Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thirteen chefs lucky for fundraisers

...Every day, the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation must find $1000 to support the 2200 Kiwis diagnosed annually with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma or a blood related condition. Thirteen of the world's most feted cooks have come to the sold out (dinner) party.

Brainchild of culinary celebrity Peter Gordon, who successfully donated bone marrow to his sister Tracey over 12 years ago, table numbers are drawn from a hat, and it's pot luck whose food is served to the 160 diners. In 2007, the formula raised $205,000.

The chefs say they're here for camaraderie and the cause...

~ Stuff ~

Columbine marks 10th anniversary

...Thirteen people representing those who were killed laid on the Capitol lawn with ribbons in the school's colours of blue and white wrapped around their necks.

A moment of silence and the tolling of bells marked each of 13 names that were read...

~ Belfast Telegraph ~

Board recommends 'general discharge' for soldier [who had refused deployment to Iraq]

Associated Press - April 21, 2009 (WAAY)

OVERLAND, Mo. (AP) - An Army sergeant who had refused deployment to Iraq said a board recommended he receive a "general discharge under honorable conditions."

Matthis Chiroux (MAY'-this shuh-ROW'), now of Brooklyn, N.Y., but originally from Auburn, Ala., had an administrative hearing Tuesday in suburban St. Louis.

The 25-year-old reservist has been in the military since 2002, but believes the war in Iraq is wrong and that U.S. authority there is illegitimate. He says his lawyer considers the hearing's outcome a victory.

Army Lt. Col. Maria Quon (KWAHN) said she couldn't release the board's recommendation due to privacy rules.

However, she said its findings are not the final word. That decision rests with Maj. Gen. Sean Byrne, who oversees the Army's Human Resources Command. She said it could take weeks for that determination.

***

Matthis Chiroux's note of celebration

Via Naomi Wolf:

"Today, I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!!

Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I'm free to continue school this fall with the “new” G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.

Though this discharge is identical to the one I refused in exchange for having this hearing, I can now rest easy knowing I never submitted, I never backed down and the Army has heard my story.

And not just my story, but the stories of those brave veterans at Winter Soldier and those who've participated in IVAW's Warrior Writers' program. Full texts of both books were submitted to the Army this morning, and I can only imagine the fun they're having transcribing them into the record.

I testified, Marjorie Conn, the president of the National Lawyers' Guild, testified, and my mother Patricia testified as to why my refusal to deploy was quite legitimate and not deserving of attack by the military.

Though Maj. Laws, the prosecution, did everything he could to keep my legal arguments from the ears of the board (he even prevented me from reading to them from my Constitution calling the document irrelevant), our voices were heard loud and clear by a board of gentlemen who've given me a new respect and hope for our nation and servicemembers world-wide.

The hearing, which lasted around four-and-a-half hours, cemented in my mind that not only is military resistance to our illegal occupations righteous, it is finding new breath amongst troops who are fed up with the status quo.

This all came after a provocative appearance this morning on the local Fox News Channel (http://www.fox2now.com/ktvi-ap-soldier-on-trial-042109,0,1094348.story) in which I wore a patriotic symbol of distress (an upside-down flag) on my uniform."

Video collage art

LeCollagiste Demo 2007


Demo 2007 LeCollagiste VJ
Audio : Francky Brown http://francky.brown.free.fr/


Trentemøller: The Very Last Resort

Collage video by Karim Ghahwagi for "The Very Last Resort" from Trentemøller's album "The Last Resort" as shown on the current worldtour "Trentemøller live in concert"



The Declaration of Human Rights (2006)

"This is a 2D animation dealing with the topic of the Declaration of Human Rights. I did this at University while learning After Effects. The Task was to creat a typographic animation out of the original UN document. I did it in a collage style, that reminds of old political propaganda material and tried to make a statement about the current world wide political situation and the war in Iraq. The project also received the Media Best Student Award in the category animation in 2006 (audience vote) at the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany."


Everyone-everywhere

This music video focuses on the frontlines of modern day life, on work and leisure, art and powerpoint. We used dozens of animation tools, with hundreds of bugs and failures. But we treated these bugs as features to strip modern technology naked.

This music clip was made in cooperation with jason forrest and his label cock rock disco.

more videos and infos:
http://www.the-landjugend.com

download more free music featured in this video:
http://www.cockrockdisco.com/freemusic.html


urbandrone collage

Une œuvre expérimental, résultat d'un workshop mené en France et au Maroc en 2006. A base de collage de plusieurs éléments sonores et vidéo collectés en ville par des "drones".
Ce travail sur la perception de l'espace urbain dans ça composante sensible est un préalable a une recherche plus globale en vue de concevoir des architectures hybrides où le sensible et le non prévisible prennent une importance majeure.


Homeless Journal - Digital Collage Art

This is my first video for Youtube. I am a digital collage artist. In the summer of 2007, my husband and I were homeless. It was a profound, lfe changing experience for me. I made this digital art journal as an expression of my feelings about that experience. The text in the journal comes from a song called "The Maker" by Daniel Lanois. The lyrics really capture how I felt about a lot of things during that time and afterwards.

Bracing for the global May Day protest surge

Some of the actions planned in places other than Greece:

Berlin braces for violent May Day
(UPI)

German authorities are bracing for unusually strong violence accompanying May Day demonstrations in Berlin.

The German capital's far-left scene has over the past few weeks staged numerous attacks. It torched cars, damaged company buildings and expensive apartments. Authorities have been surprised by most attacks, as the individuals staging them seemed to be striking randomly.

The large numbers of these attacks has observers worried that the far-left scene is gearing up to disrupt the traditional May Day protests, which have in the past led to violent clashes between police and far-left extremists.

To prepare for an unusually rocky May Day, Berlin's authorities have asked for 1,700 additional police to be dispatched to the capital, a senior security official told German daily Tagesspiegel. More than 5,000 police will secure Berlin on May 1, a public holiday and a traditional day of protests.

One of the biggest left-wing scenes in Germany has amassed in Berlin, where rent remains relatively cheap and unemployment is high. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the Kreuzberg district saw yearly mass brawls between police and protesters, with several hundred people injured and cars and shops set ablaze...


May Day protestors warn of "nation of criminals" (In The News)

Protestors are planning on gathering outside the Bank of England next week to demonstrate against the police handling of the recent G20 protests.

Planned to coincide with May Day, the group Space Hijackers has called on people to dress as either convicts or prisoners and gather outside the bank at 17:04 BST on May 1st.

Those dressed as convicts are advised to wear striped clothing and stand in a designated "prison yard".

The "police" are being asked by the protest's organisers to dress in high-visibility or "riot black" clothing. They are urged to "encircle the prisoners to p**s them off and start some fights". They are also asked not to accept food or drink from those dressed as convicts.

Those dressed as the police are also asked not to wear fake police ID numbers and cover their faces as a way of drawing attention to the reports Metropolitan police officers failed to wear their official identification during clashes at the G20 protests earlier this month.

A poster on the Space Hijackers website defiantly declares: "If they want a nation of criminals then let them have it..."

The protest comes as the police continue to face fierce criticism over the way the G20 protests in central London were controlled on April 1st.



Working to Reclaim May Day
by Karen Yi
(The Indypendent)

The government has committed trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street in less than a year. And as the Obama administration and the corporate elite bicker over what money goes where, those most affected by the economic crisis have been seemingly shut out of negotiations.
Caught in between the finger-pointing and bank bailouts are the communities that are absorbing the brunt of foreclosures and rising unemployment. But this May 1, the unemployed, the homeless and immigrants are taking their demands to the streets.

The New York May 1st Coalition, a committee of more than 40 immigrant and worker rights organizations in the New York region, will rally at noon at Union Square to celebrate International Workers’ Day (May Day) and to hold President Barack Obama accountable on his 100th day in office...


Why Immigrant Workers Will Fill the Streets This May Day by David Bacon (La Prensa San Diego)

In a little over a month, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people will fill the streets in city after city, town after town, across the US. This year these May Day marches of immigrant workers will make an important demand on the Obama administration: End the draconian enforcement policies of the Bush administration. Establish a new immigration policy based on human rights and recognition of the crucial economic and social contributions of immigrants to US society.

This year’s marches will continue the recovery in the US of the celebration of May Day, recognized in the rest of the world as the day recognizing the contributions and achievements of working people. That recovery started on Monday, May 1, 2006, when over a million people filled the streets of Los Angeles, with hundreds of thousands more in Chicago, New York and cities and towns throughout the United States. Again on May Day in 2007 and 2008, immigrants and their supporters demonstrated and marched, from coast to coast.

One sign found in almost every march said it all: “We are Workers, not Criminals!”...


Deregulation: Labour, allies, begin nationwide protest May 1 by Victor Ahiuma-Young (Vanguard)

...Represented by the Congress’ Assistant General Secretary (Organisation), Mr. Denga Yaqub, Odah stressed that unlike the usual May Day celebration, this year’s May Day would be used to trigger off the commencement of the nationwide anti-deregulation policy of government.

He said: ''The General Secretary said I should tell you that unlike the usual May Day cerebration, this year’s May Day would be used to commence the national protest and mass rally by labour and its civil society allies, otherwise known as LASCO. We are determined to resist the government plan to fully deregulate the downstream sector of the nation’s economy.

Even the father of capitalism, the United States, has realised that deregulation and market driven economy has failed. That is why they are bailing out their private sector. In the US, it is no longer news that several private companies had been bail out. The same in Britain and other European countries. We see no reason why our government should not intervene and bail out our oil industry that is in deep crisis. Again, the government should explain to Nigerians where the got the money they claimed they used to subsidise petrol and how the money was spent. So, I am directed to tell you that the mass rally and protest will begin from the First week of May.”


Take it to the streets for May Day by James Ellis (Metro)

Greetings, comrades - this year is the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro's victory in the Cuban revolution and the 60th anniversary of communism in China. So with International Workers' Day just around the corner, we present you with the best places to go to find the Red Flag flying.

Edinburgh
Perhaps not the first place you'd expect to see on a list of May Day celebrations but Edinburgh is pulling out all the stops this year by getting Che Guevara's daughter Aleida to lead the parade. Joining her on the podium will be Red Pepper magazine editor Hilary Wainwright, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack and Mark Lyon, TGWU-Unite union convenor at the Grangemouth oil refinery. The parade is actually on Saturday, May 2, starting at noon from Market Street and heading towards the Scottish parliament.

www.edinburghpeoplesfestival.org.uk

Paris
British lorry drivers know how much our friends in France love a good protest and May Day provides the perfect platform for a parade. Everything in the city bar the Eiffel Tower closes for La Fête du Travail, which sees the main unions march through east Paris. Website www.whatsonwhen.com recommends the Bastille as the place to see the parade. Not only is it 'an enduring symbol of royal repression' but the area is also packed with a host of designer bars at which you can re-establish your consumerist credentials.

Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) has breaks including return train tickets from London and accommodation in two-star hotels from £99 per person per night.

Havana
Love or loathe Fidel, you have to give him props for both longevity and managing to
stick it out against the power of US pressure for half a century. Following the election of Barack Obama and Castro's move to the background of Cuban politics, a thawing of relations between the US and Cuba is on the cards. Until then May Day in Havana has to be seen to be believed. On an island with a population of 11million, some 6million take part in May Day celebrations and more than 1million gather in Plaza de la Revolucion, making it the largest annual gathering after the Mecca pilgrimage.

Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk) has seven nights in Havana departing April 26 from £847.

Beijing
Forget having one day to celebrate Labour Day; in China you get three although most people take the whole week off. And while this means you're unlikely to have any of the major sites to yourself, it also makes for a great atmosphere as the major parks and squares will be teeming with people out in celebration. The main event, though, takes place in Tiananmen Square.

Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.com) has seven nights in Beijing departing April 26 on a room- only basis plus flights from £503 per person. ...


Hong Kong may (finally) take action by Craig Stephen (Market Watch)

...Neighboring Macau has raised expectations, announcing last week cash gifts of 6,000 patacas ($752) to all permanent residents and 3,600 patacas for non-permanent residents. This move is not just designed to inject some feel-good spending patacas into the economy, but also to avert possible unrest at the upcoming May Day rally from the swollen ranks of laid-off workers.
Hong Kong is also approaching protest season, although it's the July 1 Handover holiday that is the big date to watch. If Hong Kong copied Macau's policy, it would offer goodies to more potential protesters, as approximately one-third of the population pays income tax...


What’s next? May Day editorial (Workers World)

...The question in the minds of those who want to take the struggle further is: What’s next?

Barring dramatic changes, the answer is obvious: Organize for May Day!

May Day—International Workers’ Day—was first inspired in the 1880s by the actions of tens of thousands of mostly European immigrant workers fighting in Chicago and demanding the eight-hour day. The Communist International recognized the importance of the workers’ struggle in the United States—a rapidly developing capitalist country, continental in scope, and with none of Europe’s feudal past—and declared May 1 as the day for workers to demonstrate across the world.

May Day had been mostly ignored for decades here in the U.S. when in the spring of2006, immigrant workers and their supporters demonstrated by the millions in a wave of demonstrations across the country. Angered by the threat of the horribly repressive Sensenbrenner bill, they held the strongest May Day job action ever in the U.S., and have been marching on May Day ever since...


Call for support for May Day celebrations in Turkey (ITF)

The ITF is calling on affiliates to back workers in Turkey as they gear up for Labour Day on 1 May. Trade unionists have in the past borne the brunt of police violence during previous years’ celebrations.

The ITF has urged unions to send a protest email to the Turkish government to reinforce the federation’s demand for 1 May to be recognised as Labour Day by the Turkish government. It is calling on the government to make the move as part of ongoing assistance to its Turkish affiliates, Tumtis and Hava-Is.

Last year May Day celebrations were disrupted as police attacked venues, spraying people with pepper spray, carrying out brutal beatings and making arrests, all of which received worldwide media attention...


Gearing Up for May Day, Diverse Groups Take to Queens Streets by Karen Yi (The Indypendent)

Against a backdrop of multi-colored flags from Filipino organizations and amidst indigenous music from the Ecuadorian group Raices, day laborers, immigrants and community activists came together to demand dignity and rights for all workers in a protest on April 19 in Woodside, Queens. The march began at 11:30 a.m. as protesters marched along Roosevelt Avenue, chanting “The People United, Will Never Be Defeated!”


Gearing up for the May 1 rally, day laborers and Filipino worker and human right organizations came together to demand an end to deportations, raids and workplace discrimination. Filipino organizations such as the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE), Philippine Forum, and BAYAN NY/NJ marched with primarily Ecuadorian and Mexican day laborers in a show of solidarity against increased police harassment towards day laborers in Woodside.

“Although the geographies and the locations are different, our communities, and the immigrant workers in our communities, are suffering the same kind of exploitation,” said Valerie Francisco, chair of the Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE)...


Tenants' Protest Against Rent Increases by Akai47 (anarkismo.net)

...The Warsaw Tenant's Association joined in organizing yesterday's protest, which was also supported by members of the Office of Social Justice, Union of Syndicalists and Left Alternative. Another protest will be held next Monday and on May Day, when the rent increase is set to take place. The Union of Syndicalists are calling for a Rent Strike but realizes that the level of organization of tenants is not high enough yet.
Many tenants obviously will not be paying these news rents because they simply cannot afford them, but unless people make more efforts to organize themselves, people will be fighting isolated, individual battles against the city which will eventually move to evict many of them. The Tenant's Defense Committee is hoping that people will begin to take a more organized approach to the problem.

In the meanwhile, tenants, especially from the Praga district, are outraged by the rent hike. People in Praga point out that most public housing is in tragic condition. Most buildings do not have central heating and many even to do have hot water, bathrooms or toilets in the flats. In addition, there are many health and safety violations in the building and the dangerous incidents, including fires are on the increase...

‘Enverists’ and ‘Titoists’ - I

From article by Stephen Schwartz appearing in The Bosnian Institute :

"Fascinating and copiously documented historical survey of significant political and cultural trends in Albania and Kosova since before World War II, first published in The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics (Glasgow) - second part (with footnotes) follows

Communism and Islam in Albania and Kosova, 1941-1999 - from the Partisan movement of the Second World War to the Kosova Liberation War"

[ ... ]

...Kosovar Albanians suffered various forms and degrees of discrimination under Yugoslav Communist and Serbian neo-Communist domination, culminating in decisions in 1987-90 by the regime of Slobodan Milošević to expel the Kosovar Albanians from the Yugoslav political, employment, education, and health systems. Kosovars were then compelled to organize a parallel economy and political life, independent schools, and improvised medical services. The aggravated oppression suffered by Albanians culminated in the Kosova liberation war of 1998-99, in which NATO intervened on their side, and the declaration of independence of the Kosova Republic in 2008.

Nevertheless, throughout the period of Serbian Communist suppression of the Kosovar Albanians, the latter were never effectively denied freedom of worship, or the right to pluralistic cultural expression diverging from a single Albanian literary standard and from 'socialist realism.' This was not the case in Hoxha's Albania. Hoxha declared Albania the world's first statutorily-atheist country in 1967, and all mosques, churches, Sufi centers, and the country's sole Jewish synagogue were seized as state property and assigned to such secular uses as cinema theaters and sports facilities. Religious functionaries were executed, including Muslim and Catholic clerics and Sufi shaykhs and babas (the title of Bektashi clergy). In addition, the Hoxha state forced extremely harsh restrictions on all cultural and educational activities, ruthlessly imposing a linguistic variant known as Unified Literary Albanian or letrare, attempting to extirpate the northern or Gheg variant of Albanian,[1] and forbidding and assailing artistic and literary modernism, which had been an important element in Albanian literature since the end of the first world war.

While in 1987-90 Kosovar Albanians under Milošević were fired from their jobs and prevented from schooling their children or obtaining health care in Yugoslav state institutions, the Communist and Serbian nationalist Yugoslavs, even then, as well as during the liberation war of 1998-99, did not impede Albanians from attending mosque or church services (except, during the war, where Serbs demolished mosques and Sufi structures) or writing and painting in whatever idiom or style they chose.

Indeed, Yugoslavia, as long as Tito was alive, asserted pride in its commitment to religious autonomy, linguistic and dialectal diversity, and aesthetic experimentation (although these claims were in some periods mendacious), and used these conceptions to promote its image as a 'democratic' socialist commonwealth. Under Hoxha, by contrast, everything except praise of the dictator, the Albanian Party of Labor (formerly the Communist Party of Albania), and nationalist Communism was banned. Under Tito, by contrast, nationalist 'propaganda' (which could take the form of items as innocuous on their face as folk balladry) was subject to sanctions, for Croats, Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs, and Albanians. Exceptions to the Titoist suppression of nationalist aspirations obtained among Slovenes, whose patriotic traditions were considered unthreatening to Titoite Communism, and Macedonians, who were encouraged to develop a specific literary tradition as an alternative to the appeal among Macedonian Slavs of neighboring, Soviet-aligned Bulgaria. (The history of Bulgarian-Macedonian relations is irrelevant to the present inquiry.[2])

It would also be a conceptual error to equate 'Enverism' in Kosova with aggressive agitation for a single 'ethnic Albania' or 'Greater Albania' uniting Albania proper, Kosova, and the Albanian-speaking areas of western Macedonia, Montenegro, south Serbia, and northern Greece. As the Kosovar Albanian publicist Nexhmedin Spahiu wrote in 1999, while 'Enverists' were viewed as moderately sympathetic to Hoxha's regime, the essential cleavage separated 'Enverists,' who placed the Kosova issue within the general context of a broad national consciousness in a people partitioned between Albania proper and Kosova, and 'Titoists' who considered the Kosova problem to be distinct from the destiny of the broader Albanian community. In the period preceding the Kosova liberation war, Spahiu identified 'Enverism' with the noted essayist Rexhep Qosja (b. 1936) and 'Titoism' with the moderate and nonviolent national leader Ibrahim Rugova (1944-2006).[3] As will be explained, the KLA/UÇK, which triumphed in 1999, was neither 'Enverist' nor 'Titoist,' regardless of Western speculation about its supposed Marxist origins. Further, as I will seek to elucidate, in the aftermath of Communism's collapse in both Albania and Yugoslavia, as well as the success of UÇK, the terms 'Enverist' and 'Titoist' disappeared from the Kosovar political vocabulary. Although a nationalist left is present in Kosova today, its main protagonists do not identify with the legacy of either Communist Albania or of Yugoslavia.

1. The foundation of the Communist Movement in Albania and its antecedents

Albania was occupied by fascist Italy in 1939, its ruling King Zog (Ahmet Zogolli) fled, and Yugoslavia was subdued by Germany in April 1941. Kosova was soon occupied by the Italians and mainly attached to Albania, although the key mining area north of Mitrovica came under German control and was assigned, on the map, to Serbia, but as an Albanian autonomous zone. The German invasion of Russia on 22 June 1941 brought about a change in the line of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), which, while the Stalin-Hitler pact was in force, had concentrated its efforts on anti-British propaganda. Albania proper had not yet produced a Communist Party, and at its foundation, in the aftermath of Hitler's break with Stalin, Communism in the country was entirely 'Titoist.' This was because, lacking an industrial working class, Albania had no stable basis for Communist activity. At least 50 Albanians from Albania proper and Kosova, however, had participated in the Soviet-controlled International Brigades (IB) in Spain during the latter country's civil war of 1936-39. When an Albanian Communist Party was founded late in 1941, its inspiration, and even its guiding spirits, were Yugoslav; it was established in Tirana, the Albanian capital, by two Slav representatives of the Kosova section of the KPJ, Dušan Mugoša and Miladin Popović. Their mission was unambiguous: to recruit allies for the Yugoslav anti-fascist movement. Mugoša and Popović fashioned the new party out of three small groups that were little more than study circles.

Sadik Premte, an early and popular leader of the Albanian Communists, expressed suspicion of Popović, whom Premte described as 'a crafty Serb chauvinist who, under the mask of Communism, wanted to form a clique for the sake of better serving the interests of his country,' i.e. Yugoslavia. Premte, in turn, was accused by the Yugoslav Communist Vladimir Dedijer (1914-90) of 'Trotskyism' and being 'anti-Yugoslav.'[4] Premte and other pioneers of the Albanian Communist movement were soon expelled from the new party; Premte and a certain Anastas Lula were thrown out after a purge trial in Tirana in mid-1942. At least two Albanian dissenters from the official Communist line, Lula and Llazër Fundo (1899-1944)[5], were murdered during the war at the behest of Hoxha, a former Albanian student in France (where he may have been recruited to Communism by Fundo.) Hoxha was long suspected of serving as a monarchist police agent among the Albanians abroad, serving the regime of King Zog, but would become the Yugoslav-installed Communist chief of his native land.

According to Premte, many more such dissidents were assassinated. In memoirs, Hoxha referred to the purge of Lula and Premte as removal of an 'abscess,' and Albanian official party literature from Tirana continued to denounce them decades later. Premte escaped to France where he lived in exile from 1947 until his death in 1991; there he remained a target for assassination by Hoxha's agents, but joined the international Trotskyist movement. Premte survived to see the fall of the Tirana Communist regime, and was praised by the French Trotskyists as having 'remained faithful to the belief that there can be no socialism without democracy.'[6]

Llazër Fundo, although largely forgotten by Albanians today, was memorialized by British liaison officers assigned to the antifascist resistance movement in Albania, as well as Italian left-wing historians. Fundo was born in the town of Korça in Albania proper; his family were merchants from the nearby, once-prosperous city of Voskopoja (Moschopolis), which embodies a unique chapter in Balkan history. Voskopoja had been the economic center of Vlach (West Balkan Romanian) people and in the 18th century established one of the earliest printing industries in Christian languages in the Ottoman empire (Jewish printing under the Ottomans had begun earlier, in 1493, immediately after the expulsion of Jews from Spain and their invitation to settle in the Turkish lands, extended by the sultan.) Fundo was a Vlach. Voskopoja was largely depopulated at the end of the 18th century, and today is but a small village, yet is still famous for the beauty of the frescoes in its Orthodox churches...

~ more... ~

'Texas would saunter into the global community bigger than Australia, Greece or Bolivia'

From Governor Perry's Tantrum: So What If Texas Secedes? by Nancy Gibbs (TIME)

Happily, it is still possible to visit Texas without a passport — even though the governor seems to be taking the state's tagline more seriously than ever: "Texas: it's like a whole other country."

Governor Rick Perry didn't actually endorse secession when he spoke at an antitax tea party at Austin city hall. But you could forgive people for misunderstanding, since he's been railing against an overreaching Federal Government, rejected stimulus spending and quoted Sam Houston's declaration that "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression." Perry, who faces a tight re-election campaign against that notorious Washington insider "Kay Bailout Hutchinson," observed that he thought the U.S. was still a "great union," but "if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that?" (See pictures of tea-party tax protests across the country.)

Credit Lincoln for our visceral revulsion at secessionist movements; he committed such eloquence to the argument for the Union remaining whole that to entertain any other notion, whatever the grievance, seems disrespectful to our bravest President and the rights he fought to defend. But what would happen if, after decades of indulging Texas' need to be the biggest and baddest and enduring all sorts of T shirts ("On the 8th Day, God Created Texas") designed to remind the rump 49 of our general inferiority, we called Perry's Lone Star bluff?

We'd still visit, of course; relations might not be quite as friendly as with Canada, but certainly warmer than with, say, Cuba. NCAA offcials would have to grant an exception for foreign participation in college bowl games, but I'm betting they'd agree. American Airlines might decide to move out of Dallas, but I'd be O.K. with leaving NASA behind and letting Texans decide if they could afford to return to the moon. Border-patrol costs would be steep, but I'm sure Texas' application to join NAFTA would be favorably received. And it would get a vote at the U.N. and the right for its diplomats to park wherever they wanted on the streets of Manhattan. Texas would saunter into the global community bigger than Australia, Greece or Bolivia...

Fires of resistance still burning in Greece

From Resistance bulletin 111, April 2009 by Resistance editors - Anarchist Federation

Despite several months passing since the insurrectionary events of the “Greek December”, social discontent and working class resistance are still very much alive amongst the youth and workers of Greece. March has been characterised by continuing occupations, street battles and clashes with fascist forces.

BREAKDOWN OF EVENTS:

•4th March - In response to a fascist hand grenade attack against an immigrant social centre on the night of February 24th (which fortunately claimed no victims) anti-fascists take to the streets. The march erupts into extended street battles between protesters and provocative riot police forces deployed to attack the demo. During the clashes that spread throughout the city centre several banks and expensive shops are destroyed, while protesters break into the offices of Golden Dawn [Xrysi Avgi] the neonazi parastate organisation responsible for numerous assassination attempts against immigrants, anarchists and the left. The offices are torched to the ground.

•Friday 6th March -The three month anniversary of Alexandros Grigoropoulos' murder. Protesters occupy the metro/ISAP station of Attiki, a central transit station between the two urban rail systems. All ticket machines are disabled so that transport is rendered free of charge. Later that same afternoon a march takes to the streets to protest against the chain of organised fascist attacks against the Pakistani community in the area. Activists gather at the site of Alexandros' murder in the evening. The local riot squad is attacked with molotov cocktails and street battles continue throughout the night.

•Saturday 7th March -The local People's Assembly of Exarcheia occupies the big parking lot between Alexandros Grigoropulos murder site and the heavily guarded PASOK (Socialist Party) HQ in a move to reclaim one of the city's last open spaces and demand its transformation into a park rather than yet another block of offices. The locals set up a day-long collective meal, with wine and dances, hold workshops and smash the asphalt, planting pine and olive trees. In the evening a big painting, given as a gift to the Greek insurgency by the Zapatistas of Chiapas, was placed on the wall of the building opposite the murder site, already thick with hundreds of letters and a marble plaque from the boy's family. The day ended in a big concert.

•Monday 9th March - Members of the Open Assembly for Health occupy the cashiers office of the Red Cross Hospital in Athens demanding free health care for all.

•Wednesday 1th March - Dock workers of the Nautico-construction Zone of Piraeus attack the fences and smash the main entrance of the Ministry of the Commercial Navy in their effort to invade and occupy the building. The workers are driven back by the special-forces of the port police through the use of flash-burst grenades. Meanwhile workers of the Ministry of Culture once again blockade the Acropolis demanding their 4 months' unpaid salaries and re-employment of fired workers. Reluctant to turn the monument into another battleground the President of the Republic pledges to resolve their grievances.

•Friday 13th March -Riots break out in Athens and Salonica in relation to the coming trial of an anarchist, Yorgos Voutsis- Vogiatzis, who was arrested 18 months ago and is accused of bank robbery. In Athens, the down-town market area and residential area of Kolonaki is gutted by protesters who smash dozens of expensive shops, luxury cars and banks. Journalists talk of the greatest damage in the capital since the December insurgency.

•Sunday 22nd March -The death of Katerina Goulioni, a female prison activist known for her struggle against the vaginal inspection of inmates sparks a violent uprising in the Women's Prison of Thebes. Inmates refuse to return to their cells, and burn and smash the jail premises, while a protest march in solidarity with Goulioni clashes with riot police forces outside the prison. One section of the prison is said to be seriously burned.

•The job losses in Greece continue with the GSEE (General Confederation of Greek Workers) claiming 4,000 losses amongst its members for February alone. With the severity of the damage caused by the economic crisis still unknown the Greek state has been keen to bring in repressive measures against the growing anti-capitalist movement. In the capital the government has announced the introduction of a “rapid reaction” armed police force, the introduction of police dogs on pedestrian patrols and a “zero-tolerance” policy towards political violence. The Minister of Justice has also announced the introduction of a new law that will severely punish hoods, masks and other distorting clothing in protest marches. This is while the right-wing press has been pushing for the government to reopen the issue of university asylum (universities in Greece have asylum status from the police thanks to the historic place that student protesters played in toppling the military junta). These measures are likely to only escalate rather than dampen social tensions as Greek workers continue to be hit hard by the economic crisis.

CIA fears torture prosecutions

Sarah Baxter reports in The Sunday Times :

Only some of the secrets of US 'ghost' prisons have been revealed

The CIA fears some of its operatives could face prosecution for torturing high-level terrorist suspects, despite President Barack Obama's promise of legal immunity.

The confidential US Department of Justice guidelines on interrogating high-level detainees, which were made public last week, provide only a small window into the secret prisons or “black sites” run by the CIA.

“These are the first dominoes,” said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit that forced the release of the memos. “It will be difficult for the new administration to argue now that other documents can be lawfully withheld.”

The memos, drawn up by Bush administration officials and lawyers, detailed what was permissible, such as placing detainees in a cramped box, “walling” them by slamming them against a wall, dousing them with a hose, depriving them of sleep, confining them with insects and simulating drowning - “waterboarding”.

[ ... ]

It is clear that some operatives exceeded the guidelines. One memo from December 2004 said waterboarding was used “with far greater frequency than initially indicated . . . with large volumes of water”, rather than those specified by the rules.

The lawyers and officials responsible for drawing up the “torture” memos also faced calls for their prosecution from some members of Congress.

John Conyers, chairman of the House of Representatives judiciary committee, said: “If our leaders are found to have violated the strict laws against torture, either by ordering these techniques without proper authority, or by knowingly crafting legal fictions to justify torture, they should be criminally prosecuted.”

Those at risk include Alberto Gonzales, the attorney-general under Bush, who convened a crucial meeting of justice department and defence department officials in 2002. America was at war, he said, and it was necessary to “lean forward”.

John Yoo, the deputy assistant attorney-general, drafted a memo stating that physical torture “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death”.

Yoo and fellow officials Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, who issued the memos, are already subjects of an ethics investigation by the justice department.

The former senior CIA official said: “We knew this was going to come back and bite us . . . These people weren't judges, they were just lawyers in the justice department. It was kind of like us telling ourselves it was okay to do it.”

The official recalled the atmosphere at the time of the 9/11 attacks. “A colleague of mine said, 'I know this is all wrong but I keep picturing these people jumping out of windows and falling out of buildings'.”

The meticulous description of harsh interrogation techniques in the memos seemed chilling enough, but the reality was far worse, the official said.

It was one thing to describe a “facial slap . . . with fingers slightly spread” or pouring cold water “from a container or a hose without a nozzle”, as in the memos. When done continuously for an hour at a time, it was “something you want to stop”.

~ more... ~

Victorian diseases: Back from the dead

Charles Dickens knew more than he would have wished about scarlet fever. His son, Charley, was afflicted by it, causing the family to leave Paris hurriedly and return to London in 1847, and it featured in several of his novels. It was a much-feared disease that caused devastating epidemics through the 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in thousands of deaths.

Now, 160 years later, it is making a comeback. Almost 3,000 cases were recorded in 2008, the highest total for a decade, and doctors fear a dangerous strain of the infection is becoming more widespread.

It is not the only 19th century disease to make a comeback. Mumps and measles are on the rise, whooping cough notifications are up and cases of typhoid are increasing. Justine Greening, shadow minister for London, last week claimed London was experiencing a surge in Victorian diseases more closely associated with the world of Dickens than the modern era of health clubs and fitness regimes.

Ms Greening, Tory MP for Putney, said there were 393 cases of mumps in the capital in 2008, up by 214 per cent in a year, whooping cough cases had quadrupled in five years to 252, there were 501 cases of scarlet fever (a rise of 153 per cent since 2005) and 127 cases of typhoid. She accused the Government of failing to invest enough in public health or to appoint enough school nurses.

"The rise of these highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases in our cities is truly alarming, the Government must do more to ensure the public health of Londoners," she said.

Is she right? Greening's charge is accurately targeted and hits Labour where it hurts most – on health. After a decade in which record sums have been spent on the NHS and living standards have risen, why should diseases associated with poverty and pestilence be on the rise?

~ more... ~

Does Ikaria hold the key to longevity?

From CNN Health - Commentary: How to outlive your doctor

Editor's note: Dan Buettner is the best-selling author of "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest."

 Ikaria, GREECE (CNN) -- In 1970, when doctors diagnosed Greek-American Yiannis Karimalis with stomach cancer and only gave him a few months to live, he decided to move back to Ikaria, his birth island. There, he reasoned, he could be buried more inexpensively among his fellow Greeks.

But when he moved back to the island he didn't die. He has lived nearly 40 years more. And when he returned to America on a recent visit, he discovered that his doctors were all dead.

The people on this 99-square-mile Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea smugly tell this story as yet anther example of what they've always known and scientists are now discovering: People in Ikaria live longer than in just about another other place in the world. A recent study of 90-year-old siblings, conducted by the National Hellenic Research Foundation, discovered 10 times more 90-year-old brothers and sisters here than the European average.

Why is this important?

Most scientists agree that the average human should live to age 90. (You have to have won the genetic lottery to live to 100.) But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says life expectancy in America is 78.

[ ... ]

 For the next two weeks, I'm leading "The Blue Zones" expedition, an AARP and National Geographic sponsored team of the world's best demographers, physicians, medical researchers and media specialists, to explore Ikarian longevity.

We already have a few clues. Since at least the sixth century B.C., Icaria was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as a health destination -- largely for its hot springs believed to relieve pain, joint problems and skin ailments. Our team has reviewed reports of high levels of radon in these baths and will be exploring a theory that chronic exposure to low-level radiation may help protect DNA against the ravages of aging.

 For much of the ensuing two millenniums, people here lived in relative isolation. The people here evolved a unique diet that we believe is a more heart-protective version of the Mediterranean diet. We're doing pharmacological analyses of dozens of herbal teas and unique honey produced by bees that draw pollen of thyme, fir and erica. We think we'll find anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and probiotic properties in these locally produced products.

We also know that people here have a vastly different character than the rest of the Mediterranean. They have volcanic tempers that quickly subside. Despite living on harsh, steep terrain, they're known for relentless optimism and three-day parties. They don't get stressed by deadlines. They go to bed well after midnight, sleep late and take naps. Anecdotally, we know that most people over 90 are sexually active.

Do these people possess the true secret to longevity? We're not sure yet, but we'll certainly distill a few clues about living longer, better. Ikarian wisdom may not help you live to 100. But at least they may help you outlive your doctor.

Follow and vote to direct Dan's expedition at aarp.org/bluezones

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Buettner.



From What would you give to look younger, feel younger, add good years to your life and literally turn back your biological clock?

Myth #4: Longevity is all genes.

Actually, research shows that less than 20% of how long the average person lives—within biological limits—is dictated by genes. The other 80% is determined by lifestyle.

So, if we stick with the facts, the most responsible way to find a formula for living longer and feeling younger is to look among the people who are actually living the longest. If we can find a culture where many people live extraordinarily long lives, we have the potential of finding a formula for longevity.

That's why we've come to Ikaria, this small Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, where people are reaching age 90 at perhaps the highest rate in the world. They're getting the years that we're missing.

I've assembled a team of some of the very best experts to help tease out the ingredients in this special longevity recipe. Over the next two weeks, we'll let you vote to direct our team as we sift through dozens of possible factors—from islanders' diets, to how they shed stress, to their attitudes towards older people. Then we'll distill some clear lessons to bring home. One of first of our leads involves, well, sex.

A local doctor related to us the story of an 84-year-old man who was bragging about his sexual prowess. His friends, as a challenge, arranged a “date” for the man with a woman 40 years his junior to see if they would get together. An hour later, his friends looked through the window and, shall we say, made visual confirmation of the man's abilities.

As flippant as it may sound, it actually illustrates the findings of Dr. Demosthenes Panagiotakos, a professor at Harakopio University in Athens. He interviewed 68 Greek men, average age 95, and 70% of them reported that they were still sexually active. Of course, we're not sure whether having sex helps them live longer or if they live longer to have sex. Either way, they can't lose.

~ more... ~

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