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February 18, 2005

Lighters and matches and airplanes


On January 26 I noted that as of February 15, which has come and gone, cigarette lighters would no longer be permitted as carry-on material on planes in the U.S.

Turns out that the Transportation Security Administration couldn't quite get its ducks in a row in time.

The ban's now been pushed back two months, so that it will take effect April 15.

No matches, either.

You can check matches but not lighters.

The restriction will bring to a close the pre-9/11 era, in which the policy was that travelers could bring on board in their carry-on bag two lighters and four books of matches.

That policy also allowed the sale of lighters and matches beyond security checkpoints.

That's over as well.

Next: smoking in airports.

Those that haven't already outlawed smoking in the terminal are considering a total ban.

February 18, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



What a great outfit for your little one, or your friend's.

Why not be stylish from the get-go?

100% cotton snapsuits come in two sizes: 0–6 months or 6–12 months.

$22 here.

At least if the baby's got this on, no one can say they weren't warned.

February 18, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Transplant Denied'


That's the headline over today's Tampa Tribune story by Susan Hemmingway Johnson on LifeLink, a Tampa-based organ transplant center, and its refusal to transplant a kidney because the recipient advertised online for a donor — even though the eventual match was obtained from a friend who had absolutely nothing to do with the online effort.

Unbelievable, that these incidents keep occurring: don't the organ transplant groups realize that not only will they have to recant and go ahead with the transplant once public word gets out and outrage builds, but that they'll lose even more ground in their fight to retain their hegemony and teetering empire?

Attorneys and corporations know how to play this game so much better: they settle the case, then seal the files.

That keeps the hounds from baying at their doors for years, sometimes decades.

But hubris, especially the brand sported by physicians, is simply too great a force to overcome, I guess.

I have written here before about the coming end of the super–secretive organ transplant empire: specifically, for those who care to read further, in "BehindTheMedspeak" features on:

• October 21, 2004

• October 27, 2004

• November 8, 2004

• November 9, 2004

• November 20, 2004

• December 17, 2004

• December 26, 2004

Simply click on "All Archives" to the right, find the day you want, and there you are.

This is the first installment of 2005 to address the transplant uproar — and I guarantee you it won't be the last.

Anyway, here's the opening salvo in what promises to be an exciting battle down Tampa way — even though the outcome is already known.

    Transplant Denied

    Alex Crionas (right, above) wanted his plea for a new kidney to go around the world.

    He was determined to save his life and unwilling to wait any longer on a list of more than 60,000 Americans who need kidney transplants.

    Because of a disease that destroyed his kidneys, Crionas required dialysis treatments three times a week.

    The four–hour sessions were keeping him alive, but they were brutal.

    He was only 27.

    Somewhere, he believed, there was a benevolent stranger who had his same type O blood.

    His theory: Maybe a stranger would be willing to become a living donor, if he — or she — knew how badly Crionas needed a kidney and how miserable his life was.

    The stranger could make Crionas healthy again by having one kidney removed and giving it to him.

    The gift had to be free.

    Paying for organs is illegal.

    In 2003, Crionas set up a Web site (www.SelflessAct.net) bearing the motto "You only need one."

    As the only child of chronically ill parents, he couldn't expect a kidney from his family.

    The Web site would widen his chances, he believed, making his story available to anyone with computer access.

    He put up a graphic day-in-the-life essay that described his dialysis and information about organ donation.

    The site attracted e-mail but no donor.

    It also may have killed his chances to receive the kidney from a friend he met the old-fashioned way — in person, through mutual friends.

    Because Crionas had set up a Web site that was deemed to be in violation of its ethics policy, LifeLink, a Tampa-based organ transplant center, has refused to perform the living donor transplant that Crionas hoped would occur by March.

    In early February, the center abruptly stopped an evaluation process to determine if 23-year-old Patrick Garrity (left, above) would be a good match for Crionas.

    Crionas and Garrity met last year near Orlando, where they both live.

    The pair have known each other about four months.

    Garrity, a stand-up comic and Army National Guardsman, explains his generosity this way: Friends become like family.

    "I'd do anything for my friends,'' says Garrity, who drove with Crionas to Tampa in January to begin testing at LifeLink.

    The first tests looked promising, the men were told.

    But then LifeLink stopped returning their calls.

    In a brief letter dated Feb. 4 and signed by LifeLink medical director Victor Bowers, Crionas learned why.

    His case had been reviewed, the letter said. "In addition, we have reviewed your personal Web site."

    The American Society of Transplant Surgeons


    and LifeLink are "strongly opposed to the solicitation of organs or organ donors by recipients or their agents through Web sites," the letter continued.

    "After careful deliberation, we will not consider any living donor for you."

    Crionas was stunned by the decision.

    "I was dumbfounded... I'm, like, are you serious?"

    The LifeLink letter said he could be put back on the national list to wait for a "deceased" kidney of someone who had made provisions to be an organ donor upon death.

    But Crionas, now 28, fears that wait might be as long as five to 10 years, due to factors such as his age and blood type.

    Most of the 87,000 people on national waiting lists for organ transplants are waiting for kidneys.

    Like Crionas, hundreds of others seeking organ transplants have decided to quit relying solely on the nation's organ distribution system to find them hearts, lungs and kidneys.

    They have set up Web sites and bought advertising space on billboards to make direct pleas for organ donors.

    The system — put in place through the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act — may not be ready for them.

    In November, after the first kidney transplant involving people who met through a Web site,


    www.MatchingDonors.com, the transplant surgeons' society issued a statement against personal or commercial Web sites that solicit organs.

    The surgeons group urged centers not to accept patients who found living donors through Web sites.

    Meanwhile, Robert Metzger, president of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS),


    which oversees the nation's transplant centers, acknowledged in a January memo to the organization's board of directors that the Internet can be like any community gathering place.

    People meet online in chat rooms or through message boards, Metzger said.

    The challenge for organ transplant centers is figuring out what is or isn't appropriate.

    Easy access to the Internet — unforeseen two decades ago when the Organ Transplant Act was created — is making possible sites such as www.EveretNeedsALiver.com, www.MyDaddyNeedsALiver.com and www.SaveOurSonny.com .

    The sites have worked for some.

    Last year, a Houston man who had liver cancer started a Web site and bought a billboard in his quest for a replacement liver.

    He got one within days when a sympathetic family directed that the liver of their recently deceased relative go to him.

    The commercial site www.MatchingDonors.com produced its first successful match last October.

    It charges people in need of transplants up to $295 per month to post their stories and photographs, in hopes of finding a "personal connection" with potential donors who can cruise the site for free.

    In New York, two women recently created Links for Life, an organ donation campaign (www.LinksForLifeCampaign.com), after starting www.DonationForCynthia.com last July, in hopes of finding a kidney for a 25-year-old niece.

    They offer services at no charge to people who need help starting their own sites.

    So far, more than 20 people have signed up, and all are linked to each other's sites in an effort to raise their visibility, says founder Irma Woodard.

    Everet Barrington, a 47-year-old man who lives near San Antonio, Texas, became a member of Links For Life last fall.

    Hepatitis C, contracted from a blood transfusion after a car accident, has destroyed his liver, and he needs a new one.

    For nearly five years, he has been on the national waiting list for a liver.

    He wears a pager to alert him in case one became available.

    The pager has never gone off.

    "I wake up and watch my wife and daughter cry," Barrington says about why he started EveretNeedsALiver.com through Links For Life.

    He prints out every e-mail.

    They've filled two boxes so far.

    He hears mostly from well-wishers.

    He has yet to find a donor.

    Some have called from Asia or Africa to offer their livers in exchange for sponsorship to move to the United States.

    "They don't realize they can't live without a liver," Barrington says, although living donors are sometimes able to donate sections of their livers because the organ regenerates.

    The possibility of money or compensation being exchanged is what makes some doctors leery.

    "That can be an issue when a living donor donates," says Richard J. Howard, a transplant surgeon at Shands Hospital in Gainesville and president of the transplant surgeons society.

    "This has happened in the past... Donors come back and say, 'I gave you that kidney and now my mother needs an operation,' or 'I can't make a payment on my car,'" Howard says.

    Another problem is that organs might go to those in need based on their compelling stories or appearance, he added, which would be unfair to others on waiting lists.

    Howard and his colleagues have considered how far the personal pleas might go.

    "We were talking about this, and someone said, 'Can you see this as a TV reality show? Three patients are allowed to present their stories and the audience votes on who gets a kidney,'" Howard says.

    At LifeLink in Tampa, medical director Bowers feels so strongly about the issue that he puts asking for organs on a personal Web site in the same category as buying or selling them.

    Both are "inappropriate," he says.

    There are no laws against the personal or commercial Web sites that seek altruistic organ donors.

    The 1984 National Organ Transplant Act forbids commercial transactions for people's organs.

    Last week, Bowers declined to talk about Crionas' case.

    But, in general, "I just think it's wrong," he says of personal Web sites.

    "It undermines the whole basis of our current system... I think if someone actively solicits, whether it would be through a Web site, a TV advertisement or billboard, that is not appropriate."

    Crionas, who is disabled and on Medicaid, says he would have taken down his site if he had known that it could jeopardize the gift of a kidney from Garrity.

    The issue hadn't come up earlier when Crionas had another donor lined up for an operation that was supposed to take place through LifeLink in December or January.

    A friend from North Carolina who he had known for years backed out of a promise to give him her kidney.

    That's when Garrity volunteered to take her place.

    Crionas says he remembers mentioning his Web site in passing during a psychological screening at LifeLink.

    He isn't sure what to do now.

    But he may apply to other transplant centers.

    Each is able to make its own policies, and another center might be willing to consider the issue of personal Web sites on a case-by-case basis.

    Meanwhile, the national waiting list isn't an acceptable option because it is restricted to the organs of kidney donors who have died, he says.

    Crionas believes his chances of a successful outcome will be greater if he receives the kidney of a living donor such as Garrity.

    Plus, he can't endure the wait — and a poor quality of life — until it becomes his turn on the national list, he says.

    "There's no way that I'm waiting 10 years."

Reporter Susan Hemmingway Johnson can be reached at 813-259-7951; email: shjohnson@tampatrib.com

[via David J. Undis, Executive Director,



February 18, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Diamonds are a girl's best friend


So what if they won't keep you warm in bed at night.

At least this one will keep your papers from blowing away.

"Brilliant, fully-faceted glass and metal paperweight with a classic four-prong setting and a gleaming, chrome-plated band."

Hey, it's better this way, trust me.

4.5"L x 3"W.


$20 here.

February 18, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A new da Vinci?


"The Adoration of the Christ Child" (above) in Rome's Galleria Borghese has long been attributed to Fra Bartolomeo, but not with confidence.

Now chief restorer Elizabeth Zatti, nearing the end of a year-long restoration of the painting, says she has discovered a fingerprint previously unseen.

That, along with stylistic similarities, has scholars thinking that the painting may be by Leonardo da Vinci.

The picture, three feet in diameter, is famous for its round shape, and is known as "Il Tondo."

It includes precious materials such as as lapis lazuli and gold.

Photos of the painting, which was created in the late 15th or early 16th century, will be flown to Kracow, Poland, to compare the newly-discovered fingerprint with one on da Vinci's


"Lady With an Ermine" (above and [detail] below).


The restoration uncovered symbolism associated with da Vinci, such as wild primrose, which represents resurrection, and blue veronica flowers, symbolizing the eyes of the Virgin Mary.

In addition, the Virgin Mary has the large, masculine hands seen on many da Vinci women.

February 18, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why is it we prefer to do what others don't want us to?


Richard Cohen, an estimable Op-Ed columnist for the Washington Post, yesterday began his piece as follows:

"Much of life's wisdom is contained in a single piece of dialogue in George Bernard Shaw's 'Saint Joan.'"

He then went on to quote from the exchange between the Inquisitor and the Chaplain during the trial of Joan of Arc:

"I direct you to sit down."

"I will not sit down!"

"If you will not sit, you must stand, that is all."

"I will not stand!"

The Chaplain then sits down.

Wrote Cohen, "Often, as Shaw knew, the best reason to do something is that someone else doesn't want you to do it."

The converse, I find, is even more powerful.

That is, to have to do something at someone else's behest is, for me, automatically a trial, a burden, a task not to be anticipated but, rather, somehow gotten through.

I continue to be amazed after all these years that simply being able to make up my own mind about what to do and when and how to do it is transformative; jobs that would be dreadfully tedious become pleasures as long as I'm calling the tune.

What a perverse soul I am.

February 18, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Singer® Sewing Cube


Confession: I cannot even sew on a button.

I wish I could.

I cannot tie a tie either, but that I could not care less about.

How many times have I used masking tape and what-not to make a functional, if inelegant, temporary repair that called for needle and thread in skilled hands?

So [!] — just because I like the way this little 4.5" square green box opens up into a very nice sewing set-up, with 40 spools of thread, 10 needles, 10 straight pins, scissors, a tape measure, a pin cushion, and a thimble, I think I'm gonna get one.

That way, if there's someone around, I'll just offer them the box and smile sweetly and say, "Please?"

Regularly $29.98, now reduced to $24.98 (item # 23096).

February 18, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Sea Women of Cheju, South Korea


Collectively they may be among the world's greatest divers.

For 1,700 years the women of Cheju Island and its neighbor, Udo Island,


have been providing the bulk of the income for their families.

But the long tradition appears to be ending in the face of the forces reshaping the islands as the world changes.

There were 5,650 sea women registered in Cheju in 2003, of whom 85% were over 50 years old.

Only two were under 30.

The women, wearing black wetsuits and goggles (scuba gear is illegal to avoid overfishing), free dive up to 40 feet down, holding their breath for over two minutes.

With a flat tool attached to one wrist, the sea women try to dislodge abalone from under rocks.

Occasionally, an abalone clamps down on the tool and traps one of the women underwater.

At least one sea woman dies every year while diving.

Norimitsu Onishi wrote a fascinating story about these extraordinary women for the February 15 New York Times.

It follows.

    South Korea's 'Sea Women' Trap Prey and Turn Tables

    On a cold, rainy morning, the sea women of this islet donned their black wetsuits, strapped on their goggles and swam out into the waves.

    Over several hours, they dove to reach the sea bottom, holding their breath for about a minute before bobbing up to the surface.

    Sometimes, several dove in unison, their flippers jutting out together for a split second, looking like synchronized swimmers.

    That illusion lasted until they resurfaced, one clutching an octopus, another a sea urchin, and until a closer look at the sunburned, leathery faces behind the goggles revealed women in their 50's, 60's and older.

    The sea women here and on larger Cheju Island, off the southern coast of South Korea, are among the world's most skillful and toughest natural divers.

    Year round, they plumb the sea bottom with no scuba gear, in one- or two-minute dives that mix dexterity, desire and death.

    "Every time I go in," said Yang Jung Sun, 75, "I feel as if I am going to the other side of the world. When I see something I could sell, I push myself in toward it.

    "When I get out of breath, I push myself out of the water. It is all black in front of me. My lungs are throbbing. At that moment I feel I am dead. It happens every time. Every time. I tell myself I am not going to do that again. I always tell myself that. But greed makes me go back again."

    Since the late 1970's, exports of sea products to Japan have made the sea women richer than they had ever imagined, allowing them to fix their houses, build new ones in Cheju City and send their daughters to college.

    Some of the best divers, like Yang Hwa Soon, 67 (above on the right, and below), not related to the older Ms. Yang, now make about $30,000 a year.


    Most dive 10 days each month but also work the fields. With tourism also popular here, many sea woman run restaurants and inns.

    But their very success means that, within a decade or two, with the daughters choosing to work in the island's tourism industry or in the big cities, the 1,700-year history of Cheju's sea women will probably end.

    In 2003, 5,650 sea women were registered in Cheju, of whom 85 percent were over 50 years old.

    Only two were under 30.

    "We are the end," Ms. Yang Jung Sun said, satisfaction spreading across her face.

    "I told my daughter not to do this. It's too difficult."

    Men dived until the 19th century but found the job unprofitable because they, unlike women, had to pay heavy taxes, said Ko Chang Hoon, a professor at Cheju National University.

    So the women took over what was considered the lowest of jobs and became the main breadwinners.

    This clashed with Korea's Confucian culture, in which women have traditionally been treated as inferior, leading administrators from Seoul to bar the women from diving, ostensibly because they exposed bare skin while at sea.

    "The central government forbade the women from diving, but the women just gave them some abalone to look away," said Professor Ko, whose mother and grandmother were sea women.

    Not surprisingly, the sea women's power was greatest in villages that relied more on sea products than on farming.

    On Mara Island, where sea products accounted for almost all sources of revenue until tourism became popular in recent years, sex roles were entirely reversed.

    In a study of Mara Island, Seo Kyung Lim, a professor at Cheju National University whose mother was a sea woman, found that men took care of the children, shopping and feeding the pigs.

    Women ruled their households and their community.

    If their husbands cheated on them, Professor Seo said, "they could simply tell them to get out of the house."

    On Cheju, market forces prevailed over the Confucian preference for boys.

    "If people had a boy, they didn't celebrate," Professor Ko said.

    "If it was a girl, they celebrated, because they knew that the girl would dive and bring money to the family."

    On Udo, though farming traditionally made up a third of revenues, with sea products accounting for the rest, women's status was also high.

    "We always made more money than the men," Yang Jung Sun said.

    "They just made enough to feed themselves. We paid for fuel and education. Everything."

    Perhaps realizing that men, including the head of a local fishing association, sat within earshot, Ms. Yang added, with a smile that bridged the gap between her words and the reality: "How can women have more power at home? There's only one captain in a house and that's clearly the father."

    The girls begin going to sea at age 8 or 10, first picking up seaweed near the shore.

    The best divers can plunge 40 feet deep and hold their breath for over two minutes. (To avoid overfishing, scuba gear remains illegal.)

    With a flat tool attached to one wrist, the sea women try to dislodge abalone from under rocks.

    Occasionally, though, the abalone clamp down on the tool and trap one of them underwater.

    At least one sea woman dies every year while diving.

    With the number of sea women declining, and with tourism giving Cheju men more opportunities, it is unclear what will happen to their daughters' status in their communities and home.

    What is clear, though, is the pervasive sense that the end of something is near.

    "When I wanted to go deeper, until last year I would push myself to go deeper," Yang Hwa Soon said.

    "Now I feel I'm aging. When I want to go deeper, instead of pushing myself, I usually decide not to go. I started feeling older last year, after I turned 65."

    February 18, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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