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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

8.3 Million Children In Danger -- Mom and Dad High On Endangerment

 


What if I told you that 12 percent of the children in a country are at great risk each day? That means that 8.3 million children under 18 years of age in this place are in peril and face constant danger? Isn't it terrible that young people anywhere should live with such strife and endangerment? It sounds like the horrible reality of existence in a terrorist state or in a third-world country like Iraq, Afghanistan, or Haiti. However, I am speaking of a modern, civilized place.

I'm talking about the United States of America.

It was reported that in 2014, 21.5 million Americans 12 or older (8.1%) have a substance use disorder.

(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for
Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.)

How does this affect innocent children, you ask?

In the U.S. an estimated 12 percent of children live with a parent who is dependent on or who abuses alcohol or other drugs. Based on data from the period 2002 to 2007, 8.3 million children in America under 18 years of age lived with at least one substance-dependent or substance-abusing parent. This, in the nation claiming to be the cradle of love and commitment.

(“Parental substance use and the child welfare system.” Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. 2014.)

Parental substance abuse is a major factor contributing to child abuse and neglect. In a 1999 report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that studies showed that between one-third and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases were affected by substance use to some degree. More recent research reviews suggest that the range may be even wider

(R. Barth. “Preventing child abuse and neglect with parent training: Evidence and opportunities. Future of Children, 19. 2009.)

(D. Traube. “The missing link to child safety, permanency, and well-being: Addressing substance misuse in child welfare. Social Work Research, 36. 2012.)

Addiction is a family disease that is in a class of its own – the physical and mental repercussions destroy not only the addicts but also everyone surrounding them. And, of course, the negative effects of parental alcohol and drug addiction continue as the children of addicted parents enter adulthood themselves with dramatically increased odds of being dependent and of being more likely to abuse their own children. This cyclic trend produces more and more children born into underprivileged homes and neighborhoods who face imminent endangerment and abuse.

The children in an addictive home develop unhealthy coping mechanisms while attempting to preserve the family unit. They experience extreme stress, guilt, anger, and denial, and they are often emotionally and physically deprived. Most feel confusion and a diminished sense of self-worth. Is it any wonder many of these children resort to taking drugs or to engaging in other addictive behaviors to escape their unhealthy family atmosphere?

Can you imagine being a youngster and developing perceptions based on so much deceit? Consider the truth of such statements as these:

“Mom's taking a nap.” Truth: She has passed out.

“Dad's working late.” Truth: He is out getting high.

“Grandma isn’t feeling good.” Truth: She’s dope sick.

“We can't afford to let you (the kids) go to the game.” Truth: We spent it all on drugs.

“Mom and Dad are going to town.” Truth: They are dealing drugs.

“Dad got laid off at work.” Truth: He failed the drug test.

Who faces irreparable damage as a substance takes control of a life? Of course, the addict does. But, consider the children. The tremendous burden of repairing these children – providing them needed care and taking control of their welfare and well-being – falls directly upon society. Relatives and foster parents, usually with aid from the government, must step up and properly raise these injured innocents.
 
So many mothers and fathers are not taking responsibility. Consider the numbers who do not raise their children and who do not contribute full assistance. Family structure is changing. According to U.S. Census figures, 1 in 3 children in America (15 million) live without their father. In addition, 4.9 million American children are being raised solely by their grandparents. This number is almost double that of the 2000 Census (2.4 million).

In Ohio, heroin use by the parents or caregivers is skyrocketing as a factor in child custody cases. Figures run by the state human services agency show almost 7,000 instances where heroin was cited in child custody cases in 2013, an 83 percent increase from three years earlier.

The state’s analysis found 3,726 references to heroin in child-custody cases in 2010, compared with 6,827 in 2013, according to the numbers produced by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.  
The average stay in foster care is 70 days, but that number jumps to 300 days for children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, says Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, governmental affairs director for the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. 
 
(Associated Press. “Heroin use soars as factor in removal of Ohio children from parents in custody cases. The Toledo Blade. May 14, 2014.)
 
The horrendous fact is that estrangement from family and other social supports also endangers an entire generation of youth. Admittedly, these children likely love their parents. Yet, great numbers of them are at significant risks from parents that abuse drugs and alcohol.

In early drug use, before family finances are affected, there may be no signs of neglect. But as drug use spirals out of control, that's usually when problems arise. Their lives turn chaotic and unpredictable. Many children lack even their basic needs of nutrition, supervision, and nurturing are lacking.

Often, due to this neglect, there is no choice but to have Children Services place endangered children in foster homes.

Patricia Harrelson, director of Richland County, Ohio Children Services, said ...

"We've had children as young as 2 years old testing positive (for drugs) as a result of inadequate supervision. ... That's what we're dealing with on a daily basis...

"I often see parents who know their kids are safe and continue to use. We remove one of the things that may make them think twice. Heroin pretty much makes you forget you have kids, at least when you're high.”


 
(Jona Ison. “As heroin use spikes, Ohio children feel the brunt.” The Newark Advocate. May 23, 2015.)

"The child welfare system in and of itself is not going to solve this problem," said Tim Dick, assistant director for Clermont County Children Services.

The problem needs a team approach from child welfare, judicial and drug treatment agencies, Dick said, adding that the primary purpose of the report was to get people talking and planning.

Ohio also has at least 16 similar courts targeted for families. Expanding those courts is among the solutions suggested.

The biggest hurdle is ensuring there is treatment not only available in the family's county but also that there's enough to serve the community's needs.

 "Regardless of what county these addicts live in and where their children are removed from, the treatment needs to be in that county. ... We can't have them be on a waiting list," Dick said.

The waiting list is especially problematic in child welfare cases because children services agencies are required to eventually file for permanent removal so children aren't languishing in temporary families, Dick said.

"With drug addiction, especially with an addiction like opiates, recovery takes a lengthy period of time. So to have a six-month delay, they're already being set up (for failure)," Dick said.

(Jona Ison. “As heroin use spikes, Ohio children feel the brunt.” The Newark Advocate. May 23, 2015.)

As responsible citizens, it is up to us to advocate for vulnerable children who are not in a position to advocate for themselves. To ignore this problem or to simply “wish it away” assures a future of escalating drug abuse. Saving these children with swift action is paramount. Addicts need rehabilitation, and children need adequate care.

Allow me to advocate. I believe we need to foster a change in attitude concerning parenthood. We need to hold each parent responsible for the welfare of their children. Relatives, friends, teachers, counselors, courts, and governments cannot replace the roles of “mom and dad.” The village is there for support, not for primary care. Becoming a parent demands a sober mind and a continued commitment for decades.

Now, it seems to me as if there is a significant attitude reflecting a lack of responsibility – a reliance of dependence upon someone else to raise needy children if the case may arise. I believe this is a fault of dependent parents, no matter how much they claim they may care for their children. As difficult as owning responsibility of raising children may be to consenting adults, they have chosen their circumstances. What once was “I” became “we” through free will, and this decision to produce offspring demands the couple accept the charge to raise healthy, happy children in a loving environment.

Oh, I know the disease of addiction controls the minds and actions of addicts. Addicts are the model of irresponsibility. They are sick and in need of help, in no condition to be around children, much less raise them. Therefore, drug dependency must prevent initial procreation. That view is harsh. It is realistic. It is not dependent upon a myriad of variables. Why? Because it helps insure proper child care for all innocent children.

Right now, we, as a nation, must stress the tremendous obligations inherent in being a father or a mother. Any person engaging in risky activities knowingly endangers a son or a daughter. Prospective fathers and mothers must choose not to risk substance abuse in the first place. And, if they do not care and do so anyway, they exacerbate the cycle of dependency and addiction that rips the fabric of American families to shreds. It is both morally wrong and criminal to subject children to abuse.

No person wants to share the misery of addiction with loved ones; however, by being linked with those who love them, millions do each day. Those are the cold, hard facts and the simple hope of a future generation. Prevention first and foremost.

 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ohio and Scioto County -- Children Are the "Invisible" Victims of Drug Abusing Parents

 

"The children really are the invisible victims," said Scott Britton of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. 
 
(Rita Price. “Parents’ heroin addictions put too many kids in foster care.”  
The Columbus Dispatch. September 19, 2016.) 
 
A recent survey by the association found that at least half of all children taken into custody last year had parents using drugs, a majority of which were opiates. 93.5 percent of agencies say heroin and other opiates are a serious problem in their communities.

The Columbus Dispatch reports after a decade of steeply declining foster-care rates, Ohio now has about 14,000 children in agency custody -- an increase of nearly 13 percent since the end of 2012, which doesn't include the likely faster-growing number of kids taken in by relatives.

In addition, Ohio's hospitalization rate for neonatal abstinence syndrome – a set of symptoms suffered by infants born dependent on drugs – has soared from 14 for every 10,000 live births in 2004 to 134 per 10,000 by 2014.

As federal and state legislative action has largely focused on opioid-prescribing practices and treatment for addicts, little attention has turned toward the child-welfare system. Lorra Fuller, head of the Children Services agency in Scioto County, confirms, "We have to keep children safe, and we rob Peter to pay Paul to do it."

The State of Ohio, which already ranks last in the nation for child-protection funding, has not sent county agencies new money to aid in the fight.

The agency has a $3 million budget that keeps taking hits, from the loss of more than $700,000 in state and federal funding by 2010 to a $16,000 penalty this year for not meeting the federal standard on parent-child visitation rates. Fuller said she can afford to pay local foster parents only $27.50 a day.

"More staff could help with these high-needs cases," she said. "We are in homes once a month. We need to be there at least weekly, maybe three times in a week."

Scioto County has some of the lowest property values in the state; thus, tax-levy revenue also is low. The agency had 80 children in custody four years ago and 173 by early this summer. More than 50 are younger than 2.

Rita Price of the Dispatch shares Fuller's words ...

“There would be fewer, Fuller acknowledges, if she hadn't drawn a line in the sand four years ago. 'I decided that if mom was positive on delivery and baby was positive and there was not a prescription, we were going to take custody,' Fuller said.

“Before 2012, caseworkers first might have worked with the mothers to offer treatment, services and support as part of an 'alternative response' approach that aims to reduce foster-care placements.

“But in the face of a full-blown opiate epidemic, 'alternative response didn't work for us,' Fuller said. 'We just weren't being effective as a child-welfare agency by leaving those children out there. What we saw was that these babies that weren't removed were coming into the system as 1- and 2-year-olds for neglect.'

“Although strategies and practices vary among Ohio's 88 county Children Services agencies, there is broad agreement that the system is facing a terrible foe — one that wrecks families, drives up costs, demoralizes workers and can drag cases out for years.

"'Unfortunately, we're not seeing great success with treatment and recovery,' said Catherine Hill, executive director of Athens County Children Services in southeastern Ohio. 'It's taking a whole generation of our young parents.'”

(Rita Price. “Parents’ heroin addictions put too many kids in foster care.”  
The Columbus Dispatch. September 19, 2016.) 

 
The Bottom Line

Responsible parents must provide loving, stable homes for their children. Being a parent is a full-time job that requires sobriety. Parents who shirk these responsibilities risk not only losing their children to Children Services but also losing their children to accidental injury and death.
Addicted parents define the model of irresponsible adults. Although they may struggle to maintain routine and structure in the home, the financial cost of drug use, itself, often prevents them from providing adequate food, housing and clothing for their children. When under the influence, they may also ask their children to assume adult roles such as cleaning, cooking and caring for younger siblings. This added responsibility in formative years can be devastating to a young life.

Furthermore, the effects of drugs can lead to inconsistent parenting. For example, a parent who is addicted to drugs might have difficulty maintaining a regular system of rules and consequences for breaking those rules. This can lead to extreme behavioral difficulties.

And, according to the National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse, when children grow up in homes with parents who abuse drugs, the children are at a higher risk of becoming addicts themselves. This increased risk of substance abuse comes from the tremendous environmental stress associated with living with a parent who is an addict.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirms that risk factors can increase a person’s chances for drug abuse, while protective factors can reduce the risk. The table below describes how risk and protective factors affect people in five domains, or settings, where interventions can take place.

Risk Factors
Domain
Protective Factors
Early Aggressive Behavior
Individual
Self-Control
Lack of Parental Supervision
Family
Parental Monitoring
Substance Abuse
Peer
Academic Competence
Drug Availability
School
Anti-drug Use Policies
Poverty
Community
Strong Neighborhood Attachment


 

The more risks a child is exposed to, the more likely the child will abuse drugs. Some risk factors may be more powerful than others at certain stages in development, such as peer pressure during the teenage years; just as some protective factors, such as a strong parent-child bond, can have a greater impact on reducing risks during the early years. An important goal of prevention is to change the balance between risk and protective factors so that protective factors outweigh risk factors.

We must protect the children of Scioto County, the children of Ohio, and the children of America against drug abuse. It is unfortunate, often unthinkable, but that often means protecting children from their addictive parents. Research-based prevention programs focus on intervening early in a child’s development to strengthen protective factors before problem behaviors develop.

I know of no stronger incentive for prevention than recognizing the risk of losing precious loved ones to substance abuse. It is time for dependent parents to acknowledge and accept the risk of losing their most beloved possessions to their precarious behavior. No longer should an individual parent falsely believe that their addiction is a personal matter with strictly personal consequences. The truth is that addiction destroys families and creates cycles of destructive behavior that last for generations. 
 
I am reminded of Jamie O'Hara's song made famous by George Jones. Although the tune actually deals with love and heartache and not with drug abuse, the “cold, hard truth” of acceptance and responsibility pulls at the heartstrings and draws a significant parallel.


"The Cold Hard Truth"
You don't know who I am
But I know all about you
I've come to talk to you tonight
About the things I've seen you do.

I've come to set the record straight
I've come to shine the light on you
Let me introduce myself
I'm the cold hard truth.

There is a woman we both know
I think you know the one I mean
She gave her heart and soul to you
You gave her only broken dreams

You say your not the one to blame
For all the heartaches she's been though
I say you're nothing but a liar
And I'm the cold hard truth.

All your life that's how it's been
Lookin' out for number one
Takin' more than you give
Movin' on when you're done.

With her you could have had it all
A family and love to last
If you had any sense at all
You'd go and beg her to come back.

You think that you're a real man
But you're nothing but a fool
The way you run away from love
The way you try to play it cool

I'm gonna say this just one time
Time is running out on you
You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth.

You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth....

Friday, September 9, 2016

Colin Kaepernick Refuses To Proudly Hail -- Whose National Shame?


Although no human rights instrument or constitution grants the absolute right to protest, that right is a manifestation of the right to freedom of speech, the right to freedom of assembly, and the right to freedom of association. The right to protest or to peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment.

Protest, itself is a form of collective action and of social movement participation at the same time. There is a vast array of specific protest behaviors that people might exhibit. Wright et al. (1990) have proposed a framework based on three distinctions:

* The first between inaction and action,

* The second between actions directed at improving one’s personal conditions (individual action) and actions directed at improving the conditions of one’s group (collective action).

* The third distinction is between actions that conform to the norms of the existing social system (normative action like petitioning and taking part in a demonstration) and those that violate existing social rules (non-normative action like illegal protests and civil disobedience).

(S.C. Wright, D.M. Taylor, and F.M. Moghaddam FM (1990) “The relationship of perceptions and emotions to behavior in the face of collective inequality.” Social Justice Research. 1990.)

The preface to this entry may help people better understand the protest of Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has refused to stand for the National Anthem. He is biracial and was adopted and raised by white parents and siblings. Kaepernick said after months of witnessing some of the civil unrest in the U.S., he decided to be more active and involved in rights for black people.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Both the 49ers and the National Football League recognize the right of an individual citizen to choose not to participate in the celebration of the national anthem. Yet, of course, the NFL encourages player participation.

Kaepernick said that he is aware of what he is doing, has discussed his feelings with his family, and knows it will not sit well with a lot of people, including the 49ers. He said that he did not inform the club or anyone affiliated with the team of his intentions to protest the national anthem.

(Steve Wyche. “Colin Kaepernick explains why he sat during national anthem.” 
nfl.com. Aug. 27, 2016.)

Even President Obama weighted in on Kaepernick's actions. The President said that he did not doubt Kaepernick's sincerity in attempting to highlight social issues and noted that the player was the latest in a long line of professional sports figures to do so. However, Obama also acknowledged that Kaepernick's silent protest was a "tough thing" for many members of the military to accept.

What about disrespecting that flag that has given 
you the freedom to speak out?

Granted, nothing ignites feelings of anger in me more than to see people disrespect what is arguably the most sacred symbol of America. At ballgames and at other public events, on more than one occasion, I have told other inattentive men they should remove their hats and stand at attention during the National Anthem. I expect decorum and a certain amount of solemnity for even simple gestures of patriotism, and I think Americans owe that respect for all that the flag represents.

What really frosts most of us with patriotism is the perceived lack of simple homage by Kaepernick. We view him as a successful, prosperous, American public figure choosing the wrong form of protest – refusing to honor the flag – at an inopportune time – during a widely covered NFL football game. We think he is “biting the hand that has fed him so well” and being a selfish opportunist.

Kaepernick’s former coach placed an interesting frame around the entire debate about the protest. Jim Harbaugh, who now coaches the University of Michigan football team, said, “I support Colin’s motivation. It’s his method of action that I take exception to.”

Yet, Matt Vasilogambros, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, pointed out: “Reaction isn’t about his motivation. It’s about his method. Kaepernick’s motivation was lost.” He claims the out-roar is mainly about “how we should protest in this country.”

(Matt Vasilogambros. “Did Colin Kaepernick's Protest Fail?” The Atlantic. August 30, 2016.)

Should any employer or government limit “how” we should protest as long as it is legal? It seems that any such intrusion would destroy our absolute right to expression about present conditions.

So, to acknowledge that Kaepernick meant to use his celebrity and his position to address race and criminal justice reform is to understand that his protest against the norms of the existing social system is effective in bringing attention to needed change. His rightful expression may be distasteful, yet it must remain an ultimate gesture of protected protest in our great democracy.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA legend and activist, wrote in The Washington Post:
“What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after [Muhammad] Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”
In the end, Colin Kaepernick is the sole owner of his unrest and protest. Others are joining him now, but only he understands his authorship of expression. We can argue about how Kaepernick is using the system to take out personal frustrations all day long, but, deep down, we know that we too have our individual beliefs – beliefs that include limits of intrusion and convictions of expressions. We too have rights to take actions when we feel oppressed or aggrieved. We too need no one else to approve of our protest.
We can damn Kaepernick for his lack of respect and his lack of patriotism. At the same time, we must each ask ourselves what we might do if confronted with similar oppression of our basic liberties. Some surely do choose much more violent and wrongful means of protest than refusing to come to attention for the National Anthem. In the case of Colin Kaepernick, his method of protest is highly symbolic. It may evoke hatred or esteem for the quarterback, yet it does not imperil innocent citizens in its shame of a nation still struggling to meet its promises.

 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Unadorned -- More Beautiful Than Tats, Piercings, Plastic Surgery?

 

"Beauty when unadorned is adorned the most.” 

--St. Jerome (340-420)

After writing about young women and the current obsession with body art a couple days ago, I feel it may be appropriate to address the issue of feminine beauty as it relates to gender norms. I am certainly in favor of women expressing their feelings with honesty and commitment. Saying that, I understand that some young ladies get tattooed to commemorate others and to express sincere, honorable feelings. I support their choice of expression.

Someone asked why I limited my discussion of body art to women. I must admit doing so makes me appear to be extremely sexist. I believe I am not. Old-fashioned in some respects and appreciative of the natural female form perhaps, yet I am very supportive of women’s rights.

I want to tell women that their beauty is not dependent upon any particular standard or style. I want young women to know they do not have to possess fashion-model looks or cosmetic adornments to be absolutely alluring. I want them to know that their unique sensual attraction stems from so many different feminine graces and that imperfection is truly beautiful.

To me, excess makeup and outlandish fashion often betray feminine appeal. In fact, some say we are experiencing a sea change in how beauty is viewed in today's culture. Among them is Vivian Diller -- Ph.D., psychologist, and author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change.
Diller says ...

“As I see it, the yearning for perfect beauty is beginning to lose strength among every day women and celebs alike. Boomers may have been the first to feel what I call 'image fatigue' as their attempts to appear younger led to too many inauthentic looking faces and bodies. That plastic, overly puffed up, frozen image has become a turnoff to many, in part because they have begun to all look the same. And the next generation is feeling it too: Millennials are experimenting with more fashion and makeup statements that express authenticity. For many young women, less is becoming more.

“(It) Seems like women's voices are joining together and are finally being heard: 'We want to feel and look attractive, but there isn't just one way to do that. We want to look like ourselves, not someone else.' At last, real may be the new beautiful.”

(Vivian Diller. “Building a Case for Real Beauty.” The Huffington Post. January 25, 2014.)

A study by researchers Alex Jones at Bangor University and Robin Kramer at Aberdeen University in the U.K. found “women are likely wearing cosmetics to appeal to the mistaken preferences of others.” Jones and Kramer reported men and women preferred the same amount of cosmetics. And that amount was less than the models had actually applied.

Specifically, people thought “the models looked best when they were wearing just 60 percent as much makeup as they had actually applied. But they thought women would want the models to be wearing 75 percent as much, and that men would want 80 percent.”

These mistaken preferences seem more tied to the perceived expectancies of men, and, to a lesser degree, of women. In other words, the models were primping for nonexistent ideals, not for actual humans.

(Olga Khazan. “Why Do So Many Women Wear So Much Makeup?”  
The Atlantic. April 28, 2014.)

 

What is the human preference of beauty as it relates to a woman's physiology? We know it has changed considerably over time as most aesthetic values do. A large group of people willingly adhere to ever-changing “beauty” standards of build, weight, and other physical attributes set by the media and fashion industries – extremely judgmental criteria that now seems to be at unrealistic levels of achievement.

We also know each woman must be true to her own beliefs about attraction – some truly have no desire to appear “beautiful” to others as long as they are honest with themselves. These women include those more concerned with proper exercise, diet, and health than with meeting fashion demands. And other ladies are just rebels who find the entire “body beautiful” argument unwarranted.

I believe perhaps the most alarming standards are commonly accepted artificial modifications – anything that presents the opportunity of completely selling out to fashion or to manufactured standards over unadorned, natural bodies.

To me, the beauty inherent in modesty and humility – the subtle graces – illuminates both the elegance and the beautiful mystery of a female. When glamor is glaring, upfront, and so dazzling as to make eyeballs bulge and drop jaws open, I think it often loses its charm. I hope young women understand how “too much” and “too drastic” can cheapen their image. And, again, if that is what is desired, far be it from me to preach the gospel of natural adoration. Yet, I strongly believe the work of art is the human form, not the chemical or plastic alteration of that form.

 

The delicate newborn female comes into this world in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It is beyond my conception how any adornment would be made to this baby to meet some artificial standard of beauty. Upon her first breath, she is supremely adorable. Yet, as she grows, this baby is increasingly bombarded by demands of beauty when the truth is nothing is more beautiful than her natural, human development. If nurtured, protected, and loved, she will be beautiful in her heart, mind, and skin.

I am confessing to my preference for moderation as it applies to a beautiful female. It is a prejudice I will likely continue to harbor, even in the face of overwhelming odds. I understand that body art, body piercings, plastic surgery, and scads of makeup are commonly employed in beauty makeovers today. Still, some of us find special grace in the imperfect – we love the image of a sweet being in her natural design. Simply beautiful and unadorned. 

 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Young Ladies With Torrents of Tats and Disfiguring Pigments

 

I preface this entry by admitting I am 65-years-old, and I have developed a somewhat fixed set of cultural values. Oh hell, let's get down to it. I am a geezer who finds some changes increasingly difficult to endure. But, I also acknowledge I have little sense of modern fashion, art, or vogue concepts. If you are young, I promise one day you will reevaluate the fads and manners you followed in your youth. I say this from my own experience because so many of my early amusements now seem extremely juvenile and even downright regrettable.

Which brings me to … tattoos.

A 2010 Pew Research Center Report found that 38 percent of Americans ages 18-29 now have some sort of long-term body art. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, approximately 21,000 tattoo parlors in the U.S. provide services, and 32 percent of those with tattoos claim they are addicted to ink.

Women are getting inked more often these days. And they are not just choosing small, discreet tattoos on their ankles, their shoulders, and the small of their backs. Many are covering large portions of their anatomy with ink. The TV network behind show "Best Ink" and Lightspeed Research asked just over 1000 people across the United States about their perceptions of body art, and it turned out 59 percent of women have tattoos compared to 41 percent of men.

Why do so many young people – especially beautiful girls – become addicted to getting tattoo after tattoo? I understand the nature of pushing envelopes and how acquiring body art raises adrenaline. Combine the thrill with the desire to display a little “naughty” visibility on the canvas, and some young ladies can't seem to stop their desire to ink their bodies with words, symbols, and pictures. Exhibitionism fallen woman

One thing is for sure: Women who get body art are, in some way, seeking to redefine themselves.

Enter psychology. Getting tattooed can be an act of rebellion and a breaking of conventions. Some claim to love the endorphins that flood the body during tattooing while others even say they find solace in the pain the process produces.

Getting inked can be a form of attention seeking, especially when the tattoos are very conspicuous and very graphic. Due to the popularity of tattooing, it also can be an effective method of facilitating social interactions. Yet, I can see this as a possible cause of isolation also.

But, as with most popular fashion, I am sure young women think more about physiological reasons for having tattoos. The growing cultural acceptance of body art and the increasing media exposure of those with ink have created an insurgence of tattoo-related art and artists. To many women, tattoos represent a deep love of expression of what they consider to be beautiful, artistic freedom. To some, the more tattoos, the more beautiful becomes the display on their personal canvasses.

I also understand that tattoos have significant meaning. Ink becomes a self-satisfying way of expressing who people believe themselves to be on this inside. These people often use stock expressions, quotes, and poems to bolster body illustrations.

Yet, people age and change -- their self-images, their physical bodies, and their concepts of aesthetics transform. The permanence of bold expressions on human skin can cause deep regret. Don't even ask me how many young, extreme liberals I grew up with became staunch conservatives as they aged. And, removal of body art is costly and can be painful. 

 

I believe it is logical that many people question how naturally beautiful women could indelibly mar a lovely canvas by such subjective, artificial means. Hear me out, young folks. This is a pertinent question, and it always has been. Critical judgment by others is a part of life, and nothing can change the fact that getting a tattoo was once considered self-mutilatory behavior.

Living with the real consequences of choosing to display body art must be considered …

“Vintage salon owner ReeRee Rockette, 30, experiences extreme reactions to her extensive arm tattoos: 'I get a lot of positive feedback on my tattoos, although they seem to make people forget their manners. I get stroked, poked and touched by strangers – usually women – and it’s very unsettling. The negative reactions are quieter; stares and pointing, or questions tinged with passive aggression. I have had women at parties tell me why they don’t like tattoos. Despite me never asking.'

“'This has something to do with cultural expectations of what’s feminine,' explains Gemma Angel, from UCL’s History of Art department. 'A dainty little rose is an acceptably discreet decoration, but an entire back piece is much more confronting. The difference between these two examples is that one is about adorning the female form, perhaps to accentuate femininity, whereas the other is more about the tattoo itself – the body becomes a canvas onto which the person’s idea of themselves is projected. I think that Western standards of beauty do not accommodate heavily tattooed women because, like any form of body modification taken to an extreme, it disrupts the ideal of what is feminine.'”

(Anita Bhagwandas.“Women and Tattoos.” Stylist. 2016.)

A tattoo on a beautiful woman is like putting 
a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.”

I know many will hate this unattributed quote. Yet, like it or not, a stigma survives. A young woman would have to be in total denial if she thought tattoos weren't going to have a significant positive or negative impact on people she doesn't know well. And some of the variables that elicit judgment are the following:

How many tattoos does a person have?
What size are the tattoos?
Where on the body are the tattoos located?

In addition, right or wrong, people judge the behaviors of the tattooed. In actuality, some research has been done on those with body art that may reinforce those judgments.What behaviors are found to be consistent with women who are tattooed?

Research shows that body modification is associated with early sexual initiation and more liberal attitudes toward sexual behaviors but not with engaging in risky sexual behaviors.

(K. Nowosielski, et al. “Tattoos, piercing, and sexual behaviors in young adults.
 J Sex Med. 2012.)

In another stody, British researchers report significantly lower appearance anxiety and dissatisfaction immediately after obtaining a tattoo. Participants report significantly greater body appreciation, self-esteem, distinctive appearance investment, and self-ascribed uniqueness three weeks after obtaining a tattoo. But, women report significantly greater social physique anxiety three weeks after obtaining a tattoo, whereas men report significantly lower anxiety, and satisfaction with a new tattoo decreases significantly after three weeks, although a majority of respondents believe they are likely to get a future tattoo.

(Viren Swami. “Marked for life? A prospective study of tattoos on appearance anxiety and dissatisfaction, perceptions of uniqueness, and self-esteem.” Body Image. Volume 8. June 2011.)
 
Could tattoos affect a person's ability to find employment? Dr Andrew R. Timming of the School of Management at the University of St Andrews told the British Sociological Association (September 4, 2013) that having a tattoo reduces the chance of getting a job, but it depends on where the tattoo is, what it depicts and if the job involves dealing with customers.
"Most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma," Dr Timming told the conference. One woman manager told him that "they make a person look dirty". Another male manager told him "subconsciously that would stop me from employing them." Another male manager said "tattoos are the first thing they [fellow recruiters] talk about when the person has gone out of the door."

 

Health Risks – Important Considerations For Getting Inked

And, most important, what are the health risks of inking? In their usual “What? Me worry?” manner, the Food and Drug Administration says it knows little about the tattoo inks in use today. Tattoo inks are considered cosmetics, and their color additives are subject to regulatory authority. Yes, I said “cosmetics.” Go figure.

But the agency (FDA) says it hasn’t been using its authority “because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns,” writes spokeswoman Lauren Sucher.
The facts: There have been no systematic studies of the safety of tattoo inks.

 Where does the pigment go?

Real concerns within the Arkansas-based National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) are the following:

• the chemical composition of the inks and how they break down (metabolize) in the body;

• the short-term and long-term safety of pigments used in tattoo inks;

• how the body responds to the interaction of light with the inks.

For example, some tattoos fade over time or fade when they are exposed to sunlight. And laser light is used to remove tattoos. “We want to know what happens to the ink,” says research chemist Paul Howard, Ph.D. “Where does the pigment go?”

NC TR researchers are exploring several possibilities:

• The body cells may digest and destroy the ink, just as they rid the body of bacteria and other foreign matter as a defense against infection. NCTR studies show that a common pigment used in yellow tattoo inks, Pigment Yellow 74, may be broken down by enzymes, or metabolized. “Just like the body metabolizes and excretes other substances, the body may metabolize small amounts of the tattoo pigment to make it more water soluble, and out it goes.

Sunlight may cause the ink to break down so it is less visible. NCTR researchers have found that Pigment Yellow 74 decomposes in sunlight, breaking down into components that are colorless. “The pigment components may still be there,” says Howard, “and we don’t know if these are potentially toxic.”

• The skin cells containing the ink may be killed by sunlight or laser light and ink breakdown products may disperse through the body. “Research has also shown that some pigment migrates from the tattoo site to the body’s lymph nodes,” says Howard. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a collection of fluid-carrying vessels in the body that filter out disease-causing organisms.

Whether the migration of tattoo ink has health consequences or not is still unknown. NCTR is doing further research to answer this and other questions about the safety of tattoo inks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other health considerations for tattoos include ...
  • Allergic reactions. Tattoo dyes — especially red, green, yellow and blue dyes — can cause allergic skin reactions, such as an itchy rash at the tattoo site. This can occur even years after you get the tattoo.
  • Skin infections. A skin infection is possible after tattooing.
  • Other skin problems. Sometimes bumps called granulomas form around tattoo ink. Tattooing also can lead to keloids — raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
  • Bloodborne diseases. If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various bloodborne diseases — including tetanus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • MRI complications. Rarely, tattoos or permanent makeup might cause swelling or burning in the affected areas during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In some cases, tattoo pigments can interfere with the quality of the image.
(Staff Mayo Clinic. “Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions.”)

 


My Take

Rebellion, attention, beauty – all young women find themselves dealing with considerations of redefining themselves to achieve greater happiness and self-acceptance. This is very important in their development and often life-changing in nature. Very often, women make these decisions based solely upon the present state of their affairs – what's happening in their culture at the time and what's happening in their lives at the moment.

Most likely, a girl who chooses to cover herself with tattoos will be subjected to defending her decision to do so on a daily basis. It is difficult to have others consider a tattooed lady to be demure or innocent in character. Let me make this clear – I do not defend this judgment. In this entry, I hope only to speak honestly based on experience and personal research.

What I do wish to say to all young women is this. Nothing in God's creation is as beautiful as the natural body of a lovely woman. The features of imperfections and wonderful differences in faces, shapes, statures, and skins enhance sexuality and attractiveness.

I believe placing the depiction of the “art” of someone else on that skin does very little. In almost all cases it does nothing, to enhance lasting beauty. Symbolic of the talents of a tattoo artist -- what is original in ink applied by another? It is, at best, a decent rendering by a stranger.

I must be honest and tell you I don't like to see a gorgeous woman covered in ink. She may believe that ink may be a symbol of expression of her inner beauty; however, it is really nothing more than pigments of metal salts, plastics, and vegetable dyes that cover the real exterior of her being. Her truest -- and most sensual -- impressions come from the soul through her natural body.

To close, here is an excerpt from Covered In Ink: Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body by Beverly Yuen Thompson …

“Before women are ever exposed to the world of alternative body modification, they have been overexposed to the beauty culture through their personal interactions as well as the media. They have developed an identity based upon their gender performance, sexuality, race, nationality, age, and ability. 

“With the addition of becoming heavily tattooed, their embodiment identities intersect with these other factors. While White women may be given more space to experiment with their body modification, women of color, lesbians, disabled people, and other already-marked bodies will be interpreted more harshly, as multiply 'deviant.' 

“People of color’s bodies are often criminalized and discriminated against; with the addition of heavy tattooing, these pressures can become magnified. Lesbians and bisexual women may face additional stigma if their tattooing reinforces a butch appearance, but less so for a feminine one.”

I think body art elicits strong reactions. It may be attractive but the only true lasting attraction is the person displaying the tattoos. To some like me, a detraction is noticeable – one that makes me wonder why a person desires such artificial adornment, some of which seems so outrageous. OK, OK, I admit it -- it burns my ass to see a beautiful girl covered in shitty tattoos. There, I've said it. Please, girls, don't cover your skin with cheap renderings of supposedly wonderful sentiments. Don't become a walking exhibit of markings and designs. Be your beautiful self in your lovely skin.

And, I wonder if the fad will every stop. After all, how could any heavily tattooed parent regret that their son or daughter takes the same privilege with ink? I wonder if these parents even imagine what popular symbols, quotes, and artistic statements may be preferred in the future by their daring offspring. One thing is certain -- it will represent the cutting edge of redefining themselves.


Friday, August 12, 2016

"What the _ _ _ _ ?" FDA and DEA Still Consider Marijuana a Schedule 1 Substance



In their seemingly nonsensical way, the DEA and the FDA recently continued to support the classification of marijuana as a Schedule l controlled substance (which keeps intact a 1970 law) – in other words, considering marijuana has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This ruling keeps the drug in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote: “... we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise." What is the “statute” that “demands” this absurdity?

Rosenberg said designating marijuana a Schedule I drug does not necessarily mean it is as dangerous as other drugs.

"It is best not to think of drug scheduling as an escalating 'danger' scale — rather, specific statutory criteria (based on medical and scientific evidence) determine into which schedule a substance is placed," Rosenberg wrote.

The Food and Drug Administration said agency officials reviewed more than 500 studies on the use of medical marijuana, identifying only 11 that met the agency standards for "legitimate testing." For various reasons, none of the trials demonstrated "an accepted medical use," the agency concluded.

The FDA last evaluated marijuana for medical use in 2006 and said in its latest review that the available research "has progressed," but does not meet federal standards of safety or effectiveness

(Alicia A. Caldwell. “US government won't reclassify marijuana, allows research.” WRAL Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville. August 11, 2016.)

Do not think of marijuana on a “danger scale” but place it in the same category as heroin and cocaine because of “specific statutory criteria”? What in the hell does this mean? Here is the DEA classification of a Schedule 1 substance – “considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence” ...

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:
heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote 
 
My concern is the negative effect of the ruling upon the legitimate uses of medical marijuana, especially in the cases of treatment of pain associated with many serious conditions and the use of cannabidiol for treating children with epilepsy.

For God's sake, oxycodone (OxyContin and the like) is considered a Schedule II controlled substance along with Vicodin, fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, and oxymorphone. How could such substances be considered to have a lower potential for abuse and a higher value for medical use than marijuana? 

No single organization tracks all research studies of medical marijuana and marijuana-based drugs and herbs. But, controlled studies since 1990 found the following:

Alzheimer's Disease: One 1997 trial found that synthetic THC could ease symptoms of Alzheimer's. Patients were less agitated and ate better after treatment.

Autism: Two animal studies show that chemicals in marijuana may help symptoms of some forms of autism. A study of children with autism is underway at the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Cancer: Several studies on animal and human cells and a small study on 9 people suggested THC and other cannabinoids (chemicals derived from cannabis) might slow the growth of brain cancer. Multiple lab studies in human cells have also shown the potential for them to slow other kinds of cancers, such as breast cancer and leukemia; no studies in people have taken place.

Chronic Pain: More than 45 studies have looked at marijuana and pain related to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, and spinal injuries. The studies have included smoked marijuana, along with herbal and man-made forms. The majority of the studies showed an improvement in pain relief in comparison to a placebo or to other traditional pain medications. About a quarter of the studies showed no improvement.

Epilepsy: Personal stories and animal studies have shown that cannabidiol, one of the chemicals in cannabis, may help seizures in children with epilepsy. New York University just announced it will do a study of children with epilepsy and marijuana.

Digestive Disorders: Personal stories and several early studies have shown that smoking marijuana can help people with digestive diseases such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease. Some of the results included a reduction in bowel inflammation and reduced acid reflux. Further, some patients were able to retain more nutrients in their bodies, and the disease went into remission.

MS: More than 24 studies have looked at smoked marijuana, cannabinoids, and MS. Most reported that it helped relax patients’ rigid muscles and helped with pain. Sativex is approved to treat MS in 24 countries, but not in the U.S.

Schizophrenia: Two clinical trials showed that THC and cannabidiol could help with psychotic and other symptoms. The National Institutes of Health is funding a small clinical trial that also aims to show whether THC and cannabidiol can ease symptoms.

(Research provided by NORML, the marijuana legalization advocacy group; and data found in PubMed, the National Institutes of Health’s RePORTER; and a database maintained by the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines, a medical marijuana research organization based in Cologne, Germany.)

(Bara Vada. “Medical Marijuana: What the Research Shows.” Pain Management Health Center. WedMD. 2016.)

Christine Gregoire, the former Democratic governor of Washington state, said, “While I haven’t read it (the ruling), the outcome puts the DEA totally out of touch with the Justice Department, current research, the medical profession, patients and the public.”

(Rob Hotakainen. “DEA says marijuana has no medical value, will remain Schedule 1 drug.” Duluth News Tribune. August 11, 2016.)

Despite two recent petitions asking the agency to reconsider this designation for the benefit of scientific research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made this decision based on what they call a “scientific and medical” evaluation.

"The DEA and the FDA continue to believe that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under investigational new drug (IND) applications are the most appropriate way to conduct research on the medicinal uses of marijuana," said a statement from the DEA.

The agency is taking a step to make the plant more available for research. Now, more universities will be able to grow the plant for research. The DEA said this "will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research."

The agency said it has never stood in the way of a researcher conducting an FDA-approved study using marijuana from the NIDA-approved supply of the plant. According to the DEA, as of June, there there were 483 researchers registered with the agency to conduct FDA-approved research with schedule I controlled substances, not just marijuana.

The agency maintains its "commitment to work together with the FDA and NIDA to identify ways of streamlining research on marijuana and its extracts."

At least 25 states and the District of Columbia have approved the use of medical marijuana for conditions ranging from epilepsy to arthritis.

"In reality, marijuana should be descheduled and states should be allowed to set their own policies," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports marijuana policy reform. Collins said he considered the DEA's decision to be one that puts "politics above science."

I understand “going slow” with marijuana reform. That is why I think Federal agencies should approve medical marijuana legislation before considering recreational use. What I don't understand is the politics that puts the FDA, Big Pharma, political lobbyists, and politicians in cahoots. It's a power game grounded in huge profits, and it has been inconsiderate of real danger for decades. All one has to do is study the history of the prescription drug epidemic in America to see the horrible outcome of failed policies and inept leadership.

Nothing benefits society when Federal agencies mislabel foods and drugs just as nothing benefits society when enforcement branches use their limited resources to pursue petty, even questionable criminal activities in the face of more serious concerns. Politics, indeed … collaborations of the worst kind.

 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Truth About Trump Rant: "Hillary Wants to Abolish Second Amendment"


 

Great controversy still rages over GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump and the meaning of his comments at a recent rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. Without any embellishment or connotation concerning meaning, let's look at the reality of the disputation.

Trump said ...

"Hillary wants to abolish -- essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day, if Hillary gets to put her judges in, right now we're tied."

This Hillary Clinton's stance on gun control ...

Republicans, Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners”–feel divided when “in reality, we’re not divided on [the issue of control. Americans know that we can respect the rights of responsible gun owners and enact commonsense gun reforms to keep our communities safe.”

Clinton is calling for a “national movement” to “stand up to the NRA” and lambasting Republicans for voting against gun control legislation.

What is wrong with us, that we cannot stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers they represent? This is not just tragic. We don’t just need to pray for people. We need to act and we need to build a movement. It’s infuriating.”

Clinton has called for an array of gun control measures, including holding gun manufacturers liable for gun violence, closing a loophole that allows gun sales to proceed after three days if a background check is not completed in that time and taking administrative action to require background checks at guns shows and gun stores. This week, her campaign released an ad calling for gun control measures.

So, regardless of your interpretation of Trump's intentions for raising the possibility that gun rights
supporters could take matters into their own hands if Hillary is elected and appoints judges who favor stricter gun control measures, you must acknowledge that Donald has generated a great controversy that requires explaining exactly what he meant.

Most importantly, Donald Trump's intentions, whatever they were, are based on a lie. Hillary Clinton does not want to abolish the Second Amendment … not even “essentially.” This is an emotional appeal from a candidate behind in the polls who seeks to convince a bloc of voters to support him. Plain and simple, Trump's claim is a lie.

Does Hillary Clinton support new measures of gun control? Absolutely. But, in doing so, she does not want to divide America into two camps: the “Second Amendment people” and the Constitutional anarchists who “take away your guns.” This is a false dichotomy posited by Donald Trump that unjustly polarizes camps of intelligent gun owners.

Does Hillary Clinton stand against the rigid, no compromise policy of the National Rifle Association in an effort to stop gun violence? Of course. Remember, this is the group that after the attack on Newtown, which killed 20 children, put out a statement that was full of lies, accusing the White House’s gun task force of an “agenda to attack the Second Amendment” and of blaming “law-abiding gun owners” for the “acts of criminals and madmen.”

The present NRA represents first and foremost, the multibillion dollar gun industry. With tremendous financial backing, the NRA defends an extreme view – a view that encourages staunch resistance to even the most sensible regulatory and public safety efforts. Their apparent goal is to ensure the country is awash in as many guns as possible. Just consider Wayne La Pierre’s now infamous statement: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Perhaps Donald Trump manufactured his falsehood about the Second Amendment from this NRA source. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said this in October, 2015 about Clinton's support of gun control measures:"This validates what the NRA has said all along. The real goal of gun control supporters is gun confiscation. Hillary Clinton's extreme views are completely out of touch with the American people."

What did Trump imply in his North Carolina comments? Was it supposed to be a sick joke, a threat against Hillary Clinton, or some kind of “wink, wink” moment full of reckless implications that might later be explained away? I have my own opinions, but let's stick with the facts.
  1. Donald Trump told a lie that generated a controversy.

  2. All Americans that support the Constitution, not just NRA advocates, are “Second Amendment people” – that includes Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

  3. Trump's assumption of a President Clinton being blocked from selecting Supreme Court judges by gun supporters is veiled, aggressive division, to say the least.
You know, many of us at first thought Donald Trump was an amusing novelty. Then, we marveled at how many people began to respect his loose comments and derision. And finally, we realized that the real Trump was an ambitious politician, that he was a master manipulator, that he was a consummate  liar, and that he was a dangerous narcissist coveting power and control at the expense of anyone not sharing his views.