Posted by: claerwenohara | January 23, 2014

Into the Thick of Winter: From Christmas Trees to Polar Vortex

It was an absolute pleasure to have been able to spend the ‘holidays’ in New York. It seems that I have now witnessed the archetypal Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The lead up to Christmas in the snow, with colourful decorations and lights covering the city and every street corner filled with Christmas trees resembled a film set to me.

Everything was a larger-than-life version of traditions I know so well, from a 100 ft Christmas tree outside the Rockerfeller Center to the Empire State Building being lit up in green and red! Watching the fireworks from Times Square burst over the Statue of Liberty on New Year’s Eve, as my friends and I stood freezing on the banks of the Hudson River was just the same. That whole period of time seemed like some sort of winter dream-scape.

Then, as all the Christmas decorations came down, so did the snow. A ‘polar vortex’ (a rare blast of Arctic wind) descended onto New York. Blizzards were raging, temperatures dropped to -20 degrees Celsius, people were getting frost bite from simply walking outside, rumours were circulating that some parts of the U.S. were colder than Siberia and Antarctica, and worst of all, the subway shut-down. This period of time was almost more fantastical than all the lights and colours of the holidays. New York City, the city that never sleeps, was eerily quiet and empty. The polar vortex has now passed, but that hasn’t stopped the bitter cold (nor the locals calling it a polar vortex). Today is a lovely -14! But at least the city hasn’t shut down this time!

Amongst all the holiday cheer and frigid weather, my work with the Center for Constitutional Rights has continued and it has been just as interesting as ever. I have been spending most my time on the Freedom of Information Act case regarding the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla raid by the Israeli Army in 2010. This involves obtaining key documents relating to this event from the various departments in which we are interested (primarily the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense). Having sorted through thousands of pages of production, we are finally at a stage where we have been sending letters to these departments and preparing for motion for summary judgment in order to address the inadequacies of their productions.

I have also been spending a lot of time helping to prepare for some CCR attorneys, representing members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), to go to Geneva so as to attend the Committee for the Rights of the Child’s review of the Holy See in relation to reports of child abuse in Catholic-run institutions. This session was held last week, and although my team felt the Vatican’s responses to be unsatisfactory, they found it to be a success as it represents a milestone in calling for an end to impunity as the international community is now demanding answers with regard to the widespread violence against children.

I am truly enjoying this incredibly important work and this extremely cold city!


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