The dangers of the mentally challenged: what should police do?

Before and since 2015 I read with keen interest, as ever, articles about encounters some mentally challenged individuals have with law enforcement officials. The social worker for Shirley, a San Francisco schizophrenic, called police in 2015 and advised them that her client was locked in her room and threatening to kill the social worker. The police forced their way in. They then shot Shirley, who then sued them, saying, in essence, that because she is schizophrenic they should have taken more steps to avoid a violent confrontation.

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Allergy – irritant, life-threatening killer, and sometimes penicillin

Allergic reactions run the gamut from sneezing, nasal misery, and fatigue to airway shutdowns. One person can shrug off a mosquito bite, while the person next to her develops a violent headache and a welt at the scene of the same bug’s attack. Someone stepping on an angry wasp might manage to say he doesn’t feel well and just wants to go upstairs to lie down. Personal experience tip: do NOT let him go to bed!

Everyone should know that extreme swelling is a common over-reaction by some bodies to an insect sting or inhaled or ingested toxin, which can quickly devolve into the throat closing off. While benign to many, almost any substance (e.g. tomatoes and other members of the nightshade family, milk, nuts, shellfish) can be an allergen, and its attack insidious: one young woman was fatally exposed to peanuts in high school when she kissed her boyfriend, who’d eaten some not long before. Someone else’s mouth might “just” have itched and been treatable with a drink of tomato juice. A boy already in the hospital had an allergic reaction and died there, despite their best efforts to mitigate the exposure and save him.

That some are allergic to antibiotics is well documented. Now, perhaps apparent shrimp/shellfish allergies are really adverse reactions to the antibiotics and other chemicals with which they are almost universally farmed, including, in some overseas operations, those drugs which are banned from use here in the USA. As happened with terrestrial factory farms, chickens and pork foremost in mind, the shrimp don’t grow as big in their dirty and overcrowded conditions, so drugs are added to get them to market size. As the saying goes, more research is needed.

When you have an allergy, it’s wise to thoroughly research similar though seemingly innocuous substances for possible triggers.

Chamomile is often recommended for stomach upsets. If you have hayfever, though, you’d better avoid it, because botanically, ragweed and chamomile are kissing cousins; if you suspect your child has hives because of Great-Uncle Joe’s walnut bread, do not let the small fry near pecans, either, as pecans (Carya illinoiensis) and walnuts (Juglans nigra, black walnut) are also similar enough to cause trouble. I was allergic to both nuts from age 5 through 50, but have been eating organic versions of them in moderation the past few years without incident.

If you were allergic as a teenager to penicillin and others, it would behoove you to get tested in-hospital by an allergist. With the glut of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, your healthcare providers need to know if there is anything left in the toolbox they can dose you with should the need arise. I underwent the tests: minute doses of the miracle drug at first, then increasing until I’d had a normal amount. It took several long hours, but in the end I was relieved to be pronounced not allergic to it anymore.

It goes without saying, do not take another person’s antibiotic (and not your pet’s either) even if your symptoms seem identical, take the entire amount your doctor prescribes, at the dosage and times indicated, do not take any that are leftover from previous infections, and if you develop hives or other untoward symptoms, call your medical person.


In the case of my husband in the yard, looking for all the world like he’d badly wrenched his ankle (though he did say, Something bit me); I gave him an old Benadryl from the fridge door and called poison control. Long and short of that was they said if he had any trouble breathing to get him to hospital. In the span of that short call, he slumped sideways on the couch, and I ran in to shake him.

“Get up! Get up! We’re going to the hospital!” “No – I just want to go lie down…” Knowing his aversion to commotion and needles, I demanded, “You get in that car or I’ll call the ambulance, and I bet you’ll be embarrassed then!” “Fine. I’ll go to the car.”

Not until we were in the emergency room bay did he tell them that he had been losing his peripheral vision, and, oh, it felt like something was sitting on his chest and clawing it open! Years later he would confess it had sounded like I was talking to him from further and further down a tunnel, until they gave him the injection: the shot shot him back to us.

Light at the end. Sometimes that’s about all we can hope and aim for.

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No-one wants to hear your noise

The thumping and pounding even bleeds through masonry walls. Occasionally a big dog barks along for long minutes. A car with the volume cranked parks in front. It’s 4:00AM. So much for neighborliness!

What is it about “Sleep is more important than loud late-night events” that partygoers don’t understand?

Smoke detectors have piercing tones because  hearing is the first sense to wake up and the last to fall asleep, and so the next-door (or down-the-block) party startles us awake, fearful. Unwanted noise robs us of the sleep we need and deserve, and which helps us be productive members of society.  Our animal reflexes lurch and we wake up with hearts pounding, because noise us: Danger – get away! Smoke and radon detectors emit too-loud sounds because we need to be warned away from the problem or to take care of it.

Yet exposure to chronic noise is associated with chronic health problems; many hundreds of thousands of people have some hearing loss even though they are not elderly, which will not improve as they age, and which means they still crank up their jams, more properly called “the bane of everyone in earshot.” Those with impaired hearing wind up more lonely and depressed, and with fewer school and job opportunities. 

A car with gobbledygook blasting can easily achieve 140 decibels – but children should never have to endure more than 120dB. Kids exposed to too much noise are known to have negative behavior, social-adjustment, and class attendance issues. 

But here could be a solution, and in the bargain mayors all over could net their cities a small fortune: invest in several dozen decibel meters.

Police districts, each armed with a single one, would require the noise abatement officers to sign it out, in the same fashion as is now required for radios, Tasers, and long guns. Loud music and similar citizen complaints would be assigned to the noise abatement team, which could of course also take the initiative on any on-view incidents, just as is now done with traffic violators, as time and other duties permit, and could well free up the rest of the cops for other incidents.

In the same way a motorist is responsible for open alcohol elsewhere in his vehicle, the party host should be held liable for the noisemakers. Don’t want a ticket? Throw the noisy bums out or call the police on them yourself!

The more people keep turning up the volume because their hearing is compromised, the more a meter is needed to prove the facts of the case. Mangle your inner ears’ natural abilities if you must, but stop imposing your affliction on the rest of us.

The incident taped on squad car video would back up each noise recording by the decibel meter. Citations would dump money into City coffers; there would be no “Racists!” complaints because swank parties and rundown areas alike would have no choice but to pipe down. Fines should be doubled or trebled for repeat offenders. Light sleepers could finally have some peace.

And if the officers with decibel meters did their work exceedingly well, judges and hearing officers imposed stiff fines, people got the message and turned down the racket of their own accord? So much the better for everyone next door who would see a true neighbor, one who thinks twice before cranking up the music.

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Police, mental illness, Trump

(copied to Mr Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune. 3/28/2017)

I for one think you’re spot on in raising the alarm on dRumpf’s behavior.

My mother was a psychoanalyst. Once I told her about something that happened over several days when I – then a rookie officer – worked the 14th District desk a few nights in a row.

First night a 10-1 came over the radio – the address just 1/2 block west of the station. A number of us boiled out of the building and down the block, running up the stairs to the beleagered tactical team serving search and arrest warrants. One of them waved at a teen girl and told me “Watch her, she’s snakey!” In the hallway she cried “Can I talk to you?!” I said yeah, but just take it easy… She exploded “Bitch, you can’t tell me what to do!”, clocked me, and seized me by the hair. We hauled her AND her father to the station, where she ripped the phone out of the wall, then him to jail and her to the juvie hall.

A day or so later we heard that she’d died in a fire. Another couple days, and her father appeared at the desk, asking for money to help bury her.

All incredulous, I later asked my mother why, with this man’s history of arrests and the trouble he and the girl were, why would he come to US? “Well, I guess you all are familiar to him.”

I think 45’s sticking to the old familiar, and damn anyone who calls for reason and compromise!

The bigger question hiding (lurking?) in your column is this:

What do his children know, and what are they doing about it? Is anyone telling THEM he is no longer normal? He seems only to listen to them and KAC and Bannon, and I’m sure they only listen to each other. I feel certain Melania knows the truth and is dreading autumn, when he surely expects her and the princeling to move into the White House with him, and I doubt there’s anything she can say that will change him now he’s tasted the near-ultimate powers that come with the job (and, unlike a real adult, cherry-picked the responsibilities, ignoring so many of them and the gravity Obama and many other Presidents displayed, strike that, embodied).

Just as with the courtesans in an old king’s court, I don’t think it suits them to have him see a doctor. They’d rather prop the corpse up and puppet him as long as they’re able.

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Zika? Toxo? Both?!

Say “Zika virus” and most Americans immediately want mosquito abatement. Yet of a disease that can be equally horrific – and like Zika, in about 4 of 5 those afflicted have no symptoms – there is barely a whisper.

This scourge too can masquerade as the flu and/or be sexually transmitted, and can cause babies to be born with shrunken heads. It’s true there’s a likelihood Zika could be an emergency of international concern, but I am not referring to or minimizing it here. The scourge already all over the country and the planet, why have we ignored that at our peril?

Already known to cause macro- or microcephaly (as in Zika-caused shrunken heads), the older condition stems from the cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii. When a person first contracts it, there may be flu-like symptoms – or no symptoms at all, like Zika. Toxo can be especially devastating in already immune-compromised individuals, causing delirium, seizures, pneumonia, retinal inflammation, and/or encephalitis. Those who become ill in acquiring the parasite may have it reactivate, for it can lie dormant for years. It is proving to lurk within us for decades – sometimes forever.

T. gondii lies unconcerned, undisturbed in millions of people. In recent studies it has been shown to make women more outgoing and warm, men more suspicious and morose, drivers more impulsive and thus more likely to take reckless risks, and to make depressed individuals more prone to attempt suicide, more likely to use lethal means, and therefore more likely to succeed. Toxo is implicated in schizophrenia, which has costs into the hundreds of millions of dollars in this country alone; some die from its effects. Possibly, likely, Toxo is responsible for a million deaths annually worldwide – more than malaria, which kills someone every 12 seconds.

Toxo has been found in beluga whales, birds, pigs, sheep and Ohio white-tail deer. Have you perhaps ever eaten food animals without cooking the meat quite enough? The second leading cause of U.S. foodborne-illness death is Toxo. 

Although T. gondii could be said to want to get into a cat, the only place it can achieve sexual reproduction, it is “content” to practice asexual reproduction in dogs, farm animals, people. Does Toxo makes ocean creatures beach themselves? Until we know for sure, we’re taking chances with the lives of the animals which belong here – and our own.

An infected mouse may contain many tissue cysts of T. gondii, and a cat that ingests just one is soon capable of shedding millions of the parasite’s eggs or other tissue cysts in its feces. A new mom’s immune system can protect against E. coli or the flu, but not Toxo, which can result in a fetus being born blind, mentally retarded, or stillborn – the reason pregnant women have long been told to have hubby change the litterbox.

Yet many humans never dream of avoiding cats. Cat lovers have protested we must merely support Trap-Neuter-Release, when there aren’t enough volunteers to watch over the cats already in colonies, and which really means they don’t care if cats re-impose themselves on neighbors. At least Governor Mario Cuomo – seeing that cat populations were not going down even where TNR was practiced – decided that the American Bird Conservancy, Audubon and similar groups were the ones with the proper science: New York won’t be diverting any dog licensing fees to support Felis cattus, the introduced mesopredators, which have been called the ultimate meat-eating machine. In other words, in New York state at least, there will be no further pretense of cats being wildlife, since they aren’t.

Because humans spread rats and cats willy-nilly worldwide, we have likely made Toxo the most common parasite there is. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts Toxo in the five Neglected Parasitic Infections (along with toxocariasis, cysticercosis, trichomoniasis and Chagas disease). We should not be treating unattended cats as cute forlorn kitties that can’t do anything unless people feed them, or as victims to be “helped” from trees (not to mention they’ve been known to scratch the would-be rescuer or to leap to the next tree) – they’re disease vectors!

Meanwhile Chicago blithely encourages no-kill shelters (without saying who’s going to pay for them, and if taxpayers, why?) and a plethora of cat cafes while the hazards are ignored. Before farming them out, so to speak, will these cats be tested for Toxo? Will anyone check the cafes for those sometimes airborne oocysts/tissue cysts, which can live dry for a year and a half? It would be unconscionable for the managers to keep quiet if it’s found, in hopes of getting more ferals adopted – but would they, because the parasite is whispering in their brains to hush up about cats?

Cats used to be viewed with the same scorn and disgust as mice and rats. Americans seem increasingly to be great thinkers and speakers, as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were, no more; perhaps Toxo on the brain explains why we are unable to manage long stretches of thoughtful discourse.

New Zealand has its children trained to quickly report anything with fur and beady eyes (the island country has nothing native with these attributes) so it can be eradicated. From otters off California’s coast to beluga whales which swim the cold and mighty Arctic, too many (and even one is one victim too many) have been found suffering from Toxo’s effects, undoubtedly from infected kitty litter washed away into the sea. If it’s Toxo that’s responsible when those oceangoers like whales and dolphins inexplicably beach themselves, if the cat disease is making these great beasts – which belong in their ecosystems, unlike cats – sicken and die, if it’s making humans stupid, we should be working far harder to eradicate it.

If cats have to perish for us to be great again, so be it.

Maybe there’s a Toxo/Zika link.  If we focus only on the latter and on mosquito abatement we might never know. Besides Governor Cuomo and the American Bird Conservancy, who will do anything about the other just-as-common out-of-control disease vector — cats?

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The Bane of Bird Feeders

I have been appalled to read recommendations not only to feed birds seed at a repurposed milk carton bird feeder, but to paint the entire container brown with acrylic paint.

Why? Shouldn’t we recycle? Don’t we care about birds?

If the instructions include to cover the container with craft glue and decorate with sticks and twigs, why would it “need” to be painted? Because acrylic paints, like most nail polishes, even if sometimes touted as non-toxic, will eventually fail, and neither humans nor birds need flecks of acrylic in their food. And if we’re to completely cover it with twigs, there is no point in painting it with anything, regardless of color.

Seed feeders do not take into consideration the nutrition birds get from insects, worms, and berries. Putting out seed does not encourage children to learn what each species of bird eats as the seasons change. It is a simplistic action which encourages the birds to become dependent on humans and confuses them if we go on vacation or forget.

Feeders are often hung from a tree branch with sturdy string, without concern for what kind of shield will prevent squirrels from coasting down the string and right into the feeder.  There is also seldom a mention of cleaning up spilled seed, an action vital to deterring rats, opossum, and other pests that are drawn to these easy meals. 

Good Earth stewards know that if we plant and maintain a variety of native plants, we and our kids will have a better chance of seeing a variety of native birds, butterflies, and other insects that belong here. We now know, for example, that planting buckthorn is a mistake because it leafs out sooner in the spring and has stiffer stems than native hawthorn. Both of these apparently good attributes of buckthorn in fact encourage birds to build their nests sooner and lower down, which in turn makes their nestlings easy prey for marauding cats and other predators.

There are more valuable ways to watch over birds that don’t involve the pitfalls detailed above. Keeping one’s cats indoors/under control and reducing disorienting building lights are primary. Know your USDA Zone, select plants adapted for your area and conditions, and garden accordingly.

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How to have peace in Chicago

There is a call for Chicago to shed its unsavory cloak termed “Chi-raq” and become a city of peace. There is a parallel cry, by Jessica Disu and a few others, to abolish the police. Can these even be accomplished?
It’s great that a few people have decided the solution should begin with themselves, because someone’s got to do something. We need lots more community gardens, and a lot of literate folk to mentor young readers, and people to step up as Scout leaders and to teach teens how to repair bicycles and ride them safely. But having no sworn officers available is a perfect setup for opportunists and the mob and other thugs to make themselves at home; it is a pipe dream to try to wish away law enforcement.
Will you, for example, take a statement on an accident today from one person, then tomorrow realize that was a lie when the real victim seeks you out for help?  If you’ve ever had your sleep disturbed by a neighbor’s party or their fireworks damage your property, maybe you’ve asked them nicely to keep the noise down or pay you for the damages and they laughed until you went away. Not very neighborly, and then, all alone, you would be stuck. Your insurance company is sure to want a police report number – who’s going to keep track of these things, and who will ensure those people do their job honorably?
Some people will drink too much and get behind the wheel; someone will crash. Should that person just get however many hours’ community service your group might suggest? Scammers are rampant, trying to sucker the elderly who don’t have someone to watch their finances like a hawk. There are predators among us: should a man who lures and sexually abuses a child – however much he might’ve been scarred himself when younger  – be merely remanded for counselling?
If you can’t you talk the punk (yes, perhaps he is somebody’s kid, corrupted by the gang life) out of attacking the old man who’s just trying to cut his lawn and robbing him, then what? No – not you? Now what – you can’t very well call Ghostbusters, can you? You call the paramedics – and the cops. When a young woman displays superhuman strength and anger because she’s off her medications and is not listening to you, only the voices in her head, and the medics want backup – thanks but maybe not you since we don’t know what your training might’ve been – the police are the answer.
When the celebrity hangs himself, when you find someone in your gangway dead with a needle sticking out of her arm, when grandpa’s expired in a garaged car with the motor running, how can a civilian possibly determine if it was suicide – or a crime? Who among you will put on gloves and turn over the body that’s been there over a week, flies beating you in the face in their desperation to find something else to lay their eggs in? After photographing it and whatever else nearby is possible evidence from all angles, of course. Who will keep the records?
Even if there was a cop on every corner, there would still be crime in the middle of the block. Society needs law enforcement. The job, so to speak, of civilians, is to soberly acknowledge his or her responsibilities, to promptly speak out against injustice, to report what is seen, heard, or planned that’s against the law, to sit on juries when summoned, to raise the children around you right, to help out and not bully.
If you’re not sworn, yet you feel certain you can take action without endangering anyone but the offender and you choose to “do something” before we get there, that’s out of our hands; it might be useful, but it might, viewed with a jaundiced eye, actually be excessive force and vigilantism. If you haven’t had our training and experience or something similar, I doubt you can know in the heat of the moment.
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