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Canada’s new human rights museum shares oral histories

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the shores of the Red River in Winnipeg, Manitoba, October 11, 2014

Winnipeg (Canada) (AFP) – A new museum in Canada’s western prairies has amassed a unique collection of personal stories from genocide survivors, human rights defenders and others, and wants to share them.

Dedicated to the 60-year-old notion of human rights, a singular but intricate ideal, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba will open its doors on November 11.

It was conceived by now-deceased mogul Izzy Asper, who once controlled CanWest Global Communications Corp, one of the world’s largest media empires.

Over the past 15 years, the project has attracted both praise and protests, mostly from groups disappointed that their stories would not be included. 

A third of the museum’s staff including curators quit ahead of its grand opening, complaining that its content had been sanitized, while administrators struggled with staggering cost overruns and funding shortfalls.

But since the museum started previewing a handful of its 11 galleries in September, the criticism has faded.

“We’re not a collections-based museum. Our main focus is to tell stories,” spokeswoman Maureen Fitz said.

“But there are more stories than we can tell.”

“Most rights museums commemorate specific events,” she added. “Our focus is on human rights as an aspirational idea, using the stories of defenders, victims and others to illustrate it.”

 

- 250,000 visitors -

 

The Can$351 million (US$312 million) museum designed by American architect Antoine Predock is one of the most anticipated works of architecture in Canadian history.

Built of polished concrete, basalt rock, limestone and alabaster wrapped in a wall of glass that “weaves light through darkness,” it seeks to frame how an expected 250,000 visitors each year will think about human rights by “offering multiple perspectives from different angles, which is also important in exploring human rights,” Fitz explained.

The site in downtown Winnipeg was chosen for the city’s legacy at the crossroads for labor rights, suffrage, minority language rights and indigenous people’s land rights in Canada.

Visitors are presented with interactive videos, photographs and text chronicling Canadian and world history’s “dark and bright spots” as they meander up a 23-story spiral pathway.

There are 181 oral histories of survivors of mass atrocities and people who fought rights violations.

Displays cover the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide and other atrocities recognized by Ottawa, and identify patterns in them.

Tales are told of the First World War internment of Ukrainians, of the Japanese immigrant steamship Komagata Maru being turned away from Canadian shores in 1914, and of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

Along the path, visitors can probe a smattering of artifacts, including a ballot box from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 presidential run, wedding photos of gay couples, and the dress worn by Mareshia Rucker to the first racially integrated prom at the Wilcox County school in the US state of Georgia last year.

They may also peruse one of the original prints of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or retry pivotal court cases.

On the latter, Angela Cassie, who has been with the museum since its inception, noted that the case law shows “how one’s rights might infringe on another’s.”

Visitors can also take a bit of their experience home. The gift shop sells an unusual array, including jewelry made from disarmed nuclear weapons.
 

- Defining human rights -

 

The notion of rights believed to belong to every person is now largely established, but continues to evolve.

“There are so many definitions of human rights,” said museum research manager Jodi Giesbrecht.

“Some things we now take for granted were not always considered human rights.”

Contemporary rights issues tend to provoke the most controversy, but some historical events also continue to be contentious.

“We try to offer a lot of different perspectives, and invite people to add to the general discussion,” said Giesbrecht.

 

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Fall Out Boy – Centuries (Behind The Scenes) presented by Honda Civic Tour

Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump, along with the other members of Chicago’s Fall Out Boy, decided to take us behind the scenes of their new video “Centuries,” the first single from their new album. Watch this exclusive footage from 2007 Honda Civic Tour headliners Fall Out Boy and you’ll definitely learn a bit about gladiators.

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Many Of The Military’s Top Leaders Can’t Stand The Retired General Leading The Anti-ISIS Coalition

john allen

One would think a man with four stars on his collar leading U.S. forces in Afghanistan just one year ago would have no problem working with military leadership in the fight against militants of the so-called Islamic State at present.

But for retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who was appointed by President Obama in September as special envoy to lead the global coalition to counter the militant group, that calculus has been wrong.

Gen. Lloyd Austin

An article posted at Foreign Policy on Thursday by Mark Perry lists a surprising number of detractors to Allen’s appointment, including many in and out of uniform. The most obvious rift comes from Gen. Lloyd Austin, the man in charge of Central Command, tasked with carrying out the military plan to “degrade and destroy” ISIL, the administration’s preferred term for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“Why the hell do we need a special envoy — isn’t that what [Secretary of State] John Kerry’s for?” a senior officer close to Austin told Perry, of the potential for confusion since Gen. Allen reports directly to President Obama.

Allen, 60, was given an incredibly difficult task upon his appointment. With the Islamic State consuming much of Iraq and Syria and boasting roughly 31,000 fighters, his role as special envoy is to “help build and sustain the coalition,” and coordinate their efforts, according to the State Department.

But Allen — now inside the State Department and no longer wearing military rank — commands a role not very far outside the scope of duties of Gen. Austin at Centcom, who is charged with overseeing relationships, offering military support, and carrying out operations when necessary in 20 Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Syria.

SYRIA IRAQ

Indeed, Gen. James Mattis — the commander before Austin at Centcom — demonstrated a perfect example of the military’s ability to build coalitions without outside support, in retelling how he got 29 nations together to counter Iran’s attempt to mine the Strait of Hormuz.

“The military overseas can do more than simply reinforce foreign policy,” Mattis said earlier this year. “We can also buy time for the diplomats to do their magic.”

It became apparent after only a few days of Allen’s appointment that a turf war had emerged.

Via Foreign Policy:

When Allen requested that the Pentagon provide him with air transport to the region just days before his scheduled arrival in Iraq on Oct. 2, he was turned down by Austin’s staff, who told him to check with the State Department. It was a slight “that left Allen steaming,” a former high-level civilian Pentagon official confirmed.

Even Gen. Anthony Zinni — himself a former Centcom commander who later served as special envoy to Israel for peace talks in 2002 — was critical of Allen’s appointment (via The Tampa Tribune):

“John Allen is a great guy, but does it take a retired general to coordinate a coalition? What is Centcom, chopped liver? Did Norman Schwarzkopf get some retired general? Who is really leading here, that is my question.”

islamic state isis

And there are many more gripes noted by military officers who spoke on condition of anonymity to Foreign Policy. One derides Allen as “a boy scout.” Another, noting his new role as a quasi-diplomat though he’s never been one, said “I don’t know how that’s going to work.”

For many of the military’s top leaders it seems, having a retired general like Allen outside of the military chain-of-command reporting to Obama is a sign of White House “micromanagement.” It also offers the possibility of conflicting messages between State and the Pentagon in the fight against ISIL.

“We are getting a lot of micromanagement from the White House. Basic decisions that should take hours are taking days sometimes,” one senior defense official told The Daily Beast.

But perhaps the most devastating critique comes from one of the tribal leaders that US forces need to support in pushing back the Islamic State. As militants battled for control of the home town of Jalal al-Gaood in Iraq’s Anbar province, the man desperately tried to reach Allen to ask for assistance, but it was too late.

“Gen. Allen said, ‘I will put you in touch with someone in Centcom.’ But it never happened,” Gaood told The Washington Post’s David Ignatius. “Every time the Iraqis meet with Americans, they just take notes.”

SEE ALSO: The US Confirms That It Is Not Coordinating With The Free Syrian Army

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Apple Pay fails to unify fragmented market

Apple Pay, meant to inject momentum into a fragmented market for the emerging mobile payments sector, has instead highlighted the squabbles between retailers and the banking and payments industry.

Washington (AFP) – Apple Pay, meant to inject momentum into a fragmented market for the emerging mobile payments sector, has instead highlighted the squabbles between retailers and the banking and payments industry.

Since Apple Pay made its debut October 20 for US customers with the iPhone 6, several major retailers have said they would not use it. 

That includes number one retail group Wal-Mart and the large pharmacy-retail group CVS, which has disabled payment terminals that could accept Apple Pay.

“You’re never going to come up with anything as smooth (and) as easy as Apple Pay. But if you can’t use it, you’re going to use something else,” said Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner who follows mobile payments.

Litan said a few retailers, such as McDonald’s and Disney, like the system because it speeds transactions and “every fraction of a second goes to the bottom line.”

But she noted that for most retailers, credit card fees simply are too high.

Apple Pay has aligned itself with major banks and payment processors Visa and MasterCard, which take a cut of every transaction, typically two to three percent. 

Retailers, which often operate on razor-thin profit margins, would like to cut or eliminate those fees, and Apple Pay does nothing to change that system.

“Most of the merchants have been hungry for competition,” Litan said.

- Stuck in neutral -

Gartner projects mobile payments will hit $721 billion around the world by 2017. But some estimates have been lowered recently amid squabbles over the type of technology used and payment structure.

Apple uses a “near field communication” or NFC chip, similar to that used by Google Wallet and Softcard, which has been slow to gain traction.

Although Apple has signed on most major US banks, Visa and MasterCard, and retailers like Macy’s and Staples, many others are balking.

A coalition of merchants led by Wal-Mart, Target and Sears called MCX is promoting its own system called CurrentC, using a different technology, and importantly, allowing retailers to bypass credit cards and use direct bank debits with lower transaction costs.

Apple Pay “really falls short when it comes to merchant value proposition,” said Litan.

Nitesh Patel, analyst with Strategy Analytics, said retailers are not necessarily targeting Apple but want “to avoid what they believe are excessive swipe fees and the cost of upgrading hardware and software to accept contactless payments.”

But he added that if Apple Pay catches on, the retailers will be forced to go along.

Patel said, however, that if the retailer sector does not unify around the contactless system used by Apple Pay, users may revert to their old habits, “since they will need to carry their payment cards and wallet with them anyway.”

“This is a challenge that all proponents of contactless payments, Google Wallet, Softcard and Apple Pay face together,” Patel told AFP.

The merchant system got a black eye when it revealed a data breach exposing customer emails, even though the app itself was not affected.

Forrester Research analyst Denee Carrington said security is an advantage for Apple.

“Apple Pay is highly secure, and the data privacy will mean that merchants are less likely to be hacked since they won’t have card payment data that hackers are interested in,” she said.

“Apple Pay is also very fast and consumers seem to like it as well.”

- Battle for customer data -

Bob O’Donnell at Technalysis Research said Apple’s privacy protections make the system less attractive to retailers, because they cannot as easily track customer habits to deliver coupons or marketing messages.

“They want that data,” O’Donnell said. “That’s why the grocery stores give you the loyalty cards.”

O’Donnell said Apple has created excitement about mobile payments but has failed to bridge the differences among the market players.

“It gives momentum to the sector but it remains fragmented,” he said.

“Apple Pay provides an example of the promise and the challenges of mobile payments in a very clear way.”

Litan said meanwhile that the squabbles could intensify. And she noted that retailers which are disabling the ability to use contactless NFC technology could also be blocking rival systems.

The merchant-sponsored system uses a more cumbersome technology that requires customers to scan a QR (quick response) code and display that. But by bypassing the credit card system, it can reduce costs for merchants, who may pass on these savings to customers.

“The merchant systems are never going to be as convenient as Apple’s,” Litan said.

“They can’t compete with Apple on convenience but they can on price. It’s going to boil down to price versus convenience, and price usually wins.”

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