Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday's response

Biology prof a deer in media headlights
Ted Vaden, Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, Albert Harris was a respected professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who labored in obscurity teaching biology to pre-med students. By most accounts, he did a pretty good job.
Then he wandered into the klieg light of media coverage, and his life hasn't been the same. His e-mail box is full of messages damning, some threatening, the 64-year-old prof. People are calling for him to be fired, and he says wealthy alumni are making unhappy noises to the university.

Harris' sin was to suggest to his embryology class on Feb. 11 that fetuses with Down syndrome should be aborted. At least one student was offended, a right-to-life organization swung into action, and the next thing he knew, Harris was the archetype for all arrogant professors jamming immorality into the impressionable minds of their captive classroom audiences.

The News & Observer wrote about Harris on Feb. 16, in a story headlined "Abortion remark angers students." It quoted Harris' lecture notes (posted on his class Web site) saying, "In my opinion, the moral thing for older mothers to do is to have amniocentesis, as soon during pregnancy as is safe for the fetus, test whether placental cells have a third chromosome #21 and abort the fetus if it does." The extra chromosome is associated with Down syndrome.

The reaction was swift and angry. The N&O invited readers to discuss the topic on a Web site forum, and more than 1,200 visited the site (compared with 135 on Castro's resignation). Comments accuse the professor of playing God and of promoting eugenics. "One has to wonder which chromosome was missing in Professor Albert Harris when he was born," said one commenter. "Perhaps it was the one called 'compassion.' For a tenured university professor to inject his liberal eugenic social philosophy in a class on embryology is unconscionable."

Many comments were from parents of Down syndrome children, understandably upset at the suggestion that their children shouldn't have been born.

Predictably, the story was picked up and distributed nationally by The Associated Press, and it spread to television, talk radio and the Internet. Harris told me he spent 14 hours replying to e-mails the Monday after the story appeared. He said the response was "massive, obscene, 'you should have been aborted,' demanding that I be dismissed." Harris is worried about his career, even though he's tenured. But he also said he was more concerned about the damage to the university than to him personally.

(Steve Matson, chair of the Biology Department, said there would be no sanctions. "I met with the (complaining) student this morning, and from her perspective and from my perspective, the issue has been resolved," he said Friday.)

Harris and his defenders contend that the coverage was unfair -- that his comment was taken out of context and that the N&O story gave disproportionate attention to a few -- one student out of a class of more than 100 complained. "I sat through that lecture and know that this reporter has not adequately represented the facts in this article," one student wrote in the comment forum.

Harris said that he has made similar remarks in his classes over 35 years and that the opinion is just that -- opinion -- offered not as doctrine but to stimulate discussion about moral issues related to embryology. He said he worries that his educational intention is set back by the publicity. "Somebody may agree with the extreme position attributed to me, when the whole purpose was to have a class discussion and have different points of view," he said.

Mark Schultz, the N&O editor who handled the story, defends the fairness of the coverage. He held the story for an extra day to allow it to be more fully reported, consulted with the paper's higher-education reporter for input and solicited comment from people who supported Harris. The story included quotes from three students in the class who did not find the comments inappropriate. It also included Harris' explanation that his purpose was to stimulate debate and quoted him as saying he wouldn't choose abortion if he and his wife faced that situation.

Schultz said he sometimes loses sleep worrying about whether a story has been fair, but not this one. "I feel great about the story," Schultz said. "We gave it extra time. We tried to get extra views. We had a lot of people supporting what he said as well as people who were offended."

I agree that the paper went to extra lengths to treat Harris fairly. There also was a sidebar by the N&O medical writer discussing prenatal testing for Down syndrome and pointing out that 90 percent of couples who get positive test results for Down syndrome end the pregnancies.

And yet ... I still have a nagging uneasiness about this story. It is a piece about a single remark in a lengthy lecture that, the professor says, was intended for discussion, not indoctrination. I have qualms about the headline "Abortion remark angers students," when only one student complained. Sam Spies, the reporter, said he found only one student in the class who objected to the comment, although at least one other has since voiced concern. On the first page of the article, the story reported only the offending quote and the criticism, saving explanation from Harris and his defenders for the "jump" page inside the paper.

And I'm concerned that perhaps the paper was manipulated by an interest group with an agenda. The N&O learned about the flap from a news release from Carolina Students for Life, a pro-life group on campus. It said, "This latest account follows several reports of professors intimidating students or teaching personal opinions as course curricula" -- which suggests to me a separate agenda. The story didn't tell us about the pro-life group's role, which it should have.

Harris made an insensitive remark. I sympathize with the offended student, who has a brother with Down syndrome, and with families upset by the comment.

But the statement was ill-considered, not ill-intentioned, and I don't think Harris deserves the national condemnation that has befallen him. (Where, I wonder, are fellow faculty and administrators standing up for academic freedom?)

I have doubts whether the story should have run at all, given its provenance. But if it had to -- can we ignore a news release? -- I'd like to have seen better context, higher in the story, that would have given readers a more nuanced understanding of a professor just trying to teach.

and my letter to the editor of this story:


Thanks for the entire article...I was one emailing the university, AND the professor.
I am a parent advocate, and an online counselor of parents receiving the news that
the baby they are anticipating has a duplication in the 21st chromosome.

What the professor probably didn't realize is that now he is now the face of EVERY
misinformed doctor and geneticist out there. Generally, when the amnio is read,
the physician apologizes, and then schedules a quick D&C.

To receive the news is devastating, and parents need a chance to THINK...
they are rarely given that chance. The lucky ones get online to get educated,
and hopefully run into us...a host of parents that have discovered
that DS is not debilitating...but that my child is just like the 3 that proceeded her.

She has the same quick wit and orneriness....she's smart...she's eager to learn and
desperate to please. She works hard, and again not unlike her older typical
sibs, does have some tendencies that can be frustrating, and that we work with.

If you think doctors have a 'God complex' then you should talk to geneticists...there
is no complex in their eyes, the ARE God...and they do not believe that children like
ours need to survive. We work hard to dispel their opinions, but the thought that
it is being TAUGHT to future physicians is the proverbial straw that broke the
camel's back.

There is probably no need of me expounding on the wonder that is my youngest
daughter....unless you are personally involved, you'll never understand....
but you should be able to understand the fierceness in which parents defend their children.

He opened that fierceness in all of us.

It is the consensus of most physicians that the babies with T-21 be aborted. There is less than 10% of the children conceived that even MAKE it to birth! That is an outrageous fact. There is still no way to determine how many are therapeutic abortions.....but it makes each and every live birth of these children a miracle in itself.

My apologies to the professor who opened this can of worms, he carries on his shoulders every horrible thing a doctor has ever said to an expectant parent....

Maybe those doctors will read this and will understand compassion, education, and the worth of every life on this earth. It is exactly in this time on earth that our children need to survive. They teach lessons in love and diversity that the world needs to learn.

Thank you again for bringing this story to light. It needs to be needs to be discussed, and the general public needs to know.

We hope for the day that the word "retard" ceases to
be a funny adjective for something people find ridiculous, and falls into the 'hate word' category it so deserves to be in.

FYI, we speak in 'people first' she is not a down syndrome child...she is my daughter. She has brown hair, sparkling eyes, wicked humor, and yes, she happens also to have down syndrome. It is PART of who she is, it is not WHO she is.

We say, a child with down syndrome....or Parents of children with
down syndrome.

Thank you for your time in this matter,

Eileen Wilson
West Plains, Missouri.

The soapbox is on fire this week!

the news report:

the NDSC response:

Atlanta, GA -- February 22, 2008 -- According to a Raleigh News and Observer report and articles in a number of other journals, biology professor Albert Harris of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has stated, "In my opinion, the moral thing for older mothers to do is to have amniocentesis, as soon during pregnancy as is safe for the fetus, test whether placental cells have a third chromosome 21, and abort the fetus if it does,"

While Professor Harris qualified his statement as his "opinion" the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) finds the professor has violated basic academic standards by expressing an opinion based on personal, anecdotal experience in a classroom setting.

Reports suggest that Harris did so to spark discussion and debate. The NDSC would welcome that; however, we find Harris adds nothing to a debate which has been ongoing for sometime. He cites the fact that his opinion is based on the experience of one acquaintance whose life was, according to him, "ruined' by a child with Down syndrome. Instead of basing his opinion on facts, his own research or a clear understanding of the key points underpinning the debate, Harris has inserted his personal and quite obviously prejudicial opinion into an academic forum. In doing so, he has abused his responsibility to his students, colleagues and university. He has also inflicted unnecessary pain on people with Down syndrome and their families.

Down syndrome is the most common naturally occurring cause of developmental delay. Occurring once in every 800 to 1000 live births, the syndrome affects approximately 350,000 Americans. Down syndrome impacts people across an extremely wide range, however it is rare for it to be, in fact, ruinous by any definition.

The contrary is more often the case. NDSC Executive Director David Tolleson notes, "We are in constant contact with a large, vigorous national and international community of people with Down syndrome, their families and the professionals who support them. Additionally, published academic studies have found that most people with a family member with Down syndrome consider the experience to be a positive one." Far from ruining lives, our families consistently report that their sons, daughters or siblings with Down syndrome enhance their lives and bring them great joy. A quick scan of the internet will produce many examples of people with Down syndrome who are embraced and valued by their families and communities. In the post secondary world, people with Down syndrome increasingly attend college and take their places as loyal, productive and valued employees.

We question how any of that can be termed "ruinous."

We therefore ask Professor Harris to retract his statement. In doing so, we also request that the professor make an appropriate apology to his students, explain clearly that his statement was a personal opinion and has no scientific basis and make every effort to convey to them current, accurate facts regarding Down syndrome. Should Professor Harris decline to do so, we call upon the University of North Carolina to investigate this incident and take appropriate disciplinary action.

and i TRIED not to be too hateful, but my response via email to Harris:

I am so sorry that you've had a bad experience with someone close to you whose child had Trisomy 21.

It definitely is the the exception to the rule, and after reading your Hitler-like opinion, I do hope you take a second and broaden your mind by listening to the opposing argument. You might want to start by reading "Expecting Adam" written by a HARVARD PHD, Martha Beck, who like me, DID have an amnio, and DID decide to enhance the world by bringing her child to term.

I know it's difficult in the academic world, to imagine a brain not in the genius level, but trust me, there is a whole world out there that operates just fine at other levels. In fact, our country would cease to exist should we lose the diversity that founded it.

There is no need to target an entire group of people for mass genocide to improve the nation. Using that logic it would follow that if we were to abort every fetus who had the possibility of a HIGHER I.Q., we would have saved ourselves the history of Ted Bundy and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. In fact, continuing to use your logic, maybe it would be safer for us just to gather up all the 'Teds' in the nation and kill them! Are you understanding the irony?

This is a quote that I like

""Respectful support begins with the recognition that individuals with disabilities are not abnormal or deficient but, instead, reflect the normal diversity of the human community"

Our children ARE part of this world, and DO reflect the natural order of the world. They definitely give back, more than they take, and if you would take the time to research ALL of them, instead of basing your opinion on a few, you would improve yourself as a lecturer that is PAID TO EDUCATE, not paid to teach hate, not paid to instruct in the benefits of a SUPERIOR RACE.

We, as parents of children with special needs, will be contacting your Dean with OUR opinions, with the same force that the US liberated
Germany when they were under rule of a tyrant, who also shared your opinion.

Eileen Wilson
West Plains, MO

Parent of children that range from genius to special needs, and who has EXPERIENCED the necessity for ALL of them to be in our world.
oh yes...the professor's email addy is:

and the chancellor's

If this man choses to teach, than that's fine, he does NOT need to be 'teaching' in this manner AT A STATE FUNDED UNIVERSITY! If his intention was to spark a debate (which is really unnecessary in a science class) then there would have BEEN a debate...he's expressed the opinion before. There is no discussion, he JUST TEACHES HIS OPINION! that is NOT a DEBATE...that is NOT EDUCATION!

I hope you join me, as parents, in voicing our opinions. We are TRYING to teach the next generation of the preciousness of our children....If these students go on to be physicians, we will be stuck in the mentality that afflicts us today

Sunday, February 17, 2008



The balance of life...Miles Levin spoke of it as he journaled his life-trip through cancer. There are highs and lows of life...and your job is to find the balance, and make a life within that balance. Hopefully a happy life.

His mom is closing his webpage down this month. If you want to read some awesome writing, and an amazing guide to life... you might want to take the time to read his page his carepage name is levinstory.


School is OPEN! between the strep and the snow and then the 'little angel' has only been to school 1 or 2 days a week in the last month!! We all ache for the routine... that rut everyone else is trying to climb out of is welcomed in my home.

We are moving from the wintery weather, into the wet,muddy,sloppy weather which will continue to keep us penned up. We wait impatiently for Spring.

We tried warm cream of wheat cereal one cold morning...and i had to laugh as Molly walked from her little breakfast table to the kitchen....holding a spoonful ahead of her, and muttering "yuck, yuck, yuck" In a display of disapproval, the offending spoon was cast into the kitchen sink. She may not verbalize many words, but there is no denying her opinions.

A whirlwind trip to Springfield to check on the baby bump. Some presents for the baby..and they had presents for GRANNY! Too quick though, as we had to hightail it, just beating an impending storm, and they had to work. A 'drive-by' visit so to speak...but i'll take any second available to bask in the warmth of my children. Her name will be Aubrey J.



It again attacks one close to my heart, I can't even move out of the 'denial' phase, though it is time for me to do so.

I just avoid it. It's too painful. I even see myself pulling out of my own comfort zone, because there-in lies the others that are suffering in the havoc the beast has caused. Everytime I attempt to address it, I am mauled by angry i'll just sit quietly and pray....stymied by the Beast.

There are a few things i have learned by walking this path with so many of you, and let me thank you again, for sharing your stories and preparing me for the impending hell-storm.

I know cancer is the ultimate in politically correct diseases. It knows no socioeconomic boundries...plays no race card...has no religion...

It attacks randomly and viciously and it attacks often. It attacks little, innocent attacks good families who have tried to rebuild their lives after already losing one cares not for dues already paid.

There is not enough money to cure it, although presidential hopefuls can raise and spend billions on the 'dance' that leads up to elections...and proctor and gamble can announce that they've invested millions and 9 years into identifying the fungus that causes dandruff....we still are lightyears away from identifying the cause of the Beast.

More possible cures lie in a grave of political disputes (stem cells) and while they argue to no conclusions, the beast gains strength daily. It feeds off of that indecision.

It's scary enough to be shunned by the untouched much easier to flip the channel and pretend that St Judes doesn't exist, than to allow your mind to touch on the fact that this could happen to you.

Supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor.

One of many that attack the brains and bodies of that is not one, but many in itself. One that not only attacked little bennie and his family this week, but in doing so, attacked all that love them.

Now...someone please help me find the balance.


Monday, February 11, 2008

"Nothing's Gonna Change my World"

free to good home..2 dogs, 1 cat, and ONE SKUNK!
We're iced in...EEK! this is NOT FUN ANYMORE! i almost walked the 10 miles into work!

I do have a few rental movies, including 'across the universe' the new beatles song operetta, which i've tried to watch 5 times but still am only about 1/2 way thru...(nother story)

So i set molly up with some stuff to do, and bend down to put in the DVD. Of course, i notice a bunch of dust on the glass shelves, and some stuff thrown behind the big screen....the opening song of the movie has now played 15 times...'nothing's gonna change my world...nothing's going to change my world'

I dust...and then pull the TV out to get all the stuff she lobs back there...evidently it's stuff she doesn't want to partake medicine droppers, toothbrushes, alphabet cards and panties.

The sarge comes out and asks where the dogs are. This would usually be one of those redundant questions...except for the fact that little bill had brought the SHITzu home this weekend, and evidently THAT little hairball showed the big dogs how to crawl under the gate and escape.

Normally 80 and 90 pound dogs would not be able to slip out under the gate...unless, of course, they push REAL HARD (in the tone of judy tunuda) and BROKE THE GATE!

Yesterday, they escaped that way and we still do not know how long they ran and what neighbors they terrorized,but so far no phone we're keeping a close eye on the escape artists and have the rigged gate which needs a total rehaul now. Yes, we could actually FIX IT...IF WE COULD GET TO THE LUMBER STORE!!

did i mentioned we were iced in??????

Anyway...we let the dogs in and i tell Larry to grab the crap from under the chaise (more of molly's hidden treasures) while i lift.

"Nothing's gonna change my world"

As soon as i clean and jerk the heaviest piece of furniture known to man...the cat and molly both run under to check it out, while somehow silently instructing one of the dogs to stick his cold nose...well...somewhere that causes ME to start yelping...

I drop the chaise...turn to kick at the offending dog nose, but miss as he has already assumed the "combat-crawling-oh-i-screwed-up-big" slither out of the living room...i think i may have pulled a hammy.

I then proceed to give the sarge the DON'T ASK ME WHY NOTHING IS EVER DONE AROUND HERE!! speech....he starts to laugh, but changes his mind.

Did i mention we were iced in? I'm going full goose bozo...and wait...look, Larry has assumed the same position the afore mentioned dog did and is just getting out of my way!

So, i resettle molly...pick up the rest of her crap, and proceed to dust the back of the TV before pushing it back into viewing position. I can imagine finally getting to push PLAY...when i hear a very odd noise...

could be a siren...kind of bee-eee-eeeping... or maybe sounds like it could be...i dunno, and holler at the sarge to listen, too.

It kind of sounds like a cat...OMG THE CAT!!!!

I run around the house opening closet doors...looking in toyboxes...and answer the sarges' question...'did he go outside?" (he's opening the back door again and calling for the kitty kitty kitty)

"no...the last time i saw him is when we lifted the....OH SHIT!!"

sure larry's doing the cleanNjerk of the chaise....and there is my flat cat. under the 100 pound couch which only clears the floor by an inch!

He seems fine, if you can count EXTREMELY KITTY-PISSED fine.

AT least while i'm relating today's activities to you, molly is playing quietly behind me with her toys....wanna see?


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Life! The emotional Rollercoaster!

what a WEEK! and I haven't made it to friday!

I have a day off and it was chilly this morning..

all i wanted was my pink fuzzy slippers, and my robe...what did i get?

The splits!! The splits happened as my first foot outta bed found the dora-magna-doodle, which sent me into the dreaded gymnasitc maneuver! (ow)
I did manage to find one slipper...and then the other bare foot found a well placed lego!!

I get up before everyone else...even on my day off...and didn't want the added joy of giving up my 'mommy alone time' cuz i yelled the rest of the family into my pain imploded only on the INSIDE of my ears!

Seems like a fitting start to another crazy day in another crazy week...lets see, where were we...AHHHHHHH yes, our one day of good snow...then?
The tornadoes came...of course, because in missouri after the snow comes, immediatly comes balmy, hawaain temperatures...these two climates clash...and voila~ TORNADOES!

While the rest of you were basking in snow, we got pounded with the storms...Like a fool, i was driving right into it trying to get home before it hit.
BIG MISTAKE, and not one that will happen again soon. It came upon us alot faster than we expected and i ended up meeting my family, in the neighbor-on-the-hiway's BASEMENT! (so glad he was there with the garage door open, as i don't think i WOULD have made it home!)

The sarge must have got a little freaked by the speed in which it came also, as he was there, holding my little angel/skunk, and she was wearing NOTHING but sweatpants and a blanket! It takes alot to freak him out...and i could tell she was worried, but much better after she was allowed to dump my bag and put on all the makeup she wanted!

We were relieved that storm petered out and veered off on it's platable northeasterly way...but were saddened to see the devistation that it did to our southern neighbors the next morning. I'm bettin it won't take too much talking to get the walkout basement poured, and plans going on my new house!

Then my friend, amy...who has been arguing with docs for the last few months over symptoms that HER little boy (adopted from Korea) has been having, finally had enough and took him to Childrens in LA.

He had surgery immediately after arrival.. to remove a large tumor in his little brain.

Talk about mixed emotions!
SAD over the diagnosis..
and scared to death of his future diagnosises!

Amy lost her only little girl angel (with DS) to a heart defect when baby was just 18 months old...and instead of hiding away from 'that world' ended up endearing herself to us more...and staying close via the web. She is one of the few i will haul myself onto a plane to go visit!

A cancer diagosis in THIS little one is more than one family should have to endure. NOT FAIR (add indignatation to the list of experienced emotions)
Typically being the upbeat woman she is, she let us all know that her baby was sharing a hospital with Britney Spears! That girl can see the silver lining/humerous side to ANY situation! (one of the many reasons we love her)

I got a pic (new ultrasound)_ of my new grandbaby...SHE'S A GIRL!! and Aubrey is HER name! ELATION! she's already beautiful! Gabe is having a moment to "accept that my baby boy has a vagina"

he makes me smile.

Molly Kate is on round 3 of antibi's....first an ear infection...then a sinus infection..and now bronchitis and strep throat! EEK! more time off of school...more medicine...and new worries about getting her health back up to par before we see the pneumonia move in. This is the way it sneaks into our lives every winter....and im VERY worried about that! Humidifiers and Nebulizers adorn the master bedroom....and she hates the meds so much, that daddy has to use some of the 'trooper moves' on her to immobilize her enough for us to get them into her mouth!

Getting them down her throat is another trip in itself.

She is still in good spirits, and amusing us with her new found words...
which she used to only direct at her dogs...

I hear the teachers are not finding it as funny. "hut up" seems to be a dual when she was needing me to step it up a bit this week...she told ME to 'hut up!' (shut up/hurry up)

Beings she learns these things from her father, and certainly NOT from ME! he's in trouble....He's in trouble cuz she's not saying 'i love you' ....which would be the best valentine's day present i could ever wish for!

I had to laughed as she came home from school today...

she runs in the house...IMMEDIATELY disrobes..runs over and shakes her pony tail at me ('take my hair down" is another phrase we are working on...but JEEZ MOM! DONTCHA UNDERSTAND THE HEAD SHAKING???)
Words are such a waste of time to her.

Then she gets a popsicle and fires up the dvd of choice (sponge-bob, dora, little bear, or charlie brown) She sits and relaxes and looks satisfied that she's made it through another day....kinda the way I look when i get home from work!

Gabe and Ally are struggling to make the move from one apartment to another, from college kids to parents, and from singles to commited relationshippers.
They are doing very well and I'm extremely proud of them...both are still working hard and BOTH are still attending classes!! I found a little onsie today, that we bought for molly, when she was a is college colored, and has the college logo on it. Some things are going to be fun to pass down....

Little Bill is coming home this weekend, Larry has a class in Winona on Saturday, work has decided to schedule me for the 'radio meeting' night (which means molly will have to attend the radio meeting)..and the college kids are disappointed that i can't be THERE this weekend...i can't wait for cingular to develop the ability for me to duplicate myself (like in the commercial) so that i can be everywhere, for everyone...but for now i'll try to continue to juggle everything....

and JIGGLING everything!

After 2 weeks of severe dieting and some exercise...I LOST ONE FRIGGIN POUND! (FRUSTRATION!!) I was joking with a girlfriend that my butt seems to be the same size as my computer chair!!! (go figure!)

My advancing age (and it moves in milliseconds after a certain age) and the move from the floor to back behind the pharmacy counter are catching up with me... I know it'll take some serious sweat to work it off...but i WANT to be LAZYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!.

So there is my week of tragedy..elation..anger...satisfaction and fear of the unknown...all mixed in with a few appliance breakdowns (microwave and $tove)

It's also why i hit my knees every chance i get. HEY...lookey what i found WHILE on those knees!


The other slipper! filled with a silver beaded necklace!

Awwwwwwww she left me a present in my slipper...and im SO GLAD it wasn't another LEGO!

Love you guys

*I am thankful that my husband did not make me go shop today, and faked being pleased with spaghetti!*