Category Archives: Thanksgiving special: People should not die of starvation on our planet

20 Million People in the World are Dying Unnecessarily

Above: South Sudanese refugee stands with her child in Pagarinya 2 refugee camp in the Adjumani district in northern Uganda.

Special Report: 20 Million People in the World Are Dying of Starvation Unnecessarily

How can we feed them? How can we help them feed themselves?

The origin of this posting is Thanksgiving Day 1960 when I was 13 years old. Following Thanksgiving dinner with my family in Borough Park Brooklyn, my grandmother cleared away dinner, folded up the gate-legged  wooden table, and opened the maple wood doors at the cabinet where she hid the television set. She’s turned on the set and we watched Edward R, Murrow’s Harvest of Shame.

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"This is CBS Reports Harvest of Shame," announced Edward R. Murrow. "It has to do with the men, women, and children who harvest the crops in this country of ours, the best-fed nation on earth.
Norman Rockwell family Thanksgiving
"These are the forgotten people, the under-protected, the under-educated, the under-clothed, the under-fed. We present this report on Thanksgiving because were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with  the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials. We should like you to meet some of your fellow citizens who harvest the food for the best-fed nation on earth."
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 ++++ Edward R. Murrow based his broadcast from Belle Glade, Florida which in 1960 was a home to a domestic migrant stream. By 1974, that stream was drying up--replaced in large part by the globalization of agricultural workers willing to do work U.S. citizens regarded as beneath our dignity.
For me, Belle Glade, Florida remains an actual and metaphorical location where my understanding of how to feed the starving people of the world began.
The rich swampland of Belle Glade is the equivalent of agricultural gold. Anything planted in its rich soil will grow. By the 1970s, the soil was treated with astonishing disrespect. U.S. Sugar and other growers produced sugar cane there--a crop that has no rational economic reason for being grown in the United States. 

The economist David Ricardo (1772-1823), hero of mine, pointed to the irrationality of growing sugar in Florida when it is far less expensive to import it from countries in Central and South America, in Africa and elsewhere where foolish U.S. food policy imposes tariffs which keep in business U.S. sugar cane and beet producers who are less efficient and would be better off producing instead a valuable commodity on our precious soil.
Portrait of David Ricardo by Thomas Phillips
“In an economic model, agents have a comparative advantage over others in producing a particular good if they can produce that good at a lower relative opportunity cost or autarky price, i.e. at a lower relative marginal cost prior to trade.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage
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Ricardo wrote: Ricardo’s example reads, “To produce the wine in Portugal, might require only the labour of 80 men for one year, and to produce the cloth in the same country, might require the labour of 90 men for the same time. It would therefore be advantageous for her to export wine in exchange for cloth. This exchange might even take place, notwithstanding that the commodity imported by Portugal could be produced there with less labour than in England. Though she could make the cloth with the labour of 90 men, she would import it from a country where it required the labour of 100 men to produce it, because it would be advantageous to her rather to employ her capital in the production of wine, for which she would obtain more cloth from England, than she could produce by diverting a portion of her capital from the cultivation of vines to the manufacture of cloth.”
It is not often I agree with the American Enterprise Institute, but when it comes to sugar (an obsession of mine) the current protectionist policies of the U.S. government—enshrined in the 2018 farm biill—wastes at considerable cost to the US treasury 900,000 acres of land which would nest be used for other purple.

Consequently, sugar protectionism threatens our producers of rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans whose ability to pay their children's college tuition is dependent upon exports. 

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The coup putting 93 year-old Robert Mugabe under house arrest [1] is one of three major international stories to break this week. For 37 years Zimbabwe’s corrupt regime has turned the “breadbasket” of southern Africa [2]into a net importer of food. 
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See this exciting report from South Africa television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW-xXZqrGKc
BBC: "Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has resigned, parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda has said. A letter from Mr Mugabe said that the decision was voluntary and that he had made it to allow a smooth transfer of power, the Reuters news agency reports. The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him. Lawmakers roared in jubilation and people have begun celebrating in the streets. Mr Mugabe had previously refused to resign despite last week's military takeover and days of protests. He has been in power since independence in 1980."
 BBC News: Published on Nov 21, 2017.
 

Editorial note: In Zimbabwe, a country with a literacy rate of over 80 percent, will the dictator’s fall mean that one of the richest countries in Africa will be able to feed southern Africa again?

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Currently, a child starves to death every 10 minutes in Yemen.

Earlier this week the UN Security Council heard legitimate concern that in the wake of a Saudi Arabia boycott of critical humanitarian supplies, Yemen is at risk of becoming the most severe crisis in a world filled with severe crises. Yemen’s shortage of food is putting 17.8 million people at risk of dying from starvation. Currently, a child starves to death every 10 minutes in Yemen. Meanwhile, our too little too late Secretary of State is in Myanmar where a minority Moslem population is at risk of genocide from the country’s majority Buddhist population.

Refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh are filled to overflowing as the county’s leadership puts fleeing refugees back into leaking boats to return to the danger they fled. As millions of people are dying in the world, the Los Angeles Times in one of the few news outlets in the US to provide coverage. Almost certainly, Meet the Press and the other Sunday network news programs will ignore death and suffering on a massive scale.

Over 200 Children Killed in Yemen in 2017
http://alwaght.com/en/News/106175/Over-200-Children-Killed-in-Yemen-in-2017-amid-Saudi-Bombardments-UN

Instead, the vast majority of US  reporters focus to the exclusion of everything else on Jeff Sessions testimony before a House of Representatives oversight committee. Can not reporters provide at least 10 percent of their efforts [tithe] on life and death issues instead of concentrating  in exhaustive detail the tawdry sexual behavior of the Republican nominee running in the Senate Alabama race?  Why cannot we be spared repetition until we all can memorize each of the  President’s irrational tweets?

Wordsworth wrote”the world is too much with us.” Not in the isolationist United States where our role as an example of world leadership—painfully acquired during World War II—diminishes daily..

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Zimbabwe was once the “breadbasket” of Southern Africa

Los Angeles Times correspondent Robyn Dixon reported from Harare, Zimbabwe on November `5, 2017:

“As the country descended into economic ruin, Mugabe became an international outcast for his misrule. He blamed the problems on whites and political enemies.

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“In the early 2000s, Mugabe sanctioned the invasion of hundreds of white-owned farms by black veterans of the liberation war and other government supporters, a land grab that resulted in the deaths of farmers and political opponents. Supporters praised him for standing up for the black majority against Western imperialists.

“But in recent years, Mugabe has been abandoned by even some of his most ardent supporters, including South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters party, which wants South Africa to confiscate land from whites.

“’The EFF appreciates that some of the pain caused in Zimbabwe was due to imperialist actions, but a significant component of this was self-inflicted,” it tweeted Wednesday as it called on Zuma to offer Mugabe political asylum. ‘ President Mugabe cannot insist on remaining in power even when he is physically incapable of doing so.’”

http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-zimbabwe-military-takeover-20171115-story.html

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Yemen: “It will be the largest famine the world has seen in many decades with millions of victims.”

From the about section of this EuroNews You Tube video:

Yemen is facing a devastating famine unless the current air, sea and land blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition is lifted. “It will be the largest famine the world hasn’t seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” *UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock* told reporters. He had briefed the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in the country. He had been asked to brief the UNSC which held a closed-door meeting … See : http://www.euronews.com/2017/11/09/mi…

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Genocide in Myanmar

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Meanwhile, a sharply divided Congress fiddles while the world burns

Confirmation hearings of Attorney General Jeff Sessions whose “contribution” to the death taking place globally is to secure the borders and round up illegal aliens.

Attorney General Sessions Testimony at Oversight HearingAttorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Justice Department oversight issues and Russia’s role in the 2016 election. Attorney General Sessions told the committee he stands by his previous testimony that he never lied about his contacts with Russia. He added that he had no recollection of a campaign meeting with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page involving Russia until he saw news reports. In addition, Attorney General Sessions said he has “no reason to doubt the young women” who have accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct.

Also, the attorney general discussed whether a special counsel is needed to investigate the Clinton Foundation. He said he has no prejudgments and would not take any sides but a decision by the Justice Department would be based on a detailed factual evaluation.

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Meanwhile, back in the real world: Who is feeding the millions who are starving?

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations programme mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. Its headquarters are in GenevaSwitzerland, and it is a member of the United Nations Development Group.[1]The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981.

Wikipedia, of course

Myanmar/Bangladesh

The Philippines voted on November 18, 2017 PH votes against U.N. draft resolution on Rohingya in Myanmar
http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/11/18/17/ph-votes-against-un-draft-resolution-on-rohingya-in-myanmar
From the field: Emergency Response Coordinator in Bangladesh

I’ve met so many brave Rohingya families who have little more than the clothes on their back and the weight of their trauma and loss. And the painful memories of the violence that forced them to flee their homes.

https://www.unrefugees.org/news/from-the-field-emergency-response-coordinator-in-bangladesh/

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Yemen

UNHCR’s country representative, Ayman Gharaibeh, warns war is tearing the fabric of Yemen apart and creating a humanitarian catastrophe.

AMMAN, Jordan – Since war broke out in Yemen in March 2015, the fabric of the country has been disintegrating and the population of 27.4 million suffering untold hardship and misery. The situation there has been described as a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ and without help many more people, especially children, will die from violence, lack of food and water, illness or disease.

Yemen is on the brink of a horrible famine. Here’s how things got so bad.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/19/yemen-is-on-the-brink-of-a-horrible-famine-heres-how-things-got-so-bad/?utm_term=.b8437d127095

AymanGharaibeh, UNHCR’s Representative to Yemen, is leading the UN Refugee Agency’s humanitarian operations and response across the country. The experienced humanitarian aid worker previously served in Yemen with UNHCR from 1992 to 1994. Gharaibeh spoke to Public Information Officer ShabiaMantoo about the desperate situation there.

https://www.unrefugees.org/news/what-is-happening-in-yemen-update-from-unhcr-representative/

United Nations High Commission for Refugees:

“Yemen is in the grips of one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world — two million have been forced to flee their homes because of increased violence in the country – more than 18 million innocent Yemenis are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, many risk starvation.”

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Sudan

Amid increasing violence and deteriorating conditions, the situation in South Sudan has escalated into a full-blown humanitarian emergency.

Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14094995

“The total number of South Sudanese refugees has now passed two million, it is the largest refugee crisis in Africa, and the third largest in the world, after Syria and Afghanistan. Sadly, 63 percent of South Sudanese refugees are under the age of 18.” –UNHCR

Above: South Sudanese refugee stands with her child in Pagarinya 2 refugee camp in the Adjumani district in northern Uganda.

“The vast majority of South Sudanese refugees are finding refuge in neighboring Uganda. Currently, Uganda is hosting more than one million refugees – 82 percent are women and children.”

“The majority of those fleeing South Sudan are women and children. They are survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault and in many cases, children are traveling alone.

“Often, they arrive weak and malnourished. When the rainy season comes, their needs are compounded by flooding, food shortages and disease.”

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Constitutional removal of President Trump is imperative if the U.S. is to regain its position following World War II as global leader responding in a timely manner to catastrophes to prevent even more widespread suffering and economic destruction

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Budget would restructure a diminished commitment to international food aid

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump’s budget proposal sharply reduces the U.S. commitment to international food assistance. The United States provides most emergency and developmental food assistance under P.L. 480 Title II, also known as Food for Peace. This initiative was launched in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he signed into law what became known as the Food for Peace Act. The purpose was two-fold: to answer the urgent humanitarian call to feed the world’s hungry, which was deemed to be in accord with national security interests, while providing an outlet for the incredible bounty of U.S. agriculture.  

Congress appropriates funding each year to P.L. 480 Title II as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget. The program itself is administered by the Office of Food for Peace in the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

President Trump’s budget would eliminate all U.S.D.A. funding for P.L. 480 Title II. Instead, funding for fiscal year (F.Y.) 2018 emergency international food assistance, a proposed $1.1 billion, would be funneled through the International Disaster Account at USAID.  This compared with P.L. 480 Title II funding for F.Y. 2017 at an estimated $1,713 million and actual spending in F.Y. 2016 at $1,716 million. This would translate to a cut of more than $600 million in international food assistance from the estimate for the current year.

At the same time, the administration proposed to lower funding for the I.D.A. account itself in F.Y. 2018 by $900 million from F.Y. 2017, to $2.5 billion.

“The U.S. government will urge other donors, including non-traditional donors, to increase funding for humanitarian assistance and lessen the burden on the United States to respond,” the State Department’s budget request stated.

--http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Business_News/2017/05/Budget_would_restructure_a_dim.aspx?ID=%7B41C936C5-1425-4AA7-A8A3-F381CA27B64B%7D&cck=1

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Required is for the U.S. to regain its position in the world as a champion of humanitarian assistance to the poorest of the poor who are dying.  Currently, President Trump aids the Saudis by providing military equipment and logistical support in killing children, women, and men in Yemen. It is imperative to remove the President from office non-violently and constitutionally.

Three resources are available. 1. Impeachment. 2. Removal under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. 3. Persuading President Trump to resign from office.

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There was bad news for the United Nations last week, as President Donald Trump announced he is seeking a 28 percent budget cut for diplomacy and foreign aid, which includes an unspecified reduction in funding to the United Nations and its agencies. VOA's U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reports that the potential cuts come as the U.N. is struggling to cope with an unprecedented number of conflicts, approaching famines and the effects of climate change. Originally published at - http://www.voanews.com/a/united-natio...

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Much nonsense has been emitted about the failure of the Democratic Party to have responsible leaders in this time of crisis. Senator Camilla Harris of California is currently my favorite to secure in the Democratic nomination in 2020. However, a number of Senate and House Democrats as well as state and local officials point to our party’s bench strength. A list is available upon request.

Not acceptable is Senator Diane Feinstein whose inability to see facts when presented before her of Trump’s illegal behavior including but not limited to obstruction of justice, makes her my candidate to defeat in the California primary next year. I am hopeful that Tom Steyer, whom I commend for this impeach President Trump commercial, decides to run against Senator Feinstein next year.

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Footnotes

  1. South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) News is an excellent source of the latest news on the transition from Mugabe’s 37 years controlling power in Zimbabwe. http://www.sabcnews.com/newspage/
  2. “Because of its highly productive land and vast agricultural
    potentialities, Zimbabwe used to be not only selfsufficient
    but also produce surplus crops for exports.
    However, the situation has changed in the recent years to
    the extent that the country can no longer feed itself and
    has to depend on foreign aids. This problem is to a great
    extent caused by the so-called Structural Adjustment
    Program promoted by the World Bank; and partly by the
    political turmoil which resulted in the imposition of
    different types of sanctions on the country. Consequently,
    the Zimbabwean agricultural system becomes weak and
    weaker. It is however, expected that these negative
    phenomena could be successfully turnaround and
    changed for the better. But without selfless and focus
    leadership, this change will be mere a mirage.” —Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry by Ahmed Audu Maiyaki

 

References

Maiyaki, Ahmed Audu. Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry. African Journal of Business Management.Vol. 4(19), pp. 4159-4166, December Special Review, 2010

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This posting copyright © 2017 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

 

My mother’s Thanksgiving story and my Thanksgiving letter

Let us start with my mother.

My mother Miriam told me [when I was a freshman at Druid Hills High School in Decatur, Georgia in 1961] of her attempt to convince her Aunt Marcia (Tanta Masha) to have a Thanksgiving celebration in 1933 when my mother was eight years old.

Tanta Masha, married to Sol Demick [a sweet, bald man who worked at a delicatessen] and my grandmother Suschi Schneider’s older sister, ran my mother’s household in The Bronx (of course, of New York City) with an iron hand.

Tanta Masha and my mother did not get along, “Probably,” my mother said, “because we were so much alike.”

Why my mother and grandmother (whom I called Bubbie) lived with Sol and Marcia Demick and their two sons Norman and Alvin (Vremmy) is a story for another occasion. My mother said that in 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt became president, Thanksgiving [first established as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln’s executive order] was not universally celebrated the way it is today.

In fact, my mother said, FDR (whom my mother adored) was responsible for Thanksgiving’s widespread celebration (probably at the suggestion of FDR’s political adviser then Postmaster General James A. Farley) as a way of including the immigrant community into the lumpy American melting pot (and not incidentally securing their vote.)

So taken with FDR’s appeal to celebrate Thanksgiving, my always precocious and astonishingly serious (and beautiful) mother appealed to Tanta Masha to celebrate the holiday complete with turkey and Norman Rockwell-like trimmings.

[Note: Yes, I am aware that Norman Rockwell’s iconographic Freedom from Want painting first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943.]

Mother explained that for Tanta Masha, Thanksgiving complete with turkey and cranberry sauce [hint: cranberries will later take on great significance in my life] meant a great deal of unwanted work and expense she and the family could ill afford. [When my grandmother talked about poverty—and indeed when my father did—they spoke with an understanding of pain they could never express successfully in words but the pain came through clearly and on the mark like the early promises of digital sound and flat screen high-definition television.)

“With Tanta Masha, everything was a power struggle,” Mother explained. Then weeping unexpectedly, Mother described how Tanta Masha had outmaneuvered my mother—bitterly angry that Mother’s goal to become a good American had (as she explained it) been stolen from her by an unfair trick.

Tanta Masha asked her sons Norman [who died unexpectedly this year] and Vremmy [about whom more needs to be said than can fit neatly into this section] (Mother’s cousins were really more like brothers than cousins), “How would you like to celebrate Thanksgiving with hot dogs and baked beans?” My mother’s dream of patriotic desire had been robbed from her by what she conceived of as a mean parlor trick.

In the long run though, Mother prevailed (as she always prevailed when something Important was at stake). And so, for me Thanksgiving evolved into the holiday of the year—significant in a way I will try to define, but whose root structure now clearly runs deeply into the ground holding generations fixed in place.

Thanksgiving has become the holiday that defines me as a person, as a father, as a family man, as a citizen in ways no other holiday can. What makes this definition especially auspicious this year (a year of enormous change in my life)….[Let us wait and see what happens next after I have completed cleaning out the oven and stuffing the fresh turkey that is now in the refrigerator.]

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This photograph taken in 1990 is especially significant.

The photograph shows some of the people I love most in life. The six-year-old girl, front row left, is my elder daughter Joanna Marie, now 28 and engaged to be married.

The infant, back row right, is Amelia Altalena, my 22 year-old daughter who graduated from college in May.

The grinning young woman, back row middle, is my sister Sarah Schmerler.

The woman seated is my grandmother Celia Pell, my Bubbie, shown here in celebration for the last time outside the Jewish Home for the Aged in Riverdale where by some miracle my mother Miriam Pell Schmerler top left was able to obtain for Bubbie a private room at the most beautiful home for the aged in the universe–a room overlooking the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge where there is a collection of art so wonderful it will knock your socks off. Especially notable is the fact that I am shown, holding Amelia in my arms, and I was then able to walk. Four years after this photograph was taken I became a paraplegic. At the time I was merely a procrastinator–a vice sadly that continues to this day.

The photograph was taken in my mother’s apartment in Inwood, a neighborhood at the northern tip of Manhattan Island. At the time my mother, a Hebrew educator, was a newly enrolled graduate student–then 65 years-old–at the Jewish Theological Seminary where she later received a doctorate in Hebrew letters after completion of her thesis on the Roman Catholic Church’s significant decision to change its theological doctrine so that today the Jewish people are no longer blamed for the death of Jesus Christ.

In my mind’s eye, I think of this photograph as being taken at Thanksgiving. But by November of 1990, my former wife Diana, my two daughters, and I had relocated from Washington DC, where I lived and worked for 17 years–many of them heavily influenced by Edward R. Murrow’s Thanksgiving Day broadcast “Harvest of Shame” which I had viewed in my grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment and which changed my life (as if I were on the road to Damascus). In November of 1990, we relocated to Durham, NC where I began a new career as a senior technical writer for Northern Telecom–a career that I loved.

Not shown in this photograph is my favorite (and only) nephew Asher Benvenuto Simonson, now 11, who was not yet a gleam in his father Robert Simonson’s eye.

What compelled me to write this Thanksgiving posting is one consequence of this month’s Hurricane Sandy. This posting begins with my mother’s attempt to have a real Thanksgiving overruled, among others, by her brother-like cousin Vremmy (a nickname from the Yiddish name Abraham Meyer), one of the most influential people in my life, publisher of Arts Magazine, who arranged for publication in The Washington Post of an advertisement for my book Learning to Live Again, an advertisement which appeared in the book review section with a photograph of Joanna, then one, and me.

Vremmy died shortly after the advertisement was published leaving his widow Theresa Demick, an elegant and cultured delight in my life and that of my family. Theresa, one of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, was on the 16th floor of her apartment building when the storm hit wiping out the electricity.

Somehow, Theresa managed to get to the street where she wandered around aimlessly, taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital, diagnosed with dementia. Now, thanks to the efforts of my sister Sarah, my brother-in-law Robert, and others, Theresa has found a safe berth at the wonderful Jewish Home for the Aged in Riverdale–the wonderful wonderful place where my grandmother lived out her final years with pleasure and respect. Although Theresa suffers, her knowledge of art remains in tact and Sarah feels confident that Theresa will be able to work with the home’s magnificent collection–Theresa safe from harm.

Not shown in the photograph is my sterling prospective son-in-law Jade Kosmos Phillips because Joanna did not meet him until 22 years later when they met while Joanna was working as an ambulance driver–the romance beginning in typical Joanna fashion when she insulted Jade who is a firefighter/paramedic.

The photographer is my now former wife Diana who blessedly drove up from Durham to New York with Joanna earlier this week to comfort Theresa–which should serve to reassure Amelia who also was close to Theresa and who is celebrating Thanksgiving in rural Spain near the Portuguese border, where she is teaching English.

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Tom Connolly, my drumming teacher and friend just arrived and we will now celebrate Thanksgiving, cooking and playing the drums. Tom has invited beautiful women over who are younger than Amelia but who, if they come, I will flirt with shamelessly as I have in the past. After celebrating, making music, and flirting, I will return to you to post my Thanksgiving letter of thanksgiving (or wait for a more auspicious occasion when I have completed work interrupted by an intense case of the flu which has caused me to feel as if I live on another planet).

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Noisy Thanksgiving November 22, 2012

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The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
November 20, 2012

Presidential Proclamation — Thanksgiving Day, 2012

THANKSGIVING DAY, 2012

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. As many pause to lend a hand to those in need, we are also reminded of the indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.

Many Thanksgivings have offered opportunities to celebrate community during times of hardship. When the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony gave thanks for a bountiful harvest nearly four centuries ago, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe — a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before. When President George Washington marked our democracy’s first Thanksgiving, he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come. And when our Nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we were, at heart, one Nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend but would not break. Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families together this season.

As we reflect on our proud heritage, let us also give thanks to those who honor it by giving back. This Thanksgiving, thousands of our men and women in uniform will sit down for a meal far from their loved ones and the comforts of home. We honor their service and sacrifice. We also show our appreciation to Americans who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. Their actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.

On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2012, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together — whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors — and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

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Tom Connolly plays as the turkey cooks

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Katie Gates, PhD., transient brain statistician, Washington, D.C.

Click on Memo to hear the After Pumpkin Pie Trio perform: “Thanks. Giving.”

Memo

 

File:Kerouac by Palumbo.jpg

The spirit of Jack Kerouac (as photographed by Tom Palumbo) returns with our song to wish us all a free-spirited conclusion to Thanksgiving Day, 2012. Kerouac is my daughter Joanna‘s favorite author as she takes an after dinner drink in Durham, N.C. before returning to her nursing school studies.  For daughter Amelia Altalena, where her computer is broken in rural Spain, it is now 3:18 tomorrow morning; celebration must wait for Skype repair as all my dear readers for whom I am thankful, will await the writing of the forthcoming Thanksgiving Letter.

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Afterthought. The idea that I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving appropriately–including, of course, a prayer of thanksgiving–comes as a surprise now that my guests have left. Tom, whom I met at Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe, across the street from my apartment, is relocating to Philadelphia to pursue a music career. State College, sadly, has not yet developed the resources to support musicians serious about their work. The idea of getting together was a spontaneous thought Tom had earlier this week.

Katie’s presence surprised both Tom and me. She was in town visiting friends. Tom was sure she would not come–not recollecting clearly that he had invited her. Neither Tom nor Katie could remember how they knew each other–perhaps through a mutual musical connection. As I helped Tom load his many drums in the car, where Katie accepted Tom’s offer to drive her to her friend’s apartment, I told Katie I do not understand how she arrived here; it is almost as if she never existed at all, but she certainly quickly warmed to the spirit of the occasion, banging drums with enthusiasm. Childlike percussion noise-making now goes on my list of Thanksgiving rituals.

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I end this posting for tonight with the words I first heard Edward R. Murrow broadcast on television after Thanksgiving dinner in 1960 (words I recall each Thanksgiving):

“This is CBS Reports Harvest of Shame. It has to do with the men, women, and children who harvest the crops in this country of ours, the best-fed nation on earth. These are the forgotten people, the under-protected, the under-educated, the under-clothed, the under-fed. We present this report on Thanksgiving because were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with  the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials. We should like you to meet some of your fellow citizens who harvest the food for the best-fed nation on earth.”

These are the words that inspired me to publish a book on agriculture policy. These are words that cause me concern in the all-too close seasons and months ahead as I view with alarm the world’s adverse weather conditions, short supplies of soybeans and grain, astonishingly high future prices, and by calendar year 2013, a world where people will starve (not because, as has been the case for decades, they do not have enough money to afford food), because there will not be enough food to feed the world’s population.

Yes, automation and other developments have changed the visual portrayal that came to my grandmother’s living room television in 1960. In this global economy, the men, women, and children who harvest our food may not be U.S. citizens or they may not be harvesting in the United States the food we have on our Thanksgiving table.

In Spain, where my younger daughter is currently teaching English, the agricultural attaché at the U.S. embassy in Madrid told me that organic vegetables are a major agricultural export from Spain to the United States.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.