Monday, January 28, 2013

Superbug is super contagious

"It is hard to kill." — Allison Aiello, Ph.D., M.S. and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

OH GREAT. The Sydney strain of norovirus — translation: a nasty stomach flu — is spreading rapidly across the country. Below are two articles, the first from ABC News and the other from NBC News that will make you not want to leave your house — or let anyone in either. Whereas it takes breathing in as many as 1000 particles of other strains of the flu to make you sick, this norovirus can lay you out if you breathe in just 18.

Doctors Warn of New Stomach ‘Superbug’ Hitting U.S.
By Dr. Richard Besser
January 26, 2013

A new strain of norovirus that wreaks havoc on people’s stomachs is so vicious that it’s being called a “superbug” by doctors. Though it was first identified in Australia, this norovirus — also called the Sydney strain — is quickly spreading across the United States.

In an average year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 21 million Americans get the norovirus, with classic stomach flu symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Eight hundred die. Symptoms come on very suddenly, within hours after a person has been exposed to it.

Because no one has immunity to this new strain, more Americans — perhaps 50 percent more, the CDC says — could become violently ill.

While the flu is spread mostly in the air by sneezes and coughs and a person needs to breathe in as many as 1,000 virus particles to get sick, the norovirus is far more contagious. Just 18 norovirus particles can make a person sick.

The flu can last two to four hours on hard surfaces outside your body, but the norovirus can survive and remain infectious for weeks.

To keep the norovirus away, medical experts suggest cleaning the house with bleach, not just regular detergents. They also say that while hand sanitizers kill the flu virus, they are not effective at getting rid of the norovirus.

Medical experts suggest washing your hands with soap and water repeatedly to keep the norovirus off them.


Norovirus: Why washing your hands isn't enough
By Maggie Fox
January 28. 2013

It gets in your food, in your laundry, it sticks to plates and it might even float into the air when you flush your toilet. A new strain of norovirus -- often called stomach flu -- is going around and it’s going to be very hard to avoid it, experts say.


Paramedics dressed in protective attire enter a German cruise ship quarantined in December after an outbreak suspected to be norovirus. A new strain is making people miserable around the world this year.

Federal health officials say a new strain, called the Sydney strain, is now causing most of the misery across the United States and the world. The virus, sometimes known as Norwalk virus or winter vomiting disease, causes vomiting, diarrhea and that someone-just-hit-me-with-a-plank feeling.

There’s no real treatment for it except for waiting it out, no vaccine, and recent studies show it’s one of the hardest viruses to get rid of. Simple cleaning alone doesn’t always kill it, and it takes just a few particles of virus to sicken a person.

“It is pretty difficult to get rid of,” says Allison Aiello, who studies how viruses spread at the University of Michigan. “It is pretty stable. It lives quite some time on surfaces. It is hard to kill.”

For instance, a few recent studies show that a quick application of hand sanitizer won’t get rid of it, Aiello says. And most people don’t wash their hands properly, either -- it takes about 30 seconds of vigorous rubbing using hot water and soap to wash away the tiny bits of virus, and that means getting under the nails, too.

Perhaps worst of all, people start spreading norovirus before they actually feel sick, and they can spread it for as long as two weeks after they start getting better. 

“Imagine you have a food handler who uses the bathroom and they haven’t washed their hands thoroughly,” Aiello said in a telephone interview. “They can end up preparing a salad for the diners that evening and end up infecting a lot of people because the food isn’t cooked. You can’t really do anything about that.”

Raw shellfish is a notorious source of norovirus and other foodborne germs, but at least one recent study suggests norovirus may be even more insidious than that. In December, a team at Ohio State University found the virus stuck to plates that had been washed in restaurant-like conditions -- and they found sticky dairy products like cheese helped the virus stay there.

Hand-washed dishes are especially likely to carry the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its website -- which could be one reason norovirus causes so many outbreaks on cruise ships. “You cannot get the water hot enough if you wash by hand,” says Aiello.

Norovirus is spread fecally -- in the poop -- and that means it can get into laundry. Studies show that fecal matter spreads even in ordinary laundry, so if someone is sick, it’s important to use very hot water and bleach to destroy virus that could be on any clothing, sheets or towels.

And regular cleaner won’t get the virus off surfaces. CDC recommends using bleach, including chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

Complicating the problem, most restaurant workers don’t get paid sick leave, so if they miss work, they don’t get paid. This means many workers come in sick, and they can spread the virus to hundreds of customers. Food handlers, dishwashers, even staff who bus and clear tables, all can spread the germ.

“If they have to go back to work there has to be complete and utter vigilance about washing your hands,” Aiello says.

In June, the Food Chain Workers Alliance issued a report showing that only 21 percent of workers surveyed could take a paid sick day off work. More than half said they come to work sick because they cannot take time off.

The problem extends to the home, too. There, Aiello said, several factors make it hard to keep one sick family member from infecting others.

“It could be the door handle. It could be the toilet tank cover. Some studies show it can be aerosolized. If you throw up and then flush the toilet, how much of the spray gets into the air?” she asked. One study last year showed how the virus spread on a plastic bag that had been in a bathroom where a norovirus patient threw up. 

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis -- stomach upset -- in the United States. It makes 21 million people sick every year in the United States – 70,000 on average sick enough to go to the hospital. As many as 800 people die, mostly elderly patients who become dehydrated. It’s the the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks, CDC says.

Dr. John Treanor of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York is working on a vaccine against norovirus. But the same properties that make norovirus so hard to kill also make it hard to make a vaccine.

For one thing, it’s simple. Like all viruses, norovirus hijacks live cells, turning them into virus factories that kick out particles called virions. “There is only one protein they use to make virions,” Treanor says. “If you have that one protein, it will self-

The virus is also surrounded by a case called a capsid, which makes it hard to kill. The viruses infect the epithelial cells which line the digestive tract, causing cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, but it’s not understood exactly why.

And the virus mutates. “You typically see a specific strain, and then that strain is replaced by a new strain,” Treanor said. In this case, a strain called New Orleans has been replaced by the Sydney strain. Like with influenza, people who may have had some immunity against one strain aren’t protected agaisnt the new one.

So until there is a vaccine, what can people do? “There really isn’t very much you can do,” says Treanor. “Clearly, washing your hands is important.”
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Feel free to purchase a musket

"The safety of the world, in some sense, depends on your saying 'no' to inhumane ideas. Standing up for one's own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet defiance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest expressions of courage I know." Gabby Giffords

IF I HEAR "the right to bear arms" or "the right to protect ourselves" used one more time as an excuse for the gun insanity in this country, I may myself go postal. 

What about our right to have information vital to our health and safety? As rights go, it doesn't get any more basic than that. Yet the National Rifle Association has been allowed to stifle research into and analysis of the price we pay as a country in terms of people killed and maimed for permissive gun laws and runaway gun ownership. The below piece from the New York Times illustrates how manipulated our government has been.

PS: I will happily support musket ownership for anyone who wants one — which, after all, are the arms citizens were granted the right to "bear" when the Second Amendment was written. 


The January 26 march for gun control in Washington, DC.

PPS: I just made donations to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. If you can afford to do likewise, do! They don't have to be large donations to matter. A) They add up and B) the more individuals who donate, the louder message we send.

What We Don’t Know Is Killing 
Published: January 26, 2013

In one of the 23 executive orders on gun control signed this month, President Obama instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal science agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. He called on Congress to aid that effort by providing $10 million for the C.D.C. in the next budget round and $20 million to expand the federal reporting system on violent deaths to all 50 states, from the current 18.

That Mr. Obama had to make such a decree at all is a measure of the power of the gun lobby, which has effectively shut down government-financed research on gun violence for 17 years. Research on guns is crucial to any long-term effort to reduce death from guns. In other words, treat gun violence as a public health issue.

But that is precisely what the National Rifle Association and other opponents of firearms regulation do not want. In the absence of reliable data and data-driven policy recommendations, talk about guns inevitably lurches into the unknown, allowing abstractions, propaganda and ideology to fill the void and thwart change.

The research freeze began at a time when the C.D.C. was making strides in studying gun violence as a public health problem. Before that, the issue had been regarded mainly as a law enforcement challenge or as a problem of disparate acts by deranged offenders, an approach that remains in sync with the N.R.A. worldview.

Public health research emphasizes prevention of death, disability and injury. It focuses not only on the gun user, but on the gun, in much the same way that public health efforts to reduce motor vehicle deaths have long focused on both drivers and cars.

The goal is to understand a health threat and identify lifesaving interventions. At their most basic, gun policy recommendations would extend beyond buying and owning a gun (say, background checks and safe storage devices) to manufacturing (childproofing and other federal safety standards) and distribution (stronger antitrafficking laws), as well as educating and enlisting parents, physicians, teachers and other community leaders to talk about the risks and responsibilities of gun ownership.

But by the early 1990s, C.D.C. gun research had advanced to the point that it contradicted N.R.A. ideology. Some studies found, for example, that people living in a home with a gun were not safer; they faced a significantly elevated risk of homicide and suicide.

The N.R.A. denounced the research as “political opinion masquerading as medical science,” and in 1996, Congress took $2.6 million intended for gun research and redirected it to traumatic brain injury. It prohibited the use of C.D.C. money “to advocate or promote gun control.” Since then, similar prohibitions have been imposed on other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health.

Technically, the prohibition is not a ban on all research, but the law has cast a pall that even prominent foundations and academic centers cannot entirely overcome. That is in part because comprehensive public health efforts require systematic data gathering and analysis, the scale and scope of which is a government undertaking. To understand and prevent motor vehicle deaths, for instance, the government tracks more than 100 variables per fatal crash, including the make, model and year of the vehicles, the speed and speed limit, the location of passengers, seat belt use and air bag deployment.

Guns deaths do not get such scrutiny. That does not mean we do not know enough to act. The evidence linking gun prevalence and violent death is strong and compelling; international comparisons are also instructive.

But we need more data to formulate, analyze and evaluate policy to focus on what works and to refine or reject what does not. How many guns are stolen? How do guns first get diverted into illegal hands? How many murderers would have passed today’s background checks? What percentage of criminal gun traces are accounted for by, say, the top 5 percent of gun dealers? How many households possess firearms: is it one-third as some surveys suggest, or one-half?

The gun lobby is likely to claim that any federally financed gun research, per se, is banned by law, a charge that would force debate of whether evidence-based policy recommendations are tantamount to lobbying. Or the C.D.C. may choose to focus on data collection and leave the policy recommendations to outside researchers. That would be a sorry situation for government scientists, but an improvement over the status quo.

It is obvious that gun violence is a public health threat. A letter this month to Vice President Joseph Biden Jr.’s gun violence commission from more than 100 researchers in public health and related fields pointed out that mortality rates from almost every major cause of death have declined drastically over the past half century. Motor vehicle deaths per mile driven in America have fallen by more than 80 percent. But the homicide rate in the United States, driven by guns, is almost exactly the same as it was in 1950.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Burning down the house

"Oh the weather outside is frightful." — Sammy Cahn, lyricist for Let It Snow

THINK BACK, central Iowans to the weather that unleashed itself upon us December 19. It was a classic snow-and-gale-force-winds Iowa blizzard that continued to into the next day — which happened to be when the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra's holiday concert, featuring Scott Smith, was scheduled. Lots of tickets had been purchased; we were expecting a full house.

Paul was awake all night checking the weather reports and worrying about what to do. Try to play as scheduled? Cancel altogether? Reschedule? If so when? A holiday concert by nature of the beast has a very limited sell-by date especially considering it was by now December 20. Once a decision has been made one way or the other, how do you let concert-goers know? We also didn't have our faithful Des Moines Symphony Executive Director and TCJO board member, Richard Early, wisely on vacation, to advice us and help put a plan into action.

As the hours passed, it became clear the concert was not going to happen. Every school was closed, even the colleges, every event was cancelled; the city was virtually shut down. 

After much back-and-forthing, Paul and TCJO band leader Andy Classen decided to try to hold it the following night — try being the key word. Rescheduling 18 musicians and a vocalist in less than 24 hours to play on a Friday night and getting the word out to all those who had purchased or reserved tickets was no easy feat, but Paul and Andy pulled it off. The concert was held the following night, December 21, and although we didn't have the full house we would have enjoyed had the weather not dumped on us (literally), more hearty souls than one might have expected braved the cold and snow. The show must go on, right?

Sunday, January 20, Paul was a featured artist — along with Dave Camwell, Scott Davis, Jim Romain and Doug Bown —with the Community Jazz Center Band. I heard two tunes for the first time that I really liked, one by Iowa arranger and composer Doug Sharp called Ooooh Patu that Dave and Jim played, and Gentle Piece by Kenny Wheeler that Scott played.

The following night Des Moines Big Band had a extraordinary concert featuring world-famous (really) alto sax player Dick Oatts, Dick and Jim Oatts sister, vocalist Sue Oatts Tucker, and locally-grown, now-living-and-playing-in-Minneapolis, jazz pianist phenom Tanner Tucker. Together, they just about burned the house down. Those who were there knew they were hearing something remarkable, something they won't soon hear again. 

FYI: Paul is playing an Iowa/Kansas mini-tour with Tanner and Jim Oatts in February. I'll list the dates in an upcoming post. Maybe you can make one.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fruitvale, coming to a theater near you

"It’s the toughest role I’ve ever had to play because it’s a real person who can measure the performance like no one else can." Octavia Spencer

I'M A FAN of Octavia Spencer. How can you not be if you saw in the movie, The Help. She recently debuted a film at the Sundance Film Festival that she produced and stars in called Fruitvale. Below is a piece about her film that appeared on ABC News online. I have been hoping that her movie would be picked up for distribution, and according the The Daily Beast, it was purchased less than 24 hours ago for distribution by the Weinstein Company

Octavia Spencer on 'Fruitvale' and Life After Oscar
by Sheila Marikar
Jan. 20, 2013


PARK CITY, Utah — Octavia Spencer, Oscar winner, is the star of “Fruitvale,” one of the most powerful, emotional, and well-received movies at Sundance. She also produced the movie. She’s fresh off a stint on “30 Rock.” And she’s the Academy’s reigning best actress after winning an Oscar last year for “The Help.”

Has it all gone to her head? Not even a little bit.

“I have to keep things in a small box that I can control,” she told ABC News’ “Popcorn With Peter Travers” today. “Having too big of a life would be scary.”

In fact, she gets starstruck on a pretty regular basis.



“Meeting Oprah Winfrey, I cried like a baby. Meeting Steven Spielberg, I cried like a baby. Meeting Denzel Washington, I gushed like a crazy woman,” she said. “If I don’t get excited or starstruck by someone I’ve been dying to meet, it’s time to retire.”

Not that she’s not proud of that Oscar. (Her words: “I lay him in my arms like a baby. He’s my darling.”) It sits in the middle of her living room surrounded by all her other trophies.

“I call all of the other awards his cousin,” she said. “So that every time I’m in there, I’m reminded of the job that I have to do. You can’t rest on your laurels.”

With that philosophy, she’s taken charge of creating her own roles. She served as  co-executive producer on “Fruitvale,” which means she had a hand in pretty much every part of the movie.

“From the outset,” after winning a best actress Oscar for “The Help,” “I knew there were going to be a lot of roles that I would get to play,” she said. “But I march to my own drum anyway. That just means that I have to create my own music. I’m fine with that. It’s a challenge, it’s fun, it’s scary, but you know what, I have a platform to do that.”

“Fruitvale” is a heart-wrenching re-telling of the events leading up to the fatal police shooting of Oscar Grant at a San Francisco BART station in 2009. It’s Sundance screenings have ended with not a dry eye in the crowd. Spencer stars alongside Michael B. Jordan (famous for “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights”) as Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson.

“It’s the toughest role I’ve ever had to play because it’s a real person who can measure the performance like no one else can,” Spencer said. She sat behind Johnson at the premiere of “Fruitvale” and said watching her relive her son’s death was a nerve wracking experience like nothing else: “His family said they didn’t see Michael B. Jordan up there. They saw Oscar.”

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today alone

"The vast majority of gun owners don't kill, but people who do kill, tend to kill with guns, and often with illegal guns." Alan Dershowitz, American lawyer, jurist, and political commentator 

UPSTAIRS HANGING OUT with Anaya, I thought I'd check out the news online; on ABC News alone there are three stories about multiple-victim shootings. The New Mexico rampage took place Sunday, the other two today. 

And the answer to this bloodbath according to the NRA is putting more guns in people's hands. Yeah, that makes sense.

20/20 ABC News
By COLLEEN CURRY
Jan. 22, 2013

The New Mexico teenager who used an assault rifle to kill his mother, father and younger siblings told police he hoped to shoot up a Walmart after the family rampage and cause "mass destruction."


ABC News
By COLLEEN CURRY and GINA SUNSERI
HOUSTON Jan. 22, 2013

A fight at a Houston college campus today resulted in a shooting that left three people injured and two others in custody, officials said.


ABC News
By ALYSSA NEWCOMB 
Jan. 22, 2013

Investigators are probing the background of a Las Vegas police lieutenant who apparently killed his wife and son before setting his home on fire and taking his own life.

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Australia figured it out

"There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit, but when it comes to guns, we have been right to take a radically different path." John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia

YES, I'm going to keep harping and writing and calling Congress because the death toll from guns in this country is unacceptable. According to Bloomberg News, gun deaths are on track to exceed auto fatalities by 2015. How can we pretend that we live in civilized country when this is the case?

Below is a post from Washington Post's WonkBlog written by Dylan Matthews August 2, 2012, well before the Newtown shooting. 

Did gun control work in Australia?

John Howard, who served as prime minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007, is no one’s idea of a lefty. He was one of George W. Bush’s closest allies, enthusiastically backing the Iraq intervention, and took a hard line domestically against increased immigration and union organizing.

But one of Howard’s other lasting legacies is Australia’s gun control regime, first passed in 1996 in response to a massacre in Tasmania that left 35 dead. The law banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. It also instituted a mandatory buy-back program for newly banned weapons.

On Wednesday, Howard took to the Melbourne daily the Age to call on the United States, in light of the Aurora, Colo., massacre, to follow in Australia’s footsteps. “There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit,” he concluded. “But when it comes to guns, we have been right to take a radically different path.”

So what have the Australian laws actually done for homicide and suicide rates? Howard cites a study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. That provides strong circumstantial evidence for the law’s effectiveness.

The paper also estimated that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people results in a 35 to 50 percent decline in the homicide rate, but because of the low number of homicides in Australia normally, this finding isn’t statistically significant.

What is significant is the decline the laws caused in the firearm suicide rate, which Leigh and Neill estimate at a 74 percent reduction for a buyback of that size. This is even higher than the overall decline in the suicide rate, because the gun buybacks’ speed varied from state to state. In states with quick buybacks, the fall in the suicide rate far exceeded the fall in states with slower buybacks.

Tasmania did a quicker buyback, and saw a large decline in suicides, while the Australian Capital Territory did a slower buyback, and a slower decline. The study fits with a pattern of research in the United States that finds a strong correlation between gun 

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The fierce urgency of now

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right." ― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

HOW FITTING that President Barack Obama's second inaugural address took place on Martin Luther King Day. I'm still pinching myself that we have a person of color as the president of these United States, and what a beautiful, admirable family the Obamas are. 

Below is news analysis piece from today's New York Times about President Obama's inaugural speech. It sounds like he has determined to finally be the president we elected him to be in the first place.










Speech Reveals an Evolved and Unapologetic President


By RICHARD W. STEVENSON
Published: January 21, 2013 

WASHINGTON — He did not utter the words, but President Obama suffused his second Inaugural Address with the spirit of a favorite phrase: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to heed “the fierce urgency of now.”


President Obama’s address nodded to ideological inclusiveness but did not repeat his view from four years ago that it was time to end the “recriminations and worn-out dogmas” that characterized Washington battles.


This was a president unbound from much of what defined him upon taking office four years ago, a man clearly cognizant of time already running down on his opportunity to make his imprint on the country and on history.


Gone were the vision of a new kind of high-minded politics, the constraint of a future re-election campaign and the weight of unrealistic expectations. In their place was an unapologetic argument that modern liberalism was perfectly consistent with the spirit of the founders and a notice that, with no immediate crisis facing the nation, Mr. Obama intended to use the full powers of his office for progressive values.


“We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect,” he said.

After spending much of his first term “evolving” on the question of same-sex marriage and doing too little in the eyes of many African-Americans to address poverty and civil rights, he invoked “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall” and cited responsibility for the poor, sick and displaced.


He acknowledged the budget deficit but emphasized protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He mentioned jobs but highlighted global warming. He lauded the bravery and strength of the United States armed forces, but started his foreign policy remarks by asserting that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”


Mr. Obama came to office four years ago all but consumed by what he inherited: two wars and an economy in free fall. He then confronted an exhausting series of crises and political problems at home and abroad: budget showdowns, a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Middle East turmoil, the rise of the Tea Party movement.

Through it all, he chose to wage additional battles of choice, most notably his successful push to overhaul the health insurance system. But not until this point, with the economy gradually mending, one war over and another winding down, with Osama bin Laden dead and the Democratic Party drawing strength from the nation’s changing demographics, has he had the opportunity to master his own presidency.


The policy details of what that effort entails will emerge over the next month through his State of the Union address and his budget, and many or most of them will encounter strong opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Monday’s address to the nation and its political class was intended to set out the value system that informs the policy.

Mr. Obama has always had a dialectical quality: pragmatism versus ideology, bold versus cautious, hawk versus dove, post-racial versus man of color. Those tensions no doubt remain.

But since Election Day, he has seemed to be choosing between them more than in the past. His decision after the Newtown massacre to embark on a full-scale effort to crack down on gun violence showed him to be less shackled to political wisdom about what is possible or electorally wise. His willingness to stare down Republicans over raising the debt limit — and winning — showed that he is less likely nowadays to start a negotiation by moving to the center and trying to find common ground.


To some Republicans, it is what they warned of all along: a president who ran as a centrist proving to be an unreconstructed liberal. It was no doubt hard for some of them to accept a scolding for treating “name calling as reasoned debate” — a phrase in his Monday address — from a man who won re-election by excoriating Mitt Romney as a job-killing plutocrat.


“I think all Americans would hope that President Obama, now that he’s not facing re-election, would actually sit down and honestly work with Republicans who are very sincere in our desire to fix these problems,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin.

But, Mr. Johnson added, that was not the sentiment he detected from Mr. Obama on Monday. “You’ve got to sit down in good faith,” he said. “But I just don’t see that with this president.”

Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, said, “I’m surprised we’ve so abruptly noticed after this election we’re now managing America’s demise, not America’s great future.”


Mr. Obama’s address nodded to ideological inclusiveness but did not repeat his view from four years ago that it was time to end the “recriminations and worn-out dogmas” that characterized Washington battles. It recognized the power of individual liberty but argued that only through collective action could the nation remain prosperous and secure.


But most of all, it sought to elevate to a more prominent place in the political debate the question of how best the nation should address the “little girl born into the bleakest poverty,” the parents of a child with a disability, the gay men and women seeking to marry, voters facing hurdles because of their race and immigrants seeking a toehold in a land of opportunity.


“We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few,” Mr. Obama said.


In many ways it was an address, given on a day that commemorates King, that reflected not just the civil rights leader’s “fierce urgency of now” but the lines that immediately followed it in his “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall 50 years ago.

“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” King said. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Live wrong

"A half truth is a whole lie." — Yiddish Proverb

DID YOU WATCH either part of Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong? I didn't. What was I going to learn: that he lied — and water is wet?
He's only fessing up to the limited extent he is because A) he was finally boxed in by the sheer quantity of evidence against him B) he's trying to angle his way to having his all-sports banishment mitigated. 
How sorry can he possibly be if he's done nothing to make amends to those whose careers and lives he ruined by defaming them when they told the truth? And as Paul pointed out, though Armstrong has lost his lucrative endorsements, he still has the millions he made before being dropped.

Greed. It'll be the ruin of this country yet.
As Nicholas Kristof said in a Facebook post, Armstrong needs to replace his Live Strong bracelets with ones that say Live Wrong or Lie Strong. In a similar vein, Paul saw a Facebook meme today currently making the rounds that says: How disappointing to discover that liars' pants don't actually burst into flames. Agreed.
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Golden Globes best dressed

"Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!" — Coco Chanel

WE TIVOED THE Golden Globes so we could fast forward our way through to find out who won. And I wanted to see who wore what. There were only a few dresses I love-loved, but I hunted till I found 10.

#10
Emily Blunt
Although the color isn't particularly flattering on Emily, this dress affords a tasteful way to show a little skin.


#9
Stacy Keibler
Simple, classic, understated. A necklace like Jessica Alba's would have been a great addition, though. 


#8
Glenn Close
It might not be obvious, but this dress is deep indigo. She looks fabulous. My only cavil is that it's almost identical to the green one she wore last year at the Oscars, although you can't blame her for sticking to a formula that works so well.

#7
Zooey Deschanel
I love Zooey's dress. It's a timeless classic; it's effortless, yet still fresh and young — which isn't necessarily the easiest balance to attain. My objection is that the top is cut too low. If the bodice were an inch and a half higher on top, she would have been perfection itself and my #1 pick. 

#6
Penelope Cruz
Penelope hardly ever puts a foot wrong when it comes to red carpet dresses. I pretty much always love what she wears.


#5
Jennifer Lopez
Very va va va voom, but Jenny from the Hood is completely covered which isn't always the case with her. This time she got it right.


#4
Hayden Panettiere
Classic and still youthful, Hayden looked lovely — much better than Amy Adams who wore a similar dress in a disastrous color.


#3
Claire Danes
Claire proves it's possible to wear a halter dress and look elegant, not over-exposed and cheesy — as opposed to Miss Chastain.


#2
Anne Hathaway
Does it get any better than this? Okay, I would have added a simple, but stand-out necklace, but why quibble. Anne is exquisite all the time, and that night, the reincarnation of Audrey Hepburn.


#1
Jessica Alba
I had a hard time choosing between Anne's dress and Jessica's, but in the end I gave it up to Jessica because the color is luscious — and ravishing against her skin, and her hair is gorgeous. She is altogether flawless and breathtaking IMHO.
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Golden Globes least dressed

"Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman." ― Coco Chanel

THERE WERE so many outfits at the Golden Globes I didn't like that I could have easily chosen 20 or more.

#10
Nicole Richie
Nicole's dress made it onto some best dressed lists, but IMHO it looks like she's wearing a table cloth she sewed in 4-H. A V-neck would have helped; structural detail would have helped, and it just looks too old for her. She can wait another 20 years or so to be the mother of the bride.

 #9
Amy Poehler
Amy's outfit also made a few best-dressed lists, but there's too much cleavage (not as obvious in this shot as it actually was), and those short toreador pants make her legs look fat, chunky and stumpy (sort of sounds like a good name for a cartoon trio — fatty, chunky and stumpy), not to mention that the women's tuxedo thing has been done to death.

#8
Sienna Miller
Sienna's two-piece may have been created, as she says, by one of Britain's hot new designers, but that doesn't make it good. Cut off the skirt, and it's a perfect little summer outfit to wear to lunch with the girls in suburbia, but not the Golden Globes.

#7
Lucy Liu
Lucy Liu appears to be wearing either the French-inspired love seat upholstery or drapes from her bedroom. 

#6
Kristen Bell
I realize Kristen is pregnant, but that's not the problem or even any problem. It's that gigantic set of beaded football shoulder pads she's wearing. They make her look like she has no neck whatsoever. And would it kill you to wear color? If the skirt from the below the shoulder pads down would have at least been an appealing color, it would have balanced the weight of that heavy frontispiece. All in all, she looks like she's wearing a neck immobilizer attached to bedazzled football pads attached to window shears. 

#5
Eva Longoria
I'm thinking Eva Longoria didn't have time to shop or have anything made, so she pulled out some lingerie from her boudoir and called it good. There's just too much skin. We shouldn't be able to see the side of your breasts, Eva. Come on, you know the rules: one exposed area per outfit. If you show lots of leg, you gotta keep the girls covered and vice versa.

#4
Rachel Weisz
Rachel, it's just awful, what can I say? At the last minute, did someone in your entourage try to 'edge up' your look by taking scissors this thing? If you'd only just let the solid black underskirt go all the way to the floor and added a string of pearls, you would have looked classically stunning. Think Audrey Hepburn, Jackie KennedyGrace Kelly or Veronica Lake.  

#3
Katharine McPhee
Oh for goodness sake, Katharine, you look like you dropped in (or out — which seems much more likely under the circumstances) at the Golden Globes after raving it up at a bondage party or maybe a goth strip club. That's where it looks like you belong. Satin suspenders attached to a partial skirt, does not qualify as wearing clothes.

#2 
Alyssa Milanno
Oh, where to start. The color is awful, the shininess is worse and the shape. Wait, what shape? She looks like she's either wearing a toga or has been transformed into a balloon-twist animal/person that clowns make. If Alyssa imagined the loose fit camouflages extra weight or problem areas, the opposite is happening. She looks bigger than I suspect she is.

#1
Jessica Chastain
You may wonder how any dress could be worse than the previous shiny orange balloon-toga, but Jessica managed to find one. It's a saggy, baggy sack hardly covering any of the significant parts of her body. And as if having no coverage on the upper front wasn't tasteless enough, her dress was also entirely backless! Her hair looks like she escaped from Sister Wives and the makeup does her no favors, especially that red-with-a-capital-R lipstick. How could anyone with flawless skin, gorgeous-colored hair and a trim and shapely figure look so bad? 
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

A different 1%

"The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy." Woodrow Wilson

HEY WOODROW, true in your time; way worse today! 

Today I spent all afternoon "on the hill" as they call the seat of state government here in Iowa to try to work to change that. I attended a committee meeting and press conference hosted by the Iowa Public Information Research Group in support of 1) amending Citizens United 2) legislation that mandates complete campaign finance transparency from every candidate who campaigns in Iowa for any elected office 3) making a public financing option available for elections.

In the process I met State Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo, Iowa. He spoke fervently about the need for such legislation and in fact introduced a bill to that effect in the 2012 session that passed the Senate, but unfortunately failed on the House side. Jeff told the group that we "aren't normal" (tell me something I don't already know about myself) — however in this case because we're the 1% who engage in the process of government by showing up and talking with those who represent us. 

I was pretty impressed by Mr. Danielson: bold, articulate, student of the process, Navy veteran and firefighter; I think we're looking at higher office potential here.


State Senator Jeff Danielson

At the press conference, State Senator Pam Jochum spoke about her efforts to make government truly representational by working for campaign finance reform and transparency in government. Pam was sworn in just two days ago as the first ever female President of the Iowa State Senate. Yay Pam!! Pam and I attended the National Democratic Convention together in Atlanta in 1984.
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