Kathleen’s writing samples

Imitation Vietnam Syndrome

Baltimore Sun By M.K. Guzda

THE FIRST PERSON he killed was a woman, he said.

On his calf remained a scar – a bubbled patch of peeling skin – he said he suffered from a phosphorus shell that landed near enough to injure but not close enough to maim. He would invite people to trace with their fingertips a small depression in his skull, the result, he said, of a cylinder of shrapnel that lodged millimeters from his brain.

Although most vets shy from the subject, he spoke with acquaintances about Vietnam openly, almost casually, leaving the listener with amazed reverence for how glibly he could discuss what they imagined to be a horrific experience. Among his closest friends, he wept so copiously they felt inept to comfort him. From his vivid descriptions of relentless mortar fire, bloodshed and emotional cacophony, it seemed only by miracle that he had survived the most profane lessons life could deliver.

Most profane is what he didn’t tell. The 36-year-old never saw combat. He never saw Vietnam. But he appropriated in fine detail the dialect, descriptions, remembrances and behaviors of what he thought it was like. …##

(Webpage background photo of floating man shot by DoD photographer and featured on http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-best-of-military-photography/2012/04/03/gIQAEK5dtS_gallery.html#photo=24. I have misplaced the photographer’s name. If you can help me find it, please send a note to kathleenstruck@gmail.com, thank you.)

Skinheads: young, violent and learning how to hate

Baltimore Sun By M.K. Guzda

The youngest boy, short and slight with close-cropped hair, cursed the sub shop owner the loudest.

“You tough little Jew, you’re nothing but a nigger turned inside out,” said the 12-year-old, flashing open his jacket to reveal an anti-Semitic slogan on his T-shirt. “You oven stuffer.” The five boys, age 12 to 17 and all with short haircuts, left the East Baltimore sub shop laughing.

* * *

When white supremacist Tom Metzger was found liable last month of inciting the bat-beating death of an Ethiopian man in Portland, Ore., he seemed unfazed.

“We’re embedded now. Don’t you understand?” asked Mr. Metzger, who will have assets and property seized to satisfy some of the $12.5 million civil judgment.

“We’re in your colleges. We’re in your armies. We’re in your police forces.”

The “we” to whom Metzger referred are white supremacists who insist the face of the future be Caucasian. More specifically and frightening, he alluded to skinheads, young people who often are not wise enough to know better. Listen to their anger and you hear them speak as foot soldiers who carry the crosses before igniting them, an infantry protecting the white race by literally booting “undesirables” out. They are recruited and organized as “front-line warriors” and are replenishing the nation’s army of bigotry as adult ranks wane.

Since publicity about them swelled last year, they have become more sophisticated than the black leather, metal spikes and raw, shaven heads they touted. Having laid down their razors, the youths are being groomed by the older racist and anti-Semitic movements to work within the system. … ##

Awesome Challenge has an Irresistible Attraction

Baltimore Sun By M.K. Guzda

At an altitude of 29,028 feet, the lungs struggle for breath, the eyes may begin to hemorrhage, and the brain reels with hallucinations. The temperature on a good day breezes around minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. With wind and snow, it can freeze-dry fingertips exposed for an instant.

The human body rebels at being in such a place: its internal engine consumes muscle, tissue and energy like a smelting furnace at Bethlehem Steel.

Bob Reynolds grins a lot when thinking and talking about the ravages of mountain climbing and high altitudes on the body. Mr. Reynolds, a nutrition specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, embarks today on an expedition to Mount Everest in Nepal that could last five months. Part of his mission is professional: He will conduct a nutrition study on how the human body adapts to high altitudes and the merciless rigors of climbing the tallest mountain in the world.

Also, of course, he’s going because it’s there, the peak the mountain Nepalese call the Goddess Mother of the earth, or Chomolungma, presiding over the entire world. It is the peak with which Mr. Reynolds and his friend, Walter McConnell of New Jersey, have labored to make their acquaintance for many years. … ##

Brushing the Present with the Past

Atlantic Lifestyles magazine

By M.K. Guzda

Mention the name McKenzie-Childs and the people looking at the decorative pillows across the display stop and look up.

You know, the artists-slash-home-furnishing makers. They must be British.

Lots of people think so. They’re whimsical and creative and very hip at the moment.

Chic? Yes. Exotic? Sometimes. Hard to find? Not any more.

And to think, it all started at the town dump in Aurora, New York. …##

Everyday earthquake anxiety

GlobalPost By M.K. Guzda

BOSTON — I’d wondered why they lived there, like cliff dwellers perched in high rises along hillsides, people who lived along the Pacific Ring of Fire or tectonic plates.

Why stay? How often would you think about it? Would you calculate which was better: Living on a lower floor where it’s easier to flee at the first sign of a tremor? Or on a higher floor that once collapsed, would be at the top of the heap and easier to be pulled from?

There were lots of reasons I didn’t want to move to Tokyo: It was expensive, crowded, I would never think quickly enough to wrap my tongue around their language. But earthquakes failed to register when my husband and I were offered jobs too good to decline. Even after I fell in love with the food, the technology, the sweetness of Japanese people and public bathing in hot-spring baths, the specter of being crushed or buried alive made me check my watch somewhat obsessively for four years and ask: Is it time to leave yet? …##

Massacre in Hebron

Baltimore Sun By Doug Struck and M.K. Guzda of the Jerusalem Bureau

HEBRON, WEST BANK — Their foreheads had just touched the carpets as a thread of sun reached the mosque, each worshiper in silent ritual swearing thrice “Glory to my Lord the Most High.”

Then the slaughter began.

“I heard two explosions, and then the sound of shooting,” said Sharif Zahideh, 27. His chest was wrapped in gauze and his bed at the Hebron hospital splotched and red. “The man next to me was killed. Part of his brain came all over my face.”

“This man started shooting the lamps,” added Natshi Shaban, a friend at his bedside. Mr. Shaban’s 48-year-old brother was killed. “Then he began shooting people. He was shooting with an Uzi. We were on the floor, and we could not move.”

Yesterday the pre-dawn prayers at the Hebron mosque took on the stain of violence that writes so much of the history of this region. A Jewish settler armed with bullets and rage opened the day with a massacre, igniting more violence. By nightfall, more than 50 had died. …##

Trip to Doom

Newsday By M.K. Guzda

TEL AVIV — Twenty minutes after Bus. No. 5 left the main station, it traveled up tree-lined Dizengoff Street to the city center before its trip ended in death and destruction. Bloodied victims, deafened by the detonation of explosives carried by a suicide Islamic bomber, sobbed hysterically and fled the carnage during yesterday’s morning rush hour.

“People were falling out of the windows of the bus,” said Kochava Buhbut, 22, in shock and on the verge of tears. “I saw the bus explode, and then was blood and screams.” “The bus was all black. There was fire inside and out,” said a 26-year-old who gave her name only as Marina. She was pale as she lay on a hospital bed.

“The woman sitting next to me fell out of the bus and seemed dead. The man in front of me was dark and full of blood,” she said.

Witnesses said passengers were torn asunder and blown with fragments of the bus onto balconies above the street-level shops. Passersby were struck with flying glass and shrapnel. The bus driver, a careful man who the bus company said meticulously conducted a bomb check at the end of each run, was decapitated. Twenty were killed and 48 wounded.

“I heard the explosion and ran to the street. All I could see were bodies and parts of arms and legs,” said Eli HaCohen, 25, who said his army combat unit had never witnessed such destruction. “We started to get the injured together. We tried to reassure them. There was a very bad smell of burning flesh,” he said.

The impact blew out fourth-floor windows and shot tables back through the plate-glass windows of sidewalk cafes. Bus No. 5, which had minutes earlier had discharged many of its passengers at the large shopping plaza in the heart of the city, was reduced to a charred frame in the middle of one of the city’s friendliest streets.

Shmulik Sadan, 28, was reading the morning newspaper in the back of the bus when he heard the explosion.

“I opened my eyes and everything looked black,” he said quietly. “I looked to see if I was OK, and then jumped through what was left of a window. I got away, looked back, and realized what I was saved from. Then I saw two bodies.”

Members of the Jewish burial society, Hevrah Kadisha, carefully picked through the wreckage, filling plastic bags with human remains. One collector climbed a ladder to pluck hair and blood off a store sign near the second floor.

The bodies of a man and woman lay nestled at the bottom of the bus stairs, her hair blown back as if from a wind tunnel, his body curled behind her. Inside the charred carcass of the bus lay two men, their bodies unexpectedly intact.

Electrical wires lay like spaghetti on the street, as police barked to people to stay clear of live wires. One witness, a young woman embarking the bus at the time of impact, said she saw the bus driver looking back down the aisle and under the seats when the blast went off. She remembered nothing until awakening on her way to the hospital, she said. Another city bus, traveling on the other side of the street, was full and adjacent to the No. 5 when the impact hit. Those passengers received mostly cuts from blown glass….##

Mourning unites Israelis

Globe and Mail

By M.K. Guzda

JERUSALEM – Through Yehuda Waxman’s eyes, bloodshot and wet from weeping for yet another fallen Israeli soldier, the flag-draped casket was all  too familiar.

Just over a year ago, Mr. Waxman buried his teen-aged soldier son – a victim of Islamic terrorists opposed to the peace process – under an Israeli flag. Sunday, he and thousands of others shuffled quietly past the flag-draped, wooden coffin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, slain Saturday by a Jewish terrorist opposed to the peace process.

The parade of mourners reflected both Israel’s diverse society and many factions who oppose and support the peace process. An unusual, and some say fleeting, display of national unity came to pay its respects to the slain leader. Orthodox Jews in heavy black coats, young American Jews sporting baseball caps, Ethiopian immigrants and Israeli-Arab Bedouin sheiks who proudly wore their white kaffiyehs, or head scarves, came together under a warm sun and immaculate sky. …##

Politicians Seek Blessing Of Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

Washington Post By M.K. Guzda

JERUSALEM – Menachem Porush, a white-bearded great-grandfather and spiritual leader to about 150,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, put his hand over the telephone mouthpiece with obvious glee.

“It’s the foreign minister,” he whispered, and chuckled before returning to the receiver in a more serious tone. “I can’t really talk right now. Can I call you back?”

Before the ink had dried on the phone number of Foreign Minister Ehud Barak, another Labor Party heavyweight called, imploring the rabbi for his support in next week’s Israeli election.

In what has become an election ritual, political suitors are lining up to curry favor with ultra-Orthodox voters through their spiritual leaders.

“They are waiting outside,” Porush said with a mischievous wink to the reception room. “Bibi and Peres.”

Prime Minister Shimon Peres of the Labor Party and candidate Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu of Likud can win or lose Wednesday’s election on the votes of the ultra-Orthodox, irreverently called “black hats” by most Israelis because of their somber uniform of dark suits and hats. …##

Little Parties Suddenly Loom Large in Israel

Washington Post By M.K. Guzda

JERUSALEM – You might call them the new kids on the Bloc.

“We are rookies,” said an exuberant Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet political prisoner who was elected Wednesday to join Israel’s parliament with six members of his Russian immigrant party. “We have to learn all the system of political negotiation in the next 48 hours.

“With all the professors and political prisoners we have on our list, we are sure we’ll be able to learn in quickly,” he quipped.

Small special-interest political parties were heady with self-satisfaction today at the big gains they made in Israel’s elections. The two large parties, Labor and Likud, watched their clout weaken to the benefit of smaller parties.

“By Israeli terms, this is a dramatic earthquake,” said Abraham Diskin, professor of political science at Hebrew University. “The Knesset has been fragmented.” Sharansky’s party, for example, corralled seven seats on its first ride out of the political gate. The ultra-Orthodox and religious parties also enjoyed increased popularity among voters. Shas, the most powerful ultra-Orthodox party, won 11 seats in the 120-member Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and the National Religious Party, which counts on Jewish settlers in the West Bank as part of its force, won 10 seats.

Parties representing Arabs, Jews opposed to returning the Golan Heights to Syria, and right-wing extremists came away winners as well. But it is the religious factions and Sharansky’s Israel With Immigration party, composed of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, that garnered the most political clout. If they align themselves with Likud, the party of Binyamin Netanyahu, the apparent victor in the prime minister’s race, they can make of break any legislation. …##

Special Treatment

Columbia Missourian By M.K. Guzda

An unnatural crackle followed by a loud hum sounded from the top of the utility pole 40 feet above the ground. White River Valley Electric Co-op Supervisor Bob Jones flinched as he looked up at his co-worker, Ken Wigren. Hanging precariously by his safety belt, Wigren jerked rigidly as 8,000 volts passed through his body from the wire he could not voluntarily release. In an instant, Jones pulled back on the line that was electrocuting his friend, the line Wigren thought was inactive when he reached out to connect two power wires.

“A big cloud of smoke went up from the fire on top of his head,” Jones says. “His hair burned up just like a blazing paper sack.”

Immediately, lineman Randy Issacs put on his spurs and belts and scaled the pole. Issacs tied a rope around Wigren, yelled at him to hold tight, cut the safety belt and inched the limp, confused man to the ground.

“I kept on asking what happened. ‘Did I fall?’ Then I kept on hollering that my leg was busted, cause it felt like that kind of pain,” Wigren says.

After tolerating a painfully bumpy ride from OO Highway to the hospital in Branson, Mo., Wigren was flown to the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinic’s Burn Unit in Columbia. Because the electrical burns caused internal damage and injured his head, one of his legs and a hand, the doctors in Branson decided to transport him to mid-Missouri’s largest burn facility, where he spent six weeks. …##

(Photo of floating man shot by DoD photographer and featured on http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-best-of-military-photography/2012/04/03/gIQAEK5dtS_gallery.html#photo=24. I have misplaced the photographer’s name. If you can help me find it, please send a note to kathleenstruck@gmail.com, thank you.)

Most stories are linked from this site to an online source; other stories available upon request.

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