Friday, December 07, 2001

Notes on the News

There are a few news stories that have caught my eye in recent days that I thought I'd say something about.

Americans Enjoying Balmy Weather

No I'm not. This AP article talks about this week's unseasonably warm temperatures. I'd just like to go on record as saying that what I dislike about winter isn't the cold temperatures (as long as my heat is working). It's the short days. The warm weather does nothing about that. I had hoped to offset the depressing sight of coming out of work to a darkened parking lot by the excitement of being able to go skiing. Not yet, at least.

September 11th Fund helps AIDS, arts groups

"A loan of $33,000 went to the Institute for the Development of Earth Awareness, a $25,000 loan to a modern dance group, Jennifer Muller, and a $6,000 grant for the arts group 3 Legged Dog."

"Another criticism of the fund is that it appears to be in no rush to give away the $337 million it has raised. To date it has given away $51 million, or 15 percent of what it raised.
The group said that it has no timetable for giving away the rest and that it will continue to evaluate requests and disburse the money based on what it sees as the needs of victims and their communities."
---CNN story

The "and their communities" part is a pretty big loophole, isn't it? Some of the victims were from my town; should we ask for a new playground set at the elementary school? I'm not saying that the money isn't going to worthy causes. Most, if not all, undoubtedly is. But when people gave money to this fund, I don't think that's where they expected it to go. To me, it's sort of sad, but you have to watch what charities, even the well-intentioned ones, do with your donations. Otherwise you may get a bad taste in your mouth at the end.

I got a little bit worried when they were collecting money and never gave an estimate of how much money they'd need. If there's "extra" money, I'd rather decide myself how to fund it. I thought about sending my tax "rebate" to Sept. 11th funds, but ended up splitting it between Habitat for Humanity and the DC Area Food Bank instead. I figure with the economic disruptions to the local tourist industry, they can use it.

Leaders of Divided Cyprus Move Toward a Settlement

That's cool. It sounds like the European Union is pushing the Greek and Turkish sides towards a settlement.
When I was there in '94, I bought a can of Coke, I decided I'd open up and drink when Cyprus was reunited. That's going to be one old Coke. Also, while my parents and I enjoyed seeing most of the south (Greek) part of the island, I decided there wasn't enough to see to merit a return trip...unless the north was opened. (You can take a separate trip there, but since nobody but Turkey recognizes the north as a separate country, that's a dodgy enterprise.)

There are a lot of obstacles to reunification. I'm not popping the tab on the Coke or booking flights just yet. But I'm glad to see they're making progress.

Ashcroft Defends Anti-Terrorism Steps

Hoo boy. What to say about Ashcroft's testimonty yesterday? When I first heard it, I felt it was outrageous enough to be included here for criticism. Fortunately, other people have already done so. I'll just quote them and add, "What a jerk."

"As someone who was actually prepared to listen to Attorney General John Ashcroft's defense of military tribunals and other security measures, I have to say that I was completely disgusted by his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday....the very worst of it was the way that the attorney general cast defenders of civil liberties as witting or unwitting traitors."
---Jacob Weisberg, Slate

Have some of Mr. Ashcroft's critics exaggerated the danger to liberty? Have they -- have we? -- been wrong in some judgments? You'd have to be awfully arrogant, or foolish, or both, to deny the possibility. But if American political history stands for one solitary point it is that democratic debate is good and makes the country stronger...Mr. Ashcroft may not like the criticism. But his job is to defend dissent, not to use the moral authority of his office to discourage people from participating in one of the most fundamental obligations of citizenship.
---The Washington Post

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