Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Putting the Ebola crisis in perspective

The Ebola virus (courtesy of the Huffington Post).
Good morning, friends. I don't have much time to post this morning as I've got a lot of life stuff demanding attention, but this column by Frank Bruni at the NY Times caught my eye. Bruni succeeds in putting the Ebola crisis in perspective:

We Americans do panic really well.

We could use a few pointers on prudence.

Do me a favor. Turn away from the ceaseless media coverage of Ebola in Texas — the interviews with the Dallas nurse’s neighbors, the hand-wringing over her pooch, the instructions on protective medical gear — and answer this: Have you had your flu shot? Are you planning on one?

 During the 2013-2014 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 46 percent of Americans received vaccinations against influenza, even though it kills about 3,000 people in this country in a good year, nearly 50,000 in a bad one.

These are deaths by a familiar assassin. Many of them could have been prevented. So why aren’t we in a lather over that? Why fixate on remote threats that we feel we can’t control when there are immediate ones that we simply don’t bother to?

Read more:


Saturday, October 11, 2014

In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 5-11)

Photo courtesy of Trinity Presbyterian Church.
In recognition of the final day of Mental Illness Awareness Week, it’s my privilege to cross post this item from DeeLindblom’s blog. Founder of the Faith-Based Health and Wellness Network, Dee is known for her advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill. Dee serves as Administrator/Pastoral Care Coordinator at Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Woodbury, Minn.; Trinity received the "Faith Community of the Year award" from the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2009.

by Dee Lindblom

(First printed in the South Washington County Bulletin and the Woodbury Bulletin)

Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 5 – 11) is a national public awareness campaign that seeks to educate Americans to the reality of mental illness. It was established in 1990 by Congress to perpetuate recognition of what mental illnesses are and are not.

Serious mental illnesses are abnormalities of the brain that cause disturbances in a person’s thinking, feeling and moods; they are not caused by a lack of character or by poor parenting. An estimated one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in any given year, affecting people of every race, ethnic heritage, gender, language, age and religious orientation. During the first week of October, mental health advocates and organizations across the U.S. join together to sponsor events to promote community awareness and discussion concerning mental illnesses such as depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Unfortunately, both ignorance and fear continue to play primary roles in perpetuating the stigma that those with these brain disorders encounter, preventing many from seeking the treatment that they need. In addition, this stigma leads to underfunding of government services, discrimination by insurance companies, lack of appropriate housing and employment options, and pervasive media portrayal of persons with mental illnesses as violent, dangerous, or hopeless.

Advancing an end to stigma and advocating for mental illness treatment and recovery is not exclusively a secular venture. Religious communities have an obligation to offer nurturing environments for persons dealing with mental illnesses and their families and friends. Religious communities should unconditionally walk alongside those who are suffering with gentleness, compassion and love. Places of worship should impart the message of acceptance and hope that professionals cannot necessarily give. The ministry of the church is called to complement the healing associated with talking therapies, professional care or medication, as well as provide reassurance to people with the illness that they are worthy in the eyes of God.

There is often the misconception that a disease of the brain is a punishment from God, or that God is specifically giving them a cross to bear, or worse, that it is a sign of God’s lack of love for them. It has been inferred that those with a mental disease have brought the illness on themselves or that they possess inadequate faith, and, that they would become well if they would immerse themselves in Bible study and fervent prayer. Religious communities should replace these inaccuracies by helping families understand that “these diseases are not their fault,” and offer healing prayer that reflects the biological nature of mental illness just like any other disease. A congregation can be a supportive presence through the journey of recovery, praying for healing while encouraging the person to continue with sound medical practices.

For people who find no other welcome from society in general, being welcomed in a house of prayer by a concerned and caring populace can make a significant difference for those with mental illnesses and their families.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 awarded on behalf of children and young people

It's a privilege this morning to post this press release from
The perfect choices for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.  In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age.  It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected.  In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.
Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.  He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.

Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.  This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances.  Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.

The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.  Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed.  It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today.  In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher.  The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.

The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents contributes to the realization of the “fraternity between nations” that Alfred Nobel mentions in his will as one of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oslo, 10 October 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

A five-year wildlife killing derby on public lands?

A threat to Idaho wolves on public lands.

Dear friends of Katalusis,

Protecting wildlife is a major concern of this blog. The email below from Defenders of Wildlife on behalf of Idaho wolves is of the utmost importance. 

Dear Virginia,
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now seriously considering allowing a five-year predator-killing derby on our public lands in Idaho.
A “hunters’ rights” organization wants to hold this multi-year wolf and predator-killing derby on national public lands, including those being studied for designation as wilderness!
Turning wolf killing into a competitive sport is bad enough. But this proposed derby would also sweep many important species of predators and other wildlife in Idaho into its gun sights, rewarding the killing of wolves and others predators.
Last year’s wolf and coyote-killing derby, sponsored by this same group, included prizes for killing the most coyotes and killing the largest wolf. This is not hunting; this is simply mass-killing for fun based upon hatred and fear.
The proposed event would take place every winter for five years when wolves and other wildlife are at their most vulnerable - out foraging for food in the snow and extreme cold.
Events like these are the same kinds of barbaric extermination-era tactics that drove wolves to the brink of extinction in the Lower 48 in the first place! This is not modern wildlife management, and it has no place in our society.
 Thank you for all you do. 
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lessons from ISIS

Malala Yousafzai (Wikipedia).

Hi friends,

I've got an early morning appointment so must post this important link in a hurry; Nick Kristof at the NY Times gets it right with his recommendation that over the long term, the United States should fight ISIS by contributing to the education and empowerment of women at home and around the world.

Kristof makes a lot of sense. Read What Isis Could Teach the West here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A federal judge who beats his wife?!!

Hi Katalusis friends,    

This hit my inbox this morning, and I feel compelled to share it with you. Your action is needed! 

Impeach the right-wing federal judge who beats his wife
Tell Congress:
"U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. He is unfit to serve as a federal judge, and Congress should impeach him."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Dear Virginia,

Impeach Mark Fuller
“Please help me, he’s beating on me.” That’s what Judge Mark Fuller’s wife begged a 911 dispatcher as her husband could be heard striking her in the background.1

Fuller, an Alabama federal judge nationally renowned for his role in Karl Rove’s politically motivated prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, was arrested this summer for beating his wife. But unlike Siegelman, who is in jail right now serving a six-and-a-half year sentence, Judge Fuller managed to completely escape criminal prosecution, and could even keep his lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

A man who beats his wife shouldn’t be allowed to continue serving as a federal judge. Click here to urge Congress to begin impeachment proceedings now.

Despite his arrest in Atlanta for the assault so disturbingly caught on tape by the 911 dispatcher, Fuller got a plea deal from Georgia prosecutors that will erase his arrest from the record if he completes a once-a-week counseling program for 24 weeks. Fuller has been relieved of his caseload by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but he’s still got a lifetime appointment to the court, for which he continues to draw a $200,000 a year salary.

Both of Alabama’s Republican Senators have called for Judge Fuller to step down, but he still refuses to do so. 2 The only way to get him off the federal bench is for Congress to impeach him, a move endorsed recently by the generally conservative editorial page of *The Washington Post*.3

Judge Fuller’s time on the bench has been embroiled in controversy. He’s the judge who sentenced Alabama’s former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman to six-and-a-half years in federal prison in a politically-motivated, Karl Rove-orchestrated prosecution. Despite having a clear conflict of interest and a negative history with Siegelman, Fuller refused to recuse himself from Siegelman’s case. And when he sentenced Siegelman, he had the former governor taken from the courtroom in handcuffs and leg manacles and sent immediately to prison, rather than letting him go free until appeal, which is standard procedure.

Over 50 former state attorneys general from across the country, both Republicans and Democrats, have urged the U.S. Congress to investigate the Bush administration’s use of the U.S. Department of Justice to railroad Siegelman. And now, after putting former Governor Don Siegelman in chains for bribery and corruption charges, at the bidding of Karl Rove no less, the idea that Judge Fuller will suffer no legal consequences for violently beating his wife is especially appalling.

This is not the first time allegations of domestic violence have been lodged against Fuller. In 2012, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported that Fuller’s divorce records were “wrought with accusations of domestic violence, drug abuse and the judge’s alleged affair with his court bailiff.” Those records were sealed by a fellow judge serving on the Montgomery circuit court.4
According to the judicial code of conduct to which Fuller is bound, “a judge should maintain and enforce high standards of conduct and should personally observe those standards, so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved.”

The integrity of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is clearly at risk if a judge who assaults his wife is allowed to continue to serve. It’s outrageous that Mark Fuller got a free pass for domestic violence. It would be even worse if he also returns to the bench. It’s now up to Congress to hold him accountable for his actions.

Help us hold Republican Mark Fuller accountable. Click the link below to get him off the federal bench.

Thanks for everything you do,
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A matter of time: autumn 2014

 Hi Katalusis friends,
This little tree is always the first in our back yard to flaunt red leaves (9/23/14).

The autumnal equinox a couple of days ago reminded me of this piece that I first posted in September 2007:

Up here in the northern hemisphere, we’ll mark the autumnal equinox this Sunday when the sun heads south across the celestial equator, and the hours of daylight and darkness become nearly equal.

My son Steve is coming for dinner this evening (his wife Nancy is out of town), and the already shorter days and cooler nights demand a pot of spicy chili, salad greens, and fresh-baked apple pie.

Good smells from the kitchen distract me from my work as I sit here at my computer. And I’m thinking if I get time, I’ll run out and get a chunk of cheese and some wine to add to our feast. Wait a minute, I remind myself, I’m in charge here, and my computer can nap until I get back.

I pull out of the parking garage into an early fall afternoon with temps in the low 70s, blue skies, and blinding sunlight. A few trees flaunt newly dyed yellow leaves from among the still mostly green groves along my route.

The supermarket is busy but in no time at all I’ve paid for my cheese and dashed to the neighborhood liquor store for a bottle of red wine. I then stop by the library to return a couple of books I borrowed before the season shifted on Labor Day from the more relaxed pace of summer to the early signs of autumn when kids return to school, Unitarian-Universalists return to church, and Congress returns to Washington.

“The ticking of the clock is the normal measure of experience,” James Carroll reminded us at the beginning of this too rapidly waning year. He said, “You usually move through this sequencing, the way a fish moves through water, unaware of the realm in which you have your being.”

But there’s a difference between the fish and us, Carroll continued: “You can notice the water. Your water is time, but noticing the water is how you swim. The future and the past exist only in your minds, but that does not mean they are not real…we are bodies moving through the world, but our real movement is through the temporal stream of consciousness.”

Mindfulness meditation has taught me how to slow time down as I move though my own temporal stream of consciousness. From the writings of Jon Kabbat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh, I’ve learned to navigate through memories of the past and make imaginative forays into the future while relying on my breathing to anchor me in this present moment.

Slowing time down is no small achievement for one conditioned by the demands of journalism to continually hustle to meet the next deadline. But on this day, I’ve mindfully arranged the bouquet of flowers I picked up at the supermarket, set out the wine glasses, and stirred the chili simmering on the stove.

When all is ready, I turn on the news to catch glimpses of the war-ravaged citizens of Iraq, and I wonder how they experience their movement through time lacking even the most basic necessities of safe drinking water and electricity, while their daily life is disrupted by exploding I.E.D.s and random bursts of gunfire from American troops and/or Blackwater Security Guards.

Not surprisingly, the most recent polls show a majority of Iraqis want Americans out of there like yesterday.

I turn off the TV when the phone rings from the lobby announcing Steve’s arrival. We enjoy our dinner together in the warm atmosphere of home, reminiscing a bit here and there and in contrast to our civilian Iraqi counterparts, speaking confidently of tomorrow.

Loading the dishwasher after Steve leaves, I realize I’ve been unable to completely dispel the ugly shadow of war cast by the evening news.

You could say it’s just a matter of time, but precisely how and when this administration will find the wisdom and courage to admit its mistakes and end our occupation of Iraq is anyone’s guess.