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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ebola Today 10/30

Civil disobedience

It can be as subtle as a bike ride through Maine on a brisk fall morning while the leaves are turning and burning colors all around. In this case, it was a bike ride, a boyfriend, a state trooper, and a whole bunch of media, because this activist and hero was Kaci Hickox, the nurse from the tent in New Jersey.

“There is no legal action against me, so I’m free to go on a bike ride in my home town.” ~~ Kaci Hickox

As we are you sure you remember, nurse Hickox was released earlier this week from that weird tent Governor Christie put her in in New Jersey, and allowed to return home to Maine. Despite having a state trooper stationed outside her home, and the fact that Maine’s Governor is looking into a court order to force her to stay in, she is not under any legal obligation to stay indoors at this time.

“I don’t want her within 3 feet of anybody. I am going to use the legal provisions to the fullest extent that the laws allow me, and I just hope she recognizes that. Let’s just get to November 10th, and then she can do whatever she likes.” ~~ Gov. Paul LaPage

Can Kaci be arrested for leaving the house? Well, the state and the federal government do have the authority, but that authority is not all reaching, and at this time, they haven’t really used that authority. The science has to support whatever actions are taken. That’s what the courts will look at. And the science is clear. It is not airborne. And with Kaci running no fever at all, she’s doesn’t have Ebola. Remember, Thomas Eric Duncan was posted up in his apartment for four days with his girlfriend and relatives who LIVED with him, and no one developed symptoms.

Unnecessary quarantines, and over reaching isolations, are a civil liberties issue, and the very act stigmatizes our much needed brave and heroic health workers. It’s a bad idea all around. Civil rights are supported by the Constitution of the United States, so when you don’t have the facts, or the science, that backs up quarantine for low risk, or no risk, patients, people need to CALM DOWN.

When the other kid’s parents are around tomorrow, Halloween, and while the kids are out collecting candy, and you guys get to talking, just remember what you know. We only have one patient at this time in United States, and everyone who has contracted Ebola in the U.S. has recovered.

Meanwhile, Back In Africa
On the other side of the pond, they are also watching these quarantine guidelines popping up haphazardly, state by state. They understand our fear. They’ve been afraid for some time now.

The US Navy set up a mobile lab in Liberia that really started to help turn the tide. Facilities in that mobile lab decreased the wait time for Ebola test results from 6 days to 4 hours. Those test results will typically be taken back on a bumpy SUV drive inland to one of the clinics that are set up around the West African region.

It isn’t unusual to see as many as 10 American doctors at any of these clinics. And Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power has been everywhere coordinating the American response on the continent, reportedly getting 3 -4 hours sleep a night. So, long before we put boots on the ground to help build new facilities, we had medical boots on the ground saving lives, embodying the real meaning of Johnny-On-The-Spot. It isn’t that easy to get these clinics staffed, and with the new American quarantine threats, we might get behind as quickly as we’ve gotten ahead.

Talk about tracking
Two weeks ago, The World Health Organization (WHO), announced Mali was Ebola free. Is Ebola In Mali Now? It was confirmed last week by the WHO that a 2-year-old girl in Western Mali had contracted the disease. The 2 year old’s grandmother told the doctor they had just returned from neighboring Guinea, where the girl had been staying with her father before he died of Ebola. Reports are that the toddler exhibited symptoms, and had a nosebleed, as she and her grandmother made the 600-mile journey from Guinea to Kayes, via the Malian capital, Bamako, on public buses. This does not bode well. The child died after two days in the hospital, just hours after the diagnosis came in. Yes, the test results took 2 days to process.

In the early hours of Friday, about halfway between the two cities, the bus was spotted.

“They literally chased down the bus, made the passengers get out, and disinfected the whole vehicle in the middle of the road,” says Shannon Strother of Unicef.

In the meantime, the job of tracing the girl’s route, and working out how many people she may have come into contact with, has begun. By visiting the villages and towns through which the girl and her grandmother had passed, health workers have so far identified dozens of possible contacts.

“From the passenger list, where people had put down their phone numbers, we were able to identify and track all the people travelling on the bus,” says Dr Lamine Diarra at the health ministry in Bamako, adding, “The hunt’s been complicated by the fact that in parts of Mali, a whole village shares the same Sim card.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 116 people in Mali are now being held under observation for the disease. How important is tracking? It’s everything. Xerox’s Maven software was configured to provide contact tracing for Ebola, and other communicable diseases. In the absence of a vaccine, contact tracing – analyzing who is at risk from contact with an infected person – is one of the most important tools available to prevent widespread outbreaks like Ebola. Maven has been deployed in public health agencies in 12 U.S. jurisdictions, and two states in Australia. What is really needed, however, is a system that can be used worldwide.

“Right now, the Ebola outbreak is a major global problem that requires our best thinking and resources. Health organizations of all kinds need technology to manage the identification, and diagnosis, of those who may have come into contact with an infected person. It’s this level of vigilance that will help stem the outbreak,” said Dave Amoriell, Xerox’s Public Sector COO, adding,“Maven is now available quickly and securely through the Xerox cloud.”

In Nairobi, developers announced Monday a “new mobile telephone based mapping service has been created in a bid to track Ebola, and better help communities hit by the virus in west Africa.” The system, a collaboration between technology giant IBM, mobile telephone companies, and academics, allows people in affected areas to send free text messages about Ebola to track problems and trends, with the program mapping the exact location from where it is sent.

“It has already brought to light specific regions with growing numbers of suspected Ebola cases which require urgent supplies like soap and electricity, as well as faster response times for body collection and burials. We saw the need to quickly develop a system to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to provide valuable insight about how to fight it. Using mobile technology, we have given them a voice and a channel to communicate their experiences directly” ~~ IBM Research Africa’s chief scientist Uyi Stewart

Tracking is what the CDC does in conjunction with the NIH, and it’s that vital work, literally tracking down all those who came in contact with any infectious patients, that will save the cheerleader, and save the world.

Stay with us daily as we report what we find, and vet what we can.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ebola Today 10/28

A Good News Day
OK, today we should lead with the best news. According to the The Washington Post, upon nurse Amber Vinson's recovery, and release from the hospital, there is only ONE patient left in the United States being treated for Ebola. That is to say, only one person of the 316 million people in the United States, has Ebola, at this time. Everyone else, except poor Thomas Eric Duncan, has recovered, and has been released.

More good news today
Although there is still a great need for international assistance, according to The New York Times, the spread of Ebola is slowing in Liberia. Health authorities in the region have come to that conclusion from the following facts:
  • Liberia's health authorities are reporting lower numbers of new infections.
  • Treatment centers in Liberia's capitol city of Monrovia, who were turning away victims for lack of space, are now reporting some unoccupied beds.
  • The number of burials of victims has started to drop.
"Do we feel confident that the response is now getting an upper hand on the virus? Yes, in Liberia we are seeing a slowing rate of new cases, very definitely." ~~ Dr. Aylward, World Health Organization's Assistant Director-General in charge of WHO's operational response to the epidemic.
Bear in mind, nearly half of the total number of people infected have been infected in Liberia. Also note, about 5,000 of the almost 14,000 people infected, are reported to have died of the disease, and according to Dr. Aylward, in the three countries most affected, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, there is still a 70% mortality rate. In the United States, of those who developed the virus while in the United States, our mortality rate is more like 20%. Of course, it looks like we know how to handle it better than we did when Thomas Eric Duncan showed up in Texas. And all of the cases after him in the United States have recovered. Just waiting for Dr. Craig Spencer to join that group. (There is some low level noise out there about Dr. Spencer lying about his whereabouts upon returning to the United States, but there are no accurate sources to back that one up. And no one else in New York has reported symptoms, including his girlfriend.)

That being said, there is still alot of scarem juice going around. If you pay attention to social media, the policy being suggested by the none scientific general public is to get your pitchforks, and guns, and take your country back from the Ebola Dictator Obama. It's Obama derangement syndrome on steroids. In the real world, however, Governor after Governor actually have to decide what is the best way to ensure the health and safety of their residents.

Under CDC guidelines that went into effect Monday, individuals at any risk of exposure to the virus should be actively monitored until 21 days after the last potential exposure, even if they show no symptoms of the disease. The guidelines are not mandatory.

Who's Being Monitored Now?
MICHIGAN ~~ Health officials are now monitoring ten people in Michigan for the Ebola virus, the Detroit Free Press reports. According to the health department spokesman, none of these people are believed to have had direct contact with anyone who has Ebola, and the Michigan Department of Community Health confirms none of the people being monitored have shown symptoms of the deadly disease. Nonetheless, the cases involve individuals who were in countries with widespread Ebola transmission within the last 21 days. MDCH is not releasing their identities or where they live out of respect for their privacy.

INDIANA ~~ Indiana was one of the first states to begin “direct active monitoring” of returning travelers. Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana State Department of Health implemented the policy on Oct. 16. The local FOX affiliate in Indianapolis WXIN reports that state health officials are monitoring six people in Indiana for Ebola symptoms in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two patients have completed the monitoring protocol while six others are currently under observation. They’re cooperating with the protocol, which lasts 21 days. State health officials aren’t releasing the names of the counties where travelers are being monitored in accordance with privacy laws.

All are considered low risk.

What Is Monitoring?
Monitoring includes twice-daily temperature and symptom checks by local health agencies. That's it. Hit a temperature of 100.4, you get packaged up, taken into a hospital for treatment, and, of course, quarantined. Until then, you just have to take your temperature.

The CDC’s new travel guidelines group people into four categories based on exposure to Ebola: high risk; some risk; low, but not zero risk; and no known risk.

  • People in the high risk category, such as a healthcare worker who treated an Ebola patient, should be monitored by a health official and avoid commercial travel and large gatherings.
  • Those with some risk should be monitored by a doctor, and would be allowed to travel on a case-by-case basis.
  • Travelers with low, but not zero, risk should watch for symptoms.
  • Those with no known risk don’t have to monitor their health. Duh.

Schools And Parents Overreacting?
Maureen Downey of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took a stab at the issue. Parents with school aged children are getting concerned, and most local mayors and school boards aren't doing much to help assuage that fear.

We may see the issue of kids being barred from attending school addressed in Connecticut sooner than in other states. A lawsuit has been filed in the state after a school district refused to allow a third-grader to return to school after she attended a wedding in Nigeria, a country declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization. Her father is suing the Milford district for banning the child from school, noting the family was never quarantined by the city after returning from Africa, the school system felt safe enough to send a tutor to the house, a doctor who examined the girl proclaimed her healthy, and she had no contact with, nor was anywhere near, any Ebola patients while in Nigeria. The family attorney suggested the ban had more to do with public concerns than real health concerns.

Civil Rights Versus Public Safety
“Normally one can’t be locked up without suspicion of a crime or conviction, but because we are dealing with infections, and because they can be spread by people who are not visibly sick, the state has the right to protect society from disastrous consequences by temporarily limiting someone’s liberties,” said Eugene Kontorovich, a constitutional law scholar at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.

Of course, given all the available evidence, Ebola patients would definitely be visibly sick when they were infectious. They would be vomiting, and liquid would be coming from every part of them. It causes bleeding inside and outside the body.

Hickox is on the front lines of this dispute. Now that she is back home in Maine, and still asymptomatic, and still virus free according to repeated tests, Maine officials are seeking a court order to force her to self-quarantine at home. Acccording to NBC News, Hickox emerged from her home today, Wednesday, to tell reporters that she and her attorneys had been in negotiations all day with state officials, but that the impasse remained.

"They will not allow me to leave my house, and have any interaction with the public, even though I am completely healthy and symptom-free," Hickox said as her boyfriend stood beside her — and as a state trooper, who has her under surveillance, looked on.

We've been here before. Health officials in the U.S. have a long history of taking steps in the interest of public health, including closing schools and ordering large-scale quarantines, such as the one imposed during the 1918 influenza epidemic that was credited with limiting the spread of the disease. Of course, in 1918, we weren't able to treat, and cure, patients with plasma infusions.

Some public health experts say aggressive, widespread quarantines may be illegal, are not based on medical evidence, and can be counterproductive. Health officials have a certain ethic to uphold, but ordinary citizens might hide their potential exposure, or recent travel history, as a result. Most importantly, as we have mentioned in previous articles, this kind of government reaction, in the current environment, could also dissuade health care workers from volunteering to fight Ebola in West Africa, where the epidemic is just starting to get under control due to the caring and fearless work of those very same healthcare workers.

Unnecessary quarantines create unnecessary fear.

Feeling Helpless?
Well, there is only so much each of us, individually, can do to help out here. Unless you are a health hero putting yourself on the line helping patients in the United States heal, or jetting overseas to help on the front lines, what can you do?

Without saying any charity is helping more than any other, we offer one option of a place to donate. Unicef USA.

Stay with us daily as we report what we find, and vet what we can.

The Policy Geek


Monday, October 27, 2014

Ebola Today: 10/27

One of the things that drives a Policy Geek crazy is, when it comes to Ebola, people irrationally blaming the President. Of course, one gets used to POTUS being blamed for everything. Benghazi, sure, Fast and Furious, yep, The IRS, ok, Immigration, yeah, it just goes on and on. But Ebola??? That one makes no sense at all.

In an effort to cut through the stupid, once again, we present: Ebola Today, 10/27.

People are going crazy about every detail of this PR nightmare. We call it a PR nightmare, because if everyone was just reacting to facts, this wouldn’t even be more than a blip on page 4 of any newspaper, a 2 minute segment at most on the Evening News. But no, we have a bunch of nonsense coming from all directions.

The Sign Language Guy
New York City Mayor De Blasio, in a press conference on Ebola, was accompanied by a man to the side of him who was translating for the deaf. CBS New York claimed the sign language interpreter for Oct. 24th press conference was “faking it.” There is video, and speculation. Tweets said he was signing song lyrics. Blogs written quoting CBS, etc. So is that true?

Of course, not. That poor guy is signing his ass off. The message is important, and deaf signers say he was getting that across, accurately. Here is a perfect example of what we are talking about. Here is a meaningful press conference, being given by a caring Mayor, being interpreted by a devoted sign language guy, with information people need to hear, and the only take away is that the CDC is “faking it.”

This is particularly troubling, the part where it is assumed that the CDC and the NIH are lying to us, or making things up. For instance, when Thomas Eric Duncan’s Texas nurse Amber Joy Vinson flew in and out of Texas, before being diagnosed with Ebola, there were reports that she had called the CDC about a fever before flying back from Akron to Dallas, and been given the go ahead. News stations were shocked. How could she have been contagious with Ebola, and have been cleared by the CDC to fly? Not surprisingly, that’s not exactly how it happened. Amber was contacted by Texas Presbyterian while in Akron, and asked how she was doing, which is standard protocol. She had a temperature of 99.5. The healthcare worker at Texas Presbyterian called that info into the CDC, who said she was cleared for travel, and that info was relayed to Amber. According to the CDC, a 100.4 temperature is symptomatic of Ebola. When she arrived back in Texas, she recorded a higher fever, immediately called it in, and sought treatment and quarantine.

The Poor French Speaking Children from Senegal
According to The Root, NBC New York, and Buzz Feed, last Friday, Oct. 24th, two Senegalese-American middle school students, 11 and 13-year-old brothers, were taken to the hospital on Friday after suffering a beating at the hands of their classmates, while the attackers chanted “Ebola! Ebola! Ebola!” The beatings were apparently motivated by some sort of fear of the Ebola virus, but local lawmakers are saying it is a hate crime. These bullies haven’t been taught any better, but whose fault is that? Where were the administrators? Where was the supervision?

Monday press conference at Harlem headquarters
of Association of Senegalese in America

Ousmane Drame, the boys’ father, explained that the children were born in the United States, but had been sent to Senegal to learn French. The boys arrived in the The Bronx three weeks ago (the proverbial 21 days), and were initially welcomed by their classmates. But as misinformation about the Ebola virus spread over the last two weeks, Drame said his sons had been cruelly harassed repeatedly leading up to the group attack.

“If they go to the gym, they don’t want them touching the ball – ‘Oh, you have Ebola, don’t play with us,'” Drame said.

Then, on Friday at lunchtime, a large group of students approached Abdou, the younger brother, and began the chanting, Ebola! Ebola! The group then attacked the boy, the father said, kicking and punching him in the face. When Amedou came to help his younger brother, he was also beaten. It must have been so frightening, and so unexpected. But are these children just reflecting their parents paranoia?

Should those middle school bullies living in The Bronx be scared of people from Senegal? Should we all be afraid?

The truth is only one case has been documented in Senegal, the country of origin of the children that were regularly bullied, and then attacked. That one Senegal case was reported almost two months ago, so on Oct. 18th the World Health Organization declared the nation of Senegal to be free of Ebola. No new cases have been documented in the 51 days since, more than twice the virus’s incubation period. Needless to say, these children weren’t anywhere near the one patient reported in Senegal at any time. But that doesn’t stop the hate, or the fear, or the ignorance, from spreading.

NY State Senator Bill Perkins was appalled, saying,
Already Ebola is a bullying crisis in our public schools, and in our charter schools. Our mayor needs to take some steps so that children in our public schools know what Ebola really is, and don’t go out and attack their fellow students.

If you ask us, Mayors everywhere need to hold public health meetings, as well as school assemblies, to talk about the truth, and hammer home the point that really, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. A teachable moment.

Can You Get Ebola When Someone Sneezes?
When your body first starts fighting Ebola, the body reacts by causing a fever. To be infectious with this virus you must have a really high number of copies of the virus in your blood. At that point, all of your blood vessels are spiderwebbing, practically disappearing, a process that can not be reversed. To be safe, if you have been exposed, and you develop a fever, call your local hospital. But running a low fever does not mean that there is enough of the virus in your blood to actually be able to infect anybody. Since all but one of the current Ebola patients in the United States are health officials, we need to have a certain amount of trust that they will sequester themselves the moment they show any fever. Again, those flying on the planes with the patients we are treating in the United States have not come down with it, and they were in a closed environment for hours and hours with those who are actually infected.

President Barack Obama gives a hug to Dallas nurse Nina Pham in the Oval Office

As for Thomas Eric Duncan, apparently you need a great deal of exposure, and exposure from a patient who is in the highly contagious stage, to catch the virus. That means exposed to feces, vomit, blood, etc. Duncan caught it while in Liberia helping a poor pregnant woman who was very ill. You can imagine the fluids there. When a person is in the later stages of the disease, as Mr. Duncan was when treated in Texas, liquid comes out of every part of them, and alot of it. That’s how Duncan caught it. Unfortunately, poorly trained staff in Texas allowed Duncan to go home, and then didn’t diagnose him immediately when he returned to the emergency room. That’s how his nurses got it. Bear in mind, Duncan is the only one that has died in the United States. He did not receive any plasma from a previously recovered Ebola patient, and he died. He’s the only patient treated in the United States for Ebola that did not receive that type of plasma infusion.

So feces from an Ebola patient, bad, and plasma from a recovered Ebola patient, good. A recovered Ebola patient can not get the virus again. So their plasma, once shared, is saving lives. This is very important. That’s why Obama made a point of inviting Nina Pham, that nurse from Texas who has recovered, to the oval office for a hug. She’s a hero. We can’t say that enough. And as of the writing of this article, both of Duncan’s nurses, Amber Joy Vinson and Nina Pham, have recovered, and have been released from hospital.

What we have to keep in mind, today, of all days, on Jonas Salk’s birthday, is we have a treatment. So as long as we have protocols, and those exposed monitor themselves for a fever, immediately quarantining themselves if they have one, we should be o.k. (Jonas Edward Salk was the American medical researcher and virologist, from New York City, who discovered and developed the first successful inactivated polio vaccine. Happy Birthday, Jonas.)

But We Hear That These Workers Took Precautions And Caught It Anyway
We have to remember that the process of medical care means that you are literally touching patients, regularly, and in that respect, it’s very difficult to come away with something like this. In fact, Thomas Eric Duncan’s family, who took care of him at home for a bit, have not contracted the disease. And those who spent time with Dr. Craig Spencer in New York, also have not shown any symptoms. So simply touching a patient, or sitting next to one, doesn’t do it.

So, again, how did the health workers catch it? We have to remember our doctors are rapping themselves with a lot of protective gear. That gear is very difficult to put on and off, as Dr. Gupta demonstrated recently on CNN. Especially, if you are trying to do it by yourself, without a partner, or without training. Some of these challenges can lead to unfortunate infections, but that’s what happens when people put themselves in harm’s way, and are willing to take care of patients with this disease. Health care workers are human too, and there are no reports of them having done all of the protocols perfectly. Although, if you listen to people on the street, they all say, “She did everything, and she still caught it. Time to freak out!! Ahhhhgggggg!!!”

Obama and recovered Dallas nurse Nina Pham in the Oval Office

The hysteria is building, and the worst thing we can do is start to attack each other over, what?, 5 cases of Ebola in the United States. Really? More people report seeing UFO’s every day in the U.S. What we have to do is keep level heads, teach our children to be kind, remind our friends not to spread misinformation and gossip, and perhaps, not travel to West Africa unless you are a health professional. Most importantly, we have to treat our health care workers as the heroes they are, and not like some zombies from Resident Evil.

Unfortunately, fear is in charge now, and fear gets what it wants.

Harry Cheadle of Vice magazine put it best today:

“I’m not sure when Americans got scared. Maybe the indigenous tribes of the plains spent evenings huddled in their teepees telling stories of twisted night creatures, maybe the nomads who trekked across that bridge from Russia to Alaska were running away from something. Whatever the case, by the time the white people showed up from across the sea and started putting women on trial for witchcraft and convincing themselves the natives were conspiring with Satan, fear was firmly established as the ruler of the continent and it hasn’t left since. The national anthem, like most of what you learn in elementary school, is mostly lies, forget the brave and the free, we’re the land of the terrorized, the home of the perpetually panicked.”

There is some good news. In New Jersey, nurse Kaci Hickox, who we wrote about yesterday, was discharged after testing negative for Ebola. So cooler heads prevailed there. After all, she was not symptomatic, and she tested negative twice.

What’s today’s takeaway? We have 316 million people in this country, more or less. And 5 cases of Ebola. Sure as shootin’, there are political operatives out there who know that fear can keep voters home on Nov. 4th. That’s a week from today.

Let’s keep it all in perspective, and not let them fear us into failure. So keep calm. And read this column. We’ll try to bring you everything we can, daily.

The Policy Geek

UPDATE: The director of the CDC said that active 21-day monitoring began Monday in seven states for air travelers who enter the United States from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the hardest hit countries in West Africa. Those states with fear driven Governors are New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Illinois, and Georgia.

Also, on Monday, a 5-year-old boy who recently visited West Africa, and had a fever, tested negative for the virus in New York, according to health officials. So if you hear about the young child in New York, you can tell your friends, he’s fine. Just a little kid with a fever. Like we see every winter, everywhere.

Lastly, according to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, it seems we are also putting our Army troops, those who have just completed a mission to set up Medical Facilities in Liberia, into 21 day quarantines In Italy, no visitors, even though they were never in contact with any Ebola patients while on the African continent. Again, fear is winning. Along with those troops, we have also quarantined our two star Major General Williams who is head of U.S. Army, Africa. That’s right, the man in charge of the Army in the entire continent of Africa is also in quarantine. This is policy that makes no sense. And we predict will cause more damage, than not.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ebola Today 10/26

(John Ehrenfeld, 2014)
The Story of Nurse Kaci Hickox and Ebola
Saturday, New York, and New Jersey, in a joint press conference, gleefully announced that any hero health technician returning from helping to STOP the threat of Ebola in West Africa, will now be quarantined for 21 days upon arrival. Well, at first, that might not sound like such a bad idea. Except these are healthcare professionals, and, as far as we can tell, none of them have allowed themselves to transmit the disease to anyone in the U.S. As soon as they felt sick, they cut themselves off, self quarantined, and got themselves into a hospital, safely, for treatment. Also, none of the professionals who have gone symptomatic here in the United States has died of the disease. Plasma from a recovered Ebola patient seems to be the key to a cure, and, of course, early detection and treatment.

Nonetheless, when nurse Kaci Hickox returned Friday from going to Africa to help quell the Ebola outbreak, she was placed under mandatory quarantine in New Jersey. In her own words, Hickox had just come back from the most difficult months of her life. Hickox said she was stopped at Newark Liberty International and was questioned over several hours after touching down Friday. She said none of those who questioned her would explain what was going on or what would happen to her.

"One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn't. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal," ~~ Kaci Hickox

Hickox is a nurse who had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone. Officials said she was taken to a hospital after developing a fever, but Hickox said she was merely flushed because she was upset by the process.
Photo taken by Hickox with her iphone of the inside of her quarantine tent.
After a seven-hour wait at University Hospital in Newark, she was put in an isolation tent inside a building adjacent to the hospital (There are reports she is outside, in the winter of New York, but they are false) At this point, she's twice tested negative for Ebola, including a test at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

What makes this even crazier is that she has not shown any symptoms. At a news conference Saturday, the Gov. Christie of New Jersey said, "I'm sorry if in any way she was inconvenienced, but inconvenience that could occur from having folks that are symptomatic and ill out amongst the public is a much, much greater concern of mine. I hope she recovers quickly." Christie also asserted:

Kaci Hickox is “obviously ill. When I left this morning she still had a fever, and she was being tested for other illnesses after the Ebola test came back negative. She may to be tested for that again, because sometimes it takes a little bit longer to make a definitive determination,” adding, “There’s no question the woman is ill, the question is what is her illness.”

Of course, in the real world, Hickox is healthy, and has tested negative for Ebola, twice. In fact, Hickox says she has nothing to recover from. Her temperature is normal, and she feels fine.

"Everyone keeps asking how I'm feeling physically and of course I'm fine physically, but I don't think most people understand what it's like to be alone in a tent and decisions are being made that don't make sense, and show no compassion," Hickox said, starting to cry. "I heard my mother last night who called me concerned, and said, "Governor Christie just said in an interview that you were "obviously ill." And this is SOooo frustrating for me. First of all, I don't think he's a doctor, and second, he's never laid eyes on me, and thirdly, I have been asymptomatic since I've been here. I feel physically completely strong, and emotionally, completely exhausted."

Hickox said she worries that her experience will discourage other aid workers from going to West Africa to help quell the Ebola outbreak. And truth be told, so are we. The LAST thing we want to do is to have disincentives for health care workers to treat sick patients, either here at home, or in West Africa.

"To quarantine everyone, just in case, when you can not predict who may develop Ebola, or not, to put me through this emotional and physical stress, to not be with my family, is completely unacceptable." ~~ Kaci Hickox

Basically, there is a great deal of misinformation out there on this one. If it was so easy to catch, we would have case after case appearing from the plane ride that Eric Duncan took here from Africa. Members of Duncan's family, who took care of him, would have symptoms. But they don't. And we would have case after case from the planes that Amber Vinson took back and forth from Texas. But we don't. If it was so easy to catch, we would be hearing about case after case in New York, where Dr. Craig Spencer traipsed around the city. But we don't.

What's A Citizen To Do?
There is just altogether too much noise coming out about Ebola. I wake up thinking, wow, my friends who just catch a glimpse of headlines now and then, and who don't study the news like we do, are probably scared to death. In Oregon, we've seen people shopping at the grocery store with blue surgical gloves on. In Los Angeles, my mother saw someone at a restaurant with a surgical mask on. Now that doesn't even make sense.

In an attempt to keep our busy friends up to date on the realities of Ebola, and what it does or could mean to you, we plan on gathering today's headlines henceforth from vetted sources, and presenting them here. The hardest part about this, is that what we consider main stream news is making a mockery of passing along information. Long winded politicians talking about things they actually no nothing about, whatsoever, who Soapbox by blowing fear bubbles out into the electorate are much more troublesome than the virus itself. Selling fear should not be one of those things listed under special skills on an elected official's resume. But there it is. We've elected a bunch of callous, shortsighted, thoughtless money grabbers into the higher offices of our government, and most of our news pundits, also selling fear, don't help at all when they give equal time to these "officials."

As a result, this column will also probably show some of the stupid and the crazy, in order to squash the fantasy football version of Ebola in its tracks. It's the best vaccine for fear we can think of.
Gov. Cuomo of NY, and Gov. Christie of NJ announcing the 21 day quarantine.

Today's Course Correction
On Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Chis Christie of New Jersey proudly announced in a joint press conference a mandatory 21 day quarantine on any Ebola medical workers coming from the western part of Africa. Of course, there are no flights that go directly from Africa to any part of the United States, so these need to be self identifying health care workers, without symptoms.

Point of order, Dr. Craig Spencer, who self monitored, and called the hospital when he had a temperature of 100.3, was fully capable of diagnosing himself, and getting in a safe place for all as soon as was needed. Today, after his plasma infusion, all reports say that he "looks better."

Sunday, Mayor De Blasio of New York said in a press conference with health officials that the treatment of Kaci Hickox has been shameful, and vowed that "New York City will do all it can do to honor the work of the health care workers here and those who go to help fight the epidemic in West Africa," adding, "The problem here is this hero coming back from the front, having done the right things, was treated with disrespect."

Interestingly enough, just in, the New York Times is reporting Sunday evening that, under pressure, Gov. Cuomo has stepped back from his comments on Saturday. New York's revised plan allows all returning health care workers who have had contact with Ebola patients, but have no symptoms of illness, to return to their homes where they will be confined and monitored for 21 days. This new plan includes transporting the health official home in private transportation by the NY State Dept. of Health, or the local health department. Food and medicine, if needed, will be provided, as well as financial assistance for those who need it. "If the health officials organization does not pay for the three weeks, we will." said Governor Cuomo.

There is some vagueness surrounding what will be done with those returning from West Africa who have not been in contact with Ebola patients. Something about keeping track of them, and getting their temperature twice a day, for 21 days, but no quarantine. It is unclear if that is only for health care workers, or for everyone who traveled to west Africa recently.

"We have to be guided by facts, not fear." That's what POTUS said. And we'd have to agree.

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan contends that quarantining those without symptoms is not the way to combat Ebola. So far, nonsymptomatic quarantines have been declared in New York, New Jersey and Illinois. In Connecticut, nine people are in quarantine: two students at Yale; a worker from AmeriCARES; and a West African family.

At this rate, many others are or soon will be.

Caplan's 7 reasons for not isolating people without symptoms are clear. Quarantining people without symptoms makes no scientific sense because they are not infectious. The only way to get Ebola is to have someone vomit on you, bleed on you, share spit with you, have sex with you or get fecal matter on you when they have a high viral load. How do we know this? Because there is data going back to 1975 from outbreaks in the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Gabon, Ivory Coast, South Africa, not to mention current experience in the United States, Spain and other nations. That's right, despite all the current interest in this disease, it has been around for more than a quarter century. If a patient is given the right care, and a little antivirus plasma from a recovered patient, it seems to work. But there are not the facilities, or the right public awareness campaigns, in Africa to adequately treat victims, and so the spread is vicious, and the death rate is high. Misinformation in Africa has led to locals breaking in to hospitals to break out patients, fearing the hospitals themselves are using the disease as an excuse to kill people. Of course, that is not logical, but this is also an area that believed having sex with a virgin could cure Aids.

Quarantine is next to impossible to enforce. Unless you are a health professional with an edict to do no harm, if you don't want to stay in your home, or wherever you are supposed to stay for three weeks, then what? Do we shoot you, taser you, drag you back into your house in a protective suit, or what? And who is responsible for watching you 24-7? Quarantine relies on the honor system. That essentially is what we count on when we tell people with symptoms to call 911, or the health department.

Large-scale quarantine has not been thought through, in terms of making it bearable for those confined. If government does not make it tolerable — and they show no signs of doing so, other than succeeding in stigmatizing people who are not dangerous — then people will not honor quarantine. Kaci Hickox has only had 3 days, she's a nurse, and she is hating every minute of it as it is. No shower where they put her. No flushing toilet. Facts are facts, and those are dismal.

Health care workers who take care of those who really do have Ebola at big hospitals, such as Bellevue or Emory, are at the greatest risk. If you quarantine them, you are taking your best professionals offline for three weeks — and there are not a lot of replacements. Most importantly, who will volunteer to go to West Africa to stamp out the epidemic, if they know they face three weeks of confinement when they get back? Those who go are heroes who face hell on earth. Can’t they be trusted to do the right thing and self-monitor when they get back?

When elected "officials" respond to panic with quarantine they are basically saying they can't trust our public health experts, or science, or even the ethics of doctors and nurses. Fox News broadcasts comments 24-7 from talking heads saying we can't trust doctors. There is no substitute for that trust. None. If state and city officials undermine trust out of panic or politics, then they destroy the best weapon we have to control Ebola — good science implemented by heroes.

Stay tuned for more info daily.

A Very Healthy Policy Geek

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ben Bradlee's Fourth Estate

The Birth Of A Nation
This policy geek was born the last day of 1964, entering the world as one of the very last baby boomers. That’s right, while everyone else is counting down the last few moments of this year, I will be celebrating my big 50, half of my life down, half to go.

Needless to say, 1965 was full of promise all the way around. We would love to say that we started out fearless, always interested in, and willing to, stand up for the truth. But that wasn’t to happen for decades.

Growing up, nothing about the news was ever interesting. The drone of that dull hour between ok television programming, and appointment viewing at night, there was always the local news. And my parents were riveted. I just heard blah blah blah Christmas, blah blah blah, commercial, blah blah blah blah blah. They heard everything. The news was expected to be factual, and the stuff of serious water cooler talk the next day.

Thank God there have been people to carry on the struggle of the fourth estate all along the way, regardless of my adolescent disinterest. To uphold all the values expected by the public’s trust, that was part and parcel of taking the helm at The Post, in 1965. That’s the year Ben Bradlee took over their newsroom.

Upholding the standards of journalism is a lost art in all but a few corners these days, and is the blogger’s legacy now. In 2014, news is accessible to all of us, in real time, and to those of us with a conscience there is a certain amount of responsibility (that some of us take on) to push back on misinformation, and push out education. At the same time, the only reason there is a need to push back on misinformation is because it exists, en masse, as part of regular governance. That mass produced misinformation spreads, shared like wildfire, taken as gospel by a generation that still believes if someone took the time to write it down, it must be true. Whoa is me, that just ain’t the truth. The now lost giants of the grand ‘ol days of the evening news would be shaking their heads, and holding back some tears, if they knew what was going on in cable news today.

The Life Of A Legend
One of those larger than life truthtellers was the amazing Benjamin C. Bradlee who presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years, and guided The Post’s transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers. On October 21st, just this last week, Bradlee died at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 93.

Ben Bradlee was fearless. Back in 1965, he came in the door of the The Post newsroom with an eye toward making it even better, the best it could be, and by so doing, he set the bar for everyone else in the news business. From the challenge of Watergate, to the independent style he offered his writers, he rode out his tenure putting just the right measure of motivation into his staff, creating an atmosphere where everyone wanted to please him, wanting to be the best version of the fourth estate they could be. He drew to himself a talented staff, who soon made Bradlee the most celebrated newspaper editor this side of J. Jonah Jameson, Jr.

Bradlee looking at layout of "Nixon Resigns" Coverpage
Mr. Bradlee’s patrician good looks, gravelly voice, profane vocabulary and zest for journalism and life all contributed to the charismatic personality that dominated and shaped The Post. Modern American newspaper editors rarely achieve much fame, but Mr. Bradlee became a celebrity and loved the status. Jason Robards played him in the movie “All the President’s Men,” based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s book about Watergate.

“He was a presence, a force,” Woodward recalled of Mr. Bradlee’s role during the Watergate period, 1972 to 1974. “And he was a doubter, a skeptic — ‘Do we have it yet?’ ‘Have we proved it?’ ” Decades later, Woodward remembered the words that he most hated to hear from Mr. Bradlee then: “You don’t have it yet, kid.”

Mr. Bradlee loved the Watergate story, not least because it gave the newspaper “impact,” his favorite word in his first years as editor. He wanted the paper to be noticed. In his personal vernacular — a vivid, blasphemous argot that combined the swearwords he mastered in the Navy during World War II with the impeccable enunciation of a blue-blooded Bostonian — a great story was “a real tube-ripper.”

This meant a story was so hot that Post readers would rip the paper out of the tubes into which the paperboy delivered it. A bad story was “mego” — the acronym for “my eyes glaze over” — applied to anything that bored him. Maximizing the number of tube-rippers and minimizing mego was the Bradlee strategy.

Mr. Bradlee’s tactics were also simple: “Hire people smarter than you are” and encourage them to bloom.

“It was hard to explain the full force of his personality to people who never met him,” said Ward Just, the reporter-turned-novelist whom Mr. Bradlee sent to cover the Vietnam War for The Post in 1966-1967. “He really was one of those guys you’d take a machine-gun bullet for. You only meet three or four of them in an entire lifetime.”

Throughout those 26 years, Ben Bradlee steered The Washington Post through some of the most trying and triumphant episodes in the paper’s history. The most compelling story of Mr. Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of the greatest consequence, was Watergate, the political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history, Richard Nixon. Hard to believe a newspaper did that, but they did.

Bernstein, Bradlee and Woodward at “All The President’s Men,” screening.
(Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Most historians will say Mr. Bradlee’s most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post’s publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War.

“For Benjamin Bradlee, journalism was more than a profession — it was a public good vital to our democracy. A true newspaperman, he transformed the Washington Post into one of the country’s finest newspapers, and with him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told — stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better. The standard he set — a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting — encouraged so many others to enter the profession. And that standard is why, last year, I was proud to honor Ben with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today, we offer our thoughts and prayers to Ben’s family, and all who were fortunate to share in what truly was a good life.” ~~ President Obama
President Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bradlee.
(November 2013, Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

What made Mr. Bradlee’s Post famous was Watergate, but the story that probably made the Watergate coverage possible was the Pentagon Papers, initially a New York Times scoop. Daniel Ellsberg, a disaffected former government official, gave the Times a set of the papers, a compilation of historical documents about U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Times journalists worked for months on stories about them, which began to appear June 13, 1971. The stories created a sensation, even though they contained very little dramatic revelation.

After three days of stories, the Nixon administration successfully sought a federal court injunction blocking further publication, the first such “prior restraint” in the nation’s history.

Ellsberg then offered the documents to The Post. Two days after the court order, Post editors and reporters were plowing through the Pentagon Papers, deciding whether or not to write about them.
That moment, Mr. Bradlee wrote in his memoir, “crystallized for editors and reporters everywhere how independent and determined and confident of its purpose the new Washington Post had become.” Defying the government in printing those stories proved that The Post was “a paper that holds its head high, committed unshakably to principle.”

The Post did publish. The Nixon administration argued that publication of stories based on the Pentagon Papers could undermine national security, an argument brought to the Supreme Court, who surprisingly ruled 6 to 3 that the government could not restrain the newspapers. That was when our Supreme Court still had the will of the people first and foremost in their minds.

Eighteen years later, the man who had argued the government’s case before the Supreme Court, former solicitor general Erwin Griswold, admitted in a Washington Post op-ed essay that the national security argument was phony. “I have never seen any trace of a threat to the national security from the publication” of the Pentagon Papers, Griswold wrote in 1989. Mr. Bradlee loved that article, and he carried a copy in his jacket pocket for weeks afterward.

“If Ben didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him.” ~~ Tom Brokaw.

The sense of independence earned in 1971 was critical to The Post’s pursuit of Watergate, which began the next June. At every stage, it was a compelling yarn, from the days when Woodward and Bernstein established connections between the burglars and President Richard M. Nixon’s reelection campaign to the amazing weeks, more than two years later, when it became clear that the president would not survive in office.

“Newspapering deals with small daily bites from a fruit of indeterminate size,” Mr. Bradlee wrote later. “It may take dozens of bites before you are sure it’s an apple. Dozens and dozens more bites before you have any real idea how big the apple might be. It was that way with Watergate.”
Mr. Bradlee called it “the story that put us all on the map.” Neither he nor The Post was ever the same again. The recognition grew after the movie made from “All the President’s Men” appeared. Mr. Bradlee was relieved that director Alan J. Pakula made a good and essentially accurate movie that seemed to capture the real spirit of The Post and the story.
Mr. Bradlee had edited The Post for nearly nine years when Nixon resigned in August 1974. In those years, he had created a great newspaper and made it famous. One of the most influential moves Bradlee made was to station correspondents around the globe, opening bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States. He created features and sections — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others. Mr. Bradlee added profiles . . . that went way beyond the bare bones of biography.

"We wanted to look at the culture of America as it was changing in front of our eyes. The sexual revolution, the drug culture, the women’s movement. And we wanted it to be interesting, exciting, different.” ~~ Ben Bradlee
During his tenure, a paper that had previously won just four Pulitzer Prizes, only one of which was for reporting, won 17 more.

“Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor,” ~~ Donald E. Graham, who succeeded his mother as publisher of The Post and Mr. Brad­lee’s boss

In July 1991, Ben Bradlee, not quite 70, retired as executive editor of The Post amid an outpouring of emotion.

“Ben’s influence remained very much alive at The Washington Post long after he retired, distinguishing the newspaper and our newsroom as unique in journalism.” President Obama saluted Mr. Bradlee’s role at The Post when giving him the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2013: “He transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world.” ~~ Leonard Downie Jr., who succeeded Mr. Brad­lee as The Post’s executive editor in 1991

The Rungs Of His Ladder
Bradlee first created the New Hampshire Sunday News as one of seven staff members who filled the 64-page paper every week. 
The editor, Ralph M. Blagden, “had an almost contagious sense of how to find a story and where it might go,” Mr. Bradlee wrote in his memoirs. “For every answer we gave him, he had 50 more questions, and I learned everything from him in two years.”

Later, he was to join Newsweek as a European correspondent. In four years, he covered wars in Algeria and the Middle East, peace conferences in Geneva, and the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier in Monte Carlo.

“The sheer joy and romance of being a foreign correspondent is hard to explain, even harder to exaggerate,” Mr. Bradlee wrote in his memoirs. 

The Post Co. bought Newsweek in March 1961, and Bradlee became a certifiable member of the journalistic elite in a capital city where reporters were just starting to become more glamorous and prominent.

Mr. Bradlee’s appointment as deputy managing editor responsible for national and foreign news was announced July 7, 1965. On Nov. 15, 1965, The Post announced that Mr. Bradlee would be the paper’s new managing editor, a title he would hold until 1968, when he was named to the newly created position of executive editor.

Publisher Katharine Graham, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward,
Managing Editor Howard Simons; and Bradlee. (1973, Mark Godfrey)

At the outset, Mr. Bradlee decided “to concentrate on the one thing I did know about: good reporters.” He relied heavily on one good reporter at The Post: Laurence Stern, who proved to be his most important sidekick in the early years. Stern was a wry, irreverent intellectual with ambitious ideas for journalism. Mr. Bradlee named him The Post’s national editor.

Mr. Bradlee brought Ward Just to The Post from Newsweek and soon sent him to Vietnam, where he wrote eloquent, gritty dispatches that undermined the Johnson administration’s public optimism about the course of the war in 1966 and ’67. He found George Wilson, a writer for Aviation Week, who became a distinguished Pentagon correspondent. He hired an old friend from Paris, Stanley Karnow, a Time magazine correspondent in Asia, to be The Post’s China watcher, based in Hong Kong.

Mr. Bradlee’s biggest coup, in his estimation, was hiring David S. Broder from the New York Times. Hiring Broder in September 1966, Mr. Bradlee recalled in 2000, “was of course frightfully important, because then outsiders began to say, ‘Oh my God, did they get Broder? Why did they get Broder? What did Broder see there that we don’t know anything about?’ ”

Soon after he joined The Post, Broder said, “I knew it was heaven for me.” Mr. Bradlee’s Post was fast, loose and fun, and it gave Broder and other self-starting reporters plenty of room to flourish. Laughter and irreverence were crucial ingredients. Mr. Bradlee played favorites, so the people who made him laugh, or who wrote those tube-rippers, agreed that working for him at The Post was a heavenly experience. Those left out of Mr. Bradlee’s magic circle could feel their exclusion with some pain.

The changes he made were not guided by any grand design or elaborate philosophy of journalism. “I was simplistic,” he said in 1991, discussing those early days. “If you made the paper better every day, and you got better people working for you, and you reached higher, the paper would get better.” It was a lesson he said he learned from his private grade school in Boston: “Our best today, our better tomorrow.”

Lying, especially lying by public officials, particularly offended Mr. Bradlee. He wrote and lectured on the subject for decades.

“Ben’s famous drive for a good story makes it easy to overlook his good judgment on matters ranging from national security to personal privacy,” ~~ Boisfeuillet Jones Jr., who was The Post’s lawyer when Mr. Bradlee was editor and who later became publisher.

Post reporters such as Just, Harwood and Nicholas von Hoffman, a daring writer who learned his craft at the old Chicago Daily News, began to write with a confidence and an edge that was seen in the “new journalism” being published in Esquire magazine but was rarely on display in daily newspapers. Broder, Harwood, Haynes Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize-winner from the Evening Star, and their colleagues made The Post the country’s leading chronicler of national politics, Mr. Bradlee’s favorite subject.


In 1991, on the eve of his 70th birthday, Mr. Bradlee retired. He still looked and acted like a man much younger.

“Whenever I found myself alone on the streets of Beirut, I would just shrug off the shelling, the gunmen, and the dark corners, telling myself there is this distinguished eminence up there who really appreciates and understands the true meaning of courage in journalism. . . . For me you will always be the grand, brave man of the news who watched over me and made me want to give just a little bit more. Thank you for giving us all something so special to believe in.” ~~ Nora Boustany, Lebanon Correspondent For The Post.
“He took The Post, then affluent and filled with underutilized potential, and made it a formidable national newspaper worthy of a head-to-head competition with the [New York] Times. He did it in a way that made the paper itself a joyous place to work. The paper reflected his personality. He was exuberant, competitive and combative if challenged. He made The Post a magnet for young reporters looking for a chance to play in a very high-stakes game.” ~~ David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter.

Mr. Bradlee wrote “Conversations With Kennedy” and his memoir, “A Good Life." Both books were bestsellers. Bradlee, divorced twice, is survived by Quinn, a Washington Post columnist whom he married in 1978; sons Ben Jr., Dino, and Quinn; daughter Marina; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

He was “the grand, brave man of the news.” ~~ Washington Post staff writer Nora Boustany, in a telegram from Beirut upon hearing of Bradlee's passing.

Humbled, The Policy Geek

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Meal And A Moment Of Grace At Cambodian Thai

Occasionally we repost an article that touches us just right. Here our friend, David Phillips, does a little geeking out about a local restaurant's local policy.

I don’t need much of a push when it comes to Thai food. In fact, I visit a friend in Columbus about once a year and, when I do, I try to convince him that a trip to Dayton to a restaurant called Thai 9 is an imperative. He gives in, we drive over an hour out of the way, we eat and I smile. So when I was asked to go to dinner at a restaurant called Cambodian Thai in the downtown of my home city of South Bend, not only did I say “yes” with haste, I felt a little embarrassed that I was unfamiliar with the venue.

I arrived that evening just before 6:30 PM at the charming eatery on the corner of S. Michigan and Jefferson. My guest was running late, so I took a seat in the lobby. Just after I sat down a moderately disheveled and distressed man came through the door. He walked up to the counter, declared himself homeless and said he was “real hungry.” I was expecting the man to be turned away–perhaps politely–so I began to reach for my wallet, thinking “I can do something about this.” To my delight, my assumed charity was unnecessary. The hostess (who it turns out is the manager) simply asked the man what he would like, and had him take a seat. I believe he ordered fried rice with chicken. Less than ten minutes later, she came back with a “to go” bag, and said “here’s a Coke too.” The fascinating bit is she did it with little fanfare. As if to say “this is what you’re supposed to do.” And of course, it is.

My guest arrived soon after and I recounted the tale to her as well. The waiter then came to take our order. I decided I would order the same meal as the homeless man. Some sort of symbolic show of solidarity, I suppose. I don’t mind telling you, I chose wisely. It was delicious.

The next morning, I couldn’t get the act of kindness out of my head, so I decided to post about it on Facebook. Hey, it’s a popular place to crank, and share pictures of your pets, so why not a nice story about people being decent? Little did I know what would become of such an innocent gesture. In short order, the “shares” went into the hundreds and the “likes” into the thousands. The next day I was contacted by the local business reporter for the South Bend Tribune, and then Monday evening, WSBT, one of the local networks covered the story. I actually began to worry. The kind people at Cambodian Thai might not have been looking for all this attention. Then today, I received a friend request from a young lady whose name I was unfamiliar with. I checked out her page to make sure she was a real person (it’s the internet, yo) and found that she is the very person who served the homeless gentleman. I quickly accepted her request, and not long after, she posted this sweet message to my wall:

“I just wanna personally thank you for what you have done for me and my family’s restaurant. I really appreciate it and I hope to see you soon.”

Not to go all Jerry Maguire on you, but we do live in a cynical world. Where acts of kindness and decency seem to fall outside of the main far too often. Sonita may have been thanking me, but it is I who should have been thanking her. She made me feel good about being a member of the human race. That doesn’t happen every day.

So please, if you’re ever in downtown South Bend, and looking for a great place to eat, do patronize Cambodian Thai. Their food is flavorful on your tongue, comforting to your stomach, and warm in your heart.

Cambodian Thai
229 S. Michigan St.
South Bend, IN 46601

For Sonita, all the good people at Cambodian Thai, my Facebook friends who shared the story, and to those less fortunate than so many of us.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Countdown To World War III

(Love and Peace From The Fire, 2012)

(deep breath in)
For whatever it is worth, for all our friends who believe in energy, let’s take a moment, and send all the mojo we can to POTUS.

Syria, Ebola, Iraq, Central American children, people dying by the thousands…this is such an issue oriented era.

More people will die in Syria and elsewhere no matter what we do, really.

May President Obama be guided to the kindest choice. May we move forward down the softest path. May the hand of destiny touch lightly upon this time.

(Timeless Wisdom, 2013)

There is most likely no perfect outcome.

Let’s pray or meditate or send good thoughts
(atheists, just take a break and drink a beer).

Focus is required.

Sending The Gift Of Intuition

beams of white light,
soothing seething beams of white light to the people in Syria, to the families in Turkish refugee camps, to our President who is hopefully doing every thing he can in his search for guidance.

Our world needs us to make the right moves here. Even if that turns out to be something no one has ever dreamed of.

Let’s tread lightly and give some thought to that big stick.

The Policy Geek

Once Upon A Time…. A Word on Love and Marriage

Why has there been such a concentrated interest in who LGBT people love?

Let’s be honest. Marriage was around a long time before the bible was. And being gay, that was around a long time before the bible was, too. That’s why the good book should never be considered an instruction guide as to who to love, or how to love.

No rules, no laws, nothing should stand in the way of who you love. No wicked witch with an apple, no father with a shotgun, and no dragon in the tower. Love is hard enough as it is, to find, to maintain, to foster, to keep alive. It’s at the same time rare, and necessary for the soul. When for some reason, god, or luck, or fate, you can suddenly feel your heart skip a beat, tickle your chest and your tummy, and give you goosebumps, you become one of the luckiest people on earth. Love is all there is. Love is grand. Love can cure the world.

It’s horrible and sad and unethical to take away basic human rights from anyone in the U.S. But try and tell that to the Christian Right who perceives disenfranchisement coming at them from all directions. It must be very difficult for them to see one court decision after another calling things in favor of marriage equality.

What we are saying is that the right to love and marry is a basic human right, always has been, should never have been controlled by an apparent majority vote of religious centric folk, and thank god the tide has turned. Its embarrassing and historically something many of us will have to explain to our grandchildren in the future, a time when acceptance was not the norm, and loving thy neighbor was all but forgotten.

It is in fact no one’s business who a person loves. It’s no one’s business who a person marries. Except, of course, the wedding guest list.

When did states begin to decide who you marry in the U.S.? Bush started this useless debate to distract the public from what he was really doing as President. And those who were told that their religion agreed ate it hook, line and sinker.

There are so many beliefs in so many different religions, but no one in the U.S. has passed a law saying I have to cover myself with a veil or pray 6 times a day. At least not yet. So why does the GOP still think that fomented religious beliefs in Adam and Eve, instead of Adam and Steve, are the one true path to salvation?

No one should be robbed of the happily-ever-after endings we are all promised from our story books as children. We are all taught, every single one of us, as we lay down to sleep and listen to fairy tales from our parents, that true love is the goal. Even if you came from a horribly broken home, movies teach the same truism. Placing boundaries on who that true love can be just feels wrong. I don’t want to be told who I can, and can not, love. Do you?

No one has passed a law saying I have to fast on certain days and atone for my sins on others. No one has passed a law that I must rest on Saturday or Sunday. Cows are not considered sacred and allowed to roam the streets in the U.S. All these other instructional books from religious organizations aren’t allowed to slide over into political and national laws in the U.S. Why should the beliefs of SOME U.S. citizens be imposed on others when it comes to love and marriage and a woman’s right to choose.

These antiabortion activists, and equality in marriage deniers have generated our generation’s version of Jim Crow laws, and it continues to be wrong on EVERY level. Humans have basic rights. Food, shelter, clothing, love. How dare the few dictate the basic rights of the many because of some book they believe in? If God created everything, then God created people who are gay. Even flowers change their sex when there are too many of one type in an area. It happens with some animals too. So it is completely natural.

A book, printed on paper from fallen trees, is not natural. Love is natural. Laws that control who you can love are not natural, and are unconstitutional. Over the last six years we’ve been fortunate to sit in the front row watching this type of legislation topple one by one. Many have worked tirelessly to do everything in their power to repeal these hateful laws. Those who supported those restrictive measures , and continue to support them, should be ashamed of themselves, and the way they let their religious beliefs be hijacked by haters.

Luckily, a lot o’ straight folk and gay folk and LGBT folk feel the same way, and did something. There were and are marches and protests, people wrote their Senators or Congressmen, and well appointed judges made some very wise calls. There are still some places that hold on to their phobia with pride, and if the Democrats lose control of judicial appointments, woah be those that are to be judged.

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow reported, As the remaining states must realize, the question isn’t whether equal rights are extended in all 50 states, but when.

If you are in one of those nonequality zones, don’t stay quiet. Write to your local paper. Sign petitions that come your way. Make your own video and send it around, post it on You Tube, and keep expressing your thoughts. Write your vision for a better America in a letter to Obama at Change.Org, or on the white house petition site we often reference, We The People. But please, do something. Help this incredible momentum be a huge step for mankind, instead of an embarrassing step backward for humanity.

The Policy Geek

We Must Fix Voting

(Wallace Ingalls, 2014)
We Must Fix Voting
We must fix voting.
What they've done just cannot stand.

We must fix voting.
Repair the laws in our fair land.

We must fix voting.
Our elderly and sick can't wait in line.

We must fix voting.
To get IDs they lost with time.

We must fix voting.
Have early days, stay open late.

We must fix voting.
No crazy laws in Red Gov states.

We must fix voting.
We owe it to our founding fathers.

We must fix voting.
No one should have to wait for hours.

We must fix voting.
While they fill the air with hate.

We must fix voting.
It's this Tuesday, don't be late.

We must fix voting.
Suppression is Evil.

We must fix voting.
Treat black and brown as equal.

We must fix voting.
Kick obstruction in the ass.

We must fix voting.
Give them all their own dunce cap.

We must fix voting.
They want to take us back.

We must fix voting.
But facts and brains they lack.

We must fix voting.
Citizens United is a sham.

We must fix voting.
Let's swipe votes from the Koch's hands.

We must fix voting.
Their machines flip blue to red.

We must fix voting.
So all of this, yes, must be said.

We must fix voting.
So you must show up.

We must fix voting.
ALL our votes might be enough.

We must fix voting.
Not requiring ID.

We must fix voting.
Just use our numbers of Social Security.

They run large crowds through Disneyland.
So I would say, Oh, Yes We Can!"

To make it work, and have our say,
We must fix voting, and fix it today!

Lisa best pic ever
Twitter ~ @thepolicygeek