This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

The following is an excerpt from Vincent Bugliosi's new book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, and comes courtesy of AlterNet.

With respect to the position I take about the crimes of George Bush, I want to state at the outset that my motivation is not political. Although I've been a longtime Democrat (primarily because, unless there is some very compelling reason to be otherwise, I am always for "the little guy"), my political orientation is not rigid. For instance, I supported John McCain's run for the presidency in 2000. More to the point, whether I'm giving a final summation to the jury or writing one of my true crime books, credibility has always meant everything to me. Therefore, my only master and my only mistress are the facts and objectivity. I have no others. This is why I can give you, the reader, a 100 percent guarantee that if a Democratic president had done what Bush did, I would be writing the same, identical piece you are about to read.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about the belief of many that George Bush lied to the American public in starting his war with Iraq is that the liberal columnists who have accused him of doing this merely make this point, and then go on to the next paragraph in their columns. Only very infrequently does a columnist add that because of it Bush should be impeached. If the charges are true, of course Bush should have been impeached, convicted, and removed from office. That's almost too self-evident to state. But he deserves much more than impeachment. I mean, in America, we apparently impeach presidents for having consensual sex outside of marriage and trying to cover it up. If we impeach presidents for that, then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That's just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he'd still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths?* For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.

Let's look at the way some of the leading liberal lights (and, of course, the rest of the entire nation with the exception of those few recommending impeachment) have treated the issue of punishment for Bush's cardinal sins. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote about "the false selling of the Iraq War. We were railroaded into an unnecessary war." Fine, I agree. Now what? Krugman just goes on to the next paragraph. But if Bush falsely railroaded the nation into a war where over 100,000 people died, including 4,000 American soldiers, how can you go on to the next paragraph as if you had been writing that Bush spent the weekend at Camp David with his wife? For doing what Krugman believes Bush did, doesn't Bush have to be punished commensurately in some way? Are there no consequences for committing a crime of colossal proportions?

Al Franken, on the "David Letterman" show, said, "Bush lied to us to take us to war" and quickly went on to another subject, as if he was saying "Bush lied to us in his budget."

Sen. Edward Kennedy, condemning Bush, said that "Bush's distortions misled Congress in its war vote" and "No president of the United States should employ distortion of truth to take the nation to war." But, Senator Kennedy, if a president does this, as you believe Bush did, then what? Remember, Clinton was impeached for allegedly trying to cover up a consensual sexual affair. What do you recommend for Bush for being responsible for more than 100,000 deaths? Nothing? He shouldn't be held accountable for his actions? If one were to listen to you talk, that is the only conclusion one could come to. But why, Senator Kennedy, do you, like everyone else, want to give Bush this complete free ride?

The New York Times, in a June 17, 2004, editorial, said that in selling this nation on the war in Iraq, "the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11 … inexcusably selling the false Iraq-Al Qaeda claim to Americans." But gentlemen, if this is so, then what? The New York Times didn't say, just going on, like everyone else, to the next paragraph, talking about something else.
In a Nov. 15, 2005, editorial, the New York Times said that "the president and his top advisers … did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections." But if it's "obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans" in taking them to a war that tens of thousands of people have paid for with their lives, now what? No punishment? If not, under what theory? Again, you're just going to go on to the next paragraph?

I'm not going to go on to the next unrelated paragraph.

In early December of 2005, a New York Times-CBS nationwide poll showed that the majority of Americans believed Bush "intentionally misled" the nation to promote a war in Iraq. A Dec. 11, 2005, article in the Los Angeles Times, after citing this national poll, went on to say that because so many Americans believed this, it might be difficult for Bush to get the continuing support of Americans for the war. In other words, the fact that most Americans believed Bush had deliberately misled them into war was of no consequence in and of itself. Its only consequence was that it might hurt his efforts to get support for the war thereafter. So the article was reporting on the effect of the poll findings as if it was reporting on the popularity, or lack thereof, of Bush's position on global warming or immigration. Didn't the author of the article know that Bush taking the nation to war on a lie (if such be the case) is the equivalent of saying he is responsible for well over 100,000 deaths? One would never know this by reading the article.
If Bush, in fact, intentionally misled this nation into war, what is the proper punishment for him? Since many Americans routinely want criminal defendants to be executed for murdering only one person, if we weren't speaking of the president of the United States as the defendant here, to discuss anything less than the death penalty for someone responsible for over 100,000 deaths would on its face seem ludicrous.** But we are dealing with the president of the United States here.

On the other hand, the intensity of rage against Bush in America has been such (it never came remotely this close with Clinton because, at bottom, there was nothing of any real substance to have any serious rage against him for) that if I heard it once I heard it 10 times that "someone should put a bullet in his head." That, fortunately, is just loose talk, and even more fortunately not the way we do things in America. In any event, if an American jury were to find Bush guilty of first-degree murder, it would be up to them to decide what the appropriate punishment should be, one of their options being the imposition of the death penalty.

Although I have never heard before what I am suggesting -- that Bush be prosecuted for murder in an American courtroom -- many have argued that "Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes" (mostly for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo) at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. But for all intents and purposes this cannot be done.

*Even assuming, at this point, that Bush is criminally responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people in the Iraq war, under federal law he could only be prosecuted for the deaths of the 4,000 American soldiers killed in the war. No American court would have jurisdiction to prosecute him for the one hundred and some thousand Iraqi deaths since these victims not only were not Americans, but they were killed in a foreign nation, Iraq. Despite their nationality, if they had been killed here in the States, there would of course be jurisdiction.

**Indeed, Bush himself, ironically, would be the last person who would quarrel with the proposition that being guilty of mass murder (even one murder, by his lights) calls for the death penalty as opposed to life imprisonment. As governor of Texas, Bush had the highest execution rate of any governor in American history: He was a very strong proponent of the death penalty who even laughingly mocked a condemned young woman who begged him to spare her life ("Please don't kill me," Bush mimicked her in a magazine interview with journalist Tucker Carlson), and even refused to commute the sentence of death down to life imprisonment for a young man who was mentally retarded (although as president he set aside the entire prison sentence of his friend Lewis "Scooter" Libby), and had a broad smile on his face when he announced in his second presidential debate with Al Gore that his state, Texas, was about to execute three convicted murderers.
In Bush's two terms as Texas governor, he signed death warrants for an incredible 152 out of 153 executions against convicted murderers, the majority of whom killed one person. The only death sentence Bush commuted was for one of the many murders that mass murderer Henry Lucas had been convicted of. Bush was informed that Lucas had falsely confessed to this particular murder and was innocent, his conviction being improper. So in 152 out of 152 cases, Bush refused to show mercy even once, finding that not one of the 152 convicted killers should receive life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Bush's perfect 100 percent execution rate is highly uncommon even for the most conservative law-and-order governors.
Vincent Bugliosi's most famous trial, the Charles Manson case, became the basis of his classic, Helter Skelter, the biggest selling true-crime book in publishing history. His forthcoming book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, is available May 27.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Local Wildlife News Update

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals... We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far beneath ourselves. And therein we err, we greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complex than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not breathren, thay are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

-Harry Beston

I love that quote by Beston-- though I'm not sure I agree at all with his speciesism when he speaks about animals having taken form so far beneath us. I've never glimpsed an animal in the wild without being aware of a great dignity, a completeness-- certainly the Native Americans knew this, and elevated, or relagated, animals to the position of spirit-helpers-- equal strands in the web of life. This is my monthly (more or less) animal update, and it's a good time to do it, as Fionn and I just returned from a four mile evening walk, near the end of which you were drenched with the sound of howling coyotes. This doesn't happen very often-- certainly not enough to diminish the magic, though I'm not sure this kind of magic could ever be diminished-- I know I never am not rendered breathless, for example, when glancing the surprise of a massive full moon, appearing out of nowhere. I can't think of a sound in nature that embodies the wild so much as a coyote or wolf howl. The cry of Canadian geese flying just overhead is, to my mind, a close second, while the chant of peepers, and crickets, is so otherworldly that it seems of a different realm. And bird song breaks one's heart with its plaintive sweetness. But the coyote and wolf howls-- you just can't hear them without something wild within waking and answering back, if only silently.

We tend to hear them around the same two places, both on the northern shores of Spot Pond. And it has nothing to do with the phase of the moon! It's always wonderful, too, to watch little Fionn's reaction-- he stops cold, the ears go up like telescopes, his posture leaps to a noble erectness-- and a light of wildness shines in his eyes. If only he could tell me what these calls mean! I suppose his answer would be very similar to my first Irish Language professor's answer, when I asked him how to pronounce the Irish word for night, oiche. "Just like it's written," he answered, with a smile. The pronunciation is actually 'EE-ha;' which is, indeed, just as it's written-- if one were reading this arrangement of letters as an Irish speaker would. I suppose the coyotes are saying just what one hears-- if one speaks Canid.

There's more wildlife news: there are four acres of woods behind the barn behind my house, which you'd never believe if you stood at the front of my house and watched four-lane Main Street (aka State Route 28) roaring by. While heading out to the car the other day, Fionn dragged me to the edge of these woods, hot on a sniff-trail. When we got there I saw something grayish-brown and small-dog size, down in the valley, very intent on its business. I'm fairly sure it was a woodchuck. Once he saw us, he bolted.
More: the Friends of the Fells' quarterly newsletter arrived this week, and in it there is wonderful news: for the first time in memory, beavers have taken up residence in Happy Land, and have built a dam and pond. Sad to say, their dam has twice been broken and dismantled by vandals; both times the beavers have repaired it. Shortly after the creation of their pond, a pair of wood ducks was seen there-- beavers are so good are bringing a variety of wildlife to their habitats. We, on the other hand, chase them out or kill them. As E.O. Wilson wonders, in The Future of Life, "Why, our descendants will ask, by needlessly extinguishing the lives of other species, did we permanently impoverish our own?"
There was also an article in the Friends of the Fells newsletter about a somewhat well-known secret: the fact that great blue herons have been nesting on Great Island, in the middle of Spot Pond, for several years now. Great blue herons tend to be communal nesters, and these locales are known as rookeries. Rookeries tend to be quite isolated and inaccessible-- they don't like human encrouchment, and people tramping around beneath their tree-top nests will cause them to panic, often sending the chicks plummeting out of the nest-- which is the end of the chicks. Last year it was my delight to watch the herons-- there were seven pair nesting on Great Island last May-- flying back and forth, bringing food to their chicks. There's a wonderful, free boating program on Spot Pond, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but I was concerned, as some of the boaters dock at Great Island for a little visit. I stopped in at the ranger's office to let them know this, and that perhaps they should forbid people access to Great Island until after the chicks had flown the coop. They knew about the nests, and said that they thought such a restriction would actually bring more people in to disturb the herons-- out of curiosity at best, and something far nastier at worst.

To read the Friends fo the Fells newsletter, go to the home page at then scroll down to where it says Spring Newsletter, click here.

Lastly, the much bally-hooed and highly anticipated Black Bear Exhibit opens this weekend at the Walter Stone Zoo (formerly the Middlesex Fells Zoo) which is about 300 yards from my house. Here is the release from the Zoo New England website, after one final thought:

A human being is part of the whole, called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty… ~Albert Einstein~

Black bears coming to Stone Zoo!
Bears are expected to make their exhibit debut Memorial Day weekend

Stone Zoo is excited to announce the construction of a black bear exhibit, which will be the new home to two adolescent black bears from Tennessee. The exhibit, which is being designed to replicate the bear’s natural habitat, is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. Zoo New England’s Stone Zoo is entering a period of dramatic growth – one that will build on this beloved institution’s rich history, while transforming this “local gem” into a leading example of what a modern zoo can, and should, be. Stone Zoo is taking a big step forward toward reaching this goal with the new black bear exhibit.
The exhibit will be located on the same site that was previously home to Stone Zoo’s beloved polar bear, Major, who passed away in 2000. Zoo New England is building a naturalistic habitat for the black bears – using the foundation of Major’s former home, filling in the moats and creating an engaging and stimulating space for the bears. The exhibit is located within the zoo’s Yukon Creek section, an area of the zoo highlighting North American animals including bald eagles, Canada lynx, gray fox and porcupine.
The bears are two-year-old brothers that join Stone Zoo from the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) in Tennessee.
The bears’ care is being managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), which oversees the permit of ABR for rehabilitating bears for release back into the wild. Both bears were confiscated as cubs in the state of Georgia in 2006. Soon after arriving at ABR, it was determined that the bears could not be rehabilitated for release back into the wild. If a suitable home had not been found for the two bears, they would have been euthanized.
The two bears, which weigh approximately 250 pounds, are part of a species whose overall wild population is stable at this time. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group, a moratorium has been issued on all captive breeding of the black bear species in AZA facilities in order to encourage zoos to accept “rescued” bears in place of expanding the captive-born population. The highest priority in placing bears is given to orphaned cubs held by appropriate government agencies, their designees or licensed wildlife rehabilitators.
Commodore Builders are the construction managers for the project, which is budgeted at $750,000. ZNE has already secured $500,000 in private funding. Lead donors to the project include ZNE Board of Directors Chair Grace Fey and her husband Ted, a bequest from the estate of longtime Stone Zoo visitor Ernestina Vinet, and another anonymous donor. Fundraising efforts are ongoing.
In celebration of this new exhibit, ZNE will present the wildly popular tasting event, A Wild Affair, on June 21. This will mark the fourth annual A Wild Affair – an event that attracts hundreds of attendees and Stone Zoo supporters from Stoneham and the surrounding communities.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Looking for Something to do Friday or Saturday? Help the Herring!

THIS IS FROM TODAY'S BOSTON GLOBE. I'll be there tomorrow, though I won't bring Fionn the dog. The Mystic River's Watershed, by the way, includes all of Happy Land, and it's many little creeks, brooks, and lakes. So of course we'll help...

Helping herring make the trip home
Boston Globe

'Bucket brigade' lifts fish to Mystic spawning area

By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff May 22, 2008

The river herring, a sleek and silvery fish determined to return to its birthplace, has fed and fascinated New Englanders since Colonial times with its annual migration to spawn. But that spring ritual grinds to a halt each year at the dam separating the Lower and Upper Mystic lakes, where herring batter themselves against the rocks in scale-shedding agony before succumbing to exhaustion or predators.
Three years ago, Chuck Roche decided he had seen enough. He organized a "bucket brigade," and, with a few other volunteers, helped an estimated 500 fish clear the dam. More people turned out the next year, and the group gave a few thousand fish a lift. Last year, they fared even better, scooping up 19,000 herring from Lower Mystic Lake and depositing them on the other side, where 165 acres of spawning area awaited.
Roche hopes to break 20,000 during this year's brigade, to be held tomorrow and Saturday at the Medford Boat Club, which sits at the dam. The club cosponsors the event with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, which has worked to address a declining herring population. Topping last year's fish-saving record would require a large and energetic volunteer crew as well as a bit of luck when it comes to weather and the environment, which determines how and when the fish will surge to the dam.
"I would hope to at least get 10,000 or 15,000, and we'll see where we go from there," Roche said.
About 100 coastal rivers in Massachusetts serve as herring runs, and the Mystic River - which feeds Lower and Upper Mystic lakes - is one of the most significant. It is considered one of the three main runs for herring from Massachusetts Bay, along with the Charles River and the Back River in Weymouth, said Brad Chase, an aquatic biologist with the Division of Marine Fisheries who has helped organize the bucket brigades.
Roche planned the original bucket brigade not just to assist the fish, but to bring attention to the aging dam, which herring fans hope will be replaced with a structure that includes a fish ladder, to help herring get to the Upper Mystic themselves. The bucket brigade has drawn volunteers from groups that promote the health of the river, like the Mystic River Watershed Association, and the event serves as a family-friendly way to engage people with the environment. More than anything, participants say, it's fun - splashing on the rocks, scooping fish with a net, hoisting them in buckets up to the dam, and gently releasing them down a jury-rigged PVC waterslide.
"It's really fun," said state Senator Patricia D. Jehlen, who represents Medford and Winchester and parts of Somerville and Woburn, all of which are in the Mystic's watershed. Last year, Jehlen took along her husband and her granddaughters, who were 5 and 2, to the brigade, and they had a terrific time, she said. "It's very hands-on, it's very outdoors, and there are a lot of people and a lot of fish."
Her grandchildren felt particularly proud about the work. "They're saving the fish, and kids like to save other creatures," said Jehlen, who has advocated replacing the dam - for the sake of safety, Mystic Lakes management, and flood control - with one that would include a ladder.
Ted Sharpe, an amateur fisherman from Arlington, enjoyed the event so much last year that he plans to return both days this week. "For anyone who likes the natural world, it's just a fascinating thing as well as a reminder of our history, to see the water just boiling with these remarkable little fish," Sharpe said.
The herring, which spends its first months in freshwater lakes and later returns to spawn, lives mostly in the sea, where it is an important food source for larger creatures like bluefish and striped bass. Herring can live several years, grow to be a foot in length, and make multiple spawning runs. Among other things, waves of herring surging upstream to mate signify the vitality of a river system.
River herring are actually two similar species, the alewife and the blueback herring. Alewives prefer to spawn when the water is about 51 degrees, from late March to mid-May, and blueback herring spawn when the water is a few degrees warmer, from late April through June.
"But when they peak is a little more difficult to predict," Chase said. "There's a lot of things that come together, so when you schedule an event like this, you hope for the best."
Although some herring stop to spawn in Lower Mystic Lake, many strive to reach the upper lake, more than 7 miles upstream from where the Mystic River empties into Boston Harbor, drawn by the water that flows over the dam and crashes onto the rocks below. That's where the fish perish, unable to make the climb. A herring ladder would offer a series of surmountable steps as well as staggered pools in which the fish could rest before reaching the top, Chase said.
The state has tried to help the herring population for decades by restricting the number of days people may harvest them from rivers. Officials don't know the overall herring population, but they count the fish at herring ladders. After observing a substantial population drop from 2004 to 2005 - caused in part by the herring's increasing popularity as bait for striped-bass fishermen - state officials enacted a full ban on taking herring from rivers for three years. The bucket brigade provides a legal way to get up close and grab them, momentarily.
During last year's event, Ian A. Bowles, the state secretary of energy and environmental affairs, dropped by to announce new funding to replace the century-old dam and add a fish ladder. The state recently awarded a design contract and hopes to complete construction of the nearly $5.5 million project by the end of 2010, according to a Department of Conservation and Recreation spokeswoman.
When complete, the ladder would spell the end of the only formally organized herring bucket brigade in Massachusetts. Obviously, Roche said, "it would be worth it."
Eric Moskowitz can be reached at

Trip to Butterworth Farm and Environs

YESTERDAY, A GLORIOUS MAY MORNING, my friend Dermot and I were invited to lunch at my dear friend Allen Young's place, nestled in deep and numinous woods on the grounds of the intentional community at Butterworth Farm, in Royalston, Massachusetts. (see Allen's house above, 'The Octagon.') Allen is a wise and wonderful friend whom I first met after A Map of the Harbor Islands came out, when he set up a reading for me at Bruce's Browser in Athol, the perfect bookstore for the lingering class, as part of that town's annual Gay Pride Celebreation. Allen is also the author or co-author of many books, including the wonderful 'North of Quabbin Revisited' and 'Making Hay While the Sun Shines,' both of which explore the wonderful North of Quabbin area. (Allen incidentially will be reading/speaking at this year's Athol Gay Pride Celebration, details of which are at the end of this entry.)

It was my perfect kind of day for a ride into the country-- a robin's egg blue sky, punctuated by lazy galleon clouds of 10,000 various whites, greys, and yellows-- heaven, and the open road beckoning beneath. We stopped in Arlington, at the fabulous Quebrada Bakery where we picked up dessert (a variety of fresh scones) and then at the Robbins Library a little further up Massachusetts Avenue, where we toured the lovely gardens adjacent to the granite building, then went inside to Oooo and Ahhh at the lovely architecture, and also so that I could return Ulysses, and pick up a cd, Sacred Earth Drums, by David and Steven Gordon. Then we picked up Route 2 at Pleasant Street in Arlington, and were off.
Dermot is a lovely motoring companion and there was no lack of chat. The little yellow fuel light went off someone in Harvard (I think) so we got off a few exits later seeking gas. The winding country road went on, and on, and we began to grow trepidatious. It would have been most awkward to run out of gas there, especially with us starving and luncheon awaiting. Finally we found a filling station where we met the lovely and helpful attendent, Shawn by name. When asked what he thought about soaring gas prices, he echoed many of our sentiments by calling them ridiculous and unbelievable. He said that he himself rode a bicycle, and predicted that this would be the new wave of the future. In fact he rides his bicycle back and forth everyday between his job at the gas station, and his home in Shirley, Massachusetts, a not inconsiderable distance. Although Shawn's wise and healthy travel arrangements do both him and the environment good, I nevertheless can add him to the growing list of Americans who cannot afford to shop where they live. I began cataloging this list when I would speak to cashiers at Whole Foods, and Wild Oats, who told me that could not buy healthy and organic food at these places, as the prices were beyond their means. There's something wrong in that, I think, and distinctly un-American in the best meaning of that latter word. The House Committee on Un-American Activities I think should reconvene and investiagte these growing discrepencies between the Haves and the Have-Nots in an increasingly India-like America.

The mammoth, interesting, conversation-starter clouds lowered and expanded as we penetrated further west-- plus our road was rising, thus we were coming up closer to the clouds. The result of all this movement was a series of showers as we entered Worcester County. But things brightened and lightened after a time, and we arrived at Allen's with a soft, swirling sky above us, both sunshine and shadow. Butterworth Road is two miles long, unpaved, and bordered by soaring hemlocks, white pine, and white and yellow birch, and the feeling, as well as the drenching smell of the clean air, is defintely one of having entered The Country. Allen was his usual emminently-hospitable self, and treated us to a magnificent comfort food lunch of tuna salad, tossed salad, and broccoli from his garden dressed with a cheese sauce-- heaven. Mint tea and scones were the perfect finishing touches and filled up whatever small corners of our bellies were still empty. While we were finishing, another member of the Butterworth Community, Celt by name, dropped by, smelling of the earth, as well he should have as he was working in his garden. He came by to offer Allen some extra seedlings he had. Finally we hit the road, and stopped by two more houses in the intentional community, one to observe and the other to visit, the latter being the wonderful home-made home of Buddy, originally a Dorchester boy. His beautiful border collies greeted us warmly, as did Buddy. He showed us a swallow's nest tucked near the top of one of his wonderful rock walls, and as we gathered round to gawk the mother swallow decamped and flew off. You could see the eggs in her nest, so we scampered off, leaving her in peace. Inside, we toured Buddy's lovely house, most of which was built with his own hands, including the furnishings, cabinets, doors, and bookcases thereof. He's got a grand and lovely cast iron wood-burning stove in the kitchen. Then he showed us his collection of 45's, and in fact played a few for us. It brought back so many memories to hear, and see, the lovely click-clack of his record-playing machine as it dropped the 45 down and the needled arm swung, crane-like, into place. We listened to 'Ape Man' by the Kinks, 'Mona Lisa' by Nat King cole, and a camp version of 'My Boyfriend's Back' by a gay male singing group from, where else, NYC.

Then it was off to do a little sight-seeing. We took two cars and I followed Allen and Dermot as Allen zipped up hill and down dale through Royalston and Orange, beautiful rolling countryside of woods, fields, barns, and lovely old homes, and ancient sugar maples lining the up-and-down by-ways. We came into the commercial center of Orange, to the Peace Park, to see the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's Official Peace Statue (see pic above). It's a very moving sculpture, showing a World War I doughboy, holding a young boy and explaining, seemingly, the senseless and wasteful horrors of war; just beneath is a plaque proclaiming IT SHALL NOT BE AGAIN, with a funereal figure beside dressed in a shroud-like hooded ensemble, looking very much like the Banshee in Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People. IT SHALL NOT BE AGAIN-- would that it were so, and would that these words, and their meaning, had been drilled into the thick skull of GW when he was a young boy blowing up frogs with firecrackers. The statue is located at the center of the park, and several brick paths take one there. Many of the bricks have been inscribed with the names of loved ones, as a memorial. The North Quabbin Woods website has this to say about the statue:
Memorial ParkSouth Main St., Orange, MA
A nationally recognized 12-foot bronze memorial to veternas of WWI and the official peace statue of Massachusetts.Description:
The official peace statue of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—so designated by the legislature in 1998—resides in the lovely Memorial Park on the banks of the Millers River in the center of the peaceful town of Orange. The 12-foot bronze sculpture, created by Joseph Pollia in 1934 as a memorial to veterans of World War I, depicts a weary doughboy with one arm around a young schoolboy. A plaque on the base carries the inscription “It Shall Not Be Again” against a shrouded figure of grief ; 13 stars honor Orange veterans who died in the war. The nationally recognized statue provides a moving background to gatherings of veterans’ organizations, of peace activists, and of causal visitors who are perhaps less casual after contemplating the memorial.

From Rte. 2, take Exit 15 and follow Rte. 122 north. Memorial Park is on the right, just before Orange Center.
Click for a Map Contact:
Orange Town Hall, 6 Prospect St.Orange, MA 01369
After this we drove up to the beautiful and rural communtiy of New Salem, much of which was taken away by the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. The common here, the old town center, is pin-drop quiet, and bordered with lovely old white clapboard homes and churches, and the remnants of the old New Salem Academy. One of the churches has been converted into the 1794 House, a performing arts venue-- you can learn more about this wonderful place by visiting them at Not far from this is the wonderful New Salem 'Overlook,' a drop-dead view of the Quabbin from the end of a trail that begins right behind the fire station. Then we came back into Orange, for a delightful pizza supper, before heading back to Boston, our minds and hearts warmed by hospitality, and beauty. Thanks, Allen!

The fourth annual Gay and Lesbian Pride movie and book series will take place on four Tuesdays in June in “the back corner” at Bruce’s Browser, 1497 Main St., Athol. All events begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. All films are not rated.
Diane Lincoln, proprietor of the Browser, who planned the program along with local author Allen Young, has chosen a documentary movie, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” as the first event, to be screened on June 3. Lincoln explained that this movie strives to answer several provocative questions: “Does God really condemn loving homosexual relationships? Is the chasm separating Christianity from gays and lesbians too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate?”
The film discusses these issues through the experiences of five Christian, American families, including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson. Lincoln said, “The movie illustrates how people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child, family member, friend or neighbor, and I hope people in our community who are addressing these issues will view the film with us.” There will be opportunity for discussion.
On June 10, the Canadian film “Whole New Thing” will be shown. It’s an offbeat coming of age story about a young teenage boy who has been home-schooled by hippie parents. His parents decide he should attend public school, where it becomes clear he is not familiar with acceptable social rules. This causes problems, which worsen when he develops a crush on his English teacher.
A lesbian-themed romance, “The Gymnast,” will be the feature film on June 17. When an injury ends her career as a gymnast, the main character in this film falls back into a lackluster job and a passionless marriage (to a man). Things become complicated when she begins to work on an aerial act with another beautiful gymnast.
On June 24, AllenYoung will sign books and speak about the early years of the gay liberation movement launched after the June 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York City. Young, who became a gay activist at that time, is co-editor, with Karla Jay, of the 1970s books “Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation” and “Lavender Culture,” reissued by New York University Press. Gay authors who previously participated in this series at the Browser are Felice Picano, Neil Miller and Joe Hayes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Consolidate the Media and Close the Libraries in Bush's America


"I wish I could say that journalists in general are showing the same interest in uncovering the dangerous linkages thwarting this democracy. It is not for lack of honest and courageous individuals who would risk their careers to speak truth to power--a modest risk compared to those of some journalists in authoritarian countries who have been jailed or murdered for the identical "crime." But our journalists are not in control of the instruments they play. As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and networks, and profit rather than product becomes the focus of corporate effort, news organizations--particularly in television--are folded into entertainment divisions. The "news hole" in the print media shrinks to make room for advertisements, and stories needed by informed citizens working together are pulled in favor of the latest celebrity scandals because the media moguls have decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pabulum. Good reporters and editors confront walls of resistance in trying to place serious and informative reports over which they have long labored. Media owners who should be sounding the trumpets of alarm on the battlements of democracy instead blow popular ditties through tin horns, undercutting the basis for their existence and their First Amendment rights."

Take action now to stop more corporate media consolidation.

In other news, I am proud and happy to report that the Stoneham Town Meeting has restored all of the Stoneham Public Library (pictured) funding recently, unwisely, and amazingly cut by the Stoneham Board of Selectmen. The annual $750k budget, hardly enough to keep the library certified in the first place, was cut by $350K by the Stoneham Board of Selectmen-- the same Board which routinely approves out-of-scale, traffic-intensive development projects on the fringes of Happy Land. Enough citizens were outraged to add a special article to Town Meeting, which fully restored the funding. During the debate, the local newspaper (speaking of the media-- a rag) actually suggested the library be closed. A pox upon them. Yes, you read that right-- that's like libraries advocating for the suppression of the press, because circulation is slipping.

As one resident aptly put it, "It's embarrassing to be from a town where they want to close the library." We're always being told that commercial/business projects are 'good for the town's tax base...' But is there a town which has spread its legs wider, so to speak, than Saugus, in terms of commercial and business development? And now the Saugus Public Library is, for all intents and purposes, closed, due to a lack of town funds. A pox, I say! While it's true that I am no longer welcome at the Stoneham Public Library, having kept certain items out longer than was deemed acceptable, and while it's also true that they declined to carry my 'controversial' books, libraries must be defended to the death-- to the death!!! (This disinclination to carry my books was especially bemusing in that half the staff, at least, of the Stoneham Library struck me as being of LGBT inclination-- it's a Nest of Fairies, as my dear friend Dermot would say.) Speaking up for libraries' continued existence is kind of like protecting motherhood, or the environment-- one doesn't know where to begin in defending and justifying certain causes, as one would think their benificence is understood. So when I'm debating with the blockheads, on why libraries should be kept open, I just say, with the proper amount of nostril-flaring indignation,"Keep them open for their smell alone!" Cast not thy pearls before swine department.

I'm happy to report I am a member, in good standing, of the wonderful, venerable, and numinous Robbins Library, in Arlington, Massachusetts, which is probably five times the size of the Stoneham Library. (And it has a lovely garden contiguous to it-- Robbins Memorial Park, complete with a statue by former Arlington resident Cyrus Dallin, who did the Paul Revere statue in the North End, and the Appeal to the Great Spirit, in front of the MFA. In this lovely garden one can repair, and peruse one's latest selections amdist the smell of blooming bushes and the happy tinkle of falling waters.) But such was not always the case-- I'm afraid to confess that at the Robbins Library, too, in bygone years, I was a habitual offender when it came to returning things in a timely manner-- to the point where I was publicly dressed down and cast out by the formidable Miss Judith Stromdahl, head librarian of the Robbins for many, many moons-- she of the arched eyebrow, bosomic build, and glaring pince-nez. "Hayes?" she inquired, when I handed her my card to check out something. (This was many years ago.) "Joseph George Hayes?" "Yes," I answered. With this acknowledgement, she held up my library card and publicly ripped it into little pieces, pronouncing, "Mr. Hayes, in some people's hands, a library card is a lethal weapon." (Some years before that, she also was pleased to give a public harrangue to my oldest sister Peggy, who had the temerity, at the tender age of 20, to try and check out Valley of the Dolls. Miss Stromdahl didn't think this was appropriate reading for a young woman, and she wasn't afraid to say so, quite loudly and frankly, to Peggy's blushing chagrin.)
But again, that was many many years ago, and before the dawn of the computer age. Apparently the records didn't carry over from previous, capricious, youthful and irresponsible days, and, aware of this wonderful second chance, I have, like a character in a Capra movie, turned over a new leaf since then. When I moved back out to the 'burbs, one of the first things I did was reapply for membership at the Robbins. "Did you ever live at_______ or at _______?" the pleasant young man asked me. "Certainly not," I denied. And thus I was given a new card, one which, thus far (ten years) I have not abused. Though it does occur to me even as I write this that Joyce's Ulysses is currently overdue. Now, if only I could find it....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wildlife Rehabilitation

This is from today's Globe.

Many thanks to all of you who made my birthday so special.

Shelter from the wild
Boston Globe
Like a harried mother with too many chores, Laurie Schultz hastily lined the countertop with five preemie baby bottles in preparation for a feeding.
Bella Travaglini
May 18, 2008

Five local women are part of a network of rehabilitators who help afflicted animals
By Bella Travaglini, Globe Correspondent May 18, 2008

Like a harried mother with too many chores, Laurie Schultz hastily lined the countertop with five preemie baby bottles in preparation for a feeding.
But the feeding that morning was not of the human kind: She was preparing to nourish a tiny squirrel and a brood of four baby raccoons she has been bringing to work with her at Woburn Animal Hospital in recent weeks. All of the animals were turned in by area residents who had found them orphaned and abandoned.
Schultz, who lives in Wilmington and works as a receptionist at the veterinary hospital, has joined forces with four other local women through a small network of wildlife rehabilitators around the state who nurse orphaned or injured wildlife back to health for reentry to their natural habitats.
The wildlife rehabilitators are a rare breed themselves, picking up tasks not normally handled by local animal control officers. The wildlife rehabilitators do not receive any state funding for their work and must pay for all supplies out of pocket. They are, however, allowed to accept donations, which are sent infrequently. For some of the volunteers, the costs for food, heating pads, kennels, feeding pens, and various other supplies could run upward of several hundred dollars annually, Schultz said.
Costs aside, the women in the group have turned over their lives for the next several months to the infants they are trying to save and nurture for their eventual release to the wild.
Schultz, who recently became certified as a rehabilitator, said caring for the tiny creatures is round-the-clock work, since they feed every three hours.
"These are my babies," she said. "Many are affected by human-created problems and they have nowhere to go. I feel I owe it to them."
The women in her group hail from different professional backgrounds. But all share a devotion to animals.
"It's important to note that the work that Laurie and others like her do is very selfless," said Dr. Anne-Ghilaine Schless, co-owner of Woburn Animal Hospital who also is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. "If no one does this, all of these abandoned animals would die."
Schultz's group receives most of its referrals from the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in North Grafton and the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Massachusetts, which also provides some support services for the volunteers.
Tufts takes in between 1,600 and 1,800 abandoned or injured animals annually, said Robin Shearer, program assistant at the clinic. Many adult animals that receive medical care need a period of rehabilitation. Others are abandoned babies, including rabbits, skunks, and turtles, that require foster care before they can be sent out into their natural habitats. About 75 percent of the animals the center assists are birds. Rehabilitating wild birds requires a federal license in addition to the state license.
While the clinic performs surgery on injured wildlife and provides other medical services for free, it is a rarity to find private veterinarians willing to foot the bill. "I always seek out [wildlife] rehabbers, of course," said Wilmington animal control officer Ellen Sawyer, a self-professed animal lover. "It is very uncommon, though, to get vets who will work with me."
Sawyer said animal control officers are not required to hold a wildlife rehabilitator's license, and many shy away from picking up wildlife out of fear of contracting rabies. The officers have the authority to euthanize wildlife and often do so if it's determined the animals are too sick, she said. Still, she and other officers often will contact Tufts or a local rehabilitator, if one is known. But how a municipality handles wildlife is up to the individual community, Sawyer said.
Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are scarce, with just 101 statewide, according to Robert Arini, specialist for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. Licensure is obtained by passing a one-time exam and requires annual reporting and annual renewal. The majority of license holders are in the rural Southeastern part of the state.
Of course, there are wildlife infants in need everywhere during spring, the birthing season, along with injured adults in need of care. The suburbs northwest of Boston are no different.
Deanna Smith of Billerica, who works with Schultz, is an emergency 911 dispatcher for the city of Waltham. She said she decided to become a wildlife rehabilitator after taking a call.
"An officer went out to pick up an abandoned baby raccoon in 2006, and I was hooked when I saw it."
Smith's 3 1/2-acre property is now lined with pens and den boxes for the raccoon and other critters she fosters. Its location is ideal for the animals, she said, as it abuts a pond and wetlands. Smith and the others often conduct releases in the fall on her property, although each of the women has space and supplies at their own homes for their work.
Mary Petrino of Chelmsford, who is on the board of the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Massachusetts, also works with the group. The program director of an assisted-living facility, Petrino has been carting four baby squirrels to work with her, and they remain in her care throughout the day, kenneled on heated pads in between feedings.
Schultz's sister, Lisa Cournoyer of Wilmington, is also part of the group and is now in training and preparing to take the licensing exam.
Rounding out the quintet is JoAnn Sequeira, who lives in Arlington and works as an elementary reading specialist for the Cambridge Public Schools. Sequeira said she became committed to the cause purely by accident, after one of her young students spotted a baby squirrel outside the classroom being eyed by a cat.
"I ran out and scooped him up," Sequeira said.
That the group is all women is perhaps to be expected. According to Shearer, most of the 101 rehabilitators in Massachusetts are women, with "just a handful" of men taking on the challenge. This trend correlates with the veterinary profession nationwide, she said, of which 85 percent of its members are women.
"Women seem to have more of a need to nurture," Shearer said. "It's a maternal instinct. However, many men are involved in supporting wildlife issues in other ways."
Lending testament to this, perhaps, is the endearing story of an 8-week-old squirrel that one recent morning ran into a Lawrence tavern where a construction crew was working.
"The squirrel ran up one of the contractors' legs," Schultz said. "He didn't know what to do with it and thought he should just bring it back outdoors."
For nearly one hour, the contractor checked on the squirrel, which had run up a brick wall and clung on, motionless.
"When he saw it wasn't going anywhere, he felt bad," Schultz said. "He took it and brought it in to me at the hospital. He's just a nice guy."
Schultz added the terrified critter to her brood.
She said she and her cohorts are planning to release their animals in the fall, when their work will have come full circle.
"It's like sending your kids off - it's awful," Smith said. "It's bittersweet. You're happy for them, while you miss them. You worry for them. You hope they'll come back."
Bella Travaglini can be reached at

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mysterious Illness Killing Northeast's Bats

This is from today's Globe. There are bats come up at night here in my backyard, on the summer nights. It's a pleasure to sit and watch them do their zooming thing. There are also bats at the holy field where the woodcocks sing and do their sky dance, in Happy Land. What's happening here?

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff May 4, 2008
DORSET, Vt. - The little brown bat careened out of Aeolus Cave into the bright March afternoon. Crashing into a snow bank, it clawed up the icy mound, wings flailing wildly. Spent and starving, it fell still.
Dozens of furry bats, many shivering uncontrollably, littered the snow around the cave's mossy entrance. Others in various stages of dying were tucked into rock crevices nearby - deeply bizarre behavior for animals that avoid light and so despise winter they can hibernate until early May.
A wildlife biologist breathing through a respirator gingerly picked up the still creature - one more critical clue to a mysterious illness that is killing the bats of the Northeast.
For more than four months, perplexed scientists have struggled to understand why upwards of a half-million bats may be at risk of dying in the dark caves and mines of Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York. Last year, thousands of dead bats were found in four caves within 7 miles of one another. This year, at least 25 caves and mines spread across 135 miles were found to have sick or dying bats. Homeowners from Hanover, N.H., to East Canaan in northwest Connecticut have reported dead bats on lawns, decks, and roofs, a sign the animals might be affected in an even wider area. But so far, no one has found an infectious agent or any other cause.
It is a race against time.
Bats are now migrating as far as 250 miles to their summer roosts, where they will mix with bats from other far-off caves and mines. By fall, they will travel back to their hibernation site to mingle and mate with still other bats. If the sickness is contagious, millions more of the animals around the country could be at risk next year.
Finding an answer is critical for a population that eats thousands of tons of crop-infesting and human-biting insects. But scientists also worry that the sick bats are a potent sign of changing conditions in the natural world.
"What are these bats telling us about the environment we live in?" asked Beth Buckles, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the researchers leading the hunt for the causes of the problem. While humans do not appear susceptible to the illness, scientists worry that a large bat die-off could disrupt nature's balance in unpredictable ways. "We are in the middle of something historic here," she said.
Some are comparing the bat sickness to the massive population decline among honeybees in North America, which also involves animals that cluster together. Scientists have not found any link, other than the realization that neither event appears to have an identifiable cause.
Now, dozens of pathologists, immunologists, toxicologists, wildlife biologists, and other researchers in more than 15 government, university, and private labs are methodically working to unravel the bat mystery. Government grants are being written to fund more in-depth work. Scientists are using cutting-edge technology, from heat-detecting cameras in muddy bat caves to DNA analysis in sterile labs. Even a Columbia University molecular epidemiologist who discovered a possible contributor to the bee colony collapse has joined the sleuthing.
"We've got to find an answer," said Susi von Oettingen, an endangered species biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. "And in so many ways, we really don't know where to start."
An illness spreads
Joe Armstrong's heart sank. The 43-year-old caver was in Haunted Castle, a remote spur in upstate New York's Howe's Cave in January. Just as he was about to leave, his headlamp trained on a single bat with what looked like frost on its nose.
Weeks earlier, Armstrong, the conservation chairman for the Northeastern Cave Conservancy, had heard about a strange and what authorities hoped was an isolated 2007 bat die-off that involved animals with white faces at four nearby caves west of Albany.
Armstrong immediately called New York state bat biologist Al Hicks at home. The next morning, a Sunday, Hicks was in Haunted Castle. He and another scientist peered at the bat. The white frost was the same fuzzy white fungus he had seen on bats the year before.
"We knew then the genie was out of the bottle," Hicks recalled recently. "It seemed to be spreading."
Wildlife biologists, dressed in protective white suits and wearing respirators to keep from spreading the sickness unwittingly, began exploring icy, dark mines and caves across the Northeast, sometimes aided by experienced cavers who knew the damp, maze-like passages. They traded their findings on a bat conservation discussion group on the Internet.
Six species of bats appeared to be affected, though little brown bats seemed hardest hit. Not all the dead bats had white noses, but enough did for scientists to dub the sickness "white nose syndrome." Most had virtually no fat on their body, indicating they had starved. But even some live bats that were a healthy weight and lacked white fungus were acting strangely by flying out in the middle of the day. Mortality in some caves was nearing 100 percent.
No one had seen anything like it.
"We hope that our concern is overblown and that in a short time people are laughing at us for saying, 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling,' " Virgil Brack Jr., a bat consultant and assistant director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation at Indiana State University, wrote in an e-mail to the group in January. "But until that proves to be the case, this . . . scares the hell out of us."
An elusive killer
At first, researchers hoped it would be easy to pinpoint the bats' killer.
In a lab filled with stainless steel at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, Buckles and her students began receiving dozens of bat corpses.
They painstakingly examined each animal before placing its lungs, heart, and other organs in preserving fluid. Then, they examined tiny slices of the organs, stained bright pink or blue, under a microscope. If the cells looked abnormal - fragmented or oddly shaped, for example - it could mean that the animals were fighting a virus, bacterium, fungus, parasite, or toxin. But they saw no pattern indicating an immune response in the bats, even the ones with white nose fungus.
Other Cornell scientists searched for toxins or pathogens hidden in the tissue. Still no pattern. That meant, as far as they could tell, that an infection did not seem to be killing the bats.
Meanwhile, the count of sick bats was rising. White nose was confirmed in Vermont's Aeolus Cave on Valentine's Day. Bats in more than a dozen New York caves had the illness by the end of February. Sick bats were found in Connecticut in March. Reports of white nose, still unconfirmed, are now trickling in from Pennsylvania.
In Chester, Mass., biologists didn't have a chance to investigate the honeycomb of old emery mines before residents began calling: Dead bats had to be kicked off porches. Carcasses were sticking to houses.
"We used to go outside in the spring, have a beer, and watch the bats come out at dusk from the mines," said Mary Ann Pease, the town tax collector as she walked her dog through the speck of a downtown. "But we know that isn't going to happen anymore."
Unable to identify an obvious infectious agent - the white fungus appears to strike bats already weakened by something else - scientists around the country began looking down other paths. Could pesticides have killed so many moths, beetles, or midges that bats didn't have enough to eat the previous fall? Were they going into hibernation without enough fat to make it through the winter? Did the fungus make the bats so itchy that they woke up and expended precious energy scratching?
Some members of the public suggested the reason was electromagnetic radiation from cellphone towers. Three people e-mailed The Boston Globe convinced the bats were dying from government planes they suspected were spraying mysterious chemicals each morning.
Whatever the cause, scientists realized they were stalled by a fundamental problem: They really didn't know enough about healthy hibernating bats.
Gaining an understanding
Tom Kunz of Boston University is, truly, batman. It's not because of the pile of stuffed bats on a filing cabinet in his paper-strewn office. It's that he has been studying the mystical creatures for more than 40 years.
Despite all that experience, he still doesn't understand exactly how a hibernating bat's immune system works. He does not exactly know how much body fat a bat needs to make it through the winter healthy enough to reproduce.
The answers are critical. It's hard to determine what's gone wrong with sick bats without being able to compare them with healthy ones.
"We need to know so much more about their ecology and physiology" to figure this out, Kunz said.
The lack of basic knowledge slowed the investigation. Ian Lipkin, the Columbia University epidemiologist, agreed to use a sophisticated molecular method he had developed to look for pathogens by comparing healthy bats with unhealthy bats. Lipkin's lab used this method to discover a virus in bees in hives affected by colony collapse disorder, a potential key contributor to that species' decline.
But he needed to be certain healthy bats were truly healthy. A sick bat could look healthy if the illness had not had time to cause symptoms yet.
Supposedly healthy Pennsylvania bats were sent to Lipkin, but Buckles was uncomfortable. They were collected only 200 miles from an affected New York mine, and there was growing concern Pennsylvania had sick bats. The group decided to collect bats farther away, from Wisconsin, and Lipkin is now running his tests.
Increasingly, scientists believe a confluence of factors is contributing to the bats' demise, sort of a one-two, and possibly three, punch.
One hypothesis proposed by Kunz and his graduate students is that hibernating bats may need to arouse to jump-start their immune system to fight off a pathogen or contaminant. If bats enter hibernation without enough body fat, for whatever reason, they may be unable to muster enough energy to arouse and get their immune system going, the BU group figured.
On Feb. 13, Marianne Moore and Jon Reichard, two of Kunz's graduate students, rappelled 120 feet into Williams Hotel Mine, an old limestone cement mine in upstate New York, to test the hypothesis.
Quietly, they grabbed hibernating, cold bats off the wall and drew blood. Then they tried to wake up some bats to obtain blood during different stages of arousal. Some awoke, others didn't, an odd sign. They poked the bats to arouse them. Still no response.
Reichard set up a heat-detecting video camera to record the animals' body heat, in case they were arousing a bit but just not enough for the researchers to notice. Even after three hours, some bats never woke up.
Once they extracted themselves from the icy mine, Moore and Reichard took the frozen blood samples back to the BU lab.
There, Moore mixed bat blood, taken during different states of arousal, with bacteria in small vials. Later, in petri dishes, she counted how many bacteria were killed, as a measure of immune system activity. While her data are still preliminary and only suggestive, Moore said it appears that there was less immune activity in the blood taken from less-aroused bats. If confirmed, that means their hypothesis could be correct. Something no one has detected yet could be invading the bats' bodies, and their immune system just can't fight it when they are in deep hibernation.
"We still need a lot more information," Moore cautioned. Researchers plan to gather in Albany next month to decide which potential causes to the bat illness appear the most promising to pursue in the coming months, as bats again prepare for the next hibernating season.
A hopeful expedition
Two weeks ago, a team of New York researchers hiked a half-mile up a mountain path strewn with felled trees and branches to place a bat trap across a hard-to-find entrance to an Adirondack mine.
Inside the mine, near rusted machine parts once used to extract iron ore, the squeaks and chirps of thousands of bats could be heard. Bats writhed and squirmed in clusters of hundreds per square foot as they prepared to leave the cave and begin the long flight to their summer roosts.
There is hope here. When Hicks, the New York state bat biologist, visited the mine in March, he saw little evidence of white nose. And he expected to see a lot: Other mines in the area have sick bats.
Perhaps, he and other scientists wondered, this mine's dry conditions somehow helped the bats withstand the illness. Humidity levels in the cave average about 65 percent, compared with close to 100 percent in most caves and mines.
Hicks and three fellow bat catchers got ready as the sun set. A trickle of bats began flying out of the 15-foot wide entrance. The bat trap, monofilament strung across two metal bars, worked. Some bats were unable to navigate around the trap and flew into the wire. Stunned, they dropped to the ground.
The researchers, wearing white gloves and miner lamps, grabbed each bat to weigh, measure, and examine the animal for white nose, before letting it go.
Hicks needed to catch hundreds of bats to see any trends. By 11:30 p.m., after almost nine hours on the mountain, they had caught only 65.
But the bats they did catch were a healthy weight. And fewer than a half-dozen had the white fungus. Was it a good sign?
"We need more bats to know," said the exhausted Hicks as he and the crew packed up their gear before gingerly stepping over logs and spruce branches on the way down the mountain.
Near their car, the crew paused. Someone shouted and pointed. It was a bat, starting the journey to its summer roost, silhouetted against the moon.

Beth Daley can be reached at