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World Press on Death Penalty for Rape, Persecution of Uyghurs and China-US War: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 October 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 October 2020

• Why the Death Penalty Will Do Nothing to End Impunity for Rape

By Taqbir Huda

• The Persecution of the Uyghurs Is a Crime against Humanity

The Economist

• China-US War: A Frightening Possibility

By Ali Ahmed Ziauddin

• Inequality Is Rising Under Covid – How We Talk About It Is Vital

By Frances Ryan

• Why Would A Republican Vote Biden? Ask Arizonans

By Samara Klar and Christopher Weber

• So The Ethnicity Pay Gap Is Over? If Only Things Were That Simple

By Halima Begum

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Why the Death Penalty Will Do Nothing to End Impunity for Rape

By Taqbir Huda

October 16, 2020

 

A protester sitting on the street in front of the National Museum in Dhaka wearing a saree printed with anti-rape slogans, on October 10, 2020. Photo: Amran Hossain

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On October 13, the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 was passed making some changes to our central law on violence against women and children. The most significant and discussed change is that it "introduces" the death penalty as the maximum punishment for single perpetrator rape under section 9(1) of the 2000 Act.

Before this amendment, the only available punishment for single perpetrator rape was a mandatory life sentence. Before we delve into the efficacy of this reform, two important points must be noted by way of contextualisation.

Firstly, popular discourse in support of the death penalty for rape (and therefore this reform) tends not to acknowledge that death penalty already existed as an available punishment for three out of the four categories of rape in our law, even before the amendment. That means, the death penalty was already prescribed as the maximum punishment for three of the more serious categories of rape under section 9 of the 2000 Act. These are: rape leading to death, gang rape, and gang rape leading to death. Therefore, the only form of rape which did not involve the death penalty was single perpetrator rape, perhaps owing to it being the least severe of the four categories. This contextualisation is important because many fail to realise that the death penalty was already available as a punishment for the Noakhali rape case which triggered the protests, since it was not single perpetrator rape, but a case of gang rape.

Secondly, this amendment does not "introduce" the death penalty for even single perpetrator rape, because section 6(1) of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Special Provisions) Act 1995—, which the 2000 Act repealed — had first, introduced the death penalty for single perpetrator rape, which the 2000 Act removed. This is, therefore, a "reintroduction" of the death penalty for single perpetrator rape, and the existence of the death penalty for a single perpetrator for five years between 1995 and 2000 did not have any particularly significant impact on justice for rape.

Now coming to the central question: will this reform do anything to improve justice for rape? The short answer is no. The death penalty has already existed for the three other forms of rape for at least 25 years, but can we really say that has at all been able to decrease rape leading to death (such as Rupa and Tonu's cases) or gang rape (such as the recent Noakhali case)? Research by the Death Penalty Project, an international organisation, has shown that there is no evidence that the use or existence of death penalty has especially helped deter crime anywhere. Instead, research from around the world tends to show that increasing the severity of punishment tends to decrease conviction rates in criminal cases. This is because the more severe the punishment becomes, the more cautious and reluctant judges become in handing out guilty verdicts, since their judicial conscience tells them to exercise extra care by gaining extra surety. This effectively results in the standard of proof being pushed up in practice and only the most severe forms of the crime being recognised. Making the two most severe punishments in law—life imprisonment and death penalty—the only possible penalties for rape will, therefore, have two damaging effects. Firstly, it will push the standard of proof for rape to an unattainable standard. Secondly, it will lead to only the most severe rape cases resulting in conviction.

Rape is an offence that, due its very nature, is already incredibly difficult to prove. Most of the rape cases will not be equally brutal or have a video recording of the crime taking place, as in the Noakhali case. Following the amendment, the vast majority of rape survivors will be deprived of justice either because they are unable to satisfy this unattainable standard or their rape is not on the severe end of the spectrum, which therefore would mean the rapists get acquitted. This is because the law would not allow any alternative punishments. Allowing judges enough sentencing discretion to order punishment that is proportionate to the crime committed is a basic requirement in any justice system. Yet under our rape laws, our judges hardly have any discretion. Little wonder, then, that a report by Prothom Alo has shown that the conviction rate in rape cases filed in Dhaka's tribunals is only 3 percent.

The ongoing discussion about death penalty for rape makes two very big presumptions: that a rape survivor has been able to file a case and the trial has reached the ending point where the judge has to decide what punishment to give. Importantly, a multi-country study by UN agencies, which interviewed rapists, found that on average over 90 percent of respondents from Bangladesh reported facing no legal consequences for raping a woman or girl. This means that the vast majority of rape survivors are precluded from taking legal action in the first place. It would be foolish to think that the absence of death penalty for single perpetrator rape is what was deterring around 90 percent of rape survivors from taking legal action against their rapists. A more realistic answer would be the misplaced social stigma on rape survivors and their inability to file a rape case due to fear of facing violent reprisals from the rapists, who are usually more powerful—and the death penalty does nothing to address either of these. Due to space constraints, I will discuss only two reforms that could very much have addressed these two barriers to justice for rape survivors.

Firstly, since rape takes place due to a power imbalance, the rapist can utilise this very imbalance to preclude the survivor from seeking justice for the crime done to them, through use of threats or actual violence. Therefore, seeking justice then becomes akin to facing more violence. Rapists are able to do so because they know that once a rape survivor steps outside the police station after having filed the case, and returns home, the police is not bound to ensure their safety. They are fair game, yet again. If we had an effective victim and witness protection system, as proposed by the Law Commission as far back as 2006, then this would no longer be a problem, as it would then become the state's responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of not only rape complainants, but also witnesses who testify on their behalf. It would do so by posting police officials outside their residence to ensure safety, or providing them safe custody.

Secondly, section 155(4) of the Evidence Act 1872 specifically allows defence lawyers to raise questions about a rape complainant's character in open court, in order to undermine their credibility as a witness. In practice, this provision essentially allows the defence lawyer to use the very misplaced social stigma that a rape survivor experiences as a weapon to humiliate them to the point where they reach their breaking point and abandon legal proceedings to avoid further humiliation. This tactic shifts so much of the focus on a rape complainant's lifestyle, clothing and life choices that the rape survivor often feels they are the ones on trial, and not their rapist. Countries around the world have recognised the discriminatory and damaging impact such a legal provision can have on justice for rape, and have limited or completely prohibited the use of character evidence against rape complainants. For example, India and Pakistan, who inherited this same provision from our British colonisers, have already abolished it, while we have consciously retained it. 

If we are serious about ensuring justice for rape survivors, we must introduce reforms which actually help achieve that objective. At the very least, our state must have in place a system which will ensure their protection throughout the justice-seeking process, and the state must repeal the colonial law which essentially puts a rape survivor on trial, instead of their rapist.

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Taqbir Huda is a Research Specialist at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and leads the Rape Law Reform Now campaign. Email: taqbirhuda@gmail.com

https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/justice-practice/news/why-the-death-penalty-will-do-nothing-end-impunity-rape-1978737

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The Persecution of the Uyghurs Is a Crime against Humanity

The Economist

Oct 17th 2020

 

Photo the Economist

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The first stories from Xinjiang were hard to believe. Surely the Chinese government was not running a gulag for Muslims? Surely Uyghurs were not being branded “extremists” and locked up simply for praying in public or growing long beards? Yet, as we report in this week’s China section (see article), the evidence of a campaign against the Uyghurs at home and abroad becomes more shocking with each scouring of the satellite evidence, each leak of official documents and each survivor’s pitiful account.

In 2018 the government pivoted from denying the camps’ existence to calling them “vocational education and training centres”—a kindly effort to help backward people gain marketable skills. The world should instead heed Uyghur victims of China’s coercive indoctrination. Month after month, inmates say, they are drilled to renounce extremism and put their faith in “Xi Jinping Thought” rather than the Koran. One told us that guards ask prisoners if there is a God, and beat those who say there is. And the camps are only part of a vast system of social control.

China’s 12m Uyghurs are a small, disaffected minority. Their Turkic language is distant from Chinese. They are mostly Muslim. A tiny handful have carried out terrorist attacks, including a bombing in a market in 2014 that left 43 people dead. No terrorist incidents have occurred since 2017: proof, the government says, that tighter security and anti-extremism classes have made Xinjiang safe again. That is one way of putting it. Another is that, rather than catching the violent few, the government has in effect put all Uyghurs into an open-air prison. The aim appears to be to crush the spirit of an entire people.

Even those outside the camps have to attend indoctrination sessions. Any who fail to gush about China’s president risk internment. Families must watch other families, and report suspicious behaviour. New evidence suggests that hundreds of thousands of Uyghur children may have been separated from one or both detained parents. Many of these temporary orphans are in boarding schools, where they are punished for speaking their own language. Party cadres, usually Han Chinese, are stationed in Uyghur homes, a policy known as “becoming kin”.

Rules against having too many children are strictly enforced on Uyghur women; some are sterilised. Official data show that in two prefectures the Uyghur birth rate fell by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. Uyghur women are urged to marry Han Chinese men and rewarded if they do with a flat, a job or even a relative being spared the camps. Intimidation extends beyond China’s borders. Because all contact with the outside world is deemed suspect, Uyghurs abroad fear calling home lest they cause a loved one to be arrested, as a harrowing report in 1843, our sister magazine, describes (see article).

The persecution of the Uyghurs is a crime against humanity: it entails the forced transfer of people, the imprisonment of an identifiable group and the disappearance of individuals. Systematically imposed by a government, it is the most extensive violation in the world today of the principle that individuals have a right to liberty and dignity simply because they are people.

China’s ruling party has no truck with this concept of individual rights. It claims legitimacy from its record of providing stability and economic growth to the many. Its appeal to the majority may well command popular support. Accurate polling is all but impossible in a dictatorship, and censorship insulates ordinary Chinese from the truth about their rulers. But many Chinese people clearly do back their government, especially since to object is deemed unpatriotic (see article). Awkward minorities, such as Tibetans and Uyghurs, have no protection in such a system. Unbound by notions of individual rights, the regime has been determined to terrorise them into submission and force them to assimilate into the dominant Han culture.

China lies at the extreme of a worrying trend. Globally, democracy and human rights are in retreat. Although this began before covid-19, 80 countries have regressed since the pandemic began and only Malawi has improved, says Freedom House, a think-tank. Many people, when scared, yearn to be led to safety by a strong ruler. The virus offers governments an excuse to seize emergency powers and ban protests (see article).

Abusive rulers often rally the majority against a minority. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, espouses an aggressive Hindu nationalism and treats India’s Muslims as if they were not really citizens. For this, he earns stellar approval ratings. So does Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who urges the murder of criminal suspects. Hungary’s prime minister crushes democratic institutions and says his opponents are part of a Jewish plot. Brazil’s president celebrates torture and claims that his foreign critics want to colonise the Amazon. In Thailand the king is turning a constitutional monarchy into an absolute one (see article).

How can those who value liberty resist? Human rights are universal, but many associate them with the West. So when the West’s reputation took a battering, after the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the botched war in Iraq, respect for human rights did, too. Although America has imposed targeted sanctions over the Uyghurs, the suspicion that Western preaching was hypocritical has grown under Donald Trump. A transactional president, he has argued that national sovereignty should come first—and not only for America. That suits China just fine. It is working in international forums to redefine human rights as being about subsistence and development, not individual dignity and freedom. This week, along with Russia, it was elected to the un Human Rights Council.

Start in Xinjiang

Resistance to the erosion of human rights should begin with the Uyghurs. If liberals say nothing about today’s single worst violation outside a war zone, how can anyone believe their criticism of other, lesser crimes? Activists should expose and document abuse. Writers and artists can say why human dignity is precious. Companies can refuse to collude. There is talk of boycotts—including, even, of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Ultimately, governments will need to act. They should offer asylum to Uyghurs and, like America, slap targeted sanctions on abusive officials and ban goods made with forced Uyghur labour. They should speak up, too. China’s regime is not impervious to shame. If it were proud of its harsh actions in Xinjiang, it would not try to hide them. Nor would it lean on smaller countries to sign statements endorsing its policies there. As the scale of the horror emerges, its propaganda has grown less effective: 15 majority-Muslim countries that had signed such statements have changed their mind. China’s image has grown darker in many countries in recent years, polls suggest: 86% of Japanese and 85% of Swedes now have an unfavourable view of the country. For a government that seeks to project soft power, this is a worry.

Some say the West would lose too much by lecturing about human rights—China won’t change, and the acrimony will stymie talks about trade, pandemics and climate change. True, keeping human rights separate from such things is impossible, and China will try to convince other countries that moral candour will cause them economic harm. Nonetheless, liberal democracies have an obligation to call a gulag a gulag. In an age of growing global competition, that is what makes them different. If they fail to stand up for liberal values they should not be surprised if others do not respect them, either.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/10/17/the-persecution-of-the-uyghurs-is-a-crime-against-humanity?utm

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China-US War: A Frightening Possibility

By Ali Ahmed Ziauddin

October 16, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at an Atlantic Council Front Page event on September 15, called for building an international coalition against China. Meanwhile, Michèle Flournoy, widely expected to be Pentagon chief in a Biden administration, said, "American military and its partners should consider developing capabilities to sink the entire Chinese Navy within 72 hours to deter Beijing."

From what we understand from these hawkish statements by the incumbent and possible future key cabinet members of the US, the country is on an irreversible collision course with China, irrespective of who wins in November. To sustain its war economy that mostly benefits its plutocracy, the US needs to be on a war footing. How and when the two countries collide is a matter of conjectures. But the indicators of a gathering storm are getting alarmingly visible.

After the recent China-India spat, it seems India has finally decided to shed its reluctance and actively engage with the anti-China Indo-Pacific military alliance in the making, known as the "Quad", when it invited Russia to join the initiative. Moreover, India and the US are expected to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation on October 26-27, according to Hindustan Times. In layman's words, it's the basis of a future military alliance, under which both can draw from each other's military assets and resources if and when needed.

To put the above facts into perspective, these are indications that the US's growing aggression against China will only get worse in near future even without Russia joining the Quad, which seems highly unlikely. The US can turn up the heat on China using two possible strategies: i) diplomatic, financial and economic pressure, and ii) military means. As part of the first strategy, it may try to strangle China in the following ways.

First, it may put immense pressure on Japan, ASEAN and the EU to fall in line behind the US sanctions and economic decoupling from China. Japan will be willing, unlike the other two, but if the US stops its present hostility towards the EU, things may change. And this will definitely create a huge problem for Chinese accessibility to the EU market.

Second, the US may ask banks across the world to not have dollar transactions with China. In case of non-compliance by any bank, the US Federal Reserve may penalise that bank by seizing all its dollar assets or barring it from trading in dollars. It can also preclude Chinese banks from using the SWIFT, the interbank dollar transfer tool. In both cases, China's overseas trade of goods and services against dollar payment can be stopped almost immediately. This will in effect mean that any supply chain anywhere or third country doing business with China, or wanting to make payment in dollars to China, will be barred from doing business with the US. Yes, alternative payment in Chinese yuan is possible, but to establish it as a mode of payment first will take a lot of time, and more importantly, many states may be unwilling to accept it instead of dollars.  

Third, the US can raise the tariffs on Chinese goods further, making it impossible for the latter to remain competitive. This means virtually preventing Chinese market access into the US, which it has already started by forcing Chinese tech giants to cease their business in the US.

Fourth, the US may get tempted to apply the nuclear option, and seize all Chinese dollar assets.

All these measures will, in effect, be akin to a declaration of Cold War 2. Well, some key policy planners are keen to do precisely that considering how the first Cold War had created full employment and a prosperous economy. But a key difference is, back then the US was the world's number 1 creditor nation, whereas today it's the biggest debtor nation. By the end of the year, the US is expected to incur a debt of USD 30 trillion, more than its GDP, meaning it has entered a permanent debt trap. If, in this context, the US decides to adopt the above measures, it will definitely harm China by cutting it off from the global market, but in the process will also wreak havoc on the world economy in general and the US economy in particular. Because, in a globalised world economy where innumerable supply chains are so integrated, disruption anywhere is sure to create havoc everywhere. It means the cost of goods and services will rise in the US as it's the biggest consumer.

Moreover, the US will lose the biggest market of its agro products, and all its major companies based in China will lose the most if they are shut off from the 500-million-middle-class Chinese market. The fourth option will surely be a death blow to the dollar's dominance and status as the reserve currency. If this option is used, it is highly unlikely that any country will want to buy dollars as foreign exchange reserve or even buy US treasury bonds. This in turn will stop bankrolling the chronic US budget deficit. Yes, it still can go on printing its currency, but that will trigger inflation and make the dollar even more valueless.

Given this overall negative impact of pursuing the above measures, can the US afford to start a prolonged Cold War? In all probability, the most tempting course of action might be to look for a quick fix, as Ms. Flournoy has suggested, hoping China will bend to US diktats. More so, because the conventional thinking is, the US's presently far superior military capability holds a good chance of defeating or crippling China for good.  In 5-10 years' time when it is sure to reach parity with the US, this may be impossible. But it's inconceivable to imagine that, despite the US's military advantage, China will give in without a massive retaliation if its survival is threatened. If the US is seriously considering such a disastrous undertaking, there is no way China will submit without a regime change—meaning all-out war, boots on the ground, and in the worst-case scenario, a nuclear exchange. Here is where Bangladesh comes in the picture.

If we look at the map of Asia, there are several entry points to mainland China both on land and by sea. In any military showdown between China and the US, the South China Sea will obviously be the main theatre because that's the main entry point to mainland China. In all probability, neither Russia nor any Central Asian states will allow the US to encroach China from their land in the north or the west. The ASEAN till now has expressed a desire not to take sides in any hot conflict between China and the US. That only leaves South Asia which looks like the obvious second theatre. Afghanistan has no interest in getting involved unless, of course, the US forces stationed there impose an unwanted war upon it. Pakistan, being a nuclear state and a close defence partner of China, will definitely not side with the Quad to wage war against it.

It is natural for India as a member of the Quad and a military ally of the US to lead the assault on China's border, which will definitely turn the entire region including Nepal and Bhutan into a destructive battlefield of superpower hostility. There will be immense pressure on both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to join the war effort, but far more on Bangladesh, because of the Bay of Bengal. From its shores, the US naval forces can fire hypersonic missiles that can reach deep inside China in a few minutes with a speed between 4-5 thousand mph—a few more minutes perhaps for supersonic jets with a speed close to 2000 mph. The Bay, and by extension Bangladesh, may turn into a key war zone.     

Although Bangladesh has no interest whatsoever to get involved in this superpower rivalry, it may well be dragged forcibly. Before the Afghan invasion, the US threatened Pakistan to either join it or get bombed "back to the Stone Age". Three levers can be used to squeeze Bangladesh. One, India is sure to apply its utmost persuasive power; if that doesn't work, the US might step in with several lucrative offers; and if that fails too, it will restore to its typical muscle-flexing tactics. Bangladesh holds USD 38 billion reserve with the Fed, which the US may threaten to confiscate like it did to Iran and Venezuela. In addition, it may also threaten high tariffs on garments and render it impossible for Bangladesh to remain competitive.

Yes, all these possibilities may seem far-fetched, but no one had imagined the outbreak of World War I even before one month of it. The whole of Europe was already a powder keg—all that was needed was a spark, which came in the form of a murder in Sarajevo. Today, the sharp and growing polarisation and increasing civil/military alignment of antagonistic powers are indicators of a gathering storm. The US and the EU are extremely perturbed to see China beat them in their own game and not bending to their will unlike the rest of the developing world, over which they held full sway for over three centuries—first by colonial occupation, and then by market and financial control which is slowly ebbing away. The developing world has an alternative now. Moreover, throughout history, all major socioeconomic crises had led to warfare. The frequency of close encounters between the US and Chinese forces in the South China Sea may cause accidents anytime, triggering a flare-up.

Like all rational minds, I hope this frightening possibility never occurs. But for that to happen, America will need to make peace with China. Will rational sense prevail? The history of all declining empires says otherwise. All had tried their best to sustain the status quo with the help of the most advanced weaponry, but all eventually imploded and got sucked into the ravages of time.

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Ali Ahmed Ziauddin is a researcher and activist.

https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/china-us-war-frightening-possibility-1978733

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Inequality Is Rising Under Covid – How We Talk About It Is Vital

By Frances Ryan

15 Oct 2020

There are times in which it feels as if we are running two worlds in parallel. Billionaires have seen their fortunes hit record highs during the pandemic, seeing their wealth climb by 27%. Meanwhile, living standards have plunged for some of the UK’s poorest families. Research by Save the Children shows those already struggling are financially even worse off since lockdown: 60% have had to cut down on meals, and more than a third have turned to charity for food and clothes.

It is a longstanding feature of a rigged system: while the poorest suffer in a crisis, the wealthiest profit from it. This was highlighted in the aftermath of the financial crash, and is all the more relevant as coronavirus spreads. And yet the truth of inequality in the UK does not necessarily cut through to the public. Recent research by Tax Justice found that while 72% of Labour voters felt that billionaires shouldn’t exist alongside foodbanks, just 52% of the public as a whole agreed. It’s not that people don’t support higher taxes on wealth – they overwhelmingly do, and this has only increased during the pandemic – but that many feel alienated by “divisive” anti-wealth language and see the accumulation of money as a moral positive in providing security.

This may not sit comfortably with some of us, but it’s only in understanding how people view inequality that we can hope to address it. A researcher recently recounted an anecdote to me about a focus group in a Labour seat that turned Tory in the 2019 election: there was overflowing anger in the room at the mention of Mike Ashley, the billionaire Sports Direct owner, and yet a hostile reaction to what the group perceived as Jeremy Corbyn’s “attacks on people who had done well”. This appears as classic cognitive dissonance, but clearly shows the need for progressive politicians and activists to help people “join the dots”: to create a narrative that helps people understand that reshaping the economy requires systemic change, not just tackling a few bad apples.

The media have a part to play in this. When the former journalist Allegra Stratton was announced as Boris Johnson’s new spokesperson last week, an old Newsnight interview in which she grilled a young mother over her housing benefit went viral again. It garnered attention not simply because it was uneasy to watch, but because it highlights the pervasiveness of a certain type of reporting. Rather than zooming in and scapegoating individuals, those with a platform have a responsibility to explore how a combination of low pay and high rents makes it impossible for many working mums to live without housing benefit. The pandemic is prime ground for this. The left should clearly frame how the flaws in our economy directly lead to the fallout we are seeing from coronavirus. The suffering is not a quirk of the system. It is the system, and there are alternative ways to build one.

The language we use is going to be vital in this. Faced with upsetting social problems, the left instinctively provides details of them – I’ve done this many times myself – but this can often be counterproductive. Research by the Frameworks Institute shows framing problems in terms of a crisis feeds a sense of fatalism. Far from a wake-up call to inspire action, this sort of language is more likely to dampen engagement. This doesn’t mean we should stop talking about social ills. As child poverty rockets across the Midlands and the north of England, explaining the scope – and causes – of the damage we see is vital. But we have to balance highlighting the problems with proposing solutions to them.

I’ve often said that the greatest challenge the left has is convincing people that better things are possible. Cynicism, as much as right-wing ideology, is what blocks change. One very simple thing that progressive groups are encouraging critics of the Tories to do is to say “this government” rather than “the government”, when they issue attack lines. With trust in politicians low, such strategies help keep open the possibility that a better government can change lives.

Political messaging has a bad reputation among some on the left, bringing to mind connotations of slippery salesmen or New Labour-style spin. But giving up your principles is not the same as learning how to sell them effectively. Achieving a more equal society requires successfully communicating with the average voter, not just preaching to the party faithful. As coronavirus shines a new light on the contrast between wealth and poverty, it is not just talking about these issues that is going to matter, but how we do so.

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Frances Ryan is a Guardian columnist

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/15/inequality-rising-covid-equal-society

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Why Would a Republican Vote Biden? Ask Arizonans

By Samara Klar and Christopher Weber

Oct. 15, 2020

Arizona has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 24 years, and the state has not been represented by two Democratic senators in over 65 years. So we find ourselves in a historically strange place: Joe Biden holds a small but consistent edge over the president, and Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senate candidate, holds a lead in his race against his Republican opponent, Martha McSally.

Why is Arizona suddenly a swing state?

The answer is frequently attributed to changes in the demographics of our electorate. It is true that Arizona’s population is increasingly urban, college-educated and Latino — trends that favor the Democratic Party.

But this influx of Democratic-leaning groups doesn’t explain the change. After all, the proportions of registered Republicans and Democrats in Arizona have remained remarkably stable: Registered Republicans solidly outnumber registered Democrats.

What has changed is that more Republicans aren’t voting for the party’s candidate in elections for national office.

That gets to the heart of why Arizona has become a swing state. What partisans want is no longer necessarily reflected in what their parties have to offer — Arizonans, often moderate Democrats and Republicans, have been left up for grabs in the middle while major-party candidates have often moved to opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

And that is an overlooked but essential factor to explain our swinging state: The Arizona Democratic Party is more effectively targeting its messages to align with the moderate voters of the state.

That is what we found when in recent weeks and in collaboration with the Arizona Policy Lab, we asked over 1,100 Arizonans about their views toward the candidates, parties and key issues. Arizona Democrats are disproportionately moderate, as are self-identified independents. Even nearly two-thirds of Republicans, typically the most ideological group in the state, describe themselves as either moderate or just leaning conservative.

We asked Arizonans to rate the state parties relative to the national parties on an ideological scale. Large proportions of both Democrats and Republicans view their own party in Arizona as more moderate than what they see in Washington. In other words, there is bipartisan agreement among Arizonans: Washington elites are farther out on the ideological extremes than the people who live here in our state.

Arizonans’ moderate perceptions are largely backed up by what they say about the issues. A fifth of Arizona Democrats, for example, support the construction of a border wall, which Mr. Biden has pledged to immediately halt. A majority of Republicans in Arizona support a pathway toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children — a program that President Trump has repeatedly tried to eliminate. Over a third of Republicans say that immigrants help Arizona’s culture, and 42 percent say that immigrants help our state economy.

When it comes to the coronavirus, over 80 percent of Republicans in Arizona report that they are often wearing a mask, and a majority support a mask mandate — something that Mr. Trump has refused to endorse.

Scholars have found that Americans generally misperceive members of the opposing party to be more ideologically extreme than they truly are. But remarkably, more than a fifth of Republicans say that Arizona Democrats are more conservative than the national Democratic Party. State-level Republicans, on the other hand, are seen as ideologically extreme, with 43 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans viewing state-level Republicans as more conservative than the national party.

The campaigns provide examples. Ms. McSally’s campaign is persistently trying to cast Mr. Kelly as a radical leftist: In the race’s only senatorial debate, Ms. McSally repeatedly referred to her opponent as “Counterfeit Kelly,” as she tried to portray him as a covert radical leftist. But Ms. McSally herself has struggled to convey a moderate stance: When asked during the debate, she would not say whether she was “proud” of her support for the president. Mr. Kelly is actually running a centrist campaign as he tries to appeal to Arizona’s moderate mind-set — just as Kyrsten Sinema did successfully against Ms. McSally in 2018.

We find that both Mr. Biden and Mr. Kelly are especially popular among those who rate Democrats in Arizona as more conservative than the national party. A recent Arizona Daily Star report suggests that nearly a fifth of Republicans in deep-blue Pima County are supporting Mr. Biden. Our state-wide analysis shows 10 percent of Republicans supporting Mr. Biden — which, in a neck-and-neck contest, could make a lot of difference.

Demographic trends suggest that Arizona is moving to the left ideologically. But a better explanation might be that the state is moving toward the ideological center — and that’s where winning candidates place themselves.

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Samara Klar and Christopher Weber are associate professors at the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy and co-coordinators of the Arizona Policy Lab.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/15/opinion/arizona-biden-trump-2020.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

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So The Ethnicity Pay Gap Is Over. If Only Things Were That Simple

By Halima Begum

15 Oct 2020

The publication of figures from the Office for National Statistics this week could have been seen as a rare moment of encouraging news. The ethnicity pay gap in England and Wales stands at just 2.3%, the narrowest since the ONS began collecting data in 2012. In the 16- to 29-year-old category, ethnic minority workers are even out-earning their white British peers.

The broad gains have led some in the British media to herald “the end of the ethnicity pay gap”, traducing the data and diminishing the issue to a “white v other” scrap among workers. The MailOnline’s dog-whistling headline – “Young employees from minority groups now earn MORE than white British workers” – is emblematic.

This narrative is dangerous and misleading. Whether it is intentional or not, pitting the dominant ethnic group against minorities ignores systemic disadvantages between and within communities. Ethnic minorities are around twice as likely to be unemployed as their white British peers. Once in employment, ethnic minorities are also 47% more likely to be on zero-hour contracts in the gig economy, and are therefore less likely to benefit from basic legal protections in the workplace.

What the latest ONS figures do make clear is that the strides made towards pay parity are often based on higher levels of academic attainment among second and third generation migrants. As Bangladeshi kids growing up on an east London council estate in the 1990s, we were constantly told by our parents: “You will have to prove you are at least twice as good as your white peers ever to land a job.” Today, a third of British Indians are classified as “professional”, and almost 60% have a degree, exceeding their white British peers.

Similar figures pertain to the British Chinese community. Success in the classroom has helped youngsters land a crucial first foot on the employment ladder on the basis of merit, in a world where good employers are more aware than ever of equitable and transparent recruitment processes.

However, the fact remains that when we compare workers with the same qualifications or experience – say a general office worker of Bangladeshi heritage and a white British peer – the person of colour is still likely to earn significantly less.

The headline figures also appear to smooth over the impact of class and other socio-economic factors on the survey, leaving us to extrapolate conclusions from the earnings data of, say, a white British Uber driver alongside those of our British Punjabi chancellor of the exchequer. Given Rishi Sunak is a former investment banker whose father-in-law is one of the world’s richest men, such a standardised approach to the data, and its conclusions, raises as many questions as it answers.

And while the rightwing press is correct to point out in a scarcely credulous tone that British Indian and Chinese workers earn a combined average of 19.3% more than their white British peers, invisible factors such as structural racism and latent Islamophobia are simply not capable of being measured in any survey format. This might go some way to explaining why Pakistanis are now the lowest paid ethnic group in the country, earning 16% less than their white British peers despite higher levels of academic attainment.

Rather than using the ONS data to divide us, as workers we must stand together to address such discrepancies. Whether white British, black or minority ethnic, we are all beholden to the same person – our employer – and our mantra must always be, “Equal pay for equal work”.

Absolute transparency around remuneration is the only way to achieve this goal. Here, the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 is instructive. As organisations such as the BBC have found to their cost, failing to address the historical remuneration bias towards men is a surefire way to incur the wrath of both serving staff and the public.

But the government has failed to make the ethnicity pay gap report mandatory, effectively ignoring numerous important reviews and consultations, including the 2017 McGregor-Smith review, which found racism affects ethnic minority workers in every aspect of the labour market. Encouragingly, some progressive businesses have chosen not to wait for the government to legislate. Zurich UK published its own ethnicity pay gap review in July 2020, and has been able to monitor equality in terms of pay variables all the way to the boardroom.

Regardless of the narrowing ethnicity pay gap, the fact remains that minority communities are over-represented in low-paid jobs and the gig economy. The pay and employment prospects of minority workers will be disproportionately and detrimentally impacted by the pandemic. As a result, we must remain vigilant. Otherwise, the positive change that monitoring the ethnicity pay gap can bring about will simply be nudged into the distant future.

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Halima Begum is director of the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/15/ethnicity-pay-gap-disparities-minority-workers-unemployed-precarious-work

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