To Find Necessary...or To Demand?

In recent news, New Jersey has taken steps to require universal health coverage for residents, following (sort of) in the footsteps of Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. One of the key differences between New Jersey and other plans is that Jersey will finance health coverage by redistributing existing funds rather than adding to the budget.

In what otherwise seems like a positive development in this health care-ravaged country, I can't help but get tripped up on the word "required." Having two common definitions, it is the second that comes to mind here: "To demand authoritatively; insist upon," rather than the first: "To have need of; to find necessary." And with this, comes other uncomfortable associations: requiring requires proving, then enforcing, then penalties, etc. etc.

Perhaps these two definitions bump up against one another much like they do in the Ron Paul political campaign, where a savvy politician stumbled upon the rhetoric of a dissatisfied generation, i.e. "Less government." But can something like universal health care ever be compatible with "less government"? There's the rub.

In any case. Universal health care good. Unchecked "requiring" bad.

Mexican Students Killed in Ecuador by Colombia

Rarely do we reproduce entire articles here at RecycledMinds, but we feel this warrants a full report - especially as there are no links to find it elsewhere. The Colombian attack of the FARC forces across the Ecuadorian border has been in the news lately, although less and less frequently. Well, details keep coming out about the incident, and most of them make Colombia look pretty bad. It's good to know that the U.S. picks such careful and respectful partners with which to spread the wealth of their military might. Check this out:

The Surviving Mexican Student Reveals that Colombian Soldiers Killed the Wounded and Those Who Had Surrendered

March 17, 2008
International Criminal Court - The Hague
Blanche Petrich filed this report for La Jornada.

Yesterday the Mexican student Lucía Morett gave her first declaration to Ecuador’s Attorney General, William Pesantez, from the Military Hospital in Quito, and testified that Colombian soldiers who bombed the FARC camp in the Sucumbios zone - where until now the bodies of 5 women and 17 men have been recovered - killed the people who were wounded and who’d surrendered.

The other two survivors of the massacre, Doris Bohórquez and Martha Peréz, two Colombians kept by force in the camp to perform domestic work, backed up her declarations with this statement, given in an interview with the Secretary General of the Latin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU): “The soldiers were shouting for people to give themselves up, that their lives would be respected, and once they did so, they were killed.”

The jurist, who represents the three survivors in their lawsuit against Colombia for an illegitimate act of war - an invasion using cluster bombs where wounded people were annihilated and the injured abandoned at the scene, among other crimes against human rights - said that ALDHU and the Ecuadoran human rights organizations “hoped to have the support of the Mexican government.” He said that he was also studying the possibility of presenting the case to the International Criminal Court, inasmuch as it was a military attack against a group of entirely civilian Mexican students, who were legally in Ecuador, where their activities were legal. “Of course first this initial stage of the process must be done away with, where the victims have been blamed as guerrillas and terrorists, as if that excuses the fact that they were massacred.”What expectations do they have of the Mexican government?

“Every sovereign country should protect its citizens outside of its borders. Mexico has done this energetically in the past, and we hope that this will not be the exception. These young people were civilian students who were here legally, their activities were legal and even the Attorney General has said so. Therefore they are victims of a massacre.“The Mexican authorities will determine what to do, but next week we are going to submit a lawsuit to the Mexico’s Public Minister and the respective authorities demanding protection of the people and their rights. If it is not done, it will be the Mexican people who will judge this conduct. As a civil Latin American society we will not rest until these crimes have been punished and that impunity does not remain,” he indicated.

ALDHU delivered all the documentation to the Ecuadoran attorney general, certifying that the young Mexicans had entered on a 40 day tourist visa, where they visited various universities and interviewed social leaders and indigenous groups. They also presented a theatrical work at the Second Bolivarian Continental Congress in Quito, which was captured on video. From there someone proposed that they go to learn about a FARC camp,” said Parra, referring to the substance of the statements made yesterday in the Military Hospital. “They were enthusiastic about the idea, first out of curiosity and second because some of them had been working on Latin American movements as part of their theses.

“On February 28 they took a bus to Lago Agrio, the city closest to the border. They arrived the morning of the 29th, went around the city and made contact with a man, an adult of few words, dressed in civilian clothing, who drove them in a vehicle for a little more than two hours. Later they traveled by boat on a river and then walked quite a long time until they arrived at the clandestine FARC camp around 6 p.m. on the 29th. “There they were received by a woman who indicated a place where they could eat and assigned them sleeping places. They were to begin their interviews and activities the following day, but that very night they were bombed.”

Lucía Morett said the bombing happened in two stages. She was wounded but protected herself with a backpack. She explained that after a few minutes the soldiers arrived. Five of them surrounded her and shone a light on her while she told them that she was a Mexican student. She mentioned the sexual harassment to which she was submitted. Later another wave of Colombian soldiers arrived, but with another uniform, who were identified as police. They didn’t kill her but she mentioned hearing bursts of gunfire against groups of people who captive or wounded. Afterwards, they brought her to higher ground, underneath a roof, because the sun was already high in the sky. There they left her.

The young woman has an infected 10 centimeter wound in her backside which is difficult to heal. She has been in surgery a number of times.Parra indicated that while the attorney general took her statement yesterday he was accompanied by Mexico’s ambassador and consul. “This gave her comfort, because until last night she’d been very sorrowful, feeling that her embassy had practically abandoned her.” Yesterday the family of Fernando Franco arrived. His body was identified along with that of Juan González of Castillo. Today the arrival of the family of Verónica Natalia Velázquez Ramirez is expected. The Mexican embassy was also able to contact the family of Soren Ulises Avilés, graduate of the National Polytechnic Institute.

Evo Morales on the Emergence of Bolivia's Indigenous Movement

Common knowledge I hope, is the fact that Bolivia has the first indigenous elected head of state - Evo Morales. While Morales is often linked to Chavez and Venezuela in the U.S. media (and rightly so to some extent, as they do have some goals in common), he truly represents a unique and historic situation in what he is trying to accomplish in Bolivia. If you haven't heard him speak, or if you are unfamiliar with what's going on, check out this video which offers a number of clips of Morales speaking, arranged with pictures of life in Bolivia, all to the tune of some traditional Andes music.
Viva la Resistencia!!!

The Cost of War - One Day

Curious about what the U.S. is spending in Iraq? Curious about what else those funds may enable? Check out this video put out by the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers) that gives some examples of what can be done with the money spent on the war in Iraq in ONE DAY.

Rethinking Anthropomorphism

National Geographic has published a wonderful article in their March 2008 issue, which is also available online, about animal intelligence. The article, titled "Minds of their Own: Animals are smarter than you think," begins by introducing Alex, an African gray parrot who, up until his death at 31 last year, worked with scientist Irene Pepperberg since 1977. In that time, Alex learned to imitate around 100 English words; he also demonstrated the ability to count and to recognize and recall colors, shapes and sizes and grasp the basic idea of zero.
One of the most endearing parts of Alex's story was his behavior around his "flock," Pepperberg's assistants and two younger parrots, who were also learning English. Alex, the dominant one of the flock, often took issue with his younger members, commanding them to "Talk clearly!" when one mispronounced a word. "He knows all this, and he gets bored," said Pepperberg, "so he interrupts the others, or he gives the wrong answer just to be obstinate."
Alex is not the only one spotlighted in the article.
There's Rico, a border collie from Germany who knows the names of 200 toys, a manifestation of his ability to learn and remember words at the same rate as a human toddler.
Uek, a New Caledonian Crow adept at problem solving and tool use, much like a primate.
The Orangutan Azy who can understand another's perspective and shows other amazing cognitive flexibility (and creativity: some orangutans use leaves as hats when it rains or as napkins, pillows, or gloves; some use a bundle of leaves as dolls).
Shanthi, an Asian Elephant who can see him(?)self in the mirror (once thought the sole province of humans).
JB, a Giant Pacific Octopus, who engages with other octopuses in water shooting games and whose changing colors may indicate different emotions.
Kanzi, a Bonobo who grasps language spontaneously, plays the piano, and adapts tool making to circumstances. Interestingly, one research said of Kanzi's vocalizations: "We think he may be speaking English words, just too fast and high-pitched for us to decode."
And Maya, a Bottlenose Dolphin who excels at communication.
In the words of Betsy's owner, a sentiment that could apply to all, "We're learning her language, and she's learning ours."
Also check out the extraordinary book, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy.