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Entries from blogs tagged with “Community news”

A Special Brand of Teacher

This past Sunday I couldn't stop smiling. The skip in my step was all because I ran into an old teacher of mine.My mother and older sister and I were in Target, considering the possible merits of a certain electrostatic duster (of all things), when from the end of the aisle I heard my name, my sister saying, "Yes, that's Sarah."I turned and saw--was it? No. Yes! That familiar walk made me certain--my eighth grade history teacher, Mr. Binns. I had to confess that I almost didn't know him for just a second, though I wasn't sure why."I got old!" Mr. Binns said.No, Mr. Binns, you didn't get old. Years have passed, but you didn't get old. Retirement must agree with you. Substituting when you want to must agree with you. And I don't doubt that you are a popular substitute.After all, I couldn't help thinking for the rest of the day about that very first day of the 8th grade. I remember so clearly that hot, late-summer morning, the second-story classroom, my desk in the front row center, and you, Mr. Binns, acting out a scene of Washington crossing the Delaware.Okay. Maybe the performance didn't win any Oscars, but it made an impression on me, more than any other actor could hope to do. Something stirred awake inside me. I remember thinking, "Hey, I'm going to love history!"And I did. Maybe I wasn't always as good at it as I wanted to be. Goodness knows I didn't get all the answers right. It takes a special brand of teacher to make a student feel smart, like all the world was just waiting for me to come knocking at the door.Remember the Civil War board game I made for that unit's project? You set aside a whole day when the entire class played that game, and in spite of its kinks ( I think poor Richie Nichols spent the whole time in "game jail") you told me I should send it in to Parker Brothers. Well, I know they wouldn't have been clamoring for it. Even if they had, A Change of History (as I named it) wouldn't have flown off the toy store shelves, and I still wouldn't be swimming in royalties. However, your compliment (and the grade, by the way!) was worth more than royalties. I thought of it for years, every time I saw the old red Macy's box that I kept that silly game in.(I hung onto the game for another reason, too. For my birthday present that year, my sister Amy helped me color inthe whole back of that board!)I still love history. I crammed in as much of it as I could in high school. My book shelves are crowded with many history books of one sort or another: Civil War, Lawrence history, biographies, geneology, etc. I wanted a copy of Theodore Roosevelt's autobiography for Christmas, and it's on my shelf now, waiting to be savored.As President Reagan said in his Farewell Address, "If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are."So you gave me quite a gift in your classroom. I know who I am and where I come from, and I intend to pass it along.By the way, Mr. Binns, Sunday afternoon it finally hit me why it took me even a split second to recognize you. No, you didn't get old. It was the glasses. Just the glasses. I'd never seen you in them before.

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Strong Women

Cal Thomas' column (last week) on Benazir Bhutto took me by surprise. It wasn't just the fact that he had sipped tea with her, an experience he said he would never forget, but that he called her a "strong woman" and pointed out that "leadership is more than biology. It takes a well-crafted ideology and goals beyond one's self." He believed Bhutto had them in abundance. He also stated that:"Women who are strong in the things that matter most - courage and character - are a threat to weak men without such traits. Some men will go to any length to oppress such women, even invoking the "will of God" as the ultimate justification, when God wants to liberate women (and men), not subjugate them to self-righteous sinners."Hmm. I agree with Thomas. One doesn't have to go outside the United States, or even Kansas, to find rantings when strong women are appointed to or seek positions of leadership in national life. It wasn't too long ago that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church were attacked in some sections of the media simply because they were women. Do you remember any previous Speakers being ridiculed for the ties they wore, or the size of their biceps for that matter? The topic of Pelosi's pearls drew nearly as much attention as her appointment and, at one point, Hilary Clinton's cleavage was inflated to grab pretty large headlines.The US touts itself as the land of freedom, equality and opportunity but one wonders why a woman has not yet been elected to its highest office? England AND Ireland, small countries who could well fit into the state of Texas with plenty of room left over, have already had females in the top posts. England had its first woman Prime Minister nearly 30 years ago until she was ousted by the "Big Boys," and Ireland has experienced two female Presidents. And then there is Benazier Bhutto, the focus of Thomas' column, who became Prime Minister in a Muslim country. She balanced family life (with a husband and children ) with her political duties, and managed to retain her femininity. I know that comparisons are odious, but, in this case, they should give food for thought, even though some may choke in the process.I'm not saying that Hilary Clinton should be elected President simply because she's a woman; I'm saying that she shouldn't be ridiculed and dismissed just because she is. If she is the only women to emerge as a potential Presidential candidate, what is this saying about the women in America? Or what is it saying about the men?

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Why Obama Will Never Win

Obama may look like the winning horse leading the pack at the beginning of this year's Presidential race, but he won't be able to keep up the pace all the way to the finish line. He isn't seasoned. He isn't experienced.

Neither he or Edwards have the lineage behind them that would be required to go the distance.

Still, Obama is working the track and has picked his way from the back of the pack and moved into a key position to make a run for the final stretch. It hasn't been an easy task. He has been hit by dirt and mud as much as any of his opponents. He seems to be gaining speed. He is a full length ahead of Edwards and Edwards is a nose in front of Clinton.

I am glad I have my bet on Clinton though. She is saving herself for the finish line. She has great stamina, loves to be pushed for a grand finish and is well seasoned and confident. She stands head and shoulders above the competition because of her previous experiences in other races such as these - some of which she watched from the sidelines.

Obama has blinders on; he won't be able to see the filly passing him on the inside track until he begins to taste the dust that is stirred up as she leaves him far behind.

And she hasn't even begun to work up a lather.

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Paying It Forward

About a year ago, I read a newspaper article about a boy named Adam Thomas. Adam's story reminded me of the experiences of my son, Ben. Adam is a few years older than Ben but one thing they have in common is that they are both quite tall. Adam is 7'2"; Ben is 6'8". As I read the story about Adam, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to Ben. Adam worked in a grocery store. At the time, so did Ben. Adam felt that his unusual height made him feel shy and awkward. So does Ben. Even though he grew up as a tall kid, Adam had taken no interest in playing basketball. Neither did Ben. They both experienced the same comments from people. "How tall are you? Do you play basketball?" The reason for the article about Adam was that he walked into the coach's office at Penn Valley Community College (PVCC) and expressed an interest in being on their team. What?! He'd never played organized basketball. Just a few pick-up games here and there. The coaches at PVCC took him on. They taught him how to play basketball and accepted him on their team. At the end of his two years at PVCC Adam accepted a scholarship offer from a four year college in California, Cal State Fullerton. He now plays for them. After reading Adam's story, I showed it to Ben and asked him if he saw any similarities to himself. He did. I asked him if he wanted me to contact the PVCC coach to see if he would be interested in working with Ben. He did. I sent the coach an email thinking that mine would be one of hundreds from people with tall boys. The coach called the next day. Mine was the only email he had received. He invited us to a game that night. Ben, his dad, younger brother and I drove to Kansas City to go to the game. It was a hard-fought game but PVCC lost. Not a good night for the coach. But he met with us briefly afterward. He said that he would give us a call to see about setting up a time to start working with Ben. We never heard from him. Ben and I didn't talk about it but we were both disappointed. For a variety of reasons, without this opportunity, Ben probably would not attend college.After a chat with a friend recently, I decided to make another effort with the coach at PVCC. I had changed jobs since our last meeting. Maybe he'd tried to contact me at my old phone number. Maybe he just wasn't interested. I didn't know. I emailed him. He called the next day. He had lost my phone number. He was still interested in working with Ben. He would have his brother, an assistant coach, call to set up a time to start working with Ben. After an anxious week of waiting, the assistant coach called. Ben is now training with this coach twice a week. He has improved noticeably, not only in his basketball skills but also in his overall level of confidence.During a recent practice, the coach said that Adam planned to be there that day to practice with the team. His parents live in the Kansas City area and he was home for the holidays. Sure enough, Adam showed up. As he was shedding his sweat suit and changing into his basketball shoes, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and also introduced him to Ben. I told him that he had been an inspiration to us and that we were hoping that Ben could follow his lead. We chatted for a few minutes and then he went to practice with the team. When they were done practicing, Adam and another team member, Kyle, went over to where Ben was working with the coach. Adam and Kyle jumped right in and started giving Ben some pointers. No one asked them to help. They just took it upon themselves to give him the benefit of their experience. At the end of practice, Adam, Kyle and the coach came over to chat. They mentioned that it would be a good idea for Ben to have a gym bag and a pair of basketball shoes that he wears only on the court. I thought we would stop on the way home to buy a pair but at the end of the conversation, Adam asked what size shoe Ben wears. Ben wears a size sixteen. So does Adam. Adam handed me the brand new pair of shoes that he had in his hand. "I would like for Ben to have these shoes," he said, "I get free shoes all the time." I was speechless. Ben is literally following in Adam's footsteps.

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Anyone See the New Hampshire Debates?

Mitt Romney is probably my least favorite candidate for president this year. But even I had to feel sorry for the guy when he was used as a virtual punching bag by the other Republican candidates in New Hampshire last night. Even John McCain was cracking up at the one liners he delivered at Romney's expense. (My personal favorite was when he referred to Mitt's knack for flip flopping by calling him a "real candidate for change"). There was buzz on the cable news shows about Fred Thompson's performance, but I can't say I was blown away. I thought Ron Paul had some interesting points about the economy and wished he had more time to go into further detail. Overall, I thought McCain handled the attack on his immigration stance pretty well. This is one of the areas most Republicans differ with him, but I have to say it's one of the things that make me like the guy.On the democratic side, Hillary had the most to prove after coming in third place in Iowa. Unfortunately, although she did have some good points on foriegn policy, she was the first to attack and then quickly assumed the defensive. Edwards allied himself with Obama on the whole change notion, and when Clinton snapped back to defend herself she came off as a bit too angry. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite a Howard Dean moment, but it was close enough.I can't say Obama was as inspiring in this debate as he was in his speech following his win in Iowa, but at least he didn't make any bad moves. Edwards was on fire about his personal mission for attacking corporations, and his alliance with Obama seemed to hint at a possible President-VP pairing that would be pretty powerful. What did you think about these latest discussions on the future of our country?

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So Much to See #2

Previous: So Much to See #1
Next: So Much to See #3

The location of the picture posted in the previous installment was identified in the 5th comment. I was tempted to make this one impossibly hard, but I don't think I've done so.This time I won't give any hints except to say it is within the city limits of Lawrence.As before, I hope it causes you to be just a little more aware of the many interesting things there are to see here in town.Here is a small portion of the picture. Each day or so I'll post a version which shows a larger portion of the image.

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Hint #1
This is visible from somewhere on the "T" route, so it is not in some hidden corner of town.

Image #2:

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Image #3

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Here is the full image of one of the KU buildings on the south side of Bob Billings (15th St), west of Crestline. I'm not sure if this is the building with the pottery kiln.

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Let’s Caucus About the Caucus

Well, it's official. I am a political geek. While most of Lawrence cheered about the Jayhawks winning Virginia Tech, I cheered about Barack Obama winning the Iowa Democratic Caucus. How did this happen? When did a cynical 31 year old with no party affiliation start taking a genuine interest in the political process? Maybe it is the war.... or the economy... or the fact that motherhood has given me a vested interest in the future of our country. But whatever the reason, I was glued to MSNBC not ESPN last night. So, what do a couple of meetings in Iowa really mean in the grand scheme of things?Basically, it's about momentum. The Iowa Caucuses are the first chance candidates get to prove themselves. Obama showed that he can bring in the young people, Huckabee showed us he can carry that evangelical clout, Ron Paul proved that his supporters weren't accurately portrayed by polls, and McCain... well, McCain found out he really needs to win New Hampshire. From here, the campaigns realize who the real competition is and can stradegize about how to move forward. I think Obama will get a huge boost. In his post-caucus appearance, he spoke of change and unity with such passion analysts are comparing him to Bobby Kennedy. This probaby means it is time for the competition to attack him. It is easy to make predictions, but once the results from New Hampshire come in, everything can (and will) change. I think what's exciting about the Iowa Caucuses is the knowledge that election year has begun. Democracy is at work, things can be changed and this is the first step in the process.

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20,000 Kansas poor children are without health insurance.

President Bush gave us a New Years present with the signing of the SCHIP legislation (Health Wave in Kansas). This legislation extended government subsidized health insurance for children in families with limited income through March 2009. Without this extension Kansas would have serious problems maintaining the Health Wave program. President Bush twice vetoed this legislation because Congress, controlled by Democrats, wanted to extend the program to more children. But that is not the story here.Kansas Action for Children reports that there are 20,000 children living below the poverty line without health insurance (http://www.kac.org/ftp/File/Publications/KC_datanotes2007.pdf). This is 39% of Kansas children without health insurance.A White House statement dated December 19, 2007 praised Congress for passing SCHIP legislation that President Bush could sign. This statement said that this is an "important program for America's low income children." There seems to be a contradiction here. What was debated was not health insurance for children living in families below the federal poverty level. Medicaid is the health insurance program for these children. SCHIP is for children in families above the poverty line. The debate was where to draw the line for eligibility. Should it be at 150% of poverty, 185% of poverty, 200% of poverty or higher?Why isn't Medicaid working for the 20,000 Kansas uninsured children living in poor families? There are many answers. For one, consider a single mother with one child living on less than $13,690 a year. That is the current poverty line for this family ($17,170 if she has 2 children). Incidentally, the US Census reports that more poor children live in married couple families but their challenges are similar. So mom needs to get to her job (81% of women heading poor households work according to the US Census), keep food on the table, take care of child care and, by the way, get to the SRS office and take care of Medicaid applications and requirements. This includes the issue of proving that you are a US Citizen. When did we last see those birth certificates?She needs help. More attention, both individually and collectively, needs to be given to these families and you can help.1.Statewide advocacy organizations need to focus on getting children in poor families enrolled in Medicaid.2.Local social service organizations need to advocate for these families and remove whatever barriers exist to Medicaid enrollment. 3.What about a house to house survey in poor neighborhoods that identifies poor families and provides assistance with enrolling in Medicaid?4.Friends and neighbors can volunteer to help enroll poor families5.Friends and neighbors can question local social service providers on their efforts to help poor families enroll in Medicaid or Health Wave.By the way, think about the economic benefit to the local community if the medical expenses of all poor families were covered by Medicaid rather than the local community through donations to organizations like Health Care Access.

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Frogmore Stew

Except for sub freezing temperatures outside, 25 co-workers and their families might feel they are in South Carolina rather than gathered in rural Douglas County on New Years Day.What created the warm southern feeling on a cold Kansas day? Frogmore Stew.Named for Frogmore, the mailing address for the residents of St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina, the stew is a combination of ingredients readily available on this historical island. While their neighbors in the States might have a BBQ, St. Helena residents add shrimp, potatoes, corn, and spicy bratwurst together in a pot. Our first try at the Low Country specialty began with a round of home brewed beer. Created by our favorite brew master and co-worker, it was dark, smooth, and served at room temperature. While enjoying our ale, we heated water and seasoning packets in a big (very big) pan over a propane burner. While new potatoes are the best choice, we opted for a large, firm baking potatoes cut in large pieces and dropped in the pot after the water was hot. Following potatoes, in went the precooked and quartered hot and mild brats. Almost the same time frozen corn on the cob slid in. Setting the table consisted of spreading plastic and newspapers over the entire surface. In addition, we added shrimp sauce, homemade bread and butter, hot sauces to taste, and many napkins.When the shrimp went in the pot, everyone gathered around ready to eat. Five minutes later, two people carried the heavy hot pot outside and poured the hot liquid through a strainer held by the third. Finally, they dumped the steaming ingredients in the middle of the table.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... Stew6 quarts water
¾ cup Old Bay Seasoning
2 pounds new red potatoes
2 pounds hot smoked sausage links, cut into 2 inch pieces
12 ears corn, husked and quartered
4 pounds large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Bring water & seasoning to a boil in large stockpot.
Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add sausage and cook for five minutes more. Add corn and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Drain immediately and serve. Serves 12 depending on appetites.

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New Years Eve in Miami

http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... degrees at the beach today. The Miami Skyline and this Jayhawk tames a Florida Gator. Can you believe that KU is in the BCS and Florida is not? Awesome.

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Unity Politics Anyone?

I just read an article about NYC Mayor Bloomberg's upcoming meeting at the University of Oklahoma. The goal of the day long session will be to discuss ways to break down the barriers of party lines in an attempt to increase efficiency in the government. This novel idea (yes, any idea involving government and efficiency is pretty unheard of these days) is called unity politics. There are some heavy hitters on the guest list, including former presidential candidate Gary Hart, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Chuck Hagel and former senator John Danforth.I have to say, I am quite intrigued by this notion of bipartisan politics and independent candidates. What about a McCain-Lieberman ticket? And surely, Ralph Nader belongs on somebody's administration. How about Ron Paul and: okay, I'm not sure who Ron Paul would team with, but you get the picture. Hey, if Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda could team up on The West Wing, the idea must not be too outside the realm of public consumption.Seriously, though, I think most Americans agree it is time for change. Our two party system has stymied things for too long and most of us are ready to shake things up a bit. Bloomberg and friends may have just the political muscle and funds to make that happen. I am not saying they will necessarily back the best candidate, but it sure would stir the pot and allow for some more options out there. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting and can't wait to see what might come of it. Of course, there is always the possibility that nothing will materialize and this session will be gridlocked just as much as Washington. But political change begins with discussions and I say who better to start the discussion with your neighbors? So, let's hear from some Lawrencians: what are your dream teams for candidates- bipartisan, independent or otherwise? You can even throw in a few just for laughs if modern politics has gotten you really jaded.

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Road Trip 23 Hours!

http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... pictures of the Titans stadium, Atlanta and in Miami! More pictures to come.

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Road Trip 23 Hours!

http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... pictures of the Titans stadium, Atlanta and in Miami! More pictures to come.

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Add Him to the List

I've only gone to KU basketball games for the last few years. Hearing Hank's announcing at the games seemed so natural that I thought nothing of it. I assumed he'd been doing it for years.The first time I remember hearing Hank Booth as announcer was at the Jaycee's fireworks display, back when it was held in Memorial Stadium.Recently I've written about some of the things that I remember about Lawrence and many have added their recollections. By training and by inclination I'm an engineer. I prefer facts to opinion...even when the opinion is my own.Hank Booth is every bit as much a part of Lawrence as is Dragstrip Road, the Sunset Drive-in, or Woolworth's. That's an opinion.College football and basketball are all about the money. That's an opinion, too.KU basketball games won't be the same without Hank Booth as announcer.That's a fact.Add him to the list of things we remember about Lawrence.

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WIC participation helps prevent obesity.

An Associated Press article from Thursday December 27 brought attention to the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. The news was that 3 stores that specialized in serving WIC participants were going out of business. More than 30 people commented on the article in the Lawrence Journal World. It is clear from the comments that the program and its benefits are not well understood including the fact that there are many other stories that supply WIC products. Let's change the headline Children who participate in the WIC program at age 4 are at significantly lower risk of being overweight. This is according to a RAND Corporation study of 2004 (Rand Working Paper 172). This wasn't reported yesterday so it is not "real" news. Previous research has found that WIC reduces the risk of infant mortality, low birth weight and reduces the cost of maternal and neonatal care. While not news, many people do not know of these substantial benefits. WIC basics WIC is a program that was originally intended to prevent hunger by providing food assistance to pregnant, postpartum and lactating women. This is an overly simple description of the program. Complex rules and regulations make a concise description of who is eligible and what they receive impossible. To check out the details go to http://www.kdheks.gov/nws-wic/wic_nutrition_prog.htm. The Department of Health and Environment administers the program in Kansas under regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture that Congress charged with developing the program.The rules are not complex because KDHE or USDOA are large government bureaucracies. They certainly are. The rules are complex because we don't trust poor people to make good decisions. We don't want people that are not really poor to benefit and we don't want people buying caviar when they are suppose to buy milk. Of course some people make bad decisions but our paranoia probably adds more cost to program administration than fraud would. The Rand studyThe findings of the Rand study that children who participate in the WIC program are at reduced risk of being overweight are quite impressive. Childhood obesity is a problem with major future health care consequences. A program that reduces the likelihood of obesity may significantly reduce future health care costs. We already know that WIC participation reduces maternal and neonatal care costs. Are WICs benefits due to the food that the family receives or the nutrition education they receive? The study couldn't determine that. It is likely that it is some of each. Were the children in the study different in some way that would explain the results? The study found that the WIC children were less well off than others. In other words those most in need were participating in the program.This study demonstrates that WIC is a program that reaches children and families who need it and produces substantial benefits. We should all be supporters.Reaching out to poor women and childrenA disturbing finding in the RAND study is that only 38% of eligible children between ages one and four use WIC. More than twice as many poor children could be receiving these benefits and are not. Data for Kansas or Douglas county are not available but it is likely that there are local women and children who could benefit from the program but are not participating.If you know a struggling mother with young children, ask if they know about WIC. Volunteer to help determine if they are eligible. The KDHE website is useful for that and it identifies Gayle Sherman of the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department as the local contact.

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Has the Assassination Changed Your Opinion of the Candidates?

Experience was the buzz word on the campaign trail today as Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a political rally. It has all the stuff screenwriters dream of. A courageous woman with a tragic past: allegations of political corruption: a return to politics to restore order to a troubled land: and finally, a tragic ending. But what will the coda for this film be? Will Al Qaeda gain control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, or will some other leader emerge out of Bhutto's shadow?With all these questions in the air, America felt the all too familiar twinges of concern over national security today. And who better to assuage these fears than the '08 presidential candidates. The future leader of our nation is out there- he or she will put us at ease:. right? Well, maybe. Let's see how they fared.McCain and Clinton seemed to take center stage as they were seen as the most "experienced." I bought McCain's grandfatherly assurance that he knew all the players in this game and could take on this challenge if given the reins. Clinton, I found to be smooth and confident, but does the word "experienced" fit her? I'm not so sure. As first lady, she did meet with foreign leaders, including Bhutto, but does this really translate to foreign policy experience? I say this in light of the recent information that has come out on her lack of involvement in the White House affairs during Bill's presidency (and I don't just mean Monica). Perhaps, we are supposed to accept Bill's experience as her experience, but this seems a bit condescending for our first female candidate. I liked the way Edwards stepped up and called Musharraf on the phone. Okay, maybe not much came from it, but I give the guy points for taking some action, not just putting out a press release.Giuliani made an attempt to connect the events in Pakistan to 9-11 in order to prove he had experience (there's that buzz word again). But, as McCain pointed out, Giuliani was involved in post-crisis problem solving, not necessarily anti-terrorist dealings.At the bottom end of the scale, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama seemed kind of awkward with their responses to the tragedy. At least Hillary seemed comfortable with her statement on the assassination. My guy, Obama, was a bit disappointing. He has strong opinions on Pakistan and Musharraf, so why did he seem so unprepared? You think someone on his campaign staff would have helped him get his act together before he picked up that microphone. If you are pitching yourself as an agent of change, use that to your advantage and turn the experience question on its head (i.e. the way we have been doing things has not been working, so let's try something new).Well, yesterday, it was immigration; today it is national security. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. But in politics, you should always be prepared.

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Benazir Bhutto

The stark news ricocheted around the world today - Benazir Bhutto assassinated. Newspaper headlines will try to summarize the tragedy in tomorrow's editions and many columns will be written about her life and the impact of her death on the world's political scene. How can we ever hope to capture the life and courage of the first woman to become head of Government in an Islamic State? In the US, and even Ireland and the United Kingdom, we take it for granted that woman have the right to hold the highest offices in the land. Such rights are not automatic for women in Islamic countries. The achievements of Benezir Bhutto took the kind of courage that goes beyond words, and only those closest to her will know what it cost.She knew the risks she was taking as she tried to return to Goverment. She was willing to pay the price that sadly ended in her death today. Her husband has lost his wife, her children a mother - and women all over the world have lost a living symbol of the strength and courage of the feminine spirit.

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Freedom Machine

Married less than two months, it was the summer of 1966 when we drove to a nearby state lake for our first overnight campout. We had an old army tent and plenty of food and beer. We slept on the ground. To those humble, early marriage beginnings, we added two children and various types of outdoor sleeping accommodations. Our family enjoyed freedom of open spaces, solitude, beautiful scenery and relaxing around a fire. Several years ago, our children long gone and retirement at hand, we began thinking about a recreational vehicle. In the past, we traveled to one place. We now plan longer road trips. We did not want to give up our independence in overnight accommodations, but needed something suitable for our age.We were not alone in our wish to own a RV. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) states more baby boomers own RVs than any other age group. Although the purchase of new vehicles will slip somewhat in 2008 because of higher gas prices, projections indicate sales will still be the fifth highest in 30 years.Our search for an RV fitting our lifestyle started at the yearly early January Kansas City Sports Show in Bartle Hall. Even though a new RV would not fit our budget, we walked through the units on display to determine our preferences. We wanted something small enough to park anywhere and self-contained so we could stop for the night without a reservation. Finally deciding on a small van conversion with gas mileage comparable to popular SUVs, we began looking for a used unit.Newspaper want ads and online sales sites were excellent sources, but good deals moved fast. I did not hesitate to call or email questions. Without fail, owners were anxious to share information. Six months later, we purchased a five-year-old 17-foot conversion van found on an Internet-listing site. It had 17,000 miles on the speedometer and cost less than half of a new model. We picked it up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.It is everything we hoped. You might see us tailgating at football games or parked on Mass street in Lawrence. We have been to Maine, states in the Midwest and especially enjoy two-day trips right here in Kansas. We are planning an Alaska trip a year from this summer. We feel as secure parking in a large chain store parking lot (boon docking) as a remote hilltop. We use it year round. We call it our Freedom Machine.

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Merry Christmas From Your Candidates

'Tis the season for eating too much cookies, maxing out your credit cards and, wait a minute: groan inducing political ads?Now that the Iowa Caucuses have been moved up to January 3rd, campaigning has spilled onto the holiday and left us with these sometimes humorous, occasionally embarrassing media clips. And, yes, Virginia, there actually is one that touches on the true meaning of Christmas. It all started with a seemingly innocent bookcase. Mike Huckabee's ad caused quite a stir when a cross shaped bookcase was seen behind his head while he spoke about Christmas. People wondered whether this was an overt evangelical message or merely a coincidence. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call this Christian propaganda, but the filmmaker side of me does find it hard to believe that no one called this "coincidence" to the candidate's attention during the filming. With directors, production designers and cinematographers involved in even the most basic productions, there are usually a lot of eyes on the video tap to pick up on visual symbols, intentional or not. Moving on to the more innocuous, meet-the-family ads: Barack Obama and Ron Paul both had some serviceable spots with the obligatory cute family members getting in the holiday spirit. These festive ads are meant to show us that they are not just politicians but, in fact, "real guys." I think it would have been more real to see them loafing on the coach after turkey dinner or getting into arguments with family members, but that's just me.John Edwards took the gig more seriously and drove home the issue of those without homes. This somewhat dour message stood in contrast to his soft lighting and cheerful sweater. I think if you are going to take a gritty approach to the holiday you should get out of the studio and hit the streets. Use the visual medium of television to get your hands dirty. Unless you are afraid of messing up that $3,000 haircut. Moving on, the next two political ads are quite simply in bad taste. With a forced attempt at humor, Hillary Clinton finds a gift under her tree for universal pre-K. It just feels condescending. A gift from her? Aren't we the taxpayers? But even this wasn't as bad as Giuliani's Jerry Lewis impression as he tries to ham it up with Santa over fruit cakes. Come on guys, leave the acting to Fred Thompson.Last but not least is John McCain's Christmas ad. I was a little skeptical at the opening- a slow motion image of McCain's POW days. It set the stage for something a bit heavy handed. But then, he tells a heartfelt story about how his guard wrote a cross in the dirt on Christmas day. He touched on the universality of Christmas and left us with the feeling that he is just the guy to bridge cultural gaps. There was nothing subliminal, false or cornball here. I couldn't help but remember that episode of "30 Rock" where Tina Fey says there's an 80% chance she'll tell her friends she voted for Barack Obama when she actually voted for John McCain. So, take them or leave them, love them or hate them, it just goes to show you politics don't take a holiday. Personally, I was hoping that Mitt Romney would have had an ad where he said he "saw" his father ride with Santa Claus, but you can't get everything on your list.

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How I found my feminism.

http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... from factoryjoe at flickr.com I found my feminism in two difference places; in my family and in books. I am grateful to have been raised without gender-segregated treatment. If I wanted toy cars, fine. If I wanted an American Girl doll, fine. I got an Equal Rights Amendment bracelet for my 18th birthday from my mom, which was given to her on her 18th birthday by my grandmother.While I am infinitely thankful to have such a wonderful family, I would not be the feminist I am today without the summer of 2005. I had just moved out of the dorms at the University of Kansas and into my first real apartment. Faced with endless amounts of free time and no TV, I turned to the Lawrence Public Library for entertainment. But after I had watched all the James Bond and Alfred Hitchcock movies I could stand, I needed something else.Seeking an alternative, I decided to learn more about feminism. I had always known that I valued and respected women, but I did not know the theories, the movement, or the struggles behind that belief. It all started with bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody and Madam President: Women Blazing the Leadership Trail by Eleanor Clift and Tom Brazaitis.I spent that whole summer working my way through all the feminist books I could find at the library. And from then on, I have been educating myself (formally and informally) about every form of feminism imaginable. The more I read, the more I felt like someone finally understood how the world really worked and could articulate that understanding. There is gender influence in every single action we take in every day. It is often small and hard to find, but it is there.How did you find your feminism?

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