Ceausescu’s children

 

 

romanian orphans

 

The Romanian dictator had plans to increase Romanian population drastically to support its grandiose, Stalinist idea in making the country strong in both industrial and manpower finesse. After the 1989 revolution and the subsequent execution, however, the dream was in tatters. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian children were left poor, starving, physically disabled, and in limbo.

After 25 years, some of them start to tell their stories of what happens afterwards. Read the full article in The Guardian.

 

Excerpt:

 

When he came to power in 1966, Ceaușescu had grand plans for Romania. The country had industrialised late, after the second world war, and its birthrate was low. Ceaușescu borrowed the 1930s Stalinist dogma that population growth would fuel economic growth and fused this idea with the conservatism of his rural childhood. In the first year of his rule, his government issued Decree 770, which outlawed abortion for women under 40 with fewer than four children. “The foetus is the property of the entire society,” Ceaușescu announced. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.”

The birth rate soon doubled, but then the rate of increase slowed as Romanian women resorted to homemade illegal abortions, often with catastrophic results. In 1977 all childless persons, regardless of sex or martial status, were made to pay an additional monthly tax. In the 1980s condoms and the pill, although prohibitively expensive, began to become available in Romania – so they were banned altogether. Motherhood became a state duty. The system was ruthlessly enforced by the secret police, the securitate. Doctors who performed abortions were imprisoned, women were examined every three months in their workplaces for signs of pregnancy. If they were found to be pregnant and didn’t subsequently give birth, they could face prosecution. Fertility had become an instrument of state control.

This policy, coupled with Romania’s poverty, meant that more and more unwanted children were abandoned to state care. No one knows how many. Estimates for the number of children in orphanages in 1989 start at 100,000 and go up from there. Since the second world war, there had been a system of state institutions for children. But after 1982, when Ceaușescu redirected most of the budget to paying off the national debt, the economy tanked and conditions in the orphanages suffered. Electricity and heat were often intermittent, there were not enough staff, there was not enough food. Physical needs were assessed, emotional needs were ignored. Doctors and professionals were denied access to foreign periodicals and research, nurses were woefully undertrained (many orphans contracted HIV because hypodermic needles were seldom sterilised) and developmental delays were routinely diagnosed as mental disability. Institutional abuse flourished unchecked. While some caretakers did their best, others stole food from the orphanage kitchens and drugged their charges into docility.

The CIA torture report

The Guardian - A global network for CIA torture

 

The latest CIA report released in US Senate today brings shockwave to international communities and governments. Spanning over a decade since 911 tragedy, US government has launched numerous attacks, raids, strikes, bombings, and invasions across countries it targets as ‘perilous for global order’. But the report released today brings the atrocities associated with the superpower into an even more Middle Age-esque, gruesome reality: physical, psychological, and mental torture towards either terrorists or, most ironically, ‘suspected terrorists’ – they may possibly be only political opponents of authoritarian regimes supported by US government.

The torture techniques are indescribably dehumanizing, brutal, and excruciating: while waterboarding – an idea by George W. Bush – has been often used, others are more terrifying: rectal rehydration (feeding through enema instead of mouth), arms shackled above their heads, chained to a wall, sleep deprivation over one week, and even torturing and murdering their families, who may be innocent and unbeknownst of their members’ wrongdoing.

Worse: it is not just US government that solely does the torture itself. Over 56 countries and regions – the list which surprisingly also includes Hong Kong – have participated, either directly or indirectly, in CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Even US’ vocal (or not so vocal) opponents like Iran and Malaysia indirectly assist in transferring terrorists to CIA for their torture activities. Tragedy that seemingly repeats itself.

And Obama’s administration has not even fulfilled the promise of ‘closing Guantanamo Bay prison’.

 

Download the 216-page report released by Open Society Foundations to know more in details about CIA torture program.

Bonus: an article in The Guardian – one in a series of stories related to CIA torture program.

Both Israelis and Palestinians are losers in this conflict

Palestinians salvage their usable belongings from the rubble of their homes

 

An impartial, blatantly-honest food-for-thought by Daniel Barenboim about the eons-old conflict that encompasses all aspects. You can view the original article in The Guardian.

Here’s his brief essay.

 

———-

 

Both Israelis and Palestinians are losers in this conflict

There can be no military solution. Both sides need to acknowledge the other’s suffering and their rights

I am writing these words as someone who holds two passports – Israeli and Palestinian. I am writing them with a heavy heart, as the events in Gaza over the past few weeks have confirmed my long-standing conviction that there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not a political conflict but a human one, between two peoples who share the deep and seemingly irreconcilable conviction that they are entitled to the same small piece of land.

It is because this fact has been neglected that all the negotiations, all the attempts at brokering a solution to the conflict that have taken place until now, have failed. Instead of acknowledging this true nature of the conflict and trying to resolve it, the parties have been looking for easier and fast solutions. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to solving this conflict. A shortcut only works when we know the territory we cut through – and in this case, nobody possesses that knowledge as the essence of the conflict remains unknown and unexplored.

I have deep sympathy for the fear with which my fellow Israelis live today: the constant sounds of rockets being fired, of knowing that you or someone close to you might get hurt. But I have profound compassion with the plight of my fellow Palestinians in Gaza, who live in terror and mourn such devastating losses on a daily basis. After decades of devastation and loss on both sides, the conflict has today reached a previously unimaginable level of gruesomeness and despair.

I therefore dare to propose that this may be the moment to look for a true solution to the problem. A ceasefire is of course indispensable, but it is by far not enough. The only way out of this tragedy, the only way to avoid more tragedy and horror, is to take advantage of the hopelessness of the situation and force everybody to talk to one another. There is no point in Israel refusing to negotiate with Hamas or to acknowledge a unity government. No, Israel must listen to those Palestinians who are in a position to speak with one tongue.

The first resolution that has to be achieved is a joint agreement on the fact that there is no military solution. Only then can one begin discussing the question of justice for the Palestinians, which is long overdue, and of security for Israel, which it rightfully requires. We Palestinians feel that we need to receive a just solution. Our quest is fundamentally one for justice and for the rights given to every people on Earth: autonomy, self-determination, liberty, and all that comes with it. We Israelis need an acknowledgement of our right to live on the same piece of land. The division of the land can only come after both sides have not only accepted but understood that we can live together side by side, most definitely not back to back.

At the very heart of the much-needed rapprochement is the need for a mutual feeling of empathy, or compassion. In my opinion, compassion is not merely a sentiment that results from a psychological understanding of a person’s need, but it is a moral obligation. Only through trying to understand the other side’s plight can we take a step towards each other. As Schopenhauer  put it: “Nothing will bring us back to the path of justice so readily as the mental picture of the trouble, grief and lamentation of the loser.” In this conflict, we are all losers. We can only overcome this sad state if we finally begin to accept the other side’s suffering and their rights. Only from this understanding can we attempt to build a future together.

The longform guide to Nelson Mandela

t1larg.mandela.pienaar

 

 

A series of articles to commemorate one of the history’s greatest leaders, despite his murky, uneasy past.

‘Invictus’ hero recalls day Mandela transformed South Africa

The hopes, and fears, of Francois Pienaar before his first-time hand-shaking with the recently released African National Congress leader. Read the full article on CNN.

Excerpt:

In his book, Carlin described Pienaar as the “big blonde son of apartheid,” a 6-foot-4, 240-pound man who grew up worshipping the violent sport of rugby, an obsession for many Afrikaners. Rugby is known as “the opium of the Afrikaner,” says Carlin.

Like many Afrikaners, Pienaar said he didn’t question the morality of apartheid growing up, nor did he think much of Mandela, who was considered a terrorist by many white South Africans.

“Sadly, I couldn’t say that I did,” he said. “I didn’t oppose apartheid. Politics wasn’t on my radar screen. I saw the divisions in life and in school, but I just didn’t ask why.”

 

A white South African’s memories of Mandela

A CNN editorial producer, and also a White South African, recalls the first moment she met with Mandela. Read the full article here.

Excerpt:

We whites had lived in a place that denied people their basic human rights. Why had it taken so long to change this inhumane system? How had we allowed it? I stood in that line experiencing a mixture of jubilation and guilt. Had I really lived for 29 years in a country that had denied the majority of its people the right to vote?

It was also a time to truly appreciate the enormous sacrifice and achievement of Nelson Mandela and his comrades.

Mandela’s release from prison in February 1990 had been both a highly anticipated and enormously feared event. Many members of the white South African minority were terrified of the kind of displacement and retribution that has historically followed revolutions and major changes in government. So you can imagine everyone’s relief when, rather than calling for a revolution, Mandela instead preached reconciliation, and spoke of a Rainbow Nation and the importance of Ubuntu — we are human through the humanity of others. It was then that the brilliance of Mandela as a peacemaker, a politician and a statesman emerged.

However, despite our acknowledgement of him for his universal power of wisdom, it is not that Mandela is a perfect human, though. These two articles below highlight the evidence.

 

How Nelson Mandela betrayed us, says ex-wife Winnie

The reasons Winnie Mandela feels the deep ‘betrayal’. Read the full article on London Evening Standard.

Excerpt:

In the late Eighties, Winnie’s thuggish bodyguards, the Mandela United Football Club, terrorised Soweto. Club “captain” was Jerry Richardson, who died in prison last year while serving life for the murder of Stompie Moeketsi, a 14-year-old who was kidnapped with three other boys and beaten in the home where we would soon sit, sipping coffee. Winnie was sentenced to six years for kidnap, which was reduced to a fine on appeal.

Members of the gang would later testify to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Winnie had ordered the torture, murder and kidnap of her own people, and even participated directly.

Winnie used to live, before she was famous, down one of the narrow, congested streets with small brick and iron sheet houses. Soweto is still a predominately black township: tourists come in buses to gawp at the streets linked to freedom, apartheid and Mandela.

 

How the ANC’s Faustian pact sold out South Africa’s poorest

A former ANC committee member recalled what he termed ‘the greatest mistake he, Mandela, and others on the party had committed’ for the country. The full article is on The Guardian.

Excerpt:

What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option; that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalising South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals. To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption – and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out. The ANC leadership needed to remain true to its commitment of serving the people. This would have given it the hegemony it required not only over the entrenched capitalist class but over emergent elitists, many of whom would seek wealth through black economic empowerment, corrupt practices and selling political influence.

The big shutdown

US Capitol building

 

 

So the recent big news is that the US government has partially ‘ceased’ to operate.

Now we all know the dysfunction going on with the authorities. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has, for umpteenth times, engaged in debates with Democrat-controlled House of Senate, and things show no signs of abating. And it does still involve the same ‘huge’ thing already reiterated in past debates: Obamacare. And thanks to each side’s persistent cantankerousness, nearly 800,000 state employees are now put on unpaid holiday, leaving their fate in the future deeply insecure.

But do we, particularly non-Americans (and I’m an Indonesian, indeed, with as yet so little background about all these falling-outs), actually have even the foggiest ideas about the recent shutdown?

The Guardian has recently released a guideline for non-American readers (especially me) to gain clear insight about this recent occurrence. Be ready for slight confusion.

Here are a bit excerpts you may want to preview:

 

Why couldn’t they agree a deal?

Under the US constitution, the president cannot unilaterally bring in legislation. And despite weeks of talks, Republicans continue to include cuts and delays to Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in the budget legislation they sent up to the Senate.

The House of Representatives is controlled by the Republican Party, whose Tea Party movement remain deeply opposed to Obamacare. They tried to use the budget as leverage to crowbar changes to the Act. The Senate, which is under the control of Obama’s Democrats, has stood firm.

Will the shutdown mean the entire US government grinds to a halt?

No, it’s not an anarchist’s (or libertarian’s?) dream. Essential services, such as social security and Medicare payments, will continue. 
The US military service will keep operating, and Obama signed emergency legislation on Monday night to keep paying staff. But hundreds of thousands of workers at non-essential services, from Pentagon employees to rangers in national parks, will be told to take an unpaid holiday.

The truth about Edward Snowden

snowden

 

 

First, there was Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked one of the most humiliating secrets of American history: the atrocities of American armed forces throughout Vietnam War as compiled in Pentagon Papers. This triggered a huge shake-up among the entire nation, some of whom hailed him as a ‘hero’, others of whom rendered him a ‘traitor’.

Nearly 4 decades afterwards – as though in karmic pattern – United States again suffered another gargantuan diplomatic blow when Bradley Manning, a US Army soldier, provided confidential details about the mishandling and reiterative abuses, persecution, and violence the American military had conducted throughout Iraq War to Wikileaks. The whole world nearly watched in awe when Manning was subsequently arrested, subject to harsh torture from the legal authorities – he was, and still is, imprisoned in a windowless cell, fully naked, for 23 hours a day.

Only a few days prior, as history repeats itself, the world’s current superpower again faced another mortification when an NSA subcontractor, a 29-year-old freshman-looking high-paid Edward Snowden, leaked NSA’s newest surveillance program to The Guardian and The Washington Post, which according to Snowden, ‘might possibly damage the quintessence of freedom of expression to the whole world’.

PRISM, as it is later known, is NSA’s latest attempt to counter threats of domestic and/or international terrorism posed against Americans. Nonetheless, Snowden reveals an ‘eerie’ image of the program himself: the technology enables itself to sneak into social networks, search engines, email services, and other communication networks over the whole planet, thus embodying a super ‘wiretapping’ system in which American intelligence bodies can aptly track down every suspicious movement across the globe, possibly damaging the concept of freedom itself the American government so ‘staunchly’ endorses to the rest of the global sphere. Snowden’s testimony once again tests Obama administration’s commitment to preserve civil liberties among the international societies, which has been severely lambasted by both Manning and Snowden revelations.

Reminiscent of a spy thriller, Snowden globe-trots to the other side of the planet – now hiding in Hong Kong, and he is both a gift and a threat to the stability of international geopolitical scenes today. Hong Kong government has yet to decide what to do with Snowden. Chinese government has yet to comment and choose sides regarding Snowden’s case. Russian authorities are more than willing to provide ‘asylum’ to Snowden. And he himself sets his eyes to Iceland.

Losing permanent contact with either his girl friend or his family in Hawaii, as well as his 200,000-dollar-a-year job, Snowden’s life is undoubtedly at high risks.

 

Read the full report in The Guardian and The Washington Post.

A columnist, on the other hand, does not consider what Snowden did as ‘heroic’. Read the full article in The New Yorker.