The I-Word

What is the I-word? Ha Ha Ha Ha!
You can’t figure it out, can you,
You hysterical schmuck, you cutesy liberal?

The I-word is the elephant you can’t see,
Over there, its hairy, smelly enormous self
Sticking out of the gender neutral bathroom.

The I-word stands for I in six syllables
The I that sucked out all the money from health insurance,
Education, transportation, infrastructure and jobs.

The I that invented collateral damage,
That neo-colonized Mexico with its pantheon of billionaire Quislings.
That killed all those people in whadya-call-it, you know,
In those videos leaked by Chelsea Manning.

The I that patrols the South China Sea
Protecting its textile and garment plants
And “all the rich resources down there,”
To quote President Eisenhower.

I will be driving down the road
(Not that I, the one that I am)
And out of nowhere a defiant phrase pops into my head:
“Racist police state,” or “depleted uranium.”

And I suppose I have a lot of problems
Defiance is one of them, isn’t it? A defect
Attributable to childhood trauma, no doubt,
Or that pint of peach brandy I drank freshman week.

I in six syllables sucked the money
Out of most of America a long time ago
Leaving behind places like Clarkston, WA
Where a methodical study of Facebook pages will show
A quarter of adults addicted to methamphetamine.

God bless the meth heads, the new Medusa,
I that I am am not going to turn them in,
Although I have perfected identifying them on social media
Dealers as yet unknown to the Tri-Cities Drug Task Force.

Stand, meth freaks, high on the bluff above the Snake River!
Rage, rage against the cop and all rat snitches!
And, by the way, get your ass down to 714 Main St.
They are smoking tobacco there, or nothing at all.

MANDATORY QUIZ ON THE TALIBAN

1. The Taliban will win the war in Afghanistan because:

A. They are fighting for their country against the foreign invader.
B. They have already won.
C. They present a more compelling moral and ethical choice than their adversaries.
D. They have an inexhaustible supply of manpower, the support of foreign states and a refuge in Pakistan.
E. All of the above.

2. Afghanistan was last conquered by a foreign invader in:

A. 329 B.C. by Alexander the Great.
B. 1382 by Tamerlane.
C. 1849 by the British.
D. 1989 by the USSR.
E. None of the above.

3. The Taliban eradicated opium production in the areas they controlled in:

A. 1990
B. 1996
C. 2000
D. 2011
E. 2016

4. Sun Tzu said: “No nation ever benefited from protracted warfare.” This applies to:

A. The Vietnam War, 1962 – 1973.
B. The first Afghanistan (proxy) war, 1979 – 89.
C. The Iraq War, 2003 – present.
D. The Afghanistan war, 2001 – present.
E. All of the above.

5. The Taliban are bad guys because they:

A. Deny women basic rights.
B. Harbored Osama bin Laden.
C. Both of the above.

6. The Taliban are good guys because they:

A. Are defending their country against the foreign aggressor.
B. Are not corrupt, compared to their warlord/American puppet adversaries.
C. Promote national unity.
D. Place the interests of their country ahead of the interests of foreigners.
E. All of the above.

7. The Americans are good guys in Afghanistan because they:

A. Promote the rights of women.

8. The Americans are bad guys in Afghanistan because they:

A. Have reduced whole areas to an incinerated wasteland.
B. Have turned a bunch of Islamist fanatics (the Taliban) into anti-Imperialist freedom fighters.
C. Have turned a blind eye while their stooges have made Afghanistan the leading opium producing country in the world.
D. Operate by intimidation and corruption, under the guise of promoting democracy.
E. All of the above.

Forms On a Plane – 2

Inside the plane the Walter was behind Susan as they went to their seats.  Susan had evidently checked her bag.  As she put her valise in the overhead compartment Walter did the same with his backpack at the aisle seat opposite, and they came into momentary brushing contact once or twice. Susan removed the file folder, a device and headphones. Both took their seats, exchanging glances.  Susan quickly looked forward, opening her seat tray, while Walter’s glance lingered a moment.

Walter removed his device and poked at it.  The bustle on the plane was neutral, although rather loud.  Susan had her headphones on and was holding papers and pen.  Walter glanced furtively, repeatedly at the striking woman.  She was working on a form, the kind with questions and multiple answers, where one or more answer is to be checked off or circled.  She was working busily, methodically. Walter, pretending not to look, shifted as far as possible into the aisle so that, when the moment came, he could more easily look.

Mixed with the bustle of the plane and announcements that takeoff was imminent, faint music could be heard, tinny, as if coming from earphones across an aisle.  Walter poked at his device,  glanced across the aisle, poked and glanced again.  A last minute passenger or two bustling by interrupted his discreet look at Susan and her form.

Now, as she shifted in her seat and moved the papers closer to him he could read some of the questions:  “Would you recommend Folding Wings to your friends?”  “On a scale of one to five (one least effective in treating addiction/alcoholism , five most effective) how would you rate Folding Wings?)”.  Faint pop music was now a little more audible as the door was closed and the plane began to taxi.

Walter had a few minutes before he would be instructed to power down his device.  Google quickly led him to the site of Folding Wings  Rehabilitation Centers, with a location not far from the airport.

He quickly navigated the site.  It was alcohol – oriented, but would accept addicts.  It had more than twenty locations in the U. S.  It emphasized recovery through the Twelve Steps – and, he discovered with a moment of joy, Folding Wings was seeking volunteers to work with recently discharged patients.  There was a form.  A smile came to his face.  Walter quickly filled it out:

Q.  How long have you been in recovery?  A. 15 years.

Q.  Are you available to meet with recent Folding Wings patients and go with them to meetings?   A.  Yes.

Q.  What is your email address; etc, etc.

The engines were revving up.  We saw Susan raise her tray and place her papers in her bag, placing the bag under the seat ahead of her.  The plane was taking off.  Walter turned off the wide area network on his device and put it in the pouch on the back of the seat ahead of him. Susan kept her headphones on and we could hear, in spite of the increased noise, pop music coming from the direction of her head, faint and tinny.

Now the flight attendants were serving drinks and refreshments from carts in the aisle, and as Walter’s view was obstructed while Susan was ordering he was momentarily relieved by not having to hide his continual glances at her.

They served him coffee, and as he looked over at Susan the pop music suddenly changed and became crystal clear.  She was drinking the first of two small bottles of wine she had ordered.

Within five minutes she had downed both bottles and was asleep, or passed out, headphones still on, slumped toward the aisle, tray table holding the empties.  The high fidelity music continued, without content, pop, fast, inexorable…

 

Copyright (c) 2016, William J. Spurlin, all rights reserved.

Forms On a Plane – 1

It would be impossible to identify the building.  A black rectangle was superimposed over most of the sign in front, revealing only the word “clubhouse.”  The people emerging from it had black rectangles hiding their faces, or the top part of the face.  Two of the women coming out paused for a moment and embraced, and close up it could be seen that one had tears streaming from beneath her black rectangle.

From inside the car we could see one of the women approaching.  She slid into the driver’s side.  We could see in the back seat that her bag was packed.  Her shoulder bag, half open on the front seat contained a couple of devices and a manila file folder with papers.  She drove.  We could see her black rectangle and the periphery of her face in the rear view mirror.

For a few seconds we saw her returning the rental car.  The attendant didn’t seem to be disturbed by the black rectangle.  Indeed, he appeared to be happily looking her in the eye; a courteous, motivated employee.

In the terminal building the woman, tall, determined, advanced, bag on wheels behind, shoulder bag closed and held at her side by an elbow.  Suddenly she stopped and we saw the terminal building interior wheel slowly around her and stop in front of a bar.  Happy people sat at the bar drinking and talking.  We saw the woman’s  face.  We saw the black rectangle disappear, revealing Susan.

 

Copyright (c) 2016, William J. Spurlin, all rights reserved.

 

Interview with Dr. Wild in Le Monde

On the occasion of the investigation published by Le Monde on Tuesday, October 25, regarding the figures concerning cancer in France, Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization headquartered in Lyon] , explains the overall patterns of the evolution of malignant tumors in the world…

What are the overall tendencies in the global evolution of the incidence of cancer?

We do not currently have solid data on the long term evolution of the incidence of cancer for all countries. This information, obtained from nationally registered data, remains scarce in numerous developing countries. Starting from the database of the IARC, we observe changes linked to development: the level of occurrence of certain major cancers (lung, breast, colorectal) is increasing in many poor or emerging countries, while several others, more associated with poverty or infectious diseases (uterus, stomach, liver) seem, rather, to be on the decline.

Overall, an understanding of those incidences which are increasing in countries in transition has to do with changes in the risks undertaken, which are approaching those of the rich countries: tobacco consumption, overweight, sedentary, increase in the age of child bearing and breast feeding… For several cancers a divergence in global tendencies can be observed: among men, lung cancer tends to decline in wealthier countries but is stable or still increasing among women.

These tendencies reflect the “maturity” of the epidemic of tobacco use, and the fact that women have taken up cigarettes more recently than men. Globally, in lower income countries the smoking habit has arrived later and we may be able to observe in decades to come a rapid increase in cancer in certain countries, particularly among men. Other cancers are increasing as well: a sub-type of cancer of the esophagus strongly linked to obesity is increasing in several western countries.

How is the sharp increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer to be interpreted?

These increases are linked to the development of new diagnostic tools (tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, etc.) which have led to a considerable augmentation in the detection of small papillary tumors, which would not have been evident before.

In spite of a decline at the world wide level, cancer of the cervix is still increasing in certain countries of East Africa, Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet countries.

The incidence of a good number of cancer types is at the same time reasonably constant. The mortality rate of pancreatic cancer is relatively stable, for example. But because of the poor prognosis of these tumors and advances in the treatment of other major forms of cancer (breast, prostate, colorectal), this illness [pancreatic cancer] has become one of the leading causes of death in the EU countries.

Beyond the big, known causes – tobacco, alcohol – what are the major determining factors observed?

We now have considerable knowledge of certain risk factors, that can explain part of the developments under observation: First of all, the impact of chronic infections is often neglected as a risk factor, but accounts for perhaps 15% of cancer at a global level, especially for liver cancer (viral hepatitis), cervical cancer (papillomavirus) and stomach cancer (Helicobacter pilori).

However, this varies considerably country by country: in Africa more than 40% of cancers are linked to such infections, against 1% to 3% in North America or Australia, for example… Certain viral or bacterial infections decrease along with the level of development.

It is also interesting to see, in certain wealthy countries, the increase in the number of cancers in the oropharyngeal (mouth, lips, pharynx, etc.) and ano-genital areas associated with sexual transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV). This development is a supplementary argument for the introduction of the HPV vaccine, the benefits of which will extend beyond the prevention of cervical cancer.

What are the consequences of the increase in tobacco use?

Tobacco use continues to increase in numerous countries, which leads naturally to a rise in the incidence of lung and other cancers, including a pronounced increase among women as well as men, as well as other health effects (cardiovascular illness, chronic respiratory trouble, etc.)

Overweight, obesity and lack of physical activity are increasing in a dramatic manner in numerous regions of the world and these life style changes are associated with accumulated risk of several cancers, among which are breast, esophagus, colorectal, kidney…

To what are these life style changes connected?

They are often linked to urbanization, diet, sugary drinks and to the consumption of red meat and processed meats. At the same time, the tendency for women to have children later in life, to have fewer children and to breast feed only for short periods of time is associated with the increase in the incidence of breast cancer in numerous countries.

Has not classic oncology, founded before all else on the concept of mutation, been overtaken by the emergence of new toxicological paradigms?

I would certainly not say that the concept of mutation [of a cell – LeM] has been, one way or another, made obsolete by recent advances in the understanding of molecular mechanisms facilitating cancer. Cancers are to the contrary characterized by a large number of mutations.

I would further say that the discovery of new “events” at the molecular or cellular level which lead to the development of a cancer come with and complement the fundamental work undertaken on mutations and offer fantastic opportunities to study the prevention, the early detection and treatment of this illness.

It is very stimulating to witness the arrival of new tools for the investigation of different “events” – as for example epigenetic modifications [certain changes in DNA or in the genetic environment – LeM] which may be produced among populations.

One of the critical challenges with which we are confronted is to understand how, beyond the induction of mutations, environmental or behavioral factors have an impact on the risk of developing cancer. This information is fundamental for prevention and early detection and has been until the present time largely neglected, compared to other domains of cancer research.

Has not the epidemiology of cancer arrived at a limit, in fact, at the current time, on the effects of environmental factors – as, for example, exposure to toxic chemicals – during critical periods of development such as fetal, perinatal, adolescence – which may, in the majority of cases, be accounted for?

Take care: it would be a mistake to believe that exposure during adult life might be without importance or necessarily less important than exposure during the perinatal period. However, epidemiology must certainly consider life taken as a whole and must measure exposure during all periods of life, as accurately as possible, while using the most feasible instruments, such as questionnaires, environmental measurements or biological markers, for example.

I do not think that exposure during adolescence or in the period around birth cannot be measured, but I recognize that to obtain accurate measurements is certainly a challenge to the extent that the exposure occurred in the past. The encouraging news is that new scientific developments will permit meeting this challenge.

What are they?

I will cite two: The first is that certain environmental exposures leave a molecular “tattoo” in DNA – in the blood cells, or in the tumor itself, for example – that can be detected many years after expression. This allows the beginning of an opening of a window into the past.

The second is that there are in the world a large number of recruited individuals from mother-father-children cohorts, who provide biological samples. In these studies it is possible to link exposures in the perinatal period with changes in the biology of the child.

One might then interpret these observations in connection with abnormalities of cellular or molecular function observed later in life. There again, this will allow the establishment of a bridge between an event that occurred early in life and its consequences much later.

This is Bill Spurlin’s translation of an interview given by Dr Christopher Wild to Le Monde, published here without objection from the IARC.