Charles Senteio

Monday, February 27, 2006

Guantanamo Medicine

This morning I read a story detailing accusations that doctors at Guantanamo Bay were taking part in practices that violated medical ethics. It seems as if they’re force feeding prisoners with nasal tubes to get them to eat.

The military prison in Guantanamo Bay has always struck me as kinda strange. Sure Jack made it sound real exciting to be around it in A Few Good Men but in our ‘post-9/11 world’ the prison has taken on another image for me personally.

Since 9/11 the US has been holding about 500 ‘suspects’ there, many of whom have not been charged.

The concept of ‘holding’ some of the most serious individual threats to our national security in another country seems more than a bit weird. Even more curious is that other country is Cuba, where we’ve had relationships that have been strained to say the least over the past 50 years or so. I’m guessing that it is much easier to hold people for long periods of time people without charging them in Cuba than say Kentucky.

Last week I saw a pretty pissed off Rumsfeld on TV blasting the UN and Kofi Anan for calling for the US to shut down the military prison. Here’s one of the many articles on the web on this outburst, it made for good TV as he looked close to loosin’ it. He was mad because Kofi had never been to Guantanamo to see the place for himself. Surely Kofi wouldn’t make a strong statement about a facility he’d never been to but had access to.

I googled Rumsfeld UN Guantanamo and most of the stories were about how Rumsfeld has blocked UN access to Guantanamo. (Try it). Strange that my man Rummy would be so upset when he didn’t seem to want the UN there in the first place.

Apparently they’ve worked out their differences because earlier this month a UN human rights team visited the prison and said the treatment they observed there “amounted to torture”. The Defense Department denied this, saying they were just trying to keep the suspects alive. Recently hunger strikers at Guantanamo had been tied down in “restraint chairs” for forced feeding sessions (ouch).

This may have some gray area for me, if you’re trying to kill yourself by not eating then I think it’s OK to force someone to eat. In my mind this is akin to forcibly removing a loaded gun from someone’s head. Suicide by starvation seems weird to me and I’d never really heard of this, there seems to be much more efficient and less painful ways to go. Plus the motivation and patience it would take to starve yourself to death seems so much more difficult than continuing to live, this was eating at me so I did some digging.

As I suspected suicide by starvation is VERY rare, I can’t seem to even find it as a category of suicide techniques, and further the Supreme Court has ruled that the State can in fact intervene in cases of a conscious decision to starve to death:

As a general matter, the States--indeed, all civilized nations--demonstrate their commitment to life by treating homicide as a serious crime. Moreover, the majority of States in this country have laws imposing criminal penalties on one who assists another to commit suicide. We do not think a State is required to remain neutral in the face of an informed and voluntary decision by a physically able adult to starve to death.

So I think I’m cool with forced feeding tubes if someone is trying to kill him/herself. However the UN team found that the hunger strikers were NOT trying to kill themselves but were protesting conditions there.
Capt. John Edmondson, the Chief Medical Officer at Guantanamo has already stated that the detainees’ motivation was to protest their confinement rather than to kill themselves. He justified force feeding as “providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment.” Somehow ‘voluntary’ and ‘restraint chairs’ seems to not go together in my mind.

What do doctors say?
So what does a doctor do when a patient is refusing to eat? The key question to ask would be, “Why?” Here are the guidelines from the American Medical Association on force feeding,

When a patient is capable of forming an unimpaired or rational judgment concerning the consequences of refusing nourishment, a physician should respect such a refusal.

Seems clear to me and this makes sense personally.

History is littered with successful examples of civil disobedience, whether in the form of sit-ins, marches, boycotts, and yes hunger strikes. All can be very useful in effecting change.

Why should we deny this right of anyone?

I wonder how much backlash we’re getting globally for our actions. I’m all for locking up suspected terrorists however I am troubled by examples where our hypocrisy in our role as shepards of human rights can cause extreme backlash.

I fondly recall conversations with Western Europeans just after 9/11. At the time I was working in southern France on a multi-national team, in fact I took the last AA flight from Dallas to Paris on 9/10/2001, and I had to opportunity to discuss with them this horrific event. An easy way to start a provocative discussion was to ask,

Why do they hate us so?

The question of why some hate us is still very relevant, could stuff like this be part of the answer?

Monday, February 20, 2006

"No Child" Leaves Us All Behind

The US spends more per high school student than any other industrialized country

Bush’s 2001 “No Child Left Behind” policy was inspired by some bleak numbers:
− Nationally two-thirds of all teenagers graduate from high school
− 50 % of Black and Hispanic teens graduate from high school

Who’s Benefiting, Who Isn’t
The policy was meant to introduce national standards to an education system that was failing large portions of our children. A recent Harvard study, which was produced by their Civil Rights Project, finds the Bush “No Child” policy has in many cases benefited white middle-class children over blacks and other minorities in poorer regions. The study found that political compromises between some states and the federal government have enabled schools in predominately white districts to escape penalties faced by regions with larger ethnic minority populations.

The Effect
The policy has allowed many states to negotiate treaties and bargains to reduce the number of schools and districts identified as failing.

"There's a very uneven effect. There are no clear uniform standards that are governing No Child Left Behind. If one state gets one thing, another state can do something else.”
-- Gail Sunderman, the study's lead author

The law states children in poorly performing schools can switch schools if space is available and in extreme cases, schools can be closed. But a surge in the number of schools identified as "needing improvement," including many considered top performers in their state, has stirred opposition to the law nationwide -- from a legal challenge in Connecticut to a rebellion by state legislators in staunchly Republican Utah.

The Fallout
Forty-nine states have taken some action to amend the law or been granted waivers to provisions in No Child Left Behind, the study said.
"The problem with this approach is that it does not affect all schools equally,"
said Sunderman.
"No two states are now subject to the same requirements. The policy is essentially a product of negotiation, of power and discretion, not law."
- Gary Orfield, director of Harvard's Civil Rights Project

What’s Being Done about It?
Last Tuesday a bipartisan commission was announced in Washington to take a “hard, independent look” at the law’s problems and promises, and then make recommendations to Congress before the law’s expected renewal in 2007.

Chad Colby, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, called the Harvard study "misinformed" and "flawed".
"We leave it up to the states to determine how they are going to get there. It's exactly the opposite of one-size-fits-all."

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has said the law works, citing data showing reading scores for 9-year-olds up more over the last five years than between 1971 and 1999, though some dispute whether this reflects the policy. Spelling has said states critical of the law simply fear the results.

This news hit the press with barely a whimper last week, I wonder what more important news will be dominating our headlines in 2007 when the law is up for renewal.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Suspending Judgement

Yesterday morning I visited the Dallas County Jail, an activity I’ve made a part of my routine for about 10 months now. On Super Bowl Sunday a very good friend asked me why I do this. It’s a good question I pondered for much of the week. She indicated she tries to only hang out with people who ‘share her values’.

Can convicts share my values?

I ran across the passage below at Smokey John’s, an every Thursday transition dinner I’ve gotten in the habit of attending, I think it goes a long way towards answering the question. I read it to the group on Saturday morning at the jail, it seemed to resonate. One of the fellas, whom I've been seeing there for the past several months, just got his sentence. Life for capital murder which means about 40 years... minimum. He seemed full of faith and hope that he'll use this time wisely.

Why do I go into prison?

Around the World Prisons Hold God's Treasures - by Bill Yount

It was late and I was tired, wanting to go to sleep, but God wanted to talk; It was about midnight, but it dawned on me that God does not sleep. His question made me restless. "Bill, where on earth does man keep his most priceless treasures and valuables?" I said, "Lord, usually these treasures like gold, silver, diamonds and precious jewels are kept locked up somewhere out of sight with usually guards and security to keep them under lock and key." God spoke. Like man, My most valuable treasures on earth are also locked up."

I then saw Jesus standing in front of seemingly thousands of prisons and jails. The Lord said, "These have almost been destroyed by the enemy, but these ones have the greatest potential to be used and to bring forth glory to my name. Tell MY people, I am going this hour to the prisons to activate the gifts and callings that lie dormant in these lives that were given before the foundation of the earth. Out from these walls will come forth an Army of spiritual giants who will have power to literally kick down the gates of Hell and overcome satanic powers that are holding many of My own people bound in My own house.

Tell my people that great treasure is behind these walls in these forgotten vessels. My people must come forth and touch these ones, for a mighty anointing will be unleashed upon these for future victory in My kingdom. THEY MUST BE RESTORED." I then saw the Lord step up to the prison doors with a key. One key fit every lock and the gates began to open. I then heard and saw great explosions which sounded like dynamite going off behind the walls. It sounded like all-out spiritual warfare. Jesus turned and said, "Tell My people to go in now and pick up the spoil and rescue these." Jesus then began walking in and touching inmates who were thronging Him. Many being touched instantly began to have a golden glow come over them. God spoke to me, "THERE'S THE GOLD!" Others had a silver glow around them. God said, "THERE'S THE SILVER!"

Like slow motion they began to grow into what appeared to be giant knights in armor-like warriors. They had on the entire armor of God and every piece was solid and pure gold! Even golden shields! When I saw the golden shields, I heard God say to these warriors: "Now go and take what Satan has taught you and use it against him. Go and pull down the strongholds coming against MY church." The spiritual giants then started stepping over the prison walls with no one to resist them, and they went immediately to the very front line of the battle with the enemy. I saw them walk right past the church as big-name ministers known for their power with God were surpassed by the giant warriors like David going after Goliath! They crossed the enemy's line and started delivering many of God's people from the clutches of Satan while demons trembled and fled out of sight at their presence.

No one, not even the church, seemed to know who these spiritual giants were or where they came from. All you could see was the armor, the golden armor of God, from head to foot, and the shields of gold were there. The shields were restored to God's House and there was great victory and rejoicing. I also saw silver, precious treasures, and vessels being brought in. Beneath the gold and silver were the people that nobody knew: REJECTS OF SOCIETY, STREET PEOPLE, THE OUTCASTS, THE POOR and the DESPISED. These were the treasures that were missing from His House. In closing the Lord said, "If my people want to know where they are needed, tell them they are needed in the STREETS, the HOSPITALS, the MISSIONS, and PRISONS. When they come there they will find Me and the next move of my Spirit and they will be judged by My Word in Matthew 25:42.
For I was hungry and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty and you gave me no drink: I was a stranger and you took me not in: naked and you clothes me not: Sick and in prison and you visited me not."

Why do I go into prison?.... Why would I not?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Accepted Segregation

Today I was checking out this latest rash of church fires in Alabama and immediately I wondered whether these were Black or White churches. Of course I hoped they weren’t Black churches but I speculated that they probably were.
Why would someone in Alabama want to burn a White church?

Burning up black churches made much more sense, plus there is plenty of precedent.
As I was checking out it occurred to me, isn’t it interesting that I would accept as a given that churches have, are, and always will be segregated?

A few months back my buddy Jim Walton shared with me Divided Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America and I read with interest this country’s history of segregation in church. It’s still alive and well. Of course anyone who has stepped foot in a church service in the country would realize how segregated we are.

Black folks worship with Black folks and White folks worship with White folks.

I am not necessarily across the board for integration, in some areas it has done far more damage to the Black community than it has good, but I wonder why this doesn’t produce more “Why” questions from me… Large urban public schools, barber shops, and churches are some of the most common, segregated areas in our society. Is this bad? I went to elementary school in a predominately white school. I’ve never been in a white barbershop, at least not in this country, and I’m not particularly interested going in one. I was raised in a predominately white Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut. I found church boring and most of the teachings simply didn’t make sense to me. Given a choice I’d rather attend a Black church because I feel more comfortable there. Outside of my aunt’s funeral last year and visiting my cousin in a Roman Catholic monastery I haven’t attended a church service in a White church in 20+ years, and I don’t plan on it. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) it is not hard to make the distinction.

I sure do hope they’re not burning Black churches.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Where did Coretta Die?

Coretta Scott King died this week. She was 78, had suffered a stroke and had ovarian cancer. People with this profile die, no surprises there, but the fact that she died in a Mexican alternative care facility seemed curious to me. I’ve done some digging but haven’t found answers to questions I haven’t really formulated. I have found some facts.

She died in Mexico at the Santa Monica Health Institute, a 30 bed ‘facility’ 16 miles south of San Diego.
Hmm… why would Coretta Scott King want to go to Mexico to die?

According to their website
, still up as of this morning and I can’t imagine they’ll be up for long, they are the “The largest wholistic, alternative medicine hospital in North America.“
Is “wholistic” a word?

Mexican health officials shut down the hospital Thursday, saying the alternative clinic in the resort of Rosarito Beach did not have proper authorization. They were conducting surgeries, X-ray procedures and internal medicine without appropriate authorization. Other problems found by inspectors Thursday included unconventional treatments and the discovery of unknown substances at the hospital.
'unknown substances’??? I wonder what they are, guess that’s why they’re ‘unknown’.

She checked in on January 26th as Ruth Green, with her daughter Bernice, and most of the staff didn’t know who she was.
They didn’t know who she was until her medical records arrived. I wonder why she wanted to go there?

She was real sick when she arrived. She was partially paralyzed from a stroke and heart attack and suffered from complications from ovarian cancer. Seems as if the tumor was blocking her intestines and she couldn’t move or keep down food. Not real good.
The hospital, in cooperation with Mexican immigration officials, was given three days to arrange for the return of all patients to their home countries. All 20 patients at the hospital on Thursday were foreigners.
Hmmm….. so a facility in Mexico has a patient load 100% of whom are foreigners.

It just seems like a strange place for the ‘mother of the civil rights movement’ to die. I’m sure her husband didn’t want to die on a balcony in Memphis but he seemed to not have as much of a choice as Coretta would appear to have had.

I wouldn’t want my mother there.