Saturday, February 28, 2015

Word of the Day: MILESTONE [Part 2 of 2]

[ATTENTION, READERS!  My friend Bridget and her family are now out of their home, but have been getting some last-minute help with a temporary living arrangement.  They still want to get back to home in New Jersey, and are far from their ideal situation.  I have started a GoFundMe account for them.  I invite you to read their story here, and if you can help, please do!] 

Last week, I posted Part 1 of this two-part Word of the Day: Milestone posting.  It was to mark this blog surpassing 5,000 pageviews.  (No small feat, and thank you, dear readers, again.)  Today, another milestone has been reached.  This marks my 100th post to this blog.  It has taken over
2 1/2 years to reach this point -- starting on June 19, 2012 -- and it's hard to believe.  I never intended this to be a daily or weekly blog; I would comment on something that grabbed my attention and when I had something to share.  At the beginning, I kicked around the idea of reaching 100 posts and about when that might happen.  Once a month would take over eight years ... twice a month would take over four years ... and so on.
Here it is, roughly two years and eight months later, and today marks 100 posts.

My first post, titled Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right, addressed a situation of a Texas elementary school teacher allegedly trying to teach a bully a lesson by having the other children in the class line up and punching him.  The teacher was convicted, but her conviction was overturned.  She is currently awaiting a new trial.

Throughout this blog's inaugural year, postings have included such topics as sexual abuse, U.S. immigration issues, the idea of fame (in a reality show context), massacres at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, as well as the
film Thrive: What on Earth Will It Take?  

Early in 2013, I highlighted the finale of a five-year-long sci-fi television series that I followed week in and week out, Fringe.  The year continued with posts regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, the whittling away at voting rights for minorities, the powerful impact of young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, the Trayvon Martin shooting/George Zimmerman trial, the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, and the deaths of former South African President Nelson Mandela and actor Peter O'Toole.

Just last year, 2014, "The Day We Fight Back" movement against mass surveillance was an early focus here, later followed by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", and the uprisings in Venezuela, Ukraine, and Uganda.  In addition to my breaking my elbow last Summer, I covered the death of Brittany Maynard and how it brought the death with dignity movement back to the national conversation.  In terms of media, I highlighted the documentary films The Fog of War, Who Killed the Electric Car? and its sequel Revenge of the Electric Car, as well as the
books Your Self-Sabotaging Inner Bully: Standing Up to It Once and for All! and Inner Blocks to Losing Weight by my good friend Dr. Sidney Rosen, Ph.D.  The year wrapped with my longest series to date, a seven-part series titled To Protect and To Serve, which addressed the killings of Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), eleven-year-old Tamir Rice (Cleveland, OH), and Eric Garner (Staten Island, N.Y.) and their impact.

If you follow this blog closely, you will remember that I also introduced you to Anthony Howell, a National Guardsman who was stationed in Albuquerque, N.M., and who had gone
missing at the time.  Thanks to my readers, he was located in about a week-and-a-half's time. 

This year, I revisited Anthony, but now his family was
involvedA serious auto accident in December changed the lives of Anthony, and his parents, Bridget and Bobby.  I will continue to update you on his and his family's situation, and would encourage you to help if you can. 

We are only two months into 2015 and I have already commented on issues such as the murders at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and in Paris by terrorists, how claimed-to-be religious terrorists both represent and don't represent the religion they lift up, and the heated debate about vaccinations with the return of measles on a large scale.

If all of that is any sign, 2015 will have no shortage of issues that will appear here.  Just look at all that is going on here in the United States and around the world right now! 

I started this blog as a sheer hobby and it still has elements of a hobby to it, but it has become a great opportunity to lend my voice (granted, to an already-existing cacophony of voices) to the issues of our times.  I have enjoyed doing this from 2012 to this year, and am looking forward to continuing in 2015.  (Perhaps 2017 will hold my 200th post.)  As always, I hope to comment on things that you will find interesting enough to keep coming back.  Thanks for the first 100!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Word of the Day: MILESTONE [Part 1 of 2]

[ATTENTION, READERS!  My friend Bridget and her family will have to leave their home in Nashville tomorrow, and tomorrow holds an ice storm coming their way.  I have started a GoFundMe account for them.  Read their story here, and if you can help, please do!]

Exactly six months ago to the day -- August 20, 2014 -- this blog marked the milestone of reaching 4,000 visits. It was late summer of 2014 and the big stories surrounding the 4,000 pageviews mark were the shooting of Michael Brown in a little town in Missouri called Ferguson and the death of the one and only Robin Williams.

Fast forward six months -- today, February 20, 2015 -- and this blog now celebrates passing 5,000 pageviews!  As always, I thank all of you, my dear readers, for finding something of interest here and for continuing to come back.  To any newer followers, thanks to all of you as well, and I hope to comment on things you find interesting enough to keep coming back.

Thanks so much!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Words of the Day: UPDATE & HELP

Last summer, I introduced you to Anthony Howell, the son of a dear friend of mine, Bridget, who was stationed at the Army National Guard, 11 Bravo, in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the time.  He had been missing for three weeks at the time of my first posting.
Just ten days later, Anthony was found, thanks to the readers of this blog and his fellow Guardsmen from 11 Bravo.

His mother, Bridget, was able to get him to leave Albuquerque and go to Nashville, Tennessee, where she and her husband, Bobby, live, to get him the treatment he needed.  Less than a week after coming to Nashville, Anthony went into diabetic shock while he and Bridget were on a highway.  That led to his being admitted to a VA hospital in Nashville.  He was also treated for PTSD following a nine-month tour in Egypt from 2012-2013 during the riots there.  Things had seemed to be on track for the better.

That is until the end of last year.

Here are excerpts from how Bridget relayed the story to friends and family on social media:
          I was up all last night and am just laying down now for sleep.  Anthony is most
          definitely a hero.  After climbing out the car window, pulling Bobby out ... he turned
          and saw that [the woman driving the car who hit Bobby and Anthony] was still
          sitting in her car gripping the steering wheel even though it burst into flames upon
          her impact.  A police officer who just got off duty happened to be there at the time in
          the traffic and came up and asked ... if everyone was ok.  [Anthony] tore off running
          to pull [the other driver] out of her car.  The officer sat with Bobby, and Anthony ran
          from car to car making sure everyone was ok.  At that point he agreed to be treated
          and then rushed to the hospital for his injuries.  The serious pain set in yesterday and
          Anthony had to be back at the hospital.  Bobby will probably never walk again
          without at least the aid of a walker.  The doctor was here and brought a walker and a
          wheelchair for when they are finally able to get up and out in public.

          Anthony only injured his foot and back and neck.  He was released from the hospital
          that night.  Pulling [the other driver] out of the burning car and setting his shoes on
          fire walking through the spray of gas made his PTSD spring up fierce.  He's been
          having severe nightmares.
Bobby was injured most in the accident.  He was over a
          month in a walker and now has to go through neurosurgery for aneurism and surgery
          for his back.

          Thank you for all the thoughts, love and support, it is greatly needed and appreciated,
          especially not really having any family here.  It's going to be a rough road and in one
          thoughtless act, we have now not only lost transportation but 90% of our income. 
          Now we just want to hit the lottery enough to get through the next month and hire a
          moving truck.  We just want to come home [to New Jersey] where we have friends
          and family to help in this.  Without their love and support, I'm not sure how I am
          going to get through this alone.

As if all that was not enough, today, Bridget and her family were served with eviction papers today.  They have to be out of their place of residence in ten days.  Anthony is back in the VA hospital continuing his treatment for PTSD, and Bridget said she feels terrible because when Anthony is finally released from the VA hospital, he won't have a home to go to.

All of that has been the update part.  I intended to up date you all on Anthony last month, but I wanted to allow some time for Bridget's family.  Now comes the help part. is a personal fundraising website that serves a myriad of needs, from trips for ailing individuals to relief for families who suffered a loss due to fire, and more.  A GoFundMe account has been started for Bridget and her family to help with moving costs (from Tennessee back up to New Jersey) and initial medical costs until they get back on their feet.  The story is all there on their webpage.  I encourage to take the time to read their story and to help out my dear friends and their son, a true hero.  The link is below.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Word of the Day: VACCINATION

A vaccine is defined as "a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease".  The intention of vaccines is a good one.  The effectiveness of vaccines, when addressing formerly epidemic diseases has been proven.  Dr. Mary Glodé, professor of pediatrics at Denver's University of Colorado notes, "Immunizations are simply one of the greatest public-health achievements."

For some, however, proof is irrelevant.  For example, the link between vaccines and autism, with vaccines being touted as responsible for a rise in autism cases, is not scientifically sound.  The anti-vaccination movement in the United States -- its followers referred to as "anti-vaxxers" -- has gained considerable traction in the last few years.  People sometimes put chains on their vehicle's wheels for traction in the snow.  The anti-vaccination movement is not gaining traction from chains, of course, but rather from fear.

Let me assert here that being fearful of anything that can hurt is normal, as long as the fear does not overwhelm your thinking.  Not wanting anything to happen to your or your loved ones is perfectly normal, but when the flames of fear are being fanned, the result is a lack of clear thinking.  Rumors are like the trees in a drought-ridden forest on which that the flames of fear can spread all too easily.

Fear: Vaccines cause autism and mental illness.
Fact: Vaccines are necessary for the well-being of society in general.

Another fact is that people can have bad reactions to vaccinations (i.e. sore arm, fever), but that falls into the category of weighing the risks involved.  Let us look at some ratios from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
Downside from not getting vaccinated
1 in 20 -- the death rate from diphtheria or tetanus
1 in 1,500 -- the death rate from pertussis
1 in 2,000 -- the death rate from measles
Downside from getting vaccinated
1 in 14,000 -- the number of people who will have seizures or seizure-like symptoms
1 in 30,000 -- the number of people who will have a temporary reduction of blood platelets
11 in 1,000,000 -- the number of people who will have acute brain swelling

There is also concern about thimerosal, that has been added to vaccines.  It was used as a preservative in vaccines, since fatal incidents from contaminated vaccines occurred ninety years ago.  It contains a mercury compound, ethyl mercury -- not methyl mercury found in certain fish which infants should not eat -- and was determined in the late 1990's to be removed or reduced in amount from vaccines for children under the age of six.  Since then, vaccines have been distributed in single-dose vials, not in multi-dose vials, as they used to be.

While a drop in cases of autism would be expected from the process of removing thimerosal from more and more from vaccines progressed in the 1990's, but the upward trend in autism cases continued to increase in spite of that reduction.  See the chart below:
 © Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

From 2000-2002, the number of cases remained relatively the same, 1 in 150.
From 2002-2004, the number of cases increased to 1 in 125.
From 2004-2006, the number of cases increased to 1 in 100.
From 2006-2008, the number of cases increased to 1 in 88.
From 2008-2010, the number of cases increased to 1 in 68.
The frequency of cases of autism in the United States has been steadily increasing while the presence of thimerosal in vaccines has been reduced. 

Do those who are anti-vaccination cite these and similar statistics?  No.  Why?  These statistics are not conducive of spreading fear and irrational behavior.

The name Roald Dahl may or may not ring a bell for you.  He was the British author of several books (some of which have been translated to the big screen) including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, and Boy: Tales of Childhood.  In 1962, Dahl's eldest daughter, Olivia, died from measles encephalitis at the age of seven.  Her nickname was "Twenty", but only lived roughly one-third of that in years.

In 1988, Dahl wrote in a pamphlet distributed by England's Sandwell Health Authority, in which he implored readers to get their children vaccinated.  Below is the full text of what he wrote:
            Measles: A Dangerous Illness

            Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old.  As the

            illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not
            feeling particularly alarmed about it.

            Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on

            her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners,
            and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and
            her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.

            “Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.

            “I feel all sleepy,” she said.

             In an hour, she was unconscious.  In 12 hours she was dead.

            The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and

            there was nothing the doctors could do to save her.  That was 24 years ago in
            1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly
            reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors
            could do to help her.

            On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that

            this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs.  They can insist that their
            child is immunised against measles.  I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962
            because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered.  Today
            a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to
            ask your doctor to administer it.

            It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness.  Believe

            me, it is.  In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised
            are putting the lives of those children at risk.  In America, where measles
            immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.

            Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or

            ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred
            thousand cases of measles every year.  Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer
            side effects of one kind or another.  At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest
            infections. About 20 will die.

            LET THAT SINK IN.

            Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.

            So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?

            They are almost non-existent.  Listen to this.  In a district of around 300,000

            people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side
            effects from measles immunisation!  That is about a million to one chance.  I
            should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a
            chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.

            So what on earth are you worrying about?  It really is almost a crime to allow your

            child to go unimmunised.

            The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late.  All school-

            children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to
            arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

            Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the

            Giant Peach’.  That was when she was still alive.  The second was ‘The BFG’,
            dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles.  You will see her name
            at the beginning of each of these books.  And I know how happy she would be if
            only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and
            death among other children.

We have a history of battling diseases and finding ways to slow many of them down or to practically eradicate them through research.  The administration of vaccines prevents the spread of those diseases. The image below will take you to a timeline of diseases and their cures and vaccinations.  It starts with measles, but there are links above the chart for other diseases, including diphtheria, polio, smallpox. and yellow fever.
Fifteen years ago, measles had been stopped from widespread transmission; it wasn't the endemic disease it had been.  This is not to say that there are no longer any cases of measles, just not as widespread.  Keep in mind that measles is highly contagious.  Look at the graph below.

As of this posting, there are just over 100 cases of measles across fourteen U.S. states.  Compare that to the number of measles cases for all of last year, almost 650, and you might say it's no big deal.  The current 100+ cases shown on the above chart is for the month of January alone.  If you take 2014's numbers and average them out, it would come out to roughly fifty-four cases per month.  Take January's numbers and extrapolate them out, and 2015 is on track for a yearly total of 1,200 cases of measles.

That would be almost twice the number of cases than last year.

The debate that is going on now about whether or not parents should get their kids vaccinated is manufactured.  There is nothing linking vaccinations to autism, metal illness, or anything else that is being purported in the media.  It is not a political issue, as it is being made out to be.  It is a public health issue, plain and simple.  There is no debate.

What about parents who don't want their kids to get infected from unvaccinated children who contract measles?  To that, I have one question: Can you blame them?  I cannot.  Not to mention that measles can be lethal.  And what about the parents who choose to not get their kids vaccinated?  It is a case of being not only neglectful of their own children, but also societally irresponsible.  Their argument that they're not responsible for raising and taking care of other people's children is hollow.  

It is selfish.  It is irresponsible.  It is putting individuality above community.  It is separatist.  It is a denial that all members of a society are responsible to them themselves and that community at large.  Combine that mindset with a mindset of fear, manufactured fear, and advances proven to have made a large benefit to a society become ignored and denied.

That is exactly how the current outbreak of measles in the United States has taken hold.