April 23, 2012 archive

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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Happy Birthday to our Far East News Editor mishima

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Open Thread: What We Now Know

Now We Know: Ryan budget fails ‘moral test’ with church

Chris Hayes summarizes what we now know from the week of news, including a glimpse into how House Republicans embrace the church after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter criticizing the Agricultural committee’s proposed budget, inspired by Rep. Paul Ryan, for failing “a moral test” in cutting food stamp funds.

On This Day In History April 23

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 23 is the 113th day of the year (114th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 252 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1564, William Shakespeare born.

According to tradition, the great English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but church records show that he was baptized on April 26, and three days was a customary amount of time to wait before baptizing a newborn. Shakespeare’s date of death is conclusively known, however: it was April 23, 1616. He was 52 years old and had retired to Stratford three years before.

Shakespeare’s father was probably a common tradesman. He became an alderman and bailiff in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare was baptized in the town on April 26, 1564. At age 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter in 1583 and twins in 1585. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died 11 years later, and Anne Shakespeare outlived her husband, dying in 1623. Nothing is known of the period between the birth of the twins and Shakespeare’s emergence as a playwright in London in the early 1590s, but unfounded stories have him stealing deer, joining a group of traveling players, becoming a schoolteacher, or serving as a soldier in the Low Countries.

Sometime later, Shakespeare set off for London to become an actor and by 1592 was well established in London’s theatrical world as both a performer and a playwright. The first reference to Shakespeare as a London playwright came in 1592, when a fellow dramatist, Robert Greene, wrote derogatorily of him on his deathbed. His earliest plays, including The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, were written in the early 1590s. Later in the decade, he wrote tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet (1594-1595) and comedies including The Merchant of Venice (1596-1597). His greatest tragedies were written after 1600, including Hamlet (1600-01), Othello (1604-05), King Lear (1605-06), and Macbeth (1605-1606).

Shakespeare died in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1616. Today, nearly 400 years later, his plays are performed and read more often and in more nations than ever before. In a million words written over 20 years, he captured the full range of human emotions and conflicts with a precision that remains sharp today. As his great contemporary



Bear Feat

Burning Rubber

Yesterday was Earth Day and green is symbolic of both environmentalism and Islam.

So I’m going to recycle some material here.

As one of the pieces I collected for the Bahrain Grand Prix put it, the only image problem Formula One used to have to worry about was its environmental impact.  Now they openly support Mercenaries, Murderers, and Torturers.

If you are interested in the sporting aspect of this weekend’s events I urge you to examine the originals-

If on the other hand you’re more interested in the human rights abuses of the country where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, there was a great deal of attention paid to that question as an unintended consequence of Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Jean Todt, and Bernie Ecclestone’s greed, isolation, and arrogance in staging this event.

While others may not share my sentiments I’d rate it a complete and utter flop as a Public Relations move and as a sporting event.  Even giving away tickets they were unable to fill 50% of the seats and the high profile corporations and celebrities they wanted to attract stayed away in droves.

When I put together stories from secondary sources I attempt to select passages and arrange them so that they create a narrative.  I’ve kept these in their original form and labeled each section.

This one is new-

Post-F1 Bahrain Arrests Journalists and Tortures Activists

By: Siun, Firedog Lake

Sunday April 22, 2012 6:00 pm

During the race, when ten women attempted to hold up pictures of human rights defender, Al Khawaja, they were immediately arrested and there is a confirmed report that one was severely beaten.

Right after the race, when foreign journalists attempted to cover reactions in the Bahraini villages, the journalists too were arrested – along with their local “fixers” and drivers.

Ala’a Shehabi, a British born Bahraini academic who has returned to Bahrain to help in the fight for civil rights and who maintains Bahrain Watch which tracks the monarchy’s performance – or lack of – on it’s promises of reform, was arrested as well. She was traveling with journalists at the time.

Mohammed Hassan, who was arrested after assisting the Dan Rather Report to cover Bahrain and then released, was arrested today while working with another team of foreign journalists. He was beaten quite severely the first time but today released without another beating.

As Channel 4’s Jonathan Miller says in his interview, outside journalists will most likely simply be deported from Bahrain but repercussions for Bahrain citizens who assisted those journalists as well as activists is quite dire. After all, even the monarch’s own “independent” commission last fall reported severe use of torture – for example, see the account of the torture of AlKhawaja from that report here.

Those activists who are not arrested are often seriously injured by the birdshot being used extensively by Bahraini “police” who are mainly mercenary forces from Pakistan. The use of such “birdshot” violates the US “Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.”

And of course the Obama administration has refused to stand up for civil rights in Bahrain.

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The French Presidential Election 2012: Up Date

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Up Date: Socialist Party candidate François Hollande garnered 28.4% of the vote beating Nicholas Sarkozy who came in second with 25.5%. The surprise was the third place showing by the far right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen with 20%. The second round will be om May 6 with the run off election between Sarkozy and Hollande. Hollande is favored in the polls but nothing is certain, especially with the far right’s strong showing. The pollsters were wrong about the strength of leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and voter turn out which topped 80%; they could be very wrong about Sarkozy’s chances, too.

The French go to the polls today in the first round of voting for president, with a second round run-off, if necessary, being held on 6 May. The incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for a second successive and, under the terms of the Constitution of France, final term in the election. Unlike the United States, the president of France is elected directly by the citizens and must receive a majority of the vote (50% +1). Elections are always held on Sunday and this is the only office that is being considered by the voters today. Other offices for the Parliament and local elections each have their own designated election days.

The campaigns end at midnight the Friday before the election, then, on election Sunday, by law, no polls can be published, no electoral publication and broadcasts can be made. The voting stations open at 8 am and close at 6 pm in small towns or at 8 pm in cities, depending on prefectoral decisions. By law, publication of results or estimates is prohibited prior to that time; such results are however often available from the media of Belgium and Switzerland, or from foreign Internet sites, prior to that time. The first estimate of the results are thus known at Sunday, 8pm, Paris time; one consequence is that voters in e.g. French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe knew the probable results of elections whereas they had not finished voting, which allegedly discouraged them from voting. For this reason, since the 2000s, elections in French possessions in the Americas, as well as embassies and consulates there, are held on Saturdays as a special exemption. (I voted Saturday at the French Consulate in NYC.)

France does not have a full-fledged two-party system, that is, a system where, though many political parties exist, only two parties have a chance of getting elected to major positions. One of the reasons that there are so many candidates is that it only takes 500 signatures of support from about 47,000 elected representatives throughout France to stand for president. Plus, as Sophie Meunier at Huffington Post explains “it’s cheap”:

By law, campaign expenses are subjected to a maximum ceiling, and spending in excess of that is illegal. The state also subsidizes candidates. It gives about eight million euros, half of the maximum amount of expenses allowed in the first round, to those who obtain more than 5% of the votes in the first round and about 800,000 euros to those who do not make the 5% cut. In 2007, Sarkozy spent 21 million euros to win the presidential contest, while his main opponent, the socialist Ségolène Royal, spent 20 million euros. French politicians are, therefore, not enslaved to special interests or Super-PACs as they are in the U.S.

Televised political ads are banned — only a small number of “statements” by each candidate, following strict rules on time and editing, can be broadcast on television and only during the five-week period of the “official” campaign as defined by law.

France enforces its mantra of “equality” all the way to the finish line of the presidential campaign. For five weeks before the second round of the election, the law mandates that all candidates are given (truly) equal time on television and radio. If an anchor, whether on a public or private channel, interviews Sarkozy or Hollande on prime time, for example, she has to interview the New Anti-Capitalist Party candidate Philippe Poutou and the “Debout la République” candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (both currently polling at 1 percent) on prime time for the same length of time over the next few days. Airwave time and exposure is monitored and enforced by the state’s Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (High Council for Audiovisual).

The positive consequence of these rules is that a candidate can spend almost no money and still be granted equal access and time on all the major television and radio outlets. This enables the emergence of small candidates and can rejuvenate democracy

In the first round, as today’s election, M. Sarkozy has several challengers from different political parties. His primary challenger is François Hollande, the candidate of the Socialist Party, who has topped the opinion polls throughout the campaign. Besides M. Sarkozy and M. Holland, there are 8 other candidates and if no candidate wins 50% of the votes, there will be a second run-off round. the other candidates are:

The Greens: Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and former magistrate, Eva Joly;

National Front: Party President and MEP Marine Le Pen;

Left Front: Mep Jean-Luc Mélenchon;

New Anticapitalist Party: Philippe Poutou;

Workers’ Struggle: Nathalie Arthaud;

Solidarité et progrès: Jacques Cheminade;

Democratic Movement: Member of Parliament (MP) François Bayrou;

and Mayor and MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

M. Holland is expected to win even if a run off is necessary, since M. Sarkozy’s political policies and style are widely unpopular with the French. Both have promised to balance the budget, although Hollande has favored growth over the sort of austerity measures that Sarkozy has promoted for the eurozone along with German chancellor Angela Merkel. The policy alignment of the two European leaders have led some critics to coin the term, “Merkozy” and publicly wonder if “Merkozy” was running for president. Chancellor Merkel’s unprecedented vocal support of M. Sarkozy, has added to his fall in popularity.

An article by the BBC News, gives an analysis of why he is blatantly disliked that has played a major part in this election. At AMERICAblog, Deputy Editor Chris Ryan, gives his take on Sarkozy’s unpopularity:

My own two cents is that France is a fairly conservative (with a small “c”) country and he thrives on being flashy, which people strongly dislike. His behavior was perhaps acceptable in his suburban neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine where flashiness is more of the norm. [..]

What was previously viewed (by some) as action was eventually regarded (by many more) as little more than hyperactivity without direction. There was always talk of change but in the end, there wasn’t a great deal of actual change. One could also argue that France, like many countries, never really wanted change in the first place.What was previously viewed (by some) as action was eventually regarded (by many more) as little more than hyperactivity without direction. There was always talk of change but in the end, there wasn’t a great deal of actual change. One could also argue that France, like many countries, never really wanted change in the first place.

There has also been a close watch on third place with the rise of far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has polled between 12 to 15% of the vote, competing with the far-right’s Le Pen for that spot. Melenchon has built an alliance of Communists, Trotskyites and anti-capitalists, drawing huge crowds at his rallies. Experts feel if Melenchon wins third place in Sunday’s vote, it would encourage Hollande to veer further to the left ahead of the May 6 knock-out round.

Under current rules, French media are barred from publishing the surveys or even partial results until 8 PM Paris time, 2 PM EDT. Results will be posted here as they come available.

Pique the Geek 20120422: The Isotope Effect

The germ of this piece came from an undertaking that I am considering.  That undertaking is to write a post for every chemical element.  The recent successes of my more technical pieces have made me decide to concentrate more on the harder part of science rather than less technical material.

The problem with that is that it would take over two years to cover all of the elements, and in reality even longer because there are topics out there that will surely be more topical.  I am not sure that this is feasible.  Maybe I could look at families, but then that gets way too general.  Any thoughts on how to approach (or even if I should) this huge array of subjects would be appreciated.

In any event, I would start with hydrogen and work my way to heavier elements.  One of the first things that came to mind was the isotope effect, because hydrogen has the largest isotope effect of any element.  Please stay with us!

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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Pelt the President with the Pill

[The conversations represented here took place over the last week and are compressed for your reading pleasure. My husband and I are real people and said the things represented here. The rest of the dialogue is provided by intentionally fictionalized characters that are not meant to represent any one person. All sentiments and facts expressed here are genuine to the best of my recollection, but the characters saying them were selected by drawing names from a hat. I, alone, am responsible for this content.]

The Quickening

“They canceled Andrianna’s tubals yesterday,” I inform Steve in the hall outside the conference room. “They didn’t even give her a whole day’s notice so she could talk to her patients before they did it.”

“I got virtually no notice either when they canceled mine on Monday,” he replies.

“Really?” I am shocked by this. I have never heard of a hospital canceling cases so abruptly without involving the surgeon. “Who ordered the cancellations like that?”

“Don’t know. We’re only told the surgery scheduler, but someone gave her the order.”

We enter the conference room to find Norm waiting for us. The other gynecologists filter into the room. Both the hospitals the Sisters of Orange own are represented: the hospital in my town, St. Joseph’s, and the one south of us, Redwood Memorial.

“We had hoped this would blow over but the sisters feel backed into a corner.” Norm starts. “They have no choice but to get tough on this issue.”

“What brought all this on?” Steve asks.

“The edict came down from the new Bishop in Santa Rosa,” Norm says, “but we got targeted when they pulled the diagnosis codes for the hospital. It was obvious we were doing more sterilizations than they were in Southern California.”

“In Southern California you can go down the street from any Catholic institution and run into a secular hospital.” I try to defend us. “The Catholic Church bought almost all the hospitals in this area. For the last six years they’ve been trying to drive the last secular hospital under.”

“Never the less, we were doing a lot of tubals for ‛psychological’ reasons.”

“We were hardly doing a lot of sterilizations,” I say. “Other hospitals preform far more tubals a year. The stigma the Church gives the procedure already curtails many woman from asking for sterilization.”

“So what’s the plan?” Steve says, rescuing the meeting from disintegrating into complaints about the Church.

“Nothing.” Norm states. “This is a game we can’t win. The more public pressure the Catholics face, the more they will dig in. We have to keep quiet and wait. That will take the pressure off the nuns. When you’re approached by the media, and you will be approached, my advise is to refer them to the CMO. That’s what he gets paid for. Don’t talk to the media, or write letters to the editor. Don’t talk to your patients about it. We need to keep the lid on this to stop it from blowing up.”

“Too late. The patients already know.” I inform him. We all know there was an article in the local alternative paper, The Journal. The “real” paper in town, the Times Standard, has been silent on the issue. “I spent half an hour at a Pap smear today with an irate woman who vented the whole time about how this was unreasonable and unfair.”

“I wouldn’t encourage her. And don’t talk to your staff about this either,” Norm says.

“How am I going to do that? I’m taking my patients to Mad River. They all know why I stopped operating at St. Jo’s.”

“What do you say to the patients?” Steve wants to know.

“The truth. I don’t think it’s fair to deny all the women in an entire county a procedure on religious grounds. And the patients agree with me. I have an eighty year old woman who lives as far south in the county as you can go. I told her why I was taking my patients north, but seeing where she lived and considering her age I told her I would make an exception for her and operate on her at St. Jo’s. She told me, ‛Don’t you dare. I don’t want to support that any more than you do.’ This octogenarian wants to drive past the two hospitals the Sisters own to have her surgery at Mad River Hospital.”

“This hospital is facing hard times right now.We’re barely holding on ourselves. We can’t afford to lose any patients. We don’t want to lose patients or doctors.” Norm seems genuinely alarmed.

“Great. Go back to the way it was, and I’ll bring my surgeries back to St. Jo’s.” I feel for Norm, but I will not be moved.

“Look, if they made us take all the hysterectomies to ethics committee, the way they threatened to, then I would do the same thing.” Wendy said. “But it’s just the tubals.”

“The only reason they didn’t is because they found out the insurance companies already reviewed all our hysterectomies and would not pay without an adequate medical diagnosis.” I tell her. “They weren’t being magnanimous. They just didn’t want to duplicate the work.”

“You can’t take your surgeries to Mad River.” Quinn, always the practical one, tells me. “I’ve looked at the labor numbers. St. Jo’s is hemorrhaging money in Obstetrics. The hospital will take the Laborist program away. The only reason you came here was for that program. You don’t want to see it die, do you?”

“I don’t.” Everything he says is true. Medicaid doesn’t even cover the cost of deliveries for most hospitals. The one wing devoted exclusively to women is a loss leader for most hospitals in the nation. Obstetricians get treated like the red-headed-step-children of the family of physicians because we don’t make the hospital any money. Having a Laborist program is a rare luxury. It meant I could sleep through the night for the first time in years, watch a whole movie in a theater, have a conversation with my husband–uninterrupted by the other woman…one with vaginal discharge. I do desperately want to keep that indulgence. “It’s not just about what I want. If they take the Laborist program, there’s little reason for me to be at St. Jo’s at all. I’ll not just take surgery to Mad River, I’ll take my labor patients as well.”

“If we don’t support the hospital it won’t be there to care for us.” Wendy says. “I for one want a hospital here when I retire.”

“Not taking care of the needs of half of the population is not caring for us.” I can feel my control slipping. “If they are unwilling to serve half the population’s health care needs, what are they doing in the business in the first place? They should sell the hospital-preferably back to the community to be run cooperatively.”

“This happens every seven years or so.” Elroy, the oldest member of our tribe, says. “The last time it was a new nun sent to take over the hospital. She had all the tubals canceled too.”

“How did that get resolved?” I ask.

“She died and it got forgotten.”

“So we’re waiting for the Bishop to die? Or just waiting for him to change his mind?” I say with more than a little heat. “The Bishop isn’t the only one with strong feelings on this.”

“The hospital can make it hard for you.” Adrianna has arrived late to the party due to her patients. “Remember Tony? He got in that spat with the hospital and started talking to people-even people in the Foundation. It got back to the Board of Trustees and they dragged him into Medical Executive Committee. Now he has that mark on his record forever.”

I know she is trying to warn me. I’m no stranger to this tactic. Though I have not seen it used at St Jo’s, I’ve seen it used elsewhere to strike fear into doctors. A hospital will use its power to remove incompetent doctors on a doctor who is medically competent but has a disagreement with the hospital. They sacrifice one physician, ending his or her career, to scare the other physicians into compliant silence. There are even courses for hospital administrators instructing them how to do this effectively. I’ve avoided such abuses of power so far, but I’ve seen it used time and again on colleagues.

“Look, it’s not just our patients. I was already scheduled to talk about this subject on a national level. I can’t act like it’s not happening to me on a personal level as well. You see, I’m an editor of this blog…”