The Refugee Crisis is About Us | Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow

was born in 1957, the same year China purged more than 300,000 intellectuals, including writers, teachers, journalists and whoever dared to criticise the newly established communist government. As part of a series of campaigns led by what was known as the anti-rightist movement, these intellectuals were sent to labour camps for “re-education”.

Because my father, Ai Qing, was the most renowned poet in China then, the government made a symbolic example of him. In 1958, my family was forced from our home in Beijing and banished to the most remote area of the country – we had no idea that this was the beginning of a very dark, long journey that would last for two decades….

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Deconstructing the National Environmental Policy Act

[On January 1, 1970, Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act which compels land managers to be accountable, transparent (not making deals in backrooms), to let sound science be a guide, to acknowledge in a forthright way what they don’t know, and to not do things by the seat of their pants or at the whim of political pressure or intimidation.
Even on a U.S. Department of Energy website, one that hasn’t yet been scrubbed by the Trump Administration, NEPA is referenced as “the Magna Carta” of environmental laws, the one that laid down the foundation, in fact, for all modern environmental laws in the land; laws that have safeguarded the health of millions of people, brought species back from the brink, ensured that water flowing from the tap is safe to drink and air good to breathe….
Today, there are several efforts underway in Congress to weaken or gut key provisions of NEPA, part of a larger fusillade of more than 150 overt and more insidious attempts to weaken the law….

NEPA has a special connection to the EPA, for the law gives the agency heft in enforcing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and in recent years it has employed NEPA to consider the consequences of fossil fuel companies, automobiles and coal-fired energy plants sending carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to human-caused climate change.
One of the first things President Trump did was sign an executive order cancelling an executive order implemented by his predecessor which had instructed federal resource agencies to study climate change, consider climate change in management decisions, make plans for adaptation, and generally coordinate across the boundaries of bureaucratic fiefdoms.
On January 28, 2018, the House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Rob Bishop of Utah, issued a press release praising legislation that would rapidly ramp up oil and gas drilling on public lands and coastal areas. Notably, earlier in January after Trump announced a sweeping change that would clear the way for more offshore drilling by rescinding Obama-era regulations, he backtracked in deciding to exclude Florida where he has a home in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, and where Republicans protested….] Read the full article here | MOUNTAIN JOURNAL

Fracking in Wyoming | Photo by EcoFlight, courtesy of SkyTruth

Atrocities We Have Yet to Attach to the #MeToo Scream

… as our diluted, anemic fists briefly emerging from the dusty corners of our safe spaces.

This is the official trailer of a documentary about Warren Jeffs and FLDS. Available to rent or free on Amazon, ShowTime etc. A story that we all let happen.

 

Also, a review of the documentary:

The Robust International Antiquities Trade: the Law, Smugglers, thieves, Prestigious Auctions, ISIS, Animals. And some Renowned Museums too.

Elgin Marbles | Detail

USA |

[At the Kansas City, Missouri, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in August 2013, a woman brought in what was probably a seed pot that was made by the Anasazi, a Native American pueblo people who lived near present-day Four Corners — the region where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona come together. The pot was most likely made between 1000 and 1300 A.D. — clearly making it an important piece historically — and according to expert Anthony Slayter-Ralph was worth between $3,000 and $4,000 in the retail market.

But this pot, like many other Native American objects, raised an important question often asked by owners and collectors of Native American objects: What should be done with prehistoric and other Indian objects that you may possess, and when is it okay to buy or sell them?] Indian Artifacts: Understanding the Law | PBS

Also, An Exclusive Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever | The Smithsonian Magazine

Also, ICE Cultural Heritage Repatriations 

Europe |

[A few years ago, Christos Tsirogiannis was looking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection when he had a flash of recognition. While studying an ancient Greek krater—a clay vase used for mixing wine—something “suddenly clicked,” he says. The vase was decorated with a painting of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. “I knew that I had seen the subject on that krater before,” he says.

A forensic archaeologist affiliated with the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, Tsirogiannis has access to restricted databases containing tens of thousands of photographs and documents seized during raids. Searching through the online archives, he found five photos of the Met’s Greek krater among items confiscated from Giacomo Medici, an Italian antiquities dealer convicted in 2005 of receiving stolen goods and conspiracy to traffic looted antiquities.

So why was an object that may have been dug up and sold by looters on display at a famous American museum, and how did it get there?] Museum Goers Beware: That Ancient Artifact May Be Stolen | National Geographic

Middle East and ISIS |

[What isis hates, it destroys, and ancient artifacts are no exception. To erase pre-Islamic history, it has employed sledgehammers and drills at a museum in Mosul, explosives at Palmyra, and all of these weapons, plus jackhammers, power saws, and bulldozers, at Nimrud. In one video, a fighter explains that isismust smash “these statues and idols, these artifacts,” because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed such things after conquering Mecca, nearly fourteen hundred years ago. “They became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars,” he adds. So, at the Met, many were puzzled when Andrew Keller, a soft-spoken senior official at the State Department, unveiled newly declassified documents proving that isis maintains a marginally profitable “antiquities division.”] The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade | The New Yorker

Efforts |

[A Memorandum of Understanding was inked by the United States and the People’s Republic of China on January 14, 2009. The five-year agreement outlines a number of steps designed to stem the flow of illicitly excavated or exported artifacts from China to the U.S. (click here for legal background).] Archaeological Institute of America

U.S., Egypt Sign Agreement to Thwart Trade in Illegal Antiquities | National Geographic

Also…

Latin America |

[Mexico has had poor results in recuperating stolen cultural antiquities. There are deficiencies in both the registration of these thefts and a lack of coordination among the authorities to preserve the items.

The trafficking of items of cultural heritage is an activity that cuts across countries, and connects antique dealers and politicians in Buenos Aires to narcos in Guatemala, to collectors in Mexico, to diplomats in Peru and Costa Rica. This special, involving five journalistic teams, reveals the illicit international market for objects stolen from temples, public museums, and private collections. An initiative of OjoPúblico, this was produced by an alliance of news teams including La Nación (Costa Rica), Plaza Pública (Guatemala), Animal Político (México) and Chequeado (Argentina).] Only a Fraction of Mexico’s Stolen Cultural Antiquities Are Recovered | Insight Crime

Also… Illicit Cultural Property from Latin America: Looting, Trafficking, and Sale | SocArXivs

India |

[Indian Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s recent admission in parliament that eight cases of antiquities theft were reported from State-protected monuments and museums across three states over the last year, has yet again brought to the fore the fraught issue of pilferage and smuggling of art treasures from Indian shores.

According to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group, illegal trade in paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year. And India, with its redoubtable cultural heritage, bureaucratic apathy, and tardy implementation of antiquities protection laws, offers pilferers fertile ground to plunder the past and spirit away booty worth billions for sale in the international bazaar.] Smuggling India’s Antiquities | The Diplomat

 

Popol Vuh

[Popol VuhMaya document, an invaluable source of knowledge of ancient Mayan mythology and culture. Written in K’iche’ (a Mayan language) by a Mayan author or authors between 1554 and 1558, it uses the Latin alphabet with Spanish orthography. It chronicles the creation of humankind, the actions of the gods, the origin and history of the K’iche’ people, and the chronology of their kings down to 1550.

The original book was discovered at the beginning of the 18th century by Francisco Ximénez (Jiménez), parish priest of Chichicastenango in highland Guatemala. He both copied the original K’iche’ text (now lost) and translated it into Spanish. His work is now in the Newberry Library, Chicago.

In 2009 archaeologist Richard Hansen discovered two 8-metre- (26-foot-) long panels carved in stucco from the pre-Classic Mayan site of El Mirador, Guatemala, that depict aspects of the Popol Vuh. The panels—which date to about 300 BCE, some 500 years before the Classic-period fluorescence of Mayan culture—attested to the antiquity of the Popol Vuh. In explaining how the Mayan gods created the world, the Popol Vuh features the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who were transformed into, respectively, the Sun and the Moon. One of the panels depicts the Hero Twins beneath a bird deity; the other panel features a Mayan maize (corn) god surrounded by a serpent. The panels thus authenticated the earliest written version of the Mayan origin story, transcribed by Ximénez. (Source: BRITANNICA)

Most copies were burnt by the Spanish who wanted to eradicate Mayan culture—the only writing culture that developed independently from Europe and Asia. To promote their own culture and religion, Spanish missionaries taught Mayan scribes the Latin alphabet. Secretly, those scribes used the Latin alphabet to preserve the Popol Vuh, hiding the transliterated book until it could emerge unharmed and find new readers hundreds of years later.]

Father Ximénez’s manuscript contains the oldest known text of Popol Vuh. It is mostly written in parallel K’iche’ and Spanish as in the front and rear of the first folio pictured here | The original uploader was AmericanGringo at English Wikipedia – Originally from Ohio State Univ (cropped, straightened, grayscaled)

Desert Solitaire

[“Wilderness preservation, like a hundred other good causes, will be forgotten under the overwhelming pressure of a struggle for mere survival and sanity in a completely urbanized, completely industrialized, even more crowded environment,” Abbey warned. “For my own part I would rather take my chances in a thermonuclear war than live in such a world….

The arches themselves, strange, impressive, grotesque, form but a small and inessential part of the general beauty of this country. When we think of rock we usually think of stones, broken rock, buried under soil and plant life, but here all is exposed and naked, dominated by the monolithic formations of sandstone which stand above the surface of the ground and extend for miles, sometimes level, sometimes tilted or warped by pressures from below, carved by erosion and weathering into an intricate maze of glens, grottoes, fissures, passageways and deep narrow canyons….”

Outdoor recreation was Abbey’s rebellion against the decaying and overcrowded cities. In the 1980s, as a succession of Reagan-era appointees sought to weaken protection of federal lands, “Desert Solitaire” became a must-read for environmentalists and Abbey found himself speaking to crowds of hundreds, denouncing money-grubbers who willy-nilly looted the public domain. His death in 1989 silenced his outraged voice, but no one will ever be able to silence the power of “Desert Solitaire,” his wild-goat cry to leave it as it was. “A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original,” Abbey warned, “is cutting itself off from its origins.”]

 

A Body, Only a Body. And Nothing More

[I came across Mr. Nygard’s ode to human endurance three years ago while beginning research on a novel about a woman who can’t die, and watching that video allowed me to experience something close to life extension. As Mr. Nygard compared himself to Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin while dancing with a bevy of models — or as a voice-over explained, “living a life most can only dream of” — nine minutes of YouTube expanded into a vapid eternity, where time melted into a vortex of solipsism.

But men who hope to live forever might pause on their eternal journey to consider the frightening void at invincibility’s core. Death is the ultimate vulnerability. It is the moment when all of us must confront exactly what so many women have known all too well: You are a body, only a body, and nothing more.]