Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bishop Desmond Tutu

Click here to see Bishop Tutu's reaction to our new Presiding Bishop:http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/resources/article.php?id=745

Bishop Desmond Tutu

Click here to see Bishop Tutu's reaction to our new Presiding Bishop:http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/resources/article.php?id=745

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Presiding Bishop on TV Tonight!!

The new Presiding Bishop will be intervied on the CBS evening news tonight. Sunday, July 23. Tune in and see what you think.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Roof Update

An update on our roof lawsuit and teh monies we will be receiving. Recently we reached a settlement in a lawsuit against Logan Roofers, Bart Rodi, and Therma View Skylight Company regarding the failed installation of a roof in 2001. The lawsuit was settled for $87,500. The remaining legal fees will be $17,500 which will leave us with $70,000.

Once we repay the expenses we have incurred throughout this process $5,684.88 and repair the damage to the sanctuary which we estimate to be $18,500 we will have a balance of approximately $45,815.

Our skylight was successfully installed thanks to a grant by the St. Matthew’s Bedell Fund in Bedford, New York. The terms of that grant included a provision that should our lawsuit be won, we would split the amount we won less the costs of legal fees and expenses to repair the damage. Per that agreement, we expect to repay approximately $22,907.50 to the Bedell Fund or half of the remaining balance of $45,815.
We expect to receive the check from the lawyers in the amount of $70,000 in the next 30 days. The balance will be deposited in the Capital Fund and used for major repairs to the church property.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Baghdad Days: Sirens

Another chapter from Bagdhad where Raleigh just returned home from. . .Baghdad Days – Sirens

This morning as I walked back to my trailer from the gym I heard sirens. The sun was just up but the air was still and the brutal heat of the day had not yet set in. There were many sirens coming from across the Tigris River, outside the concrete wall that surrounds the Green Zone. I couldn’t tell whether they were Iraqi police or militia or firemen or even Coalition forces or PSDs. And I hadn’t heard the loud boom that sometimes turns out to have been an insurgent bomb so I didn’t know what the sirens were rushing to. But I imagined it was an IED or a VBIED or the new threat – an EFP. And I imagined that we would be able to check the internet in an hour or so and see a story about the damage and a picture of a burning automobile or a blasted storefront. Last night there had been a bicycle bomb in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, a Sunni stronghold, and a second bomb in Hilla, south of Baghdad, a Shiite area. Both bombs were in “crowded market areas” and produced the requisite stories and photos. Reports varied but perhaps 40 people were killed and 90 injured.

The seemingly random bombs and the more targeted kidnappings and killings get the headlines and the attention but a more insidious form of terror threatens Iraqi civilians in their daily life. The more subtle threat builds on the public atrocities but takes the form of watchful eyes and hidden activities and perceived threats. It generates fear and uncertainty and demands conformity and obedience.

The Embassy here recently sent a cable back to Main State reporting anecdotal evidence of the effects of this on certain Iraqis who are members of the US Embassy staff. The cable was obtained by the Washington Post which published it with very little comment. The cable reports that some of the local Iraqi staff have been harassed over proper dress and habits. Unknown people have advised them to wear a veil and not to drive a car. Another staff member was warned to cover up and not to use a cell phone which was suspected of leading to unwholesome relationships with men. The cable reports that some ministries have been forcing women to wear the headscarf (hijab) at work. The women report that they cannot identify the groups that are pressuring them. They could be Sunni or Shia but they appear conservative.

Iraqis who work in the Embassy have a heightened concern. They need to cross through one of the International Zone checkpoints to get to work each day. Employees report that starting in April the demeanor of the guards changed, becoming more militia-like and taunting. Some of the employees requested that they be issued press credentials so that they could not be identified as Embassy employees. That information could be a death sentence if it found its way to the wrong people.

We have seen the same scenario play out in our office. Our translator is a married Iraqi woman who wears a hijab and conservative dress in the office. Nevertheless, she adds a full black abaya over her office clothes and changes to a white head scarf before she leaves the Palace each day. She arranges her transportation so that she never takes the same route two days in a row and has informed only her husband where she works.

There are many stories of violence and the threats of violence. The DG of Accounting in the Ministry of Finance has been kidnapped a few weeks ago and not heard from since. Iraqis believe that traveling to the Baghdad Airport is dangerous because people are watching and if they travel too frequently they will be considered well-off and at risk of being kidnapped for ransom. Some central bank employees do not send their children to the local schools because they do not believe they will be safe.

This morning we had planned to travel to a local hotel that is the preferred meeting spot with central bank employees. The central bank had concluded that American advisors should not travel to the central bank compound because of the uncertain security situation. It is not clear whether this advice was aimed primarily at improving the security of the American advisors or the central bank employees. Nevertheless we readily agreed to meet at the hotel and have done so on several occasions.

On this morning, however, the meeting will not occur. We called our interlocutor to confirm the meeting and he informed us that he was not willing to travel to the hotel. He said that after our last meeting someone from his town had seen him and made inquiries about him in his town. The inquiries resulted in the information that he had recently traveled out of Iraq on official business in connection with a project funded by the Americans. He made clear that he no longer considered it safe to visit the hotel. He said, “They kill people.”

As life becomes nasty, brutish, and short outside the International Zone my admiration grows for those who are willing to persevere.

Be well,

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Katrina: Almost a Year

Jeanne attended the Librarian's Convention in New Orleans and I asked her to share her thoughts and observations with us. . .

The verger’s e-mail was waiting when I finally got home. “Here are the lessons for july 2... Jeanne has first and pop at 8:30. Absent mindly I printed out the lesson, then slowly read the first few words – “Moses said: If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight fisted toward your need neighbor…”

I’ve just returned from a week in New Orleans. 15,000 publishers and librarians stood by a commitment they had made years earlier, that in 2006 we would meet in New Orleans for our annual convention, and descended upon the Crescent City -- the first major convention to return to the Katrina ravaged coast.

What I saw and experienced in those few days will live with me forever.

At first, the drive in from the airport seemed to show a city recovering. Signs heralded a new shop opening here, jobs available there. Then you slowly spotted the “other” signs. Atop the Super Dome—a few men continued their repairs – the gapping holes still visible from the highway. Cars were stranded along the side of the road – but then you realized they had rusted in place, the sun beating down on their ravaged frames for months on end.

The business district seemed to be bustling – but when the streetcar trundled by you noticed that its once gleaming finish is now dented and worn. A large sign greeted our arrival at the hotel – and the bellman thanked us for coming.

When you stayed on the main thoroughfares it looked like business as usual, but step a block way and you would discover the entire back of a building was missing, the air conditiong system hanging by a few braces, slowly slapping against the frame. Stores were boarded up – high water marks waist high

The convention center is a series of buildings united by a hallway. The building A door was shuttered, the glass cracked, and so it was at building B and C and D. Nine months after the devastation they
were still picking up the debris. This amazing structure – that could accommodate 50,000 conventioneers – was the last refuge for so many who couldn’t get away and for so many who wouldn’t see the next dawn…and their few possessions could still be found

Everywhere people thanking us for coming, often by staff that had been hired the day before to see to our needs…for you see this was the first time they had been able to find gainful employment in the last nine months.

I chatted up the shuttle bus driver. “Yes mam,I’m from N’Orleans. I live in Houston now – that’s where most of my family is at. They called us here, me and a bunch of my fellow drivers, to come back and drive you folks to your hotel. It’s only gonna’ be for a week ,but I’m so glad to be home.” But “back home” means a cot at the local community center and a hot dog cart . And it was just for a week – he would return to Houston when we left - because there just wasn’t enough work.

Days were filled with meetings – but also extradorinary reunions as librarians who had fled across the country for safety found each other wandering an aisle. They were living with aunts, or friends, or in FEMA trailers, but they had returned because this was the future, this was hope.

A school librarian talked about her principal who was so distressed by the governments lack of response that she went ahead and procured campers for her teachers and put them in the parking lot so that the teachers would have some place to live while they attended to their students. She couldn’t and wouldn’t wait.

We debated going out into the ravaged areas – were we exploiting the situation? We decided to hire a cab and asked this quiet little gentleman if he would drive us around. Proudly he told us he was Hungarian…but he had lived in New Orleans for the past 25 years. He didn’t leave during the hurricane because he wouldn’t leave his cat. He rode out the hurricane and the days of turmoil that were to follow in the attic of his brother’s house. His brother had left, but he and the cat were ok.

We slowly turned on a highway and then realized this was “the highway” where thousands had escaped in their cars and others sat in the blistering sun unable to leave. The road was clear, but below were the shirts and shoes and toys that had been left behind. Swinging off the next exit – the world changed. First you noticed the graffaiti – no they weren’t gang colors – No but you realize that their graffiti simply and graphically tells the life and too often death tale of each and every house, each and every person -- building by building-- when it was searched, how many people they found alive and how many people they couldn't save and would need to be carried out.

You read about the “blue tarp communities” in Florida where roofs need repair. They don't have blue tarp roofs in New Orleans -- as they don't have roofs to tarp.

“See that house there – the driver pointed to a house tipped on its side – that was over there.” And he points to a foundation 100 feet away. The boat atop the garage, “No those folks don’t own a boat “ that came in off the delta.

The stories went on block after block – people he knew and strangers he would never know. I’d been in New York on 9/11 and was witness to that destruction – but it was to one area – you had hope when you could look down a desimated street and see the Chrysler building. There is no view in New Orleans – no matter which direction you look you see mile upon mile of totally destroyed

And when you step out you are overwhelmed by the silence -- no traffic, no people and not even a bird. Just mile upon mile of destruction with a few glimmers of hope. A little beat up hot dog trailer on the side of the road with a sign that read "Thanks librarians for commin down."