Thursday Reads: Allergies, French Attitude Adjustments, Neo-Nazi Homicide Update, and More


I’ve been saying for awhile now that my spring allergies this year are the worst I can remember. Apparently I haven’t been imagining things. From USA Today:

“Everyone always has a reason to think the current year is the worst year ever for allergies,” said Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of the allergy and immunology division at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

But this year those complaints really do have some merit, he added.

“It’s been a very unusual allergy season. I don’t know if it’s because of the very wet winter or that it’s been cold longer, but the pollen counts are much higher. This week, it’s been running about 6,000 grains a day, instead of the usual 1,500,” Rosenstreich said of his local area.

I knew it was really bad this year! The Chicago Tribune got the same story from different allergy experts.

“Allergy season came a bit sooner and faster, and that’s what took everyone by surprise,” said Dr. Sonali Majmudar, an allergist and immunologist based in Hoffman Estates, who said many of her patients report that they’ve never struggled with allergies before this season.


The choppy, indecisive early spring weather for which Chicago is known, with temperatures jumping between balmy and freezing every few days, might also be to blame, Majmudar said. When it warms up and cools down, pollination starts and stops and immune systems don’t know how to react, she said.

Also contributing: one of the rainiest Aprils on record. While that might be great for yard plants, it’s a big problem for people with allergies, said Dr. Joseph Leija.

That’s exactly how the weather has been here in the Boston area: cold one day, warm the next, then back to cold–and constant rain.

Leija, an allergist at Loyola University Health System’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, also called this the most severe allergy season he has seen in years.

Tree allergy season, which usually begins to wane by early May, is still going strong this year, said Leija, who provides pollen counts for the Midwest to the National Allergy Bureau.

Well at least I know I’m not completely crazy (just partly). According this article in USA Today, allergies are “on the rise” and ragweed is mostly responsible. Want to know if your city is one of the worst for ragweed? Here’s a list of the top 30 cities.

1 Phoenix
2 Las Vegas
3 Kansas City
4 Riverside-San Bernardino
5 Dallas
6 Chicago
7 Sacramento
8 Philadelphia
9 Denver
10 Washington, D.C. (tied)
10 Minneapolis/St. Paul (tied)
12 New York
13 Cincinnati
14 Baltimore
15 Cleveland
16 St. Louis (tied)
16 Detroit (tied)
18. Atlanta
19 Boston
20 Pittsburgh
21 Orlando
22 Los Angeles (tied)
22 San Antonio (tied)
24 Houston
25 Seattle
26 San Diego
27 Tampa
28 Portland
29 San Francisco
30 Miami

Weird. I always thought the southwest was good for allergy sufferers. And I can’t believe Indianapolis isn’t even on the list!

Researchers say the increase in allergies is related to climate change.

Apocalyptic images of global climate change include drought, rising sea levels, suffocating coral reefs and emaciated, drowning polar bears. But a new study points to some of the more immediate and mundane side effects of global warming: runny noses, itchy eyes and persistent coughs.

Researchers say allergies are on the rise, and it’s the result of warmer temperatures and happier allergens, like ragweed and mold.

It figures, doesn’t it? Another recent study found that men are more susceptible to allergies than women, which is the opposite of what many people have always assumed.

It appears that French women are becoming more cognizant of their rights to not be sexually harrassed. Now one of Sarkozy’s ministers has been accused of sexually harrassing and/or attacking two former employees.

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into sexual harassment accusations leveled against a junior minister by two women, one of whom said the arrest of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sex crime charges encouraged her to speak up.

The two women filed the complaints this week against George Tron, a minister in charge of the civil service in the center-right government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to their lawyer, Gilbert Collard.

Prosecutor Marie-Suzanne Le Queau told Reuters in response to a telephone query that a preliminary inquiry had been opened as a result of the accusations. “The inquiry will cover (suspected) counts of sexual assault and rape,” Le Queau said. All types of penetration can be classified as rape in France.

One of the women

said she was driven to break her silence after former IMF chief Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with attempted rape on the basis of the accusations of a New York hotel maid in a case that stunned France and the world.

“When I see that a little chambermaid is capable of taking on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I tell myself I do not have the right to stay silent,”

I don’t care for the “little chambermaid” reference, but I applaud the general spirit of what this woman had to say.

The Washington Post reports that the French are “questioning attitudes” about the sexual behavior of powerful men

The criminal charges prompted the media to revisit little-reported incidents in which Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexual aggressiveness that appeared to cross the line into harassment. Women have come forward with their own stories of unwanted approaches that they felt powerless to do anything about….

Feminists say that, to succeed in France, women in politics, business and the media have to put up with “heavy flirting” bordering on harassment.

One political TV talk show panel titled “The Return of the Feminists” asked: “Are we all chambermaids?’”

Prominent journalist Helene Jouan said last week that as a young reporter she had to put up with politicians “knocking on my hotel-room door” and sending unwanted text messages. She said the behavior made her uncomfortable, but it was something that was not really talked about.

There is a similar article at Bloomberg.

The arrest in New York of former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of attempted rape is forcing men to watch what they say and emboldening women to challenge the modern-day version of France’s “droit de cuissage,” a feudal practice giving masters the right to have sex with female servants. It’s prompting introspection in the media over whether its laissez-faire attitude toward private lives of those in power helps them act with impunity.

“Since power is often thought of as an aphrodisiac, there was a sort of acceptance of men’s excesses toward women,” said Rachel Mulot, a member of a feminist group called “La Barbe,” or The Beard, which on May 22 joined protests in Paris against the “dominant male.” The Strauss-Kahn case may serve as a trigger to help victims of sexual assaults to break the “taboo of rape” in France, she said.

I wanted to give you an update on the case of the 10-year-old boy who shot and killed his Neo-Nazi skinhead dad. I told you I thought it was highly likely that the father was abusing his kids. It turns out I was right. The guy was beating his wife too.

A 10-year-old boy charged with murdering his white supremacist father told investigators that he shot the man after growing tired of him hitting him and his stepmother, court documents showed on Wednesday.

In the hours after the shooting, the boy told investigators he thought Jeff Hall, 32, was cheating on his stepmother and that he might have to choose who to live with, according to a police declaration filed in Riverside County.

The blonde-haired boy from Southern California told investigators he went into his parents’ closet, pulled a revolver off a low shelf, went downstairs and aimed the gun at his father’s ear while he was asleep and shot him. He later hid the gun under his bed, according to court documents.

“It was right there on the shelf,” the boy told investigators, according to the police declaration filed Tuesday in support of an arrest warrant for his stepmother Krista McCary on nine felony charges of child endangerment and criminal storage of a gun.

Investigators also reported that the house was a pigsty and not a fit place to be raising five children, including a two-month old baby girl.

The tornado season is continuing in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and all over the midwest. Why are the tornadoes so bad this year? That’s the question this article in the Christian Science Monitor tries to answer.

Nearly 1,200 tornadoes have swarmed the United States this year, according to preliminary numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Four of these storms have been rated at the highest tornado strength, an EF-5. The death toll from these tornadoes has likely topped 500, a number not seen since 1953.

But why has this year seen so many and such devastating twisters? Scientists point to several large-scale climate factors, some of which have been at work behind the scenes since winter. And at least some of the mind-boggling tornado numbers, believe it or not, can be chalked up to humans — there are more of us around to see them.

The article offers a number of explanations–too much information to excerpt, so read the whole thing if you’re interested.

I’m going to finish with a couple of Obama-family-related stories First, there’s a sex scandal roiling the private elementary school that Malia Obama attended.

The father of a 5-year-old Sidwell Friends School student has filed a $10 million suit against the school for allegedly allowing its staff psychologist to carry on an affair with his wife.

In court filings, Arthur Newmyer claims he and his daughter suffered “severe emotional distress” when then-school psychologist James Huntington carried on a lengthy affair with his wife, Tara Newmyer. Huntington was treating Newmyer’s daughter at the time, and the suit alleges that the girl was routinely present when he and Tara Newmyer would meet to spend time together.

Arthur Newmyer is accusing Sidwell of being aware of the affair and doing “nothing to stop it.”

Finally, as everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows, the Obamas are touring Europe right now. Afrocity posted this photo on Facebook. I think she probably did it to make fun of Michelle Obama, but I really loved it. I just can’t help but like Michelle. I even like her outfits. Go ahead and yell at me for it. I don’t mind. So here’s the photo

I just love that picture! That woman is a good sport and doesn’t take herself too seriously. I like that. If she were President instead of her husband, I think we’d probably be a lot better off, as you can see below: President Obama talks over “God Save the Queen” and quotes Shakespeare inappropriately. What an embarrassment!

So…. what are you reading and blogging about this morning?

36 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Allergies, French Attitude Adjustments, Neo-Nazi Homicide Update, and More”

  1. fiscalliberal says:

    Interesting article at the Wall Street Journal with a lot of meat.

    It is about the Republicans reframing the debate. I would ask the question – do we know what the Democratic plan regarding Meicare. So far it is about throwing grandma off the cliff.

    No one in Washington is willing to address the serious erosion provided by military spending and Bush tax cuts. Yes – the Democrast mouth the words, but provide little in substance.

  2. fiscalliberal says:

    Krugman has a pretty interesting comment regarding Medicare, Ryan and the Media.

    Essentially Ryan was mistaken, but will recover before the election.

    I still come to the conclusion that the Republicans understand Media better than the Democrats

  3. fiscalliberal says:

    Pretty interesting article about Obama and Dick Lugar in Politico

    Obama has lost a ally .

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    BB, great info on the allergies. I knew it was really bad this time. And the ragweed… growing up in Tampa, that ragweed always seemed to be everywhere. You could see tuffs of it growing out of the cracks in the sidewalks and the corners of the streets. YUK!

    There was an article in Jezebel about the women in France becoming more vocal about the DSK rape. I am glad that at least it is getting more play in the media. (And that little chambermaid comment bothered me too.)

    As far as Michelle is concerned, she does not have that narcissistic personality like Barry does. She is growing on me…but it isn’t like when Bill Clinton was running, and that first feeling I had about Hillary Clinton…even before I knew anything about her.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Oh, and that picture says a lot. Check out the way Barack Obama is looking at the Queen. He is giving her that Obama signature expression. The one where he appears to be thinking, I’d rather be golfing.

    • I liked Michelle Obama the first time I saw her… it wasn’t until the ’08 primaries and the snide way she campaigned against Hillary that she turned me off. But after that I went back to liking her. I’ve not forgotten, but I guess, I just understand. These women all campaign the best they know how for their husbands. It’s a shame because while in Hillary’s case, she and Bill actually are equals, in Michelle’s case, I’ve always thought she’s more talented than Barack… better speaker, smarter, warm, connects better with people. He’d have never won without her.

      • And it doesn’t really matter, but I still don’t care for a lot of madeover Michelle’s outfits though. Something about them always seems artificial. I think she actually looks her most natural and beautiful in a commencement speaker robe.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I haven’t forgotten either. I guess I just have some empathy for her–narcissistic, unfeeling husband and getting dumped on from all sides. She’s not a real leader like Hillary, but I like the way Michelle goes her own way with clothes and style.

      • Pilgrim says:

        I’m one who’s not in the least into Michelle Obama, but I do agree that picture of her is a delight. She’s quite fetching, really, and never a better smile, like she’s laughing at the hilarity of the whole thing.

        I saw the cringe-inducing toast. God, it was painful.

      • Branjor says:

        That picture of Michelle really highlights the ridiculous, unprotective and potentially humiliating character of women’s (but not men’s) mandatory clothing. It’s lucky Michelle is a good sport – she’ll need it between that and having to sublimate her own talents to those of her much less gifted husband.

      • joanelle says:

        There’s a picture I saw of them in England recently where she is looking at him and the expression on her face makes her look as though she’s thinking “I told you we could do this – and kept saying ‘it’s too hard’ – suck it up!”

      • Seriously says:

        I have a love/hate thing. I hate the campaign bs, which I blame her for, and I hate how she’s being forced to take on a public role but keep it within these 1950’s “mommy and garden” perameters, which I really don’t blame her for. Mostly I feel sorry for her having to endure all the scrutiny and sexist bs for a thankless, unelected role she probably doesn’t want. And I like the fact that she can get away with walking around like somebody’s eccentric aunt wearing all of these wacky ensembles, not only get away with it but be treated as a fashion icon. Yeah, I’m aware that any other FL who wore ridiculous clothes would still be crucified for it, and I know she only gets a pass as part of the “All she fills her pretty little head with is FASHION! Just what we like to see, a woman who knows her place!” throwback narrative, but she’s so obviously in on the joke that it makes me laugh. God, Mr. Hip looks so awkward and dorky in that photo.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m highly allergic to ragweed and it’s the state flower of Nebraska. Some how that made complete karmic sense to me as a kid.

  5. janicen says:

    Re allergies, my MIL read somewhere that another contributing factor to increasing allergy suffering is that people are using non fruit bearing trees for landscaping, because they want the pretty, flowering trees, but they don’t want to deal with the fruit which can be messy and attract rodents. She said the male trees produce great quantities of pollen when they flower.

    Re the fact that more women are now coming out about their own experiences with harassment seems to connect with your previous post on this subject, BB. Finally, a rape case was handled properly, and women are seeing that the victim was treated with respect, and they are willing to take a chance and come forward with their own horror stories. I am cautiously optimistic that this could be the beginning of a sea change in the way harassment and rape victims are treated. Could this be the beginning of a Victims’ Spring?

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s an interesting point about fruit trees. I had never thought about that.

      I hope there will be positive change in the treatment of rape and sexual assault charges. It sounds like French women had been beaten down for a long time on this.

      I still expect the woman to get the crap kicked out of her by Strauss-Kahn’s defense team–if they don’t manage to buy her off. So far the NYPD is keeping her away from them, but they already tried to buy off her relatives in Africa–unsuccessfully so far.

    • Branjor says:

      Oh heavens, I’m not supposed to talk about sexism so much, but this is simply irresistable! That’s why everyone’s allergies are so terrible this year, sexism in landscaping choices – male trees yes, female trees no, LOL! I had my first inkling of “tree sexism” my freshman year in college when my male botany teacher informed the class that nobody wanted female gingko trees because “the things stink.” Years later, I lived next door to a house with a female gingko in the yard and was puzzled as to why there was no stink. Picking up one of the fruits which fell from the tree in the fall, I sniffed at it and discovered that it did indeed have a very unpleasant smell. But you have to put it right up to your nose to smell it, the tree does not stink. This gingko lived happily in my neighbors’ yard until its death last year.
      Anyway, good point , janicen.

  6. grayslady says:

    This has been the most bizarre spring weather I can remember. I actually have the heat on because the outside temperature is 44 degrees right now, with an expected high for the day of 49 degrees. By Sunday, the temperature is supposed to be in the 80’s.

    I did a post on my blog the other day on Growing Degree Days as an indicator of general weather conditions, and, here in the Midwest, we are at half the norm for GDDs–an unusually cold spring. You’re doing better in Boston, BB: Boston is above the norm for GDDs, although last year it was at twice the norm for May 26–a really warm spring.

    The only solution I’ve ever found to work for allergies is a Honeywell electronic air filter. I’ve had one in my homes for 30 years now, and it was the first change I made to the house when I moved here 10 years ago. Doesn’t help when you have to be out and about, but at least there’s some relief when you’re home.

  7. okasha says:

    The southwest is good for certain allergies–less mold, for instance, because it’s dry. But Texas has some of the worst pollens. Beginning in late December, mountain cedar (Ashe juniper) blows down on everything south of the Hill Country. In March, live oak and ash start in the southern part of the state and move north as it warms. Next comes pecan. Right now it’s ragweed. Giant ragweed grows profusely along the Gulf coast and travels on the prevailing southerly winds. So we have that in addition to the local small variety. Pigweed will set in next month, along with grasses.

  8. paper doll says:

    Great round up and thanks for updates! It’s good to get more of a story besides its 24 hour everywhere playing and then nothing

    I see what you mean by the reference to “a little chambermaid” …but I think the fact that someone in the “little” social position of a maid said no and is being quite successful in that is causing shock waves ( good ones ) in France. The fact she was a maid, it’s like a cultural sound bite and a new base point of action . EVEN a maid can say “non!” …the idea seems totally and startling new to them…a man and a maid….well we have seen THAT story since there was maids….and so rarely is the maid not crushed when she says no. It’s interesting Arnold’s story is current at the same time

  9. paper doll says:

    About MO…so it can be said they are like the GOP in this way as well? That is, the wife is way more likeable? lol!

  10. dakinikat says:

    Dems Say McHenry Owes Warren An Apology Over ‘False Accusations’

    • paper doll says:

      nice to see them fighting for her…not just an apology either….god knows what her legal fees are already…where’s the WH? ( a rhetorical question of course )

  11. Beata says:

    A few weeks ago, Sky Dancers had a post about Steven Tyler and his underage girlfriend during the 1970’s. Her name was Julia Holcomb. Several people, including me, wondered what ever happened to Julia. She has written her side of the story on an anti-abortion site. I am pro-choice, but I am posting the link without making any comments about it, since it is Julia’s story.

    • Branjor says:

      That story is actually a good argument for the pro choice side. Julia Holcomb never wanted the abortion, only Steven Tyler did. And then she suffered for having had it. Too bad Julia doesn’t understand the lesson of her own life.

    • dakinikat says:

      Here’s a new creepy one. This guy 35 years old put up a billboard denouncing his under 21 year old girl friend and naming her for ‘aborting’ his baby. Only he doesn’t know if she miscarried or had an abortion.

      Fultz said he would only state that Nani is under the age of 21.

      “She was of legal age and consenting.” he said. “I have contacted my congressman and representative about a new bill … and lobby to get started on fathers’ rights. It’s my belief that fathers should have a say regarding pregnancy. Women have all the power when it comes to pregnancy. The men get no say when a woman wants to go and have an abortion without the say of the father. I believe that is wrong because men are 50 percent of the result of the pregnancy. They should have an equal right to their unborn child and decisions regarding it.”

      • dakinikat says:

        here comes more women as men’s chattel and breeding live stock bill

      • Branjor says:

        The man must be stupid. He says women have all the power when it comes to pregnancy, but he doesn’t mention that women also have all of the physical risk and pain. Either that or he just doesn’t care, most likely the latter.

  12. madamab says:

    My allergies have been HORRENDOUS this year. I started in January and am still suffering. It is good to know that I am not totally crazy!

    And my state is 12th for ragweed. LOLSOB.

    I have to admit that I like Michelle WAY more than I like Barack Obama. Always have. I really liked her when I first saw her, with her hair slicked back in a ponytail, wearing a simple black turtleneck and black slacks.

    I do not like a lot of things about her, but if I had my druthers, she would have been on the ticket instead of her husband. Wow, Hillary-Michelle in 2008…what a combination that would have been! Take that, Tweety!