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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Where Were You 15 Years Ago?

Tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks on America.

This dark day in American history is one of those "where were you when" days. I remember where I was when I learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I remember exactly where I was when we learned of the loss of space shuttle Challenger, and later, space shuttle Columbia.

I remember hearing about the cowardly attacks on New York City as I was stuck in a massive traffic jam on 9/11. At the time, I thought it was simply another California traffic jam. What I soon learned was that the traffic was the result of the gates to my federal workplace having been closed. When I heard the news of the first attack, I immediately called my parents to let them know that I was OK. I knew they would worry as I worked for a federal agency.

I  remember the nearly 3,000 innocent people who were murdered that day, those whose lives are forever shattered, and the first responders who went into the buildings when everyone else was racing to escape. I remember the horrible pictures of people jumping to their deaths, and fleeing from the black cloud of toxic dust and debris as it roared down the streets of New York City. 

I remember the unflagging dedication of the search dogs and their handlers -- several from my agency and surrounding area -- as they looked for survivors and later, for the remains of the murdered. One of my friends and her amazing search dog responded to the call to search for survivors. I remember the exhausted faces of the handlers and dogs after their return home, and the frustration of some members of the disaster response team at my federal agency who were unable to go. They had trained for just such a disaster, but not everyone was called to respond.

I remember being told to send our staff home, and how my supervisor and I stayed at work, fielding innumerable calls from the news media, developing talking points, coordinating with agency headquarters and feeling totally numb. As federal employees, we felt especially vulnerable that day, so our center was closed and all but a few essential personnel were sent home. I remember working many long days without a break and how panicked I felt when I heard an airplane approaching the runways shared by my agency and the military, even though I knew it was an agency plane that was expected. The sound of this airplane's engines sent my heart racing. Even now, thinking back to those post-attack days, I feel a sense of panic and my eyes fill with tears.

And I remember when I finally got a day off work, sitting in my living room watching the endless replays of the planes hitting the Twin Towers, and the towers collapsing, finally at last being able to give in to my grief and letting the endless tears flood over me. I remember how this nation, and the world, came together in the aftermath of these cowardly attacks. There were no claims of responsibility as there are today following other cowardly attacks on civilians by religious terrorists. This was the dawn of a new world order.

People wanted to do something, anything, to help. International disputes and rivalries were set aside as the world came together to mourn. People lined up to donate blood, and monetary donations poured in to organizations to help survivors and their families. Celebrities came together to appear on a quickly organized program to raise funds. Pride in our country was so great that it was impossible to find an American flag for sale.

Our world has changed greatly since 9/11/01, and not for the better. The war against terror that began that day continues unabated 15 years later. Terrorists still murder innocents in the name of their religion. Air travel has become a major hassle. Billions of dollars have been spent on enhanced security around the world. Muslim extremists like those who attacked the United States on 9/11 have become even bolder in their attacks on innocent people. They have kidnapped hundreds of schoolchildren in Nigeria. They have murdered countless innocent people in Iraq, Kenya, France, Turkey, Tunisia and Belgium. Individuals brainwashed by this sick interpretation of religion have murdered people in the US, Germany and other counties. Soldiers from a coalition of nations continue to die in efforts to stop the spread of this hatred.

In my dreams, I wish the world would come together once more without being prompted by a huge tragedy. But that dream seems less of a reality than ever. And I am glad that 9/11 has not been made a federal holiday, as some have suggested. Like other holidays such as Memorial Day, I fear that a 9/11 holiday would lead to nothing more than barbeques and holiday sales. The real reason for the holiday would be lost. Besides, there is nothing about 9/11 to 'celebrate.'

Let us come together to fight those who would attack our nation and its citizens, and to tackle the world's injustices without shedding more blood. And let us always remember those who lost their lives on 9/11/01, as well as those they left behind.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Killing Our Planet

We are killing our planet.

Think about it. Our beautiful planet Earth -- the only known habitable planet in the solar system -- is under attack, not by aliens but by us, the supposed 'higher' life form, the 'most intelligent' life form, the only technologically advanced life form.

Our oceans, a source of food, a key player in the carbon cycle and driver of Earth's weather, have become garbage dumps full of floating islands of plastic and discarded fishing nets, the whale species hunted relentlessly under the guise of 'research.' 

Rain forests - sources of oxygen, medicine, species not yet discovered and thousands of known animal species -- are being clear-cut and plowed. Our great mammals -- elephants, rhinoceros, bears and wolves, whales and dolphins -- are killed for simply existing and for competing with humans. Rivers are filled with toxic chemicals and flooded with waste.

Species are now becoming extinct at a rate some 1,000 times faster than before humans overran the world. Why? According to a study by Mark Williams of the University of Leicester, England, "the extinctions are being driven by the effects of just one single species, Homo sapiens." Previous mass extinctions were the result of asteroid impacts and huge volcanic eruptions. Now there is just one culprit -- humans. Here is a link to the entire article:

Elephants and rhinoceros are facing extinction because Asians believe that rhino horn will cure cancer and/or make them more virile. In reality, rhino horn is made of the same stuff as our fingernails. And let's not forget the insatiable need, including among people in the US and UK, to possess those must-have trinkets and carvings of elephant ivory. Hunting of endangered lions, tigers, African elephants and other animals continues to fuel the perverted needs of hunters who want a trophy to hang on their walls.

Human populations continue to grow unabated, spreading into wildlife habitat and using more and more of the planet's resources. A recent study published in the Journal Current Biology states that of all the world's wilderness, 10 percent has been lost in just 20 years. But we must have that new subdivision or shopping mall, right?

There appear to be no limits to which the oil, gas and mining industries will go to extract the earth's riches, regardless of the irreparable damage done to the planet. Two companies want to set up gold mining operations near Yellowstone National Park. A secretive organization tied to the billionaire Koch brothers allegedly is aiding Arizona politicians' and special-interest groups' efforts to block a bill that would ban uranium mining around the Grand Canyon in Arizona. These and other public lands are under attack from special interest groups and their puppets in Congress. 

What we do right now -- or what we fail to do -- will determine the future, not just for us and our descendants, but for our planet. mining operation on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. Spraying to kill mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus resulted in the deaths of more than a million bees. Without bees, there will be no food.

I believe that progress has been made. The air and waters aren't as polluted, at least in the U.S., as they once were. Still, our world is at great risk. Oceans are rising and glaciers are melting. Many types of fish are overexploited. Water sources are threatened by pollution and human population growth.

Will we demand an end to the pollution and slaughter, or will we sit idly by while trophy hunters, cattle ranchers, lumber companies and corporate interests destroy our world? Sadly, it seems that it will take a major disaster before we open our eyes and demand significant changes. Our Earth can recover from the damage we humans have inflicted, but only if we change our ways NOW.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Red Irish Door Artistic Print

I recently returned from a hiking trip in the beautiful country of Ireland, home to many brightly painted doors and buildings.

The photo to the left was taken in Clifden, in the Connemara region. I love the assortment of bright colors that welcome visitors. I

Prints are available at and at

All proceeds from sales of photographs and other products go to funding a scholarship for a deserving Kenyan student through the Save the Elephants scholarship program.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Time for a Revolution

It is time for a revolution.

Anybody who knows me will understand that this is not a statement I make lightly. I am a quiet, unassuming, law-abiding citizen. But enough is enough.

I say we need a peaceful revolution to overturn our current two-party political system. It just isn't working for the vast majority of Americans. Our voices have been silenced by the greed and money-grubbing of our elected officials. No longer do they work for their constituents' best interests, but at the whim of the lobbyists and corporations who pay them and contribute to their reelection campaigns. We need viable third and fourth parties, and we need to throw out those in Congress and in state legislatures who have lost sight of the people for whom they should be working. Our forefathers overthrew a government they believed failed to represent them, and we need to do the same.

And we need a revolution to make our voices heard by the fish and game boards and commissions that are supposed to protect our wildlife, but that instead have sold out big-time to the ranching industry.  Why is the state of Wyoming executing an entire family of wolves -- from an airplane -- after a rancher, for the second time, decided to graze his cattle, on public land, near a wolf den? This is the second time a wolf family has been murdered after being set up by this rancher and the Wyoming officials charged with protecting wildlife. As a result of these acts and similar decisions by officials in other states, I have sworn off eating beef.

I have signed petitions and sent e-mails, but nothing seems to work. We little people simply don't have the financial resources the cow and sheep ranching industries have. We cannot compete, and our voices are not being heard. The problem, of course, is how to make our voices heard. How do we make officials, whether appointed or elected, know that we will no longer accept the slaughter of our wildlife to please those who graze their herds on public land at below-market-value prices? How do we get people to listen to us?

Which species -- wolf or cattle -- contribute more to a healthy ecosystem? Which species -- wolf or cattle -- are major polluters? Which species -- wolf or cattle -- was here first?

The answer to those questions is easy. The answer to how to get the officials charged with supposedly protecting the wildlife that belong to all of us, on our public lands, isn't o easy.