Monday, August 25, 2014


What is Women’s Equality Day? 

At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.

The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, or other activities.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The High Price of Materialism

Wondering about Consumerism: The Story of Stuff
Wondering about Consumerism: The Story of Stuff
Wondering about Consumerism: The Story of Stuff
Wondering about Consumerism: The Story of Stuff
Wondering about Consumerism: The Story of Stuff
Wondering About Consumerism: The Story of Stuff

Click on this YouTube video link to view The High Price of Materialism.

Monday, August 11, 2014

10 Vital Steps to Peace in Syria

Ban Ki-moon: The values for which the United Nations stands are at stake. We must not abandon the Syrian people to cruelty and crisis.
··         Ban Ki-moonBan Ki-moon
·      The Guardian, Thursday 26 June 2014 12.14 EDT
Sawssan  Abdelwahab, who fled Idlib in Syria, with her two children
Conquering territory through aerial bombardments into densely populated civilian neighbourhoods is not a victory. Starving besieged communities into surrender is not a victory.' Photograph: Zohra Bensemra / Reuters/Reuters
The horrific war in Syria continues to worsen and bleed beyond its borders. A cold calculation seems to be taking hold: that little can be done except to arm the parties and watch the conflict rage.

The death toll may now be well over 150,000. Prisons and makeshift detention facilities are swelling with men, women and even children. Deaths by summary execution and unspeakable torture are widespread. People are also dying from hunger and once rare infectious diseases. Whole urban centres and some of humankind's great architectural and cultural heritage lie in ruins. Syria today is increasingly a failed state.

The United Nations has tried hard to address the conflict's deep roots and devastating impact. Our humanitarian and other efforts are saving lives and reducing suffering. But our fundamental objective – an end to the conflict – remains unmet. The bleak prospects for peace have darkened further with the flare-up of violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq. The cohesion and integrity of two major countries, not just one, are in question.

But the international community must not abandon the people of Syria and the region to never-ending waves of cruelty and crisis. The following six points can chart a principled and integrated way forward. 
1. Ending the violence

Residents wait to receive UN food aid at the al-Yarmouk camp
Residents wait for UN food aid at al-Yarmouk camp south of Damascus. 
Photograph: Handout/Reuters
It is irresponsible for foreign powers to give continued military support to parties in Syria that are committing atrocities and flagrantly violating fundamental principles of human rights and international law. I have urged the United Nations security council to impose an arms embargo. The sides will have to sit across from each other again at the negotiating table. How many more people must die before they get there?  
2. Protecting people 
The UN manages a huge humanitarian relief effort. But the Syrian government continues to impose unconscionable access restrictions; it has removed medical supplies from aid convoys and deliberately starved and collectively punished communities it regards as sympathetic to the opposition. Some rebel groups have acted similarly. Moreover, the international community has provided barely a third of the funding needed for the relief effort. I continue to appeal for an end to the sieges and for unfettered humanitarian access across internal front lines and international borders.  
3. Starting a serious political process 
The warring parties systematically blocked the relentless initiatives of two of the world's leading diplomats, Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi. The presidential election earlier this month was a further blow, and failed to meet even minimal standards for credible voting. I will soon name a new special envoy to pursue a political solution and a transition to a new Syria. Regional countries have a special responsibility to help end this war. I welcome recent contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and hope that they will build confidence and reverse a destructive competition in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. Syrian civil society groups are making courageous efforts to maintain the fabric of society and keep open channels of solidarity and communication. 
4. Ensuring accountability for serious crimes
Refugees flee to Turkey via the Orontes River 
Refugees cross from Syria to Turkey via the Orontes river in December 2012. 
Photograph: Manu Brabo/AP
Last month, a resolution that aimed to refer the conflict to the international criminal court failed to pass the security council. I ask those member states that say no to the ICC, but say they support accountability in Syria, to come forward with credible alternatives. The Syrian people have a right to justice and action against impunity. 
5. Finishing the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria 
The UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have worked together to destroy or remove from the country all of the declared materials in a once large arsenal. Many member states have provided critical resources and support for this challenging task, which was undertaken in an active war zone and which will now be completed at various destruction facilities outside Syria. While almost all of the killing in Syria is being done with conventional weapons, it has been essential to reinforce the global norm banishing the production and use of chemical weapons. 
6. Addressing the regional dimensions of the conflict, including the extremist threat 
Foreign fighters are in action on both sides, increasing the level of violence and exacerbating sectarian hatreds. While we should not blindly accept the Syrian government's demonisation of all the opposition as terrorists, neither should we be blinded to the real threat of terrorists in Syria. The world must come together to eliminate funding and other support for Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The latter is also a threat to all communities in Iraq. It is crucial for the region's leaders, political and religious, to call for restraint and to avoid a spiral of attack and reprisal.
Syrian refugees at a protest against Assad in Turkey 
Syrian refugees at a protest against Bashar Al-Assad at a refugee camp in Antakya, Turkey, in March 2012. Photograph: Aykut Unlupinar/Anadolou/EPA
For the moment, the greatest obstacle to ending the Syrian war is the notion that it can be won militarily. I reject the current narrative that the government of Syria is "winning". Conquering territory through aerial bombardments in densely populated civilian neighbourhoods is not a victory. Starving besieged communities into surrender is not a victory. Even if one side were to prevail in the short term, the devastating toll will have sown the seeds of future conflict.
Dangerous sectarian tensions, massive movements of refugees, daily atrocities and spreading instability make the civil war in Syria a global threat. All the values for which we stand, and all the reasons for which the UN exists, are at stake across the devastated landscape that is Syria today. The time is long past for the international community, in particular the security council, to uphold its responsibilities.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Are We Losing Our Human Rights?


'The world stands disgraced' - Israeli shelling of school kills at least 15
• UN condemns IDF attack on sleeping children as violation of international law    The Guardian

The Fourth Geneva Convention contains a number of articles which provide special protection to children. The events of two world wars, clearly established the need for special protection to children; that “children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault. The Parties to the conflict shall provide them with the care and aid they require, whether because of their age or for any other reason.

Wars kill people, including teachers in their classrooms, nurses in their hospitals, and farmers in their fields. But when children die in the hail of steel soldiers direct at one another there is a special kind of obscenity. Children have no agency, not even the slightest shred of the responsibility or complicity that adults to one degree or another may possess.