The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


May 28, 2009

Oy... Complicated

I feel an internal cringe as I read this because I am female - and I would rather communicate via technology. People are scary. McKenna recently said adults scare her. Avoid. I completely relate. Just the way this apple & tree work. Plus, I'm a writer so it comes so much easier for me to type away then try to get the words out through my thick, tangled web of mind & mouth. Sometimes, not effective or a good tool.... so read on fellow males... er, females... er humans. I have a conversation to hold at home. - Rebecca

From The Art of Manliness -

My wife and I got into an argument the other night about how many hours she has been working at her job. I would like her home more. I let things cool down a bit and did not speak with her again that night. The next day, I thought I would apologize to her for getting into an argument. But when I texted her, she responded with a snide remark. As hard as I tried to make things right, it just turned into another argument. It seems like no matter how hard I try, she is not willing to make up. Should we go to counseling?

Let’s talk about texting. I’ll get back to your marriage in a moment.

Call me old-fashioned (believe me, it won’t be the worse thing I’ve been called) but I just don’t believe that all of our problems can be solved with technology…or pharmaceuticals (something I’ve mentioned here in a previous column). Some things should be handled old school. In this case, we’re talking about…well, talking.

If you care about her, AND you’re dealing with a touchy topic, do not text, do not email, do not Twitter. Really, don’t you think your relationship deserves more than 140 characters?

If everything is just peachy, then sending an I love you is swell. But if you’re wanting to apologize, explain, plan, express feelings, offer support, debate or disagree, DO NOT do it electronically. If you must, pick up the phone. But this old guy’s advice is to do it face-to-face.

Relationships are complicated. Most men don’t do complicated very well. That’s why we need to keep it simple. Now-let me know if I’m going too fast for you-when we…talk…face-to-beautiful-face with our women, we can see them and they can see us. If they seem to be misunderstanding us, we can change our words, or adjust our eyebrows, to alter our message. When we talk in-person to those we care about, all of the complicated nuances of interpersonal communication happen naturally.
When we go electronic, all bets are off. Only the very talented can maintain any sense of nuance. And even then, both sides have to either still be in their honeymoon period, or know each other ridiculously well to avoid all possibility of confusion.

Let me give you a real-life example of how texting can foul up your intended meaning. For this column, I texted my 18-year-old son and asked him how he abbreviates a few phrases when he texts. He sent me a short message. I responded with great. He then responded with was that ok? I knew immediately that he thought my great was sarcastic, as if I was disappointed with what he gave me. But that was inaccurate. I thought it was awesome. I called him to verify my suspicion. And yes, he had inferred sarcasm when none had been implied. Now, that was between two men discussing nothing of any significance at all!

Cut to…you and your wife in the middle of an argument and your need to apologize, for being a jerk, via text.

One of the BetterMen Tools is “Don’t Argue,” (get a copy of my book to find out why I’m so adamant about not arguing) so I can see why you’d want to apologize. Now that you know to wait until you see her at home, let’s switch gears to the nature of your argument.

You’d like her home more. I don’t know what your financial situation is, but I assume you’d survive if she worked less. My suspicion is that you value what she does for you at home more than you value how her work makes her feel. I say this because the only reason you got into an argument with her was because you weren’t listening to her. What you wanted to communicate was more important to you than your wife.

Go back home, apologize for trying to apologize via text (oy, this is getting complicated) and then gently let her know that you miss her and wondered whether the two of you could discuss a new balance between work and home. You don’t need counseling to turn this around. You just need to care. Hope this helps. g2g c u l8r

Got a relationship question for Wayne? Email him @:

May 17, 2009

CNN: Commentary: Man up and be a real dad

Excellent Article. I have been talking for years about looking around in my circle of "people" at how many fathers are walking away from their kids. It's a vicious blow to the kids. What a hole in their souls to live without a parent. Yet, we're too scared to talk about it. Those living with it, only can watch our kids hurt. And hope, something will bring a change of events. I cannot fathom living without my two. Like ripping the skin off my body. Yet it is happening everywhere and the next generations are paying the price. For those of you fathers who are staying intact with your children, you rock.

"Editor's note: A nationally syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Visit his Web site for more information. He is hosting "No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET on CNN while Campbell Brown is on maternity leave.

(CNN) -- "I'll kill all y'all."

Imagine looking at the man whose DNA you carry standing in your home, telling you those chilling words, as he wields a shotgun.

The frightening image is a scary thought. But according to former Major League Baseball star Darryl Strawberry, it was an actual scene, one that begins his book, "Straw: Finding My Way."

I vividly remember the towering home runs hit by the former star, who played for four big league teams, including the New York Mets and Yankees -- and of course, the many times he was in the news for failing drug tests, beating wives, getting cancer twice, going to prison. He was a man fighting enormous demons.

Yet as I read the book, there is one consistent theme that runs throughout and that sheds a spotlight on a figure that continues to plague neighborhoods all across the country: the missing-in-action father.

Strawberry makes a point repeatedly in "Straw" that he does not blame his dad for the trials and tribulations in his life; he says all decisions he made willingly. But he does speak to the issue of having a father who, by Strawberry's account, while technically in the house, was a raging drunk who spent his paycheck doing what he wanted, showing no love and affection towards his children, viciously beating Strawberry and his brother, all while telling them that they would be nothing in life. Watch Darryl Strawberry talk to Roland Martin about his father »

"I grew up in an inner city, South Central Los Angeles. When you grow up in the inner cities, most young men don't have a father figure around. Most mothers are raising the kids," he told me in an interview.

He later said, "I loved playing baseball; I loved playing basketball; excelling and achieving my goals was my own personal goals, but inside, I just never loved myself. I can remember the times when I excelled in baseball and I [would] do extremely well and the cheers and the glitter and everything that came along with it, but you know what, Roland? When I went home at night, here was I again, me myself, [asking] 'Who am I?' "

The cynical in our world undoubtedly will say, "Who cares about a drugged-out, washed-up ballplayer?" But the mental damage that Strawberry says wreaked havoc on him as a child cannot be discounted, and it's something that millions of young children, especially boys, are growing up with every day.

This isn't a tale of the stereotypical black athlete who grows up with the black father not in the home, leading to the cycle of violence and lack of family unity we see all around the country. Strawberry's dad was there. But, according to the former ballplayer, he was a horrible father. And right now, there are also young white boys in suburban and rural America who have dads in the home, physically, yet they have mentally and emotionally checked out. And the same for Hispanics and Asians.

It has gotten to the point that a mother is considered essential in a family, but a father is optional, expendable, and increasingly irrelevant.

I remember watching an OnStar commercial. And as the company touted the features, it showed a father driving his child around, and when the kid starts to cry, the dad freaks out and has to quickly call the mom to calm the baby down. I'm watching that and saying, "Man, it's your child, too! So calm it!"

Then there is the commercial -- I don't even remember what they were pitching -- of two or three kids in the kitchen making a mess after spilling the cereal. The hapless and hopeless dad looks at them and says, "Where is your mom?"

Every time that commercial comes on I scream at the TV, "Where is your mom? Where are your parenting skills, you ingrate!"

See, I take seriously the importance of fathers -- men -- in the lives of children. My wife and I don't have children of our own, but we are raising four of my nieces because they were struggling at home. They need to see a husband and a wife caring for them, but also instilling the right values in their lives.

I am convinced that our city streets have turned into killing fields because dads have abdicated their responsibility in the raising of their children. Yes, mom is vital. But there is something different about dad speaking, lecturing, cajoling, disciplining, embracing, loving and caring.

Our schools are filled with children losing their minds, and teachers unable to control them. When that happens, it's typically mom, grandma or an aunt coming to the school to deal with the problem. Ask a teacher or principal today and they will say they rarely see dads.

My mom has gotten ticked at times because I often talk more about my father than her on TV or radio. It's not that I don't love or appreciate her. But I do it because it is rare to hear men, especially black men, speaking affirmatively about their fathers.

I know what it means to have a dad raising and caring for you, and not seeing his child in a drive-by style, or just sending a check. Dads must be present and accounted for, playing a vital role in their children's life.

That's why I appreciated it when President Obama spoke about the issue of fatherhood on the campaign trail. We all know the story of his father leaving when he was 2 years old. And yes, he was able to be successful. But for every Obama, there are numerous boys who aren't able to hold it together.

I've called on pastors nationwide to stop the stream of momma, grandmother, aunts and female cousins coming to the altar for baby dedications with no man in sight. That pastor should say, "Until I personally meet with the father, I will not dedicate this child." Somebody has to hold that man accountable for his actions.

It's time that men hold their "boys" accountable. Actor Hill Harper had a friend who once said that he hadn't seen his child in some time, but he found time to play basketball with Harper. Hill said, "Unless you call your child now, we can't play ball." See, Hill had to force him to accept his responsibilities.

The failure of manhood in America -- fatherhood -- has reached epidemic proportions. And unless our religious and cultural institutions say enough is enough, we are going to see another generation of children growing up with dad absent and unaccounted for.

It's time for men to man up, so children can grow up with an equal amount of love and affection from both parents."

May 6, 2009

The loss of printed media - again

Knowledge is power and until the wide spread print of the newspaper, many people did NOT have a clue what was going on in the country. The government wanted to keep the citizens from being informed. Something started from a deep need in many countries. Therefore, being controlled by their inability to fight or participate in what is going on.

The real problem is that civilians have become too laid back about what is happening in the country, do not seek out the truth and let others do the work, let others feed them nonsense (WHO announces Swine Flu pandemic - hurry, panic! - for the release of government funds for medicine conspiracy theory here) and don't stop to question, analyze, research and act. We all do it. Citizens have allowed the media and entertainment to become the rulers of our country and the government has learned how to use the media to it's advantage. Once again taking control.

For me, being a reader - one who reads the cereal boxes and has a house full of cereal box readers.... we miss the newspaper.

May 5, 2009

MSN: The 'other white meat' meets the runway

In this city where President Barack Obama championed a federal stimulus bill free of "earmarks" and "pork," some elected officials and citizens are questioning whether the first "shovel-ready" project here to be funded by the legislation – a $4.2 million resurfacing of a runway at the Elkhart Municipal Airport – meets that promise.

It's an argument being played out in various forms around the nation as the money from the $787 billion economic stimulus package that Obama signed on Feb. 19 begins trickling down to the local level. (Click here to read reporter Tom Curry's account of how the money is making its way to Elkhart.) It often wears partisan garb, but at its heart is the vexing question of how you define "pork" and "earmarks" -- terms commonly equated with hogs at the trough.

As Associated Press reporter Calvin Woodward explained in a Feb. 9 article titled "Obama has it both ways on pork," the Elkhart runway resurfacing and other projects that will benefit from the surge in federal spending are technically not earmarks. But that's not to say that they are pork-free.

"There are no 'earmarks,' as they are usually defined, inserted by lawmakers in the bill," he wrote. "Still, some of the projects bear the prime characteristics of pork tailored to benefit specific interests or to have thinly disguised links to local projects."

This Pro Publica article -- published on also before the legislation was finalized – also detailed numerous provisions and exemptions intended to benefit special interests or specific businesses or industries.

In Elkhart's case, the question boils down to whether the airport project benefits the few or the many.
There is no debate about whether the 6,500-foot runway needs resurfacing – it has visible cracks that are sprouting weeds. (Click here to read the Elkhart Truth's story on the airport resurfacing project.)

But there is plenty of discussion over the wisdom of spending federal money on it when the city with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates has so many other more-pressing needs. (Click here to read reporter Bill Dedman's piece on U.S. cities that resist recession and Elkhart's spiraling job loss problem.)

David Henke, one of three Republicans on Elkhart's nine-member Common Council, said he has two problems with the project.

"It's a little surprising to see stimulus money go to an airport that 99.9 percent of the citizens do not access," he said, referring to the fact that the airport is used by private and corporate aircraft and a few charter operations but has no commercial service. "The second point is that the stimulus should be used exclusively for long-term job reclamation. Repaving is going to help some contractors … but at the end of the day, once the project is done, the jobs are gone. It's not going to bring in new planes, it's not going to bring any new revenue."

Mayor Dick Moore, a Democrat who set the agenda for applications for stimulus funding, responds that such criticism misses the mark because the funds came from a $1.1 billion pool dedicated to airport renovation or maintenance and could not be used for other purposes.

"I guess we could've turned the money down, but we were at the top of the list because we already had filed with the FAA," he said. "… We would have eventually done it at great expense, with local dollars or by getting a grant and having to come up with matching funds."

He and Andy Jones, the airport's general manager, stress that the airport creates badly needed jobs throughout the city.

"Flying commercial eats up a lot of time for these executives; a lot of times it's really cheaper for them to be able to move in and out of where they do business quickly and efficiently," explained Jones.

Moore adds that while the airport's economic benefit to the city may be incalculable, it is not insubstantial when it leads to deals being finalized with local suppliers.

"When they fly away, what did they leave behind?" he wondered, musing about the departure of executives after such a meeting. "An order for the $3 million or $4 million?"

Beyond that, the mayor estimates that the runway repair alone will provide 250 short-term jobs, a number that strikes critics as too high but may not be far from the mark, according to Gene Yarkie, regional vice president with Rieth Riley Construction Co., Inc., which plans to bid on the project.

"A project like that seems quick and easy, but there are a lot of steps along the way that go into getting that to the runway or highway -- aggregates have to be mined, processed, trucked and then applied," he said. "A lot of jobs are created along the way."

Slowly boiling beneath the current debate about the runway project is a bigger question about the airport's net benefit to the city.

Henke, the city councilman, said the airport runs an annual deficit of $675 million – an expense that is born by city taxpayers. That leads some to question whether Elkhart even needs an airport, especially since there is a regional airport just 15 minutes away in South Bend, which offers nonstop flights to Atlanta, New York and other big cities.

Henke said he does not count himself among them.

"I'm not saying I'm anti-airport, but what I am saying is you've got to be smart about your investments," he said. "If you' own a lake cottage and you're behind on your payments, this is not a time to put an addition on."

The wild horse

I remember at 10 galloping, pretending I was the Lone Ranger (or Tonto) on my horse over some small hills (piles of dirt) in our back yard. And pining for that first horse. I remember the long car rides with my parents to the pens where the BLM horses were held and that one wild buckskin my mom fell in love with, who fought so bravely against the humans that would ensnare her. Over the years of horse training and ownership, she remained one of the best we owned and worth every buck (pun intended).

Recently our household has been following the loss of written media (newspapers) in our society as our 9th grader uses it as her Freshman Project. The other day I read about the department of communication technology (?) @ UW removing the landlines from their office. Our history being pushed in to the archives, bit by bit. As I read about the horse issue and felt startled 1)that there again were that many wild horses on the land - which I thought was very exciting - 2) that they were used for slaughter, I hadn't really given much thought to that ever - I again pined for a lost tradition. Horses.... the wild mustang... the symbol of a beautiful car and power. The sleek muscles, the speed, the sure footedness, the hair, deep eyes, attitude (yes they have it), the ability to survive.

Horses used to be part of the American life, our own survival, transportation, work on the home, recreation, endurance - a great tool to humanity exploring nature & our world. I guess I can't quite compare it to printed word or the ring of a phone, because it is life and beautiful in it's creation. Time's have changed and maybe I show my age at feeling sad to see the loss of what was. 3000 horses does not seem so many in consideration of the world itself. I can see how it would populate quickly and I do understand the concerns and yes, I realize I have extremely limited information. Yet, it doesn't pain me any less to see an alternative as to the end of a worthwhile creature. I'm not sure what alternative plans would be and some plan may require humans to get OUT of their Mustang and climb ON to their Mustang.

Alas, we don't have room or time for a newspaper... we don't even have an animal. How would we have it for a horse?

May 3, 2009

MSN: Too many horses: Northwest tribes consider slaughter facility for wild horses

As a woman who grew up with parents who bought these amazing animals, this is difficult to accept. It seems there would be another way, other then slaughtering them to put money in someone's pocket. Sorry, I don't equate horses to cattle. There are some great photos of these beautiful creatures on the website. Warm Springs Oregon.

By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter

Wild horses are icons of the West, but growing herds have become a costly problem. Tribes say the horses damage their land and need to be managed — maybe by bringing back slaughterhouses.

Here on this reservation in north-central Oregon, horses are woven deeply into daily life. They are traditionally used by tribal members in their work and their culture, whether it be for rodeos or horse parades.

Gathering, breaking and selling wild horses has long been part of the tribe's economy. Horses that don't make the grade are sold for slaughter.

But the nation's final three slaughterhouses were shuttered two years ago, and a perfect storm has formed with a glut of horses, lack of a market and economic recession.

Tribal rangeland managers now estimate 20,000 wild horses are overrunning Indian Country in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, with an annual foal crop raising the population by some 20 percent a year. At the Yakama reservation, range managers say 12,000 wild horses are damaging medicinal plants, depleting forage for wildlife, eroding fragile rangelands and harming salmon streams. Domestic animals, including cattle, add to the problem.

"We have been spending billions on salmon and steelhead recovery, and it goes for naught if we don't do something that fixes these other problems," said Arlen Washines, program manager for the Yakama Nation Wildlife Program.

Agricultural and rangeland experts from five tribes have been meeting quietly since last winter to explore options to manage horse populations on reservation lands. Their ideas, still in discussion, run the gamut. The most controversial: opening a slaughter plant at the Warm Springs reservation, and maybe someday packing the meat for human consumption overseas, if the regulatory hurdles can be cleared and economics pencil out.

The Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition, as the working group calls itself, says it wants to save and care for the horses with better management of the herds. The group is exploring adoption and contraception, but issued a draft report that declares some wild horses will have to be killed to rebalance the ecosystem. The coalition believes horse-slaughtering facilities are needed now — starting with a plant at Warm Springs.

Horse market collapsed

There used to be a thriving horse market in this country, with buyers bidding on horses for processing plants in Stanwood; Maytown, Thurston County; and more than 20 other plants across the country, supplying an eager trade, particularly in Europe.

But the country's remaining three horse slaughterhouses, in Illinois and Texas, closed in 2007 after a sustained campaign by animal-rights activists that resulted in Congress forbidding USDA inspection of horse meat for human consumption. That ended any legal commercial packing industry for horse meat in this country.

Still, there is a demand for horse meat, particularly in Europe. But with no packer competition in the U.S. to supply it, and a glut of horses, foreign packers can set their price.

Trucking the animals long distances to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico also means buyers will take only the fattest, biggest animals.

For the sick, the old, and the skinny, today there is often no market at any price. Buyers who remember paying 70 cents a pound at auction are today paying as little as 6 cents a pound — if the packers will even take the animal.

And the problem stretches far beyond Indian Country.

The bottom has fallen out of the horse market just as the recession is driving even owners of pedigreed, suburban stock to unload animals they can't afford to care for, overwhelming rescue and shelter operators.

It's the same story for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is struggling to feed and care for some 30,000 wild mustangs gathered from public rangelands and put out to pasture in the Midwest in deference to opponents of slaughter.

The BLM is paying $27 million this year alone to feed and care for wild horses living out their days at taxpayer expense. With another 30,000 or so more wild mustangs still roaming the range, multiplying every year, the costs are growing. So far, the BLM has no solution to the problem.

The fight over slaughter

Jenny Edwards, executive director of Hope for Horses, a nonprofit horse-rescue organization based in Woodinville, said that while she is no fan of slaughter, it is a necessary option. "We have to be big boys and girls about this, be realistic," Edwards said.

"It was part of the economic circle of life. It was the legitimate outlet for horses that were unusable for other purposes."

The Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition, composed of members of the Yakama and Colville tribes in Washington, the Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes in Oregon, and Shoshone Bannock in Idaho, wants a rendering plant at Warm Springs where live horses from the reservations and beyond could be slaughtered. The meat and carcasses would be processed for nonhuman consumption and disposal.

Markets for the meat, such as zoos, are being explored. Jason Smith, range and agriculture manager at Warm Springs, has traveled to Canada to examine packing plants.

Several states, including Montana, also are looking into the possibility of reviving U.S. horse slaughter.

They all face an uphill battle with animal-rights activists seeking to restrict slaughter even further. Legislation is pending in Congress to outlaw transporting U.S. horses to slaughter — anywhere.

"It's not an option," said Katie Merwick, president and founder of Second Chance Ranch, a horse-rescue operation in Elma, Grays Harbor County. "It's not conscionable, it's not moral. It's a horrible, scary transport and a violent death."

She said euthanasia is the only acceptable alternative. While it's expensive — it can cost $750 to put down and haul away a horse — it's cheaper than keeping the animal, and can be paid for in installments, Merwick said. "I guarantee if it was to fix your car, you'd find the money," Merwick said.

But people are simply dumping their animals because they see no other choice, Edwards said.

"Horses are being just abandoned," she said. "All over the place, all over the country."

"They fooled with

our culture"

The lack of a viable horse-slaughter market has disrupted tribes' traditional relationships with their horses. "They fooled with our culture and our livelihood and our right to work," said Smith, at Warm Springs.

Here on the reservation, horses peer from rimrock cliffs, doze in the sagebrush, and streak in free-running herds across the flats at the base of Mount Jefferson, looking every bit the icon of the West some people think they are.

The highways on the reservation are posted with signs depicting the streaming mane and tail of a running wild horse. On the 1,000-square-mile reservation, fences are few, and horses have the right of way. "You hit it, you buy it," is how it goes around here.

But on this reservation horses aren't icons or romantic abstractions. "We break and sell the best of our horses, and with no horse market, there has to be an out for the old ones, the sick ones, the ones that just don't make the cut," Smith said. "That is a huge part of our management. Without it they are neglected, overlooked. When you neglect one part of the circle, it affects the rest."

At Yakama, other factors have also contributed to the horse problem, including the preference among some tribal horsemen for highly bred, pedigreed animals for use in rodeos and even for status, Washines at Yakama said.

"It affects how people look at wild horses on the reservation. They are not papered, so ... they don't mean anything to anybody. It has affected the spiritual connection to the horse," Washines said. "The two biggest problems is the shutdown of the market for the horse, and the lack of interest in the horse itself.

"... They just leave them out there and nobody thinks about them, they don't have anything to eat, they eat themselves out of their home range areas and they just stay in the same place. People say just leave them alone, they will be all right. Well, horses don't eat rocks that I know of."

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or

May 2, 2009

From outbreak to overreaction?

By Joel Achenbach and David Brown
The Washington Post

So is this new swine-flu outbreak the next great plague or a global spasm of paranoia?

Are we seeing a pandemic or a panic?

The pathogen that has seized the world's attention has an official name (swine-origin influenza A H1N1), an acronym (S-OIV), a nickname (swine flu) and an apparent birthplace (Mexico). But the essential nature of the pathogen, its personality, its virulence, remain matters of frenetic investigation. Like all influenza viruses, it is mutating capriciously, and thus is not a static and predictable public-health threat but an evolving one.

The bug has gone global, showing up in Asia on Friday with the first reported case in Hong Kong. It also popped up in Denmark and in at least six more U.S. states.

But there has been some flu-scare backlash, with some officials questioning whether schools are too quick to close their doors at the first hint of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) addressed the pandemic-versus-panic issue Friday by cautioning the public against leaping to any conclusions about the virulence of the virus. It has yet to show lethality outside Mexico (the one person to die in the United States was a toddler who traveled from Mexico to Texas), though that doesn't mean it will remain a mild pathogen in the weeks and months to come, officials said.

Influenza is a simple virus, with eight genes, but it makes poor copies of itself, leading to constant mutation. Most of those mutations are dead ends, but, given enough chances, the virus can become more infectious or more lethal. Although the United States is past its flu season, the Southern Hemisphere is just starting its season, entering the cold months when influenza can become explosive.

Some positive news surfaced Friday: Mexican scientists said the contagiousness of the swine flu is no greater than that of the seasonal flu that circulates every year. And a preliminary genetic analysis hasn't turned up any of the markers that scientists associate with the virulence of the 1918 Spanish influenza virus, said Nancy Cox, head of the flu lab of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In New York City, which has the most confirmed swine-flu cases in the United States with 50, the illness has not spread far beyond cases linked to one Roman Catholic school. In Mexico, the epicenter of the outbreak, very few relatives of flu patients seem to have caught it.

Almost everyone who became ill from the virus is either recovering or already well.

Still, it was too soon to be certain what the virus will do. Experts said the only wise course is to prepare for the worst.

The 1918-19 pandemic has cast a long shadow over the current health emergency. That virus circled the world, eventually infecting nearly everyone and killing at least 50 million people.

Pandemic lite?

Jeffery Taubenberger, the National Institutes of Health researcher who reconstructed the 1918 influenza virus, said he is growing the new swine-flu virus — H1N1 — in his lab.

"We're very early on in figuring out what makes this virus tick. I am loath to make predictions about what an influenza virus that mutates so rapidly will do," he said. But he thinks it will spread across the planet: "My prediction is that this strain will continue to spread, and it is very likely to become a pandemic virus, if it's not already a pandemic now. That does not mean that this has to be a very severe pandemic like 1918."

Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, said the situation is analogous to forecasting a hurricane when meteorologists know only that there is a high-low pressure gradient in the Atlantic. "Anyone who gives you an answer right now, do not listen to them about anything ... ," Osterholm said.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl noted Friday that the public may misunderstand the word "pandemic." The term refers to where an illness spreads, not its severity.

A major unknown is the swine-flu virus' "case-fatality rate": the fraction of infected people who die. For the Spanish influenza, it was 2 to 2.5 percent for the U.S. as a whole, but in military camps and on troop ships, the rate was a brutal 7 to 10 percent, and in some Inuit villages it soared to 70 percent.

The other two flu pandemics of the 20th century were far milder. The Asian influenza of 1957-58 had a fatality rate of 0.2-0.5, and the rate during the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 was lower, about 0.1 percent, close to what it is for seasonal flu.

In a typical U.S. seasonal flu season, about 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die.

The case-fatality rate of the swine flu will become certain only when epidemiologists can track its behavior from the moment it arrives in a population, a difficult task under the best circumstances, which the current circumstances in Mexico aren't.

The question is how many other people contracted influenza but never got very sick. Researchers must draw blood from a sample of people in affected towns and cities to estimate how many people were infected and never knew it.

Early signs favorable

The early signs from the U.S. and a few European countries where the strain is spreading suggest it is not unusually dangerous, as there have been few deaths. If that continues to be true, it may help explain the mysteriously high mortality in Mexico. It may be that Mexico already has had hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of cases, all but the most serious hidden in the "noise" of background illness in a crowded population.

Mexican scientists also reported Friday that the virus' ability to spread from person to person is "fairly low" and that it's no more infectious than normal seasonal flu.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Limiting Parents' Rights in Medical Decision Making

As we go along this path of McKenna's health issues, I am faced with a new consideration - she will turn 14 this year. There is this "thing" that gives a child the right at 14 to keep their counseling appts confidential from their parents, to have a say in their own medical decisions... yet the child is still a minor for 4 years and the parents are still attempting to help them move through adolescent in an effort to meet adulthood sure footed and solid. There are reasons for this, such as, if a child is being abused by a parent, there is a need to protect that child from the influence and give them a safe place to talk or seek help. I understand this but feel, once again, in trying to meet some issue in our world, the pendulum swings sharply - too sharply - to the other side. As the doctor mentions wanting to prescribe a medication for McKenna, I - as responsible parent - ask to wait and investigate what it is further. I find that it is related to a medication I have taken in the past and had a serious reaction to. So my inclination is to not approve this medication. She is 13, what happens when she turns 14? I suddenly am faced with a looming question of whether at 14, the doctors would be able to circumvent my approval of medication prescribed for my daughter. I still don't know, I am still investigating this but came across the interesting and concerning article below.

By Lee Black, LLM

"The law’s inquiry into parental competence to provide medical care for a child does not stop at assessing their physical and mental ability to do so; it also examines their willingness to make medically appropriate decisions. The decision of a physically and mentally competent parent to pursue a particular path of treatment may, for example, not accord with the best interests of the child, particularly if a child is not of an age where he or she can contribute to the process. Parents have a legal obligation to refrain from actions that may harm their child. Medical decision making, though, has a certain ambiguity—when does a particular choice indicate that the parent is unable to decide on appropriate care? Religious objections to treatment have a long history of acceptance and, while not absolute, can at times be codified into law [1]. Objections motivated by other beliefs may not receive the same protections and may cause parental objection to specific treatment to be overturned by a court or other authority with more ease than objections based on religious beliefs.

Religious objections
The Supreme Court of the United States has long upheld the right of parents to make decisions for their children based on religious grounds. Generally, when the physical or mental health of the child is not at stake, states and courts defer to the decisions of the parents. For medical decisions, mental or physical health will always be at stake, so a different balancing process must be employed to ensure that the state carries out its duty to protect its citizens but does not infringe on the rights granted to individuals by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

When attempting to declare a given medical treatment decision inappropriate, the state has a high burden of proof because of the great value placed on autonomous parental decision making. The court must weigh the rights of a parent against the interests of the child. One important factor in this process is the expected outcome of the illness or disease: if the proposed medical treatment has a good chance of success and the predicted outcome without treatment is death, courts are more likely to intervene and overrule parental decisions; if the proposed medical treatment does not have a high likelihood of success or the predicted outcome is not death, courts frequently uphold the decision of parents. Generally, it is only when the child’s life is at risk that the weighing of interests favors the child and the government authority that is asserting the child’s rights.

In one litigated case of religious objections to care by Christian Scientists, the interests of the parents, the child and the state were weighed with consideration of a state law that permitted medical decision making to be influenced by religious doctrine. The Supreme Court of Delaware in Newmark v. Williams landed on the side of the parents. The child in Newmark was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma and was given a 40 percent chance of survival if he obtained chemotherapy treatments. His parents decided that, rather than allowing an uncertain and painful medical treatment, they would seek treatment through their church [2]. The state objected and filed for temporary custody of the child.

The court determined that the parents were within their rights to forgo the treatment. According to the court,

…the spiritual treatment exemptions reflect, in part, “the policy of this State with respect to the quality of life” a desperately ill child might have in the caring and loving atmosphere of his or her family, versus the sterile hospital environment demanded by physicians seeking to prescribe excruciating, and life-threatening, treatments of doubtful efficacy [3].

The determining factor was that the treatment proposed by the child’s physician had only a 40 percent chance of success. From the court’s discussion of other legal precedents, if a treatment was more likely to succeed than fail (i.e., had greater than 50 percent chance of success), the state could be justified in gaining custody of a child to obtain medical treatment over the religious objections of his or her parents, although the court made no definitive statement on this matter.

In a more recent case, the Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma came to a different conclusion based on a set of facts much more favorable to the state. In the Matter of D.R., the child suffered from seizure activity and developmental difficulties. While in physical therapy to address these problems, she experienced a severe seizure, after which her parents discontinued therapy and sought no other treatment. The state intervened, alleging medical neglect by the parents because the child’s condition was potentially life-threatening.

The court decided in favor of the state based on the severity of the medical problem, the likelihood of success of the proposed treatment and the limited potential harm of the treatment. It was “well-settled that the state may order medical treatment for a nonlife threatening condition, notwithstanding the objection of the parents on religious grounds, if the treatment will, in all likelihood, temporarily or permanently solve a substantial medical problem” [4]. The court recognized that the state could not order treatment over religious objection of the parents if the treatment was “risky, extremely invasive, toxic with many side effects, and/or offers a low chance of success” [5]. This decision, consistent with Newmark, illustrates the difficulties in determining who should make medical decisions for a child.

Nonreligious objections
Religious objection has a firm foundation in the Constitution and legal precedent. It is much more difficult for courts to justify parental refusal of treatment for reasons not based in recognized religion (a somewhat arbitrary distinction, but consistently used). For example, if a parent prevented needed care because of a fear of nonexistent risks, the state would be able to intervene with little opposition by courts. Parents have more flexibility in choosing among different treatments that all have some scientific validity; they need not choose the best available treatment. The caveat here is what constitutes valid treatment—courts do not always agree on this.

For decades, laetrile, a chemical compound found in various foods, has been considered by some to be an effective form of cancer treatment. Mainstream medicine has never embraced laetrile use, and there have been no clinical trials of its efficacy [6]. Yet, within a month two courts in the Northeast decided cases based on the use of laetrile and metabolic therapy and came to very different conclusions about its use.

The case of Joseph Hofbauer in New York concerned the definition of “neglected child” [7]. Joseph had Hodgkin’s disease, and his physician recommended that he be seen by a specialist for further treatment that could include radiation or chemotherapy. Joseph’s parents rejected the recommendation and took him to Jamaica where he received a course of metabolic therapy that included the use of laetrile. After his return to the U.S., the state sought to remove Joseph from the custody of his parents on the grounds that failure to enroll him in conventional treatments constituted neglect. A court order authorized continued treatment with metabolic therapy on the condition that Joseph be monitored by a second physician.

At trial, there was voluminous testimony concerning treatments for cancer. Physicians for the state testified that metabolic therapy was inadequate and ineffective for the treatment of Hodgkin’s disease. Physicians for the parents testified that metabolic therapy was beneficial and effective, although they did not preclude the use of conventional treatments that the parents sought to avoid. A scientist testified to an animal study conducted on mice showing the effectiveness of laetrile and other substances. Both sides admitted to the dangerous potential side effects of conventional treatments.

The court began by noting that the statute pertaining to adequate medical care for children required a parent to “entrust the child’s care to that of a physician when such course would be undertaken by an ordinarily prudent and loving parent ‘solicitous for the welfare of his child and anxious to promote (the child’s) recovery’” [8]. Parents can rely on the advice of licensed physicians, because those physicians are “recognized by the State as capable of exercising acceptable clinical judgment” [9]. The question most important to this court was whether the parents provided an acceptable course of care in light of surrounding circumstances. The court determined that the parents were justified in their concern over conventional treatments, that there was medical proof of the effectiveness of laetrile and that metabolic therapy had fewer risks than radiation or chemotherapy. Therefore, Joseph was not neglected within the meaning of the statute.

A month after the New York decision, Massachusetts had occasion to answer the same question: was laetrile appropriate medical treatment? In Custody of a Minor, a three-year-old boy suffered from acute lymphocytic leukemia [10]. An earlier court decision had ordered that the child undergo chemotherapy, which was successfully completed. Thereafter, his parents discontinued his medications and the leukemia recurred. The parents sought to supplement their child’s chemotherapy with metabolic therapy, including laetrile.

Both the parents and the state introduced expert testimony pertaining to the safety and efficacy of laetrile. None of the parents’ experts claimed expertise in the area of blood diseases or leukemia. The state presented various experts in blood diseases, including the child’s physician. At an earlier hearing, a judge had concluded that “not only are the assertions concerning metabolic therapy’s alleged palliative effect unconfirmed by any well-documented evidence, but there are several alternative explanations for this observed phenomenon” [11].

The court found that the use of laetrile was potentially harmful to the child because of the possibility that it would interfere with chemotherapy and because it posed a risk of cyanide poisoning. The court also decided that “family autonomy is not absolute, and may be limited where, as here, it appears that parental decisions will jeopardize the health or safety of a child” [12]. The court determined that the use of laetrile in this specific case was “not consistent with good medical practice,” but it did not address the use of laetrile in all circumstances, drawing a careful distinction with Hofbauer by noting the additional testimony of laetrile’s possible effectiveness and the different type of cancer at issue in that case.

Interpreting the courts’ rulings
The end result of a court battle over the provision of medical treatment depends on the type of objection—religious or secular, the proposed treatment and the prognosis for survival with and without treatment. Religious objection to standard medical therapy is often legally valid when the treatment is more likely to fail than succeed. Respect for religion has forced courts to recognize that medical decisions are not always scientific—many people rely on faith to heal them. On the other hand, the right to refuse treatment based on religious objection is not absolute. In cases where adherence to religious tenets that prohibit standard, life-saving care, e.g., blood transfusion, would almost certainly lead to a child’s death, the courts have decided that parents cannot make martyrs of children who are too young to have consented to embrace the faith.

Objection for other reasons leads to more varied court decisions, but these objections can be overruled more easily than faith-based objections. Parents cannot refuse all medical treatment as they can if the objection is based on recognized religious doctrine. If alternatives may be successful and are less invasive than a risky standard medical treatment, courts may defer to parents. If the alternative treatment has no scientific merit, courts will most likely prevent parents from standing in the way of their child’s health.

It is important to remember that legal competence to make medical decisions for children is not just about physical or mental capacity; it is also about making appropriate, best-interest decisions. Medical neglect statutes examine whether appropriate care was provided, not how it was provided. A parent who refuses care based on an objection to treatment, whatever the basis, is just as likely to have the state intervene to make medical decisions as a parent who is not physically able to provide care or not mentally capable of making decisions.

For example, the Illinois Compiled Statutes define “neglected child” to exclude a child whose “parent or other person responsible for his or her welfare depends upon spiritual means through prayer alone for the treatment or cure of disease or remedial care…” 325 ILCS 5/3 (2006).
Newmark v Williams, 588 A2d 1108 (Del 1990).
Newmark at 1112.
In the Matter of D.R., 20 P3d 166 , 169 (Ct App Okla 2001).
In the Matter of D.R., at 170.
National Cancer Institute. Questions and answers about laetrile/amygdalin. Available at:
Section_23. Accessed August 24, 2006.
In the Matter of Joseph Hofbauer, 393 NE2d 1009 (NY 1979).
In the Matter of Joseph Hofbauer, at 1013.
In the Matter of Joseph Hofbauer, at 1014.
Custody of a Minor, 393 NE2d 836 (Mass 1979).
Custody of a Minor, at 841.
Custody of a Minor, at 843.
Lee Black, LLM, is a policy analyst for the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs at the American Medical Association in Chicago, Ill. Prior To joining the AMA, he was a staff attorney with the Legislative Reference Bureau in Springfield, where he drafted legislation for the Illinois General Assembly.

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