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    1.31.2006 ||>   Sometimes I scare even myself

    From the WHO:
    The Ministry of Health in Iraq has confirmed the country’s first case of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The case occurred in a 15-year-old girl who died on 17 January following a severe respiratory illness. Her symptoms were compatible with a diagnosis of H5N1 avian influenza.

    The girl’s 39-year-old uncle, who cared for her during her illness, developed symptoms on 24 January and died of a severe respiratory disease on 27 January.

    A history of exposure to diseased birds has been found for the girl. The uncle’s source of infection is under investigation.

    The Ministry of Health has further informed WHO of a third human case of respiratory illness that is under investigation for possible H5N1 infection. The patient is a 54-year-old woman, from the same area, who was hospitalized on 18 January.

    Iraq is the seventh country to report human H5N1 infection in the current outbreak. The first human case occurred in Viet Nam in December 2003.
    When I first heard about the bird flu, I was extremely skeptical. Remembering how we were all going to die of SARS, I chalked it up to media hysteria over something that's never going to happen.

    I have studied it since I started this job and I believe now that it will happen. That this version of flu attacks and kills children (who are last on the government list for vaccines) is especially troubling because it means not they are safe. It will attack all of us equally and there is no best way to be prepared. Stocking up on water and wrapping your house in saran wrap will not prevent it.

    And it looks like now that if it were to mutate during its holiday in Iraq, our soldiers will be bringing it home to us. Like they didn't have enough to worry about.

    Sepra was livin' easy on 12:02:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.26.2006 ||>   No heat, no light, no hope

    Found here:
    A blackout occurred in Tbilisi, the capital, and in eastern regions of Georgia during the early morning hours of 26 January after voltage fluctuation caused a major power grid failure. Officials have stated that power will be restored partially on the night of 26 January and fully on the night of 27 January. The blackout is affecting approximately 3 million people. Vital infrastructure utilities are receiving power.

    Georgia also continues to feel the effects of a natural gas shortage following the 22 January explosion of a gas pipeline in the Russian region of North Ossetia; approximately 40 percent of Tbilisi residents do not have gas for heating, while some other areas of Georgia, including the Kazbegsky region, have no supplies of natural gas at all. Heavy snowfall and icing caused by low temperatures has left many roads in the country, including in Tbilisi, impassable or dangerous to drive on. Tbilisi city officials have warned motorists to stay off city streets due to the icing. Public transportation is also limited by the weather and those services available are being affected by overcrowding.
    So, basically there is no heat and no electricity in a major city in Eastern Europe. Better, there is no way out of the city. Holy. Shit. And I thought that the week that we had no hot water in Tashkent and the city reeked of body odor was bad. I'd rather have that than to freeze to death in the dark.

    Sepra was livin' easy on 11:45:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    1.24.2006 ||>   Uzbeksistan Has More than Torture to Worry About

    From the RFE/RL today:
    Dozens of women recently took to the freezing streets in eastern Uzbekistan in the first public demonstration in Andijon since security forces fired on protesters eight months ago. In May, Andijon's residents and the international community were shocked when authorities used automatic weapons to disperse the crowd. Like in May, desperate residents are facing crushing social and economic hardship. But this time, protesters were seeking nothing more than regular gas and electricity supplies. And fear of official reprisal kept their demonstrations limited -- and exclusively female.
    This story is actually a couple of days old, but goes to illustrate just how bad things are in Central Asia.

    I was part of the group that the Peace Corps sent back to Uzbekistan after the evacuation in October of 2001.  I lived in the capital and for the most part, I lived okay.  I had a loving host family that let me eat some very good food, and I acquired an apartment that had both hot and cold water for about 48 weeks out of the year.

    Most volunteers there weren't as lucky, and the local people there (of all nationalities) had it either much better or much, much worse.  The people that had it the hardest were those living in the far east and far west of the country.  In the east lies the Ferghana Valley, a supposed "hotbed of terrrorism." In the far west is Karalkalpakstan, the scene of one of the most horrible environmental disasters in the world.

    I have been almost everywhere in this country and I have seen the way people live.  Villages without potable water for years, children forcibly conscripted year after year to pick cotton by hand, no gas in the winter and no water in the summer. There are rampant diseases that are simple to fix if the government weren't negligent. Yes, there is torture there too. But which problems should we try to fix first? And how? They are such a hard questions to answer.

    When I saw that people were again trying to make a difference there, it was heartening.  The government of Uzbekistan took out many of the non-governmental oranizations sent to help. They took out the Peace Corps and the American base there.  Everyday, the government tries to take the hope from a people who are known most for their hospitality and generosity.

    But still, they fight for their families. They will take to the streets not a year after a massacre, despite being disregarded.

    They fight to come in from the cold.

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    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:27:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.23.2006 ||>   Is it a crime to hold a womb hostage?

    Our Beloved President declared Jan. 19 "National Sanctity of Life Day," which in all coincidence also falls on the same day Roe v. Wade was decided.
    Note to Bush: Ok, I get it. You have an agenda.

    Quick question though: wasn't Bush the governor who put the most death row inmates to death?
    Note to self: Life is only sacred when it's in the womb. After that, you don't mean shit.


    Sepra was livin' easy on 12:04:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.18.2006 ||>   Other signs he's not that into you

    Gleaned from many conversations with many other girls. If a guy (or girl) says this to you, it's time to get out now.

    "Sorry to fuck and run."
    "Don't expect flowers too often."
    "Maybe you're just not ready for an orgasm."
    "Just in case you blacked out I wanted you to know that we had sex last night."
    "Well, you're a little frigid."
    "I'm only living with them because they're giving me drugs. I really love you."

    And just to be clear: not all of these things were said to me. But they were said. I just figured it's time to start making a tally of stupid shit people say.

    Sepra was livin' easy on 11:35:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.16.2006 ||>   Happy Birthday!

    To two people that made the United States what it is today: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ben Franklin. Walking around in Philadelphia yesterday, I was overcome with the sense of what America was intended to be, and how far we've strayed. Dr. King tried to get us back on track and his life was tragically cut short because of his work. Tomorrow Ben Franklin turns 300 years old and his legacy will never be forgotten for as long as we have our Constitution.

    So, in honor of Dr. King
    "There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for spare hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, "This isn't the way"...

    History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn't the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves... Violence isn't the way.

    Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it's difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn't the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

    But there is another way... We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way."

    And in honor of Mr. Franklin:
    "In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

    I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats."

    When you read these today, please spare a thought for what you want for our country. Or if the US isn't your country, let us know how you would like us to be.

    Sepra was livin' easy on 2:28:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.05.2006 ||>   In response to all those conservative emails

    Published at the Washington Post, I found this account compelling. I don't normally post stuff like a viral email, but it just sat with me. So, without further ado:

    A Life, Wasted
    Let's Stop This War Before More Heroes Are Killed
    By Paul E. Schroeder
    Tuesday, January 3, 2006; A17 Washington Post

    Early on Aug. 3, 2005, we heard that 14 Marines had been killed in Haditha, Iraq. Our son, Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II, was stationed there. At 10:45 a.m. two Marines showed up at our door. After collecting himself for what was clearly painful duty, the lieutenant colonel said, "Your son is a true American hero."Since then, two reactions to Augie's death have compounded the sadness.

    At times like this, people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

    "People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

    The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.

    This leads to the second reaction. Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in "the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices."

    Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.

    I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

    In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

    At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

    Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

    I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way.

    Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

    But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

    This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.


    Sepra was livin' easy on 7:13:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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    1.03.2006 ||>   The can of worms

    I've been thinking about chemistry a lot lately. David came to visit me this weekend with an unintended present of a Barnes and Noble gift card. It let me buy Eleven on Top and He's Just Not That Into You, which are both light fluff and fun to read, but really got me thinking about relationships. Of course, it's a bit strange that the silliest books have me thinking deep thoughts tonight, but my brain always keeps me guessing.

    Let's start with the second book. I bought it because I believe that if a book is wildly popular, it's good. No matter how bad Tom Clancy gets, that opinion refuses to budge. And this book was pretty good for what it was, which is a reality check for women in a bad relationship who are lying to themselves about it. Clearly, if he's not calling you, having sex with other people, or tells you that you're unattractive he's not the one. And since I have lied to myself to keep a doomed relationship or two afloat in the past, I can't judge. Interestingly enough, it made me wonder if I have been truly into some of the guys I've dated. I turned it around on myself and used it as a way to indicate some of my behavior with people, and I have to say it was pretty accurate in predicting how some things have gone.

    And now onto the fiction. Stephanie Plum is my favorite bounty hunter wannabe and if you have not read any of the eleven books in this series, you are missing out. The thing I like about these books is that they are both deeply funny and sexy at the same time. I can feel the chemistry coming off the pages in waves and I love it. But it also makes me to reflect on a hollowness I've been feeling lately.

    A couple of years ago I decided that getting along with a significant other was more important than being passionate, over the moon crazy about them. This came about because I seemed to only get crazy about guys who were also legitimately crazy in the first place. If I were still twenty, I would have chalked it up to a curse or something superstitious. At twenty four I felt it just meant that my taste in men could not be trusted. So I decided to give more guys a chance: if they asked me out, I would try and damn the first impression. Which ended up in at least two okay scenarios that lacked any real passion at all.

    But what the books reminded me was that I actually have been head over heels for guys that weren't crazy. Emotionally unavailable, sure, but not nuts. So baby steps. But I have been dating this guy lately and I sort of felt like I wasn't sure. Do I even like him? Am I just not that into him? He's attractive, hard working, and a bit of a dork. So what's not to love? Have the tables turned on emotional availability? I don't know. At the end of this long, rambling blog entry there's still an open point. How soon should you be able to tell chemistry? And how can I get some of mine back?

    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:52:00 PM || Site Feed ||

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    1.02.2006 ||>   It was between blogging or eating

    I'm sneaking a little blogging in before (if) the maintenance man from my apartment building comes in to check something or other. Have I mentioned that I like my apartment, but that it's overpriced and the landlord doesn't really do jack for us tenants? I have probably bitched about it so often that it feels that I've blogged.

    My neighbor has mold, I'm chilly no matter what the thermostat says (the floor, apparently, has no insulation under it) and in the summer it's got this musty smell that will not go away. So, around March I have to find a new apartment. A cheaper, warmer apartment.

    I've also developed the travel bug again. Perhaps it's all the news I've seen lately or the crushing despair I still feel at hearing the words "President Bush," but I'd really like to go to another country and see the sights. Too bad that Canada's really cold right now, I'd love to see Toronto or Vancouver.

    Sepra was livin' easy on 8:33:00 AM || Site Feed ||

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