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Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday July 28, 2014 8:53 pm

 

Three marmosets on a branch

Marmoset therapy for your Monday doldrums.

Tonight’s Watercooler is in solidarity with Utah Tar Sands activists who shut down work at the tar sands mine in the Book Cliffs.

About 80 climate justice land defenders enforced a full-day work stoppage at a tar sands mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah July 21, 2014. Multiple technical and non-technical blockades were deployed to keep the peace and prevent further destruction by construction crews.

The proposed tar sands mine area–PR Springs on the East Tavaputs Plateau–was stolen from the Utes last century. Recently US EPA has demanded information from the tar sands company regarding certain toxic waste dangers that will be an inevitable result of the project’s progress, threatening a vital water source to Ute people. The pollution from this project will pose a special threat to the very people from whom the land was stolen.

Tensions with police were high for several hours throughout they day as cops sought to break a series of blockades and restore the violent land scraping and development. Twenty-one people were arrested and several were injured.

Undeterred by aggressive and repeatedly violent acts by the Uintah County Sheriff’s Department and the School Institutional Trust Lands Administration to break the people’s resolve, the series of blockades stopped the company and law enforcement from restoring the violent status quo that day.

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is holding an exhibition of the art and design of protest called “Disobedient Objects.” From The Daily Beast:

Through an extraordinary breadth of innovation, from arm braces that make human blockades impossible to dismantle to giant inflatables that can alter the media coverage of a struggle, Disobedient Objects argues that flashes of inspirational design have often made the difference in the success of a protest.

‘You get a lot of exhibitions that say: “Designs that changed the world,”‘ said Gavin Grindon, one of the show’s curators. ‘These are designs that really did change the world.’

Walking through the show, it’s impossible to miss the trend—virtually all of the innovative, daring pieces of design and art have emerged from left-wing protest groups. The organizers insist this was never the intention, they just couldn’t find any examples from the Right. Grindon told The Daily Beast the realization surprised him, but it seems the Left is more inventive, better at protesting.

[...] The most directly successful object in the show is the lock-on, a metal tube with a bolt through the middle that protesters place their arms inside. Versions of the device were first designed in the late 1980s, allowing protesters to chain their arms to each other or around something in a way that the police could not safely dismantle. You can point to areas of forest that are still standing in New Zealand or roads that were not built in Britain because of the stubborn realization of this simple design.

Other exhibits worked more obliquely, altering the mood of a protest or changing the way a demonstration was later portrayed to the public. Hanging from the exhibition ceiling are two huge inflatable cobblestones. The blow-up props were first used at a protest in Berlin in 2010, where the police and the media were warned in advance that violence was expected after previous events had been marred by cobbled paving stones thrown at police.

‘The police have to decide what on earth they are going to do with this thing. If they throw it back, suddenly they are playing beach volleyball with anarchists…’

This time, demonstrators threw the inflatables at advancing officers. ‘The whole demonstration changes instantly,’ Grindon explained.

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Finland

By: cmaukonen Monday July 28, 2014 2:44 pm

Smoke Sauna – flickr creative commons

Since there has been a lot of talk and recent questions appearing lately like “How come we can’t _______ more like the Finns” — fill in the blanks with education, economics, social welfare etc. And that I myself am half Finnish on my father’s side of the family and my largest influence being Finnish culture because of this. As well as according to my mother “I’m going to raise my sun like a Finn.”

I thought I would write a little something on Finland and Finns, just so you know what Finland is all about. Which in and of it self is a bit of a challenge, as Finns themselves are unsure about some aspects.

First of all, the question “Where did/do Finns come from” ? Answer: they didn’t “come” from anywhere. They have always been there is one way or another.

The Finns never ‘came’ to Finland, because Finns, Finnish identity or Finnish language in its present sense have never existed anywhere outside Finland. What now counts as ‘Finnish’ has been formed here, during thousands of years, influenced by many peoples, languages and cultures.

Many Finns have learnt at school that our ancestors arrived from the east (where languages related to Finnish are still spoken) some 2.000 years ago. This was a plausible theory in its time, but not any more: contrary to what was believed in the first half of this century, Finland has been continuously populated ever since the latest Ice Age, that is: our first ancestors lived here already some 9.000 years ago. Of these first people of Finland very little is known: we don’t know where they came from (from the south, of course…) or what language they spoke (it could have been Finno-Ugrian or even some language of a completely unknown ancestry). Of course, even after that Finland has received many cultural and language influences from many directions.

Secondly, where did the Finnish language come from ? [An even more controversial question]

A few decades ago the family tree of the Finno-Ugrian languages was interpreted as a map showing how the FU peoples wandered to their present homes. Modern archaeology obviously does not support such wide migrations. Also recent loan word research has shown very old Indo-European loanwords especially in Finnish and the westernmost (Finnic) branch, which means that some pre-form of Finnish must have been spoken relatively close to the Baltic Sea already quite early.

On the other hand, Finnish is certainly related to languages spoken in Middle Russia and West Siberia. This means either that the area of the Finno-Ugrian (Uralic) proto-language has been very wide, reaching perhaps from the Baltic Sea to the Urals, or that we must find alternative explanatory models to account for the spreading of these languages.

Indeed even this is highly disputed by some. What is known is that Finnish has zero roots in any of the Indo-European languages, which makes it so hard for non-Finns to learn. Not only that, it wasn’t until the 16th century that a written language was developed. This has been very difficult since there are so many vocalizations in Finnish that do not translate well to the Latin based alphabet. Some not at all.

It has been shown that Finns lived isolated from the rest of Europe, which would account for the differences in culture and society. For one thing as many, it not most of European societies and culture are male-dominated. Finnish culture is much less so. Equality of the sexes has been there almost from the first with Finnish women being the first to win the right to vote. These days women make up 40% of the business leaders and government representatives.

We are all aware of the social and educational programs in Finland and other Nordic countries, but you need to be aware this attitude is deeply ingrained in the culture. To take care of one another and what benefits one, generally benefits all — a view not held by many of European ancestry.

Finns tend to be quiet and reserved. Bragging on ones self is considered uncouth and even arrogant. They also expect you to be taken at your word and they at theirs.

Immigrants Offset Population and Workforce Losses in Wisconsin Cities

By: WI Budget Project Monday July 28, 2014 11:11 am

Immigrants are playing a very important role in boosting cities in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, according to a report issued last month.  The recent report, written by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, analyzed 2000 and 2010 decennial census data and found that the arrival of immigrants over the last decade helped reverse a trend of declining populations in cities throughout the Midwest.

Here are some of the highlights of the report, “Growing the Heartland: How Immigrants Offset Population Decline and an Aging Workforce in Midwest Metropolitan Areas,” (.pdf link) pertaining to Midwest metropolitan areas:

  • Over the last decade alone, the region’s foreign born population rose 27.4% (from 3.5 million to 4.5 million).
  • Immigrant population growth accounts for 38% of metropolitan area growth in the Midwest.
  • Only 67% of native-born Midwesterners live in metro-areas, compared to 88% of immigrants.
  • Although this region’s native-born population in the 35-to-44 age group saw a 20.6% decrease between 2000 and 2010, the immigrant population in that age range experienced a 44.2% increase.

The same trends can be seen in the report’s data for Wisconsin cities, shown in the following table.

 
The next table focuses on an especially important part of the workforce, people in the age range of 35 through 44.  It illustrates that Wisconsin cities have had a rapidly shrinking number of people in that age range who were born in the U.S., but the declining native born population is being partially offset by immigrants in that age range.

 
At a time when immigration is still a fairly controversial topic, it is important to note the beneficial roles it plays across the Midwest. Aside from helping to sustain the population, immigration brings young workers into a workforce that is aging quickly. However, in order to fully leverage the benefits of Midwestern immigration, metropolitan areas must work to ease the transition for immigrants into the economy, labor market, and civic processes.

For Wisconsin and its cities to grow and prosper, we need to help immigrants become productive workers, active consumers and engaged citizens.  As the report concludes,

this requires new federal policies and, yes, immigration reform, that fully recognize immigration as an asset, not a burden, to the region.

by Jelicia Diggs and Jon Peacock

If We Dislike War Like We Dislike Cancer

By: David Swanson Wednesday June 8, 2011 11:41 am
Cupcakes with pink breast cancer ribbons

What if ending war was became as important as ending cancer?

War and cancer are among our leading causes of human death around the world. They can’t be strictly separated and compared since war is a major cause of cancer, as is war preparation. (And a small fraction of the U.S. budget for war preparations could fund cancer research well beyond all the money raised by public and private funding and by all the 5-K races for a cure and other activities we’ve become familiar with.) War and cancer, by their nature, also can’t be addressed with the same sort of responses.

Cancer prevention, including possibly radical changes in industrial and energy policies, is fairly off-limits, whereas cancer treatment and the search for a cure is almost certainly our most widespread and publicly visible form of altruistic charity and advocacy  When you see athletes or celebrities marked with bright pink, or a public event packed with pink shirts or ribbons, or — alongside a road — a giant pink inflatable anything, you are now less likely to think “WTF is that?” than “We need to help cure breast cancer.”

War prevention, including radical redirection of our resources and economy away from war, re-education away from the propaganda of beneficial violence, support for nonviolent conflict resolution, and promotion of international law and the prosecution of war makers, is likewise fairly off-limits. But war treatment and the search for a cure for war once begun, seems significantly less useful than the search for a cure for cancer. War is indisputably and entirely human-made. Most of its fatal victims die immediately. Halting a war once begun is immensely more difficult than refraining from starting it, as no one party can control a war’s path, and support-the-troops propaganda convinces people that ending a war is more evil than continuing it. Once a war ends, undoing the resentment and hatred and habits of violence, and the environmental destruction (and the cancer epidemics), and the destruction to liberties and democracy, all adds up to an immense — if not impossible — task compared to that of avoiding wars before they’re started.

So, when we compare a public demand to abolish cancer with one to abolish war, the latter seems to require halting our biggest public program, whereas the former allows us to go on driving our SUVs to Wal-Mart as long as we stick a pink ribbon on the back to indicate that doctors and scientists should continue the great march of progress. And of course they should. We should be investing vastly more in curing cancer, not to mention Alzheimer’s which is as big a killer as cancer but opposed by far less funding (and not a particular threat to that favorite of all body parts: the breast).

But abolishing war may be the more pressing demand. Nuclear weapons could be used intentionally or accidentally and destroy us all. The resources dumped into war are badly needed for the work of averting environmental catastrophe (not to mention curing cancer). What if a campaign to abolish war were to learn a few tricks from the campaign to abolish breast cancer?

Following the lead of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Campaign Nonviolence, World Beyond War, and other peace groups are encouraging everyone to use sky blue scarves and bracelets as symbols of peace and support for ending all wars. What if sky blue symbols became as widespread as pink ones? What would that look like?

Naomi Oreskes: A “Green” Bridge to Hell

By: Tom Engelhardt Sunday July 17, 2011 6:01 pm

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Poster: Male face saying 'Frack' as oil drips down his chin

More fossil fuels won’t cure our fossil fuel crisis.

Call it the energy or global warming news of recent weeks.  No, I’m not referring to the fact this was globally the hottest June on record ever (as May had been before it), or that NASA launched the first space vehicle “dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide.” Nor do I mean the new report released by a “bipartisan group,” including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and three former secretaries of the treasury, suggesting that, by 2100, $238 billion to $507 billion worth of American property will be “below sea level”; nor that Virginia’s coastline is already being eaten away by rising seas and storm-surge destruction in such a striking manner that state Democrats and Republicans are leaving global warming denialists in the lurch and forming a climate change task force to figure out what in the world to do.

No, I was referring to the news that the Obama administration has just reopened the eastern seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration. To the extent that this has been covered, the articles have generally focused on the economic positives — for jobs and national wealth — of finding new deposits of oil and gas in those waters, and the unhappiness of the environmental community over the effect of the sonic booms used in underwater seismic exploration on whales and other sea creatures. Not emphasized has been the way, from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, not to speak of the shale-gas fracking fields of this country, the Obama administration has had an all-of-the-above policy on fossil fuels.  Our “global warming” president has consistently championed reforms (of a modest sort) to combat climate change.  These, however, fit uncomfortably with his administration’s anything-goes menu of oil and gas exploration and exploitation that is distinctly in the drill-baby-drill mode. Unlike that drill-baby-drill proponent Sarah Palin, however, the president knows what he’s doing and what the long-term effects of such policies are likely to be.

Part of the way he and his officials seem to have squared the circle is by championing their moves to throttle coal use and bring natural gas, touted as the “clean” fossil fuel, to market in a big way.  As it happens, historian of science Naomi Oreskes, an expert on the subject, has news for the president and his advisors: when looked at in a clear-eyed way, natural gas isn’t going to turn out to be the fossil-fuel equivalent of a wonder drug that will cure the latest climate disease.  Quite the opposite: its exploitation will actually increase the global use of fossil fuels and pump more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, while possibly suppressing the development of actual renewable alternatives.  In a magisterial piece today, she explores every aspect of the crucial question of why natural gas is anything but a panacea for our climate change problems.

This couldn’t be more important.  Science historians Oreskes and Erik Conway have already written a classic book, Merchants of Doubt, on how Big Energy and a tiny group of scientists associated with it sold us a false bill of goods on the nature and impact of its products (as the tobacco industry and essentially the same set of scientists had before it).  Together, they have now produced a little gem of a book on climate change: The Collapse of Western Civilization: a View From the Future.  Written, so the claim goes, in 2393 by a “senior scholar of the Second People’s Republic of China,” it traces the events that led to the Great Collapse of 2090.  You haven’t heard of that grim event yet?  Well, you will as soon as you pick up Oreskes’s and Conway’s “thought-provoking” and gripping work of “science-based fiction” on what our future may have in store for us — if we don’t act to change our world. Tom

Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas
Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels
By Naomi Oreskes

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “greenfuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.

Over 1100 dead, 3500 wounded in Ukraine Civil War; Drumbeats for War Against Russia Intensifying

By: wendydavis Friday September 21, 2012 1:40 pm

From RT:

Some 1,129 people have been killed and nearly 3,500 wounded in eastern Ukraine since the start of the Kiev’s military operation in April, according to UN estimates.

The report also states that these are the minimum casualty toll estimates by the UN monitoring mission and WHO.

The report says that the cause of the rising death toll is intensified artillery shelling of the civilian residential areas and the so-called “collateral damage” of the armed actions in the heavily-populated areas.

Also, 100,000 people were forcibly displaced in eastern Ukraine.

The Kiev authorities are using heavy weaponry and artillery in strikes on residential areas, while the armed rebels are firing back, the report states.’

On Friday, Human Rights Watch alleged that Kiev is using indiscriminate Grad missiles to attack densely populated areas in Donetsk, which violates international humanitarian law, and also blames the militia for taking cover in the same areas.

This admonition comes from the same HRW that blamed hideous deeds by those groups that had staged a coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and have attempted to overthrow Maduro…on the Maduro government.  It is the same organization that received a letter from several Nobel peace prize laureates, and 100 human rights activists, and scholars, urging independence from the US government, so you be the judge.  But from all I’ve read, those folks fleeing the carnage headed for Russia.

The bombing and shelling of citizens in Eastern Ukraine has been bloody and ugly; people have been burned alive in buildings, whether under the uniforms of the Ukrainian military, or Right Sektor/Svoboda nazis.  No matter how you come down on Lugansk and Donetsk declaring their independence from Ukraine, Kyiv’s many atrocities should be tied as war crimes.  But of course they won’t, not least because the US and several deep state NGOs full back, and partially funds these fiends in the name of Democracy for some™, apparently.

From Veterans Today’s Jim Dean, bless his heart: ‘The People of Donbass have something to say: “Why?  What did we do to you to deserve this, America and EU?”

The general use of artillery and bombing attacks on civilian areas has been met with total silence by the Kiev Junta’s Western allies. It gets even worse for the towns captured from the East Ukraine resistance, atrocities and summary executions have take place.

Even the UN says nothing, not even about investigation or having monitors with the Kiev units to stay on top of what they are doing. The Oligarch funded units, formal terror brigades, are fighting behind a Western approved “anti-terror” smokescreen. This stain will never wash off, of them or us, as it has not on all those who have preceded those doing it now.

Videos showing the results of these bloody deeds abound, but are difficult to verify, given language barriers, questions of dates, and the potential for propaganda. The Saker has a team of translators dubbing in English for many of them, and I do hope they are straight up with their translations; given what we’ve seen live-streamed, I tend to credit their translations.

RT’s ‘250 civilians killed in Ukraine’s Lugansk during last two months – OSCE’ highlights the organization’s death toll numbers from June and July, and provides videos that require warnings for the brutal carnage depicted. My guess is that again, actual numbers were higher.

Clearly the teeth-gnashing rhetoric from the US State Department, Obama himself, and the loudest neo-cons in Congress has blamed Russia for the downing of MH 17 from the start, but have provided no evidence, just anonymous ‘intel reports.’

This is the State Department flack Marie Harf on July 22, fielding questions as to the veracity of those claims, and especially as opposed to statements made by Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.  The dialogue is funny on its own, but this op-ed from washingtonsblog.com has great art to go along with it. He characterizes it this way:

NBC Changes Story on Israeli Bombing of Hospital

By: Siun

This morning Israeli forces bombed Al Shifa hospital in Gaza. As reports began to circulate via twitter, several tweets referenced the above tweet from NBC News.

The same account was included on the NBC website report as of 11:04 AM Central time:

The report reads:

The Israel Defense Forces told Haaretz that a “preliminary investigation has found that Israeli army did not fire at the Shifa Hospital, and the fire is believed to have been Hamaz.” The IDF could not immediately be reached to clarify that account on Monday. However, a NBC News journalist witnessed the attack on the hospital and said it had been fired by an Israeli drone.

Israel has been criticized for several strikes which hit hospitals in the Gaza Strip during its recent offensive.

Only about 20 minutes later, NBC had changed its story to delete the mention of the NBC journalist’s report and insert:

Early reports from the ground had said an Israeli drone appeared responsible for the attack.

The story has been changed now once again to include both an IDF statement and a Hamas statement but no mention of their own reporter’s witness though they do mention their presence on the scene:

The explosion near Shifa Hospital around 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) caused some damage to the outpatient clinic, according to witnesses including an NBC News crew on the ground in the area.

No mentions are made in the story or on the site that the report has been changed or updated. The report is now credited to Ayman Mohyeldin, Paul Ziad Nassar and Alexander Smith with contributions from Hasani Gittens and Reuters. Note that Ayman Mohyeldin is the reporter NBC has removed from Gaza for being a bit too truthful and just recently reinstated.

So what’s the real story NBC?

Heartbreaking Eid in Palestine

By: Siun

If you have been following the war on Gaza via twitter, you are probably aware of a new web initiative called Humanize Palestine. It’s a collection of photos and notes about many of the men, women and children who have fallen to Israeli bullets and bombs over the past few days – and it is heartbreaking.

The anonymous site organizers note:

Why is it that when an Israeli goes missing or is killed, the media presents images of them from a happier time? They are usually smiling in these images or posing next to their family and friends. This helps create empathy in our hearts and connect with the person in the image on a deeper, more personal level. But when a Palestinian child is killed, images of their burned and mutilated bodies is circulated, and we immediately connect brown and Palestinian bodies with death and disposability. That person is stripped away from an identity, a family and loved ones, and a story.

Humanize Palestine attempts to honor the deceased as martyrs by bringing them back to life through their pictures, stories, art, and poetry. Humanize Palestine reminds us, that contrary to Western bias, a Palestinian life is no less valuable than the life of another, by giving the life the respect and dignity that it deserves.

Humanize Palestine includes the dead from the West Bank, nine of whom have been killed so far by IDF and by Settlers, as they protest in support of Gaza.

Today is Eid, the day when Muslims finish the fast of Ramadan. It should be a day of celebration but this year, it is a day with so much sorrow. For Eid, Muslims gather together, visit friends and family and share meals and gifts. I hope that today we can take a few moments to honor Eid as well.

There is much we can say, much we want to say about this war on Gaza, about our country’s role in the attack on Gaza and about what must be done. Yet today I hope we can find the time to simply pause and remember each who has died. Take a moment to look at the photos and stories of Humanize Palestine, read and pray or meditate in your own way about the individuals whose eyes greet you in the photos and do not let them be forgotten.