Friday, October 31, 2014

Racist Feminist (?) Catcall Video Edits out White Males

Black and Latino males are owed an apology from the makers of a popular catcall video, which has gone viral on the Internet.  In order to create the necessary drama and psychological tension the video producers, Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization, and the marketing agency Rob Bliss Creative, edited out the white males. And why would they do that?  It makes for a more psychologically engaging viewing experience, because it exploits sexual stereotypes that whites have about men of color.   

Hanna Rosin makes this point in an article entitled:  The Problem With That Catcalling Video.  She explains:  
At the end they claim the woman experienced 100-plus incidents of harassment “involving people of all backgrounds.” Since that obviously doesn’t show up in the video, Bliss addressed it in a post. He wrote, “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” That may be true but if you find yourself editing out all the catcalling white guys, maybe you should try another take.

Lindy West at the Daily Dot offered the following insightful comment:
By placing such manipulative, specific, politicized constraints on the issue of street harassment—that is, the subject is a “nice” white or white-passing lady wearing the “right” clothes, and the catcallers depicted as almost exclusively men of color—it allows the bulk of the audience to divorce themselves from the problem.
Oh, street harassment isn’t about me. I’m a white businessman. Oh, I don’t have to do anything about her harassment. She was dressed like a slut. Not my world, not my life, not my problem.
And tweeter, Roxane Gayrten was even more to the point:  ". . . the racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn't walk through any white neighborhoods?"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Returning Ebola Workers Making Crisis Worse

Ebola Nurse with Fever Fights Quarantine
Maybe American doctors and nurses have too grandiose a sense of entitlement to be sent to treat  Ebola patients in Africa.  This is a painful admission for me to make. I have friends in West Africa and find it hard to sleep some nights worrying about their welfare and recognizing the urgency with which health care workers are needed to control the epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.   

But the behavior of the first two American health care workers to return from treating patients in West Africa has left me with an uneasy feeling.  Is there something endemic to our culture that brings out the narcissism and self-absorption in our doctors and nurses?  I hope such speculation is premature, and that the behavior of Dr. Craig Spencer and Nurse Kaci Hickox are aberrations.   

But there is no excuse for the lack of professionalism we have seen thus far from our returning health care workers. As you may recall, Dr. Spencer returned to the United States last week.  He is now hospitalized for Ebola, after telling a series of lies to immigration officials, and even the New York City police about his exposure to the disease and his whereabouts.   The headline in the London Daily Mail reads:

New York Ebola doctor 'LIED to police about his travel': NYPD discovered he rode subway, ate at restaurant and went bowling after cops checked his MetroCard 
  • Dr Craig Spencer diagnosed with Ebola six days after returning to New York
  • During that time he rode subways, caught a cab, and went out bowling
  • But when officers quizzed him he said he was at home, it has been claimed
  • When police pulled MetroCard and bank data they learned the truth.

This week's melodrama surrounds Kaci Hickox, an American nurse returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone  Ms. Hickox balked at being quarantined in New Jersey even though she registered a temperature, which is an early Ebola symptom.  After hiring a lawyer she was able to return home to Maine, but refuses to be quarantined at all and is going to court to get the restriction lifted.  

These health care workers, however skilled they are at their jobs, are fast becoming a national embarrassment.  The U.S. is probably better off offering incentives to doctors from less entitled countries to take the place of the American doctors, whose self-absorption and attitudes of entitlement are beginning to make them more trouble than they're worth.   

Fryberg School Shooting and a Community's Misappropriation of "Forgiveness"

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something troubling and just plain "off" in the way the latest school shooter's community has expropriated one of the English language's most sacred moral imperatives, "forgiveness."  This is not a term we fling around to stop a ghastly crime from being investigated, or to divert a nation from emotionally processing a nightmare. And yet, less than forty eight hours after fifteen year old Jaylen Fryberg shot 5 friends and relatives, killing 3, including himself, news headlines have the surviving victim, Nate Hatcher, lying in a hospital bed with a bullet hole in his jaw, tweeting (at least according to the grandfather) "I love you and I forgive you Jaylen rest in peace." In fact, even more gruesome details of the crime have now been revealed.  The shooter sent text messages asking the victims to meet him at a table in the cafeteria, where he subsequently marched in with a .40 caliber Beretta handgun and proceeded to shoot each one of them with a bullet to the head.  

The survivors of such a tragedy can forgive or not forgive as they see fit, on their own emotional time table.  But what distresses me about what appears to be a rush to forgiveness on the part of that community, is that its detachment from the reality of a young man who has just executed his "best friends" oddly mirrors the psychopathic detachment of the perpetrator, himself.  Practically, the first things out of the mouths of classmates were "we love and forgive Jaylen."  But if these young people considered themselves his friends, I can well understand Fryberg's sense of emotional isolation and loneliness.  It's as though no one cared to know the real Jaylen.   Those who claimed to "love" him were too detached, unwilling and unable to see this young man as the vulnerable, emotionally needy person that he truly was. So Fryberg orchestrates a crime so ghastly that people will have to hear his screams. And yet they still don't, covering the commotion with declarations of "love and forgiveness."

Of course this is a community in shock and deep mourning. But it is also a community that must get to the bottom of this tragedy, the sooner the better.  Who gave Jaylen Fryberg the Beretta?  There was an account in a London newspaper that his parents had given him a gun for his birthday.  Was this the gun?  Is it even legal to give a child a firearm?  Might this kid have been on steroids, which have been known to make people enraged and aggressive?

Verbal expressions of "love and forgiveness" are not sugarcoatings for facts, nor can they suppress the pain of grief without creating their own set of unintended emotional consequences.   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When School Shooters Kill the Kids of NRA Members


How many parents of school shooting victims belong to the 5 million member National Rifle Association (NRA)? How many did before the tragic loss of a child?   I don't ask these questions to be callous, knowing with every fiber of my being that such a loss is an abyss with no bottom. I do so out of a genuine yearning to understand the culture of gun ownership and the hold that the NRA maintains over so large a segment of America.

I don't have answers to either question.  NRA records are private and I have neither the fortitude nor the emotional steeliness to piddle around in the personal affairs of grieving families.  But I have shifted my attention from the school shooters to their victims.  It is because we forget in our shock and horror each time one of these school shootings occurs, that it is the culture of gun ownership, not merely the behavior of the "crazed" shooter that is, often shared by both the families of the victims, who cherish their Second Amendment Rights, as well as those of the perpetrators, who just so happen to have mis-applied that right on the day of the tragic event.   

Does the Second Amendment have a different texture and feel for a grieving NRA parent, than it did a week before the tragedy occurred?   I'm just asking.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Let's Stop Pretending to be Clueless about Latest School Shooter Who Killed Classmates

Why, oh why, oh why, would a popular 14 year old go on a shooting spree, killing classmates, including his presumed favorite cousins?   The answer folks as to "why" is . . . Let's just dispense with all the handwringing and pretense of utter confusion. This situation is just too heartbreaking for the media to persist in its sham, elusive search for answers.  Jay Fryberg killed three classmates and left two in critical condition with bullet wounds to the head because his folks gave him a gun as a present.

Actually we now know details so gruesome, that I almost wish we didn't. This kid  sent the victims text messages to meet at a table in the cafeteria so that he could mow them down in cold blood.  The brain of a  normal fourteen year old is not fully formed. I don't know what the professionals will say about the brain of this one.  Here again, I find the need to repeat myself. Had the parents not had an arsenal of weapons lying around the house and found it necessary to buy a special one with their fourteen year old son's name witten all over it, this nightmare would not have happened.

But this is America and folks have a right to bear arms.  If they insist on leaving them around for their emotionally unstable children to pick up and murder their classmates with, then so be it.

I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Fryberg think now of their precious 2nd Amendment Rights.

RELATED POST:  When School Shooters Kill the Kids of NRA Members

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ebola Nurse Should Stop Acting Like Petulant Child

Nurse Kaci Hickox Hires Lawyer to Get Her out of Ebola Quarantine
I'm sure being in quarantine is an inconvenience for Kaci Hickox, the American nurse who arrived from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone.  She now finds herself under a mandatory quarantine, is indignant and has hired a civil rights lawyer to spring her loose.

But this woman really needs to calm down.  For, all this hollering about the infringement of her civil rights is doing is confirming the low opinion that Americans had already begun to form (perhaps unfairly) about this new generation of American health care workers.  It is regrettable that what we've seen since this Ebola crisis erupted in our midst has been the self-absorbed, irresponsible behavior of teenagers.   They have, no doubt, the requisite empirical skills needed to have obtained medical licenses, but as for maturity, or concern for others, now that's another matter altogether.

 We had one nurse who was suffering symptoms of early-stage Ebola.   Despite being ill, she had wedding plans to arrange so hopped on a commercial flight to Ohio, shopped at a bridal salon, returned to Dallas, and was admitted the next day to a Texas hospital's isolation ward.  The bridal shop had to be closed down temporarily, as public health officials worked to track down others who might have visited the shop.  Passengers on both flights were also tracked and monitored.

As this drama was playing itself out, we learned that another healthcare worker, who was supposed to be voluntarily quarantining herself, was on a cruise liner in the Caribbean.  That situation sparked several international diplomatic crises, when the countries of Belize and Mexico refused to allow the ship to dock, for fear of exposing their citizens to the dreaded disease.

Next up was a doctor, who had just returned to the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in Guinea.  In fact, the young man lied on the form he was required to fill out before leaving Guinea, in which he stated not having had contact with anyone infected with Ebola in the past 21 days.  He told the same fib when he reached the United States, took several subways around New York city, and then went bowling with friends.  The next day he had to be hospitalized in an isolation unit with Ebola.

Nurse Hickox, having missed all the drama at home, was understandably not prepared for the mandatory quarantine.  But there wouldn't have been one, had the medical doctor returning from Guinea last week, self-quarantined in his apartment, rather than giving Americans the distinct impression that our health care workers returning from the affected areas of West Africa can clearly not be trusted to quarantine themselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

UNC Pimping Illiterate Student Athletes for 20 Years

Administrators at the University of North Carolina have become caught up in a jaw-dropping scandal involving a set up where illiterate student-athletes took sham courses for 20 years.  And  we the public are supposed to believe that the only culprits were two sleazy characters running the school's African American Studies Program.   According to NPR:
 The 131-page report centers on two people in the school's Department of African and Afro-American Studies: former Student Services Manager Deborah Crowder and Dr. Julius Nyang'oro, who became chairman of curriculum for the department known as AFAM in 1992.
They were clearly not the only ones involved in this scandal.  As an African historian, I am even more incensed that UNC chose my discipline to play around with.  And I direct most of my anger not so much at the morally corrupt peons in the program who carried out the charade, but the University administrators who allowed it to happen. In one fell swoop they have not only maligned themselves, their athletes, anyone who ever took courses in that shady department, but the disciplines of African and African-American Studies as well.  

This scandal has therefore become about more than sports, and greed. It has become a racist plot on the part of University officials to mock an entire field of study.  People like myself devoted so much of our student years engaged in campus activism aimed at pressuring universities to accept the validity of African and African-American Studies within the academic canon.   The same can be said for Women's Studies, Native American Studies, Latino Studies, Gender Studies and other courses that repudiated the false narrative that everything of value was created by white males. 

Finding a couple of handkerchef-head Uncle Toms to run such a sham department was probably not too expensive.  Whatever the cost, it was clearly a whole lot cheaper than teaching illiterate student athletes how to read.    

As for whether the latest report "whitewashed" the scandal to protect the UNC administrators, Forbes offers an insightful commentary. (click here) 

Nurse with Ebola Excoriated for Taking Flight, While Infected Doctor Riding Subways all over NY City Being Called "Humanitarian"

Nurse Amber Vinson Excoriated for Ebola
I was pleased and relieved to hear that nurse Amber Vinson has now been declared free of the Ebola virus. But that was not before the woman was attacked so viciously for returning to Dallas on a commercial flight and even going to a bridal salon in Ohio, that her family had to hire an expensive lawyer to protect her from being litigated to death.

And now we hear that a doctor returning from Guinea, rather than bothering to quarantine himself for 21 days rode several New York subways, went bowling with friends as well as jogging and now has tested positive for Ebola.   News headlines are even calling Dr. Craig Spencer a "dedicated humanitarian." He may be deserving of that label, but this doctor's poor judgment has set back the Ebola cause far more than whatever good he might have done in Guinea.

Was he truthful when screened at the airport in Guinea  (apparently not) after filling out the questionnaire claiming that he had not had contact with any Ebola-infected person for the past 21 days?  Did his pencil check off the wrong box once again upon filling out a screening form when he entered the United States?

I can say for certain that already reluctant American hospitals will find even more reasons not to release their doctors to travel to West Africa in order to treat Ebola victims when the possibility has become real of their bringing the disease back to their hospitals. Or at the very least the hospitals will lose revenue with potential patients staying away
Dr. Craig Spencer called "humanitarian"
in fear that they might have. 

One thing is becoming distressingly clear from events of the past several weeks.  Many, possibly most humans when exposed to Ebola, however well trained medically,  are mentally-emotionally-physically-morally incapable of exercising the minimum caution required to protect the public from this virulent disease.  What is asked of them is to self-quarantine for twenty-one days, while taking their temperatures.  But even this minimal step is going to need to be monitored by public health authorities.  

I hope Dr. Spencer makes a speedy recovery.  But, I do not know how American efforts to get hospitals to release doctors willing to work in Ebola regions of Africa can be repaired because of his humanitarian's lack of common sense. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

GOP Leaders Should Travel to Nigeria to Study How African Nation Eradicated Ebola

Nigerian Slums Saved from Ebola Pandemic

The GOP's efforts to protect Americans from Ebola thus far have involved demanding that all flights to and from Africa be stopped; pretending that Republicans in Congress did not cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control; and stoking hysteria among low information voters.  

I would suggest that a select team of GOP leaders get on a plane to Nigeria, in order to receive the education of their lives. They will learn how a proud but far from wealthy nation handles a potential crisis beyond anything Americans could ever imagine in their worst nightmare.  Maybe these entitled, whining politicians will see life through a different lens or maybe not.

Nigeria is a West African nation of 173 million people. Its largest city, Lagos, has a population of 20 million. Because of the recent population boom, many people live in slums, without running water, or indoor toilets.  But the World Health Organization has just announced that Nigeria has succeeded in eradicating Ebola from its borders.

An article in Time Magazine, "Nigeria Is Ebola-Free: Here’s What They Did Right," laid out  the vital steps taken by this West African country to quell what could have become a catastrophe beyond description:

Nigeria had 20 cases of Ebola after a Liberian-American man named Patrick Sawyer flew into Lagos and collapsed at the airport. Health care workers treating Sawyer were infected, and as it spread it ultimately killed eight people, a low number next to the thousands of cases and deaths in other countries. Nigeria’s health system is considered more robust, but there was significant concern from experts that a case would pop up in one of the country’s dense-populated slums and catch fire.
So what did Nigeria do right? Chukwu and Dr. Faisal Shuaib of the country’s Ebola Emergency Operation Center, broke it down for TIME.

Preparing early. Nigeria knew it was possible a case of Ebola would make it into the country, so officials got to work early by training health care workers on how to manage the disease, and disseminating information so the country knew what to expect.

Declaring an emergency—right away. When Nigeria had its first confirmed case of Ebola, the government declared a national public health emergency immediately. This allowed the Ministry of Health to form its Ebola Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC is an assembly of public health experts within Nigeria as well as the WHO, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and groups like Doctors Without Borders. “

The EOC was in charge of contact tracing (the process of identifying and monitoring people who may have had direct or indirect contact with Ebola patients), implementing strict procedures for handling and treating patients, screening all individuals arriving or departing the country by land, air and sea, and communicating with the community. Some workers went door-to-door to offer Ebola-related education, and others involved religious and professional leaders. Social media was a central part of the education response.

Training local doctors. Nigerian doctors were trained by Doctors Without Borders and WHO, and treated patients in shifts with their oversight.

Managing fear. “Expectedly, people were scared of contracting the disease,” Shuaib said. “In the beginning, there was also some misinformation about available cures, so fear and inaccurate rumors had to be actively managed.” Nigeria used social media to to ramp up awareness efforts, and publicized patients who were successfully treated and discharged.

Keeping borders open. Nigeria has not closed its borders to travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, saying the move would be counterproductive. “Closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness,” Shuaib said. “When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem.” Shuaib said that if public health strategies are implemented, outbreaks can be controlled, and that closing borders would only stifle commercial activities in the countries whose economies are already struggling due to Ebola. . .

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Can Health Worker Exposed to Ebola Self-Monitor on Cruise Ship?

Ebola Scare on Cruise Ship
These spoiled American health care workers getting on and off commercial airliners and cruise ships may have chosen the wrong profession.  Maybe before being licensed in the State of Texas, they should be forced to spend six months in places where doctors, nurses and health care aides have truly  been putting their lives on the line to fight Ebola and other serious diseases.   Or perhaps we're just now learning valuable lessons in human nature and the epidemiology of how pandemics happen even in developed countries, with highly-educated populations.

The health care worker, who it now seems, traveled to Ohio already showing early signs of Ebola and then returned to Dallas in worse shape to plan for her wedding, has caused several Texas schools to be closed down, forced public health trackers to locate passengers on two commercial flights, made it necessary to close a bridal shop and the tracking of its customers.  We're all praying that this woman makes a speedy recovery. But when she does, nursing should not be in her future. There had been earlier news reports that the Centers for Disease Control had given her permission to get on the plane to return to Dallas. But now it appears that she had called someone who had called someone, who had called someone at the CDC. And who had she called to get on the flight to Ohio in the first place?

And now we have several thousand passengers on a cruise ship stranded somewhere off the coast of Belize because another health care worker, who handled specimens from the Liberian Ebola patient who died, took a cruise.   This level of irresponsibility to public health concerns is unacceptable in licensed professional health care workers.

But let us also remember that health care workers are not overpaid.  They probably had their tickets paid for before this terrible episode unfolded. And we all know how "understanding" the travel industry is about refunds unless we're the ones in the coffin.  But this is why I'm so pleased that President Obama has just named Ron Klain, the new Ebola czar.  This kind of problem is far more difficult than it may first appear. The Liberian family who hosted the man who died of the disease was stuck in a contaminated apartment for 5 days, with no way to get food. They were forced to use the same bathroom as the sick man, and health officials had problems getting the right permits to have the dirty linen and towels removed.  There are logistical matters that can turn into nightmares for the people that we the public are asking to voluntarily quarantine or monitor themselves.

So while it isn't too much to ask of health professionals that they behave like health professionals, it is also the new Ebola Czar's responsibility to see that people caught up in the current nightmare are not just kicked to the curb in our anxiety to gain control of this pandemic.   

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why is GOP Acting Like Obama Is GOD in This Ebola Crisis?

Dear God! How could you unleash this lethal Ebola virus on your faithful servants?  We implore you. Please STOP IT THIS INSTANT!

I understand there are members of the Republican Party who believe that the earth is 5,000 years old, and that science is satanic, but I wouldn't have thought anyone in his or her right mind believed the President of the United States could shut down a lethal African virus with the wave of a hand or a White House decree.  But that is all I'm hearing from Republicans these days.  The Ebola virus is a global crisis. It is not the fault of the President of the United States.

Of course our nation can either assume a leadership position and do something about it, which I'm pleased to say is what the President has done.  The virus needs to be isolated and contained within the three West African countries through which it has spread.  Or, we can sink into a fear-mongering panic about closing all the borders around Africa, a continent the size of the U.S., China, Europe and SE Asia, all rolled up in one.  Of course the latter move would do nothing to stop the virus. Not only would it spread. But since we cannot monitor our southern border anyway, the global spread of the virus, would fling it across the United States within weeks once it had entered the U.S. illegally.

The solution to this crisis is to stop it in West Africa.  The epidemiological goal for this particular disease is 70%.  After that percentage of infected people are isolated from the general population (whether or not they are cured) the disease will peter out and disappear.

The disease is not easy to catch unless you are caring for a dying person or handling a dead body.  So Americans worrying about airborne transmission, coughing and sneezing are putting themselves in an unnecessary panic.  The only reason so many people have died in the three African countries is because they lack an infrastructure.  Patients need to be isolated from the general public. But without hospitals, their families are trying to care for them at home. In many cases, the family has no running water, no indoor plumbing and no means of protecting themselves, other than covering themselves in plastic garbage bags, if they can find them.

It is regrettable that those with nothing constructive to offer, turn to stoking public fear and launching nonsensical campaigns about closing borders, that will not stop the spread of the disease but probably make it worse.  And I find the President's critics all the more puzzling, in that they're denouncing him for being incompetent in leading the country through this crisis, as though he can control microbes. But the public is beginning to see through this charade. Who would you rather have leading us through this pandemic?  Would it be a President who sent troops amidst criticism to stop the epidemic at its source even before the public got wind of what a global threat this virus could pose.  Or would you prefer a bunch of anti-science rabble rousers shouting about closing borders after they already closed down the government last year including the Centers for Disease Control?


  • Ebola Patient Died Three Days Ago -- Why the Cover-up?
  • Monday, October 13, 2014

    Hubris Prevents Americans from Understanding Meaning of "Ebola Protocol Breach"


    The tragedy of Eric Thomas Duncan's death has now been compounded by the fact that a nurse caring for him has come down with Ebola.  But rather than attack the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  for bringing us the news, let's try to understand what "protocol breach" means in this context.

    The CDC was not blaming the nurse for this accident, but listen up, folks.  We all know that surgeons and nurses in the operating room have to follow careful protocols of hand washing and so forth. The purpose is so as not to contaminate the open wound of the surgical patient with bacteria and not to contaminate themselves with the patient's infection. However, if a protocol has been breached in some itty bitty way, like the nurse rubs an itch on the side of her nose with a gloved hand, or perhaps at the end of the operation the surgeon removes a glove before his face mask, or whatever the protocol is, no one is the wiser. Chances are slim that there will be medical repercussions. That is, in the course of doing medicine in America protocol breaches have never been lethal at an almost immediate, microbial level.  As a consequence, in the practice of medicine, doctors and other healthcare workers go through the protocols, but have no experience in handling them as though their lives depended on every step in some rigid, almost fanatical way. This is why in Ebola clinics in West Africa, while the conditions may be primitive by our standards, the protocols are followed so rigorously that two people are required in the changing rooms when a person removes the protective gear and so forth. The tiniest, most seemingly inconsequential mistake is lethal with this disease.  American health care workers do need to be retrained to handle Ebola because they must now learn techniques or protocols that have been developed in the Ebola-zones of Africa through trial and error.

    In fact, the big difference between Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the three U.S. hospitals that treated Ebola patients without mishaps is the fact that the latter had bio decontamination units, that the Texas hospital did not have.   After all, no one was really expecting a man with Ebola to walk into the waiting room of that Texas hospital.  An article in Vox, entitled: 3 US hospitals stopped Ebola from spreading. Why didn't Texas? explains the complexity of a situation that was not  the Texas hospital's fault:
    There's something unique about the three hospitals that have so far successfully treated Ebola patients — something that's different from Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where a patient died and one worker treating him became infected.
    Emory, the University of Nebraska, and the National Institutes of Health have all received and successfully discharged Ebola patients. These three hospitals are among just four in the nation with specialized biocontamination units. These are units that have existed for years, with the sole purpose of handling patients with deadly, infectious dieases like SARS or Ebola.
    While biocontamination units look similar to a standard hospital room, they usually have specialized air circulation systems to remove disease particles from the facility. And, perhaps more importantly, they're staffed by doctors who have spent years training, preparing and thinking about how to stop dangerous infections from spreading. 
    Rather than denounce the CDC, Americans should stand back and recognize that we don't always get everything right the first time. Sometimes help is a two-way street.   Sometimes we might even need to learn from the experiences of people in the place that we think is most in need of help itself.


  • Ebola Patient Died Three Days Ago -- Why the Cover-up?

  • Sunday, October 12, 2014

    Ebola Crisis: Forget Africa, Let's Quarantine All of Texas Instead

    Should Texas be Quarantined?
    Crises bring out the noblest in human character and the most weasly.  Africa is a continent so huge that it could hold the United States, China and Europe within its boundaries.  Only three sparsely populated countries -- Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea -- are struggling with the Ebola epidemic.  And yet we have conservative commentators rabble rousing the public to quarantine the entire continent of Africa.   This is not leadership in the face of a crisis. It is pitchforking.

    The only way to stop the epidemic is to send as much assistance and as many health workers as possible to the affected countries to end the epidemic there, now. It can be done.  It should have been done months ago. And it cannot be done at all if the continent, or even those countries are quarantined, making it impossible for the desperately needed supplies to reach their destinations.

    Instead, the GOP has decided that this is a glorious opportunity to denounce President Obama. Those with nothing of value to offer have been handed shouting points about imposing a quarantine on Africa that rather than stopping the virus, would increase its growth exponentially.  So, I have a better idea.

    Americans did not care about Ebola until a Texas hospital racially profiled the African who arrived at its ER with all the symptoms and yet still sent him home with a temperature of 103.  Texas's governor with the rip-roaring support of conservatives in the state refused the federal Medicaid expansion package, which would have relieved the burden on hospitals for dealing with patients such as this one, who didn't have insurance.  Now one of the hospital's staff has come down with the disease, and public health officials have to quickly see who else may have been infected by this person. With all the screw-ups, who knows who else might have it because of the hospital's mistakes.

    So, why don't we just quarantine Texas?  Let's close the borders, stop all traffic, including automobiles, trucks, planes and commerce.  Let's station the National Guard at the borders and make sure no one enters or leaves the state until all the problems caused by what claimed to be a world class hospital are fixed.

    I imagine that those Texans calling for quarantining Africa might wish to come after me with a pitchfork. I'm just curious. Does the thought of quarantining Texas rather than Africa make some of you a bit queasy, like. . . oh my goodness. . . our economy as wealthy as it is could collapse. . . everything would come to a standstill.  What a preposterous idea, some might even say.  But then again, there are many in this state calling for secession or stationing the military on the border anyway. 

    Thursday, October 9, 2014

    Was Ebola Patient Already Dead When Texas Hospital Announced It Was Giving Him Experimental Drug?

    Texas Presbyterian Hospital made a series of mistakes, which ended in the death of Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. But none of these mistakes were malicious or purposeful.  And I hope that all of us can reflect and learn from this tragic devolution of events.  Some of what I am about to say may sound hard to believe, but reality sometimes is.

    1. Duncan was given a perfunctory exam in the Presbyterian Hospital ER and sent home because no one differentiated him from the mass of minorities who show up at that ER sick, but without insurance or any other means of paying for treatment.  Yes, the hospital staff was on the look-out for Ebola. But they assumed at a subconscious level that they would receive forewarning and the patient would be a healthcare worker flown in from Liberia, rather than a native of the country.

    2.  When Duncan was finally brought back to the hospital by ambulance, the hospital staff assumed that the only reason people were dying from Ebola in Africa was because the few doctors and clinics that were functioning in the affected countries  probably didn't know what they were doing.  In short, Americans and Europeans often see African professionals or those working in Africa as not only lacking the same quality of facilities as we have here, but probably lacking the same medical skills. But on the latter score, they are wrong.  So. . . the doctors at Presbyterian assumed that they could get in the boxing ring with Ebola and whip it's ass with their eyes closed, but Ebola tko'd every last one of them. When they regained metaphorical consciousness, they were faced with the horrifying realization that Ebola had claimed their patient. He was dead. 

    3.  This happened so fast, that the Hospital had a new public relations nightmare. The doctors either hadn't asked the CDC for experimental drugs because they thought they had the situation under control, or perhaps they had asked, but it took time to arrive.  Duncan died Sunday morning, but the Hospital covered-up the actual event, claimng that his situation had deteriorated from serious to critical (but that he was still alive).

    4. Over the course of the next two days they back pedaled, claiming to give him one of the experimental drugs, even though they also announced that he was on a ventilator and dialysis.  

    5.  Having filled in the obvious PR holes in the man's care, the Hospital could then announce to the public that he passed away on Wednesday morning.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    Ebola Patient Died Three Days Ago -- Why the Cover-up?

      It was announced today, Wednesday, October 8th, that Thomas Eric Duncan, America's first Ebola patient has passed away. I mourn this man's loss with deep sadness, but also with perplexity.  A charade is being played around this man's death and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I learned quite by accident that he passed away on Sunday, October 5th from a misaddressed message from one of the doctors.

    While conservatives might think that Jesse Jackson's presence in Dallas was to rally Black folk around some theme of racial resentment about the Ebola patient's treatment, I now see it's purpose in different terms.  He was asked to come, in order to calm the waters, in order to make sure that the announcement of the man's death did not inflame the uncontrolled anger of those who felt that the hospital had mistreated Mr. Duncan and possibly turn Dallas, Texas into another Ferguson, Missouri.    
    The story about the experimental treatment, about Mr. Duncan being put on dialysis, and there being a slight improvement in his vital signs, but it might not last, etc., etc. . .  this was a public relations fiction setting the public up, preparing us for today's tragic announcement.    I don't know who was in on this and actually I don't care.  The reason is that, being lied to by public figures doesn't even bother me the way it once did.  
    This may be cynical on my part. But I have learned a valuable lesson from this Ebola scare.  We  humans cannot handle reality as well as we think we can.  In a country as wealthy as ours, having one man with Ebola in a nation of 365 million, lying in an isolation ward in a well-equipped hospital, and yet people went berserk.  The potential for mob violence, the racism and cruelty of people demanding that we incinerate the man's possibly infected family, and slam all our borders shut to stop a virus was ludicrous and painful.     

    I'm sorry to say that I now understand the impulse of public figures to lie if need be to calm the fears of a panicked public.  So. . . if  space aliens are headed towards earth and we have no way to defend ourselves and only 12 hours to live, I don't mind a bit if they interrupt regular programming only to tell us that should we look up at the sky and think we're seeing invading space ships, don't panic.   They're just harmless weather balloons.  


    Sunday, October 5, 2014

    An Ebola Patient and A Lesson in Racial Profiling that I Hope Texans Never Forget

    Did Texas Hospital Behave Like Liberian Clinic

    Thomas Eric Duncan appears to have become infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia, after taking a pregnant young woman to several hospitals and clinics. None of them would take her because they were full.  He took her back home, where she died several hours later.

    Ironically, six days after arriving in Dallas from Liberia, Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital suffering from symptoms of Ebola at its most contagious stage. The hospital sent him home. That very week, the hospital staff had participated in a training session  meant to prepare them for the possibility that the West African Ebola epidemic might sooner or later spill over our border, and it was crucial that they be prepared.

    And now we get to the matter of racial profiling.  It is insidious because it all too often operates below the level of peoples' conscious awareness.  The victim of profiling is suddenly being seen as though through a device that flattens a three-dimensional human into a two dimensional crayon drawing.

    When the Liberian entered the Emergency Room, he passed through the hospital's invisible profiling device.  The nurses and doctors were not looking to find out what was wrong with a three-dimensional human being, with a history and moving parts.  It was looking to get that two-dimensional, i.e. profiled, minority out of the waiting room as efficiently as possible.  The ER waiting room was full of those uninsured minorities, every hour of every day.  Now, don't get me wrong.  If the man had been bleeding all over the carpet, they would have taken other steps.

    But let's get back to the matter at hand.  Profiling is a two-way process.  If the doctors and staff had been trained to look for Ebola, and they ignored a Liberian with Ebola symptoms, then what exactly were they looking for.  The answer is -- a white doctor or health care worker, flown in on a private plane, for whom everyone had been alerted that "now is the moment to shine. The world is watching. We have our first Ebola patient."

    And yet Presbyterian Hospital is not entirely to blame for this ethical lapse.   Our Governor Rick Perry's refusal to accept federal Medicaid funding has ensured that financially strapped  Texas hospitals would end up treating minorities little better than the treatment they would have gotten from a hospital in war-torn, Ebola-infested Liberia.


    Saturday, October 4, 2014

    America Needs War Crimes Tribunal: ISIS Beheadings Just Another Consequence of U.S. Invasion of Iraq

    These ghastly crimes being committed by ISIS on a daily basis represent a nexus of events that began with President George W. Bush's plan to dismember Iraq.   The neoconservatives, whose main preoccupation was  furthering the interests of Israel, whatever the costs had convinced the President that the job would be quick and easy. While the U.S. public may have paid little attention to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, that carnage came with a price tag. How could we think otherwise?

    While the GOP is busy figuring out ways to blame President Obama for this horror, Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post reminds us of what really happened.  He explained:   

    It opened a Pandora's box of sectarianism: Saddam Hussein was a nasty, murderous tyrant who brutalized much of his country and was guilty of war crimes. But Iraq under the rule of his nominally secular Ba'ath party was not the sectarian charnel house that it became in the years following Hussein's overthrow and eventual execution.
    The Iraqi politicians who found traction in U.S.-occupied Iraq did little to build an inclusive, pluralist politics. Nor did they have much incentive. Traumatized by decades of authoritarianism and indulged by foreign partners, they sought to consolidate their own political fiefdoms to the detriment of the fragile Iraqi state.
    The Sunni-Shiite bloodletting that followed scarred communities that for centuries had lived in relative peace alongside each other. The divisive politics of Maliki's government inflamed passions in Iraq's Sunni heartland, while violence in Baghdad saw the once cosmopolitan capital become heavily Shiite.
    Meanwhile, the invasion's aftermath hollowed out the country's Christian population, with hundreds of thousands fleeing as refugees. They were once protected minorities in both Iraq and Syria, but the upheavals that followed the collapse of Ba'athist rule have made them vulnerable targets.
    It spawned terror groups and redrew the geopolitical map: ISIS emerged as al-Qaeda splinter group operating in the wake of the invasion, a fringe, lethal faction within a larger Sunni insurgency. While beaten back by the U.S. surge in 2007, the elements that would reform as ISIS would find fertile ground amid Syria's civil war, where it began a campaign of conquest and slaughter that has yielded it a virtual mini-state. 
     When I reflect on the lead-up to the Iraq war, I feel a wrenching shame for my country. The history books will look back on this period as a moment when the democracy we have fought for and nurtured for over two hundred years failed us.  It developed into ideologues in the White House and cowards in Congress.  Illinois Senator Barack Obama showed then that he was presidential material. His opposition to the war did not win.  However, he had the courage of his convictions.

    This was George Bush and Dick Cheney's war.   But the Democrats are in some ways even more to blame.  They supported the invasion of Iraq even though they knew better.  They allowed the corporate media to mislead the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein was somehow connected to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, when in fact because Hussein was anti-religion, the  two men were at opposite ends of the Middle East political spectrum.

    So, why did the Democrats buckle under White House pressure?  They were terrified of the Israeli lobby, threatening to run opposition candidates if they did not go along with the invasion. The Jewish state believed, and still does, that creating utter chaos in the Arab world is their ticket to salvation.

    The beheadings, the burial alive of women and children, the rape of girls, and sex slavery -- we were warned that this was going to happen, only the details were left out.    It comes under the heading of the "unintended consequences of war." 

    Friday, October 3, 2014

    Ebola Fear-Mongering Comes from Creationists Fearful That Virus Will . . . Ahem. . . "Evolve"


    No one ever said that all sides to an argument had to maintain logical consistency.  All that an opponent needs is to get its adherents elected to local school boards and textbook committees. Sadly,   paranoia and fear are far more virulent and contagious in a society then any virus.  I reflected on this last night after reading the column of a Fox network "medical specialist," who squandered the opportunity to educate the public about the actual transmission vectors of Ebola as a means of controlling panic and instead compared the single Ebola patient in the U.S. to 19th century typhoid Mary.

    Not surprisingly, most of the commenters added to the column's fearful tone by describing apocalyptic scenes from epidemic-run-amok sci-fi flicks they had watched.  And that really got me to thinking.  What do people do when their non-science belief system has nothing of importance to say about an issue engaging the public's attention?  Apparently, that empty space is stuffed to bursting with polyester pellets of fear, xenophobia and possibly even hatred.  All those roiling emotions leave no room to even notice that accurate knowledge might be missing from the scenario and that  every disease has its own, well defined characteristics.  That is in fact why some people become epidemiologists and track such vital matters for the health of the entire planet, and why the President of the United States pays more attention to them than to sci-fi flicks.  

    Yes, now I finally get it.  The high-decibel hysteria I'm seeing all over the Internet is all about filling up empty spaces.  This Ebola epidemic has been a golden opportunity for the GOP base,  the Creationists, and those still whining over the President's birth certificate  to denounce Obama for "bringing Ebola to America", to denounce Obamacare, to denounce Africa for being not only the birthplace of humankind but of a whole host of other living-kinds as well.

    But what can the real experts tell us?  Firstly, if we don't want to see Ebola mutate, then we had better get as many troops to West Africa as possible to stop the epidemic in its tracks. Mutations are a function of cell divisions over time. And why are we so sure that such practices will work?  For one thing, Nigeria stopped the spread of Ebola in their country by quickly isolating those who were infected.  Medical epidemiologist, Gerardo Chowell-Puente offered informed comment on Slate: 

    Ebola’s reproductive rate is significantly lower than either measles in the prevaccination days or the Spanish flu, but it’s high enough that Ebola will not peter out on its own. Our 2004 work, which produced the first estimates for Ebola’s reproductive rate by using mathematical modeling and epidemiological data from the West African outbreaks, found that each case of Ebola produced 1.3 to 1.8 secondary cases on average. But at least this is essentially the same virus we saw previously. It hasn’t become more transmissible in the more than 10 years it was lying low—and humankind has experience in dealing with it. We know that it takes substantial contact for Ebola to spread: Someone has to touch or ingest infected body fluids. So last time, health care workers contained the outbreaks by isolating infectious individuals; providing more gloves, face masks, and gowns in hospitals and clinics—and requiring nurses, doctors, and other health care providers to wear them; having trained personnel handle the bodies of the deceased (rather than allowing family members to commune with the body, as favored by many West African cultural traditions); and tracing contacts from infectious individuals immediately to isolate potentially new infectious cases.
    To break the chain of the current Ebola outbreak, our numbers show that health care workers need to halt about 50 percent of infectious contacts by effectively isolating people who are infectious or vaccinating at least the same fraction of the population. . .   The time that elapses between the first Ebola case and the generation of secondary cases is about two weeks. This should allow for plenty of time to identify those who are sick and protect people who might come in contact with them. Individuals with Ebola are only contagious and able to transmit the virus when they are showing symptoms, which occurs about a week after they are first exposed to the virus. This likely explains why Nigeria has been able to break the chain of transmission, as Nigerian health authorities detected the first Ebola case in their country only three days after that person’s arrival from Liberia by airplane and acted quickly to isolate infectious individuals and trace their potential contacts. Nigeria has observed 20 cases where Ebola was transmitted, with no new cases reported as of Sept. 8, 2014. . .Math and history show us that decisive efforts to isolate those who are infected with Ebola and to follow up with potential contacts quickly can help to get an outbreak under control.

    Ebola Mis-steps or Is Texas Presbyterian Hospital's ER Run By Computerized Robots?

    Hospital Robots

    Yes, "mistakes were made", as politicians and lawyers have accustomed us to hearing by way of excuses.  And it is true. Our world is exponentially complex and we are only human.  But for officials at Texas Presbyterian Hospital to proclaim that they sent home an Ebola-infected man because of a computer glitch is, well. . .  insulting to everyone's intelligence.  Surely, they can come up with a better excuse than that.  As for the truth, we won't be getting that anytime soon, because the media seems content with whatever fanciful press releases the hospital puts out.  If, however, you have an interest in understanding what actually happened, do read my last post:  The Real Reason Man Infected with Ebola not Admitted to Hospital.

    As for hospital's claim that the intake form did not have an entry space to specify what part of Africa the man came from, that may be true.  But it is nonsensical if used as an excuse for everyone overlooking the fact that the patient had just arrived from Liberia, which is in the midst of an uncontrolled Ebola epidemic.  The nurse that input the information, did she then take the rest of the day off, and rush out of the door so fast that she wouldn't even have stopped a minute to chat with a colleague about the interesting coincidence of a patient turning up from Ebola-infested Liberia with a fever?  According to hospital officials, the staff had met just this week to discuss the possibility of having to confront Ebola.

    This was no damned computer glitch.  This was racism and the invisibility cloak it throws around its victims.  The man was African and uninsured.  He was ushered out the door like all emergency room patients, who fall into his demographic, (perhaps with the exception of a person brought in bleeding like a sieve from gunshot wounds.)

    This is what needs to be fixed.  But I guess it's easier to blame the problem on a computer program, for which new software will do the trick.  Of course that's only if the ER is run by robots in the first place. 

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    The Real Reason the Man Infected with Ebola not Admitted to Dallas Hospital

    Dallas, Texas has one of the most advanced medical systems in the world. It's doctors, nurses, medical technicians and training are top-notch. But as to why Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas sent a Ebola-infected man home even after he told them that he had just arrived from Liberia is on everyone's minds just now.  The hospital says that it is looking into the matter, which I suspect it will still be doing months and years from now.  So, we'll just have to cut to the chase, all by ourselves. 

    Dallas hospitals do not admit black patients, who show up at the emergency room.  I suppose if they're wheeled in with multiple gunshot wounds, that's a different matter.  But this city actually has two health care systems.  One is for  whites and the other is for blacks. No, that's not quite true either.  While my experience is that of an African-American, I believe it would be appropriate to include poor whites and Hispanics among those given the bum's rush out the shiny glass doors of our beautifully-maintained, expensive, and well-equipped hospitals as well.

    This African man came to Presbyterian Hospital.  It did not matter how prepared the Emergency Room was for treating highly infectious diseases.   The default setting took over.  And that is, give the black fellow a prescription for something, maybe even a few free antibiotic packets and then usher the person out the door.

    What the hospital staff was mentally prepared for was a white health worker or doctor brought back from West Africa with Ebola. Now, we would have seen the hospital functioning at its best.

    In fact this man's nephew had to call the Center for Disease Control before the hospital would even take action.  I'm annoyed at how Presbyterian hospital officials are now shaking their heads, pretending confusion at this shameful lapse in protocol, which could have put the entire city at risk of a virulent and fatal disease.

    Dallas has top medical research facilities and some of the world's most noted specialists.  What it doesn't yet have is a global view of the humanity its hospitals are mandated to treat.