This December 2016 video from South Africa says about itself:
This video from the USA says about itself:
14 November 2016
As the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center are slamming President-elect Donald Trump for naming Stephen Bannon to become his chief strategist, we speak with SPLC President Richard Cohen about Bannon’s role as former head of the right-wing news outlet Breitbart Media and as Trump’s campaign manager.
“Two weeks after the Charleston massacre, [Breitbart News] ran an article talking about how people should proudly fly the Confederate flag,” Cohen says. He argues that the alt-right that Breitbart is associated with “is nothing more than the rebranding of white supremacy, white nationalism, for the digital age,” and calls on President-elect Trump to “speak out forcefully against all forms of bigotry, and then he has to follow talk with the walk.”
By Amanda Terkel, Senior Political Reporter, The Huffington Post in the USA:
Jewish Family Fears For Safety After Conservative Media Blames Them For Christmas Play Cancellation (UPDATE)
The school says it absolutely did not cancel the production because of religious complaints.
12/22/2016 01:09 pm ET | Updated 1 day ago
A Jewish family in Pennsylvania says it fears for its safety after media outlets across the country ran stories blaming them for the cancellation of a Christmas play.
Local station WHTM reported last week that Centerville Elementary School in Lancaster decided not to put on its production of “A Christmas Carol” this year after two parents complained to the them about the famous line, “God bless us, everyone.” The school had been doing the play for more than 40 years.
WHTM said school officials told the news outlet the play was not canceled because of complaints about that line, although “many parents” believed it was so.
The Fox News commentary piece framed the controversy as part of the so-called “war on Christmas.” “[T]his year, I’m afraid Tiny Tim’s goose has been cooked by the Ghost of Christmas Intolerance,” the article stated.
But the Hempfield School District has vehemently denied this account of why it canceled the play, and a Jewish family that says it’s being blamed for the controversy has left the area, according to LancasterOnline. The earlier articles did not identify the family as Jewish or name them, and later reports said the family had just gone on vacation.
The parents of a fifth grader in the district told LancasterOnline that they never asked for the play to be canceled or complained about it; they simply asked for their child to be excused and were told that was fine.
But they said since the school announced the cancellation last month, classmates had harassed their child. And after the story broke nationally, the school said it received at least 200 phone calls and emails about the play.
The family said they were disturbed by some of the comments on the conservative outlets’ stories ― including one on the Breitbart story asking for information about the family’s address.
And after a fake news story created an uproar over a pizza place in Washington, D.C. ― which resulted in a man coming in with an assault rifle to “self-investigate” whether there truly was a child sex ring there ― the family said they were afraid for their safety.
“There’s no way we’re going to take a chance after the pizza incident,” said the parents, who were not named by LancasterOnline.
But on Thursday night, after the LancasterOnline article was widely circulated, the Anti-Defamation League posted a statement saying that it had contacted the family and that it was incorrect to say they had fled the area.
“We spoke with the family, who explained that they went on a previously-planned vacation for the holidays,” said ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer. “Stories like this can sow fear in the Jewish community and beyond, and it is important to stop the spread of misinformation.”
Rabbi Jack Paskoff, of a Lancaster reform synagogue, told The Washington Post that although the family are not members of his congregation, he had been in regular touch with them. The child, he said, was being taunted on the bus about the play’s cancellation.
“It was getting prevalent enough that the family got concerned,” he said.
The Hempfield School District has backed up the family’s account. Officials have posted a FAQ sheet on its website and said the play was absolutely not canceled because of complaints over the “God bless us” line. Instead, they dropped the play because it consumed too much instructional time in the classroom. From the FAQ sheet:
The school said the principal also offered to work with parents and staff who were interested in producing the play during after-school hours, but “no one was either able or interested to assist with producing the play after school hours.”
“Had the primary concern been with the content of the play,” the school added, “possibilities for continuing the play would not have been sought by Mr. Kramer.”
Fox News has long promoted the notion that there’s a war on Christmas (and even a war on Easter). For more than a decade, host Bill O’Reilly has been a leading voice in network commentators’ fomentation that Christians are under attack over political correctness because people say “Happy holidays,” remove nativity scenes from public buildings or do anything to acknowledge that there are people of other religions in America.
But even Fox, it seems, isn’t always on the right side.
This 2015 video is called [Nat Geo Wild] Wild Russia: Arctic HD (Nature Documentary).
By Peter Frost in Britain:
Grandfather Frosty’s seasonal box of delights
Saturday 24th December 2016
PETER FROST, the Star’s Santa, brings a whole cornucopia of midwinter stories to amaze, amuse, annoy and perhaps even inspire
SHOCK horror, Jesus wasn’t born at Christmas. He was actually probably born in midsummer. Luke’s gospel tells us the shepherds were in the fields at the time of the birth and they would not be out in the fields in the cold and wet Judean winter.
Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census. Such censuses only happened in the summer months when primitive roads were passable.
In about the fourth century the Christian Church realised there would be benefits in celebrating Christmas around the winter solstice. Most cultures and religions have a major celebration at midwinter. Pagans call it the birthday of the sun.
The Christians jumped on the midwinter bandwagon. Or should that be sleigh?
The reason midwinter is so popular is simple and doesn’t need a spiritual content. By midwinter primitive cultures could calculate whether the stores of food and winter fuel were going to last until the spring. If things were looking good then they decided to have a party.
While we are bursting a few Yuletide myths, here is another one. Don’t believe the story that the jovial red-cloaked Father Christmas figure we all know and love was designed by the Coca-Cola company advertising department back in the 1930s. It is an urban myth but with just a bit of truth.
The red suit and hat with the white fur trim have given rise to the belief among some that Santa’s outfit was dreamed up by canny ad men who recast him in Coke corporate colours.
When Coke stopped putting active cocaine in its drinks it needed a new, cleaner image. What better than a jolly fat Santa? However his colour scheme owes more to medieval ecclesiastical vestments than a brainstorm on Madison Avenue.
An early man in red was the original Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century. Red and white were what traditional bishops wore.
In medieval England and for centuries afterwards, the figure of Father Christmas represented the spirit of benevolence and good cheer appearing in mumming plays.
“In comes I, Old Father Christmas, welcome or welcome not, I hope that Father Christmas will never be forgot,” is his typical first line in many of these ancient plays.
Coca-Cola pinched the character in the early 1930s, when Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom started drawing ads for Coke featuring a fat Santa in a red coat trimmed with fur and secured with a large belt.
In fact his jovial character is a real internationalist, appearing all across the globe. All over Russia, for instance, at this time of year children and their parents are ready to welcome Ded Moroz — a character rather like our Father Christmas.
Ded Moroz translates as Old Man Frost, although Grandfather Frost is an even more common description. He normally delivers presents to children on New Year’s Eve when he is usually accompanied by his granddaughter and helper known as the Snow Maiden. The pair of them are dressed in silver-blue robes trimmed with white fur. Although over the years his long coat has been just as likely to be bright red as electric blue.
During early Soviet times Ded Moroz was seen as an ally of the priests and the kulaks, but only 10 years after the revolution he was back in favour as the main symbol of the midwinter pre-festival celebrated by atheists and the Orthodox Church alike.
In the Czech Republic they celebrate another saint and one well known to us too. Good King Wenceslas, who as everyone knows went out on the Feast of Stephen when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
This Czech saint seized the throne of Bohemia in a coup. He was also undoubtedly gay. His page and lover Podiven had no shoes but the saintly king simply commanded him to walk in his royal footprints. Miraculously the footprints proved hot and the page’s feet stayed warm and toasty “where the saint had treaded.”
Podiven, church history relates, was closest of all the king’s many young pages. Wenceslas, it seems, used to wake his pages in the middle of the night to join him in doing “charitable works.”
Both Wenceslas and his beloved Podiven are buried side by side at St Vitus Cathedral in Prague, where many Catholics will come this Christmas to pay tribute to the two. I wonder how many of them realise they are at the grave of a same-sex couple?
Saint Nic, Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost and even Father Christmas are all supposed to live high above the Arctic Circle.
They may be the fictional inhabitants of these snowy and icy lands but there are plenty of real ones too. Polar bears, reindeer, whales, walruses and other marine mammals as well as many tribes of aboriginal peoples.
Sadly things in Santa’s back garden aren’t looking too rosy. The Arctic has experienced record lows in sea ice extent in November this year.
Warm temperatures and winds are driving record declines in Arctic sea ice. Arctic sea ice reduced by three quarters of a million square miles. That is an area of ice larger than Denmark, and this at a time when sea ice is usually growing.
The slump in November sea ice follows a persistent trend in the Arctic, where warming temperatures are causing problems for indigenous communities and wildlife, like polar bears and walruses.
The loss of reflective sea ice makes the warming process worse by exposing the dark sea, which soaks up more heat which in turn helps melt more ice. Sea ice and snow are white and reflect the sun’s warmth.
That warming is particularly difficult for polar bears, which venture out onto the pack ice in winter to hunt seals and walruses. Now they have longer and longer to wait before the ice is thick enough to bear their weight.
Although polar bear numbers are shrinking the Canadian government is still selling the right to kill one of these magnificent creatures for about £30,000.
Santa loves his reindeer and so do the Sami people who occupy the area of land at the most northern reaches of Sweden, Norway, Finland and western Russia.
The whole area is sometimes called Lapland and on these huge areas of Arctic tundra the Lapp or Sami graze their huge herds of semi-wild reindeer.
The Sami have for centuries been the subject of discrimination and abuse by the dominant cultures claiming possession of their lands right up to the present day. None of the countries in which the Sami make their home have ever treated these nomadic people well.
Norway is probably worst of all and has been greatly criticised by the international community for the politics of Norwegianisation of and discrimination against the Sami.
In 2011 the UN racial discrimination committee made recommendations to Norway, including on the educational situation for students needing bilingual education in Sami.
In Finland, Sami children, like all Finnish children, are supposed to be entitled to day care and language instruction in their own language. However the Finnish government has denied funding for these education rights.
More and more of the Sami’s traditional reindeer grazing lands are being stolen for wind farms and other such projects.
The rights and rich Nordic culture represented by these “people of the deer” all across the Arctic lands are being trampled underfoot in the name of something called progress.
Prospecting for oil in Arctic waters is another massive threat to the delicate balance of life in the ocean above the Arctic circle.
Whales and walruses are still hunted and their traditional waters are under more and more threat from pollution and the exploitation of the area’s undoubted mineral wealth.
Have a good holiday, eat and drink well and come back in the New Year fighting fit to get on with the job we all have to do: building a world of peace, equality and social justice. That’s all I want for Christmas.
What about you?
This video from the USA says about itself:
18 December 2016
White Breasted Nuthatch conducts the “Chipmunk Christmas Choir” in a rousing rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” beneath the town square Hemlock Tree. The Peanut Gallery – er “audience” is the forest squirrels. Have a great Holiday Season!
This video from Britain says about itself:
No Go Britain – The Disability Debate
21 September 2016
In 2012 Britain’s Paralympians repeatedly struck gold. Four years on athletes have arrived back home from Rio with their record haul of medals. But what is everyday life like for the majority of disabled people?
By Charlotte Hughes in Britain:
When you have nothing, Christmas can be the worst time of the year
Monday 19th Deember 2016
LAST Thursday we held our third Christmas demonstration outside Ashton-Under-Lyne jobcentre.
We gave our demonstration a special Dickensian theme to highlight the significance and similarities between life in Victorian England and the struggles that the poorest in society are having now.
We handed out leaflets, food parcels, advice and solidarity.
We also laid a wreath in memory of everyone who has passed away as a result of the injustice of Tory policy.
It seems that the poorest are being targeted by the Tory government from every angle.
From the bedroom tax, council tax supplement, sanctions, failing ESA medicals, PIP assessments, the list goes on and on. It seems never-ending, and in many respects it is. For many its a constant battle just to keep going. Life isn’t about living and it has become, in my eyes, the survival of the fittest. But eventually the fittest cave in.
Over the three years that I have spent campaigning I have seen many terrible things, too many to mention here.
There are some though that I will never forget. Sometimes the upset can be overbearing.
These are the people who the government would like us not to remember. The Tories don’t want their stories to be heard. After all, it’s not good publicity for them when they are trying to convince others in Parliament and their media outlets that everything is going well.
One of the first stories that we came across was a young woman who was 23 weeks’ pregnant with her first child. She had been getting help with her job searches and had been doing everything correctly.
However this did not prevent her from getting sanctioned twice. She was told by her jobcentre adviser that she had to attend a workfare interview. She attended this interview, but was sanctioned for telling the workfare provider that she was pregnant. This left her with no income, trying to feed herself and her unborn child.
This shocked us. We were then aware of how serious this issue was, and it also alerted us to how serious the culture of sanctioning actually is.
No-one was talking about sanctioning, so I then made a concerted effort to highlight this as much as possible.
When universal credit was introduced in Ashton-Under-Lyne three years ago, we were chosen as a pilot area. We didn’t know what to expect, but every week it seemed to get worse and worse.
There have been weeks when I feel that I have left a little piece of my spirit outside that building. Sounds silly, but when I’m told of a suicide of a claimant that I knew, or the desperation that someone is feeling, I can’t help but take it to heart.
The parts that have been left have been made almost impossible to obtain. So people give up, become disheartened and live a reclusive lifestyle.
Sometimes I think that there won’t be an end to it. How much suffering are people going to be forced to take?
This situation is especially highlighted at Christmas time. When you have nothing, Christmas can be the worst time of the year. The very mention of the word Christmas can send people into a state of anxiety.
A trip to the supermarket is a reminder of what you don’t have. Seeing all the nice things on the shelves, but having to walk past to find the reduced food aisle so you can see if there’s anything cheap enough to buy. This is a reality for many of us.
People feel alone, unloved and not wanted by society. Discarded like yesterday’s newspaper. If you haven’t got money you can’t join in with the Christmas celebrations around you.
This is why we hold a special Christmas demonstration. To show solidarity, support and a friendly face, which is needed in what is to them a hostile world.
We handed out about 16 food parcels in just over two hours. We could have handed out more if we had them. The mince pies, satsumas and treats that we had laid out on a table all went in record time.
I find this shocking, disturbing and it’s only going to get worse, especially now the new benefits cap is in place.
Our peaceful demonstration wasn’t without incident though.
In over two years of weekly demonstrations outside the jobcentre we have had no incidents. But last week a group of young lads decided that they were going to cause trouble.
They appeared to take offence at our helping others, giving food and advice to the most vulnerable.
Words like “Disabled people are scroungers” were used and they were very aggressive.
This alarmed me because it shows we have still have a lot of work to do. It’s easy when surrounded by like-minded people to not realise that discrimination towards disabled and unemployed people is a massive problem.
And this needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency, not left and ignored.
People are feeling isolated enough already, without the added pressure of discrimination.
These boys were young, at the start of their lives, but they had been sucked in by the right-wing rhetoric spun by the media and television, which is hard to get away from.
We need to change this — reach out to these people, to try to oppose Tory ideology when we see it. Joining together in solidarity as a decent opposition instead of name-calling and criticising others.
The important issue should be to oppose Tory policy at every level.
Unless we do this, not much will change except the persecution of the poor will get worse, if that is at all possible. And I don’t know how much more they can take. Many are at breaking point already.
From the BBC today:
Australian woman finds snake curled up in Christmas tree
A woman has discovered a 1m-long venomous snake wrapped around her Christmas tree in Australia.
Snake catcher Barry Goldsmith said the reptile entered through an open door before curling up among the decorations.
Mr Goldsmith said the woman “reacted quite well” after making the discovery.
“She left the room, put a towel down as a door jam and came and rang me,” he told the BBC.
The snake was released back into the wild. The species is protected in most Australian states.
Mr Goldsmith said he was used to finding snakes in unusual places.
“I’ve found them in ugg boots, washing machines, dog kennels, cat boxes, toilets, kitchen cupboards and bookcases,” he said.
See also here.