Bethe Dufresne

Bethe Dufresne, a frequent contributor, is a freelance writer living in Old Mystic, Connecticut.

By this author

A journalist's sacred duty

When I first heard that NBC's Brian Williams had embellished his Iraq war reminiscences, falsely claiming that a chopper he was in had been hit by rocket fire, I thought instantly of Mike Valentine, a Vietnam War veteran diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mike was the subject of a profile I wrote for a daily newspaper in 1999 to mark Veteran's Day, and because he was brutally frank about his disillusionment with that war, it was more of a downer than most. I worked hard to do him justice, and expected he would be pleased with the result.

Instead, Mike was furious, because I had gotten one detail wrong about his war service. It was a minor error, in my view, and in no way embellished his combat role. But Mike feared that someone who was there would read the story and think he had lied. That, to him, would be unbearable. "You don't understand," he kept saying to me, how crucial it is to get everything exactly right about combat, regardless of how insignificant it might seem. Trust is everything for soldiers, he said, even long after the war is over.

A Sermon in Stone

One afternoon last summer, Lawrence Hoy and Robert Rambusch toured New York City’s Church of the Holy Family, nodding appreciatively at each other’s observations as they walked. The fifty-eight-year-old Hoy, a well-known liturgical designer and president of Renovata Studios, hadn’t seen Rambusch, his ninety-year-old mentor, in some time.

A View from the Edge

A little more than a year ago, in November 2011, Catholic and Muslim leaders from around the world convened in Jordan for the second forum hosted by A Common Word, an organization created in 2007 to promote interfaith engagement by highlighting similarities in the teachings of Christianity and Islam. While the inaugural forum had been held at the Vatican in 2008, this time the group met along the Jordan River, near the site of Jesus’ baptism.

French Lessons

On screen and in print, Paris is much in vogue these days. Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s ode to the City of Light in the 1920s, is an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, and David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris spent months on bestseller lists. If we’re lucky, McCullough’s hefty history spanning the 1830s through the 1890s will become a television miniseries, narrated of course by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author himself.

And the Winner Is...

Only a reporter could have written The Submission, an acutely topical and realistic novel about the rancorous debate unleashed when a Muslim wins a competition to design a memorial to those killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks. This is a story that reads as if a New York City newspaper’s star reporter miraculously got intimate access to every major player and every major development in the most heated controversy of the day, plus the time to digest and organize it all before sitting down to write.

Gullible Travels

In the lobby of Nairobi’s Boulevard Hotel you’ll see signs promoting all manner of tourist sites, from a Maasai crafts market to animal parks to the Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) museum. For now, at least, you’re unlikely to see any signs promoting tours of Nairobi’s infamous Kibera slum, the largest slum in East Africa. But that doesn’t mean such tours are difficult to find.

Money for Nothing?

It’s anyone’s guess whether Dead Aid, the title of Dambisa Moyo’s new book, will become as famous a phrase as “Live Aid,” the 1985 rock music extravaganza that raised money for famine-stricken Ethiopia.

Palestine's New Bishop

As a priest and educator, the sixty-six-year-old Palestinian Elias Chacour has uncommon gifts, some inherited, others hard earned. Named by the Vatican and the Holy Synod of the Melkite Catholic Church in February to be the Greek Catholic archbishop of Galilee, he is the first Israeli citizen to be appointed to the position. He is also founder of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) in Ibillin, Israel, a school that specializes in practical engineering.