Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Their Instruments May Be Garbage, but the Music Will Bring Tears to Your Eyes

Posted By Levi

May 13th, 2013 7:36pm

Once in a while you come across an inspiring and heart-warming story. I heard this one a few mornings ago listening to the BBC when a member of the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra was interviewed. Now Mother Jones picked up the story as well. It’s the story about a group of kids living in one of the slums of Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. Together, they created an orchestra with their musical instruments made from scraps they found in one of the landfills in the city, hence their name. “Close your eyes and listen to Juan Manuel Chavez launch into the Prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, and you would never guess that, instead of spruce and maple, his instrument is crafted from an old oil can, a beef tenderizing tool, and a discarded pasta making device—all of it scavenged from the landfill that surrounds his home in Paraguay.’ The group is now so famous that a documentary about them is being made. The orchestra has already traveled to Brazil and Colombia, and has been i Read More

China Doesn’t Want American Trash Anymore

Posted By Levi

May 9th, 2013 7:36pm

Category: Uncategorized

Here is an interesting story that many of us were not aware of. Do you know what is one of America’s largest exports to China? Trash. As Americans carefully separate the paper and plastics from their trash, most probably don’t realize that their country doesn’t recycle stuff so much as export it to be recycled elsewhere. Specifically, to China. For more than five years, scrap and trash has consistently been the US’s biggest export , for which China is the number one customer, and the market has doubled in size since 2006. But it seems like the Chinese are now having second thoughts about buying our trash. Apparently, China is now getting more serious about the environment and is banning the importation of certain types of solid waste such as unwashed plastic and other illegal waste mixed in with the good stuffs. This is a problem for the US because China is the primary source of demand for its to-be-recycled plastic exports. So, if China drastically reduced its demand for our t Read More

How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing

Posted By Levi

March 27th, 2013 10:06am

Category: Uncategorized

Americans are once again going through the yearly ritual of filing tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.  For most us the process is a long and complicated one that we don’t understand so we rely on professional tax preparers or computer software such as TurboTax and H&R Tax Cut to do the job for us. But what if it were possible for you to file your income taxes in five minutes — and for free. You’d open up a pre-filled return, see what the government thinks you owe, make any needed changes and be done. The miserable annual IRS shuffle, gone. Yes, this is how they do it countries like Denmark, Sweden and Spain. Why don’t we have something like this in the United States? This is another story of corporate interests winning over the public good. Pro Publica and NPR just issued a new investigation into how Intuit, maker of TurboTax, conservative tax activist Grover Norquist and an influential computer industry group have fought to prevent Americans from having wh Read More

A Moving Speech by Rep. John Lewis on Voter Suppression Laws.

Posted By Levi

September 6th, 2012 8:42pm

Category: Uncategorized

In my last three posts I wrote about the attempts by certain states to prevent millions of Americans from voting in the upcoming presidential elections. These voter suppression laws will disproportionately affect the poor and minority voters. Earlier this evening at the Democratic National Convention, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia gave one of the most moving speeches on the effects of these laws referring to his fight for civil rights. Here is the speech.  I first came to this city in 1961, the year Barack Obama was born. I was one of the 13 original “Freedom Riders.” We were on a bus ride from Washington to New Orleans trying to test a recent Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination on buses crossing state lines and in the stations that served them. Here in Charlotte, a young African-American rider got off the bus and tried to get a shoe shine in a so-called white waiting room. He was arrested and taken to jail. On that same day, we continued on to Rock Hi Read More

How Florida is depriving citizens of their right to vote.

Posted By Levi

September 2nd, 2012 2:36pm

Category: Uncategorized

Florida plays a critical role in the presidential elections for some time now. It is what we called a “swing state.” (Actually, there are a couple of them. Here they are for the 2012 election).  What this means is that the contest in Florida is expected  to be so close that the state could determine who the next president will be. Remember the 2000 election that gave George Bush the presidency was decided in Florida? Governor Bush led Senator Al Gore by just 537 votes in Florida and after a month of counting and recounting ballots, the United States Supreme Court stepped in and declared Bush to be the winner in Florida, thus giving him the presidency. The people responsible for administering the election in 2000 in Florida did such a disastrous job that many in the country felt that Senator Gore was cheated from winning the presidency. The errors were of monumental proportions and included  “administrative errors, technical glitches and a lack of judgment at the Read More

Two Memorable Moments of the 2012 Olympics

Posted By Levi

August 12th, 2012 11:05am

Source: Frank Bruni – NY Times: First, there was Oscar Pistorius, the South African man who challenged precedent and defied limits, running the 400 meters on two prosthetic legs. He made it as far as the semifinals, after which the Grenadian runner Kirani James, who would go on to win the gold, swapped nametags with him. It was a gesture of the utmost respect and a poignant illustration of the kind of fellowship that athletic competition at its very best can foster.       Then there was Sarah Attar, of Saudi Arabia, who ran the 800 meters with her legs covered, her arms covered, her hair covered. At the start she beamed at the crowd, her smile an acknowledgment of history in the making. And though she lagged far behind everyone else in her heat, the crowd roared louder and louder as she approached the finish line, then gave her a standing ovation. It was as if she had set a world record. Then again, she had. In a recent post, Muslim and the Olympics, I pointed o Read More

Why do Muslim nations do so poorly at international sports?

Posted By Levi

May 24th, 2012 7:59pm

Following up on my previous post about the limited access to sports that girls and women have in Saudi Arabia, I have always wondered why Muslim countries do so poorly in the Olympics in terms of medals won. Of course, this is part of the reason; women are generally shut out of sporting activities in these countries. Islamic countries generally have few or no women in their Olympic teams. For example at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the United Arab Emirates and Oman sent their first female athletes to the Games. Pakistan and Bahrain sent two; Iran sent 53 athletes of which only three were women; Iraq had one while Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait sent none.   But it seems the problem runs much deeper. In many Muslim countries the more traditional elements regard sports as an indulgence that could divert human attention from religious duties. In the 1970s when Iran hosted the Asian Olympics, several mullas, including the late Ayatollah Khomeini, denounced the exercise as “a Jewi Read More

The War on Women Continues

Posted By Levi

May 8th, 2012 8:42pm

This is just awful. The war against women continues, this time from the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a frequent guest on Fox News. In a recent sermon, he said that America’s greatest mistake was allowing women the right to vote, adding that back in “the good old days, men knew that women are crazy and they knew how to deal with them.” In the video, published to YouTube in March, Peterson explains that he believes women simply can’t handle “anything,” and that in his experience, “You walk up to them with a issue, they freak out right away. They go nuts. They get mad. They get upset, just like that. They have no patience because it’s not in their nature. They don’t have love. They don’t have love.” “I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote,” Peterson says. “We should’ve never turned this over to women. And these women are voting in the wrong people. They’re voting in people who are evil who agrees with t Read More

Lessons for American Bigots

Posted By Levi

March 26th, 2012 7:04pm

Courtesy of Professor Juan Cole: Basic Fact: Wearing a veil, as Iraqi-American Shaima al-Awady did before she was brutally murdered in her home as part of a hate crime, does not make a person a terrorist. You don’t mind it when pious Roman Catholic women wear a nun’s habit, and you recognize that dress as a sign of dedication to God. You don’t blame all the violence ever committed by Roman Catholics, or events like the Inquisition, on a nun in your neighborhood. Be as tolerant to pious Muslim women.                           Basic Fact: Wearing a hoodie is not an invitation to murder, as Geraldo Rivera suggested it was in the case of Trayvon Martin. In fact, if you think about it, St. Francis of Assisi wore a hood, as did many other saints and monks. In the United States, we don’t kill people for how they dress, but how dressing like St. Francis is a crime is a special mystery.           Read More

War: God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography

Posted By Levi

January 22nd, 2012 4:48pm

Category: Uncategorized

In the various Republican debates so far, the candidates have been talking a lot about Iran and Israel. Juan Cole reminds us how little Americans know geography by pointing to this National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy which surveyed geographic knowledge of 18- to 24-year-olds across the United States. Respondents were shown a blank political map of the Middle East and asked to identify four countries: Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran. These were the results: I’ts amazing that so many Americans support dropping bombs on Iran yet three-quarters of us do not know where to drop those bombs. We did somewhat better on Iraq; a little over one-third of Americans could locate the country on a map. This, of course, was some years after we invaded and occupied Iraq reminding one of Ambrose Bierce’s dictum that “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” Cole suggests a new rule for war: If a majority of your country cannot find the enemy country Read More