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“Letter from Pyongyang: On The Brink – Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into nuclear war?”

“On The Brink,” written by The New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos (9/18/17, p. 34-53) is the best piece I’ve found to explain the history and the dynamics of the situation in North Korean and the reasons for tensions with the U.S. now.

For the entire article, go to: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-risk-of-nuclear-war-with-north-korea

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Students at Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School.  In a class of ten- and eleven-year-olds, one boy asked, “Why is America trying to provoke a war with us.”

The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea

On the ground in Pyongyang: Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into a devastating confrontation?

“A military officer at the D.M.Z. This summer, the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the most hermetic power on the globe, entered a realm of psychological calculation reminiscent of the Cold War.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

1. The Madman Theory

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, so there is no embassy in Washington, but for years the two countries have relied on the “New York channel,” an office inside North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, to handle the unavoidable parts of our nonexistent relationship. The office has, among other things, negotiated the release of prisoners and held informal talks about nuclear tensions. In April, I contacted the New York channel and requested permission to visit Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. . . .

Americans are accustomed to eruptions of hostility with North Korea, but in the past six months the enmity has reached a level rarely seen since the end of the Korean War, in 1953. The crisis has been hastened by fundamental changes in the leadership on both sides. In the six years since Kim Jong Un assumed power, at the age of twenty-seven, he has tested eighty-four missiles—more than double the number that his father and grandfather tested. Just before Donald Trump took office, in January, he expressed a willingness to wage a “preventive” war in North Korea, a prospect that previous Presidents dismissed because it would risk an enormous loss of life. Trump has said that in his one meeting with Barack Obama, during the transition, Obama predicted that North Korea, more than any other foreign-policy challenge, would test Trump. In private, Trump has told aides, “I will be judged by how I handle this.”

On the Fourth of July, North Korea passed a major threshold: it launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile powerful enough to reach the mainland United States. In response, on July 21st, authorities in Hawaii announced that they would revive a network of Cold War-era sirens, to alert the public in the event of a nuclear strike. Trump said that he hopes to boost spending on missile defense by “many billions of dollars.” On September 3rd, after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon far larger than any it had revealed before—seven times the size of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, warned that a threat to America or its allies would trigger a “massive military response.”

A few days after the July 4th missile test, Pak told me that I could book a flight to Pyongyang. I submitted a list of people I wanted to interview, including diplomats and Kim Jong Un himself. About the latter, Pak only laughed. (Kim has never given an interview.) After Pak stopped laughing, he said I could talk to other officials. I wanted to understand how North Koreans think about the kind of violence that their country so often threatens. Were the threats serious, or mere posturing? How did they imagine that a war would unfold? Before my arrival in North Korea, I spent time in Washington, Seoul, and Beijing; many people in those places, it turned out, are asking the same things about the United States.

About a week before my flight to Pyongyang, America’s dealings with North Korea deteriorated further. On August 5th, as punishment for the missile test, the U.N. Security Council adopted some of the strongest sanctions against any country in decades, blocking the sale of coal, iron, and other commodities, which represent a third of North Korea’s exports. President Trump, in impromptu remarks at his golf club in New Jersey, said that “any more threats to the United States” will be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” A few hours later, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the Pacific Ocean near the American territory of Guam, from which warplanes depart for flights over the Korean Peninsula. Trump replied, in a tweet, that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”

Citizens over the age of sixteen are expected to wear a badge celebrating at least one member of the Kim family.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

. . . .

Outside the Administration, the more people I talked to, the more I heard a strong case for some level of diplomatic contact. When Obama dispatched James Clapper to Pyongyang, in 2014, to negotiate the release of two prisoners, Clapper discovered that North Korea had misread the purpose of the trip. The government had presumed that he was coming in part to open a new phase in the relationship. “They were bitterly disappointed,” he said. Clapper’s visit convinced him that the absence of diplomatic contact is creating a dangerous gulf of misperception. “I was blown away by the siege mentality—the paranoia—that prevails among the leadership of North Korea. When we sabre-rattle, when we fly B-1s accompanied by jet escorts from the Republic of Korea and Japan, it makes us feel good, it reassures the allies, but what we don’t factor in is the impact on the North Koreans.”

Clapper went on, “I think that what we should do is consider seriously, in consultation with South Korea, establishing an interest section in Pyongyang much like we had in Havana for decades, to deal with a government that we didn’t recognize. If we had a permanent presence in Pyongyang, I wonder whether the outcome of the tragedy of Otto Warmbier might have been avoided. Secondly, it would provide on-scene insight into what is actually going on in North Korea—intelligence.”

It is a measure of how impoverished America’s contact with North Korea has become that one of the best-known conduits is Dennis Rodman, a.k.a. the Worm, the bad boy of the nineties-era Chicago Bulls. Rodman’s agent, Chris Volo, a hulking former mixed-martial-arts fighter, told me recently, “I’ve been there four times in four years. I’m in the Korean Sea, and I’m saying to myself, ‘No one would believe that I’m alone right now, riding Sea-Doos with Kim Jong Un.’ ” Rodman’s strange bond with Kim began in 2013, when Vice Media, aware of Kim’s love of the Bulls, offered to fly American basketball players to North Korea. Vice tried to contact Michael Jordan but got nowhere. Rodman, who was working the night-club autograph circuit, was happy to go. He joined three members of the Harlem Globetrotters for a game in Pyongyang. Kim made a surprise appearance, invited Rodman to dinner, and asked him to return to North Korea for a week at his private beach resort in Wonsan, which Rodman later described as “Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.” . . .

Ultimately, the Trump Administration must decide if it can live with North Korea as a nuclear state. During the Cold War, the United States used deterrence, arms control, and diplomacy to coexist with a hostile, untrustworthy adversary. At its height, the Soviet Union had fifty-five thousand nuclear weapons. According to the RAND Corporation, the North Koreans are on track to have between fifty and a hundred by 2020; that would be less than half the size of Great Britain’s arsenal.

Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national-security adviser, argued, in a Times Op-Ed last month, that the U.S. can “rely on traditional deterrence” to blunt North Korea’s threat. But McMaster is skeptical that the Soviet model can be applied to Pyongyang. He told me, “There are reasons why this situation is different from the one we were in with the Soviets. The North Koreans have shown, through their words and actions, their intention to blackmail the United States into abandoning our South Korean ally, potentially clearing the path for a second Korean War.”

If the Administration were to choose a preventive war, one option is “decapitation,” an effort to kill senior leaders with a conventional or even a nuclear attack, though most analysts consider the risks unacceptable. Such a strike could rally the population around the regime and cause a surviving commander to respond with a nuclear weapon. Another option is akin to Israel’s 1981 stealth attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor, the linchpin of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons development, which set back Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by at least a decade. “That’s a textbook case of a preventive war,” the senior Administration official told me.

But the comparison between Osirak and North Korea is limited. In 1981, Iraq had yet to make a bomb, and it had just one major nuclear target, which was isolated in the desert and relatively easy to eliminate. North Korea already has dozens of usable nuclear warheads, distributed across an unknown number of facilities, many of them hidden underground. Even destroying their missiles on the launch pad has become much harder, because the North has developed mobile launchers and solid-fuel missiles, which can be rolled out and fired with far less advance notice than older liquid-fuel missiles.

The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be “lunacy,” resulting in “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.” North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.)

Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea. (Forty thousand U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, which would also be vulnerable.) A 2012 study of the risks of a North Korean attack on Seoul, by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, estimates that sixty-five thousand civilians would die on the first day, and tens of thousands more in the days that followed. If Kim used his stockpiles of sarin gas and biological weapons, the toll would reach the millions. U.S. and South Korean forces could eventually overwhelm the North Korean military, but, by any measure, the conflict would yield one of the worst mass killings in the modern age.

In dozens of conversations this summer, in the United States and Asia, experts from across the political spectrum predicted that, despite the threats from Trump and McMaster, the U.S. most likely will accept the reality of North Korea as a nuclear state, and then try to convince Kim Jong Un that using—or selling—those weapons would bring about its annihilation. John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University, in Seoul, said, “If, one day, an American President comes along—maybe Trump—who understands the problem is the hostile relationship, and takes steps to improve it, then the slow train to denuclearization could leave the station.”

Managing a nuclear North Korea will not be cheap. It will require stronger missile defenses in South Korea, Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii, and more investment in intelligence to track the locations of North Korea’s weapons, to insure that we pose a credible threat of destroying them. Scott Snyder, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I think we’re going to end up in a situation where we live with a nuclear-capable North Korea, but it will be a situation that is incredibly dangerous. Because, at that point, any unexplained move that looks like it could involve preparations for a nuclear strike could precipitate an American preëmptive response.” Even that risk, by almost all accounts, is better than a war. . . .

IV. “We’re Not Going to Die Alone . . .

Jo wrapped up with a grand farewell. “I know that The New Yorker is very influential and I’ve received good feelings through our dialogue today,” the translator said. “I’d be grateful if you just write articles which are conducive to the improved bilateral relations between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S.”

. . .

I had wondered what it must be like to experience the United States through the fog of Twitter. It turned out that it wasn’t much different from Americans trying to make sense of North Korea through its propaganda.

After breakfast one morning, Mr. Pak drove me to a subway station in downtown Pyongyang, and announced, “This is for the nuclear war.”

By now, I was accustomed to his chipper declarations about an imminent cataclysm, but this one baffled me. He explained, “Everything here has a dual-use purpose.” He pointed to an underpass, beneath an intersection, which he said can serve as a shelter. In the back yards of apartment blocks, residents can take cover in storage cellars. Surrounded by commuters, we boarded an escalator, heading down to the station.

Built in the seventies, with Russian help, the Pyongyang Metro lies a hundred metres underground, nearly twice as far as the deepest platform in the New York City subway. Pyongyang stations are equipped with large blast doors. “During the Korean War, we were threatened by nukes,” Pak said. In 1950, President Truman raised the possibility of using the atomic bomb in Korea. “It touched our people’s minds,” he said, adding, “We don’t want that to happen again. And now we’ve got nukes and we can comfortably say, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

In the event of a nuclear war, American strategists assume that North Korea would first launch a nuclear or chemical weapon at an American military base in Japan or Guam, in the belief that the U.S. would then hold its fire, rather than risk a strike on its mainland. I mentioned that to Pak, but he countered with a different view. “The point of nuclear war is to give total destruction to another party,” he said. “There are no moves, no maneuvers. That’s a conventional war.”

When we reached the subway platform, we were treated to patriotic orchestral music playing on the loudspeaker. Broadsheet newspaper pages were hung behind glass for people to read while they waited for the train. The scene reminded me of thirty-year-old photos I’ve seen of Beijing. We rode the train awhile, and then got on the escalator for the long ascent to the surface.

I was glad to be back in the open air. We got in the Toyota, and Pak said, “If the U.S. puts sanctions and sanctions and sanctions and sanctions, if they drive us to the edge of the cliff, we will attack. That’s how the world wars have started.” He thought awhile and then said, “Don’t push us too hard, because you’re going to start a war. And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”

This was a familiar refrain. Some of the American officials in Washington who are immersed in the problem of North Korea frequently mention the old Korean saying “Nuh jukgo, nah jukja!” It means “You die, I die!” It’s the expression you hear in a barroom fight, or from an exasperated spouse—the notion that one party will go over the cliff if it will take the other down, too. Krys Lee, a Korean-American author and translator, said, “My mother also used it on me!” Lee finds that it’s hard for Americans and Koreans to gauge each other’s precise emotions, because Koreans tend to use “more abstract, dramatic, and sentimental language.” . . .

. . .

The mythology was no surprise, but one exhibit contained a stark implication for the current crisis. Beside the museum, we boarded the U.S.S. Pueblo, a Navy spy ship that was captured in January, 1968, long after the end of the Korean War. The seizure—during a surge of hostilities not unlike the present—was an audacious gamble on North Korea’s part. One American crew member was killed and eighty-two were detained. Lyndon Johnson considered retaliating with a naval blockade or even a nuclear strike. But he was consumed by the war in Vietnam, and, in the end, he did not retaliate. After eleven months, the U.S. apologized for spying and won the release of the prisoners.

The Pueblo incident nearly started a war, but Kim Il Sung drew a powerful, and potentially misleading, lesson from it. In a private conversation in 1971, Kim told Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian President, that the Pueblo and other standoffs had convinced him that Washington backs down. “The Americans don’t want to continue this fight,” he said, according to documents in Romania’s state archives. “They let us know it’s not their intention to fight the Koreans again.”

Van Jackson, a scholar of international relations who served in the Pentagon from 2009 to 2014, spent years analyzing the Kim family’s handling of crises, including the seizure of the Pueblo. The grandfather’s theory of victory still drives North Korea toward provocation, he said, but the regime also knows its limits; to survive, it chooses violence but avoids escalation. “When South Korea blares giant propaganda speakers at the North from the D.M.Z., North Korea fires warning shots nearby but doesn’t dare attack the speakers themselves,” he said. “When South Korean N.G.O.s send propaganda leaflets into North Korea using hot-air balloons—which really pisses them off—North Korea threatens to attack the N.G.O.s but instead just fires at the unmanned balloons.” In Jackson’s view, North Korea is not irrational, but it very much wants America to think that it is.

Jackson believes that the Trump Administration’s threat to launch a preventive war begins a new phase. “Trump may abandon the one thing that has prevented war in the past: U.S. restraint,” he told me. In embracing new rhetoric and rationale, the U.S. risks a spiral of hostility in which neither side intends to start a war but threats and intimidation lead to ever more aggressive behavior. Trump and Kim may goad each other into the very conflict that they are both trying to avoid.

In 1966, Thomas Schelling, the deterrence expert, wrote that brinkmanship hinges, above all, on “beliefs and expectations.” Our grasp of North Korea’s beliefs and expectations is not much better than its grasp of ours. To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other. In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks. We simply don’t know how Kim Jong Un really regards the use of his country’s nuclear arsenal, or how much North Korea’s seclusion and mythology has distorted its understanding of American resolve. We don’t know whether Kim Jong Un is taking ever-greater risks because he is determined to fulfill his family’s dream of retaking South Korea, or because he is afraid of ending up like Qaddafi.

To some in the Trump Administration, the gaps in our knowledge of North Korea represent an argument against deterrence; they are unwilling to assume that Pyongyang will be constrained by the prospect of mutually assured destruction. But, if the alternative is a war with catastrophic costs, then gaps in our knowledge should make a different case. Iraq taught us the cost of going to war against an adversary that we do not fully understand. Before we take a radical step into Asia, we should be sure that we’re not making that mistake again. ♦

Reporting and photography for this piece was facilitated by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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“Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”

During a year of turmoil: Brexit,  U.S. elections, Flint, Michigan water, Columbia’s peace deal, Brazil and South Korea both impeaching their presidents, and more, the essay by philosopher and writer Alain de Botton  was the most widely read – by far – of any other New York Times article in 2016.  People seem most concerned about their own relationships.

In “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” de Botton declares, “We don’t know ourselves and we have unrealistic ideas of what love is.  For many, love means no conflict.  The modern idea of love is not based on reality. ”

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Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton explains, “Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. . . . Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”

He says we should be realistic: “We need to swap the Romantic view [of marriage] for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them.”

In his pessimistic/realistic view, de Botton says, “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the ‘not overly wrong’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”. . .

At the end of his essay, de Botton notes, “Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’  We should learn to accommodate ourselves to ‘wrongness,’ striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners.”

For the complete essay, go to –  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/opinion/sunday/why-you-will-marry-the-wrong-person.html

I learned of this Alain de Botton’s essay through On Being with Krista Tippett, a favorite podcast. When Krista interviewed de Botton in The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships, he expanded on his ideas in a less pessimistic tone than his article.  He emphasizes that love is work: “True love is rocky and bumpy,” but the more generous we can be, the more loving our relationships are likely to be.

“What if the first question we asked on a date was, ‘How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.'”  Alain de Botton  says that we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after.”

If you are counting on a “soul mate” to come along or grumble that your relationship isn’t like those in the movies, listen to Alain de Botton’s interview with Krista Tippett.

Go to – https://onbeing.org/programs/alain-de-botton-the-true-hard-work-of-love-and-relationships/

Although the world news swirls around you, what is really important says de Botton is to know yourself and be kind and realistic in building love in your relationships.

Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: China -“A Job in Hand”

Based on the latest United Nations estimates, China has a total population of 1,387,380,040 (the U.S. 326,131,191) as of Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  Thus, China needs to deal with challenges such as employment for over a billion more people than we have in the U.S.

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Chinese college students

According to “A Job in Hand” in Beijing Review, Vol. 60, China continues measures to create employment throughout the country.

A Job in Hand
By Lan Xinzhen | NO. 17 APRIL 27, 2017

As China’s college graduates swarm to all kinds of employment fairs in this job-seeking season, the government is set to give them a leg up. A guideline on employment promotion recently released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, lays out measures for creating diversified job opportunities for college graduates. The document also details steps to be taken to boost job creation in all sectors of society.

Employment is vital to people’s livelihoods and forms the foundation for economic growth and social stability. Therefore, employment and unemployment rates are important indicators for gauging a country’s economy.

The unemployment rate in 31 major Chinese cities stands at the low level of around 5 percent, according to surveys of the National Bureau of Statistics. A review of statistics from 100 cities conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) shows the number of new jobs increased 7.8 percent and the number of applicants grew 2.1 percent in the first quarter over the same period last year. The figures show that China’s job market remained stable, as the increase of new positions surpassed the rise in applicants.

However, in spite of this stability, challenges are not to be underestimated. First, around 7.95 million college graduates will enter the job market this year, an increase of some 300,000 year on year. Ensuring employment for the record number of graduates is an issue the government faces [my emphasis].

Second, workers laid off from sectors with overcapacity—such as the iron, steel and coal industries—require resettlement. Last year, resettlement was carried out smoothly, with 726,000 workers from these industries being reemployed. The government faces daunting challenges this year, as more workers will have to find new jobs as a result of the furthering of supply-side reform, which focuses on cutting overcapacity, destocking, deleveraging, reducing corporate costs and improving weak links. Only when laid-off workers are properly resettled can this crucial reform be considered successful.

Another challenge is to guarantee employment for surplus labor from rural areas. In the past, surplus rural labor was primarily employed in export-oriented factories in the coastal areas of east and south China. However, many migrant workers lost their jobs as a large number of export-oriented enterprises closed down due to sluggish demand for exports in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.

The government has introduced a series of measures to meet these challenges and will continue to launch new initiatives to address the issues.

For instance, given that non-profit organizations are becoming increasingly attractive for college graduates, the government will grant them incentive policies equal to those enjoyed by enterprises, including tax reduction and exemption and social insurance subsidies. It also provides job-hunting allowances to college graduates from impoverished families. Where conditions permit, the government encourages the setting up of foundations, with the support of local government finance and private investors, to provide funding for college graduates seeking employment or starting their own businesses.

The government also subsidizes enterprises that resettle laid-off workers within their organization. It grants tax relief to enterprises that take on laid-off workers. Those who start their own businesses will be given priority to set up shop in business start-up incubators, where they will enjoy favorable tax and financing policies. Finally, as part of its public welfare program, the government will provide job opportunities to workers who have difficulty finding new work.

For surplus rural labor, the government encourages them to go back to their hometowns to make a new start. There have been many successful cases of migrant workers, having accumulated capital and acquired skills and knowledge in larger cities, returning to their hometowns to start their own businesses. In this year’s annual survey of 500 villages in China conducted by the MHRSS, the number of migrant workers working away from their hometowns was 279,000 at the end of the first quarter, down 2.1 percent year on year, while those employed in local non-agricultural sectors totaled 60,000, up 7.1 percent year on year.

These measures taken by the government conform to China’s national conditions and will have positive effects in promoting employment. With these measures in place, it is believed that China’s unemployment rate will continue to stay at a low level this year, in spite of mounting challenges.

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com 

http://www.bjreview.com/Opinion/201704/t20170424_800094497.html

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College job fair in Nanjing, China

Population figures: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/

Aloha, Barry (& Renée)

 

 

 

Images: http://www.china-mike.com/facts-about-china/facts-chinese-education/

Barry’s Gleanings: U.S. 2016 Election – Thoughts

While some people in the U.S. are celebrating the recent presidential election, many are not.  In the most recent edition of Utne magazine, Eric Utne provides good links to a variety of American voices in his article “Now What?”:

American Flag
Photo by Fotolia/photolink

“Let’s start with Ronnie Bennett timegoesby.net) who puts out a must-read blog on aging called Time Goes By. She writes:

…It is not so long ago that when someone in the family died, people mourned for a long time. Custom dictated that mirrors in the home be covered, social life curtailed and that the mourners wear black (widow’s weeds) for up to a year and even more in certain cases.

Everything is faster now and today that kind of mourning is obsolete, even considered morbid. Not me. Given what has just happened, I do not believe it is unreasonable at all.

Two things for sure. Like some people in the comments on Wednesday’s post told us, I am wearing black. Complete black, even earrings. Maybe not all the time, but a lot of the time to remind me every day what a terrible thing we as a country have done.

My attire will probably lighten up in time but I own a lot of black clothing so I’m giving it all a new kind of symbolism and meaning.

Second, never again will I say or write that man’s name.

Neither of these silly, little protests will change anything. But they will keep what has happened in the forefront of my mind and that will inform choices I make from now on.

Mostly, right now, I want to be quiet and to learn to breathe again. I don’t know when I will be done with that and unlike the go-getters, I think it is a good thing to do – to be quiet and reflect.

The there’s the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. She writes (naomiklein.org):

They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry. But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves: neoliberalism, fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine… Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.

Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World We Know in Our Hearts is Possible, (newandancientstory.net) writes:

For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress… The prison-industrial complex, the endless wars, the surveillance state, the pipelines, the nuclear weapons expansion were easier for liberals to swallow when they came with a dose of LGBTQ rights under an African-American President… As we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force… I would call it love if it weren’t for the risk of triggering your New Age bullshit detector… So let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in the uncertainty together…

Rebecca Solnit, (rebeccasolnit.net) writes:

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.

Ricken Patel, Avaaz.org) writes:

The darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.

Michael Meade, (mosaicvoices.org) writes:

Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.

Bill McKibben (350.org) never fails to inform and inspire. He writes:

I wish I had some magic words to make the gobsmacked feeling go away. But I can tell you from experience that taking action, joining with others to protest, heals some of the sting. And throughout history, movements like ours have been the ones to create lasting change—not a single individual or president. That’s the work we’ll get back to, together.

And then there’s Dougald Hine (Crossed Lines, dougald.nu), co-founder of my favorite collapsarian website, Dark Mountain:

It’s not the apocalypse, of course, but if you thought the shape of history was meant to be an upward curve of progress, then this feels like the apocalypse… It reminds me of the conversations that sometimes happen in the last days of life, or on the evening of a funeral… There’s a chance of getting real… Donald Trump is a shadowy parody of a trickster, a toxic mimic of Loki. We don’t know the shape of the war that could be coming, nor how that war will end, and not only because we cannot see the future, but because it hasn’t happened yet: there is still more than one way all this could play out, though the possibilities likely range from bad to worse. Among the things that might be worth doing is to read some books from Germany in the 1920s and 30s, to get a better understanding of what Nazism looked like, before anyone could say for sure how the story would end… If someone were to ask me what kind of cause is sufficient to live for in dark times, the best answer I could give would be: to take responsibility for the survival of something that matters deeply. Whatever that is, your best action might then be to get it out of harm’s way, or to put yourself in harm’s way on its behalf, or anything else your sense of responsibility tells you. Some of those actions will be loud and public, others quiet, invisible, never to be known. They are beginning already. And though it is not the bravest form of action, and often takes place far from the frontline, I believe the work of sense-making is among the actions that are called for… This is where I intend to put a good part of my energy in the next while, to the question of what it means if the future is not coming back. How do we disentangle our thinking and our hopes from the cultural logic of progress? For that logic does not have enough room for loss, nor for the kind of deep rethinking that is called for when a culture is in crisis… I want to say that this is also history, though it doesn’t get written down so much: the small joys and gentlenesses, the fragments of peace, time spent caring for our children, or our parents, or our neighbours. These tasks alone are not enough to hold off the darkness, but they are one of the starting points, one of the models for what it means to take responsibility for the survival of things that matter deeply…. We’ll get through because we have to, the way we always have, one foot in front of another. Hold those you love tight. Be kind to strangers… There is work to be done.

Each of these thinkers and visionaries has a finger on the pulse of our times. If you’re not reading them, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it.

Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader. He is writing a memoir, to be published by Random House.

http://www.utne.com/politics/eric-utne-2016-election-zbtz1611zsau

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Eric Utne from –

Image from – http://www.meaningfulwork.com/books/bio_utne.html

You’ll find interesting readings – and ideas.  Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Barry’s Gleanings: Planets, Planets . . .

“Science-fiction writers have been dreaming up alien planets for decades . . . [S]cience had to wait until 1992 for proof that such planets did exist .. . Thanks to a combination of ground-based telescopes and planet-hunting satellites, particularly one called Kepler, which was launched in 2009, more than 3,500 such worlds are known.

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Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/december/nasa-s-kepler-reborn-makes-first-exoplanet-find-of-new-mission

Unlike their depiction in fiction, reasonably few are much like Earth . .. And almost all are far, far away . . . .

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By April 2016, Kepler was about 100 million miles from Earth.

Image  from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_(spacecraft)

From 2017, though, that will change.  In December a successor to Kepler, called TESS (for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), will be launched into orbit.  It is designed to survey the entire sky, looking for the sorts of exoplanets that are of most interest to humans – ones that are small (like Earth), rocky (like Earth), and relatively close by . . . . The new satellite should spot about 3,000 planets.

In August 2016, scientists announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, which, at 4.25 light-years away, is the closest star to the Sun.

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Proxima-Centauri star – our closest star

Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire and physicist . . . is already working with Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist, on plans for a tiny, laser-propelled probe that could cover the distance in about 20 years”  (139).

From “Planets, planets everywhere” by Tim Cross in The Economist: The World in 2017. 

Our fiction and our scientific facts are changing  — and all most interesting.

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Gleanings from Bali: Passion Fruit

What healthy vine will roar around the garden like a train, lustily embracing any support that leads it closer to the sun?

Ibu Kat describes the local passion fruit in Bali that way.  I know and love passion fruit, liliko’i, from Hawaii.  You may know the intensely flavorful and usually a bit sour fruit as passion fruit or passionfruit, maracuya, granadille, maracujá or lilikoʻi.

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Iiliko’i vine and fruit

In “A Passion for Passionfruit,” Ibu Kat provides great facts about this seemingly indestructible plant:

“Passiflora is one hardy plant.  Seedlings spring up from the compost bin, beside walls or wherever birds have dropped them.  Once they are established, they’re pretty much indestructible.  . .. Undeterred by monsoonal floods or torrid droughts, they just keep on climbing determinedly upwards.  I encourage them to grow up tall trees and one has now colonized the roof.  Literature states the vine can grow about 6 m  [over 19 feet] a year but in my experience, it’s more like 10cm [almost 4 inches] a day.

After a while – about a year, after you’ve forgotten about them and the vines have largely disappear in the tree canopies – the oval fruits will start to appear in the grass.

When ripe, the passion fruit releases itself from the mother plant and drops to earth; it picks itself.  Which is just as well considering the dizzying heights from which some of them are falling.  The larger ones sometimes crack upon impact with the earth.  A good wind or heavy rain can produce quite a harvest.  Ignored, the shell eventually rots away and the seeds will germinate where they landed to start the whole process over again.  But it’s much more fun to pick them up and take them home.

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Drink the passion fruit juice or just spoon it out of the shell. You can eat the seeds too.

This particular variety has a very deep flavour and aroma, and a sweet/sour acidity that most Balinese don’t like. Wayan Manis wrinkles her nose and declares them ‘pahit’ [bitter].  But the juice makes a wonderful substitute for vinegar in salad dressings, introducing a distinctive fruity dimension to the proceedings.  A shot of juice is lovely in a glass of cold soda or tonic or just by itself, iced, on a hot day.  I’ve heard a rumour that a passion fruit daiquiri is very nice.  Passion fruit makes a lovely tangy preserve which goes well with cheese.

Of course you can just cut the top off like a boiled egg and eat the contents with a spoon, or pour the lot over yogurt.

It’s astonishing, really, that we seem to be the only species that eats it.  My garden is plagued by a family of squirrels. . . These rodents have destroyed every durian and coconut in my garden for years now, taking a single bite which spoils the fruit before moving on to the next.  But they won’t touch passion fruit.

Neither will the bats.  They help themselves to the papayas just at the moment of perfect ripeness, leaving the ragged remains of the fruit hanging sadly from the stem or slumped on the ground. . . . But they show no interest in the passion fruit even when I leave an open one around to tempt them.  . . .

So I’m the only one who thinks that passion fruit is a good idea, and it’s my job to keep up with the crop.  Since the vines can produce for up to five years it’s an ongoing exercise.  I collect them, scoop out the pulp, press it through a potato ricer and freeze the juice.  I give away scores of seedlings.  My compost is full of passion fruit shells.

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Passion fruit species vary in color and taste; all those I’ve had were good.

The purple variety of passion fruit is thought to have originated in Paraguay, and being so conveniently packed in its own tough skin was easy for early European explorers and traders to disseminate around the world.  But the fruit is endemic in the tropics and subtropics of every continent except Africa.  Most species are found in South America, eastern Asia, southern Asia and New Guinea.  Nine separate species of Passiflora are native to the United States, at least four species are found in Australia and there is one endemic species in New Zealand.

Some interesting facts to keep up your sleeve for Quiz Night: many species of butterflies rely on passion fruit leaves.  The seeds yield about 23% oil similar in properties to sunflower and soya oil.  Different species are pollinated by hummingbirds, bumble bees. Carpenter bees, wasps or bats, while others are self-pollinating.  The flower was named by Spanish missionaries to South America as an expository aid while trying to convert the indigenous inhabitants to Christianity. [Spiky structures sticking out from the center of the flower  symbolize the crown of thorns; the ten petals represent the ten faithful apostles, the  three stigmata symbolize  the three nails, and the five anthers representing the five wounds. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071203034037AARs16R].

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Passion fruit flower – beautiful and edible (but then you won’t get the delicious fruit)!

http://bargains-o-plenty.com/Plants/PassionFruit.html

So next time someone congratulates you on your passion fruit vine you can tell them all about it.

Passion fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals.  One hundred grams of fruit contains about 30 mg of vitamin C, 1274 units of vitamin A, 348  mg of potassium along with significant amounts of iron copper, magnesium and phosphorus.

As with everything else, rarity adds value to a product.  If you live in the continental USA, one Californian fruit supplier will be happy to send you eight fruit for US $28 or Rp. 45,588 each.  That makes me feel pretty smug.  And no way will I be coming down with scurvy any time soon” (Bali Advertiser, 28 September -12 October, 2016, p. 31).

**

Ibu Kat’s book of stories Bali Daze – Free-fall off the Tourist Trail is available at Ganesha Books in Bali and on Kindle.  Watch for her new book, Retired and Rewired.

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https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Bali+Daze

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Passion fruit in Bali – rr photo

Here in Bali, the passion fruit we tried is more oval shaped and a bit sweeter than the kinds we have in Hawaii.

I hope you are able to enjoy tangy, healthy passion fruit wherever you are.

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Our breakfast fruit plate at Agus Ayu Cottages; watermelon, papaya, pineapple, and passion fruit – yummy

Aloha, Renée

Images from <https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fimages-na.ssl-images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FI%2F31uclgtT0NL.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FTropical-Importers-Fresh-Passion-Fruit%2Fdp%2FB00AFZ6B4E&docid=7vfzKsC7Yte-sM&tbnid=B4y6nU_U6wMYxM%3A&w=243&h=208&bih=629&biw=1269&ved=0ahUKEwiTwMrYzdnPAhUBOY8KHUOSB-8QxiAIAg&iact=c&ictx=1>.

Barry’s Gleanings: Your Aching Neck

Some people complain that in-person relationships are being strained because many people spend much time on their cell phones, iPads, computers, and other such screens.

Here is another reason to limit screen time (or at least do it consciously).

In her August 2016 column, “For Your Health: Text neck troubles,” Jane Langille, reports:

“Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, a Costco member and chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, in Poughkeepsie, New York, wondered why a 30-year-old male patient still suffered from neck pain long after Hansraj had surgically repaired a herniated disk in his back.  The man was unable to return to work in spite of months of physical therapy.  As a follow-up exam, the source of his pain was crystal clear: He admitted to spending four hours a day playing Angry Birds on his iPad and showed his doctor how he looked down at the screen. . . ”

Click on the link below to see the rest of this article and tips to help prevent “text neck.”

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From page 68 of The Costco Connection, printed page 65: http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/201608?pg=NaN#pgNaN

 

 

Image from:  https://kimberlyjozwiakblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/woman-hunched-over-computer.jpg

Please, sit up, sit up  – bring your devices to eye level – every time.

Be healthy.

Aloha, Barry & Renee

Skeleton image from: <http://svmassagetherapy.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/slumpshoulder.jpg&gt;.

Barry’s Gleanings: Yoga Sutra – #33 for a serene mind

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind retains its undisturbed calmness” – Sutra  [a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature] # 33 of Patanjali.

In the commentary on this Sutra, Sri Swami Satchidananda notes, “Whether you are interested in reaching samadhi [a superconscious state] or plan to ignore Yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra. It will be very helpful to you in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life.  . . . try to follow this one  Sutra very well and you will see its efficacy.  . . . This Sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always.” 

Patanjali says that there are four kinds of people: the happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked.  “At any given moment, you can fit any person into one of these four categories.

  • A happy person.  Even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy.  It is still the same way.  Suppose somebody drives up in a big car, parks in front of her huge palatial home and gets out.  Some other people are standing on the pavement in the hot sun getting tired.  How many of those people will be happy?  Not many.  They will be saying, ‘See that big car?  She is sucking the blood of the laborers.’  We come across people like that; they are always jealous.  When a person gets a name, fame or high position, they try to criticize that person. ‘Oh, don’t you know, her brother is so-and-so; she must have pulled some strings somewhere.’  They will never admit that she might have gone up by her own merit.  By that jealousy, you will not disturb her, but you will disturb your own serenity.  She simply got out of the car and walked into the house, but you are burning up inside.  Instead, think, ‘Oh, such a fortunate person.  If everybody were like that how happy the world would be.  May God bless everybody to have such comfort.  I will also get that one day.’  Make that person your friend.  That response is missed in many cases, not only between individuals but even among nations.  When some nation is prospering, the neighboring country is jealous of it and wants to ruin its economy.  So we should always have the key of friendliness when we see happy people.”
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Young and rich – be happy for her.

  • The unhappy person.  “Maybe he is suffering from previous bad karma, but we should have compassion.  If you can lend a helping hand, do it.  If you can share half of your loaf, share it.  Be merciful always.  By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind.  Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds.  Whether our mercy is going to help that person or not, by our own feeling of mercy, at least we are helped.”
  • The virtuous person.  “When you see a virtuous man [or woman], feel delighted.  ‘Oh, how great he is.  He must be my hero.  I should imitate his great qualities.’ Don’t envy him; don’t try to pull him down.  Appreciate the virtuous qualities in him and try to cultivate them in your own life.”                                                                                      We would do well to follow these examples:
  • The wicked.  “We come across wicked people sometimes.  We can’t deny that.  So what should be our attitude?  Indifference. ‘Well, some people are like that.   Probably I was like that yesterday.  Am I not a better person now?  She will probably be all right tomorrow.’  Don’t try to advise such people because wicked people seldom take advice. If you try to advise them you will lose your peace.

I still remember a small story from the Pancha Tantra [an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in verse and prose] which I was told as a small child.

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The Pancha Tantra tales

One rainy day, a monkey was sitting on a tree branch getting completely drenched.  Right opposite on another branch of the same tree there was a small sparrow sitting in its hanging nest.  Normally a sparrow builds its nest on the edge of a branch so it can hang down and swing around gently in the breeze.  It has a nice cabin inside with an upper chamber, a reception room, a bedroom down below and even a delivery room if it is going to give birth to little ones.  Oh yes, you should see and admire a sparrow’s nest sometime.

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Weaver bird nest

So, it was warm and cozy inside its nest and the sparrow just peeped out and, seeing the poor monkey, said, ‘Oh, my dear friend, I am so small; I don’t even have hands like you, only a small beak.  But with only that I built a nice house, expecting this rainy day.  Even if the rain continues for days and days, I will be warm inside.  I heard Darwin saying that you are the forefather of the human beings, so why don’t you use your brain?  Build a nice, small hut somewhere to protect yourself during the rain.’

You should have seen the face of that monkey.  It was terrible!  ‘Oh, you little devil!  How dare you try to advise me?  Because you are warm and cozy in your nest you are teasing me.  Wait, you will see where you are!’  The monkey proceeded to tear the nest to pieces, and the poor bird had to fly out and get drenched like the monkey.

This is a story I was told when I was quite young and I still remember it.  Sometimes we come across such monkeys, and if you advise them they take it as an insult.  They think you are proud of your position.  If you sense even a little of that tendency in somebody, stay away.  He or she will have to learn by experience.  By giving advice to such people, you will only lose your peace of mind. . . .

So have these four attitudes: friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference.  . . . Nothing in the world can upset you then.  Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind” (p. 54-57).

from: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – translation and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda

In this time of noisy political rhetoric, we would do well to remember Sutra #33.

Aloha, Renée

41adKKVkq3L._AC_US160_

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+Yoga+Sutras+of+Patanjali+

Barry’s Gleanings: Truths – Easter, Bernie, & Denied Justice

Saturday was the Democratic caucus in Hawaii.   The printout lists of registered voters were not up-to-date; the volunteers too few, and the lines to cast a single vote were ridiculously long.  At the Kihei polling place where I volunteered, some people waited three hours; some walked away.

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At Lokelani Intermediate School in Kihei, HI – line to vote in the Democratic caucus – from The Maui News -3/27/2016

For the most part, people were wonderful; a Bernie supporter gave us cookies, people chatted with friends, some said it was like a party;  only a few yelled in frustration.  Many were first-time voters – young and old.  Some life-long Republicans said they were voting as Democrats for the first time.

Americans want change.  Many people are struggling, and we know it doesn’t have to be this way.   Bernie won in Hawaii, a historically union and Democratic state!  Thank you to all who came (and waited)  to vote their preference for the Democratic presidential candidate.

It’s now Sunday morning, Easter.  Birds are chirping as it gets light; Barry’s making coffee; later I’ll go to a Quaker service and then gather with family and friends at the beach.  We celebrate and remember Jesus.

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With John, Barry – and Nalu at Kama’ole Beach Park III – Easter Sunday

As we feel the Christian love of the season, and the hope of real change in the U.S., it’s troubling to know that laws still remain in the U.S. that deny justice to many.

One such law is called the Doctrine of Discovery.  It is based on official papal letters from the 15th century and a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, most notably Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823.

“Three papal bulls make up the Doctrine of Discovery, which established the worldview that a certain group of people, Western Christendom, had moral sanction and the support of international law to invade and colonize the lands of non-Christian Peoples, to dominate them, take their possessions and resources, and enslave and kill them.

The doctrine blessed slave trade and genocide.  It yielded a body of international law known as the Law of Nations.  The U.S. embraced these doctrines, creating a constitutional framework for slavery and later segregation, and adapted the Law of Nations as Federal Indian Common Law.

Over the last 150 years, we have seen the repudiation of both slavery and segregation, and the U.S. Constitution has been amended.  Yet Federal Indian Common Law, devoid of human rights principles, remains intact.  It defines Indigenous people as a political entity, giving land titles to Congress and reducing Indigenous property rights to occupancy.  Enforcing concepts of plenary power and unfettered guardianship, rejecting the the relevance of “principles of abstract justice” or the “morality of the case,” it affords remedies to Indians as “a matter of grace, not because of legal liability,” as stated in the Marshall Trilogy, the foundation of federal Indian law.  The Doctrine of Discovery was most recently quoted in a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court Case, City of Sherrill, New York v. Oneida Nation:

Under the ‘doctrine of discovery…’fee title [ownership] to the lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign-first the discovering European nation and later the original states and the United States.

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Great Bear, an Oneida dancer of peace

Today’s massive human rights violations against Indigenous people are the results of such applications of the Doctrine of Discovery.  Life expectancy for Native people in the U.S. is 48 to 52 years.  Unemployment rates in Indigenous communities run from 45 to 75 percent.  And incarceration rates and suicide rates are higher than in any other racial or ethnic group–as are rates of violence against and murder of Native women and the likelihood of being shot by law enforcement.  [Learn more at afsc.org/dod-legacy].

After examining this information, New England Yearly Meeting [Quakers] decided to embark on a multi-year journey of healing.  Their Meeting Minute of the Doctrine of Discovery states:

We as New England Yearly Meeting repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. We are beginning a journey to consider the moral and spiritual implications of how we benefit from and have been harmed by the doctrine as individuals and meetings . . . We need to learn more, find ways to seek forgiveness, and to ask how the Spirit might lead us . . . We encourage consultation with Indigenous Peoples to restore the health of ourselves and our planet.  We recognize that this is our work to do.  On this path, respectfully traveled in love, our goal is true healing. 

. . . It is not enough to apologize.  We must make amends.”

Excerpt from Quaker Action, “Beyond right relationships: A journey of healing,” Winter 2015, p. 16-17.  Full article at – http://afsc.org/story/beyond-right-relationships-journey-healing

“When Indigenous peoples exercise self-determination, they come in conflict with governments and corporations that rely on the legal lineage of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery to assert claims on natural resources, such as coal, oil, uranium, natural gas, and water. This is one of many lasting effects of the doctrine today.”  From http://afsc.org/resource/legacy-doctrine-discovery

In Hawaii too, we have a mainly unrecognized shame of the overthrow of the Hawaiian government.  On January 17, 1893, U.S. troops took part in a conspiracy led by a small group of wealthy, white businessmen and sugar plantation owners to overthrow the monarchy of Queen Lili’uokalani.

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Queen Lili’uokalani – last Hawaiian monarch

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Businessmen behind the overthrow of the Hawaiian government

Most Hawaiians opposed the coup, as did incoming U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

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‘Iolani Palace 1893 – overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom

ʻIolani Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii beginning with Kamehameha III under the Kamehameha Dynasty and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.

When we act as Jesus would – in love, compassion, and inclusion – He is alive.    There is much to love and many  wrongs to correct.   Consider what Jesus would do – and do it.

Happy Easter.

Aloha, Renée

P.S. If you are a U.S. citizen,  please volunteer to help at your polling place in November.  We hope you – and everyone – votes.  We need to correct injustices; we want just change.

 

 

 

 

 

Barry’s Gleanings: “Ants In Your Plants”

“Should someone point out a “bull’s horn acacia” to you, stop and have a close look at this thorny shrub.  Between 4 and 10 feet tall, this acacia has branches along which are pairs of reddish spines that look like miniature replicas of a Texas steer’s horns.  Hence its name.

Acacia_collinsii,_the_Bull_Horn_Acacia_(10078435473)

The Bull-Horn Acacia

Image from: <https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Acacia_collinsii,_the_Bull_Horn_Acacia_(10078435473).jpg>

Of the many relationships which have evolved between tropical ants and plants, that of the bull’s horn acacia and its stinging ants is one of the most curious.  It is also one of the most dramatic examples of tropical co-evolution between species.

With some caution, shake the end of a branch.  Ants burrow into the end of the spines (sot ice the tiny hole), excavate the inside of the branch, and set up a colony where they rear their young and go about the business of being ants.  When the plant is disturbed, as in the case of your shaking the branch, the pugnacious ants charge aggressively from the spines, stingers armed and ready to defend their acacia host.  It would only take one nasty sting to convince you that this unusual defense system works. [The sting feels like a “staple to the cheek”].

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Bull-horn acacia stinging ant

Image from: <http://www.alexanderwild.com/Ants/Taxonomic-List-of-Ant-Genera/Pseudomyrmex/spinicola12/575648985_FG4cj-L-1.jpg&gt;

In addition to repelling would-be grazers, ranging in size from caterpillars to cattle, the ants manicure the ground around the acacia, keeping it clear of sprouts from other plants which might deprive their host for living space in a tropical forest containing 1,200 species of trees and countless other plants.

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Stinging ants on a bull-horn acacia

Image from: <http://science.kennesaw.edu/~jdirnber/Bio2108/Lecture/LecEcology/acacia-ants.jpg&gt;

And the acacia is appreciative.  Not only does it shelter its guardian ants, it also feeds them.  Tiny, sausage-shaped bodies hang from the ends of the leaflets.  Loaded with sugar and protein, they are harvested by the ants.

[You’ll see other ants in a tropical jungle]

On the forest floor you’re almost sure to spot trails carved by leaf cutter ants as they march throughout he jungle in search of tender leaves to attack.  Their trails are veritable highways of activity.  Imagine thousands of people walking home on the highway, each rushing along, carrying a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of green plywood overhead, and you have the concept of these ants.  Leafcutters are amazingly industrious insects.  They can completely denude a full-grown mango tree overnight, carving circular slabs of leaf about half an inch in diameter, hoisting them overhead and marching down the tree trunk back to the hive, which may be perhaps a half mile away or more.

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Leaf-cutter ants

Image from: <https://static-secure.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2009/3/8/1236554201646/Leaf-cutter-ants-Atta-cep-003.jpg&gt;

Several highways lead to their hive – often around the buttress roots of a large tree.  Hives of over 100 square meters, 2 meters deep in the forest floor are not uncommon.  In these hives, millions, perhaps billions, of ants chew the leaf fragments, mixing them with nutrient-rich saliva, into a gruel.  From this gruel the ants grow and harvest mushrooms which provide their food source.

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Leaf-cutter ants – on the move

Image from: <http://cdn.trans-americas.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Tikal_Leaf-cutter-ants.jpg&gt;

Large ant colonies can cut and process nearly one hundred pounds of leaves per day.  During the decades long life span of an ant colony, tons of vegetation decompose and are worked back into the forest floor.  Constant rain and heat rapidly degrade tropical soils, and so the vast storehouse of nutrients and compost from the ant mounds create a rich oasis in the soil, who, without the busy ants would be nearly sterile” (257).

atta_colony_leafcutter_nest1

Leaf-cutter Ant mound

Image from: <https://6legs2many.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/atta_colony_leafcutter_nest1.jpg&gt;

Essay from: Insight Guides Costa Rica, ed. Dona & Harvey Haber, London: Houghton Mifflin.

Nature is amazing!  What are ants doing where you live?   Aloha, Amor y Luz, Renée

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