Monday Reads: That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more.

I’m dealing with the death of my cousin Ruthie who was closest to me in age and always put in charge of me when I was little in our nearly weekly visits to Kansas City. She died yesterday of ALS which is a disease that is horrid beyond measure and requires a lot of further research to unwind. Death is natural and inevitable but we should be able to find ways of better dealing with horrifying deadly diseases. While the Trump budget is finding ways to give the extremely wealthy more tax cuts and fund more military publicity stunts, its priorities are shameful when it comes to the CDC, funding basic scientific and medical research, and anything that has to do with making medical help available to people that truly need it. 

President Donald Trump’s plan to cut billions of dollars in funding to medical and scientific research agencies would cost the country countless jobs, stall medical advances and threaten America’s status as the world leader in science and medicine, advocates said Thursday.

“Cutting the funding in this way will have devastating and generation-long effects,” said Dr. Clifford Hudis, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents cancer specialists.

“[Medical research] is a fundamental driver of American economic strength and it is being compromised here,” Hudis told NBC News. “It’s a jobs program.”

Multiple organizations expressed shock and disappointment at Trump’s budget proposal, which adds $54 billion in defense spending but would slash nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, which funds most basic medical research in the country, as well as eliminate entirely dozens of other agencies and programs.

It would cut the overall Health and Human Services department budget by 18 percent, including the 20 percent budget reduction at NIH, and reassign money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to states.

Most cancer drugs get their start in the basic research funded by the NIH and often done in NIH labs.

“The targeted therapies, the immunotherapies, the conventional chemotherapy drugs — all of these things have roots in the NIH,” Hudis said.

Meanwhile, Team Gleason–including some friends of mine hoping to raise funds to find an ALS cure–is running in the Crescent City Classic this weekend in a subevent called the Race for Team Gleason.  My cousin was active in events raising funds for ALS Research.  (My friends Cait and Caroline are running in Ruthie’s honor this Saturday!  You can get to the donation page here. All proceeds to go Steve Gleason’s ALS efforts!)

Why do we have to have fundraisers for everything but freaking war in this country?

So, I’ve been crying last night and today. Ruthie paved the way for lots of stuff for me.   Just as she helped me spend nights away from home in her bedroom and big girl twin beds, she introduced me to Pet Sounds and using juice cans for hair rollers. She got a great job in high school at the local mall at a dress store.  I got to visit her at work in all her blue eye shadow, page boy hair, and A-line dress glory and was totally awed.  The idea of working during school was a total scandal to my mother and she went on about it for weeks.  I’m not sure what exactly passed between then and me 5 years later but my mother had no problem with me working at the local dress store at the local mall when I hit sweet 16.

There are so many people in our lives that should’t die of ALS or many currently deadly diseases. As a country, we’ve had priorities to get rid of tuberculosis and polio, and make AIDS a chronic disease and not a death sentence.  With money and research, we get it done.  I decided to write about Ruthie and her struggle with ALS in light of many things. Least among them is this.

The Trump administration has failed to fill crucial public health positions across the government, leaving the nation ill-prepared to face one of its greatest potential threats: a pandemic outbreak of a deadly infectious disease, according to experts in health and national security.

No one knows where or when the next outbreak will occur, but health security experts say it is inevitable. Every president since Ronald Reagan has faced threats from infectious diseases, and the number of outbreaks is on the rise.

Over the past three years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has monitored more than 300 outbreaks in 160 countries, tracking 37 dangerous pathogens in 2016 alone. Infectious diseases cause about 15 percent of all deaths worldwide.

But after 11 weeks in office, the Trump administration has filled few of the senior positions critical to responding to an outbreak. There is no permanent director at the CDC or at the US Agency for International Development. At the Department of Health and Human Services, no one has been named to fill sub-Cabinet posts for health, global affairs, or preparedness and response. It’s also unclear whether the National Security Council will assume the same leadership on the issue as it did under President Barack Obama, according to public health experts.

This administration has time for golf galore.  It has time to sign executive orders decimating equal pay for women and the rights of GLBT to be free from discrimination, and to demand ways government can be shredded to bits so the planet is essentially made uninhabitable.  It has time for costly publicity stunts to remove public attention and press attention from its never growing list of scandals and conflicts of interest.  It has no time for governing or policy for American people.

In other words, showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to last week’s missile strike on Syria.

The attack instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration. Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with screaming headlines about the president’s toughness and footage of Tomahawk launches.

But outside its effect on the news cycle, how much did the strike actually accomplish? A few hours after the attack, Syrian warplanes were taking off from the same airfield, and airstrikes resumed on the town where use of poison gas provoked Mr. Trump into action. No doubt the Assad forces took some real losses, but there’s no reason to believe that a one-time action will have any effect on the course of Syria’s civil war.

In fact, if last week’s action was the end of the story, the eventual effect may well be to strengthen the Assad regime — Look, they stood up to a superpower! — and weaken American credibility.

In fact, all Trump minions appear to have a thing against science and improving the lives of people and the justice for which we stand.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.

In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.

A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said.

I’ve long reached the “PopEye Point”.  The Senate Nuclear option just installed a terrible SCOTUS judge because Mitch McConnell.  We now have a President that lost the popular vote by a historically huge margin and a Supreme Court Judge that couldn’t muster the usual vote.

Gorsuch’s confirmation once again gives the Supreme Court a majority of Republican appointees, as it had before Scalia’s death, last February. But Ginsburg (who was appointed by Bill Clinton) is eighty-four; Anthony Kennedy (the Court’s swing vote, appointed by Reagan) is eighty; and Stephen Breyer (a Clinton appointee) is seventy-eight. If Trump has the opportunity to replace any of these three, much less all of them, the ideological balance of the Court will be transformed for at least a generation.

Gorsuch was quietly installed by Trump today with very little notice.

The confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has left shattered political conventions in its wake: the refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, the first partisan filibuster of a high court nominee, and the demise of the Senate filibuster for judges altogether.

All this smashed political pottery shows not only how polarized our politics have become, but how dramatically the stakes of filling a vacant Supreme Court seat have increased. Three key factors arebehind this.

First, the average tenure of a justice is much longer now. From 1941 to 1970, justices served an average of about 12 years. But from 1971 to 2000, they served an average of 26 years.

That figure has increased only since 2000. When John Paul Stevens retired from the court in 2010, he had served 35 years. When Antonin Scalia died, he had served 30 years. Anthony M. Kennedy has served 29 years, Clarence Thomas 26 years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg 24 years, and Stephen G. Breyer 23 years. Presidents who might serve only four years can have influence decades later if they can appoint someone to the Supreme Court.

Second, precisely because justices serve so much longer, vacant seats arise less often. From 1881 to 1970, a vacancy arose on average once every 1.7 years. But since 1970, a seat has become vacant only once every three years or so. In the first era, a two-term president typically would appoint four or five justices, or more than half the court. But since 1970, a two-term president would typically appoint two or three justices.

The longer period between vacancies also means that some presidents will not appoint any Supreme Court justices at all. Jimmy Carter was the first president to complete one term without having made a single appointment. If George W. Bush had been a one-term president, the same would have happened to him.

Gorsuch has a chance to fuck us over for a very long time. He’s likely to join the other religious extremists in a Taliban-like imposition of whackadoodle presumed gawdly law aka Hobby Lobby.

The most anticipated case in the April sitting is probably Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a case about whether a state constitutional provision that prevents state funds from going to religious institutions violates the federal Constitution — both the clause protecting the free exercise of religion and the clause guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws. Here a church that contains a playground applied for a state program that helps nonprofits resurface their playgrounds. The church was denied access to the program because of its status as a church, and it argues that this is unconstitutional.

I’d say the other big cases to watch right now are the various challenges to the president’s second travel ban executive order. Both the 4th Circuit and the 9th Circuit will hear arguments in May on the constitutionality of the travel ban. Whatever happens in those cases, the losing party is virtually certain to seek Supreme Court review. Although the court doesn’t typically hear cases between April and October, it’s certainly not unheard of for it to do so — and I think it’s quite possible here, in particular if the administration loses and asks the court to act quickly. The court could also rule without hearing arguments.

So, this is about all I have room for today in me.  I’m hoping to get some work done and find some peace by leaving the TV off and walking away from the news on the internet if I can.

Please, send some money to Team Gleason or to any other group of people fighting horrible diseases.  It appears that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done unless it sends money directly to the Trump Family Syndicate.

Oh, and if you really want to be depressed about something, you can read this about predatory Student Loans or this:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Jonas Salk, the Polio Vaccine, and Today’s For-Profit, Fear-Based Culture

Puppy in vest

 

Good Morning!!

I thought I’d illustrate today’s post with photos of cute puppies to offset the generally horrible news. The photo above comes from yesterday’s Boston Globe, Puppy in Boston Police Department Bulletproof Vest Melts Internet.

The photo, which was posted to Reddit, is from Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog, a non-profit that helps provide bulletproof vests, essential equipment, training, and purchase of dogs for police and law enforcement K-9 programs throughout the state.

“As K-9s are trained to give up their lives to protect their partners and all of us, we believe it is every bit as important to protect them,” according to www.mavestadog.org which is why they can run freely without pain

The story says the puppy’s name is Tuco, after a character in Breaking Bad.

Did you see today’s Google doodle? It honors what would have been Jonas Salk’s 100th birthday.

In 1954, I was 6 years old and I was among the first wave of kids who got the experimental polio vaccine at my school. We were living in Lawrence, Kansas then, and I attended Cordley Elementary School. I’m not sure if this was when I was in the first or second grade (I started kindergarten at age 4). Another girl in my class had already gotten polio and one of her legs was paralyzed. I don’t know if I was in the experimental or control group, but I do recall getting another shot the following year. Children from 44 states participated in the tests.

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A look back at Salk’s work highlights the vast differences between American culture in the mid-1950s and today. Salk never patented the vaccine, because he wanted it to be distributed to as many children as possible; so he never made a cent from his discovery. In some ways the 1950s were the bad old days, but most Americans still believed in pulling together for the public good–maybe it was a hangover from WWII.

From The Washington Post, JONAS SALK: Google says ‘thanks’ to the heroic polio-vaccine developer with birthday Doodle, by Michael Cavna.

As so many tens of thousands of children suffered from polio into midcentury, his vaccine began as the stuff of dreams; by the mid-’50s, it was the substance of a profoundly life-altering reality.

Dr. Salk had begun his journey a coast away; he got his medical degree in 1939, at the New York University School of Medicine, and was working at the city’s Mount Sinai Hospital before a research fellowship at the University of Michigan — with his mentor — beckoned. In 1947, he moved to head up the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Virus Research Laboratory, where he did the real groundbreaking work in his march toward a vaccine for paralytic poliomyelitis, or polio.

The goal, of course, was to trigger the body’s own defenses — so it would build immunity against the disease. Salk believed that antibodies could be produced by injecting not a live virus, but rather a deactivated (non-infectious) one.

At this point, enough necessary tumblers clicked into place. For one, the team of Harvard scientist John Enders solved how to grow the pure polio virus in the test tube — a crucial step that enabled Salk’s effective experimentation with a “killed virus.” And then there were the needed funds — Salk got backing from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation).

In 1954, at least 1-million children — the Polio Pioneers — were tested across the nation (this followed testing that ranged from monkeys to Salk’s own family). The vaccine was announced as safe and largely effective on April 12, 1955.

“In the two years before [the] vaccine was widely available, the average number of polio cases in the U.S. was more than 45,000,” according to the Salk Institute. “By 1962, that number had dropped to 910.”

 Now we have panic over Ebola, and instead of focusing on developing a vaccine we have politicians cutting funds for medical research and ginning up public panic for their own selfish purposes, academics and corporations more interested in profits than saving lives, and ignorant people refusing to vaccinate their children.

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From The Atlantic, The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Forgetting the Polio Epidemic, by Jennie Rothenberg Gritz.

It started out as a head cold. Then, the day before Halloween, 6-year-old Frankie Flood began gasping for breath. His parents rushed him to City Hospital in Syracuse, New York, where a spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis every parent feared most in 1953: poliomyelitis. He died on his way to the operating room. “Frankie could not swallow—he was literally drowning in his own secretions,”wrote his twin sister, Janice, decades later. “Dad cradled his only son as best he could while hampered by the fact that the only part of Frankie’s body that remained outside the iron lung was his head and neck.”

At a time when a single case of Ebola or enterovirus can start a national panic, it’s hard to remember the sheer scale of the polio epidemic. In the peak year of 1952, there were nearly 60,000 cases throughout America; 3,000 were fatal, and 21,000 left their victims paralyzed. In Frankie Flood’s first-grade classroom in Syracuse, New York, eight children out of 24 were hospitalized for polio over the course of a few days. Three of them died, and others, including Janice, spent years learning to walk again.

Then, in 1955, American children began lining up for Jonas Salk’s new polio vaccine. By the early 1960s, the recurring epidemics were 97 percent gone.

Salk, who died in 1995, would have turned 100 on October 28. He is still remembered as a saintly figure—not only because he banished a terrifying childhood illness, but because he came from humble beginnings yet gave up the chance to become wealthy. (According to Forbes, Salk could have made as much as $7 billion from the vaccine.) When Edward R. Murrow asked him who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk famously replied, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Can you imagine that happening today? Read much more about Salk at the Atlantic link.

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Today it’s all about corporations making money from people’s misery. From LA CityWatch, How Sick is This Generation’s Pills for Profit Philosophy? by Bob Gelfand.

Here are two seemingly unrelated stories that nevertheless intersect. The first involves a scientific lecture I heard the other day. Without going into details, the story involves the discovery of a naturally occurring small protein that treats some of the symptoms of diabetes when injected into rodents, and also slows the growth of cancer cells grown in culture. It is a marvelous discovery and is supported by numerous control experiments that are very convincing.

The scientist, in a later conversation, explained that the patent on this discovery had already been submitted, even though the scientific papers  had not all been written and submitted to journals.

In another lecture a few weeks earlier, but at the same institution, we heard from a venture capitalist. He explained that the pharmaceutical companies are only interested in developments that promise to show a billion dollars in sales.

In yet a third talk by an administrator, the resident scientists and physicians were encouraged to work with the institution’s patent office as early as possible on any patentable application.

The subject of this discussion is the monetization of science and its application to pharmaceutical research. It was not always so. In some ways this is a bad thing, and in other ways it is not.

The great counterargument to the direct monetization of scientific discovery is the story of the polio vaccine. Jonas Salk and his financial supporters made no attempt to patent the Salk vaccine. There are competing stories as to the motives and law that led to this decision. One argument is that the research had been paid for by tens of millions of donations through organizations such as the March of Dimes. Another argument is that the lawyers did not believe that a patent application would be upheld. Salk famously stated that the vaccine presumably belonged to the people, perhaps implying that the mass of Americans through their donations had already earned the right to the vaccine.

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Here’s latest on the Ebola panic front. Kaci Hickox escaped her imprisonment by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie only to end up under the thumb of another stupid Republican governor Maine’s Paul LePage. Fox News reports, New fight over Ebola quarantine looms as nurse returns to Maine.

Kaci Hickox left a Newark hospital on Monday and was expected to arrive in the northern Maine town of Fort Kent early Tuesday. Maine health officials have already announced that Hickox is expected to comply with a 21-day voluntary in-home quarantine put in place by the state’s governor, Paul LePage.

However, one of Hickox’s lawyers, Steve Hyman, said he expected her to remain in seclusion for only the “next day or so” while he works with Maine health officials. He said he believes the state should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that require only monitoring, not quarantine, for health care workers who show no symptoms after treating Ebola patients.

“She’s a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained, for it,” he said.

LePage defended the quarantine in a news release Monday, saying that state officials must be “vigilant in our duty to protect the health and safety of all Mainers.” Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for the governor, told the Portland Press Herald that authorities would take “appropriate action” if Hickox does not comply with the quarantine, though she did not specify what that action might be.

The Portland Press Herald isn’t sure whether Hickox’s Maine quarantine is voluntary or required.

Bennett, when asked whether a 21-day quarantine was mandatory or voluntary for Hickox, at first told the Portland Press Herald early Monday afternoon that it was “voluntary.” Later in the afternoon, she wrote in an email that Hickox was expected to follow the quarantine.

“We fully expect individuals to voluntarily comply with an in-home quarantine. If an individual is not compliant, the state is prepared to take appropriate action,” Bennett wrote. She was asked repeatedly by the Press Herald to clarify what “appropriate action” was, but did not respond.

Whether Hickox, who worked in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders, would abide by a quarantine is unknown. Her New York attorney, Steven Hyman, emphasized her civil rights.

“There is no basis (for her) to be kept in quarantine or isolation,” Hyman said. “We are prepared to establish that in a court of law.” [….]

The Maine Attorney General’s Office declined to comment. Dr. Dora Anne Mills, a former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said she does not believe the state could impose a quarantine without a court order.

Meanwhile Chris Christie is still making a fool of himself in public. Politico reports that he’s now claiming he knows better than the CDC.

The Republican governor has faced criticism from the White House and some health experts over his and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policy for a 21-day mandatory quarantine for aid workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday, Christie said again that mounting evidence shows that the CDC will eventually come around to his policy.

“[T]he CDC has been behind on this. Folks got infected in Texas because they were behind,” Christie said, in reference to the multiple Ebola cases in Dallas. “And we’re not going to have folks being infected in New Jersey and in other states in this country. Governors ultimately have the responsibility to protect the public health and the public safety of the people within their borders when folks come in with this problem.”

He cited the five other states — Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York and Georgia — where quarantines are in place, as well as reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the military impose a 21-day quarantine for troops returning from West Africa. A Defense Department spokesman declined to confirm those reports on Monday.

The governor criticized both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci in particular, the director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has criticized the quarantine policy. Appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Fauci called mandatory quarantine policies not “based on scientific data.”

“I think Dr. Fauci is responding … in a really hyperbolic way because they’ve been wrong before,” Christie said when asked about Fauci’s criticism.

Temple with stuffed animals

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo looks like a fool too. From The Buffalo News:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Ebola quarantine policy met with withering criticism Monday from AIDS experts who said it could be counterproductive as well as the governor’s Republican campaign opponent, who said it didn’t go far enough.
Three days after Cuomo imposed a 21-day quarantine on health workers returning from Ebola-stricken nations and a day after the governor relaxed that policy to allow people to serve their quarantines at home, more than 100 AIDS activists, researchers and doctors wrote a letter to the governor condemning his actions on Ebola.

The governor’s quarantine policy “is not supported by scientific evidence” and “may have consequences that are the antithesis of effective public health policy,” said the letter, which was signed by AIDS activists such as the head of ACT UP NY as well as more than 35 physicians, including medical school professors at Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale.

Most notably, quarantines “will potentially have a profound effect on efforts to recruit U.S.-based health care professionals who are desperately needed to help combat the burgeoning epidemic in West Africa while increasing stigma toward persons who come from those countries,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor, criticized the governor for shifting stances on the quarantine.

“What we’re getting is a governor who’s winging it, changing the policy all the time,” Astorino said while campaigning in New Rochelle. “It’s very confusing, and it could lead to health risks for many people.”

Finally, Dallas nurse Amber Vincent has recovered and will be leaving the hospital soon.

When you want your puppy to be this cute, hire a dog groomer. Your dog will look so fabulous you would it more.

I have a few more articles that I’ll post in the comment thread. What stories are you following today? See you down below, and have a terrific Tuesday!

 


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.

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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.

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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.


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!


Wednesday Reads: China, North Korea, France and Solomon Islands

Waterman-Ideal-Fountain-Pen-Giclee-Good Morning

Last night a strong earthquake hit the Solomon Islands, triggering a tsunami.  This is the latest information at the time of this writing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald the tsunami warning was cancelled:

Tsunami Fear After Quake Off Solomons

Residents of islands from the South Pacific to Australia were preparing Wednesday for the possible effects of a tsunami set off by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake off the Solomon Islands, according to scientists and news reports from the area.

“Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on its Web site.

The earthquake struck around 11 a.m. Australian time in the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the Solomon chain.The center said the tsunami warning was limited to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

Earthquake near Solomon Islands, Tsunami Alert Cancelled

A major earthquake registering at magnitude 8 has hit near the Solomon Islands, with early reports of villages destroyed.

A tsunami measuring 91 centimetres in height was recorded at Lata Wharf in Santa Cruz Islands, near the epicenter, and an 11-centimetre wave was recorded in Luganville, Vanuatu.

[…]

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the tsunami may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake centre.

The quake struck at a depth of 5.8km at 11.07am AEDT on Wednesday, near the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the Solomon Islands nation.

The director at Lata Hospital on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende said it was believed villages had been destroyed by the quake.

“The information we are getting is that some villages west and south of Lata along the coast have been destroyed, although we cannot confirm this yet,’’ the director said.

I will post updates in the comments.
There has been some wild news out of North Korea, check out the latest propoganda, which was posted on Youtube: North Korea video shows city resembling New York under missile attack
The video is shot as a dream sequence, with a young man seeing himself on board a North Korean space shuttle launched into orbit by the same type of rocket Pyongyang successfully tested in December.As the shuttle circles the globe — to the tune of “We Are the World” — the video zooms in on countries below, including a joyfully re-unified Korea.In contrast, the focus then switches to a city — shrouded in the US flag — under apparent missile attack with its skyscrapers, including what appears to be the Empire State Building, either on fire or in ruins.“Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” runs the caption across the screen.“It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze with the fire started by itself,” it added.The video ends with the young man concluding that his dream will “surely come true”.

“Despite all kinds of attempts by imperialists to isolate and crush us… never will anyone be able to stop the people marching toward a final victory,” it said.

Video is at the link.

There are more calls from the UN regarding investigations of human rights in North Korea: UN Official Urges Human Rights Probe of North Korea

A report by a special U.N. investigator is calling for the United Nations to open an inquiry into North Korea for possible crimes against humanity.

In his report Tuesday, U.N. special rapporteur Marzuki Darusmanwants the Human Rights Council to authorize a probe into North Korea’s “grave, widespread and systematic” human rights violations.

He said an inquiry by the Geneva-based body should examine the responsibility of government and individuals in alleged abuses.

North Korea denounced the report before it was made public.

Meanwhile, a court decision is making headlines, this time a ruling in a Chinese Court that has granted an American woman a divorce….In China, a victory for women’s rights and the power of social media

Kim Lee, an American woman who used social media to go public with accusations of domestic violence against her wealthy and famous husband, Li Yang, has just scored a major victory for women’s rights and the rule of law in China.

As reported by Didi Kirsten Tatlow at the New York Times, Lee made history this weekend after a Beijing court granted her divorce on the grounds of abuse and issued a three-month protection order against her ex-husband, a first in the nation’s capital.

“It’s a very important case. All of society was paying attention,” Guo Jianmei, a lawyer, told the Times. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

And although censorship remains widespread in China, Lee’s court victory is also a testament to the growing power of social media to share information and avoid direct control by government censors. After Lee posted photos and an account of her experience of domestic violence on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, it quickly went viral.

Sticking with world news a bit longer, BBC news is reporting: France: Hundreds of Islamist militants killed in Mali

“Several hundred” Islamist militants have been killed since France launched an offensive in Mali last month, the French defence minister has said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said they had been killed in airstrikes and direct combat with French troops.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France may begin pulling out of Mali as early as March.

Back in the US, Anti-Abortion Ideology Trumped Science In Weld County Decision To Stop Providing ‘Morning After’ Pill

When Weld County commissioners decided to stop providing emergency contraception to county patients, concerns rooted in anti-abortion politics trumped scientific facts and testimony provided by the county’s medical chief, according to documents obtained by The Colorado Independent.

Board meeting minutes from the summer of 2010 detail how members led by Commissioner William Garcia were concerned that the popular “Plan B” contraception drugs dispensed at the county’s low-income Title X family-planning clinics prevented pregnancy by destroying fertilized eggs, or inducing abortions, as they put it. Garcia cited reports he found on the Internet to bolster his case and, echoing rhetoric made popular over the last four years by abortion opponents battling health-care reform, he said the board should eliminate Plan B from the county’s services because the law of the land bars tax funding for abortions.

Same old crap…yes? “Reports on the internet.”

Dr. Mark Wallace, who directs the county’s health department, explained to commissioners on at least three separate occasions that summer that Plan B contraception can not abort a fertilized egg. He recommended Weld County continue to dispense Plan B, and he objected to Garcia’s proposal to include any language in the county’s Title X contract that would suggest Plan B was an abortion drug.

“Dr Wallace stated he has a strong professional opinion that Plan B does not disrupt established pregnancies,” the record of the July 12 meeting reads (pdf). “[Wallace] stated the language placed in the agreement regarding Plan B should be medically accurate and should not refer to [PlanB] as an abortive agent.”

Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer–the only woman on the five-member board–was concerned that Garcia’s proposals would put funding at risk and bring popular county family-planning services to an end.

Here it comes…

An anti-abortion Republican, Kirkmeyer was sympathetic to her colleagues’ concerns, but she felt the research cited to support Garcia’s proposals was unproven.

“Plan B is basically a high-dose birth control pill,” she argued, according to the minutes from a May 24 meeting (pdf). “Why is there concern with [Plan B] and not standard forms [of birth control]?

“A lot of women have and will benefit from this type of counseling,” she said.

Despite Wallace’s testimony and initial pushback from Commissioner Kirkmeyer, Garcia’s motion carried unanimously. After roughly a decade providing emergency contraception, Weld County’s clinics stopped dispensing Plan B pills. Conservative Weld and El Paso are the only two counties in Colorado where official policy is to not offer Plan B. Instead, the counties refer patients asking for emergency contraception to other low-cost providers, mainly to Planned Parenthood.

Then the next step is to defund Planned Parenthood, as they have in Texas.

MoJo has an article about the mass shootings of late, What We Still Don’t Know About Mass Shootings

Late last week Megan McArdle of the Daily Beast posted an online interview she did with criminologist James Alan Fox, in part taking issue with our mass shootings investigation at Mother Jones. I was glad to see McArdle continue the conversation with Fox; as he and I agreed in a recent exchange, mass shootings deserve continuing inquiry.

Give that a read.

A new study is out, Mentally Ill Smoke 30% of All Cigarettes.

Federal survey results indicate that smoking intensities as well as smoking rates are dramatically higher in the mentally ill compared with other Americans, officials said Tuesday.

A joint “Vital Signs” report from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that, among adults who reported symptoms consistent with a recognized mental illness, 36.1% were current smokers, compared with 21.4% of the rest of the population.

The report, based on data from the 2009-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, also found that 30.9% of all cigarettes consumed in the U.S. were smoked by the mentally ill. In part, this disproportion reflects heavier smoking in the mentally ill, with an average of 331 cigarettes per month compared with 310 in the rest of the smoking population.

Individuals classified as mentally ill in the study represented 19.9% of the sample surveyed after weighing to reflect the general population’s demographics.

I wonder if the subject of this next and last article link would be able to smell a smoker from 100 feet. Evidence moles can smell in stereo

Most mammals, including humans, see in stereo and hear in stereo. But whether they can also smell in stereo is the subject of a long-standing scientific controversy.

Now, a new study shows definitively that the common mole (Scalopus aquaticus) – the same critter that disrupts the lawns and gardens of homeowners throughout the eastern United States, Canada and Mexico – relies on stereo sniffing to locate its prey. The paper that describes this research, “Stereo and Serial Sniffing Guide Navigation to an Odor Source in a Mammals,” was published on Feb. 5 in the journal Nature Communications.

“I came at this as a skeptic. I thought the moles’ nostrils were too close together to effectively detect odor gradients,” said Kenneth Catania, the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, who conducted the research.

What he found turned his assumptions upside down and opened new areas for potential future research. “The fact that moles use stereo odor cues to locate food suggests other mammals that rely heavily on their sense of smell, like dogs and pigs might also have this ability,” Catania said.

Catania describes how he did it…

He created a radial arena with food wells spaced around a 180-degree circle with the entrance for the mole located at the center. He then ran a number of trials with the food (pieces of earthworm) placed randomly in different wells. The chamber was temporarily sealed so he could detect each time the mole sniffed by the change in air pressure.

“It was amazing. They found the food in less than five seconds and went directly to the right food well almost every time,” Catania said. “They have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell.”

That is a good start for this Wednesday morning, what are you up to today?


Evening Reads: RIP Sherman Hemsley

From Mediaite Facebook Files

Good Evening

Well, George Jefferson is moving on up, so sad to hear that Sherman Hemsley  is Dead: ‘The Jeffersons’ Actor Dies At 74

The Philadelphia born and raised sitcom actor was also an accomplished singer, recording the 1989 single “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and releasing his R&B album, “Dance,” in 1992.

Before becoming a household name, Hemsley served in the Air Force for four years — dropping out of high school to do so — before going on to work for the post office for eight years.

Hemsley had no wife or kids.

There is a slide show of different clips of Sherman Hemsley: ‘The Jeffersons,’ ‘All In The Family’ And More TV Moments at this link.

Today is also the birthday of Amelia Earhart, so here are a few links on this:

Google is celebrating her with a doodle today:

Click the image above to find out more about Earhart.

There is this interesting question…Amelia Earhart: Better feminist than pilot? (+video) – CSMonitor.com

Earhart started challenging gender stereotypes early in her life. According to ameliaearhart.com, the official website produced by her family, Earhart, who grew up in Atchison, Kans., was a tomboy who loved climbing trees, hunting rats with a .22 rifle, and “belly-slamming” her sled to start it downhill.

As a young girl, she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about great women of the time in fields of all sorts; film, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering.

“Even as a child, as a little girl, she said she should be allowed to do anything a boy would be allowed to do,”

Read the rest at the link.

Remember that group of researchers going to look for Earhart’s plane? Earhart Search Returning to HI Without Plane Pics – ABC News

A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart’s final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain.

But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday.

“This is just sort of the way things are in this world,” TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher said. “It’s not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is. It’s not like that — it’s never like that.”

Thrasher said the group collected a significant amount of video and sonar data, which searchers will pore over on the return voyage to Hawaii this week and afterward to look for things that may be tough to see at first glance.

It looks like the team had bad luck on this trip:

The updates tell of a search that was cut short because of treacherous underwater terrain and repeated, unexpected equipment mishaps that caused delays and left the group with only five days of search time rather than 10, as originally planned.

During one episode, an autonomous underwater vehicle the group was using in its search wedged itself into a narrow cave, a day after squashing its nose cone against the ocean floor. It needed to be rescued.

“The rescue mission was successful — but it was a real cliffhanger,” Gillespie wrote in an email posted online last week. “Operating literally at the end of our tether, we searched for over an hour in nightmare terrain: a vertical cliff face pockmarked with caves and covered with fern-like marine growth.”

I know I am going a bit fast with these links, feel like I need to close my eyes for a while. So bear with me…

Utah GOP activist faces rape, assault charges involving 4 women – latimes.com

The little cabin in the Utah woods was scene to various conservative gatherings — including Republican fundraisers and annual strategy sessions for local GOP candidates and officeholders.

Now police believe something more nefarious may have been going on in the out-of-the-way wooden cottage owned by Utah Republican Party activist Gregory Nathan Peterson: rape.

Peterson, 37, of Orem, Utah, faces a bail hearing Tuesday after his arrest on 25 charges of rape, kidnapping, sexual abuse, assault, sexual battery and burglary. The charges involve four women.

Two of the women say they were assaulted on their first dates with Peterson last year at his cabin south of Park City near Wasatch Mountain State Park. One of those women alleged that the assault continued when Peterson drove her to his mother’s house in Lewiston, in nearby Cache County.

Two other women say they were assaulted as recently as April 2012 at their homes in Salt Lake County after lunch dates.

And lastly this one:

More Than a Third of Births ‘Unintended’: CDC

More than a third of births in the United States stem from unintended pregnancies, a number that’s remained steady in the United States from 1982 to 2010, a new government report indicates.

The make-up of women having these births, however, has shifted over time from white to Hispanic and to those in their teens and 20s, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have made no progress since 1982 in reducing the percentage of births that are unintended,” said report author William Mosher, a statistician at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “It was 37 percent in 1982, and it’s still 37 percent.”

The report was released Tuesday.

“Intended” births are planned, Mosher said. “Unintended” births are those that are either “mistimed,” which means they occur either a short time or years before the mother had planned to become pregnant or “unwanted,” which means a mother did not want the pregnancy, whether or not she already had other children.

For example, in 2008, of the roughly 4.2 million births, 1.6 million were unintended, 600,000 were unwanted, another 600,000 were mistimed by more than two years and 400,000 were mistimed by less than two years, according to Mosher.

I did not intend to get pregnant with my daughter right after my son was born, the kids are 11 months apart…but it happened. I prefer to call her a whoops….;)

Have a pleasant evening, and think of this as an open thread.


Later SDB Evening News Reads 112911: Eeeek…

Good Evening…

Everywhere you look it’s just terrible news…and to top it off, my internet is again giving me problems, this time it is the wireless router. So that is why the evening reads is late, and it will be a quick one, so here it goes.

Iranian protesters storm British diplomatic compounds | Reuters

The latest on the problems in Iran, like RalphB said earlier in the comments, for those of us who remember the time when it was the US Embassy…and the result was the Iran hostage crisis, this latest “attack” on the British Embassy is bringing back some scary memories.

Iranian protesters stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, smashing windows, torching a car and burning the British flag in protest against new sanctions imposed by London.

Britain said it was outraged and warned of “serious consequences.” The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks “in the strongest terms.” U.S. President Barack Obama said he was disturbed by the incident and called on Iran to hold those responsible to account.

The attacks come at a time of rising diplomatic tension between Iran and Western nations who last week imposed fresh sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program, which they believe is aimed at achieving the capability of making an atomic bomb.

I don’t know if anyone has made this connection but it seems the timing is perfect to get our attention away from the explosions that have occurred in Iran the past week.

Several dozen protesters broke away from a crowd of a few hundred outside the main British embassy compound in downtown Tehran, scaled the gates, broke the locks and went inside.

Protesters pulled down the British flag, burned it, and put up the Iranian flag, Iranian news agencies and news pictures showed. Inside, the demonstrators smashed windows of office and residential quarters and set a car ablaze, news pictures showed.

One took a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth, state TV showed. Others carried the royal crest out through the embassy gate as police stood by, pictures carried by the semi-official Fars news agency showed.

All embassy personnel were accounted for, a British diplomat told Reuters in Washington, saying Britain did not believe that any sensitive materials had been seized.

You can see images of the protesters overrunning the security here:

Protesters storm British embassy | Reuters.com

In Pakistan:

Pakistan Announces Boycott of Afghanistan Conference | Asia | English

Pakistan says it will boycott a major Afghanistan reconciliation conference next week in Germany to protest NATO’s recent airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s decision to boycott the Afghanistan conference in Bonn, Germany, comes despite an appeal by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reconsider.

And because certain Afghan militant groups have ties to Pakistan’s security forces, Pakistan’s engagement is considered crucial to any future Afghan stability effort.

U.S.-led NATO combat forces are scheduled to depart in 2014, meaning the window of time to negotiate a secure peace framework is rapidly shrinking.

The CDC has some new numbers out, ready for it? Check out the amount of Americans who don’t know they have HIV. CDC: 240,000 Americans have HIV and don’t know it – HealthPop – CBS News

Once a death sentence, AIDS can now be managed so effectively that people with the disease can live almost as long as those without it – but that’s true only for those who get good medical care.

Unfortunately only one in four Americans with AIDS has the virus under control, according to a new CDC report.

PICTURES: AIDS hotspots: 15 states with most cases

“The big picture is we could do a lot better than we’re doing today,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s director.

Why is the treatment success rate so low? Partly because, of the 1.2 million Americans who have HIV – the infection that  causes AIDS – 20 percent don’t know they’re infected. That’s 240,000 people. People can have the infection for years without developing symptoms.

Another reason for the low success rate,  only about 40 percent of people with HIV are getting HIV-fighting medications regularly. Worse, only 28 percent have gotten the virus to low levels in their blood. That translates to roughly 850,000 Americans who don’t have the virus controlled, Frieden said.

Success rates were lowest in blacks and women, he said.

Sad to see this number of unknowing HIV infected American is so damn high.

“The fact that nearly three quarters of Americans living with HIV still have the virus circulating in their bodies, damaging their brains and immune systems and putting their sexual partner at risk is something we think we can do a lot about,” Frieden told Reuters.

The report – published Tuesday on the CDC’s website – was based on surveys and surveillance reports from 2010 and a study that focused on medical care for people with HIV.

I don’t know, it seems like AIDS/HIV is the old boring news…

Tonsil Trouble (Season 12, Episode 1) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

For a quick clip:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Boston Boomer sent me these next two links today:

How Zuccotti Park Became Zuccotti Prison: Creeping American Police State | Occupy Wall Street | AlterNet

Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s police assault on the park, OWS has largely decamped for spaces unknown and for the future.  Left behind was a grim tableau of our distinctly up-armored, post-9/11 American world.  To take an obvious example, the “police” who so notoriously pepper-sprayed non-violent, seated students at UC Davis were just campus cops, who in my college years, the 1960s, still generally wore civvies, carried no weapons, and were tasked with seeing whether students had broken curfew or locked themselves out of their rooms.  Now, around the country, they are armed with chemical weapons, Tasers, tear gas, side arms, you name it.  Meanwhile, some police departments, militarizing at a rapid rate, have tank-like vehicles, and the first police surveillance drones are taking to the air in field tests and capable of being weaponized.

And keep in mind, when it comes to that pepper-spraying incident, we’re talking about sleepy Davis, California, and a campus once renowned for its agronomy school.  Al-Qaeda?  I don’t think so.

And this link about the drought it Texas:

Texas Drought Is Revealing Secrets of the Deep – NYTimes.com

For more than three years, the lake on Jack Mewbourn’s ranch here held a secret at its murky bottom: A 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. His grandson was the first one to notice the top of the car peeking out of the water. It wasn’t luck, or even fate. It was drought.

The water level in the seven-acre lake has dropped about five feet from a lack of rain. Stand on the grass lining the lake’s edge today, and in any other year you would be standing nearly waist-deep in water.

On a recent Saturday, Mr. Mewbourn, a longtime rancher in this rural unincorporated community about 90 minutes southeast of Dallas, took a boat to the middle of the lake with two of his grandsons. They confirmed that the small object they thought at first might be a barrel was indeed a car. Mr. Mewbourn called a local constable, and with the help of a diver and a tow truck, the vehicle was slowly dragged out. Inside, still buckled into the driver’s seat, were the remains of Brenda Kay Oliver, who had been missing since July 2008.

But finding missing people is not all that is starting to show up in lakes and ponds that are drying out.

The historic drought that has devastated crops and forced millions of Texans in small towns and large cities to abide by mandatory water restrictions has had at least one benefit: As lake levels have dropped around the state, objects of all kinds that had been submerged for years, decades and even centuries are being revealed. Some of the discovered items are common debris like computer monitors, tires and sunken boats. But much of it has attracted the attention of historians, anthropologists, criminal investigators and, in one case, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Long-submerged marble tombstones from the 1880s have become visible in the receding waters of Lake Buchanan in Central Texas. Near the Texas-Louisiana border, the grave sites from an early 19th-century cemetery have turned up at one drought-stricken lake. Pat Mercado-Allinger, the director of the Texas Historical Commission’s archaeology division, said one water authority estimated having roughly 200 previously unreported archaeological sites resulting from lowered lake levels.

Take a look at both of these links, they are very interesting…

I’m sorry this is such a pathetic evening news reads, but I wanted to get this post up before my router completely goes kaput…