Thursday Reads

man-reading-newspaper

Good Morning!!

So much has been happening in the news for the past couple of weeks, it’s hard for me to decide what to write about.

I guess I might as well begin with the latest breaking outrage–the attack on Canada’s Parliament yesterday.

Reuters reports: Canada’s parliament attacked, soldier fatally shot nearby.

A gunman attacked Canada’s parliament on Wednesday, with gunfire erupting near where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking, and a soldier was fatally shot at a nearby war memorial, stunning the Canadian capital.

The gunman in the parliament building was shot dead, and Harper was safely removed in incidents that may have been linked to Islamic militants.

Witness accounts indicated the man who shot dead the soldier guarding the National War Memorial in central Ottawa, went on to attack the parliament building minutes later. Canadian police said however they could not “at this point” confirm it was the same person….

Witnesses said a flurry of shots were fired after a gunman entered the parliament building, pursued by police.

The assault took place very near the room where Harper was meeting with members of his Conservative party, a government minister said.

“PM (Harper) was addressing caucus, then a huge boom, followed by rat-a-tat shots. We all scattered. It was clearly right outside our caucus door,” Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement told Reuters.

The shooter was later identified as “Michael Joseph Hall, 32, a convert to Islam who was using the name Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.”

On Monday, there had been another incident in Quebec in which a man “deliberately drove a car into two soldiers.” One of the victims died and the other was injured. The suspect, Martin Couture-Rouleau, who was shot and killed by police, was among about 90 people who were being monitored by the Canadian government as possible domestic terrorists.

CNN has a background article on the events in Canada, Canadian shooting: What we know — and don’t know — a day later; and here’s another from The Globe and Mail: Attack on Ottowa: What We Know So Far. One more story from Fox News, Pal says Ottawa gunman wanted to go to Middle East, seemed ‘mentally ill’.

4127~Gromit-Reading-PostersWhite House Fence Jumper Intercepted by Guard Dogs

Back in the USA, there was another White House fence jumper last night about 7:30 ET. From The Washington Post, Another man jumps White House fence, is apprehended on lawn by K-9 squad.

A man jumped the White House fence Wednesday night and was taken into custody after being bitten by a guard dog, officials said, just weeks after another fence jumper made it deep into the executive mansion amid a series of security failures.

Secret Service agents and K-9 units quickly apprehended the latest fence jumper, who authorities identified as Dominic Adesanya, 23, of Bel Air, Md. He was taken to a hospital with injuries from a dog bite, and charges against him were pending, authorities said.

Two of the Secret Service dogs — named Hurricane and Jordan — were taken to a veterinarian and treated for minor bruising they suffered during the incident, according to agency spokesman Edwin Donovan. “Both K-9s were cleared for duty by the veterinarian,” Donovan wrote in an e-mail….

Adesanya has been charged with two counts of assault on a police officer — a charge that stems from his attack on the dogs — along with one count of making threats and four counts of resisting and unlawful entry, Donovan added. All charges except for resisting and unlawful threats are felonies; Adesanya was unarmed at the time of his arrest.

It’s a good thing the dogs were there; they seem to be better at apprehending crazy people than Secret Service agents. A couple more links:

ABC News, Alleged White House Fence Jumper Accused of Kicking Dog.

CNN, Latest White House fence jumper has mental problems, father says.

Cockney CaineBackpage.com and the Indiana Serial Killer

Yesterday, NW Luna posted a link from the Seattle Times about a lawsuit against Backpage.com, Backpage.com asks high court to throw out lawsuit.

A lawyer for Backpage.com told the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday that a lawsuit filed by three young girls who were sold as prostitutes on the website should be thrown out because Backpage didn’t write the ads, so it is not liable.

But the victims’ lawyer said Backpage doesn’t have immunity under the federal Communications Decency Act because the website markets itself as a place to sell “escort services” and provides pimps with instructions on how to write an ad that works, making Backpage a participant in the largest human-trafficking website in the U.S.

The justices plan to rule on the case at a later date….

Suggesting they might be skeptical about Backpage’s argument, the justices asked lawyer Jim Grant about the website’s content.

“Your client wouldn’t say with a straight face that ‘escort service’ doesn’t mean something else most of the time?” Justice Steven Gonzalez asked.

Justice Charles Johnson asked whether this was an “ostrich issue.”

“We escape liability if we stick our head in the sand and not pay any attention — as long as you don’t affirmatively contribute?” Johnson asked.

Backpage.com is where recently arrested Indiana serial killer Darren Vann found his last victim. The Washington Post reports:

On the Internet, 43-year-old Darren Deon Vann went by the name “Big Boy Appetite.” On the Chicago-centric landing site for Backpage.com, which has become the king of online sex ads, he apparently thought he could be anonymous.

That all changed Monday when Vann, a convicted sex offender,was charged with murdering a woman. Police said they are investigating his alleged role in the killings of six others whose bodies police say he helped find in abandoned homes dotting Gary, Ind., over the weekend.

It’s unclear how many of Vann’s apparent victims were targeted using Backpage, but it was his final act — finding his victim through classifieds on the site — that led police to his doorstep, authorities said.

Like many sex-crime victims whose services were openly advertised on the Internet (sometimes unwillingly), the dead northwest Indiana women seemed to share the commonality that they “might be less likely to be reported missing,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, according to the Chicago Tribune. Of the seven women found with Vann’s help — some of them long dead — only one, 35-year-old Anith Jones, had been reported missing.

Police said Vann found the most recent woman, 19-year-old Afrika Hardy, on Backpage a week before he allegedly killed her. He had met her, according to police, by responding to one of the hundreds of ads for “body rubs,” “escorts” or “adult jobs” that populate the site.

An update on the police investigation of Vann and his crimes: From AP via ABC News, Police Track Indiana Slaying Suspect’s Movements.

Investigators are using the cellphone records of an Indiana man already charged in the slayings of two women to pinpoint his movements after he told police he liked to check on the status of bodies he’d previously stashed after a fresh kill, authorities said.

Illinois law enforcement officials told The Associated Press Wednesday that Darren Vann, 43, may have traveled to Chicago’s south suburbs between the time 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy’s body was discovered Friday in Hammond, Indiana, and Saturday when Vann was arrested in nearby Gary. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.

Indiana police say Vann, a convicted sex offender, has confessed to killing Hardy and six women whose bodies were found over the weekend in abandoned houses in Gary. He has been charged with murder in the deaths of Hardy and 35-year-old Anith Jones, whose body was found Saturday in Gary.

Yesterday, at his arraignment, Vann refused to respond to the Judge’s questions.

A judge ordered Vann be held in contempt of court Wednesday when the former Marine refused to even acknowledge his name during an initial court hearing in Hardy’s slaying.

Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan asked Vann if he understood the reason for the hearing but he just stared back silently.

“Mr. Vann, are you choosing not to take part in this hearing?” Sullivan asked the shackled Vann, who was flanked by two Lake County Jail guards at the lockup in Crown Point.

Sullivan urged Vann’s public defender, Matthew Fech, to tell his client “that he stays in jail the rest of his life until this hearing takes place.” Fech urged Vann to speak, but he again offered no response. Sullivan found Vann in contempt and said she would schedule another initial hearing for next week.

Apparently, Vann was upset because there were so many media people in court. Hey, court hearings are open to the public. When you murder a lot of people, reporters show up. I guess Vann doesn’t understand that he’s no longer a private citizen.

To Kill a MockingbirdSome updates on responses to the Ebola situation . . .

Boston.com, US to Track Everyone Coming From Ebola Nations.

All travelers who come into the U.S. from three Ebola-stricken West African nations will now be monitored for three weeks, the latest step by federal officials to keep the disease from spreading into the country.

Starting Monday, anyone traveling from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will have to report in with health officials daily and take their temperature twice a day.

The measure applies not only to visitors from those countries but also returning American aid workers, federal health employees and journalists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new step Wednesday.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said monitoring will provide an extra level of safety. Passengers already get screened and temperature checks before they leave West Africa and again when they arrive in the United States.

‘‘We have to keep our guard up,’’ Frieden told reporters on a conference call.

A few more links on Ebola:

WaPo, Dallas nurse Amber Vinson free of Ebola virus.

Newsweek, Ebola’s Missing Vaccine: Europe Is Being Caught Unprepared by the Deadly Outbreak.

Forbes, America Is Beating Ebola: Every Patient Taken To An Elite U.S. Facility Has Survived.

martha-holmes-actress-buff-cobb-reading-comic-books-at-homeMore interesting news stories, in no particular order, links only

Reuters, NOAA employee charged with stealing U.S. dam information.

Buzzfeed, Conservative Cardinal Who Clashed With Pope Francis Confirms He Has Been Ousted.

Eonline, See Bloody Photos From Bristol Palin’s Drunken Fight in Alaska.

Sweden has been looking for a mysterious submarine for the past week or so: Sweden gets two new sightings, as hunt for undersea intruder goes on.

Reuters, Special Report: Traffickers use abductions, prison ships to feed Asian slave trade.

ABC News on University of North Carolina Chapel Hill academic fraud report, Probe: UNC Academic Fraud Was ‘Shadow Curriculum’ (faculty were involved for decades in giving breaks to athletes).

ABC News, The Hilarious Moment When a Guy Told Obama ‘Don’t Touch My Girlfriend’ (I don’t see it as hilarious; it’s part of a pattern of disrespect toward this President).

Crooks & Liars, Conservative think tank say women should stop being worried about date rape and date rape drugs.

Discovery News, 45,000-Year-Old Man Was Human-Neanderthal Mix (how will the fundies deal with this?).

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Monday Reads

Morning Coffee, by Christina Madden

Morning Coffee, by Christina Madden

Welcome to Morbid Monday!!

 

I haven’t had a regular work schedule for  years, so why do the days of the week still affect me as they did when I had a 9-5 job or when I was in school? Is it because I need some kind of structure in my life? I still look forward to weekends and I still dislike Monday mornings. Why is that? Is it because the world around me is structured that way? Or is it because I was conditioned from childhood to our society’s weekly scheduling?

Anyway, I’m still recovering from a combination cold and stomach virus, and it’s Monday; so I’m slow on the uptake today, and I just hope this post will make sense. Healthwise, I’m better off than Dakinikat and JJ. Actually, Dakinikat and her computer are both under the weather, so I’m filling in for her today. The photos of giant coffee cups show how I feel about Mondays!

Here are the stories that most interested me this morning.

Ferguson, Missouri

Did you read that awful New York Times story that reported on leaks from “officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation” into the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson? According to the Times, these “officials” were not members of the Ferguson police department or from “officials whose activities are being investigated as part of the civil rights inquiry.” So does that mean Justice Department “officials?” Or are these “officials” from St. Louis? Who the hell knows. But the slant of the story was toward exonerating Wilson and making it appear that Brown deserved to die.

Here’s a summary of Wilson’s version of events from Newsweek:

The official testimony that Officer Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, gave to authorities was revealed for the first time in a Friday New York Times report.

During the struggle, the officer claimed that Brown reached for his gun. Wilson told investigators that the two struggled over the weapon before the fatal shooting, that Brown assaulted him and he “feared for his life” that day. He also said that Brown had scratched and punched him multiple times, which resulted in cuts and swelling on his face and neck.

According to forensic tests, the gun went off twice in Wilson’s S.U.V., and shot Brown in the arm once. The test also confirmed that Brown’s blood was found in Wilson’s car, his uniform and his gun. The autopsy confirmed that Brown had been shot a total of six times upon his death.

monday coffee1

In my opinion we’re being softened up for the blow that will come next month when the Grand Jury fails to indict Wilson. Whoever the “officials” who talked to the NYT are, they apparently don’t want the Justice Department to find that Wilson violated Michael Brown’s rights. Otherwise, why would they be leaking this information? The Washington Post story is also slanted toward Wilson’s version of events, and they cite anonymous “county officials.”

Forensic evidence shows Michael Brown’s blood on the gun, on the uniform and inside the car of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, law enforcement officials said, information they believe potentially corroborates the officer’s story that the unarmed 18-year-old tried to take his gun.

The evidence will make it harder for the Justice Department to prosecute Wilson on federal charges that he violated Brown’s civil rights, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Such evidence would also make it difficult for a county grand jury to indict Wilson on state charges, such as murder or manslaughter, said county sources who also are prohibited from talking on the record about the pending case.

Multiple media sources are now parroting anonymous sources who claim the “evidence” supports Wilson’s story. I just don’t see it. Of course Brown’s blood would be inside Wilson’s car, since Wilson reportedly shot Brown in the arm at close range. Blood would have spattered all over. It makes sense that it would be on the gun, Wilson’s uniform, and elsewhere in the car. As for the alleged scratches, cuts, and swelling on Wilson’s face (where are the photos?), that could have happened because, as the closest  witness–Dorian Johnson–said, Wilson pulled Brown into the car by the neck and tried to choke him. Brown could have been defending himself. Furthermore, none of this justifies Wilson chasing Brown and shooting him as Brown was trying to surrender with his hands in the air, which is what a number of witnesses reported.

Al Sharpton isn’t buying it. From Colin Campbell at Business Insider:

Speaking at his weekly National Action Network rally in Harlem, Sharpton panned Wilson’s claim to be in fear of his life as the “same excuse” as others who fatally shot African-American teens.

“We were involved in Trayvon Martin. We were supportive of Jordan Davis,” Sharpton said, ticking off the recent controversies. “The strange thing is that all of them used the same excuse … The only gun there was Darren Wilson’s! Strange parallels with all of these cases.”

“First of all, if you stopped him — Michael Brown and his friend — walking down the street, what led to the scuffle? … Secondly, how does he and you get in your car? You trying to do what by yourself?” Sharpton asked. “Now, if I go with you with your story all the way to that — that Michael Brown was shot, gets up off you in the car — why are you trying to tell me that a man … ran back at you when he knew you had the gun and you already shot him?”

Extra-Large-Coffee-Cup

The story makes no sense, but I’m guessing the Missouri Grand Jury will believe it. And then it’s going to get ugly. From The Daily Beast:

The Rev. Carlon Lee, pastor of Flood Christian Church in Ferguson, Mo., was sending out links to a New York Times story Friday night to friends, family and community members who have spent the last two months absorbed in the events surrounding the death of teenager Michael Brown. The story cited forensic evidence offered by federal officials that showed Brown’s blood on officer Darren Wilson’s uniform and gun, which was found to have been fired inside Wilson’s patrol car. Lee’s link came with a personal thought:

“If there has ever been a time to pray, this is it,” he told recipients of texts and emails.

There was really nothing new about the Times’ story—Wilson has maintained since day one that Brown was reaching for the officer’s gun, which led to a struggle ultimately ending in the teenager’s death. Now, though, evidence seen only by a St. Louis County grand jury has been made available for the world, including the residents of Ferguson.

“I believe that when people have received (the Times) article and see what’s going on it will infuriate people and set us back,” Lee said. “No matter what happened in (Wilson’s) car, Michael Brown’s hands were up. No matter if he beat the crap out of Officer Wilson, his hands were up—a universal sign of surrendering.”

Protesters in Ferguson are going to believe Wilson’s story, says St. Louis photojournalist Bradley Rayford.

“The protesters didn’t believe Officer Wilson’s story in the first place, so they’re not going to believe this story,” Rayford said of the Times’ reporting….

It’s impossible to tell whether the story being sent out by Lee on Friday night would result in increased action on the streets of Ferguson, but one thing, as it has all along, remains clear: If Wilson isn’t indicted chaos will once again reign.

“If there’s a non-indictment I think you’ll see an immediate uproar,” Lee said. “I don’t think people have seen the amount of unrest and anger that will come if there’s a non-indictment.”

 Check out these photos of black protesters and white St. Louis Rams fans fighting over an American flag. How symbolic is that? Here’s one of the photos:

St. Louis

At the end of the confrontation, white police officers are shown targeting a black woman.

St. Louis2

Serial Killers

On Saturday, a body that is most likely that of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was found in Albemarle County a few miles from where suspect Jesse Matthew grew up. WTVR.com reports:

Just four short miles from the abandoned Albemarle County property, now lined with police tape and full of detectives investigating the discovery of human remains, sits the house Jesse Matthew Jr. and his mother once called home.

“She wanted to try to keep Jesse out of the city away from gang activity — if there was any in the city. She was just trying to make it safe for her son,” said neighbor Cliff Hunt.

Hunt said Matthew’s mother wanted the best for her son, who is now the prime suspect in the disappearance of Hannah Graham, who was last seen Sept. 13 on Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall.

Hannah Graham’s parents wanted the best for their daughter too, and so did Morgan Harrington’s parents. How many more women did Jesse Matthew rape and kill? The safest place for him to have been was prison after he was accused of raping college classmates at two Virginia colleges in 2002 and 2003. 

More from NBC 12: Albemarle neighbors recall Jesse Matthew and his family.

Jesse Matthew and his family lived at a home on Ponderosa Trail, just a few years ago, according to the neighbors and people who live here now. And this spot is just four miles away from where the remains were found by investigators scouring for any trace of evidence left at the scene….

This area is known to suspect Jesse Matthew, who is charged with Graham’s abduction with intent to defile.

Matthew’s former neighbor Bernard Blue said Matthew, his sister and mother lived in this home just miles from where search crews made the gruesome discovery Saturday. Blue says he’s unsettled that the man he knew is now the main suspect in a high-profile case. “Never dreamed he’d do something like that if he is guilty,” he said. “Never dreamed about it, because he was a fine boy when he was up here.”

Blue said Matthew’s mother also worked at UVA hospital, and that she’s stayed in touch. “She was a sweet lady. She came up to see me about four or five months ago,” he said. But Bernard says Matthew left a somewhat different impression. “He was a little strange. But, fine guy, all I know.”

“Strange,” but “a fine guy”?

morning coffee2

Also in this morning’s news, a serial killer has been arrested in Indiana. From the Chicago Tribune: 7 women found dead in Gary, Hammond over weekend.

Bodies of three more women were found in Gary Sunday evening after officials discovered bodies of four women earlier in the weekend at various locations in Gary and Hammond.

One of the recently found women was discovered around 7:50 p.m. Sunday in the 4300 block of Massachusetts Street in Gary, according to a press release from the Lake County coroner’s office. The cause of the woman’s death was strangulation, same as in the case of the first woman found dead Friday night.

Two additional bodies of women were recovered around 10 p.m. in the 400 block of East 43rd Avenue in Gary, according to another press release from the Lake County coroner’s office. The cause of both women’s deaths was unknown.

Deaths of all three women, who were not immediately identified, were ruled homicides, the releases said.

Police have detained a suspect whose name won’t be released until he is charged. The man confessed to the most recent murder and then led police to three more bodies. Fox News reports:

The women were found throughout Hammond and Gary, according to the Lake County coroner’s office. The Chicago Sun-Times cited police sources saying the man in custody is a 43-year-old resident of Gary. Hammond Chief John Doughty said police will have more information at a press conference Monday.

The flurry of grisly discoveries began when Hammond police responded to a call of an unresponsive person Friday evening at a Motel 6 and found the strangled body of a woman identified as Afrika Hardy, 19. As part of the investigation into her death, police executed a search warrant on a home in Gary, where they also took the person of interest into custody, Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda told the Chicago Tribune in an email….

Police discovered the body of Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, around 11:20 p.m. Saturday in an abandoned home in Gary. Her family had reported her missing on Oct. 8.

Jones’ sister, Yolanda Nowell, previously described her as “very street savvy” and said she had moved 10 years ago from Chicago to Indiana, where she operated a stand at a nearby flea market.

Police found the next body around 1 a.m. Sunday and a third body less than an hour later, according to the Tribune.

Late Sunday, the coroner’s office confirmed the discovery of three additional Jane Does, all of which were found in Gary.

All seven deaths have been ruled homicides, according to the coroner’s office. Most of the bodies were found in or around abandoned or fire-damaged homes in blighted neighborhoods, according to reports. The house near where Jones was found was described as being located in a thriving neighborhood, although it is unkempt, with overgrown grass and weeds.

As I have often said, it’s a bloodbath out there. Violence against women is a daily reality in this country.

jack-and-coffee

Nazi War Criminals Living on Social Security

From AP via Yahoo News: Expelled Nazis got millions in Social Security.

OSIJEK, Croatia (AP) — Former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger lived the American dream.

 His plastics company in the Rust Belt town of Akron, Ohio, thrived. By the late 1980s, he had acquired the trappings of success: a Cadillac DeVille and a Lincoln Town Car, a lakefront home, investments in oil and real estate.

Then the Nazi hunters showed up.

In 1989, as the U.S. government prepared to strip him of his citizenship, Denzinger packed a pair of suitcases and fled to Germany. Denzinger later settled in this pleasant town on the Drava River, where he lives comfortably, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. He collects a Social Security payment of about $1,500 each month, nearly twice the take-home pay of an average Croatian worker.

Denzinger, 90, is among dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards who collected millions of dollars in Social Security payments after being forced out of the United States, an Associated Press investigation found.

The payments flowed through a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records.

Like Denzinger, many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. following World War II, and eventually became American citizens.

Read more details about the AP investigation in the lengthy article.

Read “brief profiles” of some of these Nazi social security recipients in this AP story via The Elkhart Truth

coffee huge1

What if Republicans Win Control of Congress?

Here’s Joan Walsh’s take on the silly argument that losing would be good for Democrats: America’s Looming Freak Show: How GOP Control Will Terrorize a Nation – With No Political Repercussion.

I’m an optimist who’s expert at finding silver linings – American progressives have to be — but the case rapidly picking up steam that another midterm loss will be good for Democrats is both silly and a little dangerous.

Bill Scher made the argument from the left as well as anyone could, while  this piece by the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib, coming from the center-right, was more predictable and vexing. (Paul Waldman took a shot at it back in August,  here.) The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump followed and endorsed Seib’s argument. But those takes rely at least in part on the notion that if Republicans gain the Senate, they’ll either have an incentive to help “govern” – or they’ll shame themselves in the eyes of the American public if they don’t. Unfortunately, neither premise is true.

In fact, I’m concerned that worsening political dysfunction perpetuates itself by convincing more Americans that politics is futile. The Obama coalition in particular – younger, less white, less well off than even prior coalitions of Democrats – has gotten so little that’s tangible from its history-making turnout in 2012 (and yes I’ve read that Krugman piece and I mostly agree.) The prospect of its coalescing to become a permanent force in American politics has been at least postponed, if not thwarted entirely, by the deliberate GOP sabotage of the political process.

For me, the backdrop to this depressing midterm election is not merely ISIS and Ebola, but continued unrest in Ferguson, Mo., where it seems unlikely Officer Darren Wilson will face consequences for shooting Michael Brown. From New York to Los Angeles, the issue of police violence just gets worse. There’s increasing activism on the issue, which is great to see – the crowds that turned out for “Ferguson October” over the weekend, and into Monday, were inspiring.

Read the whole sordid thing at the link. Have I told you lately how much I hate the term “progressive?” I’m a liberal and proud of it. The “progressives” who have been undermining Obama for years and are now rooting for a Republican victory make me sick to my stomach. Maybe that’s why I came down with this virus I have.

I should write something about Ebola, but this post is already far too long. I’ll put those links in the comment thread.

So . . . what stories have caught your attention today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Ebola, Texas, and Crazed Republicans

Boston Coffee shop

Good Day!!

There are two confirmed cases of Ebola contracted within the U.S., and now we have an “Ebola Czar.” President Obama has named Ron Klain, a lawyer and political operative who most recently served as “president of Case Holdings, which manages the assets of AOL founder Steve Case, and general counsel of Case’s venture capital firm, Revolution.” Before that, according to USA Today, he worked for a lobbying firm, but not as a registered lobbyist. And before that,

He was the chief of staff for two vice presidents, Joe Biden and Al Gore, and one attorney general, Janet Reno. He served as a senior White House aide to President Obama….

As Biden’s chief of staff, Klain had a key role in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and signed off on one of its most controversial projects: a $535 million loan guarantee to solar panel maker Solyndra.

“Sounds like there are some risk factors here — but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit,” Klain wrote to Department of Energy officials May 24, 2010, a day before Obama visited a company factory. “It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.”

Earlier in his career, he served as the staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee and chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee….

Klain served as the top lawyer on the Gore-Lieberman Recount Committee after the 2000 election and was portrayed by actor Kevin Spacey in the 2008 film Recount.

Boston Common Coffee Company

He has no experience with health care issues or control of infectious diseases. Maybe Obama just did this to throw a bone to crazy Republicans, but it’s not working. They’re predictably attacking the choice. On the other hand, good old Beltway Bob Ezra Klein thinks Klain is a perfect pick.

Something I learned during the first two years of the Obama administration, when the staff infighting was at its worst: if you wanted to get somebody to say something nice, ask them about Ron Klain.

Klain entered the administration as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff. This was, itself, notable: Klain has been chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, too, making him the only person to serve in that position for two different vice presidents.

 But the esteem for Klain wasn’t based on his resume. Rather, he had a mix of policy, political and bureaucratic chops that everyone agreed was rare. The policy people spoke admiringly of his policy savvy, and they all agreed he lapped them in political instincts. The political people admired his political instincts, but recognized he was better at policy. And everyone agreed Klain knew how to run an interagency process.

Okay . . .

The Ebola response involves various arms of the Department of Health and Human Services (particularly, though not solely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, President Obama’s office, private stakeholders, and many, many more.

The “czar” position requires someone who knows how these different agencies and institutions work, who’s got the stature to corral their efforts, who knows who to call when something unusual is needed, who can keep the policy straight….

I’ve seen some people arguing that there would be no need for an Ebola Czar if the Senate would simply confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, who’s being blocked because the National Rifle Association doesn’t believe gun violence is a public-health issue. Murthy should be confirmed, but it would be a mistake to make him Ebola czar; he’s a newcomer to government, and would need to learn, on the job, how to manage the various agencies and principals involved in the response effort. He’d likely get sidelined as players with more weight and bureaucratic skill began going around him.

Actual government experience is badly underrated in Washington. Politicians run for office promising that they know how to run businesses, not Senate offices. “Bureaucrat” is often lobbed as an insult. But in processes like this one, government experience really matters.

Maybe Klein is right. He makes some good arguments anyway.

BostonCoffee_000

Scott Brown seems to believe a venture capitalist is what’s called for. Brown had this to say yesterday: “We Would Not Be Worrying About Ebola Right Now” If Romney Won.

Scott Brown told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade Friday that Ebola wouldn’t be a problem for America if Mitt Romney had won in 2012.

“Gosh can you imagine if Mitt was the president right now?” Brown said. “He was right on Russia, he was right on Obamacare, he was right on the economy. And I guarantee you we would not be worrying about Ebola right now and, you know, worrying about our foreign policy screw ups.”

Golly gee willikers, Batman! You can watch the interview at the Buzzfeed link above. New Hampshire Republican agree, according to The Washington Post.

It’s interesting that Texas politicians are attacking Obama’s Ebola response so vehemently. You’d think they would be more concerned about how a Dallas hospital sent Thomas Duncan home with a 103 degree fever, even though he told them he had just arrived from Liberia. And how they let nearly 80 hospital workers care for Duncan for days without any special protective gear. And how they let people who had been exposed to Duncan’s bodily fluids travel travel by air and sea to possibly expose hundreds of other people. But no. Gov. Rick Perry, who could have stopped exposed Texans from traveling, went to Europe during the Ebola crisis and now says President Obama should have handled Texas’ problem for him.

And then there’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Here’s what he had to say about the new Ebola Czar. I’m not going to link to it, because it’s at Newsmax:

“We don’t need another so-called ‘czar'; we need presidential leadership. This is a public health crisis and the answer isn’t another White House political operative. The answer is a commander-in-chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border.”

Kaili Joy Gray at Wonkette: President Doctor Ted Cruz Is The Only Cure For Ebola.

Remember that time Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Canada) was all, “Say health care one more time, and I will shut this government DOWN!” and also something about Green Eggs and Ham and Nazis?

Nuh uh, no you do not, because Cruz would never be so reckless and irresponsible as to suggest the government should have nothing to do with health care because FREEDOM. That’s not leadership, and Cruz is all about leadership. Especially the presidential kind, cough cough, wink wink, nudge nudge, YEAH WE KNOW, CRUZ WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT!

That’s why Cruz is leadershipping so hard in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will appoint an Ebola czar to coordinate all the government agencies tasked with dealing with this mess (which is mostly in Africa, but that doesn’t count). Obama had to Do A Thing because the entire rightwing will not shut up about it. The folks at Fox and on the interwebs know for A Fact we are all dying this second of the terrifying African disease from Africa, spread by African Africans just like Obama, who is African and hates America and dear lord will these people never stop? (No. The answer is no.) ….

Right on, amen, and hells yes! Right now — and at no other time in history — the government has a duty to Do A Thing about Americans facing a public health crisis. And if stupid Obama insists on listening to the director of the Centers for Disease Control instead of Bill O’Reilly, Cruz will have no choice but to launch his 2016 presidential campaign right this second to save America.

And really, who better to just now discover the government serves a purpose and should maybe sometimes do stuff than the guy who wanted to shut it down because doing stuff is the last thing the government should ever do?

Honestly, I’m think some crazy Republicans would like to cause an epidemic just to spite Obama.

caffe-lil-italy_boston

By the way, have you heard there’s been another screw up at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital? A patient who might have Ebola was transferred to the hospital from Baylor Hospital, and then went missing after Presbyterian sent him on his way.

On Friday morning Baylor Hospital in Dallas confirmed a patient with ‘Ebola similar’ symptoms also triggered positive on a verbal screening questionnaire.

Although a positive blood test has not been confirmed, sources say it’s not unusual to have a patient screen positive considering the wider net for Ebola now over Dallas. A positive screening means the patient met some of the criteria to cause concern.

According to Baylor, it was the answers to some of the screening questions — like if a person had been in contact with a known Ebola patient — that triggered the standing protocol by Dallas County Health and Human Services that the person be transferred to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas,  presumably for further, complete testing.

A source at Baylor said the patient came to the Emergency Room through a private entrance and was then immediately put into isolation.

According to a statement released by Texas Presbyterian, via The Boston Globe,

“The patient was placed in isolation at Texas Health Dallas and evaluated with all appropriate precautions,” the statement read. “The patient was determined to be low risk and wanted to leave the hospital. The CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services were advised of this and did not feel it was necessary to have her detained.”

However, the Globe learned that earlier,

Spokespeople for Texas Health Presbyterian told local news stations that they had not received a transfer patient and could not say whether the patient had been treated or released. There is no confirmation that this patient has Ebola. Texas Health Presbyterian has not responded to Boston.com request for comment.

WTF?! Someone in authority in Texas needs to make sure Texas Presbyterian is not involved with anymore suspected Ebola patients. Period. But Gov. Perry is too busy blaming everything on President Obama to do anything useful in his own state. Where is this patient? Are we really sure she is OK?

More insane Republican responses to the Ebola mess: CNN has a list, What’s more disturbing than Ebola? The outrageous commentary. Here’s just one example from Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia:

“The most comforting thing that I heard from (Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health) was that water kills the Ebola virus. I’ve never heard that before. I thought it was something that was so contagious there wasn’t much you could do to prevent it or anything else, so her advice was ‘wash your hands.’ “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told the Marietta Daily Journal.

From the experts:

“As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available,” the Mayo Clinic said about the prevention and spread of Ebola infection.

Read more at the link.

coffee_shop_by_flobelebelebobele-d5o4398

And then there’s Peggy Noonan. She thinks Megyn Kelly of Fox News knows more about preventing Ebola than CDC Director Tom Frieden. Here’s Simon Meloy at Salon on Noonan’s solutions: Peggy Noonan’s plan to save America: Think like an 11-year-old.

We need a travel ban, Ms. Noonan observes, drawing deeply from her vast reservoirs of disease-control expertise. “If we don’t momentarily close the door to citizens of the affected nations, it is certain that more cases will come into the U.S.” It is certain! They will come here with their disease. They will come to America. You may be inclined to note that the broad consensus among public health officials is that closing off West Africa will only make the epidemic there worse, which will in turn increase the risk of transmission to America. The petulant naysayers among you may be wont to point out that imposing a flight ban will only make it harder to track the movements and contacts of potentially infected persons.

But that’s just more gobbledygook, more amphigory, more hurbledy-burbledy. That, as Ms. Noonan writes, is how the government talks, and “everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children.” No … instead of speaking like children, writes Ms. Noonan, we should bethinking like children:

It is one thing that Dr. Frieden, and those who are presumably making the big decisions, have been so far incapable of making a believable and compelling case for not instituting a ban. A separate issue is how poor a decision it is. To call it childish would be unfair to children. In fact, if you had a group of 11-year-olds, they would surely have a superior answer to the question: “Sick people are coming through the door of the house, and we are not sure how to make them well. Meanwhile they are starting to make us sick, too. What is the first thing to do?”

The children would reply: “Close the door.” One would add: “Just for a while, while you figure out how to treat everyone getting sick.” Another might say: “And keep going outside the door in protective clothing with medical help.” Eleven-year-olds would get this one right without a lot of struggle.

Yes! Trust in the wisdom of 11-year-olds. Unlike disease control officials, they are not burdened by years of experience in dealing with outbreaks, and the things they say are generally easier to understand. And whose heart is not warmed by the delicate innocence of a child’s words as imagined by a former Reagan official?

Much more insanity at the link.

I know there’s lots more news happening, but I’m so fascinated by the crazy responses to Ebola that I just can’t stop reading about them. Please let us know know else is happening in the comment thread, and have a nice weekend.


Friday Reads

morning-coffee

Good Morning!!

 

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.

Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).

Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.

While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.

I hope they’re right!

Now for the latest Ebola news . . .

AP_EBOLA_HOSPITAL_141015_DG_4x3_992

Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.

A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”

The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”

Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.

In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”

Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.

The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.

The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.

Amber Vinson

Amber Vinson

According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.

After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”

Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.

“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.

“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”

In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….

“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

randpaul1

A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.

His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.

Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….

“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”

World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.

In other news . . .

Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.

The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.

Bill Clinton stumps for Coakley

I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.

WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.

Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.

“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”

Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.

“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.

Now we just need Hillary to show up.

How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:

Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.

But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.

In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.

“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.

He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.

merks2_2396548b

According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.

The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.

“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.

The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”

Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!

friday-121


Wednesday Open Thread

NYC-Morning-coffee-shop

Hello, Sky Dancers!

This will be a quick post. All three of us bloggers are under the weather. JJ has bronchitis, I was up all night with a stomach virus, and Dakinikat is understandably overwhelmed with family issues.

So here we go . . . .

The sh** has really hit the fan down in Dallas. Last night, a group named National Nurses United held a press call in which they revealed that, for the nurses who cared for Ebola patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, “there were no protocols”  for dealing with the highly infectious disease. From CNN:

“The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell,” National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. “We’re deeply alarmed.”

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the claims, if true, are “startling.” Some of them, he said, could be “important when it comes to possible other infections.”

Some of the complaints made by anonymous nurses to National Nurses United:

On the day that Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted to the hospital with possible Ebola symptoms, he was “left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present,” union co-president Deborah Burger said.

Up to seven other patients were present in that area, the nurses said, according to the union.

A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit, the nurses said, according to the union.

Nurses were given protective gear that didn’t cover their necks, and when they complained they were told to wrap medical tape around their necks.

“There was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling,” Burger said. “They did not have access to proper supplies.”

“There was no mandate for nurses to attend training,” Burger said, though they did receive an e-mail about a hospital seminar on Ebola…

According to DeMoro, the nurses were upset after authorities appeared to blame nurse Nina Pham, who has contracted Ebola, for not following protocols.

“This nurse was being blamed for not following protocols that did not exist. … The nurses in that hospital were very angry, and they decided to contact us,” DeMoro said.

And they’re worried conditions at the hospital “may lead to infection of other nurses and patients,” Burger said.

Heine-Brothers-painting-small

And today this headline tops the news: Second Health Care Worker Tests Positive for Ebola. CNN reports:

A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola, health officials said Wednesday – casting further doubt on the hospital’s ability to handle Ebola and protect employees.

The worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated, health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.

The preliminary Ebola test was done late Tuesday at the state public health laboratory in Austin, and the results came back around midnight. A second test will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

It gets worse. CNN again: 2nd U.S. health worker with Ebola flew the day before symptoms.

The second Dallas health care worker with Ebola was on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday — the day before she reported symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. Because of the proximity in time between the Monday evening flight and the first report of her illness, the CDC wants to interview all 132 passengers on her flight — Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth, which landed at 8:16 p.m. CT Monday, the CDC said.

The worker, a woman who lives alone, was quickly moved into isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, authorities said Wednesday.

The news cast further doubt on the hospital’s ability to handle Ebola and protect employees. It’s the same hospital that initially sent Thomas Eric Duncan home, even though he had a fever and had traveled from West Africa. By the time he returned to the hospital, his symptoms had worsened. He died while being treated by medical staff, including the two women who have now contracted the disease.

Get this: hospital administrators are still claiming they have everything under control.

“I don’t think we have a systematic institutional problem,” Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer of Texas Health Resources, told reporters Wednesday, facing questions about the hospital’s actions.

Medical staff “may have done some things differently with the benefit of what we know today,” he said, adding, “no one wants to get this right more than our hospital.”

Is that so? Well, you know the old saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” According to Vargas, 75 health care workers are still being monitored for symptoms.

coffee

The most recent Ebola case has just now been identified as 26-year-old Amber Vinson, according to USA Today.

Vinson, who was described as living alone without pets in a Dallas apartment, was identified by Martha Schuler, the mother of Vinson’s former stepfather, WFAA-TV reports.

Vinson was among the workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who helped care for Ebola patient Thomas Duncan, who died of the virus in October.

At an early morning news conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he could not rule out more cases among 75 other hospital staffers who cared for Duncan and were being monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are preparing contingencies for more and that is a real possibility,” Jenkins said.

In other news,

It seems there were some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after all, and the Pentagon covered it up. The New York Times broke the story last night: The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons.

The soldiers at the blast crater sensed something was wrong.

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.” ….

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read the whole depressing thing at the link.

grandads-morning-coffee-james-richardson

Here’s the Washington Post’s take on the Times’ story: Pentagon ‘suppressed’ finds of chemical weapons in Iraq and related U.S. casualties.

These were not the “weapons of mass destruction” the George W. Bush administration used to justify invading Iraq in 2003. Rather, the Times said, the troops were injured when they stumbled across old, often corroded shells and warheads procured for use in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

The weapons were not the military threat to the United States described by the Bush administration. But the deadly sarin and mustard gas agents troops found were potent enough to cause injury, the paper reported. Unaware of the munitions’ content — which sometimes spilled on to their clothes and skin — as many as 17 soldiers were exposed, and some received haphazard, inadequate medical care.

The Times story suggests the Pentagon suppressed information about the chemical weapons because of the injuries, because it would have highlighted the massive intelligence failure surrounding the war and because the weapons were “built in close collaboration with the West.”

“The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors,” wrote C.J. Chivers. “The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.”

A few more stories that might be of interest, links only:

Morning-Call-Coffee-Cup-Sign

Christian Science Monitor, Michelle Obama viral turnip video: Will it sell healthy food?

New York Daily News, Anita Sarkeesian cancels Utah State lecture amid threats of ‘Montreal Massacre-’styled attacks.

Deadspin, The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate.

MSNBC, Supreme Court saves Texas abortion access, for now.

Nate Silver, The Polls Might Be Skewed Against Democrats — Or Republicans.

11Alive.com, Exclusive Poll: Nunn leads Senate race by 3%.

Capital OTC, Remains of Iron Age chariot discovered by Leicester students.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Wednesday.


Tuesday Reads

Arlington

Good Morning!!

The photo at the top of the page was taken on Mystic Street approaching Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington Center, Arlington, Massachusetts. I’ve lived in this town since the 1970s. The population in 2014 is less than 43,000. The Center has some stores, but it’s not really a shopping district. There’s a Starbucks, the public library, the main Post Office, a number of restaurants, that sort of thing. We don’t have a mayor. There is a town manager and a town meeting with elected members. Basically, Arlington is a small town, but it’s also part of Greater Boston. It’s a close suburb to Boston, situated between Cambridge and Lexington.

Arlington has always been a safe place to live, and I still feel that way about my neighborhood. But recently, big city crime has arrived here, and I’m kind of shocked. In September, the Arlington Police Department was involved in a sex trafficking case involving men from Rhode Island and Massachusetts who exploited a teenage girl and forced her into prostitution.  Also in September, a man who worked for Arlington’s Department of Public Works was charged with “upskirting” in a local restaurant bathroom. That’s a crime I hadn’t even heard of before. It when someone uses a camera to look up women’s skirts. Ugh, how creepy. And this morning I woke up to this from The Boston Globe:

Video Game Developer: Twitter Rape, Death Threats Forced Me From Home.

An Arlington-based video game developer said she and her husband had to temporarily leave their home after they received graphic threats of sexual assault and death on Twitter—a response, she believes, to her online activism on behalf of women in the tech industry

Brianna Wu, head of development for the indie video game publisher Giant Spacekat, contacted Arlington police Friday evening after a Twitter account named “Death to Brianna”—whose profile description read, “I’m going to kill Brianna Wu and her husband Frank”—posted a number of graphic death threats.

Read some of the tweets at the link.

Arlington Police confirmed that the department is investigating the origin of the message. Twitter has since suspended the account.

Wu said she is “harassed on a daily basis,” often receiving rape threats and unwanted pornographic images, but that Friday night’s messages “crossed a line to the point [she] felt scared.”

“I left the house because I felt unsafe,” Wu wrote in a Facebook message to Boston.com. “I told the officer, and he felt that was reasonable.”

There’s no truly safe place left in America these days, I guess. Maybe it was always like that, and I just didn’t know it. At least we don’t have any Ebola cases yet.

Nina Pham, nurse with Ebola (her identity was revealed by her family)

Nina Pham, nurse with Ebola (her identity was revealed by her family)

Here’s the latest from Dallas.

AP, via the Seattle Times, About 70 hospital staffers cared for Ebola patient.

About 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital were involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan after he was hospitalized, including a nurse now being treated for the same Ebola virus that killed the Liberian man who was visiting Dallas, according to medical records his family provided to The Associated Press.

The size of the medical team reflects the hospital’s intense effort to save Duncan’s life, but it also suggests that many other people could have been exposed to the virus during Duncan’s time in an isolation unit.

On Monday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the infection of the nurse means the agency must broaden the pool of people getting close monitoring. Authorities have said they do not know how the nurse was infected, but they suspect some kind of breach in the hospital’s protocol.

According to the AP, the hospital shared medical records with the news agency, but “the CDC does not have them.” WTF?! Why?

The CDC has not yet established a firm number of health care workers who had contact with Duncan.

“If this one individual was infected — and we don’t know how — within the isolation unit, then it is possible that other individuals could have been infected as well,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “We do not today have a number of such exposed people or potentially exposed health care workers. It’s a relatively large number, we think in the end.”

Caregivers who began treating Duncan after he tested positive for Ebola were following a “self-monitoring regimen” in which they were instructed to take their temperatures regularly and report any symptoms. But they were not considered at high risk.

Typically, the nurses, doctors and technicians caring for a contagious patient in isolation would be treating other people as well, and going home to their families after decontaminating themselves. The hospital has refused to answer questions about their specific duties.

Jesus. It sounds like the hospital is still trying to protect itself rather than doing everything possible to keep this disease from spreading.

Tort law

This story from Reuters is a must read, Following the mistakes in the Texas Ebola story. As we all know now, Thomas Duncan, the Ebola patient who died at the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital initially went to the emergency room with a fever of 103, and he openly told heath care workers he had recently arrived in Dallas from Liberia. But they sent him home anyway. You’d think his family would be able to sue the hospital for millions, but they probably can’t.

As this Reuters report notes:

Texas tort-reform measures have made it one of the hardest places in the United States to sue over medical errors, especially those that occurred in the emergency room …. To bring a civil claim in Texas over an emergency-room error, including malpractice, plaintiffs have to show staff acted in a way that was “willfully and wantonly negligent,” meaning that the staff had to have consciously put Duncan or others at extreme risk by releasing him, rather just having made a mistake.

In other words, tort reform in Texas means you can’t sue a doctor or nurse for making a mistake, even a stupid, fatal one. Or even one that might end up causing multiple fatalities if Duncan gave the virus to others after he was allowed to leave the emergency room.

The author of the article, Stephen Brill is currently “researching a coming book on the economics and politics of U.S. healthcare,” and he has some interesting questions based on the Ebola case. He has found that in the U.S. expensive tests are frequently used–supposedly to protect against malpractice suits. Questions:

Have hospitals tightened their own quality-control and disciplinary processes because they know that doctors don’t have to worry about lawsuits and, therefore, want to add accountability measures of their own to deal with staff mistakes?

Or have they loosened discipline because they don’t have to worry about being sued for their staffs’ mistakes?

tort reform

Brill also wonders why the hospital hasn’t named the nurse or doctor responsible for sending Duncan home after his initial visit to the hospital.

Yes, I would like to read a story about the person who made the mistake. What is his or her record? Was the emergency room busy when Duncan showed up? Or was the staff sitting around with little to do, yet still failed to react carefully enough? And were policies, explicit or implicit, in place encouraging them not to admit uninsured patients whose bills are likely to go unpaid?

What disciplinary action did, or will, the hospital take? What usually happens in a situation like this at that hospital and at hospitals generally?

But more than that, I would like to see a story exploring the issue of personal responsibility and public accountability when private people make mistakes that have huge public ramifications.

I’d like to read a story like that too.

In more positive news, a man who survived Ebola has donated blood plasma to the Dallas nurse who is sick.

The Rev. Jim Khoi, pastor of the Fort Worth church attended by Nina Pham’s family, said she received a transfusion of plasma containing Ebola-fighting antibodies Monday afternoon.

Samaritan’s Purse confirmed the plasma came from Dr. Kent Brantly, the Texas doctor who survived Ebola. Brantly contracted Ebola while working with the nonprofit medical mission group in Liberia.

Samaritan’s Purse spokesman Jeremy Blume says Brantly traveled to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas Sunday to donate the plasma.

Brantly said in a recent speech that he also offered his blood to Thomas Eric Duncan, but that their blood types didn’t match. Duncan died of Ebola on Wednesday.

mitt_romney

In politics news, it looks like we won’t see a third Romney presidential run, because Ann Romney has laid down the law.

From the New York Daily News, Ann Romney quashes rumors of Mitt 2016: ‘Mitt and I are done’.

“Mitt and I are done. Completely,” the wife of the two-time Republican presidential candidate has said to quash rumors that another campaign is in the works.

“Not only Mitt and I are done, but the kids are done. Done. Done. Done,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Mitt Romney, 67, has said repeatedly he wasn’t interested in running again, but in recent weeks he’s been seen as flirting with the prospect.

With no clear Republican frontrunner for 2016, he has taken to the campaign trail to support Senate hopefuls, including Joni Ernst in Iowa on Monday, and has also kept up relationships with key GOP donors.

But his wife, Ann, seems to think a third time is not the charm.

I hope she really means it!

Another potential 2016 candidate, Hillary Clinton spoke about a number of current issues yesterday in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Las Vegas crowd Monday night that more needs to be done to ensure young people can achieve their dreams and free students from onerous college debt “that can feel like an anchor tied to their feet dragging them down.”

“I think our young people deserve a fair shot,” she told about 900 people gathered in a Bellagio resort ballroom for the annual UNLV Foundation dinner benefiting the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Later, talking about the American public’s possible reluctance to get involved in conflicts around the world, Clinton referred to the threats posed by the Ebola virus and the Islamic State militant group.

“They want to bring the fight to Europe and the fight to the United States,” she said of the terrorist group.

And Ebola is not going to stay confined, the former first lady said.

Read more about her remarks at the link.

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri Protests

The New York Times has an article about the latest protests in Ferguson, Missouri. I can’t excerpt any of the text, because the Times has found a way to prevent it on some stories; it’s a good article and worth reading at the link. Here’s another report from the AP via ABC News: More Than 50 Arrested in Ferguson Protests.

Pounding rain and tornado watches didn’t deter hundreds of protesters Monday outside Ferguson police headquarters, where they stayed for almost four hours to mark how long 18-year-old Michael Brown’s body was left in a street after he was fatally shot by police.

Organizers of the four-day Ferguson October protests dubbed the day “Moral Monday” and committed acts of civil disobedience across the St. Louis region. In addition to the initial march on Ferguson police headquarters, protesters blocked the entrance to a major employer, held a loud rally inside St. Louis City Hall, disrupted business at a Ferguson shopping center and three Wal-Mart stores and tried to crash a private fundraiser for a St. Louis County executive candidate where U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was scheduled to appear.

At the Edward Jones Dome Monday night, protesters briefly draped a banner over a Jumbotron video board that read “Rams fans know on and off the field black lives matter.”

More than 50 people were arrested, including scholar and civil rights activist Cornel West.

West was among 42 arrested for peace disturbance at the Ferguson police station. Some protesters used a bullhorn to read the names of people killed by police nationwide. Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy members — some of whom were among the first arrested — led a prayer service before marching to the station two blocks away.

I’m very glad that the protests are continuing. I’m afraid Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is going to get away with killing Michael Brown, so I think it’s important to keep the story in the nation’s consciousness.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and enjoy your Tuesday!


Lazy Saturday Reads: The Psychology of Horror

Boris Karloff

Good Morning!!

This is the time of year when lots of people get the urge to watch old horror movies, and I’m one of them. Actually, I love horror movies any time of year, but October is when the TV programmers provide the most opportunities for horror fans to indulge their cravings.

I love to watch old Hitchcock movies like Psycho and The Birds. They never seem to get old. And then there are the cheesy slasher movies like Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth that are still kind of fun to sample this time of year.

I love George Romero’s classic zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and dystopian films from the 1950s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’ve enjoyed more recent zombie classics too–28 Days Later comes to mind. Old creature features are fun too–have you ever seen Them? It’s a 1954 film about giant ants in the New Mexico desert created by radiation from atomic tests.

Of course there are plenty of new horror offerings these days too. Dakinikat recommended a couple of TV shows that I plan to try over this long weekend: American Horror Story on FX and Z Nation on the Syfy Channel. These days there is plenty of real-life horror going on, so I don’t know why so many people like to escape into horror films and TV shows, but it seems they do. There’s also The Walking Dead on AMC. I watched the first season, but kind of lost interest after that because I find the characters so unlikable.

It’s interesting that zombies and vampires have been very much in vogue in the 21st Century. Why is that? Do they somehow reflect our culture like the movies of the 1950s and ’60s seemed to comment on the cold war and fears of nuclear disaster?

Anyway, since it’s Saturday and long weekend (Monday is Columbus Day, a horror story in itself), I’m going to devote this post to the psychology of horror–why are some of us so drawn to it? Believe it or not, psychologists have systematically studied this. Here’s a survey article published in The Psychologist, a UK psychology magazine: The Lure of Horror (pdf). There’s an easier-to-read version here.

Fear coils in your stomach and clutches at your heart. It’s an unpleasant emotion we usually do our best to avoid. Yet across the world and through time people have been drawn irresistibly to stories designed to scare them. Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker continue to haunt the popular consciousness. Far longer ago, listeners sat mesmerised by violent, terrifying tales like Beowulf and Homer’s Odyssey.

‘If you go to your video store and rent a comedy from Korea, it’s not going to make any sense to you at all,’ says literature scholar Mathias Clasen based at Aarhus University, ‘whereas if you rent a local horror movie from Korea you’ll instantaneously know not just that it’s a horror movie, but you’ll have a physiological reaction to it, indicative of the genre.’

hitchcock-reads-book

So horror is a universal language recognized by our brains?

Clasen believes the timeless, cross-cultural appeal of horror fiction says something important about humans, and in turn, insights from evolutionary psychology can make sense of why horror takes the form it does. ‘You can use horror fiction and its lack of historical and cultural variance as an indication that there is such a thing as human nature,’ he says.

This nature of ours is one that has been shaped over millennia to be afraid, but not just of anything. Possibly our ancestors’ greatest fear was that they might become a feast for a carnivorous predator. As science writer David Quammen has put it, ‘among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat’. There’s certainly fossil evidence to back this up, suggesting that early hominids were preyed on by carnivores and that they scavenged from the kill sites of large felines, and vice versa. Modern-day hunter-gatherers, such as the Aché foragers in Paraguay, still suffer high mortality rates from snakes and feline attacks.

Such threats have left their marks on our cognitive development. Research by Nobuo Masataka and others shows that children as young as three are especially fast at spotting snakes, as opposed to flowers, on a computer screen, and all the more so when those snakes are poised to strike. Modern-day threats, such as cars and guns, do not grab the attention in this way. That we’re innately fearful of atavistic threats is known as ‘prepared learning’. Another study published just this year by Christof Koch and his team has shown how the right amygdala, a brain region involved in fear learning, responds more vigorously to the sight of animals than to other pictures such as of people, landmarks or objects.

Viewing the content of horror fiction through the prism of evolutionary evidence and theory, it’s no surprise that the overriding theme of many tales is that the characters are at risk of being eaten. ‘Do we have many snakes or snake-like creatures or giant serpents in horror fiction?’ Clasen asks. ‘Yes we do: look at Tremors – they were really just very big snakes with giant fangs’. In fact, many horror books and movie classics feature oversized carnivorous predators, including James Herbert’s The Rats, Shaun Hutson’s Slugs, Cat People, King Kong, and the Jaws franchise, to name but a few. Where the main threat is a humanoid predator, he or she will often be armed with over-sized claws (Freddie Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street) or an insatiable taste for human flesh (e.g. Hannibal Lecter in the 1981 novel Red Dragon).

Vince Price reads

Still, horror is a minority taste. Why are some people–like me–so attracted to it, while others are simply grossed out?

Who are these people who pay out money to be scared? A meta-analysis of 35 relevant articles, by Cynthia Hoffner and Kenneth Levine published in 2005 in Media Psychology, highlights the principal relevant traits: affective response; empathy; sensation seeking; aggressiveness; gender; and age.

The more negative affect a person reports experiencing during horror, the more likely they are to say that they enjoy the genre. Media experts like Dolf Zillmann make sense of this apparent contradiction as a kind of conversion process, whereby the pleasure comes from the relief that follows once characters escape danger. This explanation struggles to account for the appeal of slasher films, in which most characters are killed. Part of the answer must lie with meta-emotion – the way we interpret the emotional feelings we’re experiencing, with some people finding pleasure in fright. Another possibility is that, for some, pleasure is derived from the sense that film victims are being punished for what the viewer considers to be their immoral behaviour. Consistent with this, a 1993 study by Mary Oliver found that male high school viewers who endorsed traditional views on female sexuality (e.g. ‘it’s okay for men to have sex before marriage, but not women’), were more likely to enjoy horror movie clips, especially if they involved a female victim portrayed with her lover.

Other findings: people with low self-reported levels of empathy and younger people tend to be more attracted to horror. Neither of those explains my interest–I score high on empathy, and I’m an old lady. So what’s my problem?! Maybe I just never really grew up?

Read much more at the link. Since it’s a scholarly article, there are references to research articles too.

Here’s another interesting article at Filmmaker IQ: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SCARY MOVIES.

There’s something about horror that speaks directly and instinctively to the human animal. Millions of years of evolutionary psychology have ingrained in our minds certain fear triggers – a survival instinct – Fear of the Dark where predatory animals might be laying in wait – Fear of animals with large sharp teeth who would make a quick meal of us. Fear of Poisonous Spiders who can kill with one bite. So ingrained into our developmental psychology that research done by Nobuo Masataka show that children as young as three have an easier time spotting snakes on a computer screen than they do spotting flowers. Research by Christof Koch show that the right amygydala, the portion of the brain associated with fear learning, responds more vigorously to images of animals than to images of people, landmarks or objects even though those are much more dangerous in our civilized world.

This may explain the shape of our movie monsters: creatures with sharp teeth or snake like appearance. The fear of being eaten alive also explains the cannabilistic traits of human monsters like Dracula and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

But brain scan research in 2010 by Thomas Straube at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena show that scary movies don’t actually activate fear responses in the amygdala at all. Instead, it was other parts of the brain that were firing – the visual cortex – the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information, the insular cortex- self awareness, the thalamus -the relay switch between brain hemispheres, and the dorsal-medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with planning, attention, and problem solving.

So we’re not really being scared at the movies – at least not necessarily in the brain chemistry way… what’s going on?

dracula reads

Three things, according to Dr. Glenn D. Walters.

The first is tension – created through mystery, suspense, gore, terror, or shock. This is pretty straight forward elements of horror, the craft and technique of filmmaking.

The second factor is relevance. In order for a horror film to be seen, it has to be relevant to potential viewers. This relevance can take the form of universal relevance – capturing the universal fear of things like death and the unknown, it can take on cultural relevance dealing with societal issues. Audiences can find subgroup relevance – groups like teenagers which many horror films are about. Lastly, there’s personal relevance – either in a way that identifies with the protagonist or in a way that condemns the antagonists or victims to their ultimate fate.

The last factor, which may be the most counter intuitive is unrealism. Despite the graphic nature of recent horror films, we all know at some level that what we are watching is not real. Haidt, McCauley and Rozin conducted research on disgust, showing students in 1994 a series of gruesome documentary videos… few could make it to the end – and yet these same students would pay to see even worse acts conducted on a movie screen. Why? Perhaps its because when we walk into a theater we know what we’re seeing on screen is fabricated reality. Movies are edited from multiple camera angles with soundtracks and sometimes horror is tempered and made palatable with black humor – a sly wink that what you’re seeing on screen isn’t real. This also explains why we all remember that scary movie we saw when we were way too young but looks hokey now. Children have a harder time separating reality and fiction especially when its on a movie screen.

There’s much more to the article, including a brief summary of “8 incomplete theories on our attraction to horror.”

One eminent psychologist, Joseph LeDoux, a professor at NYU, has a particular interest in emotion and the brain and more specifically fear and the amygdala. Here’s the intro to a brief interview with him at Cognitive Neuroscience:

With Halloween around the corner, fear may be on your mind. As a basic emotion, fear develops when we react to an immediate danger.

Understanding exactly how our brains detect and respond to such danger has been a goal of Joseph LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science at New York University for much of his career. His pioneering work on “fear conditioning,” which he now calls “threat conditioning,” revealed the neurological pathways through which we react to threats.

This Pavlovian-type conditioning uses a neutral stimulus like an auditory tone at the same time as a painful event, and over time, this tone becomes associated with the discomfort and can trigger a fear response in the brain, specifically the amygdala. The neural processing in the amygdala causes chemical processes in the brain cells that lead to our natural defenses in the face of a threat – whether a spider or a robber.

LeDoux’s work has not only contributed to our understanding of these processes but also to ways we can work to overcome pathological fears, including through work on memory and fear.

Read the interview at the link. And here is an audio interview with LeDoux at ConstructingHorror.com.

died laughing

LeDoux told the LA Times in October 2013 that intense emotions like fear stimulate the brain.

Arousing situations, “whether joyful or frightful, juice up the brain,” says Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist and director of New York University’s Emotional Brain Institute and author of “The Emotional Brain.”

Horror movies energize the system: Hearts pump faster, blood pressure rises and dopamine releases, as does norepinephrine (which readies the body for flight-or-fight response) and endorphins (which kill pain), Fanselow says.

But experts agree that children’s brains are too vulnerable for scary movies.

And some adults are vulnerable too. “There have been case reports of people having stress symptoms after watching ‘The Exorcist,’ ” says Richard J. McNally, a Harvard psychology professor. “But these folks already had histories of mental disorders and thus were vulnerable.”

And many people want nothing to do with Halloween frights. “Genetics, epigenetics, upbringing and all the other individual experiences they’ve had probably all contribute,” LeDoux says. “It’s a matter of degree.”

Read more about the effects of horror on the brain at the LA Times link.

A few more horror links:

The Atlantic, Horror-Movie Marathon: The Brilliant, Not-So-Scary Classics.

The Atlantic, How Clowns Became Terrifying.

People Magazine, From It to American Horror Story: 13 of the Creepiest Clowns in Pop Culture History.

What Culture, 10 Best Horror Movies Of 2014 Ranked.

Rolling Stone, Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Horror Movies of All Time.

The Washington Post, The sums of all fear: Horror makes a Hollywood comeback.

The Verge, Check out this gorgeous limited edition art for 13 classic horror movies.

So . . . are you a horror fan? If so, what are your favorite horror movies and books? Why do you think you enjoy them? If you’re not a fan, why do you think that is?

Of course you should feel free to post links to real-life horrors or even good news stories if you can find them!