‘Going Flat’ After Breast Cancer

When I had my implants removed a dozen years ago I had a serious breast cancer scare.

One of the things about being old is confronting my own mortality with courage and free from delusions.

We know many other folks our age, both men and women living with cancer, chemo, radiation and some dying.

All of this makes the concerns of the Doctors pushing “state of the art” reconstruction with their focus on appearances seem sort of shallow.

From The New York Times Magazine:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/well/live/going-flat-after-breast-cancer.html

Before Debbie Bowers had surgery for breast cancer, her doctor promised that insurance would pay for reconstruction, and said she could “even go up a cup size.” But Ms. Bowers did not want a silicone implant or bigger breasts.

“Having something foreign in my body after a cancer diagnosis is the last thing I wanted,” said Ms. Bowers, 45, of Bethlehem, Pa. “I just wanted to heal.”

While plastic surgeons and oncologists aggressively promote breast reconstruction as a way for women to “feel whole again,” some doctors say they are beginning to see resistance to the surgery. Patients like Ms. Bowers are choosing to defy medical advice and social convention and remain breastless after breast cancer. They even have a name for the decision to skip reconstruction: They call it “going flat.”

“Reconstruction is not a simple process,” said Dr. Deanna J. Attai, a breast surgeon in Burbank, Calif., and a past president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, adding that more of her patients, especially those with smaller breasts before diagnosis, were opting out of reconstruction. “Some women just feel like it’s too much: It’s too involved, there are too many steps, it’s too long a process.”

Social media has allowed these women to become more open about their decision to live without breasts, as well as the challenges, both physical and emotional, that have followed. For a recent video created by wisdo.com, a social media platform, and widely shared on Facebook, Ms. Bowers and her friend Marianne DuQuette Cuozzo, 51, removed their shirts to show their scarred, flat chests. And Paulette Leaphart, 50, a New Orleans woman whose clotting disorder prevented her from having reconstruction after a double mastectomy, walked topless from Biloxi, Miss., to Washington this summer to raise awareness about the financial struggles of cancer patients.

“Breasts aren’t what make us a woman,” Ms. Leaphart said.

The nascent movement to “go flat” after mastectomies challenges long-held assumptions about femininity and what it means to recover after breast cancer. For years, medical professionals have embraced the idea that breast restoration is an integral part of cancer treatment. Women’s health advocates fought for and won approval of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, which requires health plans to cover prosthetics and reconstructive procedures.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/well/live/going-flat-after-breast-cancer.html

These 76-year-old twins have grown pot for decades. Here’s why they oppose legalization

From The LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-cannabis-twins-20161020-snap-story.html

Robin Abcarian
October 19, 2016

You don’t end up in Round Valley, one of Mendocino County’s finest cannabis-growing micro climates, by accident. It is well northeast of Highway 101, along a winding mountain road that follows the curves of Outlet Creek and the Middle Fork of the Eel River.

After 45 minutes, the valley comes into view. From a lookout called Inspiration Point, even in a light drizzle, Round Valley is a picture of bucolic grace, with wheat-colored fields, black cows and green orchards spreading out below.

Many of those groves conceal marijuana plants — or trees as they call them around here — which flourish in the rich alluvial soil of the valley’s fertile bottomland.

The highway through the valley is dead straight, punctuated by one town, Covelo, population about 1,200. Just past town, I pulled onto a farm owned by Robert and John Cunnan, identical 76-year-old twins who were born in Glendale and left Southern California more than 40 years ago seeking a better life.

“We came here with the back-to-the-land movement,” Robert told me as we stood in front of a shed where dozens of fragrant cannabis stalks were hanging to dry.

For $6,500, the brothers bought 10 acres with a creek down the middle. They built craftsman-style homes for themselves and raised families on food they grew in their gardens and money earned as cabinet makers for what they call “mom-and-pop” businesses — restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. They got by, but barely.

“A friend of mine came up here in 1985, grew marijuana and sold it for $2,000 a pound,” Robert said. “And that’s when I thought, ‘You know, you might be able to make a little money doing this.’ ”

This, pretty much, is the very thought that has crossed the minds of untold thousands of Mendocino County residents, beleaguered by the crashing logging and fishing industries, and willing to flout the law to support their families.

“At one time, I sold stuff for $5,000 a pound,” Robert said. “It was worth more than gold. Now, it’s down to $1,200 to $1,500. But cannabis allowed me to finish my house and get comfortable.” (Yields vary wildly, but in these parts, each tree can produce two to four pounds or more.)

“I consider myself a teacher and a woodworker,” said John, who commutes to Ukiah once a week to teach woodworking in two schools. “The cannabis is just to fill in where the teaching and woodworking don’t pay the bills.”

I assumed the Cunnans would be strong proponents of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. As it turns out, they oppose Proposition 64, which would regulate and tax cannabis for the adult market.

And they are not alone.

Many small marijuana farmers, as it happens, see Proposition 64 as a threat to their way of life.

They believe that a legal, regulated cannabis market could open the floodgates to corporatization of the industry, pushing taxes up and prices down, perhaps forcing them out of business altogether.

“The thing you need to realize is that this is a movement that is becoming an industry,” Robert said. “The movement was organic gardening, the back-to-the-land, alternative lifestyle. We were the original generation that came out here and set up our pot gardens.”

Like mom-and-pop businesses squeezed out by big-box retailers, he said, so are pot farmers in danger of being squeezed out of business once big corporations get a toehold in the cannabis business.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-cannabis-twins-20161020-snap-story.html

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REI Is Once Again Closing On Black Friday

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rei-black-friday_us_580e3581e4b000d0b157b3ff

The outdoor gear store wants its employees and customers to go outside

Alexander C. Kaufman
10/24/2016

For the second year in a row, REI is telling its customers to take a hike.

The sporting goods retailer said Monday it plans to close all 149 stores on Black Friday, the annual shopping bonanza that has in recent years sprawled over into Thanksgiving itself. The company’s website won’t process any sales on Black Friday, and all 12,287 employees will be paid to take the day off.

Instead, REI ― whose name stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc. ― is once again urging would-be shoppers to spend the holiday outside.

“Consumerism has had a push for a long period of time,” Jerry Stritzke, REI’s chief executive, told The Huffington Post on Monday. “The response we saw last year to our announcement is really a backlash to the consumerism invading our key holidays.”

A growing number of retail workers can no longer count on being able to take Thanksgiving off. This year, 49 percent of retailers plan to stay open on the holiday, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers ― up 1 percent from the year before.

The Seattle-based REI is bucking that trend, enlisting nearly 275 organizations ― including the National Park Service and a handful of nonprofits that take kids from poor, inner-city homes out into nature ― to host events supporting its marketing campaign, known as #OptOutside.

Last year, REI saw a 100 percent increase in job applications in the 30 days after stores closed on Black Friday, Stritzke said.

“That’s a pretty tangible way of telling us that the idea was very well received,” he said.

REI plans to become more politically active, making conservation and environmental advocacy a bigger part of its ethos, Stritzke said. Beyond climate change, he’d like to see more discussion of the value of exposing children to the outdoors and “the power of nature to heal.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rei-black-friday_us_580e3581e4b000d0b157b3ff

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And So It Goes: We Can and Will Survive

When I came out in 1969, gay sex was still illegal and gay men were regularly arrested for simply asking another man to go home with them. We survived.

Being trans was also pretty much illegal and being stealth was a survival tool. We survived.

Last night I started reading Fugitives of the Forest: The Heroic Story Of Jewish Resistance And Survival During The Second World War. Some survived and went on to fight for Israel’s nationhood.

My brother still lives in the mountains of up state New York. Yet his politics are further from those of New York City than are the politics of Dallas. There is an urban/rural divide. Small towns across America that were homes to mills that provided jobs to workers look at mills long shuttered, the work outsourced.

When people talk about making America great again out in the small towns they are talking about the days when there were small local businesses. The days before the big box store (s) out on the interstate gutted out all the locally owned businesses and destroyed their civic identity.

We go to small towns and cities where the downtowns are abandoned.  In a lucky few antique shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants occupy the storefronts where there were once small businesses like hardware stores. If there are still movie theaters they are out in the mall out on the highway. 

When you go to the mall you find chains of stores, not locally owned businesses.  The malls rarely rent to stores not part of a chain.  Same goes for the fast food restaurants.  The people who work those jobs do not own those businesses.  They are owned by corporations and suits who live far away in mansions and penthouses.

I’ve watched since the 1960s as the Democrats abandoned the working class. LBJ was maybe the last Democrat to pull the working class together and unite both urban and rural factions.

The urban coastal folks have treated most of America as fly over country, neglected supporting the party, neglected their needs as the rust belt was gutted out and jobs were out sourced. Then the high tech work, people were retrained for, went direct to China without even paying a brief visit to the places where people had retrained.

Living in Texas and having always loved folk/country/Americana music I listen to, people like The Flat Landers and James McMurtry.

James McMurtry’s most recent album “Complicated Game” should be mandatory listening for people trying to figure out what went wrong.

And maybe the Sanders supporters were right, maybe he had a better grasp on the pulse and could have reached out to the people beyond the coastal enclaves.

It’s an easy cliche to blame racism, to blame all the things those who fly over those small cities and towns blame.

But as long as we are a nation where those areas are ignored by those who live in urban enclaves in the Northeast and on the West Coast we will live in a nation divided.

If those on the right live in an information bubble so too do those on the left.

We live in Texas and are appalled by the ideas and stereotype folks here have of New Yorkers and Californians.  Yet having lived in both those places, if we look honestly at some of the people we encountered in those places we see the nugget of truth.  But having lived there we also know how those stereotypes fail to represent the majority of people in either New York or Los Angeles.

The same is true of the people who live in that vast sea of red one sees from looking at last nights precinct reports.  Some fit the most negative stereotypes one can imagine, the majority do not.

Democrats and Republican have both focused on identities and put a lot of energy into denying others things which they, themselves disapprove of.

All of which is far easier than focusing on how so much of the nation has been economically devastated by trade policies in which both parties were complicit.

As long as we have a government that is structured as a republic which guarantees the representation of those states, cities and people who have had their lives destroyed by free trade, trade deals and out sourcing you will have a major portion of the population which will be angry with Washington and the government.

Yes they voted for a populist demagogue, they saw Clinton as part of the problem and not offering a solution other than more of the same.

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Misogyny Was Enough To Tarnish Donald Trump — but Neo-Nazism Wasn’t?

From The Forward:  http://forward.com/opinion/353570/misogyny-was-enough-to-tarnish-donald-trump-but-neo-nazism-wasnt/

On November 9, 1938, the Nazi paramilitary force known as the SA led a pogrom against German Jews that is now known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass. They torched synagogues, smashed Jewish businesses and ransacked Jewish homes, sending an estimated 30,000 of their occupants to concentration camps. The two-day orgy of anti-Semitic violence was a decisive turning point in the Nazi war against the Jews, which morphed into genocide.

This year, one night before we commemorate that event, millions of Americans will cast their ballot for Donald Trump, whose candidacy for President of the United States is supported by neo-Nazis. There is a cynical aphorism about history — that its most consistent lesson teaches that humans consistently fail to learn from history. Seven decades after thousands of American soldiers died fighting Hitler’s army in Europe, the current election campaign illustrates this frightening truth.

For Jews in America, this election has revealed an additional truth that has not really been sufficiently acknowledged — perhaps because it is too sickening and frightening to think about. And that is that for the American media, which caters to the American people, it was the “Access Hollywood” video showcasing Trump’s misogyny that caused the biggest wave of outrage — and not his flirtations with fascism. Americans’ reaction to the video proved that they find insults to beautiful white women unforgivable; neo-Nazi affiliations are, on the other hand, discomfiting, but ultimately tolerable.

And yet, just as a minority of Italian Jews once joined Mussolini’s fascist party, there are Trump-supporting Jews who choose to overlook, minimize or dismiss the GOP candidate’s neo-Nazi affiliations. Jewish voters are overwhelmingly aligned with the Democratic Party, but about 19% of them support Trump — including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has given millions to the Trump campaign.

For months, Trump played a delicate game of downplaying his neo-Nazi support by burnishing his Jew-loving credentials. He spoke at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference to a standing ovation. On other occasions he promised Jewish audiences he’d be the greatest supporter of Israel we’d ever seen. His daughter Ivanka, a convert to Judaism, has become the elegant face of her father’s campaign; and her husband Jared Kushner, a powerful New York businessman from an Orthodox family, is a senior adviser to his father-in-law’s campaign. Trump often trots out his Jewish daughter as evidence that he could not possibly be an anti-Semite; and while one Orthodox Jewish blogger slays that argument rather succinctly, so far the GOP candidate has managed to convince even many of his opponents that, while he is not a sympathetic figure, he is no Jew hater.

Despite the mountain of evidence that he is a real, old-fashioned, strutting and sieg-heiling type of Jew hater, Trump has for the most part managed to avoid being labeled an anti-Semite.

Even the Anti-Defamation League, which just issued a report documenting a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish journalists during the presidential campaign, has pulled its punches. Responding to Trump’s last campaign ad, which mainstream American media labeled an overt rip-off of classic anti-Semitic tropes, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, said, “Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages.”

It takes a special type of denial, swallowed with a heavy dose of Kool-Aid, to convince an intelligent person that Trump’s embrace of language and images overtly taken from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” white supremacist sites, the Ku Klux Klan, the “alt-right” and European neo-Nazi parties could possibly be unintentional. Especially given that the “alt-right” regards Trump as a near-messianic voice.

Continue reading at:  http://forward.com/opinion/353570/misogyny-was-enough-to-tarnish-donald-trump-but-neo-nazism-wasnt/

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End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/06/hillary-clinton-white-house-donald-trump-bullying-barbara-kingsolver

While Clinton holds her head high, why are we not exploding with anger at Donald Trump’s bullying?


Sunday 6 November 2016

When I was a girl of 11 I had an argument with my father that left my psyche maimed. It was about whether a woman could be the president of the US.

How did it even start? I was no feminist prodigy, just a shy kid who preferred reading to talking; politics weren’t my destiny. Probably, I was trying to work out what was possible for my category of person – legally, logistically – as one might ask which kinds of terrain are navigable for a newly purchased bicycle. Up until then, gender hadn’t darkened my mental doorway as I followed my older brother into our daily adventures wearing hand-me-down jeans.

But in adolescence it dawned on me I’d be spending my future as a woman, and when I looked around, alarm bells rang. My mother was a capable, intelligent, deeply unhappy woman who aspired to fulfilment as a housewife but clearly disliked the job. I saw most of my friends’ mothers packed into that same dreary boat. My father was a country physician, admired and rewarded for work he loved. In my primordial search for a life coach, he was the natural choice.

I probably started by asking him if girls could go to college, have jobs, be doctors, tentatively working my way up the ladder. His answers grew more equivocal until finally we faced off, Dad saying, “No” and me saying, “But why not?” A female president would be dangerous. His reasons vaguely referenced menstruation and emotional instability, innate female attraction to maternity and aversion to power, and a general implied ickyness that was beneath polite conversation.

I ended that evening curled in bed with my fingernails digging into my palms and a silent howl tearing through me that lasted hours and left me numb. The next day I saw life at a remove, as if my skull had been jarred. What changed for me was not a dashing of specific hopes, but an understanding of what my father – the person whose respect I craved – really saw when he looked at me. I was tainted. I would grow up to be a lesser person, confined to an obliquely shameful life.

But I didn’t stop asking what a woman gets to do, and so began a lifelong confrontation with that internal howl. The slap-downs were often unexpected. Play drums in the band? No. Sign up for the science team? Go camping with the guys? Go jogging in shorts and a tank top without fear of being assaulted? Experiment boldly, have a career, command a moral authority of my own? Walk home safely after dark? No, no, no.

Eventually, I wrestled my way to yes on most of these things, except of course the last one. And the same dread that stalks me in dark parking lots – the helpless fury of knowing I don’t get to be just a person here, going about my business – has haunted all the other pursuits, from science team to career. It’s a matter of getting up each day and pushing myself again into a place some people think I have no right to occupy.

My father is very old now. Lately, I brought up our ancient argument about who may occupy the White House, but he didn’t remember it. The world has changed and so has he, urged forward by working daughters and granddaughters. He’s ready and eager to vote for a woman president. But it’s knocked the breath out of me to learn that most of his peers are not.

Hillary Clinton has honoured the rules of civic duty and met the prerequisites for a candidate, bringing a lifetime of pertinent experience, an inquiring mind, a record of compassionate service and a sound grasp of our nation’s every challenge, from international relations to climate change; her stated desire is to work hard for our country and its future.

Complete article at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/06/hillary-clinton-white-house-donald-trump-bullying-barbara-kingsolver

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For trans Americans, there’s a lot riding on this election

From The Washington Blade:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/11/07/trans-americans-theres-lot-riding-election/

by Allison Van Kuiken
November 7, 2016

With 17 measures on the California ballot, control of Congress up for grabs, a host of local races and a critical choice for president – it’d be easy to say there’s a lot at stake for this election. For me, there’s even more.

I am a new mother. I have a beautiful 11-week-old daughter and a wife I adore. And I am a transgender woman.

As Nov. 8 approaches, I think every day about the freedoms riding on this upcoming election. For the transgender community, our lives and identities have literally become a wedge issue designed to polarize Americans for or against us, so much so that I believe my family’s future and safety are at risk.

I have always voted, but this year my vote takes on added significance as I think about the daughter that I am raising, and the family I provide for. It’s terrifying to think we have a major party candidate who’s been advocating violence and encouraging fear of the unknown and the misunderstood.

This election holds the potential for two very different futures for my family and my community. One where our voices will be heard, our victories sustained and where we will be at liberty to take steps toward true equality. The other holds fear and persecution, and the potential to backpedal on issues critical to LGBT social justice and equality.

In California, a state with the strongest LGBT civil rights protections in the world, my gender identity is still not understood by many people and most certainly carries a stigma. Not a day passes that I don’t hear a story about a member of my community being denied housing, employment or even fired for living their truth. Even with the LGBT civil rights protections in California, the truth is that we are not afforded the same rights and protections as other Californians. So I am voting so that everyone can work and provide for our families.

States like North Carolina have shown us that the fight to end discrimination against the LGBT community is far from over, and that every victory we have won over the past decade is not yet secure. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the legalization of gay marriage and the recent transgender case to reach the Supreme Court are important milestones for our community. And to potentially have a president who does not see us as equals, or even as human beings, could mean the unraveling of every one of these accomplishments.

In raising a family, my wife and I want to live in a community that supports us and our daughter. Across the country and even here in California, transgender people are still being murdered and targeted for being who they are and that affects our loved ones. In this election, we have a choice to make regarding the kind of communities we all want to live in. Do we let the forces of hate take control of our neighborhoods and cities or do we stand on the side of love and acceptance and work toward building a better world for our children and future generations.

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/11/07/trans-americans-theres-lot-riding-election/

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