By Seraphine Collins
7 July 2015
By Seraphine Collins
7 July 2015
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Effort to restore a south Pacific species that became extinct in the wild have put it on ‘the road to being saved’, zoo says
Wednesday 27 May 2015 02.44 BST
A hundred endangered snails are on their way to Tahiti to restore a species that became extinct in the wild, the Detroit zoo said on Tuesday.
The zoo has been working for decades to preserve the tiny Partula nodosa snail, one of several species driven out of their native south Pacific habitat by efforts to control another invasive snail species that went awry.
In 1989 the Detroit zoo was sent 115 snails from five related species. The zoo asked other institutions to focus on four species and concentrated on breeding Partula nodosa.
At one time, the zoo had all the known Partula nodosa snails in the world.
“Our efforts and successful breeding of the snails resulted in the rescue and recovery of the species,” said Scott Carter, the zoo’s chief life sciences officer,. “Currently there are 6,000 individuals living in North American zoos, all descendants from the Detroit zoo’s original small group.”
The disappearance of the species and its cousins in the wild was a result of an effort at biological control of giant African land snails, which were introduced to Tahiti and other south Pacific islands in 1967 as a human food source. Some escaped, bred rapidly and began eating farmers’ crops.
To control the African snails, Florida rosy wolf snails were introduced about 10 years later, but the wolf snails instead developed a taste for the Partula nodosa and its cousins.
“With the sufficient growth of the captive population and the establishment of a protected area on Tahiti, this species is officially on the road to being saved,” Carter said.
By David Walsh in the USA:
19 May 2015
The revelation that the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was considering earlier this year selling an 1886 still life by Vincent van Gogh produced headlines and generated concern last week. Although retiring DIA director Graham Beal insisted that the painting “is not for sale and has never been offered for sale,” the reaction to the news is indicative of both popular sensitivity about the preservation of the DIA’s collection and ongoing nervousness about the museum’s unresolved financial state.
The story about van Gogh’s “Still Life with Carnations” being up for sale originally appeared in the Art Newspaper, the London-based publication, in March. The article in question asserted that the DIA was “about to reboot its deaccessioning programme [the sale of art by museums for the purposes of purchasing other art] after placing it on hold for two years during the city’s bankruptcy proceedings.” Beal was quoted as saying that “Deaccessioning is not controversial—US museums do it all the time—unless the intention is to use the funds for anything other than buying art.”
The Detroit News carried a story May 15, “Van Gogh for sale? DIA tiptoes into art auction market,” which suggested that the DIA was thinking about “a prospective, voluntary sale of some Detroit Institute of Arts works,” including the van Gogh work. Beal told the News he had decided not to sell the van Gogh, and to leave the matter of resuming art sales to his successor, who takes over July 1. He suggested that the story had emerged because “I had been talking to Sotheby’s and I think word leaked out.” He did not deny that the picture might be for sale, at the right price.
The Detroit Free Press then followed up with an article containing Beal’s denial that the painting had ever been for sale. That could be formally true, as the discussions with Sotheby’s may have been of a preliminary and general character.
In any case, the murky business was further muddied by the demagogic intervention of various pundits noting that during the bankruptcy process and the consequent threat to sell all or part of the DIA collection, Beal had insisted that not a single piece of the collection could be sold without doing it irreparable harm.
Of course, art museums do regularly and ethically sell works, but only for the purpose of upgrading their collections. The American Alliance of Museums’ “Code of Ethics for Museums” insists that “disposal of collections through sale, trade or research activities is solely for the advancement of the museum’s mission. Proceeds from the sale of nonliving collections are to be used consistent with the established standards of the museum’s discipline, but in no event shall they be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections.”
More and more, in fact, art and historical museums are selling precious works simply to stay afloat. The current economic conditions have created impossible circumstances for cultural institutions of every kind. Vast wealth is flowing almost exclusively into private and corporate hands, helping to ensure that “there is no money” for government funding of art and culture available to the general public.
Increasingly, the continued functioning of museums, orchestras and arts programs at every level is contingent on the whims of billionaires and their foundations. Their gift-giving can come to an end at any moment, depending on their immediate financial position. Moreover, the dominance of these corporate interests is a guarantee that nothing oppositional or truly original will emerge.
This is the case with the DIA. It may well be that there was nothing untoward in Beal’s testing out the art market waters. The van Gogh is not considered one of the artist’s major works, and was even considered a fake at one point (and the work’s donator gave it to the museum with the proviso that it should be sold to improve the collection). Nonetheless, the possible sale of such a work takes on a far larger significance in the present context.
The Detroit restructuring plan approved November 7, 2014, by Judge Steven Rhodes slashed pensions and health benefits for current and retired city workers, and at the same time handed over hundreds of millions of dollars to Wall Street banks, hedge funds and bond insurers. The approval concluded a lengthy process that included “the state government’s use of an antidemocratic law to install an unelected emergency manager, essentially a financial dictator, to throw the city into bankruptcy and slash pensions in violation of state constitutional protections.” (WSWS, November 8, 2014)
As part of the so-called “Grand Bargain,” the ownership of the DIA collection and building was handed over to a private non-profit, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Inc., which had already been operating the museum on a day-to-day basis. The change of ownership took place on December 10, 2014. The museum then reverted to its condition prior to 1919, at which time the city took it over.
With the entire political establishment and its accomplices in the unions fearful of popular reaction to pension cuts and the other attacks on workers, the “Grand Bargain” provided for $816 million over 20 years to somewhat lessen the blow. The DIA itself was called on to raise $100 million (which its officials say has been done), corporate foundations kicked in $366 million and the state of Michigan contributed $195 million up front, the equivalent of $350 million over two decades.
The approval of the restructuring plan last November was the occasion for much noisy commentary to the effect that the “DIA has been saved!” In fact, nothing about the museum’s future or financial situation has been resolved. True, the DIA’s fate has been taken out of the hands of the small-time crooks in Detroit’s local political apparatus…and placed more fully in the hands of far more dangerous criminals, the representatives of the auto makers, banks, utility companies and other major corporations.
The DIA owes its continued existence entirely to the corporate elite. A partial list of who or what are in effect the new owners of the museums includes the Ford Foundation, Kresge Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, William Davidson Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, McGregor Fund, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co./General Motors Foundation and the Chrysler Group.
Contributing to the DIA’s $100 million portion of the “Grand Bargain” settlement were the Penske Corp., DTE Energy, Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Meijer, Toyota, Comerica Bank, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
All in all, a who’s who of the corporate interests responsible for the social misery that blights the Detroit metropolitan area and makes life impossible for wide layers of the population.
Do these people give away anything for free, even taking into account that political considerations—i.e., fear of popular unrest—encouraged them to be “openhanded”?
The DIA board of directors elected seven new members in January 2015, including Stephen Biegun, a corporate officer and vice president of international governmental affairs for Ford Motor Company and a trustee of the Ford Motor Company Fund; Robert Jacobs, president and owner of Buddy’s Pizza; Victoria McInnis, chief tax officer for General Motors; Dennis Scholl, former vice president of arts for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (specifically nominated by the various foundations to be their observer on the DIA board); and Mark Zeffiro, chief financial officer and executive vice president of TriMas Corporation.
Detroit’s art museum will still need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to keep its doors open. The Free Press comments, “With its grand bargain funding obligation met, the DIA can now turn its full attention to raising roughly $275 million in new endowment funds over the next eight years. Those dollars are critical to ensuring the museum’s long-term financial stability after the tri-county tax support for the DIA expires in 2022.”
Phillips Oppenheim, which specializes in finding executives for non-profit organizations, asserts in a statement, “The challenge facing the DIA today is to establish an unrestricted operating endowment of approximately $400 million by 2023 that will provide adequate annual operating funds and obviate the need to return to the voters for a renewal of the millage.”
At the next crisis—and there will be a next crisis as surely as the sun rises and sets each day—who is to say that the museum board members, exempt from any public control or oversight, will not begin to sell the DIA’s masterpieces? What would hold them back? Perhaps the devastation of the museum would not take place all at one go, but Detroit residents run the risk of waking up one day and discovering a different institution on Woodward Avenue. Without the emergence of a socialist-minded working class movement, the future of the DIA is entirely at the mercy of the corporate-financial aristocracy.
This video fom the USA says about itself:
15 May 2015
On Monday, the city of Detroit began a new round of mass water shutoffs, threatening to stop water service for as many as ten percent of the city’s households. In this video, residents speak out against the shutoffs and discuss the connection between the attack on working-class living standards and the militarization of society.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Philip Levine on America’s Workers
20 December 2013
Poet Philip Levine joins Bill [Moyers] to discuss why Americans have lost sight of who really keeps the country afloat — the hard working men and women who toil, unsung and unknown, in our nation’s fields and factories.
During the years he himself spent in the grit, noise and heat of the assembly lines of Detroit auto plants, Levine discovered that his gift for verse could provide “a voice for the voiceless.” In his conversation with Bill, Levine reads from his collection of poetry and reflects on the personalities that inspired him, including women he met while working in a plumbing parts factory. “The work was hard and the women would get very tired and you couldn’t help but feel, ‘Oh my God, this is so tough; this is so dehumanizing,” Levine tells Moyers.
Philip Levine is the author of twenty collections of poems and books of translations and essays. He is the recipient of the Pulitzer and two National Book Awards and recently served as the nation’s poet laureate at the Library of Congress.
By Dorota Niemitz and Matthew Brennan in the USA:
Philip Levine (1928–2015): A poet of working class life and struggle
5 March 2015
The poet Philip Levine died on February 14, at the age of 87, in Fresno, California. Levine’s poetry is often associated with depictions of industrial working class life and struggle, particularly in and around Detroit.
Born in Detroit in 1928 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Levine himself was a factory worker for more than a decade, beginning at the age of 14. Among the factory and industrial jobs he held in the Detroit area were ones at the Cadillac Engine, Chevrolet Gear and Axle, and Wyandotte Chemical factories.
In his early teens Levine was initially inspired by poetry after reading Wilfred Owen’s anti-war poem Arms and the Boy. He later enrolled in the English department at Wayne State University, and became interested in Keats, Whitman, Hardy, William Carlos Williams and Hart Crane. He noted the connection between his work life and his growing artistic aspirations in an interview with Studs Terkel. “I was working in factories and also trying to write. I said to myself, ‘Nobody is writing the poetry of this world here; it doesn’t exist.’ And it didn’t. You couldn’t find it. And I sort of took a vow to myself … I was going to write the poetry of these people.”
In 1953 Levine enrolled in the University of Iowa Writing program, studying under the poets Robert Lowell and John Berryman. He considered Berryman his “one great mentor” in poetry, and speaks movingly of him in his autobiography The Bread of Time. Pursuing an academic career, he eventually became a professor of literature at Fresno State University in 1958, a position he held until he retired in 1992.
Levine’s published body of poetry spans from 1961 (On The Edge) to 2009 (News of the World). Some of his more well-known books of poetry include Not This Pig (1963), They Feed They Lion (1974), The Names of the Lost (1976), A Walk With Tom Jefferson (1988), and The Simple Truth (1995). He won a Pulitzer Prize for this last work. Capping a long list of literary awards received over his lifetime, he was named the Poet Laureate of the United States for 2011–2012.
Levine’s poetry and poetic style, at its best, captured the complexity and beauty behind the harsh exterior of social life for working people. Often his poems depicted daily urban American life through both chaotic and mundane images—the factories, smog and soil, the smell of bread, eggs and butter, grease and sweat, fevered children, snowstorms, cluttered diesel truck cabins, an assembly press malfunction, a winter-beaten garden, or a mother’s work clothes. He could tell a genuinely moving story and evoke honest imagery without sliding into sentimentality.
Back-breaking work, dreams, drudgery and love could find sudden, unexpected intersection in his poems. Take for instance, parts of “What Work Is,” or “Of Love and Other Disasters:”
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
The sad refusal to give in to
rain, the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say ‘No,
we’re not hiring today,’ for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German (…)
– from “What Work Is”
The punch press operator from up north
met the assembler from West Virginia
in a bar near the stadium
how the grease ate so deeply into her skin it became
a part of her, and she put her hand,
palm up, on the bar and pointed
with her cigarette at the deep lines
the work had carved. “The lifeline,”
he said, “which one is that?” “None,”
she said (…)”
– from “Of Love and Other Disasters”
Levine’s appeal was also due in part to the accessibility and directness of his free-verse poems, which relied on familiar, accurate, and authentic language –all the more impressive in an era (the 1960s through early 1990s) when postmodernism and its impenetrable jargon began to find significant influence in literature and art.
Memory, nostalgia, grief and anger were central, for better and worse, to Levine’s narrative approach. Most often his characters live in all three spaces of time across a poem. People and places that no longer exist are brought back to life in the present, and their dreams are projected onto the future, or up against the lack of a discernible future.
His best poems often emphasize tension between visual motifs—such as everyday objects, people or well-known places—and the non-visual elements they evoke in the sounds or feelings of a place or time. In “Those Were The Days” he writes about young boys imagining a hearty breakfast served on silver plates on a sunny day, before being dragged back into reality by their mother, without the food, putting on their galoshes and heading off to school in freezing November rain.
In “Salt and Oil” the elements of the poem’s title become opposing symbols for capturing the “unwritten biography of your city … There is no/ photograph, no mystery/ only Salt and Oil/ in the daily round of the world,/ three young men in dirty work clothes/ on their way under a halo/ of torn clouds and famished city birds./ There is smoke and grease, there is/ the wrist’s exhaustion, there is laughter,/ there is the letter seized in the clock.”
His compassion and humane treatment of his subjects are Levine’s strongest qualities, with his sympathies almost always clearly directed toward the exploited, overworked and weary people of his poems. In the haunting “Detroit, Tomorrow” for instance, Levine describes a mother who contemplates “how she’ll go back to work today” after her only child has been killed (“You and I will see her just before four/ alight nimbly from the bus, her lunch box/ of one sandwich, a thermos of coffee, a navel orange secured under her arm …”).
Or in “Among Children,” from a classroom of 4th grade schoolchildren in Flint, Michigan, he considers their fathers working in spark plug factories or water plants, their mothers waiting in old coats, and worries what the future brings (“You can see already how their backs have thickened, how their small hands, soiled by pig iron, leap and stutter even in dreams”).
One could easily list a dozen other poems evoking very human qualities in Levine’s poetry.
However, while his ability to movingly render the lives of “everyday people” and the grinding nature of work is admirable, those of his poems that move onto political and historical terrain point to some of Levine’s weaknesses. Here a tendency toward pessimism and resignation emerges most clearly.
Some of his most well-known poems—“They Feed They Lion” and “Animals Are Passing From Our Lives,” about racial tensions and the 1967 Detroit Riots, or “Francisco, I’ll Bring You Red Carnations” about events in the Spanish Civil War—are among his least effective.
Some of this can be explained in Levine’s world outlook. Throughout most of his life he identified himself as an anarchist. He dedicates numerous poems and essays to vignettes and to anarchist figures of the Spanish Civil War—a struggle he considered the most important of the 20th century. Many of these are captured in The Names of the Lost and in a chapter of his autobiography (“The Holy Cities”).
The themes of the more “political poems”—heroic individualism, defiance in the face of long odds, idealist notions of a better world—are generally passive and even demoralized. They lack a conception of the material and social basis of the revolutionary struggle. The poem “To Cipriano, In The Wind” is an apt illustration. Cipriano is the name of the Italian dry cleaner who inspired Levine’s turn toward anarchism as a youth. The poem is a discouraged longing for that particular idealism as it fades away in old age. …
There is an underlying element of retreat and defeat—of an individual “screaming in the wind”—in many of Levine’s poems, even in some of the warmer compositions. In a Paris Review interview towards the end of his life he stated as much, despite his hatred of imperialist oppression. “Those who have dominated our country most of my adult life are interested in maintaining an empire,” he said, “subjugating other people, enslaving them if need be, and finally killing those who protest so that wealthy and powerful Americans can go on enjoying their advantages over others. I’m not doing a thing about it. I’m not a man of action; it finally comes down to that. I’m not so profoundly moral that I can often overcome my fears of prison or torture or exile or poverty. I’m a contemplative person who goes in the corner and writes. What can we do?” …
His focus on the details of life in and around working class neighborhoods led one cultural critic to dub Levine the “large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland.” This description is somewhat misleading, however. It is indisputable that over the course of a lifetime Levine captured the episodes, dreams, daily routines, tragedies, disputes and complex interactions of working class lives in moving fashion. But his overall outlook is often shrouded by the view that life will never get any better. He is less of a fighter and optimist than Whitman, but Levine was no less sympathetic to his subjects than that poetic giant who preceded him by more than a century. He should be read and remembered for trying to give voice to the largely “voiceless” in industrial America.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Christmas in Detroit 2014
23 December 2014
Workers in Detroit speak about social conditions at Christmastime
By Zac Corrigan and Jerry White about this:
Video: Detroit workers speak on a Christmas of inequality in America
24 December 2014
Six years since the crash of 2008, the stock market is soaring to record highs and wealth inequality is at an historic high. At the same time, wages are stagnant and the Detroit bankruptcy has paved the way for pension cuts throughout America. In this video, Detroit workers describe the social conditions they face this Christmas.
Tim Rivers and Seraphine Collins write about this video from the USA:
Detroit residents speak out against war
24 September 2014
Despite a massive media propaganda campaign designed to railroad the public behind a new war, a broad section of workers and young people say they feel deeply opposed to the Obama administration’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.
Residents said the billions of dollars spent on war should be used to fund social services and infrastructure, which are crumbling in US cities like Detroit, even as poverty and hunger grow to record levels.