Thursday, January 29, 2009

Slavery in the Modern Age

One of the most horrific conditions to contemplate is the life of a 21st century slave, especially the women and children shackled in sex slavery. Siddharth Kara has written a book, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Listen to an interview with him this morning on KUOW and check out the links to his work at that site. He spent over 18 months traveling around the world documenting the lives of sex slaves. One of the conclusions he came to is that the most effective way of dealing a blow to this evil is to make it a failed economic enterprise. There are many ways each of us can get involved in dealing a blow to this horror. Check out these sites: and list of United Nations Agencies, Programmes, NGOs and Foundations working on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. See also my earlier post on 1 November 2008 on this issue and different ways to get involved.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

White House Farmer!

Who knew? How cool? We're going to have a White House Farmer to go with the White House Chef! And so far, one of the candidates from Washington State is in the lead. All the candidates from this state look great but read Carrie Ann Little's bio and platform and vote!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Those Russians Keep Doing It

The "new" Russians seem to have reverted back to their old Stalinist selves; the new FSB seems to be recycled KGB with a little more polish and chutzpa. They seem to have not learned the lesson that murder and skulduggery will not squash the truth. The recent murder of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, is yet another brazen move by Putin in an attempt to cover up the truth and frighten the public into their old submissive Soviet selves. The world press and legal eagles must stand up and defend the rights of freedom of information and a well-educated public, inorder that tyranny cannot prevail anywhere. For a chilling reminder of the bad old days, reread The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Mikhail Zoshchenko's Nervous People.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two Stories to Reflect On

Several weeks ago there was a story in either the FT or on the BBC about a physicist at Oxford who worked for many years on bringing cheap eyeglasses to the poor in developing countries. NPR covered the same story this morning. 2; The NYT ran a story on this man back in 2002; at that time the cost was $10/glasses; now the costs have been reduced to $3 and he is hoping to be able to bring them down to $1.

On the same NPR show today, was an interview with Benjamin Busch. I recalled hearing him and his father, Frederick Busch, interviewed several years ago and was struck by the love and respect each had for the other: the father had raised his son in a home dedicated to nonviolence; the son grew up to be a Marine, poet, director, and actor. The father died shortly after the joint interview; hear his son today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

John Ridley, Visible Man

Read/listen to John Ridley, Visible Man, on why Obama is the First Truly American President. The comments on his blog post are pretty pathetic and there seem to be none supporting his position.

Intrepid Gus Seeks New Adventure

Barbara (Gus' human) says he has never investigated pots before.
Notice. Sniff. Investigate. Participate. A lesson for us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A President Who Reads. A President Who Thinks.

To read in Sunday's New York Times Book Review that not only does President Obama value reading, and has done so all his life (this we knew), but that one of the top ten authors who had profound influence on him is Doris Lessing, in particular, The Golden Notebook, is astounding and heart warming. That we have a president who loves poetry, reads Shakespeare as well as American authors of depth and cultural influence, suggests a man with an imagination, an ability to think critically, and a leader who can engage in contemplation and evaluation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Internet Demons

I have spent 2.5 days battling trojans, Spyguard 2009,and other assorted aliens in my computer. I thought I had defeated them on Friday night at midnight. Today, they reduced me to a sobbing mess. A knight in shining armour is on the way to save my system on...Wednesday!
The picture is of Janissaries...the knights we don't often hear about....
who have a very interesting history for those of us interested in the Balkans and the Ottomans.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Indigenous Peoples

This photo is from the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East (RAIPON).

A post on her Open Salon blog by Smithbarney on 22 Oct 2008 about the plight of the Adivasis in India reminded me about the first time I heard about the Ainu people of Japan and when I later supported efforts to stop the government of Botswana from destroying the nomadic habits of the Bushmen. In the 1970's, friends visiting from Japan saw a book we had called Arts of the Eskimo: Prints by Ernest Roch. They were astounded at the similarity in style, feeling, aesthetics to the art of the Ainu. Since that time, I have been made aware many times over of the plight of indigenous people and how much we, as the human community, are losing in our knowledge of the world as these people occupy a smaller and smaller space in it. It is heartening, however, to know that there are many organisations and people involved in this struggle and many ways we can all get involved. At least one of these links should spark some interest and generate some action.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Paleontology, Physical Anthropology, Evolution, Jesuits

I learned only yesterday that on 25th November 2006, Édouard Boné, S.J passed away in a community for retired Jesuits in Brussels. He was a colleague of my father's and when I became aware of him at the age of 2, he became my Uncle Teddy. He was a professor of Paleontology and Anthropology; he was able to reconcile his spiritual calling with his academic calling in being able to explain and support the Theory of Evolution, as espoused by Charles Darwin. He introduced me to that very special human, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, thinker, philosopher, academic, Jesuit. See the portrait gallery of Paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History, Division of Paleontologists. Uncle Teddy was a very special friend to my parents and us children. He is missed.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oil, Art, Culture

Wallace Stegner is very dear to my heart as a novelist, humanist, and one of the first American intellectuals to attempt to debunk the Myth of the West (as in western USA) as a first step to saving the ecosystems of the land west of the Mississippi. Many years ago, while researching his writings in the American Authors Series, I came across a piece that he had written about the discovery of oil, "Discovery! The Dramatic Saga of the Search for Oil in the Arabian Sands". This book came out in 1971, and if I correctly recall, he was chastised by many for writing about that dirty word "oil". In finding this book, I also found out about a twice-monthly publication, at the time called Aramco World, now called Saudi Aramco World. This publication is available online and in paper copy. The stated purpose of the publication is to "broaden knowledge of of the cultures, history, and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their connections with the West". The articles are superbly researched, written, and the photography and layout superb. The current issue has virtual tours of Islamic art in ten physical locations around the world: its worth a visit!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Jewish Community that Bridged South Africa & Lithuania

In his blog entry on 6 January in the FT, Gideon Rachman pays tribute to Helen Suzman and reminisces on a few years he spent in South Africa as a child. He also pays tribute to one of Suzman's communities, the Jewish community and the tremendous contributions made by this community to enrich intellectual, political, cultural, and medical life in South Africa. The Jews who landed on South Africa's shores were predominantly from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, particularly Lithuania. Two-thirds of all Lithuanian Jews living outside Lithuania even before the exterminations of WWII, lived in South Africa. The life of Lithuanian Jews in South Africa is as interesting as the lives of the Jews in Lithuania. Vilnius (Wilna) was considered the centre of intellectual life of Jewish, Polish, and Lithuanian artists, writers, philosophers well into the 20th century.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Passing of the Baton

During the last few years we have seen so many of the old guard moving out to pasture and/or dying. As we ponder the chances they took, the stands they made, and the courage required to stand up and say NO, we can only hope the younger generation will continue the courageous effort required to thumb their noses at evil and authoritarian menaces. As we admire the larger-than-life figures on the world stage(i.e. Mandela, Suzman, et al), we need to also thank and acknowledge all those others who were equally courageous and without whom the big fish could not swim. My mother, who died on 2 January, was a member of The Black Sash. In the 1950's and '60's, these women held silent, public vigils....true Ghandians and MLKs.....against the atrocities and inhumanities of the Apartheid regime. They endured rotten eggs and tomatoes thrown at them; curses cast upon them; the indignities of jeers and taunts. They believed that these were minor in comparison to Pass Laws, the Group Areas Act, the "pencil test", and other, more egregious acts of disgusting behaviour of one set of humans against another. Please take the time to read about the history of The Black Sash.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Into the New Year on a note of sadness....

Today Helen Suzman died. South Africa has lost a freedom fighter who never lost her sense of humour, humanity, outrage, and verbal swordsmanship. As Simone Blumenthal notes, she fought the "pale males" with gusto; never cowered before the secret, and not-so-secret, police; she fought stupidity and ignorance. She will be missed on the world stage. The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg had interesting information on her contribution to the liberation of South Africa. The Apartheid Museum is one of the finest museums in the world and worth spending time at...allow a good 3-4 hours.

In 2005, The South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town had an incredible retrospective on her life and her role in the anti-Apartheid struggle.