I beg of you.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
"There are at least 15 initiatives attempting to address the problem of conflict minerals by governments, companies and international organizations. This is the usual story of good intentions paving the road to hell, given that these overlapping and for the most part uncoordinated efforts will largely cancel each other out."
"The objective of mineral certification is to change the commercial calculus from violence to stability, from smuggling to legality, from collapsed state to rebuilding state, from private bank accounts to public revenues.
The chain of change begins with the consumer of the end products: laptops, cell phones, etc. The consumer demands change from companies and governments. Companies and governments lean on mineral to metal refiners. Refiners in turn press Central African exporters. Exporters subsequently -- for their economic survival -- demand transparency from suppliers right down to the mines, if that is what making money requires. It is a classic domino effect."
~ Judd and Prendergast at CNN.com
Here in the US, the finance reform bill that President Obama signed in July contained provision that requires publicly traded electronics companies to submit annual reports outlining their efforts to assure minerals in their products are conflict free. There is, however, no penalty for using conflict minerals. Prendergast has stated that it is still an important first step in accountability.
East Congo is probably the most dangerous place on the planet to be female. It would be hard to envision worse places than Darfur and Afghanistan, but Congo is that. Rape is so widespread and as we've seen on this blog, largely without impunity and happens en masse, even under the *cough* watchful eye of the UN.
Judd and Predergast's op-ed piece is bookended by the story of Kika, pictured above.
"Democratic Republic of Congo (CNN) -- Our friend Kika is a long-term resident of Panzi Clinic, a remarkable facility in eastern Congo that manages, under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, to accommodate a small number of women who have survived excruciating acts of gender violence. For the sufferers who have heard of Panzi, post-rape, they will do anything to get there. Kika did. She crawled. It took her one month.
Kika was fetching water one early morning, as she always did. On this day, something that is becoming almost inevitable for girls and women happened to her. Armed militia appeared and began to sexually assault her. She screamed, attracting her older brother Patrice's attention. He came running. The militia welcomed their next victim by demanding he rape his sister. He refused. They insisted again. He said, "Kika is like my mother. I will not."
They stabbed him to death with their bayonets, then repeatedly raped Kika.
Patrice's now deceased and Kika's now broken body were carried back to their small home. After a week, Kika smelled very bad. She had had no medical attention. Her own family insisted she leave. That was when she began to crawl.
What links Kika's anguish and any one of us reading this? What connects us to her catastrophic suffering and that of so many other women and girls like her from Congo?
The ingredients in our electronics, that's what. The way they are being mined has everything to do with armed militia gang raping tens of thousands of civilians in what is grimly known as the worst place In the world to be a girl or woman.
When asked how she had endured such suffering, the otherwise straight-backed and stoic Kika wept. "Panzi Clinic did not abandon me," she said, sopping tears with a kitchen towel worn at her waist. The statement is profound.
The question for us, then, is, will we abandon her? Will we abandon tens of thousands of girls and women already incapacitated by the extraordinary violence done to their bodies and spirits, crippling a whole society? Will we abandon those who will be raped, either again, or for the first time, by armed militia extracting the minerals used in the electronics we love and rely on? Or, will we as consumers, as Americans, as members of the human race, take these simple actions, sustained over time, to make gender violence atrocities stop?"
It's the only word I can come up with to describe the actions of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei. Ravi set up a webcam in his shared dorm room and broadcast his roommate Tyler Clementi having sex... with another man. And he did it twice so don't go thinking about remorse and onetime mistakes. Clementi, upon finding out what Ravi and Wei had done, evidently jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, into the Hudson River. Ravi and Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy for planting the webcam in the dorm room.
“Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
~ from the New York Times
I really want to believe it gets better.
Because every teen deserves better than what Asher and Tyler felt about themselves.
Every human being does.
The Old Road by Cat Shatwell
Image © Cat Shatwell, Used with Permission
The old road that leads to a ancient stone circle, a beautiful & magical place, Ballynoe, Co.Down, Ireland.
Ballynoe Stone Circle in Co. Down
A very large circle of over 50 stones up to 1.8 metres high (though many smaller) encloses a space about 35 metres across. It was built as a counterpart to the circle at Swinside in Cumbria. In the E half of the circle is a long low mound which contained large kists at the E and W ends. This mound obliterated two shortlived cairns built after the circle was constructed, in what Aubrey Burl describes as "prehistoric bigotry and vandalism [which] ruined this magnificent monument. "
Three pairs of stones stand outside the circle at varying distances, the nearest pair at the W side forming a kind of entrance 2.1 metres wide. Many of the stones in this circle were originally shoulder to shoulder, as at Lough Gur, at Swinside in Cumbria and La Menec in Brittany. A portalled entrance is aligned on the setting sun half-way between midwinter and midsummer (around March 21st), and the setting sun at winter solstice seems to slide down between the Mountains of Mourne which form a fine backdrop to the circle.
Visual palate cleanser concept © Bright Nepenthe, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Both images are from Space.com
You can read more here.
Beyond all those unanswerable questions, the fate of Sakineh Ashtiani is still up in the air. From the BBC, we see as of yesterday there is no decision as to her fate. Let's hope the West's interest keeps Sakineh safe from harm. And by harm, I don't mean just stoning. After TV interviews in August and September, in which she said people shouldn't protest her death because she was an adulteress and a murderer, and that no, no, she hadn't been flogged again after that picture was published in UK that turned out not to be her at all... I wince at the thought of what her life must be like. From the Guardian article in August, about her televised confession:
"She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera. Her 22-year-old son, Sajad and her 17-year-old daughter Saeedeh are completely traumatised by watching this programme," said Houtan Kian (Ashtiani's attorney).
In the balance between death by stoning, death by hanging, being beaten and tortured into giving interviews with well-inculcated confessions and timely denials, I wonder what Sakineh wishes for herself. I'm sure she wishes for the safety of her children, for peace, freedom, and most of all, no more suffering.
I'm wishing for all that with her.
And what of all the others who await execution, in Iran and even here? Who's talking about them?
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Oiled Wildlife Care Network (you remember them- the heroes of the Deepwater Horizon Spill who toiled endlessly cleaning and tallying the wildlife rescued, saved and lost) have just informed me (by way of their blog) that it is SEA OTTER AWARENESS WEEK!!!!
As everyone knows, otters are the best and happiest animals on the planet. (Other than my cats and a few other cats I know.) That's why we must protect them. Because after all, they are as cute, and as endangered, as all get-out. (Plus, they are the official animal of Les Comtesses. We just love otters!) Well, actually, in addition to the cute factor, otters are actually integral to the marine nearshore ecosystem.
Defenders of Wildlife Sea Otter Campaign
The US Geological Survey counts sea otters every spring and fall in a region of the central California coast between Año Nuevo and Point Concepcion. Counting otters is no mean feat. And if you have any doubts on that point, by all means, go count otters in the photo here. It's great that someone is actually counting otters, and trying to track their success as they rebound from the terrible population lows of the early 80's.
The bad news on the otter front is that the population is down over the past two years. The spring numbers declined 3.4% over the previous estimates for 2009 and are down a full 4% over estimates from 2008. Although pup numbers are also down, the general population trend has been upward, with a few 'corrections', since counting by the USGS began in 1985.
Y'otter be used to that with me by now.
And don't forget to check out dailyotter.org if you need a happy fix.
Phoebe Prince, CBS News
"That's absolutely inaccurate — it's completely false," Amy Truong said. "I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. … It's like they're calling us liars."
David Truong said, "We want justice. The people here need to be held responsible and to be stopped. It did happen. There are witnesses everywhere."
I really wish that the school personnel and the youths that bullied this child, literally to his death, could just be locked into a closet together so that they can act like the wolves they are and devour each other. Permitting this type of violence in schools guarantees our future with these people as adults will be rather interesting, doesn't it?
Sadly, that closet thing is not going to happen and even if it did, it wouldn't help Asher's mother and stepfather bear there loss any differently. Because I can't imagine how they must wonder if there wasn't something else they could have done to save him.
I wonder how Kelli Durham and her colleagues are sleeping at night.
If you want the bigotry angle, please check out La Comtesse Personal Failure's post over at Forever in Hell.
Behind the Mask II by Heather Louise
Masks have always fascinated me, ever since I was a child. I collect them. Not masks like the one above, though. I collect mostly African and Indonesian masks. Ibo spirit masks, Punu and Senoufu masks for harmony and tranquility, Bamana chiwaras for agricultural knowledge or secrets and such. In those cultures the mask has more of a protective or assistive purpose, invoking powerful spirits, ancestors and principles, rather than serving the purpose of concealment.
Most people think of masks as concealment. I guess we all wear masks in one sense or another. We mask our sorrows, our insecurities, and the trials and tribulations of our day to day life. Lately though, I have to say that I'm unsettled by more than a few instances in which one peers behind the mask and is dismayed to see too much. Too much hatred, too much venom, or just... too much. Within about the past year, it seems like I've had more than my share of finding out that what lies behind that mask is rather Phantom of the Opera-like. I've found people who aren't what they seem in so many ways that it's hard to grasp. In one case I was so pleasantly surprised I can't tell you. But what do you do when you see behind the mask and don't care for what you see? Push back and be glad of your sharper vision of reality? On the one hand there may be that aspect of trust when someone lets you see the foibles and fragility that makes us human. And on the other you can end up with that sudden realization that can only be described by that old truism "all that glitters..." Sometimes I'm disappointed in myself for not seeing more clearly from the beginning, so that I don't get startled anymore.
Because I'm just not there yet.
Monday, September 27, 2010
honor |ˈänər| ( Brit. honour)noun1 high respect; esteem : his portrait hangs in the place of honor.• [in sing. ] a person or thing that brings credit : you are an honor to our profession.• adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct : I must as a matter of honor avoid any taint of dishonesty.2 a privilege : the great poet of whom it is my honor to speak tonight.• an exalted position : the honor of being horse of the year.• a thing conferred as a distinction, esp. an official award for bravery or achievement : the highest military honors.• ( honors) a special distinction for proficiency in an examination : she passed with honors.• ( honors) a class or course of degree studies more specialized than that of the ordinary level : [as adj. ] an honors degree in mathematics.• ( His, Your, etc., Honor) a title of respect given to or used in addressing a judge or a mayor.• Golf the right of teeing off first, having won the previous hole.3 dated a woman's chastity or her reputation for this : she died defending her honor.
Don't worry: This is NOT the actual video...
Carriers of honor? What honor is there in the lives of women who are forced to endure the miserable circumstances of life under the Taliban?
Let's think about the honorable minds that think a woman even being in the presence of a man not of her family must have sexually degraded herself and her family's 'honor'.
All I can say is that I look forward to the time when the Taliban are either abolished or get their minds out of the gutter. The day when they stop persecuting women for their evidently immense corrupting power over men. Because as we know, men are so very, very weak.
Unless they are flinging stones.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Passiflora (parritae x antioquiensis) ‘Mission Dolores’
Holy Rarity Factor, Batman, indeed!!!!
I'll be off trying to figure out if I can really grow it here in Zone Hotter Than Hell, Wetter Than Seattle Except When Drier Than A Desert.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Sister Mary Helen McKillop
Mary McKillop rose flowering in winter
Friday, September 24, 2010
Yes, the world feels so off-kilter some days. All it takes is one thing to plunge you deep into the sad. Point being: Someone I know just lost a baby at 27 weeks and all I can say is that surprisingly, sad can go even sadder. Bad and sad. Yep. Bad and sad.
I suppose that in a world with Iran, Congo, Afghanistan and molesting Catholic priests that it's not the end of the world. But for our friends it likely was so very much to bear and I feel for them.
Anyway, the only high points this week? Gay adoption is legal in Florida. And my best friend is visiting.
Beach Grass, Scotland
Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic
Marram beach grass blowing on the coast of the Isle of Lewis.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Judges Cope, Shepherd and Salter's landmark ruling finding the ban on gay adoption in FL to be unconstitutional can be found here.
Notes from the Ruling:
"We reject the Department’s remaining arguments for the same reason: they do
not provide a reasonable basis for allowing homosexual foster parenting or
......guardianships while imposing a prohibition on adoption."
"Under Florida law, homosexual persons are allowed to serve as foster
parents or guardians but are barred from being considered for adoptive parents.
All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents,
but not homosexual persons—even where, as here, the adoptive parent is a fit
parent and the adoption is in the best interest of the children.
The Department has argued that evidence produced by its experts and F.G.’s
experts supports a distinction wherein homosexual persons may serve as foster
parents or guardians, but not adoptive parents. Respectfully, the portions of the
record cited by the Department do not support the Department’s position. We
conclude that there is no rational basis for the statute."
The 3rdDCA didn't mess around when it came to Dr. George Rekers, he of Rentboy fame. From their ruling:
"Unlike Dr. Schumm, Dr. Rekers sees no role for individual evaluation of the
proposed adoptive parent, if that parent is a homosexual. He maintained that
performing an individualized study of the proposed adoptive parent, like F.G., is
not viable because even if F.G. is found to be entirely appropriate as an adoptive
parent at the present time, it is possible that he may develop some sort of a
disorder later in life."
11 Dr. Rekers opined at one point that he would favor removing
children from foster parents who are homosexual persons even where the children
had lived with the foster parents for ten years. R. 1736. He also said, however,
that if he evaluated the F.G. household (which he had not done for this case), he
might recommend continued foster placement. R. 1758.
"Dr. Rekers was questioned about his recent authorship of a law review
article entitled An Empirically Supported Rational Basis for Prohibiting Adoption,
Foster Parenting, and Contested Child Custody by Any Person in a Household that
Includes a Homosexually-Behaving Member, 18 St. Thomas L. Rev. 325 (2005).
According to the judgment, “the doctor heavily cited to the conclusions of a
colleague who is sharply criticized as distorting data and was censured and ousted
[or withdrew in lieu of ousting] by the American Psychological Association for
misreporting evidence regarding homosexual households.” Final Judgment at 20
(footnote omitted). The court concluded that “Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from
a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence.” Final
Judgment at 23."
But best of all is Judge Salter's concurring independent opinion, which follows the ruling he joined. From that opinion:
"SALTER, J. (concurring).
I concur in affirming the judgment of adoption in this case. I write only to
emphasize certain parts of the record beyond those detailed by the trial court and
my respected colleagues. Those differences pertain to (1) the record regarding
the other persons in the adoptive parent’s household and (2) the substantial
changes in law and Department of Children and Families’ policy after the
Legislature enacted subsection 63.042(3) in 1977.
The categorical ban was enacted in haste and reaction in 1977.16 Those who
voted for it in the legislature did not prohibit the placement of children with
homosexual foster parents or permanent guardians—only the permanent step of
adoption was addressed. Because the Department has approved homosexuals to
serve as foster parents and permanent guardians,17 the Department now has
years of experience and observation to inform its position and its testimony in the
Moreover, the placement of children in those households has allowed
bonds and relationships to form that are in the best interests of children—steps
toward permanency and stability in young lives that have already known too
much pain and separation. In short, the categorical ban and the statutory
polestar of “best interests of the children” after an extended and very successful
foster placement (as here) are inimical.
In striking the categorical ban of section 63.042(3) on equal protection
grounds, we need not address the larger controversy regarding same-sex
marriage.21 The Department’s policies and stipulations (Appendix, paragraphs 6
and 8) have made it clear that placement with a married couple, or even an
applicant who might later marry, is not the rational basis proffered in support of
the ban. The unconstitutionality of this particular categorical ban regarding
adoption simply leaves the Department in the position described by its chief of
child welfare services in her testimony below:
Q. Okay. So if the state law didn’t exist and the folks in the
department were implementing the child welfare policy,
would there be a reason to exclude gay people from adopting?
A. If the law didn’t exist, we would use the same criteria to
assess those families as any other, and the best interest of the
child would be the, would be the norm.
With these few differences in analysis, I concur in affirming the final
judgment of adoption."
21 In the recently-decided federal case in California, Perry v. Schwarzenegger,
2010 WL 3025614 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2010), many of the same equal protection
arguments, and two of the expert witnesses who testified in the adoption case here,
were cited in the court’s order.
Salter's ruling is both wonderful and accessible.
Things not addressed in the 3rdDCA's ruling? Permanency and Equal Protection for Children. Judge Cindy Lederman's original ruling on the Gill adoption addressed the issue of permanency, which is the primary best interests of these children. The Court refused to take up that argument.
The trial court made an alternative finding that “the statute infringes on the
Children’s right to permanency pursuant to the Adoption and Safe Families Act of
1997, [42 U.S.C. § 671,] adopted in Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes.” Final
Judgment at 38. The Department contends that this ruling was erroneous.
Because we affirm the declaration of unconstitutionality on the ground that there
is an equal protection violation under the Florida Constitution, we need not reach
the trial court’s alternative holding.
What rights do our children have in this state? Surely, they have the right to permanency? Yet, though the Third District Court ignores the issue, in the Gill case, our own statutes appear to conflict with one another! If we terminate a child's parents' rights, we must pursue all options for permanency. Mr. Gill's children were owed more than a long term foster placement or a legal guardianship by our state. They were owed parents. And they believed that they had found parents.
Thankfully, so did the Third District Court of Appeals.
Let's hope DCF Secretary Sheldon gets his wish and the case is further appealed to the Supreme Court by the State. Let's get this shameful law off the books!