Category Archives: Community

U.S.: Give land to indigenous people to save it


How incredibly sensible.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Indigenous people are better than governments at preventing forests from being cut and should be seen as a solution, not a barrier to protecting them, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People said on Tuesday.

Indigenous peoples and communities have claims to two thirds of the world’s land but are legally recognised as holding only 10 percent, according to think tank World Resources Institute (WRI).

Without title deeds, indigenous communities may find their land is taken over for major development projects such as palm oil plantations and logging.

“Society thinks that indigenous peoples are claiming land that they shouldn’t be having because it should be used for expanded food production,” U.N. Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But giving indigenous peoples rights to land was a guarantee that forests, which store carbon and contribute to food security would continue to exist, Tauli-Corpuz said.

Headline of the day II: Backlash in blue


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Dallas shootings might give a new reason for police to look like soldiers

  • Sept. 11 attacks, Ferguson unrest sparked competing police approaches
  • Analysts fear retreat from community policing in wake of Dallas killings
  • Pentagon has sold departments cheap tanks, grenade launchers, other equipment

Quote of the day: Evils of privatizing the commons


From The Privatising Industry in Europe, a Transnational Institute report by Sol Trumbo Vila and Matthijs Peters:

The evidence shows that state companies are consistently undersold and even end up costing governments extra money (undermining the argument that privatisation generates revenue). Particularly in Greece, state assets have often been sold for prices far below their true market value. Research also shows that privatisation has negative implications for labour rights and what consumers pay for public services.

Due to the different, complex levels of financial and legal advice and the many parties involved in privatisations, the processes tend to be very susceptible to different kinds of corruption and conflicts of interest if they are not strictly supervised and monitored. Whereas cases involving flagrant corruption occur relatively often in countries accused of loose transparency and accountability like Greece, conflicts of interest also take place in countries that serve as global hubs for financial and legal services, like the UK.

The question remains therefore why the Troika insists on making privatisation a cornerstone of the austerity packages it has imposed on European debtor nations. Not only do the privatisations fail to deliver the revenues and efficiency that justify them, they are also fuelling nepotism, corruption and profiteering by small privileged groups at a time when the social costs of austerity are more blatant than ever. They are therefore exacerbating a social crisis of growing inequality and leading to social unrest and growing disaffection with the political system at national and European levels.

The fact the EU institutions are responsible for overseeing the implementation of privatisation programmes makes their capacity for good governance an additional concern, especially in the current circumstances where there is an increased transfer of sovereignty from member states to bureaucrats in Brussels.

The fact that the European Commission (and the Troika) persists in its privatisation agenda despite the evidence of its failures and the growing economic and social costs suggests two possible motives. One, that the European Commission is so ideologically wed to neoliberal policies that it unwilling to even consider the concrete evidence of the economic, social and political costs of privatisation for its own member states. Or two, that there is such a powerful corporate industry at work in support of privatisation, from the advisers to the corporations that buy up state assets, that it is impossible for the EU institutions to reverse course. Either motive or the likelihood that both are true reflects very badly on the European Union. It also goes along a way to explain the growing disaffection and popular resistance to the privatisation agenda and more broadly to the whole European Union project.

Xenophobia runs amok in post-Brexit Britain


And the frankly xenophobic character of pro-Brexit propaganda has played a leading role in the epidemic of racial and religious violence sweeping Old Blighty:

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We begin with a roundup from Deutsche Welle:

According to initial police figures, there has been a sharp spike in hate crimes since last week’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU: an increase of 57 percent in reported incidents between Thursday and Sunday, compared with the same days four weeks earlier. In addition to the incidents reported to police, accounts of verbal abuse have proliferated on social media. “I suddenly feel a lot further away from home,” German national Karoline Weber, who works in London, told DW.

While much of the aggression has been targeted at EU nationals, non-white Britons have also been affected. BBC journalist Sima Kotecha was called a “Paki” while reporting on the responses to the Brexit vote in her home town of Basingstoke. Channel 4 News correspondent Ciaran Jenkins heard three people shout “send them home” in the space of five minutes as he reported on the referendum in Barnsley in northern England.

“The attacks are mostly on eastern European migrants – but not all,” says Liz Fekete, director of the Institute for Race Relations. “What we’re observing is Muslim women are a prime target and a lot of children as well. A lot of damage has been done to social and community cohesion. There’s a hell of a lot of work to be done to repair that.”

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Next up, two stories from U.S. Uncut, the first reporting on on attack targeting Muslims:

Kashmir Meat & Poultry, a halal butcher shop owned and operated by a Muslim man, was attacked with a “petrol bomb” this Monday evening in the West Midlands in England.

Bashir Hussain, who was managing the store at the time of the attack, luckily escaped with only minor bruising from being struck by the weapon itself, but most of the store itself was destroyed by the flames.

The owner, Jamal Hussain, was dismayed by the attack and still seemed in shock when he spoke with reporters.

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Next, even Western Europeans are begin singled out by bitter xenophobes:

British radio host James O’Brien and his guest Simon Woolley were stopped in their tracks this morning when an elderly German woman named Karen called in hysterical tears after facing an onslaught of xenophobic attacks following the Brexit vote last week.

“I came from Germany in 1973,” she said, her speech punctuated by sobs throughout the entire conversation. “My husband, my late husband, was British. I’ve lived here for 43 years, and I’m so scared now.”

Despite having lived in the country for over four decades, Karen has been the victim of vandalization and hate speech so consistently that she has now locked herself in her house.

“I’ve gotten dog turds  thrown at my door on Friday… I’ve got nobody in Germany… I haven’t been out of the house for three days because I don’t know what to do,” she sobbed.

Finally, from Al Jazeera, a call for action from the United Nations:

The United Nations raised alarm as a series of racist incidents against minorities and foreigners were reported in the United Kingdom, following the country’s decision to leave the European Union.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that “racism and xenophobia are unacceptable in any circumstances” around the world.

“I urge the UK authorities to act to stop these xenophobic attacks and to ensure that all those suspected of racist and anti-foreigner attacks and abuses are prosecuted,” Hussein said.

“All of us must refuse to tolerate discriminatory acts in our daily lives – to ensure that there is nothing ‘everyday’ about discrimination.”

Violence, intimidation and calls of “Go home” directed at minorities – from Europeans in England to non-white Britons – have surged since the referendum last Friday.

Chart of the day: Neighborhood bloc party


Political party, that is, and how party affiliation affects relationships in the neighborhood, via the Pew Research Center:

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LED streetlights may be hazardous to your health


The illumination you rely on to keep your streets safe at night may poses a threat to your eyes and disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle, warn the American Medical Association.

It’s not all LED streetlights that pose the health threats, but rather those that provide the most intensive and whitest illumination.

From Professor Richard G. ‘Bugs’ Stevens of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, writing in the open-access journal The Conversation:

The American Medical Association (AMA) has just adopted an official policy statement about street lighting: cool it and dim it.

The statement, adopted unanimously at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago on June 14, comes in response to the rise of new LED street lighting sweeping the country. An AMA committee issued guidelines on how communities can choose LED streetlights to “minimize potential harmful human health and environmental effects.”

Municipalities are replacing existing streetlights with efficient and long-lasting LEDs to save money on energy and maintenance. Although the streetlights are delivering these benefits, the AMA’s stance reflects how important proper design of new technologies is and the close connection between light and human health.

The AMA’s statement recommends that outdoor lighting at night, particularly street lighting, should have a color temperature of no greater than 3000 Kelvin (K). Color temperature (CT) is a measure of the spectral content of light from a source; how much blue, green, yellow and red there is in it. A higher CT rating generally means greater blue content, and the whiter the light appears.

A white LED at CT 4000K or 5000K contains a high level of short-wavelength blue light; this has been the choice for a number of cities that have recently retrofitted their street lighting such as Seattle and New York.

But in the wake of these installations have been complaints about the harshness of these lights. An extreme example is the city of Davis, California, where the residents demanded a complete replacement of these high color temperature LED street lights.

Can communities have more efficient lighting without causing health and safety problems?

Two problems with LED street lighting

An incandescent bulb has a color temperature of 2400K, which means it contains far less blue and far more yellow and red wavelengths. Before electric light, we burned wood and candles at night; this artificial light has a CT of about 1800K, quite yellow/red and almost no blue. What we have now is very different.

The new “white” LED street lighting which is rapidly being retrofitted in cities throughout the country has two problems, according to the AMA. The first is discomfort and glare. Because LED light is so concentrated and has high blue content, it can cause severe glare, resulting in pupillary constriction in the eyes. Blue light scatters more in the human eye than the longer wavelengths of yellow and red, and sufficient levels can damage the retina. This can cause problems seeing clearly for safe driving or walking at night.

You can sense this easily if you look directly into one of the control lights on your new washing machine or other appliance: it is very difficult to do because it hurts. Street lighting can have this same effect, especially if its blue content is high and there is not appropriate shielding.

The other issue addressed by the AMA statement is the impact on human circadian rhythmicity.

Read the rest, after the jump. . .

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Panoptic corporate imperialism, Googled and Liked


From Dutch public television’s VPRO Backlight comes a remarkable documentary posing a fascinating question: Is the absence of digital connectivity becoming the newest luxury good, a costly product for consumption by the world’s elite?

Consider the case of Silicon Valley, where elites send their children to low-tech Montessori and Waldorf schools where they are disconnected from the web and the incessant call to the iPhone is precluded.

Consider even the case of Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire thanks to the incessant pull of the digital that has fueled the rice of his Facebook empire.

From BBC News:

A photograph of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shows tape has been used to cover his MacBook Pro’s webcam and mic.

Facebook has not responded to requests for comment about the picture, shared to celebrate Instagram reaching its 500 million monthly user milestone.

FBI director James Comey has previously said he also covers his laptop’s webcam to prevent hackers spying on him.

And digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it regularly sold its webcam “stickers”.

Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden allege US and UK spy agencies intercepted webcam images from millions of Yahoo users around the world between 2008 and 2010.

And a section of the image in question with the tape clearly visible as a square covering the round camera aperture:

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And it’s not just digital cognoscenti like Zuckerberg who display obvious concerns about the intrusion of the digital into daily life.

One of those interviewed by VPRO is Birgitta Jónsdóttir [previously], the founder of Iceland’s Pirate Party, now leading in the polls, and the improbable yet distinctly possible pick as the country’s prime minister.

An early adapter, Jónsdóttir played a role in one of Wikileak’s most explosive releases, video of the American helicopter machine-gunning of two Reuters journalists in Iraq in 2010. The video, likely leaked by Chelsea Manning, embarrassed the U.S. government and made Jónsdóttir the target of efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies and federal prosecutors.

Our digital connectivity, she notes, is all about turning us into commodities by exploiting our deepest secrets and relationships as tools for our own exploitation.

And like Zuckberg, Jónsdóttir keeps her laptop lens covered. And she warns that a’ those “smart” connected devices in your home, especially those responding to voice commands, make every aspect of private lived vulnerable to incessant snooping, catching every cry of ecstasy and despair, and with no legislation anywhere restricting corporate use of your innermost desires to seduce your wealth away.

Evgeny Morozov, a scholar and prolific writer who focuses in the social and political implications of the digital world, notes that the drive for global digital connectivity is driven by a fusion of the imperial interests of American corporations and the Washington establishment, with the implicit demand that those corporations are free from legal liability for their actions.

Especially chilling is a brief excerpt from a speech in India by Mark Zuckerberg in furtherance of his ambition to unite that nation in a digital Webb entirely controlled by his company, and effort he never accomplished until popular opposition forced a pullback.

Especially fascinating is way folks of our own ancestry are adapting to the wireless world. Our last name is Pennsylvania Dutch, folks of the Amish and Mennonite persuasion. The documentary reveals that even the Old Order Amish, the folks who still live in gaslit houses and travel by horse and buggy, now have cell phones and computers [though the phones have no internet capability and online computer access is tightly restricted, and the built-to-order hardware comes with no video capability.

There’s much more. . .

From VPRO Backlight:

Offline is the new luxury [VPRO backlight]

Program notes:

To be online all the time and everywhere. It sounds great, but it has its drawbacks. As digital networks are closing in, there are fewer places to be really on your own. Being offline is becoming a luxury. Where can you be offline?

We are connected to the internet even in our bedrooms. It’s the ambition of companies like Google and Facebook to connect the entire world, so that we can be online all the time and everywhere. This month, Google will send balloons up into the skies over Sri Lanka to provide the island state with free Wi-Fi. On the ground, more and more devices communicate through the so-called Internet-of-Things. We are going to be ‘glass citizens’ in a transparent house, connected for life to a wireless intravenous drip and traced anywhere via our smartphones. What does it mean, this shift to 100 percent connectibility of the entire planet?