Why Over 1.5 Million People Per Month Have Been Renouncing Affiliation With The Chinese Communist Party

Why over 1.5 million people a month have been renouncing affiliation with Chinese Communist Party
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Over 1.5 million people a month — almost 195 million people to date — have renounced their links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since the Tuidang Movement (in mandarin Chinese Tuidang means ‘withdraw from the party’) was founded in January 2005, spurred by the publication of the ‘Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party’, an editorial series run by the Epoch Times, a Chinese language newspaper based in the United States.

The Nine Commentaries seeks to give a historical account and critique of the Communist Party, its ideologies, its practices, its effects on China’s culture and values and what it has meant for the ordinary lives of Chinese citizens. The Nine Commentaries may be for many Chinese the only alternative to China’s authorities’ own account of major historical events, such as the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. And while the series does not directly call for the end of the CCP, in its ninth of the Nine Commentaries it calls on people to distance themselves from the party.

As soon as the series was run in November 2004, statements of withdrawal from the CCP began to arrive at the offices of the Epoch Times, which led a group of volunteers to officially start the Tuidang movement in January 2005. According to David Tompkins, Director of Public Relations at the Tuidang Centre in New York, many Chinese had been harbouring a desire to renounce their ties to the CCP for a long time, and reading the Nine Commentaries gave them the encouragement and the opportunity to follow it through.

The movement relies on a global network of volunteers operating within most places in which a Chinese community is present. However it is in China that the movement is most active, with some several hundred thousand volunteers, often acting alone, unable to communicate with one another, and at great personal risk. Indeed, research by the Tuidang Centre showed that of the 100 million statements of withdrawals received by 2011, around 99 percent came from China. While Tomkins acknowledges that such percentage may not be quite so high now, he thinks the ratio is still not far off.

‘Tuidang’ literally means ‘to withdraw from the party’, but effectively it means to renounce the CCP ideology and to symbolically take back the oath given to the party either through the Young Pioneers, the Communist Youth League, or the CCP proper.  And while official sources put CCP membership in China at around 85 million, party ideology permeates much more of Chinese society, with some 700 million Chinese estimated to have taken the oath through either of these organisations at some point in their lives.

Tuidang is more than just symbolically taking back the oath however, as Tompkins explains. The movement wants to empower people to think for themselves once again, to hold beliefs that are not prescribed and to look at the party more critically, while also seeking to reconnect Chinese people with the traditional value systems of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, belief systems which the party treats as enemy of the state.  Such intellectual and ethics freedom, which people in the West take for granted, has been systematically opposed since the CCP came into power, through censorship, persecution, imprisonment, torture or killing of those who don’t toe the party line.

The CCP has to date failed to issue an official party response to the Tuidang Movement, as this would acknowledge the threat that it poses. Yet responded it has. Terms like ‘Tuidang’ and ‘Nine Commentaries’ are highly censored in internet searches, and media outlets reporting on Tuidang risk immediate closure, such as the case of Jinzhou News. On 27 September 2009, with the 60th Anniversary of the CCP only a few days away, the paper published on its front page a photo of red flags and banners. Down in the left corner the photo also showed a bike rack with a message written on it encouraging people to leave the party. As soon as the issue was released, the newspaper was shut down and all copies withdrawn from circulation.

Internet and media censorship aside, other government measures to counteract threats to its power include: an increased domestic security budget – the courts, policing, the prosecutor’s office; party members recruitment, and more than a whiff of Mao propaganda, such as the ‘singing red songs’ campaign, during which people were invited or coerced into singing CCP slogans at public events.

Yet, despite government repression, momentum has been steadily growing within the Tuidang movement, and some 120 thousand statements of withdrawal are currently reaching the Tuidang Centre in New York daily.

The cause has no doubt been helped by high profile cases, such as that of Zhisheng Gao. Gao is a much respected human rights lawyer who spent half of his career practicing pro-bono for the poorest in China, and was one of the first lawyers to take on Falun Gong cases. He has endured repeated  imprisonment and torture for its human rights work, and is currently under house arrest and unable to communicate freely with his family.

Accounts of imprisonments and torture at the hands of the Chinese government’s domestic security apparatus are as numerous as they are harrowing.  Like that of Zhiming Hu, a 28-year-old electronics engineer and a major officer in the Chinese air force, whose experience almost cost him his life.

At 2 a.m. on the 4th October 2000, members of the National Security Bureau knocked, under a false pretext, on Zhiming Hu’s door at the Shanghai hotel in which he had been staying. They rushed in, arrested him and took him away, alleging that he was a spy.  Hu was taken to Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai. Right from the start he suffered mental and physical torture at the hands of prison guards and inmates alike. For the first three weeks he was interrogated constantly and beaten, his hands and waist handcuffed together as he refused to recite the prison regulations and to wear inmates’ clothes.

A whole year went by before the authorities appointed him a lawyer at the beginning of court proceedings, and on 14th September 2001 Hu was finally sentenced by the Pudong District Court to four years in prison for “teaching others to browse the minghui.org website” – a Falun Gong website.

Hu’s four year sentence was spent between detention centres and prison hospitals.  After his sentencing, he was put into a three square meter cell where he remained for two years, enduring many more beatings and torture. Towards the end of its sentence, in August 2004, the authorities became more heavy-handed, instigating beatings and depriving Hu of sleep. He started a hunger strike in protest.

One day, as he laid unconscious, he was taken to the prison hospital where his legs, arms and body were tightly bound to the bed.  There he was forced-fed, and for three weeks injected with drugs of unknown therapeutic benefit, which gave him pounding headaches that lasted for hours. He remained in hospital, bound to the bed, for 40 days until his sentence had expired. Unable to move as a result of the binding, his parents came to collect him and had to carry him home.  It was the 3rd October 2004.

It was not to be the end of Hu’s ordeal.

One year later, on the evening of the 23rd September 2005, as he was distributing DVD copies of the ‘Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party’ on the streets of Beijing, Hu was apprehended by plain clothes police and taken to Haidian District Detention Centre in Beijing.  Just like before, he had no contact with his family and just like before the authorities appointed his lawyer only shortly before the trial some seven months later, when Hu was given 30 minutes to talk with him. At the trial, on 26th April 2006, he was sentenced to another four years in prison.

Zhiming Hu
Zhiming Hu


Hu recounts how this time he was treated even worse, so that on 13th May 2006 he started a hunger strike to protest his unlawful detention and inhumane conditions. After five days he was sent to a hospital where a series of physical examinations began, with many blood samples taken during which he reckons unnecessary pain was deliberately inflicted upon him. The tests continued back at the detention centre where he would be given daily injections, and was closely watched twelve hours a day, before been sent back to the hospital on May 24th, where for the following five months his feet were chained to the bed.

To try to make him give up his hunger strike prison officers and doctors would beam bright lights into Hu’s eyes, force-feed him daily, and let him lay in his own excrement for long periods of time. Hu recounts how once an over one meter long tube was inserted through his nose into his stomach. As he complained to the medical staff that the procedure disregarded the maximum allowance of 0.5 meter for such procedures, they quickly removed the tube, causing severe pain and internal bleeding that lasted longer than a month.

Unsuccessful in getting Hu to resume eating, doctors started reducing his force-feeding and moved him to a contagious diseases ward, the same ward where he recalls other fellow Falun Gong practitioners, some of whom had later died, had also previously been sent to.  Five months later, with a body weight of 40kg, down from 60kg, Hu’s health had seriously deteriorated.

In September 2006 when the authorities belatedly asked him to sign his verdict, Hu refused. By October Hu got worse, and fearing he may die, the prison staff increased monitoring during the day and woke him up every two hour at night, before sending him to the Tuanhe Detainee Transfer Centre, where he was refused on the basis of his poor health.

Back to the detention centre and now supposed to be transferred to the City Prison hospital, the guard responsible for his transfer, tired and reluctant to take him, decided to kick Hu’s legs until they were numb. The next day, an electromyography examination found that Hu’s leg muscles had severe atrophy and that his legs nerves had suffered physical damage, probably due to a combination of his bed-chaining for months, as well as the kicking he suffered.

On 2nd November 2006 Hu Was transferred to the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province.  Body covered in festers, force-feeding was resumed. By now Hu was lingering between life and death and his parents hoped he could be bailed out, but the prison refused. Three more years imprisonment followed, during which Hu was bed-bound, except when using a wheelchair to visit the toilet. More torture by police officers, harassment by inmates, and dubious medical procedures ensued.

Body weak and severely malnourished, legs stiff with muscular atrophy and nerve damage, Hu’s health continued to deteriorate. On 22nd September 2009, afraid of the consequences of his possibly imminent death, the prison hurriedly shifted its duty to its local police station and residential committee, who in turn also hurriedly sent Hu back home to his parents, barely alive.

With the help of Falun Gong exercises Hu gradually recovered and started to regain mobility in his legs, and two months later he was able to stand and to walk again, although the damage to his nerves meant that he could only do so backwards.

On 4th February 2010 after Hu was seen once again walking outside, four members of local 610 Office – a national office formed for persecution of Falun Gong practitioners – and the residential committee broke into Hu’s house.  Hu was lucky not to be home at the time, however his parents were warned not to let him go outside again, and to report any of Hu’s activities to them.  Hu realised that he would not be safe in China.

Two weeks later, during the Chinese Spring Festival on 17th February 2010, Hu left his house without telling a soul. He caught a train to the Unan province and then a seven hour bus ride to the Vietnam border. There he was lucky to find someone who smuggled him across the border into Vietnam. Two weeks later he reached Cambodia and on 1st March 2010 he made it into Thailand, where he was granted political asylum and remained for two years. Then, on 2nd August 2012 Hu joined his brother in the US.

Having almost completely healed from his disability, Hu now lives in New York where he works as a software engineer. His father and two brothers remain in China. He speaks with them regularly, and although their conversations are tapped, his family back home are no longer subjected to harassment.

Hu counts himself lucky. Lucky that he survived what other fellow Falun Gong practitioners did not, such as Litian Zhang who on 17th November 2008 was beaten to death in JinZhou prison.

Hu’s faith in Falun Gong is what got him incarcerated in the first place, but he says it is also what ultimately kept him alive throughout his ordeal.  Outside the prison walls Hu’s brother campaigned US Congress and wrote letters to the UN Human Rights Commission. And, aided by a Falun Gong’s campaign through which the personal telephone numbers of prison officers involved in torturing Falun Gong’s practitioners were published, he kept phoning the prison staff who were mistreating Hu, asking them to stop persecuting him.

Such activities may not have achieved Hu’s early release from prison, but they did put pressures on the authorities, and highlight the tenacity of Hu’s family and human rights campaigners in their fight against violent repression of dissent. Such tenacity can be a powerful weapon as the Chinese government are all too aware.

Why over 1.5 million people a month have been renouncing affiliation with Chinese Communist Party
A Tuidang demonstration in Taipei


Momentum has been steadily rising within the Tuidang movement. Thanks to a network of courageous volunteers in China, and the world, a growing number of Chinese people can look more critically at, and challenge the party who rules them.

Yet the story of Hu, and of too many others like him, shows that regardless of its more liberal economy and an apparent softening stance in its international relations, persecution, torture and killing are still China’s policies of choice in dealing with domestic threats to its rule.

Tompkins argues that while many Chinese now enjoy greater wealth, being able to afford mobile phones does not make up for all the basic freedoms that they are still deprived of.  What they think, what they believe, what they say, who they associate themselves with, whether they can have a child or the decision when to marry, are all still ruled by the state in China.  Western governments, businesses and consumers could do a lot more to ensure that such basic freedoms are promoted in China.

A view much echoed by Teng Biao, a Human Rights lawyer and a visiting fellow at Harvard University Law School, Biao had his lawyer’s license revoked in China, was expelled from his university and was kidnapped and disappeared several times.  Biao said:  “…Sycophants inside and outside China are able to imagine a ‘spring for rule of law’ that doesn’t exist while ignoring human rights disasters suffered by Ilham Tohti, Xu Zhiyong, Cao Shunli, Gao Zhisheng, Uighurs, Tibetans, petitioners, Falun Gong adherents, and house churches… this type of seemingly even-handed wishful thinking has become the excuse for Western governments to adopt short-sighted policies of appeasement in dealing with autocratic regimes and for favouring trade over human rights.”

Indeed, repression costs money and flourishing exports receipts underpin the Chinese government ability to silence its opposition at home, but also give it leverage in international negotiations, not only in the geopolitical arena, but ironically in Human Rights debates.

On asking about what it will mean for the organisation to hit 200 million withdrawal statements, Tompkins admits that they still have a long way to go, but that it is nevertheless a milestone and an opportunity to get more people aware of and involved in the movement, particularly in the West.

It is a long way to a free and democratic China, and much still is to be done by the Tuidang and other human rights movements, and by ordinary citizens turned activists, like Zhiming Hu, whose actions are nothing short of the heroic. Yet according to Hu and Tompkins, over the ten years since the movement started a mood change has been palpable, with more and more Chinese people denouncing their government’s corruption and violence towards its very own citizens. Both are unanimous in also saying that for it to succeed this battle is not for China alone.

By Annalisa Dorigo

An Israeli soldier writes: The Judean hills are burning

An Israeli soldier writes: The Judean hills are burning
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In this enthralling account of the streets of the Holy Land, written by the hand of an Israeli Defense Forces soldier who took part in the most recent war in Gaza, we are provided with a visceral and beautiful account of the land and conflict at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. 


The Judean hills are burning. The hills spotted with lichen-encrusted boulders, the odd olive tree daring to grow on slopes so steep even the goats rarely climb them; the ancient stone terraces and the small farms and villages dotting the landscape are ablaze. A smoky haze lies over the earth there, carrying with it the stench of burning rubber and trash from the Arab villages. Even tourists can easily tell the Arab villages from the Jewish ones; the Arab ones are drab concrete, utilitarian, lacking glass in the windows for the most part, except for the mansions higher up on the hills, which wouldn’t look out of place in Greenwich CT, as opposed to the Jewish villages and towns which are full of date palms and flowers, beautiful homes with red roofs and strong walls. The other way to tell is the gates. The Arab villages have a sign in front in Hebrew, Arabic and English stating that the area is extremely dangerous and you are risking your life by entering, therefore entrance is illegal for Israeli citizens. The Jewish villages have strong gates, two layers of fences with barbed wire, and armed guards. In the Jewish villages, the air is clear and clean, as high as a thousand meters above sea level, the wind easily whistles through clothes, but there are playgrounds for the children, synagogues, community centers, sports centers, outdoor gyms free of charge, and many even have their own fire departments and ambulances. The Arab villages are choked with black and blue smoke, partially from the Arab custom of burning trash in order to dispose of it, and partially from the riots.

As part of their resistance to Jewish “occupation” Arab villages and towns regularly stage riots. These are not demonstrations or protests, but violent attacks. There are no slogans chanted, no demands, and no goals other than to cause damage and attract attention. Young men from the villages carry out the riots. The youths are usually free because there are not enough jobs in the Arab villages, and complications with entering Israel via proper checkpoints prevent many from gaining employment, leading to general unrest and discontent. Every Friday there is the standard riot, which varies by village; however in general youths anywhere from 12-25 flock to certain areas to congregate in groups of up to 300 in order to present more of a threat. In these situations the police force and the army both handle the riot and are quite used to them. They are standard, we know what to expect, and how long it will last, when the Arabs break for prayers and lunch. We even know who brings the lunch!

What is happening now is different. There are many smaller riots, which start randomly more or less. Often organized by text messages or whatsapp groups, these are almost like flashmobs in that they start so quickly. Generally, the first step for them is to pour some gasoline over a few old tires, light them on fire, and roll them towards the soldiers. Of course, they won’t reach the soldiers, but they make for good photographs, as the thick black smoke from the tires dramatizes the scene. Once the tires have been lit, the riot can begin. The youths (all male of course) begin shouting, but they are not shouting things like “Free Palestine” or “End the Occupation.” They are shouting obscene things about the soldiers’ mothers and sisters, mixed with threats to rape said mothers and sisters. The soldiers, knowing what is coming, get thick, strong riot shields. The rocks start flying. Rock throwing is apparently an honored Palestinian childhood pastime. They enjoy dropping boulders on passing cars from cliffs, causing crashes and not a few deaths, throwing rocks at passing cars, once again causing crashes and not a few deaths, throwing rocks from a moving car as it passes another car, exponentially increasing the speed and power, and most frequently, throwing rocks at soldiers. Normally, a thrown rock at a soldier isn’t that much of an issue. Most Palestinians are not professional baseball pitchers, and so with a shield and good reflexes it is fairly easy to avoid a rock thrown by hand. The Palestinians have of course realized this and begun using slings in order to increase the speed of a launched stone to the point where it is barely visible. Anyone who knows basic physics knows that speed is far more important than mass when it comes to calculating energy, and so an increase in speed means a massive increase in damage if the rocks hit (interesting anecdote, I actually had a fractured tailbone from being hit with a rock in a riot… very unpleasant I must say).

If the soldiers were to leave the area in order to escape the danger from the rocks, the Palestinians would move on and throw rocks at passing cars, endangering both Arab and Israeli civilians (note that this is not conjecture, but proven to happen nearly every time). Therefore, they must disperse this riot, this danger to themselves and to civilians. However, the IDF operates on a humane basis and has extremely strict rules on morality and the use of all force, especially deadly force. Therefore, soldiers in those areas use riot control weapons such as rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, and CS gas. These are less than lethal options in order to end the confrontation without anyone being seriously hurt. Unfortunately rioting is an old tradition among these communities, and so they have developed ways to escape the effects of tear gas and have learned to deal with rubber bullets. The conflict continues and continues and all throughout, the Palestinians scream threats and promises of pain while the soldiers remain mostly quiet. There is usually a prayer break every so often, during which the women of the village bring snacks and refreshments, and also extra rocks that they have collected in the days prior to the current riot. The army must respect these prayer breaks because not respecting them would be breaking the IDF code of conduct instructing soldiers to respect the religions and beliefs of others. When the rioters are finished praying, they begin the riot again with renewed energy and determination and then slowly trickle away, leaving the hard core of ten or so older boys, one of whom is usually arrested, held for 24-48 hours on charges of assaulting a soldier/police officer, and promptly released without charge. If a civilian or soldier is injured badly, the one arrested can face up to a week in jail. Upon the release of one of these criminals, there is usually a riot in that village to celebrate. They stage a riot to celebrate. That right there tells us a great deal about the mentality and about how much they truly understand. These riots are not protests; they are not attempts to change the allegedly dismal situation they perceive themselves to be in. These riots are excuses for boys to let off steam and try to make themselves feel better by hurting others. The situation is akin to a small peasant seeing a massive, mighty dragon sleeping peacefully and attacking it out of boredom, knowing that his efforts are completely futile and he will never win. The peasant is too narrow minded, frightened and ambitious to see that the dragon could be reasoned with, or even just left to slumber.

By Josh Green

Josh Green is currently serving as a combat soldier in the IDF, and was active during the most recent war in Gaza.

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans’ Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style (7)
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Photography by Lisa Lozano

New Orleans’ biggest gun buyback was held last weekend, and it was a party. Art curator and artist Kirsha Kaechele and others brought together the community–as well as artists, musicians and performers–to create a gun buyback block party event where hundreds of guns were bought back from anonymous community members by reverends singing gospel in an all velvet room to the sounds of a solo cellist. 

Kaechele, who has been close to the New Orleans community for years, told us about how the event, hosted in the Creole-roots “back of town” 8th Ward–an area where gun death statistics are on par with those during wars–went down New Orleans style. The street party included a beautifully choreographed opening ceremony by New Orleans Airlift with Mardi Gras Indians, Caramel Curves, custom cars and the best local rappers, all of whom are now collaborating on an album against gun violence.

Platinum rapper Mr. Serv On spoke on his involvement in the project: “I want kids that come from where I come from that don’t have a way out to see that their life is like my life, and music is the one thing that got me out- that was my freedom, that’s where my shackles came off. I was up to some bad things too but I found music. I want to give them a chance to win at life like someone gave me one”.

For a group of 8th Ward neighborhood girls, the Betty Squad Gumbo Dancers (pictured in purple and black), the street party was their first debut.

Kaechele also told us about how she came to the idea of holding a gun buyback in this way, about a friend whose life was cut short by gun violence and the influence of the Australian response to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre–a decision to buy back the entire country’s stockpile of guns–and how she decided to use private money to circumvent 2nd amendment issues, bridge the gap between libertarianism and the nanny state, make selling a gun more palatable for those in possession, and let the market promote peace.

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style (9)

Where did you get the idea to buy back guns? 

“I lived in New Orleans’ 8th Ward for many years and witnessed what felt like endless deaths of boys who hadn’t had a chance in life. Just as I was moving to Australia my good friend Rayshon was shot–he was 19 and an aspiring musician. I couldn’t believe it happened to him as he had no connection to gangs or the neighborhood’s cycles of honor killings.

“Then, living in Australia I saw no gun violence. After a major Tasmanian massacre in the 1990s the government decided to buy back the country’s entire stockpile of guns. Being American, and having some slight libertarian leanings, I found the nanny state approach distasteful, but at the same time, had to acknowledge it worked. So I found myself with one foot on each side of a great divide.

“On the one hand I believe in personal liberty and feel that gun ownership should be a choice. But on the other I see that America’s approach is not working, and the class system combined with our gun policy is allowing too many innocent boys to die just because they are born in the wrong neighborhood.

“Then I had a breakthrough: What if we use individual liberty and the free market to create gun control? By offering private money we circumvent 2nd amendment issues and let the market promote peace.”

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

“The key, it seemed to me, was to place the buyback in the center of a high violence area where it is accessible (to both those who choose to sell guns as well as those who steal them–theft is rampant in the neighborhood). It was also essential to have the trust of the neighborhood, which I felt well poised for as I’d lived in the 8th Ward for 10 years and have close ties to the community.

“To further the incentive for trading guns in I partnered with celebrity rappers to create a recording studio (Gun Metal Records) where the neighborhood can lay tracks with their heroes. If anyone can inspire a young man to turn his gun in it is a rapper.  That’s who they look up to. The rappers promoted the buyback through radio ads, billboards and fliers they distributed in nightclubs.”

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

How did you come to decide the best forum would be a “buy back party?” 

“Block parties are something New Orleanians do to mark every event.  It’s an integral part of the culture. I also felt that tying the buyback to a party would make the idea of selling your gun more palatable.  When you have all the best rappers and dancers and your favorite radio DJ out telling you to join the buyback it has greater appeal.  It also rallies the neighborhood around the idea that the killing has got to end.  I don’t expect gun violence to disappear, but a few young boys may be inspired to look down upon killing as a way of life.”

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

Is the buy back project a result of coming into contact with the environment you moved into in St Roch? Is this an example of life/work leads to a new environment leads to a new kind of art? 

“Absolutely! Living in the 8th Ward was one hundred percent my inspiration for this project, and in particular, losing Rayshon whom I thought would be my friend for life. Art is a reflection of our experience; in some practices it is our experience. Becoming part of the neighborhood ecology inspired me to use the biennial to shine light into the problem of youth mortality in the 8th Ward–and as I’ll later discuss, the problem of personal disenfranchisement in privileged white culture ;) I am not particularly political, in fact I have always hated political art. I’ve specifically noted in Life is Art writings how much I hate it, but what can I say? You become what you hate.    

“That being the case: I don’t think it is acceptable that we allow neighborhoods in America to languish like we do in St Roch. The gun death statistics there are the same as they are in war. And it is certainly not all about access to guns. We’ve really let our fellow Americans slip through the cracks in a way that more socially minded 1st world countries would never do. 

“That said, the community has an incredible resilience and bright vitality. The 8th Ward can teach us a lot about how to live as a connected, mutually supportive culture.  It is completely different from the modern American way where we have very little interaction with our neighbors. In this way, coming to the 8th Ward and witnessing the close ties in the community is incredible. Simply witnessing this was a highlight of the Biennial.”

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

How did the buy back party go? Could you describe it from the perspective of an art viewer?

“The block party was touching and awe-inspiring. There was a very warm, amplified energy with all the neighbors out for a common cause. I think the art viewers were a little blown away by the power of the culture. You had Mardi Gras Indians, Caramel Curves, a custom car show, performing horse riders, the best local rappers, dance troupes–all the highlights of New Orleans’ culture. New Orleans Airlift, a group of local artists and curators, did a beautiful job choreographing the opening ceremony.  I think out of town visitors were overwhelmed.  Many approached with tears in their eyes saying they had never seen anything like it. I’m glad we got to share a little of what New Orleans has to offer with the high art world. It also felt satisfying and a little subversive to highlight what is already here, as opposed to the usual biennial approach of bringing famous international artists into an environment. (That said we also showed several international artists through performance, our billboards advertising the buyback, and The Embassy interior. They were all really touched by the collaboration with local artists.)” 

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

The buyback

“The buyback itself was magical. There was a line around the block of very nervous, agitated people. But as soon as they entered the room they grew hushed.  It was very quiet and dark with lights only on the piles of guns and a sculpture (by Louise Riley). In the back of the all-velvet room a solo cellist played softly and beautifully.  There was a sense of ceremony and reverence around the whole experience. Those trading in their guns became part of the piece; some sellers lingered, mesmerized by it all.  We received 500 guns. I personally took in several assault weapons which was disturbing but also moving. 

Art Embassy Hosts New Orleans' Biggest Gun Buyback in Style

“People wanted to share the stories of their guns. Many wives and girlfriends came on behalf of their partners, or to get rid of a gun that belonged to their dead partner.  By 4 p.m. the reverends accepting the guns were exhausted–I hired one of their gospel singers to perform just to keep them going (they all joined in singing and clapping) and we closed at 5–still with half the cash (!) ready for round 2.”

Kirsha Kechele at The Speaker
Kirsha Kaechele

Kirsha Kaechele is an art curator and artist, and is the founder of Life is Art Foundation/KKProjects, an art space composed of six abandoned houses in the St Roch neighborhood, and The Embassy, a living installation in the 8th Ward of New Orleans.

The Embassy is a collaboration of artists, rappers and reverends for the purpose of inspiring the hearts and minds of New Orleans youth, to celebrate the vitality and creativity of the community and broach the tragedy of youth mortality through gun violence.

The Embassy’s gun buyback project is the biggest buyback in New Orleans history.
The Embassy provides $100,000 solely for puchasing guns from sellers who remain anonymous. The guns are later destroyed by the Police Department, witnessed by the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish Gun Buyback Committee (GNOJPGBC).


Additional Photography: NEWSCORP


Is It a Fake? FAEI’s Dr. Anheuser Explains Art Forgeries

Is It a Fake Dr. Anhauser Explains Art Forgeries
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Have you ever wondered about fake art and the authenticators who can tell the difference between real and fake?

In this article, world-renowned art authenticator Dr Kilian Anheuser of Geneva’s Fine Arts Expert Institute (FAEI) explains the problem of art fakes in the $60bn yearly art market, what types of paintings are more often forged or faked, the fate of paintings that cannot be authenticated, the ongoing duel between art faker and art authenticator, and the means and methods by which authenticators discover whether a painting is real or not.

Some of this information may surprise you–the questions are not as simple as they might at first seem.


Fakes are certainly a major problem for the art market today, but the real issues cannot be reduced to a simple question like “Is it a fake or not?”

Most paintings have undergone considerable changes during successive cleaning and conservation campaigns which are perfectly normal even for late 19th/early 20th century “modern” art, now already more than a hundred years old.

Is It a Fake Dr. Anhauser Explains Art Forgeries (4)Any earlier paintings, such as the old masters with extremely high market values, you will never ever find in their original state. Some of these, discovered in very poor condition, would effectively be re-painted by a skilled conservator on their original support, with just traces of the original paint layer remaining.

Should this be called a fake or an example of outstanding restoration?

Anyway, we feel a potential buyer ought to know what exactly he will get for his money.

With the old masters there is also the issue of historic copies–often of high quality and by skilled period artists–or multiple workshop copies. Pre-modern workshops were enterprises with apprentices and employees, not studios where an inspired artist worked on his own. Art historians know about these issues, many investors in art do not.

Is It a Fake Dr. Anhauser Explains Art Forgeries (1)
Dr Anheuser at work

There are of course outright fakes.

We get to see many of them, and we are certainly more aware of the situation than many others. Money always attracts shady characters, and there is plenty of money in the art market. It is difficult to set a starting point. Ten years ago or twenty, whatever, but the trend is clear and will continue for as long as there is money to be made. At present, only a small minority of collectors, art dealers and investors protect themselves through a proper scientific expertise before a purchase. All too often in the past, and often enough still at present, a painting on which doubts have been cast will simply be sold on to someone unaware or willing to take a gamble. Otherwise, if the authenticity of a work of art is never questioned because for all parties concerned it is convenient not to know, the painting will retain its market value, be it fake or genuine. Such are the economics of the art market.

Money is the incentive for most art forgeries.

Is It a Fake Dr. Anhauser Explains Art ForgeriesOther motivations such as personal revenge are relatively rare. This means that for a forger or an unscrupulous restorer the ratio between effort and prospective gain must remain interesting. Old masters with their sophisticated painting techniques and historic materials difficult to obtain are relatively rarely outright fakes. In this sector you’d rather find concealed restorations to “improve” the looks of a painting, or to get a prestigious attribution accepted.

Modern art is more likely to be faked outright.

Yes, forgers do know about scientific techniques and historic working practices. Never underestimate your opponents. Most (exept for those who simply cannot be bothered as someone is always likely to buy their painting eyes shut because they cannot resist a tempting bargain) do try to avoid beginner’s mistakes as far as pigments are concerned, and they would also focus for example on lesser known artists who still sell for good money but where a potential buyer is less likely to demand a sound scientific expertise than for a premium painting.

A serious scientific authentification laboratory does not simply carry out isolated tests.

What we and also our colleagues in museum laboratories and elsewhere do is to look for inconsistencies between materials, techniques and known workshop practices. Even if physico-chemical analysis brings up no anachronistic elements as such, meaning that in principle all the materials and techniques were available and in use at the time in question, the painting techniques and materals may still not match what is known about a painter’s working habits, known from historic sources or other technological studies. To make the most of the analytical results, these cannot therefore be interpreted in isolation but must always be discussed in their historic and art historical context.

Is It a Fake Dr. Anhauser Explains Art Forgeries (5)Herein lies the difference between a typical university scientist competent in the use of his analytical methods who may come up with a correct analytical result but will be unable to tell you more, and a specialized paintings authentication laboratory who will know the crucial questions to be asked, and who will be able to interpret the results to work out the answers.

These laboratories bring together different competences such as conservation scientists, technical art historians and conservators, each of whom is able to contribute complementing observations from their own specialty background. At FAEI, for example, we are a scientific team of two chemists-cum-art historians, each with some 20 years experience in the scientific analysis of works of art, an imaging specialist and a qualified paintings conservator. Similar competences can be found in museum laboratories (most countries have at least one major museum equipped with a scientific laboratory, in the UK for paintings this would be for example the National Gallery in London, in the US there are several such as the Chicago Institute of Art, the National Gallery in Washington DC, or the Getty Conservation Institute in L.A.). However, these would not normally take on work for private clients, which is where laboratories like ours come in, providing services to collectors, art dealers, investors, and also to public institutions.

By Dr Kilian Anheuser

Photos: Kilian Anheuser

Pennsylvania Releases Information About Fracking Contamination for First Time: 243 Cases of Private Drinking Water Contamination Revealed

Pennsylvania Releases Information About Fracking Contamination for First Time 243 Cases of Private Drinking Water Contamination Revealed
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The state of Pennsylvania has made its first admission that oil and gas drilling operations in the state have been contaminating private drinking wells for years. The state made public 243 cases of contamination in 22 counties which had remained unreported since 2008–the first year of the Marcellus shale play boom.

“This is something that should have been made public a long time ago,” said the Pennsylvania Sierra Club chapter member, Thomas Au.

The release of information came after years of requests by news agencies such as the AP under the Freedom of Information Act
and by groups filing lawsuits.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection posted details about the 243 cases online Thursday. The agency said that it had conducted a “thorough review” of its paper files.

The DEP did not immediately issue a statement with the information release.

The earliest cases released by the DEP were from 2008–six years ago. Cases from the current year were also released.

Problems detailed included methane gas contamination, wastewater spills and other pollutants, and dry or undrinkable wells.

Although some of the problems were reported to have been temporary, landowners names were redacted, so information about whether the problems were resolved was not available.

Earlier this year, the state admitted that it had received hundreds of complaints regarding fracking-related water issues in 2012 and 2013, but had not released details.

Last month, the state’s auditor general Eugene DePasquale, reported that the DEP’s system of handling complaints was “woefully inadequate.” The auditor general said that the DEP could not even determine whether all complaints had been entered into a reporting system. DePasqualel made 29 recommendations for improvement.

DePasquale said at the time that the state’s sudden, extremely profitable Marcellus boom had “caught the Department of marcellus shale mapEnvironmental Protection unprepared to effectively administer laws and regulations to protect drinking water and unable to efficiently respond to citizen complaints.”

Pennsylvania is currently six years into a natural gas boom. The Marcellus Shale play lies under West Virginia, New York and Ohio, in addition to Pennsylvania. The boom took off in 2008 and has seen the Marcellus become the most productive natural gas field in the US. More than 6,000 shale gas wells have been drilled in the Marcellus, generating billions of dollars in revenue.

By Sid Douglas

Teleportation Accomplished by Netherlands Physicists

Teleportation Accomplished by Netherlands Physicists (4)
Micro chip pedestal

Physicists at Delft University, Netherlands have teleported information. The teleportation took place over a distance of three meters (10 feet), and used a procedure called quantum entanglement. The team achieved this teleportation with 100 percent reliability and without altering the pieces of matter. Teleportation of this nature has never been accomplished before outside of fiction.

Teleportation Accomplished by Netherlands Physicists (6)
Optical element forest

The Delft team transported the information contained in one qubit to another qubit three meters away. The team accomplished this by trapping electrons in diamonds at very low temperatures, set upon and wired to microchip pedestals and surrounded by a forest of optical elements. The team then shot lasers–which were guided through the optical elements–at the diamonds to create cubits within the diamonds. The cold diamonds served as prisons for the qubits. The researchers then caused a spin state in one qubit, and recorded a correlating alteration of the spin state in the qubits contained in the second diamond. The team recorded the spin states by placing low-temperature microscopes near the diamonds.

Teleportation Accomplished by Netherlands Physicists (2)
Ronald Hanson

“We use diamonds because ‘mini prisons’ for electrons are formed in this material whenever a nitrogen atom is located in the position of one of the carbon atoms,” said lead researcher for the project Ronald Hanson. “The fact that we’re able to view these miniature prisons individually makes it possible for us to study and verify an individual electron and even a single atomic nucleus. We’re able to set the spin [rotational direction] of these particles in a predetermined state, verify this spin and subsequently read out the data. We do all this in a material that can be used to make chips out of. This is important as many believe that only chip-based systems can be scaled up to a practical technology.”

Phrased according to the report, the team “prepar[ed] the teleporter through photon-mediated heralded entanglement between two distant electron spins and subsequently encode[d] the source qubit in a single nuclear spin.”

The report, “Unconditional quantum teleportation between distant solid-state qubits,” was completed by Delft’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience’s W. Pfaff, B. Hensen, H. Bernien, S. B. van Dam, M. S. Blok, T. H. Taminiau, M. J. Tiggelman, R. N., Schouten, M. Markham, D. J. Twitchen, R. Hanson, and was published in Science Magazine.

Teleportation in fiction usually refers to a means of moving an object from one location to another without having to travel through the intervening space. Such teleportation is considered impossible according to the laws of physics In the Delft University report, an object is not transported, but a piece of information is. The Delft team transported the state of one electron to another without traversing the intermediate space–teleportation.

Teleportation Accomplished by Netherlands Physicists (3)
Small register of quantum bits under each dome

A qubit is a mechanical system, not a material. A qubit is composed of two states. For example, a photon–a single piece of light, is not a qubit–it is a particle of energy–but the process of polarizing a photon–making it rotate–is a qubit.

What is meant by quantum teleportation of a qubit is a process whereby the information of the qubit–its exact state –is transmitted from one to another qubit. How the information is transmitted through space is known as quantum entanglement.

Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which the quantum state of two particles cannot be described independently–instead, the quantum state refers to the system as a whole. Any changes to one qubit create corresponding changes in the other qubit.

ScreenHunter_295 Jun. 22 11.09Entanglement works to transport information, physicists believe, because of an unexplained interconnectedness between two particles. Distance is irrelevant, even across light-years.

“Entanglement is arguably the strangest and most intriguing consequence of the laws of quantum mechanics,” stated Hanson. “When two particles become entangled, their identities merge: their collective state is precisely determined but the individual identity of each of the particles has disappeared.”

The science of quantum information has faced the challenge of transferring quantum information between locations. Prior to the Delft study, an enormous error rate burdened this field of science in attempts to use entanglement to teleport information.

“The unique thing about our method is that the teleportation is guaranteed to work 100%. The information will always reach its destination, so to speak. And, moreover, the method also has the potential of being 100% accurate,” said Hanson.
Next for the Delft team is to extend the distance of teleportation. The team aims to shoot for 1,300 meters (4265 feet). The team plans to undertake this next phase this summer.

ScreenHunter_299 Jun. 22 12.27
Delft team

The upcoming test, if successful, could provide evidence that would prove entanglement, and thereby disprove the rejection of the notion by Albert Einstein. There is a race in the community to be the first to prove entanglement through the “loophole-free Bell test,” considered one of the highest goals within quantum mechanics.

Implications of the research include the possibility for the development of the first true quantum computers, which are different from traditional transistor-based computers in that qubit-based computers are not confined to the 0 or 1 binary computation method, but are capable of superpositions of states–that is, quantum computers can simultaneously describe multiple values. The hope of quantum computers is that they will be vastly faster and make completely secure communications possible.

 A video produced by the Delft team on teleportation:


Images: Hanson lab@TUDelft

Hanson Lab

Science Magazine


Time Travel Simulated by Australian Physicists

Physicists at University of Queensland, Australia have simulated time travel using particles of light. The researchers achieved this by simulating the behavior of a single piece of light–a particle of energy–traveling on a closed timelike curve (CTC)–a closed path in space-time. The work may help to understand the longstanding problem of how time-travel could be possible in the quantum world and how the theory of quantum mechanics might change in the presence of closed timelike curves.

The work also shows how many effects, forbidden in standard quantum mechanics, may be possible inside a CTC and how light would behave differently depending on how it was created.

Martin Ringbauer
Martin Ringbauer

In the study, the research team simulated the behavior of a single photon that travels through a wormhole and interacts with its older self. This was achieved, PhD student Martin Ringbauer told The Speaker, by making use of a mathematical equivalence between two cases. In the first case, photon 1 “travels trough a wormhole into the past, then interacts with its older version.” In the second case, photon 2 “travels through normal space-time, but interacts with another photon that is trapped inside a CTC forever” (as shown in the illustration at top of the article).  “Using the (fictitious second case) and simulating the behavior of photon 2, we were able to study the more relevant case 1,” said Ringbauer.

“We used single photons to do this,” said UQ Physics Professor Tim Ralph, “but the time-travel was simulated by using a second photon to play the part of the past incarnation of the time travelling photon.”

The paper, “Experimental Simulation of Closed Timelike Curves,” was completed by University of Queensland’s Dr Matthew Broome, Dr Casey Myers, Professor Andrew White, in addition to Professor Ralph and Martin Ringbauer, supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems and Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, and was published in Nature Communications.

In the team’s press briefing, Ringbauer commented on the relationship between the theory of general relativity and another important–but conflicting–theory, quantum mechanics. Time travel is thought to potentially help understanding the gap between the two schools of thought.

“The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics,” said Ringbauer.

Time travel in the quantum world may avoid general relativity paradoxes such as the grandparents paradox–a timetraveller preventing his grandparents from meeting and so preventing his own time travel.

The authors of the study believe that such paradoxes can be resolved in a quantum regime, because a quantum model of closed timelike curves–such as traversable wormholes–can be formulated consistently with relativity”

Ringbauer explained the concept to The Speaker this way: “General relativity predicts the existence of closed timelike curves (e.g. by following a path through a wormhole that connects two different temporal locations in space-time). This would allow travel back in time. In the classical world this is unlikely to be possible, since it causes paradoxes, such as the grandfather paradox. In the quantum world, however, these paradoxes are resolved and time-travel can be formulated in a self-consistent way.”

Part of the reason time travel could be freed from such paradoxes in the quantum world is that the properties of quantum particles are “fuzzy” and “uncertain,” and therefore there is “wriggle room” to avoid inconsistencies in such situations, according to Professor Ralph.

Tim Ralph
Tim Ralph

Although Ralph said that there was no evidence that nature behaved differently than the laws of standard quantum mechanics, it had not been tested in vastly different environments, such as near black holes, where the extreme effects of general relativity play a role.

This is the value of the study, said Ralph. “Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict.”

“We see in our simulation (as was predicted in 1991),” Ringbauer stated, “how many effects become possible, which are forbidden in standard quantum mechanics. For example it is possible to perfectly distinguish different states of a quantum system, which are usually only partially distinguishable. This makes quantum cryptography breakable and violates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. We also show that photons behave differently, depending on how they were created in the first place.”

Nature Communications

Press Release

University of Queensland