Wow

Jaguar

but the best encounter

Diane

I’ve ever had

the best one

was when

I was tracking a jaguar

in the jungle

by myself

which I usually don’t do

I saw these big male tracks of a jaguar

I’d never seen before and

I just took off thinking okay

I’ll track it a little while but

I shouldn’t be alone but

I ended up tracking it for hours and

 it was getting dark and

I didn’t have a flashlight and

I can’t be alone in the jungle without a flashlight so

I turn around and

there’s the jaguar

in back of me

wow

Photo

(Excerpt from an 8.18.14 interview between NPR’s Diane Rehm and zoologist/wildlife ecologist Alan Rabinowitz )

It was like the end of the world

140723-mh17_kids-7a_9ccd2da63a049d06de43af53892c5c1c.nbcnews-ux-640-400

in those fields

the grasses were very high

wheat fields sunflower fields and

you would come upon the bodies

in their strange shapes and

it felt so deeply sad that

no one was coming to help them that

they were alone

basically

there was a little girl

who had a little

pink T-shirt on and

she was in this distant area near a pond

totally thrown clear

not near anything at all

they stay with you

the faces of the people and

how they lay in the grass and

they come into your mind and

it’s hard to get them out

Photo

(Excerpt from an 8.6.14 interview between NY Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise and NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross)

A dark preoccupation

guns-more-guns

Yesterday, a 20-year-old runner from Fiji was shot to death in California. He was about to start school at the University of Louisiana. Last Tuesday, a lone killer gunned down a 14-year-old freshman at Reynolds High School in Oregon. On June 5th, a gunman who wrote in his journal “I just want people to die…” killed a Seattle Pacific University student. Days before that slaying, another madman with guns (and knives) murdered six University of California, Santa Barbara, students. And, a few days prior to those killings, a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl was shot on a playground.

In total, there have been 74 school shootings since 26 individuals, including 20 first-graders, died inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, according to data compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety. Just in 2014 alone, there have been 37 gun-related incidents at schools; 79 shooting-free school days out of the total 116 since Jan. 1. Thirty-one states have experienced school shootings since Newtown. ~ Quote

When I realized I was losing track of the number of children who had been gunned down around the US, I thought the very least I could do in a country that has lost its collective mind on the subject of the Second Amendment would be to send out regular tweets, such as the one below, chronicling the instances of baby murder and calling on members of Congress to stand up to the NRA:

Why we need editors

How one errant “e” can turn a desperate, undocumented immigrant into a dangerous criminal

Copy editing means more than you think

Mexican Immigrant Takes Refugee in Arizona Church

HEADLINE MAY 15, 2014 (from Democracy Now)

 

An undocumented Mexican immigrant set for deportation has taken refuge in an Arizona church. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz was ordered to report for deportation earlier this week. He instead took sanctuary in a Tucson church that once helped take in Central American refugees in the 1980s. Ruiz has lived in the United States for 14 years and has a U.S.-born teenage son. He said: “I’ll do anything it takes to stay with my family.” His action comes as President Obama is expected to unveil revisions to his deportation policy in the coming weeks.

Cartoon credit

Children in the crossfire

Anti-Slavery Day March To ParliamentIn his chilling piece in Vox about the April 14th abduction of more than 275 Nigerian school girls, Zach Beauchamp argues that Boko Haram’s recent threat to sell the kidnapped children into slavery “is not a one-off event.” Rather, he says, “[i]t’s part of a vast web of human trafficking and slavery in West Africa — one that neither local governments nor the international community have been able to shut down.”

According to Walk Free Foundation, an anti-slavery group in Australia, “30 million people are living as forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages and, in all ways that matter, as pieces of property, chattel in the servitude of absolute ownership.” With some 700,000 of its people enslaved, Nigeria now boasts the largest such population in West Africa — and the fourth largest in the world, says Beauchamp.

While the rest of the world has been focused on the missing Malaysian plane, anguished relatives have been looking frantically for their missing little girls and have had relatively little support in the process.  “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling, dramatic, heartbreaking story,” writes Frida Ghitis, a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. “If it had happened anywhere else,” she suggests, it “would be the world’s biggest story.”

Photo

Ambien: poison in a pill

ambien

I have used Ambien twice in my life: Some 15 years ago, I took it one night after a protracted bout of insomnia, and my daughter found me sitting on the floor in the living room clacking away on my computer. Apparently, I got up to do this after going to bed, and I had no memory of it the next day. About eight years ago I tried taking the drug one more time, and I have a vague memory of sitting in the dark and carrying on a conversation with an inanimate object.

I was very frightened by the hallucination, and I vowed I would never take Ambien again. Some years later, it became public knowledge that getting out of bed when not fully awake and doing an activity without remembering it is a not uncommon side effect of the drug. Hallucinating, it seems, is another.

Feeling agitated, aggressive, or suicidal are also potential side effects of taking zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien, and over the past several years a good deal has been written about the link between the drug and some of its more frightening side effects, which include delusions and violent behavior; yet, it is the most popular sleep medication prescribed today, and its use has increased 220 percent over the past five years.

In the hours after last week’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood, the media stories included mention of the fact that Ivan Lopez, who killed three soldiers and wounded sixteen other people before taking his own life, had been prescribed Ambien, among other drugs. It appears he was suffering from a sleep disorder as well as from anxiety and depression, though there is no obvious connection between these disorders and his military experiences since he had not been exposed to direct combat during his four-month tour in Iraq.

Although I am not saying that Ambien made Lopez do what he did, I am saying that it cannot be discounted as a factor that might have contributed to his descent into madness.

 Image

Flight 370

on the lookout

“It’s been more than a week since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 seemingly vanished into thin air,” writes CNN reporter Dana Ford. “Yet we remain glued to the story—hungry, some almost desperate, for any tidbit of news. Why?”

This is a question that seems well worth asking, as some 26 countries—and counting—along with “thousands of good Samaritans” online join forces to try and find a Boeing 777 that went missing on March 8 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

If the truth be known, I, myself, have been able to think of little else since the crisis began and have spent the better part of my days and nights scouring the Internet for news articles and video reports that will give me minute-by-minute updates on the status of the search.

The crisis is riveting for a number of reasons, not least that we can easily put ourselves in the place of grief-stricken family members who have been made to endure an agonizing wait. Were I awaiting word about the fate of my own child, I would likely not survive news that confirmed the worst.

I’ve been thinking, though, that, for all the negative press about social networking and the impact it has on human connection, there is something very hopeful to be found in this unprecedented collective coming together across the globe, something that has us climbing down into both our deepest humanity and our fundamental animal natures.

Photo

In memoriam

Kennedy AssassinatedTomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and throughout the day I have found myself thinking a great deal about that fateful afternoon. I was only 12, in 7th grade, but his murder affected me so profoundly that, all these years later, I can cry just by conjuring the memory of my small self glued to the TV set in my bedroom. Though mourning the President’s death was a very public event, and so many others were at least as deeply affected as I was, the grief I felt, as I look back on it, seemed very private and very primal.

It was my loss, my wailing seemed to say, and mine alone. Having had the experience of a disintegrated family well before I had the inner resources to cope with it, I was no stranger to loss, or to rudderlessness. So perhaps in some way I saw the first family as my own, or as I wished mine to be. I could imagine what the young children, Caroline and John, might have been feeling, and my heart broke for them. How much I would have liked to console them, as I myself would have wanted to be consoled. In my world, there was no place to find the loving comfort of an adult.

Photo

Sergio and Carolina

sergioLast week marked the ten-year anniversary of the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq.

At the request of George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, and Kofi Annan, De Mello—the “go-to guy” for overseeing some of the world’s most difficult peacekeeping missions in Cambodia, Bosnia, Congo, and East Timor—went to Iraq on June 2, 2003, with a team of other UN experts. The goal, it appears, was for them to come away with recommendations about how to end the US occupation of the country expeditiously.

On August 19, a suicide bomber ran a truck packed with explosives into a Baghdad hotel where the UN offices were housed. Twenty-two people were murdered, De Mello among them, and hundreds more were injured. To this day, little is known about the perpetrators of this heinous act.

Writes his colleague and partner, Carolina Larriera, currently a Harvard University fellow, “And now, ten years later, victims, survivors, family, friends and thousands of  ‘in house’ officials still do not know the exact circumstances of the attack, the motives of the perpetrators and the criminal and moral responsibility of those who allowed and enabled the attack, a critical starting point in the healing process of the terrible wounds generated by this bombing. Instead of medals, we would have preferred the truth; we do not want the facts to be buried under the weight of institutional bureaucracy.”

At a time of growing outrage over secret government surveillance programs that capture the private data of ordinary Americans in the name of national security, it would seem that we have an opportunity to be honest about and to “shed light on the context and aftermath of the Baghdad bombing.”

We owe Sergio, Carolina, and all of the others affected by this tragedy that much.

Photo

Woof woof roar

Dog lionI thought you might be unhappy with me if you knew I knew about a zoo in China that was trying to pass off a big, fluffy dog as a lion and was keeping this little bit of ha-ha to myself. So, here you go:

It seems the People’s Park of Luohe in the central province of Henan has been defrauding visitors by populating the zoo with impostor creatures: a white fox and a mongrel for leopards, a rat plus some sea cucumbers for snakes. And a Tibetan Mastiff for an “African lion.”

Try to imagine mom’s surprise when she and her impressionable boy heard the ferocious king of the jungle…bark. “I had my young son with me,” she told a reporter, “so I tried to play along and told him it was a special kind of lion. But then the dog barked and he knew straight  away what it was and that I’d lied to him. How can they tell such dreadful tales and expect to get away with it?”

They could because they did, until the woof happened, that is. Turns out it costs a lot to maintain a lion in captivity, what with the 25 pounds of food it needs a day (make that the meat of a horse with her tail) and the rare veterinarian who actually knows how to care for a big cat without being swallowed whole. Why, you could put your head and neck inside the mouth of a Tibetan Mastiff, and afterwards she’d lick your hand. Also, for peanuts a day you could throw down a cup or two of Purina and be done with it.

Then, there are other cases elsewhere in China of dogs being painted black and white so they look like pandas. I don’t make these things up.

Photo