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Posts Tagged ‘public health’

Yesterday was surreal. We heard helicopters flying around our house as if we lived in LA. A small news station in Roanoke, WDBJ, just an hour away from Cville had been broadcasting a fluff early morning piece at Smith Mountain Lake, when a lone gunman murdered the beautiful, young reporter and her photo journalist, live. It was an unthinkable act. They don’t kill journalists in America, do they? And while I was following the car chase via Twitter and a local news anchor, the killer posted his own video of the crime to social media. My oatmeal was getting cold, I’d lost my appetite.

This morning we are learning more about the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Two talented, rising stars in TV news who didn’t deserve to die yesterday while doing their job. And we’ve learned that the shooter (I refuse to use his name) was a disgruntled, ex-employee of the station. He’d been fired for basically not playing well with others at many different news outlets. He’d been encouraged to seek medical help. Let the chorus begin…mental health vs gun control. Only like most things in life, it’s not that simple; and it’s not really a political issue.

The ease of obtaining a gun, and the sheer abundance of guns in this country is a public health issue. Period.

The state of Virginia rates a “D” in the gun law scorecard of the Law center to Prevent Gun Violence. You can go to their website to rate your own state http://smartgunlaws.org/search-gun-law-by-state/  Here is what Virginia does not have on the books, some of our very own loopholes for people intent on gun ownership: We DO NOT

  • Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals;
    Require firearms dealers to obtain a state license;
    Regulate the transfer or possession of 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines;
    Require firearm owners to report lost or stolen firearms;
    Impose a waiting period prior to purchase of a firearm; or
    Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”).

Why are we blind to this? How can we walk away from VA Tech and Sandy Hook without confronting our national sin. Or the countless times guns are used in a suicide – or in a domestic dispute – or in an “accident” involving a child – are seemingly overlooked by the media frenzy for a mass shooting incident at a mall or a movie theatre. It’s easy to say, oh he was crazy, he was over the edge; because it’s always a “he” and it always involves a gun.

I knew a teenager at the height of the Iraq war, who was circling her bedroom with a crown moulding of names – the names of the soldiers who were dying there and in Afghanistan. I was breathless when I first saw this memorial border, and I thought how so much is ignored or buried or covered up in the news. At the time, only PBS was broadcasting the names of the dead. Remember we were not allowed to see the flag covered caskets returning to our shore, as if we are children who need to be shielded from the sight of dead soldiers. Maybe we need to start a long border of names, or a quilt of the US citizens who have been killed by guns in the past year. The children, the wives and mothers, the fathers and yes, the young people just going to work in Virginia at daybreak.

Every day on average 290 people are shot in this country. We have three times as many gun homicides as European nations. Three Times

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. “Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/you-have-to-see-how-many-more-people-are-killed-by-guns-in-america-to-really-believe-it/

God help us all if we have come to a point where we can continue to eat breakfast and accept this kind of news as normal. cover_chamberguide_2014_final-page-001

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take a picture of it! I’m guilty of wanting to document my life on Instagram, wanting to be creative and confounding, humorous and compelling, all in a few pixels. And the last few days were telling. Bob and I took a quick trip to NY via Amtrak, and despite fears of Legionnaires Disease, I found myself surrounded by unending vistas of wonderment. It is August in the City that never sleeps, native New Yorkers were gone, restaurants were semi-empty, and cabs were easy to find – especially with Uber drivers just a click away on Trip Advisor!

So there I was, in a tall office building, looking out a window towards the Hudson, and in one frame I could get a Little League baseball game, a big sailboat, AND a beautiful bridge. It was a sunny, glorious day, NY at her finest and I was feeling like Hooper, or Warhol, or somebody. I aimed my iPhone and darn if it didn’t work, it was trying to tell me something, in a message box…

My storage was seemingly full and I could “manage” this little snafoo on “Settings.” Why thank you cell phone, how kind of you to remind me.

But by the time I got to my Settings and deleted a few ridiculous Apps I didn’t need or use, my picture was gone. The game was over and the sailboat was probably in the Atlantic.

No problem. I still got a few nice pix of dim sum at Red Farm (a very trendy West side Chinese eatery), soaring skyscrapers, oh and I love signs. Not like a sign from above “Sign,” but a regular directional sign. The kind that tells us where to go, what not to walk on, or how many pounds a toilet seat can hold. I managed to snap a “Sabbath Elevator” sign. Once a wordsmith.

Isn’t writing just painting a picture with words? That’s what I try to do when I take fingers to laptop, or even pen to paper. I see something in my mind’s eye and a story unfolds. Maybe that is what makes some of us “Visual Learners” – I could always  remember a face, but rarely remember a name.

While we waited in Penn Station for our train back to VA, a PSA was on a continual loop on a monitor above our heads.

“If You See Something, Say Something.” http://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something

It was all about what to do if there was a shooter in the building – basically get the heck out of the building by the nearest exit. And If that’s not possible, hide. And if that’s not possible, it showed a commuter throwing his briefcase at the suspect with a gun. And it also tried to explain what suspicious behavior looks like – which if you know NY, is pretty much everybody. It was almost comical.

Until I thought about how our children are probably watching a similar video, in their schools. Our well meaning attempt at “managing” rampant gun violence in this country is a farce of epic proportions. When will we change our perspective, put on a new pair of eyeglasses, and see, truly see our national disaster for what it really is – a public health issue. Should we all now boycott public spaces to get our legislators to listen? Stop going to movie theaters, stop going to malls, stop going to college and just study online, at home?

Or should we stand up and say something – anything – like we’re mad as hell and vote the whole lot of GOP war mongers out of office? If you didn’t read this letter from Sarah Clements, the daughter of a Sandy Hook teacher, to Amy Schumer, here it is: https://medium.com/human-development-project/an-open-letter-to-amy-schumer-8f1fd3637d41

Women have truly begun to lead the gun violence prevention movement — and they are winning. Women are our teachers, our protectors, our shielders. Women weep in public and in private for the lives we’ve lost, and they’re not afraid to scream at the cameras and go toe-to-toe with monsters who perpetuate these crimes on the streets and in boardrooms. Women are very simply the ultimate moral base in our battles for peace and justice throughout the world.

Tonight I have a date with Bob, so I’ll miss the circus, the so called “cocktail hour” featuring Donald Trump in the great Republican debate. But I’ll stay up late to watch Jon Stewart’s last hurrah. Thank you Jon, for painting a very clear picture of American politics for a younger generation. Now if we can just get them to the polls, to say something.

Heading Uptown

Heading Uptown

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Look around you America. If it looks like you’re surrounded by Barbara Striesand’s least favorite color, orange, you’d be right. And to be honest, being a strawberry blonde meant I avoided that particular hue too. But today is National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and I thought I’d share a few facts with you this morning while I listen to Ms Bean snooze.

Gun injuries to children and young adults cause twice as many deaths as cancer!

Now just think about that for a second. Think about all those pink ribbons, yellow bracelets, and fund-raising schemes non-profits have come up with to draw attention to a disease we still can’t quite pin down. Is it hereditary or arbitrary? Is it environmental or viral? We know some people have the right sequence of genes to make them more susceptible to certain types of cancer, but we still don’t have a cure.

Look at Beau Biden. He died at about the same age that my father died of the very same tumor. Robert Lynn left 6 children behind. Brain cancer is a death sentence 66 years later. Our society is pouring money into research and development to fight cancer, but in our nation’s capital, the NRA is pouring money into the bloody hands of politicians. Why? To keep doctors from asking questions of parents about guns. To get guns on college campuses. To fight any legislation that might make purchasing a gun difficult – background checks? So what if you have a restraining order and domestic abuse issues, step right up and tell us what kind of rifle you like.

Gun injuries cause five times as many deaths as heart disease.

Well now we’re talking. The American Heart Association once thought that educating Americans about their risk of heart attack and stroke was their main mission. Today they’ve upped their game, to include educating us on our diets, legislating “heart healthy” packaging strategies state by state, fighting childhood obesity and running anti-smoking campaigns. “Sitting is the new smoking” one doc told Bob at a recent medical conference. Leverage that against gun lobbyists spouting “freedom” like they invented the word. The freedom to walk into a movie theatre in Colorado, an elementary school in Connecticut, or a college in Virginia with a rifle. The freedom to leave a handgun unlocked and loaded where a child might pick it up. These should be the NRA’s four freedoms.

Gun injuries kill 15 times as many people as infections! 

MERSA? Tuberculosis? Flesh eating bacteria, SARS and the flu? HA, we may have some antibiotic-resistant strains roaming around the world, but they pale in comparison to the sheer number of guns and ease of availability we Americans have simply taken for granted. So every time someone dies from, let’s say West Nile, since I just happened to experience that horrific infection, 15 people die from gun violence.

A child shoots herself in the face; a child shoots his friend in the yard; a child shoots his mother while sitting in a shopping cart playing with her purse…

I am so sick and tired of reading about the ways we humans can so easily kill each other with guns. No other country in the world is as lax as we are in regulating guns. Make women wait 2 days for an abortion and watch some video about it beforehand, maybe even get a pelvic ultrasound in the interim, sure  –  but make you wait for a background check before buying a gun? Nonsense.

I’m wearing orange today for my grandchildren, so that they may grow up in a country without this scourge of gun violence. Because we need to elect leaders whose pockets are not lined with blood money.  IMG_2705

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NRA Annual Meeting Comes to Nashville Along with All the GOP Presidential Candidates 

I could say I want to try skeet shooting. It’s not a real bird, it’s a clay pigeon after all, and it looks like fun. I woke up many weekends to the sound of guns across the Shrewsbury River in Rumson. Skeet shooting was de rigeur at the country club. My friend from Rumson, the editor of my old newspaper, has a farm up the road in Madison, VA. She’s a pro and could teach me. Plus, think about the great outfits on Downton Abbey when they go off on a hunting trip for pheasant.

I could tease my hair and wear lots of makeup. The Bride said I don’t have to dress down, many Republican women dress well. I guess that makes sense. When you feel superior, when you either belong to the upper crust or are constantly striving to arrive there, you must look the part. I remember my day on the Historic Downtown Mall petitioning for the Affordable Care Act. By the afternoon I could spot a Republican coming a mile away. Sometimes I’d ask them anyway. Of course, they didn’t believe every American deserves health care.

I could purchase a membership today to the NRA at the convention center for just $25, which would get me in the door. It’s very easy, so they say. We went to the Frist Museum yesterday and the parking lot was filled with NRA members trying to help us find a parking spot! They were happy, and in a festive spirit. Luckily I have laryngitis. But what if I return and once inside, I’d oogle and gape at all the different guns, some of them rhinestone encrusted! I’d mix and mingle with more than 70,000 gun-loving people and get plenty of free swag at the Colt concession.. With my membership, I’d get a newsletter every month, keeping me up-to-date on the latest school shootings and “accidental” child killings. Oh wait, that’s probably wrong.

Or today:

I could meet thousands of women who belong to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense at the park by the river, and march with them to promote background checks and gun sense in our country. Nashville, you know I love you but sometimes you make it hard. Become a double agent and learn the tricks and trade of the gun lobby vs walking with like-minded women? You decide.

Moms at the Museum

Moms at the Museum

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Let’s look at the word “Mandatory.” I’ve been hearing it alot lately. Chris Christie stuck his foot in his mouth in London when he said something like, of course, I vaccinate my children, but we have to “Balance” the parents’ rights with public health interests. He’d been asked about the measles outbreak and thought of course it’s all about “Choice.” So women can choose stuff about their families, but only when he says so? Then his office said this:

“At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”

Now I was a reporter in a conservative NJ town, and I know what the GOP is thinking. If the government is going to mandate something, they sure as hell better pay for it. Oh, and the less government, the better, blah, blah, blah… But I get that he punted back to states’ rights, it takes him off the hook with his constituents. What I found interesting, is not so much Rand Paul wading into the vaccine “Debate,” which was ludicrous, but my debate with Bob in the car about mandating anything!

I happened to see a headline in our local rag, The Daily Progress: “Toscano softens mandatory reporting aspect of sex assault bill” by K Burnell Evans and Derek Quizon. It seems a bill had been making its way through Richmond that would require all colleges in VA to hand over any sexual assault case to the police. In fact it would punish anyone who knowingly didn’t report said assault with a fine and imprisonment, making this a Class 1 misdemeanor.

So that room mate at Vanderbilt who just rolled over and went back to sleep while his friends continued to rape a girl, filming and laughing all the while, might have to be prosecuted too, right?

And that’s what got me. Comparing Nashville to Charlottesville, two elite Southern schools, two entirely different approaches to rape on campus. When administrators at Vanderbilt discovered, by accident, the security tape showing a naked girl being dragged into a dorm room, they did the right thing. They turned the tape over to the police. They expelled the four football players. There was no second guessing, no panel of peers, no dean in charge of this or that trying to protect the reputation of the university. And these were Vandy football players mind you, not frat boys!

So when House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said “…advocates’ feedback about mandatory reporting prompted him to soften his initial plan,” I had to wonder if we aren’t still blaming the victim. Softening the language in the bill, changing police to say, “OR university police” for example, is just another loophole that lets rapists walk, change schools, and do it all over again.

Many of them (victims) are reluctant to talk about it at all, she said, because they fear an intrusive and traumatic probe by police, or because they’re afraid they will be judged for their actions leading up to the assault — heavy drinking, for example, or dressing in a way that’s seen as provocative.
“Mandatory referral, mandatory reporting to law enforcement really could have a chilling effect,” Kiss said. “It’s got to be about empowering that victim or survivor to do what’s best for them.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/toscano-softens-mandatory-reporting-aspect-of-sex-assault-bill/article_f28efc70-aa5d-11e4-96a6-7b26a402a284.html

Did Allison Kiss, director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, just use code words? The survivor/victim in Nashville didn’t know what happened to her, she was unconscious, she had no idea what was best for her. She thought she actually had a “relationship” with her rapist, and slept with him the next day, made excuses for him initially, until she saw the tape with the three other football players…

Toscano is calling this new bill in VA more of an, “enhanced encouragement” to report sexual assault. Because we have to “Balance” a victim’s right to privacy with the need to expel a rapist from your campus? To prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law? President Sullivan is falling back on balancing federal law with state rights.

This is that space where Libertarian and Liberal meet. NO government – NO mandates! It’s my opinion that an 18 year old girl who has been assaulted should not feel shame, she should tell her story to anyone who will listen, even if she can’t remember what happened. And if bystanders are held to account, maybe just maybe, some one might stop a rape before it happens, might help save the next girl. Instead, “The rules of friendship require that you pick up a half-naked unconscious rape victim from the hallway where your friends left her and return her to her rapist’s bed.” http://www.vox.com/2015/2/2/7963277/vanderbilt-rape-culture

former player Chris Boyd - Stacy Revere/Getty Images

former player Chris Boyd – Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Yes, Chris Christie, sometimes ones government must mandate. Want to know about mandatory reporting laws in your state? https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/laws-in-your-state

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Something deep down in my heart that I knew to be true – even Republican women believe in a woman’s right to choose an abortion. They may not say this directly, or out loud; it’s like a Democratic Senator who may own a rifle for hunting but would never be seen holding a gun in a picture. What I didn’t count on, was the audacity of this Congress to try and slip in a bill restricting late term abortions, a procedure which constitutes 1.4% of all abortions due to education and Plan B in this country, and adding this codicil to a post 20 week abortion in the case of rape, hold on to your seats everyone:

…it’s OK ladies only IF you have reported said rape to the police!

Thank you GOP women for soundly seeing through the error of their ways. Approximately 68% of rapes are not reported to the police, and a reported 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Why you might ask? Because women are still not actually believed, so why bother; because some think they deserved to be raped or abused since that’s all they know, and some were impaired and so find themselves guilty a priori. For a myriad of ridiculous reasons rapes go unreported. And on college campuses it is even more nauseating.

One in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, according to studies, many of them during their first year by someone they know. The first 15 weeks of college can be the riskiest; the group Futures Without Violence just launched “The Other Freshman 15,” a letter-writing campaign aimed at getting college and university officials to address the issue.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/09/19/seeking-to-end-rape-on-campus-wh-launches-its-on-us/

“Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over . . . abortion and rape,” writes the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson. Maybe the Republican Party will implode? I almost, I said almost feel sorry for Speaker John Boehner. They are not only out of touch, they are seemingly out of their minds! But thanks to those women in red who saw through their shenanigans. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-30943828

Let’s talk about climate change, and income inequality folks and leave a woman’s body up to her and her doctor. This debate is demeaning and insulting. What if the Democratic ticket had two women, two smart women leading the charge to the Hill? You know who I’m talking about. We would be unstoppable. It IS on us! images

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…or Cannabis. Whatever you happen to call it, weed is on the rise.

I wanted to see Venice when I was visiting the Rocker and Ms Cait in LA before Thanksgiving. Did I tell you they moved from the Jersey Shore? A career in composing music for the film industry compelled their cross-country caravan. The https://www.walkscore.com number is high in their charming neighborhood of Silver Lake. But I just had to see Venice Beach, and the boardwalk wasn’t what I had imagined. Granted it was a Saturday so everybody was out enjoying the weather, the non-stop beautiful weather of Southern California.

Along with skate boarders, roller bladers, and sightseers, were bright green signs for weed clinics with guys in green scrubs hawking their wares. It was like a carnival side-show. The Rocker told me it’s fairly easy to get an Rx for cannabis, you can walk right in, and I could say maybe my arthritis was acting up, and voila. Of course if I did, and tried to carry said package back home to VA, I could have been thrown in a federal prison!

Which illustrates how paradoxical our laws are about this substance. Anyone can tell you that weed is actually safer than alcohol, or tobacco, although there’s not much evidence-based science out there in this country. We have a President who wrote about his younger pot-head days, and I dare you to ask anyone between 18 and 70 if they ever lit up a joint.

Now we have Sanjay Gupta,MD who might as well be our Surgeon General, exposing how weed is used for intractable seizure disorder in children on CNN. And today, even in VA, a legislator would like to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. I came across this proposal in the House on my Twitter feed:
http://www.nbc29.com/story/11854265/morgan-pushes-to-decriminalize-marijuana

“I really don’t care. I mean, I’ve been here a long time,” he said. “If my constituents want me to retire, it’s okay with me. I’m not saying I want to; I didn’t say that at all. But I think what I’m doing is the right thing and I think that’s why they sent me here.” Delegate Harvey Morgan (R)
“Morgan’s Republican colleagues say they will quickly kill the measure.”

Maybe it’s because he’s been in the thick of politics for so long that he realizes a conviction on a drug charge can change the whole trajectory of a person’s life. That we are wasting our country’s youngest citizens by throwing them in jail for non-violent offenses that his own peer’s children can circumvent because they have money and privilege.

Maybe some measure of wisdom really does happen with age, even in the GOP.

It may be awhile before we see weed clinics popping up in Virginia Beach. Medicinal, recreational or otherwise, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve said it before, solving the drug problem in this country is a public and health policy issue, it’s not a war to be won. IMG_1817

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