Planet Waves | Whole News for February | Christopher Grosso & Amy Fulton-Stout



Planet News | Christopher Grosso
& Amy Funton-Stout

Horoscopes | Contents | What's New | Dolphinity

P l a n e t W a v e s D i g i t a l M e d i a

Introducing Weekly PlanetNews. Christopher Grosso and Amy Fulton-Stout compile the week's news stories, and some net linkages (in case you'd like to learn more, or if you just don't believe us). Clearly, all the news that's fit to print won't fit, so Amy will throw her I Ching to determine which stories you simply can't live without; ones we hope you'll find thought-provoking, interesting, even somewhat enlightening.

This week's column uncovers two weeks worth of events: roughly from January 16 through January 29, 2000. Usually we'll give you one, and in the immortal words of Willie Wanka, "One is enough for anybody."

If you have a news item, a comment, suggestions for links, or ideas about ways to improve the column or its presentation, please write to For even more information on how you can get involved with this and other Planetwaves projects, click here.

Prosperity, Injustice, Longevity, and
Road-Widening: It's a Great Time to be Alive

PlanetNews for Feb. 4, 2000

Celebrations in Black and White
Monday, January 17, marked the first observation of Martin Luther King day in this millennium. The holiday sparked service gatherings across the nation, including blood drives, neighborhood cleanups, gun buy-back programs, educational fairs, and volunteer building and renovation projects. On Sunday, a Racial Healing Service in honor of Dr. King was held at Trinity United Methodist Church, in Atlanta, Georgia. The worship service was dedicated to principles of non-violence: making amends to those whom we've injured and forgiving those who've injured us; showing kindness, compassion and mercy as though everything we do will impact the world for a thousand years; and not remaining silent in the presence of injustice.

These qualities were clearly incarnated by Dr. King, and were expressed in his fight for equal representation of and equal rights for all Americans. Dr. King's battles were bolstered and protected by the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens the right to equal representation and due process under the law. Yet is it true that, nearly 32 years after Dr. King's death and 36 years after the passage of the Civil Rights act, racial minorities suffer from unequal treatment under the law. African-Americans and Mexican-Americans are being prosecuted under existing death penalty law far beyond their proportion in the general population or the population of criminal offenders. Decisions about application of the death penalty have been all but seceded to the states. Despite the protections enumerated in section 1 of the 14th amendment, (e.g., "no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"), it seems that the powers that be have decided this does not apply to those charged with capital crimes. If you are convicted of a capital crime in Texas you are 8 and a half times more likely to be executed than if convicted of a comparable crime in, say, Louisiana. And anywhere in the United States, if you are a person of color your chances of being executed are 40 percent higher than if you are white.

Federal applications of the death penalty are not much more encouraging. All ten of the recently approved federal capital prosecutions have been against black defendants. This pattern of inequality adds to the mounting evidence that race continues to play an unacceptable part in the application of capital punishment in America. (For more on the death penalty, see this link.

Condemning Condemnation
Admittedly, when someone stands accused of a crime, the first reaction is often to condemn the person as guilty, and therefore different from ourselves. But the tide turned a few weeks ago in Seymour, Missouri. An Amish woman, driving a horse-drawn buggy, was killed instantly when a man driving a logging truck collided with her buggy while trying to pass her on a narrow road. According to police, the man then fled the scene. The trucker now faces a hit-and-run homicide-by-vehicle charge. The woman was the mother of thirteen children.

Instead of calling for the head of the truck driver on a platter, Amish friends and family of the deceased woman reached out to the accused. They asked that the trucker not be prosecuted at all: they wanted him to "sit down and be friends and try to prevent this from happening again." The Amish community held a meeting in Seymour seeking the trucker's help in petitioning the local government for a wider road.

Consider if you would, how often the wisdom of embracing others in unfortunate circumstances has been abandoned in favor of condemning them. Then consider how much wider the road could be if we allow ourselves to abandon condemnation instead.

Silence Endorses Capital Punishment
While people all over the United States honored Dr. Martin Luther King's message of tolerance and love in the abstract, and the Amish in Missouri honored it in practice, over in the Balkans the Albanian Constitutional Court combined theory and practice by announcing that the death penalty is incompatible with the Albanian Constitution. The Constitutional Court's decision followed an opinion issued by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission deeming capital punishment to be inconsistent with the Constitution of that body as well.

If here, in the US, we begin to follow these examples and remember the tenets not only of forgiveness, but of not remaining silent in the face of injustice, our government will have no choice but to follow the example set by the Council of Europe, and then, perhaps, the example set by the Reverend Dr. King.

State of the Universe
On Thursday, January 27, President Clinton delivered his final State of the Union address before Congress. He declared that the United States of America "is the strongest it has ever been" and that "we are fortunate to be alive in this moment of history." The President used the economic prosperity enjoyed under his administration to bolster his argument. Clinton did not, however, speak about the high rates of incarceration in this land of the free, nor did he mention the use and abuse of racial profiling by police departments. (For more on racial profiling, see this link.

Clinton did, though, give us an opportunity to examine the logical relationship between ideas in the words he used in the very first sentence of his State of the Union speech. Like all of us, Clinton has been known to get a few things inverted from time to time. He once implied that the government's role was one of "empowering" individuals. Of course we understand that a democratic government doesn't empower individuals; We, the People, empower the government. A government that empowers people is an autocracy.

Democracy Now
It's true. "We are fortunate to be alive in this moment of history," even blessed, honored and privileged to have taken our places on Earth at this most important juncture in the evolution of our species. But it's not because of the economic exuberance of the stock market, which may or may not continue to rise and expand. The true fortune springs from within each one of us who dissolves the crises and threats of the heart. It is there we find an expanding, stable, irreversible abundance.

The New Century
Whatever the prognostications and predictions of all the politicians, stock-watchers, and dot.commers out there, I'm sure that most of you reading this have had about all the millennium predictions you can take. Still, it would be a shame if you missed the prophecies issued in Swami Beyondananda's 'State of the Universe'. The satirical Swami, a.k.a. Steve Bhaerman, touched on everything from "discorporate takeovers" to dis-arm-ament. He predicts that, in the year 2000, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince will become known as The Artist Formerly Known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince; and a new broadcasting network featuring only disembodied commentators will emerge. The network's name?

'The Channel Channel'
Beyondananda high-lit many positive changes in '99, which he attributed to global synchronized prayers and meditations, a phenomenon he christened the "bliss-krieg." He discussed the popularity of alternative therapies and herbal remedies, and predicts that in the future, more and more physicians will be "sending their patients off with a placebo and a prayer." The giggling guru also praised Monsanto Corporation's decision to abandon its terminator seed technology, a decision he described as coming from "Above." (For more on terminator technology, see this link and for more from Beyondananda, click here.

In Montreal, a breakthrough trade agreement in the regulation of genetically engineered food has been reached; one that opens the door for quicker implementation of GM food labeling. The Biosafety Protocol was signed by all 140 nations, including the United States, in a unanimous compromise the European Union calls "a victory for all of us." The US negotiated a 2-year grace-period to delay the implementation of labeling GM products, at which time consumer sentiment would be gauged to determine the desire for labeling. But most environmental lobbies agreed the desire will be intense, if they have anything to do with it.

A spokesperson for Green Peace International says it's "a good foundation," but one to improve upon.

The committee, comprised of hundreds of government ministers and environmentalists, held talks in Cartagena, Colombia nearly a year ago. The talks broke down after six nations-led by the United States, Canada and Australia-blocked a draft already endorsed by 125 other nations.

(For more information about genetic modifications of foods, read these two articles housed on our very own Planetwaves site: The Bad Seed and Biotech Backlash. For background on biotech giant Monsanto Corp. read The Kemner Brief.

While the health effects of genetically modified foods may be glossed over by the "establishment", sometimes the powers that be give a late blessing to knowledge so common to the rest of us that it's hard to imagine it was ever in question. The latest issue of the esteemed - - if less than radical - - Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) announces that good health habits can extend life. So it's official!

Two long-term studies out of Northwestern University Medical School found that, over the course of about twenty years, the incidence of death in general was substantially reduced among subjects who abstained from smoking and had relatively low cholesterol and blood pressure readings. In other words, those in the "low risk" category for heart disease lived longer lives.

But what may be surprising is the range of years added to the life expectancy for low risk participants-6-10 years for people who don't smoke and maintain low cholesterol and blood pressure rates.
Six to ten years can bring a person lots of experiences, and one that was not to be missed was the first total lunar eclipse of the Twenty-first Century. It blossomed right on time, on January 20, 2000. The heavy cloud cover in Los Angeles, and heavy snowfall in other parts of the country, gave way to deep reddish-gray moonlight, as if on cue. Some believe this eclipse to be a manifestation of an influx of Compassion into the world, as the moon is associated with the feminine aspects of the emotional self.
People all over the country gathered that night to view the spectacle together, congregating in parking lots, on sidewalks, gazing out of windows and through skylights. Some planetariums and museums reportedly threw "eclipse parties" to bring people in to view what planetarium Director, Duke Johnson, called "the most impressive lunar eclipse in years." Throughout the last decade, much of the spectacle of lunar eclipses has been hidden from Earth's view by residual ash following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

In Joshua Tree National Park, California author James F. Twyman led a synchronized meditation during the climax of the lunar eclipse, and sang a beautiful song of peace to round out the meditation.

For writings on this eclipse, other eclipses, and eclipses in general by Eric Francis, check the following links:

One Way or Another
In and Out of Time
Burning Man

Until next week, the PlanetNews team signs off with the following thoughts to round out your own meditations: be knowledgeable; be empowered; be yourself.

Horoscopes | Contents | What's New