Sunday, August 31, 2008

NAT: Ten Important Endagered Languages

Peter K Austin's top 10 endangered languages
The linguistics professor and author shares a personal selection from the thousands of languages on the brink of disappearing
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday August 27 2008 10:53 BST



On the way out ... Khomani men visit ancestral burial grounds in South Africa.

Photograph: Obed Zilwa/AP

Peter K Austin has published 11 books on minority and endangered languages, including 12 Australian Aboriginal languages, and holds the Märit Rausing Chair in field linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies where he is also director of the Endangered Languages Academic Programme. His most recent book is 1000 Languages: The Worldwide History of Living and Lost Tongues, which explores the state of languages around the world.

There are more than 6,900 languages used around the world today, ranging in size from those with hundreds of millions of speakers to those with only one or two. Language experts now estimate that as many as half of the existing languages are endangered, and by the year 2050 they will be extinct. The major reason for this language loss is that communities are switching to larger politically and economically more powerful languages, like English, Spanish, Hindi or Swahili.

Each language expresses the history, culture, society and identity of the people who speak it, and each is a unique way of talking about the world. The loss of any language is a loss to both the community who use it in their daily lives, and to humankind in general. The songs, stories, words, expressions and grammatical structures of languages developed over countless generations are part of the intangible heritage of all humanity.

So how to choose a top 10 from more than 3,000 endangered languages? My selection is a personal one that tries to take into account four factors: (1) geographical coverage - if possible I wanted at least one language from each continent; (2) scientific interest - I wanted to include languages that linguists find interesting and important, because of their structural or historical significance; (3) cultural interest - if possible some information about interesting cultural and political aspects of endangered languages should be included; and (4) social impact - I wanted to include one or more situations showing why languages are endangered, as well as highlighting some of the ways communities are responding to the threat they currently face.

1. Jeru
Jeru (or Great Andamanese) is spoken by fewer than 20 people on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is generally believed that Andamanese languages might be the last surviving languages whose history goes back to pre-Neolithic times in Southeast Asia and possibly the first settlement of the region by modern humans moving out of Africa. The languages of the Andamans cannot be shown to be related to any other languages spoken on earth.

2. Nu (also called Khomani)
This is a Khoisan language spoken by fewer than 10 elderly people whose traditional lands are located in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa. The Khoisan languages are remarkable for having click sounds – the symbol is pronounced like the English interjection tsk! tsk! used to express pity or shame.The closest relative of Nu is !Xóõ (also called Ta'a and spoken by about 4,000 people) which has the most sounds of any language on earth: 74 consonants, 31 vowels, and four tones (voice pitches).

3. Ainu
The Ainu language is spoken by a small number of old people on the island of Hokkaido in the far north of Japan. They are the original inhabitants of Japan, but were not recognised as a minority group by the Japanese government until this year. The language has very complicated verbs that incorporate a whole sentence's worth of meanings, and it is the vehicle of an extensive oral literature of folk stories and songs. Moves are underway to revive Ainu language and cultural practices.

4. Thao
Sun Moon Lake of central Taiwan is the home of the Thao language, now spoken by a handful of old people while the remainder of the community speaks Taiwanese Chinese (Minnan). Thao is an Austronesian language related to languages spoken in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Pacific, and represents one of the original communities of the Austronesians before they sailed south and east over 3,000 years ago.

5. Yuchi
Yuchi is spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75. Yuchi is an isolate language (that is, it cannot be shown to be related to any other language spoken on earth). Their own name for themselves is Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun". Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round). Efforts are now under way to document the language with sound and video recordings, and to revitalise it by teaching it to children.

6. Oro Win
The Oro Win live in western Rondonia State, Brazil, and were first contacted by outsiders in 1963 on the headwaters of the Pacaas Novos River. The group was almost exterminated after two attacks by outsiders and today numbers just 50 people, only five of whom still speak the language. Oro Win is one of only five languages known to make regular use of a sound that linguists call "a voiceless dental bilabially trilled affricate". In rather plainer language, this means it's produced with the tip of the tongue placed between the lips which are then vibrated (in a similar way to the brrr sound we make in English to signal that the weather is cold).

7. Kusunda
The Kusunda are a former group of hunter-gatherers from western Nepal who have intermarried with their settled neighbours. Until recently it was thought that the language was extinct but in 2004 scholars at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu located eight people who still speak the language. Another isolate, with no connections to other languages.

8. Ter Sami
This is the easternmost of the Saami group of languages (formerly called Lapp, a derogatory term), located on the Kola Peninsula in Russia. It is spoken by just 10 elderly people among approximately 100 ethnic Ter Sami who all now speak Russian as their daily language. Ter Sami is related to Finnish and other Uralic languages spoken in Russia and Siberia, and distantly to Hungarian.

9. Guugu Yimidhirr
Guugu Yimidhirr is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken at Hopevale near Cooktown in northern Queensland by around 200 people. A wordlist was collected by Captain James Cook in 1770 and it has given English (and the rest of the world's languages) the word kangaroo. Guugu Yimidhirr (like some other Aboriginal languages) is remarkable for having a special way of speaking to certain family members (like a man's father-in-law or brother-in-law) in which everyday words are replaced by completely different special vocabulary. For example, instead of saying bama dhaday for "the man is going" you must say yambaal bali when speaking to these relatives as a mark of respect and politeness.

10. Ket
Ket is the last surviving member of a family of languages spoken along the Yenesei River in eastern Siberia. Today there are around 600 speakers but no children are learning it since parents prefer to speak to them in Russian. Ket is the only Siberian language with a tone system where the pitch of the voice can give what sound like identical words quite different meanings. (Much like Chinese or Yoruba). To add to the difficulty for any westerner wishing to learn it, it also has extremely complicated word structure and grammar.

Labels: , , , ,

NAT: Itelmen

Endangered language is topic of Humanities Fellow's research
by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, Connecticut Advance, September 2, 2008


Some 250 years ago, the Itelmen language spoken on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian far east was in decline and expected to survive no more than a generation. It proved more tenacious than predicted, but it is now on the verge of extinction.

Listen to a sample recording from a traditional story narrated by an elderly Itelmen woman about a wingless gosling and a goddess who saves him. The story was recorded by Jonathan Bobaljik in 1994.

Jonathan Bobaljik, professor of linguistics, has spent a decade and a half studying Itelmen. This academic year, thanks to a Humanities Institute fellowship, he hopes to develop a grammatical description of the language and explore related theoretical issues.

“The general philosophy of generative linguistics,” says Bobaljik, “is that there are certain limitations on how languages work. There’s a common core to human language, and there’s variation. One way to find out what the limits are on variation is to examine ‘exotic’ languages, looking for patterns of similarity and difference.”

Itelmen, he adds, is well suited to such study because it is related to almost no other language.

“Even in the remotest corners of the globe,” says Bobaljik, “where languages seem at first blush very different from known languages such as European languages or Japanese, core patterns of human language and grammar are there when you know how to look for them.”

A remote population
Bobaljik first became involved with Itelmen in 1993, while still a graduate student at MIT. Putting his Ph.D. temporarily on hold, he joined an anthropological expedition to the remote Kamchatka Peninsula.

The peninsula is accessible only by plane, boat, or dogsled; there are no roads or trains. Officially part of Russia, it was closed to outsiders until 1990. Bobaljik and the anthropologist he accompanied were the first foreigners many of the local people had met.

The Itelmen people traditionally engage mostly in subsistence hunting and fishing. After several centuries of assimilation, their daily language is now Russian, and the number of Itelmen-speakers has dwindled to just 30, the youngest being in his mid-60s.

Those who speak the language are dispersed in different villages, rarely getting together, and phone communication is sporadic, Bobaljik says.

The researchers spent a year in the field recording the language for further study. They brought the native speakers together for weekly tea gatherings, and taped and transcribed narratives and traditional stories as well as the people’s answers to specific questions about the language.

Language and politics
Bobaljik says the survival of a particular language is not related to its intrinsic characteristics.

“Whether or not a language survives has nothing to do with language, and everything to do with politics and economy,” he says.

Under the Soviets, Russian became the primary language and the Itelmen language was repressed for 50 years.

“It almost directly parallels what happened to indigenous communities in the U.S.,” says Bobaljik. “There was forced assimilation. Children were beaten for speaking their native language.”

Only in the 1980s, did it begin to be legitimate to embrace the native culture, he adds.

Bobaljik says Itelmen history offers broader lessons for endangered languages.

“When you look carefully at both the decline and the surprising tenacity of Itelmen, you can begin to discern some factors that work in both directions,” he says.

“The fate of the language is almost exclusively about politics, but it also partly, in communities this small, comes down to particular individuals and their views.”

Traditionally, the Itelmen lived in tiny, scattered settlements, but the Soviet government created larger communities. In two villages, the language died out almost immediately after collectivization; in another two, it survived much longer.

The difference was the village teachers, Bobaljik says.

Although the language of instruction in all the villages was Russian, if the school teacher spoke Itelmen outside the classroom, the language persisted – an illustration, he says, of how “in a small community, the culture can be shaped by the values of an individual who has prestige.”

Preserving the language
There is currently some local interest in preserving the language, and it is still taught in schools to a handful of children. But Bobaljik says most people are struggling to survive economically, and for them, the indigenous language is not a priority.

The ability to speak Itelmen carries implications for both political and cultural identity. Indigenous people – identified primarily by language – have certain legal rights not accorded to other residents. Some in the government, says Bobaljik, would prefer to believe the indigenous community no longer exists and do away with those rights.

He predicts that fragments of the language will persist in ceremonial contexts, fostered by the growth of ethnotourism.

This fall, Bobaljik will immerse himself in the study of Itelmen, working with more than a hundred hours of audio recordings he made in the 1990s with collaborator Susanne Wurmbrand, who is also now at UConn. It’s painstaking work that requires listening to particular segments over and over.

He wants to make his work available to the Itelmen people. He has already sent copies of some of the texts he recorded, and helped produce educational materials in collaboration with two teachers there. Without museums, he says, “schools are the closest thing to a repository.”

Electronic materials are not practical, however, since some of the villages don’t have electricity. “What are you going to do?” he says. “Send a CD-ROM?”

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

ENV: Plague and ferrets

Plague Threatens Prairie Dogs, Endangered Ferrets
Wildlife officials fight to save prairie dogs, endangered ferrets from deadly plague
By CHET BROKAW, The Associated Press, INTERIOR, S.D.

On the grasslands a few miles from the pinnacles and spires of Badlands National Park, federal wildlife officials have been waging a war since spring to save one of the nation's largest colonies of endangered black-footed ferrets.

The deadly disease sylvatic plague was discovered in May in a huge prairie dog town in the Conata Basin. The black-tailed prairie dog is the main prey of ferrets, and the disease quickly killed up to a third of the area's 290 ferrets along with prairie dogs.

The disease stopped spreading with the arrival of summer's hot, dry weather, but it poses a serious threat to efforts to establish stable populations of one of the nation's rarest mammals, said Scott Larson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Pierre.

The plague, which is carried by fleas, is the biggest danger to ferrets' survival in the Conata Basin and other sites that still have ferrets, said Larson, who is coordinating ferret conservation efforts among five federal agencies.

"It has the capacity to take out more ferret habitat than anything we've run up against, and do it in such a short order," Larson said. "For ferrets, it's the most challenging issue we face."

The ferrets were once considered extinct. But one colony was discovered in Wyoming in 1981, and a captive breeding program succeeded in increasing their numbers. Since then, ferrets have been reintroduced at 17 sites in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Kansas and Mexico, said Nancy Warren, endangered species program leader in the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

Reintroduction efforts failed in some locations, and plague has hit most of the ferret colonies to some degree, Larson said.

Establishing many reintroduction sites helps protect the overall ferret population from being wiped out by plague, Larson said. "I guess it's the old risk management of having your eggs spread out among many baskets."

Representatives of federal agencies and some conservation groups have taken a double-barreled approach to try to stop the spread of plague and save prairie dogs and ferrets in the 20-mile-long Conata Basin, a portion of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands that lies just south of the Badlands in southwestern South Dakota.

This summer, a crew of four has buzzed across the prairie on all-terrain vehicles, pausing frequently to spray white insecticide dust into prairie dog burrows to kill fleas.

After dark, another crew moved into the area during part of the summer to shine spotlights across the grasslands, trap ferrets and vaccinate them against the plague.

Officials want to dust about 11,000 acres with insecticide by this fall, and have covered about two-thirds of that area so far. More than 60 ferrets have been vaccinated, with 15 of them already getting the desired two doses.

Of the 25,000 acres of prairie dog habitat managed for ferrets in the basin, the plague had spread to about 9,700 acres before its growth halted in August. Officials expect the plague might start spreading again this fall or next spring. The disease has not been found inside Badlands National Park itself.

Warren said the insecticide appears to be effective, but it's too early to tell if it will save the ferrets.

"We're learning as we go. We really don't know the answer to that yet," Warren said. "We're hopeful with the dusting, which is something new we're doing now, we'll be able to at least contain the extent of this plague."

The basin also has been the focus of controversy as the Forest Service tries to balance the protection of prairie dogs and ferrets with the needs of ranchers who graze cattle on leased sections of the national grasslands.

Prairie dogs once were routinely poisoned as pests. However, the rodents expanded rapidly in the region, moving from federal land to private ranches, during an extended drought and a halt to poisoning on federal land while government officials considered whether they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service decided in 2004 not to protect prairie dogs, but the agency is now reconsidering the issue.

Jonathan Proctor, Great Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group, said the Conata Basin is the last remaining large complex of black-tailed prairie dogs on the Great Plains since the plague destroyed two in Montana and Wyoming. Prairie dogs must be protected because they are important not only to ferrets, but also to hawks, burrowing owls and many other species, he said.

"Even with the loss of almost 10,000 acres of prairie dogs, Conata Basin still remains the largest and most important prairie dog complex on federal lands in the Great Plains. It's worth all these efforts to save it," Proctor said.

But Shirley Kudma, who ranches in the basin with her husband, Donald, said the prevalence of plague confirms the predictions of ranchers overrun by prairie dogs in the past decade. They argued more should have been done to limit the spread of prairie dogs because the hungry rodents strip the ground of grass and leave little for cattle.

"Nature took care of it, didn't it?" Shirley Kudma said. "There's the plague and the prairie dogs, and that's nature taking care of the expansion."

Ranchers don't want to wipe out prairie dogs, she said.

"I think we want to get along. We want to be able to survive just the same as the prairie dogs want to survive. We don't want to annihilate them. We don't. Just get them under control so they're not sick. Give the ferrets something healthy to eat."

About 5 to 15 people are infected by plague in the United States each year, but it can be cured with antibiotics if treatment is prompt.

Labels: , ,

ATH: Tivy yes; OLH yes; Ingram no

From the Kerrville Daily Times

Tivy takes control
By Alex Byington, The Daily Times, Published August 30, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — Just like the Barbarians did to ancient Rome, the Tivy High School football team invaded San Antonio and rolled on through with a 49-28 drubbing of Class 5A District 26 front-runner Roosevelt on Friday night at Comalander Stadium.

Behind almost 400 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns from Tivy senior quarterback Colton Palmer, the Antlers cruised past a much larger Rough Riders squad that came into this season with high expectations.

“We’re excited as can be,” Tivy coach Mark Smith said. “To come here, play a Northeast school and play the way we did, it’s a big plus for us. It gives us a starting point.”

Palmer helped power the Antlers’ offense by completing an almost perfect 29-of-32 night, throwing for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also ran for two scores and caught another.

The rest is here (although after a few days these stories get hidden behind an obnoxious, and terribly passe, registration wall): http://www.dailytimes.com/story.lasso?ewcd=40ba9cf7311a2bf0


OLH 45’s SA Winston in first half
From staff reports, The Daily Times, Published August 30, 2008

The Our Lady of the Hills football team opened the season in grand style, putting the mercy rule on San Antonio Winston Friday night, 45-0.

Brockton Bushong threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. He gained a total of 118 yards in the air and on the ground combined.

J.J. Reyna also ran for a touchdown for the Hawks, and gained a total of 91 all-purpose yards.

Will Gregory caught both of Bushong’s touchdown passes.

The game ended at halftime because of the score.


Ingram falls again
By Colin Wilson, The Daily Times, Published August 30, 2008

INGRAM — Ingram Tom Moore couldn’t get the proverbial monkey off its back Friday as it lost to Natalia, 31-8, to extend its losing streak to 25 games.

The Warriors made things hard on themselves most of the game, with many mistakes killing their drives and keeping Natalia’s alive.

“You can’t fix 24 losses in a row just by showing up,” said first-year Warriors coach Tim Clarkson.

That’s not to say the Warriors didn’t make things interesting, though.

Things got ugly early, as Natalia’s R.J. Rodriguez tested the Ingram secondary on the third play of the game. He found receiver Josiah Ramsey down the sideline for a 64-yard score.

The rest is here: http://www.dailytimes.com/story.lasso?ewcd=9fd1ba1bdc45b936

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, August 29, 2008

COM: President Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest – a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia – I love you so much, and I’m so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story – of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That’s why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough! This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives – on health care and education and the economy – Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors – the man who wrote his economic plan – was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.

Well it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves – protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America – the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.
.
Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime – by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility – that’s the essence of America’s promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America’s promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That’s not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice – but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans – have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose – our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what – it’s worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I’ve seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they’d pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. They could’ve heard words of anger and discord. They could’ve been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead – people of every creed and color, from every walk of life – is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

“We cannot walk alone,” the preacher cried. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.


Tags: , ,

Labels: , ,

ENV: Fiji Petrel

Search continues for Fiji Petrel
BirdLife International, 28-08-2008

An expedition in search of Fiji’s only endemic seabird - Critically Endangered Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi – had to be aborted. Conservation action now continues to focus upon working alongside local communities to locate and protect their elusive breeding grounds.

The rare petrel was previously known from just one specimen collected in 1855 on Gau Island, Fiji. However, there have been more sightings in recent years from the small island, and a bird was captured and released there in 1984 by Dr Dick Watling of MareqetiViti (NatureFiji).

The recent voyage aimed to provide the first confirmed reports of Fiji Petrel at sea. The scientists were also keen to test the possibility of catching and fitting adults with radio transmittors. However, the trip had to be abandoned after three days due to mechanical problems with the survey vessel.

Hadoram Shirihai – an ornithologist on the expedition - commented: “It was most frustrating for us to leave prematurely without confirmed sightings of this elusive bird”. However, the crew did manage to view some impressive seabirds. Sightings included the first confirmed White-throated Storm-petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa (Vulnerable) in the Fiji and Samoa biogeographical region for 132 years. Also observed were the first and second confirmed Fijian sightings respectively of White-bellied Storm-petrel Fregetta grallaria and Kermadec Petrel Pterodroma neglecta. “It is evident from our records the real possibilities for groundbreaking research in this marine area”, noted Mr Shirihai.


The Fiji Petrel is classified as Critically Endangered because it is estimated that there is only a tiny population which is confined to a very small breeding area. Furthermore, it is assumed to be declining because of predation by introduced species such as cats, rats and feral pigs.

“The most urgent priority remains locating and protecting the breeding grounds” noted Dr Dick Watling. Repeated surveys attempting to find evidence of breeding on Gau Island have been unsuccessful.

The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme aims to save all 190 Critically Endangered birds. NatureFiji - the Species Guardian for Fiji Petrel – have benefited from funds donated by the Species Champion The British Birdwatching Fair. Conservation has involved working alongside the National Trust of Fiji to build capacity for community conservation. “We are now planning to find breeding locations by radio-tracking adults back to their nest sites, and by searching for nests using specially trained sniffer-dogs”, said Dr Watling.

“We are now planning to find breeding locations by radio-tracking adults back to their nest sites, and by searching for nests using specially trained sniffer-dogs” —Dr Dick Watling, MareqetiViti (NatureFiji)

Another expedition is planned for July 2009 to continue searching for the elusive seabird. Limited spaces are available. The second edition of Hadoram Shirihai’s book, A complete guide to Antarctic wildlife, has recently been published. All author royalties from the sale of the book are kindly being donated to BirdLife's Save The Albatross Campaign. BirdLife would like to take the opportunity to thank Hadoram for his extremely generous support. If you would like to read more about the 2008 Fiji Petrel Expedition, or to enquire about a planned 2009, click here. Hadoram also has a new book in preparation entitled Albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters of the world: a handbook to their taxonomy, identification, ecology and conservation.


This news is brought to you by the BirdLife Species Champions and the British Birdwatching Fair - official sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme

Labels: , , ,

ATH: US Men's Team roster for upcoming nationals

Roster For T&T And Cuba

Goalkeepers (2): Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

Defenders (8): Carlos Bocanegra, Danny Califf, Steve Cherundolo, Frankie Hejduk, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Orozco, Heath Pearce, Marvell Wynne

Midfielders (6): DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Sacha Kljestan, Eddie Lewis

Forwards (4): Brian Ching, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson


Tags: , , ,

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

ATH: U.S. National Team tickets

Ticket Information

Tickets for the US Men’s National Team’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Cuba on Oct. 11th in Washington, DC, will go on sale beginning Sept. 4th. Kickoff at RFK Stadium is set for 7 pm ET, live on ESPN Classic and Galavision.

Tickets ranging in price levels from $28 to $95 are available starting next Thursday (Sept. 4) at 10 a.m. ET online at ussoccer.com, through all Washington-Baltimore Ticketmaster outlets (including Macy’s stores), and by phone (Washington 202-397-SEAT (7328); Baltimore 410-547-SEAT (7328); Northern Virginia 703-573-SEAT (7328); out of state 1-800-551-SEAT (7328). Groups of 20 or more can obtain a group order form at ussoccer.com or call 312-528-1290. Ultimate Fan Tickets (a special VIP package which includes a premium ticket, a custom made official U.S. national team jersey with your name and number, VIP access to the field before and after the game, and other unique benefits) are also available exclusively through ussoccer.com.

As a sponsor of US Soccer, Visa is pleased to offer all Visa cardholders access to an advance ticket sale for this match before the sale to the general public. This advance sale will take place from Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 8 a.m. ET until Thursday, Sept. 4, at 8 a.m. ET at ussoccer.com. Visa will be the only payment method accepted through the Visa presale and is the preferred card of U.S. Soccer. Terms and conditions apply.


Tags: , , ,

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

COM: Derek Williams - Distinguished Olympia Alumnus

On August 23, 2008, Derek Williams, U.S. Navy recipient of the Bronze Star, was awarded Camp Olympia’s Outstanding Alumni Award. Derek, as a camper, was an incredible athlete, excelling in everything he attempted, from track to football to diving. But more than that he was the life of camp – never without a smile or some way to make others laugh. He returned as a counselor for several summers and made the same loving impact on the kids he worked with.

I returned to Camp Olympia this past weekend for an alumni reunion, and was ecstatic to see Derek’s parents and sister Bree there and to learn of what he’s been up to over the years. It never occurred to me to question why they were there – Bree is an alum, but not his parents. But i blissfully went on my way until this ceremony which followed an alumni organization presentation. I wasn’t aware there was to be an awards ceremony, and i was so oblivious to what was happening that i missed getting film of the actual presentation speech – and somehow even missed getting film of Derek’s dad (except in the background – i was busy taking still photos). Nevertheless, in Derek’s honor, and in hopes he can see this wherever he’s at, i wanted to post these small snippets.

Of the thousands of kids i have worked with over the years, Derek ranks tops for being most fun to be around, to see what he would do next, to his just making everyone feel like everything in life was worthwhile. I think we call that charisma, and his was boundless. His wonderful parents have written me over the years, and i’ve been able to glean bits of information about his mostly secret adventures overseas from the occasional camp contact, but i can say that whatever he is doing i could not be prouder of him for having found his place in life – in serving others. He is truly the most deserving person on the planet to be honored in all the ways he’s been singled out from this Alumni Award to the Bronze Star.

Special thanks to his parents Randy and Cheryl, his sister Bree, and her son D.J., friend Elizabeth Evans, and Torch presenters and Camp Olympia folks Leigh Walker, Amy Weinland Daughters and Tommy and Kathy Ferguson.

Update: Bree sent me this picture of him in action this afternoon!





Tags: , ,

Labels: , , ,

ENV: A butterfly that visited

The Butterfly Effect
A man's one-in-a-million close encounter with an insect convinces him that the theory is true: The fluttering of gossamer wings can change the world
By Dan Southerland, WashingtonPost.com,Sunday, August 24, 2008

IN JULY LAST YEAR, a butterfly landed on my shoulder while I was taking a break from my office for a few minutes one afternoon to talk business with a colleague. I was sure the butterfly would soon fly off. We were walking through an L Street canyon near 19th Street NW that was surrounded by granite, concrete and glass. I had never seen a butterfly in this part of the city before. Now I had one clinging to me. It migrated to my shirt collar and stayed there.

After half an hour or so, with my new friend still perched on me, I decided that I should have a picture taken to record the

butterfly's remarkable arrival out of nowhere. So together we ducked into a MotoPhoto shop on 19th Street, just north of L.

The gentleman running the photo shop seemed to find nothing unusual about a man walking around with a butterfly on his collar and began clicking away with his camera. I thought that his flash would scare the butterfly away, but my little pal stayed put.

I decided to get the butterfly something to eat at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse across the street. My colleague Catherine Antoine and I plunged into the rush-hour traffic on 19th, slipping between cars that were jammed together waiting for the light to change. Neither the noise nor the fumes seemed to bother the butterfly.

I asked the waiter standing outside the door of the steakhouse to find a corner table for "me, my colleague and the butterfly."

"Right away, sir," responded the waiter, acting as if there was nothing extraordinary about a butterfly dropping in at a steakhouse. We ordered calamari and two glasses of pinot noir, and I asked the waiter to get something for the butterfly.

The waiter, Emad Salha, returned with Erika Kowkabi, the restaurant's night manager, who said that they had conducted a Google search that showed butterflies like overripe fruit. They would prepare some chopped strawberries for the little guy, she said. Restaurant manager Phil McMaster also showed up to see whether he could be of assistance. On the wall behind us, portraits of George Washington and Ben Franklin looked down on the scene. The butterfly took no interest in the strawberries, and as I took out my credit card he left my shoulder for the first time, landing on the window blinds next to the table. Catherine managed to use her office identification card to coax the butterfly back to my shoulder.

It was dawning on me that I knew nothing about butterflies. My new friend's upper forewings sported reddish orange bands set against a black-and-brown background. He measured a little more than two inches from wingtip to wingtip.

A couple from Austin, sitting with their son at a neighboring table, enjoyed listening to our conversation about the butterfly, and we exchanged pleasantries. It occurred to me that a butterfly could bring out the best in people, even in this unlikely setting of dark wood, brass trim and rib-eye steaks.

I somehow lost my sense of time. We ended up discussing Middle East politics with Emad, our Palestinian American waiter. Finally I took note of the time again. We had spent nearly two hours with a butterfly in downtown Washington.

I paid the bill at exactly 5:52 p.m. (I've kept the receipt as a souvenir) and decided I might as well call it a day and head home -- with the butterfly. I phoned my wife, Muriel, to ask her to put off the movie she had planned to go to and wait for me, because I'd be bringing a butterfly home.

At 19th and M, with the butterfly on my shoulder, I hailed a cab. I immediately asked the driver to put up the windows so the butterfly wouldn't fly out. He quickly glanced back at me as though I must be slightly crazy but soon got used to the idea of chauffeuring a butterfly. During the cab ride, the butterfly stayed on my shoulder at first but then shifted to the middle of my necktie. We arrived at my home near Glen Echo and the Potomac River in about 30 minutes.

Muriel and our 20-year-old daughter, Shauna, were waiting when the cab drove up. I exited the car -- very slowly -- and took the butterfly straight to the empty birdbath in front of our house. Somehow we got the butterfly into the birdbath and brought him some chopped bananas and bright red and purple salvia from the garden. After clutching at each of the flowers, he settled on one bunch and embraced it.

I decided to call in witnesses, two of our most spiritually oriented neighbors, Gina Di Medio Marrazza and Elizabeth Sammis, to see the butterfly.

Gina immediately pronounced the butterfly a reincarnation. It was someone from a past life who had come to visit. "He's trying to tell you something," she said.

Liz had a more practical explanation. "This is a message to you, Dan," she said. "It's telling you to slow down. Come home earlier. Pay attention to what's really important in life."

Shortly after 8 p.m., with the light fading, we decided to leave the butterfly to the birdbath and our garden, which happened to be full of such butterfly-friendly plants as coreopsis, phlox, lilies, salvia, coneflowers and a single butterfly bush. We figured that we'd just had an amazing experience, and now it was over.

On July 11, the day after I met the butterfly, I returned home early. Muriel picked me up at the bus stop at 7:15 p.m. A few minutes later, I was trudging up the steps to the front door when Muriel almost shouted, "He's back!"

"I saw him in the air," she said. "He was hovering over the birdbath."

Then she spotted him among the cascading leaves of the cherry tree. I saw nothing but the tree. Finally, he landed on a dry spot on the edge of the birdbath.

I soon discovered our visitor could be easily identified. He was a red admiral, also known as Vanessa atalanta, described in several books as among the friendliest of butterflies. They've turned up in locations as diverse as the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire and the corner of Wall and Broad streets in New York's financial district, according to a 2005 book by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor. They can be found as far north as southern Canada, throughout the United States, as far south as Guatemala, in most of Europe and Central Asia, and in parts of North Africa.

In southern Europe, red admirals migrate in large numbers, but they fly less frequently en masse in North America. Cech and Tudor have documented mass flights in the spring along the East Coast about once a decade in recent years, "often followed by precipitous population crashes."

In the D.C. area, the red admirals appear to be among the most common butterflies, although the average life span is just three weeks. They turn up along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, on the edges of swamps and forests and even downtown, as I discovered. And, based on my experience, they can be amazingly adaptable. I always thought of butterflies as dainty, but it appears that some can be quite aggressive.

According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America, red admiral males are "especially pugnacious, darting out at almost anything crossing their territory, even humans!" I went over to where my red admiral was perched on the birdbath. He flew up, and at that point a minor miracle occurred. He was joined by another butterfly. I thought at first that it was a female and imagined that our butterfly had found a girlfriend. But I later learned that based on its flying behavior, the second butterfly was probably a male. The two butterflies flew in loops, what I came to view as a sort of spiral dance. Male red

admirals typically chase one another to establish dominance over a particular territory. How could I be sure that my friend was male? No particular reason, just instinct. I came up with a name for him -- Poppy -- from the French "papillon" for butterfly. If I was wrong about his gender, Poppy would do just fine for a female, I thought.

So began a period of more than a month during which Poppy appeared 25 times.

If I came home after dark, he wouldn't show. But if I arrived at dusk, about 7:30 or 7:45, he invariably appeared. And day by day, he became, from my point of view, increasingly friendly and playful. I began to keep a log of his comings and goings as well as of his stunts, which reminded me of a fighter pilot who fired no weapons but just loved flying.

At first, I told very few people about Poppy. I felt somehow that I needed to protect him. My cousin Phebe, who lives in a renovated log cabin near Lexington, Va., and is wise in the ways of nature, seemed to think the butterfly might be attracted to the white shirt I was wearing when I first encountered him on L Street. So for several days, I put on the same white shirt every evening and then waited for the butterfly in front of my house. A neighbor walked by once and asked me what I was doing standing there in my white shirt.

"Looking for butterflies," I replied. But I decided that the shirt couldn't be the only attraction. I learned that butterflies are strongly attracted to the salt in human sweat, so it looked as if it was the sweat, not the shirt.

How did I know it was the same butterfly that landed on me each time? The answer was in his behavior. It was so consistent that it was hard to imagine another butterfly precisely duplicating it. Based on my research, it is rare for a butterfly to return to the same person time after time. Indeed, I at first thought that I must be having a unique experience. But a zoologist and amateur naturalist, Judith Shaw of Mitchellville, alerted me to a report about a boy in California who once befriended a red admiral.

Gregory Richards, 9 at the time, had an amazingly similar experience to mine, according to a United Press International story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in July 1969. For 20 days, a butterfly believed to be a red admiral fluttered around and landed on Gregory when the boy played in the evening in front of his grandparents' home. Gregory's rendezvous with the butterfly, named Mr. Flutter by his grandmother, occurred daily, usually about 7 p.m. A local entomologist said he was amazed and couldn't understand what attracted the insect to the boy.

Richards, now 48, reached by phone at his home in Kingsburg, Calif., confirmed the story, adding that regular visits from a red admiral butterfly occurred for three consecutive summers at his grandparents' place. "I looked for him every evening," Richards said. "But if other kids were around, he wouldn't come close to me."

As early as July 12, Day Three of his stay with us, Poppy began to establish a pattern. He would emerge from the thick camouflage of the cherry tree. I couldn't see him there, but Muriel had an uncanny ability to detect his movements.

Then he would drop down to the birdbath and land on the top of the lamppost. I found that when he was on the lamppost or birdbath, I could come within six or seven inches of him and say a few words without disturbing him. He would sit at first with his wings closed, the scales on their underside looking like dried leaves -- a sort of camouflage. But then he would slowly open his wings, showing the bright orange-red bars that make this butterfly so easy to identify. It was a gesture that I saw again and again, and I took it as a sign that he knew I wouldn't harm him.

One thing is certain: Almost

nothing seemed to startle Poppy. But I made it a rule never to try to touch him. I was convinced that such a move would appear threatening. As it was, the only time I saw him dart away from his perch on the lamppost in apparent fear was when a car drove by with its sound system booming.

Even the appearance of a catbird, which watched the butterfly from a close distance on two or three occasions, didn't seem to bother Poppy. Muriel tried shouting out once to alert Poppy to the bird, but he ignored the warning. On Day Five, July 14, Poppy tried something new. He danced in the air, then landed on the lamppost and birdbath, but this time he also landed on my head, stayed there briefly and then popped onto my left shoulder. Then he teamed up with his partner again. And, finally, two more red admirals joined them and together they all showed off their flying ability, chasing one another in loops and eights. My 25-year-old son, Matthew, witnessing this, said "they zipped and dipped." I was amazed at the speed achieved by these small creatures.

From then on, it became almost routine for Poppy to land on my head once or twice in an evening. Once he landed on the rim of my glasses and sat there for a while. He also began opening his evening show by buzzing me just inches above my head.

On July 21, Poppy launched into an even more playful phase and kept a closer watch on me. He appeared at the front door of the house and fluttered about as if inviting me out to play. When I came out to greet him, he hovered, waited until I got within inches of him and then darted around the corner as if playing hide-and-seek. I found him clinging to the brick front of the house. When I approached, he opened his wings to display his brilliant colors.

That same day, he watched me rebuild a low border of stones along the driveway in front of our house. I had plans for a long, white, quartzlike stone that particularly delighted me and that would fit perfectly into a spot next to the driveway. I lifted the stone to move it to its new location. Almost as if he had anticipated this, the butterfly showed up ahead of me next to that very spot. I told Muriel that he must have been reading my mind. And, along with the lamppost and birdbath, the stone became one of the butterfly's favorite perches.

On Sunday, July 22, I missed the usual hour of Poppy's appearance. After dark, when I returned to the house, Muriel told me that at dusk Poppy had shown up several times at the dining room window as she and Shauna were having dinner. He seemed to be looking in, waiting for me to appear.

The butterfly obviously had no fear of Muriel, Shauna or Matthew. When I came home too late to see Poppy, he would sometimes wait for a while on the lamppost. Muriel would go out to tell him she was sorry that I could not be there. Muriel, Shauna and Matthew all stood outside with me several times while I waited for Poppy. But he never landed on them.

I became so attached to the butterfly that I would try to leave work early enough to get home in time to see him. One evening I walked out of the office and realized that I was going to be too late. So instead of taking my usual trip by Metro and bus, I jumped in a taxi and rode straight home, an extravagance, but it was worth it. Poppy showed up just a few minutes after I reached the house.

My feelings at this point were approaching love for this small creature. Poppy seemed to have a real personality. Our dog, cat and rabbit had to play to a certain extent by our rules. The cat, of course, did call the shots sometimes. But Poppy called all the shots. He didn't depend on me for food or water. He decided when to show up and when to leave. Except for possible concerns about predators (birds, lizards and other insects, for example), he was as free as you can get.

I'm convinced that he also had a tremendous sense of joy. The novelist Vladimir Nabokov picked up on this. A passionate amateur lepidopterist, Nabokov once wrote that the red admiral is "a most frolicsome fly." Nabokov also liked to refer to the butterfly as "Red Admirable," a name that according to at least one account was used as far back as the 18th century.

I began paying a lot more respect to all insects. Poppy taught me how little we know about these small creatures. He didn't completely change my life, but he certainly enhanced my ability to question. If a moth wandered into our house, I resisted the temptation to swat and instead tried to find a way to carry it outside. I also got a spider and a beetle out of the house recently without harming them.

August began with more butterfly duets and head and shoulder landings. Poppy seemed to fly faster than before and enjoyed chasing his friend. He also took to buzzing our car, a silver-colored Saturn. The car never looked more beautiful.

I began to prepare myself psychologically for Poppy's departure. Red admirals sometimes migrate, and I clung to the idea that my butterfly friend would soon head southward to a nice setting in Florida just ahead of winter. I figured it would take him weeks to get there. I later learned that this was a bit of a romantic notion at this stage in the butterfly's life and that he probably faced imminent death. Other red admirals at this point were nowhere to be seen. Poppy seemed to be on his own.

On Aug. 15, I stood outside for half an hour waiting for Poppy. Then I gave up, guessing that he was gone. Suddenly he flew overhead near the cherry tree. He soared fairly high, so high that I lost sight of him. I'd like to think that it was a final salute. I never saw him again.

Neighbors asked if he would come back. I explained that this was unlikely. But I held on to the notion that a small miracle had occurred. I had made a connection with the natural world that I had never dreamed possible.

I later described my experience to one of the most respected experts in the field, Bob Robbins, research entomologist and curator of lepidoptera for the Smithsonian Institution. Robbins said much of the red admiral's behavior in the evenings related to staking out territory and perching to look out for female butterflies. The butterfly might have been attracted to my sweat and might even have been using my head as a perch.

But Robbins found it unusual that I could approach within inches of the butterfly when he was on the lamppost or birdbath. Most butterflies will not let people come up to them, he said. He also thought it unusual that the same red admiral would stay in my garden and return time after time for more than a month. But he conceded that the butterfly's consistent behavior might mean it was indeed the same male butterfly. Finally, the idea that a butterfly would stick with me in a confined space such as a photo shop, then stay on my shoulder for more than an hour in a steakhouse and later ride home with me in a taxicab -- that, he said, was "really, really unusual."

Had it not happened, and fortunately I have witnesses to confirm that it did, Robbins would have considered the cab ride to be "utterly unlikely."

I asked Robbins if he was aware of butterflies living in downtown Washington.

"They're there, but they're not very conspicuous," he said. "They're not very happy there. They don't like the noise, the cars and the pollution."

Well, I can certify that at least one D.C. butterfly managed to escape that fate, take a taxi ride out of town and survive to have the time of his life in the suburbs. And for 37 days, so did I.

Dan Southerland, executive editor of Radio Free Asia, is a former reporter and Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post.

Labels: , , ,

COM: Red One Camera

Dan Schmidt sent along a link to a film done with the amazing new Red One camera -- a digital camera with quadruple the pixel resolution of high-def, and the first to match 35mm film quality. and on top of that it films at 120fps. This sample is stunning. I can 't wait to get one. I also can't wait to win the lottery, which will be necessary before i get one . . .





Tags: , , ,

Labels: , , ,

ATH: Billy Gonsalves and American Soccer

From the US National Team Players Association . . .

An American Staying In America

Billy Gonsalves might have been the greatest player to ever step on a field. His contemporaries certainly thought so. As a player, he was attached to some of the biggest names in the early history of American soccer: Fall River, Brooklyn, Newark. He spent his later life in the North Jersey area that would produce so many standout American players.

He was also one of the first American club stars to hear the call of bigger leagues and crowds, opting to stay with the American game on his terms. Two World Cup appearances in '30 and '34 made him known well past the soccer communities of the United States. His play in exhibitions against foreign clubs led prominent soccer people to talk about him as the most talented player they'd ever seen.

Gonsalves wasn't a standout goals per game striker. His style of soccer was more creative than the tactics of his day. He also had what many who saw him consider the best shot from either foot of any professional soccer player.

That Gonsalves himself lived until 1977, and many of those same people could and did make the comparison throughout the North American Soccer League era. At least to those witnesses, Billy Gonsalves never faced serious competition for best in the history of the game.

We have to take them at their word. The soccer world Billy Gonsalves occupied was all but lost past those that were actually there. National Soccer Hall of Fame historian emeritus Colin Jose did the research that revived the American Soccer League in its two iterations, putting it in the context of a major attempt at creating a lasting professional league in the United States in the 1920's and 30's.

Gonsalves' National Team record looks slight by modern standards: six appearances and one goal. Yet his was an era where from 1930 to the end of World War II the United States only played nine games. Gonsalves' caps were all World Cup appearances or games scheduled right after the Cup. In other words, when it counted the most he was there.

For the contemporary American player, Gonsalves remains an object lesson. Gonsalves started young, taking advantage of a new professional structure when he joined the American Soccer League. He was a crucial member of the National Team and part of the first World Cup squad that reached the semifinals. He floated offers from foreign clubs that, if not necessarily offering better pay, certainly offered a bigger stage.

A Billy Gonsalves that became a star in Brazil or Britain isn't as easily forgotten. Instead, he stayed in the United States eventually becoming a coach. His induction into what would become the National Soccer Hall of Fame happened in its first year, 1950. The revival of his era and reputation for the broader soccer community is an ongoing process pushed by the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the work of historians like Jose, his successor Roger Allaway, and David Litterer.

Where the Gonsalves comparison starts to shift is with his championships. In an era where the US Open Cup was taken very seriously, Gonsalves and his clubs dominated that competition. He was part of four American Soccer League championship clubs and lifted the Dewar Trophy as the winner of the US Open Cup eight times.

Any real comparison between the current brand of American professional soccer and its predecessor needs to happen in the one competition they share. In our era, where a club can choose to opt out of the Open Cup or simply field their reserves late in the competition, the Cup remains the only oportunity to make a case for history.

The Open Cup counts for something past potential entry into a new tournament or a feel good story for a club that didn't quite do enough to win the league. It counts for heritage. The one Billy Gonsalves helped create in the 1930's when he was the best in the American or any game.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

ATH: Olympic Champs!!!!

Glory restored: 'Golden Girls' again
Lloyd's extra-time strike secures second-straight gold for U.S. women
Posted Thursday, August 21, 2008 8:28 AM ET

BEIJING (AP) -- Outplayed and overwhelmed for most of the night,
the Americans got the only shot they needed.

Olympic champions, once again.

Carli Lloyd scored in the sixth minute of extra time Thursday night, Hope Solo bailed out her teammates time and again, and the United States beat Brazil 1-0 to win the gold medal in women's soccer for a third time in four Olympics. As the final whistle sounded, the Americans charged across the field, hugging anyone in sight. Someone handed out flags, and several players took off, running.

The victory was a bit of redemption for the Americans, who went to the World Cup as favorites last fall only to be humbled 4-0 in the semifinals by Brazil.

And for no one was it sweeter than Solo, who was banished from the World Cup bronze medal game after criticizing then-coach Greg Ryan for not playing her against Brazil even though she'd allowed only two goals in four World Cup starts, and had a shutout streak of nearly 300 minutes going. Several minutes after the game ended, Solo sprinted back out onto the field, a gaudy imitation gold medal around her neck, a phone to her ear and a bright smile on her face. She closed her eyes when the American anthem began playing, and bounced proudly and gripped her medal when the team posed for pictures afterward.

The victory was the first in a major tournament for coach Pia
Sundhage and gave the Americans their third gold medal since women's soccer was added in 1996. The United States' only loss was in the 2000 final to Norway.

It also marked the 1000th gold medal in United States history at the Olympic Games (excluding the 1906 Games, which are not recognized by the IOC).

For the Brazilians, it was bitter disappointment. They outplayed the Americans in the 2004 final, too, and lost in extra time. They have played the Americans 14 times since 2000, coming away with a victory only once.

After the game, goalkeeper Barbara lay on her back, sobbing, while Cristiane sat on the ground crying. Marta, who had been so brilliant all night only to see her team come up short yet again in a major tournament, put her hand to her head. When she got her silver medal, she sobbed, her lip quivering.

The two-time FIFA Player of the Year has nothing to regret, though. Her speed and control mesmerized the American defenders, and her cat-like quickness allowed her to get to balls no other player would have come close to. She was credited with six shots on goal, but she seemed to be in Solo's personal space more often than a pickpocket. No one came blame her for this loss.

The top-ranked team in the world, the Americans weren't at full strength in Beijing. Top defender Cat Whitehill tore up her left knee in June, leading scorer Abby Wambach broke her leg last month in the final tuneup for Beijing, and the Americans have been trying all Olympics to find their groove.

It certainly took them awhile Thursday, looking sluggish and outclassed for much of the game. The field certainly didn't help. Already pockmarked and patchy from the Argentina-Brazil matchup in the men's semifinal, light rain before the game made it even more of a mess. Big chunks of turf came up on every run.

But just as the Americans have all Olympics, they came through when it counted.

Solo kept them in the game for the first 85 minutes, making at least a half-dozen big saves. The most impressive came in the 72nd minute, when Marta lost the ball behind Heather Mitts and Kate Markgraf and then picked it back up for a close-range shot that looked certain to be in. But Solo leaned out, threw up her right arm and sent the ball flying out of harm's way.

The rest of the Americans picked up the slack in the last five minutes of regulation, nearly scoring three times -- twice in the 86th minute alone.

Then, in extra time, Amy Rodriguez held off two Brazilians and put the ball up for Lloyd who gave it a light touch with her right foot and then left-footed it from a yard outside the area. Barbara dived, but the ball scooted past her and settled in the far bottom corner of the net.

Marta did everything she could to draw the Brazilians even. In the 102nd minute, she was tackled by Mitts and then, after getting the ball back, was blocked first by Markgraf and then by Christie Rampone.

In the final minutes of the second extra period, she tried to bend in a corner a few minutes later only to watch Solo punch it free. Renata Costa collected the rebound, but her shot banged into the side of the net, drawing groans from the star-studded crowd of 51,612 -- Kobe Bryant, Pele, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge were all in the house -- that clearly favored Brazil.

Shortly after, Marta looped in a free kick, but none of her teammates went for it, and the ball bounced over the scrum and wide of the far post. And with seconds left, Cristiane's header went just wide. Brazil's drought at major tournaments was extended once again.

Earlier, world champion Germany defeated Japan 2-0 in the bronze medal game.


Tags: , , ,

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

COM: Kerrville murder in national news

Kerrville, bizarre murder capitol of the world makes national news again, although this was more of your everyday kind of murder, it still puts us in the spotlight. Of course, as far as i'm concerned, Texas does its fair share of murder, and this will just chalk up another.

Texas Panel Won't Halt Execution of Accomplice
Jeff Wood, Getaway Driver in Robbery That Led to Murder, Is Scheduled to Be Executed Thursday
By SCOTT MICHELS, AP, Aug. 20, 2008

The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole has unanimously rejected a clemency petition from a man who is set to be executed for the murder of a store clerk, even though he was sitting in a truck outside the store when the murder happened.

The decision means Jeff Wood will be executed Thursday, unless Texas Gov. Rick Perry grants him a 30-day reprieve or a judge issues a stay.

Wood was sentenced to death in 1998 for his role in the murder of Kris Keeran, a gas station attendant who was killed during a 1996 robbery.

But Wood did not kill Keeran. Danny Reneau, Wood's former roommate, was convicted of shooting Keeran between the eyes during the robbery on Jan. 2, 1996. Reneau was executed in 2002.

Wood was convicted under a Texas law known as the law of parties, which makes him equally responsible for crimes committed by accomplices that "should have been anticipated" during the course of the robbery, even if he did not commit the crimes.

Although most states have similar laws, often called felony murder statutes, defendants are rarely executed unless they have actually killed someone. There have been at least seven such executions, excluding murder-for-hire cases, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Wood was the getaway driver while Reneau robbed the Kerrvill, Texas, gas station where Keeran worked. Reneau shot and killed Keeran after he refused to go along with a plan to fake a robbery and split the proceeds, according to court documents.

Wood, who told police Keeran was a friend, later admitted that he came into the store after hearing the gunshot that killed Keeran, court opinions in the case say. Wood then helped Reneau take the store VCR and surveillance tapes -- only after Reneau forced him to do so at gunpoint, he claimed.

Kerr County Assistant District Attorney Lucy Wilke, in a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, called Wood "the mastermind of this senseless murder," noting that Wood told his brother, who was not implicated, to destroy the surveillance tape after watching it together, according to the San Antonio Express.

After initially denying involvement in the robbery, Wood admitted in a statement to police that he knew Reneau was going to rob the gas station, that Reneau planned to bring a gun and might use it if Keeran didn't cooperate, according to court opinions.

Wood's family says the statement was coerced and point to testimony from a witness at Reneau's trial who said that Wood didn't know Reneau was bringing a gun. That testimony was not admitted at Wood's trial.

His wife and father say Wood, who was initially found mentally incompetent to stand trial, is eager to please and has trouble understanding information. After spending several weeks in a mental hospital, Wood was found competent to stand trial.

"He had a very strong need to be accepted," his wife, Kristin, said. "He very easily went along with whoever wanted to accept him. That's why he ended up in bad company."

On Tuesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal rejected a motion to have Wood's mental competency evaluated.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a person may be executed for a murder he or she did not commit or intend to commit if he or she were a "major participant" in the crime or acted with "reckless indifference to the value of human life."

Texas' law of parties statute is also broader than similar laws in most other states, said Robert Owen, director of the Capital Punishment Clinic at the University of Texas Law School.

"It's terribly risky to allow the death penalty to be imposed where the jury has to draw inferences about what was in the defendant's mind," Owen said. "There are serious questions about whether a getaway driver who might have anticipated that a death would take place should be death penalty eligible."

Labels: ,

COM: About the drinking age

Answer to Underage Drinking: Make It Legal
Advocacy Groups, Schools Tout Benefits of Drawing Teen Tippling Out of 'Underground'
By Susan Donaldson James, AP, Aug. 20, 2008

By the time Lizzy Holmgren turned 21 in her senior year at the University of Colorado at Boulder, she had already learned how to do shots  10 at a time  or drink as many as 20 during a day of heavy partying.

But as a sophomore in 2004, when a classmate died in a highly publicized case of alcohol poisoning, she began to see the dangers. Just weeks after arriving as a freshman, Lynn "Gordie" Bailey was "encouraged" to drink four bottles of whiskey and six bottles of wine in 30 minutes as part of a fraternity "bid night."

Left to "sleep it off," the 18-year-old was found dead the next morning  covered in ritual writing his fraternity brothers had scrawled over his body. One of Holmgren's friends had tried to wipe the ink off the corpse and couldn't sleep for weeks.

Quite frankly, said Holmgren, even though it's the students who "perpetuate" the alcohol culture, they need reining in.

"When you are older, it's not as cool to be drunk," she told ABCNews.com. "But when you are in school, you are so excited that your parents aren't there, that you feel you can't get into trouble and you are invincible."

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,700 college students die each year in alcohol-related deaths  not to mention the harm they cause other innocent victims in car accidents, sexual assaults and fraternity hazing.

The problem has vexed universities for so long that this week nearly 100 college presidents from some of the most well respected schools in the country proposed a radical idea: They are asking lawmakers to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 to curb the allure and "underground culture" of college drinking.

If you make it legal, they say, it drives binge drinking out into the open, where schools and police can regulate it.

The controversial idea sparked immediate outrage.

A variety of groups, led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are fighting the initiative, faulting the universities for refusing to take responsibility for their underage students.

"We think their first concern should be the health, welfare and safety of the students, and it certainly isn't," said Virginia native Jeffrey Levy, who first waged the war against the college presidents in 1997 after the death of his 20-year-old son in an alcohol-related car accident.

"Their facts are terribly wrong," Levy, who sits on MADD's board of directors, told ABCNews.com. "They want to take themselves off the hook. If they change the law, it's not their problem."

His 20-year-old son, Jonathan  a passenger in a car driven by a friend who was "drunk beyond imagination"  was one of five college students killed in Virginia in just one weekend. After that, Levy led an attorney general's task force to do something about it.

"I spent next 14 months touring schools and I was appalled," said Levy, a former Air Force pilot. "I had no clue of the intensity of alcohol and behaviors that exist today.

"Colleges need to make clear to students that certain behaviors are unacceptable, like cheating and not paying your tuition bills. What about excessive drinking?"

Working with law enforcement, Levy said, "Every college president was on one side of the table and we were on the other. [The presidents] were mostly concerned with the image of their college and issues of liability."

And, he says, when colleges do act on lawsuits and compensate parents, "a zippered mouth is part of the settlement agreement."

John McCardell, former president of Vermont's Middlebury College, who started the initiative, agrees that liability "has to be one of the things a president thinks about." But he rejects the idea that legal concerns are the primary motivation of the idea.

Alcohol, he says, is a "reality in the lives of young adults," and the 21 law "forces it underground and off campus where there is great risk."

He wants to bring college drinking out into the open, where colleges can better control it.

Holmgren, who saw saw firsthand the dangers of the college drinking culture, says she sees the logic in the proposal.

"You finally get your independence and you go crazy," said Holmgren, who says her drinking moderated when she became legal. "If you're allowed to drink whenever, it demystifies the whole thing."

The so-called Amethyst Initiative has refocused the debate on what parents, law enforcement, colleges and even the students themselves are calling a binge drinking epidemic that needs to be fixed.

"All the data show that by the time they go to college they have already experienced alcohol, so how can anyone say the law is working?" McCardell asked.

McCardell says he has received numerous letters after going public with the initiative showing many "parents are in our camp."

But MADD's Levy counters, "Colleges are not willing to be the bad guy and parents want them to."

Minimum drinking ages were established in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. When the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971, many states dropped drinking ages to 18 or 19. But in 1988, after studies showed an increase in alcohol-related crashes involving 18- to 20-year-olds, all 50 states raised the age back to 21.

As a result, alcohol-related fatalities have dropped 56 percent from an all-time high in 1988, according to studies by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The greatest decline was in the 16-20 age group.

"Colleges have an obligation to address this," said Dr. Ralph Hingston, NIAAA's director of epidemiology and prevention research, who conducted the updated studies. "But they can't do it alone. It's a larger social problem to address harmful drinking."

Not only must colleges set limits, according to Hingston, but "key forces" in society must intervene  offering screening and counseling interventions, mandated treatments, ignition locks so drunk drivers cannot operate a car, setting lower blood alcohol limits and even raising the price of alcohol, which discourages students with less discretionary income.

"We need to all work together  college presidents, professors, students, deans and alumni along with city officials," Hingston told ABCNews.com.

Christopher B. Gilbert, education law attorney at Bracewell and Guiliani in Houston, said public universities are largely immune from liability suits, but that doesn't mean parents have not tried to hold them accountable.

He understands the need for colleges to exert more control, but said the issue is complicated by a double standard.

"I have a problem with the country saying to people, you can send them off to die in Iraq, but you can't drink," he said. "It's a little patronizing. Not all people are mature at 18, but some aren't at 21."

According to Gilbert, the nation's legal approach is all about being 18.

"Everything else in our country is based on 18," he told ABCNews.com. They can drive a car, serve in the military, vote, smoke, drop out of school and marry. Even the health records of college students are off limits to parents because of privacy laws after age 18.

But Stephan Landsman, professor of tort law at De Paul University in Chicago, said many college students are "insulated from the real world and not street smart."

Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged in a death penalty ruling that brains under 18 are "not mature."

"The switch is not turned on and they are still developing," Landsman told ABCNews.com. "They are away from home for the first time and are vulnerable."

"But when you make things prohibited, you drive conduct underground," he conceded. "It's true for recreational drugs, marijuana, and it's true in sale of alcohol. So you have a black market and a gray market, behavior that seems a troubling phenomenon."

Indeed, Kathleen Donohue, a 20-year-old student at Boston College, said many students who can't venture outside the dorms resort to drinking games and consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol.

"Since teenage drinkers can't go out and drink openly at bars and events, they are confined to the dorms where there is not a lot to distract them," she told ABCNews.com.

Landsman claims that data on the link between highway deaths and teen drinking tells lawmakers little about the relationship to minimum drinking ages, and that more "snapshots" should be taken of countries where 18-year-olds can drink. McCardell cites Puerto Rico, where the drinking age is 18 and alcohol related deaths are down 11 percent.

"These are pretty smart and reputable bunch," he said of the university presidents, which represent some of the highest-tier colleges, like Dartmouth, Duke, Kenyon and others.

Still, not all college presidents are in the same camp, according to Outside the Classroom (OTC), a company that helps universities address high-risk drinking.

Their board is poised this week to deliver their first annual leadership award  a $50,000 unrestricted gift to a college president who can inspire others to think differently about how to curb binge drinking. The Gordie Foundation, established in memory of the fraternity pledge who died at University of Colorado, was a major contributor to the award.

None of the 18 nominees supports the Amethyst Initiative, according to founder and CEO of OTC, Brandon Busteed.

"There is work presidents are and can be doing now that has nothing to do with the law to help students navigate this terrain," Busteed argues.

"It's great that there is a healthy debate," he said about the reaction to the Amethyst Initiative. "I am a supporter of MADD, but I like McCardell's fresh and new ideas."

Though lowering the drinking age has gotten more press, McCardell has also proposed a drinking license program that 18- to 20-year-olds must complete before be allowed to drink.

Meanwhile, after the death at Colorado, Lizzy Holmgren agrees with the university presidents that an overhaul of the law is needed.

"Once I turned 21, I definitely didn't drink as much," she said. "I drink more often, but in smaller quantities. Before, I would get really, really drunk two nights a week. Now, I have two beers and walk home."

Today, at 22, Holmgren works as a television host in Denver nightclubs where, she says, "With more access, people are much more responsible. If they get really drunk, they are thrown out."

Labels: ,