Posts Tagged Iraq War
The horrendous news from Newtown, Connecticut has pierced our hearts. Allegedly, a black-clad man in his 20s armed with two semi-automatic handguns entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and made an elementary school for kindergartners through fourth graders the scene of the worst mass shooting in a public school in American history. Reportedly, 20 children were shot and killed, and seven adults were shot and killed. We don’t yet know how many were wounded. We do know dozens of parents are experiencing the worst nightmare any parent could imagine. We do know more than 500 young children in the school are traumatized.
Once again we are faced with unspeakable horror from gun violence and once again we are reminded that there is no safe harbor for our children. How young do the victims have to be and how many children need to die before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation and the killing of innocents? The most recent statistics reveal 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?
This slaughter of innocents happens because we protect guns before children and other human beings. Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents and teachers and children and the entire Newtown community that has been ripped apart by each bullet shot this morning. We know from past school shootings and the relentless killing of children every day that Newtown families and the community will never be the same. The Newtown families who lost children today will never be the same. The families of the teachers who were killed will never be the same. Every child at the Sandy Hook Elementary School this morning will never be the same.
Each and all of us must do more to stop this intolerable and wanton epidemic of gun violence and demand that our political leaders do more. We can’t just talk about it after every mass shooting and then do nothing until the next mass shooting when we profess shock and talk about it again. The latest terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is no fluke. It is a result of the senseless, immoral neglect of all of us as a nation to protect children instead of guns and to speak out against the pervasive culture of violence and proliferation of guns in our nation. It is up to us to stop these preventable tragedies.
We have so much work to do to build safe communities for our children and need leaders at all levels of government who will stand up against the NRA and for every child’s right to live and learn free of gun violence. But that will not happen until mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and neighbors and faith leaders and everybody who believes that children have a right to grow up safely stand up together and make a mighty ruckus as long as necessary to break the gun lobby’s veto on common sense gun policy. Our laws and not the NRA must control who can obtain firearms.
It is way past time to demand enactment of federal gun safety measures, including:
• Ending the gun show loophole that allows private dealers to sell guns without a license and avoid required background checks;
• Reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004;
• And requiring consumer safety standards for all guns.
Why in the world do we regulate teddy bears and toy guns and not real guns that have snuffed out tens of thousands of child lives? Why are leaders capitulating to the powerful gun lobby over the rights of children and all people to life and safety?
I hope these shocking Connecticut child sacrifices in this holy season will force enough of us at last to stand up, speak out, and organize with urgency and persistence until the president, members of Congress, governors and state legislators put child safety ahead of political expediency. And we must aspire and act together to become the world leader in protecting children against gun violence rather than leading the world in child victims of guns. Every child’s life is sacred and it is long past time that we protect all our children.
Albert Camus, Nobel Laureate, speaking at a Dominican monastery in 1948 said: “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” He described our responsibility as human beings “if not to reduce evil, at least not to add to it” and “to refuse to consent to conditions which torture innocents.” It is time for a critical mass of Americans to refuse to consent to the killing of children by gun violence.
- How Will NRA Explain Away Gun Shooting At Elementary School In Newtown, Connecticut? (dekerivers.wordpress.com)
- NRA Should Have Noses Rubbed In Mess On Floor Of Newtown Elementary School (dekerivers.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts and prayers for the innocent lives lost in Newtown, CT (americanturban.com)
- Jerrold Nadler: If now isn’t time to talk control, ‘I don’t know when is’ (dailykos.com)
- Huckabee Makes Outrageous Remarks After Massacre (huffingtonpost.com)
- 27 Dead, Including 18 Children, In Elementary School Shooting In Newtown, Connecticut (b96.cbslocal.com)
- Disgusting: Lefty celebs crawl out to politicize Newtown, Conn., tragedy (twitchy.com)
- Newtown School Shooting (nbcmiami.com)
- Enough Unnecessary Tragedy, Time to Disarm America and the NRA (planetpov.com)
- Horror at Elementary School in Newtown, CT (realclearpolitics.com)
Posted on June 19, 2012
All of us grow up eventually; some of us just do it faster than others.
Mark Franks adjusted his hat, stepped out the back door, and locked up the house. Not that there was much to steal inside, but force of habit compelled him to do it just the same. He opened his car door, which was never locked – who in their right mind would steal a fifteen year old car – and started the engine. It sputtered, caught, and he revved it a few times just to make sure it didn’t stall. Satisfied that it was running alright, he backed out of the driveway and headed for work.
He drove the same route every day. He stopped at the same lights, which never seemed to be in sync, and passed the same stores and gas stations, where he sometimes popped in for a pack of smokes. After a small rise in the road, he passed the hospital, and then turned left into St. Ambrose Cemetery, his place of employment. He had often thought it funny that the hospital and cemetery were in such close proximity to each other, as it seemed rather convenient for both. He parked his car in the usual spot near the groundskeepers shack, and went inside to punch in. He had been a groundskeeper at St. Ambrose for twenty-five years. He had once aspired to be head groundskeeper, but ambition was not among his character traits, at least according to his father.
He talked to his father every day, often more than once. His father actually supplied him with a cell phone, and paid all the bills; that way he could reach Mark any time he wanted. If Mark didn’t answer promptly, his father would call repeatedly, and become more irate with each attempt.
After punching in, Mark grabbed hedge trimmers and was heading to the front gate when his phone rang. The caller ID said it all, “Dad.”
“Hello,” said Mark, as if he didn’t know who it was.
“Hi,” said his Dad. “What are you doing?”
“Working, just like every morning.”
“Are you outside?” asked his Dad.
“Of course Dad, I’m a groundskeeper.”
“I hope you’re wearing a hat. It’s sunny out.”
“I know, Dad.”
“Well, you do get sunburned since you lost your hair. I don’t want you to get heatstroke.”
“I know, Dad.”
“It’s too bad you don’t have a full head of hair like your brother Carl. He doesn’t need to wear a hat.” Carl was Mark’s more successful brother, at least from his Dad’s point of view.
“I’ll be fine Dad.”
“It’s supposed to get really hot today. Do you have a jug of water?”
“Well make sure you drink from it a lot. It’s supposed to be really hot.”
“I know, you just said that”
“And take frequent breaks. You know you’re not as young as you used to be.”
“Well, you’re not.”
“Did you call for a reason, Dad?”
“Oh yes, I almost forgot. The gym by your house is advertising ten dollars a month enrollment. Did you see it?”
“I’ll pay for you to join.”
“But I told you I don’t want to. We’ve been over this before. Why must you harp on this?”
“Because you need to lose weight.”
“I know, Dad, but I have to go. I need to get to work.”
“Alright, call me later.”
“I will,” said Mark, who had no intention of calling him later.
Mark spent most of the rest of the morning sprucing up the bushes near the main entrance, with a few smoke breaks in between. For lunch he drove to the local diner for a cup of coffee and a donut, which was about what he could afford on his meager salary. He tipped the waitress fifteen percent, as always, and headed back to work.
He spent the afternoon on a lawnmower, one of those big contraptions that cut quite a swath through the grounds. It was physically easy work, but hot as hell in the sun. He stopped in the shade when possible, and ran through almost a full pack of cigarettes by the end of the day.
When he finished the whole north quarter, and was putting the mower back in the garage, he heard his phone beep. He sometimes missed calls because the mower was so loud. He checked the caller ID and found six missed calls, one from Carl, and five from Dad.
He called Carl.
“Hey, Mark,” said Carl. “I just called you.”
“I know,” answered Mark. “What’s up?”
“Dad was looking for you.”
“He’s always looking for me.”
“Well, you know he’s lonely since Mom died.”
“Carl, that was eight years ago.”
“I know, but call him, okay?”
“You know I will. I always do.”
“Good, other than that, how are you doing?”
“Peachy. My cars on its last legs, my mortgage is late and my washing machine just broke, so now I have to go to the Laundromat. Other than that, I’m doing fine.”
“Sorry I asked. But will you call Dad back so he quits bugging me.”
“Okay, then I’ll talk to you later Mark.”
Carl and Mark never had long conversations. He didn’t call his dad right back, instead opting to turn his phone off completely. On the way home he stopped at his favorite dive bar where he was a regular, and they allowed him to run a tab. He most always felt better after a few shots and beers. It made the day, and his father, that much more bearable.
He arrived home around seven, and immediately noticed several missed calls on his answering machine. He was really beginning to detest telephones.
He called his Father.
“Hey, Dad, you called?”
“I’ve been calling all afternoon. Where the hell have you been?”
“Until seven o’clock?”
“I stopped on the way home. I must have been in a dead zone.”
“You were probably at that bar, weren’t you?”
“Dad, I’m forty-five years old. I can have a beer if I want.”
“Yes, but you never stop at one. And you’re probably smoking, too.”
“You stopped smoking pot?” said his Dad, with the emphasis on the word pot.
“Only because I can’t afford it.” Actually, Mark hadn’t smoked since high school. He’d gotten busted back then, and his Dad never let him forget it.
“Always with the smart answers. Have you thought about my offer for the gym membership?”
“Yes; and the answer is still no.”
“Fine. Carl told me your washing machine broke. Do you want to come over here and do your laundry?”
“No thanks, Dad,” answered Mark. He made a mental note to tell Carl less of what was happening in his life.
“Why not? I have a perfectly good washer and dryer here.”
“Thanks, Dad, but I’ll just use the Laundromat down the street.”
“Why are you so stubborn? I’m just trying to help.”
“Why are you so pushy?”
“What did you say?”
“I said my ice cream is getting mushy.”
“Sure you did, and the next time I call I want you to answer. What if I really needed you? What if there was an emergency?”
“Was it an emergency?”
“That’s not the point. I didn’t get you that phone so you could ignore it.”
“Dad, really, it was a long day, and I have another long day tomorrow. Can’t we do this another time?”
“Just answer the phone, okay?” His tone was slightly more conciliatory, but only just slightly.
“Good night, Mark.”
Mark opened a can of beans, cut up a few hot dogs and a few onions, and threw it all in a skillet. It was a favorite meal of his, and he called it a western. As he let it sizzle in the pan he opened a beer, turned on the television, and searched for a baseball game to watch. Any game would do, as he thought it went well with his beer and western.
When his meal was ready, he set it on the coffee table and ate it right out of the pan. He didn’t like to dirty dishes unnecessarily. He realized most people would frown on his eating out of the pan, but then again he never really cared what people thought.
He cleaned up after dinner, had a few more beers, and waited for the eleven o’clock news. He always watched the news, but mainly for the weather. When you worked outside, it paid to know what kind of weather you would be facing. But much to his dismay, they always put the weather on last, making him sit through the whole show. On this night, the weatherman was calling for downpours all the next day.
“Wonderful,” he muttered to himself. “I’ll be soaked to the bone.”
He finished his last beer, turned off the television, and went to bed. As usual, he set the alarm for seven o’clock and fell fast asleep, thanks, in part, to the alcohol. He slept soundly right until the phone rang at six. As he answered it he noticed the sky was overcast and it was raining. His Dad was on the line.
“Mark, I don’t feel so good. I think I need to go to the hospital. Can you come get me?”
“I’ll be right there, Dad.”
- breezespeaks | The Awful Truth – A Nation of Prostitutes (mbcalyn.com)
- breezespeaks | The Awful Truth (mbcalyn.com)
- The Death of the American Dream | breezespeaks (mbcalyn.com)
- breezespeaks | The Awful Truth (mbcalyn.com)
- Catholics and Contraception | breezespeaks (mbcalyn.com)
- Honey, Can You Bring Me a Beer? | breezespeaks (mbcalyn.com)
- Mitt Romney: A Major Mistake | breezespeaks (mbcalyn.com)
- Detroit groundskeeper fired after finding loaded gun, handing it to cops (foxnews.com)
- Detroit Groundskeeper Finds Loaded Gun, Turns It Into Police . . . And Is Fired By the District For Possession Of A Firearm (jonathanturley.org)
- Former Uht park groundskeeper joins Washington Redskins (goerie.com)
Catholics and Contraception
Posted on May 22, 2012
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has come out with both barrels firing against some sections of President Obama’s healthcare initiative, most notably the parts concerning sterilization and contraception.
Long recognized as a master of media relations, Cardinal Dolan has teamed with other American Bishops and Catholic organizations to sue the Federal government over the requirements that compel Catholic business institutions to provide insurance coverage for women who want to avoid pregnancy. Now, I might not have much of a problem with this but for the fact that there has been no outcry concerning the coverage provided for men and their use of Viagra, and other erection producing drugs. Talk about a double standard. I guess men can run around planting their seed at will, but god forbid a woman wants to avoid pregnancy in the process.
Considering the problems the Catholic Church in America has encountered over the past few decades, from the looting of Church funds by parish priests to the pedophilia scandals, you would think Dolan would want to clean his own house before he goes snooping around in someones elses. But not the Catholic Church. They feel passing moral judgements are their god given right. Dolan himself has come out and said celibacy is the only option for a priest, despite the fact it is unnatural and probably unhealthy.
He also made some comments about the Iraq War and capital punishment that I find troubling. After then President Bush gave a speech at Notre Dame, Dolan said the following:
“Where President Bush would have taken positions on these two hot button issues that I’d be uncomfortable with, namely the war and capital punishment, I would have to give him the benefit of the doubt to say that those two issues are open to some discussions and are not intrinsically evil . . . in the Catholic mindset, that would not apply to abortion.”
Okay, let me get this straight, to go to war and kill people, or to electrocute a person via the death penalty, is open to debate, but god forbid you stop a pregnancy with the morning after pill? Where are your priorities, my good Cardinal? With the recent spate of innocent men turning up on death row, and even one man being executed wrongly in Texas – of course Texas, where capital punishment is viewed as sport – you would think a good Catholic like Dolan would fight against such things, instead of giving it his tacit approval. And it doesn’t bother him that America has jumped into wars four times in the last fifty years? That is simply appalling.
But back to the contraception issue. Dolan has no problem telling a woman what to do with her body, all while letting Catholic institutions carry insurance so men can run around with hard-ons? This is not surprising, in that the Catholic Church is run by a group of conservative, old-fashioned men who would rather die than let women into the fold. It is nothing more than an old boys club, and we all know who needs Viagra the most. I’m starting to think that it was the Catholic clergy who first desired to keep women “barefoot and pregnant.”
The Catholic Church needs to clean house, and if it wants to play in politics, it should lose its tax exempt status. Let it pay its fair share; they have had no trouble paying the Court induced judgements against their pedophile priests. It is only right, and of course the Catholic Church stands for what is right.
- Cardinal Dolan Accuses Obama Of “Strangling” Catholic Church (lezgetreal.com)
- Dolan: White House is “strangling” Catholic church (stannecenter.wordpress.com)
- Cardinal Dolan Accuses Obama Of Strangling Catholic Church (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Dolan On Birth Control Mandate: Debate ‘About Religious Freedom, Not Contraception’ (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- The Catholic Church has declared war on Obamacare. This could spell the end of Obama (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Catholic Leader Says Contraception Rule Strangles Religious Freedom Despite Protections For Religious Organizations (thinkprogress.org)
- Roman Catholic church in the US launches legal assault on Barack Obama’s health reforms (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- Contraception O.K. with us, Catholics tell Gallup (seattlepi.com)
- Op-Ed Columnist: Father Doesn’t Know Best (nytimes.com)
- Catholic church threatens to turn away non-Catholics from emergency rooms (americablog.com)
Iraq Emerges From Isolation as Telecommunications Hub
Michael Kamber for The New York Times
By ERIC PFANNER
Published: April 15, 2012
PARIS — Iraq, cut off from decades of technological progress because of dictatorship, sanctions and wars, recently took a big step out of isolation and into the digital world when its telecommunications system was linked to a vast new undersea cable system serving the Gulf countries.
The engineers who designed and installed the cable that made shore in Al-Faw, near Basra, had to deal with an unusual number of challenges. There were more than 100 oil and natural gas pipelines to cross; stretches of shallow water where the cable had to be buried; and unexploded ordnance from the Iraq war that had to be avoided.
“It was not easy,” said Ahmed Mekky, chief executive of Gulf Bridge International, the company that built the system. “But this could be a significant foundation stone for the country’s recovery.”
The new cable will speed Internet and telephone traffic to India in the East and Sicily in the West. From there, traffic moves onto other networks to connect to the rest of the world.
Much of the world takes lightning-fast broadband service for granted, but any kind of Internet access remains a rarity in Iraq, where fewer than 3 percent of households are online. The new capacity could help bring Internet connections to 50 percent within two years, said Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the Iraqi communications minister.
“You have to have a culture of using it, you have to have the infrastructure in place and you have to have access to low-cost devices,” he said.
Mr. Allawi and Mr. Mekky see more than just domestic benefits for Iraq. They want the connection to the undersea network to serve as the first step in a plan to turn Iraq into a conduit for telecommunications traffic between East and West, which would provide the country with lucrative revenue from use of the network.
“This is going to make Iraq an important hub for connecting Asia to Europe,” Mr. Mekky said. “It’s very strategic for the country.”
Like traders plying the ancient Silk Road, telecommunications operators routing bits and bytes from Asia to Europe and back have to pass through the Middle East, whose tricky geography and even more challenging geopolitics have sometimes made the region just as much of a bottleneck in the digital realm as in the physical world. When things go wrong, the consequences can be serious and far-reaching.
In January 2008, for example, several underwater cables off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt were inexplicably severed. Only days later, a separate cable was cut in the Gulf, near Dubai; this time, a ship’s anchor was blamed. Telecommunications activity throughout the Middle East was severely disrupted, and there were ripple effects for carriers across the world. A similar, though less serious, incident occurred in February of this year in the Red Sea.
Meanwhile, traffic is surging, both internationally and within the region, fueled by the spread of mobile phones and a belated but enthusiastic adoption of the Internet.
Demand for international bandwidth has grown at a compound annual rate of nearly 100 percent across the region over the past five years, according to TeleGeography, a research firm. That is the fastest growth of any region in the world, and roughly double the rate of increase in North America.
Until recently, options for passing through the Middle East were limited, and links within the region were often spotty. Most East-West traffic had to go via Egypt and the Red Sea; the vulnerability of that route was exposed by the 2008 incident. Telecommunications operators in the Gulf also want more competition, in order to bring down tolls.
Since 2008, governments and telecommunications companies across the region have been investing heavily in alternatives, laying cables underwater and across land at a previously unseen pace. Projects like Gulf Bridge, whose shareholders include the Qatar Foundation and sovereign wealth funds of several other Gulf states, are the result.
The Gulf Bridge network, a $500 million project in its initial phase, became active in February, providing high-speed connections to Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Iraq.
Gulf Bridge is not the only new arrival. In March, Tata Communications of India activated a $200 million cable that serves many of the Gulf countries, though not Iraq. The cable sends traffic to Mumbai, where it hooks into Tata’s worldwide network. Unlike Gulf Bridge, Tata’s cable travels over land to Oman, avoiding the Strait of Hormuz, a choke point in times of regional conflict.
With so much new bandwidth coming into service, some analysts have raised concerns about overcapacity, though network operators say it is only a matter of time before the new networks are humming with activity.
“Every time more cable systems are built, use catches up more quickly than forecast,” Radwan Mousalli, head of Tata Communications’ Middle East and North Africa operations.
Given the varied risks in the region, from errant anchors to political tensions like the saber-rattling over the Iranian nuclear program, it is important to have a diverse range of options for routing traffic, executives say.
Another cable-building project, scheduled to be completed this year, would pass through Iran, linking the Gulf to Europe via that country and Russia. But analysts say economic sanctions against Iran could make it hard to attract European customers.
Two other overland lines linking the Gulf to Europe — one recently activated, the other still under development — pass through Syria, where protests over the regime of President Bashar al-Assad continue.
Because of the crisis in Syria and the tensions over Iran, the possibility of routing traffic via Iraq has suddenly become more attractive to telecommunications operators.
“If you want to go from Saudi Arabia to Europe, you either have to go through Iran, Iraq or Syria,” said Alan Mauldin, an analyst at TeleGeography. “Which is the most stable of those countries now? Iraq has emerged as the least bad of all the options.”
Mr. Allawi said his government had reached agreements in principle with partners in neighboring countries to develop a cable system connecting the Gulf to Europe via Turkey, though he said details could not be announced yet.
Mr. Allawi is thinking big. He said Iraq could use the infrastructure improvements to turn itself into a regional Internet hub, playing host to Web sites serving neighboring countries — where, he said, communications freedoms are more restricted.
Telecommunications operators say Iraq provides additional advantages, beyond stability. It offers the shortest overland connection from the Gulf to Europe, so delays in transmission could be reduced, said John Maguire, head of wholesale services at Vodafone Qatar, a mobile operator whose shareholders include the Qatar Foundation, controlled by the royal family of the Gulf emirate.
“Iraq has a very strong strategic position to become a transit point for traffic between Europe and Asia,” he said.
- Iraq Emerges From Isolation As Telecommunications Hub (tech.slashdot.org)
- Today’s e-Reads, Updated: Iraq As a Telecom Hub; Apple Probes Pollution (techdailydose.nationaljournal.com)
- Iraq Is Angered by U.S. Drones Patrolling Its Skies – NYTimes.com (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame (“For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands”) (gunnyg.wordpress.com)
- The Death (for Now) of Arab Nationalism (blogs.the-american-interest.com)
- The Man With the Google Glasses – Ross Douthat via NYTimes.com (stoweboyd.com)
- Finance Committee: Kuwait, Iraq promised to exempt from his debts (thecurrencynewshound.com)
- Iraq Arab League summit opens with eyes on Syria (csmonitor.com)
- Iraq tells Qatar to return fugitive VP Hashemi (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Rockets explode as Arab leaders meet in Baghdad (theglobeandmail.com)