Posted by Sappho on June 11th, 2013 filed in Africa news and blogwatch
First, as you’ve perhaps already heard, Britain will be compensating Kenyan victims who were tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s.
For what it’s worth, I first learned of the Mau Mau rebellion when I was a child and read a book called Daughter of Mumbi by Charity Wanjiku Waciuma, which has interesting stories of growing up Kikuyu.
Kethi Kilonzo has dropped out of the Makueni Senate racesaying it would be a curse to contest against her step-mother Nduku Kilonzo.
Kethi made the revelation on Tuesday morning through her twitter account.
“A child does not compete with the mother. It is a curse,” she said but on the same breath added: “I will not support Jubilee. To stand with my father’s enemies is a worse curse.”
Mutula Kilonzo’s widow, Nduku, has been touted as the possible Jubilee candidate under the NARC party, an affiliate of the Jubilee Alliance, but party leader Kiema Kilonzo has denied this….
… Three months before Kenya’s deputy president is due to go on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, 93 victims of violence that followed a disputed election in late 2007 have pulled out of the proceedings.
In a letter dated June 5, the 93 victims informed the court that they did not support the prosecution of Kenya’s newly elected president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy William Ruto, both of whom stand accused of orchestrating the bloodshed….
New Round Up: Chad and neighbors: The rainy season, refugees, elephant poaching, and CAR’s new leader
Posted by Sappho on June 7th, 2013 filed in Darfur/Chad/Central African Republic
It has been a while since I’ve done a news round up on Darfur, Chad, the Central African Republic, etc., so here you go. (I’m including a couple of neighbors of Chad’s neighbors.)
Chad: The big stories from Chad involve detained journalists and Darfur refugees. There was a wave of arrests of opposition journalists last month in the wake of a coup attempt. Two journalists completed their first month in a detention center. Sudanese refugees in Chad lack safe drinking water and face inadequate shelter as the rainy season begins. The UN is relocating refugees, and Chad has stopped some at the border.
Darfur: When I last did a Darfur round up, there was hope for a peace agreement. Obviously, that didn’t happen. This week, one of the leading stories is ICC Critical of Security Council’s “Inaction” On Darfur, a situation the story describes as “deteriorating.” Sudan accuses neighboring South Sudan of supporting the Darfur rebels. The one hopeful note in the news is a report that Darfur rebels are ready to work with the UN on polio vaccination and vitamin A distribution in the areas they control.
South Sudan: Developing a new national curriculum, South Sudan has switched from Arabic textbooks to English. They are also trying to attract investment, by hosting an investment seminar and developing national defense guidelines to promote investment.
Central African Republic: You may or may not have heard about the March coup in the Central African Republic, that has placed former rebel leader Michel Djotodia in charge of the country. ThinkAfrica Press writes
This made Djotodia the country’s sixth head-of-state since independence in 1960. Ominously for him, four of the previous five have been victims of coups….
As the violent rumblings of the coup persist – with reports of Seleka members engaging in looting, pillaging and human rights abuses – the most immediate concern for Djotodia and internationally-recognised Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye is the restoration of peace and order.
A significant part of this challenge, however, will be appeasing Seleka militias who have expectations of financial and political reward following the victory over Bozizé….
Democratic Republic of Congo: Movement for the Liberation of Congo leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is on trial at the ICC. In unrelated news, an environmental activist and leader of an organization of Pygmy women has been appointed minister in South Kivu.
Cameroon: Cameroon now has women senators.
Nigeria: Much of the recent news out of Nigeria concerns the battle with Boko Haram (the name is said to mean “Western Education is a Sin”). A report in March from the International Crisis Group says
“You could say Boko Haram is everywhere, or you could say it’s nowhere: both would be correct.”
This apparently confusing observation about the Nigerian militant Islamist group from one local expert is actually more helpful than it seems.
Responsible for a string of violent attacks in Nigeria that have killed some one thousand people over the last two years, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden”, has been bewildering and surprising to security specialists here. Ask some, and you will hear that the organisation is a threat to the very unity of Nigeria. Ask others, and you will hear that it is not an organisation at all.
And, yes, they are both right….
As a result of the fight with Boko Haram, three Nigerian states are currently in a state of emergency.
Niger: Boko Haram members have fled from Nigeria to Niger.
Libya: Libya is not exactly stable. Its oil rich eastern region declared autonomy last Saturday. NATO is sending an expert mission out of concern about Islamist militias expanding their foothold. People champing at the bit for intervention in Syria may want to consider that these interventions don’t always turn out to be as easy as they looked at the beginning.
Mali: General elections are coming on July 28.
The elections are necessary because of a coup on March 22, 2012, which tipped the country into chaos. The crisis culminated in a ten month occupation of the north of the country by various Islamist groups. Rokia Diarra Karambe obviously wants Mali to move forward and put this crisis behind it, but she is wary of too much haste. “Why can’t we have an extra four months so we can prepare for the elections properly?” she asks.
Though Chadian troops returned last month from their assistance to the French troops in Mali, receiving a hero’s welcome, and though Tuareg rebels have been driven out of most of the northern region of Mali, fighting continues in parts of the north between the army and the separatist rebel MNLA. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande has just won a UN sponsored peace prize.
The prize givers and African leaders attending Wednesday’s awards ceremony, including Malian president Dioncounda Traore, say Hollande deserves UNESCO’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny prize precisely because they say the Mali intervention is about long-term peace for a volatile region.
Posted by Sappho on June 2nd, 2013 filed in Genealogy, Health and Medicine
It’s oddly reassuring to see that my mother has a significantly increased risk of being afflicted with myeloproliferative neoplasms. No, I don’t want my mother dead any time soon. I don’t even want her suffering through cancer and surviving. Let me explain.
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Posted by Sappho on May 30th, 2013 filed in Catholic Church News, RIP
Email from me to Andrew Greeley, dated Wed, Nov 23, 2005 (I was blogging about the Catholic Church priest sex abuse scandals at the time):
Thanks. If I could bother you with one other question, did the bishops make any particular policy changes based on the results either of the Kennedy-Heckler study or on the sociological study which you conducted at the same time?
Email from Andrew Greeley to me, dated Wed, Nov 23, 2005:
Of course not!
Of all the public figures I’ve ever troubled with email, Greeley was the master of the very quick, and very succinct, reply, to what must have been part of a huge volume of email from strangers.
I guess I can’t say he’s been taken from us too young. At 85, he’s had a good run. But where else can I find someone who in one article will come closer than anyone else to convincing me of the value of a celibate priesthood, and in another roundly defend the sex in his novels that some of his critics called soft porn? It was decades ago, before my marriage, that I first found him, through friend with whom I did regular Bible study who was exploring the Catholic Church (and who has since converted). Years later, and married to a lapsed Catholic, I returned to him. I’ve read his novels, his sociology works, and his columns, admired how fiercely he held the church to account on the sex abuse issue, and at the same time how loyal he was to his faith, and appreciated the wide ranging topics on his web site.
So, even though he was, after all, 85, it’s still strange to think of him as dead.
Posted by Sappho on May 29th, 2013 filed in Genealogy
Seven miles from the New York/Vermont border is a town of less than 5,000 people. In 1824, when my great-great-great-grandmother was born there, the town was a major intellectual center that housed the biggest medical school in New England.
My mother’s direct maternal line looks like this, starting from her maternal grandmother: Alice Leonard Moore was the daughter of James Moore and Ella Merchant. James Moore’s family I described to you a couple of days ago. Ella Merchant, of New Haven, Connecticut, was the daughter of Joseph Merchant, born in New York, and Caroline Statia. Joseph Merchant is hard to trace, because searches on the Merchant surname get stymied by false friends in the form of people whose job was “merchant.” Caroline Statia’s place of birth changes from one census to the next, sometimes being given as Vermont and other times being given as New York. Finally, her death certificate gave the clue: She was born to a family that moved between Vermont (just a few miles from the border with New York) to New York (just a few miles from the border to Vermont), but she was actually born in Castleton, Rutland County, Vermont. Her parents, in turn, were Cornelius Statia and Aurilla Angeline, and Cornelius Statia was the son of another Cornelius Statia and his wife Sarah, while Aurilla was probably the daughter of Amon Angeline, of Pittsford, Rutland, Vermont.
Of Aurilla’s mother, I know nothing. Could her line be the source of our Native American DNA? Our mtDNA line is X2b, and X is the one mtDNA group that clusters both in Europe and among Native Americans; you can find it at the northern part of North America, particularly among Algonquian peoples. On the other hand, the big X subclade in North America is X2a, not X2b. So perhaps the Native American comes instead through another line (in which case I’d bet on the Southern line, the one that runs through my great-grandmother Louise Rice Taylor).
Pittsford, Vermont, the town where Aurilla was probably born, was settled in 1769, and was the home of two picket forts that were used during the Revolutionary War. Castleton, Vermont, close to Pittsford, was the place where Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys met with Benedict Arnold to plan their assault on Fort Ticonderoga. Here is a song that the Statia family may well have sung, when Caroline Statia’s father was young: the Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys.
The elder Cornelius has a distinction among my ancestors: He’s the one person I’ve found so far who managed to get himself excommunicated. What he did to get excommunicated is a mystery, but an early membership record of the First Congregational Church of Castleton, VT lists Cornelius and Sarah Statia, and gives her status as deceased and his as excommunicated. Perhaps his faith didn’t weather widowhood well.
Castleton, Vermont is now the home of Castleton State College, but when Caroline Statia was a girl it was a town of higher learning on a grander scale. The Castleton State College web site explains
… Of institutions that are colleges today, Castleton is the oldest in Vermont and the 18th in the nation.
The village of Castleton was an intellectual center. The first medical college in Vermont was founded there in 1818 and lasted until 1862. In that time the school conferred some 1400 medical degrees, more than any other New England medical school. Students came from throughout the United States, from Canada, and from distant lands including France, Cuba, Ireland, and Brazil. At least two African-Americans graduated and went on to distinguished careers.
Throughout the 19th century, the school in Castleton evolved and changed names to meet the needs of society. In 1829 the cornerstone of the historic Old Seminary building was laid by Solomon Foot, principal of the Classical High School and later president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate during the Civil War, and Colonel Noah Lee, an early settler who had been with Ethan Allen at the capture of Fort Ticonderoga.
In the 1860s, Harriet Haskell, later a nationally known feminist, served as Castleton’s first woman principal….
It seems fitting for my mother, who herself taught pharmacology at a medical school, that her great-great-grandfather along a direct paternal line, Robert Gooden, was a chemist/druggist, and her great-great-grandmother on a maternal line, Caroline Statia, grew up in the shadow of what was then New England’s biggest medical school (which was also once the land of the Green Mountain Boys).
Posted by Sappho on May 28th, 2013 filed in Marriage
I was 25 when the infamous Newsweek cover came out, the one that warned that a woman had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than of getting married after the age of 40. And, because I was 25, I remember another part of that article: the prediction that, at the age of 25, a woman already had only a 50% of getting married.
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Posted by Sappho on May 27th, 2013 filed in Genealogy
“In 1825, Peter Moore appears in the documentary record, a fair haired, blue eyed man about 5’6 1/2? (we must not neglect to give him that extra half an inch), born in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, and now ready, at the age of 21, to enlist in the army.” Thus, last year, I introduced you to my great-great-great-grandfather. At the time, I thought that he might be Scots-Irish. He looked Scots-Irish, as best I could tell from the documents. He came from a border area of Pennsylvania, to which Scots-Irish had moved as soon as they arrived (the Quakers in Philadelphia being eager to hurry the new arrivals west, or so says Albion’s Seed). His name sounded plausibly Scots-Irish. He joined the army, like a scrappy young Scots-Irish man, and held various frontier posts, before leaving the army and settling down as a farmer in Sparta, Livingston, NY. A Scots-Irish background could even explain my great-grandmother’s aversion to the song “The Wearing of the Green,” and her insistence that her Moore family had nothing to do with the newer Irish arrivals who had come to New England fleeing the potato famine, men and women with whom her father, James Moore, had worked in a rubber factory.
The first clue that my guess was wrong came from the Civil War record of Peter Moore’s son (James’ older brother), who left service in the Union Army as “Merritt N. Moose.” I missed this sign, though, taking “Moose” for a simple misspelling of “Moore.”
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Posted by Sappho on May 22nd, 2013 filed in Bipolar Disorder, Classes, Lectures, and Conferences
Last week, Joel and I went to a conference called Meeting of the Minds. I’ve blogged about this conference in previous years. It’s Orange County’s biggest mental health conference, but on by the county Mental Health Association, and serves mental health providers, patients and family, and first responders (the professionals get continuing education credits, and consumers, the term for patients and family, get a discount). About eight people from our two DBSA support groups attended this year, both patients and family members, and between us we covered a number of workshops. Joel and I always attend different workshops so that we can share information afterwards.
Our most active teen member attended a workshop on Adolescent Drug Cultures and Current Drug Trends to, as she said, see whether they pointed the finger at kids who died their hair in odd colors. She emerged from the workshop satisfied that they weren’t profiling so crudely, and dismayed by the array of drugs presented, with thoughts on how scary it might be to be the parent of a teen. She later attended a workshop on Behavioral Health Needs in the LGBT Communities. Joel went to a workshop on stress management, which he said had a lot to say about reducing stress by setting appropriate boundaries, and some others in the group went to a workshop on weight management.
I decided, after all the pain of chemotherapy, that I would attend a workshop on pain management. There Donald Sharps, MD began with a picture of the opium wars, and set forth the goals of the workshop.
- Describe how medical management of pain has changed in the last 10 years.
- Describe patients’ and doctors’ rights, and how to balance them.
Posted by Sappho on May 20th, 2013 filed in Bible study
There’s a story about my great-grandmother, Louise Rice Taylor. It’s said that once, when she was young, her church decided to act out the parable of the talents, by giving people a little money to increase, as the master does in the parable. And young Louise, it’s said, decided that the best way to make her talent grow was to do what she was good at: gambling at bridge. Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Your clever gambling has won you good things.
In Religious Education yesterday, before Meeting for Worship, we discussed Matthew 25, a series of stories that anticipate a judgment. First comes the story of the wise and foolish virgins, where the virgins who haven’t supplied themselves with oil lose out. Second, the parable of the talents, where the servants who increase their talents win, while the one who buries his loses. And finally, the separation of the sheep and goats, in which we learn that the real way to prepare for judgment is to feed the hungry and visit those who are sick and in prison, for “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
“As you did it to one of the least of these” is one of those gospel lines that sticks in my head, comes to mind often, that stands as a guiding light to how I live my life, whether I live up to it or not. But what of the rest of the chapter? As we discussed it, our reactions were varied. Liberal Quakers are uneasy with stories of harsh final judgment. And for what are the people being judged? Aren’t the wise maidens a little stingy, not to share their oil? Is the tale of the master who gives out the money simply another story in which those that have, can spare enough to risk and get more? (I suggested that, if the servant who buried the talent thought he had a harsh and unjust master, perhaps his best answer was to try to organize other workers like himself, to unionize.)
Some, though, found meaning in the parables by seeing the objects in the stories as more inward things. If the oil with which the virgins must prepare themselves is wisdom, then perhaps there’s a limit to how much the wise virgins can give the foolish ones, and a point where they must supply the oil themselves. “Talents” in the story may be money, the word’s resemblance to “talent” after multiple translation a happy accident, but the story is enriched if you imagine the other meaning. And some found more meaning in stories of judgment if they saw the judgment, not as between different people who are goats and sheep, but between the parts of yourself that you can keep and the parts of yourself that you need to learn to give up.
Posted by Sappho on May 15th, 2013 filed in Health and Medicine
I’m planning to get back to my nature/nurture series sometime soon, with a post about genes and the environment, at which point I’ll also be writing about genes and cancer. But in the meantime, the BRCA genes and breast cancer are in the news, with Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her breasts removed, on learning that she carried a gene that gave her an 85% risk of getting breast cancer if she left them on. As it happens, I already know a bit about the company that offers this genetic testing (not the one I tested with, which is a less expensive consumer genomics company that tests only for a few of the BRCA variants, but one that offers more expensive medical tests), because I got genetic counseling, after I finished treatment for endometrial cancer, to see whether my family history indicated enough risk to refer me for further testing for something called Lynch Syndrome, that dramatically increases the risk of endometrial and colon cancer. The question came up, on the 23andme forums, why the Myriad test was so much more expensive than the 23andme one. I am reproducing, as a blog post, the answer I gave there:
23andme tests some BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants; Myriad tests, to the best of my knowledge, for all known BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene variants. There are two aspects to this. One is that it really is more expensive to test for all variants (whole genome sequencing costs way more than 23andme’s $99 test, and can’t currently be offered at 23andme’s price). The other is that Myriad owns patents on testing for certain important BRCA genes, and 23andme can’t legally do the same BRCA testing that Myriad does, at this time. (I’m not sure exactly how this works legally; will the ability to test for the genes go generic at some point in the future, the way pharmaceuticals do?) Myriad has a number of cancer specific tests, which test for the genes that increase risk most for a particular cancer. There is one for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, one for hereditary colon and uterine cancer, one for hereditary colorectal polyps and cancer, one for hereditary melanoma, etc. If you have a likelihood of cancer in your family, you see a genetic counselor first, and then get referred for the Myriad test. If your family risk is high enough, and depending on your insurance company, the test may be covered by insurance. Likely, with Angelina Jolie’s family risk, her test was covered (but then, she has the money to pay thousands of dollars for the test anyway). All of the tests cost thousands of dollars.
I didn’t, in this answer, talk about how much of Myriad’s higher cost is due to actual increased cost in looking at all the gene variants for the cancer genes they cover, and how much is due to their being able to charge more because they have patents on certain tests and don’t have competition. The reason is that I don’t know the answer. (Note that the test that I would have gotten from Myriad if I had met Amsterdam criteria for Lynch syndrome also would have cost thousands of dollars, and I don’t know that Myriad has patents on those genes.) Blogs and articles have been debating the matter, though, in the wake of Angelina Jolie’s revelation, as a case regarding the limits of said patents makes its way to the Supreme Court (Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics), so here are a few links:
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Posted by Sappho on May 13th, 2013 filed in Quaker Practice
For some time, Orange County Friends Meeting has been holding Religious Education before meeting for worship. We have been doing Bible study (the gospel of Matthew) most First Days, and once a month we have an intergenerational activity for children. The group is smaller than for meeting for worship (like many people, I come some weeks and sleep late and start slow other weeks), but the smaller group discussion often influences the meeting for worship that comes after.
Recently, we decided to vary our program by adding a discussion, once a month, of an article in Western Friend (so it will be two weeks Bible study, one week intergenerational activity, and one week discussion of an article in Western Friend). This week was the first of those discussions, and the article selected, from the Jan/Feb edition of Western Friend was Zachary Moon’s “The Balm of the Other” (not one of the ones put online). I slept in and got going slowly, but Peggy passed on to me a sheet of the queries that were used in the discussion, and I include it here:
If we talk only with those whose viewpoint we share, we have similar “blind spots” that reduce what we can learn from our conversations with one another. We may be able to address the questions that arise and find answers only if we step outside of the certainty that we are RIGHT. Our Quaker practice of demonstrating silently, even in the face of open hostility, may mean that we are shutting our eyes and stopping our ears to the concerns of those we regard as “the Other.”
Am I able to listen carefully to the words of one I regard as “Other,” one who holds a viewpoint or conviction I am opposed to or hold to be “wrong” or even “evil”? Can I do this with the intention humbly to understand, to learn and to accept what I learn?
Can I recognize in someone opposing my stance on war a spirit like my own, one aroused to act by deep concerns and convictions that I may not be aware of?
Can I offer myself willingly to step over supposed lines of difference and become a listener and a learner, embracing the Other as one close to me, even one with me, in the Spirit?
I find these questions difficult. I look at the first question, and the first thing I think of, when I see the words ‘one who holds a viewpoint or conviction I am opposed to or hold to be “wrong” or even “evil”,’ is the Greek neo-Nazi political party Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn. I consider their convictions evil. I cheered last month when Greek islanders rejected Golden Dawn’s free food distribution, because I feel that free food from a group like Golden Dawn comes with strings that are like chains; I don’t want neo-Nazis building their cause, in Greece or anywhere. I am not interested in humbly learning from Golden Dawn. I realize that there’s a risk of spreading the group of people we aren’t willing to learn from too far, till one half of the country sees the other’s views as evil and vice versa, but aren’t there some views I simply want to marginalize? Golden Dawn members, too, have that of God in them, but as Golden Dawn, I don’t see where they have anything to teach me.
Then I thought of the Westboro Baptist Church, and how some of Phelps’ granddaughters have left, and that the story one of them told involved a gay man who had become friends with her and simply met with her outside the context of the church, not humbly listening to “God hates fags” talk (the Westboro Church’s version would alienate even the most trying-to-live-celibate-while-struggling-with-same-sex-attraction person sexually drawn to his own sex), but also for the most part not arguing it, and rather meeting with her as a person outside that context. Not that that’s always the way to go, but in this case, it seems to have been.
The second question is easier to say yes to. My grandfather died fighting against the Axis in WWII when Italy invaded Greece. My father lived under German occupation as a child, and welcomed the Allied tanks (he acted as interpreter for American soldiers). One of my cousins served in Afghanistan. It’s easy for me to see both pacifism and belief in war as a response to attack as coming from deep concerns and convictions. It’s harder when, as in the rush to war in Iraq, the war seems particularly unnecessary and foolish. I was dismayed to see so many people I otherwise respected join that bandwagon. But I didn’t stop seeing them as people with deep concerns and convictions of their own; I simply thought that they were coming to believe things about weapons of mass destruction that didn’t fit the evidence. Still, there’s a point where this question becomes challenging as well, and for me that point is torture.
For the third question, what I’ve found that helps is finding people on the other side of the political fence who seem most reasonable to me, and listening to them. That and looking for the areas where I have common ground with people I may strongly disagree with on something else.
Posted by Sappho on May 10th, 2013 filed in Classes, Lectures, and Conferences, Quaker Practice
I need to quit waiting till I can write long elaborate posts, and start writing short simple posts again. This week, I went to a talk at the Irvine United Congregational Church, by Stephen Donahoe of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), on climate change. The talk was jointly sponsoer by IUCC and my own Quaker meeting, Orange County Friends Meeting.
FCNL, for those of you who don’t already know, is the Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC, and the oldest religious lobbying group there. It was founded in 1943, to lobby for recognition of conscientious objectors, and, that task accomplished, decided to stay in existence to lobby for other issues that concerned Friends.
Before the talk, I met someone from the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan group lobbying for legislation to address carbon emissions and climate change. Here, for example, is their carbon fee and dividend FAQ. Right now, the local Orange County chapter of this group is organizing meetings between constituents concerned about climate change and our local Congressional Representatives. I also learned, later in the meeting, about the Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment.
Stephen Donahoe discussed reasons why it is critical to act on climate change, legislation that has been proposed now or may be proposed soon, and why we need to keep faith that our action can make a difference, and not be cynical and convinced that nothing can be done in Washington. He also passed out some literature from FCNL, so my summary is going to combine that and the notes I took in the form of live tweeting some of the talk.
Reasons why climate change is critical: We are already experiencing resource wars fueled by climate change. An example is the water wars in Kenys, in which the nomadic Turkana people of northern Kenya and the nearby Pokot and Samburu tribes have engaged in skirmishes that have killed over 400 people and are spreading across borders, leading to clashes with the Ugandan military in 2009. (Here I note that, on a larger scale, the Darfur conflict has also been fueled by water conflict as a consequence of desertification, and spilled across borders into Chad and the Central African Republic.) Climate change has also led to increased natural disasters and climate refugees. For example, in 2010, record-breaking monsoon rainstorms over the mountainous areas of northwest Pakistan caused massive flooding that covered almost one-fifth of the country.
Reasons to trust that we can have an effect: Donahoe gave as examples a Quaker high school group came to Washington to lobby their Senator on climate change and some lobbying of Senator Grassley on the Pentagon budget done by some of his Iowa constituents. (There were other examples, but these are the two I remember.)
Lobbying that FCNL has done: This includes teaching students to lobby, joint lobbying with the Evangelical Climate Network, and joint lobbying with communities of color.
Legislation currently under consideration:
The Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill is a bipartisan bill to promote more energy efficient buildings. The biggest emissions producer in the US is not cars but buildings, so energy efficient buildings could significantly reduce carbon emissions.
In the long term the FCNL supports a carbon tax. Boxer and Sanders have a carbon tax bill (which doesn’t currently look likely to win Republican support). Someone from Rhode Island has five people in Congress working on another climate change bill. (I didn’t manage to make a note of who from Rhode Island is doing this, I guessing maybe Senator Jack Reed? Since he turns out to be the one who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.) Cantwell and Collins may introduce a cap and dividend bill (which would be bipartisan, since Cantwell is a Democrat and Collins is a Republican.
Posted by Sappho on May 6th, 2013 filed in Blogwatch
I thought the obvious reading of “In the long run we are all dead” was, pretty much, that you should have some limit to the sacrifices that you expect other people, perhaps poorer people than you, to put up with for an uncertain benefit that they might not get a share in. But I gather, from a blog flap that’s going on now, that someone may have taken a different reading. The result of this flap is that I learned a few new things:
A biographer of Keynes’ wife reports that, gay though Keynes was, he and his wife loved each other very much and had hot sex, something that warms my bisexual heart.
Karl Smith, at Forbes, in Childless Keynesians And The Future They Made, has a few things to say about deficits and surpluses.
John Maynard Keynes on Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. (Hey, that’s my generation! It looks as if he was a bit optimistic.)
On another note, David Weigel quotes an earlier post of his about Benghazi:
The “stand down” theory originated in an October 26 Fox News EXCLUSIVE (capital letters in the original), which reported that the CIA “chain of command” had “told the CIA operators twice to ‘stand down’ rather than help” besieged Americans. A complementary theory, advanced by the father of the murdered Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, suggested that the White House had a “live feed” of the attack and sat shiva, doing nothing. Another theory, universally shared: The White House, led by people like UN Ambassador Susan Rice, was engaged in a massive cover-up.
and concludes that:
The first two theories remain defunct. A response team was sent to Benghazi; according to the State Department’s report, “the seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli … arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than fifteen minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds.” Hicks doesn’t say that the CIA issued stand down orders, let alone twice. He says that a jet was never scrambled to fly over the city (which we knew) and that a second team, one that arrived too late, should have gotten there faster.
Thoreau finds his cranky heart warmed by the quote “The fallacy of the age of big data is that all data are interesting.” It’s a good quote.
Bruce Schneier on the privacy risks of Google Glass.
Posted by Sappho on May 2nd, 2013 filed in Daily Life
It’s been more than two weeks since we got back from the cruise, and Joel has photos up, so I’ll tell you about it very quickly.
Cruise line: Holland America.
Itinerary: Puerto Vallerta, Loreto, Cabo San Lucas.
Fellow passengers: Though the sale of diamonds on the ship, right next to the casino, gave a certain air of luxury that suggested some people were very rich (who can afford a cruise and diamonds and gambling, all at the same time?), we wound up mingling with a fair number of middle class people (nurse, retired teacher), so not everyone is as rich as the diamond sales suggest.
Food: A buffet that included an ice cream bar and a seated dining room that included multiple courses were both included in the fare, and there were other restaurants you could pay for. Very good food.
On shore tours: It seemed every port had an opportunity to swim with the dolphins. We didn’t choose those tours (Joel calls it “swimming with enslaved dolphins,” and it’s a good thing we didn’t choose it, because by the time we went on the cruise he had a healing abscess on his back which prevented him from swimming), but did go on a variety of other tours: one with a Mexican cooking class, one with a Mexican fiesta and clambake, and a boat tour. We also wandered around all three towns, and Joel took photos.
Sea day activities: There were lots of them. We went to a computer class, participated in trivia contests till finally our team won one, saw a movie (Silver Linings Playbook), and I took a dance class (jive) and sang karaoke (“Bette Davis Eyes“). There was a gym onboard, where I used the rowing machine (we also exercised by going up and down the many flights of stairs), and we spent a lot of time in the library, where Joel edited his autobiography and read, and I finished two books, read part of another, and worked on the various jigsaw puzzles they set out.
For more, you can go look at Joel’s photos.
Posted by Sappho on May 2nd, 2013 filed in Sexuality
So, I gather there are three parts to the Plan B story.
- No more requiring women of all ages to ask for Plan B behind a pharmacist’s counter. Yay! Yay! While, as I said, I wasn’t all that concerned with the embarrassment argument against this requirement (much more embarrassing drugs, such a psychiatric meds, have to be gotten from a pharmacist because there’s a good medical reason for it that outweighs any embarrassment factor), I really, really dislike requiring people to get a time critical medication from the part of the store least likely to be able to stay staffed 24/7, and in a political climate in which some people are pushing to have pharmacists empowered to refuse to sell it and their employers not allowed to discipline them for that refusal. Also, having it out in the aisles makes it clearer that yes, guys can buy it for their girl friends.
- Age at which you’re allowed to buy Plan B without a prescription reduces from 17 to 15.
- Ruling that there should be no age restriction appealed.
Since it looks to me as if the age limit, to begin with, always had more to do with the age at which it’s OK to condone girls having sex than the age at which they can read the directions (if you’re old enough to buy and read the directions for Tylenol, you’re probably also old enough to do the same for Plan B), I suspect what the shift from 17 to 15 really means is “yes, sex between similarly aged teenagers of 15 or 16 is probably consensual, whether or not their parents want them doing it, but we’re not so sure about 13 and 14-year-olds.”
Posted by Sappho on April 29th, 2013 filed in Health and Medicine
Posted by Sappho on April 26th, 2013 filed in News and Commentary
I first remember it happening with John Walker Lindh, the young man who became notorious right after 9/11 by being captured as an enemy combatant, fighting with the Taliban, in Afghanistan. And the papers pored over everything he’d written on the Internet, turning up his taste in hip hop music and his occasional criticism of black people while pretending to be African-American himself. Ever since, whenever some previously ordinary person becomes notorious, the Google search is on. Occasionally it proves tricky, as with James Holmes, whose name was so common that people latched onto innocent Jim Holmes’ in their search, leading to the wrong guy being bombarded on Facebook. If, though, your name is distinctive enough, the Internet will let us know that, after the attack, you tweeted, “I’m a stress free kind of guy.”
Whenever I see these searches, I wonder. Suppose something happened to suddenly make me newsworthy? What would people cull from the mix of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Google+, blogs (this one and the group blog), GoodReads, Ancestry.com profile, and other places I may have forgotten that make up my Internet life? What, to a stranger writing a news story, would be the story arc of my life, and what would be the key quotes that give insight into the essence of Lynn?
On one level, I know the answer. It’s the culprits, not the victims or the heros, who inspire this fascinated search. Sean Collier may have had a Twitter feed, but if so, we don’t know his last tweet. We don’t know his favorite Youtube videos, or what was on his Facebook wall. With the culprits (or the suspected culprits), we want to know why they did it, and so we scour their Internet trail looking for answers. For the heroes, we think we know why they did it (they were good, upstanding people), and so we leave their Internet trail alone. And for the victims, the moment chosen will be the most poignant, the one that tells a story of tragic loss. Of all the many little boy things done by Martin Richards, the one everyone will remember will be the hand written sign, “No More Hurting People. Peace.”
And so I know, in general if not in specifics, what would be said of me, had I been there, and died. I’d have gotten there by taking the trip with my husband to celebrate my 25th anniversary and my survival of cancer as a trip to Boston, rather than a cruise to Mexico, and the most likely the small part of the story line that covered my death would be something about that. And you’d get, from my blog and Facebook and Twitter trail, whatever line most succinctly fit the story line “brave cancer survivor gets killed by a terrorist bomb the day before her 25th wedding anniversary.” If I’d managed to say anything that sounded particularly poignant in the light of my death, perhaps something related to my survival of cancer last year, those words would be my epitaph.
Still, the question nags at me. We live so much on the net now that career articles warn us against leaving no traces, tell us that ghost programmers don’t get hired. For a few of us, that means branding, a carefully managed image that is both public enough to be found, and crafted enough not to raise red flags with employers. Facebook posts get set Friends Only (and we hope that prospective employers don’t ask to view that wall, though we’ve already made sure it contains no really embarrassing drunken photos), Twitter accounts and blogs directed toward suitable professional interests. For most of us, though, the messiness of our “real life” bleeds onto the partial views we let onto the net. And I follow a woman on Google+ because she has gotten into a circle of Women in Tech, and discover that she’s displaying her interest in Tea Party politics, her favorite songs, or perhaps that she also has a Pinterest board dedicated to crochet. And so the question, “What would the net say about you if we stopped that story right now?” becomes a version of the still larger question, “What story would someone tell of your life, if we stopped that story right now?”
Posted by Sappho on April 21st, 2013 filed in African Ingenuity Blogwatch
About “A Gateway Into Kano,” a short documentary on heritage and its loss.
I was going through chemotherapy when the formerly pseudonymous Drima the Sudanese Thinker announced that, after six years, he was closing his blog, so I missed the opportunity then to point you to his new site as Amir A. Nasr. Here’s a Foreign Policy article in which he makes recommendations as to what you should read in 2013.
Posted by Sappho on April 19th, 2013 filed in News and Commentary
So, now we know that the hero in the cowboy hat, in that photo where he and others push a man in a wheelchair, who was injured in the Boston Marathon explosions, is Carlos Arredondo, whose son died in the Iraq War. We also know that he accidentally set himself on fire when he got the news, on his birthday, of his son’s death, and that his one remaining son later committed suicide. If anyone would seem to have had nothing left to live for, it sounds as if that would have been Carlos Arredondo. But since he did keep on, and keep reaching out to help others, through all of that, he was there to help rescue Jeff Bauman, who was able to identify one of the Boston Marathon bombers, and whose description, along with surveillance camera footage, led the FBI to video footage of both bombers, of whom one is now dead and the other on the run.
I think that’s a good argument in favor of going on living.
Posted by Sappho on April 15th, 2013 filed in News and Commentary
I’m back. I had in mind several topics to blog about on my return. I was going to tell you about my trip. I was going to write about a post Thoreau had made at High Clearing while I was gone. I was going to write, perhaps, something about where I am, these days, in the whole cancer recovery process. I was going to write about my great-great-uncle, the silent movie screenwriter. And I was going to write about Albion’s Seed. Last night, I spent some time carefully charting what information I had on various ancestors who came through Boston back in the 1630s (apparently all of the ancestors of one particular great-grandparent), to see if what I knew matched what Fischer had to say about the Puritan wave of colonial immigration.
Today, of course, I learned about what happened at the Boston Marathon, and, though I still want to write about some of those other things, today isn’t really the day for it.
My sister Carey runs marathons, as does her husband, Jeff. One year, Joel and I came back from Maine with her, through Boston, and stopped at the house of another marathon runner friend of hers. I remember them joking together about the people who had passed them in the marathon, making light of their performances (Carey’s and her friend’s, that is – Jeff apparently was way ahead of them both). Later, when Carey took a sabbatical in Kenya, she and Jeff went to the town of Iten, where Kenyan marathon runners train, and Jeff wrote a blog about them and their training (and it was his turn to run with people who were way ahead of him).
I have another friend, a fellow cancer survivor, who recently celebrated her cancer survival by running a marathon. It’s easy to imagine that one of those now missing limbs could be someone just like her.
And then I remember the streets I’ve walked, Freedom Trail, the monument to the 54th Colored Regiment whose story was told in the movie Glory, the friends and family members who have lived in Boston (and some who still live there).
Worth noting that the last time someone pissed off Boston, the British Empire lost most of its territory in North America.
And several of my friends on Facebook pass on this quote from Fred Rogers (which I likewise shared there):
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
I’m going to share the “how to help” links, that you may have already seen, but it can’t hurt to share them as widely as we can. But before that, I want to say something about the perennial “should we politicize tragedy” debate that follows every tragedy. One of my Facebook friends has already linked,on general principle, her defense of “politicizing” tragedy (written last year):
Ultimately, I think the impulse against “politicizing” tragedy is rooted not in compassion but in fear and political despair. We assure ourselves – at least long enough to sleep at night – that there are “bad apples” who do bad things. We express our sympathies when these “bad apples” act out, but then wash our hands of the matter. And we congratulate ourselves for remaining above the fray of politics because this is ostensibly what good and charitable people do.
My thought is this: I think we’d be better off if we all refrained from “politicizing” any tragedy for, say, 24 hours. Heck, maybe even 48 hours. My reason isn’t so much “respect for the dead.” If I ever die tragically and prematurely, you have my full permission to “politicize” the heck out of my death, if by “politicize” we mean trying to make a change that you honestly think means fewer people will die the way I did. Rather, I think it best to wait a day or two before “politicizing” any tragedy because during the first day or so no one really knows what the facts are. And I’ve seen too many people, including political figures who ought to have the brains to know better, say entirely avoidable stupid things, in the wake of one tragedy or another, getting facts wrong that they could have gotten right with even a moderate amount more patience and effort. And then, once they get it wrong, double down on whatever they’ve gotten wrong, so as to avoid having to make a proper apology for screwing up. I could name names and point to examples from past news events, here, but, hey, to be honest, if I do that, all my examples will be Republicans, and the more conservative among my readers will be miffed that I’m not pointing the finger at Democrats, and my larger point may well get missed. Soon enough, we’ll know just who did the deed, and how, and then we’ll have a better idea how to react.
Now for the links:
We also know that many people want to help. Thanks to the generosity of volunteer blood donors, there is currently enough blood on the shelves to meet patient needs. The Red Cross also has the financial resources it needs to support this event right now. We are asking those who want to help to make an appointment to give blood in the coming weeks and months. They can do that by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting redcrossblood.org.
Red Cross safe and well site to list if you’re safe and well. (Failing that, I’m sure you’ve all heard already to text rather than phone.
For those stranded in Boston, people are offering a place.
A Huffington Post article on how you can help.
And, not as a pointer to aid, but just because I like the article: The Boston Marathon: All My Tears, All My Love.
Posted by Alexandra on April 12th, 2013 filed in Uncategorized
Well, it’s been a week. You’re probably missing Sappho and her husband, just like I am. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my partner in a month. He also happens to be my closest friend, so that just doubles the agony.
I met my partner shortly before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was miserable nearly all the time, although I hid that fact most people. However, Brayden (let’s just call him that for now) picked up on it almost immediately. He was very affectionate towards me from the beginning, snuggling with me for hours on end. When we went to a convention together, he shadowed me for pretty much the entire time. Needless to say, he was pretty upset when he heard I would be leaving him for a month.
Although I had signed up for a monthlong writing retreat earlier that year, I was away from him for around two and a half months. Why? I had a complete breakdown while I was there. Mom barely got me out in time, before the psychosis grew too bad for me to fly. While our mutual friend Dave’s mother was told of the situation, poor Brayden wasn’t told anything at all. He actually thought I was dead for quite a while.
Luckily, someone passed on the news. He eventually visited me twice, once in each of the hospitals I landed in. He was a joy to have around both times. In spite of our occasional spats, he has been a joy ever since.