Friday, April 28, 2006

KUDOS Senator Specter

- Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Hearst Newspapers
Friday, April 28, 2006

Washington -- Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the head of the Judiciary Committee, complained Thursday that there hasn't been enough outrage over President Bush's domestic surveillance program and threatened to push legislation that would kill it.

Specter said he won't seek an immediate vote on his plan to terminate funding for the domestic surveillance program, but he wants to wake up the White House and stop the president from "walking all over Congress."

And, Specter said, he wants to revive a flagging national debate about whether the eavesdropping program violates the Constitution and the federal law that requires a court to approve spying on U.S. citizens.

"Where's the outrage?" an exasperated Specter said Thursday. "There is none, except on a few editorial pages. ... I have been trying very hard to get some public focus on this issue."

If successful, Specter's proposal to stop funding the program would kill it until Sept. 30, the eve of the current fiscal year.

"The president is walking all over Congress," Specter said. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, (this) may be the only way we can do it."

Specter said Bush ran afoul of a 1978 law when he authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails of Americans in the United States without first getting warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 requires the secret court to approve NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Specter said people are apathetic about the domestic surveillance controversy because they believe it's someone else's problem.

"People don't think they're among the tappees," Specter said. "They think it's somebody else's civil rights which are involved."

Lawmakers also haven't gotten angry enough, Specter said. As a result, Congress has so far abandoned its duty under the Constitution to provide a check on the executive branch.

"We have a Congress which candidly is more concerned about re-election and fundraising and who controls the House and the Senate than in asserting constitutional prerogatives," Specter said. That's not the way it ought to be."

Administration officials defending Bush's decision to bypass the court argue that the president can order the surveillance as part of his inherent constitutional powers as commander in chief and by a congressional resolution passed after the 2001 attacks that authorized the use of military force.

"Historically, I can't think of a more important confrontation this country has faced," Specter said. "Who knows how many listening devices and who knows how many U.S. telephones (are being used and monitored) in violation of the FISA Act?"

Meanwhile, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee delayed action on three proposals that would change the rules for foreign intelligence wiretaps or make it easier for people to bring civil lawsuits challenging the eavesdropping. One of the stalled measures -- which would force the FISA court to rule on whether the program should continue -- is sponsored by Specter.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that before Congress rewrites federal statutes governing the surveillance, lawmakers should wait for the conclusion of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of the spy program.

"To pass legislation now is like a doctor diagnosing the patient without seeing the patient or reviewing the records," Feinstein said. "History cautions us against rushing into this issue and getting it wrong."

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., insisted that if Congress were to make changes now, they would be "legislating in the dark."

And, Feingold warned, even if Congress passed a new law curtailing the domestic surveillance program, there's no reason to believe Bush would follow the restrictions.

"We would do this without any assurance that the president will abide by what we pass," Feingold said. Before making any changes, Feingold said, "the president needs to come to us and make the case that the current law is inadequate."

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Exxon Mobil 1Q Profit Up 7 Pct. to $8.4B on Yahoo! News

Exxon Mobil 1Q Profit Up 7 Pct. to $8.4B on Yahoo! News
By STEVE QUINN, AP Business Writer;_ylt=AnZV7lzBt16sat8wYdLLZk8b.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA2ZGZwam4yBHNlYwNmYw--

Exxon Mobil Corp. posted the fifth-highest quarterly profit for any public company in history on Thursday, and with oil prices above $70 a barrel it could go down as the company's weakest quarter for the year.

Exxon Mobil's first-quarter was lower than its record fourth-quarter, when the world's largest oil company reported the highest profits ever for any publicly traded company.

And the earnings, which rose 7 percent to more than $8 billion, still fell short of analysts' estimates.

But in what is sure to spur the growing furor over outsized energy industry earnings, Exxon Mobil's massive profits may only increase in 2006 as it benefits from rising crude-oil prices and production, analysts say.

The earnings report comes amid consumer outcry in the U.S. about soaring gasoline prices, which average $2.91 a gallon nationwide, or 68 cents higher than a year ago.

It also lands as Washington lawmakers are looking to appease consumers with various proposals to make big oil companies pay more taxes or provide consumers with some other relief.

He said Exxon Mobil was investing a growing portion of its profits in new oil and gas production, and that the company is sympathetic to the added energy-price burden on consumers.

Still, he said consumers and members of Congress need to "take a deep pause and a deep breath" because market forces will eventually bring supply and demand back into balance.

Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poor's, said the latest profit figure still places Exxon fifth historically among quarterly earnings.

Both companies benefited from higher crude oil prices, which are hovering above $70 a barrel on concerns about supply disruptions, strong global demand for crude, limited spare production capacity and geopolitical uncertainty.

Despite the outcry in Washington about energy industry profits, the sector does not have the strongest profit margins among S&P 500 companies.

Pride of place for that goes to the healthcare industry, which is expected to have a first-quarter profit margin of 18.1 percent, according to S&P estimates, versus 10.4 percent for oil companies.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

10 States Sue EPA Over Global Warming on Yahoo! News

10 States Sue EPA Over Global Warming on Yahoo! News
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer
Ten states fired a new legal salvo at the federal government Thursday in a long-running court battle over global warming and pollution from power plants.

New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The states, joined by environmental groups, sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision not to regulate carbon dioxide pollution as a contributor to global warming.

The states, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, want the government to require tighter pollution controls on the newest generation of power plants.

"We feel it's incumbent on EPA to regulate carbon emissions from those power plants now in order to help us get our arms around global warming," said Spitzer spokesman Marc Violette.

Environmentalists say 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from power plants.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Sacred Housekeeping

How to Make Your Home a Sanctuary
Excerpted from Islands of Grace: Finding Sanctuary in Daily Life © 1996 by Christopher Forrest McDowell, PhD
The care of one's soul is perhaps the most challenging aspect of living on Earth today. Whereas the soul is entranced by beauty, and seeks to celebrate life in many ways, it also desires opportunity for reflective solace. Some places naturally renew our sense of spirit - a special natural setting, a garden, a church or temple, or even a historical sacred site. But how often do we remember that our home itself can be a personal haven - a sanctuary - amidst a world of turmoil, obligations, & demands for our time and resources?

On one hand, our home can be seen merely as a place filled with objects and beings (humans, animals & plants) each vying for attention. On the other hand, there are ways we can consciously plan to steward our home so that it emanates a sense of spirit that is honoring, celebrative, contemplative & peaceful.

A home seen as a sacred place - a personal sanctuary - may in fact be the most important & readily accessible reverent setting on Earth. It can serve, in its unique & thoughtfully furnished way, to regenerate our spirit. This brochure suggests numerous ways to bring more soulfulness into your living space. Whereas some suggestions may appear commonsense, we hope they inspire & remind you about the fine art of "sacred housekeeping."

A Place of One's Own
Perhaps the first and easiest step in creating a sanctuary of your home is to imagine a special place within it where you can turn to for privacy & peace.  In a busy house with children present, or even a small apartment, this may not seem possible. But don't give up hope! Perhaps an extra room exists, an attic, a spacious closet; or, even the potential for partitioning off a section of a larger room by creatively using a decorative free-standing screen, plants, shelves, furniture, etc. In any case, it is highly likely a workable/suitable spot can be found, even if input from other family members is necessary.

Knowing that a place to retreat from the world or household obligations and turn inward is possible & desirable - even if it is a quaint nook - will encourage you to create the same effect for your entire house. In both instances, however, it may be helpful to consider those key qualities which make an otherwise ordinary place truly a personal haven.

Four Key Qualities
Close your eyes and visualize your ideal home sanctuary setting. Most likely, some aspect of these four key qualities come to mind:
Mood - What feeling or state of mind do you want to evoke? One of contentment, coziness, focus, serenity, inspiration, etc.? The amount and type of furnishings, even the use of color & lighting can help shape the mood or ambience of a setting.   Some people desire a more austere looking haven in which to focus on meditation, while others may create a cozy setting much more lived-in, for journal writing, reading, listening to music, or contemplation.

Aesthetics - What makes a setting visually appealing? Beauty & artistry feed the soul, and be it artful crafts, furniture, artwork, nature objects, even special plants or a floral arrangement - each can add to the overall mood of a setting by inviting our absorption & contemplation of their unique quality. For this reason, your personal sanctuary should reflect your mindful consideration in selecting each object - from the tiny seashell on your altar to the texture & design of an area rug.

Inviting - How to create a setting that is inviting to you each time you enter (and of course, just as inviting to a visitor!) - this should be given special thought. Perhaps it is the way furniture is arranged, how color & lighting are used, the opportunity to listen to inspiring music, a scent in the air, a relaxing chair or pillow, or even the display of nature objects, personal mementos, & inspiring quotes. All this (and more!) should give you or a visitor a feeling that you can relax and be one with yourself or a companion. A thoughtfully designed sanctuary space should feel inviting, not haphazardly cluttered or sterile.

Enfolding - One of the primary qualities of any sanctuary should be the opportunity for interiorzation: to go within oneself and sip from the contemplative well of peace. A home or setting, by the way it is consciously stewarded, should feel as if one can easily claim sanctuary, i.e. sacred time & sacred place, within it, even for brief periods of time. Thoughtful effort to create an inviting heartfelt entrance, to maintain a personal or family altar which honors & celebrates life, to embrace and show tribute to the many aspects of nature, and to uphold the spiritual presence of a preferred deity - these are key in helping to peacefully restore & regenerate one's spirit.

7 Special Ways to Enhance Your Home Sanctuary

1. An Inviting Entrance:
Make the routine of merely entering a room or your home more inviting. Hang an inspiring quote or piece of artwork, place nearby a bowl of polished pebbles, blessing cards, or quotes from which one may be selected, hang a whimsical windchime, place a statue or objects from nature, perhaps have a display of interesting brochures & informational literature you are willing to share. Set a tone for entering your sanctuary - it will do much to make one feel enfolded & honored.
2. Create Focal Points:
Purposely create places that draw one's attention. A well-placed & designed altar is always magnetic. A creatively decorated window with a view, an especially fine piece of art, a unique object from nature, a seasonal vase of flowers, even that overstuffed chair with a lap blanket and an open book - each of these beckon the wandering spirit to come, relax, celebrate & honor.
3. Integrate Nature:
Always find ways to honor nature. Maintain plants & flowers you are attracted to, seek furniture & crafts explicitly made from nature, panel a wall with wood, hang art that depicts nature, even consider an indoor fountain gently dripping water.
4. Create an Altar:
An altar is a sacred hearth to which one approaches with humility & honor. Here one can pray, find peace, sit in communion with someone, celebrate nature, even honor the lives of family members, friends, or some deity. A home may have a family or public altar as well a personal one, perhaps in a private space. The altar surface may be a specific piece of furniture such as an antique, bookshelf, chest, table, mantel, even the floor. Always be creative & open to change with your altar. Let it reflect the true spirit of you or family members - decorate it with nature objects, personal items, pictures, a deity, candles, incense, whatever moves you deeper to your soul's core of serenity & self-empowerment.
5. Effectively Use Color & Lighting:
Colors have a powerful influence on vital energy, effecting feelings & thought processes. By understanding basic effects of color tones, you can decorate & furnish your setting to evoke certain states of mind. Green, for example, is very healing and emits growth, balance & abundance. Blue emits peace & spiritual unfolding. Purple promotes intuition & inner awareness. White suggests transformation while black suggests mystery. Red is very energizing, orange is happy & social, and yellow promotes communication, mental stimulation & positive thinking. Through experimentation, you will find color variations which stir your soul.

Lighting is also important in setting a mood. Soft ambient light from a window, a tinted light bulb, stained-glass, even from candles or a lantern are much more preferred to create intimacy than harsh bright light from overhead.
6. Heal & Soothe with Scents:
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to salve the soul & human emotions. Herbal sachets, a bowl of dried crushed leaves & flowers, scented candles, and especially essential oils are vital to setting a mood. The latter are concentrates of flowers, plants, & woods that, when released in specific combinations or individually, have a definite therapeutic effect on one's psyche. An excellent book is, Complete Aromatherapy Handbook: Essential Oils for Radiant Health by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi (Sterling Publishing, 1990).
7. Other Helpful Ideas:
As you proceed to personalize your sanctuary setting, remember these: Let the music you listen to be inspiring & soothing. Have objects that are pleasing & interesting to touch. Have at hand a favorite meditation shawl or lap blanket. Honor the animal realm with a picture, artpiece, even a special "stuffed animal." Find creative ways to honor key natural elements such as air, earth, & water. Maintain a small library of inspirational & soulful literature. Con-sider using part of a wall to paint a mural that exemplifies the mood & drama of your space.
These are just a few ideas on how to stir that unique soulfulness within you. In conclusion, remember to always be open to change. Like a garden, your spirit changes with the seasons and with the course of events in your life. Your home sanctuary is an expression of your evolution. As a reverent setting, strive to bring spirit into your home that is honoring & celebrative. It is here you can feel able to take sacred space & time from the outside world.
Suggested Reading
Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home, by Denise Linn (Ballantine, 1996)
The Temple in the House: Finding the Sacred in Everyday Architecture, by Anthony Lawlor (Tarcher/Putnam, 1994)
The Woman's Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide to Restoring Balance in Your Life, by Jennifer Louden (Harper SanFrancisco, 1992)

Also see Jann Mitchell's new book, Home Sweeter Home: Creating a Haven of Simplicity and Spirit
Clare Cooper Marcus's House as a Mirror of Self
Sue Bender's well-received Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home
Gunilla Norris's audiotape Home: The Meaning of Sanctuary.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

While Washington Slept: How Did the Virtual Certainty of Global Warming Get Labeled a "Liberal Hoax"?

You don't have to be young, hip or a rocket scientist to understand global warming.   You just have to care that the world isn't worse off when you leave it than when you arrived.

Yes, reading about the issue can be tedious and the technical terms a little confusing.  Yes, you may not personally see a noticeable difference in climate in  your part of the world in your lifetime.    And yes, it may seem that you, as an individual, don't really make a difference.

But imagine a world where islands in the south pacific and their people cease to exist.  
Imagine the western coastlines of Europe and Africa flooded.  
Imagine lands that are currently fertile farmland becoming marshes or, if located further inland, becoming deserts.
Imagine a world without polar bears and penguins. 
Imagine geese that no longer fly south for the winter. 
Imagine a world where your great grandchildren think of New York City the way we think of Atlantis.

The Queen of England gets it.  And if you get it, make sure that your elected government representatives get it too.   plk

The Queen of England is afraid. International C.E.O.'s are nervous. And the scientific establishment is loud and clear. If global warming isn't halted, rising sea levels could submerge coastal cities by 2100. So how did this virtual certainty get labeled a "liberal hoax"?

by Mark Hertsgaard

an execrpt from the article Published on Thursday, April 20, 2006 by Vanity Fair

read the entire article at:

Ten months before Hurricane Katrina left much of New Orleans underwater, Queen Elizabeth II had a private conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair about George W. Bush. The Queen's tradition of meeting once a week with Britain's elected head of government to discuss matters of state—usually on Tuesday evenings in Buckingham Palace and always alone, to ensure maximum confidentiality—goes back to 1952, the year she ascended the throne. In all that time, the contents of those chats rarely if ever leaked.

So it was extraordinary when London's Observer reported, on October 31, 2004, that the Queen had "made a rare intervention in world politics" by telling Blair of "her grave concerns over the White House's stance on global warming." The Observer did not name its sources, but one of them subsequently spoke to Vanity Fair.

"The Queen first of all made it clear that Buckingham Palace would be happy to help raise awareness about the climate problem," says the source, a high-level environmental expert who was briefed about the conversation. "[She was] definitely concerned about the American position and hoped the prime minister could help change [it]."

Press aides for both the Queen and the prime minister declined to comment on the meeting, as is their habit. But days after the Observer story appeared, the Queen indeed raised awareness by presiding over the opening of a British-German conference on climate change, in Berlin. "I might just point out, that's a pretty unusual thing for her to do," says Sir David King, Britain's chief scientific adviser. "She doesn't take part in anything that would be overtly political." King, who has briefed the Queen on climate change, would not comment on the Observer report except to say, "If it were true, it wouldn't surprise me."

With spring arriving in England three weeks earlier than it did 50 years ago, the Queen could now see signs of climate change with her own eyes. Sandringham, her country estate north of London, overlooks Britain's premier bird-watching spot: the vast North Sea wetlands known as the Wash. A lifelong outdoorswoman, the Queen had doubtless observed the V-shaped flocks of pink-footed geese that descend on the Wash every winter. But in recent years, says Mark Avery, conservation director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, she also would have seen a species new to the area: little egrets. These shiny white birds are native to Southern Europe, Avery says, "but in the last 5 to 10 years they have spread very rapidly to Northern Europe. We can't prove this is because of rising temperatures, but it sure looks like it."

Temperatures are rising, the Queen learned from King and other scientists, because greenhouse gases are trapping heat in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, the most prevalent of such gases, is released whenever fossil fuels are burned or forests catch fire. Global warming, the scientists explained, threatens to raise sea levels as much as three feet by the end of the 21st century, thanks to melting glaciers and swollen oceans. (Water expands when heated.)

This would leave much of eastern England, including areas near Sandringham, underwater. Global warming would also bring more heat waves like the one in the summer of 2003 that killed 31,000 people across Europe. It might even shut down the Gulf Stream, the flow of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico that gives Europe its mild climate. If the Gulf Stream were to halt—and it has already slowed 30 percent since 1992—Europe's temperatures would plunge, agriculture would collapse, London would no longer feel like New York but like Anchorage.

The Queen, says King, "got it" on climate change, and she wasn't alone. "Everyone in this country, from the political parties to the scientific establishment, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to our oil companies and the larger business community, has come to a popular consensus about climate change—a sense of alarm and a conviction that action is needed now, not in the future," says Tony Juniper, executive director of the British arm of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

At the time of his meeting with the Queen, Blair was being attacked on climate change from all ideological sides, with even the Conservatives charging that he was not doing enough. Yet Blair's statements on the issue went far beyond those of most world leaders. He had called the Kyoto Protocol, which has been ratified by 162 countries and requires industrial nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels, "not radical enough." The world's climate scientists, Blair pointed out, had estimated that 60 percent cuts in emissions were needed, and he committed Britain to reaching that goal by 2050.

But it wouldn't matter how much Britain cut its greenhouse-gas emissions if other nations didn't do the same. The U.S. was key, not only because it was the world's largest emitter but because its refusal to reduce emissions led China, India, Brazil, and other large developing countries to ask why they should do so. All this Blair had also said publicly. In 2001 he criticized the Bush administration for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol. In 2004 he said it was essential to bring the U.S. into the global effort against climate change, despite its opposition to Kyoto.

It was no secret that Bush opposed mandatory emissions limits, but Blair, who had risked his political future to back the deeply unpopular war in Iraq, was uniquely positioned to lobby the president. Bush owed him one. At the same time, Blair needed to show his domestic audience that he could stand up to Bush, that he wasn't the presidential "poodle" his critics claimed.

To compel Bush to engage the issue, Blair made climate change a lead agenda item at the July 2005 meeting of the Group of 8, the alliance of the world's eight richest nations. A month before the meeting, which was held at Gleneagles, in Scotland, Blair flew to Washington to see Bush face-to-face. That same day, the national academies of science of all the G-8 nations, as well as those of China, India, and Brazil, released a joint statement declaring that climate change was a grave problem that required immediate action.

On the morning of July 7, the summit was interrupted by the shocking news that four suicide bombers had set off explosions in London, killing 56 people. Blair rushed to the scene, but he returned that night, still determined to secure an agreement.

In the end, however, Bush held firm. Washington vetoed all references to mandatory emissions cuts or timelines, and the climate-change issue was overshadowed by African debt relief, which had been publicized by Bob Geldof's Live 8 concerts.

"There were no tough targets at Gleneagles because we would not have got all signatures on the document," says King, who adds, "We might well have" gotten seven—that is, every nation but the U.S. The farthest the G-8 leaders went—and even this required a battle, says King—was to include a sentence that read, in part, "While uncertainties remain in our understanding of climate science, we know enough to act now."
But seven weeks later, nature acted first, and it was the United States she hit.

No one can say for sure whether global warming caused Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. But it certainly fit the pattern. The scientific rule of thumb is that one can never blame any one weather event on any single cause. The earth's weather system is too complex for that. Most scientists agree, however, that global warming makes extra-strong hurricanes such as Katrina more likely because it encourages hot oceans, a precondition of hurricane formation.

"It's a bit like saying, 'My grandmother died of lung cancer, and she smoked for the last 20 years of her life—smoking killed her,'" explains Kerry Emanuel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied hurricanes for 20 years. "Well, the problem is, there are an awful lot of people who die of lung cancer who never smoked. There are a lot of people who smoked all their lives and die of something else. So all you can say, even [though] the evidence statistically is clear connecting lung cancer to smoking, is that [the grandmother] upped her probability."

Just weeks before Katrina struck, Emanuel published a paper in the scientific journal Nature demonstrating that hurricanes had grown more powerful as global temperatures rose in the 20th century. Now, he says, by adding more greenhouse gases to the earth's atmosphere, humans are "loading the climatic dice in favor of more powerful hurricanes in the future."

But most Americans heard nothing about Hurricane Katrina's association with global warming. Media coverage instead reflected the views of the Bush administration—specifically, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which declared that the hurricane was the result of natural factors. An outcry from N.O.A.A.'s scientists led the agency to backtrack from that statement in February 2006, but by then conventional wisdom was set in place. Post-Katrina New Orleans may eventually be remembered as the first major U.S. casualty of global warming, yet most Americans still don't know what hit us.

Sad to say, Katrina was the perfect preview of what global warming might look like in the 21st century. First, Katrina struck a city that was already below sea level—which is where rising waters could put many coastal dwellers in the years ahead. In 2001, the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.), a peer-reviewed, international collaboration among thousands of scientists that is the world's leading authority on climate change, predicted that sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. By coincidence, three feet is about how much New Orleans sank during the 20th century. That was because levees built to keep the Mississippi River from flooding also kept the river from depositing silt that would have replenished the underlying land mass, explains Mike Tidwell, the author of Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast. "You could say that in New Orleans we brought the ocean to the people," Tidwell adds, "which is pretty much what global warming will do to other cities in the future."
What's more, Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest there is. Such extreme weather events will likely become more frequent as global warming intensifies, says the I.P.C.C. Yes, Katrina's winds had slowed to high–Category 3 levels by the time it made landfall, but it was the hurricane's storm surge that killed people—a surge that formed in the Gulf of Mexico when the storm was still Category 5. Thus, Katrina unleashed 10 to 15 feet of water on a city that was already significantly below sea level.

To envision global warming's future impacts, the illustrations accompanying this article reflect this and other scenarios. [For illustrations, see the May 2006 issue of Vanity Fair. The three large-scale illustrations are an artist's interpretations of projections generated for Vanity Fair by Applied Science Associates Inc. (, a marine-science consulting firm based in Rhode Island. The projections do not account for small-scale features such as coastal-protection structures.

The effects of a three-foot sea-level rise compounded by a storm surge from a Category 3 hurricane are shown in the image of the Hamptons, which would suffer severe flooding. The image of Washington, D.C., shows the effects of a 20-foot sea-level rise, which is what scientists expect if the entire Greenland ice sheet melts. The ice sheet has shrunk 50 cubic miles in the past year alone, and is now melting twice as fast as previously believed.

Finally, the image of New York City shows the effects of an 80-foot rise in sea levels. That's what would happen if not only the Greenland ice sheet but its counterpart in the Antarctic were to melt, says James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen, who put climate change on the media map in 1988 by saying that man-made global warming had already begun, made headlines again earlier this year when he complained that White House political appointees were trying to block him from speaking freely about the need for rapid reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. Hansen warns that, if global emissions continue on their current trajectory, the ice sheets will not survive, because global temperatures will increase by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. "The last time the earth was that warm, sea levels were 80 feet higher than today," he says. It will likely take hundreds of years for sea levels to rise the full 80 feet, but the process would be irreversible, and the rises would not be gradual. "You're going to be continually faced with a changing coastline, which will force coastal dwellers to constantly relocate," he says.

This article's smaller, aerial-view illustrations are based on simulations by the National Environmental Trust, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. N.E.T. relied on data from the I.P.C.C., the U.S. Geological Survey, and the N.O.A.A. Additional N.E.T. simulations are available at Philip Clapp, N.E.T.'s president, says, "The U.S. government has never released its own simulations. The Bush administration doesn't want these pictures in front of the American people because they show that a three-foot sea-level rise plus storm flooding would have catastrophic consequences."

In New York, it would leave much of Lower Manhattan, including the Ground Zero memorial and the entire financial district, underwater. La Guardia and John F. Kennedy airports would meet the same fate. In Washington, D.C., the Potomac River would swell dramatically, stretching all the way to the Capitol lawn and to within two blocks of the White House.

Since roughly half the world's 6.5 billion people live near coastlines, a three-foot sea-level rise would be even more punishing overseas. Amsterdam, Venice, Cairo, Shanghai, Manila, and Calcutta are some of the cities most threatened. In many places the people and governments are too poor to erect adequate barriers—think of low-lying Bangladesh, where an estimated 18 million people are at risk—so experts fear that they will migrate to neighboring lands, raising the prospect of armed conflict. A Pentagon-commissioned study warned in 2003 that climate change could bring mega-droughts, mass starvation, and even nuclear war as countries such as China, India, and Pakistan battle over scarce food and water.

These are just some of the reasons why David King wrote in Science in 2004, "Climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today—more serious even than the threat of terrorism." King's comment raised hackles in Washington and led a top press aide to Tony Blair to try to muzzle him. But the science adviser tells me he "absolutely" stands by his statement. By no means does King underestimate terrorism; advising the British government on that threat, he says, "is a very important part of my job." But the hazards presented by climate change are so severe and far-reaching that, in his view, they overshadow not only every other environmental threat but every other threat, period.

"Take India," King says. "Their monsoon is a fact of life that they have developed their agricultural economy around. If the monsoon is down by 10 percent one year, they have massive losses of crops. If it's 10 percent over, they have massive flood problems. [If climate change ends up] switching off the monsoon in India, or even changing it outside those limits, it would lead to massive global economic de-stabilization. The kind of situation we need to avoid creating is one where populations are so de-stabilized—Bangladesh being flooded, India no food—that they're all seeking alternative habitats. These, in our globalized economy, would be very difficult for all of us to manage."

The worst scenarios of global warming might still be avoided, scientists say, if humanity reduces its greenhouse-gas emissions dramatically, and very soon. The I.P.C.C. has estimated that emissions must fall to 60 percent below 1990 levels before 2050, over a period when global population is expected to increase by 37 percent and per-capita energy consumption will surely rise as billions of people in Asia, Africa, and South America strive to ascend from poverty.

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The Budget – A Never Ending Emergency

A Talking Point from The American Progress Action Fund

April 24 , 2006

Three years after the start of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration refuses to budget for ongoing costs. Instead, the administration insists on funding the war “through ‘emergency’ supplemental spending bills.” The tactic, which is under attack by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, makes fiscal responsibility all but impossible. In addition to the more than $90 billion the administration wants to spend on Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast, senators added billions more dollars in special interest projects. In March Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, lamented that “The administration is running two sets of books here.... There are two sets of books, and one is not subject to the budget controls.”

  • The cost of the Iraq war continues to skyrocket, exceeding yearly costs of Vietnam. The ever-growing cost of the supplemental spending bills reflects the growing costs of the Iraq war. The yearly costs of operations in Iraq have risen steadily “from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006.” The costs of the Iraq war “are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today’s dollars.” (The Iraq war already exceeds the total cost of World War I in today’s dollars.)

  • The supplemental bill is supposed to be an “emergency measure” but is increasingly used for political purposes. Instead of dealing with many short-terms needs, the supplemental is being used to fund long-term political priorities. One example is the Senate version of the bill. It “would chop money for troops’ night vision equipment and new battle vehicles”—an immediate need—and instead add “$230 million for a tilt-rotor aircraft—the V-22 Osprey—that has already cost $18 billion and is still facing safety questions.” At a time when troops currently on the ground are facing equipment shortages, the Senate should not be spending money in the supplemental on an aircraft that many believe “will never be useful in combat.”

  • Congress’s habit of adding pork to budget and highway bills has spilled over into the supplemental process. The Senate supplemental bill was filled with a slew of projects unrelated to the war or hurricane relief. For example, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) have attached $700 million to the “emergency bill” to “relocate a Gulf Coast rail line that has already been rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina at a cost of at least $250 million.” Lott claims the project is necessary to protect the railway from future hurricanes but “much of the rail line along the Gulf Coast would remain in hurricane danger, and the proposed rerouting would affect only a small part.” While this and others may be worthy causes, the supplemental bill is supposed to be for emergency funding—not the pet projects of members of Congress.

To visit the Talking Points archives, please click here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day - April 22nd

This Earth Day celebrate the magnificence of this beautiful planet. But also, remember that we are the Earth's keeper.

Have you been a good steward of that which was entrusted to your care?

Say a prayer for the planet today. plk

It’s Earth Day

A Talking Point from The American Progress Action Fund

April 21, 2006

Saturday, April 22nd, the world will mark the 36th annual Earth Day celebration. And in the years since Earth Day began, much progress has been made. “Rivers aren’t catching fire anymore, and you can see the sky in Los Angeles,” said Jon Coifman of the Natural Resources Defense Council. But on issues such as climate change, clean air and clean water, America can do more. When President Bill Clinton gave Earth Day founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, Clinton expressed the importance of heeding Nelson’s legacy ((Nelson passed away last year). “Today, as much as at any time in modern American history,” Clinton said, “we need to remember what we share on this precious planet and in this beloved country. And I hope that Gaylord Nelson’s shining example will illuminate all the debates in this city for years to come.”

  • Climate change is happening and we have only ourselves to blame. The science is definitive: the earth is warming. Between 1900 and 2005, the average temperature at the Earth’s surface has increased about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The last decade was the hottest in 150 years; the hottest 22 years have happened since 1980; and 2005 was the second hottest year on record. Prominent among all the bad news is the fact that United States “emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than at any time in history, confirming its status as the world’s biggest polluter.” Instead of trying to tackle the problem head-on, the Bush administration spends its time muzzling scientists who are most capable of explaining the issue to the public, and some right-wing commentators continue to deceive the public and say that it’s all a myth.

  • The air we breathe is still too dirty, and our wilderness lands are under constant threat. Air pollution continues to pose severe health risks to all Americans, especially minorities. The Associated Press recently reported that “black Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger.” Yet the Bush administration continues to push their “Clear Skies” legislation in an effort to loosen emission caps on airborne toxins. Our forests are also under attack: “In the 36 years that have passed since the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, we have lost more than one billion acres of forest, with no end in sight.” And the administration is cutting funding for lands already under protection.

  • The environmental cause is bringing together an unlikely group of activists. Judging from the diverse groups involved, there is yet hope for the cause of environmental protection. Sportsmen and environmentalists are teaming up “in debates over the future of federal land in the West…” and they credit the Bush administration with bringing them together. Many evangelicals are taking on climate change as a way to honor the Biblical admonition to watch over God’s creation. Evangelicals are joining forces with environmental groups to pressure the administration into action over global warming.

To visit the Talking Points archives, please click here.

Prayer For The Earth

from "Illuminata -- a return to prayer"
by Marianne Williamson

Dear God,

Please bless and protect this sacred jewel,
Our vulnerable planet so besieged.

May the rivers and the oceans and the sky and the land
All be repaired somehow dear Lord.

May the barbarism end, which threatens to destroy our priceless treasure.

For surely the earth has been our home,
The home of our parents unto all generations.

For the sake of our children, Lord,
Save the earth.

Place in all minds a greater awe before her mysteries.

Shield her and heal her wounds,
Restore her to her former glory.

Save her Lord, from us.

Amen Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 21, 2006

Passing the Buck on Energy

Passing the Buck on Energy

A Talking Point from The American Progress Action Fund

April 17, 2006


While Americans are experiencing sticker shock at the gas pump these days, the retiring chairman of Exxon Mobil is counting his millions. Lee Raymond is getting "one of the most generous retirement packages in history," worth nearly $400 million. The news of Raymond’s large retirement package is only fueling more frustration with the increasing cost of gasoline. And while the oil industry is coming under some fire, they are trying to deflect blame anywhere else they can.

  • While no one was paying attention, gas prices have skyrocketed in the past few weeks. Gas prices have soared in recent weeks, jumping to an average $2.68 per gallon nationally, roughly 40 cents more than this time last year. And as summer approaches, they are sure to go higher. Price increases last year were explained away by Hurricane Katrina, but the increases this year come at a time when there are no shortages or hurricanes. Today crude oil hit 70 dollars a barrel in the Asian market and was climbing above $69 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. According to a AAA spokesman: "Motorists need to prepare themselves for the possibility that gasoline will continue to go up each year. There will be peaks and valleys, but prices will keep going up."

  • Instead of accepting responsibility, the oil industry is trying to pass the buck onto ethanol. In a letter (PDF) circulated to every member of Congress, the American Petroleum Institute (the oil industry's main lobbying group) blamed the current rise in gas prices on ethanol. Basically the oil companies say they have to charge higher for gas because last year’s energy bill required them to clean up their gas with better, cleaner oxygenates — and phase out the noxious MTBE. They claim this change from MTBE to ethanol is behind the increase in gas prices.

  • The truth is, ethanol is not to blame for rising gas prices. Producers of ethanol say there is plenty of it to go around. "For years, the oil companies lobbied Congress to limit the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) for ethanol in the energy bill to just 5 billion gallons in 2012. But now they are complaining that there will 'only' be 5 billion gallons of ethanol available in 2006." The industry is now being scapegoated for rising fuel prices. The fact is, ethanol will actually make fueling our cars far less expensive. Within 10 years, American farms could produce biofuels at costs equal to between $0.59 and $0.91 per gallon of gasoline and $0.86 per gallon of diesel.

To visit the Talking Points archives, please click here. New Flash Movies - A prayer for Guidance and Earth's Day

April 21, 2006 #101

Title: A prayer for Guidance


Dear friends,
April 22nd is Earth's Day. Depending where you are from visiting the
website, we are a day or two away from it. Let's make it a day of prayer
for guidance not just for ourselves but also our beautiful planet
because caring for our home planet is a complex and fearsome task, which
could lead to world peace or war.
So pray that God guide us one by one to right living and in the process we
will be caring for our fragile planet, achieve peace and avoid war, and I can
continue to bring you many inspirational flash movies with nature scenery.
Sing Cher Kwek


View "A Prayer for Guidance" at


See also the Flash Movie for Earth's Day at


TITLE: A prayer for guidance:


My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.
I do not sense the road ahead of me.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.
~Thomas Merton, 1915-1968

The Three C's of Marriage

The Three C's of Marriage
What do you want in your marriage? For most people, it's to feel
loved, valued, safe and trusted, said John M.R. Covey, who is
director of marriage and family for Franklin Covey, and who with his
wife, Jane, has given seminars on marriage around the world.

How do you achieve that goal? Three things can help, he said:
character, communication and companionship.

Covey likes to start with the "myth of the marriage box" developed by
J. Allan Peterson, who noted that "most people get married believing
a myth -- that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things
they have longed for: companionship, sexual fulfillment, intimacy,
friendship. The truth is that marriage, at the start, is an empty
box. You must put something in it before you can take anything out.
There is no love in marriage; love is in people, and people put it
into marriage."

You have to learn, "not to take, but to give, give, give," said
Covey. That's where character comes in. And character comes from
learning the consequences of your actions, from learning what you can
and can't control.

What can you control in life? Only yourself -- your attitudes, your
actions, your desires, he said. What can't you control? Anyone else,
the weather, your parents, where you were born.

If you try to live in the circle of no control, you end up unhappy,
chaotic, unempowered, feeling like a victim, he said. If you live in
the circle of control, you live with hope and happiness.

What makes the difference? "Reactive behavior takes you out of the
circle of control. Proactive behavior -- where you pause, think and
choose before you act -- gives you control. Inside that pause between
action and response -- that is who you are."

The second "C" of marriage is communication, said Jane Parrish Covey.
The most important thing to remember, she says, "is that the way we
speak to each other does matter. Words hurt. Word crush. Or words
lift and build."

So, she advises, "look for strengths. Talk about strengths. Dwell on
strengths instead of weaknesses. Too often in families, we dwell on

Dwelling on strengths helps develop unity and companionship. So does
making emotional deposits in your marriage box. Sometimes, she said,
that can be as simple as "saying the words, 'I love you' to the
people that you love."

Source: Deseret News (Salt Lake City).


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Amnesty International Call for Action

Urge the African Union to Support the Work of the International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now investigating crimes committed in Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but progress for justice in these countries is threatened by the failure of their governments, and of the African Union, to fully cooperate with the ICC. This must be addressed immediately to ensure that suspects are brought to justice and that international justice can be employed to prevent future crimes.

» Act now
» Learn more


Write Letters of Hope to Mesfin Woldemariam of Ethiopia
Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, 75-year-old founder and former chairman of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, has been detained since early November 2005, following opposition party demonstrations to protest peacefully against alleged fraud in Ethiopia’s May 2005 elections. A retired geography professor from Addis Ababa University, he is Ethiopia’s most prominent human rights defender. He recently spent a year at Harvard University.

» Act now



» More News

En EspaƱol



Tuesday, April 18, 2006

God's Fragrant Rose

April 18, 2006 #100

Dear friends,

Title: God's Fragrant Rose

Spring is here and it is a wonderful thought to think that God might
look upon his creation as we look upon and admire a fragrant rose.

View flash movie at

Sing Cher Kwek

God's Fragrant Rose
A lovely rose with leaves of green
Ascends upon the wall
With crimson red and floral spread
Does make one stand in awe.

A fragile thing, a breath of spring
Its petal doth enfold
A tiny bud so delicate
So beautiful to hold.

The perfume of its lingering scent
Does take my breath away
As sweet as lilacs on the bush
An intricate display.

A picturesque of summer bliss
Red roses on the vine
Doth lace its tender elegance
Around this heart of mine.

Could it be, God speaks to me
Through fragrance in the air
Am I not like the gentle rose
Wrapped in His loving care?

Author/Written By:
Marilyn Ferguson
Copyright © 2005

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Take Action to Shield the Women of Darfur and Protect Women Around the World with Amnesty International

Women's Human Rights Action Network
& The Stop Violence Against Women Campaign


Take Action to Shield the Women of Darfur
To prevent further abuses and human rights violations in Darfur, the current African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) must be fully funded and expanded. Urge your Senator to support AMIS and help Stop the Violence in Darfur.
» Take action

Urge the Gujarat State Chief Minister to Help Protect Women from Violence
An estimated 2,000 women, children and men, were killed in days after the February 28, 2002 train attack at Godhra railway station. Most of the people killed were Muslims. Urge Indian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes, including crimes of sexual violence and gender-based discrimination.
» Take action

» More actions


Custodial Sexual Misconduct and Shackling During Pregnancy
Amnesty International USA’s new report, "Abuse of Women in Custody: sexual misconduct and shackling of pregnant women," examines current laws, policies and practices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons regarding custodial sexual misconduct (CSM) and the shackling of inmates who are pregnant or giving birth. The report, an update to a 2001 AIUSA report, finds that while great strides have been made as a result of campaigning by AIUSA and others, few states provide thorough legal or administrative protection to women in custody.
» Learn more


France: Violence against women: a matter for the State
On November 23, 2005, the French government published data from a survey carried out among police services that reveal that in France, a woman dies after being beaten by her partner every four days.
» Read more

» More news & reports
» Read the blog


AIUSA Annual General Meeting
AIUSA’s 2006 Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held in Portland, Oregon, from April 28-30. The conference will include several panels on violence against women. At the AGM, AIUSA members vote on important policy issues for the organization, including those related to the future of the organization’s work on reproductive rights.
» Learn more

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Women’s organized protests against violence began in the late 1970s in England, with “Take Back the Night” marches. These activities became more coordinated and soon developed into a movement that extended to the United States and, by 1978, the first “Take Back the Night” events in the U.S. were held in San Francisco and New York. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) was first observed nationally in April 2001.
» Learn more

Stop Violence Against Women Campaign Kit Spring/Summer 2006
Take a look at the AIUSA Stop Violence Against Women Campaign Kit for spring/summer 2006. It contains information about various campaign projects and how to get further involved.
» Learn more



Amnesty International Online Discussion: Globalizing Justice

Ask Amnesty Online Discussion Series: Globalizing Justice
Amnesty International welcomes the surrender of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he will face trial on eleven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His case highlights a number of issues that human rights institutions grapple with in attempting to bring justice to situations of armed conflict, including the use of child soldiers, crimes of sexual violence, and the liability of heads of state for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The outcome of this case will be a test of the Court's ability to help end impunity in West Africa, bring justice to the victims of Sierra Leone’s civil war, and foster confidence in the rule of law.

Please join us for the final online discussion in our series, "Globalizing Justice," Tuesday, April 18th, from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern. Our guest will be Kimberly Lanegran, Amnesty International USA's Country Specialist for Sierra Leone. Learn more about what the trial of Charles Taylor means to the efforts to fight impunity and protect human rights in West Africa.
» Submit a question in advance


Meteorologist Edward Lorenz posed the question "Does the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" when theorizing on the "butterfly effect," -- the idea that the flapping of fragile wings could start a chain reaction in the atmosphere. Have you flapped your wings today?

Posted by Picasa

Happy Easter

----- Original Message -----

Dear Pam,

Thanks very much. I want to share a poem I have written and made into a Flash Movie to celebrate Easter.


God Bless,

Sing Cher


Thanks Sing,

May God Bless you and yours.
May we all grow to be more like Him everyday.

 Posted by Picasa

He Is Risen

AND WHEN the Sabbath was past [that is, after the sun had set], Mary Magdalene, and Mary [the mother] of James, and Salome purchased sweet-smelling spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus' body].

And very early on the first day of the week they came to the tomb; [by then] the sun had risen.

And they said to one another, Who will roll back the stone for us out of [the groove across the floor at] the door of the tomb?

And when they looked up, they [distinctly] saw that the stone was already rolled back, for it was very large.

And going into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting [there] on the right [side], clothed in a [[a]long, stately, sweeping] robe of white, and they were utterly amazed and struck with terror.

And he said to them, Do not be amazed and terrified; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.(A)

Passage Mark 16:1-6:
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Read the story of a 5 year old little girl that forgave the man that put her in a wheelchair for life. will expire this article on 05/14/2006
If the above hyperlink does not work in your email program copy and paste the link below into your browser:

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thought for the Day


by Steve Puckett

You see I had really intended to take a two month sabbatical from blogging and perhaps even from life, but you know how life can press in on you whether you intend for it to or not. I started writing at a furious pace after my Dad's passing and I thought maybe God had some sublime purpose in this writing experience ... and he may yet. That's a part of why I'm back on this page.

Today, pressing down on me is the thought of "intentions." When I say pressing, I mean weighing on me in a way that requires some action and for me the logical action is to write it out into the open.

Here's my attempt at it. At one point in my life I intended to be a physician or a lawyer or anything but a preacher. At one point in my life I intended to avail myself of just about any pleasure that would take my mind off of life in general. At one point in my life I hesitantly accepted my "temporary" preacher role, but spent most waking moments seeking a way to become something else in a related field like teaching.

As I became a more permanent "preacher," I focused my energies on shaping "the church" into what I thought it should be based on the best books, research, education, and "successful" churches that I knew. Surely this had to be God's will and he would pour out his blessings on my efforts.

Then one night in a prayer vigil in a most unlikely place, it hit me squarely in the face -- Intention: This was something that "I intended to do" deliberately, with calculation, forethought, preplanning and premeditation. What "I" intend to do! Lord of heaven, have mercy, what "I intend to do"! Does it really matter what "I intend to do"? Could it take 50 years for God to show me the utter vanity of my intentions? It only took 40 years for God to deal with Moses, but then Moses had something I don't have -- meekness. It only took 30 years with Joseph, but then Joseph had something I don't have -- trust in God in every crisis moment.

Intentions -- I digressed a bit because the part that really hit me square in the face is the absolutely true declaration of Job 34:14-15, "If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust."

Those are convicting words. At any moment during my "intentional" life God could have snuffed me out like a fragilely lit candle. And why wouldn't he? Because it wasn't his "intention." The word "intention" in this text of Job gained power for me as I discovered that the word is really "his heart." If it is in God's heart, he could snuff me out.

However, it was not in God's heart to snuff me out. And the only meaning I can discern in all of this is not just that God loves me in spite of myself, but that God has a plan to work his will and his good pleasure in me no matter what my intentions are or how hard I resist him. (Philippians 2:13)

When I more specifically find out what his plan is and what his good pleasure is for me, you will be the first to know. He's been giving me some small hints lately, but it's much too early to tell. Until then, and beyond, my life rests in his hands and with what he intends to do.

Posted: 04/13/2006

(c) 2006 Steve Puckett.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Debate Marches On

Debunking Myths on Immigration
A Talking Point from The American Progress Action Fund
April 11, 2006

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and other cities for the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice.  The size of the demonstrations surprised even the organizers – showing a huge groundswell of support for comprehensive immigration reform and anger over the inaction of Congress to pass a bill before they left for recess.  In the wake of the bill falling apart, many on Capitol Hill and those against real immigration reform are spreading myths about what really transpired over the past few days.  There is a need to separate the myth from reality in the heated rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate.

  • Conservatives deserve the blame for the failure of the passage of the immigration bill.  Despite attempts to place the blame at the feet of the progressive members of congress, the truth is that conservatives were responsible for the bill dying.  The Hagel-Martinez bill WAS the compromise that was agreed on.  There was bipartisan support for the original bill (McCain-Kennedy), but in the interest of getting a bill out of the Senate, many progressives further compromised and supported the Hagel-Martinez bill.  Democrats, wanting the strongest possible bill to come out of the Senate, opposed amendments to Hagel-Martinez because they feared the bill would get watered down in conference with the House.
  • Immigration isn’t just a “Mexican” issue.  Conservatives are trying to paint the immigration fight as one with Mexicans only.  That is not the case.  While the crowds were "mostly Latino," "people representing other ethnic groups also participated." People from all corners of the globe came out to support immigration reform.  In New York, "the thousands who converged at City Hall Park were greeted in Spanish, Chinese, French and Korean, and heard invocations by a rabbi and the leader of a Buddhist temple."  Alan Coleman, a teacher in Washington, D.C., held a sign "decorated with green shamrocks" that read "We Were All Immigrants Once."
  • There is still hope for a comprehensive immigration bill.  Despite all the talk that “immigration reform is dead,” the rallies of the past few days prove that the people won’t let the issue just go away.  When Congress comes back after yet another break, they will have heard plenty from their constituents who overwhelmingly want fair reform.  The McCain-Kennedy bill still remains the model for what should be passed: a bill that secures our borders, cracks down on employers who hire the undocumented and provides a path to citizenship that isn’t amnesty for the over 11 million undocumented people living in America today.

To visit the Talking Points archives, please click here.

Food for THought

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats 1865-1939
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Touched by An Angel"
 by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave

And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.

Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Dropout Nation -- Dropout Electorate

While the current administration has been pouring money into the mismanaged  war in Iraq  and busy "spreading democracy in the Middle East and Asia",  the US public education system has gone to hell in a handbasket.   And just like the broken levees in New Orleans, many people have seen this coming for a very long time.   It is important that Time Magazine and Oprah are focusing on the issue this week but nothing is going to change unless enough people decide to do something about it. 
What is the American public going to do?  When are we going to put aside petty differences in politics, religion, race and sexuality and collectively scream out and demand change on the issues that impact us all. 
Those so-called "jobs that Americans won't do"  may be the only jobs that a large percentage of our younger generation will be qualified to hold if drastic measures aren't taken to
educate them.  Of course, when the vast numbers of high school drop-outs realize that you can't live the "American Dream" at the current minimum wage rate or at the wage currently paid to many illegal immigrants, there will be no money in the federal budget for programs that train high school drop-outs.   Sadly if the "war on terrorism" escalates, as some seem to hope that it will, there will  be a growing  need for ground troops in the Middle East.   Is this a plan?
Is this the future of the American middle-class?  You bet,  if the American public doesn't wake-up, get the facts,  speak up and vote out of office those so-called elected representatives that represent no one but corporate America.   Keeping in mind that the majority of corporations in the US,  unlike in Germany, could care less about this nation.   If America fails they'll just set up shop off-shore.  Oops, they're already doing that.   It's high time for everyone to take an American history refresher and recall what happened that last time that there was "taxation with representation" in this land.   
TIME Magazine -- Dropout Nation
Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006 Dropout Nation --  The number of high school students who leave before graduating is higher--much higher--than you think.

In today's data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly 1 out of 3 public high school students won't graduate, not just in Shelbyville but around the nation.

For Latinos and African Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50%.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has trained its moneyed eye on the problem, funding "The Silent Epidemic," a study issued in March that has gained widespread attention both in Washington and in statehouses around the country.

If their grandparents' generation could find a blue-collar niche and prosper, the latest group is immediately relegated to the most punishing sector of the economy, where whatever low-wage jobs haven't yet moved overseas are increasingly filled by even lower-wage immigrants.

Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew.

Identifying the problem is just the first step.

The next moves are being made by towns like Shelbyville, where a loose coalition of community leaders and school administrators have, for the first time, placed dropout prevention at the top of the agenda.

Shelbyville, a town of almost 18,000 located on the outer fringe of the "doughnut" counties that ring Indianapolis, seems an unlikely battleground in the war on dropouts. Despite a few oddities--it's home to both the oldest living Hoosier and the world's tallest woman--it is an otherwise pleasantly unremarkable town. The capital is just a short drive away, but miles of rust-colored farmland, mainly cornfields waiting for seed, give the area a rural tinge. Most people live in single-family houses with yards and fences. Not many of them are very well off, but there's little acute poverty, as a gaggle of automotive and other factories has given the town a steady supply of well-paying jobs. Violent crime is rare, and the town is pervaded by a throwback decency. People wave at one another from their cars on Budd Street. They chitchat in the aisles of Mickey's T-Mart grocery store.

For years, Shelbyville had been comforted by its self-reported--and wildly inaccurate--graduation rate of up to 98%. The school district arrived at that number by using a commonly accepted statistical feint, counting any dropout who promises to take the GED test later on as a graduating student.

The Federal Government has been similarly deceptive, producing rosy graduation-rate estimates--usually between 85% and 90%--by relying only on a couple of questions buried deep within the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

The national statistics on the topic are blunt: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids from the lowest income quarter are more than six times as likely to drop out of high school as kids from the highest.

On a national level, No Child Left Behind--the metric-heavy school reform that President Bush would like to expand in public high schools--was designed to make schools accountable for their dropout rates.

The Education Trust, an advocacy group for low-income and minority students, issued a scathing report in 2005 about how the Federal Government stood by while states handed in patently misleading graduation numbers: last year three states didn't submit any, and for many states, the figures were clearly inflated.

But it's a nonbinding compact that five states, including Texas, California and Florida, didn't sign.

And critics say the government is trying to slash funding for important support programs, including the Carl Perkins Act, which has funded vocational education across the country since 1984.
 Print Page: TIME Magazine -- How Germany Keeps Kids From Dropping Out,9171,1182439,00.html

It may be hard for Americans to fathom a world in which corporations, instead of merely lamenting the shortage of skilled labor, volunteer to train vast numbers of the non-college-bound.

Oh, yeah, and to pay them a bundle along the way.

But under Germany's earn-while-you-learn system, companies are paying 1.6 million young adults to train for about 350 types of jobs, ranging from industrial mechanic to baker to fitness trainer.

And the trainees' average annual salary of $19,913 helps explain why less than 9% of Germans drop out of high school: they can't get in on the action without a diploma.

Private-sector apprenticeships have long been a mainstay of Germany's robust vocational-education program --- so much so that in 2004, 58% of students finished high school with three-year training contracts in hand.

Historically, more than two-thirds of the trainees end up with permanent job offers by the time those contracts are up.

And despite increasing pressure from globalization and a shrinking labor market at home, 23% of all German companies continue to offer apprenticeships, a remarkable statistic, given that it takes into account every one-man shop as well as every megacorporation.

According to a recent survey, 90% of the firms that offer apprenticeships say they do so because skilled employees simply are not available on the job market.

For instance, when BMW decided ten years ago to open a factory in central England, the enginemaker struck a deal with the British government to jointly finance a German-style apprenticeship program.

Likewise, in 1995 a small consortium of manufacturing companies in North Carolina --- that now includes firms headquartered in Germany, Switzerland and Austria --- approached high schools and community colleges in the Charlotte area to develop Apprenticeship 2000, a four-year program for students interested in technical careers.

One reason may be that the closing of several manufacturing plants in the state has scared off potential recruits who often turn to the service sector and never even get the chance to learn about the consortium.

The largest of its member firms, Julius Blum Inc., an Austrian-based maker of hinge, drawer and rollout systems for cabinetry, has already invested some $30 million in machinery for the training program and hired 26 of its graduates.

But Blum apprentice trainer Tony Austin says the company still faces an uphill battle educating students, parents and --- yes --- school counselors about the value of apprenticing.

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