Friday, December 19, 2014

Today, The Deadline Poet Channels His Inner Sage O'The Okefenokee Swamp

With this post, a pair of authentic geniuses gracing this blog: Walt Kelly and Calvin Trillin. If this is (fair & balanced) truth to power, so be it.

[x The Nation]
Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
The Deadline Poet (Calvin Trillin)

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The backing of regimes where torture’s used
Was once an issue causing quite a fuss.
But now, to paraphrase what Pogo said,
We’ve met the torturers, and they are us. Ω

[Calvin Trillin began his career as a writer for Time magazine. Since July 2, 1990, as a columnist at The Nation, Trillin has written his weekly "Deadline Poet" column: humorous poems about current events. Trillin has written considerably more pieces for The Nation than any other single person. A native of Kansas City, MO, Trillin received his BA from Yale College in 1957. He served in the army, and then joined Time.]

Copyright © 2014 The Nation

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back In 2007, This Blogger Was Shocked

Today's post brought back memories (perhaps?) for this blogger, but this article is even-handed and not sensationalistic. However, the bottom line on ECT is not very precise. If this is a (fair & balanced) description of a therapy in search of an explanation, so be it.

[x Dallas Fishwap]
Texas Sees Resurgence In Use Of Electroconvulsive Therapy
By Doug J. Swanson

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Electroshock therapy never enjoyed much in the way of good public relations, and the low point may have come with the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest."

In the movie, a handcuffed patient played by Jack Nicholson undergoes punitive electroshock with a writhing, torturous convulsion. Some psychiatrists blame that dramatic depiction — it helped Nicholson win an Oscar — for the procedure’s fall from medical favor.

But nearly 40 years later, the procedure is on the rise in Texas. Electroconvulsive therapy, as it is now called, thrives as a treatment for some forms of mental illness, especially severe depression.

The number of ECT treatments in Texas has increased 67 percent since 2001, according to figures compiled by the state health department. ECT was used 14,176 times in Texas on 2,243 patients between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2013, the last available reporting year. The state’s figures do not include military and veterans’ hospitals.

Doctors who administer ECT say they do so for a simple reason. “It is effective,” said Ahmad Raza, a psychiatrist who performs the procedure at Zale Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas. “ECT works in very severe or profound depression. … I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

Zale Lipshy recorded more ECT treatments — 2,324 in the last reporting year — than any other provider in Texas. “We are very well-known for ECT,” said Raza, a professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “There are psychiatrists who never refer a patient for ECT to anyone but us.”

ECT no longer causes patients to thrash and contort like Nicholson’s character because they are sedated. In addition, doctors say they have learned to fine-tune treatment, and the overall technology has improved.

But those who oppose ECT say it has always caused, and continues to inflict, serious brain damage and long-term memory loss.

“It’s devastating to the fragile brain,” said Peter R. Breggin, a New York psychiatrist. “There’s no place for ECT. It should be stopped.”

Breggin publishes a brochure, titled No One Should Be Given Shock Treatment, that urges relatives of patients receiving ECT to “immediately intervene to stop it, if necessary with an attorney.”

The increase in ECT, however, does not surprise Breggin. “I have no reason to suspect it’s not gone up hugely,” he said. “Psychiatry has always increased the use of abusive treatments unless stopped.”

Most common patient

Doctors who perform ECT attribute its growing use to its success. Various studies have shown that 64 percent to 87 percent of patients with major depression respond to ECT.

In Texas’ last reporting year, 87 percent of patients were found to have moderate, severe or extreme symptoms before ECT. After ECT, only 19 percent of the patients were determined to have such symptoms.

ECT opponents note that the medical professionals who administer the treatments are the same ones who measure the results and report them to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The state requires no independent assessment.

According to state reports, most ECT patients are white, female and over 45.

In standard treatment, electrodes are attached to the patient’s head. For about eight seconds or less, a burst of electricity passes through the brain. The current induces an epileptic seizure that lasts perhaps a minute.

Within a few hours, doctors say, the symptoms of illness have abated and the patient often returns to normal activity. “It is the safest treatment in psychiatry,” said Dr. Max Fink, an internationally known proponent of ECT.

ECT has been employed in varying forms for 76 years. In its early days, electroshock was sometimes neither safe nor well-regulated.

Poorly calibrated current caused unanesthetized patients to clench their jaws until their teeth cracked. Some suffered broken bones, including fractured spines.

There were significant abuses by practitioners. Electroshock was used on young children to stop their tantrums. Some mental hospitals employed electroshock to punish uncooperative patients. Others applied it to elderly patients dozens of times for no demonstrable reason other than to generate revenue.

A 1949 Dallas Morning News account of electroshock at the Austin State Hospital — overcrowded and “rat-infested” — said the procedure had “all the outward horror of an electrocution.”

Patients were “laid head to foot in assembly line style” in a hospital hallway, the story said, with each receiving treatment as others watched. “The charge of electricity convulses the patient; the body becomes rigid, eyes dilate, face flushes and sometimes there is nosebleed and frothing at the mouth.”

The development of psychotropic medications in the 1960s and ’70s helped push ECT into the background. Its unsavory reputation helped, too.

Fink, a New York psychiatrist who has written widely on ECT, acknowledged that it still may live in the shadow of past abuses and primitive procedures. He blames much of the lingering suspicion on depictions of ECT in popular culture, in particular "Cuckoo’s Nest."

“That set the tone,” Fink said. “The public perception of this treatment has been tarnished by the movies, the press and the politicians.... This treatment, compared to many medical treatments, has a tremendous stigma.”

Under current standards, patients are fully anesthetized during ECT. A muscle relaxant keeps them from thrashing. Blood pressure and heart rate are monitored throughout.

The language used with patients has been moderated as well. The word “shock” is rarely, if ever, used. The room where the procedure takes place is commonly called the “ECT suite.”

“It’s basically like any other medical treatment,” Fink said. “If you use some guidelines, the risks drop to zero.” He recalled one patient saying that ECT was “easier to take than going to the dentist.”

Dr. John Breeding, an Austin psychologist and active critic of ECT, scoffed at that.

“That’s just stupid,” he said. “They’re not selling the old epileptic seizures and bones breaking and teeth cracking. But in terms of danger, it’s actually worse.... The amount of electricity that’s used now is actually more. That’s one of the tragic ironies.”


The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have recognized the procedure’s effectiveness. It is covered by Medicare and many insurance plans.

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration published a survey of 17 medical studies on ECT. The FDA said the studies generally concluded that ECT “is probably more effective than some anti-depressants.”

The studies also found, the FDA said, that “there is no evidence to suggest that ECT causes brain damage.”

But the debate is hardly settled in medical circles. A British study published in 2012 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that ECT “has lasting effects on the functional architecture of the brain.”

ECT worked, the study said, by causing a “decrease in... connectivity” between different parts of the brain.

And a 2010 survey of studies, published in the European journal now called Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, came down strongly against the procedure.

The authors cited brain damage, memory loss and a slightly increased risk of death. “Given the strong evidence,” they wrote, “the cost-benefit analysis for ECT is so poor that its use cannot be scientifically justified.”

Even those who advocate for ECT acknowledge that its effectiveness can be temporary.

Some studies have found that the benefits of ECT last only a few days. Many patients must undergo repeated treatments. In Texas, the average number of treatments per patient in the last reporting year was 6.32.

“It doesn’t last,” said Austin psychologist Breeding. “You have a 100 percent relapse rate within six weeks.”

Continuing debate

The continuing debate over the treatment — and its increased use — has produced a collection of vocal patient-activists, pro and con.

“For me, it was absolutely lifesaving,” said Julie Hersh of Dallas.

Hersh said she attempted suicide three times in 2001. Medication did not alleviate her severe depression. “Nothing was working,” she said. “I tried tons of different anti-depressants.”

She underwent five ECT sessions over two weeks. “For me, ECT was instantly effective,” she said. “In 24 hours, I went from feeling like I deserved to die to [thinking] I can work this out.”

In 2007, she said, “I started to slip.” She had seven more treatments.

Her memory loss from treatments has been minimal, she said. Immediately after ECT, “I could not remember how to get to the YMCA, for example, even though I’d been there a million times.”

The only memories she permanently lost with each treatment, she said, “were the two weeks before ECT, during ECT and two weeks after ECT.”

Hersh has written a book about her experience, Struck by Living (2011). She also lectures widely about ECT.

Evelyn Scogin, a teacher in Austin, has spoken before state and federal panels about receiving ECT, but hers is a different story. “ECT destroyed my life,” she said.

She had been on 10 different psychotropic drugs, Scogin said, which only deepened her depression. In 2005, she said, she underwent about 40 ECT treatments over a six-month period.

“They would send me home from the hospital so disoriented I couldn’t stand up,” she said. “I soiled my clothes.”

Her memory loss was devastating, she said. “I not only lost all memory for the time it happened. The last three or four years of teaching, I don’t remember any of it.”

Scogin, 57, said she later suffered from paranoia and a loss of language skills. “I would try to write,” she said, “but what I had written made absolutely no sense.”

Physicians who administer ECT said few patients must undergo more than a dozen treatments to see improvement.

But one Collin County woman said she has had 45 ECT treatments since 2011, and is still receiving them. “The treatments are a godsend,” she said. “They don’t fix you.... They lift the cloud so I can go to therapy and talk about my life.”

The 48-year-old woman, who suffers from depression, spoke to The News on the condition of anonymity. She said that although ECT has “saved my life,” it does cloud her memory.

“I used to have a wonderful memory,” she said. “But when I go home tonight and my husband asks me to describe you or what you’re wearing, I won’t be able to tell him.”

The woman receives outpatient treatment at Green Oaks psychiatric hospital in Dallas. “It’s in and out, kind of like cattle,” she said of the process. “You’re in there probably seven or eight minutes.... You wake up, they put you in a wheelchair and they wheel you out.”

Insurance covers all but a $30 co-pay, the woman said. Total charges to her insurance company are about $4,000 per treatment, she said.

A spokeswoman for Green Oaks said hospital officials and physicians would not comment. According to state figures, Green Oaks administered 1,736 ECT treatments in the last reporting year, the fourth-highest total in the state.

At Zale Lipshy, spokeswoman Jeanne Forbis said the hospital could provide “no typical or average cost for the procedure because it is based on the particular needs of the patient.”

Breggin, the ECT critic, noted that it requires relatively inexpensive equipment and, compared to many other procedures, little in the way of special training for doctors.

“It’s a fabulous money-maker,” he said. “Shock treatments keep psychiatric units in a profit-making mode.”

Memory loss

Most proponents of ECT acknowledge that the procedure does cause some memory loss, though advocates say such problems are usually temporary. Texas requires that patients be assessed by a physician for memory impairment before and after ECT.

State health department figures for the last reporting year show that 45 percent of Texas patients demonstrated some memory degradation before ECT treatment. But two to four weeks after the procedure, 56 percent exhibited memory loss.

Figures reported by Zale Lipshy, however, do not comport with state averages. For the last five years, Zale Lipshy said, only one patient — out of 1,036 — has been found to have worsened memory problems after ECT.

“There’s a good reason for that,” said Raza, the UT Southwestern professor. “We are a leading research center for ECT.”

Zale Lipshy screens patients carefully, Raza said. In addition, he said, Zale Lipshy uses the unilateral method of ECT, which involves placing one of the electrodes on the crown of the patient’s head instead of the temple. Some studies have shown this technique to result in less memory loss.

Texas law does not specify the type of tests to be used to gauge post-ECT memory problems. Raza said he typically uses two tests, one of which is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Those who take it engage in simple tasks such as identifying a line drawing of a camel, for example, or repeating a list of five unrelated words.

“These are good screening tests,” Raza said, though they are “by no means perfect.”

Raza said he does more extensive memory testing for those who might require it, such as a physician who will return to work soon after ECT.

Jerry Boswell, president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Texas, said he is skeptical of Zale Lipshy’s figures. “If a hospital is claiming no memory loss, I would want an outside independent agency investigating their claims and interviewing their patients,” he said. The state health department does not conduct independent investigations into such questions.

CCHR, which is affiliated with the Church of Scientology, pushed hard for the 1993 legislation that requires medical providers to report ECT statistics to the state health department. Texas is the only state that keeps a close official count of ECT procedures.

Because of an overall lack of reporting, no one can say for certain how many ECT procedures are performed nationwide.

The most commonly used estimate is 100,000 patients annually. “That’s based on my imagination,” psychiatrist Fink said.

He said he arrived at that figure via extrapolation from a limited sample of patients. “The actual number is not known.”

That’s not the only mystery surrounding ECT. Even those who recommend its use say scientists have been unable to determine exactly how ECT works.

“It is a very difficult thing to study,” Raza said. “The mechanism to this day is not known.” Ω

[Doug J. Swanson is an investigative reporter for The Dallas Morning News. He also is the author of several books — the most recent being Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker (2014). Swanson received a BA (journalism) from The University of Texas at Austin; he also was a Knight Fellow in Journalism at Stanford University.]

Copyright © 2014 The Dallas Morning News

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Duh! It Was Slavery, Stupid!

The photo that HNN used to accompany this essay on slavery has been a staple in U.s history texts. Ye olde blogger and his trusty assistant, Google, unearthed the provenance of the photo here. With that arcana resolved, the essay itself was derived from a longer publication on slavery, education, and inequality. If this is a (fair & balanced) statement of obvious historical analysis, so be it.

[x HNN]
The Surprising Reason Why Racial Inequality Is So Great In The United States
By Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico

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The long-term evolution of income and wealth inequality has become one of the central issues in the current economic and political debate. However, the fact that in the United States inequality displays a strong racial component has not been sufficiently emphasized in the recent discussion.

We asked ourselves whether a link could be found between current inequality and the past history of racial relations in the US. There is no doubt that the latter were profoundly shaped by the reality of slavery. Indeed, when we compare the performances of US counties, we find that income inequality in the present day is strongly correlated with the share of slaves in the population back in 1860. Besides, we discover that this finding is driven by the racial component of income inequality. This means that those counties that in the past relied more heavily on the use of slave labor are still showing a larger degree of inequality between blacks and whites. This correlation stubbornly persists a century and a half after the abolition of slavery, despite the subsequent massive relocation of former slaves away from the deep South where slavery was more prevalent, and notwithstanding the progress achieved by civil rights movement.

We then asked ourselves what is the driver of the link we uncover between the history of slavery and current inequality. Our hypothesis was that the long-term influence of slavery may have run through its negative impact on human capital accumulation for blacks, that is, through a persistent racial gap in education.

After the Civil War, the vast majority of African-American former slaves had no exposure to formal schooling. For the first generations of their descendants, access to education remained severely limited, both quantitatively and qualitatively, since they were able to complete fewer years of schooling and they were segregated in badly funded public schools. Being education locally administered and financed, the political exclusion of blacks inevitably resulted in a limited supply of education and reduced funding. The separate but equal doctrine permitted the racial segregation of southern schools until the 1960s. After the enactment of the civil and voting rights legislation, the racial schooling gap declined substantially in several dimensions, such as educational attainment and achievement, literacy rates, spending per pupil, and economic returns to education.

However, what our data say is not only that the gaps are still far from closed, but also that they can be largely explained by past slavery. In other words, the share of slaves in the population in 1860 is also correlated with current racial inequality in school attainment. Since the quantity of human capital is the main determinant of earnings, it follows that the schooling gap has immediate repercussions on income inequality across races.

To sum up, we can trace a chain of clear causal links that from past slavery lead to today’s racial gap in education and, through that channel, to the racial gap in income, which in turns contributes to income inequality.

The declared goal of recent federal education programs — such as Obama’s Race to the Top and Bush’s No Child Left Behind — has been the removal of the racial and ethnic educational gaps that persistently afflict the American society. This goal is consistent with the evidence we collect, which shows how deeply educational inequality is rooted in the history of the country. Ω

[Graziella Bertocchi is a Professor of Economics at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She received a Laurea (economics, cum laude) from the University of Modena as well as both an MA and PhD (economics) from the University of Pennsylvania.

Arcangelo Dimico is a lecturer in economics at the Queen's University of Belfast. He received a Laurea (economics) from the University of Bari as well as an MA (European Studies and Economics) from the same school. He also received a PhD (economics) from the University of Nottingham.]

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Big Whopper Of 2014? The Ebola "Crisis" On Cable News

This blogger has a secret that he's trying to hide. Within the past several days, he has experienced bleeding from his right nostril. It seems to be a combination of age and a daily anti-coagulant pill that produce this irregular gush of bright red blood. The first thing that ran through this blogger's mind when a bleeding incident occurred in a grocery store: "Someone's going to report a case of Ebola in Aisle 4." Then, a nightmarish scene plays out with EMTs and police in Haz-Mat suits hustling the poor blogger off to quarantine in an unheated tent adjacent to the nearest hospital. Instead, a young checker in the express line offered the blogger a paper towel to help stanch the flow from his right nostril. If this is a (fair & balanced) manifestation of mass hysteria, so be it.

2014 Lie Of The Year: Exaggerations About Ebola
By Angie Drobnic Holan & Aaron Sharockman

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Thomas Eric Duncan left Monrovia, Liberia, on September 19, for Dallas. Eleven days later, doctors diagnosed Duncan with Ebola.

Eight days after that, he was dead.

Duncan’s case is just one of two Ebola-related fatalities in the United States, and since Duncan traveled to Dallas, more Americans — at least nine, and likely many more — have died from the flu.

Yet fear of the disease stretched to every corner of America this fall, stoked by exaggerated claims from politicians and pundits. They said Ebola was easy to catch, that illegal immigrants may be carrying the virus across the southern border, that it was all part of a government or corporate conspiracy.

The claims — all wrong — distorted the debate about a serious public health issue. Together, they earn our Lie of the Year for 2014.

PolitiFact editors choose the Lie of the Year, in part, based on how broadly a myth or falsehood infiltrates conventional thinking. In 2013, it was the promise made by President Barack Obama and other Democrats that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." While no singular line about Ebola matched last year’s empty rhetoric about health care, the statements together produced a dangerous and incorrect narrative.

PolitiFact and PunditFact rated 16 separate claims about Ebola as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire on our Truth-O-Meter in 2014. Ten of those claims came in October, as Duncan’s case came to the fore and as voters went to the polls to select a new Congress.

Fox News analyst George Will claimed Ebola could be spread into the general population through a sneeze or a cough, saying the conventional wisdom that Ebola spreads only through direct contact with bodily fluids was wrong.

"The problem is the original assumption, said with great certitude if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids from someone, because it’s not airborne," Will said. "There are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious." False.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), described Ebola as "incredibly contagious," "very transmissible" and "easy to catch." Mostly False.

Internet conspirators claimed President Obama intended to detain people who had signs of illness. Pants on Fire. Bloggers also said the outbreak was started in a bioweapons lab funded by George Soros and Bill Gates. Pants on Fire.

A Georgia congressman claimed there were reports of people carrying diseases including Ebola across the southern border. Pants on Fire. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), said Americans were told the country would be Ebola-free. False.

When combined, the claims edged the nation toward panic. Governors fought Washington over the federal response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled to explain details about transmission of the virus and its own prevention measures. American universities turned away people from Africa, whether they were near the outbreak or not.

"Americans spent March through July thinking that the outbreak was no threat at all, then from August to October, it was the apocalypse," said Stephen Gire, a researcher who has been to West Africa and is studying the Ebola genome at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "And now in December, a year after the first case of Ebola infected a young Guinean, Americans are complaining that it was all ‘overhyped.’

"During this whole year, people in West Africa have been dying of Ebola at an increasing rate. We as Americans are so far removed from the reality of what is really going on."

From Liberia to Dallas, the facts

Duncan died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Oct. 8, but that single event was months in the making.

Health workers identified Ebola in March in the West African country of Guinea and later in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The virus didn’t garner much attention from the United States at first. But by June, the international medical group Doctors Without Borders warned that efforts to contain the disease were failing.

A month later, two U.S. health care workers in Liberia became ill.

Their homecomings played out in front of a national television audience. News helicopters followed Dr. Kent Brantly’s ambulance on a half-hour ride through Atlanta, and watched as Brantly emerged in a protective suit, leaning on the arm of another health care worker.

Brantly’s arrival, followed days later by Nancy Writebol, set off a frenzy of commentary, reaction, and eventually, misinformation. Websites like made an erroneous connection between their arrival and an executive order that the website claimed "mandates the apprehension and detention of Americans who merely show signs of 'respiratory illness.' " (Pants on Fire.)

Personalities such as Donald Trump called for stopping all flights from countries where Ebola cases had been found. Governors in New York and New Jersey moved to strictly quarantine health care workers even if they showed no symptoms, procedures that were later relaxed.

Duncan... was the first person to die of Ebola in the United States. A Liberian who traveled to visit relatives in the United States, Duncan flew out of Monrovia, connecting through Belgium and Dulles International Airport in Washington before heading to Dallas. Duncan went to the Dallas hospital September 25 complaining of abdominal pain, dizziness, nausea and headaches. Health care workers sent him home, but he returned September 28 via ambulance. He was seriously ill.

In the days after Duncan’s death, two nurses who cared for him — Nina Pham and Amber Vinson — contracted the virus but recovered. That scare forced the CDC to change protocols for health care workers. Before, the CDC recommended gowns, gloves and face masks, which allowed some skin, such as the neck, to be exposed. The new guidelines aimed for no skin exposure and called for use of a respirator.

The other fatality occurred November 17, when a Sierra Leone doctor with Ebola died after a two-day stay at a Nebraska hospital.

The twists and turns of the story created a vacuum of reliable information.

Will’s claim that Ebola could spread through the air via a cough or sneeze shows how solid science got misconstrued. The conservative commentator suggested a thought shift about how the virus could spread. In reality, Will simply misunderstood scientists’ consistent, albeit technical explanation.

Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and diarrhea. Coughing and sneezing are not symptoms.

Airborne viruses, meanwhile, have the ability to travel large distances propelled by a sneeze or cough. In those cases, people breathe in virus particles without even realizing it. Scientists say there is no evidence Ebola works like that.

But what is theoretically possible, and what Will failed to explain properly, is that a person with Ebola could sneeze or cough directly onto someone (likely their eyes, nose or mouth) and transmit the disease through the fluid they pass.

It’s the difference between someone coughing on an airplane one row behind you and the person in the seat next to you sneezing directly into your face, epidemiologists say.

"The whole basis of science tells us to question and keep an open mind to new possibilities, and so when a reporter asks a scientist something like, ‘Will Ebola become airborne?’, even though the scientist knows that this is biologically impossible for many reasons, the scientist can’t exactly say that without all the proper data to make that conclusion," Gire said.

"And so they often will say things like, ‘Well it’s unlikely but could be possible,’ " Gire said. "While that response is in light of the scientific method, the media just highlights ‘it’s possible.’ "

While some claims missed on the science, others were pure politics. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), argued that his opponent Tom Cotton "voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola." Cotton voted against one version of a 2013 bill that funded overall pandemic and emergency preparedness. But Cotton ended up voting for the final version, and the bill easily became law. The claim by Pryor, who lost re-election, rated Mostly False.

Ebola fear flowed, then ebbed

The panicked warnings that flared up in October all but disappeared a month later.

Over the course of November, Ebola mentions on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC dropped 82 percent, according to a review of closed caption transcripts. Mentions on the three cable networks dipped another 35 percent in the first week of December.

At the same time, at least 3,578 more people contracted Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, and another 1,119 people died. Overall, the death toll has crept near 6,400.

"Look where we are now, do we hear much about the epidemic in Africa any more? Do we hear about the effective measures that hospitals have put in place? The list goes on and on," said Adam Lauring, assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School’s division of infectious diseases. "Perhaps some of it is the 24-hour news cycle, the Twitter-verse, etc. Perhaps some of it has to do with the fact that this all hit right before the election and it was easy to politicize."

Ebola’s particular narrative helped breathe life into the fear, says Jack Z. Bratich, chair of the Department of Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University and author of the book Conspiracy Panics. The recipe: A mix of a far-off continent, immigration fears, terrorism concerns and the best scripts Hollywood could deliver.

Members of Congress even came up with their own scenarios, with some suggesting that Ebola could be a security threat to the United States carried in by illegal immigrants or terrorists. But such ideas contradicted basic facts about the disease.

With an incubation period of 21 days, immigrants would have to get infected in Africa, fly to Mexico, travel to the border and hope to make it across before they died themselves. Terrorists would face similar travel challenges, as well as difficulties with attempts to intentionally infect other people. Ebola is spread through bodily fluids and isn’t nearly as contagious as the flu or measles.

In early October, Fox News posted a list of the top nine scariest pandemic movies. At the top was the 1995 film "Outbreak," in which a virus mutates, becomes airborne and forces the Army to consider dropping a nuclear weapon on a sleepy California town.

"Whether it's rabid zombies, Ebola-like viruses or both, outbreak films are beginning to feel a bit too real nowadays," Fox wrote.

As for the virus itself?

Experts we spoke to said there remains a possibility that isolated Ebola cases could occur in the United States. More likely is that U.S. medical facilities will treat U.S. Ebola health workers returning from West Africa.

Last week, an American nurse working in Sierra Leone was admitted to the NIH Clinical Center in Maryland after being exposed to the virus.

The story barely registered on cable news. Ω

[Angie Drobnic Holan is the editor of PolitiFact. Holan has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 2005 and previously worked at newspapers in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and New Mexico. She received a BA (PLan II) from The University of Texas at Austin; she also received an MJ from the Columbia University School of Journalism as well as an MLS from the University of South Florida.

Aaron Sharockman is editor of PunditFact. Sharockman was named the National High School Journalist of 1999 by the Journalism Education Association. H received a BA (journalism) from the Indiana University at Bloomington.]

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Tom Tomorrow Takes On The Torture Report Summary (500pp.) Today While The Entire Report (6,000pp.) Remains Classified

There is a whiff of Alice in Wonderland unreality in the current hot topic of our time — CIA torture of alleged terrorists after 9/11. Dumbo/Moron apologists for EIT-use (EIT for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques aka torture) are numerous. Those loons are connected to Faux News 24/7 or the BFI (Big, F-word of your choice, Idiot) bloviating on radio with talent he has borrowed from his Supreme Being. And so it goes, we're alive because of EIT administered to primitives who were captured in either Afghanistan or Iraq. The entire mess reeks of bad science, just the way Dumbos/Morons like it. If this is our (fair & balanced) temporary(?) insanity, so be it.

[x This Modern World]
Tortured Logic
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow". His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Daily Kos. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly. Perkins, a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, currently lives in Connecticut. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002. When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political weblog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001. More recently, Dan Perkins, pen name Tom Tomorrow, was named the winner of the 2013 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning.]

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Today, A Singing Blog Post — Happy Holidays!

It's that time of year when holiday music is played ad nauseum throughout the land. However, while this blog knows the tune, the lyrics are appropriate to this troubled, terrible world that we inhabit. In fact, this blog is striking a blow against the Faux (News) "War on Christmas." In the best holiday spirit, this blog salutes Faux News with an upthrust middle finger.

In fact, the three upthrust middle fingers are for Faux News, Dumbos, and Morons everywhere! If this is a (fair & balanced) holiday greeting, so be it.

[x Versus]
The Reindeer Sing
A Parody By Marcy Shaffer
Arranged by Greg Hilfman
Based upon "Hark The Herald Angels Sing"




Janis Liebhart — Lead Vocal, Background Vocals
Greg Hilfman — Music Director & Arranger

VERSUS parodies are written by Marcy Shaffer, whose professional writing experience includes television, film, lyrics, verse and… musical parody. VERSUS is co-produced by Russ Meyer, a private equity veteran whose industry expertise includes financial services as well as entertainment. Shaffer is an attorney-cum-parodist (Roll over Stephan Pastis!) and her partner, Russ Meyer, received his MBA from Stanford University. Shaffer writes the words and Meyer counts the beans.]

℗ © 2014 The Meyer Shaffer Company

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2014 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Face It, Dumbos/Morons! POTUS 44 Has Done A Better Job That St. Dutch (POTUS 40)

The double-canard of 2014 is that St. Dutch (POTUS 40) was the best POTUS in recent memory and POTUS 44 is the worst president over the same period. See Adam Hartung's comparison of POTUS 40 and POTUS 44 on Jobs, Economic Growth, and Investing. Today's Deadline Poem considers the dilemma of Dumbos/Morons to explain away the accomplishments of POTUS 44's administration in comparison with that of St. Dutch. POTUS 40, like his Dumbo/Moron admirers, is all hat, no cattle. If this is (fair & balanced) political reality — not political fantasies, so be it.

[x The Nation]
Republicans On The Latest Job And Growth Reports
By The Deadline Poet (Calvin Trillin)

Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing

created at

We hate the programs he’s pursuing.
We’re sure that up Obama’s screwing.
So what about the stats we’re viewing?
They must be someone else’s doing. Ω

[Calvin Trillin began his career as a writer for Time magazine. Since July 2, 1990, as a columnist at The Nation, Trillin has written his weekly "Deadline Poet" column: humorous poems about current events. Trillin has written considerably more pieces for The Nation than any other single person. A native of Kansas City, MO, Trillin received his BA from Yale College in 1957. He served in the army, and then joined Time.]

Copyright © 2014 The Nation

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2014 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves