Friday Reads: The Word for Today is “Surreality”

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Good Morning!!

I’ve been browsing around the internet this morning, and all I can find is really surreal news. The Obamacare “fumble” or “botch” or “mess” or whatever else the pundits decide to call it is still the top story today; and it looks like President Obama could be in for an even worse day than yesterday. He must be glad it’s Friday. All the usual suspects are weighing in on the “problem” and of course Republicans are gloating.

Reuters summarizes Obama’s very bad Thursday: An apologetic Obama unveils fix on health law.

President Barack Obama on Thursday tried to ease the biggest crisis of his presidency, acknowledging missteps with his signature healthcare law and announcing a plan to help those seeing their current health plans canceled because of it.

Obama, trying to limit the political damage to his presidency and fellow Democrats, said health insurers could extend by at least one year policies due to be canceled because they do not comply with new minimum requirements under the law.

With insurers complaining the fix could create new problems and lead to higher premiums, it was not clear whether Obama’s plan would actually work, or soothe his party’s concerns that the botched rollout has undercut Democrats facing tough re-election fights in 2014.

A chastened Obama said he had “fumbled” the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, his biggest domestic policy achievement, and said he would have to work to regain his credibility and the public’s trust.

Also from Reuters: Obama to meet with insurers Friday on Obamacare fix.

The meeting comes a day after the president, under fire for the botched rollout of his top domestic policy achievement, announced he would allow individuals to keep insurance policies that were being canceled under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare….

Insurers and state regulators say that Obama’s fix for policies canceled under the law will create new problems for the industry and could lead to an increase in premiums.

The change, which Obama announced under growing pressure from lawmakers from his Democratic Party, would allow policies that do not meet Obamacare’s standards to be renewed anyway.

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From WaPo’s The Fix: ‘Keep Your Health Plan Act’ spells trouble for dozens of Democrats.

Intense focus on the early troubles of the Affordable Care Act already makes this a no good, very bad week for congressional Democrats, who are torn between supporting the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration, but eager to be seen doing something to address significant concerns with the law….

At issue is the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that supporters believe would fulfill President Obama’s now-broken promise to let people keep their current health insurance plan if they like it.

Under the Upton proposal, anyone opting to keep their current plan wouldn’t face financial penalties established by the law. And the measure would allow insurers to sell their minimal plans to new customers. The bill is expected to pass easily in the GOP-controlled House.

Most Democrats believe that the Upton bill would fundamentally gut the ACA by allowing plans not compliant with the new law to continue. They believe that the administrative fixes announced by Obama Thursday will work, or are supporting a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would let people keep their current health-care plans for the next year and require insurers to provide information on new plans that meet the law’s stricter requirements.

Chris Cillizza, also at The Fix, doesn’t think any of this is going to help Republicans much in 2014; Todd Purdum at Politico spanks Obama unmercifully, but at the end of his lengthy piece admits:

It is true that public support for many of the law’s crucial components — a ban on lifetime limits on health coverage; an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; extended coverage for dependent children; improvements to Medicare — have always exceeded support for the law itself. White House officials take pains to note that those provisions are now beginning to take effect — on time, as planned.

Most state-run insurance exchanges are working far better than the federal website — which the administration was forced to make as big as it is only because some three dozen states with recalcitrant Republican governors declined to create their own exchanges as envisioned. And lest anyone forget, the old health insurance system was not so hot.

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Of course Chuck Todd is thrilled, and he went on Morning Joe this morning to dance on Obama’s grave. From Mediaite:

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday that the problematic roll-out of the Affordable Care Act represents an all-time political low for President Barack Obama. He said that the president’s press conference on Thursday was aimed more at Democrats in an attempt to keep them from abandoning him or his signature achievement.

“It seemed like he was trying to offer his party – the Democratic Party – and, basically, all the panicked Democrats on Capitol Hill a pound of flesh so that they don’t vote for these other bills,” Todd said of the bills circulating in the House and Senate that would allow those who have lost their health plans to keep them indefinitely….

“I talked to one of the old guard in Obama-land who said they’ve never seen that in private from him,” Todd added. “This is a moment that he hasn’t experienced in national politics before, is the impression that I was being given.”

“This clearly is the low of his presidency politically right now,” the NBC News reporter continues. “We obviously see it in the polls, but just the way he feels, his ability to lead the party, or, frankly, hope that the party doesn’t abandon him right now in this moment.”

You can just imagine how happy Karl Rove and The Wall Street Journal are about the Obamacare troubles.

I’ll spare you excerpts from those columns and refer you to Jonthan Chait: Conservatives Confident America Rejecting Obamacare, Ready for Every-Man-for-Himself Care.

The keep-your-plan fiasco, in addition to flummoxing Democrats, has not only held out to Republicans the tantalizing prospect that they can discredit and defeat Obamacare, but also drawn into sympathetic focus their own alternative vision.

Here is the basic ideological division. Obama wants the health-care system to do more to pool risk — which is to say, to shift the burden of covering the sick onto the healthy. Republicans want it to do less to pool risk, so that healthy people can be free of the burden of subsidizing the costs of those less medically fortunate.

The small portion of the populace that lies outside of either employer-based or direct government coverage provides the closest existing model for the health-care system conservatives favor. The minority within this market who have insurance, and are losing their plans as a result of regulations preventing insurers from excluding the sick, have dominated public attention and formed what conservatives imagine will be a constituency for their own brand of counter-reform: a deregulated market where healthy people can buy cheap, bare-bones plans, and sicker people have to pay large out-of-pocket costs. Obamacare’s torturous birth pangs have convinced giddy conservatives that they are on the cusp of a great ideological victory.

Read the rest at the New York Magazine link above.

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I’ll wrap up this section of my post with the most surreal Obamacare story I could find: Michele Bachmann: I lost my insurance:

Rep. Michele Bachmann says she is one of the people who lost their health insurance because of Obamacare and she won’t go shopping on a health exchange until it’s fixed.

“Are you kidding? I’m not going to waste an hour on that thing,” the Minnesota Republican said when Wolf Blitzer asked her on CNN on Thursday if she’d signed up on the exchange website. “I lost my health insurance under Obamacare. And so now I’m forced to go into the D.C. health exchange. I’m waiting until they fix this thing. I’m not going to sit there and frustrate myself for hours and hours.”

Don’t members of House have their own insurance plan? Did the rest of the House get their plans cancelled too?

Bachmann did not explain what about Obamacare caused her to lose her health insurance. The health law technically requires congressional staff go on the D.C. exchange, but it’s up to the individual congressional office to determine who qualifies as “official office” staff, so many Republicans have placed their aides on the exchange while Democrats have been split.

At the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca explains to Bachmann how to sign up for health insurance at the DC exchange, which is running quite smoothly, thank you very much.

I’ve run on way too long about the Obamacare story, but I haven’t been paying close attention to it and I needed to bring myself up to speed. I hope I didn’t bore the rest of you!

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Now let’s look at someone who really has a health care problem. Gawker reports on a woman with stage 4 breast cancer and the vile treatment she has been getting from her daughter’s school because of it (emphasis added).

An Albuquerque mother says her daughter’s elementary school principal banned her from school grounds for the way she smells. Kerri Mascareno was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in August, and while she’s undergoing chemotherapy to shrink her tumor, she’s also struggling with the administration at Tierra Antigua Elementary.

According to Mascareno, the school’s principal, Robert Abney, told her last week that she could no longer visit the school:

“He just said he knows this is going to hurt my feelings and he understands where I’m coming from because his mother had breast cancer and she had the same exact smell and I can no longer be in the school and that with me being in the school that I made his employees ill,” she said.

She claims that when she moved outside, the principal went to his window and told her to move farther away. “He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window,” Mascareno said.

Calling Dr. Freud! Robert Abney needs psychological treatment STAT! Men with Oedipal complexes should not be in charge of running schools. I hope Kerri Mascareno sues and gets a million-dollar payday so she can leave the money to her children.

Yesterday I wrote about two Secret Service agents who have been removed from President Obama’s security detail. Today the WaPo reports that there have been complaints about misconduct by Secret Service agents in 17 countries!

Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years, according to accounts given by whistleblowers to the Senate committee that oversees the department.

Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), ranking Republican on a Homeland Security subcommittee, said Thursday that the accounts directly contradict repeated assertions by Secret Service leaders that the elite agency does not foster or tolerate sexually improper behavior.

And get this:

Johnson said that one of those disciplined supervisors, Ignacio Zamora Jr., had helped lead the internal investigation into the April 2012 incident in Cartagena, where more than a dozen agents engaged in a night of heavy drinking and carousing with prostitutes ahead of a presidential visit.

One person involved in security in Cartagena said Zamora was chosen for the review because he served as the “second supervisor” on the trip, and was among the managers responsible for the security effort in advance of Obama’s arrival for an international summit.

Zamora is the agent who was disciplined for trying to break into a woman’s hotel room to retrieve a bullet he had left there.

Finally, once again I want to call your attention to a McClatchy article that RalphB linked to yesterday: Questions about ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi story go beyond Dylan Davies interview; CBS conducting ‘journalistic review’. It’s long, but it is a must read. The writer, Nancy A. Youseff, goes through Lara Logan’s “60 Minutes” report line by line and finds numerous outright lies and distortions. Logan and anyone else involved with the story should be fired immediately and Logan should apply for a job at Fox News.

So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Sunday Reads: Pardons and Prozac

Good Sunday Morning

I hope your weekend has been a happy one.

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

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

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

Picture by Green Renaissance, click photo for link.

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

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

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

Pardons board grants clemency to condemned Ga. man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here is more background for you:

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

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

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

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

“…drug-crazed transgression.”

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

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

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

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

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

Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh…

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Science and History of Treating Depression -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I urge you to read the entire piece.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally…

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

RELATED TIBETAN SCRIPTS: Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial

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

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

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


Tuesday Reads: More Caucuses and a Beauty Contest; Dems Support Anti-Union Bill; and Protecting Children vs. Parents’ Rights

Good Morning!!

There are four more Republican caucuses and one “primary” coming up this week. Tomorrow, Minnesota and Colorado will hold caucuses and Missouri has a beauty contest, a non-binding primary (actual delegates will be apportioned by the Missouri Republican party on March 17). Maine holds it’s caucuses on Saturday. After that, we get a two-week respite with no primaries. Won’t that be great?

Right now, Rick Santorum is leading in the polls in Minnesota, and Mitt Romney has wasted no time in turning his mean-spirited attacks on the new upstart. Wall Street Journal:

In a radio interview in Minnesota on Monday, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Santorum for voting to raise the country’s borrowing limit, allowing earmark spending to proliferate and letting government spending explode.

“His approach was not effective and, frankly, I happen to believe if we’re going to change Washington we can’t just keep on sending the same people there in different chairs,” he said in an interview on WCCO.

The Romney camp also circulated a research memo to challenge Mr. Santorum’s contention that Mr. Romney imposed a “top-down, government-run” health-care system in Massachusetts that led to higher costs and longer wait times. For good measure, the Romney team rereleased Mr. Santorum’s endorsement of Mr. Romney in the 2008 race.

Romney is currently leading in Colorado, but there are suggestions that Santorum could do well there too–maybe even take first place. From CNN:

Could Rick Santorum pull off a surprise victory in this week’s caucuses? Newt Gingrich thinks so.

“I think that Santorum’s going to have a pretty good day tomorrow and he will have earned it. He targeted differently than I did,” Gingrich told reporters gathered outside an energy forum in Golden, Colorado….

Speaking to reporters after the same forum, Santorum opted against setting any expectations for the caucuses. But he questioned Mitt Romney’s ability to close the deal with Republican voters, noting the former Massachusetts governor has failed to attract as many voters as he did in 2008 in some previous contests.

“He’s underperformed from four years ago. And I suspect he will again,” Santorum said about Tuesday’s caucuses.

According to USA Today:

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has spent the past few days shuttling among Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado hoping that a good showing in one or all Tuesday would show the conservative electorate was not solidly behind former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

“Our hope is conservatives are stepping back and looking at the race and making the same calculations that I’ve just made that a Romney nomination will not be in the best interest of us winning the general election,” Santorum told reporters here Monday. “We need to have a conservative alternative and my feeling is that Speaker Gingrich has sort of had his chance in the arena and came up short in Florida and Nevada, and now it’s our turn.”

Santorum has spent a great deal of time in Missouri while the other candidates were competing in Nevada. He apparently thinks the “show me” state will help him launch a comeback in the race.

Tomorrow’s primary in Missouri is the staging ground for Rick Santorum’s latest campaign message—that he is the real conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and that he is the person who can best compete with Barack Obama.

A win in Missouri would be absolutely crucial in keeping Santorum’s campaign afloat. His chances look good there because Newt Gingrich—whose campaign has been plagued by logistical missteps such as failing to get on the ballot in Virginia—decided not to sign up for tomorrow’s primary.

Unfortunately for Santorum, a win won’t get him any delegates.

Yesterday, Democrats in the Senate joined their right-wing colleagues in passing an anti-union FAA bill.

The Senate passed a Federal Aviation Administration bill on Monday that includes an anti-union measure bitterly opposed by labor groups.

The bill, which modernizes America’s air traffic control system and funds the FAA through 2014, was fought over for four years, leading to a partial shutdown of the FAA last summer because of anti-union measures added by the Republican-controlled House.

It passed 75 to 20, with a majority of Democrats backing it.

Among the controversial provisions were changes to labor law for rail and airline workers — backed by the airline industry — that would count anyone who did not vote in an election for a union as voting against it, making it much more difficult to certify attempts to organize new unions.

What’s the point of voting for Democrats if they’re no different from Republicans?

Braden and Charlie Powell

This story makes me so sad that I had to share it with you. It demonstrates one of the worst thing about U.S. family courts–they care more about parents rights than they do children’s safety and well-being. Yesterday, the husband of a missing Utah woman, Susan Powell, committed suicide and chose to take his two sons along with him.

The deaths of a Washington man and his two sons in what authorities believe was a murder-suicide may mean the 2009 disappearance of the children’s mother may never be solved.

Josh Powell, a suspect in the disappearance of Susan Cox-Powell, died Sunday along with his two sons, 5-year-old Braden and 7-year-old Charlie, in what police believe was an intentionally set fire in Powell’s Puyallup, Washington, home.

It was a tragic development in a puzzling case that began two years ago in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley City, Utah, when Susan Cox-Powell, 28, went missing.

Josh Powell was never charged in her disappearance, and was embroiled in a bitter custody dispute with his wife’s parents.

Why was this man allowed access to his children? If the court believed he had the right to see them, why not arrange for the meeting to take place in a neutral location? Not only was this man a strong suspect in the murder of the children’s mother, but also he had allowed the boys to live with his father who was arrested awhile ago for possession of child pornography. The arrest led to Powell’s in-laws getting custody of the two boys. Powell apparently had been planning the murder suicide for some time.

Authorities say Josh Powell planned the deadly house fire that killed him and his young sons for some time, dropping toys at charities and sending final emails to multiple acquaintances.

Powell, the husband of missing Utah woman Susan Powell, died along with his children Sunday.

Authorities say they found 10 gallons of gasoline inside the home. A five-gallon can was spread throughout the house and used as an accelerant in the huge blaze. Another can was found by the bodies.

They say Josh Powell did send longer emails to some people, including his cousin and pastor, with instructions such as where to find his money and how to shut off his utilities

The motive for killing the boys might have been the fact that once they were away from their father, they began talking about the night their mom disappeared.

The children of missing woman Susan Cox Powell have said for years that “Mommy’s in the mine,” an attorney representing the Cox family said on Monday….adding the boys mentioned their mother may have been looking for crystals in the mine.

Another lawyer representing the Cox family said the children had started talking to their grandparents about things they remembered from the night their mother vanished.

“They were beginning to verbalize more,” said attorney Steve Downing. “The oldest boy talked about that they went camping and that Mommy was in the trunk. Mom and Dad got out of the car and Mom disappeared.”

The attorney said Charlie Powell drew a disturbing picture as a part of a school assignment several months ago. The drawing depicted the boy’s father driving the van with Charlie and Braden sitting in the backseat, and their mother in the trunk.

“There was a subsequent question with regard to, ‘Why is your mother in the trunk?’ And his response was simply that he didn’t know, but his mother and father had gotten out of the van, and his mother then got lost,” said Downing.

So why was the man allowed access to his children? A psychologist quoted in an article in the Christian Science Monitor seems troubled by the decision.

Joy Silberg, a psychologist who specializes in child protection and abuse cases, says courts often place more value on parental rights than a child’s safety – or see them as equal concerns, when in her view, the parental rights should be secondary.

“I have situations where the child has disclosed very clear disclosures about a parent, or terror at being near a parent … and the judge still orders a child to go [to visitation] because the parental right is seen as having so much more power,” says Dr. Silberg.

While she doesn’t know all the facts of the Powell case, she adds, “it’s hard for me to believe that this was completely out of the blue and that no one knew he was this destructive. People usually leave clues.”

In fact, Powell was named a “person of interest” by the authorities when his wife, Susan Cox-Powell, disappeared two years ago. But he was never officially charged with any crime, and no details have ever been made public linking him with the case.

I don’t like to end with an utterly heartbreaking story like that, so I’ll add this one from The Daily Beast on Nancy Brinker and her really really bad decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Apparently Brinker is real meanie when it comes to competition with other groups raising funds for breast cancer.

“Komen plays hardball and is determined to stay on top,” says a member of another cancer organization, who declined to be identified. “Let’s be honest about all this: people think of breast cancer as a charity, but it’s really a major business.”

I’m going to keep that in mind the next time I get a request for funds for breast cancer. I’ll especially want to find out what each group’s attitude is toward women’s autonomy. More from the article:

…in the early ’80s, she [Nancy] met and married multimillionaire restaurateur Norman Brinker, a major Republican donor. He had previously been married to Grand Slam tennis star Maureen “Little Mo” Connnelly, who had died from ovarian cancer.
When they tied the knot, the union provided Nancy with a network of A-list political connections and friends, plus the funds to lead a luxurious lifestyle and create the Komen Foundation, now the Susan G. Komen for the Cure with affiliates in 170 communities in 50 nations. (Interesting note: the largest Race for the Cure, a three-day run, is held in Rome, Italy.)

In 1993 Norman Brinker suffered severe head injuries during a polo match and remained on crutches for the rest of his life. Several years later the couple divorced and with a hefty settlement, formidable drive, and her chum George W. Bush in the White House, Nancy was ready to step onto the world stage. First the [resident appointed her ambassador to Hungary and then U.S. chief of protocol.

Did Nancy dump her rich hubby because his health problems were a pain in the a$$. Inquiring minds want to know. There’s more gossipy stuff in the article if you’re interested.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Rick Santorum Claims that Abortion is Associated with Breast Cancer

Lying fetus fetishist Rick Santorum

This morning on Fox News Sunday, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination told interviewer Chris Wallace that he disagreed with the Komen Foundation’s reversal on funding Planned Parenthood, because abortion may cause breast cancer. As quoted at Raw Story:

“I’ve taken the position as a presidential candidate and someone in Congress that Planned Parenthood funds and does abortions,” Santorum explained. “They’re a private organization they stand up and support what ever they want.”

I don’t believe that breast cancer research is advanced by funding an organization where you’ve seen ties to cancer and abortion,” he added. “So, I don’t think it’s a particularly healthy way of contributing money to further cause of breast cancer, but that’s for a private organization like Susan B. Komen to make that decision.”

That is complete bulls**t. From Raw Story:

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the several small flawed studies that suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer have been disproven.

“Since then, better-designed studies have been conducted,” the institute’s website said. “These newer studies examined large numbers of women, collected data before breast cancer was found, and gathered medical history information from medical records rather than simply from self-reports, thereby generating more reliable findings. The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.”

In 2002, according to the article in Raw Story, the Bush administration

temporarily altered NCI’s website to say that scientific evidence supported a possible link between abortion and breast cancer. After an outcry from the scientific community, NCI corrected its website with an accurate fact sheet.

A study released by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (PDF) in 2006 found that the Bush administration also used pregnancy resource centers — commonly known as “crisis pregnancy centers” — to falsely inform pregnant teens that the risk of breast cancer increased by 80 percent after an abortion.

Santorum also gave the following quote to Politico writer Juana Summers:

“I’m very disappointed to hear that…It’s unfortunate that public pressure builds to provide money to an organization that goes out and actively is the No. 1 abortion provider in the country. That’s not healthcare. That’s not healthcare at all. Killing little children in the womb is not healthcare. It’s very disappointing that Susan G. Komen would continue to do that, which is a great organization that talks about saving lives, not about ending lives.”

Rick Santorum and his fellow candidates need to STFU. I think it’s time for a Constitutional amendment that says that no man can interfere in womens’ health decisions.


Wednesday Reads: Pink is for Pussies and PLUBs

That title may get me in trouble…

Good Morning!

You all have heard the latest in the ongoing struggle for women’s reproductive health and rights, it seems that Susan G. Komen for a Cure has put the screws to women who count on the breast cancer screening programs Komen has provided through Planned Parenthood. It is disgusting that a foundation would bow to the religious right and deny any woman, and mind you…mostly low income/poor women at that, a chance to get cancer screenings.

Wow, just in time too…the Super Bowl is coming up , and wasn’t Pink given a big push from the NFL this season. Yeah, I did notice the guys stopped wearing the Pink colors after the first few games. But now let’s see what color socks the New England Patriots and NY Jets will be wearing on Sunday…

Maybe I am just being cynical, but WTF? Top cancer foundation decides to cut ties with Planned Parenthood – The Hill’s Healthwatch

A prominent cancer-treatment foundation is ending its work with Planned Parenthood, a decision Planned Parenthood called “deeply disturbing and disappointing.”

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has broken off a partnership through which it provided cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. Planned Parenthood blamed the political controversy over abortion rights.

“We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure. Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Planned Parenthood said its clinics provided about 4 million screenings for breast cancer over the past five years, roughly 170,000 of which were supported by Komen grants.

It truly is a sad thing to see the way these religious Republican nitwits are winning this war against women. Why Komen defunded Planned Parenthood – The Washington Post

According to the AP, the move will mean “a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.”Planned Parenthood confirms that Komen is the first, and only, organization to cut off funding since the Congress began debating the issue in earnest last winter.

Komen said it could not continue to fund Planned Parenthood because it has adopted new guidelines that bar it from funding organizations under congressional investigation. The House oversight and investigations subcommittee announced in the fall an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s funding.

Planned Parenthood has been at the center of a lot of heated political battles lately. Most center on whether the group, as an abortion provider, should receive government funds for other services it provides, such as offering contraceptives and preventive screenings.

Will it ever end?

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