Saturday, April 21


As a member of Sisters in Crime, I volunteered at the Takoma Park Neighborhood Library in DC April 21 (note this blog runs on Afghanistan time). It's a great reminder of how librarians are tireless in their work, dispensing advice with wisdom and grace. Librarians urge their visitors to explore, even though it always makes more work or them.

Check out the event on Facebook or Pinterest.
Please drop in between 10 a.m. and  4 p.m. on Saturday, April 21st to have your writing questions (any type and all ages welcome) answered by Susan Froetschel as part of Sisters in Crime's "Booksellers and Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day." Susan also will be helping with other library tasks as part of this event.

Susan Froetschel at the library

Author Susan Froetschel Is Library Staffer for a Day
Takes Part in Sisters in Crime's "Booksellers and Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day" Event

Washington, DC—Susan Froetschel, mystery author and member of Sisters in Crime—an international organization founded to support the professional development of women writing crime fiction—will work as a volunteer staffer at Takoma Park Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. as part of a "Booksellers and Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day" celebration.  The event, produced by Sisters in Crime, is designed to thank librarians and booksellers for 25 years of support of the mystery genre. Sisters in Crime was established with an organizational meeting held in New York City in the spring of 1987.

"I am very excited about spending time at the beautiful Takoma Park Library," Froetschel said. "In helping readers find their way to the right book at the right time, librarians solve mysteries every day."

Friday, April 20


"American sisters do outnumber the priests, and it’s the women who have the troops, too – at schools and hospitals the bishops couldn’t close if they wanted to," reports Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post. "The nuns no longer only empty the bed pans, you see, but now also own the institutions where they work. And you have to wonder whether that’s the real problem."

Thursday, April 19


"A Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80 percent of Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States, found serious theological errors in statements by members, widespread dissent on the church’s teaching on sexuality and “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” a church report released Wednesday stated." So reports Elizabeth Tenety for the Washington Post.
The brave words of Catholic sisters are guided by reason and their consciences. Faith is unsustainable if it cannot endure such independent and sincere questions and tests.

The sisters are far more courageous and determined than women such as myself. Disgusted by child-abuse scandals of the early 1990s and the church's irrational arguments and response - blaming the media and the messenger - I abandoned the Catholic Church. If they were so irrational on one point, how could they not be wrong on so many others? I did not need such men to supervise my spirituality. No women or child does.

 "Like everything else in the United States, religion must compete under the free-market system. In this country, we have the privilege of free thought and speech, and we can decide which 'moral' rules imposed by religious leaders, mere mortals, should be kept and which are meant to be broken," I wrote for the Hartford Courant, March 24, 2002, in an essay titled "The Church Must Change." Not many traces of that 2002 opinion essay remain online.

I admire the nuns and would consider attending a church run by nuns.

Image courtesy of From Eternity to Here.

Tuesday, April 10


Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has questioned whether Mika Breziniski should have moderated a Women's Economic Forum at the White House.He maintained that she “is entitled to have opinions, on an opinion show, But I think the optics of moderating at the white house are not ideal,” according to a report.

Journalists are increasingly under fire for joining political parties, signing petitions, donating to candidates, thinking twice before attending public rallies sponsored by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, for speaking engagements with advocacy groups.

Most reporters have a point of view, and news organizations try to impose policies, not just on politics but other community activities, too. For example, here is an excerpt from Reuters' policy: 

"Outside work, Reuters respects the right (and in some countries the obligation) of staff to vote in elections and referendums and does not seek to interfere with that right. The company also recognises that staff enjoy certain fundamental freedoms as a result of their nationality or where they live. Reuters, however, expects journalistic staff in all branches of editorial to be keenly sensitive to the risk that their activities outside work may open their impartiality to questioning or create a perception of bias.... The Trust Principles and the values of unbiased journalism in deciding whether to donate to certain charitable causes or be active in the affairs of their community." [Emphasis added.]

NPR's policy was scrutinized after it sent a reminder about its code of ethics to editorial staff: "NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies."

NPR had to go on the defensive. "We are not violating the civil liberties of our employees," wrote Vivian Schiller, former NPR president. "We understand that our employees are citizens as well as journalists. Our policy is not intended to tell them how to live their lives, nor do we compel anyone to become a reporter or work for NPR. But when an individual decides to sign on with NPR as a journalist, he/she understands that comes with certain rules."

NPR's policy on political donations is equally problematic, encouraging a lack of transparency: "Since contributions to candidates are part of the public record, NPR journalists may not contribute to political campaigns, as doing so would call into question a journalist's impartiality."

Modern politics and ideological philosophies extend into many parts of life - protecting the environment, property ownership and taxation and making appeals, health care, religion, and education. 

Could the next controls be telling journalists that they cannot send their children to certain schools, practice a faith, purchase a home in certain neighborhoods, seek certain health treatments, write novels, marry, invest, or search out hobbies and friends?

In his book Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism, media historian Eric Burns wrote about journalism circa the American Revolution and he warns that journalists and readers from that era "would be startled by, and perhaps not altogether approving of, the extent to which we have tamed the wildly inglorious impulses of their journalism."

Reporters may start an article with objectivity, but few end that same report with no attitude or opinion. An article lacking in persuasion, advice, analysis or, yes, even morality is not worth reading. 

Every reporter has a point of view. It's not unusual for journalists to admit and monitor their biases, review counterarguments, and issues the hardest challenges on those they support. Perhaps it's impossible to avoid bias in journalism.

Photo of  the Islamic Center of America of Detroit, largest mosque in the United States, courtesy of Dane Hillard and Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, January 14

Culture force

Afghanis may have a better idea of the complete role of US special operation forces than many Americans do. And it's not just about tracking down culprits like Osama bin Laden.

Reporting for the Tampa, Tribune, Howard Altman quotes Air Force Maj. Ge. David J. Scott:  "[T]he larger role of special operators – on average older, better educated and better trained than general purpose troops – is in 'non-kinetic' missions like disaster relief, civil affairs, winning the hearts and minds at the village level and foreign internal defense, all designed to work 'by, with and through host governments.'"

Women soldiers can volunteer to join the Cultural Support Program:  "to serve as enablers supporting Army special-operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas....  training will primarily focus on basic human behavior, Islamic and Afghan cultures, women and their role in Afghanistan, and tribalism."

A year's commitment is required.

Photo, US Department of Defense

Tuesday, January 10

Afghan kittens

Even US Marines like kittens.

Daniela Caride of Taildom reports on a mission led by Marines to transfer pet cats from Afghanistan to the United States: "Brian Chambers found Kiki and his sister, Bones, at only 3 weeks old. Their mother had disappeared and the kittens were left alone to fend for themselves."

Expect to see kittens in the sequel to Fear of Beauty. In fact, a set of yellow tabbies opens the book, and they're based on experiences with Rosebud, shown above, in New York City, circa 1979.