Monthly Archives: February 2006

Languages, the internet and power

By JOAQUÍN RIVERY TU, Granma

FIRST, I heard that there are about 6,000 languages in the planet. Never thought there were so many people on Earth speaking so many different languages. Almost a million per each of them. Then I heard that UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) predicted the disappearance of almost half of those languages during this centur

What I failed to find out is how many languages existed on Earth, say, 500 years ago, and how much their number has decreased since Europe set out to colonize the world. Europe-led colonization brought about destruction of whole cultures. We’ll never know, for instance, how the Cuban Tainos, or the first inhabitants of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico or Jamaica spoke or sang, or how they did it elsewhere in the Caribbean. The conquistadores’ brutality and their technological strength was aimed at finding gold to pay tribute to European powers, a fact equally valid for America, Africa or Asia.

These attempts at colonization and exploitation those from the North try to extend through other ways have been central to the vanishing of languages, so UNESCO’s concern is fully justified. However, we would have to expand a little the reasons why an original language dies between two place

There is this statement by the UN entity in a report entitled “Toward Knowledge Societies,” which states that language extinction is being caused by the popularization of the Internet. On the Internet, three out of every four pages is written in English, a proportion detrimental to other languages, at least to the most important ones, because some languages are hardly used on the Internet. Enter the power factor: it was invented in the United States, whose government has in it hands the power to control cyberspace networks.

In this connection, UNESCO believes the languages spoken by African tribes are in danger of vanishing, considering that in the next 100 years almost nine out of ten could fade away for lack of use.

How many original American languages still exist or survive the great slaughter of westbound expansion?

It is important to bear in mind that some languages spoken by a number of American ethnic groups, quite reduced by now, are facing a similar risk and thus could be crushed by the advance of so-called “civilization” through their territories in tandem with an avalanche of conquerors seeking for new lands. How many original American languages still exist or survive the great slaughter of westbound expansion?

The Internet’s problem has a certain, if not absolute, value when one wonders: what’s the rate of Latin America’s population with access to the Internet? And in Africa? As if all Filipinos, Indonesians and other people from the Pacific islands and Asian countries had a computer at hom

Many of them don’t even know what an ordinary telephone is, much less the Internet, not to mention the latest generations of cell phones with built-in cameras and TV screen

English language preponderance sprouts, of course, from the economic and military development of countries such as the United States and Great Britain – mainly from Washington’s power and other nations with languages as uncommon as Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, etc., are forced to use English to make themselves understoo

Only 11 per cent of the world population’s today have Internet access, and 90 per cent of its users live in the rich countries. Much remains to be done in the Third World, mainly in Africa, before cyberspace can be deemed truly globalized.

The “digital gap”, therefore, is nothing but a reflection of the gap existing in the command of knowledge, the abyss between opulence and misery, between development and underdevelopment, which must be bridged so that our Earth becomes a little more equitable and humane.

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Disinformation on role of armed forces – putting armed troops in the streets

(February 28, 2006) – TML DENOUNCES the disinformation of the ruling circles concerning the role of the armed forces, designed to make Canadians passive in the face of a dangerous situation. It must not pass!

For instance, a great deal of outrage was expressed during the federal election about the Liberal attack ad – subsequently not aired – which said Stephen Harper would put armed troops in the streets of Canadian cities. A media barrage was launched stressing the “un-Canadianness” of not only the possibility that the Canadian military would occupy the streets, but the “un-Canadianness” of even suggesting the idea. Following the election, Canadian Press quoted Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier – the same Hillier who used despicable jargon to advocate the Canadian military killing “scumbags” on the streets of Afghanistan – expressing his utter dismay about the ad.

Carrying the pretence that the military in Canada does not interfere in civilian matters such as elections, CP wrote that Hillier “kept mum during the campaign, but is speaking up now with the election over. He says he received hundreds of calls and e-mails from angry military personnel after the campaign ad was posted on the Liberal party website. He says it was an insult to the men and women of the Forces. He points out that there are uniformed men and women in the military working and living in cities and communities across the country.”

After all this noise came the announcement that beginning April 30, the Canadian armed forces will be conducting a week-long, large-scale urban warfare exercise in downtown Winnipeg code-named Operation Charging Bison. Similar urban warfare exercises have been conducted before in various places and put the lie to the nonsense that the armed forces would not occupy Canadian cities as such exercises prepare them to do just that.

In this issue, TML is posting an article from the Winnipeg Free Press titled “Army to Occupy Downtown: Spring Exercise to Turn City into ‘Battleground’.” Activists in Winnipeg are planning actions against the city’s occupation.

Army to occupy downtown: Spring exercise to turn city into ‘battleground’

– David O’Brien, Winnipeg Free Press, December 27, 2005 –

MORE THAN 500 ARMY TROOPS, backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and artillery, will turn downtown Winnipeg into an armed camp as part of a military exercise to train soldiers for the modern battlefield.

Exercise Charging Bison will unfold for seven days and nights beginning April 30 next year in what is believed to be the largest urban warfare training exercise of its kind ever held in Canada.

There won’t be live ammunition, but there will be laser weapons and a variety of blanks and ‘simunition’ – or simulated munitions – that make noise and smoke or discharge harmless projectiles.

The drill is designed to simulate the kind of complex conditions soldiers would encounter in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where conventional warfare is conducted simultaneously with humanitarian relief operations and nation-building, said Col. Kelly Woiden, commander of 38 Brigade.

Urban battlefields are sometimes known as “three-block wars” because troops could help people on one block, fight insurgents on another, and guard convoys on another, Woiden explained.

“We’re going to create a realistic environment of the situation that individual soldiers can face today,” he said. “You could be doing humanitarian relief one moment and then fighting a war the next. It is the most complicated terrain for a soldier.”

The operation is also part of a long-term plan to prepare 200 of the brigade’s soldiers to support a 1,000-person task force in 2008, if necessary, he said.

The 38 Brigade is a reserve unit responsible for a dozen formations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

It will provide most of the personnel for the exercise, although some will come from British Columbia and Alberta, and possibly from the United States, Woiden said, adding 17 Wing will also provide logistics support.

About 100 police officers and civilians will be given a role in the exercise, either as opposing forces or relief organizations.

The military may also recruit drama students from the University of Manitoba to play the roles of demonstrators or insurgents.

“The purpose is to learn and we may rerun the same scenario several times,” Woiden said.

The operation will occupy a large swath of downtown Winnipeg from Balmoral Street on the west, south to the Assiniboine River, north to the CP Rail tracks and east into The Forks and St. Boniface.

Woiden said the exercise is still in the planning stages and the boundaries could change.

A base camp will be established on the western edge of the city, but there will be smaller camps downtown, he said.

The exercise will continue night and day, but Woiden said he did not anticipate any significant disruption of traffic or commercial operations.

Military observers will keep score and determine who was killed and who was wounded during the exercise.

“This is different than traditional training when the infantry were facing open ground in front of them, with soldiers in a different uniform,” Woiden said. “This is much more complex because we don’t know who the enemy is or where the threats are.”

Reserve units have been used in the past to fill out the ranks of the regular force, but Woiden said the military now wants the militia trained to higher level of combat readiness.

TML Daily, February 28, 2006 – No. 25

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