Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - How Long Is Long Enough? - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - How Long Is Long Enough? - NYTimes.com: "The treatment of the young captive was so egregious that the decorated U.S. Army officer assigned to prosecute him — a man gung-ho to secure a conviction against a defendant he believed had committed a serious crime against the American military — ended up removing himself from the case and declaring that he could no longer “in good conscience” participate in the military commissions set up to try accused terrorists."

Dear God, when will this end? For this young man and for Omar Khadr?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "A reader recalls a similar phenomenon - in the violence after the assasination of Indira Gandhi - as captured by Amitav Ghosh in 'The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi':

'And then something happened that I have never completely understood. Nothing was said; there was no signal, nor was there any break in the rhythm of our chanting. But suddenly all women in our group - and the women made up more than half of the group's numbers - stepped out and surrounded the men; their saris and kameezes became thin, fluttering barrier, a wall around us. They turned to face the approaching men, challenging them, daring them to attack. The thugs took a few more steps toward us and then faltered, confused. A moment later, they were gone.'"

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "Today in Haft-e Tir, there were so many members of basij that they outnumbered the demonstrators 3 or 4 to 1. They were less focused on women. This must be related to the murder of poor Neda. And this was also why whenever they got hold of a man, women would surround them and shout don’t beat him, don’t beat and they would turn and anxiously say we didn’t beat him. It was astonishing."

Featured Article - Tracking down the causes of multiple sclerosis

Featured Article - Tracking down the causes of multiple sclerosis

Featured Article - Many floors in U. S. homes have "measurable" levels of pesticides

Featured Article - Many floors in U. S. homes have "measurable" levels of pesticides

Monday, June 22, 2009


Just for fun, here's an example of someone whose cranium appears to have solidly breached his anal sphincter: ConsiderThisNews

Note to self

To Do: Create some gloriously positive memory on a day like today with a gorgeous cloudless azure sky, so I'll stop being reminded of 9/11.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

She finally has a home: Harvard - Los Angeles Times

She finally has a home: Harvard - Los Angeles Times

What an incredible story of triumph over adversity.

Twitter ripped the veil off ‘the other’ – and we saw ourselves - Times Online

Twitter ripped the veil off ‘the other’ – and we saw ourselves - Times Online:

As I did so, it was impossible not to feel connected to the people on the streets, especially the younger generation, with their blogs and tweets and Facebook messages – all instantly familiar to westerners in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. This new medium ripped the veil off “the other” and we began to see them as ourselves.

All the accumulated suspicion and fear and alienation from three decades of hostility between Iran and America seemed to slip away. Whatever happens, the ability of this new media to bring people together - to bring the entire world into this revolution on the streets of Iran - has already changed things dramatically.

Of course, the technology also helped to organise and sustain the resistance in ways unavailable during the 1979 Islamic revolution. Here is how Mohsen Makhmalbaf, film-maker and overseas spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the focal point of the protests, put it in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine: “In the [1979] revolution, there were young people in the streets who were not as modern as the people are today. And they were in the streets following the lead of a leader, a mullah - in those times Ayatollah Khomeini.

“Now the young people in the streets are more modern: they use SMS [text messages]; they use the internet. And they are not being actually led by anyone, but they are connected to each other.”

This was, as Clay Shirky, the internet guru, put it, the “big one”. The unprecedented eruption from below on the streets of Iran was met with an eruption of new media to cover it. Shirky elaborates: “This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media.

. . . and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends and they’re even providing detailed instructions to [allow] internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is really extraordinary.”

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "And I've seen a lot. Just watch this pitched battle in the streets between a crowd and the riot police (via BBC Farsi). And watch it to the very end, as the police suddenly turn tail and run. Yes, you can hear the shouts 'Hurrah!' and I confess I found myself yelling it at my lap-top as well. Let us hope this is a microcosm of the whole thing. Faced with so many with such determination, the will of the regime will crumble."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "I wrote a couple weeks back that something is happening in Iran. But it is not the only place where something is happening. The rejection of al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan; the ground-up election of Obama in America; and now the rising up of Iranians for freedom and civility with their neighbors: these are the green shoots of recovery from 9/11 and its wake. Empowered by new information technology, chastened by the apocalyptic conflicts of the last few years, determined to shift course away from civilizational warfare, the people of many countries are grasping for a new order and a new peace. It will not be easy; and it will not be short. But it is the only path worth taking.

And these Iranians are now leading the rest of us."

Op-Ed Columnist - A Supreme Leader Loses His Aura as Iranians Flock to the Streets - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - A Supreme Leader Loses His Aura as Iranians Flock to the Streets - NYTimes.com:

TEHRAN — The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”


I don’t know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering. That commander talking about his family was not alone. There were other policemen complaining about the unruly Basijis. Some security forces just stood and watched. “All together, all together, don’t be scared,” the crowd shouted.

I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her.

There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising:

Barack Obama, in an interview, takes my breath away with his clear reasoning and long view of things ...

SMITH: People in this country say you haven't said enough, that you haven't been forceful enough in your support for those people on the street -- to which you say?

THE PRESIDENT: To which I say, the last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing. We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the Iranian people are seeking to let their voices be heard.

What we can do is bear witness and say to the world that the incredible demonstrations that we've seen is a testimony to I think what Dr. King called the 'arc of the moral universal.' It's long but it bends towards justice.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Food Inc - Official Trailer [HD]

I can't wait to see this movie!!!!

Featured Article - Most polluted ecosystems recoverable

Featured Article - Most polluted ecosystems recoverable: "Most polluted or damaged ecosystems worldwide can recover within a lifetime if societies commit to their cleanup or restoration, according to an analysis of 240 independent studies by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies."

Op-Ed Columnist - Tear Down This Cyberwall! - NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist - Tear Down This Cyberwall! - NYTimes.com

One of my favourite journalists, Nicholas Kristof, writes about the protests in Iran being coordinated/communicated via Twitter and other social networks, and how software written to empower Chinese dissidents is being used by the Iranians to circumvent blocking ordered by their government. Cool.

La Vida Locavore:: Hunger Is a Global Warming Issue

La Vida Locavore:: Hunger Is a Global Warming Issue

If you care about people's health around the world, you need to be concerned about climate change. It's just that simple.

Annals of Medicine: The Cost Conundrum: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

Annals of Medicine: The Cost Conundrum: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

This is a very well-written and -considered article re. costs of medical care in the U.S. The author, a surgeon, takes time to build up the scenario of why some areas of the US are more expensive than others, but it's fascinating throughout, and REALLY interesting at page 6/7 ...

When you look across the spectrum from Grand Junction to McAllen—and the almost threefold difference in the costs of care—you come to realize that we are witnessing a battle for the soul of American medicine. Somewhere in the United States at this moment, a patient with chest pain, or a tumor, or a cough is seeing a doctor. And the damning question we have to ask is whether the doctor is set up to meet the needs of the patient, first and foremost, or to maximize revenue.

I find it particularly interesting how the lower-cost areas actually seem to provide BETTER care, and the steps doctors in those areas have taken to ensure that this is the case.

Well worth reading.

Healthcare CEOs Shoot Themselves in the Foot | Mother Jones

Healthcare CEOs Shoot Themselves in the Foot | Mother Jones

No wonder a recent poll indicates 75% of Americans want a "public option" ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

A quote suitable for my day today

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

~Anatole France

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A therapeutic relationship in the fitting rooms

Note: Update below, at the end of this post.

She was in her late fifties, perhaps, and came into the fitting room area to try on some blouses. I encouraged her to come out and show them to me as she tried them on.

First blouse: short-sleeved semi-tailored lilac pinstripe. I suggested to her it was too big in the shoulders. She told me that she’d had breast surgery, and now her breasts were asymmetrical in size, shape, and even direction, so she needed the blouse to be loose to hide this fact. She was subtle about it, but I could tell she was gauging my reaction. Which was: Acceptance. I’m not afraid of your condition. Let’s deal with what we’ve got here. I will hold this as a safe space for you.

She went deeper: The blouse fit just fine around the middle, and would be too tight if she wore a smaller sized blouse. She’d gained some weight. Her confession was loaded with shame, frustration, self-anger. Her hands spread out as she explained her increased girth. Well, it sounds as though you’ve had a lot going on lately. She smiled with palpable relief. Yes, I certainly have.

So we discussed how the blouse was a good colour for her, and what bras might work to provide a better appearance of balance without causing her pain. She was very concerned about her nipples showing through her tops, and shared how she had always been offended when she’d seen other women who hadn’t dressed in a way to hide their nipples. Had their mothers not raised them properly? My mother's no longer here, so I have to tell myself I can't leave the house looking like that!

We talked about how the blouse could be tailored to take in the shoulders so it could better fit her. She had a job working with the public, so she wanted to look respectable and professional. She was playing around with the shoulder seam, and at one point I felt compelled to mention that she shouldn’t shorten the sleeves at all, as they would look a little odd if she did. Well, maybe they could, she started to say, and then she saw how shortening the sleeve would expose the loose skin on the back of her arms, and strenuously vowed that she would never wear something that would make them visible to the public. It’s normal, I said. She shared with me that when she was in school, she had a teacher who had loose skin around her arms, and as a young woman she couldn’t understand how her teacher – a strong, active woman – had let this happen to herself. And yet now here she was. I nodded and told her I understood, that I had started to stop myself whenever I found myself thinking, “Oh God, please don’t make me work with that person, or let THAT happen to me”, because sure enough …

Did you ever hear the joke about how to make God laugh? she asked. I hadn’t. Tell Him YOUR plans, she said.

She went back into the fitting room to try on another blouse. The next one, another extra large, was too big in every way, but the same one in a smaller size fit her beautifully. Her eyes had a little more sparkle now, and her posture was a little straighter. She asked me whether the seams that went over the breasts and down the sides looked improper or would draw too much attention to her chest. No, it gives you an hourglass shape, and generates the impression of symmetry. It looks wonderful on you. Sincerely. The colour is fantastic on you too.

Red’s my colour. A smile with new confidence.

Another blouse, another conundrum. This time, the neck was wide enough that some scarring above her breast was exposed. If I looked closely, I could see the scarring, but it mostly looked like some broken blood vessels. When they tell you that you need some tests, she said, you do everything they suggest. I never thought to ask whether they would leave a scar. I had more people look at my breasts in one month than in the rest of my life combined. Gets to the point you walk into a room and open up your shirt. No modesty left.

But it went further. I don’t want to be seen as showing off my scars or wearing a sign on my chest that will make people offended or feel uncomfortable. When I was going through all this my family didn’t want to talk about it. At all.

My heart wanted to break for her. I couldn’t imagine going through everything she had, and the subsequent painful insecurity and shame, and not having the support of her loved ones. They were probably just caught up in their own … Fear, she said, finishing my sentence. She knew. While I despaired of this woman’s judgment of herself (and other people), I marveled at her incredible resilience. A true survivor.

In the end, after kind words were exchanged, she left with three new blouses and new confidence. And, I hope, just a little more self-acceptance.

UPDATE: I wrote this in a hurry this morning, because it touched my heart. But I probably didn't put the emphasis where it should have been, which is how the situation allowed me to see from the outside (rather than listening to the "itty bitty shitty committee inside my head") how incredibly HARSH and JUDGMENTAL we can be to ourselves and other people. And what's the sense? Why do we hold ourselves to these ridiculous, meaningless standards of acceptable appearance/status/whatever when we're actually these amazingly strong and yet beautifully vulnerable beings?