Friday, January 31, 2014

February 1, 2014, on Mount Sequoyah annual members and friends gathering of Omni Center

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Annual Members and Friends Gathering!
Saturday, February 1 -- 5:30-8:30 pm
Mt. Sequoyah Retreat Center, Dining Hall

The Sweet Music of Peace...   
Fayetteville is so lucky to have the kind of talent that wanders around thinking up incredible songs about peace, justice and a thriving earth. 

Kelly Mulhollan and Fernando Garcia will be emcee-ing the program Saturday night.  They gave us a few notes about the music and musicians who we'll hear.  Just look at this and drool until you get to hear them.

Don't Stop Please 
They're the buzz all around town, recently relocated from Conway.   They wanted to be where the real action is, so they came to Fayetteville, of course.  They're often seen as a large ensemble, but the wing that will be performing for us is the duo often known as "Handmade Moments".

Air Loom 
Does he look like a physics professor to you?  Dana and Jackson have a magical chemistry that vibrates on stage. She's part of the Idlet clan of Trout Fishing fame (also long-time OMNI members), but she has enough talent to hold her own without parental credentials.

And Inimitable Papa Rap 
The irrepressible champion of peace and justice, and vibrant bridge between the Latino and Anglo communities.  His Caribbean-rap sound is distinctive and exciting, and has been an important part of his appeal to the young people he has inspired and mentored over the years.   Papa Rap is irresistibly interactive.  You already know you're gonna love him.

Also grateful to Mount Sequoyah for hosting us at no charge.  It's a very comfortable venue for this event.  Bet you like it too.  

Acting in the Present...Working Toward the Future...Together
Annual Meeting also features a chance to see your peace friends, OMNI programs that have tables for information, and music from terrific local musicians.  Always fun.  REALLY fun!
Also your chance to support OMNI, while you have a blast. $10 suggested donation, kids under 5 free, nobody turned away.

Mt Sequoyah Retreat Center, 150 N. Skyline Dr., Fayetteville
OMNI 350 Environmental Events
Citizens Climate Lobby monthly meeting
Saturday Feb 1 - 11:00 am, OMNI.  Potluck lunch where you learn some outstanding tools and hear about some amazing people making real progress in a tough Congress. This is where you can find a place to make a real contribution yourself. 

Regional Conference March 8... more info here:
Info and Registration here

Climate Change Book Forum
Sunday Feb 2 - 1:30 pm, Fay Public Library Walker Room.
This month's book is "The Plundered Planet" by Paul Collier.  The economics of managing global resources for climate stability.  This is a controversial book taking a position from more traditional economics, that should generate some excellent conversation.  Discussion facilitated by Phil Zimmerman

If you wish to read the book, OMNI still has one copy to loan. Contact the office at 479-935-4422.
Open Mic for Peace
Open Mic Turns to Comedy 
Sunday Feb 2 -- 7:00 pm 

OMNI Center

Sunday is Open Mic night at Omni and you don't want to miss this:
Our featured guest will be two comedians, Taylor Henschelland Steve Holst! Both were the feature for the last Ozark Poets and Writers Guild event and they were fabulous.
It all begins at 7:00 at the Omni Center (February 2nd)
After the feature, we will have open mic as always for your songs and word of peace, justice, and ecology.
Hope to see you there, Kelly and Donna
More OMNI and Community Activity
Add your events to the list by emailing

Feb 1 - 11:00 am - Citizens Climate Lobby meets, OMNI.
Feb 1 - 5:30 pm - ANNUAL MEMBERS MEETING - Mt. Sequoyah Assembly Dining Hall. Put it on your cal!
Feb 2 - 1:30 pm - Climate Change Book Forum - Fay Library. Book is "The Plundered Planet", let by Phil  
Feb 2 - 7:00 pm - OPEN MIC for PEACE - OMNI
Feb 8 - Interfaith Harmony Day - St. Paul's - 1:00-5:00 pm 
Feb 9 - 11:00 am - Gladys Tiffany talks at Unitarian Fellowship Fayetteville, on the values shift now going on in America 
Feb 9 - 3:00 pm - Women's Support Group meets at OMNI
Feb 9 - 6:30 pm - Video Underground - movie: Mis- Representation  
Feb 10 - 6:00 pm - Civil Rights Roundtable, OMNI 
Feb 12 - 6:30 pm - Veggie Potluck @ OMNI -------------------------------------------

Feb 22 - 5:00 pm - OMNI Empowerment Series - new and exciting - Open space exploration of your interests
Mar 8 - Citizens Climate Lobby Regional Conference - Eureka Springs - more info soon - register here
March 16 - Fay Com RADIO Fundraising Event - Greenhouse Grill
Mar 16-23 -- GODDESS FESTIVAL - @ OMNI. More info at the Annual Meeting

Every week @ OMNI -  
7:00 pm Mondays - Falun Gong meditation group meets in the OMNI library     
Quaker Meetings 9:30 am Sundays.  Anyone invited.  
First Sundays 1-5 pm - Rooted Vision Healing Drums   
The OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology actively educates, empowers and connects to build a nonviolent, sustainable, and just world.  
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

AlterNet shares information from uncommonly authoritative sources: Are you an empathetic person?

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Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

Are you a HEP (highly empathic person)? Well, even if you're not, it's possible to cultivate these highly pro-social traits.
This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.
If you think you’re hearing the word “empathy” everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.
But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you — they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.
The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid.
Over the last decade, neuroscientists have identified a 10-section “empathy circuit” in our brains which, if damaged, can curtail our ability to understand what other people are feeling. Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have shown that we are social animals who have naturally evolved to care for each other, just like our primate cousins. And psychologists have revealed that we areprimed for empathy by strong attachment relationships in the first two years of life. 
But empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives — and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. Research in sociology, psychology, history — and my own studies of empathic personalities over the past 10 years — reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!
Habit 1: Cultivate Curiosity about Strangers
Highly empathic people (HEPs) have an insatiable curiosity about strangers. They will talk to the person sitting next to them on the bus, having retained that natural inquisitiveness we all had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. They find other people more interesting than themselves but are not out to interrogate them, respecting the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”
Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans.
Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. Crucially, it tries to understand the world inside the head of the other person. We are confronted by strangers every day, like the heavily tattooed woman who delivers your mail or the new employee who always eats his lunch alone. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.
Habit 2: Challenge Prejudices and Discover Commonalities
We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels — e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom” — that prevent us from appeciating their individuality. HEPs challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them. An episode from the history of US race relations illustrates how this can happen.
Claiborne Paul Ellis was born into a poor white family in Durham, North Carolina, in 1927. Finding it hard to make ends meet working in a garage and believing African Americans were the cause of all his troubles, he followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Ku Klux Klan, eventually rising to the top position of Exalted Cyclops of his local KKK branch.
In 1971 he was invited — as a prominent local citizen — to a 10-day community meeting to tackle racial tensions in schools, and was chosen to head a steering committee with Ann Atwater, a black activist he despised. But working with her exploded his prejudices about African Americans. He saw that she shared the same problems of poverty as his own. “I was beginning to look at a black person, shake hands with him, and see him as a human being,” he recalled of his experience on the committee. “It was almost like bein’ born again.” On the final night of the meeting, he stood in front of a thousand people and tore up his Klan membership card.
Ellis later became a labor organiser for a union whose membership was 70 percent African American. He and Ann remained friends for the rest of their lives. There may be no better example of the power of empathy to overcome hatred and change our minds.
Habit 3: Try Another Person’s Life
So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging — and potentially rewarding — of them all. HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”
George Orwell is an inspiring model.  After several years as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920s, Orwell returned to Britain determined to discover what life was like for those living on the social margins. “I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed,” he wrote. So he dressed up as a tramp with shabby shoes and coat, and lived on the streets of East London with beggars and vagabonds. The result, recorded in his book "Down and Out in Paris and London," was a radical change in his beliefs, priorities, and relationships. He not only realized that homeless people are not “drunken scoundrels” — Orwell developed new friendships, shifted his views on inequality, and gathered some superb literary material. It was the greatest travel experience of his life. He realised that empathy doesn’t just make you good — it’s good for you, too.
We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,”  attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”
Habit 4: Listen Hard — and Open Up
There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.
One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within — to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” HEPs listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.
But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding — an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences.
Organizations such as the Israeli-Palestinian Parents Circle put it all into practice by bringing together bereaved families from both sides of the conflict to meet, listen, and talk. Sharing stories about how their loved ones died enables families to realize that they share the same pain and the same blood, despite being on opposite sides of a political fence, and has helped to create one of the world’s most powerful grassroots peace-building movements.
Habit 5: Inspire Mass Action and Social Change
We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change.
Just think of the movements against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries on both sides of the Atlantic. As journalist Adam Hochschild reminds us, “The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts but human empathy,” doing all they could to get people to understand the very real suffering on the plantations and slave ships. Equally, the international trade union movement grew out of empathy between industrial workers united by their shared exploitation. The overwhelming public response to the Asian tsunami of 2004 emerged from a sense of empathic concern for the victims, whose plight was dramatically beamed into our homes on shaky video footage.
Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children. That’s why HEPs support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, the world’s most effective empathy teaching program, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centers on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence — and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement.
Beyond education, the big challenge is figuring out how social networking technology can harness the power of empathy to create mass political action. Twitter may have gotten people onto the streets for Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, but can it convince us to care deeply about the suffering of distant strangers, whether they are drought-stricken farmers in Africa or future generations who will bear the brunt of our carbon-junkie lifestyles? This will only happen if social networks learn to spread not just information, but empathic connection.
Habit 6: Develop an Ambitious Imagination
A final trait of HEPs is that they do far more than empathize with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough.
We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives — understanding their thinking and motivations — if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. A little of this “instrumental empathy” (sometimes known as “impact anthropology”) can go a long way.
Empathizing with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim! And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”
Organizations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.
The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.
Roman Krznaric, Ph.D., is a founding faculty member of The School of Life in London and empathy advisor to organizations including Oxfam and the United Nations, and he formerly taught sociology and politics at Cambridge University. He is the author of "The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live" and "How to Find Fulfilling Work." You can follow him on Twitter.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Coralie Koonce's writing also accurate and informative

Amazing. After many years of reading Coralie Koonce's letters to the editor and other books and other publications, I've never found her on the wrong side of any issue. Brilliant woman. Share essay below, please.
  • Coralie straightens out the misinformed‏

To: Coralie
Cc: Linda Farrell, Darrell H., George Patterson, Dick Bennet, Art Hobson, Gladys Tiffany, Aimee Crochet, Aubrey Shepherd, Barbara Fitzpatrick, Doug Kruger, Pippin Lowe, Richard Drake, Shelley Buonaiuto, Vivian Michaels

Misinformation Abounds From Editorial Pages

If the editorial pages are any indication, Northwest Arkansas is awash in misinformation and extreme partisanship.
This morning’s newspaper had a cartoon with President Obama’s face and the caption “Big Brother is watching you (less excessively).” If ignorant of recent history, which many seem to be, one would think NSA surveillance was introduced by Obama. In fact it was established by President George W. Bush by secret presidential order in October 2001.
In a recent letter Sue Richardson accused the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) of trying to kill off older people.
She bases this on something a doctor said, which she may have misunderstood. She refers to “Obamacare insurance plans” but there is no such thing. The ACA regulates the existing insurance industry - it does not set up new insurance companies.
People older than 65 are covered by Medicare (“LBJ Care”) rather than by the ACA. The government pays doctors directly for their Medicare patients. So it is not likely insurance companies are leaning on doctors about older patients. I’m older than the Richardsons and have many friends older than 65, some with serious health issues.
None have complained about losing Medicare prescriptions or other benefits since the ACA went into effect, nor has this happened to me.
Ms. Richardson assumes that liberals are young people who don’t care about the elderly. But I know dozens of liberals older than 65. Most of them regard the ACA as a definite improvement but would have preferred that the law included the public option or had simply extended Medicare to younger people. According to polls, about 15 percent of the general population agrees that the ACA is not liberal enough.
The public has not received clear information about an admittedly very large and complex change to our healthcare system. Propagandists have rushed in to spin it like a top. What many are calling a “lie” I regard as an overoptimistic miscalculation about how the insurance companies would grandfather in certain kinds of insurance policies.
But a political fumble is a far cry from a hidden agenda of genocide.
It is sad that some people will so readily believe the very worst about the ACA, the president and neighbors in their community who have more liberal views than their own, to the point of outraged hysteria.
A third area of concern is continual misinformation about climate change via columnists and articles from other newspapers. People need to know that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends are most likely due to human activities. Most of the leading scientific organizations in the world have issued statements to this effect. Those of our citizens who believe the scientific academies of countries from Albania to Malaysia to Zimbabwe are all in some plot to push this theory for nefarious reasons of their own should look for a sale on tinfoil hats.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's in your fractiN' WATER?

For Pennsylvania's Doctors, a Gag Order on Fracking Chemicals

A new provision could forbid the state's doctors from sharing information with patients exposed to toxic—and proprietary—fracking solutions.
A fracking rig. arimoore/Flickr
Under a new law, doctors in Pennsylvania can access information about chemicals used in natural gas extraction -- but they won't be able to share it with their patients. A provision buried in a law passed last month is drawing scrutiny from the public health and environmental community, who argue that it will "gag" doctors who want to raise concerns related to oil and gas extraction with the people they treat and the general public.
Pennsylvania is at the forefront in the debate over "fracking," the process by which a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, sand, and water are blasted into rock to tap into the gas. Recent discoveries of great reserves in the Marcellus Shale region of the state prompted a rush to development, as have advancements in fracking technologies. But with those changes have come a number of concerns from citizens about potential environmental and health impacts from natural gas drilling.
"People are claiming that animals are dying and people are getting sick in clusters around [drilling wells], but we can't really study it because we can't see what's actually in the product."
There is good reason to be curious about exactly what's in those fluids. A 2010 congressional investigation revealed that Halliburton and other fracking companies had used 32 million gallons of diesel products, which include toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, in the fluids they inject into the ground. Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger acute effects like headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness, while higher levels of exposure can cause cancer.
Pennsylvania law states that companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else -- not even the person they're trying to treat.
"The whole goal of medical community is to protect public health," said David Masur, director of PennEnvironment. He worries that the threat of a lawsuit from a big industry player like Halliburton or ExxonMobil for violating a confidentiality agreement could scare doctors away from research on potential impacts in the state. "If anything, we need more concrete information. This just stifles another way the public could have access to information from experts."
The provision was not in the initial versions of the law debated in the state Senate or House in February; it was added in during conference between the two chambers, said State Senator Daylin Leach (D), which meant that many lawmakers did not even notice that this "broad, very troubling provision" had been added. "The importance of keeping it as a proprietary secret seems minimal when compared to letting the public know what chemicals they and their children are being exposed to," Leach told Mother Jones.
The limits on what doctors can say about those chemicals makes it impossible to either assuage or affirm the public's concerns about health impacts. "People are claiming that animals are dying and people are getting sick in clusters around [drilling wells], but we can't really study it because we can't see what's actually in the product," said Leach.
At the federal level, natural gas developers have long been allowed to keep the mixture of chemicals they use in fracking fluid a secret from the general public, protecting it as "proprietary information." The industry is exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory -- the program that ensures that communities are given information about what companies are releasing. In 2005 the industry successfully lobbied for an exemption from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as well, in what is often referred to as the "Halliburton Loophole." The Obama EPA has pressed drillers to voluntarily provide more information about fracking fluids, but the industry has largely rebuffed those appeals.
The latest move in Pennsylvania has raised suspicions among the industry's critics once again. As Walter Tsou, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, put it, "What is the big secret here that they're unwilling to tell people, unless they know that if people found out what's really in these chemicals, they would be outraged?"

This story was produced by Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones as part of theClimate Desk collaboration.