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News of Otsego County

Mary Anne Whelan

WHELAN: These Facts Correct: Guns Are Killing Us
LETTER from MARY ANNE WHELAN, MD

These Facts Correct:

Guns Are Killing Us

To the Editor:

In his most recent letters to the editor on the subject of gun regulation, Mr. Brockway seems to have the shoe on the wrong foot when it comes to factual statements, a particularly bad error for a blacksmith.

In addition to his past claims that the Democratic presidential candidates all wanted to take your guns away, which he surely knew to be false – none of them had ever said any such thing – he has now decided that Kirsten Gillibrand wants to put you in jail for not surrendering them. Oh please.

And with regard to the consequences of the Australian gun buy-back program, the statement that there was a 400 percent increase in gun violence as a consequence was long ago flagged by Facebook as false information. In fact there has been a decrease in gun-related shootings and crimes of violence since the measures taken in Australia.

Here are some facts for him, and if he disagrees with them he can argue with the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine and Pediatrics, which is the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

From Pediatrics, 2019: STATE GUN LAWS AND PEDIATRIC FIREARM-RELATED MORTALITY: “States with laws requiring universal background
checks for firearms purchase in effect for equal to or more than five years had lower pediatric mortality rates.”

From Pediatrics, 2017: “The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both older and younger children.”

From the New England Journal of Medicine, 2018: Fifteen per cent of all deaths in children and adolescents were firearm related. Of all firearm deaths at all ages, 26 percent occurred among children and adolescents.

In March and April of 2020, gun sales soared, a typical American response to feeling threatened, this time by a virus – perhaps people thought they could shoot it – and pediatric deaths from unintentional shootings by children increased by 45 percent compared to the rates in the preceding three years, as more guns became domestically available.

These facts add up to an appalling number of firearm related deaths, many of which could be prevented by banning assault weapons, reducing permissible magazine loads, and requiring safe storage and documentable ownership.

Screening out mentally unstable persons from access to ownership is also entirely appropriate, and in fact has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Second Amendment was never meant to confer any right to indiscriminate ownership or use.

Mr. Brockway for some reason refers to deaths occurring in urban “war zones” as being “questionable”. What in the world does that mean?

And what is the relevance of opioid-related deaths, DWI deaths, or the Twin Towers? I’m glad not to be blamed (as a physician) for contributing to the opioid epidemic, but I would never take legislation intended to prevent over-prescribing personally.

The fact remains that firearm related deaths can be reduced by sensible legislation; that sanctuaries are for people, not inanimate objects, and that the courts of New York have held that nothing in the SAFE Act is in conflict with the Second Amendment.

It does not impede target practice or traditional hunting. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. If you don’t like it you could try to overturn it by legal means – Adrian Kuzminski, in a recent piece in this paper, offers the model of appeals to the principle of “Home Rule” – but as a state law it does surely confer an obligation for enforcement, both on the part of county board members and the police, as it stands.

And you don’t need assault weapons – which were not even conceived of by the framers of the Second Amendment – to hunt, target shoot, or protect yourself in your own home. It’s fine that Mr. Brashear and his friends and family wouldn’t want to be around people who don’t respect their firearms, but it should also be a legal obligation to register them, keep them safely away from children and adolescents, and take full responsibility for their use and transfer, which obviously isn’t happening now. What are the objections to that?

MARY ANNE WHELAN, MD
Cooperstown

What Happened  To Freddie Gray?

DR. WHELAN’S BOOK PUBLISHED

What Happened 

To Freddie Gray?

Dr. Mary Anne Whelan’s “Freddie’s Last Ride” is now available on amazon.com. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Editor’s Note: Here are excerpts from Dr. Mary Anne Whelan’s just-published “Freddie’s Last Ride,” the retired Bassett Hospital neurologist’s assessment of the controversial case of a black teenager in Baltimore who died in police custody in 2015. It is available through www.amazon.com.

April 12, 2015, … police saw a young black man, Freddie Gray, and without provocation other than his identity, chased him when he ran and pinned him when he stopped for them, slammed him face down, knelt on him, dragged him up and stuffed him into a police van.

This, also, was not unusual. But on this occasion, rather unusually,  even for the Baltimore police, they had broken his neck before stuffing him in.

It is not too much to say that the outcome of the trials of the six charged officers … was determined before the first person took the stand.

To a major extent, the prosecution had to depend on proving charges which depended on circumstantial evidence and upon knowing the state of mind of the defendant.

(Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn) Mosby, who brought those charges, certainly should have known better.

Unfortunately, Mosby relied upon the autopsy report and in interpreting confused autopsy evidence, in the usual sense, with opinion, which the pathologist had derived from what the police told her about the state of the victim and the timing of the injury.

She therefore brought charges which, in greatest part, had to do with an event presumed to take place inside the van. And the media followed suit.

This error of construction was the determining factor in the acquittal of the four officers tried – Porter, Nero, Goodson and Rice – and of charges being dropped against the others.

It was a calamitous error.

The argument about which stop Gray was injured at was irrelevant to begin with, as it had to be, given the misplaced charges based on the assumption that it had happened in the van. It was like disputing the number of angels that could fit onto the head of a pin.

What can be essentially taken away from these arguments is that there was no hard factual evidence to support any timing, only opinion, acknowledged speculation and misinformation.

And what is perhaps the most notable of all: No one person, or persons, were ever actually charged with breaking Gray’s neck.

All of this is to say that there is another, very largely unaddressed, area of ethical responsibility for individual physicians. That is the moral obligation to speak out, and to offer voluntary input, professional but unreimbursed, in individual and obvious cases.

If, in the end, the crucible of justice in the courts failed Freddie, there was plenty of blame to go around. The failure of the informed neurosurgical community to come forward individually and collectively deserves blame.

Mosby largely blamed the lack of independent investigation, the absence of community oversight into the inquiry, the police, and the judge, saying that she could have tried the case a hundred times with no different outcome.

She was entirely right with regard to the problem of police investigating police and their subordination of the prosecution investigations. Losing witness testimony, among other things, is not pretty.

But it is impossible not to assign her, along with (Assistant Medical Examiner) Carol Allen and (Chief Medical Examiner) David Fowler, a large part of the responsibility for the outcome.

Mosby herself, in tracking the misleading assessment of the autopsy report without close reading of its separation of opinion from medical evidence, was ultimately to blame.

Her charges were inappropriately conceived. She did not seek appropriate medical input before bringing them. She failed to insist on an independent investigation. And while (Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry) Williams could certainly be criticized for some of his decisions – most notably, on the seatbelting issue, but also in terms of his framing of the time of Goodson’s awareness of Grays condition – he was honorable, experienced and competent.

In ignoring the obvious video evidence and the testimony of eyewitnesses and by failing to charge the arresting officers specifically with homicide, Mosby must bear the major responsibility.

It didn’t happen in the van. The arresting officers broke his neck.

The case should be retried.

Petitions Vie Over Firearms

Petitions Vie Over Firearms

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN

Opponents of turning Otsego County into a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” are faster on the draw than proponents, at least when it comes to petitions.

On their behalf, Mary Anne Whelan, the retired Bassett physician, was planning to turn in petitions with “many hundred” signatures to the county Board of Representatives when it met Wednesday, March 4.

“We … respectfully ask the county Board of Representatives to declare support of the current state regulations concerning gun control,” it reads. “…Sanctuaries are for people, not for guns.”

Whelan said she alone had 200 signatures on petitions she circulated, and she was hoping for several hundred more from others circulating petitions.”

She is acting now because she anticipated county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens, who has championed the “Second Amendment Sanctuary” idea, would be presenting petitions with perhaps thousands of signatures at this week’s meeting.

However, he said he is now waiting until the April 1 meeting.

Brockway said the Facebook-based “2A Otsego County Sanctuary Group” is planning a meeting of its supporters Sunday, March 22, at the Morris VFW, to compile a master list.

“I’m guessing we’ll have 6,000 signatures, I’m not positive,” he said.

He expects Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, to be at that meeting, as well as county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, who is running for state Senate. “We’ve invited county board members as well,” he said.

A freshman representative, he’s learned that if he introduces a resolution to create a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” during a county board meeting, the rules of the board will require a two-thirds vote for approval.

However, if he introduces the measure in a committee, and it is approved and sent on the full board, it will only require a majority vote for approval. He plans to go that route this month, with the idea the resolution will be ready to go to the full board on April 1.

At first, Whelan, who was soliciting signatures Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market along with Sam Wilcox of Cooperstown, said she didn’t believe the county board had the authority to create a gun sanctuary, where the state SAFE Act wouldn’t be enforced.

Since, however, she has researched some “reasonably written stuff” and now isn’t sure.

“I don’t think it’s likely the board would vote for Brockway’s proposition: It’s so disruptive,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to me that business of the board isn’t to overturn existing laws of the State of New York.”

So far, 17 counties in New York State are seeking sanctuary status, said Brockway, ticking off Montgomery, Hamilton, Ulster and Lewis, as well as neighboring Delaware. “There’s a bunch of them across the state,” he said. “It’s going to be statewide before it’s done.”

Some petitions have been “stolen” from stores that had them available for signators, including three in Cooperstown. At the gas station in Worcester, two full pages were absconded when the clerk wasn’t looking, an estimated 24 signatures per page, Brockway said.

Petition Opposes ‘Sanctuary County’

Petition Opposes

‘Sanctuary County’

Whelan, Wilcox Submit It,

Express Worries About Guns

Mary Anne Whelan raises issues about a “Sanctuary County” for guns. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

COOPERSTOWN – Two citizens worried the county Board of Representatives might consider declaring Otsego a “Sanctuary County,” eschewing gun-law enforcement, presented a petition with 150 signatures this morning at the reps’ March meeting.

Mary Anne Whelan, the retired Bassett physician, pointed out the U.S. has more guns per capita than any country except Yemen.  As for gun deaths, the U.S. is “second to none,” she said.

Bassett MD May Be Among First Women At Mountain’s Peak

OUR KILIMANJARO HIKERS

Bassett MD May Be

Among First Women

At Mountain’s Peak

Dr. Whelan’s hiking group pause to confer with Masai on the way up Kilimanjaro.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.ALLOTSEGO.com

Now a retired Bassett physician, Mary Anne Whelan reviews memorabilia from the 1961 trek. Most of the photos she was in were ruined in a photo lab back home. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – When Mary Anne Whelan was spending a summer in Tanzania, Africa, her friends came up with a wild idea.

Why not scale Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest?

“There was a superstition that the Gods would be displeased if a woman climbed the mountain,” she said. “I guess they weren’t, because we did!”

Whelan, the retired Bassett physician, in 1961 was among the first women to climb the peak.

In recent weeks, Kilimanjaro has been in the news as, via Twitter, local people could follow the trek to the top by SUNY Oneonta’s new president, Barbara Jean Morris.  She reached the peak Friday, July 26.

Coincidentally, a CCS junior Will Weldon, son of Jeanette and Bill Weldon of Cooperstown, had reached the summit 10 days before with a Moondance Adventures group.

“The summer after I graduated college,” said Whelan, “I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I learned some Swahili and went to teach school in Tanzania.”

While there, she roomed with a woman named Sally Woodman and, with a group of friends, they decided to spend a weekend hiking the peaks. “It was there!” she said. “None of us really had any hiking experience except for Nile Albright; he was very athletic and had been an Olympic contender in barrel jumping on ice skates.”

The group hired guides and porters, and a cook for a shilling a day. “We didn’t have any equipment, just good walking shoes and jeans,” she said.

She kept a journal for the trip, which she then typed up and sent to her parents with photos. “We set up the mountain in petrol,” she wrote on Tuesday, Aug. 15. “The jeep burned out the transmission, and there was much pushing and digging trying to get it out.”

Trying to decide what to do on graduating from college, the future Dr. Whelan spent the summer teaching in Tanzania.

They first climbed Mawenzi, the companion peak to Kilimanjaro, at 16,893 feet, before heading up to the big mountain’s Uhuru Peak, 19,341 feet. “It was three days up and two down,” she said. “A very long, very uphill walk.”

Since then, she noted, climate change has shrunk the mountain peak from 19,341 to 19,318 feet when it was measured in 2014.

As they neared the summit of Kilimanjaro, altitude sickness set in. “We were staying in the Kobo Hut, and Sally got up in the middle of the night and gave everybody aspirin,” she said. “I had the worst headache.”

At 1 a.m. on Aug. 19, they got up to set out for the summit to see the sunrise. “It was so cold, we donned all possible clothing,” she said. “The last part is all shale, so we were sliding everywhere. It was miserable at 19,000 feet.”

Some in the group got altitude sickness and had to stop. Phyllis, another girl in the group, hurt her ankle and had to turn back. “I foolishly eat chocolate and feel disinclined to go on,” she wrote. “I doze in a sunny niche, waiting.”

But when the hikers finally made it to the top to watch the sunrise, it was all worth it. “We had a good time,” Mary Anne said. “I went to sign the book, but Sally had already put my name in it.”

She snapped a photo of Sally at the summit, and Sally took one of her, but when she went to get them developed, the negatives were accidentally destroyed in processing.

But while in Tanzania, the future doctor also went on safari. “It was great to see herds of zebras and giraffes,” she said. “We stayed in Mombasa one night, and though the rooms were 10 shillings” – roughly $1.25 – “we gave them a case of beer and they let us stay for free!”

 

 

Put Up Your Own Sign, But Leave Others’ Alone
Letter from MARY ANNE WHELAN

Put Up Your Own Sign,

But Leave Others’ Alone

To the Editor:

The grassy, rather triangular-shaped space at the junction of Route 80 and the Pierstown Road has always been used as a place for various signs – the TANNER HILL HERB FARM.  GRANGE BARBEQUE!  BOOK SALE! And, in political seasons, postings for various candidates.

On Sunday, June 30, a sign in patriotic colors promoting the election of ANY FUNCTIONAL ADULT IN 2020 was up; on Wednesday, July 3, between 12:30 and 4:15 pm, someone got rid of it.

I hadn’t put it there, but was glad to see it. It was both amusing, which most political signage is not, and message-bearing.

Over the years there have been signs for political candidates that I liked, and others that I didn’t, placed there.  But as far as I know they were always left alone until removed by their owners. That is, or was, a tribute to the expression of free thought in a civilized and democratic society.

Our Editor Jim Kevlin publishes letters ranging from the sane and opinionated to the virtually insane but also opinionated, because he sees it as the right thing to do. Just destroying an expression of opinion which you don’t like is thuggish and profoundly saddening.

It violates values that as Americans I believe we hold dear.   Go put up your own sign if you want, but leave the others alone.

MARY ANNE WHELAN

Cooperstown

Only Communications Can Root Out Bullying
LETTER from MARY ANNE WHELAN

Only Communications

Can Root Out Bullying

To the Editor:

Last week’s article about school bullying recounts a serious incident in Cooperstown High School (by no means the first), but it begins – and exists – at much earlier levels, as parents and administrators of the lower grades will verify.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed prophylactically and at multiple levels, by parents talking to their own children, by teachers and administrators, and by health care providers.

They need to talk to each other, and to the kids, on an ongoing basis, and not just once.  The students are right to ask: What are they doing?  All of them?  All of us?

MARY ANNE WHELAN

Cooperstown

Poster Drives Says: ‘We Welcome People’

Poster Drives Says:

‘We Welcome People’

Duo Aims To Distribute 50 Village-Wide

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Mary Anne Whelan of Cooperstown has gotten permission to place a “Cooperstown Welcomes People” post in the Village Library hallway, and is seeking to distribute 50 community-wide. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – The posters began appearing around Cooperstown about a week ago:  “Cooperstown Welcomes People of All Faiths from All Nations,” with red, white and blue stripe across the middle.

There’s one on the Village Library bulletin board at 22 Main, another in The Cooperstown Farmers’ Market.  Alex’s Bistro has one in the front window, Bruce Hall in the side window.

Mary Anne Whelan, the retired Bassett physician, said in an interview today the posters were her idea.    “I’ve never done anything like this before,” she added.

She had 50 printed, and she and Sam Wilcox have been placing them where they can.  “Sam took the left side” of Main Street, “I took the right side,” she said.

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