shout when Congress was in power. They were the one who did it. We are doing nothing. We are just carrying it forward.’

    When beef ban was imposed in Maharashtra, they said, “See before we did it here in Maharashtra, Congress did it in the states where it ruled. And the four day Guddi –Partava ban was first imposed when Congress-NCP duo were in power. So why are you shouting now?’

    Aare bhai, people voted you in thinking that you were a party with a difference and if are just following what they did then what was the point of bringing you to power.

    2. “Ye Bharat ke sanskriti ke kilaf hai / This is against culture of India”

    The present government, its alliance partners and their affiliated non-political organizations are the official moral, cultural and traditional guardians of the 121 crore people, living in the 29 states and 5 union territories. They are the ones who decide what women should wear, whether they can drink and smoke, what people should eat and watch.

    Whenever there are attacks in pubs, police raids in private hotel rooms, vandalism during Valentine’s Day, violence against inter-religious marriages – branding them to be love jihad – the government’s alliance partners and leaders have a flat one line answer, “Ye Bharat ke sanskriti aur sabhyata ke khilaf hai. (This is against the culture values of India ).”

    Though the party’s official line by Jaitley Ji and Rajnath Ji will remain, “We are against such acts” but its alliance partners say, “Yes, we have done it and we will do it again.”

    Sunia ji, we voted you to manage our country not to manage our personal lives.

    What we eat, drink, watch, read and how our women dress, who they marry and at what time of the night they should return home is purely our personal affair. Please do not enter our private lives and make choices for us. We are all from different caste, creed, community; region, race, religion, sex and ethnicity, and we know them better than you.

    change your habit

    3. “You have to change your habits, dude”

    This is the most original one. Whenever the prices of essential commodities and services go beyond the reach of the common man and protesting starts, this counter narrative comes in.

    When the price of railway tickets was increased, it was said “Every weekend you can go to cinema hall and shell out 250 rupees on a movie ticket, 150 rupees on popcorn and 100 rupees on Coke but you can’t spend 10 percent extra on your railways ticket.” And the better one is this. On the sky rocketing prices of pulses, one famous “non-political” person – associated with the ruling government and a great admirer of Modi Ji – said, “Dal patli banao. Zayada gadhi nahi. Aur khane mein sabzioon ka zayada prayog karo. Wo zada paushtilk hoti hain” (“Do not make the gravy of dal very thick and use more of vegetables. They are much healthier than pulses. )

    Kya ji, did we vote for you so that when you come to power you would instruct us on how we should spend our hard-earned money? And if we protest again, you make us feel guilty about how we spend so much on entertainment while refusing to pay the increased price of a service managed by you?

    Now you are telling us that we should change our eating habits just because you cannot manage the price of essential commodities. Kamal ki bate karte ho ji.

    Why don’t you acknowledge the fact that you have failed to give what’s due to the farmers and because of which this agrarian crisis has occurred. It has happened because you have failed to guarantee a decent Minimum Support Price (MSP) and waive off farmer loans in drought-hit areas. You prefer to make highways which will help the Ambanis and Adanises transport their raw material from one state to another but choose to ignore rural connectivity and irrigation systems. Why don’t you accept the fact that the price of essential commodities are rising because you have failed to keep check on hoarders and black marketers.

    4. “Wo Pakistani hai / He is a Pakistani”

    This counter narrative is often used by the alliance partners of the ruling government to blacken faces at book releases, issuing threats to cancel musical shows, and interrupting theatrical performances. They say that since the concerned artists are from Pakistan (and since Pakistan is our enemy state) we can’t allow them to perform here.

    See artists, irrespective of the nationality and art form they practice, spend their whole life to give this world, perspectives of the things which we have not seen, read and heard before. They are the discoverers, historians, and torch bearers of our cultures, traditions and beliefs. They need to be loved, respected and appreciated. We certainly need a class of people and a body of work to tell our coming generations who we were.

    Why don’t you understand that your attack on an artist, irrespective of his nationality, is an attack on the whole artistic fraternity. Why don’t you understand that when you disrespect an artist or his art you disrespect the whole discipline of art.

    If you have problems and issues with Pakistan, or for the matter of fact, any country, resolve it through a democratic and mutually agreeable way. Why bring artists in between? If you cannot resolve the issues, and felt that the presence of the artist from a particular country will be an issue here, then don’t invite them.

    A non-invitation is much better than inviting an artist into your country and then humiliating him and his art form.

    5. “Not just ‘Sickularist’ but a ‘Fake Secularist’”

    In fact, last month our PM Modi Ji himself was using this word again and again in an interview to explain his and his party’s position against the concerns raised by the Opposition and public intellectuals on the rise of communal incidents since the BJP government had come to power.

    Labeling individuals, organizations, parties and even countries as “Fake Secularists” is this government’s sure-shot counter narrative to suppress any voice which talks about the rights and welfare of religious minorities, riots, lynchings or hate mongers.

    Kya sir, now the government and Prime Minister decide what Secularism means? Are the constitutional definitions of Secularism so narrow that you will define it on your own and practice it the way you want? Are you also planning to insert the word “Fake Secularisms” into our Preamble through a constitutional amendment?

    Why is it difficult to understand that the world is not full of “Fake Secularists” but that your party, alliance partners and affiliate organizations, are full of hardliners who have no respect for pluralism, religious and cultural diversity. They see only one religion and they believe that their own survival, welfare and interests can only be safe-guarded by suppressing and inflicting atrocities on others.

    We tell you that this is not the case. For more than a thousand years, people, of at least different five religions, have been living here peacefully without attempting to wipe out each other’s communities.

    6. “It’s too early to judge us. Judge us after ten years”

    And the last counter narrative is the baap of them all. This is like Ram Baan. It can’t fail. From rising costs of essential commodities to decreasing value of rupee, from cut in social spending to folds increase in defense budget, from rising cases of religious intolerance to issuing controversial remarks, and for that matter anything this counter narrative is simple “It’s too early to judge us. Judge us after ten years.”

    They want us to believe that they need five years to fix what previous governments has screwed and then five more years to do what they want to do.

    So in short, this government doesn’t want us to question it for at least ten years. They want to do things the way they have planned and they simply expect us to be in compliance with it. They want us to be silent and not be critical of policy, decision and action. And if you do not agree with this, they have their own way and it’s like Dekh lein ge tumhe.

    State and non-state actors, democratic and non-democratic means, law and lawlessness, power and politics is used these days to make the people say, “Yes I agree”

    There is only one way. The Modi way. You either like it or you don’t.

    Political narratives are very powerful things. They have the power to rule a nation for decades and this government knows it very well. They are using these narratives to weaken the secular and democratic structure of this country. But then they must remember one thing: No narrative lives forever and democracy ki picture bohot lambi hoti hai, mere dost.

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    Tajdar A Khan is a Post Graduate in English Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and Masters in Design(M.Des) in Film and Video Communication from National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad . He is currently working in the Creative Department in one the worlds leading IT Company in Pune, Maharashtra. His interests include Adverting, Film Making, Politics and International Relations and he just takes too many chai sutta breaks and watches too many news channels



      December 7, 2015


      You have rightly narrated and depicted the real and hard core facts. Now the main issue or bottle neck is to aware the masses and enlighten them of this ignorance. Kindly evolve the methodology viable with present state of affairs and you will find me first in que. I am base in New-Delhi and leading a retired life.Thanks

    Dutch pranksters trick people with ‘Quran’ passages from Bible

    Dutch pranksters trick people with ‘Quran’ passages from Bible


    Dutch YouTube channel Dit is Normaal (This is Normal) has exposed how much of people’s views on Islam are based on prejudice in its latest episode, “The Holy Quran Experiment.”

    Dit is Normaal travels to random Dutch cities to ask people on the street “challenging, interesting and strange questions,” to generally comedic effect.

    For this episode, they disguised a Bible as the Quran, and read select passages to people on the street, asking them for their thoughts on the Quran, Islam and the differences between it and Christianity.

    After hearing passages about violence, the submission of women and homosexuality, the people quickly criticize Islam and Muslims in general.


    When asked to compare the “Quran” passages with the Bible, they dig themselves in even deeper.


    When the prank is exposed, the reactions are a nearly universal WTF and then sheepish embarrassment at having taken the bait.

    But this guy hits the nail on the head:




    Amir wrongfully jailed for 14 years as terrorist, Rs 5 lakh relief is too much for Delhi Govt?

    Amir wrongfully jailed for 14 years as terrorist, Rs 5 lakh relief is too much for Delhi Govt?


    National Human Rights Commission to Delhi Government: Show cause why Rs.5 lakh be not recommended as relief to Mohammad Amir for his wrongful confinement for 14 years as a terrorist

    New Delhi, (4 December, 2015): The National Human Rights Commission has issued a show cause notice to the Delhi Government why monetary relief of rupees five lakh should not be recommended to be paid to Mohammad Amir, who was released after 14 year long incarceration in jail, destroying his youth, due to his wrongful arrest on the 27th February, 1998 from Old Delhi as an alleged ‘terrorist’ when he had just turned 18. The victim had been acquitted in 17 cases, including one by the High Court of Delhi. It has given six weeks to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi to respond.

    Mr. Justice D. Murugesan, Member, NHRC has observed that “the sufferings faced by him have been long and arduous and the damage caused to him by the conduct of the State authorities is immense and exemplary. In the circumstances, the State must compensate the damage caused by its employees to the victim. Moreover, the life ahead of the victim from this point does not seem to be a smooth one as he has lost his parents, his career, his hopes, dreams and everything but the hard fact is that he has to overcome the same and return to the mainstream of life and prove his worth as an ideal citizen of the country.”

    “Our Constitution accords the responsibility on the State to Protect and Promote Human Rights of individuals and the responsibility is based on good governance. Police play significant role in maintaining the order and enforce laws fairly and not unjustly. Police, as protector of law have both legal and moral obligations to uphold Human Rights and act strictly in accordance with law implicating innocent persons would not go only against all cannons of justice and rule of law but it would also amount to real accused escape from the clutches of law.”

    The Commission has also observed that it cannot be disputed that the security of the nation stands atop all other consideration and security of the nation is primary and sacred duty of every organ of the State. But the execution of such duties is strictly subjected to the mandate of relevant statutes and procedures established by the Supreme Court. In other words, the entire set of actions of the State must be regulated by the Rule of Law.

    The Commission has held that an essential principle of Rule of Law is that every executive action if it is to operate to the prejudices of any person must have authority of law to support it. Within the parameters of such authority, rule of law must not become an instrument, which grossly violates the distinct human rights of the citizens. It transpires from the case record that the victim was subjected to State action only on suspicion. Not an iota of evidence was produced in the court to connect Mohammad Amir with any of the alleged crimes.

    It may be indicated that under given circumstances, the law enforcement authorities have a legitimate right to suspect somebody’s involvement in any crime but a suspicion to be legitimate must not be imaginary or trivial but it must be a reasonable, justified and should be supported by some materials/facts.

    The Commission said that the chronicle of allegations made against the victim only piled up over the years without any substance. The material on record reflects the excesses committed by the concerned police authorities and also how he suffered incarceration silently. His conduct in the prison was found very satisfactory and praiseworthy by the Jailor of District Jail, Ghaziabad. All the newspaper reports were unanimous over the human rights violation of the victim and the Commission cannot afford to differ with the wisdom displayed by the courts and media.

    The Commission had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue on the basis of the media reports in March, 2014.

    National Human Rights Commission,
    Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C,
    GPO Complex, INA,
    New Delhi – 110023


    Hyperloop Transportation Almost There



    THERE’S A FUTURE we’ve seen in science fiction for so long it almost seems like the past: people whisked from one place to another inside tube trains that crisscross the landscape.

    But imagine you could board one and travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a half-hour. As you sit down in an engineless pod the size of a bus, your seat remembers you and adjusts the entertainment settings. The pod accelerates to 760 miles per hour, a velocity made possible by the near-vacuum inside the tube. There’s no engine noise—the nearest thing to an engine is the tube, a smart tube that measures speed and location. The pod has been pressurized to minimize the G forces effects on a passenger; the trip is as comfortable as a flight. All of this is solar-powered.

    There won’t even be time for beverage service.

    The Future of Everything: A look ahead from The Wall Street JournalENLARGE
    The Future of Everything: A look ahead from The Wall Street Journal PHOTO: ANDREW B. MYERS, SET DESIGN BY SONIA RENTSCH/APOSTROPHE

    This is the dream billionaire inventor Elon Musk unleashed on Aug. 12, 2013, when he posted a white paper on the website of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX. Titled “Hyperloop Alpha,” the paper contained notes toward what Musk called the fifth mode of transport—the other four being planes, trains, automobiles and boats. California’s proposal for a high-speed rail project had offended Musk’s sense of the state that has historically dreamed up America’s future. After skewering the proposed system (“one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world”), Musk issued an open-source design challenge: a 28-passenger solar-powered pod capable of levitating through a system of tubes almost at the speed of sound, with a one-way ticket price of $20 and a total building cost estimated at $6 billion, less than a tenth of the budget for California’s high-speed rail project.

    Reactions at the time ranged from excitement to skepticism to outright disbelief—Musk was even accused of sabotaging the high-speed rail project for profit, despite his statement that he had no plans to develop the Hyperloop commercially. Musk stepped back, essentially giving the field to the host of students, engineers and entrepreneurs who almost immediately answered the challenge. Musk spent the next two years tweeting support for any opensource Hyperloop developments. He remains close to members of both startups currently in the lead to produce the first working Hyperloop—Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or HTT, and Hyperloop Technologies Inc., or HTI. But on Jan. 15th of this year, Musk shook up the field when he announced plans to build a Hyperloop test track and hold a contest in summer 2016 at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The challenge? Create a functioning, half-scale pod. Specs for the test track’s tube were released in October, and in November, 318 teams from 162 universities and 16 countries submitted their final pod designs. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx will be the keynote speaker at the first event, a Hyperloop design weekend for the finalists at Texas A&M University on January 13th, 2016.

    Why would Elon Musk open-source an idea this valuable, while also leaving the door open to step in himself? Musk was unavailable for comment but his position hasn’t changed since he published Hyperloop Alpha: He’s busy. In addition to being the CEO and chief technology officer of SpaceX, he is also the CEO of Tesla Motors and chairman of the board at SolarCity, a company founded by his cousins in 2006 with an idea of his and his blessing. Historically, Musk stays close to the ideas he gives away and it’s rumored that he will at some point choose one Hyperloop startup or another, and back it by lending his name and joining the board. But Musk is unwilling to be portrayed as having a favorite.

    MODELING SCHOOL | Students at UCLA’s Suprastudio program designed the ‘human factor’ of the Hyperloop experience, including seats and station architecture.
    MODELING SCHOOL | Students at UCLA’s Suprastudio program designed the ‘human factor’ of the Hyperloop experience, including seats and station architecture. 

    For now Elon Musk, it seems, is calling his invention home to see what it’s become. In the process, he’s joining what may become the biggest tech free-for-all in American history—one he started. But not all of those interested in making the Hyperloop work are answering the contest’s call. The Hyperloop Movement, as some of its unaffiliated members refer to themselves, is officially bigger than the man who started it.

    The Hyperloop Movement is officially bigger than the man who started it.

    IN HIS SANTA MONICA CONFERENCE ROOM, Quay Hays of GROW Holdings is laying out the plan for Quay Valley, the city he hopes will be a model for California’s future. It sounds, at first, like any other affluent California community: retail space, resort hotels, a winery, a spa. Where Quay Valley stands out is its plan to be solar-powered with extremely low water use. With a town of 26,000 networked smart homes and apartments built green from the ground up, Hays hopes to give 75,000 residents the eco-friendly lifestyle that critics of clean energy say is impossible. “There have been advances in green design and smart growth over the years, and the idea was, put all these things together in one place,” says Hays, a former publisher and film executive whose first job was booking punk and new wave acts for the Greek Theatre in the 1980s. His first attempt to launch Quay Valley was thwarted by litigation over water rights and the financial crisis of 2008; the new plan is to break ground on the site, a 7,200-acre expanse halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, sometime in 2016. When that happens, the world will be watching, and not just for the promised sustainability—Quay Valley also plans to feature the world’s first working Hyperloop, built by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies at an estimated cost of $100 million to $150 million.

    Dirk Ahlborn, HTT’s chief executive, wants little to do with the SpaceX contest. Ahlborn founded HTT three months after Musk’s “Hyperloop Alpha” paper hit the Internet, and while he maintains a friendly relationship with Musk, he calls the contest a distraction. “A half-scale model is of no use to us now, and so their specs are also not relevant to us,” Ahlborn says. His company is focused on Quay Valley. “We are past the prototyping phase and have developed our own proprietary technology,” Ahlborn tells me. “I know you need to portray this as a race, but I don’t see it as a race. We’re not competing with them. Our competitors are other forms of transportation. If it were a race, it would be over.”

    NOT JUST A PROP | HTI’s aptly named Blade Runner facilitates hardware testing at supersonic speeds.
    NOT JUST A PROP | HTI’s aptly named Blade Runner facilitates hardware testing at supersonic speeds. 

    A German-born entrepreneur, Ahlborn made a small fortune founding alternative energy companies in Italy, moved to the U.S., and lost that fortune shortly after. At one point, he found himself waiting tables to make ends meet while pursuing another startup. He took a lesson in unreliability from that tumble, and in 2012 he founded JumpStart Fund, an online startup incubator that uses a crowd-sourcing tech-hub model. It’s the model used by HTT, a scrappy, fast-growing operation of just under 500 people who initially earn only equity in exchange for at least 10 hours a week, leaving them free to hold down day jobs. HTT has been characterized as “the Bad News Bears” of the Hyperloop movement, but Ahlborn has pulled off a string of increasingly impressive partnerships. In 2013, HTT partnered with the engineering software developer Ansys, which ran simulation models for the fluid dynamics of the Hyperloop. In 2014, HTT teamed up with UCLA’s Suprastudio master’s in architecture program, which designed the “human factor” of the HTT user experience, from pods to station architecture to boarding and ticketing. In August of this year, HTT announced partnerships with international engineering giant Aecom and Oerlikon, the world’s oldest vacuum technology—signs the company may be looking to expand beyond Quay Valley. HTT also began the permitting process in Kings County, Calif., where Quay Valley will be located; these will be the first permits ever issued for a Hyperloop. Designed to carry both people and freight, The Quay Valley Hyperloop has a projected top speed of more than 300 mph, significantly slower than Musk’s dream train. But the short track will demonstrate the potential of smaller suburban Hyperloops—a necessary early step. And it’s designed to create more energy than it uses, thanks to a mix of solar cells along the tubes, wind turbines along the supporting pylons and kinetic energy generated by the braking process. HTT plans to sell this energy back to the grid, creating a mass-transit system that’s also a power company. Ahlborn declined to offer any specifics on the technology, but officials at both Aecom and Oerlikon said they had vigorously vetted HTT’s plans before approving their partnerships, and they are now actively involved in all development.

    Though HTT and Quay Valley seem poised to win the Hyperloop race, Quay Hays sees it differently. “Why does there have to be just one Hyperloop company?” he asks. “Why can’t there be many?”

    If braking mechanisms were to fail, the Hyperloop pods could go from bullet trains to actual bullets in the world’s largest gun barrel mechanism.

    HTT IS OFTEN CONFUSED WITH ITS MOST VISIBLE COMPETITOR, HTI, which is a source of frustration for Ahlborn; HTI was formed eight months after HTT. “They’re pretty smart people,” Ahlborn says. “They could have called it something else.”

    Both points are inarguable. HTI was founded by Shervin Pishevar of Sherpa Ventures, a close friend of Musk and early investor in Uber. His co-founder, engineer Brogan BamBrogan, formerly of SpaceX, is now HTI’s chief technology officer. “I went to Shervin’s place in Napa prepared to say no,” says BamBrogan, laughing. “But his plans for Hyperloop—Hyperloops underwater!—blew me away.” The company’s board is something of a Silicon Valley fantasy-football team: David O. Sacks, Jim Messina, Peter Diamandis, Joe Lonsdale —and most recently Emily White, the former chief operating officer of Snapchat.

    ON THE LOT | Robot arms and test tubes at HTI’s Los Angeles headquarters.ENLARGE
    ON THE LOT | Robot arms and test tubes at HTI’s Los Angeles headquarters. 

    In June, Pishevar found his CEO in Rob Lloyd, the former co-president of Cisco. Lloyd had spent 20 years building the infrastructure for the World Wide Web, eventually leading a team of 25,000 engineers around the globe. He left Cisco shortly after being passed over for CEO. Lloyd, who was once told that no one would ever pay bills online, feels uniquely suited to run a company like HTI, whose product inspires disbelief. When Pishevar described his idea for a network of tubes crisscrossing the country and the world, Lloyd saw his work on the Internet’s infrastructure as a map to this fifth mode of transportation. “With information moving faster,” Lloyd says, “things have to move faster, too. It’s like the pattern of moving a digital bit, applied to a physical bit.” Freight at—or closer to—the speed of information. A literal Internet of things.

    HTI is raising $80 million for its next round of expansion. Pishevar, Lloyd and BamBrogan now regularly speak about what they call the Hyperloop’s Kitty Hawk moment: when the first working pod shoots down a full-size tube. HTI recently formed a relationship with the developer of a high-speed rail project from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. That company, China Railway International USA, is a partnership between the Chinese government’s railway company and XpressWest, a private American venture. Vegas, then, could be HTI’s Kitty Hawk. And given the players involved, it’s also an entry point to the potentially enormous Chinese market.

    If both HTT’s and HTI’s Hyperloops are successful, Quay Hays’s notion of multiple Hyperloop companies could come true, potentially leaving us with a national version of the New York City subway system, built in the early 1900s by two competing private developers, who each used different train cars. To this day, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is forced to buy two different types of subway car. A national network of Hyperloops could be stymied if pods are unable to cross from one system of tubes to another, potentially sabotaging the game-changing efficiency that Elon Musk imagined in Hyperloop Alpha. But we’re only two years into this idea, and despite the rampant speculation that surrounds Musk’s involvement, it would be a mistake to count him out.

    THE SPACEX COMPETITION GUIDELINES STATE THAT NOhuman or animal of any kind can be placed inside the test pods. It’s a standard safety precaution at this early stage, but the passenger ban underscores a serious public perception problem. Assuming the Hyperloop movement overcomes the regulatory, land-use and technological obstacles, it still has to persuade the public to get on board in the literal sense. Hyperloop Alpha contained a pod rendering that resembled a bullet with seating pitched at a semi-reclined angle: a claustrophobic high-tech bobsled. Other concerns became apparent. If a tube were to rupture or braking mechanisms were to fail, the pods could go from bullet trains to actual bullets in the world’s largest gun barrel. Worse, if the tubes were somehow crushed or blocked, it could be like tying the barrel in the act of firing. The initial excitement for a fifth mode of transportation had hit a roadblock.

    POWER PLAY | A model of motor coils that may someday make HTI’s Hyperloop more than an inventor’s fantasy. ENLARGE
    POWER PLAY | A model of motor coils that may someday make HTI’s Hyperloop more than an inventor’s fantasy. 

    The need for an appealing and assuring user experience is not lost on the Hyperloop movement. HTT has recently collaborated with UCLA’s Suprastudio Architecture Program, which matches corporate partners with teams of top architecture students and faculty. In contrast with Musk’s SpaceX contest, which invited hundreds of teams to create a half-scale pod, Dirk Ahlborn’s HTT posed a challenge to a team of 25 at UCLA: create solutions for the Hyperloop user experience around a central technology that does not yet exist. Built into that challenge is the perceived impossibility of the technology. Architect Craig Hodgetts, the faculty leader of the Suprastudio team, describes their aim as “changing the emotional context” for the Hyperloop. Marta Nowak, another faculty member, puts it this way: “We wanted to change it from a ride no one wants to get on to a ride no one wants to get off.”

    As early test cases were discussed, a student named Yayun Zhou mentioned her grandmother in China as someone who would never set foot in a capsule capable of traveling near the speed of sound. Hodgetts asked for a picture of her grandmother, taped it to the studio wall and asked: “How do we get Yayun’s grandmother to ride the Hyperloop?” The elderly Chinese woman became the project’s muse.

    A user experience suitable for Yayun’s grandmother required a mix of urban planning, architecture, engineering, business marketing and even show business—Hodgetts brought in guests like Larry Gertz, the legendary Disney theme-park designer, and Syd Mead, the visual futurist who designed iconic vehicles and robots in “Star Trek,” “Tron” and “Blade Runner.” Suprastudio’s students suggested pods pressurized like airplanes to reduce G forces and, to make up for a lack of windows, landscape simulations projected on the insides of the pods—forests, starry skies, fields of grass. At the conclusion of the program, Ahlborn brought Yayun Zhou and some of her classmates onto the HTT team.

    We’re two years into Musk’s idea, and despite the secrecy that surrounds him, it would be a mistake to count him out.

    WHILE THE UCLA SUPRASTUDIO TEAM WAS ADDRESSING the user experience for HTT, students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were putting the finishing touches on a 1/24th-scale Hyperloop, complete with a magnetic induction coil and a 3-D printed pod. On May 4th, their tiny pod accelerated forward in the tube, exactly as they’d hoped. Later, the students shot a six-second video and posted it on YouTube.

    The video went up shortly after the SpaceX competition was announced. “Suddenly our YouTube video was getting all these hits,” says Emad Jassim, the director of undergraduate programs for the university’s department of mechanical science and engineering (MechSE). “But we were right here the whole time.”

    TAKE A SEAT | A full capsule mockup designed by UCLA’s Suprastudio team.
    TAKE A SEAT | A full capsule mockup designed by UCLA’s Suprastudio team. 

    The Illinois team enters the SpaceX contest with a strong competitive edge. This is its fourth Hyperloop design project, the first dating to fall 2013, and the Hyperloop is now a part of the MechSE curriculum. The team has assembled an interdisciplinary network of faculty from aeronautical engineering, thermal dynamics, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and software, and two of the team members have interned at SpaceX, including team leader Zak Lee-Richerson, who, with his blond hair and motorcycle jacket, looks ready to play himself in the movie about his life. According to faculty leader and professor Carlos Pantano-Rubino, the final cost of the test pod is still undetermined, another obstacle on the road to building something that does not yet exist. But it helps that the project’s corporate sponsor, Shell, has some of the deepest pockets in the world.

    The Illinois team is divided into five groups: four focused on distinct aspects of the pod design, and a fifth group, focused on safety and reliability, which has one member on each of the other groups. Senior team leader Jake Haseltine describes the safety team’s mission as the prevention of “branching failures”—one problem that turns into two, which each turn into several more until catastrophe strikes across systems. Haseltine’s biggest fear going into the competition? “We’re afraid another team would go first and damage the tube,” he said. “And that after a year’s work, we wouldn’t be able to present our pod. So we’re hoping to go first.”

    “Branching failures” is the easiest way to characterize the challenge facing Musk’s test track. The competition guidelines say it will be designed to accommodate pods with different kinds of magnetic and air bearings, passing just millimeters from the ground. None of the competition pods will have had a test flight in a tube before this; failures are likely, even probable. The tube is a smart tube, capable of communicating with the pod’s operating system, much more delicate than an insensate subway tunnel. Even slight dings could compromise the bearings of the next pod. Musk’s competition could show the world a multitude of Hyperloop pod designs, or it could be the day we find out how much time and money it takes to repair a tube.

    A levitation rig at that could someday allow the Hyperloop designed by HTI to travel near the speed of sound.ENLARGE
    A levitation rig at that could someday allow the Hyperloop designed by HTI to travel near the speed of sound. 

    THE SPACEX HYPERLOOP CHALLENGE IS, for now, an old-fashioned contest in the spirit of the annual competitions between engineering students who create and race low-carbon-emission Formula One race-car prototypes. Musk has even said he hopes his challenge leads to Hyperloop races. SpaceX’s competition site states clearly they have no plans to develop the Hyperloop commercially, and sources close to SpaceX say Musk is content to act as a Hyperloop evangelist who also happens to be the idea’s author. But by the end of the competition, the SpaceX test track will have recorded data from all of the test pods—that’s how the smart tube works. If SpaceX changes its mind and decides to create its own system, it would have a proprietary tube able to use several kinds of pods—a potential end run around the compatibility issue raised by Quay Hays’s notion of two or more Hyperloops. Playing host to the competition could put SpaceX in a strong position to proceed commercially.

    It would be easy, then, to think we’re watching the creation of a fifth form of transportation, or a Silicon Valley disruption of mass transit, or a startup pissing match over the brass ring of Elon Musk’s funding and approval. But there’s more at stake for Musk. By writing Hyperloop Alpha, Musk was essentially asking America, “Do you really want to be the country that spends $68 billion to build the slowest high-speed train in the world?” To ask that question, Musk had to give the Hyperloop idea away. 2016 may be the year he gets his reply.

    Alexander Chee is a contributing editor to The New Republic and the author of “The Queen of the Night,” to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in February 2016.


    ‘Hang Ujjal Dosanjh for treason before charging Aamir Khan with sedition’

    ‘Hang Ujjal Dosanjh for treason before charging Aamir Khan with sedition’

    Aamir’s only offence is one of being a true patriot. His critics are wrong in targeting him. I should be the one charged with treason for being a fugitive from the battles against fanaticism, caste, corruption and poverty.

    Written by Ujjal Dosanjh | Updated: November 30, 2015 12:05 pm

    Aamir Khan at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in New Delhi on Nov 23rd 2015. Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi

    Aamir Khan at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in New Delhi on Nov 23rd 2015. Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi

    Some people were critical of Aamir’s sharing of his innermost fears for India, the country of his birth, love and life; a country or the critics he has no intention of fleeing. Aamir shared his pain and anxiety about the “disquiet…despondency” abroad the land of India. For that he has been charged with sedition. It is shocking that in today’s Indian democracy, an Indian – be it Aamir, Shah Rukh or Girish Karnad – can’t freely discuss their feelings and ideas without being threatened bodily harm and death, told to leave the country or charged with sedition.

    No Indian – Modi, Aamir or any other – needs to prove his/her patriotism. Being concerned about the state of peace and harmony in India isn’t unpatriotic. Sharing his wife’s intimate fears and insecurities about their child’s future can’t be treasonous. I know thousands, if not millions, of Indian families talk daily about leaving or at least sending their children away from India for better economic opportunities or for a better quality of life-as they say. Indians are omnipresent in the world. For various reasons they have been leaving India for centuries. I admire the billion plus Indians who have stayed and continue to fight for a better India. Aamir is one of those billion plus who have no intention of leaving; come hell or high water they are there to stay.


    That is why the hue and cry about Aamir’s important but less than earth shaking expression of the anxieties and insecurities felt by many Indians is beyond comprehension. Sharing one’s soul’s angst with the people of one’s country shouldn’t be a capital offence. I wish the leaders of India and the so called “guardians of patriotism” more often and honestly shared their truths and fears with Indians. If they genuinely did so, India and the world of Indians will be a better place than the exceedingly corrupt polity and society bedevilled by poverty, caste, and religious tensions. In the current malaise engulfing India, the top leadership, of all major political parties, has been silent and largely missing in action except to score political points against each other. When they do speak, they tend to denigrate as did Home Minister Rajnath Singh when he invoked the iconic Dr. Ambedkar to take a swipe at Aamir arguing “Dr. Ambedkar never said he will leave India”. Otherwise a deafening silence reigns even in the face of gruesome Dalit murders, the Dadri lynching and the killing of rationalists.

    Watch: Aamir Khan on intolerance

    In such frightening silence, the screaming anguish emanating from Aamir’s interview was a breath of fresh air; it should have prompted some serious soul searching in India; instead, charges of sedition were slapped against him. Yes, sedition, while on the other hand, the governments of all stripes have been lionising forever the NRIs- usually Non Resident Indians – the Not Returning Indians – except to visit the motherland every now and then. Though India hasn’t left most of us – certainly it hasn’t left me – we have left India. Most of us have relinquished our Indian citizenship. We have become citizens of the lands where we live. We have abandoned India. Legally we have turned our backs on it. Where is the Indian rebuke for us? Why don’t Aamir’s critics turn their Twitter missiles and rhetorical bombs upon us?

    In fact India does the opposite for the NRIs. It showers praise upon us which I dare say we like. In fact in the year 2000 the people of India celebrated me as the first ‘son of the soil’ for achieving the high office of the premier of the province of British Columbia – the first Indian to do so anywhere in the western world. The Vajpayee government even bestowed upon me the inaugural Pravasi Bharatiya Award in 2003.

    And I had left India in 1964 while millions of others chose to stay and fight the billion battles. I fled. Aamir didn’t. I am your culprit. He is not. I am the one that should be charged with betraying India and the legacy of my own ancestors who fought valiantly like millions of others to free India from the British. I must be charged not just with sedition but more. The charge of sedition is meant to punish only those simply encouraging disaffection/disobedience against the government of the day. Heck, I didn’t even do that, though I should have because no government is the country, and as a Gandhian, it is a fundamental tenet of my belief to be permanently seditious against all bad governments.

    Aamir’s only offence is one of being a true patriot. His critics are wrong in targeting him. I should be the one charged with treason for being a fugitive from the battles against fanaticism, caste, corruption and poverty. I say: hang Ujjal Dosanjh for treason before charging Aamir with sedition!

    Ujjal Dosanjh is former Premier of British Columbia, and former Canadian Minister of Health. Views expressed are personal.

    – See more at:

    John Cusack and Arundhati Roy: Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

    John Cusack and Arundhati Roy: Things That Can and Cannot Be Said

    John Cusack in conversation with Arundhati Roy.

    “Every nation-state tends towards the imperial – that is the point. Through banks, armies, secret police, propaganda, courts and jails, treaties, taxes, laws and orders, myths of civil obedience, assumptions of civic virtue at the top. Still it should be said of the political left, we expect something better. And correctly. We put more trust in those who show a measure of compassion, who denounce the hideous social arrangements that make war inevitable and human desire omnipresent; which fosters corporate selfishness, panders to appetites and disorder, waste the earth.”—Daniel Berrigan, poet, Jesuit priest.


    One morning as I scanned the news – horror in the Middle East, Russia and America facing off in the Ukraine, I thought of Edward Snowden and wondered how he was holding up in Moscow. I began to imagine a conversation between him and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war). And then, interestingly, in my imagination a third person made her way into the room – the writer Arundhati Roy. It occurred to me that trying to get the three of them together would be a fine thing to do.

    I had heard Roy speak in Chicago, and had met her several times. One gets the feeling very quickly with her and comes to the rapid conclusion that there are no pre-formatted assumptions or givens. Through our conversations I became very aware that what gets lost, or goes unsaid, in most of the debates around surveillance and whistleblowing is a perspective and context from outside the United States and Europe. The debates around them have gradually centred around corporate overreach and the rights of privacy of US citizens.

    The philosopher/theosophist Rudolf Steiner says that any perception or truth that is isolated and removed from its larger context ceases to be true:

    “When any single thought emerges in consciousness, I cannot rest until this is brought into harmony with the rest of my thinking. Such an isolated concept, apart from the rest of my mental world, is entirely unendurable…there exists an inwardly sustained harmony among thoughts…when our thought world bears the character of inner harmony, we can feel we are in possession of the truth…. All elements are related one to the other…every such isolation is an abnormality, an untruth.”

    In other words, every isolated idea that doesn’t relate to others yet is taken as true (as a kind of niche truth) is not just bad politics, it is somehow also fundamentally untrue…. To me, Arundhati Roy’s writing and thinking strives for such unity of thought. And for her, like for Steiner, reason comes from the heart.

    I knew Dan and Ed because we all worked together on the Freedom of Press Foundation. And I knew Roy admired both of them greatly, but she was disconcerted by the photograph of Ed cradling the American flag in his arms that had appeared on the cover of Wired. On the other hand, she was impressed by what he had said in the interview – in particular that one of the factors that pushed him into doing what he did was the NSA’s (National Security Agency) sharing real-time data of Palestinians in the United States with the Israeli government.

    She thought what Dan and Ed had done were tremendous acts of courage, though as far as I could tell, her own politics were more in sync with Julian Assange’s. “Snowden is the thoughtful, courageous saint of liberal reform,” she once said to me. “And Julian Assange is a sort of radical, feral prophet who has been prowling this wilderness since he was 16 years old.”


    Click to enlarge.

    Daniel Ellsberg, Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden and John Cusack gathering in Moscow.

    I had recorded many of our conversations, Roy’s and mine – for no reason other than that they were so intense I felt I needed to listen to them several times over to understand what we were really saying to each other.

    I’ll roll the tapes:

    Arundhati Roy: All I’m saying is: what does that American flag mean to people outside of America? What does it mean in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Pakistan – even in India, your new natural ally?

    JC: In his (Ed’s) situation, he’s got very little margin for error when it comes to controlling his image, his messaging, and he’s done an incredible job up to this point. But you’re troubled by that isolated iconography?

    AR: Forget the genocide of American Indians, forget slavery, forget Hiroshima, forget Cambodia, forget Vietnam, you know….

    JC: Why do we have to forget?

    AR: I’m just saying that, at one level, I am happy – awed – that there are people of such intelligence, such compassion, that have defected from the State. They are heroic. Absolutely. They’ve risked their lives, their freedom…but then there’s that part of me that thinks…how could you ever have believed in it? What do you feel betrayed by? Is it possible to have a moral State? A moral superpower? I can’t understand those people who believe that the excesses are just aberrations…. Of course, I understand it intellectually, but…part of me wants to retain that incomprehension…. Sometimes my anger gets in the way of their pain.

    JC: Fair enough, but don’t you think you’re being a little harsh?

    AR: Maybe (laughs). But then, having ranted as I have, I always say that the grand thing in the United States is that there has been real resistance from within. There have been soldiers who’ve refused to fight, who’ve burned their medals, who’ve been conscientious objectors. I don’t think we have ever had a conscientious objector in the Indian Army. Not one. In the United States, you have this proud history, you know? And Snowden is part of that.

    JC: My gut tells me Snowden is more radical than he lets on. He has to be so tactical….

    AR: Just since 9/11…we’re supposed to forget whatever happened in the past because 9/11 is where history begins. Okay, since 2001, how many wars have been started, how many countries have been destroyed? So now ISIS is the new evil – but how did that evil begin? Is it more evil to do what ISIS is doing, which is to go around massacring people – mainly, but not only, Shi’a – slitting throats? By the way, the US-backed militias are doing similar things, except they don’t show beheadings of white folks on TV. Or is it more evil to contaminate the water supply, to bomb a place with depleted uranium, to cut off the supply of medicines, to say that half a million children dying from economic sanctions is a “hard price,” but “worth it”?

    JC: Madeleine Albright said so – about Iraq.


    Edward Snowden on the cover of Wired magazine.

    AR: Yes. Iraq. Is it alright to force a country to disarm, and then bomb it? To continue to create mayhem in the area? To pretend that you are fighting radical Islamism, when you’re actually toppling all the regimes that are not radical Islamist regimes? Whatever else their faults may be, they were not radical Islamist states – Iraq was not, Syria is not, Libya was not. The most radical fundamentalist Islamist state is, of course, your ally Saudi Arabia. In Syria, you’re on the side of those who want to depose Assad, right? And then suddenly, you’re with Assad, wanting to fight ISIS. It’s like some crazed, bewildered, rich giant bumbling around in a poor area with his pockets stuffed with money, and lots of weapons – just throwing stuff around. You don’t even really know who you’re giving it to – which murderous faction you are arming against which – feeling very relevant when actually…. All this destruction that has come in the wake of 9/11, all the countries that have been bombed…it ignites and magnifies these ancient antagonisms. They don’t necessarily have to do with the United States; they pre-date the existence of the United States by centuries. But the United States is unable to understand how irrelevant it is, actually. And how wicked…. Your short-term gains are the rest of the world’s long-term disasters – for everybody, including yourselves. And, I’m sorry, I’ve been saying you and the United States or America, when I actually mean the US government. There’s a difference. Big one.

    JC: Yeah.

    AR: Conflating the two the way I just did is stupid…walking into a trap – it makes it easy for people to say, “Oh, she’s anti-American, he’s anti-American,” when we’re not. Of course not. There are things I love about America. Anyway, what is a country? When people say, “Tell me about India,” I say, “Which India?…. The land of poetry and mad rebellion? The one that produces haunting music and exquisite textiles? The one that invented the caste system and celebrates the genocide of Muslims and Sikhs and the lynching of Dalits? The country of dollar billionaires? Or the one in which 800 million live on less than half-a-dollar a day? Which India?” When people say “America,” which one? Bob Dylan’s or Barack Obama’s? New Orleans or New York? Just a few years ago India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were one country. Actually, we were many countries if you count the princely states…. Then the British drew a line, and now we’re three countries, two of them pointing nukes at each other – the radical Hindu bomb and the radical Muslim bomb.

    JC: Radical Islam and US exceptionalism are in bed with each other. They’re like lovers, methinks….

    AR: It’s a revolving bed in a cheap motel…. Radical Hinduism is snuggled up somewhere in there, too. It’s hard to keep track of the partners, they change so fast. Each new baby they make is the latest progeny of the means to wage eternal war.

    JC: If you help manufacture an enemy that’s really evil, you can point to the fact that it’s really evil, and say, “Hey, it’s really evil.”

    AR: Your enemies are always manufactured to suit your purpose, right? How can you have a good enemy? You have to have an utterly evil enemy – and then the evilness has to progress.

    JC: It has to metastasise, right?

    AR: Yes. And then…how often are we going to keep on saying the same things?

    JC: Yeah, you get worn out by it.

    AR: Truly, there’s no alternative to stupidity. Cretinism is the mother of fascism. I have no defence against it, really….

    JC: It’s a real problem.
    (Both laugh)

    AR: It isn’t the lies they tell, it’s the quality of the lies that becomes so humiliating. They’ve stopped caring about even that. It’s all a play. Hiroshima and Nagasaki happen, there are hundreds of thousands of dead, and the curtain comes down, and that’s the end of that. Then Korea happens. Vietnam happens, all that happened in Latin America happens. And every now and then, this curtain comes down and history begins anew. New moralities and new indignations are manufactured…in a disappeared history.

    JC: And a disappeared context.

    AR: Yes, without any context or memory. But the people of the world have memories. There was a time when the women of Afghanistan – at least in Kabul – were out there. They were allowed to study, they were doctors and surgeons, walking free, wearing what they wanted. That was when it was under Soviet occupation. Then the United States starts funding the mujahideen. Reagan called them Afghanistan’s “founding fathers.” It reincarnates the idea of “jehad,” virtually creates the Taliban. And what happens to the women? In Iraq, until before the war, the women were scientists, museum directors, doctors. I’m not valourising Saddam Hussein or the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which was brutal and killed hundreds of thousands of people – it was the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. I’m just saying that now, in these new wars, whole countries have slipped into mayhem – the women have just been pushed back into their burqas – and not by choice. I mean, to me, one thing is a culture in which women have not broken out of their subservience, but the horror of tomorrow, somebody turning around and telling me: “Arundhati, just go back into your veil, and sit in your kitchen and don’t come out.” Can you imagine the violence of that? That’s what has happened to these women. In 2001, we were told that the war in Afghanistan was a feminist mission. The marines were liberating Afghan women from the Taliban. Can you really bomb feminism into a country? And now, after 25 years of brutal war – 10 years against the Soviet occupation, 15 years of US occupation – the Taliban is riding back to Kabul and will soon be back to doing business with the United States. I don’t live in the United States but when I’m here, I begin to feel like my head is in a grinder – my brains are being scrambled by this language that they’re using. Outside it’s not so hard to understand because people know the score. But here, so many seem to swallow the propaganda so obediently.


    Click to enlarge.

    Kabul, Afghanistan — Photo from the 1960s, before the US started backing radical religious groups.

    So that was one exchange. Here’s another:

    JC: So, what do you think? What do we think are the things we can’t talk about in a civilised society, if you’re a good, domesticated house pet?

    AR: (Laughs) The occasional immorality of preaching nonviolence?
    (This was a reference to Walking with the Comrades, Roy’s account of her time spent with armed guerrillas in the forests of central India who were fighting paramilitary forces and vigilante militias trying to clear indigenous people off their land, which had been handed over to mining companies.)

    JC: In the United States, we can talk about ISIS, but we can’t talk about Palestine.

    AR: Oh, in India, we can talk about Palestine but we can’t talk about Kashmir. Nowadays, we can’t talk about the daylight massacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, because Narendra Modi might become prime minister. (As he did, subsequently in May 2014.) They like to say, “Let bygones be bygones.” Bygones. Nice word…old-fashioned.

    JC: Sounds like a sweet goodbye.

    AR: And we can decide the most convenient place on which to airdrop history’s markers. History is really a study of the future, not the past.

    JC: I just want to know what I can’t talk about, so I’ll avoid it in social settings.

    AR: You can say, for example, that it’s wrong to behead people physically, like with a knife, which implies that it’s alright to blow their heads off with a drone…isn’t it?

    JC: Well a drone is so surgical…and it’s like, a quick thing. They don’t suffer, right?

    AR: But some muzzlims, as you call them, are also good, professional butchers. They do it quick.

    JC: What else can and cannot be said?

    AR: This is a lovely theme…. About Vietnam, you can say, “These Asians, they don’t value their life, and so they force us to bear the burden of genocide.” This is more or less a direct quote.

    JC: From Robert McNamara, who then went on to “serve the poor.”

    AR: Who, before he supervised the destruction at Vietnam, planned the bombing of Tokyo in which 80,000 people were killed in a single night. Then he became the president of the World Bank, where he took great care of the world’s poor. At the end of his life, he was tormented by one question – “How much evil do you have to do in order to do good?” That’s a quote, too.

    JC: It’s tough love.

    AR: Fucking selfless stuff…. We had these conversations sitting at my kitchen table, in New York corner booths, in a Puerto Rican diner that became a favourite spot. On impulse, I called New Delhi.

    Wanna go to Moscow and meet Dan Ellsberg and Ed Snowden?
    Don’t talk rubbish…
    Listen…if I can pull it off, should we go?

    There was silence, and I felt the smile over the phone.

    Yaa, Maan. Let’s go.

    Part 2: “We Brought You the Promise of the Future, but Our Tongue Stammered and Barked…”

    by Arundhati Roy


    Click to enlarge.

    John Cusack and Arundhati Roy meet with Snowden at room 1001 at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow.

    My phone rang at three in the morning. It was John Cusack asking me if I would go with him to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden. I’d met John several times; I’d walked the streets of Chicago with him, a hulking fellow hunched into his black hoo-die, trying not to be recognised. I’d seen and loved several of the iconic films he has written and acted in and I knew that he’d come out early on Snowden’s side with The Snowden Principle, an essay he wrote only days after the story broke and the US government was calling for Snowden’s head. We had had conversations that usually lasted several hours, but I embraced Cusack as a true comrade only after I opened his refrigerator and found nothing but an old brass bus horn and a pair of small antlers in his freezer.

    I told him that I would love to meet Edward Snowden in Moscow.

    The other person who would be travelling with us was Daniel Ellsberg – Snowden of the ’60s – the whistleblower who made public the Pentagon papers during the Vietnam war. I had met Dan briefly, more than 10 years ago, when he gave me his book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

    Dan comes down pretty ruthlessly on himself in his book. Only by reading it – and you should – can you even begin to understand the disquieting combination of guilt and pride he has lived with for about 50 of his 84 years. This makes Dan a complicated, conflicted man – half-hero, half-haunted spectre – a man who has tried to do penance for his past deeds by speaking, writing, protesting and getting arrested in acts of civil disobedience for decades.

    In the first few chapters of Secrets, he tells of how, in 1965, when he was a young employee in the Pentagon, orders came straight from Robert McNamara’s office (“It was like an order from God”) to gather “atrocity details” about Viet Cong attacks on civilians and military bases anywhere in Vietnam. McNamara, Secretary of Defence at the time, needed the information to justify “retaliatory action” – which essentially meant he needed a justification for bombing South Vietnam. The “atrocity” gatherer that “God” chose was Daniel Ellsberg:

    I had no doubts or hesitation as I went down to the Joint War Room to do my best. That’s the memory I have to deal with…. Briefly I told the colonel I needed details of atrocities….

    Above all I wanted the gory details of the injuries to the Americans at Pleiku and especially at Qui Nhon. I told the colonel “I need blood.”… Most of the reports didn’t go into gory details, but some of them did. The district chief had been disemboweled in front of the village, and his family, his wife and four children had been killed too. “Great! That’s what I want to know! That’s what we need! More of that! Can you find other stories like that?”

    Within weeks, the campaign called Rolling Thunder was announced. American jets began to bomb South Vietnam. Something like 175,000 marines were deployed in that small country on the other side of the world, 8,000 miles away from Washington, DC. The war would go on for eight more years. (According to the testimonies in the recently published book about the Vietnam War Kill Anything that Moves by Nick Turse, what the US army did in Vietnam as it moved from village to village with orders to “kill anything that moves” – which included women, children and livestock – was just as vicious, though on a much larger scale, as anything ISIS is doing now. It had the added benefit of being backed up by the most powerful air force in the world.)

    By the end of the Vietnam war, three million Vietnamese people and 58,000 US troops had been killed and enough bombs had been dropped to cover the whole of Vietnam in several inches of steel. Here’s Dan again: “I have never been able to explain to myself – so I can’t explain to anyone else – why I stayed in the Pentagon job after the bombing started. Simple careerism isn’t an adequate explanation; I wasn’t wedded to that role or to more research from the inside; I’d learned as much as I needed to. That nights’ work was the worst thing I’ve ever done.”

    When I first read Secrets, I was unsettled by my admiration and sympathy for Dan on the one hand and my anger, not at him of course, but at what he so candidly admitted to having been part of on the other. Those two feelings ran on clear, parallel tracks, refusing to converge. I knew that when my raw nerves met his, we would be friends, which is how it turned out.

    Perhaps my initial unease, my inability to react simply and generously to what was clearly an act of courage and conscience on Dan’s part had to do with my having grown up in Kerala, where, in 1957, one of the first-ever democratically elected Communist governments in the world came to power. So, like Vietnam, we too had jungles, rivers, rice fields, and Communists. I grew up in a sea of red flags, workers’ processions and chants of Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution)! Had a strong wind blown the Vietnam war a couple of thousand miles westward, I would have been a “gook” – a kill-able, bomb-able, Napalm-able type – another body to add local colour in Apocalypse Now. (Hollywood won the Vietnam war, even if America didn’t. And Vietnam is a Free Market Economy now. So who am I to be taking things to heart all these years later?)

    But back then, in Kerala, we didn’t need the Pentagon papers to make us furious about the Vietnam war. I remember as a very young child speaking at my first school debate, dressed as a Viet Cong woman, in my mother’s printed sarong. I spoke with tutored indignation about the “Running Dogs of Imperialism.” I played with children called Lenin and Stalin. (There weren’t any little Leons or baby Trotskys around – maybe they’d have been exiled or shot.) Instead of the Pentagon papers, we could have done with some whistle-blowing about the reality of Stalin’s purges or China’s Great Leap Forward and the millions who perished in them. But all that was dismissed by the Communist parties as Western propaganda or explained away as a necessary part of Revolution.

    But despite my reservations and criticism of the various Communist parties in India (my novel The God of Small Things was denounced by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala as anti-Communist), I believe that the decimation of the Left (by which I do not mean the defeat of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall) has led us to the embarrassingly foolish place we find ourselves in right now. Even capitalists must surely admit, that intellectually at least, socialism is a worthy opponent. It imparts intelligence even to its adversaries. Our tragedy today is not just that millions of people who called themselves communist or socialist were physically liquidated in Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, not just that China and Russia, after all that revolution, have become capitalist economies, not just that the working class has been ruined in the United States and its unions dismantled, not just that Greece has been brought to its knees, or that Cuba will soon be assimilated into the free market – it is also that the language of the Left, thediscourse of the Left, has been marginalised and is sought to be eradicated. The debate – even though the protagonists on both sides betrayed everything they claimed to believe in – used to be about social justice, equality, liberty, and redistribution of wealth. All we seem to be left with now is paranoid gibberish about a War on Terror whose whole purpose is to expand the War, increase the Terror, and obfuscate the fact that the wars of today are not aberrations but systemic, logical exercises to preserve a way of life whose delicate pleasures and exquisite comforts can only be delivered to the chosen few by a continuous, protracted war for hegemony – Lifestyle Wars.

    What I wanted to ask Ellsberg and Snowden was, can these be kind wars? Considerate wars? Good wars? Wars that respect human rights?

    The comical understudy for what used to be a conversation about justice is what the New York Times recently called ‘Bill and Melinda Gates’s Pillow Talk’ about “what they have learned from giving away $34 billion,” which according to a back-of-the-envelope calculation by the Timescolumnist Nicholas Kristof, has saved the lives of 33 million children from diseases like polio:

    “On the (Gates) foundation there’s always a lot of pillow talk,” Melinda said. “We do push hard on each other.” …Bill thought Melinda focused too much on field visits while Melinda thought Bill spent too much times with officials…. They also teach each other, Melinda says. In the case of gender, they’ve followed her lead in investing in contraception, but also they developed new metrics to satisfy Bill. So among their lessons learned from 15 years of philanthropy, one applies to any couple…. Listen to your spouse! (NYT, July 18, 2015).

    They plan – the article goes on to say without irony – to save 61 million more children’s lives in the next 15 years. (That, going by the same back-of-the-envelope calculation, would cost another $61 billion, at least.) All that money in one boardroom-bed – how do they sleep at night, Bill and Melinda? If you are nice to them and draw up a good project proposal, they may give you a grant so that you can also save the world in your own small way.

    But seriously – what is one couple doing with that much money, which is just a small percentage of the indecent profits they make from the corporation they run? And even that small percentage runs into billions. It’s enough to set the world’s agenda, enough to buy government policy, determine university curricula, fund NGOs and activists. It gives them the power to mould the whole world to their will. Forget the politics, is that even polite? Even if it’s “good” will? Who’s to decide what’s good and what’s not?

    So that, roughly, is where we are right now, politically speaking.


    Click to enlarge.

    $34 Billion Charity: What is one couple doing with that much money, a small percentage of their indecent profits?

    Coming back to the 3 am phone call – by dawn I was worrying about my air ticket and getting a Russian visa. I learned that I needed a hard copy of a confirmed hotel booking in Moscow, sealed and approved by the Ministry of Something or the Other in Russia. How the hell was I to do that? I had only three days. John’s wizard assistant organised it and couriered it to me. My heart missed a beat when I saw it. The Ritz-Carlton. My last political outing had been some weeks spent walking with Maoist guerrillas and sleeping underneath the stars in the Dandakaranya forest. And this next one was going to be in the Ritz?

    It wasn’t just the money, it was…I don’t know…. I had never imagined the Ritz-Carlton as a base camp – or a venue – for any kind of real politics. (In any case, the Ritz has turned out to be the venue of choice for several Snowden interviews, including John Oliver’s famous conversation with him about “dick pics.”)

    I drove past the long, snaking queues outside the heavily guarded US consulate to get to the Russian embassy. It was empty. There was nobody at the counters marked “passport,” “visa forms,” or “collection.” There was no bell, no way of attracting anybody’s attention. Through a half-open door, I caught an occasional, fleeting glimpse of people moving around in the backroom. No queue whatsoever in the embassy of a country with a history of every imaginable type of queue. Varlam Shalamov describes them so vividly in Kolyma Tales, his stories about the labour camp in Kolyma – queues for food, for shoes, for a meagre scrap of clothing – a fight to the death over a piece of stale bread. I remembered a poem about queues by Anna Akhmatova – who unlike many of her peers, had survived the Gulag. Well, sort of:

    In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror, I spent
    Seventeen months in the prison lines of Leningrad.
    Once someone ‘recognised’ me. Then a woman with
    bluish lips standing behind me, who, of course, had
    never heard me called by name before, woke up from
    the stupor to which everybody had succumbed and
    whispered in my ear (everybody spoke in whispers there):
    “Can you describe this?”
    And I answered: “Yes I can.”
    Then something that looked like a smile passed
    over what had once been her face.

    Akhmatova, her first husband Nikolay Gumilyov, Osip Mandelstam and three other poets were part of Acmeism, a poets’ guild. In 1921, Gumilyov was shot by a firing squad for counter-revolutionary activity. Mandelstam was arrested in 1934 for writing an ode to Stalin that showed signs of satire and was not convincing enough in its praise. He died years later, starved and deranged, in a transit camp in Siberia. His poetry (which survived on scraps of paper hidden in pillow cases and cooking vessels, or committed to memory by people who loved him) was retrieved by his widow and by Anna Akhmatova.

    This is the history of surveillance in the country that has offered asylum to Ed Snowden – wanted by the US government for exposing a surveillance apparatus that makes the operatives of the KGB and the Stassi look like preschool children. If the Snowden story were fiction, a good editor would dismiss its mirrored narrative symmetry as a cheap gimmick.

    A man finally appeared at one of the counters at the Russian embassy and accepted my passport and visa form (as well as the sealed, stamped, hard copy of the confirmation of my hotel booking). He asked me to come back the next morning.

    When I got home, I went straight to my bookshelf, looking for a passage I had marked long ago in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Comrade N.S. Rubashov, once a high-level officer in the Soviet government, has been arrested for treason. He reminisces in his prison cell:

    All our principles were right, but our results were wrong. This is a diseased century. We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but whenever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared. Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people, but they hate us. Why are we so odious and detested? We brought you truth and in our mouth it sounded like a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voice is heard the trees wither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked….

    Read now, it sounds like pillow talk between two old enemies who have fought a long, hard war and can no longer tell each other apart.
    I got my visa the next morning. I was going to Russia.

    Part 3: Things That Can and Cannot Be Said (Continued)

    by John Cusack

    Over the next week or so, the logistics had to be planned. It was short notice and a bit of a mad scramble. Roy made her own arrangements, but I had in mind Dan Ellsberg’s history as a nuclear weapons planner for America’s retaliation to a possible Soviet first strike. In other words, he had only spent a few years of his life planning the physical obliteration of the Soviet Union. Nuclear secrets, domino theory – he was in those rooms. Then there were the 85-plus arrests for civil disobedience, one of those in Russia on the Sirius, the Greenpeace boat protesting Soviet nuclear testing. But Dan’s visa came. And mine came, too.

    Meanwhile in India, some of Roy’s worst fears had materialised. Eight months before, Narendra Modi had become the new Prime Minister of India. (In May, I received this text: Election results are out. The fascists in a landslide. The phantoms are real. What you see is what you get.)

    I met up with Roy in London. She had been there for two weeks giving talks in Cambridge and the South Bank on her new work on Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar. At Heathrow, she told me quite casually that some folks in India were burning effigies of her. “I seem to be goading the Gandhians to violence,” she laughed, “but I was disappointed with the quality of the effigy.”

    We flew together to Stockholm to meet up with Dan, who was attending the ceremony of the Right Livelihood Awards – some call it the Alternative Nobel – because Ed was one of the laureates. We would fly to Moscow together from there.

    The Stockholm streets were so clean you could eat off the ground.

    On our first night, there was a dinner at a nautical museum with the complete salvaged wreckage of a huge 16th-century wooden warship as the centrepiece of the modernist structure. The Wasa, considered the Titanic of Swedish disasters, was built on the orders of yet another power-hungry king who wanted control of seas and the future. It was so overloaded with weapons and top-heavy, it capsized and sank before it even left the harbour.

    It was a classic human rights evening, to be sure: gourmet food and good intentions, a choir singing beautiful Noels. I enjoyed watching the almost pathologically anti-gala Roy trying to mask her blind panic. Not her venue, as they say. Dan was busy and in great demand, meeting people, doing interviews.

    We caught occasional glimpses of him – and managed to say a quick hello.

    The awards ceremony took place in the Swedish parliament. Roy and I were graciously invited. We were late. It occurred to us that if neither of us would be comfortable sitting in the parliament halls of our own countries, what the fuck would we be doing sitting in the Swedish parliament? So we skulked around the corridors like petty criminals until we found a cramped balcony from which we could watch the ceremony. Our empty seats reflected back at us. The speeches were long. We slipped away and walked through the great chambers and found an empty banquet hall with a laid out feast. There was a metaphor there somewhere. I switched on my recorder again:

    JC: What is the meaning of charity as a political tool?

    AR: It’s an old joke, right? If you want to control somebody, support them. Or marry them.

    JC: Sugar daddy politics….

    AR: Embrace the resistance, seize it, fund it.

    JC: Domesticate it….

    AR: Make it depend on you. Turn it into an art project or a product of some kind. The minute what you think of as radical becomes an institutionalised, funded operation, you’re in some trouble. And it’s cleverly done. It’s not all bad…some are doing genuinely good work.

    JC: Like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)….

    AR: They have money from the Ford Foundation, right? But they do excellent work. You can’t fault people for the work they’re doing, taken individually.

    JC: People want to do something good, something useful….

    AR: Yes. And it is these good intentions that are dragooned and put to work. It’s a complicated thing. Think of a bead necklace. The beads on their own may be lovely, but when they’re threaded together, they’re not really free to skitter around as they please. When you look around and see how many NGOs are on, say, the Gates, Rockefeller or Ford Foundation’s handout list, there has to be something wrong, right? They turn potential radicals into receivers of their largesse – and then, very subtly, without appearing to – they circumscribe the boundaries of radical politics. And you’re sacked if you disobey…sacked, unfunded, whatever. And then there’s always the game of pitting the “funded” against the “unfunded,” in which the funder takes centrestage. So, I mean, I’m not against people being funded – because we’re running out of options – but we have to understand – are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you? Or who’s the dog and who is you?

    JC: I’m definitely the dog…and I’ve definitely been walked.

    AR: Everywhere – not just in America…repress, beat up, shoot, jail those you can, and throw money at those whom you can’t – and gradually sandpaper the edge off them. They’re in the business of creating what we in India call Paaltu Sher, which means Tamed Tigers. Like a pretend resistance…so you can let off steam without damaging anything.

    JC: The first time you spoke at the World Social Forum…when was that?

    AR: In 2002, I think, Porto Alegre…just before the US invasion of Iraq.

    JC: In Mumbai. And then you went the next year and it was….

    AR: Totally NGO-ised. So many major activists had turned into travel agents, just having to organise tickets and money, flying people up and down. The forum suddenly declared, “Only non-violence, no armed struggles….” They had turned Gandhian.

    JC: So anyone involved in armed resistance….

    AR: All out, all out. Many of the radical struggles were out. And I thought, fuck this. My question is, if, let’s say, there are people who live in villages deep in the forest, four days walk from anywhere, and a thousand soldiers arrive and burn their villages and kill and rape people to scare them off their land because mining companies want it – what brand of non-violence would the stalwarts of the establishment recommend? Non-violence is radical political theatre.

    JC: Effective only when there’s an audience….

    AR: Exactly. And who can pull in an audience? You need some capital, some stars, right? Gandhi was a superstar. The people in the forest don’t have that capital, that drawing power. So they have no audience. Non-violence should be a tactic – not an ideology preached from the sidelines to victims of massiveviolence…. With me, it’s been an evolution of seeing through these things.

    JC: You begin to smell the digestive enzymes….

    AR: (Laughing) But you know, the revolution cannot be funded. It’s not the imagination of trusts and foundations that’s going to bring real change.

    JC: But what’s the bigger game that we can name?

    AR: The bigger game is keeping the world safe for the Free Market. Structural Adjustment, Privatisation, Free Market fundamentalism – all masquerading as Democracy and the Rule of Law. Many corporate foundation-funded NGOs – not all, but many – become the missionaries of the “new economy.” They tinker with your imagination, with language. The idea of “human rights,” for example – sometimes it bothers me. Not in itself, but because the concept of human rights has replaced the much grander idea of justice. Human rights are fundamental rights, they are the minimum, the very least we demand. Too often, they become the goal itself. What should be the minimum becomes the maximum – all we are supposed to expect – but human rights aren’t enough. The goal is, and must always be, justice.

    JC: The term human rights is, or can be, a kind of pacifier – filling the space in the political imagination that justice deserves?

    AR: Look at the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example. If you look at a map from 1947 to now, you’ll see that Israel has gobbled up almost all of Palestinian land with its illegal settlements. To talk about justice in that battle, you have to talk about those settlements. But, if you just talk about human rights, then you can say, “Oh, Hamas violates human rights,” “Israel violates human rights.” Ergo, both are bad.

    JC: You can turn it into an equivalence….

    AR: …though it isn’t one. But this discourse of human rights, it’s a very good format for TV – the great atrocity analysis and condemnation industry (laughs). Who comes out smelling sweet in the atrocity analysis? States have invested themselves with the right to legitimise violence – so who gets criminalised and delegitimised? Only – or well that’s excessive – usually, the resistance.

    JC: So the term human rights can take the oxygen out of justice?

    AR: Human rights takes history out of justice.

    JC: Justice always has context….

    AR: I sound as though I’m trashing human rights…I’m not. All I’m saying is that the idea of justice – even just dreaming of justice – is revolutionary. The language of human rights tends to accept a status quo that is intrinsically unjust – and then tries to make it more accountable. But then, of course, Catch-22 is that violating human rights is integral to the project of neoliberalism and global hegemony.

    JC: …as there’s no other way of implementing those policies except violently.

    AR: No way at all – but talk loud enough about human rights and it gives the impression of democracy at work, justice at work. There was a time when the United States waged war to topple democracies, because back then democracy was a threat to the Free Market. Countries were nationalising their resources, protecting their markets…. So then, real democracies were being toppled. They were toppled in Iran, they were toppled all across Latin America, Chile….

    JC: The list is too long….

    AR: Now we’re in a situation where democracy has been taken into the workshop and fixed, remodeled to be market-friendly. So now the United States is fighting wars to instal democracies. First it was topple them, now it’s instal them, right? And this whole rise of corporate-funded NGOs in the modern world, this notion of CSR, corporate social responsibility – it’s all part of a New Managed Democracy. In that sense, it’s all part of the same machine.

    JC: Tentacles of the same squid.

    AR: They moved in to the spaces that were left when “structural adjustment” forced states to pull back on public spending – on health, education, infrastructure, water supply – turning what ought to be people’s rights, to education, to healthcare and so on, into charitable activity available to a few. Peace, Inc. is sometimes as worrying as War, Inc. It’s a way of managing public anger. We’re all being managed, and we don’t even know it…. The IMF and the World Bank, the most opaque and secretive entities, put millions into NGOs who fight against “corruption” and for “transparency.” They want the Rule of Law – as long as they make the laws. They want transparency in order to standardise a situation, so that global capital can flow without any impediment. Cage the People, Free the Money. The only thing that is allowed to move freely – unimpeded – around the world today is money…capital.

    JC: It’s all for efficiency, right? Stable markets, stable world…there’s a great violence in the idea of a uniform “investment climate.”


    Democracy Masquerade: Uniform investment climate. A phrase interchangeable with Massacre.

    AR: In India, that’s a phrase we use interchangeably with “massacre.” Stable markets, unstable world. Efficiency. Everybody hears about it. It’s enough to make you want to be pro-inefficiency and pro-corruption. (Laughing) But seriously, if you look at the history of the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller, in Latin America, in Indonesia, where almost a million people, mainly Communists, were killed by General Suharto, who was backed by the CIA, in South Africa, in the US Civil Rights Movement – or even now, it’s very disturbing. They have always worked closely with the US State Department.

    JC: And yet now Ford funds The Act of Killing – the film about those same massacres. They profile the butchers…but not their masters. They won’t follow the money.

    AR: They have so much money, they can fund everything, very bad things as well as very good things – documentary films, nuclear weapons planners, gender rights, feminist conferences, literature and film festivals, university chairs…anything, as long as it doesn’t upset the “market” and the economic status quo. One of Ford’s “good works” was to fund the CFR, the Council of Foreign Relations, which worked closely with the CIA. All the World Bank presidents since 1946 are from the CFR. Ford-funded RAND, the Research and Development Corporation, which works closely with the US defence forces.

    JC: That was where Dan worked. That’s where he laid his hands on the Pentagon papers.

    AR: The Pentagon papers…. I couldn’t believe what I was reading…that stuff about bombing dams, planning famines…. I wrote an introduction to an edition of Noam Chomsky’s For Reasons of State in which he analyses the Pentagon papers. There was a chapter in the book called ‘The Backroom Boys’ – maybe that wasn’t the Pentagon papers part, I don’t remember…but there was a letter or a note of some kind, maybe from soldiers in the field, about how great it was that white phosphorous had been mixed in with napalm…. “It sticks to the gooks like shit to a blanket, and burns them to the bone.” They were happy because white phosphorous kept burning even when the Vietnamese who had been firebombed tried to jump into water to stop their flesh from burning off….

    JC: You remember that by rote?

    AR: I can’t forget it. It burned me to the bone…. I grew up in Kerala, remember. Communist country….

    JC: You were talking about how the Ford Foundation funded RAND and the CFR.

    AR: (Laughs) Yes…it’s a bedroom comedy…actually a bedroom tragedy…is that a genre? Ford funded CFR and RAND. Robert McNamara moved from heading Ford Motors to the Pentagon. So, as you can see, we’re encircled.

    JC: …and not just by the past.

    AR: No – by the future, too. The future is Google, isn’t it? In Julian Assange’s book – brilliant book – When Google Met WikiLeaks, he suggests that there isn’t much daylight between Google and the NSA. The three people who went along with Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google – to interview Julian were Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas – ex-State Department and senior something or other on the CFR, adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. The two others were Lisa Shields and Scott Malcolmson, also former State Department and CFR. It’s serious shit. But when we talk about NGOs, there’s something we must be careful about….

    JC: What’s that?

    AR: When the attack on NGOs comes from the opposite end, from the far right, then those of us who’ve been criticising NGOs from a completely different perspective will look terrible…to liberals we’ll be the bad guys….

    JC: Once again pitting the “funded” against the “unfunded.”

    AR: For example, in India the new government – the members of the radical Hindu Right who want India to be a ‘Hindu Nation’ – they’re bigots. Butchers. Massacres are their unofficial election campaigns – orchestrated to polarise communities and bring in the vote. It was so in Gujarat in 2002, and this year, in the run-up to the general elections, in a place called Muzaffarnagar, after which tens of thousands of Muslims had to flee from their villages and live in camps. Some of those who are accused of all that murdering are now cabinet ministers. Their support for straightforward, chest-thumping butchery makes you long for even the hypocrisy of the human rights discourse. But now if the “human rights” NGOs make a noise, or even whisper too loudly…this government will shut them down. And it can, very easily. All it has to do is to go after the funders…and the funders, whoever they are, especially those who are interested in India’s huge “market” will either cave in or scuttle over to the other side. Those NGOs will blow over because they’re a chimera, they don’t have deep roots in society among the people, really, so they’ll just disappear. Even the pretend resistance that has sucked the marrow out of genuine resistance will be gone.

    JC: Is Modi going to succeed long-term?

    AR: It’s hard to say. There’s no real opposition, you know? He has an absolute majority and a government that he completely controls, and he himself – and I think this is true of most people with murky pasts – doesn’t trust any of his own people, so he’s become this person who has to interface directly with people. The government is secondary. Public institutions are being peopled by his acolytes, school and university syllabi are being revamped, history is being rewritten in absurd ways. It’s very dangerous, all of it. And a large section of young people, students, the IT crowd, the educated middle class and, of course, Big Business, are with him – the Hindu right-wing is with him. He’s lowering the bar of public discourse – saying things like, “Oh, Hindus discovered plastic surgery in the Vedas because how else would we have had an elephant-headed god.”

    JC: (Laughing) He said that?

    AR: Yes! It’s dangerous. On the other hand, it’s so corny that I don’t know how long it can last. But for now people are wearing Modi masks and waving back at him…. He was democratically elected. There’s no getting away from that. That’s why when people say “the people” or “the public” as though it’s the final repository of all morality, I sometimes flinch.

    JC: As they say, “Kitsch is the Mask of Death.”…

    AR: Sounds about right…. But then, while there’s no real opposition to him in Parliament, India’s a very interesting place….there’s no formal opposition, but there’s genuine on-the-ground opposition. If you travel around – there are all kinds of people, brilliant people…journalists, activists, filmmakers, whether you go to Kashmir, the Indian part, or to an Adivasi village about to be submerged by a dam reservoir – the level of understanding of everything we’ve talked about – surveillance, globalisation, NGO-isation – is so high, you know? The wisdom of the resistance movements, which are ragged and tattered and pushed to the wall, is incredible. So…I look to them and keep the faith. (Laughs)

    JC: So this isn’t new to you…the debate about mass surveillance?

    AR: Of course, the details are new to me, the technical stuff and the scale of it all – but for many of us in India who don’t consider ourselves ‘innocent’, surveillance is something we have all always been aware of. Most of those who have been summarily executed by the army or the police – we call them ‘encounters’ – have been tracked down using their cellphones. In Kashmir, for years they have monitored every phone call, every e-mail, every Facebook account – that plus beating doors down, shooting into crowds, mass arrests, torture that puts Abu Ghraib in the shade. It’s the same in Central India.

    JC: In the forest where you went Walking with the Comrades?

    AR: Yes. Where the poorest people in the world have stopped some of the richest mining corporations in their tracks. The great irony is that people who live in remote areas, who are illiterate and don’t own TVs, are in some ways more free because they are beyond the reach of indoctrination by the modern mass media. There’s a virtual civil war going on there and few know about it. Anyway, before I went into the forest, I was told by the Superintendent of Police, “Whoever crosses that river, can be shot on sight by my boys.” The police call the area across the river ‘Pakistan’. Anyway, then the cop says to me, “You know, Arundhati, I’ve told my seniors that however many police we put into this area, into the forest, we can’t win this battle with force – the only way we can win it is to put a TV in every tribal person’s house because these tribals don’t understand greed.” His point was that watching TV would teach them greed.

    JC: Greed…. That’s what this whole circus is about…huh?

    AR: Yes.


    That evening, after the awards ceremony, we met up with Dan. The next morning, we caught the flight to Moscow. Travelling with us was Ole von Uexküll from the Right Livelihood Foundation, a lovely man with clear eyes and impeccable manners. Ole was going to give Ed the prize since he couldn’t travel to Stockholm to receive it. Ole would be our companion for the next few days. On the flight, Dan, who is 83 years old, was furiously reading Roy’s new essay, The Doctor and the Saint, scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad. My mind began to race, wondering what Roy was making of this mini flying-circus hurtling toward Moscow. What I would learn from what she calls – with sinister silkiness and mischief twinkling in her dark brown eyes – “the gook perspective”? She can disarm you at any time with her friendly hustler’s grin but her eyes see things and love things so fiercely, it’s frightening at times.

    Going through immigration of the country he once planned to annihilate, Dan flashed the peace sign. Soon we were driving through the freezing streets of Moscow. The Ritz Carlton is perched literally a few hundred yards from the Kremlin. The Red Square always seemed so much bigger on TV, during all those horror show military parades. It’s so much smaller to the naked eye. We checked in and were whisked up to a VIP reception lounge with great views of the Kremlin and an Audi car display on its roof deck: The Ritz Terrace Brought to you by Audi. Another reminder hanging over Lenin’s tomb that capitalism had supposedly ended history.

    At noon the next day, I got the call I was waiting for in my room.

    The meeting between these two living symbols of American conscience was historic. It needed to happen. Seeing Ed and Dan together, trading stories, exchanging notes, was both heartwarming and deeply inspiring, and the conversation with Roy and the two former President’s Men was extraordinary. It had depth, insight, wit, generosity and a lightness of touch not possible in a formal, structured interview. Aware that we were being watched and monitored by forces greater than ourselves, we talked. Maybe one day the NSA will give us the minutes of our meeting. What was remarkable was how much agreement there was in the room. It wasn’t just what was said, but the way it was said, not just the text, but the subtext, the warmth, and laughter that was so exhilarating. But that’s another story. After two unforgettable days and 20 hours spent together, we said goodbye to Ed, wondering if we’d ever see him again.

    During the last few hours with Ed, Dan had recounted in horrifying and empirical detail the history of the nuclear arms race – a history of lies – an apocalyptic tome of charnel monologues and murder rites.

    At one point, Dan referred to Robert McNamara, his boss in the Pentagon, as a “moderate.” Roy’s eyes snapped wide open at the assertion. Dan then explained how, compared to the other lunatics in the Pentagon like Edwin Teller and Curtis LeMay, he was one. McNamara’s moderate and reasonable argument, Dan said, was that the United States needed only 400 warheads instead of 1,000. Because after 400, there were “diminishing returns on genocide.” It begins to flatten out. “You kill most people with 400, so if you have 800, you don’t kill that many more – 400 warheads would kill 1.2 billion people out of the then total population of 3.7 billion. So why have 1,000?”

    Roy listened to all this without saying very much. In The End of Imagination, the essay she wrote after India’s 1998 nuclear tests, she had gotten herself into serious trouble when she declared, “If it is anti-national to protest against nuclear weapons, then I sec-ede. I declare myself a mobile republic.” Dan, who is writing a book on the nuclear arms race, told me it was one of the finest things he’s ever read on the subject. “Wouldn’t you say,” Roy said for the record, or to anybody willing to listen, “that nuclear weapons are the inevitable, toxic corollary of the idea of the Great Nation?”

    Just after Ed left, Dan collapsed on to my bed – exhausted and blissful – with his arms stretched wide, but then a deep storm erupted. He became distressed and emotional. He quoted from The Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale, a short story about an American naval officer who was tried and court martialed. Hale’s sentence was that he should forever go from ship to ship, and he should never hear the name “America” again. In the story, a character quotes the poem Patriotism by Sir Walter Scott:

    Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
    Who never to himself hath said,
    “This is my own, my native land!”

    Dan began to weep. Through his tears, he said, “I’m still that much of a patriot in some sense…not for the State but….” He talked about his son and how he came of age during the Vietnam war, and how he, Dan, used to think his son was born for jail. “That the best thing that the best people in our country like Ed can do is to go to prison…. Or be an exile in Russia? This is what it’s come to in my country…it’s horrible, you know….” Roy’s eyes were sympathetic but distinctly unsettled.

    It was our last night in Moscow. We went for a walk in the Red Square. The Kremlin was lit with fairy lights. Dan went off to buy himself a Cossack fur hat. We stepped carefully on to the treacherous sheet of ice that covered the Red Square, trying to guess where Putin’s window might be and whether he was still at work. Roy kept talking as if she was still in room 1001:

    AR: The diminishing returns of genocide…what’s the subject heading? Math or economics? Zoology it should be. Mao said he was prepared to have millions of Chinese people perish in a nuclear war as long as China survived…. I’m beginning to find it more and more sick that only humans make it into our calculations…. Annihilate life on earth, but save the nation…what’s the subject heading? Stupidity or Insanity?

    JC: Social Service…. What do you think those maniacs look like in binary code?

    AR: Good-looking. When you think of how much violence, how much blood…how much has been destroyed to create the great nations, America, Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Belgium – even India, Pakistan.

    JC: The Soviet Union….

    AR: Yes. Having destroyed so much to make them, we must have nuclear weapons to protect them – and climate change to hold up their way of life…a two-pronged annihilation project.

    JC: We must all bow down to the flags.

    AR: And – I might as well say it now that I’m in the Red Square – to capitalism. Every time I say the word capitalism, everyone just assumes….

    JC: You must be a Marxist.

    AR: I have plenty of Marxism in me, I do…but Russia and China had their bloody revolutions and even while they were Communist, they had the same idea about generating wealth – tear it out of the bowels of the earth. And now they have come out with the same idea in the end…you know, capitalism. But capitalism will fail, too. We need a new imagination. Until then, we’re all just out here….

    JC: Wandering….

    AR: Thousands of years of ideological, philosophical and practical decisions were made. They altered the surface of the earth, the coordinates of our souls. For every one of those decisions, maybe there’s another decision that could have been made, should have been made.

    JC: Can be made….

    AR: Of course. So I don’t have the Big Idea. I don’t have the arrogance to even want to have the Big Idea. But I believe the physics of resisting power is as old as the physics of accumulating power. That’s what keeps the balance in the universe…the refusal to obey. I mean what’s a country? It’s just an administrative unit, a glorified municipality. Why do we imbue it with esoteric meaning and protect it with nuclear bombs? I can’t bow down to a municipality….it’s just not intelligent. The bastards will do what they have to do, and we’ll do what we have to do. Even if they annihilate us, we’ll go down on the other side.

    I looked at Roy, and wondered what trouble awaited her back in India…an old Yugoslavian proverb came to mind – “Tell the truth and run.” But some creatures will not run…even when maybe they should. They know that to show weakness only emboldens the bastards….

    Suddenly she turned to me and thanked me formally for organising the meeting with Edward Snowden. “He presents himself as this cool systems man, but it’s only passion that could make him do what he did. He’s not just a systems man. That’s what I needed to know.”

    We kept an eye on Dan in the distance bargaining with the hat-seller. I was worried he might slip on the ice.

    “So, for the record, Ms Roy,” I asked, “as someone with ‘plenty of Marxism’ in her, how does it feel to be walking on ice in the Red Square?” She nodded sagely, appearing to give my talk-show question serious consideration. “I think it should be privatised…handed over to a foundation that works tirelessly for the empowerment of women prisoners, abolishing of child labour and the improvement of relations between mass media and mining companies. Maybe to Bill and Melinda Gates.”

    She grinned with sadness in it…. I could almost hear the chimes of harmonic thinking, as clear as the church bells that suddenly filled the frozen air and the wind that chopped through the bleak winter night.

    “Listen man,” she said. “God’s back in the Red Square.”

    Part 4: What Shall We Love?

    by Arundhati Roy

    The Moscow Un-Summit wasn’t a formal interview. Nor was it a cloak-and-dagger underground rendezvous. The upshot is that we didn’t get the cautious, diplomatic, regulation Edward Snowden. The downshot (that isn’t a word, I know) is that the jokes, the humour and repartee that took place in Room 1001 cannot be reproduced. The Un-Summit cannot be written about in the detail that it deserves. Yet it definitely cannot not be written about. Because it did happen. And because the world is a millipede that inches forward on millions of real conversations. And this, certainly, was a real one.

    What mattered, perhaps even more than what was said was the spirit in the room. There was Edward Snowden who after 9/11 was in his own words “straight up singing highly of Bush” and signing up for the Iraq war. And there were those of us who after 9/11 had been straight up doing exactly the opposite. It was a little late for this conversation, of course. Iraq has been all but destroyed. And now the map of what is so condescendingly called the ‘Middle East’ is being brutally redrawn (yet again). But still, there we were, all of us, talking to each other in a bizarre hotel in Russia.

    Bizarre it certainly was. The opulent lobby of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton was teeming with drunk millionaires, high on new money, and gorgeous, high-stepping young women, half-peasant, half supermodel, draped on the arms of toady men – gazelles on their way to fame and fortune, paying their dues to the satyrs who would get them there. In the corridors, you passed serious fistfights, loud singing and quiet, liveried waiters wheeling trolleys with towers of food and silverware in and out of rooms. In Room 1001 we were so close to the Kremlin that if you put your hand out of the window, you could almost touch it. It was snowing outside. We were deep into the Russian winter – never credited enough for its part in the Second World War.

    Edward Snowden was much smaller than I thought he’d be. Small, lithe, neat, like a housecat. He greeted Dan ecstatically and us warmly.

    “I know why you’re here,” he said to me smiling.


    “To radicalise me.”

    I laughed. We settled down on various perches, stools, chairs and John’s bed.

    Dan and Ed were so pleased to meet each other, and had so much to say to each other, that it felt a little impolite to intrude on them. At times they broke into some kind of arcane code language: “I jumped from nobody on the street, straight to TSSCI.” No, because, again, this isn’t DS at all, this is NSA. At CIA, it’s called COMO.” .”..It’s kind of a similar role, but is it under support?” “PRISEC or PRIVAC?” “They start out with the TALENT KEYHOLE thing. Everyone then gets read into TS, SI, TK, and GAMMA – G clearance…. Nobody knows what it is….”

    It took a while before I felt it was alright to interrupt them. Snowden’s disarming answer to my question about being photographed cradling the American flag was to roll his eyes and say: “Oh, man. I don’t know. Somebody handed me a flag, they took a picture.” And when I asked him why he signed up for the Iraq war, when millions of people all over the world were marching against it, he replied, equally disarmingly: “I fell for the propaganda.”

    Dan talked at some length about how it would be unusual for US citizens who joined the Pentagon and the NSA to have read much literature on US exceptionalism and its history of warfare. (And once they joined, it was unlikely to be a subject that interested them.) He and Ed had watched it play out live, in real time, and were horrified enough to stake their lives and their freedom when they decided to be whistleblowers. What the two of them clearly had in common was a strong, almost corporeal sense of moral righteousness – of right and wrong. A sense of righteousness that was obviously at work not just when they decided to blow the whistle on what they thought to be morally unacceptable, but also when they signed up for their jobs – Dan to save his country from Communism, Ed to save it from Islamist terrorism. What they did when they grew disillusioned was so electrifying, so dramatic, that they have come to be identified by that single act of moral courage.

    I asked Ed Snowden what he thought about Washington’s ability to destroy countries and its inability to win a war (despite mass surveillance). I think the question was phrased quite rudely – something like “When was the last time the United States won a war?” We spoke about whether the economic sanctions and subsequent invasion of Iraq could be accurately called genocide. We talked about how the CIA knew – and was preparing for the fact – that the world was heading to a place of not just inter-country war but of intra-country war in which mass surveillance would be necessary to control populations. And about how armies were being turned into police forces to administer countries they have invaded and occupied, while the police, even in places like India and Pakistan and Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States – were being trained to behave like armies to quell internal insurrections.

    Ed spoke at some length about “sleepwalking into a total surveillance state.” And here I quote him, because he’s said this often before: “If we do nothing, we sort of sleepwalk into a total surveillance state where we have both a super-state that has unlimited capacity to apply force with an unlimited ability to know (about the people it is targeting) – and that’s a very dangerous combination. That’s the dark future. The fact that they know everything about us and we know nothing about them – because they are secret, they are privileged, and they are a separate class…the elite class, the political class, the resource class – we don’t know where they live, we don’t know what they do, we don’t know who their friends are. They have the ability to know all that about us. This is the direction of the future, but I think there are changing possibilities in this….”

    I asked Ed whether the NSA was just feigning annoyance at his revelations but might actually be secretly pleased at being known as the All Seeing, All Knowing Agency – because that would help to keep people fearful, off-balance, always looking over their shoulders and easy to manage.

    Dan spoke about how even in the United States, a police state was only another 9/11 away: “We are not in a police state now, not yet. I’m talking about what may come. I realise I shouldn’t put it that way…. White, middle-class, educated people like myself are not living in a police state…. Black, poor people are living in a police state. The repression starts with the semi-white, the Middle Easterners, including anybody who is allied with them, and goes on from there…. We don’t have a police state. One more 9/11, and then I believe we will have hundreds of thousands of detentions. Middle Easterners and Muslims will be put in detention camps or deported. After 9/11, we had thousands of people arrested without charges…. But I’m talking about the future. I’m talking the level of the Japanese in World War II… I’m talking of hundreds of thousands in camps or deported. I think the surveillance is very relevant to that. They will know who to put away – the data is already collected.” (When he said this, I did wonder, though I did not ask – how different would things have been if Snowden had not been White?)

    We talked about war and greed, about terrorism, and what an accurate definition of it would be. We spoke about countries, flags and the meaning of patriotism. We talked about public opinion and the concept of public morality and how fickle it could be, and how easily manipulated.

    It wasn’t a Q&A type of conversation. We were an incongruous gathering. Ole, myself and three troublesome Americans. John Cusack, who thought up and organised this whole disruptive enterprise comes from a fine tradition, too – of musicians, writers, actors, athletes who have refused to buy the bullshit, however beautifully it was packaged.

    What will become of Edward Snowden? Will he ever be able to return to the United States? His chances don’t look good. The US government – the Deep State, as well as both the major political parties – wants to punish him for the enormous damage he has inflicted, in their perception, on the security establishment. (It’s got Chelsea Manning and the other whistleblowers where it wants them.) If it does not manage to kill or jail Snowden, it must use everything in its power to limit the damage that he’s done and continues to do. One of those ways is to try to contain, co-opt and usher the debate around whistleblowing in a direction that suits it. And it has, to some extent, managed to do that. In the Public Security vs. Mass Surveillance debate that is taking place in the establishment Western media, the Object of Love is America. America and her actions. Are they moral or immoral? Are they right or wrong? Are the whistleblowers American patriots or American traitors? Within this constricted matrix of morality, other countries, other cultures, other conversations – even if they are the victims of US wars – usually appear only as witnesses in the main trial. They either bolster the outrage of the prosecution or the indignation of the defence. The trial, when it is conducted on these terms, serves to reinforce the idea that there can be a moderate, moral superpower. Are we not witnessing it in action? Its heartache? Its guilt? Its self-correcting mechanisms? Its watchdog media? Its activists who will not stand for ordinary (innocent) American citizens being spied on by their own government? In these debates that appear to be fierce and intelligent, words likepublic and security and terrorism are thrown around, but they remain, as always, loosely defined and are used more often than not in the way the US state would like them to be used.

    It is shocking that Barack Obama approved a “kill list” with 20 names on it.

    Or is it?

    What sort of list do the millions of people who have been killed in all the US wars belong on, if not a “kill list”?


    Click to enlarge.

    Not There Yet: But another 9/11 and Dan Ellsberg thinks the US will be heading for a police state

    In all of this, Snowden, in exile, has to remain strategic and tactical. He’s in the impossible position of having to negotiate the terms of his amnesty/trial with the very institutions in the United States that feel betrayed by him, and the terms of his domicile in Russia with that Great Humanitarian, Vladimir Putin. So the superpowers have the Truth-teller in a position where he now has to be extremely careful about how he uses the spotlight he has earned and what he says publicly.

    Even still, leaving aside what cannot be said, the conversation around whistleblowing is a thrilling one – it’s Realpolitik – busy, important and full of legalese.

    It has spies and spy-hunters, escapades, secrets and secret-leakers. It’s a very adult and absorbing universe of its own. However, if it becomes, as it sometimes threatens to – a substitute for broader, more radical political thinking, then the conversation that Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, poet and war resister (contemporary of Daniel Ellsberg) wanted to have when he said, “Every nation-state tends towards the imperial – that is the point,” becomes a little inconvenient.

    I was glad to see that when Snowden made his debut on Twitter (and chalked up half a million followers in half a second) he said, “I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public.” Implicit in that sentence is the belief that the government does not work for the public. That’s the beginning of a subversive and inconvenient conversation. By “the government,” of course he means the US government, his former employer. But who does he mean by “the public”? The US public? Which part of the US public? He’ll have to decide as he goes along. In democracies, the line between an elected government and “the public” is never all that clear. The elite is usually fused with the government pretty seamlessly. Viewed from an international perspective, if there really is such a thing as “the US public,” it’s a very privileged public indeed. The only “public” I know is a maddeningly tricky labyrinth.

    Oddly, when I think back on the meeting in the Moscow Ritz, the memory that flashes up first in my mind is an image of Daniel Ellsberg. Dan, after all those hours of talking, lying back on John’s bed, Christ-like, with his arms flung open, weeping for what the United States has turned into – a country whose “best people” must either go to prison or into exile. I was moved by his tears but troubled, too – because they were the tears of a man who has seen the machine up close. A man who was once on a first-name basis with the people who controlled it and who coldly contemplated the idea of annihilating life on earth. A man who risked everything to blow the whistle on them. Dan knows all the arguments, For as well as Against. He often uses the word imperialism to describe US history and foreign policy. He knows now, 40 years after he made the Pentagon papers public, that even though those particular individuals have gone, the machine keeps on turning.

    Daniel Ellsberg’s tears made me think about love, about loss, about dreams – and, most of all, about failure.

    What sort of love is this love that we have for countries? What sort of country is it that will ever live up to our dreams? What sort of dreams were these that have been broken? Isn’t the greatness of great nations directly proportionate to their ability to be ruthless, genocidal? Doesn’t the height of a country’s ‘success’ usually also mark the depths of its moral failure?

    And what about our failure? Writers, artists, radicals, anti-nationals, mavericks, malcontents – what of the failure of our imaginations? What of our failure to replace the idea of flags and countries with a less lethal Object of Love? Human beings seem unable to live without war, but they are also unable to live without love. So the question is, what shall we love?

    Writing this at a time when refugees are flooding into Europe – the result of decades of US and European foreign policy in the ‘Middle East’ makes me wonder: Who is a refugee? Is Edward Snowden a refugee? Surely, he is. Because of what he did, he cannot return to the place he thinks of as his country (although he can continue to live where he is most comfortable – inside the Internet). The refugees fleeing from wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to Europe are refugees of the Lifestyle Wars. But the thousands of people in countries like India who are being jailed and killed by those same Lifestyle Wars, the millions who are being driven off their lands and farms, exiled from everything they have ever known – their language, their history, the landscape that formed them – are not. As long as their misery is contained within the arbitrarily drawn borders of their ‘own’ country, they are not considered refugees. But they are refugees. And certainly, in terms of numbers, such people are the great majority in the world today. Unfortunately in imaginations that are locked down into a grid of countries and borders, in minds that are shrink-wrapped in flags, they don’t make the cut.

    Perhaps the best-known refugee of the Lifestyle Wars is Julian Assange, the founder and editor of WikiLeaks, who is currently serving his fourth year as a fugitive-guest in a room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The British police are stationed in a small lobby just outside the front door. There are snipers on the roof, who have orders to arrest him, shoot him, drag him out if he so much as puts a toe out of the door, which for all legal purposes is an international border. The Ecuadorian embassy is located across the street from Harrods, the world’s most famous department store. The day we met Julian, Harrods was sucking in and spewing out frenzied Christmas shoppers in their hundreds, or perhaps even thousands. In the middle of that tony London high street, the smell of opulence and excess met the smell of incarceration and the Free World’s fear of free speech. (They shook hands and agreed never to be friends.)

    On the day (actually the night) we met Julian, we were not allowed by security to take phones, cameras or any recording devices into the room. So that conversation also remains off the record.

    Despite the odds stacked against its founder-editor, WikiLeaks continues its work, as cool and insouciant as ever. Most recently it has offered an award of$100,000 for anybody who can provide “smoking gun” documents about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade agreement between Europe and the United States that aims to give multinational corporations the power to sue sovereign governments that do things that adversely impact corporate profits. Criminal acts could include governments increasing workers’ minimum wages, not seen to be cracking down on “terrorist” villagers who impede the work of mining companies, or, say, having the temerity to turn down Monsanto’s offer of genetically modified corporate-patented seeds. TTIP is just another weapon like intrusive surveillance or depleted uranium, to be used in the Lifestyle Wars.


    Roy and Cusack visit Julian Assange in London. December, 2014

    Looking at Julian Assange sitting across the table from me, pale and worn, without having had five minutes of sunshine on his skin for 900 days, but still refusing to disappear or capitulate the way his enemies would like him to, I smiled at the idea that nobody thinks of him as an Australian hero or an Australian traitor. To his enemies, Assange has betrayed much more than a country. He has betrayed the ideology of the ruling powers. For this, they hate him even more than they hate Edward Snowden. And that’s saying a lot.

    We’re told, often enough, that as a species we are poised on the edge of the abyss. It’s possible that our puffed-up, prideful intelligence has outstripped our instinct for survival and the road back to safety has already been washed away. In which case there’s nothing much to be done. If there is something to be done, then one thing is for sure: those who created the problem will not be the ones who come up with a solution. Encrypting our e-mails will help, but not very much. Recalibrating our understanding of what love means, what happiness means – and, yes, what countries mean – might. Recalibrating our priorities might. An old-growth forest, a mountain range or a river valley is more important and certainly more loveable than any country will ever be. I could weep for a river-valley, and I have. But for a country? Oh man, I don’t know….

    This post is adapted from a four-part series at Outlook India.

    John Cusack is a writer, film maker, and a board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @johncusack. Follow him on Facebook:

    Arundhati Roy is the author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The God of Small Things. Her most recent book of essays is Capitalism: A Ghost Story.

    The first prototype of a sodium-ion battery has just been revealed



    A Battery Revolution in Motion

    11.27.2015, by 

    Much more abundant than lithium, sodium could become a more interesting alternative to lithium-ion batteries that have been used since the early 90s .
    The first prototype of a sodium-ion battery has just been revealed by the RS2E, a French network bringing together researchers and industrial actors. This technology, inspired by the lithium-ion batteries already used in portable computers and electric vehicles, could lead to the mass storage of intermittent renewable energy sources.

    The announcement should cause a stir in the highly competitive world of batteries. French researchers from the RS2E network1 today revealed the first prototype of the sodium-ion “18650” battery, a standard format used notably in portable computers. The information may not sound exciting to non-specialists… Yet scientists across the globe, including the US, Japan, the UK, and Israel, are working on this technology—which today is considered the most serious alternative to the lithium-ion batteries that equip practically all portable electronic devices (portable computers, tablets, smartphones…)—and are beginning to take a serious look at electric vehicles. The battery used for Tesla cars, for example, is nothing more than the combination of several thousand “18650” lithium-ion batteries.


    Sodium, the future of battery development!(link is external) by CNRS-en(link is external) 

    “The sodium-ion battery unveiled today is directly inspired by lithium-ion technology,” explains Jean-Marie Tarascon, the French battery “guru” who is a solid-state chemist at the CNRS, and professor at the Collège de France.2 Like lithium ions, sodium ions “travel” from one electrode to another, during the course of charging and discharging cycles, and they do so without in any way modifying the “host materials” located at each electrode, as the latter take the form of crystalline structures the ions can smoothly enter into… Its format, called “18650,” indicates that it is presented in the form of a cylinder, with a diameter of 1.8 centimeters and a height of 6.5 centimeters. 

    Sodium’s incredible comeback

    For the moment, its creators have not disclosed the composition of the materials wrapped around the two electrodes of their sodium-ion battery—a trade secret. However, the performance of the prototype presented today is better known. With 90 watt-hours/kilogram, “its energy density (the quantity of energy that can be stored per kilo of battery) is comparable to certain lithium-ion batteries, such as the Li-ion iron/phosphate battery,” points out Loïc Simonin, a researcher at LITEN, a CEA laboratory associated with the development of the prototype. And its life span (maximum number of charge-discharge cycles) exceeds 2000 cycles. These initial results are thus highly encouraging, all the more so as they can be improved. 

    When the electric vehicle market began to develop, we feared a surge in lithium prices.

    Considered desirable objects today, sodium batteries have nevertheless come a long way. In the late 1980s, this technology had in fact been set aside in favor of lithium, whose superiority seemed obvious to all: thanks to a voltage of 3.5 V, lithium in theory provides the most energy. Being three times lighter than sodium ions, lithium ions also make it possible to produce very lightweight batteries, an undeniable asset when it comes to portable electronics. Lithium’s only disadvantage is its (relative) rareness, and the fact that it is only found in a few specific locations (Colombia, Chile, China, etc.). 

    “When the electric vehicle market began to develop, we feared a surge in lithium prices, and sodium thus entered the race again,” Tarascon recalls. True enough, it has the significant advantage of being abundant (2.6% sodium can be found in the Earth’s crust, compared with barely 0.06% lithium), and widely accessible, notably in seawater in the form of sodium chloride (NaCl).


    Recherche sur les batteries sodium-ion (Na-ion)

    Researchers complete electrochemical tests on a prototype sodium-ion cell to evaluate its performance.


    In 2012, the French researcher decided to take the bull by the horns and make the most of France’s know-how in sodium batteries. “For lithium, all fundamental research had been conducted in Europe, especially in France,” Tarascon points out. “Yet it was in Japan that the technology was transferred and brought to market, allowing Sony to launch its first lithium-ion battery in 1991. As a result, 95% of Li-ion production today takes place in Asia.” It is out of the question to repeat history. The CNRS (responsible for fundamental research) and the LITEN-CEA (in charge of technology transfer) have thus joined forces with around 15 industrial players such as Renault, Saft, and Alstom to create the RS2E network dedicated to new-generation batteries. Their stated objective is to ensure research AND development, in order to bring sodium-ion batteries to market on European soil as soon as they are ready. 

    A global market worth $80 billion

    The commercial possibilities are indeed immense. The global market for batteries should reach 80 billion dollars in 2020, twice that of today. Too large for the time being to equip portable electronic devices, sodium-ion batteries could secure a privileged position in the electric vehicle market, as well as in the storage of intermittent renewable energies, such as wind or solar power. Energy stored during the day or in windy weather could be subsequently released using batteries (or rather series of batteries) potentially the size of a house! Another possible market is that of domestic batteries, which the founder of the Tesla car, the Californian Elon Musk, launched with much publicity in April 2015. His “power wall,” a mural battery meant to be installed in individual households, is intended to store the energy produced by solar panels fitted directly on the house’s roof, as well as to regulate consumption by storing electricity during off-peak hours, when it is less expensive.

     Solar panels, renewable energy

    The storage of so-called “intermittent” renewable energy sources. Solar panels, like the ones seen here on the roof of a house in California, are one of the possible future applications of sodium-ion batteries.


    “The 18650 format enables us to provide proof of concept , and compare the performance of our batteries with those of similar format that are already available on the market. However, other formats will need to be designed to meet new requirements,” explains Simonin. Time is of the essence, as Toyota are working relentlessly on a prototype of a sodium-ion car battery, while the British startup Faradion, in association with Oxford University, made a first demonstration this year of an electric bicycle powered by a sodium-ion battery.

    For more on the RS2E network : is external)


    • 1.Réseau sur le stockage électrochimique de l’énergie (RS2E). It works on new-generation batteries, including the sodium-ion battery. It includes laboratories from the CNRS and CEA, along with 15 industrial actors such as Renault, Saft, and Alstom.
    • 2.Jean-Marie Tarascon is also director of the laboratory Chimie du solide et de l’énergie (CNRS / UPMC / Collège de France (FRE3677), and heads the RS2E network.

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