Friday, May 31, 2013

Eve LaPlante Looks for Louisa May Alcott's Jewish Roots

Eve LaPlante has followed up on her dual bio of writer Louisa May Alcott and her mother, titled "Marmee & Louisa." In an article in the May 28 issue of the Forward newspaper, she recounts a journey to Portugal to explore the Sephardic Jewish roots of Alcott, a relative of hers.

In an article titled "Discovering Louisa May Alcott's Jewish History on Portuguese Tour," LaPlante recounted the family's history and her connection to it. She wrote,

My late aunt, Charlotte May Wilson, whose grandmother was Louisa’s closest first cousin, told me that the Jewish ancestry was a topic of pride in the family. The first person we encountered in Lisbon, the cabdriver who picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel, offered us an impromptu history lesson on Portugal’s Jews.

LaPlante's tour explores architectural nooks and crannies of Jewish history in Portugal, complete with burnings at the stake, explusions and other grim milestones, along with more recent efforts at reconciliation.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Amy Myers Jaffe Examines Meaning of Syria Crisis

Amy Myers Jaffe's new post at Fuel Fix looks at the ongoing crisis in Syria and draws some larger meaning from it. Looking at Syria in the context of the Cold War, Arab nationalism and U.S. political issues, Jaffe writes,

What is needed is the social and political will to enforce cease fires based on political negotiations and peace-keeping systems until rule of law can take hold. A good first start would be increased commentary (and social pressure) ending the societal glorification of “freedom fighting.” That goes for both citizens of the Middle East and those who are clinging to their guns here in the United States. Either we trust and believe in rule of law or we are all doomed to the same fate as Syria. In Boston, citizens did not use their personal guns to protect themselves or try to capture the Boston Marathon perpetrators and kill them. The entire society stayed at home to allow those actually elected and charged with that responsibility to do their jobs under the continuing scrutiny of a free press and a functioning judicial system. There is a lesson in that not only for those who would send off a car bomb to kill innocent people to a political end in an Iraq or Syria but also for all Americans.
Jaffe is a leading expert on global energy policy, geopolitical risk, and energy and sustainability. Jaffe serves as executive director for energy and sustainability at University of California, Davis with a joint appointment to the Graduate School of Management and Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS). At ITS-Davis, Jaffe heads the fossil fuel component of Next STEPS (Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways).

Judge Mennin Lays Down the Law

New York Judge Felicia Mennin was featured in a New York Times "City Room" article about an artist given a summons for leaving his art materials unattended in Grand Central Terminal. The most relevant passage states:

Mr. Thomas went to Midtown Community Court on May 1, accompanied by Thomas E. Wojtaszek, a Brooklyn lawyer he hired after striking up a conversation with him – where else? — on the subway.
Mr. Wojtaszek asked the judge, Felicia Mennin, to dismiss the summons because leaving an unattended bag did not seem to fall under the New York State penal code’s description of disorderly conduct.
He disputed the description by the officer on the summons – that Mr. Thomas showed “intent to cause a hazardous condition by leaving a bag unattended, causing a crowd to disperse and cause alarm” – saying Mr. Thomas certainly did not intend this, nor did his action cause dispersion or alarm.
And the state’s penal code does not make leaving baggage unattended a crime.
“The bag was still within his custody — what artist would leave the tools of his trade behind?” Mr. Wojtaszek said in an interview last week. “But this judge was not susceptible to reason.”
“She said, ‘I think in the light of the facts of the last two weeks,’ and I cut her off because it was apparent that she meant the bombing of the Boston Marathon,” he recalled. “I said, ‘This happened back in February,’ and she said, ‘But it happened after 9/11.’”
“The judge did not cite any precedent or case law,” Mr. Wojtaszek said.

The case will be tried on June 20.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

J. Todd Weber Named Finalist in Service to America Medal Program

J. Todd Weber, chief of Centers for Disease Control's Prevention and Response Branch, has been named a finalist in the considerations of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, which are presented annually by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service to celebrate excellence in the federal civil service. Details are here.

Based in Atlanta, Weber was nominated for his work in Quickly identifying contaminated medicine as the cause of a major meningitis outbreak in 2012, and led the national public health response, alerting 14,000 potentially exposed patients and providing treatment information to the medical community. According to the Medals website,

In September 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began receiving reports from health officials in Tennessee about patients diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis. This worrisome information set off alarm bells at the CDC, which quickly launched an emergency response team led by Dr. Jonathan Todd Weber, chief of CDC’s Prevention and Response Branch.
Weber and his team ultimately linked the outbreak to injections of a steroid, which had been produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts and distributed to 76 facilities in 23 states. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy investigated the firm and halted further shipments of what turned out to be contaminated medication, the CDC worked with state and local health departments and clinical facilities to notify, in record time, approximately 14,000 potentially exposed patients.

Weber's CDC bio says that he is the Incident Manager of the Multistate Meningitis Outbreak and Chief of the Prevention and Response Branch of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The branch investigates and responds to emerging infections and related adverse events among patients and healthcare personnel. Prior to this position, he was assigned to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm, Sweden for four years where he worked principally on pandemic influenza preparedness, as well as healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance. 

During his 22 years at CDC, Weber has held various positions, including Director, Office of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases and has worked in the divisions of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention, and the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. He is a Fellow in the American College of Physicians and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.