Climate Science Special Report

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Thomas Fire - Santa Barbara County - Southern California - 12 December 2017

Thomas Fire – Santa Barbara County – Southern California – December 12, 2017
Photo Credit: Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department

 

Here in California, after years of drought, ferocious wildfires have consumed the tinder and everything in their path. Ignited on December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire was not fully contained until January 12, 2018. Now ranked as the largest fire in California’s modern history, it burned about 281,900 acres, equivalent to the size of Dallas and Miami combined. It destroyed 1,063 structures and damaged another 280.

Torrential rainfall on January 9, a welcome respite for firefighters, brought more distress to residents in the area. Mudslides roared down fire scarred slopes, destroying and damaging hundreds of homes, as well as commercial property. Twenty people lost their lives; three are still missing.

A home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito

Home damaged by mudslides – Montecido – Santa Barbara County – Southern California
January 10, 2018
Photo Credit: Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News

 

Meanwhile, extreme winter weather on America’s East Coast provides vindication for climate change deniers. But, as world-renowned climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains, this is “an example of precisely the sort of extreme winter weather we expect because of climate change.” What’s happening is the collision of increasingly warm Atlantic Ocean waters with cold Arctic air masses. To make matters worse, the warmer oceans also mean more moisture in the atmosphere to fuel the storm and produce larger snowfalls.

Woman walks down street in East Boston - Massachusetts - 4 January 2018

Woman walks down street in East Boston – Massachusetts – January 4, 2018
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP

 

In November 2017, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released its 477-page Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), in compliance with regulations issued by the Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The CSSR is “designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States, to serve as the foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision making about responses.”

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I come from a “shit-hole”

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Wahoo Bay Beach - Haiti
Wahoo Bay Beach – Haiti

 

It is so easy to disparage others when we are in a privileged position of wealth and power. In such positions, we can lose touch with our shared fragility as human beings. We can forget that the labor of millions of invisible human beings sustains our lives. Immersed in our comforts and luxuries, we can believe we belong to an invincible special breed.

In October 2017, I featured the work of the young immigrant Salvadoran poet, Javier Zamora, who holds a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) now up for review by our Congress. Following that post, another Salvadoran immigrant, who blogs under the name Koyote the Blind, started following my blog. Our president’s disparaging remarks about his country has struck a deep wound.

Ruins of Tazumal - El Salvador
Ruins of Tazumal – pre-Columbian Mayan archeological site in Chalchuapa – El Salvador

 

In his blog post, “I come from a shit-hole,” on Thursday, January 11, he wrote:

I am Salvadoran, even if the term was imposed by Spain. I am American, even if the US thinks they own the name. I am güanaco, even if you think it’s an insult.

I am not Mexican. Mexicans call me “cerote”–a piece of turd.

Today, Trump agreed with them. Today, he said he didn’t understand why liberals want to bring people from those shit-hole countries.

I am a piece of turd from a shit-hole country in the backyard of Ronald Reagan.

Yet, I am here. And I come from the Land of the Jewel, Cuzcatlan, the last bastion of resistance.

I am here to stay, and to change this land, this entire continent, into what it truly is: the mother land in the process of awakening.

You may see in me a turd from a shit-hole country, but I see in you and me and all the true silver light of the empty mind, the freedom from the past, the glory of the New Sun that heralds the coming of the True Human Being. I am here to share that future with you, my reader, without hatred in my heart, without resentment, and without any names to hurl back at you.

You can read his complete post here.

Whether we live on the African continent, El Salvador, Haiti, Norway, or the United States of America, we are all human beings with short life spans in the grand scheme of death and rebirth of interconnected cycles of life on Planet Earth. What makes our insignificant lives meaningful is not our material trappings, but rather the way in which we touch the lives of others we meet along our journey. The greater our influence and power, the greater our responsibility to do good in the world.

Our Gods of War

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Costs of War Project Map of USA Counterterror War Locations 2015-2017

Costs of War Project Map of USA Counterterror War Locations 2015-2017
Prepared by: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs – Brown University

 

In his article “Mapping a World From Hell,” published on January 4, Tom Engelhardt presents a unique map produced by Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. After more than 16 years since the United States embarked on its war on terror that has transformed entire countries into hell on Earth, we finally have a visual representation of the true extent of our never-ending wars.

After first targeting Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group back in October 2001, as retribution for the group’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, our nation is now militarily engaged in some form in 76 countries. That’s 39 percent of the world’s nations, as indicated in the captioned map.

In places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, U.S. drone or other air strikes are the norm and U.S. ground troops (often Special Operations forces) have been either directly or indirectly engaged in combat. In these and several other countries, American advisers are also training local militaries or militias in counterterror tactics.

The number of U.S. military bases and “lily pads” (small, cooperative security locations) is also impressive. In 2017 alone, the USA deployed American Special Operations forces to 149 countries. We have so many troops on so many bases in so many places worldwide that the Pentagon has trouble keeping track of all of them.

While our gods of war reap the profits and spoils of warmongering, we the American people must pay the bill. In a separate study, released in November 2017, the Costs of War Project estimated a price tag that had already reached $5.6 trillion. That’s more than enough money to put millions of Americans to work again in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

In the gods of war, we trust. In defense of our nation, we must rain down terror on our enemies. It matters not that our endless wars have created more terrorists and enemies. Next in line to suffer our fire and fury—North Korea. To follow: Iran, Russia, and China. World without end. Amen. 

Read more details at Mapping a World From Hell: 76 Countries Are Now Involved in Washington’s War on Terror

 

New Resource: “The 2018 Progressive Candidates & Ballot Initiatives — a Nationwide List” — JoAnn Chateau

For my progressive American readers who would like to support candidates in the coming primaries who have not been bought by corporations, I recommend that you check out JoAnn Chateau’s nationwide list for your state.

To help Progressives stay on top of all the unbought and unbossed” 2018 candidates, as well as some crazy, wild, wonderful ballot initiatives, I have devised an information resource that makes staying informed easier…

via New Resource: “The 2018 Progressive Candidates & Ballot Initiatives — a Nationwide List” — JoAnn Chateau

What is God?

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Seated statue of El
Seated statue of El from Megiddo (1400-1200 BCE)
Photo Credit: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

 

The final post of my three-part series covers “Part Three: What is God?” of Reza Aslan’s book, God: A Human History. The author traces the evolution of the nature of God from God is one, to God is three, and later to God is all.

The ancient Israelites worshiped the Canaanite god El as their chief god presiding over a pantheon of lesser gods. The very word Israel means “El perseveres.” The god who became known as Yahweh first appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush. Around 1050 BCE when they established the Kingdom of Israel, Yahweh became their patron God. In the capital, Jerusalem, they built a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant, Moses’s covenant with Yahweh: the highest and strongest god over all other gods.

Moses and the Burning Bush
Moses and the Burning Bush – Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

In 586 BCE, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II breached the walls of Jerusalem, plundered the capital, and burned the temple to the ground. Survivors suffered a humiliating exile in Babylonia. That the Babylonian god, Marduk, was more powerful than Yahweh caused an identity crisis. Rather than accept the possibility of a defeated god, Israelite religious leaders rationalized that Yahweh was the one and only god who created light and darkness, brought peace, and created evil.

Yahweh of Judaism became the singular, eternal, and indivisible God who exhibits both the good and bad of human emotions and qualities. Continue reading

A Savior is born to us

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Nativity Play, Sacred Heart RC Church, Georgetown, Guyana
Photo Credit: Facebook Photo Album Sacred Heart RC School in Georgetown

[This is a re-post of my Christmas message 2011, the year I started my blog.]

 

My parents were not church-goers. They never forced me and my four siblings, baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, to attend Sunday Mass. But they made sure we got a good Catholic education by sending us to schools run by the nuns.

As a result of my religious school education, the Christmas Season was much more than time for family get-togethers; Santa Claus; exchanging presents; Christmas trees and decorations; and our traditional Christmas dishes and black cake. Christmas Day was the celebration of the birth of Jesus – the Savior born to us.

The Christmas Novena was an essential part of preparing for the coming of our Savior. During nine days before Christmas Day (December 15-23), I had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to be sure to get a good seat at the five o’clock Novena Mass. A religious custom of the early Portuguese immigrants from Madeira, the Novena has become a part of Guyana’s Catholic tradition.

I recall walking through drizzle towards the rear entrance of our parish church. The raindrops, slanted by the wind, glistened in the light streaming from the large open doorway of the church. When I entered the church, the choir in the alcove overhead, was singing Bemdita Sejaes, the traditional Portuguese hymn to begin the Novena Mass. I did not know what the words of the hymn meant, but it filled my soul with joy.

Christmas Eve Night, at 11:00 p.m. before the Midnight Mass, was the time for the highlight of the Christmas Season: the live enactment of the Nativity of Jesus at Sacred Heart Church on Main Street. (The church, built and funded by the Portuguese immigrants in 1861, burned to the ground on 25 December 2004.)

The year of my first son’s birth, the parish priest at Sacred Heart Church invited me and my husband to play the roles of Mary and Joseph. Our two-month-old son played Baby Jesus. Lying in the manger, he slept through the entire performance. I was relieved. Even a young angel, as she cuddled him at the end of the pageant, did not succeed in waking him.

As recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke, on the night that Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds guarding their sheep to tell them the good news. “Do not be afraid,” the angel told them. “Today…a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Our planet is in dire need of a Savior. Christ our Savior empowers me to keep up the struggle in the face of injustice, adversity, and hopelessness… and to triumph.

Christ our Savior empowers us with love. Regardless of our religion or non-religion, love runs deep in the heart of each one of us. Let us manifest love. Love conquers all.

The Humanized God

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Gobekli Tepe - Artist's rendition of construction

Artist’s rendition of the construction of Gobekli Tepe (c. 12,500 to 10,000 B.C.E)
By Fernando G. Baptista/National Geographic Creative
Photo Credit: National Geographic Magazine

 

The second of my three-part series covers “Part Two: The Humanized God” of Reza Aslan’s book, God: A Human History. The author traces the development of organized religion with its pantheon of humanized gods from its birthplace in the Ancient Near East to Egypt, Greece, and Iran.

For almost two and a half million years, we were hunters-gatherers. Then, some 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, we settled down, built villages, and began growing our own food and rearing animals. The discovery of the temple at Gobekli Tepe (Potbellied Hill) in eastern Turkey, widely recognized as the earliest religious temple, suggests that the birth of organized religion may have precipitated this dramatic shift. Based on archeological records, we know that the first domesticated animals appeared in this region around the same time the temple was under construction. What better way to feed a large workforce over several years?

Gobekli Tepe - T-shaped pillar with human hands and belt

T-shaped pillar at Gobekli Tepe with human hands and belt (c. 12,500 to 10,000 B.C.E.)
By Vincent J. Musi/National Geographic Creative
Photo Credit: National Geographic Magazine

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The Embodied Soul

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ImageJ=1.31o min=0.0 max=65535.0

On September 11, 2001, a group of Islamic extremists struck America’s major financial center in New York. Since then, we have embarked on a “War on Terror” that has morphed into an assault on all Muslims, except for allied Muslim nations. This past week, our endless war of terror has pivoted to Jerusalem, the holy city of three of the world’s major religions by number of followers (World Atlas) – Christianity (2.22 billion), Islam (1.6 billion), and Judaism (13.9 million).

Within this context, I share with you in the first of a three-part series my synopsis of Reza Aslan’s book, God: A Human History. Like the author, I have “no interest in trying to prove the existence or nonexistence of God for the simple reason that no proof exists either way.” Whether you believe in one God or many gods or no god at all, I would like you to consider Aslan’s bold assertion that “it is we who have fashioned God in our image, not the other way around.”

In “Part One: The Embodied Soul,” Aslan investigates the origin of our belief in a soul, a byword for “spiritual essence” or “mind.” It’s a journey back in time to the emergence of our primitive ancestors, Homo sapiens (the wise human) – the “historical” Adam and Eve. According to archaeological records, Homo sapiens first appeared during the Lower Paleolithic Period, between 2.5 million and 200,000 years ago. Remains unearthed in burial mounds indicate that they buried their dead together with artifacts that must have been precious to them. Continue reading

“People Help the People” by Birdy

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Feeding the poor and homeless on Thanksgiving Day - Downtown Los Angeles - California - USA

In keeping with my end-of-year tradition, I feature a song on my Poetry Corner December 2017. I struggled for a week to find a suitable song for surviving the relentless Twitter storm and assault on our lives. My older son came to the rescue with the suggestion of the song, “People Help the People” by Birdy, a young British musician, singer, and songwriter.

Written by Simon Aldred – a guitarist and singer-songwriter who started the British folk-rock band Cherry Ghost in 2005 – the song was first released in their debut album in July 2007. It won Aldred the prestigious Ivor Novello Award in musical achievement for Best Contemporary Song.

Birdy’s rendition of the song, released as a single in October 2011, reached the top charts in the UK and across Europe. Though only fourteen years old at the time, Birdy brings a soulfulness to Aldred’s lyrics that touches the heart. Continue reading

The Writing Life: Giving Thanks

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Happy Thanksgiving 2017

At the end of May 2017, I received an unexpected request by e-mail from Vitor Rafael Siqueira de Araújo, a young poet, literature teacher, and freelance Portuguese/English translator in Roraima, North Brazil. His first poetry collection is due for publication in 2018.

With a bachelor’s degree in English and Portuguese literature from the University of Roraima, Vitor is currently enrolled in a postgraduate course in Translation Studies. Specializing in the translation of short stories, Vitor sought permission to translate one of my short stories.

I selected my most popular short story, The Ole Higue, published in July 2008 in the Guyana Journal (New York/USA). Considering that my short story contains dialog in Caribbean Creole English, Vitor’s project was very ambitious.

With its origins in West African mythology, the ole higue is an evil spirit that takes the form of an ugly, repulsive old woman that sucks the blood of her victims. She’s a witch and vampire wrapped in one package to scare disobedient kids like my seven-year-old character, Sammy. Some children have to feel before they listen.

For my Brazilian and other Portuguese language readers, Vitor’s translation, A Bruxa Velha is now available on his blog. Enjoy.

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to Vitor Rafael Siqueira de Araújo for this unexpected present.

A happy Thanksgiving Day to all my American readers!