Sunday Reads: Pardons and Prozac

Good Sunday Morning

I hope your weekend has been a happy one.

Today is one of those days that makes me want to relax. I really don’t want to read anything that will get me depressed, or angry. My guess is there are many readers who feel the same way I do.

So….this morning I have some interesting links for you, think of it as a taking a break.

First, I would like to send a message to one of our readers, she calls herself a lurker…but she is way more than that. ;)

Picture by Green Renaissance, click photo for link.

HT, I saw this photo on Kathy’s, aka Delphyne, Facebook page and immediately thought of you. Your personal strength far outshines the massive force of nature this image represents. Woman, you are amazing and I am very lucky to know you.

Actually, there are so many strong women (and men) who are part of the Sky Dancing family, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this blogging community.

Alright! Now for your morning reads, it seems that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has granted a pardon to a man who was scheduled for execution this month. Remember as you read the next couple of articles, this is the same board that refused to grant a pardon or commute the death sentence for Troy Davis.

Pardons board grants clemency to condemned Ga. man

The Georgia pardons board made the rare decision on Friday to spare the life of a condemned man who was set to die this week for the 1991 murder of his ex-classmate.

The move by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to reduce Daniel Greene’s death sentence to life in prison without parole came days after the board stayed his execution. Greene was initially set to die on Thursday for the murder of 20-year-old Bernard Walker, who was fatally stabbed as he tried to help a store clerk attacked by Greene.

This is the fourth time the board has commuted a sentence of death since 2002. What could be the reason for this pardon?

…it came after an outpouring of support for the Taylor County man by community members, a change of heart by the prosecutor who tried the case against him and a powerful plea for mercy from the condemned man himself.

“I think Daniel’s remorse is very apparent. He’s led an exemplary life before and since these incidents,” said his defense attorney, Jeff Ertel. “It was an aberrant act surrounded by 20 years on each side of an outstanding life.”

Let me say I am against the death penalty. (Personally, living a life out in a small prison cell without a chance for parole is punishment enough.) So anytime a death sentence is commuted, there is only one response…this is a good thing.

My only thought is why could they not do this for Troy Davis? (Click this link to some of our previous posts on the topic of Troy Davis: troy davis —SkyDancingBlog.com  

Anyway, here is more background for you:

Greene, 42, has been on death row for almost 20 years. His crime spree began on Sept. 27, 1991, when he robbed clerk Virginia Wise at her Taylor County convenience store and then stabbed her through the lung. She survived the attack.

Moments later, Walker entered the store and tried to help Wise. Greene stabbed his former classmate through the heart before fleeing, leaving Walker to die in the store’s parking lot. Greene then went on to attack an elderly couple in nearby Macon County and another store clerk in Warner Robins before he was arrested.

A standout defensive lineman in high school, Greene had to be tried in Clayton County because of all the media coverage in his hometown. He was convicted in December 1992 of murder, robbery and assault and was sentenced to death.

This “crime spree” was attributed by Greene supporters as a…

“…drug-crazed transgression.”

Former Taylor County Sheriff Nick Giles called him a “beloved son” of the community, and a former corrections officer who knew Greene in prison said he was “as fine a man as I have ever met in my life.”

Greene also sent in a letter to the board expressing his remorse for the pain and suffering he caused Walker’s family.

“I was on drugs at the time, but I took the drugs with my hands, and I take the responsibility. That choice to do drugs and what I did after were the worst mistakes of my life,” he said in the letter. “I do not blame the drugs. I blame myself for everything.”

Again, I am happy his sentence was commuted…but there is a bit of something in the pit of my stomach…this board pardoned a man who admitted his crime, and is remorseful, yet they approve killing a man who protested his innocence and who was convicted of the crime by eyewitness testimony from a witness who may have been the actual murderer.

From another article, Georgia pardons board spares condemned killer Daniel Greene:

Greene

“We want to thank the board so much for their courage in this case,” one of Greene’s elated attorneys, Lindsay N. Bennett, said in a phone interview from Atlanta.

Greene, who had spent two decades on Georgia’s death row and already ordered his last meal, received the news Friday and appeared to be in shock, Bennett said.

There have been many reactions to the board’s decision.

Bob Bacle, the former Reynolds police chief who addressed the paroles board on behalf of the victims and planned to attend the execution, condemned the decision, saying justice had been subverted.

“What good was it to have a trial 21 years ago and then 21 years later five folks on the board of pardons can second-guess a jury?” Bacle said. “That’s what we’ve got a system of justice for. What does this tell criminals out there coming along now?”

Former Taylor County Sheriff Nick Giles offered a more neutral reaction.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Giles, who had advocated capital punishment in the case when Greene was arrested. “The parole board, they know more about what the past 21 years has been like than I do.”

Bacle obviously does not hold the same opinion as many who read this blog…and we heard lots of similar arguments when Troy Davis was hours from death.

Mark Shelnutt, a Columbus attorney who helped prosecute Greene, told the paroles board on Tuesday that a key factor in seeking capital punishment against Greene had been that life without parole was not an option for Georgia juries at the time.

“Obviously, life without parole is no slap on the hand,” Shelnutt said. “He’s never going to get out of jail.”

So, the board made the right decision this time. Good. I am glad. But why could they not make the right decision with Troy Davis? We cannot forget him…or forget the fact that a man was sent to death strictly on the basis of witness testimony, and without physical evidence that he was involved in the crime. No, let us not forget.

Sigh…

Moving on, there have been some recent studies regarding breast cancer that I feel is worth writing about. First we have an article that discusses how scientist have genetically mapped the disease which can lead to more accurate diagnoses and treatment. Breast cancer treatment gets boost

The treatment of breast cancer could be revolutionised with patients offered more accurate diagnoses and better-targeted treatments after a study in which scientists genetically mapped the disease.

The research found that rather than being a single disease, breast cancer can be classified into 10 distinct types. It also identified several new genes that determine the aggressiveness of the cancer.

The breakthrough had been hailed by charities as a step towards the “holy grail” of tailoring treatments to the needs of individual patients.

The findings of the research, in which scientists examined 2,000 tumours in the largest ever genetic study of breast cancer tissue, could help predict patients’ chances of survival more accurately and lead to the development of more effective drugs for each cancer type.

Exciting huh?

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “This is a landmark study that really changes the way we think about breast cancer – no longer as one disease but actually as 10 quite distinct diseases, dependent on which genes are switched on and which ones aren’t for an individual woman.
“What this research will help us to do is make a much more accurate, much more precise, diagnosis for every patient with breast cancer in the future.

“That will enable us to make sure that we really target the right treatment to the right woman based on those who are going to benefit, or if they’re not going to benefit, not exposing them to the side-effects associated with those treatments.
“That will enable us to make much more progress in breast cancer in coming years.”

Another link from Guardian describes the possibilities of new drugs for the fight against breast cancer.  Breast cancer study could lead to new generation of drugs for the disease | Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK  This article is written by Dr. Kumar, which was quoted above. He begins his essay with the advances we have seen in Breast Cancer survival rates and treatments.

Scientific research has been at the heart of this progress, and much of this improved survival is due to drugs that have emerged from laboratories worldwide. Hormone drugs like tamoxifen, and targeted treatments like trastuzumab (better known as Herceptin), have saved thousands of lives.

At Cancer Research UK we’re proud to have supported the clinical work that refined tamoxifen use, and the laboratory work in the 1980s that ultimately led to the development of Herceptin.

However, these drugs don’t work for some women: their tumours lack the molecules that make them susceptible. And others, whose tumours look like they should respond, don’t – and we don’t know why.

Clearly, our classification of breast cancers as hormone-positive or negative, and Her2-positive or negative, is far too simplistic.

Which brings us to today’s landmark announcement. Our researchers, working with colleagues in Canada, have completely redefined breast cancer into 10 entirely new categories. To achieve this, the METABRIC team, led jointly by Prof Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute and Prof Sam Aparicio from the British Columbia Cancer Centre in Canada, analysed tumours from nearly 2,000 women.

What makes METABRIC such a game changer is that they analysed so many different aspects of the tumours – gene mutations, gene amplifications, gene activity and more – and linked this information to the women’s treatment history, and their clinical fates. This is the first study of this level of detail and scale in the world.

And these results have significant meaning in the fight against breast cancer.

First, they confirm that our existing “breast cancer map” is outdated – there should be 10 “countries”, not four “continents” – and this is now territory we need to urgently explore. For example, one of the newly discovered types consisted of women with apparently aggressive cancers who actually did very well. Closer inspection showed that these women were rescued by their own immune systems. We urgently need to know how.

Second, the study identified a slew of new cancer genes, which will make excellent targets for a new generation of Herceptin-like drugs. We hope that, one day, drugs will exist for all these subgroups, so no woman will ever have to be told she has the “wrong” type of breast cancer.

And finally, the results suggest that some women have such a good prognosis that they could potentially be spared chemotherapy after their surgery.

Kumar continues to stress the need for more research, and the time involved in developing new treatments. But the over all feel is a positive one, in that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to breast cancer research.

I’ve got one more link for you about another study involving breast cancer. This time from my alma mater University of South Florida: Cancer therapies affect cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues at the University of South Florida and University of Kentucky have found that breast cancer survivors who have had chemotherapy, radiation or both do not perform as well on some cognitive tests as women who have not had cancer.

They published their study in the April 1 issue of Cancer.

“Survivors of breast cancer are living longer, so there is a need to better understand the long-term effects of cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation,” said study lead author Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., associate center director for Population Sciences.

To carry out their study, the researchers recruited 313 women being treated by either chemotherapy or radiotherapy for early stage breast cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. Those who had undergone treatment for cancer were tested six months after treatment and then tested again 36 months after having completed treatment.

They also recruited a control group of women who did not have cancer. These participants were also tested at six months and 36 months.

Participants in all groups were within five years of age, and breast cancer patients were matched with non-cancer patients who lived in their same ZIP codes. Participants were tested cognitively with respect to processing speed (quick task completion under pressure), executive functioning (ability to shift cognitive sets and solve novel problems), the two domains expected to be most affected by chemotherapy. They were also tested with regard to verbal abilities.

“Our findings were partially consistent with prior research,” explained Jacobsen. “We found that chemotherapy-treated patients performed worse than non-cancer controls in processing speed, executive functioning and verbal ability. These domains may be the domains most affected by chemotherapy.”

Just a side note, Moffitt is an excellent research facility. My father was part of a study there when he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 1991, at the age of 44.  Anyway, back to the study:

The also found test results for the radiotherapy group to be similar to the results of those in the chemotherapy group. Additionally, they discovered that the non-cancer group improved in these cognitive abilities over time while the chemotherapy and radiotherapy groups did not. There were no differences in performance between the radiotherapy and chemotherapy groups, noted the researchers.

The researchers commented that they were fortunate for having included the radiotherapy groups because their results were so similar to the chemotherapy group. Had that group not been included, conclusions could have been drawn to suggest that the cognitive differences between the non-cancer group and the chemotherapy group were specific to chemotherapy.

“Since patients report cognitive problems that interfere with their daily activities, early workups should include tests to determine cognitive functioning prior to treatment,” concluded Jacobsen. “Future research also needs to investigate factors that may affect both chemotherapy patients and those receiving radiotherapy. Providers may wish to communicate that such effects can accompany chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

Just a few more links for you this morning, and since this is becoming a rather long post we will make them quick ones.

I am going to stick with the health issues theme for a little longer. Two articles for you from the New York Times.

The Science and History of Treating Depression -

Few medicines, in the history of pharmaceuticals, have been greeted with as much exultation as a green-and-white pill containing 20 milligrams of fluoxetine hydrochloride — the chemical we know as Prozac. In her 1994 book “Prozac Nation,” Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote of a nearly transcendental experience on the drug. Before she began treatment with antidepressants, she was living in “a computer program of total negativity . . . an absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest.” She floated from one “suicidal reverie” to the next. Yet, just a few weeks after starting Prozac, her life was transformed. “One morning I woke up and really did want to live. . . . It was as if the miasma of depression had lifted off me, in the same way that the fog in San Francisco rises as the day wears on. Was it the Prozac? No doubt.”

Like Wurtzel, millions of Americans embraced antidepressants. In 1988, a year after the Food and Drug Administration approved Prozac, 2,469,000 prescriptions for it were dispensed in America. By 2002, that number had risen to 33,320,000. By 2008, antidepressants were the third-most-common prescription drug taken in America.

Fast forward to 2012 and the same antidepressants that inspired such enthusiasm have become the new villains of modern psychopharmacology — overhyped, overprescribed chemicals, symptomatic of a pill-happy culture searching for quick fixes for complex mental problems.

Take a look at the rest of this interesting article by clicking that link above.

Here is another link about mind altering drugs, this time the discussion focuses on How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death and how a study being performed by:

…Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death. Twenty-two months before she died, Sakuda became one of Grob’s 12 subjects. When the research was completed in 2008 — (and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year) — the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. And there are two ongoing studies using psilocybin with terminal patients, one at New York University’s medical school, led by Stephen Ross, and another at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Roland Griffiths has administered psilocybin to 22 cancer patients and is aiming for a sample size of 44. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Again, I urge you to read the entire piece.

This next link is from Time magazine…VA to Add 1,900 to Mental-Health Staff that is good news, however bittersweet…good news for soldiers returning from war, they will get the care they so desperately need…but with a touch of sadness that there experiences could have been avoided in the first place.

And now, we get to enjoy a couple of items from…

Minx’s Missing Link File: Okay, these are a bit on the “old” side, I had bookmarked the following articles before my surgery. However, they are still damn good. Just a tease from each…you can click the links to read further.

From Their Graves, Ancient Nomads Speak an article from the New York Times:

Z. Samashev/A. Kh. Margulan Institute of Archaeology, Almaty

PRESERVED Some of the most illuminating discoveries dispelling notions that nomadic societies were less developed than many sedentary ones are now coming from burial mounds, called kurgans, in the Altai Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan, near the borders with Russia and China.

Ancient Greeks had a word for the people who lived on the wild, arid Eurasian steppes stretching from the Black Sea to the border of China. They were nomads, which meant “roaming about for pasture.” They were wanderers and, not infrequently, fierce mounted warriors. Essentially, they were “the other” to the agricultural and increasingly urban civilizations that emerged in the first millennium B.C.

British postwar design: Immaculate conceptions –  an article from The Independent:

 How much has British design changed since 1948? The poster for the so-called Austerity Olympics in London that year showed a statuesquely naked athlete, coiled and about to release his discus towards Parliament. In 2012, the Olympic logo is designed to allow sponsors’ corporate colours to be used in the symbol. How did we get from a broadly civic, welfare-minded postwar design culture to 21st century design industries whose essential purpose is to make as much money as possible?

It’s a complicated story and the V&A’s new blockbuster show, British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, is timely and ambitious. Its 300-plus exhibits sample the genetic material of design through this 64-year period, and Christopher Breward and Ghislaine Wood have curated a series of overlapping windows on tradition, modernity, subversion and latter-day innovation.

And finally…

Your Easy like Sunday Morning link of the week: This too is from a couple of weeks ago. The artist Tashi Mannox, who has graciously allowed us to use his painting of Clouds as our blog’s banner, is also well-known for his calligraphy. Specifically the kind of art that expresses itself as tattoos. I recently commissioned a tattoo design from Tashi, and as I await the fun that is involved in the design process, I wanted to share with you a link to Tashi’s blog. He recently traveled to the Middle East to participate in an exhibition of Calligraphy artist.

RELATED TIBETAN SCRIPTS: Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial

Every two years the government of Sharjah holds a prestigious event called the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial. For the second term running Tashi Mannox has been invited to exhibit his contemporary Tibetan calligraphy along-side not only Islamic calligraphy works from across Arab world but from other international destinations.
This year Tashi attended the opening celebrations where he met with eminent Sheikhs and other participants from Japan, Morocco, Norway and the USA.
More than a 100 works by 160 artists is showcased during the month of April 2012 at the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial that is located at the Calligraphy Square Museum and the Sharjah Art Gallery.

There are some cool pictures at the link, and Tashi has some wonderful observations he has written about as well…so please head on over and check it out.

Well, that is one hefty post for you…I am sure you can add more interesting links to articles you are reading about today….so, enjoy your Sunday morning and I will catch you later in the comments below!


34 Comments on “Sunday Reads: Pardons and Prozac”

  1. Feels like a quiet Sunday, I have the garlic roasting in the oven and the eggplant is sliced and salted, sitting and sweating…(I am making my spaghetti sauce with meatballs plus eggplant parmigiana.)

    Here are a few new headlines.

    It is election day in France: UPDATE 3-Voting begins in France, economy may sink Sarkozy | Reuters

    French voters headed to the polls on Sunday in round one of a presidential ballot, with economic despair on course to make Nicolas Sarkozy the first president to lose a fight for re-election in more than 30 years.

    In a contest driven as much by a dislike of Sarkozy’s showy style and his failure to bring down unemployment as by policy differences, Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Francois Hollande are pegged to beat eight other candidates to go through to a May 6 runoff, where polls give Hollande a double-digit lead.

    Hollande, 57, promises less drastic spending cuts than Sarkozy and wants higher taxes on the wealthy to fund state-aided job creation, in particular a 75 percent upper tax rate on income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million).

    He would be only France’s second left-wing leader since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, and its first since Francois Mitterrand, who beat incumbent Valery Giscard-d’Estaing in 1981.

    Japanese tsunami debris reaches Alaska shores – CBS News

    Federal scientists said that a volleyball and soccer ball that washed ashore on an island may be the first pieces of debris to arrive in Alaska from the last year’s tsunami in Japan.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration posted a notice online Thursday that the sports balls were spotted by a radar technician on Middleton Island.

    Writing on the balls includes the name of a Japanese school in an area hit by the tsunami.

    Official: Suspicious stain found in basement search for Etan Patz – CNN.com

    Investigators discovered a suspicious stain Saturday on a concrete wall while tearing apart a basement in their search for clues in the case of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old who disappeared more than three decades ago, a law enforcement official told CNN.
    FBI agents, assisted by the New York Police Department, discovered the stain by spraying the chemical luminol, the law enforcement official said.
    The chemical can indicate the presence of blood, but is not always conclusive, according to the official. At this time, the stain is described only as an area of interest.

  2. Just realized today is Earth Day, so I ask our ecocatwoman, Connie…ya got any special links for us today?

  3. bostonboomer says:

    All I can say is that Prozac saved my life. The media war on SSSI’s is very sad for people who actually suffer from clinical depression. Of course they shouldn’t be given out to people who are not clinically depressed. But for people like me who have fought depression since childhood, they work and are life-changing. It makes me very angry when “journalists” who know nothing about this disparage these drugs.

    Anti-depressants should only be prescribed by professionals who understand how to carefully monitor their effects, not by general practitioners. People who don’t have diabetes shouldn’t take diabetes drugs or insulin either. That is a very good analogy IMO.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    JJ,

    I just love that giant redwood photo.

    I agree with you about Troy Davis. Why isn’t it enough for someone to spend life in prison. The state should not be in the business of homicide. Unfortunately parole boards are often focused on whether the inmate is remorseful.

    But just look how many people have now been released because of DNA. And we know now that eyewitness testimony is just about the least reliable of evidence. And based on the recent Frontline story, a lot of other forensic evidence like fingerprints can be unreliable too. Why take the chance of executing an innocent person?

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    I can’t think of a better post for Earth Day than the expedition through Florida in recent months. Our NPR stations have been doing weekly reports with the participants & this AM national NPR did a short piece on the expedition: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/22/151132659/expedition-seeks-to-save-floridas-terra-incognita

    I am not ashamed to admit that I love Florida. The diversity of wildlife here is truly amazing, as are the various unique habitats. Both wildlife and natural habitats continue to disappear at a rapid pace due to so-called development for us – the human species. That said there are still some wild places left. Here’s the home page for the Florida Wildlife Corridor: http://www.floridawildlifecorridor.org/ I urge you to check it out.

    I’ll also share the site of my favorite photographer, Clyde Butcher. I’m a sucker for B/W photos. I think B/W allows you to actually focus on what is captured in the photo instead of being distracted by the colors. Here’s a link to Butcher’s gallery: http://www.clydebutcher.com/online-gallery.cfm

    I shared this link before, when our livestream was launched. Now that the manatees have left the warm waters of Blue Spring State Park, we’re running saved videos from last winter. The park itself is amazingly beautiful area of wild Florida: http://www.livestream.com/savethemanateecam The West Indian manatee is primarily found in and around Florida. Some, however, migrate as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Louisiana. And, yes, there are manatees living, eating, mating, swimming & raising their calves in the toxic soup that is the Gulf of Mexico.

    So, on Earth Day #42 I would just like to remind everyone that it’s their world too – the wildlife and the plant life. PEACE

  6. RalphB says:

    Start Sunday with a laugh from Funny or Die. It does seem like a day for a bit of cheer :-)

    Best Bloopers of 2012, so far

  7. HT says:

    Thank you JJ, I’m honoured to be among the writers, commenters and lurkers at this blog. the tree is beautifully majestic and I must admit that I often drive to our local marsh and sit watching the incredible flora and fauna for hours – it’s so peaceful and renewing.

    Cannonfire has a post up about Romney with a link to an article in the Village Voice “Mitt Romney, American Parasite”. I followed the link, read the whole article and words fail me.

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-04-18/news/Mitt-Romney-american-parasite/

  8. Beata says:

    Another fantastic round-up of reads and pics, JJ.

    I don’t know how the Sky Dancer front-pagers manage to do this everyday but I am grateful to you all for your hard work. Thank you for keeping us informed.

  9. foxyladi14 says:

    celebrate Earth Day. :)