Friday, October 24, 2014

Obamacare Does Not Cover Ebola

thomas eric duncan nina pham amber vinson craig spencer doctor nurse liberian ebola patient chronic virus condition spread contagious new york city dallas texas hospital america united states west africa
In a shocking turn of events, several Americans have recently contracted the Ebola virus. The virus has been ravaging the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since December of 2013. It is estimated that 5,000 people have died in those countries. Several cases have now been identified in the United States. The most documented case is Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian immigrant who brought the virus to Dallas. Nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson both contracted Ebola while caring for Duncan. Journalist Ashoka Mukpo contracted Ebola while covering the outbreak in Africa for NBC News, and Craig Spencer of "Doctors Without Borders" just checked in to Bellvue Hospital in New York City with Ebola.

Unfortunately for these people... the Affordable Care Act does not cover treatment of the Ebola virus. Here is an excerpt from the law that lists the pre-existing "chronic conditions" that are not covered under the new plans.

obamacare affordable care act text excerpt thomas eric duncan nina pham amber vinson craig spencer doctor nurse liberian ebola patient chronic virus condition spread contagious new york city dallas texas hospital america united states west africa

Nobody is sure what to make of Ebola in the United States. Several cases seem to have been eradicated, but many people remain skeptical and concerned. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) seems to have underestimated the precautions necessary to stop the spread of the virus. In an effort to avoid a public panic, they instead created a great mistrust of their agency. Most Americans are convinced the disease can spread when someone coughs or sneezes, and it is clear that healthcare professionals are more at risk than the general public. Regardless of how contagious the virus can be, getting care will prove to be an issue.

John Powers
Contributing Reporter

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nirvana: 20 Years Later

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Who better to write about the legacy of Nirvana than a 30-something who lived through it all? Everyone over 30 remembers feeling sad and disappointed when they heard that Kurt was dead, but only the real fans remember the whole story. The quiet guy with the sarcastic smile on the cover of every magazine. The one who didn't want to be famous who was lifted to the very peak of stardom in a very short period of time. Kurt Cobain was Nirvana. He was the spokesman of the 90's. Every high school across the nation tried to create a mosh pit at their school dance. Every kid who felt disenfranchised and ignored by the mainstream had someone they could identify with who felt exactly like they did. The legacy that Nirvana left behind is undeniable, but there are several things that most articles have left out.

1. Kurt Cobain Didn't Want to be a Star

Cobain didn't take interviews seriously. He realized it wasn't about him. He made the music and tried to let it speak for itself. He gave sarcastic Lennon-esque answers that turned an interview into a mockery. He wore old, comfortable sweaters and t-shirts with punk rock logos on them. He was just a dude. He left the serious rock and roll superstar stuff to Axel Rose. In an interview with Kurt Loder on MTV, Cobain described an run-in with Rose where he and Courtney Love asked if Axel would be their child's godfather and Axel Rose tried to pick a fight.

Rose was the iconic stereotypical rock front-man. The leather pants, the bandana, shit, even the band was named after him. Guns N' Roses might as well have been called Axel Rose and The Other Guys (who happened to be pretty damn good musicians). Nirvana was the complete opposite. They were not decked out in flashy outfits or gimmicky face makeup. They were themselves and they were fine with it.

I have read Cobain's journal. I didn't want to, but I had to. The guy didn't want fame. He intentionally misspelled his own name on their first album Bleach, in letters, and in the monkey photo courtesy on the Nevermind album art (Kurdt Kobain). The guy didn't want to be a star. He wanted people to listen to his music. He didn't want fame and fortune. He wanted to share his music with as many people as possible and he detested mainstream conformity. Everything about pop culture sickened him. 

2. His Talent Was Not Manufactured
The guy had talent. Real talent. There was no such thing as American Idol. In the 90's, you had to start in the garage and practice and write songs and then play shows and build an audience. Cobain had something inside him that made people react. He had soul. His haunting voice conveyed his personal struggle with each strained note. I still get the chills when I listen to Where Did You Sleep Last Night. He was not the best guitarist in the world, but he was an innovator. He spent years knee-deep in Melvins cassettes and had a deep respect for the musicians that came before him. His enthusiam was undeniable. The guy suffered from an unidentifiable stomach virus and was in nearly constant pain... and anyone listening to him sing could feel that pain.

3. There Was a Message

Everyone knows the anti-conformity tagline of Smells Like Teen Spirit (namely, 'f*** what they expect, do what you want!'), but there was more than that. Cobain was a deep thinker and his lyrics were a passive (and at times sarcastic) fight against inequity and established norms. He was a self-identified feminist, having witnessed the oppression of female friends and identifying a culture of women being put down. Been a Son addressed the burden of being born female. Nirvana covered the classic folk song Ain't it a Shame which mocks hypocrisy in the redneck culture. The lyric "...what else could I say, everyone is gay," in All Apologies was way ahead of its time, bringing the LGBT civil rights movement into the spotlight before there was a movement or a spotlight. Nobody pulled off sarcasm in song quite like Cobain. He was actually not forever in dept to your priceless advice. He was not apologetic at all. He was exactly who he meant to be and didn't give a damn who didn't agree. He preached a message of acceptance and being yourself above all else.

The Foo Fighters will never be Nirvana is because there is no passion. Dave Grohl is arguably one of the greatest musicians alive and his skill and versitility are always impressive... but he has nothing to say. Nirvana inspired a generation. The Foo Fighters have released more than twice as many albums but they are still not in the same league as Nirvana. Times Like These and Everlong are their most well-known songs and yet both could be described as generic love songs. They have no depth or meaning. They are literal songs to be taken at face value. The reason the Foo Fighters got radio play is because of how special Nirvana was, but Grohl has yet to acknowledge his previous band in any noticable way. I saw the Foo Fighters play at MSG on the 20th anniversary of the Nevermind album release, and although Krist Novoselic joined them on stage, he played an accordian instead of a bass and they did a Foo Fighters song and not a single track off of Nevermind.

Grohl embraced the celebrity that Nirvana rejected. He learned how to sell out. You'll see Dave Grohl at every benefit and award show and presidential banquet because he has learned the art of kissing ass and staying bland and mainstream enough to fit in with pop culture. There is nothing personal or real in any of the Foo Fighters lyrics and although they inspire a wistful reminiscence they fail to inspire the same energy that Nirvana did.

4. They're All Greatest Hits

Kurt Cobain grew up in an era without iTunes. There was a single release, typically with an interesting b-side, but every track on the album had to be just as good as the last or you would run the risk of people using the fast forward button and having their tape spin out of the casing and all over the ground. He did not believe in releasing a greatest hits album. He thought it was unfair for fans to have to pay for another album and get a bunch of song they already had. In 2002 a new Nirvana album titled Nirvana was released. It was exactly what Cobain did not want... a collection of previously released songs, with one new track to lure loyal fans into a purchase. Another greatest hits compilation was released in 2010, this one called Icon, because Courtney Love still has bills to pay.

5. Why So Serious?

Nirvana didn't expect to change the world. They were not trying to go viral on YouTube or get as many Twitter followers as possible. They did not take themselves too seriously and it came across in their music (and their music videos). Kurt Cobain's first demo was titled, "Fecal Matter," and although it wasn't shit, it showed that he was aware that it was raw and unrefined music. This playful attitude made the band seem real. Just a couple of good friend laughing and joking and making some kick-ass rock and roll.

It's incredible that it's been 20 years since he died. Most people my age probably felt old when 20 years had passed since Nevermind was released. It's a not-so-subtle reminder of our own mortality and yet this is a band that shaped our youth. Their songs inspired us and let us jump and scream and rebel and lash out and more importantly than anything else... they made us feel understood. It does not go without saying that Nirvana has enriched the lives of millions of young people that grew up in the 90's and the music continues to reach new generations of music lovers even 20 years later. I look forward to one day sharing Nirvana with my kids when they start to question authority and feel isolated in the strange world that is teenagedom.

- John Powers

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Subway Yoga Mat Sandwich™

Comic John Powers Jared Fogle Subway Yoga Mat Sandwich
Comic John Powers with Jared, the Subway Guy

Ever since Subway unveiled it's Yoga Mat Sandwich™ sales at the fast-food sub shop have plummeted. It seems that suddenly people care more about their health then they do about getting fast food at a decent price. Above is a picture of Jared (the Subway Guy) Fogle and myself at a Subway restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was a busy lunchtime hour but Jared and I were the only ones indulging in the tasty Subway cuisine. 

Subway has long stood behind the catchphrase "Eat Fresh," suggesting that they provide fresh ingredients and a healthier alternative to the Big Mac, the Whopper and Taco Bell mystery meat. They even teamed up with Olympian Michael Phelps in an attempt to appeal to athletes and stoners alike. 

Some people were shocked to find that the bread at subway actually contains the same ingredients as a yoga mat. 
Kristen Delfonte of Brooklyn said, "I can't believe it. The bread always smells so fake and rubbery when I walk past the store. It's just a complete shock to find out there's azodicarbonamide in there."

Robert Erlens was astounded to learn that adding Chipotle Mayo adds 500 calories. "I was astounded to learn that adding Chipotle Mayo adds 500 calories. They say it's less calories than other fast food joints... yeah, if you order a plain 6-inch with no cheese! Who does that?! When I order a foot-long sub, I want it to have the works! I'm talking double-meat, double cheese, and a bunch of soggy peppers and pickles and stuff!"

A woman in line who asked not to be identified ordered a 6-inch Italian. Right after she said that, Jared tapped her on the shoulder and winked. When we caught up with him after the incident he replied, "It's actually 4 and a half inches."

Comic John Powers Jared Fogle Subway Yoga Mat Sandwich
The Yoga Mat Sandwich™ at Subway

No matter how big it is, people are not happy that Subway bread is not simply made of yeast and flour. The chemicals and additives in our fast food may keep it fresh longer, bake the bread higher, or make the french fries tastier, but we no longer care about any of that. Gone are the days when the consumer will blindly gobble whatever is available in a 2-mile radius of their office. We demand more than artificial rubber yoga mat bread. We want a healthy sandwich, prepared fresh, with real ingredients. 

...and no, we don't want it "toatsted."

- John Powers

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Putin Withdraws From Olympics

Gay Vladimir Putin Russia Sochi Olympics 2014 Ban Arrest People Kill Stray DogsRussian President Vladimir Putin announced today that he will not be attending the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. After nearly a year of attempting to block homosexual athletes from participating and gay fans from attending (with threats of arrest and other persecution), the president has decided that as a gay man himself, it would be massively hypocritical to show up at the Olympics.

Mr. Putin, like many homosexuals, was afraid to come out amidst such anti-gay sentiment is his own government. He stayed in the closet and used blatant homophobia as a shield to protect himself from unwanted bullying and criticisms. Finally, his secret became too much to bear and he decided to come out. We here in America applaud Mr. Putin for his courage and honesty. The announcement was followed by a liberating bare-chested horseback ride. 

Gay Vladimir Putin Russia Sochi Olympics 2014 Ban Arrest People Kill Stray DogsHis official press release read, "We are not forbidding anything. Anything goes. There is no punishment for such kinds of relations. To paraphrase Maclemore & Lewis, 'he keeps me warm.' We want everyone with strange and unusual sexual impulses to feel relaxed and calm, but leave children alone please."

When asked how it felt to hide his sexuality for so long, Mr. Putin replied, "What, are we supposed to follow along like obedient lapdogs, towards whatever consequences await? We have our own traditions, our own culture. We have respect for all of our international partners and ask that they also respect our own traditions and culture." Once off-camera, the Russian president picked up his pink martini and gingerly sucked the beverage through a thin blue straw. 

When asked how he felt about the president's statements, esteemed Russian boxer Drago simply replied, "I will break him."

Security has already been a concern with many fearing there will be a terrorist attack at the Sochi Olympic Games. There have also been reports of the local government killing stray dogs. Things are very queer in Russia, but one thing is for sure, it is a comfort to know that the President will hold himself to the same standards as the athletes the entire world will be watching. 

ConEd Disturbs Gramercy

What sounds like gunshots are currently exploding outside of Gramercy Row apartments on 22nd street between Lexington and Third Avenue in Manhattan, New York. As you can see by the videotape, a Baruch security guard is standing idly by and doing nothing about the jarring noise. Every seven seconds (nearly exactly) you can hear a sound like a gunshot going off coming from a Con Edison work site. The electric company has been doing underground work in this spot for many months and it appears the site was not properly secured for water damage. The recent snowfall seems to have penetrated the metal plates covering the site and caused an underground electrical issue resulting in an explosion every seven seconds. What you are hearing in the video is actual audio from the scene. Although we are not certain at this time whether or not this is a dangerous area, it is currently roped off with "FIRE LINE DO NOT CROSS" tape, and anyone passing by is certain to be startled by the abrupt noise.

We will have more for you as this story develops.

* update: As of 9:15am on Thursday, February 7th, Con Edison trucks have closed down the street and have removed the metal plates to fix the issue. 

John Powers
Local Reporter

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 2: Resolution

Today is January 2nd, which means day 2 without a cigarette. There are millions of people around the world telling themselves that they can do it this time. Day 2 came quick and soon it will be day 3. I don't really need to smoke, but I really want to. 
All around the world quitters are giving in today. They are making excuses for going back to their addiction. They are saying, "resolutions are stupid anyway," and, "I'll quit when I'm damn ready," and, "it was a good idea but we all know it's not gonna happen." 
My resolution is resolute. My mind is made up. This time is for real. I'll just drink more. I'll chew gum. I already bought 4 bags of sunflower seeds. That will get me through the weekend. I don't feel too bad. I really want a cigarette but I don't really need one. My friend Peter is going outside now. He didn't bother with a quitting resolution. He knows it's bullshit. I could bum a butt from him and feel that familiar tingle in no time. 
...but I won't. I don't need it. Already the poison is draining from my pores and leaving my system. By the end of the week I will be breathing better and feeling healthier. All I need is a month. It's cold outside anyhow. If I can last a month this time will be the last. This time is for real and I am no longer a smoker. 
I'm a quitter. 
...but nobody likes a quitter.