Late Night: Bear Stories

Tonight we have stories about three bears and about panda bears which aren’t really bears. First the panda bears which are China’s “goodwill ambassadors.” More like China’s payoff for uranium and other trade deals. Poor pandas. After Obama met with Dalai Lama, China recalled Panda cubs, because the giant cousins of the raccoon are property of the state. For a while they were renting the cute black and white critters to zoos, but stopped after an outcry. Pimping an endangered species is gross.

Sad news for candy lovers: The grandad of Gummi-Bears has died. Hans Riegel, 90, founded the candy company Haribo in Bonn (Hans Riegel Bonn) in 1946,when Hans and his younger brother rebuilt his father’s candy factory after World War II though Gummibärchen have been “the original since 1922.” Gummi-Bears  have spawned a whole range of gummy candies, including  Halloween faves gummy worm, gummy spiders, and gummy skulls.

Dodgers security evicted a would-be rally mascot, Dodger Dancing Bear, from Dodger Stadium last night after furniture store owner (and the former mascot for several minor league teams), Mark Monninger, jumped up on the Cardinals dugout and danced for about 12 seconds. Security was booed when they escorted him off the grounds, and he had to sign an agreement to not return to Dodger Stadium for six months. The Dodgers are one of four major league teams that don’t have a mascot.

And our fourth bear? He’s up top, playing tether ball! Meet LG who was found as a starving, frostbitten cub and brought to Animal Ark.  The original intention was for Animal Ark to rehabilitate and release the cub as part of its black bear rehabilitation program, but LG’s boldness, along with the loss of his ear tips to frostbite, did not make him a good release candidate, so LG was given a permanent home at Animal Ark.

SF Giants, Other Sports Figures Stand Up Against Bullying

High scoring rugby player Ben Cohen has retired from the game and is focusing on his Stand Up Foundation, created to combat homophobia and bullying. Cohen’s father was killed in a nightclub fight standing up for someone who was being bullied, and has a huge gay following.

Last month, following the announcement by Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts that he is gay, Charles Barkley said in an interview with the Washington Post:

I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play…First of all, society discriminates against gay people. They always try to make it like jocks discriminate against gay people. I’ve been a big proponent of gay marriage for a long time, because as a black person, I can’t be in for any form of discrimination at all.

New York Rangers’ Sean Avery endorsed the Human Rights Campaign’s “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign” in an ad. Two Phoenix Suns players, Grant Hill and Jared Dudley recently  participated in an NBA public service announcement that denounced the use of the term “gay” as acceptable trash talk on the playground, while the San Francisco Giants taped a public service announcement for the “It Gets Better” campaign–the first ever by a sports team. On the heels of that, teenager Sam Maden–inspired by his Uncle Chris, who passionately believed in ending the bullying of gay kids and kids perceived to be gay and  died unexpectedly in January at the age of 43–has launched a petition asking his favorite team, the Red Sox, to make an video for It Gets Better.


 

 

Now That’s Just UnAmerican! High School Internet Filter Messes with Religion, Baseball

This caught my eye:

The Gainesville (Georgia) School Board has promised it would look into why two Chinese oriented meditation websites come up as ‘occult’ and are blocked by the Gainesville High School Internet filter…Expressing her concern at Monday’s board meeting held in the high school cafeteria, Mary Silver, who supports Clear Wisdom and Falun Dafa, told board members the sites do not encourage involvement in the occult. Far from it, she said.

Falun Dafa is also known as Falun Gong, a form of exercise and meditation banned by the Chinese government in 1999. Practitioners have been jailed, sent to work camps and tortured. And if you believe some websites, killed and their organs sold for transplants. Occult means “secret” or “hidden.” At time the word is equated with “esoteric,” and has by used by some to describe practices like meditation, yoga, astrology, witchcraft as well as various mono- and polytheistic faiths which may practice these exercises and arts. Lumped into “occult” by pop culture are werewolves, vampires, zombies and anything else scary.  Eye roll.

A quick search for “Falun Dafa” and “occult” gets you to discussion forums like Vampire.nu and Occultforum.org, as well as one site that claims Falun Dafa practitioners

collect energy for [their] own benefit, but a portion is re-directed (by occult processes) to the Falun Gong cause in China.

So basically, Falun Dafa practitioners believe they are using some not readily known method to help gain freedom to practice their religion and to draw attention to human rights abuses. Kinda like prayer circles where the faithful pray to make money or to get rid of demons in their neighborhood.

But wait a minute.  Why is the term “occult” blocked by the high school’s internet filter? What other words are blocked? And why? Is “atheist” blocked? “Evolution”?   Are certain religions? Philosophies? And how would parents feel if terms like “resurrection” or “son of God” were blocked?

In April Prince William School District in Virginia received a letter from the ACLU pointing out that the school district’s internet ban on the term LGBT was unconstitutional. TDB reported:

According to the ACLU, barred websites under the system’s “LGBT” filter include those for educational organization The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, school diversity campaign the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, anti-bullying initiative Day of Silence, and anti-suicide initiative the It Gets Better Project.

Meanwhile, because Prince William County Public Schools does not elect to bar “political/activist groups,” “health,” or “reference,” it currently allows students to access anti-LGBT websites like People Can Change, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and Exodus International.

At they time they sent out the letter, the ACLU issued the following statement:

The ACLU also sent similar letters to schools in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas as part of the organization’s “Don’t Filter Me” initiative, which seeks to combat illegal censorship of LGBT information on public school computer systems by enlisting students to check their school’s web browsers and report what they find.

Under the First Amendment right to free speech and the Equal Access Act, gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups should have access to national organizational websites that help them to function, just as other groups, such as Key Clubs and the chess clubs, are able to access their national websites.

Ken Blackstone, a spokesman for the Prince William school system said that:

the school system is required by federal law to use Internet filtering software to keep students and staffers from looking at inappropriate content at school. He said the division’s Blue Coat filtering software blocks out 32 specific categories, including, for instance, sites containing pornography or promoting violence or drugs.

Butt the process is automated and sometimes the software doesn’t correctly differentiate between, for example, gay support groups and gay pornography.

In order to correct that problem, Blackstone said the school division has a process by which students or staff can request to have a site unblocked. He said that to the best of his knowledge, no one made such a request in this case.

So, if websites about certain  “occult” faiths, philosophies and belief systems are not allowed into the school, and other religions and philosophies are allowed to pass through the Internet filter, why? Who sets up these filters? Are they set by prevailing community standards, the Federal government, or by the school itself using certain guidelines and their own interpretations?

Seems though that blocking equal access to all religions is a blow against freedom of religion, one of the very cornerstones of our nation and one of the reasons we even have Founding Fathers.

And side note: banning the word “occult” prevents seekers from finding information about colon cancer, arthritis and even baseball!


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