The European Union plans to use military force to curb the influx of migrants from Libya. According to leaked details, the E.U. will destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees on Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe. “They are intending to at least risk killing people in blowing up these boats,” says Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Watch our exclusive interview with Assange on Democracy Now! today.

An ethnic Rohingya Muslim woman looking back as she rides a tuk tuk near a camp set up outside the city of Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Malaysia ordered search and rescue missions Friday for thousands of boatpeople stranded at sea, as Myanmar hosted talks with US and Southeast Asian envoys on the migrant exodus from its shores.

Photo by Ye Aung Thu via AFP/Getty

This one cartoon captures the crisis in the Mediterranean we’re all ignoring

Every year, thousands of people drown while attempting to migrate across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. In the most recent tragedy, hundreds died Saturday when a 70-foot boat carrying as many as 700 people capsized in Libyan waters. Just days before, nearly 400 drowned in a similar incident. And Europe is actively turning a blind eye.

Short-eared owl
Asio flammeus

Short-eared owls migrate back to Finland in March-April, although they occasionally spend the winter in Finland. The breeding population is estimated to be 2000-10,000 pairs with highest densities in Ostrobothnia

photo by Mika Rantaharju

The Vikings Sacrificed to the Gods in Rivers and Lakes

A doctoral dissertation from 2009 shows that the Vikings sacrificed valuable and beautiful objects to the Norse gods and their forefathers at bridges and fjords because they believed they were the boundary between the living and the deceased.

The thesis by Julie Lund, Lecturer at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo – offers an insight into sacrificial customs of the Viking Age lasting from year 793 – 1066 AD.

Previously it was believed that this type of sacrifices came to an end in the Migration Period around year 500, but it turns out that the tradition continued into the Viking Age.

Bridges and Fjords

The Vikings used special places in the landscape for these rituals. Bridges and fjords were particularly important because they served as a boundary between the living and the deceased. Viking settlements and burial sites were almost always close to water or connected by a bridge.

Lund examined the findings from about thirty sacrificial sites in Scandinavia, from the River Thames in Southern England and the River Shannon in Ireland. Places that came under Scandinavian influence in the Viking Age. Many of the sacrifices or ritual closures took place at bridges.

Many of the sacrificial sites were named after Norse gods, such as Tissø in Denmark, i.e. Tyr’s lake – the god of war and the one who decided who won battles.

An important discovery is that these special places often are highlighted in Norse sources as central to how people perceived the world.

Keep reading

Global migration: Moving away from mainstream narratives.

In the wake of several recent and tragic drownings of migrants in the Mediterranean sea, news headlines have once again put this crisis and the issues surrounding it in the spotlight. However, despite the current heavy focus placed by global news agencies on this matter, it is not a new and emerging predicament but a symptom of part of an ongoing issue that affects both the African and European continents.

In the West,the media and politicians have and continue to expose us to the hypocrisy of European governments, something that is appalling yet not surprising. As they continue to pillage Africa for resources, bartering with communities via aid, using revised “different but same” colonial relations, often seemingly with the consent of African leaders, they actively contribute to or ignore the conditions that create poverty, conflict and other push factors in these migrant producing regions. In Africa, the lack of awareness generated by the media in countries affected by this crisis is astounding, but also speaks to the leaders that continuously do not acknowledge the problems at hand.As global NGOs and humanitarian organizations continue to exert pressure on European governments to act with haste, one cannot stress the importance of generating critically thought out long term solutions that address all sides of this issue. It is essential not to solely focus on one side of this story as the bulk of current media coverage does by framing a global crisis through a singular narrative. To reiterate the words of Senegalese writer and critic Fatou Diome, the dynamics of immigration and the relationship between the African continent and Europe shows a failure in policy and leadership on both sides of the Mediterranean.

In this clip, where she appeared on a French television show, Diome shared her frustration with this by calling to attention some of the nuances of this issue that western media too often fails to critically interrogate. I felt compelled to provide a translation of one particular segment not only because her words challenge current narratives, but because I believe it is important for Africans to continuously engage in conversation with each other on issues that affect us, whether directly or indirectly. As diverse as we are, and with equally diverse points of views concerning the conditions that see Africans from various parts of the continent embark on these harsh and perilous journeys, it would do us good to share these viewpoints with each other for the sake of our development within our own nations and as a continent:

[Translated segment from 2:22 - 4.45]

“When someone sets off, it is as if he is elected, chosen - perhaps the most resourceful one of them - and there’s an entire clan or a whole family that pins their hope on this person. [she addresses the previous speaker] Sir, today I can see that you well dressed and well fed. Suppose you were starving at home, it wouldn’t be too farfetched for your family to hold on to the belief that you could go off somewhere and make enough to provide a source of livelihood for those left behind. In essence, this journey become an act of solidarity. You let someone go and you count on them. [previous speaker attempts to interrupt her] You will let me finish.

[here she references a point the previous speaker made about how the Schengen area’s passport policy creates porous European boarders that can be exploited. [Note that Diome is a French citizen and therefore benefits from said policy] Sir, your quote unquote Schengen now allows me to be invited to the Netherlands and give lectures in your universities. We [as immigrants] are only worth something to you when you find our brains suitable for your purposes. It bothers you to welcome my brother who, though not has qualified as me, may also want to work in these same buildings. Your countries have split personalities. You can just sort people out like that with nonsense categories like useful immigrants and nefarious immigrants. 

I also want to touch on a second point. There is so much focus put on Africa to Europe immigration - we are constantly being made aware of this movement. On the other hand, little notice is given to the movement of Europeans into other countries. Now this movement is that of the powerful, those who have money, those who have the right passport. So you go to Senegal, Mali, you go to any country in the world, Canada, the U.S., everywhere I go - and I travel all the time - I meet people from France, Germany, the Netherlands, I meet them on every corner of this earth because they have the right passport. So Europe has arrogated a unilateral concept of exoticism to themselves; it’s always the other, the non-European who is exotic meanwhile, for someone from my village, there is nothing more exotic than someone from Amsterdam.

The continent has now done the same thing with the concept of the foreigner and modern travel in the wake of globalization. When the poor come towards you “There are waves of immigrants we must block!” But when you, with your passport and with all the pretensions that come with it, when you land in third world countries, in your mind you are in conquered territory. So we see the movement of the poor but we do not see that of the rich who come can make money off our land. Africa is developing at a rate between 5 and 10%. This is past progress and on to overdrive. But when third world countries are developing and don’t have the means to manage this excess growth, all of a sudden we need engineering economics, we need training, we need people to install a democracy. You need us to stay subjugated so you can use this excess growth help sustain European industry. So let’s stop with the hypocrisy - either we’re rich together or we’ll all drown together.”

Diome’s final words in this clip seem harsh but express a sentiment many of us a familiar with.

The focus, in regards to migration, is largely on disenfranchised and marginalized individuals that emigrate from Africa to Europe - rarely the other way around, if at all. We are constantly reminded of this movement, often in a negative way, by European media and politicians alike. Considering the heinous legacy of European colonialism, not just in Africa but worldwide too, and the lack of morality shown both during and after colonialism, it is no wonder that the neocolonial privileges of Europeans, and other Westerners, continue to be swept under the rug. In this list of the most powerful passports in the world, based on which nationalities have the most visa-free access to nations and territories around the world, no African country is listed in the top 50. Even in situations of travel and visa-facilitated movements, discrimination against citizens of African countries is all too common. Though it may seem to some the easy way out to blame colonialism and its legacy for the subject discussed in this piece, I will use this occasion to say that the lack of involvement of African leaders is beyond disgraceful. With every soul lost at sea, men, women and children, the behaviour of our leaders once again reminds us of the worth of our lives.

The hypocrisy and double standards that exists surrounding conversations on migration are a stark and concerning reminder of the power relations and racist systems that have remained unchained for centuries, despite African states achieving their independence from European colonists. The real concern, however, lies not in whether or not European governments will shift their attitudes to reflect standards and instill policies that are in line with basic values of humanity and human rights, but in whether African leaders will finally step up to the plate and acknowledge the humanity of their citizens.

Commentary and translation by Sally Vusi.

Artwork by Jacob Lawrence.

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