Category: History

9/11 rescue dog celebrates her 16th birthday in NYC

Click to enlargeBretagne is the last living rescue dog who worked at the World Trade Center

A rescue dog that flew to New York for the 9/11 recovery effort returned last month to celebrate her 16th birthday.

The golden retriever named Bretagne traveled from Cypress, Texas, with her owner, Denise Corliss, after the 2001 terror attacks. They worked with dozens of other dogs and humans to find victims in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Her Aug. 22 return for a birthday bash was sponsored by BarkPost, a New York-based website devoted to all things canine.

The daylong celebration included a dog friendly cake, a ride in a vintage taxi and a trip to a dog run.

BarkPost creative producer Lara Hartle says Bretagne’s favorite part was the cake…

Good dog.

Symbol of a past whose time is over

Since Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis was taken into federal custody Thursday for refusing the Supreme Court’s order to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples (and subsequently released on the condition she not interfere with the issuing of marriage licenses), the religious right has made the Democrat into an icon. Republican presidential candidates are elevating her as the poster child of the Barack Obama administration’s alleged crusade against religious liberty. But by using her government position to force same-sex couples into conforming to her religious beliefs, Davis has instead cast herself as a lasting symbol of bigotry…

While Davis’ actions could be misconstrued as civil disobedience, what separates her from actual civil disobedience leaders is that her actions are rooted in a denial of equality, rather than a push for greater equality. In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King wrote,

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

In refusing the court’s order to recognize same-sex marriage, Davis is no different than Alabama governor George Wallace, who vowed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” and defied federal authorities by blocking a doorway to prevent two black University of Alabama students from going to class.

Kim Davis’ era is over. It’s time to impeach her and replace her with a clerk who will do the job without discrimination.

According to Pew research, American support of marriage equality went from 57 percent opposed and 35 in favor in 2001, to 55 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed in 2015…Even the right-leaning National Journal admits that support for gay marriage is up by at least 30 points among virtually all demographics — the only demographics that doesn’t include are African-Americans (up by 26 points), Southerners (up by 25) and Republicans (up by 21 percent). Davis and her supporters fall into a very vocal minority.

Americans have largely evolved beyond their hatred. While racism remains rampant 50 years after desegregation, racists can no longer deny equal access to public places solely based on the color of someone’s skin. And while homophobic views still pervade much of the rural United States despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, are finally having their marriages recognized. Kim Davis’ era is over. It’s time to impeach her and replace her with a clerk who will do the job without discrimination.

Even on the lowest common denominator of local politics – Kim Davis got her job as a replacement for Mommy who was retiring. All Americans are accustomed to the dangers of generational family politics. We’ve suffered through generations of Bushes starting with a Hitler supporter.

And by the way, one of her deputy clerks is her son. Ready to carry on the family traditions of religious bigotry – and nepotism.

I’m Latino. I’m Hispanic. And they’re different…

Click on the graphic to reach Terry’s explanation

Useful – as is pretty much everything that hits the Vox site, every day.

I had a long online debate on this topic several years ago. The funniest part being the folks on the other side were Cubans who make lots of money hustling Latinos and Hispanics – which they use to support reactionary Anglos.

I was making exactly the point Terry makes in his graphic article. They were trying to convince me I qualified as Latino because the Italian half of my family was Latin in origin. A terrible abuse of semantics. They advocated that anyone who had any ethnic origin along the Mediterranean basin was Latino.

Melancholia must be understood as distinct from depression

In Western nations – or nations whose ethos is philosophically Western – this is a relevant discussion. Economically, politically – on a global scale – we are diminished. Mostly by the incompetence of our own leaders. Yes, that is not limited to our political leaders.

First described by Hippocrates, “melancholia” or melancholic depression was considered a specific condition that commonly struck people out of the blue – and put them into the black. In modern times, it came to be described as “endogenous depression” (coming from within) in contrast to depression stemming in response to external stressors.

In 1980, the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-III), the official classificatory system of the American Psychiatric Association, re-modelled depressive disorders. The new classification operated largely on degrees of severity, comprising “major” depression and several minor depressions.

This is how depression came to be modelled as a single entity, varying only by severity (this is known as the dimensional model). And over the last decade, this model has been extended to include “sub-clinical depressions”, which is basically when someone is sad or down but not diagnosable by formal mental illness criteria.

The changes generated concern about the extension of “clinical depression” to include and “pathologise” sadness. While everyone feels down or sad sometimes, normally these moods pass, with little if any long-term consequences.

The boundary between this everyday kind of feeling down and clinical depression is imprecise. But the latter is associated with a greater severity of symptoms, such as losing sleep or thinking life isn’t worth living, lasts for longer and is much more likely to require treatment.

The dimensional model is intrinsically limited; “major depression” is no more informative a diagnosis than “major breathlessness”. It ignores the differing – biological, psychological and social – causes that may bring about a particular depressive condition and which inform the most appropriate therapeutic approach (be it an antidepressant drug, psychotherapy or social intervention)…

My research team is trying to establish melancholia’s categorical status and detection, and so improve its management. Here’s what we know – or think we know – about the distinctness of melancholia.

First, it shows a relatively clear pattern of symptoms and signs. The individual experiences profound bleakness and has no desire to socialise, for instance, finding it hard to obtain any pleasure in life or to be cheered up…

Episodes commonly emerge “out of the blue”. Even if it follows a stressor, it’s disproportionately more severe than might be expected and lasts longer than the stressor…

Melancholia has a strong genetic contribution, with sufferers likely to report a family history of “depression”, bipolar disorder or suicide. It’s largely biologically underpinned rather than caused by social factors (stressors) or psychological factors, such as personality style.

The illness is also unlikely to respond to placebo, whereas major depression has a placebo response rate in excess of 40%. But melancholia shows greater response to physical treatments, such as antidepressant drugs (especially those that work on a broader number of neurotransmitters), and to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). ECT is rarely required, however, if appropriate medications are prescribed.


Melancholia shows a lower response to psychotherapy, counselling and psychosocial interventions – these treatments are more salient and effective for non-melancholic depression.

Melancholia shows similar “treatment specificity”, with medication being the treatment of choice.

When is it anything else?

Clearly, melancholia needs to be recognised as a distinct psychiatric condition – not simply as a more severe expression of depression. This recognition could lead to improved clinical and community awareness, which is important because managing melancholia requires a specific treatment approach.

Though no mention is made of societal context, economics, socio-political realities, I presume to hope that treatment providers have the sophistication to peer around more broadly than suggested here. The feeling that Life Sucks sometimes is a direct reflection of the fact that Life Sucks. Not only for an individual; but, a whole class of people. That class defined in economic, ethnic, caste or gender terms.

When you live in a nation where the predominant political rulers, liberal or conservative, seem bent upon ruling the world through military and economic might – and their diminishing returns seem more and more likely to end in destruction of our species and a good deal of the world as well – melancholia rooted in political ineffectuality seems a logical choice.


Canada’s Harper forced to address death of refugees like Aylan Kurdi

Click to enlargeThe body of Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach

This is an image that must not be forgotten. Like the image of a young VietNamese girl fleeing the napalm that burned her body, like the image of an infant alone in the rubble of Nanjing, terrible moments in an uncaring world are critical to history.

I apologize if I have offended anyone.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been forced to defend his government’s record on refugees after it emerged that a Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey this week had family in Canada.

Shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s s body lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum captured the world’s attention and appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.

His older brother Galip, five, and mother also died while trying to reach Europe.

Reports that Canada had rejected an asylum application by members of the boy’s family quickly made the tragedy a major issue in the country’s federal election campaign and forced the Conservative leader to change his schedule to address the controversy.

In a tearful news conference in British Columbia on Thursday, Aylan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, described their father Abdullah’s desperate struggle to keep his young sons from drowning after their boat capsized.

Seeing Aylan was no longer alive “he closed his eyes and let him go”, she said, sobbing. “They didn’t deserve to die. They wanted a better life.”

Contrary to earlier reports, Tima, who has been in Canada for 20 years, said she had not sponsored Abdullah and his family as refugee claimants but instead had tried to bring in another brother, Mohammed, and his children.

She said he is currently in Germany after his bid was rejected…

At a campaign stop, Harper…addressed the Kurdi family’s tragedy, calling it blah, blah, blah…

According to the department of citizenship and immigration, Canada has resettled a total 2,374 Syrian refugees, the majority of them through private sponsorship.

The Conservative Canadian government hasn’t done enough. Which is what most thoughtful human beings expected.

Our own government, between a White House consumed with election tactics and a Congress ruled by bigots and white nativists only concerned with turning the clock back to the 18th or 19th Century, will only offer solutions profitable to our own arms industry. Every question must be answered with a gun. Every problem can be solved with a bomb.

Poster of the day

Click to enlarge

Is there truly a new normal? Not just the one that Mohammed El-Erian writes about. A slower economy – even in the largest of those beasts roaming the world?

I’m almost as bored hearing the word “millenial” as an excuse on Bloomberg News as I am hearing about liquidiity. Though that last characteristic is measurable. Millenials – supposedly – have learned the foolishness of big cars, big houses, maybe even big jobs.

Have they learned enough about our crap politics to jump into grassroots participation to rid our nation of Citizens United SCOTUS decisions, an electoral college system designed to keep gentlemen farmers [slave owners] safe and happy, finish the job started after WW2 and remove religion not only from interference with democracy but require “sacred” trusts to pay their fair share of taxes, and thoroughly reform and simplify our tax code to require corporate sacred cows to pay their fair share of taxes.

Lots more out there. Like protecting this small ball of mud we live upon and guaranteeing a healthy planet for future generations. No shortage of tasks demanding only grassroots participation. That’s above and beyond whining on social media BTW.

And speaking of that war and its aftermath, the countries that suffered most through that war went on to make many of the changes I find myself still suggesting 70 years later. Oh, they were under consideration here in the United States; but, I guess not having had to fight an occupying army in Los Angeles or Boston was sufficient to have our focus turned by an agglomeration of sleazy politicians into “defending” our two-party system from dangerous radicalism, the thoughts of new ways of ordering our politics.

Scumbags won that ideological war and the victories since then have been in spite of our political superstructure – not because of our Constitution.

Thanks, SmartAlix

This is your government [on the war] on drugs

A new report shows just how much the war on drugs fundamentally changed the scope of the federal prison system — without any significant benefits to show for it.

The report from Pew Charitable Trusts found the number of federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses skyrocketed by more than 1,800 percent between 1980 and 2015 — from fewer than 5,000 to more than 95,000.

These prisoners are also serving much longer sentences, according to the report. While sentences for non-drug offenses declined by 3 percent from 1980 to 2011, sentences for drug offenses spiked by nearly 36 percent in the same time period.

After they were sentenced, the average time released drug offenders spent in prison increased 153 percent between 1988 and 2012 — from 23.2 to 58.6 months — while time served grew by 39 and 44 percent for property and violent offenders.

Although these stringent sentences were originally meant for some of the worst drug offenders, the Pew Charitable Trusts report found that they’re by and large picking up low- and midlevel traffickers. It estimated, based on federal data, that high-level suppliers and importers represented just 11 percent of federal drug offenders.

The Pew Charitable Trusts report concludes that this increase in incarceration and time served came with high costs and little returns. Drug offenders currently make up nearly half of the federal prison population, and the federal prison system now uses up roughly one in four dollars spent by the US Justice Department. Drug use, meanwhile, appears to have steadily risen over the past two decades, according to the nationwide surveys.

Our nation has a modern history of declaring war on any problems that requires thoughtful time to build a solution. Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that killing enough people wins wars, spending large enough sums makes that possible. That generals think that is a load of crap makes no difference to most politicians. So, we have a War on Drugs, a War on Terror. They’re both working out about the same.

That takes serious stupidity. Congress is surely up to the task.

70 years after end of World War 2 – Okinawa protests new US military base

Click to enlargeJiji Press/AFP

Polls consistently show Okinawans and, increasingly, mainland Japanese are opposed to replacing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a sprawling military base in the south of the island, with a new facility in the rural Henoko district of Nago in northern Okinawa. Referred to as Henoko, the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) is planned to have multiple helipads, 5,900-foot dual runways, an ordnance depot, a fuel depot and an 892-foot pier capable of docking amphibious assault ships.

In May 35,000 Okinawans gathered to protest the Henoko base plan, days before Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga led a delegation to the United States to express opposition to Washington. Their demands, however, fell on deaf ears. U.S. and Japanese officials insist a new facility near Henoko Point in Oura Bay is “the only solution” to alleviating decades of tension stemming from the U.S. military presence.

Today, 43 years after the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japanese control, the U.S. maintains 32 U.S. military bases and installations plus 48 restricted air and ocean training sites on the island.

But, we are a peaceloving nation, friendly to everyone in Asia. Our politicians tell us so.