Monday, February 14, 2011

Giffords Talks on the Phone, Walks

Keeping up her rapid recovery, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been mouthing words, lip-syncing to songs, walking, sitting with excellent posture, and even talking on the phone to her astronaut brother-in-law in space.

“She said, ‘Hi, I’m good,’” according to Giffords’ chief of staff, who also cautioned, “Don’t get the idea she’s speaking in paragraphs, but she definitely understands what we’re saying.”

Doctors say the full extent of her recovery—speech and otherwise—is still unknown, though her rapid progress is very encouraging. They’re impressed by the congresswoman’s tenacity, Giffords’ mother says.
“As far as Gabby’s progress, you can quote me as saying, ‘Yippee!’” Giffords' fellow Democrats are also delighted, and are talking about her as a possible candidate for the Senate seat Republican Jon Kyl is vacating in Arizona in 2012.

The New York Times

Wife-beating study shocks Buddhist Bhutan's 'happiness' chief

NEW DELHI — The government commissioner charged with promoting "Gross National Happiness" in the tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan said he was deeply dismayed by a recent study that found a majority of Bhutanese women think their husbands have the right to beat them.

Buddhism is the religion of Bhutan but its peaceful message is contradicted in a new study that shows most Bhutanese women think their husbands have the right to beat them.

Karma Tshiteem, head of Bhutan's Commission for Gross National Happiness, called the findings "surprising" and "shocking," and said such attitudes are "totally inconsistent" with Buddhist teachings.

The survey by Bhutan's National Statistics Bureau found that roughly 70% of women say they deserved beating if they neglect children, argue with their partners, refuse sex or burn dinner, reported the Business Bhutan newspaper.

The acceptance of domestic violence is highest (90 percent) among the women in Paro, a picturesque valley that's home to Bhutan's most revered monastery, Takshang. The capital city of Thimphu scores the lowest acceptance rate, about 50%, for wife beating.

"Any form of violence is totally contradictory to the teachings of the Buddha," Tshiteem said, noting that Ahimsa (non-violence) "is a central tenet in Buddhist philosophy."

Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, where a vast majority of the 700,000 citizens are Buddhist.

Gross National Happiness, which seeks to create an "enlightened" society in which government fosters the well-being of people as well as other "sentient beings," was first envisioned by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972.

The landlocked Himalayan nation — about half the size of Indiana — peacefully transitioned to democracy after the king abdicated power in 2006, but Buddhist principles continue to shape the country's government.

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness index — as opposed to more traditional measures like a nation's economic activity — is based on nine components of happiness: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance.

Because healthy family relationships are key to harmonious communities, "attitudes accepting such behavior, in these relationships or even outside, would be totally inconsistent" with Gross National Happiness, Tshiteem said.

Covering 15,000 households, the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey also found that more than one in four women believe HIV/AIDS is transmitted supernaturally; one in four children do not attend school and one in five children are involved in child labor.

What Are They Waiting For?

We applauded back in December when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that it was seeking an emergency rule requiring gun dealers near the Mexican border to report multiple purchases of high-power semiautomatic rifles that use a detachable magazine.
It looked as if the Obama administration was finally awakening to the urgent need to combat the illegal trafficking of AK-47s and other assault weapons across the border and into the hands of violent drug cartels. It turns out that we were wrong to applaud.

The White House Office of Management and Budget must sign off on the plan, and the bureau asked it to do so by Jan. 5. When that date passed, administration officials insisted approval would be coming soon.
Last Friday, the bureau’s answer arrived: The White House said that gunrunning to Mexico was a continuing problem rather than an emergency and did not warrant an exception to the 90-day process for implementing regulations.

The drug wars in Mexico have claimed more than 30,000 lives since 2006. That violence is fueled by gun-smuggling operations and the fact that American dealers can make bulk sales of military-style rifles favored by cartel gunmen without having to report those sales to federal authorities.

Dealers of handguns have to report bulk sales under federal statute, but the National Rifle Association and some of its supporters in Congress have protested that requiring a limited segment of gun dealers to report multiple sales of rifles would impose an onerous burden, and exceed the authority of the A.T.F.

Administration officials say the decision had nothing to do with the gun lobby’s strong opposition, adding that approval from the budget office could come by late March when the public comment period is over. These officials also say the president’s upcoming budget will seek additional financing for the A.T.F. to strengthen enforcement.

We wish we could feel confident. Meanwhile, we have heard nothing from the president or his aides about closing gaping holes in the background check system for gun purchases and other gun issues raised by the massacre in Tucson. These are real emergencies. What are they waiting for?