Monday, September 1, 2014

Spirit of Boise: Hot air balloons festival

Spirit of Boise: Hot air balloons festival

Spirit of Boise: Hot air balloons festival

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 11:56 AM PDT

The sky above the city of Boise was decorated on Sunday as the hot air balloon festival came to a close at the Ann Morrison Park where hundreds of adults and children gathered since very early in the morning to witness the fun event that ran from August 27 through the 31. The event was founded in 1991 by Scott Spencer and Steve Schmader and is put together every year by volunteers.

Families got to experience the thrill by riding a stationed balloon that would go up in the air more than 60 feet being held in place with cords by 4 volunteers. "I want to live here" yelled one of the kids when the balloon was up in the air with a smile that equates to the ones you get when you sink your teeth on a slice of a sweet and juicy water melon in the summer.

All the balloons took off almost simultaneously filling up the sky on a crisp sunny morning shortly after 7 am. Families brought their blankets and arrived as early as 6 in the morning. Kids of all ages were snapping pictures with their smart phones and tablets as the flames in the balloons roared. The weather turned out to be sunny and cool warming up as the day passed. The beautiful blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the colorful festival.

"What a great event this has been" said Mark Nichols from Layton, Utah as he landed the Wind Rider; the balloon from his company that he manned. Jack Long from Boise spoke of "how much fun the event is every year for the city" as he helped Mark secured and fold the balloon after landing.

The Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic is proudly produced as a partnership by Lighter Than Air America and Townsquare Media Boise.

Age did not matter when it came to having fun for it was clear on the smiles of all the riders as well as the spectators as they seemed to be singing "Fly me to the moon…"

Read More: About the Event | Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic - August 27-31, 2014 |

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Labor Day Lights up Coney Island!

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 08:56 AM PDT

Last night as I was turning the corner from the Coney Island USA museum to get to the parking lot I noticed a different arrangement of lights on the Parachute Jump, and my friend said, "Look, it says, Labor Day!" We thought that was pretty neat.
Are you doing anything special for Labor Day this year? I'm very tired. It is hot today and I stayed out too late last night, which is unusual for me. But whatever it is, I hope you have a good day.
Thank you.
September 1, 2014,
Photo by Linda Glovach

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The Second Worst Day of my Life

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:05 AM PDT

The worst day of my life was November 13th, 2008, when my husband died.

I live on a kibbutz beside the Israel-Gaza border. For the past seven weeks my small farming community has been targeted almost daily by Hamas in Gaza with over a hundred deadly rockets and mortars.

The morning of the second worst day of my life, August 26th, began with a barrage of incoming rocket and mortar fire that hit around 9:00 a.m. I had been spending the morning in bed in my reinforced concrete saferoom, where I had been sleeping since the rockets started coming at a more frequent pace at the end of June. I had a heating pad on my pulled calf muscle - injured while running for cover the evening before during another mortar barrage that spreads deadly shrapel that hits anybody standing nearby.

So when the latest barrage hit, all I had to do was close the iron door to the safe room. This is a huge factor, because we only get a maximum of 10 seconds, usually much less, to reach cover before the explosions start.

I couldn't believe how many explosions I heard. I was on the phone to my friend, and I kept saying: "There's another, and another, and another……" I believe about seven in all - one of them sounded REALLY close.

After waiting a few minutes following what I believed was hopefully the last rocket in the barrage, I ventured out of my saferoom and looked out the windows of the house. Everything seemed to be ok….. but then a few of the men from my kibbutz ran into my house to urgently ask if I was ok. My house had been hit by shrapnel. Among them was the man in charge of security on the kibbutz - Zeevik - my friend and neighbor.

Not only had my bedroom been hit (see previous iReport for details) with shrapnel shards that could have killed or maimed me, but the electricity to the kibbutz had been knocked out. Phone connections were spotty as well for both landlines and mobiles.

I had been in Nirim, my kibbutz on the border with the Gaza Strip, for the preceding 50 days without missing one night's sleep at home. But this was the straw that broke this camel's back. After a long period of frustration (and a lot of gut-wrenching concern) I managed to contact my son in his apartment on the other side of the kibbutz and we agreed to pack up. Together with the dogs we would become "refugees", "wandering Jews" for the next few days, at least, until my step-son's wedding over the weekend.

Friends came over (wearing flack jackets - it was THAT scary outside) to encourage me and keep me company as I packed for my exodus. I was leaving with a heavy heart, but as I have told friends and family throughout this difficult period - I would stay as long as I could, as long as I felt safe and could contribute to the war effort.

I ventured out of the house (wearing a borrowed flackjacket) to bring the car right in front, so we would load it up. We planned on being away at least four days - including my step-son's wedding. My son, my dogs and I piled into the car and left around 3 PM. The first step would be a friend's house to drop off my son and the dogs, have a quick shower and get to a panel discussion at a convention for one of the leading political parties. I had committed to participate and discuss Operation Protective Edge. My intention was to say what I had to say, answer questions if there were any, and then continue on our journey - the destination and length were till not crystal clear, but at least out of imminent and present danger of rocket fire.

I arrived late - just in time to hear the end of the speech being made by the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Knesset member Yitzhak Hertzog. (He did not stay for the rest of the time - but I managed to catch him as he was leaving, to update him on the status of my house, and that I had arrived inspite of that, to speak.) Other individual speakers spoke and then those of us on the panel were invited to the stage. The situation was so unreal. But this entire period has been so hallucinatory that I have simply learned to flow with it. The panel, including members of parliament, high-level army commanders, and …, as a representative of citizens of the south.

All throughout the day my mobile phone was giving me trouble - in the morning, none of our phones worked due to the communications being knocked out with the electricity. Later on, my car phone charger wasn't working and then the phone just conked out. I figured it was better that way, I would be more focussed on what people around me were saying and what I would want to say, so I just plugged it into the wall, but left it turned off.

I was invited to speak first. Then the others followed. I tried to turn on the phone - at which point, it started to come to life with consecutive What's App messages, one after the other - incomprehensible - difficult to follow:

"There was an attack on Nirim."
"People were injured."
"People were dead."
" Electricians who had come to fix the high voltage were hit."
" No…. the man in charge of security was hit."

The man in charge of security. That was my friend. That was Zeevik.

With a horrible feeling spreading from my gut, I ran off the dais and out of the hall. I began calling friends from my community. But their phones were dead - no electricity all day.

I finally managed to reach someone. And then I wished I hadn't.

The news was what I had feared - and worse. Zeevik dead. Two others critically injured, one of whom died shortly after.

I went back in the hall, went over to the microphone, said what I had to say through tears and left amidst words of encouragement, consolment and words of comfort.

The end of August 26th, 2014 found two good neighbors from my small farming community dead. A third lost both his legs.

My friends paid with their lives and limbs, just for trying to get the electricity up and running for our kibbutz after it had been knocked out by a rocket from Gaza. I am sure their aim was to at least get the lights on before night fell - because it is frightening enough to endure running for your life in daylight. Once night fell and all the batteries of emergency lights had drained through the long hours without electricity, it would be even harder and scarier for those who stayed behind.

These neighbors were not soldiers. This is a small farming town, not an army base. They were fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. They hadn't fired a shot in anger at anybody, but were targeted anyway just because we are here.

This was not a battlefield. It was my community. My home. Kibbutz Nirim, less than a mile from the border with the Gaza Strip.

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Ohio Billboard Stirs Marriage Debate

Posted: 29 Aug 2014 02:08 PM PDT

A new billboard went up along Olentangy River Road in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday that has many local citizens upset. The billboard, owned by American Outdoor Advertising, states that "Holy Matrimony is one man and one woman." This statement strikes a deep nerve in the city that overwhelmingly supports diversity, especially regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The billboard was erected as the citizens of the state are awaiting an appeals ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit regarding the state's current same-gender marriage ban. This billboard clearly targets the LGBT community with a message that tries to undermine marriage equality.

Local activist and co-founder of Get Equal Ohio Tom Morgan has started a Facebook group encouraging citizens to show their dislike of this message. The page 'REACT!!!! Anti-Marriage Equality Billboard' quickly grew to over 230 Facebook members in its first 24 hours. Morgan said a friend called him when the billboard was being installed on Thursday. Morgan raced to the billboard to get pictures. "This is not OK" Morgan said on Friday, "Columbus is a gay friendly town; we are of the attitude that this kind of discrimination is disgusting." That sediment is clear when reading the comments on the group's timeline and on the pictures posted of the billboard. Because the billboard uses the word matrimony in place of marriage Morgan called the billboard's wording "slick", but "obviously anti-LGBT."

Morgan's initial reaction was to make the Facebook page to create awareness of the billboard and to collect pictures of people's disapproval of it, similar to the pictures taken of same-gender couples embracing or kissing in front of Chick-fil-a when that controversy broke in 2012. That would have been a quiet protest, but Morgan wanted something a little louder. Currently, the group is planning a protest and photo shoot at the billboard location this weekend. When asked why he wanted to do something about the billboard, Morgan said "It says what you do is incorrect, and we're sick of hearing that." He said this type of message directly impacts how LGBT people, especially youth, see themselves and that could lead to low self esteem and suicide.

Chris Neary, founder of American Outdoor Advertising, had a lot less to say about the message. In a telephone interview on Friday, Neary refused questions and said he would only speak to me if I had a question about advertising. He would not confirm if the message was sponsored by his company or if the message was a paid rental. Neary, the owner of at least two other now defunct advertising companies, seemed to only have one thing to say in defense of this billboard. He repeatedly stated that he is "in the business of renting billboards", then abruptly hung up.

I reached out to a few of Ohio's leading pro-LGBT organizations. Unfortunately,  Equality Ohio did not return phone calls left at their main office in Columbus. The co-founder of Freedom to Marry Ohio, Ian James, did respond and said he is hoping to raise money to purchase a few pro-LGBT billboards around Columbus that would spread a message of support for "civil marriage equality while also being supportive of religious freedoms."

Marriage equality in Ohio has been a hotly debated topic since the same-gender marriage ban went into effect in 2004. Equality Ohio recently started a statewide campaign called Why Marriage Matters Ohio in hopes to bring marriage equality to the state before 2016. Freedom to Marry Ohio has been active since 2012 collecting signatures to get the issue back on the ballot in 2015 or 2016. According to Why Marriage Matters, the latest independent polling shows an even split in the state with 47% of people for marriage equality and 47% against. Some of Freedom to Marry's polling puts the number of supporters closer to 56% statewide. With cases from Ohio awaiting decisions in the federal appeals court and cases from other states knocking on the door to the US Supreme Court, we are sure to have an answer to this sooner than later.

Before it's all said and done, we are sure to see continued flare-ups and controversy. Even Morgan is in awe sometimes. He stated that "it boggles the mind how much blood, sweat, tears, and money is going into this" considering that the LGBT community is vastly outnumbered by its straight counterparts. The courts have been overwhelmingly siding with members of the LGBT community in regards to ruling in favor of marriage equality and the overall support of the general public keeps reaching new heights in polls across the nation. Although the hands of justice are tipping the scales towards equality, billboards such as the one in Columbus remind everyone that there are still people who refuse to accept change.

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