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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Daily Drift

Yesterday Cowardice Struck Boston

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Today  Remember those in Boston

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Today in History

69   Defeated by Vitellius' troops at Bedriacum, Otho commits suicide.
556   Pelagius I begins his reign as Catholic Pope.
1065   The Norman Robert Guiscard takes Bari, ending five centuries of Byzantine rule in southern Italy.
1705   Queen Anne of England knights Isaac Newton.
1746   Prince Charles is defeated at the battle of Culloden, the last pitched battle fought in Britain.
1818   The U.S. Senate ratifies the Rush-Bagot amendment to form an unarmed U.S.-Canada border.
1854   San Salvador is destroyed by an earthquake.
1862   Confederate President Jefferson Davis approves a conscription act for white males between 18 and 35.
1862   Slavery is abolished in the District of Columbia.
1917   Vladimir Lenin returns to Russia to start Bolshevik Revolution.
1922   Annie Oakley shoots 100 clay targets in a row, setting a woman's record.
1942   The Island of Malta is awarded the George Cross in recognition for heroism under constant German air attack. It was the first such award given to any part of the British Commonwealth.
1944   The destroyer USS Laffey survives horrific damage from attacks by 22 Japanese aircraft off Okinawa.
1945   American troops enter Nuremberg, Germany.
1947   A lens which provides zoom effects is demonstrated in New York City.
1968   The Pentagon announces the "Vietnamization" of the war.
1972   Two giants pandas arrive in the U.S. from China.
1977   The ban on women attending West Point is lifted.

Non Sequitur


The Mercury 13

Women in Space v 
If you're interested in the history of space exploration, you've heard o fate Mercury 7. But have your heard of their (unofficial) female counterparts, the Mercury 13? Here's their story.


On April 19, 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced the seven astronauts who would take part in the Mercury Program. The goal: to put an American into orbit. It was America's first manned space program, and competition for the seven slots had been fierce. An original list of 508 military test pilots were winnowed down to 32 candidates, who were then subjected to a battery of intense medical, psychological, and spacecraft-simulator tests. Eighteen made the final cut, and from these, the "Mercury 7" -Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Donald "Deke" Slayton- were chosen.


One of the people who helped design the medical tests was Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace II, a specialist in aviation medicine and chairman of NASA's Life Sciences Committee. Lovelace wondered how well women might do if they were subjected to the same tests. He took an even greater interest in the idea in the summer of 1959, when he made a trip to the USSR to study the Soviet space program. There he learned that the Russians were already looking into sending a woman into space. There were even rumors that the very first Soviet cosmonaut might be a woman.

Apparently, the Soviets felt that a woman had a great deal to offer the space program and that in some ways, they were better suited for space travel than men were. A typical female needed less oxygen, ate less food, and weighed less than a typical male. That would make for a smaller payload; no minor consideration at the dawn of the Space Age, when rockets were smaller and less powerful. Every pound that could be shaved from the total weight was critical. But were women physically and mentally tough enough for space flight? The Russians thought so, and so did Dr. Lovelace. But he wanted to test them to find out for sure.

Mercury 7 astronauts
The Mercury 7 astronauts had undergone three phases of testing to qualify for the space program. Phase one -medical testing- was conducted at Lovelace's clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Testing women there wouldn't be a problem, since it was a civilian facility, and he could ruin it as he pleased. But the second and third phases -psychological and spacecraft-simulation testing- were a different matter. For the Mercury 7, the tests had been run at Wright Air Development Center in Ohio. The female test subject had no official ties to NASA, so the Air Force simply wasn't interested in testing them.

Lovelace decided to conduct phase one testing at his clinic anyway. Then, if those results were promising, he thought he might be able to convince the Air Force or some other branch of the military to make its facilities available for further tests.


Lovelace established several basic criteria for his subjects: they had to be 35 years of age or younger (he later raised the limit to 40), had to be in good health, and had to have a four-year college degree. They also had to have a commercial pilot's license with at least 1,000 hours of flying experience. That summer he met a 28-year-old pilot named Geraldyn "Jerrie" Cobb at an aviation conference ion Florida. Cobb, who had more than 10,000 hours of flying experience and three world aviation records to her name, had just been named Pilot of the Year by the National Pilots Association. Lovelace invited her to be the first woman he tested.

Nothing in Cobb's experience could have prepared her for the grueling week she spent at Lovelace's clinic in February 1960. In one test, she had to swallow three feet of rubber hose so that the doctor could study her gastric juices. In another, she had ice water squirted into her ears to knock her off balance and test her equilibrium. She also had colon exams, three barium enemas a day, and countless X-rays. Over a six-day period, she submitted to more than 80 different medical tests.


Cobb tested so well against the Mercury 7 astronauts that Lovelace worried that if he went to NASA with her results alone, they'd dismiss her as a fluke. So he asked Cobb to come up with a list of 24 other female pilots he could test, to be sure that her results weren't an anomaly. Eighteen of the women agreed to come to Albuquerque, and of these, 12 tested well enough to qualify for the next phase …if there was to be a next phase.

The other 12 women:
v* Bernice "B" Steadman, 35, commercial pilot and owner of a flight school in Flint, Michigan.
* Marion Dietrich, 34, pilot and reporter for the Oakland Tribune in California.
* Dietrich's identical twin sister, Jan, 34, flight instructor and commercial pilot.
* Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk, 21, flying instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
* Jean Hixson, 37, World War II engineering test pilot and flight instructor who'd become a school teacher in Akron, Ohio (pictured right).
* Myrtle Cagle, 36, flight instructor in Macon, Georgia.
* Sarah Gorelick, 27, electrical engineer with AT&T in Kansas City, Kansas.
* Rhea Hurrle, 30, executive pilot for an aircraft company in Houston, Texas.
* Irene Leverton, 34, charter pilot and flight instructor in Santa Monica, California.
* Gene Nora Strumbough, 24, flight instructor at the University of Oklahoma.
* Geraldine "Gerrie" Sloan, 30, owner of an aviation business in Dallas, Texas.
* Jane "Janey" Hart, 40, airplane and helicopter pilot, wife of U.S. Senator Philip Hart, and mother of eight.


vBecause Lovelace had to fit these tests into the clinic's regular schedule,most of the women were invited to Albuquerque individually as openings became available. And because he insisted on secrecy -he wanted to keep the testing under wraps until he had the results- few of the female pilots even knew who the other members of the group were. In some case the women did not meet each other until years later -they were a group in name only. The name? Originally called Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATS), they later became known as the "Mercury 13."

Now that Lovelace had a pool of women who had tested well against the results of the men, he was ready to move onto phase two (psychological tests) and phase three (spacecraft simulators). But where would he conduct these tests?

Cobb found a psychiatry professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine who was willing to conduct the phase-two testing on all 13 women. And the U.S. School of Naval Medicine agreed to test Cobb in its simulators in Pensacola, Florida. If she tested well, the other 12 FLATs would be invited, too.


Cobb went through phase two testing in Oklahoma. Again, she passed. Then she went to Pensacola for phase three testing …and scored as well as any experienced Navy pilot. That was all the Navy needed -it began making plans to test the rest of the FLAT team. Before it did, however, it contacted NASA to confirm that the space agency actually wanted the women tested.

It didn't. "NASA," the space agency explained, "does not at this time have a requirement for such a program." With that, the Navy backed out. Just six days before testing was scheduled to begin, each of the Mercury 13 received a telegram from Dr. Lovelace. "Regret to advice the arrangements at Pensacola cancelled," it read. "Probably will not be possible to carry out this port of the program."
Marion and Jan Dietrich

By communicating its lack of interest in women astronauts, NASA effectively scuttled the FLAT program in 1962, at least for the time being. The official explanation was that the space agency would only consider military test pilots with extensive experience flying jet aircraft. And since women were excluded from flying jets in the military (not to mention the airlines), they couldn't qualify. Experience, not gender, was the determining factor, NASA claimed.

In truth, however, NASA's ban on women was motivated by a fear that the space program would be irreparably harmed if a woman died in space. "Had we lost a woman back then because we decided to fly a woman rather than a man, we would have been castrated," Mercury Program flight director Chris Kraft admitted years later.


All of the Mercury 13 women had made tremendous sacrifices to get this far -Sarah Gorelick and Gene Nora Stumbough had quit their jobs, and Jerrie Sloan's husband divorced her when she refused to drop out of the program. After all the trouble they'd been through, they didn't want to take no for an answer.
Jerrie Cobb and Janey Hart
Janey Hart, married to Senator Philip Hart of Michigan, decided that she could no longer keep her promise to Dr. Lovelace to remain silent. She started working her connections in Washington, D.C. writing letters to each member of the congressional space committees. She released a copy of the letter to the press and, with Jerrie Cobb, began giving interviews to reporters. Hart also managed to arrange a meeting with Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who was head of the President's Space Council and the White House's liaison with NASA. Johnson listened politely to Hart and Cobb, and then brushed them off by telling them that while he wanted to help, it was NASA's responsibility to decide who became an astronaut, not his. With that, he ended the meeting and had the two women shown out of his office. After they left, Johnson scrawled a note to his staff: "Let's stop this now!"


The meeting with LBJ had gone nowhere, but Hart and Cobb kept pushing. Result: In July 1962, the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Astronautics announced that it would hold three days of subcommittee hearings to investigate whether NASA discriminated against women. A total of sic witnesses would be called -three representing the Mercury 13 and three representing NASA.

But that wasn't quite how it worked out. Hart and Cobb were selected to be two of the witnesses for the Mercury 13. The third witness was an aviator named Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran.


vYou've probably never heard of Jackie Cochran, but in the 1960s, she was the most famous female pilot in the world. She's broken more speed, distance, and altitude records than any female pilot alive, and was the first woman to break the sound barrier. Yet she opposed the continuing testing of the Mercury 13.

Cochran had initially supported the FLAT program and even financed the first phase of testing at the Lovelace clinic. Since then, however she had turned against the program. Why? One theory: she could never be an astronaut herself. Cochran was in her mid-50s and had tested poorly during her physical at the Lovelace clinic. That ruled her out as a potential candidate, and that's when she began to oppose the mercury 13. Perhaps the most famous female aviator since Amelia Earhart did not want to be overshadowed by the first woman in space.


On the first day of the hearings, Cobb and Hart testified in favor of testing the women. Then it was Cochran's turn. And just as Cobb and Hart feared, Cochran told the committee that there was "no shortage of well-trained and long-experienced male pilots to serve as astronauts," and that adding women to the mix would "slow down our [space] program and waste a great deal of money."

On the second day of testimony, the committee questioned George Low, NASA's director of spacecraft and flight missions, and then questioned astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. None of them were receptive to the idea of allowing women into their ranks. Like Cochran, Glenn argued that testing women for he space program was a waste of money, since NASA had already spent millions of dollars training men for the job and had all the astronauts it needed. "The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them," Glenn said. "The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order."


The hearings were scheduled to last for three days, but shortly before noon on the second day, Congressman Victor Anfuso of New York, who chaired the hearings, banged his gavel and called the proceedings to a close. He had collected enough information to write his report, he explained, so no further testimony was necessary.

"NASA's program of selection is basically sound," the final report stated, acknowledging that at "some time in the future" NASA should revisit the possibility of conducting "research to determine the advantages to be gained by utilizing women as astronauts."

The Mercury 13 program was over, this time for good.

WE'RE (NOT) #1
vValentina Tereshkova
Less than a year later, on June 16, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, a mill worker and parachute hobbyist, became the first woman in space. How much longer would it take an American woman to make the same trip? Twenty years.

In 1983 physicist Sally Ride became the first when she made a six-day flight on the space shuttle Challenger. But Ride was a flight engineer, and did not pilot the shuttle. The first woman to command a space shuttle mission was Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Collins, who piloted the Columbia into orbit in 1999 -nearly 40 years after the first Mercury space mission.
vColonel Eileen Collins, pilot STS-63 and STS-84, commander STS-93 and STS-114

Where are the Mercury 13 now? Some have passed away, others are still flying, and two of them -Jerrie Cobb and Wally Funk- still hope to fly in space.

When 77-year-old John Glenn returned to space aboard the space shuttle in October 1998 as part of a scientific study on the effects of aging, Cobb's supporters launched a campaign to get her included on a future mission. At the same time, NASA officials said they still have no plans to send Cobb into space, and the grounding of the entire space shuttle program following the Columbia disaster in 2003 makes her chances even more remote.

Wally Funk isn't waiting for NASA to come around. Over the years, she has completed her astronaut testing at her own expense, even traveling to Russia in 2000 to train with Russian cosmonauts. She is currently working as a test pilot for Interorbital Systems, a California-based company that plans to launch privately-owned, privately-funded spacecraft. "I'm still pedaling! I never lost the faith," she told the Los Angeles Times in January 2004. "Whether we make it with Interorbital or not, I'm going to make it. I don't know how, but I know it's going to happen."

Legal pot draws tourists to Colorado and Washington for 4/20

This Thursday, April 11, 2013, photo shows Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," looking over a sampling of marijuana edibles at a dispensary in Denver. "My 420 Tours," gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air. Instead, the service plans to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and take them to a cannabis-friendly hotel (a national chain that has given permission for Denver patrons to smoke marijuana on outdoor patios but doesn't want its name advertised). (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) 
Thousands of people are expected to join an unofficial counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana in Colorado and Washington this coming weekend, including out-of staters and even packaged tours. The events and crowds will test the limits of new laws permitting pot use by adults.
More than 50,000 are expected to light up outdoors in Denver's Civic Center Park on April 20 to celebrate marijuana legalization. Thousands more are headed here for the nation's first open-to-all Cannabis Cup, April 20-21, a domestic version of an annual marijuana contest and celebration in Amsterdam. Expected guests at the Cannabis Cup, a ticketed event taking place inside the Denver Convention Center, include Snoop Lion, the new reggae- and marijuana-loving persona for the rapper better known as Snoop Dogg.
Marijuana activists from New York to San Francisco consider April 20 a day to celebrate the drug and push for broader legalization. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and its sale without a doctor's recommendation isn't allowed yet in Colorado or Washington. Neither state allows open and public use of the drug. But authorities largely look the other way at public pot-smoking, especially at festivals and concerts, and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to capitalize on new marijuana laws.
One of them is Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver's new "My 420 Tours," which gives traveling pot users everything but the drug. Brown has sold 160 tour packages to visiting pot smokers for the April 20 weekend. Prices start at $499, not including hotel or air.
The tour sends cannabis tour guides to pick up marijuana tourists at the airport in limousines, escort them to Cannabis Cup and other Denver-area marijuana celebrations and deposit them at a hotel where smoking — tobacco or reefer — is permitted on room patios.
Marijuana tourists on Brown's tour can add extra days of touring medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial growing operations. A cannabis cooking class is another option. Five-day tours run $649 to $849.
Brown, a medical marijuana patient who is new to the travel business, says his tours will enable sharing of pot but not selling it. Eighty percent of his clients are coming from outside Colorado — meaning it's illegal for them to bring marijuana from home. And because commercial pot sales in Colorado don't start until January, out-of-state visitors can't yet buy pot at Colorado's 500-plus dispensaries.
Despite the legal barriers, Brown said his tours quickly filled to capacity and he had to turn away would-be cannabis tourists. He's hoping to book future pot-themed weekends if the April 20n weekend does well.
"People are fascinated by what's happening here, and they want to see it up close," Brown said. "We want to make sure people don't come here, land at the airport, rent a car and drive around stoned all weekend."
The tour group isn't affiliated with the Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times Magazine, which has run similar events for medical marijuana in nine cities. The magazine's editorial director, Dan Skye, says this month's U.S. Cannabis Cup was timed for the April 20 weekend.
"4/20 is the national stoner holiday, for lack of a better word," Skye said. "It gets bigger every year, and this year, after the legalization votes, it's going to be absolutely huge."
The magazine planned to award Snoop Lion with a "lifetime achievement" award at a Denver ceremony Friday. A Cypress Hill/Slightly Stoopid concert was planned Saturday at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver. Both events sold out weeks ago.
A few dozen miles northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado in Boulder will try to dampen pot celebrations on April 20. The campus once held the nation's largest college 4/20 celebration, drawing an estimated 10,000 in 2010. The legendary smokeout was cited by Playboy magazine when it named Colorado the nation's top party school in 2011 .
After the Playboy mention, the university stepped up efforts to shut the celebration down. Campus officials last year roped off the site of the smokeout, Norlin Quadrangle, reducing the 4/20 crowd to a few hundred protesters. The school planned another shutdown Saturday.
Celebrations were planned in Washington state, too, though April 20 isn't as broadly celebrated as Seattle's annual Hempfest, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to a waterfront park every summer.
The April 20 celebrations in Washington included a Seattle party being put on by DOPE Magazine at an artist work space and studio. About 1,500 were expected for glassblowing demonstrations, music, dancing and a bar where revelers can vaporize their pot, plus the judging for the "DOPE Cup" — an award for the best bud. There will be a smoking tent set up outside, along with food trucks to combat any cases of the munchies.
"It's pretty monumental," said DOPE editor in chief James Zachodni. "This is the first time in the U.S. there's been a cannabis holiday with a legal aspect to it."
Back in Colorado, longtime pot user Andrew Poarch says this year's April 20 observations in Colorado have taken on epic significance. He's joining dozens of friends to hire a bus from Colorado Springs to attend Denver's Cannabis Cup.
"It's going to be a lot bigger, a lot more people," he predicted. "People are trying to outdo themselves because it's a party and a celebration. We beat prohibition. It's a pretty big deal."

Did you know ...

That law enforcement more likely to be killed in states with weak gun laws

That the man who bank-rolled swift-boat campaign against Kerry is dead

About homelessness in silicon valley

Some state dropping GED as test price spikes

In this Thursday, April 11, 2013 photo, Deni Loving teaches a GED class in Kansas City, Mo. Several dozen states are looking for an alternative to the GED high school equivalency test because of concerns that a new version coming out next year is more costly and will no longer be offered in a pencil and paper format. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) 
Several dozen states are looking for an alternative to the GED high school equivalency test because of concerns that a new version coming out next year is more costly and will no longer be offered in a pencil and paper format.
The responsibility for issuing high school equivalency certificates or diplomas rests with states, and they've relied on the General Education Development exam since soon after the test was created to help returning World War II veterans.
But now 40 states and the District of Columbia are participating in a working group that's considering what's available besides the GED, and two test makers are hawking new exams.
"It's a complete paradigm shift because the GED has been the monopoly. It's been the only thing in town for high school equivalency testing. It's kind of like Kleenex at this point," said Amy Riker, director of high school equivalency testing for Educational Testing Service, which developed one of the alternative tests.
Last month, New York, Montana and New Hampshire announced they were switching to a new high school equivalency exam, and California officials began looking into amending regulations to drop the requirement that the state only use the GED test. Missouri has requested bids from test makers and plans to make a decision this month. Several others states, including Massachusetts, Maine, Indiana and Iowa, are making plans to request information about alternative exams.
Meanwhile, Tennessee and New Jersey are exploring offering more than one test.
"The national situation is definitely fluid," said Tom Robbins, Missouri's director of adult education and high school equivalency, noting that other states plan to use the GED for now and bid later.
The pushback comes as GED Testing Service prepares to introduce a new version of the exam in January. In the first revamp since for-profit Pearson Vue Testing acquired a joint ownership interest in the nonprofit Washington-based GED Testing Service, the cost of the test is doubling to $120. That's led to a case of sticker shock for test takers, nonprofits and states. Some states subsidize some or all of the expense of the exam, while others add an administrative fee. The new GED test would cost $140 to take in Missouri if the state sticks with it.
Kirk Proctor, of the Missouri Career Center, said the organization is looking for a way to cover the increased test cost for students participating in a GED preparation and job training program he oversees. He said his students can't come up with $140, noting they need help paying for the current, cheaper test.
"A lot of them are just barely making it," he said. "Transportation is a challenge. Eating is a challenge. For them, coming up with $140 for an assessment, it's basically telling them, 'Forget about ever getting this part of your life complete.'"
One program participant, Nicole Williams, a 21-year-old Kansas City mother of three, said she was hopeful she'd pass the GED test soon so she could avoid the electronic version. With it, she said, "you've got to learn how to type, use the computer, plus your GED. That's three things instead of just trying to focus all on your GED test."
Developers say the new version is needed because nearly all states are adopting tougher math and reading standards to ensure students are prepared for college and careers. Because the new version is so different, a million or so adults who have passed some but not all of the five parts of the current GED test must complete the missing sections by Dec. 31. If not, their scores will expire and they'll have to begin again under the new program Jan. 1.
"The GED was in dangerous position of no longer being a reflection of what high schools were graduating," said Randy Trask, president and CEO of GED Testing Service, which previously was solely operated by the nonprofit American Council on Education.
He said the computerized version, which students are passing at higher rates than the paper version in pilot sites, will be cheaper to administer because states will no longer have to pick up the tab for things like grading the exam. For test-takers who fail a section, the computerized version provides details about what skills they need to work on before retaking the exam.
"I personally went into it a little bit naively," said Trask of the new version. "I don't know why I expected a marching band, but I did because I'm convinced that what we are doing is the right thing for the adults in this country."
Competitors responded with a paper version and a cheaper base price, although GED Testing Service said its price includes services the other two test makers don't. The alternative exams' makers also said they will work with states to find ways to combine scores from the GED with their new exams so students who have passed some sections of the current GED won't be forced to start from scratch. GED Testing Service said that would undermine the validity of a state's equivalency credential or diploma.
Trask also said he feared the competing exams would be confusing for colleges and employers. But states considering switching say they'll put more emphasis on the equivalency credential or diploma they issue rather than the test taken to earn it.
Art Ellison, who leads the Bureau of Adult Education in New Hampshire, called the sudden choice in the exams "the new reality of adult education." His state and Montana are switching to HiSET, a $50 test that the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, is offering. Both states said cost influenced their decision, with Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau proclaiming in a news release that residents "looking to improve their economic situation by obtaining a high school equivalency diploma should not have to overcome a significant financial barrier in order to achieve that goal."
Ellison also noted that a paper option was important because many students in adult education classes lack the skills needed to take a computer-based test and that it will take time to beef up the courses to add that training.
Meanwhile, New York chose California-based CTB/McGraw-Hill's new Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC. Developers said it will range in price from $50 to $60.
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a news release that without the change, New York would have had to pay the GED test maker twice as much or limit the number of test takers because state law bars residents from being charged to take the equivalency exam.
"We can't let price deny anyone the opportunity for success."

The truth hurts

Cops in Somerville, MA: "It would endanger the public to tell you what guns we have"

Michael from Muckrock sez, "Want to know what guns your neighbor has? Generally public record. What guns your government has? That's top secret. A recent public records request for the armaments of a local police department in Somerville, MA., was met with a surprising response: Releasing a list of guns the department held 'is likely to jeopardize public safety,' and so is exempt from public disclosure. Maybe they're arming up for an insurrection?

The truth be told

Supreme Court to consider adoption case of American Indian girl

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in an adoption fight between a South Carolina couple who raised a girl for more than two years after her birth and the child's biological father who won custody of her due to his American Indian heritage.
The case will test whether the Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 federal law designed to prevent the removal of American Indian children from Indian families and tribes, can be used to block an adoption initiated by a non-Indian parent.
The case has drawn wide attention from adoption attorneys, child welfare organizations and Indian tribes, who say it could affect adoptions nationwide by making clear how the federal act works with state family laws.
"In the real world, it's often a daunting task to determine whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to a particular child," said Mark Demaray, an adoption attorney in Washington state.
Charleston residents Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a Boeing technician and developmental psychologist, respectively, sought to adopt under South Carolina law a girl they named Veronica after she was born in September 2009 to a single woman in Oklahoma.
Christina Maldonado sought to have her baby adopted after the child's father, Dusten Brown, renounced his parental rights in a text message during her pregnancy, according to court documents.
Brown, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation and a soldier at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, said he learned of the adoption four months later and signed documents relinquishing parental rights, court records show.
But he later contested the adoption, saying he misunderstood the documents he signed.
Citing the Indian Child Welfare Act, a family court in South Carolina awarded custody to Brown in 2011. In late December 2011, the Capobiancos turned 27-month-old Veronica over to Brown, who took her back to Oklahoma. The girl is now 3-1/2.
The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the ruling in a split decision, with one justice calling the case a "human tragedy."
The adoptive parents, who have not seen the child in more than a year, are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision and return Veronica to them. The couple and the child's birth mother will attend the oral arguments.
The adoptive couple argues South Carolina state law is on their side and say a ruling in their favor would not dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was originally enacted to prevent social welfare authorities from forcibly separating Indian children from their parents, a practice that was common enough at the time to prompt Congress to take action. They say the federal act "requires more of a parental relationship than biology alone."
"All the future requires is that unwed Indian fathers — like all other fathers — appreciate that their choices have consequences and that some decisions cannot be undone," the couple said in a court brief filed this month.
Lawyers with the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, which filed a brief in support of the couple, said in a telephone briefing last week that they hope the court will clarify how the act works with state family laws.
Under South Carolina law, Brown did not step forward soon enough to assert his parental rights, said Demaray, the academy's immediate past president.
"What does an alleged father have to do and when does he have to do it to establish paternity to be deemed a parent and therefore have the right to participate in a planned adoption?" Demaray said.
A coalition of 18 child welfare organizations agreed that state and federal laws have long required biological fathers to take financial and other responsibility for a child in order to be deemed a legal parent.
However, the group filed a brief in support of Brown and the Cherokee Nation that urged the court to protect the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The act is the "gold standard" for ensuring the well-being of children by requiring efforts be made to develop bonds between a child and fit birth parents, said Linda Spears, vice president for policy and public affairs at the Child Welfare League of America.
"There's more at stake than the custody of just one child," said David Sanders, executive vice president for systems improvement at Casey Family Programs. "We want to ensure that the act does not become collateral damage in this emotionally charged legal action."
Jay McCarthy, an adoption attorney in Flagstaff, Arizona, said he hoped the justices would go beyond questions of paternity to define the rights of children.
"The Indian Child Welfare Act, which grants individuals and tribes statutory rights, does not trump the child's constitutional rights," McCarthy said.
"This case provides an excellent opportunity for the Supreme Court to finally, hopefully and at long last clarify: Does a child have a constitutional right to a secure and stable home? They've never reached that issue yet."
The case is Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, U.S. Supreme Court, 12-399.

Can human genes be patented?

DNA may be the building block of life, but can something taken from it also be the building block of a multimillion-dollar medical monopoly?
The Supreme Court grapples Monday with the question of whether human genes can be patented. Its ultimate answer could reshape U.S. medical research, the fight against diseases like breast and ovarian cancer and the multi-billion dollar medical and biotechnology business.
"The intellectual framework that comes out of the decision could have a significant impact on other patents — for antibiotics, vaccines, hormones, stem cells and diagnostics on infectious microbes that are found in nature," Robert Cook-Deegan, director for genome ethics, law & policy at Duke University, said in a statement.
"This could affect agricultural biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, green-tech, the use of organisms to produce alternative fuels and other applications," he said.
The nine justices' decision will also have a profound effect on American business, with billions of dollars of investment and years of research on the line. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.
And Myriad Genetics alone has $500 million invested in the patents being argued over in this case. Without the ability to recoup that investment, breakthrough scientific discoveries needed to combat all kind of medical maladies wouldn't happen, the company says.
"Countless companies and investors have risked billions of dollars to research and develop scientific advances under the promise of strong patent protection," said Peter D. Meldrum, the president and CEO of Myriad Genetics, in a statement.
But their opponents argue that allowing companies like Myriad to patent human genes or parts of human genes will slow down or cripple lifesaving medical research like in the battle against breast cancer.
"What that means is that no other researcher or doctor can develop an additional test, therapy or conduct research on these genes," said Karuna Jagger, executive director of Breast Cancer Action.
The Supreme Court has already said that abstract ideas, natural phenomena and laws of nature cannot be given a patent, which gives an inventor the right to prevent others from making, using or selling a novel device, process or application.
Myriad's case involves patents on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad's BRACAnalysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
Women with a faulty gene have a three to seven times greater risk of developing breast cancer and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Men can also carry a BRCA mutation, raising their risk of prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer. The mutations are most common in people of eastern European Jewish descent.
Myriad sells the only BRCA gene test.
The American Civil Liberties Union challenged Myriad's patents, arguing that genes couldn't be patented, and in March 2010 a New York district court agreed. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now twice ruled that genes can be patented. In Myriad's case, it's because the isolated DNA has a "markedly different chemical structure" from DNA within the body.
Mark C. Capone, president of Myriad Genetics Laboratories, Inc., a subsidiary of Myriad, said some of the concerns over what they have patented are overblown and some simply incorrect.
"Myriad cannot, should not and has not patented genes as they exist in the human body on DNA," Capone said in an interview. "This case is truly about isolated DNA molecules which are synthetic chemicals created by the human ingenuity of man that have very important clinical utilities, which is why this was eligible for a patent."
But the ACLU is arguing that isolating the DNA molecules doesn't stop them from being DNA molecules, which they say aren't patentable.
"Under this theory, Hans Dehmelt, who won the Nobel Prize for being the first to isolate a single electron from an atom, could have patented the electron itself," said Christopher A. Hansen, the ACLU's lawyer in court papers. "A kidney removed from the body (or gold extracted from a stream) would be patentable subject matter."
The Obama administration seems to agree. Artificially created DNA can be patented, but "isolated but otherwise unmodified genomic DNA is not patent-eligible," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in court papers.
That was the ruling of the original judge who looked at Myriad's patents after they were challenged by the ACLU in 2009. U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA's existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body or the information it encodes. But the federal appeals court reversed him in 2011, saying Myriad's genes can be patented because the isolated DNA has a "markedly different chemical structure" from DNA within the body.
The Supreme Court threw out that decision and sent the case back to the lower courts for rehearing. This came after the high court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease, saying the laws of nature are unpatentable.
But the federal circuit upheld Myriad's patents again in August, leading to the current review. The court will rule before the end of the summer.
"The key issue now for the court will therefore be whether the scientist working in the lab to isolate a particular gene innovated in a way that allows for that isolated gene to be patented," said Bruce Wexler, a lawyer with the law firm Paul Hastings, who advises pharmaceutical and biotech companies on patent issues.
The case is 12-398, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.

The 10 Biggest Medical Scandals In History

When it comes to public health, there's little margin for error. And when crises break out, the repercussions can be serious, not to say deadly, and linger long in the memory.' From genuine mistakes and media-fueled hysteria, to willful and even malicious deception, medical scandals and other health disasters can be truly devastating.

Here are 10 of the biggest medical scandals in history.

Newest Birthing Trend

newbornSome mothers forgo modern obstetric facilities in hospitals and have births at home and assisted by midwives. The latest trend in this natural childbirth movement is called Lotus Birth. Participants don't cut the umbilical cord connecting the child to the placenta. Instead, they keep the placenta in a bowl and wait for the umbilical cord to wither away naturally. Madeline Scinto of the New York Post interviewed Mary Ceallaigh, a widwife educator and advocate for Lotus Birth:
Q: What are the best reasons to practice Lotus Birth?
There’s no wound created at the umbilical site, which lessens the chance of infection.
It allows a complete transfer of placental/cord blood into the baby at a time when the baby needs that nourishment the most. Babies’ immune systems are going through huge changes at a very rapid rate when they’re first born. Not disrupting the baby’s blood volume at that time helps prevent future disease.
The mother and baby benefit from having all the focused placed on bonding, rather than the common focus of "who's going to cut the cord, cut the bond?" Invading the natural process when there's a healthy mother and baby is likely to cause harm in some way seen or unseen.
The respect of all of what a woman conceives, not just part of it. [...]
Q: How do you eat meals, go to the restroom or run errands with a placenta attached to your newborn?
The cord usually dries and breaks off by the third day, so no mother would be running errands during that time anyway...hopefully not until at least the fourth week after giving birth!
In humid conditions, however, it may take up to 10 days for the cord to break, particularly in areas like Bali or the Australian rainforest. In these cases, the early weeks after giving birth is even more low key for the mother - and that can be a good thing....
While the placenta remains attached, it’s kept in a nice cloth, and the cord is wrapped in silk or cotton ribbon. Babies are left on a safe surface or with a caregiver while the mother goes to the restroom. For cuddling and nursing, the placenta pillow is kept near the mother and baby.

And that's the way it is ...

Sad how confused some are.

Not a Good Sign

This sign at Roots Bistro in Houston was up long enough this weekend to have its picture snapped and posted to Twitter. The manager later said it was only up for about ten minutes.
When contacted about the sign and its intentions, a manager on duty who identified himself as Kenneth offered the following explanation: "That sign is not up now. It was up literally for 10 minutes and it was pulled down."

"We'll go on the Internet and look at other businesses and what they post on their signs," Kenneth said. "Another business had posted it," Kenneth continued, and the employee who put together Roots Bistro's marquee apparently took that as a cue that the message was somehow acceptable.

"Obviously no one here would condone any type of violence, domestic or otherwise," Kenneth said, although he couldn't explain why no one thought the sign was tacky, tasteless or offensive until a customer dining on the patio pointed it out.
Protip: being on the internet does not necessarily make something acceptable. The slogan was replaced with a new message on the marquee that says, "Seriously focus your energy on equal rights." More

Restaurant Selling Tickets to Dinner

I don't know much about running a restaurant, but I do know that restaurateurs fret about patrons who don't show up after making reservations.
But how can restaurants discourage such no-shows? Some put reservations on credit cards and charge for cancellations, others even resorted to public shaming on Twitter, but chefs Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo of Trois Mec in Los Angeles is taking another route: selling dinner tickets.
The 26-seat Trois Mec, which opens Thursday in an unmarked former pizza joint in a Melrose Avenue strip mall, will be the first restaurant in Los Angeles to sell nonrefundable tickets online — nearly $100 with tax and tip (not including wine) — and is among only a handful of others in the world doing the same.
"We considered everything — no reservations, putting a deposit on a credit card," says Krissy Lefebvre, Ludo's wife and partner. "But people pay for tickets for entertainment. This just happens to be entertainment in the form of dinner."
Betty Hallock of Los Angeles Times has the story: Here.

Upgrade Your Mayo

CN Digital Studio

We know: It seems impossible to improve on a creamy swipe of mayonnaise. But spiking our favorite decadent spread with another ingredient or two makes it even more complex and flavorful. Just stir one of these components into store-bought mayo.

: Our base isn't a made-from-scratch ail. We love Duke's.

Think about adding some sriracha, a mix-in we're seeing everywhere. Try it with pulled pork, roast turkey, grilled chicken…

Go British: Thin some mayo with malt vinegar and spread it on fried fish or chicken cutlet sandwiches.

Mix in sambal, a spicy Southeast Asian chili sauce, and serve on a roast beef sandwich with plenty of chopped fresh herbs, like basil and mint.


This is interesting. After reading this, you'll never look at a banana in the same way again.

Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.

Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes.

But energy isn't the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

200 students at a Twickenham school ( England ) were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system..

Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and chips. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chroniclercases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Many other cultures see bananas as a 'cooling' fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand , for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has FOUR TIMES the protein, TWICE the carbohydrate, THREE TIMES the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals.. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, 'A BANANA a day keeps the doctor away!'

Random Celebrity Photo


Gene Tierney
Gene Tierney

The Car Park Theater Of Detroit

Detroit's decline has been so well documented by urban explorers that to the outside world, it might seem it's the only thing to know about this once great industrial metropolis.

And yet undeniably, it's vast urban abandonment is intensely interesting. Like Detroit's renaissance revival theatre that has ended up of all things, as a car park.

Ten Incredible Repurposed Train Stations

We don't need train stations the way we once did, but the buildings were built too nicely to not use them in some way or another. Those decommissioned stations have become homes, hotels, museums, libraries, and other facilities, and some of them are out of this world gorgeous. Shown here is the Grand Concourse restaurant in Pittsburgh. See a selection of the best at Flavorwire.

The Museum Of Energy At Santralİstanbul

After opening in 1914, the Silahtarağa Power Plant was Istanbul's sole source of electric power for almost forty years. Today, the former plant has been converted into a cultural center called Sintralİstanbul. The original equipment has been refurbished and left in place, and now constitutes the exhibits of the unique Museum of Energy.

Arts, cultural, educational and social buildings of SantralIstanbul are all housed in the facilities of the former power station which served from 1914 to 1983 for supplying Istanbul with electric power. The site is named after the Turkish word 'santral' for power plant.

The Proton is Smaller Than Previously Thought

Did someone mess up physics? The size of proton, long thought to be understood, turns out to be wrong according to new research:
Speaking [...] at the April meeting of the American Physical Society, researchers said they need more data to understand why new measurements of proton size don't match old ones.
"The discrepancy is rather severe," said Randolf Pohl, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics. The question, Pohl and his colleagues said, is whether the explanation is a boring one — someone messed up the measurements — or something that will generate new physics theories. [...]
The proton is a positively charged particle in the nucleus of atoms, the building blocks of everything. Years of measurements pegged the proton at 0.8768 femtometers in radius (a femtometer is a millionth of a billionth of a meter).
But a new method used in 2009 found a different measurement: 0.84087 femtometers, a 4 percent difference in radius.
LiveScience has the report: Here.

Random Photo

The Strange Beauty Of Salt Mines

Salt, an essential element for all animal life, is abundant here on Earth, but it still requires extraction from stone deposits or salty waters. The process of mining of salt can produce beautiful landscapes, including deep, stable caverns, multicolored pools of water, and geometric carvings.

Some of these locations have become tourist destinations, serving as concert halls, museums, and health spas. Collected here are images of salt mines across the world, above and below ground.


The Heart Of Corsica

The beautiful Mediterranean island of Corsica is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Just south of the small village of Porto in the west coast of the island lies the heart of Corsica. Literally.

Upping the Cute Factor

Friends Are Delicious

How Dog Owners See the World

dog"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went." -- Will Rogers.
Julie Pavletich submitted this photo of man's best friend to the 2009 National Geographic Photo Contest.

Animal Pictures