8.12.09

Flower of the Week


Echinacea! Because 'tis the season for cold, sniffly weather, and this helpful beauty should always be kept close at hand.
It really does work like magic ;-)

4.12.09

50 Best Protest Signs

When Buzzfeed put together this list of the 50 Best Protest Signs of the year, I'm pretty sure they meant the 50 most hilarious. Check them out, they will certainly brighten your Friday! This one is my favorite:


3.12.09

Ouch.

Since the D.C. Council's vote on Tuesday to recognize gay marriage in the district reflected a mood of positivity and hope for continued civil rights legislation in the United States, the disappointment in the New York State Senate's decision not to provide the same rights for its residents was just that much more acute. I must say that my high-soaring hopes for liberty and justice for all in this country have taken a bit of a blow. Despite New York State residents' majority being in favor of supporting the legalization of same-sex marriages, our senators' actions apparently do not reflect our own opinions. The State Senate voted yesterday to overturn a measure approved by the New York State Assembly and supported by Governor Patterson, in a 38 to 24 outcome which now rejects equal rights in the state of New York. Sigh.

2.12.09

Congrats, D.C.!

Congratulations to the Washington, D.C. city council who made a monumental decision yesterday to recognize gay marriages. This means that same-sex couples who had been married elsewhere may be granted their inherent civil right to benefit from all of the privileges of legal marriage within the nation's capitol. Of course, the council's decision will now have to go to Congress to be reviewed, as is done with all of the district's legislation. And while there is some sneering opposition within the GOP, the outlook is mostly positive for the Democratically-led House of Representatives to give little effort to stop the bill from passing.

The 12-1 decision to pass the measure was ranked with some controversy within the city council itself, as its one opposing member, Marion Barry, cited an obligation to remain faithful to his religious constituents, many of whom were on the street protesting as the council deliberated. Barry was accused by council member David A. Catania, an openly gay representative, of being "bigoted," a charge which Mr. Barry denied, claiming that, despite his vote, he is a supporter of gay civil rights.

But despite the little bit of conflict, the council's move was brave, and has set the stage for a possible full-fledged legalization of same-sex marriage within D.C. Overall, it is a victory for marriage and for civil rights in the U.S. But most importantly, it is a victory for LOVE.

1.12.09

Awareness thru the Ages

A compilation of some of my favorite AIDS prevention posters from as early as 1984, found on avert.org :







30.11.09

Just in Time for World AIDS Day

Just in time for world AIDS day, a global day of action aimed at increasing awareness around the critical disease that continues to claim millions of lives each year, several advocacy organizations have issued Barack Obama a report card on his commitment to battling HIV transmissions and bolstering AIDS programs around the world. The U.S. president has earned a grade of a D+, hardly passing in his promises to combat the pervasive disease that affects so many people around the world, and making small strides in a positive direction. The grade was issued by the Global Access Project, Africa Action, the Treatment Action Group, and Global AIDS Alliance, and is based on the campaign promises that Obama had made prior to coming into office, taking into account all of the efforts he has put henceforth: the good, the bad, and the lackadaisical.

The main points of focus for Obama's performance assessment were global AIDS funding levels, scale-up of treatment, prevention efforts, and the expansion of global health efforts. Hopes had been built high prior to his presidency with a promise to double funding for AIDS programs around the world and to do the same for the number of HIV positive individuals receiving treatment, yet these goals have fallen to the wayside and his commitment to public health has wavered. And while there are some points of redemption in Obama's AIDS policy, particularly in his focus on prevention efforts and reproductive health, advocates around the world are questioning whether Obama may live up to earning his potential high marks.

In the face of rising treatment costs around the world, our president has chosen to flat-line spending on AIDS programming and research throughout the world, keeping the global funding levels set at what his predecessor had established. And although funds are being supplied for prevention efforts and care, critical treatment such as TB testing for all HIV positive individuals was not included. And because of a lack of proper funding, basic healthcare efforts such as doctors visits and medications for HIV are being stifled. By increasing access to antiretroviral medications so as to decrease individual infectiousness, and by facilitating access to healthcare clinics providing HIV-specific treatment and counseling, the Obama administration would have a significant impact not only on the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS around the world, but on the number of new transmissions each year. But according to his judges, Obama's lack of funding for these programs has "undermined his commitment to fund the U.S. fair share of the AIDS treatment burdern."

But our president's marks do improve in the realm of HIV prevention efforts, specifically as they are related to reproductive health and to substance use. In a monumental move, President Obama rescinded the ludicrous Bush-era Gag Rule within his first month in office. The Gag Rule was a global AIDS funding policy set up by the Bush Administration to prohibit the U.S. dollars from being used to bolster any reproductive health research or clinic that did not promote an abstinence-first paradigm. Obama should be congratulated for removing this measure which was completely out of touch with the real issues at hand, and his efforts to incorporate realistic reproductive health considerations into tackling HIV transmission reflect a highly refreshing perspective; especially in light of the World Health Organization's assertion this week that HIV is the #1 killer of women of reproductive age around the world.

And Obama is making large strides in the field of substance use as a primary contributor to HIV transmission, as well, having vowed to retract the federal measures which prohibited funding for needle-exchange programs. This matter hits close to home for Obama, as Washington, D.C. is one of the cities which has suffered most under this ban on funding programs which, in other cities like New York, have saved countless lives. D.C. is also one of the cities with the highest rates of HIV, with a staggering 3 to 5% of the population being identified as HIV positive. These issues are right at Barack Obama's backdoor, and his attention to them is critical.

But despite these various steps toward progress, President Obama has not yet fully fulfilled the U.S. pledge to expand its global health investments, contrary to the "Global Health Initiative" that was launched earlier this year in the White House. And while he had talked extensively about doubling the fiscal budget for AIDS-related spending, the levels of the Obama Administration remain constant with those of the Bush Administration, which essentially cripples the fight against global AIDS. And as Barack Obama had campaigned about setting the budget for AIDS research and prevention efforts, so far he has not. With hundreds of billions being spent on banks and on war, the proposed expanded budget for HIV would be just a tiny drop in the mighty American bucket. And with millions of people dying each year of this devastating disease, there simply is just no excuse for ignoring it.

Discovering Truth Through Action

Today marks the ten-year anniversary of the monumental protests in Seattle, which rocked the city to its core, halted the odious goings-on of the World Trade Organization, and created the conflict which came to be known as the "Battle in Seattle," as a result of the violent outcome of police intervention on the streets. The protestors of those days have been praised for their tenacity and their bravery, as they clashed with officers, refused to back down, and refused to allow the imperialist agenda of the WTO to continue. At the time, the agenda of capitalist globalization was left largely unqualified, and it took hundreds of arrests and the shut-down of the down-town area of one of America's largest cities for people to take notice of the issue. For this, Walden Bello writes in Yes! Magazine about the truth that was brought to light because of these audacious protestors, who took a stand against injustice and put a temporary wrench in its works in his article "The Meaning of Seattle: Truth Only Becomes True Through Action." To read it is to reflect back on a time when the wool was removed from our eyes, and the outrage of thousands became the the burden of millions. It is to relive the shock that was experienced that day, and the lessons that have been learned thereafter. To read it is to remember a time when the concept of Democracy was ripped open and reconsidered, and people's freedom was a wild, unhinged force to be reckoned with.

24.11.09

Flower of the Week

Have you ever seen anything like this other-worldly Passion Flower from Kyoto, Japan? Its unique beauty captivated and enchanted me at first sight, and its intricate anatomy continues to fascinate me still to this day. Mother Nature must be quite the avant-garde artist ;-)

23.11.09

Iceberg, right ahead!

Ok so this isn't really a joke, but more like something from a frightening apocalyptic tale in which the benevolent majesty and power of the earth is unleashed, and transformed into a dangerous, vengeful force. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of icebergs which were once a part of a massive ice floe in the antarctic are now slowly, gracefully, ominously gliding across the ocean towards the southern island of New Zealand.

A maritime warning has been issued to ships in the area, as chunks of ice which average to be about a mile in depth are drifting farther north, in larger numbers than can be considered normal or appropriate for the area.

Climate change is undoubtedly culpable in this scenario, as Neil Young, a scientist working for Agence-France-Presse, has postulated. He told the AP that "If the current trends in global warming were to continue, I would anticipate more icebergs as the large ice shelves break up." Certainly this is a massive symbolic reminder that we cannot afford any further politicization of an issue which is, more than anything, at the pith of our very survival.

Perhaps if the icebergs were floating nearby Copenhagen there would be more of a rustle?

21.11.09

The World Peace March is Coming

A very exciting, very quiet tremor is sending its vibrations across the globe through the footsteps of thousands. Can you feel it? All over the world, people are joining together in the simplest of human activities: the nomadic stride which has held us together throughout so many years; the delicate tread of the peaceful warriors who are owning their responsibility to mankind and to mother earth, and taking part in a magnificent act of unity so strong that it will take the power of the whole world to accomplish it. They are marching to illuminate the important pledge of love and non-violence that we all must take to ensure a salubrious future on this planet.

For the first-time ever, peace-lovers around the world are becoming united in a massive march for solidarity from continent to continent. The World Peace March, an extensive journey from New Zealand to Argentina, commenced this October 2nd on the anniversary of Mohandas Ghandi's birth, will be covering the span of all inhabited land on earth- so as to reach as many souls as possible and promote the ideals of peace, love, and understanding.

And as for New York City Residents, THEY will become WE next Sunday, November 30th, as the city welcomes the arrival of the march to North America. We will be traveling across the river on the Brooklyn Bridge, with as many smiling souls as possible, into city hall to represent the message of peace that has been carried for so many miles. And as the delicate stampede that has touched so many already will grow ever stronger, the hope that it carries in the our spirits' capacity for progress through love will shine that much brighter.

As the manifesto of the walk reads, "We are in motion, traveling around the planet to strengthen the voice that is clamoring for a human world.... We are thousands, we will be millions, and we will change the world." What a beautiful movement to encompass all of humanity across all of the earth!

From the beginning of our time on this planet, human bodies have been built to walk- and there has always been a reason and a purpose for this universal gift. Now, let's let that purpose be clear: we want a safer world, a global community, and ensured positive future for all generations to come. And as the marchers approach your town, will you join them? Will you add your voice to the thousands, become the millions to call for peace? The tremors of their footsteps are growing closer every day, the vibrations are growing stronger... can you feel them? Will you join them? ;-)


Peace!

20.11.09

Protecting the Growers

The bounty of legislation being written to ensure the quality and safety of food products in the United States is seemingly endless, with all sorts of sensible, predictable titling and rhetoric. There is the Food Safety and Tracking Act, the TRACE Act, the Safe Feast Act, and the recent Food Safety Enhancement Act, among a multitude of others which serve to enforce safety regulations on food processors and producers across the United States. Still, there are often many questions left unanswered with these types of legislation, such as why private firms are being hired to audit food processing plants in place of government authority, why antibiotics are still so rampantly used and loosely monitored, why pesticide use continues to increase, and why small organic farmers who produce the safest foods the natural way are still left out of so many major dialogs and considerations in agricultural legislation.

It seems as though, with the majority of agricultural measures, there is very little protection for organic producers, and to be sheltered by the USDA's organic certification umbrella is a costly endeavor that not many small farmers can easily afford. And as safety laws are becoming ever more stringent, the burden placed on small-scale organic and sustainable farmers grows heavier.

Thankfully, there are a handful of representatives who are seeking to provide provide protection for organic growers facing increasing regulatory constraints. In the new Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, a bill that will increase the power of the FDA in overseeing the food system, several senators have expressed their commitment to easing the burdens placed on sustainable agricultural practices. Jeff Merkey of Oregon, Al Franken of Minesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Michael Bennet of Colorado teamed together to write up a letter addressed to Chairman Harkin last week to help organic farmers comply with the new legislation.

And it worked! The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), which had advocated vigorously in advance of the bills passage for family farm rights, and to ease the regulations against organic farms by merging FDA efforts with the established USDA organic certification rules, responded to the unanimous passage of the bill this week with an overall positive outlook, although is still pressing the FDA to be more forthcoming about how the new regulations will impact sustainable farmers, and is urging lawmakers to include the Growing Safe Food Act to the food safety bill. The act was coined by Senator Debbie Stabenow of MI, and would require an implementation of educational programs, funding, training, and other support for farmers and food producers. NSAC vowed that they would continue to fight for the inclusion of the Safe Food Act into the bill.

The health and safety of our food should always be at the top of our legislative priority list. However, overregulation of small-scaled and sustainable farming practices is not the answer to food safety concerns. Local and organic farmers should be supported and bolstered, and the gigantic industrial food system is what should be met with equally gargantuan legislation to protect us against its profit-geared agenda that frankly lacks any true regard for safety. Hopefully the passage of this new legislation will reflect the concerns of the NSAC, small farmers, the representatives that support them, and the consumers who want to trust in an agricultural food system that is safe and healthy for everyone.

17.11.09

Flower of the Week

A Radiant Hibiscus from my very favorite place on all of Staten Island...

12.11.09

He got it.

Another victory for grassroots human rights campaigners! The group Basta Dobbs, a faction of the immigration reform organization Presente.Org, is claiming victory over the resignation of right-wing political pundit Lou Dobbs from his regular post as a CNN news anchor. After a detailed, high-tech campaign involving a petition signed by over 100,000 people, a YouTube Video, a text-messaging campaign, radio PSAs and a series of events in 18 cities throughout the country, the group was successful in putting pressure on the president of CNN, claiming that Dobbs should be released due to his controversial and discriminatory opinions, particularly in regard to his vilifying views on immigrant groups in America. His remarks have often been racist and offensive, and his position on a trusted news network was considered to be dangerous for public opinion. But now he has gotten what was coming to him: the loss of his ability to disseminate inappropriate content to TV audiences. Basta Dobbs has released the following statement:

"Our contention all along was that Lou Dobbs -who has a long record of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about immigrants and Latinos - does not belong on the "Most Trusted Names in News," said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org... "We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate."

This is a significant step in the name of community empowerment. Once again a small group of marginalized people have been effective in challenging seated power, refusing to accept or condone discrimination. And once again they have been listened to, and their concerns have been addressed. Hopefully other pundits with malevolent agendas will take a lesson from Dobbs' fate, and reconsider the propagandistic material that they distribute to the public, before someone drops a house on them, too!

10.11.09

The Right to Choose

In the vernacular of American dogma, freedom is a central aspect to the terminology which serves to create and uphold social value and provide meaning to our lifestyles. We invoke the our constitutional right to freedom for almost every challenge, and boast on how our society is unique in that it provides us with the chance to live and be "free." When the buffoonery of our leadership is questioned, or the over-indulgence of our culture is criticized or warned against, we simply resort to our favorite catchphrase: love it or leave it.

But for many the choice really is not so easy. The freedom to "just say no" has been revoked from many in our country, and the choices that decide the fate and well-being of their lives are often made difficult or almost impossible, depending on the type of contract that they sign.

I am talking about the United States Military, and the soldiers who somehow lack the fundamental right to just say "sir, no, sir." I'm talking about the fact that 43,000 of the troops currently deployed abroad are deemed medically unfit to serve, but are deployed regardless. 17% of troops currently in Afghanistan fall under this distinction. I'm talking about the 260,000 homeless veterans, 6,000 of whom are female; about the countless cases of PTSD; about those who are silenced, coerced, and forced back into service despite the completion of their term; about Robert Murchison, a soldier at Fort Carson who shot himself in the leg to avoid re-deployment; about the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children who find their loved ones permanently changed upon their return from war; about the 30,000 more souls that President Obama is pondering sending into war, beginning next March. I'm talking about the average of 10 suicides per month at the Texas military base of Fort Hood, Texas, prior to this past July. And I am also of course talking about the highly-publicized tragedy that took place there last week.

These are men and women who are far braver than I am, to risk their lives in the name of that same freedom in which we love to bask. Yet they are given little or no options once they have served their duty, and are faced with intense pressure as soon as they begin to show a reluctance to fight. The fact is that war is an atrocious situation, and if a person is brave enough to do it once in your name, than they should have the freedom of choice as to whether or not they'd like to return. But still they are sent into life-threatening, sanity-threatening situations, where they occupy a land on which they are not welcome. This is a kind of imposition that is downright disrespectful to all involved, and as was shown by the behavior of Major Hasan at Fort Hood last week, can be extremely dangerous.

In Kurt Vonnegut's famous novel, Player Piano, the character of a foreign Shah visiting the United States is revisited throughout the story, and is positively baffled by the operations of this country's soldiers. He mistakenly refers to them as siki, or slaves, and is confused when he is corrected because of their intensley imposed submission. This puzzlement is not far-off from my own. Why must this continue? I am thoroughly confused. For all of the money we spend on defense, can't they increase care and counseling and treatment through the armed forces? Or must soldiers continue to seek solace elsewhere?

There has been a proliferation of coffee houses such as the 'Under the Hood Cafe,' located directly across from Fort Hood in Texas, which seek to serve as shock absorbers: places for the troops to seeks counseling, legal advice, and support. As the war against the war movement intensifies within the armed forces, more resources are needed to maintain the health and well-being of our returning soldiers, in order to maintain a cohesive and sane environment for our military. They have given so much in the name of our freedom, and deserve to be fully taken care of when they return. They also deserve the right to choose their own fate, and if need be, to be able to freely say "sir, no sir!" without reproach.

Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served and are currently serving our country.

9.11.09

Get What's Coming

Lou Dobbs forgets that journalism is a noble profession, one that implies a high mind of reasoning and integrity, commitment to fact, and above all respect for those who are being reported to. It might not be his fault, but he has completely lost sight of the meaning of his job, and has taken his position as a disseminater of information to a volatile and potentially dangerous level by prevaricating stories from a biased and highly subjective point of view. This is disrespectful to us as his viewers, who have the right to hear forthright and impartial news.

Specifically, Dobbs has made inappropriate and equivocal claims about the people who are at the pith of the immigration debate, and such behavior from a man who claims to sit on a pedantic high horse is threatening to the sovereignty of independent thinkers across the country. Quite frankly, Mr. Dobbs is a liar who has the potential to exacerbate violent racist tendencies in the United States against people of foreign decent.

But he is being called out. And like his fellow right-wing pundit Glenn Beck has taken it upon himself to call for the firings of government officials appointed by our voted-in representatives, now the people are calling for the firing of this slanderous man. The group presente.org has taken action, and released a video which focuses on CNN's hypocrisy. The network released a four-hour documentary focusing on Latino immigrants in the United States, yet still continues to employ a man who disseminates hateful and racist messages to his viewers. This truly is hypocritical, as was stated by El Diario, a Spanish-language newspaper based out of New York.

Over 100,000 people have already voiced their opinion by signing a petition calling for Dobb's release. And unfortunately this movement is not being documented by the mainstream news media. Instead they are publishing sob stories on how Dobbs now feels targeted because of his views. In response to Dobbs claiming that his first amendment rights have been challenged, the co-founder of presente.org, Roberto Lovato, has said the following:

"You and others have suggested that we are seeking to abridge your free speech. Such arguments exhibit a shallow understanding of what the First Amendment projects. You are free to voice your opinions, just as we are free to encourage CNN to cancel your program. There is, quite simply, nothing in the Constitution that guarantees you a national news platform from which to spread misinformation, and invoking its protections is only a distraction from the real conversation. That conversation is about the future of CNN." (read the full article here)

Very well said, indeed. It is obvious that the group is not backing down from its demands, and as the movement gains more momentum, hopefully it will also gain in more attention. If you would like to view or sign the petition being sent to Jon Klein, president of CNN, click here.

6.11.09

Flower of the Week

"Aint forgot about the flower, deep underneath the crowded streets, sproutin in between the cracks.." -lyrics borne

A brave, defiant sunflower off the side of Richmond Terrace, Staten Island.

2.11.09

Hemphasis on Fashion!

(written for the Green Festivals blog page)

This year, as spectators and participants shuffled through the massive entrance to Washington, D.C.'s Convention Center for the 2009 Green Festival, there was a [perhaps not so] surprising new element added to the layout of the event. Veterans who had been used to an eclectic mix of sustainable vendors and inspiring setups were by no means disappointed, as many of the returning favorites were right at the gates: Better World Books, My Organic Market, and Organic Valley Farmers among them. Yet, standing proudly right at the door, was a bright-lime colored station wagon with the bumper sticker "Let U.S. Farmers Grow Hemp:" a hemp seed oil-powered wonder, and an unmistakable addition to the Green Festivals family. It was driven in by the owners of Capitol Hemp, a store in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., which is dedicated to the sale and promotion of industrial hemp products.

Absurdly enough, while hemp products are legally imported for sale in the United States, it is the only legally-sold crop that U.S. farmers are not allowed to grow. Meanwhile, it has proven to be a prolific business for Canadian hemp growers who sell to the U.S., and a fine sampling of such folk were present in full hemp gear at the Washington, D.C. Green festival!

One of the busiest sections of the festival this year was what was known as the "hemp pavilion," centered around a large lectern made out of... you guessed it! Hemp! The advocacy group Vote Hemp was there, passing out petitions for festival goers to send to their representatives, urging them to support a measure which would allow our farmers to benefit from growing the sturdy and versatile crop. And all around were hemp products of all imaginable sorts: pants, shoes, garden gloves, candles, dog treats, boxers, hats, snacks, t-shirts, etc. etc. etc. Basically, any type of product imaginable was there, and it was all made out of hemp!

Perhaps the most entertaining treat of the weekend was the hemp pavilion's organized hemp fashion show, where the various vendors submitted pieces for enthusiastic volunteers to model. Each outfit was skillfully, creatively, and colorfully put together- putting to rest any myth about hemp not being a comfortable, attractive material to wear. The designers went all out, and the models bore it all- from boxers and robes to silk-blends and wedding dresses, the world of hemp wear was all a flourish!

It was truly inspiring to see hemp promoted in such a way that would make it appealing to mainstream American audiences. After all, the plant has been used by humans for over 10,000 years, and has been labeled by many as a "wonder plant," having hundreds of uses: from food and clothing to powering a vehicle. And the display at the Green Festival was a stepping stone for American society which, for all of its boasts of capital incentives and ingenuity, has not yet fully embraced hemp for the highly productive and beneficial crop that it is! Now, as some states are torpidly coming around to the idea of hemp farming, is the time for us to support this fantastic market, and to VOTE HEMP! And hopefully in the years to come, "meet me at the hemp pavilion" is a sentence that can be used not just at the green fest, but in everyday life :-)

30.10.09

Newsworthy

What was that about a $680 billion war bill and unlawful civilian deaths in Pakistan? Hmm, not too sure about those... but I do know that President Obama certainly played up to his heroic role as a Nobel Peace Prize recipient today by lifting a travel ban imposed on people living with HIV. It's about time we stopped treating sick people like criminals!

Happy [Healthy] Halloween!

What's a better holiday to bring out the childish side of our spirits than Halloween? This time of year has come to represent a good-natured indulgence in folly and imagination for all of those who aren't too proud to play dress up and run through corn mazes. We all throw rationality to the wind as we delight ourselves with spooks and stories which, just for a moment, we decide to believe. And of course, we eat tasty treats and make art work out of pumpkins, and the child inside of us smiles.

But Halloween also has a tendency to promote corn syrup snacks in wasteful wrappers and tons and tons of unnecessary plastic crap. Just walk into any CVS or Walgreens, you'll see it there: the disposable plates and napkins with Halloween-themed images, the packages of plastic and disposable trick-or-treat bags, the cauldrons, the spiderwebs, the tombstones, etc., etc. etc. It's a pretty frightening scene, especially when you consider that these are all things that could be made at home, or substituted with sustainable alternatives. And as for the snacks, well... it's tough to convince a child not to eat candy, sure. But there are so many healthy, tasty treats that would make their tummies just as full! Here are some tips on how to have a happy, healthy Halloween:

Decor
For me, the best aesthetic for a fall-themed holiday would be an array of different colors, sizes, and shapes of pumpkins and gourds bought at a local farmers market. These can be painted, stenciled, carved, and cut, and are thus very versatile- they can become whatever you'd like them to be! And collecting the bountiful, beautifully colored fall leaves is quite opportunistic for DIY craft ideas such as wreathes and collages. These projects are fun and formative for everyone, as they employ the use of our creative sides, and produce a rewarding end result. For some family craft ideas, check here. And if time is really an issue for you, Green Planet Parties sells Halloween decorations made from sustainable and non-harmful materials.

Treats
Now, pumpkins are not exclusively for display. In fact, the rich and tender pulp inside of both pumpkins and gourds are highly nutritious and variant. There is an excellent array of pumpkin recipes on vebweb.com, check them out for some inspiration! Remember that every part of the pumpkin can be used! The seeds can be baked, or given to birds. And once your jack-o-lantern has wilted, the entire shell can be composted! Other seasonal foods, like apples, are also very diverse and tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. To fill up those bags, try nuts, trail mix, honey sticks, and raisins. They are all great [sealed!] treats for the kids, and besides being super tasty, they are really good for you! And if sweets are the only way to go, then try organic chocolate with a high percentage of cacao, organic fruit snacks, or other natural candy options.

Tricks
It's simple and easy enough: reusable bags! And enjoy the time to stroll around your neighborhood from house to house. Walking is incredibly good for your body, and is a pastime that we often take for granted. Trick-or-treating is a great opportunity to take in the beautiful fall weather, explore your neighborhood, and meet your neighbors.

Costumes
Make your own! Be creative! Instead of going for that pre-packaged French Maid costume, or a stinky Obama mask, be the only one at the party with an original and interesting costume idea! If you're not into sewing, try shopping at your local thrift shop, or check out craigslist and freecycle for costume bulk.
.
.
Halloween is a great opportunity to celebrate the fall, and to indulge ourselves in the bizarre, imaginative behavior that we took for granted as kids but that can be so nourishing and entertaining. It is a time for us to be creative and silly, and to express ourselves in ways that we don't normally get to in our daily lives. The costumes, the treats, and the traditions can all be carried out without excessive waste, and can actually prove to be a health way of celebrating! Between eating healthy seasonal foods, having an excuse to walk around the neighborhood, exercizing our minds in different crafty ways, and allowing ourselves to be free and a bit silly... Halloween may actually be quite beneficial to your health! So, Got Halloween? ;-)

28.10.09

Phew!

...that was close! For a few weeks it seemed as if hydraulic fracturing could be coming to NYC's backyard, bringing chemicals and contamination to a faucet near you. But fortunately, thanks to the pressure put on by outspoken groups and individuals, the natural gas drilling company Chesapeake Energy Corporation has announced that it has no further plans to drill in the New York City Watershed. As the New York Times put it in their story, the company was "bowing to intense public pressure."

Hurray! That is great news for us. Especially since earlier this month, the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation gave the o.k. for fracturing to take place within our watershed, and imposed very few constraints on the energy companies to be doing so. Activists and water enthusiasts alike protested loudly and immediately, citing allegations and investigations into the dangerous nature of such drilling taking place within close proximity to sources of drinking water. While the energy companies argued that increased extraction was necessary due to the exceptional state of economic affairs, their opponents questioned whether increased profits were worth the potential cost of human safety.

And in a rare case of corporate concession, it seems as if the concerns of the people have been recognized and respected. As Aubrey C. McClendon of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation stated, "We're not going to develop these leases, and we're not taking any more leases, and I don't think anyone else in the industry would dare to acquire leases in the New York City Watershed." No, they wouldn't dare. Because New Yorkers are nothing if not truculent, and once we've set our minds to something, well... there's no messin' with us!

Still, the willingness of this large corporation to back down without facing government pressure brings to light the very absence of that same government pressure. The New York City Watershed provides drinking water to 15 million people, and the contamination of that resource puts each and every one of us at risk. So, why hasn't the D.E.C. stepped in with harsher regulations on fracturing? Better yet, why has it not outlawed fracturing all together in the watershed area? After all, even though the watershed is made up of nearly 1 million acres, it comprises only 8.5% of the drillable land in upstate New York. So it needs to be off-limits all together: not only to the energy companies, but to any and all developers. We in New York City pride ourselves on our clean, safe public drinking water. And we'd like for it to stay that way!

27.10.09

Water: Good for the Soul

A new report issued by a research group at Chicago University is posturing that water may have the same calming effect on human emotional well-being as those foods which we think of as comfort foods. On the same level as mac n' cheese, a tub of ice cream, and that heavenly bar of chocolate... is water! Good for your soul! Who woulda thought?

The researchers found that rats, after being exposed to a level of heat which caused slight pain and discomfort, had displayed the same amount of pain aversion whether they had been given water or sugar as a remedy. This is a sign that it is the simple act of ingestion, not the absorption of sugar, that has a calming effect on the body.

While it's a common remedy for most of us to ease the blues with a little bit of chocolate and sugar, the emotional over-eating of rich, unhealthy foods on a regular basis may lead to such problems as obesity. However, perhaps not so surprisingly, it may be possible for us to achieve the same pain-numbing reaction by simply drinking water, and avoiding all of the unecessary calories.

And after all, the healing effects of water are evident and multifarious. We are all bound to water, we are made of water, so it follows that we may be naturally healed and cleansed by the very element that shapes our lives. It seems ubiquitous to the human experience: when we are feeling overwhelmed, sitting nearby a river or stream has a soothing, meditative power that reaches into our soul and heals us. When we ache, we bathe ourselves in hot water to relax our muscles and our mind. And when we are restless... listening to the soundtrack of the ocean's powerful tides, we are calmed and inspired simultaneously, often lulled into a deep, rejuvenating sleep. So why not, when we are feeling emotional pain, can we not drink water to help us heal!

There are so many reasons to drink more water to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Our bodies and our minds alike are detoxed by its cleansing power. This is yet another example of the healing power of water, and why it is essential to all of us! That is not to say that a little chocolate doesn't make put a smile on my face once in a while, but for a true calming effect... next time perhaps choose water.

Flower of the Week


A Nasturtium found in a Washington, D.C. Victory Garden. Not only is this flower quite lovely to behold, but it's also edible! Try it in a salad for its peppery accent. Enjoy!

22.10.09

Good News..?

At first it would seem like a hoax: an exorbitant movement of great symbolic power that swells with a righteous sense of justice in the name of the people. Then it is deemed as sinister: yet another intrusion on the part of the government into matters that are technically considered private. Either way, it sparks controversy and debate, and a slight feeling of discomfort that leaves the mind to wonder what has really happened after all.

It was an assertion today made by the Obama administration that will call for pay cuts from 25 of the top-earning employees of recently bailed-out industries. These 25 individuals have been singled out for their paychecks, and for the extravagance that they have gained through the exploitation of loan borrowers, home owners, and other Americans just trying to get by.

The financial institutions have been making record profits, and posting record salaries and bonuses less than a year after our tax dollars bailed them out for the economy's sake. But putting billions into a localized, private pocket did not benefit us all, no matter how they might have tried to convince us that the trickle would fall.

And though a few tiffs have been launched about the government over-stepping its role in cutting executive pay, this is not an issue of technicality. It goes beyond large scale theorems of laissez-faire liberties and big government intrusions, to progress to a paradigm that is concerned with moral responsibility, social justice, and retribution for those whose wounds have not yet healed from predatory loans and mortgages, rising credit card rates, and continued obligatory debt.

There is an intuitive issue of fairness here. These executives whose pay is being cut have earned far more than they've needed to earn, and they have done it in part by breaking the backs of the working classes. There is such a thing as too much wealth, and these bullies have it. Perhaps it's about time that big brother steps in and defends his battered brothers and sisters. And although the move is largely allegorical and hardly resolves any of our immediate plights, it is something which resembles a victory of principle, and for that I'm glad.

20.10.09

Undernourished, Overfed

The statistics are terrifying.

Two hundred million Americans are overweight and 100 million are obese. More than 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. 24 million people are diabetic. Heart disease remains the no.1 cause of death for men and women, followed by stroke and obesity-related cancers. Obesity is about to overtake tobacco as the no. 1 cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

60% of bankruptcies are caused by what has become known as "medical debt."

Fast food, fast medicine, fast news and fast lives have turned many Americans into sick, uninformed, indebted, "processed" people. ~from the film "Processed People"


We have come to believe that being healthy is the ability to successfully manage sickness, that public health can be addressed with blanket vaccines, and that individual health can be sustained by swallowing pills.

But health is more than just the absence of symptoms. It is a feeling of holistic wellness and vitality, a feeling that we get when we nourish our bodies with fresh foods rich in beneficial nutrients, when we exercise, and when we maintain health relationships with ourselves and those around us. It is a feeling that connotes being truly alive, thriving instead of simply putting off death.

Preventative medicine is not just a last resort. In fact, it is a choice that we all can make every day. We can avoid the hospitals, the chemicals, the needles & pricks of our trillion dollar health care system, which stands to profit when we become sick. All it takes is fresh fruit, vegetables, sunshine, some time spent outdoors, some time spent with family. These things might not seem like medicine in the way that we have been conditioned to think about it, but they are. They are the purest and simplest ways of healing our bodies and our minds.

The choices that we have made in our personal lives TODAYcan ensure that we enjoy health and happiness in the future. We can spend our extra cash on local, organic food now, instead of spending it on hospital bills later. We can choose to exercise every day, if not on a treadmill than on a walk, so as to not spend that time later in life bound to a sick bed. We can choose to enjoy the outdoors at every given chance, to cleanse our bodies with fresh air and sunshine. We can choose to nourish our bodies, and not fill it with empty calories pumped up with sugar and artificial flavor.

It is never too late for anyone to become truly and holistically healthy. We all have that power to take care of ourselves without pills and pricks, we can take our bodies back for ourselves, and take our funds back for farmers, not pushers.

I choose to be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Every day. How about you?

peace.

15.10.09

Flower of the Week



These are called Angel's Trumpets. And they are dedicated to Paulette, who left us peacefully this morning.

Les anges jouent pour vous, Grandmaman. <3

13.10.09

...Just a Prick?


So by now we are on, what? Like, month 6 of swine flu mania?

Like the Avian Flu and the West Nile Virus before it, the H1N1 virus has caused quite a stir in the U.S. over an ailment which in reality is on the mild side in terms of a true public health emergency. But the inconsistency of the swine scare with previously hyped health crises lies within the new implementation of mandated vaccinations.

So far, New York is the only state to have mandated that all health care workers be stuck with the vaccine, in preference to losing their jobs. That is quite a choice to give someone: take this medicine or you will be terminated. All across the state, hospital workers, home care attendants, and hospice workers alike are protesting this imposition on their health and on their right to choose.

Yet the Health Department has already allotted 5 million doses of the vaccine to New York City: a swarm of impending shots to make healthy nurses and doctors alike quiver in their scrubs. It's not that those who oppose the command are opposed to taking appropriate steps in the name of the greater good; it's simply a matter of rights. If a nurse feels that they are at risk for contracting the virus, and that they will in turn transmit this virus to their patients, then that is the personal responsibility of the individual to make an informed decision to be vaccinated or not. But allowing a person to choose... that's just proper Democracy.

Still, the controversy goes beyond the mandate, and even beyond the depth of the research and testing of the vaccine. In fact, the H1N1 vaccine was tested more rigorously this year than was the vaccine for the more common flu. While this fact is frightening in and of itself, another more harrowing consideration is what infectious disease specialists, such as Dr. Kent Holtorf has to say on the matter. In an interview with Fox News*, Dr. Holtorf revealed that the vaccine itself contains dangerous levels of a type of mercury that could seriously damage the nervous system (Try to ignore the fear mongering while watching the video, and pay attention to the facts that the doctor puts forth).

It is worth a minute of time to stop and think about what is being asked of (or rather, dictated to) these health care workers. While swine flu itself is undoubtedly a cause for concern, is it ever wise to insist on only one solution to any problem when it comes to our well-being? And is it worth it for a person to risk their own personal health in the name of regulating a relatively mild sickness that so far (like previous epidemic scares) has only harmed very small portions of the population? While it is understandable to make sacrifices for public well-being at large, must we force one solution onto people, or allow them to decide for themselves how to be healthy?

It's only public option... that's all I'm advocating here.

Peace.

*And yes, I know... FoxNews is usually not the most credible source of information. But this was the only online video I could find of this man, and he actually makes some sense, so I figured it was worth posting.

9.10.09

Let him be.

Kevin Jennings is the newly appointed Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. He is also a teacher, an author, a human rights activist, and an openly gay man. He spent his formative years growing up in the strictly religious Baptist South, where he endured an adolescence of taunting, prejudice, and harassment because of who he was, and because people simply didn't understand. Although he is still somewhat bitter from his experiences (who wouldn't be?); Jennings rose above his negative past to become the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, an organization which preaches acceptance and understanding, as well as equal rights for all students. GLSEN has been making a difference in the lives of young people through grassroots outreach campaigns, research, and positive change in educational communities since the early 1990s. Because of his commitment to fairness and safety in schools, Jennings was appointed by President Barack Obama to his current position as "Safe Schools Czar" within the Education Department.

But the harassment has not stopped. Like environmental visionary Van Jones before him, Jennings is the newest target for right wing religious extremists and their slew of media henchmen. He has been labeled a "radical homosexual activist," and every word and action over the past 20 years of his career has come under severe scrutiny. On the conservative Christian website, humanevents.com, situated between a donation link for Sarah Palin's PAC (::shudder::) and a promotion of Newt Gingrich's weekly newsletter (it's free!), is an article titled "Kevin Jennings- Unsafe for America's Schools."

Their homophobic paranoia precedes them in this case, as they have diligently worked to convince themselves that Jennings is unsafe for our nations children. The Family Research council, who were at the forefront of Van Jone's smear campaign, have made the claim on their website that Jennings intends to make schools "safe for sexual predators," while the geniuses at human events are certain that Jennings wants to capture every sexually confused child and lock them away to a lifetime of gayhood.

Give me a break. This absurdity would be laughable if it weren't so disturbingly reminiscent of our general inability to see past the end of our own social noses. Jennings has stated nothing about his intent to make schools "gayer." He has simply pledged to reduce bullying caused by close-minded misunderstandings, and to promote education on Gay, Lesbian, and Straight identities so that our children don't live to become grown-up bullies like those at the FRC.

I beg the FRC, Rush Limbaugh, FoxNews, Human Events, all of these promoters of fear and mistrust... let the man be! Let's give him a chance to prove his worth as an effective protector of our children before we condemn him for his personal life.

And honestly, is it actually detrimental to teach our children about tolerance? Or would it lead to a more peaceful educational environment? Would an increased exposure to a controversial issue harm their delicate minds, or open their hearts to the reality of our beautifully diverse world?

7.10.09

Brooklyn Skillshare

Attention NYC Residents! In light of my prolonged internet absence, I would like to offer a recompense: a real-life event that is sure to nourish and enrich your life in such a way that you'll want to forget about the computer screen all together (well... for a while anyhow): The Brooklyn Skillshare. It's an all-day event that is to be held at the Gowanus Studio Space on 8th street in Brooklyn, this Saturday, October 10th.

It's a day of learning, sharing, and celebrating the unique skills that each and all of us possess. The teachers are all community members who have taken interest in a certain activity, like, say, bicycle repair and maintenance, and who come to the skillshare t0 offer up their knowledge to those who are open and willing. The atmosphere here is inclusive and non-judgmental; it is simply a space for people to connect with each other and offer up exchangeable life skills in the mode of sustainable and communal living; in a reciprocal relationship that benefits individuals as both students and teachers simultaneously. Here is the mission statement of the event:

Education is a right, not a commodity. We are all students and teachers, and we believe that everyone has something to teach and learn from each other. The Brooklyn Skillshare is a communal, hands-on learning experience that aims to serve as a jumping off point in the construction of an autonomous, nonexclusive, reciprocal learning community.

If this sounds good to you, and if you are interested in learning about any of the following skills, then the Brooklyn Skillshare is a great opportunity for you to connect your soul to others with purpose and creativity, and to learn something new! Here is a sampling of some of the classes to be offered:

  • How to brew kombucha
  • Massage Basics: taking care of yourself and others
  • Bicycle Mechanics 101
  • Screenprinting basics & DIY techniques
  • Turning glass bottles into glasses and vases
  • Basic raw food preparation: the art of "uncooking"
  • DIY electronics
These are only some, there are plenty more! There is also FREE breakfast and lunch to be served, as well as tasty snacks, homemade ginger-ale, and a closing party to celebrate the day. The entrance fee is only a suggested donation of $10, which is wonderfully generous considering all the benefits to be gained from this glorious event.

I'd say see you there, but I'll be participating in another great event that day: the Washington, D.C. Green Festival, a cornucopia of sustainable businesses, innovative technologies, and enlightened speakers all corralled into a large convention center space for a weekend of knowledge to tickle you green!

Two great cities, two awesome events... I'll let you choose which one suits you best :-)

Peace.

25.9.09

Flower of the Week


Hanging Orchids from the famous flower market in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The market is comprised of 6 square city blocks devoted entirely to the sale of flowers. The air is so scrumptiously scented, and the pathways are so brightly adorned, walking down the street is like walking through a dream...

22.9.09

Pouring on the Pounds

No one can deny the New York City government's dedication to public health goals. Seven years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg caused a tidal wave of reaction when he decided to battle against the city's smoking culture. It started with a ban on smoking inside public areas such as bars and restaurants, a measure which now may be expanded to include some outdoor public areas as well. The offensive was then compounded upon by a hefty tax applied to all purchases of tobacco products in NYC. Although the unconventional taxation and social exile still brings furrows to the brows of many of NYC's smokers, there is no denying the positive impact of the counter-cigarette campaign, as at the time of its inception, help was offered by the city to any smoker willing to try and fight their addiction.

Now, Bloomberg is launching yet another public health battle. Along with Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, the mayor has released target health goals for 2012 which include a strategic health agenda to preemptively target preventable sickness and death, including lung disease and cancer, HIV, and heart disease. Recognizing that poor diet is directly related to poorer health, the city has released its newest campaign- against sugary beverages. The ads that are being run throughout the five boroughs feature the title "Are you Pouring on the Pounds?" and are accompanied by gag-inducing images featuring soda, sports drinks and other sugary beverages pouring greasy, fatty deposits into a glass.

Although the ads are somewhat sensationalized, they represent exactly the kind of shock doctrine which might just result in behavior change. As obesity and diabetes levels soar in the United States, at least one city is fighting back against one of the biggest adversaries to our health: high fructose corn syrup, found in most sodas and juice "drinks."

Is it enough, though? Some are suggesting that besides a media campaign, an economic extension should be included in the strategy to combat these sugary devils. Much like the formidable taxes placed against tobacco products, they think that taxing another harmful product would be a wise means of aiding public health goals, with a very opportunistic economic advantage tagging along right behind. It could be just what we need in these hard economic times. Then again, we have to wonder who this tax will effect. Like the smoking tax, a tax on sugary beverages would hit those of lower economic standing hardest, as their mobility to find alternatives is limited, and their budget for food products is more humble. As one friend put it, a 12 cent tax on a can of soda won't bother a guy who pays $3.50 for a latte each morning. And as Professor Edward L. Glaeser put it in the New York Times, comparing ads to taxes: "Both approaches try to reduce soda consumption by making it less pleasant to drink soda. One approach hits you in the wallet; the other hits you in the stomach."

Either way, the incentive for increasing public health is a legitimate one. As of yet no taxes have been imposed, but a sense of awareness about our bodies certainly has. The 'ick factor' of the city's newest ads are effective in their ability to inflict a sense of responsibility in our minds, so that maybe next time we will choose that water or that healthier option of drink. Basically, if it grosses you out, that means that it's working!

21.9.09

Fake Paper, Real Facts


The Yes Men have struck again! The culture jamming activist group distributed almost 1 million hoax copies of the New York Post this morning in New York City, all of which contained factual articles related to the climate change crisis. The articles in the post (which carry such titles as "Flopenhagen," referring to the the world climate conference to be held in Copenhagen this December, the outcome of which will be a "flop" if the U.S. doesn't front some real climate legislation soon; and the cover story, "We're Screwed," which warns of the environmental and public health catastrophes for which New York City is doomed from the consequences of climate change) are based on true facts and real reports by scientists and climate change experts. In fact, the fear-inducing cover story is based off of a report commissioned by the mayor's office in February of 2009 and carried out by a team of highly respected scientists.

Of course, the dramatic action of seizing one of NYC's most popular newspapers has brought heightened attention to the issues surrounding climate change, which are normally overlooked by news sources like the Post. But it is essential that the word is spread wide and often. As one of the Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum put it: "This could be, and should be a real New York Post. Climate change is the biggest threat civilization has ever faced, and it should be in the headlines of every paper, every day until we solve the problem." A point very well made.

But the prankster paper wasn't completely devoted to doomsday warnings and frightening tales of our impending penance. There was also a congratulatory piece called "New York Fights Back," which detailed New York City's efforts at reducing carbon emissions and achieving sustainability. According to the article, residents of NYC produce only 1/3 of the emissions as the national average (probably thanks to our extensive bike lanes, public transport, and accessibility of provisions). It also mentioned the Million Trees NYC program, the new hybrid taxis and police cars, and the 1800 miles of bike paths that we boast here in the big apple. There were also whimsical advertisements for tote bags, bicycles, and tap water ("literally comes right out of your faucet!")

The paper had all of New York talking, and with close to 1 million copies distributed, it undoubtedly had some of us learning, as well. This amazing feat is highly commendable, and attracts some well needed attention to issues surrounding climate change as the G20 meetings take place in Pittsburgh this week, and as the U.N. gathers in New York to discuss the climate crisis. Like the Green Peace Activists who hung a large banner on Mount Rushmore during the G8 meetings earlier this summer, the Yes Men have found a way to make apathy seem boring, and dissemination of knowledge seem exciting, bringing climate change to the forefront of our newspapers and our minds.

17.9.09

Flower of the Week













Beautiful Blossoms &
an enchanted monarch,
at Snug Harbor's
Botanical Garden,
Staten Island

A Message from Van Jones

Van Jones sent the following message out to friends and supporters on Tuesday, Sept 15:

Dear Friends:

My family and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support that we have received over the past week or so. I resigned from the White House on Sept. 6, and I have remained silent since then- in keeping with my promise not to be a distraction during a key moment in the Obama Presidency.

Over the past few days, however, many people have been asking how they can help and what they can do.

The main thing is: please do everything you can to support President Obama and the green jobs movement. Winning real change is ultimately the best response to these kinds of smear campaigns.

I ask everyone to:

1. Support President Obama's efforts to fix our nation's health care, energy and education systems. His victory last fall did not represent the "finish line" in the fight to renew America; his election was just the "starting line." This autumn, it is time to make history again- with victories on health care and clean energy.

2. Sign up to support groups that are working for green jobs. As others seek to vilify or marginalize the movement for a clean energy economy, the leading groups deserve increased support. This is the year to ensure that the clean energy transformation creates jobs opportunities for everyone in America.

3. Spread the green jobs gospel. The ideas of the green jobs movement are grounded in fundamental American values- innovation, entrepreneurship, and equal opportunity. My true thoughts can be found in my book: The Green Collar Economy. Check it out from the library- or order a copy and share it with a friend. See for yourself why clean energy and green jobs are good for our country.

4. Stay connected and speak up for me via your favorite blogs (e.g. Huffington Post, Grist, Jack & Jill, etc.), on message boards and all of your favorite social networking platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Supporters have set up a couple of them, to help you stay engaged, including I Stand With Van Jones and I Love Van Jones.

In due course, I will be offering my perspective on what has happened- including correcting the record about false charges. In the meantime, I must get my family affairs in order and sort through numerous offers and options.

I want to be clear that I have nothing but love and admiration for President Obama and the entire administration. White House staffers are there to serve and support the President, not the other way around. At this critical moment in history, I could not in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. The White House needs all its hands on deck, fighting for the future. Of course, some supporters actually think I will be more effective on the "outside." Maybe so. But those ideas always remind me of that old canard about Winston Churchill. After he lost a hard-fought election, a friend told him: "Winston, this really is just a blessing in disguise." Churchill quipped: "Damned good disguise." I can certainly relate to that sentiment right now. :)

Nonetheless, we must keep moving forward. Let's continue our work to make an America as good as its promise. These are historic times. And we have a lot more history to make.

Sincerely,

Van Jones


15.9.09

Pants on Fire

Conservative media just loves to get you riled up, even when they aren't necessarily telling the truth. A few weeks ago FoxNews ranted and raved over a UNESCO Public Health Report which suggested sexual education for children under the age of 10. According to the lunatics at Fox, the main point of the UNESCO report, which was geared toward reducing rates of HIV and STI transmissions worldwide, was that the U.N. was advocating to "Teach Masturbation to 5 Year Olds." And Life News brilliantly reported that the UNESCO guidelines "Call on Children to Promote Abortions." Wow. Way to miss the point, guys. Instead of focusing on the fact that UNESCO was attempting to reduce the number of children who engage in dangerous sexual activity at increasingly younger ages by providing educational guidelines that could be implemented by teachers worldwide, they fell back on their small-minded "beliefs" about what children that age "should" be learning.

In fact, what the guidelines suggest is actually a gradual exposure to issues of sexuality, starting at ages 5-8, when basic sexual topics are explored, and becoming increasingly detailed as children age, culminating with a curriculum for 12-15 year olds about contraception, abortion, and abortion alternatives, including the risks of improvised pregnancy terminations.

Considering that at the end of 2007, 30 million people worldwide were living with HIV, 2 million of those being children, it would seem as if any measure necessary to impede the spread of this deathly illness would be a positive measure. But in the skewed world of Christian extremism, voiced by the right-wing punditry, outdated morals and cultural elitism are more important than working to solve a global epidemic.

What is frightening is the power that these pundits have to coerce us into agreeing with them by using sensationalized, and even falsified information. It is absolutely misleading to report that UNESCO wants to teach masturbation to children. In fact, according to Time magazine, the 102 page UNESCO document mentions masturbation only five times, twice to explain to 5-8 year olds what the term actually means. So beware the lying pundits, because if they can stretch the truth on a matter as important as children's health, there's no telling what else they could do to try and sway our opinions. They insult our intelligence by thinking they can make up our minds on our behalf, but we are stronger than they think. We have the ability to make a distinction between right and wrong despite and without any zealous persuasion. We are stronger than they think.

Thought is free. Peace.