27. December 2012 · Comments Off on Global Warming – How are Animals Affected by Global Warming · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

It is not a secret that we humans have been destroying the environment for years. It is now that some of us are trying to make all people aware of the affects that our lack of care has had on the environment and what will happen if we do not make changes now and try to stop the progress of global warming.

Our focus, or drive, is the thought of what type of world are we leaving our children. We also need to be looking at how global warming is affecting our animals now and in the future if we do not stop and make the needed environmentally safe changes.

There are numerous studies that are being conducted and have been conducted where watching animal behavior and traits to measure the status of the environment. These studies are showing that our Earth is changing in unnatural ways and it is disturbing. Think about the fact that right now as things stand, reindeer will no longer wander the places they currently do, they will disappear.

Marmots no longer hibernate the same amount of time that they used to. Actually compared to thirty years ago, they are ending hibernation three weeks earlier. The Canadian red squirrel is breeding 18 days earlier. Studies are showing that the red fox is moving north and invading the territory of its Arctic cousin. Polar bears are not as healthy as they were 20 years ago and they are thinner.

If we look at the sea and our creatures there we also see changes that should cause alarm. Coral reefs are expected to increase by up to a third in size. Elephant seal pups are thinner because their prey is migrating to cooler waters. Our turtles are changing behavior as well, the loggerhead is laying eggs 10 days earlier and the Hawkbill turtle hatchlings are having more females then males due to temperature changes.

Birds are changing their diets to insects that do not consume leaves that have been treated with high amounts of pesticides. What does all of this mean? It means that global warming is going to cause many of our animal species to become endangered if not extinct.

The melting ice, the warm seas, the spreading dessert are all threats to our animals. These changes, no matter how subtle have a dramatic influence on the lives of our wildlife. In the sea the disappearance of the tiny organisms that the larger creatures feed off of is causing the sea life to migrate northward.

Keeping in mind that global warming plays a huge part in our weather and climate, the increased storminess destroys the breeding colonies of the albatross that already battle the possibility of being captured and killed by fishing boats. The rise in sea levels wipe out the nesting sites of the sea turtles, seals and wading birds are also on the list of species to be affected by their habitats being destroyed.

Thought the very source of nature is change, and adaptation, the changes that are taking place in our environment due to global warming are just happening to fast. The speed is what makes it difficult for the animals to adapt effectively and this will cause us to loose a lot of our wildlife. Can you imagine a world with no reindeer? What about the day that the Sahara dessert covers all of Africa and makes migration impossible for birds?

These are changes that we can see everyday and we need to start paying attention to them. The predicted elevation of sea level by an amazing three feet coupled with the disruptions to the Earth life support systems should be our wake up call.

While you can look out your back window and see these changes taking place, the full effect will be seen by the year 2100 if the predictions of scientist come through and we do not change our ways. Think about is, 2100 is less then one hundred years away. You and I would probably not be here, but our grandchildren will and what will we have left for them? Help stop global warming, do your part to save the Earth, our children and our wildlife. They need us.

18. September 2012 · Comments Off on Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation Project · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

A program to aid local environmental projects has taken a big step forward with the decision to aid the Matapalo Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Project by helping fund the work of the Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas in Costa Rica.

The ASVO is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization that promotes environmental conservation and education through volunteer participation and has been recognized by the Costa Rican Government for its work with the youth of Costa Rica and visiting international students by providing “hands-on” education while they work to save ecologically sensitive areas.

For more than 16 years ASVO has been working in Costa Rica and it’s volunteers have played an active part in working in the nearly 25% of the country’s area that has been set aside for nature conservation. You can find ASVO volunteers donating their time in many of Costa Rica’s National Parks wildlife preserves plus a number of other projects; annually there are some 1,500 volunteers striving to make a difference here.

The Sea Turtle Conservation Project in Matapalo began in the 1990’s when a group of students from the Professional Technical School of Matapalo teamed up with different community members to develop an initiative to protect marine turtle nests from poachers and some natural predators.

In 2005, the local organization began coordinating with the ASVO,and the Developers of Hacienda Matapalo which were able to supply volunteers in the form of college students from both Costa Rica and abroad,. Most of the students worked on the project for 15 day periods under the supervision of biologists, helping construct fencing around nest areas and collecting eggs from isolated nests, then transferring them to protected areas (eggs that otherwise might be robbed by “hueveros” who would sell the turtle eggs-a practice prohibited by law).

On nights when marine turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, volunteers patiently wait as the turtles dig their nests, while egg laying takes place the turtles are measured and fitted with numbered i.d. bracelets so they can be tracked for migratory purposes. When the eggs are transferred to the new protected nests, they are identified according to species, the number of eggs, and the date of egg-laying. From then on the new nests are watched day and night. The work of monitoring the Matapalo Beach nests falls under the jurisdiction of the National System of Area Conservation which is part of the Ministry of Atmosphere and Energy.

Turtles that lay eggs on Matapalo Beach

The Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), the Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricatta) and the Black turtle of the Pacific (Chelonia mydas agassizi) all visit Playa Matapalo, and all are in danger of extinction.

The Olive Ridley turtle is smallest of the marine turtles. The adults measure of 55 to 70 cm in length in their shell, with a gross weight of 35 to 45 kg Reach their sexual maturity between the 10 and 15 years and probably live about 50 or 60 years, nevertheless they are reproductively active by only a little more than 21 years. The season of egg-laying mainly for the dark-brown turtle initiates about the 1st of June and it extends until the 30th of November of every year.

They deposit an average of 110 eggs by nest and the period of incubation runs 46 to 65 days, depending on the temperature. Olive Ridley’s are famous for their mass beaching when literally dozens upon dozens of females come ashore to lay. The females return every one to two years. A same turtle can lay eggs up to 2 times each season, in an interval of 17 to 28 days.

The Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) are most commonly found in hard-bottomed and reef habitats containing sponges.. They also reside in shoals, lagoons of oceanic islands, and continental shelves. In general, they are found in water no deeper than sixty feet (18.3 m). When hawksbill turtles are young, they are unable to dive into deep water, and therefore are forced to live in masses of floating sea plants, such as sargassum. Mating for mature hawksbill’s occurs about every two years and the females always return to the beach where they originally hatched.

The Black Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizi) is closely related to the common Green Sea turtle, but it is slightly smaller with weights ranging from 150 to 280 pounds. Their range is the tropical eastern Pacific and nesting areas can be found along the Central American coast and they are the only species of turtle to be found nesting in the Galapagos Islands.

Marine turtles return to lay eggs to the same beach of their birth once they reach sexual maturity. Exactly how the turtle know which beach is the right one is most likely a combination of smell and some sort of internal tracking (we asked and they aren’t talking). Once the eggs hatch the baby turtles dig their way out of the shallow nests and head into the sea.

According to Hacienda Matapalo data taken between 2005 and 2008, 900 turtles were registered at Matapalo Beach; altogether 42,743 eggs have been protected and 35,794 baby turtles (tortuguitas) were freed. In spite of the monitoring taking place, it is expected that about 20% eggs laid on the beaches of Costa Rica are extracted by the egg poachers. Natural predators include wild pigs, coati, and birds.

Threats by man

The populations of turtles can survive the natural threats, but the intervention of man has brought about a noticeable acceleration in the loss of the populations. The main threats by man are the alteration of the turtles habitat: the egg extraction for consumption or commerce, pollution, urban development in coastal zones with an increase of artificial light in nesting areas; plus the incidental capture in commercial fishing operations and finally egg depredation by domestic animals such as dogs and feral cats.

Through sponsorship from Hacienda Matapalo the marine turtle project has been supplied with all of the materials and equipment to construct secure nesting areas. In addition the expense for maintaining the manpower for its construction was covered as well. The breeding ground has an area of 200 square meters (over 2,100 square feet) which will house about 200 nests for this season.

Also, Hacienda Matapalo has donated funds for the purchase of instruments and software for recording the data for soil and water temperatures and the relative humidity of the nests with the aim of determining how these factors influence the sex of the turtle hatchlings. These instruments will allow us to monitor about 30 nests for a period of about two months, which covers the time line from egg laying to hatching. Over the entire season about 60 nests will be monitored.
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10. August 2012 · Comments Off on The Dead Soldier · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

There was a funeral today for a dead soldier. Details along with pictures of this dead soldier’s funeral made front page news. Pictures were shown of grieving parents, the dead soldier in uniform. It was described in detail of the character of this soldier, of course on accounts from all who knew him. Teachers, friends as well as family members. My question here is why does it take a soldier dying to make the newspaper or news?

It’s almost as if our society does not want to give recognition to those who serve, until of course they have given the ultimate sacrifice. Are our military members not worthy of this recognition when they are alive? I read the article on the young soldier with a saddened heart. For I belong to this sisterhood/brotherhood, and I too have felt the sting numerous times of death from close friends killed in war, I feel the sting each and every time I read about dead military members, whether I knew them or not. I wonder at times, does our public only publicize the deaths of dead military members solely for their anti-war beliefs? Our military members deserve recognition dead or alive.

Currently, the war in the Middle East is not a popular one. Bush is being labeled a “war monger”, our military members are being labeled “baby killers”, and anyone who supports the war currently is being labeled “nuts”. I want to get one thing straight, I still support this war, I still support our troops, I still believe in what we are trying to achieve in the Middle East.

People world wide believe we should abandon Iraq and count our losses, I however believe we should stay. Our military members are fighting alongside with the Iraqi patriots of that country. They want democracy, even in knowing our nation wants to ally with their country for different reasons. Most military members are true patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much in fact; they are willing to die in the name of our country. They place themselves in harms way continually, and most have volunteered to do so. Does this not deserve respect? Does this not deserve recognition? Does this not warrant front page coverage?

I am not stating that our public should not recognize our military members who have given the ultimate sacrifice, but I feel that the dead soldier’s picture should have been in the newspaper long ago, when he was alive, as compared to he being dead and his family members grieving their loss. Military members are a rare breed. There are particular things about our military members which even I can not explain, but I have seen the courage and strength which it takes to serve our country during times of war. Our military is a rare community within our country which is close, bonded, willing to not only die for their country, but each other.

Military members do not leave their own behind; it is our politicians that leave our people behind. Military people will take a bullet for their buddy and sometimes giving the ultimate sacrifice so their buddies can live. Military members will die for people they do not even know, and this my friends means you and I, or even someone who is not even a citizen of our own country. Our men/women in uniform have been dying in droves from this current ongoing war in the Middle East, not unlike other wars, and the only time one will view these patriots in the newspaper, is when they are dead in a casket. Our society should be ashamed of this fact.

Our military members deserve honor and respect from our communities, whether we agree with the war or not. If each and everyone understood not only the horror of war as well as the repercussions from the war after the military members come home, I feel people within our society would be ashamed of themselves for harboring ill feelings toward our troops. Let’s give recognition to our patriots of this country while they are alive along with their death’s, they deserve this honor along with their grieving families.

06. June 2012 · Comments Off on Backward America – The Plight of the American People · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

You may not know what kind of difficulty you are in due to the political and social circumstances that affect your life in this country.

Let me get real personal … Our infant mortality rate ranks 37th in the world. It used to be 15th in the world. That’s a disgrace for a nation that seems so pumped up by its egotistical nature.

Many of the so-called lesser nations of the world have as their populations, people who live longer than you and your American neighbors. That’s a disgrace!

We have no universal healthcare and we pay exorbitant amounts of money for healthcare, while many of our citizens can’t get treated properly.

Insurance companies are in business to deny you the funds when you need to get adequate medical treatment. That’s a disgrace and a ripoff.

The fat cats get richer and you get exploited.

Your politicians scream about the evils of socialism. Your education system is socialism up and through high school.Yet your children will be up to their necks in debt from borrowing money to get a higher education.

That’s a ripoff and it’s a disgrace. Higher education should be free and could be free like it is in other countries.

Working mothers are being ripped off by exorbitant day care costs, while they bust their chops trying to support themselves and their children. We need a free day care system, where the working mother can feel safe and secure that her children are being taken care of properly and that she’s not going to go into the crapper because of lack of money. Let’s end this disgrace and start to love our neighbor as ourselves as it says in the good old book.

There is a huge discrimination in the workforce towards senior citizens. They can’t get jobs because employers don’t want to have to pay health insurance for their high risk older seniors. Let’s put the cream of our crop back to work if that’s what they want to do and give them the support and health care that they need.

When Jesus was asked by a rich man how he could find the kingdom of heaven, Jesus told him to “sell all of your goods and give the money to the poor and then follow me”.

If we are to be a true nation of people caring for and loving one another, then those of us who are richer and more fortunate have a duty and obligation to help the less fortunate. Our system needs to learn how to share the burden for taking care of the least of us.

The nursing home situation in this country is an absolute disgrace. Caretaking aging children are over burdened with enormous costs for finding proper care for their aging parents who need a lot of help. We need an entire reformulation and reshaping of our healthcare system for people who are on the final edge of their journey. There is no need for them to suffer because of lack of money and services. This is an absolute disgrace and our country should be ashamed of itself for the way it treats its extreme elderly people.

Did you know that emergency rooms and hospitals can’t afford to provide services due to a lack of money? Drug companies get richer and many treatments are denied to people who need those treatments. The patient needs the money, not the executive who gets bonuses for increasing profits.

Your political dictators try to convince you that they care. But, that’s bullshit! You’ll notice that their pensions and health care is fully provided to them through your tax dollars. But you don’t get the same benefits and privileges.

Your police and fire departments are socialistic institutions and because of government institutionalization, these needed departments have not let us down the hoary path of socialism. So, why are 2 million Americans in jail with excessive sentences and for behavior that may be sinful but not deserving of long term incarceration? Do you know that local governments harass ordinary citizens with exorbitant fines, where warnings would have been just as effective? You wonder why Americans don’t fully trust politcians and law enforcement.

If we are to be a true democracy, we need to take care of our people and not have all of the wealth go to the fat cats, while a majority of citizens are struggling just to stay one step ahead of total fiscal collapse. Everybody is concerned about the so-called myth of the welfare state. Is anybody complaining about the warfare state? Do we need another super carrier? We are being practically defeated by homemade bombs and poor people. Why spend billions on the latest military tank and the most sophisticated airplanes, while our senior citizens and their caretakers are sweating their tails off trying to provide proper care.

It’s a disgrace! Charity is not going to cover all of our basic needs. What we need is a total revamping of our political and social ideology. The Europeans are way ahead of us when it comes to taking care of their citizens. No wonder they live longer and happier and are free of many of the anxieties that plague Americans. It’s time to come out of the haze that our political pundits have saturated us with. We need to start revamping our system, modern-izing it and spreading our wealth equitably and beneficially to those who need it the most.

You may think this newsletter is a little unusual coming from a psychotherapist. But my mental health training also includes social psychology and group dynamics. We are on the verge of seeing the collapse of our system. Our way of life must include an equitable sharing of the wealth and resources of this country and distributing it for the benefit of all of our citizens. This can only be done by learning from other countries who are way ahead of us.

We don’t have to worry about a foreign enemy. The enemy is here at home and it is us and our blindness to our fellow citizens. Please don’t send me any of your rants telling me if I don’t like this country, I should go to one of those other countries that cares more for its citizens. There is nothing new on the face of the earth and we owe it to ourselves to improve our system and become the Golden City on the hill. We can do it …

There has been a flood of information coming in from the media about the green movement. Meanwhile, a very expensive trash truck is picking up my garbage in the back alley. It makes sense to me that if you want to conserve energy, we can invent a way to turn our waste materials into recyclable energy right in our own homes.

In the meantime, I’m going to watch some homeless person dive into the trash dumpster in the back of McDonald’s. Somewhere along the line, that person lost his dignity and he had to resort to trash picking just to eat. Why not have a section at a restaurant for indigent and homeless people to come and sit down and eat properly from the excesses that America is so fond of producing and throwing away. That’s a great start!

In my own personal psychotherapy practice, if I don’t keep up with inflation, I can’t afford to support my family. Many potential clients come to me and want my services but they can’t afford it. In some European countries, the government pays you to provide more (not less) treatment for those who need it. So if I treat more people who can’t afford American prices, the government would reimburse me and I can help alleviate much of the suffering of our population. Oh … So why can’t these people go to a public mental health facility for low-cost treatment. I won’t get into that. It makes sense that every American should have access and free choice as to who they wish to be their physician.

There is a part of me that says let the fat cats and their institutions fall apart and let’s send our tax dollar bailout money where it is really needed … to our healthcare system, day care system, medical facilities, infrastructure, and senior citizens.

Let’s put love back to work and shove self-interest and greed into the pit where it belongs. I see a new day and a new age dawning. We have to come out of our own dark ages and see a new enlightenment coming over the horizon.

As a people, we need to go beyond the beyond that is beyond all beyondness!

If you can read between the lines of this article, you can see that I am trying to deal with the struggles that most people on this planet confront on a daily basis. Collectively, if we use our common sense, creativity and intuition we can effectively solve these problems and diminish many of these struggles. Let’s take the burden of struggle out of individual hands and spread the burden further out collectively. That way, we can diminish anxiety and reduce suffering and pain.

I know many of you may feel powerless …

But a change in one person’s consciousness can start a flow that may reach a critical mass, at that point we may come to the realization of the messianic age, where true brother/sisterhood/mother/fatherhood sings from the mountaintops of Sinai to the rivers of Jordan to the oceans of Hawaii, the plains of Texas and the skyscrapers of Philadelphia.

04. June 2012 · Comments Off on Animals Affected by Global Warming · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

Today, natural phenomena seem to get intensified, as manifested on the physical and chemical conditions of the earth’s atmosphere. Several disturbances are not just evident to humans but to all living things and among the most significant problems ever occurred is global warming. The blame for this natural problem should only be given to people, who ruthlessly destroy the environment. The cruelty of people reaches every living thing from pole to pole as recent reports say that polar bears got stranded on small islands of ice, and most of these poor animals are dying and drowning. The animals affected by global warming are apparently innocent; ironically, they are always the first ones who suffer.

Global warming can cause habitat displacement, which is a great problem in the ecosystem. Imagine how animals affected by global warming get through such situation. These animals have spent millions of years in their respective ecosystems and then abruptly, their adaptation will shift. This is more illustrated by how ice gives way to water in the polar bear habitat. Beyond habitat displacement, experts agree that global warming results a shift in timing of many natural cyclical events in any animal’s life. For example are the birds that have altered timing of long-held migratory and reproductive routines, bettering syncing up under warm climate. Some hibernating animals too are ending their slumbers earlier because of warmer spring temperatures.

Animals affected by global warming can sometimes move into new places and continue to thrive. However, parallel human population growth may mean that many land areas that are suitable for such “refugee wildlife” are already cluttered with industrial and residential developments. According to researches, when different species share the same habitat, they will respond in dissimilar ways while tearing apart the future ecological communities’ millennia.

Most researches will testify the intensity of changes happening in the lives of animals affected by global warming. Thousands of struggling species suffer from extinction, in fact, as of 2003, 80% some 1,500 wildlife species sampled show signs of stress to climate change. Hence, we can possibly determine the situation of the innocent animals in 10 years or so. If the big polar bears undergo great sufferings from today’s problem in global warming, what more will other smaller species feel then? The Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental movement, gathered statistics about some of the wildlife species that are hardest hit by global warming. Along with the polar bears on the list are the toads, penguins, arctic foxes, tree swallows, gray wolves, salmon, and painted turtles. Nonetheless, there is still hope if we still want to save the lives of these animals and other future victims. That is, if we will take decisive steps to reverse global warming. Let us stop razing the environment and fear God, for He will punish the destroyers at the end of time.

04. May 2012 · Comments Off on Plastic Pollution and the Plight of the Planet · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

By negligently discarding plastic, especially plastic water bottles, fishing gear and plastic bags, people are unknowingly causing the deaths of millions of mammals, fish, birds and reptiles every year. We defile the face of the earth with plastic refuse.

Since the invention of plastic earlier this century, it has become a popular material used in a wide variety of unique and innovative applications. Plastic is used to make, or wrap around, many of the items we buy or use. The problem comes when we no longer want these items and how we dispose of them, particularly the throwaway plastic material used in wrapping or packaging. Plastic is handy, lightweight and easily discarded. Too easily discarded.

Plastics are not themselves the problem. They are useful materials which can be produced with relatively little damage to the environment. The problem is the excessive use of plastics in one-time applications together with careless disposal.

Take a look around you. Plastic bags can readily be seen hanging from the branches of trees, flying about on windy days, settled amongst grasses and floating on streams. They clog up drains causing water and sewage to overflow and become the breeding grounds of germs and bacteria that spread disease.

Plastics are utilized because they are easy and inexpensive to manufacture, strong and durable. Unfortunately these same useful qualities make plastic an overwhelming pollution problem. Inferior quality and low cost means plastic is readily discarded. Plastics take around 300 years to photo degrade. Plastics long life assures it survival in the environment for extended periods where it can do great harm. Because plastic does not easily decompose and requires high energy ultra-violet light to break down, the volume of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is steadily increasing. Plastic is now found in virtually all the oceans and rivers of the world, even the most remote and once pristine.

American oceanographer Charles Moore says the amount of plastic pollution in the worlds oceans is so extensive it’s beyond cleaning up. A toxic plastic ‘graveyard’ double the size of Texas swirls in the waters of the Pacific between San Francisco and Hawaii. There his crew found that the water contained over 40 parts of plastic for every part plankton, with a fivefold increase in the amount of plastic between 1997 and 2007.

Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. That is an unconscionable amount of waste, so much that more than one million bags are used every minute and their impact on the planet is devastating. Plastic bags are only part of the problem. America alone, yearly produces in excess of 800,000 tons of plastic bottle pollution. World-wide our precious planet is defaced and poisoned with more than 100 million tons of plastic pollution annually.

According to the California Costal Commission, over 80% of refuse within waterways, most of it being plastic, originates on land rather than coming from boats.

Plastic affects marine wildlife in deadly ways: entangling creatures and by being consumed.
Turtles are particularly devastated by plastic pollution. All seven of the world’s turtle species are already endangered or threatened for a multitude of reasons. Turtles become entangled in plastic fishing nets, and many sea turtles have been found dead with plastic garbage bags in their stomachs. Studies indicate turtles mistake these floating semi-transparent bags for jellyfish and eat them. The turtles die an inhumane death from choking or from being unable to eat. A dead turtle found off the coast Hawaii was found to have more than 1000 pieces of plastic in its stomach including part of a comb, a toy truck wheel and lank of nylon rope.

There is great environmental concern about the effect of plastic trash on all marine mammals. These elegant creatures are already under threat for a variety of other reasons: e.g. seal and whale populations have been decimated by unregulated hunting. A recent study concluded that in excess of 100,000 marine mammals die needlessly each year from the deadly effects of plastic pollution.

World-wide over 100 bird species are known to ingest plastic particles. This includes 36 species found off the coast of South Africa. A recent study of blue petrel hatchlings at South Africa’s remote Marion Island showed that 90% of the chicks examined had plastic in their digestive systems, apparently fed to them accidentally by their parents. South African seabirds are among the worst affected in the world. Plastics remain in the bird’s stomachs, impeding digestion and causing starvation.

Scientific studies are not conclusive about how much plastic birds and fish are consuming, however scientist agree that plastic in seafood is likely to be harmful for people. Plastic is compared with better understood toxic materials such as mercury.

Plastic acts like a sponge when in contact with poisons such as PCBs, concentrating them at levels that are millions of time more than in seawater.

The ingredients in plastic have been linked to cancer and reproductive abnormalities. Bisphenol A, found in plastic water bottles, has been shown to produce cancer in lab rats, to disrupt hormone levels and is associated with diabetes and obesity.

Scientists also voice concerns that the massive swirls of floating plastic could contribute to global warming by creating a dense shade canopy that makes it difficult for plankton to grow.

Let’s look at a few different ways where “Together We Can Make A Difference”.

The crisis of plastic pollution demands urgent study and action. Businesses should be encouraged to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging and to re-cycle.

Plastic wrapping and bags should be required to carry a warning label advising of the dangers of plastic pollution and shoppers should be encouraged to use eco-friendly shopping bags of organic, natural materials or recycled plastic fibers. Tell this to our law makers. The situation only continues to worsen. We must act now!

When a tax levy was imposed on plastic bags in Ireland, usage dropped by 90 percent. Several other countries have already banned the use of plastic bags with significant impact. America must follow their example.

Support re-cycling programs and promote environmental awareness in your local community. Be pro-active in asking governments to make changes and consumers to re-think their attitudes.
Purchase products requiring less plastic packaging and inform store management why you are doing so. We can speak with a loud voice when we speak with our “dollars”.

Choose to drink tap or carbon filtered water from a glass lined reusable container. If you do purchase plastic bottled, dispose to the container properly. Recycle.

With the increase in environmental awareness, it has become obvious that there is more that we can do to create a sustainable society. If everyone of us would take a few tiny steps, make a few different choices and consciously consider our impact on the planet, there might be a way to restore the world to its original beauty and resources.
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11. June 2011 · Comments Off on Political Ideas on a New Agenda – Work in Progress · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

Preamble:

The collapse of Soviet styled socialism characterised by the bringing down of the Berlin Wall saw the slow acceptance and absorption of the majority of socialist counties into some form of market economy based on the West. Western (USA & UK) styled capitalism had its day and was heralded a success. The ‘East’ and notions of its ‘controlled equality’ were demonised as failed conceptually.

Over the passed few months we have seen a collapse in the Western styled capitalism characterised by the credit crisis and failed institutions of the financial sector. It would appear Western styled capitalism has now had its day. The ‘West’ and notions of (Thatcherite) unregulated ‘liberty’ in the form of a de-regularised open market economy has failed to deliver. It has suffered the entropy of its own greed.

From this we are seeing the New Beginnings of a post capitalist economy. It appears a new hybrid is emerging. A new form of Capitalism where its financial foundations – the institutions on which it depends – are fully or partially nationalised. In other words socialism is at the very core. Thus we have a new form: a socialist based capitalism – Socio-capitalism (Hegel and Marx would be proud).

To underpin the new and emerging model it is time to re-evaluate the foundations of society. Now is an ideal time to re-assess and re-establish community values. To try and get it right or at least better than we have evolved under the two failed systems. Now is a time to act. We need a new value system to guide the new and emerging political ideals. A system well worth fighting for and promoting. A system that brings out, and brings back, the best in individuals and society, but where do we start?

Successful institutions are a good beginning. What has succeeded and survived the ‘old failed system’? Voluntary organisations and associations stand out. They have (in the UK at least) been plastering over the cracks in the very fabric of British Western Capitalism for years. They have been the mortar to the bricks, the institutions, of society. So what can we learn from them? How have they worked and what hidden human values underpin their continued success? What in the best cases do they suggest should form the value foundations for a new and emerging Soio-capitalism? Two flags fly high: loyalty and support.

An Introduction:

The foundations of human existence are in the family unit. The family is worth fighting for. It is here that primary values are formed. If appropriate values cannot be instilled through the family unit they are not likely to pervade society as a whole. The success of family process lie (it can be argued) in fraternity (brother/sisterhood) at the value base of which is found loyalty and support. These form the basic foundation stones to life and living. Yes, we need unpack the terms and this will follow but initially, as with Wittgenstein, this will occur through their use.

Firstly, it will be through notions of loyalty and support that we will refined the terms and application of equality and liberty. The relationship between these two relics of the failed systems will still form the key to the new. Any new value system has to equate freedom to regulation in meaningful ways. This will form the first task…
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12. March 2011 · Comments Off on Celebrating the "Day of Deliverance" · Categories: News And Society

President John Adams wrote to his wife in 1776: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.”

While we Americans do a great job of celebrating with pomp and parade, I can’t help but be struck by Adam’s wishes for the day to be commemorated as “the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” I can personally confess to falling way short on that. Games? Got it. Illuminations? Really got it. Picnics with burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream. Oh, yeah.

But this “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty ” mandate has thrown me into a public statement of guilt. Oh sure, I do pray solemnly and reverently for those who came before me, who threw themselves into the line of fire to give me freedom. And liberty. And of course the ongoing pursuit of happiness of which we are so addicted. But celebrating July 4th with solemn acts of devotion has never been ingrained into my thinking about the day.

I love what Paul says about freedom in the book of Galations: “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. Gal 5:13-14 (The Message)

As July 4th is celebrated throughout this great country of ours, I will be celebrating my freedom and liberty with my family in another land. We will be vacationing in South America, where, ironically enough, the personal freedoms we have so enjoyed here in the United States are in scarce supply throughout many regions there. Whether or not we will even have access to “illuminations” is in serious debate. The probability of enjoying hamburgers, hot dogs, and ice cream is downright miniscule.

Wherever you happen to be this July 4th, I hope you take some significant time out of your day to honor John Adams’ wish: commit to spending some portion of your day to “solemn acts of devotion.” Take time out today to pray for our country. Pray for the soldiers on the other side of the world who are currently fighting for others’ freedoms. Pray for their families…that they have peace about their loved ones’ safety and mission there. Pray for our leaders…that, while keeping the courage to stand up for their convictions, they would continue to keep the interests of others at heart as well. Pray for the safety of our citizens…that we be protected from random acts of terrorism and violence. And pray for those who came before us…those men and women upon whose tall shoulders our personal freedom and liberty rest.

Enjoy the day with your family and serve one another with love. Gather with neighbors for a bike parade. Enjoy your favorite barbequed foods, run through the sprinkler, catch fireflies with your kids, suck ice cream out of the bottom of a cone, and watch fireworks on a blanket in your local park or in your own backyard.

And promise to be ever mindful today, of your personal freedom, your liberty, and your rights. Be thankful. Pour out a blessing on behalf of those to whom you owe it. Love others. Hug your kids. Hug your spouse. And pat your dog.

Happy Independence Day!

NOTE: Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson, 1993, 1994, 1995. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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27. February 2011 · Comments Off on The Accuracy of Eye Witness Testimony and Its Flaws · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

As citizens of the United States of America, we believe the U.S. is a very successful country compared to the rest of the world. For the most part, we also trust and respect our complex justice system. If a suspect is proven guilty by the court of law and claims he or she is innocent, we usually have more faith in the court’s decision rather than what the suspect is trying to say. After all, we do want as many criminals as possible behind bars, right? If the crime committed was very disturbing such as murdering a child we become very furious and we want to make sure that someone pays for that. Once the court rules a guilty verdict against a suspect in such a horrible case, we feel safe for another day in our comfortable homes. All thanks to our perfect judicial system another criminal is behind bars.

The U.S. courts do often help protect the rest of society by locking up dangerous people. Unfortunately the system is far from perfect and innocent people receive guilty verdicts. These innocent people are torn away from their families, careers, free life and faced with humiliation. They often face many years or life behind bars and even the death penalty. Such a harsh punishment for the person who did not commit the crime. It is scary to think that anyone of us can fall in to this loop-hole in our judicial system where we can face time in prison even though we are innocent.

How could this happen, how can the court misjudge such life impacting cases and come up with the wrong verdict? Researchers had done many investigations on wrongful arrests, they found that the large majority of arrests were mistaken because eyewitnesses have pointed out the wrong people. Having as many criminals as possible behind bars in today’s system comes with a price, the price of innocent people going to jail too. The emotional victims want someone to pay for the crime, as long as someone gets punished they will feel better. The victim will go home and feel safer, sometimes not realizing that an innocent person is paying a price so the victim can feel cozy.

Many experiments conclude that jurors and law professionals rely a lot on eyewitnesses to come up with a guilty or not guilty verdict. Gary Wells (1998) researched forty special cases. In all forty cases DNA proved that all forty convicted suspects were innocent. In thirty-six of these cases eyewitnesses wrongfully accused the suspects. This is a major flaw with eye witness testimony. This is a crime in itself! First of all we are talking about forty people being wrongfully accused. More than three quarters of them are accused thanks to their “perfect memory” witnesses. This alone proves that eye witness testimonies should not be given as much credit as they are in today’s justice system.

A real life example of the eye witness testimony flaw is the Harris and Adams case. A police officer pulled over a vehicle at night to let the driver know that his headlights were turned off. The driver pulled out a gun and killed the officer. Suspect Harris was found a month later denying that he shot the officer. Harris claimed he picked up a hitch-hiker who was driving the car and the hitch-hiker shot the officer. The second suspect Adams who was the hitch-hiker claimed he was innocent but three witnesses claimed they saw him shoot the officer because Adams had a mustache and long hair which fit in to their description. Although Harris confessed that he stole the car and the loaded handgun, Adams was charged for the murder because three witnesses claimed they saw a description of Adams shooting the officer. Years later, the freed Harris was charged for a different murder and confessed on death row that he also shot the police officer twelve years earlier. Adams was finally released after an innocent twelve year sentence. Three witnesses pointed the finger at the wrong person.

How can three different witnesses point at the wrong person? Human memory is not like video or photo camera that can bring up a clear picture later in time. Our memories are often distorted by our schemas and other factors. If we are missing a piece of the picture when trying to remember something, our mind will replace it with something else. In this situation we will have a skewed memory. It was dark outside when the officer pulled the car over, therefore we can only see parts of the situation. Our mind can fill in those dark spots with other schemas when we try to remember the situation at a future time. The other problem can be the biased questions that police officers and investigators ask the eyewitnesses. For example if the officer has seen the suspect in custody, the officer’s questions to the witness may be biased by the suspect’s true description. Unknowingly, the officer might even make hints as to whether the witness is on the right track for describing a similar description of the suspect.

Another study was done by Patricia Tollestrup, John Turtle, and John Yille. The study focused on how we acquisition or pay attention to a certain scene, how we store that information and how we retrieve it later from our memory. They studied cases where the suspect confessed to the crime. These cases had eyewitness bystanders and eyewitness victims. The bystanders proved to have a more accurate memory of the crime scene than the victims involved. 100% of the bystanders remembered if the suspect had facial hair, only 60% of the crime victims remembered this correctly. Only 48% of the bystanders and 38% of the victims involved remembered the hair color of the suspect. The worse part is that both the bystanders and the victim eyewitnesses chose the right criminal 48% of the time in a lineup. This study shows that eyewitness testimony is very weak. It also shows that if the eyewitness was the victim of the crime, chances are their testimony is even weaker because of many factors that bias their memory. Another major reason why eye witness testimony should not take as much weight as it does today.

Jurors in a court case often don’t realize the imperfections of eye witness testimony. They don’t realize how imperfect our memories can be. If the jurors hear a great deal of confident detail about the crime from the witness, the jurors can easily be convinced by such a testimony. In an unusual event such as a short crime scene, a witness only collects pieces of the scene and later tries to put it altogether in to a story. Another conflict we have with memory is cross-racial identification. We have more difficulty identifying someone of another race other than ours. For example a black witness might have a harder time identifying a white suspect because blacks find it easier to differentiate between blacks. A black witness will have a harder time differentiating between whites the same as whites will have a tough time differentiating between Asians or Hispanics.

Another flaw that sometimes if not often puts innocent people in jail is the confident testimony of a victim that was seriously hurt or violated (Loftus). When this victim says with confidence “this is the guy that did it, I will never forget that face…” it is hard not to discredit their feelings and the fact that they lived through that horrible crime. Therefore it becomes easy to go with their testimony. A huge problem that Elizabeth Loftus talks about is the fact that judges will often not allow an expert to testify to the jury about the flaws of eyewitness testimony. Some judges will allow it, but others will make excuses as to why this expert testimony is not allowed. This leaves the jury uneducated about eyewitness flaws which potentially leads to a wrongful verdict.

When further researching the subject, I was amazed at some of the statistics I read about the inaccuracy of eye witness testimony. This is even if the crime occurred in broad daylight and there were many witnesses. I was also amazed at how much the courts rely on witnesses. Elizabeth Loftus went on to explain that when a judge decides not educate the jury of memory inconsistency of eyewitnesses, the jury for the most part decides the verdict from their “gut feeling”. They ignore the balance that needs to be present between physical scientific evidence and witness testimony. The jurors without the simple education rely too heavily on the witness. This leads the jurors to make the wrong decision and possibly convict the wrong person. Another great point that was made by Loftus is the repetition of seeing the accused person. When the victim spends time seeing the person in photos, in lineups, in the courtroom, the suspect even if truly innocent becomes encrypted more and more in the victims memory. This makes it possible that if the victim saw the true criminal he or she probably wont recognize the criminal anymore especially if the victim saw the criminal once for a short time during the crime.

Our ability to remember accurately is not as reliable as we think it is. We are often unaware that our memories change which causes us to change the story from what really happened. We often forget the importance of the factors that can skew our memory and perception. Unfortunately we think factors such as confidence and details are more important and reliable when in fact these factors cause errors in decision making. When a case is made, the court system and the police should not rely so heavily on eye witness testimony, they need to continue to find more evidence in a case even if there are witnesses who sound like they have a good story.

Read some true stories that related to flawed eye witness testimonies and you will see how damaging it can be!

30. October 2010 · Comments Off on Imagine with John Lennon · Categories: News And Society · Tags: , ,

On this 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, which also happens to be my 54th birthday, I invite you to “imagine” along with John and me: “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try… No hell below us, above us only sky… Imagine all the people living for today…. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one… I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”

What would it be like if heaven and hell didn’t exist? And if they didn’t exist, then Jesus Christ would never have been born; what would the world be like if that were true? Would we be better off? Would the world truly “live as one” if Christ and His religion had never come along?

D. James Kennedy has written an excellent book that explores just these hypotheticals: What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? He explores all of the benefits that Jesus and His followers have brought to the world. These include:
Hospitals
Universities
Literacy and education for the masses
Abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times
Modern science
Hospitals
The elevation of women
Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic
The elevation of the common person
The condemnation of adultery, homosexual practices, and sexual perversions of many kinds, which has helped to preserve the human race
The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world’s languages
Greater development of art and music, including the inspiration for many of the greatest works of art
The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel

Yet Kennedy also doesn’t shy away from the tough issues, like the bloodshed of the crusades, the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition, and Christian anti-semitism. It’s a good read; I highly recommend it.

For myself, I don’t even attempt to defend everything that has operated on this planet under the aegis of Jesus Christ; I freely admit that much of it has been abominable. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,” the Apostle has said in 2 Corinthians 11:14. Like Kennedy, I believe we must distinguish between Christianity and “Christendom.” The former is defensible; the latter often isn’t.

I just wonder, however, can anyone really imagine that the world would be better off without Jesus? Nearly all of the criticism I hear (hypocrisy, greed, sectarian “holy wars,” etc.) is against those who aren’t really following Him. If you removed Christ and Christian influence from the world, the result would be a nightmare a million times worse than what happens in Frank Capra’s film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when the angel shows George Bailey what his town would have been like if he had never been born.

Jesus wants the world to be one, just like John Lennon did. But He recognized that it needed redemption for the unifying process to take hold. John seemed to think that if we de-Godify the world and leave people to their own devices, they would do the right thing and unify in peace, brotherhood, and sisterhood. I don’t think so.

Even those who can’t bring themselves to believe in God or in His Son have plenty of evidence to believe in the existence of evil. Christianity did not cause it, that’s for sure. When people practice the Christianity Jesus announced and the primitive church implemented, the world gets better, more loving, less violent and abusive, brighter with hope.

Maybe if John hadn’t been gunned down on December 8, 1980, he would have changed his mind about what causes the world’s turmoil, and what dispels it. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). A better promise, given by the Prince of Peace Himself, is hard to imagine.