Blog Archive

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ice on the Great Lakes in False Color Infrared | NASA

Ice on the Great Lakes in False Color Infrared | NASA

Delancey Place: "No!" by Paul McGlasson

Today selection -- from No! by Paul McGlasson. We don't often feature selections on religion, and have no real expertise in this area, but we recently came across a beautifully expressed sentiment regarding helping the poor. It comes from the debate within contemporary Christianity on this very subject, where the "religious right" tends to take the position that it is not government's place to use state funds to help the poor. Today's selection is a rebuttal to this position from a prominent Christian scholar -- and it includes a heartfelt reminder of our collective responsibility to help the unfortunate. This reminder is imbedded in a powerful and terrifying portrait of "Judgment Day" so prominent in the Christian New Testament. It underscores the central role of charity in almost all religions -- such as the Rigveda's"Bounteous is he who gives unto the beggar who comes to him in want of food and feeble" and the Quran's "The righteous are those who feed the poor, the orphan and the captive for the love of God, saying: 'We feed you for the sake of God Alone; we seek from you neither reward nor thanks'":

"[C]onsidering the issue of state obligation to care for the poor. [Some among the religious right] systematically deny that the state has any obligation to the poor; indeed any obligation to the general welfare of its citizens overall. Care for the poor is assigned solely to families and churches. ... In an era when the income gap between wealthy and poor is only growing greater, the question is hardly insignificant. We will proceed along two levels of reflection.

"Our first answer is simply to point out that the Bible does in fact assign care of the poor to the state, without any ambiguity. Psalm 72, perhaps written by David for Solomon to describe the duties of the ideal king, stresses obligation to the poor: 'May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy and crush the oppressor ... For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight'. This is not describing a family, or the church; this is a clear mandate to state obligation for the poor in a description of the ideal government. Again, the book of Proverbs likewise describes the duties of the ideal king in very similar terms: 'Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy'. It is precisely the role of the king to give voice to the voiceless in society.

"But here we need, in closing, to dig to a deeper, more profound level.

"Jesus describes a final judgment in which all nations -- not families, not churches, but nations, including their governments -- will be gathered before him (Matt 25:31-46). Notice, by the way, that the much vaunted issue of national exceptionalism is a divine prerogative, not a human one; only Christ alone has the right to decide which nations are truly exceptional. How will he decide? He makes it crystal clear in this passage. Care for the poor is not an obligation of the state; it is in some sense the obligation of the state. Nations will not be judged by whether they have a powerful military; nor whether they have a strong middle class. Nations -- all nations -- will be judged, not by a fallible human judgment, but by the only judgment that really matters, by the Lord of all nations -- on one basis only: how did you care for the weak and the needy? Did you feed the hungry among you, or let them struggle to survive? Did you give the thirsty something to drink, or watch callously as they scrambled for every scrap? Do you provide for the health and well-being of the sick and the dying, or force them to choose between the medication they need and food to keep alive? Did you welcome the stranger to your shores, or with hardness of heart build walls to keep them away? Did you treat even the prisoners among you with the humanity they still retain, despite their mistakes in life? Did you provide clothing to the naked, or turn away from what is 'no concern of mine'? This is not a question of 'social policy.' Christ makes it all too clear that far more is at stake. How nations -- including their governments -- treat the poor, is how they treat Christ himself: 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me'."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

NY Times Business Day: Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show

BUSINESS DAY
Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show
By BINYAMIN APPELBAUMFEB. 21, 2014



Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, testifying before Congress in September 2008 with Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary. Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press


WASHINGTON — On the morning after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008, most Federal Reserve officials still believed that the American economy would keep growing despite the metastasizing financial crisis.

The Fed’s policy-making committee voted unanimously against bolstering the economy by cutting interest rates, and several officials praised what they described as the decision to let Lehman fail, saying it would help to restore a sense of accountability on Wall Street.

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, urged his colleagues “to wait for some time to assess the impact of the Lehman bankruptcy filing, if any, on the national economy,” according to transcripts of the Fed’s 2008 meetings that it published on Friday.



As Crisis Loomed, Yellen Made Wry and Forceful Calls for ActionFEB. 21, 2014



DealBook: Fed Fretted Over Reaction to Demise of LehmanFEB. 21, 2014


The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC
The Fed’s Actions in 2008: What the Transcripts Reveal

On Friday, the Federal Reserve released the transcripts of the 2008 meetings of its Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy. The transcripts provide a detailed account of some of the Fed’s key decisions during that crisis year. Here’s a look at some of the new revelations.

OPEN INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC


The Fed’s chairman at the time, Ben S. Bernanke, was unusually clearsighted in warning of the risk of a severe recession as the nation entered into a presidential election year. But he struggled to persuade his colleagues, and at crucial junctures he did not push forcefully for stronger action.

The Fed’s current chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, was even more alarmed by the deterioration of economic conditions. She and Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, are the most forceful and persistent advocates for stronger action in the transcripts. But they, too, underestimated the downturn until the final months of 2008.

The transcripts also show, however, that Fed officials responded decisively in those final months, probably preventing an even deeper recession. By the end of 2008, the Fed had reduced short-term interest rates nearly to zero for the first time since the Great Depression, and it had become a primary source of funding not just for the global financial system but for American homeowners and for companies that made food and cars.

Ms. Yellen summed up this new ethos at a Fed meeting six weeks after Lehman’s failure, telling colleagues, “Given the seriousness of the situation, I believe that we should put as much stimulus into the system as we can as soon as we can.”

In normal times, the Fed is a powerful but somnolent institution, charged with keeping a steady hand on the rudder of the economy. It moves interest rates up and down to moderate inflation and minimize unemployment. But beginning in 2007, it was forced to take on a far more challenging role as the central backstop for the global financial system.

The Fed’s understanding of the crisis, however, was clouded by its reliance on indicators that tend to miss sharp changes in conditions. The government initially estimated, for example, that the economy expanded in the first half of 2008 because it basically assumed that some economic trends, like the pace of business creation, had continued apace. The Fed also relied on economic models that assumed the existence of smoothly functioning financial markets, limiting its ability to project the consequences of a breakdown. And the outlook of Fed officials also reflected a deeply ingrained bias to worry more about the risk of inflation than the reality of rising unemployment.

As Fed officials gathered on Sept. 16 at their marble headquarters in Washington for a previously scheduled meeting, stock markets were in free fall. Housing prices had been collapsing for two years, and unemployment was climbing.

Yet most officials did not see clear evidence of a broad crisis. They expected the economy to grow slowly in 2008 and then more quickly in 2009.


The transcript for that meeting contains 129 mentions of “inflation” and five of “recession.”

Mr. Bernanke even told his colleagues that it was clear the economy had entered a downturn but that he still did not favor cutting rates.

“I think that our policy is looking actually pretty good,” he said.

That optimism would not long endure. Just minutes after the end of that first meeting, a smaller group of Fed officials agreed to rescue the faltering insurance giant the American International Group, a company never before subject to Fed supervision that until then was barely on the government’s radar.

In the succeeding weeks, as evidence of a downturn became unmistakable, the Fed would announce a seemingly endless series of programs to buttress the economy, leading Fed officials to joke about the resulting alphabet soup of acronyms.

In early October, a few weeks after the decision to stand pat, the Fed convened an unscheduled meeting to cut interest rates in an action coordinated with other major central banks.

“It’s more than obvious that we have an extraordinary situation,” Mr. Bernanke told colleagues.

“I should say that this comes as a surprise to me,” he said. “I very much expected that we could stay at 2 percent for a long time, and then when the economy began to recover, we could begin to normalize interest rates. But clearly things have gone off in a direction that is quite worrisome.”

He closed on a prescient note, telling the committee that he did not expect that monetary policy could solve the problem, but that the Fed should not be hesitant to use the tools that it had.


President George W. Bush after a speech on Sept. 19, 2008. With him are, from left, Christopher Cox, S.E.C. chairman; Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; and Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

By the end of the year, the Fed had cut interest rates nearly to zero and started to buy mortgage bonds in a further effort to stimulate the housing market and the broader economy. More than five years later, it is still pursuing both policies even as the economic recovery remains incomplete.

Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators.

As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ ”

Within weeks, Mr. Bernanke also began to insist that the failure of Lehman could not have been prevented without changes in federal law. Furthermore, some officials began to argue that the importance of the failure had been overstated because the economy was already falling apart.

“The whole framing, which seems to have hardened now, that the world ended with the Lehman bankruptcy is just deeply unfair to the basic truth,” Timothy F. Geithner, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said at an October meeting. “Independent of whether there was an option available at the time, the erosion in underlying economic conditions and in confidence in the future outlook was powerful and substantial going into August and early September.”

The Fed entered the year on edge. Officials did not know that the economy already was in recession, but Mr. Bernanke and his closest advisers worried that the Fed’s initial response to the financial crisis at the end of 2007 had been insufficient, and that tumbling stock prices were the beginning of a broader pullback.

Mr. Bernanke hoped to delay any action until the first scheduled meeting of 2008 in late January, but over the three-day Martin Luther King weekend, he concluded that the Fed could not wait. He convened a conference call at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, and won agreement to cut the Fed’s benchmark interest rate 0.75 percentage point, the largest cut in more than two decades.

“The risk of a severe recession and credit crisis is unacceptably high,” Ms. Yellen said at the meeting.

Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said this week that the decision was an awakening. “If maybe we were a little slow to recognize what was happening, Martin Luther King weekend in January 2008 was a decisive point in terms of interest rate policy,” he said.

By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.

Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.

On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”

Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.

And then the Fed paused. By the end of April, it had cut short-term rates to 2 percent from 5.25 percent the previous September — one of the fastest falls in Fed history — and officials said they had done enough to shore up the financial system. They predicted that the economy would narrowly avoid a recession.

“I think it is very possible that we will look back and say, particularly after the Bear Stearns episode, that we have turned the corner in terms of the financial disruption that we have just experienced,” Frederic S. Mishkin, a Fed governor, said during a meeting at the end of April.

The summer passed relatively quietly. Officials began to fret about inflation. The transcripts include long conversations about when the Fed should start to raise interest rates.

“We saw growth of about 2 percent in the second quarter, which suggests a campaign slogan for the Republicans, ‘The Economy: It Could Be Worse,” Mr. Bernanke joked in early August.

But it was only the eye of the storm. By the third week of September, it was clear that Mr. Bernanke was right: Things could be worse. The financial crisis had arrived, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote of bankruptcy, “Gradually and then suddenly.”



Correction: February 22, 2014

A headline with an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the situation that Federal Reserve policy makers misjudged in 2008. It was an economic decline and ultimately a financial crisis, not a fiscal crisis.

Annie Lowrey contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on February 22, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Fed Misread Fiscal Crisis, Records Show. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe

NY Times: QUOTATIONS OF THE DAY

"Faith shouldn't be something we have to leave inside our house."

JOSEPH E. LA RUE, the legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization in Scottsdale, Ariz., that advocates for religious liberty, on the passage of legislation in the state that would allow business owners to cite faith as a legal justification for denying service to same-sex couples.
"Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but it's not a blank check to harm others or impose our faith on our neighbors."

DANIEL MACH, of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

RSN: Robert Reich's Blog - America's "We" Problem

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Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)
Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)

America's "We" Problem

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
15 February 14

merica has a serious "We" problem - as in "Why should we pay for them?"

The question is popping up all over the place. It underlies the debate over extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food stamps to the poor.

It's found in the resistance of some young and healthy people to being required to buy health insurance in order to help pay for people with preexisting health problems.

It can be heard among the residents of upscale neighborhoods who don't want their tax dollars going to the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods nearby.

The pronouns "we" and "they" are the most important of all political words. They demarcate who's within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who's not. Someone within that sphere who's needy is one of "us" - an extension of our family, friends, community, tribe – and deserving of help. But needy people outside that sphere are "them," presumed undeserving unless proved otherwise.

The central political question faced by any nation or group is where the borders of this sphere of mutual responsibility are drawn.

Why in recent years have so many middle-class and wealthy Americans pulled the borders in closer?

The middle-class and wealthy citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, for example, are trying to secede from the school district they now share with poorer residents of town, and set up their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-valued homes.

Similar efforts are underway in Memphis, Atlanta, and Dallas. Over the past two years, two wealthy suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, have left the countywide school system in order to set up their own.

Elsewhere, upscale school districts are voting down state plans to raise their taxes in order to provide more money to poor districts, as they did recently in Colorado.

"Why should we pay for them?" is also reverberating in wealthy places like Oakland County, Michigan, that border devastatingly poor places like Detroit.

"Now, all of a sudden, they're having problems and they want to give part of the responsibility to the suburbs?" says L. Brooks Paterson, the Oakland County executive. "They're not gonna talk me into being the good guy. 'Pick up your share?' Ha ha."

But had the official boundary been drawn differently so that it encompassed both Oakland County and Detroit – say, to create a Greater Detroit region – the two places would form a "we" whose problems Oakland's more affluent citizens would have some responsibility to address.

What's going on?

One obvious explanation involves race. Detroit is mostly black; Oakland County, mostly white. The secessionist school districts in the South are almost entirely white; the neighborhoods they're leaving behind, mostly black.

But racisim has been with us from the start. Although some southern school districts are seceding in the wake of the ending of court-ordered desegregation, race alone can't explain the broader national pattern. According to Census Bureau numbers, two-thirds of Americans below the poverty line at any given point identify themselves as white.

Another culprit is the increasing economic stress felt by most middle-class Americans. Median household incomes are dropping and over three-quarters of Americans report they're living paycheck to paycheck.

It's easier to be generous and expansive about the sphere of "we" when incomes are rising and future prospects seem even better, as during the first three decades after World War II when America declared war on poverty and expanded civil rights. But since the late 1970s, as most paychecks have flattened or declined, adjusted for inflation, many in the stressed middle no longer want to pay for "them."

Yet this doesn't explain why so many wealthy America's are also exiting. They've never been richer. Surely they can afford a larger "we." But most of today's rich adamantly refuse to pay anything close to the tax rate America's wealthy accepted forty years ago.

Perhaps it's because, as inequality has widened and class divisions have hardened, America's wealthy no longer have any idea how the other half lives.

Being rich in today's America means not having to come across anyone who isn't. Exclusive prep schools, elite colleges, private jets, gated communities, tony resorts, symphony halls and opera houses, and vacation homes in the Hamptons and other exclusive vacation sites all insulate them from the rabble.

America's wealthy increasingly inhabit a different country from the one "they" inhabit, and America's less fortunate seem as foreign as do the needy inhabitants of another country.

The first step in widening the sphere of "we" is to break down the barriers - not just of race, but also, increasingly, of class, and of geographical segregation by income - that are pushing "we Americans" further and further apart.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Heroin's Small-Town Toll, and a Mother's Grief

U.S.






The body of Alysa Ivy, 21, was found in May in a room at this Super 8 motel in Hudson, Wis. Her fatal heroin overdose was the seventh in eight months in Hudson, a town of 13,000. Ben Garvin for The New York Times



HUDSON, Wis. —

Karen Hale averts her eyes when she drives past the Super 8 motel in this picturesque riverfront town where her 21-year-old daughter, Alysa Ivy, died of an overdose last May. She has contemplated asking the medical examiner, now a friend, to accompany her there so she could lie on the bed in Room 223 where her child’s body was found.

But Ms. Hale, 52, is not ready, just as she is not ready to dismantle Ms. Ivy’s bedroom, where an uncapped red lipstick sits on the dresser and a teddy bear on the duvet. The jumble of belongings both comforts and unsettles her — colorful bras, bangle bracelets and childhood artwork; court summonses; a 12-step bible; and a Hawaiian lei, bloodstained, that her daughter used as a tourniquet for shooting heroin into her veins.
Related in Opinion


Op-Ed Contributor: How to Stop Heroin DeathsFEB. 6, 2014



Room for Debate: What Is Addiction?FEB. 10, 2014


“My son asked me not to make a shrine for her,” Ms. Hale said. “But I don’t know what to do with her room. I guess on some level I’m still waiting for her to come home. I’d be so much more empathetic now. I used to take it personal, like she was doing this to me and I was a victim.”
 
 Alysa Ivy

When the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died with a needle in his arm on Feb. 2, Ms. Hale thought first about his mother, then his children. Few understand the way addiction mangles families, she said, and the rippling toll of the tens of thousands of fatal heroin and painkiller overdoses every year. Perhaps it took Mr. Hoffman’s death, she said, to “wake up America to all the no-names who passed away before him,” leaving a cross-country trail of bereavement.

In the wake of the prescription painkiller epidemic, heroin, much of it Mexican, has wormed its way into unsuspecting communities far from the Southwestern border as a cheaper and often more easily obtained alternative. Ms. Ivy’s was believed to be the seventh fatal heroin overdose in eight months in this town of 13,000 on the St. Croix River near Minneapolis. Two months after her death, and before yet another young Hudson woman died — at a “sober house” — of a heroin overdose in October, nearly 500 townspeople crowded into the First Presbyterian Church for a forum called “Heroin in Hudson: A Community in Crisis.”

Ms. Ivy’s death certificate, recently released, revealed that a mix of drugs was to blame; the police declined to specify the drugs since her death remains under investigation. But “Alysa was a heroin abuser, and her addiction to drugs killed her,” said Patty Schachtner, the St. Croix County medical examiner.

“It’s a tightknit community, and these kids all knew each other,” Ms. Schachtner said of those who overdosed. “They were not what you might expect. They were not the faces of heroin addiction we see on television.”

Nationally, those faces are getting younger and whiter. The most recent federal data show 19,154 opioid drug deaths in 2010, with 3,094 involving heroin and the rest painkillers. Eighty-eight percent of those who died from heroin were white, half were younger than 34, and almost a fifth were ages 15 to 24. Heroin deaths of teenagers and young adults tripled in the first decade of this century.

And those statistics lag behind heroin’s resurgence over the last few years, as crackdowns on pill mills have made painkillers harder to get and new formulations have made them harder to abuse. Painkillers remain a far larger problem, but a federal study last year showed that four of five recent heroin initiates had previously abused painkillers, and the amount of heroin seized on the Southwestern border rose 232 percent from 2008 to 2012 as Mexican traffickers moved their product deep into the United States. In Wisconsin, heroin seizures, arrests and deaths have risen sharply. The Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team surveyed county coroners and found 199 heroin-related deaths in 2012, a 50 percent increase over 2011 and almost seven times as many as the 2000-7 average. The first heroin fatality in Hudson occurred about three years ago, Detective Sgt. Geoff Willems of the Hudson police said, and “it was pretty surprising.”


The Resurgence of Heroin

The number of users of heroin has grown over the last decade.
Overdose deaths began to rise sharply in the latter half of the previous decade among young whites. Death rates since 2010 have not yet been compiled.




Phil Drewiske, 23, who embraced recovery in prison after five overdoses and a dozen failed treatment programs, said he bore some responsibility for introducing heroin to the town. The son of local insurance agents, he started abusing painkillers stolen from his friend’s grandfather’s medicinecabinet at 13 and discovered heroin at 16, he said, “at a time when people portrayed it as a dirty drug for homeless people.”

“But when I discovered the high,” he said, “it put OxyContin to shame.”

He would buy heroin from Mexican dealers in Minneapolis, who gave him a prepaid cellphone and “chirped” him when his order was ready, he said. He then sold it in Hudson to, among others, Ms. Ivy’s boyfriend, “knowing it was going to Alysa” and to “another guy who died here.”

“I was getting heroin for these people, and even if it wasn’t their first time, it was close,” he said. “Being the one who enabled that is pretty humbling. You get a guilty conscience. Even though they made a decision.”

Mr. Drewiske was speaking in Ms. Hale’s immaculate kitchen overlooking three acres of snowy woods. Since her daughter’s death, Ms. Hale, slender with cascading, feathered hair, has befriended Mr. Drewiske and some of Ms. Ivy’s “user friends” in an effort to understand her “dark, secret world.”

Her daughter’s habit began “like most kids in this town, at the pad of a doctor,” said Ms. Hale, a nurse. After her high school graduation, Ms. Ivy had her wisdom teeth extracted, and the dentist prescribed OxyContin. An outgoing, free-spirited artist who found Hudson boring after a childhood in the Dallas area, Alysa was seduced by the potent painkiller, developed an addiction and moved on to heroin.
Karen Hale says the belongings remaining in the bedroom of her daughter both comfort and unsettle her. Ben Garvin for The New York Times


In Minneapolis on Thursday, Ms. Hale slowly circled the Taco Bell where, she learned recently, her daughter used to meet her dealers. “I wonder, wasn’t she ever scared?” she asked Mr. Drewiske. “Maybe I watch too many movies, but these guys would be packing, right?”

Ms. Ivy was moderately functional in the outside world, holding down jobs at places like Walmart and Subway and maintaining a serious if tempestuous relationship with her boyfriend. At home, though, she was increasingly “like a tornado,” constantly locking horns with her mother. (Her father died in 2008.)

“She screamed, lied to me constantly and stole everything that wasn’t locked up or nailed down — my jewelry, my TV, my clothes, my pots and pans,” Ms. Hale said. “It felt like such a violation, but what do you do? Do you call the police on your own child? She was always trying to stop it. She knew how deeply it was hurting me. She would leave me sweet little notes. But then she would disappear for days, crash a car, tell me she hated me.

“She was in the grip of something beyond her control, but I would get angry and I would feel shame,” Ms. Hale said. “My friends would be bragging to me about their kids’ getting accepted to college, and what was I supposed to say? ‘She only put one needle in her arm today’?”

Occasionally, her daughter would drop her guard. Once, Ms. Hale found her sobbing, arguing with her reflection in the bathroom mirror: “You are an addict! But I don’t want to be an addict!” Ms. Ivy let her mother try to detoxify her, using hot baths, Epsom salts, ibuprofen and diarrhea medication.

“It was like an exorcism,” Ms. Hale said.

Since losing her child, Ms. Ivy, shown, Ms. Hale has reached out to addicts in an effort to understand and help them.
It did not work. Eventually, Ms. Hale did call the police, and her daughter was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct. She had other encounters with the law, too, and this got her help: a short stint in detox, courtesy of the county. But the government would not pay for inpatient treatment, and Ms. Hale, uninsured, could not afford to send her daughter an hour away to Hazelden, one of the best-known rehab programs in the country.

Still, after the detox, in early 2013, Ms. Ivy abstained from heroin for 64 days. To mark a change, she peroxided her hair. Ms. Hale told her that she looked like Marilyn Monroe. “More like Gwen Stefani,” her daughter replied.

During that period, Ms. Hale was shuttling to Michigan to care for her ailing mother. In mid-May, she answered the phone there. Her son, Collin Ivy, said: “Mom, are you sitting down? You need to. It’s bad, Mama. It’s Alysa.”

When Ms. Hale came face to face with the medical examiner for the first time, she said, “I knew in my heart that one day I would meet you.”

Ms. Hale’s mother died after Alysa. Collin graduated from college and moved to Colorado for a job. “Karen could have curled up in a ball and hidden away,” said Ms. Schachtner, the medical examiner. Instead she set off on a quest to get closer to her daughter. She grilled Ms. Ivy’s friends and retraced her steps, even visiting underground “rig hubs,” injection centers where addicts use clean needles and have access to naloxone, an overdose reversal medication.

Gradually, Ms. Hale said, her fear and judgmental attitude about addiction have given way to compassion and activism. Never before political — she did not know the mayor’s name — she has now testified at the State Capitol, advocating a broader use of naloxone and a “good Samaritan law” that would grant limited immunity from drug prosecutions to those who call 911 or otherwise help an overdose victim.

She has also taken under wing seven young addicts, coaching them on how to reveal their problems to their parents, preaching to them about safe needles and naloxone, and giving them an ear.

“I know my boundaries,” Ms. Hale said. “I will not give them money. I will not let them come to my home. If they are hungry, I will meet them at McDonald’s. I’ll take them to a clinic to be assessed, drive them to a treatment hospital.”

“It soothes some of the guilt, fills some of the void,” she said. “Basically, I wish there had been a Karen out there helping my daughter.”

Landsat 8's First Year | NASA

Landsat 8's First Year | NASA

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Crescent Moon Rising and Earth's Atmosphere | NASA

Crescent Moon Rising and Earth's Atmosphere | NASA

What Is Essential Is Invisible To The Eye “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Taking the Precept that "what is essential is invisible to the eye" from The Little Prince, I have concluded a tenuous and unstable Pact with what "Saint-Ex" symbolized as a Rose on his Planet: His wife, who later Authored The Tale of the Rose: The Love Story Behind The Little Prince, Consuelo De Saint-Exupéry, the wife of Antoine who perished in 1944 and prompted her to write her story the next year. 

"The Little Prince" by Antoine Saint-Exupéry (story reading)