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Posts tagged ‘action’

Voodoo, Sex & Murder

517ndEmmrJL._SY346_Inside Sam Lerner by Gwen Banta.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Gwen Banta has it nailed to the floor. Inside Sam Lerner is a delightful, and descriptive, murder-mystery that doesn’t pull any punches. Combine the best of Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, stir them up in some gumbo, and you’ve got a first-class tale that keeps you rooting for the ex LA cop (Sam), and his close friends in New Orleans. Before Sam knows whats hit him, he’s embroiled in looking for Madsen, who has gone missing.

The place, people, atmosphere, and actions, of all those involved in this story, jump off the pages and linger inside your head. Here’s a glimpse of the writer’s  style. “When he arrived at the corner of St. Claude and Ursulines, Sam parked on the street and stared at a stately guest house known as Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club. A soft pink glow backlit the windows, and the sound of Fats Waller clung to the thick air like the smell of sex.”

Sam’s old flame (Maire), who is the madam at Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club, has reignited the fire she and Sam had in their younger days, letting him momentarily forget the loss of his wife, who died in Los Angeles. There are a few people that Sam trusts without hesitation – his Mami (Jem), his best friend’s father (Antoine), and old buddy, a New Orleans cop (Leon Duval). There’s also the sadistic killer, who is known early on.

To find out who is who, and who comes through, get yourself a copy of Inside Sam Lerner, and treat yourself to a nail-biting finish. In the process, enjoy some fine dining on The Big Easy’s hot, wet environment, sexual appetites, and underlying beliefs in voodoo. Just when you think you know what’s what, and which way is up, you get taken for a ride. Trust me, and trust Ms. Banta, this story smolders.

 

Stop Meriam’s Execution

A judge in Sudan just sentenced 27-year-old Meriam to 100 lashes and death by hanging for violating her faith and marrying a Christian man.

We must act immediately to save Meriam from this horrific death. Click here to sign the petition asking the United States and the United Kingdom to intervene and put pressure on Sudan to stop Meriam’s execution.

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Meriam is 8 months pregnant and has a 20 month-old child. The courts are convicting her of violating her Muslim faith and adultery because her marriage to a Christian man is void under Sharia law. But Meriam says she was raised by her mother as a Christian her whole life.

Adultery and violation of faith should not be considered crimes at all, let alone acts worthy of the death penalty. Human rights groups are calling this a breach of international human rights law.

If enough of us raise our voices in protest against this horrific sentencing, the government of Sudan will be forced to protect Meriam from execution. Please sign the petition to join the campaign to protect Meriam.

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Thank you for taking action,

Jen
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

On the Ground In Syria

On the Ground In Syria

For two and a half years, courageous Amnesty researchers — like Donatella Rovera — have been on the ground in Syria and neighboring countries investigating and reporting war crimes and other violations against Syrian families. What she and her team have documented there is horrific.

A mother’s three sons dragged outside, shot dead, and then set on fire for her to watch. Cluster bombs tearing into small children playing in an alley. Militias opening fire on peaceful demonstrators.

Now our research teams — backed up by the innovative use of satellite imagery — are gathering information of a heinous attack, apparently using chemical weapons, that killed scores of people, including children.

Now that the international community’s attention is focused on Syria, we must ensure that no more civilian lives are lost and that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity are brought to justice.

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Your donation to Amnesty helps us deploy researchers to document abuses and demand justice for the forgotten and the suffering. Support this work by making a monthly donation to Amnesty International today. For a short time, your donation will be matched dollar for dollar.

During recent investigations in Syria, Donatella met 20-year-old Noura in a field hospital, a temporary clinic created in secret to protect victims and medical staff from retaliatory arrest and torture.

Noura was injured in a cluster bomb attack. Cluster bombs inflict massive damage by detonating in mid-air and releasing hundreds of “bomblets.”

Donatella, as well as all of us from Amnesty, is committed to telling the world their story, and demanding action from the international community.

When you become a member of Amnesty, your donation helps put expert researchers — like Donatella — on the ground in places like Syria, where the world’s attention is desperately needed.

The human rights crimes in Syria have been called a “moral obscenity” that should “shock the conscience of the world.”

As human rights defenders, you and I share an urgent responsibility to help bring those responsible to justice. We must mobilize to stop further atrocities against the Syrian people.

Please, don’t delay. Support our human rights investigators. Donate now.

Sincerely,
Frank Jannuzi
DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA

Help End Hunger

Dear Gabriel,

Imagine the heartbreak of parents who know their child might be the next to die. In many areas of the world, parents do not even name their babies because their likelihood of surviving infancy is so low.

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We can create a world where NO child dies of hunger.

Despite major progress in stopping the spread of killer diseases, hunger is still the root cause of millions of childhood deaths. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and globalized, hunger will reach unprecedented levels. The good news is that hunger is preventable and we have access to the solution. The quest to end hunger simply requires arming people with a sustainable source of food and income.

So let’s commit to making a difference for these children and their parents. It will only take you 5 seconds to sign the petition but you can save a child’s life.

Sharanya_newsletterThank you for taking action,

Sharanya P.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Uganda Bill to “Kill the Gays”

Gabriel –

The speaker of the Ugandan parliament has promised she will pass the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill in the next two weeks — she called it a “Christmas gift” for the Ugandan people. The bill would legalize the death penalty for LGBT people and people with HIV or AIDS.

Uganda experts say that one way to stop this bill is to get pressure from banks that have significant resources invested in the country, such as Citibank and Barclays.

Citibank and Barclays together have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Uganda and wield significant influence in the country, just as banking lobbyists wield influence with Congress in the US. Citibank and Barclays speaking out against the “Kill the Gays” bill might be the best — and only — chance to stop it.

Collin Burton is a Citibank customer who is also gay. Collin started a petition on Change.org asking Citibank and Barclays to speak out against the “Kill the Gays” bill. Click here to sign Collin’s petition right now.

Citibank and Barclays are both big supporters of LGBT rights for their own employees, yet they invest money with a government that is threatening to execute LGBT people. “I expect Citibank and Barclays to live up to the values of equality and fairness, not just list them on their websites,” Collin says.

If Citibank and Barclays speak out against the “Kill the Gays” bill, Ugandan legislators will see that they are risking the business relationships that keep their government afloat.

Click here to sign Collin’s petition asking Citibank and Barclays to issue strong statements condemning Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill. The bill could come up for a vote any day, so swift action is essential.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Mark Anthony and the Change.org team

One Plate At A Time

Dear Gabriel,

This fall, sit down for a life-changing meal.

For almost 40 years, Oxfam America Hunger Banquet® events have been changing the way people think about global hunger, one plate at a time. Around the country, these events have inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take action in the fight against hunger and poverty.

And this year, it’s your turn. Gather your friends, family, co-workers, book groups, church groups – everyone you know – and host an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet to inspire your community.

We’ll provide the materials. You provide the commitment. Our world provides the challenge.

Serve up a memorable meal and inspire change – host an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet.

The harvest season is our season of action – together, we’re tackling hunger and poverty in a variety of ways. And this fall, with 925 million people worldwide suffering from chronic hunger and food prices rising higher each day, your actions are more important than ever.

When you attend an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, your understanding of hunger and poverty will go beyond numbers to create a truly life-changing experience. If you’ve never been to one, here’s how it works: your guests are randomly assigned to play different people at different income levels, and each receives a corresponding meal. People at your event get a taste of what it’s like to be well-fed, hungry or somewhere in between – some will get a filling dinner, while others eat a simple meal or share sparse portions of rice and water.

You and your friends and family will gain unique insight into what it feels like to struggle against a cycle of poverty and how sustainable solutions can help a village feed itself for years to come. While not everyone will leave with a full stomach, your guests will come away with a greater understanding of hunger, poverty and our broken food system – and with the tools and knowledge to make a difference.

Host an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet event this fall – you’ll be inspiring your community to change the global food system once and for all.

Organizers and guests alike call Oxfam America Hunger Banquets a “memorable,” “powerful” and “life-changing” experience. Host an event in your community, and see why it continues to inspire people year after year.

Sincerely,

Nancy Delaney
Oxfam America

Inclusive Nonviolence

Must We Change Our Hearts Before Throwing Off Our Chains?
by Cynthia Boaz
10 July 2012
Excerpt from Nation of Change

One of the consequences of the Occupy movement’s emergence onto the scene over the last nine months is the escalating disagreement about the role of various strands of nonviolence and nonviolent action in the struggle. In the process, misconceptions about nonviolent strategy are being unfortunately perpetuated by earnest adherents of principled nonviolence and require correction. The phenomenon of nonviolent action is already misunderstood in most media. To see it further distorted by our own colleagues is disheartening.

In an article called “How to Sustain a Revolution” that appeared on Truthout several months ago, Stephanie Van Hook made an eloquent case for personal transformation in the context of nonviolent struggle. The essence of her argument was that acting nonviolently is not enough to sustain a people-powered revolution, and that a person must have nonviolent intentions and the willingness and ability to engage in an internal discipline of personal nonviolence if the struggle is to be truly won. On this point, I don’t have any serious disagreement. While I am not sure I would make the same case that nonviolent success requires this level of individual transformation prior to the waging of the struggle, Van Hook’s argument is similar enough to the case I would make — that nonviolent success requires genuine appreciation of one’s own (and thus our collective) power. I am someone who does not align solely with one camp of nonviolence or nonviolent action, and am someone who believes that both principle and strategy are magnified when they are married. I think our differences here are mostly rhetorical rather than conceptual.

However, in describing what she sees as a key challenge to nonviolent success in the ongoing people power struggles around the world, Van Hook writes:

“Those who profess a commitment to what is called strategic nonviolence know how to start a revolution, that is, in the same way that one would have to fight if one is the weaker party: you do what you your opponent is trying to prevent you from doing, you cast all or most of the blame on them, and you draw upon the sympathies of the masses — the “reference public” — to express your power. In this approach it’s acceptable to use threat, humiliation, and coercion to get what you want, and you often accept short-term and short-lived “success” as your goal. Nonviolence in this approach is simply refraining from physical violence while one’s inner frustrations and pains continue to grow, or are left wholly unresolved. After lighting the match of revolution, a person using nonviolence by this definition can walk away from the responsibility to carrying it forward for the long run. So a people left their guns at home this round? Where will it get them when they decide to take them back out because a limited vision of nonviolence did not bring about the deep changes needed?”

Although I believe it was unintentional, Van Hook’s characterization of adherents of “strategic nonviolence” seems to be guilty of the same sort of stereotyping with which she takes issue. I know hundreds of scholars, activists and journalists who study and engage in this form of struggle, and have yet to meet one who has “professed a commitment to strategic nonviolence.” Such an assertion does not make sense because nonviolent strategy is not an article of faith or a belief system. More concerning, though, is the implication that those engaging in strategic nonviolent action are not just unprincipled, but also undisciplined and lacking in a basic sense of social or civic responsibility.

One part of the problem is in the mislabeling of the phenomenon. By calling it “strategic nonviolence” instead of “strategic nonviolent action” or “nonviolent strategy,” she implies that the phenomenon is fairly classified as a category of nonviolence, but this isn’t accurate. Nonviolence implies commitment to a philosophy that eschews violence in all forms and that adheres to some key principles. By calling it “strategic nonviolence,” which is juxtaposed conceptually against “principled nonviolence,” the field of study with which Van Hook identifies, the suggestion is that the commitment to nonviolence has been made for non-principled reasons. But according to Van Hook’s principled outlook, a person who engages in nonviolent action for reasons other than commitment to principle is suspect because they are not embracing or practicing “true” nonviolence. No wonder there is tension — the person practicing principled nonviolence sees the person practicing “strategic nonviolence” as a pretender.

The other problem with this terminology is that it implies that the phenomenon being discussed is actually attempting to be what is understood by adherents of principled nonviolence as nonviolence. Recall that nonviolence embodies an entire philosophy and set of principles regarding the ethics of eschewing violence. Nonviolent strategy — defined as organized, collective action in pursuit of a clear and achievable objective, carried out with nonviolent weapons — does not, on the other hand, require the practitioner to adopt a philosophy in order to utilize it. In fact, to me, this is a great appeal of nonviolent strategy: its inclusiveness. Anyone can practice it. There is no spiritual or philosophical litmus test. And since unity isa criterion for success in nonviolent struggle, inclusiveness is a very helpful means to achieving that end. And moreover, contrary to principled critics of “strategic nonviolence,” I would argue, the unwillingness to adopt a philosophy of principled nonviolence from the outset does not necessarily make the subsequent action an inferior form of nonviolence. I suppose this is where Van Hook and I really part ways. She wants nonviolent action to be engaged in with full intention and consciousness of the power of nonviolence, while I believe that the use of nonviolent tools produces an appreciation for the power of the phenomenon and probably does more to convert skeptics than any other mechanism. In other words, I believe that commitment to the principle can evolve from the action, which itself is a result of the strategy.

On the other hand, by demanding a commitment to a spiritual philosophy as a prerequisite for joining the struggle, there is a danger of being perceived as (or of actually being) exclusionary. Such a requirement suggests that in order for the practice of nonviolence to be effective, the activist must hold a set of spiritual beliefs about, say, the unity of all life or the imperative to turn the other cheek. But there have been many successful nonviolent struggles waged by people who either held religious or spiritual beliefs different than those commonly found amongst practitioners of principled nonviolence, or who held spiritual beliefs very different from others in the movement, so that there was no unity over fundamental belief systems. The unity came from the commitment to nonviolent action as the most effective set of means to address the injustice. Would these movements have been formed and the struggles been waged if there had been a spiritual litmus test in place before action was taken? I doubt it.

Nonviolent action, when done well, can achieve results. When people come to see its efficacy and power through its use, they may develop more appreciation for the principles called for in Van Hook’s treatise. But whether activists get to the principle prior to action or through it does not matter. One need not necessarily be fully converted to the philosophy of nonviolence before being willing to try a new means of waging struggle. Willingness to take such a risk is the essence of courage — the most important personal quality in the nonviolent activist.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Write for Rights

Dear Gabriel,

If you think writing letters is passé, that touching pen to paper is meaningless in the age of Facebook and Twitter, remember my story.

My name is Birtukan Mideksa, and your letters set me free.

I once had no hope of freedom. A single mother and former opposition party leader in Ethiopia, I was arrested in 2005 after my political party participated in protests disputing the results of the elections.

Security forces responded to the public outcry with deadly force, shooting dead 187 people and wounding 765 others.

I committed no crime. I was targeted solely for peacefully expressing my political views.

Help free other prisoners of conscience like me. Join Amnesty’s 2011 Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon. There are 15 urgent cases of abuse and injustice in need of your action.

The government in Ethiopia thought it could quell dissent by locking opponents away forever.

I was serving a life sentence in Kaliti Prison when Amnesty International members came to my defense. When my case was featured in the 2009 Write for Rights campaign, thousands of people called for my freedom.

Your letters were my protection during the months I spent in solitary confinement. You were my voice when I had none. Your letters kept hope alive at the darkest hours of need.

Thanks to Amnesty International, I regained my freedom in October 2010.

I am so grateful that your letters and action worked for me. Now I urge you to keep up your good work by taking action for others. I offer my voice for Amnesty International, and I hope that you will do the same.

Write with me. Join the 2011 Write for Rights campaign today.

In peace,
Birtukan Mideksa

Take It Like A Man

“Be strong.” “Bear up to pain.” “Be sexually potent.” “Provide for others.” “Endure.” “Don’t give in.” “Compete and win at all costs.” “Be in control.” “Remain rational, unemotional and logical.” “Accomplish, achieve, perform.” “Be assertive, in control and one step ahead of the next guy.”

These are some of the messages given to young boys and men for thousands of years. We’ve heard it from lovers, parents, families, friends, religions, governments, the media and other men since birth. Some of the messages of expected behavior are blatant and others more subtle. Some are proclaimed orally or in print and others are non-verbal and observed by actions and deeds. “Don’t cry.” “Never, ever, express or convey fear, dependence, loneliness, emotion, weakness, passivity or insecurity.”

It’s only been in the last forty years, since the modern women’s movement (in some areas of the world), that these cultural, familial and religious norms and expectations have been questioned, debated, challenged and/or changed. Within this short span of freedom from such rigid conditioning, some men have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to embrace these norms and continue the cycle. Others have revolted against them altogether and thrown out the positive attributes of such expectations, along with the negative. And others swagger back and forth between the past and the present, in a state of confusion, bewilderment and loss.

Regardless of how one lives, when a man loses a loved one, by death or separation, they can be thrown into an unknown world of pain that casts their beliefs, personal expectations and accepted ways of being into an ocean of doubt, turmoil and isolation. Loss causes an eruption of feelings, fears and thoughts that fly in the face of what it has meant to “be a man”. Feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, emptiness, doubt, confusion, helplessness and indescribable pain can assail our very concept and perception of who we are.

Efforts at avoiding, “toughing it out”, controlling or “getting rid” of the pain of loss, only result in temporary relief, often at the expense of long-term health and rarely change the reality of our condition. The pain of grief is one of the few kinds of pain in life that are best dealt with head on, by doing something men are often taught to avoid. The pain of grief and mourning tend to change and heal with time and attention, when we can honestly acknowledge what we are feeling, thinking and believing and externalize such reactions in a positive, healthy environment and/or manner.

Men and women all experience the pain of grief and loss and both genders feel its impact, in many of the same ways. What tends to be different about the sexes is the way in which we talk about and verbalize such feelings and experiences. We filter them differently. Men often talk about the things we did for our loved one, how we took care of them, what we’re “doing” now and what we “plan” to do in the future. We blame others or ourselves for something that did or didn’t happen or something that could have been different; something that would have spared us the pain we are now experiencing. Our anger, guilt and reasoning; are ways we try to control and make sense out of our grief and the situation it has put us in.

Though it is a generality and never true at all times, with all men or all women, men tend to speak “about”, instead of “of” or “with”. If I asked a gentleman how he’s been “feeling” or what had been the “most difficult” about the loss of his wife, partner or parent, he might look at me as if I was speaking Russian. If, on the other hand, I questioned his “reactions” or asked him to tell me a story “about” the deceased, he would begin to take the road to the same valley of pain that a woman experiences, but get there from a different route.

Ironically, men often seem to be more emotionally dependent on women for their sense of self, than the other way around. (Again, please remember that I am speaking in generalities and there are thousands of exceptions.) The women in a man’s life are who he tends to share his most intimate needs, desires and fears with, as it is seldom safe or accepted to talk about such things with other men. Thus, when a woman mate, friend or mother dies or leaves, men have nobody to whom they feel they can acceptably turn to and their need for intimate human contact and emotional well being is left in a desert of thirst for companionship, friendship, validation and/or physical contact.

Many men, though not all, also connect physical touch with sex, because it is one of the few occasions in their lives when they are permitted or expected to touch or be touched. To hug, kiss or embrace another man or woman, aside from the sexual act, is frowned upon and charged with a variety of expectations, judgments and fears. Thus, after the death of a loved one, men often do not know how, where or when it is acceptable or possible to have any human contact that is not sexual.

Luckily, there are people, men and women, who are willing and able to listen to men’s lives and experiences surrounding grief and loss. There are places where a man can be held, without any sexual involvement or expectation of such. There are people within families, churches and communities that honor and respect our gender’s differences without putting limits or expectations on what those differences can or should be.

If you or a man you care about, has experienced the loss of a loved one, give yourself or him, the comfort, permission and love that all humans need, regardless of gender and provide the personal or community resources that can help the hurt change to healing and positive action.

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