Kiribati – A Drowning Paradise in the South Pacific

The island nation of Kiribati in the South Pacific is at risk of disappearing into the sea. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise but the island’s inhabitants aren’t giving up. They are doing what they can to save their island from inundation.

Watch video42:55

Kiribati can hardly be surpassed in terms of charm and natural beauty. There are 33 atolls and one reef island — spread out over an area of 3.5 million square kilometers. All have white, sandy beaches and blue lagoons. Kiribati is the world’s largest state that consists exclusively of atolls. A local resident named Kaboua points to the empty, barren land around him and says, “There used to be a large village here with 70 families.” But these days, this land is only accessible at low tide. At high tide, it’s all under water. Kaboua says that sea levels are rising all the time, and swallowing up the land. That’s why many people here build walls made of stone and driftwood, or sand or rubbish. But these barriers won’t stand up to the increasing number of storm surges. Others are trying to protect against coastal erosion by planting mangrove shrubs or small trees. But another local resident, Vasiti Tebamare, remains optimistic. She works for KiriCAN, an environmental organization. Vasiti says: “The industrialized countries — the United States, China, and Europe — use fossil fuels for their own ends. But what about us?” Kiribati’s government has even bought land on an island in Fiji, so it can evacuate its people in an emergency. But Vasiti and most of the other residents don’t want to leave.

Franken Case Sets Off Debate Over Line Between Abuse and a Mistake

By KATIE ROGERS and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Michael Bennet et al. sitting at a table: Senator Al Franken in January. He was accused by a woman of kissing and groping her in 2006.© Al Drago/The New York Times Senator Al Franken in January. He was accused by a woman of kissing and groping her in 2006.

WASHINGTON — A day after the latest in a dizzying series of sexual assault revelations enveloped Senator Al Franken and rattled the Capitol, politicians and comedians were left trying to assess the line between predatory behavior and an inexcusable mistake, as calls mounted for him to resign.

Mr. Franken, Democrat of Minnesota and a veteran of both comedy and politics — two industries under increased scrutiny for fostering cultures where sexual abuse is pervasive — was targeted by Republicans, including President Trump, who has himself been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault. Republicans are grappling with their own senatorial scandal, as Roy S. Moore pursues a Senate seat amid accusations of assaulting teenage girls.

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But that did not diminish their zeal as they called on Mr. Franken to step down.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump publicly hinted at a pattern of assault, and the political fallout continued as two Minnesota candidates for governor, both Democrats, called on Mr. Franken to resign. The conservative writer and activist L. Brent Bozell III said Mr. Franken had been “caught red-handed conducting lewd an unacceptable behavior,” adding, “there is a pervert in the United States Senate.”

By Friday evening, Mr. Franken had canceled a coming appearance at a book fair in Miami.

But while there was no widespread public showing of support for Mr. Franken, a number of his allies, including three former “Saturday Night Live” colleagues and 10 former aides, all women, said that they did not believe his behavior fit a pattern or was in the same realm of misconduct as other high-profile men accused of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, including the comedian Louis C.K. and the producer Harvey Weinstein.

“I’m just so upset about this atmosphere and good people being dragged into it,” said Jane Curtin, a member of the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” with Mr. Franken from 1975 to 1980 who has been close with him since. “It’s just like the red menace. You don’t know who’s going to be next.”

Ms. Curtin said that in a comedy setting where women were at times not valued or dismissed because of their gender, Mr. Franken was a powerful ally who viewed female writers and comedians as his equal. But she was also among several who said they were disappointed by Mr. Franken’s conduct and were struggling with the episode, which happened during his comedy career.

“I was surprised,” Ms. Curtin said. “If he did that, that’s really stupid, but I have never seen him in a situation where he has been sexually aggressive with anybody.”

Others, including the woman who said he forcibly kissing her during a 2006 U.S.O. tour of the Middle East, grappled with his expressions of remorse. The woman, Leeann Tweeden, read an apology from the senator during a Friday appearance on the “The View.”

In another appearance, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Ms. Tweeden, a radio newscaster, said she had not told her story for political gain, and that his fate was up to the people of Minnesota to decide. She said she wanted women to feel more comfortable to share their experiences.

“Because if he did this to somebody else, or if anybody else has stayed silent, or anybody else has been the victim of any kind of abuse, maybe they can speak out and feel like they can come forward in real time and not wait a decade or longer,” she said.

As Washington wrestled with how to categorize Mr. Franken’s behavior, which was accompanied by a photo that showed him appearing to grope Ms. Tweeden as she slept on a military plane, even some ardent defenders of women’s rights said the senator’s offense was not so grievous as to require his resignation.

“This is not a Harvey Weinstein situation,” said Debra Katz, a civil rights lawyer who handles sexual harassment cases. “Harvey Weinstein was a serial predator who used his power to put women in very vulnerable situations. He abused that power by sexually assaulting women. That’s not what this is.”

Ms. Katz also drew a distinction between Mr. Franken’s role as a comedian and that of a senator.

“Context is relevant,” she said. “He did not do this as a member of the U.S. Senate. He did this in his capacity of someone who was still functioning as an entertainer.”

Victoria Jackson, who also overlapped with Mr. Franken on “Saturday Night Live,” said he did not have a history of acting in an inappropriate manner in that workplace, where humor was often bawdy. She remembered him telling her he was troubled she acted like “a ditz” in meetings when he knew she was smart, a comment that unsettled her but one that she ultimately did not feel was harassment.

“I have a lot of stories of sexually inappropriate things that have happened to me in my life from people in show business,” Ms. Jackson, 58, said in an interview. “As far as Al Franken, he never said or did anything inappropriate to me the six years I was on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

Several of Mr. Franken’s former aides said that they believed Ms. Tweeden’s accusation, but that her account did not match what they experienced on Capitol Hill. They expressed disappointment in his actions but defended his track record as a lawmaker who promoted women in his office and valued their opinions.

Natalie Volin Lehr, a former aide who signed a joint statement in Mr. Franken’s defense, said in an interview on Friday that Mr. Franken was being judged unfairly, and that his track record in office had been one of defending women’s rights.

“He’s had unsavory jokes in the past that he’s regretted,” Ms. Volin Lehr said of Mr. Franken’s comedy career. She said the photo published Thursday fell into that category, “but it is hard to see how this is comparable to the other incidents that women have brought forward in the recent past.”

Those who knew him also said Mr. Franken was a dedicated husband to Franni Bryson, whom he married in 1975 and whose struggle with alcohol abuse has been publicly discussed by the couple. A former “Saturday Night Live” colleague, the writer Marilyn Suzanne Miller, cried as she defended Mr. Franken on Friday, saying, “He wouldn’t do it to Franni.”

The senator may not have welcomed all of his defenders. An Ohio Supreme Court justice, who is running for governor as a Democrat, shared his sexual experiences with “approximately 50 very attractive females” as he attempted to defend Mr. Franken.

“Now that the dogs of war are calling for the head of Senator Al Franken I believe it is time to speak up on behalf of all heterosexual males,” Bill O’Neill wrote Friday on Facebook in a post that has since been removed. “I am sooooo disappointed by this national feeding frenzy about sexual indiscretions decades ago.”

Courtesy: The New York Times

Will the new rules of sexuality be like an ashtray with a no-smoking sign?

Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek is a cultural philosopher. He’s a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London.
Will the new rules of sexuality be like an ashtray with a no-smoking sign?
Women’s protests are a great awakening, but with many dangers. It could eventually be a case of rules being made to be broken.

Last week, the American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler helped organize an, outwardly straightforward, conference in São Paulo, Brazil. Butler may be well-known for her work on transgenderism, but the title of the event was ‘The Ends of Democracy’ and thus had nothing to do with the topic. Yet, nevertheless, a crowd of right-wing protesters gathered outside the venue where they burned an effigy of Butler while shouting “Queimem a bruxa!” (Portuguese for “Burn the witch!”).

This weird incident is the latest in a long series, which prove that sexual difference is today politicized in two complementary ways: the transgender fluidification of gender identities and the resulting conservative backlash.

Indeed, the famous description of the capitalist dynamics in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto should be supplemented by the fact that global capitalism has seen sexual “one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible.” And that, also in the domain of sexual practices, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.” Because perhaps capitalism tends to replace the standard normative heterosexuality with a proliferation of unstable shifting identities and/or orientations?

Today’s celebration of “minorities” and “marginals” is the predominant majority position – even alt-rightists who complain about the terror of liberal political correctness present themselves as protectors of an endangered minority. Or take those critics of patriarchy who attack it as if it was still a hegemonic position, ignoring what Marx and Engels wrote more than 150 years ago, in the first chapter of their aforementioned tome: “the bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.” But this is still ignored by those leftist cultural theorists who focus their critique on patriarchal ideology and practice.

So what should we do with regard to this tension? Shall we limit ourselves to supporting the transgender fluidification of identities while remaining critical of its limitations? There is a third way of contesting the traditional form of gender identities exploding now – with women massively coming out about male sexual violence. That said, all the features of the media coverage of this event should not distract us from what is really going on; and that is nothing less than an epochal change, a great awakening, a new chapter in the history of equality.

Huge shift

Right now, thousands of years of how relations between the sexes were regulated and arranged are questioned and undermined. The protesting movement is now not an LGBT+ minority but a majority, that of women. What is coming out is nothing new – it is something we (vaguely, at least) knew all the time and just were not able (or willing and ready) to openly address: hundreds of ways of exploiting women sexually.

Women are now bringing out the dark underside of our official claims of equality and mutual respect, and what we are discovering is, among other things, how hypocritical and one-sided our fashionable critique of women’s oppression in Muslim countries was (and is): so, we have to confront our own reality of oppression and exploitation.

As in every revolutionary upheaval, there will be numerous “injustices” and “ironies.” For example, I doubt that Louis CK’s acts, deplorable and lewd as they are, could be put on the same level as direct sexual violence. But, again, all this should not distract us; we should instead focus on the problems that lie ahead.

Although some countries are already approaching a new post-patriarchal sexual culture (just look at Iceland, where more than two thirds of children are born out of wedlock, and where women occupy more posts in public power institutions than men), one of the key tasks is, first, the need to explore what we are gaining and losing in this upheaval of our inherited courtship procedures. Because new rules will have to be established so that we will avoid a sterile culture of fear and uncertainty.

Indeed, some intelligent feminists noted long ago that if we try to imagine a wholly politically correct courtship, we get uncannily close to a formal market contract. The problem is that sexuality, power, and violence are much more intimately intertwined than we may expect it so that also elements of what is considered brutality can be sexualized, i.e., libidinally invested – after all, sadism and masochism are forms of sexual activity. As a result, sexuality purified of violence and power games can well end up getting desexualized.

In the aftermath of ’s downfall, we at risk of broadening the definition of sexual harassment too widely (Op-Ed by Danielle Ryan) https://on.rt.com/8rqn 

Coverage of sexual harassment claims carelessly blurs lines between minor misconduct and real abuse…

Amid the Weinstein scandal furor, there’s risk the line between minor misconduct and real sex abuse may be erased, writes journalist Danielle Ryan.

rt.com

New challenges

The next task is to make sure the ongoing explosion will not remain limited to the public lives of the rich and famous but will trickle down and penetrate the daily lives of millions of ordinary ‘invisible’ individuals. And the last (but not least) point is to explore how to link this awakening to the ongoing political and economic struggles, i.e. how to prevent it from being appropriated by Western liberal ideology (and practice) as yet another way to reassert our priority. One has to make an effort that this awakening will not turn into just another case where political legitimization is based on the subject’s victimhood status.

Is the basic characteristic of today’s subjectivity not the weird combination of the free subject who themselves as ultimately responsible for their fate and the subject who grounds the authority of his speech on their status as a victim of circumstances beyond their control? Where every contact with another human being is experienced as a potential threat – if the other smokes, if he casts a covetous glance at me, he already hurts me: this logic of victimization is today universalized, reaching well beyond the standard cases of sexual or racist harassment.

Merely recall the growing financial industry of paying damage claims, from the tobacco industry deal in the USA and the financial claims of the Holocaust victims and forced laborers in Nazi Germany, up to the idea that the USA should pay African-Americans hundreds of billions of dollars for all they were deprived of due to their past slavery. This notion of the subject as an irresponsible victim involves the extreme narcissistic perspective from which every encounter with the other appears as a potential threat to the subject’s precarious imaginary balance; as such, it is not the opposite, but, rather, the inherent supplement of the liberal free subject. In today’s predominant form of individuality, the self-centered assertion of the psychological subject paradoxically overlaps with the perception of oneself as a victim of circumstances.

Two sides

In a hotel in Skopje where I recently stayed, my companion inquired if smoking is permitted in our room. The answer she got from the reception person was unique: “of course not, it is prohibited by the law. But you have ashtrays in the room, so this is not a problem.”

This was not the end of our surprises: when we entered the room, there was effectively a glass ashtray on the table, and on its bottom, there was an image painted, a cigarette over which there was a large circle with a diagonal line across it designating prohibition. So it was not the usual game one encounters in easy-going hotels where they whisper to you discreetly that, although it is officially prohibited, you can do it carefully, standing by an open window or something like that.

Thus, the contradiction (between prohibition and permission) was openly assumed and thereby canceled and treated as non-existent, i.e., the message was: “it’s prohibited, and here it is how you do it.” Back to the ongoing awakening, the danger is that, in a homologous way, the ideology of personal freedom will be effortlessly combined with the logic of victimhood (with freedom silently reduced to the freedom to bring out one’s victimhood), thereby rendering superfluous a radical emancipatory politicization of the awakening, making the women’s fight one in the series of fights – fights again global capitalism and ecological threats, for a different democracy, and against racism, etc.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Coverage of sexual harassment claims carelessly blurs lines between minor misconduct and real abuse

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer, journalist and media analyst. She has lived and traveled extensively in the US, Germany, Russia and Hungary. Her byline has appeared at RT, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, The BRICS Post, New Eastern Outlook, Global Independent Analytics and many others. She also works on copywriting and editing projects. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook or at her website http://www.danielleryan.net.
Coverage of sexual harassment claims carelessly blurs lines between minor misconduct and real abuse
It is undeniably a great thing that abusers like Harvey Weinstein are finally receiving their comeuppance, however overdue it may be. But in the aftermath of Weinstein’s downfall, we’re at risk of broadening the definition of sexual harassment too widely.

There is a vast difference between genuine sexual harassment, abuse or rape — and minor misconduct, flirting or otherwise inappropriate behavior in the workplace (or anywhere else). Yet, in recent weeks, the two have been dangerously conflated.

Since the deluge of Weinstein revelations, we’ve seen other ‘scandals’ emerge whereby some man or other may or may not have flirted inappropriately without reciprocation years ago. The fact that these kinds of minor accusations are making headlines and being portrayed as sexual misconduct or outright harassment is disturbing, to say the least. Not to mention, the irresponsible conflation of the two is an injustice and an insult to women — and men — who have experienced real harassment or rape at the hands of a genuine abuser.

Trial by social media

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen so many people in my social media feeds posting #MeToo statuses that what started as an important reminder that sexual abuse is indeed far too prevalent, has lost all meaning. When you see someone posting a #MeToo status today, are you to assume they were raped or that someone sent them an inappropriate text once?

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned last week over allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. What started out as one accusation that Fallon inappropriately touched the knee of a journalist many years ago was revealed to be a genuine pattern of inappropriate behavior (attempting to kiss one journalist and making lewd remarks to another). Fallon’s resignation is appropriate in that context — but what is fascinating is that so many people were willing to condemn him when the only piece of information we had was that he had touched a woman’s knee.

That Fallon has indeed turned out to be a bit of a pervert is beside the point. He has admitted his behavior was wrong and resigned — but others have denied allegations being made against them. Nonetheless, we’re supposed to condemn them anyway. Have we just decided to do away with the presumption of innocence, or at the very least the idea that these matters should be dealt with through lawyers and courts, not on Facebook and Twitter? Are we supposed to completely ignore the possibility that just maybe, an accusation could be false?

This kind of trial by social media is dangerous. A simple tweet can brand a person as a rapist who deserves to lose their job and have their lives utterly destroyed in an instant — on nothing more than the say-so of another person.

Sterile culture

A couple of weeks ago, Adam Sandler found himself in the firing line when he touched actress Claire Foy’s knee twice during The Graham Norton Show. Some viewers were so outraged by the contact Sandler had made with Foy’s knee that she was forced to release a statement saying she was not angry or offended by Sandler’s gesture. If this kind of behavior is classed as sexual harassment or as outrageously inappropriate as some viewers suggested, we appear to be on our way toward living in a completely sterile, robotic and puritanical world where nobody can say or do anything for fear of pious backlash from the political correctness police.

There is also an insulting, sexist and patronizing element to all of this which makes women out to be weak-minded, overly sensitive creatures who can’t even handle a sexual joke being told in their presence. Or who are so vulnerable that they simply can’t be left alone to fend for themselves. One POLITICO journalist recently suggested that a good way to limit sexual harassment would be to make closed-door meetings in the workplace a fireable offense.

Small, practical step to limit sex harassment: Make holding closed-door meetings with ANYONE a fire-able offense. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/i-dont-want-to-sit-on-your-lap-she-said-but-mark-halperin-insisted/2017/10/26/0baa883c-ba64-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html 

‘I don’t want to sit on your lap,’ she thought. But, she alleges, Mark Halperin insisted.

A star TV journalist falls from his perch amid multiple sexual harassment allegations.

washingtonpost.com

It is frankly insane to think this is how to prevent sexual harassment. It is almost like saying that women are too vulnerable and weak to stand up for themselves behind a closed door — and men are too disgusting and perverted to resist harassing them when they are in a private setting. I for one would hate to work in an environment where you could get fired for closing a door, just in case someone might have harassed you.

Singer-songwriter Marian Call tweeted that all women want to live in a world where strangers and coworkers “never flirted” with them again. Well, how exactly does she know what all women want? Many a happy relationship has begun as the result of workplace flirtation or a chance meeting with a stranger. One has to wonder how Call feels about women who initiate flirtatious behavior themselves— because as shocking as it may be for some, this happens on a regular basis.

This obsession with defining every sultry glance or flirty comment as sexual harassment has got so out of hand that there are now even sexual consent apps available online to download. Yes, you are now supposed to stop in your tracks and click an “I consent” button on your phone before having sex. How romantic.

Can’t get it right

I recently witnessed an interesting discussion in an online forum. A man had asked if it was appropriate to apologize to a woman in the case of minor inappropriate behavior (making unwanted advances, flirting inappropriately, making sexist jokes, etc.) — or whether it was best to say nothing, move on and do better next time. He was attacked from every angle by women who acted like he was suggesting that men send an “oops, sorry” apology text for rape. Almost every single woman told him that an apology would be useless and inappropriate and he received a barrage of comments about how he just didn’t understand and was essentially an idiot for even posing the question.

Yet, the question was well-intentioned and coming from a man who seemingly wanted to examine his own behavior in light of recent events, and who simply wondered if an apology for very minor inappropriateness would be an excellent first step. Is that not what this is all about? Is it not a good thing that many men are thinking about this more seriously for the first time? I thought that’s what everyone wanted — but apparently not.

There is of course an expectation that both men and women will behave appropriately in the workplace. It is totally unacceptable to abuse or harass anyone or to make overt and inappropriate advances where there has been no indication they would be well-received. There is also no doubt that if someone has been made aware that his or her behavior has made someone uncomfortable in any way, the behavior should be stopped. It is also absolutely a good thing that the Weinstein scandal has made women feel more comfortable talking about cases of real, genuine abuse and harassment.

But, at the same time, we need to take a step back and think about what kind of world we want to live in. Do we want it to be one where a harmless flirtation or a sexual joke — or a social media allegation of a single inappropriate touch — can destroy your whole life and elicit comparisons with serial abusers like Harvey Weinstein?

There is no clear rulebook here, but we have to do better at distinguishing between true abuse and minor inappropriateness. To conflate the two does no one any good.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Humans will turn Earth into ‘sizzling ball of fire’ by 2600, Stephen Hawking warns

Humans will turn Earth into ‘sizzling ball of fire’ by 2600, Stephen Hawking warns
World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has offered another apocalyptic prediction for Earth – this time warning that the planet will become a “sizzling ball of fire” in less than 600 years.

Hawking made the grim forecast via videolink to the Tencent WE Summit in Beijing, declaring humans will have to “boldly go where no one has gone before,” if they want humankind to survive for another million years.

The planet will be overcrowded by 2600 and increased power consumption will turn Earth into a sizzling fireball, according to the Cambridge mastermind.

‘Humanity at point of no return, in danger of self-destructing’ – Stephen Hawking https://on.rt.com/8rc3 

Hawking offered some hope, however, via his Breakthrough Starshot project. The $100m research program backed by Russian Internet billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg aims to reach the closest star outside of our solar system, in the hope that a livable planet might be orbiting it.

The intention is to send tiny spaceships propelled by beams of light to Alpha Centauri – one of the closest star systems to ours, 4.3 light-years away. “Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, or reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years,” Hawking said.

“Maybe if all goes well, sometime a little after the middle of the century, we’ll have our first picture of another planet that may be life-bearing orbiting the nearest star,” said Pete Worden, Breakthrough Starshot’s director and former head at NASA’s Ames Research Center who also spoke at the China summit.

  • Hawking also reiterated his AI fears this week. He told the Web Summit in Lisbon Monday that it may be the “worst event in the history of our civilisation,” and could conceivable destroy mankind.

Courtesy: RT

Opinion: The EU cannot ignore corruption in Malta

Something is rotten in Malta. The murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is a case in point. The EU shouldn’t only be shocked and disgusted, it should step in and do something, says DW’s Bernd Riegert.

Juncker & Muscat in Valletta (Getty Images/AFP/M. Mirabelli)

Many of Malta’s 400,000 citizens lack faith in their politicians, police and state officials. That was made clear at a demonstration in memory of the murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that took place this weekend. The protesters’ main demand was that the chief of police be replaced. For years, Caruana Galizia worked to shine a light on corruption in Malta, from which politicians, the mafia and business leaders benefited. “There are crooks everywhere,” she wrote on her blog.

It’s not yet known who was behind the bomb attack that killed Caruana Galizia on October 16. Not only do Malta’s citizens doubt that the murder will ever be solved, most EU politicians are skeptical as well. Manfred Weber, the conservative group leader of the European Parliament, said that Malta does not have the wherewithal to solve the case on its own, and called for an independent European investigative unit. Although Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has asked Dutch, British and American investigators for help and put up a 1 million euro ($1.17 million) reward, it was not enough to satisfy everyone in the European Parliament. The Greens, for instance, have demanded that Muscat and his Labor government step down, saying there is simply too much corruption.

Malta: A mafia island?

Since Malta gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964, it has been alternatively governed by the conservative Nationalist and the social-democratic Labor parties. Both parties have very close ties to the island’s most powerful families. The lines between police, justice and business are often blurred. Malta’s economic success, especially since it joined the EU in 2004, has been largely based on tourism, financial services, tax avoidance models, shell companies and online gambling. The creation and management of virtual currencies like Bitcoin are to follow soon.

Riegert Bernd Bernd Riegert is DW’s correspondent in Brussels

Daphne Caruana Galizia continually pilloried what she called mafia-like structures in Malta. She pulled no punches when it came to the government, nor with the opposition. She consistently flooded the offices of the sitting president as well as the opposition leader with injunctions. In her blog posts – incidentally, blogs are the most widely read medium in Malta – she frequently wrote tabloid-style stories about corruption and nepotism on the island. Although she often presented little information to back her claims, should only a portion of the accusations have been true it would be bad enough.

Caruana Galizia’s shocking murder, and the threat to press freedom and core European values it represents, has raised the question of whether Malta is in fact a country ruled by laws, and moreover, if it is capable of correcting itself. That is a difficult question to answer. Still, the European Union must, at the very least, begin a formal dialogue with Malta to ascertain whether or not fundamental principles of the rule of law are being maintained in the investigation, prosecution and protection of basic rights.

EU should seek ‘dialogue’

Furthermore, the EU must urgently assess its own role in regard to Malta’s dubious financial sector. It is no secret the country is a tax haven where some 70,000 companies from around the world are able to drive their tax obligations down to zero. Just last week, the European Parliament presented a report acknowledging that Malta had refused to cooperate with the EU in investigating shady business deals being done by offshore companies. However, the report emphasized that Malta is not alone, labeling the UK, Cyprus, Latvia, Estonia and Ireland as tax havens with close ties to suspicious foundations and shell companies based in Panama.

Caruana Galizia thoroughly reported on the so-called Panama Papers, too. She noted that Prime Minister Muscat’s wife was named in the financial leaks, and that Malta’s parliamentary opposition leader, Adrian Delia, was evading taxes via accounts in the UK as well. According to Caruana Galizia, money laundering, drug trafficking, prostitution and tax evasion are all parts of Malta’s corruption scandal. She pulled no punches, and her family has vowed to continue her crusade.

The EU should take a good hard look at Malta. It cannot force the country to do anything, but it can put pressure on the government nevertheless. The bloc’s credibility is on the line. One can hardly accuse Poland’s rebellious government or the paranoid Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of not upholding the rule of law and then willingly turn a blind eye to Malta.

Watch video02:30

Calls for Europol probe of Maltese journalist murder

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Systematic doping of Chinese athletes in Olympic Games revealed by former doctor

A former doctor has revealed the massive extent of doping of Chinese Olympic athletes during the 1980s and 1990s. The whistleblower has claimed more than 10,000 athletes were doped in the state-backed program.

The Chinese team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic GamesThe Chinese team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games

A former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team told German media that tens of thousands of Chinese athletes took performance enhancing drugs in the 1980s and 1990s as part of a systematic government doping scheme.

“There must have been more than 10,000 people involved,” Xue Yinxian told public broadcaster ARD in a television interview first broadcast on Friday. “All international medals (won by Chinese athletes in that time) should be taken back.”

Xue’s claim of systematic doping contradicted previous statements by the Chinese government, which had denied any involvement in individual cases of Chinese athletes taking performance enhancing drugs.

Read more: Iditarod dog sled team tests positive for Tramadol in drug doping test

Chinese athlete at Rio Olympics in 2016Chinese athletes have been suspected of using banned substances at multiple Olympic Games

Her claim also contradicted comments previously made by Chen Zhanghao, the Chinese Olympic team’s chief doctor at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games. In 2012, Chen told the Australian daily The Sydney Morning Herald that “about 50” Chinese athletes had taken various performance-enhancing drugs during his tenure.

‘If you refused to dope, you had to leave’

Xue, who was the Chinese gymnastics team’s chief medical supervisor in the 1980s, said Chinese authorities had “insisted that all sports teams had to use doping substances: football, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, badminton, track and field, swimming, diving, gymnastics, weightlifting.”

“If you refused to dope, you had to leave the team,” she said, adding “the youth-age group teams used the substances – the youngest were 11 years old.”

“As long as you were not caught, you were a good athlete. The government only wanted to produce gold medals irrespective of the means,” she told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (German language) in a separate interview.

Xue said the extent of the problem became apparent after a colleague told her about the unhealthy physical effects certain drugs were having on younger male athletes.

She was eventually fired from the Chinese Olympic team during the 1988 Olympic Games in the South Korean capital Seoul after she refused to use a banned substance on a gymnast, but continued working as a doctor for other sporting organizations in China until she retired in 1998.

‘They wanted to silence me’

The 79-year-old fled China with her son, Yang Weidong, and his wife in 2015 and all three have since sought asylum in Germany after Xue spoke about “rampant” Chinese doping practices in an interview with The Sydney Morning Heraldin 2012.

“Anyone against doping damaged the country and anyone who endangered the country now sits in prison,” she told ARD.

Xue said government authorities tried to intimidate her before leaving China to ensure she would not talk.

“Once, eight people came to my home. They wanted me not to speak about the use of doping substances. They urged me to give up. I said ‘I can’t do that.’ They wanted to silence me,” she said.

The Chinese government refused to comment on Xue’s allegations after ARD and the Süddeutsche Zeitungasked for a response.

Safety in Germany?

Xue and her son Yang have been waiting four months for Geman authorities to approve their asylum requests, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Yang claimed the family had been followed by a Chinese agent near to their asylum center after they first arrived. Shortly thereafter, the family was assigned to a new accomodation.

Speaking of his mother’s actions to uncover the state-backed doping program, Yang said, “the government is afraid that these people are pronouncing the truth.”

 

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Courtesy: DW

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