Boomer’s been re-educated, but the rest of us still have a lot to learn about maternity care

Last week, the sports world was aflame over some particularly nasty comments that Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason made about Mets second-baseman Daniel Murphy’s decision to skip out on the season opener for the birth of his first child — an event that happens exactly once a lifetime. Those comments included 1) telling Murphy he should have told his wife to schedule a C-section for before the season started and 2) telling Murphy he should have left immediately after the birth once it was clear mom and baby were fine.

I feel some kind of way about the whole situation, but that’s been rehashed enough by everyone and Esiason at least has apologized (props to March of Dimes for “re-educating” him, although I hope it was on more than just their mission statement) so I won’t take your time here to do that. However, there are severe health implications for both of those suggestions.

How severe? Try these stats on for size:

  • Infants born pre-term (even at 37 or 38 weeks) are 50% more likely to die than those born full term.
  • Over 60% of maternal deaths in the US are due to complications that arise after birth, and it’s not always clear during labor whether further complications will arise.

For more reasons why the whole paternity leave fiasco was terrible from a public health perspective, check out the full blog that Maura Reilly and I wrote for Rabin Martin last week.



What #occupywallst could learn from the Chilean student protests

(Victor Ruiz Caballero / Reuters) Demonstrators are hit by a jet of water released from a riot police vehicle during a rally against the public state education system in Santiago, Oct. 13, 2011.

I’ve been following the Chilean student protests for the past several months (despite the lack of US coverage, see more below) and I’ve been really impressed by how well the students there articulate the relationship between their struggles and the failure of the global economic system as a whole. It’s something that #occupywallst and the other #occupy movements springing up around the US have so far failed to do.

The first in the world to implement neoliberal policies, Chile instituted tuition fees in the previously free public universities and cut nearly all funding to public primary and secondary schools under the Pinochet dictatorship in 1973. Today’s Chilean university students are buried in a mountain of debt, much like American students, but theirs is from both university loans and secondary school loans (which are at times even more expensive than university). Camila Vallejo (president of the Universidad de Chile student body and one of the leaders of the movement) and others have called student debt out as a repressive strategy that forces students to buy into the neoliberal capitalist system rather than challenging it.

This is, of course, the same logic that situates student debt at the center of #occupywallst (along with a great many other issues). Naomi Klein hints at this in an interview with Democracy Now! but she’s missing just how interlinked these movements are. The Chilean students (and now their teachers, parents, etc.) are protesting the same thing as the #occupywallst-ers: the ravaging effects of a neoliberal capitalist system that values a dollar more than a human life.

There’s a reason why the mainstream American media has largely ignored the Chilean protests; we Americans have too much in common with Chileans to not draw parallels between the politico-economic crisis here and the one there. We just might get inspired.


101 ways to eat Tallarines….

Last night I had some of the girls from the rugby team over for a team pasta dinner. According to the RSVPs (or lack thereof) we expected (and cooked for) 20. 5 showed up. So now I’ve got a mountain (2 kilos) of pasta. So today starts the 1001 Nights of Tallarines. Any suggestions of what to do next?

Breakfast today was fried spaghetti with jamón and a blue cheese sauce.

Arte Precolombino

The largest known intact quipu

One of the courses I’m taking is about the culturas indígenas of Chile. Although we’re always taught that Chile was kind of a backwater in terms of native cultures (as compared with Peru’s Inka and Moche, Mexico’s Aztecs, and Guatemala’s Maya), there’s actually a rich indigenous heritage. Chile’s Atacama desert is home to the oldest mummies in the world and the Mapuche of southern Chile were the only tribe to effectively fend off the Spaniards for the duration of colonial rule (Chile had to sign a peace treaty with the Mapuche some years after Independence). Maybe our lack of knowledge about Chile’s indigenous cultures is due to the comparative poverty of these regions or maybe it has to do with the fact that they weren’t so easily beaten by Western forces. That being said, the museum has artifacts from all over Central and South America and is definitely worth a visit. Here are a few examples of what the museum has to offer.

Detail of the quipu

The Inka used quipu as record-keeping devices, we believe to keep track of tribute offerings throughout the empire. Each string is made of llama or alpaca hair and has an intricate knot tied onto it. Archaeologists  believe that the position of the knot, as well as the type of know and color of the string, indicate different quantities but the complete “code” of the quipus still hasn’t been broken.

Mummy of a young boy

The mummies of the Chinchorro people of northern Chile are the oldest known in the world. Unlike other societies, which only mummified the wealthy and powerful, the Chinchorro mummified all of their dead. The inernal organs of the deceased were removed and replaced with leaves and other plant matter. The mummies remained preserved to this day due to the severe environmental conditions of the Atacama desert (the world’s driest desert).


The Mapuche used Chemamull to mark the graves of the deceased, much as headstones are used today. However, the chemamull also had important religious significance–the chemamull helped reunite the deceased’s spirit with the ancestors. Unfortunately, the Spanish destroyed a lot of these, but some are still in existance.


Hey folks,

Sorry the La Serena post was published before it was complete, but it’s done now so feel free to check out the links in the post below.

Today is just kind of a chill day for me, lots of reading for my history class (20th century Chilean history with Gabriel Salazar, the country’s top contemporary historian…what luck!). If you’re interested in becoming a contemporary Chilean history buff with me, here’s what I’m reading now (along with the books I’ve finished):

María Angélica Illanes: “La revolución solidaria”, en ídem: Chile descentrado. Formación socio-cultural republicana y transición capitalista (1810-1910) (Santiago, 2003. Ediciones LOM), Tercera Parte.

Mario Góngora: Ensayo histórico sobre la noción de Estado en Chile en los siglos XIX y XX (Santiago, 1981. La Ciudad).

Salazar: “El municipio cercenado: la lucha por la autonomía de la asociación municipal en Chile, 1914-1973”, en G.Salazar & J.Benítez (Eds.): Autonomía, espacio, gestión. El municipio cercenado (Santiago, 1998. Ediciones LOM), pp. 5-60.
Sofía Correa: Con las riendas del poder (Santiago, 2005. Sudamericana).

G.Salazar & J.Pinto: Historia Contemporánea de Chile (Santiago, 1999-2003. Ediciones LOM), 5 volúmenes. Ver sobre todo volúmenes 1 y 2.


La Serena

This weekend, we took a trip to the comuna La Serena for a little cultural enrichment. A quick rundown of the trip itinerary (click on each day for a more detailed description and some photos):

Friday: Valle de Elqui–meeting in Paihuano municipio to learn a bit about the region and the local government; visit to the country’s top artisan pisquería (where they make pisco, the national liquor of Chile); visit to Gabriela Mistral’s birth home; stargazing at the Mamelluca observatory (the skies in northern Chile are some of the cleanest in the world, so a ton of astronomical research is done here).

Saturday: Los Choros–Reserva Nacional Pingüinos de Humboldt/Piñera visit; free time in La Serena

Sunday: La Serena/Coquimbo–trip to the artisan market and fish market in Coquimbo, where I bought the TASTIEST shellfish ceviche I’ve ever eaten (so fresh!!!); free time on the beach

Son vivos!!!

The 33 Chilean miners who were trapped on August 5th when the tunnel they were working in collapsed are alive. That’s the news that we’ve just received here in Santiago, around the country people have taken to the streets with flags or are driving around honking their horns in celebration. Just a few days ago, the search had been called off, under the premise that the miners were already dead.

“At the very least, they should continue the search to exhume the bodies,” Marcial (my almost-14-year-old host brother) told me angrily the day we got that news. Apparently the families felt the same as the search was resumed. And thanks goodness, as it turns out that all 33 have survived. We should have video communication with them in less than half an hour.