INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: SEPTEMBER 26, 2017

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

On September 26, the United Nations (UN) promotes a special day that calls for all countries to get rid of nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome is a reminder of the city’s bombing destruction in 1945.
©Bigstockphoto.com/budgetstockphoto

17,000 Nuclear Weapons Worldwide

Nuclear weapons are explosive devices with a destructive power that comes from nuclear energy being released. More than half the world’s population live in countries that have nuclear weapons or are members of nuclear alliances. There are at least 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.

One single nuclear device can destroy a whole city and eliminate the natural environment and lives of future generations. They have already destroyed entire cities, like Hiroshima in Japan, where at least 150,000 people were killed or wounded after the city was bombed during World War II.

A World Without Nuclear Weapons

One of the UN’s oldest goals is to achieve worldwide nuclear disarmament – in other words, to see the world free of nuclear weapons. In December 2013, the UN decided to create a day to inform people and push governments to see the social and economic benefits of not having nuclear weapons. The Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons is one of the UN’s efforts to seek more action on nuclear disarmament.

What’s Open or Closed?

The day is a global observance and not a public holiday so it’s business as usual.

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons Observances

 

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type
Fri Sep 26 2014 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
Sat Sep 26 2015 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
Mon Sep 26 2016 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
Tue Sep 26 2017 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
Wed Sep 26 2018 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
Thu Sep 26 2019 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
Sat Sep 26 2020 International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons United Nations observance
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SKYWATCH: NEW MAP OF WATER IN MOON DUST, KEPLER DISCOVERS PULSATIONS IN THE PLEIADES, AND MORE

LATEST NEWS

New Map of Water in Moon Dust

Sky & Telescope
A new analysis maps out water across the lunar surface, revealing how its abundance changes with latitude. Read more…

An Atmosphere of Heavy Metals

Sky & Telescope
Researchers have found strong evidence of titanium oxide in the atmosphere of a hot giant planet, adding new insights to the complex motions of these planets’ extreme atmospheres. Read more…

Kepler Discovers Pulsations in the Pleiades

Sky & Telescope
The exoplanet-hunting Kepler satellite has long monitored thousands of stars, but the brightest ones have largely remained out of its reach — until now. Read more…

OSIRIS-REX to Fly by Earth on Friday

Sky & Telescope
NASA’s ambitious OSIRIS-REX asteroid sample return mission swings by Earth this Friday for a gravity assist en route to asteroid 101955 Bennu. Read more…

Supermassive Black Holes Discovered in Close Tango

Sky & Telescope
Astronomers have found what could be the closest known pair of supermassive black holes detected via direct imaging, orbiting each other only a light-year apart. Read more…

Some Cosmic Rays Come from Outside the Galaxy

Sky & Telescope
Astronomers have detected more extremely energetic cosmic particles coming from one side of the sky than the other. Read more…

Puffed-Up Hot Jupiter Is Surprisingly Dark

Sky & Telescope
Researchers have found that a football-shaped, ultra-hot gas giant that’s being devoured by its host star is also one of the least reflective exoplanets ever discovered. Read more…

OBSERVING HIGHLIGHTS

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 22 – 30

Sky & Telescope
This week’s equinox marks the start of a new season. Titan should also be visible this week through even a small telescope. Read more…

How to See and Photograph Geosynchronous Satellites

Sky & Telescope
Dozens of satellites are busy day and night, beaming your favorite TV and radio programs from more than 35,000 kilometers away. Here’s how to tune into them. Read more…

Tour September’s Sky: Saturn Time!

Sky & Telescope
In September’s astronomy podcast, you’ll learn what’s special about the ringed planet Saturn, now visible in the evening sky. Read more…

S&T Webinar: When’s the Next Solar Eclipse?

Sky & Telescope
If you loved seeing August’s solar eclipse and are eager to see another one, don’t miss this live webinar on upcoming total and annular solar eclipses. Read more…

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HATEWATCH: HEADLINES FOR WEEK OF 9-23-2017

Hate in God’s Name: Part V

September 22, 2017

The ideology behind violent anti-abortion extremism

September 20, 2017

Federal prosecutors say they will ask a judge to send polygamous cult leader Lyle Jeffs to prison for five years and make him repay the U.S. government $1 million for fraudulently obtained food stamp funds.

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY: SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

International Day of Democracy

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Democracy is annually held on September 15 to raise public awareness about democracy. Various activities and events are held around the world to promote democracy on this date.

Definition of democracy typed on a typewriter.
The International Day of Democracy aims to raise public awareness about democracy – its meaning and importance.
©iStockphoto.com/Richard Goerg

What Do People Do?

Many people and organizations worldwide, including government agencies and non-government organizations, hold various initiatives to promote democracy on the International Day of Democracy. Events and activities include discussions, conferences and press conferences involving keynote speakers, often those who are leaders or educators heavily involved in supporting and endorsing democratic governments and communities.

Leaflets, posters and flyers are placed in universities, public buildings, and places where people can learn more about how democracy is linked with factors such as freedom of expression and a tolerant culture. Organizations, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), organize activities such as public opinion surveys about democracy and political tolerance.

There has been a campaign, known as the Global Democracy Day Initiative, which involves a petition being made to the UN and heads of states to officially adopt October 18 as Global Democracy Day to support International Day of Democracy.

Public Life

The International Day of Democracy is a UN observance day, however, it is not a public holiday.

Background

The UN strives to achieve its goals of peace, human rights and development. It believes that human rights and the rule of law are best protected in democratic societies. The UN also recognizes a fundamental truth about democracy everywhere – that democracy is the product of a strong, active and vocal civil society.

The UN general assembly decided on November 8, 2007, to make September 15 as the annual date to observe the International Day of Democracy. The assembly invited people and organizations, both government and non-government, to commemorate the International Day of Democracy. It also called for all governments to strengthen their national programs devoted to promoting and consolidating democracy. The assembly encouraged regional and other intergovernmental organizations to share their experiences in promoting democracy.

The International Day of Democracy was first celebrated in 2008. The UN general assembly recognized that the year 2008 marked the 20th anniversary of the first International Conference of New or Restored Democracies, which gave people a chance to focus on promoting and consolidating democracy worldwide.

Symbols

The UN logo is often associated with marketing and promotional material for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, enclosed by olive branches. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map represents all the people of the world. It has been featured in black against a white background.

International Day of Democracy Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type
Wed Sep 15 2010 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Thu Sep 15 2011 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Sat Sep 15 2012 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Sun Sep 15 2013 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Mon Sep 15 2014 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Tue Sep 15 2015 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Thu Sep 15 2016 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Fri Sep 15 2017 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Sat Sep 15 2018 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Sun Sep 15 2019 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance
Tue Sep 15 2020 International Day of Democracy United Nations observance

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INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY: SEPTEMBER 8, 2017

International Literacy Day

The United Nations’ (UN) International Literacy Day annually falls on September 8 to raise people’s awareness of and concern for literacy issues in the world.

UN International Literacy Day
International Literacy Day highlights the importance of literacy in areas such as health and education.
©iStockphoto.com/Emrah Turudu

What Do People Do?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its partners promote the day to underline the significance of literacy for healthy societies, with a strong emphasis on epidemics and communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

In countries all over the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom, the day raises people’s awareness of and concern for literacy problems within their own communities. Activities such as letters to the editor in newspapers, as well as news reports about the concerns for low literacy levels, have occurred as a result of this increased awareness. Other activities include literacy day projects, particularly with regard to technology and literature, which are promoted by various organizations including reading associations.

Public Life

The UN’s International Literacy Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.

Background

According to UNESCO, about 774 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills. One in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women. About 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. However, literacy is also a cause for celebration on the day because there are nearly four billion literate people in the world.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed a 10-year period beginning on January 1, 2003, as the United Nations Literacy Decade. The assembly also welcomed the International Plan of Action for the Decade and decided for UNESCO to take a coordinating role in activities at an international level within the decade’s framework. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. This day was first celebrated on September 8, 1966.

Symbols

UNESCO’s banners for the event feature the words “Literacy is the best remedy”. These banners have been produced in English, French, and Spanish. UNESCO’s logo features a drawing of a temple with the “UNESCO” acronym under the roof of the temple and on top of the temple’s foundation. Underneath the temple are the words “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization”. This logo is often used in promotional material for International Literacy Day.

International Literacy Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type
Wed Sep 8 2010 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 8 2011 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 8 2012 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 8 2013 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 8 2014 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 8 2015 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 8 2016 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 8 2017 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 8 2018 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 8 2019 International Literacy Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 8 2020 International Literacy Day United Nations observance

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HATEWATCH: HEADLINES FOR 9-7-2017

Hatewatch Headlines 9/7/2017

Right-wing orgs step up anti-SPLC campaign; Carlson promotes white nationalist social media site; Charlottesville to remove another monument; and more.

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Right Wing Watch: Right-wing organizations, many of them hate groups, ramp up campaign against SPLC.

Media Matters: You don’t have to wear a hood to spread hate.

U.S. News and World Report: Senators push Trump to condemn white supremacists, KKK.

Think Progress: Tucker Carlson promotes white-nationalist social-media site on his Fox News show.

Huffington Post: A white woman from Utah asks white supremacists: ‘What is wrong with you?’

Washington Post: Charlottesville council votes unanimously to remove another Confederate monument.

Kansas City Star: Iowa school punishes football players pictured in KKK robes with a burning cross.

Columbia Spectator: White nationalists to speak on Columbia campus at invitation of Republican students’ group.

Think Progress: Stained-glass windows honoring Confederates to be removed from D.C.’s National Cathedral.

Raw Story: Arab-owned business hit with arson attacks, defaced with swastikas in Arizona.

Salon: How Muslim-Americans are fighting Islamophobia and securing their civil rights.

Oregonian: Black man claims he was harassed, fired from company after complaining about Obama doll in a noose.

Seattle Times: Seahawks star lineman Michael Bennett claims he was racially profiled, threatened with gun by Las Vegas police.

Patch (Pittsburgh, PA): Neo-Nazi, white-supremacist literature surfaces in Pittsburgh Jewish neighborhood.

New America Media: Can hate be healed? A new project hopes to try.

Snopes: No, Nazis were not ‘socialists’ in any meaningful sense.

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MELISANDE SHORT-COLOMB: HER ANCESTORS WERE GEORGETOWN’S SLAVES. NOW, AT AGE 63, SHE’S ENROLLED THERE – AS A COLLEGE FRESHMAN

Her ancestors were Georgetown’s slaves. Now, at age 63, she’s enrolled there — as a college freshman

 
Mélisande Short-Colomb, 63, walks on the Georgetown campus. Her ancestors were among the 272 slaves Georgetown priests had sold in 1838 to help pay off the university’s debts during a financially turbulent time. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
August 30, 2017 
On the first day of class at Georgetown University, the 63-year-old freshman left her dorm room in Copley Hall, carrying highlighters and a legal pad. Walking down the hallway, her gray-blond dreadlocks swinging, her heavy bracelets chiming, Mélisande Short-Colomb gave her schedule a quick look. Today she’d attend the “Problem of God,” a course on the existence and nature of God. And tomorrow would bring the class she’d been waiting for: African American Studies.It was a subject with which Short-Colomb had recently become more acquainted. The history of her own family was the history of African Americans, and, she has learned, proof of how deeply the roots of slavery go in America’s most prominent institutions and universities.At a time when the nation is undergoing a tumultuous reckoning with the darkest chapter of its past, when protests have turned deadly in Charlottesville and college students across the country are demanding the renaming of buildings linked to slavery, Short-Colomb was quietly coming to terms with her own place in that sweep of history.Her ancestors were among the 272 slaves Georgetown priests had sold in 1838 to help pay off the university’s debts during a financially turbulent time. Now it was nearly two centuries later, the truth of what happened was finally out in the open and here she was, a member of her family, again in Washington but under very different circumstances.

The university has granted legacy status to the slaves’ descendants as part of an effort to atone for the sale of their ancestors. But only two have come so far. One is 20. The other, the oldest degree-seeking undergraduate at Georgetown, is Short-Colomb.

The university has granted legacy status to the slaves’ descendants as part of an effort to atone for the sale of their ancestors. But only two have taken up the offer so far. One is 20 years old. The other is Mélisande Short-Colomb. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

She had completed so much of life — she had become a mother, grandmother, professional chef — but increasingly she was feeling like a piece was missing. Did she owe something to the slaves who were sold and the children who followed, and would joining with the university that began it all bring some sense of resolution?

Hoping her experience at Georgetown would help answer this question, she walked into the Walsh Building. The elevators weren’t working, so she climbed the steps beside scores of younger students — “kids,” Short-Colomb described them — before stopping to catch her breath. “I’m not 18 anymore,” she said.

She arrived at Room 496. Most of the students were already inside. She found a seat near the front, took out her legal pad and quietly waited for class to begin.

Oral history, then the truth

Short-Colomb had heard the story her whole life, and in the summer of 1980, as she sat beside her grandmother in the family house in New Orleans, she listened once more. A local newspaper reporter was doing a story on the volunteer work of her maternal grandmother, Geneva Smith, who was saying their family wasn’t from Louisiana but Baltimore. And they had been free.

“My great-grandmother was named Mary Ellen Queen,” Smith told the reporter, according to the article. “She was beautiful, too. Even when she was old, she was a tall, beautiful, dark-skinned proud lady. Before the Civil War ended, the Queen family gave my great-grandparents their freedom, and they came down here to Terrebonne Parish because they heard that there was farmland. She told me how she came on a flatboat with a baby in her arms, and she remembered how the alligators would follow the boat all the way.”

“I heard all the stories,” is how Smith explained it.

But the stories never made much sense to Short-Colomb. Why had her family been freed? And why would they, a recently emancipated black family, ever travel to Louisiana to work land that was dominated by slaveholders? For Short-Colomb, there had never been any way to answer those questions. It’s unusually difficult for black families to trace their roots. African Americans weren’t listed in census records until 1870. So Short-Colomb, who had recently dropped out of college and become a chef, reconciled herself to never knowing. She told her children the same story she had been told, always wondering which details were missing

Mélisande Short-Colomb, 63, is a descendant of slaves sold by Jesuit priests to keep Georgetown University financially afloat. The university has granted the descendants legacy status.

Decades would pass before the details started filling in last year. Her grandmother was dead now. So was her mother. It was just Short-Colomb that day last summer, reading a Facebook message, asking a simple question that would turn out to have a very complicated answer: Was she related to a woman named Mary Ellen Queen?

The woman writing the message was Judy Riffel, a genealogist who had been hired by something called the Georgetown Memory Project. Short-Colomb had read about it in an articlein the New York Times, which told of the story of the Jesuit priests’ sale of 272 slaves. She recalled feeling sad for the slaves. Now she was being told that her own family had been a part of that history, too.

She couldn’t sleep that night. She felt nauseated, thinking about all of the stories her grandmother had told her that hadn’t been true. Mary Ellen Queen hadn’t been freed. She had been sold. And the people who did it were the same priests who helped make Georgetown one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. She arose the next morning feeling better, with a purpose: She provided a DNA sample to the Georgetown Memory Project and connected with the rest of the descendants.

“I felt okay with the history of my family as I had it,” she wrote last September to Richard Cellini, an alumnus of Georgetown University and the founder of the memory project, with whom she developed a quick rapport. “I had heard the story of . . . [ancestor] Abraham Mahoney and Mary Ellen Queen being sent south as young adults. . . . So, that’s my pedigree line as I know from familial oral histories.”

There was now so much more to know. She wanted to know Washington and Georgetown and how her family had come to be owned by Catholic priests. But how could she find that out? She was all the way down in New Orleans, “extremely underemployed,” as she put it, earning her keep at a friend’s house by caring for the friend’s elderly mother.

In January, Cellini sent her an opinion piece in the New York Times, describing Georgetown’s decision to provide legacy status to descendants as “making reparations.” The article angered Short-Colomb. Was that gesture meant to compensate for all that had happened?

“I don’t like those people, and we have unfinished business,” she said. “I might [be] ready to . . . exercise that ‘preferential legacy status.’ ”

“Actually, I think you SHOULD go to Georgetown,” Cellini said.

“I would,” she said.

“Someone has to be the first,” he said.

“I’m a million years out of school,” she said. “We should have a test case from the descendant group. Perhaps it should be a brilliant 17-year-old!”

Suddenly unsure, she talked to her roommate, Marcia Dunmore, who encouraged Short-Colomb but was apprehensive nonetheless. “You’re talking about a 60-plus-year-old person becoming a freshman, and just the idea of that is daunting, the social aspect of it,” Dunmore recalled thinking at the time.

Cellini soon responded to Short-Colomb’s note.

“It needs to be someone with wisdom, strength, imagination, intellect, vision and courage. Does that sound like a 17-year-old to you?”

“It feels right,” she said, finally agreeing. “I want to go back to the source of my family in America.”

So she sat down and, feeling anxious and unsure, began an application to enroll as a freshman at Georgetown University.

“My story begins simply,” she typed, and for the first time, began writing the real one. “My family was sold by the Society of Jesus of Maryland in 1838.”

The purpose of an education

Nearly 200 years later, Short-Colomb was sitting in the “Problem of God,” looking around the classroom. There were young women with long black hair. There were young men in polos and leather shoes. There was the professor, a middle-aged white woman, who said, “Let me see here, who is here?” and started going through the roll call.

Short-Colomb wanted to be a resource to students like these, educate them on how slavery had shaped Georgetown, but she already knew there would be many with whom she would never completely bond. In her week on campus, there had already been times when she felt she didn’t quite fit in. Like when a young white student disparaged Black Lives Matter in one of her orientation sessions, and she wondered what sort of household he had come from. Or when a young woman in her dorm had asked her, “And who are you?” and she had felt out of place, alone in her dorm room. Or when an English professor had given a tour of campus and mentioned the sale of the 272 slaves, but in her mind didn’t probe its moral implications deeply enough.

A university spokesman said, “Slavery was discussed in depth.”

But that was then, this was class and she wanted to do well, so she focused on what the professor was saying. She asked students to read a recent article in the Atlantic magazine titled, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” which explored the ramifications technology has had on millennials.

“They’re talking about you, and the answer is ‘Yes,’ ” the professor joked, and the younger students laughed.

Maybe, she thought, she would stick around. Maybe she would go on to get a PhD. Maybe she would be one of those “career students” she sometimes heard of. Maybe this was it. Her family had finally returned to Georgetown, and she was home.

Class was ending, and Short-Colomb glanced at tomorrow’s reading assignment, “The Death of Reading.” She gathered her things and walked outside, seeing what the sale of her family had ultimately helped accomplish: the gothic buildings, the coiffed gardens, students walking in every direction.

“Look how beautiful this view is,” she said quietly.

She reached her room on the fourth floor of the dormitory and noticed the time. It was already afternoon. The first day of class was over, but it wouldn’t be long before tomorrow. She had so much reading to get through before then, and it was time to get to it.

SOURCE

My prayers and joy go out to Ms. Short-Colomb.

I hope that the WaPo  keeps tabs on her progress and that in the interim, Ms. Short-Colomb  would please keep a journal of her days during her time at Georgetown University.

A daily log of getting up, preparing for class, what transpired that day and how it all turned out would be a wonderful page-turner to me.

Much success to you Ms. Short-Colomb and the 20-year-old who like you decided to take part in this legacy program. It can never begin to make up for what your ancestors experienced, but, hopefully this would be of great benefit to you both.

Both of you are embarking hopefully on a magnificent journey.

SALUTARE.

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