Mar 282011
 

In our ongoing look at the Feminist Peace Network‘s story as part of Women’s History Month, this letter (undated, but probably sent in 2007) went to representatives of several other women’s groups, including WILPF, NOW, Code Pink, Global Women’s Strike, Nobel Women’s Initiative and VDay.  Unfortunately, nothing substantive resulted from it, and the letter could just as easily be sent today apropos of numerous conflict-afflicted areas in the world.

Gentlewomen,

As I think you all know, the already dire situation for Iraqi women and children has become horrendously worse during the last  few months, both for those still in Iraq and for those who are now refugees.  Yet this crisis is all but invisible to the U.S. peace/anti-war movement which seems to be centering its message on ending the war but supporting the troops, a message that while expedient in terms of building a broad coalition against the war, only addresses part of the problem.

As women’s organizations and feminists, we  need to demand that the specific harms to women as a result of this conflict be addressed as part of the anti-war movement’s agenda.  Harms such as:

–Lack of maternal healthcare.

–The difficulties facing women trying to get passports (you have to travel to Baghdad and have a male relative’s permission) in order to flee the country.

–The women who have been sexually trafficked and forced into prostitution to feed themselves and their children.  The Independent (UK) has suggested that 50,000 women refugees may  be prostituting themselves which sounds like a huge number but if you consider that there are some 4 million refugees now, many of whom are women without male relatives and who are not able to legally obtain work, the number does not seem unreasonable.  As horrific as this is, it is a crisis that is all but invisible to the American public.

All of our organizations want this war to end, but bringing our soldiers home, while necessary, is not sufficient, we need to end this war for the Iraqi people too and work to help them restore their lives.  The first place that needs to start is immediately addressing the refugee crisis and setting up ways to enable women as part of this process.  We also need to demand that U.S. troops do not continue the wholesale slaughter of women and children.

To raise our voices loudly enough to be heard, we truly need to do so together.  I don’t have a specific plan of action in mind, at this point I am simply asking if you are willing to work together and to ask that you share your ideas.

In peaceful sisterhood,

Lucinda Marshall

Feminist Peace Network

 

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 March 28, 2011  Posted by on March 28, 2011 Comments Off
Mar 232011
 

In our continuing look at the Feminist Peace Network’s story as part of Women’ History Month, we were a signatory to this letter in 2003.  In retrospect one wonders if this should be an annual call.  Imagine if we took this path instead of using embargoes and no-fly zones.

TIME OUT! WOMEN CALL PREEMPTIVE STRIKE FOR PEACE

Open letter to the United Nations Security Council

Women call a Preemptive Strike for Peace as the clearest expression of our informed, collective self-interest. Peace best enables our lives and the lives of our offspring, our brothers, fathers, spouses and partners, families, friends, neighbors and fellow human beings, wherever they live.  Peace among humans is the necessary condition to rescue our beleaguered planet and it may well be the imperative for species survival.

According to the Global Action To Prevent War: “The past century was the most lethal in human history. There were 250 wars, including two worldwide wars and a cold war, with more dead than in all previous wars of the past two thousand years. Over six million more have died even after the cold war ended, when things should have changed for the better.

This situation must not continue into this new century and it does not have to.”

WE cannot allow it. We Must Act Now. Our approach is not idealistic. It is a pragmatic, relevant, achievable response to war. Everywhere (and historically) non-combatant women, adolescent girls and children are the most brutalized victims of war. Violence against this population is the most relentlessly cruel and widespread violence of war. All conditions that produce and reproduce such violence should be intolerable to every woman and man and to every institution designed to organize human life.

What We Want

We request the UN Security Council

  1. To join us in calling TIME OUT on war. To help mobilize every UN Agency, especially all those mandated with the protection and well being of women and children, to invoke the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Beijing Platform on Women, to declare the impending war on Iraq (and by default in the whole region), illegal, irresponsible, immoral, unnecessary and untenable showing a blatant disregard for the lives of women, adolescent girls and children. If anyone claims we can fight a war and protect the human rights of this population, we ask the question, what of the human rights of every human being to whom every human woman’s life is attached, and what of the universal nature of human rights?
  2. To request the Secretary General to submit information for consideration –in step with the weapons inspection and disarmament of Iraq–on the condition of women in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Caspian Basin the USA and Britain as their lives embroil in the stresses of war in its every phase…impending (USA, Britain, Caspian Basin); escalating (Iraq); under foreign military occupation (Afghanistan).  
  3. To hold the line on war, enforcing the weapons inspection and disarmament project in Iraq unhindered and un-pressed for time by all parties.
  4. To call for unhindered, immediate and ongoing restoration of the critical life-support infrastructure in Afghanistan and Iraq and clean up of the depleted uranium contamination in both countries
  5. To mobilize with the NGO’s Global Action Plan To Prevent War and The Hague Appeal For Peace for implementation of their programs of action moving towards the Abolition of War. The time to act is now, before the military machine roars into full gear and runs amok.
  6. To recognize that the UNSC Iraq weapons inspections and disarmament project has laid the groundwork and precedent for universal weapons inspections and disarmament and to push and call for it in every forum.
  7. To call an emergency global conference on The Root Cause of Conflict and The Culture of Peace. The conference will deliberate upon the problems and prospects of the Oil Industry and the International Weapons Industry and articulate action plans and timelines for their conversion to socially useful and sustainable industries. We propose that the conference be held in Baghdad as soon as possible, drawing ‘stakeholder’ participation from NGO’s and labor unions, government and industry.
  8. To mobilize UNESCO to hold a Middle East Cultural Festival in Iraq by early fall. The festival should include scholarly forums/ conferences on religion and peace, for example, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and World Peace, Mapping Peaceful Paths for our Children’s Children’s Children; health and healing, ecology and human culture, youth culture. We envision a great surge in International travel on missions of goodwill to replace the cold and cruel insanity of the war fever.

On October 28th. 2002, in the Secretary-General’s Statement To Security Council on Women, Peace and Security, Mr. Kofi Annan reported, …“patterns of discrimination against women and girls tend to be exacerbated in armed conflict…. But if women suffer the impact of conflict disproportionately, they are also key to the solution of conflict…However, with a few exceptions, women are not present at the formal negotiating tables and at formal peace negotiations. The report calls for greater representation of women in formal peace negotiations… The world can no longer afford to neglect the abuses to which women and girls are subjected in armed conflict and its aftermath, or to ignore the contributions that women make to the search for peace”.

Mr. Kofi Annan’s report was based on a 179 page study undertaken by his office in response to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This historic resolution was unanimously adopted following an open discussion on October 24 & 25, 2000 when for the first time since its establishment in 1947, the UN Security Council  (UNSC) considered war from women’s perspective.  Better late than never.

UNSC Resolution 1325 reiterates the importance of bringing gender perspectives to the center of attention in all UN peace-making, peace-building, peacekeeping, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates. They include:

  • Increase representation of women in decision-making for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict and peace processes (paras 1 and 2);
  • Increase appointment of women as special representatives and envoys (para 3);
  • … support local women’s peace initiatives; and ensure protection and respect for the human rights of women and girls (para 8);
  • Ensure respect for international law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls (para 9);
  • Adopt special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence (para 10);
  • Ensure that Security Council missions take gender considerations and rights of women into account, including through consultation with local and international women’s groups (para 15);
  • The Secretary General to carry out a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution and submit a report to the Security Council (para 16);
  • The Secretary General to include in his reporting to the Security Council progress on gender mainstreaming throughout peacekeeping missions (para 17)

Any resolution is only as good as its full implementation. While the UN Secretary General’s study was underway, UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund For Women) commissioned a simultaneous, independent study reporting similar conclusions. Each of these studies and both should have certainly mobilized the UN system to call the UN’s overarching mandate into full operation. The Preamble to the Charter establishing the United Nations says:

WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom

AND FOR THESE ENDS

  • to practice tolerance…in peace with one another as good neighbors
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest…

HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS

Clearly, war is not a “condition under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.

Yet here we are, sliding precipitously into the Bush administrations WAR ON TERROR in terrifying and unconscionable disregard of the findings of two exhaustive reports and in direct contravention of our collective obligation under UNSC Resolution 1325 and a host of other treaties including the UN Charter and the UN Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.

Women and men of good conscience must not allow this outrage. We are resolved to mobilize all resources in our power for peace. We urge every United Nations agency all National missions to the UN (signatories to the UN Charter) and all NGO’s to do the same.

We believe that the only appropriate follow up to UNSC Resolution 1325, is to implement the Hague Appeal For Peace: Replacing the law of force with the force of fair and just law. Ours is a human rights response. We assert our inalienable, common human right to Live Free of tyranny.

We have come through the bloodiest century in human history, with multiple, unprecedented, global attempts to chart a course for peaceful conflict resolution between and within nations. We have delineated in binding treaties, much of the international legal framework for peace. We have expressed our vision and intent in words. Now we must implement our common human will in action.

In the USA, Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and other leading women activists are mobilizing against the escalating war on Iraq under a Code Pink Alert. Starhawk, one of the leaders explains: “a Code Pink alert: signifying extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring, and compassion that women and loving men have held. We choose pink, the color of roses, the beauty that like bread is food for life; the color of the dawn of a new era when cooperation and negotiation prevail over force”.

Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness has helped to maintain a steady flow of Peace Teams into Iraq since the first Gulf War. Across the globe, organizations like Women In Black, Global Women Strike, have sent women into strife ravaged areas to be peacemakers. The Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom was founded on such actions.

In September, UNIFEM helped form a coalition of women in Azerbaijan to do peace work in the region. These are just a few of the many actions of Peace Women. Women of extraordinary courage and will are putting their lives on the line alongside men of conscience and humanity to prevent war. And this is not accounting for all the hundreds of thousands of courageous men organizing worldwide to avert war and work to bring us the sustainable world we envision.

Like the newly formed coalition in Azerbaijan, invoking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Beijing Declaration and Action Platform, the final documents of the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Women in Development: Equality Development and Peace Between Men and Women in the 21st. Century, the UNSC Resolution 1325, and CEDAW we invite all Women, all peace-loving institutions and all peaceful people of the world to join our call.

TIME OUT! WOMEN CALL PREMPTIVE STRIKE FOR PEACE.

ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS

Women’s International League For Peace And Freedom, NY Metro

Evelyn Mauss (board Member Physicians For Social Responsibility, Consultant National Resources Defense Council -for identification only)

MADRE

Deborah Gorham, Prof. Emerita, Dept.of History/Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Professor Harriet Alonso City College NY, Women’s Peace Historian, Author

Feminist Peace Network

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 March 23, 2011  Posted by on March 23, 2011 Comments Off
Mar 212011
 

In our continuing look at the story of the Feminist Peace Network as part of Women’s History Month, this is a letter that I sent in 2002 addressing the peace movement’s continuing dismissiveness of the impact of war on women and children.

March 23, 2002

Dear Friends,

We would once again like to reiterate our concern that the April 20 Mobilization’s Call To Action fails to address the effects of war, terrorism, violence, globalization, et al. on women, despite the fact women are the majority gender and the greatest victim of the current patriarchy.

Women constitute the vast majority of the poor and disenfranchised on our planet, having little access to land, property and political power.

The right for women to vote and to be entitled to equal pay and equal access to health care, education and employment is still a distant dream for most of the women of the world.

In every corner of the world, women confront male violence and sexist discrimination, with little or no avenue for redress.

Militarism, the arms trade and the permanent war economy of the late 1990s continue to drain 780 billion dollars per year from the global economy.

This significantly contributes to the normalization of violence, the cultural reinforcement of biased gender roles, increasing poverty and environmental degradation in the world.

Women are the principal victims of war.  While, for the wealthy Western nations, more and more the technologies of war allow mostly men soldiers to die in their beds, women are among the majority of civilians killed, maimed and traumatized by war. As violence against women gains a higher profile, it is important to remember that war is a systematic form of violence against women.

Most women have little or no recourse against the men who abuse us -whether they be soldiers during war, or in our homes and communities, husbands, partners, fathers, employers, landlords, doctors or bankers, clergy or teachers. When our human rights are violated most of us cannot afford to pay a lawyer to represent us. When we do have access to justice, we often have to deal with laws, rules of evidence and procedures that frustrate our efforts and sometimes victimize us even further.  Violence against women, racism and discrimination are usually not reported, let alone resolved.

Now is the time for:

1. An end to violence and terrorism against women, regardless of whether it is perpetrated in times of peace or war, by terrorists, by the defending army, by peacemakers or by spouses and fathers.

2. A full and equal role for women in ending all of the current fighting and in creating sustainable peace.

Below are several reports of violence against women that have been received in the last week.  For the most part these stories are not covered by the media but it is critical that they be reported and that our actions bear witness to these atrocities.

********************
CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY
Reflections on the Gujarat massacre

Excerpt of a missive from  Harsh Mander

Numbed with disgust and horror, I return from Gujarat ten days after the terror and massacre that convulsed the state. My heart is sickened, my soul wearied, my shoulders aching with the burdens of guilt and shame.

As you walk through the camps of riot survivors in Ahmadabad, in which an estimated 53,000 women, men, and children are huddled in 29 temporary settlements, displays of overt grief are unusual. People clutch small bundles of relief materials, all that they now own in the world, with dry and glassy eyes. Some talk in low voices, others busy themselves with the tasks of everyday living in these most basic of shelters, looking for food and milk for children, tending the wounds of the injured.

But once you sit anywhere in these camps, people begin to speak and their words are like masses of pus released by slitting large festering wounds. The horrors that they speak of are so macabre, that my pen falters in the writing. The pitiless brutality against
women and small children by organised bands of armed young men is more savage than anything witnessed in the riots that have shamed this nation from time to time during the past century.

I force myself to write a small fraction of all that I heard and saw, because it is important that we all know. Or maybe also because I need to share my own burdens.

What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be
spared. Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity. What can you say?

A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead. A family escaping from Naroda-Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety’ and she
found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.

I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports every where of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver. Women in the Aman Chowk shelter told appalling stories about how armed men disrobed themselves in front of a group of terrified women to cower them down further….

(Harsh Mander, the writer, is a serving IAS Officer,
who is working on deputation

*******************

Justice for East Timor Demands an International Tribunal

A Statement from Women¹s Studies Scholars,
Women Leaders and Feminist Organizations

An International Tribunal is the most pressing demand in the interests of justice. Of all the victims of Indonesian military violence the greatest suffering was borne by women, who up to this time, have not met with the justice they hoped for.
— from a statement by the East Timorese Women¹s Network, June 2001

We join with our East Timorese sisters in calling for an international tribunal for East Timor.

We urge the United Nations Security Council to establish an international tribunal for East Timor without delay. The East Timorese people have waited far too long for the architects and perpetrators of the atrocities committed against them to be brought to justice. Over two years have passed since the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor called for an international human rights tribunal. During that time, it has become clear that only an international tribunal can hold accountable the high-ranking Indonesian military, police and government officials most responsible for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.

When Indonesia illegally invaded and occupied East Timor in 1975, it began a genocidal campaign that lasted nearly a quarter-century. During the first five years of the occupation, some 200,000 people ­ one-third of the pre-invasion population ­ were killed. The occupation specifically targeted women in several ways, including the following:

Rape and forced marriage to military personnel were used to terrorize and control East Timorese women, to punish pro-independence families, and to reward Indonesian soldiers. A study of gender violence in 1999 by the Communication Forum for East Timorese Women (FOKUPERS) found many acts of rape were ³planned, organized, and sustained ­ militia and soldiers conniving together to abduct women and share them like chattel; or, in some cases, forcibly taking women across the border into [Indonesian] West Timor where the women were raped daily and made to perform household chores.
Tragically, the women among the estimated 80,000 East Timorese still in Indonesian refugee camps remain vulnerable to sexual assault by militia and
military members.

East Timorese women were forcibly sterilized by the Indonesian military under the guise of family planning. It is estimated that tens of thousands of women were injected with contraceptives without their consent ­sometimes even without their knowledge ­ and never with adequate follow-up care.

An unknown number of East Timorese children were kidnapped and raised in Indonesia as Indonesian citizens, a practice that continues today. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has confirmed 240 cases of East Timorese children being taken from their parents by militia in Indonesian refugee camps since 1999; according to the UN, as many as 2,000 children may be held captive currently.

In the face of such suffering, it is truly reprehensible that the world community has knowingly placed its faith in an unacceptable alternative to an international tribunal ­ the Indonesian ad hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. Due to its many flaws, the Indonesian court will not adequately address cases of gender violence and the systematic targeting of women and children, among other serious crimes.

International justice was significantly advanced last year by the decision of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to classify rape as a crime against humanity. But the world community cannot stop there. Atrocities committed against the people of East Timor deserve no less attention than those committed against peoples of other nations. An international tribunal for East Timor, with a mandate covering the entire Indonesian occupation, must be established now to redress the most heinous
crimes committed against the women and men of East Timor. Otherwise, international justice will appear weak and conditional, rule of law will be undermined, and the people of the world¹s newest nation will have good reason to lose faith in the world community.

(Via the East Timor Action Network Social Justice Center)

********************

My apologies for the length of this e-mail, but it is stories like these that make including the urgent issues of violence against women an imperative for April 20.

Sincerely,

Lucinda Marshall

Moderator, Feminist Peace Network

ps–As I look over the list of endorsers, I notice very few women’s groups–could that be because your call to action omits one of the most significant aspects of war? Until the problems of women and violence are addressed, violence cannot be ended.

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 March 21, 2011  Posted by on March 21, 2011 Comments Off
Mar 172011
 

In the aftermath of the disaster in Japan, it is crucial to recognize and address the particular vulnerabilities of women and children.  There is nothing new about this, but these needs are rarely addressed adequately.  Make no mistake, addressing food and water needs, shelter needs, clean up and trying to stop the unfolding nuclear disaster are critical, but that does not minimize women-specific needs. Via  Gender Across Borders,

As the World Health Organization notes, women and children account for more than 75 percent of people displaced by disasters. For those women, disaster magnifies health care disparities and the burdens assigned by gender roles…

…As caretakers, women may spearhead the family’s search for shelter and safety. Away from home, the women displaced in Japan could face increased vulnerability to sexual assault.

There are already reports of vulnerable women being preyed upon,

There have been reports of men approaching single women, pretending to be a police officer or someone from an aid organization offering to take them to a ‘safer place’. They are trying to take advantage of stranded women during the crisis. Please spread this around, and tell anyone you know who is in Japan. Don’t go anywhere alone, buddy up with someone and stick together.

And bear in mind that interpersonal violence is already a huge issue in Japan. Domestic violence in Japan jumped 20.2 per cent in 2010.  In most cases the victims are women.  Also, while it is good that American troops are providing humanitarian assistance, it is important to remember that there is a long history of American soldiers preying on Japanese women near U.S. military bases in Japan.

A women-only shelter has been set up.  The contact information is:

Asia Japan Women’s Resource Center
Shibuya Coop 311
14-10 Sakuragaoka
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150
Japan
Tel: 03-3780-5245
Fax: 03-3463-9752
Email: ajwrc@jca.or.jp

In addition to physical safety concerns, there are also concerns for pregnant women who may not be able to get adequate health care.  But beyond that there is another crucial concern in the aftermath of this disaster. As The Daily Beast points out,

A full-blown nuclear meltdown would be devastating for pregnant women and their fetuses, which are particularly vulnerable to the lasting effects of radiation. Should the worst-case scenario become a reality, it could lead to a generation of children born with all manner of maladies, from congenital malformation to mental retardation. Even at radiation levels too low to make a mother-to-be sick, health consequences for a fetus can be severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

…Because ionizing radiation can cause DNA damage, it can thwart the cell division necessary for healthy formation of essential organs. Birth defects resulting from exposure to radiation include smaller organs, microcephaly (a condition in which a baby is born with a smaller brain) and lowered cognitive functioning. However, these effects “usually require relatively high doses of radiation” and such extreme levels are not yet confirmed, said Dr. Douple in an email.

Finally, many women in shelters are without such basics as tampons and babies need diapers, formula, etc. supplies of which are usually an afterthought, but the need is very real.

As aid begins to make its way to Japan, the vulnerabilities specifically experienced by women and children need to be fully addressed and an integral part of relief efforts.

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 March 17, 2011  Posted by on March 17, 2011 2 Responses »
Mar 162011
 

In our continuing look at our own story as part of Women’s History Month, the following is an early version of the invite letter to join the original FPN listserv which for a brief period was co-moderated by Mo Horowitz (hence my signature as co-moderator).  This was written in 2002.  There was an earlier letter that I penned inviting people to join the list when I first set it up in late 2001, but unfortunately it seems to have disappeared from my files.

A note about why the list was for women only–my original motivation for starting the list was that women were having a difficult time being heard in other groups and concerns about women’s rights relevant to militarism were being dismissed as not a primary issue.  There was a huge need for women to have a space where they were not being intimidated and put down and where they felt safe, particularly since a number of early members had experienced violence themselves so it was a collective decision that we needed to create and nurture a woman only space where we felt free and safe in voicing our innermost thoughts.

Dear Friends,

The  Feminist Peace Network would like to invite you to become a member. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only unaffiliated, global, women-only discussion group devoted to discussing feminist concepts of peace.

The focus of this group is about building an enduring peace, with ending the pandemic of violence and terrorism towards women and children as a first priority.  This group is dedicated to the urgent need to immediately work towards providing shelter, food, education and a safe environment for women and children in all parts of the world, as well as creating economic conditions to ensure these rights in the future.  A strong bias towards matriarchal thinking is assumed.

The group is open to Pacifists and Feminists of all denominations, nationalities and persuasions  willing to share ideas and work together across borders and cultures to achieve these goals.  At the present time, the group is open to women only.

The only rule of this group is respect towards others and constructive intent of all posts. This is not just another e-list. We are here to talk and share ideas and to enable each other’s activism in our own communities and to work together across borders.

Lucinda Marshall

Co-Moderator, Feminist Peace Network

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 March 16, 2011  Posted by on March 16, 2011 1 Response »