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Each year Christmas commercials start earlier and earlier. This year they started in the beginning of October. I couldn’t believe it. It was August and the department stores already had Christmas ornaments and such for sale. I am not anti-Christmas but I have begun to wonder what are we really celebrating and why? Christianity tells us it is about the birth of Christ. When I was a child I was told that the reason we bought gifts for others is because God gave us his greatest gift, his son and we give gifts to others to symbolize this. Then as I got older and started to learn more, I was told Christ wasn’t even born in December, he was born in the summertime and the whole reason we have it at Christmas time is because it goes well with winter solistice and the whole winter theme. Either way, (whether Christ was or wasn’t born in December), I find myself wondering what is all this gift buying all about. I like celebrating, it is fun, I like getting together with those I care about and laughing and being with them but does this have to be the only day we get gifts for those we love. Why not have a random day in the year where we just buy someone something and give it to them to tell them hey I appreciate you and love who you are.
Adbusters started a campaign in 1992, The Buy Nothing Christmas Day. This has got me thinking even more now, after seeing this commercial (see below). I personal love getting what I call home made or memory made gifts. An example of this is in 2001 my parents put together a picture collage of me from birth to that time, with little captions underneath of my life from there viewpoint. This was incredible touching to me and when I look at it, I think they put there heart and soul into this instead of just going out and buying any old thing. This I will have for the rest of my life. My father passed away in 2003 so it means even more to me now. Do we have to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars to express our love and gratitude or is it enough to do something from the heart or like my friend Charlene and her husband Dave do every year, take the money they would put into gifts and they buy gifts for Toys for Tots and then they bake yummy goodies for families and friends. I am not sure if I will be able to buy Christmas gifts this year because I haven’t been working for 2 months but I’d like to think that the people who love me, love me whether I give them a gift or not.

Below is the Adbusters commercials for Buy Nothing Day and also comments from adbusters.com

Buy Nothing Christmas is not really about refusing to spend a dime over the holiday season. It’s about taking a deep breath and deciding to opt out of the hype‚ the overcrowded malls‚ and the stressful to–do lists. It’s about reminding ourselves to really think about what we are buying‚ why we are buying it‚ and whether we really need it at all.

Thoughts

Every christmas makes less and less sense to me. you spend money you don’t have, to buy gifts a person does not want. i have a closet full of stuff i do not want that people have bought me. yet, when i am in need of money for something, no one is to be found. it is asked, what do i buy the person who has everything, and yet, there are so many people without, and no one dares ask, what should we buy them. it’s amazing we are so willing to spend on each other, but forget those who are in need.
joshua, philly

I asked for less. I will never forget the day that I read this in adbusters asking for less. Christmas is hard for a young person to stay sane and stay reminded of the real meaning of holidays. I have felt polluted for far to long. My words of wisdom for the holidays are to be conscious of everything you do in each step you take everyday.
Cheryl Mann, Syracuse, NY

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I am not pro-war and when asked by people who are, well how can we stop it, if we don’t we will be attacked by terrorist. The answer is in getting to the root of the problem, the way the mind thinks. The article below is about an unbelievable organization called Seeds of Peace, working towards change. I contacted the magazine this came from (it is taken from Science of Mind Magazine, October 2007 edition), to find out if I could get an electronic copy sent to me and they said the don’t do that, so I am copying it word for word.
The Seeds of Peace Take Root

We are warriors of hope,
We are masters of understanding,
We are pioneers of respect,We are soldiers of trust,
We are leaders of tommorrow,
We are Seeds of Peace.

It all began with a small summer camp. Fourteen years ago, in the woods of western Maine, the seeds of hope were planted. It was here that forty-six young Israeli and Arab teens were offered an unprecedented opportunity to break the cycle of violence and work together to bring peace to a world of war and conflict. Motivated by the bombing of the World Trade Center earlier that year, John Wallach, a seasoned journalist with two decades of experinece in the Middle East, enlisted the support of Israel, Egypt, and Palestine in bringing young people from all three countries together, on neutral soil, in the United States. Putting a human face on the enemy, he believed, he could pave the way to compassion, trust and understanding.

In August of 1993, The Seeds of Peace Camp for Conflict Resolution welcomed its first campers. Just a few weeks later, on September 14, at the invitation of President Clinton, these young people from opposing “sides” stood together as wintesses to the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles. Fourteen years and thirty-four hundred campers later, Seeds of Peace stands as an inspiring example of the power of vision and the transformation of hate into hope.

The “Seeds” have taken root and now each summer, some four hundred-fifty campers from the most war-torn areas in the world gather in rural Maine to attempt to do what governments can’t: create peace and understanding one person at a time. They come as representatives of their individual countries, prepared to debate, defend and discuss their position with those they have come to view as the enemy. The delegations that arrive in camp are comprised of the brightest and best their respective countries have to offer. Hand picked by their governments through a highly competitive application process, these youthful delegates are accomplished and motivated.

The Maine program, which is the cornerstone upon which all Seeds programs are built, affords campers the opportunity to create a new model of community and coexistence.

In many ways this camp experience is strikingly ordinary–days are filled with swimmng, sports, arts, crafts, music, drama and a variety of group activities.

But in very significant ways, is also anything but ordinary. This camp isn’t just about basketball and boating. There’s plenty of that, of course, but there’s also a great deal of work to be done.

Founder Wallach once described the experience as a “detox” program where participants have the opportunity to get rid of hatred before it has the chance to poison their minds and trap them in another cycle of self-destructive conflict. Professionally facilitated, intense daily dialogues allow campers to share their fears, frustrations and hopes for the future. Historical biases are aired, individual perspectives are examined and current conflicts are discussed. They hear each other’s personal stories and learn that they share common experiences.

Group challenges, both physical and psychological, unite participants through cooperation and shared success.

Even the simplest activities such as living and dining with each other provide opportunities for bonding and sharing that campers could not experience in any other setting. Intentionally grouped by conflict areas, the teens bunk together with others from their region: for example Israeli youth share accomodations with Palestinian and Arab youth.

Bobbie Gottschalk, cofounder of Seeds of Peace, explains, “When we bring these teens to the United States to be in a camp setting with people from the other side, they start putting a face on those people; they’re looking them in the eye and relating to them. Normally, you would only be in that kind of setting if you were friends or relatives–you would not sleep right next to your enemy, nor would you ever sit and eat at the table with them or play games on the field–those are the things you do with your family or your friends.”

Although some of these young people from the Middle East may live only a mile away from each other, she explains, they would never have contact; their differing political and religious views would make interaction impossible. They would remain physically seperated by stereotypes about each other–judgements handed down from generation to generation based on perceived histories of the war.

She continues, “There’s a comfort level that people find even in the most stressful war situations. There’s a comfort level with just being with your ‘own kind’ and being against ‘the other kind.’ You don’t have to think very much–it’s ingrained.” Drawing campers out of that comfortable position is the goal of these sessions.

After watching campers over the years, there is no doubt in Gottschalk’s mind that these teens leave camp profoundly changed. And the impetus for that change comes not only from camp programs, but also from fellow campers whose stories of courage and determination serve as powerful inspiration for their peers.

Gottshalk’s cites, as an example, the emotional journey of one of young Seeds graduate, a Palestinian youth from the Gaza Strip. In 2000, when the second Intifada broke out, she explains the Israeli army took over the house Yusuf was living in. His father refused to allow the army to destroy the family home and insisted that they be allowed to stay. The soldiers moved in, occupying the top floors of the home while the family of seven was relegated to living in one room on the main floor. Family members are required to get permission to use the kitchen and the bathroom and were always accompanied by a soldier. In February of 2004, United Nations representatives were granted clearance to meet with the family. After a short visit, Yusuf and his father walked the workers to the front gate. As they were saying their good-byes, a soldier from the upper floor shot the fifteen year old Yusuf in the back. Paralyzed, and with a bullet lodged in his spine, Yusuf was transported to a hospital in Israel. There he received the medical attention he needed to enable him to walk again. However, they were unable to remove the bullet and he lives each day in constant pain. And yet, she says when people ask him how he feels about Israelis, Yusuf explains that only one Israeli shot him and dozens of Israelis helped him regain his life.

In the summer of 2005, Yusuf was invited to the Seeds of Peace Camp where he interacted daily with both Palestinian and Israeli youth. Upon his return to Gaza, he gifted one of the soldiers still living in his home with a green Seeds of Peace T-shirt. “It’s a powerful story,” says Gottschalk, “but all the stories are like that.”

The campers, she says are bright, talented, and motivated. And, upon graduation, they reintegrate into their own societies with a new perspective. Some return to their countries knowing that military duty awaits them; the reality of war cannot be ignored. Providing continuing support for Seeds graduates after returning home is an integral part of the Seeds of Peace Program. Follow up programs are in place in all the conflict areas, represented by the campers. In the Middle East, for example, two hundred Israeli and Palestinian Seeds participate in an Advanced Coexistence program which offers them an opportunity to meet on a weekly basis at different locations in Israel–on both sides of Jerusalem as well as the West Bank.

The Seeds program has reached beyond the Middle East into dozens of conflict areas all over the world, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cypress and the Balkans among others. Workshops, conferences and bi-communal projects are among the many ways graduates are able to stay connected with the Seeds community and build on the camp experience. “We don’t just have a camp, Gottschalk points out, “we have year-round on -the ground services to anybody who’s ever been to Seeds of Peace.”

The organization’s current direction, however, may be one of returning to its roots. As a stand-alone organization that relies primarily on private funding, becoming overextended can become an issue, she says.”

We got into the whirlpool of trying to do more and more each year,” Gottschalk explains. “Part of growing up as an organization is recognizing where your strengths are and where you should be putting your effort.”

Although Seeds will continue to support their other programs, the focus will be shifting back to the Middle East and South Asia. There is still so much work to do there she says.

The influence of Seeds of Peace on the youth of war-torn areas has not gone unnoticed. The group received a Congressional Letter of Support in 2005 which read in part, “We are at a moment in time where we have an opportunity to move towards peace in the Middle East, and we must move forward expeditiously…We are strong supporters of Seeds of Peace because we believe that peace will ultimately depend upon breaking down barriers and mistrust among people from these regions of conflict. Governments negotiate agreements; only people can define the quality of peace.”

The Seeds of Peace vision of “empowering leaders of the next generation,” continues to unfold. Gottschalks’s desire for the program, in terms of outcome, she says, is “to have a number of Seeds in positions of influence in their society…I am hoping that the next generation of leaders will have enough people trained in Seeds of Peace to turn things more in the direction of wanting to understand the other side wanting to live in a cooperative relationship with neighboring countries.”

Even though the oldest of Seeds graduates is now only in his or her twenties, they have already begun to have an impact. Gottschalk tries to keep track of program’s graduates after they return home. Although most of them are still very young, she is encouraged: “I would say that a number have gone on to beginning-level jobs working in their embassies or working for the United Nations or the World Bank or other global organizations. I know one Israeli who is finishing law school and will soon be clearing for a Supreme Court Justice.”

She also speaks glowingly of a yong Israeli woman, now in her mid-twenties, who began as a Seed in 1995. Her years following th camp experience included work with a number of human rights organizations, two years at United World Colleges in India, a stint in the army patrolling the Lebanese border and, ultimately, obtaining a master’s degree from Georgetown University. “She is now working for a worldwide public relations firm,” Gottschalk relates.

American Seeds graduates have also begun to emerge as powerful voices for the next generation of peacemakers. Jennifer Miller brings the Seeds story to readers all over the world through her book, Inheriting the Holy Land. Miller’s work chronicles her six month stay in the Middle East as she follows up with her former Israeli and Palestinian Seeds now back in their homelands. The book, which won the 2005 Moment Magazine Book Award for Young Writers, has garnered praise from Madeline Albright and the Washington Post, among others.

Gottschalk believes we have only just begun to see the impact of Seeds graduates on the world landscape. With time, she says, these young people will emerge as the leaders of the next generation–leaders motivated to work for peace. In the meantime, Seeds of Peace continues its work of bringing nations together one camper at a time.

To learn more about Seeds of Peace visit www.seedsofpeace.org

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Sunset Blvd

I wrote this some time ago, but after talking with someone yesterday about the homelessness in Los Angeles, I thought it would be a good one to post. I hope somehow, some way this country can help the homeless people out there.

SUNSET BLVD

BMW pulls up to the corner
Valet,
Helps him out of the car.

Homeless Women.
Timid,
Afraid to approach.

So many people,
In one small area.

She walks to the corner.
Where the man just stepped out of his BMW
“Can You spare some Change?”
He scoffs,
“Get a job”

She walks away,
Turns the corner,
Faints.

The Man enters the club,
Brushing her off,
Spends 60.00 on some drinks.

Midnight hour,
He thinks I am moving on.
This place is slow tonight,
Walks out the door.

Sirens blazing,
Paramedics.
Woman lying on the ground,
Groups of people gather,
He glances,
Then turns away,
His heart beating faster.

Pushing harder,
They try to revive her.
She was only 25,
Only needed one bite.

He hops in the car,
Tries to shrug it off.

Lies his head on his pillow,
Could he have saved her?
Now he will never know.

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At What Price?

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At 14 I wanted to get married, was I ready….no wayyyy. How bout 15 or 16….NOT. I had neighbors that were in love at 15 and got legally married but this is rare. What if my mom had decided to sell me? What would my rate have been, $35,000, $50,000. In some countries this happens, is it right? My opinion is no. No girl should be sold, love is something that comes naturally, and adoringly. What are we saying as a society if there is a price tag attached? What is shocking is that I would think that if there was website that sold young american girls online that it would be shut down, or there would be only a handful of people responding but according to a Newsweek article that caught my attention, this is just not so, 60 million hits have gone to this site and even though it is a hoax, there have been responses to these ads. What kind of man would buy a daughter? Amusing I suppose in a sick humor sort of way to put up a site selling a daughter but how close are we to this in reality? I mean we have people selling there virginity, and heaven knows what else online…when will this be next?

The website is: Http:www.marryourdaughter.com
(Warning: it has been not working/down for a while so may take some time to get through)

Here is the URL to the article:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20781129/site/newsweek/

(Sorry tried to create a link and wasn’t able to).

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6 years ago the world was in shock over the attacks. 9/11 will forever for me be known as the day I lost my cousin…Beth Logler. She was one of those people that had an amazing energy about her and a light shone all around her. I found this article on newsday.com and it is a perfect description of who she was. You will never be forgotten. You are in our hearts, mind and soul.

Beth Logler

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n_pwms_nukes_070905300w.jpegThis is truly frightening to read (found it on MSN.com from Associated Press)….and another reason that nuclear weapons need to be dismantled…I love the sentence that says “The missiles, which are being decommissioned, were mounted onto pylons on the bomber’s wings and it is unclear why the warheads had not been removed beforehand”…duhhhh.  Just a nice day flying in the air with some nuclear weapons on top.

Story Below or go to:  msnbc to see the video.

Air Force official fired after 6 nukes

fly over U.S.

B-52 bomber, accidentally armed with warheads, went over several states

WASHINGTON – A B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear warheads and flown for more than three hours across several states last week, prompting an Air Force investigation and the firing of one commander, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the mishandling of the weapons “deeply disturbing” and said the committee would press the military for details. Rep. Edward J. Markey, a senior member of the Homeland Security committee, said it was “absolutely inexcusable.”

“Nothing like this has ever been reported before and we have been assured for decades that it was impossible,” said Markey, D-Mass., co-chair of the House task force on nonproliferation.

The plane was carrying Advanced Cruise Missiles from Minot Air Force Base, N.D, to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a Defense Department policy not to confirm information on nuclear weapons.

The missiles, which are being decommissioned, were mounted onto pylons on the bomber’s wings and it is unclear why the warheads had not been removed beforehand. Earlier, the Associated Press erroneously reported the bomber was armed with only five warheads.

Investigation to take weeks
The Air Combat Command has ordered a command-wide stand down on Sept. 14 to review procedures, officials said. They said there was minimal risk to crews and the public because of safety features designed into the munitions.

In addition to the munitions squadron commander who was relieved of his duties, crews involved with the mistaken load — including ground crew workers — have been temporarily decertified for handling munitions, one official said.

The investigation is expected to take several weeks.

The incident was first reported by Military Times newspaper group.

“There is no more serious issue than the security and proper handling of nuclear weapons,” Skelton said in a statement Wednesday. “The American people, our friends, and our potential adversaries must be confident that the highest standards are in place when it comes to our nuclear arsenal.”

Skelton, D-Mo., said his committee will pursue answers on the classified matter “to ensure that the Air Force and the Department of Defense address this particular incident and strengthen controls more generally.”

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