Archive for May, 2007

He Just Doesn’t Get It!

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U.S. President George W. Bush holds the hand of four year-old Baron Mosima Loyiso Tantoh after presenting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington May 30, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

Ah, the blindness of privilege. Even when he tries to show the compassionate side of his Compasionist Fascist persona, he pick a member of Africa’s colonial-relic royalty – and a Baron no less, to show off his “common” touch!

Meanwhile, as our President hobnobs with Princes and Barons and Queens, us authentically common folk have to figure out what to do about gas, both kinds.

Doc Exposed as Blogger, Pays Off Plaintiff

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As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn’t know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff’s case and the plaintiff’s lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

Shortly before the end of his second day on the witness stand, while focusing on Lindeman’s views of a pediatric textbook, Mulvey asked him whether he had a medical blog, she recalled. He said he did. Then she asked him if he was Flea. He said he was.

The exchange may have been lost on jurors, but Meyer said Mulvey had telegraphed that she was ready to share Lindeman’s blog — containing his unvarnished views of lawyers, jurors, and the legal process — with the jury.

The next day, the case was settled.

from the Boston Globe

Is there any such thing as anonymous blogging anymore? Is a blogger with a track record as extensive and injudicious as that of the Dowbrigade permanently disqualified from seeking legitimate employment, a fair shake in the judicial system, public office or jury duty?

Budding bloggers beware – it may be too late for the Dowbrigade, but you still have time to save yourselves……

Berkman Denizens Take Home the Gelt

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liwilliams.jpg Three of the top Berkman denizens were rewarded for their brilliant ideas, but more than that, for their ability to transform their ideas into concrete programs that actually improve people’s lives in the real world…

The future of journalism is in your hands.

That was the message yesterday as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation handed out more than $11 million in prize money to various bloggers and computer programmers, and organizations ranging from MIT to MTV, for proposals that will empower ordinary people to participate in digital media.

Lisa Williams , founder of Placeblogger, [and H2otown-db note] won $222,000 towards further developing the website — basically “the blogosphere’s answer to the AP.” Placeblogger runs a streaming digest from blogs across the world, and ultimately Watertown resident Williams would like to be able to create feeds of local information for cellphones, blogs, and e-mail.

Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School created a website in 2004 that aggregates blogs from across the world. Yesterday, he won $244,000 to help train bloggers in developing countries and rural areas.

David Ardia , also of the Berkman Center, won $250,000 to support the Citizen Media Law Project , an online legal resource for citizen journalists.

from the Boston Globe

Congratulations, to the three of them. Lisa and Ethan are two of the smartest and nicest people we know, and are sure to use the money to make a positive impact on-line and off in other people’s lives. David we don’t know, but his project sounds like something we should check out, especially as we have been working more and more in the field of legal English, now a must for lawyers all over the world.

Meanwhile, our online staff feel that the Dowbrigade News deserves a piece of that action. We have to get back on the magic mailing list for grant and prize money. With an award like that, we wouldn’t have to teach so many hours we’re too tired to blog when we get home! Of course, we would have to come up with some grant-worthy project. Something to empower a downtrodden and neglected constituency. The best we’ve come up with so far is a clearinghouse for information related to the mysterious mass disappearance of America’s bees. Bees seem downtrodden and neglected, and the big cell phone companies constitute a suitable corporate culprit.

But any other suggestions from the constituency would be appreciated.

Beware the Sports Gods Wrath

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aingge.jpgThe Boston sports world, an all-consuming caldron of angst, emotion and eternal hope cruelly dashed, is awash in ranting and raving about tonight’s NBA Draft lottery. Not even the draft itself, mind you, but the lotto-like pingpong ball extravaganza, raised, in an example of rabid hype promoted into an actual event, somehow, to the level of talking heads, star-studded broadcast teams, exhaustive human and cyber-metric analysis and, for all we know, rampant off-shore wagering and secret animal sacrifices.

One would think that a place with as many alternative distractions as Boston, home to multiple world-class universities, a thriving music scene ranging from street performers to Symphony Hall, a cadre of entertaining politicianas continually involved in humorous hijinxs, spectacular scandals or outragous oration, as well as regular, dramatic and ultimately doomed runs for the Presidency, and the glorious New England weather would have better things to do than obsess over a bunch of over-paid, pampered and ocasionally psychotic or criminally insane professional athletes. However, we suppose that even with a billion distractions a dense conglomeration of ordinary Americans, hoodwinked into dead-end jobs and trapped in their homes by rampant debt and fear of violent crime will find solace in highly stylized violence and sweaty showmanship displayed on their as-yet unpaid for giant plasma TVs.

Despite all of this, and our heartfelt conviction that professional sports is emblematic of all that is wrong with our society and culture, from education through the economic system and into drug culture, the Dowbrigade confesses to being a die-hard Boston Celtics fan since our undergraduate days in the Bird-McHale-Parrish era. So it is with some regret that we say that if the Sports Gods do exist in any way, shape or form, the Celtics will get the worst pick possible for the team with the second fewest wins last season, which is to pick fifth.

For the vaulted Celtics have committed the one unpardonable sin in sports universally, and in professional sports in particular – they purposely lost games. They threw at least a dozen contests at the end of last season in order to improve their chances at one of the two can’t-miss picks in this year’s crop – a pair of 19-year-old saviors whose lives have become so distorted that thier only hope for any kind of normal existence is to fail abmysmally in a few years and fade back into obscurity with a few million in the bank.

The Celtic braintrust did it in a smug, we-aren’t-really-trying-to-lose, wink-wink, good effort boys parody of real basketball which was as transparent as it was shameful. As anyone who has ever truly loved playing sports at any level knows, competing means giving your absolute best effort every time you step on the court. For a coach it means putting the absolute best team on the floor to give your team the maximum chance to win. Both players and coach owe this to the team, to the fans and to themselves. It is the one inviolate rule. Anything less is a sham.

To abandon this wholehearted and honest effort is to reduce your sport to the level of Professional Wrestling, the Harlem Globetrotters, fighters who take dives, student-athletes who shave points or players who fake injuries for time off.

The irony is that the NBA draft lottery was changed specifically to eliminate that kind of deliberate losing. Finishing with the worst record no longer guarentees the first pick, as it does in the NFL. The whole point in the ping pong balls was to reduce the chances of the worst team getting the top pick to around 1-in-4. Truth be told, finishing the season 0-and-82 would only get a team about a 50-50 chance at one of the top two picks!

Which is why we are expecting a donnybrook tonight. Because the Sports Gods DO exist! At least the majority of Americans think they do. When we read the statistic that 75% of Americans believe that they can affect the outcomes of live, televised sporting events by what they do (or do not do) at home, we thought it was another invented stat. But then we started thinking about it.

Imagine you are watching the Red Sox locked in a series with the Yankees, and it’s the bottom of the ninth inning and the Red Sox are behind by a run and Big Poppi is at the plate and the bases are loaded and your cat jumps up onto your lap. Annoyed, absorbed, absent-mindedly you throw kitty onto the couch across the room while hissing “Not now!” Then, before you can say “Rumpelstiltskin” (which may or may not be your cat’s name), Big Poppi pops up weakly to Derek Jeter. Game over.

Then, say, the next night, a similar situation arises. Late in a tie game, men in scoring position, Ortiz at the plate, two out. When the count runs to full, suddenly Rumpelstiltskin jumps back up onto your lap! Are you going to throw him across the room again? Absolutely not! You are going to scratch him behind the ears and ask him is he wants a catnip canape! Because, obviously, the Sports Gods like cats.

This is an example of affecting sporting events via “mojo remote control”, as well as hard evidence of the existence of the Sports Gods. Accordingly, we are expecting, at about 8:35 pm this evening, an unnatural, anguished howling to arise from the over-the-top fandom in Beantown, like a wounded animal watching its last hope of escape evaporate forever. Serves them right.

Pope Ratso Called Out on Indian Genocide

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huchavezCARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez demanded Pope Benedict apologize to Indians in Latin America for saying this month in Brazil that the Roman Catholic Church purified them.

Chavez, who regularly clashes with the Catholic Church in Venezuela but had not directly criticized the Pope before, accused the Pontiff on Friday of ignoring the “holocaust” that followed Christopher Columbus’s 1492 landing in the Americas.

“With all due respect your Holiness, apologize because there was a real genocide here and, if we were to deny it, we would be denying our very selves,” Chavez said at an event on freedom of expression.

In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Venezuela’s neighbor Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Indian leaders in the region were outraged by the comments.

Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.

from Reuters

The majority of our Venezuelan students would hate us for saying so, but you gotta hand it to that Hugo Chavez. Besides, we teach at one of the most expensive and exclusive universities in the world, so do the math. While it is undeniable that Chavez is an eccentric egotist and that he has seriously infringed on the percs and privaledges of the traditional ruling class in the Latin petro-Democracy, it is certainly refreshing to have someone on the world scene who isn’t beyond noting that the Emperor has no clothes.

Gone are the days that Nikita Khrushchev, Idi Amin, Yasir Arafat and Haile Selassie regularly railed at the mega-powers that control our world. Shot down like Jaime Roldos, shot up like Salvador Allende, overthrown like Jean-Bertrand Aristide emasculated like Qadaffi, their voices have been silenced one by one. Some of them were truly bad men, some not so bad, but they had a style and charisma that are rare today, and none of them were afraid to stand up and call out the most powerful men on the planet, including the President of the United States, and the Pope.

The European genocide of native Americans, in large part sponsored, paid for and carried out by the Catholic Church remains the Original Sin of the Founding Fathers of all of the American states and everything that came after. Because honestly facing it will require a comprehensive reevaluation of our most sacred myths and legends, we are all in a sort of Disney denial of where our origin truly lies and exactly whose blood and how much of it nurtured the roots of our democracies.

But this process must begin, and must include not only reexamination and redress but also reintegration. Only by honoring and tapping the accumulated wisdom of the original continental caretakers can we avoid the ultimately distructive and death-centered religions, philosophies and -isms of Europe and the Middle East.

They say that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. We know all too well, we carry in our blood, the history of our European ancestors. But the history of this land exists only in the native peoples it nurtured, and we are dangerously close to losing those voices forever.

We would be willing to bet that the name Hugo Chavez will before too long be added to the list of silenced voices above. In the meantime, let us enjoy his candor.

ICE Melts Under Potential Case Load

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icerrrWASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators and President Bush agreed yesterday to a potentially historic deal on an immigration bill that would give 12 million undocumented residents the chance to become legal Americans while beefing up border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal workers.

The measure would also lift an immigration backlog currently stretching up to 22 years, which has delayed the applications of an estimated 4 million people seeking to become legal permanent immigrants — including thousands of high-skilled workers in the biotech and high-tech industries in Massachusetts.

from the Boston Globe

Of all the news reports we’ve read on this topic (and it led most of the newscasts and papers in the nation) the Globe was the only one that hit the key claim in the lead – that this bill will clear up the ICE backlog of up to 22 YEARS!

But first an aside on acronyms. The US Immigration authorities, faceless bureaucrats who change lives in snap decisions and subjective evaluations, since time immemorial were known as the immigration and naturalization service, or INS. As opposed to the OUTS, who were their supplicants. Seemingly immune to the angst and tragedies unfolding daily in their anterooms and interview cubicals, it is uneasily appropriate that they have been re-branded as ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trading “Service” for “Enforcement” is the Republican Way.

But back to our exception to the assumption. Those people who have been waiting 22 years for their visas, refugees from the wars in Central America in the 1980’s, are still waiting. INS was abysmally understaffed and overworked, on top of being legendary for it’s inefficiency and bureaucratic obfuscation, BEFORE 9/11, back when they were issuing tourist and student visas as fast as they could fill out the forms and collect the fees. Now that they are actually investigating people before issuing visas, the time lag for applicants has tripled.

Having to spend so much time dealing with visa applications from people wanting to enter the country has left the ICE men and women almost no time to deal with the supplicants already here. Millions of aliens are mired in a legal limbo as their applications languish or wallow in windowless repositories.

To think that this already dysfunctional organization is up to processing 12 MILLION new applicants, fingerprinting, photographing, running background checks, giving English exams, evaluating academic records, taking employer testimony and issuing decisions is so ludicrous it would be high comedy were it not high tragedy. Lift the backlog, my ass. Not without hiring a million new ICE agents. Hmmmm…….

Weep for the Scholars of Palestine

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islamicuGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Israeli planes pounded Hamas targets and rival Palestinian factions exchanged bursts of automatic weapons fire outside Gaza City‘s Islamic University on Friday, as a volatile mix of Israeli strikes and Palestinian infighting plunged Gaza deeper into chaos.

The fighting largely died down later in the day after Fatah and Hamas fighters took up positions around the university. Earlier, the office of the university’s president, Kamelen Shaath, was attacked by rocket- propelled grenades, according to Hamas.

from AP

Will this madness never end? You shoot rockets at people long enough, they’re gonna shoot rockets back at you. What do you expect? And considering the Israeli rockets are high-impact, laser guided missiles fired from supersonic fighter jets, they are going to kill some innocent people. Turning their friends and family into the kind of people who would shoot rockets at you. What do you expect? Someone has to bust the chain before it drags them all down the drain, and us with ’em.

As a college Joe from the get go it particularly pains us to read of the use of a UNIVERSITY CAMPUS as a “stronghold” and a battleground! What sacrilege! Can you imagine Massachusetts Hall, built in 1720 and home office of octogenarian President Derek Bok, being attacked by ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADES! Even at the height of student protests, late 60’s-early 70’s, when Massachusetts hall was surrounded, occupied, the President (Derek Bok, coincidentally) trapped for days in his office, we never DREAMMMMED of rocket-propelled grenades. But time marches on, and Cambridge is not Gaza City. At least, not yet.

For this kind of madness, if not contained, can infect us anywhere. The global information and transportation revolution constitute the central nervous and circulatory systems, respectively, of the emerging global body politic, . Which, unfortunately, opens the doors to a host of new diseases, infections, breakdowns and modes of transmission. Rocket-propelled grenades, IED’s and suicide bombers are only a six-hour flight, or maybe a two-hour drive, from where you are sitting right now. Who can break the chain? How do we protect ourselves?

Zombies Invade Upstate New York

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rochesterzombie(May 18, 2007) — More than two years after their grim work began in Rochester, four human-tissue recovery workers and three local funeral directors have been charged with taking bones, skin and other material from corpses without obtaining consent.

A 179-count indictment unsealed Thursday focused on the cases of 36 people who died in 2005 and whose remains were sent to three Rochester-area funeral homes to be prepared for cremation. Instead, the indictment said, the remains were plundered for valuable tissue while grieving loved ones were kept in the dark.

from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (our first job in media)

What are the authorities keeping from the public? Obviously, there is either a serious zombie attack in upstate New York, or a relative of Dr. Frankenstein has set up shop. Neither would be that surprising for this hotbed of liberal eccentricity……

Sending Colombians to Afghanistan – Brilliant!

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According to the New York Times, the US is trying to turn Afghanistan into another Colombia – that is, convert a warlord based, heavily armed narco-insurgency into a warlord-based, heavily armed narco-democracy. They have even imported Colombian troops and advisers into Kabul to show them how it’s done. From the front page of the Times….

opiumKABUL, Afghanistan — In a walled compound outside Kabul, two members of Colombia’s counternarcotics police force are trying to teach raw Afghan recruits how to wage close-quarters combat.

It is a measure of this country’s virulent opium trade, which has helped revive the Taliban while corroding the credibility of the Afghan government, that American officials hope that Afghanistan’s drug problem will someday be only as bad as that of Colombia.

While the Latin American nation remains the world’s cocaine capital and is still plagued by drug-related violence, American officials argue that decades of American counter-narcotics efforts there have at least helped stabilize the country.

“I wanted the Colombians to come here to give the Afghans something to aspire to,” Mr. Balbo said. “To instill the fact that they have been doing this for years, and it has worked.”

Apparently we want them to aspire to government-sanctioned and sometimes even organized terror, trafficking, subversion of democracy, gross violations of human rights, death squads and mass murder. From page six of the front section of the same paper, under the wonderfully alliterative headline “Death Squad Scandal Circles Closer to Colombian President“:

cokeCALI, Colombia, May 15 — President Álvaro Uribe, the Bush administration’s closest ally in Latin America, faces an intensifying scandal after a jailed former commander of paramilitary death squads testified Tuesday that Mr. Uribe’s defense minister had tried to plot with the outlawed private militias to upset the rule of a former president.

Mr. Mancuso also said that Vice President Francisco Santos had met with paramilitary leaders in 1997 to discuss taking their operations to the capital, Bogotá.

The paramilitaries, which are largely demobilized but regrouping in some areas, committed some of the worst atrocities in a long internal war. Prosecutors ordered the arrest on Monday of five legislators for entering into a secret pact with the paramilitaries in 2001, bringing to 14 the total number of legislators implicated in such ties.

We guess the attitude of the US Government is that since we gotta get our drugs from somewhere, we might as well get them from a right-wing, death-squad democracy rather than from a left-wing death-squad insurgency. This fits neatly into the present US compulsion to support athoritarian, conservative, business-dominated regiemes and combat left-leaning, anti-government insurgencies, wherever they may be found.

It’s like a police informer who figures it’s OK to be an addict because he’s getting his drugs from the cops.

Paradoxically, both drug users and law and order fans across the country should be celebrating this initiative. If we can convert Afghanistan into a stable narco-Democracy, or rather crypto-Democracy, with some sort of passable pretense of free elections, the United States will be assured of a uninterrupted and reasonably priced supply of heroin and other opiates for decades to come. And a right-wing, military/paramilitary government in geographically crucial Afghanistan will insure us of a staunch ally in the war on terror and extremism.

Of course, the tourist industry tends to take a hit when hand grenades are more common than pineapples and carbines than canapes, but who wants to go to Afghanistan as a tourist anyway? (Actually, the Dowbrigade would love to visit if we could be assured that the danger level was no higher than that in, say, Washington, D.C…)

All kidding aside, the lesson of Colombia is that helping the government get a handle on drug trafficking hasn’t eliminated or even reduced the supply of coke on the streets of America, which according to reports is as robust and cheap as ever. It just puts the trade into the hands of the type of guys our guys consider to be more reliable in their dealings and more reasonable in their investment of the proceeds.

Military Bans Blogging from the War Zone

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WASHINGTON — Lieutenant Daniel Zimmerman, an infantry platoon leader in Iraq, puts a blog on the Internet every now and then “to basically keep my friends and family up to date” back home.

It just got tougher to do that for Zimmerman and a lot of other US soldiers. No more using the military’s computer system to socialize and trade videos on MySpace, YouTube, and nine other websites, the Pentagon says.

Citing security concerns and technological limits, the Pentagon has cut off access to those sites for personnel using the Defense Department’s computer network. The change limits use of the popular outlets for service members on the front lines, who regularly post videos and journals.

from the Boston Globe

It was just a matter of time before the information control freaks at the Pentagon nixed battlefield blogging. They know that should the hoary fog of war ever actually lift, the warrior’s world would be doomed, because exposed to the light of day and the sound of human voices bubbling up from below, rather than sonorous, solemn pronouncements from the powers that be up above, the civilian population will never support these overgrown playground brats and bullies blowing people and places to kingdom come just to mollify and accommodate their aggressive and destructive psychoses.

This is just one more example of the paradox of modern warfare. It is possible today to create weapons that are way more deadly, sophisticated, destructive and efficient than ever before. But it is also now impossible to hide the messy effects of their operation from civilians back home, who are footing the bill and in whose name they are being used.

Since Vietnam, the first modern war to be beamed directly into the living rooms of America, we have seen again and again that the viewing public will not tolerate images of murder, maiming and mass destruction in their name. Maybe a lightning thrust to save some hostages or overthrow a particularly onerous dictator, campaigns along the lines of the Six-day War, but certainly not a dirty, deadly, prolonged ground campaign, much less an exposed occupation. Despite the best efforts of military managers, there is no way to stop the flood of images, blog postings, email and guerrilla video from pouring out of the war zone, and given this information overload, no way to preserve popular support for the war.

Information wants to be free, and free information can stop the warmongers in their tracks, for the simple reason that their actions are against the interests of the country and the far majority of it’s citizens. No longer should the many suffer and die to serve the testosterone poisoning of the few.

Unfortunately, the disengagement from the present fiasco will be long and bloody in its own right, and those who do profit from war will continue hoisting these manufactured conflagrations on the rest of us until we elect some folks who “get it” and can start preparing for mankind’s mature evolution into sane stewards of our planetary inheritance.

Knock Out Knock Up Knock Off

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tatchoBrookline – A 19-year-old who allegedly posted ads on the Internet for “erotic massage” was arrested last week and charged with prostitution at her mother’s Coolidge Corner day care facility.

Police made the bust May 6, after catching an ad on www.craigslist.com that promised the services for $175 for a half-hour or $225 for an hour.

Vibeke A. Gonzalez, 19, of 1469 Beacon St., Apt. 4, was arrested that day at 2:43 p.m., at her home and charged with offering sexual conduct for pay.

The address is also listed as a licensed childcare provider for Angeli Dapena, according to state records.

Dapena confirmed she is the teen’s mother.

“Young beautiful girl, in call erotic massage. Not full-service but none leave disappointed,” police reported the ad as stating. “Newly blonde, light eyes, delicate features, petite. Utmost of confidentiality.”

The ad reportedly stated the woman was available evenings after 7 p.m., and listed a cell phone number for appointments. Reports indicated the ad had been online since May 2, 12:06 a.m.

from the Brookline (MA) Tab

Wow! This story features quite a collection of the factors which pique our interest; illicit sex, the underground economy, a local angle (just down the street from our place of employment), web 2.0 phenom Craig’s List, the ironic juxtaposition of pre-school day care and post-grad night care, a beautiful woman, tattoos and weird names.

There is more to this story than meets the eye, and your intrepid reporter will tirelessly monitor the local press for more details and photos. For the perp in this case is strikingly beautiful, at least as far as we could tell from the video clips on the evening news tonight.

As if that were not enough, her dramatically plunging neckline reveals the most amazing tattoo we have seen in quite some time. It features ornate scrollwork and arcane inscriptions which demand closer inspection. Photos currently available do not do them justice, but a search is on for more detail.

Coolidge Corner is an upscale shopping area between Boston College and Boston University. It features residents from around the world, although we are flummoxed as to the origin of the surname Dapena. In Spanish, da pena means “it’s too bad” in the extreme, as in “oh, that poor, pitiful, thing” or what you might say upon seeing an ex-child star sprawled drooling on the curb from years of substance abuse and STDs. We guess it takes someone saddled with a name like that to work up the nerve to call their kid Vibeke.

Finally, $175 for 30 minutes! What a rip-off! Although we must admit Vibeke, appearantly working for herself, exhibits an admirable entrepreneurial spirit. Among other qualities.

Too Late to Save Private Ryan

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rjonesDear Cadets of Monty Tech:

Greetings from Baghdad, Iraq. I’m 1st Lt. Ryan Patrick Jones, US Army, and I was in your shoes not long ago. I graduated from Monty Tech in 2001 from the house carpentry program. When I was a student, there was no junior ROTC program, but if there was, I would have joined.

You all have made two very important decisions so far: First, to attend such a fine school and, second, to choose to participate in an organization that stands for greater good and to do so during a time of war.

I am currently an engineer branch platoon leader in Iraq. Our platoon does many things — from conducting raids of insurgent homes to our main mission, route clearance. The enemy’s most dangerous weapon is the improvised explosive device or IED. These are bombs that are placed on the side of the road and set to go off on innocent civilians or American convoys as they drive by.

Each day, my platoon and I patrol the streets of Baghdad looking for the IEDs. Once we find one, we either blow it up or disarm it. Never a dull moment. There have been a few times the IEDs have found us before we found them. But don’t worry — our trucks have enough armor on them to survive most blasts.

Life isn’t always great, but one thing that keeps my soldiers and I going are the wonderful letters you all sent. We give you heartfelt thanks for all of the kind words.

Hopefully, I will get a chance to visit the junior ROTC program when I come back to my hometown of Westminster. Good luck to all of you, and if you decide to enlist in the military or join an ROTC program in college, it will be one of the hardest and most rewarding decisions you ever made.

God Bless America.

1st Lt. Ryan Patrick Jones US Army Baghdad, Iraq

On Wednesday, two days after this letter was received, a vehicle carrying Jones and another soldier struck a roadside bomb in Baghdad, and the Defense Department announced yesterday that they had died from their wounds.

from the Boston Globe