Posted in disability/illness

At Last: U.S. Social Security Administration “Modernizes” Its Disability Rule for Non-English Speaking Workers

Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul announced a new final rule today, modernizing an agency disability rule that was introduced in 1978 and has remained unchanged. The new regulation, “Removing the Inability to Communicate in English as an Education Category,” updates a disability rule that was more than forty years old and did not reflect work in the modern economy. This final rule has been in the works for a number of years and updates an antiquated policy that makes the inability to communicate in English a factor in awarding disability benefits.

“It is important that we have an up-to-date disability program,” Commissioner Saul said. “The workforce and work opportunities have changed and outdated regulations need to be revised to reflect today’s world.”

A successful disability system must evolve and support the right decision as early in the process as possible. Social Security’s disability rules must continue to reflect current medicine and the evolution of work.

Social Security is required to consider education to determine if someone’s medical condition prevents work, but research shows the inability to communicate in English is no longer a good measure of educational attainment or the ability to engage in work. This rule is another important step in the agency’s efforts to modernize its disability programs.

In 2015, Social Security’s Inspector General recommended that the agency evaluate the appropriateness of this policy. Social Security owes it to the American public to ensure that its disability programs continue to reflect the realities of the modern workplace. This rule also supports the Administration’s longstanding focus of recognizing that individuals with disabilities can remain in the workforce.

The rule will be effective on April 27, 2020.

Posted in General Interest, Peace & Justice, Video

WRITING PEACE: An exhibition for thinking and sharing peace across time and space. A project of UNESCO…

Given the events of the past few weeks, it seemed a good idea to share this thought from UNESCO’s 2012 event. For more, HERE is UNESCO’s PDF on Writing Peace.

Of equal interest (thought provoking) is VISUALIZING UNIVERSALISM: The Unesco Human Rights Exhibition, 1949-1953 HERE. Also in PDF form, it includes 110 photographs from UNESCO’s archives.

UNESCO

UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION

“Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the UN Charter. It is the heir of the League of Nations’ International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.
UNESCO has 195 member states and nine associate members.” Wikipedia

UNESCO’s priorities for the 21st Century:

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” UNESCO philosophy

Of related interest:

Please mark your calendars to join with The Bardo Group and 100,000 Poets (Artists and Muscians) for Change for our virtual event here on September 27, 28, 29, and 30.

Posted in General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Music, Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry

Music, Language of the Soul: the second in a series from Imen Benyoub on music in the context of war and occupation

The first post in this series is HERE.
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Music, the language of the soul
The cultural Intifada*…From stones to musical instruments.
The story of Ramzi Abu Radwan.

They impressed the world
And all they had in their hands were stones
They lit like lanterns, and came like messengers
From “children of the stones” Nizar Quabbani (1923-1998), Syrian poet and publisher

The first Intifada is the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation that started on December 1987 in Jabalia** refugee camp and spread throughout the rest of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It lasted six years until the signing of Oslo Accords in 1993.

It was an unarmed, spontaneous yet exploding uprising, men with their faces covered with keffiyehs***, women and children with nothing but stones, slingshots and Molotov cocktails faced tanks and live ammunition of well-trained, heavily equipped Israeli soldiers.

10423556_519811321480767_1963506964_aOne of those children, a kid wearing blue jeans and a red jacket whose picture reached the world newspapers became a legendary symbol of the Intifada, a skinny kid throwing stones at an army jeep, his eyes welled with tears, on his face a mixture of anger, fear and defiance. This kid, whose picture was reproduced in posters all over the world as an icon of the uprising, never knew that his destiny will change forever and he will become a visionary artist.

This was Ramzi Aburadwan, born in Bethlehem in 1979, he spent his childhood and first teenage days in a refugee camp in Ramallah where his family was forced to live after the Nakbah****, his best friend died on their way home from school during a military operation, he was eight when a journalist took a picture of him hurling stones and was later called “the iconic child of the Intifada”.

Ramzi was introduced to music at the age of 17, when a woman invited him to attend a course, he immediately loved it and this was the beginning of his journey with music.

After a year of study in the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music at Birzeit University, he received a scholarship to study in a Conservatoire in France; on 2005 he went back to Palestine after graduation with dreams and promises of a brighter life for children.

640px-StainerThe multi-talented Aburadwan founded Al Kammanjati*****, a nonprofit organization that offers children especially from refugee camps music lessons, its aim is to keep them in touch with their cultural heritage, develop and nurture their skills and create an intimately entertaining atmosphere away from the violence and frustrations of their daily life under occupation. It gave them a precious chance to travel, play with different orchestras and meet young musicians from all over the world. Classical music is also introduced as a valuable weapon in the so called “the cultural Intifada” a peaceful way of resistance to save Palestinian culture and identity through letters, art and musical notes, something Palestinians began to understand with time because of Israeli policy of extensive judaisation of the land and fierce attempts to bury and distort Palestinian history and heritage.

He takes part in the West Eastern Divan Orchestra directed by Israeli-Argentine born conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim who said about him:

“Aburadwan has transformed not only his life, his destiny but that of many, many, many other people, this is an extraordinary collection of children all over Palestine that have all been inspired and opened to the beauty of life”

Al Kammanjati was honoured by “prince Klaus award” from the Netherlands in 2006.

* Intifada: Arabic word for “uprising”-Bethlehem, Ramallah: Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
**Jabalia: a refugee camp in the North of Gaza.
***Keffiyeh: a traditional black and white Middle Eastern cotton scarf, later considered a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and solidarity
***Bethlehem, Ramallah: Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
****Nakbah: Arabic word for “catastrophe” refers to the mass expulsion of more than 750.000 Palestinians from their lands in 1948 and creating a state of Israel on the occupied land.
****
*Al Kammanjati: Arabic word for “the violinist”

Trill_example_ornaments

A concerto for stone and violin:

The story of this generous musician and fighter inspired me to write this poem

A Poem for Ramzi Abu Radwan

The meditation of stone
In my hand
Is my song of freedom
That even your bullets
Can never pierce

Look at me
I am the child of the Intifada
These Palestinian hands
That were uprooted from my village
Like olive trees
And grew up in a camp
Small and scratched
will braid another song
From strings of a violin

Years pass
And the weeping violin
In my exiled soul
Will always remain
My song of freedom
That even your oppression
Can never silence

– Imen Benyoub

 

A portrait of the man:

The man’s music:

© 2014, essay and poem, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; Photograph (1) Ramzi Abu Radwan, adult and child, courtesy of Mr. Abu Radwan and ramallah cafe; photo of violin courtesy of Frink54 via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0; musical notations courtesy of Sprouls via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0.

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist from Guelma, Algeria. Imen currently lives in East Jerusalem. She is a frequent guest here on The Bardo Group blog and with On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page as well.

Posted in General Interest, Teachers

VEN. BHIKKHU BODHI, on the Buddha’s birthday an update on Buddhist Global Relief

BGR logo

VESAK 2012
Remembering the Buddha and his teachings
with joy, gratitude, and generosity
[I’m sorry that I could not share this letter with you in a more timely fashion. The Buddha’s birthday was on May 6 this year. Nonetheless, the message is an important one. We are committed to supporting this effort and hope to engage your support as well. Thank you for reading …. J.D.]
Dear Friend,
Buddha statue
The most important holiday in the Buddhist calendar, Vesak, is just around the corner. Starting on the full moon day of May, the month of Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. It is a day – and a month – not only for joy and gratitude but also for recollection: for remembering the Buddha’s teachings and making a more earnest effort to practice them.
The first step of Buddhist practice is giving, and the most basic gift is the gift of food. The importance of food can be gauged from the Buddha’s own life story. In the Middle Length Discourses, he tells us that before his enlightenment, he undertook long fasts that reduced his body to a tent of bones. When he saw that the true path to awakening requires deep meditation, he also realized: “It isn’t easy to meditate with an emaciated body.
Boy and girl in Haiti
Let me eat sustaining food such as rice and porridge.” It was only after he regained his strength that he could reach his goal.
Not only is it hard to meditate with an emaciated body, but when one is malnourished it’s hard to do anything – except wait intently for the next meal. Yet close to a billion people around the world endure this fate. It’s to give such people a fresh chance at life that BGR came into being, and this purpose has inspired our work through the years.
We don’t just give handouts. Rather, we seek to make people productive and self-sufficient. We do so in diverse ways: by supporting the education of poor children, especially girls; by creating right livelihood opportunities for women; and by supporting ecologically sustainable small-scale agriculture. In just four years, we’ve already sponsored fifty projects around the world, in Asia, Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Some of our recent projects include:
  • introducing sustainable agriculture techniques to farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, thus increasing the productivity and profitability of their rice yield
  • providing seeds and agricultural tools to 150 impoverished families in Cambodia so they can grow cash crops and establish home vegetable gardens
Intensive Rice Cultivation
  • supplying hot, nutritious meals to hungry children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, through a community-based food program called Lamanjay
  • supporting the education of 200 children in India, mostly girls of the Dalit community, formerly known as “untouchables”
  • training farmers in Kenya and Malawi in ecologically sustainable agriculture
  • teaching breastfeeding practices in the Diffa region of Niger, which profoundly improve survival rates of infants
  • funding the construction of a community garden and orchard in South Africa, in a region stricken by HIV and AIDS
  • providing funds for a greenhouse to grow produce for the poor in the Maryland-Pennsylvania region of the U.S.
White House meeting of Dharmic Religions
Today BGR plays a major role in representing Buddhism on the stage of global giving. In fact, in late April we participated in a historical conference at the White House that brought representatives of the “Dharmic religions” into contact with government agencies in a common commitment to humanitarian service.
We hope to continue our mission long into the future, both in the U.S. and abroad. However, we can’t fulfill our goals without help from friends like you who share our ideals and resonate with our values. Your donations are the key to everything we do: to combating malnutrition, educating poor children, and helping those who cannot help themselves. And because we’re an all-volunteer organization, we use the funds we receive prudently, with care and discretion, to ensure that 85-90% of every dollar goes directly to finance projects.
So, remembering the great compassion the Buddha extended to us, let us extend compassion to others. This Vesak season please bring forth a heart of generosity and support the work of BGR. When you give, you become part of our mission, our partner in giving a helping hand to those who need help. And you experience the joy of knowing that you are truly making a positive difference in this world, a difference that’s transforming lives.
Childen in India
May all blessings be with you and your family, on Vesak and beyond.
Bhikkhu Bodhi's signature
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson
Buddhist Global Relief is a 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations. You can either donate online via PayPal on the BGR web site or send a check to:
Buddhist Global Relief
PO Box 1611
Sparta, New Jersey 07871 USA
If your company has a Matching Gift Program, please enclose the necessary forms as well.
Posted in Essay, Jamie Dedes

THE GIRL EFFECT: An Amazing Multifaceted Global Effort to Fight Poverty

THE GIRL EFFECT:

An Amazing Multifaced Global Effort

by

Jamie Dedes

The Prospective on Cancer series will resume tomorrow. Today we break for the October 4 kick-off of The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign. 

Last year when I participated in this blogging event, I focused on the plight of the girls. This year my focus is on the The Girl Effectproject. It is a stunning multifaceted effort that seeks to end poverty through understanding, documenting, and promoting the value, needs, and priorities of girls in developing countries. It forms a untied global collaboration of development partners for research and program design and delivery. It needs our support, not just as bloggers and writers, but also as workers, volunteers, and donors.

This project might sound to some like an effort with a bias, but it is really an effort to improve the social and economic fabric of families and communities by opening educational and economic opportunities to girls aged ten to twenty-four. Efforts are made toward removing barriers to family and economic stability, barriers like early pregnancy, school dropout, and HIV/AIDS. Girls are ultimately the backbone of their families and communities reinvesting ninety percent of what they earn in their families as opposed to boys’ reinvestment of sixty percent.

The studies that the development community have implemented and are sharing among partner agencies provide information we haven’t ever had before on girls in this age group in the developing nations. Their studies conclude with action items for governments and policy makers. Under the banner of The Girl Effect, the global community is united in assessing the cost to individuals, families, communities, and countries when girls live in poverty, are bared from education and proper health care, and suffer abuse.

The Girl Effect seeks support for efforts that address some things those of us in the developed nations take for granted: like being counted.  When a child has no birth certificate and is not counted in any census, she has no identity and there is no way of knowing if programs that are in place are reaching her and helping her.

The Girl Effect partners seek to:

  • acquire funding for programs and to track program outcomes;
  • support, encourage, and provide opportunities for complete primary education and for secondary education;
  • provide health care, wellness programs, and HIV/AIDS prevention programs;
  • organize health-care delivery systems that are effective in reaching this demographic;
  • provide economic empowerment for earning, saving, and building assets;
  • ensure legislation that supports women’s rights;
  • empower girls to advocate for themselves; and,
  • mobilize nations, communities, and families, men and boys, to support the efforts of girls to protect and educate themselves and improve their lives and those of their families.

The programs that are offered by partners include education, legal help, micro-loans, and health care. Donations may be made through Global Giving.

© 2011, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserved. Posting or printing permitted by request only.

Photo credit ~ Girl Effect photo courtesy of Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

Video uploaded to YouTube by .