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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Scientists Open A New Window Into Space With Discovery Of A New Source Of Neutrinos

By Simon Peeters, University of Sussex

Neutrinos – extremely light, ghostly particles that barely interact with matter – have so far only been observed originating from supernovae (exploding stars) and the sun. Now a giant detector at the South Pole has discovered that a “blazar”, a galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its centre, also produces neutrinos.

Artist’s impression based on real picture of Icecube lab. IceCube/NSF

This is the first time a source of neutrinos in space has been discovered in more than 30 years. What’s more, it’s the first time scientists have observed a neutrino particle with high energy associated with an astrophysical event. This is really exciting news. The observation, just published in Science, opens a completely new chapter in neutrino astronomy.

Neutrinos are fundamental matter particles. The ordinary matter that we are all familiar with is made out of electrons and quarks. We do not observe neutrinos in daily life as they are extremely hard to detect. Theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli suggested their existence in 1930, but it took until 1956 before they were first seen by experimental physicists coming from a nuclear reactor.

The reason that they are so hard to detect is because they only weakly interact with ordinary matter. Most neutrinos fly straight through the Earth: they do not interact at all. They do, however, play a very important role in the universe.

For example, when a heavy star explodes at the end of its life, it is known as a supernova – as it shows up as an extremely bright and seemingly new star in the sky. We now know that supernovae emit many more neutrinos than photons (light particles), which we cannot see by eye. Scientists detected the first neutrinos from a supernova in 1987 when a star collapsed just outside our Milky Way. This unique observation has given us a better understanding of supernovae, as well as the properties of neutrinos themselves.

This event marked the birth of what we call neutrino astronomy. Powerful neutrino telescopes were built soon after. One of them was the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO). Physicist Art McDonald received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2015 for the detailed studies of solar neutrinos that he and his team did using this observatory, and the insights this gave us into the properties of the neutrino particles.

Arctic Analysis

Another telescope has now grown to be the largest of them all. The IceCube experiment at the South Pole is a cubic kilometre in size and uses deep arctic ice as a target for the neutrinos. Although neutrinos typically don’t interact with anything, they can produce a charged particle when they occasionally do interact with the fundamental particles that make up ice. In IceCube, this resulting particle travels through the ice and produces a trail of faint light.

IceCube drilling tower and hose reel in December 2009. Amble/wikipedia, CC BY-SA

This trail is captured by a large array of sensitive photodetectors that are mounted up to three kilometres deep into the ice. With this information, IceCube can detect high energy neutrinos, measure their energy and determine where they came from. Other cosmic particles only travel a few kilometres through the Earth, at most. So, if the particle is seen to come up from below, it must have been produced by a neutrino interaction, as it is the only particle that can travel such a large distance through the planet.

The neutrino that was observed by IceCube in September 2017 is very special. This neutrino must have had an extremely high energy – IceCube scientists estimate between 183 and 290 trillion electron volts (a unit of energy). That is 28-45 times more energy than the particles in the beam of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.

Sensors below the ice detected the neutrino, which was registered by computers in the IceCube building. IceCube/NSF

However, neutrinos with even higher energies have been observed by IceCube before. The exciting thing about the new discovery is that it has been shown to come from a blazar, which has been observed by other experiments, such as the FermiLAT satellite and the MAGIC telescope. In a blazar, it is thought that the supermassive black hole at the centre absorbs matter to produce two extremely powerful jets of radiation. These jets could act as powerful particle accelerators.

Blazars were long suspected as a possible source of very high energy neutrinos in the universe, but we now have firm evidence. Together with IceCube, observations of this blazar have been made using telescopes that are sensitive to different types of electromagnetic radiation: radio, optical, gamma ray, and X-ray.

With this observation, IceCube has made a significant step forward in neutrino astronomy. Its neutrino adds new information to the observation of the blazar, helping us to understand these fascinating objects better. It can tell us about the mechanism of particle acceleration in blazars and more about how blazars produce such tremendous amounts of energy. We may even learn something new about the universe, or neutrinos, that we didn’t expect.

Simon Peeters, Reader (Physics and Astronomy), University of Sussex. This article was originally published on The Conversation
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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Can A Three Page Document On Brexit Bring Down The British Government?

Written by Nikos Skoutaris, University of East Anglia

Two years after the referendum, the UK government briefly appeared to agree on its vision for the future UK-EU relationship. A three page document, outlining the UK position, was published following a long meeting of cabinet ministers at the prime minister’s country retreat of Chequers on July 6.

The new position aims to address the Irish border issue and potentially offers a softer version of Brexit than was previously talked about. It has prompted the resignation of three ministers. The Brexit secretary, David Davis, and his number two at the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker, stepped down just 50 hours after the publication of the three-page document. This was followed by foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. Such dramatic developments raise serious questions for the UK’s Brexit strategy and the future of the government itself.

So what was agreed to at Chequers and why has it led to these resignations? Davis stepped down because he felt the new plan cedes too much control to the EU. Notwithstanding, the new plan should be understood as only the starting point of negotiations over the future UK-EU relationship. In that sense, we should expect the UK position to further evolve in the months to come.

Previous Proposals

The government’s new position has substantially evolved from its previous proposals for the UK’s future economic relationship with the EU. It has been dubbed a “third way” between the two proposals that the government published in August 2017.

The first was a highly streamlined customs arrangement that came to be known as “max-fac” (short for maximum facilitation). It aimed to simplify the UK’s customs arrangement with the EU by using a variety of IT solutions to avoid a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Jon Thompson, head of HM Revenue and Customs estimated that the cost of building the necessary infrastructure for this option would be about £20 billion.

According to the second model, a new customs partnership, the UK would mirror “the EU’s requirements for imports from the rest of the world” as if the UK was still a member of the EU’s customs union. The UK, under this model, would still be free to pursue its independent trade policy.

This could potentially lead to differences in its tariffs with the EU ones. To deal with this problem, an unprecedented and untested repayment mechanism was proposed. According to it, imports to the UK would pay whichever was the higher of the UK’s or the EU’s tariff rates and traders would claim “a refund for the difference between the two when the goods were sold to an end user in the country charging lower tariffs”.

Apart from the cost and the feasibility, the biggest problem of the previous two proposals was that neither of them addressed effectively the Irish border conundrum. Neither could secure a frictionless, invisible border, given that the UK’s intention is to leave the single market and the customs union after Brexit.

The New Proposal

As the UK government had previously conceded, upholding its Irish border commitments required regulatory alignment. Without the same regulatory standards on the two sides of the border, checks would be required on the various products that would be crossing it to ensure the integrity of the single market.

This is why the new plan proposes to establish a free trade area for goods between the UK and the EU where “a common rulebook for all goods including agri-food” will exist. The UK will commit, by international agreement, “to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods”. This echoes the mechanism of the European Economic Area whose members have to adopt the new or reformed regulations that the EU institutions produce.

At the same time, the government contends that parliament can guard the UK legal order from future EU legislation in an arrangement that somehow resembles the EU’s relationship with Switzerland. Given the ongoing crisis in EU-Switzerland relations over the issue of free movement of people, the UK government is right to recognise that such action might lead to unforeseen consequences. At the same time, it effectively puts into question whether the UK parliament would have real power to diverge from EU regulations on goods.

The Starting Point of Negotiations

The proposal that came out of Chequers is not the definitive end state of the future UK-EU relationship, as some have suggested.

But even if the resignations of Britain’s main negotiator and the foreign secretary do not lead to a political crisis, the Chequers deal should be understood as the UK starting position in its negotiations with the EU.

The Chequers proposal does not sit comfortably with the models for the EU-UK relationship that the EU has already suggested. It is not a Canada-style free trade agreement with the Northern Ireland backstop option. Nor is it an economic relationship that allows the application of all four fundamental freedoms of movement, as the “Norway” option does.

Still, it is the first comprehensive position that the UK has put forward. So the UK will be hoping that the EU will consider it.

Even if the EU does not reject the UK position outright, the government should expect that issues such as its contribution to the new EU budget and the role of the European Court of Justice are raised and seriously considered in the months to come. This is still only the beginning of the process that will hopefully lead to an orderly Brexit and mutually beneficial future with the EU.

Dr Nikos Skoutaris received his Ph.D. in Law from the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) in 2009. Since then, he has worked as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Tilburg, as an Assistant Professor at Maastricht University (The Netherlands) and as a Senior Research Fellow at the European Institute, LSE. Since October 2013, he is a Lecturer in EU law at the UEA Law School. This article was originally published on The Conversation
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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Poor Sleep Is Linked To Cardiovascular Risk Across Ages

Written by Emily Underwood, Knowable Magazine

Emily Underwood interviewed one of the study authors, physician Susan Redline of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to discuss sleep’s powerful influence on our hearts and other body systems, a subject Redline also wrote about in the 2015 Annual Review of Public Health. To reduce our society’s high rates of chronic disease, she says, we need to ensure children get better sleep, as well as other sleep-deprived groups such as minorities and shift workers.

Did you sleep well last night? If not, you’re in good company. About a third of American adults don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people don’t get enough sleep or sleep poorly because of their jobs or hectic schedules — they work long shifts at night or have to rush to get their kids ready to catch a 6 a.m. school bus. Some 50 million to 70 million Americans have a chronic sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night.

Scientists still fiercely debate sleep’s fundamental biological purpose. In people, however, plentiful evidence suggests that sleep performs a range of vital functions, including restoring damaged tissues, boosting learning and memory, and flushing toxins from the brain. Sleeping too little can have serious long-term health consequences, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A new study in Pediatrics highlights the importance of sleep for teenagers, who often struggle to get the recommended eight to nine hours per night of shut-eye. Out of the more than 800 adolescents in the study, only 2.2 percent got enough sleep, and less than half achieved desirable rates of “sleep efficiency” — the percentage of total time in bed actually spent asleep.

Teens short on sleep were more likely to be obese — a trend found in previous studies — and scored higher on several other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and poor glucose metabolism. Those who slept longer and better tended to have less fat around their waists, lower systolic blood pressure and higher levels of “good” cholesterol — all signs of cardiovascular health.

Emily Underwood: How did you become interested in studying the health impacts of sleep?

Susan RedlineI was trained in pulmonary medicine in the mid-’80s, shortly after a new therapy for sleep apnea — the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device — had been developed. Prior to CPAP, patients had to undergo surgery and have tracheostomies and lose the function of their voices. It was very exciting to see a therapy that, literally overnight, could change a person from being very sleepy and having poorly controlled hypertension and even heart failure to someone who was functional.

I sought out training in epidemiology and observed how little we understood about the population prevalence and risk factors for sleep apnea. That's when I started developing epidemiologic studies to address those questions. I also became interested in other aspects of sleep, such as the genetics of sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep and children, and the impact of sleep on heart disease.

EU: How does poor sleep affect the heart and other aspects of health?

SR: Having an adequate quantity of sleep as well as quality of sleep is important for maintaining numerous body systems. Compared with people who get seven or eight hours of sleep per night, for example, short sleepers have a 10 percent to 30 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Getting insufficient sleep — in general less than six hours a night for adults — may trigger the release of various proteins that cause inflammation in the blood and in the body, and cause dysregulation of the immune system. C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and tumor necrosis factor are three commonly measured inflammatory markers that are increased in association with sleep problems. These inflammatory mediators may also make you less sensitive to insulin, which then will raise your blood sugar and can lead to diabetes.

A second problem is getting insufficient amounts of deep sleep, or restorative sleep. In one of the deepest stages, called slow-wave sleep, there is a drop in the level of catecholamine hormones that raise blood pressure, such as adrenaline. People with sleep disorders have what we call arousals — very brief periods of awakening. When you have fragmented sleep, high levels of these hormones can prevent blood pressure from going down. Over time, this can cause stiffening of the heart muscle.

EU: Your recent study in Pediatrics showed that lack of sleep increases risk factors for heart disease in adolescents. Do children and teenagers need to sleep the same amount as adults?

SR:  Infants typically need more than 12 hours of sleep, then by the time you’re an adolescent those needs are closer to eight or nine hours. An average adult needs between seven and eight.

What was really interesting about this recent study was that we were able to show that both insufficient sleep and misaligned sleep — sleep that isn’t in sync with a person’s circadian rhythm — are associated with metabolic parameters associated with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, such as higher central body fat.

This study adds to evidence that improving both children’s sleep duration and making their sleep patterns more regular may, over time, protect children from developing metabolic problems.

EU: What are the most common sleep disorders? How can you tell if someone has a sleep disorder or is just staying up too late?

SR:  The two most common sleep disorders are sleep apnea and insomnia. Sleep apnea is when your throat closes during sleep for brief but repetitive periods of time, interfering with your ability to get oxygen into your body and to rid your body of waste products like carbon dioxide. Insomnia is a disorder where individuals have chronic problems falling asleep or maintaining their sleep. Another relatively common sleep disorder is called periodic limb movement disorder, where the individual has disrupted sleep because of involuntary kicking of their legs or arms that wakes them up.

Although there is a continuum of symptoms, usually a sign of a disorder is a persistent feeling of tiredness, sleepiness or unrefreshing sleep that isn't explained by another factor like being out all night at a party or working. It's the persistence of daytime symptoms without a clear explanation.

EU: Are some racial or ethnic groups more at risk of chronic disease as a result of poor or inadequate sleep?

SR:  In the US, the prevalence of short sleep and poor sleep quality is much higher in ethnic minorities than in the white population. Blacks are as much as five times as likely to report short durations of sleep than whites, for example. That doesn't seem to be completely explained by known sleep disorders, so it suggests there may be multiple social and environmental factors that influence poor sleep quality, such as living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

One of my interests is in sleep apnea in children. African-American children have much higher rates of sleep apnea than white children, and they actually appear to respond less well to the usual surgery that's done, tonsillectomy, than white children. I've postulated that having sleep apnea at an early age, and going years with untreated sleep apnea, may be one reason that we see much higher rates of hypertension and early-onset hypertension in African-American communities, which is a huge risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

So far, we have shown in two different studies that children who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods have higher rates of sleep apnea than other children. Right now we're doing a study in Boston where we are going into the homes of children from diverse neighborhoods in the city and looking to see if there are actually excessive exposures to various allergens, irritants or poor air quality that may be triggering chronic inflammation of the nasal passages and the tonsils that might be contributing to sleep apnea.

EU: What are some things that can be done to improve sleep health?

SR: Institutionally, we could work harder to ensure that we don't require students or workers to follow unhealthy sleep habits. We could delay school start times so that students don’t have to get up to catch a school bus at 6 a.m., for example. I also work with a group of patient advocates who have suggested that everybody who gets a driver’s license be educated on sleep disorders and the impact of drowsy driving — and to consider including screening for sleep disorders as a part of applying for a license.

EU: What are the most compelling unanswered questions about sleep?

SR:  One question I’m interested in is the variation in susceptibility to sleep disorders — what factors may be inherited or otherwise. I think the question of why African-American children have much more severe sleep apnea than other children is really important, both as a mechanistic and a public health question.

Emily Underwood is a freelance science writer and contributing correspondent for Science magazine. She is based in Coloma, California. This article was originally published on Knowable Magazine.
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Friday, 6 July 2018

Women's Right And Football In Iran, Times They Are A Changing

Written by Kourosh Ziabari, Fair Observer

For the first time in nearly 40 years, women in Iran were allowed to enter a stadium to watch football.

Since the 1979 revolution, women in Iran have been denied entry to sports stadiums. The reasons cited by authorities are mostly religious. In a theocratic state like Iran, they are worried about “ethical values” in society which, they believe, might be undermined if women are allowed to do certain things, such as play athletics or watch football in stadiums alongside men.

Now, after almost 40 years of debate and resistance by authorities, religious figures and activists, an important development has taken place: Iranian women were allowed to watch two FIFA World Cup matches featuring the Iranian national team. Thousands of Iranians packed the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, the biggest in the Middle East, where the games against Spain and Portugal were broadcast on a big screen.

From footage at the Azadi Stadium, along with photos published by news agencies and posts on social media, it is clear that young women and girls who had the chance to watch the matches were pleased with the change in policy. Despite not being in the actual stadiums where the games were played in Russia, women were finally allowed to join their friends and families and root for their national team.

Embed from Getty Images

What’s Different?

In 2006, then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that women would be permitted to attend football matches, but he faced resistance from high-ranking clerics who said this was impracticable on religious grounds. At the same time, many people said it was hypocritical of an ultra-conservative and dogmatic president such as Ahmadinejad to suggest that women could enter stadiums to watch a football match.

Ahmadinejad was notorious for his duplicitous approach to women’s rights and religion. In 2009, he invited the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to pay a visit to the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth holiest Shia imam, in the northeast city of Mashhad. Under Iranian law, non-Muslims are not allowed to visit the site, and many critics at the time asked what would happen if a reformist president had brought a European politician instead. So, when Ahmadinejad, a hardliner and religious conservative, pledged to open the doors of football stadiums to women but never fulfilled this insincere promise, his critics said it was an attempt to garner public support among the youth and women when his popularity was plummeting.

But this time, things seem to be different. There are national campaigns and movements over the rights of Iranian women to watch football matches in stadiums, as well as international human rights activists who are pressing for change.

In March, FIFA President Gianni Infantino met President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran and raised the issue with him. Rouhani has promised that he will do his best to make sure women can enter stadiums and watch football matches as they happen on the pitch.

The achievements of female Iranian athletes seem to be the driving force and may even serve as leverage on authorities and hardliners to relax restrictions on women to watch sporting events in stadiums. In May, Iran’s national futsal team won the 2018 AFC Women’s Futsal Championship despite the difficulties they faced, including insufficient resources and professional training opportunities. There was also a big difference between the Iranian squad and their rivals: The Iranians had to play futsal while wearing a hijab.

What Will Happen?

Iran has a complicated political structure with uncooperative decision-makers who easily undercut and challenge the government’s decisions. Even after permission was granted for families and women to watch the World Cup match against Spain, police in Tehran attempted to prevent people from entering the stadium, despite having purchased tickets and waiting outside the venue.

There are hopes that the 2018-19 season of Iran’s Pro League, the top division in its national football, and the future games of the national team will be attended by women. Time will tell if Rouhani fulfills his promise to allow Iranian women, who are just as passionate about football as men, to enter sports stadiums.

President Rouhani, who is under unprecedented pressure due to growing economic woes amid the US withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, might be able to fulfill his promise and open the doors of stadiums to women. However, while he is still struggling to deliver on many electoral promises — such as freeing the leaders of the Green Movement of 2009 from house arrest, improving Iran’s relations with the outside world, easing tensions with the US, and healing the economic wounds of the nation — the delivery of his promise to allow women to watch sporting events might remain in limbo.

What is clear is that women have faced so many restrictions that even a small change such as the lifting of the ban on entering stadiums can be seen as a huge victory and a reason to celebrate.

Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist. He has conducted numerous interviews with politicians, diplomats, Nobel Prize laureates, academics and other public figures from around the world. In 2015, he was the recipient of the Senior Journalists Seminar Fellowship from the East-West Center in Hawaii. In November 2015, he won the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellowship in Cultural Journalism by the FNPI foundation in Cartagena, Colombia. This article wa originally published on Fair Observer.
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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

How Make America Great Again? Ask India!

Written by Ruyintan E Mehta and Atul Singh, Fair Observer

By granting asylum to Zoroastrians fleeing persecution a thousand years ago, a local Gujarati ruler inadvertently helped create modern India and benefited the entire world.

The conventional view of history is one of progress. This is not entirely true. Sometimes, societies regress, cultures decline and civilizations fall. This is not a view that Steven Pinker espouses but Francis Fukuyama, the man who declared the end of history, is coming around to. Fukuyama is worrying about President Donald Trump and American political decay. Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on migrants that caused the separation of children from their parents is certainly an example of this decay.

Trump won power in part thanks to his tough stance on immigration. He raised the specter of drug-dealers, criminals and rapists crossing the American border with Mexico. He promised to build the wall, make Mexico pay for it and stop the deluge of migrants flooding into the US.

In office, Trump has certainly delivered on his promise. Illegal migrants entering the United States are rounded up, locked up in detention centers and then shipped back across the border. Until recently, Trump did not mind separating families and locking children in cages. As per US immigration officials, 2,342 children were separated from 2,206 parents between May 5 and June 9. After much brouhaha and raucous international condemnation, Trump signed an executive order that allowed for immigrant families to be detained together while their legal cases are considered.

Before his U-turn, Trump claimed that an executive order would not solve the problem. He argued that the only solution possible was the passing of comprehensive immigration reform by Congress. In keeping with his past behavior, the abrasive American president has reversed his stand in the blink of an eye. The US has now become Trumpistan, a land that is not only cruel and intolerant, but also dishonest and hypocritical in almost all its claims and actions.

Immigrants From Iran

The US could do well to learn from a lesson from the past. This is not a story of Huguenots fleeing France to Prussia, England and Switzerland. It is not a story of Jews fleeing Spain. It is a story of Zoroastrians fleeing Persia or modern-day Iran because of fierce Islamic persecution in the eighth century.

These followers of Zoroaster were members of the world’s first monotheistic faith that began 1,200 to 1,500 years before Christ. Many tenets of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have their roots in Zoroastrianism. In the eighth century, members of this rich ancient tradition fled for their lives to India. Landing in Gujarat, they sought permission from Jadi Rana, the local ruler, to settle in his lands. As per Qeṣṣa-ye Sanjān (The Story of Sanjān), the ruler was apprehensive about giving refuge to people who appeared warrior-like, dressed differently and spoke in strange tongues.

As per oral tradition, Jadi Rana presented a full cup of milk to the refugees to indicate that his lands were already full. These refugees put sugar in the cup to convince the king that they would be “like sugar in a full cup of milk, adding sweetness but not causing it to overflow.” This purportedly convinced Jadi Rana to grant asylum to the beleaguered men, women and children thronging his shores. This was the sensible and humane thing to do. These newcomers came to be known as the Parsis, in cognizance of their Persian roots.

Creators Of Modern India

Fast forward to 2018 and you cannot imagine modern India without the Parsis. The second president of the Indian National Congress was Dadabhai Naoroji, an educator, intellectual and statesman. This Parsi did the early work on the drain of wealth from colonial India to imperial Britain. After independence in 1947, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, another Parsi, created India’s now much-vaunted nuclear program. In 1971, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, arguably the most famous of Parsis, liberated Bangladesh from Islamabad’s oppressive rule.

Thanks to his brilliance, 92,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered, ensuring Bangladeshis could finally live without the fear of being raped, plundered and slaughtered with wanton abandon. Soli Sorabjee, a legendary lawyer, jurist and yet another Parsi, has been a torch bearer for freedom of expression and protection of human rights for decades. In the world of music, Zubin Mehta, the elegant conductor, and Freddie Mercury , the flamboyant rock star, fly the Parsi flag high.

Tata, India’s preeminent business house, was founded and has been run by Parsis for more than a century and half. Not only has it run numerous successful businesses, this multinational has helped build towering national institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science, the Tata Memorial Hospital and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Other Parsis have run successful businesses too and set standards for philanthropy in the country.

For centuries, the Parsis have been totally integrated in Indian society. There have been no reports of strife, tension or riots between Parsis and other communities in oral or written history. With a literacy rate of 99%, they remain the most highly educated community in the land, exceeding the achievements of Brahmins, India’s priestly caste, and Sayyids, purportedly direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad.

It is important to note that the Parsi population has never exceeded 100,000 at any point in history. Low birth rates and migration to Western countries has resulted in the population declining to a mere 61,000 today even as India’s population continues to rise. By any standards, the Parsi contribution to India has been staggering and is totally out of proportion to the minuscule size of their community.

Lesson For America

The Parsi story underscores an important point. Penniless refugees and desperate migrants have often been a country’s greatest assets. In the American context, this holds even more true. Immigrants made America great and it is they who will make America great again.

It not without reason that the sonnet on the Statue of Liberty declares, “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Over 1,000 years ago, the wretched refuse from Iranian shores drifted into the sandy land of Mahatma Gandhi. At that time, if Jadi Rana had acted like Donald Trump, the Parsis would have been cast back into the sea and not only India but also the rest of the world would have been poorer today as a result.

Ruyintan E. Mehta is a serial entrepreneur in plastics manufacturing. He is currently involved in nonprofit work in water, sanitation, and maternal and child health in India as honorary executive director of a US section501(c)(3) foundation. He is also president of IIT Bombay Heritage Foundation, an alumni body of IIT Bombay in the US.  

Atul Singh is the Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Fair Observer. He teaches Political Economy at the University of California, Berkeley and at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar where he also teaches World History. He studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford on the Radhakrishnan Scholarship and did an MBA with a triple major in finance, strategy and entrepreneurship at the Wharton School. This article was originally published on Fair Observer.
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Saturday, 30 June 2018

It's Time We Call 2018 World Cup As The Men’s World Cup

Written by Jayne Caudwell, Bournemouth University

The globalisation of football means it can now be found in most parts of the world. It is celebrated as the national sport in many countries. But, we forget that “football” actually means “men’s football”. It’s the same with other popular sports – our habit is to refer to basketball and women’s basketball, cricket and women’s cricket, ice hockey and women’s ice hockey. This naming places men’s football as the dominant universal and natural norm, while women’s football becomes the “other” version.

If we want a level football playing field, then “football” should be redefined by changing our reference to tournaments, championships and leagues to “men’s football” if that is what is being played. It’s time we started referring to the men’s football World Cup, just as we refer to the women’s football World Cup.

Women and girls have long been treated as second-class citizens in the many worlds of football, including playing, officiating, governing and spectating. And indeed, in the build up to the 2018 men’s World Cup, there was much discussion about racism and homophobia – but practically none about football, gender, sexism and misogyny.

The histories of the development of football in most countries around the world show that women and girls have been denied access to pitches, equipment, coaches, training, stadiums and financial support. These material opportunities are important because they enable and validate participation – and full football citizenship.

Media sport pages cover men’s sport. During the football season, the coverage is dominated by stories of men’s football. Women footballers seem to not exist. The sport press obliterates them.

But women and girls are playing, officiating, spectating and commentating on the game in ever increasing numbers around the world. The England women’s team outperforms the men’s team on the European and world stage. They are currently ranked ten places higher, in second position. And yet, the gender pay gap in football is atrocious.

Ignoring Sexism

While Russia, as host of the men’s football World Cup 2018, has been criticised for its poor record in dealing with homophobic and racist abuse, nothing has been said about gender-based abuse or discrimination.

Instead, ahead of the men’s World Cup, Russian MPs have been arguing over whether Russian women should or should not have sex with visiting (presumably male) football fans. The UK Foreign Office released advice on race and LGBT concerns, but there’s nothing on how sexist chanting can make men’s football a hostile environment for women. You only need to look at the sexism experienced by doctor Eva Carneiro and assistant referee Helen Byrne in the men’s premier league to see how this plays out.

What’s more, many of the concerns about homophobia and racism at the men’s World Cup stem from wider cultural issues in Russia. The same problems are evident with sexism and misogyny, yet they are curiously absent from the discussion when it comes to football. Cultural problems that affect men extend into the sporting arena, but not those that affect women.

In 2017, the Russian parliament passed legislation loosening laws on domestic violence. Russian women who support the #MeToo movement have come up against draconian assembly laws that say only one person is permitted to make a public protest.

There are no campaigns in international men’s football that aim to stop sexism, or call for anti-sexism and an end to gender-based violence.

Meanwhile, the women and girls who have fought hard to play football often encounter negative responses from the general public and from the media. Sport sociologists have found that sportswomen are trivialised, sexualised and experience symbolic annihilation – they simply don’t exist in images of the sport. A recent poster depicting Iranian fans is a prime example. Not a single female face features.

Women’s and girls’ sporting achievements are reduced as a result of ridicule. Their bodies are considered sexual objects rather than for playing sport. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s comment that women should play in tighter shorts to attract more fans to the game is a classic example of this. More recently, feminist author Laura Bates challenged FIFA for describing player Alex Morgan as “easy on the eye and good looks to match” as well as the FA for tweeting about “lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters” after playing in the women’s World Cup.

It’s easy to imagine that this men’s World Cup in Russia will continue to disregard gender, sexism and misogyny. And yet, sport, specifically football, has potential to incite change, and reform.

Renaming to men’s football is an easy and simple step in the direction towards equality. We may as well start with the men’s World Cup 2018.

Jayne Caudwell, Associate Professor Leisure Cultures, Bournemouth University. Jayne’s teaching and research interests are concerned with leisure and sport cultures, feminist theory, theories of sexualities and qualitative research methodologies. She joined Bournemouth University in 2015 as Associate Professor & Head of Research in the Department of Events & Leisure. This article was originally published by The Conversation
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Thursday, 28 June 2018

Geoengineering Can Disrupt Global Ecological Status Quo And Pose Serious Threat To Peace

Written by By Elizabeth L. Chalecki & Lisa Ferrari, New Security Beat 

As the national security ramifications of climate change grow more pronounced, climate manipulation technologies, known as geoengineering, will become more attractive as a method of staving off climate-related security emergencies.  However, geoengineering technologies could disrupt the global ecological status quo, and could pose a potentially coercive (and very serious) threat to peace. Is it possible to obtain the potential benefits of these game-changing technologies, while avoiding spurring violence and conflict?  In a recent article in Strategic Studies Quarterly, we argue that just war theory—which defines the concepts of “right” and “wrong” in warfare—could provide ethical standards for security decision-makers as they consider whether or how geoengineering should be used to address the climate challenge.

Principle of a space lens, April 2008, courtesy of Mikael Häggström

Geoengineering in the Global Commons

Geoengineering technologies fall into two distinct types, carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management.  Carbon dioxide removal includes any method of removing CO2 or other heat-trapping gases from the ambient air with the intention of reducing the greenhouse effect and allowing more heat to escape the atmosphere.  Solar radiation management seeks to bounce sunlight away from the earth before it has the chance to be absorbed and re-radiated from the surface as infrared heat, becoming trapped in the atmosphere and contributing to the greenhouse effect.

Most methods can be deployed from land, and so would be subject to the national laws and norms of governance in the country where they are deployed.  However, three current methods—ocean iron fertilization, sulfur aerosol dispersal, and marine-based cloud brightening—can be deployed from the high seas or the atmosphere, which are a part of the shared global commons, not national territory.  Because the environmental cause and effect are separated in space and time, a sovereign state acting in these arenas could unilaterally affect the entire planet’s ecology.

Collateral damage to the environment during combat is one of the most significant costs of war.  UN Environment’s post-conflict environmental assessments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and Sudan show that destruction of the environment or disruption of ecosystem services hinders the recovery of the civilian population.  Any geoengineering technology on a scale large enough to shift the global climate has the potential to inflict damage of the same magnitude. 

Depending upon the type of technology used, geoengineering could incur the same level of cross-border environmental destruction and loss of functional sovereignty as a war.  But war is waged with intent to harm; and geoengineering might be deployed without that intent. However, that is a distinction without a difference, if it causes involuntary environmental change that affects the security and material well-being of states, just like the use of violent force. 

The SPICE Project, September 2011, courtesy of user Hughhunt. 

Towards a “Just Geoengineering” Theory

The centuries-long intellectual and legal history of just war theory provides ethical guidance for decision-making about the destructive forces of war.  Three of its principles apply to geoengineering: competent authority, proportionality, and discrimination.

Competent Authority: Only the legitimate government of a sovereign state—in conjunction with scientists, inter-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders—can justly decide to use geoengineering. Any rogue actors are not legitimate.

Proportionality: Any hoped-for ecological and economic benefits gained by deployment of geoengineering must outweigh the ecological and economic risks. In other words, geoengineering must make the problem better, not worse. 

Discrimination: The government cannot benefit its own people at the environmental expense of others, and collateral damage must be minimized.

Drawing on these three principles, we can formulate a Just Geoengineering Theory with two sets of guidelines: (1) on the decision to deploy—“jus ad climate”—following the model of jus ad bellum, law governing the decision to resort to force; and (2) on how the method should be deployed–“jus in climate”—following the model of jus in bello, law governing the conduct of war.

Jus ad climate:

The state must be facing a major climate change-related security emergency in order to justify deploying geoengineering technologies from the global commons. The competent authority must determine a threshold—such as lost lives or economic productivity—that determines whether the emergency is “major” enough to justify the use of geoengineering.

The decision must be made first at the national level, and then subject to international consent. States do not normally submit their national security decisions to the approval of other states, but geoengineering technologies are not like other weapons due to their unique combination of global reach, potential for nonlinear effect, and implications for the fundamental livability of our planet.

The selected technology should have a reasonable chance of success, according to the best available scientific expertise. If this cannot be determined, then its use is not just, and the precautionary principle—avoid harm to environment or human health—must be applied.

Any geoengineering attempt must meet the double-effect criteria: only the good result is intended; the bad is not a means to the good, and the deploying state is not engaging in harm for harm’s sake.

Jus in climate:

The chosen method must be designed to inflict only the minimum ecological disruption necessary to offset the climate emergency. According to the just war principle of proportionality, states may use only the amount of force necessary to achieve their goal.  When applied to geoengineering, determining this minimum requires input from scientists and stakeholders.

The geoengineering method must yield greater good than harm globally (not just to the country deploying it); and do so starting with the first year of deployment. If not, it must be discontinued as ineffective or unjust.  A short time threshold to prove the technology is critical, because unjust or unworkable strategies can cause significant environmental and economic damage, on top of the climate change effects they are trying to mitigate.

There’s No Planet B

Right now, climate change-related security threats are increasing, while mitigation and adaptation efforts are not keeping pace.  Eventually, geoengineering will start to look like viable climate manipulation measures, cloaked in national security; already the U.S. Congress is considering expanding such research in the name of national security.  However, law and custom require states to keep environmental harm from negatively affecting other states, and geoengineering deployed from the global commons offers no possibility of limiting the effects to one country or region. 

So why don’t the countries of the world negotiate a new geoengineering regime?  Ultimately, we must do just that, but the growing strain of nationalism in the world is pointing toward fewer treaties and less cooperation on global issues, and signals a retreat from the liberal international order needed to develop and implement a geoengineering convention.  In the absence of explicit international law, just geoengineering theory can help to create a set of norms and customs to guide decision-making by states and the international community.

Elizabeth L. Chalecki is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Nebraska–Omaha and a Non-Resident Research Fellow in Environmental Security at the Stimson Center.  Her expertise lies in the areas of climate change and security, global environmental politics, and the intersection of science & technology and international relations.  Lisa Ferrari is Associate Professor  of Politics and Government at  the University of Puget Sound, where she teaches in the areas of international relations, international ethics, and U.S.-Canadian relations. She is currently serving as an associate academic dean.

Sources: Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Scientific American, Science & Environmental Health Network, SSRN, Strategic Studies Quarterly, The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine, The Washington Post, UN Environment, and U.S. Congress. This article was originally published on New Security Beat.
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Monday, 25 June 2018

The Bahrain Political Stand-off, Where Is It Headed To?

Written by Sondoss Al Asaad, American Herald Tribune.

One year has passed after 5 youth were murdered and hundreds were severely injured during the Bahraini authority’s violent crackdown on the peaceful sit-in; set in solidarity with the spiritual leader; Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim. During the deadly raid, on 23 May 2017, hundreds of armoured vehicles and personnel carriers encircled the village of Duraz, firing lethal birdshot ammunitions and teargas canisters.

Al Jazeera English/ flickr

Seven Years of Clampdown

Indeed, Bahrain has long been systematically persecuting the Shiite; violating their right to the freedom of worship and practising religious rituals. Besides, it has been crushing all those who dare speak out against its marginalising and tyrannical policies, since the unrest eruption in 2011, having the full support by the American and British governments.

The government has long prompted its fake scenario; claiming that the national peaceful uprising stimulates an alleged Sunnis and Shiites conflict. However, it seeks social and political reforms. After 7 consecutive years, the government have been sharpening its clampdown on all forms of dissent and freedom of expression and association. It dissolved the main opposition groups, banned independent newspapers and imprisoned political activists and dissidents after trying them in military courts on fabricated charges.

Sheikh Ali Salman Arbitrary Arrest

On 17 July 2016, the Bahrain government dissolved the main opposition block; Al-Wefaq. Its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman, a senior Bahraini Shiite cleric, has been in prison on a nine-year jail sentence since late 2014, convicted merely for demanding the establishment of a democratic state, in which citizens enjoy equal rights and duties.

On 28 December 2018, Sheikh Salman completes a four-year. He is imprisoned along with the other opposition figures, who are almost sentenced to life imprisonment, under harsh conditions of detention. Sheikh Salman believes that dialogue is the ideal solution and has continually condemned violence and recommended peaceful demonstrations. Moreover, he emphasises on the people’s participation, affirmed under the international conventions and the Bahraini Constitution.

During his trial, which lacked standards of a fair trial, he made a pleading in which he expressed,

“The reason behind my imprisonment is that I call for the natural right to freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. I demand a human order in which all Bahrainis live honourably, feel their value as free equal citizens and secure the future of their children.”

The Public Prosecutor's Office charged Sheikh Salman for communicating with Qatar, in November 2017. The charge was released after the emergence of the Qatar-Gulf crisis in June 2017. Actually, the accusations against Sheikh Salman are based on his well-known telephone call with the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, which is integrated to the US initiative, in March 2011, to resolve the Bahraini crisis.

Ten hearings have passed before the court and the final verdict is due to be issued on 21 June 2018. Sheikh Salman remains behind bars although his defence team has presented exculpatory evidence before the court, which affirms that the call has been clipped, fragmented and manipulated by the authorities.

Targeting Human Rights’ Activists

International mainstream media have chosen to disregard the escalating human rights violations and the systematic policy against the dissents, in Bahrain. Without a doubt, the suppression aims at eliminating the peaceful movement, which demands the transition towards democracy and the end of tyranny and discrimination.

Many activists have sought political asylum since the government does not respect its international obligations. They have long expressed their willingness for dialogue without preconditions to resolve the crisis but the regime has not shown any sincere intentions, having got a full support from foreign powers.

The detained prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and the president of ‘Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’ has been condemned recently for a 5-year jail term. Despite the tireless international and human rights appeals to an immediate and unconditional release of Rajab and hundreds of prisoners of conscience, the government continues to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to his issue.

Lately, the council of Paris has granted Rajab an honorary citizen title. Its mayor said that this title aims at shedding the light on his situation due to authorities’ lack of respect for freedom of expression. The European Union too has called for Rajab's release due to deterioration of his health. The EU stated,

“Once again, the European Union expects all parties in Bahrain to engage in a genuine dialogue with a view to re-launching a process of national reconciliation in a peaceful and constructive manner.”

The Bahrain Declaration

In the early June, Al-Wefaq, opposition political bloc, proposed an initiative entitled the “The Bahrain Declaration.” The democracy-based proposal includes Al-Wefaq’s political framework to resolve the political crisis in Bahrain. The Declaration’s basic principles meet the international charters, treaties and universal human values. It rebukes all sorts of dominance or competitiveness and stresses a keenness to preserve Bahrain and the interests of its people.

Al-Wefaq has expounded that only the dialogue and negotiation approach would lead to national consensus. It emphasises its commitment to national reconciliation, peaceful option and preserving the interests of all Bahrainis. The Declaration, further, urges the government to establish an effective dialogue table to save Bahrain from the escalation of the political, economic, legal and social crises.

Indeed, the Declaration consists of 13 universal human principles that uphold moderation, stability and public participation. Al-Wefaq concludes asserting its pledge to establish a state of law, which represents and meets the aspirations of all citizens. Bahrainis desire to have a politically, economically and socially advanced state, which maintains equality, pluralism and liberties and promotes competence, professionalism and competitiveness.

Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Qassim Case

Embed from Getty Images

Meanwhile, the security forces continue to enforce a ban on the central Friday prayers at Imam Al Sadiq Mosque in Duraz, which used to host Bahrain’s Shiite congregation. Duraz’s residents, the hometown of Bahrain’s highest religious authority Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim and prominent dissents have been subjected to an unprecedented lockdown by the security forces.

Ayatollah Qassim was arbitrarily denaturalized in June 2016, over allegations of money laundering related to the Khums religious practice and fuelling extremism. As far as Shiite Muslims are concerned, khums is to donate a fifth of their yearly profits to their leader who in turn distributes it to the needy.

The revocation of Ayatollah Qassim’s citizenship and subjecting him to house-arrest was widely dismissed as politically motivated. The 80-year-old ailing cleric was deprived of adequate medical care, which led to numerous health complications. His health has dramatically deteriorated since security forces stormed his home in Duraz, killed five, and arrested around 300 demonstrators, in May 2017.

Democratic, Social and Economic Turmoil

Bahrain witnesses a drastic problem regarding the systematic demographic change; planned by the government through the extensive naturalisation policy and the revocation of the indigenous people citizenships. Unequivocally, the demographic conspiracy, adopted by the government in Bahrain, seems more like the Zionist project against the Palestinians in the occupied lands.

Bahrain was repeatedly commended to abolish the death penalty, to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for the abolition of the death penalty; to open an independent investigation into all complaints of torture and ill-treatment and to ratify the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary adopted by the United Nations in 1985, however nothing significantly has been done.

The sectarian racism policy of citizenship revocations and deportations has no legal basis and reflects the regime’s retaliatory oppression against the popular movement. Since 2011, around 600 Bahraini citizens have had their citizenship revoked; most of them are rendered stateless. Amid the silence of the international community, on 15 January 2017, death penalties were resumed when 3 youth were executed.

Besides, the constitution was amended in April 2017 permitting to try dissidents in military courts. These courts rely on the defendants’ coerced confessions and on testimonies of anonymous witnesses. On 31 January 2018, a military court sentenced two people to death and issued lengthy prison sentences against nearly all 60 defendants on terrorism charges; 36 of were tried while in custody and the remaining 24 were tried in absentia.

Various demonstrations are held in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011. These demonstrations call to relinquish the regime’s power and to elect a just system that represents all Bahrainis. Indeed, the public uprising and peaceful demonstrations would not stop, as the oppressed and persecuted Bahraini people are adamant to achieve their legitimate demands.

Sondoss Al Asaad is a Lebanese freelance journalist and translator; based in Beirut, Lebanon. Al Asaad writes on issues of the Arabs and Muslims world, with a special focus on the situation in Yemen and Bahrain. This article was originally published on American Herald Tribune.
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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Nicaragua Tries To Topple Ortega, Are His Days Numbered?

Written by Benjamin Waddell, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

After months of near-constant protest in Nicaragua, at least 215 people are dead, 1,000 are injured, and President Daniel Ortega – an authoritarian leader who once seemed invincible – is on his last legs.

File 20180611 191978 ovz19w.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Nicaragua, which overthrew its last violent dictator in 1979, is the only Latin American country since Cuba to stage a successful revolution. AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga

Citizens first took to the streets of Managua in early April after Ortega’s government was slow to respond to a massive forest fire inside Indio Maiz, the nation’s second-largest nature reserve. When the government quietly decided to tax retirees’ pension checks and increase employers’ insurance costs a week later, nationwide marches gained steam.

Police soon began killing protesters. What started as targeted, loosely organized protests quickly transformed into a movement. The goal: to remove President Daniel Ortega and his family from power.

Nicaragua vs. Goliath

Can Nicaragua, Latin America’s second poorest country, bring down its mighty regime by simply refusing to leave the streets? Local history suggests it can.

I am a Latin American scholar currently based in Managua, Nicaragua. My research on the ground suggests that presidents in this region who are challenged by mass protests fall much more frequently than one might suspect.

Most elected leaders in Latin America, a heavily democratic region, finish their terms. According to Christopher Martinez, a political science professor at Chile’s Temuco Catholic University, just 16 percent of South American presidents have resigned or been impeached since 1979.

However, that changes when leaders earn the ire of their citizens. Between 1985 and 2011, fully 70 percent of South American leaders who faced mass street protests were ultimately removed from office.

Nicaraguan protesters face a genuine Goliath in Daniel Ortega. In the only country since Cuba to orchestrate a successful armed revolution in Latin America, Ortega – a former Sandinista guerrilla who helped Nicaragua oust dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979 – is a giant.

Ortega has been the most powerful person in Nicaragua for nearly 40 years and president for 16 of them. While out of office, from 1990 to 2006, Ortega effectively controlled the country as a powerful Sandinista delegate in the National Assembly.

Even when the Sandinistas were in the minority, Ortega could still bring the country to a halt by organizing mass protests, as he did countless times between 1990 and 2006. This irony is surely not lost on today’s anti-Ortega protesters.

But, as author Malcolm Gladwell writes in his latest book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” “Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the source of great weakness.”

In other words, dictators are not toppled, they trip over their own feet. In Ortega’s case, his greatest strength – his sheer audacity – has now fostered dangerous complacency.

How To Topple A Dictator

Latin America scholar Kathryn Hochstetler offers a basic formula for predicting whether Latin American presidents will fall to mass protest.

Ortega has dominated Nicaraguan politics for 40 years.
AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga
If street protesters have the support of the legislature but there is no bloody crackdown, she says, a president’s odds of surviving are high. That’s how former Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolaños, who governed Nicaragua from 2002 to 2007, managed to stay in office despite protesters’ calls for his resignation.

When leaders opt to use force against peaceful protesters, it seems, they enter a dangerous path. Since the early 1990s, almost every Latin American president who came to power in a free and fair election but later used violence to quell street uprisings was soon ousted.

The exception is in Venezuela. President Hugo Chávez went on to rule for 11 years after using deadly force against protesters during a 2002 coup attempt.

His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has remained in office despite killing 163 protesters in 2017, though I would argue that by the time Maduro came to power Venezuela was no longer a true democracy. 

Dictators, ¡que se vayan! 

In a region with a history of violent dictators, state repression sparks citizens’ anger.

Nicaragua has seen major political conflict. The Sandinista rebels staged a seven-year insurrection in 1979 to free the country from military rule. An 11-year civil war between the Sandinista government and U.S.-backed Contras followed.

At this point, there’s clearly little tolerance for more bloodshed. Protesters’ resolve is likely hardened by the fact that most of the dead are young students.

Isolated by decades of power, Ortega seems to have underestimated the degree to which state violence and repression would bring together factions that he had so adeptly divided for so long. Today, students, human rights groups, the business sector and the Catholic Church are united behind the goal of removing the president from office.

The military has publicly said that it will not leave the barracks to repress citizens. If the generals stick to their word, I believe Ortega’s days are numbered.

Embed from Getty Images

A Fast Fall From Grace

Ortega’s fall from grace has come remarkably fast.

At the 27th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in 2006, Ortega rode a white horse into frenzied crowds on the Plaza de La Paz in downtown Managua. Later that year he would be narrowly re-elected as Nicaragua’s president.

In the years to follow, the government began placing massive billboards and posters featuring Ortega’s image around the country. The president centralized power in the executive branch, took control of Nicaragua’s National Assembly and Supreme Court, abolished term limits, and in 2017, appointed his wife as Nicaragua’s vice president.

Ortega was re-elected in 2016 for his third term with 72 percent of the vote. But only 30 percent of Nicaragua’s population voted in that year’s presidential election, and opposition parties alleged fraud.

Perhaps his legitimacy was already in question back then. Now, Ortega’s demise seems as inevitable as his rise to power once did.

Benjamin Waddell, Assistant Professor of International Studies, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas. This article was originally published on The Conversation
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