What your teacher thinks of you affects your performance
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What your teacher thinks of you affects your performance
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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)
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…?
Bahrain debacle marks crash of Trump team’s campaign to diss Palestinians into submission
Kushner’s Peace for Prosperity includes Utopian projects funded by non-existent money as part of peace deal that won’t happen
Jun 25, 2019 9:12 AM
The unveiling of the U.S. administration’s long-awaited production of Peace for Prosperity, premiering in Bahrain on Tuesday, garnered mixed reviews, to say the least. Barak Ravid of Axios and Israel’s Channel 13 described it as “impressive, detailed and ambitious – perhaps overly ambitious.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Dan Kurtzer offered a slightly different take: “I would give this so-called plan a C- from an undergraduate student. The authors of the plan clearly understand nothing,” he said.
The plan, released in a colorful pamphlet on the eve of the Bahrain economic summit, is being portrayed by the White House as a vision of the bountiful “fruits of peace” that Palestinians might reap once they reach a peace agreement with Israel. Critics describe it as an amateurish pie-in-the-sky, shoot-for-the-moon, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hodgepodge that promises projects that cannot be implemented, funded by money that does not exist and contingent on a peace deal that will never happen.
But the main problem with Peace for Prosperity isn’t its outlandishly unrealistic proposals – such as the $5 billion superhighway between the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel will never agree to; or its occasional condescending and Orientalist attitude towards Palestinian society - their great hummus could attract millions of tourists; or even its offer to manage and foster Palestinian institutions and civil society in a way that can be viewed either as implicit state-building or as imposing foreign control on a future Palestinian government.
>> Read more: ’There is no purely economic solution to the Palestinian economy’s problems’ ■ Trump’s Bahrain conference - not what you imagined ■ Kushner’s deal holds some surprises, but it’s more vision than blueprint ■ The billion-dollar question in Trump’s peace plan
The Palestinians would have been suspicious in any case, even if Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama were President. They have always been wary of the term “economic peace”, especially when detached from the real nitty-gritty of resolving their dispute with Israel. Nonetheless, if the President was anyone other than Trump, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would have more or less emulated Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction: Somber nodding of the head, then a non-committal reaction to Peace for Prosperity, followed by effusive but general praise for our lord and savior Donald Trump. Israelis and Palestinians would have attended the Bahrain conference, while doing their best to suppress their inner guffaws.
If it was anyone by Trump and his peace team - which often doubles as Netanyahu’s cheerleading squad – the Palestinians might have allowed themselves to believe that A. A comprehensive peace plan isn’t just a mirage and is indeed forthcoming. B. The deal won’t be tilted so far in favor of Israel that it will be declared stillborn on arrival and C. That it isn’t a ruse meant to cast Palestinians as congenital rejectionists and to pave the way for an Israeli annexation of “parts of the West Bank”, as Ambassador David Friedman put it when he pronounced Trump’s imperial edict conceding territory to Israel, which even Palestinian minimalists claim as their own, in advance of any actual talks.
But because the plan bears Trump’s signature, it was received in most world capitals with shrugs, as yet another manifestation of the U.S. administration’s preposterous handling of foreign policy – see North Korea, Europe, Mexico, Venezuela et al. Israel, of course, didn’t miss the opportunity to regurgitate the cliché about the Palestinians “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.
A Palestinian man steps on a painting depicting U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against U.S.-led Bahrain workshop in Gaza City, June 24, 2019.
A Palestinian man steps on a painting depicting U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest against U.S.-led Bahrain workshop in Gaza City, June 24, 2019. \ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS
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For Palestinians and their supporters, however, Kushner’s bid was but the latest in the Trump team’s never-ending stream of slights, slanders and slaps in their collective faces. In Palestinian eyes, the economic bonanza isn’t a CBM – confidence building measure – but a con job and insult rolled into one. It dangles dollars in front of Palestinian noses, implying they can be bought, and it sets up a chain of events at the end of which Jason Greenblatt will inevitably accuse them on Twitter of being hysterical and dishonest while praising Netanyahu’s bold leadership and pioneering vision. They’ve been there, and done that.
This has been the Trump approach from the outset: Uncontained admiration for Israel and its leader coupled with unhidden disdain for Palestinian leaders and contempt for their “unrealistic” dreams. Trump’s peace team swears by Israel’s security needs as if they were part of the bible or U.S. Constitution; the ongoing 52-year military occupation of millions of Palestinians, on the other hand, seems to have escaped their attention.
For the first ten months of Trump’s tenure, the Palestinians put up with his administration’s unequivocal pledges of allegiance to Israel as well as the White House’s departure from past custom and continuing refusal to criticize any of its actions – not to mention the appointment of a peace team comprised exclusively of right-wing Netanyahu groupies, which Palestinians initially thought was surely a practical joke.
Trump’s announcement in December 2017 that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there was both game-changer and deal-breaker as far as the Palestinians were concerned. While Netanyahu and most of Israel were celebrating Donald the Daring and the long-awaited recognition of their eternal capital, Palestinians realized they were facing a President radically different from any of his predecessors - one willing to break the rules in Israel’s favor and to grant his bestie Bibi tangible victories, before, during and after elections - without asking for anything in return.
The Palestinians have boycotted the Trump administration ever since, embarrassing Friedman, Greenblatt, Kushner and ultimately Trump in the process. They, in response, have increasingly vented their anger and frustrations at the Palestinians, and not just in words and Tweets alone: The administration shut down the PLO’s office in Washington, declared Jerusalem “off the table” and indicated that the refugee issue should follow it, cut aid to UNRWA and is endeavoring to dismantle it altogether and slashed assistance to Palestinian humanitarian organizations.
In March 2018, in a move strongly supported by Israel and vigorously endorsed by Evangelicals and other right wing supporters, Trump signed the Congressionally approved Taylor Force Act that prohibits U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continued to pay monthly stipends to the families of what the Act describes as “terrorists”. Palestinians, who, to many people’s regret, regard such terrorists as heroes and martyrs, noted that the passage of the Taylor Force Act embarrassed Israel and spurred it to legislate its own way to withholding Palestinian tax money for the very same reason.
Throughout the process, Trump and his peace team have lectured the Palestinians as a teacher reprimands an obstinate child. The Palestinians need to face reality, to lower their expectations, to land back on earth, Kushner and colleagues insist. Not only will they never realize their dreams and aspirations, they should also forget their core demand for an independent state free of outside control and not confide inside Israeli-controlled gates. Israelis are worthy of such independence, the Palestinians are told, but you are not.
Trump approach is a product, first and foremost, of his own inexperience, arrogance and unwillingness to learn anything from a past in which he wasn’t in charge. It is fed by anti-Palestinian prejudices prevalent in his peace team as well as his advisers and most of his political supporters. Trump and his underlings basically adhere to the arguably racist tenet encapsulated in the Israeli saying “The Arabs understand only force.” The more you pressure them, the greater the chance they will succumb.
Women protest against the U.S.-led workshop in Bahrain in the Moroccan capital Rabat, June 23, 2019.
Women protest against the U.S.-led workshop in Bahrain in the Moroccan capital Rabat, June 23, 2019.AFP
At this point at least, it hasn’t worked out that way. Bahrain, by any measure, is a humiliating bust. As Trump and his aides contemplate the reasons for their abject failure they are likely to blame stubborn Palestinians who don’t know what’s good for them, along with radical Muslims, perfidious Europeans, idiot liberals and all the other usual suspects.
In a better world, they would take a hard look at themselves in the mirror and possibly have an epiphany. They can make an immediate adjustment that will cost them nothing but possibly achieve dramatic results. Instead of incessantly rebuking, reproaching, reprimanding, threatening and intimidating the Palestinians in a way that garners cheers from Christian messianics and Jewish zealots, they could try and treat them, as Aretha Franklin sang, with just a little respect. And perhaps, if it isn’t asking too much, take down their fawning for Netanyahu a notch or two.
It might not be enough to reconcile irreconcilable differences or to make peace, but it will signal that Trump is finally getting serious about his claim to be the peacemaker the world has been waiting for. Alternatively, the Palestinians will continue to frustrate his designs and pray to Allah for his quick departure.
’Shame and pain’: Vietnam starts to grapple with child abuse epidemic | World news | The Guardian
It was morning at a Hanoi school when a teenage student stumbled into class. As she sat at her desk, blood began to pool under her chair; just that morning she had been sexually abused. When her teacher’s response was that she should sit on some tissues until the bleeding stopped, the young girl began to cry.
The incident, recounted by a Huynh Mai, a school psychologist, made headlines in Vietnam last month. Yet it was reflective of a culture of ignorance, indifference and stigma that has surrounded child sex abuse in the country for generations, according to teachers, victims and NGOs.
However, after several high-profile abuse cases, many involving the abuse of pupils by their teachers, the government has launched several initiatives to finally bring the issue out into the open.
Inside the Elementary School Where Drug Addiction Sets the Curriculum - The New York Times
Encore des descriptions terribles et lacrymales. Quand on sait que cette crise a été causée de prime abord par la cupidité et le cynisme des groupes pharmaceutiques...
MINFORD, Ohio — Inside an elementary school classroom decorated with colorful floor mats, art supplies and building blocks, a little boy named Riley talked quietly with a teacher about how he had watched his mother take “knockout pills” and had seen his father shoot up “a thousand times.”
Riley, who is 9 years old, described how he had often been left alone to care for his baby brother while his parents were somewhere else getting high. Beginning when he was about 5, he would heat up meals of fries, chicken nuggets and spaghetti rings in the microwave for himself and his brother, he said. “That was all I knew how to make,” Riley said.
Riley — who is in foster care and who officials asked not be fully identified because of his age — is among hundreds of students enrolled in the local school district who have witnessed drug use at home. Like many of his classmates at Minford Elementary School, Riley struggles with behavioral and psychological problems that make it difficult to focus, school officials said, let alone absorb lessons.
“If you’re worried about your parents getting arrested last night, you can’t retain information,” said Kendra Rase Cram, a teacher at Minford Elementary who was hired this past academic year to teach students how to cope with trauma. Over the past nine months, she led several classes a day, and met every week in one-on-one sessions with up to 20 students who have experienced significant trauma.
“We have all these kids who are in survival mode,” Ms. Cram said.
Minford Elementary is not like typical schools. At this small campus in rural southern Ohio, there is a dedicated sensory room stocked with weighted blankets, chewable toys and exercise balls. Children who were born dependent on drugs, as well as others with special needs, can take time to jump on a trampoline or calm down in a play tunnel, sometimes several times each day. In class, students role-play in lessons on self-control, such as blowing bubbles and then waiting to pop them, and anger management, while also learning calming strategies like deep breathing techniques.
But the pastoral landscape belies a devastated community. In this county, long considered ground zero in Ohio’s opioid epidemic, nearly 9.7 million pills were prescribed in 2010 — enough to give 123 to each resident, the highest rate in the state, according to official statistics. Over the years, as opioid prescriptions have fallen, many drug users have moved on to heroin and fentanyl .
Children whitening skin to avoid racial hate crime, charity finds
NSPCC says racial abuse and bullying of children in UK has risen by a fifth since 2015-16.
Children are whitening their skin to try to avoid a rising tide of racial hate crimes, in which even babies under one year old have been targeted, a charity has said.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said racial abuse and bullying of children had risen by one-fifth since 2015-16 to more than 10,000 incidents recorded by police last year.
The charity said some callers to Childline, its telephone help service, had tried to change their appearance by using makeup to whiten their skin.
Some children told counsellors they kept their pain a secret from their parents because they did not want to upset them.
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
The NSPCC figures were compiled from freedom of information requests to police forces across the UK. The charity said children aged 12 to 15 were most likely to be affected.
It found that in 2017-18 there were 10,571 offences recorded by police as race hate crimes against children under the age of 18, about 29 a day. The previous year the figure was 9,752 and in 2015-16 it was 8,683.
One 10-year-old girl told the NSPCC: “I’ve been bullied ever since I started school. The bullies call me nasty names; it makes me feel so ashamed. My friends won’t hang out with me any more because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.
“I was born in the UK but bullies tell me to go back to my own country. I don’t understand because I’m from the UK. I’ve tried to make my face whiter before using makeup so that I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school.”
Tolga Yildiz, a senior Childline supervisor, said: “Children can experience this at school, out of school and online. They come up with different ways of coping.
“We hear that they tell a teacher, it stops, and then it starts again and they are not confident to report it again.”
The true figure is likely to be higher. Five police forces did not respond to the FoI request and police chiefs believe racial and faith hate crimes are underreported.
According to the NSPCC, another girl, 11, said: “I’m being bullied at school because I’m Chinese. The other kids say that my skin is yellow, call me names, and it gets me really down.
“I hate the way I look so much, I think if I looked different everyone would stop being mean to me and I’d fit in. I’ve tried to change the way that I look by using eyeliner so that I fit in more. I don’t want to tell my parents because I think it would upset them.”
One 16-year-old girl from a Muslim background said: “People call me a terrorist and keep telling me to go back to where I came from. I dress in traditional Muslim clothes and I think it singles me out. I usually just put my head down and get on with it but it’s getting to the point now where I genuinely feel like I might get attacked.”
It is the latest evidence to suggest a rise in racism in British society, which appears to have increased from about the time of the EU referendum in June 2016.
Research revealed last week showed 71% of people from ethnic minorities reported facing racial discrimination, compared with 58% in January 2016.
Atiyah Wazir, a Childline counsellor, said: “It is just as heartbreaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different. These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes daren’t tell their mums or dads about it because they don’t want to worry or hurt their feelings.”
The Liverpool Echo on Wednesday reported that an 11-year-old boy, Ashley Davies, was called a “slave” and the N-word by children at a school in Cornwall after moving there from Merseyside.
The child told the paper: “It makes me feel kind of sad because I am just trying to make friends. I’ve had loads of comments from people who don’t want me there. When I wake up in the morning, it’s like a burden.”
His mother, Natalie, said: “The school have said they talk to the other children but it keeps happening again and again.
“I am not saying all these kids are horrible racists but this is moulding my son now for how he is going to see the world. I think the school are trying but they don’t know what to do.”
Assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, said: “This criminality will not be tolerated. Police-recorded hate crime has increased in recent years. This is in part due to improvements in police recording, as well as spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks of 2017.”
#peau #racisme #discriminations #enfants #enfance #UK #Angleterre #peau_noire #peau_blanche #blanchissement_de_la_peau
As we look at the conversation Jesus had with his disciples in the upper room, we can understand some of the frustration they were having. Jesus had been their teacher for a few years. They had travelled around as his pupils, learning from him. But they could feel that something was about to happen. He had washed their feet. He had talked about bread and wine representing his body and blood. And he kept talking about going away.
» Israeli Settler Kills Palestinian Woman After Ramming Her With Car, Soldiers Shoot And Seriously Injures Teen
April 18, 2019 6:26 PM Ali Salam - IMEMC News
A Palestinian woman was killed, earlier Thursday morning, near her home in Teqoua’ town, southeast of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, after being rammed by the car of an illegal colonialist settler. The soldiers later shot and seriously injured a Palestinian teen while handcuffed, when he reportedly attempted to escape.
The slain Palestinian woman has been identified as Fatima Suleiman , 42.
According to eyewitnesses, the assailant was driving a large truck when he struck the woman’s car, throwing her out of the vehicle, and then rammed and killed her, before fleeing the scene.
The slain Palestinian woman was a teacher at the Rashayda School.
The Israeli Police did come to the scene, but only to remove all security camera footage from a house overlooking the area where the incident took place.
The incident led to protests as dozens of residents, mainly youngsters, took to the streets, and hurled stones at the Israeli army jeeps, while the soldiers attacked them with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs.
The soldiers then detained a Palestinian teen, before handcuffing and blindfolding him, and later shot him from a very close range, after he attempted to escape while he was still cuffed and blindfolded.
The shooting took place following the funeral procession of the Palestinian woman. (...)
The Life-Changing Magic of Compounding Knowledge
Buffett: Net Worth $82 Billion, Image Credit: investbound.comThe strongest force in the universe is Compound Interest. — Albert EinsteinThe High Probability Route to Becoming a MillionaireWarren Buffett, the so-called Oracle of Omaha is a man who needs no introduction.He is considered one of the most successful investors in the world and has a net worth of $82.5 billion, making him the third-wealthiest person in the world.He amassed this fortune by perfecting the value investment philosophy pioneered by his former teacher Benjamin Graham. At its core this involves studying very deeply the annual reports of companies and picking stocks that appear undervalued but, crucially have real potential and pay dividends.Buffett would take these yearly dividends — even though they may often be small — (...)
danah boyd : When Good Intentions Backfire – Data & Society : Points
I find it frustrating to bear witness to good intentions getting manipulated, but it’s even harder to watch how those who are wedded to good intentions are often unwilling to acknowledge this, let alone start imagining how to develop the appropriate antibodies. Too many folks that I love dearly just want to double down on the approaches they’ve taken and the commitments they’ve made. On one hand, I get it — folks’ life-work and identities are caught up in these issues.
I’ve never met an educator who thinks that the process of educating is easy or formulaic. (Heck, this is why most educators roll their eyes when they hear talk of computerized systems that can educate better than teachers.) So why do we assume that well-intended classroom lessons — or even well-designed curricula — might not play out as we imagine? This isn’t simply about the efficacy of the lesson or the skill of the teacher, but the cultural context in which these conversations occur.
In many communities in which I’ve done research, the authority of teachers is often questioned. Nowhere is this more painfully visible than when well-intended highly educated (often white) teachers come to teach in poorer communities of color. Yet, how often are pedagogical interventions designed by researchers really taking into account the doubt that students and their parents have of these teachers? And how do we as educators and scholars grapple with how we might have made mistakes?
From the outside, companies like Facebook and Google seem pretty evil to many people. They’re situated in a capitalist logic that many advocates and progressives despise. They’re opaque and they don’t engage the public in their decision-making processes, even when those decisions have huge implications for what people read and think. They’re extremely powerful and they’ve made a lot of people rich in an environment where financial inequality and instability is front and center. Primarily located in one small part of the country, they also seem like a monolithic beast.
As a result, it’s not surprising to me that many people assume that engineers and product designers have evil (or at least financially motivated) intentions. There’s an irony here because my experience is the opposite. Most product teams have painfully good intentions, shaped by utopic visions of how the ideal person would interact with the ideal system. Nothing is more painful than sitting through a product design session with design personae that have been plucked from a collection of clichés.
Most products and features that get released start with good intentions, but they too get munged by the system, framed by marketing plans, and manipulated by users. And then there’s the dance of chaos as companies seek to clean up PR messes (which often involves non-technical actors telling insane fictions about the product), patch bugs to prevent abuse, and throw bandaids on parts of the code that didn’t play out as intended. There’s a reason that no one can tell you exactly how Google’s search engine or Facebook’s news feed works. Sure, the PR folks will tell you that it’s proprietary code. But the ugly truth is that the code has been patched to smithereens to address countless types of manipulation and gamification (e.g., SEO to bots). It’s quaint to read the original “page rank” paper that Brin and Page wrote when they envisioned how a search engine could ideally work. That’s so not how the system works today.
Powerful actors have always tried to manipulate the news media, especially State actors. This is why the fourth estate is seen as so important in the American context. Yet, the game has changed, in part because of the distributed power of the masses. Social media marketers quickly figured out that manufacturing outrage and spectacle would give them a pathway to attention, attracting news media like bees to honey. Most folks rolled their eyes, watching as monied people played the same games as State actors. But what about the long tail? How do we grapple with the long tail? How should journalists respond to those who are hacking the attention economy?
In short, I keep thinking that we need more well-intended folks to start thinking like hackers.
Think just as much about how you build an ideal system as how it might be corrupted, destroyed, manipulated, or gamed. Think about unintended consequences, not simply to stop a bad idea but to build resilience into the model.
As a developer, I always loved the notion of “extensibility” because it was an ideal of building a system that could take unimagined future development into consideration. Part of why I love the notion is that it’s bloody impossible to implement. Sure, I (poorly) comment my code and build object-oriented structures that would allow for some level of technical flexibility. But, at the end of the day, I’d always end up kicking myself for not imagining a particular use case in my original design and, as a result, doing a lot more band-aiding than I’d like to admit.
‘Where are you from?’ Facing fines and bureaucracy, refugee children in Jordan go undocumented
Located off the highway in the southern Amman suburbs, the Syrian embassy in Jordan almost looks like it’s made for long waits.
It’s a quiet day outside, as a group of elderly Syrians wearing traditional keffiyeh scarves sit on a patch of grass next to the sand-colored building smoking cigarettes and passing the time.
Aside from two flags attached to the roof of the embassy, the steel bars across the windows—shaped in classic Umayyad patterns—are one of the few hints of the otherwise rather anonymous building’s affiliation with Damascus.
On the wall between the counters, a large bulletin board is plastered with instructions for various civil status procedures: births, marriages and identity cards. Flyers address the “brothers and sisters of the nation” waiting quietly outside.
But not all Syrians feel welcome here.
“I feel uncomfortable going to the embassy,” says Bassam al-Karmi, a Syrian refugee in Jordan originally from Deir e-Zor.
“I can’t control my feelings and might start rambling on about politics and other things,” he explains, adding with a laugh, “I really can’t stand seeing the red [Syrian] flag, either.”
If possible, al-Karmi says, he avoids approaching the embassy. But when he had his first daughter two years ago, there was no way around it. That’s where he needed to go to register her birth—at least if he wanted her to be recognized as a Syrian national.
At last week’s international “Brussels III” donor conference, Jordan was commended for its efforts to provide Syrians with legal documentation. The civil status department of Jordan’s Ministry of Interior even maintains a presence in refugee camps, tasked with issuing official birth certificates.
But acquiring Jordanian documents is only one part of the process. Having them authenticated by the Syrian authorities is a whole other story.
According to several Syrian refugees in Jordan, bureaucratic procedures, lack of information and high costs are deterring them from registering their children’s births at the Syrian embassy—leaving thousands of Jordanian-born Syrian children without proof of nationality, and some potentially at risk of statelessness.
When Ahmad Qablan’s second son was born in 2014, one year after the family’s arrival in Jordan, he went through all the procedures and paperwork that were required of him to register them first with the Jordanian authorities and then with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR.
When his third son was born, he did the same.
Even so, years later, neither of them have Syrian documents officially proving their nationality.
A resident of a refugee camp some 70 kilometers east of the capital, Qablan would have to travel for two and a half hours each way to get Syrian birth certificates for his two sons—by submitting the papers at the Syrian embassy—only to come back again a week later to pick them up.
But the biggest obstacle to registering, he says, is the fees involved with late registration.
Even though, as a teacher, Qablan claims to have one of the highest salaries in the camp, the family is only just getting by, he says.
“Why would I go spend that money at the embassy?”
If a Syrian child is registered at the embassy later than three months after his or her birth, a $50 fine is added on top of the standard $75 registration fees. For a delay of more than a year, the fine goes up to $100.
According to al-Karmi, those costs make families postpone the procedure. But the longer they wait, the more expensive it gets. As a result, he and others around him find themselves caught in a spiral of increasing costs.
“You know the fees will increase,” he says, “but in the end people keep postponing and saying, ‘Maybe there’s another solution’.”
According to a source from the Syrian embassy, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, some refugees even choose to send family members across the border to go through the procedures in Syria itself just to save on consular fees.
Reports: ‘125,000’ Syrian refugee children born in Jordan
Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising and ensuing conflict, more than 125,000 Syrian children are estimated to have been born on Jordainan soil, according to reports in Jordanian media. However, with many children going unregistered with the Jordanian government, an accurate number can be hard to find.
UNHCR counts 107,268 children under the age of five in Jordan.
Even though the Jordanian government has issued nearly 80,000 birth certificates to Syrian children born in Jordan since 2015, experts say that the vast majority of those remain unregistered with the Syrian embassy.
One of the largest obstacles to registration, according to aid workers and Syrian refugees alike, is a lack of information about the procedures.
A former Daraa resident, Qasem a-Nizami attempted to navigate registration after the birth of his now three-month-old daughter, but he wasn’t sure of where to start.
According to a UN source speaking to Syria Direct on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, there is no coordination between UNHCR and the Syrian embassy.
However, refugees can consult UNHCR about steps they need to take to register civil status procedures in Jordan.
After asking around in his community and finally talking to the Jordanian Civil Status Department’s office in Zaatari camp, where he resides—sometimes receiving contradictory information—a-Nizami soon discovered that the procedures were much more complicated than he thought.
To get a birth certificate at the Syrian embassy, refugees need to present the passport of the mother and father as well as a Jordanian birth certificate and marriage contract validated by the embassy.
When a-Nizami got married in Syria, his town was under siege, and—like many other Syrians—the couple wasn’t able to access the government civil registries responsible for recording civil status events. Instead, the couple settled with a traditional Islamic marriage, involving a sheikh and witnesses.
Today, a-Nizami has finally registered his marriage with the Jordanian authorities and is currently waiting to get the papers.
“I can’t register my daughter until I’m finished with the trouble that I’m going through now,” he says.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), having valid identity papers is crucial for refugees to access basic rights in a host country like Jordan, and children lacking a Jordanian birth certificate are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and child marriage.
“Undocumented children in Jordan cannot prove their identity, access justice and face difficulties in enjoying rights,” the NRC said in an email to Syria Direct.
The worst case scenario is that some children end up stateless—and because of Syria’s patrilineal nationality laws, this is particularly a risk for female-headed households unable to prove the nationality of the father.
But a lack of Syrian documents issued by the country’s embassy also has much more immediate consequences.
Since the Jaber-Naseeb border crossing between Syria and Jordan reopened for traffic in October after a three-year closure, at least 12,842 Syrians have made the trip across the border, according to the UNHCR.
Crossing the border, however, either requires a passport or an exit permit issued by the Syrian embassy in Jordan—neither of which can be obtained without Syrian identity documents.
For years, experts have advocated that the lack of civil documentation could be one of the most significant barriers to the return of Syrian refugees, and as governments, UN bodies and humanitarian organizations increasingly grapple with the infinitely complex question of return, the issue of civil documentation is ever more pressing.
Last week’s international “Brussels III” donor conference also underlined the need for affordable access to civil documentation for Syrians.
‘Cut from the tree of her father’
While the vast majority of Syrians in neighboring countries surveyed by UNHCR earlier this month have a hope of returning to Syria some day, less than six percent expressed intentions to return within the next year.
For al-Karmi, the hope of things changing in Syria was part of the reason why he kept postponing registration.
“I was hoping that by the time we had our first child, maybe Assad would be gone,” he explains.
And although he eventually registered his first-born daughter, the family’s youngest—who is nine months old—still only has Jordanian documents.
“For the next child we also thought, ‘Bashar will be gone by then’,” al-Karmi says. “But that didn’t happen.”
Now, he says, the family is doing what they can to make sure their daughters will grow up identifying with their Syrian roots.
“She’s been cut from the tree of her father,” he says, explaining how they’ve turned to the internet as the only way of nurturing the children’s ties to family members spread out across the globe.
“We are currently teaching her to remember the answer to, ‘Where are you from?’ and then responding, ‘I’m from Syria’,” he says.
“This is the most we can do in exile.”
But not everyone feels a need to raise their children to feel Syrian.
Abu Abida al-Hourani, a 28-year-old resident of Jordan’s Zaatari camp, is not even interested in registering his two-and-a-half-year-old son at the Syrian embassy.
“It’s better to belong to a country that will protect my son and make him feel safe and doesn’t deprive him of the most basic rights,” he explains.
“How am I supposed to raise my son to feel like he belongs in a country full of killing, displacement and injustice?”
#enfants #mineurs #enfance #Jordanie #réfugiés #réfugiés_syriens #asile #migrations #clandestinisation #certificats_de_naissance #bureaucratie #apatridie
David Carpanini - Wikipedia
David Lawrence Carpanini (born 1946) is a British artist, etcher, teacher and printmaker whose drawings, paintings and etchings are mostly concerned with the natural and industrial landscapes of South Wales. He was President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (1995-2003) and was Professor of Art at the University of Wolverhampton (1992-2000).
Meet Francis Malofiy, the Philadelphia Lawyer Who Sued Led Zeppelin
Francis Malofiy may be the most hated man in the Philadelphia legal community. He may also be on the cusp of getting the last laugh on rock’s golden gods.
Meet Francis Malofiy, the Philadelphia Lawyer Who Sued Led Zeppelin
People Laughed When This Philly Lawyer Sued Led Zeppelin. Nobody’s Laughing Now.
Francis Malofiy may be the most hated man in the Philadelphia legal community. He may also be on the cusp of getting the last laugh on rock’s golden gods.
By Jonathan Valania· 2/11/2019
Philadelphia-area attorney Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.
The fact that Philadelphia barrister Francis Alexander Malofiy, Esquire, is suing Led Zeppelin over the authorship of “Stairway to Heaven” is, by any objective measure, only the fourth most interesting thing about him. Unfortunately for the reader, and the purposes of this story, the first, second and third most interesting things about Malofiy are bound and gagged in nondisclosure agreements, those legalistic dungeons where the First Amendment goes to die. So let’s start with number four and work our way backward.
At the risk of stating the obvious, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let the record show that “Stairway to Heaven” is arguably the most famous song in all of rock-and-roll, perhaps in all of popular music. It’s also one of the most lucrative — it’s estimated that the song has netted north of $500 million in sales and royalties since its 1971 release. Malofiy’s lawsuit, cheekily printed in the same druidic font used for the liner notes of the album Led Zeppelin IV, alleges that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant — Zep’s elegantly wasted guitarist/producer/central songwriter and leonine, leather-lunged lead singer, respectively — stole the iconic descending acoustic-guitar arpeggios of the first two minutes of “Stairway” from “Taurus,” a song with a strikingly similar chord pattern by a long-forgotten ’60s band called Spirit. At the conclusion of a stormy, headline-grabbing trial in 2016 that peaked with testimony from Page and Plant, the jury decided in Zep’s favor.
When the copyright infringement suit was first filed in Philadelphia by Malofiy (pronounced “MAL-uh-fee”) on behalf of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust — which represents the estate of Randy “California” Wolfe, the now-deceased member of Spirit who wrote “Taurus” — people laughed. Mostly at Malofiy. The breathless wall-to-wall media coverage the trial garnered often painted him as a loose-cannon legal beagle, one part Charlie Sheen, one part Johnnie Cochran. “Everybody kind of dismissed me as this brash young lawyer who didn’t really understand copyright law,” he says, well into the wee hours one night back in December, sitting behind a desk stacked four feet high with legal files in the dank, subterranean bunker that is his office.
Hidden behind an unmarked door on the basement floor of a nondescript office building in Media, the law firm of Francis Alexander LLC is a pretty punk-rock operation. The neighbors are an anger management counselor and a medical marijuana dispensary. “I think of us as pirates sinking big ships,” Malofiy, who’s 41, brags. Given the sheer number of death threats he says he’s received from apoplectic Zep fans, the fact that mysterious cars seem to follow him in the night, and his claim to have found GPS trackers stuck to the bottom of his car, the precise location of his offices remains a closely guarded secret. Failing that, he has a license to carry, and most days, he leaves the house packing a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson.
While most lawyers are sleeping, Malofiy is working through the night to defeat them, often until sunrise, fueled by an ever-present bottle of grape-flavored Fast Twitch as he chain-chews Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and huffs a never-ending string of Marlboro menthols. We’ve been talking on the record for going on eight hours, and Malofiy shows no signs of fading; in fact, he’s just announced the arrival of his third wind.
He has a pretty good ‘fuck you’ attitude that comes from an inner confidence. He might have had a little too much early on,” attorney Jim Beasley Jr. says of Malofiy. “If you piss the judge off with your pirate act, the judge can make it difficult for you. Sometimes you could avoid all that by not swinging your pirate sword around.
Talk turns to the distinctly pro-Zep tenor of the media coverage of the “Stairway” trial. “I was a punch line for jokes,” he says, spitting his gum into a yellow Post-it and banking it into the trash for, like, the 42nd time. Nobody’s laughing now, least of all Page and Plant. Nor, for that matter, is Usher. Back in October, at the conclusion of a dogged seven-year legal battle marked by a bruising string of dismissals and sanctions, Malofiy won a $44 million verdict — one of the largest in Pennsylvania in 2018 — for a Philadelphia songwriter named Daniel Marino who sued his co-writers after being cut out of the songwriting credits and royalties for the song “Bad Girl” from the R&B heartthrob’s 2004 breakout album, Confessions, which sold more than 10 million copies.
Also, in late September of last year, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Malofiy’s appeal of the 2016 “Stairway to Heaven” verdict and ordered a new trial on the grounds that the court “abused its discretion” when the judge refused to allow Malofiy to play a recording of “Taurus” for the jury. (Members were only allowed to hear an acoustic-guitar rendition played from sheet music.) The retrial is expected to begin in the next year, and Page and Plant, along with bassist John Paul Jones, are again anticipated to take the stand. Copyright experts say Led Zeppelin — which has a long history of ripping off the ancient riffs and carnal incantations of wizened Delta bluesmen and only giving credit when caught — should be worried.
Malofiy, who calls Zep “the greatest cover band in all of history,” will go to trial armed with reams of expert testimony pinpointing the damning similarities between the two songs — not just the nearly identical and atypical chord pattern, but the shared melodic figurations, choice of key and distinctive voicings. He’ll also show the jury that Page and Plant had ample opportunity to hear “Taurus” when Zep opened for Spirit on their first American tour in 1968, two years before they wrote and recorded “Stairway.”
“Most big companies rely on the concept of wearing you down, forcing you to do so much work it literally drives you broke,” says Glen Kulik, a heavy-hitter L.A.-based copyright lawyer who signed on as Malofiy’s local counsel when the Zep case was moved to federal court in California. “If you have any chance of standing up to them, it’s going to require an incredible amount of persistence, confidence, and quite a bit of skill as well, and Francis has all those things in spades.” And Kulik would know, having successfully argued a landmark copyright infringement case before the Supreme Court in 2014 that paved the way for the Zeppelin suit.
Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.
Ultimately, Malofiy doesn’t have to prove Led Zeppelin stole Spirit’s song; he just has to convince a jury that’s what happened. Assuming the trial goes forward — and that this time, he’s allowed to play recordings of both songs for the jury — there will be blood. Because contrary to his hard-won rep as a bull in the china shop of civil litigation, Malofiy possesses a switchblade-sharp legal mind, an inexhaustible work ethic, and a relentless, rock-ribbed resolve to absorb more punches than his opponents can throw. He’s a ruthlessly effective courtroom tactician with a collection of six-, seven- and eight-figure verdicts, not to mention the scalps of opposing counsel who underestimated his prowess. “I don’t plink pigeons; I hunt lions and tigers and bears,” he says. The big game he’s targeted in the past decade include deep-pocketed transnational corporations like Volvo (an epic seven-year case that ended in an undisclosed settlement) and Hertz (against whom he won a $100,000 verdict).
In the arena of civil litigation, where the odds are increasingly stacked against plaintiffs, Malofiy claims to have never lost a jury trial, and that appears to be true. “I have lost twice — in the Zeppelin case and a lawsuit against Volvo — but got both decisions reversed on appeals,” he says, unsheathing a fresh stick of Wrigley’s. “Now, the same people that were asking me for years why I’m doing it are asking me how I did it.”
If Malofiy prevails in the coming “Stairway” retrial, he’ll completely shatter the Tolkien-esque legend of the song’s immaculate conception — that it was birthed nearly in toto during a mystical retreat at a remote Welsh mountain cottage called Bron-yr-aur, to which many a starry-eyed Zep disciple has made a pilgrimage once upon a midnight clear when the forests echo with laughter. It will be like proving that da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa, that Michelangelo didn’t sculpt David. Barring a last-minute settlement, many legal and copyright experts predict that Malofiy may well emerge victorious, and credit for the most famous rock song in the world will pass from the self-appointed Golden Gods of Led Zeppelin to some obscure, long-forgotten (and not even very good) West Coast psych band, along with tens of millions in royalties, effectively rewriting the sacred history of rock-and-roll. And the man who will have pulled off this fairly miraculous feat of judicial jujitsu is the enfant terrible of Philadelphia jurisprudence.
Malofiy hates wearing a suit and tie. Outside the courtroom, he dresses like a rock star masquerading as a lawyer: a crushable black trilby perched at a jaunty angle atop a blue bandana, a collarless black and orange leather Harley jacket, and a pair of beat-to-fuck brown Wesco boots, unlaced. “I’m always in jeans and boots when I meet new clients,” he says. “I warn them up front: ‘If you want a fancy lawyer in a suit, you should go elsewhere.’”
The barrier to entry for new clients at Francis Alexander LLC is steep, because Malofiy doesn’t take on new cases so much as he adopts new causes. A case has to register on a deeply personal level if he’s going to eat, sleep, and fight to the death for it for the next five to seven years.
“Lawyers have an ethical responsibility to advocate zealously for their clients,” says attorney Max Kennerly, who’s worked with Malofiy on a number of cases. “But frankly, in this business, a lot of lawyers play the odds and just do a ‘good enough’ job on a bunch of cases. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. Francis really throws himself into his cases.”
After 10 years of struggle, things finally seem to be breaking Malofiy’s way. Fat checks from cases settled long ago are rolling in, alleviating some fairly crippling cash-flow issues, and big cases just keep falling out of the sky — more than his two-lawyer outfit can field. They need to staff up, stat. Malofiy wants to hire some young bucks fresh out of law school — preferably Temple — as force multipliers in his quest to hold the powerful accountable on behalf of the powerless. “Most kids in law school right now will never see the inside of a courtroom,” he says. “Law schools don’t want to teach you how to change the system; they want to load you up with debt so you have to go do grunt work for some corporate law firm that specializes in maintaining the status quo.”
Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.
Malofiy doesn’t have a website. He doesn’t do social media. He doesn’t trawl the watering holes of the rich and powerful. He doesn’t even have a business card. Thanks to the notoriety and name recognition that came with the Zeppelin trial, new clients chase him. He just got off the phone with a Brooklyn puppet maker who wants him to sue the band Fall Out Boy for alleged misuse of two llamas — Frosty and Royal Tea — that it created. Right now, he’s on a conference call with a trio of British songwriters who want Malofiy to sue the Weeknd for allegedly lifting a key section of their song “I Need to Love” for a track called “A Lonely Night” on his 2016 Starboy album, which has sold more than three million copies to date.
“Why are you guys calling me?” he asks.
“We’re looking for an honest person fighting for ordinary working people,” says Billy Smith, one of the Brit songwriters in question. Malofiy clearly likes the sound of that. After thinking it over for a few moments, he tells them he’ll take their case and gives them his standard new-client spiel. “I can’t promise we’ll win, but I can promise I won’t turn yellow when things turn bad. I won’t put my tail between my legs and run,” he says. “If there is any bad news, you will hear it from me first.”
His teeth have been bothering him for days, and near the end of the call, one of his dental caps comes loose. He spits it out, and it skitters across his desk before he traps it under his palm. Most lawyers would be mortified. Malofiy thinks it’s hilarious. “I got teeth like you people,” he says to the Brits. Everybody laughs.
Many people mistake Malofiy’s unconventionality as a design flaw when it’s actually a feature. “I think that’s an incredibly important part of what makes him so good as an attorney,” says A.J. Fluehr, 33, Malofiy’s right-hand man, co-counsel and, though eight years his boss’s junior, voice of reason. “Because he’s so unorthodox, I believe it causes a lot of other attorneys to underestimate him and think, ‘Oh, he’s not serious; he doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ All of sudden, there’s a massively serious case against them.”
Even some of the defense lawyers who’ve done battle with Malofiy begrudgingly acknowledge his chops. “I’ve known Francis for four years now. He is difficult to deal with but a fierce advocate for his clients and his cause,” says Rudolph “Skip” DiMassa, a partner at Duane Morris. “Calling him ‘abrasive’ would be putting it mildly. But he wears it like a badge of honor that he is not like all the other lawyers in town.”
When I read that and similar assessments from other lawyers back to Malofiy, he chalks them up to blowback for the heresy of Robin Hooding a corrupt status quo. “I have a target on my back because I sue big corporations, politicians, big law firms. Hell, I sued DA Seth Williams,” he says one night at the Irish Pub, as he’s nursing a screwdriver he’ll chase with a root beer. “When you start stepping on toes and suing the wrong people and get a few million shifted from those who have it to those who don’t — that’s where the change happens; that’s where you make a difference. And there is a price you have to pay for that.”
According to family lore, Francis Malofiy’s maternal grandfather was murdered by Nazis in occupied Greece; his great-grandmother had to cut the body down from a tree and carry it home on the back of a mule. Concurrently, his paternal grandfather was murdered by Nazis in Ukraine, while his father and grandmother were frog-marched to camps in Germany. Some things can never be forgotten or forgiven. That’s why Malofiy is always kicking against the pricks. A slight child, he was often bullied at school, and after a brief experiment with turning the other cheek, he started fighting back. Hard. He recalls the day that a bully was picking on a girl half his size; young Francis cold-cocked him and threw him into a closet door. The kid had to be taken out on a stretcher. After that, the bullies moved on to easier prey. “I was always fighting for the little guy, even back then,” he says.
In the third grade, friends turned him on to Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, indelibly imprinting the spandexed bikers-and-strippers aesthetic of ’80s hair-metal onto his psyche. He started channeling the energy he once put into beating back bullies into beating the drums. One day in the sixth grade, he came home to tell his dad about a band all the kids were into: “The Led Zeppelins.”
“He said, ‘No, son, it’s just Led Zeppelin.’”
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s the Led Zeppelins.”
So his father, who’d seen the band at the Electric Factory, drove Francis to the record store at the Granite Run Mall, where the clerks set him straight. His father bought the four-cassette Zep box set that had just come out. On the way home, Malofiy heard “Whole Lotta Love” for the first time, and before the song even ended, it was official: Led Zeppelin was his favorite band. When he was in high school, his drum teacher gently broke the news that Zep didn’t exactly, um, write all their own music — that key parts of their iconic songs had been cherry-picked from old, obscure blues recordings. “I said, ‘C’mon, don’t talk shit about Jimmy Page!’” Malofiy recalls. Then his teacher played him the Willie Dixon-penned Muddy Waters track “You Need Love” — which is what “Whole Lotta Love” was called before Zep hijacked the lyrics and the riff and Frankensteined them into the gloriously scuzzy heavy-metal Viking porno movie for the ears we’ve come to know and love. It was hard for Francis to process, and even harder when he was tipped to the uncanny similarity between Spirit’s “Taurus” and “Stairway.” Still, the spell Zep cast over him remained unbroken.https://cdn10.phillymag.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/02/Francis-Malofiy-portrait-838x1024.jpg
Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.
As a young teenager, he built go-karts, dirt bikes and small-block Chevys. To make spending money for guitars and records, he started buying beater cars, fixing them up, and flipping them for quadruple what he paid for them. He almost didn’t graduate from high school because he’d played hooky too many times, to go fishing or work on cars or play guitar. When he finally got his high-school diploma, he raced home from school to show his mother in his Chevy S-10 lowrider. Tearing ass on the backcountry roads of Media, he blew past a cop who immediately lit up his cherry top and gave pursuit. Soon, one cop car became two, then three, until there were five cars tailing him.
Much to his parents’ dismay, his run-ins with the law became common. They were never for anything all that serious, just the usual teen-rebel monkeyshines: fighting, speeding, the occasional high-speed car chase. He got a big wake-up call in 1998 when his beloved Uncle Nick — a.k.a. Nicholas “The Greek” Vasiliades — was handed a life sentence for running a high-volume meth lab in a warehouse in Manayunk that supplied the drug networks of the Pagans and the Mafia, as well as for his 50-gun arsenal of illegal weaponry. Malofiy was devastated. “I was going down a bad path,” he says. “My uncle pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re smart enough to do it the right way. You need to step away.’”
Malofiy took the warning to heart and focused on getting a college education, graduating from Penn State in 2000 with a degree in finance. After college, he went back home to Media and his true loves: cars, girls and heavy metal. With a revolving cast of musicians, he formed multiple go-nowhere suburban hard-rock bands with cringe-y names like Prada G and Sluts ’n Slayers. Unimpressed, his parents urged him to enroll in law school. Eventually he relented, forging this pact: He would go to law school if he: a) could do whatever he wanted with the unfinished basement of his parents’ home (i.e., build a high-end recording-studio-cum-man-cave tricked out with a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom); and b) nobody hassled him about having long hair, rocking out and chasing girls. Deal. Malofiy took the LSATs and scored just south of 160 — hardly off the charts, but good enough to get into Temple, where he found himself drawn to copyright law.
He graduated from law school in December of 2007 and took the bar exam the following July. On the night of August 16, 2008, he stopped into the Liberty Bar at 22nd and Market with his then-girlfriend. It was crowded, but they found a table in the back. After ordering drinks, they started getting static from a group of three young men in ball caps and white t-shirts. “Three drunken jerkoffs, white privilege out the ass,” says Malofiy. According to Malofiy’s testimony, the trio mocked his bandana and called him “cunt,” “pussy” and a “dirty spic.” (It was summer; Malofiy was tan.) According to Malofiy, at some point the men apologized and the situation seemed defused, but then one of them grabbed Malofiy’s girlfriend’s ass. “I said, ‘That’s it. Follow me out,’ and made for the door,” Malofiy says, but he was blocked by a member of the group. As they stood chest-to-chest, Malofiy says, the man struck him twice. Finally, Malofiy, who boxed in college, unloaded with a right cross that landed squarely on the guy’s left cheekbone, shattering the glass still clenched in Malofiy’s fist.
The man suffered a deep gash in his cheek that would require 150 stitches and reconstructive surgery. Malofiy nearly severed the tendons in his thumb. Bleeding profusely, he had his girlfriend drive him to the emergency room at Penn Presby to get stitched up and then to Central Detectives to file a criminal complaint.
Two months later, in October, notice came in the mail that he had passed the bar. His mother was ecstatic and insisted on driving him to the Pittsburgh office of the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania immediately to obtain his law license rather than wait two weeks for the formal ceremony. When they got home the next day, Malofiy got a call from Central Detectives, who said they had a “body warrant” for his arrest on aggravated assault and related charges stemming from the Liberty Bar fight. The next day, he turned himself in and spent a night in jail awaiting a bail hearing. Had he not gone to Pittsburgh at his mother’s behest, it’s unlikely he’d have gotten his law license with a felony arrest on his record.
Malofiy’s first case as a newly minted lawyer would involve defending a client staring down decades in prison if convicted: himself. Heeding the maxim that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, Malofiy hired Sam Stretton, one of the most respected criminal defense attorneys in the city. Malofiy took the stand and delivered an impassioned defense of his actions. “He had already hit me twice, blocked my exit-way,” he testified. “I was scared for my safety and my girlfriend’s safety, and his friends had just yelled ‘Fight!’ and came up to me with fists drawn. I thought I had no other option.” The jury found him not guilty on all charges.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” Malofiy jokes as he shows me around the vast oak and stained-glass room that houses the law library at the Beasley Firm, possibly the most fearsome and feared personal-injury law firm in the city, where he worked, in an of-counsel capacity, from 2012 to 2014.
Fresh out of law school and still wet behind the ears, Malofiy showed up one day in search of mentoring. Granted an audience with Jim Beasley Jr., one of the most successful plaintiff’s attorney in the city, Malofiy ended up with a promise of rent-free office space, the phone extension 666, and a commitment to help finance some of the highly ambitious cases he was mounting — a product-liability suit against Volvo, and a breach-of-contract suit, against a marble manufacturer that had screwed his client out of an ownership share, that resulted in a $4.2 million verdict — not to mention the Usher case. “Jim was like, ‘I keep getting calls from defense lawyers saying That kid’s the fucking devil, so you must be doing something right,’” Malofiy recalls.
During Malofiy’s tenure at Beasley, he took out a controversial full-page ad in this magazine that depicted him crashing through a courtroom in a hot rod, looking every bit James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Many members of Philadelphia’s uptight, buttoned-down legal community thought it was disrespectful. “Everyone was outraged, but I thought it was funny,” says Beasley. “He has a pretty good ‘fuck you’ attitude that comes from an inner confidence. He might have had a little too much of that early on, but I think he’s throttled back a bit. So many of a judge’s decisions are ties and jump-balls that are not reversible, and if you piss the judge off with your pirate act, the judge can make it difficult for you. Sometimes you could avoid all that by not swinging your pirate sword around.”
Malofiy has learned this the hard way. In 2015, a three-judge panel voted to suspend his license to practice law in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for improper conduct in the Usher case — despite the fact that the special prosecutor recommended what amounted to a slap on the wrist: a reprimand.
“It’s highly unusual that they would disregard the disciplinary recommendations of the special prosecutor after he has heard the facts,” says Stretton. The matter is currently on appeal before the Third Circuit.
At Malofiy’s insistence, I’ve been tailing him for the better part of a month: from a big-dollar NDA’d settlement in a judge’s quarters, to a Port Richmond dive bar called Chuckles, to a Bucks County gun shop where he plunked down $1,729 for a handsome Benelli shotgun (a gift for his right-hand man Fluehr), to a back-alley strip bar in Center City and the disused factory under the Commodore Barry Bridge that he’s purchased and plans to renovate into office space, living quarters and a beer garden. I watched him hide his $82,000 Land Rover from the repo man (“It’s all a misunderstanding”) and then, days later, saw a pile of white letter-size envelopes stacked on his desk, each containing what looked to be thousands in cash. What I have come to learn is this: When you write about lawyers, there is so much you can’t write about lawyers.
Malofiy slowly, methodically and unflinchingly parceled out the most personal details of his backstory — the good, the bad and the ugly — as I incrementally earned his trust. But always on his timetable, not mine. It could be exasperating, but by the end, I discovered the method to his madness: He’d been pacing his revelations as he would a trial presentation. And now we’re reaching the crescendo of his closing argument — the big reveal.
Francis Malofiy. Photograph by Bryan Sheffield.
It’s a few clicks shy of midnight at Malofiy’s house in Media on a Sunday night shortly before Christmas. In the morning, he’s jetting off to an auction in London to bid on the Helios recording console that captured “Stairway to Heaven” for the ages. (Malofiy, true to form, won’t confirm that he won or lost the auction.) Though he’s been locked in a nasty four-year legal fight with Led Zeppelin, they’re still his favorite band.
Malofiy called to insist that I come to his house tonight. “Why? What for?” I demanded. He said he wanted to show me something I could only see there. I begged off, explaining that this article was due in the morning and I already had more than I could use. But he insisted, promising it would be worth my while. He doesn’t disappoint. He tells me to open the freezer. There’s a bottle of Tito’s vodka, an ice tray, and half a lemon on a plate with a yellow plastic knife. “That’s the lemon Robert Plant squeezed into his tea when we deposed him in London back in 2016,” he claims. This is deeply ironic and, if you’re acquainted with the role lemons play in Plant’s legend, cosmically hilarious. One of Led Zeppelin’s most infamous tracks is “The Lemon Song,” a sultry blooze ramble from 1969’s deathless Led Zeppelin II stitched together from pieces of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues.” (Zep settled a 1972 copyright suit over the Howlin’ Wolf portion of the song.) In the fifth verse, Plant sings:
Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg
The way you squeeze my lemon, ah
I’m gonna fall right out of bed
By swiping that lemon rind at the deposition, Malofiy stole Robert Plant’s metaphoric penis the way Prometheus stole fire from the gods. Zep famously invoked the mythic “Hammer of the Gods” from Norse legend. For Jimmy Page, that hammer was his guitar, but for Plant it was his, um, mighty lemon tree.
Incredible though it may seem, Malofiy says he’s kept the lemon on ice for the past three years and had it in his briefcase like a talisman when he gave oral arguments for what proved to be his successful appeal of the 2016 “Stairway” verdict. He has every intention of taking it to the retrial that will, barring unforeseen developments, commence in the next year.
“Robert Plant is always going on about his lemon, and at the deposition he made a big deal out of slicing it up and squeezing it into his tea and then sucking on the rind,” he says with a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin. “Jimmy Page famously dabbled in black magic and was always going on about Aleister Crowley, and I said to myself, ‘If they are going to use black magic to try to beat me on technicalities — well, two can play at that game.’”
Published as “The Devil’s Advocate” in the February 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
10-year-old writes brilliant poem about dyslexia and it goes viral / Boing Boing
As part of a class assignment, his teacher, Jane Broadis, asked the students to write a poem that could be read forwards and backwards. This one “stunned” her, so she posted it on Twitter, which has since gone viral. After you read it, read it again in the reverse direction, not like a palindrome, but line by line.
Today in Y6 we looked at poems that could be read forwards & backwards. I was stunned by this one written by one of my 10 year olds. Please share - I would love her work to be appreciated further afield. I wonder if it could even find a publisher? pic.twitter.com/tmEQpiRrhq
— Jane Broadis (@Jb5Jane) February 27, 2019
Here are some reactions via Twitter:
Made this grown man cry. I must have read it over twenty times already.
— James Simporis (@simporis) February 27, 2019
As the mom of a teen with severe dyslexia, who was told repeatedly in grade school that he would never succeed, please tell the author this is the most insightful and beautiful poem I’ve ever read on the subject. -proud mom to a dyslexic honor student who proved them all wrong
— Amy Eldridge (@amy_lwb) February 28, 2019
I am dyslexic. I thought I was stupid. I was called names because I couldn’t read like my peers. Eventually, I realized I am not dumb. I am different and I learn a different way. Hard times come but anyone with dyslexia is capable of ANYTHING. Wonderful poem from a strong kid ❣️
— Olivia Chan. (@OliviaChan22) February 28, 2019
Jane, I am in the process of writing a book about dyslexic children and their families! I would love to include this poem in the book!
— Peggy Webb Hendrix (@PWebbHendrix) February 27, 2019
What I learned during a 30-year career as an entrepreneur
What I learned during a 30-year career as an entrepreneurMy journey as an entrepreneur has been an odyssey I’m stepping away from after 30 years. Entrepreneurs tend to hover between calculated risks and foolhardiness with a greater degree of comfort than most people. During three decades of running a business, I’ve learned as much from failure as success. Failure is often the better teacher. As I look back on founding a company, here are my “birthing” lessons; they’ll apply to new and emerging companies alike.Look before you leap, but leapIn my company’s early years figuring out how to make payroll was often the cause of many a sleepless night. Later as that worry subsided, I personally guaranteed millions of dollars in order to afford the costs of bringing on a big, new client or to acquire (...)
Everything is BrokenMy old #writing teacher, Tony Earley, lives in a wonderful little house in Nashville on a leafy green street. He has a little hutch out back where he writes. He’s got a couple of kids, a great wife, a nice life.When I last saw him a few years ago a small spark of anger rose up in him as I told him about what I was seeing online.“These folks didn’t earn it,” he said when talking about all of the self-published authors, the bloggers, the writers who got — or aimed for — fame and fortune outside of the traditional publishing world. He, himself, was lucky. He made a name for himself in the heady days just before the rise of the Internet when publishers sent you out on book tours and the printed page was sacrosanct, when a fresh paycheck from a bad job meant a trip to Borders or (...)
States Are Introducing Bills That Could Prevent Teachers From Advocating for Climate Change - Pacific Standard
Several states have recently introduced bills that could interfere with the teaching of scientifically founded theories on climate change in public school science curricula.
A bill in South Dakota would require each school board to adopt a code of ethics that prevents public school elementary and secondary school teachers from advocating “for any issue that is part of a political party platform at the national, state, or local level.” The Arizona legislature introduced a nearly identical bill.
Virginia legislators proposed a bill with similar language, arguing that some teachers are abusing taxpayer dollars to “speak to captive audiences of students in an attempt to indoctrinate or influence students to adopt specific political and ideological positions on issues of social and political controversy ... under the guise of ’teaching for social justice’ and other sectarian doctrines.”
In Maine, a comparable bill states that “the rules must require a teacher to provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue being addressed and to present both sides in a fair-minded, nonpartisan manner.”
Science education groups are concerned that these bills, if enacted, would limit instruction on anthropogenic climate change, which is a key tenet of state and federal Democratic Party platforms. In the case of Maine, the bill could require teachers to discuss climate change as a disputed theory and present disproven theories for the global rise in temperatures as valid.
Other states have introduced legislation that singles out the teaching of climate change directly. A bill in Montana takes a public stance on climate change that “reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment; science shows human emissions do not change atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions enough to cause climate change; claims that carbon associated with human activities causes climate change are invalid; and nature, not human activity, causes climate change.” Any educational and informational materials on climate change would be required to include this information.
Climate change has become an increasingly politicized topic under the Trump administration. The president has publicly denounced its existence, and some federal agencies have removed the phrase “climate change” from webpages and other documents. Yet as global temperatures continue to rise (2018 was the fourth hottest year on record), at least 97 percent of climate experts maintain that “[c]limate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10Genre: ComedySize: 852.47 MBRuntime: 1hr 38 minDuncan is a genius straight A student, Blade is juvenile delinquent. But because of a mix up with their school records, everyone thinks each is the other one. Now, Duncan kind of likes the attention from being thought of as a real bad dude, if only the school bully would stop trying to rough him up. And Blade definitely likes being thought of as important instead of as trouble, if only the teacher would stop hitting on him for a date.
Mississippians Can Code, Too
When I was kid, I bought a learning kit from the book fair that taught me about electricity. It showed me how to wire an LED light and make a buzzer. I tried to set a trap to alarm me when somebody came to my room. Around the same time in life, I had a teacher who said I was lousy at math. I’ve avoided anything math or science-related as much as possible ever since.Two things happened this week related to that math aversion. I started an intensive 10-week course to learn software development, with the end goal of finding an entry level job as a software developer. And towards the end of the week, another learning kit arrived in the mail to teach me about circuits and solar electricity.I had a difficult time deciding whether or not to attend the coding class. But my first week of class (...)
The Real Wall Isn’t at the Border. It’s everywhere, and we’re fighting against the wrong one.
President Trump wants $5.7 billion to build a wall at the southern border of the United States. Nancy Pelosi thinks a wall is “immoral.” The fight over these slats or barriers or bricks shut down the government for more than a month and may do so again if Mr. Trump isn’t satisfied with the way negotiations unfold over the next three weeks.
But let’s be clear: This is a disagreement about symbolism, not policy. Liberals object less to aggressive border security than to the wall’s xenophobic imagery, while the administration openly revels in its political incorrectness. And when this particular episode is over, we’ll still have been fighting about the wrong thing. It’s true that immigrants will keep trying to cross into the United States and that global migration will almost certainly increase in the coming years as climate change makes parts of the planet uninhabitable. But technology and globalization are complicating the idea of what a border is and where it stands.
Not long from now, it won’t make sense to think of the border as a line, a wall or even any kind of imposing vertical structure. Tearing down, or refusing to fund, border walls won’t get anyone very far in the broader pursuit of global justice. The borders of the future won’t be as easy to spot, build or demolish as the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing. That’s because they aren’t just going up around countries — they’re going up around us. And they’re taking away our freedom.
In “The Jungle,” a play about a refugee camp in Calais, France, a Kurdish smuggler named Ali explains that his profession is not responsible for the large numbers of migrants making the dangerous journeys to Europe by sea. “Once, I was the only way a man could ever dream of arriving on your shore,” the smuggler says. But today, migrants can plan out the journeys using their phones. “It is not about this border. It’s the border in here,” Ali says, pointing to his head — “and that is gone, now.”
President Trump is obsessed with his border wall because technology has freed us from the walls in our heads.
For people with means and passports, it’s easy to plot exotic itineraries in a flash and book flights with just a glance at a screen. Social feeds are an endless stream of old faces in new places: a carefree colleague feeding elephants in Thailand; a smug college classmate on a “babymoon” in Tahiti; that awful ex hanging off a cliff in Switzerland; a friend’s parents enjoying retirement in New Zealand.
Likewise, a young person in Sana, Yemen, or Guatemala City might see a sister in Toronto, a neighbor in Phoenix, an aunt in London or a teacher in Berlin, and think that he, too, could start anew. Foreign places are real. Another country is possible.
If you zoom out enough in Google Earth, you’ll see the lines between nations begin to disappear. Eventually, you’ll be left staring at a unified blue planet. You might even experience a hint of what astronauts have called the “overview effect”: the sense that we are all on “Spaceship Earth,” together. “From space I saw Earth — indescribably beautiful with the scars of national boundaries gone,” recalled Muhammed Faris, a Syrian astronaut, after his 1987 mission to space. In 2012, Mr. Faris fled war-torn Syria for Turkey.
One’s freedom of movement used to be largely determined by one’s citizenship, national origin and finances. That’s still the case — but increasingly, people are being categorized not just by the color of their passports or their ability to pay for tickets but also by where they’ve been and what they’ve said in the past.
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This is what is happening on that front already:
A 2017 executive order barred people from seven countries, including five with Muslim majorities, from entering the country. An older rule put in place during the Obama administration compelled anyone who’d even just visited seven blacklisted nations to obtain additional clearance before traveling to the United States. Even as the Trump administration’s policy has met with legal challenges, it means that the barrier to entering the United States, for many, begins with their data and passport stamps, and is thousands of miles away from this country.
The Trump administration would also like to make it harder for immigrants who’ve received public assistance to obtain citizenship or permanent residence by redefining what it means to be a “public charge.” If the administration succeeds, it will have moved the border into immigrants’ living rooms, schools and hospital beds.
The walls of the future go beyond one administration’s policies, though. They are growing up all around us, being built by global technology companies that allow for constant surveillance, data harvesting and the alarming collection of biometric information. In 2017, the United States announced it would be storing the social media profiles of immigrants in their permanent file, ostensibly to prevent Twitter-happy terrorists from slipping in. For years, Customs and Border Protection agents have asked travelers about their social media, too.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said these practices can “chill and deter the free speech and association of immigrants to the United States, as well as the U.S. persons who communicate with them.” In other words, it’s no longer enough to have been born in the right place, at the right time, to the right parents. The trail of bread crumbs you leave could limit your movements.
It’s possible to get a glimpse of where a digital border might lead from China. Look at its continuing experiment with social-credit scoring, where a slip of the tongue or an unpaid debt could one day jeopardize someone’s ability to board a train or apply for a job. When your keystrokes and text messages become embedded in your legal identity, you create a wall around yourself without meaning to.
The Berkeley political theorist Wendy Brown diagnoses the tendency to throw up walls as a classic symptom of a nation-state’s looming impotence in the face of globalization — the flashy sports car of what she calls a “waning sovereignty.” In a recent interview for The Nation, Professor Brown told me that walls fulfill a desire for greater sovereign control in times when the concept of “bounded territory itself is in crisis.” They are signifiers of a “loss of a national ‘we’ and national control — all the things we’ve seen erupt in a huge way.”
Walls are a response to deep existential anxiety, and even if the walls come down, or fail to be built in brick and stone, the world will guarantee us little in the way of freedom, fairness or equality. It makes more sense to think of modern borders as overlapping and concentric circles that change size, shape and texture depending on who — or what — is trying to pass through.
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It’s far too easy to imagine a situation where our freedom of movement still depends entirely on what has happened to us in the past and what kind of information we’re willing to give up in return. Consider the expedited screening process of the Global Entry Program for traveling to the United States. It’s a shortcut — reserved for people who can get it — that doesn’t do away with borders. It just makes them easier to cross, and therefore less visible.
That serves the modern nation-state very well. Because in the end, what are borders supposed to protect us from? The answer used to be other states, empires or sovereigns. But today, relatively few land borders exist to physically fend off a neighboring power, and countries even cooperate to police the borders they share. Modern borders exist to control something else: the movement of people. They control us.
Those are the walls we should be fighting over.
Blocked by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
In retrospect, I understand why he blocked me. It’s a good learning experience.Blocker▻https://medium.com/media/502d5fdd1dc6c48499cdd02adbddfe4d/hrefhttps://medium.com/media/74c9a3fa0a5993457b625106aff569a6/hrefExperience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons. — UnknownBlockeebody[data-twttr-rendered="true"] background-color: transparent;.twitter-tweet margin: auto !important;@nntaleb Of course! ▻https://t.co/Js0aeANcFz — @attractfundingfunction notifyResize(height) height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) donkey.resize(height); resized = true;if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) var obj = iframe: window.frameElement, height: height; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;if (...)
La #grève des #enseignants de #Los_Angeles pourrait faire boule de neige | JOCELYNE ZABLIT | États-Unis
« Nous voici en ce jour pluvieux, dans l’un des pays les plus #riches du monde, dans l’un des États les plus riches du pays, un État aussi bleu (couleur du parti démocrate) que possible - et dans une ville qui regorge de millionnaires ! - avec des enseignants obligés de faire la grève pour obtenir le minimum pour nos élèves », s’est exclamé Alex Caputo-Pearl, président du syndicat des enseignants de Los Angeles (UTLA), lors d’une conférence de presse.
« Nous défendons l’essence même de l’#éducation_publique. La question est la suivante : est-ce que nous affamons nos écoles publiques de proximité pour aboutir à leur #privatisation ? Ou bien est-ce que nous investissons dans ces écoles, pour nos élèves et pour une ville en plein développement ? », a-t-il ajouté.
The Rapid Victory of the West Virginia Teacher Strike Shows What Happens When Progressives Join the Fight Against School Privatization | naked capitalism
He concedes, however, there are still unresolved issues in how progressives will coalesce on charters elsewhere. His progressive colleagues in states with lots of charters still feel an urge to not totally reject charters because parents whose children attend the schools are often from marginalized communities. And teachers who work in charters are potential targets for labor unions who want to organize the workers.
But he finds in places such as West Virginia, and neighboring Virginia and Kentucky, where there are very few or no charters, opposition to the schools is about saving public education. Opponents are quick to point to high-profile charter school scandals in Ohioand Pennsylvaniaas examples of what would befall their states. “It’s been 20 years of experimenting,” he says, “and experiments often fail.”
Frankenberry’s hope is that the solidarity shown by progressive opposition to school privatization in West Virginia can rub off on his colleagues in states where charters are more abundant. “We’re showing that we’re not going to accept these schools,” he says. “Maybe the progressive organizers in places where they already have them can get inspiration from us to rein charters in.”
Zuckett foresees opposition to charter schools and voucher programs continuing to be more of a point of contention that progressives will push in their policy positions, and not just in West Virginia. “The fight is on,” he says. “Shame on us if it isn’t.”
Pan Am Flight 103 : Robert Mueller’s 30-Year Search for Justice | WIRED
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?”
430,000 flee Cameroon’s restive Anglophone areas, says group
An international refugee agency says that more than 430,000 people have fled violence in Cameroon’s restive English-speaking regions and are hiding in rural areas with few resources.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, one of several humanitarian organizations offering support, said Wednesday it is assisting the displaced by providing shelter and supplies to needy families. David Manan, the Norwegian group’s country director for Cameroon, called for more international aid.
He said there are too few agencies on the ground to provide the amount of aid needed. He said many people are hiding in the bush.
Cameroon’s English-speaking separatists have been protesting since 2016 against what they claim is discrimination by the French-speaking majority. Their protests were initially peaceful, but in response to a government crackdown some separatists are waging a violent campaign.
Conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions forces 430,000 people to flee
The number of people displaced as a result of the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has spiked to more than 430,000 during the last months. Many people are hiding in the bush with no support, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“We are deeply worried by the ongoing conflict and the increasing displacement figures. Parties to the conflict must ensure that civilians in the area are protected and are able to safely access life-saving assistance,” said David Manan, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Cameroon.
The number of people displaced from their homes in Cameroon’s Anglophone Southwest and Northwest regions and in neighbouring Littoral and West regions has reached 437.000, according to the latest UN estimates.
NRC is assisting people displaced by this crisis. However, many people are left without any support, as insecurity is hindering organisations from accessing many areas. People are without proper shelter and sanitation facilities, clean water, food and access to medical care.
“The needs we are witnessing in the Southwest and Northwest regions are alarming and there are too few agencies on the ground to provide the necessary aid due to limited funding. We call for more donors to prioritise this crisis to allow more agencies to respond so that we can stem the rising tide of suffering and displacement,” said Manan.
“Displaced families who receive our assistance have told us that they share it or give it to their relatives who did not yet receive any assistance and desperately need help. Many people are hiding in the bush with no support, fearing for their lives,” added Manan.
“This is the first time I am being helped since I fled,” said Annoh, who received essential household items, including materials to build a shelter. “I will share what I have received with my husband who is hiding in the bush. He has nothing but the clothes he was wearing when he fled,” she added.
NRC is distributing household items, shelter and hygiene kits in Northwest and Southwest regions with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA) and European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
A generation of unschooled Cameroonians, another generation of conflict?
“As we trekked, they kept on telling us that they don’t want us to go to school again,” says 15-year-old Martha Lum, four weeks after being released by the armed gunmen who kidnapped her along with 78 other children and staff members in Cameroon.
Lum’s story is becoming common across the country’s Northwest and Southwest regions, where the conflict between anglophone separatists and francophone armed forces that’s claimed hundreds of lives has made schools a battlefield.
Since the anglophone conflict escalated in late 2017, more than 430,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. In May, the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, said approximately 42,500 children were out of school. However, local rights groups estimate that number has now increased fourfold following frequent abductions.
Some 20,000 school-age children now live in the bush. With no learning materials or trained teachers, they have no access to a formal education. Parents and local officials worry that the children could be driven to take up arms, becoming a lost generation that perpetuates the conflict and the humanitarian crisis.
“Imagine that these children miss school for five or 10 years because of the fighting, hearing the sound of guns every day, and seeing people being killed; what will become of them?” says 45-year-old mother of four *Elizabeth Tamufor.
“We have been hiding in the bush for more than a year,” she tells IRIN. “I am sure the children have forgotten what they were taught in school. You think in five years they will still be hiding here? They will probably pick up guns and start fighting.”
The fear of schoolchildren and young students joining the armed separatists is already a reality for some. *Michael, 20, used to be a student before the conflict started. He joined the separatists when his friend was killed by government forces.
“I replaced books with the gun since then. But I will return to school immediately we achieve our independence,” he says.
Right from the start
The roots of Cameroon’s anglophone conflict can be traced back to education. The separatists fighting for independence from French-majority Cameroon say the current school system symbolises the marginalisation of the English language and culture.
After years of discontent, in November 2016, anglophone teachers began an indefinite strike to protest what they said amounted to systematic discrimination against English-speaking teachers and students. In response, government security forces clamped down on protests, arresting hundreds of demonstrators, including children, killing at least four people and wounding many more.
This caused widespread anger across the Southwest and Northwest regions, which a year later led to the rise of the armed separatist groups now fighting for independence and a new English-speaking nation called “#Ambazonia”.
Although the majority of teacher trade unions called off their strike in February 2017, separatists continue to impose curfews and abduct people as a means to push the local population to refrain from sending children back to school.
As a result, tens of thousands of children haven’t attended school since 2016. Local media is awash with stories of kidnappings of children and teachers who do not comply with the boycott, while rights groups say the disruption of education puts children at risk of exploitation, child labour, recruitment by armed groups, and early marriage.
“Schools have become targets,” a July 2018 Human Rights Watch report notes. “Either because of these threats, or as a show of solidarity by parents and teachers with the separatist cause, or both, school enrollment levels have dropped precipitously during the crisis.”
In June, Amnesty International said at least 42 schools had been attacked since February last year. While latest statistics are not available, it is believed that at least 100 separate incidents of school kidnapping have taken place since the separatist movement turned violent in 2017. More than 100 schools have also been torched and at least a dozen teachers killed or wounded, according to Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon’s minister of communication.
The separatist view
Speaking to IRIN last month in Bali, a town neighbouring Bamenda – the capital of Northwest region – armed separatist leader *Justin says his group is enforcing the school boycott started by the teacher trade unions.
“They (teachers) started a strike action to resist the ‘francophonisation’ of the anglophone system of education, and the evil francophone regime arrested and detained their colleagues, shot dead schoolchildren, and you expect us to sit down and watch them killing our people?”
“We don’t want the schoolchildren of Ambazonia to be part of the corrupt francophone system of education,” he said. “We have designed a new school programme for them which will start as soon as we achieve our independence.“
*Laba, who controls another group of armed separatists, is more categorical. “When we say no school, we mean no school,” he says emphatically. “We have never and will never kill a student or teacher. We just want them to stay home until we get our independence and begin implementing our own system of education.”
There are about 20 armed separatist groups across the two English-speaking regions. They operate independently, and separatists have publicly disagreed on the various methods of imposing the school boycott.
Both Justin and Laba accuse the government of staging “some” of the school abductions in order “to discredit the image of the separatists internationally”. But they also admit that some armed separatist groups are guilty of kidnapping and killing children and teachers.
“We don’t kidnap schoolchildren,” Justin says. “We just impose curfews to force them to stay home.”
But for many parents and schoolchildren, staying at home for this long is already having devastating consequences.
School children in uniforms walk on the street toward camera.https://assets.irinnews.org/s3fs-public/styles/responsive_large/public/school_children_returning_from_school_in_buea_one_of_the_few_places_in_the_english-speaking_regions_where_some_schools_still_function._2_1920.jpg?S38Lf10HwzRNhx8Jlrb3pm5VuZWrIE_7&itok=9Z3UQBKr#.jpg
‘Everything is different’
Parents who can afford it have enrolled their children in schools in the French-speaking part of the country – mostly Douala and Yaoundé. But the influx has caused fees to rise in the francophone zones. Tuition fees that normally cost $150 annually have now more than doubled to $350.
Beyond the costs, parents also need to transport their children from the troubled regions, along a very insecure highway, to apply for enrollment.
When they get there, success is far from guaranteed. A lot of the francophone schools are now at full capacity and have stopped accepting students from anglophone regions, meaning many children will likely have to stay home for yet another year.
Those studying in a new environment can also take quite a while to adapt.
George Muluh, 16, had been at a school in the Southwest region before the conflict but is now attending Government Bilingual High School Deido in Douala.
“Everything is just different,” he says. “I don’t understand French. The classrooms are overcrowded. The teaching method is different. I am getting more and more confused every day. I just want the conflict to end so I can go back to the Southwest to continue my studies.”
It might be a long while before George has that opportunity. To the Cameroonian government, the teachers’ grievances have already been solved.
“The government has employed 1,000 bilingual teachers, allocated two billion CFA ($4 million) to support private education, transferred teachers who could not speak French and redeployed them to French zones. These were the demands of the teachers. What do they want again?” asks Tchiroma, the minister of communication.
But Sylvester Ngan, from the Teachers Association of Cameroon (TAC), which defends the rights of English-speaking teachers in the country, says most of these measures are cosmetic and don’t solve key issues related to French-only exams and francophone teachers in English schools.
Leave the children alone
While the government and teachers’ unions argue about who is right and what education system to implement, the war is ongoing, people are dying, and tens of thousands of children are not in school.
“No reason can be advanced to justify the unwarranted attacks on children in general and pupils who are seeking to acquire knowledge and skills,” says Jacques Boyer, UNICEF representative in Cameroon. “All children in the regions must be able to go to school in peace.”
President Paul Biya, 85, who just won another seven-year term after 36 years in power, has ignored calls for an inclusive dialogue to end the conflict. The first related measure he undertook after the October election was the creation of a commission to disarm and reintegrate former armed separatists.
Cameroonian political analyst Michael Mbah describes the move as “a joke”, saying that a ceasefire and dialogue must precede any serious attempt at disarmament and reintegration.
Meanwhile, the next year looks bleak for children like Lum whose futures are being decided by a war beyond their control. “I have always wanted to become a medical doctor,” Lum tells IRIN, but she now fears her dream will be shattered by the persistent conflict.
“Leave the children alone,” says *Raymond, a father of four whose offspring haven’t been able to study for close to two years now.
“We, parents, cannot afford to raise a generation of illiterates,” he says. “The future of the children is being sacrificed, just like that.”
*Names changed at the request of the interviewees for security reasons.
« Le nom Ambazonia a été préféré à Southern British Cameroons afin de ne pas confondre cette zone avec la région territoriale du sud (Southern Cameroon). Les « autonomistes ambazoniens » avaient à cœur de trouver un nom local afin de bannir « Cameroun » qu’ils considéraient comme le symbole du lourd fardeau de l’héritage colonial. Pour cela, ils ont fouillé dans les livres d’histoire et inventé le nom Ambazonia. Celui-ci dérive d’Ambas, nom donné à la région de l’embouchure du fleuve Wouri. Ce site, en forme de baie, avait alors reçu le nom anglais Baie d’Ambas1. »
DevOps101 : How To Provide #infrastructure To Your #startup In 6 Easy Steps
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