Healthcare

Bebee Hospital Prison

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Waiting for the doctor, Bebee Hospital E.R. Photo: Andrej Mrevlje

“Anyone want a blanket?” an E.R. staffer from Beebe hospital on the outskirts of Lewes, Delaware asked. It was a late afternoon during high summer. But almost everyone among the dozens sitting in the waiting room waived for a cover. How come no one bothered to lower the air conditioning? I thought. Was it because AC is an important part of American exceptionalism? The blankets were white and heated. In mere seconds, the uneventful waiting room had been transformed into a temple, with patients looking like druids. Covered in white, we were ready to contemplate our pain for a protracted period of time. The blankets — they felt more like towels offered in a spa — gave us some comfort but also made us aware that the waiting might drag on. Each of us already had a registration number with a name and a signature on the wristband they gave us. It was like a boarding pass for a long flight or a religious meditation depending on which way you looked at it. There was a deep silence in the room despite the presence of people with serious health issues. I found this bizarre situation amusing. 

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White House

Melania’s Life In A Golden Cage

By Andrej Mrevlje |

As I finished reading The Art of Her Deal, a biography on Melania Trump by Mary Jordan, it struck me that I could not remember anything relevant that the First lady has ever said that would be worth publishing. Nothing I have heard from Melania has ever been uplifting or even depressing. In Jordan’s book, there was nothing new in what Melania was saying, nothing inspiring, nothing we haven’t heard before. It was as if Melania had kept repeating the same mantra again and again, like this phrase, largely used in Slovenian language: “The sun always shines after the rain!” In the book, Melania’s expressions are packaged in small blurbs and read like haikus on survivalism that contain common-sense wisdom, rooted deeply in a rural mindset. Melania’s words have an overtone of fatalism, restraining even the tiniest glimmer of hope. Most of the time, when she says something it is just a dull expression of an obsolete weltanschauung. Choosing words can be either an art or just the plain repetition of common sense expressions that we Slovenians inherited from our rural ancestors and the Habsburgs. Is it possible that Melania uses them to cover-up her misanthropic nature? She may also sound dull and reluctant for many reasons we do not know about: perhaps because of her looks, which to her mind might not be good enough for public appearance; or maybe she is simply not interested or is unsure about what to say. Maybe it’s because a nondisclosure contract with her husband bans it. Or could she be putting the president of the U.S. on ice, ignoring him because he offended her? Perhaps she carries herself the way she does because her mother taught her how to survive in a world governed by men; how to defend herself and be desirable at the same time, a technique Melania applied to Donald Trump from their first encounter on.

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White House

President’s Prison

By Andrej Mrevlje |

Last week, the U.S. went through many dramatic events as the president tested some repressive apparatuses of the state that could be used during the insurgency. A week later, we are back enjoying high summer, with the coronavirus once again becoming the main adversary. The protests and the Black Lives Matter movements are still marching in the hopes of bringing about more change. Let’s hope they can keep this country alert till November, as the vote for a new president will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the trajectory of this vulnerable country.

My apologies to our subscribers. We ran into some technical issues with the newsletter distribution last week, and we apologize for the delay.

Now that the protective fence around the White House has been built, one might ask what the intent to build one in the first place was. The most obvious interpretation is that the President cannot stop himself from building walls. Then there are easier conclusions: as the fence around the White House has pushed people away from what was once the heart of the nation, the impression is that the whole perimeter has been transformed into a construction site. Does this mean that the President will build another of his towers, or change the lawns around the residence into a mini-golf course? All these scenarios could be a part of the chatter, the talk of the town, or even the President’s wet dream. But these are not normal times, and there is no time for jokes anymore. 

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America

America In Flames

By Andrej Mrevlje |

While working on the longer piece, I, as many of you, I presume, got caught up watching the cruel murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests and riots that have been happening across the United States. As I write this, I can hear shouting and screaming coming from the White House. Helicopters are hovering over the city, and a curfew has been announced for 7.p.m., an hour before sunset. Somebody must be afraid of the darkness.

This last week has featured police cars driving into crowds of protestors, police officers sweeping an empty residential street, and shooting rubber bullets at a woman who simply wanted to know what was going on and naively opened the door to her house. The scenes evoked Tiananmen in 1989 on the night before the massacre. Police cars have been burning; rioters have been throwing stones and bottles of urine at the cops. An older man with a stick couldn’t walk fast enough was brutally shoved to the ground by policemen. Another police officer saw the scene and helped the older man to his feet. Other younger and beaten-up protesters did not get up at all. There was a man on a horse, galloping among the crowds. Another protester was dressed up as Batman, walking through the dense fog of tear gas. A policeman passing young girls pepper-sprayed them for having done nothing, just like one swat away mosquitos. Masked people smashed the windows of shops and banks with hammers, sticks, and kicking. Cars, police precincts, and banks were set on fire. There was looting, and tear gas bombs thrown into the crowds, as protestors caught them and kicked them back towards the police.

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Washington D.C.

Siege Of The White House

By Andrej Mrevlje |

Below is a sort of photo-reportage of the events as they evolved during the protests at the White House. As of the time of writing, we are still under a curfew that begins at 7.p.m. and ends at 6.a.m. The intention is to lock down the city in an extended Coronavirus quarantine. The difference is that now the city restaurants, hotels, and shops are sealed off and blocked with wooden panels that are supposed to protect the properties. But while the police are running after innocent and peaceful protesters, the rioters are looting and destroying. We have not heard of police arresting any of these people. On the bright side, today, Tuesday was an important day. The army or better, the National Guard, has retreated within the perimeter of the White House, which is now fenced with metal protection nine feet tall. This is the first time that the White House has been so far away from the people. These new demarcation lines demonstrate that Trump now has his playground, while outside on the streets, five thousand plus people are chanting, facing the guards, and trying to talk to them. It appears to have become a kind of speaker’s corner, or better, a place for debate and dialog that is starting. Vote.

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North Korea

Kim Jong Un, Are You There?

By Andrej Mrevlje |

This is part two of my reflections on the recent rumors coming out of North Korea, a nation that can no longer be called the hermit country. Ten years ago, before Kim Jong Un was in power, North Korea could still be described as a dark and isolated place. However, its citizens today are skillful hackers. Once obedient and under-nourished, people are now smuggling in movies, news, and software on USB flash drives. Educated in Switzerland, the young despot has turned Pyongyang into an urban city, and the North Korean middle class is growing, but only 0.1 percent of the population is running the country. Thanks to the increased number of defectors and dissidents, and the growing more significant number of foreigners and better satellites, we now know much more about the country. We know enough to be able to say that if there were a change in leadership if Kim Jong Un has died, it would be a disaster for North Korea.

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North Korea

North Korea Revisited

By Andrej Mrevlje |

On April 15, the 36-year-old dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, disappeared from public life. Rumors spread, hypothesizing that he was either dead, brain-dead, or otherwise incapacitated. My own theory was that he was self-isolating, fearing the infection, or perhaps doing some heavy drinking. On May 1th, Kim returned to the public eye, but now new rumors are growing, speculating that who we saw was not the real Kim Jong Un but a body double. When I started to prepare this piece, I stumbled upon my old notes and writing from when I visited North Korea in 1999. I thought my notes, which have never been published in English, are worth reading and serve as a good introduction to the second part of this story, which will focus on the real (or fake) Kim Jong Un and his dynasty. Here is the first part

As the old Ilyushin plane began approaching the Pyongyang airport, I noticed pathways leading towards the landing runway. Built for the defense of the airport in case of an enemy attack, they were ready to transport the heavy, concrete barriers and move in tanks, hidden somewhere behind the gentle slopes around the airport. Yet, from the approaching airplane, the nearing landscape looked friendly and soft, the red, fertile terra rossa offering a contrast of colors to the intense greenery. Many Russian-made cargo and passenger planes stood by on the runway, motionless under thick covers, waiting for better times. Our plane stopped in front of a small airport building from which a large portrait of Kim Il Sung stared down upon us. But there was no time to take a closer look at the huge oil painting. Guards quickly pushed us into a small reception area. We first had to go through a metal detector which led us to an even smaller space facing a wooden counter, the kind general stores would have before the era of supermarkets. And what was I buying? 

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Coronavirus

Corona And Us

By Andrej Mrevlje |

I went grocery shopping last Wednesday to refill our weekly supplies. A week before that, I made the decision to stop ordering online from Whole Foods, since the deliveries were often incomplete and the vegetables always nearly rotten. I am aware that this is a first world problem, but I am using the experience to make a very different point so please bear with me. I personally prefer supermarkets like Trader Joe’s to the overrated and overpriced Whole Foods. However, I’ve been forced to bow down to Jeff Bezos’ empire during the pandemic, when you do not want to spend much time running from one shop to another. Right now, you want to do all your shopping in one place in order to avoid as much exposure to COVID-19 as you can. Whole Foods is, in principle, the kind of store where you can do one big shop and call it a day, even though the chain lost a lot of its appeal after the richest man in the world took it over. Nevertheless, two weeks ago I made the journey to my usual Whole Foods store near Logan Circle in Washington D.C. to do my first big corona grocery haul. I bought a cartload of unprocessed fresh food, including the vegetables of my choice. A few hours after getting back home, I heard the news: that particular Whole Foods was a COVID-19 hotbed. In the week before my visit, 16 of its employees had tested positive for the novel virus. The store management claims they now sanitize and disinfect the shop every night. However, after the news broke out, the line of people waiting to get into the store disappeared. The Whole Foods is now so empty that you can simply walk in. It is also better stocked than it was during the first few weeks of the lockdown. However, we never got to know what happened to the contaminated employees, many of them migrant workers. How did they fare in their fight with the virus? Are they okay?

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Coronavirus

Emperor’s New Toys

By Andrej Mrevlje |
!000 bed naval hospital ship entering Manhattan port

Life has become one dimensional. I don’t mean that life before the Coronavirus was much better. Donald Trump was still the President of the U.S., and he is not all that different from a virus. But before the Covid-19 outbreak, it was Trump who was everywhere. He contaminated the media. He left us stupefied by his incomprehensible expressions, provoking constant bewilderment at his discombobulated manner of speech. He penetrated the social fabric, obliterating all other relevant news. Many of us were counting down the days until the end of the Trump epidemic, which has finally arrived now. But while the fight against the Coronavirus has overshadowed Trump’s daily performance, he has not left the stage completely. He still is in the White House, waiting for better times. There is a strong possibility that he might come back stronger than ever when this is all over. He is now competing with the Coronavirus. He cannot tolerate someone or something – in this case, the virus –occupying center stage. This is the only reason why Trump finally decided to fight the Covid-19. This is a war between a virus and another virus.  

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Health

The Cradle Of Coronavirus

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Baikal Pine Tree

This is a strange time. We are locked in our homes and in our thoughts. We try to touch the outside world and aspects of our lives with video chats and phone calls. We can stare at old photos, read messages from friends, and share memories on social media without leaving our room. We can do all that or we can dive into the Coronavirus news updates and go insane. To be honest, it is nearly impossible to ignore what is happening in the world at this moment. This Yonder entry will attempt to explain where it all began. It is my version of the story about how the Coronavirus was conceived.

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