Friday, March 27, 2009

Acting in Afganistan

What’s new from the BBC?
Terrifying plight of Afghan actress

“Afghan actress Parwin Mushthal's passion for her job has exacted a heavy toll - resulting in the murder of her husband and forcing her to live in hiding with her two children.”

Mushtal first began acting in highschool, and now has been in more than 20 theatre productions, dozens of films, and has regular television appearances. Her face is well known in Afganistan, but in this country, such popularity can be dangerous. In fact, Mushtal hid her acting career from her husband’s family, and when they came to visit, made sure the television was used only to watch movies.

In a country where the influence of the Taleban is growing stronger, acting is often linked with immorality. Women who act are often accused of prostitution, threatened, and even abused. Mushtal received such threats, and often arrived to work only to find people waiting at the entrance, blocking her path, and telling her she shouldn’t be working. She received threatening phone calls and was abused walking in the streets. People began to recognize her, and once, walking home with her young son, a stranger on a bike violently punched her in the back as he passed. She fell to the ground and injured her leg so badly that she still has pain months later. She thought perhaps the abuse was directed at her due to her clothing, so she began dressing more modestly and began wearing a scarf over her head. It wasn’t until her husband began receiving phone calls asking why he allowed his wife to act that she realized what the problem was. By then, it was too late.

One night in December a man repeatedly called her husband, telling him to come out of the house. He refused. The next night he began calling again, and eventually her husband agreed to meet him. Mushtal became concerned when he didn’t return after dark, and at eight o’clock heard shooting. She was afraid the man would come into the house next, so she locked the door and waited all night. In the morning police found her husband’s body, shot numerous times.

Now Parwin Pashtal is in hiding, wearing a full-length burka so she can't be recognized. She lives in constant fear that someone will recognize her and come after her or her two children. Pashtal’s story is not an anomaly in Afganistan. The Taleban is gaining strength in many cities, and is openly critical of women in the workplace. The result is situations like Pashtal’s, where women are threatened, abused, and even forced into hiding.

I wish this story could end on a happier note, but it can't. I wish I could DO something. Thus far, all I am doing is writing notes reaching very, VERY few people. Spreading information is one thing, but I don't feel like I'm actually helping improve anything. I want to help things CHANGE.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

headlines again

Exxon Valdez 20 Years Later

You guys remember the Valdex oil spill back in ’89? Well on March 23 an oil tanker stranded and leaked 11 million gallons of crude, making it the worst oil spill in US history. Clean up started immediately after the accident, and continued until 1994, when experts determined that the oil was naturally disintegrating rapidly, and that in a few years it would be completely gone. So, where are we 20 years later?

Not great.

Instead of disappearing, the oil breakdown in areas with irregular water flow has slowed, and according to recently completed research by the WWF, there are still 21,000 gallons of the toxic sludge coating Alaska’s shores and poisoning the wildlife. I’m not going to go into how much damage this spill caused (and is still causing, and will continue to cause), because it’s depressing. Hopefully
Australia fares better.

Water Is Not a Human Right

Access to clean water is NOT a human right, according to a the Istanbul Ministerial Statement, which was adopted by ministers and heads of delegations from more than 150 countries. They agreed that clean water is a human
need, but not a human right.

Anyone else think that’s bull****?!! I was
PISSED when I read this.

And get this, they published it to purposely coincide with the United Nations' World Water Day. How’s that for irony?

Pink Elephant?!

What’s the saying about a white elephant? Well, how about pink? In Botswana a wildlife cameraman managed to catch sight of a pink African elephant calf, which experts believe is most likely an albino. Unlike Asian elephants, who spend a lot of time in jungle areas, African elephants spend a lot of time in the open, unprotected from the burning sun. Although this baby albino has slim chances for survival, his sensitive skin making him particularly vulnerable to a variety of health problems, he seems to have already begun to adapt to his situation. He walks in the shade of his mother, and since the herd was found in an area with water and trees, hopefully the baby will learn to cake himself in mud or take refuge under available trees.

I figure the little guy’s gonna make it. Elephants are smart, and this one already seems to have figured out that the sun can hurt him. Let’s be honest, he’s also pretty cute.

Glaucoma Anybody?

Apparently the drug used to treat glaucoma makes eyelashes grow longer, thicker, and darker. Now it’s being used solely for that purpose. Yes. You can now apply chemicals and drugs to your eyelashes to make them more like Audrey Hepburn’s (which were fake). Can anyone think of a better use for medicinal research funds?

Alaska Volcano!
Great shots of the volcano in Alaska that blasted off this month!

Lion Whisperer?


I bet this guy has trouble getting life insurance! Kevin Richardson is an animal behaviorist who plays with lions. He has developed such a relationship with the lions that he rolls around with both males and females. The females even let him pet new cubs, a miracle considering how protective lionesses are. I think he’s an
insaniac, but super cool.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sand Dancer: Peter Donnelly

Check this out!!

New Zealander Peter Donnelly is the Sand Dancer. He rides his bicycle to the beach immediately after the tide goes out, and using only a stick, a rake, and his imagination, creates astonishingly beautiful works of art in the sand. One of the most amazing things is, since he's on the ground, he can't really see what it looks like until it's finished.

This is unbelievable.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Here are some pictures of his work:

Here is the original Sand Dancer; Honorable Mention Tribeca Film Festival 2007 , winner of best doc Foursite Film Fest USA 2006 and several int awards. Used with permission from Valerie Reid Director and Producer

Thursday, March 19, 2009

News! News! News!

Alrighty everyone, it's time for your new updates! I'm obsessed with information (namely news) and so thought I'd share some of this past week's interesting news.

Wow. Here's something that not enough people know. According to a ruling by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the UN's World Health Organisation, there is a high chance that night shifts increase the risk of developing cancer. In Denmark 40 women have won compensation after developing cancer from decades of night shifts.

The IARC studies and ranks cancer risks.
Category One risks are known carcinogens such as asbestos. Night working now sits just one rung below that: a probable cause of cancer.

One of the reports, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed a 36% greater risk of breast cancer for women who had worked night shifts for more than 30 years, compared with women who had never worked nights. This evidence supports the hypothesis that melatonin production may be impared by changing sleep patterns. Melatonin, in turn, has some beneficial effects in preventing some of the steps leading to cancer.

And if yet another risk of cancer doesn't get you quaking in your boots, night shifts have been blamed for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, gastro-intestional problems, low birth-weight babies, and, for women, prolonged pregnancies.

All in all, this article interested me because I'd NEVER heard of such connections. If women are being compensated by a GOVERNMENT for their breast cancer due to working nights, I feel like there must be something to the risk.

Islands Disappear in India
Still think global warming is a "joke", "prank", or "unscientific"? Well, try telling the inhabitants of this island in India. Wait, make that ex-inhabitants. Some islands have completely submerged, while others are well on their way. People have become "environmental refugees" as houses and property are swallowed up by the sea and they are forced to move onto someone else's land. Space is limited and these people, as poor island dwellers, have nowhere else to go. The rate of erosion in India is 3.14 mm/year, where as the normal rate is 1.82 mm/year. So far there are no solutions offered (beyond crowding closer on the island and either starving or drowning).

Hippo Sweat Offers Key to Natural Sunscreen
OK, this is REALLY cool. Hippo sweat is red, and is structured at a microscopic level to scatter light. This means that those lovable giants can stand in the sun all day and not burn. Not only that, but scientists have discovered that hippo sweat is also antiseptic and insect repelling! So this summer make sure to visit the local zoo, wrestle with a hippo, and you can stay outside, bug free, all day! (Or you can wait for them to come out with a hippo sweat inspired product that won't smell, well, like hippo).

Sexy Marketing Aims to Boost Toilet Use
OK lets be honest, toilets ARE NOT sexy (well, for most of us anyway). In a lot of cultures talking about, or performing, bodily functions related to toilet use are either tabboo, or considered "dirty". This can be a problem when, according to National Geographic, "2.5 billion people worldwide don't have access to a clean, safe place to do their business." Add that to the reports that "80% of the developing world's illnesses are caused by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation" and you have a whopper of a problem. The solution? Make toilets sexy.
Yes, I agree. How on EARTH can a toilet be sexy? Well, some organizations have found a few ways.

In Kenya there are "toilet malls" where you can use a toilet, shower, get your shoes repaired, shop for food, and make a phone call. Celebrities all over Kenya have been called upon by an organization called Ecotact, to "sell" toilet malls. Famous Kenyan faces, like Miss Kenya and the vice president, have begun frequenting them in an attempt to make them more acceptable. Toilet malls have gained popularity by making a connection with status and privilege.

And then there is Cambodia, where the
Resource Development International Cambodia have made romantic karaoke videos about proper sanitation and hygiene, hand washing, bird flu, and sex slavery. They advertise that hand washing is beautiful and make the connection between hygiene and health. These are shown on national television!

Thanks to programs like these, the toilet has become a status symbol. "It's cool to have a toilet. Be the first person on your block to have one!" Although I balk at social programming like this, and resent the ideal behind the marketing scheme, it seems to have worked. Who is really surprised? It's been working on the "West" for decades!

This just goes to prove that anything is marketable, and that using social pressure can make anything sexy, even a toilet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

going crazy

I strive to love, learn, and live as fully and completely as I can. Unfortunately, my actual life feels about as far from my potential as I am from the moon. I am twisting into tighter and tighter coils of self-absorbed insanity.

living at home








Monday, March 9, 2009

Life as: Trial and Error

Bumps. Some are big and some are so small they barely slow you down. Sometimes I come across some bumps in the road that seem huge, and I have a habit of just sitting there, giving up, coming to the conclusion that I just can’t do anything about it.

hate that.

I’ve been spending a lot of time online, and have found a few things that have helped me face my bumps, so I’ve decided to post them in case they can help someone else.

These are some quotes from
Curt Rosengren. I have no idea who he is, I haven’t read his book, and he might actually be a terrible person (or a wonderful one). I love some of what he has to say though.

Our most challenging times are the times we need the support of others the most. Reaching out to others can plant a seed of connection that can grow over time and give you a stronger foundation for moving through challenges in the future as well.

Support is a two-way street. The more you focus on helping others, the more potential there is for that support to come back your direction. And it's not just support in challenging times. Helping others is a way to build relationships, and relationships open doors.
I love helping other people, and I generally encourage people to face their troubles; be bold; have confidence. Somehow, that hasn’t translated into myself. My confidence in myself, my life, and who I am has been shaken a few times lately so I’ve curled my tail close and stuck my nose in the sand.
When you successfully navigate a sea of obstacles, you gain first-hand experience that you really can deal with whatever comes your way. And when you feel confident that you can deal with challenges, you're more willing to take risks and pursue fulfillment in life.

I lived the mantra that “what is… is” but, as the movie “Australia” says, “what is isn’t necessarily what should be.” I have lost self confidence for a variety of reasons, but foremost is my own submissiveness to life’s rough side. In doing this I have lost some of my passion, the energy that comes from bringing more of ME into what I do, for life.

The solution: Find out what happened to the person in the pictures.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Dirty" Oil: the Tar Sands of Alberta pt. 1

Canada's greatest buried energy treasure [can] satisfy the world's demand for petroleum for the next century.
- Time Magazine

The Canadian tar sands industry is centered in Alberta, Canada, and more than one million barrels of synthetic oil are produced from these resources per day; a number set to triple by 2020. Currently, tar sands represent about 40% of Canada's oil production, and output is expanding rapidly. Approximately 75% of Canada's oil and oil products are exported to the US, making it difficult for both countries to cut their carbon emissions.

What are they, you ask?

Tar sands are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen (a heavy black oil with the consistency of peanut butter). The sand is mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, then refined into oil. Extracting oil from tar sands is more complex than conventional oil recovery; usually using strip mining or open pit techniques. Once taken out of the ground, separation systems remove the bitumen from the clay, sand, and water that make up the tar sands. Due to its thick and heavy nature, bitumen also needs additional upgrading before it can be refined, and is diluted with lighter hydrocarbons to make it transportable by pipelines.

After mining, the tar sands are transported to an extraction plant, where a hot water process separates the bitumen from sand, water, and minerals. In this process hot water is added to the sand, and the resulting slurry is piped to the extraction plant. Tiny air bubbles attach to the bitumen released from the oil sand, and floats to the top of the separation vessel, where the bitumen can be skimmed off. Further processing removes residual water and solids. The bitumen is then transported and eventually upgraded into synthetic crude oil.

When we are looking at the tar sands, we are looking at a project that is the largest capital investment project on the face of the planet, the largest industrial project on the planet, and the ecological implications are just as great.
- Mike Hudema, an Edmonton-based campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

This is the money - it even smells like money.
-Todd Dahlman, manager of Shell's Muskeg River oil sands mine in the Athabasca region of North Alberta in Canada.

There are 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves here, and at about $131/barrel (as of Feb 2009), that's a lot of incentive to dig. Canada's reserves in Alberta are second only to Saudi Arabia’s 260 billion. The estimate of how many more barrels of oil are buried deeper underground is staggering.

We know there’s much, much more there. The total estimates could be two trillion or even higher. This is a very big resource.
-Clive Mather, Shell's Canada chief.

Environmental Disaster:

The bitumen in tar sands is a low-quality, high-cost alternative to oil and, so far, there have been inadequate environmental safeguards or monitoring of extraction and processing for export to the U.S.

To get the oil out of the ground, trees are cut down, the surface layer is strip-mined, and the underlying mixture is heated with steam in order to make it flow. Two tons of earth and sand are dug out to yield just one barrel of bitumen; that one barrel generates three times as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as excavating one barrel of conventional oil.

On average, 500-1000 cubic feet of natural gas is needed to produce a single barrel of crude oil and three to five barrels of fresh water are drawn from the Athabascan river system to process each barrel of bitumen. The water level of the Athabasca River has severely depleted and the fish have been poisoned.

The water leftover from the extraction process, known as tailings, contains arsenic, mercury, napthenic acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Most of this water is stored in vast, above-ground contaminated tailings ponds, which leak toxins into the surrounding area. Much of the water is reused, but the industry is producing 1.8m litres of tailings a day which need to be contained in large earthen dams. As of last year, tailings covered over 130 sq km.

To give an idea of the danger, last spring, about 500 ducks alighted on a tailings pond during their yearly migration. Once landing on the water, they were soon entrapped by the slick oil on the surface and drowned in the toxic cocktail.

Should one of the dams fail and release its content of poisonous water, the results will be disastrous. Downstream residents in Fort Chipewyan can no longer safely eat fish from the river because they make them sick. The people themselves have high rates of birth defects and cancers, some in rare forms.

Compounding the health hazard are the massive amounts of nitrogen oxides, sulpher dioxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter are being released into the air through the processing process. The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to Climate Change.

It is estimated that by 2011, annual greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands plants alone will be over 80 million tones of CO2 equivalent - a greater quantity of emissions than that produced by all of Canada's passenger cars today.

The oil sands are single-handedly preventing Canada from meeting any of its Kyoto obligations.
-Mike Hudema, an Edmonton-based climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

Under the UN climate agreement, Canada was to have reduced its emissions to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020. The federal government has said it will not even attempt to meet those targets.

The tar sands are already the cause of the second fastest rate of deforestation on the planet behind the Amazon Rainforest Basin. The the Pembina Institute says 420sq km of forest has been 'disturbed' so far. Meanwhile, 2,000sq km of forest is predicted to have been affected. There’s no certainty about reclaiming these thousands of hectares of boreal forest and wetlands ripped up to yield bitumen and, to date, little reclamation has been accomplished.

In short: exploiting the tar sands goes farther than simply using up water, electricity, coal and natural gas. The air is polluted with nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide, water is contaminated with toxic chemicals, and millions of hectares of wilderness are being destroyed.

Can’t argue with it. I mean, there’s no question that they’ve got a mess up there.
-T. Boone Pickens, legendary Texas oil tycoon
Pt. 2 on social repercussions once I get organized

Check out my sources, and feel free to use the comments box.