Letter From Alleged Chinese Labor Camp Prisoner Found in Halloween Decorations Purchased From Kmart

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2012/12/letter-from-chinese-labor-camp-prisoner-found-in-kmart-decorations/

Falun Gong is a spiritual philosophy with Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements that uses quigong exercise, breathing techniques and movement as a means to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual health. Whether or not it is a religion is debatable, but Falun Gong doesn’t require rituals, membership fees or church attendance. The discipline emphasizes morality and virtue on a pathway to spiritual enlightenment:

Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong) is an advanced practice of Buddha school self-cultivation, founded by Mr. Li Hongzhi, the practice’s master. It is a discipline in which “assimilation to the highest qualities of the universe—Zhen, Shan, Ren (Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance)—is the foundation of practice. Practice is guided by these supreme qualities, and based on the very laws which underlie the development of the cosmos.”

Brief Introduction to Falun Dafa

The Communist Party in China, threatened by the popularity of the movement and its focus on human rights,  has condemned Falun Gong practitioners as heretical. Adherents are subjected to imprisonment, forced labor, psychological torture and other abuses in an effort to “reeducate” practitioners.

The letter above appears to have been written by a prisoner in one of the labor camps. It was found by a woman within the packaging of Halloween decorations purchased from Kmart. I am familiar with the Chinese style of writing and English language idiosyncrasies, which leads me to believe this is authentic. Coupled with what we know about conditions in China and their methods of suppressing dissent, I am confident that this letter is real.

I hope the world community pays attention and puts pressure on China to stop the human rights abuses and move toward a more egalitarian society. We should also hold businesses accountable for how the products on their shelves are manufactured and making consumers unwitting participants in human rights abuses.

Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof — [D]mergent

Please take time to read an article that really resonated with me. I long ago turned away from Christianity when I began to feel that it was at odds with my interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. The people who professed themselves followers of Christ were more quick to judge and condemn than be paragons of virtue and loving kindness. While many evangelical Christians believe in biblical literalism, it seems the one thing that many don’t take literally are the words of Jesus. The message of love and inclusion, caring for the poor, and turning the other cheek is absent from American evangelical Christianity. Instead, they deny scientific evidence of climate change “because GOD.” Drill, baby drill, because God gave man dominion over the earth. Men were justified in raping their wives because God gave husbands dominion over their wives. Republican Jesus would turn  away from the poor children who wanted to touch his hem, away from lepers who sought his healing touch, away from the very poor whose company he preferred, according to the Bible.

As a child, I attended a very conservative Christian school.There were many things that were deemed “Satanic.” Rock and roll music, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons were “of the devil.” Pretty much everyone, including Episcopalians and Catholics, were going to hell. While it wasn’t exactly as extreme as the Westboro Church, I would say the intensity and fear factor was pretty freaking high. We would read about the flood, the trials of Job, the almost-sacrifice of Abraham’s son, and all the other terrifying stories of the Old Testament one day, then learn about the saving grace of Jesus. I couldn’t logically reconcile the two sides of Christianity.  What I soon noticed was that we were Old Testament Christians. Jesus was someone we had to believe in to be saved, but we lived by Leviticus. Jesus was love, but God was vengeful, angry, and jealous. The messages were pounded into my malleable mind when I was very young. When I went to sleep at night, a terrifying deity watched me carefully for transgressions. 

While conservative candidates must profess their total devotion to Christian ideals, their stated platforms and legislative actions undermine the spirit and intent of Jesus’ teachings. Conservatives have consistently and vociferously condemned homosexuality, women’s reproductive choices, and helping the poor, elderly, and mentally ill. Liberals are “godless,” although most liberal causes are in lockstep with Christ’s teachings. From the article:

What I want to challenge is the persistent and difficult-to-kill assumption that conservatives occupy some kind of religious and ethical high ground, and that any deviation from a particular kind of conservative orthodoxy isn’t merely a matter of interpretation, but is tantamount to initiating hostilities against God, motherhood, and the flag—all of which, interestingly enough, are conflated in some people’s minds. But that’s another article.

The smug certainty with which some conservative religious and political types believe not just that they occupy the side of truth on every issue, but that they occupy the side of God’s truth is alarming—not because they believe these things of themselves so uncritically (self-righteousness is a time-honored religious and political posture on both sides of the ideological divide, after all), but because so many in the culture agree to cede them this authoritative land of milk and honey.

I have recently discovered a group called “red letter Christians,” who take as “gospel” the teachings of Jesus, best represented by his “sermon on the mount,” found in Matthew, chapters one through three. Some of the greatest hits of this sermon include the beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and the penultimate Golden Rule. This philosophy is echoed through ALL of the major religions of the world from Buddhism to Scientology:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

So simple, yet so profound. And yet, the hardest rule to follow, it would seem. So many things that Republicans are fighting for these days, not least of which is putting guns in the hands of almost every American and waging unending wars all over the world, ensures that our country will be cursed by our own actions. For surely that which we sow, we shall also reap. 9/11 was a harbinger of that terrible harvest. And rather than learn from that horrible day, we have clung ever more desperately to God and guns. We lament the war on Christmas as our sons and daughters die far away from home, fighting a war that we brought upon ourselves. Some return home, minds and bodies broken, finding that they are forgotten as soon as the Purple Heart is pinned to their chests. The pious applaud the degradation of women who struggle to feed their children, deny them contraception and condemn them for wanting to have control over their own bodies. They advocate for the unborn, but would abandon them after birth. The undocumented among us would be left in the street to die rather than give them free care, and the falsely pious would call themselves righteous. Worker protections are slowly eroded, safety nets consistently threatened as more and more families struggle. All these things are justified by the same interpretation of the Bible that caused me to reject all the trappings of religion. 

I feel that perhaps I gave up too soon. Why did I surrender my faith to those who make a mockery of the teachings of Jesus? My own philosophy can be directly attribute to the Red Letters. This is not so easy for fundamentalists in the right wing:

  • I’d like to see a fundamentalist defense from scripture of such policies as cutting taxes for people who already have enough for several lifetimes. How does one “literally” read the prophets or the Gospels and come away thinking that protecting the ability to purchase another yacht or vacation home at the expense of those just struggling to feed their children is something Christians ought to have any stake in?
  • I’d like to see someone defend from scripture fighting for a healthcare system, the chief motivation of which is to figure out ever more ingenious ways to deny coverage to those who can least afford it.
  • I’d like to see a scriptural justification for treating undocumented workers not with Christian hospitality—if not as potential friends and neighbors, then at least as fellow children of God—but as an insidious threat to “our way of life” (in which “our” refers to American and not Christian).
  • I’d like to see how scripture works as a legitimator of arms stockpiling in the service of military adventurism in other countries (see, in particular, Iraq).
  • I’d like to see how the bible comes to the aid of those who would stand idly by while LGBTQ kids endure the dehumanizing and often deadly effects of bullying.
  • I’d like to see how the bible can be put to use defending the belief that our ultimate loyalties to flag and faith are interchangeable, that to have invoked one is ipso facto to have named the other.

via Turning the Tables: Why Conservative Christianity Bears the Burden of Proof — [D]mergent.

These are just a few of the things I too would like to see justified scripturally by those who have hijacked a radical and yes, LIBERAL philosophy. The Red Letters cannot by any stretch of the imagination be used to justify leaving an undocumented immigrant to die in the street for lack of health insurance. They are in direct contradiction to a guns in every hand. Jesus would weep to see a woman forced to bear the child of a rapist, then humiliated for seeking help to feed that child. 

In a court of law, using the Bible as the Rule of Law, and most specifically the words of Jesus upon whose name Christianity is based, I contend that Republican Christianity would be judged  a perversion of the Red Letters. Throughout history, war, violence, persecution, slavery and injustice has been justified by religion. Ancient texts dictate modern policy, but the most transcendent and resonant words are ignored. Isn’t it time to hold these conservative Christians accountable? It is time to stop allowing them to define what it means to be Christian. It is time to force them to justify their cruelty in biblical terms and explain why their version is in direct contradiction to the words of the man for whom their faith is named. 

Amelia Earhart’s Conditions for Marriage to George Putnam

Not exactly thrilled with marriage, was she?

Amelia Earhart Wasn’t Scared To Cross The Atlantic In A Rickety Plane, But She Was Afraid Of This.

 

Gun Control and the Culture of Violence: Psychology Today Report

The most recent shooting tragedy, in which 20 young children were murdered at a school in Connecticut, has refocused the debate over gun control and violence in the U.S. While the outrage was almost universal, repeated comments from politicians and other leaders that “now was not the time” to do something about gun control, was also heard loudly. But it’s important to see the gun control issue within the context of the U.S. as a violent society.

According to  Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home? Edelman exclaims “This slaughter of innocents happens because we protect guns before children and other human beings.”

Harry Bradford, and Howard Steven Friedman writing in the Huffington Post, and the Brady Campaign, and Washington Post provided detailed statistics regarding the firearms industry including the following:

  • The firearms industry created $31 billion in economic activity in 2011.
  • An estimated 270-300 million guns are owned by Americans
  • An estimated 45 million Americans own handguns
  • 87% of the children killed in the 23 wealthiest nations were American
  • 80% of the gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest nations were American
  • The U.S. ranks number 1 in the world in terms of guns owned per 100 people (at 88.8). In comparison, Canada is 114 and Sweden is 70.
  • Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the advanced countries in the past 50 years took place in the United States.
  • The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom is 0.1, 0.5, and 0.03, respectively.  In the U.S., the overall rate is 2.98.   And that overall rate doesn’t tell the full story.  In some cities, the rates are five to ten times that number.  The fatality rate in Los Angeles is 9.2, in Miami it’s 23.7 and in Detroit, Michigan the rate is a staggering 35.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.  According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed every day in firearm-related incidents.
  • Of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries with the five highest homicide rates are, in order: Mexico (highest), Chile, Estonia, the United States and Turkey (fifth highest).
  • On average in the U.S., 97,820 people are shot every year and approximately 268 every day.

via Gun Control and the Culture of Violence | Psychology Today.

Asheville Tea Party Holding Gun Raffle in the Wake of Newtown Massacre

TeaPartyGunFundraiserWhile most of us are still reeling from the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, my hometown chapter of the Tea Party has decided to go ahead with its raffle of an AR15 semi-automatic assault rifle similar to the weapon that killed 20 children last Friday. The group gained national attention previously for its Machine Gun Social, in which participants could make donations in exchange for the chance to fire 30 rounds from a sub machine gun of their choosing.

asheville
Lunch and drinks included, what a deal!

The group realizes that this raffle might SEEM in poor taste, but defends itself by saying that the raffle had been planned weeks ahead of time and news of it was spread by word of mouth before officially announcing it online on Monday, December 17, mere days after the Newtown shootings. From their website:

ATPAC decided to go through with this raffle at this time because everyone is paying attention. We refuse to allow the Left and the Liberal mindset to once again hijack the conversation as they have and allow the political hacks to pass laws that continue to limit our inalienable right to protect ourselves and the most defenseless among us.

ATPAC goes on to say that had there been armed individuals in the school, this massacre would never have occurred. They call for an “honest debate” of the issue of gun control and cast their raffle in the noble light of throwing water “in the face of those who let ‘no crisis goes to waste.’” 

Many are saying that “now is not the time” to talk about gun control. Others say that teachers should be armed and ready for the next (inevitable) crazed gunman. Laws are being introduced in neighboring states of South Carolina and Tennessee, calling for armed individuals to be present in every public school. The Aurora theater shooting this summer, the Oregon mall shooting scant days before the Newtown tragedy, hundreds of others dead in shootings across the country this year…when is enough enough? We barely have breathing room between horrific gun crimes these days. So why change a scheduled assault rifle giveaway? If they wait, there might be yet another shooting to rain on the parade of gun nuts. About 85 people die from deadly gunshot wounds daily, a majority of them due to suicide. A recent report states that gun-related fatalities will outnumber deaths by auto accidents by 2015. Tell me again that guns don’t kill people.

“But the bad guys will just use another weapon,” says the gun advocate. Yes, he will. A knife-wielding crazy person stabbed 22 children in China on the SAME day as the Newtown shootings. EVERY child and adult shot by Adam Lanza died. NO CHILDREN died of their injuries in Chengping, China.

Assault rifles have no purpose other than to kill lots of people fast. Self-respecting hunters would never use such an unsportsmanlike weapon to kill game. My late father, an avid collector and marksman, would say that any man that needed to carry around such a weapon was a wimp who should turn in his man card. Many of my Facebook friends have been saying we need to be more like the Swiss, where guns are issued to every able-bodied male. I agree, but take a closer look at how the Swiss do it in a post I wrote previously, which has been getting a lot of traffic in the last few days. There are no dumb-ass shooting incidents over pizza or loud music.

Many of my friends and relatives are saying that the second amendment grants us the right to carry assault rifles to guard against a tyrannical government. I guess we need some missiles and nukes too. How about fighter jets? Will an AR-15 protect us against bunker-busting bombs? Because that’s what we’ll get in the event of a war against our own government. RIDICULOUS ARGUMENT, YOU STUPID ASSHOLES. See Waco, see Ruby Ridge, see every instance of armed insurrection in this country ever. RED DAWN was a MOVIE. The second amendment does NOT grant us permission to carry around weapons of mass destruction. The second amendment should not be held in an esteemed position above all other rights granted in the Constitution-specifically the right to LIFE. Twenty young lives were cut short last Friday. They will not be the last. Guns DO kill people. Assault weapons kill a LOT of people. Your assault rifle is nothing in the face of a tyrannical government. The best protection against a tyrannical government is to stop eating the lies it feeds you. 

Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion – NYTimes.com

18CARE1_SPAN-articleLarge-v2While it is a painful truism that brutality and violence are at least as old as humanity, so, it seems, is caring for the sick and disabled.

And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care.

The case that led Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University in Canberra to this idea is that of a profoundly ill young man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam and was buried, as were others in his culture, at a site known as Man Bac.

Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Ms. Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Dr. Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease.

They gathered that he became paralyzed from the waist down before adolescence, the result of a congenital disease known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. He had little, if any, use of his arms and could not have fed himself or kept himself clean. But he lived another 10 years or so.

They concluded that the people around him who had no metal and lived by fishing, hunting and raising barely domesticated pigs, took the time and care to tend to his every need.

via Ancient Bones That Tell a Story of Compassion – NYTimes.com.

Beef’s Raw Edges, Kansas City Star Investigative Report. A Side of E.Coli With Your Steak?

The Kansas City Star, in a yearlong investigation, found that the beef industry is increasingly relying on a mechanical process to tenderize meat, exposing Americans to higher risk of E. coli poisoning. The industry then resists labeling such products, leaving consumers in the dark.

The result: Beef in America is plentiful and affordable, spun out in enormous quantities at high speeds, but it’s a bonanza with hidden dangers. Industry officials contend beef is safer than it’s ever been.

via Beef’s Raw Edges.

Ever read The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair? It details the lives of meat packers and the unsanitary and inhumane conditions under which they had to make a  living. Ironically, during the time it was published in 1906, the political climate was similar to the one we live in now.  Workers, particularly immigrants, lived in extremely poor conditions and worked in dangerous environments with no protections. Survival of the fittest was the dominant philosophy of the day. Though the socialist Sinclair was mainly trying to highlight the plight of immigrant workers and wage slavery, readers were most horrified by the filth in which their food was being produced. Public outcry led to the Meat Inspection Act and the eventual creation of the Food and Drug Administration. 

As Right to Work laws are spread like wildfire through the country, our food safety and security is in jeopardy, unions are in danger of extinction, and Big Business is populating the government with yes men and cronies. Regulation of industry has long been an uphill battle even without Citizens United to help the cause of the powerful along. Social Darwinism is making a comeback, this time preached from the mouths of evangelicals who sound more like prosperity coaches than mouthpieces for a poor, liberal revolutionary such as Jesus Christ. Ayn Rand acolytes such as Paul Ryan decry regulation as stifling the creative process and innovative spirit of  our godlike wealth-creators. Undermining the rights of workers and opposition to even the most reasonable regulations has a pretty predictable outcome (just look at history), but  reason is in short supply these days. 

Before you eat another medium rare steak, read this important investigative report. Everyone knows that meat is often contaminated with all sorts of nasty bugs, but they are usually just on the surface of a steak. Searing the outer layer kills harmful pathogens, making a rare steak safe to eat. However, many meat processing facilities regularly use mechanical tenderizers and injections of solutions to make the meat more tender. Unfortunately this drives surface bacteria into the center of the meat, which means it must be fully cooked to be safe for consumption.  Such treated meat is not required to be labeled. Restaurants, grocery stores  nursing homes, and other facilities may not even know they are serving potentially deadly food.

From The Kansas City Star:

The Star examined the largest beef packers including the big four— Tyson Foods of Arkansas, Cargill Meat Solutions of Wichita, National Beef of Kansas City and JBS USA Beef of Greeley, Colo. — as well as the network of feedlots, processing plants, animal drug companies and lobbyists who make up the behemoth known as Big Beef.

What The Star found is an increasingly concentrated industry that mass-produces beef at high speeds in mega-factories that dot the Midwest, where Kansas City serves as the “buckle” of the beef belt. It’s a factory food process churning out cheaper and some say tougher cuts of meat that can cause health problems. The Star’s other key findings:

•  Large beef plants, based on volume alone, contribute disproportionately to the incidence of meat-borne pathogens.

•  Big Beef and other processors are co-mingling ground beef from many different cattle, some from outside the United States, adding to the difficulty for health officials to track contaminated products to their source. The industry also has resisted labeling some products, including mechanically tenderized meat, to warn consumers and restaurants to cook it thoroughly.

•  Big Beef is injecting millions of dollars of growth hormones and antibiotics into cattle, partly to fatten them quickly for market. But many experts believe that years of overuse and misuse of such drugs contributes to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans, meaning illnesses once treated with a regimen of antibiotics are much harder to control.

•  Big Beef is using its political pull, public relations campaigns and the supportive science it sponsors to influence federal dietary guidelines and recast steaks and burgers as health foods people can eat every day. It even persuaded the American Heart Association to certify beef as “heart healthy.”

Big Beef, industry critics contend, has grown too big for Big Government to lasso.

Indeed, the U.S. beef industry is twice as concentrated as it was when President Teddy Roosevelt took on and beat the old Armour, Swift, Cudahy and Morris beef trust in the early 1900s. The big four packers today slaughter 87 percent of all heifers and steers.

The biggest bacterial culprit for tainted meat is E. coli, with serotype O157:H7, an enterohemorrhagic strain, being the most deadly. This potentially fatal infection causes severe diarrhea and may permanently destroy kidney function, especially in young children and the elderly. A woman in this article lost her colon to the infection, forcing her to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. Where does E. coli contamination come from? SHIT. Food inspectors at a Tyson plant referenced “massive fecal contamination; multiple carcasses with varying degrees of fecal contamination; periods of very significant fecal, ingesta and abscess contamination.” I’m getting hungry…

To recap: Meat processing plants, which are pretty poorly overseen due to the sheer enormity of operations, regularly process contaminated meat. This tainted meat is made even more dangerous by machines poking holes into it, driving poopy shit to the center of the meat, where bacteria love to breed in the anaerobic darkness. Since there is no labeling required on such meat, people can cook up a normally safe medium rare steak, eat basically a shit-stuffed meat bag, and lose their colon, kidneys, or life due to ignorance of how their meat was produced. It’s a jungle out there, folks, over a century after the unsanitary practices of Big Meat were first exposed.

If this isn’t enough to make you want to go survivalist and grow your own food, check out this Pro Publica article that outlines how the government is letting industry contaminate our drinking water!

Breaking Archaeological News! Unicorn lair ‘discovered’ in North Korea!

 

The Korean Central News Agency recently reported the amazing rediscovery of the lair of a unicorn ridden by Korean King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668). The KCNA also stated that “A rectangular rock carved with words “Unicorn Lair” stands in front of the lair.” The carved letters are believed to date back to the time of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

From the report:

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA:
“Korea’s history books deal with the unicorn, considered to be ridden by King Tongmyong, and its lair.

The Sogyong (Pyongyang) chapter of the old book ‘Koryo History’ (geographical book), said: Ulmil Pavilion is on the top of Mt. Kumsu, with Yongmyong Temple, one of Pyongyang’s eight scenic spots, beneath it. The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.

The old book ‘Sinjungdonggukyojisungnam’ (Revised Handbook of Korean Geography) complied in the 16th century wrote that there is a lair west of Pubyok Pavilion in Mt. Kumsu.

The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom.”

Unicorn lair ‘discovered’ in North Korea | World news | guardian.co.uk.