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.

    Re-Thinking Ebola Now That It's in Dallas (My Backyard)

    Accidents happen. Humans make mistakes.  Otherwise, we'd run out of plotlines for Andromeda strain-type, disaster flicks.  But  since I live in the Dallas area, and our metroplex has turned into ground zero for Ebola in America, I can't say what worries me more --  the potential panic of an uninformed public or  the arrogance of over-informed experts.   And then too we sometimes pay dearly for the poor judgment of others.

    (1) It turns out that the man diagnosed with Ebola, had just weeks before getting on the flight for the United States been helping a pregnant neighbor, who was dying of Ebola in trying to get medical care.  They drove around Monrovia in a taxi cab, with him and several other friends carrying the sick woman bodily in and out of hospitals and clinics.  None could take her because they were full. She died the next day. The friends died several days later from exposure to her.  I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but did it never cross this man's mind that he might delay his trip to the United States until the Ebola crisis had subsided?  Wait a minute.  Perhaps this man and his family in the U.S. knew that he had contracted Ebola and staying in Liberia was a sure death sentence.  Did the family members whom he had come to visit give no thought to their own children or their children's classmates, in terms of possibly conveying a deadly and contagious disease?  

    (2)  As for the nurse(s) at Presbyterian Hospital who sent home a feverish man, who informed them that he had just left Liberia in the midst of a deadly Ebola epidemic, now that  terrifies me. He may have infected family members and neighbors during that period.  By the time the seriously ill man returned to the hospital in an ambulance, three days later he was so sick, that he was in a highly contagious condition.  All this speculation is now giving me some troubling symptoms, although it's not so much a headache as a heart ache.  

    (3)  The experts insist that the United States has a top notch medical system that can handle the Ebola virus.  So. . . we have nothing to worry about.  Yes, America has one of the best medical systems in the world.  But it is also run by humans.  And we all know what that means.

    Nonetheless, President Obama has made the right decision about sending soldiers to Liberia to help control the virus there.  The reason is this.  All the panic talk about mutating viruses sounds real. But in the field of epidemiology, this really is a number's game.  According to World Health Organization officials:

     If each sick person infects no more than one person, the size of the epidemic would remain stable or start to fall. But if each Ebola victim, on average, infects more than one person, the epidemic will grow. And that’s what’s happening now. Every 10 Ebola victims are together responsible for more than 10 new cases, the WHO expert panel finds. So the outbreak just keeps growing. The only way to shrink the size of the sick population, the panel concludes, is to keep each sick person from infecting more than one other person. And that’s what health officials mean when they say Ebola has to be “controlled.” . . .
    Ebola spreads when a healthy person becomes exposed to fluids (such as urine, blood or saliva) from an infected person. If a sick individual lives in a large urban city — especially a slum — and can’t get to a hospital, the chance that he or she will infect another person is high.
    Earlier outbreaks tended to occur in small rural or forested communities. There, the disease quickly died out because the sick people couldn’t reach many others to infect them. But in West Africa, Ebola has spread to huge cities, including the capitals of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Moving a sick person to clinics risks infecting a taxi or truck driver and his vehicle. Even disposing of the dead poses heavy infection risks to hospital workers, families and burial crews.
    The American troops in helping to build clinics and contain this disease can help bring this epidemic to an end and save us all from a global catastrophe.

    RELATED POST:  The Real Reason Man with Ebola Not Admitted to Dallas Hospital

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    America Has Much to Learn from India's Successful Mars Probe, But I Doubt that It Will

    India Sends Successful Mars Probe

    When I first heard that India had sent a satellite to Mars, my eyes welled up with tears of pride. Now, I wasn't expecting that reaction (but of course I wasn't expecting that news either). My emotions seemed rather silly.  I'm not from India.  I'm an African-American, who cannot pretend to have had any connection to their successful Mars orbital.  So, it has taken me a few days to sort out my excitement.

    NASA has had its successes of course. In fact, NASA's new orbital arrived around Mars around the same time as India's smaller, cheaper version.   However, the United States is a wealthy but fragmented society. The per capita GDP for India is $1,503/year. In the U.S. it is $53,143.  But half the college-educated Americans believe that the earth is 5,000 years old and that the 7 billion humans who inhabit the planet today, are the descendants of a couple named Adam and Eve, for whom Eve, is a clone of Adam, having popped out of  one of his ribs.  A fair segment of this slice of society still insists that the moon landing never took place, but was rather a conspiracy staged by Hollywood and sponsored by Walt Disney Studios.   

    India has a far greater gap between rich and poor, but a far more cohesive sense of how it sees its future, as an emerging leader in science and technology.  Why do I think that at this moment in history we could learn a few lessons from their example?    

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    NFL Adrian Peterson Had Warped View of Fatherhood Even Before Abuse Charges

    I've been told that the NFL does an exhaustive job of vetting the young men they select.  The process includes personality tests, conversations with high school friends, the college equipment manager, a thorough review of police records.  But one rather simple measure of "being a good citizen" they overlook.  Find out how many kids these athletes have by how many mothers and keep the list updated on an annual basis. That will tell you what kind of "model citizen" you're dealing with and what to expect by way of future public relations nightmares.

    In that regard, I don't mean to dump on Adrian Peterson. But maybe his downfall can be a cautionary tale to others following in this young man's footsteps.  The most damning evidence against Peterson that will linger in the court of public opinion long after any trial issues are wrapped up regarding whether or not the whipping he gave his four year old son constituted child abuse is this.  In a public interview he refused to answer questions about how many children he has fathered.  And now I can see why.  He may not have a clue.  Peterson has two children who live with him and his fiance.  A former girlfriend, Erica Syion, also has a child with him, and told TMZ that Peterson actually has seven kids.  According to Ms. Syion, he pays child support, but does not spend much time with these children.  Peter met the two year old son, who was beaten to death last year by his mother's boyfriend, for the first time in the hospital the day before the toddler died.

    I have been startled and disappointed by how many comments I've read since the Adrian Peterson child abuse stories appeared in the news attempting to shame people like myself for "prying" into Peterson's personal life. I've read more quips than I care to count, essentially saying:  "As long as he pays child support, whatever else he does or does not do with his children is nobody else's business." I'm a member of the public and I have an opinion.  Public opinion is what bolsters the inflated salaries of these athlete entertainers.  There's nothing illegal about having a nursery school full of kids of the same age, and a harem full of baby mamas.  But it shows such a level of  narcissism and lack of concern for the emotional welfare of each of these children that it constitutes a level of spiritual child abuse that will in the end prove even more destructive than physical beatings.      

    Peterson is not a father.   He's just a muscular buck on Roger Goodell's plantation, showing off his manhood.  And the NFL deserves our censure for having presented this man to us all along as a model dad as well as a star athlete.

    Sunday, September 21, 2014

    Zionists Blaming Arabs for Holocaust as Morally Bankrupt as Holocaust Deniers

    The Nazi Germans
    It sounded so preposterous that I took it for a macabre joke. Folks were saying that Zionists were now blaming Arabs for the Holocaust.   In the Arab-Israeli conflict, now that the Israelis no longer controlled the media narrative (because of the Internet) other means had to be found to fan the flames of hatred and rage for the Palestinians, who were fast losing what little land they had left to Jewish settlements.  That's when this new narrative began popping up all over the place, that Arabs were complicit in the Holocaust.

    But how about the allies of Nazi Germany?  Their role has been eclipsed in the Zionist revision of Holocaust history in this new focus on the Arabs.  So what is the evidence?  These books bear titles like Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam (Dalin & Rothmann) and The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism: Adolf Hitler and Haj Amin Al-Husseini (Morse). The latest book in this genre of pseudo-history is a bestseller by Zionist author, Edwin Black, entitled: The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust.  The title itself exposes its not altogether subtle goal of pinning much of European anti-Semitism and the Holocaust on a Palestinian Arab nationalist and a Muslim religious leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem named Haj Amin al-Husseini. This man worked for Nazi Germany as a propagandist and a recruiter of  Bosnian Muslim volunteers for the Waffen SS and other units in the Balkans. But surely that is evidence. . . evidence of what? Let's put this man's involvement on the battlefield at the far margins of this war in perspective.

    The Holocaust was carried out by German soldiers, officials, and civilians, from clerks and officials in the government to units of the army, the police, and the SS. In fact, Arab immigrants from North Africa were rounded up as well and killed in the gas chambers. The Nazis also sought to enlist the support of all the states they occupied in rounding up the undesirables for the gas chambers. This chart offers the actual figures for what countries bore responsibility for sending Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust.    

    Country     Pre-war Jewish Population   Estimated Murdered
    Austria 185,000                                    50,000
    Belgium 66,000                                    25,000
    Bohemia/Moravia 118,000                    78,000
    Bulgaria 50,000                                             0
    Denmark 8,000                                            60
    Estonia 4,500                                        2,000
    Finland 2,000                                               7
    France 350,000                                       77,000
    Germany 565,000                                     142,000
    Greece 75,000                                       65,000
    Hungary 825,000                                     550,000
    Italy 44,500                                                 7,500
    Latvia 91,500                                        70,000
    Lithuania 168,000                                      140,000
    Luxembourg 3,500                                  1,000
    Netherlands 140,000                               100,000
    Norway 1,700                                              762
    Poland 3,300,000                            3,000,000
    Romania 609,000                                       270,000
    Slovakia 89,000                                         71,000
    Soviet Union 3,020,000                    1,000,000
    Yugoslavia 78,000                                 60,000
    Total: 9,793,700                            5,709,329

    The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem's total was zero.  So if any group is to be hated and held morally responsible for the Holocaust, why search the margins of the Nazi German coalition for a culprit, when all the world knows what really happened.  The reason the Europeans were so readily forgiven is a matter of finances.  Israel desperately needed the reparations coming from Germany after the war to establish itself on a sound economic footing.  It's amazing how quickly the Zionists forgave the actual perpetrators of the Holocaust, and projected their rage onto the people that they are doing everything in their power to get rid of.

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    Guinea's Anti-Vaxxers Kill People; Ours Simply Let Other Peoples' Children Die of Easily Curable Diseases

    Ebola Virus
    Over the years, I have lived and traveled throughout much of the African continent.  In that time, I've experienced both wisdom, and superstition, seen acts of generosity alongside the atrocities of war.  The news that villagers in a remote region of the West African nation of Guinea had killed eight health care workers and journalists, left me shivering with rage. Given the scarcity of doctors in Africa and the urgency of controlling this Ebola epidemic, how was it possible that people could be that ignorant and clueless?

    The answer came to me this morning in a painful spark of insight.  Guinea is a poor nation with a per capita income of $492 a year, one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, and with 60% of its children receiving no schooling whatsoever.   The United States, in comparison has a per capita income of  $54,980 a year, a high school graduation rate of 88.15. Fifty-eight percent of Americans have attended some college, and 31% have attained a bachelor's degree or higher.  What can we humans expect of a poor nation of semi-illiterate people, when the superpower in which we live is now suffering the worse measles and whooping cough epidemic in two decades. But it is the reason for this turn of events that is most telling. These highly educated parents, whose beliefs mirror that of the Guinean villagers, insist that the vaccines are the cause of disease.  Olga Khazan quips in a recent article in The Atlantic, entitled Wealthy L.A. Schools' Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan's

    It's tempting to suggest . . .these are just concerned, well-meaning parents who, along with forbidding processed food and dragging their offspring to baby yoga, also avoid any medications that aren't strictly "natural." (Of course, vaccines are natural—they're derived from the naturally-occurring pathogen itself.) That kind of thinking ignores the way vaccines work, through herd immunity. A community can only be protected when 92 percent or more of a population is immunized, and many of L.A.'s elementary schools are dipping far below that number. These parents aren't just risking their own kids' health, they're risking everyone's. 
     Wealth enables these people to hire fringe pediatricians who will coddle their irrational beliefs. But it doesn't entitle them to threaten an entire city's children with terrifying, 19th-century diseases for no reason.
    Wealthy, college-educated parents have been persuaded by a few popular gurus that vaccinations cause autism.  It is a stressful, challenging disorder for any parent to face.  But sometimes the level of parental denial can be blinding.  Those who blame their childrens' autism on vaccines, need only look at their own family tree.  They will invariably have forgotten the uncles, aunts, cousins who grew up long before vaccinations were available, who also displayed autistic symptoms. But this was also long before autism was recognized and diagnosed.  Perhaps it is more emotionally comforting to think that the pharmaceutical industry caused this dreadful disorder rather than one's own DNA.

    In the meantime, both children and adults do die of measles and whooping cough. I was shocked to learn that the cause of a dear friend's death several years ago were complications from measles.  These diseases are not harmless, especially for those with underlying conditions, which sometimes are not even diagnosed until it is too late.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, this is how measles works:
          About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. About one out of 1,000 gets encephalitis [a swelling of the brain that can itself be fatal], and one or two out of 1,000 die. 
    Measles Virus
    We humans are given the cognitive skills to seek answers to nature's thorniest questions.  That may indeed be the existential role of brains hard-wired with the higher cognitive functions that instills curiosity in us and a yearning to explore the unknown.   But also intrinsic to human nature is a default setting that revels in ignorance, as a perceived antidote to fear.   If we want to figure out how it strips away all semblance of reason among remote villagers in Guinea, all we need do is see its emotional equivalent  at work in America.    

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    My Feminine Solution to the NFL's Adrian Peterson Public Relations Disaster

    I've given the NFL situation some thought, and I'd like to offer a solid, well-anchored suggestion.  This is of course, if they genuinely wish to avoid the kinds of public relations disasters they now find themselves mired in. (Rumor has it that Adrian Peterson may be the tip of the iceberg.  But  that may be idle gossip).

    My solution is both simple and inexpensive. I would assume that the NFL employs some screening process for its players aside from sheer aggression and brawn.  If that is indeed the case, then let me add one additional criterion to whatever athletic ones they already have in place. Count the babies and the mamas. So-called football stars having babies with five and ten different mothers is repugnant.  I understand that attitudes about marriage have changed over the years.  But any young man, too befuddled by the instructions on a condom packet, that he produces babies with more than one mama should be disqualified, pure and simple.  I may sound puritanical.  But I'm not that at all.  What I am, is sickened to the core by the thuggish, plantation-stud culture that the NFL seems to be cultivating.  And the notion that these young men are presented as role models for America's youth brings tears to my eyes.  Is this what 365,000 young Union soldiers lost their lives in the Civil War for? The only real difference between this plantation culture and the previous one is that the white bosses give these muscular, hard-working field hands better living quarters for 10 years. 

    If you've never seen the civil war movie, Glory, before, starring Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman, maybe now is the time. It is sometimes good to be reminded of where we came from to help us re-chart our future.  

    RELATED POST:  Adrian Peterson's Winning Record: 2 Abused Sons & 1 Dead in Less Than a Year