position:model

  • Must we decolonise #Open_Access? Perspectives from Francophone Africa

    A long read featuring the recent work of Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou and Florence Piron, on how a truly open and inclusive ‘Open Access’ movement must include those at the periphery

    I recently watched the recording of the fantastic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion session at OpenCon, and I was struck by the general theme of how ‘openness’ isn’t necessarily the force for equality that we perhaps think it is, and how issues of power, exploitation, and hierarchy means that it should be understood differently according to the context in which it is applied. In the session, Denisse Albornoz used the expression of ‘situated openness’ to describe how our Northern conception of openness should not be forced on anyone or any group – it needs to be understood first in individual contexts of historical injustices and post-colonial power structures.

    What stood out for me most in this session, however, (because it related most to my work) was Cameroonian Thomas Mboa’s presentation, which talked about the ‘neo-colonial face of open access’. The presentation employed some very striking critical terms such as ‘cognitive injustice’ and ‘epistemic alienation’ to Open Access.

    I’ve always known that the Open Access movement was far from perfect, but at least it’s moving global science publishing in the right direction, right? Can working towards free access and sharing of research really be ‘neo-colonial’ and lead to ‘alienation’ for users of research in the Global South? And if this really is the case, how can we ‘decolonise’ open access?

    Thomas didn’t get much time to expand on some of the themes he presented, so I got in contact to see if he had covered these ideas elsewhere, and fortunately he has, through his participation in ‘Projet SOHA’ . This is a research-action project that’s been working on open science, empowerment and cognitive justice in French-speaking Africa and Haiti from 2015-17. He provided me with links to four publications written in French by himself and his colleagues from the project – Florence Piron (Université Laval, Quebec, Canada), Antonin Benoît Diouf (Senegal), and Marie Sophie Dibounje Madiba (Cameroon), and many others.

    These articles are a goldmine of provocative ideas and perspectives on Open Access from the Global South, which should challenge all of us in the English-speaking academic publishing community. Therefore, I decided to share some excerpts and extended quotes from these articles below, in amongst some general comments from my (admittedly limited) experience of working with researchers in the Global South.

    The quotes are taken from the following book and articles, which I recommend reading in full (these are easily translatable using the free tool Google Translate Web, which correctly translated around 95% of the text).

    Chapter 2 – ‘Les injustices cognitives en Afrique subsaharienne : réflexions sur les causes et les moyens de lutte’ – Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou (2016), in Piron, Dibounje Madiba et Regulus 2016 (below)
    Justice cognitive, libre accès et savoirs locaux – Collective book edited by Florence Piron, Marie Sophie Dibounje Madiba and Samuel Regulus (2016) (CC-BY) https://scienceetbiencommun.pressbooks.pub/justicecognitive1
    Qui sait ? Le libre accès en Afrique et en Haïti – Florence Piron (2017) (CC-BY) (Soon to be published in English in Forthcoming Open Divide. Critical Studies of Open Access (Herb & Schöpfel ed), Litwinbooks
    Le libre accès vu d’Afrique francophone subsaharienne – Florence Piron, Antonin Benoît Diouf, Marie Sophie Dibounje Madiba, Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou, Zoé Aubierge Ouangré, Djossè Roméo Tessy, Hamissou Rhissa Achaffert, Anderson Pierre and Zakari Lire (2017) (CC-BY-NC-SA)
    Une autre science est possible. Récit d’une utopie concrète dans la Francophonie (le projet SOHA) – Revue Possibles, 2016 (CC-BY)

    Piron et al’s (2017) article starts with a stinging critique of those of us in our Northern scholarly publishing community cliques, and our never-ending open access debates over technicalities:

    “… there are many debates in this community, including on the place of open licenses in open access (is an article really in open access if it is not freely reusable in addition to being freely accessible?), on the legitimacy of the fees charged to authors by certain journals choosing open access, on the quality and evaluation of open access journals, on the very format of the journal as the main vehicle for the dissemination of scientific articles or on the type of documents to be included in institutional or thematic open archives (only peer-reviewed articles or any document related to scientific work?).

    Viewed from Sub-Saharan Francophone Africa, these debates may seem very strange, if not incomprehensible. Above all, they appear very localized: they are debates of rich countries, of countries of the North, where basic questions such as the regular payment of a reasonable salary to academics, the existence of public funding for research, access to the web, electricity, well-stocked libraries and comfortable and safe workplaces have long been settled.” Piron et al. (2017)

    … and their critique gets more and more scathing from here for the Open Access movement. OA advocates – tighten your seatbelts – you are not going to find this a comfortable ride.

    “… a conception of open access that is limited to the legal and technical questions of the accessibility of science without thinking about the relationship between center and periphery can become a source of epistemic alienation and neocolonialism in the South”. Piron et al. (2017)

    “Is open access the solution to the documented shortcomings of these African universities and, in doing so, a crucial means of getting scientific research off the ground? I would like to show that this is not the case, and to suggest that open access can instead become a neo-colonial tool by reinforcing the cognitive injustices that prevent African researchers from fully deploying their research capacities in the service of the community and sustainable local development of their country.” Piron (2017)

    Ouch. To understand these concepts of ‘cognitive injustice’ and ‘epistemic alienation’, it helps to understand this ‘world system’ and the power relationship between the centre and the periphery. This is based on Wallerstein’s (1996) model, which Thomas featured in his OpenCon slides:

    “… a world-system whose market unit is the scientific publication circulating between many instances of high economic value, including universities, research centers, science policies, journals and an oligopoly of for-profit scientific publishers (Larivière, Haustein, and Mongeon, 2015).” Piron et al. (2017)

    “… we believe that science, far from being universal, has been historically globalized. Inspiring us, like Keim (2010) and a few others (Polanco, 1990), from Wallerstein’s (1996) theory, we consider that it constitutes a world-system whose market unit is the scientific publication. Produced mainly in the North, this merchandise obeys standards and practices that are defined by the ‘center’ of the system, namely the main commercial scientific publishers (Larivière, Haustein, & Mongeon, 2015), and their university partners are the US and British universities dominating the so-called world rankings. The semi-periphery is constituted by all the other countries of the North or emerging from the South which revolve around this center, adopting the English language in science and conforming to the model LMD (license, master, doctorate) imposed since the Bologna process to all the universities of the world with the aim of “normalizing” and standardizing the functioning of this world-system. The periphery then refers to all the countries that are excluded from this system, which produce no or very few scientific publications or whose research work is invisible, but to whom the LMD model has also been imposed (Charlier, Croché, & Ndoye 2009, Hountondji 2001)”. Piron et al. (2017)

    So, the continuing bias and global focus towards the powerful ‘center’ of the world-system leads to the epistemic alienation of those on the periphery, manifesting in a ‘spiritual colonisation’:

    “… this attitude that drives us to want to think about local problems with Western perspective is a colonial legacy to which many African citizens hang like a ball.” Mboa (2016).

    So where does Open Access fit in with this world-system?

    “… if open access is to facilitate and accelerate the access of scientists from the South to Northern science without looking into the visibility of knowledge of the South, it helps to redouble their alienation epistemic without contributing to their emancipation. Indeed, by making the work of the center of the world-system of science even more accessible, open access maximizes their impact on the periphery and reinforces their use as a theoretical reference or as a normative model, to the detriment of local epistemologies.” Piron et al. (2017)

    Rethinking Northern perspectives

    This should be an eye-opening analysis for those of us who assumed that access to research knowledge in the North could only be a good thing for the South. Perhaps we need to examine the arrogance behind our narrow worldview, and consider more deeply the power at the heart of such a one-way knowledge exchange. Many of us might find this difficult, as:

    “The idea that open access may have the effects of neocolonialism is incomprehensible to people blind to epistemological diversity, who reduce the proclaimed universalism of Western science to the impoverished model of the standards imposed by the Web of Science model. For these people, the invisibility of a publication in their numerical reference space (located in the center of the world-system) is equivalent to its non-existence. The idea that valid and relevant knowledge can exist in another form and independently of the world-system that fascinates them is unthinkable.” Piron et al. (2017)

    Having spent a little time at scholarly publishing events in the Global North, I can attest that the mindset described above is common. There are kind thoughts (and a few breadcrumbs thrown in the form of grants and fellowships) towards those on the periphery, but it is very much in the mindset of helping those from the Global South ‘catch up’. Our mindset is very much as Piron describes here:

    “If one sticks to the positivist view that “science” is universal – even if its “essence” is symbolized by the American magazine Science – then indeed African science, that is to say in Africa, is late, and we need to help it develop so that it looks more and more like the North”. Piron (2017)

    And whilst in the North we may have a lot of respect for different cultural perspectives, genuine reciprocal exchanges of research knowledge are rare. We are supremely confident that our highly-developed scientific publishing model deserves to be at the centre of our system. This can lead to selective blindness about the rigorousness of our science and our indexed journals, in spite of the steady drip drip drip of reports of biased peer review, data fraud and other ethical violations in ‘high-impact’ Northern journals, exposed in places like retraction watch.

    North/South research collaborations are rarely equitable – southern partners often complain of being used as data-gatherers rather than intellectual equals and partners in research projects, even when the research is being carried out in their own country.

    “These [Northern] partners inevitably guide the problems and the methodological and epistemological choices of African researchers towards the only model they know and value, the one born at the center of the world-system of science – without questioning whether this model is relevant to Africa and its challenges”. Piron et al (2017).

    These issues of inequity in collaborative relationships and publication practices seem inextricably linked, which is not surprising when the ultimate end goal of research is publishing papers in Northern journals, rather than actually solving Southern development challenges.

    “In this context, open access may appear as a neocolonial tool, as it facilitates access by Southern researchers to Northern science without ensuring reciprocity. In doing so, it redoubles the epistemic alienation of these researchers instead of contributing to the emancipation of the knowledge created in the universities of the South by releasing them from their extraversion. Indeed, by making the work produced in the center of the world-system even more accessible, free access maximizes their impact on the periphery and reinforces their use as a theoretical reference or as a normative model, to the detriment of local epistemologies, which generates situations absurd as, for example, the use of a theoretical framework related to wage labor in the Paris region to analyze the work of women in northern Mali” Piron (2017)

    “The resulting consequences are, in particular, the teachers of the Southern countries who quote and read only writers from the North and impose them on their students and the libraries of our universities who do everything to subscribe to Western scholarly journals while they do not deal with our problems. (Mboa Nkoudou, 2016 )”

    This is also a striking example:

    “It is very sad to note that geographers in Ouagadougou are more familiar with European work on the Sahel than those at the Higher Institute of Sahel in Maroua, Cameroon.” Piron (2017)

    The lack of equity in research knowledge exchange and collaboration is also caused by another one-way North to South flow: funding. Research in the South is often dependent on foreign funding. Big Northern donors and funders therefore set the standards and agendas in research, and in how the entire research funding system works. Southern partners rarely get to set the agenda, and researchers rarely get to develop the research questions that guide the research. They have to learn to jump through administrative hoops to become credible in the eyes of the Northern donor (for more information see ‘Who drives research in developing countries?‘).

    Southern institutions are also compelled, via league tables such as the World Unviersity Rankings, to play the same game as institutions in the North. Institutions are ranked against each other according to criteria set in the North, one of which is citations (of course, only citations between journals in the Web of Science or Scopus, which is overwhelmingly Northern). And so to stay ‘competitive’, Southern institutions need their researchers to publish in Northern journals with Northern language and agendas.
    Northern agendas and local innovation

    Whilst it is tempting to think that the issues and criticism described above is mostly a problem for the social sciences and humanities, there are also real issues in the ‘hard’ sciences – perhaps not so much in their epistemological foundations – but in very practical issues of Northern research agendas. For example, Northern research, being based in Europe and the US, is overwhelmingly biased towards white people, in diversity of leadership, diversity of researchers, and most importantly in the whiteness of clinical trial subjects. This is problematic because different ethnic populations have different genetic makeups and differences due to geography, that mean they respond differently to treatments (see here, here and here). Are African and Asian researchers informed of this when they read research from so-called ‘international’ journals?

    Furthermore, these Northern agendas can also mean that research focuses on drugs, equipment and treatments that are simply not suitable for developing country contexts. I was reminded of a discussion comment recently made by a Pakistani surgeon on the Northern bias of systematic reviews:

    “There is a definite bias in this approach as almost all of the guidelines and systematic reviews are based on the research carried out in high income countries and the findings and the recommendations have little relevance to the patients, health care system and many a time serve no purpose to the millions of patients based in low resourced countries. e.g. I routinely used Phenol blocks for spasticity management for my patients which were abandoned two decades ago in the West. Results are great, and the patients can afford this Rs 200 phenol instead of Rs 15,000 Botox vial. But, unfortunately, I am unable to locate a single systematic review on the efficacy of phenol as all published research in the last decade was only on the use of Botox in the management of spasticity.” Farooq Rathore (HIFA mailing list, 2016).

    Similarly, I’ve read research papers from the South that report on innovative approaches to medical treatments and other problems that utilise lower-cost equipment and methodologies (in fact, as is argued here, research in low-resource environments can often be more efficient and innovative, containing many lessons we, in the North, could learn from). This point is also made by Piron et al:

    “… the production of technical and social innovations is rich in Sub-Saharan French-speaking Africa, as evidenced by the high number of articles on this subject in the Sci-Dev magazine, specializing in science for development, or in the ecofin site, an economic information agency turned towards Africa. But these are mostly local innovations that mobilize local resources and often recycled materials to, for example, introduce electricity into a village, better irrigate fields or offer lighting after sunset. The aim of these innovations is to contribute to local development and not to the development of international markets, unlike innovations designed in the North which, while targeting the countries of the South, remain highly marketable – just think of milk powder or GMO seeds. The issue of open access to scientific publications is a very secondary issue for local innovators in such a context”. (Piron et al. 2016)

    These examples of innovation aside, there are many cases where the ‘epistemic alienation’ described above leads to ‘the exclusion or contempt of local knowledge’ (Mboa, 2016), even amongst researchers in the global South.

    “In fact, Western culture abundantly relayed in the media and textbooks is shown to be superior to other cultures. This situation is pushing Africans to multiply their efforts to reach the ideal of life of the “white”. This situation seems to block their ability to think locally, or even to be reactive. Thus, faced with a given situation specific to the African context, many are those who first draw on the resources of Western thinking to propose elements of answers.” Mboa (2016)

    Free and open access as ‘showcasing products’

    The Research4Life (R4L) programme also comes in for criticism from Piron et al. which will come as a shock to Northern publishing people who often use the ‘… but they’ve got Research4Life’ line when faced with evidence of global research inequalities.

    “… while pretending to charitably provide university libraries in the Global South with free access to pre-defined packages of paid journals from the North, this program, set up by for-profit scientific publishers, maintains the dependence of these libraries, limits their understanding of the true network of open access publications and, above all, improves the market for the products sold by these publishers.” Piron et al (2017)

    “… this program encourages the continued reliance of these libraries on an external program, designed in the North and showcasing Northern products, while it may disappear as soon as this philanthropic desire is exhausted or as soon as trading partners will not find any more benefits.”

    Whilst I still think R4L is a great initiative (I know many researchers in the Global South who are very appreciative of the programme), it’s difficult to disagree with the conclusion that:

    ‘… this program mainly improves the opportunities of Northern publishers without contributing to the sustainable empowerment of university libraries in the South … this charity seems very hypocritical, let alone arbitrary, since it can stop at any time.” Piron (2017)

    Of course, the same could be said of Article Processing Charge (APC) waivers for developing country authors. Waivers are currently offered by the majority of journals from the big publishers (provided according to the same HINARI list of countries provided by Research4Life), although sometimes you have to dig deep into the terms and conditions pages to find them. Waivers are good for publishers to showcase their corporate social responsibility and provide diversity of authorship. However, they are unsustainable – this charity is unlikely to last forever, especially as they rely on the pool of Southern authors being relatively limited. It should also be noted that developing countries with the most active, growing researcher communities such as Nigeria, South Africa and India do not qualify for either R4L access or APC waivers.

    Speaking of APCs, something I observe regularly amongst Southern researchers is a confusion over the ‘Gold’ OA author-pays model, and this too is noted:

    “In northern countries, many researchers, especially in STEM (Björk and Solomon, 2012) [ 7 ], believe (wrongly) that open access now means “publication fees charged to authors” … this commercial innovation appears to be paying off, as these costs appear to be natural to researchers.” Piron (2017)

    This also appears to be paying off in the Global South – authors seem resigned to pay some kind of charge to publish, and it is common to have to point out to authors that over two-thirds of OA journals and 99% of subscription journals do not charge to publish (although, the rise of ‘predatory’ journals may have magnified this misunderstanding that pay-to-publish is the norm).

    It may be tempting to think of these inequalities as an unfortunate historical accident, and that our attempts to help the Global South ‘catch up’ are just a little clumsy and patronising. However, Piron argues that this is no mere accident, but the result of colonial exploitation that still resonates in existing power structures today:

    “Open access is then easily seen as a means of catching up, at least filling gaps in libraries and often outdated teaching […] Africa is considered as lagging behind the modern world, which would explain its underdevelopment, to summarize this sadly hegemonic conception of north-south relations. By charity, Northern countries then feel obliged to help, which feeds the entire industry surrounding development aid [….] this model of delay, violently imposed by the West on the rest of the world through colonization, has been used to justify the economic and cognitive exploitation (Connell, 2014) of colonized continents without which modernity could not have prospered.” Piron (2017)

    To build the path or take the path?

    Of course, the authors do admit that access to Northern research has a role to play in the Global South, provided the access is situated in local contexts:

    “… African science should be an African knowledge, rooted in African contexts, that uses African epistemologies to answer African questions, while also using other knowledge from all over the world, including Western ones, if they are relevant locally.” Piron (2017)

    However, the practical reality of Open Access for Southern researchers is often overstated. There is a crucial distinction between making content ‘open’ and providing the means to access that content. As Piron et al. 2017 say:

    “To put a publication in open access: is it, to build the path (technical or legal) that leads to it, or is it to make it possible for people to take this path? This distinction is crucial to understand the difference in meaning of open access between the center and the periphery of the world-system of science, although only an awareness of the conditions of scientific research in the Southern countries makes it possible to visualize it, to perceive it.”

    This crucial difference between availability and accessibility has also been explained by Anne Powell on Scholarly Kitchen. There are many complex barriers to ‘free’ and ‘open’ content actually being accessed and used. The most obvious of these barriers is internet connectivity, but librarian training, language and digital literacy also feature significantly:

    “Finding relevant open access articles on the web requires digital skills that, as we have seen, are rare among Haitian and African students for whom the web sometimes comes via Facebook … Remember that it is almost always when they arrive at university that these students first touch a computer. The catching up is fast, but many reflexes acquired since the primary school in the countries of the North must be developed before even being able to imagine that there are open access scientific texts on the web to make up for the lack of documents in the libraries. In the words of the Haitian student Anderson Pierre, “a large part of the students do not know the existence of these resources or do not have the digital skills to access and exploit them in order to advance their research project”. Piron (2017)

    Barriers to local knowledge exchange

    Unfortunately, this is made even more difficult by resistance and misunderstanding of the internet and digital tools from senior leadership in Africa:

    “Social representations of the web, science and copyright also come into play, especially among older academics, a phenomenon that undermines the appropriation of digital technologies at the basis of open access in universities.” Piron et al. (2017)

    “To this idea that knowledge resides only in printed books is added a representation of the web which also has an impact on the local resistance to open access: our fieldwork has allowed us to understand that, for many African senior academics, the web is incompatible with science because it contains only documents or sites that are of low quality, frivolous or entertaining. These people infer that science in open access on the web is of lower quality than printed science and are very surprised when they learn that most of the journals of the world-system of science exist only in dematerialized format. … Unfortunately, these resistances slow down the digitization and the web dissemination of African scientific works, perpetuating these absurd situations where the researchers of the same field in neighboring universities do not know what each other is doing”. Piron et al. (2017)

    This complaint about in-country communication from researchers in the South can be common, but there are signs that open access can make a difference – as an example, in Sri Lanka, I’ve spoken to researchers who say that communicating research findings within the country has always been a problem, but the online portal Sri Lanka Journals Online (currently 77 open access Sri Lankan journals) has started to improve this situation. This project was many years in the making, and has involved training journal editors and librarians in loading online content and improving editorial practices for open access. The same, of course, could be said for African Journals Online, which has potential to facilitate sharing on a larger scale.

    Arguably, some forms of institutional resistance to openness in the Global South have a neocolonial influence – universities have largely borrowed and even intensified the Northern ‘publish or perish’ mantra which focuses the academic rewards system almost entirely on journal publications, often in northern-indexed journals, rather than on impact on real world development.

    “The system of higher education and research in force in many African countries remains a remnant of colonization, perpetuated by the reproduction, year after year, of the same ideals and principles. This reproduction is assured not by the old colonizers but by our own political leaders who are perpetuating a system structured according to a classical partitioning that slows down any possible communication between researchers within the country or with the outside world, even worse between the university and the immediate environment. For the ruling class, the changes taking place in the world and the society’s needs seem to have no direct link to the university.” Mboa (2016)

    Mboa calls this partitioning between researchers and outsiders as “a tight border between society and science”:

    “African researchers are so attached to the ideal of neutrality of science and concern of its ‘purity’ that they consider contacts with ordinary citizens as ‘risks’ or threats and that they prefer to evolve in their ‘ivory tower’. On the other hand, ordinary citizens feel so diminished compared to researchers that to talk to them about their eventual involvement in research is a taboo subject …” Mboa (2016)

    Uncolonising openness

    So what is the answer to all these problems? Is it in building the skills of researchers and institutions or a complete change of philosophy?

    “The colonial origin of African science (Mvé-Ondo, 2005) is certainly no stranger to this present subjugation of African science to northern research projects, nor to its tendency to imitate Western science without effort. Contextualization, particularly in the quasi-colonial structuring of sub-Saharan African universities (Fredua-Kwarteng, 2015) and in maintaining the use of a colonial language in university education. Considering this institutionalized epistemic alienation as yet another cognitive injustice, Mvé-Ondo wonders “how to move from a westernization of science to a truly shared science” (p.49) and calls for “epistemological mutation”, “rebirth”, modernizing “African science at the crossroads of local knowledge and northern science – perhaps echoing the call of Fanon (1962/2002) for a “new thinking” in the Third World countries, detached from European model, decolonized.” Piron et al. (2017)

    For this to happen, open access must be about more than just access – but something much more holistic and equitable:

    “Can decentralized, decolonised open access then contribute to creating more cognitive justice in global scientific production? Our answer is clear: yes, provided that it is not limited to the question of access for scientific and non-scientific readers to scientific publications. It must include the concern for origin, creation, local publishing and the desire to ensure equity between the accessibility of the publications of the center of the world system and that of knowledge from the periphery. It thus proposes to replace the normative universalism of globalized science with an inclusive universalism, open to the ecology of knowledges and capable of building an authentic knowledge commons (Gruson-Daniel, 2015; Le Crosnier, 2015), hospitable for the knowledge of the North and the South”. Piron et al. (2017)

    Mboa sees the solution to this multifaceted problem in ‘open science’:

    “[Cognitive injustice comes via] … endogenous causes (citizens and African leaders) and by exogenous causes (capitalism, colonization, the West). The knowledge of these causes allowed me to propose ways to prevent our downfall. Among these means, I convened open science as a tool available to our leaders and citizens for advancing cognitive justice. For although the causes are endogenous and exogenous, I believe that a wound heals from the inside outwards.” Mboa (2016).

    Mboa explains how open science approaches can overcome some of these problems in this book chapter, but here he provides a short summary of the advantages of open science for African research:

    “It’s a science that rejects the ivory tower and the separation between scientists and the rest of the population of the country. In short, it’s a science released from control by a universal capitalist standard, by hierarchical authority and by pre-established scientific classes. From this perspective, open science offers the following advantages:

    it brings science closer to society;
    it promotes fair and sustainable development;
    it allows the expression of minority and / or marginalized groups, as well as their knowledge;
    it promotes original, local and useful research in the country;
    it facilitates access to a variety of scientific and technical information;
    it is abundant, recent and up to date;
    it develops digital skills;
    it facilitates collaborative work;
    it gives a better visibility to research work.

    By aiming to benefit from these advantages, researchers and African students fight cognitive injustice. For this, open access science relies on open access, free licenses, free computing, and citizen science.” Mboa (2016).

    But in order for open science to succeed, digital literacy must be rapidly improved to empower students and researchers in the South:

    “Promoting inclusive access therefore requires engaging at the same time in a decolonial critique of the relationship between the center and the periphery and urging universities in the South to develop the digital literacy of their student or teacher members.” Piron et al. (2017)

    It also requires improving production of scientific works (‘grey’ literature, as well as peer-reviewed papers) in the South for a two-way North/South conversation:

    “Then, we propose to rethink the usual definition of open access to add the mandate to enhance the visibility of scientific work produced in universities in the South and thus contribute to greater cognitive justice in global scientific production.” Piron (2017)

    And providing open access needs to be understood in context:

    “… if we integrate the concern for the enhancement of the knowledge produced in the periphery and the awareness of all that hinders the creation of this knowledge, then open access can become a tool of cognitive justice at the service of the construction of an inclusive universalism peculiar to a just open science.” Piron, Diouf, Madiba (2017)

    In summary then, we need to rethink the way that the global North seeks to support the South – a realignment of this relationship from mere access to empowerment through sustainable capacity building:

    “Africa’s scientific development aid, if it is needed, should therefore be oriented much less towards immediate access to Northern publications and more to local development of tools and the strengthening of the digital skills of academics and librarians. These tools and skills would enable them not only to take advantage of open access databases, but also to digitize and put open access local scientific works in open archives, journals or research centers.” Piron (2017)

    So what next?

    Even if you disagree with many the above ideas, I hope that this has provided many of you with some food for thought. Open Access must surely be about more than just knowledge flow from North to South (or, for that matter the academy to the public, or well-funded researchers to poorly funded researchers). Those on the periphery must also be given a significant voice and a place at the table. For this to happen, many researchers (and their equivalents outside academia) need training and support in digital skills; some institutional barriers also need to be removed or overcome; and of course a few cherished, long-held ideas must be seriously challenged.

    “These injustices denote anything that diminishes the capacity of academics in these countries to deploy the full potential of their intellectual talents, their knowledge and their capacity for scientific research to serve their country’s sustainable local development”. Piron et al., (2016).

    What do you think…?

    http://journalologik.uk/?p=149
    #édition_scientifique #OA #open_access #Afrique #Afrique_francophone #décolonisation #post-colonialisme

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/taxi-medallions.html

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Why Hong Kong cannot copy Singapore’s approach to public housing | South China Morning Post
    https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/3008807/why-hong-kong-cannot-copy-singapores-approach-public-housing


    Le peinurie de logements sociaux à Hong Kong est le fruit de la version néolibérale du colonialisme. L’état de Singapour a resolu le problème en imposant l’achat d’appartements sociaux et en confisquant contre dédommagement des territoires privés.

    The technocratic, highly autonomous and competent Singaporean state took on the role of providing affordable housing on a near universal basis, subsidising home ownership for the vast majority. The development of public housing was effectively land reform and wealth redistribution on a scale unimaginable today in neoliberal Hong Kong, despite the superficial similarities in this sphere between the two cities.

    The state’s autonomy meant it was not subordinate to, or captured by, the interests of social groups, from big business and labour to landowners, property developers or finance. This is not to say the government rode roughshod over these groups, but it did mean it could plan and make decisions for the long-term good of the country, without having to cater too much to well-organised interests. Most citizens accepted this setup as they could see improvements all around, not least in their housing conditions.

    But to tackle the problem comprehensively, the HDB took on responsibility for all aspects of housing, including planning, development, design, building and maintenance. The initial priority was to create properly planned population centres outside the city centre but within easy reach. Between 1960 and 1965, the HDB surpassed its target by building more than 50,000 flats. HDB estates were later also developed with other considerations in mind, such as state industrialisation objectives, the avoidance of ethnic enclaves, and asset inflation.

    On the issue of land, ensuring there was enough for public housing meant repealing the 1920 Land Acquisition Ordinance and enacting the Land Acquisition Act (LAA) in 1966. This allowed the state to acquire land for any public purpose or work of public benefit, or for any residential, commercial, or industrial purpose. A subsequent amendment to the LAA in 1973 allowed officials to acquire private land in exchange for compensation below market value. The acquisitions were seldom challenged in the courts.

    Such draconian rules greatly facilitated housing and industrialisation programmes. State ownership of land rose from 31 per cent in 1949 to 44 per cent in 1960, and 76 per cent by 1985. Land reclamation did play a part in this change, along with the transfer of British military space. But to ensure a perpetual supply, Lee’s government also passed legislation to ensure the leases on state-owned land would not exceed 99 years.

    These methods are unthinkable in contemporary Hong Kong. While legally possible, the compulsory acquisition of private land for public housing is rare and generally eschewed. Although Hong Kong law allows the Land Development Corporation (LDC) to take space away from private owners at market prices, the efficacy of this law is limited. The LDC has to demonstrate there is no “undue detriment” to the interests of landowners, which is often difficult.

    Land reform almost always requires landowners’ interests be subordinate to those of the state, and especially those of the landless. This is not the case in Hong Kong.

    Lastly, to ensure the affordability of public housing, the Singapore government designed its policies to explicitly favour home ownership. The units set aside for this purpose were initially priced such that buying was a more attractive option than renting HDB homes.

    In 1968 the Singapore government went further. It increased the amount of money Singaporeans had to contribute to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) so that citizens could then use these savings to finance home purchases. The CPF was established in 1955 as a pension plan, with employees putting in 5 per cent of their monthly salary.

    The revamped CPF required monthly contributions of 6 per cent from the employee, and 6 per cent from employers. By 1990 the rates had risen to 16 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively. This demanded sacrifice on the part of citizens since it ate into their daily spending.

    Such stringent mandatory savings plans would be unlikely to garner much support in Hong Kong. Many would perceive them as paternalistic and would not accept the lower take-home pay they entail.

    In 2017, two decades after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, only about 36 per cent of households were in public housing and 49 per cent owned their homes.

    Unlike Singapore, where financing is facilitated by affordable public housing prices and CPF savings, ownership of public flats in Hong Kong is not supported by government policy to the same degree. A successful applicant for a flat in Hong Kong under the Home Ownership Scheme does not own the property until he or she pays a land premium determined by the market value. On acquiring the flat, the applicant pays to the government only the cost of its construction.

    Neither Singapore’s past experience nor its present circumstances suggest it should be a model for Hong Kong. While the public housing programme was hugely successful in its first 50 years, some Singaporeans now raise questions about the long-term viability of a policy based (implicitly at least) on perpetually rising flat values. Having put much of their CPF savings into securing a home, many Singaporeans today are worried about the prospect of declining values on their ageing HDB properties.

    Given how unique and context-specific Singapore’s success in public housing was, it is questionable whether it can be grafted onto contemporary Hong Kong’s context – unless its society and politics were to mimic Singapore’s, and how likely or desirable is that for Hong Kong? ■

    Lee Hsin is a PhD student at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Donald Low is a senior lecturer and professor of practice in public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and is director of its Leadership and Public Policy Programme

    #Hong_Kong #Chine #Singapour #logement #immobilier #capitalisme

  • The Urgent Quest for Slower, Better News | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-inquiry/the-urgent-quest-for-slower-better-news

    In 2008, the Columbia Journalism Review published an article with the headline “Overload!,” which examined news fatigue in “an age of too much information.” When “Overload!” was published, Blackberrys still dominated the smartphone market, push notifications hadn’t yet to come to the iPhone, retweets weren’t built into Twitter, and BuzzFeed News did not exist. Looking back, the idea of suffering from information overload in 2008 seems almost quaint. Now, more than a decade later, a fresh reckoning seems to be upon us. Last year, Tim Cook, the chief executive officer of Apple, unveiled a new iPhone feature, Screen Time, which allows users to track their phone activity. During an interview at a Fortune conference, Cook said that he was monitoring his own usage and had “slashed” the number of notifications he receives. “I think it has become clear to all of us that some of us are spending too much time on our devices,” Cook said.

    It is worth considering how news organizations have contributed to the problems Newport and Cook describe. Media outlets have been reduced to fighting over a shrinking share of our attention online; as Facebook, Google, and other tech platforms have come to monopolize our digital lives, news organizations have had to assume a subsidiary role, relying on those sites for traffic. That dependence exerts a powerful influence on which stories that are pursued, how they’re presented, and the speed and volume at which they’re turned out. In “World Without Mind: the Existential Threat of Big Tech,” published in 2017, Franklin Foer, the former editor-in-chief of The New Republic, writes about “a mad, shameless chase to gain clicks through Facebook” and “a relentless effort to game Google’s algorithms.” Newspapers and magazines have long sought to command large readerships, but these efforts used to be primarily the province of circulation departments; newsrooms were insulated from these pressures, with little sense of what readers actually read. Nowadays, at both legacy news organizations and those that were born online, audience metrics are everywhere. At the Times, everyone in the newsroom has access to an internal, custom-built analytics tool that shows how many people are reading each story, where those people are coming from, what devices they are using, how the stories are being promoted, and so on. Additional, commercially built audience tools, such as Chartbeat and Google Analytics, are also widely available. As the editor of newyorker.com, I keep a browser tab open to Parse.ly, an application that shows me, in real time, various readership numbers for the stories on our Web site.

    Even at news organizations committed to insuring that editorial values—and not commercial interests—determine coverage, it can be difficult for editors to decide how much attention should be paid to these metrics. In “Breaking News: the Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters,” Alan Rusbridger, the former editor-in-chief of the Guardian, recounts the gradual introduction of metrics into his newspaper’s decision-making processes. The goal, he writes, is to have “a data-informed newsroom, not a data-led one.” But it’s hard to know when the former crosses over into being the latter.

    For digital-media organizations sustained by advertising, the temptations are almost irresistible. Each time a reader comes to a news site from a social-media or search platform, the visit, no matter how brief, brings in some amount of revenue. Foer calls this phenomenon “drive-by traffic.” As Facebook and Google have grown, they have pushed down advertising prices, and revenue-per-click from drive-by traffic has shrunk; even so, it continues to provide an incentive for any number of depressing modern media trends, including clickbait headlines, the proliferation of hastily written “hot takes,” and increasingly homogeneous coverage as everyone chases the same trending news stories, so as not to miss out on the traffic they will bring. Any content that is cheap to produce and has the potential to generate clicks on Facebook or Google is now a revenue-generating “audience opportunity.”

    Among Boczkowski’s areas of research is how young people interact with the news today. Most do not go online seeking the news; instead, they encounter it incidentally, on social media. They might get on their phones or computers to check for updates or messages from their friends, and, along the way, encounter a post from a news site. Few people sit down in the morning to read the print newspaper or make a point of watching the T.V. news in the evening. Instead, they are constantly “being touched, rubbed by the news,” Bockzkowski said. “It’s part of the environment.”

    A central purpose of journalism is the creation of an informed citizenry. And yet––especially in an environment of free-floating, ambient news––it’s not entirely clear what it means to be informed. In his book “The Good Citizen,” from 1998, Michael Schudson, a sociologist who now teaches at Columbia’s journalism school, argues that the ideal of the “informed citizen”––a person with the time, discipline, and expertise needed to steep him- or herself in politics and become fully engaged in our civic life––has always been an unrealistic one. The founders, he writes, expected citizens to possess relatively little political knowledge; the ideal of the informed citizen didn’t take hold until more than a century later, when Progressive-era reformers sought to rein in the party machines and empower individual voters to make thoughtful decisions. (It was also during this period that the independent press began to emerge as a commercial phenomenon, and the press corps became increasingly professionalized.)

    Schudson proposes a model for citizenship that he believes to be more true to life: the “monitorial citizen”—a person who is watchful of what’s going on in politics but isn’t always fully engaged. “The monitorial citizen engages in environmental surveillance more than information-gathering,” he writes. “Picture parents watching small children at the community pool. They are not gathering information; they are keeping an eye on the scene. They look inactive, but they are poised for action if action is required.” Schudson contends that monitorial citizens might even be “better informed than citizens of the past in that, somewhere in their heads, they have more bits of information.” When the time is right, they will deploy this information––to vote a corrupt lawmaker out of office, say, or to approve an important ballot measure.

    #Journalisme #Médias #Economie_attention

  • Why #dlt Is Still Not Adopted en Masse
    https://hackernoon.com/why-dlt-is-still-not-adopted-en-masse-5617e28794ce?source=rss----3a8144e

    Layer 3 development is the next step for blockchainBlockchain incompatibility has prompted the idea of “Layer 3.” Blockchain technology is one of the most over-hyped technologies in recent years. It suffers from serious teething problems, to say the least. After showing promise being able to overhaul the top-down model of relationships, implementable decentralized solutions in the real world are still a long way off. They are either not fully decentralized or poorly scalable due to low throughput and/or lack of compatibility with other blockchains. Hence, there really is no ecosystem that has adopted it en masse. In this piece, we will take a glance at the main pain-points of existing blockchains and the solutions which aspire to alleviate them.Decentralization Vs. Scalability: a Story (...)

    #layer-3 #mass-adoption #decentralization #trustline

  • Women Once Ruled Computers. When Did the Valley Become Brotopia? - Bloomberg
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-02-01/women-once-ruled-computers-when-did-the-valley-become-brotopia

    Lena Söderberg started out as just another Playboy centerfold. The 21-year-old Swedish model left her native Stockholm for Chicago because, as she would later say, she’d been swept up in “America fever.” In November 1972, Playboy returned her enthusiasm by featuring her under the name Lenna Sjööblom, in its signature spread. If Söderberg had followed the path of her predecessors, her image would have been briefly famous before gathering dust under the beds of teenage boys. But that particular photo of Lena would not fade into obscurity. Instead, her face would become as famous and recognizable as Mona Lisa’s—at least to everyone studying computer science.

    In engineering circles, some refer to Lena as “the first lady of the internet.” Others see her as the industry’s original sin, the first step in Silicon Valley’s exclusion of women. Both views stem from an event that took place in 1973 at a University of Southern California computer lab, where a team of researchers was trying to turn physical photographs into digital bits. Their work would serve as a precursor to the JPEG, a widely used compression standard that allows large image files to be efficiently transferred between devices. The USC team needed to test their algorithms on suitable photos, and their search for the ideal test photo led them to Lena.
    0718P_FEATURE_BROTOPIA_01
    Lena

    According to William Pratt, the lab’s co-founder, the group chose Lena’s portrait from a copy of Playboy that a student had brought into the lab. Pratt, now 80, tells me he saw nothing out of the ordinary about having a soft porn magazine in a university computer lab in 1973. “I said, ‘There are some pretty nice-looking pictures in there,’ ” he says. “And the grad students picked the one that was in the centerfold.” Lena’s spread, which featured the model wearing boots, a boa, a feathered hat, and nothing else, was attractive from a technical perspective because the photo included, according to Pratt, “lots of high-frequency detail that is difficult to code.”

    Over the course of several years, Pratt’s team amassed a library of digital images; not all of them, of course, were from Playboy. The data set also included photos of a brightly colored mandrill, a rainbow of bell peppers, and several photos, all titled “Girl,” of fully clothed women. But the Lena photo was the one that researchers most frequently used. Over the next 45 years, her face and bare shoulder would serve as a benchmark for image-processing quality for the teams working on Apple Inc.’s iPhone camera, Google Images, and pretty much every other tech product having anything to do with photos. To this day, some engineers joke that if you want your image compression algorithm to make the grade, it had better perform well on Lena.

    “We didn’t even think about those things at all when we were doing this,” Pratt says. “It was not sexist.” After all, he continues, no one could have been offended because there were no women in the classroom at the time. And thus began a half-century’s worth of buck-passing in which powerful men in the tech industry defended or ignored the exclusion of women on the grounds that they were already excluded .

    Based on data they had gathered from the same sample of mostly male programmers, Cannon and Perry decided that happy software engineers shared one striking characteristic: They “don’t like people.” In their final report they concluded that programmers “dislike activities involving close personal interaction; they are generally more interested in things than in people.” There’s little evidence to suggest that antisocial people are more adept at math or computers. Unfortunately, there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that if you set out to hire antisocial nerds, you’ll wind up hiring a lot more men than women.

    Cannon and Perry’s work, as well as other personality tests that seem, in retrospect, designed to favor men over women, were used in large companies for decades, helping to create the pop culture trope of the male nerd and ensuring that computers wound up in the boys’ side of the toy aisle. They influenced not just the way companies hired programmers but also who was allowed to become a programmer in the first place.

    In 1984, Apple released its iconic Super Bowl commercial showing a heroic young woman taking a sledgehammer to a depressing and dystopian world. It was a grand statement of resistance and freedom. Her image is accompanied by a voice-over intoning, “And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” The creation of this mythical female heroine also coincided with an exodus of women from technology. In a sense, Apple’s vision was right: The technology industry would never be like 1984 again. That year was the high point for women earning degrees in computer science, which peaked at 37 percent. As the number of overall computer science degrees picked back up during the dot-com boom, far more men than women filled those coveted seats. The percentage of women in the field would dramatically decline for the next two and a half decades.

    Despite having hired and empowered some of the most accomplished women in the industry, Google hasn’t turned out to be all that different from its peers when it comes to measures of equality—which is to say, it’s not very good at all. In July 2017 the search engine disclosed that women accounted for just 31 percent of employees, 25 percent of leadership roles, and 20 percent of technical roles. That makes Google depressingly average among tech companies.

    Even so, exactly zero of the 13 Alphabet company heads are women. To top it off, representatives from several coding education and pipeline feeder groups have told me that Google’s efforts to improve diversity appear to be more about seeking good publicity than enacting change. One noted that Facebook has been successfully poaching Google’s female engineers because of an “increasingly chauvinistic environment.”

    Last year, the personality tests that helped push women out of the technology industry in the first place were given a sort of reboot by a young Google engineer named James Damore. In a memo that was first distributed among Google employees and later leaked to the press, Damore claimed that Google’s tepid diversity efforts were in fact an overreach. He argued that “biological” reasons, rather than bias, had caused men to be more likely to be hired and promoted at Google than women.

    #Féminisme #Informatique #Histoire_numérique

  • Uber is creating a new gig economy that turns workers into customers.
    https://slate.com/technology/2019/03/uber-gig-workers-customers.html

    Uber brings the technology culture of Silicon Valley to the world of work. Facebook sparked a public outcry after it quietly experimented with the psychological states of select users by displaying happier or sadder posts to them in their news feed to study the effects of emotional contagion. People were outraged both because they didn’t want to be the unwitting subjects of mood experimentation, and also because the experiment contradicted the idea that a neutral, objective, and benevolent algorithm curates their news feed. Similarly, Uber experimented with driver pay by implementing upfront pricing without alerting drivers or adjusting their contracts, until months later, after drivers crowdsourced evidence of a new pay policy.

    When Uber takes advantage of the unwitting users of its technology, it could be within its rights to do so, though its particular machinations actually contradict the company’s own description of its business model: In legal forums and in its contracts with drivers, the company says it provides a platform that connects all its users, implying that its technology is neutral, like a credit card processor. In one court hearing, Uber’s lawyers used rough metaphors to explain this logic in oral arguments, saying, “People demand ice cream. We have vendors, vendors who produce ice cream that are able, through our software, demanded—on demand to people that want ice cream. We facilitate that transaction. We’re not in the ice cream business, you know.”

    But Uber is in the figurative ice cream business. Uber monitors drivers through the data they generate on the job and controls their workplace behavior through various methods, from in-app behavioral nudges that influence when and where drivers work to the threat of account deactivation if drivers don’t follow some of Uber’s behavioral “suggestions.” Yet Uber also explicitly adopts a model of customer service communications in managing its workers as if they were mere consumers. In fact, beyond intense supervision, Uber controls drivers by creating an appeals process that limits their ability to find resolutions to their concerns.

    The very vocabulary that Uber deploys to describe its drivers and its own practices reinforces this view of labor: It treats its workers as “end users” and “customers” of its software. The terms are used in Uber’s lawsuits, and a senior Uber employee casually referred to the company’s workforce as “end users” in conversation with me. The rhetorical impact of that language is clever. By fudging the terms of employment within its control, Uber provides us with a template for questioning what we know about employment relationships that can create legal distance between a worker and an employer. And it ushers in a new way of doing business all while the same old problems, like workplace harassment, persist under the veneer of technological neutrality.

    The central conflict of how to categorize a driver—and how to consider work in the sharing economy more broadly—animates the conflict between labor advocates and Uber. And Uber’s defense of their labor practices articulate dynamic changes in how employment and consumption are negotiated in digital spaces. The question in this new economy is whether algorithmic management really creates a qualitative distinction between work and consumption. Because by encouraging this distinction and describing its technology as a way to merely connect two groups of users, Uber can have its cake and eat it too, avoiding responsibility for prospective labor law violations while its ostensibly neutral algorithms give the company vast leverage over how drivers do their work.

    #Uber #Industrie_influence #Travail

  • How the Disposable Straw Explains Modern Capitalism - The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/disposable-america/563204

    Alexis C. Madrigal - Jun 21, 2018

    A straw is a simple thing. It’s a tube, a conveyance mechanism for liquid. The defining characteristic of the straw is the emptiness inside it. This is the stuff of tragedy, and America.

    Over the last several months, plastic straws have come under fire from environmental activists who rightly point out that disposable plastics have created a swirling, centuries-long ecological disaster that is brutally difficult to clean up. Bags were first against the wall, but municipalities from Oakland, California, (yup) to Surfside, Florida, (huh!) have started to restrict the use of plastic straws. Of course, now there is a movement afoot among conservatives to keep those plastics flowing for freedom. Meanwhile, disability advocates have pointed out that plastic straws, in particular, are important for people with physical limitations. “To me, it’s just lame liberal activism that in the end is nothing,” one activist told The Toronto Star. “We’re really kind of vilifying people who need straws.” Other environmentalists aren’t sure that banning straws is gonna do much, and point out that banning straws is not an entirely rigorous approach to global systems change, considering that a widely cited estimate for the magnitude of the problem was, umm, created by a smart 9-year-old.

    All this to say: The straw is officially part of the culture wars, and you might be thinking, “Gah, these contentious times we live in!” But the straw has always been dragged along by the currents of history, soaking up the era, shaping not its direction, but its texture.

    The invention of American industrialism, the creation of urban life, changing gender relations, public-health reform, suburbia and its hamburger-loving teens, better living through plastics, and the financialization of the economy: The straw was there for all these things—rolled out of extrusion machines, dispensed, pushed through lids, bent, dropped into the abyss.

    You can learn a lot about this country, and the dilemmas of contemporary capitalism, by taking a straw-eyed view.

    People have probably been drinking things through cylindrical tubes for as long as Homo sapiens has been around, and maybe before. Scientists observed orangutans demonstrating a preference for a straw-like tool over similar, less functional things. Ancient versions existed, too.

    But in 19th-century America, straws were straw, rye stalks, cut and dried. An alternative did not present itself widely until 1888. That year, Marvin Stone, a Washington, D.C., gentleman, was awarded a patent for an “artificial straw”—“a cheap, durable, and unobjectionable” substitute for natural straws, Stone wrote, “commonly used for the administration of medicines, beverages, etc.”

    Workmen created these early artificial straws by winding paper around a thin cylindrical form, then covering them in paraffin. Often, they were “colored in imitation of the natural straw.” Within a decade, these straws appeared often in newspaper items and advertisements across the country.
    A typical Stone straw ad from a newspaper in 1899 (Google Books)

    Advertising for the Stone straw describes its virtues and emphasizes the faults of the natural straw. Stone’s straws were free from TASTE and ODOR (natural straws were not). Stone’s straws were SWEET, CLEAN, and PERFECT (natural straws could be cracked or musty). You only had to use one Stone straw per drink (not always the case with natural straws).

    They worked. They were cheap. They were very popular and spawned many imitators because once an artificial straw had been conceived, it just wasn’t that hard to make them, tinkering with the process just enough to route around Stone’s patent. This could be read as a story of individual genius. America likes this kind of story.

    But in 1850, long before Stone, Abijah Fessenden patented a drinking tube with a filter attached to a vessel shaped like a spyglass. Disabled people were using drinking tubes in the mid-19th century, as attested to by a patent from 1870. These were artificial, high-value straws; rye was natural and disposable. But it wasn’t until the late 1880s that someone thought to create the disposable, artificial straw.

    Why?

    Americans were primarily a rural people in the early 19th century. Cities had few restaurants until the 1830s and 1840s. Most that did exist were for very rich people. It took the emergence of a new urban life to spark the creation of the kind of eating and drinking establishment that would enshrine the straw in American culture: the soda fountain.

    Carbon dioxide had been isolated decades before, and soda water created with predictably palate-pleasing results, but the equipment to make it was expensive and unwieldy. It wasn’t until the the gas was readily available and cheap that the soda fountain became prevalent. In the 1870s, their technical refinement met a growing market of people who wanted a cold, sweet treat in the city.

    At the same time, the Civil War had intensified American industrialization. More and more people lived in cities and worked outside the home. Cities had saloons, but they were gendered spaces. As urban women fought for greater independence, they, too, wanted places to go. Soda fountains provided a key alternative. Given the female leadership of the late-19th-century temperance movement, soda fountains were drafted onto the side. Sodas were safe and clean. They were soft drinks.

    By 1911, an industry book proclaimed the soda fountain the very height of democratic propriety. “Today everybody, men, women and children, natives and foreigners, patronize the fountain” said The Practical Soda Fountain Guide.

    Temperance and public health grew up together in the disease-ridden cities of America, where despite the modern conveniences and excitements, mortality rates were higher than in the countryside. Straws became a key part of maintaining good hygiene and public health. They became, specifically, part of the answer to the scourge of unclean drinking glasses. Cities begin requiring the use of straws in the late 1890s. A Wisconsin paper noted in 1896 that already in many cities “ordinances have been issued making the use of wrapped drinking straws essential in public eating places.”

    But the laws that regulated health went further. A Kansas doctor campaigned against the widespread use of the “common cup,” which was ... a cup, that many people drank from. Bans began in Kansas and spread.
    The Cup Campaigner

    In many cases, this cup was eventually replaced by the water fountain (or paper cups). Some factories kept the common cup, but purchased straw dispensers that allowed all to partake individually. “The spectacle of groups of able-bodied men standing around drinking water through straws and out of a common, ordinary drinking cup, prompted no end of facetious comment,” read an item in the Shelbina Democrat of October 11, 1911.

    Cup and straw both had to be clean to assure no germs would assail the children (or the able-bodied men). So even the method by which straws were dispensed became an important hygienic indicator. “In some stores, customers are permitted to choose their own straws, and this system would work very well if customers would not finger the straws,” The Practical Soda Fountain Guide lamented.

    That led to the development of the straw dispenser, which has a deep lineage. Already, in 1911, the thing existed where you individually pop a straw into reach. That’s it, right below, with the rationale written in: “Protects straws from flies, dust, and microbes.”
    The Practical Soda Fountain Guide

    To people living through the early 20th century, the straw was a creation of the new public-health regime. “Due to the ‘Yankee mania for sanitation,’ the [American] output of artificial straws has increased from 165 million in 1901 to 4 billion a year at present,” the Battle Creek Enquirer wrote in May 1924. “A manufacturer pointed out yesterday that, laid end to end, these straws would build an ant’s subway 16 times around the world at the equator.”

    Four billion straws! There were only 114 million Americans at the time, so that’s 35 straws per capita (though some were exported).

    Of course, straw making was improving through all these decades—mechanizing, scaling up—but the straw itself basically stayed the same. According to Sidney Graham—who founded the National Soda Straw Company in 1931, and who competed against Stone and other early straw manufacturers—in a 1988 history of the straw:

    Straws were uniform up until the 1930s ... They were tan in color, thin, and exactly 8.5 inches long. Then someone in the soda-bottling business started marketing eight-ounce bottles, and straws grew to 10.5 inches. Various soda fountains began mixing malted milks, and the old straws were too thin. So we started making them thicker. Still, they were all tan in color, like the original straws.

    In the interwar years, however, major changes came to straws. In 1937, for example, Joseph Friedman invented the bendy straw at his brother’s soda shop in San Francisco, leading to the design that’s prevalent today.

    But what happened to the straw industry is far more interesting than its (limited) technical advances. Three of the biggest names in the industry—Friedman’s Flexi-Straw Company; the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, which made popular white straws; and Maryland Cup Corporation—have bumped around the last 80 years like corporate Forrest Gumps.

    As it turns out, all three companies’ histories intersect with each other, as well as with structural changes to the American economy. But first, we have to talk about McDonald’s.

    Let’s start with Ray Kroc, who built the McDonald’s empire. For about 16 years, beginning in 1922, he sold cups for the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, rising to lead sales across the Midwest. “I don’t know what appealed to me so much about paper cups. Perhaps it was mostly because they were so innovative and upbeat,” Kroc recalled in his memoir, Grinding It Out. “But I sensed from the outset that paper cups were part of the way America was headed.”

    At first, selling cups was a tough job. Straws were cheap—you could get 100 for nine cents in the 1930s—but cups were many times more expensive. And besides, people could just wash glasses. Why would they need a paper cup? But America was tilting toward speed and disposability. And throwaway products were the future (“innovative and upbeat”). Soda fountains and their fast-food descendants were continuing to grow, spurring more sales of cups and straws. In the end, Kroc called the years between 1927 and 1937 “a decade of destiny for the paper-cup industry.”

    Selling all those cups brought Kroc into contact with soda fountains, and eventually he went into business selling milkshake mixers. This led him to Southern California, where he saw the first McDonald’s in operation. He bought his way into the small company and deposed the original owners. With Kroc growing the brand, McDonald’s added 90 franchises between 1955 and 1959. By 1961, Kroc was fully in control of the company, and by 1968, there were 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants.
    The first McDonald’s that Ray Kroc opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, is now a museum dedicated to the burger chain. (Reuters/Frank Polich)

    The restaurant chain became a key customer for Maryland Cup, which began as an ice-cream-cone bakery in Boston. Its first nonfood product launched under a brand that became nationally famous, Sweetheart. That product? The straw. The name derived from the original packaging, which showed “two children sharing a milkshake, each drinking from a straw and their heads forming the two curved arcs of a heart.”

    After the war, the company went into cups, and later other kinds of packaging for the growing fast-food industry. It developed new products for McDonald’s, like those old foam clamshell packages that hamburgers used to come in. It also snatched up the Flexi-Straw Company—along with all its patents and rights—in 1969. Things were going great. The founder’s son-in-law was president of the company in Baltimore; one nephew of the founder ran the McDonald’s relationship; the other ran the plastics division.

    Because the future, at that point, had become plastics! In 1950, the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. By the late 1960s, that production had grown more than tenfold. Every product was being tried as a plastic thing, and so naturally, the straw became a plastic thing, too. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for paper straws to lose their cultural salience.

    While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”

    Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.

    But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.

    Baker goes on to imagine the ramifications, painting a miniature portrait of the process of path-dependent technological choice, which has helped shape everything from the width of railroad tracks to the layout of your keyboard. The power players went plastic, so everyone had to go plastic. “Suddenly the paper-goods distributor was offering the small restaurants floating plastic straws and only floating plastic straws, and was saying that this was the way all the big chains were going,” Baker writes. Sometimes it all works. Other times, a small pleasure is lost, or a tiny headache is created: “In this way the quality of life, through nobody’s fault, went down an eighth of a notch.”

    I can’t prove that this was the precise series of events that took hold among straw engineers, cup distributors, and McDonald’s. Most corporate decision-making of this kind simply doesn’t stick in the nets of history. Yet these differences influence the texture of life every single day, and ever more so, as the owners of corporations become ever further removed from the products they sell. Let’s just say that the logic Baker describes, the way he imagines the development and consequences of these forgettable technologies, squares with the histories that we do know. The very straw engineers that Baker describes might well have been working in the plastics division of the Maryland Cup Corporation, owners of the Sweetheart brand.

    Baker was writing in the 1980s, when straws of all kinds had begun to proliferate, and the American economic system entered a period of intense consolidation and financialization. A key component of this new form of capitalism was the “leveraged buyout,” in which private-equity firms descended on old companies, sliced them up, took out huge amounts of debt, and sold off the various components, “unlocking value” for their investors. You might remember this was how Mitt Romney made his fortune. Matt Taibbi described the model in acerbic but not inaccurate terms: “A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place.”

    Global competition and offshoring enabled by containerized trade was responsible for some of the trouble American manufacturing encountered in the 1970s and 1980s. But the wholesale restructuring of the economy by private-equity firms to narrow the beneficiaries of business operations contributed mightily to the resentments still resounding through the country today. The straw, like everything else, was swept along for the ride.

    In the early 1980s, Maryland Cup’s family-linked executives were on the glide path to retirement. Eighty family members held about half the company’s stock. In 1983, the company had $656 million in revenue, $32 million in profits, and 10,000 employees. It was the biggest disposable-food-product manufacturer in the nation, an empire built on cups, straws, and plastic silverware. The family was ready to cash out.

    The big paper and food companies circled Maryland Cup, but it was eventually sold for $534 million to Fort Howard, a paper company that had gone public in the early ’70s, and began to aggressively expand beyond its Wisconsin base.

    The sale was a boon for Maryland Cup’s shareholders, but the company did not fare well under the new management. Following the transaction, the Baltimore Sun relates, Maryland Cup executives flew to dinner with Fort Howard’s hard-charging CEO, Paul Schierl. He brought out a flip chart, on which he’d written the company’s “old” values—“service, quality, responding to customers.” He turned the page to show the company’s “new” values—“profits, profits, profits.” It’s like a scene out of Tommy Boy, or a socialist’s fever dream.

    Fort Howard forced deep cuts on the company. Some longtime managers quit. The trappings of the family company went out the window. No more executives dressing up as Santa Claus or local charitable contributions. And while Fort Howard was cutting people, it invested in expanding the company’s factories. This was just business. Schierl literally appeared at a sales meeting in a devil’s mask.

    Maryland Cup’s struggles intensified after the wave of departures that followed the acquisition. It needed customer volume to keep its new, bigger plants running, so Fort Howard snatched up the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation in 1986 for another $332 million. Surely there would be synergies. More layoffs came.

    Two years later, the private-equity guys struck. Morgan Stanley, which had helped broker Fort Howard’s deals, swept in and snatched the company for $3.9 billion in one of those famed leveraged buyouts. The whole enterprise was swept off the public markets and into their hands.

    One of their moves was to spin out the cup business as Sweetheart Holdings—along with a boatload of debt jettisoned out of Fort Howard. Just eight years inside Fort Howard and a turn through the private-equity wringer had turned a profitable company into one that still made money on operations in 1991, but was $95 million in the red because it was so loaded up with debt.

    The company made layoffs across the country. Retirement health-care benefits were cut, leaving older employees so livid they filed a class-action lawsuit. A huge Wilmington factory closed after McDonald’s got rid of its plastic clamshell packaging for hamburgers, citing environmental concerns over plastic.

    In 1993, the company was sold again to a different investment group, American Industrial Partners. Eventually, it was sold yet again to the Solo Cup Company, makers of one-third of the materials necessary for beer pong. And finally, in 2012, Solo was itself sold to Dart Container, a family-owned packaging company that sells a vast array of straws under the Solo brand.

    Fort Howard continued on, going back public in 1995, then merging with another paper company, James River, in 1997, to become Fort James. Just three years later, an even bigger paper company, Georgia Pacific, snatched up the combined entity. In 2005, Koch Industries bought the shares of all the companies, taking the company back private. They still make straws.

    While bulk capitalism pushes hundreds of millions of plain plastic straws through the American food system, there are also thousands of variations on the straw now, from the “krazy” whirling neon kind to a new natural straw made from rye stalks advertised on Kickstarter (the entrepreneur calls them “Straw Straws”). There are old-school paper straws and newfangled compostable plastic straws. Stone Straw, founded by the inventor of the artificial straw, even survives in some form as the straw-distributing subsidiary of a Canadian manufacturing concern. Basically, there’s never been a better time to be a straw consumer.

    Meanwhile, the country has shed manufacturing jobs for decades, straws contribute their share to a dire global environmental disaster, the economy continues to concentrate wealth among the very richest, and the sodas that pass through the nation’s straws are contributing to an obesity epidemic that threatens to erase many of the public health gains that were won in the 20th century. Local governments may legislate the use of the plastic straw, but they can’t do a thing about the vast system that’s attached to the straw, which created first disposable products, then companies, and finally people.

    The straw is the opposite of special. History has flowed around and through it, like thousands of other bits of material culture. What’s happened to the straw might not even be worth comment, and certainly not essay. But if it’s not clear by now, straws, in this story, are us, inevitable vessels of the times in which we live.

    #USA #histoire #capitalisme #alimentation #plastique

  • #perceptron — Deep Learning Basics
    https://hackernoon.com/perceptron-deep-learning-basics-3a938c5f84b6?source=rss----3a8144eabfe3-

    Perceptron — Deep Learning BasicsAn upgrade to McCulloch-Pitts Neuron.Perceptron is a fundamental unit of the neural network which takes weighted inputs, process it and capable of performing binary classifications. In this post, we will discuss the working of the Perceptron Model. This is a follow-up blog post to my previous post on McCulloch-Pitts Neuron.In 1958 Frank Rosenblatt proposed the perceptron, a more generalized computational model than the McCulloch-Pitts Neuron. The important feature in the Rosenblatt proposed perceptron was the introduction of weights for the inputs. Later in 1960s Rosenblatt’s Model was refined and perfected by Minsky and Papert. Rosenblatt’s model is called as classical perceptron and the model analyzed by Minsky and Papert is called perceptron.Disclaimer: (...)

    #neurons #artificial-intelligence #deep-learning #deep-learning-basics

  • McCulloch Pitts Neuron — Deep Learning Building Blocks
    https://hackernoon.com/mcculloch-pitts-neuron-deep-learning-building-blocks-7928f4e0504d?source

    McCulloch Pitts Neuron — Deep Learning Building BlockThe fundamental block of deep learning is artificial neuron i.e.. it takes a weighted aggregate of inputs, applies a function and gives an output. The very first step towards the artificial neuron was taken by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts in 1943 inspired by neurobiology, created a model known as McCulloch-Pitts Neuron.Disclaimer: The content and the structure of this article is based on the deep learning lectures from One-Fourth Labs — Padhai.Motivation — Biological NeuronThe inspiration for the creation of an artificial neuron comes from the biological neuron.Fig — 1 Biological Neuron — Padhai Deep LearningIn a simplistic view, #neurons receive signals and produce a response. The general structure of a neuron is shown in the Fig-1. Dendrites (...)

    #artificial-intelligence #mcculloch-pitts-neuron #deep-learning #machine-learning

  • Can’t Be Evil vs. Don’t Be Evil
    https://hackernoon.com/cant-be-evil-vs-don-t-be-evil-12fb625057b7?source=rss----3a8144eabfe3---

    Don’t be evil: a cute slogan. Now a rescinded promise.Can’t be evil: a model for future organizations and business.Companies will transition from trusted terms of service to establishing contractual agreements of service digitally. Proving an immutable level of service will be the new norm and a unique selling point across consumer and enterprise software.Users have had enough of broken #privacy and broken products. #tech companies have painted themselves into a dangerous corner with free software and ad supported models. Growth at any cost, a model backed by many VCs and startups is often at odds with users’ interests. This has led several entrepreneurs to put can’t be evil at the focal point of their efforts as far back as 2014. Major points of Internet failure were illuminated by Muneeb (...)

    #blockchain #technology #data

  • Pan Am Flight 103 : Robert Mueller’s 30-Year Search for Justice | WIRED
    https://www.wired.com/story/robert-muellers-search-for-justice-for-pan-am-103

    Cet article décrit le rôle de Robert Mueller dans l’enquête historique qui a permis de dissimuler ou de justifier la plupart des batailles de la guerre non déclarée des États Unis contre l’OLP et les pays arabes qui soutenaient la lutte pour un état palestinien.

    Aux États-Unis, en Allemagne et en France le grand public ignore les actes de guerre commis par les États Unis dans cette guerre. Vu dans ce contexte on ne peut que classer le récit de cet article dans la catégorie idéologie et propagande même si les intentions et faits qu’on y apprend sont bien documentés et plausibles.

    Cette perspective transforme le contenu de cet article d’une variation sur un thème connu dans un reportage sur l’état d’âme des dirigeants étatsuniens moins fanatiques que l’équipe du président actuel.

    THIRTY YEARS AGO last Friday, on the darkest day of the year, 31,000 feet above one of the most remote parts of Europe, America suffered its first major terror attack.

    TEN YEARS AGO last Friday, then FBI director Robert Mueller bundled himself in his tan trench coat against the cold December air in Washington, his scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Sitting on a small stage at Arlington National Cemetery, he scanned the faces arrayed before him—the victims he’d come to know over years, relatives and friends of husbands and wives who would never grow old, college students who would never graduate, business travelers and flight attendants who would never come home.

    Burned into Mueller’s memory were the small items those victims had left behind, items that he’d seen on the shelves of a small wooden warehouse outside Lockerbie, Scotland, a visit he would never forget: A teenager’s single white sneaker, an unworn Syracuse University sweatshirt, the wrapped Christmas gifts that would never be opened, a lonely teddy bear.

    A decade before the attacks of 9/11—attacks that came during Mueller’s second week as FBI director, and that awoke the rest of America to the threats of terrorism—the bombing of Pan Am 103 had impressed upon Mueller a new global threat.

    It had taught him the complexity of responding to international terror attacks, how unprepared the government was to respond to the needs of victims’ families, and how on the global stage justice would always be intertwined with geopolitics. In the intervening years, he had never lost sight of the Lockerbie bombing—known to the FBI by the codename Scotbom—and he had watched the orphaned children from the bombing grow up over the years.

    Nearby in the cemetery stood a memorial cairn made of pink sandstone—a single brick representing each of the victims, the stone mined from a Scottish quarry that the doomed flight passed over just seconds before the bomb ripped its baggage hold apart. The crowd that day had gathered near the cairn in the cold to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

    For a man with an affinity for speaking in prose, not poetry, a man whose staff was accustomed to orders given in crisp sentences as if they were Marines on the battlefield or under cross-examination from a prosecutor in a courtroom, Mueller’s remarks that day soared in a way unlike almost any other speech he’d deliver.

    “There are those who say that time heals all wounds. But you know that not to be true. At its best, time may dull the deepest wounds; it cannot make them disappear,” Mueller told the assembled mourners. “Yet out of the darkness of this day comes a ray of light. The light of unity, of friendship, and of comfort from those who once were strangers and who are now bonded together by a terrible moment in time. The light of shared memories that bring smiles instead of sadness. And the light of hope for better days to come.”

    He talked of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and of inspiration drawn from Lockerbie’s town crest, with its simple motto, “Forward.” He spoke of what was then a two-decade-long quest for justice, of how on windswept Scottish mores and frigid lochs a generation of FBI agents, investigators, and prosecutors had redoubled their dedication to fighting terrorism.

    Mueller closed with a promise: “Today, as we stand here together on this, the darkest of days, we renew that bond. We remember the light these individuals brought to each of you here today. We renew our efforts to bring justice down on those who seek to harm us. We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of terrorism. We will continue to move forward. But we will never forget.”

    Hand bells tolled for each of the victims as their names were read aloud, 270 names, 270 sets of bells.

    The investigation, though, was not yet closed. Mueller, although he didn’t know it then, wasn’t done with Pan Am 103. Just months after that speech, the case would test his innate sense of justice and morality in a way that few other cases in his career ever have.

    ROBERT S. MUELLER III had returned from a combat tour in Vietnam in the late 1960s and eventually headed to law school at the University of Virginia, part of a path that he hoped would lead him to being an FBI agent. Unable after graduation to get a job in government, he entered private practice in San Francisco, where he found he loved being a lawyer—just not a defense attorney.

    Then—as his wife Ann, a teacher, recounted to me years ago—one morning at their small home, while the two of them made the bed, Mueller complained, “Don’t I deserve to be doing something that makes me happy?” He finally landed a job as an assistant US attorney in San Francisco and stood, for the first time, in court and announced, “Good morning your Honor, I am Robert Mueller appearing on behalf of the United States of America.” It is a moment that young prosecutors often practice beforehand, and for Mueller those words carried enormous weight. He had found the thing that made him happy.

    His family remembers that time in San Francisco as some of their happiest years; the Muellers’ two daughters were young, they loved the Bay Area—and have returned there on annual vacations almost every year since relocating to the East Coast—and Mueller found himself at home as a prosecutor.

    On Friday nights, their routine was that Ann and the two girls would pick Mueller up at Harrington’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest Irish pub, not far from the Ferry Building in the Financial District, where he hung out each week with a group of prosecutors, defense attorneys, cops, and agents. (One Christmas, his daughter Cynthia gave him a model of the bar made out of Popsicle sticks.) He balanced that family time against weekends and trainings with the Marines Corps Reserves, where he served for more than a decade, until 1980, eventually rising to be a captain.

    Over the next 15 years, he rose through the ranks of the San Francisco US attorney’s office—an office he would return to lead during the Clinton administration—and then decamped to Massachusetts to work for US attorney William Weld in the 1980s. There, too, he shined and eventually became acting US attorney when Weld departed at the end of the Reagan administration. “You cannot get the words straight arrow out of your head,” Weld told me, speaking of Mueller a decade ago. “The agencies loved him because he knew his stuff. He didn’t try to be elegant or fancy, he just put the cards on the table.”

    In 1989, an old high school classmate, Robert Ross, who was chief of staff to then attorney general Richard Thornburgh, asked Mueller to come down to Washington to help advise Thornburgh. The offer intrigued Mueller. Ann protested the move—their younger daughter Melissa wanted to finish high school in Massachusetts. Ann told her husband, “We can’t possibly do this.” He replied, his eyes twinkling, “You’re right, it’s a terrible time. Well, why don’t we just go down and look at a few houses?” As she told me, “When he wants to do something, he just revisits it again and again.”

    For his first two years at so-called Main Justice in Washington, working under President George H.W. Bush, the family commuted back and forth from Boston to Washington, alternating weekends in each city, to allow Melissa to finish school.

    Washington gave Mueller his first exposure to national politics and cases with geopolitical implications; in September 1990, President Bush nominated him to be assistant attorney general, overseeing the Justice Department’s entire criminal division, which at that time handled all the nation’s terrorism cases as well. Mueller would oversee the prosecution of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, mob boss John Gotti, and the controversial investigation into a vast money laundering scheme run through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, known as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals

    None of his cases in Washington, though, would affect him as much as the bombing of Pan Am 103.

    THE TIME ON the clocks in Lockerbie, Scotland, read 7:04 pm, on December 21, 1988, when the first emergency call came into the local fire brigade, reporting what sounded like a massive boiler explosion. It was technically early evening, but it had been dark for hours already; that far north, on the shortest day of the year, daylight barely stretched to eight hours.

    Soon it became clear something much worse than a boiler explosion had unfolded: Fiery debris pounded the landscape, plunging from the sky and killing 11 Lockerbie residents. As Mike Carnahan told a local TV reporter, “The whole sky was lit up with flames. It was actually raining, liquid fire. You could see several houses on the skyline with the roofs totally off and all you could see was flaming timbers.”

    At 8:45 pm, a farmer found in his field the cockpit of Pan Am 103, a Boeing 747 known as Clipper Maid of the Seas, lying on its side, 15 of its crew dead inside, just some of the 259 passengers and crew killed when a bomb had exploded inside the plane’s cargo hold. The scheduled London to New York flight never even made it out of the UK.

    It had taken just three seconds for the plane to disintegrate in the air, though the wreckage took three long minutes to fall the five miles from the sky to the earth; court testimony later would examine how passengers had still been alive as they fell. Nearly 200 of the passengers were American, including 35 students from Syracuse University returning home from a semester abroad. The attack horrified America, which until then had seen terror touch its shores only occasionally as a hijacking went awry; while the US had weathered the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, attacks almost never targeted civilians.

    The Pan Am 103 bombing seemed squarely aimed at the US, hitting one of its most iconic brands. Pan Am then represented America’s global reach in a way few companies did; the world’s most powerful airline shuttled 19 million passengers a year to more than 160 countries and had ferried the Beatles to their US tour and James Bond around the globe on his cinematic missions. In a moment of hubris a generation before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the airline had even opened a “waiting list” for the first tourists to travel to outer space. Its New York headquarters, the Pan Am building, was the world’s largest commercial building and its terminal at JFK Airport the biggest in the world.

    The investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 began immediately, as police and investigators streamed north from London by the hundreds; chief constable John Boyd, the head of the local police, arrived at the Lockerbie police station by 8:15 pm, and within an hour the first victim had been brought in: A farmer arrived in town with the body of a baby girl who had fallen from the sky. He’d carefully placed her in the front seat of his pickup truck.

    An FBI agent posted in London had raced north too, with the US ambassador, aboard a special US Air Force flight, and at 2 am, when Boyd convened his first senior leadership meeting, he announced, “The FBI is here, and they are fully operational.” By that point, FBI explosives experts were already en route to Scotland aboard an FAA plane; agents would install special secure communications equipment in Lockerbie and remain on site for months.

    Although it quickly became clear that a bomb had targeted Pan Am 103—wreckage showed signs of an explosion and tested positive for PETN and RDX, two key ingredients of the explosive Semtex—the investigation proceeded with frustrating slowness. Pan Am’s records were incomplete, and it took days to even determine the full list of passengers. At the same time, it was the largest crime scene ever investigated—a fact that remains true today.

    Investigators walked 845 square miles, an area 12 times the size of Washington, DC, and searched so thoroughly that they recovered more than 70 packages of airline crackers and ultimately could reconstruct about 85 percent of the fuselage. (Today, the wreckage remains in an English scrapyard.) Constable Boyd, at his first press conference, told the media, “This is a mammoth inquiry.”

    On Christmas Eve, a searcher found a piece of a luggage pallet with signs of obvious scorching, which would indicate the bomb had been in the luggage compartment below the passenger cabin. The evidence was rushed to a special British military lab—one originally created to investigate the Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament and kill King James I in 1605.

    When the explosive tests came back a day later, the British government called the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for combating terrorism, L. Paul Bremer III (who would go on to be President George W. Bush’s viceroy in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion of Iraq), and officially delivered the news that everyone had anticipated: Pan Am 103 had been downed by a bomb.

    Meanwhile, FBI agents fanned out across the country. In New York, special agent Neil Herman—who would later lead the FBI’s counterterrorism office in New York in the run up to 9/11—was tasked with interviewing some of the victims’ families; many of the Syracuse students on board had been from the New York region. One of the mothers he interviewed hadn’t heard from the government in the 10 days since the attack. “It really struck me how ill-equipped we were to deal with this,” Herman told me, years later. “Multiply her by 270 victims and families.” The bombing underscored that the FBI and the US government had a lot to learn in responding and aiding victims in a terror attack.

    INVESTIGATORS MOVED TOWARD piecing together how a bomb could have been placed on board; years before the 9/11 attack, they discounted the idea of a suicide bomber aboard—there had never been a suicide attack on civil aviation at that point—and so focused on one of two theories: The possibility of a “mule,” an innocent passenger duped into carrying a bomb aboard, or an “inside man,” a trusted airport or airline employee who had smuggled the fatal cargo aboard. The initial suspect list stretched to 1,200 names.

    Yet even reconstructing what was on board took an eternity: Evidence pointed to a Japanese manufactured Toshiba cassette recorder as the likely delivery device for the bomb, and then, by the end of January, investigators located pieces of the suitcase that had held the bomb. After determining that it was a Samsonite bag, police and the FBI flew to the company’s headquarters in the United States and narrowed the search further: The bag, they found, was a System 4 Silhouette 4000 model, color “antique-copper,” a case and color made for only three years, 1985 to 1988, and sold only in the Middle East. There were a total of 3,500 such suitcases in circulation.

    By late spring, investigators had identified 14 pieces of luggage inside the target cargo container, known as AVE4041; each bore tell-tale signs of the explosion. Through careful retracing of how luggage moved through the London airport, investigators determined that the bags on the container’s bottom row came from passengers transferring in London. The bags on the second and third row of AVE4041 had been the last bags loaded onto the leg of the flight that began in Frankfurt, before the plane took off for London. None of the baggage had been X-rayed or matched with passengers on board.

    The British lab traced clothing fragments from the wreckage that bore signs of the explosion and thus likely originated in the bomb-carrying suitcase. It was an odd mix: Two herring-bone skirts, men’s pajamas, tartan trousers, and so on. The most promising fragment was a blue infant’s onesie that, after fiber analysis, was conclusively determined to have been inside the explosive case, and had a label saying “Malta Trading Company.” In March, two detectives took off for Malta, where the manufacturer told them that 500 such articles of clothing had been made and most sent to Ireland, while the rest went locally to Maltese outlets and others to continental Europe.

    As they dug deeper, they focused on bag B8849, which appeared to have come off Air Malta Flight 180—Malta to Frankfurt—on December 21, even though there was no record of one of that flight’s 47 passengers transferring to Pan Am 103.

    Investigators located the store in Malta where the suspect clothing had been sold; the British inspector later recorded in his statement, “[Store owner] Anthony Gauci interjected and stated that he could recall selling a pair of the checked trousers, size 34, and three pairs of the pajamas to a male person.” The investigators snapped to attention—after nine months did they finally have a suspect in their sights? “[Gauci] informed me that the man had also purchased the following items: one imitation Harris Tweed jacket; one woolen cardigan; one black umbrella; one blue colored ‘Baby Gro’ with a motif described by the witness as a ‘sheep’s face’ on the front; and one pair of gents’ brown herring-bone material trousers, size 36.”

    Game, set, match. Gauci had perfectly described the clothing fragments found by RARDE technicians to contain traces of explosive. The purchase, Gauci went on to explain, stood out in his mind because the customer—whom Gauci tellingly identified as speaking the “Libyan language”—had entered the store on November 23, 1988, and gathered items without seeming to care about the size, gender, or color of any of it.

    As the investigation painstakingly proceeded into 1989 and 1990, Robert Mueller arrived at Main Justice; the final objects of the Lockerbie search wouldn’t be found until the spring of 1990, just months before Mueller took over as assistant attorney general of the criminal division in September.

    The Justice Department that year was undergoing a series of leadership changes; the deputy attorney general, William Barr, became acting attorney general midyear as Richard Thornburgh stepped down to run for Senate back in his native Pennsylvania. President Bush then nominated Barr to take over as attorney general officially. (Earlier this month Barr was nominated by President Trump to become attorney general once again.)

    The bombing soon became one of the top cases on Mueller’s desk. He met regularly with Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent heading Scotbom. For Mueller, the case became personal; he met with victims’ families and toured the Lockerbie crash site and the investigation’s headquarters. He traveled repeatedly to the United Kingdom for meetings and walked the fields of Lockerbie himself. “The Scots just did a phenomenal job with the crime scene,” he told me, years ago.

    Mueller pushed the investigators forward constantly, getting involved in the investigation at a level that a high-ranking Justice Department official almost never does. Marquise turned to him in one meeting, after yet another set of directions, and sighed, “Geez, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you want to be FBI director.”

    The investigation gradually, carefully, zeroed in on Libya. Agents traced a circuit board used in the bomb to a similar device seized in Africa a couple of years earlier used by Libyan intelligence. An FBI-created database of Maltese immigration records even showed that a man using the same alias as one of those Libyan intelligence officers had departed from Malta on October 19, 1988—just two months before the bombing.

    The circuit board also helped makes sense of an important aspect of the bombing: It controlled a timer, meaning that the bomb was not set off by a barometric trigger that registers altitude. This, in turn, explained why the explosive baggage had lain peacefully in the jet’s hold as it took off and landed repeatedly.

    Tiny letters on the suspect timer said “MEBO.” What was MEBO? In the days before Google, searching for something called “Mebo” required going country to country, company to company. There were no shortcuts. The FBI, MI5, and CIA were, after months of work, able to trace MEBO back to a Swiss company, Meister et Bollier, adding a fifth country to the ever-expanding investigative circle.

    From Meister et Bollier, they learned that the company had provided 20 prototype timers to the Libyan government and the company helped ID their contact as a Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who looked like the sketch of the Maltese clothing shopper. Then, when the FBI looked at its database of Maltese immigration records, they found that Al Megrahi had been present in Malta the day the clothing was purchased.

    Marquise sat down with Robert Mueller and the rest of the prosecutorial team and laid out the latest evidence. Mueller’s orders were clear—he wanted specific suspects and he wanted to bring charges. As he said, “Proceed toward indictment.” Let’s get this case moving.

    IN NOVEMBER 1990, Marquise was placed in charge of all aspects of the investigation and assigned on special duty to the Washington Field Office and moved to a new Scotbom task force. The field offce was located far from the Hoover building, in a run-down neighborhood known by the thoroughly unromantic moniker of Buzzard Point.

    The Scotbom task force had been allotted three tiny windowless rooms with dark wood paneling, which were soon covered floor-to-ceiling with 747 diagrams, crime scene photographs, maps, and other clues. By the door of the office, the team kept two photographs to remind themselves of the stakes: One, a tiny baby shoe recovered from the fields of Lockerbie; the other, a picture of the American flag on the tail of Pan Am 103. This was the first major attack on the US and its civilians. Whoever was responsible couldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

    With representatives from a half-dozen countries—the US, Britain, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, France, and Malta—now sitting around the table, putting together a case that met everyone’s evidentiary standards was difficult. “We talked through everything, and everything was always done to the higher standard,” Marquise says. In the US, for instance, the legal standard for a photo array was six photos; in Scotland, though, it was 12. So every photo array in the investigation had 12 photos to ensure that the IDs could be used in a British court.

    The trail of evidence so far was pretty clear, and it all pointed toward Libya. Yet there was still much work to do prior to an indictment. A solid hunch was one thing. Having evidence that would stand up in court and under cross-examination was something else entirely.

    As the case neared an indictment, the international investigators and prosecutors found themselves focusing at their gatherings on the fine print of their respective legal code and engaging in deep, philosophical-seeming debates: “What does murder mean in your statute? Huh? I know what murder means: I kill you. Well, then you start going through the details and the standards are just a little different. It may entail five factors in one country, three in another. Was Megrahi guilty of murder? Depends on the country.”

    At every meeting, the international team danced around the question of where a prosecution would ultimately take place. “Jurisdiction was an eggshell problem,” Marquise says. “It was always there, but no one wanted to talk about it. It was always the elephant in the room.”

    Mueller tried to deflect the debate for as long as possible, arguing there was more investigation to do first. Eventually, though, he argued forcefully that the case should be tried in the US. “I recognize that Scotland has significant equities which support trial of the case in your country,” he said in one meeting. “However, the primary target of this act of terrorism was the United States. The majority of the victims were Americans, and the Pan American aircraft was targeted precisely because it was of United States registry.”

    After one meeting, where the Scots and Americans debated jurisdiction for more than two hours, the group migrated over to the Peasant, a restaurant near the Justice Department, where, in an attempt to foster good spirits, it paid for the visiting Scots. Mueller and the other American officials each had to pay for their own meals.

    Mueller was getting ready to move forward; the federal grand jury would begin work in early September. Prosecutors and other investigators were already preparing background, readying evidence, and piecing together information like the names and nationalities of all the Lockerbie victims so that they could be included in the forthcoming indictment.

    There had never been any doubt in the US that the Pan Am 103 bombing would be handled as a criminal matter, but the case was still closely monitored by the White House and the National Security Council.

    The Reagan administration had been surprised in February 1988 by the indictment on drug charges of its close ally Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and a rule of thumb had been developed: Give the White House a heads up anytime you’re going to indict a foreign agent. “If you tag Libya with Pan Am 103, that’s fair to say it’s going to disrupt our relationship with Libya,” Mueller deadpans. So Mueller would head up to the Cabinet Room at the White House, charts and pictures in hand, to explain to President Bush and his team what Justice had in mind.

    To Mueller, the investigation underscored why such complex investigations needed a law enforcement eye. A few months after the attack, he sat through a CIA briefing pointing toward Syria as the culprit behind the attack. “That’s always struck with me as a lesson in the difference between intelligence and evidence. I always try to remember that,” he told me, back when he was FBI director. “It’s a very good object lesson about hasty action based on intelligence. What if we had gone and attacked Syria based on that initial intelligence? Then, after the attack, it came out that Libya had been behind it? What could we have done?”

    Marquise was the last witness for the federal grand jury on Friday, November 8, 1991. Only in the days leading up to that testimony had prosecutors zeroed in on Megrahi and another Libyan officer, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah; as late as the week of the testimony, they had hoped to pursue additional indictments, yet the evidence wasn’t there to get to a conviction.

    Mueller traveled to London to meet with the Peter Fraser, the lord advocate—Scotland’s top prosecutor—and they agreed to announce indictments simultaneously on November 15, 1991. Who got their hands on the suspects first, well, that was a question for later. The joint indictment, Mueller believed, would benefit both countries. “It adds credibility to both our investigations,” he says.

    That coordinated joint, multi-nation statement and indictment would become a model that the US would deploy more regularly in the years to come, as the US and other western nations have tried to coordinate cyber investigations and indictments against hackers from countries like North Korea, Russia, and Iran.

    To make the stunning announcement against Libya, Mueller joined FBI director William Sessions, DC US attorney Jay Stephens, and attorney general William Barr.

    “We charge that two Libyan officials, acting as operatives of the Libyan intelligence agency, along with other co-conspirators, planted and detonated the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103,” Barr said. “I have just telephoned some of the families of those murdered on Pan Am 103 to inform them and the organizations of the survivors that this indictment has been returned. Their loss has been ever present in our minds.”

    At the same time, in Scotland, investigators there were announcing the same indictments.

    At the press conference, Barr listed a long set of names to thank—the first one he singled out was Mueller’s. Then, he continued, “This investigation is by no means over. It continues unabated. We will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice. We have no higher priority.”

    From there, the case would drag on for years. ABC News interviewed the two suspects in Libya later that month; both denied any responsibility for the bombing. Marquise was reassigned within six months; the other investigators moved along too.

    Mueller himself left the administration when Bill Clinton became president, spending an unhappy year in private practice before rejoining the Justice Department to work as a junior homicide prosecutor in DC under then US attorney Eric Holder; Mueller, who had led the nation’s entire criminal division was now working side by side with prosecutors just a few years out of law school, the equivalent of a three-star military general retiring and reenlisting as a second lieutenant. Clinton eventually named Mueller the US attorney in San Francisco, the office where he’d worked as a young attorney in the 1970s.

    THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY of the bombing came and went without any justice. Then, in April 1999, prolonged international negotiations led to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi turning over the two suspects; the international economic sanctions imposed on Libya in the wake of the bombing were taking a toll on his country, and the leader wanted to put the incident behind him.

    The final negotiated agreement said that the two men would be tried by a Scottish court, under Scottish law, in The Hague in the Netherlands. Distinct from the international court there, the three-judge Scottish court would ensure that the men faced justice under the laws of the country where their accused crime had been committed.

    Allowing the Scots to move forward meant some concessions by the US. The big one was taking the death penalty, prohibited in Scotland, off the table. Mueller badly wanted the death penalty. Mueller, like many prosecutors and law enforcement officials, is a strong proponent of capital punishment, but he believes it should be reserved for only egregious crimes. “It has to be especially heinous, and you have to be 100 percent sure he’s guilty,” he says. This case met that criteria. “There’s never closure. If there can’t be closure, there should be justice—both for the victims as well as the society at large,” he says.

    An old US military facility, Kamp Van Zeist, was converted to an elaborate jail and courtroom in The Hague, and the Dutch formally surrendered the two Libyans to Scottish police. The trial began in May 2000. For nine months, the court heard testimony from around the world. In what many observers saw as a political verdict, Al Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah was found not guilty.

    With barely 24 hours notice, Marquise and victim family members raced from the United States to be in the courtroom to hear the verdict. The morning of the verdict in 2001, Mueller was just days into his tenure as acting deputy US attorney general—filling in for the start of the George W. Bush administration in the department’s No. 2 role as attorney general John Ashcroft got himself situated.

    That day, Mueller awoke early and joined with victims’ families and other officials in Washington, who watched the verdict announcement via a satellite hookup. To him, it was a chance for some closure—but the investigation would go on. As he told the media, “The United States remains vigilant in its pursuit to bring to justice any other individuals who may have been involved in the conspiracy to bring down Pan Am Flight 103.”

    The Scotbom case would leave a deep imprint on Mueller; one of his first actions as FBI director was to recruit Kathryn Turman, who had served as the liaison to the Pan Am 103 victim families during the trial, to head the FBI’s Victim Services Division, helping to elevate the role and responsibility of the FBI in dealing with crime victims.

    JUST MONTHS AFTER that 20th anniversary ceremony with Mueller at Arlington National Cemetery, in the summer of 2009, Scotland released a terminally ill Megrahi from prison after a lengthy appeals process, and sent him back to Libya. The decision was made, the Scottish minister of justice reported, on “compassionate grounds.” Few involved on the US side believed the terrorist deserved compassion. Megrahi was greeted as a hero on the tarmac in Libya—rose petals, cheering crowds. The US consensus remained that he should rot in prison.

    The idea that Megrahi could walk out of prison on “compassionate” ground made a mockery of everything that Mueller had dedicated his life to fighting and doing. Amid a series of tepid official condemnations—President Obama labeled it “highly objectionable”—Mueller fired off a letter to Scottish minister Kenny MacAskill that stood out for its raw pain, anger, and deep sorrow.

    “Over the years I have been a prosecutor, and recently as the Director of the FBI, I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors, since only the prosecutor handling the case has all the facts and the law before him in reaching the appropriate decision,” Mueller began. “Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion.’”

    That nine months after the 20th anniversary of the bombing, the only person behind bars for the bombing would walk back onto Libyan soil a free man and be greeted with rose petals left Mueller seething.

    “Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world,” Mueller wrote. “You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification—the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.”

    For Mueller, walking the fields of Lockerbie had been walking on hallowed ground. The Scottish decision pained him especially deeply, because of the mission and dedication he and his Scottish counterparts had shared 20 years before. “If all civilized nations join together to apply the rules of law to international terrorists, certainly we will be successful in ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism,” he had written in a perhaps too hopeful private note to the Scottish Lord Advocate in 1990.

    Some 20 years later, in an era when counterterrorism would be a massive, multibillion dollar industry and a buzzword for politicians everywhere, Mueller—betrayed—concluded his letter with a decidedly un-Mueller-like plea, shouted plaintively and hopelessly across the Atlantic: “Where, I ask, is the justice?”

    #USA #Libye #impérialisme #terrorisme #histoire #CIA #idéologie #propagande

  • Can We Really Inherit #Trauma? - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/health/mind-epigenetics-genes.html

    “These are, in fact, extraordinary claims, and they are being advanced on less than ordinary evidence,” said Kevin Mitchell, an associate professor of genetics and neurology at Trinity College, Dublin. “This is a malady in modern science: the more extraordinary and sensational and apparently revolutionary the claim, the lower the bar for the evidence on which it is based, when the opposite should be true.”

    Investigators in the field say the critique is premature: the science is still young and feeling its way forward. Studies in mice, in particular, have been offered as evidence of such trauma-transmission, and as a model for studying the mechanisms. “The effects we’ve found have been small but remarkably consistent, and significant,” said Moshe Szyf, a professor of pharmacology at McGill University. “This is the way science works. It’s imperfect at first and gets stronger the more research you do.”

    The debate centers on genetics and biology. Direct effects are one thing: when a pregnant woman drinks heavily, it can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. This happens because stress on a pregnant mother’s body is shared to some extent with the fetus, in this case interfering directly with the normal developmental program in utero.

    But no one can explain exactly how, say, changes in brain cells caused by abuse could be communicated to fully formed sperm or egg cells before conception. And that’s just the first challenge. After conception, when sperm meets egg, a natural process of cleansing, or “rebooting,” occurs, stripping away most chemical marks on the genes. Finally, as the fertilized egg grows and develops, a symphony of genetic reshuffling occurs, as cells specialize into brain cells, skin cells, and the rest. How does a signature of trauma survive all of that?

    #épigénétique

  • “The American Meme” Records the Angst of Social-Media Influencers | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-american-meme-a-new-netflix-documentary-records-the-angst-of-social-m

    The new Netflix documentary “The American Meme,” directed by Bert Marcus, offers a chilling glimpse into the lives of social-media influencers, tracking their paths to online celebrity, their attempts to keep it, and their fear of losing it. Early on in the film, the pillowy-lipped model Emily Ratajkowski (twenty million Instagram followers and counting), who first became a viral sensation when, in 2013, she appeared bare-breasted in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video, attempts to address a popular complaint raised against social-media celebrities. “There’s the attention argument,” she says, as images of her posing in lingerie and swimwear appear on the screen. “That we’re doing it just for attention . . . And I say, what’s wrong with attention?” “The American Meme” can be seen, at least partly, as a response to Ratajkowski’s question. It’s true that the model, with her superior bone structure, lush curves, and preternatural knack for packaging her God-given gifts into an enticingly consistent product, is presented to us in the limited capacity of a talking head, and so the illusion of a perfect influencer life—in which attention is easily attracted and never worried over—can be kept. (“Privacy is dead now,” Ratajkowski says, with the offhanded flippancy of someone who is only profiting from this new reality. “Get over it.”) But what is fascinating, and valuable, about “The American Meme” is its ability to reveal the desperation, loneliness, and sheer Sisyphean tedium of ceaselessly chasing what will most likely end up being an ever-diminishing share of the online-attention economy.

    Khaled, his neck weighted with ropes of gold and diamonds, is one of the lucky predators of the particular jungle we’re living in, but Bichutsky isn’t so sure whether he’s going to maintain his own alpha position. “I’m not going to last another year,” he moans, admitting that he’s been losing followers, and that “everyone gets old and ugly one day.” Even when you’re a success, like Khaled, the hustle is grindingly boring: most of it, in the end, consists of capturing Snaps of things like your tater-tot lunch as you shout, “We the best.” And, clearly, not everyone is as blessed as the social-media impresario. During one montage, viral figures like the “Damn, Daniel” boy, “Salt Bae,” and “Chewbacca Mask Lady” populate the screen, and Ratajkowski muses on these flash-in-the-pan meme sensations: “In three or four days, does anyone remember who that person is? I don’t know.”

    The idea of achieving some sort of longevity, or at least managing to cash in on one’s viral hit, is one that preoccupies the influencers featured in “The American Meme.” “I’m thirty; pray for me,” Furlan mutters, dryly, from her spot posing on her bare living-room floor. In that sense, Paris Hilton, an executive producer of the film and also one of its subjects, is the model everyone is looking to. Hilton has managed to continue playing the game by solidifying her brand—that of a ditsy, sexy, spoiled heiress. Rather than promoting others’ products, like most influencers, she has yoked her fame to merchandise of her own: a best-selling perfume line, pet products, clothes, a lucrative d.j. career, and on and on.

    #Influenceurs #Instagram #Culture_numérique

  • How a Model Controller works with Core Data in Swift
    https://hackernoon.com/how-a-model-controller-works-with-core-data-in-swift-c94481ff5316?source

    A recent episode from the SwiftCraft podcast featured an interesting interview with Matteo Manferdini, who has been developing in #ios since the first iPhone, was creating Mac apps before then.It offers what is currently a contrarian take on iOS architecture, but one that resonates with me — being in favour of MVC.In the rapidly changing software industry it’s essential to keep an extremely open mind, because the lines are really thin between fad and revolutionary. Although I’ve been exploring MVP, #mvvm, and VIPER in recent years, none of them have been compelling enough to convince me that they’re less complicated and cleaner than #mvc can be.I’ve been meaning to write a blog post expanding on Matteo’s Lotus MVC pattern, why a ruthlessly lean MVC is perhaps the cleanest solution, and how it’s all (...)

    #fumvc #ios-architecture

  • From MVC to Modern Web Frameworks
    https://hackernoon.com/from-mvc-to-modern-web-frameworks-8067ec9dee65?source=rss----3a8144eabfe

    Model-View-Controller (MVC) is one of the most widespread and influential patterns in software architecture. Rumors of MVC’s death have been greatly exaggerated- it remains a useful pattern to understand. In this post, rather than reigning in the various definitions of MVC, I will highlight how it evolved into the modern web frameworks we know and love today.InceptionIn 1978, Trygve Reenskaugh and Adele Goldberg coined the name “Model-View-Controller”. Trygve believed MVC and its variants formed a Pattern Language, a shared language for people to talk about problems and their solutions. The concept of a software Pattern Language also influenced the Gang of Four to write the Design Patterns book. If MVC were included in the Design Patterns book, we would probably find it under the (...)

    #javascript #angular #react #web-development #vuejs

  • “A #Femifesto for Teaching and Learning Radical Geography”

    The Athena Co-Learning Collective[1] is a group of graduate students and faculty at the University of Georgia who are committed to living and learning differently in the academy and our communities. We came together in the wake of the 2016 election with various needs for community, praxis, and feminist theory in our work and lives. Our purpose is to work together in active resistance to white supremacist heteropatriarchy and toxic masculinist practices that have underpinned knowledge production and instruction at our universities. We seek to engage, share, and learn from a diversity of knowledges, experiences, hopes, and fears as a means to rehumanize our relations and learning communities. We are inspired by the many feminist collectives who have formed inside and outside the academy before us.[2]

    Recently, many decolonial, anti-racist, and feminist scholars have expanded radical geography and related fields to include a greater diversity of thinkers, writers, and activists. Yet, few of these interventions have materialized as changes to the practices of the academy, or even the discipline of geography (de Leeuw and Hunt 2018). In this, our own intervention, we describe the Athena Co-Learning Collective’s efforts to reject the traditional and enduring graduate seminar format and to structure a seminar based instead on intentionally feminist, anti-racist, and decolonial theory, pedagogy, and praxis.[3] Our work begins in the classroom because it is a key location in the perpetuation of hegemonic ways of thinking and doing that have remained largely the same for centuries (Mohanty 2003). We collaboratively craft the content of our shared learning space, and focus on transforming the oppressive social relationships that were laid bare in new ways for many (but not all) the members of our collective in the wake of the Trump election. By centering the ideas of scholars who build theory for liberatory praxis, we can change how we know ourselves and each other, and how we act within these intimate and broader relations. Furthermore, we intentionally create a “collective” (as opposed to a classroom) as a way to name and define our project as something that is intended to be more than a learning experience, but responsive to emotional needs as individuals and in our community.

    As a means of undoing white supremacist heteropatriarchy, we began by undoing the toxic masculinist practices that materially and metaphorically make the traditional graduate seminar space possible. These masculinist performances typically involve one or more “expert” faculty determining the important scholars to read, then overseeing class “discussion” (often structured as debate) where students seek to prove they have learned something (ideally more than their peers). It includes, furthermore, the privileging of totalizing narratives frequently emanating from the work of Eurocentric male scholars (e.g. Marx, Heidegger, Althusser, Foucault); the performance of competitive behavior (i.e. individualized performances that prioritize speaking out loud, debating, correcting); the enactment of microaggressions (i.e. talking over, ignoring, minimizing the contributions of women, queers, and people of color); and the deployment of reductive logics (i.e. finding one thesis or explanation in a text).

    We believe that liberation from white supremacist heteropatriarchy requires that: 1) we conduct ourselves differently in the teaching and learning process with new feminist, anti-racist, and de-colonial practices and agreements; and 2) we give women, POC, queer people, Indigenous people, and other thinkers the same seriousness and focus we might afford the historical objects of our disciplinary canons. To put this into practice, we began our collective with several key principles and goals: to enact non-hierarchical power relations among all in the room (including faculty); to do away with hypercompetitive performativity; to keep realistic workloads and expectations through “slow” scholarship (Mountz et al. 2015), while also recognizing that faculty, across racial identifications, experience very different time and labour pressures that we must collectively be conscious of; to learn with one another to collectively understand the multiple meanings in the texts we read; to create a space to learn free of shaming; to imagine what radical potential can emerge through this work.[4] This begins to constitute what we understand as the rehumanization of our collective efforts to teach and learn.

    Furthermore, by engaging with feminist, Black, Indigenous, Chicana, and decolonial epistemologies and theorists, we learned that we must not deny or artificially tidy up incommensurabilities, conflicting truths, and uncomfortable subjects. In seeking hard boundaries and sharp gulfs between subjects and objects, us and them, fact and fiction, white supremacist heteropatriarchal forms of knowledge production have violently erased difference and replaced it with hierarchy (Gilmore 2002). Therefore, our politics of knowledge production include:

    1) Generating Collective Solidarity: The first step is to relate to one another – and to support each other – as complex human beings embodying a number of subject positions. None of us enters the classroom as only student or only teacher. Rather, we are also parents, children, partners, laborers, survivors, and so on. Feminist, anti-racist, and queer theory is personal to us all. We cannot engage it in a disembodied or individualistic way. This means allowing time and space to discuss personal, emotional, and non-academic issues as part of the learning process. This also includes being honest about why we may not be fully present or prepared for class activities; getting to know one another outside of the classroom; acknowledging how our own experiences shape our understandings of texts and ideas; engaging in hard conversations about difference and disagreement; kindly confronting misogynistic, racist, or homophobic actions or words among one another; “staying with the trouble” (Haraway 2016) and working through the discomfort individually and collectively.

    2) Engaging in Co-Learning Praxis: We make a commitment to learning with and from each other. We learn more when we cooperate, and we gain power through collectivizing the work of learning. Rather than keeping our knowledge and education to ourselves, we share – share accountability for each other’s learning and share our ideas and knowledge with each other. For example, in the context of the seminar, we collectively chose texts to read, generated shared class notes, collaboratively engaged with texts in large and small groups, and wrote final papers as a class based on our collective (not individualistic) engagement with the readings. We frequently revisited and adjusted course expectations, activities, and assignments to support these efforts.

    3) Enacting Our Ideas through Real World Politics: We believe that it is essential to practice applying this knowledge within our real lives. We develop skills and personal practices for confronting sexism, racism, and unquestioned settler futurity in our workplace and in our communities. We advocate for “radical vulnerability” (Nagar 2014) in communication practice to help realize this aspirational goal. This means modeling intentional courage with each other to raise and navigate difficult topics in our shared workspace, establishing group agreements and conflict mediation norms, and accepting that conflict or difference do not render relationships disposable. While we were not always able to fully enact the principles of feminist collective praxis, we committed to the ongoing task of working through the messiness, especially during critical moments of feedback about the class process and politics. We defined success by our ability to create openings and to keep moving forward.

    Given these political commitments, we present the following principles that all scholars (teachers and students) can implement in their own classrooms and relationships to transform teaching and learning practices to rehumanize ourselves, the academy, and society.

    1) Find Promise and Potential in Affirming Ambiguities: Refuse to submit to the myth of the totalizing rigidity of any one concept and the masculine construction of “realness” which attempts to “stabilize meaning” (Rose 1996: 68), and, thereby, to divide. Seek to explore those multiple narratives and spaces on the outskirts – those unruly contradictions and relentlessly rich complexities of socionatural life, of working-class life, of Black life, Mestiza life, Indigenous life, queer life, of lives in solidarity. Gloria Anzaldúa (1987) taught us that we must embrace internal contradictions, incommensurabilities, conflicting truths, and the uncomfortable subjects they might introduce as sites of radical possibility and struggle. Commit to the always ongoing work of fostering spaces where “hybrid” or “mestiza” ways of being in the world can flourish free from the fetters of categorization.

    2) Embrace the Ethical Task of Uncovering “Absented Presences”: Model Katherine McKittrick’s (2006) unapologetic commitment to honoring the geographies, lives, histories, ideas, and languages held by Black, female, Indigenous, Chicana, queer, and other subjugated peoples (see also Anzaldúa 1987; Lugones 2007; Sandoval 2000; Simpson 2014; Tuck and Yang 2012). While women, POC, and queers have been reluctantly admitted to the ivory tower, their historical absence has simultaneously been a presence. The practice of maintaining these absences is one of “death-dealing displacement of difference into hierarchies that organize relations” (Gilmore 2002: 16) and justifies the ongoing presence of white supremacist heteropatriarchy and toxic masculinist practices. Disrupting this means making changes to the spaces of knowledge production to accommodate multiple ways of knowing and being in the world. Claim the absented presences as spaces of legitimation of multiple narratives, non-settler futures, and difference as a life-giving, not death-dealing, way to organize social relations.

    3) Mobilize toward Collective Rehumanization: See and treat each other as full and complex human beings. Work with and through the troubling and uncomfortable moments. Conducting participatory research, honing perfect politics, and even taking to the streets are not enough to rehumanize our theory and practice. It is time to confront how structurally isolating academic labor is, and to value practices of care work, mentorship, conflict mediation, vulnerability, ambiguity, “presenting the absences”, subverting hierarchical social relations, and relationship-building at the “speed of trust” (brown 2017). When you transform your classrooms into “more humanly workable” spaces (McKittrick 2006: xii), the work to transform society becomes more clear.

    What we offer here is an invitation to all teachers and students, but especially to those successful, well-known, and structurally empowered scholars who profess liberatory politics, to re-evaluate your own teaching and learning practices. We, as the Athena Co-Learning Collective, are still learning how to be in the academy as a woman, as a person of color, as working class, as queer identified, as a feminist. Being radically vulnerable together is a constant struggle, sometimes uncertain and messy. It must be a collective enterprise, which prefigures, engages, and speaks across multiple communities, and insists upon the inseparability of knowledge and action to reject the hegemony of white supremacist heteropatriarchy and toxic masculinist practices. Our feminist collective is but one distillation of these commitments; it represents a form of initial rupture, alongside many other ruptures instigated by feminist comrades the world over. The hard labor yet remains: to rend the curtain fully and step out, together, into a new space.

    https://antipodefoundation.org/2018/11/27/a-femifesto-for-teaching-and-learning-radical-geography
    #manifeste #femineste #géographie_radicale #enseignement #géographie #université #résistance #féminisme #vulnérabilité

    The #Athena_Co-Learning_Collective
    https://www.athenacollective.org

  • Apache Cassandra — The minimum internals you need to know
    https://hackernoon.com/apache-cassandra-the-minimum-internals-you-need-to-know-89724603abb2?sou

    Apache Cassandra — The minimum internals you need to knowFor effective data modeling and comparison with other DB’sWe will discuss two parts here; first, the #database design internals that may help you compare between database’s, and second the main intuition behind auto-sharding/auto-scaling in Cassandra, and how to model your data to be aligned to that model for the best performance.Part 1: Database Architecture — Master-Slave and Masterless and its impact on HA and ScalabilityThere are two broad types of HA Architectures Master -slave and Masterless or master-master architecture.Here is an interesting Stack Overflow QA that sums up quite easily one main trade-off with these two type of architectures.Q. -I’ve heard about two kind of database architectures.master-master and master-slaveIsn’t (...)

    #nosql #apache-cassandra

  • Uganda’s refugee policies: the history, the politics, the way forward

    Uganda’s refugee policy urgently needs an honest discussion, if sustainable solutions for both refugees and host communities are to be found, a new policy paper by International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) reveals.

    The paper, entitled Uganda’s refugee policies: the history, the politics, the way forward puts the “Ugandan model” in its historical and political context, shines a spotlight on its implementation gaps, and proposes recommendations for the way forward.

    Uganda has since 2013 opened its borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees from South Sudan, bringing the total number of refugees to more than one million. It has been praised for its positive steps on freedom of movement and access to work for refugees, going against the global grain. But generations of policy, this paper shows, have only entrenched the sole focus on refugee settlements and on repatriation as the only viable durable solution. Support to urban refugees and local integration have been largely overlooked.

    The Ugandan refugee crisis unfolded at the same time as the UN adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and states committed to implement a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). Uganda immediately seized this opportunity and adopted its own strategy to implement these principles. As the world looks to Uganda for best practices in refugee policy, and rightly so, it is vital to understand the gaps between rhetoric and reality, and the pitfalls of Uganda’s policy. This paper identifies the following challenges:

    There is a danger that the promotion of progressive refugee policies becomes more rhetoric than reality, creating a smoke-screen that squeezes out meaningful discussion about robust alternatives. Policy-making has come at the expense of real qualitative change on the ground.
    Refugees in urban areas continue to be largely excluded from any support due to an ongoing focus on refugee settlements, including through aid provision
    Local integration and access to citizenship have been virtually abandoned, leaving voluntary repatriation as the only solution on the table. Given the protracted crises in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, this remains unrealistic.
    Host communities remain unheard, with policy conversations largely taking place in Kampala and Geneva. Many Ugandans and refugees have neither the economic resources nor sufficient political leverage to influence the policies that are meant to benefit them.

    The policy paper proposes a number of recommendations to improve the Ugandan refugee model:

    First, international donors need to deliver on their promise of significant financial support.
    Second, repatriation cannot remain the only serious option on the table. There has to be renewed discussion on local integration with Uganda communities and a dramatic increase in resettlement to wealthier states across the globe.
    Third, local communities hosting refugees must be consulted and their voices incorporated in a more meaningful and systematic way, if tensions within and between communities are to be avoided.
    Fourth, in order to genuinely enhance refugee self-reliance, the myth of the “local settlement” needs to be debunked and recognized for what it is: the ongoing isolation of refugees and the utilization of humanitarian assistance to keep them isolated and dependent on aid.


    http://refugee-rights.org/uganda-refugee-policies-the-history-the-politics-the-way-forward
    #modèle_ougandais #Ouganda #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    Pour télécharger le #rapport:
    http://refugee-rights.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IRRI-Uganda-policy-paper-October-2018-Paper.pdf

    • A New Deal for Refugees

      Global policies that aim to resettle and integrate displaced populations into local societies is providing a way forward.

      For many years now, groups that work with refugees have fought to put an end to the refugee camp. It’s finally starting to happen.

      Camps are a reasonable solution to temporary dislocation. But refugee crises can go on for decades. Millions of refugees have lived in their country of shelter for more than 30 years. Two-thirds of humanitarian assistance — intended for emergencies — is spent on crises that are more than eight years old.

      Camps are stagnant places. Refugees have access to water and medical care and are fed and educated, but are largely idle. “You keep people for 20 years in camps — don’t expect the next generation to be problem-free,” said Xavier Devictor, who advises the World Bank on refugee issues. “Keeping people in those conditions is not a good idea.” It’s also hard to imagine a better breeding ground for terrorists.

      “As long as the system is ‘we feed you,’ it’s always going to be too expensive for the international community to pay for,” Mr. Devictor said. It’s gotten more and more difficult for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to raise that money; in many crises, the refugee agency can barely keep people from starving. It’s even harder now as nations turn against foreigners — even as the number of people fleeing war and violence has reached a record high.

      At the end of last year, nearly 70 million people were either internally displaced in their own countries, or had crossed a border and become a refugee. That is the largest number of displaced in history — yes, more than at the end of World War II. The vast majority flee to neighboring countries — which can be just as badly off.

      Last year, the United States accepted about 30,000 refugees.

      Uganda, which is a global model for how it treats refugees, has one-seventh of America’s population and a tiny fraction of the wealth. Yet it took in 1,800 refugees per day between mid-2016 and mid-2017 from South Sudan alone. And that’s one of four neighbors whose people take refuge in Uganda.

      Bangladesh, already the world’s most crowded major nation, has accepted more than a million Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. “If we can feed 160 million people, then (feeding) another 500,00-700,000 …. We can do it. We can share our food,” Shiekh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, said last year.

      Lebanon is host to approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, in addition to a half-million Palestinians, some of whom have been there for generations. One in three residents of Lebanon is a refugee.

      The refugee burden falls heavily on a few, poor countries, some of them at risk of destabilization, which can in turn produce more refugees. The rest of the world has been unwilling to share that burden.

      But something happened that could lead to real change: Beginning in 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees crossed the Mediterranean in small boats and life rafts into Europe.

      Suddenly, wealthy European countries got interested in fixing a broken system: making it more financially viable, more dignified for refugees, and more palatable for host governments and communities.

      In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution stating that all countries shared the responsibility of protecting refugees and supporting host countries. It also laid out a plan to move refugees out of camps into normal lives in their host nations.

      Donor countries agreed they would take more refugees and provide more long-term development aid to host countries: schools, hospitals, roads and job-creation measures that can help both refugees and the communities they settle in. “It looked at refugee crises as development opportunities, rather than a humanitarian risk to be managed,” said Marcus Skinner, a policy adviser at the International Rescue Committee.

      The General Assembly will vote on the specifics next month (whatever they come up with won’t be binding). The Trump administration pulled out of the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration, but so far it has not opposed the refugee agreement.

      There’s a reason refugee camps exist: Host governments like them. Liberating refugees is a hard sell. In camps, refugees are the United Nations’ problem. Out of camps, refugees are the local governments’ problem. And they don’t want to do anything to make refugees comfortable or welcome.

      Bangladesh’s emergency response for the Rohingya has been staggeringly generous. But “emergency” is the key word. The government has resisted granting Rohingya schooling, work permits or free movement. It is telling Rohingya, in effect, “Don’t get any ideas about sticking around.”

      This attitude won’t deter the Rohingya from coming, and it won’t send them home more quickly. People flee across the closest border — often on foot — that allows them to keep their families alive. And they’ll stay until home becomes safe again. “It’s the simple practicality of finding the easiest way to refuge,” said Victor Odero, regional advocacy coordinator for East Africa and the Horn of Africa at the International Rescue Committee. “Any question of policies is a secondary matter.”

      So far, efforts to integrate refugees have had mixed success. The first experiment was a deal for Jordan, which was hosting 650,000 Syrian refugees, virtually none of whom were allowed to work. Jordan agreed to give them work permits. In exchange, it got grants, loans and trade concessions normally available only to the poorest countries.

      However, though the refugees have work permits, Jordan has put only a moderate number of them into jobs.

      Any agreement should include the views of refugees from the start — the Jordan Compact failed to do this. Aid should be conditioned upon the right things. The deal should have measured refugee jobs, instead of work permits. Analysts also said the benefits should have been targeted more precisely, to reach the areas with most refugees.

      To spread this kind of agreement to other nations, the World Bank established a $2 billion fund in July 2017. The money is available to very poor countries that host many refugees, such as Uganda and Bangladesh. In return, they must take steps to integrate refugees into society. The money will come as grants and zero interest loans with a 10-year grace period. Middle-income countries like Lebanon and Colombia would also be eligible for loans at favorable rates under a different fund.

      Over the last 50 years, only one developing country has granted refugees full rights. In Uganda, refugees can live normally. Instead of camps there are settlements, where refugees stay voluntarily because they get a plot of land. Refugees can work, live anywhere, send their children to school and use the local health services. The only thing they can’t do is become Ugandan citizens.

      Given the global hostility to refugees, it is remarkable that Ugandans still approve of these policies. “There have been flashes of social tension or violence between refugees and their hosts, mostly because of a scarcity of resources,” Mr. Odero said. “But they have not become widespread or protracted.”

      This is the model the United Nations wants the world to adopt. But it is imperiled even in Uganda — because it requires money that isn’t there.

      The new residents are mainly staying near the South Sudan border in Uganda’s north — one of the least developed parts of the country. Hospitals, schools, wells and roads were crumbling or nonexistent before, and now they must serve a million more people.

      Joël Boutroue, the head of the United Nations refugee agency in Uganda, said current humanitarian funding covered a quarter of what the crisis required. “At the moment, not even half of refugees go to primary school,” he said. “There are around 100 children per classroom.”

      Refugees are going without food, medical care and water. The plots of land they get have grown smaller and smaller.

      Uganda is doing everything right — except for a corruption scandal. It could really take advantage of the new plan to develop the refugee zone. That would not only help refugees, it would help their host communities. And it would alleviate growing opposition to rights for refugees. “The Ugandan government is under pressure from politicians who see the government giving favored treatment to refugees,” Mr. Boutroue said. “If we want to change the perception of refugees from recipients of aid to economic assets, we have to showcase that refugees bring development.”

      The World Bank has so far approved two projects — one for water and sanitation and one for city services such as roads and trash collection. But they haven’t gotten started yet.

      Mr. Devictor said that tackling long-term development issues was much slower than providing emergency aid. “The reality is that it will be confusing and confused for a little while,” he said. Water, for example, is trucked in to Uganda’s refugee settlements, as part of humanitarian aid. “That’s a huge cost,” he said. “But if we think this crisis is going to last for six more months, it makes sense. If it’s going to last longer, we should think about upgrading the water system.”

      Most refugee crises are not surprises, Mr. Devictor said. “If you look at a map, you can predict five or six crises that are going to produce refugees over the next few years.” It’s often the same places, over and over. That means developmental help could come in advance, minimizing the burden on the host. “Do we have to wait until people cross the border to realize we’re going to have an emergency?” he said.

      Well, we might. If politicians won’t respond to a crisis, it’s hard to imagine them deciding to plan ahead to avert one. Political commitment, or lack of it, always rules. The world’s new approach to refugees was born out of Europe’s panic about the Syrians on their doorstep. But no European politician is panicking about South Sudanese or Rohingya refugees — or most crises. They’re too far away. The danger is that the new approach will fall victim to the same political neglect that has crippled the old one.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/opinion/refugee-camps-integration.html

      #Ouganda #modèle_ougandais #réinstallation #intégration

      avec ce commentaire de #Jeff_Crisp sur twitter :

      “Camps are stagnant places. Refugees have access to water and medical care and are fed and educated, but are largely idle.”
      Has this prizewinning author actually been to a refugee camp?

      https://twitter.com/JFCrisp/status/1031892657117831168

    • Appreciating Uganda’s ‘open door’ policy for refugees

      While the rest of the world is nervous and choosing to take an emotional position on matters of forced migration and refugees, sometimes closing their doors in the face of people who are running from persecution, Uganda’s refugee policy and practice continues to be liberal, with an open door to all asylum seekers, writes Arthur Matsiko

      http://thisisafrica.me/appreciating-ugandas-open-door-policy-refugees

    • Ouganda. La générosité intéressée du pays le plus ouvert du monde aux réfugiés

      L’Ouganda est le pays qui accueille le plus de réfugiés. Un million de Sud-Soudanais fuyant la guerre s’y sont installés. Mais cette noble intention des autorités cache aussi des calculs moins avouables : l’arrivée massive de l’aide internationale encourage l’inaction et la #corruption.

      https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/ouganda-la-generosite-interessee-du-pays-le-plus-ouvert-du-mo

    • Refugees in Uganda to benefit from Dubai-funded schools but issues remain at crowded settlement

      Dubai Cares is building three classrooms in a primary school at Ayilo II but the refugee settlement lacks a steady water supply, food and secondary schools, Roberta Pennington writes from Adjumani


      https://www.thenational.ae/uae/refugees-in-uganda-to-benefit-from-dubai-funded-schools-but-issues-remai

    • FUGA DAL SUD SUDAN. LUIS, L’UGANDA E QUEL PEZZO DI TERRA DONATA AI PROFUGHI

      Luis zappa, prepara dei fori per tirare su una casa in attesa di ritrovare la sua famiglia. Il terreno è una certezza, glielo ha consegnato il Governo ugandese. Il poterci vivere con i suoi cari non ancora. L’ultima volta li ha visti in Sud Sudan. Nel ritornare a casa sua moglie e i suoi otto figli non c’erano più. É sicuro si siano messi in cammino verso l’Uganda, così da quel giorno è iniziata la sua rincorsa. É certo che li ritroverà nella terra che ora lo ha accolto. Quella di Luis è una delle tante storie raccolte nei campi profughi del nord dell’Uganda, in una delle ultime missioni di Amref, in cui era presente anche Giusi Nicolini, già Sindaco di Lampedusa e Premio Unesco per la pace. 



      Modello Uganda? Dell’Uganda il mondo dice «campione di accoglienza». Accoglienza che sta sperimentando da mesi nei confronti dei profughi sud sudanesi, che scappano da uno dei Paesi più drammaticamente in crisi al mondo. Sono 4 milioni le persone che in Sud Sudan hanno dovuto lasciare le proprie case. Chi muovendosi verso altri Paesi e chi in altre regioni sud sudanesi. In questi ultimi tempi arrivano in Uganda anche persone che fuggono dalla Rep. Democratica del Congo.

      https://www.amref.it/2018_02_23_Fuga_dal_Sud_Sudan_Luis_lUganda_e_quel_pezzo_di_terra_donata_ai_pro

    • As Rich Nations Close the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them

      President Trump is vowing to send the military to stop migrants trudging from Central America. Europe’s leaders are paying African nations to block migrants from crossing the Mediterranean — and detaining the ones who make it in filthy, overcrowded camps.

      But Solomon Osakan has a very different approach in this era of rising xenophobia. From his uncluttered desk in northwest Uganda, he manages one of the largest concentrations of refugees anywhere in the world: more than 400,000 people scattered across his rural district.

      He explained what he does with them: Refugees are allotted some land — enough to build a little house, do a little farming and “be self-sufficient,” said Mr. Osakan, a Ugandan civil servant. Here, he added, the refugees live in settlements, not camps — with no barbed wire, and no guards in sight.

      “You are free, and you can come and go as you want,” Mr. Osakan added.

      As many nations are securing their borders and turning refugees away, Uganda keeps welcoming them. And they keep coming, fleeing catastrophes from across this part of Africa.

      In all, Uganda has as many as 1.25 million refugees on its soil, perhaps more, making it one of the most welcoming countries in the world, according to the United Nations.

      And while Uganda’s government has made hosting refugees a core national policy, it works only because of the willingness of rural Ugandans to accept an influx of foreigners on their land and shoulder a big part of the burden.

      Uganda is not doing this without help. About $200 million in humanitarian aid to the country this year will largely pay to feed and care for the refugees. But they need places to live and small plots to farm, so villages across the nation’s north have agreed to carve up their communally owned land and share it with the refugees, often for many years at a time.

      “Our population was very few and our community agreed to loan the land,” said Charles Azamuke, 27, of his village’s decision in 2016 to accept refugees from South Sudan, which has been torn apart by civil war. “We are happy to have these people. We call them our brothers.”

      United Nations officials have pointed to Uganda for its “open border” policy. While the United States, a much more populous nation, has admitted more than three million refugees since 1975, the American government settles them in the country after they have first been thoroughly screened overseas.

      By contrast, Uganda has essentially opened its borders to refugees, rarely turning anyone away.

      Some older Ugandans explain that they, too, had been refugees once, forced from their homes during dictatorship and war. And because the government ensures that spending on refugees benefits Ugandans as well, younger residents spoke of how refugees offered them some unexpected opportunities.

      “I was a farmer. I used to dig,” Mr. Azamuke said. But after learning Arabic from refugees from South Sudan, he got a better job — as a translator at a new health clinic that serves the newcomers.

      His town, Ofua, is bisected by a dirt road, with the Ugandans living on the uphill side and the South Sudanese on the downhill side. The grass-thatched homes of the Ugandans look a bit larger and sturdier, but not much.

      As the sun began to set one recent afternoon, a group of men on the Ugandan side began to pass around a large plastic bottle of waragi, a home brew. On the South Sudanese side, the men were sober, gathered around a card game.

      On both sides, the men had nothing but tolerant words for one another. “Actually, we don’t have any problems with these people,” said Martin Okuonzi, a Ugandan farmer cleaning his fingernails with a razor blade.

      As the men lounged, the women and girls were still at work, preparing dinner, tending children, fetching water and gathering firewood. They explained that disputes did arise, especially as the two groups competed for limited resources like firewood.

      “We’ve been chased away,” said Agnes Ajonye, a 27-year-old refugee from South Sudan. “They say we are destroying their forests.”

      And disputes broke out at the well, where Ugandan women insist they should be allowed to skip ahead of refugees.

      “If we hadn’t given you the land you live on, wouldn’t you be dying in Sudan?” said Adili Chandia, a 62-year-old refugee, recounting the lecture she and others got from a frustrated Ugandan woman waiting in line.

      Ugandan officials often talk about the spirit of Pan-Africanism that motivates their approach to refugees. President Yoweri Museveni, an autocratic leader who has been in power for 32 years, says Uganda’s generosity can be traced to the precolonial days of warring kingdoms and succession disputes, when losing factions often fled to a new land.

      This history of flight and resettlement is embedded in some of the names of local groups around western Uganda, like Batagwenda, which means “the ones that could not continue traveling.”

      The government encourages the nation to go along with its policy by directing that 30 percent of foreign aid destined for refugees be spent in ways that benefit Ugandans nearby. So when money for refugees results in new schools, clinics and wells, Ugandans are more likely to welcome than resent them.

      For Mr. Museveni, hosting refugees has given him relevance and political capital abroad at a time when he would otherwise have little.

      A former guerrilla fighter who quickly stabilized much of his country, Mr. Museveni was once hailed as an example of new African leadership. He was relatively quick to confront the AIDS epidemic, and he invited back Ugandans of Indian and Pakistani descent who had been expelled during the brutal reign of Idi Amin in the 1970s.

      But his star has fallen considerably. He has clung to power for decades. His security forces have beaten political opponents. Freedom of assembly and expression are severely curtailed.

      Even so, Uganda’s openness toward refugees makes Mr. Museveni important to European nations, which are uneasy at the prospect of more than a million refugees heading for Europe.

      Other African nations also host a significant number of refugees, but recent polls show that Ugandans are more likely than their neighbors in Kenya or Tanzania to support land assistance or the right to work for refugees.

      Part of the reason is that Ugandans have fled their homes as well, first during the murderous reign of Mr. Amin, then during the period of retribution after his overthrow, and again during the 1990s and 2000s, when Joseph Kony, the guerrilla leader who terrorized northern Uganda, left a trail of kidnapped children and mutilated victims.

      Many Ugandans found refuge in what is today South Sudan. Mark Idraku, 57, was a teenager when he fled with his mother to the area. They received two acres of farmland, which helped support them until they returned home six years later.

      “When we were in exile in Sudan, they also helped us,” Mr. Idraku said. “Nobody ever asked for a single coin.”

      Mr. Idraku has since returned the favor, loaning three acres to a South Sudanese refugee named Queen Chandia, 37. Ms. Chandia said the land — along with additional plots other Ugandans allow her to farm — has made all the difference.

      Her homestead of thatched-roof huts teemed with children tending their chores, grinding nuts into paste and maize into meal. Ms. Chandia is the mother of a girl and two boys. But over the years, as violence hollowed out her home country, Ms. Chandia started taking in the orphaned children of relatives and friends. Now 22 children call her “mom.”

      A refugee for nearly her entire life, Ms. Chandia arrived in Uganda as a young girl nearly 30 years ago. For years, she worried about being expelled.
      Image

      “Maybe these Ugandans will change their minds on us,” she said, describing the thought that plagued her. Then one day the worry stopped.

      But Mr. Osakan, the administrator who oversees refugee affairs in the country’s extreme northwest, is anxious. There is an Ebola outbreak over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Osakan fears what might happen if — or when — a refugee turns up in Uganda with the dreaded illness.

      “It would destroy all the harmony between refugees and host communities,” he said, explaining that it would probably lead to calls to seal the border.

      For now, the border is very much open, although the number of refugees arriving has fallen significantly. In one of the newer settlements, many of the refugees came last year, fleeing an attack in a South Sudanese city. But some complained about receiving too little land, about a quarter acre per family, which is less than previous refugees had received.

      “Even if you have skills — in carpentry — you are not given a chance,” said one refugee, Simon Ludoru. He looked over his shoulder, to where a construction crew was building a nursery school. The schoolhouse would teach both local Ugandan and South Sudanese children together, but the workers were almost entirely Ugandan, he said.

      At the construction site, the general contractor, Sam Omongo, 50, said he had hired refugees for the job. “Oh, yes,” he exclaimed.

      How many?

      “Not a lot, actually,” he acknowledged. “I have about three.” Mr. Omongo called one over.

      “Are you a refugee?” Mr. Omongo asked the slight man.

      “No, I’m from Uganda,” he said softly. His name was Amos Chandiga, 28. He lived nearby and owned six acres of land, though he worked only four of them. He had lent the other two to a pair of refugees.

      “They asked me, and I gave it to them,” Mr. Chandiga explained. He patted his chest. “It comes from here, in my heart.”


      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/world/africa/uganda-refugees.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes

    • Uganda: a role model for refugee integration?

      Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa and is, after Turkey and Pakistan, the third-largest refugee recipient country worldwide. Political and humanitarian actors have widely praised Ugandan refugee policies because of their progressive nature: In Uganda, in contrast to many other refugee-receiving countries, these are de jure allowed to work, to establish businesses, to access public services such as education, to move freely and have access to a plot of land. Moreover, Uganda is a pilot country of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). In this Working Paper the authors ascertain whether Uganda indeed can be taken as a role model for refugee integration, as largely portrayed in the media and the political discourse. They identify the challenges to livelihoods and integration to assess Uganda’s self-reliance and settlement approach and its aspiration towards providing refugees and Ugandan communities receiving refugees with opportunities for becoming self-reliant. Drawing on three months of field research in northern and southern Uganda from July to September of 2017 with a particular focus on South Sudanese refugees, the authors concentrate on three aspects: Access to land, employment and education, intra- and inter-group relations. The findings show that refugees in Uganda are far from self-reliant and socially integrated. Although in Uganda refugees are provided with land, the quality and size of the allocated plots is so poor that they cannot earn a living from agricultural production, which thus, rather impedes self-reliance. Inadequate infrastructure also hinders access to markets and employment opportunities. Even though most local communities have been welcoming to refugees, the sentiment has shifted recently in some areas, particularly where local communities that are often not better off than refugees feel that they have not benefitted from the presence of refugees....

      https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/handle/document/62871

  • Lessons from Tanzania’s Historic Bid to Turn Refugees to Citizens

    Tanzania was lauded for offering citizenship to 200,000 Burundians, the largest-ever mass naturalization of refugees. But a political stalemate emerged between humanitarians and the government, leaving refugees stuck in the middle, explains researcher Amelia Kuch.

    During Europe’s so-called migrant crisis of 2015, the Tanzanian government gave over 200,000 Burundian refugees a choice between repatriation – returning to Burundi – and naturalization – obtaining Tanzanian citizenship.

    Given the choice, 79 percent of the refugees – 171,600 people – opted for Tanzanian citizenship. It is understood to be the first time in history any state has naturalized such a large group of refugees under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) in a single move.

    This group of refugees had fled Burundi following ethnic violence and killings in 1972 and now live in three rural settlements in Tanzania: Katumba, Mishamo and Ulyankulu. Since the 1970s, these settlements had transformed into towns: People made improvements to their homes, electricity poles were laid out and the local markets began to expand.

    Research has shown that access to citizenship is an important means of resolving long-term displacement. Yet in most countries, granting citizenship to refugees is still politically unthinkable.

    Tanzania has long been held up as a safe haven for refugees in the region, giving shelter to some 315,000 mainly Burundian and Congolese refugees. The naturalization of Burundian refugees was hailed as a model for progressive solutions to displacement. Yet it has led to a political stalemate between humanitarian organizations and the government, with the “refugees-turned-citizens” stuck in the middle.

    Last month, the Tanzanian government halted the naturalization of another group of more recently arrived Burundian refugees and has since pulled out of the U.N.’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, citing lack of international funding.

    During my research in the former Burundian refugee camps in Western Tanzania since 2014, I have spoken with many former refugees about the naturalization process, as well as NGO employees and government officials.

    The difficulties in Tanzania are important to understanding the challenges of mass naturalization. It is not easy to turn a camp of refugees into a settlement of citizens. They also demonstrate how important it is for refugees to be able to hold both governments and humanitarian organizations accountable when things go wrong.
    A Progressive Solution is Born

    Negotiations around Tanzania’s naturalization policy began in 2007. They resulted in the Tanzania Comprehensive Solution Strategy (TANCOSS), which was adopted that year by the governments of Tanzania and Burundi in partnership with UNHCR. The agreement had three pillars: repatriation to Burundi, granting citizenship to those who opted to pursue naturalization and relocation of naturalized refugees from the settlements to other regions of Tanzania.

    Major investments were promised to facilitate the process. Some $103 million was earmarked for relocation and integration of naturalized refugees in the 2011-15 United Nations Development Assistant Plan (UNDAP).

    Eventually, the resettlement pillar was abandoned because of logistical problems and local resistance to resettling refugees. As a result, the new citizens were permitted to remain in the areas of the settlements in which they had lived for the past four decades. They can now vote in national elections and join political parties.

    “Obtaining citizenship and being allowed to stay here brought peace into my heart. Before I lived in fear,” said one former refugee named Daniel.
    Left in Limbo

    Yet the initial TANCOSS agreement did not include any detailed plans for the refugee settlements after the naturalization of their residents. As a consequence, today the area remains in a governance limbo.

    Every refugee camp had a settlement officer who represented the Ministry of Home Affairs and was responsible for governing the area. Settlement officers remain in power in all three settlements, and they continue to act as the highest authority and arbiters of conflicts.

    “Naturalization certificates are important because they allow us to move, but opening of this space is crucial and still needs to happen,” said one church leader in Ulyankulu, referring to the full integration of the settlements. “As long as we still have a settlement officer and a closed space, the process is not complete.”

    It remains unclear when and how a transition to local governance will take place and what rights to the land the new citizens have. The Tanzania Strategy for Local Integration Program for the New Citizens (TANSPLI), drafted in 2016, stipulates the creation of a master land use plan for the settlements and the surrounding areas, followed by the registration of villages in each settlement and provision of documentation for land rights.

    However, the timeline for implementation is unclear. It “hinges on the availability of funding for the planned development projects,” according to Suleiman Mziray, who is assistant director of refugee services at Ministry of Home Affairs.

    “People here don’t have ownership, you can be taken off your land at any time,” said one elderly man from Kaswa village in Ulyankulu settlement. “It’s like a marriage with no certificate.”
    Lack of Accountability

    Some of these challenges have led to a political stalemate between humanitarian organizations and the government, with each claiming the other has not kept its promises. Meanwhile, residents of the settlements suffer the consequences, as they wait for citizenship documents and investment in infrastructure like access to clean water.

    Due to major delays in the distribution of citizenship certificates by the government, international funding for the promised development projects was redirected to other emergencies. Some of the aid was initially meant for resettlement, so once the refugees were allowed to stay in the former camps, funds were reallocated. Now that they are no longer refugees but citizens, they fall into a responsibility gap. “We have done our part,” a UNHCR official told me on condition of anonymity.

    On the other side is the Tanzanian government: frustrated and disillusioned. They say they were promised that major investments will follow the distribution of citizenship but they never arrived. “We kept our part of the deal and distributed citizenship. But none of the promises materialized,” said an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

    The government says it does not intend to invest in the settlements for now, as they are still hoping that international funding might come through eventually.

    Earlier agreements left it ambiguous who would be responsible for implementing the administrative, developmental and social programs that were designed to turn former refugee settlements into properly integrated towns and villages. Without accountability mechanisms, it is hard for former refugees to hold humanitarian organizations or the government to their initial promises.
    Three Lessons from Tanzania

    Clearly, the design and implementation of the naturalization policy was far from perfect. The experience of Tanzania offers a few important lessons.

    First, if similar mass naturalization policies are to be implemented elsewhere, it is key that they are drafted as binding documents, where the parties dedicated to the process (both national governments and international organizations) can be held accountable if they do not deliver on the promises and commitments made within an agreed timeline.

    Second, such policies should be more carefully drafted, incorporating provisions on post-naturalization arrangements regarding local governance and land ownership.

    Finally, despite the pitfalls and unforeseen challenges, my interviews with former refugees shows that naturalization is very important to them. They are acutely aware that citizenship is not a panacea, but firmly maintain that access to legal status provides them with a sense of security and the right to remain in the country, allaying fears of forced repatriation and deportation.

    https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2018/02/22/lessons-from-tanzanias-historic-bid-to-turn-refugees-to-citizens?platfor
    #naturalisation #citoyenneté #nationalité #modèle_tanzanien #Tanzanie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_burundais

    v. aussi le #modèle_ougandais qui donne un lopin de terre aux réfugiés

  • ASP.NET Core Razor Pages Vs MVC: Which Will Create Better Web Apps in 2018?
    https://hackernoon.com/asp-net-core-razor-pages-vs-mvc-which-will-create-better-web-apps-in-201

    Brace yourself because this is going to be a lengthy but informative article!With the release of new ASP.NET Core 2 framework, Microsoft and its community has provided us with a brand new alternative for the MVC (Model-View-Controller) approach. Microsoft has named it Razor Pages, and while it’s a little bit different approach, but it’s still similar to MVC in some ways.In this article, we are going to cover following important points of ASP.NET Razor Pages.Razor Pages — what is it exactly?Drawbacks of Using ASP.NET MVCAdvantages of Using Razor PagesA Quick Comparison of How Requests Are Handled in BothRazor Pages — What is It Exactly?A Razor Page is very similar toASP.NET MVC’s view component. It has basically same syntax and functionality as MVC.The key difference between Razor pages and MVC is (...)

    #aspnetcore #aspnet #web-development #aspnet-mvc #enterprise-software

  • #tensorflow Vs #keras? — Comparison by building a model for image classification.
    https://hackernoon.com/tensorflow-vs-keras-comparison-by-building-a-model-for-image-classificat

    Yes , as the title says , it has been very usual talk among data-scientists (even you!) where a few say , TensorFlow is better and some say Keras is way good! Let’s see how this thing actually works out in practice in the case of image classification.Before that let’s introduce these two terms Keras and Tensorflow and help you build a powerful image classifier within 10 min!Tensorflow:Tensorflow is the most used library to develop models in deep learning. It has been the best ever library which has been completely opted by many geeks in their daily experiments . Could you imagine if I say that Google has put Tensor Processing Units (TPU) just to deal with tensors ? Yes, they have. They have put a separate class of instances called TPU which has the most power driven computational power to (...)

    #tensorflow-vs-keras #image-classification #machine-learning

  • Silwan, a model for oppression - Haaretz Editorial
    `
    The state and a right-wing group are shamefully fighting to evict Palestinians from a Jerusalem neighborhood, citing technical grounds

    Haaretz EditorialSendSend me email alerts
    Jun 11, 2018 4:42 AM

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/editorial/silwan-a-model-for-oppression-1.6163339

    Even given the corruption and legal chicanery typical of the settlement enterprise, the case of the Silwan neighborhood’s Batan al-Hawa section stands out. In this case, the state, through the Justice Ministry’s administrator general, transferred an entire neighborhood of 700 people to right-wing group Ateret Cohanim without bothering to inform the Palestinians living in this part of Jerusalem.
    To be more precise, in 2002 the administrator general released the land in the center of Silwan to a trust established way back in 1899. A year earlier, with the administrator’s approval, three Ateret Cohanim activists were appointed trustees. Since then, the organization has invested considerable efforts to get rid of the Palestinian families; to date a number of families have been evicted and dozens are conducting legal battles to fight eviction.
    On Sunday, around 100 Silwan residents came to the Supreme Court building for a hearing on their petition to the High Court of Justice against the original decision to release the land to the trust. The petition addresses the question of whether the original trust was for the land or for the buildings on it, all but one of which was demolished in the 1940s.

  • CVs are broken, there is a new model for accessing potential
    https://hackernoon.com/cvs-are-broken-there-is-a-new-model-for-accessing-potential-44fca1a454d4

    UKBlackTechMeet Scott Lydon, he is a good friend of mine who got his first job in the city because of commonalities he shared with an interviewer who went to the same private school he did and spotted it on his CV.I grew up in a low income community in north London and always felt like two worlds collided went I started working in tech. One the one hand there is this world where I see people creating the world we live in. On the other hand I lived in a community where they lived in a world they had barriers to opportunities to create this world. However, I have always known that there are others like me from my neighbourhood who have high potential to be high performers in tech.We take such pride at times of the fact that tech startups are so different from traditional industries in (...)

    #resume #cvs-are-broken #recruiting #poverty #cv