Monday, October 16, 2017

A00825 - Sima Wali, Champion of Afghan Women's Rights

Sima Wali as a delegate to United Nations-sponsored talks on Afghanistan in Konigswinter, Germany, in 2001. She battled what she called “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan, her native country. CreditFrank Augstein/Associated Press
Sima Wali, who fled the Soviet-backed coup in Afghanistan in 1978 to wage what she called a “jihad for peace and equality” by women against “gender apartheid” imposed by the Communists and then by the Taliban, died on Sept. 22 at her home in Falls Church, Va. She was 66.
The cause was multiple system atrophy, a rare neurological disease, her nephew Suleiman Wali said.
Ms. Wali had worked for the American Embassy and the Peace Corps in Afghanistan in her 20s before the 1978 coup. She then settled in Washington, where she became a United States citizen and organized Refugee Women in Development, an advocacy group, now dissolved, that sought to empower victims of war and genocide.
She further championed the rights of Afghan women after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to rout the Taliban, Islamic fundamentalists whom Washington accused of providing a haven for the terrorists who had masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks.
With the formation of a new Afghan government under United Nations auspices, Ms. Wali successfully lobbied to establish a Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul, the country’s capital.
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The Taliban had stripped women of basic human rights and of previous gains by strictly enforcing Shariah, or Islamic religious law. In the introduction to “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story” (2009), by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, Ms. Wali wrote of Afghan women:
“Traumatized and desperate, they constantly spoke of severe poverty, suicide and the growing hopelessness that saw their dreams for a free Afghanistan swallowed by an army of Islamist mercenaries from all over the world armed and supplied by Pakistan.”
She added: “I still hear their cries. During this entire time I carried with me their pleading voices and ultimately their screams, while the world looked away.”
She concluded, “Afghan women were the canaries in the mine shaft, bearing witness to the inhumanity of a regime against its own citizens.”
Ms. Wali during the talks on Afghanistan in Germany in 2001. CreditWolfgang Rattay/Reuters
When she visited Afghanistan in 2005 under a program financed by the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington foundation, Ms. Wali barely escaped being taken hostage near the Pakistani border by what she described as a mob of armed Taliban insurgents and other fundamentalists.
Still, she insisted that the problem in Afghanistan was not Islam but the Taliban.
“The Taliban is using culture and religion to keep women down,” she said in 1998 at a seminar for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, “but there is nothing in my religion that teaches keeping women at home, not educating them, starving them and withholding medical treatment from them so they die.”
She added, “Islam teaches us to care for and protect women.”
Earlier in the 20th century, the royal family of Afghanistan guaranteed universal suffrage and civil rights to women during one of several experiments with democracy.
The 1978 Communist coup was followed by a Soviet invasion and a 10-year struggle to resist it, then by a civil insurgency that culminated in the withdrawal of Soviet forces and a Taliban victory in 1996. The Taliban regime was overthrown during the American-led assault in 2001, but the war against the guerrillas goes on.
Ms. Wali often criticized the United States for supporting the guerrillas who had fought against the Soviet takeover and then morphed into the Taliban.
Sima Wali was born on April 7, 1951, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Her father, Mohammad Wali, was manager of the Afghan National Bank and a cousin of King Amanullah Khan, who championed women’s rights in the 1920s. Her mother, the former Shafiqa Sharifi, supervised a clothing factory.
Sima spent her early childhood in India, where her father was posted and where she was educated in English. After the family returned to Afghanistan, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Kabul University.
She earned a master’s in international relations from the School of International Service at American University in Washington. Her parents joined her in Washington after escaping from a Communist jail, where they had been held for a month.
She is survived by two sisters, Sohaila and Soraya Wali, and four brothers, Ahmad, Jahed, Zia and Abdul Wali. Ms. Wali was married at one time, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1987, her family said.
She received the Amnesty International Ginetta Sagan Fund Award in 1999 and the Gloria Steinem Women of Vision Award from the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1989.
In 2001, Ms. Wali was one of three female delegates to a meeting in Germany, sponsored by the United Nations, that led to the Bonn Agreement, which formed a new Afghan government after the American-led invasion and, as she had called for, created a Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
In 2002, she spoke at the United Nations’ celebration of International Women’s Day in New York. She was also a founder of the Sisterhood Is Global Institute, a feminist think tank, based in Montreal.
Ms. Wali was profiled in a 2004 documentary film by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, “The Woman in Exile Returns: The Sima Wali Story.”
The Woman in Exile Returns, The Sima Wali Story Video by Grailwerk
“I no longer fear that Afghanistan will again be abandoned,” she wrote in 2009. “My fear today is that despite all the initial good intentions, America’s overreliance on military methods, targeted missile strikes, chemical spraying, and imprisoning and torturing suspected militants has turned popular opinion in the wrong direction.
“Combined with an inability to improve the lives of the average Afghan by even a small measure,” she added, “America is now viewed as an occupier, instead of the friend and ally we want her to be.”
A peripatetic self-described “voice for the politically voiceless,” Ms. Wali learned of her degenerative neurological disorder in 2005. The disease gradually reduced her mobility and even her ability to speak.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A00824 - Richard Wilbur, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Winner

Richard Wilbur in 2006 in his home at the time in Cummington, Mass. CreditNancy Palmieri/Associated Press
Richard Wilbur, whose meticulous, urbane poems earned him two Pulitzer Prizes and selection as the national poet laureate, died on Saturday in Belmont, Mass. He was 96.
His son Christopher confirmed his death, in a nursing home.
Across more than 60 years as an acclaimed American poet, Mr. Wilbur followed a muse who prized traditional virtuosity over self-dramatization; as a consequence he often found himself out of favor with the literary authorities who preferred the heat of artists like Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg.
He received his first Pulitzer in 1957, and a National Book Award as well, for “Things of This World.” The collection included “A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra,” which the poet and critic Randall Jarrell called “one of the most marvelously beautiful, one of the most nearly perfect poems any American has written.”
In the poem, Mr. Wilbur, observing statuary in a fountain — “showered fauns” — concludes:
They are at rest in fulness of desire
For what is given, they do not tire
Of the smart of the sun, the pleasant water-douse
And riddled pool below,
Reproving our disgust and our ennui
With humble insatiety.
Francis, perhaps, who lay in sister snow
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Before the wealthy gate
Freezing and praising, might have seen in this
No trifle, but a shade of bliss —
That land of tolerable flowers, that state
As near and far as grass
Where eyes become the sunlight, and the hand
Is worthy of water: the dreamt land
Toward which all hungers leap, all pleasures pass.
By the early 1960s, however, critical opinion generally conformed to Mr. Jarrell’s oft-quoted assessment that Mr. Wilbur “never goes too far, but he never goes far enough.”
Typical of complaints in this vein was a review by Herbert Leibowitz of Mr. Wilbur’s collection “The Mind-Reader” in The New York Times of June 13, 1976: “While we acknowledge his erudition and urbanity, we regretfully liken his mildness to the amiable normality of the bourgeois citizen.”
But there were many on the other side who objected to the notion that Mr. Wilbur’s poems were somehow unimportant because they were pretty. Jack Butler, for example, a resident of Okolona, Ark., wrote a letter to the editor in response to Mr. Leibowitz’s review, remarking, “Sirs, the man has had a feast set before him, the very best, and complains because it is not a peanut butter and ketchup sandwich.”
Mr. Wilbur sailed on regardless of which way the wind blew. He won a second Pulitzer in 1988, for “New and Collected Poems”; became the second poet laureate of the United States, succeeding Robert Penn Warren, in 1987-88; and won many other awards over the years, including the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2006, when he was 85. In all, he produced nine volumes of poems and several children’s books, which he himself illustrated.
He was also an esteemed translator of poems and other works from the French, Spanish and Russian, including the plays of Molière and Racine.
Frank Rich, then The Times’s chief theater critic, wrote in 1982 that Wilbur’s adaptations of Molière comedies like “Tartuffe,” “The Misanthrope” and “The School for Wives” were “beautiful works of art in themselves — Mr. Wilbur’s lighter-than-air verse upholds the idiom and letter of Molière, yet it also satisfies the demands of the stage.”
Mr. Wilbur wrote lyrics for opera and musical theater productions, too; among them, Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.”
Mr. Wilbur served three bloody years as a combat soldier in Europe in World War II, an experience that some critics thought might be a clue to the orderly, generally optimistic nature of his work. Perhaps “the utter disparity between what he saw and what he wished to see made him run for cover,” the poet and scholar John Reibetanz wrote. Mr. Wilbur dismissed this explanation.
“I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy,” he said in an interview with The Paris Review, “that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that’s my attitude.”
Richard Purdy Wilbur was born in New York City, on March 1, 1921. When he was 2, his family moved to rural North Caldwell, N.J., and rented a pre-revolutionary stone house on a 500-acre private estate.
Roaming the woods and fields with his younger brother, Lawrence, Richard absorbed lessons of the natural world that would later fit easily into his poems. At home, immersion in books and the arts was a fact of everyday life. His father, Lawrence Lazear Wilbur, was a portrait painter. His mother, the former Helen Purdy, came from a family of journalists: Her father had been an editor of The Baltimore Sun, and her paternal grandfather an itinerate publisher and editor who founded several Democratic newspapers across the country.
Mr. Wilbur went to Amherst College in 1938, where he contributed poems, essays and cartoons to the campus newspaper and magazine. In 1942 he married Charlotte Ward and got his bachelor’s degree, and it seemed to him that he might become a journalist and write poems as a diversion.
First, though, there was the war. He had wanted to serve as an Army cryptographer but was denied the necessary clearance because his leftist views had raised an official suspicion of “disloyalty.” Indeed, he later said, he once attended a Marxist function at Amherst, and slept through it, but his politics were nothing much more radical than the Roosevelt New Deal policies.
It was at Harvard, where he went for graduate studies after the war, that he began to see poetry as a vocation. His first collection, “The Beautiful Changes,” came out in 1947, the same year he finished his master’s degree. He became an assistant professor at Harvard in 1950 and taught there for four years, the beginning of an academic career that included 20 years at Wesleyan University and 10 years at Smith. He finally went home to teach at his alma mater, Amherst, which honored him on his 90th birthday in March 2010 with readings of his poems and translations.
Beside his son Christopher, Mr. Wilbur is survived by a daughter, Ellen Wilbur; two other sons, Nathan and Aaron; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Charlotte, died in 2007.
“Anterooms,” his last collection of new poems and translations, was published in 2010 — a slim volume whose better pieces were “as good as anything Wilbur has ever written,” the Times’s reviewer, David Orr, wrote. Looking back, he observed that Mr. Wilbur had “spent most of his career being alternately praised and condemned for the same three things” — for his formal virtuosity; for his being, “depending on your preference, courtly or cautious, civilized or old-fashioned, reasonable or kind of dull”; and finally for his resisting a tendency in American poetry toward “conspicuous self-dramatization.”
Mr. Wilbur’s work did grow somewhat more personal in later years — he had “crumbled” a bit, as he put it. But his poems were never without wit, grace and rigor, even when they were about the end of things, as in the two-stanza “Exeunt:”
Piecemeal the summer dies;
At the field’s edge a daisy lives alone;
A last shawl of burning lies
On a gray field-stone.
All cries are thin and terse;
The field has droned the summer’s final mass;
A cricket like a dwindled hearse
Crawls from the dry grass.

A00823 - William Lombardy, Chess Grandmaster

William J. Lombardy in an undated photograph.CreditUnited States Chess Federation
William J. Lombardy, who was one of the most talented and promising chess players of his generation, winning titles and accolades while he was still a teenager, but who all but gave up the game at the height of his career to become a priest, died on Friday in Martinez, Calif. He was 79.
His son, Raymond, confirmed the death. Mr. Lombardy, who was born in the Bronx and had long lived in New York City, collapsed and died suddenly while staying with a friend in Martinez, his son said. The cause had not been determined.
Mr. Lombardy was the first American to win the World Junior Chess Championship — doing so with a perfect score, a feat that has never been duplicated — and he led the United States to victory over the Soviet Union in the 1960 World Student Team Championship, beating Boris Spassky, the future world champion. He was later named a grandmaster, the World Chess Federation’s highest title.
“His abilities were native, with a natural talent,” Anthony Saidy, an international master who played with Mr. Lombardy on the top American teams in the 1950s and ’60s, told The New York Times in 2016. “He always seemed to drag his matches out so long, getting out of jams until his opponent couldn’t.”
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But he came of age in the shadow of Bobby Fischer, the phenomenon out of Brooklyn six years his junior. Virtually all the sponsorship money and support available for American players went to Mr. Fischer.
Mr. Lombardy, left, at a news conference at the world championship in 1972, with Paul Marshall, center, lawyer for the United States chess team, and Fred Cramer, Bobby Fischer’s representative. CreditAssociated Press
Raymond Lombardy said his father had felt that if Mr. Fischer had not come along, he might have become world champion himself. But Mr. Lombardy was not resentful of Mr. Fischer, with whom Mr. Lombardy had an almost brotherly relationship, the son said. “He was not jealous,” he said.
Mr. Fischer was not the only impediment to an even more successful chess career for Mr. Lombardy, however. Brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, he had a competing interest — his church.
William James Joseph Lombardy was born on Dec. 4, 1937. Though he would be known as Bill in both his personal and professional life, he disliked the name, his son said. His father, Raymond, of Italian heritage, was a supervisor for the Savarin restaurant chain, and his mother, Stella, with Polish roots, was a beautician.
Though both his parents worked, the family struggled to pay the rent living in a less-than-adequate apartment in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. Bill Lombardy, while attending St. Athanasius School in the Bronx, slept in a room that had little insulation.
“I think we could have stored meat in there — like a refrigerator,” he was quoted as saying in the 1974 book “My Seven Chess Prodigies,” by the renowned American chess coach John W. Collins, who taught Mr. Lombardy informally for many years. (Mr. Fischer was another of his students.)
No one in the Lombardy family played chess, but when Bill was 9, a 10-year-old neighbor, who played the game but who always lost, decided to teach him. The neighbor wanted a sparring partner whom he could beat. In a couple of years, Bill was already showing unusual talent and playing regularly, often in city parks.
He went on to graduate from La Salle Academy, a Catholic school in Lower Manhattan; attended City College for three years; and later enrolled at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers with the intention of becoming a Roman Catholic priest. He was ordained in 1967 by Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman of New York and remained in the priesthood until the late 1970s.
Most great players start out as tacticians, always looking to attack, before they evolve into strategists, plotting a long-range path to victory from the very first move. Mr. Lombardy was a strategic player, and a good one, from the beginning.
By 14 he was a master, and in 1954 he won the New York State Championship, becoming, at 16, the youngest champion in the state’s history until then.
Two years later he tied for first in the Canadian Open, and in 1957, in Toronto, he won the World Junior Chess Championship with a perfect score of 11 wins, no draws and no losses. “Clearly, he towered over the field,” Mr. Collins wrote.
Mr. Lombardy, pointing, observed chess matches in 2016 at a cafe in Stuyvesant Town, the apartment complex in Manhattan in which he lived at the time. CreditJohn Taggart for The New York Times
In 1960, Mr. Lombardy was the top board for the United States team that competed in the World Student Team Championship in Leningrad — now St. Petersburg — in Russia. It was there that he beat Mr. Spassky while winning a total of 11 games, drawing two and losing none as he led the United States to victory over the heavily favored Soviet team.
It was the only time the United States ever finished ahead of the Soviet Union in any team competition, and it caused a crisis in Soviet chess circles.
Later that year, Mr. Lombardy played in the Chess Olympiad in Leipzig, Germany, and again had an outstanding result, including a draw with Mikhail Botvinnik, the former world champion, who had lost his title several months earlier. (He regained it the following year.)
Mr. Lombardy was named a grandmaster after the Olympiad.
At the 1960-61 United States championship, he finished second to Mr. Fischer, qualifying him for the 1962 Interzonal in Stockholm, the next step on the road to the world championship. But instead of entering the tournament, Mr. Lombardy, by then enrolled at St. Joseph’s Seminary, decided to pursue ordination.
He continued to compete, though intermittently, for the next 20 years. He won or tied for first in the 1963, 1965 and 1975 United States Open Championships, and he played on United States national teams in the 1968, 1970, 1974 and 1976 Chess Olympiads, winning an individual gold medal and three individual silver medals, all as a reserve. But for all intents and purposes, the serious part of his chess career was over.
In 1972, when Mr. Fischer qualified to play a match for the world championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, against Mr. Spassky, the reigning champion, he asked Mr. Lombardy to assist him by analyzing adjourned games. In the Fischer-Spassky event, which became known as the Match of the Century, 14 of the 21 games were adjourned. Mr. Fischer won and was crowned world champion.
Mr. Lombardy eventually left the priesthood, his son said, because he had lost faith in the Catholic Church, which he believed was too concerned with amassing wealth. Soon after, while competing in a tournament in the Netherlands, he met and married a Dutch woman, Louise van Valen, who moved to Manhattan to live with Mr. Lombardy in his two-bedroom apartment at the Stuyvesant Town complex. Mr. Lombardy had moved there in 1977 to help care for his friend and coach Mr. Collins, who died in 2001.
The couple’s son, Raymond, was born in 1984. The marriage ended in divorce in 1992 after Mr. Lombardy’s wife had returned to the Netherlands with their son. Besides the son, Mr. Lombardy is survived by an older sister, Natalie Pekala.
He had been staying with friends since he had fallen on hard times and been evicted from his apartment at Stuyvesant Town for being behind in his rent — an episode that was the subject of an article in The Times in 2016.
Though he was a good student in school, Mr. Lombardy did not like to study chess from books; he preferred to hone his skills through practice. “There is nothing like plenty of experience,” he told Mr. Collins, “doing it on the board, getting your head knocked about a bit, and learning from every win, draw and loss.”