Tuesday Reads: Rachel and Trayvon, Reid Going Nuclear, Spy Stories, and Much More

Dog_getting_the_newspaper

Good Morning!!

I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the depressing news, but I’m having a hard time getting going this morning.

We’re into our third heat wave of the summer, and I’m actually getting acclimated to 90 degree weather; but I suppose it still has an effect on my body and mind.

I’m also somewhat depressed about the Zimmerman verdict and by the often ignorant reactions I see on-line and on TV.

Rachel and Trayvon

One bright spot in the coverage for me was Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan last night. She was real and authentic, and Morgan pretty much stayed out of the way and let her talk. I think she made a real impression on him and the reaction from the live audience was very positive too. It was refreshing. IMO, it says a lot about Travon Martin’s character that he had a friend like Rachel. I’m going to post the whole interview here in case you missed it or you want to watch it again.

From Mediaite:

Asked about what Trayvon Martin was like as a friend, Jeantel described him as a “calm, chill, loving person” and said she never saw him get “aggressive” or “lose his temper.” She said that the defense’s attempts to portray Martin as a “thug” were unfounded and defended his relatively mild drug use. “Weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said, “it just makes him go hungry.”

Jeantel also responded to the massive mockery she received in social media for the way she speaks, explaining that she was born with an under-bite that has made it difficult for her to speak clearly. When Morgan asked if she’d been bullied for her condition, she simply responded, “Look at me,” to laughter from the studio audience.

Morgan attempted to get Jeantel to offer her opinion of defense attorney Don West, who many claimed was condescending towards her when she was on the stand. Jeantel shook her head, declining to say anything bad about the man given her “Christian” upbringing.

In the second part of his interview with Jeantel, Morgan turned to the “creepy-ass cracker” comment she made and the major impact it had on the tenor of the case. She explained that the term is actually spelled “cracka” and defined it as “people who are acting like they’re police.” She said that if Zimmerman had calmly approached Martin and introduced himself, her friend would have politely said what he was doing there and nothing more would have happened.

Unlike the juror, Jeantel did think Zimmerman was racially motivated. “It was racial,” she said. “Let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?”

I’d also like to recommend this piece by Robin D.G. Kelley at Counterpunch:  The US v. Trayvon Martin.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today.   Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points.  The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute.  Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot.  Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man.  Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin.  This is a fact.  Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back.  The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists.  Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Why didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground? Why didn’t his fear for his safety matter? We need to answer these questions as a society.  Please read the whole article if you can.
Read the rest of this entry »


Martina Correia, Sister of Troy Davis and Anti-Death Penalty Activist, Dies at 44

Martina Correia–older sister of Troy Davis–who was executed by the state of Georgia on September 21–died yesterday of breast cancer at age 44.

Correia, who fought for 22 years to keep her brother alive, died Thursday after a long battle with breast cancer.

Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the August 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah Police officer Mark MacPhail. After years of appeals, Davis was executed by lethal injection on September 21.

Correia was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31.

Curt Goering, chief operating officer of Amnesty International USA said in a statement, “Our hearts are breaking over the loss of this extraordinary woman. She fought to save her brother’s life with courage, strength and determination, every step of the way. She was a powerful example of how one person can make a difference as she led the fight for justice for Troy Davis, even as she endured her own decade-long battle with cancer.

“She was a tenacious fighter, a graceful inspiration to activists everywhere, and a true hero of the movement for human rights. At this sorrowful time, we at Amnesty International offer our profound sympathy to her family.”

Democracy Now has posted an interview (scroll down) that Amy Goodman did with Correia at her brother’s funeral in October. There is video at the link.

Correia wrote a beautiful blog post at HuffPo on September 16 in which she described her struggle to save her brother and help her son deal with what was happening to his uncle.

As a young child, De’Jaun didn’t understand that my brother, his uncle was incarcerated, much less slated for death. When the family was getting ready to leave after a visit, he’d say, “Come on, Troy, let’s go, let’s go!” But he couldn’t go with us, and my mom would say, “He’s in school. He can’t come. One day, he’ll come home with us.”

As De’Jaun grew older, I explained to him that his uncle was in prison. But I had not yet told him that Georgia planned to kill him. He confided in his uncle more than anyone else. When De’Jaun was 12 years old, it became clear to me that my son understood far more than I had realized.

Our dog, Egypt, had gotten out of the yard and had been hit by a car. We immediately brought Egypt to a vet who told us that the dog’s leg was broken in three places and would need extensive surgery to be repaired. If Egypt did not have the surgery, she would have to be put to sleep. The cost of the surgery was upwards of $10,000.

As I drove De’Juan home, I wondered how in the world I would come up with $10,000. Putting Egypt down might be the only realistic possibility.

In the silence of the ride, De’Jaun turned to me and said, “Mom, are you going put my dog to sleep like they’re trying to put my Uncle Troy to sleep?”

I had to swallow this giant lump in my throat to hold back the tears. I didn’t know that he related the two things. That he knew they were trying to kill his Uncle Troy. And, he knew about which method that they would use to kill him. At that point, I decided that if I had to pawn my car, I wasn’t going to be able to put our dog to sleep.

What an amazing woman, and what a tragic loss to the world.


Troy Davis: Clemency Denied

I just got an e-mail from Amnesty International, and I’m copying it here:

It is with a very heavy heart and a deep sense of outrage that I let you know that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny clemency to Troy Davis.

This means that very little is standing in the way of the state of Georgia executing a potentially innocent man this Wednesday, September 21 st at 7pm.

The actions of the Board are astounding in the face of so much doubt in the case against Troy Davis. However, we are not prepared to accept the decision and let anyone with the power to stop the execution off the hook.

Join us in calling on the Board to reconsider its decision, and on the Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm to do the right thing. They have until the final moments before Troy’s scheduled execution to put the brakes on this runaway justice system.

We have seen an unprecedented level of support from our members, coalition partners and all sorts of concerned individuals across the political spectrum.

I was blown away as I carried one of the many boxes containing your petition signatures up to the Parole Board office last Thursday. Close to a million signatures have been collected from the many organizations working with us. I looked back as we were marching down Auburn Avenue in Atlanta Friday night and I could not see an end to the crowd. About 3,500 people came out!

The movement here is very alive. It is electric. And I have no doubt that we will raise the volume together against what could be an unthinkable injustice.

Join your voices with us – we will not allow Troy Davis to be executed, not in our names! Troy Davis and his family have counted on us for many years now and we will not let them down. Please take action – human rights and a human life are on the line. Please contact Georgia’s District Attorney and urge him to stop the execution of Troy Davis.

Make the state of Georgia hear you! Tell them that executing Troy Davis will only deepen the cycle of violence and injustice.

In Solidarity,
Laura Moye
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. We’ll be organizing a Day of Protest today to express our outrage at the recent decision to deny Troy Davis clemency. And on Wednesday (Sept. 21), we’re calling for a Day of Vigil on Troy’s impending execution date. If you are able to organize locally for either of these events, please tell us about your plans.

Minkoff Minx is very passionate about the Troy Davis case, and has written several excellent posts about it. She’s involved in family business today, but perhaps she will still find time to comment on this terrible decision.

From the Guardian:

Davis, 42, was put on death row 20 years ago for the 1989 murder of a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah following a fight with a homeless man over a bottle of beer. Since then seven out of the nine key witnesses who implicated him have recanted their evidence, several saying they were cajoled by police into giving false eye-witness statements.

Another 10 have come forward to point the finger at a separate man present at the scene of the murder, Sylvester Coles.

Meanwhile, no forensic or DNA evidence linking Davis to the shooting has ever been found, and nor has the murder weapon.

The denial of clemency by the parole board prompted an outpouring of anger and despair from hundreds of Twitter users and several celebrity supporters of Davis’s campaign. The prisoner’s lawyer, Brian Kammer, said he was “shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice”.

Amnesty International’s US branch, that has championed the case, said: “Allowing a man to be sent to death under an enormous cloud of doubt about his guilt is an outrageous affront to justice. The case against Davis unraveled long ago.”


Saturday Reads: Global Grassroots, Women’s Rights and Moving Towards a Paradigm Shift

Alright, it is Saturday, and here is your first installment this weekend…two Minx morning post in a row.  Eeeeek!

So grab your coffee, tea or Diet Coke…and get ready to get down to business.  I have an intense post for you this morning.  I do hope it gets the conversation going.

First, let’s go straight to the head of the line…the one that is populated with all those fetus fanatics.  A beginner’s guide to banning abortion, from the USA – Telegraph Blogs

How do you outlaw abortion in an age that is obsessed with sexual liberty? Given the hysterical response to Nadine Dorries’ modest proposal to reform the counselling given to women seeking a termination in the UK, it seems like an uphill struggle. But quietly, almost without anyone noticing, the Republican Party in the United States is showing how it can be done. It takes time and patience, but the results reflect well on what Dorries has accomplished so far. The best way to kill the abortion industry is not through religious moralising. It’s through red tape.

One thing though, the GOP not only uses the red tape to shackle these women to the PLUB fetus farm, they also use that good ol religion to get the defunding done.

Since the 2010 landslide, the prolifers have adopted a new strategy. Rather than shouting about a national ban and obsessing about picking the right presidential candidate, prolifers have refocused on making life uncomfortable for local abortion providers. Beneath the radar, state-by-state, they are starting to get the job done.

Take Kansas. In April 2011, Republican lawmakers introduced new regulations for the three remaining abortion clinics in the state. The regulations were dubbed “targeted regulation of abortion providers”, or TRAP laws. They specified everything from the size and temperature of counselling rooms to the appropriate number of janitorial closets. The regulations were issued after business hours on a Friday and clinics were given until Monday the next week to comply. Unsurprisingly, none of them were able to rebuild their premises in time. For a few hours it looked like Kansas would become the first state since 1973 to totally outlaw abortion.

Of course, as always happens in America, a judge intervened.

Your damn right, and check it out…this PLUB, author Dr. Tim Stanley, admits the agenda flat-out…

The genius of this strategy is that it has avoided the usual religious semantics by couching the prolife position in the language of “health and safety”. Republican lawmakers have insisted throughout that they are just trying to provide the best service for women seeking a termination. They don’t mean to restrict that service – it’s just that their standards happen to be very, very, very high.

Dr. Stanley, you can go shove that “genius strategy” up your anti-woman, anti-rights, christian right-wing extremist assssss.

There is a reason I posted this PLUB promoting crap, because the author makes one statement that is correct and true:

The strategy is starting to work in the US…

And this is the most frightening part of the PLUB agenda, it is working here in the US.

However, women’s reproductive rights are not the only rights we are still fighting for, what about that little thing called Equal Rights?  The shocking contempt for women’s rights [The reply] – latimes.com

How far have American women come since winning the right to vote in 1920? Eve Weinbaum and Rachel Roth addressed this question in an Aug. 26 Op-Ed, “Beyond suffrage,” bringing up issues that elicited backlash on our discussion board. Surprised by the reaction — in, ahem, 2011 — they offer this reply.

When we wrote “Beyond suffrage,” we didn’t think it was particularly controversial. Our contribution was to point out that 91 years ago Crystal Eastman laid out an agenda for change that can still guide women and men working for equal rights today.  We argued that women deserve equal pay for equal work, that the ability to decide whether and when to become parents is central to “freedom,” and that all forms of discrimination in the workplace and the public sphere should be challenged and dismantled.

The commentary this article received really proves that there’s a lot of jackasses out there who not only want to destroy a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body…they want to destroy women all together…they outright hate women.

…we were stunned by the vitriolic language from most of the commenters.  Their posts seem to fit into a few major categories:

1.  Women do not deserve equal rights.  Roneida said simply, “If the Creator had wanted women to be equal to men, he would have made them the same.” Several readers argued that women’s natural role is to take care of children, and that women should embrace their “difference.” On the other hand, one argued that “low-income/low-intelligence women have used welfare in the past as a ‘gravy train’ as they bear more and more children.” These readers seem to argue that white, middle-class women should have children because it’s their “nature,” while lower-income women and women of color should do the opposite.  One post says, “I’d suggest paying women of color $100,000 in exchange for becoming infertile.”

2. It’s women’s own fault that they are not treated equally.  EdmundSingleton objects to women on television with “streaking dyed hair, greasy lips, piles of eye make-up, in what can only be called the new clownish look.”  Others argue that women have all the choices they need:  “Ladies, if you want to make as much as men, you have a few options.  Don’t have children.  If you do have children, find an employer that offers appropriate childcare…YOU choose whether or not to have children, YOU choose who your partner is, YOU choose how far to go in your career.”  What these readers are missing is an understanding of structural change, instead focusing everything on individuals’ need to change themselves.

3.  Women are bad, and women of color and Jewish women are worse.  One reader objects to two Jewish women writing this piece, and another rails against “Jew broads” in the Senate and on the Supreme Court, along with “an illiterate Rican chick.”  Obviously we find these sentiments abhorrent, but it is important not to ignore the fact that they persist.

4. Women should quit whining.  One says, “Cries of ‘gender discrimination’ are just ways to explain away one’s personal shortcomings.” As touchdowntony said: “The women’s movement has done more than any other ideology to bring on the destruction of the family unit…Feminism  has brought about the distenigration (sic) of a society.” Lillyloo2you says, “We have come a long way so quit whining.”  And thanks to garryowen for this: “Blah, blah, blah.  Women are their own worst enemy.”  Many of the comments were personal (though none of the commenters knows anything about either author).  For example, one reader wrote, “Judging by your writing, you’re most likely to be an unmarried, obese, lonely cat lady.” Others commented:  “Just because you’re emotionally insecure in this big scary world, funding your life with a second rate job, doesn’t mean other women are just like you,” and “your whining duet makes me sick.” “You wanted equality, you got it, so stop crying poor pitiful me.”

After more than 55 readers had posted responses to our piece, one asked, “Why do I get the feeling of hatred in so many of the comments?”  I can only speculate that we hit a nerve among readers of the Los Angeles Times, especially among men.  As one of them says, “You are not the center of the universe.”  Another complains, “I’s all about how we can better the lot of females, and females only.”  Although none of them frames it in this way, these readers seem to be intent on holding onto male privilege — and white privilege — in any way possible.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, they maintain that no changes are necessary — in politics, in the home, in the workplace or in the economy.  Perhaps Eastman’s call to “arrange the world” to allow for real freedom is still too threatening.

Sick and utterly disgusting isn’t it? Well, I got something even more disturbing for you. It is difficult for me to understand how this mother and victim of domestic violence can find something hopeful in a recent human rights report: USA: Victim turned activist reflects on landmark domestic violence decision | Amnesty International

Local authorities in Castle Rock, Colorado knew that Lenahan, then Jessica Gonzales, and her daughters Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca – aged 7, 8 and 10 – had long suffered domestic violence at the hands of her estranged husband Simon Gonzales.

But despite a court restraining order against Gonzales, police failed to respond to Lenahan’s repeated pleas for help – seven phone calls and a visit to the police station – after he arrived at their home unannounced on 22 June, 1999 and drove off with the girls.

Early the following morning, Gonzales drove to the Castle Rock police station and fired shots through the window, prompting a shoot-out with police that left him fatally wounded. After the gunfight ended, Leslie, Katheryn and Rebecca were found dead in the back of the truck.

Since then, US authorities from Castle Rock right up to the US Supreme Court have repeatedly denied Lenahan access to all the answers about how and when her daughters died, and she has never received any reparations for her suffering.

Lenahan tells Amnesty International that she wants to know the details of her daughter’s murders.

“I want them to tell me whose bullets actually killed my children, and where and when did they die?”

…While she feels that those questions may never be answered completely, the recent decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights gives her hope that she may finally see some positive change for others at risk of domestic violence.

In 2005 the US Supreme Court ruled that the police had no “constitutional duty” to enforce the restraining order against Lenahan’s estranged husband.  With the encouragement of her lawyer, Lenahan took her case to the next level, by filing a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In August 2011, the IACHR published its report on the case, finding that US authorities “did not duly investigate the complaints presented by Jessica Lenahan before the death of her daughters. [They] also failed to investigate the circumstances of their deaths once their bodies were found.”

The Commission’s decision recommends that the USA examine how it fails domestic violence victims and enact comprehensive reforms at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that victims receive adequate protection from their abusers.

It is being hailed as a victory for domestic violence victims.

The report goes on to say:

“Authorities tell us that it is difficult for them to prevent violence. In this case they could have acted to save the lives of three children but chose not to. Let’s hope such decisions to ignore cases of domestic violence will never happen again.”

“US authorities at all levels must take notice of the Commission’s findings to ensure women and girls who suffer domestic violence are given adequate protection and victims are offered help and reparations.”

Perhaps it is a victory for victims of domestic violence, but Lenahan puts it into perspective…

“For so many years, women who are the victims of domestic violence have had the burden of proof,” said Lenahan.

“I’m a little bitter, but optimistic that this decision might be a way to help others.”

In the West Central African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Electoral Commission is trying to get women to run for office. The idea is this…the key for women gaining rights…they need to become members of parliament.  IRIN Africa | DRC: Women politicians “key to promoting rights” | DRC | Gender Issues | Governance | Human Rights

KINSHASA, 2 September 2011 (IRIN) – Political parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo are struggling to recruit women into their ranks to run for parliament, despite a legal requirement to do so and a belief that greater numbers of female parliamentarians are critical to advancing women’s rights.

“We are going around meeting women, telling them to join our political party to represent us in the next parliamentary polls, but most of them are afraid,” Prince Bushiri, leader of the Citizen Alliance for Public Safety. “When we ask them what they fear, some will tell you, ‘I don’t like politics’, others will tell you, ‘I have to ask my husband’s opinion first’.”

Bushiri said only one out of 10 women invited to join the party accepted the invitation.

The Electoral Commission began registering candidates to contest for seats on 4 August. Parties that fail to persuade women to run for office on their ticket will be violating an electoral law designed to take gender representation into account when compiling a list of candidates. Small parties are especially concerned about their ability to comply.

However, even if those parties do not put women on the ticket, they still will be allowed to take part in the elections.

Many believe that an increase in the number of women in politics is crucial for the advancement of women’s rights in the country. Women in the DRC bear the brunt of ongoing conflict. A study prepared by the American Journal of Public Health in May 2011 found that 1.8 million women in the country had been raped during their lifetime, with 48 rapes recorded every hour during the study period from 2006 to 2007.

“Having more women in politics could reduce the suffering that women endure in areas marred by conflicts,” Gertrude Kitembo, DRC’s former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, told IRIN. “A few years ago, President [Joseph] Kabila announced a zero tolerance policy against impunity, including crimes related to sexual violence, but it hasn’t changed anything so far besides a few cases of soldiers being prosecuted for violating women in eastern Congo. When there are more women in politics, especially positioned at the top of various institutions, they will use their influence to ensure that all those who commit sexual violence against women are brought to justice.”

But women who are speaking out against the sexual violence, are being targeted…

“A number of women have been raped for denouncing violence against women,” Justine Masika, coordinator of the organization, Synergies of Female Victims of Sexual Violence.

“A woman in our organization was raped on three occasions. The aggressors said that she was speaking out against violence against women when she herself had never been raped and that is why she should also be raped.”

How the hell can women in DRC fight this violence, or even aspire to become members of parliament when there is so much against them…

Educational barriers are also a hindrance; the new electoral law requires a candidate for a parliamentary seat to have a three-year university degree, which means many women do not meet the requirements.

The plan is to campaign for more women’s education opportunities and programs.

Perhaps a glimmer of hope can be found in the country next door to the DRC… Gretchen Wallace Empowers Women In Rwanda And Other Post-Conflict Societies (And just a note here, the tension, violence and distrust between Rwanda and the DR Congo, and vice versa,  is still very much part of the cultural landscape.  I am looking past that and seeing the situation in plain and simple terms.  These victims of violence are all women, without basic human rights, no matter what their nationality or ethnicity is. )

When asked about her personal and professional inspirations, Gretchen Steidle Wallace names neither an A-list celebrity nor a political figure but, rather, an unemployed and barely educated South African woman.

In 2004, when Wallace was researching the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa, she befriended Zolecka Ntuli, a then-25-year-old woman who, despite having no job and virtually no access to funds, had launched a neighborhood support group to combat sexual violence in the area after a 12-year-old girl was assaulted by a group of teenage boys.

“Zolecka didn’t have the skills or the capacity to plan ahead for grants and funding, yet here she was, starting a dialogue about sexual violence against children in a region where [such matters were] still relatively taboo,” Wallace, 37, recalled. “I thought, ‘There must be women all over the world who have similar ideas for change. What if those women had more opportunities and resources?’”

Wallace formed a nonprofit organization called Global Grassroots, which helps support social change for women in Rwanda and other post-conflict societies.

Global Grassroots participants enroll in two-week-long programs where they are trained in what Wallace describes as “social entrepreneurship.” An additional 18-month work-study and apprenticeship component helps graduates gain “creative resourcing” skills — including designing a mission statement and how to “diagnose” a social issue — necessary to launching their own nonprofit operations on issues facing women and girls in their communities.

Since the organization’s 2004 founding, Wallace — who spends between two to four months each year in Rwanda — said about 300 “change agents” have completed Global Grassroots training programs, and some of them have since gone on to establish groups like Abanyamurava, or “Hard Workers.” Abanyamurava’s 19-member, all-female team helped start a clean water collection and delivery venture in Kigali, Rwanda, that is expected to soon reach 6,000 residents in an area where sexual violence is rampant.

Global Grassroots has a literacy program called “Let us build ourselves,” where they teach poor illiterate women how to read, write and manage money.  Wallace states that this knowledge is key for women to be able to progress from poor farmers, to managers of their own nonprofit.

Also critical to Global Grassroots’ success is the fact that Wallace and her colleagues see themselves as partners, rather than as leaders within the participants’ communities. “We’re here to try and facilitate, but not lead, these grassroots-initiated ventures,” Wallace said. “One of our core values is the participatory development paradigm … we never impose our values or viewpoints on them.”

…”I feel really lucky to be working in a realm that has so many success stories of its own,” she said. “We measure our impact on more than just our numbers … we look for transformation within the individual … and their community.”

For more information on this organization:  Global Grassroots – Conscious Social Change for Women

Well, I realize this morning’s reads is on the “thick” side…and a bit difficult to get through, like trying to climb up out of a pit of caramel and marshmallow sauce.

What sort of things are you reading about today? What do you think about  Global Grassroots?  Maybe the way to strengthen the social and cultural change for women in countries like Rwanda and DR Congo is through smaller programs and non-profits…that work to help the individual, just a few at a time, to achieve that paradigm shift.

Perhaps that is the same way to achieve women’s rights here in the US, and by that I mean full women’s rights…equal rights, reproductive rights, healthcare rights, victims rights, civil rights and human rights.

The days of the big women’s organizations…NOW seem to be a thing of the past.  Maybe it is time for a local grassroots program of our own…a way to reach out and help other women, just a few at a time.


Sunday Reads: Pink Congo…Black and White Cuba

Photo via Flickr, by Chris Blakeley

It is Sunday Morning, and today I will bring you some real interesting reads that I have found during the week.  So drink that cup of coffee and enjoy today’s morning reads.

This week Amnesty International celebrated its 50th birthday. So our first article will highlight the work of an organization that has fought for human rights and freedom of speech throughout the world.  Amnesty International marks 50 years of fighting for free speech | World news | The Observer

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon of Amnesty International

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon of Burma lights a candle during an event to mark 50 years since Amnesty International was formed. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

When she was young, Manya Benenson’s dad told her a story of two frogs that fall into a bucket of cream and swim around and around. The first one gives up and drowns, the second keeps going until he finds his struggles have churned the cream to butter, and he climbs out. As a fable, she said, it could sum up the movement that the late Peter Benenson began in the Observer 50 years ago this weekend.

In London, the…

…celebration was held at the same Trafalgar Square church where Benenson, a bowler-hatted barrister, slipped away from work in 1961 and sat alone to dream up what has become the world’s most renowned human rights organisation.

He had been enraged by reading a newspaper account of the arrest in Portugal of two students, whose crime had been to raise a toast to freedom. Benenson died in 2005 and yesterday his daughter Manya, 35, lit the Amnesty candle, symbolically ringed by barbed wire, in his memory, along with Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, a Burmese refugee whose father is serving a 65-year jail sentence for organising peaceful protests against the military junta in 2007.

Reading this article makes you think of just how much we need people like Benenson who come up with ideas and actually see them through.

To celebrate Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary, the Guardian and the Observer have started a new online series. Every month we will publish news of an ‘urgent action’; that is a current case of human rights abuse that Amnesty would like to draw wider attention to

So be sure to bookmark that link.

I am currently reading a book about war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo written by Jason Stearns. These next two links will give you a glimpse of the Congo like you never have seen it.

Congo: Across the spectrum – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

Soldiers’ uniforms turn purple, vegetation magenta … the infrared film used by photographer Richard Mosse forces us to see the conflicts of Congo in different ways

Mosse uses a discontinued infrared film developed by Kodak in the 1940′s to view camouflage in a spectrum that the human eye can’t see. So green grass and trees become various shades of pink…and the uniforms of soldiers turn purple.

Stearns has written an article for The Guardian, where he gives his thoughts about Mosse’s photographs.  Shocking pink | Art and design | The Guardian

Congo Mosse

La Vie En Rose. Photograph: Richard Mosse/Infra

Imagine 5.4 million deaths. It overloads the mind. There is no sliding scale of moral outrage, increasing in direct proportion to human suffering. The indignation we feel at 10 innocent deaths is not magnified 10 times if there are 100 such fatalities. Instead, our heartstrings are more likely to be tugged by a human face, a tragic story.

This has been the curse of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s too complex to craft into a simple narrative. Over the past 15 years, more than 40 different armed groups have fought across a country the size of western Europe. There are no clear heroes and too many villains, no good-guy-v-bad-guy tale to spin. While the number of people who have died is on the same scale as the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, only around 300,000 were killed; the rest – disproportionately children – perished unsensationally due to disease and hunger caused by the fighting.

Look at that image above, seeing the bright pink of those rolling hills with the purple and lavender hues of the soldiers uniforms, whose machine guns are still a stark black color. A contrast of black metal against a rosy glow of pink.

Richard Mosse’s pictures of Congo draw from a different palette of colours, literally. Using recently discontinued Kodak infrared film, his photographs turn the vegetation of the eastern Congo into jarring magenta, while the soldiers’ uniforms go purple. It feels as if we have fallen down a rabbit hole, into a more surreal space. Congo always felt that way to me, as if the regular colour spectrum, the usual yardsticks we have, do not quite hack it.

Take a look at those photographs. They really are something to see.

This next link is quite extraordinary. It is about two little girls, twins, joined at the head. This condition is called craniopagus, and it is extremely rare. In fact only one in 2.5 million twins have fused skulls, and most do not survive. What is even more strange about these girls, it seems that the thalmus of one sister is connected to the thalmus of the other.  Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind? – NYTimes.com

Krista reached for a cup with a straw in the corner of the crib. “I am drinking really, really, really, really fast,” she announced and started to power-slurp her juice, her face screwed up with the effort. Tatiana was, as always, sitting beside her but not looking at her, and suddenly her eyes went wide. She put her hand right below her sternum, and then she uttered one small word that suggested a world of possibility: “Whoa!”

In any other set of twins, the natural conclusion about the two events — Krista’s drinking, Tatiana’s reaction — would be that they were coincidental: a gulp, a twinge, random simultaneous happenstance. But Krista and Tatiana are not like most other sets of twins. They are connected at their heads, where their skulls merge under a mass of shaggy brown bangs. The girls run and play and go down their backyard slide, but whatever they do, they do together, their heads forever inclined toward each other’s, their neck muscles strong and sinuous from a never-ending workout.

So…when one little sister drinks, the other feels it.  Far out.

You may have heard of those small tunnels that snake their way through the Great Pyramid.  National Geographic did a show on the robots that are used to explore these tunnels which are too small for a human to fit through.  Well, it now looks like they have found red hieroglyphics inside the tunnels. Mysterious markings discovered at Great Pyramid of Giza – CNN.com

A robot explorer has revealed ancient markings inside a secret chamber at Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza.

A close-up view of the red marks on the floor in the pyramid
A close-up view of the red marks on the floor in the pyramid

The markings, which have lain unseen for 4,500 years, were filmed using a bendy camera small enough to fit through a hole in a stone door at the end of a narrow tunnel.

[…]

“The big question is the purpose of these tunnels,” he added. “There are architectural explanations, symbolic explanations, religious explanations — even ones relating to the alignment of the stars — but the final word on them is yet to be written. The challenge is that no human can fit inside these channels so the only way to do this exploration is with robots.”

I wonder what these symbols mean? Could they be an ancient Egyptian form of graffiti?  Does it say Pharaoh Khufu was here?

This article reminds me of a real good movie…Bubba Ho-tep.

Based on the Bram Stoker Award nominee short story by cult author Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-tep tells the “true” story of what really did become of Elvis Presley. We find Elvis (Bruce Campbell) as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his “death”, then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds.

Bubba Ho-Tep Official Website

It is funny as hell, and damn Bruce Campbell does an awesome job of portraying Elvis…in fact one could say Campbell is Elvis.

One of the great lines in the movie is when Elvis gets testy with a nurse.  She laughs at him and we hear the voice over of Campbell aka Elvis say:

Get old, you can’t even cuss someone and have it bother ‘em. Everything you do is either worthless or sadly amusing.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: This is just too dang amazing, check it out.  Electrical Implant Allows Paralyzed Man to Stand and Walk (video) | Singularity Hub

In 2006, Rob Summers was the victim of a hit-and-run. The accident left him completely paralyzed from the chest down–unable, even, to wiggle his toes. But just weeks after beginning a new cutting edge therapy in which researchers electrically stimulated his spinal cord Summers was able to stand on his own, move his hips, knees, ankles and toes, and make stepping motions on a treadmill.

After the training failed, researchers attempted a cutting edge procedure to surgically implant an epidural electrode array over the lumbosacral segments of Summers’ spinal cord. The training sessions resumed, this time while injecting direct electrical current.

It was a breakthrough in rehabilitation therapy.

In the first weeks after surgery Summers could stand on his own, providing the initial lift himself. He can remain standing up to four minutes at a time, and up to an hour with occasional help. After a few months he was able to move his hips, bend his knees, ankles and toes. Today, with the aid of a harness and an occasional helping hand, he can lift and move his feet to make stepping motions on a treadmill.

WOW!

Easy like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  There are lots of cool things happening in LA this summer, and one of them is a new exhibition at the Getty Museum.  Getty Museum: Cuba in pictures at the Getty Museum – Los Angeles Times

‘A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now’ invites viewers to contemplate the country’s many contradictions through a wide array of photographs.

Geez, I wish I could see this exhibit…if any of our readers get a chance to visit the museum, please let us know!

Viewers are invited to contemplate whether the United States’ ferociously effective, decades-long economic embargo, the Cuban government’s misbegotten socialist policies, or some combination is to blame for turning the store, and countless others like it into a ghostly shell. Similar questions and Cuba’s many contradictions — physical beauty and stark impoverishment, political ideals and Cold War debacles, tragic failure and boundless potential — arise repeatedly in the exhibition, whose works span the early 1930s to the present.

“Part of what we wanted to do was to show people various sides of what Cuba is like now, because there is such a myth about not only its history but its current state of affairs,” says Judith Keller, the Getty’s senior curator of photographs.

“I think it’s the contradiction of the great potential you see in the people,” continues Keller, who visited Cuba last year with the exhibition’s co-curator, Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. “There literally is music on every block and people being very productive and trying to patch up their housing. But at the same time the place is crumbling, and there is no food in the shops.”

Looks like a lot of events are going on in connection with the show.

The Getty’s show, which runs through Oct. 2, is one of L.A.’s opening salvos in a months-long cultural salute to the island nation that’s taking place on both U.S. coasts this year. Upcoming happenings include a display of Cuban film posters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, performances by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in Costa Mesa and Los Angeles, a spotlight on contemporary Cuban cinema at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and an Aug. 24 Hollywood Bowl concert headlined by the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.

Here is a direct link to the museum:

A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Evans to Now (Getty Center Exhibitions)

Cuba’s attempt to forge an independent state has been a project under development for more than 100 years and a source of fascination for nations, intellectuals, and artists alike.

A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now looks at three critical periods in the nation’s history as witnessed by photographers before, during, and after the country’s 1959 Revolution. The exhibition juxtaposes Walker Evans’s 1933 images from the end of the Machado dictatorship with views by contemporary foreign photographers Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko, who have explored Cuba since the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s.

A third section bridging these two eras presents pictures by Cuban photographers who participated in the 1959 Revolution, including Alberto Korda, Perfecto Romero, and Osvaldo Salas.

There is a PDF file that has small images of the exhibition that you can download here.

For a schedule of events: A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Evans to Now / Events (Getty Center Exhibitions)

Hope you have a relaxing day… my mom, my daughter and her friend and I will be having a “coochie” day.  This is what my daughter would call all female outings when she was in pre-school. (She would say, no “dingies” allowed…  Cute huh?)  We are going to the mall. It is an all day event for us, the mall is over 95 miles away from Banjoville.

So, post some links in the comments…what you reading and thinking about today?