It has been ten years since a "hunter-terrorist" ruined deer season in Wisconsin. In the fall of 2004, instead of shooting deer, Chai Vang, a Hmong immigrant from Laos, shot and killed hunters. Eight hunters were shot in northern Wisconsin, six of whom died including a father and son. No clear motive for the murders became apparent but Vang, a hunting enthusiast, was tried, convicted and sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus seventy years.

 

Vang's rampage was especially disturbing because Wisconsin was just pulling out of an epidemic of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its deer and elk, a fatal disease similar to Mad Cow. State officials assured residents they couldn't get the fatal human brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) if they avoided the deer's "brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen or lymph nodes" and if they wore latex gloves. But there were two medical reports that suggested otherwise: A 2002 CDC report titled "Fatal Degenerative Neurologic Illnesses in Men Who Participated in Wild Game Feasts--Wisconsin, 2002." And an Archives of Neurology report called "Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease In Unusually Young Patients Who Consumed Venison."

 

As headless deer waited in trailers in Wisconsin to be tested for CWD before people would eat them, the traditional venison burgers given out on the first day of deer hunting season became problematical. Even if a hunter's own deer was disease free, "if the hunter has the deer processed, does that processor sterilize its equipment after each deer is cut up so cross contamination does not occur?" asked one Wisconsin deer hunter the Capital Times. When his buck turned out to be positive for CWD, another hunter wanted to know about the risks to his wife who had washed his hunting clothes and from blood which had gotten on his steering wheel.

 

The CWD scare also caused a PR problem for hunters and hunter groups who did not want to eat what they killed. Some food pantries refused deer meat. Others gave homeless and hungry patrons informed consent fliers which told them the meat was probably fine but there was a slight chance it would kill them. Suddenly hunter "generosity" looked malevolent. And killing animals without eating them looked gratuitous and cruel.

 

Even if this year's deer are fine to eat (though the CWD incubation period is decades) many young hunters are saying "no thanks" to the sport of their fathers and grandfathers.  Web-based activities are much more fun and a better way to meet girls, they say. But DNR officials worry about the loss of their primary funding--hunters. State exhortations to "thin the herd" are belied by the hundreds of state-registered deer breeding operations. "Overpopulation" is good for business--why else would states like Wisconsin support deer breeding and fight a disease that thins the herd?

 

The number of US hunters is dropping about 10 percent a year.  Hunting groups are especially concerned about the dip in young hunters, aged 16 to 24, whose numbers fell by 300,000 from 1996 to 2006, according to the Wildlife Service.

 

"For every 100 hunters who retire, only 62 take up the sport," warned former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell at the Pitcairn-Monroeville Rod and Gun Club in Allegheny County a few years ago. "If this trend continues, our ability to manage wildlife will be severely affected and Pennsylvania's economy will suffer." Maybe manage should be in quotes.

 

"The single biggest challenge facing our two wildlife agencies in Pennsylvania is money. Or lack thereof," agreed Dale Machesic, outdoors reporter in a column for the Philadelphia suburban paper, the Intelligencer. "The single biggest obligation to all fishing and hunting enthusiasts is to get kids involved."

 

Wisconsin lost 45,000 hunters from just 2000 to 2007, during its battle with CWD and Vang's sniping and afterwards. How many will take to the fields this year? And how many will eat their deer?

 

 

 

by Robert Wilbur and Martha Rosenberg

 

Last year, a coalition of animal lovers seeking to ban Manhattan's carriage horse industry helped defeat Christine Quinn, once the front-runner for mayor, because she opposed such a prohibition.  Mayor de Blasio, who beat Quinn, pledged his first action as mayor would be to ban the controversial rides. Yet where is the ban?

 

Last month about 30 protesters gathered across from Gracie Mansion to exhort Mayor de Blasio to fulfill his campaign promise. New York's carriage horses are "stripped of the ability to do anything horses would naturally do. They don’t belong here in the city," said Donny Moss, a member of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages "It’s in humane and unsafe."

 

The carriage horses are getting hurt and spooked on streets and some spend nights standing in narrow stalls agreed Brian Gari, a member of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, to the mournful sound of bagpipes.

 

People would be "appalled" at the conditions of the stables that are not shown to the public as the stable on 52nd Street was, added Moss.

 

While Mayor Bill de Blasio reaffirmed his sentiments this week, indicating legislation would soon be introduced paving "the pathway to an ultimate ban" of carriage horses from Central Park, some predict a ban will have a hard time in City Council.

 

Councilman Rafael Espinal, is head of the Consumer Affairs Committee, where previous carriage-related bills have originated recently declared his opposition on the basis of lost jobs. "What will these 300 workers do?" So did, Demos Demopoulos, a leader of Local 553 of the Teamsters, which represents the carriage drivers' union, who predicted  a ban will go nowhere.

 

Just over a year ago, we wrote an article on how a pledge to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry was thrusting the political unknown, Bill de Blasio, into the forefront of the mayoral race. The hapless carriage horses not only brought de Blasio early exposure, they helped to fill his campaign coffers. The horses inspired parking lot czar Steve Nislick to bankroll NYCLASS, an organization devoted to phasing out the carriage horse industry. The backing included help from Wendy Neu, a Manhattan businesswoman who also reportedly poured money into the de Blasio campaign.

 

Riding past Central Park South in an air-conditioned cab this past summer, one of us surveyed the bedraggled horses hooked up to 1500-2000 pound carriages in the ferocious heat. There is a law that authorizes the police to order the horses back to the stables in such weather, but only after a one-hour warning. That and a cornucopia of other toothless laws affecting the horses, are rarely enforced. While NYCLASS is still very much in business, Nislick and Neu did not answer our requests for comment on de Blasio's long-delayed carriage horse ban.

 

One of the leaders in the campaign to abolish the carriage horses is Edita Birnkrant, director of New York Friends of Animals (FOA) whose offices are only a short walk from Central Park South, where the carriage horses can be observed.

 

Nothing is happening, Birnkrant told us. Contrary to the impression that most voters were given last fall, the mayor cannot abolish the industry by executive fiat, but must introduce a bill in the City Council. Mayor de Blasio has not honored a request to meet with Birnkrant and other animal welfare activists, Birnkrant told us.

 

Priscilla Feral, President of FOA says she is hopeful that de Blasio will respond to what she characterizes as "a united front of sane people." Although FOA would prefer an immediate ban, they will go along with NYCLASS's agenda to replace the horses with electric mini-vans over a three-year period. According to a spokesperson for NYCLASS who spoke to us but requested anonymity, a prototype for such a van already exists and was displayed at the 2013 New York Auto Show. In addition to sparing animals hardship, the vans are environmentally responsible.

 

Feral say she is sympathetic to de Blasio's political plight. As a liberal Democrat he is particularly vulnerable to pressure from organized labor, and the carriage horse industry, as Birnkrant explained to us, made a shrewd move back in 2010 of affiliating with the Teamsters Union. This "partnership" is being wrung for all the mileage it can produce yet Birkrant dismissed the claim that the carriage drivers' association is a union as a "total scam....not a real union."

 

A Life of Pain and Thanklessness

 

To get a sense of the life of a New City carriage horse, we interviewed  Susan Wagner, president and founder of Equine Advocates, a horse sanctuary and welfare group. Some of the carriage horses are burned-out workhorses from farms belonging to the Amish, she told us; others are trotter racers which are considered highly desirable because they are already "broken in" from pulling a wagon, though their new "wagon" will be several times heavier.

 

Carriage horses don't last for many years, Wagner told us, thanks to freezing winters, torrid summers and filthy stables in which they can't turn around and, if they want to lie down, must do so in their own excrement. Drivers, motivated by profit not animals,  drivers, know little about equestrian technique.  Should a horse get seriously ill or injured in city traffic, which has happened too much, he will either be sold to a middleman who makes his income dealing with horse butchers and slaughter houses, or, if he is "lucky," will be euthanized by a veterinarian. Disturbingly, City records show when horses arrive in the City...but not when they depart.

 

Horses who do not disappear inevitably wind up at horse auctions in Pennsylvania or Upstate New York, where their value to middlemen depends on the amount of meat on their bones. From there it's on to slaughterhouses in Canada, since horse slaughter is illegal in the United States.

 

A website of the Humane Society of the United States describes what happens to the horses next.  "Slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end for horses." "Because horses are skittish by nature, accurate stunning [with a sledgehammer] is difficult. As a result, horses must endure repeated blows, and sometimes remain conscious while they are dismembered." Even if a horse is not ill or lame, there comes a time when he can no longer pull a carriage, and so it is still off to slaughter.

 

There are roughly 220 carriage horses working at any one time in New York City. Would there be enough venues for them to live out their days in safety if the industry were banned, we wanted to know.

 

We spoke with Holly Cheever, DVM, a veterinarian in private practice and the vice president of the New York State Humane Association. Cheever has been involved in the New York City carriage horse wars since the 1980s. We asked Cheever, who is also consultant to several equine protection groups, whether she was satisfied with the movement to ban the industry.

 

While noting that she didn't see any movement at all right now, Cheever said she would favor an immediate abolition of the industry, but would also welcome a phase-out. I abolition were to occur, Cheever says she would be concerned about preventing the horses them from winding up under the knife of the horse butcher.

 

Cheever believes that the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and animal welfare groups like FOA will all have to pull together to find retirement sanctuaries and private families that will take one or more horses. Horses who have been so brutalized by their drivers and stable conditions that they cannot enjoy a humane retirement would no doubt have to be euthanized, she added, which would be a monumental and sad task.

 

Other animal activists believe that  placement of the carriage horses would not have to be such an onerous project. Susan Wagner with Equine Advocates says study was conducted that leads her to conclude that responsible sanctuaries in the tri-state area can accommodate victims of the carriage horse industries.

 

There is one point on which all activists agree: the obsolete, cruel industry has proven itself unsafe to people and horses, and has outlived its appropriateness as a tourist attraction. Are you listening, Mayor de Blasio?

 

 

##

 

Robert Wilbur is a New York City-based writer who writes about forensic psychiatry, clinical psychopharmacology, animal rights and other topics.

 

 Martha Rosenberg is a well-known investigative reporter.

 

 

 

 

 

It has been ten years since a "hunter-terrorist" ruined deer season in Wisconsin. In the fall of 2004, instead of shooting deer, Chai Vang, a Hmong immigrant from Laos, shot and killed hunters. Eight hunters were shot in northern Wisconsin, six of whom died including a father and son. No clear motive for the murders became apparent but Vang, a hunting enthusiast, was tried, convicted and sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus seventy years.

 

Vang's rampage was especially disturbing because Wisconsin was just pulling out of an epidemic of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its deer and elk, a fatal disease similar to Mad Cow. State officials assured residents they couldn't get the fatal human brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) if they avoided the deer's "brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen or lymph nodes" and if they wore latex gloves. But there were two medical reports that suggested otherwise: A 2002 CDC report titled "Fatal Degenerative Neurologic Illnesses in Men Who Participated in Wild Game Feasts--Wisconsin, 2002." And an Archives of Neurology report called "Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease In Unusually Young Patients Who Consumed Venison."

 

As headless deer waited in trailers in Wisconsin to be tested for CWD before people would eat them, the traditional venison burgers given out on the first day of deer hunting season became problematical. Even if a hunter's own deer was disease free, "if the hunter has the deer processed, does that processor sterilize its equipment after each deer is cut up so cross contamination does not occur?" asked one Wisconsin deer hunter the Capital Times. When his buck turned out to be positive for CWD, another hunter wanted to know about the risks to his wife who had washed his hunting clothes and from blood which had gotten on his steering wheel.

 

The CWD scare also caused a PR problem for hunters and hunter groups who did not want to eat what they killed. Some food pantries refused deer meat. Others gave homeless and hungry patrons informed consent fliers which told them the meat was probably fine but there was a slight chance it would kill them. Suddenly hunter "generosity" looked malevolent. And killing animals without eating them looked gratuitous and cruel.

 

Even if this year's deer are fine to eat (though the CWD incubation period is decades) many young hunters are saying "no thanks" to the sport of their fathers and grandfathers.  Web-based activities are much more fun and a better way to meet girls, they say. But DNR officials worry about the loss of their primary funding--hunters. State exhortations to "thin the herd" are belied by the hundreds of state-registered deer breeding operations. "Overpopulation" is good for business--why else would states like Wisconsin support deer breeding and fight a disease that thins the herd?

 

The number of US hunters is dropping about 10 percent a year.  Hunting groups are especially concerned about the dip in young hunters, aged 16 to 24, whose numbers fell by 300,000 from 1996 to 2006, according to the Wildlife Service.

 

"For every 100 hunters who retire, only 62 take up the sport," warned former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell at the Pitcairn-Monroeville Rod and Gun Club in Allegheny County a few years ago. "If this trend continues, our ability to manage wildlife will be severely affected and Pennsylvania's economy will suffer." Maybe manage should be in quotes.

 

"The single biggest challenge facing our two wildlife agencies in Pennsylvania is money. Or lack thereof," agreed Dale Machesic, outdoors reporter in a column for the Philadelphia suburban paper, the Intelligencer. "The single biggest obligation to all fishing and hunting enthusiasts is to get kids involved."

 

Wisconsin lost 45,000 hunters from just 2000 to 2007, during its battle with CWD and Vang's sniping and afterwards. How many will take to the fields this year? And how many will eat their deer?

 

 

 

 

Size Inflation Gives Americans a False Sense of Thinness

 

 

It is a sad fat that many want to ignore. The more we work out, the more "diet foods" we eat, the fatter Americans are actually getting. A chilling documentary released this summer, Fed Up, narrated by Katie Couric, highlights Americans losing battle with the bulge and indicts government capitulation to the agricultural industries that make the most fattening food. According to the New York Times, the average American man now weighs 194 pounds and woman, an astounding 165 pounds. In 2002, the average American woman weighed 153 pounds and in 1994, 147 pounds, say Florida State University researchers. Does anyone see a trend?

 

Nor are pounds the only sign of the growing American adiposity: the average American woman in the 1950s had a 25 inch waist and today has a waist of  34 inches. Maybe that should be "waist."

 

Not surprisingly, our growing girth is a big problem to the fashion industry. In fact, one industry captain was heard to comment that designers are no longer dressing American women but "upholstering" them. Overweight people do not rush to buy clothes and when they do find themselves squeezed between the garment racks, they do not buy clothes that don't fit or have an insulting size label. It is the same reason shoe stores sometimes leave the size off women's shoes.

 

Enter size inflation, sometimes called vanity sizing, with its ego-flattering Size Zero denomination. Size Zero is said to fit women who measure from 30-22-32 to 33-25-35 inches. But a little quick fashion research shows that those dimensions used to describe a Size 5! In the 1970s, those dimensions described a Size 10.

 

If anyone has a doubt about how size inflation has made us all thinner without losing a pound, go to a resale shop and try to try on the Jones New York Size 7 off-white linen pencil skirt. Prepare to be demoralized.

 

Men don't scour resale shops the way women tend to do but if they did they would likely be just as demoralized if they tried to try on the three-piece powder blue disco suit similar to the one John Travolta wore in Saturday Night Fever. Can a vest be left casually unbuttoned?

 

Many say baggy Hip Hop fashions, low riding pants that sit on the hips and stretchy yoga pants and leggings have enabled Americans to balloon in size without realizing it because their clothes still fit. Once upon a time, our ancestors called elastic waistbands "the Devil's Playground" for exactly that reason.

 

It is often said that Marilyn Monroe wore a Size 14 dress, a fact that is supposed to show that being "plump" used to be more acceptable than it is today. But it is just the opposite. Ms. Monroe rarely weighed as much as 120 and usually weighed between 115 and 118--putting her close to today's Size Zero category, no doubt.

 

No, the truth is that like cars, McMansion houses, food portions and soft drink sizes, Americans are getting bigger every day--and because it is happening everywhere, few notice. Worse, the harder we try to lose poundage with low calorie foods, fitness centers and personal trainers, the bigger we are becoming.

 

While people in industrialized countries other than the United States are also packing on the pounds, it is said that women in France have remained enviably thin. Why?  Because unlike so many of us, they do not "diet." They eat what they want, including  higher calorie foods or even high fat diet foods but not in our super-sized American portions.

 

Clearly, U.S. "dieting" is doing a lot more for diet food manufacturers and fitness centers than the American waistline. Meanwhile, the fashion industry wonders where to go after Size Zero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago

 

About 45 people gathered on a hot August night at a Chicago LBGT community center  to hear a chapter in Chicago history that is often forgotten--how John Gacy prowled the streets of Chicago's northside from 1972 through 1978, picking up young men and murdering at least 33 of them. Gacy, one of the most vicious mass murderers in U.S. history, was found guilty of the murders, sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois on May 10, 1994.

 

Author and activist Patrick Dati spoke about his acclaimed memoir, I Am Me: Survivor of Child Abuse and Bullying Speaks Out which recounts how Dati overcame a life of bullying and emotional terror which included an assault by mass killer John Gacy when he was only 9-years-old. The book has been acclaimed by Fox News, the Chicago Sun-Times and Kirkus Reviews. Dati told the group he hid his true identity as a gay man through two failed marriages and that sharing his story in his memoir, as he has finally done, is the "ultimate coming out journey to find acceptance and love."

 

The book started as a personal diary that Dati's psychiatrist recommended he write to "release the trauma" Dati told the group. But when his best friend who was a writer read the manuscript, he told Dati that the powerful narrative of overcoming shame, childhood abuse and bullying would have national appeal. Soon a book was born and I Am Me: Survivor of Child Abuse and Bullying Speaks Out was launched by Amazon Digital Services earlier this year.

 

Many who now live in Boystown, Chicago's LBGT neighborhood, were not alive when Gacy cruised its streets. On the day of Dati's encounter with Gacy in the winter of 1973, he had been playing outside in the snow with his brother and other children. The boys went into Goldblatt's at Belmont and Central, a prominent Chicago department store chain now closed, to warm up and continue playing. But when he went to the men's room something happened to Dati that meant he "was never a child again," he says. He was sexually assaulted by a knife-wielding John Gacy. Dati fought back, he told the audience, refusing to "leave with" Gacy and possibly saving his own life.

 

Dati was likely only the second of Gacy's scores of victims, Dati told me. The crimes would continue until 1978, with victims usually losing their lives.

 

Dati said the shame and guilt about the violent assault kept him from telling anyone about it for many years. Ironically, when police finally arrested Gacy in 1979, Dati was with a friend of his who lived close to the Gacy Chicago residence. It was only then that he realized who had assaulted him. As soon as he saw Gacy's face flash on the TV screen, Dati said he ran to the bathroom and "I was throwing up and I was crying."

 

In addition to the assault, Dati said he has coped with bullying and abuse most of his life made all the more acute by a strict Catholic upbringing. The youngest of five children, Dati was bullied by his brother and his father would dismiss the abuse as "boys will be boys," he said.  But it wasn't good natured pranks or teasing, says Dati, "It was bullying."

 

Dati struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide after the assault, enduring more abuse in personal relationships because the emotional landscape of exploitation was so familiar to him. Dati also had two marriages before coming out and has a daughter. Since I Am Me has been published, Dati has become an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and bullying as well as closeted gay men. Eighty to 85 percent of men who have been abused never come forward and reveal the harm and violence done to them, he says. He hopes to become a public speaker on the topics and his talk at the community center was videotaped for an upcoming CD.

 

“Too often in life the person we were raised to be is not the person we are,” Dati explains. “I lived my life to please others and it doesn’t work. I suffered so much and now I want to share my journey with others to that they too can come out of their darkness and into their light. Just be who you are. That’s the message!”

 

In addition to regularly speaking at national forums, he is active in several local and national anti-bullying and child abuse prevention organizations including, RAINN the Rape, Incest National Network.

 

Dati says he now regrets that he "didn't come forward" and reveal his traumatic experience sooner than he did. "I may have been able to save so many other kids' lives," he reflects. Dati is planning a second book to educate parents, teacher and school superintendents about the signs of bullying and abuse.

 

 

 

 

 In Omaha, Nebraska, there is a proposal on the table for people buying meat to choose an animal and watch it being slaughtered. But many are saying this encourages insensitivity and lack of empathy for suffering, whether human or animal. Many anthropologists say there is a strong cultural link between barbaric treatment of animals and barbaric treatment of humans--agony and terror no longer disturb people because they have become used to it.

 

Since the United States and other countries moved from an agrarian society to an urban one, many complain that kids think chicken nuggets grow on trees and that they have no awareness or respect for the fact than an animal died to make lunch. Because meat is daintily wrapped in cellophane at the grocery store, it is easy to pretend no violence, sacrifice or pain was involved--not even the pain experienced by the slaughterhouse workers who also suffer from a shockingly unregulated industry.

 

Many people realize that even though they may eat meat all day and every day, they would not be able to kill an animal themselves. This guilt and awareness of how cushy their dietary situations are can produce a perverse respect for hunters who are not in denial. But of course not all hunters eat what they kill or allow an animal "fair chase." 

 

For example, Madonna told BBC Radio One in 2001, "You have more respect for things you eat when you go through, or see, the process of killing them.” But the pop star was allowing "canned hunts" at her historic Wiltshire mansion, Ashcombe House, stocked with battery cage-raised baby pheasants from France and allowing rich guests like bankers, brokers and celebs Vinnie Jones and Brad Pitt to "pay up to £10,000 a day" to kill the tame and defenseless birds, reported the Sunday Times.

 

Chefs and foodies are also experimenting with slaughter transparency and self-slaughter. College student Jake Lahne enrolled in a meat production course at the University of Illinois, a strong agricultural school, to achieve “a real understanding of where meat comes from.” But during his do-your-own slaughtering, he found that “animals do not want to die. They can feel pain and fear, and, just like us, will struggle to breathe for even one single more second.” He even warns other self-slaughterers, “If you’re about to run 250 volts through a pig, do not look it in the eyes. It is not going to absolve you.”

 

Christine Muhlke, a New York Times food writer, planned to report on one of the first uses of a van-like “mobile slaughterhouse,” which serves customers who live far away from slaughterhouses or who have a hard time transporting animals. But even though she describes herself as a “meat hipster who serves pickled pigs’ tongues,” the frenetic “wild thrashing” of the animal in the box which did not want to die horrified her.

 

New York Times city critic Ariel Kaminer also tried her hand at witnessing slaughter. She decided to take the life of a Bourbon Red turkey with rich brown feathers “flecked with white” at an Islamic slaughterhouse in Queens. But, “Stepping out of the slaughterhouse and squinting at the light, I didn’t feel brave. I didn’t feel idealistic. I felt crummy,” she wrote.

 

Many who eat meat say they feel "squeamish" about the animal's death. But squeamish implies something unpleasant but necessary like giving blood or treating bedsores. Animal flesh is not necessary for a healthy diet and is actually the opposite of a healthy diet when you consider heart disease, stroke and obesity. Do we really want to get over such "squeamishness"?

 

You would think the world's oldest civil rights organization, as the NRA calls itself, would speak out about the events in Ferguson. Aren't the law enforcement personnel in the hot seat the same jack-booted thugs the NRA screeched about 20 years ago?

 

But wait! The racial unrest is doing a better job of selling product than the NRA's "they're gonna take your guns" marketing after President Obama's election and the Newtown massacre. It has started a feeder frenzy of gun sales among area residents, says CNN. People are scooping up shotguns, AR-15s, concealable handguns, Glocks, Rugers, firearms with high capacity magazines and a "boatload" of ammunition, as fast as they can says Steven King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies, a gun shop in the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton.

 

At Mid America Arms in St. Louis, sales have jumped 50 percent.

 

Much as it tries to update its image with its African-American spokesman Colion Noir and Gabby Franco (not only a woman but an Olympic shooter from Venezuela who legally emigrated--3 PR points!) NRA can't shake its White Power roots. In 1967, it supported California Governor Ronald Reagan's Mulford Act that restricted people carrying guns--because Black Panthers were carrying them. “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons,” said Reagan at the time.

 

As recently as 2007, a racial-fear mongering NRA brochure draft was leaked to the press that shows an Aryan nation under siege by African-Americans. The brochure, called Freedom In Peril; Guarding the 2nd Amendment in the 21st Century, was intended for fundraising but is so paranoid and racist, it seems right out of the satirical newspaper the Onion. In high budget illustrations, homeowners are shown defending themselves from a Helter Skelter-like apocalypse by shooting from their rooftops. "Thousands of lawful Americans were reduced to the final and purest form of self-reliance in the face of terrifying anarchy," said the brochure about the unrest after Hurricane Katrina,

 

While the NRA has almost equal fear of "bad guys" which usually means African-Americans and government officials with their black helicopters, in New Orleans both fears were combined in one entity since most law enforcement personnel were African-American. No wonder the brochure spells out special hatred for former New Orleans Police Department Chief Eddie Compass as a top enemy.

 

Does the NRA's recruitment of Colion Noir mean it is no longer a tacit White Power organization? Only if you ignore the comments of NRA board member Ted Nugent who characterized President Obama as a "sub human mongrel." Nugent also said the President is "a piece of s**t, and I told him to suck on my machine gun." If the "world's oldest civil rights organization" disagreed with the uncouth and racist remarks, would Nugent still be a board member?

 

 

Tell corporate America to get off the gun violence "sidelines." Join the action against <a href=" http://www.operationsideline.org/" target="_blank">Hallmark,</a> the only major corporation that has publicly sworn it will never support anti-gun initiatives. <em>When corporations want sane gun laws, we will have sane gun laws.

</em>

 

 

 

The NRA has two overarching image problems. One is the way it arms "bad guys" through fighting universal background checks and defending gun "rights" of domestic abusers and people with mental illness. Thanks for that.

 

The other is that young people do not find Bubbaland cool. Half of all millennials now support stricter gun laws and only 18 percent of 18 to 25 year olds even own a gun! Nor is hunting a cool pursuit. Kids are more involved with “cars, girlfriends or hanging out” Kevin Kelly, a college student, told the lower Hudson Valley’s Journal News. “Only a couple of my friends really hunt,” high school student Jonathan Gibbons told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The rest have never really found the appeal of sitting out in the cold to shoot an animal.”

 

Enter NRA Freestyle and NRA Sharp,  two gun owner image overhauls that are "about as appealing to young folk as MTV under the direction of George Will," writes former New Yorker staffer Mike Spies. The NRA Freestyle channel seeks to show what babe magnets guns are and NRA Sharp offers lifestyle tips. It is a "kind of GQ meets BuzzFeed for stylish gun owners," says Spies.

 

Many have observed that we are at the second-hand smoke moment in gun violence. We no longer believe another person's "right" to smoke or carry a lethal weapon does not impact (or should that be "infringe"?) upon the rest of us. That is why corporations like Starbucks, Sonic Drive-In, Chili's Grill & Bar, Chipotle, Jack in the Box and Target are increasingly "disinviting" guns in their stores for the safety of their other patrons.

 

 

The NRA's attempt to make guns cool is also like Big Tobacco whose shameless ads told women that cigarettes liberated them (Virginia Slims) and men that they were babe magnets (Camel Filters Man). The cartoon character "Joe Camel" blatantly hawked smoking to kids charged the American Medical Association in 1991.

 

Of course there are other similarities between Big Tobacco and the gun lobby. Both had a stranglehold on Congress (the NRA still does) even as their products were killing every day. And Big Tobacco and gun manufacturers were the only two industries that could not be sued. Today there is only one and it is not Big Tobacco.

 

More than a decade ago, corporate America said about cigarettes, "you want to bring WHAT in here?" and it spelled the end of smoking in public places. Banning dangerous products that kill was clearly a good business decision. When will corporate America say "you want to bring WHAT in here" about guns?

 

Smoking images courtesy of Marjorie Fujara, M.D.

 

Tell corporate America to get off the gun violence "sidelines."

 

 

 

Robert Wilbur and Martha Rosenberg

 

As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

 

 

There were only three people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

 

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

 

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

 

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this week's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

 

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears three hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of ten lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

 

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

 

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

 

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

 

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

 

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

 

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of four men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

 

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

 

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

 

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history--234. The numbers continues to grow.

 

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

 

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

 

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the first execution was bungled.

 

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

 

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This week's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

 

 

 

Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular contributor to Alternet.

 

 

It has been four years since Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health was suspected of pharmaceutical conflicts of interest. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, he assured the dean of the University of Miami medical school that if the dean hired Charles Nemeroff, government money would not be denied to U. of Miami.

 

Why was it in danger of being denied? Because Nemeroff, a disgraced Emory researcher, had a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant terminated, a rare occurrence, after a Congressional investigation probed his unreported drug industry income. At the time that Insel downplayed the revocation of Nemeroff's government money, Insel was leading NIH efforts to stamp out conflicts of interest and supposedly a steward of our tax dollars, says the Chronicle.

 

Why the largesse? Press reports said Insel wanted to repay Nemeroff for getting Insel a job at Emory University when Insel lost his NIH position in 1994. Nice old boys' network, revolving door work, if you can get it.

 

Recently Insel was again in the news, this time writing a blog on the National Institute of Mental Health web site that more children are being medicated for emotional and behavioral problems because more children likely have emotional and behavioral problems. Reacting to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as US 10,000 toddlers are on stimulants like Ritalin, Insel wrote that that a "bigger problem" than over-medication of children and toddlers may well be "under-treatment." Ka-ching.

 

Insel was an early believer in the biomedical model of mental health, reports the New York Times--which is behind drugging children. A passionate animal researcher, Insel directed the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center once he was at Emory, one of the world's largest centers for research on monkeys and great apes, before returning to NIH.

 

Unlike other animal-based industries like the meat industry, animal research is scrupulously hidden from public view.  Scientists say it is because average citizens cannot judge scientific merit, especially when experiments looks cruel. (And even though we are usually subsidizing it with our tax dollars.)

 

But you do not need a PhD to see the banality and inhumanity of many animal experiments which have less to do with scientific advancement than the government conferring "pork" on academic research centers.

 

Have you ever heard of Henry Harlow, the infamous primate research who subjected baby primates to "Iron Maiden" mothers and what he shamelessly called the "pit of despair"? Insel's experiments on primates continue the same chilling tradition.

 

In one experiment, newborn monkeys were "removed from their mothers within 48 h of birth," and subjected to  "stressors" (use your imagination) without being "able to use a social companion to buffer their response to a stressor." What did this Harlow-like experiment add to scientific knowledge? "As expected from previous studies, monkeys removed from their mother shortly after birth and raised in standard nursery conditions develop a syndrome characterized by decreased affiliation, increased aggression, and increased self-directed, repetitive behavior," write the researchers.

 

In another experiment  conducted by Insel on voles, a mouse-like mammal, "an animal was placed in the start box" with 2-8 days old pups. "Parental behavior was recorded as time spent with pups, either nursing, grooming or crouching during a 5-min period. Females were decapitated the same day." What?

 

With disturbing links to cronyism, pharmaceutical conflicts of interest, overmedication of children and cruelty to animals--why is this person heading a government institute? Supported by our tax dollars?

 

 

 

Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers food and drug safety and regulation. Her acclaimed expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, with 30 cartoons, is now available as an ebook.