Systematic Failure: Wal-Mart gets it right?!? Whodda thunk?!?

 With a black man holding the highest office in the land you would think America is past the race-bashing hate-mongering crap that has crippled us from within for the last 200 years or so. Sadly two recent very public events provide more evidence than I really wanted of the cancer that continues to infect our society.

This past weekend protesters associated with the “Tea Party” camped out in front of the U.S. Congress to express their dismay with proposed health care reform – exercising a constitutional right to activism and turning it into a sad public display of small-minded foolishness.

They spat at Congressmen. They hurled racial-slurs at the gay and black communities.

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Systematic Failure: Gays unworthy? Says who?


For a moment there, I forgot what planet we are on. Last time I checked I was living on planet earth – but former Marine general John Sheehan seems to be stuck in a parallel dimension where demeaning gay-bashing comments are socially acceptable.

I am not a member of the LGBT community, but I was Outraged (yes that’s Outraged with a capital “O”) to see reports of Sheehan giving testimony before the U.S. Congress that pegged Dutch troops failures to prevent the Srebrenica massacre to The Netherland’s acceptance of openly-gay individuals in the military.

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Twitter Hosts a Different Kind of Tea Party

When I think of a cup of tea, I think: calm, tranquil, serene. The mental picture is two hands on a steaming cup, eyes closed while I breathe in vapors that tantalize the senses with hints of chamomile, mint or citrus smells (depending on my mood).  Now thanks to a story from the Associated Press this week on Chinese activists going online to blast “drinking tea” warnings by meddlesome authorities, I’ll never see that cup of tea quite the same way.

According to the Associated Press story:

Police have long tried to shush and isolate potential activists, usually starting with a low-key warning, perhaps over a meal or a cup of tea. Now, the country’s troublemakers are openly blogging and tweeting their stories about “drinking tea” with the cops, allowing the targeted citizens to bond and diluting the intimidation they feel.

The movement is an embarrassment for officials, who are suspicious of anything that looks like an organized challenge to their authority. And it can’t help that “drinking tea” stories seem to be spreading among ordinary Chinese, including ones who signed a recent online call for political reform.

The country’s top political event of the year, the National People’s Congress, has given the stories another bump. More than 200 people say they’ve been invited by police to “drink tea” since just Friday, when the congress began, said independent political blogger Ran Yunfei.

 That Chinese activists found ways to go around official censorship of the Internet and get their stories out to others helps increased a sense of community for those under scrutiny and reinforces the power potential of the Internet.

 As we saw in Iran following the disputed June 2009 elections and for Haiti after January’s massive earthquake social media like Twitter can simultaneously allow users to spread information about events and draw in a truly international “coalition” of people who feel the same or empathize with the challenges. Those coalition members can and have raised the profile of the issue, raised money and provided invaluable moral support to those struggling through difficult situations.

 It’s a strange kind of magic that unfolds via spells crafted of 140 characters or less. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what practitioners come up with next.

Changing Reality: Social Networks Power Up Change

When electoral authorities declared Iran’s incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad winner of June 2009 presidential elections the power of technology and social networks became front page news around the world. Six months later the power of these new tools to influence the hearts and minds of users around the world is definitively a mainstream concept – and is attracting attention from policymakers.

 Iran’s opposition politicians and their supporters rallied to oppose the controversial election, using Twitter networks to inform people in and outside Iran of demonstration plans. As authorities blocked an increasing number of websites and prevented most journalists from reporting out of Tehran, protestors and their online supporters set up proxies to help those inside Iran continue using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites to sidestep official censorship.

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Applause for Clinton over Congo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo this week to highlight her concerns over the absolutely appalling level of sexual violence occurring as competing forces battle for control over the region’s natural resources.

Few international dignitaries venture to the war-torn region and Clinton (whatever the politics behind the move) deserves applause for giving attention to a situation that has sickened even the most seasoned humanitarian workers.

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Courage of the One

The case of Lubna Hussein is one of those rare instances where an individual chooses to step forward and challenge an unjust system knowing full well the effort may fail. Her bravery should serve as a reminder to us all of the importance of standing up to act for what we believe in.

 Hussein, a Sudanese journalist working in the media department of the United Nations mission, was arrested with a dozen other women on July 3 by members of the public order police for wearing pants in a restaurant. Most of the women were reportedly flogged at the police station.

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