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International Women's Day 2015 - Recovery for whom?Raquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

Posted 28/02/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Austerity policies, gendered impacts and policy alternatives for Europe

Current austerity policies could undermine past achievements towards gender equality, as they can negatively impact upon employment and social welfare protection. In particular, these policies could reverse the progress made in the last decade in establishing a fulfilling life for women and men.

Although in several European countries male unemployment has significantly increased as a result of job losses in male-dominated sectors such as the construction and the financial sectors, it is becoming increasingly evident that women are also going to be severely harmed by the implementation of austerity policies and by the credit squeeze. Indeed, women’s work in Europe concentrated in those areas more affected by spending cuts such as education, health, and social services.

Austerity policies and cuts in Europe have been particularly harmful to women who in most countries make up the majority of those employed in the public sector. As such women have been more exposed to pay freezes, job cuts and reduced pension entitlements. Second, women use public services more intensively than men to meet their won needs and to manage care responsibilities. Third, women are more likely than men to pick up the extra unpaid work resulting from cuts in public services. Finally, women have a higher dependency on benefits due to their higher participation in unpaid care work and their lower earnings.


In light of this background, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), together with TASC, The Economic Council of the Labour Movement (ECLM), the Open University and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and in collaboration with S&D Group at the European Parliament and PES Women, organises a roundtable debate in Brussels on March 5th 2015 with the objective to a) determine and discuss the channels and the extent of the impact of austerity policies on women and men in Europe, particularly in the labour market, and b) define the characteristics of a progressive and gendered equitable macroeconomic framework for Europe.


By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator



ISIS the new fascismRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

The face of fanatic sectarian hatred


Posted 18/02/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Coming from a country which only gained democracy in 1975 (when I was very young) looking at history, in the previous decades of wars and conflicts -globally and European- in terms of a moral compass, one looked for a gold standard of the aspirations of humanity.

After a half century of unspeakable horror, men and women sat around tables and courtrooms to set that gold standard in my opinion. Thus comparing what was achieved back then only seventy years ago, contrasting with our current situation, bear with me while I start with two famous quotations, which I believe truly gave definition to that moral compass.


“The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason. 

Judge Robert H. Jackson – Nuremberg TrialsJudge Robert H. Jackson – Nuremberg Trials

We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making… they have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.”

Extract from opening statement by Judge Robert H. Jackson – Nuremberg Trials Germany 1945/46



“We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored.
The issues involving divergent ideals and ideologies have been determined on the battlefields of the world, and hence are not for our discussion or debate.

Nor is it for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the peoples of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice, or hatred.

But rather it is for us, both victors and vanquished, to rise to that higher dignity which alone befits the sacred purposes we are about to serve, committing all of our peoples unreservedly to faithful compliance with the undertakings they are here formally to assume.

General Douglas MacArthurGeneral Douglas MacArthur


It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past - a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfilment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.

Extract from opening statement at the Japanese surrender ceremony -delivered 2nd of September 1945, USS Missouri, Tokyo Bay, Japan by General Douglas MacArthur

Now and then…the conflict of our time

ISIS began in 2004 as al Qaeda in Iraq, before re-branding itself as ISIS two years later. However, the latter has become far more brutal and barbaric and sadly more effective than the former, at controlling and holding territory it has seized.

After the United States-led coalition has battled the Islamic State, firing thousands of airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group that aims to establish a brutal Caliphate is gaining ground - literally. Terrorism experts such as CNN's Peter Bergen and Tim Lister remind us that it's critical to look at the big and frightening picture of what's happening.


Bergen explains what ISIS is after - the end times, the apocalypse. It's high time, Bergen argues, that the United States and others stop trying to rationalize ISIS' behaviour as rational. Lister breaks down how and why ISIS is gaining momentum in many other countries besides Iraq and Syria.

A new CNN/ORC survey found that 57% of the Americans questioned disapprove of how Obama is handling the threat. In late September, 49% said they disapproved of the administration's strategy. Fifty-four percent of 1,027 people polled between February 12-15 said they disapproved of how the president is handling terrorism in general.

Seventy-three percent said they support the use of force against ISIS.
CNN's Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein said he was surprised to see that 47% of the people polled said they approve of sending ground forces to fight ISIS. Whether that's a true portrayal of how Americans feel is unclear, he noted.

 ISIS' appeal beyond Syria and Iraq - now in North Africa.

The poll comes as ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians this weekend in Libya and put the video of the slayings online, a well-worn propaganda tactic the extremists often use. And yet support for the terror group is growing among some citizens in Egypt, which is often called the cradle of the Middle East.

The murders of the Christian minority group took place in Libya, where ISIS is also establishing a strong following in the absence of a stable government in that nation. The country has been in turmoil since the Arab Spring demonstrations that ultimately led to the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

On another front in Europe, the battle against ISIS has manifested in so-called lone wolf actors staging attacks.

CNN reported that a gunman who had sworn allegiance to ISIS murdered a filmmaker and later a synagogue guard in Copenhagen, Denmark, over the weekend. Nerves are still frayed in the city as police on Tuesday cordoned off the area around a cafe. The gathering there Saturday was intended to be a forum on freedom of expression in the wake of the Paris Charlie Hebdo attack.


Swedish artist Lars Vilks was at the cafe. Years ago he drew the Prophet Mohammed as a dog, an act that landed him on a terrorist hit list.
From the European perspective, the European Commission and the High Representative, post the attack declared: “even one life is one too many.         Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. Europe stands united with Denmark in upholding freedom of speech and freedom of expression. We stand against anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination. Europe will not be intimidated.”

We can explore all the mechanics of the history of this modern seemingly intractable ISIS threat. We could reference the 1916 Sykes–Picot Agreement, we could blame Western intervention such as the Iraq and Afghan wars, we could point at a myriad of apologetic excuses, but this is not a war, as per the rules of engagement for centuries, there is no Geneva convention protocol here.

So let’s call it for what it is; a Muslim fundamentalist sectarian purge against moderate Muslims, Christians, Atheists, and anybody who does not agree with their fanatic version of Sunni Islam, which is basically the rest of the World.

It is random, meaningless, sectarian barbarism. My feeling is that it is so extreme that it will, as has already happened with al Qaeda, fracture and implode over time especially if Saudi Arabia, Yemen and others stop financing them. The problem with all fascism, as history has shown, is that they always set impossible standards for themselves, as did the Nazis meaning that they can never truly eliminate their enemies, because their perceived foes change in profile all the time, so the fascist lives in a state of constant paranoia; searching or killing for an ideal that does not exist, and can never be achieved in the purity they seek, as again was the undoing of the insane racial madness of the Nazis.

So this is the war of my time, one can only live in hope that we do not forget the words of Judge Jackson at Nuremberg, and show no deference to this latest global evil because they hide behind a distorted religious belief.


By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator



Free Speech & Blasphemy laws 2015Steve JamesSteve James

Posted 08/02/2015

By Steve James

Since these many years now, I have had a long-standing love affair with science and the scientific method. The richness of what she has to offer humanity, from saving lives to revealing to us the true wonder of the Cosmos, its origins, and our incredible but splendid good fortune as a species to catch a glimpse and understanding of our place, on this tiny blue dot in space - as Carl Sagan described asfloating like a mote of dust in the morning sky.’

The fact that I can write freely in 2015 about this, is a minor ‘miracle’ today, as it was not always thus, because the road to scientific rationale has been anything but easy over the centuries.

The reality of science and its contribution to our daily lives, well-being and security- not to mention creature comforts - is so easily taken for granted today. And I find it truly depressing that the Western political world is actively trying to turn the clock back in fear or in deference to 3000 –year- old tribal traditions and their alleged sensibilities. As if being held to ransom, to secure a few floating votes; politicians are more than willing to sell our birth rights to accommodate the views of some claiming to represent people with medieval views on how our laws should be amended.

It is hard to believe that from Darwin in 1859 to Dawkins 2009, in biology alone - and all those in between. From Carl Sagan to Lawrence  Krauss. From the humble beginnings of Robert Goddard to the Saturn five rocket which transported twelve lucky Americans to stand on the surface of the Moon during the NASA Apollo missions, all taken for granted now and rubbished as we have regressed back to worrying about the man-made ancient fables of the so-called ‘ten commandments’ rather than marvelling at the awesome power of science and engineering.

If you think I exaggerate, take a recent true story from our neighbours in the British Isles, not Pakistan. Sorry but I have to go into some detail in order to explain this one.

In the Republic of Ireland, in 2008 a very disingenuous Minister for Justice – Dermot Ahern, found a loop hole in the statute books regarding the constitutional status of the “offence of blasphemy.”

Blasphemy is required to be prohibited by Article 40.6.1.i. of the 1937 Constitution. 

The common law offence of blasphemous libel, last prosecuted in 1855, was ruled in 1999 to be incompatible with the Constitution's guarantee of religious equality. The lacuna was filled in 2009 by a new offence of "publication or utterance of blasphemous matter."

The continued existence of a blasphemy offence is controversial, with proponents of freedom of speech and freedom of religion arguing it should be removed.

The advocacy group Atheist Ireland responded to the enactment by announcing the formation of the "Church of Dermotology." On the date on which the law came into effect, Atheist Ireland published a series of potentially blasphemous quotations on its website and vowed to challenge any resulting legal action. It also said that it would be holding a series of public meetings to launch a campaign for secular constitutional reform.

A Convention was established in December 2012, and received submissions on the blasphemy issue from various groups and individuals, mostly in favour of abolition. The Irish Council of Churches, a coalition of the main Christian churches in Ireland, described the provision as "largely obsolete".

The Convention considered the issue at its plenary session on 2–3 November 2013. Several submitters were invited to make presentations at the meeting. The Knights of Saint Columbanus, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, and an NUIG PhD student argued in favour of retention, while Atheist Ireland, the Humanist Association of Ireland, and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties argued for its removal.  Convention members voted 61–38 against retaining the existing Constitutional prohibition of blasphemy; 53–38 in favour of replacing it with a prohibition of "incitement to religious hatred"; and 50–49 against having a statutory prohibition of blasphemy.


In October 2014, Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin announced that the government had decided to hold a referendum on the issue. In January 2015, however Prime Minister Enda Kenny said there would not be a referendum on the issue before the next general election, due by April 2016.


The reason he gave was that already-promised referenda, on same-sex marriage and lowering the age limits for voting and the Presidency, would come first. It should be said that during the interim of this Irish constitutional tangle; countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia lauded Ireland’s blasphemy laws at the UN as setting ‘a best international practice’ precedent for other European countries and beyond!  


I am not suggesting for a moment that this inclusion of the so-called blasphemy law is the will of the Irish people, on the contrary most people do not realise that the law exists, and those who do know of its provisions want it removed from the constitution as soon as possible, as do the government, because it is a national embarrassment. But that is what law can do if we’re not vigilant, as you and I just go about our daily lives.  In the UK some are trying to slip in similar laws by the back door, never mind the on-going tolerance of virtually “Islamic Sharia Law” boroughs.  


On the 800th anniversary of the first publication of the Magna Carta Libertatum CE (1215 - Latin: "the Great Charter of the Liberties") to the English Bill of Rights (1689) and all our liberties won since for men and women - these notions are more fragile and under threat than you may realise in 2015.


Lastly, and I am not joking – if you want to be a teacher, journalist, doctor or run for political office, local, or national - whatever you claim to be in modern Britain, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, spiritual medium, tarot-card reader, tea-leaf reader, tribal voodoo mediator at the weekends – Whatever you do; DO NOT declare yourself a science-loving, heathen, infidel atheist! 

 Best advice, say nothing; as we drift back to the dark ages of fear, oppression, ignorance and superstition.


By Steve James for EU Spectator