Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Sneak Privatization of Mexico's Oil Halted
By JOHN ROSS
"The Adelitas have arrived/To defend our oil/Whoever wants to give it to the foreigners/ Will get the shit kicked out of him!" yodeled the brigades of women pouring onto the esplanade of the Mexican senate to protest a petroleum privatization measure President Felipe Calderon insists is not a petroleum privatization measure and which he sent onto the Senate for fast-track ratification at the tag end of the winter-spring session this April.
Inside the small, ornate Senate, leftist legislators aligned in the Broad Progressive Front (FAP), some dressed in white oil workers’ overalls and hard hats, were camped out under pup tents arranged around the podium for the eighth straight night, paralyzing legislative activities and demanding an ample national debate on Calderon's plans to open up the nationalized petroleum corporation PEMEX to transnational investment.
The hullabaloo, which has been brewing for months, exploded when rumors circulated that Calderon's right-wing PAN party and allies in the once-ruling (71 years) PRI had cooked up a secret vote approving the privatization measure - such covert maneuvering is called an "albazo" or "madruguete" here, a pre-dawn ruse to approve legislation in the dark when there is significant opposition, often behind locked doors and military and police barricades. Seizing the podiums in both houses of congress and the timely arrival of the Adelitas prevented a madruguete and derailed Calderon's plans to fast-track the privatization of PEMEX.
Under the President's "energy reform" package, building and operating refineries and pipelines will be opened up to the private sector - 37 out of PEMEX's 41 divisions would be subject to partial privatization. One example: a modified form of "risk" contract, which relegates a percentage of the petroleum brought in to the private driller, and which is outlawed under Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, would become the law of the land.
In an analysis anti-privatizers label "catastrophic" which Calderon sent on to congress to back up his initiative, the President pinned salvation of PEMEX on deep water ("aguas profundas") drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that would necessitate the "association" of private capital.
Mexico's petroleum industry was expropriated from an array of oil companies known collectively as the "Seven Sisters" in March 1938 by then-President Lazaro Cardenas, an act that remains a paragon of revolutionary nationalism throughout Latin America. But down the decades, PEMEX has subcontracted out important parts of its structure - the Exploration or PEP division in particular - to transnational drillers and service corporations like Halliburton, now its number one subcontractor, that suck billions of dollar in profits from Mexican oil each year.
The appearance of the Adelitas and their male counterparts ("Los Adelitos") is the latest gamble by the left populist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to monkey wrench the government's plans to return PEMEX to the contemporary version of the Seven Sisters. The PAN was indeed founded in 1939 to oppose Cardenas's nationalization of the oil industry.
Organized by neighborhoods and by workplaces, the Adelita brigades are the lineal descendents of the groups of AMLO supporters who came together after the stolen 2006 election in a seven-week sit-in that shut down the capital's main thoroughfares. At last count (Friday April 14th), there were 41 registered brigades - 28 Adelitas and 13 Adelitos, about 50,000 citizens in all. Operating in shifts, 13,000 "brigadistas" have been encamped off and on for a week in front of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
The brigades are named after significant political events - "18th of March", marking the day Cardenas expropriated the oil - or to honor social activists such as Jesus Piedra, the long-disappeared son of left senator Rosario Ibarra, and Arturo Gamiz, a 1960s guerrilla fighter. Women warriors like Leona Vicaria and Benita Galeana are similarly remembered. One brigade of Adelitas tag themselves "Enaguas Profundas" or "Deep Petticoats" - Calderon wants to drill in deep water or "aguas profundas."
The creation of so large a citizens' army pledged to carry out civil disobedience to prevent the passage of legislation it thinks detrimental to the republic is unprecedented in Mexico's political history. As thousands sat down in the street to block the automobiles of PAN and PRI senators from entering the precinct last Thursday, AMLO, who often cites Dr. King and Gandhi as role models, urged non-violence: "not one window broken, not one stone thrown."
"Tienen miedo porque no tenemos miedo!" the Adelitas sang back in a call and response that is always a feature of Lopez Obrador's mobilizations, "They are frightened because we are not afraid."
Similar brigades, led by women, have invaded local congresses outside of Mexico City and one band of activists closed Acapulco's busy airport last week. Shutting down Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport is the Adelitas' ultimate threat.
The Adelitas, like most of the weapons in AMLO's arsenal, are drawn from Mexico's revolutionary history. Las Adelitas were "soldaderas" or women soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder with the men in Pancho Villa's "Division del Norte" (Northern Division) during the 1910-1919 revolution. With their long skirts, broad sombreros, bandoleers strung across their chests, and toting .22 carbines, the Adelitas were emblematic of the many courageous women who participated in that epic struggle. The first Adelita is thought to have been Adelita Velarde, a nurse from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.
Like "La Cucaracha", another popular anthem of Pancho Villa's irregulars, "La Adelita" is now a mainstay of Mexican folk music. The song tells of "Adelita" who fell in love with the "Sargente" (Sergeant) and went to fight with him on the frontlines against the "Federales" (government troops.) In the final verse, the Sargente swears that if Adelita should leave him, he will come for her in a "war ship" or "military train" - which may be prophetic of the Adelitas' pursuit of Calderon and his oil privatization scheme.
AMLO's crusade has not been confined to one house of congress. On April 8 when the President sprung his initiative on the legislature, FAP members stormed the tribune in the Chamber of Deputies (Mexico's version of the U.S. House of Representatives) while lawmakers were preparing to grant Calderon permission to travel to New Orleans for the April 21-22 summit of the ASPAN (The North American Security and Prosperity Agreement) - Mexican presidents must solicit congress for permission to travel.
ASPAN is a corollary of NAFTA that projects North American security and energy integration and Calderon was eager to attend the summit with the re-privatization of Mexican oil in hand.
Suddenly, the FAPOs unfurled a 60-foot banner that announced Congress had been closed ("Clausurado") and cast it over the entire presidium, trapping president Ruth Zavaleta, who occupies Nancy Pelosi's position in the Mexican house, in its folds. Struggling to free herself of the fabric, Zavaleta reappeared with her gavel in hand but the ensuing chaos prevented her from calling for a vote on the President's travel arrangements.
Eight days later, the tribune was still draped in the banner and FAP deputies had chained shut the doors of the chamber and moved the desks of the PAN legislators to the podium to barricade themselves from attempts to take it back. Zavaleta, a member of AMLO's Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) but not friendly to Lopez Obrador, has called for the use of "public force" (police, military) to remove the rebel lawmakers.
Thrust back into the national spotlight by the battle to head off privatization, Lopez Obrador is the target of extravagant vitriol delivered by the nation's electronic and print media reminiscent of the public lynching he was subjected to during the tumultuous 2006 presidential campaign. TV tyrant Televisa's coverage of the takeover of congress (a "kidnapping") was so venomous that thousands of Adelitas, wearing bandaleros and wielding facsimile .22s, descended on the conglomerate's Mexico City headquarters, provoking one prominent PAN politico to label them "paramilitaries."
In violation of constitutional amendments banning "black" political hit pieces, a PAN front group "Better Society, Better Government", is running primetime Televisa spots comparing Lopez Obrador to Hitler, Mussolini, and Pinochet. PAN party president German Martinez accuses Lopez Obrador of "hiding under the skirts of women" and the Empresorial
Coordinating Council, the nation's elite business federation, takes out full-page ads blasting the AMLOs for staging a coup d'etat ("golpe de estado.")
Despite the anti-AMLO media blitz - or perhaps because of it - Lopez Obrador remains the only figure on the Mexican political stage who is able to convoke tens of thousands of supporters, often with virtually no notice. Three times since March 18 when he kicked off this crusade, AMLO has filled the great Zocalo plaza, the heart of Mexico's body politic. What makes the turnouts even more impressive is the fact that Lopez Obrador has built this massive movement while his Party of the Democratic Revolution has been reducing itself to rubble.
In-fighting since a corrupted March 16 party presidential election has divided the PRD down the middle - the party is roughly split between an activist wing headed by Lopez Obrador and his candidate Alejandro Encinas, and party bureaucrats who see the PRD as an instrument for political and personal advancement and seek to demobilize the Adelitas.
The "Chuchus" or "New Left" eschew AMLO's rallies and sit-ins and instead conduct their own private hunger strikes to protest privatization. The Chuchus (many of their leaders are named Jesus) portray themselves as the "reasonable" left and are only too willing to "dialogue" with Calderon, a president Lopez Obrador resolutely refuses to recognize.
Whoever wins, the tussle over the bones of the PRD may be a moot one - after two years of campaigning down at the grassroots, Lopez Obrador's base has grown wider than that of the party.
Although Calderon's scam to fast track privatization through congress was blunted by the Adelitas and the FAPs, the PAN and the PRI - the latter a repository of seven decades of dirty tricks - still have plenty of room in which to connive. Now the PRI, seconded by Calderon's right-wing minions, proposes an uninterrupted 50 day "national" debate to be restricted to the two houses of congress with a congressional vote by mid-summer. Calderon's initiative can only pass if at least half of the PRI's 120-vote delegation goes along with the game.
Even if the privatization measure eventually passes, the legislation is bound to wind up in the Mexican Supreme Court the moment it clears congress. Ironically, the Supreme Court was the instrument by which Cardenas nationalized the oil industry in the first place.
Meanwhile, Lopez Obrador's people are clamoring for a very different kind of debate, one that would unfold over the next four months - 120 days - and be conducted inside and outside congress in every state and municipality in the country with the prospect of a national referendum in the fall to decide the issue - one poll has 62 per cent of those questioned opposed to the privatization of Mexico's oil. Such grassroots decision-making would be a revolutionary strophe here in the land of the "albazo" and the "madruguete."
Out on the esplanade of the Senate, the Adelitas were shaking their boodies to "La Cumbia del Petrolio." There were enough pink "gorras" (baseball caps), pink hankies, and pink parasols that read "Defend Our Oil" to make Code Pink blush. Brigadista Berta Robledo, a nurse about to retire from the National Pediatric Hospital, hugged a blade of shade under the punishing mid-day sun.
"Are you tired, companeras?" the companera with the bullhorn asked and Berta came to her feet with a loud "No!" "Sure the sun is hot but so what?" she responded to a gringo reporter's stupid question, "the sun can't stop us, the rain can't stop us, the cold can't stop us and you know why? Because we are right! We are fighting for our oil and for our country. This is the resistance. We don't get tired."
John Ross is at home in the belly of the Monstruo writing a book about the belly of the Monstruo. If you have further information write firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Timewave 2013, "The Odyssey II" trailer
Featuring Jose Arguelles, Gregg Baden, William Henry, John Major Jenkins, Dennis McKenna, Daniel Pinchbeck, Whitley Strieber, Alberto Villoldo and many more.
by michele james-parham
So, do you ever get tired of being asked, “what is unschooling”? Or are you someone who keeps asking but you haven’t found a person who can really put it into words for you? Neither of you are alone! I knew that before I ever conceived my son, I would be ‘educating him at home’ and so did my hubby. I never put much thought into ‘the how’ or really much thought into ‘the why’, but it only felt natural and right.
When I became pregnant, home education is exactly what I focused on…not the fact that I was about to give birth to a child! I started reading and researching everything about homeschooling. I discovered ‘unschooling’. It made sense, because that’s the way I envisioned homeschooling to be in the first place. So, I was rather shocked when I kept finding all these resources online that were VERY ’school-at-home’ orientated. I guess being an Anarchist naturally puts me at odds with any educational system or theory that uses control of/over children to ‘produce’ results (i.e. an educated child).
I always assumed that what parents did with their children on most days before they were ’school aged’ and then sent away for 4 to 8 hours a day was unschooling. I mean, I know that no one really works at teaching their children how to talk, crawl or walk (barring some special cases) — we kind of have to figure that one out for ourselves in order to be able to communicate and interact with the Universe around us. How would this natural desire to figure things out and to explore our Universe go away if we never knew school? It doesn’t go away…until you go to school. Well, it might not go away completely, because we still (most of us) desire knowledge as adults and we find very non-mainstream ways of acquiring said knowledge at times. I have to admit though, I have been damaged by the public education system and most of those who are near and dear to me can attest to the same. As adults we spend our entire life trying to over come the damage of a childhood full of punishment and praise.
Back to unschooling. Unschooling led me to John Taylor Gatto and if ‘we’ are still naming Saints, then his name should be added to that list! Unschooling makes so much sense to me…why doesn’t it make sense to everyone else. Because everyone else has more faith in ‘experts’ than in themselves, let alone their children…not to mention that most people do not view children as real people with real feelings, thoughts and rights; they are only ’second class’ citizens who can not be trusted and need to be constantly corrected and broken like some kind of wild animal.
Respecting children as though they are real people is step one. Trusting that they know what is better for them than anyone else is step two…because I hope that you know what is better for yourself than anyone else does. Not pushing one’s own agenda onto a child or forcing them to ‘cooperate’ (read: obey without question) because you are selfish and assume that because you are bigger and older you matter more than they do is step three. Step four comes after all that…it’s when true autonomy is respected…not given, because that implies that you could take it away if you wanted. When you do not forbid something, it loses it’s appeal or never gains appeal in the first place — children can and should be trusted with EVERYTHING.
Unschooling…yes, it is in all of this rambling. Once you are at a place where you are able to put into action Steps 1-4, then it only makes sense to NOT enroll your children into ANY kind of school against their will, unless there is ABSOLUTELY NO other option. Children are unschooled from birth (or conception, depending on what team you play for) and there is no magical age at which they stop learning and wanting to learn. And right now, I have to say that if you are still reading this and saying, “yeah that’s nice, but I had to endure school and I came out alright — why shouldn’t my kids be schooled too?”, I have to say you are one selfish person to even suggest that your children deserve to endure the same pain, punishment, pressure and boredom that you endured. People try to defend school by saying that it is some kind of ‘rite of passage’, when all they are doing is trying to rationalize why they are sending their children away — even when their heart aches for them to be home and even when their children are obviously not happy and not succeeding.
I think I could maybe be swayed into believing that the school system has my child’s best interest in mind and might be more equipped to care for their education than I, if and only if, the system’s own report card was not so laughable! And if I didn’t know what the system was really there for in the first place.
Ok, so fine. Hopefully you have gotten through my very biased rant and now you are asking, but ‘how’, if there isn’t a curriculum or plan or goal of some kind in place (but there is). I’ve been trying to explain this one for awhile now. I’ve been trying to really make a fairly concise description and still get everything in there…I can’t do it. But, I can give examples of it in action and I can think of some words and I can share the words of others. One mother in New York, blogs about how she wishes she could be honest about unschooling to fulfill state requirements and she has this to say (extracted from link above):
If I could write something for this IHIP that would actually reflect some of the spirit and scope of unschooling, I would focus on the following four concepts. These are concepts that we encounter in many forms every day and that seem to flow organically from Lucia’s exploration of the world around her.
Concept 1: Information is available and abundant.
Lucia will learn that her community is rich with resources. These include, among others, public libraries, museums, colleges and universities, research centers, nature centers, theatres and performance spaces, galleries, gardens, farms, and religious institutions. She will become comfortable using these resources. Lucia will identify her own interests and learning goals. She will locate and utilize appropriate resources, critically analyze and organize available information, and apply this information in the way that best suits her needs.
Concept 2: There are as many ways to live as there are people on the planet.
Lucia will explore many cultures. She will find that ideas are expressed in many ways: verbal, visual, physical, and sonic. She will experience different concepts of family, friendship, and love. She will understand that lifestyles are shaped by many factors, both internal and external. She will come to recognize that there are many forms of government in place all over the world and that some are more participatory than others. She will develop an idea about personal freedom and individual rights. She will be concerned with issues of social justice because they affect her and the people she cares about - even some she’s never met.
Concept 3: We are part of a natural system.
Lucia will experience her life as part of a dynamic, living system. Evolution is a chance occurrence that happens in response to environmental change. It has no direction and no goal. The idea that humans are somehow separate and distinct from other living things is sorely misguided and is largely responsible for the environmental crisis in which we find ourselves today. The earth existed for billions of years before us, and it will end without us.
But before that happens Lucia will learn that natural resources are finite. Our actions have consequences. Our consumption creates pressures elsewhere. The food that sustains us is a product of the earth. The waste we generate must go somewhere. Lucia will have the power to live as a conscientious steward of the earth. She will help her family strive to reduce our negative impact on nature’s balance. This can be a challenge in our modern, technological society. It requires thought and effort. But a feeling of kinship with nature can only enhance our experience of the world, adding texture, depth, and a sense of fulfillment.
Concept 4: Everything is connected.
Lucia will notice the connections among all of the concepts above. She will see, for example, how access to information affects personal freedom, how cultural belief systems affect people’s attitudes toward the environment, how participation in government can bring about legislation to improve a community’s handling of natural resources. There are countless possibilities. And it is within these connections that Lucia’s true education lies. In making these connections, she will begin to construct new and original ideas of her own.
I can just replace my son’s name wherever ‘Lucia’ appears and I’m done…for the most part! I think this beautifully captures and explains the curriculum part of unschooling, which is LIVING A REAL LIFE and learning from it! I can not really explain it better at the moment.
“But how will they learn XXX or XXX, if they never open a XXX book or never have to raise their hands to ask permission to pee or etc.?” Well, they might not, if they don’t need to. Really, how much of what was forced down your throat during school do you remember? And more importantly, how much have you needed to know to make it ‘in the real world’? If there was a certain subject that you really loved and one that you really hated, those are the two examples that are going to come into your mind right now. The first because you were genuinely interested and the second because you were being forced to ‘learn’ something that had no revelence to your life at the time…maybe you would have been ‘better’ at say math, if you hadn’t had to ‘learn’ it until you were a teenager or out in the ‘real world’ when you needed it.
The REAL World gets a lot of attention when it comes to unschooling and naysayers. As if school is the real world! I haven’t yet come across a situation in the real world yet (mind you I am only 26 at this time), that I have been prepared for because of school. In fact, there were TONS of things that I NEVER learned in school that I have needed out here in the real world that I have had to learn post-school. This doesn’t mean that my parents and other influences in my life didn’t teach me about some of the ‘life lessons’ mentioned in the article linked to, but I wasn’t taught most of them and I can not really remember being taught them in school or if I was, the information wasn’t presented in a manner that was relevant to my present state of being. Most of the things mentioned probably shouldn’t be taught or shouldn’t be expected to be taught in schools…but really, what should schools be ‘teaching’ in the first place? I think all schools should be Free Schools — at least if children are forced into going for whatever reason they’ll have a better chance at coming out the other side practically unschooled in a public manner! Is that really possible?
I’m going to do my best to explain unschooling as this blog progresses along…be patient though, it’s not easy…like most life lessons!
On a side note: I’m fascinated by the number of Radical Unschoolers out there who are not Anarchists (quite a few are Libertarians, so that can count…I guess).
Some people who have survived a life-threatening crisis report an extraordinary experience. Near-death experience occurs with increasing frequency because of improved survival rates resulting from modern techniques of resuscitation.
The content of NDE and the effects on patients seem similar worldwide, across all cultures and times. The subjective nature and absence of a frame of reference for this experience lead to individual, cultural, and religious factors determining the vocabulary used to describe and interpret the experience.1
NDE are reported in many circumstances: cardiac arrest in myocardial infarction (clinical death), shock in postpartum loss of blood or in perioperative complications, septic or anaphylactic shock, electrocution, coma resulting from traumatic brain damage, intracerebral hemorrhage or cerebral infarction, attempted suicide, near-drowning or asphyxia, and apnea.
Such experiences are also reported by patients with serious but not immediately life-threatening diseases, in those with serious depression, or without clear cause in fully conscious people. Similar experiences to near-death ones can occur during the terminal phase of illness, and are called deathbed visions.
Identical experiences to NDE, so-called fear-death experiences, are mainly reported after situations in which death seemed unavoidable: serious traffic accidents, mountaineering accidents, or isolation such as with shipwreck.
Several theories on the origin of NDE have been proposed. Some think the experience is caused by physiological changes in the brain, such as brain cells dying as a result of cerebral anoxia.2-4 Other theories encompass a psychological reaction to approaching death,5 or a combination of such reaction and anoxia.6
Such experiences could also be linked to a changing state of consciousness (transcendence), in which perception, cognitive functioning, emotion, and sense of identity function independently from normal body-linked waking consciousness.7
People who have had an NDE are psychologically healthy; although some show non-pathological signs of dissociation.7 Such people do not differ from controls with respect to age, sex, ethnic origin, religion, or degree of religious belief.1
Studies on NDE1,3,8,9 have been retrospective and very selective with respect to patients. In retrospective studies, 5-10 years can elapse between occurrence of the experience and its investigation, which often prevents accurate assessment of physiological and pharmacological factors.
In retrospective studies, about 45%1 of adults and up to 85% of children10 who had a life-threatening illness were estimated to have had an NDE. A random investigation of more than 2000 Germans showed 4·3% to have had an NDE at a mean age of 22 years.11
Differences in estimates of frequency and uncertainty as to causes of this experience result from varying definitions of the phenomenon, and from inadequate methods of research.12
Patients' transformational processes after an NDE are very similar1,3,13-16 and encompass life-changing insight, heightened intuition, and disappearance of fear of death. Assimilation and acceptance of these changes is thought to take at least several years.15
The authors defined NDE as the reported memory of all impressions during a special state of consciousness, including specific elements such as out-of-body experience, pleasant feelings, and seeing a tunnel, a light, deceased relatives, or a life review.
They defined clinical death as a period of unconsciousness caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain because of inadequate blood circulation, breathing, or both. If, in this situation, CPR is not started within 5-10 min, irreparable damage is done to the brain and the patient will die.
The results show that medical factors cannot account for occurrence of NDE; although all patients had been clinically dead, most did not have NDE. Furthermore, seriousness of the crisis was not related to occurrence or depth of the experience.
If purely physiological factors resulting from cerebral anoxia caused NDE, most of the patients should have had this experience. Patients' medication was also unrelated to frequency of NDE. Psychological factors are unlikely to be important as fear was not associated with NDE.
Only 12% of patients had a core NDE, and this figure might be an overestimate. True frequency of the experience is likely to be about 10%, or 5% if based on number of resuscitations rather than number of resuscitated patients. Patients who survive several CPRs in hospital have a significantly higher chance of NDE.
Good short-term memory seems to be essential for remembering NDE.
Patients with memory defects after prolonged resuscitation reported fewer experiences than other patients in our study.
Forgetting or repressing such experiences in the first days after CPR was unlikely to have occurred in the remaining patients, because no relation was found between frequency of NDE and date of first interview.
However, at 2-year follow-up, two patients remembered a core NDE and two an NDE that consisted of only positive emotions that they had not reported shortly after CPR, presumably because of memory defects at that time. It is remarkable that people could recall their NDE almost exactly after 2 and 8 years.
Our finding that women have deeper experiences than men has been confirmed in two other studies,1,7 although in one,7 only in those cases in which women had an NDE resulting from disease.
Our findings show that the process of change after NDE tends to take several years to consolidate. Presumably, besides possible internal psychological processes, one reason for this has to do with society's negative response to NDE, which leads individuals to deny or suppress their experience for fear of rejection or ridicule.
Thus, social conditioning causes NDE to be traumatic, although in itself it is not a psychotraumatic experience. As a result, the effects of the experience can be delayed for years, and only gradually and with difficulty is an NDE accepted and integrated. Furthermore, the long-lasting transformational effects of an experience that lasts for only a few minutes of cardiac arrest is a surprising and unexpected finding.
Several theories have been proposed to explain NDE.
We did not show that psychological, neurophysiological, or physiological factors caused these experiences after cardiac arrest.
Neurophysiological processes must play some part in NDE. Similar experiences can be induced through electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe (and hence of the hippocampus) during neurosurgery for epilepsy,23 with high carbon dioxide levels (hypercarbia),24 and in decreased cerebral perfusion resulting in local cerebral hypoxia as in rapid acceleration during training of fighter pilots,25 or as in hyperventilation followed by valsalva manoeuvre.4
Ketamine-induced experiences resulting from blockage of the NMDA receptor,26 and the role of endorphin, serotonin, and enkephalin have also been mentioned,27 as have near-death-like experiences after the use of LSD,28 psilocarpine, and mescaline.21
These induced experiences can consist of unconsciousness, out-of-body experiences, and perception of light or flashes of recollection from the past.
These recollections, however, consist of fragmented and random memories unlike the panoramic life-review that can occur in NDE. Further, transformational processes with changing life-insight and disappearance of fear of death are rarely reported after induced experiences.
Thus, induced experiences are not identical to NDE, and so, besides age, an unknown mechanism causes NDE by stimulation of neurophysiological and neurohumoral processes at a subcellular level in the brain in only a few cases during a critical situation such as clinical death. These processes might also determine whether the experience reaches consciousness and can be recollected.
With lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE, the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localized in the brain should be discussed.
How could a clear consciousness outside one's body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG?22
Also, in cardiac arrest the EEG usually becomes flat in most cases within about 10 s from onset of syncope.29,30 Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience.31 NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation.
Another theory holds that NDE might be a changing state of consciousness (transcendence), in which identity, cognition, and emotion function independently from the unconscious body, but retain the possibility of non-sensory perception.7,8,22,28,31
Lancet December 15, 2001; 358: 2039-45
DR. MERCOLA'S COMMENT:
The Lancet is one of the world's most respected medical journals. So when it published an article in its current edition in which scientists claim to have PROOF that humans have a life after death that exists independently of the body that it inhabits, folks are sitting up and taking notice.
Many readers of this newsletter have strong spiritual convictions about the existence of the soul, but it is wonderful to have medical science support these convictions. Source: www.mercola.com
If you’re a woman, or know one . . . you need to know what the GOP did to you yesterday.
If you are an employment age female, or will become one, or know one, and give the first damn about her, this story may be more important to you than any other you will learn of this year. Its facts may certainly have greater impact on your personal life than just about anything else. The irony is, it’s a story you probably did not hear, at least if you restrict your sources of news to the national television media or newspapers.
Before I relay the story, let me recap what you probably did get from the broadcast and cable media. A bear killed its handler. The kids from the El Dorado sect are headed to foster homes in Texas. And there was video of snow at Lake Tahoe. So cheap, so easy, no in depth analysis or explaining required, and, via every marketing survey the networks use to hold the American audience, it’s the sort of mind-numbing, flatulence-inducing inanity we demand.
Whatever you do, do not expect me to actually try to grasp anything more complicated! I can’t do it. And besides, I’m not interested. I like vapid. I adore simple. I crave stupid.
An interjected inquiry: Did you catch Tuesday’s (April 22) Colbert Report? His guest, Susan Jacoby, author of Age of American Unreason, humorously — though I found none of the “truthiness” the least funny — provided a brief series of anecdotes describing just how regrettable is the current state of our overwhelming ignorance, and our national anti-intellectual desire to stay that way. By way of example: one survey demonstrated how a majority cannot locate Iraq on a map or globe . . . when the name is immediately over the country! Or 2/3ds of Americans don’t know what DNA is. Or how half the population cannot name all four gospels, or tell you the name of the first book of the Bible.
But the majority can identify the characters and stars of Desperate Housewives.
Now to the news you didn’t get, but should, given the criteria noted in the first sentence above, care a great deal about.
Ms. Lilly Ledbetter was the only female supervisor in Goodyear Tire & Rubber’s tire plant in Alabama. She worked for the company 19 years. Immediately prior to her retirement Ms. Ledbetter received an anonymous tip that, throughout her career, she had been earning considerably less than any of her male counterparts. As is typical of most companies, concerning non-hourly personnel, there was a policy at the plant that, with disciplinary sanctions for violation of the policy that could include termination, individual employee personnel matters were not to be discussed. At no time had she had any way of knowing the company was in strict violation of Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act.
Upon learning she had been illegally discriminated against, Ms. Ledbetter filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and sued Goodyear for its illegal actions, actions the illegality of which at no time did Goodyear argue. Rather than attempt to defend a position that had no defense, Goodyear claimed the statute of limitations had run out for Ms. Ledbetter because she didn’t file within the 180 day time limit set by the law, even though she could not make a claim until she knew there had been a violation of her rights.
In every previous instance, the courts have held that the 180-day clock does not begin to tick until an employee learns he or she has been discriminated against, and the clock is reset with each new violation. Last year, the majority (all Republican members, by the way) on the US Supreme Court, the one John McCain likes so much, found for Goodyear.
Okay, okay . . . that’s water over the damn and there’s nothing anyone can do about that now, right?
In the United States Senate, “debate” (filibuster) of an issue can continue so long as the speaker(s) wish, or until such time as a “cloture” vote is called. Invoking cloture closes the debate, terminates the filibuster. Current senate rules now require a super-majority, or 60 votes to end debate and bring the issue to the full floor for an up or down majority vote. Yesterday, Senate Democrats attempted to end the Republican filibuster of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Act would have made null last year’s Supreme Court decision. It would have made clear that tolling commences from the date the employee learns of the trespass, and the clock is reset to zero with each discriminatory paycheck. Forty-four Republicans backed the Bush administration and big-business interests, and blocked the vote to end the filibuster.
In practical terms, what this means is that, unless the Democrats win at least six more seats in November’s election, working age women and those who will turn working age within the next few years will, not only remain in constant jeopardy of discriminatory employment practices, they will have access to no legal remedy.
As I reported a few months back on the tragic ignorance of Steve, my Palm Springs’ mail carrier (Shouting at me that the Democrats have “done nothing, even though they have a majority in both houses!” “Know what a filibuster is Steve?” “They have a majority!” Steve had no clue what a filibuster was, or what he was ranting about.), the very same level of ignorance is pervasive in our country, and it is damning to the legislative notions of fair play and justice for all citizens.
How many of us know someone like Steve? A brother, perhaps? A father? Mother? Someone you work with? While they’re caught up in the utter nonsense of lapel flag pins, dodging bullets in Bosnia, whether the Ten Commandments should be erected in public squares at public expense, whether gays and lesbians should be permitted to marry, and who is and who is not an “elitist,” the mothers and daughters of America are being ravaged of basic employment rights, and the entire country is being steadily pushed to the economic precipice.
You know someone who’s going to vote GOP this fall? And while they are putting you or your spouse or your daughter and our country at dire economic and military risk by their vote, do you still consider such a one as your friend? How?
Contrary to popular belief and the sycophantic exhortations that political candidates will be showering you with, working hard, paying one’s taxes, and playing by the rules does NOT make of anyone a good citizen. Working hard helps meet one’s costs of living, getting that person from today to tomorrow morning. Paying one’s taxes helps keep the IRS off his or her back. And playing by the rules helps keep that person free from the long arm of the law. Being a good citizen means knowing at least as much about the country, its government, how it is supposed to work, and who’s doing what to whom, as what Jack Bauer is up to, one week to the next.
— Ed Tubbs
New Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Monday that all death sentences had been commuted to prison terms of 30 years to life, with the exception of three people charged with terrorism.
"The Council of State decided to commute the death penalty imposed on a group of prisoners," Raul Castro announced at a Communist party Central Committee meeting, in a speech broadcast by state-run television.
Castro said two Central Americans charged with hotel bombings in the 1990s that took the life of an Italian tourist, and a Cuban American charged with murder during an attempt at armed infiltration of the island, were not included and their cases were still on appeal.
"This does not mean we have eliminated the death penalty from the penal code," Raul Castro said.
He blasted the United States for allowing Cuban Americans to use its soil to launch violent attacks on the country.
"It would be irresponsible and ingenuous to renounce the dissuasive power that capital punishment has on the real terrorists, the Imperialist mercenaries," he said.
Cuba has been under pressure from human rights organizations to eliminate the death penalty, which is carried out by firing squad.
Just three people have been executed since 2000, all of them involved in a failed 2003 boat hijacking.
"This decision was not undertaken because of pressure, but as a sovereign act in line with the humanitarian and ethical conduct that has characterized the Cuban revolution from the start," he said.
Since taking over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro in February, Raul Castro has lifted a number of restrictions on daily life, from owning cell phones to entering tourist hotels.
Cuba in early March signed two important United Nations human rights agreements long opposed by Fidel Castro.
Mexico up in arms over privatization oil plans
Tuesday April 29th, 2008
Thousands of Mexicans took to the streets of Mexico City on Sunday to protest an oil reform bill they say would lead to the privatization of the country's state-run oil company. Led by opposition lawmaker Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the demonstrators expressed their displeasure with plans to look for private capital to help fund the expansion of Pemex, Mexico's national oil company.
Professor Gustavo Indart of the University of Toronto specializes in the study of economic reform in Latin America.
(If even 25% of America made these basic, entirely doable cultural adjustments, it would essentially qualify as a revolution… by today’s diluted standards.)
Feel free to commence the predictable malice, ridicule, indignation, and mockery; but remember: if you’re waiting for Barack Obama to provide the “change we can believe in,” the joke’s on you.
By Bushra Juhi in Baghdad, Iraq
April 28, 2008
Iraq's National Museum on Sunday welcomed the return of more than 700 antiquities stolen during the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion five years ago. Golden necklaces, daggers, clay statues, pots, and other artifacts were displayed briefly during a ceremony attended by Syrian and Iraqi officials.
Syrian authorities seized the items from traffickers over the years and handed custody last week to an Iraqi delegation in Damascus.
Mohammad Abbas al-Oreibi, Iraq's acting state minister of tourism and archaeology who led the negotiations with Syria, said he plans to visit Jordan soon to persuade its authorities to turn over more than 150 items.
"This was a positive initiative taken by Syria, and we wish the same initiative to be taken by all neighboring countries," he said.
"The treasures contain very important and valuable pieces."
7,000 Years of History
Looting broke out in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities following Saddam's ouster in April 2003.
Museums were ransacked and thousands of items taken, dealing a harsh blow to collections that chronicled some 7,000 years of civilization in Mesopotamia including the ancient Babylonians, Sumerians, and Assyrians.
Iraqi and world culture officials have struggled to retrieve the treasures with little success.
Between 3,000 to 7,000 pieces are still believed missing, including about 40 to 50 that are considered to be of great historic importance, Laurent Levi-Strauss of the U.N. cultural body UNESCO said last month.
Artifacts have been recovered before, but Hassan said Syria was the first country to return such a large quantity of stolen antiquities, and officials hoped others would follow its lead.
Syria has said it arrested some of the antiquities traffickers but did not provide more details. The items recovered by Syria were packed in 17 boxes and flown back to Baghdad on Saturday, according to Dr. Muna Hassan, the head of a committee working to restore the artifacts.
The head of the Syrian Antiquities Department, Bassam Jamous, said some of the objects were from the Bronze Age and early Islamic era.
Hassan declined to put an exact value on the trove, saying only that the items were collectively worth millions of dollars.
Museum Remains Closed
Hassan said negotiations were underway with several other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Italy for the return of more looted antiquities.
For Iraqis, the museum is an important reminder of their cultural heritage. However, the facility remains closed to the public due to violence, lack of security, and the poor condition of the building.
(See related photo gallery: "Iraq Museum Still Too Damaged to Reopen" [March 19, 2008].)
The U.S. military was intensely criticized for not protecting the National Museum's treasure of ancient relics and art in the weeks after Baghdad's capture, when looters roamed the city looking for anything of value.
Thieves smashed or pried open row upon row of glass cases and pilfered, or just destroyed, their contents.
The sale of stolen antiquities has allegedly helped finance Iraqi extremist groups, according to Marine Reserve Col. Matthew Bogdanos, the U.S. investigator who led the initial probe into the looting.
Monday, April 28, 2008
"It's the first civil rights bill of the new century of life sciences," said veteran Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts last week, after the US Senate finally passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
After more than a decade of political debate, GINA bans health insurers from setting premiums or denying coverage based on the results of genetic tests, as long as customers have no pre-existing disease symptoms. It is also aimed to prevent discrimination in employment decisions.
GINA is expected to be approved this week by the House of Representatives, which backed a slightly different version of the act last year, and will then be signed into law by President George W Bush.
Geneticists hope the act will usher in a new era of personalised medicine, which depends upon people being willing to take genetic tests without fear of discrimination.
"With the passage of GINA, researchers and clinicians can actively encourage Americans to participate in clinical trials and appropriate genetic testing," says Aravinda Chakravarti of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, president of the American Society of Human Genetics, in a statement.
But a legal loophole may still allow employers to view genetic test results, says Mark Rothstein, a specialist in health law at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In the latest issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics (vol 36, p 174), he warns that existing law allows employers to request medical records, which may include genetic information, after making a conditional job offer.
[Thanks to Annette for this link]
by Chalmers Johnson
Our excessive military expenditures did not occur over just a few short years or simply because of the Bush administration's policies. They have been going on for a very long time in accordance with a superficially plausible ideology, and have now become so entrenched in our democratic political system that they are starting to wreak havoc.
Juke Box Love Song
I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem's heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day--
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.
Sparks=Hasta Maсana Monsieur, mp3
Sunday, April 27, 2008
[I suppose I'm not shocked that in a county where a director of a lib. would have an already spayed cat that had been living at the lib. sent to be killed because of the imagined and delusional fears of an anonymous asshole - that the life of a living animal is worth nothing here]
A man suspected of killing a young cat pleaded guilty to animal cruelty Monday when a judge offered to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor.
Steven Bruce Tippett is now serving a 90-day sentence in Tuolumne County Jail.
He was arrested Oct. 29, after he brought a dead cat into the Tuolumne County Animal Control office. He told staff members he was trying to put it in a box, but it kept jumping out.
He choked it after the second time, officials reported.
William Polley, a retired judge who was sitting in for Judge Eric DuTemple, offered the plea deal.
Prosecutor Jim Newkirk was disappointed with the case's resolution because Tippett has a history of violence, and drug and alcohol abuse, he said.
"I felt that the conduct was felony conduct based on Mr. Tippett's fairly lengthy criminal history," he said.
Newkirk doubts Tippett will have to serve his full sentence due to jail overcrowding. He was also not given probation.
Tippett faced a prison sentence of up to three years for the felony charge.
Elsie Sheldon, founder of Sonora Cat Rescue, said the latter was more fitting for Tippett's crime.
Members of Sonora Cat Rescue, a nonprofit group that works to spay and neuter feral cats and place some cats in homes, had followed the case from its beginning.
"He'll just be out able to kill more cats," Sheldon said.
Tippett's attorney, Clay Bedford, who pushed for reducing the charge to a misdemeanor, couldn't be reached for comment.
BY WAY OF PREFACE TO A PERSONAL STORY
Man is a creature of astonishing contradictions and enormous moral range. The same species that produces fools, knaves, cowards, a massive number of mediocrities, and assorted monsters of depravity, also gives us geniuses, saints, and heroes of exemplary virtue. The spread of behavior is so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. But maybe the most interesting thing about humans is their capacity to travel from one point of the moral spectrum to another, from evil to good, and from good to indifference and often tacit acceptance of evil.
Modern-day hunters and people who callously use animals for vanity and or “recreation” (remember Michael Vick) fall into an especially troublesome category. In the vast majority of cases the person in question is simply a victim of unexamined assumptions and cultural traditions, and a pitiful lack of empathetic imagination, a total failure of compassion. Such individuals commit disgusting acts, but the baffling thing about the horrors of this world, what some call the sheer “banality of evil”, is that committing an evil act does not per se signify the person is utterly evil. People are often not only contradictory in their behavior, they also change their ways and undergo redemption. I’m not a conventionally religious person, at all, but the idea of redemption —in a secular, not Catholic form—I find powerful and touching in the extreme. For by showing that humans are indeed capable of understanding their wrongful deeds, that, despite all the muck that surrounds us, decency manages to survive somehow, and that in consequence they indeed aspire to live in peace with their conscience, because, if nothing else bad actions do in fact bother them, deny them rest, redemption underscores the possibility of a better world grounded in real peace and justice for everyone, none the least for the most exploited and brutalized creatures on this earth, the animals.
The personal document I reproduce below has special significance for me because it is about redemption, a hunter’s redemption. Although I have always been familiar with weapons of various types, I never took to the “pleasures” of shooting animals, “live targets.” I never could see the “sport” in it at all. And never will. Thus the hunter’s mind, a person who sees absolutely nothing wrong in killing a beautiful, innocent, living breathing creature for his own personal pleasure, or some other frivolous reason or pretext (and I should tell you that after more than three decades in the animal defense movement I’ve heard just about all the pro-hunting arguments ever crafted by this fraternity) remains a baffling mystery. I was therefore immensely excited when, back in 1986, when I served as editor at large for The Animals’ Agenda, the first independent US animal rights publication, I got this unsolicited testimony from Dallas Gragg, a former hunter.
Dallas’s words are effortlessly eloquent and they remain true to this day. The strong personal conscience and integrity that illuminated his journey of moral self-discovery was there all along, only momentarily suppressed by the pressures of conventionality and cultural norms. I am therefore confident you’ll find his testimony as moving as when I first read it more than 20 years ago. The truths he speaks about can never be extinguished. For they define what the transformation potential of human beings is all about. I am happy to be able to share Dallas’s story with our Cyrano audience. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for coming forward.
—Patrice Greanville, The Greanville Journal
WHY I QUIT HUNTING
BY ROY DALLAS GRAGG | [Original dateline: Animals’ Agenda, November 1986]*
I WAS BORN in the mountains of North Carolina near Grandfather Mountain and Mt. Mitchell. Hunting, killing and butchering animals was a way of life for the mountain people. I killed my first hog at age eight. I had expected the animal to fall as if by magic when I squeezed the trigger of my grandfather’s old .22 caliber rifle. I was both surprised and alarmed when the animal screamed with pain and agony. “More carefully,” my uncle said, “You have to hit him in the head.” When the rifle cracked the second time, the animal fell dead.
I couldn’t sleep that night—I could still hear the animal’s screams. The adults laughed the next day when I told them it just didn’t seem right to shoot an animal when he was locked helplessly in a pen.
I dreaded October each year-that was the month when the hogs and steers were killed and butchered. Early in the morning barrels of water were heated over roaring fires to scald the animals so that their hair could be scraped off. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when a butcher knife slashed the hog’s throat and the blood ran across the ground as the pitiful animal convulsed and kicked. The air smelled of death, especially when the hogs were gutted. I noticed that the horse, a huge Clydesdale mare named Bell, would sniff the air, and with big eyes run away. She too smelled the death. I always stayed outside whenever possible because the stench of lard being boiled on the woodstove was unbearable.
However, it was always my job to turn the handle of the hand-operated sausage machine. Spring brought another dreaded time, when the man came to castrate the pigs and dehorn the cattle. I would hold my ears to shut out the sound of their agonized screams. “Don’t be a sissy-you’ll get used to it,” I was told, but I never did.
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Sundays usually brought another unpleasant task: catching a chicken and “wringing” its neck. The sight of the unfortunate creatures’ bodies jumping high in the air with a broken neck is still fresh in my mind, even though it was over thirty years ago.
To make matters worse, the butchered birds and animals had often been pets. I had a pet chicken named Red. I trained Red, a big red hen, to sit patiently on a fence post or other object for hours until I set her down. I also had a pet turkey named Fred. As is the fate of most turkeys, Fred ended up on the Thanksgiving table. The crowd roared with laughter when I said, ”I’m not thankful. Fred was my friend and I’m not going to eat him.” My cousins taunted me until I finally ate a small piece of breast, but I felt like a cannibal.
I rather enjoyed hunting because I didn’t have to butcher the birds and animals. By the time I was fourteen I was a “crack shot”. I never missed. Squirrel hunting was my favorite because the elusive gray squirrels were hard to hit. One day I grazed a big gray squirrel and he fell right in front of my dog Rex. The squirrel was putting up a furious battle against the dog who was many times its size. I sat down and thought for awhile. I couldn’t help but admire the little animal. He had wanted to live!
The mountain people often shot the red squirrels or “boomers” for shooting practice. The red squirrels were not good to eat so they were thrown away. But that didn’t sit right with me either. I doubted that God made his boomers just to shoot at.
One morning, as I sat on top of a steep hill waiting for the sun to come up and the game to start moving about, I noticed many small oak trees on the hill. Acorns are heavy, especially this variety. They were as big as chestnuts and probably weighed several ounces. I hadn’t seen this particular variety before.
I strolled down the hill and crossed a small valley to another hill and found the parent tree, a huge oak about four feet in diameter. I was puzzled. How did the acorns travel across a valley to another hill? The wind didn’t blow them, that was for sure, and floodwaters don’t run uphill. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. It was a gray squirrel leaping from a huge oak heading across the valley. I dropped the squirrel with a single shot. Imagine my surprise when I picked up the squirrel and he had one of those huge acorns lodged in his mouth! I had been shooting the planters of the forests! On the way home I said to myself, “So that’s why God made squirrels.”
A few years later, I joined the army and became qualified as an expert rifleman. “I have never seen anyone shoot like that,” I overheard the sergeant tell the lieutenant.
“He dropped 16 men (targets) in less than 20 seconds!” Later the lieutenant said to me “You could do that in Vietnam, too. The slant-eyes are just bigger game.” But I didn’t make it to Vietnam. An ulcer got me a medical discharge and I returned home to the mountains.
I still hunted some but I thought about the squirrels. If they were nature’s planters, what were the other animals’ jobs? Later I noticed holly bushes in sheltered mountain valleys, over 20 miles from their natural growing range. It was quite obvious that birds had carried the seeds this great distance.
By the time I was thirty I had quit hunting entirely and began studying the birds and animals. I read books on ecology and the environment. And I returned to the forests—this time with a camera instead of a gun. I watched the squirrels carefully. They would always follow the same path through the trees, swinging like trapeze artists. Occasionally I would see a flying squirrel gliding silently through the trees or a ruffled grouse blasting away like a rocket.
I marked the spots where the nuts carried by squirrels fell and returned in the spring to find small trees growing in those areas. I also observed the “worthless” red squirrels burying nuts. It occurred to me that nut-bearing trees, oaks, hickories, walnuts, chestnuts and many, many others all depended on the little animals to transport their seed throughout the forests.
It should be obvious to any thinking person that nature is a powerful but delicate force. Each living thing on the planet is striving for survival in one way or another, and striving to keep its kind from becoming extinct. Various species of plants, birds and animals have survived earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and many other kinds of natural catastrophes only to fall victim to uncaring humans.
Hunters are directly responsible—to name a few—for the extinction of the passenger pigeon as well as many kinds of island-dwelling birds. The buffalo very nearly became extinct after hunters [retained by commercial interests] went after them largely to wipe out the Indians’ [main] food supply. Starve’em to submission.
This strategy left more than 50 million of the great creatures on the plains to decay in the sun. Hunters have brought the mountain lion, the grizzly bear, the whooping crane, and even the symbol of our nation, the bald eagle, to the brink of extinction.
I began studying hunters from “the other side of the fence:’ When working with hunters I would ask their opinions of hunting. One hunter’s reply was, “God made animals for me to eat - what else are they good for?” Another said, “It makes me forget my troubles to hunt and fish.” I thought long and hard about his statement. Humans vent their stress and their frustrations from daily life on innocent wildlife. Hunting is a one-sided game with only one winner—human beings. This is why hunters refer to birds and animals as “game”. When the hunter has hunted down and killed an animal, he has “won” the game. More often than not, the creature is killed for pleasure instead of for food. A certain sadistic pleasure is derived by killing another creature. When a human kills an animal the act fuels his ego: he has mastered the creature by taking its life.
Why else would a trophy hunter spend thousands of dollars, hike through steaming snake- and insect-infested swamps or climb steep cliffs to kill a magnificent member of another species? Why else would he cut off the head of his victim and leave the body to rot? Why else would he take the head to a taxidermist and mount it over his fireplace? He has dominated and killed the “beast”, and therefore hangs its head up for all the world to see that he is the mighty and fearless hunter. It is nothing but fuel for the insecure ego of small men.
The hunter, with the scent of death in his nostrils, has little respect for his neighbor who enjoys seeing the creatures on his property alive. “No hunting” and “No trespassing” signs are torn down or shot full of holes. A hunting license is a permit to kill indiscriminately. Our government sells out our wildlife for the price of a hunting license. Soon after becoming an anti-hunting advocate, I found my tame mallard ducks shot and floating on their pond. They too had enjoyed living and I enjoyed them. But some pervert found pleasure in their death. Once I observed hunters exterminating a covey of Bob White quail. Their cheerful calls can no longer be heard around the small mountain community where I grew up as a child.
TRADITION is perhaps the worst enemy of the animals: even our holidays call for the killing of birds and animals. These barbaric traditions, including hunting, rodeos and other cruel sports, are taught to children and thus passed down from generation to generation. Only a little more than a century ago blacks were considered to be animals and were treated as such. Similarly. during the second World War, Jews were considered to be subhuman by the Nazis, or perhaps even subanimal, and were killed by the millions.
Even today we abuse our fellow humans through boxing, wrestling and other cruel sports. How can the perpetrators of cruelty among us be expected to respect animals when they do not even respect humans? Before we can understand animal abuse we must understand ourselves. Humanity lives not by reality but by habits— often anchored in selfishness and staggering ignorance. It is this aspect of human nature we must work against.
If my story can, in some small way, influence the traditional way of thinking and the ignorant beliefs about our fellow creatures, I would be greatly pleased. This story is to aid our fellow creatures who have long suffered at the hands of mankind. May they someday live in peace, without suffering and fear.
Roy Dallas Gragg worked as a housepainter. He used to live in Montezuma, N.C.
Patrice Greanville is Cyrano’s Journal Online editor in chief and publisher.
By GENE JOHNSON
Timothy Garon's face and arms are hauntingly skeletal, but the fluid building up in his abdomen makes the 56-year-old musician look eight months pregnant.
His liver, ravaged by hepatitis C, is failing. Without a new one, his doctors tell him, he will be dead in days.
But Garon's been refused a spot on the transplant list, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons.
"I'm not angry, I'm not mad, I'm just confused," said Garon, lying in his hospital bed a few minutes after a doctor told him the hospital transplant committee's decision Thursday.
With the scarcity of donated organs, transplant committees like the one at the University of Washington Medical Center use tough standards, including whether the candidate has other serious health problems or is likely to drink or do drugs.
And with cases like Garon's, they also have to consider — as a dozen states now have medical marijuana laws — if using dope with a doctor's blessing should be held against a dying patient in need of a transplant.
Most transplant centers struggle with the how to deal with people who have used marijuana, said Dr. Robert Sade, director of the Institute of Human Values in Health Care at the Medical University of South Carolina.
"Marijuana, unlike alcohol, has no direct effect on the liver. It is however a concern ... in that it's a potential indicator of an addictive personality," Sade said.
The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's transplant system, leaves it to individual hospitals to develop criteria for transplant candidates.
At some, people who use "illicit substances" — including medical marijuana, even in states that allow it — are automatically rejected. At others, such as the UCLA Medical Center, patients are given a chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
Garon believes he got hepatitis by sharing needles with "speed freaks" as a teenager. In recent years, he said, pot has been the only drug he's used. In December, he was arrested for growing marijuana.
Garon, who has been hospitalized or in hospice care for two months straight, said he turned to the university hospital after Seattle's Harborview Medical Center told him he needed six months of abstinence.
The university also denied him, but said it would reconsider if he enrolled in a 60-day drug-treatment program. This week, at the urging of Garon's lawyer, the university's transplant team reconsidered anyway, but it stuck to its decision.
Dr. Brad Roter, the Seattle physician who authorized Garon's pot use for nausea, abdominal pain and to stimulate his appetite, said he did not know it would be such a hurdle if Garon were to need a transplant.
That's typically the case, said Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker on the liver transplant team at UCLA who has researched the issue. "There needs to be some kind of national eligibility criteria," she said.
The patients "are trusting their physician to do the right thing. The physician prescribes marijuana, they take the marijuana, and they are shocked that this is now the end result," she said.
No one tracks how many patients are denied transplants over medical marijuana use.
Pro-marijuana groups have cited a handful of cases, including at least two patient deaths, in Oregon and California, since the mid-to-late 1990s, when states began adopting medical marijuana laws.
Many doctors agree that using marijuana — smoking it, especially — is out of the question post-transplant.
The drugs patients take to help their bodies accept a new organ increase the risk of aspergillosis, a frequently fatal infection caused by a common mold found in marijuana and tobacco.
But there's little information on whether using marijuana is a problem before the transplant, said Dr. Emily Blumberg, an infectious disease specialist who works with transplant patients at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.
Further complicating matters, Blumberg said, is that some insurers require proof of abstinence, such as drug tests, before they'll agree to pay for transplants.
Dr. Jorge Reyes, a liver transplant surgeon at the UW Medical Center, said that while medical marijuana use isn't in itself a sign of substance abuse, it must be evaluated in the context of each patient.
"The concern is that patients who have been using it will not be able to stop," Reyes said.
Dale Gieringer, state coordinator for the California chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, scoffed at that notion.
"Everyone agrees that marijuana is the least habit-forming of all the recreational drugs, including alcohol," Gieringer said. "And unlike a lot of prescription medications, it's nontoxic to the liver."
Reyes and other UW officials declined to discuss Garon's case.
But Reyes said that in addition to medical concerns, transplant committees — which often include surgeons, social workers, and nutritionists — must evaluate whether patients have the support and psychiatric health to cope with a complex post-operative regimen for the rest of their lives.
Garon, the lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band, remains charged with manufacturing weed. He insists he was following the state law, which limits patients to a "60-day supply" but doesn't define that amount.
"He's just a fantastic musician, and he's a great guy," said his girlfriend, Leisa Bueno. "I wish there was something we could do legally. ... I'm going to miss him terribly if he passes."
On the Net:
United Nework for Organ Sharing: http://www.unos.org
Garon performing his song "Goodbye Baby": http://www.youtube.com/watch?vUJDihYn_fJA
by Sarah Baxter
Sunday, April 27, 2008
America's top military officer has ratcheted up the pressure on Iran by issuing an unusual public warning that the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action”.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed the Iranian government and Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for its “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. He said conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” for America’s overstretched forces, but added: “It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability.”
Mullen said he was increasingly concerned about Iran’s growing involvement in supplying munitions and training to rebel Shi’ite militias and “killing American and coalition soldiers in Iraq”.
Speaking at a Pentagon news conference late on Friday, he said recent operations in the southern port city of Basra had revealed “just how much and how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability”. A Pentagon source said the admiral’s frankness was “extremely significant” and could pave the way for some form of attack on Iran. However, Mullen said: “The solution right now still lies in using other levers of national power, including diplomatic, financial and international pressure.”
Mullen’s tough rhetoric came shortly after General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq responsible for the troop surge, briefed Congress about the “nefarious activities” of the Quds force in stirring violence in Iraq. There were a total of 923 civilian deaths in Iraq last month, the highest number since August 2007.
“We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead, as they will show the kind of relationship that Iran wishes to have with its neighbour,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus was nominated last week to take over as commander of all US forces in the Middle East from Admiral William Fallon, who resigned in March after becoming an outspoken critic of American policy towards Iran.
Petraeus has been asked to prepare a briefing on the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq. It will include the recovery of weapons with date stamps showing that they were recently manufactured in Iran.
American officers claim that Iran is responsible for new, highly dangerous roadside bombs in Iraq and accuse Iranian-trained militants of responsibility for the deadliest rocket and mortar attacks on Baghdad’s green zone.
“The question is not if Iran is unhelpful in Iraq,” said Philip Crowley, a retired air force colonel and defence expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “The question is what to do about it.” Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said last Monday that Iran is “hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons”. He added that war would be “disastrous” but the military option must remain on the table. However, a senior defence source said the administration regarded Iran’s nuclear programme and its interference in Iraq as separate problems, requiring different tactics and solutions.
Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iranian-backed radical Shi’ite cleric, called on his followers at Friday prayers to stop fighting Iraqi troops and unite against “the occupiers” – US troops.
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