Investigation reveals troll factory with hundreds of Russians working in rotating shifts.

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Investigation reveals troll factory with hundreds working in rotating shifts.

Slaying online trolls can be a lonely business. Just ask Russia’s Lyudmila Savchuk, who first exposed the story of Russia’s disinformation campaign back in 2014.

The journalist and 33-year-old mother of two, Savchuk started noticing websites and social media accounts attacking local opposition activists in her hometown of Saint Petersburg with a frequency she hadn’t seen before.

The posts were all too similar. The verbal assaults too coordinated. So, when Savchuk later heard that an organization rumored to be behind the campaign — the Internet Research Agency or IRA — was hiring writers, she went for it.

“I wanted to get in there to see how it works, of course,” says Savchuk. “But the most important thing was to see if there was some way to stop it.”

She was hired as a blogger and told to report to Savushkina 55, a nondescript four-story office building on the outskirts of town.

There was a group dedicated to producing visual memes known as “demotivators.”

russian_hackers AP

Once on the inside, Savchuk was stunned to see hundreds of mostly younger Russians working as paid trolls in rotating shifts.

Roaming the halls when she could — cameras were everywhere — Savchuk discovered the IRA was full of different “departments.” There was the “news division,” the “social media seeders”, and a group dedicated to producing visual memes known as “ demotivators.”

Each worker had a quota to fill every day and every night.

Despite the division of labor, the content was remarkably uniform. The US, the EU, Ukraine’s pro-European government, and Russia’s opposition were regular targets for scorn. And then there was Russian President Vladimir Putin — seemingly no Russian triumph under his rule was too small to warrant a celebratory tweet, meme or post.

“Each worker has a quota to fill every day and every night,” Savchuk says. “Because the factory works around the clock. It never stops. Not for a second.”

At one point she pedaled pro-Kremlin talking points under the guise of a fortune teller.

putin.JPG Sputnik/Reuters

The work occasionally dipped into the absurd: at one point, Savchuk had to pretend to be a fortune teller named “Cantadora” — mixing blog musings on astrology, crystals, and rare gemstones with pro-Kremlin talking points. (One of Cantadora’s more accurate predictions was Vladimir Putin’s victory in Russia’s then-future 2018 presidential elections.)

This kind of soft-pedal trolling, Savchuk says, seemed to prove that the IRA was bent on reaching even the most marginal and apolitical of Russia’s expanding online audience.

In total, Savchuk spent just two and a half months at the IRA before she went public about the troll factory in a local newspaper.

The operation was run by a local restaurateur who was placed under US sanctions for attempting to interfere with US elections.

Evgeny Prigozhin.JPG
Evgeny Prigozhin, to the left of Vladimir Putin.
Reuters

Her conclusion: The troll farm was a Kremlin project, run by a shadowy local restaurateur named Evgeny Prigozhin.

While Prigozhin has denied those charges, his name may sound familiar to American audiences. Often called “Putin’s Chef” for his close ties to the Russian President, Prigozhin was placed under US sanctions in 2018 for what American officials say was a coordinated attempt to interfere with the US elections.

But that? That would all come later.

Even before the local troll exposé spread into a full-blown international scandal, Savchuk shifted to activism: lecturing on disinformation and trying to name and shame participants in the troll farm.

“I acted like any journalist would,” she says. “Only, then I went further. I realized an article wasn’t enough.”

She even sued the IRA in a Russian court in 2015 — winning a symbolic 1 ruble victory over the troll farm for labor code violations.

The court ruling brought the work of the Internet Research Agency “out of the shadows,” says Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer who represented Savchuk in the case.

“I can make comparisons to Al Capone. The US government couldn’t get him for being a gangster but they could get him for tax evasion,” he tells The World.

Meanwhile, Savchuk continued to publish her thoughts on countering disinformation to her main online outlet: her Facebook feed. And this is where Savchuk’s weird troll-slaying story takes an even weirder turn.

After returning home from a disinformation conference in Washington, DC, in November, Savchuk found her Facebook account inexplicably blocked.

Repeated attempts to restore her account and verify her identity with her passport went nowhere. Finally, in mid-February — boom. With no explanation, her profile was back.

Why this happened at all is still a mystery. Facebook did not respond to questions from The World about Savchuk’s access.

But Savchuk posits that IRA trolls may have flooded the platform with complaints about her account. Her problems with Facebook, she notes, started only after she talked openly about threats she’d received from people affiliated with Evgeny Prigozhin.

The possibility is not far-fetched. Last October, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an investigation claiming that people affiliated with Progizhin were behind attacks on opposition figures and bloggers.

Another possibility: Savchuk was swept up by a Facebook campaign to weed out fake Russian troll accounts. Company executives have touted those efforts amid increased congressional scrutiny after the 2016 election. And some western media outlets have mistakenly identified Savchuk as a “former troll.”

Either way, Savchuk feels burned by the experience. She says she thought her work against the IRA was helping Facebook understand how its platform could be gamed.

“When Facebook blocked me,” she says. “I couldn’t do that anymore.”

This “troll slayer” doesn’t regret the fight but is no longer convinced she could win.

Meanwhile, the stress and online isolation have taken a toll. Savchuk doesn’t hide that she had a breakdown since blowing the whistle on the IRA.

And while she doesn’t regret taking on the fight, this troll slayer — now 37 — is no longer convinced she can win.

Even though he was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team last year, “Putin’s Chef” is doing just fine, Savchuk notes.

A recent investigation into Prigozhin suggests his media empire and government contracts have grown exponentially since the IRA was cast out of the shadows.

Despite — or maybe because of — attention from the US, good things keep coming Prigozhin’s way.

Source: http://bit.ly/30Ah4Bc

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End to Aids in sight as huge study finds drugs stop HIV transmission.

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End to Aids in sight as huge study finds drugs stop HIV transmission.

An end to the Aids epidemic could be in sight after a landmark study found men whose HIV infection was fully suppressed by antiretroviral drugs had no chance of infecting their partner.

The success of the medicine means that if everyone with HIV were fully treated, there would be no further infections.

Among nearly 1,000 male couples across Europe where one partner with HIV was receiving treatment to suppress the virus, there were no cases of transmission of the infection to the HIV-negative partner during sex without a condom. Although 15 men were infected with HIV during the eight-year study, DNA testing proved that was through sex with someone other than their partner who was not on treatment.

“It’s brilliant – fantastic. This very much puts this issue to bed,” said Prof Alison Rodger from University College London, the co-leader of the paper published in the Lancet medical journal. Earlier studies have also shown the treatment protects heterosexual couples where one partner has HIV.

She added: “Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART [antiretroviral therapy] is zero. Our findings support the message of the international U=U campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable.

“This powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face.

“Increased efforts must now focus on wider dissemination of this powerful message and ensuring that all HIV-positive people have access to testing, effective treatment, adherence support and linkage to care to help maintain an undetectable viral load.”

In 2017, there were almost 40 million people worldwide living with HIV, of whom 21.7 million were on antiretroviral treatment. An estimated 101,600 people are living with HIV in the UK, and of these, about 7,800 are undiagnosed, so do not know they are HIV positive.

Myron S Cohen of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at Chapel Hill in North Carolina, said in a commentary in the Lancet on the study that it should push the world forward on a strategy to test and treat everyone who has HIV. But, he added, maximising the benefits of treatment, particularly for men who have sex with men, has proved difficult.

“It is not always easy for people to get tested for HIV or find access to care; in addition, fear, stigma, homophobia and other adverse social forces continue to compromise HIV treatment,” he said.

“Diagnosis of HIV infection is difficult in the early stages of infection when transmission is very efficient, and this limitation also compromises the treatment as prevention strategy.”

According to the National Aids Trust, 97% of people on HIV treatment in the UK have an undetectable level of the virus, meaning they cannot pass it on. “Hearing this can be enormously empowering and reassuring to people living with HIV,” said Deborah Gold, the trust’s chief executive.

The latest findings reinforce the importance of people taking HIV tests frequently, which could ultimately end the transmission of the virus altogether in the future. New diagnoses have been declining since their peak in 2005, with figures from 2017 showing a 17% drop on 2016 and a 28% fall compared with 2015.

Late diagnosis remains a major challenge, still accounting for about 43% of new HIV diagnoses. This disproportionately affects certain groups, including black African heterosexual men and people aged 65 and older.

“If we don’t reduce late diagnosis, there will always be those who are not aware of their HIV status and who therefore cannot access treatment,” said Gold. “We think that the findings from this study could be incredibly powerful in breaking down some of the barriers to testing in communities where there is still a lot of stigma around HIV.”

However, she added that government funding cuts to specialist health services would make it more difficult to achieve a goal of eliminating transmission by 2030.

Jens Lundgren, a professor of infectious diseases at Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, and joint-lead for the study, called Partner, said: “We have now provided the conclusive scientific evidence for how treatment effectively prevents further sexual transmission of HIV.”

Dr Michael Brady, the medical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of these findings.

“The Partner study has given us the confidence to say, without doubt, that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners. This has incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma.”

Bruce Richman, the founding executive director of the Prevention Access Campaign, which launched U=U, said Pac was tremendously grateful to the researchers and participants. He said the study “has for ever changed what it means to live and love with HIV around the world”.

In a linked comment in the journal, Cohen expressed optimism for future treatment of Aids. “During the course of these studies, antiretroviral drugs have become more effective, reliable, durable, easier to take, well tolerated and much less expensive,” he said.

“The results … provide yet one more catalyst for a universal test-and-treat strategy to provide the full benefits of antiretroviral drugs. This and other strategies continue to push us toward the end of Aids.”

Case study

Alex Sparrowhawk
Alex Sparrowhawk. Photograph: Handout

Alex Sparrowhawk, 34, has been living with HIV for almost 10 years. When he was diagnosed in November 2009, he had two major concerns: how being HIV positive would impact his work as a financial analyst, and what it meant for future relationships.

“I was single at the time,” he said. “Just navigating what to do – when to tell people and how to talk to people was really difficult.”

Alex immediately began antiretroviral treatment, initially taking four pills a day, which was reduced to one pill once his viral load came down to undetectable levels several months later. The latest results confirm that for the past nine years, he has not been able to transmit the virus to anyone, although at the time, medical advice was less definitive.

Between his diagnosis and now, Alex spent six-and-a-half years in a relationship, and said the possibility – however tiny – of transmitting HIV to his partner was a source of anxiety. “You’d be told it was very unlikely, or that it was only possible under certain circumstances like having an STI,” he said. “But you’re constantly worried about these caveats and you go through this worry together.

“Now we can say zero risk, which is just so much more empowering for people. It’s a huge weight off your shoulders.”

Alex hopes the findings will help transform public attitudes about HIV, bringing them in line with medical evidence. “A lot of stigma is driven by fear of being exposed to HIV,” he said. “People still think you can get it from kissing and casual contact. If more people knew about this study, this would change.”

Source: http://bit.ly/2VN9Xpm

Hundreds rally to not to vaccinate children amid measles outbreak.

Hundreds rally to not to vaccinate children amid measles outbreak.

Olympia, Wash. — With more than 50 cases of measles in Washington state, there’s been a new push to change the law. Washington is one of 17 states that allow parents to refuse vaccines for philosophical reasons.

But on Friday, hundreds rallied to preserve their right not to vaccinate their children. Lawmakers heard arguments on a proposed bill that would ban the measles vaccine exemption for philosophical reasons. Thirty-two other states have similar laws.

Measles is so contagious that an unvaccinated person has a 90 percent chance of catching the disease if they’re near someone who has it. The virus can survive for up to two hours in a room where an infected person sneezed.

Measles vaccination rates here, at the epicenter of the outbreak, are now up by 500 percent.

“I think we’re seeing people rush to the doctor now because it’s real and it’s been growing every week. And so folks actually see a real threat,” said Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

But opponents of the bill still think the measles vaccine is a bigger threat than the disease itself.

“I don’t feel I’m putting my child at risk. There’s nothing that’s going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination,” said mother Monique Murray.

The CDC insists the two-dose measles vaccine is safe and 97 percent effective. Washington lawmakers hope to get the measure passed by April.

Source : https://cbsn.ws/2tt5Z5v

Schools in France may replace ‘mother & father’ with ‘parent 1 & 2’ under controversial same sex amendment.

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Schools in France may replace ‘mother & father’ with ‘parent 1 & 2’ under controversial same sex amendment.

French schools are to replace the words “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2” under an amendment to a law passed this week.

Supporters of the change say it will stop discrimination against same sex parents but critics argue it “dehumanises” parenthood, is “ugly” and could lead to rows over who gets to be “parent 1”.

The amendment was passed by MPs on Tuesday night as part of a wider so-called law to build “a school of trust”, which among other things also makes attendance compulsory for all three-year-olds.

“This amendment aims to root in law children’s family diversity in administrative forms submitted in school,” said Valérie Petit, MP for the majority REM party of President Emmanuel Macron. Ms Petit, from the Nord department, said that the words mother and father, on all school documents such as pertaining to the canteen or authorising children to go on excursions, no longer took into account the recently-passed gay marriage law, nor the existence of same sex parents.

She added: “We have families who find themselves faced with tick boxes stuck in rather old-fashioned social and family models. For us, this article is a measurement of social equality.”

Socialist MP Joaquim Pueyot also praised the reform as “a question of respect and dignity”.  “You cannot imagine the consequences when children don’t feel treated like the others,” he said.

FCPE, France’s biggest parent’s federation, called “a very good thing”. “It echos the (recent) law on fighting harassment because often situations of child harassment target kids who don’t fit the current criteria.”

But the move angered the mainstream conservative Republicans, or LR, party and the far-Right.

Conservative MP Xavier Breton said: “When I hear people say this is an old-fashioned model, I would remind people that today among unions celebrated, civil or marital, some 95 per cent are man-woman couples.”

Conservative MP Fabien Di Filippo denounced a “frightening ideology, which in the name of limitless egalitarianism promotes removing points of reference, including those regarding the family”.

The idea of replacing mother and father by parent 1 and 2 was already mooted during the debate leading to the 2013 law legalising same sex marriage but was not inscribed into legislation at the time. Indeed, Jean-Michel Blanquer, the current education minister, had opposed the amendment on the grounds that this need not be a legislative matter.

Eric Ciotti, another Right-wing MP, said: “They swore this was fantasy, that it would never happen. The negation of gender deconstructs the balance of our society.”

Traditionalists were appalled.

Ludovine de la Rochère, president of the Manif Pour Tous organisation that opposes gay marriage, called it “totally dehumanising”. “Children need bearings,” she said.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen, head of the far-Right National Rally, said “the mask has fallen” from the Macron camp regarding its view of society. Jordan Bardella, head of RN’s European election list, said the move was part of an attempt to “ideologically condition children”, even claiming that “totalitarianism is not far off”.

The Right wasn’t the only camp to express scepticism.

AFDH, the French association for same sex parents, said that while it welcomed providing a way for such parents to be “included in forms”, it warned it could create a “parental hierarchy”.

“Who is ‘parent number 1’ and who is ‘parent number 2’?,” asked AFDH president Alexandre Urwicz, who called for more “inclusive” forms including the boxes “father, mother and legal representative”.

Jean-Michel Aphatie, editorialist on Europe 1 radio, said that while the change was logical to keep step with “administrative reality”, turning parents into numbers was “very administrative and very ugly”.

The amendment could yet be rejected by the majority-Right Senate but will then return to the National Assembly for a final reading.

Source : https://bit.ly/2tpZmB3

Big Bang May Have Created a Mirror Universe Where Time Runs Backwards.

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Big Bang May Have Created a Mirror Universe Where Time Runs Backwards.

Why does time seem to move forward? It’s a riddle that’s puzzled physicists for well over a century, and they’ve come up with numerous theories to explain time’s arrow. The latest, though, suggests that while time moves forward in our universe, it may run backwards in another, mirror universe that was created on the “other side” of the Big Bang.

Two leading theories propose to explain the direction of time by way of the relatively uniform conditions of the Big Bang. At the very start, what is now the universe was homogeneously hot, so much so that matter didn’t really exist. It was all just a superheated soup. But as the universe expanded and cooled, stars, galaxies, planets, and other celestial bodies formed, birthing the universe’s irregular structure and raising its entropy.

One theory, proposed in 2004 by Sean Carroll, now a professor at Caltech, and Jennifer Chen, then his graduate student, says that time moves forward because of the contrast in entropy between then and now, with an emphasis on the fact that the future universe will so much more disordered than the past. That movement toward high entropy gives time its direction.

The new theory says a low entropy early universe is inevitable because of gravity, and ultimately that’s what gives time its arrow. To test the idea, the theory’s proponents assembled a simple model with nothing more than 1,000 particles and the physics of Newtonian gravity. Here’s Lee Billings, reporting for Scientific American:

The system’s complexity is at its lowest when all the particles come together in a densely packed cloud, a state of minimum size and maximum uniformity roughly analogous to the big bang. The team’s analysis showed that essentially every configuration of particles, regardless of their number and scale, would evolve into this low-complexity state. Thus, the sheer force of gravity sets the stage for the system’s expansion and the origin of time’s arrow, all without any delicate fine-tuning to first establish a low-entropy initial condition.

But here’s the twist: The expansion after the simulated Big Bang didn’t just happen in one direction, but two. The simple Big Bang they modeled produced two universes, one a mirror of the other. In one universe, time appears to run forwards. In the other, time runs backwards, at least from our perspective.

Here’s Billings again, interviewing lead author Julian Barbour from the University of Oxford:

“If they were complicated enough, both sides could sustain observers who would perceive time going in opposite directions. Any intelligent beings there would define their arrow of time as moving away from this central state. They would think we now live in their deepest past.”

From that perspective, maybe George Lucas’s Star Wars didn’t take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but in the far future—our deepest past—of our mirror universe.

Source : https://to.pbs.org/2TUyLI5

New Zealand may ban semi-automatic weapons after mosque shootings.

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New Zealand may ban semi-automatic weapons after mosque shootings.

The crowd in attendance at a vigil at Auckland’s Aotea Square cheered loudly when Attorney-General David Parker said the Government would ban semi-automatic rifles.

He warned of a global rise of extremism.

“There is a dimming of enlightenment in many parts of the world,” he said.

“How can it be right for this atrocity to be filmed by the murderer using a go-pro and live-streamed across the world by social media companies?

“How can that be right? Who should be held accountable for that?”

Parker’s comments come after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s earlier remarks that New Zealand’s gun laws would change.

Speaking to media in Wellington this morning, Ardern stressed that “now was the time for change.”

Ardern said five guns were used by the primary perpetrator, including two semi-automatic weapons, and two shotguns.

“The offender was in possession of a gun licence,” Ardern said.

She said the guns were purchased in December last year.

“While work is being done as to the chain of events that lead to both the holding of this gun licence and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now; our gun laws will change.”

She said there had been attempts to change New Zealand’s gun laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017.

“Now is the time for change.”

Speaking to media in Wellington this morning, PM Jacinda Ardern stressed that
Speaking to media in Wellington this morning, PM Jacinda Ardern stressed that “now was the time for change” when it comes to gun laws. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Ardern reiterated that three people had been arrested in relation to the attack including one Australian citizen, who will appear in court today, charged with murder.

She said he had travelled around the world with “sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand”.

Despite this, the man was not on any watch lists in New Zealand or Australia.

He was not a resident of Christchurch, Ardern confirmed. She said he was currently based in Dunedin.

She said inquiries were being made to assess whether the other two people arrested were directly involved in the incident.

“The fourth person who was arrested yesterday was a member of the public who was in a possession of a firearm, but with the intention of assisting police,” Ardern said.

That person had been released, she confirmed.

Ardern said none of the arrested had a criminal history, either in New Zealand or in Australia.

She reiterated that New Zealand’s intelligence community and police were focused on extremism of every kind.

“Given global indicators around far-right extremism, our intelligence community has been stepping up their investigations in this area.

“The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community – nor the police – for extremism.”

Ardern said she had asked New Zealand’s intelligence agencies to “work swiftly” to see if there was any activity on social media or otherwise that should have triggered a response.

Ardern said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was acting as a liaison point for foreign governments.

She said consular representation for any foreign nations involved had been provided.

“At this stage I understand those involved include Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.”

Meanwhile, Ardern said she had instructed ODESC to report to Cabinet on Monday with a view to “strengthening our systems on a range of fronts” including, but not limited to, firearms, border controls, enhanced information sharing with Australia and any practical reinforcement of our watch list processes.

“I want to come now to what people can expect over the course of the day and beyond. The safety of New Zealanders is our highest priority.”

She said MFAT staff were dealing with offers of assistance, and receiving a significant number of condolence messages.

After addressing media in Wellington, Ardern headed to Christchurch on a Defence Force plane. She said other political leaders, such as National leader Simon Bridges, would be going as well.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister was not able to confirm which other ministers would be accompanying Ardern to Christchurch today.

Source: http://bit.ly/2F9UchV

Why the poor in India don’t revolt.

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Why the poor in India don’t revolt.

Across the nation maids are talking back; who knows one day they may even demand long-handle mops to clean the floors. The rich wonder if it is all because of the employment guarantee schemes conceived by the profligate Congress government—the poor seem to have options these days. The wages, too, have soared. In any case, the middle class, at least the young and the refined, want to be nice to their servants. The conscientious sahib even exclaims on social media how cruel it is that maids are “expected to be invisible”. The madam, though as conscientious, is unlikely to say that, or let the maid use her toilet or the cutlery. Across urban homes, however, the maids are sitting on footstools, even chairs, in the presence of their employers. If there is a time-lapse video of seated maids across a stretch of 10 years, it would show them slowly soaring from floor to sofa. Also, the maids today are not the tragic malnourished women of once upon a time. And their infants are roly-poly.

A cluster of apartment blocks called Mahagun Moderne in Noida, adjacent to Delhi, where hundreds of maids worked, was not very different from the rest of the urban hives until a few days ago, when a riot broke out. A mob of maids and their men attacked the society after one of the maids, a young woman, went missing and her family thought she had been detained by a family that had earlier accused her of stealing money.

Similar scuffles have occurred in other parts of Delhi. The occurrences are rare but they may be a portent of what is to come. The master-servant equilibrium of Indian society is collapsing. The poor are becoming socially and politically more empowered than ever before.

What is surprising is why they do not attack more often. How does vast poverty tolerate the wealth of a few, who are vulgar just to appear so rich in plain sight. Many a time, even if you are just walking with an ice cream in hand, you feel you are taunting the poor. Why don’t the poor rise in revolt and cause end-of-days havoc? Order suits the rich. Chaos is a leveller. Do the poor overestimate the defences of the rich? Why are we safe?

There is a type of phoney Indian who would, with flared noble nostrils, say the poor will not do it because they are such wonderful folk. But just as foolish is the innate suspicion of rich India that the poor are prone to criminality and violence, and that they are kept in check by religious or other mystical forces. But the fact is India’s poor shun violence for the same reasons most human beings abhor violence. They wish to be humane.

There is something far less pleasant that guards the rich—the near absence of human rights for the poor in a police station or a prison, or in the rest of the judicial process. India is not a safe place for the rich but it is safer than it should be, or even compared to more mature economies like South Africa, because the consequences of crimes against the rich are severe in India. Mumbai’s underworld, for example, was an organized attempt by gangs to steal from the rich, but when they began to employ efficient lawyers and use the legal process to free their captured men, society responded through extrajudicial killings of criminals. What India lacks through order it often makes up through informality. The less democratic a nation, the safer it is for the rich. Street safety in China, it will not surprise us, is much better than in India.

But the most important reason why it is hard for anyone to organize India’s poor against the rich is that such a system already exists—in the form of electoral politics. As long as the poor believe that they own politics, they will find greater release in that legitimate revolution than in self-destructive rage.

Indian politics thus is largely a revenge of the poor, or at least an attempt. That is one of the reasons why demonetization did not destroy the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the liberals had hoped. The party has won more than 10 elections since that announcement. The poor thought the rich suffered more than them.

Everything considered, the rich are great beneficiaries of poverty. It is very cheap to be rich in India. As the chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, pointed out, the subsidies that the rich so hate are designed for the poor but are best experienced by the rich. But the benefits are not as trivial as being served by a maid who would skin hundreds of soya beans for hours and crush them into milk. In a poor nation, the social elite can pass through life without facing any substantial competition. That is why the frequent middle-class accusation of “nepotism” in the film industry is somewhat amusing—not just Bollywood dynasties, almost the entire Indian upper class owes its supremacy to the huge advantages its families have provided.

The poor also serve the rich by providing them a clear moral goal—eradicate poverty. Every learned Indian is a poverty eradication thinker. Many among the elite youth lament “inequality”, though all they have to do to reduce inequality is, instead of lamenting, refuse to go to expensive American colleges, and boycott inheritance. In the sheer absurdity of the youth even considering such a drastic sacrifice lies a more disturbing question—can the beneficiaries of inequality really end it? In their subterranean minds, do they actually wish inequality to continue?

As the nation transforms and the facile deference and the isolation of the poor dissolves, the rich are responding by paying a premium for places and experiences that will not be diminished by the other kind of Indians. When India is expensive, it is not because it has something of value to offer, it is the price one pays for keeping the riff-raff out.

Source : https://bit.ly/2U2uYIm