Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BEAR WITH ME

By

Paul D. Ellner


My eyesight began to change even before we moved to Lakeridge. While flying Search and Rescue missions for the Civil Air Patrol, my landings began to get bumpier, and I was diagnosed with AMD.  Age-related Macular Degeneration is a progressive retinal disease that causes most of the blindness in the U.S.  My flying days were over.

In Lakeridge, however, I was able to lead a normal life, recognize friends, and enjoy long walks with Heidi, my beloved Doberman. Eventually, my Dobie became lame and had to be put down. I was depressed.

I poured myself into my writing, published three novels, and wrote a book of poems.

Meanwhile, I tried every available treatment for my eyes, but inevitably there came a day when the ophthalmologists told me there was nothing further that could be done. At this point, I could not see more than about six feet ahead, distinguish TV, read, write, or see the food on my plate although I had some peripheral vision.  I became completely dependent upon my wife Connie to get around Lakeridge or anywhere else for that matter. Someone at the VA suggested getting a guide dog, but I was approaching the end of my 8th decade, and I wondered if I was up to it. Nevertheless, I applied to several organizations that provide service dogs. One of them rejected me because I was too old, and another required that I provide daily three-hour walks for the dog. A third one, Guiding Eyes for The Blind in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., agreed to consider my application. After 13 months of waiting, I was accepted into a class and reported to the large Guiding Eyes facility.

On the second day, my instructor told me, “We have a dog that we think is right for you. This dog was returned to Guiding Eyes by the client, so he is a year older than our other dogs.  The problem was not with the dog, but with the client.  The dog has been retrained.”

“No, thanks,” I said. “I’d rather have a fresh dog.”

The instructor persisted. “I think you should reconsider because this dog is really the best match for you.”

“OK,” I told her. “I’ll try him.”

It was a decision I will never regret. I was introduced to Ray, a three- year old black Labrador, and it was love at first sight. We bonded and for the next three weeks, from 6 AM until 9 PM, Ray, my instructor, and I worked together. Initially I learned to care for him, put on his harness, and to pick up the “poop” he left several times a day when I took him out. I began to learn how to work with him in the city, in restaurants, malls, and in the country. The instructors are highly motivated and trained young people who love dogs and are committed to having their clients succeed. After graduation, I came home with Ray, and another instructor came for several days to ensure that Ray and I became familiar with Lakeridge.

My life had definitely improved. With Ray‘s help I am now able to walk all around Lakeridge on the roads and also on the new trails through the woods. Ray is a friendly, gentle companion, but strictly business when wearing his harness.

I had heard that there are bears around Lakeridge, but I never saw one. That is, until a few days before writing this article.

The day started about seven, when Ray and I walked to the West Lodge. In the locker room he waited while I changed my shoes for sneakers and then lay patiently along side of the treadmill while I did my thirty-minute workout. On the way home, we stopped at the Maintenance yard to see if the short cut to Old Farms Road had been shoveled free of snow.  It was, and we took it starting down the left edge of Old Farms. About halfway down the street, Ray suddenly stopped abruptly near one of the garbage bins.

“Why are you stopping?” I asked him.  “Let’s go!”

Ray didn’t budge. It was as if he was anchored in place. He looked pointedly at the garbage bin, and then I saw it. A large black bear about five feet away from us.

“Forward,” I commanded, but instead, Ray made a right turn taking me to the yellow line and then down the street while constantly looking alternatively at the bear and then ahead. The bear remained on all fours, didn’t move, or utter a sound. Ray remained silent while continuing to take me away from the bear at a normal pace. I was too stunned to feel fear until later, when I considered that if Ray had growled or barked, the bear might have felt threatened and attacked us. I think the bear was probably confused, and I know that Ray was scared, but he kept his cool and continued to do his job taking me safely home.

I think that if we ever encounter this bear again, it will consider us harmless and leave us be. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that come hell or high water, Ray does his job guiding me safely.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Slaughter in Newtown, CT



“What can President Obama tell the parents of those first-graders when he meets with them today?” my wife asked.
“There is nothing he can say,” I replied.  “The act was too horrendous and heart-wrenching for mere condolences.”
If the President had the power, which he doesn’t, he could make if a federal offense for military type assault weapons to be sold or owned by civilians.  There is no possible use for them by civilians. These guns are not used in hunting or for target practice. The opposition to such a federal law by the NRA is political.   Our country has been characterized by repeated episodes of mass shootings in schools and this latest butchery will cause international attention.  Something has to be done! And it has to be done in Washington now!

12/16/12

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Marika

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul…”
- William Ernest Henley



With apologies to Henley, I’m back! This time with a new book called Marika. There are several Marika titles around, but I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s all about the life of a remarkable woman, richly fictionalized to fill in the many personal events in her life.

Marika grows up in Budapest during WWII, and as a child and preteen, does what she can to help fellow Jews by carrying forged documents.

At 16, she escapes to New York, proceeds to college in Tennessee, and becomes a leading psychologist.

Her life is marred by a series of painful marriages, but she perseveres to reach her goals.

If you would like to follow the adventures of a courageous woman, try this book - Marika

Sunday, October 2, 2011

American BW Experiments on Americans

When writing my novel, And Evil Shall Come, I remember how startled I was to learn about the temerity of our government in performing field tests of biologic agents on unsuspecting American communities.

For example, in 1950, ships of the U.S. Navy sprayed a cloud of bacteria over San Francisco. Many residents became ill with pneumonia-like symptoms. Three years later, in experiments conducted jointly by the Army, Navy and the CIA, the populations of New York and San Francisco were deliberately exposed to airborne bacteria.

Most of these tests utilized organisms believed to be non-infectious (non-pathogenic). However, present day populations contain significant numbers of individuals whose resistance to infection have been compromised by underlying diseases like AIDS, cancer, or by medical treatments. These persons might have been infected by the test organisms. Of course, information about these experiments was classified at the time.

The government continued with these experiments without the knowledge or consent of the “guinea pig” populace. In 1956 and again in 1958, the U.S. Army released mosquitoes infected with yellow fever over Savannah, Georgia and Avon Park, Florida. Some people became ill and some died. At the time, I was teaching at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, but the results of this experiment were kept secret.

In 1966, the U.S. Army dispensed bacteria throughout the New York City subway system, exposing more than a million civilians to these germs. During this time, I was teaching in New York City at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, but again knew nothing of these tests.

Two years later, a U.S. submarine sprayed bacteria over the island of Oahu.

In 1972, President Nixon signed an Executive Order banning the production and use of biological agents, and the above type of tests on Americans appeared to be halted.

By the 1980s, details of the above experiments were de-classified and became public knowledge.

But in 1994, Dr. Garth Nicolson, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, made a startling discovery. Using a technique called “gene tracking”, he found that many American soldiers returning from Desert Storm were infected with an altered strain of Mycoplasma incognitus, a microbe commonly used in the production of biological weapons. The molecular structure of this organism contains 40 percent of the protein coat of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, the cause of AIDS. This observation indicates that the organism was man-made.

I find this frightening. It strongly suggests that government agencies may be covertly using its citizens, civilian or military, as guinea pigs for research on biological weapons.

For a detailed non-fiction description of biological weapons, read Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War by Judith Miller et al, Simon and Schuster 2002. For an exciting story on the subject of biological weapons and mini-nukes, read my book And Evil Shall Come that may be obtained from my website www.ellner.com.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Visiting "And Evil Shall Come"

In writing And Evil Shall Come, I relied upon experiences, readings and places I’ve visited.  I believe that these experiences not only lent more credibility to my story but also provided more realism and, I hope, more interest.  It also gave me a better starting point for the various targets and methods of terrorism in my story.  For example, after delivering a paper at an International Congress in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity of visiting a kibbutz, one of Israel’s communal agricultural settlements. I used this kibbutz in my book as a target for a germ attack that started an epidemic.

Some years back I was asked to give a series of lectures in Medellin, Colombia.  Afterwards, I flew to Leticia, a city at the bottom of the country known as “the asshole of Colombia.”  From there I took a small launch up the Amazon River and visited a Ticuna village.  Later, when writing the book, I used this location for an attack with a deadly hybrid virus.

After reading about a miniature drone helicopter developed by the Yamaha Motor Company that could deliver a small load to an agricultural target before returning to its base, I used this helicopter in my book as a means of spraying the smallpox virus on an Israeli kibbutz and anthrax spores on Washington, D.C.

It’s possible that some readers may have visited the locations that I used in my story as targets for biological attacks, and might imagine standing in that very place during an attack, wondering about the deadly consequences.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Biological Weapons

As a PHS officer assigned to the National Disaster Medical System, my primary concern was the immense of number of casualties that could suddenly appear following a natural calamitous event like an earthquake or an attack with a Weapon of Mass Destruction be it nuclear, chemical, or biological. Since my background was in microbiology with a specialization in infectious disease, I focused on the details of biological weapons (BW).

I learned that a BW attack could be quite different. An attack with a biological weapon can easily be covert.  A car or truck on a highway or a low-flying aircraft could surreptiously release a fine mist or aerosol of the germs. Such a germ aerosol would form an invisible, odorless cloud that could remain in the target area for many minutes—long enough for the germs to be inhaled by people. The unsuspecting population would not even realize that they had been hit until a day or two later when a large number of cases of the same illness suddenly appeared. A biological attack becomes more serious if the germ is one that causes a disease transmissible person-to-person so that the target population goes on to transmit the disease to others, leading to a wide-spread epidemic.

I decided to use such an event as one of a number that I wrote about in my novel And Evil Shall Come. This scenario was actually the basis of a table- top biohazard exercise, Dark Winter, staged by our defense establishment. It showed that 20 initial cases of smallpox would grow to 2,000 cases 7 days later and to 16, 000 cases in another 7 days.

Another unique feature of germ weapons is that they can be made more deadly by genetic manipulation. Thus, a microbe can be made resistant to the antibiotics usually employed to treat that disease. Finally, two species could be “crossed” to form a more virulent hybrid for which current protective vaccines are no longer effective.

These nefarious variations in germ warfare are not simply from my writer’s imagination – they have happened. The anthrax spores that were sent in 2001 following 9/11 in letters to senators and TV personalities had actually been genetically modified.  You can read the terrifying story of biological weapons in terrorist hands in my book And Evil Shall Come.