Windchime Walker's Journal 73 Archive
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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2006
I have never been more ashamed of my country. Step-by-secret-step we are walking down a path so similar to Hitler's Germany in the early years that it is chilling. I recall wondering how the German people could have allowed such horrors to exist and escalate without protest, and now I'm seeing firsthand how it can happen.
Yes, there are some of us protesting this slide into the abyss, but the vast majority of our neighbors go on about their lives as if nothing is wrong. They seem more engaged in their TV programs than real life.
What will it take to wake them up? If torture and murder of innocent prisoners, people being held indefinitely in cages with no charges being brought against them, preemptive wars based on lies, and government-sanctioned destruction of the planet don't get their attention, what will?
They don't complain when their government wiretaps their phones with no oversight, monitors their emails, keeps records of what web sites they visit, what library books they take out, looks at their bank, medical and employment records, searches their homes without their knowledge, examines their persons and property before boarding a plane, and more things that I'm sure we don't know about yet.
They seem comfortable with a president who, in five short years, has overturned our country's 230-year history of checks and balances and claimed power for himself that is above the law. They don't raise an eyebrow when, in those same five years, our federal budget has gone from having a surplus to being trillions of dollars in debt, with the military taking over 60% of our tax dollars. And what about all the social, economic, educational, disaster relief, welfare and health programs that have been gutted?
Today's lament was triggered by my reading of yet another in the long list of horrors being done by the country of my birth. In Sunday's New York Times (but already posted on today's web site) will be a long article on the expansion of a prison, this one in Afghanistan, that is even worse--if you can imagine it--than the one at Guantanamo Bay.
It appears that my government's way of responding to the recent chorus of international voices calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay is to increase the capacity of their Afghan prison so they can transfer the 500 Gitmo prisoners there. This reminds me of how they responded to the international outcry about the secret American prisons on European soil--they simply closed them and transferred all the prisoners to another secret prison in Northern Africa.
Is no one else appalled by this country that calls itself the "beacon of democracy"?
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article, "An Afghan Prison Expands, Filling Guantanamo's Role" by Tim Golden and Eric Schmitt that will be published on Sunday, February 26:
While an international debate rages over the future of the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terror suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges.
Pentagon officials have often described the detention site at Bagram, a cavernous former machine shop on an American air base 40 miles north of Kabul, as a screening center. They said most of the detainees were Afghans who might eventually be released under an amnesty program or transferred to an Afghan prison that is to be built with American aid.
But some of the detainees have already been held at Bagram for as long as two or three years. And unlike those at Guantanamo, they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as "enemy combatants," military officials said.
Privately, some administration officials acknowledge that the situation at Bagram has increasingly come to resemble the legal void that led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June 2004 affirming the right of prisoners at Guantanamo to challenge their detention in United States courts.
While Guantanamo offers carefully scripted tours for members of Congress and journalists, Bagram has operated in rigorous secrecy since it opened in 2002. It bars outside visitors except for the international red cross and refuses to make public the names of those held there. The prison may not be photographed, even from a distance.
From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served there, a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its counterpart in Cuba. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard.
"Bagram was never meant to be a long-term facility, and now it's a long-term facility without the money or resources," said one Defense Department official who has toured the detention center. Comparing the prison with Guantánamo, the official added, "Anyone who has been to Bagram would tell you it's worse." Read more...
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2006
Today I entered my seventh year of online journaling. On Friday, February 25, 2000, I posted my first journal entry on this Windchime Walker web site. I'd put the site up a year earlier, in late February 1999. When I think back, I'm rather amazed that I managed to do so, since I'd bought my first computer only four months before. As soon as I saw a personal web site, I knew I wanted one. My original intent was to share my ideas about being what I called "creatively disabled." My Windchime Walker blog was a latecomer to the scene, having been started on Tuesday December 23, 2003, thanks to the encouragement and assistance of a regular reader of my journal, Mark Dilley.
Over my years as an online journalist and blogger, I've appreciated having the opportunity to share the stories of the unsung heroes and sheroes who cross my path. Today I'd like to tell you about Paul, a man of tremendous heart.
Paul and I first met on Friday when he came to check out my furnace. I'd called the furnace company on Wednesday, the second day that unidentified fumes had bothered me while I'd worked at the computer in my upstairs bedroom. They were bad enough to give me a headache, so that night Ed had duct-taped my bedroom heating vents closed until we could have things checked out. Thank goddess for electric space heaters!
Paul immediately found the problem: the furnace exhaust pipe to the chimney had been dislodged by some debris and was lying on our basement floor. That meant all the exhaust fumes from the furnace, including carbon monoxide, were coming back into the house instead of being vented out the chimney. As he said, I was lucky all I had were headaches. By the way, our one carbon monoxide alarm was on the first floor and things were obviously OK down there. Now I have one upstairs too.
As Paul was writing up our invoice, we got to talking. When he heard that my husband was a physician, Paul said, "Oh, you might be interested in this." He then told me that on April 10, he will be undergoing an operation to remove two-thirds of his liver so it can be used to save the life of a friend. She's a neighbor and a friend from church whose son is only eight. Paul and his wife have been spearheading fundraising efforts for years to help their friend pay her rising medical costs, but had only recently heard about the Living Donor Program.
By the way, he wanted me to know that his friend's cirrhosis of the liver was NOT due to drinking, but had come after a serious illness. She's been on the liver transplant list for fifteen years and only received her first call a few months ago. Unfortunately that liver turned out to be too large for her body, so they didn't try the transplant. She went back on the list. But Paul says she's now coming close to the end and can't wait much longer. So when he found that that his liver WAS a good match, he decided to go ahead. His friend didn't even know about it until weeks later.
Being accepted as a living donor has meant undergoing an extensive seres of medical and even psychological tests. Paul's surgeon, Dr. Marway Abouljoud, at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, is a world-recognized transplant specialist who also does transplants in his native Lebanon. The surgery itself will last five hours for the donor, and longer still for the recipient. Paul will stay in the hospital five days, and then be on bed rest for 3-4 weeks. During that time, his liver will completely regenerate itself. Isn't that amazing?
But what I find most amazing is that this 37 year-old man who has a wife and three daughters would do this for a friend. Now isn't that the story of a true hero?
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1, 2006
I know this will sound strange to non-jazz loving readers, but I don't know what I'd do without live jazz. Sitting in a room with a sax, piano, bass, trumpet and drums like I did tonight is what I need to keep on keepin' on. In times like these especially. No matter how screwed up the world, when I experience live jazz everything is in balance and at peace. Tonight I have the George Benson Quintet to thank. Last Friday it was Kevin Mahagony and the MSU Professors of Jazz. This weekend it will be others. But as long as I keep getting my music fix, I'll be OK. How grateful I am to live in a city like Detroit where music is the air we breathe.
I couldn't sleep so I've been up since 4:30 AM. It is now 7:30 AM. As has become my habit, I checked Aljazeerah.net as soon as I went online. Aljazeerah and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! have become my most trusted news sources. It's hard to trust the others.
On Aljazeerah there was an article on Iraqi blogs. In it I found a blogger whom I didn't know. His blog is called Treasure of Baghdad and he is a young Iraqi reporter. His most recent entry is sad and full of truth. It is a disaster now in Iraq, a disaster that is the direct result of the Bush-led war and occupation. How can Americans still say things like I heard yesterday, "But at least they're better off now than with Saddam Hussein." That is simply not true. As this blogger says, "I wish I didn't hope for democracy and freedom to come to Iraq. Being oppressed but safe is better than being free and unsafe. Don't tell me all these slogans of freedom and democracy. I am fed up with them. I don't need anything more. I've had enough freedom and democracy."
But let him tell you himself. Here is his most recent entry:
Saturday, February 25, 2006
What Else Can I say?
While covering the aftermath of the bombing that targeted one of the Shiites most revered Shrine in Samara, Atwar Bahjat became part of the story. Before the bombing, Bahjat, 30, an Iraqi reporter for the Dubai-based channel, Al-Arabiya, was assigned to report on the oil-rich city, Kirkuk said her colleague, Hadeer al-Rubaei. "When the Samara events happened," Rubaie said, "she called and said she is going to Samarra to report on the attack. I tried to tell her not to go because it is very dangerous but she insisted to go."
Ahmed Al-Salih, a reporter in the channel said that Bahjat was kidnapped as she was covering the explosion that targeted the holy Shiite Shrine in Samara along with two other colleagues, a technician and a sound engineer. "She was covering the news from the boundaries of Samarra because the security forces blocked all the entrances and exits" Salih said.
Salih said that Anmar Ashour, a cameraman for a Turkish news agency was with Bahjat at the time she was kidnapped but was able to run away from the kidnappers. After interior ministry commandoes found the three bodies, Ashour told them, two armed men in one car shot in the air to scare the people who were gathering to enter Samara. Then they shouted and said they want "The reporter". People were scared. They escaped. Then, the two armed men kidnapped the three of them and took them to an unknown destination."
Bahjat joined Al-Arabiya three weeks ago, Salih said. She was a correspondent of Al-Jazeera, a Qatari news agency. She was a writer, an artist and a poetess, her colleagues said.
When the news of her death came out, I was at my desk collecting news from our stringers in other provinces. I was completely shocked. I didn't expect that the next victim would be the reporter.
As far as I knew her, Atwar Bahjat was one of the most active reporters Iraq ever witnessed. She was everywhere every time. I don't remember she missed a conference even when Al-Jazeera's office was closed, she attended the press conferences. I was very glad that Al-Arabiya hired her because I believed that she deserves them and they deserve her. Although she did not have that long time in the channel, she was a good example among her colleagues. She had a remarkable appearance on the screen with her Iraqi-map golden necklace she always wore.
I don't know how to explain her death in the middle of this chaos the country is going through since the latest bombing. I cannot even find a way to express my grief. Tears have almost dried. I feel I am using blood instead of ink. What kind of cruelty is this to kill an innocent journalist who sacrificed her life just to tell the truth. She was there to tell the world that what happened was a crime and what is coming is worse as if she expected her death.
This morning when I was watching the news, my tears kept falling for the terrible accidents that happened to her funeral procession. These criminals opened fire at the procession when her coffin was taken to the graveyard and a car bomb exploded targeting it. what the hell is going on? She is dead for God's sake. Let her be buried peacefully. Even the dead people have to suffer the misery of the situation.
Jill's [Carroll] deadline is tomorrow. It aches me and makes me feel so terrible. She was my comfort along with J. I don't know whether she'll be released or not. I am afraid of one thing. I am afraid that her captors will kill her like what happened to Margaret Hasan during the Falluja battle. Oh Jill!! I am sorry to all what is happening to you. I wish I could do something to help you. But please remember that one day you had an Iraqi friend who really cares about you and loves you like his sister. I cannot believe that it has been almost two months since you were kidnapped. You know that we love you and we need you.
Last night I couldn't sleep. How could I? Can you imagine someone's country is being destroyed and he or she sleeps? Shootings and explosions rocked the neighborhood. I didn't fear them because this became something normal in our life, just like drinking water and going to work. What made me stay awake is whether we will pass this war or not. The last time I had this feeling was in 2003 when I expected the US army or the Fedayeen break into our house and kill us. I hate this damn feeling. I can't live like this. War war war! enough enough. I wish I didn't hope for democracy and freedom to come to Iraq. Being oppressed but safe is better than being free and unsafe. Don't tell me all these slogans of freedom and democracy. I am fed up with them. I don't need anything more. I've had enough freedom and democracy. My best period in my life is destroyed. What kind of life is this when a young man cannot play sports, cannot date a woman, cannot walk freely, cannot work freely, cannot take his car and drive in the city, cannot cannot cannot and cannot???!!!! It just makes life so hard. I cannot say I want to die but I may say it one day if this continues. Why did the American administration come and destroy the remaining of the county that Saddam destroyed? And now what? Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia. Leave the countries in peace for God's sake. Just try to fix your problems away from us. Leave us in peace. Iraqis did not fight each other for hundreds of years till you came.
Just in my neighborhood, four people were found shot dead. No one knows who these people were and why they were killed. We just heard the shootings at dawn and nothing more. Now, I have my rifle prepared. A friend of mine in another neighborhood called me last night. He was scared. Armed men are looking for Sunnis to kidnap and kill them, he said. I am so worried. I cannot even study for the TOEFL and GRE. I don't even know if I will be able to have the tests or not. I am so worried about my parents. I am afraid that something bad happens to my sister, my brother-in-law and my beloved niece. I would kill myself if something bad happens to them. They are the last thing I have in this life and if they go, I don't have anything in this life anymore.
It is hard for me to leave Iraq. It is in my blood, in my soul, in my prayers. I am afraid if I leave, I would never come back and this would be really my end. I love Iraq. I just love it. I am afraid if I leave I might die without seeing it again. I need to live in peace in my own country, marry an Iraqi woman and raise my children in their country. I need to have a normal life.
I've been patient for a long time. I've been tired of staying awake and worried. Even if I succeed and leave the country, my heart will stop and it will be like a stone. I will be like a robot and a machine that works for the sake of work because everything beautiful will be gone. Everything, my country, my roots, my friends, my family, and my whole life. I said it previously and will say it agains, "Farewell peace. We'll miss you so much."
THURSDAY, MARCH 2, 2006
Whew, that was close! Since last night I've been trying without success to open my web design application. What that means is that I couldn't bring up any of my web pages to update or change them. Sound familiar?
If you're a regular reader you know what I'm talking about. Last summer I had a problem with my web host that prevented me from updating my journal for at least five weeks. By the way, I'm still getting free web service as an apology for their mistake.
By going in a "back door" tonight, I got Adobe GoLive (my web design software) to open, but I can't promise that will continue to work. All this to say that if you don't see updates here for more than 2-3 days in a row, be sure to check my blog. It's usually pretty dependable.
Today the school at which I volunteer was on mid-winter break, so I continued to work on my writing. I'm trying to write about living medications-free with a diagnosis of MS for seventeen and a half years, and am finding it tough going. It's hard not to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, and that will never do.
Yesterday I emailed the final draft of my essay about Rabih to the six writers with whom I'd shared the self-directed women writers retreat a few weeks ago. Since I'd started it there and had read two excerpts to them during our nightly sharings, I wanted their feedback. One of the women--Jeannie, an editor and writing coach--has already responded postively. She's also offered to proofread it and I've gratefully accepted her kind offer. I want this essay to be the very best I can do. As I think I've said before, my main intent has been simply to get out of the way of the story. It needs desperately to be told, especially now.
Before I shared it with anyone though, I emailed a copy to Rabih and Sulaima asking for their suggestions, corrections and/or feelings about it. After all, it is their story. Rabih wrote back saying:
I don't know how you do it, this is my third reading of this article and the millionth of the story in general and you still manage to make me cry. It must be those "wings of sincerity" I told you about.
Just like watching a great movie, I didn't want the article to end. This, coming from the subject of the article who knows every fact and detail. Imagine what it will do to new readers. This is Pulitzer material in my book.
Whatever happens regarding its acceptance or rejection by The Sun or any other magazine will never touch me as deeply as Rabih's response.
FRIDAY, MARCH 3, 2006
I am positively boiling. What George W. Bush has just done in securing his nuclear deal with India is to throw us all back into the cauldron of a worldwide nuclear arms race. After thirty years of living with a global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mr. Bush has, in five years, thrown it all away. Sure, other administrations and other countries have been chipping away at it for years, but at least they had to pretend that they were adherring to its tenets.
I did what I always do when I can no longer stomach what's going on; I wrote this entry on my blog and journal and sent yet another letter to The New York Times.
To the editor
And so the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty we signed in 1970 is now officially dead. The man who killed it, President George W. Bush, has taken our world back into the nightmare of fallout shelters and mushroom clouds. But this time it is not just Russia we have to worry about but "allies" like India, Israel, China, France and Great Britain, and "rogue nations" like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. For starters, that is.
This nuclear pact with India is not the only nail in our global coffin. According to Democracy Now!, President Bush recently asked Congress for $27 million to "help jumpstart the country's first new nuclear weapons program in two decades." And just last week the U.S. and Britain conducted a joint underground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site.
My question now is, can our planet survive another three years of George W. Bush as president of the U.S.? The odds are getting less day by day.
SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2006
How do you ascertain if your work is making an impact, especially if your area of interest is as hard to quantify as peace and justice?
Do you wait to see tangible evidence of changes you've helped bring about in the world? Do you find satisfaction in the recognition and affirmation of your peers? Are you looking for media attention that might help raise public awareness? If you write or create art for peace, would having your work published be all you'd need to keep on keepin' on? If civil disobedience is your path, will being arrested and tried in a courtroom where you can publicly proclaim your reasons for taking this action, and even spending time in jail satisfy your hunger for peace and justice? Or is it simply enough to know within yourself that you're doing all you possibly can to make this world a better place. But how about being hated and villified for your work? Would that give you a sense of a job well done?
Until today I would have chosen any number of the options listed above as evidence of my having been successful in my work for peace, but I doubt if the last item would have been on my list. Because, until today, I'd never had the experience of being hated or villified.
Of course I'd been cursed at from passing cars when out on the street with my signs demonstrating for peace, but that never felt like a personal attack. And a few times I've received email responses or comments on my blog that disagreed in not-so-nice terms with what I'd posted. But today was different. The email I received today from Ravi, a reader of my blog, was oh-so-personal and filled with such expressions of hatred that it took my breath away.
I thank him--it seemed pretty obviously a male from the images and words he used to describe what he wished would happen to me--for giving me this opportunity to see how it feels to be hated for your beliefs. My reaction, after the initial shock, was to say to myself, "I must be doing something right." Because how could anyone hate me so much if I'd been compromising or weak in stating my views and walking my talk? I consider it an honor to be in such company as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the unnamed others who have been hated and defiled throughout history for their beliefs and actions for peace and justice.
Please don't think I'm putting myself at the front of the line with these giants of humanity; I'm not. But, thanks to Ravi, I now know I'm somewhere on the same path. After all, being called an "evil jihadi b***h" in 2006 fits in the same category as being called a "n****r lover" in the civil rights' 60s, don't you think?
I now see that what MLK and Gandhi said is true: love is the only way to respond to hatred. Ravi's words haven't hurt me, but imagine how much damage they have done to him. It must be awful to live inside a heart that can harbor such violence and abuse. May he feel my love and be healed.
MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2006
"I'm the commander, see? I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
President Bush in interview with Bob Woodward in 2002
The pathetic thing is, he's right. Congress is now rewriting the FISA law to make Mr. Bush's illegal NSA wiretapping of American phone calls and emails legal...retroactively. Checks & balances? Dead in the water. Welcome to America, home of the Imperial Presidency!
TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2006
Thanks, dear Terre, for your words. How could you have known they were exactly what I needed to hear? When you commended my "willingness to be open and transparent" in my blog, it was as if you were reading my mind. Because I came close to violating that sacred bond of trust I've established over the years between me and my journal and blog readers. I almost kept to myself a very important part of my journey. But even before I read your email, I'd come to the conclusion that secrecy would serve no one, and that if ever there was a time to speak out truthfully, it was now. Too many people have already gone through what I'm going through, are going through it now, or will have to do so in the future. If I let shame or shyness or whatver-it-is keep my words unspoken today, then I am guilty of letting them down. And I don't want to do that. So here goes...
At yesterday's appointment with the urologist, for what I'd imagined to be my final test--a cystoscopy--I found that no, this wasn't over yet, in fact we were now taking it to a new level. Dr. B. said he saw some discolored tissue on the lining of my bladder wall that he didn't like the look of; he wants a biopsy. And this biopsy will have to be done in a hospital, most likely under general anesthetic. At least it's an outpatient procedure.
I asked plenty of questions and he answered every one. If you can imagine, I'd never even heard of bladder cancer. Now--thanks to his answers and to my own online research within the last 24 hours--I know more than I ever wanted to about this disease that is newly diagnosed every year in 50,000 people and causes 10,000 deaths a year. Stage 4 bladder cancer is very bad news, but Doctor B. seemed pretty confident that the small area of discoloration he saw is superficial (Stage 0 or 1, if it is malignant) and will be easy for him to remove. If a malignancy is found, the odds are that it will return (50-80% according to my research), so I'd need to come back for a cystoscopy every three months for the first year, every six months for the next 2-3 years, and once a year from then on. If the tumor--or whatever it is--is deeply embedded in the bladder wall, treatment would be much more involved.
Of course it might be benign. He did say the discoloration could just be an after effect of my recent urinary tract infection. But I'm the kind of person who wants to know ahead of time what I might be facing, so I'm looking at every possibility.
Before he can schedule me for the biopsy I have to get a thorough exam with lots of tests like CAT scan, EKG, blood work, chest x-ray and such. Since I don't have a primary care physician--Remember? I'm the healthy one!--the hospital will refer me to one of their internists.
I didn't sleep worth a damn last night. I was raw with shock, anger, self-pity, fear, shame and hurt pride (I'm healthy, right?). It just royally pisses me off, please excuse my french. I don't want to be sick or operated on or sedated or fearful of the future. I want to go on exactly as I have, with panache and indomitable will and good spirits. I know I will, but for now I need to let myself sulk a bit.
The shame surprised me. The feeling that I shouldn't tell anyone, that I didn't want to worry them unnecessarily, that I should be silent and stoic and a "good girl." Wherever did THAT come from? From childhood. From Mom. My mother whom a friend wrote about in the Reader's Digest "Life In These United States" back in the 50s, and won a cool hundred dollars for her effort. The true story went that Mom got sick but refused to call Dr. P, our family doctor. When asked why, she replied, "Oh, he gets so upset whenever his patients get sick, I didn't want to worry him!" I always was a chip off the old block.
I did have to laugh at one thing Dr. B. said yesterday. After examining my bladder with his cystoscope, he said, "You certainly do have a tiny bladder." Well, that had been my nickname back in my early 20s--TB, short for Tiny Bladder. I was the only one in my crowd who had to go running to the bathroom the minute I'd finished even one beer. A short rental, for sure. It was fun to find out my nickname had been anatomically correct!
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2006...Part 1
Oh yes, here it is, all wrapped up in a shiny pink ribbon--the Congressional go-ahead for President Bush to keep on wiretapping Americans with, in essence, NO real oversight. The fact that he knowingly and under cover of secrecy broke the law of the land, and when called on it, simply said, "I'm going to keep on doing whatever I want and need to keep America safe from terrorist attacks." is obviously not a problem, at least not to his buddies in the Senate. But I ask you, dear readers, do you feel safe yet?
The Republicans have given in and, without even knowing any details about what Bush's NSA wiretapping expeditions have entailed, are agreeing to let him wiretap Americans for 45 days with NO WARRANTS OR OVERSIGHT. The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the FISA court whenever possible. I'd like to know who is to decide when it is NOT possible, and what reasons would they need to give? None, as far as I can tell.
"If the administration elects not to [obtain warrants] after 45 days, the attorney general must certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant. The attorney general would be required to give an update to the subcommittee every 45 days."
Does that sound like a government operating under the rule of law, or one that can do pretty much as it pleases?
Oh yes, Republican Senator Olympia Snow says that "We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight." How? By appointing a seven-member "terrorist surveillance subcommittee" to which the administration must report every 45 days? Who will be on that subcommittee and will they be allowed to bring any of their concerns before the full body of the Senate? I'm sure not because, after all, everything will be TOP SECRET. So where is the oversight in that? The way I see it is this: the terrorist surveillance subcommittee will be completely powerless and, at the end of the day, complicit in whatever the administration chooses to do.
You can read about it--if you don't gag first--by going to today's article--G.O.P. Senators Say Accord Is Set on Wiretapping--in the New York Times.
In case you were wondering, there will be NO congressional or independent investigation of President Bush's ignoring the law of the land and ordering these secret wiretaps in the first place. Democracy, schlamocracy, when you're an Imperial President, you have no one to answer to but your campaign donors.
If you think your civil rights and guarantees to privacy have been abused up to now, just you wait! With this kind of carte blanche, Mr. Bush and his people are free to do whatever they please. And they will.
I'm afraid it's time to look very closely at the history of how Hitler, who was democratically elected by the German people, transformed a parliamentary system of government into a dictatorship. A "terrorist attack" was all he needed. Sound familiar?
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2006...Part 2
Special thanks to my readers who have sent such loving emails in response to yesterday's entry. Your healing thoughts are already doing their work.
By the way, I've decided to get a second opinion before I undergo what feels to me like an invasive procedure (the biopsy). I've requested an appointment with an associate professor of urology at Harper University Hospital in the Detroit Medical Center. His specialty is female urology.
I feel better already for taking back control of my own body. Happy International Women's Day to all!
THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 2006
As I wrote last night, I have now reclaimed my body (and my destiny) by deciding to get a second opinion before I let anyone put me to sleep and cut anything out of me.
Thanks to the amazing world of technology, I was able to go online and research urologists at the Detroit Medical Center--our teaching hospitals downtown--and even make an online request for an appointment. They not only had each physician's contact info, hospital affiliation, area of specialty within the field of urology, what languages they speak, but also a photo. It helps to have a sense of who these people are before putting your life in their hands.
Of course my first choice would be a woman urologist, but they're as hard to find as the proverbial needle in a haystack. The two women listed both had their offices out in the northern suburbs, a long traffic-congested drive from my east side home. So I settled on Dr. Ajay Singla, who speaks Hindi, is an Associate Professor of Urology, sees patients at an office in the Detroit Medical Center, and specializes in female urology. Very unusual in a field that makes its living off prostates and impotence.
Today I talked with his nurse--whom I liked lots--and, even though he's quite busy, she gave me an appointment for 2 PM next Tuesday. She also encouraged me to fax Dr. Singla a detailed description of my symptoms, course of treatment thus far, and reasons for seeking a second opinion. To me it's a good sign that she feels this information would be welcomed by Dr. Singla.
Anyway, I feel like I've just gotten off a raft that was riding down the rapids with no way to steer or stop it. Whatever happens from here on out will be within my control, or at least will be a decision I make for myself. What a difference that makes!!!
SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2006
Tom Fox is dead.
Christian Peacemakers Tom Fox, James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Norman Kember have been held as hostages since their abduction in Baghdad on November 26, 2005 by a group that called itself The Swords of Righteousness Brigades. And now Tom has been found in the al-Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad, dead of gunshot wounds.
I know I was not alone in fearing the worst when Aljazeera showed a videotape of three of the hostages on Tuesday, and Tom was missing.
Here is a brief obituary I've just found online:
Tom Fox, age 54, of Clearbrook, Virginia, was a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an ecumenical violence-reduction program with roots in the historic peace churches-the Mennonite, Brethren and Religious Society of Friends. Mr. Fox was a practicing Quaker for 22 years, and worked for the past two years with CPT in Palestine and Iraq. He was a dedicated father of two children. He was an accomplished musician who played the bass clarinet and the recorder. Mr. Fox devoted much of his time to working with children. He served as an adult leader of youth programs and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He facilitated young people's participation in opposing war and violence. Mr. Fox believed that "there is that of God in every person" which is why work for peace was so important to him. While in Iraq, he worked with CPT in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations to promote peace, providing first-hand, independent reports from the region, working with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and training others in non-violent intervention and human rights documentation. Mr. Fox was abducted Nov. 26, 2005 with three other CPTers, and on March 9, 2006, he has been found shot dead in Baghdad. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. For more information, please visit www.cpt.org.
Some people ask why he and his CPT brothers and sisters would place themselves in harm's way to do the work they do. This is Tom's response--written the day before he was abducted--to the question, "Why are we here?":
The Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) Iraq team went through a discernment process, seeking to identify aspects of our work here in Iraq that are compelling enough to continue the project and comparing them with the costs (financial, psychological, physical) that are also aspects of the project. It was a healthy exercise, but it led me to a somewhat larger question: Why are we here?
If I understand the message of God, his response to that question is that we are to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. Again, if I understand the message of God, how we take part in the creation of this realm is to love God with all our heart, our mind and our strength and to love our neighbors and enemies as we love God and ourselves. In its essential form, different aspects of love bring about the creation of the realm.
I have read that the word in the Greek Bible that is translated as "love" is the word "agape." Again, I have read that this word is best expressed as a profound respect for all human beings simply for the fact that they are all God's children. I would state that idea in a somewhat different way, as "never thinking or doing anything that would dehumanize one of my fellow human beings."
As I survey the landscape here in Iraq, dehumanization seems to be the operative means of relating to each other. U.S. forces in their quest to hunt down and kill "terrorists" are, as a result of this dehumanizing word, not only killing "terrorists," but also killing innocent Iraqis: men, women and children in the various towns and villages.
It seems as if the first step down the road to violence is taken when I dehumanize a person. That violence might stay within my thoughts or find its way into the outer world and become expressed verbally, psychologically, structurally or physically. As soon as I rob a fellow human being of his or her humanity by sticking a dehumanizing label on them, I begin the process that can have, as an end result, torture, injury and death.
"Why are we here?" We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exist within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization. We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God's children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls.
Tom also kept a blog--Waiting In the Light--that contains his day-to-day reflections. I encourage you to spend some time with Tom's writings. They are a window into his soul, a soul full of goodness and compassion. Our world will miss him.
And now we must hold James , Norman , and Harmeet in light and love. May their lives be spared so they can return to the work they've chosen--that of living their religious convictions with every fiber of their being, that of putting their lives on the line for peace, truth, justice and compassion, that of meeting hatred with love.
SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2006
If you've ever wondered what you could do for a sister or brother who is going through tough times, I'm here to tell you that simply letting them know you care is enough. The emails I've received from readers and friends since I first shared about my health concerns here last Tuesday have become my greatest treasure. I've copied every one and pasted it into a file I call "Words of Comfort." That file is now twelve pages long and growing every day. When I need strength, I reread these loving messages. They are balm for my soul. I send loving gratitude to everyone who has taken the time to write. And please know that I can actually feel your love and healing energy. When I lie in bed at night, it is as if I am surrounded by radiant light. I know you are healing me.
And today I had yet another experience of healing--Fred Hersch in a solo piano concert at the Kerrytown Concert House. Oh my, this gifted jazz musician and composer took me away on the wings of sound. Such a touch, such a pure tone, such a magical mixture of the familiar and innovative. I just closed my eyes and let him take me wherever he wanted; I trusted him so completely. Mr. Hersch may not have intended it to be musical therapy, but it sure was for me.
And a sunny day in the 70s F. didn't hurt either!
When I arrived in Ann Arbor at 3 PM, Main Street was blocked off and hundreds of runners, their families and friends had turned this commercial street into a festival of life and energy. The annual Ann Arbor 5 K Run was a perfect way to celebrate what felt like the first day of spring.
Then after the concert I got together with three jazz buddies--Akira, Beverly and Dave (who was celebrating his 60th birthday!)--for dinner at a local restaurant. Even the hour-long drive to and from Ann Arbor was fun...especially going, where it was so warm I had my car window down. First time in 2006.
Yes, spring is no longer an impossible dream.
TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 2006
All's well! Your good energy did the trick!
Dr. Singla performed the exact same test (a cystoscopy) as the first urologist, yet he found absolutely NO abnormalities in my bladder. I had faxed him the entire history of my two month experience with UTIs, urological tests and the recommendation that I have a biopsy. He'd read it all beforehand so was entirely knowledgeable about why I was asking for a second opinion. And he STILL saw nothing wrong. His response to the other doctor having found bleached out tissues on my bladder wall was that it might have been a temporary reaction to the antibiotics. I WAS on antibiotics for almost 20 days and had only stopped taking them three days before the first urologist performed his cystoscopy on me.
You may ask why I trust Dr. Singla more than the first urologist. Well, it doesn't hurt that he is an Associate Professor of Urology at Wayne State University Medical School, and specializes in female urology. Besides I had a very good feeling about him, and Beverly, his longtime nurse, was exceptional. They asked the right questions and listened to my answers. He wants to see me in six months and I'll be happy to oblige.
Now I have to give you fair warning: I'm afraid I'm going to be worse than a reformed smoker about the need to get SECOND OPINIONS before agreeing to any serious medical procedures.
If I'd just gone along with the game--which I was tempted to do, at least at first--my poor body would have to undergo minor surgery in an operating room (the first urologist was planning to remove all the discolored tissues he saw) under a general anesthetic, a chest x-ray, CAT scan, EKG and blood work (what the doctor wanted BEFORE surgery)...not to mention the anxiety that fearing you have cancer brings. I'd already gone through eight days of that.
Then let's look at the costs. I don't believe I'm exaggerating if I say all those tests and procedures, plus follow-up visits, would have been in the range of $15-20,000. At the very least. Yes, I have good insurance, but we still have a 20% co-pay. And what about those folks who DON'T have insurance? What do THEY do???
But I am here to say I have learned more than I can say in the past eight days. The only way I've ever found to develop true compassion is to live it from the INSIDE. Never before have I had the slightest idea how it feels to be afraid you have cancer. And now I do. That is priceless and I have the first urologist--whom I'm sure was sincere in his assessment of my condition--to thank.
May I never forget what I have learned. And one of the most important learnings has been to share your concerns with friends and let them shower you with loving thoughts and healing energies. Being silent and stoic is not smart. We must ask for what we need, and then simply receive the goodness that people want to give. This I know from the INSIDE.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2006
It's time to stop our bellyaching and get on the "Censure President Bush" bandwagon. Go to MoveOn.org and sign the people's petition in support of Sen. Russell Feingold's resolution to censure the president for breaking the law by authorizing warrantless domestic wiretapping on Americans.
Congressionally-speaking, it's a pretty pathetic bandwagon. One senator--only ONE, count him with your index finger pointing towards the White House--is daring to stand up to the Imperial President and say, "For shame! You are breaking the law of the land and that is unacceptable." The rest of them are either cowering behind their desks for fear of losing voters and/or political clout among their peers, or are diligently trying to change the law RETROACTIVELY so their leader can continue to do whatever he wants with no oversight by anyone.
Russell Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, the ONE AND ONLY senator who voted, soon after 9/11, against giving President Bush carte blanche to attack and destroy any country he chose, is the sole senator who has any spine in his backbone. And we the people need to do ALL we can to support him. Obviously our elected representatives are NOT representing our best interests nor those of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Senator Feingold is our only advocate, in the Senate, at least.
So go to MoveOn.org, sign the petition, call your senators and tell them you expect them to co-sponsor or, at the very least, support Sen. Feingold's resolution, and send emails to all your friends and colleagues encouraging them to do the same. We've got to start turning this around ourselves. Believe me, the need is URGENT.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 2006
cartoon by Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
BUSH REITERATES FIRST STRIKE POLICY
Thursday 16 March 2006, 23:20 Makka Time, 20:20 GMT
--Bush unveiled his National Security Strategy report--
Undaunted by the difficult war in Iraq, the US president has reaffirmed his strike-first policy against terrorists and enemy nations and said Iran may pose the biggest challenge for America.
In a 49-page national security report on Thursday, George Bush said diplomacy is the US preference in halting the spread of nuclear and other weapons.
But he added: "If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defence, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur - even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack." read more...
So what do you do when your country is being led by a runaway train?
SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 2006
I awoke to a brilliant sunny day, the day designated worldwide to protest the 3rd anniversary of Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq. The sun decided me: I would attend rallies and marches in both Detroit--my home--and Windsor, Ontario, across the river. Since Windsor's rally was scheduled to begin at 12 noon, and Detroit's wasn't until 4:30 PM, it was definitely doable. I bundled up--it was below freezing when I set out--covered my sign with a jacket so I wouldn't be hassled at the border, and began my international trek a little after 10 AM.
I had no problems at the border, found a parking lot close to Goyeau and Wyandotte where the rally was to be held, and scooted into a Tim Hortons for a quick sandwich. I knew it was going to be a long day and food might be hard to come by later. While there I ran into my friends Joan, Claire, Marilyn and Pat of the Windsor Women In Black. We sat together until it was time to get over to the rally.
Margaret and Enver, two of the organizers and old friends of mine, greeted me with hugs and expressions of gratitude. These dedicated peace folks on the Canada side of the river always make me feel so welcome; I love this community. Gosh, they even introduced me to the assembled crowd as an American who works tirelessly for peace. Everyone clapped. It's such a privilege to be accepted in these dark days when our president has managed to turn almost every country in the world against us. But my Canadian friends know I not only disagree with just about everything Mr. Bush does, but try my utmost to counter his lies and wars with truth and peace.
The rally was enthusiastic, wonderfully diverse and full of hope. The hope for me is to be among people who do not allow the bully to their south dictate how they think or act. The Canadian government with the Conservative Stephen Harper now in leadership may be sucking up to Bush, but the people aren't. Not by a long shot. They see though all his hubris and are doing everything they can to fight their government's tendency toward "integration"--read loss of sovereignty--with the U.S.
I was especially delighted to see such a large and vocal group of men, women and children from the Lebanese community. Margaret had told me in a recent email that this community has become an important part of the Windsor Peace Coalition. What a good thing, especially since Lebanon shares with Canada the problems of a meddlesome America that wants to tell it what to do. The young Lebanese woman who spoke today made it very clear that their country is struggling for its right to be a sovereign nation, beholden to no one. That was much the same message shared by the Canadian speakers.
There were teens holding a powerful banner they'd made. One of them spoke strongly against the military recruiters in their schools; the same problem we're having here in the States. And I found, as is often true, that my Canadian sisters and brothers see the world in much broader terms than we Americans. I think we have a tendency to fixate on only one country or part of the world at a time--the Middle East of late--while our neighbors to the north see the world as a whole, each place being worthy of attention. Maybe it's a reflection of their more inviting immigration and asylum policies.
After the rally I went back to the States, parked my car at the peace church--Central United Methodist on Grand Circus Park--where our march was to end, and scooted up Woodward toward Jefferson Avenue, where it was to begin. Since I had some extra time, I hung out in a Borders Book store and looked at a book called "The Secret History of the CIA." My Dad's name was not in the index.
By 4:30 PM I was down in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue with all my old peace buddies (photos #1 & #2). We even had a couple of 4-legged activists in our midst. Every one of us who had been part of the Camp Casey Detroit peace encampment last summer fell into each other's arms like long lost family...which we are! I must admit I did more visiting than listening to the speakers at the brief rally they held.
Soon it was time to march the mile down Woodward Avenue (photos #1, #2 & #3) to the church. Once there we all went upstairs to sit, get warm and listen to the musicians and poets the organizers had gathered for our enjoyment. For me, it was simply another opportunity to see and visit with old friends. Our Detroit peace community is filled with such incredibly faithful activists. I always consider it an honor to be in their presence.
I got home at 7:30 PM, tired and satisfied. Yes, I did what I could to draw attention to the Iraqi disaster that President Bush and General Casey say is going "just fine." Kinda makes you wonder if they're certifably delusional or simply trying to raise Bush's abysmal approval ratings by whatever means they can.
SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 2006
It's one step forward and two steps back in the U.S. these days. Even as we marched in protest on the 3rd anniversary of Bush's disastrous war on Iraq, we had to make new signs that said "Stop War On Iran!" Everything points to yet another in a long line of disasters brought about by this conniving crew that has taken over our country. And the mainstream media--including our illustrious New York Times--is yet again doing their part to prepare the way for Chapter 3 in Bush's Unending War On Terrorism.
At yesterday's rally in Detroit, someone slipped a copy of a long article--"Petrodollar Warfare: Dollars, Euros and the Upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse" by William Clark--into the basket of my scooter. What an eye-opener! After reading it today I wrote and emailed the following letter to the editor of the NY Times, realizing there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell of it being printed. But at least you can read it here:
To the editor:
David Sanger's op/ed piece, "Suppose We Just Let Iran Have the Bomb", published in Sunday's NY Times is yet another drumbeat for the war that our president seems to have his heart set on.
To put it simply, Iran is a threat, but not the threat that our president and your newspaper would have us believe. Global nuclear experts make it clear that Iran would have no chance of developing nuclear weapons for at least five years, if not ten. So why the rush?
It's simple economics.
Iran has been threatening for years to shift from petrodollars to petroeuros in its oil trading. On March 20, 2006, they propose to open an International Oil Bourse with the express purpose of trading in other currencies including Euros. This will cut into the United States dollar-based oil marker hegemony and may even encourage big oil buyers like China to join the petroeuro bandwagon. We're talking about a potential economic disaster for America, whose financial stability is shaky at best.
So why are we not reading about this in the New York Times? Please don't get caught again in reprinting White House press statements without digging deeper. We can't afford another Iraq.
TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2006
Two articles I read online today fill me with horror over what I, and obviously others, see just up ahead, right around the corner on our national radar screen. Yes, as many are saying, it's deja vu all over again. Just as the American people (see the latest polls) and the mainstream media are finally waking up to the disaster that they supported for so long--Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq--they are following Bush like lemmings off a cliff as he prepares to mount major air strikes against Iran that would surely lead to yet another war with devastating consequences.
Again, I am amazed at the gullibility of the American people and their media. But today Howard Zinn, one of the few historians I trust, has written an essay that helps me understand what makes them that way. In "America's Blinders" Zinn says, among other things:
A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught...
In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that--not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor--is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.
If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there--the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"--do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.
The second article comes from Tom Engelhardt, founder of the excellent online news analysis web site TomDispatch.com. His article is called "Iran and the Irrationality Factor". In it, Mr. Engelhardt analyzes the striking similarities between Bush's lead-up to his invasion of Iraq three years ago and his current saber-rattling toward Iran.
An excerpt from this article:
It's an indication of the administration's success in driving the media before it and making its Iran agenda our agenda that, in a recent poll (as Inter Press Service reporter Jim Lobe pointed out), "Some 27% of respondents cite Iran as Washington's greatest menace -- three times the percentage who ranked it at the top of foreign threats just four months ago." A recent Zogby poll revealed that, while surprising numbers of Americans are now thoroughly sick of George Bush's war in Iraq, 47% of Americans nonetheless favor some kind of military action, "preferably along with European allies, to halt Iran's nuclear program."
Call it connecting the dots -- yet again -- Bush-administration style. It's sobering that the media learned so little from the last major round of this back in 2002-2003 and is reporting the Iran crisis only within the bounds of what the administration cares to have debated, while Bush, Cheney, and associates let the UN process on Iran play itself out over the coming months and prepare (possibly along with the Israelis) for a major military strike that could lead the planet into energy (and economic) chaos.
Here we go again, seriously considering bringing death, destruction and chaos to a part of the world that has more trouble--thanks to us/U.S.--than it can handle. And let me make it clear, a significant number of those so-called "surgical" air strikes against Iran's nuclear development centers would be in URBAN areas, and urban means civilians. Not to mention the fact that the Pentagon has already reported that it will be using nuclear (bunker-busting) weapons in the Iranian campaign since they expect many of their targets will be underground.
Where is the public outrage? Except for a few voices, there is a deafening silence about what appears to be a certainty unless some Act of Nature comes along to stop it. Sure I want the U.S. out of Iraq, but dammit, I don't want us to go into Iran! Please, people, WAKE UP! Time is growing short.
They should never let George W. Bush go off-script in public: he just might tell the truth.
In response to a question at Monday's pump-up-support-for-the-Iraq-War speech at the City Club of Cleveland, President Bush said the following:
"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel."
I guess that means that when we protest Bush's new war on Iran we can simply cross out the word "OIL" in our "NO BLOOD FOR OIL" signs and replace it with the word "ISRAEL."
Do YOU want to go to war for "our strong ally", Israel???
Soon after writing this entry I received an email with the following link and information. It bears reading.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
A new study by Harvard professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer charges that the "Israel lobby" has influenced the foreign policy of the United States in a direction at odds with America's own interests. Click here to read an abridged copy of the study as printed online in the London Review of Books.
This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries is based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperativs. As we show below, however, neither of those explanations can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel.
Instead, the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the “Israel Lobby.” Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.
In the pages that follow, we describe how the Lobby has accomplished this feat, and how its activities have shaped America’s actions in this critical region. Given the strategic importance of the Middle East and its potential impact on others, both Americans and non-Americans need to understand and address the Lobby’s influence on U.S. policy. Read entire study.
THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2006
Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden and Norman Kember have been freed after almost four months in captivity in Baghdad. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who burst into tears when they heard the news. But, as happy as we are, there is still the sadness that their colleague, Tom Fox, was not with them. As you know, Tom was found dead last week.
Doug Pritchard, co-director of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Canada, said in an interview I heard this morning on Democracy Now! that the military rescue of Jim, Harmeet and Norman was completely non-violent: no shots were fired. The hostage-takers were not even present. I know this would mean a lot to all members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams worldwide. CPT is committed to non-violence, and I recall that Tom Fox had written before his capture that, if he were ever taken hostage, he wanted NO use of violence in any attempts to rescue him. I'm sure that Jim, Harmeet and Norman agreed.
The initial reports of Jim and Harmeet's physical condition were scary. They'd said that Norman, the eldest, was all right but that Jim and Harmeet had been hospitalized. Doug Pitchard laid our fears to rest when he reported that Jim and Harmeet had been taken into the hospital for a check-up and had then been released. He said all three were in amazingly good condition. In fact, they were at that moment (11:50 am EST) sitting down to a meal with their CPT colleagues at the British Embassy in the Green Zone in Baghdad.
I thank every single solitary person across the globe who has held these men in protective energy during their ordeal, especially the Muslim leaders who spoke out publicly on their behalf. Yes, we ARE one family.
© 2006 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.
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