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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tennessee Student Kicked Out Of Class For Saying "Bless You" To Another Student Who Sneezed.

Today, Liberty Institute, on behalf of Dyer County High School student Kendra Turner, sent a demand letter to school officials for unlawfully punishing the high school senior for blessing another student who sneezed. The letter seeks an apology from school officials who banned students from saying, "bless you" and other religious language while at school.

"It is unlawful for a school official to kick a student out of class for quietly blessing another student after she sneezes," said Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremiah Dys.  "School officials must follow the rules of the Constitution just like students must follow the reasonable rules of the classroom."

During a computer class on Aug. 18, a student sitting beside Kendra sneezed. In accordance with their family's strongly held faith, Kendra's parents taught her to say "bless you" when a person sneezes—which she did with little or no classroom disruption.  However, Kendra's teacher disrupted the rest of the class to confront Kendra's quiet use of the phrase "bless you."  A classroom discussion followed during which the teacher forcefully explained that there would be no "godly speaking" in her classroom and sent Kendra to the principal's office.  Kendra met with a vice-principal who affirmed the teacher's hostile action, stating no religious language is permitted in the classroom.  Subsequently, Kendra was sentenced to in-school suspension (ISS) for the remainder of the block period.  

The letter sent Wednesday asks for a public apology to Kendra, the exoneration of her disciplinary record, and the removal of the ban on the phrase, "bless you" at Dyer County High School.  Follow this link to view an online copy of the demand letter to Dyer County High School officials: https://www.libertyinstitute.org/bless-you

Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty's vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation's Founders. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.


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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Thousands to Join #Act4MentalHealth Social Media Campaign to Urge Congress to Pass Mental Health Legislation

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, today announced that it will launch a National Day of Action for Mental Health on Thursday,
September 4th during its annual convention in Washington, DC. As part of the National Day of Action, conference attendees will visit Capitol Hill offices to urge legislators to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation. The theme of the convention, which will be held from Sept. 3-6 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, is "Advocates for Change: From Dialogue to Action."

"It has now been two years since the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school and we continue to see reminders everywhere of the critical need to address mental health reform in this country," said NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti. "While there has been dialogue and some progress since the White House's Conference on Mental Health last year, the country and those living with mental illness are still waiting on Congress to act. The National Day of Action provides the opportunity for mental health advocates in Washington and around the country to make their voices heard and urge Congress to pass comprehensive mental health legislation."

What: NAMI National Day of Action for Mental Health
           
When: Thursday, September 4th  Event to be held as part of NAMI national convention, Sept. 3-6
Opening session begins at 8:00 AM

Where: Marriott Wardman Park HotelWashington, DC
Virtual participants via #Act4MentalHealth

Who: Speakers to include:
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, former Member of Congress
Sen. Creigh Deeds, Virginia state senator  

For the full roster of speakers, speaker bios and the full conference program, click here

About NAMIMental illness affects everyone. Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year. Regardless of race, age, religion or economic status, mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children across the United States. People living with mental illness need help and hope: they need a community that supports them, their families and their recovery.
Because mental illness devastates the lives of so many Americans, NAMI works every day to save every life.

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.

SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness
RELATED LINKS
http://www.nami.org

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Blog delayed for a while - Update

Due to a family health emergency, I have less time available for blogging. Until things improve, this blog may not be published on a regular basis  

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65 Groups Urge the FCC to Reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sixty-five organizations representing consumers, content producers, and social justice and democracy-reform advocates called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today to reject the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.  The FCC is currently reviewing the deal to determine whether it serves the public interest.
In a letter to the FCC, the groups warned that the merger would give Comcast "unprecedented gatekeeper control" over the nation's telecommunications and media landscape and lead to higher prices and fewer choices for broadband and cable customers.  The merger would give Comcast too much control over the future of the Internet and communications infrastructure and undermine the diversity of ownership and content in media, according to the groups.   

The letter highlights Comcast's history of failing to meet commitments made to gain approval for its previous merger with NBCUniversal.  "Given this history, no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger….The deal needs to be rejected outright."

A full copy of the letter along with a list of organizations that signed it follows:

Chairman Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St SW
Washington, DC 20554
August 25th 2014

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

On behalf of the 65 undersigned organizations, representing low-income consumers, community-based leaders, content producers, and public interest organizations from across the country, we urge you to stop the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. A merger between the nation's two largest cable companies would inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation's telecommunications and media landscape. It would mean higher prices and fewer choices for broadband users and cable customers. It would put too much control over the future of the Internet and our communications infrastructure in one company's hands and would negatively impact diversity in ownership and content.

Pay-TV rates have risen for two straight decades, and Comcast's rates have gone up as fast as anyone's despite its scale. Comcast's Executive Vice President David Cohen made no promises that this merger would rein in those skyrocketing prices, saying there was no guarantee "that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly."[1]

This deal would increase Comcast's service area to almost two-thirds of the U.S. It would allow Comcast to use its increased market power, and increased control over millions more customers, to dictate terms to broadband content providers and increase its leverage over cable programmers. To put it mildly, combining these two firms would lessen competition and harm innovation, but not improve the consumer experience.

Despite all this, Comcast is currently trying to impress Washington by claiming to provide low-cost broadband access to low income communities and by nominally embracing Net Neutrality. Yet due to barriers that limit eligibility, customer difficulty with signing up, and lack of outreach even to eligible participants, the company's Internet Essentials program has not delivered on its promises.

Comcast's commitment to Net Neutrality is also problematic to say the least. First, all broadband users deserve strong Open Internet protections, and that's only possible with Title II reclassification that applies to every broadband provider. Merger conditions that apply only to Comcast are no substitute for rules protecting everyone, no matter how strong those conditions may be. Moreover, the conditions that apply to Comcast today are not permanent. Comcast agreed to Net Neutrality conditions that run until 2018 to gain approval for its previous merger with NBCUniversal.

After 2018, those conditions expire and Comcast customers would be left without protection absent reclassification and real Net Neutrality rules. Our rights to connect and communicate should not have an expiration date. Even while these conditions have been in place, Comcast has found ways to manipulate them – using its market power to charge new tolls for Internet content and create special exemptions for its own video services. These kinds of anticompetitive practices would only grow as a result of this merger.

Comcast has a history of misrepresenting its adherence to other merger commitments, too. It has been fined for failing to fulfill the standalone broadband service commitments it also made for the NBCUniversal acquisition, and it had to be ordered by the FCC to live up to its commitments about equitable treatment for independent channels. Given this history, no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger. The deal needs to be rejected outright.

The transaction is just as concerning for its negative impacts on media localism and diversity. At the state level, firms like Comcast have lobbied for "State Franchising" bills that have stripped municipalities of the power to negotiate franchise agreements with cable companies. This merger would also further the need for measures promoting diversity in ownership. The FCC's most recent statistics found that already low ownership levels for people of color have only gotten worse. Allowing Comcast to merge with Time Warner Cable would only continue the trend away from the diverse local media our communities need.

In closing, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to review the facts—this merger is not in the public interest. Hundreds of thousands of people around the country have already called on you to stop this merger and an increasing number of people around the country want the opportunity to meet with the FCC face to face to provide the data and public input crucial for informed discussions and decisions about this merger. For these reasons, we ask you to reject this deal.

Signed,
About Disability
Access Humboldt
Appalshop, Inc.
Art Is Change
Austin Airwaves
Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County
Cambridge Community Television
CCTV Center for Media & Democracy
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Media Justice
Center for Rural Strategies
ColorOfChange.org
Common Cause
Common Cause Colorado
Common Cause Hawaii
Common Cause Illinois
Common Cause New York
Common Frequency
Community Media Visioning
Consumers Union
Courage Campaign
CREDO Mobile
Daily Kos
Demand Progress
Democracy for America
Easton Community Access Television
Evanston Community TV
Free Press
FREE! (Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment)
Future of Music Coalition
Generation Justice
Global Action Project
Independent Media Publications
Institute for Local Self Reliance
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Martinez Street Women's Project
Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net)
Media Alliance
Media Literacy Project
Media Mobilizing Project
Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing
National Alliance for Media Arts & Culture
National Organization for Women
Nothing Without Us
OpenMedia International
Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation
Philadelphia Student Union
Popular Resistance
Presente.org
Progressives United
Prometheus Radio Project
Public Knowledge
Rural Broadband Policy Group
St. Paul Neighborhood Network
Sports Fan Coalition
Stop Comcast
SumOfUs
The Greenlining Institute
The Harry Potter Alliance
The Other 98%
The People's Press Project
TURN – The Utility Reform Network
Writers Guild of America East
Women in Media & News
Working Narratives
 
SOURCE Consumers Union


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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Commemoration of the Syrian Chemical Attacks of August 21, 2013

ZURICH, August 22, 2014

A year ago, on August 21, 2013, several residential areas of Damascus, the Ghoutas, were hit by a major chemical weapons attack causing the death of an estimated 1'400 civilians and injuring many more. The world was shocked and under international pressure the Syrian government joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and assented to the OPCW-led destruction of its declared chemical weapons arsenals. But one year after the attacks it seems that the international furor over the use of toxic agents against civilians in Syria has subsided. The still-besieged Ghoutas have not received any substantial international aid and the survivors are still suffering from heavy after-effects due to their exposure to toxic agents. Green Cross is calling for immediate international support of the victims and points out the necessity to strengthen international efforts to ban all weapons of mass destruction from the region.  

Green Cross has recently successfully implemented an emergency aid project in Ghouta together with the Syrian partner organization, Al-Seeraj. The project aimed at providing urgently needed medicine against the further spread of diseases within the population already weakened by the chemical attacks. But the ill and traumatized people need much more support. "It is a real humanitarian disaster that is taking place in the besieged areas," says K. A., a woman aged 27, who has lost all her family members during the attack on Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta. She stayed in her besieged neighborhood despite all the horror and is devoting now all her strength as a medical assistant to the suffering people.

Since early 2008, Green Cross has supported local social-medical care projects in the Halabja Region in northern Iraq, infamous for the deadly poison gas attacks ordered by the regime of Saddam Hussein in 1988. These projects are focusing on the long-term sociological, psychological and physical health effects of those chemical attacks and show how important it is to support the victims even a long time after the event.
Falah Muradkhin, survivor of the 1988 attacks and who is today project coordinator of the local partner organization of Green Cross, Wadi Iraq, mourns the victims of the Ghouta attacks and points out that "25 years ago the technology was not available to send immediate news and reports to the world about what happened in Halabja. Today, however, the situation is different. The horrible pictures from the Ghoutas were quickly disseminated and seen by many people. Yet no action was taken to help the victims of the attacks and no adequate response has been seen either from the United Nations or from countries, also in Europe, which supposedly were involved in the development of Syria's chemical weapon arsenals."  Green Cross is therefore calling on this day of commemoration for immediate international support of the forgotten victims of the Ghouta attacks.

Green Cross is also supporting actively the establishment of a world truly free of chemical weapons and therefore calls on the remaining six non-State Parties - Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and South Sudan - to join the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention). And in view of the close relationship between all three classes of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical, and biological - Green Cross calls for the establishment of a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)-free zone as a next step. "There will be no real security for the people living in this politically tense region as long as there are any weapons of mass destruction stockpiled," concludes Dr. Stephan Robinson, Unit Manager (Water, Legacy) of Green Cross.

SOURCE Green Cross


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