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Archive for June, 2013

UnknownMy fearless editor of Tangerine Tango asked a question on her Facebook page. Lisa Winkler said,

“The cicadas are gone. What world will they find in 17 years?”

Now I wouldn’t blame you for missing that speech President Obama made at Georgetown University on climate change. After all, there was testimony in the Trayvon Martin case to analyze. His poor teenage girlfriend got the third degree from a jokester defense attorney because she was the last one to speak with him on his way home with Skittles in his pocket and an Arizona Iced Tea in his hand.

And then we had to pull apart the Paula Deen redemption interview with Matt Lauer. He sat back, pompously asking her if she was a racist, digging deep into her Southern gentility. I am glad she has finally hired a PR closer, Judy Smith; the DC crisis manager who is supposedly the inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope. In truth, it’s a show I don’t watch, could somebody bring back The West Wing?

And of course we had some mighty interesting SCOTUS decisions to follow, as the Court seemingly stepped back to the future.

But back to the cicada question…17 years from now will a certain barrier island off the Jersey Shore still be here? Our President decided finally to do something concrete last week about climate change, to bypass an intransigent Congress, and try to save that Blue Marble we call earth! It was an image of Earth -– beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon,”the President said.

Obama talked about carbon emissions but he really focused on water; on rising sea levels and flooding, on depleting our aquifers. Here’s what he said, in a nutshell:

“And we’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers. And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public, to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.”

 http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/06/27/water-issues-ripple-through-obama-climate-change-speech/

In local news relating to water. two UVA sorority girls were surrounded and attacked by men in plain clothes, with guns drawn, in our upscale shopping center after leaving Harris Teeter with cases of La Croix bottled water and ice cream. Yes, the Alcoholic Beverage Control agents thought they were underage purchasers of beer, while their blue cartons only contained water…still one girl had to spend an afternoon and an evening in jail and they were charged with a felony. Go figure. Maybe before trying to save this blue marble, we should try to find the marbles we’ve lost?

http://mobi.dailyprogress.com/progress/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=QD76VKml&full=true#display

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I’m in love with two women. There, I said it. One is a widow, 83 years old, who studied  mathematics and worked at IBM, and the other is a single mom, 50 years old, who graduated from Harvard law School.

Largely because of Edith Windsor, the Rosa Parks in the fight for Marriage Equality, our nation is one step closer to that goal. It is already the law in France, and now California will have to re-legalize same-sex marriage.  Can Virginia be far behind? Windsor is a feisty senior citizen, who got a bill in the mail from the IRS that made her mad.

“Plaintiff Edith Windsor is an 83 year old resident of New York, who legally married her same-sex partner of over 40 years, Thea, in Canada in 2007. The State of New York recognized their marriage, but the United States government did not. Sadly, Edith’s wife, Thea, died in 2009. When Thea died, her estate was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that would not have been assessed if Thea and Edith were not a lesbian couple.”  http://www.marriageequality.org/Federal-cases-DOMA

In United States v Windsor, SCOTUS struck down DOMA as you’ve probably heard, saying that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against one group of people because of the gender of their partner in marriage. I particularly liked this phrase: “…(DOMA’s) effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” Then they turned around and threw out Prop 8 in California! Well done SCOTUS!

I’m thinking of a second career as a wedding planner in San Francisco. Hey, I managed to make the magic happen on a mountain in an apple orchard! Well, with a lot of help.

The second woman I’m in love with this morning is Sen Wendy Davis of TX. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/26/who-is-wendy-davis/

Because I’m on the Twittisphere, I followed along in real time on her filibuster in pink sneakers. The NYT called her a “Fashion icon” on the Hill, but she is so much more than a pretty face. What guts, what glory! I could not stand for nearly 13 hours without a potty break. The GOP in the lone star state, those anti-choice politicians so affectionately called “Gynoticians” because of their untiring need to legislate a woman’s body, were trying to sneak in a crippling blow of TRAP bills that would have closed most of the Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. Go ahead you idiot Govenor, try to reconvene and pass those bills. I’m sure there will be people spilling out all over your state house. We women love our bodies enough to fight for them.

We usually know when and how we get pregnant. We know what a rape kit does and does not do. We don’t like to undergo unnecessary and unwanted vaginal probes anywhere and at any time. And yes, we usually know who we love right from the start. Our knees get weak and our hearts start racing, and before you know it we’ve got a ring on our finger – or a brooch –  as Edith and Thea had to hide their relationship. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/26/edith-windsor-thea-spyer-doma

The government may stop disparaging and injuring women now.

edith windor

Photo by Bless Bless Productions

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From Dictionary.com

Whistleblower: a person who informs on another or makes public disclosure of corruption or

wrongdoing.

Leaker: a disclosure of secret, especially official, information, as to the news

media, by an unnamed source.

What we end up calling Edward Snowden says alot about us. After watching a replay of Meet the Press, where David Gregory interviewed the Guardian reporter, Glenn Greenwald, who is responsible for Snowden’s stories about our government’s secret agency and its “broad overreach,” I was actually appalled to find them both at each other’s throats. Two grown men,

“To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Gregory asked with his best boyish grin.

Even though there was a slight satellite delay, Greenwald shot right back, calling him out on even suggesting, as one journalist to another, that they should be criminalized for doing their job! He explained that Snowden had offered his information to The Washington Post, before going to the UK…and he said he asked The Guardian to screen what they published – not to jeopardize our country’s security. Then, a few minutes later, Gregory read Greenwald’s further tongue lashing right out loud on Meet the Press, from a Twitter feed:

“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”

OK, so it’s now 4 am and I am not going back to bed!

That darn red cardinal is still slamming his body on my window, despite our attempt to make him feel like he was approaching a Smurf airfield.

photoThe sleep fairy has eluded me once more.

So Gregory said he’s not embracing anything, just asking the question that was “out there.” And Greenwald, who is also an attorney, further tweets about Gregory,  ‘does he publicly wonder if DC officials should be prosecuted for lying to Congress?’ And this morning Greenwald really gets the coffee flowing in my veins by Tweeting:

“It’s awful how Snowden is traveling through countries with no freedom! Now: back to our debate: should US journalists be arrested? #Sorkin

It’s like a Wimbledon match for journalism! IMHO, the best quote about my profession is, “The purpose of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” So here is a good wrap-up of this tele-computing exchange across the pond; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/06/23/david-gregory-whiffs-on-greenwald-question/

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling comfortably afflicted! And if you’d like to know how it all got started: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/11/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-profile

Once we start accusing, threatening (yes, even in a veiled way –  “to the extent that you have aided and abetted” – I love how one reporter compares that to asking the question with no good answer – “Have you stopped beating your wife?”…) and yes, maybe even arresting investigative journalists, we might just as well pack it in as a democracy.

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Let’s talk about race. Or actually, let’s just watch a woman who came from nothing, who admitted to suffering from agoraphobia after her husband left her with two sons to raise, a woman who presumably learned her lesson about lying to the public after keeping her diagnosis of diabetes a secret for three years… let’s all just watch her fall from grace, because she told the truth in a legal deposition, and say nothing.

I’ve lived in the South now for almost ten years. I’ve attended a wedding at a “plantation” in Georgia. It was one of our Big Chill friend’s daughter, who lives outside of Atlanta. I admit I was a little surprised at the name, but the name referred to the location, not its history of slavery. It was a beautiful reception, at a pretty farm, with no hint of racism.

I toured Monticello many times since moving South, every time a relative or friend came to visit. And I watched the docents change their usual speech about the “servants” in the house, to “slaves, to “enslaved people.” They are now refurbishing Mulberry Row, the slave quarters near the house, so this historical site will include an accurate representation of its past.

I’ve dressed up in hoop skirts for the Pilgrimmage at my sibling’s antebellum home in MS. I stayed in the upstairs hall, directing tourists, pointing to Faulkner books, and explaining where Mrs Julia Grant slept; telling the curious which Georgian column the Confederate soldiers hid in. 8571_10200106904211622_1011069772_n

I’ve toured the Civil War cemetery, and watched as re-enacters pitched their tents all over the property. In other words, I’ve been immersed in Southern history, the good and the bad. And hearing that Paula Deen admitted to using that hateful word – a word by the way that African American musicians and comedians use whenever they like – privately, to her husband after being robbed, did not surprise me. What does surprise me is the outrage.

Our generation grew up hearing that word and other bigoted, racial slurs. Don’t deny it. Why do you think we in the North had Gentile and Jewish country clubs? Why did one beach club on the Jersey Shore become almost wholly made up of Catholics, mostly Irish Catholics? Because some places were off limits for certain ethnicities. Oh, we in the North had our own ways of discrimination, more subtle maybe. Since these were private institutions, nothing could be done…like women being denied membership at private golf courses. We didn’t have “White Only” water fountains or train cars, but we knew which neighborhoods had the best public schools; so the “urban” school became a colloquial way of institutionalizing  racism. We Northerners put a fence around public housing and called them “the Projects,” which was a nicer term I suppose than Elvis singing about “The Ghetto.”

Twenty-five years ago, my child had to ride home on a school bus in NJ where a bully had drawn a swastika in the window of her seat.

Because I felt deeply how that kind of symbolism can affect my child, I know what flying the Confederate flag means to a Black person. There is really no excuse for using the N word today. Most of my generation vowed we would not continue using the hateful terminology that was a subtext to our parents’ generation. But, and this is a BIG but, casting stones on Deen accomplishes nothing.  She admitted the truth, she even apologized a few times on YouTube. I like to think she’s grown since her butter slathering everything days. She grew up in a very different South, 60 years ago. And I’m tired of hearing pompous Northern (and Southern) talking heads rant about her racism…let’s talk about the prison system, and our public schools.

Let’s really talk about racism today. Or we could listen to Whoopi tell a joke. It’s the third in a series of bird jokes.

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You know that part in the Officer Krupke song of West Side Story, when the character says, “Hey, I gotta social disease!”?

O God, why do I think of life as one long musical comedy? Well I guess it’s better than a Shakespearian tragedy. I was listening to all the talk yesterday about how the AMA has now classified obesity as a disease. Here is what they said at their annual meeting:

“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.”  http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/06/19/193440570/ama-says-its-time-to-call-obesity-a-disease

So, supposedly, if insurance company clerks agree with this assessment, they will pay more doctors for actually taking time to sit with patients and counsel them about the dangers of obesity, and how to fix and/or prevent it from happening. Sounds lovely in writing doesn’t it? So of course I had to ask my doctors what they thought…granted, this will apply to mostly family practice docs, but still.

“Probably just they’ll start covering more gastric bypass surgery,” the Bride said. She takes that global, public policy point of view, citing economic and social issues with our American widening of the collective belt.

“It’s good for the health of the country,” Bob says. More people will be able to access treatment and more insurance companies will have to pay for that treatment. One caveat he mentioned was similar to the Bride’s concern for an increase in gastric bypass surgery and lap bands – citing the fact that no surgery can be done without risk. He also wondered aloud if more drug companies will now push their efforts into finding the wonder drug for weight loss; you know, instead of curing cancer or AIDS.

Semantics – it’s all in a word and how we phrase something. Addiction was always thought of as a social disease. Alcoholics and drug addicts just needed to stop, just put the glass or the needle down for good, cold turkey. In this interview with Russell Brand, we get the sense of its (drugs and alcohol) complete and total mind/body control. http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8857821/fixing-a-hole/

“I cannot accurately convey the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight white fist into a gentle brown wave, and from my first inhalation 15 years ago it fumigated my private hell. A bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb, and now whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.”

The problem with food is that we need it, we can’t just put it down and stop eating. We can join a 12 step group and leave our bar-hopping days behind, but we still need to sit down at a dinner table. In Mika Brzezinski’s new book, she talks about her struggle with anorexia and her friend’s struggle with obesity as if they are 2 sides of the same coin. https://mountainmornings.net/2013/05/07/and-all-that/ So then it makes sense, if anorexia is considered a disease worth treating, why not treat obesity?

On a lighter note, the Love Bug is absolutely perfect! At her latest pediatric appointment (9 and 1/2 months), her  height/weight charting shows her to be at the 68th percentile for weight, and 84th for height. “Yeah, I’m tall, you got a problem with that?”IMG952245

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I was going to do a six-worded, pictorial memoir of Spring so far, but there’s just too much going on right now. No, it’s not a shoe sale at Scarpa, or a fox sighting. Although Bob did spot a juvenile fox strolling around the yard yesterday. I’m talking about the big news coming down from the high court this week, about genes.

The US Supreme Court, while thinking that corporations are just like you and me, has decided that our human genes should stay in the public domain. It’s like saying to a patent attorney, “Get lost!” this red hair is mine and I’m keeping it. Pretty much every scientist I know took a collective sigh of relief after this ruling. However in the Association for Molecular Pathology vs Myriad Genetics case, SCOTUS followed up with a coda –  “(synthetic) cDNA is not a “product of nature,” so it is patent eligible under §101. cDNA does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring, isolated DNA segments.”  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-398_1b7d.pdf

Bob explained it to me this way – Let’s say a musician writes a symphony. He/she, and or their company, can patent that song, the sequence of notes that makes the music happen. But the notes themselves cannot be patented; the violins, the drums, the cello and every instrument used to compose that opus cannot be patented, and must stay in the public domain.

The linchpin of this decision, one that may allow for too many loopholes is the phrase that states only when a researcher creates something that is “…not naturally occurring,” then, and only then will they receive a patent. The Court was considering the genetic sequence, in this case, of the BRCA breast cancer gene.

So on one hand the Court is saying that: gene-coded information is what really matters when it occurs “naturally,” and isolating one gene in a sequence is not inventing something new and therefore NOT patentable; but on the other hand, synthetic “cDNA is different from naturally occurring RNA, even though both hold exactly the same genetic information. ”  This is less of a distinction, and more of a contradiction.

But what can we do? Will it help to stem the tide of all those newly minted MD/PhDs out there from going abroad to continue their research? Will it make genetic testing more affordable, like the testing Angelina Jolie decided to have? I once had a genetic test done when I was pregnant with the Rocker. I was 35 and considered an old lady by medical standards, so we traveled to a research facility in CT where a very young doctor inserted a very big needle into my extremely big abdomen.  Something happened in the lab. They never told us what, and only some of the testing was completed; I didn’t know the sex, and only learned that my baby did not have spina bifida. So, they were all ready to make a repeat appointment for me in the OR – they wanted to do a second amniocentesis.

“…amniocentesis is a procedure used to obtain a small sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus to diagnose chromosomal disorders and open neural tube defects (ONTDs) such as spina bifida. There is a small risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis which must be balanced with the risk of an abnormality and the patient’s desires.”

I had watched my baby Rocker, on an early ultrasound monitor in 1984, back away from that needle once, and I was not about to do it again. After 3 miscarriages the year before, Bob took one look at me and told the genetic counselor, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Here is my handsome boy at his sister’s wedding, with all 10 toes and 10 musical fingers.J&M  0602

A little history of US Patent Law from 1793 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_United_States_patent_law

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The Groom came home carrying groceries. Earlier, he and the Love Bug went out for a stroll with their rescue dog Guiness. Later, he’ll give her a bath.

Bob would sculpt science projects with the Bride. He’d cheer at the Rocker’s hockey games. He would always suggest ice cream. He’d keep me at an even keel when teenageitis hit.

Jimmy Mahon played gin rummy with me many nights. He’d bring home small presents every day after work. He built me a dollhouse out of popsicle sticks and drove me to ballet class.

And that’s why we celebrate Father’s Day.

20130615-163717.jpg

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