Monthly Archives: April, 2010

Food Wasted

Kmareka had a post about British corporations that were trashing food in Kenya because they didn’t want to hurt the image of the brand. Happens in the USA too.

Providence in NYT

Cool to see a local business, Home Instead, featured in the NYT today. Also cool that it’s my profession, home care nursing.

Today’s article, ‘A Graying Population, a Graying Work Force’ profiles some of the workers and their clients. It’s demanding work, essential work and fulfilling.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — One recent morning Antonia Antonaccio, a home care aide, got a call to help an elderly couple whose regular aide could not make it. The regular aide, who is 68 years old, had thrown out her back.

Ms. Antonaccio said she empathized. Sometimes her legs hurt from going up and down stairs. “But it’s nothing I pay attention to,” she said. “I don’t have the time.”

Ms. Antonaccio is 73.

In an aging population, the elderly are increasingly being taken care of by the elderly. Professional caregivers — almost all of them women — are one of the fastest-growing segments of the American work force, and also one of the grayest.

Not all the home care workers are older. Some are young women just entering the work force. Some are caring for children or parents and need flexible hours. The wages are low, and not all home care workers have health insurance themselves.

I hope that health care reform will remedy this injustice. Right now the years before Medicare kicks in are years of risk for many workers. Health care security would free them to try less conventional jobs outside of the forty hour grind.

What My Doctor Prescribed

Regular readers will be shocked to hear that Ninjanurse, on her last physical exam, was not found to be in perfect health. Sitting in a car for half the work day, fighting the traffic up and down Rt.95 in a car the size of a golf cart, followed by a relaxing few hours of pointing and clicking on the net does not tone up your cardiovascular. My breakfast of a pot of coffee in the morning and the Ben and Jerry’s at night have not been conducive to weight control.

This is harsh, and grossly unfair, but there it is. My doctor called me into his office and gave me a prescription for Vitamin-Ex.

I really appreciate a doctor who would rather prescribe common sense than another pill. Prescription drugs are lifesaving if they’re used wisely, but they’re not a substitute for eating right and exercising. Let me note that there is not a big lobby for integrating activity into daily life. A physical therapist once said to me, ‘if it’s physical, it’s therapy’. But you won’t see a commercial urging you to ‘ask your doctor’ for a bike path.

My doctor doesn’t get free pens and sticky notes, much less free lunches, for prescribing Vitamin-Ex–in fact he could make more money if he didn’t take the time to counsel his patients on health.

If you want to know more, visit Dr. Berg on Vitamin-Ex. Tell him Ninjanurse sent you.

Just Wondering…

• Why senior staff members at the Securities and Exchange Commission, who were found to be “surfing Internet pornography when they should have been policing the financial system,” weren’t satisfied with viewing the naked greed of bankers screwing the American people?

• Whether Senator John McCain, who is facing “a tough primary challenge from former radio-talk-show host and blowhard congressman J. D. Hayworth,” was actually the recipient of “the world’s first full-face transplant”?

• If privacy is, like, so 20th century?

• How it came to be that Jon Stewart, the satiric host of The Daily Show, demonstrates greater journalistic daring and integrity than much of the mainstream media?

• Now that Archie comics will feature a gay character, whether Batman and Robin will come clean about their relationship?

• Why my three cats (two of whom are shown below) fail to understand the concept of the weekend and insist on meowing and scratching at my bedroom door at 5:30 in the morning?

Caboodle and Zooey relax on the couch

Fixer Priest

Michel Martin on NPR’s show ‘Tell Me More’ has a chilling interview with an ex-priest who once helped shuffle child abusers to poor parishes all over the world. It was assumed that the less powerful would not complain or be believed if they did.

Patrick Wall grew to understand that system from the inside. He’s a former Benedictine monk and served as a, quote, “fixer priest” for the Catholic Church. That means he’d be brought in to manage a church in the wake of scandal often involving sexual abuse. He left the priesthood and since 2002 has been assisting abuse survivors gather evidence to sue or prosecute their abusers.

The problem in the Catholic Church is not a few bad priests, or the corrupting influence of the world. It’s the Church’s own deeply corrupt system that is dedicated to preserving its power. So many have been wronged– parents and children, faithful Catholics and clergy who keep their vows. That disadvantaged people, such as deaf boys and poor communities were treated as dumping grounds for toxic priests is heartbreaking, but not surprising. It’s consistent with an imperative to protect and shield the public image.

MARTIN: Is there any pattern to the kinds of communities that were selected for priests who had been accused of abuse or who were known to have abused children to go?

Mr. WALL: Oh, there’s a clear pattern. You always wanted to send them to a parish where people are not going to talk. The best ones are parishes of color, parishes of strong, Catholic ethnicity, parishes that have a reason to really want the priest. I remember stories of, for instance, Father Jules Convert. He’s a French Jesuit who ended up serving in Alaska. Now, he didn’t speak Yup’ik, but that’s where he ended up and that’s where he offended.

MARTIN: Why were they sent to communities of color, particularly, and strong ethnic parishes? Why?

Mr. WALL: Because they were so happy just to have a priest. These were places out of the way. I remember another story of Father Kelly(ph). He was a piano professor at St. John’s University in Collegeville. And they sent him, after he offended, up to the Ojibwe Indians in Red Lake, Minnesota. They were so happy to even have a priest, they wouldn’t dare accuse him of anything, let alone call the police on him.

A phrase from South Africa, ‘truth and reconciliation’ comes to mind– honesty, repentance, reparation and institutional change to ensure that these things will not be allowed to go unpunished again. Will that happen? Not from the leadership, perhaps from the laity.

The Catholic Church is not unique in this kind of crime and cover-up. Neither should it be given special treatment. Crime is crime, and victims have a right to justice; society has a right to protection from future offenses. It’s a characteristic of molesters that they prey on the vulnerable while cultivating allies among the more powerful. The Church hierarchy has followed this pattern in dumping its worst problems on its least powerful members.

Have Mercy!

As if gay people haven’t suffered enough, now there’s a gay character in Archie comics.

I remember being traumatized by Christian Archie Comics. A brave historian has dared to revisit those days, a link is here. If you survived the decade of dirty hippies, scary black radicals and The Cross and the Switchblade, approach that link with caution– it causes flashbacks.

When I was a lonely, churchgoing, unconfident teen, I picked up an Archie and learned that ugly girls can be made to go away by hooking them up with the Lord. Problem solved. It’s a scary message when you are hanging out with a group where the girls outnumber the boys 3-1. Good thing I left– I might yet be waiting for my first kiss.

I wanted that kiss real bad, but the nice ladies in the church told me that Jesus would give me a love far better than the earthly, and I should stop thinking about those things. Women were supposed to be helpful and smile all the time, and exude a radiant joy in our salvation. That Archie comic actually scared and outraged me, because the message I was getting was to stifle my needs, shut up and stay invisible. The gay guys in the church were supposed to do the same.

What caused this revolution in Archie World? Now there’s a gay guy in Riverdale. Will the Christians love-bomb him, or have they all lost their faith? The theological implications are deep and mysterious.

Myself, I find Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sunnydale to be a more congenial alternative universe. If you survive high school, nothing else can defeat you.

Old-Time Doctors

A lot of snarky jokes are being spun from Republican hopeful Sue Lowden’s suggestion that we all just go back to a simpler time when you could barter a chicken for your medical bill. The best of these is a chicken-conversion site that helps patients and doctors calculate what is a fair price in chickens for common medical procedures. There is also help for doctors who may have trouble finding a place to keep their earnings –state of the art coops and all. And serious illness, of course, could be more expensive — for that you need cows.

All jokes aside, you’d think that doctors and nurses would sometimes be moved by compassion to donate time or waive fees to patients in crisis. And you’d be right because they do. The problem is that labs and diagnostic tests cost money. That’s why cutting a program such as the Women’s Cancer Screening Program hits poor people so hard. Getting free care, and even free medicine is relatively easy compared to blood tests, x-rays, and more. Even when you cut down to essentials, some of those tests are essential and you can’t bring a chicken to the phlebotomy lab, live or barbecued.

But some folks miss the country doc who would come to your house and take out your appendix with a spoon. I think they should find an old-time doctor like R.V.Pierce, MD. (1840-1914) He would have had no use for the plethora of expensive tests that doctors today can’t function without. That’s because his treatment for every disease was a bottle of Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery. He sold enough to build a huge Sanitarium and Invalid’s Hotel in Buffalo, New York and win a race for Congress as a Republican. (He quit after a year)

Not only could Dr. Pierce cure cancer, he could also cure such conditions as morning erections in males. After terrifying them with predictions of lost manhood for any who did not slap a cold, wet cloth upon themselves on awakening. Ah, the good old days.

It’s true that people died of diseases that are easily cured today. But in many conversations with Tea Party folks at the health care Town Halls, I had it explained to me that there’s nothing we can or should do about the fact that some people are just going to die. It’s not immoral like abortion, it’s natural like infant mortality due to lack of prenatal care. It’s God’s will.

It’s hard to understand why so many people can’t accept financial rationing and refuse to suffer silently. The way we’re going, we’re going to end up like Canada where people not only don’t bring chickens to the doctor’s office, they think health care is a public good, like roads or education. The Canadians don’t know how bad they have it. Health care security may seem like a felicitous condition for now, but just like that foolish young man who wakes up with a smile on his face– perdition awaits. Vote for Dr. Pierce. He wasn’t afraid to invent diseases and he’ll sell you the cure.

Computer Won’t Make You Smart

The net has been a source of great fun and many wasted hours but I’m not surprised to see that pointing and clicking does not exercise your brain. A study shows that people who used the brain boosting programs might as well have been reading lurid news stories about euthanized mice.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. Did anyone out there see the first computer-generated movie, Walt Disney’s ‘Tron’? It was very colorful.

Leaving the theater and walking back through the parking lot, I was struck by how rich ordinary life is. The barrage of special effects in the movie was actually two hours of sensory deprivation. Sitting in a chair watching a screen is not exercise of body or mind.

Speaking of exercise, there is evidence that activity does boost brain power. So wash the Cheetos crumbs off your fingers, change out of your pajamas and go outside. You’re already a brilliant blogger, take a walk once in a while and you’ll be Einstein. I think he liked to walk.

Several Mice Were Euthanized

Honestly, I don’t know why I bother to read the news and stay informed. All it does is make my head throb and my stomach roil. Of the four major food groups, two of mine are aspirin and antacids. I munch ‘em like a ballplayer eating sunflower seeds. That can’t be healthy.

Some recent news items have particularly given me pause. One reported on the foul rantings of radio host Rush Limbaugh, who suggested that the volcanic eruption in Iceland was divine retribution for the passage of health care reform in the Untied States. His logic seems about as sound as his character. After reading that little tidbit, I was wiping the spittle off my computer screen. Then, I happened upon the delightful story of the “Phillies fan charged with intentionally vomiting on cop’s kid.” Could anything be more reprehensible or disgusting? That one had me rushing to embrace the toilet.

Just when I thought the news had reached its nadir (and I could ralph no more), I came across a tummy-turning piece from The Seattle Times about a felon accused of running an animal-sex farm. Sadly, the man was not engaging in the business of animal husbandry but rather catering to people who desired sex with animals. It seems that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and unwell in rural Washington State:

He was “promoting tourism of this nature for bestiality,” Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said Friday.

When county deputies and federal investigators searched the property they found videotapes that included images of a man, who was visiting the property, having sex with several large-breed dogs.

The man, a 51-year-old British national, was arrested for investigation of four counts of bestiality, Elfo said. He is being held in the Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $150,000, Elfo said.

On Wednesday, authorities took several animals, including horses and large-breed dogs, found on Spink’s property into protective custody, Elfo said. Several mice were euthanized, he added. [link]

I’m thinking that the mice were the lucky ones. If you’ll excuse me now, I need to curl up in a fetal position and moan.

Hunger and Callous Waste

My family is Irish-American, brought here by the consequences of a famine called The Great Hunger. There’s a book of the same name, but I can’t read more than a few pages without putting it down.

One glaring injustice the book records is the fact that Ireland exported vegetables to England all during the famine while its own people starved. That’s economics. You see it again in the songs of the Great Depression— Woodie Guthrie’s ‘oranges rotting in their creosote dumps’.

Someone told me a story about the mansion, Blithewold, when it was still a playground of the rich in the 1930’s. A young boy found a job in the kitchen helping the cooks. One day the family ordered squab. That’s baby pigeons, and the boy was still young enough that it bothered him to wring their necks, but he did what he was told. The squabs smelled wonderful as they cooked and the boy was very hungry. Just as they were done, the family changed their mind, and he watched as all the food was thrown into the garbage. You think that kind of thing couldn’t happen now?

Today we have unprecedented communication across the world. We have the means to respond with quickness and flexibility to a natural disaster. We can’t claim ignorance– perhaps stupidity has a longer shelf life. That would explain this story out of Kenya– from the New York Times…

Because Kenya’s gourmet vegetable and cut-flower industry exports mainly to Europe, and because the cloud of volcanic ash has grounded flights to much of northern Europe since Thursday, its horticultural business has been waylaid as never before.

On Monday, Mr. [Kenneth] Maundu [ general manager for Sunripe produce exporters] stared at the towering wreckage: eight-feet-tall heaps of perfectly good carrots, onions, baby sweet corn and deliciously green sugar snap peas being dumped into the back of a pickup truck.

“Cow food,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s about all we can do with it now.”

Thank the gods they keep cows, at least. You can’t save everything, but look at this…

“Volcano, volcano, volcano,” grumbled Ronald Osotsi, whose $90-a-month job scrubbing baby courgettes, which are zucchinis, and French beans is now endangered. “That’s all anyone is talking about.” He sat on a log outside a vegetable processing plant in Nairobi, next to other glum-faced workers eating a cheap lunch of fried bread and beans.

It’s been a bad year for agriculture in Kenya and low-wage workers can’t even afford to eat decently. And what is the corporate response to this hardship?

Thus, the trash heap of greens. At Sunripe, one of the most profitable sides of the business is prepackaging veggies for supermarkets in Europe. Most of the peppers, corn, carrots, broccoli and beans are grown in the Rift Valley, trucked to Nairobi, and then washed, chopped and shrink-wrapped. There are even some packages labeled “stir fry,” which few Kenyans have ever heard about.

The vegetables are marked with the names of some of England’s biggest supermarkets. (They requested not to be mentioned in this article.) But those supermarkets are very particular about their brands and do not allow Sunripe to give away excess produce with their labels on it.

So, on Monday, a man in a Sunripe lab coat and mesh hair net stood at the back of the pickup truck in the company’s loading bay tearing open plastic bags of perfectly edible vegetables, each worth a couple of dollars, and shaking out the contents. Sunripe does give away unpackaged food, and two nuns from an orphanage stood nearby, waiting for some French beans.

I’ll bet a photographer was standing by to catch the grateful nuns holding their plastic bags of beans. It will show up in the quarterly report. You won’t see them composting the best of Kenya’s farms while unemployed workers go hungry. Jeeze– you’d think they could have at least made soup. Really– there’s no ignorance any more except the willful kind. This is malignant stupidity and greed.

I hope that someone soon will publish a list of the corporations that mandated the destruction of food produced by underpaid workers, now laid off and missing wages. The NYT didn’t dare, but surely someone in Kenya, or in England, knows and is ready to out them.


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