Like many academics -- and contrary to the image of college professors as lazy scholars that take sabbaticals every other year and have their summers off -- I about have four or five full-time jobs. I direct a graduate program in bioethics, teach six courses (including two summer courses), and supervise four students each year as they complete their Masters projects.
Unless a miracle happens, but the time this commentary airs the US federal government will enter its tenth day of shutdown. Nearly 800,000 workers will remain furloughed, important social service and educational programs will remain unfunded, national parks and monuments will remain closed, and the National Zoo's panda cam will remain offline.
Many of my friends, family and co-workers smoke cigarettes. They, like the other 20% of Americans who smoke, do so despite the known health risks and the fact that a pack of cigarettes now runs over $12 in New York. That they continue to smoke given the physical and financial cost demonstrates just how powerful nicotine addiction can be. In fact, some studies suggest that nicotine is more addictive than alcohol, cocaine or heroin. So it's really no surprise that nicotine addiction is the most common form of chemical dependence globally.
Next weekend my husband and I plan to attend a fundraiser to raise money to cover some medical expenses for the friend of a friend. The person in question, a middle-aged woman not much older than myself, suffers from severe cardiomyopathy. Her heart is literally falling apart and she needs a transplant.
If you’ve read the paper or watched the nightly news sometime in the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably noted what appears to be a disturbing trend. Specifically, there has been a rash (pun intended) of infectious disease outbreaks locally, nationally, and internationally.
If you watched one of the major networks in the past week – CNN, MSNBC, Fox News – you would think that the only newsworthy thing that happened was the arrival of the royal baby in England. Even here in the United States, a country that rejected British rule over 237 years ago, hysteria over the birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s son reached a fevered pitch.
Just two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages even if they took place in one of the 13 states or in the federal district where such weddings are legal. In a 5–4 decision, the Court ruled that key sections of the Act were unconstitutional because they deprived same-sex couples of liberties protected by the Fifth Amendment.
I've been thinking a lot about Paula Deen, but not for the reason that you might suspect. I'm not all that interested in the way she allegedly treats her employees, he casual use of ethnic slurs, or her half-hearted apologies for the way she has behaved. All of that just confirms what I already know: that despite what five US Supreme Court justices seem to think, there is still a strong undercurrent of racism in American society.
This past weekend was the Memorial Day holiday, traditionally marking the official start of the summer season. But Memorial Day is more than just barbeques with friends and three-day sales at local department stores. Memorial Day is also the day when we honor the more than one million men and women who have died in combat or from injuries received while serving in the US armed forces. Among those we honor are the nearly 75,000 who have died since serving in the 1991 Persian Gulf War (also known as Operation Desert Storm).
In an Op-Ed piece published in Tuesday's New York Times, actress Angela Jolie revealed publicly that she had undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy -- removal of both breasts -- in order to reduce her risk of developing cancer.