Thursday, May 29, 2008

McClellan defends tell-all book (REUTERS)

May 29 - Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that was he was too trusting of President Bush in the build-up to the Iraq war.

The book represents a dramatic break from the close-knit Bush inner circle by McClellan and it drew instant condemnations on from former White House colleagues and even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice-- who -- while in Sweden-- defended the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq.

Jon Decker reports. (REUTERS)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

(ABCNEWS) Camp for Kids Coping With Parents at War

This piece from ABC NEWS CHRISTINE ROMO and MEENA HARTENSTEIN and reported on WORLD NEWS by Bob Woodruff is one of the more moving pieces to emerge from broadcast television news.

More than 1.5 million troops have deployed in the last five years, meaning that as many as 700,000 children in this country have at least one parent deployed. And, according to the Department of Defense, there are at least 12,000 children with an injured parent. While their parents have been recognized for their service, these children are also veterans -- they each bear the wounds of war.(ABCNEWS)


Notes On a Thursday Before Memorial Day (Repost)

By Cody Lyon
The weather goes from cool to warm and the sun is bright this particular Thursday in New York’s East Village. At a Mexican takeout shop, beef tacos are purchased, then eaten sitting on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, under a tree that appears very lush, and filled with chirping birds.

The park is crowded, the playground full of kids, the grass covered with sun bathers, the dog run is noisy, chaotic.

At the dog run, people gather, watching the dogs, apparently a fight has broken out, first between dogs then it spreads among humans. One man pushes another, barks and shouts are traded, as all the dog owners yell at an older man, because of what they say is an aggressive dog.

But the cell phone rings, it’s a friend in Alabama, she says hello and the conversation lasts for a while.

She’s been dating a new guy, she thinks she really likes him and he’s taking her on a trip to Las Vegas.

Near the end, she asks the price of gas and says that it's over $3 a gallon down there. Fortunately, she drives a compact car.

Meanwhile, the older man in the dog run is not leaving, voices are even louder, the others appear mad, they keep shouting at him to leave, the dogs keep barking.

The phone rings again, it’s another really good friend, it goes to voicemail.

“Hey, I’ve had a problem and I need some advice” the message he left said.

Later, after doing some work, a bike ride is taken across the village on 9th Street to the Westside. The bike crosses Fifth Avenue, Washington Square Park’s arch is to the south, the sidewalks still crowded even for 8 pm, couples holding hands, more men with dogs, shopping bags are everywhere, summer fashions are here.

The bike makes it to Christopher Street the river is in sight, headed towards the pier, there’s music everywhere, smiles cross many faces, but up ahead there is congestion.

Two women in a car are blocking traffic, apparently one took another home, the street is narrow, they’re in an SUV, cars begin backing up, horns are being honked. Finally one of the women gets out, she’s young, very pretty and she appears oblivious to the anger behind her.

In one of the cars behind the two’s, a man who is driving and listening to disco music hollers at her, she doesn’t appear to hear it.

“I’d like to go home too b*tch ” he screams in a slightly southern accent, while she climbs onto the sidewalk with her IPOD head-phones on.

Once the biker makes it to the river, the sun is gone and the sky is filled with pinks, orange and streaks of red. The river glistens, almost metallic, as the rays of light glimmer from the west that is New Jersey, the mainland.

To the south, is New York’s financial district, the skyline still misses it towers but a new one has filled in at least part of the gap.

A man walks by, he smiles, a smile is returned, here appears the peace and that moment of reflection only sharable by writing it down.

A couple walks by, they are laughing, holding hands, one of them just told a story about his Mother and the fact that her voice cracks when she's angry.

A large number of joggers are out, all shapes, all sizes, some run fast, as if they're catching up on training for a marathon. They compete with bikers for space. Sometimes, the shoot each other nasty looks.

In the grass, two women on a blanket appear to have brought in some wine, they better be careful, the park police will give them a ticket.

The view to the south offers New York harbor, the statue of Liberty but then, the geographic direction of Tennessee comes to mind.

The night before, PBS “Newshour” was watched, part of a report was aired, it was called “The Costs of War in Iraq” and was reported by Economics correspondent Paul Solman. That report gave pause to this beautiful and busy day in New York City that was now saying goodbye.

Part of the story showed returning Army reservist Brad Heun of Tennessee.

The “Newshour” report showed Huen as he struggled to get up out of a chair, obviously in great pain. It also offered a photograph of Heun, at an earlier date, a well built, athletic looking young man, who’d probably have fit in with the fit and fast joggers this day in New York.

Heun’s vertebrae was crushed in a 2003 truck accident in Iraq.

He now has fused discs, a steel bar in his back and constant excruciating pain in his hip and leg according to Solman’s report.

“Literally, it feels as if somebody just took a baseball bat and blindsided you across your back” Heun told the “Newshour”.

In the report, viewers learn that the army discharged him with only 20 percent disability, which means no benefits. Heun does get medical care from the VA plus $2,500 a month to support a family of five, but no insurance for his wife or children. He’s trying to afford a COBRA policy, but that is too expensive. His 2 year old daughter now needs surgery, but the family has had to put it off, because they simply can not afford it.

Heuen’s wife Beverly tells correspondent Solman, that they don’t want to do the daughter’s surgery at the expense of her not having a home to live in.

“I think it’s a disgrace to this country for me to even be sitting here trying to tell you this” she told “Newshour”.

Earlier in the report, Brad Heun described his constant physical pain in graphic detail.

“At its worst, I have been on an emergency room gurney, curled up, and not even be able to concentrate on simple questions” he told “Newshour”.

Concentrating on simple questions, during a sunset along the Hudson in New York City overcame earlier observations of urban life. Questions about the fate of the around 25 thousand seriously injured military members coming home from Iraq begin to puncture the relative calm of an evening by the river. How many limbs have been lost, how many bones crushed, how many skulls shattered, how many bills not paid, how many minds damaged? Why?

Suddenly, some questions appeared to have answers.

Memorial Day was just a few days away.

Posted by Cody Lyon at 8:03 PM

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the thought not just of me but of all Soldiers who have sacrificed for this Country. I spent 1 1/2 years in surgery, recovery, and rehabilitation. That time was spent with hundreds of other Soldiers, many worse than me. We had to start fighting for a new life at that time different than anything we were used to. The Newshour barely scratched the surface of what happens to Soldiers when they become "of no use" to the military anymore. Thank you again for the thought and more importantly remembering all Soldiers and the new battles we return to.
Brad Heun
4:49 AM
Dayngr said...

Excellent post!
10:30 PM
Anonymous said...

Thank you for finding a way to weave a tapestry of our currently American external reality (war and injustice experienced by soldiers who are/have fighting/fought in the Iraq war) with the commonplace conception and action of recognizing Memorial Day as nothing more than a 3day weekend here in NYC. My support goes out to all soldiers, their efforts and challenges faced as a result of the conflict in Iraq. I am disgusted by The Newshour sharings and even moreso by the struggles soldiers like Brad Heun are left to endure.

Keep vigil and look forward to more posts.

John Grauwiler
6:58 PM
erik said...

Cody, your simple observations of the mircocosmos of Manhattan floating along on the stream of ideals, hope, and sacrifice of our brethen is breath taking.

Thank you for sharing Brad Heun's story with a raw blind truth.
6:37 PM
Charles Sheehan-Miles said...

A friend forwarded this on to me. Thanks for posting -- you really captured some of the tragedy of war.
8:28 PM
cb said...

Thank you for bringing your compassion, and doing your part to bring awareness to an issue, and the true meaning of a day, Memorial Day, that has escaped the consciousness of so many for so long. The deplorable tragedy, and the “reasoning” behind it, that has become Brad Huen’s life, his family’s life, and the life’s of thousands more is unforgivable, but should never remove the honor he, and men and women like him have earned and deserve.

May you continue to have the fortitude and insight to enlighten those who listen, and may you continue to be steadfast in your mission.
9:30 PM

What F.B.I. Agents Saw (Editorial from "The New York Times")

Editorial-(NEW YORK TIMES)
What the F.B.I. Agents Saw
Published: May 22, 2008
In light of a report by the Justice Department, the Democrats in charge of Congress should press for full disclosure of President Bush’s inhuman policy on prisoners.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Their Greatest Worry

by Cody Lyon
The rain was coming down on this chilly May night in New York City faster than Hillary's chances for winning the nomination. Inside the cavernous Crunch Gym on Lafayette, the crowd was `thinner' than usual, no pun intended, but the political chatter was louder than the 90's dance tunes blaring from the speakers on this particularly dreary East Village night.

As Campbell kept the CNN pundits under control on the TV screens above the high tech cardio machines, local gym pundits engaged in some soul searching while engaging in discussion over what they saw as increasing polarization within the Democratic party electorate and perhaps the nation itself.

In the past, the pundits had all been Pro Hillary, but this go-round, the instigator of the chatter heard the voice of a new pundit who hadn't been a part of the discussions in the past.

"Never underestimate the Clintons," said a Pro Hillary Dem to the instigator of the conversations as Clinton supporter continued his arm curls in a rush before he headed off to dinner.

Noting the tremendous numbers in Hillary Clinton's win over Barack Obama in West Virginia, this particular pundit pointed out the danger that spells for the fall, recycling worries that Obama has yet to win over large portions of the traditional Democratic loyalists.

"A lot of people just don't think he's for real or relates to them, for some reason, they don't trust him" he argued adding that the Republicans will have fun with those doubts, in unfortunate, sad and divisive ways that will probably be very ugly in the end.

The Pro Hillary gym pundit recalled the unfortunate history of disappointment of what he called, Starbucks Democrats like McGovern, Dukakis and Kerry.

"The last time a Starbucks Democrat won the Presidency," he paused, then sighed that "the closet thing to liberal who would fit that description, was JFK," he said

But, in 1960, when Senator John F. Kennedy faced Hubert Humphrey and Wayne Morris in the Democratic Presidential campaign, Kennedy did in fact go to West Virginia, and made attempts to address the prejudice and "suspicion" over his Catholicism.

In the end, Kennedy did win the primary in West Virginia.

"Barack didn't even really campaign in West Virginia," said the Pro Hillary pundit.

"When he did, he put on one of those stupid flag lapel pins" grunting as he curled his arm "they (the West Virginians) saw through that crap."

Later, the instigator of this increasingly tired chit and chat made his was over to another Crunch "pumper" and posed a general assessment question about the election, gently prodding to see who's team he was on, and quickly found himself an Obama supporter who proceeded to unleash less than kind words for Hillary and for that matter, a number of her supporters.

"Barack Obama would sail to victory if they don't keep riding him with the Wright thing," said the Obama supporter who noted how the undercurrents of racism are still alive in America.

On Clinton, he said "she morphs herself into "whatever" it takes to win a vote," calling her immoral in her tactics.

"They (the Clintons) have always done that, it's not like they really care about anyone other than themselves, she's only concerned about her power," he argued going on to say that "she's staying in the race because she wants something out of all of this."

But, the instigator felt that Clinton had perhaps learned a lesson in humility, since she'd long been held up as a shoe in, only to realize that much of the nation was not in the mood for a coronation of those individuals deemed next in line. The instigator worried that Clinton's image had been so diminished and that in the end, that image had destroyed the truly populist progressive hidden agenda lying beneath all the political baggage.

So, when seeking to challenge his Obama friend, he asked him about the lopsided Clinton victory in West Virginia along with the other wins in Pennsylvania and places like Ohio, "places" in America that progressives have work to do and trust to win, where aggressive attempts to prove to the economically disenfranchised or higher education denied and affordable universal health care starved people that government can indeed do good things for people, but then, the Obama supporter cut deep.

"In the first place, those people who support her tend to be less educated and reactionary, they always respond to that right wing thinking," and then he said "I think he (Obama) and this new movement needs to marginalize them."

At which point the Obama supporter pointed to one of the more unethical moments in American political history.

"It's still amazing to me, that the Republicans were able to use that Swift Boat shit to derail a man like John Kerry" he said noting the sleazy character assassination attempts made by the infamous Swift Boat ads in 2004.

True enough, but the political anger towards those voters outside places like the island we at Crunch gym call home, Manhattan, caught the instigator off guard.

What exactly did he mean by marginalize them?

Unable, for whatever reason to admit his offense at such a comment, since hypocrisy would be the self describing term, because he too, had expressed similar sentiments back when he participated in simplistic Red State Blue State thinking, when us verses them became a source of his own political and regional rage during the early days of the Iraqi invasion, when people and relatives in his home state of Alabama reacted to 9/11 and its horrific outcomes with what appeared to be different emotions, when he honestly believed that he and others in his adopted city saw the world through completely different lenses, so the instigator just nodded his head, listening.

In truth, the instigator had long wondered, why he had not hopped on the Obama bandwagon of spoken idealism and hope, especially since he too, had at times viewed Hillary Clinton as an opportunistic leader who spoke to the direction of the wind.

Here he was, at the height of his own educational and sometimes tortured intellectual attainment that was in a constant state of analytical stimulus, living daily in this metropolis of New York surrounded by exotic, smart, multinational, fashion forward well educated types who he'd assumed shared mostly similar values.

Perhaps at the core, they still did, yet, New York, was no longer politically unified in how to attain those values, at least it no longer seemed to be so united thanks in great part to this campaign.

. Maybe, it was his connection to his life's past, better yet, his where with all coupled with what he felt was a realistic dose of political pragmatism that led him to the other candidate although, knowing himself, at first glance, he'd have thought a bright new light like Barack Obama would have won him enthusiastically over.

He made his way back across the gym to the Hillary supporter.

"I just had a conversation with a friend who is an Obama supporter who basically just made the entire diary community of "Daily Kos" come to life" he said.

"The tone in his voice, the very dismissive nature," and before he could go on, the Hillary supporter said to the instigator " wait one minute because there are plenty of Hillary supporters who take the same tone."

He then argued that somehow, somewhere, perhaps in a smoke filled back room, a conversation or a meeting must take place. Those two, Hillary and Barack have to come together.

"Absolutely," said the instigator but there was something deeper in the Obama supporters comment and for that matter, the aggressive tones taken by other Obama friends and that drumbeat blasting from the professional pundits, other media outlets and yes, Daily Kos diarists that had let the most blood from the instigator's political being and spirit.

Do some Obama supporters believe that voters like those in West Virginia and other states, cities, towns and homes that are labeled as being absent of the widely used but equally simplistic term 'latte liberals' believe those voters could be simply dismissed?

"When you talk about those people who are less educated or those who don't fit the mold of latte' drinking liberals, you're talking about my people," said the instigator.

"Mine too," said the friend, a Florida native who is a Hillary supporter.

Despite that, a clear and deep connection to their New York lives had gained increasing strength in recent years, thanks in part, to outrage over a Republican party pattern of politicking that had successfully planted seeds of doubt in the national electorate by capitalizing on the fear, pain and tragedy the New Yorker's experienced first hand?

As the chances of Clinton's victory diminished, it was perhaps now their greatest worry about Obama as nominee, that being, that those same Republican players would use the same, misleading and fear mongering tactics yet again.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bin Laden's battle cry for Palestine (REUTERS)

May 16 - In a new and as yet unauthenticated audio tape, Osama Bin Laden vows to continue fighting for the Palestinian cause.

The tape's release coincides with Israel's 60th anniversary this month as a nation.

Bin Laden said the Jewish state was at the heart of the Muslim battle with the West and an inspiration to the 19 bombers who carried out the attacks on U.S. cities on Sept. 11, 2001.

Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri reports. (REUTERS)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cigarette Bill Treats Menthol With Leniency (New York Times)

Cigarette Bill Treats Menthol With Leniency
Published: May 13, 2008

A ban of most flavored cigarettes would exempt menthol cigarettes, popular among African-Americans.

The legislation, which would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to oversee tobacco products, would try to reduce smoking’s allure to young people by banning most flavored cigarettes, including clove and cinnamon.

Link to full story at "New York Times"

Rove tells House panel he'll answer questions in writing

(From: AL.COM)-Mary Orndorff -- Birmingham News Washington correspondent May 12, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Former White House political adviser Karl Rove has declined a request to testify before Congress about the criminal case against former Gov. Don Siegelman and instead made a counteroffer to answer questions in writing, Rove's attorney said Monday.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had given Rove until Monday to agree to appear voluntarily, and said they would issue a subpoena if he declined. Siegelman, a Democrat, has alleged that Rove influenced the federal investigation that led to his conviction in 2006 on corruption charges. Rove has denied he interfered in the case.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Hezbollah Seize parts of Beirut (Reuters)

May 9 - Hezbollah fighters take control of large areas of the Lebanese capital.

Security sources say at least 10 people have been killed in three days of fighting that erupted after Lebanon's government said that Hezbollah's military communications network was illegal, a move the pro-Iranian group said was a declaration of war.

Paul Chapman reports. (REUTERS)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The most Diverse Accent In the United States (might surprise you)

In a 1999 study by Michigan State University professor Dennis Preston, 150 southeastern Michigan residents were asked to rank the "correctness" of English spoken in all 50 states. The South as a whole ranked the lowest, with Alabama at the bottom of the list.

Many Southerners have chosen to reclaim their "r's" and shun the drawl for more standardized English pronunciations worthy of a network anchor. But despite those who work to erase their twang, others are embracing it.

In fact, Preston says Southern accents are more pronounced now than they were at the time of the Civil War.

Link to my full 2006 story at the "Wilmington Star News"

Lebanon is sliding into conflict as violence increases (report from REUTERS)

May 8 - Explosions and gunfire erupt in Beirut shortly after Hezbollah leader Nasrallah accuses government of waging war.

Gunmen loyal to Hezbollah battled pro-government supporters in the Lebanese capital, security sources said. They said fierce clashes were underway in at least two Beirut districts. Violence was also seen in Tripoli and in Jieh near Sidon.

Penny Tweedie reports.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Summer is on its way: So is Your Body n Soul in NYC

repost from 07/2006
by Cody Lyon

Although many New Yorkers grudgingly swear that more than half the
city’s residents are part of some loosely organized mass exodus to
a beach house on summer holiday weekends, those are actually the
weekends that the “left behind” can find the most memorable of New
York treats.

In fact, the non-jet ski set can sometimes find a dose of urban
spiritual nourishment that benefits the soul for months to come.

Not a religious experience, per se, but instead, a gathering of like
minded spirits, all very much alive, enjoying the fellowship of each
other, coming together for one reason, the music, at least that’s
what happened this past July 4th weekend.

The Body and Soul reunion party shook a collective booty to its core
at the PS-1 space in Queens, bringing together a cocktail of
cultures, families and sexual orientations that surely reminded
more than one participant that New York truly is a magnificent
mosaic as former Mayor David Dinkins once proclaimed.

Although Sunday afternoons at the Tribeca club Vinyl (later named
ARC) was the spot to meet the music on a weekly basis for many
years, the weekly Body and Soul party disbanded after facing
difficulty with the club space and other issues among the Djs and
organizers. But for one holiday weekend afternoon, Saturday from 3
til 9 was the time for church, as many of the party faithful liked
to call the Body and Soul experience, back in the day.

Djs Danny Krivit, Francois K and Joe Claussell did not disappoint a
crowd of thousands who had paid a ten dollar admission fee, and
another $6 each for ice cold draft beers that flowed far too easily
under a hot Queens sun in the concrete fortress of music at PS-1. The temperature kept getting hotter as a troubled nation moved another day closer to the 30 year anniversary of its highly celebrated bicentennial, a year that at least a third
of this party’s crowd, might actually remember.

A crowd wide chronic music infection was evidenced by smiles on faces
of every color of the human rainbow, every size on the scale, every
age from 3 to 65, all making moves to the beat of a different drum.
No judgment passed on who was cool and who was not, just pure
un-adulterated fun, joy, release and soul.

Occasionally, after a longer re-mix, or extended session people
would erupt into cheers and hollering this or that or whatever, it didn't matter as long as it felt good, real and true.

All the while, pulsing bodies poured in and out of the building at PS-1, moving among dancers on crowded steps that were crowned at the top with the DJ’s canopied booth. The sun gave everyone a glistening tone, some more than others, as sweat
flowed like a fountain, but, at this party, sweat was a badge of
success, a sign that you’d truly felt the light.

Speakers surrounded the main courtyard of the former school and
sound boomed against the old red brick walls rising up like a volcanic
eruption, only the lava was the sound, carried even further by
speakers in the back of the complex where others danced and played
in wading pools with their kids.

In its later years, Body and Soul saw pilgrimages by the curious
who’d heard about this place where the emphasis was on the music,
not the “scene.” Even European tourists began to make Body and
Soul part of the New York itinerary. According to those who’d
been, Sunday nights at Vinyl (ARC) were where one could still find
the real spirit of New York.

Certainly, like every nightclub party, there was rivalry,
differences, and any other number of shady events or normal human
interaction issues, but unlike most other dance club experiences,
Body and Soul was true to its name.

Martha Graham once said “I am absorbed in the magic of movement and
light. Movement never lies”.

Body and Soul did not lie to the participants left in the city this
past July 4th weekend. That day in Queens let everyone at PS-1 know
that movement is alive and well in New York City and New York is
still filled with magic.

Working poor stand in food lines (REUTERS)

May 6. - Skyrocketing food prices have sent people with jobs and homes to soup kitchens and food pantries in New York.

The global food crisis is even gripping the world's richest nation.

Fred Katayama reports.(REUTERS)

Aid agencies appeal to Myanmar junta (REUTERS)

May 7 - Relief groups and governments urge Myanmar's rulers to let humanitarian assistance flow into the country following deadly cyclone.

Cyclone Nargis has killed around 22,500 people and thousands are still missing. Residents in Myanmar's main city of Yangon have been queuing for scarce clean water as disease, hunger and thirst pose a new threat to hundreds of thousands following the deadly storm.

Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri reports. (REUTERS)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Footage of Deadly Cyclone (REUTERS)

May 6 - Video emerges that shows at first hand the full force of the cyclone that hit Myanmar at the weekend.

Latest estimates put the death toll at around 15,000 and rising, with 30,000 more still unaccounted for after what is now emerging as the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991.

Paul Chapman reports. (REUTERS)