Saturday, May 30, 2009

Susan Boyle you are still Number #1 with me!

May 30 2009 5:38 PM EDT
Susan Boyle Loses 'Britain's Got Talent,' But Soars With Final Performance
Singer returns to 'I Dreamed a Dream,' but comes in second to dance troupe Diversity.

By Jem Aswad
Views 21,233

The world was fixated on the final "Britain's Got Talent" Saturday (May 30), mainly to see how the unlikely overnight sensation Susan Boyle, who has been battered by the media in the wake of last week's shaky performance on the show would fare. She did not disappoint her fans, who, judging by the amount of traffic clogging the show's Web site, were flocking to their computers to see her performance — but ultimately came in second, losing out to dance troupe Diversity. The 10-member British troupe will receive 100,000 pounds ($160,000) and will perform at the Royal Variety Performance before the Queen.

After singing performances from contestants Shaheen Jafargholi (who was told by judge Simon Cowell, "You have a great chance of winning this whole thing"), 2 Grand, Hollie Steel and Shaun Smith, Boyle returned to the stage with the song that made her famous, "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Misérables," soaring through the song with a rendition that had the crowd standing on its feet before she was halfway done.

After the performance, the show's hosts acknowledged the pressure Boyle has been under this week, to which she said: "I want to thank the people for all the support they've given me, especially the people at home and people in the audience. Thank you all very much."

Asked if it was worth it, she replied, "Well worth it! Well worth it! To hell with everything!" Asked if she feels at home onstage, she said, "I really feel at home onstage, of course I do, I'm among friends am I not?" she asked, looking straight into the crowd.

Judge Piers Morgan, who commented extensively on Boyle's hardships last week, even citing negative headlines before saying, "I thought, all you have to do to answer all your critics... is sing the song we all fell in love with, sing it better than you did last time, and Susan, I'm not supposed to favor anyone in this competition as a judge, but forget it, that was the greatest performance I've seen in 'Britain's Got Talent' history, you should win this competition, I loved it!" Boyle grimaced slightly and put her hand over her face.

Judge Amanda Holden seconded his praise, adding that "Simon [Cowell] had a tear in his eye, and I've never seen that before."

For his part, Cowell referred to her "weird seven weeks" and said, "You had every right to walk away from this ... and a lot of people said you shouldn't even be in this competition, that you're not equipped to deal with it. For what? For you to sit at home with your cat and say 'I've missed an opportunity'? I completely disagree with that. Win or lose, you had the guts to come back here tonight and face your critics, and you beat them. And that's the most important thing. Whatever happens, and I've got to know the real Susan Boyle, who is not the person I've seen portrayed in the media, you can walk away from this, win or lose, with your head held high. I absolutely adore you."

When Diversity were announced as winners, Boyle put on a brave face, saying, "The best people won," and she wished them "all the best."

Latin Hymn for Pentecost, 13th century

Come, thou Holy Spirit, come:
And from thy celestial home send thy light and brilliancy.
Come, thou father of the poor,
come who givest all our store,
come the soul's true radiancy.
Come, of comforters the best, of the soul the sweetest guest,
sweetly and refreshingly.
Come, in labour rest most sweet,
shade and coolness in the heat, comfort in adversity.
Thou who art the Light most blest,
come fulfill their inmost breast, who believe most faithfully.
For without thy Godhead's dower,
man hath nothing in his power, save to work iniquity.
What is filthy make thou pure,
what is wounded work its cure,
water what is parched and dry.
Gently bend the stubborn will,
warm to life the heart that's chill,
guide who goeth erringly.
Fill thy faithful who adore,
and confess thee evermore,
with thy sevenfold mystery.
Here thy grace and virtue send,
grant salvation in the end, and in heaven felicity. Amen.

(Latin Hymn, 13th century)

O God the Holy Ghost

O God the Holy Ghost
Who art light unto thine elect
Evermore enlighten us.
Thou who art fire of love
Evermore enkindle us.
Thou who art Lord and Giver of Life,
Evermore live in us.
Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace,
Evermore replenish us.
As the wind is thy symbol,
So forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge our dross

Christina Rossetti (AD 1830-1894)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Edwin Starr - War

War! - huh- yeah-
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

War! – huh – yeah-
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y’all

War! – huh – good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

Ohhh… War! I despise
Because it means destruction’
Of innocent lives

War means tears
to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
and lose their lives

I said - War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War! Whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

War! It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War! Friend only to the undertaker
War! It’s an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind

War has caused unrest in the younger generation
Induction then destruction-
Who wants to die?

Ohhh… War – Good God Y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it, Say it, Say it

War! Uh-huh – Yeah - Huh!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

War! It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War! It’s got one friend, that’s the undertaker
War has shattered many a young mans dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much to precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life, it can only take it away

War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War! Whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me…

War! It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War! Friend only to the undertaker
Peace Love and Understanding;
tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
You tell me
Say it, Say it, Say it

War! Huh – Good God y’all
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it.

"War" is a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. Whitfield produced the song, a blatant anti-Vietnam War protest, with The Temptations as the original vocalists. After Motown began receiving repeated requests to release "War" as a single, Whitfield re-recorded the song with Edwin Starr as the vocalist, deciding to withhold the Temptations' version so as not to alienate their more conservative fans. Starr's version of "War" was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970, and is not only the most successful and well-known record of his career, but is also one of the most popular protest songs ever recorded. Its power was reasserted when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took their rendition into the Top 10 in 1986.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Donkey in Burgandy, France!

Summer is almost here!

Pre-College Remedial Classes

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After Bethany Martin graduated from high school here last June, she was surprised when the local community college told her that she had to retake classes like basic composition, for no college credit. Each remedial course costs her $350, more than a week’s pay from her job at a Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Ms. Martin blames chaotic high school classes. “The kids just took over,” she recalls. But her college instructors say that even well-run high school courses often fail to teach what students need to know in college. They say that Ms. Martin’s senior English class, for instance, focused on literature, but little on writing.

Like Ms. Martin, more than a million college freshmen across the nation must take remedial courses each year, and many drop out before getting a degree. Poorly run public schools are a part of the problem, but so is a disconnect between high schools and colleges.

“We need to better align what we expect somebody to be able to do to graduate high school with what we expect them to do in college,” said Billie A. Unger, the dean at Ms. Martin’s school, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, who oversees “developmental” classes, a nice word for remedial. “If I’m to be a pro football player, and you teach me basketball all through school, I’ll end up in developmental sports,” she said.

Now the Obama administration is pressing states to get public school and higher education authorities working together. President Obama recently set the goal of again making the United States the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020, which means a lot more students who start college will have to graduate.

So the stimulus law that Mr. Obama signed in February requires states receiving stabilization money to work to improve courses and tests so that high school graduates can succeed in college without remedial classes.

Experts called the new requirements an important shift in federal policy, which until now has focused on promoting college access and financial aid.

“This is a breakthrough, the first time we’ve had federal policies try to move the public schools and the postsecondary systems closer together by demanding preparation in high school and persistence in college,” said Michael Kirst, a Stanford University professor emeritus who has studied the proliferation of remedial courses on American campuses.

More than 60 percent of students enrolling at two-year colleges, and 20 percent to 30 percent at four-year colleges, take remedial courses, Dr. Kirst estimated, although he said flawed official record-keeping had made a precise accounting impossible.

“Right now, high schools hand students off to colleges and declare victory,” Dr. Kirst said. “They say, ‘A high percentage of our graduates went to college,’ but they don’t look at how many had to take remedial courses or never got a degree. And the colleges blame the high schools for not preparing students, but don’t work to align the courses. The two systems don’t communicate well at all.”

The disconnect between public schools and higher education came under discussion recently at Blue Ridge College, where Education Secretary Arne Duncan led a town hall-style meeting.

“When colleges say the problem is with the way kids come out of high school, and high schools say the problem is the way the kids come out of middle school, we don’t get anywhere,” Mr. Duncan said after the meeting. “We all have to hold ourselves accountable.”

Gayle Manchin, the wife of Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat, participated in the meeting. In an interview afterward, she said she learned of the disconnect between secondary and postsecondary worlds when teaching at a state university in the last decade. Even some high school honors students failed college placement exams and were assigned to her developmental courses, she said.

“Boy, were they surprised,” Ms. Manchin said.

Steven L. Paine, the schools superintendent in West Virginia, said the state now requires three years of high school math to graduate, up from two, and has begun working with some 40 other states to develop “college and career-ready standards” for its public schools.

That effort dates to 2005, when 13 states agreed to work together to develop better definitions of what students need to know to be ready for college, more rigorous courses to teach those standards and tougher examinations to test them, said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a Washington-based organization that is coordinating the effort.

California has come up with an innovative early-warning system in which students take required math and English tests at the end of 11th grade, Mr. Cohen said.

“When you get the results back, you’re told, ‘Congratulations, you are ready to do college-level work,’ ” Mr. Cohen said. “The other message says, ‘The results show you’re not ready for college, but the good news is you have a whole year to get the skills you need.’ ”

California developed that system by bringing together educators from the public high school and the state university systems to work on ways to improve high school graduates’ transition to college.

Martinsburg High School, five blocks southeast of Blue Ridge College, turns out scores of graduates who end up in the college’s remedial classes. Ms. Martin, 19, works part-time at Chick-fil-A for $7.50 an hour when she is not at college. In an interview, she recalled some high school classes in which she could have learned more.

“My 10th-grade English class was out of control,” she said. “The guys would talk and shout, and the teacher wouldn’t do anything.”

A chemistry teacher, she said, spent two weeks teaching students to convert inches to centimeters.

“The third week he just stopped teaching,” she said. “Kids were sitting on the lab counters and sleeping and going out to McDonald’s.”

Other Martinsburg graduates described similar experiences.

Regina Phillips, who became the high school’s principal last summer, said she took over a school in trouble. Three English teachers and five math teachers were uncertified, she said.

“The dropout rate was below standard,” Ms. Phillips said. “In many courses, the rigor wasn’t there.”

She has hired new teachers, cracked down on tardiness and indiscipline, and is encouraging the school’s excellent music program, she said.

“Over time, we’ll be providing the colleges with the level of students they deserve,” Ms. Phillips said.

Foot Note:

My adopted daughter is on the deans list in college now but had to take these remedial English classes. She was floored to find out she was not up to par in English. She received good grades at Jamestown High School. She was stunned when JCC told her she would have to take these classes before she took basic English. I am really shocked how widespread this problem is. Our schools are failing so badly it is pathetic.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I am glad Prop 8 was upheld in California

I am glad Prop 8 was upheld in California. If Gay activists want some form of civil union like they have in the UK I am OK with that. I have many Gay friends but I do not think we should change the very institution our society is built upon on such a pretense as the need for equal protection for Gay couples to receive social benefits or the right to visit ones companion in the hospital. These are separate issues unrelated to marriage. Marriage is the union of a man and women. Around the world for thousands and thousands of years marriage has always been about protecting the children and providing a safe atmosphere to rear children and protect women when they are preoccupied by small children and pregnant. A man and a women join to become a unit and that is what marriage is. All this hoopla about the right to marry who you please is just a crock of selfish garbage. Gay people deserve the benefits of the state and society concerning inheritance and visiting rights in the hospital but they do not need the protection of marriage. We have become so spoiled and arrogant in the West we have thrown away our neighborhoods and our extended families and our sense of social sacrifice and duty. Do we now want to hold marriage under water until it too is dead? I am not making any moral judgment on Homosexual behavior, however marriage is not something that is for everyone nor has it ever been for everyone. If you don't like what marriage is don't wed. Be happy you made the right choice for you don't try to force the whole world to redefine what marriage is to suit your need for security and acceptance. Marriage is not a shield or a trophy, its a commitment for life. It should never be entered into lightly.

Sotomayor is Obama's choice for Supreme Court seat

By Ben Feller and David Espo
Associated Press

President Barack Obama chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, praising her as "an inspiring woman" with both the intellect and compassion to interpret the Constitution wisely.

Obama said Sotomayor has more experience as a judge than any current member of the high court had when nominated, adding she has earned the "respect of colleagues on the bench, the admiration of many lawyers who argue cases in her court and the adoration of her clerks, who look to her as a mentor."

Standing next to Obama at the White House, Sotomayor recalled a childhood spent in a housing project in the Bronx as well as her upper-echelon legal career: "I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government."

Barring the unexpected, Senate confirmation seems likely, given the large Democratic majority. If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court, the third in history. She would succeed retiring Justice David Souter.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a statement saying he looked forward "to working with both Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to confirm Judge Sotomayor as the first Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the court."

Senate Republicans pledged to give her a fair hearing, and some questioned whether she would base decisions on her personal feelings, rather than constitutional principles. Given her background, any effort to filibuster her nomination could carry political risks, since Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population and an increasingly important one politically.

Sotomayor would be unlikely to alter the ideological balance of the court, since Souter generally sides with the liberals on key 5-4 rulings. But at 54, she is a generation younger that Souter, and liberal outside groups hope she will provide a counterpoint to some of the sharply worded conservative rulings.

Introducing his choice, Obama said, "Along the way, she's faced down barriers, overcome the odds and lived out the American dream that brought her parents here so long ago."

The president called on the Senate to confirm Sotomayor before the court begins its new term in October, and noted pointedly that she has already won Senate approval twice in her career. Seven of the Senate's current Republicans voted to confirm her for the appeals court in 1998.

She was nominated a federal judge by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, then elevated to the appeals court by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. Senate Republicans slow-walked her confirmation more than a decade ago, in part because she was viewed even then as a potential pick for the Supreme Court.

The White House announcement ceremony was a picture of diversity, the first black president, appointing the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, who is white.

Sotomayor's nomination opens a new phase in the drive to replace Souter, as liberal and conservative groups alike scour the record she has compiled in 17 years on the federal bench.

In one of her most notable decisions, as an appellate judge she sided last year with the city of New Haven, Conn., in a discrimination case brought by white firefighters. The city threw out results of a promotion exam because too few minorities scored high enough. Coincidentally, that case is now before the Supreme Court.

That ruling has already drawn criticism from conservatives, and is likely to play a role in her confirmation hearing.

In one of her most memorable rulings as federal district judge, in 1995, Sotomayor ruled with Major League Baseball players over owners in a labor strike that had led to the cancellation of the World Series.

Obama referred to that in his remarks, then joked he hoped her support for the Yankees would not unduly influence New Englanders to oppose her in the Senate.

Among them is Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said, "The American people will want the Senate to carry out its constitutional duty with conscientiousness and civility."

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, issued a statement saying it will be up to the Senate to determine "if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views." That harked back the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who likened the job of a judge to that of a baseball umpire.

In his remarks, Obama made no mention of his earlier statement that he wanted a justice with empathy, although his remark that compassion was needed came close.

Sotomayor grew up in New York after her parents moved from Puerto Rico. She has dealt with diabetes since age 8 and lost her father at age 9, growing up under the care of her mother in humble surroundings. As a girl, inspired by the Perry Mason television show, she knew she wanted to be a judge. She is divorced with no children.

A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, a former prosecutor and private attorney, Sotomayor became a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992. She became an appeals judge in 1998 for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

At her Senate confirmation hearing more than a decade ago, she said, "I don't believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it."

Obama's nomination is the first by a Democratic president in 15 years.

One conservative group did not wait for the formal announcement. Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, issued a statement calling Sotomayor a "liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written."

Abortion rights have been a flashpoint in several recent Supreme Court confirmations, although Sotomayor has not written any controversial rulings on the subject.

As a federal appeals court judge in 2002, she ruled against an abortion rights group that had challenged a government policy prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions.

In her opinion, Sotomayor wrote that the government was free to favor the anti-abortion position over a pro-choice position when public funds were involved.

Sotomayor has spoken about her pride in her ethnic background and has said that personal experiences "affect the facts that judges choose to see."

"I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging," she said in a speech in 2001. "But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

From the moment Souter announced his resignation, it was widely assumed Obama would select a woman to replace him, and perhaps a Hispanic as well.

Obama came to office at a time when several potential vacancies loomed on the high court. Justice John Paul Stevens at is 89, and Ginsburg recently underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Insult to Service

by Jayne Lyn Stahl

There is nothing new about this story, and it isn't one that is easy to read. And, for a country that is hooked on novelty, it is even harder to get down, but, on a holiday designed to pay tribute to those who serve this country in times of war, we owe it to those who return from battle to take a hard look at how best we may serve them.

As of this month, according to the Veterans Administration's own Web site, about one-third of the adult homeless population has been in the armed forces. Current population estimates are that, on any given night, as many as 154,000 veterans, of both genders, are homeless, and possibly twice as many experience homelessness during the year.

97% of homeless veterans are male; the vast majority of whom are single. Homeless vets tend to be older, and far more educated than their civilian counterparts. 45% are said to suffer from some form of "mental illness," and more than half are African-American or Hispanic.

Of those veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as reported by Aaron Glantz more than a year ago, those who return from battle with some kind of physical, or psychological disability, often fall prey to the Department of Veterans Affairs which victimizes them further by delaying their claims often for months, and sometimes for years.

Somewhere around 300,000 returning wounded soldiers have filed for disability benefits, and have waited for as long as two years to find out if they've been approved. Denial of these benefits have led to homelessness.

Those whose claims have been thrown out, and who appeal, often have to wait an average of five years for a response.

In the first half of 2008 alone, more than 1,100 vets died before hearing if their claims were approved. And, since the onset of the Iraq War seven years ago, the number of veterans filing for disability has nearly doubled.

Those who return from war with what the VA simply calls "mental illness," but what we now know to be Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, must first prove that their illness is service-related in order to have their treatment covered by the VA.

Any suggestion that the Office of Veterans Affairs use the IRS as a pardigm for how to handle claims was dismissed as unworkable by VA upper managment.

Then, there are those who don't return at all. The Army's suicide rate has reached record levels in the past year alone. The number of suicides in the military has increased more than 60% since the war in Iraq started, and it now surpasses that of the general population. Many attribute the growing problem to a seven year war with as many as three tours of duty, but in a volunteer army, loss of faith in leadership, or disillusionment with the reasons for combat, as well as the absence of an exit strategy, may also be seen as compelling factors.

But, what of those who survive the battlefield only to die by their own hand? Alarmngly, soldiers, age 20-24, who served during the "war on terror," now have the highest suicide rate of all vets. The suicide rate among Iraq war veterans is egregiously high, and growing. And, importantly, suicide is a reflection of hopelessness, as well as a sense of displacement.

When you consider that suicidal ideation is considered a symptom of PTSD, the Office of Veterans Affairs adds insult to injury by setting up road hazards for those who file PTSD disability claims by making them prove that their mental health issues are directly attributable to their service in uniform. This is an outrage, and it is almost as much of an outrage as it is that any member of our armed forces should be released to face the cold pavement of an inner city street.

It's not enough for the VA to acknowledge the problem of homeless vets by simply regurgitating the statistics. The VA, and the Obama administration, must work to address the underlying displacement, and disenfranchisement, as well as work to undo the angst of returning from a battlefield where one expected to be treated like saviors by people who,can't wait for us to go home.

Expanding benefits under the GI Bill, a measure which was rejected roundly by the Bush administration, would be a good place to start in honoring our returning veterans, but taking the $80 million Defense Secretary Gates was willing to spend on a brand new supermax prison, and using it instead to build low income, federally subsidized, housing for homeless veterans would be a far better way to show what our government thinks of those who have served them honorably. Anything less would be an insult to their service.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Will Ye Go Flanders

Will Ye Go to Flanders?

Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?
Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?
There we'll get wine and brandy,
And sack and sugar-candy
Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?

Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?
And see the bonny sodjers there, my Mally, O
They'll gie the pipes a blaw
Wi' their plaids and kilts sae braw,
The fairest o' them a', my Mally, O

Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?
And see the chief commanders, my Mally, O
You'll see the bullets fly
And the soldiers how they die
And the ladies loudly cry, my Mally, O?

Will ye go to Flanders, my Mally, O?
And join the bold hielanders, my Mally, O?
Ye'll hear the captains callin'
And see the sergeants crawlin'
And a' the sodjers fallin', my Mally, O.

First and third verses from Folksongs and Ballads
of Scotland, MacColl. Second verse from recording
by Ossian; final verse from Kim Friedman.


words and music by Pete Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Memorial Day 2009

I used to like memorial day when the dying was in the past. I used to drive my horse and buggy in the Panama Parade and feel happy but I don't feel like parades as long as there are Americans in harms way fighting for nothing in the hot desert sun. It's a somber day for me now. I thought the Vietnam war had taught us to be just and to be kind but I was wrong. I am not sure it will ever be a happy day again it will always be weighted down with what has transpired since 9/11.


Pentecost (Ancient Greek: πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], pentekostē [hēmera], "the fiftieth day") is one of the prominent feasts in the Christian liturgical year, celebrated on the 49th day (7 weeks) after Easter Sunday - or the 50th day inclusively, hence its name. Pentecost falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday. Historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot or the day, fifty days after the Exodus, on which God gave the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, Pentecost now also commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2 in the New Testament. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes described as "the Church's birthday".

In the story recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles went out into Jerusalem prophesying and speaking in languages that all the visitors to Jerusalem could understand ("God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven... each one heard them speaking in his own language."). This is where the name of the Pentecostalist Church denomination comes from, since Pentecostalist worship often includes the practice of speaking in tongues.

Pentecost is also called Whitsun, Whitsunday, Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide, especially in the United Kingdom.

A depiction of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the Rosary Garden of San Carlos Seminary, Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City, Philippines.

According to legend, King Arthur always gathered all his knights at the round table for a feast and a quest on Pentecost.

So ever the king had a custom that at the feast of Pentecost in especial, afore other feasts in the year, he would not go that day to meat until he had heard or seen of a great marvel.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My horse made and ass out of me today.

Well the horse was a ass about getting her teeth done and the ass was an angel. Ken did say my mare has excellent teeth for her age but he is going to have to come back with stocks. Fern the donkey acted so great she did nothing at all wrong and stood there and let Ken get the job done. The donkey is 30 years old. Twig my mare is 26.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tomorrow the horse dentist comes

When horses get dental care in the form of smoothing of the sharp worn teeth its called floating the teeth. My old mare Twig gets her teeth done tomorrow. She is in her 20s and having a little trouble masticating her hay. Dental floats are in fact files that the dentist uses to even the chewing surfaces. Ken is also going to do the neighbors 30 year old donkey, Fern.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I admire John Frederick Herring in bed.

Pharoah's Horses, John Frederick Herring (Senior) (1795-1865)

I have an antique print of this painting over my bed in a Victorian Frame, LOL.

Herring was a highly successful and prolific artist, Herring ranks along with Sir Edwin Landseer as one of the more eminent animal painters of mid-nineteenth (19th) century Europe. The paintings of Herring were very popular, and many were engraved, including his 33 winners of the St. Leger and his 21 winners of the Derby. Herring exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1818-1865, at the British Institution from 1830-1865, and at the Society of British Artists in 1836-1852, where Herring became Vice-President in 1842. Herring created hundreds of paintings which were acknowledged during his lifetime.

Black clergy opposing gay marriage resent civil rights comparision

By Jay Tokasz

Black clergy have long opposed the march toward legal same-sex marriages. Now, they’re also challenging the growing efforts of gay-marriage supporters to frame the issue as a civil rights cause.

The Rev. William Gillison, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, a large African-American congregation on East Delevan Avenue, said he is insulted by the comparison.

“We know what we have gone through as an ethnic group. We feel the terminology, the definition itself, has really been hijacked,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s just another ploy to garner more support from people who may not understand what the civil rights struggle was all about.”

Bishop Michael A. Badger, pastor of Bethesda World Harvest International Church on Main Street, said that he doesn’t doubt there is discrimination against gay people but that it is hardly on the order of what African-Americans have encountered and still face.

“As an African-American, I don’t have a choice in the color of my skin. I have a choice in whether I’m abstinent or not,” Badger said. “I don’t think you can compare the two.”

Pastor Jeffery Bowens, who leads Love Alive Christian Fellowship on Genesee Street, also disagrees with the comparison.

“It doesn’t add up to me,” Bowens said. “It’s really attempting to get empathy more than anything else.”

In April, Gov. David A. Paterson, who is black, compared the fight to eliminate slavery in the 1800s to the current effort to legalize gay marriage. He later chided religious leaders for not having spoken out against discrimination of gays.

Most black pastors, here and elsewhere, remain overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds and objected to Paterson’s characterizations.

Among the region’s black clergy, the Rev. Gerard Williams stands largely alone.

Williams, who leads Unity Fellowship of Christ, a small, fledgling congregation, echoed Paterson’s remarks, saying, “Oppression is oppression.”

“If Dr. [Martin Luther] King had to weigh in on it, he’d come down on the side of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said Williams.

Clergy who oppose gay marriage don’t want to hear that argument, he added, because they have “become the very thing that oppressed them.”

If same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York, Williams anticipates he will field quite a few more telephone calls from couples hoping to tie the knot. And he would be happy to perform the ceremony.

“It was not Christ’s intent that anybody be left out. It was not Christ’s intent that anybody be judged and condemned,” he said.

Sylvia Ruhe, director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, hailed Paterson as an “old school civil rights leader” for his strong stance in favor of gay marriage.

“Confronting and challenging homophobia is some of the unfinished business of the civil rights movement,” said Ruhe, whose organization is based in Washington, D. C. “The United States of America has never lost a civil rights battle. We’re not going to lose this one.”

Five states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and, most recently, Iowa and Maine — already have legalized same-sex marriage, and Tuesday, New York’s Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, passed a bill by a margin of 89 to 52 that would make gay marriages legal.

The measure is expected to go to the State Senate, which also is controlled by Democrats. If a bill is approved there, Paterson has said he would sign it into law.

The most recent poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University last week, found New Yorkers split 46 percent to 46 percent on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. An earlier poll by Siena College found 53 percent of state residents in favor of making gay marriages legal.

African-Americans were the only ethnic group in both polls to say they did not approve of gay marriage, by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent in the Quinnipiac survey and by 49 percent to 44 percent in the Siena study.

Black ministers — along with the state’s Catholic bishops — remain among the most vehement opponents of the measure.

“My opposition to this is very simple. It’s not my biblical understanding of what marriage is,” Gillison said. “We believe when you’re talking marriage, it’s between a man and a woman. We don’t even believe marriage is man’s idea. It’s God’s idea. This has always been for us an issue that is one in the spiritual realm, not the political realm.”

The Catholic bishops note that their stance is “not simply a matter of theology, and religious values are not the sole source of opposition to this plan.”

Encouraging marriage between a man and woman, the bishops said in a statement, serves the state’s interests because children raised in homes with a mother and father are more likely to become good citizens, creating wealth, stability and security for society.

Marriage between one man and one woman historically “has made our society strong,” added Bowens, who expressed concern about whether approval of gay marriage would open the door for practices such as bigamy or polygamy.

“Is it going to cause society to deteriorate?” he said. “Where do we end up if we keep discarding the things that have kept us together? . . . It’s confusing. It’s disorienting.”

Some local black clergy said they oppose same-sex marriage but they were uncomfortable elaborating because they didn’t want to upset gay and lesbian members of their churches. They said they consider any sexual activity outside of traditional marriage between a man and woman to be sinful. But they also did not want to dwell on negative behavior or judge parishioners who are gay, they said.

The Rev. John Young, pastor of Fellowship Christian Center, maintains an informal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with members of his congregation.

“My position has always been, ‘I don’t want to know.’ Church is not the place to talk about sex,” he said.

Young said he wouldn’t perform a gay marriage in his church even if it were legal to do so.

But, he added, he doesn’t turn anyone away for worship in his church, because “our job is to preach the love of Christ so that they can be set free.”

And he is less concerned about the impact of the marriage legislation.

“It’s going to come to a vote, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect the church at all,” he said. “There’s no mandate that the church has to perform one of these weddings, and they won’t.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Preakness Winner: A Star Is Born

BALTIMORE, May 17, 2009

Rachel Alexandra returned home to Louisville today a star.

ESPN's racing analyst Jeannine Edwards has all the details on the Preakness.

At the 134th Preakness Stakes Saturday, the 3-year-old filly, the only female in the race, showed the boys who was boss.

She took an early lead at the starting gate, stayed strong at the turns and fended off a last-minute challenge from the Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird. That's despite starting in position No. 13, the outermost spot on the track. No horse has ever won the Preakness from that spot.

"It's great for horseracing," Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley said. "She's a great filly. My colt's a super-colt, he won the Derby, came in second here."

Calvin Borel, the winning jockey, who made the controversial decision to ride the filly instead of the Derby champion he commandeered just two weeks ago has no regrets. After all, he won the Kentucky Oaks with Rachel Alexandra May 1.

"I've been in the business 30 years. I know my horses, sir, and I knew she was most probably the best horse I've been on in my life," the unrepentant Borel said.

Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today, said the victory was historic.

"You can make a very strong case that this victory by Rachel Alexandra is the most significant victory by a girl against the boys in the history of sports," she said.

Brennan said that it probably helped that Rachel Alexandra was the favorite to win.

"Fillies have won Triple Crown races before, and of course we need to make that clear, although it has been since 1924 that a filly won in the Preakness," Brennan said. "Last year Eight Belles coming in second at the Kentucky Derby and then tragically having to be put down because of breaking both of her legs."

Borel rode Rachel Alexandra to five victories in a row this year. But this is her first Triple Crown race.

Rachel Alexandra's previous owners didn't believe in racing her against colts. She proved them wrong.

The filly has won the hearts of women around the country, both in and out of racing. She even has her own Facebook fan page.

On the track, she's all strength and speed -- and with her braided mane, sheer girl power.

The big question now is whether Rachel Alexandra will race in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks June 6 and have a rematch against Mine That Bird.

Rachel Alexandra Faces Tough Competition at Belmont

"There's going to be some great horses at the Belmont," Borel said. "Even if Alexandra comes, she's one of them. She's a super-filly, but there are other horses that are very very tough too."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Skewball the Racehorse

Steeleye Span's Skewball

You gallant sportsmen all, come listen to my story
It's of the bold Skewball, that noble racing pony
Arthur Marvel was the man that brought bold Skewball over
He's the diamond of the land and he rolls about in clover

The horses were bought out with saddle, whip and bridle
And the gentlemen did shout when they saw the noble riders
And some did shout hooray, the air was thick with curses
And on the grey Griselda the sportsmen laid their purses

The trumpet it did sound, they shot off like an arrow,
They scarcely touched the ground for the going it was narrow.
Then Griselda passed him by and the gentlemen did holler,
“The grey will win the day and Skewball he will follow.”

Then halfway round the course up spoke the noble rider
“I fear we must fall back for she's going like a tiger.
Up spoke the noble horse, “Ride on, my noble master,
For we're half way round the course and now we'll see who's faster.”

And when they did discourse, bold Skewball flew like lightning
They chased around the course and the grey mare she was taken
“Ride on my noble lord, for the good two hundred guineas.
The saddle shall be of gold when we pick up our winnings.”

Past the winning post, bold Skewball proved quite handy
And horse and rider both ordered sherry wine and brandy
And then they drank a health unto Miss Griselda
And all that lost their money on the sporting plains of Kildare

Rachel Alexandra wins the Preakness

Rachel Alexandra, ridden by Calvin Borel on Saturday, was the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes.

John Frederick Herring

Charles XII in a Stable - Winner of the St.Leger 1839
Signed John Frederick Herring (Senior) (1795-1865)

John Frederick Herring does Equines!!!

Rockingham in a Stable - Winner of the St.Leger 1833
Signed John Frederick Herring (Senior) (1795-1865)

John Frederick Herring was born in 1795 at Blackfrairs, London. He started his career as a coach painter and in 1814 moved to Yorkshire where, after spending time as a stable lad, he became the driver of a mail coach.
In the early 1820s he took up painting professionally having had his first Royal Academy exhibit in 1818. Shortly afterwards he moved to London where he studied under Abraham Cooper and Sawrey Gilpin becoming a sporting and animal painter.

His early works were mainly of racehorses and hunters and for 33 successive years he painted the winners of the Derby and the St. Leger as well as many other famous horses and jockeys of the day. Herring’s works have always been highly sought after and although he never became a Royal Academician, he was appointed Animal Painter to the Duchess of Kent and is now recognized as one of the finest horse painters in history. In his later years he moved to Tunbridge Wells where he died in 1865.

Herring Snr exhibited 22 works at The Royal Academy from 1818-1868, 83 at The Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street 1836-1852 and 44 at The British Institute 1830-1865. His works were widely engraved.

Works in Museums: Aberdeen Art Gallery; Burnley Art Gallery; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Doncaster Art Gallery; Dunedin Art Gallery; New Zealand; Glasgow Art Gallery; Leamington Spa Art Gallery; Leeds Art Gallery; Leicester Art Gallery; Liverpool Walker Art Gallery; London, Guildhall Art Gallery; Tate Gallery; Victoria & Albert Museum; Nottingham Art Gallery; Wolverhampton Art Gallery; H.M The Queen’s Collection.

2009 The Preakness Stakes Runs Today

The Preakness Stakes is an American Grade I stakes race 1-3/16 mile (1.91 km) thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old horses, held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kg); fillies 121 lb (55 kg). The Preakness Stakes has been termed "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" because a blanket of Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta, the state flower of Maryland) is traditionally placed around the winner's neck.

Filly will be fabulous in Preakness Stakes

By Mike Brunker

BALTIMORE - The 134th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday is dripping with intrigue, with the top four finishers in the Kentucky Derby spoiling for a rematch, jockey Calvin Borel abandoning the Derby winner and a couple of horse owners engaging in backroom machinations worthy of Boss Tweed.

But there is only one headline for this race, and it is that the fabulous filly Rachel Alexandra will make her first start against the males in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

I’ve also instructed our sports editors to start working on clever headlines for after the race that go something like this: “Filly fantastic! Rachel Alexandra captures the Preakness.” That’s because she won’t just run against the boys, she will beat them.

Rachel Alexandra, the 8-to-5 morning line favorite in the race, is a rare bird. She’s as calm and smart as a thoroughbred racehorse can be and has the high cruising speed of a Maserati in fifth gear.

And the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is on the verge of joining an even more exclusive club: If she wins on Saturday, she would become just the fifth filly to win the Preakness and the first in 85 years, since Nellie Morse bested 14 rivals in 1924.

The biggest question surrounding Rachel Alexandra is just how good she is.

As Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas noted Thursday at the Pimlico stakes barn, nobody knows because she really hasn’t been tested since she blossomed late last year. After running second in the Pocahontas Stakes on Nov. 1, she has reeled off five straight stakes victories, culminating in a jaw-dropping 20 ¼-length triumph in the Kentucky Oaks, the 3-year-old fillies’ equivalent of the Kentucky Derby.

More impressive than the margin of victory was the way she did it. Borel never moved his hands from the reins as she surged away from her overmatched rivals. He was carrying a whip, but on this trip it was just for decoration.

“I don’t think Rachel Alexandra, standing there in her stall, knows how good she is,” Lukas said jerking his thumb in the filly’s general direction.

The rest of us should have a better idea after Saturday, as Rachel Alexandra will likely have to work for her glory this time.

The biggest hurdle she’ll face will be in the form of a dozen well-muscled and accomplished 3-year-old colts and geldings, including Derby winner Mine That Bird and the three horses who chased him across the finish line in Louisville, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man and Papa Clem. Toss in beaten Derby favorite Friesan Fire, also-rans General Quarters and Flying Private and five fresh faces led by crack sprinter Big Drama and the improving Terrain and you have the makings of a quality field capable of pressuring Rachel Alexandra at several points in the race.

That would put the filly into unknown territory, as she hasn’t had to repel multiple challenges in a single race since her coming of age party in November.

But the defection of Borel from Derby winner Mine That Bird to Rachel Alexandra, whom he has ridden to victory in her last five races, speaks volumes. The fact that he was willing to cede the seat on the only horse with a chance of capturing the Triple Crown is a strong endorsement of the filly’s superiority.

Another potential stumble — apart from the literal one — is that Rachel Alexandra will have to overcome a change of barns since her Oaks victory.

After being well and conservatively managed by trainer Hal Wiggins for owners Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer, Rachel Alexandra was sold privately to Jess Jackson, founder of the Kendall Jackson winery, and partner Harold McCormick one week ago and transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn.

Her former connections had no intention of running her in any of the Triple Crown races — in fact they hadn’t even nominated her to the series – but Jackson and McCormick made the purchase with an immediate goal in mind: The Preakness.

Disruptions of routine and alterations in a training regimen can be unsettling to any thoroughbred, let alone a young filly, but both her former and current connections describe Rachel Alexandra as almost supernaturally calm and reportedly she hasn’t turned a hair since the change of address.

Her outside post draw — she’ll start from the 13 hole in a 13-horse field — could pose a more significant problem. A number of horses in the race like to run immediately to the front, mirroring Rachel Alexandra’s running style, which could force Borel to choose between getting caught wide on the first turn or tucking in behind the front runners to try and save ground.

But I don’t see that happening, as Borel will surely be aware that the other riders will be looking to force the filly as wide as possible on that first turn. And starting on the outside will make it much tougher for them to box her in and intimidate her with their bigger, stronger mounts.

They still might try, though, as there is a long tradition of ganging up on favorites in Triple Crown races, particularly where fillies are concerned.

One of the more notorious cases occurred in the 1988 Preakness, when trainer Woody Stephens and jockey Pat Day appeared to target the Derby-winning filly Winning Colors. Winning Colors’ rider Gary Stevens said Day crowded his horse throughout the race and then bumped her outward on the backstretch, leaving open a rail passage for the eventual winner, Risen Star. Winning Colors finished third in the race, while Forty Niner staggered home seventh.

One would hope that Rachel Alexandra’s foes won’t resort to such tactics to try to defeat her. But even if they do, I’m not sure they’ll succeed. She appears to be a very special filly primed to demonstrate that on Saturday.

Betting a race with a big favorite is always a challenge, but Triple Crown races usually include talented horses at such good odds that there’s no way I’m taking a pass.

Working horses of Old England

Friday, May 15, 2009

Plowing Time

Jolly Ploughboys Lyrics

It was early one morning at the break of the day
The farmer came to us, and this he did say,
Come rise up my fellows with the best of good will,
Your horses need something their bellies to fill

When four o'colock comes, me boys, it's up we do rise
And off to the stables we merrily flies.
With a-rubbin' and scrubbin' our horses we'll go
For we're all jollly fellows that follows the plough.

When six o' clock comes, me boys, at breakfast we'll meet,
And cold beef and pork we'll heartily eat.
With a piece in our pockets, to the fields we do go
For we're all jolly fellows that follows the plough.

The farmer and this he did say,
What have you been doing this long summer's day?
You've not ploughed your acre, I'll swear and I'll vow,
You are all lazy fellows that follows the plough!

Then up spoke our carter and this he did cry,
We have all ploughed our acre you tell us a lie.
We've all ploughed our acre, I'll swear and I'll vow,
We are all jolly fellows that follows the plough

Then up spoke the farmer and laughed at the joke,
Oh it's gone half past two boys it's time to unyoke,
Unharness your horses and rub them down well,
And I'll give you a jug of my very best ale.

So come all you young ploughboys,
where e're you may be.
Come take this advice and be ruled by me
Never fear any master where e're you may go,
For we're all jolly fellows that follows the plough.

Performed By Kate Rusby

Foal Born on Sunday, Mother's Day!

This foal was born on the Rice Farm here in Stedman and is a Standardbred.

A lovely horse is always an experience.... It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words. ~Beryl Markham

Foal Born Last Sunday

Men are better when riding, more just and more understanding, and more alert and more at ease and more under-taking, and better knowing of all countries and all passages; in short and long all good customs and manners cometh thereof, and the health of man and of his soul. ~Attributed to Edward Plantagenet

Nikolai V. Gogol, Steeds

Ah, steeds, steeds, what steeds! Has the whirlwind a home in your manes? Is there a sensitive ear, alert as a flame, in your every fiber? Hearing the familiar song from above, all in one accord you strain your bronze chests and, hooves barely touching the ground, turn into straight lines cleaving the air, and all inspired by God it rushes on!

~Nikolai V. Gogol, Dead Souls, 1842, translated from Russian (above is combination of translations by Bernard Guildert Guerney, Richard Peaver, and Larisa Voloklonsky)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why We Can Never Do Enough for Mother's Day (No Really, We Can't)

By Wendy Braitman

It's Mother's Day, and I would like to honor my beloved mother, by using the word mother in a sentence as often as possible. No, not that sentence. The next one. I am taking this moment to pay tribute to Anna M. Jarvis, the mother of Mother's Day, who in an ironic twist of fate was never a mother herself. Did I write ironic? I don't honestly see it that way, but rather it was precisely because Ms. Jarvis did NOT become a Mrs. nor a mom, that she devoted her life's work to persuading the nation (and 43 other countries) to officially revere mothers and in doing so, carved out a 24-hour time slot in which we get to feel like we haven't done enough.

Anna was tormented by not doing enough for her Mom. In 1907, a few years after her mother died (and left her a tidy inheritance), she created and led the "Mother's Day Movement," and began one of the most organized and successful letter-writing campaigns in history, reaching out to influential businessmen, religious leaders, newspaper editors, mayors and eventually to governors of every state. Within seven years, a resolution was passed by both houses of Congress for a national observance of Mother's Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a "public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country," setting aside the second Sunday in May, which also commemorated the anniversary of Anna's mother's death.

As it was her mother's favorite flower, and she was in charge, Anna declared the carnation the official Mother Day's emblem. Florists quickly began to reap the benefits. Soon confectioners and card companies wanted a piece of the action, and the holiday got commercialized to such an extent that Anna Jarvis could hardly recognize it. "This is not what I intended," Anna wrote in letters to hundreds of newspapers. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit." She spent the rest of her life (and life savings) in desperate battle against those who didn't demonstrate the proper piety and respect for what she considered a holy day, and died penniless and alone.

Anna M. Jarvis was born in 1864 in the rural community of Grafton, West Virginia, and she grew into a tall, attractive, redhead, eager to find her way in the world. She had watched her mother put aside pleasure and ambitions for the considerable duties of motherhood, and Anna wanted more out of life. At 27 and unmarried she took a bold, modern step and moved away from home to live in Philadelphia, working first as a stenographer and then as a writer for the advertising department of an insurance company. As to why she didn't wed, a family friend said, "she had a disastrous love affair when she was young. It left her shocked and disillusioned, and thereafter she turned her back on all men." (My theory is, she wanted a career.) After years of living on her own, Anna moved her widowed mother to Philadelphia. In 1905, she went into a period of "pathological mourning" when her mother died, creating an alter of dried flowers, and talking about little else.

I asked my therapist friend why Anna was so obsessed. "In a word," he said, "guilt." When my dear mother was still alive (did I mention that she was one of the greats!) I used to procrastinate before calling her on Mother's Day, for fear that I hadn't done enough. The first misstep was moving to San Francisco, which put me three time zones away, so my call would land at her New York doorstep in the afternoon. I would always send a card, but a card wasn't flowers (e.g. carnations) and on the rare occasion when I got it together to mail a gift, I wasn't there in person to deliver it. Once, when I timed a visit to coincide with Mother's Day, that effort also fell short because, I figured, my ultimate misstep boiled down to not having a husband or children.

Now that I understand Anna Jarvis, it all adds up. Mother's Day was created by a talented, entrepreneurial woman, who felt terrible about not following in her mother's footsteps. She spent an operatic life trying to make up for it, and embedded in her glorious, global tribute, the essence of never doing enough. But we all keep trying, as we should, because our mothers deserve it (especially mine).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some Lessons, and Concerns

Fear of a Swine Flu Epidemic in 1976 Offers Some Lessons, and Concerns, Today

Published: May 8, 2009

With fears of swine flu engulfing the nation in 1976, Janet Kinney got vaccinated to make sure she would be able to take care of her children. Instead, her children ended up taking care of her.

About a week after getting the swine flu shot, she recalled, “I was so weak I couldn’t push down the toaster button.” She spent a month in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down, before gradually recovering.

With health authorities now gearing up for what could be a huge vaccination campaign against a new strain of swine flu, the experience of 1976 is raising a note of caution.

The feared swine flu epidemic of 1976 never materialized. And several hundred people, including Ms. Kinney, who is now 68 and lives in Gig Harbor, Wash., developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological condition that causes temporary muscle weakness or paralysis. More than 30 of those people died.

Many experts say they do not think a vaccine for the new flu strain, called H1N1, would raise a similar risk for Guillain-Barré. But answering that question is difficult because to this day, no one has figured out why the 1976 vaccine caused the disease, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves.

Indeed, some researchers still question whether the vaccine did cause Guillain-Barré, particularly since flu vaccines in other years have been linked to little or no risk of the disease.

“It doesn’t make sense that one flu strain would cause Guillain-Barré syndrome where none of the others have,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Still, many experts consider the matter settled. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences concluded after an extensive review in 2003 that the “evidence favored acceptance of a causal relationship” between the 1976 vaccine and the syndrome. It stopped short, however, of saying the evidence “established” a causal relationship.

“It’s really not all that controversial anymore,” said Dr. Lawrence B. Schonberger, who as a young epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1976 gathered the initial evidence that led to the vaccination program being halted that December. Dr. Schonberger, who is still with the agency, found that for people who got vaccinated, the rate of getting a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré in the next six weeks was more than seven times as high as for those who did not get the vaccine.

In all, the vaccination resulted in nearly one extra case of Guillain-Barré for every 100,000 people immunized, which would translate into roughly 450 cases for the 45 million people who got the shot.

Some critics challenged the findings, arguing that some diagnoses were mistaken and that vaccinated people were more likely to self-report having Guillain-Barré than others because it was in the news.

But some studies canvassed health records for all diagnosed cases and had the diagnoses confirmed by experts. One of the leading critics worked on his own study, which confirmed the magnitude of the increased risk.

The more intriguing question is how the vaccine triggered the syndrome. One hypothesis was that the vaccine, rushed into production, was contaminated with Campylobacter, a type of bacterium that does cause Guillain-Barré. The Institute of Medicine said this was unlikely but could not be totally excluded.

A more likely explanation is that something in the vaccine resembled something in the nerve cells. When the body’s immune system mounted an attack on that component of the vaccine, it also then attacked the lookalike in the nerves.

Irving Nachamkin, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, examined some 1976 vaccine that had been saved by a scientist in Texas. In a paper published last year in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, he and colleagues reported that mice given the vaccine made antibodies that reacted with gangliosides, which are components of nerve cells. An antibody attack on gangliosides is part of the disease mechanism of Guillain-Barré.

But when Dr. Nachamkin tested two flu vaccines from other years which were not linked to the syndrome, the mice also made those antibodies. So the mystery remains about what was unique, if anything, about the 1976 vaccine.

In particular, the most important question now would be whether the unique factor was that it was a vaccine against a swine flu rather than a human flu. If so, that could raise concern about a vaccine for the new flu strain, which is made mostly of swine virus.

Dr. Nachamkin plays down such worries. “There’s no evidence to suggest it’s a swine-derived-virus problem,” he said.

Others say there are lessons to be learned even without solving the mystery. One is that any medicine or vaccine given to tens of millions of people is likely to have side effects, so surveillance systems need to be in place.

Another is that risks have to be weighed against benefits. Had there been a swine flu epidemic in 1976, the number of lives saved by a vaccine would have dwarfed the small number of cases of Guillain-Barré. But in 1976, the vaccine was given even though the epidemic did not materialize.

“The math is overwhelmingly in favor of vaccine if there’s an epidemic,” said Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, the president of the Institute of Medicine and co-author of “The Epidemic That Never Was,” a book about the 1976 episode. “It’s in the absence of disease that this rare effect looms large.”

This time, officials say the decision to make the vaccine will be divorced from the decision to use it. The manufacturing decision is likely in the next couple of weeks and will probably be yes. But the decision on using the vaccine will probably not be made until the fall.

For her part, Ms. Kinney, who says the syndrome left her unable to run down stairs, said she would not take the vaccine if offered. “I’m just not willing to take that chance,” she said.

Would she even need to? One intriguing idea is that if the new flu strain is similar to the 1976 strain, people who got vaccinated then might, possibly, have some protection now.

The C.D.C. says it will eventually study that question. Peter Palese, a flu expert at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said he doubted that would be the case because the two viruses appear quite different.

Still, if it were the case, the oft-maligned 1976 vaccination campaign might end up having done some good after all.

Officials Are Urged to Heed Lessons of 1976 Flu Outbreak

By Kimberly Kindy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 9, 2009

In the fall of 1976, dozens of Americans died within 48 hours of receiving a swine flu vaccine. To allay the public fears that threatened to unravel the mass inoculation program, President Gerald Ford rolled up his shirtsleeve and received his shot in front of television cameras.

More than 40 million others followed his lead. But two months later, the campaign was abruptly stopped: More deaths had followed, and hundreds were reporting serious side effects, including paralysis.

Already, medical experts and vaccine watchdog groups are urging the Obama administration to apply the lessons learned 33 years ago. In a public statement last week, former health and human services secretary Mike Leavitt recommended that officials study the federal investigation of the 1976 program. Administration officials said they are keenly aware of the history.

"We're all reviewing the process that took place in 1976 to understand the lessons learned," said Richard E. Besser, acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We may, as a nation, be faced with a similar decision" about how to address a flu pandemic.

If there was a single factor behind the debacle three decades ago, it was the speed of the decision-making, fueled by a political climate in which dissenters were chastised and punished, government records show.

"They moved too quickly. Mistakes were made," said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine, who investigated the scandal for the federal government. "People had vivid memories of the 1918 flu epidemic, of young people dropping dead. It colored everything."

Production and field-testing of the vaccine was rushed. Among other problems, the single-shot doses that were produced did not work on children. Vaccine production was shut down by the time the error was caught, and it was too late to produce second doses.

"The first thing we learned is this must be done in a step-by-step fashion. There are points along the way that you need to build in where people can say yes or no" to allow for adjustments, said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "In 1976, it was like a choo-choo train."

The atmosphere was vastly different than it is today.

Congressional inquiries at the time and the report Fineberg co-authored, called "The Swine Flu Affair: Decision-Making on a Slippery Disease," found that the process was fast-tracked largely by David J. Sencer, then director of the CDC, who lost his job over the debacle. Fineberg's report described Sencer as a "wily autocrat" who managed, with little evidence that a pandemic would ensue, to steamroll the president into announcing a national campaign.

Sencer had many defenders, and in an interview last week he stood by his decision, saying: "If there had been swine flu, we would have had deaths in the thousands. Given the state of knowledge of influenza at the time, I think we made the right decision."

Records show that Sencer wrote a March 18, 1976, memo -- signed by Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Theodore Cooper -- that outlined four possible government responses. The memo recommended one of those responses, a mass inoculation campaign, emphasizing the political fallout if a pandemic struck. "A decision must be made now," the memo said.

The memo, a government official said during the later investigation, was "a gun to our head."

Within two weeks, Sencer had recruited Jonas Salk, acclaimed for his development of the first polio vaccine, who encouraged Ford in a private meeting to endorse Sencer's plan to immunize every American as soon as possible. Hours later, Ford announced the decision to the nation with Salk at his side.

Sencer wrote his memo just weeks after health officials had detected the swine flu strain at Fort Dix, an Army training post in New Jersey. It was largely contained there, and within months -- before the first shot was given -- it was thought by most medical officials to no longer be a pandemic threat.

"It didn't matter," said Richard P. Wenzel, chairman of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, who identified the strain in some of the first victims in 1976. "The die was cast. This was a different era."

The production of the vaccine was also fast-tracked. And when hundreds of Americans began developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder that can cause paralysis, experts blamed the speedy development.

Federal health officials say they have been more deliberate in their decision-making this time around.

Robin Robinson, a director at the Department of Health and Human Services who oversees pandemic responses, said that even as officials take steps to develop a swine flu vaccine with sufficient doses for every "man, woman and child," those plans would be dialed back if the pandemic "fizzles out."

But watchdog groups fear a repeat, particularly because laws passed after the terrorist and anthrax attacks of 2001 allow for accelerated production and field tests of a vaccine in an emergency. On April 26, the Obama administration declared the spread of swine flu a public health emergency.

"We don't want them unnecessarily speeding up field tests," said Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the nonprofit National Vaccine Information Center, which frequently criticizes vaccine policy. "There are many reasons to be concerned if they take this path."

Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Mary Long said it is too early to say whether a vaccine would be developed on an accelerated timetable, "but there is flexibility" to do so, given the public emergency declaration.

Even if the production were not accelerated, Wenzel and others said that decisions about vaccine production, distribution and risks need to be clearly spelled out to the public.

"Talk to Americans like you are sitting with them at the kitchen table," he said. "Disclose the risks."

Warren Cikins, an Alexandria resident who says his life was dramatically altered by the swine flu scare, gives the same advice.

Three weeks after receiving his shot 33 years ago, Cikins suffered his first in a series of autoimmune disorders, temporary blindness in his right eye, which lasted a year. That was followed by chronic back problems, along with colitis, he said.

Cikins, a former county supervisor, said he thinks that his ailments are related to the flu vaccine, although he was never able to prove that.

This time around, 78-year-old Cikins said, the government should disclose the risks of getting vaccinated balanced against those of getting the flu.

"I am angry," he said. "They knew a certain percentage of us would suffer serious repercussions, and they withheld this from us. They need to let people make an informed decision."

The federal government ultimately reached court settlements and paid more than $90 million to hundreds of victims who said the 1976 vaccine caused neurological problems. In its final reckoning, the government counted 25 deaths associated with the shots.

In the medical community, however, there is disagreement about the rate of adverse reactions. Wenzel said neurological disorders showed up at seven times the rate seen with regular flu vaccines.

But Michael Hattwick, a former CDC official who tracked and analyzed the reactions in 1976, said that one in every 100,000 people developed a neurological disorder, a rate that he thinks is similar to what would be seen with other vaccines if they were tracked as carefully.

The potential risks were disclosed in the fine print of a two-page consent form at the time, he said.

"There are a lot of unknowns, but I believe you'd find the same rate with any flu shot," Hattwick said. Still, he said, "people should be told."

Staff writer Ceci Connolly and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.


I remember this only too well. I got a swine flu shot at the Newman Center on the Edinboro University Campus back in 1976 and got pretty sick for about 24 hours. I was 18 at the time. I went on a date that night and got sick after dinner and had to go home. No matter the guy was a jerk anyway. -Beth

Nice going, mom! Right whales break birth record!

The Associated Press

Right whales have plenty to celebrate this Mother's Day - the sea moms gave birth to a record 39 calves this spring.

The New England Aquarium said Friday that the birth surge breaks the old record of 31 and shows much improvement from 2000, when only one calf was born.

Each birthing season is important because right whales number fewer than 400 and are among the most endangered whales in the world.

Having a calf is no easy task for the 50-foot-long whales, who give birth off the Florida and Georgia coasts.

The moms travel nearly 1,000 miles down the East Coast to warmer waters for their babies, who weigh roughly 2,400 pounds at birth. And the moms can lose up to 30,000 pounds in the first year they are nursing.

Females give birth to their first calf at an average age of 9-10 years. Gestation lasts approximately 1 year. Calves are usually weaned toward the end of their first year. In the coastal waters off Georgia and northern Florida, calving occurs from December through March.

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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.