Out of Palermo
March 21, 2017
March 14, 2017
Every night for almost three years, Nicoleta Bolos lay awake at night on a dirty mattress in an outhouse in Sicily’s Ragusa province, waiting for the sound of footsteps outside the door. As the hours passed, she braced herself for the door to creak open, for the metallic clunk of a gun being placed on the table by her head and the weight of her employer thudding down on the dirty grey mattress beside her.
The only thing that she feared more than the sound of the farmer’s step outside her door was the threat of losing her job. So she endured night after night of rape and beatings while her husband drank himself into a stupor outside.
“The first time, it was my husband who said I had to do this. That the owner of the greenhouse where we had been given work wanted to sleep with me and if we refused he wouldn’t pay us and would send us off his land,” she says.
March 3, 2017
It’s crazy to think about all these people floating around out here.
I write on the port-side deck, looking out to sea.
I just heard 800 people were picked up today. That’s between us, the one other NGO ship and the Italian Coast Guard. That’s 800 people, even though it’s winter when everyone thought things would settle down.
The weather has been bad, but today was a good day with a full moon so maybe more boats set off from Libya. So…right, we found 800 people, but how many didn't get picked up and are still out there in this black sea?
Typically someone on the boat will call this MRCC (Maritime Coordination Rescue Center) hotline in Rome on a satellite phone that you never find, thrown overboard. Or a smuggler accompanies them for a while and makes the call and we're sent coordinates.
Sometimes there isn't a call and the little boats, crowded with people, are spotted from our bridge or picked up on radar.
We found 800 people, but how many are still out there in this black sea?
On both rescues since I’ve arrived we've found the boats the day they departed shore; usually we do. We have to, since their chances of making it overnight aren’t good.
This movement of people strikes me here much more heavily than the limited exposure I've had to this migration working with Doctors Without Borders in the north of Ethiopia. There, sure, people are moving with basically nothing, but at least they're on land.
The movement of people in Ethiopia is easier for me to comprehend than the idea of floating around this massive body of water, often without even a life jacket. Nothing in their pockets. One rescuer told me he picked up a man last summer who was naked. Apparently it’s not that uncommon. (more…)
February 27, 2017
We Are Not the People’s Enemies
First President Trump complained that “the media” was biased against him. “Dishonest.” Presidents have made such complaints before, in moments of weakness and self-pity.
Then he labeled the media as “the opposition party.”
Now he has declared journalists to be “the enemy of the American People.”
We at the Authors Guild hear that as a declaration of war. We know our history. Enemy of the People is a phrase long favored by authoritarians and tyrants. The “correct Russian term,” Gary Shteyngart points out, is vrag naroda. Long before Lenin and Stalin used it, Robespierre inaugurated the Reign of Terror by declaring that the Revolutionary Government “owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death.”
An earlier president, John F. Kennedy—when he was taking a beating in the press after the Bay of Pigs fiasco—was asked if he resented the media. He said this:
“It is never pleasant to be reading things that are not agreeable news, but I would say that it is an invaluable arm of the presidency, as a check, really, on what is going on in the administration … I would think that Mr. Khrushchev operating a totalitarian system, which has many advantages as far as being able to move in secret, and all the rest—there is a terrific disadvantage in not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily …Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn’t write it, and even though we disapprove, there isn’t any doubt that we could not do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.”
President Kennedy was a member of the Authors Guild. (more…)
February 25, 2017
One of them was a baby six hours old born aboard the Norwegian rescue ship Siem Pilot. ( Can you imagine setting off from Libya in the night nine months pregnant, about to give birth, and you are on a sinking rubber raft in the dark on the ocean at night in winter?) The boy child weighed some six pounds and both mother and son are healthy, according to a report in La Reppublica. The mother has requested Norwegian citizenship for her son and named him after one of the two rescue vessels that came to pick them up : Sea Bear.
February 24, 2017
February 23, 2017
February 17, 2017
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