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Antiwar musicians boycott SXSW festival

Boris and Natasha are after her
Not playing Austin this time, especially with a US Army sponsorship. “A music festival should not include war profiteers,” she said. Graphic from her Facebook page.
“That the organizers of SXSW have taken the decision to mix the arts with the military and weapons contractors is unforgivable,” said one band from Northern Ireland.

100+ musical acts boycott SXSW over
US Army, defense contractor ties

by Julia Conley — Common Dreams

More than 100 musical acts have pulled out of the music and cultural festival South by Southwest in protest of the event’s close ties to the US Army and numerous defense contractors which have displayed exhibits at the week-long gathering, with one hip hop trio from Northern Ireland saying they would face a “significant financial impact” due to the decision.

The financial loss, said the Belfast-based band Kneecap, “isn’t an iota of hardship when compared with the [unimaginable] suffering being inflicted every minute of every day on the people of Gaza.”

The Austin For Palestine Coalition (AFPC) has been campaigning in the Texas state capital for several weeks to push bands and speakers to boycott the festival, which is commonly known as SXSW and has been based in Austin since 1987.

Out of at least 105 performers that had announced they are boycotting this year’s event as of Wednesday, 60 were from the United Kingdom. All 12 Irish bands that had been scheduled to participate have canceled their appearances.

“That the organizers of SXSW have taken the decision to mix the arts with the military and weapons contractors is unforgivable,” said Kneecap in a statement posted to social media. “That they have done so as we witness a genocide facilitated by the US military and its contractors is depraved.”

The United States is the largest international financial backer of the IDF, providing Israel with nearly $4 billion per year. The Biden administration has also approved numerous weapons sales to Israel since the current escalation began in response to a Hamas-led attack on the country on October 7.

The American musician Ella Williams, also known as Squirrel Flower, noted in her announcement that the International Court of Justice said in January that Israel is “plausibly” committing genocide in Gaza.

“A music festival should not include war profiteers,” said Williams. “I refuse to be complicit in this and [withdraw] my art and labor in protest.”

AFPC condemned the Army’s sponsorship of SXSW as well as festival organizers’ decision to welcome defense contractors including RTX, also known as Raytheon; Collins Aerospace; and BAE Systems as participants.

RTX and Collins Aerospace, its subsidiary, make missiles, bombs, and aircraft components that are used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which has killed at least 31,341 Palestinians in Gaza since beginning its U.S.-backed bombardment of the enclave in October.

Rania Batrice, a Palestinian American progressive advocate, also announced Wednesday that she was canceling a speaking engagement at the festival.

“As a Palestinian and a human,” said Batrice, “I cannot be part of such a callous convening that platforms and celebrates an entity like RTX, which has caused so much death and destruction, and is now complicit in the genocide of my people—including far too many children.”

As the boycott grew, SXSW organizers this week defended the contractors, which have participated as exhibitors and sponsored events at the festival, as “leaders in emerging technologies” who “bring forward ideas that shape our world.”

They added that “the situation in the Middle East is tragic” and said the festival supports “human rights for all”—a response AFPC called “empty” and “performative.”

“These empty words touting ‘justice’ did not do a great job hiding the fact that SXSW IS forcing musicians to be in bed with warmongers,” said the group.


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Republican pushes warrantless surveillance of US citizens

Gaza protest
“If any lawmakers were still on the fence and waiting for a smoking gun, THIS IS IT,” said one advocate of reforming Section 702. Jewish opponents of Israel’s Gaza War protested outside the Brooklyn residence of US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on October 13, 2023. Photo by Jewish Voice for Peace.

‘Disturbing’: intel chair used Schumer protests to push warrantless spying

by Jessica Corbett — Common Dreams

Privacy advocates issued fresh calls for changes to a historically abused US spying program on Tuesday after Wired reported that a top Republican congressman privately tried using peaceful protests as proof of the need to block long-demanded reforms.

“If you care about the First Amendment, please stop everything and read this Wired article,” Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program, said on social media, sharing the piece.

Wired‘s Dell Cameron obtained a pair of presentation slides and spoke with multiple GOP staffers who attended a December 11 meeting with Representative Mike Turner, the Ohio Republican who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).

“This is ice in the heart of our democracy.”

The meeting was about competing legislation to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows warrantless surveillance targeting noncitizens located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information, but also sweeps up Americans’ data—and has been misused, particularly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. One of the bills would require the FBI to get a warrant before accessing US citizens’ communications.

Turner—who opposes the bill with that and other reforms—reportedly displayed the slides about 15 minutes into the meeting, which latest over an hour. The first shows a photo of opponents of Israel’s genocidal US-backed war on the Gaza Strip protesting outside the Brooklyn residence of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It does not note that the October 13 action was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace.

The second slide features a social media post from Washington Free Beacon staff writer Matthew Foldi that contains misinformation suggesting Hamas—which governs Gaza and is designated as a terrorist group by the US government—was tied to a November demonstration at the Democratic leader’s residence. The slides do not make clear that they were different events.

“At the outset of the presentation, he’s running through slides, making his case for why 702 reauthorization is needed,” one senior Republican aide told Wired about Turner’s presentation. “Then he throws up that photo. The framing was: ‘Here are protesters outside of Chuck Schumer’s house. We need to be able to use 702 to query these people.'”

As Cameron detailed:

Jeff Naft, the HPSCI spokesperson, says the purpose of the slides was to illustrate that, even if the protesters did have ties to Hamas, they would “not be subject to surveillance” under the 702 program. “702 is not used to target protestors,” he says. “702 is used on foreign terrorist organizations, like Hamas. Chairman Turner’s presentation was a distinction exercise to explain the difference between a US person and Hamas.”

Wired’s sources, who are not authorized to discuss closed-door briefings and requested anonymity to do so, describe this as a conflation of two separate issues—a tactic, they say, that has become commonplace in the debate over the program’s future. “Yes, it’s true, you cannot ‘target’ protesters under 702,” one aide, a legislative director for a Republican lawmaker, says. “But that doesn’t mean the FBI doesn’t still have the power to access those emails or listen to their calls if it wants.”

In response to Wired’s reporting, Goitein—who was quoted in the piece—said on social media that “if any lawmakers were still on the fence and waiting for a smoking gun, THIS IS IT. Turner has made the stakes crystal clear. A vote to reauthorize Section 702 without a warrant requirement is a vote to allow the FBI to keep tabs on protesters exercising [First Amendment] rights.”

“HPSCI leaders are reportedly trying to persuade congressional leaders to slip a Section 702 reauthorization into one of the upcoming funding bills,” she pointed out. “Lawmakers must be given the opportunity to vote on Section 702 reforms, including a warrant requirement and other critical protections for Americans’ civil liberties. Our First Amendment rights depend on it.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) abruptly delayed action on Section 702 last month after Turner announced that the HPSCI had provided members of Congress with “information concerning a serious national security threat,” which news outlets reported was that Russia has made alarming progress on a space-based nuclear weapon designed to target US satellites. Critics called it a ploy by the chair to force through the spying program and demanded his immediate resignation.

Among the groups that pressured Turner to step down last month was Demand Progress, a longtime supporter of Section 702 reforms whose policy director, Sean Vitka, was also quoted in Wired’s piece and issued a statement about the “disturbing” revelations.

“This is ice in the heart of our democracy,” Vitka said. “Americans’ right to protest is sacred, and all the more critical given the political volatility 2024 is certain to produce. As intelligence agencies and congressional intelligence committees mislead the public about what’s at stake in this fight for privacy, Chairman Turner has been secretly selling his colleagues on backdoor searches of Americans as a way to help the FBI spy on protesters without so much as a court order.”

Calling for “a forceful response” from Schumer, Johnson, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), he argued that “Congress must stop letting the House Intelligence Committee dictate its agenda by secretly vetoing any meaningful reform. In the coming weeks, Congress has the opportunity to enact meaningful privacy protections that would protect protesters and all people in the United States from warrantless surveillance, specifically by closing the backdoor search and data broker loopholes.”

Jeramie Scott, senior counsel and director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also weighed in on the reporting.

Americans exercising their constitutional right to protest have a right to be free from warrantless surveillance. There should be no suggestion that foreign intelligence authorities can be used to target protestors; that would be counter to our core American values,” Scott said. “This discussion is one more example of why Congress must pass a warrant requirement to ensure that these searches are not subject to abuse.


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Damman, How salty foods are making people sick

gut life
The human gut teems with bacteria and other microbes. They contribute to our health but also influence our susceptibility to certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Donny Bliss, US National Institutes of Health.

Salty foods are making people sick − in
part by poisoning their microbiomes

by Christopher Damman, University of Washington

People have been using salt since the dawn of civilization to process, preserve and enhance foods. In ancient Rome, salt was so central to commerce that soldiers were paid their “salarium,” or salaries, in salt, for instance.

Salt’s value was in part as a food preservative, keeping unwanted microbes at bay while allowing desired ones to grow. It was this remarkable ability to regulate bacterial growth that likely helped spark the development of fermented foods ranging from sauerkraut to salami, olives to bread, cheese to kimchi.

Today, salt has become ubiquitous and highly concentrated in increasingly processed diets. The evidence has mounted that too much salt – specifically the sodium chloride added to preserve and enhance the flavor of many highly processed foods – is making people sick. It can cause high blood pressure and contribute to heart attacks and stroke. It is also associated with an increased risk of developing stomach and colon cancer, Ménière’s disease, osteoporosis and obesity.

How might a substance previously thought worth its weight in gold have transformed into something many medical institutions consider a key predictor of disease?

Salt lobbyists may be one answer to this question. And as a gastroenterologist and research scientist at the University of Washington, I want to share the mounting evidence that microbes from the shadows of your gut might also shed some light on how salt contributes to disease.

Blood pressure cookers

Sodium’s role in blood pressure and heart disease results largely from its regulating the amount of water inside your blood vessels. In simple terms, the more sodium in your blood, the more water it pulls into your blood vessels. This leads to higher blood pressure and subsequently an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Some people may be more or less sensitive to the effects salt has on blood pressure.

Recent research suggests an additional way salt may raise blood pressure – by altering your gut microbiome. Salt leads to a decrease in healthy microbes and the key metabolites they produce from fiber. These metabolites decrease inflammation in blood vessels and keep them relaxed, contributing to reduced blood pressure.

Salt shaker next to a blood pressure cuffExtra salt may contribute to high blood pressure. Jupiterimages/Stockbyte via Getty Images

With the exception of certain organisms that thrive in salt called halophiles, high levels of salt can poison just about any microbe, even ones your body wants to keep around. This is why people have been using salt for a long time to preserve food and keep unwanted bacteria away.

But modern diets often have too much sodium. According to the World Health Organization, healthy consumption amounts to less than 2,000 milligrams per day for the average adult. The global mean intake of 4,310 milligrams of sodium has likely increased the amount of salt in the gut over healthy levels.

Salt of the girth

Sodium is connected to health outcomes other than blood pressure, and your microbiome may be playing a role here, too.

High sodium diets and higher sodium levels in stool are significantly linked to metabolic disorders, including elevated blood sugar, fatty liver disease and weight gain. In fact, one study estimated that for every one gram per day increase in dietary sodium, there is a 15% increased risk of obesity.

A gold-standard dietary study from the National Institutes of Health found that those on a diet of ultraprocessed foods over two weeks ate about 500 more calories and weighed about 2 pounds more compared with those on a minimally processed diet. One of the biggest differences between the two diets was the extra 1.2 grams of sodium consumed with the ultraprocessed diets.

A leading explanation for why increased salt may lead to weight gain despite having no calories is that sodium increases cravings. When sodium is combined with simple sugars and unhealthy fats, these so-called hyperpalatable foods may be linked to fat gain, as they are particularly good at stimulating the reward centers in the brain and addictionlike eating behaviors.

Close-up of a chef's hand dispensing a pinch of saltMany people could do with a pinch less of salt. skynesher/E+ via Getty Images

Salt may also connect to cravings via a short circuit in the gut microbiome. Microbiome metabolites stimulate the release of a natural version of weight loss drugs Wegovy and Ozempic, the gut hormone GLP-1. Through GLP-1, a healthy microbiome can control your appetite, blood sugar levels and your body’s decision to burn or store energy as fat. Too much salt may interfere with its release.

Other explanations for salt’s effect on metabolic disease, with varying amounts of evidence, include increased sugar absorption, increased gut-derived corticosteroids and a sugar called fructose that can lead to fat accumulation and decreases in energy use for heat production.


While many countries are implementing national salt reduction initiatives, sodium consumption in most parts of the world remains on the rise. Dietary salt reduction in the United States in particular remains behind the curve, while many European countries have started to see benefits such as lower blood pressure and fewer deaths from heart disease through initiatives like improved package labeling of salt content, reformulating foods to limit salt and even salt taxes.

Comparing the nutrition facts of fast-food items between countries reveals considerable variability. For instance, McDonald’s chicken nuggets are saltiest in the USA and even American Coke contains salt, an ingredient it lacks in other countries.

Hand shaking salt on a packet of fries beside a soft drinkSome fast foods have more salt than others. Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank via Getty Images

The salt industry in the United States may have a role here. It lobbied to prevent government regulations on salt in the 2010s, not dissimilar from what the tobacco industry did with cigarettes in the 1980s. Salty foods sell well. One of the key voices of the salt industry for many years, the now-defunct Salt Institute, may have confused public health messaging around the importance of salt reduction by emphasizing the less common instances where restriction can be dangerous.

But the evidence for reducing salt in the general diet is mounting, and institutions are responding. In 2021, the US Department of Agriculture issued new industry guidance calling for a voluntary gradual reduction of salt in commercially processed and prepared foods. The Salt Institute dissolved in 2019. Other organizations such as the American Frozen Food Institute and major ingredient suppliers such as Cargill are on board with lowering dietary salt.

From add-vice to advice

How can you feed your gut microbiome well while being mindful of your salt intake?

Start with limiting your consumption of highly processed foods: salty meats (such as fast food and cured meat), salty treats (such as crackers and chips) and salty sneaks (such as soft drinks, condiments and breads). Up to 70% of dietary salt in the United States is currently consumed from packaged and processed foods.

Instead, focus on foods low in added sodium and sugar and high in potassium and fiber, such as unprocessed, plant-based foods: beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Fermented foods, though often high in sodium, may also be a healthier option due to high levels of short-chain fatty acids, fiber, polyphenols and potassium.

Finally, consider the balance of dietary sodium and potassium. While sodium helps keep fluid in your blood vessels, potassium helps keep fluid in your cells. Dietary sodium and potassium are best consumed in balanced ratios.

While all advice is best taken with a grain of salt, your microbiome gently asks that it just not be large.The Conversation

Christopher Damman, Associate Professor of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, University of Washington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Editorials: The candidates stumble out of the starting blocks; and Failure

she quits
After two weeks she quits. Anchorwoman and reporter for Martinelli’s NexTV Myrna Ortega won’t play make believe for Mulino.

Inauspicious starts

Playing it by eyeball from reading the news, perusing the social media and looking at the signs, it looks like the presidential race may be polarizing down to a contest in which Rómulo Roux and Ricardo Lombana are out front. Those are some imprecise impressionistic pictures, with no reputable pollsters’ surveys taken after Ricardo Martinelli’s definitive removal from the ballot and his replacement by José Raúl Mulino.

Exit the RM party’s campaign spokeswoman, veteran television journalist Myrna Ortega. She objected to the ridiculous, as in Mulino’s claims that old polls make him the front runner. First of all, misrepresenting public opinion polls as a campaign tactic is a crime under Panama’s election laws. Second, Ortega is a young working mother with a professional life after this election to which she might look forward – but not if browbeaten by desperate men to sacrifice her reputation. The damage would not only be a stint as purveyor of fake news, but also doing so at the apparent direction of Ricardo Martinelli, who in turn is under the protection of a Nicaraguan regime that criminalizes journalists and news media that it doesn’t like. There are political cults to whose members such things don’t matter, but a reputation as a liar and a scab would be toxic to a journalist’s future. 

(Old polls?” La Prensa reports a poll taken beginning after Ricky Martinelli had fled to the Nicaraguan Embassy and ending before the Electoral Tribunal made it official that the guy was off the ballot, wherein Mercadeo Planificado SA found Mulino in a hypothetical lead with 26% of the vote and a virtual three-way tie among Lombana, Torrijos and Roux as just over 20%. That poll concluded a week ago, which can be a long time in a volatile political situation.)

Meanwhile an apparent gain for Rómulo would be directly at the expense of Gaby Carrizo. A faction of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement – MOLIRENA – has broken away from the party leadership that’s formally allied with the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party whose standard bearer is José Gabriel Carrizo and thrown its support behind Roux. That leaves both parties of Gaby’s forlorn coalition fractured, with legislator Zulay Rodríguez and former president Martín Torrijos having broken away from the PRD to run their own presidential campaigns before this MOLIRENA split.

The PRD presence is still very much in evidence around the country. They showered their local elected officials with money, some of which has been spent intelligently and apparently in the public interest on public works. But day after day the PRD-MOLIRENA majority in the National Assembly and party activists in public jobs demonstrate sticky fingers, giving the classic impression of the smash-and-grab period of a government not long for this world.

The outward signs of Lombana and his Otro Camino movement are lesser if you just look at the sign wars, but log onto X and up near the top of the Panama trends you find “Gracias a Lombana,” a wave of snide, largely anonymous or pseudonymous put-downs of the insurgent candidate. As if SOMEBODY feels threatened enough to be runninng a Stop Lombana campaign. Is it a threatened front runner? Is it someone who needs to get past Lombana to challenge the leader? Is it that Lombana is actually the leader?

uh huh
The Carrizo campaign’s promises look ridiculous because they ARE ridiculous. Were the country not so deeply into debt that might be another matter.

The poll paid for and published by La Prensa has Carrizo in sixth place and single digits, hard to believe given the historic hard PRD base and easily questioned when found by a marketing firm not especially distinguished in political polling. Is it a hardcore fanatic with political science and history degrees delusion to think that there actually is a difference between measuring and mobilizing voting trends and selling potato chips? That’s the viewpoint of this observer, whose error rate is somewhat less than that of Cassandra and who isn’t even the pope.

Speaking of errors, isn’t the Carrizo campaign one of the PRD’s worst? But then think about it. The vice president with the goofy grin and the family ties to the strip mining industry that most Panamanians despise is, by the ordinary cycle of alternation in Panamanian politics, not going to be elected president. But in five years, might he remake his public image and come back to win? Never know. Plus the guy is not so desperately poor that his only option for the future is as a perennial candidate and this reporter lacks the ability to read his mind.

Neofascist propaganda.

The PRD is a member party of the Socialist International, and Zulay Rodríguez until just a few days ago held a seat in the National Assembly to which she was elected on the PRD ticket. She hates immigrants of all sorts, she’s anti-abortion, like almost all of the other candidates she likes to beat up on the queers. Big into denying science, she seems to claim God-like powers to stop pandemics without vaccines.

Now that Martinelli is out of the race, she’s making her move to grab at least a share of his part of the vote from old polls. However, the lady has scandals of her own. As in under criminal investigation for allegedly stealing gold from a client of hers. As in one of the upscale politicians named for getting Panamanian government money for her kid to go to a university in the United States. As in the US State Department’s anti-corruption czar has been in town talking about pulling visas from politicians and their families and she had her big run-in with Uncle Sam years ago when as a judge she let some Colombian drug suspects walk and under US pressure was removed from the bench.

Does the partisan history sound incongruous? Remember that before becoming Il Duce, the fascist leader who made war against Rastafari and ended up with his body hanging at a Milan gas station, Benito Mussolini was editor of a Socialist newspaper. That history was a big boost for the Italian strain of communism – even for decades after the commie partisans caught up with the disguised dictator, who carried papers saying he was a Spanish diplomat but couldn’t speak Spanish.

Strange things might happen, but odds are that Zulay Rodríguez Lu is not going anywhere. She might get a boost if it looks too much like the American Embassy is leading the charge against her. Even so, “doesn’t get along with the Americans” isn’t one of the credentials to win a Panamanian presidential election. Too many of us remember.

debate 1
On track? Mulino, if he cares to do so, will occupy the empty podium in the next debate. Maribel Gordón, the woman in the middle, seems en route to consolidate the historic leftist vote behind her but if she doesn’t go much beyond that it’s not enough to win the presidency. Big business is gathering behind Roux, but in La Prensa’s poll the lawyer with Morgan & Morgan trails Lombana by a hair. Now if Mulino can head off total collapse in coming debates….



Well intentioned, but still imperial hubris

It’s hard to fault the Biden administration for consulting with Caribbean neighbors to brainstorm a way out of Haiti’s ongoing horror story.

However, the United States has intervened in Haiti before, multiple times. On the same day that Blinken was talking, US military aircraft evacuated an undisclosed number of “non-essential US personnel” from the American Embassy grounds in Port-au-Prince. The morning after, Haiti’s titular president tendered his resignation in the face of an ex-cop’s gangster uprising.

Meanwhile, US diplomats are talking with seemingly everyone but the Palestinians to form a new government for the Palestinians. With the racist apartheid regime in Israel opposing anything genuine coming from that, of course.

In Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Southeast Asia decades ago there were variations on similar themes.

Governing other countries from Washington, or choosing other countries’ leaders in Washington, is a recipe for failure. We can and should argue about the morality of it but as a practical matter it can’t be done with any long-term success.


de las Casas

The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed.

Bartolomé de las Casas

Bear in mind…

Everything that you receive is not measured according to its actual size, but, rather that of the receiving vessel.

Juana Inés de la Cruz

n order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.

Miguel de Cervantes

I believe that everything is political, and as such it should concern all of us. Authors who claim they don’t deal with politics in their work are being naïve, because even that is a political stance.

Elena Poniatowska


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Fehleison, City of Ladies and Taylor Swift

city of women
Illustration from “Av Maître de la Cité des dames” – National Library of France.

Long after Christine de Pizan wrote a book railing against misogyny, Taylor Swift is building her own ‘City of Ladies’

by Jill R. Fehleison, Quinnipiac University

In her work, Taylor Swift has taken inspiration from women of the past, including actress Clara Bow, socialite Rebekah Harkness and her grandmother Marjorie Finlay, who was an opera singer.

But sometimes I wonder what the 34-year-old pop star would think of the life and work of Italian-born French writer Christine de Pizan.

Back in the 15th century, Christine – who scholars customarily refer to using her first name, because “de Pizan” simply reflects her place of birth, and she may not have had a last name – dealt with her share of “dads, Brads and Chads,” just as Swift has in the 21st century.

Thought to be the first French woman to make a living as a writer, Christine compiled “The Book of the City of Ladies” in 1405 to challenge the negative stereotypes of women in the Middle Ages. In it, she offers dozens of examples of accomplished women found throughout history, including queens, saints, warriors and poets.

Christine’s writings continue to resonate – especially with women – and are used widely in college courses on women and gender. I recently used excerpts from “The Book of the City of Ladies” in my course on women and gender in early modern Europe.

In reflecting on Christine’s writings from over 600 years ago, I am struck by how she recognized the pernicious effects of attacks on women’s intellect and accomplishments – the ways in which they could be internalized and accepted if women did not challenge the stereotypes.

Building the ‘City of Ladies’

Christine de Pizan was born in Italy but spent much of her life in the royal court of France during the rule of the House of Valois.

Her father, a court physician and astrologer, encouraged her education alongside her brothers. She had three children with her husband, a French royal secretary named Etienne de Castel, who died when Christine was just 25 years old.

Widowed and facing the prospect of raising and financially supporting children on her own, she turned to composing works that appealed to elites, resulting in commissions from patrons. She wrote on a variety of topics, including a poem celebrating Joan of Arc’s success on the battlefield.

But her most ambitious and enduring work is “The Book of the City of Ladies.”

Discouraged by all the misogyny she had read, Christine whimsically claimed that she had received a vision from three ladies: Reason, Rectitude and Justice, who tasked her with the project.

By gathering stories about the accomplishments of women, Christine set out to build an allegorical city where women and their achievements would be safe from the insults and slander of men.

In “The City,” she specifically referenced “The Lamentations of Matheolus,” from 1295, a lengthy essay written in Latin by a cleric from Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. Its French translation from the late 1300s would have been the version Christine read.

It is full of hateful views of women, but Matheolus saves most of his ire for wives.

“Anyone who wishes to immolate himself on the altar of marriage will have a lot to put up with,” he writes, adding that the torture of marriage “is worse than the torments of hell.” He derides women as “always quarrelsome … cruel, and shrewish” – “terribly perverse” individuals who have “deceived all the greatest men in the world.”

Matheolus was not alone in his low views of women. Other popular writings of the time included Jean de Meun’s “The Romance of the Rose,” which portrayed women as untrustworthy and jealous, and an anonymous treatise, “On the Secrets of Women,” which offered misinformation about the biology of women.

With so much misogyny coming from so many sources, Christine acknowledged how easy it was for women to believe what was said about them:

“It’s no wonder that women have been the losers in the war against them since the envious slanderers and vicious traitors who criticize them have been allowed to aim all manner of weapons at their defenseless targets.”

Christine recognized the reasons behind this widespread misogyny: Women who were smarter and kinder than men were seen as a threat and a challenge to the established patriarchy of Western society.

Taylor Swift’s ‘big ole city’

Like Christine, Swift is a gifted writer who began making a living with her pen when she was a teenager.

She has built her own city of sorts to protect her reputation, her music and her self-esteem.

In her 2020 documentary “Miss Americana,” Swift opens up about her struggles with media scrutiny, which contributed to an eating disorder. In it, she describes herself as “trying to deprogram the misogyny in my own brain.”

She sued a DJ that groped her and won, leading to her being featured as one of the “silence breakers” on the cover of Time magazine in 2017 at the dawn of the #MeToo movement. And in 2021, she began reclaiming her words and music by re-recording her older albums as “Taylor’s Versions” after the original masters were sold by her first record label without her consent.

Tattooed arms peruse vinyl records featuring a young woman on the cover.
An employee of an Ohio record store stocks a shelf with copies of ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ in 2023.

AP Photo/Aaron Doster

In her songs, Swift also repeatedly confronts the men who have discounted her talent and intellect. Her song “Mean” is widely believed to be about the critics who questioned her talent, such as Bob Lefsetz, who wrote that Swift clearly couldn’t sing and had possibly destroyed her career after a shaky performance at the 2010 Grammys.

“Someday, I’ll be livin’ in a big, ole city,” Swift retorts in the track, “And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

At the conclusion of “The Book of the City of Ladies,” her mission to record the achievements of women accomplished, Christine de Pizan invites her female readers to join her:

“All of you who love virtue, glory and a fine reputation can now be lodged in great splendour inside its walls, not just women of the past but also those of the present and the future, for this has been founded and built to accommodate all deserving women.”

Though the City of Ladies was built centuries ago, I have a feeling that Taylor Swift would be right at home in that big, ole city.The Conversation

Jill R. Fehleison, Professor of History and Interdisciplinary Studies, Quinnipiac University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Waiting for rain and fixing annoyances / Esperando la lluvia y arreglando la vaina

March in semi-rural Anton — things have not been fruiting and flowering as usual in this El Niño year, but life goes on. Photo by Eric Jackson.
Marzo en una zona semirrural de Anton: las cosas no han dado frutos ni han florecido como de costumbre en este año de El Niño, pero la vida continúa. Foto por Eric Jackson.

¡Puedo volver a subir fotos en este sitio web!
I can upload photos on this website again!

by / por Eric Jackson

What a cascading mess! Microsoft, GIMP, Facebook and WordPress have all published close-in-time updates, several of these have bugs and these programs that I use tend to interact. Some have come up with different jargon to make it seem that users like me are the stupid ones — NOW the unit of measure is the somewhat different “kibibyte” instead of the old kilobyte, and to make the updates usable I need to reset programs that I have been using, figuring out what the new jargon means along the way so that I don’t get these ‘we can’t upload this image because it’s too big’ messages when working in the sizes I have used for years. Is it a sneaky way to keep a senior citizen alert, avoiding senility by forcing new learning curves? Anyway, it seems that the problem is mostly fixed.


¡Qué desastre en cascada! Microsoft, GIMP, Facebook y WordPress han publicado actualizaciones cercanas, varias de ellas tienen errores y los programas que uso tienden a interactuar. Algunos han ideado una jerga diferente para que parezca que los usuarios como yo somos los estúpidos. AHORA la unidad de medida es el “kibibyte” algo diferente en lugar del antiguo kilobyte, y para que las actualizaciones sean utilizables necesito restablecer los programas que he estado usando, descubriendo qué significa la nueva jerga a lo largo del camino para no recibir estos mensajes de “no podemos cargar esta imagen porque es demasiado grande” cuando trabajo en los tamaños que he usado durante años. ¿Es una forma astuta de mantener alerta a una persona mayor, evitando la senilidad forzándola a nuevas curvas de aprendizaje? De todos modos, parece que el problema está prácticamente solucionado.

another distraction
The techno-goons have invaded someone else’s turf: the PUPPIES have dibs on creating distractions around here! Photo by Eric Jackson.
Los tecno-maleantes han invadido el territorio de otras personas: ¡los CACHORROS tienen derecho a crear distracciones por aquí! Foto por Eric Jackson.


Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.

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Biden’s State of the Union address 2024

Video from the House of Representatives floor feed, Spanish subtitles by the White House. The speech begins about 40 minutes into the video.
Video de la transmisión de la Cámara de Representantes, subtítulos en español de la Casa Blanca. El discurso comienza aproximadamente a 40 minutos del vídeo.

State of The Union 2024

About the Republican response: The United States is a conflicted nation, but that was not the big problem last night. The official GOP response, by a senator from Alabama, misrepresented conditions on the US border with Mexico and employed the technique of pointing out a particularly vicious crime committed by a man who illegally crossed the border to suggest that most, or many, undocumented immigrants are like that. The Panama News doesn’t publish inflammatory hate screeds, nor dishonest claims, in the name of “balance.”

The heckling? To be honest, the speaker and other Republican leaders advised their party members against it. Both major parties are divided about this or that. But the House Republicans are in terrible, dysfuntional disarray.


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¿Wappin? It’s International Women’s Day / Es el Día Internacional de la Mujer

A United Nations video from 11 years ago.

She / Her ~ Ella / Su

Rosalía – Tuya

Ronnie Gilbert & Holly Near – Harriet Tubman

Norah Jones – Staring at the Wall

Julieta Venegas – En Vivo Montevideo

Erika Ender – Despacito

Sia and Kylie Minogue – Dance Alone

Joss Stone – 20 Years Of Soul Live At Moon & Stars 2023

The Marias – Run Your Mouth

Any Tovar – Mil Primaveras

Natalie Merchant – Live at Teatro dal Verme, Milano, November 17, 2023

Solinka – Desdén

Mon Laferte – Tecate Pal Norte 2021

Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

Alicia Keys – Lifeline

Sinéad O’Connor – The Emperor’s New Clothes

Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.

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Lobe, Architects of a disaster wants a rerun in Gaza

tjat guy
Elliott Abrams, official State Department portrait when he was Trump’s Iran and Venezuela guy in 2020. From the US Embassy in Israel website. In an echo of Washington’s disastrous de-Baathification campaign in occupied Iraq, a new report puts special stress on “deradicalization” efforts in the Gaza Strip.

Architects of the disastrous Iraq War want a do-over in Gaza

by Jim Lobe — Common Dreams and Responsible Statecraft

Several key architects of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq 21 years ago are presenting a plan for rebuilding and “de-radicalizing” the surviving population of Gaza, while ensuring that Israel retains “freedom of action” to continue operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The plan, which was published as a report Thursday by the hard-line neo-conservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, or JINSA, and the Vandenberg Coalition, is calling for the creation of a private entity, the “International Trust for Gaza Relief and Reconstruction” to be led by “a group of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates” and “supported by the United States and other nations.”

With regard to Palestinian participation, the report by the “Gaza Futures Task Force,” envisages an advisory board “composed primarily of non-Hamas Gazans from Gaza, the West Bank, and diaspora.” In addition, the Palestinian Authority, which is based on the West Bank, “should be consulted in, and publicly bless,” the creation of the Trust while itself undergoing a process of “revamping.”

In addition to granting Israel license to intervene against Hamas and Islamic Jihad within Gaza, the plan calls for security to be provided by the Trust’s leaders and “capable forces from non-regional states with close ties to Israel,” as well as “vetted Gazans.” The Trust should also be empowered to “hire private security contractors with good reputations among Western militaries” in “close coordination with Israeli security forces,” according to the report.

The task force that produced the report consists of nine members, four of whom played key roles as Middle East policymakers under former President George W. Bush and in the run-up to and aftermath of the disastrous Iraq invasion in 2003.

The group is chaired by John Hannah, who served as deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001 to 2005 and then as Cheney’s national security advisor (2005-2009), replacing Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who resigned his position after being indicted for perjury. Libby, who was later given a full pardon by former President Donald Trump, is also a member of the Gaza task force.

Another prominent member of the task force is the founder and chairman of the hawkish Vandenberg Coalition, Elliott Abrams, who served as the senior director for Near East and North African Affairs in the National Security Council under Bush from 2002 to 2009 and more recently as the Special Envoy for Venezuela and Iran under Trump. Ironically, Abrams, who also served as the NSC’s Senior Director for Democracy under Bush, played a key role in supporting an attempted armed coup by Hamas’s chief rival, Fatah, in 2007 after Hamas swept the 2006 Palestinian elections. The coup attempt sparked a brief but bloody civil war in Gaza, which eventually resulted in Hamas’ consolidation of power in the Strip.

Ambassador Eric Edelman (retired), a fourth member of the task force, served as Cheney’s principal deputy national security adviser from 2001 to 2003 and then as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon, under Rumsfeld and his successor, Robert Gates, from 2005 to 2009, as US troops struggled to contain the mainly Sunni resistance to the US occupation in Iraq.

In addition to their collaboration during the Bush administration, the four men have long been associated with strongly pro-Israel neoconservative groups, having served on the boards or in advisory positions for such organizations and think tanks as the Hudson Institute, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the ultra-hawkish Center for Security Policy, as well as the Vandenberg Coalition and JINSA. Indeed, such groups have promoted policies that have been generally aligned with those of the Likud Party led by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Thus, the report’s “key findings” prioritize as considerations: [these are quotes]

  1. restoring the deterrence and security needs of Israel, both for its own people and its standing as a powerful regional ally and essential component of resisting Iran’s ambitions; and
  2. dismantling Hamas as a military and governing force and protecting against its reconstitution through Israel’s continued freedom of action against it and against Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and by de-militarizing, de-radicalizing, and improving conditions in Gaza such that major terrorist attacks like October 7 can’t and won’t happen again

Its proposed Trust, according to the report, should involve the United States and concerned states that accept Israel’s role in the region” and “should provide the humanitarian assistance and help to restore essential services and rebuild civil society in Gaza as intense combat and over subsequent months. Its activities should be governed by an international board composed of 3 to 7 representatives from the key states supporting the Trust, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others. At least one notable omission from the list is Qatar, which has provided tens of billions of dollars in assistance to Gaza over the last decade.

In an echo of Washington’s disastrous de-Baathification campaign in occupied Iraq, the report puts special stress on “deradicalization” efforts. “The Trust, recognizing that years of radicalization by Hamas has complicated the task of reforming and restoring Gaza, should focus on a long-term program for deradicalizing the media, schools and mosques,” according to the report which adds that “Gazans and the Gazan diaspora should play an active role in developing and implementing these plans, alongside the Trust’s Arab members who have hands-on experience in successful deradicalization efforts in their own societies.” Such efforts in Gaza, it goes on, could “serve as a model to encourage a similar program there that will be essential if a credible two-state solution is to be revived.”

The task force urges the Trust to coordinate with other states’ efforts and with those of NGOs and international organizations, including the United Nations. But, in an echo of a key Likud talking point, “it should recognize that the activities of UNRWA serve to perpetuate and deepen the Palestinian crisis.”

The report said UNRWA’s immediate assistance in providing relief may be necessary, but “plans to replace it with local Palestinian institutions or other international organizations committed to peace should be developed and implemented.”

All of these efforts should be pursued within the more general context of countering “Iran’s aggressive campaign to derail regional peace efforts, including by constraining the threat posed by Hezbollah and resuming progress toward normalizing Israel and Saudi Arabia,” according to the report.


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Editorials: Panama’s decision and the Democrats Abroad primary

debate 1
One vacant podium at the first debate, for the guy fleeing a prison sentence to the Nicaraguan Embassy. Color that guy and his probable eventual stand-in irrelevant. Photo by the Tribunal Electoral.

Firm on principles, skeptical about passions: vote wisely and keep an open mind

It is predicted that a week from today, the March rains begin but there will be a delay before the rainy season begins in earnest in May or June. Depending on what it is, we will have a better idea of what to plant and when,

If THAT is an inexact science, consider the upcoming elections. The leader in the polls for a long time was Ricardo Martinelli, whose supporters told us that “he stole, but he got things done.”

Consider what that says about Panamanian political culture, but then he ran into the legal culture segment of that, and before the argument got to “but” judges called a full stop and set the wheels in motion for him to either be in prison or holed up in the Nicaraguan Embassy come Election Day. There is little indication that the former president’s former support will shift to his journeyman political operative stand-in. Mulino may not be as ridiculous a substitute as the non-entity Mimito Arias was in 2014, but the general rule is that personality cults aren’t transferable.

It would leave us with an eight-sided choice with at the moment four or five serious contenders. The president predicts that a quarter of the vote can win the presidency this year. It’s a reasonable expectation and a good reason to draft a new constitution.

There are unflattering things to say about each of the presidential candidate and organized troll squads are saying them. So many of the negative messages are so scurrilous. There are the overblown appeals to ideological hatreds of political, religious, racial or gender stereotypes. There all all the guilt by association arguments. There are presumptions that water never passes under bridges and people never learn from mistakes. There are simplistic economic dogmas.

We are coming toward the end of a period of horrendous economic mismanagement. The nation is deeply in debt and having more than the usual trouble paying its bills on time. The reckoning is upon us for an immensely destructive 27-year-long mining scam crime wave.

Scratch the vote buyers off the list of acceptable possibilities. Scratch off anyone who as ever ever had, either personally or in their families, an ownership or management stake in the companies of that mining boondoggle. That applies to both the Petaquilla gold mine at the start and the First Quantum copper mine of now. Scratch off those who faced public health crises and chose to let people die rather than own up to discomforting truths. Scratch off those who stole from us. Scatch off those who preach hatred.

Be understanding, but hesitant to hand out free passes, for lesser faults. If they talk foolishness about crime, or economics, or education, those are common enough maladies that shouldn’t go unchallenged. We won’t be electing an all-knowing sage or a saint. Better, however, if we elect someone willing to listen to criticism once in office.

After the election we are likely to have a president against whom most eligible Panamanians voted and a fragmented collection of politicians down the ballot. They – AND WE AS A SOCIETY – will then have to work out some agreements to move in any positive direction.

The failed crime boss says he was framed. As expected.

Panama Dems: Vote now in the Democrats Abroad Primary

Unless Mother Nature calls time on him, Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee in this November’s US presidential election. Donald Trump, although he shows increasing signs of dementia and has many legal troubles, seems to be headed toward that contest as the Republican nominee.

There is more, however, to an election year than the race to the wire in the most important contest. For one thing, don’t let anybody browbeat you about how casting a protest vote in the Democratic primary means a vote for the Republican in the fall. History has repeatedly shown that to be untrue.

With a foreign head of state using US-supplied arms to commit genocide and drag much of the Middle East into an ever wider war, the Michigan primary, with its double-digit vote for “uncommitted,” was taken as a sign of the state’s large Arab-American population protesting against US participation in Netanyahu’s war. A lot of damage has been done and it puts Michigan Democrats in a precarious situation. But look deeper into those results and it’s even worse.

Young voters are deeply disenchanted over this war. African-American voters, not only the Muslims among them in the state where Malcolm X was raised, are also annoyed by US support for a racist massacre of a civilian population, in which many thousands of children have already been killed.

Biden needs to change course to lead Democrats to victory in November, and protest votes in the primaries are one time-honored way to tell him so. Democrats living abroad are in particularly good position to see the US reputation in the world’s eyes, not only as to events in the countries and regions where we live.

There have been changes over the decades, but Democrats Abroad has its roots in the mainly antiwar Democrats of the Vietnam War era. We may not have even had delegates then, but what Democrats living overseas reported to their fellow party members in the USA did register into US political discourse of those times.

A vote for “uncommitted,” or a vote for Marianne Williamson, tells Joe Biden to cut his political damages and cut of Bibi Netanyahu. No matter if some Republican pro-Israel lobby calls those of us who vote those ways racist. In fact, in defiance of AIPAC.

Maybe you have a different point of view and want to fully support President Biden and everything he has done. If you are a Democrat living in Panama, the Democrats Abroad Global Presidential Primary is YOUR chance to express that opinion.

Then there are the nuts and bolts of preparing for November, for all factions of Panama’s Democrats. To vote via the Democrats Abroad website, you get put through hoops about being registered to vote and ordering your ballots in the state where you vote, so that your absentee choice will count in November.

You also join Democrats Abroad when registering and voting on the global website. That’s reasonably important post-November, as our country chapter here in Panama is fairly moribund. There is only one in-person primary voting place, in Alto Boquete, which makes it hard for the majority of black Democrats, who live in the Panama City – Colon metro area, to vote that way. Secret purge trials, overt support for identity theft guys and operatives from major international fraud organizations, the embrace of toxic bullying corporate cultures, non-support of organized labor either here or in the USA, a withdrawal from outreach into the America community, libel on the country chapter’s Facebook page – the current leadership in Panama is destructive, opaque and barely active. You must be a member of the global organization to do much about that sad state of affairs at the time for such things in early 2025.

Go to the Democrats Abroad Global Presidential Primary page and then order your primary ballot form here. The instruction and procedures could use a bit of simplification, but if you have questions or problems, you may want to take them up with the unofficial but more participatory Democrats here, the Panama Democrats Club on Facebook.

And do have the political sense to distinguish between primary and general elections. Democrats who care to advance the cause know to take out our differences in the primaries and come together behind the ticket in the fall.

Bertrand Russell photo by Howard Coster (1935) that belongs to the British National Portrait Gallery.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell

Bear in mind…

I stopped being a quiet peacekeeper and started being a loud peacemaker. My anger was good.

Glennon Doyle

War is a profession by which a man cannot live honorably; an employment by which the soldier, if he would reap any profit, is obliged to be false, rapacious, and cruel.

Niccolo Machiavelli

One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.

Marie Curie


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