Sunday, August 23, 2009

The ugly underbelly of Europe, East and West

Tourists cavort on the beaches of Italy, sip wines in the vineyards of France, explore the fabulous coastline of Dalmatia. And remain oblivious (along with those who remain at home, wherever home is) to the nastiness in the underbellies of the the beautiful places. Of course, the same can be problems can be discussed in USA, but the focus here is on the Roma and the Baltics because of their vulnerability to the forces of evil in the form of nationalists and the Russian Bear.

This week four people were detained in Hungary in "connection with a series of killings of Roma". We're not just talking about good old-fashioned murder: this violence includes firebombings and other assorted sordid acts of aggression and degradation. The above link to the NYT article is a small report.
Then we have the situation with the highjacked Russian vessel, the Arctic Sea. The Russians report this in the same vein as the highjackings by Somali pirates or pirates in Indonesian-Malaysian-Indian waters. Not quite. What cargo was on that vessel? Why were communications so effectively blocked? Why did they turn off the GPS tracking device? Who is "they"? The whole story sounds weird from the outset, but the fact that Russia was very quick to point out that the "pirates" were Latvian, Estonian, and Russian (in that order) makes the hairs on the backs of necks of all Balts rise and antennas tuned to the vibes emanating from the east. Russia is still smarting from the loss of what it considers its territories (ask the Balts how they feel about that) and any chance it gets, will rattle sabers and make Estonians, Lithuanians, and Latvians feel very vulnerable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A loving memory and tribute

A beautiful young woman, bright, full of life and love. We hold this image, these thoughts, her love, close to the bone. In the tradition of the Jews, as long as we remember a person, they live on. Ariel lives on in the hearts of her father, brother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Let us be silent a while and treasure all moments she shared with us. Let us remember her laughter, her Mona Lisa smile. Her concerns for the earth we all share, the air we all breathe are an inspiration. Take a walk, pick a flower, hug a loved one. It is all so fleeting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a woman! What she accomplished in her lifetime as a Person (a reference to an inside joke in her family), was just remarkable. For all her joie de vivre, she experienced so much personal sadness and the lack of a life partner was something she never got over. Anyone interested in the complicated and nuanced history of the Middle East will find this book useful. Another book to read as an accompanying text would be Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan, which sets the background the resolution of the end of WWI, the stage for WWII, the problems in the Middle East with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More "Here we go again"

Another horrifying incident in Europe was reported today in the New York Times. Rabid nationalists are again showing the terrible nature of humans. This happened a month ago....where was the outrage, the reporting? When atrocities take place on an individual scale, they must be noticed as much as large scale horrors. The murder of this woman in a courtroom, no less, in front of her child and husband is appalling.

Instead, we get reports on the weird French who wish to restrict Muslim women who wear "burquinis" from swimming in public pools. Their concerns of safety are credible, but they could have just allowed Muslim or Orthodox Jewish women to have access to the pool on their own at different designated times with female lifeguards in attendance (as they do here in Seattle), when they would not feel the need to cover up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Here we go again....

Lithuanian Roma teen. Photo by Andrew Miksys.

What is it with nationalists everywhere and the rabid right that they cannot leave others alone, especially when those others are Roma. Slovakia is the latest location where skin-heads attack Roma. Italy, Hungary, Lithuania, Czech Republic all have Roma populations that have been threatened. According to the European Roma Rights Centre, Serbia and Bulgaria have also been in violation of human rights accords regarding treatment of Roma.

Where is the Outrage?!

Another day, another year, another story..check out these links at The New York Times, the BBC, Mail & Guardian. These links take you, not to an article on this topic, but to years of articles! And the horror of these stories is not only in the suffering of the rape victims, females and males alike, but the sometime cover-up/collaboration/turning-a-blind-eye by peacekeepers.....and us. Rape as a weapon of war (this link takes you to pages and pages of stories) knows not boundaries or continent: Sudan, Congo, Bosnia, Colombia, and more.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hospitals and Elders: not always a happy outcome

An NPR story this morning caught my ear and my heart, as it told of a situation I had experienced with my mother in 2005, which really was the beginning of her end.
These were my comments:

My mother had been inappropriately given a morphine patch for arthritis pain at the University of Chicago Hospitals, which landed her in the hospital with hallucinations and balance issues. While there, delirium ensued & she was tied down, etc. She also kept thinking she was under a railway bridge hearing trains go by. This did not help her evaluation! After hearing about 'sundowners', I spent several nights with her in order to orient her when she woke up. And then I heard the "trains": turns out the helipad for the medical helicopters was right near her room & that is what she was hearing! But I must tell you, the general hospital noise was enough to drive a sane, well person nuts: bells, lights, announcements, visits to get anyone was supposed to get well there, was unimaginable. This visit was the beginning of her end. I was totally unimpressed with care for elderly patients: from waiting for hours in the emergency rooms, moved around, beds & chairs not good for stiff, aging bodies, food just left at the bedside for patients who could not lift their hands to their mouth. Don't get me started on my father's (lack of) care. May I never die as an old person in a hospital. Geriatric care has a long way to go.

On a related note:
Several years ago, several researchers completed studies on noise reduction in hospitals: not only did the patients benefit, but the work environment for doctors, nurses, staff improved dramatically and stress levels came down. The cost of implementing these positive changes was negligible.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Yesterday, our house was broken into. Broad daylight. Through a small awning window facing a major street. Small electronics, in and of themselves old and not worth much, daughter's university laptop with her thesis, her data collection from lakes in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, 1000 photos in her camera of the middle of nowhere in Alaska, my husband's work laptop and camera; dvd player; jewelry that my mother had given my daughter before she died that had been her's and her mother's, a little glass box of mine containing broken watches, one of which was a birthday gift from my father to my mother on the first birthday together; a new tv, in it's box still (how convenient). But the sense of violation, people prowling in our drawers, going through the house, watching the house to see when we feels so dirty......