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Stevie Wonder at the Montreal Jazz Festival

I could not pass up the chance to see Stevie Wonder at the opening concert of the Montreal Jazz Festival. This freebie (yes, it's free) will be taking place at a brand new outdoor venue, which I have yet to see. I hope my friends will know exactly where it is because I certainly don't.

It's 4:00 pm on a hot humid Montreal day. That means that tonight along with the other 100,000 concert goers, it will be a steam bath. I can already see myself in the middle of the crowd unable to move and being seized by a wave of panic. But I'm going anyway...

I gave up on concerts years ago. I got tired of the drunks and being stepped on. Nevertheless, I'm going tonight, and I even have some...ah, expectations. For one, I hope that Stevie sings Superstition and not some silly jazzy version of it either. Yes, I realize that this is called the Jazz fest for a reason, but If I'm going to brave the crowds, only the funk version will suffice damn it!

I also want to hear Isn't she lovely because that was the song that was constantly on my mind when I was pregnant with my daughter. Okay, promise not to cry....There.

I've also heard that Stevie will be paying a tribute to Michael Jackson, so I'm crossing my fingers that he'll do ABC, Ben or some early Jackson 5 stuff.

My friends also have expectations. One of them thinks that if we get there at 5:00 pm, we can get a spot right in front of the stage. I hope someone told her that people have been arriving from Boston and New York for two days. The other friend doesn't like crowds and hopes that we get a spot on a patio, where we can hopefully have a few beers and watch Stevie on one of the big screens. I'm not sure either of these expectations is realistic, but I'm going with them for the ride.

I promise to take a picture wherever we might end up. I can already feel those pre-concert excitement jitters. A demain!
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Finding the Cracks in a Crackdown

The Crackdown

In the wake of the Ayatollah Khamenei's stern warning to reform protesters on June 19, the National Guard, Riot Police, and Basijis began a major crackdown on public demonstrations. According to the Iranian media, 10 people died in violent clashes between security forces and protesters on June 20. In addition, the state media reported that 457 people had been arrested, although foreign sources estimate the number at more than 2,000.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that security forces have been arresting major reform politicians and clerics, student leaders, journalists, bloggers, human rights lawyers and activists, and reformist party officials in Tehran and other cities.

According to the HRW North Africa and Middle East Director, Sarah Leah Witson, "It is clear that Iran's supreme leader has sent a strong message to the security forces to end the protests, regardless of the level of violence involved."

We have all noticed the absence of persiankiwi since June 24, but we still do not know whether our reliable source has gone underground or been arrested. We pray for the former.

The Cracks

Fear and state-imposed restrictions have silenced many would-be protesters, but have also forced others to find new ways to gather and demonstrate legally. Yesterday, TehranBureau published an account of a protester at the Ghoba Mosque in North Tehran, the site of another demonstration.

June 28 marks the death of the Ayatollah Mohammad Behesti, who was killed in a bombing in 1981. The Islamic Republic commemorates his martyrdom in an annual ceremony that is open to the public. Some 3,000 reformist supporters used this legal venue to stage a protest yesterday. They also chanted "The vote is the measure," a slogan made famous by the Ayatollah Khomeini in reference to the popular vote. Demonstrators borrowed the slogan to protest the disputed June 12 election results. Unfortunately, the demonstration ended with the Basijis descending on protesters in the street and shots being fired.

I found the tweet on the left very telling of the current situation in Iran. One week ago, there were numerous tweets about remedies for teargas. Yesterday, I saw this one with links to sites on administering CPR and first aid, treating broken bones, and sadly, gunshot wounds.

To read the full account of this woman's experience at the demonstration inside the Ghoba Mosque and on the street, click here.

To hear the chant and view footage from inside the Ghoba Mosque see the video below:

Globe and Mail
Human Rights Watch
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Persiankiwi disappears...

In one of the last updates from persiankiwi, our ears in Iran informed us,
we must go - dont know when we can get internet - they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names - now we must move fast - #Iranelection from web
For people following the twitter stream of persiankiwi (PK) on the situation in Iran, we know that bloggers must change locations to avoid government detection. We also see here what many people have suspected all along: that PK is a team of people rather than one individual.

Based on one of PK's last updates, the government was tracking phone line use, as the vast majority of Internet users in Iran still have dial-up connections.* In addition, we learn that Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami are reported to be under house arrest.

But the news of the day was the carnage that took place at Baharestan and Lalezar Squares in Tehran. I heard the chilling audio account from a young woman who was at Baharestan Square on CNN.

The disappearance of PK is particularly worrisome in light of the June 23 report from Reporters Without Borders: 26 journalists had been arrested and imprisoned since the disputed Iranian election on June 12.

What is still more alarming was the appointment of Saeed Mortazavi, the notorious Iranian prosecutor, who is to oversee the cases of imprisoned Sea of Green protesters in Tehran. Mortazavi, also known as "the butcher of the press," was implicated in the torture and murder of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003.

The emergency-room doctor who examined Zahra Kazemi in Tehran, Shahram Azam, testified at his asylum hearing in Canada that the photojournalist had been brutally raped and tortured, and he implicated Saeed Mortazavi.

Zahra Kazemi was taking photos of a student demonstration outside the notorious Evin prison on the day she was arrested. The 54-year-old photojournalist had worked throughout the Middle East and was a champion of women's rights.

*The OpenNet Initiative reported that only 250,000 Iranian Internet users had high-speed access in 2007.

The Globe and Mail
Reporters Without Borders
The OpenNet Initiative: Iran

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Persian BBC live footage of shooting, looting and chaos

The Persian BBC has recently released footage of overturned cars set ablaze, people fleeing gunfire and a state of panic on a Tehran side street.

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Persiankiwi et al.

I woke up early this morning anxious to see if persiankiwi, the world's number one citizen journalist, had begun tweets on Twitter. Today, June 20, 2009, will be a momentous day in Iran, where a mass and potentially deadly demonstration is to be held.

I have also been watching some of the people persiankiwi is following. Some of the best news, which has later been confirmed, has come not only from persiankiwi, but also from oxfordgirl and TehranBureau, an online independent magazine about Iran and the Iranian diaspora.

Oxfordgirl and TehranBureau

At 9:30 EST, both oxfordgirl and the TehranBureau reported a bomb explosion and clashes between protesters and riot police in Tehran. At this point, persiankiwi still had not begun giving updates on the situation.

Early this morning, oxfordgirl was advising demonstrators to protest peacefully and to "let their bodies go limp" if arrested by police. Under no circumstances were protesters to fight back. Throughout the week, persiankiwi and oxfordgirl have been advocating nonviolence in the Sea of Green protests.

I see that Harvard's Neiman Reports has quite a large ad on the TehranBureau's home page. To me, this is a tacit approval that this online magazine is a reliable source; otherwise, I can't see why they would pay for such a prominent ad. For any background information on the happenings in Iran this week, TehranBureau is your best source.

This person or team is the world's eyes in Iran. This source has been posting great videos and photos throughout the week. I admit sometimes the English is difficult to understand, but for the visual story this source is your best bet.

I have already viewed some eerie photos from maydar of riot police waiting for rioters this morning. Bear in mind that protesters are more frightened of the Iranian militia (Basij or Baseej) than the actual riot police.

First clip from Azadi Street

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Persiankiwi's Twitter

Twitter: A Crucial Medium For Iranian Resistance

The utility of Twitter is no longer debatable. Yesterday, we saw just how important it was in giving a means of communication to the voiceless in Iran, a country where authorities have shut down every other means of conventional communication with the outside world. Through open proxies posted on Twitter throughout the day, Iranian bloggers were able to post news and photos of a massive and, at times, violent demonstration in the streets of Tehran.

The role of Twitter has become so vital that a "critical network upgrade" was postponed last night. At 7:00 pm EST, Twitter Co-founder and Creative Director Biz Stone announced the postponement and the reason for it,
In coordination with Twitter, our network host had planned this upgrade for tonight. However, our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.


Although media sources were following various Iranian bloggers throughout the day for news, I saw that Change_for_Iran was confirmed to be physically in that country by Twitter CEO Evan Williams. This was the only confirmation that I saw on Monday. Many Twitterers voiced their suspicions yesterday as to whether certain bloggers were actually in Iran. Initially, I, too, was concerned about authenticity, but nevertheless found my self drawn in by persiankiwi.

And like most people, I was conflicted about wanting to know more about this individual's identity. On the one hand, I was curious and looked for clues in the updates, while on the other, I didn't want any disclosure to put the blogger in harm's way.

While I was reading persiankiwi's posts, I saw no indication of the gender of this blogger, but for some reason I thought she was a woman (What do you think reader?) Or was it because I could not associate a kiwi with a man? ...A parent from New Zealand, perhaps.

The only signs I saw that our blogger had not learned English in North America, or at a Canadian or US school, was her use of "Uni" for University and "mobile" for cell phone, two expressions which to me are decidedly British.

The capture on the left gives updates persiankiwi posted in the last hours before she and her group had to separate and change location on Monday night. (Click on the capture to enlarge.)

All the best to the gutsy bloggers of Iran.

Tabriz and Isfahan are major Iranian cities. Evin is a Tehran prison for political prisoners.
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Iranian Bloggers: The World's Only Eyes and Ears

Iran / today / Tehran #IranElection on Twitpic
In the wake of contested election results and banned opposition rallies in Iran, the eyes and ears of the world are focused on the Islamic Republic. However, there isn't much to see or hear.

According to this morning's Guardian, Iranian authorities have successfully blocked television, radio and cell phone signals by generating interference. But communication has not been cut completely. Although the Islamic Republic still controls much of the Internet infrastructure and has installed one of the world's most sophisticated filtering systems, blocking the Internet is proving more problematic for Iranian authorities.

By using proxies or alternate pathways, savvy Internet users are sidestepping state-monitored gateways. Information on open proxies is being exchanged on Twitter to give Iranians full access to the Internet. I awoke early this morning to see many proxies posted on the micro-blogging site. It felt strange to imagine that Iranian authorities were there with me blocking these proxies as soon as they were made available.

As reported on CNN this morning, Twitter is how news of the upheaval is spreading to the rest of the world. In fact, at this moment, the Guardian's Iranian Election Crisis LIVE blog is following Mousavi1388 for its up-to-the-minute coverage.

I have been following persiankiwi all morning, as has a Canadian television network (CTV), which reportedly requested an interview. This individual has been giving riveting realtime coverage of today's rally in Teheran. Here is a summary of some of this morning's tweets:

The picture in the above right-hand corner of today's rally is courtesy of twitpics.com. It was posted by Madyar, another Iranian blogger I am following on Twitter.

If you would like join the many others leaving words of encouragement for these gutsy bloggers, then click here.

For some great pictures of the unrest in Teheran, click here.

persiankiwi (Twitter)
Madyar (Twitter)
Change_for_Iran (source confirmed to be in Iran by Evan Williams, Twitter CEO)
The Guardian
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Part 1: Eco-Entrepreneurs Do the Right Thing

Unfortunately, we live in a time when the bottom line seems to trump what's in everyone else's best interest, and some of us still cling to the hope that our politicians will fulfill their promises and do the right thing.

And then there are those special people who get tired of waiting for someone else to do the right thing and do it themselves.

This is the case of Steven McLeod and Tye Hunt, two Montreal eco-entrepreneurs who started their own composting business two years ago. Sick of waiting for the City of Montreal to deliver on its promise of a citywide composting program, McLeod and Hunt began Compost Montreal with just 20 customers in St. Henri. They now have some 400 residential and commercial clients with routes throughout the island of Montreal.

(Please write to us if you know of an eco-entrepreneur who is doing the right thing.)

Part of the eco-entrepreneurs' task is to educate their clients about what can and cannot be used in compost. After all, like any fine product, the best compost depends on the quality of its ingredients.

Many well-intentioned people without any composting experience have some misconceptions. In order to dispel some of them, I asked McLeod and Hunt specifically why some items were refused.

For instance, a common misconception is that pet excrement can be put in compost.

"People assume that because horse and cow manure is composted, the same is true for dog and cat feces," said Tye Hunt. "However, dogs and cats, like their masters, consume meat and meat by-products, which results in feces with E-coli."

Obviously, this is not something you want to put in your vegetable garden.

The same is true of any animal products (meat, bones, fish and fish bones, shellfish, clam,oyster, mussel and shrimp shells, raw eggs, dairy products and animal fat). I learned from Steven McLeod that not only do these products produce a prolific stench and attract vermin from miles around, but they also carry harmful bacteria which may not be killed in the composting process.

I know that paper products are accepted, but on the Compost Montreal Web site, I see that newspapers must be shredded. That is because a layer of unshredded newspapers or leaves on a compost pile will prevent oxygen from entering, and as you may recall from my previous post, composting without oxygen creates methane, which is not the purpose of this type of composting.

I told Tye Hunt that some of the Toronto municipalities accepted wax-coated paper cups in their curbside composting programs. He said that the City of Toronto is now having a problem dealing with this, as wax is not organic, and it does not break down. Ergo, wax-coated paper cups are not good for compost.

Tye said the same thing about biodegradable bags. Although they break down in the soil, they still contain some manmade components, which are not the best for fine compost, and people should avoid putting them in their organic waste bins.

As Compost Montreal's business has expanded, it can now accept ingredients that were previously refused.

Oak leaves, citrus fruit, corn cobs and cabbage cores are now accepted. Because the operation is larger today, it can accept acidic ingredients, such as oak leaves and citrus fruit. Too much acid kills the bacteria responsible for the composting process. A larger operation also means that the cycle is longer, so there is enough time to break down things as dense as corn cobs and cabbage cores.

For a complete list of the items accepted and refused in Compost Montreal's collection service click here, and check back periodically for important updates.

If you would like to join our eco-entrepreneurs in their quest to rid our landfill sites of valuable compostable ingredients, or if you have any questions click here.

Let's hope that when the City of Montreal finally implements its composting program, it will consult our eco-entrepreneurs and make the most of their initiative and acquired knowledge.

Montreal Mirror
Compost Montreal

Related posts:
Why we should compost--Even Urbanites

Other environmental posts:
Meet the Clean 15 (Produce with lowest pesticide levels)

Evironmental Working Group Updates its Dirty Dozen (12 fruit and veg with the highest pesticide levels)

Buying Local: Vegetables Year Round
Plastics: Of the 3 Rs, we should REDUCE
3 Simple Q&As about Children and Pesticides
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Why We Should Compost--Even Urbanites

Why We Should Compost

Like most Montrealers, I was unaware that organic or kitchen waste accounted for 45% of all garbage collected in the city. Of this percentage, roughly half is compostable, yet only 8% is actually composted (think dead leaves). The rest ends up in landfill or at the incinerator, and these means of disposal release three principal types of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane gas.

Although carbon dioxide is the most prevalent of the three, methane gas causes the greatest devastation to the environment. And according to Environment Canada, landfills create nearly 38% of all methane emissions nationwide. Sometimes referred to as landfill gas, methane is created when organic matter beneath layers of waste decomposes without oxygen.

A way to avoid this is to compost. As composting combines oxygen, it's a methane-free operation and only releases minimal amounts of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Not only does composting reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill and prevent potential soil and groundwater contamination, it also creates nutrient-rich soil.

(Do you have a composting program where you live, work or go to school?)

Okay, I'm clear on why we need to compost. But what is a city dweller to do? We lack both the space to compost and the garden to use it in.

Like many North Amercian cities, Montreal does not have a city-wide composting program. Lots of hot air (or is it methane?) has been released on implementing a composting program, but there have only been a few pilot projects to date.

A Solution for Urban Dwellers

There are private compost collection services that will pick up your organic waste on a weekly basis year round.

(Do you have another effective solution for urban dwellers? Please tell us about it.)

This is the case here in Montreal. I recently learned about an affordable composting company that caters to both residents and businesses on the island of Montreal. For the modest sum of $5 a week or $60 a season (13 weeks), Compost Montreal will give you a container for your kitchen scraps and pick it up once a week. And if you have a garden, it will give you free compost in the spring.

I recently contacted the company and spoke with compost entrepreneur Tye Hunt. The company has just expanded operations and added to the list of waste products it accepts.On the company's Web site, it gives an itemized list of what the company accepts and refuses.

Compost customers must bear in mind that this is not their mother's backyard compost. It's a large-scale operation with strict requirements to ensure quality.

Tune in for my next post. I will explain why some ingredients are not suitable for compost.

Montreal Gazette
Composting Council of Canada
Compost Montreal

Other environmental posts:
Meet the Clean 15 (Produce with lowest pesticide levels)
Evironmental Working Group Updates its Dirty Dozen (12 fruit and veg with the highest pesticide levels)
Buying Local: Vegetables Year Round
Plastics: Of the 3 Rs, we should REDUCE
3 Simple Q&As about Children and Pesticides
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Green Trespassers: One Step Closer to Community Garden

Last week via Facebook, I heard some news from Torsten Hermann, the St. Henri guerrilla gardener. The City of Montreal had delivered the promised topsoil, and the CBC had been around to interview him about his gardening project.

A few days later, Torsten was informed by several neighbours that they had heard his name and community garden mentioned on the radio. This additional publicity has made Torsten a local celebrity in St. Henri, particularly on Delinelle Street.

(Are there any guerrilla gardeners in your neighbourhood? Please tell us about them.)

"Everyone on the street now has high hopes that the City will officially make this a community garden," said Torsten.

As some readers may recall, the owner of this land remains a mystery. In true guerrilla gardening fashion, Torsten Hermann and Fraser Wilkinson cleared this rubble-strewn St. Henri lot in the spring of 2008, with what some considered "lofty" hopes of starting a community garden.

The many initial detractors on Delinelle Street and the surrounding area have since changed their minds and are now showing their full support--the project is thriving, as I saw for myself this weekend.

The Delinelle Community Garden and Park, as Emily Wilkinson's hand-painted reads, has expanded in size to accommodate eight neighbourhood gardeners who are now working side by side. Torsten showed me each of the different gardener's plots and told me a little bit about each person and how they came to be members.

Emily had taken over for her father, Fraser, in mid-season last year. This summer both were gardening together, as were Jessica, Matt, Miriam, Nicole, Lauren and Torsten, all residents in and around Delinelle Street.

Torsten told me that the experience has been extremely positive. In addition to receiving more plants from the borough flower give-away, the community garden has received much more.

"A few weeks ago, one of the neighbours, a landscaper, dropped off that bush," he said, pointing to the newest addition. "Another neighbour also came out one night to offer us a case of beer. But the nicest part," he added, "is when the odd person stops by to tell us how great our project is."

I noticed a complete walkway with patio stones this time, and Torsten explained that they were donated by Mr. Doré, a local landlord. With the remaining patio stones, the gardeners planned to put a patio in the back corner under an elm tree, where neighbours could bring their lawn chairs and enjoy the shade on a hot summer's day.

The compost was being moved closer to the gardening plots, and Torsten showed me how they were planning to expand the garden if more green thumbs wanted to join next year. Another addition was a raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb patch.

Mmmm... I can taste the pie already.

There are also some plans for a street party at the end of the summer around harvest time, which I am looking forward to.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the gardening membership expand from 2 last year to 8 this year. What is more, the area looks well cared for.

Liz Christy would have been proud of Torsten and his gang of guerrilla gardeners.

Related articles:
Liz Christy Seed Bombs and Some Not So Covert Bombing
More on Guerrilla-ing in NYC and St. Henri
Attention Guerrilla Gardeners: the Liz Christy Seed Bomb (a how-to)
Trespassers in St. Henri Win City Gardening Contest
What Exactly is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla Gardening: Tips for the Novice
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