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Mar 17
2010

"Eclipse of the Sunnis"

Posted by Bruce Robinson in women , war , religion , poverty , politics , news , media , land rights , journalism , international , immigration , homeless , families , employment , author

Bruce Robinson

One little-reported consequence of the war in Iraq has been the displacement of an estimated 2 million former citizens who have fled to neighboring nations or even further. Their story is the subject of Eclipse of the Sunnis,  a new book by NPR Mideast correspondent Deborah Amos.

Amos began covering the Middle East for NPR more than 20 years ago, and renewed her interest in the region following the 9/11 attacks. Even though she sees the Iraqi Sunnis as complicit in their own downfall, as instigators of the sectarian insurgency, she also believes their situation as an enormous population of displaced professional and middle class families is an important story, one she felt could best be told by presenting the human faces of some of those involved.

The split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims may appear to be the result of religious differences between two factions within Islam, but Deborah Amos cautions that this interpretation is a simplistic misreading of the complex geopolitics of the Middle East.

It’s a convenient shorthand to speak of the displaced Iraqis as “refugees,” but that, too, is an over implication, in Amos’s view. Because these are mostly middle class households, they are able to monitor events and their situation in ways that are completely unknown to most poverty-stricken refugees. But their circumstances leave them vulnerable to an eroding standard of living that may take generations to recover.

Amos writes about the significance of the Iraqi general election here.

Mar 12
2010

Rachel Carson

Posted by Bruce Robinson in water , toxic , speaker , public safety , policy , media , journalism , food , events , environment , education , chemicals , author

Bruce Robinson

Rachel Carson may have been America’s first environmental whistle-blower. That’s inspired for a west county poet to create her own biographical one-woman show about the author of Silent Spring.

Lilith Rogers describes herself as a lifelong gardener and poet—she’s even written a book of her own about horticulture in western Sonoma County—but she got the spark of an idea about doing something new when she saw a one-woman show about Alberta King, the mother of Martin Luther King, at Santa Rosa Junior College. So Rogers began casting about for a subject that she might take on for a similar presentation.

One reason that Silent Spring had such an immediate and widespread impact when it was published, explains Lilith Rogers, was that the book offered a clear and well-documented explanation that linked a number of troubling events that were readily observable in the American environment.

Rachel Carson and Silent Spring were a media sensation, too, by the standards of 1962. Rogers says the flavor of that fascination, and the some of the now-discredited attitudes that were prevalent then, could be seen in an exchange that was broadcast on national television on the prominent CBS Reports program.

Doing the one-woman show  offers a way for Carsons’ voice to be heard again today, as in this excerpt from Rachel Carson Returns in which Rogers reads from the final chapter of Silent Spring.

 

 


 

 

Mar 11
2010

Doris Murphy

Posted by Bruce Robinson in West County , seniors , nonprofit orgs , history , families , events , community , author , activism

Bruce Robinson

The town of Occidental has changed a good deal since Doris Murphy first moved there more than half a century ago, something she herself has had a hand in doing. It’s reason enough for a community-wide party tonight to celebrate here 100th birthday.

When Joe Murphy first brought Doris from San Francisco to Occidental, he showed her the 18 acres of redwood-sheathed ridgetop he had purchased nearby.  For more than two years thereafter, Doris recalls, their weekends were spent traveling to the remote property and constructing the solid green and white house with its large stone fireplace, where  she has lived fulltime since about 1960.

Doris was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, but hitch-hiked south to San Francisco after graduating from Reed College in 1938. There she met Joe Murphy, the influential leader of the Hod Carriers Local 38 union, and a high-profile organizer for the International Workers of the World. But Doris insists that meeting Joe did not inspire her to change her politics.

This picture of Doris and Joe Murphy adorns the cover of Love and Labor, the lively autobiography she published just a few years ago, at the age of 96. Her lifetime of  energetic participation in the town of Occidental will be celebrated in the new Occidental Center for the Arts on Thursday March 11, starting at 6 pm.

 

Mar 10
2010

"Sick and Tired"

Posted by Bruce Robinson in politics , policy , medicine , legislation , journalism , healthcare , Health , government , finances , economy , drugs , corporate responsibiliyt , Congress , business , author

Bruce Robinson

Economist Helene Jorgensen thought she had good health insurance, until she got really sick. Having survived both her illness and her direct dealings with hospitals, laboratories and insurance companies, she has written a bluntly critical account of her experiences, both economic and medical, titled Sick and Tired.

In her analysis of the American employer-based heath insurance model, which Jorgensen describes its development as a fluke of history.

That, in turn, fostered the development of the current “fee for service” medical system, which Jorgensen sees as vulnerable to corruption, and horribly wasteful.

Coming from a European perspective, the Danish economist shares in the general distain for a health care system that excludes millions of citizens. But she says the reform measures most widely under discussion in Washington would do little to fix a deeply flawed system.

 

 

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