Notes and Comment Blog

Paris is about life

Nov 16th, 2015 10:20 am | By

Via Kate Benyon-Tinker, Senior World Affairs Producer for BBC News, on Twitter:

Tributes outside Le Carillon & Le Petit Cambodge. The message on the ballon: “For you, we will live”. #ParisAttacks

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Each one a person

Nov 15th, 2015 5:50 pm | By

The names of some of the people killed in Paris are being shared on social media, the BBC reports.

  • Djamila Houd, 41, originally from Dreux, west of Paris – “All the mothers of families share Djamila’s mother’s pain,” the local newspaper said (in French)
  • Thomas Ayad, 34, from Amiens – he worked for Mercury Records, a division of Universal Music France, and was at the Bataclan with two colleagues. The amateur hockey club he played for said on its Facebook page it would hold a minute’s silence for him on Sunday.

Perhaps from Algerian backgrounds, perhaps Muslims themselves, eating in those haram restaurants or listening to that haram music.

  • Universal Music France president Pascal Negre named the other two employees killed as Marie and Manu on Twitter, but did not provide their surnames. The name Marie is reported to refer to Marie Mosser, a communications and digital marketing worker, according to her Twitter profile.
  • A man nicknamed “Dado”, 44, from Ceyrat in the central Auvergne region. The man, who worked for the tax office and was unmarried, was at the Bataclan, France 3 reported
  • French footballer Lassana Diarra revealed on Twitter that he had lost his cousin, Asta Diakite, in one of the shootings. He said she was like a “big sister” to him. Diarra was playing in the football match against Germany at the Stade de France on Friday night, the scene of one of the attacks. Her father confirmed her death on Twitter, after using the platform to try and find her.
  • Cedric Mauduit, a local council official from Calvados in Normandy – he was at the Bataclan with five friends
  • Mathieu Hoche, a journalist for the France 24 TV news channel, died at the Bataclan. He was young and had a six-year-old son, a colleague tweeted
  • Quentin Boulanger, 29, originally from Rheims but had lived in Paris for several years – he was at the Bataclan
  • Guillaume B Decherf, a journalist with Les Inrocks magazine, was at the Bataclan. The father of two had written about the Eagles of Death metal’s latest album, Les Inrocks said
  • Lola Salines was at the Bataclan. Her father confirmed her death on Twitter, after using the platform to try and find her.

And that’s only a few of them.

They are sold in exchange for a bottle of Pepsi

Nov 15th, 2015 3:56 pm | By

The Peshmerga took Sinjar back from IS on Friday, but the Sinjar that remains is shattered.

In Sinjar, Islamic State focused more on destruction than governance. In the aftermath of the Sinjar offensive, fresh Islamic State atrocities are coming to light. An officer of the Kurdish regional government forces known as Peshmerga confirmed that a mass grave with tens of bodies was found Saturday near the city, filled mostly with old women and some old men.

Just like the Nazis. The “selection” at Auschwitz and elsewhere was the same way: select out the people who can be fucked or worked or both; kill the old and the very young.

Meanwhile, more than a thousand Yazidi women have been kidnapped, according to the United Nations, and community leaders say many remain Islamic State slaves.

“Our girls are still imprisoned by Daesh,” said Mr. Ali, referring to another name for the terror organization. “They are sold in exchange for a bottle of Pepsi,” he said of dealings among the militants.

Walking vaginas, that’s all they are.

The militants not only killed and terrorized Yazidis, but turned their Sunni Muslim neighbors against them. Some Yazidis said their Sunni neighbors, who they considered friends, looted Yazidi houses and joined Islamic State in killings.

A few Yazidis said neighbors taunted them by text message or phone calls, daring them to return to the city.

Now Yazidis harbor bitter feelings toward Sunni Muslims, whom they accuse of either helping Islamic State or doing nothing to stop the damage.

You can see how that would cause bitter feelings.

An hour’s drive from Sinjar, at the Bajet Kandela refugee camp where at least 10,000 people are packed into tents, the suffering is a daily source of anger directed at Arabs. One of the Yazidi refugees, Barakat Garais, said he won’t forget and he won’t forgive his former Sinjar neighbors.

“Yazidis hate the Arabs for what they’ve done,” said the 35-year-old. “We can’t trust living next to them.”

IS goes on winning even in defeat.


After liberation

Nov 15th, 2015 3:18 pm | By

Via Maryam:

Maryam Namazie ‏@MaryamNamazie 24 hours ago
After liberation, a female peshmarga destroys ISIS signboard ordering women to cover themselves with a niqab.

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Guest post: They can kill; we can live

Nov 15th, 2015 12:56 pm | By

Originally a comment by AJ Milne on In an area specially set aside for wheelchair users.

Disgusting, sure. Maybe the apex of it, in all of this, and that, that’s saying something. But then, if you’re already standing there, with a rifle, shooting into a crowd of unarmed, terrified, screaming people, who can only run away and are as likely to hurt each other in their panic as escape, I don’t imagine it’s much more of a leap to shoot at someone who can’t even run.

And I feel a little sick even having had to imagine that. This is no exaggeration.

I guess you have to think about the dehumanization that has preceded this. Read that rhetoric about how this is a city of the monstrous and the damned. A satanic other. And so they can imagine themselves shooting alien horrors, things that turned evil and rebellious against their divine and righteous authority and which must therefore be stopped. We see people in wheelchairs, young people at a concert who will die and be mourned in aching agony for months and years and decades. They see alien warthogs.

The lesson in this? I say: don’t become that. Don’t, for all that it’s the natural and perfectly understandable rage of the moment, start seeingthem that way. Those fucking idiots with guns and suicide vests are just pawns in this, too, drawn in and poisoned by alienation and idiot delusions of heavenly victories and ever more fantastic, phantasmagoric rhetoric, moonbeams and rainbows and flying horses. They don’t get virgins after the spree killings they attempt to dignify as political statements. They die and rot. And to the extent they ever even get their earthly kingdom, so far as they have, so far as they ever will, for most of them, it will be hell on earth. Those ugly old closed hierarchies generally were, for almost everyone, mostly even when youare damned lucky at where you land in the pyramid.

The world is screaming for blood, now, naturally enough, but I think if you want to really answer this thing right, you mourn, you square your shoulders, and you go on–you go right on trying to make a world people want to live in. Sympathy for all who have been injured, all who will miss the dead, all who were terrified, all who will wake up in the middle of the night, shaking, for years. But no again to all this panicked clampdown on security and let’s become ever more police states, because some ugly old should-be dead letter philosophies have found this dangerous traction in war and chaos and yawning inequities. You want to frustrate the fucking assholes cheering this on, that’s how you do so. You say: right. So they can kill. We can live.

Paris Daily Photo

Nov 15th, 2015 12:25 pm | By

Le Bataclan is a gorgeous building.

Eric Tenin

Nous aimons la musique, l’ivresse, la joie

Nov 15th, 2015 11:35 am | By

The cartoonist Joann Sfar explained Paris in a series on Instagram. (I saw it, appropriately, via Salman Rushdie.)


A photo posted by Joann Sfar (@joannsfar) on

Paris est notre capitale. Nous aimons la musique, l’ivresse, la joie.


A photo posted by Joann Sfar (@joannsfar) on

Depuis des siècles, des amoureux de la mort ont tenté de nous faire perdre le goût de vivre.

And one in English:


A photo posted by Joann Sfar (@joannsfar) on

Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforParis, but we don’t need more religion! Our faith goes to music! kisses! life! champagne and joy! #Paris is about life!



Mancunians gather

Nov 15th, 2015 10:37 am | By

Right now in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. (I’ve been there. The window of my hotel room looked out on Piccadilly Gardens, and the Pennines beyond.)

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Guest post: Blaming the generations of women who fought before them

Nov 15th, 2015 9:58 am | By

Originally a comment by tiggerthewing on The limits of internal self-perception as the sole arbiter of truth.

I agree that the the Baby Boomers as a demographic is a pretty useless classification – especially if they extend the label up to 1964.

I was born in 1957 – late enough that I never had to risk polio (the vaccine was already available) but early enough that I had to suffer most other so-called ‘childhood diseases’. Late enough that I was vaccinated against tuberculosis; and with a father young enough that his life was saved by antibiotics when he caught TB in his teens; but old enough that his mother died of TB a couple of years earlier. Early enough that my parents were heavily influenced by the propaganda to raise large families to replace those slaughtered in the two world wars; early enough to have grown up surrounded by a cohort of women with no men, having lost them to WWI. Early enough to have lived through women’s fight for access to work that they had been doing during WWII, until they were discarded in favour of demobilised returning men and debarred on account of their sex.

I’m old enough that I was thoroughly grown up and a parent several times over before it was finally, reluctantly, acknowledged that women don’t cede all rights to restrict someone else’s access to their own bodies on marriage. Old enough to remember all sexual orientations other than vanilla heterosexuality being regarded as mental illness.

And I’m old enough to remember the big fights during the seventies, and subsequent decades, between older women and younger women about what was/is important for feminists to fight for.

Bearing in mind that the following is my own perception, as a female-bodied person raised in and socialised to English cultural norms. Each generation builds on what the previous generation has achieved. For my grandmothers’ generation, when ordinary working women literally had nothing, then focus had to be on the major issues – suffrage, property rights, access to children after divorce, that sort of thing. I used to hear some of them complain that my mother’s generation didn’t know how lucky they were, that the older women had already won the big fights, why did the younger women need to waste their energy on frivolous stuff like the right to choose to stay in paid employment on marriage? Why did they need ‘equal pay’ when they had the option not to work? Weren’t they lucky, being able to stay at home and be looked after by a man? I think that many of the older women, having a sense of how fragile the status quo was, how easily gains which had been hard-won could be taken away if the people – men – in power got upset, were terrified that their daughters would ask for one thing too many and in retaliation all rights would be rescinded once more. How dare the younger women rock the boat by making further demands?!

Anyway, my mother’s generation, supported by enough of their elders, managed to build on the gains made, and (amongst other things) won the right to be employed even if they were married, won the right to have their earnings taken into account when negotiating a mortgage or a loan (but a woman still needed a male guarantor when taking out a loan, even when I was an adult), won the right of access to contraception even if they weren’t married, and won the right to end a pregnancy on their own terms.

My generation, supported by enough of the older women who didn’t think our demands frivolous compared to their own battles, won the right to say no to sex in marriage, the legal right to equal pay for equal work (even though employers still manage to exploit loopholes to avoid paying women what they deserve), legal access to previously forbidden careers, the removal of homosexual orientation from mental illness lists, etc. and raised daughters to adulthood who, for the first time, could assume as a matter of course that they were equal to their brothers and that any discrimination was morally, ethically and legally dubious.

However, in a way my grandmothers’ generation was right – women assuming equality by right seems to have been the ‘step too far’ that they envisioned; the backlash has been horrendous. A particular cohort of old men, it seems, were happy to feel themselves magnanimous in doling out favours to the ‘little women’; perhaps they did think that the ‘pretty young things’ would look more favourably upon them if they handed out a few concessions. But a whole generation who think that they are the equal of men? Wasn’t it bad enough fighting off competition from their sons and grandsons, whilst keeping just enough rights from their sisters that the latter weren’t a threat? How could they cope with an entire generation, instead of half, who were after the power they had wielded by right for so long?! So they started poisoning the minds of the younger generations of men, blaming competition from their sisters for the lack of access to the best education and careers, subtly ensuring that the true cause – a generation of men raised in an unequal world, hanging on to power with a death grip – would be ignored.

So we have the situation today, where young women are finding it particularly hard to build on the gains made by their feminist forbears, but instead of recognising the true cause of their woes – the intransigence of the hidden male establishment – they are blaming the generations of women who fought before them, for daring to ask “What is really important to fight for?” And, since older feminists can recognise that LGBT rights tend to coat-tail on those granted to women (because LGBT prejudice is an outgrowth of misogyny) and so don’t put them centre-front of their agenda, younger women have grabbed onto LGBT rights as a way of having their own cause. With marriage equality being the last bastion to fall for gay people, it seems that only trans issues remain.

Young feminists are fighting about trans issues because they want their own rallying-cry to distinguish them from their predecessors, and because they haven’t noticed what the real enemy are doing.

In an area specially set aside for wheelchair users

Nov 14th, 2015 4:33 pm | By

Here’s a disgusting new detail, from the Telegraph:

The Foriegn Office has confirmed that a British man was among those who died in the attack on the Bataclan venue.

Nick Alexander, 36, from London, was killed at the venue. He was shot in front of Helen Wilson, an American expat who herself was wounded in both legs.

In a statement his family said he was “everyone’s best friend” and died “doing the job he loved”.

“It is with huge sorrow that we can confirm that our beloved Nick lost his life at the Bataclan last night,” the statement said.

“Nick was not just our brother, son and uncle, he was everyone’s best friend – generous, funny and fiercely loyal.

“Nick died doing the job he loved and we take great comfort in knowing how much he was cherished by his friends around the world. Thank you for your thoughts and respect for our family at this difficult time. Peace and light.”

Miss Wilson, speaking from her hospital bed, told The Telegraph how she had tried to keep him alive as they lay on the ground at the Bataclan concert hall.

She tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and held him in her arms as he struggled for his life.

Miss Wilson, 49, originally from New Orleans, also told how she witnessed the gunmen deliberately targeting concert-goers in wheelchairs. The gunmen hunted down disabled people who were sat in an area specially set aside for wheelchair users.

They call their god “merciful.”

Fix yourself

Nov 14th, 2015 3:40 pm | By

The BBC did a feature on people in Iran pushed into being transgender as an acceptable alternative to being not straight.

Growing up in Iran, Donya kept her hair shaved or short, and wore caps instead of headscarves. She went to a doctor for help to stop her period.

“I was so young and I didn’t really understand myself,” she says. “I thought if I could stop getting my periods, I would be more masculine.”

If police officers asked for her ID and noticed she was a girl, she says, they would reproach her: “Why are you like this? Go and change your gender.”

So she did.

For seven years Donya had hormone treatment. Her voice became deeper, and she grew facial hair. But when doctors proposed surgery, she spoke to friends who had been through it and experienced “lots of problems”. She began to question whether it was right for her.

“I didn’t have easy access to the internet – lots of websites are blocked. I started to research with the help of some friends who were in Sweden and Norway,” she says.

“I got to know myself better… I accepted that I was a lesbian and I was happy with that.”

But living in Iran as an openly gay man or woman is impossible. Donya, now 33, fled to Turkey with her son from a brief marriage, and then to Canada, where they were granted asylum.

But what if you want to stay in Iran and be gay rather than transgender? Stupid question.

It’s not official government policy to force gay men or women to undergo gender reassignment but the pressure can be intense. In the 1980’s the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa allowing gender reassignment surgery – apparently after being moved by a meeting with a woman who said she was trapped in a man’s body.

Shabnam – not her real name – who is a psychologist at a state-run clinic in Iran says some gay people now end up being pushed towards surgery. Doctors are told to tell gay men and women that they are “sick” and need treatment, she says. They usually refer them to clerics who tell them to strengthen their faith by saying their daily prayers properly.

But medical treatments are also offered. And because the authorities “do not know the difference between identity and sexuality”, as Shabnam puts it, doctors tell the patients they need to undergo gender reassignment.

I’m not convinced that many people have a good handle on the difference between identity and sexuality. There seems to be a lot of confusion about that, and not just in Iran.

Supporters of the government’s policy argue that transgender Iranians are given help to lead fulfilling lives, and have more freedom than in many other countries. But the concern is that gender reassignment surgery is being offered to people who are not transgender, but homosexual, and may lack the information to know the difference.

But there are people who worry about that here, too – that little boys who like to wear skirts or play with dolls or both are being told they’re trans as opposed to just being allowed to dress and play however they want.

There is no reliable information on the number of gender reassignment operations carried out in Iran.

Khabaronline, a pro-government news agency, reports the numbers rising from 170 in 2006 to 370 in 2010. But one doctor from an Iranian hospital told the BBC that he alone carries out more than 200 such operations every year.

That’s desperately sad.

France and those who follow her voice must know

Nov 14th, 2015 2:10 pm | By

Jon Henley at the Guardian reports from Paris:

François Molins told a news conference on Saturday that at least 129 people were killed and 352 more injured – including 90 critically – in the attacks on Friday night on the Stade de France, a city-centre concert hall and a series of packed cafes and bars.

Molins said three French nationals had been arrested in Belgium, where they all lived, in connection with the attacks, France’s deadliest since the second world war and the worst witnessed in Europe since the 2004 Madrid railway bombings.

Isis said it had dispatched eight jihadis – leaving open the possibility that one may still be on the run – wearing suicide bomb belts and carrying machine guns, across the French capital on Friday night in a “blessed attack on … crusader France”.

The “carefully selected” sites and coordinated nature of the attacks were intended, it said, to show that France would remain one of its main targets as long as its present policies continue.

“France and those who follow her voice must know that they remain the main target of Islamic State and that they will continue to smell the odour of death for having led the crusade, for having boasted of fighting Islam in France and striking Muslims in the caliphate with their planes,” the group said in a statement.

It’s as if the Nazis were resurrected. Hello 1942.


To fulfill what they believe are “celestial demands”

Nov 14th, 2015 11:30 am | By

An Egyptian secularist group posted a statement on Facebook in Arabic, French and English.

The woman in the image is Marianne, the symbol of the republic and thus of opposition to tyranny.

On behalf of the entire team at Cilantro Secularists, we would like to express our deepest condolences to our friends the people of France .. It pains us to see your suffering today at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

The world will continue to suffer for many decades to come from the brutality of the Islamists and their willingness to spill innocent blood to fulfill what they believe are “celestial demands” .. we also know that sadly .. Muslims will suffer as a result of this poisonous ideology either directly or indirectly.

This poisonous ideology is lavishly funded through major gulf states .. and nobody dares to confront it for fear of violence or “accusation of apostasy” which can depending on which Islamic state you live in get you killed on the street or in a formal death chamber or at least cost you a heavy toll on your personal security.

Only one group of people face these challenges everyday and enter these ideological battles with hardly any financial resources .. the people who promote secularism in Arab countries.

Around the world

Nov 14th, 2015 9:54 am | By

Via CNN on Twitter:

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CNN iReport ‏@cnnireport 4 minutes ago
“Peace is a universal message,” says French artist @jean_jullien after #ParisAttacks:

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India Today ‏@IndiaToday
#ParisAttacks: From Akshay Kumar to Alia Bhatt, B-Town celebs pray for the victims …

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Ce soir

Nov 14th, 2015 9:23 am | By

Via Twitter – Belfast City Hall:

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Under a blue sky

Nov 13th, 2015 5:35 pm | By

A happier place and time – the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

Paris updating

Nov 13th, 2015 3:14 pm | By

4:37 The New York Times also reports 1oo killed at Le Bataclan, on its live update page.

A French police official says at least 100 people have been killed inside Bataclan, the live-music venue where attackers seized hostages Friday night, The Associated Press is reporting.

Reporters for The New York Times heard gunfire and explosions at the venue about 12:15 a.m., and then an explosion at 12:30. The sounds were apparently connected with a police assault.

They also have an eyewitness story from someone who escaped:

Jenny Watson was on the first floor of the Bataclan, a popular music venue, when gunmen opened fire on Friday night. She told France 24 what it was like when the deadly terror attack began.

“At first we heard gunshots,” she said. “They were quite high pitched. At first I thought it was a joke.”

“The shots kept going and going and going and people started screaming and ducking, hiding behind the chairs,” she said. “That’s when we knew we needed to get out.”

But there was a gunman in the way, so they had to wait.

“We all ran out in the middle of the street,” she said. “I saw blood. I saw somebody who was shot in the leg. I don’t think I saw anyone who was properly down but it was really quite horrible.”

4:29 Sky News says the police say 100+ were killed.

At least 100 people have been killed inside the Bataclan concert hall where attackers seized hostages, police officials say.

The two attackers holding the hostages have been killed by elite police commandos in a raid.

During the police assault, witnesses reported hearing five successive explosions followed by gunshots around the venue.

Earlier, officials said at least 15 people had been killed inside the building in the 11th arrondissement.

4: 15 On Twitter people are saying 100 have been killed at Le Bataclan.

The New York Times:

French television and news services quoted the police as saying at least 60 people had been killed and many dozens wounded in apparently coordinated attacks, eclipsing the deaths and mayhem that roiled Paris in the Charlie Hebdo massacre and related assaults around the French capital less than a year ago.

One of the explosions, which French news services said may have been a suicide bombing, struck near the country’s main sports stadium where Germany and France were playing a soccer match, forcing a hasty evacuation of President François Hollande. As the scope of the assaults quickly became clear, he convened an emergency cabinet meeting and announced that France was closing its borders.

“As I speak, terrorist attacks of an unprecedented scale are taking place in the Paris region,” he said in a nationally televised address. “There are several dozen dead, lots more wounded, it’s horrific.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Twitter erupted with celebratory messages by members and sympathizers of the Islamic State, the extremist group based in Syria and Iraq that is under assault by major powers including the United States, France and Russia.

CNN updated 3 minutes ago:

• One of the explosions at the Stade de France outside Paris appears to be a suicide bombing, a Western intelligence source receiving direct intelligence from the scene told CNN’s Deb Feyerick. A dismembered body, consistent with the aftermath of an explosion from that type of device, was found at the scene, the source said.

• Traffic on several subway lines has been interrupted following the attacks, the Paris police prefecture reported.

• At this hour, there is no credible or specific threat in the United States, according to a U.S. government official.

• French President Francois Hollande, in an address to the nation, said he had declared a state of emergency, meaning borders will be closed. “We have to show compassion and solidarity and we also have to show unity and keep our cool. France must be strong and great,” he said.

• The Paris prefecture of police is instructing residents to stay home. The prefecture said via Twitter that people should stay inside “unless there’s an absolute necessity.”

• French authorities have launched a terrorism investigation, Eric Pelletier, a reporter with Le Pariesien, tells CNN Paul Cruickshank. There has been no official claim of responsibility, though ISIS has applauded the attacks on Twitter, Cruickshank reports.

• “This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on the people on France, but an attack on all humanity and the universal values we share,” U.S. President Barack Obama said at the White House. He called the attacks an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.”

• At least 60 people have died in the attacks, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.

• At least six shootings took place in Paris and three explosions took place at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis late Friday, CNN affiliate BFMTV said. Two or three gunmen entered the Bataclan concert hall while opening fire on law enforcement, BFMTV reported. A source earlier told CNN there were six to eight hostage takers, citing a person they were talking to inside the venue.

• Paris police tell CNN there were three attacks. Attackers reportedly used AK-47 automatic weapons.

• A CNN producer who is at the Bataclan says that police are firing at a rooftop position near the venue.

Vice News:

At least 30 people, a number that may keep rising as new reports come in, have been killed in at least three separate gun attacks and one explosion at a soccer game in Paris, France, on Friday night. French media reports that police say 30 people have been killed, and that gunmen are holding dozens of hostages at Paris concert hall where a rock concert was taking place.

According to French radio Europe 1, shots have also been fired at Les Halles, a shopping mall in the first arrondissement, in the heart of Paris.

The French government has triggered its Red Alpha plan, an emergency response reserved for multiple terrorist attacks. President François Hollande announced on television that France has declared a state of emergency and took the extraordimnaryclosed its borders

I.e., I guess, took the extraordinary step of closing its borders.

One of the shootings occurred in a Cambodian restaurant located in the capital’s 10th arrondissement, to the eest of central Paris. According to witnesses, shots [were heard] at Le Petit Cambodge, 18 rue Alibert, in the République neighborhood.

The second shooting took place in a restaurant in the 11th arrondissement, near the historic Bataclan concert hall.

“We heard at least twenty shots being fired. They were automatic weapons, repeated shots,” a witness who lives near Faidherbe Chaligny subway station, in the 11th arrondissement, told VICE News.

The third shooting occurred at 90 Rue de Chaconne, where a Twitter user posted a photo of bodies covered by sheets in the the streets.

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Tommy Pouilly

There have also been reports of three explosions in a restaurant near the Stade de France — a soccer stadium located just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis.

Another explosion at the stadium reportedly killed three people, and could be heard throughout the outdoor arena.

A soccer game between France and Germany was underway when the explosions occurred. French radio RTL has described the explosion as a suicide attack, but VICE News can’t confirm that report.




Nov 13th, 2015 2:32 pm | By

Oh shit – simultaneous attacks all over Paris. At least 26 dead so far.

USA Today says 46 dead, 100 taken hostage.

The BBC reports:

At least 18 people have been killed in several shootings in the French capital, Paris, as well as explosions near the Stade de France.

French media say at least 15 people have been killed near the Bataclan arts centre. A hostage taking is under way, with reports of up to 60 held.

At least one man opened fire at a restaurant in the 11th district, causing several several casualties.

Three explosions are also reported outside a bar near the Stade de France.

A BBC journalist at the Petit Cambodge restaurant says he can see 10 people on the road either dead or seriously injured.

He says police have now arrived and sealed off the area.


At least 30 people were killed in attacks in Paris and a hostage situation was under way at a concert hall in the French capital, French media reported on Friday.

Several explosions were heard near a stadium where a friendly France-Germany football match was being held, attended by President Francois Hollande.

Police helicopters circled the stadium north of Paris as Hollande rushed back to the interior ministry to deal with the situation.

Police confirmed there had been shootings and explosions at the stadium, but not the number of casualties.

Witnesses said police closed down a neighbourhood in central Paris where media said gunmen had fired in a restaurant, causing multiple casualties.

“I was on my way to my sister’s when I heard shots being fired. Then I saw three people dead on the ground, I know they were dead because they were being wrapped up in plastic bags,” student Fabien Baron told Reuters.

The cold fusion of autism therapies

Nov 13th, 2015 10:21 am | By

I thought “Facilitated Communication” had been killed once it was demonstrated to be a Clever Hans phenomenon, but how silly of me – of course it wasn’t. David Auerbach has a long, informative piece on the subject at Slate.

FC has never been accepted by the medical or psychological communities (it’s been called the “cold fusion” of autism therapies). Dozens of professional organizationshave specifically issued statements against its use, including the American Psychological Association, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Clinical psychologist Jerome Sattler categorically states in his standard Foundations of Behavioral, Social, and Clinical Assessment of Children: “Under no condition should you use facilitated communication to interview a child with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]” (emphasis mine).

But FC found a home in education departments. Douglas Biklen’s Facilitated Communication Institute (recently renamed the Institute on Communication and Inclusion) at Syracuse, which offers training programs in FC, is the center of FC activity then and now. FC advocates are funded in large part by two private foundations that have each donated millions, the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation and the John P. Hussman Foundation. Advocates have gradually penetrated into the public school system, the autistic community, and even the President’s Committee on Intellectual Disabilities. Biklen himself was appointed Dean of the School of Education at Syracuse in 2005—over strong objections from many academics—possibly relating to Syracuse’s then-Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s enthusiastic approval of FC. Non-academic support for FC is generated through sympathetic organizations such as the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (also known as TASH), the Autistic National Committee (AutCom), and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), which all parrot the FC party line to varying degees, as well as propaganda films for FC like 2005’s Autism Is a World, co-produced by Biklen. Nonprofits help fund institutes like the one at Syracuse, while the FC supporters at those institutes serve on the boards of those nonprofits.

What’s so creepy about this is that it’s not just that FC doesn’t work, it’s that it creates a situation in which the people who do the FC speak for the people they are facilitating, as opposed to making it possible for the locked-in people to speak for themselves.

The science of FC remains as sketchy as ever: A comprehensive 2014 article confirms that little new evidence has emerged to support FC even as more has stacked up against it. Biklen pointed me to a 1996 study that claims to support FC’s effectiveness, but he grossly overstates its case. In an attempt to demonstrate “message passing,” researchers showed words to FC subjects that their facilitators could not see, then had the facilitators help the subjects report the word they had just been shown. As psychology professor James Todd points out, the overall failure rate is 90 percent, “suggesting that facilitators were guessing.” In response to criticisms, Biklen told me, “That could show the fragility of the method, but it could also show the fragility of the research situation.”

Biklen’s Syracuse institute attempts to cast doubt on such methods of testing for “authorship,” or whether the disabled person being guided by a facilitator is really responsible for the content of FC messages. He insists, “it is crucial that the [FC subject] learns means of demonstrating authorship, for example by learning to pass messages,” even as he writes elsewhere, “Some of the so-called tests of authorship of FC have been oppressive to people with disabilities,” and “research tests could intrude upon and upset the communication process.” Such authorship tests are rarely performed rigorously, and such controlled experiments are even termed “inhumane” by FC advocates like Institute on Communication and Inclusion director Christine Ashby, Biklen’s protégé and successor. It remains an unanswered question why these tests are so difficult and oppressive when subjects like D.J. are supposedly writing papers and presenting them at conferences within a year or two of starting FC.

Claims of “stressful environments” and “confrontational testing” are very much akin to the excuses psychics like Uri Geller use when they cannot replicate their spoon-bending feats under controlled laboratory conditions. In the early 1990s, skeptic James Randi performed his own tests on FC users at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, obtaining predictable results like a facilitated message saying, “I don’t like this man from Florida. He is upsetting my facilitator. Send him home.” Randi still has an unclaimed $1 million prize for a successful demonstration of FC.

Ventriloquism isn’t good enough.


Nov 12th, 2015 5:55 pm | By

Hardeep Matharu in the Independent:

Guards shot at protestors who had carried the coffin of a young girl to the Afghan president’s palace after she was found beheaded on Saturday.

The girl was one of seven Hazaras – a minority group of Persian-speaking Shia Muslims – whose bodies were discovered in the country’s south-eastern Zabul province. It is believed that the group was taken hostage by militants about a month ago.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killings, but Afghan officials have blamed extremists ranging from the Taliban to Isis.

We know it was extremists of some sort. Non-extremist people don’t take hostages and they don’t murder.

Female protestors carried the coffin of the youngest victim, named Shukira, through Kabul draped in a green flag representing Shia Muslims.

The thousands marching called on President Ashraf Ghani to step up security in the country or to resign.

Presidential guards opened fire at some of the protestors who tried to scale the walls, wounding 10 people, according to the president’s deputy spokesman.

Shukira was beheaded.


God is great.