These poems depict a journey through a dark landscape, where the political and personal are fused into a geography of disinformation, sex, betrayal and deadly technology. Phelan has produced verbal "snapshots" of a subterranean war-- with fronts in Los Angeles as well as Fallujah-- where the only defense is one's integrity and the stakes may be life itself.
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Janet Phelan - Reporter at Large
Smallpox: A Deadly Shell Game
The recent announcement by the WHO that it was postponing a decisión on destroying the remaining smallpox depositories—one allegedly in Russia at VECTOR and the other in the United States at the CDC—may not have been prompted by what the press has termed a difference of opinión between research groups. In fact, the WHO may have no idea how many labs actually possess the deadly variola virus.
As widely reported, WHO´s advisory committee on variola virus research (ACVVR), felt that the stocks should be maintained, as the live virus was still needed to develop antiviral drugs.
On the opposing side, the WHO’s advisory group of independent experts to review the smallpox research programme (AGIES) was reported as believing that there was no research justification for holding on to the stocks.
Smallpox has killed over 500 million people in the twentieth century. A sustained global effort at vaccination resulted in the declaration, in 1980, that the world had been ridded of the deadly disease.
However, other considerations besides research protocols may be playing into the reluctance of the WHO to announce the destruction of what it terms the remaining stockpiles of smallpox.
The Blast Zone
Climbing over the barrier
into the blast zone
where radioactive tins
of tuna, corn, fruit cocktail
are littered beside
the baby bombs
Somewhere in the eggshells
of the buildings in this neighborhood
the twisted steel rods
and bleached bones
is a painted green stucco house
with geranium filled windowboxes
where my rocking horse lived
Not I. I have severed myself
from my past
and cannot locate myself here,
Not in this manifestation
my face stained with soot
shards of aluminum tangled in my hair
my eyes cataracted with loss.
On the other side of the barrier
you sip your iced tea
and strategically place your newspaper
in your field of vision
Can you make me go away?
Block me completely?
Speed up my trajectory
You flick your ash in my direction
as the radioactive site tilts
the planet off its axis
and the barrier between us
ignites like celluloid
its edges blackened and curling
as the conflagration
unfurls its relentless foreordination.
It was not the border you first knew
an office crowded with dishevelled polylingual backpackers
with dubious papers
the men with stained white shirts
and questionable authority
stamping their visas
after hushed conversations
in which pesos were shoved
urgently across the counter
The border you crossed
had no signs declaring
No small barefoot boys
yanking at your luggage
while pointing to a waiting
taxi, smoke rising from
a grill outside the station
on which something's ribs
baked in eternal torment
You crossed over a long time ago
before the angry government attorneys
before the broken locks and stolen papers
before everyone you knew
fell uncomfortable and silent
You were a very young child
You were frightened of nothing
Your father picked you up in his arms
and showed you the way by starlight
This was before he became
then was denounced
That was when the way was
This office at the frontier
steaming in the equatorial noon
these papers, passports and visas
are at the outer level
of manifestation, paper thin.
You crossed over
a long time ago.
God's on the Internet...All is Right with the World
Memo Justifying Al Awlaki Assassination Does End-Run Around US Constitution
In response to a Freedom of Information Request filed by the ACLU, the Department of Justice this week released the memo providing legal analysis in support of justification for the 2011 assassination of Anwar al Awlaki, a US national living in Yemen.
Al Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was a Muslim cleric considered to be in a leadership position in Al Quaeda. He was killed in a targeted drone strike in Yemen, after Obama placed him on the targeted assassination list in 2010. The fact that President Obama had taken the unprecedented step of ordering the assassination of a US citizen was repeatedly highlighted in the press. The ACLU went to court to attempt to inhibit the assassination, albeit unsuccessfully.
The forty-one page DOJ memo, authored by David Barron, is a compelling study in government double speak. Large chunks of the memo were redacted before its release, with approximately ¼ removed from public purview.