In the Long Shadow of 9/11

Though the towers of the World Trade Center cast a shadow no more, their destruction by Muslim extremists casts an enduring shadow upon those of similar ethnicity and/or faith. To be a Muslim or Middle Easterner visiting or residing in the United States is to be automatically suspect. That is decidedly unreasonable. Hysteria and prejudice offer scant warmth against the chill of violence and extemism. The answer to intolerance is not more intolerance. Safety is compromised not enhanced by actions which marginalize or antagonize those deemed suspect. When will those in positions of authority, whether they be representatives of Congress such as Virgil Goode (R-VA) or officials in the Department of Homeland Security, recognize the error of their ways?

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Muslim traveller mistreated in Pinellas County Jail

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has apologized to a Muslim traveller strip-searched at the Pinellas County Jail after being detained at Tampa International Airport in April.

Federal agents said they denied Spanish citizen Safana Jawad entry to the U.S. on April 11 because she was suspected of being associated with someone they view as suspicious.

Jawad, 45, was taken to the jail, strip-searched according to protocol and held in a maximum security cell for two days. She was never told the identity of the suspicious person.

Jawad, who was born in Iraq, had flown to the United States to visit her son, H., 16, who then lived in Clearwater with her ex-husband, Ahmad Maki Kubba.

Jawad was deported to England on April 13 and has since filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security about being mistreated by customs officials as well as staff at the Pinellas County Jail.

In a letter dated Dec. 8, the Department of Homeland Security apologized only for the strip search.

“On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, I offer you my sincere apology for having to undergo a strip search,” wrote Timothy J. Keefer, deputy officer and acting chief counsel for the department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which handles complaints.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security would not release the name of the suspicious person Jawad was suspected of being associated with and would not comment on whether they believe she was rightfully detained.

Attached to the letter with no explanation was a photocopy of a notice that tells Transportation Security Administration officials about Muslim head coverings and how to treat Muslim travellers respectfully when searching them. [full text]

[In the Long Shadow of 9/11 -- Part II]

Warming to Vegetarianism?

In a previous post, Kiersten noted recent research suggesting that individuals—such as yours truly—who maintain a vegetarian diet appear to have higher IQs. There is also a good deal of evidence to suggest that vegetarians are healthier. Now, there is reason to believe that we are less detrimental to the environment, as well.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Blaming the bovines

As it turns out, Americans may have been blaming the wrong culprit for global warming. A new United Nations report finds it’s not being caused so much by our gas-guzzling SUVs as by our guzzling of oversized steaks, chops and burgers.

It may be time to exonerate the global auto industry and point the finger of blame at businesses like Omaha Steaks, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse and Morton’s of Chicago that put profits — and well-fed customers — over cooler air.

The U.N.’s “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report suggests the world’s vast cattle herds actually emit more of those nasty greenhouse gases that increase climate heat than all the “cars, planes and other forms of transport put together.”

The 400-page report notes a disproportionate portion of global warming gases are created by the bovine’s persistent belching and flatulence as well as the byproducts as they’re fattened for the slaughterhouse.

The feed consumed by America’s 1.5 billion cattle, for instance, require fertilizer produced with fuels that spew massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere — unnaturally raising its temperature.

Including both fertilizer and vegetation lost to grazing pasture, our nation’s love affair with beef accounts for nearly 10 percent of all emissions of CO2, the most common greenhouse gas.

Further, their flatulence and manure emit more than one-third of methane, another greenhouse gas, which warms the world 20 times faster than CO2. And cattle produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain. [full text]

Announcing “Countdown to Change” Blogging Collaboration

Three Rhode Island Blogs Launch “Countdown to Change� to
Monitor the First 100 Hours of the New Congress

In an unprecedented act of web-based collaboration, three of Rhode Island’s most popular Blogs, RIFuture.org, Kmareka.com, and Pat-Crowley.org, announce that they will provide collective coverage of the first 100 hours of the new Democratic Congress to provide Rhode Islanders with immediate and comprehensive access to the actions of Rhode Island’s four Democratic Congressmen and the new Democratic Congress.

During the fall campaign, Democratic leaders promised to make substantial changes during the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress in 7 key areas: Lobbying reform and fiscal accountability; Increasing the Minimum Wage; Making college more affordable; Making health care more affordable by passing legislation to negotiate lower prescription drug prices; Allowing stem cell research; Implementing the 9/11 recommendations and Rolling back subsidies to the big oil companies.

The three Bloggers have agreed to work together to discover if Congress will enact the changes that will put America on a better course for working families, the elderly, college students, and healthcare consumers.

Kiersten Marek of Kmareka.com said: “We are parents, professionals, and citizens who want to see America achieve a more participatory democracy. We are using one of the most powerful new tools of communication to try to improve our democracy – publishing Blogs that keep citizens updated about the workings of our legislature, the passing of laws, and the impact those laws will have on all our lives.�

Matt Jerzyk of RIFuture.org said: “It was clear in the last election that Rhode Islanders were repudiating the policies of the Republican Congress and demanding more accountability of the Bush Administration. Our Blogs came together to make sure that the promise of Democratic change becomes a reality in the first 100 hours. We will give Rhode Islanders immediate access to the most important policy reforms promised by the new Democratic Congress as well as in-depth analysis of each piece of legislation and its path through Congress.�

Pat Crowley of Pat-Crowley.org said: “We hope this first of its kind collaboration will provide a launching pad for citizen activists. Anyone can just report the news, but the Countdown to Change project will go beyond the headlines and provide research links, activist opportunities, interviews, and news without the filters put in place by the mainstream media.�

The project goes live on January 4th, the day the 110th Congress gets sworn in. The Bloggers will cross-post their reports on each of their Blogs and provide interviews with members of congress and other key policy makers.

Touching News

File this news item from the Washington Post under “Researching the Obvious”:

Spouses Have A Hand in Quelling Anxiety

Husbands and wives lean on each other, but it turns out that lending a hand is good, too.

Research published in this month’s edition of the journal Psychological Science found that women facing a stressful event experienced less anxiety when they held their husbands’ hands.

In the study, 16 married women underwent a series of trials in which they were shown an image of a red X, indicating a 20 percent chance of a mild electric shock to an ankle, or a blue O, indicating no chance of a shock. Each woman variously held the hand of her husband, a stranger or no hand at all.

Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to assess how the women’s brains responded. Holding any hand helped relax the women, they found, but holding the spouse’s hand had an especially powerful effect.

“Holding any hand at all calms regions of the brain that are responsible for the body’s physical stress response,” said neuroscientist James A. Coan of the University of Virginia, the study’s lead author. “But only the spousal hand affected regions of the brain that are responsible for worrying. . . . This is the region which is thought to be associated with your experience of pain.”

The findings are in line with other research showing that social ties have beneficial effects on health. Married people are, on average, healthier and happier than unmarried people, researchers have found. And those in the happiest marriages tend to have lower risks of infection and faster recovery from injury than people in less blissful unions. Similarly, although all of the couples in the experiment rated themselves as happily married, women in the most satisfying marriages experienced the most potent calming effect of holding their husbands’ hands. [full text]

Future research will undoubtedly be devoted to determining if men experience less anxiety when their spouses hold their _____. Other studies will presumably substitute any meaningful human contact with clinical trials of Soothera or Embracex or some such magic pill.

Of Past and Present Leaders

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule.�

These words, of course, were uttered more than three decades ago by Gerald Ford upon assuming the presidency. They echo still…though, sadly, they now ring more hollow than true. At the time Ford took office, the American public had been worn down by years of scandal and tragedy—including an unpopular war—presided over by men of boundless arrogance and scant ethics. In short, it was a time not unlike the present.

But no resignation is forthcoming from the current occupant of the White House. No threat of impeachment looms. No one of any solid character and integrity is waiting in the wings. Our long national nightmare is not over.

Upon hearing news of Gerald Ford’s death, President Bush gave a brief statement, in which he offered his condolences and words of praise:

During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.

Americans will always admire Gerald Ford’s unflinching performance of duty and the honorable conduct of his administration, and the great rectitude of the man himself. [full text]

It is difficult to disagree with this assessment of the former President. It is difficult, also, to imagine any future President eulogizing George W. Bush in such a fashion. To put it mildly, there is a great decency divide between the two leaders.

After Watergate and Vietnam, this nation could do worse than Gerald Ford. And so it has.

Gross Inequality

I am not typically one to employ Biblical quotes, but the news article which follows–and, gee, it’s been so widely reported–invites this classic: “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

From OneWorld.net:

Richest 2 Percent Own Half the World’s Wealth

The richest 2 percent of adults in the world own more than half the world’s wealth, according to a new study released by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University.

The study’s authors say their work is the most comprehensive study of personal wealth ever undertaken. They found the richest 1 percent of adults owned 40 percent of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85 percent of the world’s total.

In contrast, the assets of half of the world’s adult population account for barely 1 percent of global wealth.

“It reflects the extreme nature of inequality around the world,” one of the study’s authors, New York University Professor Edward Wolff, told OneWorld. “Yes, we are richer than Africa and Latin America and most of Asia, but how much richer is what hadn’t really been established until our study came out,” Wolff added.

According to the report, the average American’s wealth amounted to $144,000 in the year 2000, more than 100 times higher than the average Indian or Indonesian, whose assets totaled $1,100 and $1,400, respectively.

The study defined wealth as physical and financial assets–like personal savings and home, land, and stock ownership–less debts.

Besides the United States, only Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Israel showed average personal wealth of more than $50,000. [full text]

Yeah, and they only hate us for our freedom.

Complications of Diabetes

What happens when the challenges of managing an illness such as diabetes comes up against the challenges of managing a business, when the needs of an employee with a medical condition conflict in some measure with the needs of an employer to operate their business in a safe and cost-efficient manner? One would think that, in the early part of the 21st century, the law might lend some clarity to such issues. One would be wrong.

From the New York Times:

Diabetics in the Workplace Confront a Tangle of Laws

MINNEAPOLIS — John Steigauf spent more than a decade fiddling with the innards of those huge United Parcel Service trucks until an icy day two years ago when the company put him on leave from his mechanic’s job. A supervisor escorted him off the premises.

His work was good. He hadn’t socked the boss or embezzled money. It had to do with what was inside him: diabetes.

U.P.S. framed it as a safety issue: Mr. Steigauf’s blood sugar might suddenly plummet while he tested a truck, causing him to slam into someone.

Mr. Steigauf considered it discrimination, a taint that diabetes can carry. “I was regarded as a damaged piece of meat,� he said. “It was like, ‘You’re one of those, and we can’t have one of those.’ �

With 21 million American diabetics, disputes like this have increasingly rippled through the workplace:

¶A mortgage loan officer in Oregon was denied permission to eat at her desk to stanch her sugar fluctuations, and eventually was fired.

¶A Sears lingerie saleswoman in Illinois with nerve damage in her leg quit after being told she could not cut through a stockroom to reach her department.

¶A worker at a candy company in Wisconsin was fired after asking where he could dispose of his insulin needles.

In each instance, diabetics contend that they are being blocked by their employers from the near-normal lives their doctors say are possible. But the companies say they are struggling, too, with confusion about whether diabetes is a legitimate disability and with concern about whether it is overly expensive, hazardous and disruptive to accommodate the illness.

The debate will probably intensify. The number of diabetics in America swelled by 80 percent in the past decade. Experts say the disease is on its way to becoming a conspicuous fact of life in the nation’s labor force, raising all sorts of issues for workers and managers. [full text]