Saturday, February 27, 2010

Say NO to SeaWorld!

Do you agree that orcas and other dolphins should not be held in captivity for our pleasure?  Then sign this petition!  The Petition Site. 

Photo from EyeBallard.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Death at Guantanamo, tigers, dolphins and random kindness

Once again I've had to take time off from blogging to take care of personal and other matters....I try to prepare for these times in advance, thanks to Blogspot's scheduled posting feature....but that doesn't help with the local and breaking news that I do try to cover, at least if it's something that interests me or that I think is important to the community.

Meanwhile I keep collecting items I want to share, more than I can ever write about in detail, so I'm just going to share some links.

If you aren't furious and disgusted by the time you finish reading Harper Magazine's 'The Guantanamo "Suicides': A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle" then you must be Dick Cheney.  The good news is that some people are willing to speak out, now matter what it costs them.

As the New York Times reported February 12, the Year of the Tiger could turn out to be a real bummer of a year for the slightly more than 3,000 tigers left in the wild.  Neither India nor China have strong protections in place for their tiger populations and the Chinese ascribe magical properties to tigers in various  pieces that  a whole, living tiger apparently lacks.

I first wrote about The Cove, a film about the secret and ongoing slaughter of dolphins in Japan, last July.  The film is now the front runner for Best Documentary at this Year's Academy Awards, but what's most important to those who made The Cove is that that the film will finally be shown in Japan, where people are mostly unaware, not only of the slaughter, but of the high levels of mercury in the dolphin flesh they eat.  While the Japanese themselves are the key to political change in their country, you can sign a petition asking the Japanese government to end this slaughter here

Finally, three acts of kindness and self-sacrifice: The homeless man who saved five people from a fire before succumbing himself was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery last month.  Ray Vivier, 61, had been getting himself together, had a job, and was living in a boarding house in Cleveland when arsonists set it on fire.  A Bozeman, MT police officer caught a shoplifter putting food and pencils and pens in his pocket, arrested him for theft, and then released him.  The man was upset and apologetic, saying he had nothing for his kids and no money. Later that same police officer bought some frozen pizzas for the man and his family and delivered them himself. A reporter hanging out at the dispatch office picked up the story from scraps of conversation.  Homeless people at a Baltimore, MD shelter scraped together $14.64 to donate to Haitian Earthquake victims and brought it to an area Red Cross.  "We were all weepy-eyed," recalled Red Cross volunteer coordinator Bobbie Jones, who was at the front desk when the donation arrived. Baltimore Sun.

Photo of Arlington National Cemetery from rccola159's photostream at Flickr.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pity the poor nursing home resident-- especially at Wingate/Springfield

I wrote about my friend's trials and tribulations at Baystate a few weeks ago, and how he wound up with a colostomy when he'd been admitted for a broken clavicle and ribs. (!)

He did, eventually, get transferred to a Wingate Healthcare facility on Bicentennial Highway in Springfield.  They kept him there nearly three weeks and then sent him home last Wednesday while he was in an extremely frail condition.  He lasted exactly two days, fell again, and is now back in Baystate.

I'm sure I don't know the half of what happened at Wingate, but I'll write what I do know.

There is no separate wing there for short stay patients; they're mixed in with people who will breathe their last breath in that facility.  My friend's roommate died while he was there.  Obviously it would be much more heartening to be housed with patients all of whom are working hard to go home.  Not all facilities are like this.

My friend is both diabetic and a vegetarian.  I presume they have a dietician on staff but the kitchen seemed not to know what to do with him.  Three meals in a row (minus breakfast) he received potatoes and a vegetable, five meals in a row he was served a grilled cheese sandwich.  After the third meal, I told him to insist that the kitchen at least add a vegetable.

Apparently they preferred to control his diabetes through insulin rather than diet and insulin.  I was visiting one afternoon when a nurse took a sugar reading and it was high-- 220.  He returned with an injection of insulin.

The physical therapy department seemed to be a well-functioning unit.  The therapists I met were kind but not wimpy.  They pushed my friend to help him regain his strength.

But they failed to properly train him in the full ramifications of having an ostomy, how to care for it, tips for changing the ostomy bag, or the fact that having an ostomy requires drinking extra liquid to avoid dehydration.  This lack of information beaame a crucial factor in why he wound up back at Baystate.

My friend had his blood drawn several times in three weeks, but apparently whatever lab the facility uses failed to recognize that my friend had an infection (later determined to be caused by a wound he was accidentally given in Baystate!) This became factor number two in his re-admittance.

Worse, when my friend went for a follow-up visit to his surgeon on Friday, just hours before he went back to Baystate, the surgeon was furious that Wingate had reduced my friend's pain medication to a level so low as to be ineffective.  He had also made it clear in written orders to Wingate that my friend was not to be discharged until he was truly able to care for himself, as he lives with his elderly mother.

I started out angry writing this but I'm ending up just sad. When people are sick they are the least able to be effective advocates for themselves, and not everyone has family and friends who also have the time and resources to fight for them.

I also have more to say about Baystate, but I think I'll save it until my friend is safely out of their care.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Trilogy Meter

Found at Nerdlike.

Mayor Sarno stumbles with the new city council, the public and the police

When Ward Four City Councilor E. Henry Twiggs put out the call last week that his committee would be discussing proposals for a new Civilian  Police Review Board, I'm sure he had no idea that Mayor Domenic Sarno would release his own proposal by executive order the day before the meeting.  For some strange reason, the city council actually thought it would have some input into the proposal, given that nine police officers in two separate incidents are now under investigation and at least some councilor's phone have been quite busy with calls from constituents.

But the meeting still took place last night in Room 220, and members of the Civil Rights and Race Relations Committee-- E. Henry Twiggs, John Lysak and Keith Wright-- were joined by Melvin Edwards, Katari Walsh, Michael Fenton, Thomas Ashe, Zaida Luna and Timothy Rooke!  With James Ferrera and Tim Allen in the audience, the only city councilors who weren't in attendence were Clodo Concepcion and and Jose Tosado.

On one side of the room sat members of the Springfield Police Department.  On the other side sat about 40 community members.

The first part of the meeting was given over to a presentation by City Solicitor Edward Pikula, who had completed the thankless task of coming up with the civilian police commission plan.  He was closely questioned by council members about some fairly complicated elements that shaped the plan-- Police Commissioner Fitchet's contract, civil service requirements, charter change and the police union's contract.  Councilor Twiggs made it clear he was not happy that council members were not consulted in the drafting of the proposal.  Then the meeting was turned over to speakers.

Police Union President Joseph Gentile spoke first, and said that the union did not support Mayor Sarno's new civilian police commission.  He said he wanted very much to see race relations in between the police and the community improve, and thought that community policing, which we no longer have, would do it.  He reminded us that the original police commission, which was disbanded as a condition of Commissioner Edward Flynn's hire, had the power to seek funding, develop program, hire, fire, commend and discipline as well as other powers.  Gentile's solution was something close to the original commission.)

(I'm going to stop here for a moment to .remember Ed Flynn as one of the most arrogant and incompetent persons I've ever met.  He wanted to be Commissioner, not Chief; he wanted all the powers of the Police Commission, and he left for a job in Milwaukee only 19 months into a five year contract. In trying to his leaving, he said, "I am two things ... and they're both real. I am an idealist about this job, and I am ambitious. The gap between the two gets filled with guilt," said Flynn, a well-traveled, pedigreed executive in blue, whose presence in Springfield has been unwelcome by many among the rank-and-file of the department."  Republican.   Some of the problems we're facing right now belong on his shoulders.)

Most of the people who spoke next talked about their intense disappointment  in being excluded from the process of determining the form pf police oversight; some, such as Arise for Social Justice and Rev. Talbert Swan, had submitted written suggestions. Others spoke about the mistrust in the community and the need to make sure that allegations of police brutality were thoroughly investigated by a commission with real powers, lacking in Sarno's commiission. 

I spoke near the end.  The point I wanted to make is that people who voted for ward representation in Springfield did so with the expectation that their councilors would be able to participate in decisions that affected their neighborhoods.  But first, I mentioned that I had been arrested in that very room about five years before at a city auction of tax title property, and charged with disturbing the peace, which was true, seeing as I was speaking out of turn, and with assault and battery on a police officer, completely untrue, and that the charges had been dropped when the officer failed to appear in court..  At that point I inclined myself toward the police officers, and said, ruefully, "You know, guys, that's the kind of thing-- putting charges on people they don't deserve-- that breeds cynicism and mistrust and that has to stop."

After I sat down, I glanced over to the officers' side of the room. It happened so quickly that at first I wasn't sure what I saw, but what I saw was an officer with his hand in the shape of a gun, held low to his lap, and pointed directly at me.

How the issues of police management and accountability in this city will be resolved, I don't know, but it's clearly not over yet.  Councilor Ferrera will be introducing his own version of a police commission on Monday night, which Councilor Twiggs has already said he doesn't support, but as Ferrera said to me this morning, at least the council will have the opportunity to debate, amend, accept or reject his proposal, an opportunity they were denied with Sarno's executive order.   And although no councilor at the meeting overtly expressed anger at Mayor Sarno (Ed Pikula was the stand-in for that), relations certainly haven't been improved.  It was only this January 20 that City Council President Jose Tosado called the lack of communication between the mayor and city council "institutionalized disfunction."  Ward representation can't be effective if the council continues to be shut out of the government.

Drawing from Shell's Daily Drawing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Buy beauty, do good

Bookmark this page at Dharma Shop and remember it when you want something special for a gift-- or a treat for yourself.  The shop supports Tibetan artisans and donates part of their profit to charity.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pop-up photo: it's OK to play when you're a grown-up

OK, this is really cool.  WikiHow takes us step by foolproof step and at the end, we have a pop-up photograph!

Reading these instructions, I suddenly remembered cutting out the cardboard animals on boxes of animal crackers, and using them as actors on a television screen made from a Muller's macaroni box.  Anyone else?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Steal this plan for Haiti, urges Architecture for Humanity

On Wire's Haiti Rewired site, a fascinating and content-rich "ongoing conversation about technology, infrastructure and the future of Haiti," I found a link to an organization that has a solid plan for helping the people of Haiti get through the immediate crisis and into rebuilding.

Architecture for Humanity operates many projects worldwide and has disaster planning experience with Hurricane Katrina.  Here's the first three bullets of their eleven point plan:

1. Community Based Anchors
We will set up Community Resource Centers to supply architecture and building services to community groups, NGOs and social entrepreneurs on the ground. This is not an 'exclusive' center, it is open and collaborative. We've already talked with a dozen local and international organizations to create the Haiti Rebuilding Coalition. This team will be housed in each of these centers. See below for the value of these facilities. Want to start another? Donate here.
2. Distribute lessons learned
Translate and distribute a Rebuilding 101 Manual that we originally developed after Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami. If you just read aid agency websites you'd think they never got it wrong. In eastern Sri Lanka I sat with representatives from nine other NGO's and we discovered in our 'no BS sessions' we had made the same $500 mistake. Collectively, that is a transitional school for 120 kids. Don't get me started on New Orleans. If we only share 'best practices' we never really adapt and learn. The handbook of 'what not to do' is far more valuable. P.S. Read The Man Who Tried To Save The World on the work of Fred Cuny, the original NGO whistle-blower.
[UPDATE: Project Underway]
3. Earthquake Resistant Housing Manual
Adapt, translate and distribute an Earthquake Resistant Housing Manual for local NGOs and community groups. A coalition of partners can collaborate and work on this, including Haiti-based AIDG, Build Change, Engineers Without Borders and other engineering partners. We developed one after the Kashmir Earthquake a few years ago. This time we need to put them on every NGO workers' Kindle and create a training manual for local contractors.
[UPDATE: Project Underway]

The last paragraph of Executive Director Cameron Sinclair's plan overview is a sad but hopeful commentary on the politics of disaster relief.

There is no 'ownership' in rebuilding lives. It sickens me when I hear agencies say their processes are proprietary. If you like what we are doing either support us or steal this plan. We need dozens of tug boat NGO's working together to build back Haiti better. Let's not waste donor dollars on working in silos. Haiti has suffered enough.

You can donate to Architecture for Humanity here.

Photos of current projects: straw bale housing for the Navajo Nation; Ugandan AIDS Orphans School.

Monday morning: mothers from hell, bullying, public apologies, welfare motels

No stranger killed a six week old infant in a West Springfield motel; the three year-old sibling did it, when he and the infant were left alone for three hours by their mother.  That's what Hampden County District Attorney Bill Bennett announced on Friday, also saying it was likely that charges would be filed against the 21 year old mother, Erica Luce.

The "welfare motel" aspect of this tragedy is raising nearly as much ire as the death of the baby.
"The policy fails on all levels,. it fails for the taxpayers, if fails for the communities that are taking these families into their communities and at the same time its failing the families, it’s not placing them in a situation where they can succeed," said Representative Jim Welch.

Representative Jim Welch and Senator Stephen Buoniconti are pushing legislation to change the current system, hoping to change the way the homeless are housed, something they believe will help prevent the tragedies of late.

"Enough is enough we need to change this policy, this policy is a failed policy, " said Representative Jim Welch.  CBS3.
I'll have to spend at least part of today finding out what this new legislation is, but I'm worried.  Last year Sen. Buoniconti had a piece of "welfare reform" legislation that was punitive and showed a lack of understanding of conditions "on the ground" for poor families.  I've said before that the only thing worse than housing homeless families in motels is not to house them at all.

In Boston, the trial continues for a Hull woman accused of killing her four year old daughter with an overdose of psychotropic drugs.  Oddly, the doctor who prescribed these drugs for the child when she was only two years old, and who approved increasing the dosage, has not been indicted and has returned to her practice.

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen wrote passionately this weekend about the bullying of Pheobe Prince, a South Hadley High freshman who killed herself five months after a specialist in bullying spoke at the high school to a mostly empty school auditorium.  Massachusetts lawmakers are now hurrying to get proposed anti-bullying legislation out of draft form and to the floor for a vote.  I wonder if it's crossed the mind of Springfield mother Sirdeaner L. Walker, whose 11 year old son killed himself last year after unrelenting bullying by other students at the New Leadership Charter School, that it's seemed to take the death of a white student from a middle class community to get the anti-bullying ball roll again?  It's certainly crossed mine.  The local blog Granby 01033, whose author teaches at a local high school, has a great description of how bullying can be tackled by school administrators-- but it takes the political will to do so.

This morning's Boston Globe reports that a public apology for years of dumping sewage from its cruise ship into Salem Harbor may be part of a plea agreement for the Rockmore Co. with federal prosecutors.  I didn't know this sort of thing took place, but apparently it won't be the first time in Massachusetts that those found guilty of violating environmental laws have had to put an apology in the newspaper or on a billboard.  According to the Globe, "some defense lawyers and scholars say the ads represent a throwback to the stocks and pillories of Colonial times and are designed less to educate the public and more to humiliate wrongdoers."

Would they rather be in jail instead of having to publicly humiliate themselves?  Sorry, if done fairly, I've got absolutely no problem with this.  How about you?

Photo from kpishdadi's photostream at Flickr.