Category Archives: Health

The Silence on Global Warming

Harrowing predictions of climate scientists are coming true, as glaciers melt, forests burn, heat waves proliferate and freakish weather strikes in unexpected places. But the propagandists of global-warming denial have succeeded in silencing most politicians and the mainstream press. Written by Robert Parry

File Photo credit: Brittney Misialek, former WGN-TV intern.

Something called a “derecho” – a fast-moving line of thunderstorms – strikes the Washington area knocking out power for days. Massive forest fires ravage Colorado. A record heat wave covers much of the country. The U.S. press treats these events as major stories, but two words are rarely mentioned: “global warming.”

What has become most striking about the growing evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger – indeed an emerging existential threat – is the simultaneous failure of the U.S. news media to deal seriously with the issue, another sign of how the Right can intimidate the mainstream into going silent.

Evan Vucci/AP In Pictures: Extreme weather 2012

We have seen this pattern before, as the Right sets the media agenda by bullying those who threaten its ideological interests. Before the Iraq War, anyone who dared raise questions about the Bush administration’s justifications could expect to be marginalized or worse. Just ask Phil Donahue, Scott Ritter and the Dixie Chicks.

During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, his hard-nosed propagandists dubbed this tactic “controversializing,” that is, anyone who got too much in the way could expect to be subjected to systematic smears and professional deconstruction. With so many right-wing voices willing to say almost anything, it wasn’t hard to intimidate people.

The smart career play was always to retreat when these forces were arrayed against you. Why risk your six- or seven-figure salary on some issue when there are so many other stories that you can work on without all the grief?

Shelf cloud from the developing derecho in Chicago on June 29, 2012. Image Credit: NWS Meteorologist Samuel Shea

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Happy New Year!

Suresh Motivator wine, originally uploaded by suresh_gundappa.

This is a lovely image from Suresh Gundappa, my favorite photographer at Meditation Photography. Please read his wonderful fable over at his website.


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Possible Nuclear Catastrophe in Japan

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

A mother tries to talk to her daughter who has been isolated for signs of radiation after evacuating from the vicinity of Fukushima’s nuclear plants, at a makeshift facility to screen, cleanse and isolate people with high radiation levels in Nihonmatsu, northern Japan, March 14, 2011.

By Taiga Uranaka and Ki Joon Kwon

Sun Mar 13, 201 – FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan battled on Monday to prevent a nuclear catastrophe and to care for millions of people without power or water in its worst crisis since World War Two, after a massive earthquake and tsunami that are feared to have killed more than 10,000 people.

A badly wounded nation has seen whole villages and towns wiped off the map by a wall of water, leaving in its wake an international humanitarian effort of epic proportions.

“The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War Two,” a grim-faced Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a news conference on Sunday.

“We’re under scrutiny on whether we, the Japanese people, can overcome this crisis.”

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“Saved to life”

First Place
Paul Hansen
Dagens Nyheter

“Saved to life”

Of course six weeks old Michelle Olofsson had no clue how fortunate she was being born at a Swedish hospital. But her dad Jakob and mother Ruth are very grateful that their premature born daughter could be saved. In a recent scientific report, Swedish hospitals are defined as being best in the world regarding prenatal care. When Michelle was born she weighed about one kilo. Now she almost ready to go home.

Pictures of the Year International


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Obama Jumping the Shark

Before the storms – 2, originally uploaded by *Gracie.
Photography by Gracie – © All rights reserved

Barack Obama set a challenge for himself tonight. After mishandling the federal government’s response to BP’s negligence, the president’s job tonight was to give the public confidence that he and his administration were taking charge of the debacle, and fully aware of what needed to be done, at a time when the public wanted exactly that.

Yet Obama failed to act like a chief executive tonight, opting instead for a dry sermon about energy policy and prayer. All the while, the speech avoided leadership, a sense of command, and vision. Rather, it seemed simply to serve as an opportunity for Obama to repeat whatever he’s said over the last six weeks, and then move on, just as the White House confirmed privately. Aside from some lame talk about holding BP responsible, he still managed to downplay the current crisis, in a rush to the future without dealing with current accountability.

Just like he treats the Bush administration.

Even as he said the “federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history”, he didn’t say a word about protecting the workers who have been negligently sent out to clean this up without protection, and not a word was said about holding BP accountable for the numerous safety violations it commits daily.

Not a word was said about the public health and safety crisis caused by this spill and BP’s lack of attentiveness to this emerging calamity.

Not a word was said about BP’s efforts to eliminate the daily evidence of this catastrophe washing up on the gulf shores, or BP’s efforts to limit media and government access to the beaches and other areas to independently quantify this damage.

Not a word was said about having the federal government take over access to the containment and cleanup area.

Nor did the president tell the public that the GOP wanted to keep drilling anyway, because to them profits are more important than public safety.

Instead, the president used six paragraphs to talk about hope and prayer, which is not likely to inspire anyone’s confidence that the federal government knows the way forward. His speech seemed weak and reactive; it made the federal government and his administration look impotent, overmatched, and even more faith-based in its modus operandi than the Bush administration ever did.

There was no indication in this speech of executive level control and engagement, nor did the president provide any specifics on how he and we would move forward to a better future in response to this disaster. His overall pitch for an energy policy lacked urgency and passion, much like his cool approach to everything except campaigning.

Presidents don’t get too many opportunities to re-set public perceptions of their competence and ability to lead, unless handed an opportunity from crisis. Barack Obama flubbed just such an opportunity tonight.



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As New Doors Open, We Can’t Shut Out the Past

by James Carroll

America is a house with many rooms. In an image of the writer Philip Slater, our frontier legacy instilled in us the habit of taking possession of one pristine room at a time. Instead of occupying the whole house at once, we have lived in it room by room, successively. At first, we love the clean feeling of a fresh space, but gradually we litter the room with accumulations, both material and spiritual. Garbage and broken promises clutter the corners, then spill into the center of the room. Waste, excess, and lost innocence pile high. Finally, unable to stand it, we pack a few special possessions and open the next door, ready for a fresh start, a new room. Because the house is so big, there is always unused space, just waiting for us to claim it. Close the door on the sullied past.

This is what the continental progression from spoiled east to ever-virginal west amounted to, in Slater’s metaphor — a nation that never had to reckon with its profligate ways because there was always the next frontier. The great American ideal of freedom was thus founded on freedom from accountability.

Slater’s metaphor obviously applies to a long-operative environmental irresponsibility, as polluted cities were left behind for pastoral suburbs, and as sprawl-ruined suburbs are now being left behind for evergreen exurbs. The metaphor precisely describes the geographic state of American education, with trashed inner-city schools left behind by “No Child Left Behind.” But the metaphor applies more abstractly, too — as we see US foreign policy on Iraq, for example, defined, first, by wrecking the room, and then (now), by getting the hell out. (Let’s try Afghanistan.) We solve our problems by leaving them behind. We don’t do consequences.

Today, the United States stands at a threshold, marked by tomorrow’s election. As has happened so often before, a new room seems to lie open before us — but this is a room with a view. What is seen from there means that the whole house of America might never look the same. The threshold itself is the transformation. So let’s just vote, and, as the admirable but poorly named antiwar organization proposes, move on.

No, let’s not. Thinking of tomorrow’s election simply as a fresh start is a temptation to be resisted. There will be no closing the door on what America has been doing, so let’s not even try. After voting, instead of lighting out, let’s turn back and reckon with what has been befouled. This is a matter of specific policies: end the Middle East wars, of course, but cooperate in unprecedented international diplomacy to eliminate the causes of war; change the urban-suburban social contract to bring impoverished inner cities back into economic and cultural vitality; recast the underpinnings of the economy, with one eye on demilitarizing it and another on making justice count as much as profit.

But more than policy, a change in American mythology is required. No innocence abroad; none at home. Good intentions aren’t enough. The last frontier is long closed. No new frontiers. No moving on. Only one Earth. Love it or lose it. That’s the truth, which has consequences.

Everyone is asking what kind of leader our next president will be. But there is a prior question: What kind of people will we be? The transformation that matters tomorrow is the one that occurs in the hearts of citizens. Can we cast our votes as a personal promise to be responsible for where and how we live? Democracy does not end with the ballot, but begins there. Our ill-treated house, staying with the metaphor, has brought the neighborhood down, even as we and our housemates have not been good to one another. Can we change? Yes.

The convergence of historic US foreign policy failures, an epochal economic collapse, a cultural mutation spawned by information technology, a make-or-break moment for American schools, the global environmental challenge, and the arrival of new political leadership — all of this defines the threshold on which we stand. Not a new room, but the only room there ever was, waiting to be finally ruined — or fully renewed.



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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, originally uploaded by *Gracie.

Photography by Gracie – © All rights reserved

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, it’s estimated that About 178,480 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer in 2007. About 40,460 women will die from the disease this year. Right now there are slightly over 2 million women living in the United States who have been treated for breast cancer.

If you’re worried about developing breast cancer, or if you know someone who has been diagnosed with the disease, one way to deal with your concerns is to get as much information as possible. In this section you’ll find important background information about what breast cancer is and how it develops.

Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in one or both of the breasts. Breast cancer usually develops in the ducts or lobules, also known as the milk-producing areas of the breast.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer). Although African-American women have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer after age 40 than Caucasian women, they have a slightly higher incidence rate of breast cancer before age 40. However, African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age. Breast cancer is much less common in males; by comparison, the disease is about 100 times more common among women. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007 some 2,030 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men in the United States.

Types of breast cancer

There are several different types of breast cancer that can be divided into two main categories – noninvasive cancers and invasive cancers. Noninvasive cancer may also be called “carcinoma in situ.” Noninvasive breast cancers are confined to the ducts or lobules and they do not spread to surrounding tissues. The two types of noninvasive breast cancers are ductal carcinoma in situ (referred to as DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (referred to as LCIS).

It is known that hormones in a woman’s body, such as estrogen and progesterone, can play a role in the development of breast cancer. In breast cancer, estrogen causes a doubling of cancer cells every 36 hours. The growing tumor needs to increase its blood supply to provide food and oxygen. Progesterone seems to cause stromal cells (the woman’s own cells to send out signals for more blood supply to feed the tumor. (Source: Dr. V. Craig Jordan, vice president and scientific director for the medical science division at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia as quoted in NY Times, Hormones And Cancer: By Gina Kolata, Published: December 26, 2006)

  • Non-invasive breast cancer. The majority of non-invasive breast cancers are DCIS. In DCIS, the cancer cells are found only in the milk duct of the breast. If DCIS is not treated, it may progress to invasive cancer.In LCIS, the abnormal cells are found only in the lobules of the breast. Unlike DCIS, LCIS is not considered to be a cancer. It is more like a warning sign of increased risk of developing an invasive breast cancer in the same or opposite breast. While LCIS is a risk factor for invasive cancer, it doesn’t actually develop into invasive breast cancer in many women.
  • Invasive breast cancer. Invasive or infiltrating breast cancers penetrate through normal breast tissue (such as the ducts and lobules) and invade surrounding areas. They are more serious than noninvasive cancers because they can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, and brain.

There are several kinds of invasive breast cancers. The most common type is invasive ductal carcinoma, which appears in the ducts and accounts for about 80 percent of all breast cancer cases. There are differences in the various types of invasive breast cancer, but the treatment options are similar for all of them.

Not all breast cancers are alike
Not all breast cancers are alike – there are different stages of breast cancer based on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. For doctor and patient, knowing the stage of breast cancer is the most important factor in choosing among treatment options. Doctors use a physical exam, biopsy, and other tests to determine breast cancer stage.

Stages of Breast Cancer
The most common system used to describe the stages of breast cancer is the AJCC/TNM (American Joint Committee on Cancer/Tumor-Nodes-Metastases) system. This system takes into account the tumor size and spread, whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, and whether it has spread to distant organs (metastasis).

All of this information is then combined in a process called stage grouping. The stage is expressed as a Roman numeral. After stage 0 (carcinoma in situ), the other stages are I through IV (1-4). Some of the stages are further sub-divided using the letters A, B, and C. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV (4), means a more advanced cancer.

These are the stages of breast cancer:

Stage 0 – Stage 0 is carcinoma in situ, early stage cancer that is confined to the ducts or the lobules, depending on where it started. It has not gone into the tissues in the breast nor spread to other organs in the body.

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This is the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, when abnormal cells are in the lining of a duct. DCIS is also called intraductal carcinoma. DCIS sometimes becomes invasive cancer if not treated.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): This condition begins in the milk-making glands but does not go through the wall of the lobules. LCIS seldom becomes invasive cancer; however, having LCIS in one breast increases the risk of cancer for both breasts.

Stage I – Stage I is an early stage of invasive breast cancer. In Stage I, cancer cells have not spread beyond the breast and the tumor is no more than 2 centimeters (three-quarters of an inch) across.
Stage II – Stage II is one of the following:

  • The tumor in the breast is no more than 2 centimeters (three-quarters of an inch) across. The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • The tumor is between 2 and 5 centimeters (three-quarters of an inch to 2 inches). The cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters (2 inches). The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes under the arm.

Stage III – Stage III may be a large tumor, but the cancer has not spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes. It is locally advanced cancer.

  • Stage IIIA – Stage IIIA is one of the following:
    • The tumor in the breast is smaller than 5 centimeters (2 inches). The cancer has spread to underarm lymph nodes that are attached to each other or to other structures.
    • The tumor is more than 5 centimeters across. The cancer has spread to the underarm lymph nodes.
  • Stage IIIB – Stage IIIB is one of the following:
    • The tumor has grown into the chest wall or the skin of the breast.
    • The cancer has spread to lymph nodes behind the breastbone.
    • Inflammatory breast cancer [insert link to page on inflammatory breast cancer] is a rare type of Stage IIIB breast cancer. The breast looks red and swollen because cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast.
  • Stage IIIC – Stage IIIC is a tumor of any size. It has spread in one of the following ways:
    • The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes behind the breastbone and under the arm.
    • The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under or above the collarbone.

Stage IV – Stage IV is distant metastatic cancer. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Recurrent cancer – Recurrent cancer is cancer that has come back (recurred) after a period of time when it could not be detected. It may recur locally in the breast or chest wall as another primary cancer, or it may recur in any other part of the body, such as the bone, liver, or lungs, which is generally referred to as metastatic cancer.

American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Cancer Institute


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