Tagged violence

100,000

Dear students,

Before I share a few post-Memorial Day thoughts about the virus and this tragic and needless milestone, I would like to mention two people who have died recently but not from the corona or any virus: George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by strangulation, while handcuffed on the ground begging for his life, and Ahmaud Arbery, a black man shot and killed by vigilantes while jogging, in a modern-day lynching in Brunswick, Georgia. These tragic and needless deaths were part of the same long-standing pattern of structural racism which, as you know, accounts for the huge over-representation of African-Americans in the deaths from COVID-19.

I am frankly confused about where we are in the pandemic right now, both in our country and the world. More Americans have died of COVID-19 than in all the wars since the Korean War, and it is quite possible that before this is over we may be able to include the Korean War in that count. I see what appears to be a wholesale abandonment of the science of public health and medicine by many Americans. I can’t tell you how many, but I am pretty sure it’s enough to keep the U.S. epidemic boiling (not simmering) for months. Maybe we get a rest in September before the second wave. Or will it be the third wave?

I’ve always told you the most important thing you have to know is the limits of what you know. So I’m telling you now. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

I don’t know about future cases, hospitalizations, or deaths because the models are shot to hell by the unpredicted and unpredictable behavior of a substantial minority of Americans. I don’t know about progress in vaccines or treatment because every announcement is not a scientific publication but a press release that hugely moves stock prices, especially of the companies involved. Remdesevir and convalescent plasma are in wide use and seem to have some effectiveness, but convincing studies have not been published. I do know something about the anti-malarial drug Whaddayagottalose-oquine. Worldwide randomized controlled trials have been stopped because more people die with it than without it. I took it for years, first to prevent malaria in Africa, then for a minor autoimmune condition. On March 25th in a private email I said that more research was needed but that I would take it if I got COVID-19. Now I wouldn’t. Lesson? Anecdotes, even from smart people, are no substitute for real studies.

This past weekend we commemorated those who gave their lives for our freedom; they died hoping we would use freedom wisely. Yesterday we flew our flags at half-mast to mourn 100,000 dead Americans. Today I want to celebrate the new warriors at the front of the coronavirus wars.

Good News

  1. Dr. Richard Levitan, 59, a leading expert on teaching intubation, left safe Northern New Hampshire to volunteer for ten days at New York’s dangerous Bellevue hospital. After his first exhausting shift he went to his brother’s apartment, where he was staying, and was kicked out by the building’s other residents. He found some kind of lodging, completed his ten days, and wrote an article teaching others throughout the world how to deal with COVID-19 pneumonia.
  2. If you click on one link in this message, make it Dr. Sharon Duclos, a Family Medicine specialist in Cedar Valley, Iowa, and watch the video, recorded on May 6th, the day before the local Tyson meatpacking plant, the source of the cases that overwhelmed Dr. Duclos and her colleagues, reopened under government orders. She appeared calm today (May 28) at a press conference with other local medical leaders; she is at around minute 14:30 in this new video. She implored people to keep taking precautions, “as we go through the little lulls and valleys, and the peaks that will occur with this, for months to come.” More on this below.
  3. Sylvia Leroy, 35, was a labor and delivery nurse at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, where patients she cared for were positive for the virus. She got it. She was 28 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her own hospital did not take proper care of her. She was transferred to Mount Sinai where she got better care but went into cardiac arrest for some four to eight minutes; the doctor who called Sylvia’s sister was crying herself. They delivered her baby, Esther, by C-section. The baby needed oxygen but was “pink and healthy.” As of May 20, Sylvia was very slowly recovering from brain damage; Baby Esther was doing well. See their GoFundMe page here. Her sister once asked her why she didn’t go into private practice. “And she said to me, ‘This is an underserved community. Who is going to help them if I don’t help them?’”
  4. Dr. Ryan Padgett, 45, who played football for Northwestern in the Rose Bowl, was one of the first U.S. doctors to get the virus. It was still February, and nobody knew anything, but he was taking care of a string of patients from one nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. He was in great shape, hardly ever missed a day of work, but in March he was near death. He recovered, but still had more recovery ahead of him, when he said, “As an emergency physician, you walk into every single room and take care of whatever is there. Going back, I don’t think that will change. I hope not.”
  5. Dr. Theresa Greene, an emergency physician in Miami, temporarily lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter because she takes care of COVID-19 patients. She said, “I think it’s not fair. It’s cruel to ask me to choose between my child and the oath I took as a physician. I won’t abandon my team at work or the patients who will increasingly look to me to save their lives in the coming weeks, but it’s torture.” She and her husband have amicably shared custody since their divorce two years ago. Why is this under “Good News”? Nobody’s sick. Nobody died. However unfair it may be, mother and daughter will live to put this separation behind them.

Bad News

  1. Madhvi Aya, 61, was a doctor in India but a senior physician assistant in the U.S. She worked at a hospital in one of the poorest sections of Brooklyn; it was overflowing with coronavirus patients, and she was there until she got sick herself. At the end, in a different hospital, she was alone after texting with her husband, mother, and daughter, whom she had been very afraid of infecting. She often said, “We have to take care of our patients first.”
  2. A nurse who must keep her identity secret for her own protection was on a bus in Chicago, coming home in her scrubs from a difficult shift, coughed into the crook of her elbow, with a mask, and was punched in the face by a man who accused her of trying to give him the virus. He gave her a black eye. Attacks on coronavirus heroes in all frontline professions have been happening all over the world. “It’s not going to stop me from coming to work every single day and taking care of the people I take care of,” she said.
  3. Immigrant Celia Marcos, 61, worked as a nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center for 16 years until her death in April from COVID-19, which she almost certainly contracted from a patient. Her family and colleagues state that she was not provided with proper PPE, which the hospital denied. Her son Donald said, “when the call of duty came, she will do the best that she could.” He also said she “coded seven times” before she died. In their last conversation he said, “when you get out of that hospital, you will retire immediately.” She barely was able to say yes. Both were crying.
  4. Jason Hargrove, 50, a bus driver in Detroit, loved his job and did it faithfully, carrying essential workers and others to their own jobs. A passenger openly coughed near him without covering her mouth, and he recorded a Facebook video about the incident. He was worried about the other passengers and himself. He said, “I feel violated.” He died of the virus 11 days later. He left home by 5am and disinfected his bus every day. He would tell his wife, “Baby, when you get off work, make sure you grab me some more Lysol… I gotta make sure that my people are protected.”
  5. Dr. Lorna Breen, 49, head of the emergency medicine department at NY Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, contracted the virus while heroically trying to save others. She recovered, but the hospital told her to stay home. She moved from NY to her parents home in Charlottesville. There, with no history of mental illness, she took her own life. Her father said, “Make sure she’s praised as a hero.”

Under the Russian Tsars, young men were drafted into the army for 25 years. As a child I knew an old man who had chopped off the first joint of his own trigger finger to avoid that fate. And why do I mention this? Because many, maybe even most of you, have told me you want to become nurses, physician assistants, or physicians. You are signing up for roughly twice the length of service that the Tsars demanded of young people. There will be another pandemic like this in your career. You will be called on. Even medical students have been called on in this crisis. You will not say no when you are asked to put your own life, and that of your loved ones, in danger, because that is your oath. Even when you think or know that you are risking your life for stupid people who put their own lives in danger, you will serve. Know what you are signing up for.

It was very interesting for me to watch today’s press conference on local television in Black Hawk County, Iowa. This is the cutting edge of the U.S. pandemic going forward. The local Tyson meatpacking plant reopened because the governor and the president said so, and because it was in their financial interest. Three leading local physicians and county health officials spoke. They stated that they did not know what was going on at the Tyson plant and would not be getting that information. They said they could not do contact tracing of confirmed cases. A county health official laughed at the idea of testing health care workers in nursing homes, because they don’t have the resources to do it.

Don’t think about New York any more. Think about Black Hawk County. Times ten. Or maybe times 100.

Stay safe,

Dr. K

Blowback 2

I said in my last posting that I expected Women After All to offend four groups. The biggest and most vulgar response has been from the “men’s rights” movement—really Quavering Male Chauvinists (QMCs) who can’t wrap their minds around the fact that women are pushing the boot off their neck and even starting to twist the foot around the ankle. Steady for the toppling, boys. Don’t hit the deck too hard.

The second group has been much more polite than the QMCs but no less critical: feminists who see my claims as a warmed-over, old-style, pseudoscientific male chauvinism; worse, Read more

Women After All

Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy

Published by W. W. Norton & Company, March 9, 2015

“This beautifully written, exquisitely conceived book should provoke spirited debate among all audiences, from researchers to general readers.”—Cynthia Fox, Library Journal

“Engaging and provocative…a virtuoso performance.”Bookpage

Women After All cover hi res medium

“[Konner’s] conclusions give me, well, hope.”Louise Erdrich, National Book Award-winning novelist

“Mel Konner has written a lively, readable, feminist book arguing that the complementarity of the sexes is returning and women are forging ahead as the historic anomaly of male dominance is ending.”  Louise Lamphere, University of New Mexico, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“A sparkling, thought-provoking account of sexual differences. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’ll find his conclusions gripping.”—Jared Diamond, UCLA, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World Until Yesterday

Women After All is astonishingly insightful…It is the best available examination of how and why men and women differ and how 21st century humans can use this knowledge to forge a better world.”—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, University of California, Davis, author of Mother Nature, Mothers and Others, and The Woman That Never Evolved

“Sweeping, ambitious and eminently readable, Konner’s Women After All tours the sciences to harness the most contemporary offerings of biology, physiology, sociology and psychology to craft an argument that women are not only different from men, but perhaps even better. A compelling and thought-provoking read for men and women alike.”—Lisa Sanders, M.D., New York Times columnist and Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine

Women After All describes what future historians will surely recognize as one of the momentous transformations in the human saga…Engagingly written and persuasively argued, it shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition.”—Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature

“For a young woman just about to embark on adult life…reading this book is imperative…it will make sense of the world and human behavior and empower my daughter to deal with the constant blizzard of antifemale sentiment that is surely roaring her way…Women After All is the manifesto that will remind these young women, as well as us older ones, to be fierce. Always, every minute of every day—unstoppable.”  Meredith Small, Cornell University, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“Konner raises vital questions eloquently and with depth. We are in his debt.”  Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“An urgent message for women—and men…a brave book.”  Camilla Power, Times Higher Education Supplemement,  March 2015

“As I read, I was challenged on almost every page. Where I didn’t agree, I needed to think hard. Where I agreed, I was presented with new facts and surprising implications. All in all, just what you want from a book: a fluent, provocative, well-argued engagement with a lively mind.”—Sherry Turkle, MIT, author of Alone Together, Life on the Screen, and The Second Self

“Witty, well paced, packed with useful information…This is fascinating stuff, about which we are learning a lot more every year, and Konner lays it out with a fine blend of science and anecdote and a virtuoso mastery of detail.”  Paul Seabright, Times Literary Supplement 15 May 2015

“Konner tells a convincing story with a breadth of research to sustain it. He anticipates counterarguments, is not afraid to offend…and brilliantly shows us the bright new world that we could really have were women’s capacities as biologically given truly recognized for what they are.”  Unni Wikan, University of Oslo, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

Women After All is the definition of a provocative page-turner…Konner’s writing is clear and light, but this  should not be mistaken for simplicity. Nearly every page presents a scientific finding, tucked between his humorous turns of phrase and well-crafted interpretations.”  Justin R. Garcia, The Kinsey Institute, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“Dr. Konner…makes a powerful case for a provocative thesis: that women are, in nearly every way that really matters, superior to men…In making this argument, he ranges from evolutionary biology through ethology, neurobiology, embryology, anthropology and history, with digressions into economics and politics. Not many people could pull this off—but Dr. Konner does… The author’s descriptions of the natural world are erudite and enthusiastic… But the crux of Dr. Konner’s narrative concerns human beings… You might want to argue with the seeming stridency of Dr. Konner’s thesis, but if so, you need to read his book first.” David Barash, The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2015

“Melvin Konner, a distinguished anthropologist…maintains in this entertaining book that, when it comes to the evolutionary race, men are definitely the weaker sex. What’s more, he says, the sooner we wake up to this reality and adjust our world accordingly, the happier all of us will be.” Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday (and Irish Mail on Sunday), 26 April, 2015

“Konner has written a volume rich in examples, concepts, and insights. Whether or not you agree with his recommendations, you will find much to foster continued and deep debate about the changing and gendered human condition.”  Peter B. Gray, University of Nevada,, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“A society in which women are allowed to speak and be heard on equal terms with men is one that has a shot at the kind of decent and democratic future Konner is looking for.” Joanna Scutts, The Washington Post, April 17, 2015

“A wide-ranging, absorbing, and thoughtful account of the many sources of sex differences, from the earliest organisms through to the modern world.” Margery Lucas, “Difference Feminism Now,” Society 52:499-502, 2015.

“A thorough overview of the literature on sex and evolution that is accessible to readers without a strong background in evolutionary theory.” Ashley N. Peterson and Amanda E. Guitar, Evolutionary Psychology, 2015:1-3.

* One of six full-length book reviews published simultaneously in a forum in Current Anthropology.

 

 

Is Genocide Now Maladaptive?

barbed-wire-photo_1371_20060329

David Blumenthal, a good and wise friend who is a Jewish studies professor and a rabbi wrote me recently asking about the former adaptiveness and present maladaptiveness of xenophobia. The operative passage in his letter was, “In the global world, however, survival requires the cooperation of varying and different groups. Humanity, in its groups, cannot survive without the quintessential other. Xenophobia has ceased to be adaptive. So has antisemitism, racism, orientalism, and misogyny.”

I have little trouble agreeing that at some times in the past these behaviors were adaptive for the perpetrators. Read more

Triumph of the (Teenage) Human Spirit

Resilience is sometimes astounding, and we need to acknowledge it.

school-group-wearing-red-c-uA boy, in flames, is running, screaming, across the parking lot of his school on an otherwise ordinary morning. The image evokes Vietnam or Bosnia, but it is Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 8. The school happens to be the number-one ranked Academic Magnet High School in the United States, and it shares a campus with a highly regarded School of the Arts. The burning boy is running toward the magnet school’s front doors. Read more

Barack Obama on War and Human Nature

Is Barack Obama an evolutionary psychologist?

Since I criticized President Obama’s speech last year in Cairo (and even “rewrote” it) and later pointed out the names and deeds of those who did not get the Nobel Peace Prize because he did, I think it’s only fair that I resume this blog after a long hiatus by writing about his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in December.

I have to say that it stunned me. Read more

She’s a Hero

kimberly-munley-hero-fort-hoodThank goodness for a brave woman with character to spare

Five feet and four inches of pure skill and courage, Kimberly Denise Munley, at lunchtime Thursday, saved an unknown but large number of people from injury and death. She did it by running straight toward a terrorist armed with two guns blazing at her and she kept walking into that deadly barrage until both of them fell with serious wounds. Around them were the bodies of the twelve people the terrorist had murdered and at least thirty he had injured—one, it turned out, also fatally. Read more

One World?

Prof. Mari Fitzduff, who I’m honored to call a friend, set me thinking the other day when she commented on a proposed speech I wrote for President Obama to substitute for the one he gave in Cairo. But before I share our exchange, you need to know that Mari is the director of the Conflict and Coexistence Program at Brandeis University, where she moved after many years as director of INCORE, the International Conflict Research Institute in (as she always says it to avoid taking sides) “Derry/Londonderry,” Northern Ireland. In that role she played an important part in the years and years of mediation that finally brought a blessed end to that terrible conflict. Read more