Alberto Vilar, a 1962 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, was from all indications a man not wanting for ego or ambition. A financier and classical music enthusiast whose bank account inflated on the strength of the tech bubble 20 years ago, he made extravagant financial pledges to some of the world’s premier opera companies and orchestras. He also showered some of his largesse on his alma mater. The college sponsored an arts series named for Vilar from 1999 to 2003 that brought top-tier classical and opera stars to campus, and a technology center was briefly named for him. But he was unable to fulfill his promises when the tech bubble burst, and later went to prison after using client money to cover personal expenses and his philanthropic ventures. He died earlier this month at age 80, reportedly destitute and largely shunned. Rather than one of the operas he loved, Vilar’s story in many ways follows the contours of a Greek tragedy, where the protagonist is undone by his own hubris.
The movie classic “Citizen Kane” was released 80 years ago this month, and it contains a scene where two newspaper front pages are unveiled as the gubernatorial campaign of press magnate Charles Foster Kane goes down in flames – one says “Kane Elected” and the other says “Fraud at Polls!” That increasingly seems to be the approach of Trumpian Republicans who lose at the ballot box. Even before an effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom was handily defeated at the polls earlier this week, Republican candidate Larry Elder had started pushing voter fraud claims on his website. Of course, claiming voter fraud is a way to keep supporters riled up, and to soothe the bruised egos of losing candidates. Philip Bump of The Washington Post summed it up: “It’s easy to laugh at all of this, given that it is ridiculous. ... But we can’t simply sit back and marvel at the gall of claiming fraud in a race that a candidate is likely to lose. It can’t become normal to treat elections as something that serve only as a jumping-off point to legal fights or brute-force attempts to wrest power away.”
The toll the coronavirus is taking among individuals who have not yet been vaccinated became painfully clear Tuesday in data released by the state. It showed that 97% of those who have died of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania since January were not fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated also accounted for 95% of hospitalizations. Washington Health System Washington Hospital has had to confront an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in recent days, so much so that it had to issue a treatment delay advisory last Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning. This meant that patients arriving for anything from a broken arm to a heart ailment faced delays. Again: If you are not vaccinated, you need to get those shots, to help preserve your own health and the health of your community, and help lighten the load among stressed health care workers.
In Pennsylvania, the rate of suicide among veterans is a little more than 31%, a staggering and disheartening number. But a program has been established in Greene County that will offer help to veterans facing crushing personal difficulties. Together With Veterans (TWV) Rural Suicide Prevention Program is designed to help connect veterans with resources that might prevent them from taking their own lives. The program in Greene County is one of two in the state and one of about 30 across the country. The group includes veterans and laypeople. According to Chris Clark, the co-coordinator of the TWV program, “People don’t fake needing help, they fake being OK. There is that stigma that goes along with asking for help for something like this. We’ve got to try to normalize things ... lift some of that stigma.”