Candy Cane

Black Pete, chimney sweep? Meet "Santa's helper" in The Netherlands

© Bas Czerwinski/Agence France-Presse
Demonstrators holding placards reading "Black Pete is Rascism" and "Free Pete" during a demonstration in November, 2013 against Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).
As the holiday season approaches, people the world over will be celebrating the year's end in accordance with their local traditions. In the Netherlands in recent years there has been steadily-growing controversy about its peculiar Christmas tradition involving white people wearing blackface theatrical makeup.

Jon Stewart is right: the U.S. most definitely is NOT a post-racial society. But before we, as Dutch citizens, start lecturing Americans about the state of their nation, we ought to come clean about our own racist proclivities. Every year on December 5th Dutch children celebrate a kind of mini pre-Santa day of gift-giving (well, gift-receiving in the kids' case, but the adult population joins in the fun too). The centerpiece of Sint-Nicolaas Day are parades in every town and city up and down the country, in which the guest of honor is a very Father Christmas-like figure who gives kids candy... with the assistance of 'Black Pete', his negro servant sidekick.

To understand this toxic Dutch 'tradition', you have to understand some of its past. But first, here's the story of "Sint-Nicolaas and Black Pete" as it is presented today.

Comment: If you wish to learn more about racism and how it occurs outside conscious awareness, we recommend reading Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.


The Putin-Hollande meeting: Why was Putin in such a good mood?


Putin and Hollande greet each other at their meeting at Moscow airport.
After his surprise meeting with the French president François Hollande at a Moscow airport, Putin held an unscripted press conference which lasted a little less than six minutes.1 From the way he smiled when he took the first question, it was clear that, from his point of view, the meeting went extremely well. And it is not difficult to understand why.

Having created a rift among the NATO allies by negotiating a major gas deal with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin believes that he is now able to drive the point home to the warmongering policy-makers in Washington, London and Brussels that major disagreements on policy toward Russia also exist within the European Union. In other words, he sees Hollande's visit as a major crack in the edifice of the EU's punitive actions against Russia.

It is worth pointing out that rumblings of discontent about the sanctions were present in the EU almost from the day one. Not long after the sanctions were imposed as a reaction to the supposed Russian involvement in the shooting down of MH-17, for which, to this day, there is not a shred of credible evidence, the Slovak prime minister Robert Fico warned that the sanctions against Russia might "threaten" the expected positive growth of EU economies.2

Ice Cube

SOTT Earth Changes Video Summary - November 2014

It's one thing to have record early cold temperatures and record early snowfalls in both Eurasia and North America. To have the greatest ever snow coverage for the Northern Hemisphere by mid-November is something else. November 2014 was alternately mild and super-freezing as the Polar Jet Stream whip-lashed the North American continent, bringing monster snowstorms that dumped entire annual snowfall averages in many parts of the U.S., not least the city of Buffalo, New York, which was buried under 7 feet (2.25 meters) of snow.

Numerous bright meteor fireballs were caught on camera, including several big ones - probably comet/asteroid fragments - that were seen from huge swathes of the US, Russia, China, Japan and Europe. Buenos Aires was flooded for the second time this year, while record-breaking (in many cases, breaking records set last month) rainfall levels were seen across much of the western Mediterranean, killing many people in Morocco, southeastern France and northwestern Italy.

Sinkholes from China to Florida opened up to swallow people and cars. Brisbane, Australia was literally smashed by baseball-sized hail in a surprise 'super-storm'. The Great Lakes began to refreeze by mid-November, not 4 months after finally thawing from last winter. Japan's largest active volcano erupted, as did Colima Volcano in Mexico, and Pavlof in Alaska, each sending ash plumes several kilometers high, while lava flows from Hawaii's Kilauea and Cape Verde's Fire Island destroyed homes.

Then there were UFOs over Paris and Iran, pods of deepwater whales seeking shallow waters, and tornado outreaks in the Mediterranean... has the world gone mad? These were the 'Signs of the Times' in November 2014:


The implications of the Russian-Turkish gas deal for the future of NATO

On December 2, the same day that the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a surprising gas deal during a press conference with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the foreign ministers of NATO countries met in Brussels. The main points of their discussion included the working-out of the so-called 'Readiness Action Plan', which concerns the formation of a NATO rapid intervention force by 2016 and the transformation of NATO mission in Afghanistan. A video conference with the newly appointed foreign minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin, was also conducted.1


EU losers! Russia scraps South Stream pipeline project, announces major alternative gas deal - Did Putin just poach Turkey?

'The Russians are slow to saddle their horses, but they run really fast'... And as Dmitry Orlov said in an interview a couple of days ago:
They're not very interested in communicating. They're far more interested in acting. So, what we'll probably see is a constant stream of surprises coming from Russia that will be completely unannounced and not predicted by anyone.
It should be added that when they act, it is significant. And boy did they act recently! Putin announced yesterday the decision to scrap the South Stream pipeline and simultaneously open a new one to Turkey with the same capacity, which thus makes NATO member Turkey a strategic partner for Russia.
© Unknown
Bye, bye South Stream
That was a surprise and it didn't take long for the fallout and finger-pointing to begin. The Bulgarians, who have several times blocked the South Stream pipeline under the excuse of 'following EU directives', didn't see this coming. After not taking Russia seriously at first, they're now blaming Russia for the project's collapse!


Mike Brown Shooting - Darren Wilson Lied

© Mr. Fish
'Head shots'
The unarmed Mike Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson after an altercation over Brown and a friend, Dorian Johnson, walking in the middle of Canfield Drive, Ferguson, Missouri.

Canfield Drive is not exactly a major thoroughfare, with locals reporting that walking in the street was commonplace among youths of the area. In addition, it was Saturday morning and there was little if any traffic on the road.

According to Ferguson police chief, Wilson did not know that Brown had recently stolen some cigars from a local store.

Without stopping his vehicle, Wilson approached the two young men in his Police SUV and said something to them about walking in the middle of the road.

According to Wilson's testimony he said: "Hey guys, why don't you walk on the sidewalk?" To which one of the two responded: "We're almost at our destination." So Wilson claims he tried again: "But what's wrong with the sidewalk?"

If the conversation had continued in this way, we might expect to hear that Wilson then said something like: "Aw shucks guys, I'd really really appreciate it if you would do me the honor of walking on the sidewalk, after all, I'm just trying to look out for you because I really love you both so much".


Nationwide protests against police brutality in AmeriKKKa: Wilson gets away with murder, Anonymous: #HoodsOff "The war is on!"

Protesters awaiting the grand jury decision.
Riots in Ferguson, Missouri and protests nationwide as another cop gets away with murder

The Darren Wilson grand jury announcement has rekindled the frustration and anger of protesters against police brutality, leading to a renewed wave of clashes with riot gear-clad police. The demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, erupted into violence, with businesses being set on fire and looted and law enforcement firing tear gas in an attempt to disperse the angry crowds.

In addition, a side show between Anonymous and the Ku Klux Klan found its way onto the streets of Ferguson, since the grand jury verdict to not charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with murder brought protesters, activists and police out in numbers. Tensions, already on a knife-edge, were raised after Klan members threatened to shoot townsfolk protesting the August 9th slaying of teenager Michael Brown by Wilson.

In response, Anonymous launched #OpKKK and #HoodsOff, which took down - and took over - multiple Klan websites and social media accounts while exposing numerous Ku Klux Klan members, making their personal information public. In the process, Anonymous uncovered connections between the Klan and the "We Support Darren Wilson" group, which has raised money and support for the trigger-happy cop, with ties to Wilson's new wife, a Ferguson police officer.


America: A Vaxxer-Nation?

Recently there has been a lot of 'debate' in the mainstream media about vaccinations. While this debate is not new, it is something to take notice of, at least I have been taking note. What sparked my interest in the current vaccine debate, and the taking of notes, was a comedy segment on T.V.

While I am not a regular viewer or cable subscriber, I had the opportunity while visiting family to watch Comedy Central, I almost fell out of my seat when the topic of saying no to Vaccines appeared on The Daily Show . What really sparked my curiosity was that, the next night, The Colbert Report had the infamous Dr. Offit Profit on, touting the benefits of vaccination, condemning parents that choose opt-out of vaccinations and promoting his book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. It really is a sign of the times when a comedy station addresses and gives air-time to pro vaccination propaganda and has a guest host who profits from vaccinations. More information about Dr. Profit later in the article.

Vaccinations: Haters and Ya-Sayers

This 'Anti Vaxxer' debate is a hot topic and the content and/or poking fun on cable t.v. brings this debate to a much wider audience. I am an 'Anti Vaxxer' and have been for years. I have 2 grown children and neither of them was ever vaccinated. I am personally against and highly suspicious of the American vaccination effort that has been ongoing for years. I live in a state, like many in the US, that is very pro-vaccination.

When my children were young, I received phone calls and endless mail about the immediate importance of my children receiving their required immunizations (vaccinations). I have been cornered by emergency room nurses and over zealous doctors about the immediate necessity to comply with vaccination laws and requirements. I have left community health centers in tears, feeling like a horrible mother, because I questioned the safety and effectiveness of required vaccinations. Back then, while holding firm to my 'No' choice, I admit I did not know the facts, I just knew something wasn't right. Fortunately other mothers in my community were 'anti-vaxxers' as well and through experience, research and motherly support, I began to form a more informed basis for my decision to say 'No'.

In today's parenting world things have changed. At least from my personal interactions with families with small children. As a mother and former teacher, I am around young children and their parents often, sooner or later the topic of vaccinations pops up. There are two distinct camps among parents, what I call vaccination Haters and Yay sayers. Those who do not support vaccinations and those who are only too happy to comply with vaccination requirements. While I don't 'go there' right away, when talking to the uninformed (or 'disinformed') about my personal anti-vaxx stance, I wait for the parent to ask a specific question. If the parent is a supporter of vaccinations, the conversation is usually pretty short: 'it's the parents choice, do your research, etc'. If, on the other hand, the parent is really struggling and is looking for some solid research and data on the safety of vaccinations and WHY there is such an intense debate going on, I offer the following information. Readers may find it useful in a similar situation.


Putin on fighting extremism, color revolutions

© Presidential Press and Information Office
Putin at meeting of the Security Council, 20 November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently spoke about countering extremism in the next decade at an expanded Security Council meeting in the Kremlin. As usual, he had some interesting things to say. Here are some highlights, with commentary.

On the inhumanity of extremism
I do not believe there is any need to prove how dangerous the very nature of extremism is and how destructive its ideology is - the ideology of intolerance, hatred and animosity. In all its manifestations, extremism is aggressive in nature, seditious and often violent and linked to terrorism.

It infringes on the rights and freedoms of citizens, often even endangering their very lives; it is a threat to national security, capable of cardinally unbalancing the political, economic and social systems. Such types of extremism as nationalism, religious intolerance and political extremism are especially dangerous for society and for the state. Every crime of this type (usually resonant and heinous in itself) can provoke mass violations of public order.
The western puppet masters also know how dangerous and destructive extremism is, which is why they foment it in regions they wish to control. They also know that ordinary people also know how dangerous and destructive it is. But unlike their leaders, they see this as a bad thing, which is why their governments make a big show about 'fighting terrorism'.


P5+1 meetings in Vienna over Iran's 'nukes' - Much ado about nothing

© AFP Photo / Pool / Shamil Zhumatov
Top officials from the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran take part in talks on Iran's nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty on February 27, 2013
Today, Thursday 20 November, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to arrive in Vienna for talks regarding Iran's nuclear program. A year ago, in Geneva, the P5+1 group (comprising Russia, the U.S., UK, France, China, and Germany) resolved to reach a temporary agreement that would guarantee Iran's peaceful intentions by November 24th this year, and, Iran hopes, lead to the lifting of sanctions. Representatives of each country met in Vienna on Tuesday to, in theory, put the final touches to the deal, with a final round of talks planned for the 23rd.

But there are mixed messages and intentions coming from all sides. U.S. State Department Spokesman Jeff Rathke said Washington is willing to suspend the existing sanctions on Iran if a nuclear deal is reached, then terminate them entirely if Iran lives up to its commitments. (Iran, in contrast, wants the sanctions cancelled outright as soon as the deal is signed.) But any agreement reached may leave Obama in a pickle.

Taking the lead in a US Senate threat to block any Iranian nuclear agreement are Senators Robert Menendez (Dem.) and Mark Kirk (Rep.) who are demanding that Iran must totally dismantle its nuclear program in order for the U.S. to even consider reversing sanctions. Last December the two 'hard-ass' senators introduced a bill that called for increasing sanctions on Iran rather than lifting the existing ones.