If you’re wondering when—and if—there’s going to be ANY good news about anything in the world, you can stop now.  Yes, it’s true that February ended last week—the coldest February in New York City since 1934, and third coldest EVER.  But March is living up to its reputation of “coming in like a lion.”  One headline in The Gothamist reads: “Winter May Bless Us with 6 More Inches of Snow.” (Bless?) While we New Yorkers are feeling sorry for ourselves, alternately navigating black ice and slush ponds, Bostonians are probably thinking we’re a bunch of wimps.  Snow fall in Boston—so far—is 102 inches this winter, including more than 30 inches in a two day period last month.  More snow is expected there over the weekend. (!!)  Is it any wonder that that The New York Times is reporting more and more visits to emergency rooms caused by people slipping and falling on ice?  According to the chief of emergency medicine at a Brooklyn hospital, 30 patients arrived within a single hour from falls due to ice.  Last week a good friend broke her wrist from a fall and now needs surgery.  This is particularly inconvenient and stressful for a right handed reporter, who must now hunt and peck at the keyboard with her left hand.

     In other bad news, according to The Gothamist, the “Full Second Avenue Subway Might Not Happen,” (Are you shocked? For some reason, I’m not.)  Despite the MTA raising our fares yet again, there won’t be enough money to complete construction.  Apparently, the MTA owes billions in interest on its debts, and fare increases won’t make up the short fall enough to extend the Second Avenue subway line from 96th Street to 125thStreet, The Gothamist predicts.  Nothing like paying more for a metro card and learning that you won’t be able to travel as far as expected.  I have the added bonus of living on Second Avenue, where my living room window overlooks construction sheds, Portosans, and snarled traffic: a front row view of the ongoing eye-sore in the neighborhood. (See Nest Shifts 6/3/14.) Construction from 96th Street to 63rdStreet is supposed to be complete in 2016. (?) What do you all think? Care to place a wager on that one?    

     More cringe-worthy local news (also reported by The Gothamist) reveals this tantalizing environmental tidbit: “NYC Rats Now Carrying Same Fleas That Spread Bubonic Plague.” Hard to believe thatheadline, right?   But according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology— which measured the fleas and lice crawling in the fur of the Big Apple’s rats—this astonishing claim is true. After examining 133 Manhattan rats, (Is that a large enough sample?  I’m gagging at the thought) researchers found a total of 65,000 fleas, lice and mites, including Oriental rat fleas. Apparently, Oriental rat fleas are the culprits responsible for transmitting the bubonic plague, a.k.a. the Black Death during The Middle Ages.  Although researchers did not discover any plague bacteria in the fleas sampled (yet!), there’s no guarantee of future safety. “If these rats carry fleas that could transmit the plague to people,” says the study’s lead author, Matthew Frye, “then the pathogen itself is the only piece missing from the transmission cycle.” What’s our best bet?  Denial. Stop reading these on-line publications forwarded by well-meaning friends (and don’t pet lab rats).

     Okay, so headlines about local weather, rodents and transportation aren’t the end of the world. Spring will come (eventually?) and so will the Second Avenue subway (although I might be dead or too old to use it).  What about global news?  Those headlines are so much worse that you might want to consider cancelling your subscription to the local newspaper, and pulling the covers (in this weather, preferably a down quilt) over your head.

     What’s the worst headline of the week so far? Check out “A Thin Line of Defense Against ‘Honor Killings’” in The New York Times (3/3).  Not for the faint-hearted, this article is the second in a series on “Women’s War,” and examines the result of efforts to help Afghan females in a culture that treats my gender as servants and sex slaves. Subject to life-long abuse by their husbands and families, the women in the NY Times article carry deep scars, including knife grooves on their faces and chain marks on their backs.  Some limp from broken bones, while a few have faces ravaged by acid (a favorite weapon).  And these are the lucky girls and women who have made it to shelters built with our help during the war.

     After writing about the state of feminism in America last week in a (mostly) upbeat tone, I had planned to move onto a completely new topic this week. (Feminism –The Sound and Fury 2/27/15).  But now I find there is no escape from the dehumanizing horrors being perpetrated on my sisters around the world.  The hyped up issues in local news suddenly seem light-hearted and humorous.  Last week I wrote about on-line attacks perpetrated against outspoken feminists here in the USA; these verbal  assaults are a tempest in a teapot compared to the torture and abuse of females by Muslim extremists on the other side of the world, where anyone born with a vagina is doomed. Girls who rebel –daring to choose their own lovers and husbands— are beaten, disfigured and tortured.  Girls who run away to escape the abuse of their assigned husbands are hunted down and killed to assuage family “honor.”  This is not breaking news. The whole world knows about the systematic abuse of an entire gender.  However, the word “honor” will need to be re-defined if beating women and throwing acid in their faces is considered honorable. Certainly there’s no “honor” (usually implies integrity) when Afghan families convince their daughters it’s safe to leave the shelter and return home, and then shoot them outside. Likewise “family” takes on a whole new meaning in Afghanistan—or perhaps it loses meaning entirely, since civilized human beings (and even many animals) have long understood that families exist to nurture and protect the young.

     Yes, I know that the mistreatment of women across the globe has been going on for thousands of years. Are we BORED by another recitation?  Do we just fold our newspapers, change the TV channel, and get on with our lives? I just can’t do it. Not today. Today my mind fiendishly taunts me with questions, such as: What would have happened to my daughter Sarah if she’d been born in Afghanistan?  If neurotypical girls are treated as less than human, what happens to females on the autistic spectrum?  Are they killed outright? I shudder to think, or just beaten and mistreated more severely for their inability to respond as desired?  I can’t really begin to imagine Sarah’s life (or mine for that matter) if we lived in Afghanistan. After all, I need to be able to sleep at night. That means I won’t stay awake worrying about the rats carrying the bubonic plague, the unfinished subway or the bone chilling cold. Instead I’m hunkering down here in America, swathed in extra layers of clothes and snow boots, determined to wait for spring.


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