Sunday, June 26, 2011

Are There Evil People in the World? Are There Evil Fanatics?

YES....The answer is given in today's New York Times.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents tricked an 8-year-old girl in a remote area of central Afghanistan into carrying a bomb wrapped in cloth that they detonated remotely when she was close to a police vehicle, the Afghan authorities said Sunday.

Car Bomb Blast at Afghan Hospital Kills at Least 20 (June 26, 2011) Only the girl was killed in the blast, which occurred Sunday morning in the village of Uwshi in the Char Chino District, said Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the police chief of Oruzgan Province.

Mr. Shirzad said he believed the girl was unaware that the bag she had been given by Taliban insurgents held a bomb. Her body was “taken to a nearby security check post, and the police called her relatives,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Logar Province in southeastern Afghanistan, the death toll rose to 37 after a bombing on Saturday at a small-town hospital, said Dr. Mohammed Zarif Naibkhail, the director of public health for the province. He said that at least 53 people had been wounded.

But, he said, the actual number of casualties was probably much higher. “Local villagers rushed to the hospital right after the explosion and took the bodies of their relatives to their own villages,” he said.

In other parts of the country, four NATO soldiers were killed. Two of them were Spanish soldiers who died when an improvised explosive device detonated in Badghis Province in western Afghanistan, the Spanish Defense Ministry said. The other two soldiers died in separate episodes in southern and eastern Afghanistan, according to a NATO statement.

Afghan radio stations also reported that rocket fire from Pakistan over the last week had led President Hamid Karzai to register a former complaint with the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, at a regional terrorism meeting in Iran on Saturday. Mr. Zardari promised to investigate, said Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omar.

The unexplained rocket fire will be a topic of discussion when senior government figures from the two countries meet this week, Mr. Omar said. The Afghan National Security Council discussed the matter on Sunday.

According to Mr. Omar, President Zardari and the Pakistani Interior Ministry said the rockets, which hit Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces, were not fired by the Pakistani Army.

Mr. Omar said 470 rockets had been fired, killing at least 18 people and wounding 17. Since Pakistan’s tribal areas border eastern Afghanistan and are largely outside the Pakistani government’s control, it is possible that insurgent groups are responsible. But some Pakistani insurgents have set up bases in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces in Afghanistan to carry out attacks in Pakistan, raising the possibility that the rockets may have been fired by the Pakistani security forces.

“We want this resolved peacefully,” Mr. Omar said. He added that if the Pakistani government was not responsible, it should say so publicly and find and stop the attackers.

General Mohammed Zahir Azimi said that Afghan military forces were “ready to retaliate” if instructed to do so. A NATO spokesman said coalition officials were not aware of the rocket fire because they did not have troops in the areas where it occurred.

Ray Rivera contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day 2011

My father worked at Breece Plywood on Thirteenth Street along the floodwall. He worked there from 1937 until 1969, around the time it closed. His office was parallel to the railroad tracks, and I used to love going there on those occasions when he had to go in for one reason or another and I happened to be out of school. Sometimes the boiler tender would allow me to sling a few shovels of coal into the massive furnace, or blow the whistle which marked off some noteworthy point in time. Often I would slide a Coke out of the machine which had a serious design flaw that lined up an open cell every so often and left a bottle vulnerable to attentive pilchers.

Although the time I shared with my father at Breece's was mainly in the Sixties, the factory and offices as I saw them could have easily been seen in the same condition four or five decades earlier. It was a place frozen in time.

My father hit his teen years about the time the country hit the skids and fell into The Depression. I recall an event my dad told me of a scene he witnessed through his office window, and though he didn't explicitly say it, I believe the event must have taken him back to his own childhood in those cold days of austere deprivation. He saw two children about eight or ten years old walking down the railroad tracks. These were neighborhood kids, he figured, since he had seen them walking the tracks from time to time. He began to notice they would carry between them a bushel basket and every once in a while they would bend and place something in the basket. After a couple days of this he walked out to ask them what they were doing and they said they were picking up coal, which had fallen from the passing rail cars so they could keep their house heated. He asked around the plant who the kids were, and somebody knew them. He called the coal company and had several tons of coal delivered to the address. They probably never knew how it happened, but at least for that winter they knew warmth.

Thanks to my dad for that lesson. Now, on his tombstone are the words, "what you have done to least of my brothers you have done to me." He was a good man, and I miss him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

For What It's Worth

As time draws near for the City Council's consideration of the River View plan, here's where I stand. I'd like to lay out a much more reasoned, lengthy explication of my position, but the sand has fallen through the glass.

I expect to vote for the inclusion of the River View project into the T.I.F. district, which is the only vote before the Council now. That district will include the shelved project by Holliday and Goodman.

The ball will then be in the court of the entity referred to as Mainland Properties. That entity will need to convince banks that it can sell unfinished condo space in a soft market at the rate of $257.14 per square foot. Incidentally, the penthouse unit priced at $1.26 million is parsed out at $260 per square foot. For my money, I'm springing the extra three bucks to get whatever constitutes a finished product.

At the depth of the current recession in mid-2009 the price per square foot for houses in New Albany was $78 per square foot. By May 2011 it had rocketed to $82 per square foot. LINK HERE

I believe in the renaissance of downtown New Albany. I believe in order to keep that renaissance rolling we must think big. I believe we, in the seats of decision makers, in this time, must insist that what we do today is prudent and beneficial not only to ourselves and our contemporaries but to our descendants generations beyond the horizon.

Please consider the inventory of available land opening on to our river heritage, our river view, and decide if this is the best opportunity, if this is the best time to extract that parcel of land from the commons of the citizens of New Albany, present and future, and place it into private, for-profit hands.

Please consider the vital role that the citizens of New Albany must play in determining the current and future use of this critical piece of land in the city's heart. And consider that you must step forward to help the City make the right decision.

Many have weighed in, both for and against the project. Think about those in the unbelievable year of 2213--our Quadracentennial-- who will look back at what we have done today. Will it have been right? Will have stood the test of time? Was it a wise move? Was it a quick grab for fleeting gain?

If the citizens of New Albany decide to move forward with this project, in recognition of the momentous decision before us, I believe it is reasonable to ask the developers to hold a design competition to maximize the civic value of this piece of ground. Sure, this is New Albany, Indiana, in the broad view, the epitome of no place special, but it is a place ready to make a community commitment of $12 million to back up a private commitment of $40 plus million in a fervent attempt to save its downtown, its heritage.

If New Albany steps up to the plate, will Mainland Properties follow?