Polish party calls for removal of crosses from public buildings

A new Polish political party has ruffled conservative feathers in the Catholic country with a campaign to have the cross ousted from public buildings.

Supporters of the party want the crosses removed, or hung alongside the Star of David, in an attempt to diminish the power of the Church.

In a clear challenge to the strong and omnipresent influence of the Catholic Church in Poland, members of the Support Janusz Palikot party caused outrage in the city of Szczecin by trying to hang Jewish and Muslim symbols in the town’s council chamber alongside the Christian cross, before removing the cross…

The Christian cross is ubiquitous in government buildings in Poland and hangs from thousands of walls in schools and hospitals across the country.

A maverick politician – who said last week that “Poles have been slaves to the Catholic Church for a 1,000 years” – Mr Palikot argued that under the Polish constitution Poland is officially a secular state and therefore there should be no religious symbols.

As an alternative, he said that as the constitution guarantees the equality of all faiths, no one symbol should take precedent.

“Why should there be only one religious symbol?” the politician asked in a television interview.

“I’m all for removing all of them but that would be treated as an attack on the Church.”

We should run this dude for office in Chicago. After we take out a life insurance policy on him.

Republicans block Capitol farewell to last American WWI veteran

Frank Buckles – dead at 110
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

West Virginia’s two Democratic senators blamed House Speaker John Boehner after their hopes of having the remains of World War I veteran Frank Buckles honored in the Capitol Rotunda were dashed, at least for now.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin III both released statements saying the Ohio Republican had blocked the Capitol honor…

Buckles died Sunday on his farm in Charles Town, W.Va., at the age of 110. He had been the last surviving American veteran of World War I.

The episode turned what West Virginia lawmakers had hoped would be easy approval for the rare honor for Buckles into a finger-pointing dispute with partisan overtones.

It was unclear late Thursday how the disagreement would end. Asked whether Boehner would be supportive if the Senate approved a resolution allowing Buckles’ remains to lie in the Rotunda, [Boehner’s spokesman] said, “We’ll see what the Senate does.”

The honor requires a congressional resolution or the approval of congressional leaders, according to the office of the architect of the Capitol.

The bodies of prominent citizens have been displayed in the Rotunda on 30 occasions, starting in 1852 with Henry Clay, a Kentucky senator and congressman. Others include Presidents Lincoln and Reagan, unknown soldiers from America’s wars and civil rights hero Rosa Parks…

Members of both parties of West Virginia’s congressional delegation had introduced resolutions to permit Buckles’ casket to be honored in the Capitol. The House version was sponsored by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va…

In his final years, Buckles had campaigned for greater recognition for the 4.7 million Americans who joined the military in 1917 and 1918 during World War I. Among his goals was a national memorial in Washington for those who served in that conflict.

President Obama has ordered that flags on U.S. government buildings fly at half staff on the day Buckles is buried. His family has said they plan to inter him at Arlington.

No one is really certain why Boehner would deny the honor to Frank Buckles. Maybe he thinks we were on the wrong side in World War One?

Recall issued for Skippy reduced-fat peanut butter

The possible discovery of salmonella has prompted a limited recall of Skippy reduced-fat peanut butter spreads sold in 16 states.

Unilever issued a press release detailing a voluntary recall of Skippy’s “Reduced Fat Creamy” and “Reduced Fat Super Chunk” brands. The recall applies only to these branded items distributed in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

While there have been no known illnesses, the recall was issued for fear that some of the peanut butter now in stores had salmonella…

The recalled products are sold in 16.3-ounce plastic jars, have UPC codes of 048001006812 or 048001006782 and have best-if-used-by-dates of May 16-21, 2012, on the top, the company statement said. Those with such jars should throw them away and call Skippy at 1-800-453-3432 to get a replacement coupon, according to Unilever…

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that usually lasts four to seven days. About 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in the United States, according to the CDC.

Those who get it typically develop fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea between 12 and 72 hours after becoming infected. Most people recover on their own, without needing significant treatment. But salmonella in very young and very old people, as well as those with weakened immune systems, can lead to severe illness and even death.

Cripes. This prompts a couple of thoughts.

I ate a ton of Skippy peanut butter growing up. The only change in my adult peanut butter life is switching to organic brands from markets I know run their own checks on food quality.

Wonder if there were as many or more – or fewer – instances of salmonella and other food poisonings in the good old days. Are they just better reported nowadays? Is it only the increase in production servicing a larger population that seems to include a calculated risk of food poisoning?


Talk doesn’t pay – psychiatry relegated to pill-pushers

Alone with his psychiatrist, the patient confided that his newborn had serious health problems, his distraught wife was screaming at him and he had started drinking again. With his life and second marriage falling apart, the man said he needed help.

But the psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Levin, stopped him and said: “Hold it. I’m not your therapist. I could adjust your medications, but I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Like many of the nation’s 48,000 psychiatrists, Dr. Levin, in large part because of changes in how much insurance will pay, no longer provides talk therapy, the form of psychiatry popularized by Sigmund Freud that dominated the profession for decades. Instead, he prescribes medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient. So Dr. Levin sent the man away with a referral to a less costly therapist and a personal crisis unexplored and unresolved.

Medicine is rapidly changing in the United States from a cottage industry to one dominated by large hospital groups and corporations, but the new efficiencies can be accompanied by a telling loss of intimacy between doctors and patients. And no specialty has suffered this loss more profoundly than psychiatry.

Trained as a traditional psychiatrist at Michael Reese Hospital, a sprawling Chicago medical center that has since closed, Dr. Levin, 68, first established a private practice in 1972, when talk therapy was in its heyday.

Then, like many psychiatrists, he treated 50 to 60 patients in once- or twice-weekly talk-therapy sessions of 45 minutes each. Now, like many of his peers, he treats 1,200 people in mostly 15-minute visits for prescription adjustments that are sometimes months apart. Then, he knew his patients’ inner lives better than he knew his wife’s; now, he often cannot remember their names. Then, his goal was to help his patients become happy and fulfilled; now, it is just to keep them functional.

I hold no brief for Freudian analysis; but, what I’ve learned over time about psychotherapy – especially in a clinical environment – leads me to conclude this is just one more modality, one more method of treating human ills that is being crushed into a tidy little profit center by hospital corporations, insurance companies and medical associations that are little more than trade groups and lobbyists.

Keep the patient functional enough to work for a living! Screw any core needs they or their family may have! Ignore whatever potential for a life that satisfies personal needs and goals – as long as the individual remains a productive member of society.

RTFA for details. Decide who is worthy of more contempt. Corporate medicine or the politicians taking a payoff as obedient toadies?

Devin Westenskow dies alone

A father of five children has died after falling into a mine shaft so deep and treacherous that rescuers had to abandon efforts to reach him while he was still alive.

Devin Westenskow, 28, of Evanston, Wyo., worked at a geothermal drilling operation in Nevada and had gone exploring Wednesday with two friends during his off-hours when he fell 190 feet into the open shaft northeast of Reno.

His family thanked rescue workers in a statement that also identified Westenskow.

“We feel they did everything possible to rescue Devin, but that there was no way to get him out alive given the extent of his injuries and instability of the mine shaft,” the statement said. “We are forever grateful for their efforts.”

The decision to end the rescue came after two unsuccessful attempts by search teams to descend into the shaft, where Westenskow was trapped in debris, said Doran Sanchez, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman…

Westenskow was given his last rites Friday. He was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m. that day, after the Pershing County coroner’s office determined he had stopped breathing by reviewing images from a video camera they had lowered into shaft, Sanchez said.

Word of the death was not released until Saturday because there was no cell phone service in the remote area for authorities to stay in contact…

About 50,000 abandoned mine shafts have been identified as the most hazardous in Nevada, but the shaft where the man fell wasn’t among them, BLM officials said.

The agency plans to permanently seal the shaft and several other openings in the area by Monday, Sanchez said.

Probably the saddest story of the weekend. RTFA to know a little more about it.

My first take on the story had only the too-brief wire story and the equally useless articles from the newspapers that copied it. I’m glad I found this much more complete tale from the AP in the Tacoma News-Tribune. I know now that people tried very hard to save this man’s life – risking their own – until it was proved certain to be fruitless.

As I put this to bed [me too] – I can see journalists around the world picking up the AP story online. Some of them credit Martin Griffith of the AP. Some don’t. Hard copy life ain’t much different from life online.

Mexican soldiers charged in methamphetamine/coke bust

Thirteen soldiers in Mexico have been charged with drug trafficking after they were allegedly found in possession of almost a tonne of the synthetic drug methamphetamine and 30kg of cocaine…

The military commander in Tijuana, Gen Alfonso Duarte, said the accused had been transporting the drugs by land from the capital, Mexico City, to Tijuana.

The Mexican Ministry of Defence said it would not tolerate such acts and announced that the men would be brought before a military court. [That means they didn’t get their cut.] According to the United Nations’ 2010 World Drug Report, the US methamphetamine market is predominantly supplied from Mexican-based criminal groups.

The report says that the number, size and sophistication of meth laboratories in Mexico has increased dramatically over the past five years, as well as the amount of methamphetamine trafficked into the US.

Certainly Congress should convene a special hearing to determine whether or not US-based initiatives are defeated by economics like this. Can American motorcycle gangs afford to stay in business with foreign competition like this?