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“When we begin to build walls of prejudice, hatred, pride, and self-indulgence around ourselves, we are more surely imprisoned than any prisoner behind concrete walls and iron bars.” (Mother Angelica)

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As we remember those who have fallen this Memorial Day, I share the thoughts of fellow blogger Larry “Dutch” Woller, a Vietnam veteran.

Maybe No More Children Will Die

I sit here looking at the news
The powers wanted peace they say,
And while they spoke, bombs were dropped
20 children died that day!

Read more at On the Path Least Traveled

 

 

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“the woman is a construction” by Brazilian Poet Angélica Freitas

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Brazilian Poet Angélica Freitas
Photo Credit: Diário da Manhã, Pelotas,Rio Grande do Sul

 

My Poetry Corner May 2019 features the poem “the woman is a construction” (a mulher é uma construção) from the poetry collection, a uterus is the size of a fist (um útero é do tamanho de um punho), by Angélica Freitas, a contemporary Brazilian poet and translator.

Born in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1973, the eldest of four siblings, Angélica Freitas began writing poetry at the age of nine, but her journey to finding herself as a poet took a long and circuitous route. Her discovery, at the age of fifteen, that she was gay made it difficult for her to fit in with her peers. Bullies found her an easy target. At nineteen, following her father’s death, she escaped to Glasgow with a Scottish girlfriend. After six months of washing dishes and cleaning restrooms, she returned to her family home.

Opting to study journalism at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Freitas moved to the capital, Porto Alegre, where she remained after graduation. There, she could be invisible. In her poem, “the pink book of the foolish heart,” she recalls:

I had a girlfriend
with super powers
of invisibility
and when I walked beside her
I was also invisible

In 2000, an unexpected acceptance as a trainee with O Estado de São Paulo newspapers led Freitas to the metropolis of São Paulo. She confesses that she wasn’t a good reporter, but that the experience exposed her to other realities of life. After four years of suffering to write with the rhythm of a daily newspapers, she left them for a slower paced work schedule at a telecommunications magazine. A career in journalism, she came to realize, wasn’t for her. What she desired above all was to write poetry.

Her life changed on a Saturday in 2005 when, during a period of depression, she decided to attend a poetry workshop conducted by Carlito Azevedo, a poet from Rio de Janeiro. Two years later, under his mentorship, she published her first collection of poetry. That same year, she moved to Argentina where she lived for two years with her girlfriend. For the first time, she became part of a feminist group. Living among them made her question her own condition as a woman. On her return to Brazil, she moved back to her hometown to work full-time as a poet and writer. Continue reading

First, Rebel Against Yourself.

An excellent post by A.C. Stark in the U.K.
Are we ready and willing to give up our material comforts and high standard of living to allow our children to live?

A.C. Stark

In Owen Jones’ recent interview video with Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam criticises the political ‘left’ as having been perpetually dishonest about what economic action is required to mitigate the climate breakdown and what cultural changes this will necessitate. He contends that the ‘left’ have become so embroiled, so entrenched in the (conceptually politically right-wing) neoliberal ideal they are unable to conceive of human life “in anything other than cost-benefit, materialistic terms”. Their proposed resolutions have therefore assumed that market forces are enough to tackle climate change: business as usual WILL work, it just needs tweaking! They were wrong, whilst Roger is correct: The ‘left’ – the supposed political guardians of justice and equality – have fundamentally failed to realise that at the very heart of any suitable action to mitigating the climate breakdown requires a redefinition and restructuring of our society and economy. Just like all life on this…

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Earth Day 2019: Protect Our Species

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Photo Credit: Bees – Earth Day Network

 

April 22nd is Earth Day 2019. The theme this year Protect Our Species – aims to “educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.” Other goals include achieving major policies to protect these species, building a global movement that embraces nature, and encouraging individual actions to adopt a plant-based diet and stop pesticide and herbicide use.

Since the loss of the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago, our planet now faces the greatest rate of extinction due to human impact on their habitats. Learn more about What is driving this process of extinction?

Earth Day Network (EDN) sums up the scope of this threat with the following 10 facts for global species decline. It’s a shameful report card of our deficiency in stewardship.

Fact #1 – Our planet is losing species at an estimated 1,000 to 10,000 times their normal rate.

Fact #2 – A new study of insect populations in Germany suggests a decline of more than 75% over the last 28 years.

Fact #3 – Habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change are driving the loss of half of our planet’s wild animal population.

Fact #4 – Among our planet’s 504 primate species, 60% are threatened with extinction and 75% are in severe population decline.

Fact #5 – Across our planet each year, more than 650,000 marine mammals are caught or seriously injured by fishing gear.

Fact #6 – In the past 20 years, global fishing operations have adversely affected 75% of all toothed whale species, 65% of baleen whale species, and 65% of pinniped species.

Fact #7 – Forty percent (40%) of our planet’s bird species are in decline and 1 in 8 is threatened with extinction.

Fact #8 – Earth’s big cats, including tigers, leopards, and cheetahs, are in critical decline and many will become extinct in the next decade.

Fact #9 – If the current decline in lizard populations continues, 40% of all lizard species will be extinct by 2080.

Fact #10 – The American Bison, once numbered in the millions, now occupy less than one percent of their original habitat.

Learn more at EDN’s Protect our Species Primer and Action Toolkit. 

All is not yet lost. We can slow the rate of extinctions by working together to build a united global movement of consumers, educators, religious leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action. 

For too long, we humans have placed ourselves above and apart from our planetary web of life, ignoring the interconnectivity of all life forms. To drive national and global economic growth, our species continue to mistreat, exploit, and destroy non-human life. Do our cities have to burn like the Notre Dame Cathedral for humankind to finance and take swift, decisive action to do what needs to be done?

 

The Year 2018 in Hate & Extremism: Rage Against Change

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Chart of US Hate Groups 1999-2018
Image Credit: The Southern Poverty Law Center

 

These fears and frustrations [President Trump’s failure to build a wall], heightened by U.S. Census Bureau projections that white people will no longer be a majority by 2044, helped propel hate to a new high last year. The total number of hate groups rose to 1,020 in 2018, up about 7 percent from 2017. White nationalist groups alone surged by nearly 50 percent last year, growing from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148 in 2018. But at the same time, Trump has energized black nationalist hate groups — typically antisemitic and anti-LGBT organizations — with an increase to 264 from 233 in 2017. Overall, though, the great majority of hate groups are those that despise racial, ethnic or religious minorities and they, unlike black nationalist groups, have a firm foothold in the mainstream.

~ Excerpt from article “White supremacy flourishes amid fears of immigration and nation’s shifting demographics” by Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Report, 2019 Spring Issue, February 20, 2019, published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

~ See Map of Active Hate Groups in the United States // 2018
The top three states with the highest number of hate groups are California (83), Florida (75), and Texas (73).

 

“Fault Lines” – Poem by St. Lucian Poet Kendel Hippolyte

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Front Cover: Fault Lines by Kendel Hippolyte
Cover Art by Cecil Fevrier

My Poetry Corner April 2019 features the poem “Fault Lines” from the poetry collection, Fault Lines, by Kendel Hippolyte, a poet, playwright, and director. Born in the Eastern Caribbean Island of St. Lucia in 1952, he lived in Jamaica in the 1970s, where he explored his talents in writing plays and poetry. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1976 at the University of the West Indies Mona campus, he returned to St. Lucia.

Four poetry collections have followed his first publication in 1980. Fault Lines – published by the UK publisher, Peepal Tree Press, in 2012 – won the 2013 OCM Bocas (Caribbean Literature) Prize for Poetry. In 2000, he was awarded the St. Lucia Medal of Merit for Contribution to the Arts.

Since retiring from teaching theater arts and literature at the Sir Arthur Lewis College (1992-2007), Hippolyte focuses on raising public awareness and contributing to solutions of critical social issues. A major Caribbean tourist destination, the island nation of an estimated 165,510 inhabitants (July 2018) is vulnerable to global capitalism and its ills of consumerism, drugs, crime, and violence.

Cruise ships at the Port of Castries – St. Lucia – Eastern Caribbean
Photo Credit: St. Lucia Taxi & Tours

In his poem, “Paradise” (from the same collection), the poet laments in Caribbean English: “Every time this tourist ship name Paradise come dock in the harbor / you does realize we never going to make it.”

In “Fault Lines,” the collection’s titular poem, Hippolyte invites the reader to look beyond the natural beauty of the idyllic, island nation to the underlying fault lines that rupture its communities.

The lines appear on sidewalks and on streets just recently resurfaced,

on bridges and on buildings, the creases, cracks, accumulation;

the fractures of a thin, brittle civilization aging prematurely.

Earthquake rupture along freeway in Southern California – USA
Photo Credit: HPCwire

For those of us who live along the geological fault lines on Earth’s surface, as in the Caribbean and in my home state of California, the fissures or cracks are warnings of mounting pressure beneath our feet. So, too, the fault lines that divide us. And there are many such lines, such as inequality and rising white nationalism.

The hand of something dying scrabbles these last messages everywhere,

a harsh cuneiform trying to break through surfaces into our understanding.

But we can barely read that ancient language now, of earth writing itself.

Yet, the poet says, we are blind to the signs everywhere of our undoing. We have failed to learn from the errors of past civilizations.

We walk between the lines, fill in the blank telling cracks, deconstruct, if need be,

our crumbling edifices breaking out in fault lines from trying to contain what we’ve become.

We humans have a way of creating alternate realities that fit our narratives about who we are as a species.

The hand is writing too on faces – lines of bewilderment, fear, guilt;

other unfinished lines trail off, coagulating red on bodies left as messages,

torsos punctuated with the exclamation marks of knife wounds, full stops of bullet holes;

final sentences marked on faces of those who used to be too young to kill or to be killed.

The imagery here is powerful. These are no longer cracks on our sidewalks, streets, bridges, and buildings. These are self-inflicted wounds, especially to our young people who die in mass shootings and in our war zones.

Something is desperately writing a threnodic poem to us, hoping we will read

the lines appearing on the sidewalks, streets, bridges, buildings, bodies, faces. But

we do not read – and what hope for a poem, like this one, struggling to translate,

with nothing but words, these dark fault lines of our disintegration into poetry?

Hippolyte makes clear that this is a poem of lamentation for a species that refuses to see the myriad “dark fault lines” that herald our disintegration as communities and nations. He holds out little hope that his poetic words would awaken us to action.

When the fault lines finally rupture and dislocate the earth beneath our feet, would it be too late for humankind to change its ways?

To read the featured poem and learn more about the work of Kendel Hippolyte, go to my Poetry Corner April 2019.

U.S. Trade Update 2018: China, Canada and Mexico

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Container Vessel from China unloads at Los Angeles Port – California – USA
Photo Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On March 1, 2019, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer delivered President Trump’s “2019 Trade Policy Agenda & 2018 Annual Report” to Congress. He was full of praise for his boss.

“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, the United States is pursuing trade policies that are more favorable to American workers,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “In just two years, we have significantly re-written major trade deals with Korea, Mexico, and Canada. We have undertaken dramatic new enforcement efforts to stop unfair trading practices by China and other countries.” 

The full report can be viewed here.

President Trump has kept his promise made during his electoral campaign to renegotiate NAFTA. On November 30, 2018, the three trade partners signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will replace NAFTA. It’s now up to Congress to approve or reject the terms of agreement.

In her article, “The Battle Over NAFTA 2.0 Has Just Begun,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, warns that “if progressives don’t engage strategically to improve the pact, the consequences could be devastating [for both workers and consumers].”

To date, our Dealer-in-Chief’s strategies to reduce our trade deficit has not shown results. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade statistics released on March 6, 2019, here’s a look at U.S. trade (goods only) in 2018 for our top three trade partners—China, Canada, and Mexico—that account for 44.9 percent of America’s total trade, valued at $1.9 trillion.

Chart of US Top Ten Trade Partners 2018 prepared by Rosaliene Bacchus

America’s trade war with China is not over. Our success or failure matters. China is our Number One trading partner with 15.7 percent of total trade (imports & exports), valued at $659.8 billion. Trade teams from the USA and China are now in their eight round of negotiations. Judging from the import figures for 2018, our ten percent tariff on select Chinese imports have not yet had any effect, when compared to the previous year. U.S. export values tell a different story. Our farmers and ranchers continue to bear the burden of China’s retaliatory tariffs on American produce.

  • China
    Imports increased $34.0 billion to $539.5 billion
    Exports decreased$10.1 billion from $130.4 billion
    US-China Trade Deficit increased $44.0 billion to $419.2 billion
    —representing 47.7 percent of total trade deficit for all countries
Chart of US Total Imports & Exports of Goods & Services 2009-2018
Prepared by Rosaliene Bacchus

After China (15.7%), Canada (14.7%) and Mexico (14.5%) rank in second and third place, with total trade valued at $617.2 billion and $611.5 billion, respectively. In 2018, trade deficits increased for both Canada and Mexico, when compared with figures for 2017.

  • Canada
    Imports increased $18.5 billion to $318.5 billion
    Exports increased $16.3 billion to $298.7 billion
    US-Canada Trade Deficit increased $2.2 billion to $19.8 billion

  • Mexico
    Imports increased $32.5 billion to $346.5 billion
    Exports increased $22.0 billion to $265.0 billion
    US-Mexico Trade Deficit increased $10.5 billion to $81.5 billion

After decades of trade policies that have favored multinational and transnational corporations and gutted American manufacturing jobs, we cannot ignore the terms of our trade agreements that would impact our industries and livelihood. We can no longer expect more and pay less. This comes with a high price tag.

The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption by Dahr Jamail

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The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption is a work of investigative journalism by Dahr Jamail, conducted during the period April 2016 to July 2017 on the front lines of human-caused climate disruption. Having lived in Alaska for ten years (1996-2006), Jamail had witnessed the dramatic impact of global warming on the glaciers there.

Jamail’s original aim was to alert readers about “the urgency of our planetary crisis through firsthand accounts of what is happening to the glaciers, forest, wildlife, coral reefs, and oceans, alongside data provided by leading scientists who study them.” His reporting took him to climate disruption hot spots in Alaska, California, Florida, and Montana in the United States; Palau in the Western Pacific Ocean; Great Barrier Reef, Australia; and the Amazon Forest in Manaus, Brazil. His grief at what was happening to nature made him realize that “only by having this intimacy with the natural world can we fully understand how dramatically our actions are impacting it.”

Below are excerpts of assessments expressed to the author by scientists and other professionals working on the front lines.

Gulkana Glacier – Alaska – USA
Photo Credit: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

The magnitude of change in Alaska is easy to miss because Alaska is such a massive state, and largely undeveloped. That is why you’ve had no idea that Alaska’s glaciers are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year.
~ Dr. Mike Loso, a physical scientist with the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

[The rate of melting of Montana’s glaciers] is an explosion, a nuclear explosion of geologic change. This is unusual, it is incredibly rapid and exceeds the ability for normal adaption. We’ve shoved it into overdrive and taken our hands off the wheel.”
~ Dr. Dan Farge, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research ecologist and director of the Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems Project, Montana.

This last summer [2015], the Gulf [of Alaska] warmed up 15℃ [59℉] warmer than normal in some areas… And it is now, overall, 5℃ [41℉] above normal in both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and has been all winter long.
~ Bruce Wright, a senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) and former section chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for eleven years.

St. Paul Island – Pribilof Islands – Bering Sea – Alaska
Photo Credit: St. Paul Island Tour

We hardly eat seals anymore, or the birds, and people now get food stamps and social handouts and welfare and shop at the store. When I grew up, we didn’t need any of that because we always had seals and birds and fish to eat. If the fur seals aren’t here, neither will we be.
~Jason Bourdukofsky Sr., the president of TDX, Alaska’s native corporation on St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea.

Bleached Coral – Great Barrier Reef – Australia
Photo Credit: Great Barrier Reef Legacy

The warming [of the oceans] we’re seeing now is happening far too fast to allow for [coral] evolution…. So what we’re seeing now is death. That’s what [coral] bleaching is…. Right now the largest ecosystem on Earth is undergoing its death throes and no one is there to watch it.
~ Dr. Dean Miller, a marine scientist and director of science and media for Great Barrier Reef Legacy, Australia.

Even if your home [in South Florida] may be elevated, all the infrastructure and freshwater and sewage treatment and getting rid of the sewage…all of this infrastructure is critically vulnerable to sea level rise.
~ Dr. Ben Kirtman, one of the leading sea level experts in the world and program director for the Climate and Environmental Hazards program at the University of Miami’s Center for Computational Science.

Sea level rise is going to accelerate faster than the models, and it’s not going to stop. So the government [of the State of Florida] has to have a plan that includes buyouts. It’s cheaper to buy this area [Coral Gables] out than it is to maintain the infrastructure.
~ Dr. Harold Wanless, professor and chair of the Department of Geological Science, University of Miami, Coral Gables campus.

Sea Level Rise – Matheson Hammock Park – Coral Gables – Florida (2016)
Photo Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA)

You know what the burden is? It’s looking up through the political hierarchy above me to the state legislature, to the governor, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, the White House, and you ask, Who is minding the shop? Who else knows what I know?… What kind of morality allows them to ignore what is going to happen?
~ Dr. Philip Stoddard, mayor of South Miami and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University.

We need to educate people about what is really going on with climate disruption…. I made a personal decision to not have kids, because I don’t have a future to offer them. I don’t think we are going to win this battle. I think we are really done.
~ Dr. Rita Mesquita, a biologist and researcher with Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus, Amazonas.

The dire position we’re in now is solid evidence of the fact that the predominant civilization does not have a handle on all the interrelationships between humans and what we call the natural world. If it did, we wouldn’t be facing this dire situation.
~ Stan Rushworth, elder of Cherokee descent who has taught Native American literature and critical thinking classes focused on Indigenous perspectives.

Jamail concludes that we are already facing mass extinction. We can’t remove the heat now stored in the oceans, yet we keep on pumping 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Our future is uncertain. Writing this book was his attempt to bear witness to what we have done to the Earth. “I am committed in my bones to being with the Earth,” he writes, “no matter what, to the end.”

DAHR JAMAIL

Dahr Jamail, a reporter for Truthout, is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Disintegration of a Nation (co-authored with William Rivers Pitt). Over the past fifteen years, Jamail has also reported from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. An accomplished mountaineer who has worked as a volunteer rescue ranger on Denali, Alaska, he won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism and is a 2018 winner of the Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism. Jamail is also the recipient of the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, and five Project Censored Awards. 

“The Leash” – Poem by Ada Limón

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Front Cover The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón
Milkweed Editions – Minnesota/USA – August 2018
Photo Credit: Ada Limón

 

My Poetry Corner March 2019 features the poem “The Leash” from the poetry collection, The Carrying: Poems, by Ada Limón. Native of Sonoma, California, Limón is a poet, writer, and teacher. After earning an MFA in creative writing from the University of New York, she spent the next ten years working for various magazines, such as Martha Stewart Living, GQ, and Travel + Living. In 2011, she moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to be close to her now-husband, Lucas, a business owner in the horse racing industry. In addition to working as a freelance writer, she serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte (NC) and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center (MA).

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader magazine (August 2018), Limón says that The Carrying, her fifth book of poetry, “is incredibly personal. It’s more political than my other books… It deals with the body, with fertility. It also deals with what it is to do the day-to-day work of surviving.”

In her poem, “The Vulture & The Body,” she shares her struggle with infertility. In coming to terms with the failure of fertility treatment, she asks:

What if, instead of carrying
a child, I am supposed to carry grief? Continue reading

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The basic science for how climate change triggers severe cold weather in wintertime — The Secular Jurist

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By Robert A. Vella. It may seem paradoxical to laypeople that we would have severe cold weather spells in wintertime given that the world is rapidly warming up due to manmade climate change; and, climate change deniers are quick to exploit this paradox for political reasons.  But, it is true.  Global warming is increasing the incidence of extreme weather events of every kind from prolonged droughts and powerful storms to deadly heat waves and brutal cold snaps.  The following details the basic science behind the phenomenon popularly, though inaccurately, known as the “polar vortex.” The real polar vortex is something else altogether…

via The basic science for how climate change triggers severe cold weather in wintertime — The Secular Jurist