Chile's President Meets With Teen Who Asked To Die

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile’s president went to a hospital Saturday to meet with a 14-year-old girl who shocked the country by going on YouTube to plead for the leader to let doctors euthanize her because she is tired of her struggle with cystic fibrosis.

The government quickly said no after the video began spreading on social media Thursday. A government statement said President Michelle Bachelet talked with Valentina Maureira and her father for more than an hour at the Catholic University hospital in the capital.

Officials did not release any information on what was said. But the government provided photographs of the visit, including one of Valentina taking a selfie with the president, who is also a pediatrician.

Valentina grabbed attention after posting on YouTube a video that appeared to have been shot from a hospital bed.

“I urgently request to speak to the president because I’m tired of living with this illness,” said the teenager, whose older brother died at age 6 from the same disease. “I want her approval so I can get a shot that will make me sleep forever.”

Cystic fibrosis damages multiple organs, especially the lungs, by causing recurrent infections that damage tissue. Valentina said she was frustrated by the lack of options and by how the disease had hurt her quality of life.

On Thursday, presidential spokesman Alvaro Elizalde expressed sympathy for Valentina’s plight, but stressed that Chilean law does not allow euthanasia.

“It’s impossible not to be overcome by emotion with the girl’s request; it’s impossible to grant her wish,” Elizalde said.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, the girl’s father, Fredy Maureira, said he supported his daughter’s request, though he added that he “cried through the night” after he first heard about her wish to die.

“This is so tough, but I have to respect her decision because she’s the one who’s suffering this illness,” Maureira said.

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Larry Scanlon: A Progressive Battler

The progressive community lost one of its toughest and smartest fighters yesterday. Larry died in a car crash on a trip to Florida, and all of us who had the honor of being his friend will miss him greatly.

Larry’s long tenure as political director of AFSCME brought them to a whole new level of political effectiveness. He was constantly innovating, constantly looking to be creative in how the union did its political work. He played a big role in the development, formation, and renewal of a whole series of organizations that have added to progressive infrastructure.

He and I worked together on a series of projects in the 1990s and first decade of this century that made a big difference in Democratic politics. In 1998, the conventional wisdom was overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats being blown out in the mid-terms because of the Lewinsky scandal, but Larry and I (I was the political director at People For the American Way at the time) were part of a group who came up with a strategy to overturn that conventional wisdom. On election day we surprised everyone: instead of losing 30 seats in the House like a lot of people were predicting, we picked up 5- and would have picked up a lot more and a majority in the House if Democratic strategists at the party committees had listened to us. We also won some big Senate and Governor races we weren’t supposed to win as well- one I remembered well was in Iowa. When Tom Vilsack was 20 points down a month out, Larry and I were the only ones in DC who still thought that race could be won and kept investing resources there, and Vilsack won that race, going on to become the best Governor Iowa ever had.

The issue group American Family Voices (AFV), which I founded in 2000 and still chair, was the result of a series of conversations with Larry and his colleagues at AFSCME about the fact that there were tons of single issue organizations in progressive politics but not nearly enough which had the flexibility to take on issues that were important but that no one else was talking about, take on special projects that needed to be done but no one wanted to take on, and to innovate in terms of new ways to communicate and target messages to working class voters. In 2000, we did a series of ads and phone calling that, among other things, targeted unmarried women voters. We were the first group to ever do that, and now that demographic group is one of the core parts of the Democratic base.

Another project Larry and I cooked up together was a project AFV took on in 2005 called the Campaign for a Cleaner Congress. George W Bush had just won re-election, Karl Rove was crowing about a permanent Republican majority, and Democrats were in a pessimistic mood- when I wrote a memo to some donors suggesting that it would be possible to take the House back in 2006, I got an angry from a top person at the DCCC who told me I needed to stop raising expectations, that there was no way we could take the House back. But Larry and I and a bunch of other great people figured out a strategy to drive home the corrupt Republican Congress message and create a Democratic wave. Larry was also in the middle of putting together a new organization to fight Bush’s Social Security privatization plan, which not only won that fight but was also key to defeating the Republicans in 2006, when we took back the House. That organization, which after the Social Security fight changed its name to Americans United for Change (which, full disclosure, I am on the board of) and is still doing great work at furthering the progressive cause.

Larry had some health problems a few years and had retired from AFSCME, but as his health had come back, he had started consulting again. I have no doubt he was cooking up some great new ideas to help further the cause. It is a bad blow to all of us who worked with him. He will always be remembered fondly.

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These Tiny Satellites Just Left The International Space Station

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Suggestions to High-School Students for Reading Shakespeare — Part 2

Preparing to Read Shakespeare

Just as athletes briefly commune with themselves before an event, so we should also compose ourselves for a moment before reading Shakespeare. Take leave of the world for a while and have it fend for itself. It got on without us before we were born, and will doubtless continue long after we’re gone.

There’s an old saying that the best preparation for life is reading three books – the Greeks, the Bible, and Shakespeare, not for the answers they give, but for the questions they raise. Shakespeare won’t give us answers — he’s too honest for that, but he will give us questions, so many, in fact, that we become different persons.

Now if you feel that becoming a different person is bad, I’d suggest you not read him. However, if you’re someone who wants more out of life than “official answers” and vocational training, you might want not only to read his plays, but also to make them your own.

If you do that, you’ll mature both as a student and person. You might even begin to adopt the longer and broader view about everything, keeping the Big Picture always in mind.

I should qualify something I just said, however. Shakespeare does offer a kind of vocational training. In fact, it’s the best in the world for those who want a vocation that is second to none, one that will take up all of your time, as well as engaging all of their powers, and that may even contribute to changing the world — the vocation of becoming a full human being.

Read for the Main Ideas

Reading an Act from one of his plays is like playing a new piece of music on a piano. It’s simply a run-through to learn the shape and mood of the score. Sometimes, it can be a lesson in humility, but it’s important to gather initial impressions and then move beyond them.

Always read for the main ideas, using only your humanity to figure things out. That’s really all you need when learning something new. We never understand anything completely the first time around. We do things first and only later understand what happened.

The more questions you have, the better it is because it shows you were alert to the difficulties. Something new always takes time to come into focus. Then read it a second time, only this time more carefully. You’ll fare much better because you already have a sense of the whole.

Knowing the Meaning of Words Not Enough

Reading Shakespeare entails understanding not only the meaning of words, but also the life-experiences conveyed by those words. You may know a word’s meaning, but still be unable to grasp the point of the passage. A classic example is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy (III. i. 56-88). Its lines are honeycombed with the anguish of deeply-lived life, expressed with examples of suffering, especially in lines 68-76:

There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?

Most high-school seniors don’t understand these lines. Although they may understand the individual words, they don’t understand the entire passage because of the highly-compressed language. Teachers will usually talk students through the entire soliloquy, line-by-line, and especially the nine lines above.

They’ll give a running commentary on this passage and explain the examples, as well as on the rest of the soliloquy’s 33 lines, and how all the parts relate to each other. This takes about 10 minutes, and students will then have a wide-ranging discussion on the implications of the entire soliloquy.

In elegant shorthand, Hamlet distills the essence of one of life’s archetypal dilemmas. As philosophy, the soliloquy is incomparable in its rhetorical sweep; as rhetoric, breathtaking in its philosophical power, as it captures everything that could possibly be said on the psychology of someone in this position. Lingering with Hamlet as he gazes into this abyss is an unforgettable experience.

The Chameleon Reader

Don’t read with your eyes, but read with your soul. Become what you read – all of the characters: commoners and nobles, heroes and villains, soldiers and merchants, kings and queens. Enter into their views of the world, their interests, and loyalties.

Keats in one of his letters speaks of “the chameleon poet,” who has no self or individual identity, but can identify with all of creation — a state of being also suited to “the chameleon reader,” who also strives to inhabit all of the characters, even the repellant, to understand who they are.

Seeing the world through their eyes lets us become who they are, sharing their outlooks, motives, and views of the world — all of which may be far from our own. Empathy is the soul of a real education and, if we let it, empathy will deepen our humanity by teaching us to understand others who may see the world differently.

This ability is the stock-in-trade of every drama student, who must learn to understand others better than those others understand themselves. If you want rare psychological insight, go to the actors. They interpret the world for us, and so must have a profound understanding of human nature. As the old Latin proverb says: “Totum mundum agit histrio” or “The actor portrays the entire world.”

This ability to understand the inner life of others is a gift of the gods and lets us see ourselves as others see us – the surest cure for the delusion that we are the measure of all things and center of the universe.

Slowly, we begin to see ourselves with a newfound sense of our own insignificance, here today and gone tomorrow; and that we and our generation will one day retire from this stage to make room for the next cast of characters.

The Play Needs a Reader to Bring it to Life

Take any play of Shakespeare’s, and whatever’s on the page, no matter how interesting, will lie irretrievably dead unless we can make it our own by imagining the characters speaking their verse, hear the cadence of their voices, visualize their gestures and the glint in their eyes, and sense the mood of the moment.

It is this empathic response that will open up for us the heart of the play. The play needs a reader who can breathe into its characters the life that will make them live. We must reach out to these characters to be worthy of receiving what they give us. We must co-create them, no matter who they may be, of whatever age or gender, be they rich or poor, high-born or lowly, for in giving them life, we become more alive.

All of life is in Shakespeare — those devoured by envy, tangled in deceit, unhinged by ambition, wasted by madness, plotting the downfall of others, suffering from love’s delirium, or by whatever passion may afflict the human heart. We give all of them life, and they return that life a hundredfold. Within his plays there is enough to sustain us a lifetime, as we return to this grand feast again and again, never surfeited or satisfied.

A Book is a Mirror

A book is a mirror that will reflect what we bring to it. If we are much, we’ll see much. The more insight we have, the more Shakespeare will give us. We only see what we’re ready to see – even when it’s staring us right in the face.

The secret of reading is outgrowing our limitations, and the wish to outgrow them is half of life’s battle. If we’re struggling for insight, we’ll hear it spoken to us by one of the characters. Art never reveals what we don’t already sense.

No author, no matter how brilliant in pouring forth the riches of creative vision on to the page will impart these gifts unless the reader sees them. It takes a wise man to know a wise man. Even Shakespeare is helpless when someone isn’t ready for him. But those who are struggling for insight in their lives are always ready for Shakespeare.

This is why reading nourishes only those who are hungry for life and want to find its meaning in reading. Many students already have an intuitive understanding of the secrets of life far beyond their years, and fall in love with reading in order to have those intuitions confirmed.

Reading is their sanctuary, their Holy of Holies, and when they are reading, they are on holy ground. Reading is their inspiration, their sacrament, their solace, their strength, and blessed are they who have discovered their bliss.

Does a Reasonable Worker Lactate?

By Elleanor Chin

These are some of the things I know about Angela Ames. She worked at Nationwide Insurance Company’s office in Iowa. She had a baby in May 2009. She had a second baby in May 2010, who was born prematurely after a difficult pregnancy. She was required to return to work in July 2010, after initially being told she would have parental leave until August. She was breastfeeding at least one baby when she returned to work.

These are some of things I know about Karla Neel. She was Angela Ames’ department head. She had given birth to at least one child at some point in her life, and apparently had uncomplicated pregnancies. During Ames’ second pregnancy Neel had made dismissive remarks about Ames’ being put on bed rest. When Ames returned to work and requested access to the lactation room, Neel said it wasn’t her responsibility to provide it. When Ames had been denied access to the lactation room or any other alternate space to express milk, Neel again stated it was not her responsibility, then handed Ames a pen and paper and dictated a resignation letter and told her to go home to her babies.

There’s lots I don’t know about either of these women, including what sort of economic or performance pressure was on their unit at Nationwide, or what their day-to-day working relationship was like. I can only guess at the distress Ames was in on her first day back to work in July 2010, almost certainly sleep deprived and under stress from caring for a newborn and a young toddler, her breasts engorged and faced with no support from her supervisor or the company nurse. I can also guess that Neel, who may or may not have received adequate human resources and management training, was frustrated at having an employee on extended leave twice in barely two years. Confronted with a distraught, tearful subordinate, whose near-term productivity was in doubt, she reacted poorly.

These two women, one of whom is now perceived as a villain by numerous commentators on Ames’ story, are both stuck with a system that makes their jobs as workers, colleagues and parents unreasonably difficult. We all live in a country with inherently anti-parent, anti-caregiving and thus anti-child workplace culture and public policy. In any humane country, Ames would have had legally mandated adequate parenting time with her newborn children. In many places she would still have been on her standard parental leave with her first child by the time the second was born. The systems would have been in place to cover her duties sufficiently, so that she did not need to be pressured to complete two months of work in two weeks, the day she returned to work. Instead, the fact that Ames was having babies and breastfeeding them was treated as an aberration in the workplace.

It’s unlikely that Neel was responsible for creating the bizarre and counterproductive policy that using the lactation room required a three day waiting period, or the policies that gave Ames fewer than three months to recover from delivery and bond with her baby. Neel certainly didn’t make any of the laws or decide any of the cases that made it possible for the Federal court in Iowa to decide that Nationwide had not discriminated against Ames or constructively discharged her (firing her by forcing her into resigning).

When Ames’ appealed her case, three Federal Appellate judges agreed that a woman in Ames’ situation (under tremendous emotional stress, in physical discomfort, being disparaged and bullied by both her manager and her direct supervisor) had an obligation to try harder. Instead of quitting on the spot when her manager told her to, she should have taken her engorged, leaking breasts to the HR department and demanded due process. The Supreme Court let the 8th Circuit’s decision stand.

Contrary to some coverage of this case, this is not a case about whether men can lactate. The trial court made a comment to that effect, but the real message is worse. This case shows what the system of laws, and the courts that enforce them, think about parenting: it is an inconvenient obstruction to operating a business. The most fundamental human processes of giving birth, bonding with a newborn, and feeding ones babies breast milk (the cheapest, healthiest source of newborn nutrition) are shoved into a tiny window of time, and accommodated as grudgingly as possible, if at all. A worker who stumbles on these hurdles is held to a high standard of courage, not to say aggression, in advocating for her rights on the spot. Where a single worker is confronted with a supervisor who lacks empathy, the burden is on the worker to know their rights and enforce them immediately, or lose them.

Unless we get better laws, anyone who wants to sue over the standard for being constructively discharged in similar circumstances will have a harder time proving it, particularly in the seven states from the Dakotas to Arkansas that fall in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Do we want courts holding struggling new mothers to standard that they held Ames? Or should our laws protect and support caregiving? In Massachusetts, MotherWoman is leading the way in helping to pass Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which also includes protections for women who need accommodations to pump without risk of retribution. In Oregon, Family Forward Action is working for paid sick leave and parental leave to enable more parents to bond with newborns and recover from childbirth.

To learn more about the MA Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:

To learn more about the national efforts on Pregnant Workers Fairness legislation, visit A Better Balance,

2015-03-01-EHChinPhoto.jpgElleanor Chin is a lawyer, writer and litigation consultant living in Portland Oregon. She has three children that she was fortunate to be able to spend at least twelve weeks with after they were born. She writes about regional politics at and about art, culture and family at Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine and Feministing.

Robi Ohanashi Bank Talking Money Box lets the little ones start young

robi-onahashi“Always save for a rainy day”, or so the saying goes – and it makes plenty of sense, too. After all, who would want to get caught up high and dry during an emergency without any access to funds? Getting money from loan sharks is far from a good idea, after all. Perhaps the children would need an incentive to start saving up, and the $46 Robi Ohanashi Bank Talking Money Box might be a very good place to start.

The Robi Ohanashi Bank Talking Money Box happens to be a robot character coin box, where it will initiate a conversation with you whenever you give him your cash to save. Using the Robi Ohanashi Bank Talking Money Box is as simple as slotting in a coin, where you can then listen in to Tomotaka Takahashi’s cute Robi robot respond every single time. He will be a fun companion for the younger ones out there, as he teaches them to save their pocket money. It is all about delayed gratification, boys and girls! No nuclear reactor is required to run this coin bank, all the Robi Ohanashi Bank Talking Money Box needs are a pair of AAA batteries.
[ Robi Ohanashi Bank Talking Money Box lets the little ones start young copyright by Coolest Gadgets ]