Category Archives: Current Events & Politics

Ways To Support Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts

After the initial shock of the news about the recent earthquake in Haiti wore off, my next thought was, how can I lend my support?

My immediate instinct was to do donate to The Red Cross since the organization’s mobile giving campaign (where participants can simply text a number to have a $10 donation be added to their next phone bill) was getting so much press coverage.

However, Vicki Boykis pointed me to the comments in this Reddit post that caused me to take a step back and re-evalute my decision. What the comments highlight and what I’ve found in my research is that The Red Cross, while a recognizable name, is not a great organization to support. It’s inefficient and too little of the money ends up going to relief efforts, getting your image optimization right.

It seems that organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health are able to put donations to much better use.

I urge everyone to support the relief efforts in Haiti in any way they can but please remember to check the credibility and effectiveness of the various charitable organizations out there. Good questions to ask include:

  • Is this a legit organization? (Check with the Better Business Bureau to be sure.)
  • What percentage of expenses goes to Program Services versus Fundraising or Administration? (Charity Navigator can provide this information and has a rating system for charities.)
  • Will my donation go specifically to Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts or is it just a general donation to the organization?


In case you are looking for more organizations that are raising donations to respond to the crisis, here are some aggregated lists from around the web that maybe useful to you:


CrisisCamp Haiti will take place this Saturday, January 16th from 9:00am to 5:00pm in Washington, DC. CrisisCamp will bring together volunteers to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti’s relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public. Register here.

Matador, an online community of travelers, adventurers, and grassroots organizations, is organizing a volunteer trip to Haiti. Learn more here. (Thanks to @VastuDC for the tip.)


In an age where there is so much information readily available to all, there’s also a lot of misinformation that circulates. A few rumors that I’ve heard and later found to be false:

  • American Airlines IS NOT flying doctors and/or nurses for free to Haiti.
  • UPS IS NOT shipping supplies for free to Haiti.

Reconciling Senator Ted Kennedy’s Legacy

This morning, after hearing about the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, I sent my sentiments into the ether that is the internet.

Senator Ted Kennedy Tweet

A pretty benign and standard statement that reflected what many others felt and thought this morning, I’m sure. Imagine my surprise when I received the following e-mail just minutes after the above tweet went live:



You don’t know me…I read your twitter comment about Ted Kennedy’s passing and how proud you are of him.

I was a young woman when Mary Jo Kopechne was killed at Chappaquiddick.

I was so sad for her and her family at her senseless death.

If only Senator Kennedy called the police right away and not leave her to die, she most likely would of survived the car crash.

His actions on that fateful night clearly told me about his character and I have never forgotten how he got away with it all because of who he was and his money.

You being ‘twenty something’ probably think of this as ancient history, but it’s not.

He got away with murder.

Kind regards,


(Links added by Julie.)


The sender is of course entitled to her opinion although I’m still a bit unsure why it was me she singled out to send this message to.  Even hours later, “Ted Kennedy” continues to be a trending topic on Twitter.

But her e-mail has left me trying to reconcile a number of points:

1. I’m a big proponent of accessibility and even wrote a post last year on why it’s important for bloggers to have their contact information displayed on their sites. But, I have to be honest, it was unnerving to get e-mail of that sort in a place (my inbox) which is usually one filled with friendly “faces”. What happened if someone decided to send me truly malicious e-mails? Have I set myself up for disaster? At the moment, I’ve decided to keep my e-mail accessible on this site and hopefully I won’t regret it.

2. It’s an interesting feeling growing up in a country where you were not born. Most days, you feel like a local but little things will remind you that in some ways, you’ll always be a transplant and an outsider. Defining what I consider to be my history is a bit tricky: I feel ownership over USSR events that took place up to 1991 (the year I immigrated to America) and over American events that have taken place since then, but not vice versa. I feel the same disconnection with America’s struggle with slavery as I do with a democratic Russia…

As such, Elizabeth is right in assuming that being young does affect my view of Senator Kennedy but I would argue that others of my generation may have a different perspective. I simply lacked an environment where that story would have been passed down and where I would have been exposed to opinions on the subject that would have helped define Senator Kennedy’s persona for me.

3. In trying to mull over how to combine these two images of Senator Kennedy – seen by some as a murderer and by others as a champion of human rights, here’s what I think I’ve come to stand on the issue:

Unfortunately, during one chapter of Senator Ted Kennedy’s life, he panicked, made a mistake, didn’t handle a situation as he should have.  As my good friend David points out, “[What happened is] a chapter that can’t be left out. And for some, it’s the only chapter”. When looking at Senator Ted Kennedy’s life it’s important to view it as a whole and not get stuck on one chapter. As a whole, Senator Kennedy was a great man who worked to better the world and his memory should be shown the respect it deserves.

Sexual Orientation Equality: The Civil Rights Fight Of Our Time

On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I saw Milk, a movie describing the life of Harvey Milk who, as member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, became the first openly gay man elected to public office in California and who successfully fought in 1978 to pass a gay rights ordinance for San Francisco as well as to defeat Proposition 6 (also known as the Briggs Initiative), which would have banned homosexuals, and their supporters, from working in California’s public schools. Milk was assasinated less than a year after being elected but due to his significant contributions he has become an icon for gay rights activists.

What struck me about the movie is that thirty years later not much has changed.

The passing of California Proposition 8 last November, which changed the state’s constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marriage, highlights the discrimination and ignorance that still exists surrounding the LGBT community.

The fight for gender, racial, and religious equality was won by previous generations of open-minded thinkers. But the civil rights fight of our time is that for sexual orientation equality.

I was fortunate to grow up in liberal Lexington, Massachuetts (the “birthplace of American Liberty”, no less) where we were taught that how others label themselves is irrelevant, it’s who they are as individuals that matters. (Crazy idea, right?)

My town and its schools have come under fire before because of our acceptance of the LGBT community, most recently in 2005 during an annual Day of Silence and when a parent filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after his son brought home a book depicting same-sex couples.

These two events prompted the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, headed by Fred Phelps, to stage anti-gay protests at five Lexington churches and at Lexington High School’s Class of 2005 graduation.

Unfortunately, the church is planning once again to protest Lexington because of its strong support for LBGT indviduals.

But this time, I feel like there’s something I can do to show that there’s no place for this type of intolerance in my hometown – and in my country.

Driving Equality is hosting a Phelps-A-Thon to counter Fred Phelps’ hateful message. For every minute the “God Hates Fags” clan is protesting, Driving Equality will be collecting donations for Lexington High School’s Gay Straight Alliance. Pledges can be made in any amount (even $0.25!) for every minute of the group’s demonstration or at a flat rate for the entire time.

During the protest, Driving Equality will display a sign in front of the “God Hates Fags” clan tallying how much money is being raised for LGBT equality. After the event, the church will be sent a Thank You card for their help in raising the funds.

This is an opportunity to turn something so negative and hateful into something positive. I hope that you will help me spread the message and will consider joining me in donating to the Lexington High School Phelps-A-Thon to show solidarity with the LGBT community at Lexington High School – and worldwide.

(More information on the Lexington High School Phelps-A-Thon can be found here and pledges can be made here.)

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