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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chinese Wedding Foods

If you could time-travel--burst through some wormhole into an ancient Chinese wedding, maybe--what would you see?

It depends. China is huge--you won't find continuity across regions or time. In Nanhui during the Qing brides sang loud lamentations, weeping as they left their parents' houses. In older Confucian ceremonies they rode quietly in carriages, wearing black and red to symbolize mixed sadness and joy. Traditional weddings in modern China reflect Qing dynasty traditions, but we're going to step even further back and look at food you might see at early Tang or Han dynasty weddings.

Read the rest here!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Where did Kung Pao Chicken come from?

Gong Bao Ji or Kung Pao Chicken-thrills consumers from East and West alike with its complex spicy-and-savory flavors, smooth, hearty texture, and balanced blend of earthy colors. It's an important marker of local and international identity.

Westerners associate Gong Bao firmly with China, and it remains an important symbol of the Sichuan province cooking style. Food identity doesn't happen overnight; cuisine-connoisseurs slow-cooked Gong Bao's meaning over centuries as historical attitudes and situations changed around the dish.

Gong Bao Ji's hot, complicated flavors almost mimic the conflicted time period when the dish started. During the late Qing, the imperial dynasty still controlled China, but foreign forced border-openings and the opium trade generated social unrest and hatred...

Read the rest of the article here.

Monday, August 20, 2012


If this were a youtube channel, I'd make a youtube video all about how wonderful my viewers are and so on and so forth.

I started this blog as an attempt at dark humor. My life, I figured, always encounters failure after failure, so who better than me to write about how not to do things? The darkness was too real; I let it go because I already spend enough time depressing myself. Now, I'm better equipped to do something like that--I can actually laugh about things--and maybe I will release a few how-not-tos, but I find I only like to make fun of myself, not other people, and I haven't done anything stupid lately that's funny. So where are we?

10,000 times, people have gotten information from this website. Some are repeat-people, coming back for more, but most people come, get something, and go. It's wide, not deep, and it means there's no way google adsense can find a target audience to make me substantial money. That's awesome. That's how not to run a blog. You're supposed to focus on a dedicated group who returns, over and over. But this is shot-gun-style blogging, not sniping, and we're just spraying information at everybody from all sides.

We're now a vast collection of informations on everything. I truly did major in the Universe. And I'm starting to figure out what this is about.

"How not to" is about trying things you're 'not' supposed to do. It's about finding a different place to market your work when you're just starting out and studying everything. It's about having a unique thesis--one you're not supposed to have--and looking in unique places for information. It's about studying bees, and Chinese unity gourds, and all those things you should know better than to put together. It's about trying something new, because it works for me to have somewhere to centralize my work. "How not to" is about stepping off the beaten path. THIS is how I live my life.

And it's f-in' rad.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

African Experiences in Latin America: Land, Amerindians, and Slavery

African Experiences in Latin America: Land, Amerindians, and Slavery

The Europeans didn't want Amerindian land—Africans did, and Amerindians shaped African slavery.
No statement in Latin American Historical Studies contains more shock value—or hidden truths—than this, so with this begins the discussion. To slice through the confusing and often contradictory muddle of Spanish cultural prejudice requires a cutting statement, for the question--what created the hybrid cultures of modern Latin America--bears a thick skin. The secret to understanding begins with land. Cultural hybridization depended largely on European intentions towards land because those intentions affected the way Europeans saw Amerindian peoples. That vision affected European treatment of Africans, resulting in the brutal and unique slavery system that remains the most important non-human factor responsible for the success of African culture in Latin America. Amerindians also directly affected African cultural survival through interactions both during slavery and conquest.
Spanish nonchalance towards land affected treatment of Amerindians, ultimately altering the treatment of Africans. The Spanish explorers wanted wealth that they depended on the Spanish crown to legitimize, and the Spanish crown wanted to expand its empire: this required the addition of new citizens, not an influx of land. The encomienda system and the later repartimiento system both focused on the exploitation of the people, not the land, which the Spaniards depended on the Amerindian people to operate. In the encomiendo, each encomendero received a grant for certain kinship groups of people or ayllus;1 in the repartimiento the colonist received a set number of healthy males or “tributaries”, and their immediate families.2 Because the Spaniards wanted people to rule, not a place to use, they depended heavily on native institutions. The mita labor system in Peru, for example, came originally from the conquered Incan empire.3 Similarly, when in contact with settled agricultural peoples, the Portuguese “created a fiscal system based on villages of 'surrendered' or conquered Native Americans.”4 Thus, while Amerindians received awful treatment as second-class citizens, they were not legally slaves. From the very beginnings of the conquest, when Cortez's men gazed down at Tenochtitlan, they lauded its technological developments as evidence that these people could belong in the Spanish empire.5 Unlike the European settler families of North America, the single (or effectively single) male conquistadors did not need to displace all the Amerindians for land.
This view of Amerindian peoples as people, so necessary to the expansion of the Crown's power, added fuel to the continual struggles between the Crown, the Church, and settlers. Each of the three groups of elites, as they tried to expand their power, would accuse the other two of mistreating the Amerindian peoples.6 The Church, compelled by the desire to establish the new perfect church in the New World, had priests such as Bartolomeo de las Casas7 and Lorenzo de Bienvenida8 who claimed that innocent Amerindians suffered at settlers' hands. The State and settlers struggled against the church in the Yucatan to limit the power of Inquisitorial priests.9 Finally, the State restricted how the settlers could exploit the Amerindians under their jurisdiction, requiring separate settlements and fair wages of some kind.10 Without Amerindians, the church could not find new converts, the State had no one to rule and the settlers had no source of income,11 so all three groups found humane treatment of Amerindians to their advantage. These continual struggles gave the Amerindians the opportunity to pit the three sides against each other, and Spanish dependence on native peoples and their institutions allowed Amerindians to hold on to their culture.
Thus the Spanish desire to rule people, not land, made Amerindian slavery difficult and finally illegal, opening the door to African slavery. Africans had higher resistance to European diseases because of early livestock domestication on the African continent, they usually had useful “modern” skill sets for agriculture and iron trade, their unfamiliarity with the landscape kept them near or at least moderately dependent on settlements, and, unlike the Amerindians, they had not had rigorous Christianization and the church would not defend them.12 Most importantly, they came from outside Latin America: they did not need to have rights like the original inhabitants of the land did in order to maintain the illusion of an empire. African slavery took a particularly strong foothold in New World areas populated by migratory tribes such as the chichimec. These tribes not have highly controlling social institutions and political institutions such as those of the Incas or Aztecs upon which the conquistadors so rigorously depended, and in many places, the nomadic militant lifestyles of these people groups made them accustomed to fighting and living in impassable areas, rendering them difficult to subdue.13 Hence, in these areas African slavery posed an especially enticing alternative from the point of view of colonialists, and the nations in South America with the highest black proportions of the population today include Brazil and Haiti, whose native populations either did not exist or simply disappeared into the interior. The vacuum for mass labor created by Amerindian rights thus birthed the unique African plantation slavery.
The unique style of plantation slavery in South America in name actively opposed the survival of African culture, but inadvertently forced its survival through two land-related phenomena: the long life of the slave trade, the Catholic tradition of a Sunday. These remain unintentional factors, of course, for certainly no one in Brazil or Haiti wanted an influx of African culture: Latin American masters made a deliberate effort to split up different linguistic and ethnic groups in order to prevent rebellions.14 Yet because European ignorance of African languages and cultures diminished their ability to differentiate between them, cultural dilution did not really succeed: one African leader found and bought back his entire tribe.15 Additionally, no matter how one mixed the tribes, most of the people in one ship would at least come from the same trade network or geographical area, and Thornton argues that within that network ethnic diversity did not play such a dividing role as one might imagine.16 Despite their failure, slavery's intentional agents certainly tried to eliminate or at least limit African culture, if not through relocation and dilution, then through overwork.
Overwork and other elements of brutality resulted from the late abolition of the slave trade in South America, specifically in Brazil. First of all, the longevity of the slave trade in Brazil made brutality more economically feasible; in Brazil plantation owners made the calculations that working slaves to death and shipping in more would cost less than trying to care for and breed them. The life expectancy on sugar plantations remained at 23 years, with 88% mortality on some coffee plantations.17 In North America, on the other hand, once the slave trade became abolished, plantation owners had to ensure slave health remained at least sufficient for breeding. Brutality drives people to extremes; when escape provides more hazards than slavery, slaves tend to remain slaves, but when, as in Brazil, the dangers of escape no longer outweigh the dangers of slavery, flight becomes more feasible. The extra brutality of the slave trade encouraged more aggressive resistance, making slaves more prone to cling to their own culture or even to found new societies based on their own norms.
Furthermore, because the slave trade lasted such a long time Brazillians could predominantly import male slaves.18 Thus the inherent uselessness plantation owners associated with older slaves, children and even women allowed for inflated rates of manumission19 as compared to the North American experience in which masters needed women, the elderly, and especially children to continue the slave line and maintain slave dependency. Additionally, these single male slaves had few ties to the plantation and could more easily flee from slavery or bargain for more land without too much to lose, whereas in North America, family ties would keep slaves dependent on their masters for several generations, diluting their cultural heritage with slave life.
The longevity of the slave trade also accidentally encouraged runaways because of the frequency with which new Africans arrived. Throughout the New World, African-born slaves tended to run away more frequently,20 so in Latin America, where most slaves came from import, instances of runaways remained common enough to promote the establishment of actual runaway communities, something unheard of in the US.21 The threat of running away to a slave or even Amerindian community thus became so significant that slaves even began to have the power to negotiate their treatment.22 This power, also unheard of in North America, contributed to the sense of self-sufficiency that gave Africans a firm grip on their cultural pride.
This essential self-sufficiency also arose in Latin America, especially in Brazil, because the economic calculations made possible by the continuation of the slave trade convinced masters not to provide basic necessities for their laborers. Instead of providing them with food or clothing, masters found it cheaper to provide slaves with a plot of land. This plot of land, and its expansion, often stood at the top of the slaves' lists of demands from their masters,23 and its cultivation allowed slaves to maintain a sense of self-sufficiency. Interestingly, one notes that in modern Venezuela, where during the colonial period owners provided for their slaves' every need, African culture does not play as large a role as it does now in Brazil, where colonial slaves only received that all-important plot of land. As Thornton points out, providing for most or all of the slaves' necessities leaves them “deprived of all sense of self-sufficiency and community feeling.”24 On their land, Africans grew African crops such as rice, and their experience with agriculture caused them to so excel that some local economies actually depended heavily on the surplus sold by African slaves for survival.25 That land helped maintain African culture in three ways, then: it maintained that sense of self-sufficiency that strengthens cultural pride, it gave them a space to practice their African heritage, and it made the local freed people dependent on them, forcing them to at least practically accept the value in an African lifestyle. The same land that in the minds of the original conquistadors had little value compared to the riches produced by Amerindian peoples had infinite value to the Africans, and it became theirs because of the longevity of the slave trade.
Catholic intervention, or the lack thereof, similarly provided Africans with a space to celebrate their culture. While masters rarely brought priests onto the plantation and made little effort to give religious instruction to their slaves, they did not try to halt or limit religious expansion as they did in North America.26 Whereas in North America church organization came under suspicion because of the solidarity it provided, and ultimately reading the Bible became illegal for a slave,27 in Latin America lay brotherhoods dedicated to particular saints merged with new nations that had elections of kings and queens in public.28 Priests would even help to organize these brotherhoods of Africans to ease their transition to Christianity, and the Africans would then worship in their own native languages.29 Language, so crucial to the maintenance of African culture, was not the only cultural artifact to find refuge in the Catholic church. These organizations also presented slaves with the opportunity to practice their material culture in aesthetic expressions such as pottery or decorative textile and to worship with African dances and music.30 In this way the power of the church--and the ingenuity of the African slaves who used it--sheltered African culture.
Catholicism also furthered African culture through the practice of the Sabbath. The church had enough control over Latin American society to prevent anyone from working their slaves on Sunday, and of course the many slaves owned by the church could not work either.31 This Sunday off gave slaves the opportunity to work on their all-important land, and while eking out an existence posed nearly insurmountable difficulty, some Africans even earned enough from their fields to buy their own freedom. The Sunday off also set a precedent for Africans to request additional days off, such as Friday and Saturday.32
While the ultimate responsibility for the longevity of African culture goes to the perseverence of the Africans themselves, these two fundamental attributes of plantation slavery—the longevity of the slave trade and the Catholic intervention—played a heavy role in seeping African culture into Latin America today. However, Amerindians did not only affect Africans by creating the slave-labor-vacuum into which Africans fell. Their struggles to maintain their own cultural heritage sometimes competed with African subsistence, as sometimes Amerindians would enslave Africans or use them as bargaining chips to gain freedoms from conquistadors. On the other hand, sometimes Amerindians directly helped Africans establish their own communities. As mentioned before, Africans could flee to Amerindian communities,33 creating a unique opportunity for cultural blending that surely contributed to the mindset with which modern Latin Americans view their mixed heritage. Thornton describes Amerindian relations with Africans thusly:
Runaways seeking aid in the native societies did not always find a good reception. Native American attitudes towards helping runaway slaves depended on many factors, including the structures of the Native American societies themselves, their relations with the Europeans, and the goals of their leaders. Sometimes these converged to help runaways; sometimes they contributed to the destruction of runaway communities or to runaways being returned to their masters.34
European attitudes towards Amerindians, then, were not alone in shaping how African culture would survive in the New World: Amerindian attitudes towards Africans also played a significant role.
Those Amerindian attitudes had some root in the African role in the conquest. A 1539 play pitted African actors, led by a black king and queen, against Amerindian actors representing primitive wildmen. As Matthew Restall explains, certainly this would have reminded Amerindians of African roles in the conquest, and would have fired up African pride at the often over-looked military prowess of real-life dark-skinned conquistadors. Significantly, the play also would have hearkened back to the rebel black king executed in Mexico city only a few years earlier.35 Because many Amerindian groups supported the European conquest against other groups, some Amerindians at least would have seen black rebels as disrupting a desirable status quo. Amerindians viewed Africans sometimes as allies against Europeans and sometimes as conquistadors, but always as foreigners. Amerindians who lived as second-class citizens after the Toledo reforms would most likely have resented zealous black conquistadors such as Juan Valiente just like they resented any other conquistador; his rise to encomendero36 despite enslavement by Europeans would not likely have elicited much sympathy from them. The rare black encomendero would not have been the only bad memory Amerindians had of black conquest: early European expeditions only included dozens of Africans, but later conquests featured entire armies of American-born African soldiers, trained by Europeans to put down Amerindian revolts and to conquer new territories.37 The Amerindians opposing Europeans would never have forgotten the hundreds of Africans bearing down on them alongside sometimes merely dozens of whites. Small wonder, then, that Amerindians did not always view Africans as allies against European infarction.
The African role in the conquest shaped opportunities for later African slaves by helping to create a mixed society in which runaways could hide and creoles could bargain. Because the conquistador mercenary armies made up of unmarried or effectively single men often resulted in sexual alliances, forced or un-forced with Amerindians and slaves, the average Latin American did not look European, but rather mixed African or mixed Amerindian. By contrast, North America became largely settled, with the exception of colonies like Virginia, by migrating families or groups that had little interest in forming such liaisons, resulting in a very different demarcation of race later on in the history of slavery. A person classified as black in North America could in that day easily find herself labelled white in Brazil.38 This does not mean that Brazil had a more benign system of slavery than the US, or less racism; merely that racism became differently defined, because of the conquest, so that an escaped slave or manumitted African could more easily blend into society39 and maintain their cultural practices.
Europeans did not want Amerindian land, but Africans did. The shocking statement still stands, then, not to claim that Africans sailed over to take Amerindian lands, but to explain how Europeans' desire to control Amerindian peoples, not land, caused a slave-labor vacuum that brought African slavery, marked by late abolition of the slave trade and heavy church involvement, into the forefront of Latin American society. African culture survived in large part because of land, which slaves bargained dearly for, and Amerindian interactions sometimes helped and sometimes inhibited the progression of African culture in Latin America, in part influenced by the legacy of African involvement in the conquest. The tendency to focus on European-African or European-Amerindian interactions downplays the important effects Amerindians and Africans had on each other, and in order to understand modern Latin American culture all the variables must lay out on the table. The analysis of Amerindian-African interactions shows how actively both parties shaped modern Latin American culture and demonstrates that involved actors, not passive survivors of European conquest, claim responsibility for history. History, like life, requires more than survival victims; it requires protagonists.
1Stern, Steve J. “Peru's Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest.” (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 27
2Ibid., 81
3Ibid., 82
4Thornton, John. “Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800” (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 133
5Lecture, 8/25/10
6Lecture, 10/27/10
7Lecture, 9/20/10
8Clendinnen, Inga. “Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570” (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 52
9Ibid., 82-83
10Thornton. 132
11Lecture, 9/20/10
13Lecture, 11/10/10
14Thornton, 195. Lecture, 11/15/10
15Lecture, 11/17/10
16Thornton, 191
17Lecture, 11/15/10
19Lecture, 11/17/10
20Thornton, 280
21Lecture, 11/22/10
22Thornton, 283
23Lecture, 11/22/10
24Thornton, 168
25Lecture, 11/22/10
26Lecture, 11/17/10
27Thornton, 330
28Thornton, 220
29Lecture, 11/17/10
30Thornton, 224
31Lecture, 11/17/10
32Lecture, 11/22/10
33Thornton, 283
34Thornton, 287
35Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 52
36Restall, 53
37Restall, 56
38Lecture, 11/15/10
39Lecture, 11/22/10

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Suspicion About Oil Treaty in Sudan--And Continued Human Rights Violations

Can Sudanese Oil Agreement Stand Up Against Continued Human Rights Violations?
African-based humanitarians expressed skepticism today that the recent oil agreement between northern and southern countries of Sudan can survive the continued human rights and security debate in Sudan. 

"We are glad to hear of the apparent oil compromise between the North and South of Sudan. However, working on the track record of the last 57 years, it is highly unlikely that the Arab North will stick to their side of the Agreement for long," said Dr. Peter Hammond, founder of Frontline Fellowship, an African humanitarian organization in the region. 

"There have been many promises that they have consistently broken," said Hammond. 

 Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, who visited Juba August 3 to encourage the two parties to re-initiate trade, said she welcomes the new oil agreement. "We praise the courage of the Republic of South Sudan's leadership in taking this decision. As I said in Juba yesterday, the interests of their people were at stake." 

However, violence stemming from race and extremist jihad still continues as before, particularly in areas that the predominantly Arab-descended northern Sudan will not relinquish to the culturally black-African south, Hammond said. 

 Islamists of Arab descent routinely attack black African Christians in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, which, although culturally part of the South, was not included in the redrawing of the maps, said Hammond. 

"Ethnic cleansing in the Nuba Mountains has been carried out," he said. "Many tens-of-thousands of civilians in the Nuba Mountains have been displaced fleeing the bombardments and terror attacks." 

The northern Sudan Air Force has bombed ethnic Nuba churches and Bible colleges for religious motivations, said Hammond: "The Nuba continued to be targeted by deadly airstrikes and ground attacks by Muslim militia shouting Allah Akbar." 

Many black Nubians have accused UN-sponsored Egyptian peace keepers of bias towards their Arab-descended tormentors, claiming the peace keepers were complicit in targeted assassination within UN displaced camps, he said. 

The black population of the Blue Nile Province, while mostly Muslim, also suffer violence as they seek to resist northern Arab control, he said. 

Clinton encouraged the northern country of Sudan to come to an agreement on humanitarian access to disputed territories including Kordofan and the Blue Nile, she said. 

"If Sudan would now also take the steps to peace in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, and if it will respect the rights of all citizens, it can likewise give its people a brighter future," she said. 

International pressure may make a difference, said Hammond: the Sudanese government allowed the vote that led to Southern Independence Day on July 9, 2011, partly because of incentives from the US government, including removal from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and the lifting of economic sanctions. 

Domestically, the local protests that led to the new oil compromise might help end some attacks. 

"The Khartoum government is under increasing pressure from protests from their own population in the North which has compelled them into backing off from the threatened conflict against the South – for now," said Hammond. 

However, Hammond, who has experienced first-hand air-strikes, infantry attacks, and death-threats from the northern government, also doubts the new oil compromise because of a similar compromise in 2005 in which the north never paid the south for oil, he said. 

 "One can say that the military attacks are mostly to do with oil. Most of the oil is in the South, and yet the North will not relinquish these areas," he said. 

Hammond explained that the disputed oil rich Abyei region was meant to have a separate Referendum on whether to join the South, or North, but because of violent clashes, the Referendum in this region was indefinitely postponed. 

"The tensions in the border regions were aggravated from the North’s unwillingness to allow voting in the oil rich areas," he said. "Some critical areas in the CPA remained unresolved, such as the final status of the oil rich Abyei Province, which was continually afflicted by violence from the North." 

Noel Stringham, a UVA researcher studying the region, said the government of South Sudan needs this oil agreement in order to continue development in the country. 

"The government of South Sudan will be completely broke unless they make peace with Sudan and resume exporting oil or they get a lot of foreign loans by using their oil reserves as leverage," she said. 

 "The Chinese--who desperately want that oil back online--would probably eventually contribute to a new pipeline if they became convinced that the two Sudans could never resolve their differences," she said. 

"That said 'development' in South Sudan is not the same as a government that can write checks," she said. 

Stringham said if military conflict continues, South Sudan does have the ability to engage and possibly even triumph over its northern neighbor. 

"If you want proof just look at how easily they captured Heglig/Panthou (depending on who you believe has a right to the land) from Sudan in April and how quickly they pulled out after Obama and Ban Ki-Moon called up Salva Kiir and told him to retreat," she said. 

"Basically the military of Sudan is actually very overstretched right now because the new alliance between the Darfur rebels and the SPLA-N--the old allies of the Southern government who live north of the contested border area--has really bogged them down," she said. 

Hammond said he agrees: "If the North could not defeat South Sudan when they were rag-tag rebels in the bush with no outside aid, South Sudan is now in an immeasurably better position." 

 "I would say the North has no chance of defeating South Sudan as an independent neighbor," he said. 

"However, many innocent people will suffer before this conflict is brought to an end."

"Muslims for America" leader speaks on abortion

  "Muslims for America" Leader Speaks on Abortion Bill

An American Muslim leader praised Congress August 4th for striking down the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last week, while pro-life/pro-choice activists continue debating the bill's purpose.

 "I agree with the emotions of the Congressmen who started the bill, but I do not believe they should have brought it before Congress, and I do not believe that Congress should have voted on it," said Seeme Hasan, co-founder of Muslims for America.

"That's up to each woman--her choice, her religion, her faith--different people view things differently," she said.

Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a July 31st statement that the bill would have made it nearly impossible for a woman to get an abortion in D.C.

"As the nation’s leading advocate for women’s health care, Planned Parenthood Action Fund denounces H.R. 3803, a bill that would have banned abortion in the District of Columbia," she said.

According to the actual language of the bill, abortion would have remained legal in D.C., except for one exemption: "abortion shall not be performed or attempted, if the probable post-fertilization age, as determined under paragraph (1), of the unborn child is 20 weeks or greater."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that just 1.4 percent of abortions occur at 21 weeks or more, according to a November, 2006 abortion surveillance survey.

 Richards also said the bill also did not contain necessary health exemptions for the mother: "It would have prevented a woman from ending her pregnancy regardless of the threat to her health."

 However, the language of the bill said the restriction on abortion "does not apply if, in reasonable medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, but not including psychological or emotional conditions."

 The bill also unfairly targets doctors, said Richards.

"It also would have subjected doctors to harsh criminal penalties for performing abortions."

According to the bill, doctors performing abortions on pain-capable fetuses could not be imprisoned for more than two years.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the feminist Susan B. Anthony List, said in an August 2 e-mail that she and her group are extremely disappointed that Congress could not agree on banning abortion only for the pain-capable unborn.

"As you may know by now, sadly and shockingly 156 Members of Congress voted against the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act -- a bill that protects unborn children capable of feeling pain from the excruciating torment of an abortionist's instruments. These are abortions on children past 20 weeks of gestation," said Dannenfelser.

 Pain receptors first develop at 7 weeks and diffuse throughout the body by 14 weeks, according to a 2004 paper on fetal endoscopic surgery by Myers et. al published in Best Practice & Research in Clinical Anaesthesiology.

 "The first essential requirement for nociception is the presence of sensory receptors, which develop first in the perioral area at around 7 weeks gestation. From here, they develop in the rest of the face and in the palmar surfaces of the hands and soles of the feet from 11 weeks. By 20 weeks, they are present through all the skin and mucosal surfaces," according to another 2008 paper by Brusseau et al published in the International Anesthesiology Clinics.

 Those nerves link to the thalamus, the brain's pain control center, by no later than 20 weeks, according to another paper by Sheltema et al published in Fetal and Maternal Medicine Review.

Response to painful stimuli occurs from 22 weeks gestation, or 20 weeks post-fertilization, according to another 2008 paper by Gupta et al published in Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care, & Pain.

Hasan said that her religious beliefs do not necessarily coincide with her political beliefs against H.R. 3803: not only does she believe the fetus feels pain after 20 weeks, but she believes abortion is wrong after four months.

"After sixteen weeks the Q'ran says that the angel has breathed life into the fetus. So I look at it at that point, according to my religion, the fetus is a person. So I personally would have a very difficult time at that point having an abortion," she said.

"If you do an abortion after that point, you are really taking a human life," she said.

She said that an abortion after four months will weigh heavily on a woman's conscious, and Congress should make an effort to require education on fetal development for women considering abortions.

American adults favor, by a 3-to-1 margin, a policy of not permitting abortion anywhere “after the point where substantial medical evidence says that the unborn child can feel pain,” unless it is “necessary to save a mother’s life," according to a nationwide telephone poll of 1,010 adults (MOE +/-3.1%), conducted July 12-15, by The Polling Company, Inc./WomanTrend. 70% of women, 55% of men, and 63% of all adults said that after the point of pain, abortion should not be permitted, according to the poll.

Monday, April 9, 2012

NY attorney says battle over traffic-ticket strip searches not over yet

Daily Caller Article
By Jen Veldhuyzen

The Supreme Court struck down a complaint April 2 from a man subjected to invasive strip searches for an unpaid traffic fine.

But despite the setback from America’s highest judicial authority, his attorney said Wednesday that she may file a petition for a re-hearing. The battle, attorney Susan C. Lask told The Daily Caller, is not over yet.

“This is about non-criminal offenders, and protecting their rights. It’s about the grandmother with the broken tail-light not getting pulled in and searched,” she said. “Even if it’s 10 percent, or just a thousand people a year, or 200 people — these people should not be treated inhumanely like that.”

“After this ruling, get ready to strip even if you have an unpaid traffic ticket,” Libertarian Party chairman Mark Hinkle said in a statement. “We are dismayed. This ruling sanctions new and unprecedented levels of invasion of privacy.”

Read more:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Not to Stay on Topic: Fiction, News, and Feelings

Another blog post for another day! I realized today, what with my writing fiction so much and all, that I really ought to have a blog for writing fiction. Or writing about fiction. But I think it's so pretentious to pretend (wow) that I have wonderful great advice for people on that--while I do know a little more about the publishing process than the average grunt, I'm still...well, the average grunt. So I guess that's why I don't have THAT going on. Although, I suppose, pretending to know everything about writing fiction might be a great HOW NOT TO exercise. BUT I am considering doing little flash fiction bits every now and again if you like. Just for you, you know. Only considering.

I know, all of you who visit this blog visit for the news and the facts. Because yes, news and facts are pretty dang awesome. And I know it's been a while. Don't worry! You've got some African History coming your way shortly, and I may do a quick little "this week in Paraguay" for you as well. Because, yannow, news. Know your audience, and all that. But this is the how NOT to blog. I am allowed to NOT know my audience. To pretend that you're all thirteen-year-old girls who like to listen to me ramble.

In other things, there's a ring with a diamond on it--and it's on my finger. I always thought I wasn't the type. I guess I'm still not, considering that one of my first thoughts that I remember afterwards was, "dude, this is diamond. Hardest material on earth. I could like, go smash in windows and stuff!"

Speaking of how not to (I wasn't)--I know I've gotten like 8000 views over the past few months. Do any of you 500 viewers from last month have any...comments on layout improvement? I was planning on keeping the sucky layout, because, yannow, HOW NOT TO. But it's kinda hurting my eyes. Should I? Should I not?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Random Kind Comments on Youtube--You have the power (of Greyskull)

If, instead of posting critical things, all several thousand of you posted three kind comments on three youtube videos every day, we could brighten several thousand days for several thousand people.

That's pretty sweet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tips for Home Care Providers on Working with a Child with Autism

I sold a much shorter, clearer, and more blog-like blog on this topic to Tender Tree Home Care a little while back. Check to learn more about home care of all kinds. The "blog" you'll see below is completely different, much longer post, so it's probably worth it to check out Tender Tree's blog post first. Without further ado--here are a few tips for working with a child with autism derived from a combination of ABA training, Sunrise training, and experience living with an autistic child for 11 years.

Every child with an ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) is a little bit different, so many kids operate well in the normal world, and others have much more violent behavioral problems. Ability problem areas range from simply avoiding eye contact to never speaking; not every child will smear feces on the walls, and not every child will flap his hands like he's trying to fly. Here are a few tips for home care providers new for helping out in a family with an autistic or ASD spectrum child.

1. Understand where your tolerance and the child's needs should meet

Many children with autism have behavioral quirks that may not be actually dangerous to the child's health or to your ability to do your job as a home care provider. Caretakers often make the mistake of assuming that because a behavior is abnormal for them, it results from autism, and the child should change it. For example, a little boy once enjoyed playing with a pink fairy wand. A caretaker insisted that he could not have this wand and actually developed a behavioral plan to remove it from him. The boy's interest in the wand was neither obsessive nor obstructing his normal therapy or schedule, or even affecting his interaction with other children; she simply did not find a pink wand gender-appropriate. You should think carefully about prioritizing behavior-modification: which is a bigger problem, an autistic boy's habit of screaming when asked to perform any tasks, or his odd interest in picking fluff off blankets? Because many behavior changes become battles for children with ASD, you should pick your fights carefully. A child will often respond better to you as a caretaker if he feels safe and realizes that you aren't out to take away every little comfort from his life.

2. Identify real problem behaviors and their sources

Real problem behaviors have many different sources, and autistic children have very different behavioral responses to life in general than other children do. It's funny how even after Dr. Bernard Rimland disproved Freud's 'unloving mother' theory of autism we tend to look for normal reasons for abnormal behavior; even very well-meaning new caretakers will sometimes assume the child simply received too little discipline, or too much scolding, or some other issue resulted from the child's conniving heart or parental weakness.

Look for three major sources of a problem behavior: physiology, resistance, or social reward. Many autistic children have heightened senses and experience the world differently from you, so it's no use scolding an autistic child to wear his shirt when he won't because the fabric actually hurts him. On the other hand, coddling a child who resists the shirt because he wants to disobey and control you will only end up hurting the child's family life in the long run. The autistic child may be resisting the shirt because a response you give rewards him: you may put him on time-out, and that escape from unwanted interaction may be exactly what he wants.

How do you know what behavior has what cause? You have to chart triggers of the cause, and you have to see in what situations the behavior stops. This will take a long time of getting to know the child, and watching the problem situation over and over again, but part of the diagnosis lies in the solution.

3. Find replacement behaviors for physiological or other comfort behaviors; ignore resistance

To use our shirt example a little more, if you find the child responds better to a different material, the problem may have been physiological. You can ask a doctor as well to evaluate the child. Some autistic children with horrible allergies experience intense internal pain or even hallucinations; the child may bang his head on the wall, or shriek every few minutes, or even show fear of the floor, and the problem might actually come from something a doctor can help with. The child may smear feces on the wall because he's constipated, or because he's reaching an age where his diaper makes him uncomfortable. Try to look for every possible physiological trigger for the behavior, and if you find none, check to see if you're simply rewarding the negative behavior.

Replace desire-based problem behaviors with behaviors that fulfill the same needs. A child may smear feces just to feel the goop against the wall; replace that behavior with finger paints, and the child can experience the same sensation without the yuck. You can teach a child who likes to throw to participate in a game of catch with you. These kinds of solutions may sound silly, but finding ways to channel a child's problem behaviors will save you a lot of frustration.

For resistant behavior, negative reinforcement like taking away a favorite toy or other discipline--you need to talk to your family to understand how they feel about spanking and other controversials--may work. "Normal" kids often respond well to negative reinforcement, but you have to remember that ASD kids live in a completely different world, and negative reinforcement might actually hurt rather than help the situation. If you use negative reinforcement, you must apply it directly after the problem behavior occurs. Not ten minutes later, not before as you see it coming, but directly after. This is the best way to ensure that the child connects the negative reinforcement with the behavior. This may have to happen over and over tens or hundreds of times before the child makes the connection.

You almost have to think like an autistic child in order to make sure you aren't encouraging the problem behavior: the smallest things may become rewards. Some autistic children will actually throw or break things in order to see your anger response. This may sound ridiculous, but because most autistic children have trouble interpreting social patterns in the world around them, they cling to any pattern of normalcy or control. If you had no idea how to communicate with anyone, and everyone behaved completely unpredictably all the time, you might also take comfort in the one truth that throwing the plate makes Nana scream. Much of the time, an autistic child might actually completely tune out your yelling or frustration; at other times, the child may not understand that a particular negative reinforcer has anything to do with the problem behavior. She may just tremble under the loss with no idea as to why it's happening.

The hands-down most-ABA-recommended way to deal with a reaction-seeking problem behavior? Ignoring it. Because autistic kids can be more detail-observant than the rest of us, this means no eye contact, not a word, and if possible no change at all in your body language. Kids who are looking to make you angry will increase the intensity of the behavior for a while to see if they can finally get that response. Don't crack. If you ignore it to the end, the child will realize the response gets them nothing they want, and they will find something else.

I hope your first experience helping an ASD child is a positive one, and that the child feels loved and accepted as you embark on this new phase of your professional home care life!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Homecare for Family Members with Handicaps: What to Pay, and How to Find Help

When my cousin came over just before Christmas Eve, small talk brought up her new job working for a wealthy family member who became paralyzed in a diving accident. My cousin has to help him get dressed, eat, accompany him to the gym, and do everything else that you may have to do with your friend or family member with physical or neurological disabilities. We got around to talking about payment, and she explained she's taking a cut in pay because he's a relative.

It can be a hard question--what should you pay a caretaker who helps you with differently-abled family? How much more does it cost? Should it cost more? Many children with Down's syndrome have happier demeanors and easier "obedience ethic" than "normal" children do. On the other hand, spending a day with a stimming, high-energy autistic child has turned many a saintly caregiver into a rage-class sinner. Here are some considerations for paying a caregiver for a differently-abled family member.

1. Government aid

Families with mentally-affected family members sometimes receive government social security subsidies for care. Depending on your needs, the state you reside in, and other factors, once they've reached eighteen years of age the government may pay anywhere around $695 a month to supplement their care. This definitely factors in to any decisions the rest of us make about their care in the future. A caregiver in Hawaii can receive as much as $14.64 an hour from the government to help with home care for a young adult with cerebral palsy; you may want to pay a comparable or competitive rate even if you don't receive government money, just to attract good caregivers.

2. Volunteerism

Lower-income families not yet eligible for government aid and unable to pay government rates to their caregivers don't have to fear getting edged out of the home-care market by Uncle Sam; you can still attract good help for less. If you live near a college or university, you may take advantage of psychology or pre-med students looking for volunteer credit. "Miriam" posted an ad in the local student volunteer center asking for help with her child with autism. She trained volunteers to use the Sunshine program to play with and care for her son, held meetings every Sunday, and scheduled each volunteer for a few hours every week. The simple math reveals enough: twenty volunteers at two hours each every week equals forty hours of care, and even ten or fifteen volunteers can fill up a sizable chunk of your in-home needs.

If you don't live near a large student population, an e-mail out to your local church may even get you a long-term caregiver for ten or so hours each week who's just looking for room and board as payment. Don't feel overwhelmed, and don't give up your search--people can help you.

3. Training

This leads to the issue of expertise. It's often fairly easy to train caregivers for basic help, but if you want higher quality intensive therapy you will certainly have to pay more. An ABA therapist with a master's costs $100 an hour, but you can get good therapists working on their bachelor's for around $9.00. This is actually a criminally low rate--ABA therapists often receive much more training than non-therapeutic caregivers have, and non-therapeutic caregivers in Virginia can go for as much as $20 an hour. However, it can be tough to get even 30 hours a week of in-home therapy, and having therapists come in and out of your house may require more of your presence at home. You may need to mix and match in-home therapy and other in-home care. Many special needs' experienced caregivers work for $10-$15 an hour.

Whatever your cost evaluations for in-home care, make sure you remain up-front with your caregiver about your health needs and pocketbook. When you post a special needs opening on, make sure to list all the important needs and details so that you can get the right caregiver for your family. Don't be afraid to ask for free help from your church or community center, and remember that the rest of your family has needs also. Join a support group for families with differently-abled members for resources; many of us understand and sympathize with you. It's common for families with special needs to feel judged by their local community or co-workers, so finding a forum of similar families not only helps families share resources--it also allows you readier access to info about non-judgmental, experienced caregivers and friends. It's okay to ask for help if you have to stay home more while in-between caregivers or if you can't find a caregiver who meets your needs: that doesn't make you any less an educated or empowered person. Families with special needs face a lot of pressures from all different directions, and you have to feel comfortable with your own decisions to do the best for YOUR family, not some imagined ideal.

Blessings, and peace.