Tuesday, October 21, 2014

@phx - trust issues start early and pervade, corrode, and undermine the total school experience

thisamericanlife | Chana Joffe - A few weeks after JJ was first suspended, Tunette took him to a birthday party. And this is where, at this point, remember, I'm feeling really low on myself, I guess my parenting skills. And so I go to this birthday party. And it's for his friend, one of his little friends.
And all the parents are kind of talking, all the women parents. And we're talking about the preschool. And some of them are saying things that they like and don't like and all these different things. And then I said, well, JJ's been suspended. And they were like, suspended? And I'm like, yeah.
And they said, they suspend kids? They were shocked. And I said, absolutely. I said, he's been suspended, and I started telling them all the things that he had done.

And then one parent's like, I wonder why my kid hasn't been suspended. And I'm like, hm? What? So then she says, well, my son, he hit this kid on purpose, and they had to rush that kid to the hospital, and all I got was a phone call. And I was like, hm. And one after another, they kept telling me different stuff-- my kid did this, my kid did that, my kid bit somebody, my kid-- all these things.

And my kids, they're all the same age, all the same class. And only JJ had been sent home. So I was like, what is going on? That's when I thought to myself, something is not right.
Chana Joffe -The other parents were white at this birthday party?

Tunette Powell -The other parents were white. It was three other parents and myself. And they were white. And where we live, the majority of the kids are white.

And I'm not a person who does that, oh, everything's against black people, or I don't wake up and look for situations where there's discrimination or racism or any of that. So I wasn't-- oh, they're just doing this because my kids are black. I had no reason to believe that. After that birthday party, it forced me to consider it.
Chana Joffe - After the birthday party, Tunette's younger son, Joah, got suspended. Joah was three, though just barely three. He'd just had his birthday that week.

Tunette writes for a local Omaha parenting blog called Momaha. She wrote a post with the headline, "Is My Black Preschooler Just Another Statistic?"

I reached out to the preschool. And they did not want to comment or even allow me to talk to the director of the school. But Tunette's post got picked up by the Washington Post. And she started getting dozens of messages, especially from black parents, all over the country.
Tunette Powell In every part, every little sector, just saying that this has happened to me, and I thought I was by myself.
Chana Joffe -Tunette was very much not by herself. This is not a new conversation for lots of black and Latino parents noticing that their kids seem to be punished more harshly than white kids. That's not new.
What is new is that some academics and activists have been taking these stories and attaching them to a new, provocative term-- "the school-to-prison pipeline." The idea is that what's happening to Tunette's son is happening to lots of kids of color all over the country. And once those kids are old enough, the excessive punishment in school really messes them up and makes them much more likely to wind up in prison.

Monday, October 20, 2014

the systemic roots of a global pandemic

collapseofindustrialcivilization |  Over the ages, a number of empires have exploited and looted the resource-rich lands of Africa. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from Scotland in the northern hemisphere to the deserts of Africa in the south. The Romans stripped their North African territory of its trees, making it their breadbasket of grain production. Originating in central Africa, malaria was likely spread to the center of the Roman Empire on their cargo ships. Passengers on their boats could have carried malaria in their bloodstream before becoming symptomatic, and water barrels on board could have harbored mosquito larvae. In fact, the DNA work of Dr. Robert Sallares has proven that the most lethal form of malaria helped topple ancient Rome. Fast forwarding to today, the blow-back from industrial agriculture and transnational corporate land grabs in Africa has now reached the shores of the hegemonic American Empire in the form of a deadly tropical disease called Ebola.

The Roman Empire seized fertile African land by brute force, but in modern times capitalist industrial civilization takes over Third World countries with the stroke of a pen. Structural adjustment loans by such tools of western power as the IMF and World Bank are signed requiring privatization of the economy and government cuts in social spending. Vast tracks of forests are cleared for mining or monoculture crop production such as palm oil. Subsistence farmers are dispossessed of their ancestral lands and forced to migrate to cities in search of work. Deprived of adequate healthcare and the opportunity to earn a livable wage, these urban poor live in squalor and are driven to hunt in the surrounding forests for a cheap source of protein known as bushmeat. Fruit bats, a keystone environmental species, have been identified as an Ebola virus host that has spread the disease through bushmeat consumption, habitat destruction, and human encroachment. Thus the neoliberal agenda of ‘developed’ nations has acted to create the atmosphere from which this pandemic arose.

Due to the long history of exploitation by outside powers, native Africans are justifiably wary and prone to conspiracy theories involving intervention by Western institutions as well as their own governments which have been, to a great degree, corrupted by the resource curse. These unpleasant facts are, of course, never mentioned by the MSM because it might spark a flicker of moral compunction in the ‘developed’ world which has ended up with so much of Africa’s wealth in the form of rare earth minerals used inside electronic devices, gold and diamonds in jewelry, or petrol pumped into vehicles. The horrific realities behind conflict minerals are always kept out of sight and out of mind by the next consumer diversion.

ferguson, the foreclosure crisis, and america's hedge-fund landlords

billmoyers |  The events in Ferguson last month laid bare many of the tensions that are simmering in America. In areport for The New York Times’ Dealbook, Matthew Goldstein adds another to the list: Americans are still reeling from the 2008 fiscal meltdown, the resulting crash in the housing market and monied interests taking advantage in minority neighborhoods like Ferguson’s.

Nationally, 17 percent of homeowners are underwater — they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are actually worth. In Ferguson, that figure sits at 50 percent. Because so many homeowners are struggling, the town is ripe for institutional investors — often hedge funds or private equity groups on the coasts, thousands of miles away — to buy up homes, then rent them to low-income tenants. And that’s what has happened. Investment firms are responsible for roughly a quarter of all recent housing purchases in the town.

Goldstein profiled two Ferguson families renting from one Los Angeles-based investment firm, Raineth Housing:

Housing advocates worry about what will happen if investors in firms like Raineth become dissatisfied with the returns from leasing homes to low-income families. The commitment of out-of-state landlords to maintaining properties also is a concern. Tenants and local housing officials have given Raineth mixed grades as a landlord.

Mr. Bryant, 24, who lives on Mueller Avenue in Ferguson, said he and his mother had been generally pleased with their home, which they have rented for four years. He said the landlord’s property manager had been fairly responsive about making repairs, although Mr. Bryant said the house, which has white siding and burgundy trim, “needs to be worked on, or updated.”

The Walkers, who moved into their two-bedroom white brick home on La Motte Lane a year ago, tell a different story. Ethel Walker, 54, a custodian at a local school, said her asthma has worsened because of a persistent mold problem in the house, which she blames on a leaky pipe and water in the basement. More recently, Ms. Walker and her daughter said they had had to deal with raw sewage gurgling up in their yard.

“When you’d flush the toilet it’d come up in the backyard,” Tasha Walker, 31, said.

As Goldstein notes, tenant advocates say the problem comes when investors try to turn too quick a profit on their investment — or fail to turn a profit at all. In New York City, for example, private equity firms have invested in neighborhoods — often low-income communities that investors were unfamiliar with — where the economics of their investment didn’t work out and tenants suffered. In some cases, residents watched their buildings fall into disrepair as their new Wall Street landlords sought to wring maximum profit. In others, tenants faced intense pressure to leave their homes as new landlords tried to gentrify neighborhoods and raise rents. Tenants’ rights groups have dubbed this style of landlordship “predatory equity.”

These practices have spread far beyond urban neighborhoods to the suburbs, where an abundance of cheap homes are teetering on the brink of foreclosure. In the wake of the housing crisis, Bloomberg reported, Blackstone Group raised $20 billion to purchase “as many as 200,000 homes.” As of 2013, the fund was renting residences in 14 cities. Ferguson was “largely avoided” by Blackstone, Goldstein writes, but other investment groups filled the gap.

So increasingly, in Ferguson and across America, homes that went through foreclosure during the crisis are now owned by large financial entities, many of which are staffed by individuals who had a hand in creating the crisis in the first place. And increasingly, Americans are renting from them.

why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

WaPo |  The love seat and sofa that Jamie Abbott can’t quite afford ended up in her double-wide trailer because of the day earlier this year when she and her family walked into a new store called Buddy’s. Abbott had no access to credit, no bank account and little cash, but here was a place that catered to exactly those kinds of customers. Anything could be hers. The possibilities — and the prices — were dizzying. 

At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.
Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.

Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.

The poor today can shop online, paying in installments, or walk into traditional retailers such as Kmart that now offer in-store leasing. The most striking change in the world of low-income commerce has been the proliferation of rent-to-own stores such as Buddy’s Home Furnishings, which has been opening a new store every week, largely in the South.

In some ways, the business harkens back to the subprime boom of the early 2000s, when lenders handed out loans to lowborrowers with little credit history. But while people in those days were charged perhaps an interest rate of 5 to 10 percent, at rental centers the poor find themselves paying effective annual interest rates of more than 100 percent. With business models such as “rent-to-own,” in which transactions are categorized as leases, stores like Buddy’s can avoid state usury laws and other regulations.

And yet low-income Americans increasingly have few other places to turn. “Congratulations, You are Pre-Approved,” Buddy’s says on its Web site, and the message plays to America’s bottom 40 percent. This is a group that makes less money than it did 20 years ago, a group increasingly likely to string together paychecks by holding multiple part-time jobs with variable hours.

the racist housing policies that built ferguson

A 1916 leaflet proposes to segregate St. Louis. The measure passed. (Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center)
theatlantic |  The Economic Policy Institute has just released a report by Richard Rothstein that gives some sense of how the world of Michael Brown came to be. It turns out that that world was born from the exact same forces that forged cities and suburbs across the country—racist housing policy at the local, state, and national levels. Rothstein's report eschews talk of mindless white flight, and black-hearted individual racists, and puts the onus exactly where it belongs:
That governmental actions, not mere private prejudice, were responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once conventional informed opinion. In 1974, a three-judge panel of the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that “segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.”

Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area; in St. Louis, the Department of Justice stipulated to this truth but took no action in response. In 1980, a federal court order included an instruction for the state, county, and city governments to devise plans to integrate schools by integrating housing. Public officials ignored this aspect of the order, devising only a voluntary busing plan to integrate schools, but no programs to combat housing segregation.
A lot of what's here—redlining, housing covenants, blockbusting, etc.—will be well-known to those with a good handle on 20th-century American history. I focused on this particular era in my case for reparations. But it bears constant repeating: The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the racist social engineering of the mid-20th century. The policy included—but was not limited to—mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Authority and the Veteran's Administration:

the quickest way to predict the number of police shootings in a city is to see how many blacks live there

chicagotribune |  What mattered for police shootings wasn't the makeup of the police department, it was the makeup of the city. In all measured cities, an increase in black residents brought an increase in police shootings. In smaller cities, a substantial change in the proportion of black residents resulted in a slight increase in the predicted number of police-caused homicides. And in the larger cities, the same change increased the chance for police-caused homicides by a factor of 10 compared to smaller cities. Put another way, the quickest way to predict the number of police shootings in a city is to see how many blacks live there.

And, in turn, the most likely victims of fatal police shootings are young black males. According to a ProPublica analysis of federal data on police shootings, young black males ages 15 to 19 are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than their white counterparts. "One way of appreciating that stark disparity," notes ProPublica, "is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring — 185, more than one per week." What's most relevant for the diversity of police departments is this fact: While black officers are involved in just 10 percent of police shootings, 78 percent of those they kill are black.

The glib response to stats on blacks and police is to cite so-called "black crime" or "black criminality." But this depends on a major analytical error. Yes, blacks are overrepresented in arrest and conviction rates. At the same time, "criminal blacks" are a tiny, unrepresentative fraction of all black Americans. If you walked into a group of 1,000 randomly selected blacks, the vast majority — upward of 998 — would never have had anything to do with violent crime. To generalize from the two is to confuse the specific (how blacks are represented among criminals) with the general (how criminals are represented among blacks). Statisticians call this a "base rate error," and you should try to avoid it.

In fairness, you could apply this to police as well. The number of cops who shoot — much less shoot black Americans — is a small percentage of all cops. Why judge the whole by the actions of a few?
But there are problems here. Policing is a profession backed by the state and imbued with the right — and reasonable latitude — to use lethal force. Even if we're looking at a small number of cops, it's still a serious problem when those who shoot are most likely to kill people from a specific group. Moreover, the problem of blacks and police goes beyond shootings to general interactions between black communities and law enforcement. We know, for instance, that officers are more likely to use force against black protesters than white ones. The stats on shooting are just one part of a larger dynamic that applies to police departments across the country, not just individual cops.

The history of American policing is tied tightly to its relationship with black Americans and other minorities. The earliest police antecedents were slave patrols and anti-native militias, built to suppress rebellion and combat Native Americans. After the Civil War, Southern whites used police as a new tool for control, terrorizing blacks under the guise of law enforcement, from lynchings — often organized or supported by local sheriffs — to convict leasing. Elsewhere, in the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest, policing became a pathway for immigrant mobility. At the same time, police attention turned to black migrants, who were condemned as lazy and criminal. As historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes, police during the New York race riots of 1900 and 1905 "abdicated their responsibility to dispense color-blind service and protection, resulting in ... indiscriminate mass arrests of blacks attacked by white mobs."

The antagonism between blacks and police would continue through the 20th century. As BuzzFeed's Adam Serwer notes in an essay on Ferguson, the urban riots of the 1960s — and beyond — were fueled by police abuse, "The recipe for urban riots since 1935 is remarkably consistent and the ingredients are almost always the same: An impoverished and politically disempowered black population refused full American citizenship, a heavy-handed and overwhelmingly white police force, a generous amount of neglect, and frequently, the loss of black life at the hands of the police." For a more vivid picture, there's James Baldwin's 1960 essay on Harlem — "Fifth Avenue, Uptown" — where he describes the meaning of the white policeman in the black ghetto:

They represent the force of the white world, and that world's real intentions are, simply, for that world's criminal profit and ease, to keep the black man corralled up here, in his place. The badge, the gun in the holster, and the swinging club make vivid what will happen should his rebellion become overt.

This isn't ancillary to the present question of diversity and policing, it's vital. The culture of policing evolved in a context of racial discrimination and racial control, where departments were charged with containing blacks, not protecting them. The demographics of policing have changed since the middle of the 20th century, but the culture has moved more slowly. And while we have minority officers, they — like their white counterparts — operate in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between communities and law enforcement.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

bashing lockheed martin's purported fusion breakthrough

BI |  Researchers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Skunk Works, announced on Wednesday their ongoing work on a new technology that could bring about functional nuclear reactors powered by fusion in the next 10 years.

But most scientists and science communicators we talked to are skeptical of the claim.
"The nuclear engineering clearly fails to be cost effective," Tom Jarboe told Business Insider in an email. Jarboe is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, an adjunct professor in physics, and a researcher with the University of Washington's nuclear fusion experiment.

The premise behind Lockheed's 10-year plan is the smaller size of their device. The scientists are designing an improved version of a compact fusion reactor. The CFR generates power from nuclear fusion by extracting energy through the extremely hot plasma contained inside it.

The plasma consists of hydrogen atoms that, when heated to billions of degrees, fuse together. When this happens they release energy, which the CFR then extracts and can eventually transfer into electricity.

Traditional containment vessels for these plasmas are called tokamaks, and they look like hollowed-out doughnuts and are the size of an average apartment. Lockheed says its new CFR can generate 10 times more power than a tokamak in a space that could fit on the back of a large truck, according to Aviation Week. But Jarboe disagrees.

"This design has two doughnuts and a shell so it will be more than four times as bad as a tokamak," Jarboe said, adding that, "Our concept [at the University of Washington] has no coils surrounded by plasma and solves the problem."

Although Lockheed Martin issued a press release saying it had several pending patents for its approach, the company has yet to publish any scientific papers on this latest work.

"It's really great that Lockheed has taken an interest in this important challenge of providing carbon-free energy to the world," Michael Zarnstorff, deputy director for research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, told Business Insider in an email. "We haven't seen any results from the Lockheed experiments but the design is an interesting concept and it looks like they are at a very early stage of exploring this configuration."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the political economy of ebola

farmingpathogens |  In spite of writing a long book on diseases spilling over from animals to humans, well-regarded author David Quammen can’t seem to get his mind wrapped around the possibility Ebola has likely evolved a new ecotype, for the first time spreading into a major urban area.
The first outbreak of Flaviviridae Filoviridae Ebola in West Africa apparently began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013 before spreading to Conakry and the outskirts of Monrovia, the capitals of Guinea and Liberia respectively.
The number of deaths across West Africa presently stands at 149 killed out of 242 infected. According to the WHO, with a three-week incubation period cases are likely to continue to accumulate for months.

To date, researchers have identified five ebolavirus types. A new clade of Zaire ebolavirus characterizes the present outbreak.

Many of the human outbreaks since 1976, until now limited to Central and East Africa, began with the ingestion of an infected monkey or fruit bat of the Pteropodidae family or some such combinatorial of ecological pathways. In short, one of Quammen’s spillovers.

A human infection typically leads to fever, diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, and death.
Ebola is difficult to contract from another human, however. Much like HIV it spreads by bodily fluid, including, alongside ingestion and accidental cuts, sexually. Its virulence, producing case fatality rates as high as 91%, usually burn out outbreaks. Patients die faster than susceptibles are infected.
And yet this new strain has found the geographic momentum and multiple transmission chains associated with a virus experimenting with evolutionary possibilities, including a more widespread epidemiology.
History offers multiple examples of pathogens successfully making such sociospatial transitions.
For most of its evolutionary history the cholera bacterium ate plankton in the Ganges delta. Only once humanity urbanized and by the 19th century became spatially integrated by new modes of transport was cholera able to make its way to the world’s cities. There, in a kind of microbial Bildungsroman, the bacterium transformed from a marginal bug into a roaring success when municipalities began drawing drinking water from the same place they dumped their shit.
The simian immunodeficiency viruses that would evolve into HIV likely emerged from Cameroonian forests when colonial logging broadened the wildlife-human interface.

For eons influenza cycled across waterfowl populations that summered on the Arctic Circle. Influenza expanded into humans once we became farmers and our population densities and connections grew enough to support such an acute infection. After WWII influenza entered  its Industrial Revolution. Billions of livestock monoculture are now pressed up against each other, permitting a new phase in influenza evolution and spread.

In the guise of a liberal paternalism, Quammen errs on the side of an essentialist Ebola instead, denying the virus its capacity to evolve new identities under new circumstances,

Other work documents West Africa is undergoing massive changes in food production and forestry driven by the neoliberal program. “In West Africa,” writes William Moseley and colleagues,
the resulting neoliberal economic policies sought to promote growth and prosperity through structural adjustment programs (SAPs) that generally involved contraction of government services, renewed export orientation on crops or goods deemed to have a comparative advantage, privatization of parastatal organizations, removal or reduction of many subsidies and tariffs, and currency devaluations.
The area is part of the larger Guinea Savannah Zone the World Bank describes as “one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world” that the Bank sees best developed by market commercialization, if not solely on the agribusiness model.

Indeed, the initial outbreaks appear within the cycle migration range–about 120 miles–of recent land deals pursued by the newly democratized government of Guinea.

architects of death and chickens coming home to roost...,

newpol |  To understand the gravity of the situation in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in the south of Guinea, it’s necessary to look carefully at the particularities of this sub-region. I note here four characteristics that constitute an explosive cocktail.
  1. At the end of the 1980s, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the south of Guinea were at the center of armed conflicts for the control of natural resources.
  2. After the reestablishment of relative peace in the early 2000s, there was a surge of foreign investments, accompanied by land-grabbing and the expropriation of the small farmers who had been weakened by war.
  3. The increasingly rapid destruction of the forests endangered many animal species and pushed their microbial parasites to search for new hosts at the margins of their traditional ecosystem.
  4. The collapse of the state institutions that had been established when these countries became independent led to the transfer of their tasks to outside and local non-governmental organizations, private companies, and even to Western powers.
It is the combination and interaction of these four characteristics that has made these countries an ideal terrain for the diffusion of the Ebola virus.

Wars for the Control of Natural Resources
The civil wars that bloodied Liberia and Sierra Leone starting at the end of the 1980s had largely been carried on by groups—whether those in power or those in rebellion—struggling over the control of natural resources, in particular diamonds (which because of these circumstances came to be called blood diamonds) as well as lumber, with the complicity of large multinational corporations. Those wars were the cause of the death of some 200,000 people, not to mention the thousands of wounded, mutilated, raped women, orphaned children, and those displaced and turned into refugees. The vast forests where Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea touch have been particularly ravaged by the battles in which the Guinean army confronted the Liberian forces, which were allied to the rebels of Sierra Leone.[1] In addition, this remote area where the capitals of the three countries are found has continued to be the scene of repeated violence, almost to this day, either in the district of Kolahun (Lofa County) in Liberia, or in that of Guéckédou, Guinea. It is in the latter that the Ebola epidemic broke out in December 2013.

Liberia and Sierra Leone recovered from their civil wars and attained a relative stability, supported by the diplomats and the special forces of Great Britain and the United States, whose action has been continued by United Nations peace-keeping missions there, so that by 2005 in Liberia and 2005-07 in Sierra Leone there had been put in place a semblance of representative democracy and business-as-usual resumed. The international index of “economic freedom” (of the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal) showed a continual improvement in commercial freedom, in the monetary and tax systems and in investments in the two countries, and only the rights of workers and public services have worsened.

No doubt about it: the international competition for the control and exploitation of natural resources has returned with a vengeance, dispensing with the mediation of costly armed bands, as part of the new scramble for Africa. During the last five years, from 2009 to 2013, according to the World Bank, the GDP of Liberia has grown on average by 11.1 percent per year, and Sierra Leone by 10 percent. Overall, Guinea remains behind, with a growth rate of 2.5 percent, though it is true that is has not suffered a destructive conflict in the whole country.

the medical industrial complex more profoundly broken than the criminal justus industrial complex

theatlantic |  For someone in her 30s, I’ve spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices and hospitals, shivering on exam tables in my open-to-the-front gown, recording my medical history on multiple forms, having enough blood drawn in little glass tubes to satisfy a thirsty vampire. In my early 20s, I contracted a disease that doctors were unable to identify for years—in fact, for about a decade they thought nothing was wrong with me—but that nonetheless led to multiple complications, requiring a succession of surgeries, emergency-room visits, and ultimately (when tests finally showed something was wrong) trips to specialists for MRIs and lots more testing. During the time I was ill and undiagnosed, I was also in and out of the hospital with my mother, who was being treated for metastatic cancer and was admitted twice in her final weeks.

As a patient and the daughter of a patient, I was amazed by how precise surgery had become and how fast healing could be. I was struck, too, by how kind many of the nurses were; how smart and involved some of the doctors we met were. But I was also startled by the profound discomfort I always felt in hospitals. Physicians at times were brusque and even hostile to us (or was I imagining it?). The lighting was harsh, the food terrible, the rooms loud. Weren’t people trying to heal? That didn’t matter. What mattered was the whole busy apparatus of care—the beeping monitors and the hourly check-ins and the forced wakings, the elaborate (and frequently futile) interventions painstakingly performed on the terminally ill. In the hospital, I always felt like Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party: I had woken up in a world that seemed utterly logical to its inhabitants, but quite mad to me.

In my own case, it took doctors a long time (roughly 15 years) to recognize exactly what was wrong with me. Along the way, my blood work was at times a little off, or my inflammation markers and white-blood-cell counts were slightly elevated, but nothing seemed definitive, other than some persistent anemia. “Everything’s probably okay,” the doctors would say, or “You have an idiopathic problem,” which is doctor-talk for “We don’t know why you suddenly have hives every day.” They never implied that I was crazy, or seeking attention, or any of the other things you sometimes hear from patients (especially female ones) who have sought a diagnosis for years on end. At the same time, they didn’t believe anything was wrong enough to pursue; frequently they asked whether I was depressed before even doing a physical exam.

To them, I was a relatively fit, often high-functioning young woman who had a long list of “small” complaints that only occasionally swelled into an acute problem, for which a quick surgical fix was offered (but no reflection on what might be causing it). To me, my life was slowly dissolving into near-constant discomfort and sometimes frightening pain—and terror at losing control. I didn’t know how to speak to the doctors with the words that would get them, as I thought of it, “on my side.” I steeled myself before appointments, vowing not to leave until I had some answers—yet I never managed to ask even half my questions. “You’re fine. We can’t find anything wrong,” more than one doctor said. Or, unforgettably, “You’re probably just tired from having your period.”

In fact, something was very wrong. In the spring of 2012, a sympathetic doctor figured out that I had an autoimmune disease no one had tested me for. And then, one crisp fall afternoon last year, I learned that I had Lyme disease. (I had been bitten by multiple ticks in my adolescence, a few years before I started having symptoms, but no one had ever before thought to test me thoroughly for Lyme.) Until then, facing my doctors, I had simply thought, What can I say? Perhaps they’re right. They’re the doctors, after all.

But this essay isn’t about how I was right and my doctors were wrong. It’s about why it has become so difficult for so many doctors and patients to communicate with each other. Ours is a technologically proficient but emotionally deficient and inconsistent medical system that is best at treating acute, not chronic, problems: for every instance of expert treatment, skilled surgery, or innovative problem-solving, there are countless cases of substandard care, overlooked diagnoses, bureaucratic bungling, and even outright antagonism between doctor and patient. For a system that invokes “patient-centered care” as a mantra, modern medicine is startlingly inattentive—at times actively indifferent—to patients’ needs.

To my surprise, I’ve now learned that patients aren’t alone in feeling that doctors are failing them. Behind the scenes, many doctors feel the same way. And now some of them are telling their side of the story.

to keep ebola at bay - big don say - "schmoke weed everyday"

mtlblog |  Not a day has gone by in the last few weeks without a mention of Ebola. Having made its way into North America, Ebola has become reached the top of the “to fear” list, making many worry that it will only be a matter of time before the disease dominates the continent. Effective vaccines and treatments for Ebola have yet to be discovered, though one may be hiding in plain sight: cannabis.

Cannabinoids in marijuana have gained more and more of a reputation as a way to control and aid one’s immune systems, specifically with diseases that target a body’s natural defense measures against viruses, like HIV. Dr. David B. Allen, medical director of Cannabis Sativa, Inc, and Brad Morehouse, founder of NewCure.org, both believe cannabis can combat Ebola in the same way.

First, a rundown on what Ebola is and does, so everyone understands the argument. Ebola is a virus that targets the RNA (which creates proteins) in cells, takes over, then begins to replicate itself. The virus is able to hide itself from virus killing cells by creating indivisibility cloak-like surface proteins, which makes fighting Ebola especially difficult for the body.

Another consequence of Ebola being an RNA virus is that it makes each strain unique to the individual infected, thus making the creation of a widely applicable vaccine incredibly difficult.

What makes Ebola deadly is the way in which one’s immune system reacts as time goes on. Aside from creating hemorrhaging and leaking between cells, Ebola primarily kills when a person’s body releases a massive amount of enzymes (a cytokine storm) and an overabundant, and fatal amount, of immune cells being activated.

That’s where marijuana comes in as a potential saving grace to those afflicted with Ebola. As Joe Martin points out, cannabis is contains natural antiretrovirals and is also an anti-inflammatory able to reduce the harm to the body caused by a cytokine storm.

Dr. Allen also notes that cannabis has already become a legitimate regulator of immune system processes for those infected with HIV, with the same processes being applicable to Ebola. Being a natural virus killer, Allen also notes how cannabis can prevent the other harmful consequences of Ebola, namely hemorrhaging and cell leaking. Fist tap Big Don.

Friday, October 17, 2014

granny goes hard on obola: MUCH more impressed with this chick than I am with myself....,

belize gots to say the nayno...,

belizean |  Update: Channel 7 news anchor Indira Craig has posted on her Facebook page that Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow in a callous move in view of very close Belize-U.S. relations, has denied entry into Belize for the stricken U.S. nationals to be air lifted to the U.S.A. for treatment:
“Talks have concluded with the PM and The US State Department officials. Belize WILL NOT BE GRANTING ACCESS to the suspected passengers to have entry onto our shores. An official release will be sent out shortly by government followed by a press conference to be held tomorrow.Passports have been returned so this scare has ended.”

In a late night official press release issued by the Belize Press Office, the Belize government offered its version of the Belize Ebola Incident.It stresses that while the patient did not disembark in Belize, it does not address the question that thousands of cruise ship passengers that may have had contact with the patient(s) did in fact disembark and tour Belize City today:

Belmopan. October 16, 2014. The Government of Belize was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola. The passenger had voluntarily entered quarantine on board the ship and remains free of any fever or other symptoms of illness. The Ebola virus may only be spread by patients who are experiencing fever and symptoms of illness and so the US Government had emphasized the very low risk category in this case. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.

The GOB reassures the public that the passenger never set foot in Belize and while we remain in close contact with US officials we have maintained the position that when even the smallest doubt remains, we will ensure the health and safety of the Belizean people. The Prime Minister has called a press conference tomorrow morning to further address any concerns that may arise from this event.
Update From Carnival Cruise Lines: John Head, Carnival Senior Cruise Director wrote on his FaceBook Page:

“Late afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 15., we were made aware by the U.S. CDC of a guest sailing this week on board Carnival Magic who is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She is deemed by CDC to be very low risk. At this time, the guest remains in isolation on board the ship and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew. It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution. We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board.”

peter piot: outbreak out of hand, won't end without clipboards...,

guardian |  The Ebola epidemic, which is out of control in three countries and directly threatening 15 others, may not end until the world has a vaccine against the disease, according to one of the scientists who discovered the virus.

Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it would not have been difficult to contain the outbreak if those on the ground and the UN had acted promptly earlier this year. “Something that is easy to control got completely out of hand,” said Piot, who was part of a team that identified the causes of the first outbreak of Ebola in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976 and helped bring it to an end.

The scale of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea means that isolation, care and tracing and monitoring contacts, which have worked before, will not halt the spread. “It may be that we have to wait for a vaccine to stop the epidemic,” he said.

On Thursday night, a Downing Street spokesman said a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee, Cobra, was told the chief medical officer still believed the risk to the UK remained low.

“There was a discussion over the need for the international community to do much more to support the fight against the disease in the region,” the spokesman said. “This included greater coordination of the international effort, an increase in the amount of spending and more support for international workers who were, or who were considering, working in the region. The prime minister set out that he wanted to make progress on these issues at the European council next week.”

Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in evidence to Congress, said he was confident the outbreak would be checked in the US, but stressed the need to halt the raging west African epidemic.

“There are no shortcuts in the control of Ebola and it is not easy to control it. To protect the United States we need to stop it at its source,” he said.

ebolavirus in west africa, and the use of experimental therapies or vaccines

biomedcentral |  Abstract - Response to the current ebolavirus outbreak based on traditional control measures has so far been insufficient to prevent the virus from spreading rapidly. This has led to urgent discussions on the use of experimental therapies and vaccines untested in humans and existing in limited quantities, raising political, strategic, technical and ethical questions.

Ebolavirus outbreaks and disease - The ongoing outbreak in West Africa of ebolavirus hemorrhagic fever (EHF) [1], lately also referred to as Ebola virus disease (EVD), has led to a surge in public interest and concern regarding this virus, which was first discovered in 1976 during simultaneous outbreaks in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Sudan [2]. Humans initially contract the virus either through contact with the infected reservoir, which is thought to be fruit bats, or by hunting and butchering of infected wildlife, particularly great apes. Since their discovery, ebolaviruses have caused frequent outbreaks almost exclusively in Central Africa. However, the recent emergence of Zaire ebolavirus in West Africa, resulting in what is the largest outbreak to date (Figure 1), with 4,390 cases and 2,226 deaths as of 7 September 2014, shows that ebolaviruses are more widely distributed than previously thought. While EHF is commonly associated with high case fatality rates (up to 90% for Zaire ebolavirus, approximately 50% for Sudan ebolavirus, and approximately 35% for Bundibugyo ebolavirus), the pathogenicity of Taï Forest ebolavirus, which was discovered in the mid-1990s in Ivory Coast, is unknown because only a single case has been reported, and Reston ebolavirus, which is found in the Philippines, is considered apathogenic for humans. Outbreaks are usually driven by human-to-human transmission as a result of direct contact with live or deceased patients and their body fluids, mainly during patient management and care, and participation in traditional local burial practices. Basic hygiene measures and barrier nursing techniques are usually sufficient to disrupt ebolavirus transmission and spread in the community. Nevertheless, because of its high case fatality rate and the absence of licensed vaccines or treatments, this virus is considered of the highest biosafety concern, restricting work on infectious virus to a few maximum containment laboratories worldwide. Despite the restricted and highly regulated handling of the pathogen, there have been considerable scientific achievements over the past years; however, many challenges remain in the public health sector in relation to identifying and managing cases and interrupting virus spread.

why isn't d-bag stephen pomp raining on lockheed martin's astounding claims of having fusion in the bag?

More than 50 years ago, nuclear power through fission was the excitement of its day. People tried using it to power almost everything, even planes. In the end, operational hurdles prevented fission from widespread use.

While fission continues to power our nuclear reactors today, fusion offers a cleaner, safer source of energy.

Fission occurs when one atom is split into two smaller fragments, creating an explosion of sorts and resulting in the release of heat energy. 

Fusion is the process by which a gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together. When this happens, they release a lot of energy – about one million times more powerful than a chemical reaction and 3-4 times more powerful than a fission reaction.

Energy created through fusion is 3-4 times more powerful than the energy released by fission. 

Nuclear fusion is the process by which the sun works. Our concept will mimic that process within a compact magnetic container and release energy in a controlled fashion to produce power we can use. A reactor small enough to fit on a truck could provide enough power for a small city of up to 100,000 people Building on more than 60 years of fusion research, the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works approach to compact fusion is a high beta concept. This concept uses a high fraction of the magnetic field pressure, or all of its potential, so we can make our devices 10 times smaller than previous concepts. That means we can replace a device that must be housed in a large building with one that can fit on the back of a truck.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

but I bet they got some clipboards though....,

WaPo |  Attention in the United States is squarely focused on containing the spread of the Ebola virus from the Dallas hospital ward where a patient with the disease died last week.

But across the Atlantic, the devastating effects of the outbreak continue. Liberia, one of the three West African countries at the heart of the Ebola epidemic, has been tragically ill-prepared to deal with the spread of the deadly virus. An inventory released by the country's health ministry this week shows how stark the situation is, beginning with Liberia's acute shortage of body bags.

i want me one of these anti-ebola clipboards!!!

abcnews |  The man seen not wearing a hazmat suit while standing just feet away from the second nurse with Ebola as she was transported to Emory University hospital did not need to wear the protective gear, the medical airline said. 

The nurse, identified Wednesday as Amber Vinson, was flown from Dallas to Atlanta on medical airline Phoenix Air. 

She was seen being transported to and from the ambulance by three people in full body hazmat suits, but the fourth person by her stretcher was wearing plainclothes and holding a clipboard. 

The airline confirmed to ABC News that the man was their medical protocol supervisor who was purposefully not wearing protective gear. 

"Our medical professionals in the biohazard suits have limited vision and mobility and it is the protocol supervisor’s job to watch each person carefully and give them verbal directions to insure no close contact protocols are violated," a spokesperson from Phoenix Air told ABC News said. 

"There is absolutely no problem with this and in fact insures an even higher level of safety for all involved," the spokesperson said.


Radar O'Reilly Whither thou goest, synthetic biology? First, let’s put aside the dystopian scenarios of nasty modified viruses escaping from the fermentor Junior has jury-rigged in his bedroom lab. Designing virulent microbes is well beyond the expertise and budgets of homegrown biocoders.
“Moreover, it’s extremely difficult to ‘improve’ on the lethality of nature,” says Oliver Medvedik, a visiting assistant professor at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the assistant director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering. “The pathogens that already exist are more legitimate cause for worry.”
On the other hand, it’s probably too much to expect kitchen counter fermenting vessels stocked with customized microorganisms exuding insulin, biodiesel, and can’t-believe-it-tastes-like-butter spreadable lipids.
“But I can see that kind of technology scaled up to the municipal level,” says Medvedik. “Large fermenter arrays could provide fuels, medicines, fiber — anything carbon-based. Not every city can afford or would want a petroleum refinery to supply its fuel and chemical needs. They’re expensive and dirty. But fermenting vessels are quiet, clean, versatile, and ultimately, cheaper.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

how depressed does the ebola make you?

LiverTox Introduction

Imipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant that continues to be widely used in the therapy of depression.  Imipramine can cause mild and transient serum enzyme elevations and is rare cause of clinically apparent acute cholestatic liver injury.


Imipramine (im ip' ra meen) is a dibenzazepine derived tricyclic antidepressant which acts by inhibition of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake within synaptic clefts in the central nervous system, thus increasing brain levels of these neurotransmitters.  Imipramine is indicated for therapy of depression and was approved for this indication in the United States in 1959; it is still widely used, with more than 1 million prescriptions being filled yearly.  Imipramine is also used for childhood enuresis.  Imipramine is available in generic forms and under the brand names of Tofranil in 10, 25, and 50 mg tablets and as capsules of 75, 100, 125 and 150 mg for nighttime dosing.  The typical recommended dose for depression in adults is 75 to 100 mg daily in divided doses, increasing gradually to a maximum of 200 mg daily.  Imipramine can also be given as a single nighttime dose.  The recommended dose in children (ages 6 years or above) is 25 to 75 mg daily 1 hour before bedtime.  Common side effects include dizziness, headache, drowsiness, restlessness, confusion, gastrointestinal upset, increased appetite, weight gain, blurred vision, dry mouth and urinary retention.

at least the ebola is quick...

Wikipedia Niemann–Pick type C has a wide clinical spectrum. Affected individuals may have enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly) and liver (hepatomegaly), or enlarged spleen/liver combined (hepatosplenomegaly), but this finding may be absent in later onset cases. Prolonged jaundice or elevated bilirubin can present at birth. In some cases, however, enlargement of the spleen and/or liver does not occur for months or years – or not at all. Enlargement of the spleen and/or liver frequently becomes less apparent with time, in contrast to the progression of other lysosomal storage diseases such as Niemann–Pick disease, Types A and B or Gaucher disease. Organ enlargement does not usually cause major complications.

Progressive neurological disease is the hallmark of Niemann–Pick type C disease, and is responsible for disability and premature death in all cases beyond early childhood.[13] Classically, children with NPC may initially present with delays in reaching normal developmental milestones skills before manifesting cognitive decline (dementia).
Neurological signs and symptoms include cerebellar ataxia (unsteady walking with uncoordinated limb movements), dysarthria (slurred speech), dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), tremorepilepsy (both partial and generalized), vertical supranuclear palsy (upgaze palsy, downgaze palsy, saccadic palsy or paralysis), sleep inversion, gelastic cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle tone or drop attacks), dystonia (abnormal movements or postures caused by contraction of agonist and antagonist muscles across joints), most commonly begins with in turning of one foot when walking (action dystonia) and may spread to become generalized, spasticity(velocity dependent increase in muscle tone), hypotoniaptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid), microcephaly (abnormally small head), psychosis, progressive dementia, progressive hearing loss, bipolar disorder, major and psychotic depression that can include hallucinationsdelusionsmutism, or stupor.
In the terminal stages of Niemann–Pick type C disease, the patient is bedridden, with complete ophthalmoplegia, loss of volitional movement and has severe dementia.