Category Archives: Current Affairs

Simple Science Could Have Saved Thousands

"Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die." — U2, Crumbs From Your Table

" The astounding tragedy in the Indian Ocean is not just a human disaster of unbearable magnitude. Nor is it a matter of fate. It is the consequence of years of underinvestment in the scientific and technical infrastructure needed to reduce the vulnerability of developing countries to natural and environmental calamity."  From an editorial by Art Lerner-Lam and Leonardo  Seeber, seismologists with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University and Robert Chen, a geographer with the Center for International  Earth Science Information Network. Maxx Dilley, Deborah Balk, and Klaus Jacob also contributed to this essay.  Full editorial at the Los Angeles Times (registration required.)

Give to the Red Cross courtesy of Amazon.

Raise the Minimum Wage?

The Working Families party called the other night soliciting a contribution for their campaign to raise the minimum wage.  The New York State minimum wage is currently set at $5.15 an hour–a proposal in Albany would raise it by $2 to $7.15 an hour.  I’d given them a contribution for this cause before, but the act sent me back to my microeconomics textbook–wasn’t raising the minimum wage one of those policies that hurt more than it helped? 

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Choose Your News

Unhappy with the  mainstream media these days?  Having trouble with the fact that the paper of record helped drive the country to war with misleading stories on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?  Disappointed in their coverage of the "issues" in the recent US presidential election?  Choose a different source for your news.  Or, should I say, let let Google choose your news for you.

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So Now What?

The lead headline on The New York Times website today: “Bush and Republicans Celebrate Victory; Mandate Is Seen for the Next Four Years.” Read further, and it only gets worse. Todd Purdum’s analysis? “It is impossible to read President Bush’s re-election as anything other than a confirmation that this is a center-right county.” Get me to a vomitorium, pronto!

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World Trade Center Station

Img_1685jpgThough I’ve been to the World Trade Center Site many times, until yesterday, I had not taken the Path train. Past trips to the site flood me with memories from that day. I remember the fear, the burning smell, the plume of dust, and the sirens. I know that this suffering is not unique in the world, but 9/11 was closest that I’ve ever been to it. So coincidentally, on the same day that Osama Bin Laden released his video message to the American people, I visited the site he ordered to be destroyed. Remote control violence–give an order on one continent, bombs drop on another. It’s easier to forget about humanity when one frames the debate in terms of objectives and platitudes. (Jonathan Glover’s Humanity, A Moral History of the 20th Century illuminates this grim topic and offers solutions.) But now the World Trade Center site has been scrubbed clean, turned into a bit of a memorial and an efficient construction site. I still felt the site’s power, but felt it less keenly than on previous visits. I don’t know if I was overwhelmed, numb, or if I’ve grown so used to the sensation that it’s no longer the same. Going down into the station took me closer than I’ve ever been and yet 9/11 never felt further away. Go figure.

Center for Responsive Politics Links Contributions to Contracts

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bechtel Inc, the engineering firm selected by the US Agency for International Development to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq, gave $1.3 million in political contributions to Democrats and Republicans between 1999 and 2002 . Not a bad investment considering the contract is immediately worth $34.6 million and could cost over $680 million over 18 months.

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Downtown for Democracy

New, York, NY – “On Sunday, September 12, 2004, forty contemporary artists, working under the auspices of Downtown for Democracy, transformed the block of 22nd Street between Tenth and Eleventh avenues into the Liberty Fair.”–from the downtown for democracy website. We hired a writer to send Colin Powell a letter respectfully asking him to do the right thing and resign, got temporary tatoos, and one of us sort of wound up in the New York Times.

Mark Sept. 1 on the Calendar

The scene in Rietavas, Lithuania, on September 1, 1996– it’s the first day of school. (imagine a similar picture at every school in Lithuania, Russia and the former Soviet Union). Tradition dictates that the oldest 12th grade students escort the youngest first grade students to their classes. Students, parents and teachers don their best clothes. The 12th grade students opted to wear their Soviet-era black and brown uniforms. Students held fresh flowers to greet their teachers and perhaps soften them up a bit. We gathered first in church (Lithuania’s an overwhelmingly Catholic country.) It was sunny, crisp, beautiful day–one of my favorites as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The town came together, whether they had children or not, and saw the children off to school. A soviet relic with charm. September 1, is or rather was, always a joyous, hopeful day.

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