Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Reaching for freedom in India
There’s been widespread outrage in India’s gay community, which is in shock after the country’s top court reversed a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that had decriminalised homosexual acts.
The court has now left it to parliament to legislate on Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial law, under which a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and punishable by a 10-year jail term.
Opposition to the 2009 ruling had come from more than a dozen political, social and religious groups and petitioners.
They put up an array of arguments, many of them bizarre and, some might say, disingenuous.
One petitioner was a TV astrologer who told the court the ruling “compromises national defence since soldiers will start having sex with each other”…Perhaps most bizarrely, a spokesman for a popular yoga guru opposed the change, telling the court that he could “cure homosexuality through yoga”…
Ranged against this were some four main groups who filed petitions supporting the Delhi court decision.
They included parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with stories of how the colonial-era law had caused trauma to them and harmed their family lives; a group of more than a dozen psychiatrists and psychologists who treat LGBT “patients”; and some distinguished academics and leading Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal…
The 2009 judgement came as a shot in the arm for India’s gay community. More and more of its members had begun to come out. “The verdict is a severe blow to them,” journalist and activist Vikram Doctor tells me. “Once people come out of the closet, they just cannot go back.”
I don’t know why I ever presumed India had left behind all the trappings of British Imperialism. Out-of-date and disfunctional, 19th Century policies are only honored by the truly backwards. Usually on the basis of religion or bigotry.
I had presumed that legal structures at least at the top of law’s pyramid in India would be self-limiting to those individuals genuinely qualified. Wrong, obviously.
Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question “Do the islands support one species or two species?” is actually “three species.” Hochstetter’s Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe’s rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition…
The research team, led by independent botanist Prof. Richard Bateman in collaboration with local botanist Dr. Mónica Moura…and plant morphologist Dr. Paula Rudall…originally viewed these butterfly-orchids as a simple, tractable system ideal for studying the origin of species and so they initiated a focused exploration of all nine Azorean islands.
A combination of field and laboratory research soon showed that butterfly-orchids first colonized the Azores from the Mediterranean rather than from North America, rapidly undergoing miniaturization of their ancestrally large flowers. It proved easy to distinguish the widespread Short-spurred Butterfly-orchid (Platanthera pollostantha) from the rarer Narrow-lipped Butterfly-orchid (P. micrantha) using morphology, DNA sequences, and the identities of mycorrhizal fungi associated with the roots of the orchids. However, this ‘simple’ study was thrown into disarray when Dr. Moura explored remote dwarfed laurisilva forests along the highest volcanic ridge on the central island of São Jorge and found an unusual population of butterfly orchids…
Bateman then realised that this “new” orchid had in fact been illustrated (but never correctly identified as a new species) in the first ever Flora of the islands, published in 1844, but thereafter had consistently been confused with other more frequent Azorean species. The illustrated specimen, deposited in the herbarium at Tübingen by German botanist Karl Hochstetter, was collected during his tour of six of the nine Azorean islands in 1838…
In the meantime, the team are anxious to obtain conservation protection for the newly-recognized and exceptionally rare orchid. “This remarkable species languished unrecognized for 173 years,” commented Bateman. “It’s rediscovery and recognition beautifully illustrate the value of integrating field-based and laboratory-based approaches to generate a modern monograph. This methodology both demonstrates that the species is genuine and allows us to make informed recommendations for its future conservation.”
What a delightful tale. Can you imagine being part of this search and discovery?
The Azores are a beautiful and wonderful enough place to experience on their own. Add in the quest for knowledge rewarded by what actually is a rediscovery – you expand the symbiotic qualities of science and nature.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said former South African President Nelson Mandela beat apartheid by choosing reconciliation over revenge.
Mandela, 95, died Thursday after a lengthy battle with a recurring lung infection. He was imprisoned for 28 years for plotting to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid government, and was elected president in 1994.
In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jackson said Mandela was successful in his fight against apartheid because he wasn’t motivated by revenge.
“Well, he was shaped by persecution and internal will and dignity and … he did not internalize the system. And to that extent, he was gracious because of victory. He won the battle over skin color apartheid and political right to vote and legal apartheid and international world opinion after he had a choice at that point to choose revenge or reconciliation. He chose reconciliation as a victor over that system,” Jackson said.
“Because at that moment … if he had chosen revenge, then you would have had a bloodshed. He chose to go forth by a kind of hope and not by fear. Those are choices the man made,” he added.
Mandela was a stellar example of the winner in a fight for freedom rejecting revenge. Now, try to communicate the value of that ethic to American neo-Confederates, the losers in our civil war to preserve the union and end slavery – who are still trying to exact revenge for that loss.
South Africa’s first black president spent nearly a third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid, yet he sought to win over its defeated guardians in a relatively peaceful transition of power that inspired the world.
As head of state, the former boxer, lawyer and inmate lunched with the prosecutor who argued successfully for his incarceration. He sang the apartheid-era Afrikaans anthem at his inauguration and traveled hundreds of miles to have tea with the widow of the prime minister in power at the time he was sent to prison.
It was this generosity of spirit that made Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, a global symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation in a world often jarred by conflict and division…
Mandela’s death deprived the world of one of one of the great figures of modern history and set the stage for days of mourning and reflection about a colossus of the 20th century who projected astonishing grace, resolve and good humor.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people,” Mandela said. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
RTFA. It is long as it should be. Nelson Mandela led a courageous life over many decades, conquered many enemies. Those enemies often included the government of these United States and many European democracies. Governments make wrong decisions over time, often for the worst of reasons. Mandela would forgive them.
Some of us who fought to support the wars of national liberation around the globe may also forgive. We will never forget.
The Civil War might be long over, but a battle about putting a monument honoring Union soldiers at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in Florida is still underway.
The proposal to install a monument at the park — the site of the biggest Civil War battle fought in Florida — was met with opposition on Monday night during a public hearing…
Each year, Olustee hosts a reenactment of a four-hour battle in which Union forces were routed by Confederate troops…
A descendant of someone who died at the Battle of Olustee, Mike Farrell, proposed the new memorial because of his experience serving as an historical exhibitor at the park.
“I always have the visiting public approach me and ask me where the Union monument is on the battlefield, and I often tell them, ‘There isn’t any.’…What I’m talking about is a battlefield monument,” Farrell said.
Republican state Rep. Dennis Baxley…proposed halting the monument from within the state house. “I can do a very simple proposal to the Legislature that we protect all monument sites,” he said.
Racists have grown more practiced in the semantics-based lies they use to answer questions about bigoted proposals. I guess that in itself is recognition of growing understanding among Americans still dull enough to be suckered into rightwing politics. They don’t care to admit publicly how much of their craptastic chicanery is proposed to satisfy racism, justify slavery.
They’re only kidding themselves. The rest of the nation looks and nods – “Yes, these are the village idiots who continue to think they weren’t defeated by the strength of the Union. They believe the South will rise again and Jim Crow laws will be reinstated.”
Illustrating once again how easy it was for Nixon to decide on the Southern Strategy, just how easy it was for Republicans to lock up the bigot vote.
A woman looks on as Mount Sinabung spews ash, viewed from Sibintun village in Karo district, Indonesia’s north Sumatra province…Mount Sinabung continued to spew volcanic ash throwing a plume 8,000 meters into the atmosphere on Monday as thousands of residents remained in temporary shelters fearful of more eruptions.
William Burns, Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan – negotiators in secret
The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.
But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.
President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran…
The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.
The Geneva deal provides Iran with about $7 billion in relief from international sanctions in exchange for Iranian curbs on uranium enrichment and other nuclear activity. All parties pledged to work toward a final accord next year that would remove remaining suspicions in the West that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.
Iran insists its nuclear interest is only in peaceful energy production and medical research.
The diplomatic gamble with Iran, if the interim agreement holds up and leads to a final pact preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, could avert years of threats of U.S. or Israeli military intervention. It could also prove a turning point in decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran – and become a crowning foreign policy achievement of Obama’s presidency.
First off, RTFA for the details. The AP has done a professional job outlining the chronology of this comparatively recent – and successful – effort.
The rest of the world will keep the whole history of relations between Iran and the United States in mind even though the average American hasn’t a clue. A condition perpetuated by what passes for news in our media-as-entertainment only, history in our schools.
It starts with the United States, the CIA and Iranian royalists combining to crush the first democratically-elected government in Iran back in 1953. No one in Iran, no one in the Middle East forgets how American greed for oil trumped democracy with violence. No one in the world seriously believes the United States has abandoned the imperial premises that brought about that coup.
The possibility of the detente that started during the Clinton years continuing – were abruptly halted, intentionally or otherwise – by George W. Bush announcing to the world how he demanded the Iranian people vote in elections in 2005. Only an old-fashioned fool in the mold of Colonel Blimp would expect a nation to bow their heads and say, “Yes, boss” to such arrogance. And, so, the Iranian nation ended up with a fool in charge to match the clown in the White House.
We are fortunate that one of the few promises kept by Barack Obama since his election was the one made about negotiating with Iran. No less arrogant than George W, as dedicated as ever to the premises that keep a right-wing government in power in Israel, nevertheless, through the good graces of the Sultan of Oman – communications were continued and expanded until this important first step moved forward yesterday evening.
The usual shitheads are upset. From Lindsay Graham in South Carolina to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, from Tea Party trollops to Chuck Shumer, the senator from Tel Aviv – right-wingers and liberals alike in their dedication to imperial greed from the United States and our client state in Israel are pissed off.
That is as it should be. Another sign of positive accomplishment.
It’s official: Illinois on Wednesday joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, accompanied by state Rep. Greg Harris, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and several other dignitaries, signed into law a measure allowing gay couples to begin marrying on June 1. “It’s a triumph of democracy, a triumph of government by the people,” said the governor, shortly before signing. “We want to have a new birth of freedom across America, and love is not relegated to second-class citizen status.”
The historic nature of Wednesday’s ceremony was underscored by the desk Quinn used to sign the legislation, which once belonged to another Prairie State lawmaker: Abraham Lincoln. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Lincoln used the desk to pen his first inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1861.
Thousands flooded the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum to watch the signing ceremony, which came two weeks after the legislature passed SB10, also known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Quinn legalized civil union legislation in 2011 and announced his support for full marriage equality a year later.
Since January, the LGBT movement has seen unprecedented gains, including two U.S. Supreme Court rulings strengthening same-sex unions, a Senate vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the addition of seven states (including Illinois) to the U.S.’s marriage equality column. Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage just last week…
One of the most special moments of the ceremony came when Jim Darby, a Korean War veteran, and his partner, Patrick Bova, shared a kiss on stage.
“We’ve been together for over 50 years,” said Bova to thunderous applause. “I can remember so many times when I was celebrating families’ and friends’ anniversaries, and thinking how wonderful it would be to celebrate my marriage to Jim. Finally, that day has come.”
Regardless of imprecations from leading True Believers, the Earth did not falter on its axis nor did Satan rise from the cleft soil of Illinois to strike humankind dead.
Tom Steyer may have made billions of dollars for his investors before retiring this year, but he would have lost money betting against his wife, Kat Taylor and Leftcoast Grassfed, the brand name of the Steyer-Taylor beef.
While Ms. Taylor says, modestly, that it is hard to know how profitable the business is, her husband said it had outperformed his expectations. “We could sell 10 times the amount we raise, in 10 minutes,” he said.
The couple did not set out to raise prime grass-fed beef at TomKat Ranch, which sprawls across some 1,800 acres in this rural community near the ocean off Highway 1. The plan was to create a model conservation project, demonstrating ways to improve soil health, use solar energy and conserve water. “This wasn’t about cows,” Ms. Taylor said.
But once cows became part of the plan to restore the land, it was not too long before TomKat also became an agricultural project, one that the couple hope will help develop sustainable farming practices that can be put to use far beyond Pescadero.
“Think of the ranch as a huge science experiment,” Mr. Steyer said. “Can you raise animals sustainably? Can the land become the carbon sink that it once was? Can you demonstrate a way of doing agriculture, raising food, that doesn’t damage the environment..?
In a book, “Grass-Fed Cattle: How to Produce and Market Natural Beef,” the author Julius Ruechel theorized that soil was enriched as a result of the migration of giant herds of ruminants and other animals across the world’s great plains.
According to his book, large herds of heavy, hoofed animals help force dead plant materials back into the ground, where they are broken down by microorganisms in the soil. Herd migration also churns up the earth, allowing rain to penetrate it further and slowing runoff, and natural “fertilizers” containing additional microbes are left in the herd’s wake.
All of that produces more and better grass, which then feeds the herds the next time they migrate across the land…
TomKat is aiming to mimic the migratory patterns that developed the world’s great plains on a small scale by rotating cows, birds and pigs around the ranch in a deliberate dance.
There are lots of details in the original if you’re not frustrated by the TIMES unpredictable paywall.
I’m kind of taken aback by the author’s surprise over the popularity of grass-fed beef. Any accomplished foodie often prefers grass-fed beef over the feed lot corn-crammed variety fed most Americans. Additionally, unless things have changed, areas with significant French heritage like Louisiana support a historic preference for grass-fed beef. Both of the nature-oriented markets we shop for our groceries carry – and advocate – grass-fed beef. Neither of which is an expensive organics-only source.
I spent some time with folks active in managing New Mexico park and forest areas and sat in on experiments 20 years ago on managing test herds of beef cattle so their grazing patterns imitated the bison that originally roamed the range hereabouts. Results were positive and adopted by a small number of progressive ranchers in the northeastern part of the state.