Baby African elephant’s first bath

This video says about itself:

Baby Elephant takes her First Bath | BBC Earth

14 June 2018

An elephant calf just a few days old has her first bath in the waterhole with her helpful nanny elephants – but climbing out is harder than getting in.

Elephant Family and Me: Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan travels to the spectacular Tsavo wilderness in Kenya to try to get closer than ever before to a wild elephant family. African elephants are among the most dangerous animals in the world, killing more people than lions or any other predator. But Gordon believes that elephants become dangerous only because of our actions towards them.

Young female orphan elephants have a tougher social life than non-orphans, a new study suggests, adding to a growing body of evidence of how the impacts of poaching cascade through elephant societies: here.

Michigan, USA Republicans want far-right education

This video from the USA says about itself:

Economic Inequality and Its Implications for Youth

11 June 2018

Presented by Trina R. Williams Shanks, PhD, Associate Director Vivian A. & James L. Curtis Research Training Center Associate Professor, School of Social Work University of Michigan

Dr. Shanks is currently Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. She has a PhD in Social Work from Washington University and a Masters in Comparative Social Research from the Univerity of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her Research interest include the impact of poverty and wealth on child well-being; asset building policy and practice across the life cycle; and community and economic development.

Dr. Shanks is currently one of the national network co-leads for the Social Work Grand Challenge: Reversing Extreme Economic Inequality. She has been a research investigator for the Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Downpayment (SEED) demonstration problem and consults with several other child savings account initiatives, including one started in Lansing Public Schools and at a non-profit organization in Detroit.

By Debra Watson and Ed Bergonzi in the USA:

Social studies teachers denounce anti-democratic changes to Michigan education curriculum

26 June 2018

More than 200 social studies teachers, high school students, parents and others packed a meeting at the Oakland Intermediate School District building in Waterford, Michigan, north of Detroit on Wednesday. There were furious denunciations of several changes to the state’s social studies curriculum, centered on the charge that the changes would undermine teaching about civil rights, global warming, and LGBT issues.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is sponsoring a series of “Listen and Learn” town hall-style meeting statewide to discuss changes in the social studies curriculum that will have a wide-ranging effect on what is taught and on what children are required to learn.

The meeting began with a collective groan and loud boos when representatives from the State Board of Education claimed the reason for changing language about teaching “core democratic values” to “core values” was in the interest of being “balanced” and “politically neutral”, by avoiding use of the word that appears in the name of the Democratic Party.

It quickly emerged this was only one of numerous proposed changes in the curriculum motivated by far-right Republican State Senator Patrick Colbeck, one of four candidates for the Republican nomination for governor this year, who was invited to join the MDE standards panel after pressure from a cabal of right-wing Michigan state senators.

Over and over, teachers asked how Colbeck even got on the panel in the first place and why no Democrats were invited to be participants. Teachers were particularly angered by the fact that the panel had apparently extended invitations to other notorious right-wing legislators in addition to Colbeck.

Colbeck elsewhere has claimed that the United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy, an argument that is current in ultra-right-wing circles in the United States, particularly since the stolen election of 2000. It is associated with the rejection of the right to vote as a basic right, made notorious by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, when he declared, supporting the Bush v. Gore ruling, that Americans had no fundamental right to vote for president (in his view, state legislatures could simply appoint electors to the Electoral College without bothering with a popular vote).

When teachers were finally able to make contributions from the floor at the end of the Waterford meeting, the really sordid role of Colbeck’s influence on politics in the state and on the MDE was documented.

As one teacher declared, “In this age of ‘alternative facts’ why do we want to change American from a democracy to some sort of republic thing?’”

Hussein Bedoun, who teaches history and social studies at Dearborn’s Edsel Ford High school, which has a substantial Muslim and Arab-American population, joined other speakers in denouncing the dropping of any mention of religions besides Christianity from sections of the text. He spoke directly of Colbeck’s influence on the curriculum proposed.

He asked the MDE representatives: “How can you entrust our children’s future to an imbecile like that?” He then reviewed some of Colbeck’s racist and anti-Muslim statements in the past. He noted that Colbeck is known for claiming Muslims are trying to take over the country.

Colbeck is not really running to win the Republican nomination. He has used his campaign to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria, centered on denunciations of one of the Democratic candidates for governor, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former Health Director in Detroit, claiming that he represents the Muslim Brotherhood and would impose sharia law in Michigan if elected.

Teachers denounced the removal of a mention of the KKK from one part of the standards, as well as the elimination of the word “genocide” from a section about the Holocaust. MDE panelists defended the deletion, saying that they were trying not to be repetitious.

There were several attempts by the representative from the private company hired by the state board to “facilitate” the meeting to dampen down the loud and frequent outbursts that punctuated the rest of the meeting. There was a great deal of concern from teachers who felt their questions were not being answered.

There were questions about how the panel was selected. One speaker pointed out that there was no representation from Detroit, Saginaw or Flint. Few would not know that these are major urban areas where questions of democracy, civil rights, poverty, and inequality are everyday issues.

Marsha Lewis, a teacher from the Detroit Public Schools, said that racism, civil rights and social issues had to be included at the center of the standards. “I say this not just because I am a teacher. I don’t want my child to live in a world where she thinks she will be forgotten.”

One teacher questioned why the world history standards for high school were changed to begin with the 1500s. She said this was aimed at presenting a Euro-centric view of the world.

This was the third of six such meetings planned for various locations around the state this summer. The two already held, in Flint and Saginaw, were smaller in size but just as contentious. The Waterford meeting is the only one in the Detroit area. The three remaining will be next week in the Upper Peninsula, in Lansing, the state capital, and in Grand Rapids, in the western part of the state, the home town of US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her ultra-right billionaire family.

When asked at the end of the meeting why the right-wing partisan Colbeck was invited to be part of the process, panelist Linda Forward from MDE admitted, “I cannot give you any rationale that would hold any water here.”

Sadye Belcher

Sadye Belcher, a college student in Flint, Michigan, spoke passionately during the public comments at the end of the meeting. She began by saying that the United States was founded on dissent, but that in this curriculum, “That knowledge of dissent is being taken away.”

“Students need to learn that history”, she told the assembled teachers, “including the history of the civil rights struggle and other struggles, to have the tools to take up the serious issues they face today.”

She expanded on her remarks later, speaking to the World Socialist Web Site: “I have a little theory of my own. I think this is how fascism comes. When I was reading the standards, I saw all these red lines striking out such important history and topics. It was jarring. You can go online and actually see this. They show the old, 2007 standards side by side, and you can see the important sections removed.

“We will be teaching kids who will not be able to do anything because they do not have the foundation in history. Our foundation was dissent, and they are taking away that foundation.”

Rita Chester is a retired teacher who lives in Waterford, Michigan, where the meeting was held. She told WSWS reporters after the meeting: “My granddaughter in Seattle called me and said ‘Grandma, you have to go down there! They are trying to change the education standards!’ She read about it online out in Seattle and called me. One thing she was concerned about was that references to LGBTQ were being removed, other things were being removed. So here I am!”

Emily Halls is studying music education at Michigan State University. She told the WSWS that she and her “peers” are much more aware of politics now than ever before. This is because so much is going on in the world today that affects us.

“When I saw online that in the new standards sections were removed that relate to climate change and to civil rights, I knew I had to come here tonight. Even though I teach music, my students are going to be affected by politics.

The effects of climate change are happening now, and they are happening rapidly. By removing key parts of the topic from the main text, bringing these problems to students’ attention will not be a priority in every classroom.

“We had the luxury for a long time of not paying attention. This is especially true in the case of climate change. But now every student and young adult is starting to pay attention. Everyone needs to know what the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Treaty means. No one can afford to be uninformed.

“Even as a music educator, I feel I should be well-versed in these things. We talk about music for music’s sake. The way the changes were made here is explained as consolidation. But it is troubling that things like the NAACP, Roe V. Wade, are removed.

“We say about a piece of music that there is not one way to understand it, one way that is right and one way that is wrong. This is an important lesson that applies to how students should think about things. They should have all the information.”

Sudden closure of for-profit Education Corporation of America leaves 20,000 students without an education: here.

Donald Trump and the United States religious right

This video from the USA says about itself:

WATCH: Trump Is A Puppet To Fundamentalists & Is Too Stupid To Know It

I am not so sure about Trump being a ‘puppet’ and ‘stupid’ in this. An alternative explanation might be that Trump uses the religious right and its ideas like homophobia to move the USA in the direction of dictatorship.

26 June 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump told former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in an interview released over the weekend that evangelical Christians are more grateful than Jews for his moving of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump said that the reaction surprised him.

“I tell you what, I get more calls of thank you from evangelicals, and I see it in the audiences and everything else, than I do from Jewish people”, Trump said. “And the Jewish people appreciate it but the evangelicals appreciate it more than the Jews.”

Read more here.

The pro-Trump, openly nazi, Holocaust-denying site the Daily Stormer claims: ‘The Trump Train is driven by Jesus Christ himself’; while ‘the Jew Train’, they write, is going to Auschwitz.

Ivanka Trump Donates $50K To Anti-Gay Church To Help Families Separated At Border: here.

Spanish dictator Franco’s stolen babies fight for justice

Spanish ex-stolen baby Inés Madrigal and other demonstrators at the Madrid court. EPA photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Dictator Franco’s stolen babies fight for justice

Today, 19:26

In Spain, a lawsuit has been initiated against an 85-year-old doctor suspected of involvement in the “stolen baby’s scandal”. In the last century, according to various estimates, some 300,000 babies disappeared in the country just after they were born. Doctors told the new parents that the children had died, but in reality they were stolen to give to other couples.

Thousands of families and dozens of doctors are said to be involved in that scandal. Doctor Eduardo Vela is the first to stand trial. Vela has been accused by Inés Madrigal, who suspects that she is such a stolen baby.

Madrigal’s mother Inés Pérez got a newborn child in 1969, wrapped in cloths, in her hands from Dr Vela. “A surprise”, according to the doctor. At the time, 46-year-old Pérez was childless and had helped Vela care for another boy. Baby Inés was a kind of thank you.

When Madrigal turned 18, Pérez told her that she was not her biological mother. She had the forged birth certificate, the signature of Dr. Vela was below it. But then they did not realize yet how often this kind of practice had taken place.

Around 2010, more and more comparable stories came out. Parents recognized themselves in messages on Spanish internet forums that told about missing babies. Usually the story was that the new mother of the baby had died immediately, or just after the birth, after which the parents did not see the baby anymore. Further questions to the doctors were answered evasively and with that all was finished, for the doctors at least.

An illegal baby trade system

The scandal goes back to the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which was won by General Franco. After the bloody conflict the prisons were full of political opponents, including women and children. These children had to be brought up in ‘better circumstances’ and were therefore placed in other, pro-government families.

In the decades of Franco’s regime, these practices continued and even expanded. Newborn children of non-government-minded families were taken away from the parents. Later the same happened with babies from poor families and single or unmarried mothers. According to the dictatorial regime, it was better for such a child to grow up in a Catholic and conservative family.

But the death of the dictator in 1975 did not mean that the stealing of babies stopped. The illegal baby-trading system was maintained by the numerous doctors and nuns involved. Only in 1987 did the system come to an end with a new, stricter adoption law.

‘Cases without proof’

The case is very much alive in Spain, the attention in the media is big. Some fifty demonstrators gathered outside the court this morning. They were carrying signs with texts such as “justice” and “human rights for stolen babies”.

At the Spanish courts there are still about 2000 complaints that might seem like similar cases. But, although there are enough irregularities in the books – such as people who are twice in the birth register, or who died before they were born – it is difficult to prove the complaints beyond any doubt, says Guillermo Peña, lawyer for the organization SOS Stolen Babies Madrid. “Without hospital data nothing can be checked and then you have a case without proof.” Also the statute of limitations is often a problem.

Earlier, a lawsuit was filed against an employee of Vela’s clinic, the nun Maria Gomez. In 2012 she had to appear before a Spanish court. But before the verdict could come, she died. Gomez has always denied knowing anything about the illegal adoption of 1982 with which she was associated.

Vela has admitted that the signature on Madrigal’s birth certificate is his. He is charged with abduction and forgery of official documents. The public prosecutor has claimed eleven years of prison against him.

Madrigal does not expect Eduardo Vela to tell her the truth, or to say who her real mother is. “But I hope that a ruling will lead to more possibilities for similar cases.”

A DOCTOR who stole a newborn baby nearly 50 years ago will escape punishment because the statute of limitations for the crime has expired, a Spanish court ruled today. Eduardo Vela, 85, abducted Ines Madrigal on her birth in 1969, faking documents to imply she was the child of the couple who raised her. The verdict that he did indeed abduct Ms Madrigal, now a railway worker, is the first in relation to the theft of tens of thousands of children from their real parents under the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Mothers were often told a child had died at birth or shortly after: here.