New Site

I know I haven’t written in a while, but I now have a new site. Www.SwagNotSwine.com please follow me.

My goal with this segment is to not only continue with a pork free diet, but a more healthy diet overall. No more sugary drinks and snacks, and avoiding all other high calorie and fat intake, and depending on healthier alternatives. Not only will I be documenting my personal progress, but sharing positive advice, support and information for all of you to also begin or continue a healthy, positive lifestyle.

Change is good and it’s good to change. Enjoy!

-Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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Week 4 of Budget 101

PART 4: SAVE ON THE NECESSARY THINGS

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that getting your financial life in order is hard work!  I wish I could say it will be a cakewalk from now on, but alas, there is still much to be done.  Don’t let that discourage you or make you give up.  If you are feeling overwhelmed (a perfectly normal reaction), then just stop, take a deep breath, and give yourself a break.  Wait a week or two to pick up where you started.  This series will be here for you when you’re ready.  I promise you CAN do this, and it’s okay if it takes you longer than 8 weeks to get there.
(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)
Last week we focused lowering our major expenses–housing, transportation, & insurance.   Hopefully you were able to find a few ways to save, and if so, YAHOO!    If not, take heart, there are plenty of other areas left to save.
This week we are going to focus on lowering your expenses for the necessities in your budget.  Do you remember the exercise from week 1, where we focused on separating our wants from our needs?  Well, this is where that comes into play. There are certain things we simply can’t live without– groceries, utilities, gas –but we most likely CAN pay less for them.

For those of you who don’t want to bother with coupons, there are still many ways to reduce your grocery bills simply by changing the way you shop. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. ANY savings is better than none!

Unless you have already been trying to cut your expenses in this area, your utility bills should be one place you can find lots of opportunities for savings!  Small tweaks can make a BIG difference in your final bill, and if you are anything like me, you probably have a whole pile of utility bills to deals with each month–everything from water to electricity, cable to phones,  the list goes on and on, and seems to get longer all the time.

Gas is a hard expense to cut significantly. We obviously have no control over gas prices, and we usually need to travel where we need to go. But there are a few things we can do to make sure we are making the most of our gas mileage, and again, small tweaks can make a big difference over time.

This week’s assignment will be pretty straightforward.  We’re going to methodically go through those things we MUST spend money on, whether we want to or not, and then look for ways to cut those expenses.  A little here, and a little there really does add up.

This week’s assignment:

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1. Develop a strategy for saving on your groceries

If you are already saving money with coupons, great!  Look for ways to stretch those savings even more, perhaps by committing to a few meatless meals a week or by getting more proficient at “shopping” and cooking from your own stockpile. If you are not using coupons and don’t want to, there are still a lot of ways to reduce that grocery bill by planning your meals & shopping list around what’s on sale, and stocking up when you find things at a great price.

2.  Reduce Your Utilities

Make a list of all the utilities you pay each month, and make an active commitment to reduce each one. For instance, you could commit to reducing your electric bill by setting your A/C a few degrees lower and by turning off the lights during the day (and keeping them off.)  You could decide to eliminate your landline in favor of cell phones, downgrade your cable plan, or switch internet providers.  Remember, every little bit helps, but whatever you decide to do, WRITE IT DOWN!  Then do it!

3.  Commit to Saving Money on Gas

Once again, be specific.  Write down at least 5 things you can start doing right away to help lower that expense every month, whether it be planning your errands better to make them more efficient, carpooling, walking when possible, or even checking to make sure your tires are properly inflated. That’s all there is for this week.  That wasn’t so bad was it?  Compared to all the big stuff, it was a walk in the park, and maybe it was even a little fun!  It is amazing how much money we literally throw away each month, just because we don’t pay attention to the details in all these different areas.  It really does add up.

 
Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing!

Food Pyramid Turned My Pyramid Turned My Plate

Most of us have seen the iconic USDA Food Guide Pyramid at some point. It was first introduced in 1992, was remade in 2005 as My Pyramid, and in 2011 was changed to My Plate. All of these eating guides incorporate the different food groups and try to give us an understanding of how to eat a healthy diet. But have you ever wondered if they are correct? Who wrote them?

What research are they based on? Does profit or the food industry create a bias in these models? Why have they changed? Do you really need to eat 11 servings of grains in a day? Is there really a one size fits all diet? This article will help you understand the answers to all of these questions.

Food Pyramid

THE FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID

The original Food Pyramid was created in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture. It became the uncontested model for a “healthy diet” in schools, doctor’s offices, on food labels, and in the media. For more than 20 years, Americans tried to follow this high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet recommended by the Food Pyramid. The results are in, and sadly Americans are sicker and more over weight than ever before in our nation’s history. So what went wrong?

As the Food Pyramid held the power to greatly influence the multibillion dollar food industry, was the original Food Pyramid solely based on nutritional science, or was it was influenced by commercial interests? As more research has been done, it has become clear that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat is not optimal for disease prevention. (1)

A diet high in pasteurized dairy and carbohydrates causes inflammation and an overly acidic body pH, which is an underlying factor in almost every chronic disease. (2) It is also clear that many people are allergic to or have a difficult time digesting dairy and grains.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid has six levels. Foods from the six major food groups are shown in the levels of the Pyramid. The food groups are:

  • grains;
  • vegetables;
  • fruits;
  • milk and dairy products;
  • meat, fish, beans and nuts;
  • oils and fats.

File:MyPyramidFood.svg

MY PYRAMID

The 2005 My Pyramid model, which was like the original one turned on its side, was heavily criticized from the beginning as being too confusing and overly vague. The one good thing about this model was that it incorporated exercise as one of the “steps to a healthier you.” However, it still placed grains as the largest source of calories and did not incorporate our need for healthy fats.

With the massive increase in processed foods, this model did not help Americans navigate all of these choices. Many products advertised the number of “whole grains” it contained while being full of refined sugar, food additives, trans fat, genetically modified corn and soy, preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings, and other unhealthy ingredients. (3) A great example of this is breakfast cereals. The idea that Lucky Charms, Coco Puffs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a good and healthy breakfast choice—just because it contains whole grains—shows how far off track we’ve gone.

MyPyramid was a visual illustration of suggested healthy eating habits and physical activity. Like its predecessor, the Food Guide Pyramid, MyPyramid combined the government’s dietary guidelines and recommended allowances into six food groups. But instead of illustrating the number of servings based on a one-size-fits-all 2,000 calorie intake, the MyPyramid symbol itself showed six vertical color bands, each representing varying proportions of the pyramid. These colors represented the food groups as follows.

  • Orange for grains
  • Green for vegetables
  • Red for fruits
  • Yellow for oils
  • Blue for milk
  • Purple for meat and beans
  • Fruit Group should provide 4 daily servings, or 2 cups.
  • Vegetable Group should provide 5 servings, or 2.5 cups.
  • Grain Group should provide 6 ounce-equivalents (1 ounce-equivalent means 1 serving), half of which should be whole grain..
  • Meat and Beans Group should provide 5.5 ounce-equivalents or servings.
  • Milk Group should provide 3 cups/servings.
  • Oils should provide 24g or 6 teaspoons.
  • Discretionary Calories: The remaining amount of calories in each calorie level after nutrient-dense foods have been chosen. Up to 267 calories could be consumed in solid fats or added sugars if the other requirements were been met

MyPlate Food Pyramid Replacement

MY PLATE

In 2011, the new “My Plate” was introduced. This is a significant improvement from its predecessors as it is much easier to visualize what it actually means on your plate. My Plate really makes meal planning easier. Just by looking at the icon, you know right away that vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate (with the veggie portion being a bit bigger), and grains and protein foods should take up the other half (with more grains on this side). And with a side helping of dairy, you’re reminded to include milk or another dairy food (like cheese or yogurt) in your daily meal plan.

Because My Plate is a divided plate, no one food group overpowers the others. That’s because dietary guidelines encourage eating a variety of foods and discourage “super-sized” portions which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Although the food guide icon has changed, the USDA’s message about eating well has stayed the same. Everyone still needs to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with lean meats or other forms of protein and low-fat dairy products.

Oils provide important nutrients and are recommended in small amounts but aren’t included on the My Plate icon. Choose oils over solid fats, but limit the amount you eat.

Exercise is also no longer included in the icon, but it’s still an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Everyone should and will benefit from exercise. Starting at 2 years old, kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate to physical activity each day.

Criticisms are that it still does not help us navigate what kinds of foods should be in each category. Before the industrialization of our food supply, these categories were very simple. Now we are bombarded with thousands of choices and new “food products” on the shelves of the supermarket every week.

So what should we eat!? The question, “what is a healthy diet?” seems to still remain once we take a deeper look at the shortcomings of these food models.

Week 2 of Budget 101

PART TWO: MAKE A BUDGET

It’s been a week.  How’s that no-spending thing going? Well, here’s the good news:  You can start spending money again.  Of course the bad news is that after today’s assignment, you might not want to. Hopefully last week’s exercise started you thinking about the reasons WHY you’re spending and also got you to start making a serious distinction between the things you WANT and the things you NEED.

(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Budget 101 Part 1: STOP SPENDING before starting this week’s assignment!)

Before we go any further, I want to make a quick but important distinction that just because something is a “WANT” instead of a “NEED” doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It’s okay to want a pretty comfortable house with all the amenities, vacations or cute shoes. What’s not okay is to want all those things at the expense of your financial well-being,  your marriage, relationships, your children or anything else that we know is more important than stuff. It’s okay to WANT, but not to GET if you are not at a stable financial stance to do so. ***Don’t go on vacation, then come back and not pay your electric and gas bills. Don’t go out shopping with your friends and then go and tell your family you’re struggling*** If you are not struggling with your spending or find that you have plenty of money leftover for your savings, life & retirement accounts at the end of the month, have no trouble paying all your bills on time, know exactly where all your money is going, have great credit and don’t stress out over unforeseen expenses, then you probably don’t need to be reading this series.  In fact, you probably could write it better than me because you are obviously doing something right. I have multiple bills including a retirement and savings account, life, funeral and health insurances that I pay towards monthly, and I don’t have school or credit debt so I say I am pretty financially stable BUT…… most of us, including I struggle with money or budgeting, at least in some area. Believe me when I tell you there is plenty of room for improvement. This week’s assignment is going to require a little more effort.   The hard truth is that no one can fix your budget for you.  There are no magic solutions or ten-minute fixes that will have permanent results.  Improving your financial outlook will require change, and change is HARD.  Do it anyway.

As I tell my stepson, never neglect to do something just because it is hard, because it is the things you work hardest for that will reward you the most. Don’t let fear stop you either. It can be very scary to open up the Pandora’s box otherwise known as your finances, especially if you’ve been turning a blind eye.  In some ways, ignorance is bliss.  But if you’re still reading up to this point, you probably know, deep down, that this is something you need to do.  Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and just do it.  You’ll be better for it. And now that the pep talk is over, it is time to get down to business:

HERE IS THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT:

                      CLICK TO DOWNLOAD MY PERSONAL BUDGET WORKSHEET

1. Assess your income and fixed expenses

Print out the nifty budget worksheet above, then grab your bank statements, your bills, your check register, & any other financial information you can think of.  A calculator might come in handy too.  Then grab a glass of wine, sit down (with your spouse if your married), and start crunching the numbers.  Use worksheet number one to list all your sources of income, as well as all those key fixed payments you MUST make each month

Use worksheet #2 to add up all the subtotals of your fixed expense categories, then subtract that total from your income.  The remaining number is what you really have to work on creating a budget for.
In the coming weeks, we will work on finding ways to lower both your fixed AND variable expenses, but we need a place to start from, and this is it.

2.  Create a budget for your variable expenses

Use a pencil to fill in each category with what you are currently paying each month, then add up your subtotals and see how it compares to the number you are shooting for.  Then go back and lower different categories as necessary.  Obviously some things, like your water and electric, won’t be adjustable, but other things can probably be cut significantly.   Include SOMETHING in your savings budget, even if it is just a small amount.  If you have credit card payments, include those in your household expenses as well.

3. Take some time to self-reflect

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most important.  Complete worksheet #4 and make some concrete decisions and goals based on what you’ve discovered through this budgeting exercise.

Maybe you’ve realized it is time to cut up your credit cards, or, at the very least, put them on ice. (Fill a bowl with water, put your credit cards in, and freeze.  If nothing else, it will slow you down!)  Maybe you’re ready to start packing a lunch instead of going out or to give up cable.  What you spend your money on is a very personal decision that only you can determine for yourself (or with your spouse.)

4. Track your spending

The last page of the PDF packet is an expense tracker.  Print out as many as you need, and use it to keep track of everything you spend.  At the end of each day, and then again at the end of each week, go over your expenses to make sure you are staying on track.  The more frequently you “check in,” the less likely you will be to let your spending get out of control.  Little things add up quickly!

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Whew, what a week!  I know this probably seems like a lot, but please don’t give up on me!  I promise it will be worth it in the end, and your bank account will thank you.  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  How did your first week of the challenge go?  What did you learn about yourself or your budget?
Keep in mind, once again, that I am not a financial expert.  You are welcome to use these worksheets to help you–they are what make sense to me–but there are lots of other budgeting books, worksheets, & software available that might work for you better

Credit Does Matter

Credit Does Matter                                                                                             Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Majority of people are becoming increasingly dependent on using credit to make purchases and decisions. These days, good credit is used for more than just getting a credit card or a loan……Samantha Jonas-Rongo

If you think bad credit isn’t a big deal — think again. The truth is, credit issues can have a crippling effect on all facets of your financial life. So, before you shrug off a low score, think again and work towards building a higher one.

The “American Dream” isn’t cheap. Having a family, purchasing a new car, building or buying a house all cost lots of money. Chances are, you won’t be able to pay cash, (in full), for some of the bigger things your family wants and needs. That is why credit is so essential to not only your current living, but building a better, efficient future that Is reachable due to your past and present spending responsibility and behavior.

Have you ever wondered why you were turned down for an apartment or car loan? Or why you did not receive a job offer you applied for, even though you thought you had nailed the interview? Perhaps it was due to your credit record.

Your credit score, also known as a FICO score, can range from 300 – 850, 850 being the best possible score, (your Vantage score can go up to 990 at max). Your credit score is monitored and reported by three main credit bureaus known as Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Your credit history begins the first time you apply for credit. The action initiates a credit inquiry to the credit bureaus and also establishes a profile in the system. Credit scores are determined using five types of information about you:

  • PAYMENT HISTORY = 35%

Lenders need to know how reliable you have been in the past, and your payment history illustrates just that. This section covers:

  1. Your payment consistency
  2. Collections and charge-offs
  3. Bankruptcies, tax liens, etc.
  • OPEN ACCOUNTS AND BALANCES = 30%

Contrary to popular belief, debt can be a good thing when utilized correctly in proportion to your overall credit limits. This section covers:

  1. Your total number of active loans (e.g., mortgage, student debt, etc.)
  2. Your credit card debt and credit utilization. The healthiest credit scores are born from using 30 percent or less of your monthly credit allowance. For example, if you have a $10,000 monthly credit limit, you should never use more than $3,000 during that month.
  • LENGTH OF TIME ANY ACCOUNT(S) HAVE BEEN OPEN = 15%

In addition to reviewing your track record, lenders want to be sure you actually have one. A credit history of seven years or more is ideal when establishing clean credit, so make sure to keep your oldest accounts active.

  • TYPES OF CREDIT USED = 10%

Smart planning is key in every financial realm, and spreading out your spending is a great way to illustrate this concept. Lenders want to see your experience with numerous credit types. If you only have installment loans, consider opening a bank credit – (Not a bank debit card that’s affiliated with your bank account), or another line of credit. Broadening your horizons will demonstrate your flexibility and success with multiple credit forms.

  • CREDIT INQUIRIES (DENIED OR APPROVED) – NEW CREDIT = 10%

Every new account will likely depress your scores. Of course, you can’t increase (or even have) a credit score without having a track record to begin with. Just know that, with every new account, your credit score will probably get worse before the longer term scoring benefits are realized. Creditors fear those who appear to depend too much upon acquiring new credit accounts.

To maintain a good credit score, it is important to avoid all of the following actions:

  • Making late payments (even one month)
  • Utilizing more than 30% of the total credit limit on any credit card(s)
  • Closing credit cards you have not used for some time
  • Frequently opening new credit card accounts
  • Routinely transferring payments between credit cards to obtain rate advantage

Delinquencies on your credit report will have an impact on your credit score and so does the length of time which has passed since your last major delinquency. A bankruptcy may stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, but additional credit may be acquired once a two-year timeframe has passed.

Some of the basic things that we would like to purchase can be placed at a halt or become more expensive and difficult to buy due to your financial responsibility. However, having good credit and containing it can make these purchases more convenient and obtainable.

  1. MORTGAGE:

    Having good credit is important when it comes to where you live. Mortgage lenders want to know that you won’t default on your mortgage. If you don’t have good credit, the lender will consider it risky to give you a mortgage loan. Unless you have a lot of money saved and are planning on purchasing a house or thinking of buying a foreclosed abandoned one at a cheap cost of $15,000 and spending at least another $50,000 to renovate it, you will need to pull out loans and mortgages to do so. This could result in a higher cost of borrowing or worse, a denial of the loan. Your credit is used for rental decisions, too. Landlords consider your lease as a loan.  You’re being loaned a place to live and the landlord wants to know you’ll pay back this loan. If you don’t have good credit, you can get denied for an apartment especially if you have any evictions or late utility payments on record. More than often, good landlords want good tenants so they will check your credit report.

  2. VEHICLE FINANCING:

    Unless you have all the cash to purchase a new car, you’ll have to get a loan. I’m not speaking in regards of a used car that you purchase from someone else, but a used and new car from any lot or dealership. The cars that come with warranties and are fully approved and checked for safe performance, mobility and consistency unlike those that can be bought from an individual. Your credit not only affects whether or not you qualify for a loan, but also the amount and interest rate of the loan. A lot of people believe you will pay double or more than what the car is worth, but the amount you pay depends on the interest rate which is reflected from your personal report. Generally, loan applicants with good credit qualify for larger loan amounts with lower interest rates. Regardless if a loan is from the dealership, credit union or your own bank, your credit score will be scanned and your finances and cost will be reflected.

  3. ENTREPRENEURSHIP:

    business-startMany people have dreams of starting their own business. Business startups require a sizable amount of cash that you might not have available. In that case, you’ll need to obtain a small business loan or a personal loan to get started.  Among other things, you need to have good credit to qualify for the business loan. It is near impossible to  qualify for a business loan if your credit is poor, especially if you have evictions on record as well. Unfortunately, with a low credit score, your chances of getting any type of loan are slim to none. You might qualify if you have a co-signer with great credit and plenty of collateral, but expect a higher interest rate than someone with an excellent credit history. Your availability to have a co-signer with great credit may be a difficult task as well because that individual may not be able to trust you and your financial stability and responsibility.

  4. EMPLOYMENT:
    Open sollicitatieMany employers conduct credit checks as a part of the hiring process. If you haven’t demonstrated financial responsibility, a prospective employer might be hesitant to hire you. Why does your credit rating count? Employers in the financial sector often use it as a part of the pre-employment screening process to check out an individual’s character, decision-making skills and of course as a way to measure whether or not they can handle money. It can also be used to make sure new employees aren’t distracted, or stressed out, by financial issues.  Its simply standard operating procedure for many companies to do a credit check, along with checking out your work and education references, or even doing a drug test or checking to see if you have a criminal history. When you sign on the dotted line, you may not realize you’re authorizing a credit check, unless you read the fine print. According to federal law, individuals in the pre-employment process must give their prospective employer permission for not only a background check, but a credit check as well. So it pays to read exactly what it is you’re signing.
  5. UTILITY SERVICES:
    It might be somewhat shocking to learn that your credit is needed to establish utility service. Your electric company contends that you’re borrowing one month of electric service. So, before turning on your electricity, the company will check to see if you have good credit. This applies to most utility services including cable, telephone, water, and even cell phone. You may still qualify for a contract or services, but you may need to put down a security deposit when others with great credit do not.
  6. HOME/AUTO INSURANCE PREMIUMS:
    Insurance companies are in the business of risk management. the lower your credit score, they higher you are as a risk and the higher car insurance rate you will likely payInsuring your life’s most precious possessions is another segment of life that is controlled by your credit score. Insurance companies check your credit and price for risk when determining annual premiums. Insurance companies want to make sure they get paid for their services of insuring your assets. Not only that, but insurance companies see a correlation between low credit scores and insurance fraud when putting in a claim. Some auto insurance providers run credit checks and charge higher premiums to those with low credit scores. The thought behind this is that people with good credit are usually more responsible drivers and those with higher credit scores are more likely to make on-time payments. You can maintain low and affordable premiums by improving your credit score.
  7. RELATIONSHIPS:                                                                                                      Love me, love my debt? NotWhen you enter into a committed partnership with a significant other, in which you share everything, that does not exclude your credit histories. Granted, even a spouse is not legally responsible for debt you incurred prior to the marriage. However, any major purchases you want to make together, as a couple, will be negatively impacted if you have bad credit. This not only makes it difficult to buy a house or a car together, for example, but it puts an unwelcome strain on the relationship in general.

Believe it or not, but your credit habits can affect your children’s lives as well. If bad credit prevents you from buying a house or buying an automobile, this affects where and how you raise your children, and whether you’re able to have reliable transportation for your family. Also, if you have a low credit score, you might not be able to co-sign for your child(ren) to get a student or auto loan, or help your child financially in other aspects of his or her life. If you pass away with debt, your debt will rollover as your child’s responsibility and if you have life insurance, the debt will be deducted from the payment as so before being issued to your dependents.

Yes that is correct, landlords, insurance companies, and employers etc.; not just banks and car dealerships, check credit records. Your credit report allows these companies to look into your personal spending habits, your payment history, whether you have been sued, evicted and whether you have declared bankruptcy. Not only do they check, they also report. Having a good credit history is an important part of maintaining a secure, healthy, and financially fit life.

If you have no credit or have experienced some financial setbacks in the past that have negatively affected your credit, lenders won’t be very eager to loan you the money you need, which can keep you from buying that car, paying for school, or investing in a home. Good credit, on the other hand, means you can get the financing you need, and usually at a better rate, which will save you money in the long run.

Even if you never had a credit card you can damage your credit before you apply for one and therefore, you will not be approved and may need to settle for a secure credit card where you need to place a security deposit down. Secured credit cards can help build credit and impact your score, but it will take longer to build and fix your credit. You can monitor your score for free but some free websites such as Credit Karma may only track your actual credit card usage and not reflect your actual score. If you never had a credit card, sites such as Credit Karma may state you do not have enough credit when in actuality, you may have poor credit but not enough credit card usage to higher your real credit score and enough to have been tracked by these sites.

https://i2.wp.com/bemoxie.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/credit-score-1050x700.jpg

It takes time to rebuild your credit history and positively impact your score. Don’t get discouraged if your report doesn’t immediately reflect the work you’ve put into rehashing your credit file. Just be patient and continue working to gain more control over your finances.

In addition to keeping an eye on your credit balances and accounts, you may want to consider other methods of getting control of your personal finances, such as reducing household spending or creating a detailed budget.

You can also write a personal statement for your credit report. It won’t impact your score, but it can be read by anyone checking your credit report, from prospective employers to potential lenders.

With a little patience and discipline, you can positively impact your credit score and credit file.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Deadly Tragedy in Pakistan

PreK, then K-12 equals 14 years of guaranteed FREE education for every child in this country. It is not only our rights as Americans, but an opportunity camouflaged by law. Too many people are taking for granted our education system that many others would do anything to take advantage of. While too many Americans settle for a GED, refugees and immigrants are fleeing their countries and are earning the Masters and Doctoral available on our home land. It is by law we get an education. However, for many others around the world, it is only a hope and a dream.…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

A soldier escorts schoolchildren from the Army Public School that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar

schoolchildren from the Army Public School that is under attack by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar

Deadly Tragedy in Pakistan

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

The Pakistan Taliban shouted, “God is great” as they made their way rampant through Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan. They came in with enough ammunition and other supplies to last for days and were not expecting to come out alive, according to a Pakistani military official.

145 people, all mostly children were killed in the shootings. The schools principal was a victim of the tragedy along with a couple of teachers, including a teacher who was shot, then burned to death and the 7 Taliban extremist who all wore suicide bombs.

While children were in class at 10am in Pakistan,12am US (ET),  a car exploded behind the school. Pakistani education minister Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman explained to CNN that the blast was meant to divert the attention of the school’s security guards before the attack.

Policemen stand beside empty coffins at the hospital after an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar

DR. Aamir Bilal of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, cited students that gunmen got over the walls and walked through where students in grades 8 through 10 were having classes and fired randomly.

14-year-old Ahmed Faraz who was shot in the attack told CNN that he and others were in an auditorium when 4 to 5 people swarmed through a backdoor, and started shooting rapidly.

As ninth-grader Ahmed and the other children hid in the auditorium, the gunman swarmed in and one of them told the others that a lot of the children were hiding under the benches.

“kill them”, he then said according to Ahmed.

The gunmen then climbed the benches and started firing at the children.

Shahrukh Khan, 17, said a gunman had entered his classroom and opened fire at random. As he hid under a desk, he saw his friends being shot, one in the head and one in the chest. Two teachers were also killed.

Other children who escaped say the militants went from one classroom to another, shooting indiscriminately.

Pakistani authorities spent Tuesday night inside Army Public School and Degree College looking for survivors, victims and improvised explosive devices planted to worsen the carnage.

Men move bodies of students, who were killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in an ambulance outside a hospital in Peshawar

Men move bodies of students, who were killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in an ambulance outside a hospital in Peshawar

Even Taliban militants in neighboring Afghanistan decried the killing spree, calling it “un-Islamic.”

This gruesome attack has been labeled as a response and revenge for the recent Nobel Peace Prize given to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, and victim of the Taliban’s violence. (For those who haven’t read, “I am Malala”, you need too. I have and she is an amazing and inspiring young woman with such a great story and hope for the future all man kind. She is not only an exceptional role model, she is someone who we all need to know about and teach our children. I will actually attach a link at the bottom of this page so you can purchase her book.)

She was awarded for her work against the “suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”, and victim of the Taliban’s violence.

Malala_Yousafzai_at_Girl_Summit_2014

Malala Yousafzai 2014

“I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us,” Yousafzai said in a statement.

“Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” she continued. “I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable.”

She concluded: “I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”

On any typical day, the school is home to about 1,100 students and staff, most of them sons and daughters of army personnel from around Peshawar. A Taliban spokesman told BBC Urdu that the school, which is run by the army, had been targeted in response to military operations. Hundreds of Taliban fighters are thought to have died in a recent offensive in North Waziristan and the nearby Khyber.

If the Pakistani Taliban extremists had hoped the attack would cause the government to ease off its military offensive that began in June in the country’s tribal region, it appeared to have the opposite effect. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to step up the campaign, along with U.S. drone strikes; as targeted the militants.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Rescue workers and family members carry the coffin of a student, who killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in Peshawar

Rescue workers and family members carry the coffin of a student, who killed during an attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School, in Peshawar

Click here to read the first 21 pages of “I Am Malala”

Click here to purchase “I Am Malala”

 

Human Rights, Not Human Privileges

Human Rights, Not Human Privileges                                                                             By Samantha Jonas-Rongo


            ” As a proud and honored American citizen, I have a question, for the C.I.A; “What makes a person unique enough to be an individual?” Wait…..I said that backwards!  “What makes an individual, human enough to be considered human?” …..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

I’m proud to be an American. On this land, we have opportunity and ability to have a bright future no matter how dark our days were early on in life.

We are the country of the proud and free aren’t we? We flaunt that in our national songs, and make it our duty to pass them on from generation to generation. We stand so very tall and proud with our hands over our hearts in honor of those many lost in our great wars and for those who will stand tall in the future. We expect our children to rise this great nation higher than the last generation has done and we allow our children the ability and tools to do so. That is our rights as humans rights? Or is it only as Americans?

Originally, people had rights only because of their membership in a group, such as a family. Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, freed all slaves to return home. He then declared that people should choose their own religion. The first human rights declaration in history was a clay tablet containing his statements. It’s name is “The Cyrus Cylinder”

The concept of human rights spread quickly to Greece, India and eventually Rome. The most important advances since have included:

  • The Magna Carta 1215—gave people new rights and made the king subject to the law.
  • The Petition of Right 1628—set out the rights of the people.
  • The United States Declaration of Independence 1776—proclaimed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
  • The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen 1789—a document of France, stating that all citizens are equal under the law.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948—the first document listing the 30 rights to which everyone is entitled.

Every person is entitled to certain fundamental rights, simply due to being human. These are called “human rights”, not “human privileges” (which can be taken away at another’s whim). They are “rights” because they are things we are allowed to be, to do or to have. These rights are there for our protection against people who might want to harm or hurt us. They are also there to help us get along with each other and live in peace.

When human rights are not well-known by people, abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression and slavery can arise.

The United Nations (UN) came into being in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II.

The stated purpose of the UN is to bring peace to all nations of the world. After World War II, a committee of persons headed by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote a special document which “declares” the rights that everyone in the entire world should have—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today there are 192 member states of the UN, all of whom have signed on in agreement with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am aware of this knowledge from the free high school education that I have received and unlike many of the detainees in Guantanamo and other prisons monitored by the C.I.A, I know about these agreements and rights I have as a human. They were taught to me as a child and they are the laws of this land we live on. Those detainees aren’t as fortunate to have received the same education or live in democracy that many others took for granted in this country.

Question and interrogate with self respect even if you have no respect for the one in question. Doesn’t your morals remind you what was inappropriate and out of line? How can you forget that those detainees are humans as well? Some of those men are innocent, why the change of heart? Why the discrimination and face value judgment again after all this country for? Don’t we have to live up to the standards and titles we gave ourselves? When these men leave and return home, they will leave with more hatred for our country than they had, or they will leave with a new hatred that they didn’t have before.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1. We Are All Born Free & Equal. We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.

2. Don’t Discriminate. These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.

3. The Right to Life. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.

4. No Slavery. Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone our slave.

5. No Torture. Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us.

6. You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go. I am a person just like you!

7. We’re All Equal Before the Law. The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.

8. Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law. We can all ask for the law to help us when we are not treated fairly.

9. No Unfair Detainment. Nobody has the right to put us in prison without good reason and keep us there, or to send us away from our country.

10. The Right to Trial. If we are put on trial this should be in public. The people who try us should not let anyone tell them what to do.

11. We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty. Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. When people say we did a bad thing we have the right to show it is not true.

12. The Right to Privacy. Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.

13. Freedom to Move. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.

14. The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live. If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.

15. Right to a Nationality. We all have the right to belong to a country.

16. Marriage and Family. Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.

17. The Right to Your Own Things. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.

18. Freedom of Thought. We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.

19. Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.

20. The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.

21. The Right to Democracy. We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.

22. Social Security. We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.

23. Workers’ Rights. Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.

24. The Right to Play. We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.

25. Food and Shelter for All. We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.

26. The Right to Education. Education is a right. Primary school should be free. We should learn about the United Nations and how to get on with others. Our parents can choose what we learn.

27. Copyright. Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.

28. A Fair and Free World. There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.

29. Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.

30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.

 

Samantha Jonas-Rongo