Last Sunday, Donna and I were at Church with Lauren and Trent. I was one of two ushers for the service. The service was winding up. I was outside the doors when in walks a woman who is sobbing. Barely able to speak. As might be expected, I asked “what’s wrong.”
The woman identifies herself as “Deborah ___” – a name I recognize vaguely. She says her daughter and granddaughter were killed early that morning in a car crash – drunk driver – near Madison, Wisconsin. They were coming down to attend church. She asked if she could leave a message for our priest. We go into an anteroom, the other usher joins us and I go into the sanctuary to advise the priest of what’s going on (who is now coming down the aisle having finished the service). The priest exits, greets the woman, listens and the woman cries into his vestments. She says she’s on her way to Madison and needs a few bucks. He gives her some $$$ and so do I. And the woman departs. And then it dawns on us. . . . .
Turns out she is not a member of the Church (though frankly in a legitimate “situation” that might not make a difference). And no one knows her. We Googled the names and alleged incident. And found nothing. The reason I recognize the name “Deborah ____” is that Donna has a friend of that name. Scammed. . . . .
While this has never happened before (and probably will not again), we have discussed a possible protocol for dealing with such situations: are you a member?; know anyone here?; photo ID?; wait right here while we get someone to help. Not a good feeling having been “taken” like that.
So this guy sticks his head into a barbershop and asks “how long before I can get a haircut?”
The barber looked around the shop full of customers and says “about two hours.” The guy left.
A few days later, the same guy stuck his head in the door and asked “how long before I can get a haircut?” The barber looked around the shop and said “about three hours.” The guy left.
A week later, the same guy stuck his head in the shop and asked “how long before I can get a haircut?” The barber looked around the shop and said “about an hour and a half.” The guy left.
The barber turned to his friend and said “hey, Bob, do me a favor, follow that guy and see where he goes. He keeps asking how long he has to wait for a haircut but he never comes back.”
A little while later, Bob returned to the shop laughing hysterically. The barber asked “so, where does he go when he leaves?”
Bob looked up and wiped tears from his eyes and said . . . .
In World War II, 70 to 80 million people were killed. In six years. The Germans carpet bombed cities in Europe with impunity. Rotterdam, Warsaw, Wesel, Leningrad, London, everyone. Everywhere. Military targets were prime but then the Germans thought that killing civilians would sap morale. Anyone that got in the way – men, women, children – died in the rubble. Japan slaughtered 20 million Chinese. 80% of them were civilians. In response and retribution, American and British forces narrowed their eyes – and carpet bombed German and Japanese cities with relish. Tit for tat. Plus two nuclear devices. A black horrific whirlwind of destruction and violence. Brutal. Vicious. Effective. Civilian casualties were the vast majority. The world swam in blood. And the allies read about it and rejoiced in it — if it was our enemies who were getting killed. At the end, Germany and Japan were crushed. Devastated. And they capitulated. Today, Germany and Japan are America’s BFF (or at least GFF’s).
I read with great sadness about the murder – by ISIL militants – of Samira Salih al-Nuaimi – a young woman lawyer from Mosul. Samira was at home with her husband and three children when gunmen broke in and hauled her away. She was brutally tortured and savaged for five days. And then murdered. Her crime? Criticizing the destruction of religious sites by ISIL and questioning aspects of Islam.
The world has dealt with terror for years. But not effectively. And over the last few years terror organizations are well-funded, stronger, spreading and growing. They are frankly all over. Cancer. There are talks of impending attacks in Western Europe. And America. When you read about Samira – and the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of innocents like her who have been murdered by this growing army of Islamic jihadists, and when you contemplate their intentions, you have to wonder if a return to the tactical mindset of the Allies in World War II might serve the world more efficiently. And effectively.
In my post of August 16, 2013, I spoke of sitting on a crowded train while a woman sitting next to me called her credit card company, loudly repeated her card number, security code (“noooo, two THREE eight“) and expiration date – and then proceeded to discuss several contested charges (“They Dwell Among Us“).
I also sit on the train while some people blabber so loud on their cell phones that people in the next car can hear them (“Hi Sweetie Pumpkins Dooty Dooty, I love you sooooo much. What’s for din din Sweetums?” “Hey Frank. I got a big deal cookin’ with the Smorgasbord Company. Nobody knows about this. Relates to that property on Western Avenue. . . . “). Let me say this — it’s one thing to talk with your hand over your mouth – and receiver. And speak quietly. And quickly. I’ve done it (“Donna, I’m on the six o’clock. I get in at six thirty” CLICK). But there are people who believe it is their public obligation to let everyone on the train know their personal and private business (“Man – I really got wasted last night. . . . “). YOU HEAR THIS STUFF!
So I have an idea. Or I’m looking for an inventor for an idea. I want to develop an electronic device that I can aim at some loud-mouth yabberer and ZAPPP! Their telephone will emit a 400 decibel screech that will have their ears ringing for days. OR – I want an invention that will remotely hang up a call (“Oh Bambi – I can’t wait to see you . . . . Bambi? Bambi?). Ninety-five percent of the people on the train will cheer. ZAPPP!!
One of the fears that I have heard expressed about the Ebola virus is now that it is in the U.S. — outside of “safe rooms” — it will spread all over and be the end of civilization as we know it. I’m not sure that the doomsayers have much more to go on than their own angst or the arms-in-the-air media which trumpets fear and horror on a daily basis. But think about it. Africa for all of its diminished hospital/medical capability, contaminated water, hygiene and nutrition issues and impoverished population is not being ravaged with the Ebola virus. In fact Ebola has been pretty subdued.
Ebola was first identified in 1976 and since then has made its way through various African countries. Fatalities have numbered from a few hundred to a few thousand annually. Yet this viral outbreak is nothing like the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. World War I killed 16 million people. But the Flu Epidemic in the two years following the war killed nearly 50 million people. 1/5 of the world’s population was affected. Today we have better knowledge about and resource against the flu. And Ebola – while a problem which is nearly incurable – remains muted. Ebola is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids. It is not an airborne virus. It’s actually difficult (all right – make that “not easy“) to catch. And there are clinical trials on treatments for the disease. Things are – cautiously – looking up.
I still have my government-issued WHO medical history card (which I keep with my passport). It contains all the vaccinations and immunizations that I’ve had. It’s required for entry into some countries. It might be a good idea for America to resurrect a more stringent admission requirement for those entering the country. Legally or illegally.
My cousin Jack is a structural virologist who has a laboratory at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla. Some years ago, he explained viruses to me as being analogous to a hypodermic syringe. They invade a cell, inject the needle into the next cell, plunge in the (usually) bad stuff. And the procedure is replicated. Cell to cell. Before you know it the cold virus, herpes, rhinovirus or the Ebola virus spread.
Viruses are different from bacteria – which are living organisms (and treated with antibiotics). Viruses could be considered a “life form” since they carry genetic material, reproduce and evolve. But viruses have no cell structure and thus are described as organisms “on the edge of life.” Antibiotics do not work on viruses. When you get a cold, it’s going to run its course. Herpes may be your constant companion. But vaccinations against certain viruses can help a host avoid contagion (witness the vaccines against flu, hepatitis, herpes, shingles, and HPV). Usually viruses are “bad stuff.” However there may be opportunities for using viruses for genetic modification. Jack mentioned that there is a scene in the The Bourne Legacy which touches – quite accurately – on this possibility. According to many, the notion of using viruses for genetic modification is not so far-fetched (see http://www.wired.com/2012/08/bourne-legacy-gene-doping).
As to the hullaballoo about the Ebola virus, Jack commented that Ebola has been in the U.S. for decades. It has been kept – and studied – in laboratories with BSL 4 (“Biological Safety Level 4“) facilities. A “monoclonal antibody” made by Mapp Pharmaceuticals appears to be the first therapeutic to change the course of Ebola infection in humans. That’s why the two suffering from Ebola were brought to the U.S. This antibody could never have been made without the years of research. While cautious, Jack said that such monoclonal antibodies have made some inroads in more than one form of cancer. And that inroad appears to be working with Ebola. See http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/04/health/ebola-drug-questions/index.html?hpt=hp_t1 Want a good read on the subject? Read The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. Wow!
Years ago – I would flit off to Spain and Portugal every few months. Once I was returning on a Wednesday TWA flight from Lisbon to Chicago. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1:10 pm. I arrived at the airport in good order (probably 90 minutes ahead of departure) and got in the check in line. There were no clerks checking in passengers. So we stood. 12:15 pm. 12:30. 12:45. No clerk. No nothing. People were grumbling. Looking at watches and the marquee with flight information. Finally at about 1:00 pm, a man emerged from the back – behind the counter – and advised that the flight was oversold and was taking no passengers (which was odd since some folks had stood there for two hours). “Come back on Friday and we’ll make sure we get you on a flight.” And the clerk beat a hasty retreat.
The Portuguese travelers picked up their suitcases and headed for the exits. Not so the 14 Americans who remained. Fuming. We huddled. Brief introductions. Two of us went off in search of answers and help. I left my luggage with a bunch of complete strangers. After a call to TWA from the American Embassy (“please take care of these folks“), we were offered lunch. TWA personnel took our names – promising to call family to let them know of the glitch in service. The plan was to fly us to Frankfurt that afternoon and put us up in the Airport Hotel. Next morning, we would head off to our respective destinations.
Lunch was okay and the BOAC flight to Frankfurt uneventful. I checked into a non descript hotel room in Frankfurt. Showered. And shuffled down for a late dinner. Then back up to the room. And sleep. Next morning, I was on a flight through London to New York. I arrived home – finally. Lauren seemed especially glad to see me.
I learned that the TWA folks in Lisbon had called my home. Donna was playing tennis and Lauren (age 10) was home alone. Lauren answered the phone. “This is a TWA emergency! I must speak with Mrs. Petersen. TWA Emergency.” Lauren said her mom was not home and – click – the line went dead. Lauren called the tennis center. Hysterical. Donna rushed home and after an hour of calling – and waiting – learned that I had not deep sixed into the Atlantic but simply been delayed. Lauren was relieved. When Donna arrived home, she had been sobbing. Holding my picture. TWA emergency.