Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Science and Medicine Page 1 of 3

Don’t Cry For Me, White House Staffers

President Contracts Covid-19: Debates Likely Dead

Trump has tested positive for Covid-19.

He was scheduled for a pair of rallies in Wisconsin tomorrow, October 2nd. What now?

Supposedly Trump and Melania will quarantine at the White House, according to the First Lady’s tweet.

In coming back from Cleveland, Trump was surrounded by a large number of advisors and family members.

The announcement comes only a few hours after he said, “the end of the pandemic is in sight.” 

“I think it’s safe to say this president is going nowhere for a while,” said Brian Williams on NBC News.

Hope Hicks began feeling ill while traveling on Air Force One and was quarantined on the airliner.

Ms. Hicks was subsequently diagnosed as having the virus.

“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” (from a Trump tweet).

As a 74-year-old overweight man, Trump is at high risk.

[This developing story came in at 1:00 a.m. on the East coast.]

SPECULATION

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Upon hearing that DJT had tested positive the speculation then began to extend to VP Pence and whether he and his team had been exposed. If both men were to be felled, Nancy Pelosi would be next in line. The list of people on Air Force One extended to about 24 individuals, which included the president’s family and close staffers.

Some speculated that the president is attempting to avoid taking part in future debates which, to be honest, the Washington Post, the Atlantic and other leading newspapers have said should be discontinued anyway after September 29th’s fiasco, largely because of Trump’s interrupting opponent Joe Biden 73 times in 90 minutes.

On Tuesday night both men spoke for 90 minutes from podiums that were distanced. Could this expose Joe Biden?  The mask that Joe Biden usually wears was not being worn and, of course, Trump rarely has worn one and did not wear one for the first time until July 11th, 7 months into the pandemic.

Perhaps the realization that this disease is real and does not play favorites may sink in for the man who has persisted in hosting dangerous Super Spreader events at places like Tulsa or Mt. Rushmore.

I wish no one the bad luck to suffer having this virus, especially if they are of an age to make it very dangerous.

Thirty-two days away from the election, the president’s doctor Sean Connolly announced that Donald and Melania have both tested positive for Covid-19. He said, “They are both well at this time. They plan to maintain their quarantine at the White House. I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without interruption.”

The debates are going to probably be scrapped, which will be a very small loss, based on what went down on September 29th. I will continue to discuss politics (and other topics) on my Thursday night Weekly Wilson programs,. But the talk will not be about the debates, because they (probably) won’t be held. That does not change my announced intent to give away BEE GONE e-book copies FREE on the scheduled debate nights and October 23rd (RBG Day).

Dr. Vin Gupta – MSNBC Medical Director (Remarks from him interrupting Seth Meyer’s late night show):

“This raises the specter of when did Hope Hicks display symptoms?”

This is bigger than just the President and the First Lady as the circle that traveled with them has been exposed.

Did the Vice President’s team become exposed at Case Western on debate nig

There is a pre-symptomatic period up to 48 hours, during which the person can give it to others, although asymptomatic.

Why did the President go to an event today if he knew he was positive and expose other individuals at a fund-raiser today? “That should have raised alarm bells.” Gupta asks, “Who is giving him this medical advice?” (Dr. Scott Atlas?)

Brian Williams raises the point that it may not be Hope Hicks who has exposed the president at all, since he has traveled extensively and has not worn a mask. A massive contact-tracing effort has to be made. “There should be no in-person gatherings for the rest of the campaign. This was preventable. The fact that this even occurred is a damning indictment. This was avoidable if they were practicing the proper procedures and not going to these rallies and attending these events.”

Trump was supposed to have had a conference call about the impact of Covid-19 on the senior citizens. Ironic that this will not now occur.

 

 

The Lincoln Project’s “Mourning in America” Paints a Picture of the U.S. Today

This Ad Says It All

Heart Transplant/Cancer Survivor Gives Sheltering Tips on 4/30 WEEKLY WILSON Podcast

Jennifer BerlinerMy guest on my Weekly Wilson podcast on the Bold Brave Media Global Network and Tune-In radio on April 29, Thursday, at 7 p.m. (CDT) will be Jennifer Berliner (pictured below and to the left).

At 15 years old, Jennifer was treated for bone cancer (Askin’s Sarcoma) and one of the drugs used afterwards, known as “red devils,” caused heart failure 8 years after her treatment.

Therefore, at 39, Jennifer had a heart transplant.

Four months later, doctors diagnosed breast cancer and she underwent a double mastectomy. To add to this litany of woes, Jennifer’s mother died from ovarian cancer just before her 41st birthday.

Through it all, Jennifer had “kept on keeping on” and has maintained a positive attitude using techniques that she studied in college as a social work major and others she had developed to keep her attitude upbeat in trying times.

This is a live call-in format (866-451-1451) and we welcome callers (be prepared to hold for a bit) with questions. Tune in to learn more about how to “shelter in place” successfully from a woman who knows more about face masks and staying inside for months at a time than any of us knew before the pandemic.

Jennifer Berliner

Coronavirus Updates from the Front

We’ve hit yet another shocking and tragic milestone: More than 1 million Americans are confirmed through testing to have been infected with the coronavirus, and the real number is far higher than that because of all the testing that’s not being done. That’s one-third of all the cases in the world. Here in the richest, most technologically advanced, medical mecca. Right.

Today’s US coronavirus numbers:
Total cases: 1,002,498 (it was 883,826 at this time Friday)
Total deaths: 57,533 (it was 50,373 on Friday)

Testing, testing, testing. It’s the most critical thing that public health officials, epidemiologists, respiratory disease specialists, scientists, and researchers say the country can do now to slow down the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Widespread testing is essential so that those who are infected but not showing any symptoms can be identified and isolated so they don’t spread the virus. As one expert put it, find the hot spots before they become raging wildfires of infection.

How do you know if you are doing enough testing? The World Health Organization says that if fewer than 10 percent of the people tested are infected, then a country is doing an adequate amount of testing.

Epidemiologists say that’s too high; the standard they use for influenza and tuberculosis is that if more than 3 percent of those tested are positive, then you’re not casting your net wide enough and you have to do more widespread testing.

Given that the US positive results rate is close to 20 percent, it’s going to be difficult to get down to 10 percent, let alone 3 percent.

Early on, Trump pooh-poohed the virus, claiming it would just blow away or wash away one day like a miracle. His administration botched the manufacture and delivery of critical supplies to health care workers, sent out a test that didn’t work, and was excruciatingly slow to get test kits to states clamoring for them.

Now experts say he’s fumbling the next critical task: Making sure enough people are tested and then isolated to be able to figure out when states really should start easing restrictions.

(Given the way some people are acting in states that have already started easing restrictions — flocking to beaches without maintaining physical distancing, for example — what we really need to ramp up is IQ testing.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, says testing for the novel coronavirus must be doubled before the US should even consider easing restrictions. There currently are about 1.6 million tests being performed every week; Fauci says that should be at least 3 million per week.

Harvard researchers calculated that the US should be doing 5 million tests a day, distributed unevenly across the states depending the size of each state’s outbreak.

To figure out how many tests each state should be doing, the Harvard Global Health Institute took the WHO’s 10 percent benchmark and applied it to each US state, calculating how many tests each would have to be performing by May 1 in order to reach that below-10-percent-positive goal.

The result wasn’t pretty: More than half will have to significantly ramp up their Covid-19 testing to even consider starting to relax stay-at-home orders after May 1, according to STAT.

What’s disturbing is that some states that have already started easing restrictions on businesses and gatherings aren’t doing anywhere near enough testing: Georgia should be administering 9,600 to 10,000 tests per day; it has been averaging around 4,000. Florida has to do 16,000 a day; it’s doing just over 10,000.

And you can ignore what Trump said yesterday about his new testing plan, claiming that the US is on track to double the amount of testing being done but providing no details and continuing to insist it’s up to the states because, you know, he might actually be held responsible for something.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, agrees with the need for far more testing in the US than is being done now, but recently has been touting antigen testing, which is a simpler test that delivers fast results — as little as 15 minutes. But the tests aren’t easy to make, and it takes a lot of time and money to validate their accuracy. Here’s an explainer from CNN.

Last word from Fauci about the states that are loosening restrictions: “If we are unsuccessful, or prematurely try to open up, and we have additional outbreaks that are out of control, it could be a rebound to get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago.”


Rest in Peace, Wendy: We Love You

(L to R) Connie & Craig (Wilson); Regina & Steve (Nelson); Wendy & Mark (Wilson).

 

We lost Wendy (far right), the Best Sister-in-Law in the World, on Saturday, April 18th. She was 62.

She had been battling cancer for over a year. Recently, the cancer (leukemia, this time) had returned and her immune system was compromised when 3 different strains of flu hit. She had a high fever and difficulty breathing.

Wendy was in the hospital for 7 weeks, most of them in intensive care. She had already battled through 2 bone marrow transplants, a mastectomy, and various bouts of chemotherapy. When she went to the emergency room, she was having trouble breathing and spiking a fever.

Over the next weeks, her fever would continue and the doctors expressed their desire to re-start chemotherapy in order to boost her white blood cell count and her body’s ability to fight off the flu. Wendy soldiered on.

Wendy and Me, Texas, summer, 2019.

She was intubated three times. Doctors don’t like to leave you on a respirator for too long, and Governor Cuomo of New York says that 80% of patients who are intubated don’t come off the machines. Wendy did, and sat in a chair and was transferred out of the ICU and was potentially going to be sent to a rehabilitation center, where she would have to relearn how to walk.

These last few weeks, she has not been able to have in-person visitors.

When the call came in at 3 a.m., Mark (her husband) was told he needed to come. Wendy was having great difficulty breathing and was probably dying. He could bring one other person.

Mark and Matt, Wendy’s oldest son who is marrying Samantha in June, went to the hospital. She was not unconscious, but was aware of her children, with whom they face-timed: Megan in Denver and Michael, the youngest, in St. Louis. Mark and Matt were bedside.

I will always remember Wendy’s infectious smile and her spirit. I remember wheeling my huge VCR into my classroom in Silvis to show my class there her appearance on “Wheel of Fortune,” where she won a trip to Hawaii and a lot of Gucci merchandise. (Her final puzzle was “Zero In On,” which also seems unfair). I remember being pregnant at the same time, with Wendy giving birth to Matt forty-four days before I gave birth to my youngest, Stacey (we have the pregnant photos, belly-to-belly to prove it).

WendyLife isn’t fair; Wendy should be here. We shouldn’t be scurrying to set up a Zoom family hook-up to memorialize her and restricting mourners in a church or cemetery to 10 people. She should be attending Matt’s wedding in June and having a great time, living in the moment.

Wendy was the World’s Best Sister-in-Law. I’m wearing the gold earrings she gave me for Xmas. I think she may even have liked me. I will miss her at every family gathering and think of her every time “Wheel of Fortune” comes on, oddly enough.

WendyRest in peace, Wendy. We love you and we will always remember and miss you. You put up a courageous fight and you should be here with us.

Abortion Rights Under Attack in the U.S.

For close to half a century, the GOP has tried to overturn Roe v. Wade and curb women’s right to reproductive freedom. This concerted effort to prevent a pregnant female from deciding not to carry a child to term does not come with adequate funding or societal help to assure that the overwhelmed potential mother would be able to care for said child, in the event that she were forced to go forward with her pregnancy. While chipping away at the social network like a demented woodpecker, the GOP has simply thrown around hot-button words (“socialism,” “abortion”) knowing that they will evoke the crazy response they want in their followers. There has been no GOP up-tick in social programs to assist, for example, women of color with several children and no supportive mate.

Says Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen, “The threat to safe, legal abortion in America is at risk like never before.” In the past 9 years over 400 state laws have been passed restricting abortion services. Eight states have only one abortion clinic left. Exploiting the explosive “wedge issue” has become one of the mainstays of the GOP talking points, along with calling anyone who believes that a woman’s reproductive decision should be hers a “Libtard” or a “liberal snowflake.” Interesting to report, there are no similar liberal perjorative names aimed at the Conservative wing of the GOP, specifically designed to denigrate their political beliefs and, in some cases, not only verbally attack them but physically attack them, as well.

As for the majority of Americans on this divisive issue,  60 per cent believe abortion should remain legal and it is conceivable that one in four women of child-bearing age might decide to have an abortion in her lifetime. Some of these women may have been victims of rape or incest. Others may have health issues that would put their own lives at risk or simply not have the economic or psychological means to support a child at that time in their lives. Still, the anti-abortion foes will paint these women as monsters. The Conservative forces will misrepresent the point(s) at which ethical doctors will perform an abortion, and will continue to use unflattering semantics and Biblical backing from evangelical sects to support their point of view, irrespective of the wishes of the women, themselves. (I remember Dr. Howard Dean, campaigning in Iowa in 2004, telling us in someone’s back yard in Muscatine, Iowa, that he had gone through the records of his home state of Vermont and there had been NO record of a late-term (after the sixth month) abortion in the state of Vermont ever.  This was in response to a question from the Iowa caucus crowd).

In some states—Mississippi, for example—they are in the ongoing process of passing a fetal heartbeat law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, despite the fact that a U.S. district court has already struck down a law in the same state banning it at 15 weeks. Even if the opponents of legalized and safe abortions do not succeed in overturning the laws, the amount of time that these moves take can have an impact. Once closed, an abortion clinic may not open back up. Says Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood (currently under budget attack from the White House), “Even if Roe is still the law of the land, whether or not pregnant people can actually access abortion is another question entirely.” To all those individuals who are reading this and “tsk tsk-ing” about abortion, in general, I would recommend that you read “Cider House Rules” by John Irving before  becoming too secure in your position. Irving’s father and grandfather were obstetricians and he charts the drop in female mortality rates that accompanied Roe v. Wade. The safe abortion center in Bettendorf, Iowa, was forced to close some time ago, a result of the Conservative right’s concerted and never-ending attacks on them. With a Republican legislature in Des Moines, the service is no longer available in an area of 350,000 people, which, for the state of Iowa, is among its 3 largest metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, proposed legal decisions like “June Medical Services v. Gee”  and 2016’s “”Whole Roman’s Health v. Hellerstedt” continue to move forward, challenging the current status quo. The packing of the courts by Trump supporters is not a good thing (think Brett Kavanaugh) and 21 of U.S. states are classified as “hostile” or “very hostile” to abortion rights, while only 4 are “supportive” or “very supportive.” Five states currently have so-called trigger laws that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade fell. The state of Arkansas has no exceptions for rape or incest and would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

According to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, 422 bills were introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia, which were aimed at protecting reproductive rights in 2018. One hundred were fully enacted into law. “Public support for Roe v. Wade has never been higher that it is right now” says a former Planned Parenthood leader: “If you are one of the majority of Americans who care about access to safe and legal abortion, now is the time to make your voice heard.” Otherwise, the Conservative plan is to make it so hard to access this currently legal right that it will, in effect, cause the downfall of Roe v. Wade without having to actually legislate it out of existence. In 1976, only 3 years after Roe v. Wade went into effect, the Hyde Amendment blocked federal Medicaid dollars from going toward abortions and the Supreme Court upheld that as constitutional in 1980. In “Planned Parenthood v. Case” the court further determined in that 1992 decision that limitations could be put on abortion as long as they didn’t create “an undue burden. (A blanket right was turned into a circumstantial right.)

Julie Rikelman, Director of U.S. litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights says, “Even if the Supreme Court never utters the words ‘Roe is now overruled,’ it can do a huge amount of harm.” Are the women of 2020 willing to go back to the days of back-street illegal abortions (one of which left a friend and former classmate of mine dead in her apartment in Iowa City, Iowa, back in 1964? I hope that the young women of the United States start paying attention to this area that DJT is also stirring up and, flying the false flag of Conservative evangelical piety, is attacking as he is attacking most other bulwarks of our Constitutional democracy.

Has James P. Allison Found the Cure for Cancer? The Nobel Prize Committee Awards University of Texas Researcher the 2018 Prize for Medicine

James P. Allison

James P. Allison

     [Nobel Media Phot0]

James P. Allison of Alice, Texas, was inspired to try to develop a cure for cancer when he was eleven years old in 1959. That year, Jim’s mother died of lymphoma. As the years went by, one brother died of prostate cancer and one developed metastatic melanoma. Jim, himself, has faced down cancer three times, so far, in his seventy-one years.

BACKGROUND

Said Jim of his life’s work and ambition:  “If you’re gonna’ do these things, you oughta’ at least do things that help people.” He thought back to his own childhood and reminisced, “They thought I was a troublemaker. I just knew I was right…If you disagree with someone or something, you just have to stand your ground.” When he finally found a way to put his discovery into drug form, it took many years spent overcoming “all kinds of things that stood in the way.”

Young Jim’s father traveled frequently, so he often spent time with another family that had a son about his own age after his mother’s death and, always, he played the harmonica and relied on music to release some of the pain and the pressure in his life. His friendship with Willie Nelson is illustrated, with an appearance onstage at Austin City alongside his musical idol.

After graduating from high school at the tender age of 16 in 1965, Jim went on to become a researcher in the field of immunology—using the body’s own defense system to cure cancer tumors. It was for his discovery of a drug dubbed Ipilimumab or Ipi (known commercially as Yervoy) that he was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Stockholm for medicine or physiology.

BREAKTHROUGH, THE DOCUMENTARY

Director Bill Haney, winner of a Silver Hugo, the Gabriel Prize, short-listed for an Oscar, and winner of accolades from Marine Conservation, Genesis, Amnesty International and Earthwatch weaves an engrossing tale around Allison’s achievements, narrated by Hollywood’s Woody Harrelson. He inserts scenes of James Harrelson with his wife and son alongside the expert testimony of some of the other leading researchers in the field, including the University of Chicago’s Jeffrey Bluestone, whose own discovery challenged Ipi in the field at the time.

Another effective visual method for the audience was to find the dramatic patient—the one whose participation in the clinical trials for Ipi saved her life. That patient was Sharon Belvin, who was diagnosed with terminal melanoma at the age of 22. With metastatic melanoma, she was told she would not live more than 7 months. As we see in the film, Sharon has not only lived decades beyond her original diagnosis, she has been completely tumor-free since receiving Ipi, is married, and has two children.

We even get to have a happy ending of James Allison “getting the girl,” in this case, prominent fellow researcher Dr. Padmanee Sharma, whom he married after his marriage to wife Malinda fell victim to his work.

THE STORY

Jim struggles throughout to make it clear that Ipi is NOT an anti-cancer drug. It all started with the belief that the immune system played an important role in responding to cancer and that the T cells of the immune system needed to be studied. “I really wanted to understand T cells and the immune system,” James Allison says. Tyler Jacks, a fellow scientist, tells us: “Jim doesn’t care that he is not following convention. He’s an iconoclast. They are always thinking beyond the work. They’re creative people.” Jim felt that tumors caused T-cell receptors to turn off the immune system, but if you inserted an antibody, then the T-cells would be free to attack the tumor. His experiments with mice were amazing as the mice that had received the antibodies just before Christmas became tumor-free.

But now the real work began.

OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME

Jim spent ten years trying to get his discovery of the antibody that would turn the immune system into a fighting force against tumors made into a drug for cancer patients like Sharon Belvin. He had written his first paper (“Enhancement of Anti Tumor Immunology by CTLA-4”) in 1996, but things went South fast.

Interferon 2 was in the news then, but it took “two years and nobody would listen.” This is the period of time when Jim’s brother, Mike, was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in his fifties. Two of Jim’s uncles had also died of cancer. Jim’s urgency escalated. But clinical trials take deep pockets; no big pharma firms wanted to shell out for them. If a drug is deemed safe in Phase 1, it goes on to Phases 2 and 3. As one fellow researcher said on camera, “Mainstream medicine was ignoring the immunology crowd. And pharmaceutical companies don’t know if something is promising or deadly.”

James’ P. Allison’s drug, known commercially as Yervoy, became the first to extend the survival of patients with late-stage melanoma. Follow-up studies show 20 percent of those treated live for at least three years with many living beyond 10 years— unprecedented results. Additional research has extended this approach to new immune regulatory targets with drugs approved to treat certain types and stages of melanoma, lung, kidney, bladder, gastric, liver, cervical, colo-rectal cancer, and head and neck cancers as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The documentary premiered at SXSW on March 9th. If you have a close friend or loved one affected by cancer (and who doesn’t?) you should see this one.

Foxconn (Co.) Is Not Hiring 13,000 Wisconsin Workers After All

Many stories breaking now, including the loss of Foxconn in Wisconsin, a company that had promised to hire 13,000 people and bring back jobs to the Heartland. This promise was trumpeted by Donald J. Trump (henceforth referenced as DJT) and Foxconn’s $10 billion dollar plans were conscripted by DJT to show he was “making America great again.”

Well, Foxconn may not build this plant and all the photos of DJT manning a shovel in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin in June are toast. Foxconn received billions of dollars worth of incentives from the state of Wisconsin (under then Republican Governor  and notorious union-buster Scott Walker) but now they say it is going to be more of a technology hub, NOT the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States. (“Say it isn’t so,” wails DJT).

And, of course, I’ve recommended watching “Blood on the Mountain” about coal mining in West Virginia on Amazon Prime many times, for those who believed DJT’s promises of bringing back coal mining jobs to mines that are, essentially, pretty well shot. According to “Blood on the Mountain,” companies are actually resorting to blowing up the tops of mountains, since deep mining has exhausted the coal supply over decades of previous continuous mining.

Trump took credit for Foxconn’s supposed return to the U.S., saying they only were going to come back to the United States (and Wisconsin) because he was elected president. And only Trump knows about the military, as he publicly called his military advisers “naive.”

Everything is looking like his only way out of the corner(s) he has painted himself into (the wall, Foxconn’s return, etc.) is “once again into the breach,” meaning shutting down the government. Again.

Ugh. 

Meanwhile, crews are lighting train tracks on fire in Chicago (my home town) because of the intense cold and I’m amusing myself by playing the recording of towns around the U.S. like Minneapolis, Cedar Rapids (IA), Des Moines (IA), Independence (IA) and Menomonie (WI), [all of them c-c-c-cold] on WTForecast.com (a humorous weather app).

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