Posts Tagged ‘computers’

US’ polling machines for 2012 allow remote hacking

 

US’ polling machines for 2012 allow remote hacking

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Posted 28 September 2011, by Staff, GMA News (GMA Network), gmanews.tv

 

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Many of the electronic voting machines that about a third of American voters will use in the 2012 polls may be hacked remotely, a laboratory has shown.

Experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois said the hack could change voting results without leaving a trace.

“We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines. We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine,” said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team, in an interview published on the Salon magazine website.

“This is a national security issue. It should really be handled by the Department of Homeland Security,” he added.

The Salon article said that the Diebold voting machines can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and eighth-grade science education.

Argonne Lab, run by the Department of Energy, has the mission of conducting scientific research to meet national needs.

The Diebold Accuvote voting system used in the study was loaned to the lab’s scientists by VelvetRevolution.us, which received the machine from a former Diebold contractor.

According to the Argonne team, e-voting system hacks such as Princeton’s demonstration of a viral cyber attack on a Diebold touch-screen system – which relied on cyber attacks to change the results of elections – will require more coding skills and knowledge of the voting system software.

In contrast, the Argonne team’s attack allegedly required no modification, reprogramming, or even knowledge of the voting machine’s proprietary source code.

Demonstration, proof of concept

The team demonstrated in a video that inserting an inexpensive electronic device into the voting machine can offer a “bad guy” virtually complete control over the machine.

A cheap remote control unit can enable access to the voting machine from up to half a mile away.

“The cost of the attack that you’re going to see was $10.50 in retail quantities,” said Warner.

He said an RF [radio frequency] remote control to stop and start the attacks will cost an extra $15.

A video prepared by the team shows three different types of attack, each showing how the intrusion developed by the team allows them to take complete control of the Diebold touch-screen voting machine.

They were able to demonstrate a similar attack on a DRE system made by Sequoia Voting Systems as well.

Under the setup, the intruder would allow the voter to make his or her selections. But when the voter actually attempts to push the “Vote Now” button, which records the voter’s final selections to the system’s memory card, Warner said a bad guy “will simply intercept that attempt … change a few of the votes,” and the changed votes would then be registered in the machine.

“In order to do this, we blank the screen temporarily so that the voter doesn’t see that there’s some revoting going on prior to the final registration of the votes,” he said.

Such an attack would allow manipulation would occur after the voter has approved as “correct” the on-screen summaries of his or her intended selections.

Johnston said the machines could also be tampered with during so-called voting machine “sleepovers” when e-voting systems are kept by poll workers at their houses days and weeks prior to the election or at other times when the systems are unguarded.

But he said the more realistic way to insert these alien electronics is to do it while the voting machines are waiting in the polling place a week or two prior to the election.

“Often the polling places are in elementary schools or a church basement or some place that doesn’t really have a great deal of security. Or the voting machines can be tampered while they’re in transit to the polling place. Or while they’re in storage in the warehouse between elections,” Johnston said.

He noted that the Argonne team had no owner’s manual or circuit diagrams for either the Diebold or Sequoia voting systems they were able to access in these attacks.

Election security procedures

Also, the team members criticized election security procedures, which rarely if ever include physical inspection of the machines, especially their internal electronics.

But even if such inspections were carried out, the Argonne scientists said their attack leaves behind no physical or programming evidence if properly executed.

“The really nice thing about this attack, the man-in-the-middle, is that there’s no soldering or destruction of the circuit board of any kind. You can remove this attack and leave no forensic evidence that we’ve been there,” Warner said.

Gaining access

Gaining access to the inside of the Diebold touch-screen is as simple as picking the lock, or using a standard hotel minibar key, the team noted.

It pointed out the machines use the same easily copied key, available at most office supply stores.

“I think our main message is, let’s not get overly transfixed on the cyber,” team leader Johnston says. Since he believes they “can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine,” he recommends a number of improvements for future e-voting systems.

“The machines themselves need to be designed better, with the idea that people may be trying to get into them. If you’re just thinking about the fact that someone can try to get in, you can design the seals better, for example,” he added.

He also warned against using a standard blank key for every machine.

“Spend an extra four bucks and get a better lock. You don’t have to have state of the art security, but you can do some things where it takes at least a little bit of skill to get in,” he said.

New findings

The Vulnerability Assessment Team’s new findings raised concerns about e-voting vulnerabilities issued by other computer scientists and security experts.

While the use of touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems such as those Argonne showed to be vulnerable to manipulation has declined, similar systems may be used by a “significant part” of the electorate on Election Day in 2012, the Salon article said.

It cited Sean Flaherty, a policy analyst for e-voting watchdog group VerifiedVoting.org, as saying that “about one-third of registered voters live where the only way to vote on Election Day is to use a DRE.”

Flaherty said almost all voters in states like Georgia, Maryland, Utah and Nevada, and the majority of voters in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas, will vote on DREs on Election Day in 2012.

He added voters in major municipalities such as Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and Pittsburgh will also line up in next year’s election to use DREs of the type hacked by the Argonne National Lab.

‘Security by obscurity’

While voting machine companies and election officials have sought to protect source code and the memory cards that store ballot programming and election results for each machine, critics like California Secretary of State Debra Bowen have pointed out that attempts at “security by obscurity” largely ignore the most immediate threat.

Such threats come from election insiders who have regular access to the e-voting systems, as well as those who may gain physical access to machines that were not designed with security safeguards in mind.

“This is a fundamentally very powerful attack and we believe that voting officials should become aware of this and stop focusing strictly on cyber (attacks),” said Warner.

He added there’s a very large physical protection component of the voting machine that needs to be addressed. — TJD, GMA News

 

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http://www.gmanews.tv/story/233629/technology/us-polling-machines-for-2012-allow-remote-hacking

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Re-Colonization Of Africa Through Buying Agricultural Land: Wealthy Nations And Their Multinationals On The Rampage

Re-Colonization Of Africa Through Buying Agricultural Land: Wealthy Nations And Their Multinationals On The Rampage

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo, Tom Wilt News, tomwilt.com

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The global food crisis of 2007/2008 that triggered riots from Cape to Cairo and from Senegal to Haiti made governments and their agriculturally-engaged companies to get on the saddle and gallop – with their thinking caps on. Export tariffs were slapped on staple food crops to minimise how much could be sold outside their countries.  In my book – Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A Critical Observation of Neighbouring Continents, I mentioned, rather apocalyptically, that if we Africans don’t take care then the outside world will turn our continent into “a timber plantation.” This is now happening, but on a worst-case scenario. Africans are being colonised again and this time not with the power of  weapons but through Africans themselves selling their continent willingly. The 99- and 999-year lease – a remnant of colonialists – surely cannot fool anybody. This is equivalent to a full century and/or full millennium which translates into three and a half to thirty-four consecutive generations of Africans.

Africans are selling the one natural resource they can’t afford to sell – their land. Especially arable land. In Antananarivo, Madagascar, earlier in 2009, President Ravalomanana’s government was overthrown by angry urban poor who were already spending two thirds of their income to feed themselves ever since the 2008 massive rise in global prices for commodities like rice and wheat. This was not just because of his own private jet bought from a member of the Disney family for his own use with public funds – no. President Ravalomanana was leasing 1.3 hectares (half the size of Belgium and half of Madagascar’s arable land) to South Korea’s Daewoo for 99 years to grow maize and palm oil and send all harvests during this period back home to feed South Koreans. Daewoo paid nothing: they PROMISED to improve the island’s infra structure. And of course they would provide “jobs for the citizens of Madagascar by farming it, which is good for Madagascar” (read cheap slave labour). As usual the public was kept in the dark. Until the news was leaked by London’s Financial Times. This is the first government in the world to be toppled by angry mobs and the military for “land-grabbing”. Kudos to the people.

There are more than 100 similar land-grabs globally, since September 2008, where huge tracts of farmland are bought up by wealthy countries as well international corporations. Mark Weston, Britain’s international development policy consultant does the colourful canvas thus: “Imagine if China, following a brief negotiation with a British government desperate for foreign cash after the collapse of the economy, bought up the whole of Wales, replaced most of its inhabitants with Chinese workers, turned the entire country into an enormous rice field and sent all the rice produced there for the next 99 years back to China… Imagine that neither the evicted Welch nor the rest of the British public knew what they were getting in return for this, having to content themselves with vague promises that the new landlords would upgrade a few ports and create jobs for the local people.

“Then, imagine that, after a few years – and bearing in mind that recession and the plummeting pound have already made it difficult for the UK to buy food from abroad – an oil-price spike or an environmental disaster in one of the world’s big grain-producing nations drives global food prices sharply upwards and beyond the reach of many Britons. While the Chinese next door in Wales continue sending rice back to China, the starving British look helplessly on, ruing the day their government sold off half their arable land. Some of them plot the violent recapture of the Welch valley.”

This – huge tracts of land being “sold” to foreigners for “promises” – is what is happening all over Africa this very minute. Except that in my experience not many Africans are that good at organising themselves as a unified force to recapture their valley. They would either fall upon each other with machetes for a few grains some “kind” soul dropped them from the air, or they’d turn into a trillion factions with double the number of “generals”.

Even the great pope of the free market, Financial Times, has used words like “rapacious” for the likes of Daewoo, warning that it was the most “brazen example of a wider phenomenon” where rich nations are trotting the globe buying up the natural resources of poor countries. The new colonialism is vast in Africa, with the buyers being wealthy countries unable to grow their own food. The Arabs are back fleeing their barren sands to turn Africa into their granary like they did one and a half millennia ago (in Egypt at the time). The Gulf states are in the lead in this new investment. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, controlling between them 45% of the world’s oil, are snatching AGRICULTURAL LAND in Egypt, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda, but also in Cambodia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. South Korea has grabbed a staggering 960,000 hectares in Sudan, the largest country in Africa, where at least 6 other rich countries are said to have secured large land-holding – and precisely where the local population are among the hungriest and least secure in the world. The Saudis are negotiating 500,000 hectares (not acres) in Tanzania. Companies for the United Arab Emirates have snapped up 324,000 hectares in Pakistan. Highly populated countries like China, South Korea and India have acquired swathes of African farmland to produce food for export. India recently lowered tariffs for Ethiopian commodities that could enter India after the Indian government lent money to 80 Indian companies to buy 350,000 hectares of farmland in Africa, particularly huge tracts in Kenya and Ethiopia. And this is the same Kenya where, in the year 2008, the locals of African descent were chopping each other’s limbs off, being shot by their own police and armed forces and burning innocent men, women and children locked up in churches – because of the land tenure! This is the Kenya where the Gallmanns, Briatores and Bransons and many others own private ranches the size of 3 Cypruses, where Prince William and his girlfriend spend a bit of “Hollywood in the bush” once or so a year – the rest of the time, all the above celebrities have their small states looked after by their private property “my Africans” – while 75% of Afro-Kenyans have no scratch of land to plant a tomato!

Kenya made a deal with Qatar, an Arab land with only 1% arable land, to acquire 40,000 hectares of land to grow food. A third of Kenya’s population was facing food shortages and President Kibaki had no better answer for hungry Kenyans opposing the deal but to impose a state of emergency and then turn around to appeal for international food relief. Where is the logic here, by the bony ancients? If Qatar can grow food on Kenyan soil to feed Qataris, why can’t Kenya grow food in Kenya to feed Kenyans? The land offered to Qatar is in the fertile Tana River delta with an abundance of fresh water. Some 150,000 Kenyan farming and pastoralist families for whom the land is communal graze their 60,000 cattle there. It is no wonder that, supported by opposition activists and environmentalists fearing the destruction of a pristine ecosystem of mangrove swamps, savannah and forests, the people now threaten armed resistance. When that happens, the rest of the world will only report about “warring African tribes”, not a group of people fighting to keep their land and ecosystem instead of allowing it delivered to Qatari farmers to feed their Arabs.

Next door in Uganda, 400 small farmers comprising a total of 2,000 people, were driven out (using violence through the Ugandan army) of their land in 2001 to make room for the German coffee grower Neumann Kaffee Gruppe. This was against the OECD guidelines for multinational concerns. On 24th August 2001, the concern’s boss, Michael R Neumann, together with President Museveni inaugurated the plantation. The people who were driven off their land can since then neither feed themselves adequately nor pay school fees for their children. This is another in a long line of  violations of social human rights perpetrated by yet another African so-called leader against his own citizens. Are Africans surprised when the rest of the world view them as some strange pathogens? Who is polishing the patina of Africa’s “bad image”?

Mozambique has signed a $ 2bn deal to give 10,000 Chinese “settlers” land in return for $ 3m in military aid from Beijing. Right. Take the land for 99- or 999-year lease and settle down while you give the starving Mozambicans both reason and means to kill each other off, leaving Mozambique a Chinese province. Food is a weapon is a weapon is a weapon….

But the list is long. The British investor Cru Investment Management has grabbed tracts of the fruitful agricultural land in dirt poor Malawi. US investment banker Philippe Heilberg, assisted by a “warlord”, acquired 4,000 square kilometres of land in southern Sudan. Congo-Brazzaville is allegedly selling 10 million hectares to Euroancestral South Africans to farm. Multinational finance concerns such as Deutsche Bank, Blackstone Group, Goldman & Sachs and Dexion Capital all have invested in African agricultural land. The World Bank and International Finance Corporation are engaged in “the development of agro-business” big time in Africa and other developing countries ever since the food crisis of 2008, pumping billions to agro-concerns to ensure food production in Africa for their own countries. All such investors no longer want to depend on speculators, they want to eliminate middlemen and take control themselves. Cru Investment spokesman, Duncan Parker maintains, “Africa has what it takes to be one of the leading food producers worldwide. Her potential in workers is big, her soil productive and there’s plenty of sun and water.”

Is the man not talking about the same Africa whose people are starving and dying of diseases that could be avoided by mere clean drinking water?

And Philippe Heilberg told the US media that whatever political and legal risks he is taking in Africa at the moment will pay most lucratively because he expects several African states in the coming years to simply fall apart. Can Africans legitimately blame Heilberg for his arrogance and indifference? Besides, when one listens between the words, there is always a plan-in-motion behind such blatant utterances. Africans may well be the next Palestinians – pariahs in their own land.

And now food is not the only thing that African land is needed for. Think of the recent EU Desertec cordoning off the Sahara for solar energy for Europe. In the Desertec Concept are the words:

In the upcoming decades, several global developments will create new challenges for mankind. We will be confronted with problems and obstacles such as climate change, population growth beyond earth’s capacity, and an increase in demand for energy and water caused by a strive for prosperity and expansion.The DESERTEC Concept provides a way to solve these challenges.

The question is, SOLVE THEM FOR WHO? Certainly not for Africans. And how does this concept work?

It works just like a coal steam power plant, with the difference that concentrated solar power is used for steam production, instead of coal. Large mirrors are positioned in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the sunlight onto a certain point much like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens. A major advantage of this technology is that a part of the sun’s heat can be collected in heat storage tanks during the day and then run through steam circuits at night or specifically during peak hours, depending on the demand. With this technology, renewable and controlled energy can be provided according to the demand of the electricity grid.

Yet Africans, fifty years down independence road and with the technology already existing and sitting their for a price they can more than afford, cannot position large mirrors in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the abundant African sunlight like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens! Africans have had the Sahara forever – but they just couldn’t come up with the idea of getting some solar energy from this vast desert. No idea from the whole of Sunny Africa? Yes they could, if Africans start thinking of themselves as worthwhile human beings too, and join forces to keep what is theirs theirs. Otherwise Africans might as well follow the butcher meekly to the slaughter house because that’s where they’re going to end up – in “native reserves” dying off as a people until the few Africans left are put in museums like they were once the main attraction in circuses all over the West in the 18th through early 20th centuries.

German, British and American companies have also bought land in Tanzania and Ethiopia to grow biofuels. Ethiopia – the byword for famine – argues that since it imports oil, biofuels will set off price fluctuations and dependency on oil! What about the environmental impact – 75% of the land allocated to the foreign biofuel firms are forested and these forests will have to be chopped off! The Chinese chopstick manufacturers are delighted.

A Norwegian biofuel company will create “the largest jatropha plantation in the world” by deforesting vast tracts of land in northern Ghana. The company was back to darkest Europe when it flagrantly cheated an illiterate chief to sign 38,000 hectares with his thumbprint. Jatropha is a non-too-demanding plant that produces oily seeds from which biodiesel can be made.

This entire new scramble for poor countries’ land is the result of the food crisis of 2007-2008 when the price of wheat, rice and other cereals skyrocketed across the globe. When the food-grower countries applied tariffs to minimize the amount of staple crops that left their countries, the supply was further tightened resulting in prices shooting further up. It was a policy-created scarcity rather than the true-and-tried traditional supply and demand. A situation arose where rich countries reliant on massive food imports put on their thinking caps. They began to put the fundamentals of global trade (that each country should concentrate on its best product and then trade it) under the microscope. The Gulf states, among other rich countries, with their unimaginable amounts of cash from trading oil suddenly realised you can’t eat cash dipped in oil. Nor can you gnaw on a Rolls-Royce. Or feed your children computer chips. The sheikhs & associates saw that the costs of food imports had doubled in five years. The future boded for worse – both regional and global markets were no longer reliable.

The perfect answer was to own agricultural land. “Control of foreign farmland”, writes Paul Vallely, “would not only secure food supplies, it would eliminate the cut taken by middlemen and reduce food-import bills by more than 20 percent. And the benefits could only increase.” Because the fundamental conditions that had ushered in the worldwide food crisis remain unchanged and could easily get worse.

According to the UN the world population will double by 2050. To grow enough food to feed 9bn people choke the planet. So, long term strategies are the right response. When the Prime Minister Taro of Japan (the world’s largest food importer) asked the G8 leaders in Italy: “Is the current food crisis just another market vagary?” he answered his own question: “Evidence suggests not; we are undergoing a transition to a new equilibrium, reflecting a new economic, climatic, demographic and ecological reality.”

Not that the market is asleep either. The cost of land is rising rapidly, making the irresponsible but insatiable African leaders salivate. And we Africans sit with our hands folded on our laps, waiting for some force of nature to come to our rescue. Many are not even aware of the fact that their ancestral land is being offered for re-colonisation, because their governments are big boys who believe informing their citizens of what is going on puts the boys in a subservient position. These are the chaps in this world who are unaware that they are servants of their people.

The food and financial crises combined have made agricultural farmland the new strategic asset. Veteran speculator Jim Rogers, in league with fellow veterans like Lord Jacob Rothschild, said in July 2009: “I’m convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time.” This should actually augur well for Africa because there is land in abundance in the continent, and the agricultural sector – Africa’s backbone – is in need of capital and technology. A win-win situation. Except that Africans are auctioning their continent’s most sacred possession for nought and a staggering 99- or 999-year lease (depending on which salivating leader is dealing with whom. There are leaders out there offering the old colonial 999-year lease). That interprets into three and a half to thirty-four generations of Africans – left in limbo. Or as eventual specimens in museums of the wealthy.

Producing enough food to feed 9bn people in 2050 will crush the planet, denuding forests and drainage rivers and ruining arable land. In Copenhagen, capital saw to it that their lackeys, known as governments the world over, treated climate change as Father Christmas – a fairy tale. But, to capital’s delight, oil prices continue to rise in direct relation to fertilizer and tractor fuel – hence biofuels to further cut the land that would be available for food crops. The horrors are ahead because the fat harvest times are over – there won’t be enough food for the table even for the filthy rich – unless they can afford €3m a day residency in outer space. The market economy will this time – as always – not provide for all and sundry as falsely proclaimed. Land prices have jumped from 15% to 30% globally.

After the financial crisis in mortgage-based derivatives, agricultural land is the new strategic asset. An asset that nobody can manufacture or erect, and then sell. Once given away, it is gone and there’s no replica or spare parts, Africans.

Marginally seen, it could be a good thing for African countries. Apart from the staggering and varied natural resources, some of which cannot be found anywhere on the planet, land, as already said, is what Africans have in plenty. All Africa needs is capital to develop her agriculture. A mammoth share of this capital is ferreted out of the continent by the handful few wrongly-wired Africans to develop economies NOT AFRICAN. The Big Curse for which Africans only have themselves to blame. The rest of the world call it capital flight – as if this staggering amount of money simply made up its mind to take to the air and fly to the West – the mad terminologies of our times where human beings call their own dead “collateral damages”.

The financial global players who brought on the crisis are the very same ones now roaming the agricultural landscape and grabbing chunks of it. These land deals should bring investments, technology and know-how to local farmers, reduce dependency on food aid and similar maladies. They should provide infrastructure that goes beyond roads leading from the foreign leaseholder’s farms to the port that transport 100% of their harvests back to their own countries. The deals should enable the building of schools and health centres for the whole community. They should provide enough taxes to the government for more development – assuming African governments would at last invest in their own countries and people instead of castles and numbered accounts overseas. African so-called leaders have some inborn dread of educated and healthy citizens. Instead of recognising the greatest potential to their nations of human resources they see adversaries.

Then there is the problem of monoculture in growing plantation of large-scale food crops dependent of huge amounts of pesticides and fertilisers. This would ruin the long-term sustainability of tropical soils not suited to intensive cultivation, as well as damage the local water table. Soil erosion will occur and ruin long-term land fertility. The diversity of plants, animals and insect life will be drastically threatened while the intensive usage of agrochemicals bring in water-quality maladies. In addition the irrigation of the foreign investors’ plantations would take water away from the indigenous users. So these grabs are in effect water grabs – the most valuable part of these deals – instead of land grabs, since once you own the land you own the water beneath it.

The chief executive of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe puts it this way: “Water withdrawal for agriculture continue to increase rapidly. In some of the most fertile regions of the world (America, southern Europe, northern India, north-eastern China), over-use of water, mainly for agriculture, is leading to sinking water tables. Groundwater is being withdrawn, no longer as a buffer over the year but in a structural way, mainly because water is seen as a free good.”

It is not. The average person in the world uses 3,000-6,000 litres of water daily, less than a tenth of which is used for hygiene or manufacturing. The rest goes to farming. Meat-eating has increased and meat requires ten times more water per calorie than plants. The thirstiest products on earth are biofuels. To grow Soya for one litre of biodiesel takes up to 9,100 litres of water and up to 4,000 litres to transform corn into bioethanol. Brabeck-Letmathe predicts, “Under the present conditions and with the way water is being managed, we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel.” India and the USA combined produce a third of the world’s cereals, but Frank Rijsberman of the International Water Management Institute cautions, “we could be facing annual losses equivalent to the grain crops” of India and the USA.

The land grabs are now a pandemic. As with natural resources in Africa, there is no transparency and foreign governments and multinationals engaged in bribes have no great fear of prosecution in poor countries. In their own wealthy countries, at least somebody may publicly cry foul or demonstrate with huge placards in the streets without fearing being shot down by the police or armed forces.

In Africa land rights are not just written, they also exist through custom and practice. There should indeed be (if nothing else) compulsory sharing of benefits such as construction of schools and health centres. Short leases, or better still contract farming, would leave smallholders in control of their land and contract to investors. On the other hand the investors must never have the right to export entire harvests especially during a food crisis in the host country.

Land-grabs represent a serious violation of the human right to food. Humankind’s most primordial fight was over food. It is food that makes the fittest who then survives. I therefore call to all Africans, Continental and Diaspora, and all friends and fans of Africa, to join me in this fight by going to my web site – www.akinyi-princess.de – and signing in the with both your name, the words and your valid email address. In addition, please spread the word to your friends, families, social network chums and pals, chat room and forum acquaintances around the globe to join us in the fight. I need at least 25,000 authentic email “signatures” to enable me to write a petition to the AU Commissioner in Addis Ababa demanding that African governments may not simply “negotiate” land grab deals with foreign governments and multinationals without prior consultations with their respective citizens in the form of a referendum. The petition is now being professionally drafted and will be posted in my web site ASAP.

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A graduate journalist – the London Schools of Journalism as well as an economics graduate of the London School of Economics. Been writing as a freelance journalist since 1980, columnist with various dailies and monthly magazines in Africa and Europe. Gives lectures and seminars in various German universities, colleges and high schools on topics ranging from socio-economy in Africa, Business English, African literature and the socio-ethnological conflicts in the traditions of Africans and the West in general. Written and published articles, papers, novels in Engish and German. Her non-fiction book “Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A critical Observation of the Neighbour Continents” published in 2008 by a New York publisher. Full CV –  www.akinyi-princess.de. More works as yet unpublished and a children’s fantasy/thriller.

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The Occupy Portland Model

The Occupy Portland Model

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Posted 26 September 2011, by , Occupy Together, occupytogether.org

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We’ve witnessed an exponentially growing list of communities that are banding together with our brothers and sisters on Wall St. by organizing solidarity actions in their cities. This rise in support has been incredibly inspiring and has promoted many of you to become active in organizing an event in your area. Through the enthusiasm and excitement of wanting to show your support you are all working diligently to organize events in a short amount of time. As we have followed some of theses group’s efforts we’ve seen many different approaches to organizing. We’ve also fielded many questions on advice and how to information on effectively organizing. We wanted to feature Portland as an example for those of you would like a model to follow or to take from as they have done a great job joining and organizing efforts in a very short amount of time. Of course, each group dynamic is going to vary and what worked for Portland may not work for you, but at least this will give you an idea of how others are doing it.

A couple of members from Portland filled us in on their process:

Basically it all comes down to networking and extensive planning. The initial construction of the Occupy Portland Facebook group was backed by some pretty frequent tweeting. Once we started getting a huge following, there were more and more discussions popping up on the Facebook group. We were discussing where it should be, what Portland laws were regarding “urban camping”, as well as a number of other concerns. We then held a General Assembly to further organize where were all in consensus with our future actions and demonstration details. After we compiled notes from the GA, we discussed them further on the Facebook group. Once we had the frame work of what everyone wanted and expected we set up a Facebook page and web site to better organize and announce future details.

Sending messages to those working at Occupy Wall Street was definitely helped us gain notice. People are heavily following #occupywallstreet, #takewallstreet, #usdor, as well as a number of other widely used hash tags. Each tweet sent out would include a tag with a trending tag, my city (#pdx) as well as a link to the facebook group.

Also we paid attention to the amount of followers people had, and mentioned them as well.

Portlanders were watching, so they were bound to jump on board once they knew about a protest here. Nearly all of us are using Twitter, so they used the same approach when spreading the group link around the internet.

Advice using Facebook:

We first started a Group that opened up discussion to hear out everyone’s ideas, concerns and thoughts on how they could help. This was a very important stage in our organizational efforts.

General Assembly:

I think the most important thing for us was using the General Assembly model and making each decision everyone’s decision. This helped us remain unified. Legal assistance, bike deliveries, medics, photographers, people who can stream the protest, and similar topics were brought up. We covered nearly all the bases, and most of us left with a pretty hefty amount of notes. Notes from the General Assembly were posted online on a page for everyone in the Portland group to see.

Legal Advice:

Contact your local National Lawyers Guild early on for legal advice in your area. We are holding a seminar with the National Lawyers Guild so that we can become versed in the proper execution of a demonstration like this. They have confirmed that legal observers will be present during our demonstration. We are also planning to hold a meeting with them where we discuss the importance of nonviolence and the proper way to conduct oneself in civil disobedience.

Additional Thoughts:

It’s extremely important to make sure extensive preparation goes into a something this big. Some people have certain contacts who would be useful, others are volunteering to do a specific job. It all comes as we address what needs to be seen and done upon Occupation.

We stressed something several times: this needs to remain non-violent. Remaining peaceful helps the overall image of this nationwide movement. If things do become violent, we acknowledge that staying calm only helps the cause. If we have arrests then we will have the footage immediately uploaded. It helps those in NYC by showing that the cops are abusing our rights, and that this thing is nothing like the misleading media says.

Helpful Links: 

nycga.net Find up to date information on the NYC General Assembly.

occupywallst.org News, video feed, forum & chat.

http://nycga.cc/2011/09/24/principles-of-solidarity-working-draft/ Working Draft of the Principles of Solidarity

www.nlg.org National Lawyers Guild

Ongoing Events

  • Occupy Chicago (Ongoing)
    September 23, 2011
  • Occupy Denver (Ongoing)
    September 25, 2011

Upcoming Events

  • Occupy Birmingham (Planning Meeting)
    September 27, 2011 10:00 am
  • Occupy San Diego (Second General Assembly and Planning Meeting)
    September 27, 2011 6:00 pm
  • Occupy Omaha (First General Assembly)
    September 27, 2011 7:00 pm
  • Occupy Boston (First General Assembly)
    September 27, 2011 7:30 pm
  • Occupy Lexington (KY)
    September 29, 2011 12:00 pm
  • Occupy San Francisco
    September 29, 2011 3:00 pm
  • Occupy Philly (Planning Meeting)
    September 29, 2011 6:00 pm
  • Occupy Kansas City
    September 30, 2011 9:00 am
  • Occupy D.C.
    October 1, 2011 9:00 am
  • Occupy Sacramento
    October 1, 2011 10:30 am
  • Occupy San Jose
    October 2, 2011 12:00 pm
  • Occupy Las Vegas
    October 6, 2011 12:00 am

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http://occupytogether.org/2011/09/26/the-occupy-portland-model/

Occupy Wall Street activists name officer over pepper spray incident

 

Occupy Wall Street activists name officer over pepper spray incident

Details of senior New York police officer released online as protesters call for disciplinary action to be opened

Hacker collective Anonymnous claimed responsibility on Monday for posting the details, which they said was in retribution for the attack. Photograph: Tina Fineberg/AP

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Posted 26 September 2011, by , The Guardian (Guardian news and Media Ltd.), guardian.co.uk

 

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David Graeber: Rediscovering the radical imagination
Occupy Wall Street: the protesters speak

 

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Activists connected to the Occupy Wall Street protests have published the name, phone number and family details of a senior New York police officer they accuse of using pepper spray on peaceful female protesters at a march on Saturday.

The officer was named in Twitter posts and on various activist websites as NYPD deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, of Patrol Borough Manhattan South.

The posts also cite an apparent civil rights charge against the officer dating from 2007.

YouTube footage of the incident, which has been widely circulated since Saturday, appears to show a white-shirted NYPD officer firing the spray into the eyes of the protesters, who are penned in by other officers with orange netting. As the officer walks away, two of the women crumple to the ground, screaming in pain.

There were several clashes between protesters and police at the march in the financial district on Saturday, during which there were 80 arrests.

Hacker collective Anonymnous claimed responsibility on Monday for posting Bologna’s details, which they said was in retribution for the attack.

The details, posted on a site called Pastebin, included a statement which read: “As we watched your officers kettle innocent women, we observed you barbarically pepper-spray wildly into the group of kettled women. We were shocked and disgusted by your behaviour.”

“You know who the innocent women were; now they will have the chance to know who you are. Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!”

Since the post, other activists have followed suit, urging people to call his precinct to complain or to call him directly.

The move drew a mixed response from the Occupy Wall Street activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park, in the city’s financial district, for nine days. Many say they were angry about the “brutal and unnecessary” tactics used by police at the weekend.

Hero Vincent, 28, an artist from the Bronx said: “I think it should be out there, so that people know what’s going on and if people want to enter his precinct and ask that he should be fired, they can. We are a peaceful protest. For them to attack us is wrong.”

Vincent, who was arrested for resisting arrest on Saturday, claimed he was kicked in the stomach by officers.

But there was also disquiet over the officer’s family details being made public.

Another protester, who did not want to be named, told the Guardian: “My dad is a police officer and he got a lot of death threats. I don’t know if his family details should be out there. But if the information is correct and he has a rights case against him, I’m extremely concerned that he was put into what was a very tense situation.”

The Guardian asked the NYPD to respond to the naming of the officer and the allegation that he was previously the subject of a civil rights complaint, but a spokesman said the department had not yet decided whether to comment.

One protester, Jeanne Mansfield – who said she was standing so close to the women sprayed in the face that her own eyes burned – claimed other NYPD officers had expressed disbelief at the actions of the senior officer.

In her vivid account of the incident in the Boston Review, Mansfield said: “A white-shirt, now known to be NYPD Lieutenant Anthony Bologna, comes from the left, walks straight up to the three young girls at the front of the crowd, and pepper-sprays them in the face for a few seconds, continuing as they scream ‘No! Why are you doing that?!'”

Despite her attempts to turn away from the “unavoidable” spray, Mansfield, who took part in Saturday’s march with her boyfriend on a whim after “stumbling across” it, said she suffered burning and temporary blindness in her left eye and tears streaming down her face.

She continued: “In the street I shout for water to rinse my eyes or give to the girls on the ground. But no one responds. One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, ‘I can’t believe he just fuckin’ maced her.'”

Despite the clashes with police at the weekend, the protesters show no signs of giving up, and similar demonstrations are being planned in other US cities. In Boston, activists are planning a “general assembly” event on Tuesday night.

High-profile anti-capitalist campaigners have lined up to back the protests.

Noam Chomksy is the latest to endorse Occupy Wall Street, sending the protesters a strong message of support that praised them for their “courageous and honorable” action.

Chomsky said: “Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power.”

But the protesters also face a more immediate battle than the restructuring of capitalism. The company which owns the land is beginning moves to reclaim it. Signs have gone up in the park that say camping, tents and sleeping bags are prohibited. NBC New York said unidentified men in suits had been handing out leaflets, with similar warnings.

The station said Brookfield Financial Properties, which owns the park but allows the public to use it, told it that the protesters could be “ordered off the park in the next day or two”.

 

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/26/occupy-wall-street-police-named?intcmp=239

For the love of cats and dogs

For the love of cats and dogs

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Posted 25 September 2011, by Rashvinjeet S. Bedi, The Star, thestar.com.my

 

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Thanks to social networking, many pet lovers are taking their fight for animal rights to cyber space and forming groups to pressure the authorities to act against abuse cases.When news broke out that 300 cats were being neglected and starved at a pet hotel in Damansara Damai early this month, scores of pet lovers in Klang Valley headed to the premises to rescue the animals.

Many volunteered their services, taking the traumatised cats to veterinarians or fostering the animals until their rightful owners came to claim them.

Some even stood outside the shop from morning till night for a few days to inform cat owners who had just returned from their Hari Raya holidays the whereabouts of their pets.

In loving hands: Lai and rescued pup Baby leaving the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters after Lai and MDDB supporters lodged police reports in connection to a video depicting animal abuse. — DARRAN TAN/The Star

Animal lovers, banded under a group called KTAJ (Kucing Terbiar Anjing Jalanan), coordinated the rescue efforts.

The KTAJ is one of several animal welfare groups that have sprung into the limelight recently. These independent groups, some bearing little known acronyms, are made up of individuals who share a common bond – their love for animals.

Formed in March this year, KTAJ has already attracted more than 14,700 “likes” on its Facebook wall.

Besides KTAJ, other groups include Malay­sian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB), Malaysian Cats Care Project (MCCP), Independent Pet Rescuers (IPR), Myanimalcare, Garden of Eden, and Paws mission. The roles they assume, at times, appear to have eclipsed those of mainstream organisations like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and PAWS.

“Many individuals have been feeding and rescuing animals for decades but it is only recently that animal lovers, especially those from the younger generation, are organising themselves,” says MDDB adoption coordinator Christine Lai.

Saving cats: Suzana, founding member of KTAJ and, right, the KTAJ Facebook fanpage.

With social networking tools, animal lovers are now able to share their views online with many other like-minded people, resulting in groups being formed at the community level.

These groups use Facebook, blogs and Twitter to send out alerts if there is an emergency, as in the Damansara Damai case three Sundays ago where the cats were left at the pet hotel without food for days.

Both KTAJ and MDDB constantly update their Facebook to inform members on pets that need to be adopted or urgent rescue missions. They also highlight cases of animal cruelty by posting pictures and videos online.

Lai says the group was formed in 2008 when seven volunteers collaborated to rescue a stray dog whose ears had been torn out while trying to escape some dog catchers.

MDDB believes in organising members to have a louder voice so that the authorities will take action against those found neglecting or abusing animals. Members have exposed the sorry state at pounds and circulated photographs showing animals being mistreated.

“Initially, detractors rebutted our findings and even claimed our pictures had been doctored. But all that changed when members of the public started coming forward to expose similar atrocities.’’

Lai points to a video posted on YouTube which showed a group of local council workers brutally euthanising a dog at a housing estate in full view of residents. Someone captured the scene and uploaded it on the Internet. The video sparked off a public outrage with calls for action to be taken against the errant workers.

“This shows that cruelty against animals is no longer tolerated. We are glad that the people have become more proactive. We also want to change the public’s perception on animal welfare and create a more caring society.”

When videos of a cat “killer” in Serdang and abuse of Sushi the toy poodle went viral recently, they resulted in a huge outcry. Independent groups lodged police reports and handed petitions to the authorities, demanding justice.

Some good came out of it – the government decided to review existing laws and look into more deterrent measures. The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, for instance, has proposed to amend the existing Animal Act 1953 to impose a stiffer penalty of up to RM50,000 and a year’s jail for those convicted of ill-treating animals.

MDDB also tries to highlight the good work of independent rescuers to encourage others to follow suit.

“Many animal lovers have been doing great work quietly on their own. We want them to be seen and heard to inspire others,” Lai says.

MDDB has a halfway home for dogs, and employs several full-time staff. Funding comes from the public and the members’ own pockets. The group is in the midst of registering an association called the Animal Protection Society and hope to be able to operate larger shelters like the SPCA in future.

KTAJ, meanwhile, came about when a few cat lovers decided to band together after seeing MDDB’s fight for dogs.

Founding member Suzana Sulaiman, 30, says many stray cats too need help. The group’s target is to minimise the stray population by neutering and nursing the animals, fighting animal cruelty and helping the local animal shelters.

The architectural designer believes that independent rescuers prefer to work with independent NGOs such as KTAJ as they are more flexible than groups that operate during office hours.

“You are more likely to get a quicker response from these groups. You shout for help and there are bound to be volunteers. We can pull our resources together,” she says, adding that 80% of the group is made up of women, mostly students and housewives.

Another KTAJ member Shahriza Idrus, 32, says members share the same interest in wanting to create animals rights awareness.

“We got to know each other through Facebook. Our members have big hearts and there is transparency in everything we do,” she shares.

Members usually come up with their own funds but in cases where the medical bills are too steep, they can request others to help via their Facebook page, says Shahriza.

In the past two months, Shahriza has spent about RM400 on medical bills for two cats – one, a kitten with hernia and the other, an adult cat with a serious head wound.

Despite being a busy event planner, Shahriza finds time for the felines. She drives to a few areas every night to feed stray cats. Even when she returns home from work in the wee hours of the morning, she will stick to this routine lest the strays go hungry.

Her car is always equipped with dry food, newspapers and gloves. If Shahriza comes across any animal carcass on the road, she will wrap it up before placing it by the roadside. If she is not busy rushing anywhere, she will bury the carcass behind her house.

Shariza says she is always bombarded with questions by people who ask her why she channels so much time and energy on the animals.

“Cats cannot speak or ask for help. At least, people know how to earn money and defend themselves,” says the event planner who finds keeping pets therapeutic.

One of the earlier independent groups to be formed, the IPR was set up in 2005.

“Many of us cannot turn a blind eye on a puppy or stray animal by the roadside,” says IPR volunteer Carnea Lee, who is a real-estate agent.

The IPR, she says, has a pool of volunteers who are on call. Like MMDB, the group has an animal sanctuary in Kuala Kubu Baru run by members using their own funds and public donations.

There are also pet lovers who are not affiliated with any one group but will readily offer help when needed.

Rena Chang, 46, for instance, has rescued countless animals over the last 10 years and works with any group that requires her assistance. She herself keeps four dogs and two cats, all rescued.

The property agent and events management executive helps strays and abused animals find homes with people who can be trusted. She has come across a dog with its nose chopped off while another was beaten until its jaw was dislocated.

Caring for animals can be time consuming and financially draining, as Chang has learnt over time. Most of her weekends are occupied with rescue work and she last took a holiday in 2002.

But for Chang, it’s not about the money or time spent as she gets satisfaction from helping and caring for animals that suffer from neglect or abuse.

Some independent rescue workers have even gone to the extent of setting up pet shops so they can use the premises to house rescued animals and buy pet food at cost price.

Ruth Chow and Amy Gui of the Garden Of Eden (http://www.thegoeden.com) began rescue work in 1996 when they reluctantly rescued a kitten. Many more rescued animals soon found a home in their house. But neighbours, tired of the endless barking and yelps, reported them to the authorities.

In 2006, they started a pet shop to keep the authorities at bay and listed boarding as one of the services provided. They were also able to get good food and supplements for the animals at a cheaper price. However, people started to dump animals outside their shop.

“We had no choice but to keep the animals as we didn’t have the heart to leave them. In the few years that we ran the pet shop, the number quadrupled. It was difficult to sustain the business financially and we had to close shop.

“We were getting into debt. I’m still paying off the supplier to this day,” laments Chow.

Last year, they managed to rent a tract of farmland for RM1,000 monthly and now have over 90 dogs and 200 cats under their care. Apart from contributions from well-wishers, Chow teaches English and music to help sustain the animal sanctuary.

“We have to live frugally as we will never let the animals go hungry. To us, they are God’s creations too and have a right to live, just like us humans.”

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http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/9/25/focus/9468486&sec=focus

Writers Unite! 09.26.11 Blog Action Day for Climate Justice


Writers Unite! 09.26.11 Blog Action Day for Climate Justice

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Posted 24 September 2011, by , The Mokong Perspective, mokongperspective.wordpress.com

 

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In solidarity with the victims of typhoons Ondoy (“Ketsana”), Pepeng, Frank and all other extreme weather events and disasters of the past here in Manila and all over the Philippines, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) and the Freelance Writers of the Philippines (FWP) call on writers/bloggers/media workers to write their literary pieces, essays, tweets and slogans on “climate justice”. All these are to be submitted on September 26, 2011.

For those with blogs, you can upload your article in your own blogs and at the same time submit it on the day itself at http://climatejusticeday.wordpress.com. For those without blogs, you can submit your articles and pieces via climatejustice@groups.facebook.com. Also do follow us in twitter (@clim8justicePH) and flood it with your tweets on climate justice.

We see that writers can play a big role in this effort to best articulate the issue especially with political, manipulative moves by the rich, industrialized and overly-consuming countries (Annex 1), which don’t want to be accountable from their past actions on too much greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) brought about by unfettered industrialization and accumulation of profit. This hampers genuine actions to mitigate the impacts of climate crisis to the most vulnerable communities especially the indigenous people. We believe that writers can share the passion in spreading the message. Actions must be taken before the situation becomes even worst.

For the Philippine-setting, writers/bloggers can use the destruction of Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Central Luzon (forest and climate) and typhoon Ondoy as concrete examples where you can apply the concept of climate justice. There are many news articles, which you can use as source for these two cases. Aside from the 2nd year since Ondoy hit Manila, it’s also the Save Sierra Madre Day as proclaimed by Malacañang.

The following sources can be used to understand climate justice: Jubileesouth Asia Pacific Movement on Debt & Dev’t (JSAPMDD), Climate Justice Now! (CJN), Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), World Bank Out of Climate Finance!, Third World Network (TWN) and Friends of the Earth International (FoE UK).

This is an awareness-raising initiative to push people to take action against climate change by claiming climate justice.

In return for those who will contribute, all submissions are bylined, with back-links for the promotion of their blogs. As contributions come in on that day, names of contributors will be mentioned in the tweets of clim8justicePH. If the writer/blogger is affiliated with FWP, we request him/her to mention that he/she is a member of FWP.

PMCJ is a movement composed of the affected sectors and communities, CSOs and POs that stand united in demanding for what we call climate justice. It is a concept that dwells on the anthropogenic or human causes of climate change, demanding the rich, industrialized, overly-consuming countries (Annex 1) to be held accountable for their abuse of the atmospheric space due to their too much emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Although globally all countries must do their share in solving the climate crisis, PMCJ believes that those countries, which caused the most damage must do more and make a significant contribution in resolving the crisis.

PMCJ also brings forward the demands and amplify the voices of the most affected and vulnerable communities, which is a step towards claiming climate justice.

This initiative is also in partnership with the Faith-based Congress of the Philippines (FCAID) and the Freelance Writers of the Philippines (FWP).

Related articles

 

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http://mokongperspective.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/writers-unite-09-26-11-blog-action-day-for-climate-justice/

The Permaculture Revitalization Act of 2011

The Permaculture Revitalization Act of 2011

A Vision by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Magazine

 

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Posted 19 September 2011, by Willi Paul, PlanetShifter Magazine, planetshifter.com

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GOAL: To revive, reconnect and re-focus the Country and begin the permaculture’s charge into local, national & global politics.

The mirror sight:

The Public Works Administration (PWA), part of the New Deal of 1933, was a large-scale public works construction agency in the United States headed by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. It was created by the National Industrial Recovery Act in June 1933 in response to the Great Depression. It built large-scale public works such as dams and bridges, warships, hospitals and schools. Its goals were to spend 3.3 billion in the first year, and $6 billion in all, to provide employment, stabilize purchasing power, and help revive the economy. Most of the spending came in two waves in 1933-35, and again in 1938. Originally called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, it was renamed the Public Works Administration in 1939 and shut down in 1943. The PWA spent over $6 billion in contracts to private construction forms that did the actual work. It created an infrastructure that generated national and local pride in the 1930s and remains vital seven decades later. The PWA was much less controversial than its rival agency with a confusingly similar name, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), headed by Harry Hopkins, which focused on smaller projects and hired unemployed unskilled workers.

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Possible components of The Permaculture Revitalization Act of 2011:

  • Projects for Neighbors with neighbors; community building projects for resilience awareness and a new ecological balance
  • Permaculture Training and Jobs Czar – Cabinet-level Secretary post
  • Combining jobs and training under one program to promote self-sufficiency
  • Permaculture design certificate demo projects in all levels of schools
  • Building more Community Gardens – like the eco village farm, sf
  • Design and implement training for permaculture design certificate grads
  • Promote and better connect new Permaculture Guilds
  • Provide a database of available lands for revitalization & Community Network for Permaculture

Permaculture is a Green Technology, Mr. Obama!

Join – then discuss this vision with us at Permaculture Hub

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Related Work:

Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

“It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all”, said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

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http://planetshifter.com/node/1937