Saturday, January 04, 2014

A Medal for Jennifer

I have to admire Jennifer Mascia who compiles and writes the Gun Report for the Joe Nocera blog in the New York Times.  Can you imagine how difficult it is to read about senseless killings day after day after day, and mentally accumulating all that fear, pain, and heartbreak.  She should get a Congressional Medal.  Here is her report for January 3, 2014.

Mass shootings have tripled in recent years, from five a year between 2000 and 2008 to 16 a year from 2009 to 2012, according to a new study obtained by Yahoo! News yesterday. The authors, who are from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, define mass shootings as incidents where a gunman opens fire in a public place with the motivation of killing many.

The report, which is set for release in an F.B.I. bulletin next week, also sheds some light on who is committing these shootings. Among the findings:

• 94 percent of the gunmen are men. The youngest was 13 and the oldest was 88.

• Shootings most often take place at businesses (40 percent), followed by schools (29 percent), and outdoors (19 percent).

• Despite the rapid police response time, nearly half the active shootings are over before officers arrive.

• The shootings claim, on average, two lives.

In response to the increased frequency of such events, the F.B.I. is changing protocol. Previously, police officers were instructed to wait for a SWAT team before apprehending active shooters. Now, the F.B.I. is instructing police how to respond themselves.

Here is today’s report.

—Jennifer Mascia

Read More

You Can't Fix It If You'd Don't Know About It - Be Informed

This is the New York Times' Gun Report published on January 2, 2014.  I will just post the introduction and provide a link to the remainder of the report so that you can read the entire, sad, unbelievable report yourself.

Today we return from our holiday break. Here are some notable shootings that occurred while we were gone:

• A 2-month-old girl was shot and killed by a family member in East Lampeter Township, Pa., on Christmas Eve. No one was charged. She was the third child under the age of 2 to be killed in the area in 2013.

• A man in Colorado Springs, Colo., shot and killed his 14-year-old stepdaughter as she crawled into a basement window in the middle of the night, believing she was a burglar, on Dec. 23. No word on charges.

• A man, his wife and her two children, ages 10 and 12, were found dead in a murder-suicide in Fontana, Calif., on Dec. 31. The bodies were discovered by the woman’s 16-year-old son, who was concerned that he hadn’t heard from his mother.

• On Dec. 26, a man in Raceland, La., shot his former in-laws, his wife, and the head of a hospital where he’d worked before killing himself. Three of the victims died, including his wife.

• Xavier Hawkins, who was dressed as Santa Claus, was shot in the back with a pellet gun during a toy giveaway in southeast Washington, D.C., on Christmas Day. Hawkins led the annual gift giveaway for the last seven years.

• A 16-year-old girl was spared possibly fatal injuries after her glasses deflected a bullet that struck her in the face during a drive-by shooting in Seattle, Wash., on Dec. 21.

• A pregnant 17-year-old was fatally shot on in Dolton, Ill., on Christmas Eve. Doctors were able to save her baby.

• Dominique Romero, 19, was sitting on her sofa when an unknown gunman fired up to nine shots on the street outside her home in Richmond, Calif., paralyzing her. “My heart is broken,” her mother said. “I can’t imagine what my baby is going through.”

• Kayo Redd, the younger brother of the rapper Waka Flocka Flame, shot and killed himself near his home in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 29.

And on Dec. 26, Adam Weinstein of Gawker compiled a list of every mass shooting in 2013. The F.B.I. classifies mass murder as four fatalities, not including the killer. “The most obscene incidents of gun violence usually do not make the mainstream news at all,” someone posted on Reddit.

Here is today’s report.  Read More

Friday, January 03, 2014

Tell The Truth, Are You Drinking Too Much?

Cold Turkey Isn’t the Only Route

Published: January 1, 2014 in the New York Times

This New Year’s, a good number of those who struggle to control their drinking will resolve to abstain from alcohol. No halfway measures. Quitting is the only way.

The cold-turkey approach is deeply rooted in the United States, embraced by doctors, the multibillion-dollar treatment industry and popular culture. For nearly 80 years, our approach to drinking problems has been inspired by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Developed in the 1930s by men who were “chronic inebriates,” the A.A. program offers a single path to recovery: abstinence, surrendering one’s ego and accepting one’s “powerlessness” over alcohol.

But it’s not the only way to change your drinking habits.

Bankole Johnson, an alcohol researcher and consultant to pharmaceutical companies who is also the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, puts it this way: “We are wedded to the abstinence model as the goal, despite evidence that there can be many successful outcomes.”

Because of the promise of anonymity, A.A. doesn’t track its members or conduct research. Some studies have found that many members find support for healthier habits from a like-minded group of nondrinkers. But a systematic review found “no conclusive evidence to show that A.A. can help patients to achieve abstinence.”

Research shows that many problem drinkers — those who repeatedly drink more than they intend, sometimes have physical or psychological consequences from overdrinking, and may have difficulty controlling themselves — could benefit from brief interventions and practical advice about how to set better limits and change their drinking by cutting back.

Women increasingly need help, as their drinking has escalated. Women are being stopped more for drunken driving than they were two decades ago. They’re also the biggest consumers of wine, buying the larger share of the 856 million gallons sold in the United States in 2012. These women are drinking partly because alcohol is a socially respectable way to slog through the smartphone-tethered universe of managing demanding careers, aging parents, kids’ activities and relationships at once. And while it’s not healthy to pour yourself a third or fourth glass every night, it doesn’t mean you’re powerless to do anything about it.

Elsewhere in the developed world, doctors treat drinking problems with evidence-based tools that best match the client’s needs. Many are prescribed drugs such as naltrexone, an opioid antagonist approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994 to treat alcohol use disorders. It blocks the signals released when consuming alcohol.

American doctors typically prescribe drugs with the goal of abstinence. Yet in Finland, the American psychologist John David Sinclair pioneered a radically different protocol for naltrexone: he instructs patients to take the drug — which is available generically — an hour before drinking. Mr. Sinclair calls his method “pharmacological extinction.”

When people drink while taking naltrexone, the drug blocks the rewards produced by drinking and the cravings diminish. In published research, Mr. Sinclair has claimed a 78 percent success rate in reducing drinking. A drug similar to naltrexone, nalmefene, was recently approved in Europe to help heavy drinkers moderate their habits.

In reporting my book on women and drinking, I found that many women were successful in changing their drinking habits by using Moderation Management, a free nonprofit support group for nondependent problem drinkers who want to control their consumption. Using the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, M.M. encourages members to take “personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence.” It instructs drinkers to abstain for 30 days, reintroduce alcohol while evaluating the effects of drinking, and then stick within limits (for women, that’s nine drinks a week, no more than three on any day).

This approach isn’t for severely dependent drinkers, for whom abstinence might be best. But it’s been empirically shown to work for those on the more moderate end of the spectrum who outnumber dependent drinkers by about four to one — including the majority of women who drink too much. While the ratio of men to women in A.A. is roughly 2:1, that figure is reversed among users of an evidence-based Internet application at The website helps drinkers set limits, self-monitor while they’re drinking, get feedback on their progress and identify and manage triggers to overdrinking. Reid K. Hester, director of research at Behavior Therapy Associates, which designed the program, says heavy drinkers are more likely to be honest about their consumption when they know they won’t be reproached.

Few master these skills overnight, Mr. Hester says, but most learn healthier habits within six months. And mistakes can be lessons, not failures.

We don’t treat cancer, depression or asthma with the same tools we used in 1935. We need to get away from the one-size-fits-all approach to drinking problems.

Gabrielle Glaser is the author, most recently, of “Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink — and How They Can Regain Control.”

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Christmas Miracle!

Several years ago, a little calico cat showed up at our front door.  She was very, very shy and wanted nothing from us but food.  I began putting food out for her, and calling, "Come here, baby, baby!"  From wherever she was hiding, she came running.  During the coldest nights of the year, she would somehow manage to climb up on the roof of the house and cuddle down in the crevice above the front door where she was protected from the weather.

Months went by and she gradually got more approachable.  She let me pet her while she was eating, but she hissed every time she caught a glimpse of our two golden retrievers.  She didn't like our other cats, but she didn't fight with them either, probably because she knew she was too little to take on the bigger male cats.  When it became clear that she had adopted us, we caught her and took her to the discount "spay and neuter clinic" to make sure we didn't acquire a litter of kittens.  We were surprised when we went back to pick her up and the vet told us that when they did the procedure, they found that she had already been spayed.  Seems like someone at some time had thought enough to have her spayed, but just not enough to feed her!

A few months ago, my grandson decided to make her his cat.  He brought her in the house after the dogs were in our bedroom for the night and let her sleep on his bed.  Well . . . that changed her forever. Now she feels like she is part of the menagerie and is on her way to being a real domesticated kitty.

Today is Tuesday, and Sunday morning we found her splayed out on the garage floor, unable to stand, barely able to hold her head up.  Of course, we were dismayed and frantically trying to figure out what was wrong with her.  We googled, made phone calls, and examined her thoroughly.  No clue.  We decided that if she lived through the night, I would take her to the vet Monday morning. She still had an appetite, and seemed alert even though she couldn't control her body.

Monday at 9:00 a.m. I called the vet and made an appointment.  They couldn't get her in until 4:00 that afternoon.  I called my friend in California who has owned cats for 50 years and asked her what her thoughts were.  She said it could be a kidney problem.  I got off the phone and went to get Baby from her box.  I prepared some cat food for her and sat on the couch with her and the food.  She didn't seem interested.  I put the food dish on the floor and put her down next to it.  Suddenly, she stood up and walked drunkenly away from me.  I went over to the sink to get her some water, and when I turned around she was gone.  I went down the hallway toward my daughter's room and lo and behold! there was Baby back up on Kathy's bed.  She had walked from the kitchen to the bedroom and jumped up on the bed.  I couldn't believe it.

She has proceeded to get stronger and less wobbly today, and we are beginning to think she must have had a seizure.

The real point of this post, however, isn't that Baby miraculously recovered.  It is that I am not sure what we would have done had we taken her to the vet.  The bill would have been some where between $200 and $500 depending on what they said they needed to do.  Now, I love this little cat, but, seriously, how can vets expect people to spend that much on a stray that they just fed out of compassion?  I am just happy that she recovered on her own, and I hope it doesn't happen again.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Banning Assault Weapons is Not Unconstitutional Judge Says

If you don't feel safe in your home state, you might want to consider moving to New York.  A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that New York's strict new gun laws were constitutional.

The judge, William M. Skretny of Federal District Court in Buffalo, said bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were legally sound because they served to "further the state's important interest in public safety."  This is an argument that I thought should have been made long ago.  Who can honestly say that protecting 6-year-olds is not a public safety issue?

The judge further explained that the gun law only affected a subset of firearms which New York State has determined to be particularly dangerous and not necessary for self-defense; it does not totally disarm the state's citizens; and it does not meaningfully jeopardize their right to self-defense.

No doubt the ruling will be appealed, and will probably end up in the Supreme Court.

If you want to read the entire article,click here.