Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Some Not-so-Random Information, Set #5: Environment, McKibben's Sermon, Food, Whistleblowers, Freedom, Surveillance, Totalitarianism, Tyranny, Chomsky, Education, and Torture at Guantánamo

Further information at: Not-so-Random Information: Introduction and Table of Contents
  1. Environment

  2. Bill McKibben's Sermon

  3. Food

  4. Whistleblowers

  5. Freedom

  6. Surveillance

  7. Totalitarianism

  8. Tyranny

  9. Chomsky Interview

  10. Education

  11. Torture at Guantánamo

I. Environment

The Keeling Curve: What Does 400 ppm Look Like? - “Recent estimates suggest CO2 levels reached as much as 415 parts per million (ppm) during the Pliocene. With that came global average temperatures that eventually reached 3 or 4 degrees C (5.4-7.2 degrees F) higher than today’s and as much as 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) warmer at the poles. Sea level ranged between five and 40 meters (16 to 131 feet) higher than today…. Richard Norris, a geologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, said the concentration of CO2 is one means of comparison, but what is not comparable, and more significant, is the speed at which 400 ppm is being surpassed today.”

II. Bill McKibben's Sermon

Bill McKibben's Sermon at The Riverside Church - "God's Taunt" - “Bill McKibben’s Sermon on Job 38: 1-11 and Matthew 19: 16-22 from Sunday, April 28, 2013.”

III. Food

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food - “On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called ‘stomach share’ — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.”

Salt Sugar Fat: NY Times Reporter Michael Moss on How the Food Giants Hooked America on Junk Food

Wave of "Ag Gag" Bills Threaten Food Safety and Freedom of the Press - “Remember ‘fecal soup’? A CBS ‘60 Minutes’ exposé in 1987 documented widespread food safety violations by the poultry industry, making use of undercover video from a hidden camera placed by the ‘60 Minutes’ crew. The episode vindicated U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) whistleblower Hobart Bartley, who had been ignored and threatened by his superiors and finally transferred to another plant when he warned of unsanitary conditions at a Simmons Industries plant in Missouri. Bartley was particularly irate about the ‘eight-foot-high vat of water called the 'chiller,' where as many as 10,000 chicken carcasses were routinely left to float, soaking up moisture to increase their selling weight. Dried blood, feces, and hair were floating in along with the dead birds. Diane Sawyer later called it 'fecal soup.' In the modern era, effective enforcement of food safety and the humane treatment of animals has long relied on undercover video investigations by reporters and citizens. The footage and images gained can serve as proof of criminal wrongdoing or lay ugly practices bare. Such images can vindicate whistleblowers who otherwise risk retaliation when speaking up. Now this practice, which has time and time again exposed hidden dangers -- including downer cows linked to Mad Cow disease in the food supply -- is under threat by a series of state bills dubbed ‘ag gag’ bills.”

Michael Pollan on How Reclaiming Cooking Can Save Our Food System, Make Us Healthy & Grow Democracy

IV. Whistleblowers

Julian Assange speech that was censored by the Oxford Union - “In an attempt to highlight the importance of whistleblowers, Julian Assange chose to have WikiLeaks' Collateral Murder footage as background for his speech at the Sam Adams Awards, an award dedicated to whistleblowers. The ceremony was organized by the Oxford Union. As a result of the video playing in the background and unsuccessful attempts to vet Julian's speech, the Union pulled the live stream from the event and spent two days substituting the US Army massacre footage with their logo. The Union claimed they feared that the US government would take legal action concerning "copyright" of the Apache gun camera footage. Wikileaks advised the Union that by law and practice the US government does not claim copyrights on footage or documents that it produces, the Union still decided to censor the video.”

V. Freedom

Jeremy Hammond on Aaron Swartz & the Criminalization of Digital Dissent - “The tragic death of internet freedom fighter Aaron Swartz reveals the government’s flawed ‘cyber security strategy’ as well as its systematic corruption involving computer crime investigations, intellectual property law, and government/corporate transparency. In a society supposedly based on principles of democracy and due process, Aaron’s efforts to liberate the internet, including free distribution of JSTOR academic essays, access to public court records on PACER, stopping the passage of SOPA/PIPA, and developing the Creative Commons, make him a hero, not a criminal. It is not the ‘crimes’ Aaron may have committed that made him a target of federal prosecution, but his ideas – elaborated in his ‘Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto’ – that the government has found so dangerous. The United States Attorney’s aggressive prosecution, riddled with abuse and misconduct, is what led to the death of this hero. This sad and angering chapter should serve as a wake up call for all of us to acknowledge the danger inherent in our criminal justice system.”

VI. Surveillance

The Program: The National Security Agency's Domestic Spying Program - “It took me a few days to work up the nerve to phone William Binney. As someone already a “target” of the United States government, I found it difficult not to worry about the chain of unintended consequences I might unleash by calling Mr. Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower. He picked up. I nervously explained I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to speak to him. To my surprise he replied: ‘I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution. Yes, I’ll talk to you.’ Two weeks later, driving past the headquarters of the N.S.A. in Maryland, outside Washington, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004.”

VII. Totalitarianism

Teenagers, social media, and terrorism: a threat level hard to assess - “The case of teenager Cameron Dambrosio might serve as an object lesson to young people everywhere about minding what you say online unless you are prepared to be arrested for terrorism. The Methuen, Mass., high school student was arrested last week after posting online videos that show him rapping an original song that police say contained ‘disturbing verbiage’ and reportedly mentioned the White House and the Boston Marathon bombing. He is charged with communicating terrorist threats, a state felony, and faces a potential 20 years in prison. Bail is set at $1 million.”

VIII. Tyranny

Five Steps To Tyranny - “This film analyzes the movement of a society from freedom to tyranny in five steps. It clearly shows how those in positions of power may cultivate the conditions of tyranny in any population by demonstrating how easily ordinary people may be manipulated into compliance with ‘authority’, into silence before criminality, and even how easily most people may be coerced into performing genuinely evil acts. Evocative of much that is happening in the world today.”

IX. Chomsky Interview

Professor Chomsky Interview: Reflections on Education and Creativity - “On January 25, Professor Chomsky sat down with Roy Danovitch of Danotations to discuss Education, Creativity, and Democracy.”

X. Education

The War on Kids: The Definitive Documentary on the Failure of the Public Education System - “This is a 2009 award winning, critically acclaimed documentary of the complete and utter failure of the public education system and United States demonization of home schoolers.”

XI. Torture at Guantánamo

Torture at Guantánamo: Lt. Col. Stuart Couch on His Refusal to Prosecute Abused Prisoner - “On Sept. 11, 2001, Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Couch’s friend died co-piloting the second plane to hit the World Trade Center. Soon after, Couch became one of the first military prosecutors assigned to the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay to prosecute men alleged to have carried out the terrorist plot. He ultimately would refuse to prosecute one detainee: Mohamedou Ould Slahi. "It became clear that what had been done to Slahi amounted to torture," Couch says. ‘Specifically, he had been subjected to a mock execution. He had sensory deprivation. He had environmental manipulation; that is, cell is too cold, or the cell is too hot. ... He was presented with a ruse that the United States had taken custody of his mother and his brother and that they were being brought to Guantánamo.’ Couch says he concluded Slahi’s treatment amounted to illegal torture. ‘I came to the conclusion we had knowingly set him up for mental suffering in order for him to provide information,’ Couch said. ‘We might very well have a significant problem with the body of evidence that we were able to present as to his guilt.’”

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