Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
by Express-Times staff
Sunday December 14, 2008, 12:16 AM
Good names for a trio of toddlers? Heath and Deborah Campbell think so. The Holland Township couple has picked those names and the oldest child, Adolf Hitler Campbell, turns 3 today.
This has given rise to a problem, because the ShopRite supermarket in Greenwich Township has refused to make a cake for young Adolf's birthday.
"We believe the request ... to inscribe a birthday wish to Adolf Hitler is inappropriate," said Karen Meleta, a ShopRite spokeswoman.
The Campbells turned down the market's offer to make a cake with enough room for them to write their own inscription and can't understand what all of the fuss is about.
Adolf Hitler Campbell will be getting a cake from Wal-Mart this year.
"ShopRite can't even make a cake for a 3-year-old," said Deborah Campbell, 25, who is Heath's wife of three years and the mother of the children. "That's sad."
Others, such as Anti-Defamation League director Barry Morrison, applauded Shop Rite's decision.
"Might as well put a sign around their (the children's) neck that says bigot, racist, hatemonger," said Morrison. "What's the difference?"
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Harvey Milk was so brave in his fight to win a public office to change, to make a difference. I was awed at this persistence and ability to believe when there were so many adversaries winning around him. People wept in the theater watching this movie tonight, it was hard not to. It was an amazing man's life story, cut much too short.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
This happened to more people than we will ever know. These people were targeted by arresting officers of the US military, and without any due process, were arrested and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay to be held prisoner.
There are some people that were imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay that no doubt deserved it. But some were picked up without true justification, without any true fact checking, and if they were released, it was only after years of languishing in a horrible prison without any legal representation or contact with their loved ones.
For those of you that don’t know, no one in Guantanamo Bay was allowed legal representation. That means no phone call, no lawyer, no right to refute the charges against them; which may or may not have been fully explained to them. And although recently there has been a push to do this, it is in my opinion, too little too late. If you aren't upset you should be. America is supposed to be the beacon of light in a world where human rights and freedoms can get lost in history and suppression. I am all for anyone who is a terrorist seeing the hard end of justice, but I am not, nor will I ever be for our country or any other country for that matter, being able to pick up any person without just cause or reason and cut them off from the world as has been done to these prisoners. If they are guilty, then by all means, let’s try them, convict them, and show the world that a fair and just country can also capture and punish those that deserve it, and keep our dignity intact all the while.
While some critics have called for the release of the prisoners, the U.S. government is upgrading the prison at Guantanamo with facilities that are more permanent in nature than the buildings used to this point.
NPR National Security Correspondent Jackie Northam answers questions about the situation as it now stands:
Q: How many people are being held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay?
At least 520, according to the Pentagon. But the military will not release an exact figure. Several Members of Congress have tried to find out the exact figure, but they haven't succeeded.
Q: Has anyone been released from the facility?
At its height, Guantanamo Bay held about 750 prisoners. The military has released more than 200 people from the camp -- most have been returned to their home countries. But the government says that as many as 12 people released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield to fight again against U.S. interests.
Q: Are new prisoners still being delivered there?
Yes, but it's slowed down to a trickle, only one or two prisoners at a time.
Q: Where did the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay come from?
According to the military, most were picked up in Afghanistan. The adminstration likes to use the term "captured on the battlefield." Their nationalities vary. Many come from countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- but there are some from Britain and Australia, too. The Pentagon says the detainees fought alongside the Taliban during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan or they have direct links to Al Qaeda. There have been repeated allegations that some of the prisoners were handed over to the U.S. by bounty hunters associated with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan -- a group which fought against the Taliban.
Q: Is that information reliable?
It's hard to be certain who the prisoners really are because the administration keeps much of the information about the detainees secret. Any information about who is being held at the prison camp has come out through documents that have been released through the Freedom of Information Act, by a small group of defense attornies, or through tribunals held at Guantanamo which are designed to determine whether a detainee is still considered a threat.
Q: How long have the prisoners been there?
Many, if not most, have been held there for more than three years. The U.S. started moving prisoners there in January, 2002. All but a few detainees have been held without any contact with the outside world, with no legal representation, no charges filed against them. At the beginning, they were interrogated fairly regularly. Some still are. But the Pentagon and military officials at Guantanamo have acknowledged that some of the prisoners aren't being interrogated now. They just sit in their cells day after day -- a sort of open-ended detentions.
Q: What are they charged with?
Only four detainees have been charged. Their trials -- which the Pentagon calls military commissions -- got underway in August 2004. But that process is stalled. An appeals judge said that the men had not been given proper due process. That decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the detainees had the right to challenge their detentions in American courts. A decision by the military on what will happen next to the four men is still pending.
Q: Why are they being held at Guantanamo?
The federal government hoped it could escape jurisdiction of the courts if the prisoners were held outside of the United States. The Supreme Court case centered on a challenge to that assumption. The issue is still not settled.
Q: Has Guantanamo ever served as a prison camp before?
No. It was a sleeply little U.S. Navy port, of dwindling importance, until the American government decided to use it as a prison camp. Now, it has thousands of U.S. military personnel, as well as civilians from agencies such as the CIA. A new prison called Camp 5 is up and running. It is a hard- walled prison, unlike the chain-link cells that have been used for about three years. Another prison is about to go up, construction is finished on an intelligence headquarters at the base and ground has been broken for a new hospital for the prisoners, one which includes a psychiatric wing.
Q: Who runs the facility?
A joint task force, or JTF, is responsible for running Guantanamo. For the most part, the Army had the largest contingent of people, and many of those were reserves. Interrogations are conducted by both the military and officials from the FBI, the CIA and others.
Q: Who is allowed to see the people being held there?
The press has been allowed on the base. I've been there six times. But the military exercises extreme control. They let you see only what they want you to see. On any of the tours of the camp, we can see prisoners being held in the medium-security section of the camp. These are the most compliant detainees who have more freedom than the others. They're allowed more recreation time, they live in more of a dorm-type building. But we can't talk to them. Every interaction between the media and prisoners is scripted by the military. The same restrictions apply to politicians who go there to investigate the conditions at Guantanamo.
Q: What did you see?
I was once allowed to visit a maximum-security cellblock with prisoners in it. The animosity between the guards and prisoners was almost palpable. The prisoners were just laying around in what are, essentially, open-air cages. A tin roof covered the facility. In contrast, there is some beautiful scenery outside of the prison. Blue-green waters of the sea wash up on the shore.
Q: How are the prisoners treated?
Physically, their needs seem to be met. They're allowed some recreation. The military says it gives the detainees meals that are sensitive to their religious and cultural dietary needs. But the mental health of many detainees seems to be questionable. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the only aid agency allowed to visit the detainees, broke its silence and issued a statement saying that many prisoners are suffering mental deterioration. The open-ended detentions appeared to be the key problem. Dozens of the detainees have attempted suicide, although none has been successful.
Q: Where does the public's information about Guantanamo come from?
Mostly it comes from the U.S. government, and it has not been particularly open with supplying information. Most has to be pried out through things such as the Freedom of Information Act. Even then it took a court order to force the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA to release documents. But, again, this is a very slow process. The CIA has yet to turn over one document. And there is some valuable information coming out in the documents that have been turned over, such as FBI e-mails that were released. The e-mails show FBI agents complaining about the harsh interrogation tactics used on detainees by the military, and questioned whether those tactics produced good intelligence.
Q: Critics have said the camp ought to be closed. Where might the prisoners would go if that happened?
No one knows. There are other far-flung military bases at place like Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam in the Pacific Ocean. That could make it even harder for journalists and Members of Congress to get out to keep an eye on what's happening.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
If you have a hard time finding onion powder (not the same as onion salt), feel free to use crushed dehydrated onion flakes. Just add to taste.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a large thick-bottomed skillet over medium heat saute the chopped onions in the olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt. Stir occasionally with a wood or metal spatula and cook until the onions are deeply golden, brown, and caramelized - roughly 40 or 50 minutes (see photo). Set aside and let cool.
In the meantime, whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, onion powder, and salt. The important thing is to add whatever onion powder you are using to taste. Add a bit at a time until it tastes really good. Set aside until the caramelized onions have cooled to room temperature. Stir in 2/3 of the caramelized onions, scoop into a serving bowl, and top with the remaining onions. I think this dip is best at room temperature.
Makes about 2 cups.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Having a rough couple of days and dreaming of Paris at Christmastime. I enjoyed a Paris Christmas in 2001, and have never forgotten the feeling there, the magic of it all, the decorations, and how happy I was spending the holiday in my favorite city. I saw this picture today and my stomach actually dropped, I had a longing to be there I can't even explain.
I am off to buy lottery tickets...
photo courtesy of http://cedric-paris2e.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I often wonder if the word hero gets overused, especially with the ever present media, chomping at the bit to find the next big story, and when their isn't one, sometimes creating something out of thin air. But, I also believe that each person's definition of a hero may be different, and with our economy and state of the nation (thanks to Bush) as it is, we might need as many uplifting stories as we can find.
I read this piece tonight, about a very brave man, who I think embodies one definition of a hero. Maybe there is a better word for someone who sees a terrible wrong or injustice, survives great loss and peril, and who gives his life to enacting change to ensure those who come after him will not suffer the same fate. All of this without seeking one ounce of glory.
Raphael Lemkin was all of these things, and literally devoted his life to preventing future genocides like the Holocaust. In fact, Raphael created the word genocide. To read this piece and see all he gave for the betterment of mankind, for really no reward except his own satisfaction and peace in his heart, is heartbreaking. But, it is all the more reason to post this piece and make sure that as many people as possible remember the name Raphael Lemkin, what he stood for, and the sacrifices he made.
I think it is also scary that we all look back on the Holocaust with such shame and a feeling that it seemed so impossible that no one did anything to stop the killing sooner. It seems baffling that the world could just stand by and "let" this happen. But, the scarier thing is, history repeats itself. And just because it isn't on German soil, doesn't mean genocide isn't happening in our world today. And I wonder, will future generations look back on us now with Darfur and other areas where this is happening and shake their heads in the same way? We have plenty of problems in the US to worry about, but we do, all of us, humankind, have to stand together when such things are happening.
Raphael Lemkin dedicated his life to this very ideal. We all need to pick up the baton and finish this race for him, and for the people that will be lost to future genocides if we don't.
Polish Jew gave his life defining, fighting genocide
(CNN) -- Paris, 1948. In the shadow of the Holocaust, the fledgling United Nations meets to adopt one of its first human rights treaties.
Raphael Lemkin asked, "Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?"
Applause shakes the room, cameras flash -- and at the center, a single, tired, unassuming man: Raphael Lemkin.
It was, at last, a victory for a tireless crusader who had fought for his entire life against genocide -- and coined the term that describes the world's most heinous crime.
"This new official world made a solemn pledge to preserve the life of the peoples and races of mankind," Lemkin later wrote.
Sixty years ago this month, the U.N. voted unanimously to adopt the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was ambitious, serious, far-reaching -- and largely the result of Lemkin's lifetime of effort. Watch more about the impact of the Genocide Convention »
A Pole and a Jew, Lemkin had watched in horror as Hitler nearly succeeded in his plan to exterminate the Jews. Six million Jews -- including 40 members of Lemkin's family -- died at the hands of the Nazis.
Today, we call what happened at Auschwitz and the other death camps "genocide." But at the time, there was no name for the Nazis' crimes. The word "genocide" did not exist.
In 1944, Lemkin wrote a book about the Nazis. In it, he combined the Greek "genos" for race with the Latin "-cide" for killing: Genocide. Lemkin had named the crime he spent a lifetime trying to prevent. Watch more about the importance of the word »
As a child in Poland, Lemkin was inspired by the stories his mother told him at the fireside -- stories of history and heroism, of suffering and struggle. As a Jew he witnessed cruelty and persecution firsthand: from the bribes his parents were forced to pay, to a pogrom that killed dozens nearby.
From his mother, and from his circumstance, Lemkin developed early a strong desire to better the world and protect the innocent and the weak.
"The appeal for the protection of the innocent from destruction set a chain reaction in my mind," Lemkin later wrote. "It followed me all my life."
As a teen, Lemkin learned through news accounts that the Turkish government was slaughtering its Christian Armenian citizens. The government claimed it was putting down an Armenian revolt. Over 8 years they killed a million Armenian men, women and children in massacres and forced marches. To this day, Turkey denies a genocide took place. Few of the perpetrators ever faced justice.
"I was shocked," Lemkin wrote. "Why is a man punished when he kills another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?"
Lemkin didn't have an answer to the question. But, as a young man, he devised a bold plan. He would write an international law that would punish -- and prevent -- racial mass murder.
By October 1933, Lemkin was an influential Warsaw lawyer, well-connected and versed in international law. At the same time, Hitler was gathering power. Lemkin knew it was time to act.
He crafted his proposal making the destruction of national, racial and religious groups an international crime and sent it to an influential international conference. But his legal remedy found little support, even as anti-Semitism was becoming Germany's national policy. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Lemkin knew his worst fears were about to be realized.
"Hitler had already promulgated ... his blueprint for destruction," Lemkin wrote. "Many people thought he was bragging, but I believed that he would carry out his program."
Lemkin fled Warsaw with only a shaving kit and summer coat. He survived months in the forest, traveling furtively, dodging falling bombs and fighting for the Polish resistance.
He managed to reach his parents one last time -- only to say goodbye.
"Do not talk of our leaving this warm home. We will have to suffer, but we will survive somehow," Lemkin said his parents told him. "When their eyes became sad with understanding, I laughed away our agonizing thoughts, but I felt I would never see them again. It was like going to their funerals while they were still alive."
Reluctantly, Lemkin left his family to their fate and became one of the lucky few to reach the United States, where a friend arranged a job at Duke Law School. Though now safe, Lemkin remained anxious.
"I had not stopped worrying about the people in Poland. When would the hour of execution come? Would this blind world only then see it, when it would be too late?"
Troubling letters arrived from home. His father said they were surviving on potato peels and nothing else. His mother assured him, "What counts is that we are all together, alive and healthy."
"Something ... told me they were saying goodbye," Lemkin later wrote, "in spite of my parents' effort not to alarm me."
Days later, the Nazis took eastern Poland -- a death sentence for Lemkin's family.
By 1942, the U.S. had entered the war, and the Germans had accelerated their deadly work. Concentration camps ran day and night, like assembly lines. At Auschwitz, more than a million perished.
Even though word of the slaughter was reaching America, it seemed of little interest to the press and politicians. Lemkin was outraged.
"The impression of a tremendous conspiracy of silence poisoned the air," he wrote. "A double murder was taking place. ... It was the murder of the truth."
Lemkin tried everything he could to stop the killing, even writing to President Roosevelt.
Roosevelt responded, urging patience.
"Patience," Lemkin wrote. "But I could bitterly see only the faces of the millions awaiting death. ... All over Europe the Nazis were writing the book of death with the blood of my brethren."
Jewish groups pressed Washington to bomb the camps or rail lines. The Americans refused. Although Allied planes took photos of Auschwitz in 1944 as they scouted nearby targets, the U.S. didn't want to divert military resources from winning the war.
Frustrated, Lemkin decided to take a different tack. He would use the Nazis' own words to prove their depravity.
Taking hundreds of pages of Nazi laws and decrees, Lemkin wrote a comprehensive book that laid bare the Nazis' brutal plans. And he invented a word for the crime the Nazis were committing. Genocide.
With the crime named, he hoped the world could no longer turn away. But no help came.
Even the Nuremberg trials were a grave disappointment for Lemkin. They did little to codify genocide as an international crime -- and did nothing to prevent it from happening again.
But Lemkin knew he must keep trying. He revived his 1933 proposal and set his sights on the fledgling United Nations. He hoped this new world body, born out of the ashes of World War II, could create and enforce an international law against genocide.
Lemkin put everything aside and made the passage of a genocide convention the focus of his life. He wrote and rewrote the text of the convention, lobbied delegates, wrote to leaders worldwide in their own languages -- Lemkin was fluent in more than 10 -- to gather support.
On December 9, 1948, the U.N. met in Paris and voted unanimously to adopt the Genocide Convention. Watch more about Lemkin's work at the United Nations »
Days later, Lemkin fell gravely ill and was hospitalized. For nearly three weeks, the doctors struggled with a diagnosis. Lemkin finally offered one himself: "Genociditis," he said, "exhaustion from working on the Genocide Convention."
A decade later, Lemkin would die from a fatal heart attack, penniless and alone, having given his life to the fight against genocide.
article and videos courtesy CNN
Monday, December 1, 2008
I didn't announce this at the beginning of November, because I didn't think I would be able to do it. There was a challenge set by this website, National Blog Posting Month, for bloggers to post every day of the month in November. I did it! It was challenging to not babble about nothing (which I did sometimes--but at least not EVERY post). It also reminded me how blogging sharpens my writing skills, and it was fun to search for new topics to post. I can't say I will continue posting daily, but I will probably post more regularly than I did before.
I know some of you that read my blog also participated and succeded. Congrats!