Genre of the Week: 18 and Life by Skid Row

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As we’re talking about gun violence and looking at ways to stopping it, we’re also looking at the causes of this rapid increase in violence which has especially hit schools the hardest. I had a chance to listen to a speech made by four survivors of the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as well as the interviews that followed. The students that survived the bloodbath knew the killer (who is behind bars) and were very angry at how this was not stopped earlier. These four were born the same year as the infamous Columbine massacre that took place on 20 April 1999 and have grown up used to mass shootings, including those in schools.  Here’s a quick preview of the speech:

One of the key issues we’ll need to work on as we look at reforming gun control laws is also the ways to reform the mental health system and make schools and public places safe. But how can we do that if we have people running around irresponsibly waving guns around and firing aimlessly at people, killing some in the process and permanently scarring others in the process, like it happened with Columbine, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Cold Springs and now Parkland?

One way is to look at how parenting has changed over the years. In the past 40 years, we have gone from being strict Puritans who spank and hit children in order for them to behave to being those who allow children anything and everything they want to, even if it means running over teachers, law enforcement officials and the like at the same time. Parents have struggled to find a middle ground in order to allow for controlled growth- meaning growing within their boundaries and knowing what is right and what is wrong. It means taking responsibility for their own actions and accepting the consequences for their wrongdoing. A one-day suspension from school for fighting or showing disrespect is painful but should be a lesson for the future. It’s by teaching children how to respect others and learn the Golden Rule: Do onto others as they would be done onto you. This includes stories and fables to be told regularly but also normal interaction with people and understanding their feelings.  And if parents cannot do their job, have another foster parent or relative take over for a while, someone who can foster the child’s growth and show them the values of life.

This Genre of the Week looks at a scene that is very typical in today’s society today: a teenager who has gone wild because of years of being overly controlled and abused by his father. His recklessness by using alcohol and guns led to his downfall as he lost not only his family and best friend, but his own life. And as alcohol regulations has worked in keeping people away from the booze, gun regulations can do the exact same thing and even more. But even with gun regulations (which can work), we need to look at reforming our society and investing more time and especially money to reforming our society, starting with the health system, then the school system and lastly the family. This way we don’t have any more wild ones like in this song by Skid Row entitled 18 and Life, produced in 1989.

 

 

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Skid Row was formed in 1986 featuring lead singer Sebastian Bach, guitarists Scotti Hill and David Sabo, drummer Rob Affuso and bassist Rachel Bolan. It still produces heavy metal music to this day but with ZP Theart as the lead singer. 18 and Life was produced in 1989 and made it to the Top 4 in the US and Top 12 in the UK. It even won a gold platinum that year. The band is based in New Jersey.

 

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Flensburg Files Holiday Moments: A Boy With PANDAS

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During the holiday season, The Flensburg Files has been posting some memorable holiday moments on its facebook page, as a way of showing holiday spirit, as well as the true meaning of Christmas, which is showing how much we love and care about the other person(s)- family, friend or neighbor alike. This article in the series hits home for the author, as a close friend and former classmate, who also sang together in a barbershop quartet in high school, and his family are facing a rare enemy that is affecting one of their own. This is their story…..

When one thinks of a panda, we look at the furry black and white bear, who live in Asia and feast on bamboos, shoots and leaves. In fact, Lynne Truss started her book on the use of commas and punctuations with this anecdote:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

Jamison Nestegard is nine years old and the youngest of three children belonging to the parents, Sid and Rebecca.

Jamison has P.A.N.D.A.S, but not the furry bears that you can keep as pets- especially in a town, like Jackson, Minnesota, which has its really cold and snowy winters. P.A.N.D.A.S love warm and humid regions.  The P.A.N.D.A.S we’re talking about here is a serious disorder that starts with a physical illness in a form of strep bacteria and later affects the nervous system.

The full meaning of P.A.N.D.A.S is Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococci. It was discovered by  Dr. Susan Swedo, Dr. Henrietta Leonard, and Dr. Judith Rapoport in the 1990s and is characterized by the body’s own antibodies to streptococci which attack the basal ganglion cells of the brain. In short, the body’s own autoimmune system cannot respond to strep bacteria resulting in its build-up in the brain, causing several psychological abnormalities, such as obessive compulsive disorder (short, OCD), tics, anxiety, enuresis or urinary frequency, sleep disorders, behavioral regression, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, hallucinations, eating disorders, wide pupils, increased sensory responses, deterioration of fine motor skills, short term memory loss, and gastro-intestinal complaints.  Patients with P.A.N.D.A.S have at least 75% of these symptoms, yet research revealed that most patients with P.A.N.D.A.S have all of the above-mentioned symptoms.  Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 5-7, but can begin as early as 3 years of age, yet as the bacteria builds in the brain, the symptoms progress over time. According to the P.A.N.D.A.S Network, the disorder affects one in every 200 children in the US alone.

According to Rebecca in an interview with the Files, Jamison’s symptoms started at the age of six and started from there. “Jamison’s case started with tics and progressed from there.” She added “His symptoms dramatically increased over the next few months.  His latest list of symptoms include tics, OCD, anxiety, sleep disorders, wide pupils, increased sensory responses, deterioration of fine motor skills, short term memory loss, aggressiveness, gastro-intestinal complaints, and behavioral regressions (severe separation anxiety, baby talk, etc.).”  After visits to countless physicians and specialists in the last two years, Jamison was diagnosed with P.A.N.D.A.S last month. Yet the discovery of the disorder came by chance. The reason: “We saw behavioral therapists, counselors, pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists, and occupational therapists. He was seen in offices, E.R.s, extensive outpatient programs, and even hospitalized. No one had an answer or offered a direction to go in.”  The discovery of P.A.N.D.A.S came through an employee working for the county human services via colleague who had received an e-mail about this debilitating disorder. After reading the information, it was revealed that Jamison had all but one of the symptoms of P.A.N.D.A.S. Research later led to a specialist in Chicago, who, after a visit, confirmed the diagnosis after undergoing tests for the disorder. Miroslav Kovacevic, MD FAAP is the practitioner who has been working with the disorder for almost half of the 40+ year career and has received numerous accolades for his research and discoveries. His research has identified the symptoms and possible causes of P.A.N.D.A.S, as well as possible treatments.

Currently, Jamison is undergoing treatment for P.A.N.D.A.S with his mother at his side in Chicago, while her husband Sid and the rest of the family are working on a fundraiser and have already set up a fund to collect money for the treatment. According to Rebecca, for one treatment alone, it costs $13,000! P.A.N.D.A.S is a relatively new disorder but one full of controversy as many specialists in the fields of medicine refuse to recognize the disorder. Health care providers in Minnesota and the region have never heard of P.A.N.D.A.S. Even insurance companies will not cover the costs of any of the treatment. This includes that of the Nestegard family.

Fortunately, the family is not alone. As tightly knit as the community of Jackson is, let alone the southern half of Minnesota where the author was born and raised, friends and family members as well as those who have a direct connection with P.A.N.D.A.S have come together to understand the disorder, address it to the public and give Sid and Rebecca some much-needed support so that they can help Jamison overcome the disorder. With the identification of the disorder already confirmed, the goal is for the public to understand the gravity of P.A.N.D.A.S and encourage parents, whose child has symptoms similar to Jamison’s, to come forward and share their stories and provide them with whatever treatment is available, no matter where or how.

Already in place are a few groups that advocate for the diagnosis and treatment of P.A.N.D.A.S. They include the P.A.N.D.A.S. Parent Support group, P.A.N.D.A.S. Network, and  Parents/Caregivers of Children With P.A.N.D.A.S. All of these groups are from the Chicago area.  A Midwest P.A.N.D.A.S. Conference was launched in 2015 at the Washington University in St. Louis, where parents, caregivers and physicians convene to share ideas and information on the symptoms and causes of this rare disorder. Other P.A.N.D.A.S groups exist in the US but only rarely, according to information in the interview. In Europe, there exists no such organization to date, nor has it been confirmed as a disorder or even disease by the World Health Organization.  Because of its rarity, the plan is to bring Jamison’s experience to the forefront to provide awareness and options available. “The more attention we draw to the disorder the more likely we are to pass through legislation providing insurance coverage for patients and support for their families,” Rebecca stated in the interview.  Already launched is a blog bearing the same name, she has been keeping a diary with information and hardships dealing with Jamison and his fight with P.A.N.D.A.S. A link to the blog can be found here. Letter campaigns to schools, pediatricians and legislature will follow. Blood drives are being considered as “….the treatment uses IV immunoglobulin (IV), which is made from plasma through blood donations,” Rebecca states. With Jamison as an ambassador, it is hoped that with each drive and speech, the attention pertaining to P.A.N.D.A.S will come to the forefront also through the media outlets, including TVshows and documentaries and even social media.

As for Jamison’s cause, a fund-raiser is being established for him, which is scheduled to take place on:

18th December, 2016 at Riverside Elementary in Jackson, Minnesota from 9:30-12:30 (map enclosed here)

In addition, a fund has been set up where you can donate money and resources to help with the expenses with P.A.N.D.A.S. You can donate your money to Bank Midwest. The address: 509 3rd St, P.O. Box 49, Jackson Minnesota, 56143 Please make your checks payable to The Jamison Nestegard Benefit Fund.

A GoFund Me account has also been set up to help pay for the expenses involved with the treatment and other costs associated with it. To donate, you can click here.

Family is the core of one’s life, the source where the individual grows up with love. When threatened by such a debilitating disorder, like P.A.N.D.A.S, the family finds the causes and treatment, so that the individual can have a fulfilling life, no matter what the cost or the distance. When there is a will to live, there is a way to have a fulfilling life. With Jamison living a life as he is living- with close family and friends, Sid and Rebecca, as well as the rest of the family and friends are doing all what they can to ensure that he can live to tell others of his experiences. And this is an example of how we should devote our time for our loved ones, especially for the holidays.

An excerpt of the diary of Jamison’s experience with P.A.N.D.A.S can be found in the wordpress version of the Files, which you can access here and subscribe to follow. It is also hoped that when read on the opposite side of the Atlantic that many Europeans and people in other regions are willing to step forward to help.

 

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A Tribute to Helmut Schmidt

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Former German Chancellor handled the RAF Affair and the NATO Double-Pact during his regime (1974-1982) dead at 96.

HAMBURG- Helmut Schmidt, whose political career lasted for over 60 years both in and outside government and left a positive image for Germany in terms of international and domestic policies has died. Schmidt passed away this afternoon at a hospital in Hamburg after complications from a surgery in September to remove a blood clot. He was 96 years old. Schmidt was a member of the German Social Democratic Party from 1946 until 1982, which included his roles as Minister of Defense  (1969-1972), as well as Minister of Economics and later Finance (1972-1974), all under Chancellor Willi Brandt. When he resign amid an espionage scandal in 1974, Schmidt took power as German Chancellor and ruled the country with a coalition featuring his party and the Free Liberals. Schmidt became the only Chancellor to lose his office through a Vote of No Confidence on 1 October, 1982, thus ushering in the era of Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Party. The reason was the FDP’s alliance with the CDU, which made Schmidt a lame duck. Kohl still holds the record of being the longest reigning Chancellor, ruling for 16 years until 1998. During his time in power, Schmidt championed the strengthening and expansion of politics on the European level, including the introduction of a European currency (which was eventually introduced in 1999 and replaced the German Mark in 2002), as well as fostered domestic spending to help the unemployed, expand health insurance, and pass health and safety laws. He put an end to the reign of terror caused by the group Red Army Faction, and his policies involving the Cold War, led to the NATO Double-Track Policy, where mid-range missiles were stationed in West Germany, causing protests in many cities. Schmidt was loved and hated by many within and outside Germany because of his policies and his comments on certain events, especially on the international front. However, after he stepped down in 1982, Schmidt became an avid writer and editor, having been co-publisher of the German newspaper Die Zeit and authored several books, mainly focusing on politics and his memoirs about his time in Bonn and Hamburg. However, there are a few more facts that we don’t know about Schmidt. And therefore, we have the:

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  1. Upon his death, Helmut Schmidt became the oldest living former chancellor, having outlived Konrad Adenauer by five years. Adenauer died in 1967 at the age of 91. He has also outlived the oldest former US Presidents, Gerald Ford (1972-76) and Ronald Reagan (1981-88), both of whom lived to be 93 years old. They died in 2006 and 2004, respectively.
  2. During the Great Flood of 1962, which hammered Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Schmidt, who was Hamburg’s senator, initiated moves by taking charge of the Federal Police and the Germany Army and directed them to the flooded areas, rescuing people stranded on top of houses and providing aid where needed. This overstepped boundaries and led to a change in the German Constitution which forbade the use of federal forces unless deemed a necessity. The flooding and natural disasters were added as a necessity in 1968.
  3. Schmidt was an avid pianist, having recorded music for several composers from the 1980s on.
  4. Schmidt was an avid smoker, having smoked heavily, both privately as well as in public and especially on TV shows. This was his signature for his character which was carried all the way to the end, despite controversies involving him violating smoking bans.
  5. Schmidt was the automatic go-to guy to talk to when asked about several political themes, both on the German as well as the international fronts. This included his views on the environment, whose opposition to shutting down nuclear power plants and his comment on global warming being hysterically overheated stirred a lot of controversies, but conceded that a population explosion is the biggest threat to mankind because of the potential exhaustion of resources. He was on many talk shows, having been interviewed in German and English.
  6. He was the focus of a Loriot caricature in the 1970s, when he was at his height of popularity amid several scandals and incidents affecting Germany.
  7. Schmidt’s interest in politics came during his experience serving the Army during the Third Reich and witnessing a trial that was considered biased and brutal, as the Nazis ordered the execution of conspirators responsible for trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler, including Claus von Stauffenberg, whose streets in many cities were later named in his honor.

Helmut Schmidt, despite the controversies and the opposition from others, was considered the elder statesman with open arms. Whenever he was asked about certain political current events, he was quick to provide some food for thought, something for people to think about and discuss, something for politicians to think about before enacting or vetoing any measures being debated first in Bonn and later in Berlin. Schmidt was considered the face of Germany in the 1970s but is really the face of European politics and international affairs, for his policies and advocacy for a more European model of politics, while ensuring that countries are able to keep their sovereignty and maintain a democratic regime in tact. Cooperation was for him the key to a peaceful environment, something that was anything but that during the Cold War, but was later carried out when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union warmed up and eventually, when the two divided Germanys became one in 1990. Schmidt made and maintained ties with many politicians, many of them are still alive today. But despite warnings of smoking being unhealthy, Schmidt was unphased by it, for smoking was still for the intellectuals, and he provided that no matter where he went or who he talked with. Schmidt will be missed for his character and his guidance in international affairs, especially now, when we have bigger issues affecting Germany and we have to go on without him, or at least with the lessons he gave us.

Schmidt is survived by his daughter, Susanne, who has followed his father’s footsteps by working for Bloomberg Television, but is preceded in death by his wife Hannelore “Loki”, who died in 2010, and his infant son.  Leb wohl Herr Schmidt und vielen Dank für Ihre Beiträge und Mithilfe. Gott segnet Sie.

Helmut Schmidt Highlights:

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End of the Line 1: Lance’s Confession: The Question of Significance in Role Models

END OF THE LINE: This is the first of many to come as the Flensburg Files opens a new category called End of the Line. All Change Please, which focuses on the downfall of celebrities and the end of certain trends and traditions for various reasons. Lance Armstrong’s career came to an end because of a doping scandal which stripped him of seven Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2006 and several other honors.  After refuting a 1000-page report accusing him of doping for over a year, Armstrong came clean with Oprah Winfrey in an interview this past Thursday. Here is the author’s comments which will bring him and his legacy to the end of the line.

I do not remember or know anyone who grew up not idolizing their favorite heros. We each had a hero to look up to, and for some, we still have them, even though their lifestyle and actions sometimes do not coincide with ours, let alone how we were raised by our parents. I have no idea how many people followed Lance Armstrong when he won seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2006, combined with other honors he gained. After his confession to Oprah Winfrey last night in an interview that his titles were not his own merit, it is unknown whether he has as many followers as he had in the past. There are many people still asking him why he did what he did- doping with seven different substances, all of which were banned by different cycling and sports organizations, in order to cheat his way to these titles. There are many who question his role model, why he set a bad example for the younger generations to follow. If I met him on the street, my question to him would be “Are you aware that your actions will taint the image of sports forever?”

There are two ways of looking at Armstrong’s confession. One is that of not being surprised. Thousands of athletes have pumped themselves up with performance enhancing drugs (considered illegal) and have gotten away with it, whether it was Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak using steroids to itimidate the offensive linemen in American football or Superstar Billy Graham and Kerry Von Erich admitting to drug use while in professional wrestling. Each one has had to admit their usage, but at the expense of their fame- and their health. Alzado died in 1992 of brain cancer, which he claimed was in connection with his steroid use. Matuszak died of a drug overdose in 1989. Von Erich committed suicide in 1992 after years of agony. Graham appears to be following suit after many health issues as a result of drug use.  Each of these athletes had been banned from professional sports at one time or another, even if it was for a short time. And many still remember these people for their performance and as an icon, even though they fell from grace and out of favor with the public for their wrong doing and even if it came at the expense of their health.  Lance Armstrong came a long way, from hanging on a thread because of testicular cancer that spread to his brain and lungs, to beating the disease setting up his foundation, to cycling his way to France for the titles. His fall from grace may not include the affects his drugs on his health but it presents a familiar ring that has been seen many times among athletes to a point where the public is becoming more indifferent to any sport that requires physical exertion and/or contact. If one sees Usain Bolt breaking world records in sprinting all the time, the defensive linemen of the Baltimore Ravens in American football, Sara Del Ray and Daizee Haze grappling each other in professional wrestling, or basketball players showing off their slam dunks, it would not be surprising if someone points out their potential for pumping themselves up. And even if they did admit to it, no one would care about it.

Or would they?

This is where the other point should be addressed. Armstrong’s confession might create a potential for a wave of storms to cause massive destruction in many professional sports, even if drug testing has been in force for years. For the past 10 years, professional cycling has been connected with drug use, for many athletes have been caught using them, stripping them of their titles and banning them for life. Now it appears that Armstrong will sink that sport for good, destroying a 150 year tradition and causing a stir among the French who enjoy being part of the Tour de France. Could other sports follow?  If so, then which other sports should be black listed because of problems with performance-enhanced drugs?  We know that the drug ring that Armstrong established was the most sophisticated, but who knows if it exists in other sports.  It could be that the standards have increased to a point where it is impossible to reach them without the use of drugs. This was the point Armstrong was right on in his interview- seven Tour de France titles without the use of seven different drugs was next to impossible.  If sports have become too aggressive or have standards that are too high, then it is time to reduce them to encourage other people to compete in a fair and kosher way. Otherwise we will have more people like Armstrong who will do anything possible to climb to the top. Sometimes going to the top takes more effort and time than it is when sprinting up there in the shortest time possible. If the latter is the case, one really has to ask himself how it was done and if it was their own merit.

Armstrong’s confession will definitely be the same as the confession of a killer in Crime and Punishment. Armstrong may have vindicated himself for admitting his wrong doing, but he will surely have a lot to do to clear his name. He may even have to spend time in prison for his actions, in addition to giving up the money that he received through many endorsements. But he will cleanse himself and the sport of cycling of all the lies that the public had to follow for all these year. Armstrong will serve as an icon but in a different way. He will be the symbol of the sports culture that has become as obsessive as the use of drugs in the US and elsewhere, the obsession that needs to be eradicated and the culture that needs to be reformed before more people become victim of lies and deceit. And while his career has come to the end of the line, it serves as a signal for all other athletes to fess up and come clean with their record, showing others that success is not through cheating, but through hard work. Sometimes just beating a dreadful disease like (testicular) cancer will do the trick…..