When a forgotten star from Hollywood’s Golden Age died recently it brought back the story of her long-ago professional competition with a more famous contemporary who died many years ago. Now that both stars are gone, if you’ve ever imagined what it would be like as a famous Hollywood movie star, which one would you choose to be?
In his influential book, A Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande describes how simple checklists can revolutionize medicine. The use of hospital checklists has already produced significant benefits including fewer surgical mishaps, and lower infection and hospital complication rates. Most checklists are simple and easy to understand, so outside review organizations have embraced them in the practice of medicine.
What connection could there be between a routine police traffic stop on a quiet Los Angeles street a half century ago and the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 50 years removed and 3000 miles away in Newtown, Connecticut?
CHICAGO — Three films nominated for Best Picture at this weekend’s Academy Awards are based on actual events. All three received critical acclaim, even though the historical accuracy of each has been challenged.
Scene: West Hollywood office, studio exec sitting in his oversized leather chair, smoke from his cigar wafts past a small sign on the wall that says, “THIS IS A SMOKE-FREE STUDIO”. Gazes at the Pacific outside his window as he thumbs through a screenplay with the working title, “The Manti Te’o Story: Me and My Notre Dame”. The bottom of the title page reads “Based on a true story”.
Life is hard, as the philosophers love to remind us. Besides being hard, life is also complex, as biology students soon learn when they begin studying how living organisms are classified. A University of Illinois professor, Carl Woese, a giant in the field of biology, who died recently, revolutionized the science of biology and contributed a glorious chapter to the complexity of life.
Let’s be clear about this: the point of those examples has nothing to do with whether the GOP is being obstructionist on fiscal matters, whether Tom Brady can quarterback the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl, or if the president can cajole Congress into meaningful gun legislation. The issue is the phrase “need to” and how the use of that phrase has gotten completely out of control.
Unfortunately, America suffers from a serious case of military illiteracy. Many Americans regard the military with ambivalence. We fluctuate between “Support our Troops,” banners being flown over NFL games or “Bring the Troops Home” protests where demonstrators want to downsize the military and direct the savings toward social problems. Both attitudes resonate but neither provide what we as a citizenry must demand — accountability.
Marvin Miller died recently and he was a great figure in baseball history for securing and preserving players’ rights and making possible their current compensation. Before him, salaries averaged about $12,000. Today they average over $3 million. Players in major professional sports in America, not just baseball, owe him a profound debt of gratitude (that he didn’t see from younger players, but isn’t that always the case?). He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. But near the end of his life he lost perspective on the drug issue in baseball.
According to the 2011 ASCAP list of radio’s most-played Christmas songs, Bing’s swinging star has fallen. White Christmas is now officially an old-fashioned granddad song; it’s no longer even in the top ten.
“The American Century”. In early 1941, the famous publisher Henry Luce wrote an essay with that title in his then-influential periodical Life Magazine, urging America to enter World War II. The phrase became part of Luce’s legacy and after the War came to signify America’s military, economic, and cultural dominance. Think Rome in the century after Christ’s birth or Britain in the 19th Century.
A remarkable 92 year-old man died quietly in Tel Aviv last month. Few people even in his home country of Israel knew his name, let alone were aware of his daring exploits and heroism. A legend to whom the world owes a great debt, his obituary was missing from North American newspapers.
In the arcane world of particle physics, where Professor Stephen Hawking is a celebrity (and smart enough to be a recurring guest on The Simpsons), it’s news when he gambles on a scientific finding – and bigger news when he loses. He recently admitted losing $100 to a colleague when a new subatomic particle was discovered. The particle, believed to be the Higgs boson, is named after Edinburgh physics professor Peter Higgs, who theorized a field of these invisible particles all across the universe, decelerating other tiny particles and conferring them with mass.
Yet today, accounts of UFOs have plummeted and for the most part, flying saucers have become a source of public amusement. Contrast the aforementioned films with the current Men In Black film franchise, featuring Tommie Lee Jones and Will Smith, which has earned over $1 billion, spawning video games, amusement park rides, a television series and rap recordings - all based on a tongue-in-cheek premise.
Commentators discussing current racial tensions in America often refer, almost nostalgically to the 1960’s civil rights movement, a historical inaccuracy since it was neither a monolithic movement, nor confined to the 1960’s.
Derrick Rose may be in a class by himself as the quickest basketball player who ever played but if he isn’t, attendance call doesn’t take long. Before Sunday, like Road Runner zooming by Wile E. Coyote, Rose routinely left frustrated defenders in his wake, receiving smackdowns on his approach to the basket, a tax paid for opponents’ embarrassment. Ironically, Saturday there was no angry cheap shot, merely an awkward jump stop, grimace, and the sickening “pop”, characteristic of an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
The two nice Jewish boys from Queens met in grade school in the 1950’s. Modeling themselves after the Everly Brothers, they started singing harmony in public, like so many young men, in an effort to attract girls. Still in high school, they performed together on American Bandstand and a decade later, the duo became internationally famous, their music arguably as influential and popular as that of The Beatles or Bob Dylan.
Claire Squires had been a healthy 30 year-old woman when she died less than a mile from the finish of the London Marathon two weeks ago. Her death has caused an outpouring of grief around the world and prompted more than £1m in donations to charity. This is laudable but what is unusual, is that even at this point after the tragedy, no cause of death has been announced. She is the 11th person to die in the London Marathon since 1990 - the others have all been male, ranging in age from 22 to 59. Most deaths in marathoners are due to cardiovascular causes, primarily in middle age men with preexisting heart diease. Claire was likely an outlier, having previously run a marathon in under four hours and successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year. Heart disease as the cause of her death, while possible, would be quite unusual.
Who was the greatest American military commander of the 20th Century? Was it World War I General Blackjack Pershing or either of the two popular World War II biopic generals, George Patton or Douglas MacArthur? How about George Marshall, a superb leader of the war effort in World War II, but one whose role was more coordination and delegation than command? If the answer depends on military accomplishment alone, then it is unquestionably General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and coincidentally the 34th President of the United States.
The National Football League faces an oncoming spate of lawsuits by former players over traumatic brain injuries. Class-action suits filed in several states have already been consolidated to a federal court in Philadelphia and more suits by former players suits are certain to follow. Meanwhile, the recent revelation that teams unofficially paid bounties to defensive players, offering large sums of money for “cartoff” and “knockout” injuries that removed opponents from games comes at a bad time, suggesting the NFL has condoned deliberate violence and downplayed the long-term consequences.
Hull House, a hallowed Chicago institution for 123 years, recently closed due to lack of funds. For generations, it was the crown jewel of American settlement houses, important enough to be mentioned in history textbooks, and also an ongoing source of local civic pride. Today, every Chicagoan, from Mayor Emanuel and the city’s corporate fathers, to those in the Occupy Chicago movement should be ashamed at how the public has virtually ignored the death of Hull House.
For forty years, his passion was teaching Moby Dick. Mr. G was my high school English teacher and for six weeks each year, he would parse “The Great American Novel” with a obsession like that of one-legged Captain Ahab pursuing the Great White Whale. Our eyes glazed over as he attempted, vainly, to captivate us with Melville’s tedious digressions about Nantucket whaling villages. Undeterred, Mr. G forged on. In retrospect, his single-minded devotion was touching. At the time however, his fixation was the epitome of high school torture.
The current sordid child sex molestation scandal at Penn State has brought calls for the NCAA to close down the university’s football program. New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera has called for Penn State to cancel their 2012 football season. Chicago sports attorney Eldon Ham, an adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law wrote, “To get the full attention of Penn State and every other out-of-control college football program in America, the NCAA should take away Penn State football - if only for a while”. The Nation’s Katha Pollitt goes even further, “Cancel the season. Fire everybody. Start again. Or maybe don’t start again. Maybe cancel college football too”.
This weekend, The Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee selects new inductees from the candidates who never earned enough votes during their original eligibility. If justice and logic prevail, two players closely associated with Chicago, who were never accorded their rightful due, should be shoo-ins – Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso.
The young man from Dallas was a medical boy wonder. He graduated from the local medical school at the unheard of age of 22 and headed to Boston to study surgery at the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital under some of the world’s greatest surgeons. This was right after World War II, when those surgeons revolutionized trauma care and resuscitation, refining what they had learned on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.
What about a CEO’s major illness? This information will likely affect price of the company stock and leadership succession. Shareholders would certainly want information about their CEO’s condition. This conflicts with the notion of personal privacy and the CEO’s understandable reluctance toward disclosure. Steve Jobs’s case is particularly instructive. No CEO was more intimately identified, or more important to his company. Because of his well-known penchant for privacy, the medical facts in Jobs’s case are not completely clear.
Reading the obits on Gent, even from the “great newspapers” is a joke. All he becomes is a caricature guy who blew the whistle on pro football in his best-known, but not his best work, North Dallas Forty. He was a superb writer. The obits all talked about how he wrote North Dallas Forty and “exposed the seamy side of football”, typical obits not really capturing his brilliance, In reality, he was a much more nunaced character.
Why did Andres Brevik go on a mass murder spree in Oslo? The motivation may forever remain unknown. However, in the wake of the carnage that left over 70 dead, the summer of 2011 will forever be indelibly burned in the memory of every Norwegian as the Summer of Hate. America had a summer like that in 1966 when the nation was similarly stunned by mass murder, shootings, and violence - the Summer of Hate in America.
A new collective bargaining agreement means the millionaires and billionaires of the National Football League will provide America with football for another decade. However, another storm cloud on the horizon threatens the game’s prosperity - the growing problem of head injuries in high school, college, and professional ranks.
Since the end of World War II, American medicine has been acclaimed throughout the world for mass vaccination programs in the quest to eradicate deadly infectious diseases. In the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk became an international hero with his discovery of the polio vaccine, when polio was a global scourge. Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who died recently, won the 1976 Nobel Prize for discovering the hepatitis B virus and developing the vaccine that prevented hepatitis and liver cancer caused by the virus. He is a revered figure in China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia where hepatitis B is endemic because the vaccine he developed saved millions of lives. Salk, Blumberg and other vaccine pioneers are true 20th century heroes of American medicine.
The enforced neighborhood bonhomie was because no one had electricity. The friendly chats at the fence ended once the 21st Century returned and electricity was finally restored 77 hours after violent storms supposedly knocked out power. Of course, that is the “official story”. But the neighbors aren’t buying that stuff about downed power lines, damaged transformers, and lightning. That’s what “someone” want you to believe. That thunderstorm ruse is just a devious cover story. We know what really happened
Google recently announced it was discontinuing its electronic medical and health records service, Google Health. Launched in 2008, Google Health was created so people could gather and store their personal health information electronically but was shut down with little notice. The company cited lack of consumer interest as the primary reason the site closed. A brief explanation by Google managers on a blog explained, “With a few years of experience, we’ve observed that Google Health is not having the broad impact that we hoped it would…in the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care.”