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Thread: All Down The Line

  1. #151
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    A closer look ...
    And it's not all sugar and spice ...




    The New Silk Road, Part 1: From China to Pakistan | DW Documentary

    The New Silk Road is a mammoth project intended to connect China with the West. It's a gigantic infrastructure project that Beijing says will benefit everyone. But this two-part documentary shows China’s predominant self-interest and geopolitical ambitions.

    The old Silk Road is a legend, whereas the New Silk Road is a real megaproject. China wants to reconnect the world though a network of roads, railways, ports and airports between Asia and Europe. A team of reporters travels by sea and land along the New Silk Road and shows how China, with the largest investment program in history, is expanding its influence worldwide. Their journey begins in Shenzhen on the Pearl River Delta. This is where China's legendary rise to an economic superpower began 40 years ago. The private market economy experiment unleashed forces that allowed Shenzhen to grow into a mega-metropolis.

    The team takes a container ship towards Southeast Asia. Its first stop is the port city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. A joke is making the rounds there these days: you can now travel to China without a passport and without leaving your own country. Sihanoukville is now almost part of China itself! The Chinese have financed practically everything built here in the recent past: the extension of the port, new roads, bridges and factories. Many Cambodians are unhappy and feel like losers in the boom. Rising prices and rents are making the poor even poorer. But for land and house owners, on the other hand, it’s a bonanza.

    In Myanmar, resistance is already growing. Locals in Kachin have successfully blocked a new dam project, asking how the Chinese could produce energy for their own country whilst leaving the locals themselves without electricity? The Myanmar government pulled the emergency brake and the huge Chinese dam project did not get beyond the first concrete piers in the river.

    The Karakorum Highway from Kashgar in China across the Roof of the World to Islamabad in Pakistan is one of the most difficult and dangerous roads in this breathtaking mountain world. Once the road is finished, it often disintegrates again, and rock falls and landslides block the highway as if the Karakorum Mountains are trying to deny China strategic access to the Arabian Sea. The first part of the report ends in Islamabad.
    Published on Jul 20, 2019

    42:25 minutes



    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUxw9Re-Z-E



    ***



    The New Silk Road, part 2: From Kyrgyzstan to Duisburg


    China's path to global power leads through the legendary trade road. Our authors travel west on two separate paths: One team follows the sea route, along which China is expanding its support bases, while the other follows the ancient Silk Road through Central Asia. Their journey takes them through stunning landscapes and to magical places with ancient caravanserais, where the lore of the old Silk Road lives on. At the same time, they observe China’s overwhelming new influence in immense construction sites and shipping hubs. People everywhere are hoping the new trade will bring them and their children work and prosperity, just as the old Silk Road did hundreds of years ago. But others fear that a future dominated by China will bring them no good at all. "Clean water, the mountains and nature are much more important than the money they give us," the filmmakers learn in Kyrgyzstan.

    Chinese investment has not only bestowed the country with better roads, power lines and railway lines, but also with environmental pollution, corruption and crippling debt. Oman is another stop on the line, where Beijing has taken over large parts of a new Special Economic Zone in the desert city of Duqm. You can still see traditional Arab dhows in the old harbor at Sur, but they no longer have a place in today’s international trade. Instead, the horizon is dotted with huge container ships, many of them flying the Chinese flag. Meanwhile, the French port city of Marseille is aiming to become the New Silk Road’s European bridgehead. A small container village in the hills above the city is the first step. Cheap textiles from the Far East are delivered here to the "Marseille International Fashion Center”. MIF 68 for short - 68 is considered a lucky number in China - is geared towards distributing China’s products throughout Europe. The two-part documentary shows the breathtaking dimensions of this gigantic project - one where, it would seem, no stone will be left unturned.

    42:26 minutes



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  3. #152
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    Meanwhile ...

    Credit or control? - Social surveillance in China | DW Documentary


    China is developing a "social credit system" to evaluate its citizens' behavior. The system uses a point scheme to reward good conduct and punish bad conduct -- such as criticizing the government, or even running a red traffic light.

    People who pay their bills too late or drink too much alcohol will be given penalty points, and could face travel restrictions or have their financial credit rating lowered. Good conduct could be rewarded with discounts on bookings for hotels or rental cars. The system will use the millions of suveillance cameras that have been installed throughout China -- plus facial-recognition- and motion-profile technology -- to keep track of people. The "social credit system" is now in the testing phase, and it's already become controversial. It's scheduled to be introduced in Beijing next year.

    In our report, we'll meet a young woman who works as a marketing manager, and has a good behavior rating. She says it may help to get her young son into a top-quality school. We also talk to a journalist whose reports on corruption earned him a bad score. The authorities then blocked his social-media accounts, and banned him from flying on passenger jets. The "social credit system" has hit one of China's ethnic minorities particularly hard: the mostly-Muslim Uighurs, who live in the northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang.

    Published on Jul 23, 2019

    27:00 minutes



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  5. #153
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    Will add another disturbing China news piece here ...

    Beijing strikes ominous tone, saying military could intervene in Hong Kong

    Members of a Chinese honor guard take part in a ceremony welcoming Belgium’s King Philippe to Beijing on June 23.
    (Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)


    By Alice SuStaff Writer
    July 24, 2019
    10:46 AM
    BEIJING —


    The latest protests in Hong Kong appear to have touched a nerve in Beijing, where officials and state media have escalated rhetoric against the pro-democracy movement, accusing the United States of interference and ominously affirming the People’s Liberation Army’s ability to intervene at the Hong Kong government’s request.

    Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a news conference Wednesday morning that the protests on Sunday were “intolerable.”

    “Some radical protesters’ actions challenge the authority of the central government and the bottom line of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” Wu said, adding that the ministry would follow Article 14 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

    “One Country, Two Systems” is China’s way of referring to its administration of Hong Kong, under which it is part of China but allowed to maintain some degree of autonomy. Article 14 states that the Chinese government’s military forces stationed in Hong Kong will not interfere in local affairs unless the Hong Kong government requests assistance “in the maintenance of public order” or for disaster relief.

    As mass protests against a proposed extradition bill morphed into a desperate pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong over the last two months, the local government has denied rumors that the Chinese military might intervene. Some analysts who study Hong Kong expressed skepticism that Beijing would send its military, which could have devastating consequences.

    But Chinese officials and media are now stoking nationalist anger with rhetoric that’s been used to pave the way for crackdowns in the past, specifically with accusations of foreign intervention and condemnations of “chaos” and “disorder.”

    Sunday’s protests broadened the scope of conflict as protesters shifted from targeting the Hong Kong territorial government and police to directly challenging the Chinese government.

    Thousands marched to Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong, chanting a pro-independence slogan. They splattered the Chinese government emblem with eggs and black ink and spray-painted the walls with derogatory terms for China.

    Later that night, organized pro-Beijing thugs rampaged through a mass transit station in the northern rural area of Yuen Long, beating civilians with metal rods and wooden sticks.

    Public fury has swelled against Hong Kong’s police force, which didn’t arrive until an hour after the attacks began and then disappeared before the mob returned to continue attacking people.

    Lynette Ong, a University of Toronto political scientist who’s researched the employment of “thugs for hire” in mainland China, said this is a common practice and was used against protesters during the 2014 Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.

    “Governments outsource violence to third-party agents for ‘plausible deniability,’” Ong said, adding that the thugs in this case could also have been hired by business interests who want protests to end.

    During a pro-Beijing rally on Saturday, Hong Kong newspaper executive Arthur Shek gave a speech encouraging crowds to “discipline” pro-democracy protesters with canes and PVC pipes. “Caning the kids is teaching them, not violence,” he said.

    Shek has since resigned, after staff of his paper signed a petition condemning his remarks.

    Video has emerged of pro-establishment legislator Junius Ho shaking hands with some of the men in white, as well as of police officers speaking with them, despite official claims that the police had made no arrests that night because they “could not be sure of who was involved.”

    Police have since arrested 11 men in connection with the attacks on charges of unlawful assembly. They’ve also arrested more than 120 people in connection with pro-democracy protests since early June.

    Protesters trashed Ho’s legislative office Monday and damaged Ho’s parents’ gravestones, spray-painting “official-triad collusion” on a wall above them.

    In response, Ho posted a Facebook video making death threats against pro-democratic legislator Eddie Chu, who has spoken up against corruption in rural areas in the past and argued with Ho on a local TV channel on Tuesday.

    Ho said Chu had “two paths” before him: “One is a path of being alive, one is a path of not being alive. You must choose which path to take. Decide soon,” he said.

    There is no evidence of any connection between Chu and the graveyard vandalism.

    While Hong Kongers raise an outcry against the Yuen Long attack, Chinese media have fixated on protesters’ defacement of the Chinese government office.

    Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference Tuesday that the vandalism was a “radical, illegal, violent action” and a “serious challenge to the bottom line of ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” adding that foreign powers were obviously directing these actions behind the scenes.

    “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. China will absolutely not allow any foreign power to intervene in Hong Kong affairs,” Hua said. “We urge America to withdraw their black hands from Hong Kong before it is too late.”

    There has been no evidence of U.S. involvement in the Hong Kong protests, although the U.S.-China trade war has frayed relations between Beijing and Washington.

    State media and Chinese social media, which is censored so that only state-approved content appears, shared portrayals of the Hong Kong protesters as violent mobs attacking police and threatening Chinese sovereignty while a “silent majority” of pro-Beijing Hong Kongers cried for help to protect Hong Kong from violence.

    State media have said nothing about the Yuen Long mob so far, but social media posts supporting the attackers have been allowed to proliferate.

    “If someone wanted to invade your homeland, wouldn’t you resist them rather than welcoming them?” wrote one commenter in defense of the white-shirted attackers. “These rioters came to Yuen Long to create riots first, then the locals in white shirts resisted them.”

    It’s a turnaround from earlier media strategy in mainland China, where the peaceful million-person marches in Hong Kong in June were censored.

    Only when protesters broke into the legislative building on July 1 did Chinese media begin reporting on the Hong Kong protesters, framed as troublemaking rioters under foreign influence.

    “It is like what they tried to do when broadcasting images of upheavals in Western countries to portray an impression of chaotic democracy,” said Ho-fung Hung, sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. “But such efforts could easily backfire.”

    “The mobilization of thugs could further delegitimize the government and make the protest boil over further. The showing of protest footage could also encourage mainland citizens to imitate,” Ho said.

    Jeff Wasserstrom, a historian at UC Irvine, said the state narrative’s portrayal of Hong Kong protesters resembles how Chinese Communist Party leadership spoke about student protesters in Tiananmen Square in the lead-up to the massacre in 1989.

    “The CCP leadership promulgated the notion 30 years ago that what were, in fact, overwhelmingly nonviolent and broadly supported gatherings in Tiananmen and public squares in scores of other cities were somehow creating ‘chaos,’” Wasserstrom said.

    The echoes come alongside state praise for Li Peng, the recently deceased hard-line former premier who backed a military response to the Tiananmen protests.

    An official obituary said Li “made decisive moves to stop the turmoil” in 1989, playing “an important role in the major struggle concerning the future and fate of the Party and the state.”

    At the same time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping seems so far determined to avoid a repeat of Tiananmen.

    Willy Lam, professor in Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that Xi is hesitant to deploy troops because it would mean an end to the “One Country, Two Systems” setup, which is supposed to guarantee Hong Kong semi-autonomy until 2047.

    Chinese troops in Hong Kong’s streets might also drive out the thousands of multinational businesses headquartered in Hong Kong, he said, which would be a major loss for Beijing.

    Beijing seems to be using the same strategy as in 2014, Lam said: “Do nothing, make no concessions and wait for the protesters to make mistakes.”

    But the current movement has far broader social support than the Occupy movement did in 2014, which means the protests may escalate rather than fade away.

    The march planned for Saturday in Yuen Long may be “explosive,” Lam said.

    One idea that’s gaining traction is for the government to establish an independent judiciary-led inquiry into both police and protester violence over the last two months.

    Dozens of ex-Hong Kong officials and legislators, the Hong Kong Bar Assn., the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and more than 60 family members of police officers have voiced support for such a commission.

    Setting up such an inquiry would be “painful” for Beijing, Lam said, but might be the “least costly maneuver” given the alternatives of “losing face” by withdrawing the bill, especially now that domestic anger is ramped up, or escalating into military intervention.

    Global attention plays a crucial role in what happens next in Hong Kong, Wasserstrom said.

    “This is a pivotal moment in one of the great David and Goliath struggles of contemporary times. It has been extraordinary how often the David in this case has been able to stand up to the Goliath,” Wasserstrom said.

    “That does not mean it can necessarily keep happening and that the Goliath in Beijing will not change its strategy.”

    Nicole Liu and Gaochao Zhang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


    Source & reference links here:latimes.com

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  7. #154
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    Greenwashing global logging | DW Documentary

    FSC eco-certification was established 25 years ago to stop the deforestation of primeval forests by attesting that products are made from "environmentally-friendly" wood. But does the FSC really prevent illegal deforestation?

    Primeval forests are shrinking at an increasing rate. Is exploitation of the well-intentioned FSC system failing to prevent illegal deforestation and thus deceiving consumers? The jungles of Cambodia have been all but destroyed since 2000, and now just 25 square kilometers remain. Deforestation is responsible for more CO2 emissions than all the world’s cars and trucks put together. The Bonn-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is responsible for the certification of sustainable forestry worldwide and its certification is considered to be the most important eco-label. It is supposed to help consumers to identify furniture, paper, planks and other goods made from "environmentally friendly” timber. The FSC has certified the management of more than 200 million hectares of forest to date - an area about the size of Western Europe. But what has the FSC achieved in 25 years? Manfred Ladwig and Thomas Reutter spent months filming deforestation around the world and discovered that companies accused of processing illegal timber do not necessarily lose their FSC certification and even a company condemned for illegal logging in the Brazilian rainforest can continue to use it. The film investigates the connections between the FSC, illegal deforestation and the displacement of indigenous peoples and throws an unsparing light on the global timber industry.

    Published on Jul 27, 2019

    42:25 minutes



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  9. #155
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    Returning Topic

    A very related environmental problem to the above post ...

    Researchers link seaweed blooms to pollution in ocean water

    1:41 minutes


    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiwauBraXeE


    Massive mounds of seaweed piled up along Florida’s east coast beaches in October 2017, a smelly mess that made it difficult to walk on the beach, much less enjoy the stroll.

    Was it coincidence those piles of seaweed showed up after a very busy hurricane season, including a flux of rainfall from Hurricane Irma out of the rivers and inlets along Florida’s East Coast?

    Maybe not, says Brian Lapointe, a research professor with Harbor Branch Oceanographic at Florida Atlantic University.

    With more and more of the seaweed, known as sargassum, piling up in places like Cancun and Miami Beach, Lapointe and a group of researchers are finding some of the same factors behind the increasing appearances of algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon and blue-green algae outbreaks in Florida waters are at least partially to blame. As the seaweed becomes more abundant, the tangled and stinky piles could show up more often and in greater amounts on beaches, even as far north as Volusia and Flagler counties.

    Working with researchers at the University of South Florida and Georgia Institute of Technology, Lapointe has been looking into why so much golden brown sargassum, a type of macroalgae, has covered beaches along the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico since 2011, plaguing many popular tourist locations. And they want to know if they can forecast future blooms.



    In June 2018, a blanket of sargassum extended 5,499 square miles across the Central Atlantic from West Africa into the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Straits and the waters off South Florida’s east coast. A study the researchers recently published in the journal Science dubs the vast and growing expanse of seaweed the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt,” and states it’s now the largest macroalgae bloom in the world. The USF researchers estimated the grass in that belt weighed an estimated 20 million tons.

    In June 2019, the seaweed belt across the Atlantic covered an area five times bigger than it did in the years between 2011 and 2017, but not as big as in June 2018.

    People who live in the Caribbean told researchers they’ve never in 50 years seen such a mass of seaweed, said Mengqui Wang, a post doctoral researcher in the Optical Oceanography Laboratory at USF and co-author on the study.

    The belt is different than the Sargasso Sea, the area of seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s East Coast that provides nursery grounds for sea turtles that hatch on Florida beaches.

    Sargassum floats on the surface and provides important habitat and foraging for sea turtles, birds and other marine life. Once it reaches the sandy shoreline it becomes a foraging area for creatures that live on the beach, and it captures drifting sand to form new dunes. But when it piles up in massive amounts on beaches, it can smother turtle nests and attract pests, in addition to the putrid aromas that waft along the beach.

    After studying 19 years of satellite data to find out where the seaweed comes from, where it goes and what feeds or suppresses it, Lapointe and the other researchers said nutrients, such as nitrogen, in the water may play a bigger role than imagined in the expansion and growth of seaweed in general. The study area extended to about 50 degrees north, into the Gulf of Mexico, and from West Africa to the Amazon, including the eastern coast of Florida, said Wang.

    Local observers said they haven’t yet seen the kind of piles showing up in South Florida this summer, but seaweed did make an appearance in Flagler Beach in June, not typical for that time of year. The piles appeared in North Peninsula State Park and Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, said Matt Bledsoe, who manages two Florida state parks.

    Jennifer Winters, who oversees habitat conservation on Volusia County’s beaches, finds the study interesting but not surprising, given what is known about the way nutrients cause plants to grow. Locally, Winters said she knows of no one who formally monitors the frequency or proliferation of sargassum on local beaches.

    Beth Libert, president of the Volusia Flagler Turtle Patrol informally tracks the seaweed on her daily walks. She and others said seaweed historically shows up on local beaches in the fall, at the end of hurricane season. That’s when volunteers check the seaweed wrack line, to rescue any wayward sea turtle hatchlings that swam out to the ocean and were then washed back in with the seaweed.

    But, in addition to the natural events, such as storms and nor’easters that wash seaweed in from the Sargasso Sea to local beaches, Lapointe said it’s probable the sargassum belt they’re researching could reappear along beaches in Volusia and Flagler counties bringing seaweed in more often and in greater volume.

    That’s what they’ve already been seeing in South Florida. Just this week the largest sargassum influx every reported as seen in Palm Beach and Key West, he said. It multiplies as small fragments break off and continue to grow. And the more nutrients it receives, he said, the more it grows.

    Researchers are looking to try to improve forecasts for where and when the seaweed blooms appear as they learn more about it.

    In the recent study, Lapointe and his collaborators, funded by NASA, focused on how nutrients flowing from the Amazon River in Brazil fuel the sargassum blooms in a combination of natural and human causes.

    The “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt” gets it start in the nutrient-rich waters moving out of the mouth of the Amazon, fed by increasing deforestation and fertilizer use in the basin, he said, and also from an upwelling off the African Coast that churns deep, nutrient-rich waters from the bottom of the ocean up to the surface.

    However, from Brazil, the sargassum circulates through the Caribbean, then into the Gulf, and then around the Florida Keys and up the East Florida coast, said Lapointe. That’s much the same way the red tide algae bloom moved last year from the Southwest Florida coast around the state and up along the coast to the southern end of Volusia County.

    All along the way, runoff, agriculture, fertilizers, sewers and septic tanks, and flooding rainfall push nutrients out into large plumes that carry nitrogen into the water. Lapointe said the water — because fresh water is less dense than seawater — forms a buoyant plume offshore that enriches the sargassum and encourages it to grow.

    The seaweed continues to feed on that runoff as it circulates, he said. For example, Irma’s heavy rainfall sent storm water surging into rivers across the state, sending a pulse of polluted water out into the ocean through inlets along Florida’s coasts. Along with nutrients from six sewage outfalls in South Florida, he said the elevated coastal nutrients in 2017 nourished the sargassum.

    “Our research shows when these plants become enriched like this, they can double their biomass in 10 days to two weeks,” he said. “It’s just like the blue-green algae coming from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.

    “All of these blooms we’re talking about here are feeding off increasing nitrogen, primarily from human activities, ” he added. “We’ve been kind of sloppy housekeepers. We aren’t controlling our human nitrogen footprint very well.”

    Anyone who has ever tried to keep a clean aquarium at home knows the challenges with keeping the water clean to control algae growth, said Lapointe. And, he added, it’s the same problem causing algae blooms in Florida’s springs and estuaries and also causing problems for coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

    The researchers said the dramatic increases in seagrass underscore the need to understand its ecological and chemical impacts on the coastal environment, tourism, local economies and human health.

    USF researchers are studying how the seaweed blooms affect fish and other marine life and whether their arrival can be forecast in advance, Wang said. “There’s so much sargassum out there, it must have a huge impact to the ocean chemistry.”

    Source: news-journalonline.com

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    Country town charm ...

    Görlitz woos residents | DW Documentary

    The town of Görlitz in eastern Germany needs more young residents. To attract them, it’s offering a trial stay, with a free apartment and daycare included. A young Berlin family took up the offer. Will the city’s charm win them over?

    Görlitz, tucked away in the easternmost corner of Germany, is a charming provincial town. It has a beautiful old city center, affordable rents and plenty of options for recreation nearby. But Görlitz is aging: One third of its 55,000 residents are over the age of 65. And now? The Interdisciplinary Centre for Ecological and Revitalizing Urban Transformation, or IZS, has come up with a creative solution. They’re offering an apartment - rent-free for one month - and support in work and settling in to attract big-city dwellers to their home town. Kevin Kandetzki is a freelance painter willing to try his luck - along with his partner, their newborn baby and their child in daycare. They’ve already braced themselves for a culture shock. The Berlin artists are moving to a city that recently gave 30% of its votes to the far-right AfD party. Will their dream of a new life become a nightmare?

    Published on Jul 8, 2019

    12:30 minutes



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    Climate change: Europe's melting glaciers | DW Documentary

    It is far too late to save the Alpine glaciers. And now, the dangers caused by tons of melting ice are rising sharply. Every year, climate change is destroying two of the currently 70 square kilometers of glaciers left in the Alps.

    The permafrost in the Alps is thawing, and transforming what used to be sturdy slopes into loose screes. In addition, climate change is leading to significantly more extreme weather conditions every year, while heavy rainfall causes serious erosion. The result: avalanches and landslides like those in Bondo, Switzerland, or Valsertal in Austria.

    In Switzerland, residential areas are shrinking as people are forced to leave their homes forever. The disappearance of glaciers as water reservoirs is already posing a major problem. Farmers in Engadine, who have been using meltwater for irrigation for centuries, are already facing water shortages. Last summer, they had to rely on helicopters to transport water to their herds in the Grison Alps. Above all, alpine villages depend on winter tourism to survive. Yet experts are forecasting that by mid-century, there will only be enough natural snow left to ski above 2,000 meters, which will spell out the end for about 70 percent of the ski resorts in the Eastern Alps. But instead of developing alternatives, lots of money is still being invested in ski tourism. Snow cannon are used to defy climate change, and artificial snow systems are under construction at ever higher altitudes. As usual, it’s the environment that is set to lose as the unique alpine landscape is further destroyed by soil compaction and erosion. Some municipalities are now working on new models of alpine tourism for the future. As global temperatures continue to rise, the cooler mountain regions will become increasingly attractive for tourists, especially in the summer.
    Published on Jul 31, 2019

    43:25 minutes



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    Video

    So close and so far apart ...

    Inside Israel's Maximum Security Prison (Prison Documentary) - Real Stories


    In the confined space of the jails Israelis & Palestinians have to co-exist. Inside Israel's highest security prisons Palestinian fighters and bombers come face to face with the coercive power of the Israeli State.
    Published on Aug 6, 2019

    58:56 minutes



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    History stories ...



    Naked Cooks, Excrement, Rats: The Secretly Disgusting History of Royal Palaces

    Filthy residences forced European monarchs to constantly move their courts ...

    In July of 1535, King Henry VIII and his court of over 700 people embarked on an epic official tour. Over the next four months the massive entourage would visit around 30 different royal palaces, aristocratic residences and religious institutions. While these stops were important PR events for the king, designed to spark loyalty in his subjects, royal households had another reason entirely for their constant movement.

    They weren’t just exercising their tremendous wealth: they actually needed to escape the disgusting messes large royal parties produced. Palaces—like Henry’s Hampton Court—had to be constantly evacuated so they could be cleaned of the accumulated mounds of human waste. Livestock and farmland also needed time to recover, after supplying food for so many people. Once the tour was over, Henry and a swelling court of over 1,000 would keep moving for the rest of the year, traveling frequently between the King’s 60 residences in a vain attempt to live in hygienic surroundings.

    Within days of a royal party settling in one palace or another, a stink would set in from poorly discarded food, animal waste, vermin from or attracted to unwashed bodies, and human waste (which accrued in underground chambers until it could be removed.) The hallways would become so caked with grime and soot from constant fires that they were fairly black. The very crush of court members was so dense that it made a thorough house cleaning impossible—and futile. Though cleanliness standards were subpar throughout the Medieval, Renaissance and Regency eras, royal courts were typically dirtier than the average small cabin or home.

    Some of the most storied reigns in history, like that of Catherine the Great, took place against a backdrop of horrifying smells, overcrowded quarters, overflowing chamber pots and lice-filled furniture. While paintings of Louis XIV’s opulent court at Versailles show royals clad in gorgeously embroidered garments, viewers today are missing one of the main effects of their finery: the odor of hundreds of garments that have never been washed, all in one unventilated room. And Charles II of England let his flea-bitten spaniels lie in his bed chamber, where they rendered the room “very offensive and indeed made the whole Court nasty and stinking,” according to a 17th century writer.


    Louis XV's toilette at the Palace of Versailles.

    But without a doubt, the most pressing health concern was caused by the dearth of waste disposal options in an era before reliable plumbing. “Feces and urine were everywhere,” Eleanor Herman, author of The Royal Art of Poison, says of royal palaces. “Some courtiers didn't bother to look for a chamber pot but just dropped their britches and did their business—all of their business—in the staircase, the hallway, or the fireplace."

    A 1675 report offered this assessment of the Louvre Palace in Paris: “On the grand staircases” and “behind the doors and almost everywhere one sees there a mass of excrement, one smells a thousand unbearable stenches caused by calls of nature which everyone goes to do there every day.”

    According to historian Alison Weir, author of Henry VIII: The King and his Court, the fastidious Henry VIII “waged a constant battle against the dirt, dust, and smells that were unavoidable when so many people lived in one establishment,” which was fairly unusual for the time. The king slept on a bed surrounded by furs to keep small creatures and vermin away, and visitors were warned not to “wipe or rub their hands upon none arras [tapestries] of the King’s whereby they might be hurted.”

    Many of the rules laid down by the King indicate that his battle against the advancing grime was a losing one. To keep servants and courtiers from urinating on the garden walls, Henry had large red X’s painted in problem spots. But instead of deterring men from relieving themselves, it just gave them something to aim for. Calls for people not to dump dirty dishes in the hallways—or on the King’s bed—seemed to fall on deaf ears.

    Amazingly, Henry was even forced to decree that cooks in the royal kitchen were forbidden to work “naked, or in garments of such vileness as they do now, nor lie in the nights and days in the kitchen or ground by the fireside.” To combat the problem, clerks of the kitchen were instructed to purchase “honest and wholesome garments” for the staff.


    Part of the Hampton Court Palace kitchen, pictured in the 1940s, which had been
    kept exactly as it was in the early 16th century.


    While the King had a relatively sophisticated lavatory system for himself, other waste measures intended as hygienic seem disgusting today: servants were encouraged to pee in vats so that their urine could be used for cleaning. As actual cleanliness was often unachievable, the royal court resorted to masking the offending odors. Sweet-smelling plants covered palace floors, and the fortunate pressed sachets of scent to their noses.

    Once Henry and his court moved on to the next royal residence, the scrubbing and airing out of the palace began. The waste from the King’s non-flushing lavatories was held in underground chambers when the court was in residence. But after the court left, the King’s Gong Scourers, tasked with cleaning the sewers in his palaces near London, went to work.

    "After the court had been here for four weeks, the brick chambers would fill head-high,” Simon Thurley, curator of Historic Royal Palaces, told The Independent. “ It was the gong scourers who had to clean them when the court had left."

    Of course, filthiness in over-crowded royal establishments was not just a problem at the English court. When the future Catherine the Great arrived in Russia from her family’s relatively clean German court, she was shocked by what she found. “It’s not rare to see coming from an immense courtyard full of mire and filth that belongs to a hovel of rotten wood,” she wrote, “a lady covered in jewels and superbly dressed, in a magnificent carriage, pulled by six old nags, and with badly combed valets.”


    Bathroom Apartment of Marie-Antoinette at Versailles.

    The Western European belief that baths were unhealthy did not help matters, either. Although neat freak Henry VIII bathed often and changed his undershirts daily, he was a royal rarity. “Louis XIV took two baths in his life, as did Queen Isabella of Castile,” Herman says. “Marie-Antoinette bathed once a month.” The 17th century British King James I was said to never bathe, causing the rooms he frequented to be filled with lice.

    It was the Sun King himself, Louis XIV, whose choice to no longer travel from court to court would lead to a particularly putrid living situation. In 1682, in an effort to seal his authority and subjugate his nobles, Louis XIV moved his court permanently to the gilded mega-palace of Versailles. At times over 10,000 royals, aristocrats, government officials, servants and military officers lived in Versailles and its surrounding lodgings.

    Despite its reputation for magnificence, life at Versailles, for both royals and servants, was no cleaner than the slum-like conditions in many European cities at the time. Women pulled up their skirts up to pee where they stood, while some men urinated off the balustrade in the middle of the royal chapel. According to historian Tony Spawforth, author of Versailles: A Biography of a Palace, Marie-Antoinette was once hit by human waste being thrown out the window as she walked through an interior courtyard.

    The heavily trafficked latrines often leaked into the bedrooms below them, while blockages and corrosion in the palace’s iron and lead pipes were known to occasionally “poison everything” in Marie-Antoinette’s kitchen. “Not even the rooms of the royal children were safe,” writes Spawforth. An occasional court exodus could have reduced the wear and tear on Versailles, perhaps leading to fewer unpleasant structural failures.

    This unsanitary way of living no doubt led to countless deaths throughout royal European households. It was not until the 19th century that standards of cleanliness and technological developments improved life for many people, including members of royal courts. Today, many European royals still move from residence to residence—but for pleasure, not to try and outrun squalor.


    Source: history.com
    Will add this one a personal favorite ...

    King Henry VIII's toilet at Hampton Court Palace



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    For your inspection ...

    Artificial intelligence and its ethics | DW Documentary


    Are we facing a golden digital age or will robots soon run the world? We need to establish ethical standards in dealing with artificial intelligence - and to answer the question: What still makes us as human beings unique?

    Mankind is still decades away from self-learning machines that are as intelligent as humans. But already today, chatbots, robots, digital assistants and other artificially intelligent entities exist that can emulate certain human abilities. Scientists and AI experts agree that we are in a race against time: we need to establish ethical guidelines before technology catches up with us. While AI Professor Jürgen Schmidhuber predicts artificial intelligence will be able to control robotic factories in space, the Swedish-American physicist Max Tegmark warns against a totalitarian AI surveillance state, and the philosopher Thomas Metzinger predicts a deadly AI arms race. But Metzinger also believes that Europe in particular can play a pioneering role on the threshold of this new era: creating a binding international code of ethics.

    Published on Aug 14, 2019

    42:26 minutes



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    A German public broadcast company takes a look at ...

    Hitler´s book "Mein Kampf" and its secrets | DW Documentary


    You can still buy Adolf Hitler’s credo all over the world, under the counter in some places, on the Internet or simply at the bookshop in others. But did Hitler actually write it himself? And was it really a blueprint for war and the Holocaust?

    Hitler’s "Mein Kampf" was first published in 1925. The 700-page work has been translated into 18 languages, sold over 12 million copies and been revised numerous times since Hitler's death. Almost everyone knows of it, yet hardly anyone has actually read it. "Mein Kampf" is a book of paradoxes, famous yet unfamiliar - fascinating and repellant at the same time.

    Published on Aug 15, 2019

    42:26 minutes



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    Paradise lost ...

    Mining Peru: nature's wealth from the Andes to the Amazon | DW Documentary

    Illegal gold prospectors are threatening the Manu National Park in Peru, which is a World Heritage Site. More species of wild animals and plants have been documented in Peru than anywhere else on Earth. But now their very survival is at stake.

    Peru’s Manu National Park is an unparalleled hotspot of biodiversity, which is why UNESCO declared the area a World Heritage Site thirty years ago. Ten percent of all known bird species are native to this area, including gaudy parrots and iridescent hummingbirds. Jaguars and tapirs sneak through the forests, while giant otters and caimans hunt in their waters. The Manu National Park straddles an altitude difference of around 4000 meters between the eastern foothills of the Andes and the lowlands of the Amazon, encompassing mountains, alpine forests and a huge lowland rainforest.

    These superlatives and the existing environmental protection laws alone should be sufficient to preserve the area, but low interest rates in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis have prompted bankers and private investors to switch to a more lucrative source of income: Gold! Since then, tens of thousands of illegal gold prospectors have been pouring into the area around the national park, stripping back the rainforests and threatening natural habitats with extinction. The mercury used to extract the precious metal has contaminated the rivers and poisoned both wildlife and humans alike, leaving an uninhabitable landscape that looks like the surface of the moon.

    Illegal plantations of coca bushes for cocaine are also behind both growing environmental damage and the spread of violence. Yet, although this natural paradise is facing disaster, organized crime and corruption make it hard for the authorities to take action.
    Published on Aug 16, 2019

    25:56 minutes



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    Brexit - Designed To Destabilise, Same For USA & EU,
    Our Concentration & Memory is Kaput


    108morris108
    Published on Aug 25, 2019

    10:33 minutes



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    A long, but worthy read ...

    The Strange Persistence of First Languages

    After my father died, my journey of rediscovery began with the Czech language.

    By Julie Sedivy

    Illustration by Sarah Mazzetti
    November 5, 2015




    Several years ago, my father died as he had done most things throughout his life: without preparation and without consulting anyone. He simply went to bed one night, yielded his brain to a monstrous blood clot, and was found the next morning lying amidst the sheets like his own stone monument.

    It was hard for me not to take my father’s abrupt exit as a rebuke. For years, he’d been begging me to visit him in the Czech Republic, where I’d been born and where he’d gone back to live in 1992. Each year, I delayed. I was in that part of my life when the marriage-grad-school-children-career-divorce current was sweeping me along with breath-sucking force, and a leisurely trip to the fatherland seemed as plausible as pausing the flow of time.

    Now my dad was shrugging at me from beyond— “You see, you’ve run out of time.”

    His death underscored another loss, albeit a far more subtle one: that of my native tongue. Czech was the only language I knew until the age of 2, when my family began a migration westward, from what was then Czechoslovakia through Austria, then Italy, settling eventually in Montreal, Canada. Along the way, a clutter of languages introduced themselves into my life: German in preschool, Italian-speaking friends, the francophone streets of East Montreal. Linguistic experience congealed, though, once my siblings and I started school in English. As with many immigrants, this marked the time when English became, unofficially and over the grumbling of my parents (especially my father), our family language—the time when Czech began its slow retreat from my daily life.

    Many would applaud the efficiency with which we settled into English—it’s what exemplary immigrants do. But between then and now, research has shown the depth of the relationship all of us have with our native tongues—and how traumatic it can be when that relationship is ruptured. Spurred by my father’s death, I returned to the Czech Republic hoping to reconnect to him. In doing so, I also reconnected with my native tongue, and with parts of my identity that I had long ignored.


    MEMORIES: The author in the arms of her father, Ladislav Sedivy, together with her mother Vera and her older siblings, Marie and Silvester.
    This photo was taken several months before the family’s departure from their Czech home.


    While my father was still alive, I was, like most young people, more intent on hurtling myself into my future than on tending my ancestral roots—and that included speaking the language of my new country rather than my old one. The incentives for adopting the culturally dominant language are undeniable. Proficiency offers clear financial rewards, resulting in wage increases of 15 percent for immigrants who achieve it relative to those who don’t, according to economist Barry Chiswick. A child, who rarely calculates the return on investment for her linguistic efforts, feels the currency of the dominant language in other ways: the approval of teachers and the acceptance of peers. I was mortally offended when my first-grade teacher asked me on the first day of school if I knew “a little English”—“I don’t know a little English,” was my indignant and heavily accented retort. “I know a lot of English.” In the schoolyard, I quickly learned that my Czech was seen as having little value by my friends, aside from the possibility of swearing in another language—a value I was unable to deliver, given that my parents were cursing teetotalers.

    But embracing the dominant language comes at a price. Like a household that welcomes a new child, a single mind can’t admit a new language without some impact on other languages already residing there. Languages can co-exist, but they tussle, as do siblings, over mental resources and attention. When a bilingual person tries to articulate a thought in one language, words and grammatical structures from the other language often clamor in the background, jostling for attention. The subconscious effort of suppressing this competition can slow the retrieval of words—and if the background language elbows its way to the forefront, the speaker may resort to code-switching, plunking down a word from one language into the sentence frame of another.

    Meanwhile, the weaker language is more likely to become swamped; when resources are scarce, as they are during mental exhaustion, the disadvantaged language may become nearly impossible to summon. Over time, neglecting an earlier language makes it harder and harder for it to compete for access.

    His death underscored another loss, albeit a far more subtle one:
    that of my native tongue.
    According to a 2004 survey conducted in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, fewer than half of people belonging to Generation 1.5—immigrants who arrive before their teenage years—claimed to speak the language they were born into “very well.” A 2006 study of immigrant languages in Southern California forecast that even among Mexican Americans, the slowest group to assimilate within Southern California, new arrivals would live to hear only 5 out of every 100 of their great-grandchildren speak fluent Spanish.

    When a childhood language decays, so does the ability to reach far back into your own private history. Language is memory’s receptacle. It has Proustian powers. Just as smells are known to trigger vivid memories of past experiences, language is so entangled with our experiences that inhabiting a specific language helps surface submerged events or interactions that are associated with it.



    Psychotherapist Jennifer Schwanberg has seen this firsthand. In a 2010 paper, she describes treating a client who’d lived through a brutal childhood in Mexico before immigrating to the United States. The woman showed little emotion when talking about events from her early life, and Schwanberg at first assumed that her client had made her peace with them. But one day, the woman began the session in Spanish. The therapist followed her lead and discovered that “moving to her first language had opened a floodgate. Memories from childhood, both traumatic and nontraumatic, were recounted with depth and vividness ... It became clear that a door to the past was available to her in her first language.”

    A first language remains uniquely intertwined with early memories, even for people who fully master another language. In her book The Bilingual Mind, linguist Aneta Pavlenko describes how the author Vladimir Nabokov fled the Russian revolution in 1919, arriving in the United Kingdom when he was 20. By the time he wrote his memoir Conclusive Evidence in 1951, he’d been writing in English for years, yet he struggled writing this particular text in his adopted language, complaining that his memory was tuned to the “musical key” of Russian. Soon after its publication, he translated the memoir into his native tongue. Working in his first language seems to have prodded his senses awake, leading him to insert new details into the Russian version: A simple anecdote about a stingy old housekeeper becomes perfumed with the scents of coffee and decay, the description of a laundry hamper acquires a creaking sound, the visual details of a celluloid swan and toy boat sprout as he writes about the tub in which he bathed as a child. Some of these details eventually made it into his revised English memoir, which he aptly titled Speak, Memory. Evidently, when memory speaks, it sometimes does so in a particular tongue.

    Losing your native tongue unmoors you not only from your own early life but from the entire culture that shaped you. You lose access to the books, films, stories, and songs that articulate the values and norms that you’ve absorbed. You lose the embrace of an entire community or nation for whom your family’s odd quirks are not quirks all. You lose your context. This disconnection can be devastating. A 2007 study led by Darcy Hallett found that in British Columbian native communities in which fewer than half of the members could converse in their indigenous language, young people killed themselves six times more often than in communities where the majority spoke the native language. In the Midwestern U.S., psychologist Teresa LaFromboise and her colleagues found that American-Indian adolescents who were heavily involved in activities focused on their traditional language and traditions did better at school and had fewer behavior problems than kids who were less connected to their traditional cultures—in fact, cultural connectedness buffered them against adolescent problems more than having a warm and nurturing mother. Such benefits appear to span continents: In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that aboriginal youth who spoke their traditional language were less likely to binge drink or use illegal drugs.

    Why is a heritage language so conducive to well-being? Michael Chandler, one of the authors of the suicide study, emphasizes that a sense of cultural continuity makes people resilient by providing them with a cohesive self-concept. Without that continuity, he warns, aboriginal youth, who have typically experienced plenty of turbulence, are in grave existential danger. They risk losing “the thread that tethers together their past, present, and future.”


    As my siblings and I distanced ourselves from the Czech language in our youth, a space widened between us and our parents—especially my father, who never wore English with any comfort. Memories of our early family life, along with its small rituals and lessons imparted, receded into a past that drifted ever further out of reach. It was as if my parents’ life in their home country, and the values that defined that life, didn’t translate credibly into another language; it was much easier to rebel against them in English. Even the English names for our parents encouraged dissent: The Czech words we’d used—Maminka, Tatinek—so laden with esteem and affection, impossible to pronounce with contempt, had no corresponding forms. In English, the sweet but childish Mommy and Daddy are soon abandoned for Mom and Dad—words that, we discovered, lend themselves perfectly well to adolescent snark.

    I watched as my father grew more and more frustrated at his powerlessness to pass on to his children the legacy he most longed to leave: a burning religious piety, the nurturing of family ties, pleasure in the music and traditions of his region, and an abiding respect for ancestors. All of these became diluted by the steady flow of new memories narrated in English, laced with Anglophone aspiration and individualism. As we entered adulthood and dispersed all over North America into our self-reliant lives, my father gave up. He moved back home.

    For the next two decades, I lived my adult life, fully absorbed into the English-speaking universe, even adding American citizenship to my Canadian one. My dad was the only person with whom I regularly spoke Czech—if phone calls every few months can be described as “regularly,” and if my clumsy sentences patched together with abundant English can be called “speaking Czech.” My Czech heritage began to feel more and more like a vestigial organ.

    You lose the embrace of an entire community. You lose your context.
    Then my father died. Loss inevitably reveals that which is gone. It was as if the string section of the orchestra had fallen silent—not carrying the melody, it had gone unnoticed, but its absence announced how much depth and texture it had supplied, how its rhythms had lent coherence to the music. In grieving my father, I became aware of how much I also mourned the silencing of Czech in my life. There was a part of me, I realized, that only Czech could speak to, a way of being that was hard to settle into, even with my own siblings and mother when we spoke in English.

    After my father’s death, my siblings and I inherited a sweet little apartment in a large compound that has been occupied by the Sedivy family since the 1600s, and where my uncle still lives with his sprawling family. This past spring, I finally cleared two months of my schedule and went for a long visit, sleeping on the very same bed where my father and his brothers had been born.

    I discovered that, while I may have run out of time to visit my father in his homeland, there was still time for me to reunite with my native tongue. On my first day there, the long drive with my uncle between the airport and our place in the countryside was accompanied by a conversation that lurched along awkwardly, filled with dead ends and misunderstandings. Over the next few days, I had trouble excavating everyday words like stamp and fork, and I made grammar mistakes that would (and did) cause a 4-year-old to snicker. But within weeks, fluency began to unspool. Words that I’m sure I hadn’t used in decades leapt out of my mouth, astounding me. (Often they were correct. Sometimes not: I startled a man who asked about my occupation by claiming to be a savior—spasitelka. Sadly, I am a mere writer—spisovatelka.) The complicated inflections of Czech, described as “character-building” by an acquaintance who’d learned the language in college, began to assemble into somewhat orderly rows in my mind, and I quickly ventured onto more and more adventurous grammatical terrain. Just a few weeks into my visit, I briefly passed as a real Czech speaker in a conversation with a stranger. Relearning Czech so quickly felt like having linguistic superpowers.

    Surprised by the speed of my progress, I began to look for studies of heritage speakers relearning childhood languages that had fallen into disuse. A number of scientific papers reported evidence of cognitive remnants of “forgotten” languages, remnants that were visible mostly in the process of relearning. In some cases, even when initial testing hinted at language decay, people who’d been exposed to the language earlier in life showed accelerated relearning of grammar, vocabulary, and most of all, of control over the sounds of the language.

    One of the most remarkable examples involved a group of Indian adoptees who’d been raised from a young age (starting between 6 and 60 months) in English-speaking families, having no significant contact with their language of origin. The psychologist Leher Singh tested the children when they were between the ages of 8 and 16. Initially, neither group could hear the difference between dental and retroflex consonants, a distinction that’s exploited by many Indian languages. After listening to the contrasting sounds over a period of mere minutes, the adoptees, but not the American-born children, were able to discriminate between the two classes of consonants.

    This is revealing because a language’s phonology, or sound structure, is one of the greatest challenges for people who start learning a language in adulthood. Long after they’ve mastered its syntax and vocabulary, a lifelong accent may mark them as latecomers to the language. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the star of many American movies and the governor of the country’s biggest state, but his Austrian accent is a constant reminder that he could never run for president. The crucial timing of exposure for native-like speech is evident in my own family: I can pronounce the notoriously difficult “ř” sound in Czech—as in the name of the composer Dvořák—but my brother, born three years after me, in Vienna, cannot.

    Phonology’s resistance to both attrition and later learning may be due to the fact that the sound structure of a language is fixed in a child’s mind very early. Before 6 months of age, infants can distinguish most subtle differences in speech sounds, whether their language makes use of those distinctions or not. But over the second half of their first year, they gradually tune their perception to just the sounds of the language they hear around them. Children who hear only English lose the ability to distinguish between dental and retroflex sounds. Children learning Japanese begin to hear “r” and “l” as variants of the same sound. Linguist Pat Kuhl, who has studied this phenomenon for decades, describes the process as one of perceptual narrowing and increasing neural commitment, eventually excluding native-like perception of other languages.

    One of the most striking examples of the brain’s attunement to native sounds is apparent in languages such as Mandarin, where varying the tone of an utterance can produce entirely different words. (For instance, the syllable ma can mean “mother,” “hemp,” “horse,” or “scold,” depending on the pitch contour you lay over it.) When Mandarin speakers hear nonsense syllables that are identical except for their tones, they show heightened activity in the left hemisphere of the brain, where people normally process sounds that signal differences in meaning—like the difference between the syllables “pa” and “ba.” But speakers of non-tonal languages like English have more activity in the right hemisphere, showing that the brain doesn’t treat tone as relevant for distinguishing words. A recent study found that Chinese-born babies adopted into French homes showed brain activity that matched Chinese speakers and was clearly distinct from monolingual French speakers—even after being separated from their birth language for more than 12 years.


    The brain’s devotion to a childhood language reminds me of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

    The Soul selects her own Society—
    Then—shuts the Door—
    To her divine Majority—
    Present no more—

    Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing—
    At her low Gate—
    Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling
    Upon her Mat—

    I’ve known her—from an ample nation—
    Choose One—
    Then—close the Valves of her attention—
    Like Stone—


    Those of us who received more than one language before the valves of our attention closed may find, to our surprise, that our earliest language lingers on in our soul’s select society, long after we thought it had faded.

    I’ve become aware of the deep sense in which I belong to the Czech language, as well as the extent to which my formative memories are tinged by its “musical key.” For me, the English phrase “pork with cabbage and dumplings” refers to a concept, the national dish of the Czechs. But hearing the Czech phrase vepřo-knedlo-zelo evokes the fragrance of roasting meat, pillowy dumpling loaves being pulled steaming out of a tall pot and sliced with sewing thread, and the clink of the nice china as the table is dressed for Sunday dinner, the fulcrum of every week.

    Since coming back from the Czech Republic, I’ve insisted on speaking Czech with my mother. Even though it’s more effortful for both of us than speaking in English, our conversation feels softer, more tender this way. English was the language in which I forged my independence, the language of my individuation—but it was in Czech that I was nurtured, comforted, and sung to.

    It has also gotten easier to hear the timbre of my father’s voice in my mind’s ear, especially when working in my garden. It’s no accident that many of my conversations with him, and more recently with my uncle, have been on the subject of horticulture. My father’s family has lived for centuries in the fertile wine and orchard region of Moravia, and on my recent visit, I saw my relatives gaze out at their land with an expression usually reserved for a beloved spouse or child. Throughout my own life, I’ve given in to the compulsion to fasten myself to whatever patch of land I happened to be living on by growing things on it, an impulse that has often conflicted with the upwardly and physically mobile trajectory of my life. It’s an impulse I submit to once again, living now in the lee of the Rocky Mountains; neither grapes nor apricots will thrive in the brittle mountain air, but I raise sour cherries and saskatoons, small fruits native to western Canada. As I mulch and weed and prune, I sometimes find myself murmuring to my plants in Czech as my father did, and the Moravian homestead doesn’t seem very far away.

    My newly vocal native tongue, and along with it, the heightened memory of my father’s voice, does more than connect me to my past: It is proving to be an unexpected guide in my present work. I’ve recently left my job as an academic linguist to devote more time to writing, and I often find myself these days conjuring my father’s voice by reading a passage in Czech. Like many Czechs I’ve met, my father treated his language like a lovely object to be turned over, admired, stroked with a fingertip, deserving of deliberate and leisurely attention. He spoke less often than most people, but was more often eloquent. I may never regain enough of my first language to write anything in it worth reading, but when I struggle to write prose that not only informs but transcends, I find myself steering my inner monologue toward Czech. It reminds me of what it feels like to sink into language, to be startled by the aptness of a word or the twist of a phrase, to be delighted by arrangements of its sounds, and lulled by its rhythms. I’ve discovered that my native language has been sitting quietly in my soul’s vault all this time.

    Julie Sedivy has taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and the University of Calgary. She is the co-author of Sold on Language: How Advertisers Talk to You and What This Says About You and more recently, the author of Language in Mind: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics.

    Source:http://nautil.us

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