Search This Blog

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Norway #1 in human development; Democratic Republic of the Congo last

The United Nations (UN) publishes a Human Development Index each year which compares life expectancy, literacy, education, child welfare, and standards of living in countries around the globe.

The village of Reine in Lofoten, Norway (Photo credit: Petr Šmerkl, Wikipedia)
In 2011, Norway ranked first followed by Australia, Netherlands, United States, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden. Countries in Africa rated at the bottom, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranking last and the Seychelles ranking first among African nations.

Anse Source d'Argent 2-La Digue, Seychelles  (Photo credit: Tobias Alt/Creative Commons)

Wingcom Watchdog has forwarded the UN the following questions concerning this year's index:

When will the 2012 report be published?
Do you see any significant changes in country rankings re: human development from 2011 to 2012?
What can we learn from the countries at the top of the list to help countries at the bottom of the list?
How did Belgium's influence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo result in its low ranking?

The response was, "Thank you for your interest in our work. We have received your query and we will answer as soon as possible." As for research requests, ""Sorry. We unfortunately do not have the staff time or resources to assist individuals with personal research requests." To learn more about this subject, however, go to

The UN has also released its African Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future and states:  "Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic resurgence unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people...

"Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. Inclusive growth and people-centred approaches to food security are needed,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark earlier this month.

©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Austell Community Taskforce in Georgia prepares for Town Hall Meeting

In a flyer circulated via email, the Austell Community Taskforce (ACT) is inviting citizens to meet and contemplate what the July 31 vote will mean for South Cobb, Georgia. According to member Tamisha Peterson, a Town Hall Meeting will take place Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m. at the South Cobb Recreation Center, 875 Six Flags Road in Austell.

Questions to be addressed during the meeting will include, "Should I vote on July 31? Who's running for office? What are the issues on transportation?  Do they matter to me?

"We will chat about what is going on in our Six Flags community, the good...the bad..and the ugly!"

For more information on the meeting, call 770-819-3240 or 770-819-4938.

Chicago preacher sends letter on Obama's gay marriage stand

Reminiscent of MLK's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", Reverend Otis Moss, III has sent clergyman a letter concerning President Obama’s recent public endorsement of gay marriage. According to Wikipedia, Otis Moss, III is senior pastor at the predominately African American Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill. which is Obama's former church that was once led by the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright who espouses black liberation theology. 

In, Moss is said to be ranked No. 29 out of 100 most  influential Chicagoans.  Moss is married and has two children.The following letter is posted in its entirety.

My Brother:
Tell your brethren who are part of your ministerial coalition to “live their faith and not legislate their faith” for the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of all. We must learn to be more than a one-issue community and seek the beloved community where we may not all agree, but we all recognize the fingerprint of the Divine upon all of humanity.
There is no doubt people who are same-gender-loving who occupy prominent places in the body of Christ. For the clergy to hide from true dialogue with quick dismissive claims devised from poor biblical scholarship is as sinful as unthoughtful acceptance of a theological position. When we make biblical claims without sound interpretation we run the risk of adopting a doctrinal position of deep conviction but devoid of love. Deep faith may resonate in our position, but it is the ethic of love that forces us to prayerfully reexamine our position.

The question I believe we should pose to our congregations is, “Should all Americans have the same civil rights?” This is a radically different question than the one you raised with the ministers, “Does the church have the right to perform or not perform certain religious rites.” 

There is difference between rights and rites. We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective. These two questions are answered in two fundamentally different arenas. One is answered in the arena of civic debate where the Constitution is the document of authority. The other is answered in the realm of ecclesiastical councils where theology, conscience and biblical mandates are the guiding ethos. I do not believe ecclesiastical councils are equipped to shape civic legislation nor are civic representatives equipped to shape religious rituals and doctrine.

The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the President’s words. Marriage was under attack years ago by men who viewed women as property and children as trophies of sexual prowess. Marriage is under attack by low wages, high incarceration, unfair tax policy, unemployment, and lack of education. Marriage is under attack by clergy who proclaim monogamy yet think nothing of stepping outside the bonds of marriage to have multiple affairs with “preaching groupies.” Same-gender couples did not cause the high divorce rate, but our adolescent views of relationships and our inability as a community to come to grips with the ethic of love and commitment did. We still confuse sex with love and romance with commitment.

My father, who is a veteran of the civil rights movement and retired pastor, eloquently stated the critical nature of this election when speaking to ministers this past week who claim they will pull support from the President as a result of his position. He stated, “Our Ancestors prayed for 389 years to place a person of color in the White House. They led over 200 slave revolts, fought in 11 wars, one being a civil war where over 600,000 people died. Our mothers fought and were killed for women’s suffrage, our grandparents were lynched for the civil rights bill of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965…my father never had the opportunity to vote and I believe it is my sacred duty to pull the lever for every member of my family who was denied the right to vote. I will not allow narrow-minded ministers or regressive politicians the satisfaction of keeping me from my sacred right to vote to shape the future for my grandchildren.”

“The institution of marriage is not under attack as a result of the President’s words.”

Gay and lesbian citizens did not cause the economic crash, foreclosures, and attack upon health care. Poor under funded schools were not created because people desire equal protection under the law. We have much work to do as a community, and to claim the President of the United States must hold your theological position is absurd. He is President of the United States of America not the President of the Baptist convention or Bishop of the Sanctified or Holiness Church. He is called to protect the rights of Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, Gay and straight, black and white, Atheist and Agnostic. It should be noted the President offered no legislation, or executive order, or present an argument before the Supreme Court. He simply stated his personal conviction.

If we dare steal away from the noise of this debate, we will realize as a church we are called to “Do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God.” Gay people have never been the enemy; and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of our problems we lie on God and cause tears to flow from the eyes of Christ.

I am not asking you to change your position, but I am stating we must stay in dialogue and not allow our own personal emotional prejudices or doctrines to prevent us from seeing the possibilities of a beloved community. 

November is fast approaching, and the spirits of Ella Baker, Septima Clarke, Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, A. Phillip Randolph, James Orange, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther, King Jr. stand in the balcony of heaven raising the question, “Will you do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with our God?” Emmitt Till and the four little girls who were assassinated in Alabama during worship did not die for a Sunday sermonic sound bite to show disdain for one group of God’s people. They were killed by an evil act enacted by men who believed in doctrine over love. We serve in ministry this day because of a man who believed in love over doctrine and died on a hill called Calvary in a dusty Palestinian community 2,000 years ago. Do not let the rhetoric of this debate keep you from the polls, my friend.

Asking you to imagine a beloved community, your brother and friend,
Otis Moss, III

Monday, May 21, 2012

Greek Festival culminates another successful cultural event

While Greece is in the news for its financial troubles, a  Greek Orthodox Church in Marietta, Ga., U.S. celebrated culture and tradition May 18-20 to raise funds for ongoing ministries. 

Dancing in Church's Greek amphitheater (Photo by Ilea Johnson)

Traditional jewelry, clothing, handicrafts, and foods were available at the festival.  Dancers took part accompanied by a band featuring a violin and mandolins whose players weaved through the crowd within the authentic outdoor Greek amphitheater.  

The last day of the festival marked the feast day of Saint Lydia of Philippi and the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Crete when Greece was invaded by the Nazis in 1941.

"This time of the Greek Festival is always a very stressful time for all of us as we intensify our efforts...the time when the 'tempter', the evil one who desires to destroy love and peace, unleashes his full forces to bring about spiritual damage to our souls," said Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou, Ph.D., protopresbyter of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church which sponsored the festival.  

Church program

"I kindly request that we all remain vigilant and begin every day and every task with this short prayer: 'Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us sinners and protect us from temptation,' " said Papageorgiou in his Sunday bulletin message.  
Dome  inside sanctuary (Photo - Ayron Johnson)
Guided tours were given of the Byzantine sanctuary and chapel featuring explanations of the vividly colored, gold leaf paintings, icons, carved arches and doors. Tour guides explained that icons were used during the early Christian era to communicate religious teachings to those who were illiterate but could interpret visual symbols although they could not read Greek. 

"From everything I've seen here, Jesus Christ is the center of this church," said Gary Brown from Versailles, Ky. " I learned a lot on my visit."

Inside the sanctuary (Photo by Ayron Johnson)
The wooden archways and doors  inside the sanctuary came from Germany but were carved in Greece. The murals were completed by an artist from Birmingham, Ala. The Church was opened in 2004.

Outside view of Holy Transfiguration (Photo by Ilea Johnson)
"Our Church looks and sounds a bit different...our services, and indeed the structure of the building, mirror what ancient Christians have experienced since the 4th century after the Resurrection," said Fr. Papageorgiou in promotional materials.  "We invite you to follow along and experience the richness of our ancient and vitally alive Faith."
Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church (Photo by Ilea Johnson)
For more information on the church sponsoring the festival, go to

©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Verda Calhoun Scholarship Committee announces first award

Verda M. Calhoun (Provided by family)
The Marion County NAACP of Kentucky is awarding a scholarship to a deserving student in honor of a former civil rights advocate and health care professional. The award is being made in memory of the organization's late member and president, Verda M. Calhoun, who succumbed to cancer in 2010.

"Our first scholarship recipient was chosen today and when we meet again, we’ll tell you a heart-warming story about the selection," said son George "Bubba" Calhoun of Louisville. 

 The scholarship presentation will be made on June 3 at 3 p.m. at the Marion County Library in Lebanon. "Trust me, all the siblings will be there with check in hand and honored to do so in our mother’s name.  This is a tribute to a strong, trailblazing activist and all-around wonderful mother," Calhoun said.

After sending her kids off into the world, Calhoun went back to college, secured her degree, and started her career as a nurse's aide at Springview Hospital. She moved up the ranks and became a registered nurse and later personnel director at the hospital. After retiring from there, she became the first medical director at the Marion County Correctional Institute, a testament to her tenacity and love for her profession.

While doing all of this, she assumed the leadership of the Marion County NAACP, led that organization for 22 years as president, and created  the NAACP Scholarship Award.

Verda M. Calhoun was born on April 24, 1935 and passed away on February 25, 2010.

"We would like to say thanks to Jeroyd Evans, president of Marion County NAACP and its officers who helped make this journey possible," Calhoun said.

Ms. Calhoun (2nd from r) at gathering with family. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

What is "race"?

"The biological fact of race and the myth of 'race' should be distinguished. For all practical social purposes 'race' is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth. The myth 'race' has created an enormous amount of human and social damage. In recent years it has taken a heavy toll in human lives and caused untold suffering. It still prevents the normal development of millions of human beings and deprives civilization of the effective co-operation of productive minds. The biological differences between ethnic groups should be disregarded from the standpoint of social acceptance and social action. The unity of mankind from both the biological and social viewpoints is the main thing. To recognize this and to act accordingly is the first requirement of modern man." Unesco, The Race Question, 1950

Friday, May 11, 2012

Georgia Community Coalition asks tough questions regarding transit in South Cobb

Tim Lee (2nd from left) talks to members of GCC.
Members of the Georgia Community Coalition (GCC) met with Tim Lee, Chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, in chambers today on Cherokee Street to ask how taxpayer money would be spent to improve transportation in South Cobb. 

The meeting marked Lee's agreement to confer with the group once a month to update them on transit plans and listen to comments about the plan's direction. Members informed Lee that because of inadequate transportation services, the poor are being corralled and isolated in South Cobb and have few options to get to church, grocery stores, and jobs.

Labor Representative Ken Howell
"We need light rail," said Ken Howell, a Marietta labor representative. "First, you tore down all the housing projects and moved people out. Then you cut the bus routes so people couldn't get back and forth to work.  That was a dirty trick. That was just low down."

In response, Howell suggested that the Federal government be called in to investigate equity. He advised citizens to think very closely on their voting decisions when it comes to the upcoming July 31 transportation referendum, also referred to as T-Splost.

"Three major bus lines have been cut - the 35, 60, and 70," said Karen Askew, also a member of the Partnership for Southern Equity.  "I couldn't believe that bus services to Home Depot and WellStar were eliminated," Askew stated. 

Lee said it would take approximately $4 million to reactivate bus service on those routes. Lee informed the group that light rail was too costly to construct, that the decision had already been made, and the new plan would use taxpayer monies to construct a reversible lane system instead.

Thomas Carter said that most Cobb residents do not understand what is behind the referendum and the document of understanding that governs it.  "Without light rail, additional congestion will bring about road rage, gridlock, environmental businesses look at transportation congestion before they decide to do business in an area," Carter said.

To the group's surprise, Lee called some of his constituents in Cobb "spoiled brats" who did not want light rail. He mentioned that he has been working very hard since his re-election, and claimed that racism and money were hampering him.  "It's a dollar issue...I need you at the table," he said.

Participants Askew, Spann, and Pendergrass prayed before and after the meeting.
"We represent the little people," said Coakley Pendergrass, a minister at Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church. Of Lee's upcoming election, Pendergrass added, "We want to help you AND ourselves but are more inclined to help people who can't help themselves," he stated.

"We should have been at this table a year ago," Pendergrass said. "Now, we will be fighting for voter presence. People in South Cobb WILL vote," he concluded after the meeting.

When one attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, learned that plans for light rail and jobs it could bring were being curtailed, she announced after the meeting she was reconsidering a vote for the referendum. Another attendee said he thought the Governor would appropriate funds to get the job done, no matter what the voter outcome is in July.

©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Steve Oppenheimer, Georgia PSC candidate, offers energetic ideas for future

Oppenheimer is running for a PSC seat.
When it comes to regulated telecommunications, transportation, electric and natural gas services in Georgia, do customers feel they have a true advocate watching their pocketbooks?  Probably not, says Steve Oppenheimer (D) from Sandy Springs who is running to become a member of the Public Service Commission (PSC) which is now an all Republican body. 

"I myself questioned what I was hearing on TV regarding sustainable energy in Georgia," Oppenheimer told an audience of concerned citizens recently at a Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy (CASE) meeting at the Rib Ranch in Cobb County. "I asked myself, 'Is this for real?', there are other ways to go...we need to get energy independent, use common sense, open up the process, be more transparent."

Oppenheimer is a retired dentist, an Indiana University - Bloomington alumni, father of three sons, native of Columbus, Ohio, and an energy project management guru.  "Our problem is that we're not looking down the road far enough," Oppenheimer said. 

"There are two really important political races coming this year: one for president and one to replace a seat on the Georgia PSC...This energy issue has no political boundaries," he said. Oppenheimer is running to defeat Commissioner Chuck Eaton  from District 3.

Oppenheimer's resume as seen on his campaign website ( includes experience as a task force coordinator for Clean-Cities Atlanta. He also serves on Atlanta’s Electric Vehicle Task Force, the Metro Atlanta Plug In Electric Vehicle Readiness Task Force, and he is a coalition member of Analysis of Global Security, a Washington, D.C. group focusing on energy security.

He is also a national board member of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Life on Campus, and was regional Vice President for the B'nai Brith Youth organization for over 30 years. "I am detail oriented and have a scientific background." Oppenheimer said he prides himself on being able to distinguish fact from fiction. "I can trust experts, but I can also distinguish lies," he said.

At the event, Oppenheimer showed knowledge of solar, smart grid, fuel cell, bloom box, and ceramic technology. He talked about renewable portfolio standards, regulations lagging technology, and his desire to get both energy experts and student innovators engaged in solving our energy crisis.  "We need the energy of youth to push us," he said.

CASE members discussed clean energy and other concerns before the meeting.
When asked who was financing his campaign, he responded, "There is no super PAC or deep pockets...friends I've made over the last 30 years who have championed my leadership are helping me. I need the real citizens to unite to advance my  ideas to move us in the right direction," he said.

Political activist Thomas Carter attended the meeting and said he liked Oppenheimer's approach to questions and his ability to listen.  "Politicians report to us. We need to get politicians to do what we need them to do...we need a change in our energy policy and some forward thinking," Carter said.

Kurk Johnson questioned Oppenheimer's knowledge of the telecommunications industry, but said he thought he was smart enough to learn and probe new technology. Mike Holzknecht said he liked Oppenheimer's direct approach.

CASE president Tom Barksdale said citizens need to be concerned about PSC leadership decisions. "We have to be the engines...and get ourselves and others involved," he concluded.

©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 4, 2012

'Bluetooth' law passes in Georgia

A typical Bluetooth mobile phone headset
The Villa Rica City Council has banned cell phone usage while driving without a hands-free device, becoming the first city in Georgia to pass such a law. At the same time, the Council dropped an effort to prohibit smoking in all public places in the city.

The new ban on cell phones gives car salesmen the opportunity to push cars equipped with hands-free devices. After the Council acted, I received an email from Aaron Gillison, a salesman at Mazda of Roswell.

"Safety while driving has always been a big concern among adult and young drivers alike," Gillison said. "Many states have adopted 'Bluetooth laws' for driving and talking on the phone. Some have used local distracted driving laws to prevent you from talking on a phone, texting, controlling a navigation or music device while driving.

"Georgia has threatened but failed to pass these laws in the past but with federal laws on the horizon, Villa Rica became the first to pass a local law in Georgia," Gillison said. Most newer cars allow drivers to control music devices wirelessly which can be just as dangerous as texting while driving.

Bluetooth photo part of Wiki Free Art License.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Quote for today...

"The mere imparting of information is not education. Above all things, the effort must result in making a man think and do for himself." Carter Godwin Woodson

Background checks for jobs get harder

If you receive a new job offer, do not jump for joy too quickly! A thorough background check has to be passed first, and it's getting harder to pass one unless you are drug-free and can supply all the information requested by verifications specialists.

Here are some of the things required in a background check:
  • drug screen
  • credit check
  • fingerprinting
  • W-2's for last five years
  • copy of most recent pay stub
  • copy of GED, high school diploma, or college diploma

Even some human resources specialists are puzzled by the new requirements given by some pre-employment screeners.  "In my experience with background checks, I have not seen such requests," said Attorney Jose De La Cruz. He recommends notifying the employing company before giving any financial information.

"That's fricking crazy," said Mary Billings, a college guidance counselor. "The hoops to happiness have expanded beyond measure. That is sickening," she said. Billings concluded that all wage earners should keep five years of tax returns handy when applying for a job.

©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved. 
Check mark in public domain from Wikimedia Commons.