Archive | August 4, 2014

Sainsbury’s Forced to Close due to Gaza*

Sainsbury’s Forced to Close due to Gaza*


By Matt Lloyd

Free Palestine protest in and outside of Sainsbury’s Martineau Place Birmingham city centre

Protesters have closed down a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Birmingham City Centre as part of a pro-Palestine demonstration.

Calling on the retail giant to remove products sourced from Israel, demonstrators gathered outside the Union Street store this afternoon.

Some protesters lay down on the floor in protest and security staff were seen pulling down shutters to keep others out.

Once closed, demonstrators stuck posters up in support of Gaza along the storefront.

They called for an end to the massacre in Gaza and for Israel to stop bombing the highly populated area.

The 26-day-old offensive, launched in response to rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel, has now killed more than 1,650 Palestinians – mostly civilians – with more than 8,000 wounded, according to local officials. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians, its highest death toll since the 2006 Lebanon war.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “On the advice of the police we temporarily closed the store. It was re-opened for customers shortly after and trade was not seriously disrupted.”

Several demonstrations have taken place in the city in recent weeks.

Related Topics:

Irish Shops Urged to Remove Produce from Israel*

UK.’s Largest Supermarket Chain Tesco to Boycott West Bank Products*

S. Whitewash of Israel Didn’t Curtail 20,000 Protesters March on White House*

Over 100 Gaza Civilians Killed When Missing IDF Soldier Died in Battle*

Celebrities and Activists Remember Gaza’s Dead*

From Gaza: I’m a Human Being, Not a Human Shield*

Jordanian Aid Convoy Arrives in Gaza*

World’s Leading Medical Journal Sends an Open Letter to Gaza*

The Real Jihad is in Palestine*

Operation Protective Edge: The Dead Have Names*

A Zionist General’s Son Speaks Out!*

Intelligence Agents amidst UAE ‘Aid Convoy’ to Gaza*

Military Expert: Israel is Using Three Internationally Banned Weapons*

Military Expert: Israel is Using Three Internationally Banned Weapons*

Along with 50,000 missiles…

Missile loaded with white phosphorus

‘In the event that an area is contaminated with white phosphorus, it is deposited in the soil or the bottom of rivers and seas, or even on fish. When the human body is exposed to white phosphorus, it burns the skin and flesh; only the bones remain.’

Israel has used three internationally banned weapons in its recent attacks on the Gaza Strip, a military expert said.

Safwat Al-Zayat, a retired Brigadier General in the Egyptian Army and an expert in military affairs, told the Anadolu news agency that “Israel’s use of such internationally banned weapons is a continuation of the approach it adopted in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009.”

Al-Zayat added that Israel used Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME), which had already been used in Operation Cast Lead. DIME weapons spread inert metal atoms that penetrate the human body and are difficult to get out of human tissue.

Injuries from DIME munitions

He added that DIME munitions are used in the form of bombs that are propelled by droned.

“Once the shell explodes, its cover degrades to let the lethal molecules spread across an area of four meters. The injury may be less serious when the person is far from the centre of the blast. Outside the four-metre diameter, the victim may survive, but may be subjected to the amputation of limbs due to shrapnel that cuts tissue and bone,” he explained.

Al-Zayat pointed out that Israel’s use of these bombs in its current war has been more extensive compared to Operation Cast Lead.

The second internationally banned weapon used by Israel in its current war is armour piercing bombs. According to Al-Zayat, they cause big explosions and result in a large number of civilian deaths.

He explained that in regular wars these bombs are used against underground fortifications of central commands and ammunition depots. They penetrate long distances with high explosive capabilities.

He pointed out that “Israel has used such bombs against civilian homes, under the pretence that there are tunnels under them or rocket launchers. This has resulted in the destruction of these homes and surrounding buildings and the fall of large numbers of victims.”

Al-Zayat said the third internationally prohibited weapon used by Israel in Gaza is white phosphorous, which mixes with oxygen to form a transparent wax and causes fires and thick, white smoke.

Injuries from white phosphorus bombs

He added: “In the event that an area is contaminated with white phosphorus, it is deposited in the soil or the bottom of rivers and seas, or even on fish. When the human body is exposed to white phosphorus, it burns the skin and flesh; only the bones remain.”

Israel has used less white phosphorus in its current assault on Gaza compared to during Operation Cast Lead.

The Israeli army has been waging a war on the Gaza Strip since July 7 under the pretext of stopping rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli cities and towns. As of Sunday, the war has killed approximately 1,830 Palestinians and injured 9,370.

According to Israeli sources, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed, and more than 530 were wounded, most suffering panic attacks. The Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, said it killed 161 Israeli soldiers and captured another.


Related Topics:

Operation Protective Edge: The Dead Have Names*

Pentagon Rushes Ammunition to Israel*

Egypt Blocking Iran Humanitarian Aid to Palestine*

Over 100 Gaza Civilians Killed When Missing IDF Soldier Died in Battle*

Behind the False Flag: Israel’s After Gaza’s Natural Gas*

From Gaza: I’m a Human Being, Not a Human Shield*

Giving Up on Yourself to be White

Giving Up on Yourself to be White

Using amateur footage collected over the course of several years, the video records the voices of white people reflecting on race, racism, and white identity. For over a decade Mark has been talking to white people about racism and what it is like to be a “white” person. Drawing from those that would speak with him, this documentary shares some of what they had to say.

Related Topics:

When You Stop Wishing Yourself Away…

The Black Stereotype: Socially Engineered in the FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Real Black Leaders*

Katrina: A Reason to be Angry*

France is Broke, but Still Reaping from the Colonial Tax!*

The Neo-Colonial Context of Canada’s Multiculturalism*

White Supremacist Finds Out He Is Part Black*

Malcolm X: The Truth Seeker*

Palestinians Outsmarting Ethnic Cleansing*

Ashkenazi Jews are Genetically European

Fourteen Caribbean Nations Demand Reparation from Colonial Britain*

Brazil Ethnic Cleanses through the World Cup*

Sentenced: Bribed to Send Black Kids to Jail*

Black Women Targeted with Eugenics Drug*

Atheists, Whatever They Say to the Contrary, Really Do Believe in God*

Atheists, Whatever They Say to the Contrary, Really Do Believe in God*

By Casey Luskin

Over the past few weeks, a theme of discussion on the Internet has been the proposal that atheists may not exist. Of course people who think they’re atheists exist, but a study discussed in Nature proposes that people really aren’t functionally atheists because we’re innately predisposed toward religion. In an article titled “Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke,” Science 2.0 has a nice summary:

While militant atheists like Richard Dawkins may be convinced God doesn’t exist, God, if he is around, may be amused to find that atheists might not exist.

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish — after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God — evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since we are born believers, not atheists, scientists say. Humans are pattern-seekers from birth, with a belief in karma, or cosmic justice, as our default setting. “A slew of cognitive traits predisposes us to faith,” writes Pascal Boyer in Nature, the science journal, adding that people “are only aware of some of their religious ideas”.

Boyer’s article in Nature continues this line of argument:

“Religious thought and behaviour can be considered part of the natural human capacities, such as music, political systems, family relations or ethnic coalitions.” He continues,

“religious thoughts seem to be an emergent property of our standard cognitive capacities.” In a striking comment, he points out that these religious predispositions exist in humans from a very young age:

Humans also tend to entertain social relations with these and other non-physical agents, even from a very young age. … It is a small step from having this capacity to bond with non-physical agents to conceptualizing spirits, dead ancestors and gods, who are neither visible nor tangible, yet are socially involved.

Boyer gives every sign that he himself is an atheist, writing things like,

“When people proclaim their adherence to a particular faith, they subscribe to claims for which there is no evidence,” or “Religious concepts and activities hijack our cognitive resources.”

So it’s not surprising that he suggests evolution is the ultimate cause of our religiosity:

Is religion a product of our evolution? The very question makes many people, religious or otherwise, cringe, although for different reasons. Some people of faith fear that an understanding of the processes underlying belief could undermine it. Others worry that what is shown to be part of our evolutionary heritage will be interpreted as good, true, necessary or inevitable. Still others, many scientists included, simply dismiss the whole issue, seeing religion as childish, dangerous nonsense.

Here’s my take. Evolutionary explanations of the origin of religion typically have two things in common:

First, they’re dreadfully predictable. They simply look at some aspect of religious life or faith and ask how that behaviour (or belief) might aid survival by endowing us with a beneficial trait (we’ll call that “X”).

Second, in doing so, they utterly fail to explain the totality of religious experience and belief. Trait X might indeed aid in survival, but there’s no reason why evolving Trait X would imply or necessitate evolving anything like the full-fledged religion that’s so common throughout human societies today. Thankfully that’s not Boyer’s approach. Instead, he simply sees religion as an extension (or “hijacking”) of human “standard cognitive capacities,” however they might have arisen:

So is religion an adaptation or a by-product of our evolution? Perhaps one day we will find compelling evidence that a capacity for religious thoughts, rather than “religion” in the modern form of socio-political institutions, contributed to fitness in ancestral times. For the time being, the data support a more modest conclusion: religious thoughts seem to be an emergent property of our standard cognitive capacities.

At least Boyer is being honest that it’s difficult as of yet to provide a full-fledged evolutionary account of the origin of religion. He argues, however, that evolutionary attempts to explain the origin of religion challenge key tenets of religion:

The findings emerging from this cognitive-evolutionary approach challenge two central tenets of most established religions.

First, the notion that their particular creed differs from all other (supposedly misguided) faiths; second, that it is only because of extraordinary events or the actual presence of supernatural agents that religious ideas have taken shape. On the contrary, we now know that all versions of religion are based on very similar tacit assumptions, and that all it takes to imagine supernatural agents are normal human minds processing information in the most natural way.

So the fact that all religions think they’re right and involve belief in supernatural agents mean they’re all basically the same? That discounts, in a naïve way that one comes to expect from atheists, the profound differences among the world’s religions. And why should our being predisposed to faith somehow mean no religion is correct? That doesn’t follow at all. If anything, it would seem to support a key premise of theistic religion: that God gives us a capacity and desire to believe.

The philosopher and author Paul Copan cuts right through such arguments with clean logic. He writes:

The inventor Thomas Edison said that humans are “incurably religious.” History certainly bears this out. But why have humans been so religiously inclined across the millennia and civilizations? Neo-atheists Dawkins and Dennett interpret the phenomenon this way: theology is biology. To Dawkins, God is a “delusion”; for Dennett, religious believers are under a kind of “spell” that needs to be broken. Like computers, Dawkins says, we come equipped with a remarkable predisposition to do (and believe) what we’re told. So young minds full of mush are susceptible to mental infections or viruses (“memes”). Charismatic preachers and other adults spew out their superstitious bilge, and later generations latch on to it and eventually create churches and religious schools. Even if there isn’t a “God gene,” humans have a certain religious urge — an apparent hardwiring in the brain that draws us to supernatural myths.

Some conclude, therefore that God doesn’t exist but is simply the product of predictable biological processes. One big problem with this statement: it is a whopping non sequitur. It just doesn’t follow that if humans are somehow wired to be religious, God therefore doesn’t exist. This is what’s called “the genetic fallacy” — proving or disproving the truth of a view based on its origin. In this case, God’s existence is a separate question from the source of religious beliefs. We need to sort out the biology of belief from the rationality of belief.

There’s more to say here. We could turn the argument on its head: if God exists and has designed us to connect with him, then we’re actually functioning properly when we’re directed toward belief in God. We can agree that natural/physical processes partly contribute to commitment to God. In that case, the basic argument of Dawkins and Dennett could actually support the idea that religious believers are functioning decently and in order.

On top of this, we’re left wondering why people would think up gods and spirits in the first place. Why would humans voluntarily sacrifice their lives for some intangible realm? Maybe it’s because the physical domain doesn’t contain the source of coherence, order, morality, meaning, and guidance for life. Humans, though embodied, are moral, spiritual beings; they’re able to rise above the physical and biological to reflect on it and their condition. This can result in the search for a world-transcending God.

Attempts by these New Atheists to explain away theology as a useful fiction or, worse, a harmful delusion fall short of telling us why the religious impulse is so deeply embedded. If God exists, however, we have an excellent reason as to why religious fervour should exist.


Related Topics:

Evolution: God’s Game

The Rebirth of Paganism

U.S. Policies, ‘Invading Contagious Aliens’ and Why Carolina and Daughters Walked 1,500 miles to Escape Rape*

U.S. Policies, ‘Invading Aliens’ and Why Carolina and Daughters Walked 1,500 miles to Escape Rape*

By Jack Jenkins, Esther Yu-Hsi Lee

We met Carolina while visiting a “welcome center” for recently-processed immigrants at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas. She emerged from a sweltering relief tent that sheltered a handful of other fatigued travellers, most of whom, like her, had been released by Border Patrol just hours prior. She stood what couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, but her weary eyes hinted at her age. She looked tired, but then, she should: she reportedly had just finished a journey of more than a thousand miles, and still had more to go.

Concern has been growing about the ever-increasing number of children and families — including tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors — crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as they flee violence and poverty in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The humanitarian situation has sparked a range of passionate responses across the country, triggering anti-immigrant protests sponsored by various Tea Party groups and calls for compassion from pro-immigrant advocacy organizations and people of faith.

The federal government, for its part, is currently engaged in a heated debate over how to deal with the issue; President Barack Obama is seeking $3.7 billion in emergency funds from Congress to help address the surge, but a rival plan unveiled by House Republicans on July 29 asks for a significantly reduced amount — $659 million. Still others in the Obama administration are discussing the possibility of granting Hondurans — and eventually Guatemalans and Salvadorans — formal refugee status, so people can be evacuated directly to the U.S. without having to make the treacherous northward journey.

But too often lost among the drama of Washington political battles are the stories of the actual people crossing the border — men, women, and especially young children who have risked everything to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. People like Carolina.

Speaking through a translator and using exaggerated hand gestures to emphasize her points, Carolina told ThinkProgress how she came to the U.S. from the La Unión municipality of El Salvador, a coastal region nestled next to the eastern border with Honduras. Her 14-year-old daughter, who we will not name for privacy reasons, stood beside her as she talked, and she mentioned another 5-year-old girl, who she said was “over there somewhere, playing,” that also accompanied them on the journey. It was not immediately clear whether or not the second girl was her own daughter, but Carolina referred to her as part of their family unit. We cannot verify the details of her story, only that the families who come to Sacred Heart Church are reportedly bussed there after being processed by Border Patrol, and that stories like Carolina’s are all too typical among those at the welcome centre.

Why they left

Carolina was quick to explain that she left El Salvador because of a common concern among those fleeing Central America: gang violence.

“The crime, the gangs, it’s terrible, especially with little girls like her,” she said, pointing to her daughter.

“I left because of fear, because of threats — threats to mothers, saying that if you don’t go along with [gang members] they’ll take your daughters from you.”

These kinds of horror stories are increasingly the norm among those crossing the U.S. border.

In 2012, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala had a higher homicide rate for civilians than Iraq during the height of the Iraq War, a disturbing trend that is almost entirely attributable to an explosion of gang activity in the region. Two of the largest street gangs — MS18 and MS13 — have founded chapters in cities throughout the “northern triangle,” using increasingly brutal tactics to terrorize local populations as they battle for power and turf. In addition to beating or killing young men who refuse to join their ranks, they are known to use rape as a weapon, pushing sexual violence to all-time highs in El Salvador. They regularly force young women to be their “girlfriends,” subjecting them to frequent rape at the hands of one — or often, multiple — gang members.

Carolina said she had seen the tragic impact of such violence firsthand.

“Usually once they take [the girls] they cut their throats,” she said. “They rape them, and then they cut their throats. Or if they don’t rape them [and kill them], they leave them pregnant. And if we try to rat them out or go to the police, they’ll kill us. They put us in plastic bags and leave us on the shore.”

“And they leave them pregnant, little girls of her age,” she said, her voice rising. “She’s fourteen.”

The journey

Carolina said the journey — with her 14- and 5-year-olds in tow — took 12 days total; nine from El Salvador to Mexico, three from Mexico to the U.S. border. She told us that travel through Mexico was quicker because they rode buses, but hunger remained a constant issue throughout the trip.

“[There were] long days, some days going 12 hours without stopping,” she said. “We had to put up with a lot of hunger. Lack of food. Because on foot, we’d start around 11 at night and we’d go sometimes until 10 in the morning. The whole way we would have to put up with hunger, because they didn’t sell any food on the buses.”

In addition to starvation and exhaustion, Carolina said their travels were also fraught with dangers. She detailed one especially harrowing incident on the Guatemala-Mexico border.

“[We went up] to the border with Mexico. At that point we stopped at the river to cross the water. The water was up to here,” she said, motioning with her hands at her waist. “They put down some little boats, and we rowed them with our hands.”

“Then we were running scared, scared because we could hear gunfire in the distance. One little girl ran out in front, with the rest of us all behind her, all scared. We thought they were going to shoot us from above,” — she waved her hand over her head, mimicking the spin of a helicopter blade — “so we ran out and hid ourselves in the forest. We jumped out of the boats so quickly because we thought the helicopter was going to shoot and maybe even kill us. But the little five-year-old ran ahead of us, [leading us] into the forest.”

Some people who make the journey north enlist the help of so-called “coyotes,” or people paid to guide children and families up through Mexico to the U.S. border. These men can quicken the trip, but at a price: a 2013 report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lists the average cost of a coyote as somewhere between $5,000-$7,000, or roughly twice the average annual income for a Salvadoran.

(Carolina couldn’t afford a coyote. She couldn’t even afford to bring everyone with her. “I did leave my 12-year-old son in El Salvador … with his father,” she said.

“It’s because the money I had…It wasn’t enough to bring him all the way from Mexico to here – we ran out. It’s incredible how much you spend from there to here in Mexico. We spent like 500 dollars!”)

In addition to guidance, travellers who hire coyotes are looking for some modicum of protection from Mexican kidnappers and gangs. These groups — especially Mexico’s infamous Los Zetas drug cartelare known for extorting, killing, or raping Central American women they capture, and sometimes selling them to sex trafficking rings. But being able to afford a coyote isn’t always a luxury. Many of those who flee from Central America also report that coyotes will sometimes rape the girls they escort, spurring some women to preemptively take contraceptives — often in the form of injections — during their travels as a means of protection.

Carolina said neither she nor her girls had taken contraception, but understood the fear of those who do.

“It depends on when you come, ” she said. “There are many that do say that they are raped. But we weren’t as afraid of being raped, [because] we came alone. But sometimes when they come with coyotes…”

“They do say that when the girls, the young girls, come by those means, that’s when they get raped.”

Given all these potential dangers, our translator expressed shock that Carolina and her daughters had made the trek by themselves. Carolina shrugged; they had made do by relying on the kindness of strangers, or, as she put it, “Asking, asking, asking.”

What kept Carolina and her girls going in the midst of such hardship? Perhaps it was courage? Raw determination? Maybe religious faith?

“The fear,” she said. “The fear of being in El Salvador. The fear. We had to have the courage to come to do this.”

The arrival

When Carolina and her two young companions finally arrived in Texas, they were quickly apprehended by Border Patrol agents. They were then sent to one of the multiple processing centres along the border, where she and her daughters spent four days in detention with other immigrants. She said her experience with Border Patrol was “more or less good,” although she noted that the food was “really nasty.”

“We slept on the floor,” she said.

“It was freezing! And they took all our clothes — everything. The extra clothes we brought. They only left us with the shirts we were wearing. We brought sweaters, caps, but they took everything. We couldn’t change clothes.”

She also corroborated reports of notorious overcrowding at the Border Patrol’s makeshift shelters, where the raw influx of desperate children and families is putting increased strain on federal resources.

“When we got there, there were about 30 [people], but when we left today there were 80,” she said. “It was full! Full! We didn’t fit!”

What now?

Carolina’s moment of reflection was powerful, but brief. She and her girls had to catch a bus later that evening, which she said would take them north to stay with a family member before their required court hearing. Someday soon, a judge will decide whether to grant them family asylum as refugees or deport them back to gang-ridden El Salvador. In the meantime, Carolina said she wanted to stay focused on practical matters — although her words seemed tinged with the guilt of leaving behind her son.

“We’ll see if we can work,” she said. “And we’ll see if we can get our other child back in El Salvador [to come here]. And the girls are going to study.”

When asked whether she would take the journey again, she closed her eyes tightly, pausing for a moment before speaking.

“I don’t even want to remember the journey,” she said sullenly, shaking her head.

“When we crossed the border, we were all so afraid, we heard gunshots, and you imagine you’re going to die. It was so awful I don’t want to remember it.”

As we closed the interview, we asked one last question — indirectly — to Carolina’s daughter who stood nearby: what do you want to be when you grow up?

“A teacher,” she said, grinning bashfully and staring at her feet, just like any 14-year-old would.

Few could doubt that this young woman — who has reportedly travelled thousands of miles, endured unspeakable hardships, and learned so many life lessons at such a young age — would have much to teach American students.

But only if she is allowed stay.


Related Topics:

Citizens Reclaim their Town from Corrupt Cops

The Inhuman Practice of Deporting the Parents and Keeping the Children*

Arizona: AZ SB1070 Is Not a Law

The Doctrine of Discovery