Archive | September 3, 2015

It is Now Legal in L.A. to Grow your Own Fruit and Veggies on City Land*

It is Now Legal in L.A. to Grow your Own Fruit and Veggies on City Land*

Ron Finley, an urban gardener from South L.A. who helped to make it a reality

By Karoun Chahinian

We’re living in a fast food apocalypse. Considering you need to make a down payment on a salad these days due to high fruit and vegetable prices, getting a fast and cheap burger for lunch has become a popular choice continent-wide.

More and more American families are struggling to afford nutritious food. One creative solution to avoid breaking the bank on fruits and veggies is Guerrilla Gardening: the act of planting produce on someone else’s land, specifically, city-owned land.

It’s weird to think that planting fruits and vegetables is against the law, but this week, the city of Los Angeles has legalized guerrilla gardening and a special thanks is owed to Ron Finley, an urban gardener from South L.A. who helped make it a reality.

Four years ago, Finley was given an arrest warrant for planting a garden on the strip of city-owned land in front of his home. Finley’s neighbourhood in South L.A. is known as a food desert. The only thing near his house is fast food, and driving for half an hour to be able to consume food free from pesticides or fry-batter drenched produce is not ideal, so Finley kept up the fight and refused to pay for the mandatory $400 gardening permit.

His story caught the attention of multiple media publications, including the L.A. Times, and sparked an urban gardening trend, which took over the city streets. As a result, the government revoked his warrant and passed a new law to eliminate the ban on guerrilla gardens, which will be implemented next month.

“In some of these neighbourhoods, that’s the only place people have to plant,” said Finley.

“Between the concrete, asphalt, and chain link fences, they don’t have any other places. To me, it’s about making food hyper-local. Not just local, hyper-local.”

Finley also explained in a TED talk that South L.A. has 26 square miles worth of city-owned lots. To put into perspective that adds up to the size of 20 Central Parks, which can grow up to 725,838,400 tomato plants.

“Growing one plant will give you 10,000 seeds. One dollar worth of green beans will give you $75 worth of produce,” Finley said. “It’s my gospel. Grow your own food. Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

Finley continues to be a spokesperson for the art of self-preservation through home-grown foods and compares his work to an art form.

“You see I’m an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. Graffiti artists beautify walls, me? I beautify lawns and parkways,” said Finley in the TED talk.

It’s about you changing your life and being responsible for your health, and for your community. It’s you taking a stand [and] this is mine. We’ve basically been enslaved by food companies and they’re killing us slowly. There’s other means and other ways to supply food.”

It’s easy to follow the path society has paved for us, but there are healthier alternatives out there, and what’s a better way to find out what chemicals you are mindlessly ingesting than growing your food yourself?


Related Topics:

The Food Revolution Continues. . .

The U.S. No Longer Has Any Strategic Grain Reserves*

School Kitchen Manager Fired for Feeding Hungry Students Free*

Organic Food and Meat Shortages Hit a Morally Unstable Drought-Ridden America*

New York Food Banks Running out of Food*

Falling Profits and Desperate Junk Food Companies Make Fun of Healthy Diets*

40% Of Russia’s Food Is Grown from Dacha Gardens*

U.K. City Installs ‘Giant Eyes’ to Spy on Citizens*

U.K. City Installs ‘Giant Eyes’ to Spy on Citizens*

By Sophie McAdam

Advertising screens shaped like enormous human eyes have been installed in Birmingham, England, reported the BBC this week. The screens, which sit above three entrances to a newly-designed rail station in the city, have a dual purpose: firstly, to scan passers-by in order to try sell them the right kind of sh*t they don’t need, and secondly to record their every move.

“They use cutting-edge facial recognition technology to profile groups of passengers and shoppers before picking which adverts to display,” explains the anchor.

The eyes are made up of 500+ individual television screens, which act as “hidden cameras that will effectively look at people as they come in and out of the station.” These cameras are sophisticated enough to determine the gender, age and demographic group of individuals as they walk by, and will be the biggest ever installed in the UK when the train station re-opens next month.

But the blatantly Orwellian design of the screens- which seem to say ‘Yes suckers, Big Brother is watching you, and at this point he’s not even hiding the fact’- isn’t the worst thing about this news. What’s even more disturbing than these intrusive gigantic digital eyes is the general public’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to the issue of mass surveillance. Here are the comments a reporter heard while asking passers-by their opinions:

“Ahhh, it’s the way things are going with technology now. I wouldn’t be worried about it,” says the first interviewee.

“That’s amazing,” gushes the second.

“I think it’s quite cool in terms of technology and the way the future is evolving and so on,” agrees a third.

While it’s entirely possible (and very likely) that the BBC edited these vox pops to leave viewers with a positive opinion of modern-day surveillance technologies, the sad fact is that the reactions here are mirrored across British society.

In fact, most people in the UK have never heard of George Orwell, let alone read his terrifying novel 1984 which undoubtedly inspired the contemporary concept of Big Brother spy programs. Maybe we need to start a campaign to get this accurate portrayal of our contemporary society on the reading list of every school in the country (if not the world)…


Related Topics:

Quest to Kill Human Rights Act in U.K.*

U.K. Cyber Brigade Serves to Spread Lies on Social Networks*

U.K.’s “Anti-extremism” Plan Brings Repression at Home and War Abroad*

Humanity at the Crossroads: The Crisis in Spiritual Consciousness

Hip-hop artists Jadakiss and Styles Open Juice Bars for a Healthy Alternative*

Hip-hop artists Jadakiss and Styles Open Juice Bars for a Healthy Alternative*

By John Vibes

Hip-hop artists Jadakiss and Styles P have recently embarked on a revolutionary new project that could improve the health and lives of millions of people. When considering where to invest the money they have been making in the music industry, the rappers decided they wanted to do something to give back to their community.

They eventually decided to open up juice bars in low-income areas where there is rarely anything healthy to eat.

“Growing up in Yonkers, New York, we didn’t know what was good for us. If you walk down the block in the hood, it’s nearly impossible to find something healthy to put in your body,” Jadakiss said in a recent video about the juice shops.

“As times change, people change, you evolve and you learn about taking care of the body,” he added.

“In the poorer communities, mostly, the money gets invested in liquor stores and the kind of things we don’t need,” Styles P pointed out.

“Most of the hood don’t [sic] have access to good food, most of the hood don’t have health insurance,”  he added.

It is an age-old truism that liquor stores and fast food chains are the only options people have in low-income communities, so it is hard to expect people to eat right when they don’t even have the option. “Our juice bars are open in the hoods on purpose to educate our people on health awareness,” Jadakiss said.

The rappers said they were inspired to take this specific path because they saw loved ones and family members die of causes that could have been prevented by a healthy diet.

This year, Dr. Dre announced he would be building a community center in Compton while Akon announced that he would be opening an academy to promote solar power in Africa.


Related Topics:

The Depletion of your Nutritional Food Content is Intentional*

The Food Deserts of America

Rapper Opens Academy to Provide Solar Power to 600mn Africans*

LeBron James Pledges $41mn to Send 1,100 Ohio Teens to College*

To Inspire Artists to Become Activists*

A Groundswell of People Power Takes on Corruption in Guatemala*

A Groundswell of People Power Takes on Corruption in Guatemala*

By Nina Lakhani

The five young people behind the #renunciaya and #justiciaya social media campaigns [Nina Lakhani/Al Jazeera]

An extraordinary groundswell of people-power driving historic political and social changes in Guatemala is making the “Guatemalan Spring” look increasingly irresistible.

The audacious theft of millions of dollars of public money by politicians and businessmen while poor patients died in public hospitals has triggered an unprecedented collective political awakening among Guatemala’s historically divided society.

Communities have united for the first time in the country’s 194-year modern history to demand sweeping reforms amid a wave of jaw-dropping corruption scandals implicating the country’s political elites.

In a few short months, President Otto Perez Molina resigned after being stripped of his immunity and an arrest warrant issued. The vice president is among dozens jailed, and the widespread infiltration of organised crime in party politics and election campaigns has been exposed.

The once impossible has become possible, and people want more. The decades of rampant impunity and political status quo appear to be over.

Gabriel Wer, 33, is one of five young men with no experience in activism, who inadvertently initiated this heady new popular movement, which has seen record numbers of Guatemalans partake in peaceful protests since the corruption scandal first broke on April 16.

‘Dreams for the future’

Wer told Al Jazeera: “We started off angry, demanding resignations, but have become part of a social movement where there is a hunger for information, change, and a new Guatemalan identity. This is now about our dreams for the future.”

The group connected on social networks and were so incensed by the brazen corruption that they promoted a get-together with the hashtag #renunciaya, hoping a few hundred like-minded people might turn up to demand the resignations of the corrupt officials.

About 30,000 people gathered in the historic main square on April 25. Tens of thousands of ordinary citizens from every social class, age, and political persuasion have gathered every Saturday since calling for political heads to roll.

Demands have also been made for the cancellation of this Sunday’s elections, and sweeping reforms to clean-up the country’s beleaguered political system.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride in which politically inexperienced young people are trying to keep up with the cascade of damning revelations and arrests by the increasingly bold public ministry and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) – the UN-sanctioned, independent investigative body that has helped prosecute corruption and organised crime in the country since 2007.

On Tuesday, thousands of people holding white roses and placards gathered in the pouring rain outside Congress to pressure parliamentarians voting for the second time in four weeks to remove Molina’s immunity. Prosecutors had already presented damning wiretap evidence suggesting he led the customs ring that allegedly pocketed millions of dollars in kickbacks.

Popular pressure was strengthened by an unlikely ally. The influential Chamber of Commerce (CACIF) – which has supported Guatemala’s right-wing political elites for 60 years and helped bring Otto Perez to power in 2011 – turned against him.

The president’s congressional allies caved-in and voted to remove immunity. The attorney general quickly invoked a travel ban to prevent him fleeing justice. There was a mix of utter disbelief and unparalleled joy on the streets, where ear-splitting celebrations continued for hours despite thunderstorms.

Injustice and struggle

“This is an historic moment when the government finally realised that the people won’t tolerate any more corruption,” Wer said.

“But the struggle is just beginning… We’re young, we’re connected, we’re angry – and we’re going to be watching.”

The movement has galvanised young people from diverse backgrounds across the country who are connecting through social media in spite of limited electricity and internet access in some areas.

There’s a hunger to learn from each other about current events, but also past injustices and struggles – which are largely omitted from school curricula.

It is astonishing how many people are unaware that the CIA helped orchestrate the coup d’état in 1954 to install a right-wing military dictator that plunged the country into a devastating 36-year civil war. About 200,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared, with 93% of atrocities carried out by government forces, according to the UN Historical Clarification Commission.

In 2013, former dictator Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity against Ixil Mayan people in an historic trial. The controversial Constitutional Court ruling that overturned the verdict triggered international condemnation, but failed to inspire mass protests within Guatemala.

“My dad told me that Rios Montt was a good president and in school we had just one class on the civil war, so I didn’t believe there was genocide,” said Rafael Mora, a 23-year-old banker and designer of the online logos that helped the protest movement go viral.

“Politics used to turn me off and I had no desire to know about anything, but now I’ve woken up and I want information. I’m questioning everything and everyone.”

‘Serve not steal’

This new hunger and determination is inspiring people of all ages and political persuasions.

Gabriel Yela, a 72-year-old pianist, has attended every weekly protest in the capital. Immaculately dressed in a pinstripe suit adorned with a paper brooch that read:

“I don’t have a president,” he contributed to the deafening noise with his plastic yellow horn.

“I’m so angry at the disrespect and dishonesty shown by our politicians. The whole system is corrupt, enough is enough,” Yela told Al Jazeera.

“It’s beautiful to see so many on the streets for the first time. I am excited by these young people who have some good ideas. I’m here to support them create a better future in which the politicians understand they’re here to serve not steal.”

The first wave of oppression during the civil war in the 1960s and 1970s targeted the intellectual and middle classes, and largely succeeded in creating a climate of terror that crushed hope and mainstream dissent.

Now there are oodles of both.

For the first time ever, students from private universities have united with their public university counterparts to debate, share ideas, and protest under collective banners that deride and criticise authorities.

Protest chants are intermingled with the national anthem and banging drum beats, while jovial protesters insist a new Guatemala is emerging to break the old cycle of corruption and impunity.

Luis Rojas, 32, a systems engineer and his wife Alejandra Hernandez, 26, a child nutritionist, are expecting their first baby any day now. They attended their first-ever protest this week.

“Children are dying because their mothers cannot afford food and there’s not enough money in the hospitals. I feel sick at what’s gone on,” said Hernandez.

“I want our daughter to know she came to her first march with us today, and that the whole country is united in making a better future.”


Related Topics:

Speech by Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas*

Top Shia Cleric behind Iraq’s anti-Corruption Drive*

National Cyber Security Centre Employee Suspended After ‘Revealing’ that “ISIS is a Zionist Plot”*

National Cyber Security Centre Employee Suspended After ‘Revealing’ that “ISIS is a Zionist Plot”*

A Project Leader at the Dutch National Cyber Security Centre, who goes by the name Yasmina Haifi, was suspended from her job at the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice after tweeting that the terrorist group ISIS, led by Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, does not exist,” and that it is “a Zionist plot to stain the image of Islam.”

Yasmina tweeted the following before being suspended from her job:

Her Tweet in Dutch translates to the following in English:

“ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It is a preconceived plan of Zionists who want to deliberately make Islam look bad.”

Right after tweeting the aforementioned statement, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice and the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) responded in opposition to Haifi’s statements.
They said that “Security and Justice and the NCTV distance themselves from her remarks. And since [the comment] relates to the work of the NCTV and the National Cyber Security Center, this will lead us to suspend her from NCSC/NCTV immediately.”

This “revelation” did not go mainstream and very few outlets around the globe reported about it, despite the huge consequences it may entail. In one of those few interviews she has given, Haifa told the Dutch Radio 1 that

I have taken the liberty to express myself and obviously I have to pay for it. I do not know why I should be suspended. This is what I think.”

“Apparently freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to particular groups and not to others,” she told Radio 1.

The Moroccan Times contacted a leading political analyst, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of this information, to comment on this sweeping piece of news.

The political analyst told us that he believes

“Haifa may have got her hands on secret documents indicating that ISIS is sponsored by Zionists, especially that the type of her work is closely related to National Cyber Security Centre.”

“The type of her job requires her not to make public such information.

“Intelligence people who work on such sensitive jobs sign contract not to reveal anything and may spend a very long time behind bars in case they fail to honour the terms and conditions of their contract.

“As a political analyst, in my modest opinion, and especially as Haifa works in the Dutch Cyber Security Department, I believe she must have found some serious documents indicating that a zionist group financed ISIS.

“She is not someone who will just say anything like that. Those people [who work in the Dutch Cyber Security Department] are picked following a lengthy and difficult procedure. They have to go through a lot of tests to see if the are fit for the job.

“Haifa was just not a normal employee in there. She was a project leader, someone who supervises people. Such people don’t just open their mouths and say nonsense. Those are taught to think 10 times before uttering anything. That is a blow to anyone who may argue that she is uttering nonsense.

” I think she is a kind of whistleblower, like Edward Snowden or Chelsea manning. Her ethics did not allow her to keep this secret hidden, but she came after and kind of apologized in order to avoid jail, probably to avoid being subject to local laws like the American CFAA ones, aimed to silence whistleblowers.

“she sacrificed her job for the sake of the truth. Now it is up to us to understand,” the analyst closed.


Related Topics:

Former Supreme Commander of NATO said Daesh/ISIS is an Israeli Project*

A Zionist to Head U.S.’s Economic Warfare Division*

U.K.’s Israeli Lobby gets a Seat on the House of Lords*

Israel begins Drilling for Oil at Syrian Golan Heights*

A 1829 Newspaper Reports on the Rothschilds and Jerusalem*

Syrian Airstrike Kills Israeli and Jordanian Officers in Al-Nusra*

Syria Eliminates Al-Nusra Leadership*

Syrian Army Kills 50 Al-Nusra Front Terrorists, Mostly Foreigners*

British SAS Special Forces “Dressed Up as ISIS Rebels” Fighting Assad in Syria*

U.N. Report on How Israel Coordinates with ISIS inside Syria*

US And UK Planes are Air-Dropping Weapons And Supplies to ISIS*

ISIS Preserving Jewish Cultural Heritage in Iraq*

CIA + Contractors = ISIS in Afghanistan*

Israel Fuelling Syrian Crisis with Aid to Al-Qaida Rebels*

Iraqi Forces Take Down ISIS’s #2 Abu Ala’a al-Afri*

Are ISIS Backers Attempting to Revive the Ailing Beast?*

Official: Most US Warplanes Never Attack ISIS/ISIL*

Anti-ISIS Coalition Forces are U.S. Targets*

U.S. Companies Hosting ISIS Websites and Forums*

British Government Firms Behind ISIS Oil Sales*

Why the ‘women of ISIS’ Narrative is Dangerous*

30 Moroccan Jews Trained with the Israeli Army*