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For You Were Once Strangers (stills from the film/teaser)

The story unfolds through the deeply personal lens of three South Sudanese families and their community who fight the deportation back to their devastated, war-torn country. Israeli citizens from all sides are stirred to passionate debate, urgent action and increasingly violent protests. It becomes a struggle to define who they want to be both as individuals and a Nation. The film not only reveals intriguing facets of an Israel that very few have ever seen, it culminates in a troubling dilemma: Can Israel hold on to its identity as a democracy for the Jews and also maintain its humanity towards the “Other”? (source)

THERE ARE SOME WHO SAY THAT FASCISM IS INHERENTLY CONTRADICTORY: PRIZING THE WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS AND THE VITALITY OF YOUTH; CHAMPIONING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE AND DISDAINING DEMOCRACY; INSISTING ON THE INTEGRITY OF NATIONAL BORDERS WHILE VYING FOR IMPERIAL EXPANSION.

THAT IS BECAUSE THE LIBERAL DEGENERATES CANNOT SEE WHAT THE REACTIONARY KNOWS - IN SINGULARITY, OLD IS YOUNG, AND ALL IS ONE, AND HERE IS EVERYWHERE.

THESE ARE ETERNAL TRUTHS AND TEMPORAL LIES.

Klaus Iohannis, a 55-year-old conservative, pro-Western politician, so far has experience only of running a medieval Romanian city. He set out his radical goals for his country in an interview with The Independent on Sunday. They include a return to fiscal restraint, bolstering the rule of law and dealing with corruption. His lack of experience on the national political stage turned out to be an advantage with an electorate weary of flashy politicians they saw engaging in petty, vituperative quarrels while the nation’s employment levels, agricultural output and pensions all went into decline.

  • "My election was certainly a surprise to analysts and even to my own supporters – but especially a huge shock for most of Romania’s politicians," Mr Iohannis chuckled, as he sat in front of an old stove heater in a stark office decorated only with a baubled Christmas tree.
  • Mr Iohannis began his career as a physics teacher, then became a popular mayor of Sibiu, which he transformed into a tourist attraction, cutting unemployment to near zero. “I am not a rebel, but I am a very different kind of politician,” he said. “I think this is one of the main reasons I got a huge number of votes.”
  • On the eve of the presidential election run-off, most news outlets predicted that the incumbent prime minister and presidential front-runner, Victor Ponta, was poised for victory. The socialist premier had held a 10-point lead in the first ballot. In the second round, Mr Iohannis garnered nearly 55 per cent of the vote.
  • One factor, he said, was his highly successful campaign to attract young voters via social media. “I was amazed at the huge number of followers [on Facebook] at the end of my campaign. Right now, it’s around 1.3 million. I never imagined I would be the number-one politician in Europe on Facebook.”
  • It is true: second is the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, with less than a million. The achievement is all the more remarkable since Mr Iohannis is from Romania’s small German-speaking ethnic minority and is a Lutheran Protestant, when most people are Romanian Orthodox Christians.
  • His opponent ran a nationalistic campaign and promised a boost to pensions, even though the country is running short of money and needs to borrow large sums from the International Monetary Fund in return for agreeing to austerity measures.
  • Mr Iohannis said that he plans to transform politics while in power: “I think we have had too much show, too much sterile debate, not enough solutions.” He will urge his people to swallow more years of austerity. “A lot needs to change,” he said.
  • The 25th anniversary of the overthrow of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu falls this week. “By the end of my mandate, Romania has to be a better-functioning democracy. By then, nobody should question the rule of law in Romania. The education system should be good enough to make us proud. People should get decent treatment in hospitals. And the economy should be good enough to encourage Romanians living abroad to come home.”
  • It sounds like a tall order. But Mr Iohannis has already proved he can confound the experts’ predictions.

Tsvetana Mitrova, 73, holds on to her donkey—and only means of transport—Puncho, in Kanitz, a mostly abandoned village in Bulgaria. Of approximately 50 houses, only 3 hold inhabitants—bringing total population to 6.

Bulgaria has the most extreme population decline in the world—due to post-1989 emigration, high incidence of death and low birth rates. Visions of severe structural and industrial decay are becoming increasingly common across the country.

Image and text by Yana Paskova, via the New Yorker Photo Instagram. Bulgaria, 2014.     

This project was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center. Photo by @yanapaskova.

Three Steps to Escape the Two-Party System and Re-establish Democracy in the USA

  1. Pass ballot initiatives demanding Instant Runoff Voting, which allows voters to vote for as many candidates as they wish by ranking them in order of preference. Once all of the votes have been collected, first choices are counted, and the candidate with the majority wins. This levels the playing field for the independent candidates by allowing voters to vote for their favourite candidates while avoiding the fear of helping to elect their least favourite. 
  2. Pass a Constitutional Amendment to Say Corporations Aren’t People and Money Isn’t Speech. You can sign Move to Amend’s petition to help end corporate rule and rebuild the system to be accountable to the people rather than corporate interests. It should be evident that the democratic process is flawed when 42 billionaires can fund a third of all political ads. Despite the torrent of money, totaling at about $3.7 billion, funding the 2014 elections, voter turnout was at the historic low of only 36.6%. The money isn’t helping, we need to rid our elections from the influence of billionaires and corporations. 
  3. Make Election Day a National Holiday and Voting an Inalienable Right. Rather than establishing laws that restrict voting access, we need to remove all barriers and prevent future barriers from being built. In some states, laws requiring voters to have proper photo identification, have been passed in order to prevent voter fraud. What most people don’t know is that voter fraud only happens 31 times out of every 1 billion votes cast. Voting restrictions are not designed to prevent voter fraud, but instead to decrease voter turnout for the benefit of the politicians. How can we call ourselves a democracy when more than half of US citizens are unrepresented in the elections? Something needs to change!

(Read full article here)

(11/13/14)

CHINA, HONG KONG : Police use batons against pro-democracy protesters near the government headquarters in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on December 1, 2014. Police unleashed pepper spray and baton charges at students who tried to storm Hong Kong’s government headquarters early on December 1, as tensions soared in the third month of pro-democracy protests. AFP PHOTO / DALE de la REY

In a new study, Duke University researchers Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a random series of North Carolina congressional district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders, North Carolina Public Radio reports.

After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn maps, the simulated election results found Democrats winning an average of 7.6 House seats out of 13. In fact, 95% of the random redistricting simulations found Democrats winning between 6 and 9 House seats. These finds are in stark contrast with the 4 Democrats actually elected in the 2012 elections with the same vote counts.
— 

Political Wire, “Study Shows Gerrymandering Distorts Election Results.

America no longer has free and fair elections. We are not as free a people as we’d like to believe.

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Last Stand at #OccupyHK                                 

Hong Kong police will clear all protesters blocking roads around the government offices tomorrow, seeking to end the pro-democracy movement that has paralyzed the city center for more than two months.

The clearance will begin at 9 a.m. tomorrow, according to Paul Tse, a lawyer for bus company All China Express Ltd., which had obtained the court injunction for the clearance at Admiralty district.

It will leave the student-led protesters with little gains after China refused to budge on its decision to control the nomination process for the city’s first leadership election in 2017. 

The protests kicked off on September 26 when student leaders stormed the premises of the government headquarters to demand that China allow for public nomination of candidates for the chief executive election. The demonstrations drew more than 100,000 people after police used tear gas to disperse the students, sparking public outrage.

Full coverage of the Hong Kong protests by Bloomberg photos here.

Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

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