Saturday, September 27, 2014

Read Any Good Banned Books Lately?

Nothing like being right on top of things.  I just saw that this has been "Banned Books Week", which has many sponsors and endorsers, including the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association.  Well, there's still today to go!

There have been read-outs of selections from banned or challenged works, and people can even submit videos for a "virtual read-out." 

There are two lists you may wish to peruse: one of frequently banned classics and another of frequently challenged books (21st Century list).

Full disclosure:  I haven't read many of these.  Very few actually.  I did read Animal Farm in high school; wasn't all that impressed with it and remember very little.  I did start reading 1984 but never read the whole thing.  I also started Catch-22 but didn't get very far as I found it made little sense to me.  As far as what's on the challenge list: I started My Sister's Keeper as it was one of our One Book, One College selections one year, and I didn't like it one bit.  Didn't make it to the end, which I think must be a pretty bad one.  I also have I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings which I'm sure is quite good (I really should read it one day...).  However I also did start reading The Glass Castle  by Jeannette Walls (it was also a One Book, One College selection).  I found it very intriguing.  For some reason I haven't finished it - and I was curious as to "what happens next..." - so I think someday I will pick it up again.  And I must shout out to Ms. Walls, who was so very gracious when she signed my copy.

The lists also give reasons for challenges.  One of the most prevalent is "not appropriate to age group."  While I don't agree with censorship, we probably should be somewhat sensitive to content given to say, below high school level students.  Giving alternate reading assignments or holding off on some books until the students are a bit older might be some alternatives.

For older students and of course, adults: have you read any good banned books lately?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

International Day of Peace - Today!

In honor of the International Day of Peace, here is my peace poem:
What Peace Does

Peace prunes olive branches
Hands them to messenger doves
Hopes that the budding deliveries will take root in new locations

Peace whispers prayers
Sends out quiet vibrations expressing yearning
Trusts that echoes will amplify the intentions and circle the world

Peace dares to dream
Imagines harmony in action instead of violent discord
Believes that day by day, the world is turning toward that dream.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Gearing Up

The International Day of Peace is almost here; it's happening Sun., Sept. 21.

I hope that we all will do something, however small for peace, especially on that day.

Here are a few quotes to keep us thinking:

“There never was a good war, or a bad peace.”  - Benjamin Franklin

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace." – John Lennon
“We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody, that is far superior to the discord of war.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Honoring Peacemakers

As we look toward the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, it's a good time to honor and bless Peacemakers.

Jesus said:  "Blessed are the Peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (St. Matthew 5:9)

So in honor of the Prince of Peace and to add our blessings, here are some Peacemakers we can honor.  In some way, each did something to advance peace and/or take a stand against war. Some will be familiar, maybe others not so.  I hope that is the case, as I ran across some unfamiliar names in selecting this list.  So if you see a name you don't recognize, or you just want to find out more about the person and his or her work, I encourage you to do a search or read up the person in a reference book or biography.  I am giving one link as I found it wasn't so easy to find information on her on the internet, believe it or not.  Except for the first two, I'm putting them in alphabetical order.

So here goes:

The Bhudda
His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)
Fannie F. Andrews
Vasili Arkhipov
Medea Benjamin
Ralph Bunche
Elihu Buritt
Paul K. Chappell
Brian Haw
Coretta Scott King
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
John Lennon
Mildred Norman (Peace Pilgrim)
Yoko Ono
Priscilla Peckover 
            (scroll down to view her entry)
Stanislov Petrov
Jeanette Rankin
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Baronness Bertha vonSuttner
Malala Yousafzai

Of course this is a VERY short list.  Would love to have you readers honor some other Peacemakers!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stunning Revelations

More stunning revelations of NSA and GCHQ spying are detailed at The Intercept in a new article.

From Snowden documents, the article covers the dragnet of NSA and GCHQ's "Treasure Map," specifically tech firms targeted in Germany.  The focus is on one such firm, Stellar PCS   The article includes a fine video of Stellar leaders reacting to the documents.

In case you think this is just a problem for the German firms, THINK AGAIN.  From the article:

"Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents."

Read the story here ----- and please disseminate this info to your contacts! This deserves wide attention.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

International Day of Peace is Coming - Are You Ready?


September 21 will be the annual International Day of Peace.  Developed by the U. N., many, many peace groups and related organizations, religious groups, and individuals will have different activities to commemorate the day and continue showing dedication to peace. The theme this year is "The Right of Peoples to Peace."

Here is a good background site:  UN PeaceDay.  There will be many events all over the world - gatherings, concerts, video and social media happenings.  One worldwide event is to be a coordinated prayer /meditation for peace at noon in each time zone.   And if you happen to be looking for peace prayers, I shared a link to some Episcopalian ones in this post

Another site with great information and resources is World Beyond War .  They have a calendar of peace-related dates you can view on site or download located here.

So prepare yourself to commemorate the International Day of Peace. And again, don't forget the music!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Time for Solidarity

Updated below!

Yesterday (Thursday, actually - not sure about my time stamp) fast food workers across the country held strikes, sit-ins and the like across the country to protest for a living wage - hopefully a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.  The Guardian has a pretty good account.  I read through some of the comments as I often do and I'm sad to say there are some commenters who seem to have no  compassion for their fellows.  I guess they don't feel "burger-flippers" deserve a living wage.  It's work and I (and some other commenters, thankfully) feel that if you work full time, you deserve a living wage. The uncompassionate seemed to be sooo worried about corporate profits, I guess, soooo worried about downsizing (which is why so many are trapped in fast food jobs to begin with). Well, Seattle recently raised the minimum wage there to $15.00 per hour and it seems to be working pretty well for them.  The uncompassionate magically want these people to "get better jobs."  Hmmm - do they know that, according to Barbara Ehrenriech who writes extensively about these issues, changing jobs may cost a worker two weeks' wages, which they usually can't afford?

This also comes as Burger King is preparing to join with a Canadian Firm and move the - well, over all headquarters to Canada.  I'm not an economist, but a lot of the anger about this deals with BK is them not having to pay as much in U. S.  taxes.  Some are even calling for or saying they will boycott.  We'll see how that goes...  Of course, BK wouldn't be the only tax dodger.  What about the cruise lines, Apple, GE, just to name a few.  And I hadn't known this until quite recently, but the NFL, which makes billions of dollars in profits annually, doesn't pay Federal Income Taxes! Is is somehow ok for these huge corporations to pay little or none of their "fair share" in our society, but exploit the workers who actually make their businesses work on a day-to-day basis?

What people need is - a chance.  A chance to work, to earn a living wage and to provide for their families, to work for better lives.  And it seems to be getting harder to do so. Have the people casting aspersions on these workers bothered to check recent grocery receipts?  I found that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics that from June 2009 through May 2014 prices have increased in these areas (as % change):
        Fresh Fruits - up 13.8%
        Poultry - up 14.9%
        Seafood - up 20.1%
        Pork - up 27.0%
        Eggs - up 33.1%
        Beef/Veal - up 35.2%
Have hourly wages kept pace?  I think not.

Then there was also this in The Guardian about food insecurity.  It is a shame that we are allowing this to happen.  We need to care, and to make everyone care.
So instead of being cold toward our fellow citizens, let's be in solidarity with their struggle.

UPDATE:  So Wal-Mart is now going to require employees to adhere to a dress code ---- which will more than likely cost them money they probably can't spare?  If you ask me, it's a terrible way for a huge corporation to treat workers.  The Guardian report is here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Some Noteworthy Items

Hello all -

With so much going on, it's sometimes hard to know what to focus a post on.  However, here are some article of interest I can pass on.

Trevor Timm has an excellent column in The Guardian on Homeland Security and civil liberties violations.  If you haven't been concerned about such things, I feel you should be!

At The Intercept, there's a very new article detailing the letter sent to Pres. Obama by a number of civil liberties and privacy groups, some members of Congress, and some former government officials. The letter expresses concerns over the Executive Order 12333 which has been used to justify mass surveillance with little or no oversight.  The amount of secrecy surrounding this and the lack of accountability and oversight pose real threats to our democratic ideals.

The courts are now continuing to look at issues of mass surveillance.  I'm not hopeful, knowing this is probably headed to the Supreme Court, but these issues need to be examined, debated, and resolved (hopefully) publicly.

Bruce Schneier has a blog post worth reading on a cell phone "kill switch" law just passed in CA  - be sure to read the discussion in the comments as well.  I think the possible abuses in regard to stifling dissent and furthering other types of surveillance are quite troubling.

So "heads up" people - be aware and engaged in these and other crucial issues.

P. S.   I know there are some page views - would LOVE to get some comments as it can get lonely in here.  Anyone out there?