28 April 2009

Soulard Oktoberfest Seeks Public Response

Officials with the SOULARD OKTOBERFEST are seeking comments from area residents regarding the festival and how it is handled as well as perceived by the public.

Organizers from the SOULARD OKTOBERFEST, run by the Soulard Oktoberfest Benevolent Association, met with officials from the city of St. Louis on Monday. The city Parks, Recreation and Forestry Division as well as Ald. Phyllis Young expressed concerns over the rowdiness of the Oktoberfest crowd and asked for some concessions from the Oktoberfest regarding its festival. Oktoberfest officials told the city they would gladly address these concerns by May 31st in hopes of coming to a compromise so that the 2009 edition of the SOULARD OKTOBERFEST would be allowed to continue in its current location at 8th and Lafayette - from 7th and Lafayette to 9th and Lafayette, over to Carroll Street from 9th to 7th St - around Soulard Market and the park along Lafayette Avenue. An official with the Soulard Oktoberfest tells News St. Louis that they were encouraged by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Division to keep in touch with that arm of city government so that the festival may be able to continue in its current configuration in 2009.

The Soulard Oktoberfest is hoping to secure enough support from the neighborhood residents and business owners, as well as the St. Louis public in general, to help shore up the notion that they have been running a good old-fashioned German heritage festival in a responsible manner.

Soulard Oktoberfest officials hope that those concerned about the well-being of the festival contact Ald. Phyllis Young at the city of St. Louis. Her email address is: pyoung@stlouiscity.com

Contact information for the Soulard Oktoberfest is available on their website: http://www.soulardoktoberfest.com
or more directly: http://www.soulardoktoberfest.com/dev/index.php?option=com_contact&Itemid=3

Those who wish to volunteer time or other resources can contact the organizers of the Soulard Oktoberfest.

21 April 2009

Euna Lee And Laura Ling Are Held By North Korea; Roxana Saberi Imprisoned In Iran

When trying to write something, I generally find a topic which is easily related to most St. Louisans. But today, this is aimed at a target segment --- a niche audience --- and it is NOT St. Louis news, but a national and international story. Iran just sentenced a journalist --- not just any journalist but a female journalist who grew up in the United States and has been living in Iran for the past six years --- to eight years in jail. It is said to violate Iran's own human rights laws to hold her after investigators looked into her activities. Saberi was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, lived a rather normal life as a child in America, enjoyed her freedom like any other American, and decided she should seek out more in her Iranian roots and return to the land of her lineage and work in her chosen field of journalism. But as anyone with American ties and family in a strong-minded middle east country can no doubt tell us, someone who is raised in the United States is subject to immediate scrutiny and harsh judgment --- which is what has happened to Roxana Saberi. Thus far, Americans are largely ignorant of this story unless they heard it during network news over the weekend or got their hands on a newspaper with international news stories sometime in the past three days. Hearing international news on the networks is what used to be normal, but now Americans don't hear or read international stories because of many factors, not the least of which is newspapers are going away and radio stations don't bother to carry network news the way they used to carry it 25 years ago.

That's the starting point for the rest of this story, as I am keeping up the appearance of someone who is "in the know" but not following international stories closely enough to make myself appear but another ignorant American. So --- here's the focus on something international which I have been following a bit more closely through an internet contact.

Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee are being held captive by North Korea.

This story probably does not ring a bell with most Americans, but it should. This isn't truly a NEW NEWS STORY. These two women have been held --- illegally --- by the North Korean government for FIVE WEEKS after they were walking, to their knowledge, about a mile or so from the border with China and, as the story goes, were captured by soldiers of the North Korean government. They were quickly brought to a military sight where they were detained, questioned, and thrown into jail for being on North Korean soil. Thus far, the two women --- both working for Current TV --- have received only ONE visitor, and are not allowed any freedoms. As far as anyone can gather information to this point Laura Ling and Euna Lee have not been allowed sunlight and fresh air.
This treatment is far beyond the comprehension of most people. It violates simple human rights to hold them in this manner --- but if nobody does something about it, it goes unchecked.

It is a war-like attitude to take a human and subject them to jail for walking NEAR a border. It is North Korea who is keeping up appearances that they are doing right by their citizens by kidnapping two women who were unarmed and harmlessly doing their jobs as journalists and not even allowing foreign attorneys the opportunity to meet with them to discuss their case, or discuss the charges being leveled against them with anyone in the local or state government. Clearly, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were in the wrong place at the wrong time --- if only because on March 17, 2009, they were too close to the border for the North Koreans to ignore their presence. Or perhaps, as at least one story has suggested, they were being misled by a guide who promised them a story of human trafficking along the border of North Korea and China and the two women were more or less delivered to North Korea by someone who was paid off by the Kim Jong Il goverment. It's difficult to ascertain from the other side of earth what happened that day, but these two American women are being held on charges of illegal entry and hostile acts. And with the style of goverment in North Korean, it is easy to see that since the state news agency there has said Laura Ling and Euna Lee are going to be tried on those charges they will likely be convicted and sentenced to jail in much the same manner as Roxana Saberi in Iran.

The question remains open: will the Obama administration do anything at all to help American journalists being held in foreign countries?

Here's the blog commentary part of this story:
The world is so small with the internet, but the world of international politics is but a minuscule piece of our daily lives. Think about it: we cannot afford to idly stand by and think "well, how does their misfortune impact my life enough?"
Americans must see such injustice played out upon an international stage. But it starts with one or two more conversations at work and home to get the scope on a story which is largely being ignored. I encourage you to look for news stories on this subject, read as many of them as you can, and please do something other than keeping up the appearances that you care: please make the time to send out one email to someone who matters in the media (TV shows on the major networks can put this story on the minds of everyone, any newspapers or wire services) and if not to the media please send that email or snail mail letter to someone in the different governmental bodies where you think it will become an impact story.
If you wish to make a difference in the lives of two women who are being held captive on trumped up charges, you can do it.

I'm not keeping up appearances today. I've written this story and I'll forward information to others I know in hopes that it becomes a greater discussion, and both Euna Lee and Laura Ling become the topic of many Americans water cooler chats.

I hope this story is being talked about in the west wing of the White House, as it deserves both attention and action by the U.S. Government on behalf of its citizens --- two of which are Euna Lee and Laura Ling who are, for now, detainees in North Korean, and the jailed third U.S. citizen Roxana Siberi who may spend eight years imprisoned in Iran.