President Barack Obama Weekly Address December 25, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2014
THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  Now, we’re not going to take much of your time because today is about family and being together with the ones you love.  And luckily for me, that means I get a little help on the weekly address, too.

THE FIRST LADY:  The holidays at the White House are such a wonderful time of year.

We fill the halls with decorations, Christmas trees, and carolers – and this year, we invited more than 65,000 people to join us.

Our theme was “A Children’s Winter Wonderland” – and Americans young and old had a chance to come together and celebrate the season.

THE PRESIDENT: And today, our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves.

THE FIRST LADY: We hope that this holiday season will be a chance for us to live out that message—to bridge our differences and lift up our families, friends, and neighbors… and to reconnect with the values that bind us together.

And as a country, that also means celebrating and honoring those who have served and sacrificed for all of us—our troops, veterans, and their families.

THE PRESIDENT: In just a few days, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Our longest war will come to a responsible end.  And that gives us an opportunity to step back and reflect upon all that these families have given us.  We’re able to gather with family and friends because our troops are willing to hug theirs goodbye and step forward to serve.  After a long day, we can come home because they’re willing to leave their families and deploy.  We can celebrate the holidays because they’re willing to miss their own.

THE FIRST LADY: And so, as our troops continue to transition back home—back to our businesses, our schools, our congregations, and our communities—it’s up to all of us to serve them as well as they have served us.

You can visit to find out how you can honor and support the troops, veterans, and military families in your communities.

That’s something we can do not only during the holiday season, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So Merry Christmas, everybody.  May God bless you all.  And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2015.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!

President Barack Obama Weekly Address December 21, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 20, 2014
Hi, everybody.  As 2014 comes to an end, we can enter the New Year with new confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.
The steps we took nearly six years ago to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  Over the past 57 months, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth since the ‘90s.  America is now the number one producer of oil and gas, saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  The auto industry we rescued is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone.  And since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  We’re leading the global fight to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  We’re leading global efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China.  We’re turning a new page in our relationship with the Cuban people. 

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over, and our war there will come to a responsible end.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than at any time in over a decade.  Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend this Christmas in harm’s way.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I want our troops to know:  your country is united in our support and gratitude for you and your families.
The six years since the financial crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everyone’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it.  More jobs.  More insured.  A growing economy.  Shrinking deficits.  Bustling industry.  Booming energy.

Pick any metric you want – America’s resurgence is real.  And we now have the chance to reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.  We just have to invest in the things that we know will secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  We have to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us.  And I look forward to working together with the new Congress next year on these priorities. 

Sure, we’ll disagree on some things.  We’ll have to compromise on others.  I’ll act on my own when it’s necessary.  But I will never stop trying to make life better for people like you. 

Because thanks to your efforts, a new foundation is laid.  A new future is ready to be written.  We have set the stage for a new American moment, and I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure we seize it. 

On behalf of the Obama family, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.
Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday season.


Chinese man wins 'gay conversion' case

Clinic ordered to compensate man who sued it for administering electric shocks intended to make him heterosexual.

Source:Al Jazeera 

A Chinese psychological clinic has been ordered to pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for administering electric shocks intended to make him heterosexual, in what is believed to be China's first case involving so-called conversion therapy.

Lawyer Li Duilong said the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing on Friday ordered the clinic to pay $560 to compensate Yang Teng for costs incurred in the therapy.

Li said the court also ruled that there was no need to administer shocks because homosexuality did not require treatment. A suit against search engine giant Baidu for advertising the Xinyu Piaoxiang clinic in the western city of Chongqing was dismissed.

Homosexuality is finding increasing acceptance in China but many openly gay men face pressure to undergo sexuality "treatment" or marry a partner of the opposite sex.

Yang told the Associated Press he was "very satisfied with the results, which I didn't expect. The court sided with me, and it has supported that homosexuality is not a mental disease that requires treatment".

Yang said the therapy included hypnosis and electric shocks that harmed him both physically and emotionally.

He said he voluntarily underwent the therapy in February following pressure from his parents to marry and have a child.

Homosexuality was de-classified as a mental disorder in the country in 2001 although no laws outlaw discrimination against sexual minorities and same-sex partnerships are not recognised.

Conversion therapy has more than a century of history around the world, but has fallen out of favour with medical authorities.

Nonetheless the lucrative industry persists in countries from Singapore to Britain and the United States - where reports of electro-shock use have added to momentum for a ban.

Is democracy wrong for China? (Video)

Mehdi Hasan challenges Chinese scholar Dr Zhang Weiwei on whether China can afford Western-style democracy.
Source:Al Jazeera
"Liberal democracy may be great or less great for the West, but it would be miserably wrong for a country like China," argues Dr Zhang Weiwei, the author of the controversial book The China Wave and outspoken defender of the Chinese political model.

If others think our model is good, you can learn from us. If you think our model is not good, we don’t care.
But is a lack of human rights and freedom of expression really the unavoidable cost of China's development? And will China's rise as a superpower change the world as we know it?

In this episode of Head to Head, Mehdi Hasan challenges the public intellectual Dr Zhang Weiwei on the trends, myths and realities of modern-day China, and asks why he thinks a meritocratic one-party system is the only way forward.

Joining this discussion are Dr Diane Wei Liang, a business professor and novelist who participated in the student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989; Dr Martin Jacques, the author of the bestselling book When China Rules the World and co-founder of the think-tank Demos; and Professor Stephen Chan, a professor of International Relations at SOAS in London and former international civil servant.


President Barak Obama delivers a Statement on Cuba Policy Changes (Video/Transcript)

Cabinet Room

THE PRESIDENT:   Good afternoon.  Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.  Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba.  I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism.  We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports.  Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind.  All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else.  And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.  Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago.

Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.  Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party.  Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.

That’s why -– when I came into office -– I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy.  As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to their families in Cuba.  These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban Americans have been reunited with their families, and are the best possible ambassadors for our values.  And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban Americans has increasingly questioned an approach that does more to keep Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.

While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way –- the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years.  Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship.  His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.

Today, Alan returned home –- reunited with his family at long last.  Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds.  Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades.  This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States.  This man is now safely on our shores.

Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, I’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy.

First, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.  Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.

Where we can advance shared interests, we will -– on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response.  Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before.  It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it.  Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease.

Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba.  But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.  After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.  It’s time for a new approach.

Second, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  This review will be guided by the facts and the law.  Terrorism has changed in the last several decades.  At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.

Third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.  This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of people-to-people engagement.  With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island.  Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people, and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.

I also believe that more resources should be able to reach the Cuban people.  So we’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba, and removing limits on remittances that support humanitarian projects, the Cuban people, and the emerging Cuban private sector.

I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans.  So we will facilitate authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba.  U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.  And it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba.

I believe in the free flow of information.  Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe.  So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba.  Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.

These are the steps that I can take as President to change this policy.  The embargo that’s been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation.  As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo.

Yesterday, I spoke with Raul Castro to finalize Alan Gross’s release and the exchange of prisoners, and to describe how we will move forward.  I made clear my strong belief that Cuban society is constrained by restrictions on its citizens.  In addition to the return of Alan Gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.  We welcome Cuba’s decision to provide more access to the Internet for its citizens, and to continue increasing engagement with international institutions like the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross that promote universal values.

But I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans.  The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there.  While Cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.

Moreover, given Cuba’s history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests.  I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight.  But I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.

To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy.  The question is how we uphold that commitment.  I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.  Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  Even if that worked -– and it hasn’t for 50 years –- we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.  We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help.

To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship.  Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom.  Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future.  José Martí once said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.”  Today, I am being honest with you.  We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination.  Cubans have a saying about daily life:  “No es facil” –- it’s not easy.  Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.

To those who have supported these measures, I thank you for being partners in our efforts.  In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is; the government of Canada, which hosted our discussions with the Cuban government; and a bipartisan group of congressmen who have worked tirelessly for Alan Gross’s release, and for a new approach to advancing our interests and values in Cuba.

Finally, our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas.  This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas.  But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future.  And I call on all of my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the Inter-American Charter.  Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.  A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together -- not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.

My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana.  Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami -- on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts.  Today, Miami is often referred to as the capital of Latin America.  But it is also a profoundly American city -– a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin, or the circumstances of our birth; a demonstration of what the Cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the United States to our family to the South.  Todos somos Americanos.

Change is hard –- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations.  And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.  But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do.  Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.

Thank you.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.


How to learn any language in six months: Chris Lonsdale (Video/Transcript)

 Source:The Third Ear

Have you ever held a question in mind for so long that it becomes part of how you think? Maybe even part of who you are as a person? Well I’ve had a question in my mind for many, many years and that is: how can you speed up learning? Now, this is an interesting question because if you speed up learning you can spend less time at school. And if you learn really fast, you probably wouldn’t have to go to school at all. Now, when I was young, school was sort of okay but I found quite often that school got in the way of learning , so I had this question in mind: how do you learn faster? And this began when I was very, very young, when I was about eleven years old I wrote a letter to researchers in the Soviet Union, asking about hypnopaedia, this is sleep learning, where you get a tape recorder, you put it beside your bed and it turns on in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping, and you’re supposed to be learning from this. A good idea, unfortunately it doesn’t work. But, hypnopaedia did open the doors to research in other areas and we’ve had incredible discoveries about learning that began with that first question.

I went on from there to become passionate about psychology and I have been involved in psychology in many ways for the rest of my life up until this point. In 1981 I took myself to China and I decided that I was going to be native level in Chinese inside two years. Now, you need to understand that in 1981, everybody thought Chinese was really, really difficult and that a westerner could study for ten years or more and never really get very good at it. And I also went in with a different idea which was: taking all of the conclusions from psychological research up to that point and applying them to the learning process. What was really cool was that in six months I was fluent in Mandarin Chinese and took a little bit longer to get up to native. But I looked around and I saw all of these people from different countries struggling terribly with Chinese, I saw Chinese people struggling terribly to learn English and other languages, and so my question got refined down to: how can you help a normal adult learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively? Now this a really, really important question in today’s world. We have massive challenges with environment we have massive challenges with social dislocation, with wars, all sorts of things going on and if we can’t communicate we’re really going to have difficulty solving these problem s. So we need to be able to speak each other’s languages, this is really, really important. The question then is how do you do that. Well, it’s actually really easy. You look around for people who can already do it, you look for situations where it’s already working and then you identify the principles and apply them. It’s called modelling and I’ve been looking at language learning and modelling language learning for about fifteen to twenty years now. And my conclusion, my observation from this is that any adult can learn a second language to fluency inside six months. Now when I say this, most people think I’m crazy, this is not possible. So let me remind everybody of the history of human progress, it’s all about expanding our limits.

In 1950 everybody believed that running one mile in four minutes was impossible and then Roger Bannister did it in 1956 and from there it’s got shorter and shorter. 100 years ago everybody believed that heavy stuff doesn’t fly. Except it does and we all know this. How does heavy stuff fly? We reorganize the material using principles that we have learned from observing nature, birds in this case. And today we’ve gone ever further, so you can fly a car. You can buy one of these for a couple hundred thousand US dollars. We now have cars in the world that can fly. And there’s a different way to fly that we’ve learned from squirrels. So all you need to do is copy what a flying squirrel does, build a suit called a wing suit and off you go, you can fly like a squirrel . Now , most people, a lot of people, I wouldn’t say everybody but a lot of people think they can’t draw. However there are some key principles, five principles that you can apply to learning to draw and you can 2 actually learn to draw in five days. So, if you draw like this, you learn these principles for five days and apply them and after five days you can draw something like this. Now I know this is true because that was my first drawing and after five days of applying these principles that was what I was able to do. And I looked at this and I went ‘wow,’ so that’s how I look like when I’m concentrating so intensely that my brain is exploding.

 So, anybody can learn to draw in five days and in the same way, with the same logic, anybody can learn a second language in six months. How? There are five principles and seven actions. There may be a few more but these are absolutely core. And before I get into those I just want to talk about two myths, dispel two myths. The first is that you need talent. Le t me tell you about Zoe. Zoe came from Australia, went to Holland, was trying to learn Dutch, struggling extremely ... a great deal and finally people were saying: ‘you’re completely useless,’ ‘you’re not talented,’ ‘give up,’ ‘you’re a waste of time’ and s he was very, very depressed. And then she came across these five principles, she moved to Brazil and she applied them and within six months she was fluent in Portuguese, so talent doesn’t matter. People also think that immersion in a new country is the way to learn a language. But look around Hong Kong, look at all the westerners who’ve been here for ten years, who don’t speak a word of Chinese. Look at all the Chinese living in America, Britain, Australia, Canada have been there ten, twenty year and they don’t speak any English. Immersion per se does not work. Why? Because a drowning man cannot learn to swim. When you don’t speak a language you’re like a baby and if you drop yourself into a context which is all adults talking about stuff over your head, you won’t learn.

 So, what are the five principles that you need to pay attention to? First: four words, attention, meaning, relevance and memory, and these interconnect in very important ways. Especially when you’re talking about learning. Come with me on a journey through a forest. You go on a walk through a forest and you see something like this. Little marks on a tree, maybe you pay attention, maybe you don’t. You go another fifty meters and you see this. You should be paying attention. Another fifty meters, if you haven’t been paying attention, you see this. And at this point, you’re paying attention. And you’ve just learned that this is important, it’s relevant because it means this, and anything that is related, any information related to your survival is stuff that you’re going to pay attention to and therefore you’re going to remember it. If it’s related to your personal goals then you’re going to pay attention to it, if it’s relevant you’re going to remember it.

So, the first rule, the first principle for learning a language is focus on language content that is relevant to you. Which brings us to tools. We master tool s by using tools and we learn tools the fastest when they are relevant to us. So let me share a story. A keyboard is a tool. Typing Chinese a certain way, there are methods for this. That’s a tool. I had a colleague many years ago who went to night school; Tuesday night, Thursday night, two hours each night, practicing at home, she spent nine months, and she did not learn to type Chinese. And one night we had a crisis. We had forty-eight hours to deliver a training manual in Chinese. And she got the job, and I can guarantee you in forty-eight hours, she learned to type Chinese because i t was relevant, it was meaningful, it was important , she was using a tool to create value.

So the second tool for learning a language is to use your language as a tool to communicate right from day one. As a kid does. When I first arrived in China I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, and on my second week I got to take a train ride overnight. I spent eight hours sitting in the dining care talking to one of the guards on the train, he took an interest in me for some reason, and we just chatted all night in Chinese and he was drawing pictures and making movements with his hands and facial expressions and piece by piece by piece I understood more and more. But what was really cool, was two weeks later, when people were talking Chinese around me, I was understanding some of this and I hadn’t even made any effort to learn that. What had happened, I’d absorbed it that night on the train, which brings us to the third 3 principle. When you first understand the message, then you will acquire the language unconsciously. And this is really, really well documented now, it’s something called comprehensible input and there’s twenty or thirty years of research on this, Stephen Krashen, a leader in the field has published all sorts of these different studies and this is just from one of them. The purple bars show the scores on different tests for language. The purple people were people who had learned by grammar and formal study, the green ones are the ones who learned by comprehensible input. So, comprehension works. Comprehension is key and language learning is not about accumulating lots of knowledge. In many, many ways it’s about physiological training. A woman I know from Taiwan did great at English at school, she got A grades all the way through, went through college, A grades, went to the US and found she couldn’t understand what people were saying. And people started asking her: ‘Are you deaf?’ And she was. English deaf. Because we have filters in our brain that filter in the sounds that we are familiar with and they filter out the sounds of languages we’re not. And if you can’t hear it, you won’t understand it and if you can’t understand it, you’re not going to learn it. So you actually have to be able to hear these sounds. And there are ways to do that but it’s physiological training. Speaking takes muscle. You’ve got forty-three muscles in your face, you have to coordinate those in a way that you make sounds that other people will understand. If you’ve ever done a new sport for a couple of days, and you know how your body feels? It hurts. If your face is hurting you’re doing it right.

And the final principle is state. Psycho-physiological state. If you’re sad, angry, worried, upset, you’re not going to learn. Period. If you’re happy, relaxed, in an Alpha brain state, curious, you’re going to learn really quickly, and very specifically you need to be tolerant of ambiguity. If you’re one of those people who needs to understand 100% every word you’re hearing, you will go nuts, because you’ll be incredibly upset all the time, because you’re not perfect. If you’re comfortable with getting some, not getting some, just paying attention to what you do understand, you’re going to be fine, you’ll be relaxed and you’ll be learning quickly. So based on those five principles, what are the seven actions that you need to take?

Number one: listen a lot . I call it Brain Soaking. You put yourself in a context where you’re hearing tons and tons of a language and it doesn’t matter if you understand it or no t. You’re listening to the rhythms , you’re listening to things that repeat, you’re listening to things that stand out. So, just soak your brain in this.

The second action: is that you get the meaning first, even before you get the words. You go “Well how do I do that, I don’t know the words? ” Well, you understand what these different postures mean. Human communication is body language in many, many ways, so much body language. From body language you can understand a lot of communication, therefore, you’re understanding, you’re acquiring through comprehensible input. And you can also use patterns that you already know. If you’re a Chinese speaker of Mandarin and Cantonese and you go Vietnam, you will understand 60% of what they say to you in daily
conversation, because Vietnamese is about 30% Mandarin, 30% Cantonese.

The third action: start mixing. You probably have never thought of this but if you’ve got ten verbs, ten nouns and ten adjectives you can say one thousand different things. Language is a creative process. What do babies do? Okay: Me. Bat(h). Now. Okay, that’s how they communicate. So start mixing, get creative, have fun with it, it doesn’t have to be perfect , it just has to work. And when you’re doing this you focus on the core. What does that mean? Well with every language there is high frequency content. In English , 1000 words covers 85% of anything you’re ever going to say in daily communication . 3000 words gives you 98% of anything you’re going to say in daily conversation. You got 3000 words, you’re speaking the language. The rest is icing on the cake.

And 4 when you’re just beginning with a new language start with the tool box. Week number one in your new language you say things like: ‘how do you say that?’ ‘I don’t understand,’ ‘repeat that please,’ ‘what does that mean,’ all in your target language. You’re using it as a tool, making it useful to you, it’s relevant to learn other things about the language. By week two that you should be saying things like: ‘me,’ ‘this,’ ‘you,’ ‘that,’ ‘give,’ you know, ‘hot,’ simple pronouns, simple nouns, simple verbs, simple adjectives, communicating like a baby. And by the third or fourth week, you’re getting into what I call glue words. ‘Although,’ ‘but,’ ‘therefore,’ these are logical transformers that tie bits of a language together, allowing you to make more complex meaning.

 At that point you’re talking. And when you’re doing that, you should get yourself a language parent. If you look at how children and parent s interact, you’ll understand what this means. When a child is speaking, it’ll be using simple words, simple combinations, sometimes quite strange, sometimes very strange pronunciation and other people from outside the family don’t understand it. But the parents do. And so the kid has a safe environment, gets confidence. The parents talk to the children with body language and with simple language they know the child understands. So we have a comprehensible input environment that’s safe, we know it works otherwise none of you would speak your mother tongue. So you get yourself a language parent, who’s somebody interested in you as a person who will communicate with you essentially as an equal, but pay attention to help you understand the message. There are four rules of a language parent. Spouses by the way are not very good at this, okay? But the four rules are, first of all, they will work hard to understand what you mean even when you’re way off beat. Secondly, they will never correct your mistakes. Thirdly they will feed back their understanding of what you are saying so you can respond appropriately and get that feedback and then they will use words that you know.

The sixth thing you have to do, is copy the face. You got to get the muscles working right, so you can sound in a way that people will understand you. There’s a couple of things you do. One is that you hear how it feels, and feel how it sounds which means you have a feedback loop operating in your face, but ideally , if you can look at a native speaker and just observe how they use their face , let your unconscious mind absorb the rules, then you’re going to be able to pick it up. And if you can’t get a native speaker to look at, you can use stuff like this: [slides].

And the final idea here, the final action you need to take is something that I call “direct connect.” What does this mean? Well most people learning a second language sort of take the mother tongue words and take the target words and go over them again and again in their mind to try and remember them. Really inefficient. What you need to do is realize that everything you know is an image inside your mind, it’s feelings, if you talk about fire you can smell the smoke you can hear the crackling, you can see the flames . So what you do, is you go into that imagery and all of that memory and you come out with another pathway. So I call it ‘same box, different path.’ You come out of that pathway, you build it over time you become more and more skilled at just connecting the new sounds to those images that you already have, into that internal representation. And over time you even become naturally good at that process, that becomes unconscious.

So, there are five principles that you need to work with, seven actions, if you do any of them, you’re going to improve. And remember these are things under your control as the learner. Do them all and you’re going to be fluent in a second language in six months.

Thank you.

English + Chinese Translation


President Barack Obama Weekly Address December 13, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 13, 2014
Hi, everybody. It’s the holidays—a season to give thanks for our many blessings. The love of family. The joy of good friends. The bonds of community. The freedom we cherish as Americans. The peace and justice we seek in the world.

As we go about our days, as we gather with loved ones and friends, it’s important to remember: our way of life—the freedom, prosperity and security that we enjoy as Americans—is not a gift that is simply handed to us. It has to be earned—by every generation. And no one sacrifices more to preserve our blessings than our extraordinary men and women in uniform.

That’s why, on Monday, I’ll be visiting our troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey—to salute them for their service and thank them for their sacrifices. Since our nation was attacked on 9/11, these men and women, like so many others in uniform, have met every mission we’ve asked of them. They deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In more than a decade of war, this 9/11 Generation has worked with the Afghan people to help them reclaim their communities and prevent terrorist attacks against our own country.

Now, many of our troops are returning from Afghanistan, and on Monday, I’ll be proud to help welcome them home. That’s because, this month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.

Of course, the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan doesn’t mean the end of challenges to our security.We’ll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America. The troops I’ll visit on Monday have been part of our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. They’ve been supporting our efforts in West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic and save lives. Because in times of crisis and challenge, the world turns to America for leadership. And when the world calls on America, we call on the brave men and women of our armed forces to do what no one else can.

So this holiday season, as we give thanks for the blessings in our own lives, let’s also give thanks to our men and women in uniform who make those blessings possible. Even as some are coming home for the holidays, many more will be far from their families, who sacrifice along with them.
There are so many ways we can express our gratitude to our troops, their families and our veterans—everyone can do something. To find out what you can do, just go to As a nation, as Americans, let’s always keep striving to serve them as well as they have always served us.

Thanks, have a great weekend, and God bless our troops and their families.


Can We Break The American Plutocracy?

Nations need to learn economics of sustainable development

Governments are not driving investment. Instead, they are cutting back, creating a lack of public investment that is holding back critical private investments

Jeffrey Sachs is a professor of sustain able development and health policy and management, as well as director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also special adviser to the UN secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals.

Two schools of thought tend to dominate today’s economic debates. According to free-market economists, governments should cut taxes, reduce regulations, reform labor laws and then get out of the way to let consumers consume and producers create jobs. According to Keynesian economics, governments should boost total demand through quantitative easing and fiscal stimulus. Neither approach is delivering good results. New “sustainable development economics” are needed, with governments promoting new types of investments.

Free-market economics leads to great outcomes for the rich, but pretty miserable outcomes for everyone else. Governments in the US and parts of Europe are cutting back on social spending, job creation, infrastructure investment and job training because the rich bosses who pay for politicians’ election campaigns are doing very well for themselves, even as the societies around them are crumbling.

Keynesian solutions — easy money and large budget deficits — have also fallen far short of their promised results. Many governments tried stimulus spending after the 2008 financial crisis. After all, most politicians love to spend money they do not have. The short-term boost failed in two big ways.

First, governments’ debt soared and their credit ratings plummeted. Even the US lost its “AAA” standing.

Second, the private sector did not respond by increasing business investment and hiring enough new workers. Instead, companies hoarded vast cash reserves, mainly in tax-free offshore accounts.

The problem with both free-market and Keynesian economics is that they misunderstand the nature of modern investment. Both schools believe that investment is led by the private sector either because taxes and regulations are low (in the free-market model) or because aggregate demand is high (in the Keynesian model).

Yet private-sector investment today depends on investment by the public sector. This age is defined by this complementarity. Unless the public sector invests wisely, the private sector will continue to hoard its funds or return them to shareholders in the forms of dividends or buybacks.

The key is to reflect on six kinds of capital goods: business capital, infrastructure, human capital, intellectual capital, natural capital and social capital. All of these are productive, but each has a distinctive role.

Business capital includes private companies’ factories, machines, transport equipment and. information systems.

Infrastructure includes roads, railways, power and water systems, fiber optics, pipelines and airports and seaports.

Human capital is the education, skills and health of the workforce.
Intellectual capital includes society’s core scientific and technological know-how.

Natural capital is the ecosystems and primary resources that support agriculture, health and cities.

Social capital is the communal trust that makes efficient trade, finance and governance possible.

These six forms of capital work in a complementary way. Business investment without infrastructure and human capital cannot be profitable. Nor can financial markets work if social capital (trust) is depleted. Without natural capital (including a safe climate, productive soils, available water and protection against flooding), the other kinds of capital are easily lost. And without universal access to public investments in human capital, societies will succumb to extreme inequalities of income and wealth.

Investment used to be a far simpler matter. The key to development was basic education, a network of roads and power, a functioning port and access to world markets. Today, however, basic public education is no longer enough; workers need highly specialized skills that come through vocational training, advanced degrees and apprenticeship programs that combine public and private funding.

Transport must be smarter than mere government road building; power grids must reflect the urgent need for low-carbon electricity; and governments everywhere must invest in new kinds of intellectual capital to solve unprecedented problems of public health, climate change, environmental degradation, information systems management and more.

Yet in most countries, governments are not leading, guiding or even sharing in the investment process. They are cutting back. Free-market ideologues claim that governments are incapable of productive investment. Nor do Keynesians think through the kinds of public investments that are needed; for them, public-sector vacuum and a dearth of public investments, which in turn holds back necessary private-sector investment.

Governments, in short, need long-term investment strategies and ways to pay for them. They need to understand much better how to prioritize road, rail, power and port investments; how to make investments environmentally sustainable by moving to a low-carbon energy system; how to train young workers for decent jobs, not only low-wage service-sector employment; and how to build social capital, in an age when there is little trust and considerable corruption.

In short, governments need to learn to think ahead. This, too, runs counter to the economic mainstream. Free-market ideologues do not want governments to think at all and Keynesians want governments to think only about the short run, because they take to an extreme John
Maynard Keynes’ famous quip: “In the long run we are all dead.”
Here’s a thought that is anathema in Washington, but worthy of reflection. The world’s fastest growing economy, China, relies on five-year plans for public investment, which is managed by the National Development and Reform Commission. The US has no such institution, or indeed any agency investment strategies. However, all countries now need more than five-year plans; they need 20-year generation-long strategies to build the skills, infrastructure and low-carbon economy of the 21st century.

The G20 recently took a small step in the right direction by placing new emphasis on increased infrastructure investment as a shared responsibility of both the public and private sectors. Much more of this kind of thinking is needed in the year ahead, as governments next year negotiate new global agreements on financing for sustainable development (in Addis Ababa in July);
Sustainable Development Goals (in the US in September) and climate change (in Paris in December).

These agreements promise to shape humanity’s future for the better. If they are to succeed, the new “Age of Sustainable Development” should give rise to a new economics of sustainable development as well.


Brazilian Indigenous Leader: Carbon Trading Scheme "REDD" a False Solution to Climate Change (Video/Transcript)

Source: Democracy Now
The controversial carbon trading scheme known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, has set off protests not only in Africa, but also in South America, especially in the Amazon region. We speak to Chief Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Federation of the Huni Kui, an indigenous group in Brazil. He has traveled to the U.N. climate summit in Lima to voice his opposition to REDD.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to the controversial carbon trading that [Nnimmo Bassey] was talking about, known as REDD—again, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, R-E-D-D, which has set off protests not only in Africa, but also in South America, especially in the Amazon. Earlier this week, I interviewed Chief Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Federation of the Huni Kui, an indigenous group in Brazil. He traveled to Lima to voice his opposition to REDD.
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] My name is Ninawa, and I am the president of the Federation of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil, in the Brazilian Amazon.
AMY GOODMAN: And how many people do you represent?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] I represent 10,400 people in 90 villages in two indigenous territories in five provinces of the state of Acre in the Brazilian Amazon.

AMY GOODMAN: And how many people do you represent?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] I represent 10,400 people in 90 villages in two indigenous territories in five provinces of the state of Acre in the Brazilian Amazon.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why you’ve come to Lima for the U.N. climate summit? What is your message?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] I came to Lima with the hope of telling the world that the historic discussions here at COP 20, amongst the 195 countries and indigenous people of the world and civil society of the world, on climate change are historic. Of course, the peoples of the world include indigenous peoples of the world, and we are here to denounce the problems that the governments are causing in our territories.
My message is from my people and the children and elders of my community. And we are saying that the climate change proposals that the government is tabling here at the United Nations are false solutions to climate change. Specifically, we are here to denounce REDD—R-E-D-D, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.
AMY GOODMAN: How does REDD affect your community?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] So, the first impact is that the state of Acre is one of the first states in the world that is promoting REDD, and it is the first state of the Brazilian Amazon that is doing REDD. And it has already violated Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which guarantees indigenous people’s right to free, prior, informed consent and the right to say no to projects that affect us. So, Brazil is violating Convention 169, because indigenous peoples have not been consulted about REDD and it is moving forward.
So, the second impact of REDD is that it has divided indigenous leaders, who before were united to defend the territories and Mother Earth. A third impact of REDD is that it has resulted in the co-optation of some leaders who have accepted money and bought cars with that money, and they don’t even know where that money is from and what it means.
Another impact is that the government of Brazil, because it is opening its doors to this carbon-offset mechanism, is that it’s gutting the laws and the legal framework on indigenous people’s rights and the guarantees that have been enshrined to protect our rights to our territories.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the effect on the ground of REDD? What happens in your community when it’s enforced?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] The impacts are the following: The community is no longer to fish in their own land, to cultivate food, to practice agriculture. All of these activities are banned and have been declared illegal, and people are jailed if they participate in agriculture or go fishing.
So, another impact that is a very cruel impact of REDD pilot projects is that leaders are being criminalized for opposing the project, and communities are told that the services provided for education or transportation or healthcare will be suspended if they oppose the project.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the communities expected to do? Are they given the money to move?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] The truth of what is happening in Acre is that there’s now a program that pays the community. The program is called Bolsa Floresta. And a family gets 300 reais for three months, which isn’t enough to live on, and then they’re banned and prohibited from going into the forest, so that the government can sell carbon credits to multinational corporations in other parts of the world to offset their pollution.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you been offered money?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] Yes, the government of Acre offered two million reais to my community. They said it was to motivate strengthening our culture, but we understood it as a precursor to winning the acceptance of signing a REDD contract.
AMY GOODMAN: And who are the corporations and the government entities, states in the United States, that are doing this in Brazil?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] There are many actors that are promoting REDD in Acre and that have given money to the state of Acre to do REDD. One of them is the state of California in the United States. But there are also multinational corporations that are offering money to the Acre government to do REDD. And in August of 2014, Germany gave the government of Acre $280 million reais to do REDD.
AMY GOODMAN: Ninawa, you talked about the criminalization of leaders who oppose REDD. You’re a leader who opposes REDD. Have you been threatened?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] Yes, I have received threats, but I’m not the only one who has received threats. Leaders of the Mundurukú indigenous people have also received threats for resisting REDD. And other peoples and leaders are persecuted and criminalized, and our right and freedom of expression and of association and our freedom to struggle and to resist this and to oppose it is being violated. I, myself, have denounced REDD and have also received death threats.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ninawa, what do you say to those that say this is an environmental solution, that if corporations or states or countries are going to pollute, then they want to invest in places that remain pristine, that are not polluted?
NINAWA HUNI KUI: [translated] So, I respond to those that say that it’s a solution, that REDD is not a solution to climate change. It is a false solution to climate change. And furthermore, indigenous peoples are not the ones that are causing climate change. In Brazil, in Mato Grosso, the biggest soy baron is receiving funding and subsidies from the Brazilian government to cut down forests. This is not a solution to climate change. And furthermore, REDD is criminalizing us. And really, if they care about real solutions, they’ve got to talk to the logging companies, the soy barons, the corporations that are polluting and destroying nature. Indigenous peoples protect Mother Earth. We defend our mother, because she is our mother, because she gives us food. She gives us the air that we breathe. She gives us the Amazon. And the Amazon is important not just for indigenous peoples; it’s important for the whole world.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ninawa Huni Kui, president of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil, as he sings us through our break.

Hayes: Are really we a nation of laws?


Mark Plotkin: What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t (Video/Transcript)

Source: TED

Now, I'm an ethnobotanist. That's a scientist who works in the rainforest to document how people use local plants. I've been doing this for a long time, and I want to tell you, these people know these forests and these medicinal treasures better than we do and better than we ever will. But also, these cultures, these indigenous cultures, are disappearing much faster than the forests themselves. And the greatest and most endangered species in the Amazon Rainforest is not the jaguar, it's not the harpy eagle, it's the isolated and uncontacted tribes.

Now four years ago, I injured my foot in a climbing accident and I went to the doctor. She gave me heat, she gave me cold, aspirin, narcotic painkillers, anti-inflammatories, cortisone shots. It didn't work. Several months later, I was in the northeast Amazon, walked into a village, and the shaman said, "You're limping." And I'll never forget this as long as I live. He looked me in the face and he said, "Take off your shoe and give me your machete." (Laughter) He walked over to a palm tree and carved off a fern, threw it in the fire, applied it to my foot, threw it in a pot of water, and had me drink the tea. The pain disappeared for seven months. When it came back, I went to see the shaman again. He gave me the same treatment, and I've been cured for three years now. Who would you rather be treated by? (Applause) Now, make no mistake — Western medicine is the most successful system of healing ever devised, but there's plenty of holes in it. Where's the cure for breast cancer? Where's the cure for schizophrenia? Where's the cure for acid reflux? Where's the cure for insomnia? The fact is that these people can sometimes, sometimes, sometimes cure things we cannot. Here you see a medicine man in the northeast Amazon treating leishmaniasis, a really nasty protozoal disease that afflicts 12 million people around the world. Western treatment are injections of antimony. They're painful, they're expensive, and they're probably not good for your heart; it's a heavy metal. This man cures it with three plants from the Amazon Rainforest.

  This is the magic frog. My colleague, the late great Loren McIntyre, discoverer of the source lake of the Amazon, Laguna McIntyre in the Peruvian Andes, was lost on the Peru-Brazil border about 30 years ago. He was rescued by a group of isolated Indians called the Matsés. They beckoned for him to follow them into the forest, which he did. There, they took out palm leaf baskets. There, they took out these green monkey frogs — these are big suckers, they're like this — and they began licking them. It turns out, they're highly hallucinogenic. McIntyre wrote about this and it was read by the editor of High Times magazine. You see that ethnobotanists have friends in all sorts of strange cultures. This guy decided he would go down to the Amazon and give it a whirl, or give it a lick, and he did, and he wrote, "My blood pressure went through the roof, I lost full control of my bodily functions, I passed out in a heap, I woke up in a hammock six hours later, felt like God for two days." (Laughter) An Italian chemist read this and said, "I'm not really interested in the theological aspects of the green monkey frog. What's this about the change in blood pressure?" Now, this is an Italian chemist who's working on a new treatment for high blood pressure based on peptides in the skin of the green monkey frog, and other scientists are looking at a cure for drug-resistant Staph aureus. How ironic if these isolated Indians and their magic frog prove to be one of the cures.

  Here's an ayahuasca shaman in the northwest Amazon, in the middle of a yage ceremony. I took him to Los Angeles to meet a foundation officer looking for support for monies to protect their culture. This fellow looked at the medicine man, and he said, "You didn't go to medical school, did you?" The shaman said, "No, I did not." He said, "Well, then what can you know about healing?" The shaman looked at him and he said, "You know what? If you have an infection, go to a doctor. But many human afflictions are diseases of the heart, the mind and the spirit. Western medicine can't touch those. I cure them." (Applause)

  But all is not rosy in learning from nature about new medicines. This is a viper from Brazil, the venom of which was studied at the Universidade de São Paulo here. It was later developed into ACE inhibitors. This is a frontline treatment for hypertension. Hypertension causes over 10 percent of all deaths on the planet every day. This is a $4 billion industry based on venom from a Brazilian snake, and the Brazilians did not get a nickel. This is not an acceptable way of doing business.

  The rainforest has been called the greatest expression of life on Earth. There's a saying in Suriname that I dearly love: "The rainforests hold answers to questions we have yet to ask." But as you all know, it's rapidly disappearing. Here in Brazil, in the Amazon, around the world. I took this picture from a small plane flying over the eastern border of the Xingu indigenous reserve in the state of Mato Grosso to the northwest of here. The top half of the picture, you see where the Indians live. The line through the middle is the eastern border of the reserve. Top half Indians, bottom half white guys. Top half wonder drugs, bottom half just a bunch of skinny-ass cows. Top half carbon sequestered in the forest where it belongs, bottom half carbon in the atmosphere where it's driving climate change. In fact, the number two cause of carbon being released into the atmosphere is forest destruction.

  But in talking about destruction, it's important to keep in mind that the Amazon is the mightiest landscape of all. It's a place of beauty and wonder. The biggest anteater in the world lives in the rain forest, tips the scale at 90 pounds. The goliath bird-eating spider is the world's largest spider. It's found in the Amazon as well. The harpy eagle wingspan is over seven feet. And the black cayman — these monsters can tip the scale at over half a ton. They're known to be man-eaters. The anaconda, the largest snake, the capybara, the largest rodent. A specimen from here in Brazil tipped the scale at 201 pounds.

  Let's visit where these creatures live, the northeast Amazon, home to the Akuriyo tribe. Uncontacted peoples hold a mystical and iconic role in our imagination. These are the people who know nature best. These are the people who truly live in total harmony with nature. By our standards, some would dismiss these people as primitive. "They don't know how to make fire, or they didn't when they were first contacted." But they know the forest far better than we do. The Akuriyos have 35 words for honey, and other Indians look up to them as being the true masters of the emerald realm. Here you see the face of my friend Pohnay. When I was a teenager rocking out to the Rolling Stones in my hometown of New Orleans, Pohnay was a forest nomad roaming the jungles of the northeast Amazon in a small band, looking for game, looking for medicinal plants, looking for a wife, in other small nomadic bands. But it's people like these that know things that we don't, and they have lots of lessons to teach us.

  However, if you go into most of the forests of the Amazon, there are no indigenous peoples. This is what you find: rock carvings which indigenous peoples, uncontacted peoples, used to sharpen the edge of the stone axe. These cultures that once danced, made love, sang to the gods, worshipped the forest, all that's left is an imprint in stone, as you see here.

  Let's move to the western Amazon, which is really the epicenter of isolated peoples. Each of these dots represents a small, uncontacted tribe, and the big reveal today is we believe there are 14 or 15 isolated groups in the Colombian Amazon alone.

  Why are these people isolated? They know we exist, they know there's an outside world. This is a form of resistance. They have chosen to remain isolated, and I think it is their human right to remain so. Why are these the tribes that hide from man? Here's why. Obviously, some of this was set off in 1492. But at the turn of the last century was the rubber trade. The demand for natural rubber, which came from the Amazon, set off the botanical equivalent of a gold rush. Rubber for bicycle tires, rubber for automobile tires, rubber for zeppelins. It was a mad race to get that rubber, and the man on the left, Julio Arana, is one of the true thugs of the story. His people, his company, and other companies like them killed, massacred, tortured, butchered Indians like the Witotos you see on the right hand side of the slide.

Even today, when people come out of the forest, the story seldom has a happy ending. These are Nukaks. They were contacted in the '80s. Within a year, everybody over 40 was dead. And remember, these are preliterate societies. The elders are the libraries. Every time a shaman dies, it's as if a library has burned down. They have been forced off their lands. The drug traffickers have taken over the Nukak lands, and the Nukaks live as beggars in public parks in eastern Colombia. From the Nukak lands, I want to take you to the southwest, to the most spectacular landscape in the world: Chiribiquete National Park. It was surrounded by three isolated tribes and thanks to the Colombian government and Colombian colleagues, it has now expanded. It's bigger than the state of Maryland. It is a treasure trove of botanical diversity. It was first explored botanically in 1943 by my mentor, Richard Schultes, seen here atop the Bell Mountain, the sacred mountains of the Karijonas. And let me show you what it looks like today. Flying over Chiribiquete, realize that these lost world mountains are still lost. No scientist has been atop them. In fact, nobody has been atop the Bell Mountain since Schultes in '43. And we'll end up here with the Bell Mountain just to the east of the picture. Let me show you what it looks like today.

  Not only is this a treasure trove of botanical diversity, not only is it home to three isolated tribes, but it's the greatest treasure trove of pre-Colombian art in the world: over 200,000 paintings. The Dutch scientist Thomas van der Hammen described this as the Sistine Chapel of the Amazon Rainforest.

  But move from Chiribiquete down to the southeast, again in the Colombian Amazon. Remember, the Colombian Amazon is bigger than New England. The Amazon's a big forest, and Brazil's got a big part of it, but not all of it. Moving down to these two national parks, Cahuinari and Puré in the Colombian Amazon — that's the Brazilian border to the right — it's home to several groups of isolated and uncontacted peoples. To the trained eye, you can look at the roofs of these malocas, these longhouses, and see that there's cultural diversity. These are, in fact, different tribes. As isolated as these areas are, let me show you how the outside world is crowding in. Here we see trade and transport increased in Putumayo. With the diminishment of the Civil War in Colombia, the outside world is showing up. To the north, we have illegal gold mining, also from the east, from Brazil. There's increased hunting and fishing for commercial purposes. We see illegal logging coming from the south, and drug runners are trying to move through the park and get into Brazil. This, in the past, is why you didn't mess with isolated Indians. And if it looks like this picture is out of focus because it was taken in a hurry, here's why. (Laughter) This looks like — (Applause) This looks like a hangar from the Brazilian Amazon. This is an art exhibit in Havana, Cuba. A group called Los Carpinteros. This is their perception of why you shouldn't mess with uncontacted Indians.

But the world is changing. These are Mashco-Piros on the Brazil-Peru border who stumbled out of the jungle because they were essentially chased out by drug runners and timber people. And in Peru, there's a very nasty business. It's called human safaris. They will take you in to isolated groups to take their picture. Of course, when you give them clothes, when you give them tools, you also give them diseases. We call these "inhuman safaris." These are Indians again on the Peru border, who were overflown by flights sponsored by missionaries. They want to get in there and turn them into Christians. We know how that turns out.

  What's to be done? Introduce technology to the contacted tribes, not the uncontacted tribes, in a culturally sensitive way. This is the perfect marriage of ancient shamanic wisdom and 21st century technology. We've done this now with over 30 tribes, mapped, managed and increased protection of over 70 million acres of ancestral rainforest. (Applause)

So this allows the Indians to take control of their environmental and cultural destiny. They also then set up guard houses to keep outsiders out. These are Indians, trained as indigenous park rangers, patrolling the borders and keeping the outside world at bay. This is a picture of actual contact. These are Chitonahua Indians on the Brazil-Peru border. They've come out of the jungle asking for help. They were shot at, their malocas, their longhouses, were burned. Some of them were massacred. Using automatic weapons to slaughter uncontacted peoples is the single most despicable and disgusting human rights abuse on our planet today, and it has to stop. (Applause)

  But let me conclude by saying, this work can be spiritually rewarding, but it's difficult and it can be dangerous. Two colleagues of mine passed away recently in the crash of a small plane. They were serving the forest to protect those uncontacted tribes. So the question is, in conclusion, is what the future holds. These are the Uray people in Brazil. What does the future hold for them, and what does the future hold for us? Let's think differently. Let's make a better world. If the climate's going to change, let's have a climate that changes for the better rather than the worse. Let's live on a planet full of luxuriant vegetation, in which isolated peoples can remain in isolation, can maintain that mystery and that knowledge if they so choose. Let's live in a world where the shamans live in these forests and heal themselves and us with their mystical plants and their sacred frogs.
16:23 Thanks again.
16:25 (Applause)