March 1, 2015

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Murder in Moscow. The investigation is looking into five possible motives behind the high-profile, well-planned assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

Jim comment: Suddenly last summer, Vladimir Putin, formerly once a decent enough Russian leader (with a few unsettling quirks), turned into a malevolent, almost demonic, force. Congratulations to the Western Axis’ propaganda system for putting over this remarkable metamorphosis. Regarding the following links on the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, two years ago, February 2012, Putin was warning Russians about exactly the kind of false flag we just may have seen happen with the murder of Nemtsov. Putin warned that some within and without Russia were looking to turn someone into an involuntary martyr. In that commentary Putin used the Russian word provocatsiia. The word is often translated as “provocation” which is not incorrect as long as you are aware (I was informed by a Russian-speaking friend) that in Russian “provocation” can mean “false flag”. Friday’s shooting brought Putin’s two-year-old comments back into my mind. Had Putin foreseen and warned about a false flag “sacrifice”?

Nemtsov murder: Russian investigators probing provocation, Charlie Hebdo links
RT Russia Februry 28, 2015


A murder scene of politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Moskvoretsky bridge. Photo: Iliya Pitalev/RIA Novosti. Visit this page for its related links.

The assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow was well-planned, investigators said. Versions of the crime range from a political provocation to a revenge killing by radical Islamists.

“There is no doubt that this crime was carefully planned. The location and timing of the killing indicated that as well. The investigation found out that Boris Nemtsov was going with his female friend to his apartment, which is located close to the murder scene. The organizers and the executers apparently knew his route,” Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, told journalists.

Markin said the best detectives and forensic experts are involved in the case, which is considered a top priority by law enforcement authorities.

Preliminary results show that the politician was killed from a Makarov pistol. Experts found six 9-mm cartridge cases at the scene, Markov said. The cartridges were produced by several different manufacturers, he added.

At the moment the investigation is focused on questioning the eyewitnesses and studying mobile traffic data in the immediate area of the crime, which may provide an insight into communications of the criminals. Footage from CCTV cameras is also being studied.

The investigation is looking into five possible motives behind the high-profile assassination, Markin said.

“The murder could be a provocation to destabilize the political situation in the country. Nemtsov could have been chosen as a sort of ‘sacral sacrifice’ by those who don’t hesitate to use any methods to reach their political goals,” he said.

“There are reports that Nemtsov received threats due to his position over the shooting of Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris,” Markin said, adding that a possible link to the Ukrainian civil war was also being investigated.

“It’s no secret that both sides of that conflict have among their ranks very radical figures who take no orders from any authority,” he said.

Other versions voiced by Markin involve Nemtsov’s business interests and a possible assault related to his personal life.

Later in the day, the car allegedly used in the attack was discovered not far from the scene of the crime. Russian media reported that it had Ingushetian license plates. [Note: The Republic of Ingushetia is a federal subject of Russia located in the North Caucasus region. Ingushetia is one of Russia’s poorest and most restive regions.]

Breaking news: FALSE FLAG IN MOSCOW!
“The Saker” Vineyrd of the Saker USA February 27, 2015

Right: Nemtsov with Viktor Yushchenko. Following the ‘Orange Revolution’ (November 2004 to January 2005), Yushchenko was the third President of Ukraine from 2005 to 2010. Visit this page for its embedded links.

Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. He was one of the most charismatic leaders of the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition in Russia (please understand that in the Russian context “liberal” and “democratic” means pro-US or even CIA-run, while “non-system” means too small to even get a single deputy in the Duma). He was shot just a few days before the announced demonstration of the very same “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition scheduled for March 1st.

As I have already explained many times on this blog, the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition in Russia has a popular support somewhere in the range of 5% (max). In other words, it is politically *dead* (for a detailed explanation, please read “From Napoleon to Adolf Hitler to Conchita Wurst”). In the hopes of getting a higher number of people to the streets the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system”opposition allied itself with the ultra-nationalists (usually useful idiots for the CIA) and the homosexual activists (also useful idiots for the CIA). Apparently, this was not enough.

And now, in *perfect* timing, Nemtsov is murdered.

We all know the reaction of the AngloZionists and their propaganda machine. It will be exactly the same as for MH-17: Putin the Murderer!!! Democracy Shot!! Freedom Killed!! etc. etc. etc. etc.

There is no doubt in my mind at all that either this is a fantastically unlikely but always possible case of really bad luck for Putin and Nemtsov was shot by some nutcase or mugged, or this was a absolutely prototypical western false flag: you take a spent politician who has no credibility left with anyone with an IQ over 70, and you turn him into an instant “martyr for freedom, democracy, human right and civilization”.

By the way if, as I believe, this is a false flag, I expect it to be a stunning success in the West and a total flop in Russia: by now, Russians already can smell that kind of setup a mile away and after MH-17 everybody was expecting a false flag. So, if anything, it will only increase the hostility of Russians towards the West and rally them around Putin. In the Empire, however, this will be huge, better than Politkovskaya or Litvinenko combined. A “Nemtsov” prize will be created, a Nemtov statue will be place somewhere (in Warsaw?), the US Congress will pass a “Nemtsov law” and the usual combo package of “democratic hagiography” will be whipped-up.

What worries me most is that the Russian security services did not see this one coming and let it happen. This is a major failure for the FSB which will now have a lot at stake to find out who did it. I expect them to find a fall-guy, a patsy, who will have no provable contacts with any western services and who, ideally, might even have some contacts with the Russian services (like Andrei Lugovoi).

As for the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” – it will probably re-brand the upcoming protests as a “tribute to Nemtsov” thereby getting more people into the streets.

‘Opposition is necessary…but we wouldn’t vote for them,’ most Russians hold
RT Russia February 27, 2015

Visit this page for its related link, “No Solidarity as opposition split over licensed Spring March in Moscow”.

Over half of all Russians agree that an opposition is a necessary part of the political system, but very few agreed with the current demands of opposition politicians or said that they would like to see those people in power one day.

According to the latest research by independent pollster Levada Center, the proportion of Russians who agreed with the statement that an opposition is a necessary part of the political system was 58 percent. At the same time, only 19 percent of respondents said an opposition was necessary to ensure the timely replacement of state authorities.

Some 22 percent of respondents opposed the very existence of opposition movements in the country, saying it only atomizes the community by causing unnecessary conflicts. In addition, most who hold that view see all such efforts as futile – only 15 percent said they thought that opposition activities were obstructing the authorities’ work aimed at solving the problems that stand before the society.

Politicians that are considered ‘non-system opposition’ claimed even fewer supporters – only 3 percent of those polled said they sympathized with persons from the Solidarity Coalition and a further 12 percent said they sympathized with some parts of the Solidarity agenda. It should be noted, that the term ‘non-system’ was used more due to inertia of public perception as most of the personalities behind the coalition – such as Boris Nemtsov or Aleksey Navalny – already have registered political parties and participate in elections.

Levada Deputy Head Aleksey Grazhdankin said in comments to Kommersant that the current state of public mood could be explained by the absence of genuine opposition in the country and the great effort of the authorities to discredit any dissent in the eyes of the broader public. However, he did not delve into defining a ‘real’ opposition and pointing out its differences from projects that currently bear this name in Russian politics.

In the same poll, Levada asked the public about their attitude to the slogans proposed for the forthcoming major opposition event – the ‘Spring March’ scheduled for March 1. The most popular ideas were “passing laws against illegal enrichment of civil servants” with 32 percent of supporters and “ensuring the fairness of elections” with 30 percent. The ‘Stopping the war in Ukraine’ slogan claimed 18 percent of supporters.

Other demands garnered almost negligible support. The call to cancel the alleged censorship in mass media was shared by only 5 percent of Russian citizens, and “decentralization of power” and “release of all political prisoners” claimed 2 percent of supporters each.

However, one of the organizers of the rally, Leonid Volkov, explained the lack of support by the fact that the slogans had been developed on the basis of requests of those who regularly attend protest rallies rather than the broad public.

‘Nemtsov’s death a tragedy for opposition, Russia – and Putin’
RT Russia February 28, 2015

Visit this page for its related link and video.

The assassination of Boris Nemtsov is a tragedy for Russia, its people and Vladimir Putin, says Aleksandra Nerozina, a London-based journalist, adding that, like any other president, Putin needs opposition – or he simply cannot build a democratic society.

RT: There’s been reaction to the killing from around the world – the UK Foreign Office also said earlier it was saddened and appalled by the murder. Tell us more about the reaction in Britain.

Aleksandra Nerozina: The reaction here is quite understandable. It’s a world support for the family member who lost their loved one and a friend. That’s the number one. The second line is base line which has been projected recently quite strongly that somehow it is bad thing for Russia where things like that should be looked from this point of view whatsoever. This is a murder which all Russians are appalled by because it is clearly not something that is savoury by any means.

I can base it on my experience with similar events happening in the past and clearly every time used in accordance not to condemn the situation but rather to put the finger on Russia. Unfortunately it’s an uprising voice of Putin and the Kremlin, which is an absolute nonsense from all points of view. You all remember the famous death of Berezovsky who himself – and I knew him personally well enough – he was saying to me numerous times: “I will never ever be destroyed or killed by the Kremlin.”

t’s nobody’s business at the moment to judge what happened. We have to wait for the investigation to take the place first to see what will actually be found but all the scenarios are possible. What we should abstain from is using this situation to blame Putin and Russia.

What I will say to Russian people who are stronger and who know what is happening exactly. It will unite them even more against such a violent act. Imagine, you have the Kremlin; you have one of the members of the opposition who was absolutely harmless.

Mind me, don’t forget who Putin is. If he wanted to take somebody out, it would have been taken with so many ways without it being such a public display which is quite ridiculous. What is upsetting is that when I look through at what is already the voices raising quietly but sharply, a voice of disappointment, yet again point at Russia for something that Russia is actually upset with the west. I won’t be surprised if some proof will be found with some western counterparts, whether it would be Ukraine involved or CIA, or MI6, MI5. It could be anybody’s game if we play the blame game. We should not be doing that.

We should be waiting for the results. We should wait what is happening exactly rather than speculate in such this absolutely disgusting manner and I want for the world to remember that it’s Russia’s loss, not theirs, and they should be given condolences to Russian people, to Russian president, to support him.

Because, as any other president, Putin needs opposition. And that’s one of the known facts in politics. Every politician requires and needs to have an opposition without which they simply cannot be a democratic society. Nemtsov, however harmless he was, he was an oppositionist with very few votes [for] him – as you know, Russians overwhelmingly support Putin.

And again coming and comparing it to Berezovsky I can only state that Berezovsky at his time – he was saying that he would never be touched because “Putin needs me. He needs that opposition. He needs that devil on the other side for west to pet somebody who will open opposition.”

Good news out of Russia – even the “non-system” opposition refuses to blame the Kremlin
“The Saker” Vineyrd of the Saker USA February 28, 2015

Honestly, I never thought the day would come where I would have anything good to say about the Russian “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition but apparently this day has come today. To my surprise, all the leaders of this opposition have so far made very moderate and reasonable statement and all those which I have heard have apparently dismissed the notion that the Kremlin was behind the murder. Now this might be self-evident for most of us, but for the Russian “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition this is quite a change of tone. Many have even said that this murder was a “provocation” (which in this context means “false flag”!) to destabilize Russia and create a crisis. Even Irina Khakamada, normally a real crackpot, has said that this was either a “provocation” or the action of a small group of extremists.

Maybe they are aware that the Russian public will not “buy” it, maybe MH17 was too clearly a false flag, or maybe they simply had a momentary moment of decency, but as far as I know nobody pointed the finger at Putin (okay, somebody somewhere probably did, I am just not aware of it). Again, this is quite remarkable.

Everybody, pro and anti Kremlin, agree that it is absolutely essential that this crime be solved. Since I personally believe that this was a US/UK organized false flag, I fully expect that somebody will be found and, as we say in Russian, that the “(trail) end will end in the water” meaning that there will be no proof of western involvement. If fact, even if the FSB *does* come across such proof, the Russians will most likely not make it public but use it behind the scenes. As for those who organized it, they also need somebody to get caught because if nobody ever gets caught, then this looks way too professional, but if a small cell of, say, rabid anti-Semitic nationalists, does get caught, then that exculpates all other possible suspects. Considering that the crime happened 200m away from the Kremlin, and that the city center is laced with cameras, I fully expect an arrest in the next 48 hours, a week max.

The bottom line is that in Russia this false flag is already a clear failure, not even the notorious Russian “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition wants to touch this thing. This is very good news indeed. In the West, of course, this is a different story, the AngloZionist will use that to a max, no doubt here at all.

Everything will be done to punish those behind ‘vile’ murder of Nemtsov – Putin
RT Russia February 28, 2015


Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Boris Nemtsov. Photo: Vladimir Fedorenko/RIA Novosti. This page contains a 48-second audio link, a statement by Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on the Nemtsov murder.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised that everything will be done to punish those responsible for the organization and execution of the murder of opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov.

“Everything will be done for the organizers and executors of this vile and cynical murder to receive the punishment they deserve,” the statement on the Russian President’s official website said.

Boris Nemtsov, a veteran opposition figure in Russia, was gunned down in a drive-by attack in central Moscow overnight Friday.

The murder, which happened just away from the Kremlin, triggered worldwide condemnation and calls to bring the killers to justice.

Previously, Putin expressed his condolences to Nemtsov’s mother and said that he shared her grief.

“Please, accept my deepest condolences on this irreparable loss. I sincerely share your grief,” a telegram by the President, posted on the Kremlin’s website, said.

Boris Nemtsov “left his mark in the history of Russia – in its political and public life. He occupied on important positions in the difficult transition period of our country. He stated his point of views in an honest and straight forward manner and always defended his stance,” Putin stressed.

Moscow city authorities meanwhile have given permission to Russian opposition leaders to hold a march to commemorate Nemtsov after they canceled a planned protest rally due to the murder. The Sunday rally will cross the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge where the politician was shot dead.

Nemtsov, 55, gained popularity as a governor to Nizhny Novgorod region, staying in the office from 1991 to 1997. He served as energy minister and deputy prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin. After 1998 he participated in the creation of several liberal movements and parties, serving as a Member of Parliament. Since 2012, he had co-chaired the liberal party RPR-PARNAS (Republican Party of Russia – People’s Freedom Party), being more involved in business than politics.

Reflections on the murder of Boris Nemtsov
Eric Kraus Russia Insider Russia February 28, 2015

The crime is horrific. But there is something a little too convenient for Washington in all of this.

Politically, Mr Nemtsov was a spent force – he had a real following in the 1990s, where he was briefly a major player. Unlike Navalny, who is opportunistic, smart and frankly dangerous, Nemtsov’s following was largely limited to foreign journalists and a small group of Russian liberals.

Had the Kremlin wanted him out of the way there were other ways – especially in Moscow. A car crash. An (induced) heart attack. Poisons. Why do a public hit within sight of St. Basel’s Cathedral on Red Square so as to provide a public feast for the foreign press picture editors?

The timing is equally suspicious. Perfectly timed to draw maximum attention to the upcoming opposition March which had risked falling flat. The March itself is no conceivable threat to Mr Putin – who now enjoys the sort of popularity common to wartime leaders in any country – but it is the best shot the West has, knowing that any political murder in Moscow will be systematically attributed to the Kremlin by the tame Western press – whether of a Putin opponent (Politkovskaya) or a fervent supporter (Paul Klebnikov, Forbes). By some odd coincidence, several of these killings took place immediately before President Putin was to address some particularly high-profile international meeting.

The fact that this horrific murder is most beneficial to the anti-Russian factions does not, of course, prove that Washington was in any way involved. It suggests it – which is a very different matter…

There is another – less conspiratorial – theory. The Kiev regime – openly supported by Mr Nemtsov and his followers – is genuinely very unpopular in Russia. Live television coverage of the savage bombardment of Lugansk and Donetsk has evoked some strong passions. There is a hardline, nationalist faction, and Russia can be a violent place. It is entirely possible that someone decided to take revenge for the people of Novorossiya, answering one barbaric crime with another.

There is only one certainty: this murder will be exploited by the Western press which will largely not even bother to formally attribute it to the Kremlin – but simply do a quick montage – Red Square, Putin opponent lying dead. It’s an easy sell.

We can only hope that the murderers will be found and punished – and that political violence – in Moscow as in Lugansk – will be universally condemned.

RIP

Posted at: March 1, 2015 - 1:40 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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Canada’s proposed anti-terrorism act (C-51), an assessment

Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions.

Canada’s proposed anti-terrorism act, an assessesment
Craig Forcese and Kent Roach Canada ongoing

Visit this site for its embedded links.

About the project

We are trying something we have never done before: legal scholarship done in “real time” in a highly politicized environment, in which fundamental decisions about the shape of law are being made.

We are responding to Bill C-51, the government’s controversial anti-terror law proposal.

We will be publishing a book with Irwin Law on this topic as soon as humanly possible, and hopefully before the bill is a “done deal” (assuming it is not, already). Here, our objective is to make available chapters and sections in draft form, as they are prepared. These materials will continue to be edited up until final publication. They are dynamic, working documents. But our hope is that early open-source draft posting will assist those working in this active and developing area.

We cannot deal with every aspect of the bill simultaneously, although you will find our current thinking on many items if you search the web for our opeds, or visit one of us (Forcese) at www.nationalsecuritylaw.ca.

We will develop the ideas and conclusions we present. If you disagree with the legal opinions we express, tells us. More generally, we welcome (and very much encourage and need) feedback, critiques, suggestions and observations from other lawyers, legal scholars and other interested persons with expertise to contribute (whether practical, legal, scholarly). We are, in other words, calling for a “crowdsourced” response to Bill C-51. (But please, no rhetoric and conspiracy theories or political commentary. That is not what the project is about.)

Useful Documents

Consolidated CSIS Act (unofficial) with Bill C-44 and Bill C-51 amendments

Irwin Law Books by Roach & Forcese

Recent Posts

Bill C-51 Backgrounder #5: Oversight and Review: Turning Accountability Gaps into Canyons? February 27, 2015
Bill C-51 Backgrounder # 4: The Terrorism Propaganda Provisions February 23, 2015
Bill C-51: Brief Explainer Video February 20, 2015
Bill C-51 Backgrounder # 3: Sharing Information and Lost Lessons from the Maher Arar Experience February 16, 2015
Bill C-51 Backgrounder #2: The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s Proposed Power to “Reduce” Security Threats through Conduct that May Violate the Law and Charter February 12, 2015

Archive – February 2015

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Related audio: Defending and dissecting Bill C-51
“The House With Even Solomon” CBC Radio One Canada February 28, 2015

You can listen to the entire program (49:59) from a pop-up link on this page or you can choose to listen to selected episodes:

Steven Blaney discusses radicalization and anti-terrorism legislation

In light of recent stories of alleged radicalization of young Canadians, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney talks about the impact Bill C-51 would have had on those cases. Blaney also answers some of the key criticisms of the anti-terrorism bill. (15:16)

Craig Forcese dissects Bill C-51

Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa Craig Forcese is in the middle of an ongoing analysis of the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation. He highlights a number of legal issues with the bill. (14:26)

Perry Bellegarde on missing and murdered indigenous women, Bill C-51

Was Friday’s national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women a success or a failure? The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, says a lot more needs to be done. (7:11)

In House panel – February 28

In House panelists Mark Kennedy and Tasha Kheiriddin tackle the debates over proposed anti-terrorism measures and new end-of-life legislation. (6:28)

Posted at: March 1, 2015 - 11:41 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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The war on understanding cancer: Deceit and greed the hallmarks of a century-long sham & Raising a stink over getting Pinked

Devra Davis’ book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, traces sickening, century-long pattern of public relations deceit, academic timidity and media collusions that have kneecapped scientific research and promoted public confusion about this disease.

The war on understanding cancer
Geoff Olson Common Ground British Columbia Canada February 2015

On a cold, grey day in December, I dropped into a North Shore hospice to visit a friend. As he reclined in a wheelchair in the common room, a violin quintet played holiday standards. I slid into a free chair between him and his father to take in the remainder of the performance. In a quiet voice, my sick friend began to sing along to Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.

My friend and neighbour was both a gentleman and a gentle man. A high school science teacher and father of two, he raised bees and drove an electric car quieter than a sewing machine. He didn’t smoke, drink to excess or even use a cell phone. He was all about healthy living, sustainability and helping out his neighbours. Thanks to him, my wife and I were able to grow our own vegetables after he built an extra garden plot for us in his backyard.

I have lost a disturbing number of friends and acquaintances in the past year and a half to cancer. Two had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most malignant form of brain tumour.

Cancer is not of recent vintage, as indicated by fossil evidence of a dinosaur that suffered from a bone tumour 150 million years ago. If you manage to survive other age-related ailments, there’s a good chance that some form of the disease will get you in the end; it is a predictable, if ironic, result of life extension.

Yet my neighbour was only 33 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Over the past 20 years, there has been a 22% increase in brain tumours in the US population, according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute. And here is the kicker: in the last 20 years, the incidence of brain tumours has reportedly increased by 35% in children younger than 15.

The Lancet predicts a global increase in overall cancer rates by more than 75% by 2030.

Devra Davis, PhD, was the founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and a professor of epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health (2004-2010). Her 2007 book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, traces a sickening, century-long pattern of public relations deceit, academic timidity and media collusion that has kneecapped scientific research and promoted public confusion about this disease.

Davis details how the “astonishing alliances” between academics and people with vested interests in selling potentially carcinogenic materials have kept the public in the dark about risks to their health.

Related: Breast cancer, “the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns.”

Raising a stink over getting Pinked: Will “Boob Bombing” really prevent breast cancer?
Alan Cassels Common Ground British Columbia Canada March 2015

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Rarely, if ever, has a disease colonized a colour, but that’s precisely what you can say about the corporate fundraising behemoth around breast cancer. It’s audacious, sometimes crass and very hard to miss. And did I say, it’s very, very pink?

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Get Pink Campaign kicks things off on March 12, urging you to “recruit your co-workers or classmates to join your Get Pink’d! team…” You could go one step further and “Shop for the Cure,” choosing from 35 corporate or community partners to spend money on to raise money for the cause. Or you could send a “Boob Bomb,” touted as “a fun and cheeky way to help remind your friends that they should check their breasts regularly.” While you’re at it, download the free Don’t Forget to Check app so you can learn how your breasts look and feel.

Ok, go ahead, call me a curmudgeon, but is all this saucy pinkification of our lives and all the touchy feely – literally speaking – stuff about breasts likely to make any difference?

I can understand how people get infected with the urge to jump aboard the breast cancer bandwagon. Those who’ve had a close brush with breast cancer or lost a loved one to the disease are likely to find great comfort in a likeminded community that somehow wants to contribute back.

The foundation’s Don’t Forget to Check program sounds benign and fun, but like many aspects of breast cancer advocacy, there is the obvious gap between the research around what they’re promoting and the marketing hype. One message – that women should carry out routine breast self examinations – is the opposite of what you hear from evidence-based sources, such as the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which says breast self-examination shouldn’t be done – probably because there is no evidence it helps and may even cause harm.

In the two trials where it’s been studied, it led to more imaging procedures and biopsies than for control patients without changing the length or quality of those women’s lives. You should definitely talk to your doctor about any suspicious changes to your breasts, but the push to carry out routine breast self examination is not endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Family Physicians or the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC).

As for full-blown mammography, there is also a contrast between the advocates and the cautious experts. Those who review screening as part of Canada’s Task Force on Preventive Health Care don’t recommend that women start mammography in their 40’s, but recommend doing it every two to three years starting at age 50. The USPSTF agrees with this and says women should only do it every two years until age 74. By contrast, the American Cancer Society says women should be getting a mammogram every year starting at 40, “continuing as long as a woman is in good health.” The American College of Radiology has the most zealous pro-screening position, claiming, “By not getting annual mammograms starting at age 40, you increase your chances of dying from breast cancer and the likelihood that you will experience more extensive treatment for any cancers found.”

So who is right? Why do some groups recommend having mammograms twice as often as another group? Does this have anything to do with the science-based orientation of some groups (like the USPSTF or the CTFPHC) versus the advocacy, fundraising and professional goals of other groups?

Posted at: March 1, 2015 - 10:39 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

February 28, 2015

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Thursday, February 26, 2015

World News

Two brave, defiant governments: Icelandic bankers sentenced to prison & The Greek tragedy

Living

Is the junk-food era drawing to a close? & Help end ‘real food’ waste

Agriculture

The pressing need to restore agriculture to sanity, that is to say, based on reason and good judgment. The task is huge, but the tools are there

National News

Canada’s First Nations issues: Settler communities are awakening to the many atrocities of the past, and learning how to move forward in solidarity with indigenous people

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Commentary

The grand illusion behind which operates a a pug-ugly bully

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Commentary

Eurasia dispatches: Turkey goes a step too far? & Turkmen pipeline nears completion

Science & Technology

Drone warfare: Life on the new frontline. No armies and militias fighting house to house here, but from a comfortable seat far away, you can get the pictures

World News

Ukraine: As the Western Axis’ drive for regime change continues, any increase in US military assistance to Kyiv/Kiev should be tied to a commitment to dissolve the volunteer battalions

Monday, February 23, 2015

Science & Technology

U.S. wants to hack your phone because it doesn’t have real spies it needs

Commentary

War, terror, security: Blowing the whistle on Harper’s dirty politics

Commentary

Are we witnessing the dawn of feudalism 2.0? Who owns Stephen Harper? Most likely the new ‘nobility’, the brazen entitled

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Commentary

Are we becoming morally smarter?

World News

On 50th anniversary of his assassination, Malcolm X’s legacy continues to evolve

Commentary

Stephen Harper’s metastasizing enemies’ list is beginning to rival Dick Nixon’s infamous ledger & Harper’s scary new terror bill needs oversight

Posted at: February 28, 2015 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

February 27, 2015

Why Bashar Assad won’t fight ISIS

Why Bashar Assad won’t fight ISIS
Aryn Baker TIME USA February 26, 2015

Visit this page for its related link.

The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has long had a pragmatic approach to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), says a Syrian businessman with close ties to the government. Even from the early days the regime purchased fuel from ISIS-controlled oil facilities, and it has maintained that relationship throughout the conflict. “Honestly speaking, the regime has always had dealings with ISIS, out of necessity.”

The Sunni businessman is close to the regime but wants to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from both ISIS supporters and the regime. He trades goods all over the country so his drivers have regular interactions with ISIS supporters and members in Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in Syria, and in ISIS-controlled areas like Dier-ezzor.

The businessman cites Raqqa’s mobile phone service as an example of how there is commerce between the regime, Syrian businesses, and ISIS. The country’s two main mobile phone operators still work in Raqqa. “Both operators send engineers to ISIS-controlled areas to repair damages at the towers,” he says. In addition, there are regular shipments of food to Raqqa. “ISIS charges a small tax for all trucks bringing food into Raqqa [including the businessman’s trucks], and they give receipts stamped with the ISIS logo. It is all very well organized.”

The businessman has a driver who lives in an ISIS-controlled area near Dier-Ezzor. “My driver is always telling me how safe things are at home. He can leave the door to his house unlocked. ISIS requires women to veil, and there is no smoking in the streets. Men can’t wear jeans either. But there are no bribes, and they have tranquility and security. It’s not like there are killings every day in the streets like you see on TV.”

And, he notes, ISIS pays well — slightly less than the pre-war norms but a fortune in a war-torn economy: engineers for the oil and gas fields are paid $2,500 a month. Doctors get $1,500. Non-Syrians get an expatriate allowance, “a financial package that makes it worthwhile to work for ISIS,” says the businessman.

Assad does not see ISIS as his primary problem, the businessman says. “The regime fears the Free Syrian Army and the Nusra Front, not ISIS. They [the FSA and Nusra] state their goal is to remove the President. But ISIS doesn’t say that. They have never directly threatened Damascus.” As the businessman notes, the strikes on ISIS targets are minimal. If the regime were serious about getting rid of ISIS, they would have bombed Raqqa by now. Instead they bomb other cities, where the FSA is strong.” That said, the businessman does not believe that the regime has a formal relationship with ISIS, just a pragmatic one. “The more powerful ISIS grows, the more they are useful for the regime. They make America nervous, and the Americans in turn see the regime as a kind of bulwark against ISIS.”

Posted at: February 27, 2015 - 1:18 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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Diary: ‘Iammmmyoookkraaanian’ & Chinese diplomat lectures West on Russia’s ‘real security concerns’ over Ukraine

Recently, at yet another conference, I was asked whether, given that I was born in Kiev, I should be introduced as Russian or Ukrainian. In my many hyphenated identities I had never thought of myself as Ukrainian. I was nine months old when my family emigrated from Kiev. I knew real Ukrainians, and recognised their complicated search for nationhood, but it was never my search. My parents speak Russian; they brought me up on Russian literature; I had always been ‘the Russian’ at my London schools. But the Maidan gave words new meanings. … I suddenly felt very sharply that my mother was from Kiev, my father grew up in Czernowitz, my grandparents are from Odessa and Kharkiv. And so when I was asked the question at the conference I breathed deeply and said words I never thought I would: ‘I am Ukrainian.’ It felt strange. The ‘mmmm’ cut off with the sharp, whistling intake of ‘yuuu’, breaking into the avalanche of ‘krrrr’. I remembered the way revolutionary poets of the 1920s wanted to create new sounds to produce a new world: ‘Iammmmyoookkraaanian.’ The physical sensation of saying the words is revolutionary: like a new planet in the mouth. - Peter Pomerantsev

Diary
Peter Pomerantsev London Review of Books UK Vol. 37 No. 4 · February 19, 2015

When I was growing up in the 20th century revolutions seemed significant. At school the Russian Revolution was everyone’s favourite subject but it was less theoretical for me than for most: my parents had ended up in England because of it. The 68-er parents of schoolfriends would tell me about the sexual and cultural revolutions of their youth which, they said, changed the world. I was 12 in 1989, when we all watched the Berlin Wall fall on live TV. It seemed like the Russian Revolution and the 1960s rolled into one, the people taking power from elites while celebrating the subversive effect of U2. Later, when I went to film school and discovered Eisenstein, I realised that revolution had altered the way things looked: that all those CNN and BBC montages with their close-ups of ‘ordinary’ people on the revolutionary streets of Berlin, Moscow and Bucharest, and their stirring music, could have been borrowed from Battleship Potemkin or Strike; they were rolling news versions of Eisenstein’s notion of making the crowd the hero, transformed through the editing into a unified body.

But in the 21st century something changed. Suddenly any national political fight was calling itself a revolution. The Rose Revolution (Georgia), the Green Revolution (Iran), the Tulip Revolution (Kyrgyzstan), the Jeans Revolution (Belarus), the Cedar Revolution (Lebanon), the Jasmine Revolution (Tunisia). Some of these were revolutionary, others not at all. ‘Revolution’ stopped being the name you gave to a transformative historical moment and became the name a political technology gave itself in order to gain importance.

Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 had all the slogans, the set designs, the pop music, the flag-waving and video mash-ups of revolution but when it was over the same leaders returned to practise the same corrupt schemes as before. By this time I was making documentaries. I would find myself drinking with foreign correspondents in bars: ‘Was Kiev 2004 a real revolution? Was Bishkek 2005?’ we would ask. The Arab Spring made things worse. On TV Tahrir Square looked like something out of Eisenstein – but when it went wrong it did so gradually, in ways that didn’t look so cinematic.

And then there was Kiev’s Maidan: the ‘Euro-revolution’, ‘the revolution of dignity’ which celebrates the anniversary of its awful culmination this month. ‘Another Ukrainian revolution?’ I thought when it began. As thousands gathered to protest against Yanukovych’s decision to abandon an Association Agreement with the EU in return for a $15 billion bung from the Kremlin, and as the protests turned violent, with a hundred people shot before Yanukovych finally fled to Russia, the story of the revolution was already being spun in a hundred ways. ‘It’s a fascist / CIA / Masonic / Zionist / anti-Semitic coup,’ the Russian press declared. ‘It’s all the fault of the EU’s empire-building ambitions,’ insisted the anti-EU crowd in Western Europe. ‘Russia has a right to rule over Ukraine,’ reasoned the big power realists. And the Ukrainians who actually made, or were caught up in, the revolution had their own ways of telling the story, though the stories have changed over the year since Yanukovych fled, as the country has moved through presidential and parliamentary elections and Putin has sponsored, armed and helped man a war against Kiev in the old Yanukovych heartlands.

When I first arrived in Maidan a few months after the violence had ended, the square was still a tent city surrounded by barricades of tyres, car parts and furniture (as if the very fabric of the city had risen up and rebelled). The dregs of the Maidanistas were still living in the tents, refusing to leave. Wandering among them I found a crucible of utopias: Cossacks dreaming of a return to the Hetmanate; ‘liquid democrats’ inventing ways to vote and then unvote for parliamentarians as with ‘likes’ on Facebook; ethno-pagan nationalists searching for pure Ukrainian chromosomes; libertarians, anarchists, neo-fascists and Christian socialists.

After decades in Moscow with its aestheticised cynicism and London with its apolitical resignation, Kiev’s uprush of utopias was refreshing, and occasionally disturbing. Soon I found myself sitting in cafés scribbling my own pet utopia: Ukraine as a Russia 2.0. ‘Russia is not Europe,’ the Kremlin’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, had recently announced. Could Kiev be a capital of a ‘Russia that is Europe’? I started to think which writers would be part of Russia 2.0: Medinsky would get Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn; we would get Chekhov, Turgenev and Nabokov. Tolstoy was a sticking point: one would think he was a Russian Russian, but might his excommunication by the Orthodox Church, which still describes him as using ‘his great talent to destroy Russia’s traditional spiritual and social order’, mean we have to take him in?

The seduction of big ideas was internationally infectious. Returning to my hotel lobby I encountered Bernard-Henri Lévy bathed in TV lights, giving an interview to a local network. BHL had just delivered a lecture at the local university about ‘Putinism as Fascism’: ‘Putin is frightened of the loss of traditional values and the principles of religion,’ Lévy said. At the conference I was attending, on ‘The Meaning of Ukrainian Pluralism for the Future of Europe, Russia and the World’, Paul Berman and François Heisbourg kept returning to the idea of Russia as a home for a kind of clerical nationalism, Ukraine as the battleground for liberal values. Were these grand visions, I wondered, actually playing into Putin’s hands? The Kremlin was doing all it could do to recast the story of a battle against corruption and bad governance as a clash of civilisations. The bigger the ‘idea’ of revolution became, the more it was susceptible to spin.

But many Ukrainians were wary of the excitement from abroad. ‘I don’t want to use the Maidan as my channel’s masthead,’ said Zurab Alasania, who had helped launch the independent TV channel of the revolution, Hromadske, and was now trying to create the country’s new public broadcasting channel. ‘The risk is we become addicted to the idea of revolution: it becomes a substitute for doing anything else.’ ‘We need to move away from the revolution of dignity to the revolution of effectiveness,’ Hannah Hopko told me. She had made a name for herself on the Maidan by collecting money to help feed and clothe ordinary citizens. Hopko had a different idea of the West’s role from BHL’s. She saw ‘Europe’ as complicit in supporting Yanukovych’s violent kleptocracy, providing a safe refuge for all the money stolen from the budget. ‘The IMF want strict conditions for a $2.7 billion loan. That’s only a fraction of the money Yanukovych stole and hid in the West. How about you just give that back instead?’ Six months on, $4 billion of the $100 billion the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office claims Yanukovych stole have been impounded; Hannah Hopko is now an MP.

The new cabinet includes people who have no connection to the old loops of corruption, but the fact they are new also means they have no influence with the entrenched bureaucracy, which persists almost unchanged. The press is freer than it was before: Alasania’s channel has just investigated dodgy real estate development by the new president, but whether that freedom can be converted into influence is unclear. A journalist who camped out in front of the presidential administration building and recorded who went in and who went out reported that many of the old faces from the Yanukovych years had a habit of stopping by in the evening; as for the old oligarchs they are only growing more powerful as the government approaches bankruptcy. In the 2015 Heritage Index of Economic Freedom Ukraine has sunk seven places and is now bottom of the European table. The government has neglected those who are suffering from the consequences of the war in the far east of the country on both sides of the line: bombing civilians in rebel-held areas and cutting them off from whatever welfare might provide has put paid to any residual loyalty to Kiev; meanwhile the hungry and wounded on the Ukrainian side are largely ignored.

Related: Chinese diplomat lectures West on Russia’s ‘real security concerns’ over Ukraine
RT Russia February 27, 2015

Vist this page for its related and audio links.

Western nations should heed Russia’s legitimate security concerns over the volatile situation in Ukraine, a top Chinese diplomat has said in a rare public statement on the crisis that has damaged relations between Russia and the West.

Qu Xing, China’s ambassador to Belgium, said the Ukrainian crisis came about due to the ongoing “game”– a metaphor similar to that used by US geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, who referred to it as the “grand chessboard” – between Russia and the West, which has not abated despite, or because of, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Arguing that outside interference by various powers inflamed the Ukrainian situation, Xing said Moscow would naturally feel threatened unless Western powers engaged in a more constructive approach.

Xing advised Western powers to “abandon the zero-sum mentality” in their efforts to deal with Moscow and the Ukraine crisis and “take the real security concerns of Russia into consideration,” Reuters reported, quoting state news agency Xinhua.

China in the past has urged all involved parties to sit down and negotiate for peace.

The Chinese ambassador, whose Brussels office is in the same city as NATO’s headquarters, then offered some insight as to what motivates the United States on the international stage, and what could lead to its possible decline.

Posted at: February 27, 2015 - 1:16 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

February 26, 2015

Two brave, defiant governments: Icelandic bankers sentenced to prison & The Greek tragedy

Icelandic bankers sentenced to prison
Zoë Robert Iceland Review Iceland February 12, 2015, updated February 13, 2015


Sigurður Einarsson. Photo: Geir Ólafsson. Visit this page for its embedded link.

The Supreme Court of Iceland today upheld prison sentences issued by Reykjavík District Court in December 2013 on four former key executives and majority owners of Kaupþing Bank in the so-called Al-Thani case in what is the heaviest sentence ever given in Iceland for economic fraud, ruv.is reports. The four were charged with market manipulation in relation to Sheik Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar’s acquisition of more than five percent of shares (worth ISK 25.7 billion) in Kaupþing Bank shortly before it collapsed in autumn 2008.

The case was taken to the Supreme Court after the defendants appealed the Reykjavík District Court’s ruling.

Hreiðar Már Sigurðsson, former CEO of the bank, got the longest sentence at five and a half years, unchanged from the Reykjavík District Court’s ruling. Sigurður Einarsson, former chairman of the board, had his sentence reduced from five years to four while investor, and one of the bank’s biggest shareholders, Ólafur Ólafsson, had his sentence lengthened from 3.5 years to 4.5 years and Magnús Guðmundsson, director of Kaupþing Luxembourg, got 4.5 years instead of 3 years.

Hreiðar must also pay ISK 25 million (USD 190,000, EUR 167,000) in Supreme Court defense fees and 33.4 million in District Court defense fees, Sigurður ISK 14 million in each, Ólafur ISK 18 and 20 million respectively and Magnús ISK 20 million in each, ruv.is reports.

The ruling was announced shortly after 4 pm today.

UPDATE: The amounts each of the defendants must pay has been updated in line with the latest information presented in the Icelandic media.

Related: Below: Some things not to forget, which the new Greek leaders have not.

The Greek tragedy
William Blum CounterPunch USA February 25, 2015

American historian D.F. Fleming, writing of the post-World War II period in his eminent history of the Cold War, stated that “Greece was the first of the liberated states to be openly and forcibly compelled to accept the political system of the occupying Great Power. It was Churchill who acted first and Stalin who followed his example, in Bulgaria and then in Rumania, though with less bloodshed.”

The British intervened in Greece while World War II was still raging. His Majesty’s Army waged war against ELAS, the left-wing guerrillas who had played a major role in forcing the Nazi occupiers to flee. Shortly after the war ended, the United States joined the Brits in this great anti-communist crusade, intervening in what was now a civil war, taking the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left. The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).

In 1964, the liberal George Papandreou came to power, but in April 1967 a military coup took place, just before elections which appeared certain to bring Papandreou back as prime minister. The coup had been a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, the KYP, the CIA, and the American military stationed in Greece, and was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a “communist takeover”. Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.

George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his father, had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the Cold War, and had questioned remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.

Andreas Papandreou was arrested at the time of the coup and held in prison for eight months. Shortly after his release, he and his wife Margaret visited the American ambassador, Phillips Talbot, in Athens. Papandreou later related the following:

I asked Talbot whether America could have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything about it. Then Margaret asked a critical question: What if the coup had been a Communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they would have crushed the coup. 1

Another charming chapter in US-Greek relations occurred in 2001, when Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Goliath Lowlife, secretly helped Greece keep billions of dollars of debt off their balance sheet through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also helped create a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis that’s drowning the entire continent. Goldman Sachs, however, using its insider knowledge of its Greek client, protected itself from this debt bubble by betting against Greek bonds, expecting that they would eventually fail. 2

Will the United States, Germany, the rest of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – collectively constituting the International Mafia – allow the new Greek leaders of the Syriza party to dictate the conditions of Greece’s rescue and salvation? The answer at the moment is a decided “No”. The fact that Syriza leaders, for some time, have made no secret of their affinity for Russia is reason enough to seal their fate. They should have known how the Cold War works.

I believe Syriza is sincere, and I’m rooting for them, but they may have overestimated their own strength, while forgetting how the Mafia came to occupy its position; it didn’t derive from a lot of compromise with left-wing upstarts. Greece may have no choice, eventually, but to default on its debts and leave the Eurozone. The hunger and unemployment of the Greek people may leave them no alternative.

Greece: The next four months
Michael Roberts Michael Roberts Blog UK February 25, 2015

What will happen to Greece’s public finances and economy over the next four months while the Syriza-led government negotiates fiscal and economic conditions with the Eurogroup in return for Troika bailout funds under the existing programme that has now been extended until end-June?

Under the provisional agreement with the Eurogroup, the Greek government will not receive any of the outstanding funds of €7.2bn still available (€1.9bn from ECB profits on its Greek government bond holdings made in 2014 and promised to the previous Greek government; €1.8bn from the Eurogroup’s EFSF and €3.5bn from the IMF) until the Eurogroup is happy with its fiscal plans.

And that could take until end-April. As German finance minister Schaueble made clear: Greece was not getting softer conditions, only more time. “Only when we see they have fulfilled this will any money be paid. Not a single euro will be paid out before that,” he said.

But between this weekend and the end of April, the Greek government is supposed to make repayments on maturing short-term government bills and loans back to the IMF. Greece has to pay back IMF loans of just under €2bn by April and it also has to redeem short-term debt of €4.4bn and €2.4bn in March and April respectively.

Where is the money to come from if the Troika won’t cough up on what it promised until agreement on ‘conditionalities’ with the Greek government? Well, before the election of Syriza, the government was running an annualised surplus before paying interest on its debt of about €1.9bn. And it had built up some cash reserves of about €2bn. So all is well, then?

Well, no. Since the election, taxpayers have stopped paying tax, particularly the most well-off and private companies. Tax receipts have collapsed and were 20% short of target. The government actually ran a deficit in January. The primary surplus achieved in 2014 has already been halved. The available money is disappearing to pay for the upcoming debt redemptions.

Now the €6.8bn of government short-term bills could be paid off by issuing new bills that would be bought by the Greek banks (they are already making good profits on these). However, the ECB is saying that the Greek government is already at its limit of €15bn in T-bill issuance outstanding – this is a limit set by the ECB, by the way. The ECB does not want the Greek government to finance its spending by using the Greek banks, in case the government defaults later.

So it’s getting tight to manage to fund public finances over the next two months, unless the IMF waives its debt repayment to help – unlikely! As Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis put it: “We will definitely have problems in making debt payments to the IMF now and to the ECB in July,” he told Alpha Radio.

So even before we get to a deal with the Eurogroup on what level of austerity measures the new Greek government is supposed to apply to meet fiscal targets, the possibility of default arises.

The four-month extension on the existing Troika programme has been cast by Prime Minister Tsipras and Varoufakis as the best that could be expected to avoid the ECB cutting off funds to the Greek banks and leading to a run on the banks and financial collapse. Tsipras and Varoufakis have argued with their Syriza MPs and followers that they have really got a good deal, in the sense that they can negotiate with the Eurogroup over the terms and measures that will be applied over the next four months. In other words, they have ‘wriggle room’ or ‘fiscal space’.

But as we can see from the latest revenue and spending figures for the government, even if the Eurogroup agrees to a lower primary surplus target than the 3% of GDP they wanted in the old programme, there may not be any surplus to spend at all if tax revenues are not collected.

Yes, the government aims to focus on getting tax arrears, getting taxes out of the oligarchs; and improving tax collection in general. The government claims it can get up to €7bn with its measures. But it will need it (and must convince the Troika too) because it also wants to stop further pension cuts planned under the existing programme (although it has backed down on increasing pensions and the minimum wage or in increasing public sector employment – or at least the wage bill).

Syriza has apparently agreed not to increase income or corporate taxes and yet this is precisely where the most progressive form of taxation could apply. Instead, Varoufakis appears willing to comply with the IMF’s longstanding demand that concessionary VAT rates charged on Aegean Islands should be raised to the standard level. VAT is the most regressive of all taxes.

As for privatisation, what is not commonly realised is that privatisation revenues were supposed to be used to pay down the debt bill and not used to bolster revenues and the primary surplus. The Syriza leadership has agreed to allow existing privatisations through. So Cosco, the Chinese state shipping company, and Maersk of Denmark, the frontrunners among bidders shortlisted for a two-thirds stake in Piraeus Port Authority, will take over. And a consortium led by Frankfurt airport is the preferred bidder for a 40-year(!) concession to run Greece’s regional airports.

Inviting in foreign investment to improve important state assets should not be shunned, in my opinion. After all, that is what the Chinese government does all the time. But they maintain a majority ownership and control the projects. Greece could do the same. Instead, foreign companies will get key sectors of the Greek economy over the next four months. At least, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister, will apparently stop the sale of the electricity grid and part of the state power utility.

Negotiations on the details of the four-month extension will be tortuous and it is an opportunity for the Syriza government to campaign openly within Europe against austerity measures that the Eurogroup wants to impose and also it gives Syriza time to mobilise the Greek people for the battle ahead.

As PM Tsipras said (wrongly), “we won (actually lost) the first battle and but the war continues”. Austerity must be reversed. Since 2009, successive Greek governments under the direction of the Troika have carried out huge public spending cuts worth 30% of GDP. The public sector wage bill has been reduced by 29%, and now the government has agreed not to increase it. Social benefits have been cut 27% and again the government has agreed not raise this bill.

But Greek public finances at present do not allow for any fiscal space at all, even if the Eurogroup agrees to a lower fiscal target. Tax revenues must come in to meet upcoming debt repayments AND allow for dealing with the humanitarian crisis, boosting employment and wages. Can it be done?

And then what happens after four months? The Greek government and its people must reject any further Troika programme and its conditions (assuming it is offered). They must strike out on their own to control the economy.

That means taking over the banks and the major companies, introducing a plan of investment and growth that mobilises people to support and implement. If that brings the government into a final conflict with other Eurozone governments and the ECB and they threaten to cut off funds and throw Greece out of the Eurozone, so be it.

But there are four months available for the government to campaign within Greece and around Europe for the alternative to the neoliberal economic model and its policies. (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/troika-grexit-or-plan-b/)

Posted at: February 26, 2015 - 3:29 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Is the junk-food era drawing to a close? & Help end ‘real food’ waste

There’s a “mounting distrust of so-called Big Food, the large food companies and legacy brands on which millions of consumers have relied on for so long.” Those words were spoken by the CEO of Campbell Soup Company

Is the junk-food era drawing to a close?
Tom Philpott Mother Jones USA February 25, 2015


Keith Homan/Shutterstock. Visit this page for its embedded links.

Not long ago, the great processed-food companies like Kraft and Kellogg’s towered over the US food landscape like the high hat that adorned the head of Chef Boyardee, the iconic canned-spaghetti magnate whose empire is now owned by ConAgra.

But now, Big Food has fallen on hard times. Conagra, which owns Hunts, Reddi Whip, Ro-Tell, Swiss Miss, and Orville Redenbacher, along with Chef Boyardee, recently slashed its 2015 profit projections and sacked its CEO. Kraft—purveyor of Oscar Mayer deli meats, Jell-O, Maxwell House coffee, and Velveeta cheese—also recently shook up top management and reported sluggish sales in 2014. Cereal titan Kellogg’s has seen its sales plunge 5.4 percent over the past year, Advertising Age reports.

What gives? Part of the problem is currency fluctuations. Having conquered the US market, Big Food for years has looked overseas for growth. Recently, a strong US dollar has cut into foreign profits, because a pricier dollar makes overseas sales worth less when they’re converted to the US currency, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Currencies rise and fall, but the real specter haunting the industry may be something less ephemeral than the dollar’s gyrations. Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison—whose company makes V8 juice and Pepperidge Farm baked goods along with soup—recently publicly declared that there’s a “mounting distrust of so-called Big Food, the large food companies and legacy brands on which millions of consumers have relied…for so long,” reports Fortune‘s Phil Wahba, in an account from a conference at which Morrison spoke. Morrison also cited the “increasingly complex public dialog when it comes to food” as a drag on Campbell Soup’s and its competitors’ sales, Wahba reports.

In other words, Big Food successfully sold a vision of cooking as a necessary inconvenience, to be dispatched with as painlessly as possible—open a soup can for dinner, unleash a squirt of artificial cream onto a boxed cake for dessert—that’s starting to lose its charm.

One reason is surely health. Over the past decade, there has been a bounty of research on the ill effects of highly processed food. And when Yale medical researchers David Katz and Samuel Meller surveyed the scientific dietary literature for a paper in 2013, they found that a “diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”

Interestingly, Katz and Meller found that as long as you stick to the “minimally processed” bit, it doesn’t much matter which diet you follow: low-fat, vegetarian, and Mediterranean have all shown good results. Even the meat-centered “paleo” approach does okay. The authors conclude the “aggregation of evidence” supports meat eating, as long as the “animal foods are themselves the products, directly or ultimately, of pure plant foods—the composition of animal flesh and milk is as much influenced by diet as we are.” That’s likely because cows fed on grass deliver meat and milk with a healthier fat profile than their industrially raised peers.

Meanwhile, as Big Food flounders, sales of fresh food grown by nearby farmers continues to grow at a pace that would make a Big Food exec salivate. A recent US Department of Agriculture report found that there are now 8,268 farmers markets nationwide—a jump of 180 percent since 2006. Then there are regional food hubs, which the USDA describes as “enterprises that aggregate locally sourced food to meet wholesale, retail, institutional, and even individual demand”—the kind of operations that can move fresh food from local farms to, say, grocery stores, so you don’t have to show up at the exact right time at the farmers market to get your local collard greens. Food hubs, the USDA reports, have jumped in number by 280 percent since 2007.

Finally, there are schools—a site long dominated by Big Food, where little consumers learn eating habits before they emerge into the world as income-earning adults. According to the USDA, school districts with farm-to-school programs grew by more than 400 percent between 2007 and 2012.

For decades, “American cuisine” was an oxymoron, the punch line to a sad joke. Billions of dollars in profits have been made betting on the US appetite for processed junk. Those days may be drawing to an end.

Related: Help end food waste
David Suzuki Foundation British Columbia Canada n.d.

Visit this page for its embedded links.

You’re eating local, maybe organic, or even growing your own food. Make sure you don’t end up throwing out the fruits and vegetables of your hard-earned labour. Besides being a waste of money, time and energy, unused food that ends up in landfills is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases.

The stats are staggering:

  • Close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted — discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.
  • As much as 30 per cent of food, worth about $48 billion, is thrown away in the US each year. (The average household there throws out about 215 kilograms of food each year — around $600 dollars worth.)
  • In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kilos of food waste each year (although that city’s expanding composting program captures about 75 per cent of that). That means one in four food purchases still ends up in the garbage. (Toronto taxpayers spend nearly $10 million a year getting rid of food waste that’s not composted.)
  • Over 30 percent of fruits and vegetables in North America don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not pretty enough for picky consumers.
  • About 20 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions (a greenhouse gas that traps more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide) come from landfills.
  • When people toss food, all the resources to grow, ship and produce it get chucked, too, including massive volumes of water. In the US alone, the amount of water loss from food waste is like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion litres of water down the drain.

Most food waste won’t happen if we take the time to plan better and sharpen our food storage skills.

Here’s a handy tip sheet to help you out.

A fantastic piece, and food for thought, by Genevieve Fullan for Alternatives Journal, Canada’s environmental voice
Fixing Food Waste Calgary Food Bank Alberta Canada February 12, 2015

Visit this page for its embedded links,

A significant portion of food waste occurs before it even makes it into your fridge.

It won’t come as a surprise to most that we waste a significant amount of food as a society. We’ve all experienced that moment at the restaurant when we realize we won’t be able to finish what’s on our plate or that moment we find the strawberries in our fridge have grown fuzzy mold. I always feel a certain amount of guilt when this happens to me, not only because throwing out food feels like throwing out money, but because I know there are so many people in the world that go hungry every day. Here in Canada, as many as one in eight families struggles to put food on the table. On top of that, the environmental impacts of wasted food are enormous.

According to a United Nations report, every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally, roughly one third of the global food supply. People often don’t think about the environmental impacts of food waste because it is biodegradable. It seems less disastrous to dispose of those moldy strawberries than it does the plastic container they came in; however, decomposing food in landfills is responsible for emitting 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere every year, much of it in the form of methane.

When you consider the resources required to produce food that just ends up as waste, the environmental impacts become even more severe. About 1.4 billion hectares of land (28 per cent of the world’s agricultural land) is used to grow food that is ultimately thrown away and the water that is used could meet the water needs of about 500 million people, not to mention the fossil fuels, labour and machinery that are also needed—all to produce food that winds up in a landfill.

Food becomes waste for a number of reasons and although you’ll hear rumours that most food waste happens in the home, it’s fairly evenly divided between household and supply chain waste, with about 50 per cent happening at home. This is not to downplay our own role in reducing food waste, but to demonstrate that a significant portion of food waste occurs before it even makes it into your fridge.

One of the major culprits of food waste is aesthetics. Over 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables in North America will be rejected by supermarkets for not being the right size or shape, having too many blemishes or being unattractive in some other way.

Over 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables in North America will be rejected by supermarkets for not being the right size or shape, having too many blemishes or being unattractive in some other way.

In response to this aesthetic rejection, Intermarché (the third largest supermarket in France) and Marcel Worldwide started a marketing campaign for what they’ve termed Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables. They purchased fruits and vegetables that would normally be thrown out and sold them at 30 per cent less than their more aesthetically pleasing siblings. It’s truly a win-win-win situation as customers save money, producers sell food they would otherwise throw away, and the store increases traffic. It was such a success that they had trouble keeping up with demand and five of their competitors launched similar offers.

Gleaning is another way to reduce food waste between the field and the table. A lot of produce is often left behind in the fields sometimes for not meeting selling standards of size and shape, sometimes because a bumper crop has driven prices down and harvesting isn’t economical or simply because a certain amount of produce is left behind after mechanical harvesting. The practice of gleaning dates back hundreds of years when poor people would be allowed to gather food that farmers had left behind in the fields after harvest. Today, gleaning programs can be found across North America, often in the form of volunteer groups that glean food from fields to be donated to food banks and food programs in nearby communities.

Of course neither of those initiatives address the food waste that occurs a little further down in the line, in restaurants or institutions such as schools and hospitals. In response to the enormous waste that occurs in food establishments, Ina Andre and Joan Clayton started Second Harvest, a food rescue program that delivers excess fresh food donated by various retailers to over 200 different community agencies across Toronto, including food banks, shelters, community centres and health centres. They have rescued and delivered more than 95 million pounds of food since they began in 1985, enough food to provide over 20,000 meals a day.

Students at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George have undertaken a similar effort to divert food waste and provide food for those in need. Their food recovery project recovers surplus food from their dining hall to be picked up by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. They’ve also set up a twitter account under the handle @UNBCScraps that informs students where extra food from conferences and special events on campus can be picked up, which not only prevents food from entering landfills, but provides students on a tight budget with occasional free meals.

Reducing food waste, or diverting that waste elsewhere makes sense socially, environmentally and financially. Initiatives such as Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables and organizations like Second Harvest provide excellent models for reducing food waste and making food more accessible to those who need it. And the best thing about working to reduce food waste is that anyone can start right now in their own kitchen. That’s where half of our food is wasted, after all. Check out these tips from A\J and more fromDavid Suzuki to start. And get creative. Embrace those leftovers. Maybe even keep an eye out for some ugly produce.

For more facts on hunger and food waste in Canada see the Second Harvest fact page or watch the documentary Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, available in full for free at Knowledge Network (Canada only). All statistics were taken from either the UN’s Food Wastage Footprint report or Second Harvest.

Posted at: February 26, 2015 - 11:48 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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The pressing need to restore agriculture to sanity, that is to say, based on reason and good judgment. The task is huge, but the tools are there

Industrial farming threatens global health. How can we steer public opinion and public policy in the direction of sane agricultural practice and science? Do small-scale farmers hold the key to fulfilling global goals on hunger and poverty? Or can they only be achieved by large-scale agriculture?

Transnational corporations can be part of the problem, tending to undermine the livelihood of locals, displacing them from their home and land, interfering with their access to natural resources, and causing environmental destruction. - Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, cited by Mark Anderson

Who should clean up Big Ag’s mess?
Katherine Paul Organic Consumers Association USA February 6, 2015

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A “Cow Palace” in Washington State threatens public health with its acres of untreated animal waste.

A city in Iowa spends nearly $1 million a year to keep illness-causing nitrates, generated by farm runoff, out of public drinking water.

And who can forget the plight of Toledo, Ohio, residents whose water last summer was so contaminated by farm runoff that they couldn’t even bathe in it, much less drink it?

For decades, America’s chemical-intensive, industrial farming operations have spewed nitrates and other toxic chemicals, animal waste, ammonia, antibiotics, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane gases into public air, waterways and communities.

How do they get away with it? Largely because lobbyists have seen to it that Big Ag is exempt from many of the rules and regulations that other industries, and even municipalities, are required to follow under the Clean Air Act (comments on exemptions here), the Clean Water Act (comments on exemptions here), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Safe Drinking Act, and others.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it’s trying to “clarify” the rules outlined in the Clean Water Act, as they apply to farming operations, through its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule. Opponents of the Waters of the U.S. rule accuse the FDA of trying to eliminate exemptions for farmers, though the EPA insists that’s not the case.

One opponent, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), has introduced HR 594, a bill intended to stop the Waters of the U.S. rule in its tracks and preserve exemptions for factory farms and other industrial ag operations. Gosar’s bill reflects Big Ag’s position that any attempt to make industrial ag operations play by the same rules as other polluters represents “massive overreach” by the EPA.

It remains to be seen how the battle to clean up the mess made by factory farms and other agribusiness operations will play out in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, a growing number of cities and states are turning to the courts for help.

Recent court cases—in Des Moines, Iowa, Wisconsin and Washington State—represent the growing frustration of city and state governments over the cost of protecting public health and the environment from the more than 200 million pounds (according to a June 2014 report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center) of toxic chemicals industrial ag dumps into U.S. waterways every year.

If a recent ruling in Washington State is any indication, courts may be ready to crack down on factory farms and other ag operations, even if the EPA won’t.

The solution no one in Washington or the courts is talking about? Eliminating, not just mitigating, ag industry pollution by transitioning to pesticide-free, chemical-free organic, crop-diverse, non-GMO, regenerative agriculture.

Lawsuits in Washington State and Des Moines, Iowa, are just two recent examples of attempts to address the growing problem of how to keep the public safe from the ever-increasing onslaught of toxic chemicals pouring into the environment and threatening our health—chemicals generated by an industrial farming system unable to curb a dangerous ecosystem-threatening addiction.

Environmental and animal rights groups recently sued the EPA for failing to enforce Clean Air Act regulations governing ammonia and other emissions from waste produced by large livestock facilities under the Clean Air Act.

And in Wisconsin, environmental groups hope recent rulings by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a federal judge criticizing the manure-spreading practices of dairy farms there will spur progress toward improving the state’s water quality.

The courts may ultimately play a role in forcing Big Ag to clean up its act. Still, as citizens, we have a responsibility to continue to try to protect our drinking water by pressuring government officials to enforce existing regulations, and to write stronger ones. You can start by asking the EPA to protect U.S. waterways from industrial farm pollution.

But the bigger challenge is how to steer public opinion and public policy in the direction of sane science—science that is clearly telling us that earth and the humans who inhabit it are reaching, may indeed have already surpassed, their limit to survive what has become an unprecedented toxic overload, generated by a farming system gone mad.

Related: Battle to feed the world pits small farmers against big agriculture
Mark Anderson in Shimanyiro Guardian UK February 19, 2015

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Dotted along the narrow path that skirts the edge of Beatrice Alvitsa’s house in Shimanyiro, a green Kenyan valley near the border with Uganda, are dozens of millet plants, each protected by a carefully assembled fence made of sticks. “These keep the chickens and other animals out,” she says, bending down to mend a break in one of the fences.

Having received training in farming techniques and secured regular access to quality seeds and fertiliser, Alvitsa now produces enough food on her acre and a half of land to feed her family. She pays school fees for her seven children by selling surplus food and saves money in a mobile bank account.

As the world prepares to transition from the millennium development goals (MDGs) to the sustainable development goals – which aim to end poverty and hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable development – some experts say farmers like Alvitsa exemplify the path to meeting these targets.

Smallholder farmers provide up to 80% of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa’s food, where the vast majority of the world’s poor people live, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (pdf).

The most recent hunger statistics (pdf) suggest that 14% of the world do not have sufficient access to food, making it unlikely that the MDG to bring hunger rates down to 12.5% by the end of this year will be met. In its 2014 progress report, the UN said immediate action was needed to reduce hunger, lamenting that progress had slowed since 2005.

At a time when the world’s population is soaring – the UN has projected it could reach 9.6 billion by 2050 – a debate has emerged about how best to support farmers between advocates of large-scale agricultural projects and those who prefer more targeted, small-scale efforts. Global food production must double by 2050 to feed the world, the World Food Programme says.

“The most important way to create long-term food security is to recognise and include food sovereignty in national, regional and international policies that influence food systems,” says Nyoni Ndabezinhle, press officer at Via Campesina, an advocacy group for small-scale farmers. “We need our national governments to carry out comprehensive agrarian reforms, giving land to the peasants.”

In order to thrive, farmers in the developing world need access to seed, fertiliser, microcredit and microinsurance, as well as rights to land and union representation, according to Sir Gordon Conway, director of Agriculture for Impact.

“You need links to markets through warehousing in particular. You need fair, efficient and transparent markets and you need value chains where entrepreneurs can become engaged, and you need links into local and regional markets in Africa and international markets; you need the right kind of investment.”

Others say commercial agricultural schemes like the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative will complement gains made on local levels, linking smallholders with international markets. The New Alliance says it will lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.

Nearly 35m hectares (82m acres) of land in 66 countries has been leased by foreign investors to produce food crops since 2006, according to Grain, an environmental watchdog. Large-scale agricultural production will benefit private-sector firms rather than poor people, Grain says, noting that financial companies and sovereign wealth funds are responsible for about a third of the deals.

The World Bank estimates that as much as 200m hectares of land in the developing world has been leased to agricultural investors over the past 10 years.

“Large-scale commercial agriculture can indeed play a significant role in feeding the world’s poorest, but food availability alone will not translate to reduced poverty, hunger and undernutrition,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Food security is not simply about producing enough to feed every person, says Jomo Kwame Sundaram, assistant director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s department of economic and social development. Ensuring adequate supply comes down to four key factors: food availability, access, stability and utilisation, he says. “The question of access is probably the most fundamental of the four dimensions of food security. We talk about the availability of food, the stability of food supplies and then access.”

The developing world is home to more than 900 million obese adults, nearly 30% more than the 557 million chronically overweight adults in wealthy countries, according to the Overseas Development Institute.

Writing in the Guardian, Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, says: “Transnational corporations can be part of the problem, tending to undermine the livelihood of locals, displacing them from their home and land, interfering with their access to natural resources, and causing environmental destruction.”

“The task is huge, but the tools are there. The challenge is mainly a matter of fashioning political will strong enough to overcome entrenched interests in maintaining food insecurity.”

Posted at: February 26, 2015 - 11:27 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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Canada’s First Nations issues: Settler communities are awakening to the many atrocities of the past, and learning how to move forward in solidarity with indigenous people

Vatican may be asked to repeal Papal Bulls of Discovery on ‘heathen’ aboriginals
Chinta Puxley The Canadian Press/Victoria Times Colonist Canada February 10, 2015

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is weighing whether to ask the Vatican to repeal the Papal Bulls of Discovery that granted 15th-century explorers the right to conquer the New World and the “heathen” aboriginals that called it home.

Chair Murray Sinclair says the commission examining the impact of Canada’s Indian residential schools is looking carefully at the 1455 and 1493 Catholic edicts as part of its final report.

Many argue the proclamations legitimized the treatment of aboriginal people as “less than human.” Crown sovereignty in Canada can be traced back to those papal bulls and neither Canada nor the United States has repudiated them, Sinclair said.

“The movement to repudiation is very strong and is moving ahead,” Sinclair said in an interview. “If we as the commission are going to join that movement or endorse it … we have to come to a conclusion that it’s necessary for reconciliation, to establish a proper relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.”

A growing chorus in Canada is calling on the Vatican to help begin a new relationship with aboriginal people on equal footing.

The discovery bulls, and others in the same vein that followed, gave Catholic explorers “full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind” and outlined their “duty to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion.”

If aboriginal people refused, the Vatican granted its envoys the authority to enslave and kill.

If the commission recommends the bulls be rescinded, Sinclair said, it has to weigh the legal implications, which could strike at the core of Crown sovereignty over land.

“What would be the basis for rationalizing Crown sovereignty if the Doctrine of Discovery is no longer available?” Sinclair said. “We have to consider that question and perhaps give some direction about how that relationship can be re-established in a proper way … on a nation-to-nation level.”

The United Nations appointed a special rapporteur in 2009 who found the bulls lie “at the root of the violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights.” The edicts have resulted in the “mass appropriation of the lands, territories, and resources of indigenous peoples,” the UN found. They also form the legal basis of many modern-day land claim disputes, it said.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on rescinding the bulls but pointed to the Vatican’s written response to the UN in 2010. The church said the bulls didn’t need to be officially revoked because they’ve already been nullified by more recent edicts.

One bull, from 1537, stated: “Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property.”

“Circumstances have changed so much that to attribute any juridical value to such a document seems completely out of place,” the statement said.

An official revocation still matters to advocates like Keith Matthew. The former chief of Simpcw First Nation in British Columbia recently got the support of the Assembly of First Nations, which passed a resolution at its December meeting endorsing the revocation of the bulls.

It’s about hitting the “reset button on our relationship,” Matthew said.

“The papal bulls put us in a position no better than animals,” he said. “We know better today. We’re just as civilized and human as anyone else in this world. It’s really about righting a historic wrong.

“I’m no animal. I’m a person, a human being.”

Hayden King, director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, said simply calling for the edicts to be repealed isn’t enough for reconciliation.

He said it would be more significant if the government recognized its sovereignty was based on a “fairy tale” that aboriginal people are not human and further recognized aboriginal title to land.

“Unless there was corresponding action, it would seem kind of hollow.”

Related: Andrea Palframan tells the story of Grace Islet. The protection of the First Nations’ burial ground is an achievement, but there is still a long way to go. This article appears on page 8 of the February 19 – March 4, 2015 edition of the Island Tides newspaper.

Let the ancestors rest in peace

Grace Islet is a victory for protecting indigenous grave sites, but work remains.

The islet rests just a few metres off the shore of Salt Spring Island. Formerly part of an ancient village known in the Hul’qumi’num languages as Shiyahwt, its harbour was a hub for aboriginal fishing families from all over the Gulf Islands, eastern Vancouver Island and the Fraser River. The white shell middens ringing the islet point to thousands of years of human settlement.

Grace Islet is referred to as shmukw’elu (a Hul’qumi’num word roughly equivalent to ‘graveyard’) because of burial grounds located there. When word got out last spring of a site alteration permit application for a private home on the islet, First Nations leaders decided that this time they would not bow.
‘We are tired of moving our bones. We do not want to rebury the dead,’ said Luschiim, a Cowichan elder.

Luschiim’s words resonated with islanders. Public meetings grew into solidarity gatherings, coalescing under the leadership of Joe Akerman, a resident of Salt Spring Island with mixed Cowichan and settler heritage. As building crews began delivering cement and lumber to the construction site on the shmukw’elu, Akerman set out in his kayak, circling the islet three times a day in an act of witness and defiance. First he paddled alone, but as people heard the sound of his drum echoing over the harbour, and watched the construction continue over the protests of First Nations, they joined him on the water.

Grace Islet became more than just a line drawn in the sand. For islanders of aboriginal and non-aboriginal descent, it became an opportunity to find a way to repair the damage of generations of colonialism.

The Grace Islet victory is tempered by unresolved questions. Until the government demonstrates it is willing to create a process for dealing with ancestral burial grounds, Chief William Seymour is not ready to drop the Cowichan Nation’s case. ‘Once the government and First Nations and The Nature Conservancy have all agreed that everything has been dealt with and there are no problems, at that point we’ll pull that civil claim,’ he says.

Saanich North & The Islands MLA Holman thinks the Cowichan Nation should pursue the case. ‘We may have resolved Grace Islet, but the issue still remains. There are sites all over the place that need to be addressed, and I don’t think First Nations should be giving up any levers they have.’

Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis has introduced a bill patterned on work in Australia and New Zealand that brings to the fore the cultural importance of burial sites. ‘There’s a desperate need for tools to help First Nations communities and those affected as they go about their business. The issue that has arisen here around Grace Islet is really just a further stage of non-First Nations communities’ indifference to primal and ancestral burial grounds,’ she said.

‘The Heritage Act, as it’s currently written, has no teeth whatsoever. It has no ability to enforce any kind of protection. There would need to be some kind of funding component in order to successfully provide more protection,’ said Karagianis. Going forward, there is no shortage of policy guidance. In the United States, the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, enacted in 1990, includes a framework for repatriation of remains and cultural objects.

‘In the longer term it is essential that we develop legislation that will protect First Nations cultural sites, not for their heritage qualities or for their scientific value but for their inherent cultural value,’ said Akerman. ‘First Nations people are not relics. We are a resilient living and breathing culture with strong spiritual and cultural links to our ancestors.’

The legal snowball forming in the wake of Grace Islet is rolling along, gaining size and speed on its way to the front steps of the Legislature. Along the way, settler communities are awakening to the many atrocities of the past, and learning how to move forward in solidarity with indigenous people.

Posted at: February 26, 2015 - 10:23 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post