Secretly Sick Presidents

THE SECRET AILMENTS OF PRESIDENTS

A history of illnesses kept from public

By Joel Achenbach and Lillian Cunningham                                                                                       The Washington Post in Chicago Tribune 9.13.16

In his second term as president, Dwight Eisenhower looked like an old man. He’d had a serious heart attack in 1955, requiring extensive hospitalization. He later suffered a stroke. In contrast, his successor, John F. Kennedy, seemed vibrant and flamboyant.

The reality was that Eisenhower wasn’t really that old — he was just 62 when he was first elected. And Kennedy wasn’t that vigorous and indeed was secretly afflicted by serious medical problems, including Addison’s disease*, that his aides concealed from the public.

In his second term as president, Dwight Eisenhower looked like an old man. He’d had a serious heart attack in 1955, requiring extensive hospitalization. He later suffered a stroke. In contrast, his successor, John F. Kennedy, seemed vibrant and flamboyant.

The reality was that Eisenhower wasn’t really that old — he was just 62 when he was first elected. And Kennedy wasn’t that vigorous and indeed was secretly afflicted by serious medical problems, including Addison’s disease, that his aides concealed from the public.

The history of the presidency includes a running thread of illness and incapacity, much of it hidden from the public out of political calculation. A stroke incapacitated Woodrow Wilson in 1919, for example, but the public had no inkling until many months later. And when Grover Cleveland needed surgery in 1893 to remove a cancerous tumor in his mouth, he did it secretly on a friend’s yacht cruising through Long Island Sound.

Presidential history reveals a more subtle trend: Age isn’t what it used to be. American culture has redefined old age, pushing it back significantly as people live longer and expect to be more active into their eighth or ninth decade or beyond.

Hillary Clinton is 68, and Donald Trump is 70. They’re the oldest pair of major party candidates in history. If elected, Clinton would be the second-oldest person to assume the presidency, after Ronald Reagan. Trump would be the oldest.

Health has suddenly become a preoccupation on the campaign trail in the wake of Clinton’s wobbly episode Sunday when she left a 9/11 service in New York City. The Clinton camp initially called it merely a case of overheating. Late in the day, the campaign revealed that, in fact, she was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. On Monday, a Clinton spokesperson acknowledged that the campaign could have been more forthcoming on Sunday.

Neither candidate has released detailed medical records.

Clinton’s gender gives her an advantage on one respect: Women in the U.S. outlive men by several years. According to the Social Security Administration’s online life expectancy calculator, a woman of Clinton’s age is likely to live an additional 18.4 years. A man of Trump’s age is likely to live an additional 15.2.

Voters will have to determine if the murky health status of Clinton and Trump should be a factor in the November decision. What’s certain is that the campaign trail can be brutal and that the presidency itself can pound away at the health of whoever occupies the Oval Office.

President Cleveland kept his cancer surgery secret in part because cancer at the time was such a dreaded disease. He also didn’t trust reporters or think his medical condition was anyone’s business, Cleveland biographer Matthew Algeo, author of “The President is a Sick Man,” told The Washington Post.

Algeo makes a broader observation: The desire for secrecy led many American presidents to avoid the best doctors. “With presidents, a lot of times they don’t get the best care. You would expect they would, but they’re so paranoid about anyone knowing what’s wrong with them that they employ old family doctors,” Algeo said.

The public had limited information about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s physical condition and the fact that he used a wheelchair. By the time he ran for a fourth term in 1944, he had heart disease, was constantly tired and had trouble concentrating. Frank Lahey, a surgeon who examined Roosevelt, wrote a memo saying FDR would never survive another four-year term. The memo was not disclosed until 2011.

Roosevelt sailed to another victory and died in April 1945, leaving Harry Truman to close out World War II.

Kennedy suffered from Addison’s disease and had to take steroids and other drugs to ward off the symptoms, but he did so secretly. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “During the 1960 campaign, Kennedy’s opponents said he had Addison’s. His physicians released a cleverly worded statement saying that he did not have Addison’s disease caused by tuberculosis, and the matter was dropped.

“Kennedy collapsed twice because of the disease: once at the end of a parade during an election campaign and once on a congressional visit to Britain.”

The history of the presidency includes a running thread of illness and incapacity, much of it hidden from the public out of political calculation. A stroke incapacitated Woodrow Wilson in 1919, for example, but the public had no inkling until many months later. And when Grover Cleveland needed surgery in 1893 to remove a cancerous tumor in his mouth, he did it secretly on a friend’s yacht cruising through Long Island Sound.

Presidential history reveals a more subtle trend: Age isn’t what it used to be. American culture has redefined old age, pushing it back significantly as people live longer and expect to be more active into their eighth or ninth decade or beyond.

Hillary Clinton is 68, and Donald Trump is 70. They’re the oldest pair of major party candidates in history. If elected, Clinton would be the second-oldest person to assume the presidency, after Ronald Reagan. Trump would be the oldest.

Health has suddenly become a preoccupation on the campaign trail in the wake of Clinton’s wobbly episode Sunday when she left a 9/11 service in New York City. The Clinton camp initially called it merely a case of overheating. Late in the day, the campaign revealed that, in fact, she was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. On Monday, a Clinton spokesperson acknowledged that the campaign could have been more forthcoming on Sunday.

Neither candidate has released detailed medical records.

Clinton’s gender gives her an advantage on one respect: Women in the U.S. outlive men by several years. According to the Social Security Administration’s online life expectancy calculator, a woman of Clinton’s age is likely to live an additional 18.4 years. A man of Trump’s age is likely to live an additional 15.2.

Voters will have to determine if the murky health status of Clinton and Trump should be a factor in the November decision. What’s certain is that the campaign trail can be brutal and that the presidency itself can pound away at the health of whoever occupies the Oval Office.

President Cleveland kept his cancer surgery secret in part because cancer at the time was such a dreaded disease. He also didn’t trust reporters or think his medical condition was anyone’s business, Cleveland biographer Matthew Algeo, author of “The President is a Sick Man,” told The Washington Post.

Algeo makes a broader observation: The desire for secrecy led many American presidents to avoid the best doctors. “With presidents, a lot of times they don’t get the best care. You would expect they would, but they’re so paranoid about anyone knowing what’s wrong with them that they employ old family doctors,” Algeo said.

The public had limited information about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s physical condition and the fact that he used a wheelchair. By the time he ran for a fourth term in 1944, he had heart disease, was constantly tired and had trouble concentrating. Frank Lahey, a surgeon who examined Roosevelt, wrote a memo saying FDR would never survive another four-year term. The memo was not disclosed until 2011.

Roosevelt sailed to another victory and died in April 1945, leaving Harry Truman to close out World War II.

Kennedy suffered from Addison’s disease and had to take steroids and other drugs to ward off the symptoms, but he did so secretly. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “During the 1960 campaign, Kennedy’s opponents said he had Addison’s. His physicians released a cleverly worded statement saying that he did not have Addison’s disease caused by tuberculosis, and the matter was dropped.

“Kennedy collapsed twice because of the disease: once at the end of a parade during an election campaign and once on a congressional visit to Britain.”

 * Addison’s disease is a disorder that occurs when your body produces insufficient amounts of certain hormones produced by your adrenal glands. In Addison’s disease, your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol and often insufficient levels of aldosterone as well.  Read more at source.

War Stories 3

 

This post expands on the notes in War Stories I & 2 posted in March, 2015.

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GUARD DUTY  As I walked a post one night, guarding maybe a warehouse or garbage dump, a jeep came slowly onto my post.  I came to attention, held up my hand, and called “halt”.  The jeep rolled too close to me and stopped.  I called, “Dismount one and be recognized”.

A large man got slowly out of the jeep,  started walking toward me, and then ran at me and grabbed my rifle!  I knew I should not give up my weapon.  I knew I could spin it and slam the stock into the lieutenant’s face.   As the the lieutenant chewed me out, I remained sure I should not create an incident that might delay my official escape from  basic training.

 

WEAPONS  The U.S. did not seem to be at war in 1958 when I was soldiering.  The Korean was over, in a way, but the authorities were working up the Viet Nam War, and the U.S., unhappy with election results in Lebanon, launched an air and land attack.
A man I knew broke both legs in the air drop–that’s another story.

Image result for corporal missile photo     Corporal Missile with “erector” designed to pick up, transport, and put in place  the 40′ missile.

There were other missiles in development but our Corporal units  in the field in Germany, supposed prepared to send a nuclear bomb 250 miles.  I don’t remember anything said about radioactive fallout blowing back in our faces.

 

 

 

 

 

GUARD DUTY

Guns in Our Country

When our kids were small, one of the boys disappeared.  We didn’t panic, but did search pretty carefully.  Finally, Joanne learned that he had gone out of the neighborhood to visit a friend in his home.  We got the boy home, and Joanne called the mother to ask that she call if our boy showed up at her house again.  The woman said that we needn’t worry about his being safe because they had a gun in every room of the house.   rjn

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source  The New Yorker   A REPORTER AT LARGE     

MAKING A KILLING

The business and politics of selling guns.

Bars in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia let out at 2a.m. On the morning of January 17, 2010, two groups emerged, looking for taxis. At the corner of Market and Third Street, they started yelling at each other. On one side was Edward DiDonato, who had recently begun work at an insurance company, having graduated from Villanova University, where he was a captain of the lacrosse team. On the other was Gerald Ung, a third-year law student at Temple, who wrote poetry in his spare time and had worked as a technology consultant for Freddie Mac. Both men had grown up in prosperous suburbs: DiDonato in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia; Ung in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Everyone had been drinking, and neither side could subsequently remember how the disagreement started; one of DiDonato’s friends may have kicked in the direction of one of Ung’s friends, and Ung may have mocked someone’s hair. “To this day, I have no idea why this happened,” Joy Keh, a photographer who was one of Ung’s friends at the scene, said later.

The argument moved down the block, and one of DiDonato’s friends, a bartender named Thomas V. Kelly IV, lunged at the other group. He was pushed away before he could throw a punch. He rushed at the group again; this time, Ung pulled from his pocket a .380-calibre semiautomatic pistol, the Kel-Tec P-3AT. Only five inches long and weighing barely half a pound, it was a “carry gun,” a small, lethal pistol designed for “concealed carry,” the growing practice of toting a hidden gun in daily life. Two decades ago, leaving the house with a concealed weapon was strictly controlled or illegal in twenty-two states, and fewer than five million Americans had a permit to do so. Since then, it has become legal in every state, and the number of concealed-carry permit holders has climbed to an estimated 12.8 million.

Ung had obtained a concealed-carry license because he was afraid of street crime. He bought a classic .45-calibre pistol but later switched to the Kel-Tec, which was easier to carry; for a year and a half, he stowed one of the pistols in his pocket or in his backpack. He had never fired it. Now, on the sidewalk, he held the Kel-Tec with outstretched arms. A pedestrian heard him yell, “You’d better not piss me off!” Ung maintains that he said, “Back the fuck up.” DiDonato thought the pistol looked too small to be real; he guessed that it was a BB gun. He spread his arms, stepped forward, and said, “Who are you going to shoot, man?” Ung pulled the trigger. Afterward, he couldn’t recall how many times—he said it felt like a movie, and he was “seeing sparks and hearing pops.”

Ung hit DiDonato six times: in the liver, the lung, the shoulder, the hand, the intestine, and the spine. When DiDonato collapsed, Ung called 911 and said that he had shot a man. On the call, he was recorded pleading, “Why did you make me do it?” DiDonato, in a weak voice, can be heard saying, “Please don’t let me die.” When police arrived, Ung’s first words were “I have a permit.”

More American civilians have died by gunfire in the past decade than all the Americans who were killed in combat in the Second World War. 

Read much more, especially about business and politics of guns, here.

Bear Hunt–“No” Vote

Article is excerpted here.  Read entire article here.

Florida’s growing bear population will be out of the hunting crosshairs for this year.

But a one-year pause may simply help the state build a better case for a hunt in 2017.

After hours of objections from animal-rights advocates and support from hunters, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 4-3 late Wednesday against a staff recommendation to hold a hunt in October that could have been smaller — in terms of permits and hunting grounds — than the 2015 event in which 304 bears were killed over two days.

The commission agreed to accept a recommendation for there to be no hunt this year.

/ / /

The call for the hunt came as the number of bears annually killed by vehicles has steadily increased the past quarter century. There were 243 bears killed by vehicles last year, up from 241 a year earlier. In 1990, the state recorded 33 bears killed by vehicles. In 2000, the number was 109.

/ / /

Over the same time, the number of phone calls to the agency related to bears has grown from 99 in 2000 to 6,094 last year. The 2015 number marked a drop from the 6,688 calls in 2014.

Commission officials have said the decline could be due to ongoing efforts to reduce bear-human interactions, such getting more people to use bear-proof trash containers.

Critics of the hunt said the road-kill and incident numbers are due in large part to humans moving into traditional bear habitat.

 

 

Guns, Concealed Carry, and Care

One of our little boys went missing for part of an afternoon.  Scary.  When he eventually turned up at home, he explained that he’d been playing at a friend’s house–beyond our neighborhood, a friend we didn’t know.

Joanne called the friend’s mother and asked her to call us when our kid was there.  That mother said, “You don’t have to worry.  Our  house is safe.  We have a gun in every room of the house.”  rjn

NPR logo

Image result for photos concealed gun

 

Does Carrying A Pistol Make You Safer?

There is a pistol-packing revolution going on in America. Nearly 13 million Americans have permits to carry concealed handguns — triple the number just nine years ago — and that figure is low because not every state reports.

It’s puzzling that so many Americans are choosing to arm themselves at a time when the FBI tells us violent crime and property crime have been falling dramatically for two decades.

In search of handgun permit holders, I drove out to the Texas Firearms Festival, an outdoor gun extravaganza held near Austin where firearms fanciers get to shoot everything they see.

“If you’re in Paris and you see people coming with AKs into your rock concert, that sucks. But it sucks worse if you’re unarmed,” says festival producer Robert Farago. “I’m not saying that being armed is gonna save your life, but at least you have an effective tool to mount some kind of defense.”

High school counselor Janna Delany, who carries a Ruger LC9, is more concerned about crime than mass shootings.“It’s more just for me personally to give myself a little bit of peace of mind, somebody trying to carjack me or hold me up at a gas station or stopped at a red light or something,” Delany says.

Retired Houston homicide detective Brian Foster has a booth at the festival where he sells “politically incorrect” books.

“Police cannot take care of citizens,” he says. “They react after the fact. I spent many years dealing with cadavers.”

How Does Carrying A Gun Change You?

One thing is certain: Carrying around a loaded weapon and being prepared at a moment’s notice to use deadly force changes how people perceive their environment. Of the 20 handgun carriers I interviewed over several months, most of them say they’re more aware of how people look and how they act.

“I pay attention to different people, weird people, maybe stereotype people,” says Sam Blackburn, a diesel mechanic from Georgetown, Texas, who attended the firearms fest in an NRA cap. He carries a 9 mm Smith & Wesson.

What is he looking for, specifically?

“Gangbanger-looking guys, maybe guys that look like they’re up to no good or somebody that may think they’re a Muslim extremist or something like that,” Blackburn says.

Carrying a 2-pound steel appliance around like a cellphone doesn’t only change the way a person thinks, it changes the way they move.

“It’s exciting. I won’t lie to you. There’s some visceral response that you get from carrying a firearm,” says Doug Miller. He owns a small IT company in Austin and teaches Israeli self-defense classes on the side. “But after about 30 seconds, it becomes, ‘Is this gonna be comfortable when I sit down? It’s digging into my hip because my car has upholstered seats. That’s really not that comfortable.’ ”

What Do Women Think About Guns?

 

Image result for photos concealed gun

A Girl & A Gun is a women’s shooting league that started in Central Texas and has now gone national.

Robyn Sandoval, executive director of A Girl & A Gun, aims a rifle.

Robyn Sandoval, executive director of A Girl & A Gun, aims a rifle.  Courtesy of A Girl and A Gun

Executive Director Robyn Sandoval says carrying a handgun has become an extension of motherhood, a way to protect her children.

“Family situational awareness is a big deal,” she says. “When we go to a restaurant, my 9-year-old [is thinking] who looks suspicious? What are people doing? What’s an anomaly. Let’s point out people in their cars. We make a game of it, of who can find somebody in their car just sitting there.”

The gun girls talk about their firearms differently than men do. Guys speak of them as tools; these women talk about them like pets.

“We name our guns,” Sandoval says, “I have Francesca, Dolly, Gracie. And we talk about ’em like, ‘I’m takin’ Gracie to the mall with us.’

“My small one is my Baby,” says schoolteacher Bettylane Chambliss. “And my dad will say, ‘Do you have your gun with you?’ And I went, ‘Oh, yeah, I got Baby with me. I’m fine.’ ”

When Can You Pull The Trigger?

Despite the pet names, there’s nothing casual about getting a license to carry a pistol.

A gun in the home? The owner may have it primarily for hunting or target-shooting. A concealed gun out in public? It goes with the explicit understanding that the owner may kill someone they feel threatened by.

Michael Cargill, a popular handgun instructor in Austin, had this to say: “You pull that gun out, your life is gonna change.” He’s right.

Of the millions of Americans who get a concealed handgun permit, only a tiny fraction ever use them. Pro-gun folks compare it to a fire extinguisher in the home — you have it just in case.

Image result for photos concealed gun

But what happens when someone actually fires their weapon in self-defense? I met three concealed handgun permit (CPL) holders in Detroit who pulled the trigger.


Life-Changing And Traumatic: Darrell Standberry

“I was parked at the pump right in front of the gas station. I exited my vehicle and before I could even get to the door of the gas station, the young man was already sitting in the driver’s seat of my vehicle,” says Standberry, who just earned a degree in green energy technology. He’d left his Yukon XL running with the key in the ignition.

Darrell Standberry — from Detroit — shot and killed a 19-year-old who tried to steal his car.  Courtesy of Darrell Standberry

He says he told the young man to get out of his car. The young man told him to step back. That’s when Standberry says he saw the carjacker reach toward his pocket.

Standberry unholstered his Sig Sauer .45, reached through the passenger-side window, and fired one shot. He hit the carjacker in the torso. Gravely wounded, the carjacker drove away, crashed into a tree and died. Police found a pistol in his pocket.

“It changed a lot in my life,” he says. “Matter of fact, in my English class, I just did a report on it. I named it, ‘The incident that changed my life forever.’ ”

Standberry went to counseling. He became fearful of gas stations. And he carried the burden of killing a 19-year-old.

“You know why? Because my son was 19 at the same time. It really bothered me that I had to take a 19-year-old’s life. His life was just beginning. But he was into the wrong things. To this day, I still ask God for forgiveness,” he says.


Caught In A Gunfight: Alaina Gonville

Gonville is a mother of three, a big woman who works as a bouncer at a Detroit bar.

Alaina Gonville works as a bouncer in Detroit. Gonville was shot after being approached by robbers outside a grocery store.  Courtesy of Alaina Gonville

Gonville was coming home from work late at night. She’d stopped at a store for a bottle of papaya juice. A scrawny guy walked up, pulled out a pistol and demanded her money. His accomplices were watching from a car behind him. As it happened, Alaina was carrying her pistol openly on her hip.

“I’m assuming they saw my gun. That’s when they opened fire from their vehicle. I heard the gunshots coming at me. That’s when I pulled my gun and returned fire,” she says.

She doesn’t know if she hit them or not. The robber bolted. His henchmen sped out of the parking lot, spraying Gonville and her car with military-grade bullets.

“I got shot with an AK-47, and it basically blew my arm off. It was dangling. I carried it into the hospital. After four surgeries and a lot of prayer it’s healed about 70 percent,” she says.

Did she think that having a handgun that night saved her life or endangered her more?

“That’s a good question. I replayed the situation in my head over and over. I can’t say, but I’m glad I had it,” she says.


In Trouble For Thwarting Shoplifters: Tatiana Rodriguez

Born in Colombia, Rodriguez owns a small tree-trimming business in a Detroit suburb. Last October, she was outside a Home Depot loading some materials into her truck.

“A lady comes screaming through the door for help, and somebody [was] running,” she says.

A man was running into the parking lot pushing a shopping cart full of merchandise. Rodriguez used to work at Home Depot, and she knows the company policy: Don’t pursue shoplifters. But she says she thought this was more serious because a lady was screaming.

She saw the shoplifters getting away in an SUV. She had her Heckler and Koch 9 mm.

“So I take my gun out and I point at the car when he was coming towards us. I jump to the side and decide to shoot out the tires to stop them,” she says.

In Michigan, it’s illegal for a citizen to use deadly force to stop a property crime. Rodriguez got 18 months of probation for reckless discharge of a weapon and had her gun license revoked. She thinks the punishment would have been harsher, but the cops caught the shoplifters after she shot out their tires.

Her story got lots of news coverage. It turned into a case study of when not to use your pistol.

“It was not my intention to do anything wrong. I was just trying to help somebody who really needed it. And it backfired on me. So what do you learn? It’s like you have to think a lot before you help somebody,” she says.


For this story, I contacted firearms instructors and lawyers who reached out to dozens of handgun carriers who had pulled the trigger in self-defense. To my surprise, very few wanted to talk.

Some had been arrested by the police or sued afterward, and had spent thousands of dollars on legal fees. They didn’t want to be dragged into the media spotlight again. Others were just traumatized by the whole experience.

Gonville urges people to think long and hard before they carry a gun.

“A lot of times I believe people are just playing around and they think it’s cool to have a gun,” she says. “It’s not just about being cool. It’s real life. Life and death is serious. Getting shot is serious. Shooting somebody is serious.”

Is It Safer To Carry A Gun?

An eye-opening Gallup poll released late last year revealed that 56 percent of respondents said they’d feel safer if more Americans could get permits to carry concealed handguns. Jennifer Carlson, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, wrote a book about handgun carriers in Michigan called CitizenProtectors.

“This is what I think is really fascinating,” she says. “It’s not just the idea of if I conceal carry then I’m safer. It’s the idea that if I just imagine there’s people out there who are conceal carrying then the world is safer.”

All the trigger pullers I talked to for this story said the range time required to get a handgun license is grossly inadequate in terms of being prepared to defend themselves from an active shooter. They believe they’re alive today because they did extensive practice on their own.

Mark Cortis, a veteran firearms instructor in Detroit, urges all of his CPL students to get more training. But he says hardly any of them ever do.

“One of my concerns about the [Michigan] state requirements for getting a CPL is they don’t really include the tactics and the strategy that one will need to win or prevail in an actual gun situation,” Cortis says. “A hostile attack by a violent criminal is a fight.”

Not only are most handgun carriers in America totally unprepared for a gunfight, but gun-control activists hasten to point out that more guns lead to more suicides and accidental shootings.

Three years ago, Detroit’s new police chief, James Craig, made a startling public announcement. He encouraged law-abiding citizens to consider carrying concealed weapons as a deterrent to violent crime.

In an interview, I asked Chief Craig if he ever worries about the citizens that he has urged to arm themselves?

“What concerns me, more than anything else, is guns in the hands of criminals, guns in the hands of terror suspects. That’s what keeps me up at night. Not armed citizens,” Craig says.

Meanwhile, Cortis reports so many Detroiters are seeking concealed pistol permits, classes are booked for two months out.