Thursday, September 27

Clash

The posters in the New York Subway stations represent:
a. Clash of civilizations.
b. Clash in religions.
c. Clash of speech.
d. Or, all of the above.

Activist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for spray-painting over posters suggesting that Muslims are uncivilized. "Eltahawy was arrested after a supporter of Geller's initiative attempted to prevent her defacing the sign with a purple aerosol," reports Peter Beaumont for the Guardian. 

Eltahawy defended her action as "free speech," too. But then she didn't pay $6000 in advertising costs for posters in 10 subway stations. In New York City, paid advertising carries more weight than activism.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative, which commissioned the posters, and Eltahawy are receiving far more publicity and attention than either paid for.

As a side note, The Color Purple is one of my favorite books about literacy.

Update, September 30: Eltahawy is on UP With Chris Hayes, and she describes the spray paint as pink - not black, so people could still read the poster. Chris asked her, why she responded to the trolls? She responded, that she felt compelled to respond to the bullies. Still like purple, not changing the art. Readers have asked who is the artist. Answer: 2-minute Paint creation.

Wednesday, September 26

Fighting for faith

My mother, Jeanne Marie Froetschel, was my role model for approaching other religions and respecting others' beliefs.

I remembered her wisdom this morning and wrote about her for On Faith blog of The Washington Post, after reading about about ads suggesting that the beliefs of 1 billion Muslims might not be civilized:

"Early in first grade, one of the nuns advised our class not to associate with children who attended other schools and believed other religions. My teacher, a younger nun, looked uncomfortable and quickly changed the topic.

"Later that day, I asked my mother about playing with friends who worshipped at other churches.

"'Playing with other friends won’t change your beliefs,' my mother said. She was beautiful, devout and confident that her children knew right from wrong at an early age."

The ads are immature. The competition is unseemly. Great religions, great thoughts, do not have to advertise or insult the beliefs of others. Religious leaders shouldn't limit what adherents read or whom they associate with. Committing violence against nonbelievers does not convince others that a set of religious beliefs is worthy. 

The guest blog concludes, "Ruthless, mean competition for adherents and power, insults and violence, give reason to Americans to distance themselves from religion and explore spirituality alone or among a diverse and comfortable group of friends."

Photo of Jeanne Marie Froetschel
 


Exclusion

Exclusion goes hand in hand with religions and fraternities.

Excellent analysis from Sophie Gould of Yale Daily News: "Though Yale’s newest fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) has announced a policy of admitting only Christians, it will have to change its membership rules if it intends to comply with Yale’s anti-discrimination policies."

But rush week isn't first-come, first-serve. It's about discrimination. 

Photo of Harkness Tower on High Street, nestled between Saybrook and Branford residential colleges, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Monday, September 24

Stories

Publicity doesn’t have to be a chore. Instead, authors need to turn to what they do best – tell a story, shedding light on the motivations and purpose behind their work. Every stage of publishing the book – from telling the story to attracting an agent and publisher, hiring a publicist, posing for  photos, answering questions from journalists or fans, running workshops, sending out messages on social media – should include storytelling devices. 

Stories of characters in a book probably connect with stories from the author’s life – and authors can’t help but remember moments that triggered the tale.  So, more work has probably been accomplished than the author realizes.

Every communication from an author can unleash back story:
  • Books typically have several themes, and authors should have strong opinions on those themes.  If those themes connect with current events, then draft 500 words – opinion essays, book reviews, feature articles and blog entries for newspapers or television – presenting a perspective drawing on anecdotes from real life or the novel itself. Such expertise leads to speaking engagements and opportunity to tell more stories.   
  •   For profiles or interviews, be prepared to answer the question, “How did you get the idea of this book?” Nicholas Sparks tells that story on his website. And there’s the story behind ideas and their process: Greg Breeding describes the story behind Bono’s song, “One,” in an article for Story Matters, an online magazine from design and publishing firm Journey.  “Great ideas do seem to come out of nowhere, but then again, the intentional push against mediocrity is the rich soil where excellence takes root,” he writes. “Hard work doesn’t necessarily produce greatness, but it’s hard to imagine that the really great ideas come without it.”
  • Linking articles connected to book themes on an author’s website can attract invitations to write or speak.
  • Images can relay stories and increase curiosity. Categories, captions and photos in Pinterest can reveal how an author selects details. Even a quick brief clip of a workshop, posted on YouTube, can introduce an author’s attitude.  
  • Communications – enchanting, intriguing, instructive or funny – should be concise, focused on one of the book’s theme.  Twitter posts, long conversations or stand-alones, can relay a story and raise suspense. Tweets that read like poetry or moments of weakness, blasting a critic’s review, do attract notice.
  • Take advantage of read-made social media for storytelling and control the story on LibraryThing, Goodreads or Facebook Timeline.  
  •  No author is going to be an expert at every facet of publicity. Don’t panic. Jacket Copy from The Los Angeles Times gives the best advice – make it fun.
      One huge difference between drafting story for novels versus publicity is timing. Deadlines loom for publicity. Copy must be submitted quickly. There’s less time or tolerance for a bad first draft. Writers must be spontaneous, coherent and insightful for social media and any type of interview. Practice helps.

Photo of Afghan students participate in online discussion about traditional stories, courtesy of US State Department and Wikimedia Commons. 

Harvest

Some see work. Others see sweeping waves of golden beauty ....

Moisson en Provence, or Harvest in Provence, by Vincent Van Gogh, currently housed in the Israel Museum

Photo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, September 22

Women who murder

"Forced marriages are at the root of many of the murders committed by women in Afghanistan," reports Sohaila Weda Khamosh for Inter Press Service News Agency. "The number of Afghan women being jailed for murder has been increasing every year, officials say. More than a quarter of the 700 women in prison are serving murder sentences."

Poverty, forced marriages, inequality and narcotics abuse contribute to the violence.

The women in Fear of Beauty, though, are comfortable with arranged marriages: "Our village, like others, had a tradition of sending women to other communities for marriage. The groom provided gifts, based on a daughter’s beauty and skill, in exchange for a bride, and paid for the wedding. The system worked and kept families stable. Sending us off alone, to adjust in far-off villages, increased a young woman’s dependence on her husband. The system reduced gossip about the prices paid for women, and men understood from the start that the women of their own village were out of reach."

Perhaps the mothers of sons are more comfortable with arranged marriages than the mothers of daughters.

Troop Scoop reports on US efforts to improve prisons in Afghanistan, including Zabul Prison, and establish a consistent and fair system for the rule of law: 

“'The Rule of Law project is central to a safe and secure Zabul,' said 2SCR trial prosecutor, Capt. Harrison Kennedy, about a delivery of basic supplies to Zabul Prison to equip guards and improve living conditions for prisoners. Whether it's providing blankets for inmates or forensic training for judicial prosecutors, the Rule of Law program is making great strides in helping the GoA establish a justice system that ensures the rights for the people of Afghanistan."

Photo of a security assignment outside Zabul Prison, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and US Staff Sargent Brian Ferguson. 

Wednesday, September 19

Publicity machine

There's no such thing as bad publicity. And extremists in the Arab world were driving the publicity train for The Innocence of Muslims.

"Publicists could not have generated more curiosity for The Innocence of Muslims, ensuring universal viewing." - From YaleGlobal about the powerful essay in The Wall Street Journal from Husain Haqqani, professor of international relations and former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

Saturday, September 15

Connected

Protests in Cairo over a film trailer, The Innocence of Muslims, originally called Desert Warriors, represent but a fraction of Egyptians, the vast majority who continue to go about their daily lives. Journalist Ethar El-Katatney provided perspective this morning on UP with Chris Hayes. Protests were reported in 23 nations, each fueled by varying sources of anger, the foolish anti-Muslim film serving as an excuse in many cases.

The protests are scattered and fragmented.

On the other hand, the vast majority of people in the United States, the third most populous country in the world, are puzzled, not prepared to fear and resent 1 billion Muslims.

Likewise, most Americans are not ready to dispense with freedom of expression. It may be difficult for other cultures to reconcile, but  most Americans both support peaceful protests that blast the US in Egypt and Libya and Yemen and beyond, as well as a mean, self-centered, biased filmmaker's right to make a film and, as writer Oscar Wilde once said, make an ass out of himself. Violence is wrong, freedom of expression is open to all. The nation's first president, George Washington, said in a speech to officers in 1783, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Protesters can walk on the US flag, and this makes Americans stronger.


Photo courtesy of Mohamed CJ and Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, September 13

Media as weapon

By now, protesters around American embassies in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, should realize the film "The Innocence of Muslims" was at best a lame project and at worst a deliberate conspiracy to stir anger at the United States and perhaps even influence the US election.

Reports that there is no film, just a trailer, and that actors report saying one set of words and the actual online release relying the offensive dubbing could point to the latter intent. Early reports that an Israeli was behind the project add to suspicions.

Terrorists know they can draw a comic, make a film, write a story and goad angry protesters and violence. The protests display not devotion, but a willingness to be pawns.

A better, more lasting and targeted revenge? Picking up a pen and drafting poetry, literature and scripts that show the cultural relevance of Islam.

Violence does not show respect for a religion.

And I just came across this from Deepa Kumar, writing for McClatchy: "At the end of the day, the far right in one country has more in common with the far right in other countries than with any other segment of the world's population. The vast majority of ordinary people are sensible and nonviolent."

Wednesday, September 12

Victim of irresponsibility

US Ambassador Chris Stevens worked his entire career to better lives and improve connections between other cultures and the United States, most recently in Libya as it undergoes transition from dictatorship, civil war and efforts for representative government.

He and at least three other Americans were killed today while fleeing the American consulate in Benghazi.

Protests flared this week after a television cleric in Egypt found an amateur video denigrating Mohammed - a video without humor or merit, one that otherwise would have attracted attention. He showed clips over the weekend and reposted them on YouTube. Rumors flared that the clips were part of a major Hollywood film to open on September 11. Tempers flared.

The film was irresponsible.
Showing the film on television was irresponsible.
The protests that turned violent were irresponsible....

Tuesday, September 11

Assumptions

An essential step to close reading is exploring a writer's assumptions. Behind any text lurks a culture and lifetime of experiences.

"Many students who are unfamiliar with the Bible miss the nuanced and broad allusions, imagery, metaphors and symbols teeming in the novels of James Joyce, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner and others," I explain as a guest blogger for the Washington Post's "In Faith" section.

I refer to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on "Character," explaining that literature is a partner with religion in "exploring morality, truth and, as he put it, the 'reaffirmations of the conscience correcting the evil customs” of our times.'" (And while you're at it, go back and read "Self-Reliance," one of my favorites.)

As the English-speaking world becomes more diverse, so too is its literature, and there are many more influences to explore, including the Koran.
   


Monday, September 10

Spies?

Pakistan has ordered six foreign workers of the charity Save the Children to leave the country. "The aid group had been under suspicion from authorities ever since a doctor accused of assisting the CIA in its search for the al-Qaida leader claimed that Save the Children had introduced him to US intelligence officers," reports Jon Boone for the Guardian.  Pakistanis suggest the workers had "engaged" the doctor who has been charged of setting up a vaccination program to catch Oasma bin Laden.

Save the Children has worked in Pakistan for decades and only six of the 2000 workers in the country are foreign nationals, Boone explains.

The charity issued a statement: "Save the Children is a global organisation and has a zero-tolerance policy for people involved in work that is not humanitarian and does not benefit children and their families. We reiterate our offer to the Pakistani authorities to examine our country office financial records and interview any of our staff concerned with our operation there."

Save the Children strives for transparency and offers a Donor Bill of Rights, that including transparency on mission and finances, ability to ask questions and the expectation "that all relationships with individuals representing organization of interest to the donors will be professional in nature."

Doctor Shakil Afridi, who helped the US pinpoint the location of Osama bin Laden,  is serving a 33-year prison sentence for treason. Pakistan should be very careful calling the Save the Children workers or Dr. Afridi a spy - unless, of course, bin Laden was working for Pakistan in an official capacity.

Photo of a group of children in Khost Province, Afghanistan, courtesy of funbobseye and Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, September 5

More platform

The politics of the US affect other countries. Here are thoughts from the 2012 Democratic National Platform:

This election is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two fundamentally different paths for our country and our families.

Democrats know that America prospers when we’re all in it together. We see an America where everyone has a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We see an America that out-educates, out-builds, and out-innovates the rest of the world.... We are the party of inclusion and respect differences of perspective and belief. And so, even when we disagree, we work together to move this country forward. 

Democrats believe that getting an education is the surest path to the middle class, giving all students the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and contribute to our economy and democracy. Public education is one of our critical democratic institutions.... there is no substitute for a great teacher at the head of a classroom.... If we want high-quality education for all our kids, we must listen to the people who are on the front lines.... The President has laid out a plan to prevent more teacher layoffs while attracting and rewarding great teachers. This includes raising standards for the programs that prepare our teachers, recognizing and rewarding good teaching, and retaining good teachers. We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed and protect due process if another teacher has to be put in the classroom. We also recognize there is no substitute for a parent’s involvement in their child’s education.

Democrats are committed to preparing math and science teachers and training workers with skills for the future, and doubling funding for key basic research agencies.... Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. Their work resulted in the 40-hour workweek and weekends, paid leave and pensions, the minimum wage and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare – the
cornerstones of middle class security.... We believe in an America where people looking for work can find good jobs, where hard work pays, and where responsibility is rewarded. 


As Americans, we are bound together by more than nationality or geography. We are bound by a shared set of ideals and values rooted in the notion that we are greater together; that our collective efforts produce something better than the sum of our individual actions; and that together, rather than divided, we can overcome the greatest challenges that come our way.

We support parents and their children as they work to lead healthier lives. With prevention and treatment initiatives on obesity and public health, Democrats are leading the way on supporting healthier, more physically active families and healthy children.

Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. 

Faith-based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world – from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we
believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both
principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.


We are committed to creating a rural economy built to last – one focused on reclaiming the security of the rural middle class by growing the food, fiber, and fuel that the rest of the world buys and restoring the basic values of hard work and fair play that made our country great.By investing in job creation, clean energy, agriculture, and education, Democrats have built a stronger rural economy where future generations can enjoy the rural way of life.

An agricultural economy built to last is integral to the affordability of our food, the independence of our energy supply, and the security of America’s middle class. Democrats support agriculture from the small farms that feed the community to the large farms that feed the world. Under President Obama, American farmers are seeing record farm income, record agricultural exports, and millions of acres enrolled in conservation programs. President Obama has expanded markets for American goods that help support more than a million agriculture jobs here at home. And in the past few years, agriculture has been one of the fastest-growing parts of our economy, creating one out of every 12 American jobs. Democrats appreciate agriculture’s role in securing America’s food security and making our country an ambassador of food aid to countries across the world. That’s why Democrats support a strong farm safety net, with increased availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business after natural disasters and crop loss. Democrats are  also planning for a strong agricultural future, and President Obama has proposed increasing funding for research and development to improve agricultural productivity and continue to pursue global food security.

We believe in an America where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody plays by the same set of rules.... We are committed to protecting all communities from violence.... We are committed to equal opportunity for all Americans and to making sure that every American is treated equally under the law....
We are committed to ensuring full equality for women....


President Obama – the son of a single mother and the father of two daughters – understands that women aren’t a special interest group. They are more than half of this country, and issues that affect women also affect families.... The President and the Democratic Party believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices. Democrats support access to affordable family planning services....

We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

We believe the right to vote and to have your vote counted is an essential American freedom, and we oppose laws that place unnecessary restrictions on those seeking to exercise that freedom. Democrats have a proud history of standing up for the right to vote.

We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law.

We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation.

Democrats are committed to protecting our natural resources while creating jobs, preserving habitats, and ensuring that future generations can enjoy our nation’s outdoor heritage. From investing in clean energy to protecting our air, land, and water, Democrats have made protecting the environment a top priority. Today we are responsibly developing our natural resources to create clean energy jobs here at home while encouraging conservation, reducing energy waste, and protecting the environment.... We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation – an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. President Obama has been a leader on this issue.

When President Obama took office in January 2009, our armed forces were engaged in two wars. Al- Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, remained entrenched in its safe havens. Many of our alliances were strained, and our standing in the world had diminished. Around the world and here at home, there were those who questioned whether the United States was headed toward inevitable decline. Under the leadership of President Obama and the Democratic Party, the tide of war is now receding... 

Charting a responsible path out of the war in Iraq has been a crucial element of President Obama’s foreign policy and has enabled important shifts Moving forward, President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to building a robust, long-term strategic partnership with a sovereign, united, and democratic Iraq in all fields – diplomatic, economic, and security – based on mutual interests and mutual respect.in our broader strategy.... 

President Obama and the Democratic Party understood that the war in Iraq distracted us from confronting many of the most fundamental national security challenges facing the United States, including the danger posed by international terrorist organizations that threaten the American homeland. As the Bush administration shifted its focus to Iraq, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda established safe havens across the border from Afghanistan, in Pakistan. President Obama’s decision to end the Iraq war freed up military and intelligence resources to refocus on this fight and enabled us to shift to a much more effective approach to counterterrorism.... Importantly, President Obama also shifted away from the Bush administration’s sweeping and internationally-divisive rhetoric of a “global war on terrorism” to a more focused effort against an identifiable network of people: al-Qaeda and its affiliates. That has allowed us to target force with greater precision against those who want to harm Americans and attack the United States and move away from the type of large-scale military deployments characteristic of the previous administration and favored by many Republicans today.
As a candidate, then-Senator Obama committed to bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, even if that meant crossing the border into Pakistan. As a consequence of the President’s decisions and the brave work of our military and intelligence professionals, bin Laden can no longer threaten the United States and al-Qaeda’s senior leadership has been devastated, rendering the group far less capable than it was four years ago. The al-Qaeda core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has never been weaker.


The United States went into Afghanistan after 9/11 to bring justice to those who had attacked us and to take away al-Qaeda’s safe haven. But by the time President Obama took office, we had lost sight of those goals. So the President refocused our efforts there in 2009, setting the clear goal of defeating al-Qaeda and denying it an ability to reestablish a safe haven in Afghanistan. Because of the deteriorating security situation, he sent additional resources to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and to give the Afghans the time and space to build the capacity of their security forces. We have accomplished that, and now we have begun the process of bringing our troops home from Afghanistan, including removing 33,000 by September 2012. And, with the support of our allies, the President has outlined a plan to end the war in Afghanistan in 2014.
Already, the United States and our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have begun to transition responsibility to Afghan security forces. At the same time, we are keeping up the pressure on the Taliban,
pursuing the possibility of a political resolution to parts of the conflict, and continuing our capacity building efforts. Beyond 2014, we will continue to provide counterterrorism and training assistance and to build an enduring relationship with Afghanistan, as outlined by the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement concluded in May. But we will not build permanent bases in Afghanistan. More broadly, we will also continue to support peace and stability in South Asia. Pakistan can be a partner in that process.


President Obama, working closely with our international partners and Congress, has put in place unprecedented sanctions against Iran. Iran has yet to build a nuclear weapon, but has continually failed to meet its obligations under the NPT and several United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it cannot demonstrate with any credibility that its program is peaceful.... President Obama believes that a diplomatic outcome remains the best and most enduring solution. At the same time, he has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely....

Cybersecurity threats represent one of the most serious potential national security, public safety, and economic challenges we face.

The national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. That is why, in addition to undertaking measures to enhance energy independence and promote efficiency, clean energy, and renewable sources of power here at home, the President and the Democratic Party have steadily worked to build an international framework to combat climate change.

The greatest dangers we face – terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber and biological attacks, climate change, and transnational crime – cannot be solved by any one nation alone. Addressing these challenges requires broad and effective global cooperation.

President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.... It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace
between Israelis and Palestinians.


International institutions – most prominently the United Nations – have been a centerpiece of international order since the Development expands markets for American products and creates American jobs. Strong and prosperous regional partners are critical to addressing global challenges, ending regional conflicts, and countering the spread of global criminal networks. And good governance and stability cannot take root, and basic human dignity cannot be protected, where poverty reigns and people lack access to the food, basic education, clean water, and medicine they need to survive.mid-20th century.

The President and the Democratic Party believe that true development requires much more than delivering aid – it requires building the capacity of governments and peoples so that assistance is no longer needed. That is why the administration through its Feed the Future initiative has, with the G-8 and other countries, mobilized more than $22 billion for a global food security effort aimed at building the capacity of nations to feed themselves.

America’s leadership extends beyond our economic prosperity and military might – it is also rooted in our enduring commitment to advancing a core set of universal values. These include an individual’s freedom to speak their mind, assemble without fear, have access to information, worship as they please, and choose their own leaders. They also include dignity, tolerance, and equality among all people, and the fair and equitable administration of justice.

As we continue to perfect our union here at home, setting an example for others to follow, we will also continue to champion universal rights abroad. We recognize that different cultures and traditions give life to these values in distinct ways, and each country will inevitably chart its own course. America will not impose any system of government on another country. But we also know that the sovereignty of nations cannot strangle the liberty of individuals. So as people around the world yearn for greater freedom, we will continue to support progress toward more accountable, democratic governance and the exercise of universal rights. We will do so through a variety of means: by speaking out for universal rights, bolstering fragile democracies and civil society, and supporting the dignity that comes with development.

The Arab Spring represents the world’s most sweeping recent movement toward democracy, but it is not an isolated case. Across the globe, people are demanding more from their governments – and, when they do, they will continue to find support and partnership in the United States.

As we work to advance universal values and human dignity, the President and the Democratic Party understand the critical importance of expanding protections and opportunities for women and girls around the world. Ensuring full equality and providing women and girls the opportunity to learn, earn a livable wage, and participate in public decision-making are essential to reduce violence, improve economies, and strengthen democracy. To continue to make progress at home and advance women’s rights and opportunities abroad, we will urge ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
 

President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the State Department are committed to advancing the rights of women and girls as a central focus of U.S. diplomatic, development, and defense interests. We will continue to promote the full engagement of women in the political and economic spheres. We will work to address underlying socioeconomic problems, including women’s access to health, education, and food security. And we will ensure that women are equal participants in reconciliation and development in areas affected by conflict. President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to supporting family planning around the globe to help women care for their families, support their communities, and lead their countries to be healthier and more productive. That’s why, in his first month in office, President Obama overturned the “global gag rule,” a ban on federal funds to foreign family planning organizations that provided information about, counseling on, or offered abortions.

Some 27 million women, men, and children around the world are victims of human trafficking. The President and the Democratic Party believe that trafficking in persons is both an affront to our fundamental values and, as a source of funds for transnational criminals and terrorist organization, a threat to national and international security. The Obama administration has used bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, training programs, public outreach, and law enforcement to combat trafficking in persons across the globe. The administration has continued to provide annual assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of foreign governments’ efforts to address the issue, encouraging all countries to do more and calling out countries that have failed to do enough. And the administration has provided technical assistance to improve law enforcement and grants to support grassroots prevention efforts around the world targeting sex and labor trafficking, child sex tourism, forced child labor, and other abuses. The administration is also committed to taking action at home to fight trafficking, including the sex trafficking of young girls.

And must quote former President Bill Clinton: "Cooperation works better than constant conflict."

Saturday, September 1

Platform

Citizens around the globe closely follow US election campaigns, because US policies and leaders carry such much influence. This year and next, such influence is heavy for Afghanistan. Thoughts on prosperity, religion, agriculture, the internet, education and security from the Republican Platform 2012:

Prosperity provides the means by which individuals and families can maintain their independence from government, raise their children by their own values, practice their faith, and build communities of self-reliant neighbors.

Republicans understand that you can succeed in a negotiation only if you are willing to walk away from it. 


The first provision of the First Amendment concerns freedom of religion. That guarantee reflected Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which declared that no one should “suffer on account of his religious opinion or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion….” That assurance has never been more needed than it is today, as liberal elites try to drive religious beliefs - and religious believers - out of the public square. 

We assert every citizen’s right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious symbols,or submitting to government-imposed hiring practices.


Agricultural production and agricultural exports are a fundamental part of the U.S. economy, and the vigor of U.S. agriculture is central to our agenda for jobs, growth, and prosperity. Our farmers and ranchers are responsible for millions of jobs and for generating a trade surplus of more than $137 billion annually. Our producers provide America with abundant food, export food to hungry people around the world, and create a positive trade balance.


We support the historic role of the USDA in agricultural research that has transformed farming here and around the world. Because food safety is a major concern of the American people, we urge Congress to ensure adequate resources for the Department’s responsibilities in that regard.


The productivity of America’s farmers makes possible the generosity of US food aid efforts around the world. These programs are fragmented between the Department of Agriculture and the US Agency for International Development. They should be streamlined into one agency with a concentration on reducing overhead to maximize delivery of the actual goods.


The environment is getting cleaner and healthier. The nation’s air and waterways, as a whole, are much healthier than they were just a few decades ago. Efforts to reduce pollution, encourage recycling, educate the public, and avoid ecological degradation have been a success.


Liberty alone fosters scientific inquiry, technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and information exchange. Liberty must remain the core energy behind America’s environmental improvement.


The Internet has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance inhuman history. Its independence is its power.

Consumer choice is the most powerful factor in healthcare reform. Today’s highly mobile work force requires portability of insurance coverage that can go with them from job to job. The need to maintain coverage should not dictate where families have to live and work. Putting the patient at the center of policy decisions will increase choice and reduce costs while ensuring that services provide what Americans actually want.... No healthcare professional or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, withhold, or refer for a medical service against their conscience.

Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a personal and cultural identity. 

Because parents are a child’s first teachers, we support family literacy programs, which improve the reading, language, and life skills of both parents and children from low-income families. 

We support keeping federal funds from being used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.

The current Administration’s most recent National Security Strategy reflects the extreme elements in its liberal domestic coalition....The strategy significantly increases the risk of future conflict by declaring to our adversaries that we will no longer maintain the forces necessary to fight and win more than one conflict at a time. It relies on the good intentions and capabilities of international organizations to justify constraining American military readiness. Finally, the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates “climate change” to the level of a “severe threat” equivalent to foreign aggression. The word “climate,” in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction. The phrase “global war on terror” does not appear at all, and has been purposely avoided and changed by his Administration to “overseas contingency operations.”

Combat readiness also requires that we reserve troops for truly necessary operations by not overextending them around the world. We recognize that drastic cuts to our military’s end strength pose severe national security challenges.

Limiting foreign aid spending helps keep taxes lower, which frees more resources in the private and charitable sectors, whose giving tends to be more effective and efficient.

We will use the full force of the law against those who engage in modern-day forms of slavery, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children and the forced labor of men, women, and children.... we call for increased diplomatic efforts with foreign governments to root out complicit public officials who facilitate or perpetrate this evil. 

We will resist foreign influence in our hemisphere. 

The imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan of the 30,000 “surge” troops sent there two years ago comes weeks before this year’s presidential election and against the advice of the current President’s top military commanders. Future decisions by a Republican President will never subordinate military necessity to domestic politics or an artificial timetable. Afghans, Pakistanis, and Americans have a common interest in ridding the region of the Taliban and other insurgent groups, but we cannot expect others to remain resolute unless we show the same determination ourselves. We will expect the Afghan government to crackdown on corruption, respect free elections, and assist our fight against the narcotic trade that fuels the insurgency. We must likewise expect the Pakistan government to sever any connection between its security and intelligence forces and the insurgents. No Pakistani citizen should be punished for helping the United States against the terrorists.

We recognize the historic nature of the events of the past two years – the Arab Spring – that have unleashed democratic movements leading to the overthrow of dictators who have been menaces to global security for decades. In a season of upheaval, it is necessary to be prepared for anything.