Miss Crisson


The name Miss Crisson fit her. Words come to mind, like “crisp,” “sharp,” “cross,” and “criticism.” I remember a six-foot tall, middle-aged woman with regular, Germanic features and wide, hazel eyes peering from behind big-rimmed glasses supported by a clunky plastic frame.

She wore an expression of perennial disappointment punctuated by frequent, angry outbursts. I thought then her mood was the direct result of our consistently delinquent behavior — the student body of Miss Crisson’s fifth grade class. Now I think there may have been other factors involved.

Miss Crisson did not carry her statuesque figure gracefully. Instead, she stood in an ungainly posture in front of the class, arms crossed, daring anyone to misbehave. She never seemed to feel comfortable inside her own skin, or perhaps the small print, cotton dresses she wore like uniforms were all a half size too small.

Looking back, I imagine men might have considered her sexy if she had dressed in a more colorful, modern style. Regular trips to the beauty parlor would have helped too. But she had no use for fashionable clothes or fixing herself up. Her thinning hair drooped in unenthusiastic curls. The humidity in the spring and early summer made the hair from the buns she wore march in a column down her neck like AWOL soldiers.

I recall her first name with great difficulty: It was, or is Doris. Is she still alive as we speak? She took great pains to keep us at a distance, in our place. Miss Crisson the teacher, the person in charge, we the students, there to obey.

It was not so much the things she did that I remember. It was rather the things she didn’t do. She never, for instance, sat on a chair in front of the class with her legs crossed, or in a more casual moment, on the side of her desk. She always stood, implacably, a permanent fixture in front of the class. She sat at her desk only during study periods, often holding her head while reading from her lesson plan or papers that looked to be terribly important. We spent six hours a day, Monday through Friday, with Miss Crisson, surely enough time to get to know someone well, at least enough time for her guard to fall occasionally. Yet, I can’t recall any informal moments with Miss Crisson, never the spontaneous joke or appreciative laugh from the student audience.

She never spoke of children or relatives. I never learned a thing about her personal life after spending a year in her classroom. Did she spend her childhood years in a middle class tract home at the mercy of bible-toting, God-fearing parents? Did her classmates taunt her for being too tall? As a teenager, did she have many boyfriends? Did she ever have a boyfriend? Did she eat dinner at home alone every night in a terry cloth bathrobe and slippers, her hair liberated from the customary bun, hanging in loopy strands? Did she sometimes wake up to an alarm buzzing from the bedroom, slumped on a sofa in front of the television?

She came to class every day, in the full bloom of womanhood, apparently without suitors or romantic prospects of any kind, already resigned to premature spinsterhood. Perhaps Miss Crisson was a lesbian, stuck in the unenlightened nineteen fifties, a prisoner of her strict upbringing, afraid to explore her sexuality, without compassion for herself or anyone else. Her sharp rebukes for the slightest infringement of class decorum were, I realize now, a sign of frustration, the invisible weights Miss Crisson carried on her broad shoulders. We didn’t see those weights because children see only with their hearts. They respond to kindness, humor, patience and love. They don’t understand why an adult would possibly want to act any other way.
 

 

The Destruction of Our Rivers: Business as Usual


The earth is one big ecosystem. Think of it as a human body. Every cell, every organ, every system of organs is interdependent. Think of the water in the earth’s rivers as blood in the body’s circulatory system. What happens to the body when infection invades the blood stream? What happens when the body cannot produce enough cells to maintain a sufficient, systemic blood level? The answer, of course, is illness.

Industrialization, urbanization, and global warming have adversely affected the rivers of the world. Pollution and insufficient water levels pose a serious health threat to all life in the surrounding regions. The problem is common to big cities as well as rural areas. The best way to illustrate this point is to cite specific examples.

From approximately 1947 to 1977, the General Electric Company poured an estimated 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River from manufacturing plants at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.

The health of area residents is at risk due to the accumulation of PCBs in the human body caused by eating the river’s contaminated fish. Since 1976, high levels of PCBs in fish have led New York State to close various recreational and commercial fisheries and to issue advisories restricting the consumption of fish caught in the Hudson River. PCBs contain carcinogenic substances known to stimulate the growth of cancer cells in humans. Additional adverse health effects include low birth weight, thyroid disease, nervous and immune system disorders. PCBs in the river sediment also affect fish and wildlife.

Runoff in urban and rural areas can easily affect a river’s health, putting local wildlife and human life at risk. Nitrates from fertilizers and pesticides collect in rainwater draining from surrounding land into rivers. These chemicals stimulate the growth of algae, throwing delicate, ecologic relationships out of whack. The result is a clogged, dysfunctional river system.

Runoff from acid rain and rain falling through polluted air is another source of contamination. A recent report states that pollution from urban runoff has become the Potomac River region’s fastest-growing water quality problem, threatening the quality of drinking water for 86 percent of local residents.

Several Abandoned mines located in England and Wales have caused significant pollution in nearby rivers. Dangerous metals such as iron, aluminum, tin, lead, mercury and cadmium from old mine workings contaminate drinking water extracted from regional rivers fed by polluted tributaries.

Phosphorous from detergents in sewage flushed into rivers is another dangerous pollutant. The chemical stays in the system for a long time, threatening plant life by taking up oxygen and poisoning the drinking water of animals and humans alike. The impact of a slow buildup of river pollution in a wide area can be devastating. In the 1950’s, the otter population in England was nearly wiped out by the accumulation of toxic wastes in major rivers throughout the country.

Rising weather temperatures caused by global warming have had a dramatic effect on fresh water levels in rivers around the world. Persistent drought conditions in Australia’s major farming region, the Murray-Darling river basin, threaten the nation’s food supply. The Murray-Darling crosses most of southeastern Australia and is one of the region’s most important river systems. It provides water for growing 40 percent of the nation’s vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Corey Watts, of the Australian Conservation Foundation in Melbourne, told reporters that drought conditions were becoming the norm in the area instead of occurring once every 20 to 25 years.

“We’ve had a string of official reports over the last fortnight painting a pretty grim picture for the climate and the future of our economy and our environment,” Watts said. “So now we’re looking at a future in the next few decades where drought will occur once every two years.”

The 2,000 year-old Yamuna is a river that “fell from heaven,” according to Hindu mythology. The residents of New Delhi worship the river and depend on it for life. Residents tossing coins and sweets into the river, or scattering the ashes of dead relatives from bridges jutting across the waters are a common sight. Unfortunately, the actions of the citizenry and the New Delhi governmental water board do not coincide with this feeling of reverence.

As the Yamuna enters the capital city, its waters are still relatively clean after a 246-mile descent from atop the Himalayas. New Delhi’s public water authority, the Jal Board, extracts 229 million gallons from the river daily for drinking water. As the river leaves the city, residents pour an average 950 gallons of sewage into the Yamuna every day.

As it winds through India’s capital city, the Yamuna transforms into a filthy band of black ink with clumps of raw sewage floating on the surface. Methane gas bubbles to the surface. The river is hardly safe for fish, let alone bathing or drinking water.

A recent government audit condemned the Jal Board for spending 200 million dollars on the construction of sewage treatment plants with minimal results. One of the city’s Pollution Control Board Directors said the situation “has not improved at all because the quantity of sewage is always increasing.” The regular occurrence of power failures adds to the problem.

The above examples are only a tiny representation of the problem. The health of the world’s rivers and their effects on plant, animal, and human life is a complex problem difficult to summarize in one short article. Governmental water management boards worldwide are struggling to deal with the problem now to avoid catastrophic water shortages in the next twenty years. Bold, new initiatives are under consideration along with traditional methods. One point is clear, however. Change in the way we treat the environment, collectively and individually, is essential.

The new movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” explores this theme. The story posits the theory that painful and necessary change can occur when it becomes obvious that doing things the same old way will lead to certain destruction. Certainly, we have reached this point with respect to the environment. Two questions remain. Will we change? Can we change in time to prevent a complete breakdown of the earth’s life sustaining ecosystem?

Sources: Gertner, Jon, “The Future Is Drying Up,” Time Magazine, October 21, 2007; Government of Australia — Waters and Rivers Commission, “Water Facts,” July 1997; Sengupta, Somini, “In Teeming India, Water Crisis Means Dry Pipes and Foul Sludge,” The New York Times, September 26, 2006.


Internal Conflicts Hold India’s Future Hostage


Modern India is much like a newly minted land mass; cooling on the surface while bubbling with volcanic activity underneath. Red-hot economic growth masks the nation’s underlying socio-political problems.

The utter economic desperation of Indian pastoralists has provided verdant soil for Marxist Leninist ideas to flourish in rural hamlets. Maoist guerillas recruit these tribal villagers in their crusade to replace the Indian Democratic Republic with a socialist state by means of armed insurrection. The urban-centered Indian press has chosen to downplay this story, preferring instead to focus on the country’s recent industrial boom. Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, stands apart from the Indian Establishment in his assessment of the matter. He calls the Maoist guerilla activity “the biggest internal security threat” the country faces.

The Maoist activists, known as “Naxolites,” have found a receptive audience in the Indian pastorals, known as “Tribals,” for two major reasons. The Tribal population of eighty million is the most disadvantaged segment of Indian society. Twenty-three percent of them are illiterate. Another fifty percent lives below the poverty line. In addition, the Indian Government, acting solely in its own interests, has expropriated Tribal land rich in minerals and other natural resources. The politically powerless Tribal people have nowhere to turn, except to the Naxolites, who press them into bands of roving militias, hunted and killed by government forces.

The Tribal people are not alone in their economic and political plight. A relatively thin veneer of privileged middle and upper class citizens covers a population of more than eight hundred and fifty million people who exist on two dollars a day or less. India’s corrupt and overly bureaucratic government cannot begin to cope with the nation’s staggering poverty. The outdated Indian caste system makes it more difficult for the poor to improve their lives. The predicament of India’s massive underclass is a persistent disease that constantly threatens the future well-being of the country’s entire society.

Another flashpoint of tension within India’s borders is the struggle with Pakistan for control of the Kasmir territory. After India won its independence from British rule, the country’s princely states enjoyed the freedom of choice to join either India or Pakistan. The Maharaja of Kashmir chose to join India because he was a Hindu. This decision was a bitter pill to swallow for the majority of the Kashmiri people who are Muslims. The agreement to annex Kashmir included a provision for a plebiscite to confirm the Maharaja’s decision. India never allowed the plebiscite to occur.

These seeds of conflict have erupted into three wars between India and Pakistan over control of this beautiful, northeastern territory. Tension has escalated even higher with the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both countries. In addition, militant Islamists in the territory are waging a bloody struggle for an independent state of Kashmir. With the separatist militants folded into the mix, the situation is as unstable as homemade nitroglycerin.

The conflict in Kashmir is indicative of a deeper, more serious problem; an innate hatred and distrust between Indian Hindus and their Muslim counterparts. This centuries old antagonism is rooted in religious intolerance. The rift began when Islamic fundamentalists invaded India in the sixth century. A noted scholar deemed this war as “probably the bloodiest in history.”

There is a basic incompatibility between the aggressive, xenophobic tenants of Islam, which proclaims Allah as the only God, and the polytheistic nature of Hinduism. Throughout the history of India’s independence movement, a series of political clashes between Muslims and Hindus echoed the animosity between the two groups. Even a great leader like Mahatma Gandhi failed to generate lasting cooperation between these factions. Splitting off Pakistan from India as a separate Muslim state has similarly failed to provide a solution. The hatred and distrust doggedly endures.

Undoubtedly, India faces major challenges in its quest for a peaceful and prosperous future. Surely, a more streamlined and efficient government would provide part of the answer. However, it is the people of India themselves who must learn to cooperate and share with one another to move forward into a brighter future.

David and the Insurance Goliath


You would think a company like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida has its act together. Think again. Dealing with this company’s bureaucratic minions is a nightmare and a slapstick comedy rolled into one.

My eighty-six year old mother needed to convert her supplemental health insurance to another carrier. Since Medicare provides her primary coverage, I thought switching the supplemental would be no big deal. Just to make sure we got it right, I enlisted the help of an insurance agent referred to us by Blue Cross.

The fun began when my mother received a letter from Blue Cross denying coverage due to her application arriving outside of the annual enrollment period. The agent explained without apology that she was apparently confused about the application period. Three subsequent calls to this agent netted zero results. I was on my own in trying to resolve the problem — David vesus Goliath.

I called the 800 number listed in the rejection letter. The Blue Cross telephone representative promptly told me they could not help me. I had to call the Jacksonville office. “Where, by chance, am I calling?” I inquired. “The Sales Department,” the rep replied. “Aren’t you in Jacksonville?” I wanted to know. “No. You’ll have to call them tomorrow. They’re closed for the day now.” The telephone rep gave me the local number for the Jacksonville office. I had to ask for the toll-free number.I called the Jacksonville office the following morning. The experience turned into a multi-call ordeal for a number of reasons. Each time I called, the operator routed me to the wrong department. After copious delays, I finally reached someone who could help me. Each telephone rep gave me a different answer before putting me on hold for what seemed like forever.

I kept hanging up and calling again in the hopes of finding someone who actually knew what they were doing.The first telephone rep told me Blue Cross rejected the application because my mother’s supplemental insurance policy had lapsed. I told the rep, a nice woman by the name of Yvonne, that my mother’s policy was still very much alive and kicking. Yvonne then told me all we needed was the current policy number to resolve the matter. Great, I thought. I’ll just call my mother, get the policy number, and call sweet Yvonne back. Finally, we were getting somewhere.

Ten minutes later, I called Yvonne’s extension. “The line is busy,” the operator informed me. “Would you like to speak to someone else?” “No,” I replied. “Yvonne understands my situation.” The operator told me I had reached a call center where the reps take calls back to back. In other words, my chances of reaching Yvonne again were on a par with winning the Florida Lottery.

I was not going to ask if the call center existed within the confines of the Jacksonville office. I did not want to find out that the telephone reps who held my mother’s health insurance future in their hands were quasi-employees, or worse, independent contractors who cared exclusively about their hourly wage.I spoke to the next person, and the next one, until I reached David, my namesake, who seemed to fathom the arcane rules and closely guarded secrets governing the Blue Cross insurance application process.

David convinced me that we had to resubmit the application for insurance during the official enrollment period. I then discovered during the ensuing conversation that the application mailed with the rejection letter was misprinted. David promised to mail a corrected application form.I next asked David when Blue Cross intended to refund the first month’s payment mailed with the original application. David advised me to speak to my agent. I reminded David that I was speaking to him due to my agent’s total and complete incompetence, not to mention her unrepentant attitude.

After more haggling, David agreed to look into the refund. Five minutes passed during which I listened to irritating music interspersed with promotional messages aimed at motivating me to use more impersonal and less costly means of contacting Blue Cross to resolve my problems. I was about to hang up when David came back to advise me the refund would be mailed within two weeks. I asked him to fax a copy of the new application to me. He eagerly promised to do so. The fax never arrived.

Who Is Responsible For The Iraqi War Refugees?


Smart, observant children can learn from the mistakes of their parents. In the case of Iraq, it is the child ignoring the wisdom of the parent.

One can imagine George Herbert Bush’s military advisors telling him not to go after Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. Overthrowing Hussein, the advisors explain to the erstwhile president, will create a power vacuum and a country splintered by bloody civil war. In addition, the advisors remind the president that the United Nations has not issued a mandate allowing military forces on the ground to topple the Hussein government. George Herbert Bush decided to listen to his advisors and obey the will of the international community. It was not a popular decision at the time.

In retrospect, it is obvious to even a casual observer that our incumbent president was itching to finish what his father started. George W. Bush figured he could secure his place in history by exporting democracy to Iraq with an iron fist. The results have been catastrophic for the Iraqi people and the citizens of the United States.

Here are the simple facts. Despite opposition from international and domestic leaders, President Bush convinced enough people in government to green light the invasion of Iraq. The military intelligence used as a pretext for the invasion turned out to be bogus. Five years later, the war rages on. Thousands of U.S. Military personnel have died or have received serious, life-changing injuries. Thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens have needlessly lost their lives or suffered serious wounds. More than five million Iraqi refugees have lost their homes, jobs, and entire way of life.

No one in the United States government wants to take responsibility for this destruction. It is now the responsibility of the people in this country to do the right thing.

Nothing speaks more eloquently about the suffering the war in Iraq has caused than the stories of the refugees themselves. Kareem, a history professor, suffered disfiguring wounds to his face when American airplanes bombed the University where he teaches. Forty-five students and teachers died when the second floor of the building collapsed into the first floor. More than a hundred people reported injuries from the attack.

“The Americans are a peaceful and honest people,” Kareem says. “That’s what I’ve seen through the television. They refused the war and this war has been destructive to both countries…For the last four years, it has gone from bad to worse.”

Ahmad worked as a loyal employee of the US Coalition Forces in Iraq. He bonded with the Marines he worked with as a translator and cultural liaison. He felt as if the Marines had become his family. After a Shiite militia murdered his fellow translator and friend, Ahmad fled the country in fear for his own life.

This story is all too familiar to seven thousand other young Iraqis who worked faithfully in official capacities for U.S. troops in Iraq, mostly as translators and cultural advisors. Insurgent factions have marked these young Iraqis for death. The United States Government refuses to grant visas or political asylum to these former employees.

Hiba is a young woman who fled Iraq with her family a few months after the war began. Jordan’s government denied asylum to this family of seven. They spent four years living in a tent in Ruwayshed, a refugee camp on the border of Iraq and Jordan.

Unfortunately, Hiba’s story is similar to the experience of a majority of Iraqi refugees. Syria, Lebanon and Jordan routinely deny access or status to homeless families and refugees fleeing from religious or political persecution from within their own country. There is no government infrastructure or private sector relief programs established in bordering countries to deal with the refugee crisis. The situation is analogous to the Jewish refugee crisis after World War II when more than four million people lost their homes and way of life in the Holocaust.

These are but a handful of the refugees stories. There are thousands of stories, many too horrible and brutal to imagine. We are the only source of help the Iraqi refugees can call on at this time. “The List,” an independent citizen action group, helps Iraqis living under the threat of death to find safe haven outside of the country. UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, urgently needs funding. This agency relies on private contributions for over 95% of its budget. To find out how you can support organizations like these, please visit http://www.iraqirefugeestories.org/

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The Beloved


I see a woman shopping in a shoe department
She is long and lean, quite beautiful
and unmindful of my lustful stare
She is like so many women
I desperately want to make love to

I am a fool, of course
because what I want can never be satisfied by any woman
Even the most beautiful woman in the world
cannot quench the flame that burns within me

I often forget
what I truly want
You, my beloved

Beyond the fantasies and small desires
conjured by the deceitful magician
Mind brandishes multi-colored shrouds
in a deft attempt to lure me away
from where You reside

Your palace is more luxurious, more enchanting
than any abode the world has to offer
Beyond words
Beyond imagination
Beyond the boundaries I call myself

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of You
a flawless diamond
perfection itself
too beautiful for these outer eyes to see
more precious thana hundred Spanish treasure ships
waiting to be discovered

Stimulate Enthusiasm


We are all born with a natural curiosity to explore the world around us and the world within ourselves. This innate curiosity is often most evident in children. As we grow older, there is a tendency to lose touch with this curiosity as survival needs, responsibilities, and pressures to conform literally choke the life out of our thirst to know more.

Nature hates a vacuum. If we are not moving forward, we are automatically moving backward, even though it may seem we are standing still. Within us, there is an urge to expand. We must make a conscious choice to move forward; to expand. If we don’t, the default choice of moving backward and becoming smaller will automatically be engaged.

It takes an act of will to grow, to reach your highest potential. It takes courage, determination, and perseverance to blaze your own path. But the rewards, in terms of personal satisfaction, far outweigh the risks.

Self-determination, self-actualization, and freedom require, along with the above, discretion, discernment, and self-examination. You were born to be a pioneer, an innovator, a creative force for your own happiness and the people around you. The path stretches ahead as far as you can see. You only need to take the first step; then travel down that road, one step at a time.

How do you begin? Ask your heart. It is your compass. It will never lead you in the wrong direction. Your heart may tell you things that make no sense. Trust your heart. Have faith in yourself and in life. And have the courage to follow your heart’s desire every day towards more enthusiasm and joy in your life.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. In my opinion, it requires a relationship with a higher power to have the strength and discernment to become your highest, best, and happiest self. In my experience, the best way to foster this relationship is through prayer, meditation, and study. Ask for the things your soul wants and then be ready to receive them.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

A Man of Passion


Chaz Mena is a man of passion. Whether it is creating roles for the stage and screen or spending time with family and friends, there is nothing this forty-one year old, Cuban-American actor does half way.

Chaz was born and raised in Miami, Florida where his earliest memories included scenes of his parents and grandparents telling each other stories of daily life in their long lost homeland of Cuba. Today, the population of South Florida is predominantly Spanish speaking. A large segment of the Hispanic population is Cuban-American. This is the exact opposite of the situation in the early Sixties. At the time, the first waves of Cuban exiles were literally lost in America. Chaz remembers “coming alive” when listening to the colorful stories his family members acted out on the front porch of their two story home in “Little Havana.” In hindsight, Mena realizes that telling these stories in a theatrical style enabled his family members to reconnect with their history and culture. These childhood experiences and an innate drive to tell a story that creates a shared experience have made Chaz Mena the man he is today.

After completing an MFA in Drama at Carnegie Mellon University, Mena arrived back in Miami with eighty thousand dollars in debts from his undergraduate and graduate studies. Even worse, he didn’t have a single lead or personal contact that might lead to gainful employment. It took a full week of sleeping in bed and the encouragement of wife, Ileana, before Mena was able to face the situation. He had been brought up to be a man of action rather than words. This led him to bravely pursue his childhood dream of becoming an actor without worrying about the consequences. Now, the first of many gut-wrenching reality checks Chaz Mena would have to learn to deal with waited unannounced on his doorstep.

By working odd jobs, Mena scraped together a nest egg of three thousand dollars. He set sail for New York City to establish himself as a legitimate, working actor. Chaz leased an apartment and began searching for an agent and acting roles. A few months later, Mena was penniless. All he had to show for his earnest efforts was a case of walking pneumonia. Then, serendipity or something akin to Divine Intervention changed Mena’s fortunes. While auditioning for a stage role, Chaz met the manager of the Spanish Repertoire Theater. The manager, whose name was Gilberto, recognized Mena’s family name. It turned out Gilberto had gone to college with Chaz’s father. He liked the father and enjoyed having his son, who bore a striking resemblance to Gilberto’s old college mate, around. “It made him feel young again,” Mena explains. So Chaz became a regular member of the theater company, which gave him the opportunity to play as many as six roles at a time in classical and contemporary Spanish speaking plays written by Spanish playwrights.

 

The Spanish Repertoire Theater was the vehicle that launched Mena’s career. He began landing roles on TV and in Independent films. Mena was now living his dream as a respected and well-reviewed New York actor. Yet something was still missing.

Mena says he felt like “a fisherman constantly casting his line for roles with no real anchor. “ It isn’t hard to understand this statement since most actors live from role to role in their working life. One night, as Chaz was lamenting about the situation to his best friend Juan Carlos, something amazing happened. Instead of commiserating with Mena, Juan Carlos came up with an inspired idea. He knew Chaz had been, from early boyhood, a fan and avid reader of the work of Jose Marti, a 19th century Cuban Poet, Humanist, and Revolutionary. Juan Carlos suggested that Chaz write a one man play about Marti and act the role of the man whose ideas were instrumental in helping Cuba win independence from Spanish colonization.

 

Chaz’s response to his friend’s idea might have been, “Are you kidding?” if not for the fact that Juan Carlos was a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Humanities Council. All Chaz needed was his resume, some head shots, and of course, the play, Juan Carlos explained. He chose to ignore the fact that Chaz had never written anything for the stage or screen before in his life. Nevertheless, the next morning, Mena woke up with the first sentence of the play in his head: “Jose is still with us.”

Nowadays, between stage and screen roles, Mena travels to colleges and universities to enact the one man show with the sponsorship of the Florida Humanities council. As part of the presentation, audience members can ask questions and hear a carefully researched answer from the actor who has brought a great historical figure and his ideas to life. Getting into character, Mena expresses a “Martiano” idea: “That which is beautiful is moral. That which is moral is beautiful.”

If you are an educator and would like to invite Jose Marti to your school, please contact Chaz through his web site http://www.chazmena.com/.

When Will People Worldwide Have Enough Clean Water to Drink?


“It’s not going to happen.” This will be the short and tragic answer to the question if governing bodies throughout the world continue to side-step the troubling reality of our planet’s shrinking fresh water supply. The challenges of global warming, pollution from industrial waste and sewage disposal, and the deterioration of water delivery systems must be faced now in order to avoid a worldwide water crisis within the next ten to fifteen years.

As the world population grows, more fresh water is needed for drinking water and sanitation. As a result, the water available for agriculture and industrial uses is plunging below demand levels. The effects of global warming are causing water shortages and droughts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Water mismanagement by government agencies adds to the shortages. Dumping treated and untreated human waste into bodies of water is a suicidal policy that is reducing the worldwide fresh water supply on a daily basis. Poisonous industrial waste products continue to find their way into lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers.

The world’s supply of fresh water hasn’t increased since biblical times. We’re destroying an irreplaceable commodity essential to life while increasing demand at an uncontrolled, alarming rate.

While 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh water. O.3 percent of the fresh water is found on the surface. The balance is buried deep underground.

The burgeoning water crisis is not confined to third world countries or the desert nations of the Middle-East. In Atlanta, Georgia for example, there are days the tap water is so murky residents are afraid to bathe in it much less drink it, even though city officials claim the water is safe. The discoloration of the water is a result of under-serviced mains and pipes, many more than a century old, reaching the end of their useful life spans. When pipes in a water delivery system crack or break, dirt, bacteria, and other pathogens are sucked into the complex underground arteries of a system like Atlanta’s. The problem is usually handled by flushing out the contaminated pipes and upping chlorine levels in each, isolated instance. Few Officials see this as a viable solution for the future. Atlanta’s water problems exemplify similar situations in major cities across America. The Country’s water delivery systems are failing due to old age. A massive infusion of capital (100 to 150 billion dollars per city) is needed to install new systems.

Most of us are too consumed with our daily struggle for existence to worry about global problems like the water crisis. This has to change. Citizens of every country in the world have to take steps to force their governments to enact social programs and legislation to address the water crisis right away in order to avert a catastrophic decline in the quality of life we have become used to.

The situation is bad enough already. One person out of six people alive today doesn’t have easy access to a safe, fresh water supply. Two out of six people in the world (approximately 2.4 billion individuals) do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. This increases the instance of water-borne diseases astronomically. One child in the world dies every fifteen seconds due to a water-related illness. Studies have estimated 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases. Half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from water-related health problems. 1.8 million Children die each year from diarrhea. Millions of women and children in under developed countries are forced to trek long distances every day to collect water from sources that are often polluted.

It will take unprecedented cooperation between world governments to solve the world-wide water crisis. But the effort has to begin with individual citizens. Governments will not move quickly enough unless there is a loud outcry from the people most affected — you and me.

Let’s take the issue of carbon dioxide emissions for example. The U.S. Government has been too slow in lowering emissions standards. We would all be driving cars running on hybrid and even non-gasoline based fuels today if the original schedule for emissions reductions had been adhered to. We face the imminent threat of crop failures, coastline flooding, extensive droughts, and other serious problems resulting from global warming because this issue has not been managed properly by our government. It is not a problem of adequate technology. It is a problem of mandating change.

Another issue world governments are avoiding is the disposal of raw sewage. We need an environmentally friendly method of treating and disposing of human waste. The necessary funds can be raised and the technology implemented quickly if people force their governments to mandate change.

We need more projects like the “One Water” documentary film sponsored by the University of Miami to raise public awareness of the growing world water crisis. In addition, governments and people around the world must cooperate in developing educational programs, incentive programs, and the distribution of birth control devices to slow population growth to a responsible rate.

Cooperation, innovative ideas, comprehensive solutions, and immediate action are required. We must not put off until tomorrow what desperately needs to be done today.

Sources: U.S. News and World Report; “The Coming Water Crisis,” August, 4, 2002, Web edition. National Geographic News; “UN Highlights World Water Crisis,” June 5th, 2003, Web edition. Water Partners International (http://www.waterpartners.org/.) World Water Council (http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/.) “One Water” (http://www.onewater.org/.)

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing

 

 

The Offending Cashier


Why do the cashiers at supermarkets insist on putting your groceries in as many bags as possible?

Do I look like I have five hands and three arms?

Do they think the load will be lighter if I carry fewer items in more bags?

Do they do it out of spite because they have crummy, low paying jobs?

The gross profit of supermarkets would go up at least 400 percent on average if they used fewer bags.

The other day I bought five items for eighteen dollars and thirty-seven cents. The bagger put each item in its own bag.

A pack of gum gets its own bag?

The plastic bags must have cost fifty cents. The same bags will cost a dollar next week with the way oil prices are going.

Why do baggers and cashiers do this? Here’s one theory.

Imagine a Store Manager giving these instructions to his cashiers before their shift:

“Remember not to overload those grocery bags. We just lost a lawsuit that cost us forty-two million dollars because a woman dropped a banana out of her overloaded bag, slipped, and dislocated her pelvis. The jury awarded punitive damages because the poor woman is unable to have sexual intercourse without shooting pains going down her legs.

“As you all know, every cashier is responsible for supervising their bagger. It is your job to insure all groceries are properly bagged, which is to say, not over-loaded.

“The forty two million is coming out of the offending cashier’s paycheck. So be careful. This could happen to you.”

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