Investigators say John Glenn’s remains not disrespected
By RANDALL CHASE
Friday, August 3
DOVER, Del. (AP) — A lengthy investigation by Air Force officials has concluded that the remains of astronaut and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn were not treated disrespectfully at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary before he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last year.
The Air Force launched a probe in May 2017 amid concerns that inspectors visiting the facility had been invited to look at Glenn’s remains, which they declined to do.
The heavily redacted report found that Glenn’s remains were treated with dignity, but it also cited unrelated incidents involving questionable behavior by the former mortuary chief, William Zwicharowski.
Zwicharowski, who retired earlier this year, told the Associated Press last year that Glenn’s remains were treated with “impeccable care,” and that the invitation to inspectors was “solely professional.” Repeated attempts to contact him for comment on the report were unsuccessful.
Although an investigating officer concluded that Zwicharowski’s invitation to view Glenn’s body was inappropriate, it did not result in any disrespectful behavior.
“The investigating officer interviewed everyone involved in Senator Glenn’s care, under oath; all testified that Senator Glenn’s remains were treated with dignity and respect while at Dover,” stated the report, which is dated November 2017 but was not made publicly available until several days ago.
The report also found no systemic issues in Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, headquartered at the Delaware military facility, or with the manner in which human remains are treated.
It did find, however, a division between “back of the house” mortuary workers and AFMAO leadership. The rift dates back to 2008, when AFMAO was formed and assumed oversight of the mortuary, which previously had been part of the 436th Airlift Wing’s Services Squadron.
“Rather than a systemic problem, the division seemed to be a result of personality conflicts between individual employees,” the report stated.
The investigation appeared to place much of the blame for the rift on Zwicharowski, who was uniformly lauded for his technical skills but described by some people as difficult to work with and quick to try to assign blame to others if a problem arose.
“The investigation substantiated several allegations of inappropriate behavior by the employee,” Ann Stefanek, Air Force chief of media operations, said in a prepared statement. “Earlier this spring, however, the employee retired before administrative action decisions had been made.”
The report found, among other things, that Zwicharowski failed to promote appropriate employee-management relations by engaging in “insolent and insubordinate conduct toward his superiors and failing to carry out assigned work.”
It also concluded that he engaged in inappropriate conduct in the presence of human remains.
The investigation found that Zwicharowski “did not cross the line” when, during a busy and stressful time at the mortuary several years, he picked up a plastic bag containing a severed hand and asked “Does anybody need a hand?” A chaplain who was interviewed about the incident suggested that it was indicative of mortuary-related humor that can help “maintain sanity.”
The investigator did conclude that Zwicharowski acted inappropriately on two other occasions. The first occurred in March 2015 and involved the partial facial remains of a fallen service member. Zwicharowski reportedly leaned down and yelled “Can you hear me?” into the detached ear.
The other incident occurred in March 2017 and involved a severed arm. A service member temporarily assigned to the mortuary reported that he saw Zwicharowski manipulate the tendons of the arm so that the middle finger mimicked an obscene gesture. The investigator could not conclude that Zwicharowski acted intentionally but blamed him for not correcting any misperceptions when a bystander laughed and took it as a joke.
In 2012, Zwicharowski and two colleagues received public servant awards from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for blowing the whistle on problems at the mortuary. But he said last year that morale among mortuary staff was “horrific,” and he described the work environment as “toxic,” suggesting micromanagement by uniformed leaders with no experience in the funeral industry was to blame.
Patrol’s Trooper Comstock promoted to Sergeant at the Delaware Post
Ohio State Highway Patrol
August 10, 2018
COLUMBUS – Trooper Kristi J. Comstock was promoted to the rank of sergeant on August 5, 2018 and was recognized today by Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent, during a ceremony at the Patrol’s Training Academy. Sergeant Comstock will transfer from the Columbus Post to serve as an assistant post commander at the Delaware Post.
Sergeant Comstock began her Patrol career in October 2010 as a member of the 150th Academy Class. She earned her commission in April of the following year and was assigned to the Marion Post. In 2013, she earned the Ace Award for excellence in auto larceny enforcement. In 2017, she earned the Criminal Patrol Award. As a trooper, she also served at the Granville and Columbus posts and the Patrol’s Training Academy.
Sergeant Comstock earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice from the University of Findlay in 2008.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is an internationally accredited agency whose mission is to protect life and property, promote traffic safety and provide professional public safety services with respect, compassion, and unbiased professionalism.
“Trump Stuff” for sale along 36/37 Friday.
Plunderbund: The President just tweeted out an endorsement of Steve Stivers in the August 7 special election. Stivers is not running in a special election. He doesn’t even know the name of the candidate.
The ghost of Roy Orbison goes on tour – and some aren’t happy about it
August 13, 2018
Professor, Department of English and Director, Center for Film, Media and Popular Cutlure, Arizona State University
Peter Lehman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
In January, the production company Base Hologram announced its forthcoming Roy Orbison hologram tour, “In Dreams,” with the U.S. leg of the tour set to kick off on Oct. 1 in Oakland. For the uninitiated: A computer-generated hologram of Orbison will be performing alongside an orchestra and band.
Shortly after the announcement, a handful of critics reacted with such horror that you would have thought the very future of music and morality were under siege.
Some saw it as an inauthentic, soulless attempt to mimic his live shows. Others accused the organizers of exploiting a dead artist without his consent and even erasing the line between life and death.
I saw Roy Orbison perform on a number of occasions from 1964 to 1988. I am also the author of “Roy Orbison: The Invention of an Alternative Rock Masculinity.”
So you might assume that I would echo these critics and view the Roy Orbison hologram tour with suspicion.
However I had a chance to see the Orbison hologram concert in London on April 18. If anything, it was a fitting tribute to Orbison’s legacy and a logical step in the evolution of live performances.
A different sort of star
When Roy Orbison attained international fame in the 1960s, rock ‘n’ roll hadn’t seen or heard anyone like him.
He’d gotten his start in west Texas in the mid-1950s with his band The Teen Kings. He then moved to Sun Records in Memphis, where he joined rockers such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
During this early period, much of Orbison’s music – and The Teen Kings’ energetic onstage performances – mimicked the era’s flashy, macho style.
By 1964, however, Orbison had become a different sort of performer. He started dressing in black and wearing sunglasses. During shows, he stood still and seldom spoke between songs, many of which were ballads.
In hits like “Running Scared” and “Crying,” he doesn’t boast about his sexual prowess; instead, he croons about male fear and emotional paralysis.
Roy Orbison performs ‘Running Scared’ during a 1965 show.
He was largely self-taught and eschewed the common “verse-chorus-bridge” structure of the era, penning complex compositions that often built towards melodramatic climaxes of pain, loss and anxiety. When recording, he augmented guitars and drums with violins and orchestral string instruments, and he sang in a four-octave range.
For this reason, some see Orbison as more like a classical musician than a rock star. During a 2007 speech honoring Orbison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Elvis Costello compared Orbison’s song “Crawling Back” to classical composer Robert Schumann’s songs.
In this way, he also challenged conventional gender roles of the times. As Bono exclaimed in a video played during the hologram concert: “He sings like a girl!”
Musicians such as Chris Isaak, Bernie Taupin and Bruce Springsteen have also spoken of their deep admiration for Orbison. They described his stage presence – and body – in unusual terms: He was “godlike,” “frail” and “angelic,” “unique to the species” or “from another planet.”
As Bruce Springsteen remarked, he looked like someone you could put your hand through – much like a hologram.
Are holograms really that radical?
Hologram shows aren’t new.
Celine Dion performed a duet with an Elvis Presley hologram in 2007, and a hologram of Tupac Shakur joined Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre on stage in 2012. In 2014, the specter of Michael Jackson entertained his adoring fans.
But you would think, based on some of the responses to Orbison’s tour, that its organizers were committing sacrilege. Even a mostly positive review noted that the show “feels like a ghoulish cash-in, trading on gimmickry and shock value,” that there was “something very ethically unsettling about the whole endeavour.”
Yet for all the flak hologram concerts have received, music shows have long been anything but “live.”
Where’s the outrage over giant video projection screens, which eliminate the unmediated presence of the performer? Unless you’ve been able to score choice tickets, you’ll spend most arena shows staring at a Jumbotron.
Then there’s the music itself. Many shows today feature prerecorded instrumentals and verses. Some hip-hop artists perform with just their laptops, while remixes and sampling are common in recordings. Duets with deceased artists have become more common, too: Raul Malo “covered” Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with none other than Roy Orbison, who had been dead for over a decade.
In this sense, holograms don’t upend musical tradition. Instead, they’re just another evolutionary step.
In fact, computer-generated artists like Lil Miquela represent an even more extreme pole. Hologram concerts use digitally recreated images of artists who were once alive. But there’s no real person or body behind these digitally-created, fictional ones.
The man who was never there
There’s something particularly fitting about a hologram tour featuring Roy Orbison.
His public persona was so mysterious that his fans didn’t know much about the man behind the shades.
In the early 1960s he had no publicist and did few interviews. Music and entertainment magazines rarely covered him, and he seldom appeared on television. His greatest hits albums didn’t even have cover photos of him.
He seemed to be defined by an absence, which then materialized as a dark, quiet persona who always kept his eyes covered in public, inviting people to project their thoughts, fears and melancholy onto him.
Unlike the macho rockers of the 1950s, Orbison sang of loneliness and vulnerability.
At the London show, the concert emphasized, from the very beginning, the unreality of Orbison’s body: The hologram emerged from the floor of the stage – defying physics – and later disappeared into the floor before intermission.
The hologram tour also mimicked Orbison’s approach to his live shows. The specter of Orbison performed standing in one place and didn’t speak between songs; likewise, the audience sat quietly during the set, soaking in his words and music.
There were no screaming fans or adoring groupies. No one threw anything at the hologram knowing it could go through him, not to him.
But Roy Orbison was an unusual rock star, and such antics were never common at his concerts. Perhaps this makes Orbison – the man who was never really there – an ideal avatar for this new form of music.
America has 1.5 million nonprofits and room for more
August 13, 2018
Associate Professor, Romney Institute of Public Management, Brigham Young University
Associate Professor of Public Administration and Policy, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The nation’s 1.5 million nonprofits do everything from fielding Little League teams to funding orchestras.
Despite all the good these organizations do, some donors worry that the nation has more nonprofits than it can sustain. In America alone, more than 36,000 of them provide programs and guidance for youth and over 53,000 are health care facilities, for example.
Having too many nonprofits could potentially spread donor dollars too thin, making it hard for these groups to raise the money they need to run effective programs. For instance, how many youth-focused organizations does one town require?
As nonprofit scholars, we wanted to see if it’s possible to answer these questions. So we teamed up with three other colleagues to see if there are too many nonprofits in America or not.
A growing sector
The number of U.S. nonprofits has steadily risen since 1970. The number of 501(c)(3) charities, alone has doubled since 1995 with more than 300,000 new ones forming in many recent years.
Nonprofit employment is growing too. An estimated 11.9 million Americans, about a tenth of the private workforce, worked in this sector as of 2015.
Not all nonprofit leaders applaud this growth. As F. Duke Haddad, who leads the Salvation Army’s fundraising in Indiana, recounted in the specialty website NonProfit PRO, foundations and philanthropists increasingly tell him they feel overwhelmed by the increase in requests for funding from an ever-growing pool of nonprofits. “It does feel that in certain markets there could be a point of diminishing returns due to a flood of nonprofits,” he wrote.
How to figure it out
Most of the researchers trying to answer the question of whether there are too many nonprofits until now have tallied how many nonprofits operated in specific communities.
Together with scholars Laurie Paarlberg, Seung-Ho An and Justin Bullock, we tried something new. We looked into whether having more nonprofits in one place – probably competing for the same funds – affects their financial health.
That is, we tried to determine whether they have money to keep running for several months without getting new donations.
We researched this dynamic across the nation by breaking it down geographically. Using complex statistical techniques, we examined 291,320 nonprofits located across 3,141 counties and county-equivalent jurisdictions in 2011. We assessed the relationship between the aggregated financial health of all these groups and county-specific characteristics, such as nonprofit density, the size of the local population and poverty rates.
We found that financial health increases with the number of nonprofits per 1,000 people in a given county until there are three nonprofits per 1,000 residents. After that, the financial health of all organizations diminishes with the establishment of new nonprofits.
It turned out that creating yet another nonprofit in the places with the greatest number of nonprofits per thousand residents made all of its peers financially weaker. Importantly, the vast majority of counties had fewer than three nonprofits per thousand people. Those places could, we found, support additional nonprofits and adding a new one appeared to benefit the financial health of the older nonprofits.
Room for more
To see why the emergence of a new nonprofit doesn’t have the same impact everywhere, it might help to think of the nonprofits in a community like a herd of deer in a forest. Since the forest’s potential to sustain the heard is finite, if the herd gets too large, some of the deer will get weak and starve.
The important question is whether the environment – the forest – has enough resources to support the herd.
Similarly, a town or another community has a finite amount of money – often obtained through donations – available to support local nonprofits. At some point, the number of nonprofits could get too big, outstripping local donations and financial resources.
Our findings, which we published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly journal, indicate that nonprofit financial health starts to worsen when a county already has three nonprofits per 1,000 people and gets another one.
The average county, however, only has one nonprofit per 1,000 people. So adding one or two nonprofits typically may actually improve the financial health of all the nonprofits.
The addition of more nonprofits can lead to greater collaboration and sharing of information and resources among nonprofit leaders. New nonprofits can potentially attract new donors and volunteers that other nonprofits have not reached. It also means more organizations to share information with the public about the work nonprofits are doing in the community.
In short, we believe we have found evidence that very few communities have too many nonprofits. In fact, most places could probably support more nonprofit organizations.
Returning to the herd analogy, we also found that herd size is just one consideration.
The way funding is distributed among the herd also matters, because that also affects competition. We found that when nonprofits clustered into one area are all funded at similar levels, starting a new nonprofit there can hurt the financial health of the rest. That’s because it increases competition for donations and other sources of revenue.
However, our data indicated, if one or two larger nonprofits get most of the regional funding, establishing a new, smaller group poses little competition.
In other words, our research suggests that anyone who is worried about whether there are too many nonprofits should focus on density and competition instead of how many of these groups are located in one place.
How biobanks can help improve the integrity of scientific research
August 9, 2018
Postdoctoral researcher in Metagenomics, University of the Western Cape
DST/NRF Research Chair in Bioinformatics and Public Health Genomics, University of the Western Cape
Principal Medical Scientist within the Division of Haematopathology, Stellenbosch University
Dominique Anderson works for the South African National Bioinformatics Institute at the University of the Western Cape and is funded by the National Research Foundation and EU Horizon 2020 program.
Alan Christoffels receives funding from South African Medical Research Council, The National Research Foundation and the European Union Horizon2020 Programme on Biobanking Infrastructure.
Carmen Swanepoel works in a small academic biobank associated with Stellenbosch University and the National Health Laboratory Services. The NSB biobank was started with research grant funds from various source that includes, EU and NIH, SU and NHLS.
University of Western Cape
University of Western Cape provides support as a hosting partner of The Conversation AFRICA.
Stellenbosch University provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.
Biobanks are repositories which receive, store, process and disseminate specimens. These include DNA derived from humans and animals; bacterial strains; and environmental samples like plants and soil. Biobanks also provide the vital infrastructure for research to support scientific advancement and innovation.
In the developed world, biobanks are well established and generally well funded and supported. There are also biobanks in the developing world like regions in Africa, most notably in South Africa and Nigeria – but the technology is really still in its infancy. Simple issues like internet connectivity, access to reliable water and electricity supply, which are all necessary to run biobanks, are common.
Yet it’s in the developing world that biobanks could be especially powerful tools. For example, having access to the rich genetic diversity across Africa would allow researchers to understand disease, develop better diagnostics and treatments, medicines and vaccines, geared toward the continent’s population.
Crucially, they can also improve scientists’ ability to replicate results and experiments, a process known as reproducibility. This is very important because being able to reproduce research verifies results and means it can be trusted. Biobanks have high quality assurance and control measures in place, making them safe, reliable spaces to store material for repeated testing that could lead to trustworthy science that saves lives.
This is why low and middle income countries, like those in Africa, should prioritise setting up biobanks despite the high cost and other challenges.
A reproducibility crisis
A recent study has shown that, across the world, scientists’ ability to reproduce research is staggeringly low. More than 70% of the 1500 scientific participants in the study could not replicate other scientists’ experiments. And half were unable to replicate their own experiments.
This costs a huge amount of money. In the US alone, the estimated financial burden of not being able to replicate research translates to approximately $28 billion per year that’s being spent on life science research which cannot be replicated.
Why don’t researchers rigorously investigate the reproducibility of experimental works before releasing the findings? There are a few reasons.
Firstly, research costs money; costs for any lab are already high and staff may not want to spend more than they believe is necessary.
Secondly, reproducing experiments takes time – and when scientists are developing novel therapies for diseases, for instance, time can cost lives.
The study also identified study design, biological samples, laboratory protocols, and data analysis and reporting as issues. So it stands to reason that implementing standard best practices and adhering to them could partially ease the crisis.
That’s where biobanks come in.
Most biobanks, whether small or large, have high quality assurance and control measures in place. Without this, they won’t generate the trust needed to function well. They ensure that sample transportation, processing, storage and analysis are done according to standard methods. They manage risk to ensure the biospecimens they store for different researchers or teams are viable and retain their quality.
Biobanks which follow best practice guidelines can be mediators for reproducible scientific research as they ensure that protocols are applied in a standardised, harmonised way.
This means that researchers who use a biobank can have some level of comfort that, at a bare minimum, any biological sample used in an experiment is consistent and controlled. For example, biobanks that use Laboratory Information Management System software can track and log a sample’s life cycle to ensure its quality hasn’t been compromised. For example, Baobab LIMS was developed at the University of the Western Cape as a management system for human biobanks.
Sample quality is critical in research, as it will influence later analysis. Biobanks are also an important tool for smaller laboratories that don’t have the finances to get international accreditation, or don’t have the right equipment for analysing specific samples.
Benefits outweigh costs
It may seem like a no-brainer to establish biobanks everywhere, given all the benefits they offer.
But there are some barriers to this happening in the developing world. Cost is one. Biobanks are generally non-profit. Non-commercial medical biobanks cannot sell specimens, as this would equate to trade in human tissue and is unethical. So biobanks’ fee structure is aimed entirely at cost-recovery.
There’s also a lack of highly skilled and trained personnel. There are some international certificates and courses specifically for biobanking, offered in North America and Europe but for the most part, skilled scientists could be trained to become proficient and staff biobanks.
These issues should be dealt with by policy makers, governments and science stakeholders. The benefits of establishing more biobanks clearly outweigh the costs – especially in the face of the ever increasing direct and indirect cost of research that cannot be reproduced and the growing need to preserve Africa’s rich genomic resources.