When I think of Haiti, I automatically think of Paul Farmer, a physician, humanitarian and global public health advocate who has committed his life to providing health care to the poor -- one person at a time -- beginning in Haiti more than 20 years ago. I had the honor of meeting him and attending several of his lectures, while I worked as a freelance reporter for Harvard School of Public Health. 

Farmer’s life and work were chronicled in Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World,
written by Tracy Kidder and published in 2003. 
In his book, Kidder paints some memorable scenes of life and death in a country where people are lucky to earn $1 a day. 

Today, the picture must be much uglier. 

Think, if you can, of all the fighting that has gone on in our huge and affluent country in the last year over how to share our abundant medical resources. Imagine a fairly isolated and impoverished country of 9 million with almost NO health care providers. Then imagine it flattened by an earthquake

NBC’s health reporter Robert Bazell gives a good overview of the public health situation in Haiti before yesterday’s earthquake:

·         There were three hospitals in Port-au-Prince, a city of 2 million. Now there are none

·         Fewer than one-third of the population has access to sanitation facilities. Fewer than half have access to clean drinking water. There is an enormous burden of diarrheal illnesses in the country, anyway.

In addition to that, malaria is prevalent and so is starvation because of the poverty.

·         Add to that widespread HIV infection limiting the availability of safe blood for transfusions, plus virtually no emergency response system.

·         Many streets in the poorest sections of Port-au-Prince also act as sewage trenches.

Today, bodies and rubble line those same streets. Bazell worries roving gangs may make rescue and recovery difficult for the humanitarian workers that come in to help. 

It all adds up to the most accurate picture of hell I could ever imagine.

For Bazell’s story, go to:

Here's an incredible wide angle photo of the scope of devastation, from The New York Times:

The story of Anne Frank is back in the news, once again, following the death of one of her protectors, Miep Gies, at age 100. 

You might want to take another look at the Birds post on Anne Frank, at

Here’s the Gies obituary in the New York Times:

January 12, 2010
Miep Gies, Protector of Anne Frank, Dies at 100

Miep Gies, the last survivor among Anne Frank’s protectors and the woman who preserved the diary that endures as a testament to the human spirit in the face of unfathomable evil, died Monday night, the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam said. She was 100.

The British Broadcasting Corporation said Mrs. Gies suffered a fall late last month and died at a nursing home.

“I am not a hero,” Mrs. Gies wrote in her memoir, “Anne Frank Remembered,” published in 1987. “I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did and more — much more — during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the heart of those of us who bear witness.”

Mrs. Gies sought no accolades for joining with her husband and three others in hiding Anne Frank, her father, mother and older sister and four other Dutch Jews for 25 months in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. But she came to be viewed as a courageous figure when her role in sheltering Anne Frank was revealed with the publication of her memoir. She then traveled the world while in her 80s, speaking against intolerance. The West German government presented her with its highest civilian medal in 1989, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands knighted her in 1996.

When the Gestapo raided the hiding place in the annex to Otto Frank’s business office on Aug. 4, 1944, and arrested its eight occupants, it left behind his daughter Anne’s diary and her writings on loose sheets of papers. The journals recounted life in those rooms behind a movable bookcase and the hopes of a girl on the brink of womanhood. Mrs. Gies gathered up those writings and hid them, unread, hoping that Anne would someday return to claim them.

But when Anne’s father, Otto Frank, returned to Amsterdam at the end of World War II, having been liberated from Auschwitz, he was the lone survivor of the family. Anne Frank had died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp three months before her 16th birthday. Her sister, Margot, died there at age 19 and their mother, Edith Frank, died at Auschwitz.

Mrs. Gies gave Anne’s writings to Mr. Frank, and they were first published in the Netherlands in 1947 in an abridged version. “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” has since been translated into dozens of languages in several editions, read by millions and adapted for the stage and screen, a voice representing the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

For the rest of the story, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/world/europe/12gies.html?ref=obituaries 

The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.  David Brooks

I’m sure we’ve all noticed an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism developing in the US over the past decade or so.

It’s blatantly expressed on television. Think of My Name is Earle, The Simpsons, et al. 

If you listen carefully, you’ll hear it in the voices of young people who can’t find anything that lights their fire outside their circle of friends and fun, fun and friends.

Anti-intellectualism helped bring George W. Bush to the White House, not once but twice. And, it has elected a myriad under-educated, under-experienced W-wannabees to Congress.  You might call it a non-partisan affliction. 

A disregard for credentials is obvious at polling stations on election day, when a fraction of those registered choose the handful who will make the decisions that steer our lives. 

Is it apathy, ignorance, or delayed rebellion against teachers who made demands on us that prevents us from studying issues -- actually searching out facts -- before we form opinions? 

How do so many people have such strong opinions when it comes to complex economic issues and the intricacies of international conflict and war? Where are people getting their information, when they contradict scientists who warn of global climate change? What books are these people reading?

From what I’ve observed and heard from friends in education, we’re turning out fewer and fewer high school graduates with the skills necessary to pursue university-level  programs in science, technology, economics and foreign affairs. Yet, we’re faced with problems so complex and so dangerous that a person needs a great deal of knowledge in these fields just to comprehend -- let alone solve -- them. 

We’ve gotten so lazy, we let the media do our thinking for us – CNN, Fox, Rush Limbaugh, Air America, it doesn't matter – then claim their opinions as our own. ( 

Add to that the polarization of rich and poor, the shrill and constant staccato of verbal attacks on talk radio and televised talk radio, plus carefully staged events that make it socially acceptable to be hateful and ignorant, and you’ve got the potential for a very serious situation.

Leave it to David Brooks to lay it all out. As you read this, keep in mind that the author is a very perceptive conservative, perhaps the last of his kind.

I will bookend this post with another containing an op-ed from a slightly different perspective, written by Bob Herbert. Taken together, these two pieces should give us reason to pause, then get to work.

from The New York Times
January 5, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist
The Tea Party Teens


The United States opens this decade in a sour mood. First, Americans are anxious about the future. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. Only 27 percent feel confident that their children’s generation will be better off than they are.

Second, Americans have lost faith in their institutions. During the great moments of social reform, at least 60 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing most of the time. Now, only a quarter have that kind of trust.

The country is evenly divided about President Obama, but state governments are in disrepute and confidence in Congress is at withering lows. As Frank Newport of the Gallup organization noted in his year-end wrap-up, “Americans have less faith in their elected representatives than ever before.”

Third, the new administration has not galvanized a popular majority. In almost every sphere of public opinion, Americans are moving away from the administration, not toward it. The Ipsos/McClatchy organizations have been asking voters which party can do the best job of handling a range of 13 different issues. During the first year of the Obama administration, the Republicans gained ground on all 13.

The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.

The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

To continue, click "Read More."
from The New York Times
January 5, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist
An Uneasy Feeling


I’m starting the new year with the sinking feeling that important opportunities are slipping from the nation’s grasp. Our collective consciousness tends to obsess indiscriminately over one or two issues — the would-be bomber on the flight into Detroit, the Tiger Woods saga — while enormous problems that should be engaged get short shrift.

Staggering numbers of Americans are still unemployed and nearly a quarter of all homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Forget the false hope of modestly improving monthly job numbers. The real story right now is the entrenched suffering (with no end in sight) that has been inflicted on scores of millions of working Americans by the Great Recession and the misguided economic policies that preceded it.

As The Washington Post reported over the weekend, the entire past decade “was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times.” There was no net job creation — none — between December 1999 and now. None! 

To continue, click on "Read More."
Dear Friends,

We had it all this year at Christmastime – holiday music, get togethers with friends (at their homes!), a lovely tree, a grandchild to play with, snow, family and more snow. Hope you were equally fortunate.

Happy New Year to all!