Tuesday 27 April 2010

The Cost of War - what possible response can be made to this unfathomable reality?

The Cost of War reveals how the cost of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2001, are already fast approaching $1 trillion for taxpayers in the United States alone!

Did you know that the current military budget of the US including the interest on borrowing to fund past military endeavors now consumes 48% of your Federal income taxes? (It's currently only 10% in Australia and but if one compares "apples to apples" with how some state budgets in AUS cover things which Federal dollars in the US provide, then it is probably higher, according to a friend who has thought it through.)

This of course doesn't even begin to touch or describe the incomprehensible Human Cost and tragic waste of many hundreds of thousands of lives - on which it is impossible to put a price tag. And personal conversation I've had with a mental health counselor in a Veterans Administration hospital confirms reports about the suicide rate of returning US military personnel growing at a terrifying level -- his records seem to indicate that, at least in Indiana, the current suicide rate is about three times the rate among vets there after the Viet Nam war!

However, both government and big business like to keep all this going because without all the military contracts the US economy would very likely fail. And the military budget in the USA equals the COMBINED total of the next 15 largest military budgets of other nations (including China, Russia, Japan, India, Israel, etc, etc.)

So, WHERE IS THE PEACE MOVEMENT NOW in light of the current abominable state of affairs?

How can we advocate Stopping The War and plan for a sustainable economy at the same time?

I spent the past weekend at the Australian Quaker Centre, "Silver Wattle" on the edge of Lake George not far from Canberra, where peace practitioners from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and who share a common concern to refocus energies and grapple with current realities during a time of apparent frustration within the peace movement in Australia.

To borrow the words of Frida Berrigan, we were "imagining our way to peace."

This included some conversation around a book hot off the press and written mainly by two prominent Australian historians, Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, entitled "What's Wrong With Anzac?" The book is proving to be very controversial, stirring up lots of conversation here in Australia and apparently touching a very deep nerve during the burgeoning popularity of ANZAC Day ceremonies here in Australia, especially among young people who are having trouble discerning myth from fact.  Watch this video put together by the combined efforts of "The Work of the People" and Jarrod McKenna from the Peace Tree Community for more context and provocative thinking in regards to Anzac Day.

Stopping The War is an extremely challenging endeavor, but we left that workshop/retreat after a concluding worship yesterday inspired and full of hope, because we were together with motivated, inspiring and courageous people, working together. We attempted to not only analyse the roots of the problem, but also envision symbolic acts and clear strategies which could make a difference to change hearts and minds, and touch the Spiritual Centre of that which will sustain our hope for the future. Some of us are currently working on a statement of outcomes which will be released in a few days.

What's happening in this regard in your "world?"

Have any ideas or thoughts?

How - or with whom - are you involved in doing something about it?


Saturday 3 April 2010

What people (and especially FaceBook & Gmail users) need to know to prevent becoming a victim of advanced cyber scamming!

In personal conversations or emails with friends I've received a number of good questions following a significant recent break-in on the 28th of March when a Nigerian cyber scammer siphoned out my entire Gmail address book!

While through a combination of persistence and luck I was able to recover control of my Gmail account (though not my address book) and get a step ahead of that criminal element, there were some interesting and far-reaching emotional effects among my friends circling the globe - some of which continue: They are still periodically sending out evocative messages in batches from a fake email address which intentionally looks like mine! Thus far I have received well over a hundred concerned phone calls or emails from very worried friends all around the globe, and of course some emails that were initially sent to me I never saw!

Not because I took considerable time to research the subject and pull together some important knowledge - which I did - but mainly because what can be learned here might save the reader and perhaps some other friends lots of blood sweat and tears, I encourage you to "read more" after the jump below! (And if you think what I've pulled together may be of practical help to others, feel free to point them here.)

Question #1: Did you (Clair) have a virus or malware infesting your computer? (And could I get a virus or have my account affected by having opened that email?)

Question #2: How can cyber criminals do this devious thing and rip off passwords?

Question #3: How widespread is the problem and what can "they" (the authorities) do about it when the problem originates in other countries?

Question #4: To minimize my risk, what must I do to protect myself if I want to continue to use web-based email (like Gmail) or a social networking site (like Facebook) ?

Question #5: Why is the scam, using the email addresses they obtained, able to continue, since you were able to "recover" the account at your end? (Did they get in again?)

Question #6: What should people like me do when they get a message like that? It sure seemed "real!"

Summary (Why I feel so fortunate, in spite of all the hassle!)

Friday 2 April 2010

One Solitary Life

One Solitary Life was written by James A. Francis in 1926. Dr. Francis originally shared the story at the First Baptist Church of Los Angeles in a sermon, "Arise, Sir Knight." It was delivered on July 11, 1926 to the National Baptist Young Peoples Union. Later, Francis included it as the last sermon in his book, The Real Jesus And Other Sermons published by Judson Press in 1926. Rev. Francis died at age 64 on June 30, 1928.

In only 248 words he captured the essence of how the life of Jesus Christ has made a powerful difference for over 2,000 years: One Solitary Life