Thursday, July 30, 2015

A salute to ADA, Tom Harkin and Jack Hillyard

“Many of those things that I worked on for all those years were inspired by my brother.” Tom Harkin, former United States Senator from Iowa

JULY 26 marked the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Iowans can take pride in this milestone; we elected Senator Tom Harkin who was one of the main authors of the bill.

I confess to you that for longer than should have been the case, I didn't fully appreciate the impact of ADA. The person who helped me wise up is Jack Hillyard who, during the time that he was our office-building neighbor and friend, served as executive director of the Center for Disabilities and Development for University of Iowa Health Care.

His former title — he's since moved on to do important related work for the state of Pennsylvania and elsewhere around the country — isn't terribly informative as to what his work and accomplishments were; he successfully negotiated back and forth between the Iowa legislature and the Iowa Department of Human Services to secure passage of Iowa's Medicaid buy-in program which resulted in Medicaid coverage for over 17,000 employed persons with disabilities.

One day he said to me, "People walk around thinking that 'other people' are disabled. What they don't realize is that they're just not disabled — yet. They will be, though." 

Jack Hillyard

What he meant was this: break your leg and boom, you're in a cast and disabled. Not permanently, if you're lucky, but you're disabled for awhile, and so on for the limitless list of things that can happen in a nanosecond that have the power to leave any of us struggling with mobility, including old age afflictions that spare virtually no one. 

So what happened? I fell off a loading dock in a dark warehouse, severely sprained my ankle and had to have Paul push me around in a wheel chair at the grocery store and in airports.

I've never forgotten the lessons I learned from Jack.

Below, find a first-person story from The New York Times about what the bill meant to one man and his family; below that is a salute to now-retired Senator Tom Harkin lifted from the Omaha World-Herald.

Former Senator Tom Harkin

An Act That Enabled Acceptance

By Ben Mattlin
July 25, 2015

VISIT me and you’ll see, prominently displayed in my living room, my wedding portrait. My wife looks radiant in a lacy white cloud, standing beside tuxedo’d me in my motorized wheelchair. I’m not propped on a sofa or lounger; my wheelchair is deliberately not cropped out of the photo. It’s literally part of the picture, as it’s always been for us.

We were married almost exactly one year before passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the 25th anniversary of which will be celebrated July 26. I’m a lifelong wheelchair user because of a genetic condition called spinal muscular atrophy; my wife is what’s now called “neurotypical,” a fancy term for nondisabled. But on our wedding day, my disability — and my concomitant lack of basic civil-rights protections — was far from our minds.

Of course, the A.D.A. had nothing to do with marriage equality. What it did do, the government noted, was mandate equal access in employment, public accommodations and government programs for anyone who “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” or“a history or record of such an impairment” or “is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” This meant public spaces like stores, theaters and restaurants had to install ramps or electric lifts; many doorways had to be widened; elevators revamped with Braille buttons; and public restrooms altered. Employers, too, had to make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled workers, such as allowing flex time or providing telephone headsets or appropriate computer software.

Before the A.D.A., only public schools and other institutions that received federal funding faced similar requirements. A few states — notably, California — had already established some accessibility standards, but nothing as broad-based as the A.D.A.

Back then, I was only marginally aware that I could be — or even had been — discriminated against. I tended to minimize my disability and its impact on others. My wife and I were probably more concerned about the fact that I was a New York urbanite and she a suburban Californian. We met on summer break from college, talking endlessly during long warm-evening strolls, trying to keep pace with each other though we moved by different means. Our many differences, I think now, were part of the attraction. To me, her West Coast free-spiritedness was exotic; to her, my determination must have seemed like a force of nature. Also, she told me later, seeing the no-nonsense way my family assisted me at home helped demystify my limitations and needs. The novelty of our relationship felt like an asset, not a liability.

Certainly, the longevity of our union also owes a great debt to honest communication and creative problem solving. The wedding photo is a good example. We put it up only after we grew tired of deliverymen and repairmen and housecleaners asking if she was my sister, or my nurse. Some have even called her a saint for staying with me. It makes us want to scream: “No! The disability didn’t come as a tragic surprise. It was there from day one, a strand in the very fabric of our lives together.”

The picture also comes in handy if my wife isn’t home and some clueless visitor addresses my attendant instead of me, discounting my presence. I’ll try to draw attention to the photo, as a way of saying, “Hey, I live here, and I have a life beyond these wheels.”

When I was in grade school, my parents fought to get me “mainstreamed” into regular classrooms rather than segregated in special education. (Full inclusion, as it’s now known, didn’t become law until I was in eighth grade.) When I started college, at Harvard, it was the first year accessibility was required at universities and similar institutions, per the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (which took years to be fully implemented). One dean, I painfully recall, quashed my request for roommates instead of the isolation of a separate dorm room. He said he feared how my disability might affect them. Forget about how this sequestration affected me.

More shocking still is how easily I accepted his judgment. Accommodating the disabled did seem like an impossible imposition then. Indeed, when the A.D.A. passed, one of the biggest fears was what it would cost businesses, even though the law plainly states that accommodations can’t cause “undue hardship” for other patrons or employees or the employer’s bottom line. (The Department of Labor found that modifications for workers with disabilities averaged only $500 each.) Moreover, businesses that make accessibility modifications can receive tax benefits — a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for removing barriers, as well as a tax credit of up to $5,000 annually for small businesses.

People with disabilities also represent a huge potential market. The United StatesCensus counts nearly one in five Americans as disabled, and we spend $17.3 billion a year on travel alone, according to the Open Doors Organization, a Chicago-based nonprofit.

Looking back, perhaps the most unexpected achievement of the A.D.A. isn’t the wheelchair lifts on buses or the sign-language interpreters at political conventions. It’s that it gave people like me a sense of entitlement, of belonging, of pride.

The A.D.A. is about more than ramps and Braille; it’s about dispelling stereotypes, ensuring parity and fairness, creating opportunities and opening up our society to the full spectrum of types and needs. It’s about accepting, even welcoming, a huge and often marginalized segment of the population.

Our two teenage daughters, both able-bodied, have grown up in a different world. Recently, one came home from her high school’s Diversity Day incensed by a presentation about disabilities. “It was all about being kind to people who face difficulties, which is fine,” she said, “but there was nothing about respect or empowerment or equality!”

Maybe I’ll bring my wedding portrait to the next Diversity Day. Whether we knew it or not at the time, our brand of mixed marriage sends a powerful message.

Tom Harkin's brother fueled his ADA determination
By Andrew J. Nelson
July 21, 2013

Many people look to their older siblings for inspiration. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is no exception.

Harkin's older brother, Frank, was deaf. His struggles were behind many of the younger brother's efforts to help the disabled, including the landmark 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. Tom Harkin was one of the main authors as well as the chief Senate sponsor of the legislation.

“He was a great guy and a great brother,” Tom Harkin said in a 2000 interview after Frank Harkin died at age 78. “Many of those things that I worked on for all those years were inspired by my brother.”

The act was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The legislation altered the American landscape by requiring that buildings and transportation be wheelchair-accessible and that workplace accommodations be provided for those with disabilities. It also prohibited businesses and governments from discriminating against the disabled in job applications and required closed captioning for television.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court found that unnecessary institutionalization of the disabled violated the act. But a study released last week, commissioned by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that Harkin chairs, found that institutionalization remains a problem.

Harkin said that moving working-aged disabled out of nursing homes and similar facilities would not only be more humane but also be less expensive.

“The isolation of working-aged persons with disabilities in institutions is a shameful holdover,” he said. “Integration into the community is the right thing to do. It is a smarter use of our Medicaid dollars.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Janis Ian talks about Bill Cosby

"If it was consensual, why are there so many women who do not want money, who do not need fame, who are by turns ashamed, violated, exposed, vulnerable, and still continue to speak out?" — Janis Ian

PAUL follows Janis Ian on Facebook. In a recent post she wrote about the recent New York Magazine Bill Cosby cover story, including her own memories of knowing and working with him. Here's what she had to say:

"Thank you all for the response to my Cosby memory. Someone pointed out that by starting it with the New York Magazine link, people sharing it would only be able to share the link, not the text. So here it is again with a different format.

The photos are of me, at 16, on the Smothers Brothers show.

Do I have a stake in this issue? Yes. Of course. Outside of being female, outside of knowing women aren't "heard" as loudly as men are heard, outside of firmly believing that if women were treated equally around the world, many if not all of the world's problems would no longer exist - outside of all that . . . I have a personal stake.

No, I was not sexually bothered by Bill Cosby. We met because he was curious about me.

My song "Society's Child" was climbing the charts and creating a great deal of controversy. The Smothers Brothers took a huge gamble and had me on their hit television show. I was just sixteen years old when we taped it. I'd been on the road for months, doing press and one-nighters. My chaperone/tour manager, a family friend six or seven years older than me, was doing everything in her power to make sure I was protected and getting as much rest as possible.

Remember. I was sixteen. Still in high school. Fairly naive, including about my own sexuality. For months on the road, my chaperone was the only consistent face I saw. Everyone else was a complete stranger - radio personalities, newspaper reporters, magazine photographers, audiences, promoters, disc jockeys, all strangers. So I clung to my chaperone.

We'd never been to a big-time TV taping. We had no idea we'd have to be inside from early early morning until whenever they called for me. There were only a couple of chairs for us on the set - I was pretty low on the totem pole, way lower than Jimmy Durante or Pat Paulsen or Mason Williams (all of whom were wonderful to us). And I was exhausted. I'd been having nightmares for weeks, the result of the controversy surrounding "Society's Child" and the death threats I was receiving daily. I needed to sleep. So I fell asleep in my chaperone's lap. She was earth motherly, I was scared. It was good to rest.

We taped the show. I had a ball. (You can see it on Youtube, in fact. That's me, looking scared, in the green dress. My friend Buffy from East Orange, where I'd started high school, made it for me. I treasured it.) Then we went back to New York, and I went back to school.

A while later, my manager called me into her office. "What happened at the Smothers Brothers show?!" I had no idea what she was talking about, and said so. "Well, no one else on TV is willing to have you on. Not out there, anyway." Why? I wondered. And was told that Cosby, seeing me asleep in the chaperone's lap, had made it his business to "warn" other shows that I wasn't "suitable family entertainment", was probably a lesbian, and shouldn't be on television.

Again, a reminder. I was 16. I'd never slept with a man, I'd never slept with a woman. Hell, I barely been kissed, and that in the middle of the summer camp sports area, next to the ping pong table.

Banned from TV. Unbelievable. Bless Johnny Carson and his producer Freddy de Cordova, one of the nicest men I've ever worked with, because they didn't listen. Or maybe they didn't give a damn. I don't know. I do know that they broke the barrier Cosby tried to create.

There's a lot to bother a sensible person about this. The years these women were ignored. The years they were derided. That the story finally really "broke" because a male comedian named Hannibal Buress kept bringing it up, kept calling Cosby a "rapist". Not because woman after woman after woman went to the police, to the press, to anyone who'd listen, with horribly similar stories.

Let me be snarky for a moment. Interesting that there are so few women of color in the New Yorker photo. Interesting that the ones in the photo all appear to be light-skinned. Perhaps darker skinned women have not come forward yet? Perhaps they're among the other 12 women who've accused him but aren't pictured?

Or perhaps not. I have to wonder if this rapist has some issues with his own race.

Continuing the snarkiness, I find it horrifying that his wife is still insisting it was all consensual. That she sounds more upset by "the invasion of privacy" than the rapes.

People seem to be confused because she continues to stand by him. I have just two words for that - money, honey. According to the press, she's his manager, and has been for years. And his "business manager", eg the person who handles the money. So if there were pay-offs, she saw the checks. She is complicit.

If it was consensual, why pay anyone to be silent?

If it was consensual, why are there so many women who do not want money, who do not need fame, who are by turns ashamed, violated, exposed, vulnerable, and still continue to speak out?

Cosby was right in one thing. I am gay. Or bi, if you prefer, since I dearly loved the two men I lived with over the years. My tilt is toward women, though, and he was right about that.

But what an odd thing, that a black man who slept with so very many white women chose to take my possible lesbianism away from our one meeting, rather than the message I tried to get across with "Society's Child." How pathetic. How truly, truly pathetic."

The cover and the story

"I told my supervisor at the Playboy Club what he did to me, and you know what she said to me? She said: 'You do know that that's Hefner's best friend, right?' I said, 'Yes.' She says to me: 'Nobody's going to believe you. I suggest you shut your mouth.'" — P. J. Masten

BY NOW, if you haven't read the New York Magazine's Bill Cosby feature story from the July 29 – August 9 issue, you've probably at least seen the cover. Did you know that for a time, a hacker crashed the magazine's site, preventing people from reading the article?

Below is a short piece from the Chicago Tribune, and below that the text of the New York Magazine article.

New York Magazine's Bill Cosby cover story is required reading

By Heidi Stevens
July 27, 2015

(UPDATE: The New York Magazine site was back up and running as of 3:15 p.m. Monday.)

Someone with a lot of power doesn't want you to read New York Magazine's Bill Cosby cover story.

You should read it anyway.

As of Monday morning, the magazine's website was offline. "Our site is experiencing technical difficulties. We are aware of the issue, and working on a fix," a tweet explained.

A few hours earlier, editors had posted this week's cover, which shows 35 women who share an unenviable title: Cosby accusers. (Forty-six women have come forward publicly to accuse the comedian of rape.)

"A sorrowful sisterhood," Joan Tarshis, who says Cosby assaulted her in 1969, told the magazine.

A hacker who calls himself ThreatKing is claiming responsibility for crashing the site, saying he was motivated by a hatred for New York, according to The Daily Dot, which interviewed him via Skype.

"I have not even seen the cover, LOL," he said.

You can still read the entire article here, thanks to's Wayback Machine.

It's a powerful, important piece of history in the making, finally gathering almost three dozen of the women who've accused Cosby of assault and giving them a united voice.

"The group, at present, ranges in age from early 20s to 80 and includes supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson alongside waitresses and Playboy bunnies and journalists and a host of women who formerly worked in show business," writes New York staffer Noreen Malone. "Many of the women say they know of others still out there who've chosen to remain silent."

Malone's article considers our culture's slow evolution in its handling of rape accusations. A decade ago, she writes, 14 women had already accused Cosby of rape. "But they were met, mostly, with skepticism, threats, and attacks on their character," she writes.

They haven't gone silent.

"Among younger women," Malone writes, "and particularly online, there is a strong sense now that speaking up is the only thing to do, that a woman claiming her own victimhood is more powerful than any other weapon in the fight against rape."

P.J. Masten says Cosby assaulted her in 1979. She tells the magazine:

"I told my supervisor at the Playboy Club what he did to me, and you know what she said to me? She said: 'You do know that that's Hefner's best friend, right?' I said, 'Yes.' She says to me: 'Nobody's going to believe you. I suggest you shut your mouth.'"

"In 1975, it wasn't an issue that was even discussed," accuser Marcella Tate tells New York. "Rape was being beaten up in a park. I understood at the time that it was wrong, but I just internalized it and dealt with it and pushed it down, and it resided in a very private place."

Barbara Bowman wrote a Washington Post piece last year reminding readers that she spent 30 years trying to get people to listen to her story. She tells New York:

"Listen, he was America's favorite dad. I went into this thinking he was going to be my dad. To wake up half-dressed and raped by the man that said he was going to love me like a father? That's pretty sick. It was hard for America to digest when this came out. And a lot of backlash and a lot (of) denial and a lot of anger."

"People often these days say, 'Well, why didn't you take it to the police?'" accuser Tamara Green tells New York. "Andrea Constand went to the police in 2005 — how'd it work out for her? Not at all. In 2005, Bill Cosby still had control of the media. In 2015, we have social media. We can't be disappeared. It's online and can never go away."

Where will we go from here?

Toward justice, I hope. Away from doubt, I hope.

But I can't help but think of another powerful quote, from another brave survivor.

"(Rape accusations) challenge our beliefs about the world and the people we can trust and our own safety and security," Anne Ream told me last fall. "It's much easier to believe you're dealing with a confused or unstable or money-motivated person. That's a lot easier to embrace than believing someone we otherwise know and trust can be a sexual predator."

Ream, who was kidnapped and raped by a stranger when she was 25, wrote "Lived Through This: Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors" (Beacon Press), a narrative account of 18 survivors' stories.

Assigning voices and faces to survivors can be a critical part of helping them heal, Ream contends. It fosters a community and pushes back against the notion that sexual assault should be shrouded in shamed silence.

It should also push back against the reflexive disbelief that so infects this culture.

‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen
By Noreen Malone and portfolio by Amanda Demme
July 26, 2015

More has changed in the past few years for women who allege rape than in all the decades since the women’s movement began. Consider the evidence of October 2014, when a Philadelphia magazine reporter at a Hannibal Buress show uploaded a clip of the comedian talking about Bill Cosby: “He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people … I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches … I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. Dude’s image, for the most part, it’s fucking public Teflon image. I’ve done this bit onstage and people think I’m making it up … That shit is upsetting.” The bit went viral swiftly, with irreversible, calamitous consequences for Cosby’s reputation.

Perhaps the most shocking thing wasn’t that Buress had called Cosby a rapist; it was that the world had actually heard him. A decade earlier, 14 women had accused Cosby of rape. In 2005, a former basketball star named Andrea Constand, who met Cosby when she was working in the athletic department at Temple University, where he served on the board of trustees, alleged to authorities that he had drugged her to a state of semi-consciousness and then groped and digitally penetrated her. After her allegations were made public, a California lawyer named Tamara Green appeared on the Today show and said that, 30 years earlier, Cosby had drugged and assaulted her as well. Eventually, 12 Jane Does signed up to tell their own stories of being assaulted by Cosby in support of Constand’s case. Several of them eventually made their names public. But they were met, mostly, with skepticism, threats, and attacks on their character.

In Cosby’s deposition for the Constand case, revealed to the public just last week, the comedian admitted pursuing sex with young women with the aid of Quaaludes, which can render a person functionally immobile. “I used them,” he said, “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.’ ” He asked a modeling agent to connect him with young women who were new in town and “financially not doing well.” In the deposition, Cosby seemed confident that his behavior did not constitute rape; he apparently saw little difference between buying someone dinner in pursuit of sex and drugging them to reach the same goal. As for consent, he said, “I think that I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things.” If these women agreed to meet up, his deposition suggested, he felt that he had a right to them. And part of what took the accusations against Cosby so long to surface is that this belief extended to many of the women themselves (as well as the staff and lawyers and friends and others who helped keep the incidents secret).

Months after his depositions, Cosby settled the case with Constand. The accusations quickly faded from the public’s memory, if they registered at all. No one wanted to believe the TV dad in a cardigan was capable of such things, and so they didn’t. The National Enquirer had planned to run a big story detailing one of the women’s accounts, but the magazine pulled it when Cosby agreed to give them a two-page exclusive telling his side (essentially that these were instances that had been “misinterpreted”). People ran a story alleging that several of the women had taken money in exchange for their silence, implying that this was nothing more than an elaborate shakedown. Cosby’s career rolled on: In 2014 alone, there was a stand-up special, plans for a new family comedy on NBC, and a high-profile biography by Mark Whitaker that glossed over the accusations.

Read the full article here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Teaching emotional intelligence

“Our next step is to take it beyond education out into our communities and throughout the state. That’s really where the need is.” — Ed Graff, Anchorage School District superintendent 

OH MY, there are those I could name who would have benefited so much from programs like the ones described in the attached New York Times piece. Mind-blindness limits those who are thusly deficient, but unfairly exacts a harsh penalty on everyone who have to live or work with them.

Can we go backwards in time and make programs like these retroactively mandatory?

Teaching Social Skills to Improve Grades and Lives

By David Bornstein 

July 24, 2015 

In the early 1990s, about 50 kindergarten teachers were asked to rate the social and communication skills of 753 children in their classrooms. It was part of the Fast Track Project, an intervention and study administered in Durham, N.C., Nashville, Seattle and central Pennsylvania. The goals were to understand how children develop healthy social skills, and help them do so.

Using an assessment tool called the “Social Competence Scale,” the teachers were asked to assign each child a score based on qualities that included “cooperates with peers without prompting”; “is helpful to others”; “is very good at understanding feelings”; and “resolves problems on own.”

This month, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke published a study that looked at what had happened to those students in the 13 to 19 years since they left kindergarten. Their findings warrant major attention because the teachers’ rankings were extremely prescient.

They predicted the likelihood of many outcomes: whether the children would graduate from high school on time, get college degrees, have stable or full-time employment as young adults; whether they would live in public housing or receive public assistance; whether they would be held in juvenile detention or be arrested as adults. The kindergarten teachers’ scores also correlated with the number of arrests a young adult would have for severe offenses by age 25.

The researchers had statistically controlled for the effects of poverty, race, having teenage parents, family stress and neighborhood crime, and for the children’s aggression and reading levels in kindergarten.

One major result: Children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college than those who scored low.

These findings add to a growing body of evidence — including long-term studies drawn from data in New Zealand and Britain — that have profound implications for educators. These studies suggest that if we want many more children to lead fulfilling and productive lives, it’s not enough for schools to focus exclusively on academics. Indeed, one of the most powerful and cost-effective interventions is to help children develop core social and emotional strengths like self-management, self-awareness and social awareness — strengths that are necessary for students to fully benefit from their education, and succeed in many other areas of life.

“These early abilities, especially the ability to get along with others, are the abilities that make other kids like you, and make teachers like kids,” said Mark T. Greenberg, a professor of Human Development and Psychology at Penn State and a co-author of the study. “And when kids feel liked, they’re more likely to settle down and pay attention, and keep out of the principal’s office, and reap the benefits of being in a classroom. And this builds over time; it’s like a cascade. They become more bonded with peers and healthy adults and they become more bonded to school as an institution, and all those skills lead them, independent of their I.Q., to be less at risk for problems.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Eat at Whataburger

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” ― Frederick Douglass

I APPLAUDE, Preston Atkinson. If any who read this live where there's a Whataburger, eat there and thank them for taking a stand against gun insanity. 

Paul was in HyVee recently — it's a grocery store for god's sakes where there are moms and children and silver-haired grandmas — and some civilian asshole, a mountain of a man, came swaggering in with gun on his hip. 

Paul left. He said, "I'm not shopping where they let armed idiots in. What's he afraid of — that the broccoli might try something?"

So vote with your purse or wallet. Eat at Whataburger, and tell them why.

Here's a link to all Whataburger locations.

Whataburger Takes Stand Against Texas' New Open Carry Law

By The Associated Press
July, 12, 2015

An iconic Texas restaurant chain will not allow the open carrying of guns on its properties, and industry experts say other restaurants will likely take the same stand against a new state law legalizing the practice in many public places.

Whataburger — with some 780 locations in 10 states — has drawn a mix of praise and rebuke since making the announcement this month, including a prediction of boycotts from one of the state's leading advocates for gun rights.

In an open letter on the company's website, Whataburger president and CEO Preston Atkinson said many employees and customers are "uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm." He described himself as an avid hunter with a concealed-carry license and noted that patrons licensed to carry concealed handguns will still be able to do so in Whataburger.

Atkinson's letter comes one month after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that made it legal to carry handguns openly on the streets of the nation's second most-populous state, ending a prohibition dating back to the post-Civil War era that disarmed former Confederate soldiers and freed slaves.

The law, which gives private property owners the right to prohibit open carry, was hailed as a victory for gun rights advocates who have staged high-profile rallies at the Alamo and Texas Capitol over the past couple of years. Some even brought military-style assault rifles into businesses as part of their demonstrations, prompting the Chipotle restaurant chain to discourage firearms on their premises.

Whataburger's decision is expected to pave the way for other restaurants to enact similar policies that will further limit where gun owners can openly carry their firearms when the law takes effect in January. Texas Restaurant Association CEO Richie Jackson said he wasn't surprised by Whataburger's advance announcement, noting that "gun rights do not trump property rights" under the new law. "It can't be kept a secret," he said. "Given the number of units that they have in Texas, they just wanted to make it very clear as to where they were going to be, and I would expect to see a number of restaurants follow."

But Open Carry Texas founder C.J. Grisham said Whataburger's policy was "premature and irresponsible," and that the restaurant caved to "fear mongering." "I think most gun owners that know this policy are simply not going to go to Whataburger, like me," he said.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Love wins

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space Suit — Will Travel

HERE'S the latest on Miss Shiva: She's continuing to recover! We're beside ourselves with relief and gratitude.

We still have no diagnosis, however. The results of her pancreas tests came back normal. We took her back to the vet for a checkup today and possible dental x-rays, but based on Shiva's near miraculous recovery from failing as rapidly as she was, the vet didn't think x-rays are necessary.

Her temperature is normal, she's now eating enthusiastically, bringing us her ball to throw, bugging us to go outside for a walk, and in every way, acting completely normal. The little lump on her cheek is a scab — not a tumor or an abscess from a tooth. We're guessing that the Boy clipped her with a claw, but the vet says her small wound in no way explains these three weeks from hell and her near-death experience. Dr. Flaming's best guess remains that Shiva either caught a virus or had a bout of pancreatitis.

We're keeping her on her "special" medicine and an appetite stimulant for awhile longer, though, until she puts back on all the weight she lost.

In celebration of her return to us, Hey Look is sharing this sweet video. It's the best!!


Friday, July 24, 2015

In search of perfect underpants

“You will treat my underwear with the reverence it deserves.” ― Molly Harper, How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf

MEN, you don't know this, but for women, finding just exactly the right undergarments is a challenge. 

For now I will address only the underpants dilemma. 

If a woman happens to be of a certain age and above — I'm going to take a rough stab and say 40-plus, she did not come of age wearing thongs — or butt floss, as Paul calls them.

There is one (and only one) advantage to thongs, and that is that they leave no VPL. What?!?! What?!?! You don't know what a VPL is? Visible panty line, of course,

And for a person like myself who would prefer there be no public knowledge of anything on or about my posterior (you see what a sacrifice this blog post is) — no line created to call attention to or encourage a potential gazer to speculate as to the nature of the garment or the body beneath it, not having a VPL is a considerable benefit. 

The downside of a thong is (duh) discomfort.

So when I discovered the "Very Sexy" line of Victoria's Secret women's undergarments, it was a hallelujah moment, and I bought at least a dozen pairs. 

Here's what made them perfect: There is no elastic or hem or any other thickening to the fabric at the top or on the legs. The fabric is itself gently elastic and very, very thin so as to stay in place, yet be invisible. The edges of the leg are even scalloped to even further avoid creating any kind of a line. 

They were ingenious. They were perfect. They were utterly invisible underneath clothing while still providing all the comfort of normal i.e., non-thong underpants.

So what did Victoria's Secret do? Stop making them of course.

They still make a line called "Very Sexy," but they are not the same!!! My suspicion is that they discontinued them because they were not only perfect, but it took years, literally, years for them to wear out. Women would never buy others in pursuit of better ones, and they wouldn't need to buy more of these oftener than every 10 years! 

I have spent at least four trips around the sun and many wasted dollars looking for a suitable replacement. At last I've found something close. Not as perfect, mind you, because they lack the scalloped leg edges, but very close.

They're made by Calvin Klein and are $12 a pair, although I got mine on sale, so I paid, I think, $8.00 each. They are SO worth it!

Below is a photo and a close-up of the skew tag so you can identify them if you want to enjoy wearing invisible underpants with no discomfort.

I consider this a selfless act of public service to women of the world. You're welcome. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Neonatal intensive care

"I think the take-home message isn't that these are five tests and treatments that appear to have low value, but these represent five of probably many that when used routinely don't add value to the care of the baby.” — DeWayne Pursley, chief neonatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

MY ADMIRED friend of many years, Suzanne Langille Mattei, is executive director of New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment. She recently shared the attached NPR piece about neonatal intensive care that I found worth reading.

5 Things Your Baby Should Avoid In The NICU

By Nancy Shute
July, 20, 2015

If you've got a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, your first thought is probably not, "Does my child really need that antireflux medication?"

But antireflux meds in for newborns topped the list of five overused tests or treatments released Monday as part of the "Choosing Wisely" program. About one-third of health care spending in the United States is overuse and waste, costing about $2.7 trillion a year.

"With newborns, there's very little evidence that routine use will improve the symptoms," says DeWayne Pursley, chief neonatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and senior author on the paper, which was published in Pediatrics.

In other words, babies spit up. There's evidence that giving newborns antireflux medications doesn't reduce the risk of apnea or low blood oxygen, the two problems it's typically prescribed for in preemies. And it could cause long-term harm, Pursley says.

The other four tests and treatments to avoid doing routinely are:

- Antibiotics for more than 48 hours in babies who don't have evidence of a bacterial infection.

- Overnight breathing studies for assessing apnea in premature infants before they go home.

- Daily chest X-rays for infants who are intubated, unless there's a specific problem that needs to be investigated.

- Screening brain MRIs when babies reach their term equivalent age, or at discharge from the hospital.

That's not to say that no infant should ever get these, Pursley says. "But our gripe, if you will, is their routine use."

To come up with the list, an expert panel of 51 specialists in neonatal care compared through almost 3,000 tests and treatments recommended by practitioners.

It was hard to narrow the list down to just five low-value items, Pursley says; there were so many that the experts thought were of dubious worth.

"I think the take-home message isn't that these are five tests and treatments that appear to have low value, but these represent five of probably many that when used routinely don't add value to the care of the baby," Pursley says.

A great example is brain MRIs for extremely preterm babies around the time they should have been born. They're promoted as helping to predict which children will have neurological and developmental problems and will need interventions, Pursley says. But the MRIs have only a 50/50 chance of getting it right.

"Some families will say, 'Gee, if I had known there would be this uncertainty I wouldn't have wanted to have the test,' " Pursley says. "There are other ways of looking at the brain in babies and probably getting just as good information."

MRIs cost a lot of money, and it's another stressful test that a fragile baby shouldn't have to undergo if it's not helping.

So what are parents to do when they've got a child in the NICU and they're facing dozens of mysterious tests or treatments?

Parents can ask if they can do rounds with the medical team, Pursley says, which is an increasingly common practice in NICUs. That way they'll hear how the care team assesses the child's progress and how they do their planning. "It provides [parents] an opportunity to ask why certain tests and treatments are being done."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saving Shiva

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

THE LAST two and a half weeks have been an emotional roller coaster at our house. As some of you know, we have four cat-children: Shye, Shiva, Boy Boy and Anaya, ages 9, 9, 7 and 5 respectively. They're all unique; they're all adored.

Shiva suddenly became lethargic, limp and dull-eyed about 18 days ago. Because she's prone to hairballs, that's what we thought it probably was, especially since she seemed to be coughing a bit — that trying-to-cough-up-a-hairball cough. We gave her some hairball medicine and watched her for a day and a half.

The hairball medicine produced no results, and she seemed to be worsening, so we took her to the vet Monday morning. X-rays taken showed nothing stuck in her stomach or intestines. The techs also ran a full-spectrum blood panel, and every value was normal — except that she was running a slight fever. That and the little cough led to a best-guess by the vet that Shiva had a a virus for which the only remedy would be time and support.

I'm not sure how she could have had better support than she got. Paul slept on the floor with her night after night, but unfortunately, not only was she not getting better, she was continuing to decline.

By now, I've lost track of how many times between that Monday and the next that we had her at the vet. On our second trip in two days, she was given an antibiotic shot to address as yet undetected infection that might be hiding in her body — and as a preventative: Cats apparently are prone to developing secondary infections when other things are going wrong.

Our biggest concern at this point had become that she'd absolutely stopped eating and drinking. She was prescribed an anti-nausea drug in case she'd ingested something bad and was suffering from prolonged nausea, and we were giving her a prescription appetite stimulant, all to no avail.

As the only means we knew of to keep her alive, Paul started syringe-feeding her with special high-calorie food, and we took to the vet for subcutaneous fluids.

By the second Monday, we decided to hospitalize her because although Paul was syringe-feedling her every four hours or so — or as often as she would let us — we didn't think we were getting enough food and fluid in her. We hoped the vet could do a better job.

They reran blood tests, did a fecal analysis and performed an ultrasound — all of which revealed nothing irregular or deviating from normal. She was put on IV fluids and given steroids, anti-nausea medication and an appetite stimulant to try to get her to eat, but they were still having to syringe-feed her, and she still continued to lose weight.

The vet had begun to suspect pancreatitis. We decided that the next step needed to be taking her to Iowa State University Veterinary Hospital where they offer more specialized tests for pancreatic markers. While she was at ISU, they also performed another ultrasound which again found nothing abnormal.

While this had all been transpiring, Paul had anxiously — both dreading, but wanting to get past — a tooth extraction, which BTW, is no small thing for a professional horn player, and it was scheduled, and had been so for a month, for the day we needed to get Shiva to ISU. We were back and forth from the oral surgeon to the local vet, to ISU, to our GP dentist, to ISU from 7:30 in the morning to 6:30 at night.

With all tests normal, and influenced by how obviously excited and happy Shiva was to see me when I came back at the end of the day, Shiva's veterinary team thought home was the best place for her. The big news, however, was that while she was there, a fourth-year student managed to get her to lick a little food off a tongue depressor — the first food she'd eaten on her own for a week.

That was the first tiny glimmer of hope. 

The goal, of course, has been to see if we could get her to eat on her own, and to that end, ISU prescribed a lower dose of appetite stimulant so that it could be administered daily instead of every three days.

As soon as I got her in the house, I put out a little warmed, wet food for her and miracle of miracles, she ate some of it!!!! Paul and I were so relieved that we cried!

Paul and I are continuing to offer her food every two to three hours, and she has been coming back little by little ever since. 

We were actually able to leave the house today for three hours, and when we returned, she greeted us at the door just like a normal Shiva would. She begged to go outside so Paul took her out for a walk-around. Instead she ran around . . . down the driveway and back up, and a pass across the backyard. Tonight she picked up her favorite little ball, brought it in to us and dropped it for us to toss it for her.

I'd say that we're out of the trees, but not out of the woods. 

Over the course of her illness, we have consulted either in person or, having emailed all her test results and records, over the phone with at least eight different veterinarians at four different clinics. But we still don't have an exact diagnosis of what has been going on in that little body of hers. The consensus of surmise is that it's pancreatitis. We hope to have the results of her pancreas tests — that had to be analyzed in Texas — back tomorrow.

Another cause we're considering is an internally abscessed back tooth. Our local vet and the ones at ISU examined her mouth and saw nothing, but an x-ray of her head would reveal more. The plan is to get that in three days. For the time being, all vets would like her to continue eat and rest and, fingers crossed, put a little more weight back on before she has to have another clinic visit.

We continue to try to piece together clues. She kept having that little cough every now and then and seemed particularly prone to it after eating. When she'd been home for a day and had started eating again, Shiva had a protracted coughing spell — it might have lasted a minute in elapsed time, but when she was done, it almost seemed at though she had relieved herself of something that might have been in there. She walked over to her food and started started chowing down with no coughing, and we haven't seen it since. Had there been something lodged in her nose all this time?

We'll know more when we get the pancreas test results and when she gets her dental x-rays. In the meantime, we continue to set the alarm for every three hours or so to ensure that she eats, and we celebrate every sign of a returning Shiva.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The really big one

“In the late eighties and early nineties, the paradigm shifted to ‘uh-oh.’ ” — Chris Goldfinger, Oregon State University paleoseismologist 

I'M MADLY in love with the Pacific NorthwestI lived there for awhile — in Endicott, WA; Pullman, WA; Moscow, ID (10 miles from Pullman) and Tacoma, WA. 

Paul has never been to Washington or Oregon. I've been wanting to take him on a grand tour, and secretly thinking (well, maybe not so secretly) that living there would suit us perfectly.

And now I'm thinking HOLY CRAP!!!

This article from The New Yorker was sent to me by my excellent friend Dr. Galen Brooks. It will scare the pants off you.

The Really Big One

By Kathryn Schultz
July 20, 2015

An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.

When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku, Japan, Chris Goldfinger was two hundred miles away, in the city of Kashiwa, at an international meeting on seismology. As the shaking started, everyone in the room began to laugh. Earthquakes are common in Japan—that one was the third of the week—and the participants were, after all, at a seismology conference. Then everyone in the room checked the time.

Seismologists know that how long an earthquake lasts is a decent proxy for its magnitude. The 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, California, which killed sixty-three people and caused six billion dollars’ worth of damage, lasted about fifteen seconds and had a magnitude of 6.9. A thirty-second earthquake generally has a magnitude in the mid-sevens. A minute-long quake is in the high sevens, a two-minute quake has entered the eights, and a three-minute quake is in the high eights. By four minutes, an earthquake has hit magnitude 9.0.

When Goldfinger looked at his watch, it was quarter to three. The conference was wrapping up for the day. He was thinking about sushi. The speaker at the lectern was wondering if he should carry on with his talk. The earthquake was not particularly strong. Then it ticked past the sixty-second mark, making it longer than the others that week. The shaking intensified. The seats in the conference room were small plastic desks with wheels. Goldfinger, who is tall and solidly built, thought, No way am I crouching under one of those for cover. At a minute and a half, everyone in the room got up and went outside.

It was March. There was a chill in the air, and snow flurries, but no snow on the ground. Nor, from the feel of it, was there ground on the ground. The earth snapped and popped and rippled. It was, Goldfinger thought, like driving through rocky terrain in a vehicle with no shocks, if both the vehicle and the terrain were also on a raft in high seas. The quake passed the two-minute mark. The trees, still hung with the previous autumn’s dead leaves, were making a strange rattling sound. The flagpole atop the building he and his colleagues had just vacated was whipping through an arc of forty degrees. The building itself was base-isolated, a seismic-safety technology in which the body of a structure rests on movable bearings rather than directly on its foundation. Goldfinger lurched over to take a look. The base was lurching, too, back and forth a foot at a time, digging a trench in the yard. He thought better of it, and lurched away. His watch swept past the three-minute mark and kept going.

Oh, shit, Goldfinger thought, although not in dread, at first: in amazement. For decades, seismologists had believed that Japan could not experience an earthquake stronger than magnitude 8.4. In 2005, however, at a conference in Hokudan, a Japanese geologist named Yasutaka Ikeda had argued that the nation should expect a magnitude 9.0 in the near future—with catastrophic consequences, because Japan’s famous earthquake-and-tsunami preparedness, including the height of its sea walls, was based on incorrect science. The presentation was met with polite applause and thereafter largely ignored. Now, Goldfinger realized as the shaking hit the four-minute mark, the planet was proving the Japanese Cassandra right.

Read the rest of the article here: The Big One

Monday, July 13, 2015

Watering the man

"I can train any dog in five minutes. It's training the owner that takes longer." — Barbara Woodhouse, British dog trainer, author, horse trainer and television personality

IT'S ALWAYS interesting to me which HLSS posts zoom to the top and which ones dog. I'm making a little pun here because animal posts tend to be the least popular.

I find that surprising; one would think it would be way more fun to read about or watch a video about an adorable, funny, clever animal than endure my considerations.

Seriously, this clip is not to be missed.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The empathy gene

"The biggest divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between people who care and people who don’t care.” — Rachel Maddow

I HAVE a friend who is single-handedly taking care of his wife who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. But their's is not the usual story; Janet has early-onset Alzheimer's

Mark was 34 and Janet 40 when they were married. Less than 10 years later Janet began to be symptomatic. A second marriage for both, Janet is as Mark says, "the love of my life." 

Mark is now into his sixth year as his wife's sole caretaker. Another person might resent having spent so many of what otherwise would probably have been some of his most active and productive years — as well as virtually every financial asset he'd accumulated from the successful business he built and sold — as a caretaker. But that's not who Mark is. Whenever I've praised him for his patient devotion, his reply is always, "It's my privilege to be the one who takes care of her."

Mark and I became friends through Facebook, and while he was struggling to cope during a recent particularly rough patch, I called him to visit for a little bit — an offering of a mental margarita, if you will. He was much more grateful than my small gesture warranted. It's these little gifts of friendship and concern that he gets almost entirely from his virtual village, he said, that help keep him going.

When Janet was first diagnosed, he fielded a flood of calls, notes and emails from family and friends, but that has long since all fallen away. He doesn't hear from relatives and IRL friends. Neighbors don't call or stop by. No one pops in with a casserole or an offer to spell Mark for an hour or two.

At Easter there was a neighborhood potluck to which Mark and Janet were invited at the last minute and only then because a "friend" accidentally let the news of the get-together slip when he bumped into Mark in town. 

Although disappointed to receive an awkward, obligatory invitation, Mark was looking forward to the possibility of going and hoped Janet would be doing well enough that they could. When the day came, however, Janet was having hallucinations, and Mark called with his regrets. 

What really hurt Mark was that neither the hosts nor any of the guests who all know Mark and Janet's situation thought to take the simple step of packaging up leftovers for them. Mark and Janet used to attend this neighborhood event year after year before she became too ill, and there is always a copious amount of food left over, he said. It would have meant so much to him to have a meal he didn't have to prepare.

No one considered what Easter would be like at Mark's house where there would be no special meal. As exhausted as Mark was, he was hard pressed to cook any meal at all for the two of them.

Mark's theory is that it makes those who knew Janet as she used to be — vibrant, witty, full of life — too embarrassed and uncomfortable to come 'round or even talk about what's happening. There will be, after all, no happy ending to this story. Or maybe it reminds them in too vivid a way that nobody, as the saying goes, gets out of here alive — and of just how brutal and protracted our departure can be. Whatever the psychology is behind their desertion, his relatives and former friends have fled, and Mark's source of empathy and kindness has become his collection of online friends, people who for the most part he's never met. 

I haven't been able to stop thinking about Mark and Janet and, more particularly, their thoughtless neighbors who didn't see fit to extend the small kindness of sharing leftovers with two of their own. So I went to Trader Joe's and picked out a little selection of items for lunch to send them and called Mark to tell him that despite the fact that he and Janet live 1300 miles away, we would be neighbors. It was a lucky guess on my part. It turns out that before Mark and Janet moved to Montana, they lived in California, and they frequented Trade Joe's on a regular basis. It was a favorite.

I told him, "It's just lunch," but he said, "You have no idea how much it means to me just to be thought of. You must have the empathy gene."

Below is an article I came across in The New York Times exploring human empathy. (BTW, in case you ever had the gut sense that powerful people are less empathetic, you're right! They actually are.)

Empathy Is Actually a Choice

By Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht and William Cunningham

July 10, 2015

ONE death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.

You’ve probably heard this saying before. It is thought to capture an unfortunate truth about empathy: While a single crying child or injured puppy tugs at our heartstrings, large numbers of suffering people, as in epidemics, earthquakes and genocides, do not inspire a comparable reaction.

Studies have repeatedly confirmed this. It’s a troubling finding because, as recent research has demonstrated, many of us believe that if more lives are at stake, we will — and should — feel more empathy (i.e., vicariously share others’ experiences) and do more to help.

Not only does empathy seem to fail when it is needed most, but it also appears to play favorites. Recent studies have shown that our empathy is dampened or constrained when it comes to people of different races, nationalities or creeds. These results suggest that empathy is a limited resource, like a fossil fuel, which we cannot extend indefinitely or to everyone.

What, then, is the relationship between empathy and morality? Traditionally, empathy has been seen as a force for moral good, motivating virtuous deeds. Yet a growing chorus of critics, inspired by findings like those above, depict empathy as a source of moral failure. In the words of the psychologist Paul Bloom, empathy is a “parochial, narrow-minded” emotion — one that “will have to yield to reason if humanity is to survive.”

We disagree.

Click here to read the entire article.