Archives for the month of: February, 2012

Today, I had the unique privilege, thanks to my work, of attending the “Baghdad eye: Human Rights Film Festival” at the University of Baghdad. In an auditorium full of eccentric and enthusiastic students, we watched quietly as filmmakers presented their work from around Iraq and the around the world.

The morning started off with Cory Taylor’s film on the Czech Republic’s Velvet Revolution of 1989, “The Power of the Powerless;” and though it might seem odd to some that films from other countries would be shown in a place like Iraq which has plenty of contemporary examples of human rights issues, I realized that by showing these films from around the world to all these passionate young intellectuals, one might hope to inspire them by giving them an outside view and new ideas to follow or emulate. The film showed the power of nonviolent resistance, something which could make all the difference in the lives of these students and in making changes within their own country.

The films that followed, “Speak Your Mind” by Emad Ali and “Sing Your Song” by Omar Falah, were great examples of the obstacles, often violent ones, faced by musicians and journalists in Iraq. Stories of death threats, dead friends, local censorship by provincial counsels but despite all that there is a will to bring back the culture and heritage being smothered by ignorance and bigotry. And despite the risks there is a will to continually work towards transparency and true freedom of speech.

In my line of work and past experience there is a part of me that is cynical about the resolve of many people in the developing world to improve their lives and those of others, but during these few hours I did see a few who are willing to meet the challenge and hold out hope for a better future for themselves and those around them.

 

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Science-Based Life

Thankfully, we have researchers for even those “how many blades of grass on the lawn?” kind of questions.

The answer comes to us from NASA:

Specifically aimed at determining how much carbon is stored in the nation’s forests, the photograph below represents the density of organic carbon around the country.

From the researchers:

Josef Kellndorfer and Wayne Walker of the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) recently worked with colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey to create such an inventory for the United States. The map above was built from the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD), released in 2011. It depicts the concentration of biomass—a measure of the amount of organic carbon—stored in the trunks, limbs, and leaves of trees. The darkest greens reveal the areas with the densest, tallest, and most robust forest growth.

Complied over six years, the data that represents this photo…

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Good posting on VAW (Violence Against Women)

Armed RevolutioKnits

I recently read an article by Newsweek about a mother in Canada who murdered her three daughters for being too “westernized.”  The question that has been haunting me ever since is, what could bring a mother to kill her own daughters, never mind three of them.  About a week and a half ago, the Armed RevolutioKnits yarn-bombed the 5Cs to spread awareness about violence against women (VAW).  While I do hope that our tags spread awareness about VAW, as well as increased dialogue about the issue, I feel I still need to address a question that I’ve been reflecting on: If VAW is acknowledged by many to be a violation of not only women’s rights, but also human rights, what is the reasoning behind those fervently defending various forms of VAW?

VAW affects females in all spectrums, irrespective of race, age, class, beliefs, values, or region.  Furthermore, it impacts more…

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It is common to see an article related to women’s rights, or a lack there of, in the news and rss feeds today; so-called “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, and child marriage are all common place in regions such as the Middle East, Africa, Southern Asia and Eastern Europe. Some of these horrible crimes are also prevalent within Central and South America along with the heinous crime of rape, incest and child molestation. Often such crimes are kept quiet or swept under the family rug.

Even in developed nations there are individuals and groups of people that still adhere to such “traditions” as if their beliefs gave them rights over the law. It is pitiful to see such prevalence of abuse of women and girls and the detrimental effect it has on entire societies and nations. Time and again a key factor in the advancement of a nation or its people depends so much on the status of women and girls within that society. Or one could say that a key indicator of an advancing nation or an advanced nation is the status of women and girls within it.

But within states where the subjugation of women is written into law as it is practiced, how often do we make an excuse such as that it is their “culture” or “religion” or “tradition” or simply “their country”? Is it really the choice of the women and girls involved in such practices? The answer is a resounding NO. There are so many movements and so many causes that we do not give direct support to, that fight for the emancipation and equal rights of the female sex within these cultures and societies. Only recently has there been a focus on law enforcement against sex trafficking and a much needed increase in funding to fight the traffickers in some parts of the world. Thanks to heroes, such as Siddharth Kara whose efforts to expose the prevalence and weaknesses of the sex trafficking business, I believe, have been vital to combating it.

What about the “honor” killings, the lack of education, and child marriage when it comes to young girls? Why would we support nations that make allowances for, or barely prosecute men who would kill or imprison a woman for the “crime” of being gang raped? I believe that we, the citizens of the developed world, have as much an obligation to promote and fight for the freedom of all women, not just all men.

This is one of the reasons I served in the military, and fought in Afghanistan; the freedom of women throughout the region and the world should be considered as noble a cause for intervention as the freedom of ethnicities and tribes from the oppression of a regime. If we have stood idly by as millions of women have been brutalized in the name of culture or religion and yet supported small militant groups of the marginalized minorities in the name of freedom, then I am ashamed.

So often I look at what we have sacrificed for so many years and yet the same horrible abuses of women and girls goes on. Many of these abuses or even a secondary status for women are written into the laws even of the very countries that we went to free from “oppression.” We cannot allow ourselves the excuse that it is their culture any more than abolitionists of mid 19th century America could make the excuse that it was the culture of the plantation owners to keep slaves.

It has been shown time and again that for a country, a society or a people to advance, women and girls must be given equal status, control over their bodies, access to education, and must be protected under the law from the abuses of men and the “cultures” that would enslave them.

-Mike

NatGeo Article: “New “Super Earth” Found at Right Distance for Life”

We have made amazing progress in just the last few years!

Stopping sex traffickers in the US

STOP THE TEACHING OF CREATIONISM IN OUR SCHOOLS

This is a petition to the Indiana Senate to stop the passage of a bill that undermines the value of our education system. It is vital to our standing in the world to maintain a high standard of education within our schools. Lets keep religion and creationism out of our science classrooms and out of our public schools. Let’s uphold the constitution and give our children a brighter more intelligent future.

“Researchers at Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies have released their annual analysis of global temperatures

 

This graph is an eye-opener:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/picture/2012/feb/01/nasa-global-temperature-big-picture?fb=optOut

 

As I understand it, some researchers have shown that in the course of earth’s history we are experiencing one of the most rapid increases in global temperatures ever. The increase that we are experiencing in just a few decades should have taken millennia if compared to similar increases in the past. Even with a million years to adapt many species could not cope with such changes in global temperature.

But don’t take my word for it – do some digging!

Think not only of the rights granted you as a citizen of your country and a citizen of the world, but the obligations and duties that you can fulfill to be deserving of those rights. Do your part to earn those privileges bestowed on you for good conduct and contribution to the common good. Think not only of yourself but of the generations that shall come after you and afford them the same possibilities that you now enjoy. Remember that change is constant and the only question is whether or not that change will have a positive effect on our future and our children’s future…