Recently there has been some robust progress in AI (Artificial Intelligence), with some scientists even successfully uploading the mind of a roundworm into a Lego robot. Although this seems to be a rather small step, it is significant since the software was in place without any prior programming and the robot started to behave like a worm, including in its response to food. “I think big leaps have been made in the last few years,” said Geoffrey Hinton, a distinguished researcher at Google and a professor at the University of Toronto. “A.I. is undergoing a growth spurt. We’re beginning to solve problems that a few years ago we couldn’t solve, like recognising images.” Continue reading
I have written before about Burma (Myanmar) and its persecuted Rohingya population as well as the lack of interest both in the ASEAN countries as well as in the western mass media (see The other, invisible suffering of Burma, Rohingya Odyssey: a silent cultural genocide?, Rohingya Muslims and injustice: a security issue, Rohingyas: not solely a political problem, Selling lives: Rohingyas face deportation from Bangladesh). Since June, Burma and its Rohingya Muslim population have attracted a wider mass media presence. On May 28, in a village in the central part of Rakhine State, three Muslim members of the Rohingya ethnic group allegedly raped and killed a Buddhist woman. Retaliation did not take long and on June 3, a group of Arakan attacked a bus carrying Rohingya in southern Rakhine and 10 people were killed. Continue reading
Libyan protesters are facing one of the most violent repressions that the wave of Arab revolts have witnessed to date. Yesterday reports of Libyan aircraft and Apache helicopters bombing and shooting the protesters started to circulate. This was just after Gaddafi’s son proclaimed to the world that Libya was not witnessing a revolt against one of the most oppressive and inhuman regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, but rather a civil war. In reality this is a regime that has declared, as many other times before, war on its own population. The question that we may ask, however, is why Gaddafi has preferred the bloodbath to an easy, and wealthy, exit. Many were the options open to him before he started the massacre. Now, of course, few are left. Is Gaddafi just defending his own interests? Is there something more than just a struggle to maintain power? Continue reading
Today another 200 Rohingya refugees have been rescued while drifting away in a wooden boat near the coast of Indonesia. It is pretty clear that the Rohingya are becoming the ‘Roma gypsy‘ of Southeast Asia, and similar to the case of Roma in Europe, the discussion is not about them, as human beings or to address their issues, but rather about how to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Degrading camps, expulsions and even ridiculous statements that these refugees, who bear the physical scars of their oppression, are actually economic migrants seem at this stage to be the only solutions offered. Continue reading
I have discussed and provided some information about the quite unknown tragedy of Rohingya Muslims elsewhere in this blog. Normally, Rohingya Muslims make news only when there is a dearth of other stories. Today, more people know who the Rohingya are because of shocking reports in which some tourists in Thailand have witnessed and documented the severe mistreatment of refugees by the Thai army on Thai beaches. The UN has asked access to the refugees, some of whom have been expelled, and an investigation into the alleged mistreatment. Rohingya Muslims are virtually stateless, and to define them as ‘economic migrants’, as the new Thai government has attempted to, is unrealistic no less than the full probe they have promised, which however is to be conducted by the same Thai army involved in the international scandal. Continue reading
Palestinians in Gaza are again living another nightmare. The world, however, appears less interested than usual. Dead Palestinians are common products on the international political markets at least last since 1967. As many may have observed, I have rarely commented or written about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I am not a political scientist and I think that too much has been said and too little done. This post is intended to be just a reflection provoked by the sight of innocent people suffering and trapped in an endless conflict. Continue reading
Yesterday, Germaine Tillion has died at the age of the age of one-hundred. Few students of anthropology probably can tell you who Germaine is despite the fact that she has been one of the anthropologists who have contributed not only to the understanding of the Mediterranean region, particularly North Africa, but also to the freedom of Europe from the nightmare of fascism and Nazism. She has been a ‘partigiani’ and also a prisoner at Ravensbrueck; a personal experience which would mark her life and her future commitment against torture and oppression.
Germanie Tillion’s fieldwork took place in the Aures region of Algeria from 1934 to 1940. The material she collected has been at the centre of her two most famous works The Republic of Cousins: Women’s Oppression in Mediterranean Society and Il etait une fois l’ethnographie.
After the end of the Second World War, Germaine Tillion, despite wishing to study the ideology and reasons behind the Nazi crimes and the use of the camps, accepted professor Louis Massignon’s pressing suggestions and decided to go back to Algeria in 1954. She observed, and was the first to do so among ethnographers, that one of the main issues which Algeria was facing, and that would have affected its future, was the migration from the countryside to the cities, which caused a severe impoverishment of the migrants. Continue reading