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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The meaning of justice

"THE greatest problem is not with flat-out white racists, but rather with the far larger number of Americans who believe intellectually in racial equality but are quietly oblivious to injustice around them." — Nicholas Kristof

I STARTED a post a week ago in which I intended to share the third in a series of columns by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof on the subject of racism in America

I've been taken aback by some responses I've received to the first two columns in his series — responses that obviously proved Mr. Kristof's point: that many of us, maybe most of us (me included) are so utterly steeped in white privilege day in and day out that we're blind to it.

Since I began this post, however, the grand jury verdict has been released in the Michael Brown killing, and I'm shocked by the submerged well of racism it has revealed — even in people I thought I knew. It's as though the finding of no indictment didn't vindicate so much Officer Darren Wilson as it vindicated them for the concealed racism they've held all along. 

So we'll wait for Mr. Kristof's third column. Instead, I share with you a New York Times Editorial Board opinion from yesterday.

More from me tomorrow.


Delwood, MO November 25 (The New York Times)

The Meaning of the Ferguson Riots
By the Editorial Board
November 25, 2014

The St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer who in August shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, would have generated widespread anger and disappointment in any case. But the county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, who is widely viewed in the minority community as being in the pockets of the police, made matters infinitely worse by handling this sensitive investigation in the worst possible way.

First, he refused to step aside in favor of a special prosecutor who could have been appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri. He further undermined public confidence by taking a highly unorthodox approach to the grand jury proceeding. Instead of conducting an investigation and then presenting the case and a recommendation of charges to the grand jury, his office shifted its job to the grand jury. It made no recommendation on whether to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, but left it to the jurors to wade through masses of evidence to determine whether there was probable cause to file charges against Officer Wilson for Mr. Brown’s killing.

Under ordinary circumstances, grand jury hearings can be concluded within days. The proceeding in this case lasted an astonishing three months. And since grand jury proceedings are held in secret, the drawn-out process fanned suspicions that Mr. McCulloch was deliberately carrying on a trial out of public view, for the express purpose of exonerating Officer Wilson.

If all this weren’t bad enough, Mr. McCulloch took a reckless approach to announcing the grand jury’s finding. After delaying the announcement all day, he finally made it late in the evening, when darkness had placed law enforcement agencies at a serious disadvantage as they tried to control the angry crowds that had been drawn into the streets by news that the verdict was coming. Mr. McCulloch’s announcement sounded more like a defense of Officer Wilson than a neutral summary of the facts that had led the grand jury to its conclusion.

For the black community of Ferguson, the killing of Michael Brown was the last straw in a long train of abuses that they have suffered daily at the hands of the local police. News accounts have strongly suggested, for example, that the police in St. Louis County’s many municipalities systematically target poor and minority citizens for street and traffic stops — partly to generate fines — which has the effect of both bankrupting and criminalizing whole communities.

The case resonated across the country — in New York City, Chicago and Oakland — because the killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African-American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast. This point was underscored last month in a grim report by ProPublica, showing that young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk — 21 times greater — of being shot dead by police than young white men. These statistics reflect the fact that many police officers see black men as expendable figures on the urban landscape, not quite human beings.

We get a flavor of this in Officer Wilson’s grand jury testimony, when he describes Michael Brown, as he was being shot, as a soulless behemoth who was “almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him.”

President Barack Obama was on the mark last night when he said, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America.” The rioting that scarred the streets of St. Louis County — and the outrage that continues to reverberate across the country — underlines this inescapable point. It shows once again that distrust of law enforcement presents a grave danger to the civic fabric of the United States.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More places to get a tuition-free education

“By making college unaffordable and student loans unbearable, we risk deterring our best and brightest from pursuing higher education and securing a good-paying job.” — Mark Pocan, United States Congressman representing Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district

MY ASTUTE and well-informed friend Karl Schilling informed me that tuition-free college education is also available to Americans in Norway. I did a little research and found this article from The Washington Post that talks about other tuition-free alternatives. 

Bring me back a present.

7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free)

By Rick Noack
Octboer, 29, 2014

Since 1985, U.S. college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition fees keep rising. In Germany, they've done the opposite.
The country's universities have been tuition-free since the beginning of October, when Lower Saxony became the last state to scrap the fees. Tuition rates were always low in Germany, but now the German government fully funds the education of its citizens -- and even of foreigners.

Explaining the change, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a senator in the northern city of Hamburg, said tuition fees "discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study.  It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany."

What might interest potential university students in the United States is that Germany offers some programs in English -- and it's not the only country. Let's take a look at the surprising -- and very cheap -- alternatives to pricey American college degrees.


Humboldt University of Berlin


Germany

Germany's higher education landscape primarily consists of internationally well-ranked public universities, some of which receive special funding because the government deems them "excellent institutions." What's more, Americans can earn a German undergraduate or graduate degree without speaking a word of German and without having to pay a single dollar of tuition fees: About 900 undergraduate or graduate degrees are offered exclusively in English, with courses ranging from engineering to social sciences. For some German degrees, you don't even have to formally apply.

In fact, the German government would be happy if you decided to make use of its higher education system. The vast degree offerings in English are intended to prepare German students to communicate in a foreign language, but also to attract foreign students, because the country needs more skilled workers.

Finland

This northern European country charges no tuition fees, and it offers a large number of university programs in English. However, the Finnish government amiably reminds interested foreigners that they "are expected to independently cover all everyday living expenses." In other words: Finland will finance your education, but not your afternoon coffee break.

France

There are at least 76 English-language undergraduate programs in France, but many are offered by private universities and are expensive. Many more graduate-level courses, however, are designed for English-speaking students, and one out of every three French doctoral degrees is awarded to a foreign student.

"It is no longer needed to be fluent in French to study in France," according to the government agency Campus France. The website studyportals.eu provides a comprehensive list of the available courses in France and other European countries.

Public university programs charge only a small tuition fee of about 200 dollars for most programs. Other, more elite institutions have adopted a model that requires students to pay fees that are based on the income of their parents. Children of unemployed parents can study for free, while more privileged families have to pay more. This rule is only valid for citizens of the European Union, but even the maximum fees (about $14,000 per year) are often much lower than U.S. tuition fees. Some universities, such as Sciences Po Paris, offer dual degrees with U.S. colleges.

Sweden

This Scandinavian country is among the world's wealthiest, and its beautiful landscape beckons. It also offers some of the world's most cost-efficient college degrees. More than 900 listed programs in 35 universities are taught in English. However, only Ph.D programs are tuition-free.

Norway

Norwegian universities do not charge tuition fees for international students. The Norwegian higher education system is similar to the one in the United States: Class sizes are small and professors are easily approachable. Many Norwegian universities offer programs taught in English. American students, for example, could choose "Advanced Studies for Solo Instrumentalists or Chamber Music Ensembles" or "Development Geography."

But don't expect to save money in Norway, which has one of the world's highest costs of living for expats.  And be careful where you decide to study. "Winters in general are quite different in different parts of the country, with the north having hard, arctic winters, and the southwest mostly having mild, wet average European winters," the Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Education notes.

Slovenia

About 150 English programs are available, and foreign nationals only pay an insignificant registration fee when they enroll. Slovenia borders Italy and Croatia, among Europe's most popular vacation destinations. However, Times Higher Education, a weekly magazine based in London, did not list one Slovenian university in its recent World University Ranking.

Brazil 

Some Brazilian courses are taught in English, and state universities charge only minor registration fees. Times Higher Education ranks two Brazilian universities among the world's top 400: the University of Sao Paulo and the State University of Campinas. However, Brazil might be better suited for exchange students seeking a cultural experience rather than a degree.
"It is worth remembering that most of USP activities are carried out in Portuguese," the University of Sao Paulo reminds applicants on its website.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How to get a tuition-free college education

“The need for a college education is even more important now than it was before, but I think that the increased costs are a very severe obstacle to access. It is an American dream, and I think that one of our challenges is to find a way to make that available.” — Roy Romer, former Governor of Colorado and superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District

THIS IS the first weekend we've spend entirely at home for many months, and it's bliss. We've been either moving ourselves, moving Paul's parents, musicking or door-knocking since, it feels like, forever. At the very least, we almost always spend one night at Mama Logli's.

As an example, consider the last 10 days: Paul's brother and his lady were in town from November 13 (which happened to be our 21st wedding anniversary; we hope to go somewhere special soon to celebrate it) through the 17th.

Thursday we had dinner with them after work at his parents' retirement village restaurant. Friday night we visited with them at his parents. Saturday night we took them to the Des Moines Symphony to hear Beethoven's Fifth Symphony which was masterfully played. We're really lucky to have such an excellent and well-supported symphony in town.

Sunday afternoon we visited again at Paul's parents, hurried to the Civic Center to tear down the symphony exhibits after the matinee concert, and then Paul had Turner Center Jazz Orchestra rehearsal until 10:30. 

Monday night Paul played his regular gig with Des Moines Big Band, and Tuesday night was TCJO rehearsal again till 10:30 at least. (He actually had Wednesday night off — a wonderment.) 

Thursday night was the TCJO concert. I decorate for it, operate the concessions (soda, wine and snacks), sell and take tickets at the door, and he sends the marketing email blasts, manages online ticket sales and plays. Whew!




There was a little party afterwards to congratulate musical director, Andy Classen for the first ever all Andy-written concert and the American debut of his original piece of music, Waveland Suite for jazz orchestra. The first movement is lushly beautiful, and I'm fond of two other pieces of his the band also played, A Count Ability and Gospel According to Patty.

Friday night Paul had another big band gig . . . and so it's pure delight to just be home together listening to Clair de Lune by Debussy, Roy Hargrove and Gregory Potter while we nest. 

Paul is actually reading a book!!! I LOVE seeing him able to just sit and read, a cat curled up between us as I write this.

In the midst of all this going and coming and coming and going, I came across this news item on several news outlets. It details how you or your child can get an entirely tuition-free college education in Germany

Yup, Germany offers American students free university tuition. 

If I worried about how to I could afford to send a child or grandchild through college, I'd give this opportunity consideration. 

And PS: sorry to say, it's just another way the United States has fallen behind Europe. Way to go Bush and cronies and the Republicans who voted for them.

Where to get a free college degree
By Lynn O'Shaughnessy
CBS MoneyWatch 
October 3, 2014

Want to attend college for free? It can happen if you learn German.

All German universities are now free to Americans and all other international students. The last German state to charge tuition at its universities struck down the fees this week.

Even before Germany abolished college tuition for all students, the price was a steal. Typically semester fees were around $630. What's more, German students receive many perks including discounts for food, clothing and events, as well as inexpensive or even free transportation.

In explaining why Germany made this move, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a Hamburg senator, called tuition fees "unjust" and added that "they discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany."

Actually, German universities were free up until 2006 when they started charging tuition. That triggered such a crush of criticism that German states began phasing out this policy. Lower Saxony was the last holdout.

It's too bad that politicians in the U.S. don't feel that a college education is worth supporting appropriately. State aid to the nation's public universities took a nosedive during the 2008 recession and education funding remains well below those levels. The average state is spending 23 percent less per student than before the recession, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Actually, state support has been declining for public universities for a quarter of a century. Using an interactive tool from The Chronicle of Higher Education, you can see how state government subsidies have cratered at individual institutions.

With the average undergrad borrower now leaving school with more than $29,000 in debt, the free ride in Germany can look awfully tempting.

How to handle the language barrier

German is not an easy language to learn. Fortunately, however, there are international language programs in Germany, which have become very popular with international students before they tackle obtaining a degree in a different language.

What's more, an increasing number of German universities are offering degrees in English. These are often called international studies programs or in some other way have the word international in their title.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cats and dogs and babies

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” — James Herriot 

 I PROMISE to get all serious again soon. In the meantime, however, here's a You Tube compilation of dogs and cats watching over their human babies.




 

And for no particular reason other than we love him, below is a picture of our 23-pound Boy Boy.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two new websites

“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” — William Bernbach, creative director and one of the three founders in 1949 of the internationally-renowned advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach. 

THIS IS a semi-blatant ad — or you could be magnanimous and chalk it up to just keeping you in the loop about my (not-very-interesting) life.

Paul and I just finished a couple of websites; one is for the Des Moines Musicians' Association which is the local music union. Yup, Paul is a "union man". (A million points for anyone who knows from what very, very old but very, very funny movie the line, "Are you a union man?" is from!)

The second one is for the worm poop people. Yup, worm poop. The correct name for this product is worm castings, which is a nice word for . . . worm poop! 

It's miraculous stuff, though, and I think it could literally change the world for the better. Really! It's natural fertilizer that's entirely non-harmful to plants, animals, people, children and the environment in general, yet works better than any chemical stew.

I've made a screen cap of both sites to possibly maybe maybe entice you into actually clicking on the links and seeing the sites. Des Moines Musicians' Association


Yup, that's Paul in the slide show. His certainly isn't the only photo, but since I had my
choice of which one to screen cap, of course I would choose Paul.

Central Iowa Organic Fertilizer


The photo is of our own garden.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Jump baby, jump!

“If my dog is barred by the heavenly guard, we'll both of us brave the heat.” — W. Dayton Wedgefarth

I'M WORKING on a post that shares the third installment of New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof's series, When White Don't Get It. It's likely to take me a few days, so in the meantime I'm giving you a little piece of perfect adorableness. You may have already seen it because it's gone viral, but whether you have or haven't, it's worth a few dozen more views.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lung cancer in nonsmokers on the rise

“Don’t let your doctor exclude the possibility of lung cancer. There might be something else going on. Don’t let them write it off if you’re a nonsmoker. It’s possible.” — Tori Tomalia, non-smoking lung cancer patient

I JUST read this NBC News article published today, and I must say I'm surprised at the level of my ignorance about lung cancer. 

I had no idea that more women die of lung cancer than from any other kind of cancer, and in fact according the the American Cancer Society, it kills more men and women than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined!!

The additional bad news is that the survival rate is only 16 percent. 

I also was unaware of the increasing incidence of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Certainly I knew that from time to time people who don't smoke develop lung cancer, but I thought it was a rarity. Not so. And youth is no guarantee against the disease.

So with a sense of some urgency, I'm sharing this NBC News article with you.


Lung Cancer for Nonsmokers Still Stained by Stigma

By Susan Donaldson James
November 15, 2014

Tori Tomalia, a mother of three young children from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was diagnosed last year with stage IV lung cancer. She was only 37.

“I actually thought it was impossible for a nonsmoker to get lung cancer at my age,” she told NBC News.

Emily Bennett Taylor, a healthy athlete from Los Angeles, California, was even younger when she got her diagnosis at 28. Her doctors were also surprised and brushed off her chronic cough as asthma.

Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of women, and some medical experts say that they are seeing more patients in their 20s and 30s, many of them nonsmokers. But because lung cancer carries the stigma of smoking, experts say it is often overlooked in non-smoking patients — and doesn’t get the kind of funding or support given to breast cancer and other big killers.

“One of the big problems is there is such a big association in the public’s mind between smoking and lung cancer,” said Dr. Lecia Sequist, a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“No one deserves to get lung cancer,” Sequist added. “But we are seeing a lot of patients who never smoked or smoked years ago or only in small amounts. We just don’t know why.”

Arielle Densen and her mother, Barbara, who was a nonsmoker and died of lung cancer.


Of the estimated 108,000 new lung cancer diagnoses among women each year in the United States, a shocking 72,000 will die, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease takes more lives than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined, and its survival rate is only 16 percent. 

Besides smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, asbestos, radon or having a family history can put a woman at risk. Doctors and and their patients say it’s the stigma associated with smoking that is hurting them most, impeding research and compromising good patient care.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Lung Cancer Alliance, for every person who dies of breast cancer, $26,000 is spent on research funds, yet less than $1,500 is allocated for those who die of lung cancer.

“My doctor said, ‘Nobody your age and healthy ever got lung cancer — don’t worry.’”

Activist Arielle Densen lost her mother, a nonsmoker, to lung cancer, and is on a mission to bring awareness to the issue during November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

“The statistics on lung cancer are so staggering and so many young, non-smoking individuals are dying from this disease and no one is really talking about it,” Densen said.

“If you factor in private donations, the funding gap widens incredibly,” she said. “Susan G. Komen alone raised $428 million in 2012; whereas the largest lung cancer groups bring in about $3 to $4 million a year.”

Emily Bennett Taylor said her lung cancer diagnosis came in 2012 when she was seemingly in top physical shape.

“I played volleyball in college and still played a couple of times a week,” she said. “For all intents and purposes, I was healthy.”

She had just done a 13-mile mountain hike, when she said she noticed a cough and wheezing that “got worse and worse” and a pain in her right shoulder blade.

“They thought maybe I had allergies or had developed asthma late in life,” said Taylor. She was given an inhaler and had to wait months before seeing a pulmonologist.

But Taylor kept thinking about a Jill Costello, a UC Berkeley student and captain of the crew team who had been diagnosed with lung cancer at 21.

“I pushed for an X-ray,” she said. Doctors found a stage IV tumor in her right lung.

Taylor’s cancer had metastasized outside of the lung, so the standard of care was palliative, but she fought for unconventional treatment. She moved to New York City and persuaded a top surgeon at Mt. Sinai Hospital to shrink the tumor through chemotherapy and then remove her lung.

She has since had follow-up radiation and 18 months later, is now cancer free. Taylor said she hopes no other nonsmoking women will face the stigma she experienced.

“We don’t look at any other cancer this way,” she said. “People think you did it to yourself or made a poor choice. It’s time we started realizing it isn’t just an old smoker’s disease.”

Taylor now volunteers with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, which this year launched the first-ever Genomics of Young Lung Cancer study for women under 40. The study is looking for a unique cancer subtype that might be treated differently.

Genomic testing shows great promise in the treatment of cancer in young women, according to Dr. Deborah Morosini is vice president of clinical development for Foundation Medicine, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is doing the genetic testing for the study.

“What has been an enormously lethal disease with lack of pharma has been really turned around with the radical advent of target therapies,” she told NBC News. “This is something that can actually move the field forward.”

Morosini, a pathologist who worked in biotech, was propelled into advocacy after the death of her sister, actress Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve. She, too, was a nonsmoker and died of lung cancer in 2006 at age 45.

“My life was fragmented and I wanted everything to be guided by Dana and Chris’ memory,” she said.

Morosini said her sister might have benefitted from new therapies that pinpoint the genetic make-up of a tumor and “target” its driver.

“We can uncover note 315 genes and you can find whatever the driver is for the tumor about 85 percent of the time,” she said.

Tailored drugs can give a patient more time — months and sometimes “a few years,” she said, but the tumor eventually become resistant.

“That’s where the magic in genomics comes in,” said Morosini. “We can look at the tumor again and see what else we can target.”

Tori Tomalia, who is now 38, has benefited from this therapy. For 11 months, she has been on the new drug Xalkori, which has fewer side effects than chemotherapy, and is “cautiously optimistic” about her future.

She urges young women who have a persistent cough to ask their doctor for a lung scan.“For months everyone told me I had asthma, a cold, bronchitis,” said Tomalia.

“Don’t let your doctor exclude the possibility of lung cancer,” she said. “There might be something else going on. Don’t let them write it off if you’re a nonsmoker — it’s possible.”