In Remembrance – Space Shuttle Columbia

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English: Space Shuttle Columbia
English: Space Shuttle Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Remembrance – Space Shuttle Columbia.

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The National Memo » The Richest Pay Half The Effective Tax Rates Of The Poor In State And Local Taxes

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Distribution of U.S. federal taxes for 2000 as...
Distribution of U.S. federal taxes for 2000 as a percentage of income among the family income quintiles. Source: Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Analysis Working Paper #85, “U.S. Treasury Distributional Methodology” by Julie-Anne Cronin (September 1999)- also available here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Income Tax rates by Country based on OECD 2005...
Income Tax rates by Country based on OECD 2005 data. “OECD Tax Database”. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development . . Retrieved 2007-01-30 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
US taxes as a percent of income in 2008.
US taxes as a percent of income in 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Memo » The Richest Pay Half The Effective Tax Rates Of The Poor In State And Local Taxes.

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Review: “Spirits of Lakewood: Hidden Secrets” by Samantha Rindfuss

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When Sophie’s father dies, she goes to live with her grandmother, Emma. Before she even gets to the house, bad dreams start, dreams she later learns are being brought on by the ghost of Carol, a girl who died in the house long before. The ghost continues to haunt her from the first day, and then, Sophie learns from her new schoolmates, Lillian and Thomas, that her grandmother’s house is not just a normal house; it was once a funeral home owned by Carol’s father, a distraught man who went insane after his daughter’s death and eventually hung himself.

Carol gives Sophie an ultimatum; find a way for her to reunite with her father’s spirit, or die herself. Only Lillian and Thomas believe Sophie’s story, and they set out to help her comply with the ghostly command.

An interesting ghost of possession and danger, that tends, unfortunately, to drag a bit in places, but that is nonetheless an interesting read, and is probably written appropriately for younger readers.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fire

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Check out this week’s fun foto challenge at this link. Fire is one of the five Chinese elements, and, without it life couldn’t exist. Here are my interpretations of fire; and, notice that sometimes it’s implied rather than specified.

"Campfire"
The embers of a barbecue fire at a brai in Zimbabwe
The sun is the largest fire in our solar system.
The sun is the largest fire in our solar system.    
The smoldering coals cook chicken for our brai at a camp near the Zambezi River.
The smoldering coals cook chicken for our brai at a camp near the Zambezi River.
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Read This Blog in Other Languages

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Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...
Montage of languages. Prototype header for the language portal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the benefit of my readers for whom English is not a first language; you can now read it in a number of languages. Simply click on the Google ™ translate button on the right hand side of the page, and when it takes you to the next screen, follow the instructions.

Scroll down until you see a section that asks you what language you’re translating from, the language you’re translating to, and the Website being translated.  Below, I show how the site can be translated from English to German:

 

Translate your website – free and automatic

Original Language                                       Target Language

English                                                            German

Website: http://websitename/com

To the right of the website box, there’s a yellow button. Press that and you get the translation.

Here’s an example of what it will come out looking like from my review of When the Siren Calls:

In Tom Barry ‘s Roman, wenn die Sirene Calls, sind wir Jay Brooke, ein Geschäftemacher eingeführt Immobilien Manipulator mit einer glatten Linie zum Einhängen naive Investoren und eine fatale Anziehungskraft auf Frauen. Working an iffy time-share deal in Tuscany , Jay meets Isobel Roberts, a frustrated woman married to a workaholic, and seeking meaning in her life. Arbeiten eine iffy Time-Sharing- Angebot in der Toskana , trifft Jay Isobel Roberts, eine frustrierte Frau, verheiratet mit einem Workaholic, und die Suche nach Sinn in ihrem Leben. As these two planets orbit closer and closer to each other, circumstances conspire to cause perturbations in both lives. Da diese beiden Planeten umkreisen näher und näher an einander, verschwören Umständen Störungen in beiden Leben führen.

The original passage in English:

In Tom Barry ‘s novel When the Siren Calls , we’re introduced to Jay Brooke, a wheeler-dealer real estate manipulator with a smooth line for hooking naïve investors and a fatal attraction to women. Arbeiten eine iffy Time-Sharing- Angebot in der Toskana , trifft Jay Isobel Roberts, eine frustrierte Frau, verheiratet mit einem Workaholic, und die Suche nach Sinn in ihrem Leben. Working an iffy time-share deal in Tuscany , Jay meets Isobel Roberts, a frustrated woman married to a workaholic, and seeking meaning in her life. Da diese beiden Planeten umkreisen näher und näher an einander, verschwören Umständen Störungen in beiden Leben führen. As these two planets orbit closer and closer to each other, circumstances conspire to cause perturbations in both lives.

This utility allows you to see a translation of the entire post, or any highlighted portion, or when you’ve translated to the target language, the ability to see selected parts in English.

Just another effort to make this blog user-friendly. Comments welcome.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

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Over at Cee’s Photography, the Weekly Photo Challenge is Love. Check it out here. In the meantime, check out my interpretation of this

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four-letter word:

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Review: “When the Siren Calls” by Tom Barry

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In Tom Barry’s novel When the Siren Calls, we’re introduced to Jay Brooke, a wheeler-dealer real estate manipulator with a smooth line for hooking naïve investors and a fatal attraction to women. Working an iffy time-share deal in Tuscany, Jay meets Isobel Roberts, a frustrated woman married to a workaholic, and seeking meaning in her life. As these two planets orbit closer and closer to each other, circumstances conspire to cause perturbations in both lives.

Lucy has her sights on Jay, and has hooks in him. The time-share deal, which he has drawn his friend Andy into, is in danger of coming apart at the seams, and Jay finds himself painted not so neatly into a corner; with no apparent escape.

Suspenseful, touching, erotic; all are adjectives that aptly describe Barry’s handling of this novel that defies neat categorization. The author’s familiarity with the setting is apparent in every scene, and he uses setting extremely well to establish mood. The characters in When the Siren Calls are a troupe of complex, flawed creatures, driven by greed, loneliness,  the desire for revenge, but most importantly, by the need to be noticed.

Though not a mystery, this is a page-turner that is guaranteed to keep you up late. It has humor, suspense, and will keep you reading until the last page; and then, salivating for more.

"Deadly Intentions"

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Secretary Clinton and former Secretary Baker Launch Diplomacy Museum

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http://voices.yahoo.com/clinton-baker-launch-diplomacy-museum-washington-11989705.html?cat=75

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at launch of new US Diplomacy Center. Former secretary James Baker III is behind her.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at launch of new US Diplomacy Center. Former secretary James Baker III is behind her.

James Baker, III, Secretary of State in the George H. W. Bush administration, speaks at opening of US Diplomacy Center.
James Baker, III, Secretary of State in the George H. W. Bush administration, speaks at opening of US Diplomacy Center.

Artist's concept of the US Diplomacy Center and Museum.
Artist’s concept of the US Diplomacy Center and Museum.

 

 

Video Trailer: “Buffalo Soldier: Peacekeepers”

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Video trailer for my latest “Buffalo Soldier” novel. Check it out, and then get the book!

Review: “The Cartel” by A. K. Alexander

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A. K. Alexander’s gripping suspense novel of the drug trade, illegal immigration and brotherly betray will keep you reading from the first page to the last. Fully formed characters, authentic dialogue, and credible settings make this a must read.

While a lot of reviews go on and on, I don’t feel there’s a need to do that about The Cartel; besides, to do so might away some of the intricate plot twists in this skillfully written book, and every reader should experience it for him or herself.

Yes, it’s that good.

The Need for a US Diplomatic Code of Ethical Conduct

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French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-...

Nowadays, especially since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, professions and organizations around the world are paying more attention to the need for ethical professionalism standards to guide their activities. Research has shown that cheating has become more commonplace, especially among young people, and while there is not enough data to indicate whether or not this is a clear global trend, it is nonetheless worth being concerned about.

What is inarguable is that any profession needs a grounded ethical code to guide the activities of its members if it is to be successful in our increasingly globalized world.

It’s worth thinking about just why this is so. First; a clearly understood code of ethical behavior helps guide the individual member of the profession in carrying out his or her responsibilities, and protects the individual from outside pressure to ‘bend the rules.’ A sound code is invaluable in explaining the profession to outsiders, and aids in professional interactions with those within and outside the profession. More importantly, for professions that serve the general public, a code establishes the expectations that those being served have regarding that profession.

For 30 years, until I retired in September 2012, I served in the US Foreign Service (and for 20 years before that in the US Army), working at a number of American diplomatic posts both in the United States and abroad. During my service as an American diplomat, I was often dismayed at the lack of understanding most people outside the profession have of what diplomats do. The most common phrase I heard throughout that time was, “a diplomat is someone sent abroad to lie for his country.” From the inside, I knew this to be false. Most of my colleagues were decent, dedicated individuals who operated according to a strict ethical code, serving often in dangerous situations, and performing heroic, but unheralded jobs in the service to their nation and its people.

Why, then, did people fail to understand the profession? There are probably a lot of reasons, but one that impressed me most was the fact that, while there are reams of regulations concerning proper ethical conduct, nowhere was there a clearly defined code of ethical conduct easily accessible to diplomats or the outside world. Other than anecdotal information, or the often distorted and inaccurate portrayals of bureaucratic and snobbish diplomats in popular media, there was no easy to access and understand code of ethical professional behavior that told anyone what the profession of diplomacy is all about.

It became clear to me, therefore, that diplomacy, as any other profession, would be best served if it was made accessible to the general public. Diplomats would be more effective in carrying out their important tasks if they knew, not just what they should avoid doing, but what they are expected to do. Our current ethical regulations, though scattered about dozens of volumes and almost requiring a law degree to fully understand, effectively distinguish between right and wrong behavior, but they are useless in helping professionals make the often hard choice between two courses of action, both of which are ‘right,’ but one of which might be more appropriate and effective. The individual is left to his or her own personal code of behavior in making such decisions, and, while the right (or appropriate) decision is made in most cases, it would be more effective if the individual had aspirational guidelines to help in the decision making process. Furthermore, such a code would help outsiders better understand the reasoning behind the decisions made.

Like the US Military Code of Conduct, promulgated after the Korean War and the unfortunate collaboration with the enemy by many soldiers who had not been prepared for the propaganda employed against them, a diplomatic code of conduct, introduced during the beginning of a career and constantly reinforced throughout that career, would better prepare our diplomats for the world in which they must operate today, where they must contend not only with officials of the governments to whom they’re accredited, but with the many nongovernmental groups and individuals who impact foreign affairs in ways not thought of in the early days of international diplomacy.

No longer should American diplomacy be burdened with the image of ‘someone sent abroad to lie for his or her country.’ As the new US administration prepares to face the challenges of the next four years, establishing a well-understood, respected, professional corps of diplomats should be one of its top priorities.

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Schoolhouse of the Future?

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Schoolhouse of the future