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Wednesday Reads: Stamp out Hunger

National Association of Letter Carriers - NALC Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive – the largest one-day food drive in the nation and probably the world.

Good Morning Y’all! Today I am going to start the morning reads with a notice, sort of PSA with a big h/t to my “sistah” Jessica! (A friend of mine since grade school…our names being very similar meant  we were always in the same homeroom. We were also in the Gifted Program together; both of us alike in many ways and as the years have passed, our asses have also grown in tandem. 😉 ) Jessica is a Rural Postal Carrier in Florida, and this Saturday the US Post Office is having its annual food drive. USPS – NALC Food Drive

Every second Saturday in May letter carriers in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America deliver much more than mail when they walk and drive along their postal routes. They also collect the goodness and compassion of their postal customers who participate in the NALC Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive – the largest one-day food drive in the nation and probably the world. Led by letter carriers represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO), with the help of rural letter carriers, other postal employees and numerous other volunteers, the drive has resulted in delivery of more than one billion pounds of donations to community food banks and pantries over the past 18 years. Carriers collect non-perishable food donations left by mailboxes and in post offices and deliver them to local community food banks, pantries and shelters. Nearly 1,500 local NALC branches in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands are involved in the drive. The U.S. Postal Service and Campbell Soup Company are major supporters of the drive. Campbell Soup also earmarked an additional 1 million pound canned food donation to the drive. Other supporters are Cox Target Media and its Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, the nationwide direct mail marketing firm, which promotes the drive on 40 million packets delivered to postal customers. The drive also relies on the backing of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, the Feeding America food bank network; the United Way of America and its local United Ways, the AFL-CIO Community Services network, and countless local sponsors. All citizens need do is to place a box or can of non-perishable food next to their mailbox before their letter carrier delivers mail every second Saturday in May. The carrier will do all the rest. The food is taken back to a postal station, sorted, and then delivered to an area food bank or pantry. There it is available for needy families. Some 35.5 million people face hunger every day in America, including 13 million children. This drive is one way people can help those right in their own city or town who need help. The NALC food drive has received a number of accolades over the years, including two Presidential Certificates of Achievement. Help the U.S. Postal Service Stamp Out Hunger!

Here is a HuffPo article about it written by  Nick Cannon: Help Stamp Out Hunger

Stamp Out Hunger, the largest single-day food drive in the world, taking place on Saturday, May 14th. Stamp Out Hunger is in its 19th year, and has collected over 1 billion pounds of food over the years. Organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers, the food drive is carried out in every postal district in the country. It’s very easy to participate. Just place non-perishable food items in your mailbox or hand to your letter carrier, and the postal workers will make sure it gets delivered to those who need it most. They’ll distribute the food by partnering with Feeding America, which runs over 200 food banks around the country and feeds 37 million people each year. The collected food will be distributed among 10,000 communities, including the many disaster-stricken states.

So please be sure to put some canned goods in your mailbox on Saturday…and lets help letter carriers like Jessica, Stamp Out Hunger! On to a distressing article on a topic that Madamab mentioned in the comments this past week. Peace Corps Volunteers Speak Out on Rape – NYTimes.com

Jess Smochek arrived in Bangladesh in 2004 as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer with dreams of teaching English and “helping the world.” She left six weeks later a rape victim after being brutalized in an alley by a knife-wielding gang.
Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times

Jess Smochek, who was raped in Bangladesh in 2004, advocates for former Peace Corps volunteers who were sexually assaulted.

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times

From left, Kate Finn, Meg Long and Casey Frazee of First Response Action, an advocacy group for former volunteers.

When she returned to the United States, the reception she received from Peace Corps officials was as devastating, she said, as the rape itself. In Bangladesh, she had been given scant medical care; in Washington, a counselor implied that she was to blame for the attack. For years she kept quiet, feeling “ashamed and embarrassed and guilty.” Today, Ms. Smochek is among a growing group of former Peace Corps volunteers who are speaking out about their sexual assaults, prompting scrutiny from Congress and a pledge from the agency for reform. In going public, they are exposing an ugly sliver of life in the Peace Corps: the dangers that volunteers face in far-flung corners of the world and the inconsistent — and, some say, callous — treatment they receive when they become crime victims. “These women are alone in many cases, and they’re in rough parts of the world,” said Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, who says the Peace Corps’ promises do not go far enough and is sponsoring legislation to force changes in the way it treats victims of sexual assault. “We want the United States to rush in and treat them as a victim of crime like they would be treated here at home.” […] But from 2000 to 2009, on average, 22 Peace Corps women each year reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape, the agency says. During that time, more than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers reported sexual assaults, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes. Because sexual crimes often go unreported, experts say the incidence is likely to be higher, though they and the Peace Corps add that it is difficult to assess whether the volunteers face any greater risk overseas than women in the United States do. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will convene a hearing to examine what its chairwoman, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, called “serious crimes” committed against Peace Corps volunteers, including murder; in announcing the hearing, her office cited reports of “gross mismanagement of sexual assault complaints.” […] the work of Ms. Frazee, who has spent the last 18 months tracking down Peace Corps sexual assault survivors by reaching out through social networking sites and her blog. Last year, her work attracted the attention of the ABC News program “20/20,” which ran a segment on the women in January. In recent months, Ms. Frazee, 28, has collected more than two dozen affidavits from other women, who have shared stories that Mr. Williams called “tragic.” In interviews and documents, they paint a picture of what many call a “blame the victim” culture at the Peace Corps.

Please be sure to read the rest of the article, and I will  post updates on the hearing when they become available. Moving on to a PLUB that is really pissing me off.  This GOP Governor has put his signature on a bill that ends funding for Planned Parenthood in his state.  Mitch Daniels signs controversial Planned Parenthood bill into law – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs

Republican Indiana governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitch Daniels signed a bill Tuesday that will cut off significant amounts of federal funds given to his state’s chapter of Planned Parenthood, a move the group fought by filing for a temporary restraining order and injunction with the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

The bill, which passed both houses of the state legislature by large margins, imposes some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortions, cutting off about $3 million in public funds received for female preventive health services, including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings and other tests in the Hoosier state. Although federal law prevents government funds being used for abortion services, proponents of the bill have said they do not want federal money funneled to an organization that performs abortions. Planned Parenthood has said the bill, which takes effect immediately, is dangerous and would have a “devastating impact on women’s health” in Indiana, according to Cecile Richards,  president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The Wall Street Journal has a poll going about those ridiculous sonograms before abortions, and I link it here so that you can read the comment section:  WSJ: Should states require sonograms before allowing women have abortions Those guys commenting on this poll also piss me off.  So I will just leave it at that, and move on to something that is sure to be a big ticket item in the 2012 Election. This next article is about the speech Obama gave today.  Obama and Immigration Reform: Politics or Policy? | Mother Jones

A renewed emphasis on the economic argument for immigration would be a welcome shift—not just for the White House, but for the broader immigration debate, where heavy enforcement tactics like Arizona’s draconian immigration law have taken center stage. Though the Republican Party has moved dramatically to the right on immigration, business leaders like Rupert Murdoch and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have remained committed to a comprehensive overhaul, given the economic benefits of immigration. Even the Wall Street Journal‘s notoriously conservative op-ed page has played up the importance of America’s young immigrant labor force to the country’s future economic prosperity. A focus on the economic benefits of immigration could encourage more moderate, pro-business voices to come forward to press for a comprehensive solution. Even so, Obama may have a tough time convincing his own allies that he’s seriously committed to a fully revamped immigration system, as the Republican-controlled House essentially rules out any action. Pro-immigration advocates are calling for Obama to slow the administration’s deportation of illegal immigrants and ease up on other enforcement tactics—a move the president’s unlikely to make, given the White House’s pride in its heavy enforcement strategy.

I know there are more recent articles on Obama’s speech about immigration, but they did not have a picture of Obama in a cowboy hat…aren’t the good guys supposed to wear white? I don’t know, I am not from Texas…and the folks around my area of Banjoland prefer baseball caps with rebel flags printed on them.

Squidbillies is a cartoon about squids...North Georgia Mountain Country squids.

For more Wednesday reads, keep reading below the fold.So now that we got bin Laden, the next question is Afghanistan. These next two links are about just that… Washington Weighs Choices in Afghanistan After Bin Laden – NYTimes.com

Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Last month, American soldiers put on rain gear at the end of the first day of an operation with Afghan forces in Paktika Province.

WASHINGTON — The killing of Osama bin Laden has set off a reassessment of the war in Afghanistan and the broader effort to combat terrorism, with Congress, the military and the Obama administration weighing the goals, strategies, costs and underlying authority for a conflict that is now almost a decade old.
Two influential senators — John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana — suggested Tuesday that it was time to rethink the Afghanistan war effort, forecasting the beginning of what promises to be a fierce debate about how quickly the United States should begin pulling troops out of the country.
“We should be working toward the smallest footprint necessary, a presence that puts Afghans in charge and presses them to step up to that task,” Mr. Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at a hearing. “Make no mistake, it is fundamentally unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight.” Both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lugar, the committee’s senior Republican, said they remained opposed to a precipitous withdrawal.

And what does your average American think? Check out this Poll: With bin Laden finally dead, is it time for America’s longest war to end? – USATODAY.com

So with bin Laden finally gone, is it time for America’s longest war to end?

Nearly six in 10 Americans think so, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken over the weekend. Assessments of how the decade-long war is going have improved a bit, compared with six weeks ago, and a broad swath of Americans now agrees with the statement that the United States “has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should bring its troops home.”

Just over one-third say instead that the USA “still has important work to do in Afghanistan and should maintain its troops there.”

I’ve wondered when the Obama Administration would step up its reaction to the events taking place in Syria.  AP sources: US closer to declaring Assad’s rule in Syria illegitimate – The Washington Post

The Obama administration is edging closer to calling for an end to the long rule of the Assad family in Syria. Administration officials said Tuesday that the first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule, a major policy shift that would amount to a call for regime change that has questionable support in the world community.
The tougher U.S. line almost certainly would echo demands for “democratic transition” that the administration used in Egypt and is now espousing in Libya, the officials said. But directly challenging Assad’s leadership is a decision fraught with problems: Arab countries are divided, Europe is still trying to gauge its response, and there are major doubts over how far the United States could go to back up its words with action.
If the Syrian government persists with its harsh crackdown on political opponents, the U.S. could be forced into choosing between an undesired military operation to protect civilians, as in Libya, or an embarrassing U-turn that makes it look weak before an Arab world that is on the tipping point between greater democracy or greater repression.

And for an interesting piece about Mubarak. It is funny how vain those mad dictators can be. Read the article at the link: Egypt Hosni Mubarak: Egypt tries to erase Hosni Mubarak’s name – latimes.com

A judge rules that the ousted president’s name be removed from all public institutions. But when the letters are removed, a mark often remains, just as his imprint lingers in the words of those tortured by his police and in allegations of corruption.

With the Human Rights report from Amnesty International due this Friday, I’ve found lots of articles regarding Human Rights. Like this one from The Guardian. Bangladeshi force trained by UK police ‘allowed to kill and torture’ | World news | The Guardian

The Bangladeshi government has allowed a British-trained paramilitary force to secretly detain, torture and kill hundreds of people with impunity over the past two years, a report warns. The report, released by the New York-based NGO, Human Rights Watch, catalogues a series of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and deaths in custody of the Rapid Action Battalion. Citing a lack of redress for victims, and the government’s dismal record of failing to prosecute a single perpetrator, the NGO has called on the Bangladeshi government to disband the RAB and for the UK and US to withdraw support unless they take active steps to hold the force to account. Torture methods listed in the report include burning with a hot iron, and beatings so severe that a victim’s legs were “smashed and did not retain their usual shape; they were flattened”. Mahabub Khokon told researchers that when he collected the body of his brother, Mohiuddin Arif, from the morgue after he was arrested by the RAB in February last year, repeated assaults had turned his legs green, skin had been scraped off several areas of his body, and his feet were swollen and looked as if they were “falling apart”. […] British police have helped train RAB teams since 2007, around the time that UK intelligence agencies began seeking closer counter-terrorism co-operation with the RAB and Bangladeshi intelligence agencies. On Monday, a Foreign Office spokesman said the UK government raised issues of human rights abuses by the RAB “at every opportunity”. He added: “We are not currently providing any training for the RAB at all.”

So with the recent flurry of news items about the disturbing violation of Human Rights in countries like China, Syria, Lebanon, Bangladesh (and so many other places in the world) it seems fitting to end this post on an editorial from Truthdig.  Dear Hillary Clinton, Our Human Rights Record Is ‘Deplorable’ Too – Truthdig

We can get behind the idea of letting a country make its own history, but there’s something awfully hypocritical about calling out China when, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, our nation is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Perhaps it’s because we live in “the real world” that the United States no longer believes in due process, eavesdrops on its citizens, fires rockets into wedding parties and imprisons more of its population than any other country.

China has serious problems where human rights are concerned, but we probably shouldn’t throw stones—at least until we shut down Guantanamo.  —PZS

Oh, and one more thing…remember that little girl who was gang raped in Cleveland, Texas? Well, while reading about this guy being attacked by a house cat…which required him to take ride in a life flight helicopter, I found this section of the Cleveland Newspaper that is supposed to keep its readers updated on the Sexual Assault Coverage – Houston Community Newspapers: Cleveland Talk about comments that will piss you off, some of the remarks really are sickening. So what are you reading about today?

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