Commentary

Remembering

Rev. Billy Graham, 99, died on February 21, 2018 at his home in North Carolina from combination of cancer and pneumonia. He rose from itinerant tent evangelist to international fame and was dubbed “America’s preacher.” His crusades drew huge crowds, the largest one in Seoul, Korea in 1984 where 1.1 million people were attracted to a single service.


Rev. Graham is considered the most influential preacher of the 20th century and appeared on Gallup’s most admired people list more times than any other individual in the world. His many achievements include the internationally acclaimed charity the Samaritan’s Purse and his service as spiritual adviser to every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. Both Presidents Obama and Trump released statements honoring him, and Trump spoke at the memorial service. Rev. Graham is the fourth civilian to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol. He is survived by three daughters, two sons, 19 grandchildren, and 41 great-grandchildren.


Winners and Losers

Winners

  1. Coral Reef Alliance. Founded in 1994, CORAL is dedicated to protecting the coral reefs. Charity Navigator gave it 4 starts out of 4. For more information, go to coral.org.

  2. Back-up quarterback Nicholas “Nick” Foles, 29, and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles won their first national championship since 1960. Foles, who even caught a touchdown pass, received the MVP award.

  3. Figure skaters Alina Sagitova, 15, and Evgenia Medvedeva, 18, Russia. Sagitova won the gold medal by 1.31 points over Medvedeva, who received silver at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Some felt that Medvedeva should have received gold and complained that athleticism once again defeated artistry. All agreed that both skaters gave outstanding performances.

  4. Figure skater Aljona Savchenko, 34, from Ukraine, residing in Germany. She has skated in five Olympics for two different countries and with three different partners. She previously won bronze twice, and this year she and partner Bruno Massot won gold in pairs figure skating, receiving the highest score ever recorded for the long program. She is the oldest women to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating.

  5. Snowboarder Ester Ledecká, 22, Czech Republic. She was not expected to win the Alpine downhill race, and NBC didn’t bother to cover her run, having already declared Austria’s Anna Veith the winner. In a stunning upset, Ledecká won gold by 0.01 second. Her first reaction was that the scoreboard had malfunctioned. She is the first person to enter both Alpine skiing and snowboarding at the Olympics and the first one to receive two gold medals at the same Winter Olympic games in two different sports.

  6. Cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen, 37, Norway. She won two gold, one silver, and two bronze medals and became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all-time, leading Norway to first place in the medals count. She is also first in the all-time Cross-Country Cup rankings.


Losers

  1. FBI. Threats by the killer of 17 innocent persons on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida had previously been reported to the FBI. Apparently having learned nothing from their mishandling of the Boston Marathon bombers, the FBI once again failed to follow up on tips and needs an overhaul.

  2. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, 61, Florida. His department reportedly received over 18 calls between 2008 and 2017 regarding Nikolas Cruz. During the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, four Broward County deputies huddled outside the building, and it was the Coral Springs police who entered the school. The Sheriff, who previously has faced allegations of corruption, is accused of incompetence in handling this tragic shooting and of cover-up. A campaign is underway to force him to resign, and Florida politicians have asked the Governor to remove him from office. The Sheriff denied that he gave the order to “stand-down.”

  3. Dr. Wing-Tai Fung, 85, from Canton, China, practiced medicine in Harlan, Iowa for nearly four decades. Allegations that he sexually assaulted children and several women are similar to those against Dr. Larry Nassar. The first accusation on record was made in 1975. More complaints followed. Yet he continued to practice in Harlan, protected by his coworkers, and the Sheriff’s Department failed to take action. Unlike Nassar whose victims were high-profile, Fung preyed mostly on the disadvantaged. Perhaps for this reason only one case resulted in arrest, the media showed little interest, and he received outrageously lenient punishment. He settled out of court in the 1979 rape of a 15-year-old girl and pled guilty to the assault on a 10-year-old girl. Consequently, he lost his medical license, has to register as a sexual offender, and was sentenced to probation, which leaves this dangerous predator on the loose. Source: Des Moines Sunday Register, February 11, 2018.

  4. Baltimore, Maryland. USA Today listed it as the most dangerous of the 50 biggest cities in America. Its homicide rate rose by 17% in 2017. Rates of other crimes also increased, with commercial robberies rising 88% over the past five years.

  5. Adrienne Satterly, 41, Hiram, Georgia. Enraged over losing her home in divorce, Satterly set it on fire that destroyed four and damaged 16 other houses and killed two dogs. She is charged with arson and animal cruelty and held without bond.

  6. Michael Rohana, 24, Delaware. He broke off the thumb of a 2,000 year-old terracotta warrior valued at $4.5 million on loan from China to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. He kept the finger as a souvenir and, like many other dumb criminals, took a selfie. The FBI arrested him, and China is rightfully calling for severe punishment.


Pick of the Month, March 2018


Fiction

Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett, Orenda Books, $14.95


PI Varg Veum spiraled downwards into self-destructive behavior of alcoholism and toxic companions after the death of Karin, a woman he loved. Now four years later at age 59, he struggles to turn his life around and becomes involved with Sølvi, a single mother who wields a positive influence on him. Just as he sees a glimmer of a happy future ahead, the police arrest him on charges of possessing child porn on his computer, the evidence overwhelming that he is part of an international pedophile ring. And so starts his nightmare.


He escapes police custody, convinced his only option is to search his background to discover who hates him enough to frame him. Then Sølvi, who secretly helps him in his quest, receives an explicit photo of him with a child. He can’t imagine doing anything this horrific even at the lowest point in his life and hopes to prove it’s photoshopped. Yet there are times when he suffered from blackouts that remain blanks. He finds himself in a desperate race to find the truth before the police catch him.


Set in Bergen, Norway in 2002, this gritty novel highlights the power of the child porn industry and the filtering of children, notably orphans in asylum centers, to pedophiles. Veum states, “We know that, but for some reason we can’t stop it,” leaving the impression this is one reason for admitting foreign children into the country. The novel focuses on hacking, of using other people’s computers to frame them or to hide one’s identity, which is a growing problem that many of us face. This engrossing read, 21st in the series, concludes with a twist ending. I am looking forward to the next Varg Veum thriller.


Nonfiction

Brave by Rose McGowan, HarperOne, $27.99


Rose McGowan is an actress, model, musician, director, activist for women’s rights and for Boston terriers, and entrepreneur, having developed the skin care line The Only Skincare. She describes growing up in Italy in the Children of God cult and life with her dysfunctional family. After they moved to the U.S., she became a runaway; was placed in drug rehab; and experienced hunger, homelessness, assaults, toxic relationships, and extreme eating disorder. Later photography, books, and her two Boston terriers helped her to cope during difficult times.


Over the years she made headlines with her high profile relationships: music executive/club owner Brett Cantor who was murdered in 1993, the case unsolved; rock singer and Satanist Marilyn Manson; writer/director Robert Rodriguez; visual artist Davey Detail, her ex-husband; and singer and record producer Josh Latin, aka Boots. She spearheaded the campaign in 2017 to expose Harvey Weinstein and charged him with raping her. Now over 80 women have publicly accused him with sexual harassment or worse.


Many in the entertainment industry did not want this memoir published. She tells of being hacked, stalked, spied upon, and having parts of her manuscript stolen. One can see why. She depicts Hollywood as a dangerous cult that operates like the Mafia, and she castigates it for destructive treatment of women (e.g. Frances Farmer) and the mental poison it spreads. One chapter deals with the devastating rape by Weinstein, a predator she doesn’t refer to by name but only as the Monster, a repulsive man who reminds her of a melted pineapple. When Weinstein had her blacklisted, Hollywood took his side. Meryl Streep called him “God,” and Perez Hilton labeled McGowan a whore and waged a vicious campaign against her that, judging from her account, bordered on insanity.


The memoir has drawn controversy regarding her language  and tone, definition of cult and of brainwashing, views on women’s hair, and generalizations about men. It has also received praise for sensitizing readers to the propaganda spread by Hollywood and the media and their systematic misogyny and abuse of women. Her story reveals a dark side of Hollywood and that you can make a new start. She states, “Turning our lives around is the bravest thing we can do.”


Children’s/YA

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Square Fish, $6.99, ages 10 to 14


First published in 1962, this fantasy novel tells of Meg’s search for her father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government. It won the Newberry Award and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and was runner-up for Hans Christian Andersen Award. It is back on bestseller lists, receiving a boost from the second film adaptation of this classic that is set for release on March 6 and stars Oprah Winfrey.

 

Specialty/Small Press

Sky Pony Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, was launched in 2011. It publishes a wide variety of children’s and YA fiction and nonfiction. Their titles include The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm for ages 12 to 18.

 

Author submissions: They accept proposals and manuscripts only through email. For submission guidelines, see skyponypress.com.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and family upon arrival in India. Not surprisingly they were snubbed, the trip declared by some a disaster, and their attire ridiculed. While his outfit would look cute at a costume party, many feel that it is inappropriate for a state visit.

Rose McGowan stated that her goal is to expose Hollywood for what it is. Quotes from Brave:

“There is something particularly appalling in how media and Hollywood have gotten into lockstep with each other, operating hand in hand to dumb down the populace.”

“Hollywood affects your life in ways you many not even be aware of.”

“Hollywood is very comfortable with sanctioning the abuse of women and calling it art.”

Rannamõisa Lutheran Church, built in 1901, about 5 mi. from Vatsla. Photographer: Lefevrue, 2010

Estonia issued a commemorative stamp in 2017 in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It depicts the statue of Martin Luther that was erected by Baron Georg von Meyendorff at his Kumna manor house near Keila. The Soviets destroyed it in 1949. It was the only monument of Martin Luther ever erected on territory ruled by Russia and the first one with inscription in Estonian. Source: George A. Marquart