News for progressives

The Gerald Stanley trial result was a travesty

Rabble News - Sun, 2018-02-11 11:45
February 10, 2018Indigenous RightsAn all-white jury runs from justice in the trial of Gerald StanleyDon’t say that Canada or Saskatchewan failed Indigenous people -- Canada just failed. It wasn’t a mob of racists that released a killer onto the streets -- it was 12 regular Canadians.Colten BoushieJustice for ColtenIndigenous rightsfirst nations rightsjustice
Categories: News for progressives

Who is doing what in Syria and why

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog It seems that every time a chapter in the war on Syria comes to an end, a new factor surfaces. Just like the
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China’s latest move in the graveyard of empires

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author) Beijing’s strategic priority is to prevent ETIM fighters exiled in Afghanistan crossing the Wakhan Corridor to
Categories: News for progressives

Syria - Is War With Israel Imminent?

Around 6 am GMT the Syrian air defense shot downed an Israeli fighter jet that was attacking the country. There is now the chance that a larger war will ensue. (The whole story behind this will surely be covered in...
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A Book On Hizbullah That Deserves Your Attention

We have often quoted Elijah J. Magnier's reports from Syria and Iraq. His insight and access to the various actors on the ground is unique. Yesterday he posted this request: Elijah J. Magnier‏ @ejmalrai - 7:06 PM - 9 Feb...
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Moveable Feast Cafe 2018/02/09 … Open Thread

2018/02/09 20:00:02Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
Categories: News for progressives

WaPo's Ignatius: "ISIS Is There - When The U.S. Needs It"

David Ignatius, a CIA and Pentagon mouthpiece writing at Jeff Bezos's blog, stenographs the U.S. claims about yesterday's massacre against local pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor. There is a funny contradiction in his tale. In a first step Ignatius must...
Categories: News for progressives

Toward a Better World

Progressive economics forum - Fri, 2018-02-09 22:46

That is the well chosen title of a marvelous new book by Gerry Helleiner,  sub-titled Memoirs of a Life in International and Development Economics. Helleiner, from his home base at the University of Toronto, tells us in this most readable book, in his own modest way, the stories, notably from Africa, of how he devoted his life as an economist to that end. His rewards include his membership in the Order of Canada.

Helleiner describes himself as a progressive economist and is so judged by scholars. He has a strong commitment to social justice, to aiding the cause of poor countries, particularly the smaller of them, and the poorest within those poor countries.

His advise has been frequently sought by those involved in economic development in what we now call the Global South.  His students have pursued successful careers in developing countries and with NGOs in the developed countries, and he is justly proud of that.

There is an abundance of quotable quotes. “Economics is not where everyone goes for inspiration or excitement. But I must say that my life as a teaching and practicing economist has been deeply fulfilling and at times wildly exciting.” Surely a great recommendation for being a progressive economist.,

For Helleiner economics is not a dismal science. “I believe the record of the past half century [with particular reference of Africa] which, in truth, does make some despair, can instead inspire hope for the kind of dramatic positive change that is possible.” This is a powerful message to progressive economists of hope in hard times.

On an issue that should be dear to the heart of progressive economists, Helleiner appeals for graduate studies in economics to be more heterodox, and less theory-driven . He describes how his own department at Toronto fell victim to these North American tendencies and how this  has adversely affected the program in  economic development. (So too was my own field of economic history.)

Ultimately, of course, economics which preaches the virtue of markets must itself respond to their evident failures. Helleiner’s passionate pleas should hasten that day.

Categories: News for progressives

Bill 148 and precarious workers - will it make a difference?

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-02-09 15:15
February 9, 2018LabourBill 148 and precarious workers - will it make a difference?The Urban Worker Project is an extension of the work on precarious pay by former MP Andrew Cashprecarious employmentlabour
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Bill 148 and precarious workers - will it make a difference?

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-02-09 15:14
February 9, 2018LabourThe Urban Worker Project is an extension of the work on precarious pay by former MP Andrew Cashprecarious employmentPrecarious Workemploymentlabour
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Heroic Death Of Russian Su-25 Pilot And Operation In Idlib On February 3, militants of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) shot down a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft with a MANPAD, over the village of Khan al-Sabil in the
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Hijabs, feminism and hypocrisy in mainstream narratives of women's liberation

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-02-09 03:41

When it comes to women's wear, everyone has an opinion -- from fashion designers to mothers-in-law, to boyfriends, to politicians, to random people on the street.

For Muslim women who wear the hijab (headscarf) or the niqab (a face-covering veil) these opinions may be even more unsolicited and can become subjects of books, movies, laws, heated family discussions, slurs on the street and even federal election campaigns like the one we had in Canada in 2015. If you think I am exaggerating, you need only go back four months in time and read about Bill 62, introduced and passed in Quebec's National Assembly, which prohibits women from receiving public services while wearing a niqab.

And if you still have doubts, you can read about the "burkini ban" in France during the summer of 2016 when Muslim women wearing burkinis (swim attire consisting of leggings and a dress with a hoodie) were banned from beaches.

These political decisions, whether made in Quebec, Canada, France or elsewhere, are justified by two main arguments. They are either seen through the "holy" lens of secularism or through the noble objective of women's liberation and feminism.

As far as the "myth of secularism" and how it brought more rights to women in Western societies, I leave it to Joan Wallach Scott, who wrote extensively about the topic and who demolishes the secularism argument in her recent book, Sex and Secularism.

As for the feminist argument, let me share some personal experience and thoughts to show how it has been wrongly used.

Even when Muslim women strongly and loudly voice their disagreement that they are not oppressed and that wearing the hijab or niqab is their own choice, they are not taken seriously or they are not heard at all.

Personally, I have heard many comments directed at me, especially from women, telling me that I am oppressed without knowing it or that I have been brainwashed by patriarchal Islamists (understood to be my father, brother and/or husband) without noticing it (perhaps while I was busy writing my PhD thesis).

Today, in the era of the #MeToo and "Time's up" movement, it is time to trust women's stories when they are facing all sorts of adversity. It is unacceptable that we still have issues with trusting women's intelligence and decisions, especially when those decisions happen to run against other people's desires and counter the mainstream narratives of women's liberation.

We live in a time of hypocrisy, where double standards are commonly used, especially by those who use feminism whenever its suits their personal agenda.

Last week, about 29 women decided to stand up publicly in the streets of Iran and remove their hijabs. They were protesting the compulsory hijab imposed on women since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

On social media, these women were described as "heroes" and their protests branded as "courageous." Even though I strongly believe that these spectacular actions play into the Western obsession with the hijab and Muslim women's bodies, I consider these actions courageous. However, on the other side of the spectrum, when Zunera Ishaq legally challenged the Harper government to be able to take the citizenship oath while wearing a niqab, she was not called "courageous" on social media. On the contrary, then prime minister Stephen Harper jumped to a simplistic justification for the hijab ban and described the niqab as "rooted in a culture that is anti-women."

Another example of the hypocrisy of those using feminism when it suits their agenda is the treatment of Amena Khan, the first Muslim model hired by L'Oréal, to star in a campaign selling hair products. A few hours later she was fired after old tweets surfaced in which she made harsh criticisms towards Israel and its policies vis à vis Palestinians. Even though I have tremendous reservations about how the hijab is being used by multinational corporations and thus becoming another marketing tool used, for instance, by l'Oréal or H&M, to get customers and profits, I was dumbfounded by how the loud voices using feminism here and there didn't find it outrageous that a woman was silenced for her opinions.

Some would argue that in Iran or in Saudi Arabia (another country where women are obliged to cover their heads and bodies), when women decide to remove their hijab, chador or niqab in acts of defiance, they stand to lose their freedom and this could put their life in danger, in contrast to Amena Khan losing her job in the U.K. or women unable to take the bus and visit the public library in Quebec. I agree. We should compare apples to apples and not to oranges. However, we should also keep in mind that consequences are relative to the state of the democracies we live in and if women are removed from jobs and public spaces for their appearance this will lead to their social and economic marginalization, which is not a minor fact.

During the '90s, women in Tunisia, the country where I grew up, were persecuted because they were wearing the hijab. They were raped, verbally and physically assaulted by police officers, put in prison and some even died. Last year, the truth and dignity commission listened to some of the survivors' horrific stories. All these years, these women have been suffering in silence. France, one of the main allies and supporters of the regime at that time, never called these women "brave" or "heroes" or used feminism to defend them. They were left to their fate.

Homa Hoodffar, a Canadian scholar originally from Iran who was arrested in 2016 by the Iranian regime and later released, wrote about how Iranian women lived under the Shah dictatorship before the Islamic revolution, and explained how many Iranian women suffered when the Shah banned the veil in an attempt at "modernization." Many women stopped going out because they didn't want to be uncovered. They stopped socializing and were deprived of going to places such as public baths or even working outside, thus losing social and economic status.

My point isn't to defend some choices over others or to claim that wearing a hijab is harder or more courageous than removing it. Both are difficult and dangerous decisions depending on the countries where women live. However, it is how the same "feminism" is used to justify some actions and denounce others that deeply bothers me. I believe that "time's up" to have all women's decisions and stories taken seriously. We can't pick and choose which women are worth listening to and whose stories are braver than others.

Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and recently, a novel about Muslim women, Mirrors and Mirages. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog

Photo: dzoro/flickr

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niqab banhijabmuslim womenwomen's bodiesWestern feminism#metooMonia MazighFebruary 9, 2018On independence and the niqabQuebec's shameful embrace of a niqab ban grew out of the identity politics that followed the failed 1995 referendum to separate from CanadaQuebec's face-covering ban encourages bigotrySome political leaders have condemned Quebec’s Law 62 as a violation of human rights; others not. Justin Trudeau has been circumspect, while Jagmeet Singh and the Ontario legislature have gone further.Once again the bodies of Muslim women are used to justify warsHarper is decrying the "poor status" of Muslim women abroad while disregarding calls for women's rights at home. These political tactics have a long history of justifying colonization and imperialism.
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Syrian War Report – February 8, 2018: US-led Coalition Struck Syrian Army In Deir Ezzor On February 7, the US-led coalition carried out several airstrikes on positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the province of Deir Ezzor. The coalition claimed that the
Categories: News for progressives

Disruptive innovation could set hearing aid industry on its ear

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-02-09 00:16

For the last couple of years my hearing has been failing me. I can't completely understand dialogue in Marvel movies, conversations in bars or, lately, even one-on-one conversations in a relatively quiet room.

But, I've been reluctant to get hearing aids. Partially that's for reasons of vanity. I don't want to look like an old man, despite the fact that my grey male pattern baldness, hair-filled ears and deepening wrinkles are not fooling anyone.

Having thin wires disappearing into my auditory canals from what look like silver tangerine segments behind my ears was just a bridge too far.

But there is another and equally important reason for my reluctance. I think the hearing aid industry is ripe for disruptive innovation.

This really came home to me a couple of weeks ago when I caved to reality and explored my hearing aid options at a local audiologist. She was a pleasant young woman who explained why it was that two hearing aids can cost as much as three new iMacs.

She told me that I would really be paying for the hardware itself, the R&D that went into it and, of course, her expertise as a professional who could accurately assess my hearing and tune hearing aids precisely to my needs.

I have no issue with her expertise and education. I appreciate the time she took with me. But the rest of the argument is patent nonsense. Which is why I think the hearing aid industry is in for a rude awakening from Google, Apple or some other tech company.

Trial run

I got a loaner pair of hearing aids from the audiologist. They were two crescent-shaped grey plastic cases with silicon-covered receivers attached to them by thin, flexible wires. They, frankly, looked like a creaky gizmo you'd buy in a Skymall catalogue for $49.95 if you were drunk on a long flight.

When I got them home I realized I didn't ask how to turn them off. I then discovered it was easy. You just had to open the tiny battery case in each and let the energy cell protrude out a bit.

That was a unique technology experience for me. I would be paying up to $6,000 for an electronic device I had to open the battery door on to shut down. I imagined having to do this with a digital camera, laptop or even portable radio that cost $7 on Amazon. And, I pictured the devices shorting out if I accidentally wore them in the shower since the battery housing clearly isn't sealed.

The hearing aids came in a plastic case that did nothing but contain them. When I shook the box slightly I could hear the loose devices rattling around inside.

The audiologist told me I could use the hearing aids with Bluetooth. That way I could listen to calls and music coming from my iPhone. That's true, but to do it, I would have to hang a device the size of a hockey puck around my neck so the inductive signal from the wire necklace could communicate with the non-Bluetooth-capable hearing aids. The kludginess of that solution is almost laughable. And, the audio quality, even for podcasts, was tinny and dreadful.

Comparing devices

It was hard not to compare the hearing aids to my Apple AirPods. These are also small devices that pipe sound into your ears. The AirPods are elegant pieces of industrial design. In their small housing they contain a microphone, an earphone, a digital signal processor, a Bluetooth receiver, a rechargeable battery, an accelerometer and a proximity sensor. And, I can summon Siri with two taps on the side of one AirPod. Their case is like a smooth, white river stone. The AirPods snap into it and are held snugly. That case also acts as a charger for the devices.

The AirPods connect directly to my phone via Bluetooth and deliver rich, stereo sound. And they can go through a wash cycle without damage.

Plus, they cost under $200. Other manufacturers like Bose, Google and Jabra make similar devices. The Jabra can even monitor heart rate and Google's set can translate dozens of languages in real time.

Now, of course, these are earpods, not hearing aids. But, from an industrial design, electronics and hardware point-of-view, it is a fair comparison. In fact, most earpods have more, not less, electronics in them than hearing aids.

Where they differ from hearing aids is in the software. The chip in hearing aids samples audio a million times a second. It is programmed to work specifically for the unique type of hearing loss sufferers live with. And, a lot of R&D goes into the design of that chip and the tuneable software that it contains.

Audiologists argue that a good chunk of the cost of hearing aids is that R&D expenditure. But Bose, Google, Jabra and Apple also have significant R&D investments wrapped up in their devices. Case in point: Apple has 100 engineers alone working on the camera in the iPhone.

Plus, much of early R&D costs for electronic devices is amortized over the first few years of a device's creation. Ongoing R&D expenses make up a small portion of the overall cost of a shipping product compared to marketing, retail markup and production costs.

Now, Apple, Google, Bose and others have a huge advantage in economics of scale when they make their products. Which is why the Big Six hearing aid companies should be nervous.

Primed for disruption

They are in a classic disruption space. They are incumbents in an industry that offers a high-cost product and are dependent on that high cost and the business models that support it. A good percentage of folks who need hearing aids don't have them because of that cost. They are actively seeking a cheaper solution. That's why small disrupters such as online hearing aids sales companies like Audicus and big box stores like Costco are making a tiny dent by offering cheaper, though often inferior, solutions.

But they're not the real disruptors. Apple has already invested millions in health research for its Apple Watch. The rich data sets and expertise on wearable health monitoring can be translated into ear-centric wearable health devices. It has state-of-the-art audio labs and is exploring augmented reality glasses that will probably contain augmented audio as part of the experience. And, of course, it has AirPods that will get smaller and more powerful in the next few years. And Apple is a demonstrated master at stepping into an industry with lousy user experience and cleaning its clock.

Google has shown with Google Photos that it can use machine learning to study millions of images and produce an AI that gets better and better at recognizing trees, sheep, canoes, etc. in those images. That same technology applied to crowdsourced soundwaves and applied dynamically to existing earpods could dramatically improve the devices' abilities to process real-world sound.

None of this will happen next year, but I bet in five, the hearing aid industry will be set on its ear. In the meantime, I'll spend my hearing aid money on an iMac, a laptop and a big screen 4K TV and still have cash left over for another set of AirPods.

Do I wish I could hear better now? Of course. But I don't want to be a chump with Skymall junk in my ears. So, I'll keep holding out for a better solution. If you hear of one, give me a shout.

Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years, and is a long-time writer for on technology and the Internet.

Photo: anjan58/flickr

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hearing aidshearablesdigital technologydisruptionmobile technologyWayne MacPhailFebruary 12, 2018Here come the hearablesHearable are the next step in wearable electronics. It is a private and relatively distraction-free device that could prove revolutionary for some and down right frightening for others.Next-gen augmented reality will target human sensoriumWhen most of us think of augmented reality, thanks to Google, we think of dorky glasses. But what about the other senses? What if they were augmented and all those augmentations worked in concert?AirPods are not just earphones -- they're a metaphor of the future If all you do is consider AirPods earphones, you limit your ability to think expansively about what they could be, and what they presage.
Categories: News for progressives

Syria - U.S. May Have Arranged "Self Defense" Attack On Syrian Government Forces

Last night the illegal U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria attacked a group of Syrian government aligned troops and their Russian support. The incident happened north-east of Deir Ezzor city on the east side of the Euphrates. The U.S. claims...
Categories: News for progressives

Peace for Korea

Rabble News - Thu, 2018-02-08 15:34
February 8, 2018US PoliticsWorldWhat Games are they playing?As the Seoul Winter Olympics opens, a peace conference calls for suspension of military exercises after the Games, and lifting of sanctions and talks with North Korea.2018 Winter OlympicsSouth KoreaNorth Korea
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Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Rethinking Putin – a review

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review] I have recently had the pleasure of watching a short presentation by Professor Stephen F. Cohen entitled “Rethinking Putin” which he delivered
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Christ the Savior and the Jewish Revolution

Written in April 1921 by His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia (1863-1936) Introduction by The Saker:  Today I am post another article written by an Orthodox Christian
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Russia’s new preemptive move in Lebanon

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog Russia has put herself, for better or for worse, in a position that requires a huge role in the Levant; perhaps much bigger
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