A tableau of religious icons beneath the apartment's foyer wall of crosses, milagros and prayer ornaments. The pewter tulip tray at right is by Serge Nekrassoff (1895-1985), the Russian-American metalsmith. It serves as a catch-all for mail. A 19th-century French church altarpiece, stitched in gold threads is beneath the trays.
The tray at left with angels at either end is Mexican silver, found in Sevilla, Spain. The tray contains various glass and hammered-silver candleholders, as well as tin milagros from Santa Fe; a 19th-century French silver and gold religious icon; a 19th-century cobalt glass and silver Spanish communion chalice, found in Sevilla and a Spanish crucifix icon of tin and brass, the latter found at the secret brocante in Passy, Paris. The tray also holds an antique French ivory-and-silver rosary and a modern aqua-beaded and silver Spanish rosary from a convent in Sevilla.
A white folk art cross from Guatemala, also found in France is flanked by two silver hearts linked by a chain. One of the hearts still holds a handwritten prayer request. The hearts are from a former convent in Marseilles, France. The wooden monk figure is from a former French monastery. The silver cross draped around his neck was a gift. The framed drawing of a hand holding a pen dripping blood was a gift from Syrian opposition political cartoonist and publisher Ali Ferzat, with an inscription in Arabic.
No, I am not Catholic! As a child, I went to a Baptist church; when I was nine, my mother took us to a Presbyterian church, of which I am still a member. But I am drawn to religious icons and symbols from world religions. One of the things I like about Santa Fe (which of course means Holy Faith) is the little prayer niches or shrines in so many beautiful old adobe houses. Some of these homes even have their own chapels. Two of my favourite books about collecting religious icons are Mary Emmerling's Art of the Cross and Laura Cerwinske's In a Spiritual Style.
P.S. Speaking of religion, John McCain has made a bizarre choice in embracing the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee of Texas. Hagee advocates wars based on Biblical mandates; rants against the Catholic Church, as well as Islam and claims that Hurricane Katrina "was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans." Really, one has to wonder about McCain's judgment in aligning himself with such an extremist.
This is the bag I'll be carrying the next time I travel through US airports. I also sent one to my daughter.
Wherever I go, I carry Cath Kidston oilcloth bags or canvas book bags for groceries and shopping purchases. As they are stronger than paper or plastic bags, there's no worry about the bags breaking and purchases rolling across the sidewalk or the Paris Metro floor.
Beginning May 6, the UK-based Marks & Spencer will charge food customers five pence per plastic bag. The company hopes declining usage of plastic bags will aid the environment. M&S will spend proceeds from the 5p bag charge for helping improve parks and play areas across the country. During the month of April, M&S stores will give their customers free canvas bags.
San Francisco supermarkets have stopped using plastic bags. Do your local stores offer alternatives to plastic bags? Check out Danny Seo's website for daily tips about living "green."
The Independent in London has an interesting story about jeans and garments produced for companies like H&M, the Gap and Wal-Mart. Read Fred Pearce's excerpt from his book Confessions of an Eco Sinner – Travels to Find Where My Stuff Comes From, published by Eden Project Books.
Volunteers are all fired up in Texas, using their skills, time and considerable energy to campaign for Sen. Barack Obama. Whether or not you're interested in politics, you have to give these Texans credit for enthusiasm! On Tuesday, March 4, registered voters in Texas and Ohio will vote in presidential primaries. A record number of absentee ballots already have been cast in the Lone Star state.
Wheels of a train at the National Railway Museum, York, England. Photo by David Holmes.
I stayed up until 5 a.m. Paris time watching the Democratic debate (via streaming video on MSNBC.com). Can't say I was impressed with Sen. Hillary Clinton's performance. She was in turn combative, defensive and petulant. She talked a lot, but didn't say anything new. Sen. Barack Obama remained cool and collected, even when Clinton was talking over him and the moderators. The tone reminded me of the last debate between French presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Segelene Royal - she challenged his positions; he calmly defended himself. Sarkozy won the election.
The hosts of Tuesday's debate should have left the questioning to Brian Williams, as Tim Russert's often inane questions and aggressive manner suggested he doesn't understand the concept of being a neutral moderator.
I'll be very surprised if Hillary Clinton's campaign hasn't been derailed by poor planning and racist attacks, never mind the candidate's own unpredictable behaviour and flashes of temper from both Clinton and her husband. As for Clinton's campaign surrogates, I have been astonished by their racist, divisive actions within the past few days. If by some fluke Hillary manages to pull the rug from beneath Obama and become the nominee, I would find it difficult to vote for her. While I once was a fan, the arrogant and reckless manner in which she has run this campaign has caused me to lose respect for her ability to be an effective leader.
I thought I'd never see the day when a black member of Congress deliberately used a racial slur against a fellow Democrat - and a presidential candidate at that! In a television interview this week, Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones responded to allegations that a Clinton campaign staffer had given the Drudge Report a photo of Obama wearing native dress while on a visit to Kenya. The obvious intent was that gullible people who believe hate-fueled rumours and innuendo would look at the photo and think "Horrors! He looks foreign, "like a Muslim!" The inference of course is that all Muslims are to be feared; never mind that Obama is neither Muslim nor foreign - and that most Muslims advocate peace and abhor terrorism.
Congresswoman Tubbs-Jones poured fuel on the fire:
"This is a diverse country and people across America recognize that. I would not personally have done it (released the photo) and we can't attribute it to anybody in our campaign, but the Clinton campaign does not condone the conduct and we would hope that America is going to have an opportunity or begin to see if we're supporting a woman or an African-American for President, we ought to be able to support their ability to wear the clothing of their nation." Then she said it a second time, for emphasis.
How stupid can an elected official be, suggesting Obama is not American? He's as American as she is. And non-Americans can't run for president. It's no wonder the rest of the world views America's government with dismay, when even Democratic elected officials publicly make fools of themselves - and the candidate they're supporting.
On a brighter note, I was glad to see Chris Dodd, the highly-respected senator from Connecticut throw his support behind Obama. Dodd has been instrumental in trying to stop the Bush administration's telecom friends from receiving retroactive immunity for spying on Americans.
What do you think of all the campaign squabbles and back-and-forth accusations? Do you think an extended race without a nominee will harm the Democrats, when squaring off against the expected Republican challenger John McCain? Are the internal Democratic tussles providing ammunition for the Republicans?
A boy watches clouds of steam beneath the undercarriage at England's North Yorkshire Moors Railway train at Pickering Station.
The train conductor kindly agreed to pose for a photograph.
On the return journey, this adorable little boy played "peek-a-boo" with me.
A train arrives at Pickering Station, the hub of the railway. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway first opened in 1836 as the Whitby and Pickering Railway. It was designed by George Stephenson to open trade routes inland from the coastal town of Whitby. Initially, the railway was intended for horse-drawn carriages. In 1845, the railway was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway and the line was re-engineered for steam locomotives. Permanent train stations and other structures along the line were built, which remain operational today.
Hogwart Express scenes from a Harry Potter movie were filmed at Goathland Station. The hills surrounding the station are covered with thick clumps of heather.
A station sign at Pickering, next to the Porter's office.
James David, the author of the children's book Magic beneath the Moors signs books and gives autographs to his young fans. His book is the latest in a series of mysteries that take place on the Yorkshire Moors.
Baskets of flowers hang from iron lanterns at Pickering Station.
Large carts store weather-beaten vintage luggage.
A trio of freshly-painted enamel fire buckets, reminiscent of the 1920s, hang from hooks at the train station.
Vintage enamel advertising signs adorn a station fence at Pickering.
A vintage sign advertising the famous Yorkshire Relish.
Old oak barrels are lined up on a wooden cart at Pickering Station.
The Grosmont train station.
Puffs of smoke escape from a train arriving at Grosmont.
The steam train pulls into the station.
An old train car has been converted into a local railway office, midway along the 18-mile route.
I was glad to see these two huge moving trailers at one Paris apartment. I've been worried about fitting everything in one trailer, when moving day eventually arrives for us. Now I can stop worrying!
Digging trenches for repair work...
Time to take down the Christmas decorations.
Out for a Monday morning stroll.
CNN and Associated Press cross the line
On Sunday CNN ran an online poll asking if Barack Obama has enough patriotism to be president! With this stupid idiotic poll, CNN behaved just as badly as those right-wingers who specialise in smear campaigns, sending hoax emails, spreading rumours and lies and claiming they are "facts." They are trying to affect the election outcome by bringing false charges into the campaign conversation. Shame on CNN!
And double shame on the Associated Press for not properly vetting Nedra Pickler's irresponsible reporting. Pickler deliberately perpetuated a Republican congressman's false claim and asked Roger Stone - a Republican caught making threatening phone calls to New York's Democratic governor's elderly father - if Obama "has a patriotism problem." "Yes," responded Stone, who established an anti-Hillary group named for a rude term for the female anatomy. An impeccable
scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel source, right?
Pickler also said Obama's refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin made observers question his patriotism. Shades of the McCarthy era paranoia. Or perhaps Nazi Germany? Since when does one need to wear a cheap plastic flag pin to signal patriotism? Do we need to see little flags to remind us of our country? Pickler's reporting is shoddy, careless and unethical pulp. How could her editors at the AP release such garbage?
And to think there's nine more months of this mud-slinging lunacy...
Meanwhile, Obama took the high road in his response to the inane talk about American flag lapel pins. Saying Republicans "have no lock on patriotism," Obama noted:
"A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans' benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary? That is a debate I am very happy to have. We'll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism."
THIS is presidential behaviour?
In Rhode Island on Sunday, Sen. Hillary Clinton again was behaving like a kindergarten kid in a schoolyard mocking Sen. Barack Obama as naive and suggesting his ideas are fantasies."Now, I could stand up here and say, let's just get everybody together, let's get unified — the sky will open the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect! Maybe I’m just lived a little long but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be," she said. "You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear!"
No, Sen. Clinton isn't going to have the special interests disappear, particularly as they're funding her campaign. A group of her wealthy supporters have formed a 527, trying to skirt campaign funding laws. The so-called "American Leadership Project" will accept unlimited contributions from individuals. ABC News reported that the group is seeking 100 Clinton supporters to give $100,000 each to fund a $10 million effort to promote Clinton and "contrast" her positions with Barack Obama's.
Can't wait to see if she continues this Mark Penn-instigated negative, aggressive tone in Tuesday night's debate. I think it is getting her nowhere. Who wants a president who alternates between losing her temper and mocking her opponent? She can dish it out, but apparently she can't take criticism, regardless of her claims to the contrary.
Update 7:45 p.m. - Aides to Sen. Clinton today e-mailed a photo to the DrudgeReport, calling attention to the African roots of Obama. The 2006 photo shows Obama dressed as a Somali Elder (looking like a Muslim, apparently) during his visit to Wajir, an area in Kenya where his father was born. Obama’s campaign responded, calling the Clinton campaign behaviour "shameful offensive fear-mongering" by circulating the photo as an attempted smear.
I can't imagine why Hillary Clinton would agree to such racist, divisive and underhanded tactics. Her behaviour the last few days smacks of desperation. Do we really want a leader who will try to slam a candidate in any way possible, just to win the nomination?
Electronic Frontier Foundation helps track election issues
This year the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is helping keep track of election issues. EFF has long opposed using closed, unverifiable voting technologies, bringing litigation to investigate faulty voting machines and challenge bad practices. The group also has backed legislation towards more accurate elections.
This month EFF successfully tested a beta version of Total Election Awareness (TEA), a web-based application designed to help election monitoring efforts collect and analyze election-related incidents in real time. The first field test took place on "Super Tuesday" February 5th. Working with the Election Protection Coalition, TEA helped volunteers staffing Election Protection call centers (866-OUR-VOTE) in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. They recorded over 2,200 incidents, as well as inquiries from voters from across the country. TEA also recorded details of 600 calls in the Potamac primaries.
The project's next phase involves preparing the tool for use in the November general election. In addition to improving the quality of the data recorded as part of the Election Protection process, EFF is planning to make the November data available to the public in real time. TEA is being developed as a free open-source project so other election monitoring efforts will be able to use the tool.
Not very presidential
In Indiana on Friday, John McCain said he doesn't expect political reforms in Cuba until after Fidel Castro dies, adding he hopes "that's not far off." "I hope he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon," McCain noted. He was referring to the Communist leader who died in 1883.
This kind of statesmanlike diplomatic behaviour is what we can expect from the Republicans' choice for president??!!
Also, John McCain has the worst voting record of all 535 members of Congress, when it comes to environmental issues. McCain missed every single key environmental vote last year, as scored by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).
"When it came time to stand up and vote for the environment, John McCain was nowhere to be found,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. McCain skipped all 15 votes that the League of Conservation Voters considered critical for the environment, including votes where McCain's "yes" vote would have meant passage by a single-vote margin.
Dumb and dumber
On the Real Time with Bill Maher show Friday, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) claimed that Barack Obama refuses to say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. This false claim, along with other bogus information about Obama -came from hoax emails circulating via the internet. Imagine, an elected representative spreading false information on national television! Is he so irresponsible that he believes everything he reads, without questioning or considering the source?
From the Fact Check Center at Obama's website:
"Barack Obama has been a community organizer, a civil rights attorney and taught constitutional law for a decade. In both the Illinois and U.S. Senate he tackled ethics reform and has been an aggressive advocate for veterans rights. Barack's grandfather taught him to say the Pledge of Allegiance and he regularly leads his fellow Senators as they recite it together."
Maybe if Kingston spent more time addressing Georgia residents' needs and less time repeating vicious rumours and lies, his constituents would be better served.
On the attack - again!
Hillary Clinton has again resorted to negative attacks against her opponent, apparently forgetting how these Karl Rove-style tactics failed her in South Carolina and Wisconsin. People simply don't want to listen to candidates - whose policies are more alike than they are different - criticise each other like a bunch of schoolkids. We want to hear how they plan to help solve the country's problems.
Apparently, Democratic leaders' pleas for Hillary to stop listening to her campaign strategist Mark Penn - who tends to favour scorched-earth politics - have fallen on deaf ears. It would appear that the Clinton campaign is in very bad disarray indeed. One night she is conciliatory towards Obama, discussing their separate health care plans with civility and the next day, she's visibly combative and confrontational in her speech, making angry over-the-top accusations against Obama for criticising her health care plan.
She recently told ABC's This Week that "there are a number of mechanisms" to handle her mandates, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment." The universal healthcare Clinton advocates is government-mandated healthcare. That means forcing people to pay for healthcare. Even Barack Obama's plan would require that parents pay for their children to be fully insured.
So it seems strange that Clinton would try to force an issue over a subject that had been thoroughly discussed in Thursday's debate. And wasn't it odd that Clinton said Obama has no "right" to attack her on health care? Since when is a candidate's position on any issue off-limits? So much for Clinton's campaign claims that after weathering decades of Republican attacks, she is the "toughest" candidate to challenge the Republicans in the general election.
Wishing a very Happy Birthday to Kelly at Soul Humming! She and her husband are celebrating with a spa weekend, but won't you stop by her blog to leave a bit of cheer? Kelly and I share an appreciation of religious icons. Photograph of a narrow foyer wall, with a growing collection of crosses, milagros and prayer ornaments from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Spain, France and Italy.
The 76th Foire Nationale aux Antiquites a la Brocante et aux Jambons will kick off at 10 a.m. Friday, March 7 at Chatou. The twice-yearly event is my favourite of all the French brocantes and antique fairs. Among the many exhibitors will be my friends Blandine Bavoux of Jolie Trouvaille and Julie Isore of Agape.
The brocante will continue daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March 16. The location near Paris is easily accessible via R.E.R. train A1 Direction Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Exit the train at Rueil-Malmaison or Chatou-Croissy and walk the short distance to the Ile de Chatou. Tickets are available at the gate.
It had been a long winter and she was longing for a sign of spring. So when she saw the photograph of a beautiful creation featuring robin's egg blue beads - along with the fleur de lys of France - it seemed only natural that a similar necklace might find its way to Paris. After consultations with the designer in Illinois, a necklace was custom-made.
Jena at Little Bird Studio made the silver necklace fashioned of Larimar beads, found only in the Dominican Republic. The necklace is centered by a trio of hand-forged silver charms - including 1800s text, a crown and a fleur de lis. The clasp has a group of freshwater pearls attached.
The necklace is photographed on a 19th-century Paris dress form and on 18th-century French documents.
The president and his administration apparently will stop at nothing in their calculated attempts to scare the American people. In a video blatantly copied from the television series "24" trailer and interspersed with sloppy and misleading Fox "News" footage, the administration ignores well-documented facts and trumpets lie after lie.
The Republicans refused to vote for an extension of the Protect America Act, allowing it to expire. Further, our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas did not cease when the Protect America Act expired. All surveillance currently underway continues, even after legislative provisions lapse, because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.
As Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon: "Just by the way, the whole premise of the ad is that we're all about to be slaughtered because the Protect America Act expired. It expired because George Bush threatened to veto any extensions and House Republicans unanimously voted against any extension. Our blood, to be gushing shortly like a volcanic eruption, will be on their loving, protective hands."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to the Bush administration's latest claims that the government has "lost intelligence" because of the expiration of surveillance legislation:
"The President sadly continues to choose confrontation over negotiation, threatening to veto any extension of the Protect America Act while crying wolf about the dangers of letting it expire. These latest scare tactics represent the President at his most unreasonable, irresponsible and misleading.
"No amount of fear mongering will change the fact that our intelligence-collection capabilities have not been weakened since last week. Even the President’s own Director of National Intelligence agrees.
"But for the President, this debate isn’t about protecting America; it’s about protecting the telecommunications industry and his own Administration. He has explicitly refused to compromise on immunity for telecommunications companies even as he claimed the law’s expiration endangers Americans. I can only conclude, then, that the President would put Americans’ lives on the line to let phone companies off the hook. Democrats have different priorities."
Hmm, maybe those desperate fearmongers in the Bush administration can get jobs writing science-fiction. Their beyond ridiculous efforts to manipulate and mislead the public would be laughable, if their willful intentions weren't so serious.
This overhead light in a London cafe is bigger than a hula hoop. Sitting at the cafe earlier this week, I wanted to be anywhere with a hula hoop, rather than dreading surgery later that afternoon. After a tense day - with my husband trying to distract me by running errands and going to a bookshop to buy a friend's new book - we arrived at the hospital in Chelsea. I expressed my concerns to the doctor, who examined me, then recommended we postpone the surgery. He performed a biopsy to determine if the pre-cancerous area (identified in December) may have spread. So we're awaiting lab results to reschedule my third surgery in four years, trying to keep "pre" from turning into cancer. The key is vigilance, so schedule regular checkups with your gynecologist, ladies!
Sorry to disappoint, but I took only four photos the entire trip. The Moulin Rouge-inspired lamp was in a hardware store window on High Street Kensington. The photo below is at the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras Station, with the sign upside down - a bit like my week has been!
On the train home, I read Elizabeth Berg's The Pull of the Moon, which is about Nan, a 50ish woman taking a road trip, while trying to make sense of her life. Every day she writes letters to her husband. Some of the character's observations ring true for many women:
"It is a case of you (men) feeling that you deserve things; that they are there for you and it is something women seem to struggle with, almost without exception and I don't know why. I don't know where your sense of entitlement comes from. Well, yes I do. It comes from the way you were raised, from everyone telling you, one way or another, that yours is the earth to inherit. That's true... and you know it...I'm not angry. I'm just wondering and wondering and wondering. All our lives we hand it over... Well maybe I am a little angry. But it's not at you. It's more of a class action suit type thing."
That "class action" idea made me smile. Then Nan buys all the fixings for a huge turkey dinner, only to get to her rented cottage and discover the turkey won't fit in the oven. For a moment, she feels sorry for herself. Then she goes elsewhere and buys food that "tasted wonderful and it occurred to me that that's what I wanted in the first place, I was just too shy to tell myself and so the universe had to sigh and shake its head and help me out, which it always will do, provided we let it. This is something I have such a hard time remembering how to believe."
And another passage: "...When you learn to turn from the mirror, when you look up from your hands, you have a chance to see a garden truly, because you are not in your own way."
Meanwhile, seated opposite me on the train is a slender, elegant woman, maybe ten years younger than I. I have brought white chocolate chip cookies, which taste homemade. David had breakfast, but I hadn't eaten, as we had been busy checking out of the hotel, getting the tube to the train, etc. Of course, the woman starts eating a banana - no fattening cookies for her. I console myself that though she may have chosen fruit over a cookie, her skin looks considerably older than mine. As we approach Paris, she goes to the train's snack bar and returns with a huge bag of junk food, which she devours! Memo to self: Give up cookies and pre-conceived notions.
Until today, I haven't written anything about "Faux News" - to me the word "Fox" and "News" simply don't belong together. The proof is in the pudding and over and over again, the Fox "news" network proves its bias: routinely cutting off people mid-interview if their opinions and expertise offend the network or their representatives' right-wing sensibilities. But now talk show host Bill O'Reilly has gone too far, telling radio listeners "...I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down."
O'Reilly's ignorant remarks were made in response to Michelle Obama's statement at a campaign rally that she was "really proud of her country for the first time in her adult life." Certain vitriolic right-wing media outlets immediately - and deliberately - set out to misinterpret them, trying to paint Mrs. Obama as being unpatriotic. These were Mrs. Obama's remarks, "Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are ready for change..." Both Michelle Obama and her husband later clarified that she was referring to the groundswell of Americans getting involved in the political process and acting for change.
After more than seven years of Bush & Co. riding roughshod over the American people, trampling our civil liberties and damaging the Constitution, it's nice to think about having a new government that might make us proud. While I've always been proud to be an American, I have not been proud of the government so incompetently run by the Bush administration.
Politics aside, what is wrong with this picture is that a nationally-recognised radio and television talk show host spewed venonmous words of hate. Bill O'Reilly suggested going on a "lynching party," a criminal act associated with the Ku Klux Klan and its murderous, barbaric and violent past. Yet this man remains on the public airwaves, without so much as an apology? He owes an apology not only to Barack and Michele Obama, but to the people of the United States. Meanwhile, he might consider taking a Teaching Tolerance class at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
One hateful word is all it takes
to conjure frightening images
of ghostly riders.
hangman's nooses and
burning crosses on lawns:
hooded symbols of fear,
adopted by white supremacists
cast out of mainstream society.
racism again rears its ugly head
in the guise of a radio and television host
who casually talks about lynching
a black woman for her comments.
Who made him judge, jury
Such is the despicable behaviour
the Ku Klux Klan practiced
in ceremonies of hate,
violence and murder
that cast a pall
over the American South
and reminded us that
pure evil has nothing to do
with skin color
and everything to do
with a person's actions.
The segregated schools
and separate doctors' waiting rooms
disappeared long ago,
but the undercurrent of racism
espoused by mean, small-minded bigots
remains alive and well
and practiced with impunity
amidst the full-court glare of publicity.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of "meeting" Laura Benedict through our mutual friend Patry Francis. When Laura said her book Isabella Moon was being released in the UK, I told her I'd look for it in London. On Wednesday, I went into Waterstone's Kensington and asked the sales assistant if he had a copy of Laura's book. While the clerk was checking the stock on his computer, my husband went to the fiction section and came back with a copy of Isabella Moon. I was so excited! Noting my enthusiasm, the sales assistant said, "There's a stack of her books on that table." So of course I asked for permission to photograph them, so Laura could see her books in London. From Laura's lovely writing on her blog Notes from a Handbasket and from the bookjacket's promise of revealing "long-buried secrets and lies" as "murder shatters a small town," I can hardly wait to read Isabella Moon!
Here's a paragraph from the book jacket:
"Without streetlamps, the road is black at their feet. But Kate can see well enough; the silver in the girl's hair is its own light and Kate follows her easily. As kate approaches her, the wind picks up around them and the smell of rotting leaves intensifies. Unafraid, Kate reaches out to tough the girl, but her fingers touch nothing and Kate is alone in the clearing..."
Am in London and unfortunately, missing Kari's birthday celebration. But why don't you visit Kari and Kijsa and join the fun? I am sending a handsome Frenchman on his scooter with a bottle of champagne and these sweet treats. Kari, hope you enjoy the goodies and your birthday is filled with delightful surprises!
Decorated scooter in the Bois du Boulogne, Paris.
I am off to London; back at the end of the week. All being well, timed posts will appear in my absence. A photo of the exterior of a 15th-century church in York, England.
The well-worn interior of the ancient church features original stained-glass windows.
A memorial chapel honouring British soldiers.
A stone statue on the chapel's exterior wall.
A stained-glass arched window in a small church in York.
Three shop buildings in The Shambles area of York.
Tudor architecture is found throughout the city.
Tourists flock to York's streets of shops.
Gert and Henry's Cafe is a local institution, most recently known for its burgers.
A bridge leads to an old warehouse.
An industrial building is being converted into apartments and shops.
York Minster Cathedral glimpsed through a side street.
Wow! Talk about saying what you think! Check out this fascinating video of Keith Olbermann's extraordinary straight talk about FISA and George W. Bush's repeated attempts to make Americans cower in fear.
If you're a Hawaii or Wisconsin registered voter, don't forget to make your voice heard Tuesday at the polls!
Just imagine if our children were trying to get an education - even to survive - under such trying circumstances. UNICEF has launched an international appeal to raise funds to help vulnerable children in Iraq. The funds will enable UNICEF to expand vital assistance – including emergency health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, education and critical protective services – to many Iraqi children.
Each of these five dolls has her own hand-painted bird mask, in anticipation of a grand entrance at a party. The one-of-a-kind clay dolls are created by Christine Alvarado at Du Buh Du Designs.
On a September morning in 2006, 15-year-old Justeen Mancha, a U.S. citizen, found herself in a situation she never expected in her own home. "I started to hear the words, 'Police! Illegals!'" she said. "It seems as if those words still ring in my head today, giving me that fear of them busting into my home. I walked around the corner from the hallway and saw a tall man reach toward his gun and look straight at me."
Marie, alone while her mother had gone into town on an errand, was caught in the middle of a botched immigration raid in southeast Georgia. Federal agents barged into homes without showing warrants and targeted U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, like Mancha, solely because of their skin color. Mancha, now 17, recounted the experience on February 13 before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. Her congressional testimony was part of a hearing about problems with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) procedures.
Mancha, her mother and three other U.S. citizens of Mexican descent are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed in 2006 by the Southern Poverty Law Center against ICE. The lawsuit charges that ICE agents illegally detained, searched and harassed Latinos solely because of their appearance — a violation of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights — during an extensive campaign to drive them from the area. A sixth plaintiff is a landlord who suffered damage to rental properties when agents broke into trailers rented by Latinos.
Mancha told subcommittee members about the fear she felt that morning. "I saw a group of law enforcement agents standing in the living room blocking the front door," she said. "My heart just dropped. I didn't know what was about to happen. When the tall man reached for his gun I just stood there, feeling so scared."
When I mentioned in a previous post that I was looking for a copy of a favourite book from childhood, readers came to the rescue. Nancy Sotham in Canada and Vida in Australia forwarded links to the same online bookseller, Abe Books.
I ordered a 1929 edition of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Rachel Field's classic book was first published in 1929 by MacMillan. It is a library version, with an orange cover with black marks meant to resemble wood and a few torn pages repaired with now-yellowed tape. The lovely illustrations are by Dorothy P. Lathrop. I was thrilled to get it and re-read Hitty's adventures - including long ocean voyages and falling at the feet of Charles Dickens! Thank you, dear readers!
Florida and Michigan voters still have a chance to be counted at the Democratic Convention in August. Both states have until June to submit plans to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for party-run contests, that comply with party rules.
But Hillary Clinton's stated position on the matter is disingenuous at best. In a conference call late last week, her aide Harold Ickes said voters in Florida and Michigan should not be "disenfranchised" and that the states were important to the Democratic Party's fortunes. Ickes said Clinton didn't vote on the DNC rules. But as a sitting member of the Rules and Bylaws Commission, Ickes did. In August he voted to strip Florida and Michigan of their delegates.
Both states violated party rules by moving their primary dates prior to February 5. Presidential candidates - including Clinton - signed a pledge agreeing not to campaign in those states. "Those were the rules and we thought we had an obligation to enforce them," Ickes said. So why does the Clinton campaign suddenly think otherwise?
In the same conference call, Ickes told reporters that Florida and Michigan delegations should be seated at the convention and have full voting rights. He said delegates should be allocated "based on voting that took place in those states" - never mind that in Michigan, Sen. Barack Obama’s name did not appear on the ballot. "Uncommitted" received 41 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 55 percent.
If the Clinton campaign is so concerned about delegates from Florida and Michigan, why don't they urge Democratic leadership in those states to conduct DNC-sanctioned primaries or caucuses? Otherwise, Clinton and her aides need to drop their petulant rebellion against rules to which all candidates - as well as the party leadership in Florida and Michigan - previously agreed.
Stones and gold gilt-painted gargoyles awaiting restoration at York Minster Cathedral, York, England.
My how times have changed: the victims have become the aggressors. The Bush administration doesn't consider waterboarding torture, but in World War II Japanese soldiers who used waterboarding against American troops were tried for war crimes and executed.
On Thursday, Steven Bradbury, a Justice Department official and Bush's nominee for Deputy Attorney General testified about torture before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. Bradbury said that "something can be quite distressing or uncomfortable, even frightening, but if it doesn't involve severe physical pain and it doesn't last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering."
Bradbury said that while the victim of waterboarding "might panic from the sensation of drowning," the real question is whether "those factors cause prolonged mental harm." Bradbury claimed that waterboarding - a process illegal since the Spanish-American war - does not. You can bet that if these techniques were used against Americans, anywhere in the world, the Bush administration and the Justice Department would consider waterboarding torture - just as it was in WWII.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) was one of 45 senators voting this week in opposition to a bill limiting the CIA to 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual. That manual prohibits waterboarding, in which detainees typically are strapped to a bench and have water poured into their mouth and nose, making them think and feel they will drown. Lieberman glibly remarked, "[Waterboarding] is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological." Apparently Lieberman has forgotten that sometimes people actually die from waterboarding. In the previous election, Lieberman was voted out of the Democratic party, after cozying up to George Bush. He is now John McCain's best friend and active in his campaign for the White House.
Thankfully, the Senate continues to resist Bush's efforts to approve Bradbury as Deputy Attorney General. Bradbury helped write the "legal opinion" denying Guantanamo Bay prisoners the rights of habeas corpus, in defiance of both US and international law. He is also responsible for "immunizing" former White House counsel Harriet Miers from complying with a Congressional subpoena regarding the U.S. Attorney purge scandal.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives took the unusual step of holding Miers, along with White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress for their refusal to testify about the White House role in the purge. With House Republicans congregating on the steps of the Capitol in protest, Democrats passed the resolutions 223-32. Yes, it will take the Democrats to clean up after this administration.
Photo of art piece depicting a giant surveillance gadget at Centre Pompidou, Paris by Jordana Shalhoub.
As a child growing up in the American South, we were subject to typical Cold War propaganda that infected most Americans, via television, in the schools and in the churches. It was the same sort of fear-mongering tactics George W. Bush likes to use, when he doesn't get his way.
This poem for the Writers Island prompt "time travel" refers to the U.S. House of Representatives' strong principled stand against Bush's latest fear-mongering speeches regarding the expiration of the FISA surveillance bill. For further information about the FISA fight, go here and especially here.
Shame on the senators who on Tuesday caved in to Republican pressure and passed a bill providing immunity for the telecoms. Sen. Barack Obama voted against the measure; Sen. Hillary Clinton didn't bother to vote.
As Richard A. Clarke, former head of counter-terrorism at the National Security Council recently noted in an op-ed piece for The Philadelphia Inquirer:
"... Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire... All surveillance currently occurring would continue, even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year. ...With FISA, he (Bush) is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections."
"The Russians are coming!"
we were told years ago
in that small Baptist church.
Better memorize our Bible verses
and be ready for the day they'd burn our books.
"The terrorists are coming!"
George W. Bush shouts,
his face in a grimace, his false claims transparent;
his concern not for protecting our country,
but immunity for the telecoms
who broke the law
at the president's own urging;
now trying to escape prosecution,
aided by lobbyists and political pressure.
But the House has stood firm;
refusing to bow
to the president's fear-mongering;
insisting on the rule of law;
showing strength in unity,
after the Senate caved.
No crisis here:
just manufactured lies,
designed to keep the status quo
and make a mockery of the Constitution
and those who swore to protect it.
Birdcages and wallpaper panels dominate a display at a children's shoe store.
These children's shoes aren't cheap! The Marc Jacobs "mini" shoes (center) are 150 or 160 euros, depending upon the size. That's $219 or $233 for a pair of shoes they'll soon outgrow!
American Keds in a variety of colours are popular with French children.
The New York Times reported that Sioux Manufacturing of Fort Totten, North Dakota agreed to pay $2 million to settle a federal lawsuit for shortchanging the armor in up to 2.2 million military helmets - including those for troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. But here's the rub: Twelve days before their settlement with the Justice Department was announced, Sioux Manufacturing was given a new contract of up to $74 million to make more armor for helmets to replace the old ones, produced from the late 1980s to last year. Even though their helmets failed to meet U.S. Military standards, the company was awarded another contract!
The Times reported that in a conversation secretly taped, Rhea Crane, Sioux's quality assurance officer, expressed concern about "if we ever had someone get killed and they decided to investigate because they thought maybe the helmet wasn't any good." "If we ever got audited," Crane said, "you know what they would do to us. Shut us down and fine us big time. Probably never see another government contract."
Sioux Manufacturing should not have been awarded another contract. Please consider signing the VoteVets petition to demand Congressional hearings on the government's purchases of inferior helmets. Why would the government inexplicably reward the producer of substandard helmets with another contract worth millions??!!
The Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have filed suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for denying access to public records regarding the questioning and searches of travelers at U.S. borders. Filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the suit responds to growing complaints by U.S. citizens and immigrants of excessive or repeated screenings by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
Last year the Asian Law Caucus, a civil rights organisation based in San Francisco, received more than 20 complaints from Northern California residents who said they were grilled about their families, religious practices, volunteer activities, political beliefs, or associations when returning to the United States from traveling abroad. In addition, customs agents examined travelers' books, business cards collected from friends and colleagues, handwritten notes, personal photos, laptop computer files and cell phone directories and sometimes made copies of this information. When individuals complained, they were told, "This is the border and you have no rights."
"When the government searches your books, peers into your computer and demands to know your political views, it sends the message that free expression and privacy disappear at our nation's doorstep," said Shirin Sinnar, staff attorney at ALC. "The fact that so many people face these searches and questioning every time they return to the United States, not knowing why and unable to clear their names, violates basic notions of fairness and due process."
ALC and EFF asked Homeland Security to disclose its policies on questioning travelers on First Amendment-protected activities, photocopying individuals' personal papers and searching laptop computers and other electronic devices. The agency failed to meet the 20-day time limit that Congress set for responding to public information requests, prompting the lawsuit.
"The public has the right to know what the government's standards are for border searches," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Laptops, phones and other gadgets include vast amounts of personal information. When will agents read your email? When do they copy data, where is it stored and for how long? How will this information follow you throughout your life? The secrecy surrounding border search policies means that DHS has no accountability to America's travelers."
When Nabila Mango, an American citizen and San Francisco therapist, returned from a trip to the Middle East in December, customs agents at San Francisco International Airport asked her to name every person she had met and every place she had slept during her travels. They also searched her Arabic music books, business cards and cell phone, and may have photocopied some of her papers. "In my 40 years in this country, I have never felt as vulnerable as I did during that interrogation," Mango said. "I want to find out whether my government is keeping files on me and other Americans based on our associations and ideas."
Amir Khan, an IT consultant from Fremont, Calif. and a U.S. citizen, is stopped each time he returns to the country. Customs officials have questioned him for more than 20 hours and have searched his laptop computer, books, personal notebooks and cell phone. Despite filing several complaints, Khan has yet to receive an explanation of why he is repeatedly singled out. "One customs officer even told me that no matter what I do, nothing would improve," said Khan. "Why do I have to part with my civil liberties each time I return home?"
Poster from Micah Wright's Propaganda Remix Project.
Sorrel, an art doll handmade by Christine at Du Buh Du Designs, wears a cap and silk dress containing words from "On Love" by Lebanese-born poet Khalil Gibran.
"...But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
"To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips." - Khalil Gibran
On this day in 2000, David met my plane at Heathrow, London. We had first met at an e-commerce conference the previous November in New York. In the interim, we communicated via telephone and email. Two years later, an excerpt from an essay in Gibran's book The Prophet was part of our wedding ceremony at Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy's private chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Wishing you and yours much love and joy on St. Valentine's Day and every day of the year...
to choose a winner for the One World One Heart
giveaway: The names, the hat, the names
in the hat...
The winner is...
Deb Lewis of Vintage Moon Studio. She wins
the heart-shaped bottle and vintage roses
postcard. Two other Paris brocante prizes
will go to Anna of Nature Trail and
Carol Stocker of Spirit's Journey Designs.
Thanks to Lisa of Heart of the Nest for
hosting the One World One Heart event for the
second year in a row. Happy Valentine's Day!
Pictured above: Man's vintage bowler hat on hat stand; twig heart-shaped wreath from York,
England with silk shantung cherries added. They were handmade by Constance at Rochambeau.
Twilight by Randall LaGro, oil on wood panel. Photo courtesy of the Blue Rain Gallery, Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the news:
Sarkozy's bling-bling lifestyle annoys the French.
The Australian government finally says "sorry" to the Aborigines.
The Bush administration's "kangaroo court" draws international criticism.
Military and spy agencies share blame in producing false information for media.
Scientists trace fake anti-malaria drugs to southern China.
On Tuesday, John McCain told reporters in Richmond, Va. that "anyone who worries about how long we’re in Iraq does not understand the military and does not understand war.” Defying the opinions of military experts, McCain said it is “really almost insulting to one’s intelligence” to question “how long we’re in Iraq.” He said he believes the current “strategy” is “succeeding.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, have voiced concern that “a protracted deployment of U.S. troops”in Iraq would not benefit the military. In October, Casey said it will take "three or four years and a substantial amount of resources to put” the Army “back in balance” and that the time frame depends on when “the conflict ends.” Mullen testified last July before the Senate Armed Services Committee that failing political and economic progress in Iraq, “no amount of troops and no amount of time will make much of a difference.” He said “a protracted deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq…risks further emboldening Iranian hegemonic ambitions.”
But McCain denounces questions about how long US troops will remain in Iraq as "naive." In McCain’s stated views, neither the Army Chief of Staff nor the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “understand the military” as well as he does. In a recent presidential debate, McCain claimed he is "the expert” on Iraq.
Let's see: Ignoring the military experts actually involved in the war and spinning his own reality. Sounds remarkably like George "I'm the decider" Bush.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is pouring $2.35 million per week of our tax dollars into an Iraqi group of concerned citizens/former insurgents. Yet this money is accomplishing "nothing," the group leader says.
Obama takes the lead
I stayed up past 4 a.m. Paris time to watch the Potamac Primary results. I was thrilled to see Sen. Barack Obama's landslide victory. But before Obama supporters get too excited, don't forget: the real work lies ahead. Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania will be important challenges. So help rock the vote!
"You can give a fool a thousand intellects, but the only one he will want is yours." - Arabic proverb
"When we start planting the garden of our life, we glance to one side and notice our neighbour is there, spying. He himself is incapable of growing anything, but he likes to give advice on when to sow actions, when to fertilize thoughts and when to water achievements.
"If we listen to what this neighbour is saying, we will end up working for him and the garden of our life will be our neighbour's idea. We will end up forgetting about the earth we cultivated with so much sweat and fertilized with so many blessings. We will forget that each centimeter of earth has its mysteries that only the patient hand of the gardener can decipher. We will no longer pay attention to the sun, the rain and the seasons; we will concentrate instead only on that head peering at us over the hedge.
"The fool who loves giving advice on our garden never tends his own plants at all."
Flowers in Yorkshire, England. Excerpt from Paulo Coelho's book Like the Flowing River.
It's not enough that American civil liberties are in jeopardy. Now Bush & Co. want to force a series of annoying and invasive measures on our allies in the European Union, making it more difficult for them to travel to the United States.
The increasingly-paranoid Bush administration is trying to force the European Union (EU) to implement new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing American armed guards on all US airline flights from Europe to America. EU states also would have to supply personal data on all air passengers flying over -but not landing in - the US, to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, EU officials told reporters. Even more outrageous, the Bush administration is asking European airlines to provide personal data on non-travelers - for example family members - who are allowed beyond departure barriers to help elderly, young or ill passengers to board aircraft flying to America. European airlines have rejected this demand as "absurd."
"Within months," US Homeland Security will force all potential travelers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or purchasing travel tickets. Such a procedure is expected to take several days.
The data is to be combined with extensive passenger details already being provided by EU countries to the US as part of the Passenger Name Record system, a controversial data exchange program supposedly aimed at combating terrorism. For the past few months, the EU has been supplying American authorities with 19 items of information on every traveller flying from the EU to the US!
Brussels has told Washington that its Draconian demands raise legal problems in Europe over data protection and guarantees about how the information is handled. The EU also is concerned about which US agencies have access to the information or with whom it might be shared, as well as issues of compensation if the data is misused. (What? The Bush administration misuse information? They have lots of practice with the personal info they've gained through illegally spying on Americans' email and telephone calls).
The Association of European Airlines (AEA), representing 31 major European airlines has told American authorities "no international legal foundation" exists for supplying them with data about passengers on flights flying over US territory. The AEA said the idea of vetting those who accompany travelers to the airport was "absurd," as the airlines neither obtain nor can obtain such information. The request was "fully unjustified," the AEA said.
Hmm, let's see. Any non-American - including our longtime friends and allies - planning a trip to the US will be treated with suspicion. They must provide extensive personal information before even purchasing a plane ticket. So is it any wonder business investment in America is declining and tourists are choosing to travel elsewhere?
You may know Jose Ramos-Horta as the East Timor president and Nobel Peace laureate. For me, he's simply Jose, my longtime friend. Please spare a thought and a prayer for Jose. He is currently in a medically-induced coma in hospital in Darwin, Australia after surgery to treat three gunshot wounds. Jose was airlifted from an Australian Army Hospital in Dili, where he was taken for treatment after the shooting.
Earlier today, renegade former soldiers shot Jose during an attack at his home in Dili. All his life, Jose has worked hard for human rights and fought for independence for East Timor. His spirit is strong, but all the good wishes and prayers you can muster will be much appreciated. Thank you. Merci. Gracias.
New tennis courts are being built at Roland Garros, Paris. This year's French Open tournament gets underway on May 25th, with the final on June 8th.
A giant crane is suspended over the main stadium at Roland Garros.
Tennis balls hit outside the courts lie on the ground at Roland Garros. All the courts are covered in green tarps, to protect the surface from winter elements.
Pools of water collected on the tarps covering tennis courts at Roland Garros. The stadium is a ten-minute walk from our apartment on the Western edge of Paris.
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Love after Love by Derek Walcott from the book Soul Food, Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds, edited by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce; published 2007 by Bloodaxe Books.
Chicago artist Jill Dryer created this poster.
Dryer considers that the three circles are symbols of hope: blue for the Democratic Party, red for the Republican Party and purple, representing the unity of both parties.
The seven doves are signs of peace and hope.
The Obama poster is available at the stand4change Etsy shop here.
Proceeds will go to the Barack Obama presidential campaign.
"Constance" and her seven sisters have taken up residence in Paris. The art dolls are the delightfully-detailed creations of Christine at Du Buh Du Designs. I blame my fanciful friend Vanessa, who first introduced me to Christine's irresistible dolls. The wirework chair was a gift from my friend Gabrielle.
A reminder of the global goodness of One World One Heart hosted at LisaOceandreamer's Heart of the Nest. It's not too late to toss your name into the hats of nearly 300 participants from acround the world. We will be drawing names for our respective giveaways on Valentine's Day, Thursday, Feb. 14th.
To enter the drawing at Paris Parfait, go here and leave a comment. Since so many people have entered, in addition to the main prizes pictured, I will offer second and third prizes of Paris brocante goodies. Good luck!
And if you're in Louisiana, Kansas, Washington or Nebraska, don't forget to cast your vote in the primaries or participate in caucuses this weekend. Rock the vote for a better America!