Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Last year at this time I celebrated Christmas with my colleagues in the CSTC-A's public affairs shop in Kabul, Afghanistan. While it was a charming, restful day (something very rare) for us as we shared the holiday with my friends at Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan, it still felt a bit vacant without my son, family and close friends.

Yesterday and today being home with those who mean the most to me meant a great deal to me, but I am ever mindful of our servicemen and women serving overseas in Afghanistan, Iraq and in countless other countries.

Please keep each of them, as well as the many peoples of other countries, in your thoughts, prayers and actions (yeah, I mean charity for those less fortunate than us).

Merry Christmas everyone. Here is hoping that 2010 is a great year!

(The photo is from the December 24, 2008, Christmas Eve services at Camp Eggers, Kabul, Afghanistan. photo by the author)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lead, follow... get out of the way!

This country, one of the world's leading contributors in pumping carbon dioxide and other pollutants into our atmosphere, needs to get its act together (bet you thought I was going to say something a bit more urbane, didn't you?) and lead the rest of the world in saving our world from utter destruction!

We talk and talk and talk, then talk some more about creating new "green" jobs; about cleaning up our environment; about taking the technological lead; yet STILL our country has not had the balls to break its dependence on foreign oil; or find a way to utilize clean energy such as wind power, solar power, geothermal energy or ocean currents to power our cities; to go "green" and to repair the environmental damage our thoughtlessness has set in motion.

And still the evidence piles up daily with each new study clearly indicating our recklessness is leading to the extinction of more and more plant and animal species including the polar bear; the decimation of fish populations such as tuna in our oceans; the death of the ocean's coral reefs; and the ruination of the tropical rain forests of South America.

The fragile balance we call the food chain is on the verge of collapse and yet we act as if nothing is wrong! It would be a crime against this planet if are the root cause of vast extinctions worldwide. It is bad enough we kill our own with barely a second thought but to murder defenseless creatures is a unconscionable.

Last week, former Vice President Al Gore, Jr, mentioned on the David Letterman Show that enough solar energy hits our earth every single minute to power our planet's energy needs for the rest of our lives (and beyond)... IF only we would do the work to harness it. Wasted energy! and we do... nothing! Absolutely nothing about it!

If it is not evident that we are heading towards an ecological collapse, nothing is... and all we can do is talk about trading energy units and how excessive it will cost to combat this problem. The real question is at what cost will we suffer by doing nothing?

Today, as I walked through the local Barnes & Noble bookstore where I work, I saw a book that showed a lone polar bear swimming amongst the broken ice floes of the frigid Arctic Ocean. This left leaning liberal is not ashamed to admit the photo nearly moved me to tears when I considered the photo's dramatic implications.

I am not so naive to realize that the photo was an obvious attempt in manipulating my emotions... and it did! I don't care. If we cannot see how our planet's ecological balance has changed dramatically in the past fifty years (AND will continue to do so even more), then we deserve everything we will get by inaction!

And even in the most remote of possibilities that current scientific leanings are wrong or alarmist, what possible harm could come of developing new, clean energy sources for our planet's use?

My thoughts on this subject are obvious. And to our political, business, engineering and scientific leaders I say... lead! follow! get out of the way! BUT dammit, do something!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009

Today is World AIDS Day. According to the CDC, more than one million Americans are infected with HIV, the virus believed to cause AIDS; and nearly 35 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, with most living in thirdworld nations in African and southeast Asia.

World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1st. The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988. World AIDS Day encourages governments, national AIDS programs, faith-based organizations, local community organizations and people everywhere to raise awareness and direct scrutiny on the global AIDS epidemic. With hundreds of organizations and NGOs (non-government organizations) working to eradicate the disease, much work remains to discover a vaccine that would finally put an end to this scourge.

Former President Bill Clinton's foundation has worked tirelessly to ensure that poor third world nations have access to medications that helps bring relief to those afflicted with HIV yet who are unable to afford treatment. Former President George W. Bush also directed attention to the worldwide problem by allocating funding for medicines and other humanitarian aid (yes, once in rare moment I can find something good to say about W), albeit he also implemented "strings attached" that many, including myself found repugnant... nonetheless, he did much to help those in need.

Remember, the best means of safeguarding your sexual well-being and your health is sexual abstinence. The remaining options are practicing safe sex, not sharing intravenous needles (don't use illicit drugs and do not drink excessively--lowering one's inhibitions is an invitation to reckless behaviors that makes infection possible), stay educated, know the facts... and get regular HIV testing so that your HIV status is not a mystery.