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Blogging on animals, peace and war, science, social justice, women's issues, arts, and much more

Ladybugs mating, video


This video shows a ladybug couple mating on a compost container in the Netherlands.

Pieter Vonk made this video.

Jamaica’s first gay pride celebration


This video from England says about itself:

30 June 2013

YO! Blessup, One Love and Real Rasta greetin’s to you, fellow follower of de Lord of Lords, de King of Kings, de most High…Rastafari.

Have ya heard of de latest roots reggae and dancehall sensation to come out of our island home? Well a mi fi tell yu! Rastatroll Battyboy Soundsystem, all di while dem depon di bashment, Lord a Mercy. Dis crew a been buss dancefloors up in Kingston, all over Europe, and Kingston again, ya see me? Big man ting, ya dun know.

Yes, ‘ere me now, Rastatroll Battyboy Soundsystem are a REAL Jamaican soundsystem, proud of our fabulous heritage and our broad, glistening shoulders and thighs. Rastatroll are not ashamed to look a man in his eyes while he heaves his hard muscled body against ours, whisperin’ sweet words inna our ears. Rastatroll do not apologise for quivering like a flower in his arms, groaning and writhing as he pushes forcefully inside, pumping us over and over until de walls shake and de eyes roll back inna dem head. And Rastatroll do not hesitate to share a ganja spliff wit him as we relax pon de beach afterwards, holding each other, and listening to de cool sea breeze tell its stories of the love our forefathers shared, in much de same way we do now.

Star, dis is our way of life. Worn down by centuries of slavery and homophobic subjugation – but not defeated. Slandered by de bloated, imperialist, Western music industry – but not silenced. Attacked by de colonial sheep and demons who spread lies about Jamaica, but never once forgettin’ de dignity of our ancestors who first spread de Rainbow over Kingston.

In de immortal words of Gloria Gaynor, Prophet of Carr: “Jamaica’s a sham…till it can shout out, I am what I am”

PUUUUUUUUUUUULL UUUUUUUP!

Dis video is some bless footage from de Rastatroll stage at London Gay Pride. Nuff respect and REAL RASTA blessings fi all de battybwoys and punnanygyals who came out to hear de Lion‘s roar inna Trafalgar Square. We were truly blessed to walk amongst you.

De 29th June will go down in history as de day Rastatroll assumed its rightful title of as de most respected Reggae soundsystem on de European Gay scene – a day dat will resound through de ages.

Even Babylon were struck down in awe by our fabulousness, begging us to have their photos taken with us and asking for more rewinds.

If yu have any pictures or video, feel free to share dem pon dis page and inspire de next generation of Rastatroll soldiers.

SELASSIE I. Praise be to de Most High, JAH CARRSTAFARI.

Battyboys inna London, set it set it set it.

From Associated Press:

Jamaica to hold its first gay pride celebration in the island’s capital

Weeklong event that was previously almost unthinkable in a Caribbean country long described as the one of the globe’s most hostile places to homosexuality

Tuesday 4 August 2015 21.22 BST

Jamaica’s LGBT community is holding its first gay pride celebration in the island’s capital, a weeklong event that was previously almost unthinkable in a Caribbean country long described as the one of the globe’s most hostile places to homosexuality.

Events in Kingston have included a flash mob gathering in a park, an art exhibit and performances featuring songs and poems by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jamaicans.

Jamaican gay rights activists said Tuesday the peaceful events are a clear sign that tolerance for LGBT people is expanding on the island even though stigma is common and longstanding laws criminalizing sex between men remain on the books.

“I think we will look back on this and see it as a turning point because many persons thought that it would never actually happen,” said Latoya Nugent of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, or J-FLAG, the rights group that organized the event.

For years, Jamaica’s gay community lived so far underground that their parties and church services were held in secret locations. Most stuck to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of keeping their sexual orientation hidden to avoid scrutiny or protect loved ones. A number of gay Jamaicans have won asylum overseas.

But while discrimination against gays remains pervasive in many parts of Jamaica and anti-gay violence flares up recurrently, Nugent said there’s an inaccurate perception overseas that homosexuals in Jamaica “can’t even walk on the streets because if you do you are going to be stoned or stabbed to death”.

“What we are seeing these days is more and more LGBT people willing to be visible, to be open, and to be public,” said Nugent, a co-chair of the planning committee for the events called PrideJa. “It’s remarkable.”

Still, some 80 incidents of discrimination, threats, physical attacks, displacement and sexual violence were reported to J-FLAG last year and the high-profile 2013 mob murder of transgender teen Dwayne Jones remains unsolved. There have been reports of targeted sexual assaults of lesbians. In a 2014 report, New York-based Human Rights Watch asserted that LGBT people in Jamaica remain the targets of unchecked violence and are frequently refused housing or employment.

“Yes, there’s still ridicule on the streets and some people look at you and laugh, but it’s not as violent as it was and we will insist on living our lives. There is a certain change going on,” 26-year-old Nas Chin told the Associated Press after dancing at a secure pride event.

Many Jamaicans consider homosexuality to be a perversion from abroad and a newspaper-commissioned poll has suggested there is overwhelming resistance to repealing anti-sodomy laws. In late August, a young Jamaican gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the anti-sodomy law withdrew his claim after growing fearful about possible violent reprisals.

But Human Rights Watch has noted that there’s been a “groundswell of change” in the way Jamaica is responding to human rights abuses against LGBT people.

In recent days, Kingston’s mayor and the island’s justice minister have even publicly supported the weeklong pride activities, a major change in a nation where politicians once routinely railed against homosexuals and former prime minister Bruce Golding vowed in 2008 to never allow gays in his cabinet.

Wood pigeon bathing, video


This video is about a bathing wood pigeon.

Anneke Koster made this video of the bird, bathing on the roof of her next door neighbour in the Netherlands.

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, a critical review


Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman

By Sandy English in the USA:

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman: More of a moneymaking than a literary event?

3 August 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, New York: HarperCollins, 2015, 278 pp.

Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set a Watchman, has sold over a million copies in the United States since its release two weeks ago. It is currently at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The book, or what readers imagine or hope it to be, has clearly struck a chord.

Lee, now 89, is the author of one other novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. That book is set in 1930s Alabama during the Jim Crow segregation era. The novel tells the story of Atticus Finch, a white, small-town lawyer, who defends a black man against the charge of raping a white woman.

His daughter, Jean Louise, narrates a compelling tale about the life of the Finches and the inhabitants of the small town of Maycomb. What runs through Atticus, Jean Louise (known by her nickname, Scout) and her elder brother Jem is a feeling for equality and fair play and a generally democratic sensibility.

Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird Scout (who is eight when the books opens) and Jem learn from their father and their own experiences to treat people with a sense of empathy and justice. This includes the poor and illiterate, the mentally disabled and nonconformists, but especially the deeply oppressed African Americans in the town.

The novel was published at the height of the Civil Rights movement, and became an immediate bestseller. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. More significantly, the book was identified in the public’s mind with the struggle by millions of African Americans for justice against segregation and racism in the South.

Producer Alan Pakula and Harper Lee on set of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962

Producer Alan Pakula and Harper Lee on set of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962

The fictional Atticus Finch demonstrated to a whole generation what it meant to be willing to endure, in defense of decency and fairness, threats to one’s reputation, life and even the well-being of one’s family.

Furthermore, To Kill A Mockingbird came as something of a moral release or revival to a society battered by the McCarthyite anticommunist witch-hunts and years of blacklisting, “naming names” and frame-ups such as that of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953. The informer and the capitulator had become American social types that were all too familiar.

Egalitarian sentiment had awakened with the mass struggle against Jim Crow in the South. Millions were ready by 1960 to read about those who stood up to prejudice and racism.

At the same time, Lee’s novel, although no doubt written with complete sincerity, only went so far, or perhaps only could go so far. The political climate in America presumably had something to do with the fact that the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird was a middle class, or by the standards of the South at the time, an upper middle class lawyer.

Nevertheless, Lee’s work expresses the genuine opposition to inequality that is a part of American life, including in the South. It is a deeply satisfying work that argues, through the eyes and experience of children, for more compassionate and humane behavior and attitudes. It still resonates as a simple, powerful novel that speaks in well-constructed images and appeals to the senses.

Over the last five and a half decades, the work has sold over 40 million copies. It has become part of many American middle-school and high-school curriculums and inspires countless youth to see the defense of equality as a moral principle and a human virtue. The story of Atticus Finch has even inspired many young people over the years to become lawyers and to fight for justice to prevail. For years many parents have named their sons after him.

The 1962 film adaptation of Lee’s novel with Gregory Peck (for which he won an Academy Award), directed by Robert Mulligan, produced by Alan Pakula and with a screenplay by Horton Foote, is almost as popular as the novel and an honest work of art in its own right.

Harper Lee never published another novel after To Kill a Mockingbird, until now, and generally avoided the limelight. She stopped doing interviews in 1964, complaining that journalists asked the same questions over and over again. She also refused to write an introduction to the novel, observing, “Mockingbird still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.”

It is easy to see why a new novel about Atticus and his family was so eagerly anticipated. It brings back to the stage, or so readers hoped, the figure of the principled lawyer. And 2015, as a great many people would undoubtedly agree, is a time when such a figure is needed in both literature and life.

Fifty-five years after Lee’s first book was published American society is riven by a much deeper social inequality than was the case in 1960. While a layer of upper middle class African Americans has prospered and made its mark in politics, conditions for every section of the working class have deteriorated sharply. The gap between the super-rich and the mass of the population has never been greater. Where is the literary or film character who will address that question?

Unease and anger about social inequality are ubiquitous in every part of the United States, but find no recognition in official media or political life.

In many ways, the political or moral climate is worse today than at the height of the McCarthy period. Academics and “intellectuals” line up to serve the Pentagon, the CIA and other murderous government agencies. Revelations of massive NSA spying, an essential ingredient of a police state, fail to disturb the sleep of the ex-liberal middle class, scandalously wealthy and desirous of protecting every penny.

Fighters for justice and equality are maligned, imprisoned and hounded by the political establishment. However, the widespread popularity of figures such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is an indication that millions of people are revolted by this climate. Atticus Finch could not return too soon.

The circumstances around the discovery of Go Set a Watchman are murky. Harper Lee is suffering from the after-effects of a stroke and is partially blind and deaf. She is wheelchair-bound and confined to an assisted living facility in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama (on which Maycomb was modeled) and has limited access to her friends, much less journalists. The writer’s life-long business agent, her older sister, Alice, died last year. It was soon after that the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman surfaced.

HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has spared no effort to publicize the book, with a massive public relations campaign, including a pre-release of the first chapter.

While nothing definitive can be said about the origins of the new book’s manuscript, it seems clear that the prospect of making a good deal of money had something to do with the sudden appearance of the novel. HarperCollins has released almost no information on its provenance.

When Harper Lee submitted an early draft of To Kill Mockingbird in 1957 to the publishing house of J.B. Lippincott, it was considered unpublishable. Lee reworked the manuscript over the next three years with Tay Hohoff, an editor at the firm, apparently producing a number of drafts.

“After a couple of false starts, the story-line, interplay of characters, and fall of emphasis grew clearer, and with each revision—there were many minor changes as the story grew in strength and in her own vision of it—the true stature of the novel became evident,” wrote Hohoff, who died in 1974. What other changes Lee made in the complex process of writing and rewriting are unknown.

The “new” novel—or early draft of an old novel—takes place when an adult Jean Louise returns to Maycomb from New York City. She must deal with a young man who wants her to marry him and settle down in Maycomb. Her brother is dead and we meet characters familiar from To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, some critics have noted that the new work seems to imply a familiarly with the first book.

She encounters a town in the throes of the Civil Rights struggle, and discovers that her fiancée and her father, Atticus, have lined up with the Citizens Council (a respectable version of the Ku Klux Klan). She is physically ill when she discovers all this. The climax of the novel takes place in a confrontation between father and daughter.

Atticus defends his presence at a meeting of the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council as a way of gathering information, but, we learn, he holds racist views about blacks. “Do you want Negros by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

Phrases like this, and racial slurs, have caused consternation and disappointment among some readers and critics. Atticus Finch turns out to be a bigot after all. But Finch is a fictional character. Lee created him one way in this first draft, and thought better of it later on. The book is not genuinely a sequel, about the same Finch growing older and more reactionary; it is a distinct work, with a different, perhaps less mature approach and set of problems.

For her own artistic and ideological reasons, Lee shifted her own indignation at racism and injustice from the adult Jean Louise in Go Set a Watchman (whose response to the remark of Atticus above is, “They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us”) to the middle-aged Atticus, and through him, to his children, in To Kill a Mockingbird. And her decision seems to have been the proper and more convincing one.

Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is a much less compelling work than To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise offers her defense of black people’s rights in long, expository remarks and speeches. The book lacks spontaneity for the most part, and gets bogged down in the not so intriguing issue of her relationship with her boyfriend.

Flashbacks to childhood have some of the original impact of To Kill a Mockingbird, but on the whole, the book is not a finished work of art. While literary researchers, critics and biographers will no doubt benefit, the novel has been marketed by a publishing conglomerate under false and opportunist pretenses and adds little to our understanding of the period, the place … or the individual who stands on principle.

See also here.

Goldfinches feed on thistle seeds, video


This video shows goldfinches feeding on thistle seeds.

Gerrie van der Meulen from the Netherlands made this video.

Will German army deal with refugees?


This video says about itself:

Lomazy, Poland: 1942 massacre of all 1800 Jewish residents

Lomazy, east Poland.

On 18 August 1942 Wehrmacht Battalion 101 together with its Ukrainian Auxiliary Company and local Polish collaborators executed 1,800 women, men, children, elderly people, the entire village Jewish population and refugees.

The massacre took place into pits in the nearby ‘Haly Forest’.

This was merely one of many genocide atrocities committed against European Jews.

This is the short 15m version of the 1h10m film.

Film was taken by Meir Garbarz Gover in 2005 depicting the last surviving Polish eyewitness to the massacre. He was aged 13 in 1942 and lived in the farm next to the massacre forest location.

Gover’s own great uncle and his family were among the 1,800 victims.

By Martin Kreikenbaum in Germany:

Calls for deployment of German army to deal with refugees

4 August 2015

Refugees in Germany face miserable living conditions, with many forced to reside in hastily and poorly built tent camps. In Bavaria, the first emergency camps for Balkan refugees have opened, and calls are growing for the deployment of the German army. The emergency situation created by the authorities is aimed at deterring refugees from seeking protection in Germany and preparing the way for a dramatic restriction of the right to asylum.

Although the increase in refugees has been predicted for several months, neither the federal government nor any state government made any serious preparations for the immigrants’ accommodation. Factories, schools and empty army barracks are being hurriedly turned into reception centres. There are neither sufficient sanitary facilities nor the possibility for private areas of any kind for the frequently traumatised refugees at these locations.

Terrible conditions exist in the temporary tent camps established in Hamburg, Eisenhüttenstadt (Brandenburg), Neuenstadt (Baden-Württemberg) and numerous other places. Up to 1,300 refugees have been crammed in together at these locations.

Conditions are particularly disastrous in the refugee camp in Dresden. When the first refugees were due to move into the camp established by the German Red Cross 10 days ago, a right-wing mob gathered in front of the camp and began attacking volunteers with bottles and stones. Police did nothing to protect the refugees or their helpers.

A few days later, the refugees protested the catastrophic conditions with a blockade. The tents at the Dresden site are jammed together side by side, sanitary facilities are totally inadequate and medical care and rubbish disposal facilities are virtually non-existent. It only took a few days for the first illnesses caused by the miserable conditions to make their appearance.

Authorities in Berlin have gone a step further and are leaving refugees homeless. According to the Berlin Council for Refugees, the state department for health care and social welfare is only giving out hostel vouchers to refugees, although just a third of the refugees find accommodation in hostels. Most hostels are filled with tourists or refuse to accept refugees, because the city of Berlin has failed to pay outstanding bills.

Refugees are compelled to sleep in parks or at the main train station in the open air. In violation of the law, they are given only €6 [$US6.56] per day, half the standard social security rate, to support themselves. If refugees then try to take action to help themselves, they are bullied. According to the Berlin state senate, begging in subways, on streets and in squares is “out of control”, resulting in its plan to ban begging by children.

In Ingolstadt, Bavaria, the Max Immelmann barracks are being refurbished to serve as a refugee camp for migrants from the Balkans. Up to 1,500 refugees will be accommodated there. Under the Bavarian government’s plan, a sped-up asylum procedure will see the applications processed within four weeks and the rejected refugees immediately deported. The Bavarian Refugee Council strongly criticised the planned reception centre and correctly described it as an “emergency camp with its own deportation airport”.

At the same time, calls are growing for the deployment of the army to intervene. German law excludes such a deployment in principle, because in the 20th century the Reichswehr—the army under the Weimar Republic—and the Wehrmacht—the armed forces under the Nazis—were used to brutalize the population. But this ban has been repeatedly watered down in recent years.

The German army was not only called on to assist during such natural disasters as the Elbe River flooding in 2002, but also at the G8 conference in Heiligendamm in 2007, when fighter jets and tanks were deployed to intimidate and suppress protests.

Now, the chairman of the committee on internal affairs in Saxony’s state parliament, Mario Pecher (Social Democratic Party, SPD), has called for the army to operate refugee reception centres. Saxony’s state premier Holger Stahlknecht (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) went even further, describing the number of refugees in Germany as an “international crisis resulting in conditions resembling the migration of entire peoples”. On this reactionary, hysterical basis, Stahlknecht raised the demand for “the current restriction of the German army to foreign deployments and disaster response” to be reconsidered.

Soldiers guarding camps of refugees from the Balkans recalls the Nazi concentration camps. In 1935, the Hitler government declared that Sinti and Roma were enemies of the Reich. More than 25,000 were registered in the German Reich and deported. In total, 500,000 fell victim to the Nazi butchery throughout Europe.

Today, relatives of the Roma make up the majority of the refugees from the Balkans. According to figures from the German government, 90 percent of asylum seekers from Serbia are Roma, 72 percent from Macedonia, 60 percent from Bosnia and 42 percent from Montenegro.

These refugees, in particular, are the target of scurrilous propaganda from the German media and politicians. Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer (Christian Social Union, CSU) has denounced them as “mass abusers of asylum”, while Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz (SPD) sounded a similar note by contemptuously saying that the immigrants were “refugees without any perspective of staying”.

Scholz also appealed for special reception centres to “arrive at quicker, non-bureaucratic decisions”. This means nothing less than the illegal curtailing of the asylum process and the swift deportation of refugees. Markus Ulbig (CDU) has also demanded the legal restriction of the right to asylum. He has begun reviewing “whether there is the possibility of curtailing the rights of obviously groundless asylum applications by reforming the basic law”.

Baden-Württemberg’s state premier Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) also called for additional anti-immigrant measures, including the cutting of the pocket money of €143 per month and the more decisive deportation of refugees. He also supports demands from SPD and CDU figures to declare Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro “secure” countries of origin, so asylum applications can be more quickly rejected and refugees more swiftly deported.

Roma in the Balkans, who already suffer from high unemployment and lack of prospects, are often discriminated against. They have virtually no chance of getting work, housing or education. Their settlements are regularly cleared by bulldozers and residents left homeless. Where settlements are tolerated, they are often located on or near rubbish dumps without electricity or water supply.

The German government is, in large part, responsible for the disastrous conditions in which the Roma live. In the early 1990s, Germany played a key role in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and the subsequent brutal civil war. In 1999, it actively intervened to devastate the Balkans with its participation in the war against Serbia. At that time, an estimated 100,000 Roma were forced to flee their homes and many remain homeless and stateless to this day.

Last year, a journalist described the situation of the Roma in Serbia for the Federal Agency for Civic Education: “They live in slums, which do not exist, in streets, which do not exist, in huts that have no numbers outside. Their children do not effectively exist because they were born in a place that does not exist, and this place does not exist, because it is not listed in any land registry office and officially does not exist.”

ProAsyl cites a legal opinion arguing that the inhumane conditions under which the Roma live in the Balkans, constitutes a “cumulative persecution” within the meaning of the right to asylum, which means that the Roma should be granted protection status.

Instead, the Roma in Germany are denounced as “social state spongers”, incarcerated in special camps, which are then guarded by German soldiers. This can only be described as cynical, racist policies. The official stigmatization of Roma as “social parasites” creates the climate for incitement and racist attacks against refugee facilities.

Dutch wigeon saved from shooting


This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

The Eurasian Wigeon is in the winter the second most numerous duck in the Netherlands. Here in the lake of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The males of the Eurasian Wigeons can be recognized by their orange red head with a yellow forehead. On the chest is a portion of salmon pink and the back is grey. The rear part is black. Females are mostly brown. The sound of the males is a high characteristic “piiew piiew”. This distinctive call has given the bird the nickname “whistling duck”. The wintering area is among others the Netherlands. In the summer they breed in Scandinavia and Siberia.

Translated from BirdLife in the Netherlands:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Last winter thousands of wigeon have been saved “saved” in North Holland province. The province had issued permits to dislodge wigeon while shooting many of them. BirdLife and local bird groups had raised objections. The court had ruled already that no wigeon should be shot there. Now, the province has also upheld our objections.