Clean the World is a non-profit organisation that recycles used soaps, lotions, and other toiletries from hotels. Its partners include Hilton, Marriott, and Walt Disney World Resorts, among others. Clean the World has donated over 50 million bars of recycled soap to people in need in 127 countries since its founding in 2009. The organisation has had to adapt as more hotel chains move away from single-use toiletries in favour of bulk offerings — via Youtube
Mad Mike Hoare, widely considered the world’s best known mercenary, has died aged 100.
Born in India to Irish parents, he led campaigns in the Congo in the 1960s that earned him fame at the time, and a controversial legacy years later.
His career reached an embarrassing end in 1981, when he was jailed for leading a failed coup in the Seychelles.
Mr Hoare’s son, Chris Hoare, said in a statement that his father died in a care facility in Durban, South Africa.
Mike Hoare lived by the philosophy that you get more out of life by living dangerously, so it is all the more remarkable that he lived more than 100 years, he said — via BBC News
Venice is not just a stage set. It is also a city with a resident population, which has productive activities, transportation and services. But how does the
Venice system work? How do the tides in the lagoon behave? How are the canals formed? And the embankments? What’s under the buildings? — via Vimeo
In the Quadratestadt of Mannheim, Germany, the streets aren’t named: instead, the blocks are. It’s an exception to a rule that most people don’t even think about — especially not mapping companies — via Youtube
With what3words, Chris Sheldrick and his team have divided the entire planet into three-meter squares and assigned each a unique, three-word identifier, like famous.splice.writers or blocks.evenly.breed, giving a precise address to the billions of people worldwide who don’t have one. In this quick talk about a big idea, Sheldrick explains the economic and political implications of giving everyone an accurate address — from building infrastructure to sending aid to disaster zones to delivering hot pizza — via TED
It’s not uncommon for parents to take some time to settle on a name for a new baby, but if they take too long, does the government have the power to step in?
Canberra’s six-month rule
In Australia, all births have to be registered under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
Access Canberra is the government body responsible for recording the momentous occasions in the ACT.
… parents had six months to name their baby — a timeframe that’s only recently been extended from just 60 days.
Reviewing — and rejecting — names
As part of the registration process, Access Canberra reviews names selected by parents.
For the most part parents have free reign to choose a name, guided by a few simple rules, but it’s not the same all over the world.
… only two names have been rejected by the ACT Government to date – one because it contained symbols without phonetic significance, and another because it contained a title or a rank. In that instance, the name was
What happens when the six months are up?
Ben Green, deputy director for licensing and registration, explained that parents would be strongly urged to find a suitable name for their child and complete the registration paperwork.
And, while it has never happened, the ACT Government even has the power to take parents to court to force them to register, and name, their child.
Bringing it back to Sam’s question, I asked whether the government could name a child, if parents didn’t meet the deadline.
Put simply no, not really, Ben said.
The government does have two circumstances in which they can name your child, the first circumstance is if it’s a prohibited name and the second is if the parents can’t agree on a name.
Ben said that this had never happened in the ACT and there was no pre-approved list of spare baby names sitting on a desk at Access Canberra just in case — ABC News
Little Ross Island off the south west of Scotland is up for sale for the price of a typical semi-detached house. It’s a 29-acre island (and much more at low tide) in the estuary to the south of Kirkcudbright in the south west of Scotland and located just off Meikle Ross headland on the mainland. So not too isolated. Views of views of the open sea, coastline, countryside, the Isle of Man and Lake District too.
The island has a working lighthouse tower, which was designed and built by Alan Stevenson in 1843, but sadly not part of the actual sale. However, the lighthouse keeper’s cottages, a shared courtyard (with the light Tower) and the remainder of the island, including the three ruinous cottages, along with workshops, a walled garden, a further small ruin and a further walled garden on the southern side and a stone barn on the north side are all included — via Wow Hausd
It’s great for agricultural crops and a bit on the nose, but it’s not your standard manure.
About 180,000 tonnes of biosolids are generated from Sydney’s sewage each year, but authorities are having no troubles with getting rid of it.
Biosolids, which is a by-product of the sewerage treatment process, is proving a hit with New South Wales farmers who want to improve soil health and boost yields.
Harvested from 23 of Sydney’s sewerage plants, the waste is processed through reactors which also create renewable energy that is fed back into the system.
It is then trucked out to about 20 farms in the state’s central west, as well as several mine rehabilitation sites.
Stuart Kelly swapped synthetic fertilisers for human biosolids on his family property at Newbridge, near Blayney five years ago.
He said his soil was healthier than ever and the farm was booming.
My thing is healthy soils and healthy pastures is going to come back to healthy stock, Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly said while he still got raised eyebrows for using the sewage, it was helping complete the production cycle between city and bush — ABC News
The ways of Riga’s enigmatic priest are mysterious. Shopping at a night market, using his spiritual weapons by sprinkling the holy water at a sermon in a fancy wine bar, overseeing the city from bell towers, and hanging out with skaters at the waterfront will build your faith and make you believe in the wonders of Riga. By DDB — via Youtube
Members of the European Parliament will vote today on draft rules that would allow citizens to enjoy legally purchased music and movie streaming subscriptions when they travel to another EU country. It’s hoped that improved access to content will help to dampen frustrations and reduce Internet piracy.
Being a fully-paid up customer of a streaming service such as Spotify or Netflix should be a painless experience, but for citizens of the EU, complexities exist.
Subscribers of Netflix, for example, have access to different libraries, depending on where they’re located. This means that a viewer in the Netherlands could begin watching a movie at home, travel to France for a weekend break, and find on arrival that the content he paid for is not available there.
A similar situation can arise with a UK citizen’s access to BBC’s iPlayer. While he has free access to the service he previously paid for while at home, travel to Spain for a week and access is denied, since the service believes he’s not entitled to view.
While the EU is fiercely protective of its aim to grant free movement to both people and goods, this clearly hasn’t always translated well to the digital domain. There are currently no explicit provisions under EU law which mandate cross-border portability of online content services.
Following a vote today, however, all that may change.
In a few hours time, Members of the European Parliament will vote on whether to introduce new
Cross-border portability rules (pdf), that will give citizens the freedom to enjoy their media wherever they are in the EU, without having to resort to piracy — via redwolf.newsvine.com
The Social Security card and number explained — via Youtube
Don’t you know there’s a war on? It’s being fought right now, all around us, between the baby boomers and the millennials.
Opinions differ as to the exact parameters that define each group of combatants, but the boomers are generally thought to have been born between 1946 (the results of the post-war baby boom, when people were so happy to be alive after six years of conflict that they jumped, en masse, into the sack) and the early 1960s. The millennials, on the other hand, take their name from the fact they came of age at the turn of the new century, so are usually defined as being born in 1982 or later.
The boomers don’t like the millennials because they think the younger generation are feckless, whiny snowflakes who are scared of hard graft and obsessed by status, more interested in posting a selfie to social media than doing anything useful.
The millennials, on the other hand, see the moomers as a rapacious generation that’s pretty much ruined everything for them. They’re living too long, taxpayers’ money is gushing into looking after them. They’ve kept house prices high, meaning young people can’t afford to buy. Workplace pensions are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Boomers are, by and large, Brexiteers and Trumpers. They remember when Britain was great, and think coming out of Europe will be a doddle. They want to make America great all over again.
If you fall into either of those camps, you’ll doubtless have strong opinions. If you don’t, then come and join me on the sidelines as the two sides limber up for the mother of all battles. I’ve got popcorn, it’ll be fun. And who are we, if we’re not boomers or millennials? Why, we’re Generation X of course. And when the slapping and fighting is all done and dusted, we’re going to save the world — via redwolf.newsvine.com
Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.
The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense.
This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen, says Milkman.
I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.
If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical well-being of millions of kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if — via redwolf.newsvine.com
A street is a road but a road isn’t always a street. A road can also be an avenue or a boulevard — it’s the general term for anything that connects two points. From there, the names of roads can be shaped by their environment and/or the form of the road. A drive is a long winding road that can be shaped by mountains or a lake. Place is a narrow road with no through way. And just as there is no rule book to building a city, these roads and other don’t always correspond with their described classifications — via Youtube
Henry Rollins speaks at Soka University of America about the importance of being a global citizen — via Youtube
No country owns space, so are there laws there? Spoiler alert: yes. What laws are there? Well watch this video to find out. (It’s complicated) — via Youtube
Three former bank executives have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years to three and a half years for a €7.2bn conspiracy to defraud in September 2008.
Former Anglo Irish Bank executives John Bowe and Willie McAteer and the former chief executive of Irish Life and Permanent, Denis Casey, were found guilty last month of agreeing a scheme to mislead the public about the true health of Anglo.
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Bowe to two years, McAteer to three and a half years and Casey to two years and nine months — via redwolf.newsvine.com
If you happen to be visiting Stockholm, Sweden, and want a bit of a unique adventure, there is a tour company named Takvandring, that will take you up onto the rooftops of buildings for a guided tour. These rooftop tours aren’t for the faint of heart, or people scared of heights, as you climb up onto the rooftops, only attached by a harness and a safety strap. But once you’re up there, you’re rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding city — via CONTEMPORIST
Kviabryggja Prison in western Iceland doesn’t need walls, razor wire, or guard towers to keep the convicts inside. Alone on a wind-swept cape, the old farmhouse is bound by the frigid North Atlantic on one side and fields of snow-covered lava rock on another. To the east looms Snaefellsjokull, a dormant volcano blanketed by a glacier. There’s only one road back to civilization.
This is where the world’s only bank chiefs imprisoned in connection with the 2008 financial crisis are serving their sentences, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its forthcoming issue. Kviabryggja is home to Sigurdur Einarsson, Kaupthing Bank’s onetime chairman, and Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson, the bank’s former chief executive officer, who were convicted of market manipulation and fraud shortly before the collapse of what was then Iceland’s No.?1 lender. They spend their days doing laundry, working out in the jailhouse gym, and browsing the Internet. They and two associates incarcerated here — Magnus Gudmundsson, the ex-CEO of Kaupthing’s Luxembourg unit, and Olafur Olafsson, the No.?2 stockholder in the bank at the time of its demise — can even take walks outside, like Kviabryggja’s 19 other inmates, all of whom were convicted of nonviolent crimes — via redwolf.newsvine.com
British Columbia, Canada is known for many things: beautiful landscapes, great skiing, the 2010 Winter Olympics — and the human feet that have been washing up on its shores for the last nine years.
Since 2007, 12 human feet clad in running shoes have been found on the shores of British Columbia, from Jedediah Island to Botanical Beach. So far, the provincial coroner’s office has identified eight of the 12. Of those eight, two were pairs. The remaining lone feet, the coroner determined, belonged to men.
It had been nearly four years since a foot sighting, and then on 7 February a new one washed ashore, discovered by a hiker along Vancouver Island’s Botanical Beach. Five days later, another one appeared. The coroner’s office confirmed they were a pair — via redwolf.newsvine.com
To showcase the unique, eclectic culture of modern Britain, Heathrow Airport have teamed up with British Icon, Stephen Fry, to welcome arriving passengers to the UK — via Youtube
It is not a great idea to carry a plank of wood down a busy sidewalk. Nor should you ride a horse while drunk, or handle a salmon under suspicious circumstances.
But should such antics be illegal? Still?
Thanks to centuries of legislating by Parliament, which bans the wearing of suits of armor in its chambers, Britain has accumulated many laws that nowadays seem irrelevant, and often absurd.
So voluminous and eccentric is Britain’s collective body of 44,000 pieces of primary legislation that it has a small team of officials whose sole task is to prune it.
Their work is not just a constitutional curiosity, but a bulwark against hundreds of years of lawmaking running out of control.
Over the centuries, rules have piled up to penalize those who fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling and those who beat a carpet in the street — unless the item can be classified as a doormat and it is beaten before 8.00am.
To have a legal situation where there is so much information that you cannot sit down and comprehend it, does seem to me a serious problem, said Andrew Lewis, professor emeritus of comparative legal history at University College London.
I think it matters dreadfully that no one can get a handle on the whole of it.
Yet, as Professor Lewis also noted, many old laws have survived because crime and bad behaviour have, too.
One reason is that human nature doesn’t change much, Professor Lewis said,
though of course the institutions which we develop to protect, organize, and govern ourselves do change, and then it becomes necessary to adjust the existing law to practice — via redwolf.newsvine.com
You aren’t visiting the place you think you are — via Youtube
No trip to a new country would be complete without experiencing the culture that makes it unique. Indulging in the local food, attending festivals and visiting museums is easy but getting to know the language is a great way to take your understanding and appreciation to a whole new level. Hotel Club asked Australian illustrator and animator Jared Atkins to depict some typical as well as some of the more quirky Australian sayings you might come across on your next trip — via Hotel Club
It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing, Laura Poitras tells me.
Not knowing whether I’m in a private place or not. Not knowing if someone’s watching or not. Though she’s under surveillance, she knows that. It makes working as a journalist
hard but not impossible. It’s on a personal level that it’s harder to process.
I try not to let it get inside my head, but… I still am not sure that my home is private. And if I really want to make sure I’m having a private conversation or something, I’ll go outside.
Poitras’s documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, has just been released in cinemas. She was, for a time, the only person in the world who was in contact with Snowden, the only one who knew of his existence. Before she got Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian on board, it was just her — talking, electronically, to the man she knew only as
Citizenfour. Even months on, when I ask her if the memory of that time lives with her still, she hesitates and takes a deep breath:
It was really very scary for a number of months. I was very aware that the risks were really high and that something bad could happen. I had this kind of responsibility to not fuck up, in terms of source protection, communication, security and all those things, I really had to be super careful in all sorts of ways.
Bad, not just for Snowden, I say?
Not just for him, she agrees. We’re having this conversation in Berlin, her adopted city, where she’d moved to make a film about surveillance before she’d ever even made contact with Snowden. Because, in 2006, after making two films about the US war on terror, she found herself on a
watch list. Every time she entered the US —
and I travel a lot — she would be questioned.
It got to the point where my plane would land and they would do what’s called a hard stand, where they dispatch agents to the plane and make everyone show their passport and then I would be escorted to a room where they would question me and often times take all my electronics, my notes, my credit cards, my computer, my camera, all that stuff. She needed somewhere else to go, somewhere she hoped would be a safe haven. And that somewhere was Berlin.
What’s remarkable is that my conversation with Poitras will be the first of a whole series of conversations I have with people in Berlin who either are under surveillance, or have been under surveillance, or who campaign against it, or are part of the German government’s inquiry into it, or who work to create technology to counter it. Poitras’s experience of understanding the sensation of what it’s like to know you’re being watched, or not to know but feel a prickle on the back of your neck and suspect you might be, is far from unique, it turns out. But then, perhaps more than any other city on earth, Berlin has a radar for surveillance and the dark places it can lead to.
There is just a very real historical awareness of how information can be used against people in really dangerous ways here, Poitras says.
There is a sensitivity to it which just doesn’t exist elsewhere. And not just because of the Stasi, the former East German secret police, but also the Nazi era. There’s a book Jake Appelbaum talks a lot about that’s called IBM and the Holocaust and it details how the Nazis used punch-cards to systemise the death camps. We’re not talking about that happening with the NSA [the US National Security Agency], but it shows how this information can be used against populations and how it poses such a danger. — via redwolf.newsvine.com
The East German lieutenant colonel who gave the fateful order to throw open the Berlin Wall 25 years ago said he wept in silence a few moments later as hordes of euphoric East Germans swept past him into West Berlin to get their first taste of freedom.
Harald Jaeger said in an interview with Reuters that he spent hours before his history-changing decision trying in vain to get guidance from superiors on what to do about the 20,000 protesters at his border crossing clamouring to get out.
When he had had enough of being laughed at, ridiculed and told by commanders to sort it out for himself, Jaeger ordered the 46 armed guards under his command to throw open the barrier.
He then stepped back and cried — tears of relief that the stand-off had ended without violence, tears of frustration that his superiors had left him in the lurch and tears of despair from a man who had so long believed in the Communist ideal.
He had joined the border guard unit in 1961. Over 28 years, he saw the barrier grow from an infancy of coiled barbed wire, to a brick wall and then to maturity as a towering 160 Km (100 mile) double white concrete screen that encircled West Berlin, cutting across streets, between families, through graveyards — via redwolf.newsvine.com
The children of refugees who fled Lebanon’s civil war for peaceful Australia in the 1970s form a majority of Australian militants fighting in the Middle East, according to about a dozen counter-terrorism officials, security experts and Muslim community members.
Of the 160 or so Australian jihadists believed to be in Iraq or Syria, several are in senior leadership positions, they say.
But unlike fighters from Britain, France or Germany, who experts say are mostly jobless and alienated, a number of the Australian fighters grew up in a tight-knit criminal gang culture, dominated by men with family ties to the region around the Lebanese city of Tripoli, near the border with Syria.
Not every gang member becomes an Islamic radical and the vast majority of Lebanese Australians are not involved in crime or in radicalism of any sort. Australian Muslims say they are unfairly targeted by law enforcement, especially after the surge in fighting in Iraq and Syria, and that racial tensions are on the verge of spiralling out of control.
Still, there is a clear nexus between criminals and radicals within the immigrant Lebanese Muslim community, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas told Reuters.
It is good training, said Kaldas, himself an immigrant from Egypt and a native Arabic speaker.
The ease with which some hardened criminals from within the community have taken to militant extremism, and the prospect of what they will do when they return home from the Middle East battle-trained, is a major worry for authorities, he said.
Kaldas oversees the state’s Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad and was the United Nations-appointed chief investigator into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri in a car bomb attack in Beirut in 2005.
In recent years, he said, the divide between criminal gangs and radicals in Lebanese community, who were driven by different motives, had narrowed.
I do worry about those who may be extremists infecting more people who were just pure criminals, said Kaldas — via redwolf.newsvine.com
New Zealand was preparing to conduct national covert surveillance last year, a US investigative journalist has said.
The claims by former Guardian newspaper reporter Glenn Greenwald were denied by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
The report was based on information disclosed by former US National Security Authority (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who said the government had planned to exploit new spying laws.
The revelations come just days ahead of a New Zealand general election — via redwolf.newsvine.com
Costa Rica has begun to reform its postal address system, which uses landmarks and directions instead of street names and numbers.
According to a study from the Inter-American Development Bank, the country loses an estimated $720m (£440m) a year in revenue associated with lost and undelivered mail.
The current system also causes problems for delivery workers — via redwolf.newsvine.com
The High Court has granted an interim injunction to block the handover of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, just hours after the Government confirmed another vessel had been returned.
On Monday the court heard an urgent claim from barristers seeking to protect the group, which includes 32 women and 37 children and is believed to be under the Government’s control at sea.
We argued that the asylum seekers are entitled to have their allegations — claims against the Sri Lankan government — heard and processed in accordance with the law, solicitor George Newhouse said.
The Minister can’t simply intercept them in the night and disappear them — via redwolf.newsvine.com
An alleged spy has been arrested in Germany accused of passing the US information from a committee looking into NSA activities.
It has heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries following allegations in the Edward Snowden leaks that the US electronic spy agency tapped Angela Merkel’s phone along with wider surveillance of German citizens.
The German government has not denied reports by Der Spiegel and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the suspected spy was a double agent and worked for Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND.
The newspapers said the man allegedly passed the US information about a German parliamentary committee’s investigation into the NSA’s activities.
He claimed to have worked with US intelligence since 2012, they reported — redwolf.newsvine.com
Police on Thursday confiscated a heap of ashes displayed at a Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM) exhibition — allegedly all that remains of US$500 million in
pagarés — or debt paper — stolen and burned by artist and activist Francisco Tapia, aka
A video by Tapia went viral in student circles earlier this week wherein he confessed to burning the legal papers certifying debt owed by Universidad del Mar students and had thus liberated the students from their debt obligations. The video and its widespread circulation no doubt prompted the police raid at the art exhibit.
It’s over, it’s finished, Tapia said in his impassioned five minute video. You don’t have to pay another peso [of your student loan debt]. We have to lose our fear, our fear of being thought of as criminals because we’re poor. I am just like you, living a shitty life, and I live it day by day — this is my act of love for you.
Although authorities began shutting down Universidad del Mar last year for financial irregularities and encouraged students to seek out alternative universities, the university is still collecting on its student loans.
The destruction of the documents occurred during a
toma — student takeover — of the campus and means the embattled university owners must now individually sue each of its students to assure debt payment — a very costly, time-consuming process — via redwolf.newsvine.com
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has been arrested by Northern Ireland police in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.
He presented himself to police on Wednesday evening and was arrested.
Speaking before his arrest, Mr Adams said he was
innocent of any part in the murder.
Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10, was abducted from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.
Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003 — via redwolf.newsvine.com
A bill which allows same-sex weddings to take place in Scotland has been passed by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.
MSPs voted by 105 to 18 in favour of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
The Scottish government said the move was the right thing to do but Scotland’s two main churches were opposed to it.
The first gay and lesbian weddings could take place this autumn.
Religious and belief bodies can
opt in to perform same-sex marriages.
Ministers said no part of the religious community would be forced to hold such ceremonies in churches — via redwolf.newsvine.com
A rare blue diamond has been discovered in a mine in South Africa.
The 29.6-carat stone was recovered by Petra Diamonds at its Cullinan mine, about 40km (25 miles) north-east of Pretoria.
stone is one of the most exceptional stones recovered at Cullinan during Petra’s operation of the mine, the company said.
Petra unearthed a 25.5 carat blue diamond which sold for $16.9m (£10.3m) in 2013 — via redwolf.newsvine.com
Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to Sri Lanka to praise President Mahinda Rajapakse, not to bury him under the weight of human rights abuse allegations that completely dominated this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
We are here to praise as much as judge, he told the forum’s opening meeting, lauding the ending of Sri Lanka’s civil war, and the development in the country since.
For his fealty, he was rewarded. Sri Lanka has vowed to further help Mr Abbott with his No.1 domestic priority,
stopping the boats of asylum seekers looking to go to Australia.
The countries’ existing co-operation has been extended, with Australia giving Sri Lanka two patrol boats, so that asylum seekers might be intercepted before they leave Sri Lankan waters.
(The inconvenient truth that navy sailors have been arrested and charged with running the biggest people-smuggling ring in the country is being, publicly at least, downplayed.)
Mr Abbott came to CHOGM, a meeting of 53 member nations, with an entirely domestic agenda. He needed Sri Lankan support to combat people smuggling, and so was unwilling to criticise his hosts.
While human rights concerns — forced abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings by state forces, land seizures by the military and oppression of political opponents — dominated every public CHOGM event, Mr Abbott sidestepped these at every turn — via redwolf.newsvine.com
A diamond known as the Pink Star has sold for $83m (£52m) at auction in Geneva — a record price for a gemstone.
The diamond measures 2.69cm by 2.06cm and is set on a ring.
The Pink Star was sold to Isaac Wolf, a well known New York diamond cutter who has renamed it the Pink Dream.
The winning bid surpasses the $46.2m paid for the Graff Pink diamond three years ago, which was half the size of the Pink Star.
The $83m includes Sotheby’s commission — via redwolf.newsvine.com
I first heard about the passage from Indonesia to Australia in Afghanistan, where I live and where one litmus test for the success of the US-led war now drawing to a close is the current exodus of civilians from the country. (The first
boat people to seek asylum in Australia were Vietnamese, in the mid-1970s, driven to the ocean by the fallout from that American withdrawal.) Last year, nearly 37,000 Afghans applied for asylum abroad, the most since 2001. Afghans who can afford to will pay as much as $24,000 for European travel documents and up to $40,000 for Canadian. (Visas to the United States, generally, cannot be bought.) Others employ smugglers for arduous overland treks from Iran to Turkey to Greece, or from Russia to Belarus to Poland.
The Indonesia-Australia route first became popular in Afghanistan before 11 September, mostly among Hazaras, a predominantly Shiite ethnic minority that was systematically brutalized by the Taliban. After the Taliban were overthrown, many refugees, anticipating an enduring peace, returned to Afghanistan, and for a while the number of Afghans willing to risk their lives at sea declined. But by late 2009 — with Afghans, disabused of their optimism, fleeing once more — migration to Australia escalated. At the same time, Hazaras living across the border in Pakistan, many of whom moved there from Afghanistan, have also found relocation necessary. In a sectarian crusade of murder and terror being waged against them by Sunni extremists, Hazara civilians in the Pakistani city of Quetta are shot in the streets, executed en masse and indiscriminately massacred by rockets and bombs.
I wondered whether anyone else shared my deluded hope: that there was another, larger ship anchored somewhere farther out, and that this sad boat was merely to convey us there.
In 2010, a suicide attacker killed more than 70 people at a Shiite rally in Quetta. Looming directly above the carnage was a large billboard paid for by the Australian government. In Dari, next to an image of a distressed Indonesian fishing boat carrying Hazara asylum seekers, read the words:
All illegal routes to Australia are closed to Afghans. The billboard was part of a wide-ranging effort by Australia to discourage refugees from trying to get to Christmas Island. In Afghanistan, a recent Australian-funded TV ad featured a Hazara actor rubbing his eyes before a black background.
Please don’t go, the man gloomily implores over melancholic music.
Many years of my life were wasted there [in detention] until my application for asylum was rejected. In addition to the messaging campaign (and the hard-line policies it alludes to), Australia has worked to disrupt smuggling networks by collaborating with Pakistan’s notorious intelligence services, embedding undercover agents in Indonesia and offering up to $180,000 for information resulting in a smuggler’s arrest. The most drastic deterrence measure was introduced this July, when the Australian prime minister at the time, Kevin Rudd, announced that henceforth no refugee who reaches Australia by boat would be settled there. Instead, refugees would be detained, and eventually resettled, in impoverished Papua New Guinea. Several weeks later, the resettlement policy was extended to a tiny island state in Micronesia called the Republic of Nauru.
Since then, there have been more boats, more drownings. In late September, a vessel came apart shortly after leaving Indonesia, and dozens of asylum seekers — from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq — drowned. That people are willing to hazard death at sea despite Australia’s vow to send them to places like Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Nauru would seem illogical — or just plain crazy. The Australian government ascribes their persistence partly to misinformation propagated by the smugglers. But every asylum seeker who believes those lies believes them because he chooses to. Their doing so, and continuing to brave the Indian Ocean, and continuing to die, only illustrates their desperation in a new, disturbing kind of light. This is the subtext to the plight of every refugee: Whatever hardship he endures, he endures because it beats the hardship he escaped. Every story of exile implies the sadder story of a homeland — via redwolf.newsvine.com
The story of Detroit is a familiar one for anyone living in the so-called rust belt of the USA, where the once-mighty automotive manufacturing industries have left many towns and cities shadows of their former selves. Now bankrupt, Detroit’s population has halved over the last fifty years. No one actually knows just how many buildings are abandoned, but it is estimated at over 1/3 of all structures. In the midst of this urban decay, farming has started to fill the hole left by industry.
Local businessman John Hantz just bought 600,000 square meters of land from the city of Detroit with an option to buy an additional 700,000, promising to demolish all the existing (abandoned) buildings, clean up the land, and plant hardwood trees. The Bank of America announced plans to demolish 100 homes and donate the land to urban agriculture. They’re not alone, as other small-scale urban farmers are adapting what’s left of the city to meet their needs. Detractors are quick to point out that urban farming will never be a large-scale, mass-produced operation that could compete with big agriculture, but urban farmers have a different goal in mind. Greg Willerer of Detroit says that he isn’t trying to save the world, just to save his city — via redwolf.newsvine.com