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Our hearts are once again heavy with sorrow for all those whose family, neighbors, and loved ones were harmed by the murder of Sandy Point's children. The response of Americans to this horrendous tragedy has come in three basic streams, all three of which are understandable.

The first is an outpouring of the most vehement rage against those who believe that the very existence of firearms is the root cause of murder and if our nation would just wake up and ban them our nation would be at peace.

The second, in some ways like the first, sees only the threat to remove the one constitutional protection that remains after courts and legislatures bend to the will of those who do not subscribe to the “notion” of individual freedoms and that those freedoms might once again have to be defended against oppressors.

The third looks deeper into the awful carnage to grasp its foundations. Moral restraints are those which are found both within a society (an intangible but real presence) and within citizens' hearts. No nation can hang together unless it possesses both internal and societal moral restraints.

 

Mocking critics call call cowards those who have rightly diagnosed America's rapidly failing soul. Many who yet walk upright among us recall a mere generation ago when such deeds as this massacre would hardly have been imagined except in the most perverse of Hollywood productions.

 

They deny that morality has failed, because they assert morality is entirely relative and has no basis in reality. They are wrong. Behavior alone does not define morality. Rather, morality is the sum of what men do and why they do it. In a world where exploitation and outright extermination of children (including the unborn) continues, how can we be be so very surprised when yet another horrific crime bursts forth. Until we heal our hearts, we will continue to see such awful deeds.

 

If mankind continues to refuse self evaluation and self restraint, our follies will very soon overtake us and the time for rational discussion will have passed forever.

 

The murder of Sandy Point children marks a turning point in America's psyche. The argument over the role of firearms in crime will never be “settled”, and will rage on until the last American draws breath because it is inexorably connected to the basic human right to self defense. But we desperately need a true and honest discussion of our national morality and how our present course can be corrected before it brings us to a more bloody national conflict where all restraints are discarded in favor of force. May God grant that we never reach that awful junction.

Saturday, 15 December 2012 01:33
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Ravi Shankar will be remembered – but not the same by everyone. How well I recall the Beatles having discussed their inspirations for various departures from “traditional” melodic music. And then the west was introduced to Brother Ravi. How we struggled in our post-adolescent pedestrian dullness, vainly trying to grasp his direction and thus become one with his sitar (he evidently could make it cry or sing). Failing miserably, suffice it to say that we trusted George Harrison enough to love Ravi's work even if we had no idea what all those new tones were about or what he was trying to get across to our supple cerebral cortex. In fairness to my generation one must keep in mind that we were brainwashed by Brubeck, The Ventures, Buddy Holley, violent cartoons (kill the wabbiitt, kill the wabbitt etc.), and the oft repeated Lone Ranger (who was William Tell anyway?) until we were incapable of tapping our feet to anything written without the proper number of sharps, flats, and quarter notes. We are not technically competent to discuss sitar tonality, but it seems to have caught on and held in India, a land of antiquity and many mysteries.

 

Ravi Shankar, R.I.P. We thank you for hanging around for so long and wish you happy landings into whatever life you may be reborn (or not, as the case may be).

 Ravi Shankar

 

Shankar had suffered from upper respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last week at a hospital in San Diego, south of Los Angeles.

The surgery was successful but he was unable to recover.

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery. We were at his side when he passed away," his wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/12/entertainment-us-ravishankar-idUSBRE8BB08420121212


 

Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers in the West discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music over an eight-decade career.

He was a hippie musical icon of the 1960s. He played Woodstock and hobnobbed with The Beatles.

Beatle George Harrison labelled him "the godfather of world music".

Al Jazeera's Sohail Rahman, reporting from New Delhi said: "Many believe Ravi Shankar promoted India and and Indian music to the world, his influence in western music was inspirational, he went on to win Grammy's, the nomination for an Oscar for Gandhi in 1982 and various accolades."

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/12/2012121243149162559.html

Thursday, 13 December 2012 03:06
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We went to see for ourselves, and this is our report. Media accounts used the phrase "some flooding" to describe the passing of the hurricane, thus we were unprepared for the level of destruction we found in the otherwise orderly town of LaPlace, Louisiana. Hurricane Issac's assault on the gulf coast was feverishly documented by national media, however as the storm roared ashore on August 29th, reporting emphasis was on a fearful New Orleans . And so it appears that although New Orleans was spared yet another apocalyptic deluge (and we are thankful it was spared), that the news worthiness of Louisiana's continuing tragedy was somehow diminished in the eyes of media decision makers. Louisiana's story virtually disappeared from national news.

We saw whole subdivisions, both single family and apartment dwellings rendered uninhabitable, thousands having been driven from their homes to find refuge who knows where. Many of these homes will be lost to infectious mold despite the best efforts of homeowners and volunteers to clean them out. Local St. John's Parrish authorities have arranged for debris removal and increased police presence to discourage looting, but their capabilities are severely limited. Surviving residents recounted that expectations for government assistance are fading quickly. Time and again we heard residents ask why their area was suddenly flooded when that had never been a problem before. The levees in New Orleans had apparently done their job down south, but all that rain in the big lake and all that water being pumped out of New Orleans had to go somewhere didn't it? Now we know where it went.


We hope that our readers will share some of these stories with friends so the volunteer rescue work will continue, for these tales are truly but the tip of a very large ice berg of continuing misery.


We did not have the heart to ask if these good people had flood insurance. 


YARD DEBRIS PILED HIGH

A mass of debris that once defined daily life.

Eye Witness Recollections of the Flood

James thanked the volunteers over and over until his praises were almost embarrassing. The group helped him to remove remaining drywall, floor tile, and appliances destroyed by the water, but he would not let us go without trying to give something. His eyes were bright with energy as he recounted how he and his neighbors were able to escape by truck just before the water made streets impassable.

"We saw water in the streets and had maybe 15 minutes before escaping by truck. It was like a wave coming up the street. We never flooded here before. I thought they fixed the levees. What have they done to us?" James cut and broke out drywall to ventilate the house after three feet of water stood for two full days before slowly draining back into Lake Pontchartrain. We stood in what was once a nice living room as volunteers shoveled broken tile and remnants of drywall into wheelbarrows. James went to his refrigerator (now sitting on the back patio) and came back with a container of juice. "Here, have some please," he said earnestly. "I know you are all worn out."  He brushed our polite refusals aside and finally we all took a cup of the best tasting grape ever.

"I did everything myself (to clean up the house) and until the church people came along, I was about to give up. They  gave me hope. Then the police told me I couldn't say here because the house is in such bad shape, but it's my house. I got nowhere else to go, and I'm through running. I can fix it up again." He shook hands and one of our group told him he had done well. "Thank you, thank you," he said, tears filling his bloodshot eyes.

 A van moved slowly up the street, trailed by a lady on foot. "Do you all need something to eat or drink?" she called to us. We inquired where she was from. She named a nearby church and we saw unfolded the pattern of love and concern that was repeated many times during the day. 

EVERYTHING SOAKED AND MOLD UP THE WALL 

 Note the black spotted band on the far wall. That is black mold, not a wallpaper pattern. The mold was also inside the wall, climbing the studs and headed for the attic. The mattress was still dripping, soaked through and through. Everything in the plastic containers was dripping wet. As the room flooded, rising water floated, then overturned them. They were under water for nearly three days.

 

Joyce is fighting for her life against recently diagnosed breast cancer. She rubbed her smooth head where hair once spilled down to her shoulders. Following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have taken their inevitable toll. She sat bravely in the shade as the wheelbarrows came and went. Most of her possessions were reduced to stinking unrecognizable globs that bore little resemblance to identifiable objects. And then there were the sounds coming from inside the house. Hammers and wrecking bars punched through drywall. Fuzzy black mold spotted the wall three to four feet up from the slab. Young men, gray haired men adjusted goggles and breathing filters and cut into the rotting sodden carpet, then ripping it apart into three foot wide strips. The stench was indescribable. Some of the volunteers gagged as they worked. Team leaders reminded their co-workers not to wipe their faces with their hands or sleeves. Mold was everywhere. The house had been closed continuously since it flooded on August 29th.

"The neighbors took me out in a boat," she said, her eyes fixed on some distant point. "I've been sick." Her husband had died two years earlier in a traffic accident and her daughter was now in foster care. Her cancer surgery was barely six weeks previous. The sound of breaking china, it sounded like someone dropped a plate, echoed from inside. Joyce seemed not to notice. One of the volunteers stopped near her with an armload of clothing, gently inquiring what she wanted to do. "Maybe I can have those cleaned, " she said wistfully. The volunteer gently placed the dresses across the barbecue grille and went back inside for another load. Another volunteer passed, bent to his work, muscling a wheelbarrow loaded with oozing carpet into the rapidly growing six-foot-high mountain of debris on the curb. "Maybe I'd better go get some rest, " she said. We called for a lady church volunteer who took her to a friend's house a few miles away.

MOLD INSIDE AS THE WALL IS RIPPED OUT 

 Mold moves up studs and if it reaches the attic, takes over the entire house.

 

CIELING FAN COVERED WITH MOLD

These fan blades attest to how far mold contamination can go.

 

Jeanne didn't say much at all on her own, and when we asked questions she would not always answer. A volunteer asked about some family pictures  and said he was sorry she had to go through all this. Jeanne turned to him and burst into tears. Choking on her grief she related how her daughter had died in the Katrina flood. And in the background the wheelbarrows came and went. One of the volunteers worked with his wife who was trying her best to help Jeanne separate things that could be salvaged from those that could not. Jeanne's ten year old son searched through the front yard, here and there pulling a toy or possession from what was once the contents of his home.

How long had Jeanne to escape before the waters came in, we asked? "I didn't leave," she said calmly. How high it it get in the house? "Up to my waist," she replied. And so she stayed in her home for two days on a kitchen counter and a table until the water subsided. We didn't know what to say, so we told her how brave we thought she was. She shrugged. "I have been blessed, and I am grateful to God for everything."

 

Our last note for this entry will be one of admiration for the hardy souls who we saw doing what they could with what they had, asking for nothing in most cases, and offering tearful thanks for anything that was given. The families of La Place Louisiana are good people and we count it a privilege to have had an opportunity to partake of their loving hospitality. Please don't forget them.

IMMERSED CAR IS REMOVED ON TRAILER

 Once an automobile is immersed, it is destined to become razorblades. The water rose so rapidly that many cars could not use the streets.

 

TRASH IN THE YARD

 

All kinds of trash is piled next to the curb.

 

TRASH PILE - remenants of many lives

 

Clothing, appliances, personal papers, bills, bank statements, sodden insulation...you cannot imagine until you wade through it. 

 

DEBRIS ON THE CURBSIDE AWAITING PICKUP

 

What young hands once beat this drum? The comforter, now laden with bacteria, still had the sales slip in the plastic case.

 

IMMERSED CAR AWAITS DISPOSAL

 

The inner surface of the auto window was covered with drops as the sun came out. It appeared as a kind of terrarium inside. 

 

SOAKED ROSES REMEMBERANCE OF A DAY THAT WILL NEVER RETURN

 

Someone had given her roses, long dried and saved for fond remembrance.

 

SALVAGED PROPERTY WAITS IN THE GARAGE

 

Out of a whole household, this was what could be saved. It was all contaminated with innumerable bacteria from the flood-soup.

 Please don't forget these good people.

Monday, 17 September 2012 18:32
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Evacuating New Orleans is not inherently complex, but it is surely a daunting task. Although many infrastructure and planning improvements  have been put in place since the Katrina disaster, the fact remains that New Orleans is below sea level on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

We encourage readers to review this plan an consider how they might behave if they were in the city when it was time to leave. The map shows how main highways will be converted to one way only, headed away from town. State roads are not shown on this map, but they are there and available in case the main routes are jammed.

 

New orleans evacuation contraflow map

 

Note that evacuation destinations are not necessarily going to be safe. Depending on a major storm's course, Baton Rouge, Hattiesburg, or Jackson might be nearly as dangerous as New Orleans itself. Also note that evacuation requires vehicular travel across or adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain. In addition to the lake's water level, we remind the reader that large open expanses of water often allow for wind velocity to increase. Most bridges are closed when sustained wind gusts reach 45 MPH. Evacuation from New Orleans might therefore be quickly restricted to westerly direction if winds exceeded that threshold.  

 

We cannot over emphasize that leaving the area of danger early is by far the best policy. Early departure can keep evacuation at the nuisance level instead of allowing it to escalate to catastrophe.

Friday, 31 August 2012 14:46
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Man made systems such as electrical grids fail from time to time and the more complex the system the more likely it is to fail, but the failure is not the whole story. The Indian electrical power blackout is relevant to the individual for two distinct reasons. First: Although having a generator is a good idea, that strategy supposes that the outage is very brief (a matter of hours or at the most days). Remember that a generator is good only as long as fuel is available, and even if fuels stocks are within reach, home generator operation is very expensive compared to normal grid power. The mere possession of home based generating capacity may only prolong your participation in such a catastrophe. Second: the Indian power grid went down for some specific reason(s). It may be that the failure was the result of local outages creating overloads that turned into regional failures and so on. But we must not discount the possibility that the crash that took out half of the Indian nation's electrical power was the result of an attack or series of electronic intrusions by external forces.

If segments of the power grid were controlled by equipment vulnerable to electronic intrusion, and if that equipment was deficient in cyber-security, this event might well be evidence of a successful cyber attack. If that is the case, the attack was highly successful, and any nation that depends on electricity should be very worried. The economic impact of this event has yet to be measured and indeed measurement may be impossible.

We can be sure that we will read an official India government version of this event where agencies and individuals are blamed and perhaps even prosecuted. We can likewise be sure that the accounts which will be published will incomplete, and if a cyber-attack was in any manner involved, that information will be suppressed to the utmost degree.

The truth will always leak out over time, and we will continue to sift open sources for threads that will help us weave an accurate and complete picture.

Wednesday, 01 August 2012 20:32
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