watanafghanistan:

The burden of wars, poverty, instability, and insurgencies has always been borne disproportionately by children.  They are killed and maimed by landmines and other explosives.   Schools are being destroyed by the Taliban, and girls who seek an education are often threatened and attacked.   Children are recruited by the Taliban to be suicide bombers and smugglers.

In the age of the internet, physical paper books are a technology we need more, not less. In the 1950s, the novelist Herman Hesse wrote: “The more the need for entertainment and mainstream education can be met by new inventions, the more the book will recover its dignity and authority. We have not yet quite reached the point where young competitors, such as radio, cinema, etc, have taken over the functions from the book it can’t afford to lose.”

We have now reached that point. And here’s the function that the book – the paper book that doesn’t beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once – does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: “Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction…. It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.”

A book has a different relationship to time than a TV show or a Facebook update. It says that something was worth taking from the endless torrent of data and laying down on an object that will still look the same a hundred years from now. The French writer Jean-Phillipe De Tonnac says “the true function of books is to safeguard the things that forgetfulness constantly threatens to destroy.” It’s precisely because it is not immediate – because it doesn’t know what happened five minutes ago in Kazakhstan, or in Charlie Sheen’s apartment – that the book matters.

That’s why we need books, and why I believe they will survive. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep engagement. Most humans don’t just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals.

I’m not against e-books in principle – I’m tempted by the Kindle – but the more they become interactive and linked, the more they multitask and offer a hundred different functions, the less they will be able to preserve the aspects of the book that we actually need. An e-book reader that does a lot will not, in the end, be a book. The object needs to remain dull so the words – offering you the most electric sensation of all: insight into another person’s

Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby’s death – they charged her with the “depraved-heart murder” of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

[…]

Bei Bei Shuai, 34, has spent the past three months in a prison cell in Indianapolis charged with murdering her baby. On 23 December she tried to commit suicide by taking rat poison after her boyfriend abandoned her.

Shuai was rushed to hospital and survived, but she was 33 weeks pregnant and her baby, to whom she gave birth a week after the suicide attempt and whom she called Angel, died after four days. In March Shuai was charged with murder and attempted foeticide and she has been in custody since without the offer of bail.

[…]

During her pregnancy her foetus was diagnosed with possible Down’s syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth.

Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with “chemical endangerment” of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

[…]

At least 38 of the 50 states across America have introduced foetal homicide laws that were intended to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from violent attacks by third parties – usually abusive male partners – but are increasingly being turned by renegade prosecutors against the women themselves.

Prison guards in Iran are giving condoms to criminals and encouraging them to systematically rape young opposition activists locked up with them, according to accounts from inside the country’s jail system.

A series of dramatic letters written by prisoners and families of imprisoned activists allege that authorities are intentionally facilitating mass rape and using it as a form of punishment.

Mehdi Mahmoudian, an outspoken member of Iran’s Participation Front, a reformist political party, is among those prisoners who have succeeded in smuggling out letters revealing the extent of rape inside some of the most notorious prisons.

Mahmoudian was arrested in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 disputed presidential election for speaking to the press about the regime’s suppression of the movement and is currently in Rajaeeshahr prison in Karaj, a city 12 miles (20km) to the west of the capital, Tehran.

"In various cells inside the prison, rape has become a common act and acceptable," he wrote in a letter published on Kaleme.com, the official website of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

According to Mahmoudian and letters published on various opposition websites, political prisoners are locked up with some of the most dangerous criminals – murderers and ex-members of armed gangs.

Meanwhile, 26 prominent political activists who have been in jail since the 2009 election have written to an official prison monitoring body accusing the government’s intelligence ministry and the revolutionary guards of harassing inmates with unlawful tactics that included sexual assaults.

Mohsen Aminzadeh, a senior deputy foreign minister, Mohsen Mirdamadi, a leader of a reformist party and Behzad Nabavi, a veteran activist are among those who put their signatures on the letter.

Speaking to Jaras, a website run by opposition activists, families of political prisoners have alleged that prison guards are failing to protect them from rape or sexual assault.

"During exercise periods, the strong ask for sex without any consideration. Criminals are repeatedly seen with condoms in hand, hunting for their victims," an unnamed family member told Jaras.

"If the inmate is not powerful enough or guards would not take care of him, he will be certainly raped. Prison guards ignore those who are seen with condoms simply because they were given out to them by the guards at first place," the family member said.

The family members say prison guards are turning a blind eye to the systematic rape and have ignored complaints made by rape victims.

Amnesty International, which has documented rape inside Iran’s prisons and interviewed victims for a 2010 report, called on Iran to launch an investigation into the recent allegations.

Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s Middle East campaign manager, told the Guardian: “Rape is a terrible crime and these allegations [mentioned in the letters] should be thoroughly investigated. Amnesty International has also documented the rape of male and female detainees by security officials. Many of those detained for taking part in post-election protests were tortured and did not receive fair trials. The Iranian authorities still continue to punish and persecute those who peacefully speak up against them.”

According to Mahmoudian, who has been transferred to a solitary confinement after his letter attracted attention, one young prisoner was raped seven times in a single night.

"In [Rajaeeshahr] prison, those who have pretty faces and are unable to defend themselves or cannot afford to bribe others are forcibly taken to different cells each night [to be raped]," he writes.

"The situation is such that those exposed to rape even have an owner and that owner makes money by renting him out to others and after a while selling him to someone else."

Rape victims in Iran usually stay quiet in order to protect the honour of their family but at the time when journalists based in the country are facing strict restrictions, these letters have become one of the only sources of information about the situation of hundreds of imprisoned activists.

Iranian officials have ignored the allegations and have previously denied any claims of rape inside jail.

‘As the mainstream media continues to be obsessed with Anthony Weiner and his bizarre adventures on Twitter, much more serious events are happening around the world that are getting very little attention.  In America today, if the mainstream media does not cover something it is almost as if it never happened. Right now, the worst nuclear disaster in human history continues to unfold in Japan , U.S. nuclear facilities are being threatened by flood waters, the U.S. military is bombing Yemen, gigantic cracks in the earth are appearing all over the globe and the largest wildfire in Arizona history is causing immense devastation.  But Anthony Weiner, Bristol Palin and Miss USA are what the mainstream media want to tell us about and most Americans are buying it.

In times like these, it is more important than ever to think for ourselves. The corporate-owned mainstream media is not interested in looking out for us.  Rather, they are going to tell us whatever fits with the agenda that their owners are pushing.

That is why more Americans than ever are turning to the alternative media. Americans are hungry for the truth, and they know that the amount of truth that they get from the mainstream media continues to decline.

The following are 12 things that the mainstream media is being strangely quiet about right now….’

Just reblog this straight as a link, so that it doesn’t mess up (just a heads up)

#1 The crisis at the Fort Calhoun nuclear facility in Nebraska has received almost no attention in the national mainstream media.

#2 Most Americans are aware that the U.S. is involved in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.  However, the truth is that the U.S. military is also regularly bombing Yemen and parts of Pakistan.

#3 The crisis at Fukushima continues to get worse.  Arnold Gundersen said: “Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind”

#4 Members of Congress continue to mention Christians as a threat to national security.

#5 China’s eastern province of Zhejiang has experienced that worst flooding that it has seen in 55 years.

#6 Thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act, over the counter trading of gold and silver is going to be illegal starting on July 15th.

#7 All over the world, huge cracks are appearing for no discernible reason.

#8 According to U.S. Forest Service officials, the largest wildfire in Arizona state history has now covered more than 500,000 acres.

#9 There are reports that North Korea has tested a “super EMP weapon” which would be capable of taking out most of the U.S. power grid in a single shot.

#10 All over the United States, “active shooter drills” are being conducted in our public schools.  Often, most of the students are not told that these drills are fake.

#11 NASA has just launched a “major” preparedness initiative for all NASA personnel.  NASA’s own website

#12 Over the past week over 40 temporary “no fly zones” have been declared by the FAA.

(via aelphabathropp)

Mr. Crow seems alternately astonished, angered and flattered by the government’s attention. “I’ve had times of intense paranoia,” he said, especially when he discovered that some trusted allies were actually spies.

“But first, it makes me laugh,” he said. “It’s just a big farce that the government’s created such paper tigers. Al Qaeda and real terrorists are hard to find. We’re easy to find. It’s outrageous that they would spend so much money surveilling civil activists, and anarchists in particular, and equating our actions with Al Qaeda.”

Killing or imprisoning Bin Laden may have been a necessary evil, but I regret such an evil was necessary. I regret that forces and ideas continue to exist that drive some of us to think that we should, in certain circumstances, deliberately hurt our fellow human beings. I’m not so naive as to imagine these forces or ideas will ever disappear, or that we aren’t right to think in terms of “us” vs. “them” (“them” being anyone who wants to hurt “us”). But to exult in causing harm to others—even if we think they deserve it or that it represents justice, or even if we understand the psychologically value of such exultation (it’s arguably cathartic for the national consciousness and for the families and friends of 9/11 victims)—strikes me as one way to take a definitive step away from a truly just and peaceful world. I keep thinking instead of a world in which in our collective response to evil, after the shock and hurt of being victimized and losing loved ones has worn off, and after we’ve taken definitive steps to condemn it, to stand against it, and to make ourselves safe from it, is to take pity on those who commit it, remembering our shared humanity. Not that I’m arguing in any way that we should allow our pity to soften our response. We shouldn’t. But if we reserve our pity only for people we like, I wonder if we’re truly living our very best lives. I suppose few will understand what I mean by this, but the longer I live and the more I learn, the more I think evil is just another word for confused.

the-madame-hatter:

high school algebra teacher at Clear Brook High School in Friendswood, Texas, allegedly told a 9th grade American-born Muslim girl in his class, ‘I bet you’re grieving’ 

This is absolutely ridiculous. People with such small minds should NEVER be allowed to be teachers.

(via face-down-asgard-up)

Osama bin Laden’s importance had always been inflated by the prominence given to him by the U.S. government and the media. Like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, his menacing figure provided a useful symbolic counterpoint, one that could provide a concrete image for the shadowy threat of Islamic terrorism during the past 10 years. Thus perhaps the most important impact of bin Laden’s death will be the closure that it provides for this great fictional drama, born out of the justified trauma of 9/11 but fed into a world-spanning and violent narrative by the conjunction of an activist vision of Western “civilizing” military power and the private interests that benefitted from its colossally expensive exercise. It was a blinding and exceptionalist call to arms that motivated an unprecedented erosion of U.S. civil liberties, the shameful use of torture and arbitrary detention, the waste of nearly a trillion dollars on fruitless wars, and the deaths of over a hundred thousand innocents.

The demise of bin Laden thus moves us closer to a return to collective sanity and away from the bloodlust and rage that yet mark many of our reactions to his death. It seems possible now to imagine a day where the specter of Islamic terrorism as an existential threat will be as obsolete and laughable as that of World Communism. But to compare today to the fall of the Berlin Wall would be misleading. There can be no neat and easy victory over terrorism, because policing militant groups is nothing like a war, as bin Laden’s death in a mid-sized Pakistani city highlights. While not a single phenomenon, terrorism is a threat that has been around for over a century, though countering it has been made more difficult by the increasing vulnerabilities brought about by new technologies and global interconnectedness.

Indeed, the Global War on Terror has illustrated the troubling contradictions that underpin our age: That the West’s attractions of modernity, material progress, and liberalism can prove unsatisfying to smart and ambitious young men; that our allies in the Muslim world might be among the greatest sources of the terrorists who would do us harm; that the freedom promised by an age of unlimited connection across information and physical space might engender a draconian self-repression; and that a new golden age of capitalism might leave such ruined states and peoples on its margins. Today, we find the roots of terror in the growing instability of the world’s economy and climate, which in turn prefigures deeper coming threats to the global order. The perverse irony of the War on Terror is how badly it is has distracted our political and moral will from the great challenges of our time. This is bin Laden’s legacy.

I have been thinking about this for a while now. Often times when we compare China’s or India’s schools to our own, we mention our focus on creativity and their focus on rote memorization. Somehow, we’re the greater pioneers of innovation, and the East is a horrible autocratic monster keeping it’s students captive. (Now would be a good time to mention that MIT introduced a course in Imagination…)

Read the article, it covers all the bases, but a quick a synopsis: memorizing is not a substitute for knowledge, but not surprisingly, it helps you RETAIN the knowledge you come across. The more things you know, the more links you can forge between them, and tada! Creativity.

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics for 2006, approximately 905,000 U.S. children were found to have been maltreated that year, with 16% of them reported as physically abused (the remainder having suffered sexual abuse or neglect.) In other studies, it’s been noted that approximately 14-43% of children have experienced at least one traumatic abusive event prior to adulthood. And according to The American Humane Association (AHA), an estimated 1,460 children died in 2005 of abuse and neglect.

What is this BULLSHIT?!

But there is no good that can possibly come of an experiment where the company behind nearly every genetically modified crop in our daily diets is allowed to decide whether its products are causing any environmental harm.

They don’t care what they’re doing to the “food” or the environment. They are a business. And everything in their past indicates they don’t give a shit about the people around them.

The Misconception: People who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it.

The Truth:
The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it, and bad people often get away with their actions without consequences.

A woman goes out to a club wearing stilettos and a miniskirt with no underwear.

She gets pretty drunk and stumbles home in the wrong direction.

She ends up lost in a bad neighborhood. She gets raped.

Is she to blame in some way? Was this her fault? Was she asking for it?

People often say yes to all three in studies asking similar questions after presenting similar scenarios.

It is common in fiction for the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win.

It’s how you would like to see the world- just and fair.

In psychology, the tendency to believe this is how the real world actually works is called the Just-World Fallacy.

 More specifically, this is the tendency to react to horrible misfortune, like homelessness or drug addiction, by believing the people stuck in horrible situations must have done something to deserve it.

The key word there is deserve. This is not an observation bad choices lead to bad outcomes.

In a 1966 study by Melvin Lerner and Carolyn Simmons, 72 women watched a woman solve problems and get electric shocks when she messed up.

The woman was actually pretending, but the people watching didn’t know this.

Lerner based these studies on the things he had seen working with the mentally ill. He noticed how he and other doctors, nurses and orderlies would sometimes insult people who were suffering or come up with assumptions about what kind of people they were, or joke about their illness.

Lerner thought this behavior might be an attempt to protect the psyche of people facing an abysmal, unrelenting amount of misery and despair.

In his study, when asked to describe the woman getting shocked, many of the observers devalued her. They berated her character and her appearance. They said she deserved it.

Lerner also taught a class on society and medicine, and he noticed many students thought poor people were just lazy people who wanted a handout.

So, he conducted another study where he had two men solve puzzles. At the end, one of them was randomly awarded a large sum of money. The observers were told the reward was completely random.

Still, when asked later to evaluate the two men, people said the one who got the award was smarter, more talented, better at solving puzzles and more productive.

A giant amount of research has been done since his studies, and most psychologists have come to the same conclusion: You want the world to be fair, so you pretend it is.

“Zick Rubin of Harvard University and Letitia Anne Peplau of UCLA have conducted surveys to examine the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. They found that people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to ‘feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.’”

- Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez from an essay at The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

You’ve heard “what goes around comes around” before, or maybe you’ve seen a person get what was coming to them and thought, “that’s karma for you.”

These are shades of the Just World Fallacy.

It sucks to think the world isn’t fair. It feels better to believe in karma and justice, in fairness and reward. A world with the righteous on one side of the scale, and evil on the other – that seems to make sense.

You want to believe those who work hard and sacrifice get ahead, and those who are lazy and cheat do not.

This, of course, is not always true. Success is often greatly influenced by when you were born, where you grew up, the socioeconomic status of your family and random chance. All the hard work in the world can’t change those initial factors, which is not to say you should just give up if you were born poor.

The Just-World Fallacy can also lead to a false sense of security.

You want to feel in control, so you assume as long as you avoid bad behavior, you won’t be harmed. You feel safer when you believe those who engage in bad behavior end up on the street, or pregnant, or addicted, or raped.

It is infuriating when lazy cheats and con artists get ahead in the world while firemen and policemen put in long hours for little pay.

Deep down, you want to believe hard work and virtue will lead to success, and laziness, evil and manipulation will lead to ruin, so you go ahead and edit the world to match those expectations.

Yet, in reality, evil often prospers and never pays the price.

There are anecdotal accounts of people seeing the prisoners of concentration camps for the first time and assuming they must have been terrible criminals. The first place the mind goes is the place where the world is just.

Why do you do this?

Psychologists are unsure. Some say it is a need to be able to predict the outcome of your own behavior, or to feel secure in your past decisions. More research is needed.

To be sure, you would like to live in a world where people in white hats bring people in black hats to justice, but you don’t.

liberationfrequency:

This may be the most important thing I ever post on this blog. I encourage everyone to read it and reblog it. I may not be a dad yet, but this is what will really matter to me more than anything else in this world when I am finally blessed with my own.

Read this, please, please, please.