Karachi: Cell Phone Videos Tell Stories of Migrant Life

Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri of the Tentative Collective in Creativetime Reports:

This November, the Tentative Collective’s project Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema began gathering cell phone videos from migrants living in Karachi. Produced in response to the question, “Home: What did you do last Sunday—anything fun?” the videos provide snapshots into migrant life in Pakistan’s largest city. When a substantial number of videos has been compiled, we will ask the community to help set up a series of free screenings in various parts of Karachi, using our rickshaw-powered projector to feature every video made by neighborhood residents…

The first communities we are working with are comprised of migrants from Bangladesh and Burma (including many of the persecuted Rohingya minority) and rural Pashtun migrants from the northern areas of Pakistan. Embedded within the Bengali/Burmese community are muhajirs (literally, “migrants”): Urdu-speaking Muslims who arrived from India after partition in 1947, and their descendants. Though the inception of Pakistan was based on the self-governance of a Muslim majority, inclusivity for Muslim migrants, and a space for minorities, the reality of Pakistan is riddled with ethnic and class complexities that divide the land into isolated zones and enclaves. This division extends to the public space surrounding these enclaves—whether they are irregular communities like the ones we are working in, or highly formalized, planned spaces.

More here. And here is one of the videos:

Lincoln on Slavery

From NPS:

SlaveryAbraham Lincoln is often referred to as “The Great Emancipator” and yet, he did not publicly call for emancipation throughout his entire life. Lincoln began his public career by claiming that he was “antislavery” — against slavery's expansion, but not calling for immediate emancipation. However, the man who began as “antislavery” eventually issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in those states that were in rebellion. He vigorously supported the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery throughout the United States, and, in the last speech of his life, he recommended extending the vote to African Americans. This brief study of Lincoln's writings on slavery contains examples of Lincoln's views on slavery. It also shows one of his greatest strengths: his ability to change as it relates to his public stance on slavery.

At the age of 28, while serving in the Illinois General Assembly, Lincoln made one of his first public declarations against slavery.

The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:

“Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that that power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said District.

The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.”

Dan Stone,
A. Lincoln,
Representatives from the county of Sangamon

More here. (Note: At least one daily post throughout the month of February will be devoted to African American History Month)

Breast cancer caught in the act of spreading

From Nature:

Breast cancerHow cancers cells make that journey has long puzzled researchers: the cells that make up cancers in epithelial tissue, such as the surface cells of the lung and breast, generally prefer to stick together and are not suited for a rough-and-tumble trip through the bloodstream. One theory holds that metastasizing tumour cells activate pathways that are normally reserved for ‘mesenchymal’ cells, which move around in developing embryos2. This has been termed the epithelial–mesenchymal transition, or EMT, and some companies have been hard at work developing drugs that target this switch. But most of evidence supporting a role for the EMT in cancer spread has come from animal models. And analyses of tumour cells circulating in the blood has been limited because the techniques tend to pick up only epithelial cells. “It was pioneering technology, but we’ve always been worried that if EMT was happening, we’d miss the mesenchymal tumour cells this way,” says Dive.

Daniel Haber and Shyamala Maheswaran, both at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, and their colleagues, therefore developed a new suite of markers to identify tumour cells circulating in the blood. They then tracked these cells, and characterized their gene expression, in 11 people undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. The team found that when tumours responded to treatment, the proportion of circulating tumour cells harbouring mesenchymal features began to drop. Failure of therapy was followed by resurgence of mesenchymal tumour cells.

More here.

Impunity in India

Shubh Mathur in Guernica:

Guernica-kashmir2On Saturday June 9, 2012, Major Avtar Singh, formerly of the Indian Army and living in Selma, California, shot his wife and three children. Before turning the gun on himself, he called the Sheriff’s office and told them that he had killed four people. The SWAT team that responded to the call found his youngest and oldest sons, ages three and seventeen, and his wife, dead of gunshot wounds to the head; the middle son, fifteen years old, was critically injured, but alive. He died a few days later, from wounds to the head.

The execution-style gunshots to the head were identical to those which killed Major Singh’s most famous victim, the Kashmiri human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi. Andrabi was abducted, tortured and murdered in 1996 for exposing abuses carried out by the Indian Army in Kashmir. Major Avtar Singh was also wanted by Kashmir’s courts and Interpol for the murder of twenty-eight people in Kashmir in the course of his career as an officer in 35 Rashtriya Rifles, a counterinsurgency unit of the Indian Army. The story of his crimes and the manner in which he evaded justice for sixteen years is a grim chronicle of Indian crimes against humanity in Kashmir and of the silence of the international community which has abetted these. The impunity exploited by India and enabled by the international community clearly corrupted Singh’s conscience, to judge by the murder of his family and his subsequent suicide. Until it deals with the gross human rights violations in Kashmir and an impunity that harkens back to its colonial past, India’s proud claims as the world’s most populous democracy are fatally tainted.

More here.

Thou shalt be judge how I do spend my time


Wyatt used to be imagined as a lover, courtier and chivalric hero. The ambiguities of courtly love were supposed to have prepared him for the veiled language of international diplomacy. But Brigden shows Wyatt’s world to have been tougher than this – as tough as anything in Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall. For the Wars of the Roses – a nobility vying for power and control of the Crown, eliminating rivals and enemies – ended in barbarism. Honour was reduced to tribal loyalty, and revenge commonly meant beheading. Wyatt’s father, Sir Henry Wyatt, had been interrogated by Richard III: force-fed a mustard-and-vinegar emetic, he remained silent, faithful to Henry Tudor. Thomas was a hard man like his father, a ruthless agent of Henry VIII. At the age of twenty, he was entrusted with carrying a huge sum in gold to pay the garrison of the northern marches. Wyatt probably was brought up as a page in a noble household, much as he himself later arranged for his nephew Henry Lee, the future Champion of Queen Elizabeth. The curriculum included theory of chivalry, horsemanship, swordsmanship and the mimic war of hunting.

more from Alastair Fowler at the TLS here.

bernhard and unseld


Bernhard was not easy to love. In his first letter to Unseld, dated October 22, 1961, he was formal and professional, mindful that he was addressing the German publisher of Hermann Hesse, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Theodor Adorno, T.S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, George Bernard Shaw and Walter Benjamin. “I possess a few books produced by you and they are among the best of the recent time,” Bernhard wrote in one of the hundreds of letters collected in Der Briefwechsel von Thomas Bernhard, Siegfried Unseld (2009). (An English translation of selections from the volume is forthcoming from Seagull Books.) He requested a conversation, explaining that he knew people who knew Unseld, and then declared, “But I go it alone.” This was the first hint of Bernhard’s obsession with independence. Once, in September 1971, Bernhard turned up in Unseld’s office, requested the original of a contract he had signed the day before, tore it out of the publisher’s hands and crossed out one of its clauses. (“It was a definite low point,” Unseld noted in his chronicle of the meeting.) The main character in his novel Correction (1975) channels Bernhard’s frustration: “Our ambition is to get out of these contracts and written agreements, for life.” Though he often needed and demanded safety nets, Bernhard feared becoming entangled in them and struggled constantly against their embrace.

more from Holly Case at The Nation here.

google frontierism


There are ways in which Silicon Valley is nothing like this: it’s clean, quiet work, and here to stay in one form or another. But there are ways in which technology is just another boom and the Bay Area is once again a boomtown, with transient populations, escalating housing costs, mass displacements and the casual erasure of what was here before. I think of it as frontierism, with all the frontier’s attitude and operational style, where people without a lot of attachments come and do things without a lot of concern for their impact, where money moves around pretty casually, and people are ground underfoot equally casually. Sometimes the Google Bus just seems like one face of Janus-headed capitalism; it contains the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves. In the same spaces wander homeless people undeserving of private space, or the minimum comfort and security; right by the Google bus stop on Cesar Chavez Street immigrant men from Latin America stand waiting for employers in the building trade to scoop them up, or to be arrested and deported by the government. Both sides of the divide are bleak, and the middle way is hard to find.

more from Rebecca Solnit at the LRB here.

Focus on the slave trade

From BBC:

BlackThe exact numbers of Africans shipped overseas during the slave trade are hotly debated—estimates range between 10 and 28 million. What is undisputed is the degree of savage cruelty endured by men, women and children. Up to 20% of those chained in the holds of the slave ships died before they even reached their destination. Between 1450 and 1850 at least 12 million Africans were taken across the notorious Middle Passage of the Atlantic—mainly to colonies in North America, South America, and the West Indies. The Middle Passage was integral to a larger pattern of commerce developed by European countries. European traders would export manufactured goods to the west coast of Africa where they would be exchanged for slaves. The slaves were then sold for huge profits in the Americas.

More here. (Note: One daily post throughout the month of February will be devoted to commemorate African American History Month)

A minute with director Deepa Mehta on “Midnight’s Children”

From DAWN:

Midnights-children67Film director Deepa Mehta is no stranger to controversy. Two of her movies – “Fire” and “Water” – were hit by protests from right-wing groups in India, and there were fears her latest cinematic offering would meet a similar fate. “Midnight’s Children”, Mehta’s adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel by Salman Rushdie, opens in Indian cinemas on Friday. The film, which chronicles the story of an Indian family living through the tumultuous events of the country’s recent past, features a voice over by Rushdie. The book’s depiction of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s role during India’s Emergency in the 1970s had thrown the film’s screening into doubt. Mehta, 63, spoke to Reuters about “Midnight’s Children,” adapting a book for the screen and “un-filmable films.”

Q: Many people had said that “Midnight’s Children” might be un-filmable. Was it an easy book to adapt?

A: “This is not the first book that I have adapted. I worked on Bapsi Sidhwa’s book for ‘Earth’. All books, by their very nature, don’t have to make good films. I think it depends on the filmmaker– if the filmmaker finds that something in that inherent story has resonance for them, then you say let me try and do it … One of the things you have to be aware of is that the film is not a facsimile of the book. It was the same with Midnight’s Children. Yes, it was an iconic book. Yes, people said it was un-filmable. For me, it was a very clear narrative.”

Q: Were there parts that you wanted to leave out?

A: “Absolutely. Early on I told Salman (Rushdie) … to write down in narrative form what he thought the flow of the film should be and I’ll do the same. Separately, we wrote down what we felt the progress of the story should be in the film. We found, much to our surprise, that the points were almost identical. You know then, that your vision is the same.”

More here.

Working alone won’t get you good grades

From PhysOrg:

WorkingaloneCebrian and colleagues analyzed 80,000 interactions between 290 in a collaborative learning environment for college courses. The major finding was that a higher number of online interactions was usually an indicator of a higher score in the class. High achievers also were more likely to form strong connections with other students and to exchange information in more complex ways. High achievers tended to form cliques, shutting out low-performing students from their interactions. Students who found themselves shut out were not only more likely to have lower grades; they were also more likely to drop out of the class entirely.

“Elite groups of highly connected individuals formed in the first days of the course,” said Cebrian, who also is a Senior Researcher at National ICT Australia Ltd, Australia's Information and Research Centre of Excellence. “For the first time, we showed that there is a very strong correspondence between and exchange of information – a 72 percent correlation,” he said “but almost equally interesting is the fact that these high-performing students form 'rich-clubs', which shield themselves from low-performing students, despite the significant efforts by these lower-ranking students to join them. The weaker students try hard to engage with the elite group intensively, but can't. This ends up having a marked correlation with their dropout rates.”

More here.

Just and Unjust Peace


Over at The Immanent Frame:

“What is justice in the wake of large-scale injustice?” Daniel Philpott asks. Just and Unjust Peace is his deep and hopeful answer that question. Analyzing mainstream thought in the United Nations, developed countries, and the human rights community, Philpott challenges current peacebuilding practices. Instead, he introduces an ethic of reconciliation rooted in the three Abrahamic religious traditions and consistent with modern constitutional-democratic and international norms, presenting six practices to be applied in post-crisis contexts to effect a peace that is at once just, fulfilling, and long-lasting. This forum brings together academic participants from a range of related disciplines as they reflect on Philpott’s quest for a universal standard of reconciliation and soulcraft.

Bronwyn Leebaw, Leslie Vinjamuri, Colleen Murphy, Mark Freeman and Nukhet Sandal comment on the book. Vinjamuri:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrated its ten-year anniversary last summer. During its first decade of life, both the shadow and the actuality of international justice in the form of investigation, trial, and judgment have become a central feature of many conflicts, ongoing and concluded. Nearly a decade before the ICC opened its doors, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission attracted enormous global attention, and the moral sanction against racial violence at its core resonated across the globe. And yet, the concept of reconciliation that defined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has not occupied the same coveted (if also contested) international space that international justice—through trials—does today. If anything, advocates of justice and trials have subsumed reconciliation and truth seeking into a package of justice that has trials at its core. In his new book, Just and Unjust Peace, Daniel Philpott forces us to rethink this ordering. Political reconciliation is at the center of Philpott’s conception of justice. The ethic of reconciliation is, in Philpott’s words, “a concept of justice that aims to restore victims, perpetrators, citizens, and the governments of states that have been involved in political injustices to a condition of right relationship within a political order or between political orders—a condition characterized by human rights, democracy, the rule of law, respect for international law; by widespread recognition of the legitimacy of these values; and by the virtues that accompany these values.” The six practices that Philpott identifies as core to reconciliation (building socially just institutions, acknowledgments, reparations, punishment, apology, and forgiveness) encompass much that is central to liberal peacebuilding, including trials, but together these present a far more ambitious standard for just peacebuilding. These practices aim to restore relationships, a task that Philpott identifies as fundamental to securing a peaceful future.

The Real Wisdom of the Crowds


Ed Yong over at National Geographic's Not Exactly Rocket Science (via Jennifer Ouellette):

In 1907, Sir Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess the weight of an ox. None of them got the right answer, but when Galton averaged their guesses, he arrived at a near perfect estimate. This is a classic demonstration of the “wisdom of the crowds”, where groups of people pool their abilities to show collective intelligence. Galton’s story has been told and re-told, with endless variations on the theme. If you don’t have an ox handy, you can try it yourself with beans in a jar.

To Iain Couzin from Princeton University, these stories are a little boring. Everyone is trying to solve a problem, and they do it more accurately together than alone. Whoop-de-doo. By contrast, Couzin has found an example of a more exciting type of collective intelligence—where a group solves a problem that none of its members are even aware of. Simply by moving together, the group gains new abilities that its members lack as individuals.

Couzin has spent his whole career studying animals that move in shoals, flocks and swarms. His early work involved ants and locusts but when he started his own lab at Princeton, he thought he’d upgrade to a smarter group-living species. Unfortunately, he ended up with the golden shiner—a small, bland, minnow-like fish that’s dumb beyond the telling of it.