The Roundup for August 1st, 2015

Special Announcement

This is my last Roundup for Firedoglake, something I did not expect to write a few months ago. Even the song for today is something I always knew would be good to place for the end, but never expected it so soon.

I feel, perhaps as you, somber. I carried a rich tradition here with the Roundup. It was David Dayen who started the Roundup with this post. Afterward, fatster took over with her first ever Roundup post here. Then I took over with my first post on September 12th, 2013. (Let’s not forget Christy Hardin Smith’s contributions with this first post here)

Now it ends with me. As sad as I am, I am thankful for the opportunity. I often loathe to hear my voice, which is why you rarely see me comment on things as compared to my early days. Yet, I must say the Roundup is all the work of you, the readers. The ones who offered their suggestions, their comments and, surprisingly, tolerated me at the helm.

Thank you. It really means a lot to me.

And thank you to Ellie Elliott and Jane Hamsher, two people I owe a lot in my life.

The Roundup is on hiatus indefinitely. Perhaps it may return, perhaps not. For now, Farewell and Goodnight.

One more thing, please support Shadowproof. We must always support independent media and new outlets are always good to help. We do not know the future, but we do hold the power to shape it into what we want it to be.
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Saturday Art and Archaeology: Avebury stone circle

avwbury

Avebury encircles the stone circle

The opportunity to visit historic sites such as the neolithic stone constructions of Avebury, England’s, stone circle, the fascinating Stonehenge, and excavated barrows in the area, has been one I was very fortunate to have during my recent trip to Great Britain.   As you know here at FDL, discovery and exploration are exciting to me, and I cannot recommend enough that what is out there you will find worth a visit.

While the Druids did have ceremonies at these ancient sites, intensive research has revealed that they were originally created by neolithic inhabitants, dating back to around 3,000 B.C. in their origins.

Avebury (/ˈvbri/) is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England. One of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, it contains the largest stone circle in Europe. It is both a tourist attraction and a place of religious importance to contemporary Pagans.

Constructed around 2600 BCE,[1] during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises a large henge (a bank and a ditch) with a large outer stone circle and two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is unknown, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremony. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

By the Iron Age, the site had been effectively abandoned, with some evidence of human activity on the site during the Roman occupation. During the Early Middle Ages, a village first began to be built around the monument, which eventually extended into it. In the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones around the henge, both for religious and practical reasons. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury during the 17th century, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologicalinvestigation followed in the 20th century, led primarily by Alexander Keiller, who oversaw a project of reconstructing much of the monument.

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The construction of large monuments such as those at Avebury indicates that a stable agrarian economy had developed in Britain by around 4,000–3,500 BCE. The people who built them had to be secure enough to spend time on such non-essential activities. Avebury was one of a group of monumental sites that were established in this region during the Neolithic. Its monuments comprise the henge and associated long barrows, stone circles, avenues, and a causewayed enclosure. These monument types are not exclusive to the Avebury area. For example, Stonehenge features the same kinds of monuments, and in Dorset there is a henge on the edge of Dorchester and a causewayed enclosure at nearby Maiden Castle.[21] According to Caroline Malone, who worked for English Heritage as an inspector of monuments and was the curator of Avebury’s Alexander Keiller Museum, it is possible that the monuments associated with Neolithic sites such as Avebury and Stonehenge constituted ritual or ceremonial centres.[21]

Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson noted that the addition of the stones to the henge occurred at a similar date to the construction of Silbury Hill and the major building projects at Stonehenge and Durrington Walls. For this reason, he speculated that there may have been a “religious revival” at the time, which led to huge amounts of resources being expended on the construction of ceremonial monuments.[22]

Archaeologist Aaron Watson highlighted the possibility that by digging up earth and using it to construct the large banks, those Neolithic labourers constructing the Avebury monument symbolically saw themselves as turning the land “inside out”, thereby creating a space that was “on a frontier between worlds above and beneath the ground.”[23]

When the Celts arrived, the stone construction had been around for aeons, and their arrival dated around 1000 A.D.    At that point, the stone arrangements were a mystery to them as they are now for us.

Circle of stones, Avebury
Circle of stones, Avebury
West Kennet Long Barrow
West Kennet Long Barrow, above

Below, earth mound at West Kennet

mound

 

Stone circle and mound at Avebury
Stone circle and mound at Avebury
Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Below, Stone tools excavated at Stonehenge

tools

 

Late Night FDL: It’s All Going to Pot

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard – It’s All Going to Pot

Well, L/LN pups my long run at FDL has come to an end. Tonite is my very last LLN, however, tomorrow nite Suz will officially close down LLN.

Currently, Ruth and I are exploring avenues to provide a sort of FDL Cafe to swap stories and to keep in touch with one another. In the meantime y’all can friend me at Facebook or follow me at twitter: @CTuttle0

It has been a real honor and pleasure to post and host for such a terrific bunch of people from all over the country, and at times the World…!

Mahalo Nui Loa…! *g*

*sigh* Now, I suppose it’s high time for me to get a real f*cking job…! 😉

During Baltimore Uprising, City Officials Criminalized Hashtags & Labeled Social Media Postings as ‘Threats’

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In the early moments of the uprising in Baltimore after police killed Freddie Gray, Baltimore city officials monitored social media. The officials labeled activists and other users, who were posting about reported rioting, protest activity, and police action, as “threats.”

The spreadsheet listing individuals deemed to have posted “threats” was released in a cache of 7,000 internal emails sent during the uprising by city officials.

It is unclear who specifically was compiling this list. No agency is listed in the spreadsheet as being responsible. However, what is apparent is officials followed hashtags and essentially criminalized certain flows of information being shared by individuals.

Officials compiled 71 “threatening” pieces of content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube on April 27 [PDF].

Each threat was designated as some kind of a “violation.” These “violations” included “chatter,” “cyber threat,” “riot,” “physical threat,” “threat,” “violence,” and “rebellion.”

“All of Your Anonymity is Gone”

One of the activists singled out was @ConstantNatalie. She has the distinction of being the only user who was accused of promoting “rebellion,” which is not defined anywhere in the spreadsheet.

Remarkably, @ConstantNatalie was nowhere near Baltimore. She was in Chicago. The posting that garnered attention was not her own posting either. It was something she retweeted about providing medical attention to protesters from @brazenqueer (who was not listed as posting a “threat”).

Natalie recalled the experience of having a “beast”—the surveillance state—look at you and then later you find your name in a government document.

“It feels like all of your anonymity is gone,” she stated. “Once [the state] starts monitoring, then they start digging.” And, “Those in power want people, who are posting to social media in times of rebellion, to “be quiet and good in the face of horrific injustice.”

Other people noted in the spreadsheet were @UntoldCarlisle, a journalist, and Deray McKesson, a prominent voice in the movement for black lives.

The city tracked the following hashtags: #Baltimorecitypolice, #AmeriKKKa, #justiceforfreddie, #justiceforfreddie, #FreddieGray, #Amerikkka, #Amerikkka, #BaltimoreRiots, #BaltimoreRiots #idgt, and #mondawmin, #Baltimore, #OPFREDDIE, #blacklivesmatter, etc.

Essentially, city officials criminalized a select group of people, who engaged in freedom of expression and associated their expression of political discontent with any of these hashtags. (more…)

Potential Oil Spill Concerns Arise As Shell Begins Arctic Drilling

Shell No Campaign

There is increasing concern that Shell’s presence in the Arctic will lead to an oil spill, as the company begins to drill in the Chukcki Sea off the shore of Alaska.

Shell is no stranger to the Chukchi Sea. In 1988, the firm spent $300 million to drill for oil only to find dry holes.

Today Shell’s technology is more advanced, but that does not mean it can protect against potentially disastrous spills. A report by the Department of Interior—specifically the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—found a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill in the Arctic should drilling occur.

The search for oil in the Arctic is viewed as a necessity by the oil industry. According to the U.S. Geological Service, there are potentially 90 billion barrels of oil under the Arctic ice. The National Petroleum Council, comprised mostly of oil and gas companies, released a report earlier this year highlighted the usefulness of depending on Arctic oil:

Arctic exploration today may provide a material impact to U.S. oil production in the future, potentially averting decline, improving U.S. energy security, and benefiting the local and overall U.S. economy.

Erik Milito, director of upstream at the oil industry-funded American Petroleum Institute, argued on behalf of Arctic drilling as essential for U.S. energy security:

The safe and responsible development of oil and natural gas in the Arctic is critical to our economy and national security…Failure to develop these resources would put America’s global energy leadership at risk at a time when Russia and other Arctic nations are forging ahead.

Although, a 2012 report co-written by API’s Arctic Oil Spill task force found, in spite of some advantages, “logistical challenges” in responding to an oil spill.

John Deans, a Greenpeace Arctic campaigner specialist, told Firedoglake an oil spill in the Arctic would be a “catastrophe.” Moreover, he said risky extractions, such as tar sands, are slightly similar to drilling in the Arctic, yet the latter carries more risks.

“With the Arctic, it is another extreme extraction. The environmental risks are so much higher and difficult to deal with,” Deans said. (more…)

World Bank Peddling Private, For-Profit Schools In Africa, Disguised As Aid

File: Students pick crops outside a world bank school in Kenya. (Flickr / World Bank Photo Collection)
A row of students study from textbooks beneath a chalkboard at a World Bank School in India. (Flickr / World Bank Photo Collection)
A row of students study from textbooks beneath a chalkboard at a World Bank School in India. (Flickr / World Bank Photo Collection)

Originally published at MintPress News.

EDINBURGH — Private, for-profit schools in Africa funded by the World Bank and U.S. venture capitalists have been criticized by more than 100 organizations who’ve signed a petition opposing the controversial educational venture.

A May statement addressed to Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, expressed deep concern over the global financial institution’s investment in a chain of private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya and Uganda and called on the institution to support free universal education instead.

The schools project is called Bridge International Academies and 100,000 pupils have enrolled in 412 schools across the two nations. BIA is supported by the World Bank, which has given $10 million to the project, and a number of investors, including U.S. venture capitalists NEA and Learn Capital. Other notable investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar and Pearson, a multinational publishing company.

In a speech delivered in April, Kim praised BIA as a means to alleviate poverty in Kenya and Uganda. Critics responded that many Kenyans and Ugandans cannot afford private education, further arguing that this type of investment merely supports Western businesses at the expense of local public services.

A section of the letter addressed to Kim asserts:

“We, civil society organisations and citizens of Kenya and Uganda, are appalled that an organisation whose mandate is supposed to be to lift people out of poverty shows such a profound misunderstanding and disconnect from the lives and rights of poor people in Kenya and Uganda. If the World Bank is serious about improving education in Kenya and Uganda, it should support our governments to expand and improve our public education systems, provide quality education to all children free of charge, and address other financial barriers to access.”

 

Opposition to educational neocolonialism

The statement reflects a growing global movement questioning Western policies pushing private education in developing countries. It was written and signed by 30 organizations in Uganda and Kenya and supported by 116 organizations around the world, including Global Justice Now and ActionAid. They claim BIA uses highly standardized teaching methods, untrained low-paid teachers, and aggressive marketing strategies targeted at poor households.

In his speech supporting BIA, Kim said that “average scores for reading and math have risen high above their public school peers.” Opponents questioned these figures, noting that they appear to have been taken directly from a study conducted by BIA itself.

Global Justice Now added that the World Bank president’s assertion that the “the cost per student at Bridge Academies is just $6 dollars a month” was misleading.

“This suggestion that $6 is an acceptable amount of money for poor households to pay reveals a profound lack of understanding of the reality of the lives of the poorest,” Global Justice Now, a London-based organization promoting social justice, wrote on its website in May.

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The Roundup for July 31st, 2015

A caricature of Barack Obama at a switchboard, listening to people's phone calls on various mobile phone networks. (Flickr / Donkey Hotey)

Enjoy your day folks.

International Politics

Overall

– Journalist Patrick Cockburn joins The Real News to talk about Turkey’s role in the West’s fight against the Islamic State and the potential of it to jeopardize the situation

– The Pentagon denied allegations that U.S.-trained rebels were captured in Syria

– Private military contractors are the ones in charge of the U.S. military’s drones

Middle East

– At a gay pride rally in Tel Aviv, Israel, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six people before being arrested

– Israel passed a law allowing the force-feeding of Palestinians prisoners

– The PKK is prepared to fight against Turkey as the writing on the wall is clear (more…)

Over Easy: New Beginnings

Avebury stone circle
Avebury stone circle

Hello, am looking forward to Shadowproof, and will happily begin with a Friday Over Easy for that new presence.   As you know, I am usually previewing today what will be the Art and Archaeology feature Saturday,  and as you see above, this is about Avebury, England’s, stone circle.   It is a fascinating place to visit, a community that evolved in an inexplicable monument, the circle of strategically placed but puzzling huge stones.

Saudi Arabia Weaponizes Humanitarian Aid In Yemen

File: Beneficiary of Oxfam's cash distribution programme waiting to receive identity cards by Oxfam staff in Al Hodeidah governorate, district of Alma-Aselah, Yemen in March 2012. The project is funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). (Flickr / Oxfam)

Originally published at MintPress News.

SANAA, Yemen — Five months have passed since Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, and for all its might, political resolve and military arsenal, the kingdom has yet to bring the poorest nation on the Arabian Peninsula to heel.

Its institutions in tatters, its military apparatus reduced to rubbles, and with no economy to speak of, Yemen’s imminent collapse has been foretold time and time again by experts and state officials. Yet these predictions have not quite come to fruition.

In its match against Goliath, David is resisting. In rallies, demonstrations and even an open letter signed by 18 Yemen scholars and experts living in the United States and Britain, tens of thousands of Yemenis and others around the world have decried Riyadh’s actions, calling for an end to all violence.

Yet this dedication to opposing Riyadh’s actions doesn’t mean Yemenis aren’t suffering. The World Health Organization issued a statement in June, warning that a “major health crisis is unfolding in Yemen, where hospitals have been destroyed, health workers killed and critical shortages of food, medical supplies and fuel are causing large-scale suffering.”

In early July, the United Nations declared the situation in Yemen to be the highest level of humanitarian emergency. According to a U.N. report published July 7, over 1,500 civilians have been killed, 3,600 have been injured, and over a million have been displaced in the ongoing conflict.

By U.N. estimates, about 80 percent of all Yemenis — more than 20 million people — are in need of humanitarian aid.

In late March, Amnesty International confirmed the deaths of at least six children under the age of 10 during a Saudi-led air raid that killed 25 people. The report read: “The organization spoke to medical personnel at four different hospitals where the dead were taken after being pulled from the rubble of 14 houses that were hit in a residential neighbourhood near the city’s international airport.”

Already the poorest and most vulnerable population in the Peninsula and arguably the Greater Middle East, Yemenis have seen their livelihoods and freedom of movement disintegrate under Saudi Arabia’s war momentum. In late April, Saudi Arabia bombed Sanaa International Airport, effectively trapping civilians within Yemen’s borders.

Despite mounting evidence of abuses and war crimes, it would take the international rights community several months to stand up to the oil giant. On July 27, Human Rights Watch unequivocally slammed Saudi Arabia for a litany of human rights violations. The report reads:

“Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, and wounded dozens in the Yemeni port city of Mokha on July 24, 2015, are an apparent war crime. Starting between 9:30 and 10 p.m., coalition airplanes repeatedly struck two residential compounds of the Mokha Steam Power Plant, which housed plant workers and their family members.”

With fierce battles raging across Yemen, and as warplanes continue to rain lead onto heavily populated areas, Saudi Arabia has been looking for innovative ways to exert pressure onto the resistance movement. It is now withholding humanitarian aid to Yemen’s civilians to tame the growing insurrection movement against its rule and thus secure victory in the face of international law — all under the guise of the United Nations.

The kingdom is holding hostage not just Yemen but to some extent the international community, using the United Nations’ humanitarian institutions to wage war. It’s using institutions meant to offer relief as a means of weaponizing aid.

Hassan Jayache, a senior leader of the Houthi movement, which took control of Yemen earlier this year, told MintPress News that local NGOs have found themselves caught in a political web, forced to surrender their neutrality to secure not just funding but access to areas where aid is needed.

“The Saudis have exerted political pressures onto local NGOs and international aid organizations, demanding that aid be restricted to pre-approved segments of the population, based on political affiliations and according to religious criteria,” Jayache said.

“In other words, Al Saud has decided to starve the Shias of Yemen, hoping to break the Houthis’ momentum.”

 

Survivors explore bombed out rubble in Yemen. (Flickr / Coolloud)
Survivors explore bombed out rubble in Yemen. (Flickr / Coolloud)

Turning aid agencies into weapons of war

Mohammed Al-Emad, a Yemen-based journalist and political commentator, says Saudi Arabia called on several media organizations in the Middle East, the United States and Europe, demanding that “coverage on Yemen be sanitized and in keeping with Riyadh’s chosen political narrative.”

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