Archive for March, 2008

>Murat Kurnaz

March 31, 2008

>This story was on 60 Minutes last night. If someone is not convinced that our military was out of control …no wait…they are under control…of a devious and lying commander in chief who has no concern about human rights or dignity…anyway here is the story of Murat Kurnaz.

You may already know the story of Kurnaz, a German man who was detained in 2001 (shortly after 9-11) by Pakistani police and given to the US for $3000. He was detained because of racial profiling…he was lighter skinned than the Pakistanis that were travelling on the bus with him.

He was bound and shackled and flown in a U. S. military plane to Khandihar, Afghanistan, where he became prisoner number 53.

He was kept in an outdoor pen, in sub-freezing temperatures and interrogated daily. He of course denied the charges that he was a terrorist.

American troops held his head under water, and hit him in the stomach while his head was submerged in an effort to get information from him (Opinion…torture…no wait, that’s not an opinion, that is a fact.) They shocked him with electricity, and suspended hinm by his arms for 5 days, while a doctor periodically checked him to determine that he could stand to be suspended for longer periods.

When reminded during the interview that the military will deny his charges, he said “It does not matter whatever they will say. The truth will not change.”

Other prisoners describe similar treatment and some troops have admitted to those practices.

Then they transported him to Gitmo, where he was forced to go without sleep for weeks among other techniques our guys used to try to make him confess or give information.

In 2004 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled GITMO prisoners have a right to representation and an attorney surprisingly paid him a visit.

The attorney discovered the military had been making up charges to keep him classified as an enemy combatant. The attorney also found a file written within six months of Kurnaz’s arrival at GITMO that said “CITF (Criminal Investigation Task Force) has no definite link/evidence of detainee having an association with al Qaida or making any specific threat toward the U. S.”

So even though there was no evidence against him, Kurnaz was kept 3-1/2 more years with invented new charges such as a charge that he was picked up near Osama bin Laden’s hide out in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban. Strange…the U. S. is the one that took him to Afghanistan…in custody.

A judge ruled that the military tribunals in GITMO were unconstitutional, referring to Kurnaz’s case in doing so. He was finally released in 2006, and flown home bound and shackled and blindfolded and denied food and water for the entire seventeen hour flight.

He has written a book “Five Years of My Life, An Innocent Man in Guantanamo. There will be no book signing tour, however, he is still banned from the U. S. and considered by our government to be an “unlawful enemy combatant.”

How anyone can support the Bush-Cheney-McCain war is beyond me.

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Murat Kurnaz

March 31, 2008

This story was on 60 Minutes last night. If someone is not convinced that our military was out of control …no wait…they are under control…of a devious and lying commander in chief who has no concern about human rights or dignity…anyway here is the story of Murat Kurnaz.

You may already know the story of Kurnaz, a German man who was detained in 2001 (shortly after 9-11) by Pakistani police and given to the US for $3000. He was detained because of racial profiling…he was lighter skinned than the Pakistanis that were travelling on the bus with him.

He was bound and shackled and flown in a U. S. military plane to Khandihar, Afghanistan, where he became prisoner number 53.

He was kept in an outdoor pen, in sub-freezing temperatures and interrogated daily. He of course denied the charges that he was a terrorist.

American troops held his head under water, and hit him in the stomach while his head was submerged in an effort to get information from him (Opinion…torture…no wait, that’s not an opinion, that is a fact.) They shocked him with electricity, and suspended hinm by his arms for 5 days, while a doctor periodically checked him to determine that he could stand to be suspended for longer periods.

When reminded during the interview that the military will deny his charges, he said “It does not matter whatever they will say. The truth will not change.”

Other prisoners describe similar treatment and some troops have admitted to those practices.

Then they transported him to Gitmo, where he was forced to go without sleep for weeks among other techniques our guys used to try to make him confess or give information.

In 2004 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled GITMO prisoners have a right to representation and an attorney surprisingly paid him a visit.

The attorney discovered the military had been making up charges to keep him classified as an enemy combatant. The attorney also found a file written within six months of Kurnaz’s arrival at GITMO that said “CITF (Criminal Investigation Task Force) has no definite link/evidence of detainee having an association with al Qaida or making any specific threat toward the U. S.”

So even though there was no evidence against him, Kurnaz was kept 3-1/2 more years with invented new charges such as a charge that he was picked up near Osama bin Laden’s hide out in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban. Strange…the U. S. is the one that took him to Afghanistan…in custody.

A judge ruled that the military tribunals in GITMO were unconstitutional, referring to Kurnaz’s case in doing so. He was finally released in 2006, and flown home bound and shackled and blindfolded and denied food and water for the entire seventeen hour flight.

He has written a book “Five Years of My Life, An Innocent Man in Guantanamo. There will be no book signing tour, however, he is still banned from the U. S. and considered by our government to be an “unlawful enemy combatant.”

How anyone can support the Bush-Cheney-McCain war is beyond me.

>Eric Breidenbaugh

March 28, 2008

>This should never have happened. What follows is from an email I received from the Human Rights Campaign.

Eric Breidenbaugh knew something was wrong.
His partner and his partner’s parents were all missing – hours overdue from a family flight aboard a small private plane.

Eric called his local airport, near Pinellas Park, Florida, to see if they had any information. They did, but they wouldn’t give it to him. They said he was “not an actual family member,” so they couldn’t tell him whether his partner was alive or dead.

He searched the TV news, where he soon saw footage of the plane he himself had ridden in many times. That was how he found out that his life partner of six years, Joseph Bellamy, had been killed with his parents in a plane crash.

It’s simply wrong that GLBT Americans should be treated like second-class citizens, denied the right to care for their loved ones.

At this site you can see and hear Eric talking about his experience, losing his love and not even being able to talk to medical personel or airport officials about this experience. And what should be done.

Here is the site for HRC. They are fighting, especially in Florida right now, against this type of discrimination. We already have discrimination written into our constitution in Alabama, let’s not let it happen in Florida.

OK, after that maybe we need something just for fun. Go to The Georgia Aquarium and you will be watching the web cam from one of their aquariums. Double click on the picture, and it will enlarge to your entire screen. Sit watch and don’t get any work done. (Click again to get out).

Soon they will be releasing a loggerhead turtle with a camera attached, and we will be able to see what the loggerhead sees. Cool, huh?

Eric Breidenbaugh

March 28, 2008

This should never have happened. What follows is from an email I received from the Human Rights Campaign.

Eric Breidenbaugh knew something was wrong.
His partner and his partner’s parents were all missing – hours overdue from a family flight aboard a small private plane.

Eric called his local airport, near Pinellas Park, Florida, to see if they had any information. They did, but they wouldn’t give it to him. They said he was “not an actual family member,” so they couldn’t tell him whether his partner was alive or dead.

He searched the TV news, where he soon saw footage of the plane he himself had ridden in many times. That was how he found out that his life partner of six years, Joseph Bellamy, had been killed with his parents in a plane crash.

It’s simply wrong that GLBT Americans should be treated like second-class citizens, denied the right to care for their loved ones.

At this site you can see and hear Eric talking about his experience, losing his love and not even being able to talk to medical personel or airport officials about this experience. And what should be done.

Here is the site for HRC. They are fighting, especially in Florida right now, against this type of discrimination. We already have discrimination written into our constitution in Alabama, let’s not let it happen in Florida.

OK, after that maybe we need something just for fun. Go to The Georgia Aquarium and you will be watching the web cam from one of their aquariums. Double click on the picture, and it will enlarge to your entire screen. Sit watch and don’t get any work done. (Click again to get out).

Soon they will be releasing a loggerhead turtle with a camera attached, and we will be able to see what the loggerhead sees. Cool, huh?

>Thomas Beatie

March 27, 2008

>I have considered writing about this subject for days, ever since I first read a story in The Advocate about Thomas Beatie, who is transgender. I have a not too distant relative who like Thomas is female to male trangender and I thought about him when I read the article.

Today the Birmingham News had an article about Thomas, but since they could not tell the whole story, here, in The Advocate is a link to it. By commenting on this, I don’t feel I am exploiting his situation, since he writes about himself in the first person in the article.

Thomas is legally a male in Oregon and is married, with full rights and benefits to his wife, Nancy. Thomas is now carrying their child. You can see a picture of the pregnant man at the link above. Thomas was born with female reproductive organs, and at the time of sex reassignment did not have those parts removed, although he did have chest reconstruction.

He and Nancy wanted to have a child, but Nancy, due to a medical condition years ago, had a hysterectomy and could not bear children. Thomas stopped his hormone treatments and more than a year later he is pregnant with their daughter.

Thomas says they saw nine different doctors before finding one who would work with them. His own brother questioned “what kind of monster” he might produce.

They realize their situation “sparks legal, political and social unknowns.” Still, they also know that their daughter will be born around July 3, 2008, and so far the pregnancy is free of complications.

Thomas and other transgendered individuals deserve the same respect and rights that the rest of us deserve. He has put himself out there for the world to see to make a point, and he does it well.

Only by sharing stories such as this will people begin to understand and accept people of sexual minorities. The most recent issue of Out magazine was devoted to Trans issues. I commend the media (at least this part of it) for presenting this information, even when the LGBT rights organizations are sometimes struggling with it. For Thomas, for my “cuz”, for the rest of you, I am with you.

Thomas Beatie

March 27, 2008

I have considered writing about this subject for days, ever since I first read a story in The Advocate about Thomas Beatie, who is transgender. I have a not too distant relative who like Thomas is female to male trangender and I thought about him when I read the article.

Today the Birmingham News had an article about Thomas, but since they could not tell the whole story, here, in The Advocate is a link to it. By commenting on this, I don’t feel I am exploiting his situation, since he writes about himself in the first person in the article.

Thomas is legally a male in Oregon and is married, with full rights and benefits to his wife, Nancy. Thomas is now carrying their child. You can see a picture of the pregnant man at the link above. Thomas was born with female reproductive organs, and at the time of sex reassignment did not have those parts removed, although he did have chest reconstruction.

He and Nancy wanted to have a child, but Nancy, due to a medical condition years ago, had a hysterectomy and could not bear children. Thomas stopped his hormone treatments and more than a year later he is pregnant with their daughter.

Thomas says they saw nine different doctors before finding one who would work with them. His own brother questioned “what kind of monster” he might produce.

They realize their situation “sparks legal, political and social unknowns.” Still, they also know that their daughter will be born around July 3, 2008, and so far the pregnancy is free of complications.

Thomas and other transgendered individuals deserve the same respect and rights that the rest of us deserve. He has put himself out there for the world to see to make a point, and he does it well.

Only by sharing stories such as this will people begin to understand and accept people of sexual minorities. The most recent issue of Out magazine was devoted to Trans issues. I commend the media (at least this part of it) for presenting this information, even when the LGBT rights organizations are sometimes struggling with it. For Thomas, for my “cuz”, for the rest of you, I am with you.

>A Plan for Bessemer

March 26, 2008

>Last night the Auburn University Urban Studio architecture grad students’ plan for downtown Bessemer was unveiled.

Nice.

I have high hopes that some of the ideas put forth will become reality, more so than with previous attempts to revive our city center. Part of the reason for this is because five of our seven city council members attended last night and each received a copy of the plan. Past attempts at reviving our city have not garnered this kind of attention from elected officials.

Another reason is the strong showing last night by members of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association. While rebuilding downtown for the most part is not about preserving old homes, we (BHHA members) see the value in downtown development and how our historic neighbohoods connect to this area. (Especially now that we have seen the plan). BHHA has a diverse membership from throughout the city (and beyond) that will talk this plan up among friends, business leaders and neighbors to increase support.

This plan is not going to be put on a shelf and forgotten. The Bessemer Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the Bessemer Development Board are going to continue presenting the plan to civic groups, associations, schools and any other group that is interested.

Urban Studio has done these projects in over 40 communities around the state. In the past, their presentation has been in the form of an informative map that shows potential improvements and such. But for Bessemer, for the first time, they decided to use both sides of the poster, one for the traditional plan for the future, and on the back side is proposed neighborhood development for several areas and some proposals about Greenways and Trail connections.

We have been trying to get the city interested in connecting to Red Mountain Park for years with little response. This plan shows how it could be done. The land to the west of Red Mountain Park, extending into Bessemer is largely under one ownership, and if this land could be acquired to (or beyond) highway 150, the old rail bed leading to the city along 150 could be made into a connecting trail. This railway passes over the Avenues that enter the historic southside and leads to the (also historic) elevated trestle near Carolina Avenue, which could be part of an extended walkway leading to the proposed RailRoad Park between Carolina and First Avenues. In my opinion this would be the crown jewel of the expanded park system proposed. And it would link Bessemer not only to Birmingham but also to Mountain Brook’s Jemison Trail, the Vulcan Trail and Homewood’s Shades Creek Greenway that we see when we drive on Lakeshore Drive.

There are people who would love to run such a trail, or ride a bike from Bessemer to Vulcan. Me, me!!!

Other trail connections include extending the Valley Creek Trail from its proposed end in Brighton into Bessemer, along the creek to Powder Plant road and the Alabama Adventure and new high school area. There are other rails to trails type proposals in the plan as well.

My column in The Western Tribune today is about this plan also. Here it is for those of you who do not read the paper (shame on you…just kidding).

On Tuesday the Master Plan for Downtown Bessemer as envisioned by the Auburn University Urban Studio graduate students was unveiled. The public was invited to the reception, and I hope it was well attended.

While our Administration and City Council can not seem to find the wherewithal to work as a team to improve our city, at least those outside of Bessemer can see that its potential lies not only in areas known to the council and local developers by their exit numbers but also in its historic downtown.

As in science where one must work with the evidence that one has in spite of the realization that future findings may lead one down a different path, in historic preservation we do the same. An entire block of historic buildings was destroyed to make way for what looks to be a very ugly courthouse being built. Don’t get me wrong, the courthouse is needed but I have not seen anything that leads me to believe the new building will add to the collection of architectural gems that we have in our city. We need to take advantage of what we still have, before other historic buildings come down.

The Auburn graduate students who designed this plan understand the value of preserving our history, so they have taken that into account as they worked to create this plan. No one will agree with everything they proposed, we already know that from comments made at the meetings where preliminary ideas were discussed. But we can all agree that without a plan, the city center will continue to decline, more buildings will crumble, and customers will leave.

These are not ideas put forth by city leaders; in fact few of them attended the earlier sessions to give input. This is a plan for citizens to embrace and then we must persuade our elected officials to work toward the portions that we as individuals or civic groups choose. Several years ago a plan for our city was developed with community input and that plan has been completely ignored. Let’s not ignore this one.

The Urban Studio Master Plan raises my level of excitement about Downtown Bessemer. Having seen how their plans have helped other cities to take advantage of their forgotten resources gives me hope that Bessemer can do the same.

If you have not seen the plans go by the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce or attend a Bessemer Neighborhood Association meeting to view them. Then get involved.

Other places to see the plan or get a copy include the Bessemer Development Board or give me a call or email. We will get a copy to you.

A Plan for Bessemer

March 26, 2008

Last night the Auburn University Urban Studio architecture grad students’ plan for downtown Bessemer was unveiled.

Nice.

I have high hopes that some of the ideas put forth will become reality, more so than with previous attempts to revive our city center. Part of the reason for this is because five of our seven city council members attended last night and each received a copy of the plan. Past attempts at reviving our city have not garnered this kind of attention from elected officials.

Another reason is the strong showing last night by members of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association. While rebuilding downtown for the most part is not about preserving old homes, we (BHHA members) see the value in downtown development and how our historic neighbohoods connect to this area. (Especially now that we have seen the plan). BHHA has a diverse membership from throughout the city (and beyond) that will talk this plan up among friends, business leaders and neighbors to increase support.

This plan is not going to be put on a shelf and forgotten. The Bessemer Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the Bessemer Development Board are going to continue presenting the plan to civic groups, associations, schools and any other group that is interested.

Urban Studio has done these projects in over 40 communities around the state. In the past, their presentation has been in the form of an informative map that shows potential improvements and such. But for Bessemer, for the first time, they decided to use both sides of the poster, one for the traditional plan for the future, and on the back side is proposed neighborhood development for several areas and some proposals about Greenways and Trail connections.

We have been trying to get the city interested in connecting to Red Mountain Park for years with little response. This plan shows how it could be done. The land to the west of Red Mountain Park, extending into Bessemer is largely under one ownership, and if this land could be acquired to (or beyond) highway 150, the old rail bed leading to the city along 150 could be made into a connecting trail. This railway passes over the Avenues that enter the historic southside and leads to the (also historic) elevated trestle near Carolina Avenue, which could be part of an extended walkway leading to the proposed RailRoad Park between Carolina and First Avenues. In my opinion this would be the crown jewel of the expanded park system proposed. And it would link Bessemer not only to Birmingham but also to Mountain Brook’s Jemison Trail, the Vulcan Trail and Homewood’s Shades Creek Greenway that we see when we drive on Lakeshore Drive.

There are people who would love to run such a trail, or ride a bike from Bessemer to Vulcan. Me, me!!!

Other trail connections include extending the Valley Creek Trail from its proposed end in Brighton into Bessemer, along the creek to Powder Plant road and the Alabama Adventure and new high school area. There are other rails to trails type proposals in the plan as well.

My column in The Western Tribune today is about this plan also. Here it is for those of you who do not read the paper (shame on you…just kidding).

On Tuesday the Master Plan for Downtown Bessemer as envisioned by the Auburn University Urban Studio graduate students was unveiled. The public was invited to the reception, and I hope it was well attended.

While our Administration and City Council can not seem to find the wherewithal to work as a team to improve our city, at least those outside of Bessemer can see that its potential lies not only in areas known to the council and local developers by their exit numbers but also in its historic downtown.

As in science where one must work with the evidence that one has in spite of the realization that future findings may lead one down a different path, in historic preservation we do the same. An entire block of historic buildings was destroyed to make way for what looks to be a very ugly courthouse being built. Don’t get me wrong, the courthouse is needed but I have not seen anything that leads me to believe the new building will add to the collection of architectural gems that we have in our city. We need to take advantage of what we still have, before other historic buildings come down.

The Auburn graduate students who designed this plan understand the value of preserving our history, so they have taken that into account as they worked to create this plan. No one will agree with everything they proposed, we already know that from comments made at the meetings where preliminary ideas were discussed. But we can all agree that without a plan, the city center will continue to decline, more buildings will crumble, and customers will leave.

These are not ideas put forth by city leaders; in fact few of them attended the earlier sessions to give input. This is a plan for citizens to embrace and then we must persuade our elected officials to work toward the portions that we as individuals or civic groups choose. Several years ago a plan for our city was developed with community input and that plan has been completely ignored. Let’s not ignore this one.

The Urban Studio Master Plan raises my level of excitement about Downtown Bessemer. Having seen how their plans have helped other cities to take advantage of their forgotten resources gives me hope that Bessemer can do the same.

If you have not seen the plans go by the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce or attend a Bessemer Neighborhood Association meeting to view them. Then get involved.

Other places to see the plan or get a copy include the Bessemer Development Board or give me a call or email. We will get a copy to you.

>The McCain Girls

March 25, 2008

>Just whose vote is McCain after with this video. “It’s Raining Men” is a gay anthem, after all, but these women crucify it.

Just for comparison, here is the original video by the Weather Girls.

You choose.

The McCain Girls

March 25, 2008

Just whose vote is McCain after with this video. “It’s Raining Men” is a gay anthem, after all, but these women crucify it.

Just for comparison, here is the original video by the Weather Girls.

You choose.