Thursday, September 4, 2014

The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 01:25 PM PDT

The family of the 9-year-old who accidentally shot an instructor in Arizona while learning to shoot an Uzi recently asked "all compassionate Americans to pray for their children and the entire Vacca family." I therefore offer this:


Dear God:


As a compassionate American, I was asked to pray for the family of a shooting victim as well as the children affected by the accident. I'm not sure what the hell you're supposed to do about this, God, or what it even means to pray, but first, a little background. I know you will be horrified, but the parents of a 9-year-old girl apparently thought it would be an enjoyable family activity to train their child to shoot an Uzi. As a result of their poor judgment, the young girl accidentally shot and killed her instructor.


WTF? You might be thinking. That's what I thought, too. Why bother praying for children if they are raised in a culture of guns and violence, where kids shoot assault rifles before they're out of elementary school. Is this how we protect children? Love and nurture them? Someone has dropped the ball.


What should I pray for? Should I pray that you make children physically stronger so that they can fire guns without harming people, at least the people they don't intend to harm? When children are grown, should I no longer care if they are immersed in a culture that values the—misplaced--right of men and women to bear arms above human life?


Should I pray that you will remove the girl's conscience so that she will not remember that awful day? It hardly seems fair that a child should pay for the sins of her parents.


Should I pray that Americans stay the course and defend their rights, at any cost, not only to own guns, but to own weapons that shoot 600 rounds per minute? If the sole purpose of a weapon is to inflict bodily harm or cause death, then you may wonder why a civilized society advocates for policies like open carry and the right to bring guns in restaurants, on campuses and even in your houses of worship. Apparently nothing spreads your son's message of love and peace quite like firearms.


Contrary to the prayer some folks will send up to you, this is not a political issue. This is a parenting issue. This is a morality issue, a religious issue, a humanist issue and a social issue. If we are to love our neighbors and foster harmony, especially in this time of so much international discord, shouldn't we ask that our lawmakers and citizens put aside their own special interests and do what is best for children and for our nation?


It seems to me that prayer is just a wish, an ineffectual and impotent hope that something will change without putting forth the effort. What is it that we want to change? Our sense of guilt? It hardly seems right to allow our conscience to be eased when we take the right to another's life. Prayer is not an action. It is not a solution. Shame on us, you must be thinking, for not taking responsibility for our self-inflicted wounds.


I know as a nonbeliever, my "prayer" doesn't mean much in the religious sense, but I thought I'd give it a shot in hopes that those who do believe will understand that speaking a few sentences aloud or in their heads does absolutely nothing. Not a thing. Unless Americans are willing to put the best interests of our children and our communities first, we will continue to be a nation of people just wishing to be absolved from our sins.


Deborah Mitchell is a writer and the author of Growing Up Godless: A Parent's Guide to Raising Kids without Religion.

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Dragon Con Parade

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 01:24 PM PDT

Every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, people gather downtown on Saturday to experience the spectacle of the Dragon Con Parade.

This year saw some old favorites along with some new characters.

Cosplayers from movies and TV shows like Batman, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones to video games such as Silent Hill, Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed walked the parade route this year.

Perennial favorites in Star Trek, Wizard of Oz and Star Wars were also spotted on Peachtree Street this weekend.

Anyone with an interest in the fantastic and unusual should make plans now to attend next year's parade, or even sign up to be in the parade!

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Posted: 03 Sep 2014 01:12 AM PDT

Berlin's smallest parade took place for the second time this year and attracted some 50 die-hard fans during the Colour Parade Berlin 2014. The idea behind the Colour Parade originated in Australia where it is celebrated annually in Melbourne and Sydney. According to the organizers, the Colour Parade is "an artistic statement in the shape of a parade"! Therefore, people of all ages, gender, race, rich or poor gather together for a "spontaneous celebration of life, love, art and unity! For Berlin, this parade is also a political demonstration for self-expression and freedom of assembly. The participants marched the 2 km length of the Friedrichsstrasse, starting at the famous train station and endiing at the former US Checkpoint Charlie, dancing, singing, performing and socializing as gawkers and pedestrians watched in awe, many shocked or bewildered. The police in 2 wagons and on foot escorted the paraders to ensure safety and good conduct.

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Remembering Them

Posted: 03 Sep 2014 12:22 AM PDT

I have lived on Kibbutz Nirim on the border with Gaza since 1975 when I was 21 years old. Back then it was a quiet, peaceful community. Our relations with our neighbors in Gaza were peaceful and reciprocal. Hamas did not exist. There were no suicide bombings or rockets.

After years of struggling to build the kibbutz in the 1940s and 50s, by the time I got here in the 70s the norm was to hop in a car and drive to a beach in Gaza, a coffee house in Gaza City or shop in the open-air market on a Saturday. Gazans were allowed into Israel to work and a Gazan was the custodian in the local school for years. We even had plans to collaborate with teachers from Gaza to build cooperative programs and a maternity hospital to serve women from Gaza and Israel that was going to be built at nearby Kibbutz Kissufim

We were neighbors. We were planning for peace.

Today, what I have written until now seems like a fairy tale.

Last Tuesday (Aug 26), my paradise was a bloody battlefield. We lost two good neighbors and we are still in mourning. A third is fighting for his life in the intensive care ward with both legs amputated. I have known all three since 1975.

Gadi Yarkoni: Fighting for his life

Gadi was a child when I came to the kibbutz. I watched him grow into a father of three and the managing director of the financial side of the communal cooperatives of Nirim and neighboring Kissufim. He amazingly overcame an extreme visual impairment, graduated college, became a successful professional and raised a family. Once he is out of danger he will have the new challenge to learn to use artificial legs. Two days ago his wife hugged me and said how lucky they were - they still have Gadi. She promised that he was strong enough to overcome these obstacles, as well. She is the person who knows him best in this world. I believe her.

Shahar Melamed: Kind-hearted, always ready to lend a hand

I watched Shahar grow from a child and develop his professionalism of being the only mechanic I trusted. I wouldn't buy a car without him. He grew, wooed his sweetheart and built an unbelievably tight family. As the assistant head of security his was the only family that remained throughout almost all 50 days. His wife refused to be separated.

A Hamas rocket from Gaza knocked out the electricity in the morning before the final ceasefire (iReport "The Second Worst Day of my Life") he took his wife and children to the specially reinforced day care building with the only generator and thus with electricity to escape the oppressive heat. The damaged electricity tower was only yards away.

When repairs started Shahar joined them, his wife and children merely seconds away and saw the fatal attacks through the window that divided them in the reinforced day care oasis, and the lawn outside that had turned into a bloody battlefield.

Zeevik: My friend and "go-to" guy

Zeevik was a strapping teen, just a few years younger than me. I watched him mature and grow, get married and bring five lovely children into this world. In addition to being in charge of security, Zeevik was a volunteer ambulance driver, plumber and had worked in almost every agricultural job of the kibbutz. He was the guy in charge of the microphones and sound controls at all kibbutz celebrations. He was a central beloved figure with an easy laugh and an ever-growing beer-belly.

Zeevik was my "go to" guy when I needed help. As a widow, when my sons were not around to help, Zeevik never said "no". He was always ready to lend a hand; always with a big smile. When he was near, I was not afraid.

During the ground war when most families had temporarily moved to safer locations, those of us who remained on Nirim ate dinner together, each of us bringing something. When Zeevik was too busy with security issues we always saved him dinner. When performers came to our shelter to try to bring some brightness to our lives, whenever possible we made sure Zeevik was there. When volunteers came to give massages (good hearted professionals braved the treacherous roads twice to give us some comfort) his friends saw to it that Zeevik didn't miss out on a session.

One evening, I had him to myself for dinner at my house. Our friends had all gone for the evening to different places. I called him up to ask where he would be eating. He said he had no plans. I ordered him to appear at 19:30 at my house. Easy-peasy: he lived in the house just behind.

Every time a rocket fell he was on on its trail. He hunted them down. When my house got hit he and a helper were first on the scene to check if I was ok. I had been in my safe room during the barrage and had had no idea my bedroom had been penetrated by deadly shards of shrapnel.

With my house damaged and the electricity went off I decided to exit for a few days and thus missed the hell that followed just a few hours later.

This region is super hot in summer and it's grueling to be closed inside a reinforced saferoom with its heavy metal doors and no A.C. Towards evening a line crew arrived to repair the damaged electricity lines.

It is well known that the Hamas shoot a huge rocket barrage in the last few minutes before any ceasefire to try and get in a last kill. They aim for civilians, not Israeli army bases, since we're an easy target. They hope to hit groups of people outside before they can make it to safety.

Anyone who lives here knows the last hour before a ceasefire you don't want to be caught outside. But the hard working repairmen hadn't been notified of the impending ceasefire. Otherwise, none of them would have been there. They would have waited for the time to pass, put up with the sweltering heat, and then a bit more, before going to fix what needed to be fixed.

But they had no idea.

As the electricians were on the tower, suspended between heaven and earth, a new barrage began. The men in the air remained there. You have only 10 seconds (or less) to take cover. That is not enough time to get down from a high-voltage tower (how they didn't drop dead from fright, I will never understand).

One "Code Red" alert, warning of incoming rockets was sounded. The men on the ground ran. A few minutes later, believing it was over, they went back out again.

And another "Code Red". Another scramble for safety.

The third "Code Red" was their downfall. There was simply not enough time between the alarm, until they could reach the "safe haven" of a concrete wall. Gadi was closest. He took it in his legs. Then Shahar and Zeevik, a little farther away were hit. Within minutes the emergency response teams were there and working on the wounded men.

Zeevik was killed on the spot, although the paramedics tried their best to resuscitate him. They treated Shahar and Gadi, putting on tourniquets to staunch the bleeding and as they were working to save their lives, the alarms blared three more times, warning of three additional incoming rockets. Each time, with only seconds to react, there was no way the first aid workers could get the wounded to a safe spot quickly enough without causing further damage. So they threw flack-jackets over them to protect them as much as possible and ran. Despite valiant efforts, Shahar died later that night, in hospital.

All this time from reports of all the people I spoke to who were there, there was no IDF return fire. It was less than an hour before the ceasefire was supposed to begin and no Israeli planes, no tanks, no helicopters were shooting back. Silence from the guns on our side. The only sounds were more Code Red alerts, the whistles of the incoming rockets from Gaza, the deafening explosions.

An hour before the end of 50 days of fighting, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad knew the ceasefire was about to begin, they fired anyway. Gadi lost his legs and is still fighting for his life. We all lost our friends Shahar and Zeevik. Now, the families, the community, their friends, have an awful lot of healing to do.

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Forever Summer 2014

Posted: 02 Sep 2014 02:09 PM PDT

By Jannet Walsh
Murdock, Minnesota USA



Cameras, Gear and more:

Edited on Final Cut Pro X
iPad Mini with iOgrapher
iPhone 5S iOgrapher

Miniatures: Tilt-Shift Time-Lapse Videos


Nikon Coolpix AW 110
Nikon P7800
Genie for Timelapse
DIY steady cam


Bobby the dog,

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Posted: 31 Aug 2014 03:20 PM PDT

My grandparents were "cool" when they were young because of their love of life and their love of entertainment.

My grandfather, Edward Bamford Leaman, was a son of a squire and the eldest of 17 children and a carpenter by trade. He came to America from Canada shortly before he met my grandmother. He loved to dance soft shoe in variety shows and enjoyed speed skating and martial arts. He was also a lightweight boxer.

My grandmother, Ellen Elizabeth Herrick, was one of five children and also was an English major earning a college degree from Salem Girls Normal now known as Salem University. She enjoyed singing and playing the piano. Their children grew up loving entertainment and used to put on variety shows in their garage charging a small admission. They enjoyed sharing their musical talents and dance abilities with their neighbors and friends.

My grandparents loved sharing their dancing, singing and artistic talents and have been passed their love onto their 80 plus descendants. Most of their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren have become artists, musicians, singers and/or dancers. My love of dancing and my son's artistic talents were inherited from my grandparents!

Photographer unknown. Approximate date 1911.
Brenda E. Olson, CNN iReporter

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30 years, retired E9 mom

Posted: 27 Aug 2014 12:07 PM PDT

Hi my name is Tiffany Henriques, on the behalf of my sister's and I, we would like to congratulate our mom, CMSgt Carolyn Henriques, on her retirement after 30 years in the Air Force. My mom joined in August 1984, thinking she would only go in for the few years to get experience, little did she know, she would be staying for the whole 30 years. She went through obstacles through her career, such as losing a rank but that didn't stop her from making it to the top! She spent way too much time at her office, to the point I used to grab dinner and fall asleep on her couch at work but that didn't bother because at the end, everything was worth it. You can ask anyone, she cared about her people, made sure everyone was alright and knew what they were doing. I don't know one person who talked bad about her and if they did, they were jealous of her. She was deployed 3 times to Afghanistan and Iraq, you're awesome for doing that.


My sister's, Kristina and Ashley also me, couldn't be so proud of her and all the dedication/hard work she has provided for the Air Force! Thank you so much mom for serving our country, we love you so much!!


Also if you're watching or looking at this because I know you watch Robin Meade all the time, I hope you aren't crying. Be happy!(:

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