The Fixer: Turning Farm Workers into Farm Owners

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 4:47am in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions reported elsewhere. This week: an incubator gives agricultural workers space to grow their own crops. Plus, carbon offsets start surging, and one of America’s first stormwater farms reports on the soggy success of its first rain-soaked spring.

Room to grow

Farming is a tough business in America. There are 162,572 fewer farms today than there were just 12 years ago, in part because starting a new farm is such a heavy lift. It requires not just costly machinery and land, but business savvy and connections. To help turn the tide, incubator farms are helping field workers overcome these hurdles and start their own farms.

Nearly 200 farm incubators are now active in the U.S. One is the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), which offers a 10-month course in agribusiness management. Tuition is income-based, and most enrollees pay only about $300 to learn everything from marketing strategies to meeting organics standards. Graduates of the program pitch their farm concept to the incubator, and those selected are rented plots on ALBA’s 100-acre farm for as little as $130 per quarter acre. As the participants’ farms profit and grow, ALBA rents them more and more land, until their farms have reliable enough revenues to be spun off and sustain themselves.

Nearly half of ALBA’s 104 graduates own their own farm today, an impressive success rate by startup standards. “They’re doing something right,” one industry rep told the New York Times. And most of those who decided not to start their own farm still work in the agriculture industry, but report increases in their incomes thanks to the business training they received from the incubator.

“I came a long way,” one graduate who now owns an organic broccoli farm told the Times. “They taught me a lot—not just how to grow, but the business part.”

Read more at the New York Times

Carbon offsets hit their stride

The Guardian reports that public pressure is driving “huge increases” in carbon offsetting, in which companies invest in carbon-reducing efforts elsewhere to offset their own emissions.

According to ClimateCare, a company that helps large corporations offset their emissions, the amount of carbon offset during the last 18 months increased from two tons to 20. Regular folks appear to be investing more heavily, too—the NGO Climate Stewards told the paper that carbon offsetting by individuals and small companies had increased by 156 percent and 80 percent year on year, respectively. 

Credit: International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance

Some industry observers chalk up the shift to what they call the “Greta Effect,” named for the 16-year-old Swede who has led a series of massive global climate protests. These protests have increased the pressure on businesses to mitigate their effects on the environment. “We are seeing the Greta effect, the impact of Extinction Rebellion, the impact of the words of David Attenborough, the school strikes, all of these coming together,” said one carbon offset advocate.

The offset model has its critics, who say it’s simply a way for those with money to shift responsibility onto those who can’t afford to pass the buck. But global carbon and renewable energy markets have become far better regulated over the last decade, and participants are held to tougher standards than they used to be, according to advocates. 

“People are willing to take action and are looking for ways to take action,” said the director of Gold Standard, which monitors the integrity of carbon offsetting schemes. “We see it as a way that someone can feel empowered and reduce their carbon footprint.”

Read more at the Guardian

Going with the flow

Last year, one of America’s first stormwater farms opened in Peoria, Illinois, a bucolic swathe of poplar trees and planting beds smack in the middle of the city. Known as the Well Farm, its beds of lettuce, kale and other vegetables capture runoff from a one-and-a-half acre section of the city when it rains. Now well on its way to maturity, Peoria’s stormwater farm got its first test this year.

It was an especially wet spring for the city—14 inches of rain fell from May through July. Normally, much of that rain would have flowed directly into the Illinois River. According to a report recently released by the city, however, 1.1 million gallons of this stormwater was diverted to the farm, which absorbed 98 percent of it. 

Posted by The Well Farm at Voris Field on Friday, July 6, 2018


As one of the engineers working on the project put it, “This area of the country has a hydrology… so that in the past, most of the rainwater that fell actually soaked into the ground. So now we’re looking at some of nature’s wisdom to exploit some of that capacity of plants and soil to keep [the rainwater] from getting into the combined sewer system.”

The farm does double-duty as a revenue generator for the city. An impact assessment found that the jobs and harvestable crops from the farm generated $2.8 million in economic activity, or $1.50 for every dollar invested. And there’s plenty of room to scale—the EPA has identified 860 other cities where overflow from combined sewer systems is a water pollution priority.

Read more at Next City

The post The Fixer: Turning Farm Workers into Farm Owners appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Video of DIY Atmospheric Water Generators

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 6:26am in

Atmospheric Water Generators are machines that work on the same principle as dehumidifiers. They produce water from atmospheric moisture. The difference between them and the dehumidifiers is that the water they produce should be safe to drink.

In this video from desertsun 02’s channel on YouTube, a man shows off a simple AWG that’s he’s built himself. The explanatory paragraph for it runs

DIY Atmospheric Water Generator. Unit pulls Pure ‘distilled water’ straight out of the air! works best in hot humid conditions. this simple design pumps near freezing water thru a long section of copper coil. coil becomes very cold and dew (condensate) forms on the coil. the dew is then caught by a drip-pan located beneath the coil. *note that this unit has the added benefit of dehumidifying the air. *an AWG is essentially just a “Food Safe” dehumidifier. (my previous video shows this unit being operated primarily as a dehumidifier… the difference being that that design has plastic parts that come in contact with the water). to keep the water as ‘pure’ as possible, i used only aluminum and copper in this version. main thing with these is to keep the coils clean. if coils are cleaned after each use, the water generated is ‘distilled water’.

Of course, it raises the question that if he’s using cold water to condense the water in the atmosphere, why doesn’t he simply drink the water rather than go to all the bother of cooling and pumping it around just to get a few ounces from the atmosphere. But it’s a brilliant piece of home engineering, and scientists and engineers are building machines like these to give people in deprived, parched areas potable water. And we may need more of these machines very soon if the planet continues to warm up and desertification increases.

Texas Man Invents Machine that Creates Drinking Water from Air

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 2:17am in

This is pure Dune technology. This short video of just over 2 minutes long from RepsUp 100 channel on YouTube is a news report about a former ranger, Moses West, from Texas, who has invented a device that creates drinking water from the air. He invented his Atmospheric Water Generator back in 2015. West says of his machine that they’re at the point where they can talk about creating 50,000 – 1,000,000 gallons of water. The energy consumption is incredibly low. According to West, it’s far cheaper than groundwater and desalination. He has so far made eight of these machines. They’re in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Flint, Michigan.

According to West, the machines are federally approved and the water quality is tested by the Colorado Water Authority. Most of West’s devices were manufactured in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The news broadcast says that the townspeople should be proud, as one unit provides the town with hundreds of gallons of clean water. It also appears that it doesn’t cost the residents anything, as West works with organisations like the Water Rescue Foundation to cover costs. He also says that people were very happy that somebody actually cared enough to jump over the bureaucracy and do this on a private piece of land. His concern now is to plant these in Flint, Michigan, to help the people there.

I don’t think West’s idea is particularly new. It seems to be a variant on the domestic dehumidifiers that are used to clean the moisture out of people’s homes. Some of these, like the one in the video below from Unbox Therapy on YouTube, manufactured by Ecoloblue, create drinking water from the moisture collected. West seems to have just created a larger, industrial scale version.

It’s a great device, and West is right when he says that there’s a water crisis coming. Back in the 1990s the Financial Times ran an article about how climate change and increasing demands for water are creating conflict. It predicted that in the 21st Century, most wars would be over water. When I was studying for my archaeology Ph.D., I also went to a seminar by a visiting professor, who had researched the effect climate change had through the human past on civilisation. He too was concerned about a coming water shortage. Machines like this could help solve some of those problems.

However, the use of these machines also demonstrates glaring iniquities in the American water supply system. Flint, Michigan, became notorious a few years ago because the local council had allowed companies to pollute the town’s drinking water to truly disgusting levels. People in a superpower like America, the world’s richest country, should not have to rely on charities for their drinking water.

It is, however, very much like something from Science Fiction. I’m reminded of the technology in books and films like Dune and Star Wars to bring water to the desert planets there. Like the system of underground cisterns and windcatchers in Dune to irrigate Arakis, and the moisture vaporators on Tattooine.

Now if only someone would invent something else from Dune – the stillsuit. A suit that collects water from the wearer’s own sweat and urine, and purifies it, turning it into drinking water so that they can survive weeks, even in the deepest desert. And in the 1980s David Lynch film, looked really cool too.

Here’s a brief video from Dune Codex on YouTube explaining how these fictional suits work.


‘I’ Reports Labour Intends to Renationalise Local Bus Services

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/11/2019 - 9:05pm in

There was an article by Hugo Gye in yesterday’s edition of the I for 19th November 2019, reporting that the Labour party is planning to renationalise the local bus services, which were privatised in the 1980s by Maggie Thatcher. The article runs

Labour will open the door to the nationalisation of England’s buses if it gets into power in next month’s election, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The party would give all councils the right to take control of their local bus services and give free bus travel to anyone aged under 25.

The move, which will form part of the Labour manifesto when it is published this week, is the latest in a string of nationalisations announced by Mr Corbyn. But bus industry officials insisted it would do little to improve services.

Speaking at the CBI conference in London yesterday, the Labour leader said he would encourage individual councils to take direct control of bus networks when franschise contracts expired. He added: “We need to integrate bus and rail services, we need to re-empower local authorities to develop bus services if they wish.”

The plan – which would apply only to England because transport policy is devolved – would give councils that right to remove franchises from private companies such as Stagecoach, Go-Ahead and FirstGroup. The nation’s bus network was privatised and deregulated by Margaret Thatcher in the 80s, although in London it is still heavily regulated by the city’s mayor.

Katy Taylor, commercial and customer director at Go-Ahead, said: “The biggest issues we face are congestion and council cuts, and regulation would do little to solve either of these. While bus usage continues to fluctuate in some parts of the country, our experience in cities like Brighton – where ridership is higher than anywhere else outside of London – shows that public and private sector working together is the best way to deliver a transport service.”

Labour’s bus policies are similar to its rail nationalisation scheme, in which each train franchise would be brought into public ownership as soon as its current contract expired.

The party has pledged to nationalise a number of public services if it wins on 12 December. This would including buying the country’s water system and the National Grid.

This is great news, as the bus service we currently have in my bit of Bristol is appalling. The bus company has cut services and I’ve heard that they regard it as a country route, even though it is actually within the city limits. People have complained to the council and the bus company, FirstBus, but all they got were letters from each blaming the other.

I was at school when Thatcher privatised the buses, and can remember the immediate effect. The new, deregulated bus company immediately reorganised the bus routes to send its buses down one of the major roads into town. The result wasn’t greater efficiency, but less. The buses were caught in the traffic jams that built up, so that buses that should have got all the schoolkids from my bit of south Bristol into school in town well before the 9 O’clock bell got in much later.

And FirstBus’ reputation in Bristol generally is so low, that the company has acquired the nickname ‘WorstBus’.

The much vaunted competition that Tories claim will always improve services hasn’t worked either. There has been an alternative bus company set up, and for a while that ran some good services to our part of Bristol. But these also seem to have disappeared or been cut back.

There are some excellent bus services run by charities, but people should not have to rely on volunteer organisations for a good, efficient bus service. Clearly the buses in Bristol need the support of local authorities, because privatise enterprise alone simply isn’t up to the job. It seems that the bus companies are too interested in creating a profit for their shareholders than providing a service for their customers. Indeed, the greed and profiteering by the directors of the newly privatised companies, like Ann Gloag, and the shabby way they treated their workers, customers and people they’d hit in accidents, was so bad that every fortnight Private Eye seemed to be running a story about them.

The local bus company in Bristol wasn’t brilliant by any means when it was under council ownership, but it was better than what followed with privatisation. Thatcher’s policy of privatisation and deregulation of public services has been a miserable failure right across the board. It’s ‘zombie economics’, and the only reason it hasn’t been put in the grave long ago is that the rich 1% – including the media barons boosting the policy – massively profit from it. While the rest of us have to put up with substandard services.

It’s time to vote the Tories out, and bring in someone who will improve public services in this country. And that person is Jeremy Corbyn.


Book Review: A Future History of Water by Andrea Ballestero

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 10:57pm in

In A Future History of Water, Andrea Ballestero explores the conflict between water as a human right and water as an economic good through ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Costa Rica and Brazil, examining how techno-legal devices in each country produce this difference in regulatory and governance spaces. This illuminating study showcases the dynamic nature and ambiguity of water and invites readers to think beyond courts and treaties in the recognition of it as a human right, writes Gayathri D Naik.

A Future History of Water. Andrea Ballestero. Duke University Press. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Debates over the nature of water – namely, whether it is a human right or a commodity – pervade all boundaries and levels, whether local, domestic or international. Despite its significance as a life-sustaining entity, the recognition of a human right to water at the international level is only a decade or so old. Though the human right to water was officially recognised by the UN General Assembly as recently as 2010, arguments regarding the economic status of water received recognition in 1992 in the form of the Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development at the International Conference on Water and the Environment. While Principle Four of the Dublin Statement acknowledges the basic right of all human beings to access water at an affordable price, it specifies that the recognition of water as an economic good is essential to rectifying the past failures of its wasteful and environmentally damaging use to achieve efficiency and equity and to ensure conservation and protection. However, this has not ended support for the need to recognise water as a human right, which continues to date.

In her first book, Andrea Ballestero attempts to analyse this conflict between water as a human right and an economic good. I was attracted by the beginning of A Future History of Water where the author illustrates the confounding nature of water through a depiction of bottle protests whereby protesters used empty water bottles filled with coins during the World Water Forum 2006. This book, based on her fieldwork in Costa Rica and Brazil, addresses the nuances in the dynamic nature of water.

A Future History of Water is a deviation from traditional attempts to derive a human right to water through court judgments and laws. Here, the author uses different forums including ‘cubicles, community meetings, international workshops and files’ to examine water as a human right and a commodity. This ethnographic work, conducted among regulators, NGOs and policymakers, examines how techno-legal devices produce the difference between a human right and a commodity in regulatory and governance spaces and create preconditions for a future in which this difference is plausible. The anthropologist author uses four devices – formula, index, list and pact – to showcase how each participant contributes to the making of a future history of water.

Image Credit: (Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash)

Each chapter of this book is focused on one of these devices. Among these, three chapters are based on Ballestero’s fieldwork in Costa Rica and the one on ‘Pact’ investigates pact-making in relation to water in Brazil. Chapter One, ‘Formula’, examines how mathematical calculations are used by regulators in translating their legal and humanitarian commitments to realise a human right to water. Ballestero highlights that relations between the variables in the formula of price fixation decide the scope of regulators’ views on society, water and the role of the state in determining the nature of water, and this formula becomes their social theory. How people realise the difference in the nature of water through variations in water bills, disconnections and reconnections upon the payments of bills is vividly described and invites the reader to think about this simple everyday assertion of the commodity nature of water across the world.

Relations between water price fixing and inflation are visualised in Chapter Two where the second device, ‘Index’, is introduced. In spite of adherence to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prescription that no households should pay more than 3 per cent of their monthly income to make water affordable as a human right, regulators in Costa Rica leave price determination to the Consumer Price Index, the economic indicator. Here, the determination of human rights shifts emphasis from the subject of rights to purchased objects: ‘what counts as a human right to water is answered by looking into what objects inhabit people’s houses’.

Contrary to the argument that people demand water for free, the author points out throughout her work that most people in Costa Rica accept the need for payment for water, and the challenge exists here in how to translate a human right into a specific price. Ambiguity arises when human rights arguments keep markets from determining its price; here, when payment is essential to enjoying a human right, especially in the case of water, regulators or the state in many countries turn out to be a market surrogate in fixing such prices.

The book takes the reader on to an interesting ‘List’ in Chapter Three, in which the author highlights how attempts to recognise water as a human right through constitutional amendments are challenged by Libertarians (the Libertarian Party) through their demand to taxonomically determine and differentiate what constitutes a public good. This chapter opens by offering an analysis of the working list created by the Libertarians grounded in the materiality of water, specifying what different types of water and water bodies are to be covered through the constitutional reform. The nature and implications of public goods are the controversial theme that hinders recognition of water as a human right in the country.

From Costa Rica, the author moves to the state of Ceará in North East Brazil in the last chapter of the book. This chapter, which I found most interesting due to the novelty in policy approach, discusses a ‘Pact’ and efforts made by the legislature to create non-legal affirmative commitments in society for a shared responsibility for water and its universal access. Agreeing to a pact as a promise or a pledge to keep is the logic underlined here. This, I feel, is a bottom-up approach replacing a top-down piecemeal one for tackling issues of water scarcity, water access and conservation. This is a realisation that solutions exist and should be chosen within society, and that every society member is responsible for their implementation.

Dealing with water issues through the four devices in the study of two countries, A Future History of Water attempts to showcase the existing ambiguity in the literature on water regarding how to classify and distinguish its twin nature as a human right and a commodity. Underlining this is the observation of Ballestero that this bifurcation is like a mesh which leads to another knot, given that no human right can be enjoyed without payment of some kind. Similarly, she is successful in showing how futures are constantly being produced out of mundane actions, how people create distinctions in their lives and how these are connected to their aspirations for the future. Through the brilliant selection of the devices to exhibit her ideas, the author invites readers to think deeply beyond courts or treaties establishing a human right to water and shows how many other factors also contribute to and shape this.

Gayathri D Naik is a Doctoral Candidate at the School of Law, SOAS, University of London. She holds BAL.LLB (Government Law College, Ernakulam), MPA (Indira Gandhi Open University, New Delhi) and LLM (South Asian University, New Delhi). She is a Commonwealth Scholar from India. Her doctoral research looks into equity and groundwater issues in India.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

One Nation Demands Coca Cola Allows Farmers Access To Mount Franklin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/10/2019 - 8:27am in

One nation

One Nation has come out strongly against Coca Cola demanding that the multi-national company allow Australian farmers access to the vast water supplies of Mount Franklin.

“Our farmers are out there doing it tough whilst Coca Cola executives are living it up and splashing around at Mount Franklin,” said One Nation founder Pauline Hanson. “How dare they not do their bit for our farmers, just the thought of it brings a tear to my eye.”

“There’d be more tears if there was a camera around but this is a phone interview so if you could just say I cried that would be terrific.”

When asked what other measures One Nation was looking into to help the farmers Senator Hanson said: “Well we are looking at all measures. For instance I know that when I put my washing out or go to wash the car that it always rains so maybe the farmers could try doing one of those things.”

“My colleague Senator Roberts is also in talks with a lovely chap from Nigeria who has promised to send him a special rain making device and it’ll only cost him $5000 worth of iTunes vouchers.”

Mark Williamson

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

In Sydney then come and see out live show November 8th.

Tix here: http://www.thenewsagencyvenue.com/shows/eoyextravaganza

Frustration and Dismay at Private Eye Pushing the Anti-Semitism Smears

This kind of follows on from the post I put up on Thursday, criticising a piece in Private Eye by their correspondent ‘Ratbiter’ celebrating Stop Funding Fake News and its attempts to cut off funding from what it considers to be extremist websites. Stop Funding Fake News has been the subject of a series of posts by Zelo Street, which has shown how the organisation is itself deeply suspect. For all its avowed concern to stop fake news, SFFN itself is less than transparent. It won’t tell you who its members are for one thing. And while it has attacked right-wing sites, like Breitbart and Tommy Robinson’s wretched website, as described in Ratbiter’s article, it’s also gone after those on the Left, like the Canary.  They’re also supposed to be extremists sites peddling fake news, but as I pointed out, the Canary’s politics are those of the old social democratic consensus. The consensus that Corbyn wishes to bring back, of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, proper, effective trade unions, a nationalised and properly funded NHS, and proper rights for working people. You know, proper, constructive policies that will save this country and its people from poverty, starvation and exploitation. But Thatcherites, whether in the Tory party, or the Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour, can’t stand any of this. They can’t bear the thought that Thatcher is a goddess who failed, and that neoliberalism has run its course and been found threadbare. So Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being Trots, Commies, Stalinists and other epithets by the papers and right-wing Labour MPs like Jess Philips.

Israel Lobby Using Anti-Semitism Smears to Suppress Criticism

But these policies are actually popular with the British public, and so the Right has taken to trying to discredit Corbyn and his followers, and more broadly the Labour party, with accusations of anti-Semitism. As I’ve blogged about endlessly, the actual incidence of genuine anti-Semitism in the Labour party is low. Very low. What riles the witch hunters is that Corbyn and his supporters are critics of Israel’s policy of oppression, apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The Israel lobby’s only defence against these entirely justifiable criticisms is to scream ‘anti-Semitism!’ and demand that their critics should be removed from office, silenced and even prosecuted for hate crimes. And ‘Ratbiter’ and Private Eye itself has been pushing this as strenuously as the rest of the media. In his article about Stop Funding Fake News, ‘Ratbiter’s’ praise for SFFN’s attack on the Canary claimed that not only was the Canary pushing fake news, but it was also anti-Semitic and pushing conspiracy theories about Jews. None of which is true. There is a concerted campaign by the Conservative Jewish establishment in this country to close down debate about Israel in line with the demands of the Israeli government. The Israeli state even as a special government office for promoting this hasbara. This is substantiated fact. But it’s suppressed by the British establishment and media, which wants you to believe that when the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council scream at Corbyn for supporting speeches by Holocaust survivors and anti-Nazi activists, like Hajo Meyer, attacking the maltreatment of the Palestinians, these right-wing organisations speak for all British Jews. They don’t, as is very clear by the number of Jews involved in the Palestinian rights movement, the BDS campaign and who support Corbyn in the Labour party. Still, why bother about awkward facts when you’re the media, eh?

Private Eye Part of Press Smears of Anti-Semitism

I’m particular dismayed and frustrated that Private Eye has joined in with this vilification and smearing. I’m not surprised by the right-wing press – the Fail, Scum, Depress, Times and Sunset Times, as they’ve always lied about and slandered the Labour party and left-wing activists. You only have to go back two years to when the Sunset Times smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Or how it tried to tell the world that Michael Foot was a KGB agent, against all evidence. I’m disappointed that the Absurder, Groaniad and the Mirror have joined in with these accusation. But the Groan is in dire financial straits and has supported the Liberals in several elections. Kath Viner, the new editor, would like to make it a general political newspaper, not tied to the Left. And the Absurder and Mirror look like they’re run by Blairites.

Private Eye’s Liberal Stance and Challenge to Authority

But Private Eye’s support for the smears I find more puzzling and exasperating. OK, I realise that despite its attacks on NHS privatisation, Tory housing policy, the attacks on the disabled, the failings of the privatised water companies, probation service, and outsourcing companies like Capita and Serco, the magazine’s not actually left-wing. Its founders – Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton and Auberon Waugh were all thoroughly middle class public school boys. John Wells was the headmaster at Eton. But the magazine does have a proud tradition of standing up for those wrongly accused and questioning the actions of the security services. Paul Foot was a staunch advocate for people he believed were wrongly accused of murder. The magazine is still covering the Deepcut scandal, and what looks very much like an attempt to hide the evidence and protect the guilty by the army and the police. They’ve also covered deaths in police custody and other cases of official incompetence, corruption and wrongdoing. They even published several pieces and then a final report in the mid-90s questioning the official assertion that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They believed instead that Syria was responsible, and that blame was placed on the Libyans for political reasons: Major and George Bush senior needed Syria to join their coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. It has also defended asylum seekers, both collectively and individually, from racist discrimination, incarceration, beatings and abuse, and the threat of deportation. It is because the magazine has this proud tradition of questioning authority that I find its current support for the anti-Semitism smears infuriating.

Private Eye also Repeating British Intelligence Propaganda?

I am also aware that, as well as probing some of the actions of the British intelligence agencies, like when they have leaned on journalists to reveal their sources, they’ve also acted to promote them. There is ample evidence that the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2012, which overthrew the pro-Russian president, was anything but popular. It was instead a staged coup overseen by the US statement and the National Endowment for Democracy. But from reading the ‘Letter from…’ column in Private Eye dealing with events in that country, you are told that it is all the fault of the Russians and their supporters. It also appears that the magazine does, or at least, did, have connections to MI5. Auberon Waugh was related to one of its directors or senior officials, and Lobster a decade or so ago ran a piece, ‘5 at Eye’, speculating the magazine and particularly Waugh were responsible for running the smear stories about Harold Wilson being a KGB spy. I am also aware that as a magazine that is unaligned to any political party, and which criticises and satirises all of them, it’s going to attack Labour. Corbyn, as head of the party, is fair game. And those attacks are going to come from his opponents. Which include ‘Ratbiter’, real name Nick Cohen, and whichever Blairites used to run the ‘Focus on Fact’ cartoon attacking the Labour leader.

Private Eye Shares Journalists with Other Papers

But nevertheless, I am extremely annoyed at the way it has joined in with the smearing of decent, anti-racist, Jewish and gentile people as anti-Semites. Like the rest of the press and media, they largely haven’t contacted them for their opinion, or given them space to explain how they were smeared. When a letter has been published in Private Eye rebutting their claim that anti-Semitism is rife in Labour, they’ve replied by quoting Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, who believes it is. And who has been roundly criticised for this by Tony Greenstein. Part of this might just be standard press groupthink. Private Eye, for all its attacks on the press and media in its ‘Street of Shame’ and television columns, is part of it, and some of its anonymous correspondents are no doubt journalists working for other papers. Nick ‘Ratbiter’ Cohen is a hack for the Graon and Absurder, while one of the editors and probably a reviewer for their books page was Francis Wheen, another Guardian journo. The press seem to have decided en masse that Corbyn is an anti-Semite, and for all its professed independence and criticism of the fourth estate, the Eye really doesn’t seem to want to break ranks with them in that regard.

And I also suspect that they don’t want to counter that narrative for geopolitical reasons. Israel’s one of the pillars of our foreign policy in the Middle East, and although the paper has criticised it for its treatment of the Palestinians, its attack on Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites show that there are limits to how far the magazine will go in challenging foreign policy.

Private Eye also Afraid of Being Smeared as Anti-Semitic?

I also wonder if there are more selfish reasons. As Peter Oborne showed in his documentary on the Israel Lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches eleven years ago, the Conservative Jewish establishment and the Israel lobby will smear any and all newspapers and media organisations as anti-Semitic if they criticise Israel. Even, and perhaps especially, when that criticism is justified, as when the Guardian and BBC reported on the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by the Christian Phalange, who were allied to Israel. The Groan’s former editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how the president of the Board used to troop into his office, with his pet lawyer, demanding the withdrawal of articles critical of Israel on the grounds that they would incite the general public to hate Jews.

The Beeb’s respected Middle East correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were also accused of anti-Semitism when they covered the above massacres. When senior Beeb officials like Sir David Attenborough defended them, they too were ridiculously accused. That should have destroyed the Board’s credibility. Instead it seems to have succeeded in emboldening the Israel lobby. Since then Israel has also denounced and lied about the Beeb’s coverage of the blockade of Gaza and the bombing campaign against Palestinians, claiming that journalists were anti-Semitic and expelling them. This does seem to have had a chilling effect at the Beeb. And not just at the Beeb – the Groan and the Absurder have also fallen in line. And I think Private Eye’s determined promotion of the anti-Semitism smears may also be part of this. They’re also, I suspect, afraid of the Board turning up in their offices to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Back in the ’60s and ’70s when the magazine appeared more louche and subversive than it is now, some newsagents refused to stock it. In the 1990s WH Smith withdrew one edition from its shelves because of a joke on the cover about the prurient public interest in the death of Princess Di. I think the magazine is still terrified of some kind of boycott by distributors, which may well be the result if the Board did decide to start accusations of anti-Semitism against them.

What Can Be Done?

So there are a variety of reasons why Private Eye is pushing the anti-Semitism smears. But speculating on their motives doesn’t make it any less infuriating that they’re doing it. I’ve thought in the past of writing letters of complaint to the Eye, explaining that the accused aren’t anti-Semites, and asking for an explanation. But what’s the point? The letter would either be ignored, or a short, edited version would appear in the magazine, which would allow them to reply quoting Lansman or someone else that anti-Semitism is rife, etc. And I might be unfair here to the magazine, but I don’t want to find myself smeared as an anti-Semite in turn and have my name or address passed onto the trolls that appear online to howl abuse at Mike, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.

And so there doesn’t seem to be much hope of challenging the Eye in its pages. The only option left is to carry on critiquing its lies and those of the rest of the media in the hope that more and more people will realise that it and they are smearing decent people simply for political advantage and to keep a vicious, corrupt government installed.

Elderly Rabbi Arrested at Extinction Rebellion Protest

Yesterday’s I, for Tuesday, 15th October 2019, carried an article by Jennifer Logan reporting that an elderly rabbi had been arrested by the rozzers after praying at an Extinction Rebellion protest in London. The article ran

A rabbi who was arrested after kneeling and praying in the middle of a road during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London said yesterday that he was “standing up for his grandchildren.”

Police have now arrested 1,405 people in connection with the protests, which will continue tomorrow when activists are understood to be planning to block roads outside MI5 on what will be the seventh day of direct action over the global climate crisis.

Jeffrey Newman, the Rabbi Emeritus of Finchley Reform Synagogue in north London, was protesting alongside about 30 Jewish activists. He was arrested near the Bank of England as hundreds of people descended upon the financial centre for a second week of protests.

The 77-year-old, who was wearing a white yarmulka branded with the black Extinction Rebellion logo, said: “I see it as my religious and moral duty to stand up for what I believe in, and what I care about, for my grandchildren.

“I haven’t tried to involve the synagogue, because if you are asking for permission, you might not get it. I think it’s much more important to do what I’m doing.”

After last week’s protests, which blockaded Parliament and targeted City Airport, protesters are now focusing on the City of London over financial backing for fossil fuels. They claim that trillions of pounds are flowing through financial markets to invest in fossil fuels which damage the climate.

Extinction Rebellion said dozens of activists were due to appear in court this week, including trials connected with previous action in April.

I have to say that Extinction Rebellion aren’t exactly my favourite protest group, because their demonstrations seem to inconvenience the general public more than the politicians and the big corporations behind the fossil fuel industries and global warming. But they have a very, very good cause. Meteorologists, ecologists, along with other scientists and broadcasters like Sir David Attenborough have been warning for decades that unless something is done, our beautiful world may very well die and humanity along with it. When I was studying for my doctorate in Archaeology at Bristol Uni, one of the postgraduate seminars in the department was by an archaeologist on the impact of climate change on human cultures throughout history. He was particularly concerned about drought and desertification, which certainly has catastrophically affected human civilisations around the world. One of the most dramatic examples was the abandonment of the Amerindian pueblo cities in the Canyon de Chelly in the American southwest around the 12th century AD. The pueblo cultures had created an extensive irrigation to supply water to their crops in the southwestern desert. However, in the 12th century that part of America entered an extremely dry period during which the available water dried up. Civilisation was not destroyed, as the Amerindian peoples themselves survived by retreating to more fertile areas. Nevertheless, it resulted in those pueblos, which had survived for centuries, being abandoned.

And now we face a similar crisis in the 21st century, thanks in part to global warming and an increasingly intense demand for water. Back in the 1990s one edition of the Financial Times predicted that climate change and competition for water resources would be the major force for war in the 21st century. In West Africa one of the reasons for the conflict in the north of Nigeria, for example, between Christians and Muslims is the desertification of the traditional grazing territory of nomadic pastoralists. These are mainly Muslim, who have been forced to move south onto land belonging to mainly Christian peoples in order to feed their flocks. The result has been ethnic and religious conflict. But it’s important to realise that the roots of this conflict are primarily ecological. It is not simply about religion. Examples of desertification and global dry periods in the past have been used by the Right to argue that the current climate crisis really isn’t as acute as scientists have claimed. It’s just the world’s natural climatic cycle repeating itself. This certainly wasn’t the view of the archaeologist giving that talk at uni, who warned that there was only a finite amount of water and urged us all to use it sparingly.

It was interesting to read the good rabbi’s concern for the planet and his grandchildren. People of all faiths are now worried about climate change. One of the priests at our local church preached a very long sermon on Sunday, no doubt partly inspired by the coming Extinction Rebellion protests, on the need to save the planet. I’ve no doubt that the involvement of practising Jews in this protest, and others, will cause something of a problem for some of the propaganda used to attack Green groups. Because there was a very strong ecological aspect to Nazism, the Right tries to close off sympathy for Green politics as a whole by smearing it as a form of Nazism, even when it’s blatantly clear that they aren’t. But the IHRC definition of anti-Semitism states that it is anti-Semitic to describe a Jew as a Nazi. Which is going to make it rather difficult for the organisations and rags that follow this line to claim that Jewish Greens are somehow supporting Nazism for getting involved in protests like this.

But it seems the cops are becoming very heavy-handed in their treatment of protesters. Mike over on his blog condemned the arrest of a 91/2 year old gentleman on another climate protest. This spirited old chap used the same explanation for his actions as Rabbi Newman: he was worried for the future of his grandchildren. Or great-grandchildren. He was arrested because he was caught protesting outside the Cabinet Office, and so frightened that doughty defender of British freedom, Boris Johnson. Yeah, our current excuse for a Prime Minister, who seems to fancy himself as the heir to Julius Caesar, Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Winston Churchill, was ‘frit’ – to use Thatcher’s word – of a 91 or 92 year old gent. Mike concluded of this gentleman’s arrest

Conclusion: John was committing an offence against nobody but Boris Johnson. A Boris Johnson government is an offence against the very environment in which we live.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/09/92-year-old-man-arrested-while-supporting-extinction-rebellion-because-the-tories-dont-like-it/

As ever, Mike is correct. In a subsequent article he showed that the Tories are far more likely than Labour to vote for policies that actively harm the planet. BoJo himself ‘was also among 10 ministers who received donations or gifts from oil companies, airports, petrostates, climate sceptics or thinktanks identified as spreading information against climate action.’ Mike’s article was based on a Guardian piece, that developed a scoreboard for the parties’ and individual politicians’ voting record. The Tories on average scored 17. Labour scored 90, and Jeremy Corbyn 92. Mike’s conclusion:

if you want a government that acts against climate change and to protect the environment for you, your children and future generations, you need to vote LABOUR.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/12/worried-about-climate-change-then-dont-vote-tory/

And we have to stop the cops being used as BoJo’s private police force, so that no more decent people, including senior citizens and members of the clergy of this country’s diverse religious communities, are picked up because they dare to frighten BoJob and his wretched corporate backers.

The Fixer: A Cool, Refreshing Glass of Fog

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 2:31am in

Welcome back to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of problem-solving efforts and initiatives reported in publications around the world. In this week’s edition: Can foggy days quench the world’s thirst? Plus, a program to help senior citizens adjust to life after prison, and a country that wants to squash malaria—but not mosquitoes.

Net Worth

We pull drinking water from rivers, lakes, deep underground, even the ocean. People living in mist-draped coastal areas pull water from fog, too. They use a contraption called a fog harvester, which is basically a net that captures water droplets on the breeze and uses gravity to funnel them into a container. It’s a simple, elegant tool that does what tree needles have been doing since time began. (California’s redwoods get one-third of the water they drink from the region’s fog.)

Now some scientists are looking for ways to make fog harvesters more efficient. One prototype is called a fog harp, which eliminates the net’s horizontal strings so the water can cascade more easily. Another device, developed by MIT researchers, uses electrodes to give passing water droplets an electrical charge, which attracts more fog to the mesh.

Mmm, delicious fog. Credit: ClimateTechWiki

Fog harvesters have largely been seen as coastal solutions, but one location where they hold enormous potential is power plants, which use huge amounts of water for cooling purposes. All those plumes of steam you see rising from power plant cooling towers is purified water, just waiting to be caught in a net and hauled back to earth.

Read more at The Verge.

Respect Your Elders

Imagine going to jail in your twenties or thirties and, decades later, stepping into a world of smartphones, debit cards and strange new social norms. For the long-term incarcerated, this is the reality of re-entry. To smooth their transition, the Bay Area’s Senior Ex-Offenders Program (SEOP) addresses the needs of senior citizens recently released from custody. 

Those needs are unique—older people released from custody have lower than average recidivism rates, but higher rates of homelessness, loneliness, medical problems and unemployment. SEOP focuses on these. It connects clients with doctors who specialize in health concerns exacerbated by prison life. (Consider the arthritis sufferer assigned to a top bunk for years.) Case workers help them update long-expired state IDs and credit cards, and bring them up to date on everyday perils like hackers and phishing scams. 

The Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center, home of the Senior Ex-Offenders Program. Credit: SEOP

SEOP also maintains inroads with workplaces that are a good fit for seniors, such as janitorial companies where the work doesn’t require too much heavy lifting. And housing is of particular concern in the region’s pricey real estate market, so the group manages three transitional homes that its clients can stay in until they find their own place. 

The data on long-term outcomes is scant, but demand for the program is high: it has received 4,000 applications for residency in its transitional housing since 2016. And clients like the vibe. “There’s no forced treatment here,” says one. “If you want to get a job, or go to school and get a degree… they support you in what you are doing… And if you’re about to crash and burn, they step in.”

Read more at Next City.

A Bug’s Life

Not long ago, malaria in Bhutan was a serious problem. At its peak in 1994, the country had 40,000 cases. Last year? A whopping 54. This shift is all the more remarkable when you consider an unusual aspect of life in Bhutan: They don’t like to kill animals — not even mosquitoes, the primary vectors of the disease.

Most people in Bhutan practice Buddhism, which teaches that all life has inherent value. Credit: Adam Singer/Flickr

So when formulating its approach to the issue, the government had to take into account the Buddhist belief that all life, including bug life, has inherent value. Whereas many countries control malaria mainly with insecticides, Bhutan has instead focused on getting its diagnosis and treatment numbers up. It has also pursued poverty reduction aggressively, in part because people with higher incomes have less contact with mosquitoes. Where insecticide is used, authorities have made efforts to meet skeptical citizens halfway. One entomologist says he reframes the process as a distinctly Buddhist live-and-let-live proposition: “We’re just spraying the house,” he tells residents. “If a mosquito wants to commit suicide by coming in, let it.” 

Since the effort began 25 years ago, infections have fallen by 97 percent, saving thousands of lives. It may be the tiny kingdom’s second-most impressive statistic

Read more at the BBC.

The post The Fixer: A Cool, Refreshing Glass of Fog appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows


The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.


Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 


Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.


Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.