30 March 2008

Farewell Not In Our Name

Not In Our Name, a organization that was founded after Sept. 11th to protest Bush's wars, will no longer be active.
This decision was not an easy one for those of us who have taken up the crucial work of Not in Our Name over the past 6 years. We know that resistance to war and repression continues and needs all of our immediate participation if we are to see any real changes, no matter who takes office in 2008. Though we are closing our office, many around the country will still take out the sentiment and politics of Not in Our Name, as it is at heart a grassroots project.

Edward Guinan's "If We Listen Well"

The Class of Nonviolence is an online "course" of essays discussing peace and nonviolence. I've decided to read through about one per day, and the first is "If We Listen Well" by Paulist priest Edward Guinan.

According to Guinan, peace is active nonviolence, rather than something passive that we look for in times of war. He writes that, “We continue to deal in symptomatic terms as if war and destruction and violence are the extensions and natural outgrowths of malignant attitudes, values, relationships, and beliefs that we continue to embrace.”

Guinan's philosophy of peace is similar to that of Mohandas Gandhi's, who felt that nonviolence was not only equal to violence, but more effective. A victory won with nonviolence will last longer than one won with violence, because when violence is used there will be bitterness and eventually violence will probably break out once again.

This essay sheds light on a form of violence that isn't exactly visible to many because of the way we've been socially conditioned. "Hunger, poverty, squalor, privilege, powerlessness, riches, despair, and vicarious living are forms of violence - forms that a society approves and perpetuates. We have been too willing to discuss violence in terms of ghetto uprisings, student unrest, street thievery, and trashing, and have been unwilling to direct our attention to the more pathological types of violence that are acceptable - the types that daily crush the humanity and life from untold millions of brothers and sisters."

Under the Same Moon commercial

Recession: The Movie

29 March 2008

New Weapon: Nipple Rings

A woman in Texas trying to board a plane was forced to remove her nipple rings (because, you know, they're so dangerous), although they allowed her to leave in a belly button ring.

Via Crooks and Liars:
The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin's chest, the Dallas-area resident said.

Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

"Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her," said Hamlin's attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. [..]

She said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she was still wearing a belly button ring.

27 March 2008

Daughter dies while parents pray - instead of seeking medical care

An eleven year old girl in Wisconsin died when her parents decided to treat an illness with prayer instead of a trip to the hospital.
Her mother, Leilani Neumann, tells The Associated Press her daughter's condition worsened suddenly, and the parents stayed in prayer, believing she would recover.

She also says she's not concerned about a police investigation, because she and her husband believe their lives are in God's hands and they did nothing criminal, only tried to do the best they could for their daughter.

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin says an autopsy showed the girl died from a type of diabetes that left her with too little insulin in her body. He says she had probably been ill for about 30 days.
I'm all for healing with self-treatment (although I'm more partial to aromatherapy and tea than prayer), but it the parents' fault in this case that their daughter died. The girl was probably too young to make the decision to go to a hospital or have her parents pray for her, and who's to say she didn't want to go to the hospital and her parents just kept on praying? Obviously I don't know the specifics inside this family, and I'm just speculating, but these parents need to have some sort of charges bought against them. Until someone is old enough to make the decision to go without professional medical care, the hospital is the right place for them.


20 March 2008

Innocent Ethnic Uighurs In Guantanamo Bay

There are currently seventeen Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay who have been told that they would all be freed (in 2004) and that they are innocent.
"We fail to know why we are still in jail here," [Abdulghappar] Turkistani says...

"We are still in hope that the US government will free us soon and send us to a safe place."
So if they're innocent, why are they still imprisoned?
American officials have acknowledged that while they will not be pressing charges against the 17 Uighurs, they cannot be sent back to China because they are likely to face persecution.
Therefore, the US government is keeping them in small, insanitary cells against their wishes for twenty-two hours a day.
"Being away from family, away from our homeland... being forbidden from the natural sunlight, natural air, being surrounded with a metal box all around is not suitable for a human being," Turkistani wrote.
Al Jazeera

Lynndie England blames the media

Lynndie England, one of the people responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal, is once again putting the blame somewhere else.
I feel sorry and wrong about what I did. But it would not have escalated to what it did all over the world if it wouldn't have been for someone leaking it to the media.
Obviously it's okay so long as people don't know about it. Because, according to England, "what we did happens in war."

She also makes the statement that there were worse pictures the public didn't get to see, and that, "if it had been broken by the news without the pictures it wouldn't have been that big."

So, as you can see, it was the media's fault that it was such a big deal. Not the people responsible, because that's just what happens during a war.

USA Today

17 March 2008

New energy positive building

A new building in the United Arab Emirates, planned to be finished in 2010, will be the world's first energy positive building. This means that it will produce more energy than it uses. It will be built in Masdar City, which is completely powered by renewable energy. A Chicago firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture has designed this remarkable tower. According to the press release, the building "will utilize sustainable materials and feature integrated wind turbines, outdoor air quality monitors and one of the world's largest building-integrated solar energy arrays."Masdar Headquarters

CREDO Mobile

CREDO Mobile is a cell phone company owned by Working Assets that allows the user to donate to an organization of their choice every time they make a call. There is a long list of groups that you can support through the company, covering civil rights, economic and social justice, peace and international freedom, the environment, and voting rights and civic participation.

I love seeing new ways to make effortless changes. How hard is it to sign up with CREDO verses Verizon or Sprint? Unfortunately, at the moment the coverage isn't as good as the more well-known companies (I was disappointed to see my area not yet covered). However, maybe the advancement of companies like this will encourage the big-name corporations to start making changes.

CREDO Mobile

13 March 2008

Fred Phelps

One of my (more time-consuming) hobbies is watching documentary after documentary, in the hopes that I'll learn a little more about a number of issues I care about. Once in a while I'll watch one that makes me furious by the time it's over. Jesus Camp is a good example of one. And now I want to discuss the one I just finished, Fall From Grace.

Fall From Grace is the story of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. He and his congregation have devoted themselves to hating homosexuality, on which they blame all of America's troubles. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate organization, and with good reason.

One of the things that they're most famous for is protesting at funerals. The people of Westboro Baptist Church frequents the funerals of soldiers killed in action to protest homosexuals, whose fault it is, according to WBC, that the soldiers are dying. According to Phelps, "I'm thankful for all that get killed over there in Iraq, I just wish it would be not 2,000 but 2 million." They parade around at these funerals and anywhere else they feel the need to spread their influence with signs reading "God hates fags" and "Thank god for dead soldiers." These are the people responsible for the hate website godhatesfags.com.

According to three of Fred Phelps children that separated themselves from the family say that abuse was prevalent. From the SPLC:
Mark and Nathan Phelps and sister Dortha "Dotti" Bird offer plenty of brutal details - details that their father has long dismissed as "a sea of fag lies." Nathan told the Intelligence Report that he was beaten with a leather strap regularly. Then, he says, Fred Phelps switched to a mattack handle - like an axe handle - and beat Nathan until he "couldn't lie down or sit down for a week." The three charge that Phelps also beat their mother, forced the children to fast and more.
One of the things that always strike me when watching this sort of documentary are how brainwashed their children are. Jesus Camp, which I've already said above enraged me, is a perfect film to show the effects that fundamentalist Christians have on children. These children are taught to hate people different from them. They don't know tolerance, and will probably never know tolerance, because they're taught from the time they are old enough to understand that it is okay to be hateful.

Since I became aware of politics in high school, there has been one things I've feared more than anything else: the Christian far right. Separation of church and state is very important to me, as I imagine it is for many Americans, and Christian fundamentalists want to control all aspects of American life, which means that non-Christians will essentially lose all their rights. This threat is real.

Fall From Grace
Jesus Camp
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg - one of the best books I've ever read. I highly recommend this.
Southern Poverty Law Center
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

12 March 2008

Global Warming's Effects of Transportation

According to a new study transportation is facing growing threats from global warming. These are the five biggies, from National Geographic News:

-- More heat waves, requiring load limits at hot-weather or high-altitude airports and causing thermal expansion of bridge joints and rail track deformities.

-- Rising sea levels and storm surges flooding coastal roadways, forcing evacuations, inundating airports and rail lines, flooding tunnels, and eroding bridge bases.

-- More rainstorms delaying air and ground traffic, flooding tunnels and railways, and eroding road, bridge, and pipeline supports.

-- More frequent strong hurricanes, disrupting air and shipping service, blowing debris onto roads, and damaging buildings.

-- Rising arctic temperatures thawing permafrost, resulting in road, railway, and airport runway subsidence and potential pipeline failures.

I've said this before, but it's sobering to realize just how much global warming is going to affect every aspect of our lives.

11 March 2008

Back from break

I'm back from Spring break, and although my break was relaxing, I'm now suffering from the flu, which I haven't been lucky enough to catch since I was about seven years old. Unfortunately, my university has a ridiculous attendance policy: you can only miss the amount of days you meet per week. For most of my classes that's three. Which means that people end up going to class ill, which infects other students and professors alike. Starting about a month before break, we had a large outbreak of the flu, with something like 100 students going to the health center in just a couple of weeks. I have a feeling that if students were given the opportunity to be responsible they wouldn't put so many other students at risk for catching an illness. However, obviously our school officials think we're children who can't make good decisions for ourselves.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm now seriously considering attending class tomorrow, whether I'm ill or not. I've already missed two days in most of my classes due to sinus problems. It's the school's fault people are making the bad decision to go to class when they're ill.