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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The day after in Charleston

Emmanuel AME

I was here and it was sadder than you could imagine.

As we drove by the church last week--by accident actually--we saw the media frenzy. It was just the morning after and they flooded the street along with their satellite equipped trucks reaching to the sky. In that block, we saw four separate interviews being conducted and several more talking heads reporting to their viewers.

This was just before the street was closed and the flowers and tributes began to accumulate. The enormity of the sadness was settling in and the disbelief that someone could do such a thing prevailed. But the sadness...

Our group, HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response, was in town for its annual meeting. There were about 50 members and 30 HOPE working dogs present. HOPE has 300+/- dog/handler teams and team leaders nationwide, all donating their effort and dollars to help make a difference.

We do this stuff... bring comfort and solace to those in great need. We are not first responders but come in later when appropriate--maybe memorial tributes, candle light marches across bridges, at gatherings after the tragedy, when classes convene after a shooting. We have been at the Osa mudslides, DC Navy Yard for weeks after the shootings there--at the request of the Navy, hurricane Katrina and more, the Houston floods and tornado relief missions, the forest fires in the West--time and again, annually at TAPS--Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors of the military fallen... you get the
idea. Our group was founded out of 9/11.

On Monday evening, we deployed six HOPE dog/handler teams at the request of the FBI to be with the people on the memorial candlelight walk across the bridge. We were there Tuesday and Wednesday working with the Mental Health agency to be available. There may be more as recovery is ongoing.

The media has praised the people of Charleston for the overwhelming response to try to make something positive come from this tragedy with the hope of starting a meaningful dialog on race in America. We have come a long way but are still far from the finish line.

Comedian Chris Rock used to tell a joke about racial hardship. "Do you know how hard it is to be black in America?" he would ask his audience. "I'll tell you how hard. There's not a single white person in the audience who would trade places with me. And I'm rich!"

The alleged shooter, just 21 and filled with hate, killed nine of our best, kindest, hard working and noblest people... and as a sardonic reward, we get him as the only one left. It's not right. It's not fair.

 John Stewart said it most poignantly here. It's just a few minutes... and it's worth it to get a rich perspective.

Now there is a broad movement by politicians and major retailers to take the Confederate flag down from public adoration and relegate it to museum status where it has a place. Will it happen? We'll see. 

*One recent study estimates the United States has a gun ownership of 89 guns per 100 people--but only one third of households own them all. So we're number 1... big time.

We also lead in shooting tragedies like Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, the Amish school shootings, Columbine, Virginia Tech (Google 'school shootings' and you will be taken aback)... the list goes on. And we have a huge lead in people killed by guns, both in numbers and by a percentage of population.

We're either good at the wrong things or not trying hard enough at the right ones.

Like it or not, we have a gun culture, but wouldn't you think we could manage it better? After Sandy Hook, when many pushed for background checks on all who want to buy guns, and the elimination of large capacity magazines to use in firearms that can fire a lot in a brief period of time, we got instead a push for open carry and looser restrictions. I am still amazed at the photo that ran nationwide showing several people shopping at Target with loaded rifles strapped to their backs, just because they can.

The NRA is a VERY STRONG organization that lobbies effectively and makes or breaks politicians by promoting or withholding endorsements. If two of three households are not gun owners, how come the smaller percentage controls the game? Do you hear us Congress? Congress? CONGRESS?

Any positive action we take will not be solely definitive... but it will be a start.

I do know one thing to be true... none of this will change any closed mind.

*Figures shown are estimates based on credible studies. These statistics reflect order of magnitude, plus or minus.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Solved: This guy's problem

If you think it's not easy being green, try it with no head.

Do you keep bumping into doors and other obstacles, have trouble finding your nose, don't know where to put your ear rings, food just falls on the floor when you try to eat?  Then maybe you have no head.

Just read a NYTimes book review of The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz that was described this way:
"When a pediatric surgeon... returns from a medical conference in Paris, she discovers her husband has died suddenly of an embolism... and makes a horrifying discovery... "

She learns his head has been removed from his body--because of his secret prior written request--and kept cryogenically viable awaiting the future when it can be joined to a new body and live forever.

Well, if the genre is science fiction, them perhaps it should be reclassified. Very recent medical happenings point to the first head to body (or body to head really because that's the brains of the outfit) transplant is targeted for December, 2017. Really. 

I've dealt with this problem in this blog before , scooping major news media I might add, and while it sounds like some cult happening, it is serious-- though I never treat much with such seriousness here.

Just thought you might find interesting what the man who is first-in-line for head transplant surgery has to say about it. (And no, it's not Ted Williams.) Truth is, he can hardly wait. As for the body part of the transplant, I'm guessing some body will be in for a big surprise.

Both the Wall Street Journal (Surgery's Far Frontier: Head Transplants)and New York Times (Could Anyone Really Transplant a Head?) have featured this surgical concept recently (are they reading my blog?) to its predictable conclusion... with a big "who knows?"

The general consensus... it is technically possible but no one knows yet how it will turn out. Frankenstein's monster did have his problems, you may recall. The surgeon who plans to perform this first proceedure on a human is Dr. Sergio Canavero. He has had some success in his trials. He has gotten a monkey's head to live briefly on a new body. And he has had success with mice, his primary test species. Great. Just what we need... mice zombies.

What we don't know is... everything. If the brain is left-handed and the body is right, will they fight or be ambidextrous? Will the foot do what the brain tells it to do or go off in some willy-nilly way? Would a male head ever be affixed to a female body? And what about the ethics of it all?

I do remember the first heart transplant in 1953 by Dr. Christian Barnard in South Africa. Man lived almost 24 hours... but he led the way to a procedure that is now not unique. The guy who volunteered for the first head transplant acknowledges he may die (like yeah)... but would be pleased if it proved a stepping stone to future success.

I hate to brag but I've done this head-to-body thing privately, more times than I can recall. Am I a man of medicine? No, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night... and my grand daughter is very happy about the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Selfie Knows All

Have a look at 858 of tomorrow's leaders. There are more than 40,000 high schools in the United States that graduated students this year. This is a Texas school shown in the selfie taken by its Valedictorian.

There... on the left, about 5th row from the back, that's the 48th President of the United States. She's sitting next to the guy with a beard. And on the right, 8th row, is the one who changes the world with an invention that assures even the poorest countries, potable water. Then there's the one who will help colonize Mars.

There are those who break new grounds in ways never before imagined... and those who will enjoy happy, productive lives. High school graduates are a fairly healthy cross-section of us... and across the country, the abundance of hope rides high.

All are given life advice on how to do it right. The best seems to be simple and pure. Here are a few favorites:
  • "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go." - Dr. Seuss
  • "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” - JK Rowling
  • "Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art." - Neil Gaiman
  • "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."  - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." -Bette Reese
  • "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. " -Will Rogers
And you in the lower half of the graduating class... you may have the greatest dream of all:

 "To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States." - George W. Bush

But most important, you matter:

"If you think that no one knows you are alive, try missing a couple of payments." Earl Wilson

You count big-time, graduates. It's your turn.  Please take care of us... and your children too.