Monthly Archives: September 2013

ON THE THRESHOLD OF OBAMACARE, WARILY

Well, tomorrow, October 1, 2013, will be the day when President Barack H. Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act starts.

The following New York Times article addresses questions that remain to be answered concerning the act’s coverage, and the article presents how various U.S. citizens cope with their present health care and what the act may or may not do for them.

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ON THE THRESHOLD OF OBAMACARE, WARILY

By and

Published: September 28, 2013

  • The insurance marketplaces that form the centerpiece of President Obama’s health care law are scheduled to open on Tuesday, a watershed moment for the Obama administration, but also a crucial turning point for millions of Americans who will finally get the chance to square the law’s lofty ambitions with their own personal needs.

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While some people desperate for coverage will need no persuading to sign up, for others the decision will amount to a series of complicated calculations that would challenge an accounting whiz, let alone an ordinary human: Are the new plans less expensive or more generous than existing ones? How do premiums and out-of-pocket costs compare? Are the networks of doctors and hospitals the most desirable? Who qualifies for how much of a subsidy, and what is the tax penalty for a miscalculation?

How millions of people answer these questions over the next six months will be vital to determining whether the Affordable Care Act lives up to its name and its ambitious goal of helping more people buy the coverage they need.

Much is at stake for insurers as well: they must attract enough healthy people to pay for the care of sicker patients and price their offerings to keep premiums low enough to be competitive but high enough to be sustainable.

Health insurance “is a very complex product,” said Lynn Quincy, a senior health policy analyst for Consumers Union in Washington. “It is going to be more complex this time around because things are changing, and people are confused about the changes.”

As the state insurance exchanges are set to open, we talked to people around the country who will be among the first to give them a test drive. For some, the law could provide welcome relief from mounting medical bills; for others, a break from rising premiums. Still others must decide whether insurance is right for them at all.

Mitchell McGovern works part time and has no health insurance.
Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Mitchell McGovern works part time and has no health insurance.

Young and Healthy

Mitchell McGovern, 26, lives in Brooklyn and works as a part-time sales associate at a Crate and Barrel store in Manhattan. He earns about $15,000 a year and does not have health insurance of any kind.

A bout with pneumonia in January sent him to the doctor’s office, which cost him $75, and $150 for medication. Mr. McGovern said he would love to buy health insurance — and he was mindful that the law requires him to do so — but only if it cost him less than $100 a month. “I live paycheck to paycheck,” he explained.

Mr. McGovern is exactly the sort of person the Obama administration needs to enroll in the new insurance marketplaces if the federal health care law is to succeed — young, healthy people who until now have not been covered by insurance, either because they couldn’t afford it or because it wasn’t a priority. If a critical mass of these people doesn’t enroll — the federal government hopes to sign up about 2.7 million of them — the premiums for plans offered on the exchanges could skyrocket and cause the market to fail as fewer and fewer people take part.

Mr. McGovern’s current income will probably qualify him, just barely, for Medicaid in New York State. But for Mr. McGovern and others like him, predicting how much he will make even a few months from now is hard, and he may end up qualifying instead for tax-credit subsidies in the state marketplace. Mr. McGovern recently moved to New York from California and sees his job at Crate and Barrel as a foothold until he finds work that would offer more money and perhaps coverage paid largely by the employer.

His uncertain financial situation is typical of the population most likely to consider the insurance marketplaces, said Ceci Connolly, managing director of the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Only about 51 percent will have full-time jobs, with a median annual income of about $21,700, according to an analysis by her firm based on government data like the census. She said 38 percent of the people expected to enroll will end up shuttling several times between Medicaid and the marketplaces over the next four years.

Most of those who are expected to sign up for insurance in the marketplaces — 91 percent, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers — consider themselves in relatively good health. That would be good news for insurers and others who have an interest in seeing the law succeed. But Ms. Connolly cautioned that this assessment, which is based on federal surveys of uninsured people, might be a bit optimistic, given that many in this group have not recently visited a doctor.

“We certainly suspect that some of these individuals could have some potential health conditions percolating that they’re not yet aware of,” Ms. Connolly said.

‘I’m Not Invincible’

Lavel D. White is also 26 and getting by without health insurance. Unlike Mr. McGovern, however, he knows he has a health issue. A documentary filmmaker who lives in Louisville, Ky., he has high blood pressure. But, he said, he has to pay out of pocket for doctor visits and sometimes doesn’t refill his medicine because he doesn’t have insurance.

To help millions of low-income Americans afford coverage, the law created subsidies that can bring down the cost of a policy. The most expensive plans, at the platinum level, will limit the amount people have to pay toward a doctor’s bill or a hospital stay, while the least-expensive bronze plans may require significant out-of-pocket spending. Under federal law, all plans cap the annual amount that someone must pay for care at $6,350.

Without insurance, Lavel White, 26, sometimes doesn’t have a medication refilled.
Angela Shoemaker for The New York Times

Without insurance, Lavel White, 26, sometimes doesn’t have a medication refilled.

The Obama administration has estimated that a 27-year-old with an income of $25,000 will be eligible for a silver plan, a moderately priced policy, for $145 a month.

Mr. White said he had researched his options for enrolling and found them reasonable. His income varies — last year, he made about $11,000, and this year he expects to make around $16,000. He will be eligible for Medicaid if he earns less than $16,000, but if he makes about $20,000, he will pay about $67 a month for the second-least-expensive silver plan offered in Kentucky. All insurance plans offered in the marketplace must cover Mr. White’s preventive care, but how much his medication will cost will depend on the details of the version he selects.

“I know there’s a need for me to be healthy and to be insured, but I haven’t felt like I’m sick,” Mr. White said. He said he planned to examine his options closely but was still not sure whether he would sign up. “I know I’m not invincible and I am eventually going to get sick.”

The Cancer Survivor

Five years ago, Jenifer Vogt was treated for thyroid cancer. She then had insurance through her employer, but she now works for herself, as a freelance arts writer without insurance. Premiums for private health coverage have been too high.

Ms. Vogt, who is 44 and lives in Boca Raton, Fla., knows she needs insurance and is eager to sign up in the state marketplace. “You really can’t live without it,” she said. She skipped a recent scan to check if the cancer had returned because, she said, she couldn’t afford it.

Because she no longer has insurance, Jenifer Vogt, 44, self-employed and a cancer survivor, recently had to skip a scan.
Angel Valentin for The New York Times

Because she no longer has insurance, Jenifer Vogt, 44, self-employed and a cancer survivor, recently had to skip a scan.

Ms. Vogt does not know whether she is eligible for a subsidy. She said she could afford a policy costing $500 a month and would be willing to pay as much as $700, even if it meant sacrifices like eating out less often. She hopes she can find a policy in that range in the Florida marketplace.

Another concern is whether the plans being offered will include her doctors. “Because I’m a cancer survivor, I have really good relationships with my doctors here,” she said.

But she would sacrifice even those relationships to get health coverage at this point. If the Florida options prove unaffordable, she said, she’d consider moving back to New York, where she once lived, or working for a company offering insurance rather than working for herself if it was the only way to get coverage.

“I live with that constant fear if I go out tomorrow and have an accident, I’m going to lose everything,” she said. “I would completely go bankrupt.”

Drug-Cost Questions

Anne Villanueva of Seattle has a different set of questions but, like Ms. Vogt, no easy answers. Ms. Villanueva, 27, works as a freelance transcriber and sells pillows and hair accessories on the Web site Etsy.com. She recently learned that her insurance company would terminate at year-end the plan she now buys privately. The options that the insurer offered instead come with higher deductibles — $6,350 rather than $3,500 — and less generous drug coverage.

Ms. Villanueva takes the drug Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis; the drug, though costly, is paid for through an assistance program run by Amgen, its manufacturer. That program also covers her current deductible.

She is leaning toward buying insurance under Washington State’s marketplace because she thinks that the out-of-pocket costs will be lower. But it is still unclear how drug companies like Amgen will cover patients’ drug costs in the marketplaces.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services is still determining whether the marketplaces should be considered federal programs; if they are, drug assistance programs could be characterized as government kickbacks and rendered illegal. The drug companies could indirectly cover patients’ costs through nonprofit foundations, but those details have not been worked out.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t find something better,” she said. “I’m still freaking out, but I’m also slightly excited to see what the health insurance exchange is going to be like, and what it’s going to offer me.”

Anne Villanueva, 27, of Seattle, works freelance and is leaning toward buying insurance in a state marketplace.
Stuart Isett for The New York Times

Anne Villanueva, 27, of Seattle, works freelance and is leaning toward buying insurance in a state marketplace.

The Over-50 Quandary

Gary and Susan Smith are also seeking lower insurance costs by shopping in a state marketplace. The Smiths, who own a small engineering consulting business in Wise, Va., in the state’s coal-mining country, have seen their costs grow to more than $3,000 a month from $1,100 a month four years ago.

People in their 50s and 60s are often charged very high premiums because of their age. And although Mr. Smith, 58, said he is generally in good health, he noted that he has “a little” arthritis and high blood pressure.

Mr. Smith said he was skeptical of the health care law and didn’t trust Republicans or Democrats in Washington. “Nobody can tell me what it’s going to do,” he said. “What I’m hearing is I may not be able to keep my doctor.” But based on the research he has done, he said, “I know we’re going to get a rate less than what we’re getting now.”

Jesus and Soila Cantu have been looking forward to the new law. “I was trying to get some insurance when all this happened,” Mr. Cantu said. It has been years since Mr. Cantu, 55 and an independent contractor in El Campo, Tex., had coverage. His wife, 63, who was a teacher’s aide, lost her insurance when the school district eliminated her job and she worked as a substitute instead.

Soila and Jesus Cantu of Texas are eager to enroll. Mrs. Cantu has leukemia, and the hospital bill at the end of August was $650,000.
Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Soila and Jesus Cantu of Texas are eager to enroll. Mrs. Cantu has leukemia, and the hospital bill at the end of August was $650,000.

Last summer, Ms. Cantu had double vision and trouble focusing. After going to various doctors, whom the Cantus paid themselves, Ms. Cantu received a diagnosis of an aggressive form of leukemia. She eventually went to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where she has been treated for more than two months. The bill at the end of August was $650,000. The hospital, he said, called them to ask for a payment for $500,000.

“Are you kidding me?” Mr. Cantu recalled telling the hospital representative. “I don’t have that kind of money lying around. The best I can do is $5,000.” He told the hospital he would try to pay that amount every month.

Before his wife’s cancer diagnosis, the Cantus were financially comfortable, and they believe they make too much money to qualify for any assistance. Now they are deeply in debt because of the cost of Ms. Cantu’s care. Mr. Cantu said he had been waiting to enroll in the health care marketplace. “I wanted to get us prepared for Obamacare and I didn’t want to pay a fine.”

But while Mr. Cantu expects to enroll for coverage for next year, the law won’t help him with his wife’s medical bills, which he estimates now approach $1 million, if not more. “Where am I going to get that kind of money?” he said. “In 20 years, I wouldn’t be able to pay it off.”

SOURCE

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For more on the Affordable Care Act, click on the following links:

Affordable Care Act – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

In March 2010, President Obama signed comprehensive health reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law. The law makes preventive

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 9-29-2013

MICHAEL WARD, SURVIVOR OF 1985 BOMBING OF MOVE BY PHILADELPHIA POLICE

George Widman/Associated Press

An effort to rout a separatist group touched off a fire that killed 11 people, including 5 children.

By

Published: September 27, 2013

  • When the boy ran from the house, he was burned over a fifth of his body and so malnourished that at 13 he looked like a child of 9.

H. Rumph Jr./Associated Press

Michael Ward in 1996.

He had never been to school and could not read, write, use a toothbrush or tell time. His mother would die in the fire he had fled.

Yet after years of rehabilitation from injuries physical and psychological, he graduated from high school, served in the Army, became a father and made a career as a long-haul trucker and a barber.

The boy, then known as Birdie Africa, and later as Michael Ward, was one of just two people — and the only child — to survive the Move bombing, the 1985 Philadelphia debacle in which police officers seeking to rout a black separatist group touched off a fire that killed 11 people, 5 of them children, and destroyed three city blocks.

Mr. Ward, 41, died Sept. 20 while vacationing aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean. An investigator for the Brevard County, Fla., medical examiner’s office told The Associated Press that Mr. Ward’s body was found in a hot tub on the ship, the Carnival Dream. The apparent cause was accidental drowning.

The Move bombing endures in the national memory as one of the most shameful episodes in Philadelphia’s history.

In an interview on Friday, the filmmaker Jason Osder, who made a documentary about the bombing, said that Mr. Ward’s death “in a strange way has reminded us of the nature of the event itself: it’s tragic that he died young, but it serves as a reminder of the other five children that didn’t even live to age 41.”

Mr. Osder’s film, “Let the Fire Burn,” which is organized around 13-year-old Michael’s videotaped testimony at the official inquiry into the bombing, is scheduled to open at Film Forum in New York on Wednesday and nationwide afterward.

On May 13, 1985, hundreds of police officers converged on Move’s fortified row house in West Philadelphia, intent on serving arrest warrants on several of its members. After a gun battle during which the police failed to dislodge the group, they dropped explosives on the roof.

The explosion started a fire that destroyed Move’s house and 60 others, leaving some 250 people homeless. All of the 11 dead were Move members or their children; only Michael and Ramona Africa, an adult in the group, survived.

Although Move positioned itself as a radical back-to-nature group, it was run, in the young Mr. Ward’s accounts, far more like a cult.

Michael Moses Ward — the name his father gave him after he was rescued — was born Olewolffe Momer Puim Ward on Dec. 19, 1971, the son of Andino Ward and the former Rhonda Harris.

His parents separated when he was about 2, and he spent his early childhood with his mother in a Move commune in Virginia, where they became known as Rhonda and Birdie Africa. (In solidarity with Move’s founder, John Africa, né Vincent Leaphart, members took Africa as their surname.) Michael and his mother later went to live with the group in Philadelphia.

As Michael testified afterward, Move’s children were forbidden cooked food and contact with outsiders. While the adults around them ate hot meals, the children subsisted largely on a diet of raw fruit and vegetables, deemed purer — and therefore fit for children — by the movement’s leaders.

Toys were also forbidden, though the children grew skilled at spotting neighborhood children’s discards on the street and secreting them about the house.

“We would poke little holes in the wall and hide toys there,” Mr. Ward, who spoke to the news media only rarely, said in a 1995 interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I remember I had a toy soldier hidden in the wall in the basement.”

Michael and the other children resolved to run away. When Move’s leaders got wind of their plan, he said in the Inquirer interview, they told the children that if they did, they would be tracked down and killed.

Testifying in the fall of 1985 in the city’s inquiry into the bombing, Michael told of huddling in the basement during the standoff, listening to bullets fly and then hearing an explosion (“It shook the whole house up,” he said) before being pushed by his mother into an alley behind the house.

Afterward, he was reunited with his father, who lived outside Philadelphia and had been searching for him for years, unaware that he was so close at hand.

He learned to read and write, graduating from high school in Lansdale, Pa., where he was on the football team, and attending junior college briefly. From 1997 to 2001, he served in the Army, attaining the rank of sergeant.

Move’s legacy remained visible in the burn scars on Mr. Ward’s face, arms and torso. It could be discerned in other ways as well.

“I have a hard time getting close to anybody, feeling anything about anybody,” Mr. Ward told The Inquirer. “It has to do with the way I was brought up.”

He added: “It’s not even so much the fire. I had some bad dreams about the fire when I was little, but not anymore. The things that bother me most are the things I remember about Move before the fire. There are some things that happened that I can’t talk about.”

As was widely reported, under the terms of a 1991 settlement with the City of Philadelphia, Mr. Ward and his father were to receive a lump-sum payment of $840,000, followed by a series of lifetime monthly payments starting at $1,000 and increasing over the years.

Andino Ward has said publicly that all of the initial payment went to legal fees; Michael Ward said that he had never grown rich from the rest.

Michael Ward, who lived in Pennsylvania, was divorced. Besides his father, his survivors include a son, Michael, and a daughter, Rhonda. The family did not return telephone calls, and further information about Mr. Ward, including his survivors, could not be confirmed.

In the Inquirer interview, Mr. Ward spoke of the fire as a devastation — but not an unalloyed one.

“In a way, I’m glad it happened,” he said. “The only regret I have is about me being hurt and my mom dying and the other kids. I feel bad for the people who died, but I don’t have any anger toward anybody. See, I got out.”

SOURCE

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MARTA HEFLIN, WAIF SEEN IN ALTMAN FILMS

Published: September 25, 2013

  • Marta Heflin, an actress who appeared in New York stage musicals like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the 1960s and ’70s, and later in a string of Robert Altman movies that capitalized on her waifishness, died on Sept. 18 in Manhattan. She was 68.

Leo Friedman

Marta Heflin in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” She also had a film and television career.

A paid death announcement in The New York Times on Sunday said she had died after a long illness. No further details were given.

Ms. Heflin was best known for her featured roles in Mr. Altman’s 1979 romantic comedy, “A Perfect Couple,” and his 1982 film of Ed Graczyk’s play, “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” with an ensemble cast that included Sandy Dennis, Kathy Bates, Karen Black and Cher. She was in the Broadway production, which Mr. Altman directed as well, that same year.

Mr. Altman said in interviews that Ms. Heflin’s unconventional, sometimes awkward beauty lent authority to her portrayal of average people in both films.

In “Come Back,” she played a beleaguered character, pregnant for the seventh time, attending the reunion of a James Dean fan club 20 years after the actor’s death. In “A Perfect Couple,” she was a ragamuffin singer who, while living with a rock band, meets a paunchy middle-aged man (Paul Dooley) through a dating service and falls in love.

Ms. Heflin had small supporting roles in Frank Pierson’s remake of “A Star Is Born” (1976), starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson; “A Wedding” (1978), Mr. Altman’s comedy of manners; and Martin Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” (1982), starring Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis.

She also appeared on the NBC soap opera “The Doctors” and in several made-for-television movies, including the concentration camp drama “Playing for Time” (1980), with Vanessa Redgrave, and “The Gentleman Bandit” (1981), about a priest wrongly accused of a series of armed robberies.

A cabaret singer as well, Ms. Heflin performed frequently at New York nightclubs. In a 1973 review of a cabaret performance, John S. Wilson of The New York Times praised her voice for its “warm, sunny glow” and “gospel song fervor.”

Marta Michelle Heflin was born on March 29, 1945, in Washington, to Julia and Martin Heflin, a power couple of their day. Her mother was a journalist and theater producer and her father a public relations executive who was the brother of Van Heflin, the Hollywood actor. Information about survivors was not available.

In 1967, Ms. Heflin was in the chorus of a revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical “Brigadoon” at the City Center when she unexpectedly got her big break. Without rehearsal, she stepped into a prominent role as the soubrette Meg when the actress performing the part (without an understudy), Karen Morrow, came down with pneumonia.

In the next few years she landed roles in “Fiddler,” “Hair” and “Salvation,” a rock revue in the form of a Salvation Army-like revival meeting. “I played a nymphomaniac,” Ms. Heflin said in a 1984 interview. Not the obvious kind but the quiet type, she added wryly: “The kind that wears Peter Pan collars.”

SOURCE

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CHRISTOPHER KOCH, WRITER OF ‘YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY’

By

Published: September 24, 2013

  • Christopher Koch, who was widely regarded as one of Australia’s finest novelists and whose best-known book, “The Year of Living Dangerously,” became even better known as a film, died on Monday in Hobart, Australia. He was 81.

Jerry Bauer/Viking

Christopher Koch

The cause was cancer, said his agent, Margaret Connolly.

Guy Hamilton, the lead character of “The Year of Living Dangerously,” was loosely based on Mr. Koch’s younger brother, Philip, a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Commission who covered the violent decline of the regime of President Sukarno of Indonesia in the 1960s.

In Mr. Koch’s narrative, Hamilton’s personal life and his work as a journalist become entangled with people whose identities and loyalties are slowly revealed to be more complicated than he expected — echoing the mystery with which many Australians regarded Asia and its political turbulence at the time.

The book was published in 1978. The film, whose screenplay Mr. Koch (pronounced kosh) co-wrote, was released in 1982, with Mel Gibson in the starring role. (Mr. Gibson’s tense signoffs to his radio dispatches — “This is Guy Hamilton in Jakarta” — are remarkably similar to those of Philip Koch, some of which are available online.)

The film, directed by Peter Weir, also stars Sigourney Weaver, as a British spy and Mr. Hamilton’s romantic interest, and Linda Hunt, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Hamilton’s male cameraman and mentor, Billy Kwan.

The book initially received little attention outside Australia, but the film’s success brought Mr. Koch new acclaim, both at home and internationally. His work was often cited as helping Australia to shift its cultural focus from its Western ancestors in Britain and Ireland toward its increasing engagement with Asia.

Two of his later novels, “The Doubleman,” and “Highways to a War,” which was based loosely on the life of the Vietnam War photographer Neil Davis, won the Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s highest literary honor.

Christopher John Koch was born on July 16, 1932, in Hobart, on the southern Australian island of Tasmania. His father, Burton, an accountant, and his mother, Phyllis, were concerned about him when he dropped out of school and was later reprimanded for reading too much while working in a bookstore. He eventually graduated with honors from the University of Tasmania with degrees in English and philosophy.

He worked as a radio producer for the Australian Broadcasting Service in Sydney for many years before devoting himself full time to writing, starting in 1972.

Survivors include his wife, Robin; a son, the classical guitarist Gareth Koch, from an earlier marriage that ended in divorce; his brother, Philip; and a sister, Susan.

He published his first novel, “The Boys in the Island,” in 1958, which helped him win a creative writing fellowship to Stanford a few years later. The book was a coming-of-age story about a young man growing up in Tasmania but dreaming of moving to the mainland.

Mr. Koch and the characters in many of his books frequently migrated between Tasmania and the rest of the world. In Mr. Koch’s case, he moved back and forth to Sydney several times before he settled in Tasmania in the town of Richmond, outside Hobart.

“It’s the eternal circle, to escape and to return,” he told The Hobart Mercury in 1995. “It’s the penalty for being an islander.”

SOURCE

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KOFI AWOONOR, A POET AND SCHOLAR KILLED IN NAIROBI MALL ATTACK IS MOURNED BY GHANIANS

By

Published: September 23, 2013

  • The rain has beaten me And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives I shall go beyond and rest, I have no kin and no brother, Death has made war upon our house

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Kofi Awoonor

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Timeline of the Kenya Mall Shooting

DAKAR, Senegal — Ghanaian schoolchildren memorized those lines from the 1960s by one of their country’s most famous poets, Kofi Awoonor; their sorrow over the newly liberated continent’s travails foreshadowed, in a terrible way, the violence that took Mr. Awoonor’s life on Saturday.

Mr. Awoonor — poet, diplomat, statesman, scholar and cultural icon in his native Ghana — was killed in the terrorist attack by Somali militants on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. His death at 78 has shocked citizens in Ghana, the West African nation whose difficult beginnings and subsequent steadying he accompanied and chronicled.

Mr. Awoonor published novels and books of verse, including poems like “Songs of Sorrow” that were required reading for several generations of Ghanaian schoolchildren. He was his country’s ambassador to the United Nations in the early 1990s, taught at universities in the United States and Ghana, knew W. E. B. DuBois, and was president of Ghana’s Council of State, a governmental advisory body. News reports in Ghana said he had been invited to a conference in Nairobi and had gone to the mall to have breakfast with his son, who was wounded in the attack.

“He had a huge influence on Ghanaian poetry and Ghanaian academia,” said Akwasi Aidoo, a Ghanaian who is executive director of TrustAfrica, a pan-African good-governance foundation, who knew Mr. Awoonor for nearly 40 years. “He was one of the first poets after Ghanaian independence.”

Because Mr. Awoonor was imprisoned for his activism during a time of repression in the mid-1970s, “we saw him more as an organic intellectual, as somebody who was not just confined to academia, somebody interested in the broader economic and social struggle,” Mr. Aidoo said.

His poetry was heavily influenced by the funeral dirges of his native Ewe people, one of Ghana’s smaller ethnic minorities; his grandmother was an Ewe dirge singer, according to the Poetry Foundation. The early poetry that gained him his reputation in the 1960s in Ghana “reflected the challenges that Ghana and Africa were going through during the postcolonial period,” Mr. Aidoo said. “He was constantly emphasizing the pain, the pain and suffering of our people.”

“Songs of Sorrow,” perhaps his best-known poem, is an extended lament for a world of African difficulty and hardship, replete with foreboding of latent chronic violence of the sort that erupted on Saturday in Nairobi. A pan-Africanist and admirer of Kwame Nkrumah, the president who led Ghana to independence and was overthrown in a coup, Mr. Awoonor was pained by the continent’s early travails.

“Funeral dirges — he used that form to lament the state of Africa, the oppression,” said Esi Sutherland-Addy, an associate professor at the University of Ghana. “It was a convenient form to talk about oppression.”

Public figures in Ghana, including President John Dramani Mahama, expressed their sorrow at Mr. Awoonor’s death. “I think we’re all in shock,” Ms. Sutherland-Addy said.

SOURCE

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SKYWATCH: COMET ISON TO FLY BY MARS, FLIP-FLOPPING PULSAR, AND MORE

News
Comet ISON

NASA / ESA / J.-Y. Li (PSI) / Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

Comet ISON to Fly By Mars

September 24, 2013                                                                | On October 1st, Comet ISON will pass closer to Mars than it ever will to Earth. The Red Planet’s rovers and orbiters are ready to send home postcards of the event. > read more

To Catch a Comet

September 27, 2013                                                                | A balloon-borne mission launching from Texas will aim a telescope at the approaching Comet ISON. While it won’t observe the comet at its best, the mission might reveal details about the composition of the icy body and the family it comes from. > read more

Astronomer Sara Seager Wins “Genius Grant”

September 26, 2013                                                                | Exoplanet hunter and S&T author Sara Seager is among 24 scientists and artists granted one of 2013’s prestigious MacArthur Fellowships, commonly known as the “genius grant.”  > read more

Pulsar on the Fence

September 25, 2013                                                                | Astronomers have discovered a neutron star that switches between X-ray and radio emission within a few days. The find is fabulous news for theorists, who have long predicted that the two pulsar types were connected. > read more

Is Phaethon a “Rock Comet”?

September 22, 2013                                                                | An oddball asteroid discovered 30 years ago apparently gets so hot when near the Sun that rocky minerals on its surface crack, pop, sizzle, and fly off into space. > read more

Observing

Jupiter and the Moon in October

Sky & Telesope diagram

Tour October’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

September 27, 2013                                                                  | Venus blazes low in the west at sunset, while Jupiter rules the late-night sky. This month also features a penumbral lunar eclipse, a minor meteor shower, and the Great Worldwide Star Count. > read more

Community

Sir Patrick Moore in 2006

Copyright Jamie Cooper (used with permission).

Will BBC Cancel “The Sky at Night”?

September 27, 2013                                                                | Stargazers in Great Britain learned this week that their beloved broadcast about all things celestial, inaugurated by the late Patrick Moore in 1957, might be canceled at year’s end. > read more

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

September 27, 2013                                                                  | The waning Moon leaves us a dark evening sky. And Jupiter rises for night owls. > read more

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HATEWATCH: LOUISIANA GOVERNOR APPOINTS HATE GROUP LEADER TONY PERKINS TO LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION

Louisiana Governor Appoints Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins to Law Enforcement Commission

Josh Glasstetter on September 26, 2013

In the immediate wake of the 2012 election, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on his fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.” He said it was “no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments – enough of that.” Jindal was referring to the infamous remarks by top-tier GOP candidates, most notably former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, about rape and pregnancy.

So much for that! Jindal has appointed Akin’s most prominent defender, Tony Perkins, to a seat on the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. Perkins is president of the D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group known for making its share of “offensive, bizarre comments.” Perkins and the FRC earned that designation by consistently demonizing and smearing gays and lesbians – including calling them pedophiles – with falsehoods.

Perkins has deep Louisiana roots. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1996 to 2004 and ran unsuccessfully for the US. Senate, placing a distant fourth, in the 2002 GOP primary. Before that he was a TV news reporter and a reserve police officer, until he was suspended in 1992 for failing to report an illegal conspiracy by anti-abortion extremists to his superiors. He became head of the FRC in 2003 but never fully left Louisiana.

In fact, Jindal named Perkins to the Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family in 2008, supposedly on the basis of “expertise in community programs and assistance.”

The Commission on Marriage and Family website provides meeting minutes for the past three years. Perkins is listed as absent for seven out of seven meetings. Since Perkins has a day job in Washington, D.C., and is apparently unable to attend those meetings, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be any better about attending the Commission on Law Enforcement meetings.

But Jindal appointed him, and Perkins accepted, because they both have something to gain. Jindal dreams of running for national office, and he wants support from and access to religious-right primary voters. That’s why he’s scheduled to speak, as he’s done in the past, at the FRC-sponsored Values Voter Summit in D.C. next month.

Perkins, on the other hand, dreams of running for office again in Louisiana, and he’s been floated recently as a possible challenger to Sen. Mary Landrieu. He maintains residency in Baton Rouge despite apparently spending most of his time in D.C. The commission seats give him an opportunity to pad his resume and keep his name in circulation back home.

It’s all part of an effort to whitewash his image, which is understandable. In addition to his controversial actions as a reserve police officer, Perkins was caught in 1996 covering up the purchase of Klan leader David Duke’s supporter list for a campaign he was managing. That campaign later settled with the Federal Election Commission and paid a fine. Then in 2001, Perkins was caught speaking at a gathering of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Perkins addressed the white supremacist group, which has called African Americans a “retrograde species of humanity,” while standing in front of a Confederate flag. He later denied knowing about the group’s extremism.

Now Perkins is the head of a group whose senior policy fellow says homosexuality should be outlawed. Is that the perspective that Perkins will bring to the Commission on Law Enforcement? We can only hope that Perkins shows as little interest in the Commission on Law Enforcement as he seems to have in the Commission on Marriage and Family.

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WORLD RABIES DAY: SEPTEMBER 28, 2013

 

WORLD RABIES DAY

Quick Facts

World Rabies Day is annually observed on September 28 to raise awareness about rabies and how it can be prevented.

Local names

Name Language
World Rabies Day English
Día Mundial de la Rabia Spanish

World Rabies Day 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

World Rabies Day 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Many people around the world observe World Rabies Day (WRD), which raises awareness about the impact of rabies and how the disease can be prevented. It is held on September 28 each year. is an annual event on April 7 to draw attention to particular priorities in global health.

Smiling Asian children with their pet dogs.Awareness issues, such as the importance of pet vaccinations for children’s safety, are brought to attention on World Rabies Day.

©iStockphoto.com/Zhang Bo

What do people do?

Many communities and organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which is the UN’s directing and coordinating authority for health, and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), actively promote various activities and events that center on World Rabies Day.

Many government agencies and disease control centers that support World Rabies Day produce media kits, including posters, pamphlets, and press releases, to increase awareness about rabies and preventing the disease. Symposiums are also held on or around this time of the year to remember researchers who were pioneers in finding a rabies vaccination. Some associations and clinics offer free pet vaccinations and some organizations host competitions, such as t-shirt design contests to promote the event’s message.

Public life

World Rabies Day is a global observance but it is not a public holiday.

Background

Rabies is widely distributed across the globe. More than 55,000 people die of rabies each year. About 95 percent of human deaths occur in Asia and Africa, according to WHO. Most human deaths follow a bite from an infected dog. About 30 to 60 percent of dog bite victims are children under the age of 15. There are safe and effective vaccines available for people who have been bitten by an animal that might have the disease, but usage in developing countries is low due to the high cost.

World Rabies Day, which is founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and GARC, aims to unite relevant partners to address rabies prevention and control. With the initial goal of engaging 55,000 people to take action, one for each person who dies each year from rabies, the inaugural campaign saw nearly 400,000 people from at least 74 countries participating on September 8, 2007. The event was held again in 2008, but on September 28 instead of September 8, and September 28 has been used as the date to promote the event from that year onwards.

More than 393,000 people participated and rabies education messages reached more than 50 million people on World Rabies Day in 2008. The result of this event was that there were enough funds to start grass-roots education and control projects in five countries. Various partners, including WHO and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, support World Rabies Day, which highlights the impact of human and animal rabies and promotes how to prevent and stop the disease by combating it in animals.

Symbols

The World Rabies Day logo features a globe in blue and green, and the green shapes in the globe are that of a bat (left), human (center), and dog or canine figure (right).  The words “World Rabies Day” and the event’s date (month, day and year), typed in black, circle the outer part of the globe. These elements are kept within a black ring, completing the logo.

World Rabies Day Observances

 

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Sat Sep 8 2007 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 28 2008 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 28 2009 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 28 2010 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Wed Sep 28 2011 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 28 2012 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 28 2013 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 28 2014 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 28 2015 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Wed Sep 28 2016 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 28 2017 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 28 2018 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 28 2019 World Rabies Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 28 2020 World Rabies Day United Nations observance

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WORLD TOURISM DAY: SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

 

WORLD TOURISM DAY

Quick Facts

The United Nations’ (UN) World Tourism Day is annually held on September 27 to raise awareness on the benefits of tourism.

Local names

Name Language
World Tourism Day English
Día Mundial del Turismo Spanish

World Tourism Day 2013 Theme: Tourism and Water: Protecting Our Common Future

Friday, September 27, 2013

World Tourism Day 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Many people around celebrate the United Nations’ (UN) World Tourism Day, which is on September 27 each year. The day aims to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values.

An senior couple with a camera, touring on vacation.World Tourism Day recognizes the importance of tourists and the tourism industry across the globe.

©iStockphoto.com/Alex Nikada

What do people do?

The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) invites people worldwide to participate in World Tourism Day on September 27 every year.  The UNWTO Secretary-General annually sends out a message to the general public to mark the occasion. Many tourism enterprises and organizations, as well as government agencies with a special interest in tourism, celebrate the event with various special events and festivities.

Different types of competitions, such as photo competitions promoting tourism, as well as tourism award presentations in areas such as ecotourism, are held on World Tourism Day. Other activities include free entries, discounts or special offers for the general public to any site of tourism interest. Government and community leaders, as tourism business representatives, may make public announcements or offer special tours or fares to promote both their region and World Tourism Day on or around September 27.

Public life

The World Tourism Day is a UN observance and it is not a public holiday.

Background

Tourism has experienced continued growth and deeper diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. ‎Modern tourism is closely linked to development and includes more new destinations for tourists. These dynamics turned tourism into a key driver for socio-‎economic progress.‎ Tourism has become one of the major players in ‎international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income ‎sources for many developing countries.

The UNWTO decided in late September 1979 to institute World Tourism Day, which was first celebrated on September 27, 1980. September 27 was chosen as the date for World Tourism Day because that date coincided with an important milestone in world tourism: the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on September 27, 1970.

The UNWTO believes that the date for World Tourism Day is appropriate because it comes at the end of the high tourist season in the northern hemisphere and the start of the tourist season in the southern hemisphere, when tourism is of topical interest to many people worldwide, particularly travelers and those working in the tourism sector. Each year has a different theme – for example, “Tourism – Celebrating Diversity” was designated as the theme for 2009, with Ghana as the event’s host country for that year.

World Tourism Day Observances

 

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Thu Sep 27 1990 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 27 1991 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 27 1992 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 27 1993 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 27 1994 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Wed Sep 27 1995 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 27 1996 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 27 1997 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 27 1998 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 27 1999 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Wed Sep 27 2000 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2001 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 27 2002 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 27 2003 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 27 2004 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 27 2005 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Wed Sep 27 2006 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2007 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 27 2008 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 27 2009 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Mon Sep 27 2010 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 27 2011 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2012 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 27 2013 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sat Sep 27 2014 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 27 2015 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Tue Sep 27 2016 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Wed Sep 27 2017 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2018 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Fri Sep 27 2019 World Tourism Day United Nations observance
Sun Sep 27 2020 World Tourism Day United Nations observance

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WORLD MARITIME DAY: SEPTEMBER 26, 2013

WORLD MARITIME DAY

Quick Facts

World Maritime Day is held on the last week of September each year, although the exact date is up to individual governments around the world.

Local names

Name Language
World Maritime Day English
Día Marítimo Mundial Spanish

World Maritime Day 2013 Theme: Sustainable Development: IMO’s Contribution Beyond Rio +20

Thursday, September 26, 2013

World Maritime Day 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The United Nations (UN), via the International Maritime Organization (IMO), created World Maritime Day to celebrate the international maritime industry’s contribution towards the world’s economy, especially in shipping. The event’s date varies by year and country but it is always on the last week of September.

Small Syrian harbour in TartusWorld Maritime Day focuses on the marine environment, as well as safety and security for boats and ships..©iStockphoto.com/Olga Kolos

What do people do?

World Maritime Day focuses on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment and to emphasize a particular aspect of IMO’s work. The day also features a special message from the IMO’s secretary-general, which is backed up by a discussion paper on the selected subject in more detail.

World Maritime Day is celebrated in many countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Many maritime organizations and unions hold special events and activities to celebrate this day. These activities and events range from symposiums to luncheons, as well as school lessons that focus on the day. Some classes may organize a trip to a maritime museum so students can understand the significance of the maritime industry in shaping world history and its importance in world trade.

Public life

World Maritime Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.

Background

Throughout history, people have understood that international regulations that are followed by many countries worldwide could improve marine safety so many treaties have been adopted since the 19th century. Various countries proposed for a permanent international body to be established to promote maritime safety more effectively but it was not until the UN was established that these hopes were realized. An international conference in Geneva in 1948 adopted a convention formally establishing the IMO, a specialized UN agency that develops and maintains a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping.

The IMO’s original name was the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) but the name was changed in 1982 to IMO. The IMO focuses on areas such as safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.

World Maritime Day was first held on March 17, 1978 to mark the date of the IMO Convention’s entry into force in 1958. At that time, the organization had 21 member states. It now has about 167 member states and three associate members. This membership includes virtually all the nations of the world with an interest in maritime affairs, including those involved in the shipping industry and coastal states with an interest in protecting their maritime environment.

Note: The dates below are a rough guide on when World Maritime Day is observed, based on the most recent previous dates it was observed by the UN. It is also important to note that the exact date is left to individual governments but is usually celebrated during the last week in September.

External links

IMO: World Maritime Day

World Maritime Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Thu Sep 27 1990 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 26 1991 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 24 1992 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 23 1993 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 22 1994 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 28 1995 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 26 1996 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 25 1997 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 24 1998 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 23 1999 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 28 2000 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2001 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 26 2002 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 25 2003 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 23 2004 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 22 2005 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 28 2006 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2007 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 25 2008 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 24 2009 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 23 2010 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 22 2011 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2012 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 26 2013 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 25 2014 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 24 2015 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 22 2016 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 28 2017 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 27 2018 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 26 2019 World Maritime Day United Nations observance
Thu Sep 24 2020 World Maritime Day United Nations observance

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