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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 1465640 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #4110 on: Today at 05:05 AM »

New dates for ancient stone tools in China point to local invention of complex technology

The Conversation
20 Nov 2018 at 16:54 ET                   

You probably think of new technologies as electronics you can carry in a pocket or wear on a wrist. But some of the most profound technological innovations in human evolution have been made out of stone. For most of the time that humans have been on Earth, they’ve chipped stone into useful shapes to make tools for all kinds of work.

In a study just published in Nature, we’ve dated a distinctive and complex method for making stone tools to a much earlier timeframe in China than had previously been accepted. Archaeologists had thought that artifacts of this kind had been carried into China by groups migrating from Europe and Africa. But our new discovery, dated to between 170,000 and 80,000 years ago, suggests that they could have been invented locally without input from elsewhere, or come from much earlier cultural transmission or human migration.

Several different species of humans lived on Earth at this time, including modern ones like us. But we haven’t found any human bones from this site, so don’t know which species of human made these tools.

These Chinese artifacts provide one more piece of evidence that changes the way we think about the origin and spread of new stone tool technologies. And intriguingly we made our discovery based on artifacts that had been excavated decades ago.

New technology among old stones

Archaeologists have identified five modes humans have used to make stone tools over the last 3 million years. Each mode is represented by a new stone tool type that is dramatically different from what came before. The appearance of each new mode is also marked by a big increase in the number of steps needed to make the new tool type.

One of these modes, Mode III, also called Levallois, is at the center of several big debates about human evolution. Levallois tools are the defining features of the archaeological period referred to as the Middle Paleolithic, or Africa’s Middle Stone Age. They are the result of a set of very specific steps of chipping a piece of stone to create similar-sized tools suitable to be shaped for a variety of purposes. These steps are remarkable because they are a much more efficient way to produce lots of useful cutting tools, with minimal wasted stone, compared to earlier technologies.

One of these debates is whether Mode III tools were invented in one place and then spread out, or independently invented in several different locations. Since the world’s oldest securely dated Levallois tools have been found in north Africa from around 300,000 years ago, it’s possible they spread out from there, carried by groups of early humans migrating across Europe and into Asia. On the other hand, finds of similarly early Levallois tools in Armenia and India support the idea of independent inventions of the technology outside of Africa.

Levallois tools were a leap forward in technology, a new, efficient way to create tools that could cut, scrape, chop and make other types of tools.

Changing the chronology in China

In China it has been hard to find evidence of Mode III tools until relatively late in the Palaeolithic period, approximately 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. That’s concurrent with when Mode IV (blade tools) appear there. Ancient people in China appeared to leap from Mode II (stone hand axes) to Mode III and IV at the same time. This suggests that Levallois tools appeared in China when modern humans migrated in and brought these new technologies with them around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Our results support a different story for the origin of Levallois tools in China. At Guanyindong Cave in Guizhou Province in south-central China, we found Mode III tools in layers dated to around 170,000 and around 80,000 years ago. This puts them well before Mode IV tools, and at around the same time that Levallois were the main tools used in Europe and Africa.

One major implication of our new early ages from Guanyindong Cave is that the appearance of Levallois tools in China is no longer tied to the arrival of modern humans and Mode IV tools 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. Instead, Levallois tools could have been invented locally in China – maybe by a different human species. Another possibility is that they were introduced by a much earlier migration, perhaps by the people whose teeth have been found in a cave in Daoxian, Hunan Province, who lived between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago.

Going back to Guanyindong Cave

Our discovery is a little unusual because we didn’t do any major new excavations. All of the stone tools we studied had been excavated from Guanyindong Cave in the 1960s and 1970s. Since that time Guanyindong has been famous as one of the most important Paleolithic sites in South China because of the relatively large number of stone tools found there.

Most are stored at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, and our team spent a lot of time carefully inspecting each tool to identify the traces that reveal how it was made. It was during this painstaking analysis of the museum specimens that we encountered a few dozen Levallois tools among the thousands of artifacts in the collection.

During the previous excavations at Guanyindong Cave, researchers had used uranium-series methods to date fossils found in the sediments. This technique relies on the radioactive decay of tiny amounts of uranium that collects in bone shortly after it is buried to come up with an age range for its burial. But it’s hard to precisely determine the true age of bone using this method. At Guanyindong these uranium-series ages span a wide range, from 50,000 to 240,000 years ago. Also, the association between the dated fossil pieces and the stone artifacts was not recorded in detail. These problems meant that we couldn’t work out what layers the dated fossils came from, and if they were close to any of the Levallois stone tools.

Using only information available from the previous excavation, we couldn’t be sure of the exact age of the Levallois tools in the museum. The dates were important to nail down, because if they were older than 30-40,000 years, then they could be the earliest Levallois tools found in China.
Bo Li and Hu Yue collecting sediment samples from the same layers the stone tools had been in, in order to redate them.

To uncover the true age of these Levallois tools, we made several trips to the cave to collect new samples for dating. It was challenging to find a suitable location to get the samples because the previous excavations didn’t leave much behind and much of the site was covered with thick vegetation.

We collected our new sediment samples from places where artifacts were still visible in the wall of the excavation, so we could be sure of a close connection between our samples and the stone tools. Essentially we were trying to collect new dirt from the spots where the museum artifacts had originally been excavated. The plan was then to test the samples with more advanced dating techniques than had originally been available.

Analyzing new samples to date old artifacts

Back in the lab, we analyzed the samples using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence methods. This technique can identify how much time has passed since each individual grain was last exposed to the sun. Dating many individual grains in a sample is important because it can tell us if tree roots, animals or insects have mixed younger sediments down into older ones. After we identified and removed intrusive younger grains, we found that one layer of artifacts dated to about 80,000 years ago. We dated a lower layer to about 170,000 years ago. Our museum work had identified Levallois tools in both of these layers.

With the combination of careful inspection of the museum collection, new fieldwork to collect samples, and a new laboratory method of dating the site, we had uncovered a surprising and important result. These Levallois tools are much older than those from any other sites in East Asia. This suggests a more widespread geographic distribution of Levallois prior to the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and Europe into Asia.

One reason why it has been so hard to find evidence of the technique in China until now is that the number of people in East Asia during the Palaeolithic might have been much smaller than in the West. Small, low-density populations with weak and irregular patterns of social activity might make it hard for new technologies to spread and persist over a long time.

We don’t know what species of human made the tools at Guanyindong because we haven’t found any bones. Whoever they were, they had similar skills to people living in the West at the same time. They appear to have independently discovered the Levallois strategy in China at the same time people were making extensive use of it in Europe and Africa.The Conversation

Ben Marwick, Associate Professor of Archaeology, University of Washington; Bo Li, Principal Research Fellow in Archaeological Science, University of Wollongong, and Hu Yue, Postgraduate Student in Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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« Reply #4111 on: Today at 05:17 AM »


10 Chefs Bringing Forgotten Grains Back to Life

Ecowatch
11/201/2018

Millets are a staple crop for tens of millions of people throughout Asia and Africa. Known as Smart Food, millets are gluten-free, and an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, zinc and dietary fiber. They can also be a better choice for farmers and the planet, requiring 30 percent less water than maize, 70 percent less water than rice, and can be grown with fewer expensive inputs, demanding little or no fertilizers and pesticides.

Despite these benefits, millets have fallen out of favor in recent decades, often being perceived as a low-value crop for the poor. Research and development money has mostly been dedicated to rice, maize and wheat, and consequently, those crops became symbols of socio-economic improvement. Markets and supply chains developed to support them, consumers sought to eat them, and farmers were encouraged to grow them.

This perception is beginning to shift, however. In India, the federal government has declared 2018 as the National Year of Millets. Leading the way in shifting public perception are innovative chefs who recognize the nutritional and environmental benefits of millets, and are incorporating them into their menus to champion local agricultural diversity, experiment with new ingredients, and celebrate culinary traditions.

Food Tank is highlighting 10 chefs who are drawing from these traditional grains to inspire culinary innovations, transforming "old-fashioned" millets into foods for the future.

1. Sri Ram, Ahaar Kuteer

Ahaar Kuteer is an all-millet restaurant in Begumpet, Hyderabad. After 10 years in the IT industry, Sri Ram made a dramatic career change, founding the city's first eatery to focus primarily on millets, and is passionate about inspiring healthy diets by promoting millets as a better grain choice. Ahaar Kuteer is now a popular spot with vegans and health-conscious eaters, serving up millet-centric breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

2. Sabyasachi Gorai, Lavaash by Chef Saby

For chef and culinary entrepreneur Sabyasachi Gorai, the resurgence of millets will be more than just another trend. Gorai believes that their nutritional advantages and role in preserving India's agricultural biodiversity will cement millets in the culinary mainstream as flavorful and versatile ingredients. Signature Chef Saby dishes, like black olive millet risotto and millet cranberry laddoo are popularizing millets as a healthy and delicious grain alternative.

3. Prateek Sadhu, Masque

Prateek Sadhu is head chef at Masque, a Mumbai farm-to-fork restaurant that has made waves in the city's culinary scene since opening in 2016. Chef Sadhu's talent and creativity in the kitchen is apparent as he utilizes a dizzying variety of unusual, but always in-season ingredients for Masque's menu, which changes every two weeks. He believes in promoting the variety and versatility of local crops like millets, showing how they are suitable for nearly any setting, from traditional home-cooking to experimental fine-dining.

4. Surendra Gandharva and Manoj Prajapat, Millets of Mewar

Surendra (Sunny) Gandharva and Manoj (Manu) Prajapat, are big fans of millets—the pair founded Millets of Mewar in 2011, in their hometown of Udaipur after years of cooking and promoting local, nutritious food. Millets of Mewar was a natural progression of this work, with millets being the centerpiece of a menu promoting healthy and environmentally conscious eating. The cafe also serves as a community hub, hosting artistic performances, book exchanges, and sustainability initiatives.

5. Pierre Thiam, Pierre Thiam Catering

Pierre Thiam is arguably Senegal's best-known chef. But more than just a chef, he has been sharing Senegalese culinary traditions with the world. Among his priorities has been to popularize fonio, a variety of millet with over 5,000 years of history in Senegalese cuisine. Thiam is currently working to bring high profile New York City chefs to Senegal, in an effort to popularize the country's food in the West, which he hopes will result in a revitalization of native cuisine in Senegal, and preserve the diversity of traditional crops like fonio and other millet varieties with strong roots in African cultures.

6. N.S. Krishnamoorthi, Prems Graama Bhojanam

N.S. Krishnamoorthi's restaurant Prems Graama Bhojanam (PGB) is based on a simple premise: traditional, rural dishes based around millets, brought to the city of Chennai. Krishnamoorthi has decades of cooking experience, traveling through much of India for work. During his travels, he fell for the village food he often enjoyed in homes and family-run hotels, coming from food cultures still steeped in tradition and local ingredients, including millets. He brought this approach to the big city. Millets are found in every dish on the menu at PGB, and Krishnamoorthi is happy his traditional approachis catching on with the next generation, with urban young adults forming the majority of his customer base.

7. Jonathan Bethony, SEYLOU Bakery Mill

Millets won over baker Jonathan Bethony during a tour of an organic grain farm, just outside his hometown of Washington D.C. Bethony had come to the farm looking to source wheat for his D.C. based bakery and mill, SEYLOU, but he left with another idea in mind. Inspired by how farmer Heinz Thomet managed his land by minimizing inputs, rotating crops, and growing a variety of cereal grains, he sought to support farmers like Thomet by incorporating other local grains into his baking. He immediately challenged his pastry chef to bake with only millets for a week. They were both impressed with the results, and creations including a millet canelé and a millet chocolate chip cookie have made it permanently onto their menu. Following his millet revelation, Bethony traveled to Africa to learn more about the Millet Business Services Project, an initiative working to improve the value chain of millets in Senegal.

8. Manu Chandra, Toast and Tonic

When renowned chef Manu Chandra opened his 13th restaurant in Mumbai in 2017, he emphasized sustainability and utilizing local, seasonal ingredients as focal points of the new venture. Millets feature front and center in Chandra's food philosophy. He is a major proponent of the grains in India, citing their nutritional and environmental benefits, along with their versatility as an ingredient. Chandra has utilized millets in desserts, pancakes, salads, croquettes, and even featured a millet risotto bar at a large catering event.

9. Thomas Zacharias, The Bombay Canteen

The Bombay Canteen, located in Mumbai, has been listed as one of the world's 50 best restaurants, known for its high-quality menu emphasizing local ingredients. Executive chef Thomas Zacharias showcases regional Indian cuisine through the use of a variety of millets. Jowar, kodo, foxtail, and proso millets all make appearances on his ever-evolving menu. Zacharias sees the variety and versatility of millets as an enormous source of inspiration and culinary innovation. Given their nutritional benefits and cultural significance in Indian cuisine, he is hopeful that many more chefs will follow suit.

10. Ramasamy Selvaraju, Vivanta by Taj

Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju is turning the preconception of millets as a food for the rural poor on its head at the upscale Vivanta, in Bangalore. Six months after introducing the grains onto his menu, customers were asking for even more millet-based options. Selvaraju sees this as an indication of the shifting perceptions of the urban middle class, who are beginning to seek out millets for their nutritional advantages. The breakfast buffet at Vivanta features a sorghum millet congee, proso millet banana loaf, and kodo millet muffins, among many other millet-based options. Selvaraju has even begun conducting workshops on cooking with the traditional grains.


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« Reply #4112 on: Today at 05:20 AM »


New Report Details Trump's Destructive War on Science—And How the New Congress Can Fight Back

By Jessica Corbett
Ecowatch
11/20/2018

A coalition of watchdog and advocacy organizations on Thursday released a new report detailing the Trump administration's nearly two-year war on science and how Congress can fight back.

Produced by 16 groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Defenders of Wildlife and Greenpeace, Protecting Science at Federal Agencies: How Congress Can Help argues that while "scientific integrity at federal agencies has eroded" under President Donald Trump, "Congress has the power to halt and repair damage from federal agencies' current disregard for scientific evidence."

"It's so impressive," UCS's Michael Halpern wrote in a blog post on Thursday, "that all of these organizations with desperate interests have come together because they recognize the harm Trump administration actions have had on topics as diverse as workplace injuries, reproductive health, the Census, chemical contamination, tipped workers, endangered species, climate change, and air pollution."

As the report notes, "Federally sponsored scientific research and technology development have brought us the ability to explore outer space, convert sunlight into electricity, build super-computers, predict weather patterns, manufacture self-driving vehicles and use assisted reproductive technologies to give birth."

However, it continues, "when political interference occurs—such as politically motivated censorship, misrepresentation of scientific findings, or the suppression of the free flow of information from the government to the public—public health and well-being suffer."

To battle the administration's attacks on science, the report calls on federal legislators to pass protective laws as well as reveal abuses of scientific integrity and increase accountability for political appointees by holding hearings, requesting investigations and utilizing congressional subpoena authority.

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the National Park Service (NPS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the report points to examples of bad behavior across the federal government to identify six broad issues, and offers suggestions for tackling them.

1. Politicization of Science Within Agencies

"In several recent proposed rules, agencies have failed to uphold their responsibilities to consider relevant evidence and provide the public with necessary information," the report points out. To combat this, it suggests not only hearings, probes and subpoenas, but also using the appropriations process to ensure that funds are spent as intended, and considering whether political appointees have a history of undermining science.

2. Threats to Science Advisory Committees and Science Advice

Acknowledging the administration's efforts to hamstring the president's science adviser, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the President's Council on Science and Technology and advisory committees across federal agencies, the report calls for hearings and probes as well as legislation to close loopholes in the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

3. Installing Unqualified and Conflicted Government Leaders

Considering that "the current administration has filled several key cabinet positions with individuals who lack the bare minimum of relevant and appropriate qualifications," the report demands that senators use their constitutional advise and consent power to block unqualified candidates. It also recommends various pieces of legislation that aim to improve the hiring processes for civil servants.

4. Reduced Communications from Scientific Agencies

"Political appointees are increasingly censoring and suppressing scientific information, as well as deterring federal scientists from communicating openly with the public and the press," the report warns, imploring members of Congress to strengthen and pass the Science Integrity Act and improve protections for whistleblowers.

5. Whistleblowing and Scientific Integrity

The chapter dedicated to whistleblowers explains that "reprisal for whistleblowing unfortunately is real, despite the fact that whistleblowers are often the best, and sometimes the only, pathway toward holding government institutions accountable, ensuring regulatory compliance, and protecting the public's interest." Warning against "whistleblower witch hunts," it outlines ways in which lawmakers can enhance protections.

6. A Low-Information Approach to Enforcement

Although federal agencies are charged with enforcing laws enacted by Congress, the report notes that some "appear to be taking a low-information approach to enforcement: They are both weakening measures that would allow them to collect appropriate information about compliance and ignoring information they have, adopting seemingly willful blindness to violations."

The report urges lawmakers to "hold oversight hearings and initiate inquiries when a regulatory agency rolls back reporting requirements that advance transparency or displays a substantial drop in penalties or enforcement units."


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« Reply #4113 on: Today at 05:27 AM »


'It's like a cult': how sexual misconduct permeates the world of ballet

The #MeToo movement has slowly started to have an effect on the men who’ve abused their position with ballet dancers but there’s still a long way to go

Alexandra Villareal
Guardian
20 Nov 2018 08.00 GMT

When Alexandra Waterbury was a student at the School of American Ballet, she caught Chase Finlay staring at her in the studio.

“At the time, I was flattered. I was an 18-year-old girl, and he was this star that I grew up watching since I was 11” Waterbury said.

At New York City Ballet’s fall 2016 gala, Waterbury formally met Finlay, then a principal dancer with the company. They dated for a year and a half, until one morning she decided to check her email on his laptop. As his iMessages updated, she saw a photo of another woman’s intimate anatomy pop on to the screen.

A shocked Waterbury combed through Finlay’s texts with other male dancers and found images they had swapped of their partners performing sex acts or stripped naked. There was one of her. She had no idea he had even taken it.

Waterbury, now 21, attributes her abuse by Finlay to a boys’ club mentality at New York City Ballet, complete with locker room talk, unwanted groping and other indiscretions. Hers is not a story about a lone bad actor. She believes it reflects a system that condones inappropriate behavior.

“Dance is not the issue,” said Waterbury, who sued both Finlay and New York City Ballet. “It’s bigger institutions that are very much in it for money, very much in it for protecting an image and prolonging this lineage of something like (George) Balanchine.”

American ballet has a long history of men whose unsavory attitudes have gone unchecked. Even Balanchine – father of the American ballet technique and founder of both New York City Ballet and its training program, the School of American Ballet (SAB) – was known for choosing “muses” from his company to inspire his choreography.

Growing up in Manhattan, Bridget Scanlon took dance classes from current or former New York City Ballet dancers who told anecdotes about how Balanchine loved perfume, and how all of the women would wear different scents to get his attention.

“Mr B was definitely revered, and I feel still is, but when we look back, the stories are problematic,” said Scanlon, now a student at Barnard College.

Balanchine was reportedly mild compared to his contemporaries. Jerome Robbins was known for his temper (one scholar mentioned he threw chairs at dancers), and Antony Tudor would intentionally humiliate performers during rehearsals.

Far from expunged from dance history, all three men are icons, and their work became the standard for future generations. In middle school, Scanlon would visit her sister’s class at SAB on Balanchine’s birthday. The date was celebrated like a holiday.

“It’s like Balanchine is like a god. It’s like a cult,” said Waterbury.

Balanchine’s protege Peter Martins inherited what his predecessor left behind: control over not only New York City Ballet, but also SAB. In 1992, Martins made headlines after he was arrested in Saratoga Springs, New York, on suspicion of beating his wife. But his tenure at City Ballet and the school continued with few checks and balances until sexual misconduct allegations were leveled against him in 2017, during the early #MeToo movement.

An anonymous letter followed by other reports of harassment and abuse led to an investigation that was ultimately unable to corroborate the accusers’ stories; Martins retired at 71 years old in early-January but has faced few other consequences.

“There’s been no punishment and no accountability,” said Lynn Garafola, a dance historian at Barnard College.

Kelly Boal, a former New York City Ballet dancer who said Martins choked her after a rehearsal, said the company was a “dictatorship” at the time. Boal came forward about Martins’ allegedly abusive tactics last year after trying for decades to tell people about him and being dismissed. “Someone finally asked, and someone cared,” she said.

Boal knows other women with stories to tell, but they are too afraid that speaking up will negatively affect their careers. The risk of making waves feels especially great for female dancers because though the ballet world is populated mainly by women, it is dominated by men.

“We women are a dime a dozen, and there are a bunch of 14-year-olds coming up,” Boal said.

Boys in ballet hold the power from a young age. Studios are eager to recruit them, teachers are excited to train them, and female classmates know they need to get close to them.

At SAB – one of the most competitive pre-professional programs in the country – Waterbury remembers how stressed girls were about partnering with the best boys during class so they could be noticed; there were 30 girls, but only 10 boys. She spoke of a company dancer who was known for sleeping with male co-workers in exchange for a leg up in partnering.

At auditions, Scanlon said she always dreaded being in a group with a boy, even if he wasn’t very good. She knew that whomever was in charge of auditions would only watch him.

“They’re just put on a pedestal, like, kind of above the law in every way. And they know it,” Waterbury said.

As dancers grow older, the trend continues. Contrary to other dance forms pioneered by women, the creative leaders in ballet with the most power – choreographers, artistic directors – are almost always men.

“I think that women have to be their best the first time, and prove themselves that very first time. Otherwise, they will not get another opportunity,” said Jennifer Hart, an award-winning choreographer and artistic director of Austin-based company Performa/Dance.

In the last few years, some companies have tried to address their diversity problem at a time when only promoting white men isn’t popular. Skeptics view these new diversity initiatives as a business move while it’s in vogue.

American Ballet Theatre, for example, launched a multi-year “women’s movement” to foster female talent, and its first installment this fall featured choreography by Stefanie Batten Bland, Michelle Dorrance, Jessica Lang, Lauren Lovette and Claudia Schreier. Before the initiative, the prestigious New York-based company had presented works by 183 choreographers, only 41 of whom were women.

For dancers who have been in the industry since they were toddlers, it’s hard to question the existing power structure that gives authority primarily to men. It’s what they know, and as Garafola pointed out, dancers in the US are rarely encouraged to seriously pursue an education outside the studio. With mid-morning classes and otherwise demanding training schedules, they often end up in correspondence programs or at schools with low academic standards.

Waterbury said she almost felt sorry for the men who were fired by New York City Ballet (Finlay himself resigned) after she made her story public.

“You start at such a young age, so you’re kind of assimilated into something and you’re brought up thinking this is normal. This is how things function. This is how you get ahead. This is how it works,” Waterbury said.

But after her experience with Finlay, who put her health and safety at risk while also violating her consent and privacy, Waterbury refuses to accept that this is how the world works.

“Women are not something that you pick up and put down,” Waterbury said, “or something that’s replaceable.”

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« Reply #4114 on: Today at 05:34 AM »


Stigma pushes disabled children into 'dangerous' Kenyan orphanages

Report reveals widespread neglect in institutions across the country, yet fierce discrimination means such children may be at risk of being killed if they remain in their communities

Naomi Larsson in Nairobi
Guardian
Tue 20 Nov 2018 07.00 GMT

Behind the gates of an orphanage at the end of a dirt road on Nairobi’s outskirts, more than 30 children are being given plates of rice and beans in a stuffy room that smells as though it serves as dining room, physical therapy room and toilet. The scent of the food does little to mask the overpowering smell of faeces and urine.

Babies lie on worn, stained mattresses. Beside them, four children are tied in standing positions in order to “strengthen their legs”, the physiotherapist says. One boy is in visible pain, screaming and reaching out to one of the care-givers. This session will last two hours. One boy restrained in a chair is being spoon-fed by a staff member, who then slaps the child’s face.

Compassionate Hands receives donations from individuals and organisations around Kenya and across the world. Here, staff say four children sleep to a bed in overcrowded dorm rooms where they are locked in for 13 hours a day – conditions that are life-threatening, according to Disability Rights International (DRI), an organisation campaigning for children with disabilities.

Compassionate Hands’ executive director, Anne Njeri, was born with a disability and founded the centre to help others like her. “There is a lot of stigma and discrimination towards these children with disabilities,” she says. “The chances to survive, and access to public resources and to help them is very minimal. That is how most of them have ended up in institutions like ours.”

She denies staff’s claims that children sleep four to a bed, and says this only occurred while the orphanage was being built. “We try to give a chance to those who have little opportunities. Apart from sheltering them, we try to give them education, food and therapy. Sometimes not everybody will think you’re doing something good. But if it is ‘life-threatening’, the local authority would have come and told us. We are trying our best, we’re trying to build a place in the best way possible.”

Conditions here are not an isolated case. At the crumbling building of the Maji Mazuri institution in north-east Nairobi, a young man, believed to be 26, sits in a wheelchair tied to a pole in the yard. He is wearing a diaper, which attracts flies, and is playing with rocks he has picked off the ground. The staff say he will probably spend all day here – and he is likely to spend his entire life at the institution.

Janet Kabue from Maji Mazuri later told the Guardian: “No child spends the entire day tied to a pole, as they are taken in the dining hall to be fed, in the dormitory for their diapers to be changed.”

She said the young adult was rescued off the street and is “severely mentally challenged and epileptic”. Due to his condition he hits his head on surfaces or tries to bite other children, she said, which “necessitates securing his wheelchair to protect him from injury”. When the Guardian visited, the young man was quiet and did not move.

Inside the building, children with cerebral palsy and autism are locked in a small dorm room for at least 11 hours over night, according to one member of staff, and the DRI report echoes this allegation. The institution disputes the claim, saying that the children are not locked in the room, and that they are only there during sleeping hours.

Yet across Kenya, there is a culture of neglect in institutions for children with disabilities, according to a recent study by DRI. A two-year investigation by DRI and the Kenyan Association for the Intellectually Handicapped (Kaih), a grassroots organisation protecting the rights of children with disabilities in communities, found thousands of disabled children living in “dangerous” conditions at orphanages.

The study also found a culture of stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities that has led to widespread pressure on families to give up their children to orphanages.

Stigma against children with disabilities can lead to infanticide in some communities.

“The assumption that people with disabilities have no potential is so dangerous,” says Priscila Rodríguez, DRI’s associate director. “Once it’s assumed that they can’t have a full life, their lives are going to be thrown away. They’re either going to be left in isolated, inhuman places like this, or they’re going to be killed by their communities and families.”

Children are admitted to the Compassionate Hands orphanage after they have been abandoned by their families because of their disability. “Families want nothing to do with them because of their needs. In some communities they believe kids with disabilities are outcasts – a curse,” says Jackie, the facility’s coordinator, who does not give her surname. “They don’t want to be associated with them.”

    There are still communities where disability is taboo
    Fatma Wangare

Many children end up in institutions. There are at least 1,500 registered orphanages in Kenya, and potentially hundreds more that are unregistered, where children lack one-to-one care and can be locked away and restrained for hours on end, sitting or lying in their own excrement, DRI says, though there is no suggestion that this is the case at Compassionate Hands or Maji Mazuri.

Research has consistently shown that putting any child in an institution can cause psychological damage, and leads to developmental delays. Children living at such facilities worldwide are at increased risk of violence, trafficking for sex, drugs or organs, and torture.

“More and more we are seeing huge numbers of children with disabilities in orphanages. They’re the first ones to be taken in, and the last ones to be taken out,” says Fatma Wangare from Kaih. “Even in the orphanages they don’t have the skills or facilities to take care of children with disabilities.”

The discrimination against those with disabilities has deep roots and spans different social and economic groups. “Nothing prepares you to receive a child with a disability into the family,” says Wangare, who has a child with a learning disability. “There are still some communities where disability is taboo, and no one … wants to be associated with you if you have a child with a disability.”

Josephine has a 14-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, and lives in Nairobi. She says there is an attitude of “just leaving them to die”.

The family has experienced persistent discrimination, including her daughter being refused entry to a bus. “Wherever I go out people would tell me: ‘This lady has been cursed.’ Some say I tried to have an abortion, or that I got pregnant with an old man and that’s why my child is like that,” she says.

Stigma is such that disabled children are known to have been killed in some communities – a practice that still occurs. Almost 40% of women interviewed by DRI who live in Nairobi said they had been pressured by their community or relatives to kill their disabled child. This rose to 54% of mothers living in rural areas.

George Otieno Mjoki has a five-year-old son with a disability and campaigns for the rights of disabled children. He and his wife were left to discover their son’s condition themselves after he was born, he says. “I remember one nurse remarking that they had better kill the child because they knew the frustration that parents would undergo,” he says.

He has worked in some rural communities where “even now they don’t allow the child to grow. They leave the child in the forest for the hyenas – it is still happening.”

In Kenya, 10% of the population have a disability. The country was among 44 nations to sign the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It has already committed to inclusive education, and a year ago the government banned the opening of new institutions (though it doesn’t stop existing facilities from admitting new children).

Crucially, the government has introduced a social protection fund where families with disabilities are given around $20 (£15) a month, reaching an estimated 47,000 families. In July it co-hosted a disability summit in London, drawing up 170 new commitments to the rights of people with disabilities. The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, praised the partnerships between the UK and the government of Kenya on these aims.

However, many people are yet to see such commitments translate to everyday life. DRI and other Kenyan rights groups are calling on the country to enforce laws against infanticide, offer support to vulnerable families, and mobilise funding and initiatives for community based support.

“What I need as a mother is not the $20, I need services in my community that are accessible and affordable for my child,” says Wangare. “The government is now more receptive to disability, but it can do more than that.”

“I imagine a society where we will say we are not taking persons with disabilities into orphanages, they are able to take care of themselves,” says activist Otieno Mjoki. “We are looking forward into our struggle for that world, one day.”


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« Reply #4115 on: Today at 05:36 AM »


Jair Bolsonaro says Brazilians 'still don't know what dictatorship is'

Former army captain has made no secret of his admiration for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985

Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro and agencies
Guardian
Tue 20 Nov 2018 00.23 GMT

Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has prompted outrage and disbelief after he said the people of Brazil – which was ruled by the military for two decades – “still don’t know what dictatorship is”.

The former army captain – who has made no secret of his admiration for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985 – was speaking after phone talks with Hungary’s conservative and fiercely anti-migrant prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Hungary “is a country that has suffered a lot with communism in the past, a people that knows what dictatorship is”, Bolsonaro told a news conference outside his home in Rio de Janeiro.

“The Brazilian people still do not know what dictatorship is, do not know what it is to suffer at the hands of these people.”

José Miguel Vivanco, executive director in the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, criticised Bolsonaro’s “cold war tactics”.

“It is extremely troubling and revealing that Bolsonaro is taking advice from a well-known populist autocrat like Orbán,” he said. “Anyone who has anyone doubts about what Brazil suffered under military rule, just remember the gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights committed by that regime.”

In 2014 a report from a government truth commission concluded that more than 400 people were killed or disappeared and many more tortured under Brazil’s military junta which also censored media and culture, forcing many into exile.

Cid Benjamin, a journalist who was part of an armed leftwing group that opposed Brazil’s dictatorship, described Bolsonaro’s comment as “one more stupidity”. Benjamin was jailed and tortured after participating in the 1969 kidnapping of the American ambassador Charles Burke Elbrick – who was later released unharmed – and spent a decade in exile.

Benjamin said Brazil’s amnesty law, under which nobody was ever tried for dictatorship-era human rights abuses, enabled Bolsonaro to play down the cruelties of the military regime. “In Argentina it would be impossible for someone who defends the dictatorship to be elected president,” he said.

Set to take office on 1 January, the far-right leader has already drawn three of his government picks from the military, including General Fernando Azevedo e Silva as defence minister.

Asked about Orbán’s tough anti-migrant measures – he closed Hungary’s borders to migrants in 2015 – Bolsonaro preferred to discuss the situation in his own country.

“I was against our last immigration law [in 2017] which made Brazil a country without borders. We cannot allow the indiscriminate entry of all those who come here, only because they wanted to come.”

Thousands of Venezuelan migrants fleeing a political and economic crisis have crossed the border into Brazil over the past year. In August residents of the Brazilian border town of Pacairama trashed migrant camps used by Venezuelans and more than a thousand fled back across the border.

Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, said Bolsonaro was borrowing a narrative used by authoritarian leaders like Orbán.

“The non-native population in Brazil is tiny, it’s less than 1%,” Stuenkel said. “It’s much more about projecting the narrative that it is a very dangerous world out there and it is important to have a strong leader to protect against these threats.”

Stuenkel likened it to Donald Trump. “There will be a never ending series of provocative comments,” he said. “These kind of comments crowd out of the space for actual debate.”

Last week Bolsonaro announced the appointment as foreign minister of Ernesto Araújo, a fervent admirer of the US president. In an article Araújo said German Nazism and Italian fascism were leftwing movements that “enslaved a genuine national feeling”.


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« Reply #4116 on: Today at 05:39 AM »

Central African war crimes suspect known as ‘Rambo’ handed to global court

Reuters
20 Nov 2018 at 08:18 ET                   

A war crimes suspect wanted for alleged murder, deportation and torture of Muslims in the Central African Republic has been handed over to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the tribunal said.

CAR officials transferred Alfred Yekatom on Saturday to officials from the global court, which is looking in more than six years of violence that has destabilized a fragile region at the heart of the continent.

Yekatom, a sitting MP once nicknamed “Rambo”, was flown out of the country and arrived in the court’s detention center in the Hague in the early hours of Sunday, officials there said.

There was no immediate comment from Yekatom or any lawyers representing him.

A U.N. commission of inquiry found that Christian militias under Yekatom had carried out war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting Muslims.

The International Criminal Court – set up to prosecute the worst crimes when member countries can not or will not do so – issued a sealed arrest warrant for Yekatom on Nov. 11.

“We allege Mr. Yekatom is criminally responsible for several counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic between 5 December 2013 and August 2014,” International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

“Now, he must answer in court for his actions.”

WARRANTS, CHARGES

Bensouda is carrying out two separate investigations into conflicts in the Central African Republic. Yekatom’s arrest is the first in the more recent conflict.

A pre-trial chamber found reason to suspect Yekatom of commanding around 3,000 members of an armed group operating within the Anti-Balaka movement, which was carrying out systematic attacks against the Muslim population.

Among the charges in the warrant are murder, cruel treatment, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance, and the recruitment of child soldiers under the age of 15.

The former French colony, one of Africa’s poorest countries despite reserves of gold and diamonds, was plunged into chaos when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels started attacking towns and grabbing territory before seizing power in March 2013.

Seleka’s rule prompted a backlash from Christian militia known as anti-balaka. Under international pressure Seleka handed power to a transitional government but the move effectively partitioned the country and bloody clashes continue.

No date has been set yet for Yekatom’s initial appearance, but he must be brought before a judge within several days under court rules.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Andrew Heavens


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« Reply #4117 on: Today at 05:42 AM »

The News Is Bad in Hungary

Viktor Orban didn’t like what the press was reporting, so he took it over.

By Pamela Druckerman
Contributing Opinion Writer
NY Times
Nov. 20 2018

BUDAPEST — If you’re wondering what attacks on the news media around the world mean for the future of democracy, it’s worth a trip to Budapest. Consider it a cautionary-tale vacation.

When I visited Hungary recently, I knew I was entering a waning democracy that’s become increasingly authoritarian. I knew that Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a third term in April by convincing voters that a phantasmic combination of Muslim migrants, the Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros and European Union bureaucrats was coming to get them.

But I only understood how Mr. Orban pulled this off when I spoke to Hungarian journalists. They explained that Mr. Orban first criticized the press for being biased against him. Then he and his allies took over most of it, and switched to running stories that promote Mr. Orban’s populist agenda and his party, Fidesz.

This happened fast. The investigative website Atlatszo estimates that more than 500 Hungarian media titles are now controlled by Mr. Orban and his friends; in 2015, only 23 of them were. Loyalty trumps experience: Hungary’s biggest media mogul is a former pipe fitter from Mr. Orban’s hometown.

In some cases, Orban allies bought publications and shut them down. One morning in 2016, journalists at Nepszabadsag, one of Hungary’s biggest dailies, were simply locked out of their offices. Its new owner, an Austrian businessman, claimed financial problems; the paper had just run a series of articles exposing government corruption.

Other news organizations were bought and transformed from within. Some now reportedly take their talking points directly from the government. Recent headlines at Origo — once a respected online news site — were a numbing assortment of articles about migrants wreaking havoc on various European cities and conspiracies about Mr. Soros.

Headlines were strikingly similar on the website of Lokal, co-founded in 2015 by one of Mr. Orban’s top advisers. Its free print version, handed out at train and bus stations, is now Hungary’s highest-circulation newspaper.

There’s still independent news online, but most Hungarians don’t see it. And when one of these websites exposes corruption, Orban-friendly publications align to attack it.

“This is what the government would like to teach society — that there are no reliable sources at all among those who criticize the government,” explained Attila Batorfy, who tracks the Hungarian media for Atlatszo.

Hungary was especially vulnerable to this kind of takeover. The country became a democracy only in 1989. And government advertising for everything from the national lottery to the state opera is still a key source of revenue for media companies, and has long been doled out to friends.

Still, journalists I met in Budapest were struck by how quickly the press had changed, and that all it took to break this pillar of democracy was a combination of money and fear. “It’s not Russia,” Csaba Lukacs told me. “No one thinks that someone will be shot. Everyone thinks that he will lose his job. It’s enough.”

Mr. Lukacs was a senior reporter at Magyar Nemzet, an 80-year-old daily newspaper that closed in April. (Its government advertising evaporated after its owner broke with Mr. Orban.)

In May, Mr. Lukacs and two dozen former colleagues started a weekly called Magyar Hang (Hungarian Voice), which operates out of a one-room Budapest storefront. Most of its issues have no advertisements, because companies fear drawing the government’s ire by association, Mr. Lukacs said. The paper is printed across the border in Slovakia, because no Hungarian printer would do it. “One of the biggest problems is that people are afraid to be subscribers,” he added. Its journalists worked unpaid for the first two months. Now they sell enough copies — just under 10,000 per week, mostly at newsstands — to pay themselves the minimum wage.

Magyar Hang is a conservative, center-right newspaper — no more radical than The Wall Street Journal. Some of its writers, including Mr. Lukacs, used to support Fidesz. But because they’re willing to criticize the ruling party and report on official malfeasance, the government hasn’t credentialed its reporters, so they can’t attend its news conferences and question officials there, Mr. Lukacs said. And no state entity responds to their calls.

“If we ask someone from the governmental hospital, ‘How many cases of infections?’ they will not answer us,” he said. “For Fidesz, it’s not enough to be loyal, you have to be servile. You have to follow their instructions without questions, without any doubt.”

The news media isn’t Mr. Orban’s only victim. Last week, Central European University, co-founded by Mr. Soros, announced that, barring a last-minute deal, it will move its main operations from Budapest to Vienna, because of the government’s attacks.

But the media is a special target for autocracies and waning democracies everywhere. Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has threatened to pull state advertising from Folha de São Paulo. The Brazilian newspaper ran an exposé describing how supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro financed a WhatsApp misinformation campaign to help him win. Donald Trump regularly claims that articles critical of him are simply made up, and calls journalists the “enemy of the people.” And Saudi Arabia’s government apparently masterminded the murder of its critic Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post.

Hungary shows that under the right circumstances, attacks on the press can keep getting worse. And voters might respond by just tuning everything out. A Pew survey this year that looked at 10 European countries found that Hungarians were least likely to closely follow local and national news.

Near the end of my trip I spoke with Gyorgy Zsombor, the editor in chief of Magyar Hang. “We couldn’t imagine 10 years ago that it would happen in Hungary,” he told me. “We thought democracy was stronger.”

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