Category Archives: Holocausts

Sustainable farming curbs greenhouses gases


Our final climate offering of the day blends two of our favorite topics, climate change and sustainable agriculture,m with a special focus on biochar [also known as terra preta]

The pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Amazon Basin had a remarkable secret, lost after their advanced civilization was destroyed by the disease brought by European explorers.

Sailing up the previously unexplored rive, Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana, traveled down the Amazon in December 1541 on a journey that would last eight months before he sailed into Pacific Ocean, along the way discovering a rich, densely settled civilization producing high crop yields in the rain forest where, contrary to popular perceptions, soils are typically thin and poor.

Orellana’s stories helped fuel the myth of El Dorado, the famous lost City of Gold, but when later explorer’s sailed the Amazon, they found no flourishing cities, leaving Orellana in dispute for the next 500 years until archaeologists found proof of his claims in buried cities and soil rich in pot sherds and bit of partially combusted wood, or char.

The combination of charcoal and pottery turned thin, dreploeted soils in ricb black earth [in Spanish, terra preta], capable of yielding an agricultural bounty able to support a dense, prosperous population.

From David Bennett of the Delta Farm Press:

The properties of terra preta are amazing. Even thousands of years after creation, the soil remains fertile without need for any added fertilizer. For those living in Amazonia, terra preta is increasingly sought out as a commodity. Truckloads of the dark earth are often carted off and sold like potting soil.

Chock-full of charcoal, the soil is often several meters deep. It holds nutrients extremely well and seems to contain a microbial mix especially suited to agriculture.

And it was all created by a people the explorers called savages.

And if your interested in learning more the miraculous Native American discovery, here‘s a good place to start.

And now, on to to the latest development.

Study reveals natural solutions to combat climate change

From Cornell University:

Annual greenhouse gas emissions from all U.S. vehicles could be absorbed by forests, wetlands and agricultural lands – erasing a fifth of all greenhouse gas pollution, according to new research exploring natural climate solutions for the United States.

Peter Woodbury, senior research associate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is a co-author on research published Nov. 14 in Science Advances [open access].

The researchers analyzed 21 natural ways to mitigate climate change. They found that adjusting those natural management practices to increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse emissions could equal 21 percent of the nation’s current net annual emissions. Increased reforestation could be equivalent to eliminating the emissions of 66 million passenger cars, according to the findings.

Improved management of existing croplands has an important role to play, according to the researchers. Woodbury, who led the cropland nutrient management portion of the study, and his colleagues found that many agricultural practices can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Widespread adoption of cover crops – plants grown on farm fields when they would normally be left bare – aids in carbon sequestration and improves soil health, crop yields and yield consistency. The researchers also pointed to improved nutrient management practices that apply fertilizer when and where the crop needs it, using precision agriculture techniques.

These improved practices could reduce nitrogen use 22 percent, leading to a 33 percent reduction in field emissions and 29 percent reduction in upstream emissions with additional benefits for soil, air and water quality. In many cases, these practices also improve profitability for farmers.

“We have demonstrated that agriculture and forestry have real potential to both avoid greenhouse gas emissions and also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in plants and soil. At the same time, these practices have many other benefits such as improving soil health and water quality by reducing nutrient pollution of fresh water and the coastal zone,” said Woodbury, who develops models to quantify the sustainability of agricultural and forest ecosystems. Woodbury is a fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

The researchers pointed to biochar as one method with high potential, although further research is needed to overcome cultural, technological and cost barriers. In May, Cornell opened the largest pyrolysis kiln of its kind at a U.S. university to study the uses of biochar, a solid, charcoal-like material formed by heating biomass in the absence of oxygen. Biochar can help soil retain water and nutrients, as well as promote drainage when conditions are wet.

The researchers say that, along with reducing the impact of global warming, natural climate solutions have the potential to improve air and water quality, flood control, soil health and wildlife habitats.

Other solutions include: allowing longer periods between timber harvest to increase carbon storage; increasing controlled burns and strategic thinning in forests to reduce the risk of tree-killing fires; and reducing urban sprawl to preserve forests.

“These 21 natural climate solutions are really important because they can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and the world while also providing other benefits including clean water, clean air and biodiversity,” said Woodbury.

BBC documents Orellana’s Amazon discoveries

Here’s a remarkable BBC documentary reporting on what scientists are finding as they retrace Orellana’s footsteps, with a special emphasis on terra preta.

The Secret of El Dorado

From the program notes:

The search for clues in the Amazon takes place at grass roots level – in the soil itself. Along Brazil’s Tapajos River, archaeologist Bill Woods has mapped numerous prehistoric sites, some with exquisite, 2,000 year old pottery. There is a common thread: the earth where people have lived is much darker than the rainforest soil nearby. Closer investigation showed that the two soils are the same, the dark loam is just a result of adding biological matter. The Brazilians call this fertile ground terra preta. It is renowned for its productivity and even sold by local people.

Archaeologists have surveyed the distribution of terra preta and found it correlates favourably with the places Orellana reported back in the 16th century. The land area is immense – twice the size of the UK. It seems the prehistoric Amazonian peoples transformed the earth beneath their feet. The terra preta could have sustained permanent intensive agriculture, which in turn would have fostered the development of advanced societies. Archaeologists like Bill Petersen, from the University of Vermont, now regard Orellana’s account as highly plausible. But if the first Conquistadors told the truth, what became of the people they described?

Why are we fat? Republicans, Democrats disagree


If the recent elections have taught us anything, it’s that Democrats and Republicans are so deeply divided that one might reasonably argue that the system has broken down, with folks of great wealth fueling the divisions for their own ends.

So how deeply divided are the two parties?

Well, they can’t even agree on what makes folks fat.

It’s that old nature/nurture divide that lurks beneath so much of political divisiveness, with the Republicans arguing that Calvinism, with its doctrine of predestination, rules at the bathroom scales, while Democrats argue that it’s something fueled by the environment.

From the University of Kansas:

People’s political leanings and their own weight shape opinions on obesity-related public policies, according to a new study by two University of Kansas researchers.

Actually, Republicans — no matter how much they weigh —  believe eating and lifestyle habits cause obesity, the research found.

But among Democrats there is more of a dividing line, said Mark Joslyn, professor of political science. Those who identify themselves as overweight are more likely to believe genetic factors cause obesity.

“Self-reported overweight people were significantly more likely to believe obesity is caused by genetics than normal weight people,” Joslyn said. “The belief that obesity is due to genetics tends to remove blame. Obesity is not a choice, some would argue, but rather people are simply genetically wired to be obese. In this way, overweight people are motivated to believe in the genetics-obesity link. We found normal weight people were not so motivated.”

Joslyn and Don Haider-Markel, chair and professor of the Department of Political Science, published their findings [$36 to read] recently in the journal American Politics Research.

The research could have important implications for policymakers, especially at the local and state levels that tend to focus on public health interventions, either through appealing to healthy lifestyles by constructing biking and walking paths to encourage exercise or by passing stricter regulations on food and drinks, such as demanding publication of calorie counts and levying taxes on soft drinks.

Former New York City Mayor — and billionaire — Michael Bloomberg has donated millions of dollars to fund pro-soda tax initiatives in major cities. Berkeley, California, and Philadelphia are among those that have passed them in recent years. Obesity rates have risen recently in the United States, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2015 that 71 percent of adults were overweight and more than 17 percent of youths were obese.

Still, most Americans oppose bans on large-size drinks and higher soda taxes, Joslyn said, which is likely a disparity between the perception of the problem and support for government intervention. Those who have argued against soda taxes, for example, often refer to a “nanny state,” blaming government intervention when they perceive personal choice is causing the problem.

For policymakers, as obesity rates continue to climb and the debate surrounding how to make people healthier continues, the genetic attribution as a cause may continue to rise as well, which could influence people’s opposition to certain practices.

“To the extent that genetic attributions increase in popularity, stronger opposition to discriminatory hiring practices by weight can be expected,” Joslyn said.

Also, it’s likely the issue remains politicized because most Republicans are inclined to support individual blame for obesity and not supportive of government regulations.

Finally, while the soda taxes have gained much attention, most government action recently does seem to be directed toward changing people’s individual behavior, such as developing public spaces to encourage fitness and ways to discourage unhealthy eating habits, like publication of calorie counts.

“If obesity persists in the face of such initiatives, blame and discrimination of obese people is likely to continue,” Joslyn said. “On the other hand, if governments treat obesity similar to diseases that afflict the population, as circumstances beyond the control of individuals, then individual blame and discrimination may diminish.”

Program notes

The genome dynamically interacts with the environment as chemical switches that regulate gene expression receive cues from stress, diet, behavior, toxins and other factors. Epigenetics is the study of these reactions and the factors that influence them.

So what’s it all about?

From Scientific American:

In a study published in late 2011 in Nature, Stanford University geneticist Anne Brunet and colleagues described a series of experiments that caused nematodes raised under the same environmental conditions to experience dramatically different lifespans. Some individuals were exceptionally long-lived, and their descendants, through three generations, also enjoyed long lives. Clearly, the longevity advantage was inherited. And yet, the worms, both short- and long-lived, were genetically identical.

This type of finding—an inherited difference that cannot be explained by variations in genes themselves—has become increasingly common, in part because scientists now know that genes are not the only authors of inheritance. There are ghostwriters, too. At first glance, these scribes seem quite ordinary—methyl, acetyl, and phosphoryl groups, clinging to proteins associated with DNA, or sometimes even to DNA itself, looking like freeloaders at best. Their form is far from the elegant tendrils of DNA that make up genes, and they are fleeting, in a sense, erasable, very unlike genes, which have been passed down through generations for millions of years. But they do lurk, and silently, they exert their power, modifying DNA and controlling genes, influencing the chaos of nucleic and amino acids. And it is for this reason that many scientists consider the discovery of these entities in the late 20th century as a turning point in our understanding of heredity, as possibly one of the greatest revolutions in modern biology—the rise of epigenetics.

Continue reading

Image of the day: A poster at the Holocaust Museum


On Monday Sarah Rose tweeted this image of a poster she’d seen on sale at a notable location, accompanied by these words: “In the US Holocaust Museum. I’m shook.”

blog-fascism-orig

Since then, as of this writing, it’s been retweeted 190,823 times and attracted a flurry of online interest, and for reasons needing no explanation.

We traced it’s origins to a Spring 2003 op-ed in Free Inquiry — a magazine we once subscribed to — written by Laurence W. Britt, a former executive for Allied Chemical, Mobil, and Xerox Corp., based on his study of common characteristics of the authoritarian regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Gen. Francisco Franco’s Spain, Portugal under António de Oliveira Salazar, Greece under the military junta headed by Col. Georgios Papadopoulos, Chile under the military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and Indonesia under Maj. Gen. Suharto.

In his article, Britt writes:

German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.

Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.

Chomsky warns: Trump may incinerate us all


Either through nuclear war or global warming, the election of President Littlefingers present the gravest threat of the 21st Century, warns America’s foremost intellectual and dissident.

From teleSUR English:

Prominent U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky warned Monday about the possibility of a nuclear war and the further risks linked to global warming as a result of a Donald Trump presidency, during a speech for the 20th anniversary of Democracy Now!.

Commenting on the concrete implications of the Republican candidate’s win, Chomsky said that the Iran nuclear deal could be reversed.

“Other countries who are parties to the deal might well continue,” he said. “That means ignoring U.S. sanctions. That will extend U.S. isolation, even from Europe.”

“Brexit may assist with (U.S. isolation) because Britain was the voice of the United States in NATO, the harshest voice,” he added.

“The threats and dangers are very real,” he said. Namely, the positions that Trump has taken in regards to climate change and the Iran deal pose a threat to the future of the country and the world.”

“The threats that we now face are the most severe that have ever arisen in human history,” he added. “They are literal threats to survival: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe.”

“They became more urgent on Nov. 8, for the reasons you know and that I mentioned. They have to be faced directly, and soon if the human experiment is not to prove to be a disastrous failure,” he warned.

Quote of the day II: Chomsky on GOP climate denial


It’s the perfect follow to our previous post.

From an extensive interview by C.J. Polychroniou of Truthout on the import of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, and the control of both houses of Congress by the GOP, “which has become the most dangerous organization in world history”:

During the Republican primaries, every candidate denied that what is happening is happening — with the exception of the sensible moderates, like Jeb Bush, who said it’s all uncertain, but we don’t have to do anything because we’re producing more natural gas, thanks to fracking. Or John Kasich, who agreed that global warming is taking place, but added that “we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it.”

The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.

Trump has already taken steps to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by placing in charge of the EPA transition a notorious (and proud) climate change denier, Myron Ebell. Trump’s top adviser on energy, billionaire oil executive Harold Hamm, announced his expectations, which were predictable: dismantling regulations, tax cuts for the industry (and the wealthy and corporate sector generally), more fossil fuel production, lifting Obama’s temporary block on the Dakota Access pipeline. The market reacted quickly. Shares in energy corporations boomed, including the world’s largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, which had filed for bankruptcy, but after Trump’s victory, registered a 50 percent gain.

The effects of Republican denialism had already been felt. There had been hopes that the COP21 Paris agreement would lead to a verifiable treaty, but any such thoughts were abandoned because the Republican Congress would not accept any binding commitments, so what emerged was a voluntary agreement, evidently much weaker.

Effects may soon become even more vividly apparent than they already are. In Bangladesh alone, tens of millions are expected to have to flee from low-lying plains in coming years because of sea level rise and more severe weather, creating a migrant crisis that will make today’s pale in significance. With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.” And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment. These catastrophic consequences can only increase, not just in Bangladesh, but in all of South Asia as temperatures, already intolerable for the poor, inexorably rise and the Himalayan glaciers melt, threatening the entire water supply. Already in India, some 300 million people are reported to lack adequate drinking water. And the effects will reach far beyond.

It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history — whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know — and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster.

France admits role in the second, Roma Holocaust


While the systematic slaughter of Europe’s Jews is well known, far less attention has been given to the simultaneous holocaust of the Roma and Sinti peoples [pejoratively known as Gypsies] of Europe, a tragedy known by its victims as the Porajmos, the Devouring [previously].

The racist eugenics of the Adolf Hitler and his SS called for the elimination of all “non-Aryan peoples, but especially those considered inherently criminal subhumans — that is, Europe’s Jews and migratory peoples.

The slaughter was carried out with the enthusiastic participation of the governments of German-occupied lands, and while most of those countries have acknowledged their role in the massacre of Jews, their participation in the Porajmos is either unacknowledged to quickly passed over.

Now, finally, one of the principal abettors of the murder of the Sinti and Roma has stepped forward.

From TheLocal.fr:

President Francois Hollande on Saturday acknowledged that France bore “broad responsibility” for the internment of thousands of Roma by the World War II Vichy regime and in the early months of the post-war government.

“The day has come, and this truth must be told,” Hollande said in the first presidential visit to the main internment camp for Roma, located in Montreuil-Bellay, central France.

“The (French) Republic acknowledges the suffering of travelling people who were interned and admits that it bears broad responsibility,” Hollande said.

Roma, also known as gypsies, were brutally persecuted in the Holocaust, paralleling the systematic murder of Jews. Estimates of how many died vary widely, between 220,000 and half a million.

Philippine president likens himself to Adolf Hitler


Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president who has launched a vigilante massacre of drug dealers [previously], raised the stakes today in his deadly campaign, likening himself to history’s most-loathed murderer.

And it’s not just drug sellers he hopes to massacre; it’s their customers as well.

From the Guardian:

Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, appears to have compared himself to Hitler, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts in his bloody war on crime.

During a press conference in his home city of Davao, the former prosecutor told reporters that he had been compared to a “cousin of Hitler” by his critics.

“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” he said, pausing and pointing to himself.

“Hitler massacred three million Jews … there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

>snip<

Duterte has spent his first three months in office running a campaign to kill all involved in the rampant drugs trade, including alleged addicts, causing outrage from rights groups and foreign governments.

More than 3,500 alleged drug dealers and addicts have been killed, about a third of them in police operations but the majority by armed vigilante militias. Duterte has publicly encouraged civilians to kill addicts and said he will not prosecute police for extrajudicial executions.

“You know my victims. I would like (them) to be all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,” he said during the press conference early on Friday.

And an Israeli soldier gets another cold reception


From BBC News, criticism proves incompatible t0 the ruler of The Only Democracy In The Middle East™ [for the comments in question, see this previous post]:

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a stern public rebuke to the military deputy chief of staff.

Maj-Gen Yair Golan said on the eve of Thursday’s annual Holocaust Day that he detected trends in Israeli society suggestive of “nauseating processes” that occurred in 1930s Nazi Germany.

Mr Netanyahu said the comments were outrageous, cheapened the Holocaust and caused harm to Israel.

snip<

Netanyahu said Gen Golan’s remarks were “utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me”.

“The comparison drawn in the words of the deputy chief of staff regarding events which characterised Nazi Germany 80 years ago is outrageous,” he said.

“They do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust.”

Quote of the day: Too honest for his own good


Israel Defense Force Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Golan, speaking at a Holocaust memorial service, uttered a statement he was soon forced to retract under intense political pressure, a statement refreshingly honest at a time when ultra-Zionists are calling for a Greater Israel reaching all the way to Mesopotamia, a phrase eerily evocative of the Greater Germany advocated by a certain German political party in the 1930s, via the Independent:

“It’s scary to see horrifying developments that took place in Europe begin to unfold here,” Maj. Gen. Golan told an audience of politicians and dignitaries.

“Because if there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe — particularly in Germany — 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016.”

“The Holocaust, in my view, must lead us to deep soul-searching about the nature of man. It must bring us to conduct some soul-searching as to the responsibility of leadership and the quality of our society. It must lead us to fundamentally rethink how we, here and now, behave towards the other.”

“There is nothing easier and simpler than in changing the foreigner,” the officer said,  according to the Jerusalem Post and other reports. “There is nothing easier and simpler than fear-mongering and threatening. There is nothing easier and simpler than in behaving like beasts, becoming morally corrupt, and to act sanctimoniously.”

Coping with the inevitability of climate change


Given that global climate change is already happening, and the reality that political leaders lack the will or ability to implement measures to head off imminent impacts, what then?

That’s the subject of How To Let Go of the World -and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, the new documentary from Josh Fox, direct of the award-winning 2010 documentary Gasland.

Here’s how the reviewer for the New York Times sums up the film:

The film’s title will use up many of the allotted words for this review, so it’s best to be terse when critiquing “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” Hence, a one-word assessment of this documentary: Tough. As in, tough to watch. Tough to consider. Tough to ignore.

But beneath the despair Fox conveys a certain optimism in this discussion with Chris Hedges for the latest installment of Days of Revolt, Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English.

The optimism lies not in any conviction Fox has that quick, massive response may avert the worst impacts — he has none. Rather, his optimism stems from the ability of the human spirit to craft emotional responses that foster a spirit of community, responses mediated by song, dance, and the other arts.

From Days of Revolt:

Days of Revolt: Letting Go of the World

From the transcript:

HEDGES: I just want to interrupt–you in the film point out that it’s not like we stop at 2 degrees. That becomes essentially, once we hit 2 degrees, it just begins to accelerate.

FOX: The problem is we’ve already warmed the Earth by about a degree Celsius over pre-industrial times. We have enough heat and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and methane in the atmosphere now to bring us to definitely 1.5 degrees and perhaps beyond. Some of the projections for this year even bring us to 1.3 degrees, and we’re talking Celsius. Doesn’t sound like so much. But if you think about your freezer at home, if you take it from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 34 degrees Fahrenheit, everything starts to melt and everything starts to spoil, which is what’s happening on the planet Earth right now. Everything that?s supposed to stay frozen is melting and that has created feedback loops and all the things we know will continue to accelerate.

HEDGES: Explain feedback loops.

FOX: So at the top of the Earth and at the bottom of the Earth, there are these poles which have white snow and ice, and white reflects heat and light and black absorbs it, right? So that heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space, because it’s reflecting off of the poles. As the poles shrink as we melt them, then all of a sudden there’s even less reflectivity. So that’s one feedback loop. Another feedback loop is that as we melt the permafrost, there’s all sort of methane trapped inside the permafrost that creates even greater greenhouse gas emissions. These things start to accelerate and spiral.

HEDGES: You also talk about the animal agriculture industry, which many people avoid, but is a major contributor to climate change.

FOX: Of course, there’s so many contributors. Not just oil and gas and coal but yes, animal agriculture and deforestation is another major cause because trees basically bring carbon into them and exhale oxygen which we need to survive. So the more we cut down the forest, you get less oxygen and you get more carbon dioxide. What was most startling to me is the sea level rise projections. When you 5-9 meters of sea level rise, that’s basically say goodbye to Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore.

HEDGES: You show in the film what it will look like. What these cities will look like when huge sections of these cities are gone.

FOX: In New York it’s always interesting because whenever we show that map to people in New York, you see the Lower Eastside get eaten, you see Williamsburg, Red Hook and The Rockaways. And people always go, ‘Well, I live over here in Park Slope. I’m on a hill.’ I’m like ‘Okay that’s cool. Yeah you’re right, you know. The Brooklyn Bridge won’t be under water but the onramp will be.’ Now you won’t be able to take the subway. It’s so funny how we think these things aren’t going to happen to us and yet, that is extraordinarily startling.

So what does this mean, this 2 degrees? Basically what it means is if we’re already for all intents and purposes are at 1.5 or beyond, there is no scenario in which New York, Baltimore or D.C., Miami, New Orleans stays above water if we continue to develop and drill for more fossil fuels. And just today, the oil and gas industry had a huge auction in the SuperDome in New Orleans to ten more years of oil and gas drilling offshore. We’re talking about frack gas expanding. We have proposals right now for 300 frack gas power plants throughout the United States and people are battling them every single place we go. They’re battling the pipelines, they’re battling the power plants. Hillary Clinton speaks of natural gas as a bridge fuel. So does Barack Obama, by the way. What that bridge means is 30-40 more years of dependence on fossil fuel, the worst fossil fuel that there is for climate change. That’s not responsible action, that’s not what is says in the Paris Accords. You have an incredible contradiction right now among this administration that saying, ‘We wanna take on climate change. We wanna keep climate change well below 2 degrees,’ is what they said in Paris. And yet you have FERC permitting all these pipelines.

Ted Cruz: The non-alternative to The Donald


For some Republican presidential voters, a choice between the two top contenders is akin to being forced to decide if you’d rather die from cancer or prolonged starvation.

Leave it to Samantha Bee to give us a short, concise look at three prominent homicidal Cruz fans, adherents of the malignant Christofascism that has taken over the hard Right margins of the evangelical movement.

From Full Frontal with Samantha Bee:

Team Cruz

Program note:

Who are some of Ted Cruz’s biggest fans? Prepare to not be surprised in the slightest.

Quote of the day: The AP, Hitler’s media enabler


From Philip Oltermann, writing in the Guardian, a dark chapter in the history of the country’s oldest and most influential news service:

Associated Press, which has described itself as the “marine corps of journalism” (“always the first in and the last out”) was the only western news agency able to stay open in Hitler’s Germany, continuing to operate until the US entered the war in 1941. It thus found itself in the presumably profitable situation of being the prime channel for news reports and pictures out of the totalitarian state.

>snip<

In an article published in academic journal Studies in Contemporary History , historian Harriet Scharnberg shows that AP was only able to retain its access by entering into a mutually beneficial two-way cooperation with the Nazi regime.

The New York-based agency ceded control of its output by signing up to the so-called Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), promising not to publish any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home”.

This law required AP to hire reporters who also worked for the Nazi party’s propaganda division. One of the four photographers employed by the Associated Press in the 1930s, Franz Roth, was a member of the SS paramilitary unit’s propaganda division, whose photographs were personally chosen by Hitler. AP has removed Roth’s pictures from its website since Scharnberg published her findings, though thumbnails remain viewable due to “software issues”.

AP also allowed the Nazi regime to use its photo archives for its virulently antisemitic propaganda literature. Publications illustrated with AP photographs include the bestselling SS brochure “Der Untermensch” (“The Sub-Human”) and the booklet “The Jews in the USA”, which aimed to demonstrate the decadence of Jewish Americans with a picture of New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia eating from a buffet with his hands.

And now for our word from our sponsor. . .


Given that eugenics seems to be an implicit part of right wing populist movements of the last hundred years or so, and that eugenics messaging was often mandatory, we thought we’d get a jump on things. . .

A poster from the Galton Society, the most prominent of Great Britain's eugenics advocacy organizations.

A poster from the Eugenics Society, the most prominent of Great Britain’s eugenics advocacy organizations.

Unfitness. . .

What an ironic word.

Few governments were led by leaders less likely to pass their own eugenics standards than that of the Third Reich, with a Fuhrer apparently afflicted with deformed genitalia, the propaganda minister was seven inches too short to serve in Hitler’s own bodyguard, and the air marshal was a grossly obese drug addict, and while the first  deputy Fuhrer was was a closeted homosexual, a condition that, for ordinary Germans, meant an express ticket to a concentration camp and sterilization.

Indeed, the leadership’s eugenic unfitness was literally an underground joke in Nazi Germany:

Q: What does the ideal Aryan look like?

A: As tall as Goebbels, as slim as Goering, as blond as Hitler.

To the eugenics advocate, human beings are breeding stock, and thoise who advocate its adoption are the very sorts who wouldn’t meet the standards of their own program.

Funny, no?

No, not funny at all.

A poster from the Nazi Party's Racial Political [eugenics] Office declaring: "This hereditarily ill person will cost our national community 60,000 Reichmarks over the course of his lifetime. Citizen, this is your money."

A poster from the Nazi Party’s Racial Political [eugenics] Office declaring: “This hereditarily ill person will cost our national community 60,000 Reichmarks over the course of his lifetime. Citizen, this is your money.”

Native Americans imperiled in ‘national interest’


When the first Europeans arrived in what they called the New World, they were greeted hospitably by the peoples to who the Americas were anything but new.

In additions to guns, armor, and horses, the Europeans brought invisible invaders, microbes that would kill many times more the numbers of indigenous people who fell to the guns and swords of the invaders.

And invisible enemies are still assaulting those who first called this land home, particles far smaller than the living organisms that had brought lethal epidemics of measles, small pox, and other ailments new to the Americas.

These new afflictions were brought by miners and scientists, assaulting the earth for uranium to build the bombs brandished during the Cold War and that still form the backbone of the national arsenal.

In the latest episode of Days of Revolt, journalist Chris Hedges talks with two Native Americans about the radioactive threat to their peoples, as well as the impacts of coal mining and fracking.

Charmaine White Face is of the Oglala Tetuwan Nation, or from POW Camp 344, the original designation of what became today’s reservation. Petuuche Gilbert comes from the Acoma Nation in New Mexico, the oldest continuously inhabited urban community in the country.

One of the deepest concerns of the Acoma has a direct connection to UC Berkeley, the two national laboratories in New Mexico, both of which have intimate connections with the University of California and its Berkeley campus.

From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Sacrifice Zones

From the transcript:

HEDGES: Let me ask you, Petuuche, in New Mexico are there, is it a similar situation as South Dakota, Wyoming? Different in any way, what you’re confronting?

GILBERT: I think it’s very similar in terms of the dependency of the United States on nuclear energy. So I call New Mexico a very irradiated state because of its attention on nuclear research. So in Mexico not only do you have abandoned uranium mines and mills, but you have your two National Laboratories–.

HEDGES: Los Alamos.

GILBERT: Los Alamos National Laboratories that still makes smart bombs. And that Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque that stores supposedly the world’s largest collection of nuclear warheads. And then you have your WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project plant in Carlsbad which is now closed because of problems, a fire that occurred a couple years ago. And then you have a uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico.

So yet this whole state that’s so dependent on this nuclear research, and the whole nuclear fuel cycle, what our concentration is is up, where I’m from, is the mines and mills which we call the legacy uranium mines and mills in the Grants Mining District. You have today, the EPA tells us there’s 97 abandoned uranium mines and five mills. And of course, all of these have created radioactive poisoning of the land, the people the environment and wildlife.

HEDGES: What is a, what is a mill? What does a mill do?

GILBERT: A mill would process the uranium ore into yellow cake.

HEDGES: I see.

GILBERT: So in, in this Grants [inaud.] you get five plants. They’re all closed, now, and they are administered by the Department of Energy or another [crosstalk].

HEDGES: And are you seeing the same kind of health effects?

GILBERT: Same kind of health effects. The refusal of the state of New Mexico, the refusal of the United States to do epidemiological studies or other real serious risk health impact studies. And that does–for example, today the citizens are okay with going with new uranium mining, because they don’t have the information to influence them, that radiation poisoning affects them and that they were all radiation victims as a result of these mines and mills.

HEDGES: And you’re seeing the elevated cancer rates that you’re seeing in South Dakota.

GILBERT: Yes, yes. There’s this one community that published what they call a death map in the Albuquerque Journal. It’s the Blue Water Valley Downstream Alliance organization. Their villages are less than 100 yards away from an old Homestake [inaud.] mill site, and that the people are dying from cancer, they claim, as a result of living right next and adjacent to this old mill.

So definitely radon gas, or radioactive particles contaminated the groundwater, that are affecting the health and welfare of the people, including the wildlife.

The very, very creepy Ted Cruz’s weekend adventure


The weekend in question was 6-7 November, and the occasion was a hatefest called the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines.

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But the liberties in question at the conference included the liberty to conduct a gay holocaust.

From Katherine Stewart, writing in the 16 November edition of the  New York Times [emphasis added]:

Earlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.

Mr. Swanson proposed this at the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event he organized. Featured speakers included three Republican contenders for the presidency: the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Huckabee later pleaded ignorance. Yet a quick web search will turn up Mr. Swanson’s references to the demonic power of “the homosexual Borg,” the unmitigated evil of Harry Potter and the Disney character Princess Elsa’s lesbian agenda.

Mr. Cruz apparently felt little need to make excuses. He was accompanying another of the featured speakers at the conference: his father, Rafael Cruz — a politically connected pastor who told a 2013 Family Leadership Summit that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.

Yep, Ted’s pappy was right there, spouting his own brand of venomous bile, the kind that was meat and potatoes to his young son as he grew up.

Rachel Maddow brought the conclave to a broader audience in a trualy remarkable video from RightWingWatch.org. From MSNBC:

GOP Hopefuls Speak At Anti-Gay Conference

Program notes:

Rachel Maddow shows that while Democrats were participating in a candidates forum, Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz were guests at “religious freedom” event led by a pastor who preaches that homosexuality should be punished with death.

For more on the extreme beliefs of conference organizer Kevin Swanson, see this catalog of horrors from Right Wing Watch.

And from the New York Daily News, here’s one example:

“America, repent of your rebellion against God!” he yelled in his hysterical speech.

“America, repent of stumbling the little ones! America, repent of ‘Harry Potter’! America, repent of ‘How to Train Your Dragon!’

“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time.”

And what if your kid turns out to be gay [or is seduced by Satan into turning gay, which the good reverend seems to think is how it’s done]?

The good pastor has a suggestion:

“There are families, we’re talking Christian families, pastors’ families, elders’ families from good, godly churches whose sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”

And from Jeff Rouner of the Houston Press comes this observation:

I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show the other day. . .when I heard a sentence that cannot possible have ever been uttered by human lips before in history: “Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy sores.”

So how did the candidates respond? Here’s the headline from a piece on the rant from the Des Moines Register:

Candidates won’t call out host citing death for gays

Of course they won’t. Cruz and Jindal are no doubt in agreement with the pastor’s pronouncements, though we’re not so sure about the Huck-ster.

Now consider this: Just substitute Jew for gay, and nothing the preacher says wouldn’t have fit right in the speeches of a certain Munich beer hall orator back in the 1920s.

And he has the imprimatur of a possible nominee for President of the United States.

When America’s proteges commit mass murder


In the latest edition of his TeleSUR English series, journalist and author Chris Hedges interviews a fellow member of the Fourth Estate about the murderous ways of America’s proteges in the Third World.

Allan Nairn, an independent and much-honored journalist, has reported on the violence perpetrated by American-taught death squads in Latin America, Indonesia, and the Mideast.

While covering a massacre by Indonesian death squads in East Timr in 1991, he was assaulted by soldiers, his skull fractured by the butts of American-supplied M16s.

In their discussion, Nairn and Hedges cover the bloody deeds of death squads as well as the inevitable blowback, most recently in the form of ISIS.

From TeleSUR English:

Days of Revolt: America’s Death Squads

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges sits down with investigative journalist Allan Nairn to discuss his experience covering wars across the globe, and the U.S.’s role in fueling such conflicts. The two discuss the mechanics of Western intervention, and the consequences that are still unraveling today.

Fighting Female Genital Mutilation in Africa


From Journeyman Pictures:

One Young Gambian Woman’s Fight To Expose Reality Of FGM

Program notes:

Seventy-six percent of women in The Gambia undergo Female Genital Mutilation as children. Halimatou Ceesay, who was cut when she was nine, is making it her mission to end this brutal tradition in a generation.

“I was crying so much… I can still hear my crying today”, Halimatou says as she describes her cutting. FGM is culturally ingrained in The Gambia, and the physical and mental damage inflicted on young girls is often ignored. “I am in tears when I see these girls, it is not fair”, explains a nurse. In this report, Halimatou travels across the country, interviewing friends, health experts, a religious scholar and even her own cutter; determined to bring about change.

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FGM was finally banned in The Gambia by presidential decree on 23 November, while the Nigerian legislature enacted a similar ban in May.

FGM is practiced primarily in Equatorial and Northern Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and parts of Muslim southern Asia, and primarily in regions where Sunni Muslim predominates.

Though banned, the practice of FGM still predominates in Egypt.

From the BBC, a map of the relative prevalence in Africa and the Mideast:

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FGM is considered obligatory amongst the most fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, while most Islamic law tradition relegated it to the status of “preferred” or “honorable” but not an obligation. As with many other practices, Shias take a different course, culminating in fatwa issued last year by Iran’s supreme cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who ruled that “If the purpose of female genital circumcision is cutting clitoris this operation is not right and is not a religious tradition. If the girl is hurt, it is prohibited. Female genital (sexual) mutilation or cutting off a part of her genital is certainly a crime against girls and there is no permission and justification for parents to do this operation.”

While FGM continues in Iran, the practitioners are primarily members of the Kurdish minority, according to the Center for Islamic Pluralism.

Rarely mentioned in the current discourse is that FGM was once practiced in the U.S. and U.K., primarily as a treatment for mental illness — especially masturbation, then thought as a surefire path to hellfire, damnation, and insanity.

The same folks who argued for cutting out clits also pushed for male circumcision [call it Male Gential Mutilation], a practice that remained almost universal in the U.S. for the first half of the 20th Century [esnl himself was a victim of that insanity]. Indeed, GIs captured by German troops during World War II often had to explain that just because they bore snipped tips, they weren’t Jews. Some were killed or sent off to slave labor camps anyway, as were Muslim soldiers, circumcised because of their religious traditions and despite Hitler’s efforts to court the Islamic peoples of the Mideast.

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Getrank: Coke was it


Yep, Americans who arrived in Berlin for the 1936 Olympics were greeted by a familiar brand and a slogan that mixed the familiar with the unfamiliar.

The two words normally following ein Volk and ein Reich [one people and one empire] were ein Fuhrer, but the folks at Coca Cola substituted the German for one drink, followed by the familiar “Coke is it.”

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It wasn’t the first time Coke played with symbolism near and dear to Nazis, although their 1925 use of the swastika as a key fob in the U.S. may owe more to the sigil’s use as a traditional good luck charm rather than to the Nazi Party, still a German fringe movement at the time:

BLOG Nazi Coke II

When the war began, German bottlers couldn’t import the coca and cola nuts needed to produce the brown beverage, so the company’s chemists came up with a substitute.

Earlier this year, on Fanta’s 75th anniversary, German television featured a commemorative ad, celebrating those “good old times” when Germany’s innovators created such a marvelous beverage.

The ad didn’t sit too well with countless Germans and countless others who lost parents, grandparents, spouses, and siblings during those “good old times,” and the ad was pulled and the requisite apology issued.

Still, major American corporations [including GM and IBM] and banks [including the one which George H.W. Bush’s father helped set up and profited from] made lots of money off the Third Reich. Indeed, it was IBM’s mechanical computers that enabled to Nazis to keep track of Jews in Germany and lands the Nazis conquered and send them on their ways to death camps, where more records were compiled by IBM’s Hollerith machines.

Native Americans, genocide, and U.S. culture


The latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s new series for Telesur English, looks at the ongoing clash between Native American culture and the shifting patterns of intolerance and sometimes acceptance in mainstream culture.

Two national holidays epitomize the conflict. First, on 12 October comes Columbus Day, a celebration of colonialism carrying the implicit assumption that the Americas lacked any significant culture before the arrival of European imperialists.

The second holiday, is, of course, Thanksgiving, a symbolic recreation of a feast made possible for starving British colonialists by the intercession of Native Americans who had helped the hapless Puritans adapt to the land.

The troubled legacy continues to flare in the painful exploitation of Native American history by sports teams and the military, and in the ongoing contestation of Native American rights to control their own land and lives.

This episode features an extended conversation with historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emerita of Ethnic Studies at California State University and an internationally scholar.

From Telesur English:

The Empire Files: Native American Genocide with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Program notes:

Each November, Americans celebrate a mythical version of U.S. history. Thanksgiving Day’s portrayal of the experience of Native Americans under the boot of settler-colonialism is one of the Empire’s most cherished falsehoods.

To hear about the true story of native peoples’ plight – from genocide to reeducation – Abby Martin interviews Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, renowned indigenous scholar and activist, about her most recent book “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.”

Israel threatens Palestinians with death by gas


An armored sound truck moves slowly down a village street, it’s speakers blaring a message: Stop resisting or we will gas you all to death. “The children, the youth, the old people, we won’t leave any of you alive.”

So where did it happen? And who was broadcasting the lethal warning?

If you guess that, perhaps, the message came from SS troops in a Russian shtetl in the summer of 1942 you would be wrong .

The warning came from the Israeli army on 29 October 2015, and the targets of the message were Palestinians in the Aida Refugee Camp, where youths had been throwing rocks at Israeli troops.

The stunning images are featured in the final seconds of the latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s show for Telesur English, featuring an interview with Max Blumenthal on the reason for rising Palestinian resistance in Israel and the lands under its occupation.

What is most chilling are the members of the rising Israeli neofascist Right, including a Minister of Justice who has openly called for genocide of Palestinians.

From Empire Files:

Max Blumenthal: Palestine’s Rebellion, Israel’s Fascism

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews journalist and author Max Blumenthal on the current situation in Palestine and the Israeli occupation. This episode covers what is behind today’s rebellion, the rising dominance of far-right, ultra-racist ideology in Israel, eye-witness accounts of the aftermath of the Gaza war, and the Israeli government’s fear of Palestinian resistance.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times Best Seller “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”, and the recently-published “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.”