April 30, 2013

Death by his own hair

Indian stuntman dies as he uses only his hair to cross Teesta River

 Indian Stuntman Death By Own Hair

A record-holding Indian stuntman known for using his long hair in weird ways died Sunday as he attempted to cross a river on a zip-line attached to his ponytail.

Officials say Sailendra Nath Roy, 49, was halfway across the Teesta River in West Bengal when he suffered a massive heart attack and died. His body, held to the wire by his ponytail 70 feet above the river, hung for nearly 45 minutes as horrified spectators, who had come to cheer him on, watched from a nearby bridge

Roy, a police officer, made it about 300 feet across the 600-foot wire before he became stuck.

"He was desperately trying to move forward. He was trying to scream out some instruction,” Balai Sutradhar, a photographer who was covering the stunt, told BBC News. “But no one could follow what he was saying. After struggling for 30 minutes he became still.”
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“His wife used to urge him to quit doing dangerous stunts,” an anonymous friend told the BBC. “Mr. Roy convinced her that crossing the Teesta River would be his last. Unfortunately, that became his last stunt."

Roy had no permission to do the stunt and had set up the zip-line earlier in the day. He wore a life jacket but had little else in the way of safety gear. The BBC reported there were no doctors or emergency personnel on site.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 PM | Permalink

“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,”

He Left a Fortune, to No One

When Roman Blum died last year at age 97, his body lingered in the Staten Island University Hospital morgue for four days, until a rabbi at the hospital was able to track down his lawyer.

Mr. Blum, a Holocaust survivor and real estate developer, left behind no heirs and no surviving family members — his former wife died in 1992 and the couple was childless.
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Much about Mr. Blum’s life was shrouded in mystery…..But perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding Mr. Blum is why a successful developer, who built hundreds of houses around Staten Island and left behind an estate valued at almost $40 million, would die without a will.

That is no small matter, as his is the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.

“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Mr. Blum after doing carpentry work for him in the 1970s.

Gary D. Gotlin, the public administrator handling the case, sold Mr. Blum’s home on Staten Island, auctioned off his jewelry and his furniture and is putting other properties that he owned on the market. Mr. Gotlin’s office, which is overseen by Surrogate’s Court in Richmond County, is also using Mr. Blum’s estate to pay his taxes, conduct an in-depth search for a will and hire a genealogist to search for relatives. If none are identified, the money will pass into the state’s coffers. That, Mr. Blum’s friends said, would be a tragedy, compounding the one that befell him as a young man in Eastern Europe.

I spoke to Roman many times before he passed away, and he knew what to do, how to name beneficiaries,” said Mason D. Corn, his accountant and friend for 30 years. “Two weeks before he died, I had finally gotten him to sit down. He saw the end was coming. He was becoming mentally feeble. We agreed. I had to go away, and so he told me, ‘O.K., when you come back I will do it.’ But by then it was too late. We came this close, but we missed the boat.”

Roman Blum was, by all accounts, an emotional man with a large personality. Six feet tall and handsome, he was a ladies’ man, a gambler and a drinker. He was also enterprising and tough in business.

“He had deeds on his desk piled up to the ceiling of properties he owned,” said Vincent Daino, who was Mr. Blum’s neighbor for 25 years and became his unpaid driver when the older man’s eyesight began to fail. “There were royalties from oil rigs in Alaska, money from his stocks — about once a month he would have me drive him to the bank so he could deposit $100,000 checks.”

In the months after the war, Mr. Blum met a family of survivors with two daughters. One of them, Eva, had been in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He married her, although by all accounts it was not a love match. “It was immediately after the war — he thought she was the last Jewish woman alive, and she thought there were no more men,” said a friend and fellow Holocaust survivor who met Mr. Blum around that time.
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The Blums struggled to start a family. Mrs. Blum told her friends that she was unable to have children, and the couple spent thousands of dollars on doctors’ visits. According to stories that swirled around the couple, Mrs. Blum had been a subject of the dreaded Dr. Josef Mengele while at Auschwitz, and his experiments had rendered her infertile.

In the 1960s, on a five-week trip to Israel on the Queen Elizabeth, Mr. Blum found a boy, an orphan, whom he wished to adopt. But friends who were with them said Mrs. Blum begged him not to go through with the adoption, convinced that her doctors would ultimately be able to help them conceive. They did not adopt the boy and never had children.

Then, in 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened, linking Brooklyn and Staten Island, and many in the group, including Mr. Blum, began buying land on Staten Island. Prices were low, and Mr. Blum began developing land and building homes……

By the 1980s, with his business thriving, Mr. Blum decided to relocate to Staten Island. He built a large brick house in the upscale neighborhood of Southeast Annadale, with four bedrooms and five bathrooms, a two-car garage and a pool.

Mrs. Blum did not want to move. “He wanted her to go live with him in his big house with a swimming pool, but she loved the city,” said the friend who wished to be unidentified. “All her friends were there, and with his lifestyle, if she went with him, she knew she would be alone a lot.” Mrs. Blum stayed in Queens and Mr. Blum moved into the new house.

“Fifty years of marriage and he just left,” said Sherri Goldgrub, who married Charles Goldgrub in 1980 and knew the Blums well. “He would sometimes come back and bring her his laundry, but she sat home waiting, thinking he’d be back for dinner.”
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After the hospital rabbi found his body in the morgue, he notified Mr. Fishler, the lawyer, who then notified Mr. Blum’s old friends from Queens. To the surprise of many, Mr. Blum had bought a cemetery plot next to his former wife’s. He was buried there.

“It is a heartbreaking story, a tragedy,” said Mr. Pomeranc, who was one of the few people who attended Mr. Blum’s funeral. “I spoke with him three days before he died. We were going to get the whole group together and take a ride out to see him that weekend. But it didn’t happen, and then the next week he passed away.”

Too late, too late.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 PM | Permalink

Gravestones hold hands over a wall that separates a wife from her husband

 Hands Across Gravestones

What a lasting image of love over the walls that separate people

Catholic wife and Protestant husband, separated after death by religious bigotry

Grave of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband. The Protestant Colonel of Cavalry, JWC of Gorkum married the Catholic damsel JCPH of Aefferden. This "mixed" marriage, at that time (the 19th century), would have given them trouble. The wife wanted to be buried next to her husband, but the difference in their denomination would not allow that. So the Colonel was buried in the Protestant part, against the separation wall and his wife was buried on the Catholic side.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

April 29, 2013

Giving Martyrdom a Bad Name

Get Ready to Die

We all have a lot of reasons to be irate with Islamic extremists these days. I’d like to add one to the list: they’re giving martyrdom a bad name.
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Muslims, it seems, think that they can martyr themselves so long as their suicide involves carnage and the death of infidels. I’m not certain whether any Muslim can choose to initiate the process at any time, or whether further restrictions apply, but in any case it doesn’t work the same way in Christianity. For Christians, killing your way to the glory of martyrdom has never been an option. You have to be the one to die, and not by your own hand; somebody else (motivated by hatred for the faith) has to do the deed. This requirement has been a source of frustration for many a would-be martyr. St. Francis of Assisi hoped for martyrdom, but the poor devil was so likable that he couldn’t convince anybody to off him. He had to settle for being a saint, the first stigmatist, and the founder of one of the Church’s greatest religious orders.
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The Christian way is better, and not only because it clearly does not permit us to place a bomb next to an innocent 8-year-old and detonate it. It is better because it clarifies what martyrdom is really about: not killing, but dying, and dying as a means of honoring one’s deepest commitments.

I think it is not too much to state that, if there is nothing for which you would be willing to die (at least in principle, though in practice we can never know our own strength until the moment presents itself), you have no honor. You may make superficial gestures towards commitment, but at the end of the day, the thing that matters most to you is you. Everything else can be tossed aside if need be, for the sake of preserving your own miserable hide. That is not the state of an honorable person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2013

We do not want you to be like whose who have no hope

We do not want you to be like whose who have no hope – A Reflection on Modern Christian Attitudes Toward Dying

it is not necessarily death that we fear, but dying.  Dying is something none of us have ever done before, and we tend to fear the unknown. Further, most of us realize the dying involves some degree of agony. Instinctively, and understandably, we draw back from such things. 

Even Jesus, in his human nature, recoiled at the thought of the agony before him, so much so, that he sweat blood and asked if possible, that the cup of suffering could be taken from him. Manfully though he embraced Father’s will, and our benefit rather than his.  Still, he did recoil humanly at the suffering soon to befall him.  So then, here are some reasons that explain and make understandable why we do not run toward death. 

But it remains true, that for a faithful Christian, the day we die is the greatest day of our life.
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Addiction to comfort has deceived, and seduced us such that we are no longer in touch with our hearts greatest long and we cling to passing things and (I would argue, as does my family friend) we seem little different from those who have no hope. Put most regretfully, we no longer witness to a joyful journey to God that says, “Closer to Home!….Soon and Very Soon I am going to see the King….Soon I Will be Done with the troubles of this World….Going home to live with God!”

As stated, there are legitimate reasons to be averse to dying. But how about even a glimmer of excitement from the faithful as we see the journey coming to an end.  St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians regarding death We do not want you to be like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

“The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,”

Consciousness After Death: Strange Tales From the Frontiers of Resuscitation Medicine

Sam Parnia practices resuscitation medicine. In other words, he helps bring people back from the dead — and some return with stories. Their tales could help save lives, and even challenge traditional scientific ideas about the nature of consciousness.

“The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,said Parnia, a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital and director of the school’s resuscitation research program. “It continues for a few hours after death, albeit in a hibernated state we cannot see from the outside.”
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It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known. Parnia, leader of the Human Consciousness Project’s AWARE study, which documents after-death experiences in 25 hospitals across North America and Europe, is studying the phenomenon scientifically.

Wired interviewes Parnia

I decided that we should study what people have experienced when they’ve gone beyond cardiac arrest. I found that 10 percent of patients who survived cardiac arrests report these incredible accounts of seeing things.

When I looked at the cardiac arrest literature, it became clear that it’s after the heart stops and blood flow into the brain ceases. There’s no blood flow into the brain, no activity, about 10 seconds after the heart stops. When doctors start to do CPR, they still can’t get enough blood into the brain. It remains flatlined. That’s the physiology of people who’ve died or are receiving CPR.

Not just my study, but four others, all demonstrated the same thing: People have memories and recollections. Combined with anecdotal reports from all over the world, from people who see things accurately and remember them, it suggests this needs to be studied in more detail.
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Wired: One of the first after-death accounts in your book involves Joe Tiralosi, who was resuscitated 40 minutes after his heart stopped.
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When Tiralosi woke up, he told nurses that he had a profound experience and wanted to talk about it. That’s how we met. He told me that he felt incredibly peaceful, and saw this perfect being, full of love and compassion. This is not uncommon.

People tend to interpret what they see based on their background: A Hindu describes a Hindu god, an atheist doesn’t see a Hindu god or a Christian god, but some being. Different cultures see the same thing, but their interpretation depends on what they believe.
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At the very least, it tells us that there’s this unique experience that humans have when they go through death. It’s universal. It’s described by children as young as three. And it tells us that we should not be afraid of death.
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These observations raise a question about our current concept of how brain and mind interact. The historical idea is that electrochemical processes in the brain lead to consciousness. That may no longer be correct, because we can demonstrate that those processes don’t go on after death.

There may be something in the brain we haven’t discovered that accounts for consciousness, or it may be that consciousness is a separate entity from the brain
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:09 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2013

Don't forget

 David Shrigley GravestoneThe Artist David Shrigley , 2013 Turner Prize Nominee

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2013

Dogs in Heaven

 Dog In Lightbeam-1

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” - Will Rogers

"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons."
    - James Thurber

"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made."
    -Roger Caras

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 PM | Permalink

Grave desecration in Georgia by relic hunters?

Anger as graves of soldiers from Revolutionary and Civil war are dug up and spilled throughout historic cemetery

Historical cemetery dating back to 1758 holds graves of veterans from the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World World
Among those dug up was the grave of 14-month Emma Jane McElmurray who was buried in 1884

Caretakers of one of Georgia’s oldest cemeteries say the scene was heart-breaking: A toddler’s bones were spilled on the ground. The uniform buried with a soldier in another plot was strewn on the ground.

 Desecrated Iron Casket
This iron casket contained the remains of a 14-month-old girl which were dumped out.  

Clothing buried with a soldier was removed, leaving his bones exposed, Burke County sheriff’s Sgt. Sean Cochran said.
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Among the soldiers desecrated were those dating back to the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War I, he said.

Relic hunting is a possible motive, he said, though authorities aren’t certain what the motivation was.

'Most of the time when soldiers were buried, they were buried with their items to keep the enemy soldiers from getting them,' Cochran said.

Leroy Bell Jr., commander of the American Legion post that cares for the cemetery, discovered the damage on Saturday.
'Somebody is very sick to do something like this, to desecrate a grave,' Bell told WFXG.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

April 19, 2013

Moments before his death, alert and perched, waiting for his father

This photo is heartbreaking. 

 Bomber+Victimmartin Richard

Pictured just feet from the man who 'killed him': Chilling image shows eight-year-old Martin standing beside Boston bomb suspect moments after 'he planted explosive'

Martin perched on spectator fencing waiting to give his runner father a hug.  Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is seen lurking behind him in the crowd

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2013

Noonan on the Thatcher funeral

 Thatcher-Funeral Casket Roses

Britain Remembers a Great Briton

Thatcher's funeral was striking in that it was not, actually, about her. It was about what she thought it important for the mourners to know. The readings were about the fact of God, the gift of Christ, and the necessity of loving your country and working for its betterment. There were no long eulogies. In a friendly and relatively brief address, the bishop of London lauded her kindness and character. No funeral of an American leader would ever be like that: The dead American would be the star, with God in the position of yet another mourner who'd miss his leadership.
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At the end of the funeral they all marched down the aisle in great procession—the family, the queen, the military pallbearers carrying the casket bearing the Union Jack. The great doors flung open, the pallbearers marched forward, and suddenly from the crowd a great roar. We looked at each other. Demonstrators? No. Listen. They were cheering. They were calling out three great hurrahs as the pallbearers went down the steps. Then long cheers and applause. It was electric.

England came. The people came. Later we would learn they'd stood 30 deep on the sidewalk, that quiet crowds had massed on the Strand and Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill. A man had held up a sign: "But We Loved Her."

-Thatcher-Funeral "We Loved-Her"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 PM | Permalink

Lessons from the Thatcher funeral

When planning a funeral, there are important lessons that can be learned from the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

1.  Funerals should not be a celebration of the life of the deceased.  That's the important function of the after-party or memorial when people get together to share stories of the deceased and to laugh and cry together.    Funerals should be a ritual of well-chosen words and hymns that by their very unoriginality bring order to troubling feelings and awaken a sense of mortality in all present.    By remembering that we all will die, we become more alive. 

2.  Choose beautiful music to express what can not be said.

Christopher Howes Margaret Thatcher's funeral: a miraculous pairing of words and music

The nation discovered its own feelings through the beautifully judged ceremonial of Lady Thatcher’s funeral.

For the guests at St Paul’s there were lines from Eliot’s “Little Gidding” to contemplate while they waited. “A people without history is not redeemed from time,” they read. “In a secluded chapel, / History is now and England.”  If not in a secluded chapel, but in a cathedral so airy that a crowd of 2,000 merely carpeted its pavement, history was present, under every sight and sound.

This funeral was not a celebration of life, not even a memorial. The service chosen by Lady Thatcher did not feature quirky personal favorites. Many people think they are being original by choosing Stairway to Heaven or Bat Out of Hell for their own funerals. It was unoriginal, and in that lay its power. It was not personalized, but leant on the Book of Common Prayer and well-thumbed hymn books.

For that very reason it was relevant to all  those in St Paul’s and all who found time to watch on television. From the moment her coffin was met at St Clement Danes with the words, “We who are baptised in the death of Christ,” the topic was something universal: death. This was not divisive but, in the words of the Bishop of London, “the common destiny of all human beings”. It was, yesterday, as if the millions watching were following a stage tragedy. The difference was that this was a true story, and the tragic flaw of the heroine was not a moral failing but mortality itself.

The Church of England service emphasized two things: the reality of death, with no demurring, and the hope of resurrection. “The days of man are but grass,” read Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin. “For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.” Left at that, it would be no more than Hadrian’s sad farewell to the soul: “Animula, vagula, blandula.” But it was not left at that. From deep, dim waters it strove upwards towards the light.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” the Prime Minister read from the Gospel of St John. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Those were words of Jesus, and, in the passage read, Thomas usefully responded, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest.” Nothing could rub in more sorely that we cannot see beyond the dark and narrow gates of death.
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Even so, the words read out may have made an uncertain impression. We are not used to listening. A sermon is a thing to be shunned, though the Bishop of London summed up proceedings as well as could be done in one sentence: “The natural cycle leads inevitably to decay, but the dominant note of a Christian funeral service, after the sorrow and the memories, is hope.”

For all the feebleness of fleeting words to capture the attention, something else penetrates the leathery coating of the unexercized heart – music. That was surely what brought a tear to the eye of anyone capable of weeping. It takes different people in different ways. Vaughan Williams’s setting for Bunyan’s To Be a Pilgrim brought out its defiance: “Though he with giants fight: / He will make good his right / To be a pilgrim.” Like “Invictus” (“I am the master of my fate”), its defiance is clear, but can it be true? If we fight a giant, won’t the giant win?

So for me, the dart that pierced the carapace was Fauré’s setting of In Paradisum. This Latin antiphon is associated with the carrying of the corpse to the grave. Fauré’s gentle music let the words speak: “Et cum Lazaro quondam paupere / aeternam habeas requiem.” With Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest. The Lazarus in question is the man in the parable who lay, full of sores, at the rich man’s gate.

The point is not political, but rather that, if we are lucky, we will fare as well as a loathsome beggar, who was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. If all careers end in failure, all lives end in absolute poverty. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither,” said Job. The point is obvious, which is why it needed to be said at a funeral, where things are spoken that are impossible to say informally between mourning members of a family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink

Thatcher Funeral

Many wonderful pictures at the links

Britain gives Baroness Thatcher send-off she deserved. Hundreds of thousands line streets to applaud her coffin before magnificent service at St Paul's that united friends and former political foes

More than 250,000 lined the streets of London, clapping and cheering as her coffin processed through London.  Others threw white roses in the path of the gun carriage that carried Lady Thatcher to St Paul's.

 Pro Thatcher Supporter

Ringing applause drowns out the odd jeer as more than 250,000 people pack the streets to pay their final respects to Lady Thatcher

Many mourners fell silent as the coffin travelled by gun carriage to St Paul's Cathedral

 Thatcher Cortege Central-London

This is my favorite…..

 Overhead Thatcher Funeral Stpaul's Dome

Except for this.  The Chapel of St Mary where the coffin rested overnight is simply gorgeous.

 Thatcher Coffin Chapel St. Mary

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 AM | Permalink

April 17, 2013

Grave Vandal, Clare Burke, 79

Caught on camera, the 79-year-old grave vandal: Hidden CCTV shows culprit dumping bags or gravel and dead flowers

-Grave Vandal Clare Burke
Clare Burke was filmed after a widower upset at the desecration of his wife’s final resting place hid a CCTV camera in a nearby tree.  Ron Wilks, 77, saw Burke throwing dead flowers and gravel on to the grave of his wife Jill and their one-day-old granddaughter Hayley Reynolds.

Burke attacked the grave because she had a grudge against Mr Wilks, a court was told. She resented him because he had become engaged to a woman who used to date her former partner.

Prosecutor Sharon Jomaa told Cheltenham magistrates that the hidden  camera showed Burke emptying carrier bags full of dead flowers and gravel  over the grave.

Claire Burke repeatedly desecrated the grave of Jill Wilks and her one-day-old granddaughter.  She would pull up live flowers and ‘plant’ dead ones in flower holders at the burial plot at Coney Hill Cemetery in Gloucester, she said.

‘The matter was very distressing for all the family and for Mr Wilks’s daughter Debbie, the mother of  the one-day-old baby,’ she told  the court.
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‘Any interference with a grave is a reprehensible act and it was intended to cause distress. There is a great deal of background in this case but none can justify what she did and she doesn’t suggest that it does.’
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Burke, of Oxmoor, Gloucestershire, admitted a charge of harassment. She was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and a two-year restraining order prohibiting her from contacting Mr Wilks or his fiancee or going near the grave. She was also ordered to pay  £100 costs.

After the trial, Mr Wilks said:  ‘This has been going on for a long time. At first I thought it was children messing around but it was happening so often that I realised it was malicious.
‘It makes no sense to me why  she did it. She has shown no remorse to us.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

"My grasp of the English language doesn't really allow me to fully describe how horrific this clinic was"

I am following the Kermit Gosnell trial in Philly and every day it gets more horrifying.

He kept baby feet in jars!  Like trophies.  He considered himself "a good person".

Former employees testified last week that Gosnell gave different explanations for why he kept up to 30 specimen jars containing fetal feet. He told some the feet were for DNA testing and others they were for medical research

Yesterday, the medical examiner testified how he had to thaw the fetal remains to analyze how they died.

The remains of aborted fetuses were stored in water jugs, pet food containers and a freezer at a West Philadelphia abortion clinic, the city's chief medical examiner testified in the murder trial of the doctor who ran the facility.

Medical Examiner Sam Gulino told jurors Monday he had to examine the remains of 47 aborted fetuses, some of which were frozen, as part of the investigation into the charges against Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Authorities accuse Gosnell, 72, of using scissors to sever the spinal cords of fetuses who emerged from their mothers still alive.
"There was no guidance on how to proceed," Gulino said, adding that the lacerated fetuses had to be thawed slowly so the tissue would not be destroyed. "I was never asked to do that (before)."
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When authorities searched Gosnell's office, they found bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses scattered throughout the building. Jars containing the severed feet of babies lined a shelf. Furniture and equipment was blood-stained, dusty and broken.

"My grasp of the English language doesn't really allow me to fully describe how horrific this clinic was -- rotting bodies, fetal remains, the smell of urine throughout, blood-stained," Williams said.
 Gosnell's--Freezer
Gosnell's freezer was full of  aborted babies

Today, a former janitor testified that toilets were backed up with body parts from abortions.

Johnson worked as a janitor, maintenance man and plumber of sorts and he was the common-law husband of 51-year-old Elizabeth Hampton, who is herself Gosnell’s wife’s sister. He told jurors some of the morbid details that appear in the grand jury report — including how he threatened to quit working at the abortion clinic because he refused to pull any more flesh from aborted babies out of the plumbing.
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His job was to collect abortion remains and take them to basement — but he eventually refused to participate and bags began piling up.

He told the jury toilets backed up one-two times a week and said he opened the outside clean out pipe and fetal parts such as babies’ arms came spilling out.

Such horrors were the result of how Gosnell's  practice of inducing labor in the pregnant women then severing the spinal cords of the live babies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2013

Grave Vandal, Clare Burke, 79

Caught on camera, the 79-year-old grave vandal: Hidden CCTV shows culprit dumping bags or gravel and dead flowers

-Grave Vandal Clare Burke
Clare Burke was filmed after a widower upset at the desecration of his wife’s final resting place hid a CCTV camera in a nearby tree.  Ron Wilks, 77, saw Burke throwing dead flowers and gravel on to the grave of his wife Jill and their one-day-old granddaughter Hayley Reynolds.

Burke attacked the grave because she had a grudge against Mr Wilks, a court was told. She resented him because he had become engaged to a woman who used to date her former partner.

Prosecutor Sharon Jomaa told Cheltenham magistrates that the hidden  camera showed Burke emptying carrier bags full of dead flowers and gravel  over the grave.

Claire Burke repeatedly desecrated the grave of Jill Wilks and her one-day-old granddaughter.  She would pull up live flowers and ‘plant’ dead ones in flower holders at the burial plot at Coney Hill Cemetery in Gloucester, she said.

‘The matter was very distressing for all the family and for Mr Wilks’s daughter Debbie, the mother of  the one-day-old baby,’ she told  the court.
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‘Any interference with a grave is a reprehensible act and it was intended to cause distress. There is a great deal of background in this case but none can justify what she did and she doesn’t suggest that it does.’
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Burke, of Oxmoor, Gloucestershire, admitted a charge of harassment. She was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and a two-year restraining order prohibiting her from contacting Mr Wilks or his fiancee or going near the grave. She was also ordered to pay  £100 costs.

After the trial, Mr Wilks said:  ‘This has been going on for a long time. At first I thought it was children messing around but it was happening so often that I realised it was malicious.
‘It makes no sense to me why  she did it. She has shown no remorse to us.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:36 PM | Permalink

''She was diagnosed on the Wednesday and on the Thursday she died."

You never know the day or the hour

Mother-of-two, 29, dies just hours after being diagnosed with lung cancer

A young mother has died just hours after being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, despite never having smoked.
Kirsty Allen didn't even have chance to say goodbye to her children, dying just a day after the shock diagnosis.
The 29-year-old started suffering from headaches and eye-problems around six weeks ago
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On Wednesday April 3 she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer which she was told had spread to her spleen, liver and glands in her neck. She died the next day before she could start chemotherapy.
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Wendy, 49, of Stanley, County Durham said: 'The doctors said they had never seen anything so aggressive. It happened so suddenly.

'She was diagnosed on the Wednesday and on the Thursday she died.'

 Kirsty Allen +Children
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 PM | Permalink

April 13, 2013

Fr Emil Kapuan, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, A Hero and a Saint

Capt. Emil Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest from Kansas, died in a POW camp in Pyoktong, North Korea in 1951, six months after he was taken captive, at age 35.

 Emil Kapaun Posed

Last Thursday, President Obama awarded him a posthumous Medal of Honor.   Kapaun's story is extraordinary and moving but the President captured it in his remarks: 

This year, we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War -- a time when thousands of our prisoners of war finally came home after years of starvation and hardship and, in some cases, torture. And among the homecomings, one stood out.

A group of our POWs emerged carrying a large wooden crucifix, nearly four feet tall. They had spent months on it, secretly collecting firewood, carving it -- the cross and the body -- using radio wire for a crown of thorns. It was a tribute to their friend, their chaplain, their fellow prisoner who had touched their souls and saved their lives -- Father Emil Kapaun.

This is an amazing story. Father Kapaun has been called a shepherd in combat boots. His fellow soldiers who felt his grace and his mercy called him a saint, a blessing from God. Today, we bestow another title on him -- recipient of our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. After more than six decades of working to make this Medal a reality, I know one of Father Kapaun’s comrades spoke for a lot of folks here when he said, “it’s about time.”
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After the Communist invasion of South Korea, he was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. In his understated Midwestern way, he wrote home, saying, “this outdoor life is quite the thing” and “I prefer to live in a house once in a while.” But he had hope, saying, “It looks like the war will end soon.”

That’s when Chinese forces entered the war with a massive surprise attack -- perhaps 20,000 soldiers pouring down on a few thousand Americans. In the chaos, dodging bullets and explosions, Father Kapaun raced between foxholes, out past the front lines and into no-man’s land -- dragging the wounded to safety.

When his commanders ordered an evacuation, he chose to stay -- gathering the injured, tending to their wounds. When the enemy broke through and the combat was hand-to-hand, he carried on -- comforting the injured and the dying, offering some measure of peace as they left this Earth.

When enemy forces bore down, it seemed like the end -- that these wounded Americans, more than a dozen of them, would be gunned down. But Father Kapaun spotted a wounded Chinese officer. He pleaded with this Chinese officer and convinced him to call out to his fellow Chinese. The shooting stopped and they negotiated a safe surrender, saving those American lives.

 Kapaun Medal Honor

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After the Communist invasion of South Korea, he was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. In his understated Midwestern way, he wrote home, saying, “this outdoor life is quite the thing” and “I prefer to live in a house once in a while.” But he had hope, saying, “It looks like the war will end soon.”

That’s when Chinese forces entered the war with a massive surprise attack -- perhaps 20,000 soldiers pouring down on a few thousand Americans. In the chaos, dodging bullets and explosions, Father Kapaun raced between foxholes, out past the front lines and into no-man’s land -- dragging the wounded to safety.

When his commanders ordered an evacuation, he chose to stay -- gathering the injured, tending to their wounds. When the enemy broke through and the combat was hand-to-hand, he carried on -- comforting the injured and the dying, offering some measure of peace as they left this Earth.

When enemy forces bore down, it seemed like the end -- that these wounded Americans, more than a dozen of them, would be gunned down. But Father Kapaun spotted a wounded Chinese officer. He pleaded with this Chinese officer and convinced him to call out to his fellow Chinese. The shooting stopped and they negotiated a safe surrender, saving those American lives.

Then, as Father Kapaun was being led away, he saw another American -- wounded, unable to walk, laying in a ditch, defenseless. An enemy soldier was standing over him, rifle aimed at his head, ready to shoot. And Father Kapaun marched over and pushed the enemy soldier aside. And then as the soldier watched, stunned, Father Kapaun carried that wounded American away.

This is the valor we honor today -- an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live. And yet, the incredible story of Father Kapaun does not end there.

He carried that injured American, for miles, as their captors forced them on a death march. When Father Kapaun grew tired, he’d help the wounded soldier hop on one leg. When other prisoners stumbled, he picked them up. When they wanted to quit -- knowing that stragglers would be shot -- he begged them to keep walking.

 Emil Kapaun Korea

In the camps that winter, deep in a valley, men could freeze to death in their sleep. Father Kapaun offered them his own clothes. They starved on tiny rations of millet and corn and birdseed. He somehow snuck past the guards, foraged in nearby fields, and returned with rice and potatoes. In desperation, some men hoarded food. He convinced them to share. Their bodies were ravaged by dysentery. He grabbed some rocks, pounded metal into pots and boiled clean water. They lived in filth. He washed their clothes and he cleansed their wounds.

The guards ridiculed his devotion to his Savior and the Almighty. They took his clothes and made him stand in the freezing cold for hours. Yet, he never lost his faith. If anything, it only grew stronger. At night, he slipped into huts to lead prisoners in prayer, saying the Rosary, administering the sacraments, offering three simple words: “God bless you.” One of them later said that with his very presence he could just for a moment turn a mud hut into a cathedral.

That spring, he went further -- he held an Easter service. I just met with the Kapaun family. They showed me something extraordinary -- the actual stole, the purple vestment that Father Kapaun wore when he celebrated Mass inside that prison camp.

As the sun rose that Easter Sunday, he put on that purple stole and led dozens of prisoners to the ruins of an old church in the camp. . And he read from a prayer missal that they had kept hidden. He held up a small crucifix that he had made from sticks. And as the guards watched, Father Kapaun and all those prisoners -- men of different faith, perhaps some men of no faith -- sang the Lord’s Prayer and “America the Beautiful.” They sang so loud that other prisoners across the camp not only heard them, they joined in, too -- filling that valley with song and with prayer.

That faith -- that they might be delivered from evil, that they could make it home -- was perhaps the greatest gift to those men; that even amidst such hardship and despair, there could be hope; amid their misery in the temporal they could see those truths that are eternal; that even in such hell, there could be a touch of the divine. Looking back, one of them said that that is what “kept a lot of us alive.”

Yet, for Father Kapaun, the horrific conditions took their toll. Thin, frail, he began to limp, with a blood clot in his leg. And then came dysentery, then pneumonia. That’s when the guards saw their chance to finally rid themselves of this priest and the hope he inspired. They came for him. And over the protests and tears of the men who loved him, the guards sent him to a death house -- a hellhole with no food or water -- to be left to die.

And yet, even then, his faith held firm. “I’m going to where I’ve always wanted to go,” he told his brothers. “And when I get up there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you.” And then, as was taken away, he did something remarkable -- he blessed the guards. “Forgive them,” he said, “for they know not what they do.” Two days later, in that house of death, Father Kapaun breathed his last breath. His body was taken away, his grave unmarked, his remains unrecovered to this day.

The war and the awful captivity would drag on for another two years, but these men held on -- steeled by the memory and moral example of the man they called Father. And on their first day of freedom, in his honor, they carried that beautiful wooden crucifix with them.

-Kapaun Saying Mass

In DODlive, A two-part series on the life and service of Emil Kapaun

During World War II, Kapaun served in India and the Burma theater, from 1945-1946, Hotze said.

The men who served with him during World War II told stories about Kapaun always being where the fight was, according to Hotze. “At that time, most of the fighting was over … but they said there would be pockets of resistance where they would hear gunfire. It was kind of a bet among the men as to how quickly Kapaun would be able to get to where the … shooting was, because he felt that was where the men needed him.

A riveting series at the Wichita Eagle by Roy Wenzel on The Miracle of Father Kapaun that had me in tears.  My excerpts are extensive because the story is so remarkable.

Part 1 Father Emil Kapaun: In Korea, Kapaun saves dozens during Chinese attack

Twenty thousand Chinese, who the generals said were not in North Korea, had rushed out of the hills at the 3,000 men of the 8th Cavalry; the 1st and 2nd Battalions withdrew south.

Kapaun and a private named Patrick Schuler drove toward the fighting, then ran into enemy soldiers blocking the road. Kapaun and Schuler loaded a few of the wounded and brought them south.

"Stay with the jeep and say your prayers," Kapaun told Schuler. "I'll be back."

He ran to find more wounded, but the Chinese attacked, and Schuler in desperation set the empty jeep on fire to destroy it. He never saw Kapaun again.

Most of the 1st Battalion would escape; some of the 2nd Battalion, too. But the 800 men of 3rd Battalion covered the withdrawal, and they were overrun.
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GIs saw Kapaun running from foxhole to foxhole, dragging wounded out, saying prayers over the dying, hearing confessions amid gunfire, ripping open shirts to look at wounds. Men screamed at him to escape, but he ignored them.

Kapaun called McGreevy and others into a huddle.

"I'm going to give you guys the last rites," he said. "Because a lot of you guys are not going to make it home."

McGreevy noticed how calm Kapaun looked. The priest called out the sacred words in English, not Latin; the GIs were from all shades of belief.

Part 2  Father Emil Kapaun: Through Death March, Father Kapaun perseveres and inspires

Father Emil Kapaun was considered an unusual man even before the 8th Cavalry’s 3rd Battalion was overrun at Unsan. Many devout Christians believe, for example, that they must overtly preach Christianity, but Kapaun by all accounts never lectured, never forced it. What he did instead was scrounge food for soldiers, write letters to their families, pass his tobacco pipe around for a few puffs, and run through machine gun fire, rescuing wounded. If he brought up religion in foxholes, he asked permission first: “Would you care to say a prayer with me?” He treated Protestants, Jews and atheists the same way he treated Catholics — and he treated Catholics like loved ones. Some GIs did not like some chaplains. They loved this one.

Riding Kapaun’s back, Miller felt guilty. He had never attended the priest’s Masses in camp or on the battlefield, though he knew the guy was well liked. Miller had never met him until the priest stopped his execution.

Sometimes other people helped carry Miller, and the priest carried others, or urged men to carry stretchers, which they made from tree branches and rice sacks scrounged from nearby farms.

The branches would dig into the men’s shoulders. Sometimes, when carriers would set the stretcher down to change positions, the Chinese would yell to move along, and the wounded soldier was left to die.
--
When he got tired he would let Miller slide down his back, and Miller would hop on one foot with one of the priest’s arms around him. Miller did not want to wear out the priest, but hopping made his ankle bleed badly, so Kapaun or somebody else would carry him some more.

Miller had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day six years before; he had fought many battles, but he had never seen anybody like this priest.

Miller could feel Kapaun’s skinny back. There did not appear to be a lot of muscle there, but the guy seemed to be made of iron. He kept going hour after hour, living on nothing but the little ball of millet they got once a day from the guards.

“Father,” Miller said. “You need to put me down.”

Kapaun shook his head.

“If I put you down, Herb, they will shoot you.”

Part 3 Father Emil Kapaun: In icy POW camps, Kapaun shares faith, provisions

Three weeks after their capture, after 75 miles of marching, the starving survivors of the 8th Cavalry and 19th Infantry straggled into a mud-hut village called Pyoktong, on the banks of the Yalu River, two miles from Manchuria.

They’d barely set foot in the village when American bombers roared in overhead and firebombed it. Horrified villagers spat at the prisoners, threw rocks.
Guards took them south again, 12 more miles. Men and discipline broke down in the snow and ice; men left their wounded to die in ditches, ignoring orders from officers to pick them up. They would not ignore Father Emil Kapaun, though. He walked the line, asking men to help. Many did.

Mike Dowe picked up a stretcher on this march one night, turned around and spoke to the tall soldier carrying the pole behind him.

“Who are you?” he asked.

The soldier reached out a hand. “KuhPAWN,” he said.

Dowe grinned. This was the heroic chaplain that 8th Cavalry prisoners told stories about.

“Father Kapaun! I’ve heard all about you!”

“Well,” Kapaun said, in a self-mocking tone, “don’t tell the bishop.”
---
The POWs began to steal food. The man most insistent about stealing was the chaplain from Kansas.

“Steal, or starve,” Kapaun told them. “It’s obvious.

He led them out into the countryside at night, sneaking past guards. They came back with bits of wood, ears of corn, red peppers torn from frozen bushes, an old pumpkin. They stole from warehouses where guards stored food.

Kapaun, not feeling comfortable with stealing, lined them up and announced that this sin was sanctioned, and that they should pray to Dismas, patron saint of thieves, the “good thief” who was crucified beside Christ.

--
He had surprised them for months with his bravery, and now with his ingenious thieving. A notorious thief, Esensten thought. Incredibly devious.

Kapaun would prowl fields, find potatoes or corn the farmers had hidden. Or he’d conspire with Mayo, who would start an argument with guards at the crib where food was stored, while Kapaun would sneak inside, stuff his pockets with soybeans or salt, then heave a grain sack on his back and sneak out.

Decades later, Pentagon analysts said the Sombakol prison camp had far fewer deaths than others during that period of the war. Esensten said Kapaun was the main reason.

Part 4.  As hundreds die, Kapaun rallies the POWs

By February 1951 the Allied prisoners at Pyoktong, North Korea, were dying so fast on ground frozen so solid that unburied bodies lay in stacks three to four feet high, 30 to 40 yards long. Men hoarded food or stole it from the weak, and left sick men to die in their own defecation.

Many soldiers were in their teens and early 20s, not mature enough to deal with that level of suffering. Father Emil Kapaun never yelled at them; he let his actions speak.
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Kapaun did a thousand things to take care of them, Wood said. Wood watched one day as Kapaun sneaked into the officer’s compound with a bag holding about 100 pounds of rice.

Another POW, David MacGhee, hunted for rice bags in root cellars with Kapaun when the two slipped away from burial details. MacGhee would tease: Isn’t stealing wrong? Men were losing frostbitten fingers or toes, the skin turning black and falling off, leaving bones as dry as sticks poking out. Kapaun brought them to the doctors, who amputated dead bone with a butcher knife they hid from guards.
--
Amid the filth one day, Wood learned that Kapaun could have avoided all this.

Kapaun had served in Burma and India in World War II. After that, Kapaun said, he went back to Masses and baptisms in Kansas. “Then how did you end up here?” Wood asked. “I volunteered.” “Father Kapaun!” Wood almost shouted. “My God, Father! Why did you come back?” “I wanted to come back to men like these,” Kapaun said. “Serving in those parishes . . . it didn’t work out.” Kapaun grinned. “I mean . . . my God, Bob!” Kapaun said. “Have you ever had to deal with one of those women’s committees of a church Altar Society?”
--
McGreevy had withered from 180 plus to 100 pounds. But like Funchess, he felt a strange thing happen in the presence of Kapaun: He’d forget he was starving, that the Chinese might shoot them someday soon. Two minutes in a huddle with Kapaun, and all the fear melted away.

They prayed with him every night in the huts.
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The miracle of Father Kapaun, Funchess would say later, was not just that he patched leaky buckets or stole food. It was that he rallied men to embrace life when life looked hopeless. When starvation inspired betrayals, Kapaun inspired brotherhood.

One day, as more men stole or hoarded food from each other, Kapaun walked into a hut, laid out his own food and blessed it.

“Thank you, O Lord, for giving us food we cannot only eat but share.”

Soldiers describing that scene to Maher years later, said that act put a stop to much of the stealing and hoarding.

Part 5.  Father Emil Kapaun: Leads camp prisoners in quiet acts of defiance

He had talked atheist guards into letting him hold an Easter service, a favor they soon regretted.

No one there would ever forget this day. The most moving sight the POWs ever saw.
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Every time Kapaun defied them, it was a reminder to starving prisoners that standing up was the opposite of giving up.

A Chinese officer one day, outraged by POW defiance, told them he would shoot them all, and bury them “so that your bones will forever fertilize the soil of North Korea.”

There was a brief silence. Then Kapaun spoke:

“What a dumb son of a bitch!”

Part 6 Father Emil Kapaun forgives guards, welcomes death

Over the next six weeks, the POWs in the Pyoktong prison camp began a cloaked and daring effort to save Emil Kapaun’s life.
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Funchess asked about forgiveness.

"Of course we should forgive them," Kapaun said of the guards. "We should not only forgive our enemies but love them, too."

But they shot wounded soldiers, Funchess said. They abused prisoners.

It doesn’t matter, Kapaun said.

"If we fail to forgive, we’re rejecting our own faith."
--
Men sobbed like children. Kapaun handed his gold ciborium to Mayo. “Tell them I died a happy death.”

Phil Peterson, who had helped Kapaun say rosaries, put a hand on Kapaun’s arm.

"I’m terribly sorry."

"You’re sorry for me?" Kapaun said. "I am going to be with Jesus Christ. And that is what I have worked for all my life. And you say you’re sorry for me? You should be happy for me."

Kapaun beckoned to another prisoner.

"When you get back to Jersey, you get that marriage straightened out. Or I’ll come down from heaven and kick you in the ass."

Dowe by this time was sobbing nearby.

"Don’t take it hard, Mike," Kapaun said. "I’m going where I’ve always wanted to go. And when I get up there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you."
---

Kapaun looked at Nardella. In heaven, he said, he would pray for Nardella’s return home. Then he glanced around at the Chinese waiting at the hospital. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He looked at a Chinese officer. “Forgive me,” Kapaun said. They laid him down alone in a room filthy with feces and maggots.

--
McGreevy was a former football player from Cumberland, Md. He knew as an athlete that he needed to get his leg muscles moving or they would atrophy, and he would die. He crawled into a corner where he could get his big hands on two walls.

He took a deep breath.

He braced his hands against the walls, gathered his feet, and prayed a prayer he had never prayed before.

A Catholic, he had been taught that when all hope was lost, you prayed to a saint who you thought had the ear of God.

He prayed now to a man who fit that description. For all anyone knows, he became the first person to pray this particular prayer. He would not be the last.

"Father Kapaun," McGreevy prayed, "Help me."

And then, for the first time in weeks, McGreevy stood up.
--
They were inches from starving to death. All hope seemed lost. The guards had just murdered their best man.

But little by little, as the first shock wore off, men began to tell and retell the stories of Father Kapaun: his friendship, his jokes, his deeds, his faith.

That frail man, who died alone, who lay now in an unmarked grave, had never told them what to do. He’d never pushed religion on them. But he had somehow taught them to stand up for themselves, to forgive, and to help each other.

It was not long before they rallied; it was not long before the Chinese finally began to feed them a little better. It was not long before they pulled themselves together and told each other that the man who had died for them deserved a gift in return:

Their survival.

Part 7 Emil Kapaun: POWs call him 'a hero and a saint'

The legend of Father Kapaun and the quest to elevate him to sainthood began in September 1953 as soon as Communist guards released prisoners at the end of the Korean War. A little band of fierce-looking Americans, with balding and blunttalking Ralph Nardella at their head, carried Emil Kapaun’s gold ciborium and a rugged wooden crucifix, an inch shy of four feet tall. They had risked their lives in a final act of defiance to bring those items across the fence line; the guards wanted to confiscate them, but Nardella and the others had threatened to stay in North Korea.
---
“Maybe I shouldn’t say it,” O’Connor said in a wire-service story that appeared in The Wichita Beacon, “but he was the best food thief we had.”

The stories appeared in papers around the world and made Kapaun an international hero.
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“I am a Jew,” Sidney Esensten, another doctor, told the reporters. “But I feel deeply the greatness of the man, regardless of religion.”
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Even a tough Muslim POW named Fezi Bey told Fink that Kapaun had awed all the Turks.

“He is not of my religion, but he is a man of God,” Bey said.
-----
Fink was a Jew with little interest in Christianity. He was also an artist, and he hated the guards. When Nardella said he wanted a shrine to honor Kapaun and defy the guards, Fink vowed to do something profound.

What happened became the next chapter in the Kapaun legend: the Jewish warrior carving a sculpture of the crucified Christ in a mud-hut hell.

Fink spent weeks picking over firewood. He selected pieces of scrub oak for the cross and fine-grained cherry wood for the body.

Other prisoners, including Mayo’s buddy Phil Peterson, showed Fink how to tear up old GI boots, removing the steel arches. Fink and Peterson spent weeks filing steel on rocks until they had sharp blades.

Fink made a chisel out of a broken drainpipe; he spent months carving a 47-inch-by-28-inch cross. He carved a 2-foot-long body and a bearded face that others said looked surprisingly like the face of Kapaun.

He twisted radio wire to make a crown of thorns. He sneaked up to the building of the camp commander, smashed a window, and used the ground glass to sand the sculpture.

Guards demanded to know who the face was.

“Abraham Lincoln,” Fink lied. The guards regarded Lincoln as a kindred spirit.

But when at last they saw it was Christ, some guards spat at it; others threw Fink into a punishment hole. But they seemed afraid to touch the sculpture.

Part 8 Father Emil Kapaun: Former POWs say his miracle was providing them hope

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2013

What is a funeral for? What is a funeral for?

A funeral should not resemble an episode of This is Your Life

The usual answer given is that a funeral is a ceremony (and this can cover non-religious funerals too) for the dignified disposal of the body of the deceased. It goes further: a funeral is an occasion to mark the end of a life, allowing for reflection and thought. After all, death is a major event in all our lives, or ought to be. For a Christian, a funeral would be a moment for prayer, and for a Catholic, a moment of prayer for the repose of the deceased’s soul.

What bewilders me about modern funerals is the concept of “paying one’s respects”. I know what this means, but I simply do not understand it. Allied to this is the idea of making a funeral into “the celebration of the life of X”. Again, I am at a loss to understand this. When I die, as die I must, I do not want my life celebrated, and I want no eulogies; I just want prayer, and more prayer. Neither do I want people to pay their respects – at least not to me; I would like them to show respect for God, however, by behaving properly in church.

In fact a funeral should be, horrid phrase, God-centred, just like any other act of worship. A non-religious funeral can hardly be that, but if it is to be existentially meaningful it should, to my mind, involve a deep long look into the abyss of nothingness that is death: it should honestly face up to the reality of personal extinction, if that is what the non-religious believe. It should not resemble an episode of ‘This is Your Life”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

Metal from people's cremated remains being turned into road signs

Metal from people's cremated remains being turned into road signs

A COUNCIL is recycling metal body parts from cremated remains and turning them into road signs.
Items such as replacement hip joints, metal plates from legs and skulls and screws fitted to various body parts are collected after cremations in Bristol, Bath and Weston- super-Mare.

Other items collected include metal clamps which are sometimes left on the bodies of patients who die on the operating table
Metal plates in false teeth are also sometimes recovered and, in Weston and Bath, recycled along with some types of metal used in tooth fillings and any metal handles fitted to the coffins.


Bristol City Council, which currently buries recovered metal in the grounds of its crematoriums, is also considering a move to recycling when its current policy is banned by an upcoming change in the law

Metal for recycling is collected in a large wheelie bins at the crematoriums and taken to a specialist plant for recycling by contractors.

The metals are then melted down – and The Post has learned that in North Somerset, it has been used to make items including council road signs, lamppost poles and safety barriers for motorway central reservations.

People booking a cremation service are asked if they want to keep metal parts which may have been fitted during their deceased relative's life.
Those families who do not want them sign a special form agreeing for them to be recycled.  Once the cremation is over, a machine known as a cremulator is used to separate any metal from the ashes.

And the road signs made were  Dead End,  No Outlet and Wrong Way

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

"Cemetery designer" offers fake funerals

Chinese undertaker offering fake funerals for the living

Last month, 24 pretend funerals were held at the Shimenfeng Celebrity Culture Park cemetery in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

"It was the first time we ever offered this kind of service," said Zhang Bei, the mortuary's 30-year-old "cemetery designer", who argued the experience could help people better appreciate their lives.

The fake funerals were the brainchild of Zeng Jia, a 20-year-old student, who became the first to lie down in a coffin during her fake wake at the end of March.
Ms Zeng, who is studying to be an undertaker, said she had come up with the idea after a relative suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in 2011. "I was so touched by this incident," she said.
--
Despite the absence of genuine cadavers, Ms Zhang said the funeral services were realistic, involving coffins, floral bouquets, mourners, photographers and even emotion-packed speeches from friends of the 'deceased'.

"The service has two parts - a 20-minute memorial service and a 15-20 minute 'life-death experience'," she said.
A rendition of a Chinese pop song called "Angel" is also included in the package.
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Of her "funeral", Ms Zeng said: "Twenty of my classmates attended the service. They told me what they really thought of me, giving me a better understanding of myself and how I am seen by others."

"After the service, I felt I could do better and treasure life more," she added.
Ms Zhang, the cemetery employee, said the unusual experience had been praised by participants, among them an elderly couple.

"We asked why they took part in the service [and] the grandfather, who was very open minded, said they cared less about death at their age, that it was just a matter of time. It was not a taboo for them – they just wanted to try new things, meaningful things, in their remaining days."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 AM | Permalink

April 11, 2013

Death by Beaver

Beaver Bites Man To Death In Belarus Attack

The man was on a fishing trip at Lake Shestakov in Belarus with two friends when they spotted the animal on the side of the road.

He stopped so that he could take a picture but as he approached the beaver it pounced on him, biting him in the thigh.

His friends attempted to stem the flow of blood from the wound but the animal’s bite had severed a main artery and the man, who came from Brest, bled to death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:28 PM | Permalink

Molly in the morgue

The eccentric memoir of the woman who worked on 8,000 autopsies alongside the legendary pathologist Keith Simpson and the hangman Albert Pierrepoint

Molly Lefebure was the only young female working in the morgues of London. Before she died in March, aged 93, she published a memoir recalling some of her most tantalising cases.
---
How could I expect him to understand that corpses all had fascinating stories — of hopes unfulfilled, joys that ended in sorrow, love, sacrifice, broken hearts, stupidity, depravity and crime of every description?

And my goodness, how they talked!  Everything about them talked. The way they looked, the way they died, where they died, why they died.

They were all there on the post-mortem (p.m.) table: the tart who picked up a killer; the baby left to starve; the soldier who came home to find his wife in bed with another man and gassed himself; the sailor who came home to find his wife in bed with another man and shot her.
--
In the case of a peppery old Lambeth stall-holder who’d had a punch-up with his adult son, there seemed little doubt that he’d killed his boy: they’d been arguing over who was responsible for not screening the windows properly during the blackout.

The body was found to have the large imprint of a sizzling iron on its chest. So by the time we started work at Southwark mortuary, the father had already been arrested and his prospects looked grim.

I stared at the hot iron mark on the corpse’s chest, which looked just like a tablecloth on which a careless housewife had set down her iron. The mortuary assistant, however, had seen it all before.

‘Old way of reviving people, a hot iron,’ he said, ‘guaranteed to make anyone unconscious sit up, with a jerk — so long as he isn’t dead.’

It was, as Dr Simpson said, a ‘beautiful specimen of post- mortem burning.’

As he worked on the man’s brain, he suddenly made a startling discovery: it was not the blow from the father’s fist that had killed the son, but the rupturing of a cerebral aneurism. This meant that he could have dropped down dead at any time — and his remorseful father, who had obviously tried to revive him, was off the hook.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

McCandlish Phillips, R.I.P.

McCandlish Phillips, Who Exposed a Jewish Klansman, Is Dead at 85, obituary by Margalit Fox.

McCandlish Phillips, a former reporter for The New York Times who wrote one of the most famous articles in the newspaper’s history — exposing the Orthodox Jewish background of a senior Ku Klux Klan official — before forsaking journalism to spread the Gospel, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 85.
--
Mr. Phillips, who was with The Times from 1952 to 1973, stood out….He stood out as a tenacious reporter and a lyrical stylist — an all-too-rare marriage on newspapers then — and in his hands even a routine news article seldom failed to delight.  Consider Mr. Phillips’s 1961 account of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, an annual millstone for the city’s general-assignment reporters:

“The sun was high to their backs and the wind was fast in their faces and 100,000 sons and daughters of Ireland, and those who would hold with them, matched strides with their shadows for 52 blocks. It seemed they marched from Midtown to exhaustion.”

In his 2003 memoir, “City Room,” Arthur Gelb, a former managing editor of The Times, called Mr. Phillips “the most original stylist I’d ever edited.”
--
Mr. Phillips joined The Times as a copy boy in November 1952, later working as a clerk on the city desk and in the Washington bureau. In 1955, he was made a cub reporter and consigned to prove his mettle in the paper’s Brooklyn office, then a dank, decrepit outfit near Police Department headquarters in the borough’s nether regions.

His account of life there, written for Times Talk, the newspaper’s house organ (“It is impossible to tell a plainclothes detective from a mugger here. You just have to wait to see what they do”), so delighted the newspaper’s management that his sentence was commuted to service in the main newsroom.
--
Mr. Phillips’s most renowned article appeared on Page 1 on Sunday, Oct. 31, 1965, under the headline “State Klan Leader Hides Secret of Jewish Origin.” It was a rigorously reported profile of Daniel Burros, a 28-year-old Queens man who was the Grand Dragon of the New York State Ku Klux Klan, a chief organizer of the national Klan and a former national secretary of the American Nazi Party.

Mr. Burros, the article went on to document, was also a Jew — a former Hebrew school student who had been bar mitzvahed at 13.

The article remains a case study in a reporter’s perseverance in the face of intimidation. It is also a case study in the severe, unintended consequences that the airing of fiercely guarded truths can have for the guardian: despite threatening to kill Mr. Phillips if the article went to press, Mr. Burros, in the end, killed only himself.
--
In October 1965, The Times received a tip about Mr. Burros’s Jewish upbringing. Assigned to pursue it, Mr. Phillips, aided by newsroom colleagues, spent days reconstructing his life, scouring school, military, employment and police records; amassing photographs; and interviewing neighbors and associates.

The one thing they lacked was an interview with Mr. Burros: efforts to reach him had been unsuccessful. Finally, on a return visit to South Ozone Park, the Queens neighborhood in which Mr. Burros lived, Mr. Phillips glimpsed him on the street — “a round, short, sallow young man who looked a little like a small heap of misery,” he would later write in Times Talk.

He approached Mr. Burros, and they went into a luncheonette. The conversation, which ranged over Mr. Burros’s brilliant scholastic record — he had an I.Q. of 154 — and his rise to power in the Klan, was cordial.  Then, nearly 20 minutes into the interview, Mr. Phillips raised the subject of Mr. Burros’s Jewishness.

“If you publish that, I’ll come and get you and I’ll kill you,” Mr. Burros said. “I don’t care what happens to me. I’ll be ruined. This is all I’ve got to live for.”

By the time the two men parted, Mr. Phillips later wrote, Mr. Burros had threatened his life half a dozen times.
--
Over the years, Mr. Phillips was asked whether he felt responsible for Mr. Burros’s suicide. He felt “a vague sense of sadness,” he said, but no guilt.  His stance — the view from the prospect where his faith and his journalism converged — was encapsulated in a remark he made to Mr. Gelb.  On the afternoon of Oct. 31, 1965, Mr. Gelb phoned Mr. Phillips to tell him, very gently, that Mr. Burros had shot himself.

“What I think we’ve seen here, Arthur,” Mr. Phillips replied, “is the God of Israel acting in judgment.”
--
Mr. Phillips resigned from The Times in late 1973 for a life in religion.

In 1962, he had helped found the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a Pentecostal congregation in Manhattan. Its tenets, as Ken Auletta wrote in a 1997 New Yorker profile of Mr. Phillips, include the belief that “pornography, drugs, abortion and any form of fornication (including premarital sex and homosexuality) are sins.”

More samples of his work from the Times' city room blog.

His deceptively simple-sounding declarative voice could make just about any subject seem irresistibly droll.

“Two kinds of people wait in the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square. Some are waiting for buses. Others are waiting for death.”

Ken Auletta called him The Man Who Disappeared in a New Yorker profile.  Terry Mattingly in Memory Eternal  writes

I guess that was true, journalistically speaking, but it was totally wrong from a Christian point of view and, for Pastor John, the eternal point of view was what really mattered. That’s why I called my response to The New Yorker, “The man who didn’t disappear.” Here are a few key paragraphs from that:

Phillips arrived in 1952 and landed a copy-boy job a day after, he said, God ordered him off the train he was riding home to Boston. A year later, he looked around the Times newsroom and realized he was the only conservative Christian there. So he stayed. He walked away in 1973, at the peak of his writing powers, to become a Pentecostal preacher with a small urban flock.

A lengthy New Yorker profile of Phillips called him “The Man Who Disappeared.” But the man didn’t disappear. The reporter did. …

Phillips has disappeared in the same way that a seed disappears in the soil. Friends on New York sidewalks know that “Pastor John” has invested his life in new believers, including more than a few journalists.

Eric Metaxas, My very dear friend, the truly great John McCandlish Phillips, died this morning at age 85. He was nothing less than a living saint. Here's a Wall Street Journal article about him from 2009. Rest in Peace, sweet brother in Christ.

Here is the piece  A Calling Higher Than Journalism: Who Knew?,

He was well known among his colleagues for his lanky stature, which earned him the nickname "Long John"; his sweet temper; and his uncompromising devotion to his Christian faith. "I don't remember anybody quite like him in all my years of being around people who worked for newspapers," said Gay Talese, a fellow Timesman in those days. "Newspaper people tend to be cynical. He's the very opposite of that." In the secular temple of the big-city newsroom, Mr. Phillips conspicuously placed a Bible on his desk, calling it "a statement I made of who I was and where I stood."
--
But Mr. Phillips did not disappear. He channeled his imagination into the church he had co-founded with Hannah Lowe a decade or so earlier, the Manhattan-based New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a small Pentecostal congregation. His dream was to spur a massive evangelizing campaign in New York City that would result in waves of born-again Christians.

"What everyone in this city needs, with scarcely anyone knowing of it, is the one salvation that God has provided in His son, Jesus Christ," he told me in a recent interview. "My life was changed in a moment of time, permanently, by an act of evangelism [in 1950]. I know its power. And I have no chiefer desire than to see as many individuals as possible come to that same threshold and cross it."
--
Mr. Phillips admits disappointment that his great hopes for the evangelization of New York City have not come to fruition. He characterized the response at Central Park as "fairly remote." But who knows what the future holds? When it is pointed out to him that some of his best stories placed their greatest weight on the final line, he chuckles. A 1966 masterpiece about a U.S. Marine killed in Vietnam concluded with the wrenching words, "He was 19 years old."

"I don't anticipate being a prime mover of a spiritual awakening," he said. "But I greatly desire to see it, and whatever its origins is thoroughly fine with me. It will come at a time chosen by God."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2013

More on Thatcher

16 Badass Photos Of Margaret Thatcher

 Thatcher In Tank

Lest we forget how terrible things were: The verdict of three historians

The woman who saved Britain by Simon Heffer;  Greatest women's libber of them all By Amanda Foreman;  How terror stalked her every hour by Ruth Dudley Edwards

The Economist on The lady who changed the world

ONLY a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one. She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an “ism”.

The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom—odd, since as a prim control freak, she was in some ways the embodiment of conservatism. She thought nations could become great only if individuals were set free. Her struggles had a theme: the right of individuals to run their own lives, as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state.

Dancing on Maggie's grave: How the Left 'celebrated' Baroness Thatcher's death with smashed shops and anarchy in the streets

Hundreds took to the streets as macabre ‘Thatcher death parties’ were held late across the country last night, organised by critics of the 'Iron Lady.'
Two women arrested for burglary after being found inside a shop
Barnardos shop front smashed in Brixton, south London
One policeman seriously injured after being pelted with bottles in Bristol
Death could propel Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead into the top 40
Glasgow, Liverpool and Derry were also the scene of celebrations
Petrol bombs were thrown at police in Derry amid celebrations
More parties are being planned for funeral date of Wednesday 17 April

Left's chorus of hatred: Champagne in the streets, students union cheers and vile internet taunts

Glasgow: More than 300 people attended impromptu street party
London: Over 100 people gathered in Brixton to 'celebrate'
Facebook campaign to take 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' to number one
Durham Miners' Association: Her death was a 'great day' for coal miners
Second most trending topic on Twitter: #nostatefuneral
NUS National conference reported to have cheered at news of her death

 Swp Thatcher's Dead

The Socialist Workers Party's fanatics have outdone themselves with their 'Margaret Thatcher is dead: rejoice' cover

The front cover of their newspaper features Margaret Thatcher’s gravestone splattered with blood and the words “Rejoice” blazoned across the bottom. Compare that language to the way that they wrote about the passing of Osama bin Laden, a “foe of US imperialism” who was, for all his faults “the only serious response to the power of the West”. So there you have it. Privatise BT and you are a monster worthy of condemnation. Butcher 3,000 people in a terrorist attack and you are a revolutionary who gets an objective obituary.

The SWP does not speak for the British Left. In fact, the Left has always despised it. Far from being drawn from the ranks of the working class that it claims to represent, the party is dominated by middle-class intellectuals who regard the proletariat as alienated to the point of not knowing what’s good for them.

She stood up for ordinary Britons - that's why the Left loathe her

Alas, many of Mrs Thatcher’s Left-wing critics simply could not contain their condescension. Born and bred in their gilded little enclaves, they believed they knew what was right for ordinary people — even though they knew nothing at all about what the common man and woman actually wanted.
So it was that in the Seventies, when tenants pressed for the right to buy their council homes, the Labour Left blocked attempts to sell them. They simply could not  understand that ordinary people wanted homes of their own, instead of having to take what the State gave them.

Nor could they understand that people were sick of trade-union militancy, sick of the strikes that had made Britain an international laughing stock, sick of the double-digit inflation and sick of the  managed national decline. Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. But this is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and 9 per cent among unskilled workers — usually so loyal to Labour.

Mona Charen on Why Feminists Loathed Thatcher

Of course, she ought to have been a feminist heroine. Thatcher was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century and the greatest female leader of modern times. A woman of rare brilliance, grit, accomplishment, and determination, she won three national elections, helped to dismantle the Soviet empire, and transformed her nation and the world for the better.

But no, the feminists loathed her.   During her first campaign for national office in 1979, the more polite noseholders said, “We want women’s rights, not a right-wing woman.” The less subtle circulated the slogan “Ditch the B****.” Following the release of the movie The Iron Lady, a feminist wailed on the Huffington Post that Thatcher was “the embodiment of everything that feminism is not: selfish, rigid, and intolerant.”

Paul Kengor on the Faith of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was never afraid to articulate and defend her faith.  To that end, Thatcher delivered a remarkable May 1988 address to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, where she stated: “What then are the distinctive marks of Christianity? They stem not from the social but from the spiritual side of our lives.”
---
Thatcher said more in the speech, including much that is both timely and timeless. She defended religious liberty and urged that “no majority can take away God-given human rights.” She insisted to Britons that prayer had a place in public schools.

Perhaps most important, just as the British people continued their rapid slide toward a voluntary de-Christianization, Thatcher called the Christian faith “a fundamental part of our national heritage. And I believe it is the wish of the overwhelming majority of people that this heritage should be preserved and fostered.”

Peter Hitchens with his first thoughts on the death of Margaret Thatcher and a wonderful story

Mr Healey, who even now still preserves a Yorkshire accent, and was in those days one of the politicians whose speeches would fill the chamber, and who rather prided himself on his ability to cope with the rough stuff, got the shock of his life ( and so did everyone else) when the supposed Finchley housewife suddenly shook off nearly 50 years of delicacy, pearls and elocution lessons, and spoke in the language of the Lincolnshire back streets:

‘ The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election, is he? Afraid? Frightened? Frit? Could not take it? Cannot stand it? If I were going to cut and run, I should have gone after the Falklands. Frightened! Right now inflation is lower than it has been for 13 years—a record which the right hon. Gentleman could not begin to touch.’

‘Frit!’. We had never heard it before,  especially not from her, but you knew what it meant as soon as it struck the eardrum. It was much more damaging than ‘afraid’ or ‘frightened’ because it came from somewhere much deeper.  It was the sharp, unanswerable Saxon jibe and challenge, pronounced with a sneer, that you couldn’t answer and which everyone listening would know had struck home. It was completely British,  and it was not from the neat world of suburban lawns and afternoon tea, but from the other less gentle world of cracked pavements and grimy brick walls where the only thing to do when in trouble was to stand and fight. And so she did.

To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people

No transatlantic alliance since has held a candle to the potent symbolism of Reagan-Thatcher

 Thatcher-Reagan-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 PM | Permalink

More on Thatcher

16 Badass Photos Of Margaret Thatcher

 Thatcher In Tank

Lest we forget how terrible things were: The verdict of three historians

The woman who saved Britain by Simon Heffer;  Greatest women's libber of them all By Amanda Foreman;  How terror stalked her every hour by Ruth Dudley Edwards

The Economist on The lady who changed the world

ONLY a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one. She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an “ism”.

The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom—odd, since as a prim control freak, she was in some ways the embodiment of conservatism. She thought nations could become great only if individuals were set free. Her struggles had a theme: the right of individuals to run their own lives, as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state.

Dancing on Maggie's grave: How the Left 'celebrated' Baroness Thatcher's death with smashed shops and anarchy in the streets

Hundreds took to the streets as macabre ‘Thatcher death parties’ were held late across the country last night, organised by critics of the 'Iron Lady.'
Two women arrested for burglary after being found inside a shop
Barnardos shop front smashed in Brixton, south London
One policeman seriously injured after being pelted with bottles in Bristol
Death could propel Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead into the top 40
Glasgow, Liverpool and Derry were also the scene of celebrations
Petrol bombs were thrown at police in Derry amid celebrations
More parties are being planned for funeral date of Wednesday 17 April

Left's chorus of hatred: Champagne in the streets, students union cheers and vile internet taunts

Glasgow: More than 300 people attended impromptu street party
London: Over 100 people gathered in Brixton to 'celebrate'
Facebook campaign to take 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' to number one
Durham Miners' Association: Her death was a 'great day' for coal miners
Second most trending topic on Twitter: #nostatefuneral
NUS National conference reported to have cheered at news of her death

 Swp Thatcher's Dead

The Socialist Workers Party's fanatics have outdone themselves with their 'Margaret Thatcher is dead: rejoice' cover

The front cover of their newspaper features Margaret Thatcher’s gravestone splattered with blood and the words “Rejoice” blazoned across the bottom. Compare that language to the way that they wrote about the passing of Osama bin Laden, a “foe of US imperialism” who was, for all his faults “the only serious response to the power of the West”. So there you have it. Privatise BT and you are a monster worthy of condemnation. Butcher 3,000 people in a terrorist attack and you are a revolutionary who gets an objective obituary.

The SWP does not speak for the British Left. In fact, the Left has always despised it. Far from being drawn from the ranks of the working class that it claims to represent, the party is dominated by middle-class intellectuals who regard the proletariat as alienated to the point of not knowing what’s good for them.

She stood up for ordinary Britons - that's why the Left loathe her

Alas, many of Mrs Thatcher’s Left-wing critics simply could not contain their condescension. Born and bred in their gilded little enclaves, they believed they knew what was right for ordinary people — even though they knew nothing at all about what the common man and woman actually wanted.
So it was that in the Seventies, when tenants pressed for the right to buy their council homes, the Labour Left blocked attempts to sell them. They simply could not  understand that ordinary people wanted homes of their own, instead of having to take what the State gave them.

Nor could they understand that people were sick of trade-union militancy, sick of the strikes that had made Britain an international laughing stock, sick of the double-digit inflation and sick of the  managed national decline. Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. But this is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and 9 per cent among unskilled workers — usually so loyal to Labour.

Mona Charen on Why Feminists Loathed Thatcher

Of course, she ought to have been a feminist heroine. Thatcher was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century and the greatest female leader of modern times. A woman of rare brilliance, grit, accomplishment, and determination, she won three national elections, helped to dismantle the Soviet empire, and transformed her nation and the world for the better.

But no, the feminists loathed her.   During her first campaign for national office in 1979, the more polite noseholders said, “We want women’s rights, not a right-wing woman.” The less subtle circulated the slogan “Ditch the B****.” Following the release of the movie The Iron Lady, a feminist wailed on the Huffington Post that Thatcher was “the embodiment of everything that feminism is not: selfish, rigid, and intolerant.”

Paul Kengor on the Faith of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was never afraid to articulate and defend her faith.  To that end, Thatcher delivered a remarkable May 1988 address to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, where she stated: “What then are the distinctive marks of Christianity? They stem not from the social but from the spiritual side of our lives.”
---
Thatcher said more in the speech, including much that is both timely and timeless. She defended religious liberty and urged that “no majority can take away God-given human rights.” She insisted to Britons that prayer had a place in public schools.

Perhaps most important, just as the British people continued their rapid slide toward a voluntary de-Christianization, Thatcher called the Christian faith “a fundamental part of our national heritage. And I believe it is the wish of the overwhelming majority of people that this heritage should be preserved and fostered.”

Peter Hitchens with his first thoughts on the death of Margaret Thatcher and a wonderful story

Mr Healey, who even now still preserves a Yorkshire accent, and was in those days one of the politicians whose speeches would fill the chamber, and who rather prided himself on his ability to cope with the rough stuff, got the shock of his life ( and so did everyone else) when the supposed Finchley housewife suddenly shook off nearly 50 years of delicacy, pearls and elocution lessons, and spoke in the language of the Lincolnshire back streets:

‘ The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election, is he? Afraid? Frightened? Frit? Could not take it? Cannot stand it? If I were going to cut and run, I should have gone after the Falklands. Frightened! Right now inflation is lower than it has been for 13 years—a record which the right hon. Gentleman could not begin to touch.’

‘Frit!’. We had never heard it before,  especially not from her, but you knew what it meant as soon as it struck the eardrum. It was much more damaging than ‘afraid’ or ‘frightened’ because it came from somewhere much deeper.  It was the sharp, unanswerable Saxon jibe and challenge, pronounced with a sneer, that you couldn’t answer and which everyone listening would know had struck home. It was completely British,  and it was not from the neat world of suburban lawns and afternoon tea, but from the other less gentle world of cracked pavements and grimy brick walls where the only thing to do when in trouble was to stand and fight. And so she did.

To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people  No transatlantic alliance since has held a candle to the potent symbolism of Reagan-Thatcher

 Thatcher-Reagan-1
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 PM | Permalink

Social media is creating new dimensions of horrific grief

Over the past few days, we've seen paroxysms of hate on Twitter and Facebook directed at Margaret Thatcher ("the bland, the vain, the self-important, the emotionally incontinent, the psychotic, the embarrassing, the callous and the very, very tasteless.") and pastor Rick Warren after the tragic suicide of his son.

Warren, the best-selling author of The Purpose-Driven Life,  and who delivered the invocation at President Obama's inauguration in 2008, wrote on his Facebook page  'haters celebrate' his pain after his son's suicide.

Rick Warren said it's been difficult to deal with some of the hate mail and online comments he's read since announcing Saturday that his son had committed suicide.

"Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest," Warren wrote on Facebook on Monday night.

If there is one thing that unites every human on the planet is that death will come to all of us.  The occasion of any death requires us to rise above political, religious, ethnic and partisan differences, acknowledge our common mortality, and, if good things can not be said about the deceased, to remain silent for a period of time.
To intentionally spew hate in a public space or on social media is to increase the suffering of those who grieve.  It is disgusting, obscene, and inhuman.  It is less than human.  People who do it, if they have any conscience at all, will live to regret it.  Worst of all, they can never make amends.  Does it not occur to such people that they are exposing to the world the black hole in their black hearts?

Does not your heart weep for the parents of the    'Gang-rape victim', 17, kills herself 'after her attackers took picture of the assault and sent it to classmates who branded her a slut'

A 17-year-old girl has killed herself after four boys raped her and spread a photograph of the assault, causing classmates and friends to taunt and cyber-bullied her, her mother has said.  Rehtaeh Parsons from Nova Scotia, Canada hanged herself in her family's bathroom on Thursday after years of torment and, on Sunday night, her parents took her off life support.
---
On a Facebook tribute page, her mother, Leah Parsons, described how her daughter was forever changed by the November 2011 attack in their hometown of Cole Harbour.

'She went with a friend to another's home,' her mother wrote. 'In that home, she was raped by four young boys. One of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh's school and community, where it quickly went viral.'

The alleged attack left then 15-year-old Rehtaeh an outcast at Cole Harbour District High School, where her rapists were also students. Friends, students and strangers taunted her, her mother said.

'People texted her all the time, saying "Will you have sex with me?"' she said. 'Girls texting, saying "You're such a slut".
'She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her… It just never stopped,' her mother told CBC.
---
Her mother said she wants other people to learn from the tragedy and how social media allowed her to be continually violated following the brutal rape.
Rehtaeh shared her sadness on Facebook, including a post on March 3 which read: 'In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'

 Rehtaeh Parsons+Parents  What a tragedy for her parents.  My heart goes out to them both

A tragedy made harder by shocking and disgusting comments by people without shame.  May Rehtaeh rest in peace.  May her parents find some solace in their grief.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:49 PM | Permalink

The Great Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable woman whom I admired from afar.  I knew she was a remarkable leader with intelligence and conviction, but it took her death before I fully appreciated how great a leader she was.  Below are excerpts of what I think are the best articles.

The historian Paul Johnson on The World-Changing Margaret Thatcher    Not since Catherine the Great has there been a woman of such consequence.

Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did she turn around—decisively—the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. "Thatcherism" was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.
--
She was not a feminist, despising the genre as "fashionable rot," though she once made a feminist remark. At a dreary public dinner of 500 male economists, having had to listen to nine speeches before being called herself, she began, with understandable irritation: "As the 10th speaker, and the only woman, I wish to say this: the cock may crow but it's the hen who lays the eggs."

Her political success once again demonstrates the importance of holding two or three simple ideas with fervor and tenacity, a virtue she shared with Ronald Reagan. One of these ideas was that the "evil empire" of communism could be and would be destroyed, and together with Reagan and Pope John Paul II she must be given the credit for doing it.

Among the British public she aroused fervent admiration and intense dislike in almost equal proportions, but in the world beyond she was recognized for what she was: a great, creative stateswoman who left the world a better and more prosperous place, and whose influence will reverberate well into the 21st century.

Financial Times Margaret Thatcher: ‘Iron Lady’ who remade Britain

She changed us all. We went from being a people who saw ourselves as eternally on the downward slide to a nation that was proud to be British again. On the world stage too, she made Britain count once more. She was a startling presence who brought a strong and controversial style to our diplomacy after years of Foreign Office blandness.

The London Telegraph: Baroness Thatcher: a champion of freedom for workers, nations and the world Charles Moore, Baroness Thatcher's authorised biographer, analyses her personal strengths – and her weaknesses.

After the Conservative government of Edward Heath lost the general election of February 1974, Mrs Thatcher realised, quite suddenly, that her nation was failing. At home, trade union power, over-government, over-borrowing, high taxes, inflation, were destroying it. On the international scene, Soviet Communism was threatening the future of freedom in the West. Until that time, she had believed, almost deferentially, that the men in charge could put things right. Now she saw that they hadn’t, and couldn’t. She began to think that perhaps a woman could.
--
She believed there was little the British people could not do if only government would let them. Thus she was strongly against the compulsory wage control which was the fashion of the age. She wanted people to get richer, but by work, not by trade union muscle. ''We back the workers, not the shirkers,’’ she said. With the rhetoric of the housewife, she turned economics from the dry terrain of technicians into the stuff of daily life and the subject of political combat.

She also knew the value of enemies. It was the Soviet Union who bestowed on her the title of ''the Iron Lady’’ in 1976, after she had attacked the orthodoxy of detente which was then weakening the defences of the West. The Soviets meant it in mockery, but she could see it was a badge of honour, and she grabbed it.
--
It is said, and there is truth in it, that Mrs Thatcher was a divisive figure. But it is important to remember that the reason she won her first general election in 1979 was that the country had been deeply divided by the “Winter of Discontent”. Far from being the apostle of selfishness, Mrs Thatcher led the public disgust with the organised selfishness of the union bosses. Her strongest appeal was not to true-blue voters, but to upper-working-class people disillusioned with Labour. It was clear that the ''Social Contract’’ and other devices to deal with organised labour had failed. Her talk of proper rewards for hard work, her offer of discounts for people who wanted to buy their council houses, her promise of government that could actually govern, these offered hope.
--
The same two-edged point applies to her extraordinary character. Her courage, eloquence, energy and passion were all huge virtues – as was her less noticed political cunning. But they had a flipside. She was hard for Cabinet colleagues to work with and often unnecessarily combative. Being a woman, she was impatient with their clubby male complacency – another virtue, but one which contributed to her downfall. In later years, her light shone so bright that it became intolerable for those in its shade. She never knew when to stop.

Andrew Sullivan describes just how bad England was and how he saw Thatcher as a Liberator.

The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.
I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does.

Telegraph obituary.  Baroness Thatcher, who has died aged 87 from a stroke, was not only Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she was also the outstanding peacetime leader of the 20th century.    So great were her achievements, her obituary is in 10 parts.

1. Early life  The grocer's daughter and her Oxford degree in natural sciences (chemistry)
2. Entering politics  Married, she became the mother of twins and earned a law degree, specializing in tax law.  In 1958, she won a seat in Finchley as a conservative.  Her first position was the Parliamentary Secretary at  the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.
3. Life in the shadow cabinet  of Edward Heath as Education Secretary
4. The rise to leader. It took the strikes of the winter of 1978-79, the so-called “Winter of Discontent”, to cause Margaret Thatcher finally to conclude that the boil of union misrule must finally be lanced, and, equally important, that there was now sufficient support in the country for the operation.
5. From Opposition to Government    A "Labour isn't Working" campaign put her in the right spot to be elected Prime Minister in May 1979
6. War on the Left and in the Falklands; re-election The restoration of British rule in the Falklands was a personal triumph for the Prime Minister.Economic progress, though, continued. It was now that privatisation — first of state-owned businesses, later of public utilities — gathered pace.
7. The miners’ strike and her second term.  Victory in this strike finally broke the back of militant trade unionism and established Britain’s reputation as a safe place in which to invest.    The economy was growing
8. Third term in office.  The work of Margaret Thatcher’s third parliament was intended to be heavily focused on reforming the public services in order to promote choice and efficiency.
9. Ousted from Downing Street and the leadership. By the summer of 1990, Margaret Thatcher’s position within her own Cabinet was exposed — far more so than she or the civil servant advisers on whom she increasingly relied were prepared to recognise.
10. Life after politics. Margaret Thatcher left office temporarily dazed and embittered, but sound in mind and body, full of energy and initially with nothing to do except write her memoirs — upon which she embarked the following year.


The Independent: 'A heroine and a hate figure' - for better or worse, Baroness Thatcher remade our nation

Few British prime ministers have given their name to a political philosophy.

Marvel at Margaret Thatcher – the outsider who beat the system

Unlike most politicians today, she had courage, integrity and a clear sense of who she was.

Washington Post editorial Margaret Thatcher: In every sense, a leader

Ms. Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, had changed not only her country’s direction but also its standing in the world. She continued to be passionately detested by some and admired and respected by others long after she left office, and her record will be debated for decades — or centuries. What is hardly debatable is the proposition that she was, in every sense of the word, a leader.

Mrs Thatcher's personal assistant and life long friend writes My chum Maggie loved Vogue, hated trousers and only used Clinique on her porcelain skin

Jennifer Rubin on Thatcher as a Conservative Heroine

That grounding in the real world, far from the inner sanctum of British elites, gave her a thorough appreciation of the strengths of free markets. She took her country by the scruff of the neck, shook loose the trade unions that had strangled the once-great British economy and remade Britain from a socialist basket case to a thriving power, wisely keeping the Continent at arm’s length. (Among her great contributions was to keep Britain out of the euro zone.)
She stood up to terrorism (the IRA) before most in the United States had any understanding of the methods and mindset of groups who specialized in killing innocents. Like Reagan she survived an assassination attempt (her hotel in Brighton was blown up in 1984). And like Reagan she did not take kindly to international aggression (in the Falklands or elsewhere). She was an indefatigable Cold Warrior, and she was ultimately a successful one at that.
She was for me, and no doubt many women of the 20th century, a towering figure who attained real power by virtue of her own hard work and excellence. She did not derive her power from men or from victimology. In contrast to the 20th century feminists, she was painfully aware of sexism but did not obsess about it. She simply got the job done.

George Will on Margaret Thatcher’s vigorous virtues

She aimed to be the moral equivalent of military trauma, shaking her nation into vigor through rigor. As stable societies mature, they resemble long-simmering stews — viscous and lumpy with organizations resistant to change and hence inimical to dynamism. Her program was sound money, laissez faire, social fluidity and upward mobility through self-reliance and other “vigorous virtues.” She is the only prime minister whose name came to denote a doctrine — Thatcherism. (“Churchillian” denotes not a political philosophy but a leadership style.) When she left office in 1990, the trade unions had been tamed by democratizing them, the political argument was about how to achieve economic growth rather than redistribute wealth, and individualism and nationalism were revitalized.
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Like de Gaulle, she was a charismatic conservative nationalist who was properly resistant to what she called the European federalists’ attempts to “suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the center of a European conglomerate.” She left the British this ongoing challenge: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level.” As long as her brave heart beat, she knew there are no final victories.

New York Times 'Iron Lady' Who Set Britain on a New Course

Glenn Reynolds asks Was there anything she couldn't do?  Turns out she helped invent soft-serve ice cream!.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

April 8, 2013

Roger Ebert was "Catholic in his film writing".

Steve Greydanus  reflects on ‘How I Believe in Roger Ebert’

Just over a month before his death on Easter Thursday, Roger Ebert wrote a blog post titled “How I Am a Roman Catholic”

[Ed. some excerpts from that essay]

It was from these nuns, especially Sister Nathan and Sister Rosanne, that I learned my core moral and political principles. I assumed they were Roman Catholic dogma. Many of them involved a Social Contract between God and man, which represented classical liberalism based on empathy and economic fairness. We heard much of Leo XIII's encyclical "Rerum Novarum"--"On Capital and Labor."….

I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God. I refuse to call myself a atheist however, because that indicates too great a certainty about the unknowable….
a follow-up of sorts to a 2009 post called “How I Believe in God.” 

…..One episode from this essay, somewhat inexplicably, brings tears to my eyes:
I was an altar boy. Even in the dead of winter I rode my bike to church to serve at the early morning mass. In those days parents thought nothing of a grade school kid riding his bike all over town. One morning early in my service I got confused and didn't have the water and wine where they were required. I was maybe nine or ten When we got back to the sacristy, I burst into tears and Father McGinn took me on his lap and comforted me and said God knew I had done my best. If a priest did that today, he would be arrested, but no priest or nun ever treated me with other than love and care.

[Ed. some excerpts from How I Believe in God]


Catholicism made me a humanist before I knew the word. When people rail against "secular humanism," I want to ask them if humanism itself would be okay with them. Over the high school years, my belief in the likelihood of a God continued to lessen. I kept this to myself. I never discussed it with my parents. My father in any event was a non-practicing Lutheran, until a death bed conversion which rather disappointed me. I'm sure he agreed to it for my mother's sake.
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I've spent hours and hours in churches all over the world. I sit in them not to pray, but to gently nudge my thoughts toward wonder and awe. I am aware of the generations there before me. The reassurance of tradition. At a midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the village church in Tring in the Chilterns, I felt unalloyed elevation. My favorite service is Evensong. I subscribe to Annie Dilliard, who says that in an unfamiliar area, she seeks out the church of the oldest established religion she can find, because it has the most experience in not bring struck by lightning.

[Back to Greydanus's article]

Here is how he remembered the nuns:

None of these nuns were “strict” in the sense usually meant. They simply assumed we would behave, and for the most part we did. No sister ever laid a hand on any student, as far as I know. Nor did they raise their voices. It was an orderly school. We regarded the nuns with a species of awe, because they were the brides of Christ and had the entire Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church backing them up.
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Yet where some critics seem to wish to suspend all moral judgment, preferring to charge films only with aesthetic faults, Ebert was willing to invoke moral principles in his reviews, even at the risk of appearing uncool or unsophisticated:

Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things isn’t a bad movie, just a reprehensible one. It presents as comedy things that are not amusing. If you think this movie is funny, that tells me things about you I don’t want to know.

What bothers me most, after two viewings, is its confidence that an audience would be entertained by its sad, sick vision, tainted by racism. If this material had been presented straight, as a drama, the movie would have felt more honest and might have been more successful. Its cynicism is the most unattractive thing about it — the assumption that an audience has no moral limits and will laugh at cruelty simply to feel hip. I know moral detachment is a key element of the ironic pose, but there is a point, once reached, which provides a test of your underlying values.
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Ebert thought of the Catholic faith: He couldn’t believe it any more himself, but he was somehow pleased that it endured, and that other people continued to believe it. I’d like to think my own writing, when and where he ran across it, gave him this pleasure.
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I believe in Roger Ebert … for real, right now. I believe that he has not gone away, not as absolutely as he thought. I believe he is still “present,” somewhere.
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But I pray for him, with warmth, gratitude and hope, in the Latin he loved as a boy:
Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetuae luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

I always liked Roger Ebert and would search out his reviews, usually after I saw a movie, just to read what he had to say about it. 

Ebert's Leave of Presence April 2, 2013

I must slow down now, which is why I'm taking what I like to call "a leave of presence."

What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.
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"On this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."

 Ebert Pulitzer

LA Times  obit  Roger Ebert gave independent films popular appeal, and his 'thumbs-up, thumbs-down' ratings on TV were both coveted and scorned. The prolific critic continued to write reviews while battling cancer in recent years.

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic whose gladiatorial "thumbs-up, thumbs-down" assessments turned film reviewing into a television sport and whose passion for independent film helped introduce a new generation of filmmakers to moviegoers, has died. He was 70.
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As the longtime and prolific critic for the Chicago newspaper, he wrote reviews while co-hosting a popular nationally syndicated TV show that, in the 1980s, was known as "At the Movies." Ebert was the first movie critic to win journalism's most prestigious award, collecting his Pulitzer in 1975, but he had the greatest impact through his TV forum, which began that same year on Chicago public television.

The TV reviews were not always the most sophisticated or reasoned, but they were widely influential. Ebert and his co-host — most famously, rival Chicago Tribune newspaper critic Gene Siskel, his broadcast partner for 23 years — would quarrel over a film's merits, then render judgment with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down score.
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"What Siskel and Ebert did was to pioneer the middle ground," said Robert J. Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "They had a significant impact on film criticism."
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His writing ease amazed and annoyed colleagues. While others agonized, he was known to stroll into the office half an hour before deadline, tell some jokes, then pound out his piece.
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Ebert was "the most hated guy in my life," Siskel once said. Ebert later said, "I think each of us initially said yes because we didn't want the other guy to do it first." Well after the show was a hit, they could refuse to share an elevator.
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By the end of the first season, the show was on more than 100 public television stations. In 1978, it was named "Sneak Previews" and moved to PBS, reaching 180 markets, making it the highest-rated entertainment show in the history of public broadcasting, Television Week reported.
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Ebert often said what he admired most about Siskel was his obvious love for his wife and children. When Ebert married Chaz Hammelsmith, an attorney, in 1992, she was a divorced mother of two in her 40s. He was 50.

He was "so grateful to have a family," Marsha Jordan, a Chicago television producer, said in 2005. "This woman came along at a time when she brought exactly what he needed."

New York Times  A Critic for the Common Man

It would not be a stretch to say that Mr. Ebert was the best-known film reviewer of his generation, and one of the most trusted. The force and grace of his opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture. Not only did he advise moviegoers about what to see, but also how to think about what they saw.

President Obama reacted to Mr. Ebert’s death with a statement that said, in part: “For a generation of Americans — especially Chicagoans — Roger was the movies. When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical.”
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Mr. Ebert liked to say his approach — dryly witty, occasionally sarcastic, sometimes quirky in his opinions — reflected the working newspaper reporter he had been, not a formal student of film. His tastes ran from the classics to boldly independent cinema to cartoons, and his put-downs could be withering.

“I will one day be thin, butVincent Gallowill always be the director of ‘The Brown Bunny,’ ” he wrote.
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Mr. Ebert — who said he saw 500 films a year and reviewed half of them — was once asked what movie he thought was shown over and over again in heaven, and what snack would be free of charge and calories there.

“ ‘Citizen Kane’ and vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream,” he answered.

A.O Scott  Ebert Was a Critic Whose Sting Was Salved by Caring

Every movie blogger, entertainment journalist, critic and film buff who had crossed paths with Roger Ebert or absorbed his influence — which is to say just about all of us — posted an elegy or a reminiscence. Along with those collegial and filial tributes came salutes from filmmakers and a statement from the White House after his death at 70, almost surely the first time a film critic has been eulogized by a president.

Roger Ebert: America's Street Corner Preacher of the Cinema

Roger Ebert was America's great evangelist for film. ….But even with all that, the man's pure love of movies, and his unpretentious, old-time newspaperman's desire to tell the story of film to all and sundry shown through every piece he wrote.

There was no ironic distance in Roger Ebert. When one thinks of the literally thousands of terrible films he had to endure in his long career (to get to the good ones) it is almost super-human that he could still be so devoted to, and earnest about, the medium. But week in, week out, in every review, Ebert treated each movie he saw as something that, for better or worse, deserved to be taken seriously
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 PM | Permalink

The young filmmaker who froze to death trying to impress

Filmmaker who 'froze to death' while sleeping rough for project in -4C conditions was trying to impress TV bosses

A young filmmaker is believed to have frozen to death while making a documentary about sleeping rough on the streets as he tried to impress television bosses.

Lee Halpin planned to spend this week on the streets of Newcastle experiencing and filming what life is like for those who are living rough.

In a video explaining his project, he claimed he was applying for a position on a Channel 4 investigative journalism program.

He said that as he had to show the channel he could be 'fearless' - a key 'value' of the broadcaster - he planned to spend a week 'immersed' in the world of homelessness, and wanted to 'sleep rough and scrounge for food.'  'It has caused a huge amount of trepidation among my friends and family.'

But three days after embarking on the project talented Lee, who lived with his family in Heaton, Newcastle, was found dead in a boarded-up hostel on Westgate Road, Newcastle.

He was 27-years-old so this was not a reckless adolescent dare, but rather a desperate attempt to get a job doing what he wanted.     

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

Memories of Near Death Experiences: More Real Than Reality?

Memories of Near Death Experiences: More Real Than Reality?

University of Liège researchers have demonstrated that the physiological mechanisms triggered during NDE lead to a more vivid perception not only of imagined events in the history of an individual but also of real events which have taken place in their lives!

Such a conclusion is in complete accord with all that I have read about NDEs. 

To catch up on all the discussion concerning NDEs, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on near-death experience including this bit about its lasting effects.

Kenneth Ring (professor of psychology) has identified a consistent set of value and belief changes associated with people who have had a near-death experience. Among these changes one finds a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive. Changes may also include increased physical sensitivity; diminished tolerance of light, alcohol, and drugs; a feeling that the brain has been "altered" to encompass more; and a feeling that one is now using the "whole brain" rather than a small part.


Near-death.com has the best links for NDE research conclusions and testimonies of NDEs.

The most recent is the experience of a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, Dr Eben Alexander whose book, Proof of Heaven, was published last October.

Dr. Alexander, 58, was so changed by the experience that he felt compelled to write a book, “Proof of Heaven,” that recounts his experience. He knew full well that he was gambling his professional reputation by writing it, but his hope is that his expertise will be enough to persuade skeptics, particularly medical skeptics, as he used to be, to open their minds to an afterworld.
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It took him two years, he said, to even use the word God in discussing his experience. But then he felt an obligation to all those dealing with near-death experience, and particularly to his fellow doctors. He felt compelled to let them know.
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His messages to those who deal with dying is one of relief. “Our spirit is not dependent on the brain or body,” he said. “It is eternal, and no one has one sentence worth of hard evidence that it isn’t.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

Grave robbing and ghost marriages

Search for love in China fuels 'ghost marriages'; grave robbing

The marriage of two dead people in China is a centuries-old custom called "minghun," or "ghost marriage."

According to folklore, if people are alone when they die, they will be alone in the afterlife, too. Worse yet, lonely ghosts might come back and try to take family members back to their world to keep them company. So it becomes a family responsibility to make sure deceased relatives are happily married.

Carrying out a ghost wedding in modern China isn't easy. For one thing, it's not legal. The practice was officially banned after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, but it can still be found in remote regions of the country.

Also, ghost weddings can cost big bucks. They are performed much like regular weddings, except they usually involve a burial ceremony. Relatives and friends of the deceased eat and drink. Sometimes entertainment is provided. After the wedding, the two families typically socialize together, especially on major holidays. Some believe their bond can be closer than that of in-laws of living couples.

As is customary with a regular marriage, the family of the groom must give the bride's family a betrothal gift. When the couple is dead, that gift almost always comes in the form of cash. In total, Wei's children spent around $2,500 on the betrothal gifts to the bride's family, but they considered the price reasonable. A typical betrothal gift for a ghost wedding is between $4,500 and $5,500.

Finally, it's not exactly easy to find an available corpse.

Demand for female bodies is particularly high.

As a result, the fresh corpse of a young woman can fetch as much as $30,000 on the black market. That kind of demand has led to the grim crime of grave robbing.

In early March, four people were sentenced to more than two years for stealing 10 corpses from graveyards in Shannxi province and selling them on the black market.

Zhou Peng, a journalist at the Xi'an Evening News who reported on the story, told NBC the criminals even performed plastic surgery on corpses and dyed their hair to make them look younger, so they could fetch higher prices.

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"Ghost marriage between two dead people is stable and lasts forever.  There is no such thing as divorce."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

Death by Laxatives

Tragedy of the former head girl consumed by anorexia: 26-year-old died from 'addiction to laxatives'

 Georgia Willson Pemberton Death By Laxative Blessed with brains as well as beauty, Georgia Willson-Pemberton appeared to have it all.
But the one-time child ski champion’s life was gradually destroyed by anorexia and a deadly addiction to laxatives, her despairing family told yesterday.

After a four-year battle with the eating  disorder, the former head girl of a private school died following an overdose of over-the-counter laxative pills, which caused ‘catastrophic’ organ failure.  Her weight had plunged to less than seven stone – desperately low for a 26-year-old woman who stood at 5ft 11in.

But in the grip of anorexia, she had continued to take laxatives, buying more than 6,000 over the internet from supermarkets.

Her father Robert, 62, sobbed as he told her inquest how he was helpless to save his ‘hugely intelligent’ daughter.
‘The world was her oyster, she could have done anything,’ he said. ‘Her ambition just disappeared. This disease just consumed her. That’s all she thought about.’

Her worried parents paid for treatment at several of the world’s leading eating disorder centres, including a three-month stay at the Monte Nido Centre in California, which charges up to £33,000 a month and has treated celebrities including Ally McBeal actress Portia de Rossi.

But Miss Willson-Pemberton continued to lose weight and died in hospital in December after collapsing at her parents’ £2million home in Putney, south-west London.
She told doctors she had taken 50 laxatives several days earlier and surgeons at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital found her gullet, stomach, small intestine and liver had been irreparably damaged.  Intensive care consultant Michelle Hayes said she believed the ‘catastrophic organ damage’ was caused by the overdose and long-term ‘chronic laxative abuse’.

What a sad death and family tragedy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

No more transfer of Delta frequent flyer miles at death

Delta angers frequent fliers by banning them from transferring miles to family members and friends after death

Delta has upset many of its most loyal fliers after the airline quietly terminated a policy that allowed to them to transfer miles to friends and family after death.
The new rule was issued in a recently updated version of the SkyMiles policies book.

Fliers protesting the change have launched an online petition targeting Jeff Robertson, the vice president of the SkyMiles program, Delta CEO Richard Anderson and Delta President Edward Bastian.  Several people used the petition, which was posted Friday, as a forum to express their grievances over the policy change.

Kevin Jenkins from Tempe, Arizona said he would be cancelling his Delta credit card with American Express as a result of the change.  Tim Winship, editor and publisher of FrequentFlier.com, told NBC that flyers are so angry because they equate their miles to money.  'Earning frequent flier miles in the minds of most people is akin to earning money and the idea that your miles - or your money, for that matter - would simply disappear when you die strikes a profoundly disturbing note in the minds of many,' Winship said.

SkyMiles members argue that they specifically fly Delta is so they can pass on their miles, like an inheritance, to family members after their death.
'I have been loyal to Delta for 45 years and this is a slap in the face that I cannot leave my miles to my wife if I die,' said Roy Heffern from St. Ignatius, Montana. 'Maybe my loyalty is misplaced in Delta.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink