Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘World’ Category

Violence is No Fantasy

What happened in a Colorado movie theatre around 12:30 am this morning was shocking, senseless, and tragic. The victims were in no way to blame for what befell them at the hands of a deranged killer. But we as a society should not be surprised at the increasing number of such violent gun attacks on innocent people when we constantly present violence as entertainment.

I read this quote about the tragedy in a CNN article: “For somebody to go into a movie theater, a place of fun and escapism, and bring that kind of violence into that world is shocking and tragic,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com. But just two short paragraphs later, the same article points out that “Warner Bros., which is owned by the parent company of CNN, has been heavily marketing the action film that includes scenes featuring lots of gunplay and violence.[emphasis mine] Warner Bros. pulled the trailer for the film ‘Gangster Squad,’ which had been running before showings of ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ That film trailer features scenes of men armed with machine guns attacking a movie theater.” Sounds like a lot of what too many people term “fun” and “escapism” involves “fantasy” violence.

I have already seen the inevitable renewed debate over gun control. But this is NOT a gun control issue. This is a behavioral issue. Are violent video games to blame? Or the movie industry itself? How about television? Maybe it’s the parents? None of these is responsible – all of them are. At least we’re talking (occasionally) about those particular issues. Sadly, it’s not politically correct to raise the question of how war and combat are glamorized by our recruitment for and celebration of our armed forces. Frankly, we’ve indoctrinated an entire, desensitized generation into believing that wielding weapons is normal and heroic.

I hear the argument all the time: “Oh, it’s ‘just’ a video game. It’s ‘just’ a movie. Kids aren’t REALLY going to do those things. They know better. They can tell the difference between media and reality” But you know what? When they play it in their spare time, see it in their toys, watch it on TV – in their cartoons, in their news, in their commercials – see it in the movies, witness it in their sports, hear it in their music, and have it in front of them in myriad way ALL THE TIME, they absorb it, they ingest it, they accept it, and they normalize it. It becomes their reality.

My kids are not very exposed to violence through the media. We don’t watch network TV at home at all  (this is no exaggeration – we have had no dish or cable service for over 2.5 years.) We use our TV for Wii games & movies and the most violent DVDs we own are probably the Harry Potter movie collection. However, my kids aren’t completely sheltered from the reality of a violent world. Despite the controversy, I took my kids to see “The Hunger Games,” an admittedly violent movie, because they’d both read the books and because the heroine is herself so horrified by the lack of humanity exhibited by most of the people associated with the games. During the movie, other kids and adults were cheering when each “bad” kid died. Both my girls were horrified by this because even though the characters were “kids making bad choices, they were still kids and they were dying. Why are people cheering for kids dying, mom?” Out of the mouths of babes…

I had a friend, who was raising three boys, tell me once that I didn’t understand that boys need to run around and pretend violence in order to “find their place as men in our society” (I think she’d read that in some book about raising sons). She wasn’t entirely comfortable with it at the time, but “it’s just a necessary part of life.” Her oldest son was so young, maybe 7 years old, that it didn’t MEAN anything, she said. That son is a teenager now and obsessed with all things Army, guns, camouflage, violent video games, killing – and she see no problem with it, still thinks it’s normal. I’m horrified at his transformation and we are no longer friends partially because I don’t want my girls exposed to that kind of “normal” boy.

Does no one see a connection between the massive daily over-exposure of our kids to violence and the rise of school violence? domestic violence? violent bullying? childhood depression? youth suicide? Was no one else horrified that there was a 4 month old baby and a 9 year old child present in that theatre at midnight am for a PG-13 movie containing known adult violence? Does no one else see the grim irony that many people in the theatre didn’t realize what was happening because they thought it was just super-realistic special effects?

Violence is not acceptable – not in our video games, not in our movies, not in our toys, not in our music, not in our television shows, not in our sports, and especially NOT for our children. And if we don’t stand up and say, “No more,” we will continue to find others’ violent escapism fantasies turning into our own very grim reality.

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End of the Innocence?

For 10 years, I’ve been quiet about my personal reaction to and feelings about the events of September 11, 2001 and the aftermath. But it seems fitting on today’s 10 year anniversary to let my perspective finally be heard.

Nothing in my experience of the day or my feelings as it unfolded was unique or remarkable. I was a stay-at-home mom of two young children ages 2 and 2 months who took her kids to a morning gym class and came home to news reports of tragedy. Millions of Americans saw the same scenes I saw and were glued just as voyeuristically to the horror unfolding on television as I was. It was what happened in the days, months, and years afterward that came to shape how I feel today about the events of that day.

People associate a wide variety of feelings with their personal experience of 9/11: grief, loss, fear, confusion, insecurity. Personally, I associate 9/11 with shame and anger – for my own country. If today’s ten year anniversary is about loss, and here’s what I believe we truly lost on 9/11:

* We lost over 3,000 civilian lives in a horrifically tragic way – as tragic as the millions of innocent lives which continue to be lost in horrific ways all over the world from violence, preventable disease, human cruelty to fellow humans, and wars which we ourselves are perpetrating.

* We lost our sense of fiscal responsibility, led by a President who told our citizenry that to spend money to avoid recession was their patriotic duty. Is it a surprise that we are in the economic situation we are today?

* We lost our sense of security at home, just like we lost that sense when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. We vowed we’d never forget the lessons we learned following that particular national tragedy, never repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath.

* We lost the recognition of individuality for which we were admired throughout history. We blamed an entire religion instead of a handful of radical zealots. We feared and institutionally discriminated against Americans who practiced Islam, making them feel fear in their own country and depriving them of individual liberty, just like we did to Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.

* We lost the very foundation of freedom that defines us as a nation. Instead of being MORE vigilant to protect that for which the world envied us, we gave it up for the illusion of action to create a false security which never did, never could, and never will exist.

* We lost our pride in our freedom to question those in power. We pretended unity and called it patriotism. We called traitor those who disagreed, rather like the very extremists we abhorred.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people.” Wendell Phillips, 1852

After the events of 9/11, we vowed not to let the terrorists and the extremists win, but when we allowed them to take our sense of security in ourselves, when we allowed our priceless American liberties to be eroded, we gave up our power. “We have met the enemy – and he is us.” (Walt Kelly, 1953)

“The world changed that day,” they say. But did it? Or was it just your personal perception of the world that changed? “We will never forget,” they say. But that’s what a generation before us said after Pearl Harbor.

I believe with all my heart in what the United States of America truly stands for, in the ideals on which it was founded. But I feel we have fallen far away from those ideals as a result of our reaction to the events of 9/11 – and THAT is what saddens and angers me even more than the loss of innocent life. I pray that as a country, we will stop cowering behind bravado and return someday to what made us truly great: to embracing the REAL American values of individualism with respect, openness without fear, and freedom with hope that made us a target that fateful day.

This Little Piggie

Hysteria annoys and appalls me.  Today at church, instead of greeting fellow congregants with a handshake or hug, it was suggested that we bow – to be sensitive to the people who are worried about catching the so-called “swine flu.”

First, this viral strain has as much to do with birds as pigs.  It’s a hybrid pig-bird-human flu strain with no demonstrable link to pigs at all.  The more appropriate name is H1N1.  So let’s get some perspective on the H1N1 flu:

People in the world: 6,777,490,406

Confirmed cases of H1N1 world-wide: 900

Cases of H1N1 in Ohio: 1

Deaths from H1N1 in Ohio: 0

Deaths from H1N1 worldwide: 20

Incubation period of the H1N1 flu: one week

So unless you’ve been to Mexico in the last week – or interacted with someone who has – you have no mathematically rational reason to be concerned about catching H1N1. But apparently, many people are not rational.

Maybe the price of pork will go down.

Criminal Government

To say I am outraged by the inactions of the government in Burma would be an understatement. Their actions over the last six months – really, over the last 56 YEARS – have been deplorable. But their actions over the last six days are crimes against humanity.

Some of the horrors these people were enduring BEFORE Cyclone Nargis are recorded here. “A young woman, a domestic worker in Rangoon, described how one woman bystander who applauded the monks was rounded up. “My friend was taken away for clapping during the demonstrations. She had not marched. She came out of her house as the marchers went by and, for perhaps 30 seconds, smiled and clapped as the monks chanted. Her face was recorded on a military intelligence camera. She was taken and beaten. Now she is so scared she won’t even leave her room to come and talk to me, to anyone.”

“Another Rangoon resident told the aid worker: “We all hear screams at night as they [the police] arrive to drag off a neighbour. We are torn between going to help them and hiding behind our doors. We hide behind our doors. We are ashamed. We are frightened.”

It sounds a lot like a holocaust to me.

And there’s more recorded here: “As reported in The Gathering Storm, the junta spends 40 percent of its annual budget on the military, with only 3 cents of every dollar going to healthcare – an average of about 40 cents per citizen.”

“In 2006, observed Beyrer, Burma’s military dictator, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, spent some $40 million on his daughter’s wedding, a short (but damning) video of which was later posted on YouTube. That compared with $137,000 for a nationwide program to combat AIDS.”

But when I read today on CNN that the government literally STOLE two plane-loads of food from the U.N., I about lost it. Now the junta is saying that they’ve reconsidered and are willing to accept aid. Well, sure they are – so they can steal it for the wealthy government officials. And listen to this: “Officials plan to go ahead Saturday with a national constitutional referendum aimed at strengthening the power of the military junta. The government has delayed voting in areas most ravaged by Saturday’s cyclone but refused to cancel the balloting countrywide.”

These government officials are utterly corrupt, unbelievably greedy, and criminally self-centered. The UN should go in there and take over Burma by force. Forget respect for a sovereign nation, this is cultural abuse on a massive scale and should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

50 Ways to Make a Difference

So I’ve started tag surfing when I have a few minutes and I’ve stumbled upon some wonderful blogs and content out there! For example, the other day I found a neat list of mostly low cost actions you can take today to make a positive impact on your “global footprint.” (The blog post I found is here with the original site here). I’m doing ok, I guess – 30 of the 50 actions are steps I’ve already taken. How are you doing? The list is reposted below!

Top 50 Things To Do To Stop Global Warming

Global Warming is a dramatically urgent and serious problem. We don’t need to wait for governments to find a solution for this problem. Each individual can provide important help by adopting a more responsible lifestyle and starting with little, everyday things. It’s the only reasonable way to save our planet before it is too late.

Here is a list of 50 simple things that everyone can do to fight against and reduce the Global Warming phenomenon. Some of these ideas cost nothing and some require a little effort or investment but can help you save a lot of money in the middle-long term!

  1. Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl)
    CFLs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb. This simple switch will save about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat
    Programmable thermostats will automatically lower the heat or air conditioning at night and raise them again in the morning. They can save you $100 a year on your energy bill.
  3. Move your thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer
    Almost half of the energy we use in our homes goes to heating and cooling. You could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple adjustment.
  4. Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner
    Cleaning a dirty air filter can save 350 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
  5. Choose energy efficient appliances when making new purchases
    Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances to choose the most energy efficient products available.
  6. Do not leave appliances on standby
    Use the “on/off” function on the machine itself. A TV set that’s switched on for 3 hours a day (the average time Europeans spend watching TV) and in standby mode during the remaining 21 hours uses about 40% of its energy in standby mode.
  7. Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket
    You’ll save 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple action. You can save another 550 pounds per year by setting the thermostat no higher than 50°C.
  8. Move your fridge and freezer
    Placing them next to the cooker or boiler consumes much more energy than if they were standing on their own. For example, if you put them in a hot cellar room where the room temperature is 30-35ºC, energy use is almost double and causes an extra 160kg of CO2 emissions for fridges per year and 320kg for freezers.
  9. Defrost old fridges and freezers regularly
    Even better is to replace them with newer models, which all have automatic defrost cycles and are generally up to two times more energy-efficient than their predecessors.
  10. Don’t let heat escape from your house over a long period
    When airing your house, open the windows for only a few minutes. If you leave a small opening all day long, the energy needed to keep it warm inside during six cold months (10ºC or less outside temperature) would result in almost 1 ton of CO2 emissions.
  11. Replace your old single-glazed windows with double-glazing
    This requires a bit of upfront investment, but will halve the energy lost through windows and pay off in the long term. If you go for the best the market has to offer (wooden-framed double-glazed units with low-emission glass and filled with argon gas), you can even save more than 70% of the energy lost.
  12. Get a home energy audit
    Many utilities offer free home energy audits to find where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. You can save up to 30% off your energy bill and 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Energy Star can help you find an energy specialist.
  13. Cover your pots while cooking
    Doing so can save a lot of the energy needed for preparing the dish. Even better are pressure cookers and steamers: they can save around 70%!
  14. Use the washing machine or dishwasher only when they are full
    If you need to use it when it is half full, then use the half-load or economy setting. There is also no need to set the temperatures high. Nowadays detergents are so efficient that they get your clothes and dishes clean at low temperatures.
  15. Take a shower instead of a bath
    A shower takes up to four times less energy than a bath. To maximise the energy saving, avoid power showers and use low-flow showerheads, which are cheap and provide the same comfort.
  16. Use less hot water
    It takes a lot of energy to heat water. You can use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of carbon dioxide saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year) instead of hot.
  17. Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible
    You can save 700 pounds of carbon dioxide when you air dry your clothes for 6 months out of the year.
  18. Insulate and weatherize your home
    Properly insulating your walls and ceilings can save 25% of your home heating bill and 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Caulking and weather-stripping can save another 1,700 pounds per year. Energy Efficient has more information on how to better insulate your home.
  19. Be sure you’re recycling at home
    You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year by recycling half of the waste your household generates.
  20. Recycle your organic waste
    Around 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions through the methane is released by decomposing bio-degradable waste. By recycling organic waste or composting it if you have a garden, you can help eliminate this problem! Just make sure that you compost it properly, so it decomposes with sufficient oxygen, otherwise your compost will cause methane emissions and smell foul.
  21. Buy intelligently
    One bottle of 1.5l requires less energy and produces less waste than three bottles of 0.5l. As well, buy recycled paper products: it takes less 70 to 90% less energy to make recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide.
  22. Choose products that come with little packaging and buy refills when you can
    You will also cut down on waste production and energy use… another help against global warming.
  23. Reuse your shopping bag
    When shopping, it saves energy and waste to use a reusable bag instead of accepting a disposable one in each shop. Waste not only discharges CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, it can also pollute the air, groundwater and soil.
  24. Reduce waste
    Most products we buy cause greenhouse gas emissions in one or another way, e.g. during production and distribution. By taking your lunch in a reusable lunch box instead of a disposable one, you save the energy needed to produce new lunch boxes.
  25. Plant a tree
    A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15%. The Arbor Day Foundation has information on planting and provides trees you can plant with membership.
  26. Switch to green power
    In many areas, you can switch to energy generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar. In some of these, you can even get refunds by government if you choose to switch to a clean energy producer, and you can also earn money by selling the energy you produce and don’t use for yourself.
  27. Buy locally grown and produced foods
    The average meal in the United States travels 1,200 miles from the farm to your plate. Buying locally will save fuel and keep money in your community.
  28. Buy fresh foods instead of frozen
    Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.
  29. Seek out and support local farmers markets
    They reduce the amount of energy required to grow and transport the food to you by one fifth. Seek farmer’s markets in your area, and go for them.
  30. Buy organic foods as much as possible
    Organic soils capture and store carbon dioxide at much higher levels than soils from conventional farms. If we grew all of our corn and soybeans organically, we’d remove 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere!
  31. Eat less meat
    Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters. Their grassy diet and multiple stomachs cause them to produce methane, which they exhale with every breath.
  32. Reduce the number of miles you drive by walking, biking, carpooling or taking mass transit wherever possible
    Avoiding just 10 miles of driving every week would eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year! Look for transit options in your area.
  33. Start a carpool with your coworkers or classmates
    Sharing a ride with someone just 2 days a week will reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by 1,590 pounds a year. eRideShare.com runs a free service connecting north american commuters and travelers.
  34. Don’t leave an empty roof rack on your car
    This can increase fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 10% due to wind resistance and the extra weight – removing it is a better idea.
  35. Keep your car tuned up
    Regular maintenance helps improve fuel efficiency and reduces emissions. When just 1% of car owners properly maintain their cars, nearly a billion pounds of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere.
  36. Drive carefully and do not waste fuel
    You can reduce CO2 emissions by readjusting your driving style. Choose proper gears, do not abuse the gas pedal, use the engine brake instead of the pedal brake when possible and turn off your engine when your vehicle is motionless for more than one minute. By readjusting your driving style you can save money on both fuel and car mantainance.
  37. Check your tires weekly to make sure they’re properly inflated
    Proper tire inflation can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Since every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, every increase in fuel efficiency makes a difference!
  38. When it is time for a new car, choose a more fuel efficient vehicle
    You can save 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year if your new car gets only 3 miles per gallon more than your current one. You can get up to 60 miles per gallon with a hybrid! You can find information on fuel efficiency on FuelEconomy and on GreenCars websites.
  39. Try car sharing
    Need a car but don’t want to buy one? Community car sharing organizations provide access to a car and your membership fee covers gas, maintenance and insurance. Many companies – such as Flexcar – offer low emission or hybrid cars too! Also, see ZipCar.
  40. Try telecommuting from home
    Telecommuting can help you drastically reduce the number of miles you drive every week. For more information, check out the Telework Coalition.
  41. Fly less
    Air travel produces large amounts of emissions so reducing how much you fly by even one or two trips a year can reduce your emissions significantly. You can also offset your air travel carbon emissions by investingin renewable energy projects.
  42. Encourage your school or business to reduce emissions
    You can extend your positive influence on global warming well beyond your home by actively encouraging other to take action.
  43. Join the virtual march
    The Stop Global Warming Virtual March is a non-political effort to bring people concerned about global warming together in one place. Add your voice to the hundreds of thousands of other people urging action on this issue.
  44. Encourage the switch to renewable energy
    Successfully combating global warming requires a national transition to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. These technologies are ready to be deployed more widely but there are regulatory barriers impeding them. U.S. citizens, take action to break down those barriers with Vote Solar.
  45. Protect and conserve forest worldwide
    Forests play a critial role in global warming: they store carbon. When forests are burned or cut down, their stored carbon is release into the atmosphere – deforestation now accounts for about 20% of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Conservation International has more information on saving forests from global warming.
  46. Consider the impact of your investments
    If you invest your money, you should consider the impact that your investments and savings will have on global warming. Check out SocialInvest and Ceres to can learn more about how to ensure your money is being invested in companies, products and projects that address issues related to climate change.
  47. Make your city cool
    Cities and states around the country have taken action to stop global warming by passing innovative transportation and energy saving legislation. If you’re in the U.S., join the cool cities list.
  48. Tell Congress to act
    The McCain Lieberman Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act would set a firm limit on carbon dioxide emissions and then use free market incentives to lower costs, promote efficiency and spur innovation. Tell your representative to support it.
  49. Make sure your voice is heard!
    Americans must have a stronger commitment from their government in order to stop global warming and implement solutions and such a commitment won’t come without a dramatic increase in citizen lobbying for new laws with teeth. Get the facts about U.S. politicians and candidates at Project Vote Smart and The League of Conservation Voters. Make sure your voice is heard by voting!
  50. Share this list!
    Send this page via e-mail to your friends! Spread this list worldwide and help people doing their part: the more people you will manage to enlighten, the greater YOUR help to save the planet will be (but please take action on first person too)!If you like, you are free to republish, adapt or translate the list and post it in your blog, website or forum as long as you give us credit with a link to the original source.
    Thank you.

No Books to Read

This article on CNN today was supposed to be a quick read, but it stopped me in my tracks. This man from Ethiopia received a $1200 grant twenty-two years ago to buy books for the children in his home country – but he couldn’t because there weren’t any books written in the language. Can you imagine that? NO BOOKS written in that language, and no books relating the stories, poems, songs, history, and culture of an entire people. That boggles my mind.

So what did he do? He became an author! Bravo. He has since established a children’s library of 15,000 books in Ethiopia.

This story reminded me not to take for granted the vast wealth of knowledge and access to knowledge that my family and I enjoy every day.

Small Drops Make an Ocean

*tap*tap*tap*

Anyone still out there? Somehow, I got busy doing other things and blogging took a backseat to life for…um…almost 6 months. But I made an new discovery that I have to share with you, so my blogging haitus has to come to a close!

Just so you know, I believe that one person CAN make a difference.

I believe that the entire world is my neighborhood.

I believe in helping others to help themselves.

I believe that I am truly blessed and therefore have a responsibility to share my blessings with others.

I believe that the distribution of my two most precious resources – time AND money – shed a spotlight on what I truly value.

So…here’s the problem. I like to help others, but I am usually reluctant to give money because of the potential for misuse and abuse. And, too, a large percentage of cash donations is too often used for program administration and doesn’t directly benefit the intended recipient. The solution to this problem is to give of my time and talent, but it feels hard for me to make a difference in the wider world community with my time and talent alone. But I found a website that solves my problem.

Kiva LogoIt’s called KIVA and it helps willing lenders make loans as small as $25 to entrepreneurs in need in developing countries. Notice, I said LOANS – not gifts – so the money comes back to you. It’s called microfinancing. This person-to-person small scale financing is neat, but the site also allows you to browse the stories behind the funds requested and select your own loan recipient. So as a lender, I get to pick the entrepreneur I help to fund!

Here is one entrepreneur who got funded recently: “Mrs. Song Sron, 38, lives with her husband and five children [in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia]. She raises pigs at her house and also owns a plot of farmland where she grows rice, making around $1.50 a day. Her husband, Mr. Chai Thu, 38, works as a palm juice collector. Everyday he climbs the palm tree to tap the palm juice, refines it to sugar cane and sells it in the market, earning about five dollars a day of income. Two children work in a factory earning $60 each per month. The others are students and help the parents work at home when they are not attending school. Mrs. Sron is requesting a loan [of $600] to purchase a cow to plow her field. This will help to reduce the family’s expense as she has been hiring a tractor to do this work.”

And here’s another: “Sonia is a beautiful woman who works breeding sheep and chickens in her home [in Tarma, Peru]. By selling the animals Sonia is able to keep up with her house expenses and her personal necessities. In her picture she is showing us a chicken while she waits for her sheep to return from their monthly visit to the veterinarian. She would like to build a better space for her animals and therefore is asking for a loan [for $150] to purchase the necessary materials.”

I think what I like about this site is that 1) you really feel like you are making a difference in someone’s life and 2) the money actually comes back (98% of the time) and can be reinvested, so it doesn’t feel like a bottomless pit of need.

You can also browse the profiles of lenders where some talk about why they participate in this site. One striking response: because small drops make an ocean.

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