Archive for November, 2010

Incredible images from 425 miles above the Earth

12 Images Here :

DUBAI - FEBRUARY 09:  Front Cover: Welcome to Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure ever built, at 828 m (2,717 ft).

…and the glory of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, they make up part of commercial satellite firm GeoEye’s 2011 calendar

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

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Patti Smith wins National Book Award with Robert Mapplethorpe story

Singer-songwriter’s memoir of life with photographer and within 1960s New York scene wins prestigious US prize, Thursday 18 November 2010  Benedicte Page

Patti Smith
Memories of Mapplethorpe … Patti Smith. Photograph: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Patti Smith‘s bitter-sweet memoir of a youthful affair with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe won her a prestigious National Book Award in the US last night.

The singer-songwriter’s widely praised book Just Kids tells how Smith met Mapplethorpe in the 1960s and charts their transition from flatmates to lovers, against the backdrop of a New York scene inhabited by the likes of Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Though they later split up after Mapplethorpe settled on his homosexuality, they stayed close friends, with the photographer taking the famous image of Smith that adorns the cover of her debut album, Horses, released in 1975.

An emotional Smith said she had “loved books all my life” as she accepted the prize at a ceremony in New York.

Just Kids took the National Book Awards non-fiction prize, while little-known writer Jaimy Gordon caused an upset by taking the fiction prize with her horse racing tale, Lord of Misrule.

Pundits had tipped Nicole Krauss’s Great House or Lionel Shriver’s So Much For That to take the fiction prize, but it went instead to Gordon’s comedy about the bargain-basement end of the horse racing world. Gordon’s book follows the lives of five battered characters involved with a poor racetrack in West Virginia and is published by small press McPherson & Company.

Terrance Hayes took the award for poetry with his collection Lighthead, while Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, won for young people’s literature.

Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities, received a lifetime achievement award.

The National Book Awards have run annually since 1950, with winners now receiving $10,000 (£6,200).

Article Here:

18 American War veterans commit suicide each day

In the last few years, more US military personnel have taken their own lives than have been killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Published: 23 November, 2010

The memory of recent combat has become a daily nightmare for many US soldiers who returned home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Post-traumatic stress can force veterans to kill themselves, bringing the suicide rate among American military personnel to its highest level since the Vietnam War.

Each day, 18 American veterans commit suicide. In the last few years, more US military personnel have taken their own lives than have been killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The numbers raise a question:where is the battle really happening – in the field or at home?

“He was only home for eight months before his demons took him over,” said Mike Bowman, father of an Iraq veteran who killed himself, to the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“My son returned physically but mentally he never returned,” recalled Cheryl Softich, mother of another Iraq veteran who committed suicide. “After a year and a half at home he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.”

“A year and a half of his life was torture and I couldn’t help him. And they refused to help him, or told him he was number 26 in line,” acknowledged Marianne Schulze, stepmother of an Iraq veteran who took his own life.

“I feel cheated that my son’s needs weren’t take care of,” Jim Schulze, father of a Marine, said.

These parents share a similar tragedy – one of losing their children who had gone to war, all in Iraq, strong and healthy men, and came back deeply traumatized and haunted by nightmares.

Many refuse to seek help from the government in fear it’s going to show on their records and they won’t be able to find employment. But even those who do seek help are often neglected.

“I went to apply for a job, I went for unemployment benefits, I went to the garrison’s administration for treatment a year after I was discharged because I was feeling suicidal, and I was discharged, I was refused treatment, actually,” recalls Brian Little, U.S. Navy, California.

Brian Little, who had served in Iraq, came to a charity event for homeless veterans because he, too, was homeless, like dozens of other young men and women there.

Not only do many come back from war traumatized, but they are often left without a roof over their head.

According to the US National Coalition on Homelessness, 40 per cent of homeless men are veterans.

The staggering number of those who see no other option but to kill themselves pushed the country’s veteran’s affairs department to start a suicide prevention hotline.

Further, they claim they have talked more than 10,000 veterans out of killing themselves.

These days Iraq and Afghan veterans fuel the suicide epidemic.

Trained responders who speak on the phone with veterans often hear from callers who see no meaning behind the many killings they witnessed.

Any war is traumatizing for a soldier, but the suicide rate among vets in the US is now the highest since the Vietnam War. There was no similar surge after World War II.

Also, civilians’ questioning of the motives of the war is now reflected among many young American vets, whose own doubts drive them even closer to the brink.

Looking at the plight of veterans in the US, one can’t help asking: what is the cost of war? Is it the 1.8 trillion dollars the US spent in Iraq and Afghanistan last year, or is it the shattered lives of tens of thousands of soldiers who come back home to find that their battle for survival has only just begun.

Article and Video Here:

Categories: News of the moment

Inside the dark legacy of the US ‘School of Assassins’

Published: 19 November, 2010

Imagine a school dedicated to teaching torture, to educating soldiers on how to rape and murder American nuns and assassinate Salvadoran priests; an institution whose mission is to demonstrate how to ‘disappear’ innocent civilians with total impunity.

Now imagine it’s funded with American taxpayer dollars and that it’s located on American soil. But you don’t have to imagine, because for the past 62 years, the School of the Americas has done exactly that.

From Pinochet’s soldiers in Chile, D’Aubuisson’s death squads in El Salvador, Banzer’s minions in Bolivia, Galtieri’s operatives in Argentina and Rios Montt’s soldiers in Guatemala to the present-day generals responsible for the coup in Honduras and the drug war killings in Colombia, the School of the Americas has a dark legacy. Renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the school has graduated 65,000 soldiers from 18 countries.

Founded to fight communism in the Western Hemisphere, it quickly became known as the School of the Assassins. But for the past 20 years, Jesuit priest Roy Bourgeois has watched over its gates and held its graduates accountable for their crimes. The School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) began with just 10 activists in a small apartment across the street from Ft. Benning in the US State of Georgia.

I think that as Americans, we have a particular responsibility when our government has been involved in a lot of atrocities throughout history, but even more so today when our military aid is not being used in accountable ways,” said Charity Ryerson, an activist with SOA Watch who spent six months in federal prison for intentionally trespassing on Ft. Benning to draw attention to the school’s crimes.

On the weekend of November 20th, tens of thousands of activists are set to converge at its gates to demand an end to the militarization and the massacres, the human rights violations and the secrecy and will continue the fight to close the School of the Americas.

Article Here

Categories: News of the moment

Freedoms of press, speech and assembly under attack in America

Published: 23 November, 2010

An RT ( Russia Today ) crew was recently arrested by US police while filming protests near the Fort Benning military base in the US state of Georgia.

Correspondent Kaelyn Forde’s and her cameraman Jon Conway were detained while covering a rally protesting the School of the Americas. They were arrested after the demonstration was over and everybody, including correspondents, was leaving the area. The arrests were rough and included the use of hard plastic hand cuffs, the same type commonly used by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, injuring Kaelyn Forde’s wrists. At the time of their arrests the correspondents were not told what crime they were being charged with.

They were held as protestors even though they presented valid press credentials to the court. Currently out on bail after 32 hours in custody, Forde and Conway were eventually charged with partaking in an illegal protest and disobeying the orders of law enforcement officers.

The School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is a US tax payer funded military operation that trains military soldiers from Latin American nations. Many of its graduates have gone on to insight coups and human rights violations in their home nations. Previous graduates include Pinochet of Chile, D’Aubuisson of El Salvador, Banzer in Bolivia, Galtieri’s in Argentina and Rios Montt of Guatemala. Some have even found School of the Americas ties to the more recent coup in Honduras.

Davis Swanson, author of the newly released book, “War is a Lie” said this case is a disturbing trend in America, and the constitutional rights of both the press and the activists were violated by the police.

He explained the rights of a free press and free assembly seem to be thrown out when it comes to coverage of the US government, military, congressional campaigns and political parties.

There is the freedom of assembly as well as the freedom of the press in our First Amendment, and it is being attacked,” Swanson said. “This is something that has been growing in recent years.”

There is a growing police presence at peaceful rallies and events, explained Swanson. Police are increasing their efforts and hostility at non-violent rallies. The event was a Christian protest, made up of activists that included priests, nuns, elderly individuals and minors.

It is a growing problem that ought to concern all of us,” he said.

Swanson argued there was no justification for the police to violate the people’s first amendment rights. Increasing arrests, hostility and preemptive targeting of activists is unjust.

There seems to be a crack down on people protesting even as the protests diminish in size,” he added.

The US military targets the media. The uses intimidation and releases tailored stories to the media, and most US media simply bend to the power and intimidation of the government, Swanson argued.

We have a campaign of intimidation that is very very successful,” he said.There are two disgraceful things that happened here. One,an arrest of journalists and activists, and two, most US media outlets not there, not risking arrests, complying withthe desires of those in power or successfully intimidated.”

Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of Code Pink, an activist organization, is no stranger to protests and rallies. She said “it’s insane” that the police arrested journalists who were simply covering the protest.

I think it’s quite strange,” she said. “[It] doesn’t really go with the pattern of previous years.”

Under President Obama we thought there would be more room for exercising our First Amendment rights, and yet we see under this President, things like the FBI raids of activists in Chicago and Minneapolis,” she explained. “That didn’t even happen to us under the Bush years. It’s quite strange.”

Article Here

Categories: News of the moment

Brent Council spends £600,000 on two libraries… then axes them

Article Here:

Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor

Town hall bosses have been accused of “an awful waste of money” after spending £600,000 refurbishing two libraries now facing closure.
Neasden Library 

Book ends: the library at Neasden which has been renovated at a cost of £360,000 but now faces closure

Brent plans to axe six of its 12 libraries next year as part of a huge cost-cutting drive. They include Neasden, renovated at a cost of £360,000, and Barham Park, which reopened only two months ago after a £245,000 transformation.

As a result of the investment, Neasden has more books and DVDs and a self-service checkout, while Barham Park hosts state-of-the art IT facilities and a creche. Also lined up for closure are Kensal Rise, Tokyngton, Preston and Ken Livingstone‘s local library in Cricklewood.

Together the six have more than 400,000 visits a year. Shutting them would save about £1 million a year.

Brent is the latest borough to reveal how George Osborne‘s local government cuts will affect its library service. It is feared 130 libraries could close across the capital.

Brent’s plan, laid out this week in a report from Sue Harper, director of environmental and neighbourhood services, has provoked bitter opposition. Sarah Cox, a former teacher at Newfield primary in Harlesden, joined hundreds in a protest at the town hall. “It’s a real pity to close libraries that were so recently done up. It seems like an awful waste of money,” she said.

David Butcher, of Kensal Rise, spoke at a tense council meeting on Monday, at which the launch of a consultation on the closures was approved.

The father-of-two said: “The closure of these well-loved libraries would be a terrible mistake. They are incredibly important in the battle to prise school- age children away from the TV.”

Ms Harper said the centres earmarked for closure were “badly located and in need of substantial updating” costing an estimated £1.1 million over 20 years. Only nine per cent of Brent’s £3 million libraries budget was currently spent on books, she said.

Ann John, leader of the Labour council, said the council had a duty to maintain the buildings. She said closing libraries was one of the worst things a council could do, but it was being forced to slash its budget.

Categories: News of the moment

Squatting could become crime after review of legislation

Just when thousands of people are about to be made homeless, the Cleggeron threatens to bring on this legislation.

There are many empty properties everywhere that could house plenty of people.  Imprison the squatters and we the taxpayer pay around £40K a year to keep someone at Her Majesty’s Pleasure….

Squatters could be fined or even jailed under plans being considered by ministers.
Squatters in Connan Gupta's house
Thing of the past? Squatters in Connan Gupta’s house

At present, homeowners in England have to obtain an order from the civil courts to force squatters to leave.

But the Ministry of Justice is looking at how to strengthen the law, and one option is to make squatting a criminal offence as it is in Scotland.

Squatters north of the border can be fined £200 and jailed for up to 21 days if they fail to pay the penalty.

A review is also examining if interim possession orders, requiring squatters to leave a property, could be granted by the courts within 24 hours rather than taking up to a week.

Housing minister Grant Shapps told the Standard: “We are looking at whether the balance in the law on squatting is right or whether home-owners need better protection.

“Squatting is wrong and the Government is keen to ensure that all the proper measures are in place to help legitimate homeowners get their property back.”

In Scotland, the owner or lawful occupier of a property has the right to evict squatters without giving any notice or applying for an eviction order, but must not break the law by using violence.

Categories: News of the moment