Monday, November 30, 2009

Well, it's about time

Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson has issued a statement condemning the pending Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country's anti-homosexuality laws saying it would be a "terrible violation of the human rights of an already persecuted minority."

Anderson was responding to a Nov. 16 request that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Archbishop Henri Orombi of Uganda and she speak out against the legislation. Anderson is the first to issue a statement.

The Voice in the Wilderness

Malalai Joya on Dear Leader's impending escalation of troops in her country:
After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country.

I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week's announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.
Read all of Ms Joya's plea here.

H/T to RickB at Ten Percent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food for Thought on this First Sunday of Advent

The Bush Administration called them "nutritional aid." On its front page today, the New York times reports at length on the growing number of people on food stamps and the stigma of relying on them for groceries has faded.

Episcopal Cafe, however, links to another story in the Houston Chronicle about a Houston attorney who wants to close The Beacon, a program sponsored by Christ Church Cathedral, which helps the homeless in the city center.

According to The Beacon's web site, the four-day-a-week service "[provides] hot meals, clothing, private shower and lavatory facilities, laundry services, and case management to people living on the streets of Houston," all in hopes of eventually getting people off the street.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Arthur's suit is based the simple fact that since The Beacon came on the scene, his business has been compromised.

“What started as a good and noble idea has instead grown and turned into a danger to the health and safety of others in the adjacent areas,” the suit states. “The individuals sing, play music, dance, fight and (do) other undesirable activities. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, when The Beacon's operation is closed, things are once again quiet and pleasant.”

Cathedral leadership remains clear-eyed.

“The Cathedral is engaged in the business of feeding the hungry and caring for the poor, as it has been for 170 years,” [Christ Church Cathedral Dean Joe] Reynolds said. “Any time you do that, there are going to be challenges involved. We try to address those challenges. We have a stake in being good neighbors in ways that are consistent with the mission we have as a Christian community.”


“This is nothing new... We don't want to go about it in a cavalier way, but the Christian community has been in the business of feeding the hungry for 2,000 years. We're not going to stop.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Burlington: The temperature's rising, it isn't surprising...

As we enjoy warmish, almost sultry, November days in Burlington, it's getting too darn hot around City Hall. On Thursday evening, John Odum at GMD wrote about new, bitter, heated letter exchanges surrounding this continuing, messier saga of Burlington Telecom and Mayor Bob Kiss's administration. He ends with,
"It's amazing to read this while considering how different the whole situation would now be if Kiss and Leopold had simply had a tried-and-true "mistakes were made," mea culpa-ridden press conference and pledged to work with the council when this all broke in the first place."
"Mistakes were made" and "mea culpa" are not the same. The former is in the passive voice, the latter, in the active. "Tried and true"? Nah, there's a lack of responsibility and accountability which doesn't cut it. All politicians rely on it with crossed fingers - moving on and hoping that settles it. A cloudy murk has settled over the Kiss administration. I don't think this is what the city's Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency had in mind when it met a few years ago. Why is it so hard to say "I am sorry, and I pledge to do better"?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Houston LBGTs in Mourning

Sad news - two stories via the Houston Press.

The Houston Voice has been given the axe. The paper had been around since the mid 1970s, and I read it regularly when I lived in Montrose. Apparently the paper had been in trouble for quite some time.
The chain that publishes the Houston Voice and other gay-community papers nationwide -- including the venerable Washington Blade -- has gone kaput.

Gawker and other media are reporting that Window Media, the financially strapped company that owns more gay news titles than any other chain, has shut everything down.

The Houston Voice website now gives you an error message, and the phone "is no longer in service."

Oh Mary! The venerable Mary's Lounge at Westheimer and Montrose has closed! I could tell you stories!
Mary's, the bar that many people think of as the gay bar in Houston history, is no more, a victim of unpaid rent.

But there's a scramble going on to try to keep as much of the place as possible, as a way to preserve a cornerstone of Houston's gay past.

A Facebook page has been set up to encourage ways to get artifacts from the 40-year-old place.

"The old sign with Ronald Reagan smoking that hung in the bathroom?" writes one commenter. "The old 'Mary's' sign that hung outside the building on the patio? What about any of the artifacts stored in the back building? Or some of the items from the back patio, like the motorcycle and statue?"

Tim Brookover, an activist in the gay community, is urging the GLBT Community Center board to get active in saving whatever can be saved. "Mary's contains a number of objects and artifacts that are significant to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender heritage," he says. "Our ad hoc Mary's heritage group, spearheaded by the GLBT Community Center, is seeking to get access to Mary's and, we hope, permission to remove at least some of the items. At the very least, we hope to document what is left with photography."

If those walls could speak...
Photo of Mary's mural (now gone) by eatcorndie on Flickr.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Chemical Reaction at Main Street Landing, Burlington

A Chemical Reaction - Trailer from Brett Plymale on Vimeo.

The documentary, A Chemical Reaction, will be shown at the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, November 18, at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. An opening reception with the director and narrator will be held at 5:30. Tickets are $10 and available through the Flynn Box office (863-5966 or The film tells the story of how one person helped create one of the most extensive chemical bans in North America.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Study finds relationship between Community Water Fluoridation and Premature Births in Upstate NY

The New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation (NYSCOF) sent out a news release on a new study that links fluoride to premature births in New York. According to NYSCOF, "State University of New York (SUNY) researchers found more premature births in fluoridated than non-fluoridated upstate New York communities, according to a presentation made at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting on November 9, 2009 in Philadelphia."

According to the study by Hart et al.,
"... Domestic water fluoridation was associated with an increased risk of PTB [preterm birth] (9545 (6.34%) PTB among women exposed to domestic water fluoridation versus 25278 (5.52%) PTB among those unexposed, p <>10% poverty) and those of non-white racial origin. Domestic water fluoridation was independently associated with an increased risk of PTB in logistic regression, after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, neighborhood poverty level, hypertension, and diabetes..."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Scared Shitless in Holland

Yesterday, using old "intelligence," police in The Hague raided a house they thought was full of illegal immigrants, but was actually a hostel for women and children. What's interesting is the perspective of two headlines for the same story.

24oranges: "Police traumatise women and children by mistake" "Police raid women's hostel by accident"

Welch calls for investigation of Blackwater

Although Peter Welch voted with Republican wackos in September to defund ACORN without the House calling for an investigation, it's nice to know he reads Jeremy Scahill.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Transformed: A soldier who became a man of peace

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world Into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today is the Feast of St Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397.
"The Feast of Martin, a soldier who fought bravely and faithfully in the service of an earthly sovereign, and then enlisted in the service of Christ, is also the day of the Armistice which marked the end of the First World War. On it we remember those who have risked or lost their lives in what they perceived as the pursuit of justice and peace."

Icon by the hand of Br. Leon Liddament, St. Seraphim's Studio, Walsingham, England. View more icons of St Martin here.
"In olden days in England, St. Martin was an extremely popular Saint, and his feast ushered in the great fast before Nativity. When St. Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Kent, he found in Canterbury a Christian church, ancient even then, dedicated to St. Martin. The location can still be seen in modern-day Canterbury."
See St Martin's Church, Canterbury, the oldest church in England still in use - here.

Collect for today:
Lord God of hosts, who clothed your servant Martin the soldier With the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Human Rights Activist Shadi Sadr Receives a 'Tulip'

Shadi Sadr (35) is an Iranian lawyer and human right activist. Together with 2003 Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi, she is one of the most outspoken advocates for women's rights in Iran. She is the founder of Raahi, an organisation that provided legal advice to poor women until it was shut down by the regime, and she campaigned against stoning, a punishment mainly used against women.

The Dutch government has given her 2009 Human Rights Defenders Tulip for "her exceptional courage, perseverance and work in an environment of concern, where human rights are repeatedly violated," in the words of foreign minister Maxime Verhagen.
Sadr herself was arrested in July and detained for almost two weeks in the infamous Erin prison. She was interrogated not just about the protests by the opposition or her work for women's rights, "but about everything: conferences, contacts with foreigners, my whole life," she says in an interview with NRC Handelsblad.

"I was branded as one of the leaders of the women's department of the velvet revolution," Sadr says. (The Iranian authorities have accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the regime by means of a 'velvet revolution' at the instigation of foreign powers.)
It has been determined that prisoners have been tortured to death during interrogations. The opposition has also accused the authorities of rape

Sadr was not subjected to physical torture herself. "But at one point I was interrogated while in front of me more than a dozen young men were being mistreated. To me this was real torture. After half an hour I was numb. I was in a nightmare."

Her release was the result of internal and international pressure, she says. She was made to post the equivalent of 250,000 euros bail.

Sadr says she wants to go back to Iran, "but not to prison". For the moment she is living in Germany, where she has been given a 6-month scholarship for scientific research.

She is nevertheless "very optimistic" about the democratic future of her country. "It is a long process, and the costs will be high. But last week's demonstration has shown the government cannot afford to let down its guard for a minute. The security forces are being more aggressive than ever, and the opposition is braver than ever. There is fear, this is undeniable, and there is oppression, but people took to the streets regardless."

More Video of Abused Calves at Vermont Slaughter Plant

WARNING: Very graphic images:

This was at an organic farm in Grand Isle, Vermont skinning a still-living and squirming cow. USDA inspectors were present during the abuse. The Humane Society of the United States went undercover. FoxNews44 reports that the seven-week long investigation led to suspending operations at the Vermont slaughterhouse. The State of Vermont has not yet filed criminal charges - so please sign the petition for it to happen! There will be a Justice for the Calves Rally Saturday, Nov 14 in Montpelier, VT, in front the Statehouse, from 11 AM - 1 PM.

Best of Texas: Lyle Lovett

"Natural Forces," the new CD from Lyle Lovett is out. MadPriest has some more tracks from it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beatrix visits Mexico

Blauw Bloed has a summary of the just-completed State Visit of HM Queen Beatrix to our neighbour in the south - Mexico, broadcast on Dutch tv yesterday evening:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Houston: No more moderately priced rentals in Montrose?

From 1986 to 2000, I lived in Richmont Square apartment complex in the Montrose area of Houston, close to the University of St Thomas. The property is owned by the Menil Foundation - Dominque de Menil placed her fantastic art collection in the Menil Museum, on Sul Ross, just behind Richmont Square. Rice, University of Houston, St Thomas students and Texas Medical Center staff lived there amid amazingly tall live oaks. The site had been previously owned by an order of Roman Catholic nuns who stipulated that the trees not be cut down, when they sold the property.

Now the foundation plans to demolish the 495 unit complex to replace it with...who knows what. Good-bye reasonable rents in the near-town!?
... its board has already approved a master plan that would clear much of the area for galleries, sculptures and program-related buildings.

However, the details on exactly what would replace Richmont Square remain part of “a flexible plan” that will likely not be implemented for “five or 10 years, even longer,” according to Vance Muse, communications director for Menil.

“We now have to decide how to implement it, emphasizing careful growth,” Muse said.

In its current form, the approved master plan for the Menil-owned area, adjacent to Richmond Avenue, calls for dense residential use and commercial development.
Will the character of an already changing character of the Montrose be changed for ever?
“We’d like to keep it bohemian, if at all possible,” he said. “There has always been a commitment (by Menil) to offering a break.”

If not, Richmont Square would join the ranks of other large, moderately priced rental properties in the area that have been replaced in recent years by more expensive dwellings — or by nothing at all.

Related Posts on Richmont Square and the Menil:

Photo of Richmont Square parking lot courtesy River Oaks Examiner; photo of the Menil courtesy of the Menil Museum.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Local Vermont:"Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States" at UVM

The national art exhibit "Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States" will open at UVM’s Davis Center’s Fireside Lounge on November 9th and run through the 20th.
The exhibit, designed to offer insight into the lives of women who are incarcerated, raises questions about the equality and equity of the American justice system through race, class, gender and sexuality. The effects of incarceration on Vermont children and their families will be on display in the form of artwork, writings and photography produced by women incarcerated at the Northwest State Correctional facility in Swanton, Vt. A video created by teenagers telling the story of what it is like to have a parent in prison will also be shown.

81-year old Episcopal Priest Tasered by AF Base Police

One of the unofficial USAF mottoes is "No one comes close." Well they've certainly lived up to it.

Fairbanks (AK) Daily News-Miner
An 81-year-old man was Tasered during a traffic stop last week.

It is the second time since 1998 that police have had to make a show of force during a traffic stop to arrest Glen M. Wilcox, a Fairbanks-based Episcopalian priest and real estate agent.

Court documents allege that officers with Eielson Air Force Base’s 354th Security Forces Squadron pulled Wilcox over just after 1 p.m. Wednesday for going 11 miles over the speed limit on the Richardson Highway.

An officer, identified as a senior airman in court documents, took Wilcox’s license, registration and proof of insurance and wrote him a traffic citation. When he returned to Wilcox’s car, Wilcox refused to accept the documents and sped down the highway, according to a criminal complaint filed in court.

Wilcox disputes that version of events.
Undernews has more taser torture updates here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Consumer Reports Finds BPA in Nearly All Canned Food Samples

This is a very big deal.

In the wake of a new Consumer Reports study that found BPA in common, name-brand canned goods, The Breast Cancer Fund, Clean WaterAction, Clean New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Toxics Alliance and other environmental health advocates support Consumers Union's call for the FDA to immediately act to protect consumers from BPA. Read the full CU press release is here (and check out the link to the findings, listing the products to avoid!)

Here is an excerpt:
Consumer Reports’ latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain measurable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). The new findings show that BPA can be found in a diverse assortment of canned foods including those labeled “organic,” and even in some foods packaged in “BPA-free” cans. Consumer Reports’ tests of a few comparable products in alternative types of packaging showed lower levels of BPA in most, but not all cases. The results are reported in the December 2009 issue and are also available free online at “The findings are noteworthy because they indicate the extent of potential exposure,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy, at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies. The lack of any safety margin between the levels that cause harm in animals and those that people could potentially ingest from canned foods has been inadequately addressed by the FDA to date.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soon expected to announce the findings of its most recent reassessment of the safety of BPA. Consumers Union hopes it will remedy some of the deficiencies of its previous analysis. BPA has been linked to a wide array of health effects including reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
Toxic BPA is a problem - it's used to line canned foods - even ORGANIC canned food - tomatoes, soups & more. It's linked to breast cancer & testicular cancer. Protect your health - return your risky canned goods to your grocer.

The CU Reports article in the December 2009 issue is here.

In September, I attended a conference in Burlington, VT, "A Critical Link," sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, where we heard from national leading experts in the field of environmental health talking about the effects of toxins on men, women and children. Along with other toxins that effect our health, the use of BPA was mentioned. CCTV Channel 17 in Burlington has on-line Part 1 and Part 2 of the conference. Highly recommended! If you are in Burlington, Channel 17 will also rebroadcast Part 1 at 2:00 PM and Part 2 at 3:41 PM on Sunday November 8.

Midnight Roadkill on 7D's Stuck in Vermont!

Midnight Roadkill received coverage prior to its premiere at the Vermont Horror Festival last weekend. As of this afternoon, MRK has had 254 views! Seven Day's Eva Sollberger was there on Friday and reported on it in today's Stuck in Vermont blog post on Blurt. She interviewed Owen Mulligan, the director extraordinaire of Midnight Roadkill, too.

About Last Night....

Here's Jon Stewart's brilliant take. He does a swell job at pointing up the shallowness of the MSM pundits pontificating for those who are too dumb.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2009 - Reindecision 2008 And Beyond
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Breaking: Maine has voted no to marriage equality

Conservative bigotry again shows its ugly ass. From the Boston Globe:

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine voters overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law yesterday, delivering a potentially crushing blow to gay-rights advocates after a year when their cause seemed to be gaining momentum with legislative and legal victories in four states.

As the ballot counting continued well past midnight, the margin continued to grow - with 52.7 percent of voters in favor of the repeal - and the Associated Press called the contest in favor of gay-marriage foes shortly before 1 a.m.

The “people’s veto’’ came six months after Maine’s law was approved, and one year after California voters rejected gay marriage by a similar margin.

“This is an amazing moment. It’s beyond words,’’ said Mary Conroy, spokeswoman for Yes on 1/Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization leading the fight against same-sex marriage in Maine. “I feel energized, overcome, overjoyed for the family and the people of Maine.

“Clearly, this tonight is the people of Maine speaking.’’

Gay marriage advocates, who gathered in a ballroom at a Portland hotel, spent much of the evening dancing and cheering, but grew more subdued as the hours passed and the votes favoring a repeal of the gay-marriage law pulled steadily ahead.

No on 1 campaign manager Jesse Connolly vowed to continue counting votes into this morning, but even he seemed to concede that they had lost this battle.

But voters approved marijuana dispensaries.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Vote on Goldstone Report today

Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the sponsor of HR867, screams bloody murder against a report that has shown Israel committed atrocities against Palestinian civilians. Don't forget that the report also condemned Hamas's rocket attacks against Israel. Go here to see co-sponsors. They all know the truth, but not one gives a shit. Michael Ratner, writing yesterday at Mondoweiss, urges that Congress should first hear from Judge Goldstone and call him to testify before taking a vote,
This Resolution is a rush to judgment. It is a rush to judgment made on the basis of serious factual errors and mischaracterizations of the Goldstone Report. The Goldstone Report documents in a dispassionate and even-handed manner “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed by all parties prior to, during, and after Israel’s assault on the occupied Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009.

Arar lawsuit dismissed

"I promised myself one thing, that I will continue my quest for justice as long as I have breath." -- Maher Arar talks in 2007 about his experience of extraordinary rendition.
From the Globe and Mail today: In the United States, judges have determined that Maher Arar's complaint of CIA "extraordinary rendition" is merely a potential case of "graymail" against Washington - the equivalent of blackmail against government agencies in the shades-of-grey intelligence world.

In dismissing the lawsuit known as "Arar v. Ashcroft" yesterday, a U.S. appellate court expressed fear that going forward could prompt dangerous disclosures of state secrets.
A vocal - and seemingly outraged - minority on the Second Circuit complained that their colleagues' disregard for Mr. Arar's rights smacked of "utter subservience" to presidential authority.

Lost in the talk of "graymail," they said, was the suffering of a torture victim. "A person - whom we must assume a) was totally innocent and b) was made to suffer excruciatingly and c) through the misguided deeds of individuals acting under color of federal law is effectively left without a U.S. remedy," dissenting judge Guido Calabresi wrote.

Always that fucking excuse of the powerful about state secrets privilege to avoid responsibility.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"For the saints of God are just folk like me, And I mean to be one too."

From a sermon for the Feast of All Saints preached by the Rev'd Jonathan Haggar (aka MadPriest), Rector of the Church of St Francis, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. This is an excerpt, but the whole sermon is worth the read.
Who we refer to as saints is down to us. Your are well within your rights to refer to the old lady who lives next door, who will agree to babysit your kids at a moments notice so that you can go out, a living saint. Why not? And the churches are free to choose who they want to, officially, call saints. The conferring of sainthood on earth is a human thing and is completely different to the sainthood that God bestows on God's people.

Now, of course, I would say this, but I think the Anglican churches have got the best system when it comes to choosing its saints. Our church always waits for fifty years after a prospective saint dies before it considers making that person a saint officially, unless a person dies a martyrs death, in which case they can be fast tracked through without having to wait half a century. In other words, we like to make sure nothing embarrassing is going to turn up, concerning a person's life before we start handing out the honours. But we do not insist that the candidate performs any miracles after leaving this mortal coil. In other words, sainthood in the Anglican churches is about what a person does on earth, while they are alive. And I think that is a very important thing to remember. Anglican sainthood is about flesh and blood, living human beings. That means that, ontologically speaking, a saint is no different to any of us. To put it into non-academic terms, they are made of the same stuff and they have the same potential to do good or to bad as all of us. And the flipside of that coin is that we are exactly the same in being and potential as those who end up having their names commemorated in our church calendar.