Violence in Cairo's Tahrir Square

When the first demonstrations took place in Tahrir Square I was thrilled that the people were able to demand Mubarak step down, because I love Cairo and have been there often for work and pleasure. As I watched the Arab Spring unfold I began to wonder if we, here at home, would ever take to the streets again, and we did. 

Would that the world could calm down in the new year. Things have taken a very violent turn in Cairo and other countries. Below you will find a link to an article and video that absolutely breaks my heart. The violence is beyond anything I've seen on the news. Enlarge the video to fill your screen so you can get a better look at what's happening. 
Egypt - Violence Up Close & Personal (
The whole world should be watching, so please have a good look and then write to our President (, or yours, and ask that she or he join with other heads of state to put pressure on the Egyptian military to resume civility towards civil society. Even with all my years of demonstrating and activism, I am horrified at the level of pure viciousness and wild rage that these armed (with metal clubs) and dangerous military perpetrators unleashed on demonstrators, including women, in Tahrir Square. 

Please spread the word about this.

                                             ~ enough said ~  

World AIDS Day

The phrase “30 Years, 30 million funerals” has been bandied around in the build-up to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and it has resurfaced just in time for World AIDS Day. But a newly funded study tells us that good news is on the horizon. The world seems to be getting the message that treatment and prevention are not competitors for funding; rather, they are one and the same. In other words (as many of us have known but not yet used as an official message), treatment is prevention. Now, in our 30th year, it is official: 
“NIH-funded research released this year showed that anti-retroviral treatment for HIV+ people reduced the risk of HIV transmission by 96 percent--a breakthrough finding that has driven much of the conversation.” 
And this press release from activist organization HEALTHGAP (see sidebar for more info):
For immediate release: President Barack Obama today announced that the U.S. will get 6 million people access to antiretroviral AIDS treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief--doubling the pace of scale up for the program.  Speaking on World AIDS Day along with Presidents Bush and Clinton, President Obama committed the U.S. to using emerging science to begin to end the global AIDS crisis—a concept unimaginable just a few years ago. 
I’d like to commend CNN for using World AIDS Day to educate, elucidate and discuss AIDS. They presented a series of interviews with everyone from their own Sanjay Gupta to Bono.

U.S. to Use Foreign Aid to Promote Gay Rights Abroad

President Obama announced a broad effort to use U.S. foreign aid as a tool to promote rights for gays and lesbians abroad as human rights (which I personally think should be obvious even to detractors). This initiative includes combating attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality. He issued a memorandum directing American agencies to look for ways to combat such attempts. In the memorandum, the President said that the State Department would lead other federal agencies to help ensure that the government provided a “swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights” of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people abroad. I am thrilled that he has taken this stand and hope that he intends to direct these actions to apply to the United States (all 50 of them) as well. But don't just leave it up to the administration. Let's all write to him ( and to Secretary Clinton ( to congratulate them on this stand and let them know that you want them to follow through swiftly so that their actions meet their welcomed words.

In Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke the following words to an audience of diplomats: "Gay rights are human rights.… It should never be a crime to be gay." She added that a country's cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination, which I can attest is an important statement. I can’t even estimate how many times I have heard such excuses used in countries around the world, including within fundamentalist cultures throughout America. Secretary Clinton also noted that, "Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.…Gay people are born into, and belong to every society in the world." You can let her know your thoughts at

    Dear President Obama:

    I recently read a very powerful statement that you made: "The universal rights of assembly and free speech must be protected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights." If you stand with the protesters of the Arab Spring, who called for their rights to speak truth to power, then you surely must offer the same rights and protections to members of Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests, who speak truth to bankers and politicians. America needs you to speak out to protect our rights and assure us that you do not condone the actions of enraged and rogue cops, some of whom moonlight for the corporate thugs who have actively, freely and callously helped impoverish everyday Americans.

    We are in jeopardy of loosing our status as a country “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Do you want that loss to be the legacy of your presidency? The choice is yours.

    You Have to be Carefully Taught

    Napoleon Hill said that, “One comes, finally, to believe whatever one repeats to one's self, whether the statement is true or false.” Some of us are very lucky because we were brought up to think freely and creatively. We take that freedom for granted at our own peril, since things are very different for millions of the world’s citizens.

    Fundamentalism doesn’t stand up well against reality or creativity. It is those most unable to think for themselves who fall easy prey to smooth-talking ideologues. When Ahmadinejad gets fired up, he can manipulate crowds, most of whom have never met an American, with hate-America rants. Our Tea Party can work up similar loathing among followers, ranting about those with differently colored skin, like our President, or with accents, or who worship a different God. Furthermore, they proudly pass their hatred down from one generation to another. They don’t strive to stimulate creativity, curiosity or passion in their children. After all, if young students looked too deeply into some of the precepts they are expected to hold sacred, they would likely see their folly. For instance, they would likely discern that the words “intelligent design” stand as a feeble attempt to cover up the fact that there is nothing intelligent about creationism, and choose to embrace science-based evolution. An intelligent society doesn’t present a biblical metaphor in a science curriculum.  

    As history bears witness, the propagation of fundamentalism for political ends in the schools is pretty universal. In America the far right is supported by private and religious schools that teach history as if America the beautiful has always been in the right. So it’s not surprising that the products of this education are stunned to discover, if they ever leave the country or watch something other than FOX News, that it’s all been a lie. And across the Muslim world there are Madrasas, which propagate the study of Islamic religion and thought. Children, primarily boys, are taught to read and write through the Holy Quran, which they accept as truth and do not question or analyze. The interpretation they are given supports the politics of their local region, which can easily seem to support the destruction of all things not Muslim. In either case, education by edict and arbitrary rules is counterproductive to the healthy socialization, curiosity and learning that children need in order to grow into healthy, thoughtful adults.  

    Without learning to think for ourselves, we are left with an unhealthy reflection of the brokenness of family and society. Begun early enough, “Because I said so” and other givens can eliminate the capacity for critical thinking and annihilate our ability to tune into our own conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, and replace it with someone else’s imprint, someone else’s system of morality. This is the way many a terrorist or flag-follower shouting, “I’m standing by my country or religion, right or wrong!” is bred.  

    Of course if we want to inspire other countries to let their children think for themselves, then we will have to see to it that American children are given the tools they need to do just that. Let’s support the Obama administration and his Secretary of Education, Anre Duncan, in making a fair and well-balanced system of education a national priority that treats our children’s future as the best investment an intelligent society can make, because it is. And let’s keep religion and politics out of public education. That would really be leaving no child behind.
    I’ll write more about educating our children very soon, but I would really appreciate your comments and thoughts, so please add them below. To close I want to leave you with something that Nicholas Kristof said in a New York Times editorial that gets right to the point. “The dumbing-down of discourse has been particularly striking since the 1970s. Think of the devolution of the emblematic conservative voice from William Buckley to Bill O’Reilly. It’s enough to make one doubt Darwin.” Never underestimate the “Coming of the Right.” It’s still coming.  

    What We Can Do:
    If you have children in school at any level, and even if you don’t, please don’t fail to take an interest in your local school boards. See what you can find out about the people who are running for or sit in those seats, or who populate your local PTA. Knowing that the younger you begin to tell children what you want them to believe, the better, the Religious Right has been making a practice of getting themselves on school boards for decades. In this way their fundamentalist beliefs can seep into public school curricula—but not if our first priority is to raise generations of creative thinkers.  
    1. Think back on your education. Were you taught by rote or were you taught to dig deep and think for yourself? 
    2. How can you have input into the kind of education being offered in our schools now?  
    3. If you don’t have children in the system, just remember that what children are currently learning may impact your future, and think about what you can do to make sure that these children are getting the best and most open-minded education possible.   
    4. What might you want to tell President Obama and Secretary Duncan about your views and thoughts and needs around educating our children? Write to them:,
    5. Journalist Nicholas Kristof suggests looking up Child Education on the Citizens Foundation website ( to see how you can support education that tells a different story to children in Madrasas in Pakistan, where we definitely need to improve relations.