Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump Spoke Truth About ‘Both Sides’ In Charlottesville, And The Media Lost Their Minds


The media behavior in the wake of this press conference was arguably something new, a sort of grotesque watermark of the media’s coverage of the Trump administration thus far.

August 17, 2017
Image result for trump press conference charlottesville
Our media have a problem: they are essentially incapable of covering Donald Trump with anything less than full-on deranged hysteria.
I do not say this as an excess of rhetoric or op-ed theatrics. It is a very real, very pressing problem, only getting worse, and it poses a significant danger to the social fabric of the United States. Twenty-first century American media has the ability to shape our discourse and shift our public consciousness, and it is abusing that power in the worst ways possible. This is likely a bigger problem than any of us realizes.
The last 48 hours provided a crystal-clear example of the genuinely dangerous course upon which the media have set themselves. At Trump Tower on Tuesday, President Trump held a press conference that was initially supposed to be about infrastructure but quickly went off-script and became about the Charlottesville neo-Nazi madness.
By itself this is nothing new: Trump regularly goes off-script, if it can even be said that he has a script. But the media behavior in the wake of this conference was arguably something new, a sort of grotesque watermark of the media’s coverage of the Trump administration thus far.
The furor surrounding the press conference stemmed largely from one particular line Trump delivered. When one reporter asked about his claim that there had been “hatred [and] violence on both sides,” Trump replied: “Well I do think there’s blame. Yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides.”

Media Immediately Jets Into Astral Orbit

With that unremarkable assertion, the media were off. “HE STILL BLAMES BOTH SIDES,” CNN blared in enormous font on its front page. In a headline, The New York Times blared that Trump “again blames ‘both sides.” So did the Chicago Tribune. So did NBC News. So did U.S. News and World Report (calling it “an insane press conference” to boot).
So did NPR. So did CBS News. So did the Washington Post. So did the Wall Street Journal. So did Time. So did MSNBC. So did USA TodayNBC News later wondered: “Has Trump Lost His Moral Authority for Good?” CNN continued with the massive headlines, calling Trump’s press conference “a meltdown for the ages,” and declaring: “Trump is who we feared he was.” Vox claimed Trump “is offering comfort to racists and extremists.”
The unambiguous implication of this media firestorm is obvious: we are supposed to see it as outrageous at best and morally abhorrent at worst that Trump would claim that “there is blame on both sides.” The thing is, Trump was telling the truth. There isblame on both sides. And we have eyewitness descriptions and photograph evidence to back it up.

Truth Is Truth, People

Trump appears to separate the generalized violence of that Saturday afternoon from the vehicular homicide a white nationalist perpetrated on Charlottesville’s mall near the end of the whole affair. In the press conference, Trump stated in no uncertain terms: “The driver of the car is a murderer. What he did was a horrible, inexcusable thing.”
It is, rather, the periodic violence that occurred throughout Charlottesville’s downtown area to which Trump was apparently referring. And he’s right: both sides committed violence on that day.
We know this because people there saw it happen and have confirmed Trump’s characterization publicly. New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, for one, attested: “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right,” she tweeted. “I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” If there were any doubt as to whether the Left were committing violence that day, Stolberg later clarified: “[I] should have said violent, not hate-filled.”
I did not notice any wall-to-wall coverage of Stolberg’s unambiguous eyewitness testimony. Did you?
Another eyewitness report comes from Isabella Ciambotti, a creative writing major from the University of Virginia. Speaking to The New York Times, Ciambotti testified that at one point “a counterprotestor ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters.” Photographic evidence confirms Ciambotti’s account.
Raw footage of the moment the counterprotestor threw the box is inconclusive but strongly suggests the counterprotester was unprovoked at the time. Further raw footage shows counterprotesters hurling objects at white supremacists and neo-Nazis while the latter simply stand there a good distance apart from the crowd.
Ciambotti also claims to have witnessed “another man from the white supremacist crowd being chased and beaten.” Additionally she saw “a much older man, also with the alt-right group, [who] got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it.” Ciambotti claims to have intervened before the beating could continue further.
Ciambotti further asserts:
There were absolutely groups of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville this past weekend, many making a mature show of resistance. But what I saw on Market Street didn’t feel like resistance. It felt like every single person letting out his or her own well of fear and frustration on the crowd.

These People Don’t Have Strong Motivations to Lie

Both Stolberg and Ciambotti can fairly be seen as credible witnesses. Ciambotti, in particular, affirms she was a part of the counter-protest, yet she directly attests to the violent nature of the liberals who gathered in Charlottesville that day.
Additionally, Charlottesville police chief Al S. Thomas Jr. has affirmed that the protest saw “mutually combative” individuals on both sides. If the police chief who oversaw the mayhem is affirming Trump’s basic premise, might we assume that Trump is onto something?
It is not unreasonable to blame “both sides” of protesters that day. Yes, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists showed up preaching vicious hate, ugliness, and stupidity. Many were armed to the teeth while doing it.
But liberal protesters showed up armed, as well, and we have unequivocal testimony and footage proving that they committed unprovoked violence that day. This was not a gentle counter-protest of “passive resistance;” the Left did not show up to downtown Charlottesville to practice civil rights-style non-violent activism. They had fighting on their mind. And they fought.

There Was Plenty to Legitimately Criticize Here

The fact that our media dedicated an entire news cycle to Trump’s truthful statement on the matter is staggering. This was not necessary. There were plenty of things the media could have criticize in Trump’s press conference. He asserts, for instance, that “very fine people” marched with the white supremacists and Nazis, people “that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue.”
Maybe this is true, but there is no evidence that the statue protest was made up of anything other than paranoid racists. Trump should not have made this statement unless he was willing to provide proof to back it up.
Yet he also told the press: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” This, according to Vox, constitutes Trump “offering comfort to racists and extremists.”
Trump makes a lot of mistakes. Some are minor, some major. In that, he is like every president who has ever held the position. Sometimes he gets things right, too—-as he did blaming the Charlottesville street violence on “both sides.”
The media’s responsibility, if it even cares anymore, is to learn how to tell the difference between the things he does right, the small mistakes he makes, and the big blunders he commits. Currently the media are apparently incapable of telling the difference between all three: it’s one and the same to them, no matter what he does, no matter what he says.
This is a dismal situation for Americans to be in. We have newsmakers whose only professional function these days seems to be whipping tens of millions of people into angry, irrational frenzies. They do not seem to care about the truth. They do not seem to care about honesty, integrity, or accuracy. We are lurching from one shrieking, insane media episode to the next. And it is wearing on all of us, and weakening the bonds of fellowship and friendship between common Americans.
As I write this, the top headline on CNN’s website is: “This is a moral crisis. And it’s self-inflicted.” That’s true. So what is the media going to do about it?

Daniel Payne is a senior contributor at the Federalist. He is an assistant editor for The College Fix, the news magazine of the Student Free Press Association. Daniel's work has appeared in outlets such as National Review Online, Reason, Front Porch Republic, and elsewhere. His personal blog can be found at Trial of the Century. He lives in Virginia.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pro-Choicers Should Explain Why They Think Eugenics Is Acceptable


Iceland's 'eradication' of Down syndrome raises inconvenient questions. At least, it should.


By 
http://thefederalist.com/
August 16, 2017



Image result for iceland down's syndrome
On average, Iceland has two people with Down syndrome born each year (CBS NEWS)

Due to the rise of prenatal screening tests, the number of babies born with Down syndrome in the Western world has begun to significantly diminish. And no one, as CBS News puts it, is “eradicating Down syndrome births” quite like the country of Iceland.

Now, the word “eradication” typically implies that an ailment is being cured or beaten by some technological advancement. Not so in this case. Nearly 100 percent of women who receive positive tests for Down syndrome in that small nation end up eradicating their pregnancies. Iceland averages only one or two Down syndrome children per year, and this seems mostly a result of parents receiving inaccurate test results.

It’s just a matter of time until the rest of the world catches up. In the United States around 67 percent of women who find out their child will be born with Down syndrome opt to have an abortion. In the United Kingdom it’s around 90 percent. More and more women are taking these prenatal tests, and the tests are becoming increasingly accurate.

For now, however, Iceland has completed one of the most successful eugenics programs in the contemporary world. If you think that’s overstated, consider that eugenics — the word itself derived from Greek, meaning “well born” — is nothing more than an effort to control breeding to increase desirable heritable characteristics within a population. This can be done through “positive” selection, as in breeding the “right” kinds of people with each other, or in “negative” selection, which is stopping the wrong kinds of people from having children.
The latter was the hallmark of the progressive movement of the 1900s. It was the rationalization behind the coerced sterilization of thousands of mentally ill, poor, and minorities here in America. It is why real-life Nazis required doctors to register all newborns born with Down syndrome. And the first humans they gassed were children under three years old with “serious hereditary diseases” like Down syndrome.
Most often Down syndrome isn’t hereditary, of course, but for many these children are considered undesirable — really, they are considered “inconvenient” — although most are born with moderate cognitive or intellectual disabilities and many live full lives.
If Iceland’s policy “reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” as geneticist Kari Stefansson admits in a video, then what will it mean when we have the science to extrapolate on these tests and pinpoint other problematic traits in people? How about children with congenital heart defects or cleft palates or sickle-cell disease or autism? Eradicate?
One day a DNA test will be able to tell us virtually anything we want to know, including our tendencies. So here’s the best way to frame the ugliness of these eradication policies in terms more people might care about: “Iceland has made great strides in eradicating gay births” or “Iceland has made great strides in eradicating low-IQ births” or “Iceland has made great strides in eradicating births of those who lean towards obesity” or “Iceland has made great strides in eradicating births of mixed-race babies.” Feel free to insert the fact of humankind that gets you most upset.
How about, “Iceland has made great strides in eradicating female births”?
From what I could tell — admittedly, this is through social media; I see no polling on the issue — most people, many liberals included, reacted to Iceland’s selective eradication of Down syndrome children negatively. Polling from the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute has found that 77 percent believed abortion should be illegal if “the sole reason for seeking an abortion” was to have a boy or girl.
I don’t understand why. If your circumstance or inconvenience is a justifiable reason to eradicate a pregnancy — who wants to be “punished” with a baby, after all? — why wouldn’t a sex-selective abortion be okay? Does the act of abortion transform into something less moral if we feel differently about it? Does the act change because it targets a group of people that we feel are being victimized? What is the ethical difference between a sex-selective abortion and plain-old abortion of a girl?
One imagines that most women carrying babies with genetic disorders in Iceland did not opt to have abortions because they harbor hate or revulsion towards Down syndrome children. I assume they had other reasons, including the desire to give birth to a healthy child and avoid the complications that the alternative would pose.
A number of U.S. states have passed or want to pass laws that would ban abortions sought due to fetal genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, or because of the race, sex, or ethnicity of a fetus. Such a U.S. House bill failed in 2012. Most Democrats involved claimed to be against sex-selective abortion, but not one gave a reason why. Probably because once you admit that these theoretical choices equate to real-life consequences, like eugenics, you are conceding that these are lives we’re talking about, not blobs. In America, such talk is still frowned upon.
Icelanders, apparently, are more honest:
Over at Landspitali University Hospital, Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality. They speak to her when deciding whether to continue or end their pregnancies. Olafsdottir tells women who are wrestling with the decision or feelings of guilt: ‘This is your life — you have the right to choose how your life will look like.’

 Well, not everyone gets to choose what his or her life looks like. Certainly not those who are “eradicated” because they suffer from genetic disorders. Then again, “We don’t look at abortion as a murder,” Olafsdottir explains later. “We look at it as a thing that we ended.” A thing? Using an ambiguous noun is a cowardly way to avoid the set of moral questions that pop up when you have to define that “thing.” And science is making it increasingly difficult to circumvent that debate.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Derek Jeter will bring old-school baseball style to the owner’s box


August 14, 2017
Image result for derek jeter steinbrenner
Derek Jeter and George Steinbrenner
Derek Jeter is going to rock baseball’s world as boss of the Marlins.
Jeter believes in scouting, talent, heart and soul, and he will look to fill the Marlins roster with the same kind of winning player he was during his 20-year championship career with the Yankees. In doing so he will slow down the rush to analytics that is now being portrayed the answer to all of baseball’s questions.
Consider this comment Jeter made to me at his locker several years before he retired.
“Everything is about numbers today, this game is more than numbers, buddy,’’ Jeter said. He went on to point out the value of scouting, the value of allowing a player to think for himself and not becoming a numbers robot.
Play the game, not the numbers.
Jeter will use analytics to some degree, but he is not going to be ruled by analytics.
Remember this, too: Jeter always played with chip on his shoulder, and he will bring that chip, that desire to prove people wrong and his incredible work ethic to the Marlins as head of baseball operations and part-owner after Jeter’s group agreed to purchase the franchise for $1.2 billion Friday.
The Captain will want to do it his way and prove people wrong. He started The Players’ Tribune because he wanted players to have a voice in the media, a new platform without having to rely on traditional media.
In his heart, Jeter wants to run a baseball team that crushes what he views to be over-the-top analytic-based teams.
As simple as it sounds, he wants to bring the game back to the players.
“I think if there is anybody that is equipped to run a team, I think it’s him,’’ CC Sabathia told The Post on Saturday of the future Hall of Famer. “Derek or Alex [Rodriguez]. Jetes is really good at reading through bulls–t in life. Getting the best out of people, getting the best out of players. I don’t know how all that will translate as an owner, but he is really good at that.
“He’s really good at knowing who to have around.’’
Sabathia then cut to the heart of the matter.
“It will interesting to see how he runs it with the sabermetrics,’’ Sabathia said.
Perhaps it will translate this way: Perhaps pitch counts will grow. Perhaps, if a pitcher is throwing a shutout after six innings, maybe the pitcher will go an extra inning. Perhaps it just won’t be a bullpen-by-numbers situation. If a reliever is doing well, maybe he will get an extra out, an extra inning.
Perhaps his team will not shift as much. The 14-time All-Star shortstop was never a big fan of the shift on his way to five World Series rings.
Perhaps everything will not be geared to hitting the home run. There will be room for a batter who inside-outs a pitch the way Jeter was known for as a hitter and his 3,465 hits.
Fundamentals will become vital again, cutoffs, too, and making sure to follow the ball like his famous flip play.
If Jeter is able to do this, the pendulum that has swung in the direction of analytics over this generation will swing a bit back toward scouting, teamwork and finding players who find a way to get the job done.
Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier stood alongside Jeter as a 12-year-old Little League star. As a major leaguer he has watched Jeter grow from star to owner. He knows how Jeter battled on the field and that will be key to his running the Marlins.
“Competition-wise, he played the game,’’ Frazier told The Post. “He understands players. He understands the grind. He might give guys a little more leeway just because he understands what people are going through. At the end of the day I am so happy for him. Just another accolade for him. It’s crazy, he goes from baseball player to owner.
“What’s next for him? Maybe being the President of the United States, we’ll see what happens.”
Derek Jeter is going to do baseball his way, and it is going to be fascinating to watch.

The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11


August 14, 2017

Image result for jessen rodriguez mitchell spokane
Still image taken from a video deposition of Dr. James Mitchell

One of the most important chapters in the war on terror is being rewritten -- with a moral inversion. Islamic terrorists who were arrested and deported have become "liberal causes célèbres", while agents of the CIA who questioned them are not only being condemned but also financially crushed by punishment and legal bills -- for having tried, legally, to save American lives.

Guantanamo Bay has supposedly become "the Gulag of our time"; the psychologists who interrogated the murderer who sawed off Daniel Pearl's head have been charged with working "for money"; the "black sites" in the Polish and Lithuanian forests have been compared to Nazi concentration camps, and the U.S. jurists and officials who conducted the war on terror have been compared to the Germans hanged in Nuremberg.

"In just a few months, Obama had sent the CIA back to the September 10 culture of risk aversion and timidity that had contributed to the disaster of 9/11", Bruce Thornton wrote in his book, The Wages of Appeasement. A few examples of Obama's policy include a directive to release Justice Department memos on the process of vetting interrogation techniques for legality. The attorney general at the time, Eric Holder, appointed a special prosecutor to determine if the CIA officers involved in the interrogation program had been guilty of breaking the law.

A judicial condemnation, however, has begun only now. A federal judge in Spokane, Washington, has opened one of the most important trials in the recent U.S. history. For the first time after September 11, three American citizens involved in interrogating Islamic terrorists have been called to answer to a judge. The New York Times released the video of their testimony. The federal court in Spokane, Washington, heard Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell and Jose Rodriguez testifying on their role in the war on terror. They are among the heroes who prevented another 9/11; now they are on the bench.

"I'll tell you a story," Bruce Jessen testified.
"Two Christmases ago, I get a call from the CIA; my grandchildren and my daughter and son-in-law are living with us. You have 15 minutes to get out of your house because ISIS has found someone to come and kill you and your family... Now, those -- that isn't the only threat I've received over the years, I've received lots of them. And I'm not afraid, and I did my duty and I stood up and I went to war, and I'll stand up to any of them again, but I don't want them messing with my family... And when you stick your face in the public eye, you get people like the SSCI and [Senator Dianne] Feinstein and the ACLU and other people who accuse you of things you didn't do, who out your name, who give them your address, who print articles that are full of crap about you, and it makes it difficult."
Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA clandestine service, told the court what was at stake:
"George Washington did not face an enemy like Al Qaeda. These are people who want to die as martyrs and see the killing of thousands of innocent men, women, and children as justifiable to promote their cause. Making a few of the worst terrorists on the planet uncomfortable for a few days during their first month of imprisonment is worth it in order to save thousands of lives".
John Rizzo also testified. In 2002, when George W. Bush signed the executive order in which he argued that the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists, Rizzo was an interim legal advisor. "No, I can't honestly sit here today and say I should have objected to that", Rizzo said.

Now, Judge Justin L Quackenbush of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, cleared the way for the case to move to the trial phase, rejecting the psychologists' lawyers request for summary judgement. "This is a historic day for our clients and all who seek accountability for torture," ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a press release. "The court's ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal accountability for what they did".

These officials should have never be prosecuted in a court; they should be protected from such actions. This prosecution is a betrayal of those who worked hard to prevent more massacres and to cripple the infrastructure of jihad.

Many former CIA directors explained that the program of enhanced interrogation techniques worked extremely well:
"It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives, thereby removing them from the battlefield; it led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives; it added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it".
The CIA claimed the demonstrable successes of the interrogation program: the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed; the capture of José Padilla, accused of wanting to commit an attack in the United States with a dirty radiological bomb; preventing an attack on the US consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; a second wave of attacks after September 11 with a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into Library Tower in Los Angeles.

Jessen and Mitchell are not the only psychologists now in trouble for their involvement in this program. There are also the military psychologist Morgan BanksStephen Behnke, a former director of the American Psychological Association's ethics office; Joseph Matarazzo, a former chairperson of the Psychologist Association, who allegedly wrote an opinion for the CIA in which the deprivation of sleep would not constitute "torture".

One of the most important cases of rendition took place in the Italian city of Milan against Abu Omar; the verdict ended by condemning CIA agents. Robert Seldon Lady, the former head of the CIA in Milan, and involved in the Abu Omar case, was arrested and released in Panama. In a rare interview, the Wall Street Journal wrote:
"Mr. Lady, who had planned to retire and become a security consultant from a farm house he bought with his life savings in Italy's Piedmont region, received the stiffest sentence — eight years in prison, increased to nine on appeal. Before the case went to trial, Magistrate Armando Spataro sued to seize Mr. Lady's house and use the proceeds to pay damages to Abu Omar. Mr. Lady fled Italy in 2005 but lost his property. His 30-year marriage, he says, was another casualty".
Sabrina De Sousa, another CIA agent involved in the Milan rendition, avoided the jail only thanks to being pardoned by the Italian authorities.

The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Macedonia for the rendition of a German citizen. The European judges also condemned Poland for hosting one of the CIA's secret sites. Spanish judges opened a criminal file against some senior Bush administration officials, including John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee of the Justice Department, and William Haynes, a former senior Pentagon jurist. John Yoo, now a professor at University of California, Berkeley, wrote the 2003 memorandum authorizing the CIA's interrogation techniques. The German attorney Wolfgang Kaleck filed a criminal complaint against Yoo; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the Law School at the California University, asked to prosecute Yoo, who was also sued by José Padilla, a convicted American terrorist.

Recently, attorneys of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin, filed a criminal complaint against Gina Haspel, now the CIA's number-two person under Director Mike Pompeo, and charged her with being involved in directing a secret CIA detention facility near Bangkok, Thailand. Will U.S. officials fear that traveling in Europe might expose them to arrest?

The Wall Street Journal wrote last year, regarding the De Sousa case:
"The threat from terrorism is worse than at any time since 9/11, even as the West has limited its capacity for self-defense... Those who work as spies know the risks from America's enemies, but they shouldn't have to worry about politicized retribution from its friends. Sabrina De Sousa's abandonment by the U.S. government sends a demoralizing message to all who serve in the shadows, even as the war on terror enters a dangerous new phase."
That is the most important lesson: our brave spies and officials involved in the war against Islamic terrorism, like those who prevented another 9/11, now fear not only the wrath of the jihadists, but also the witch hunt of a Western media and judicial system.

As James E. Mitchell said, by prosecuting what the U.S. and the West have done in the war on terror, "we will be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several city blocks".
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Some NFL players are walking away from football. Should your child do the same?

August 9, 2017
Image result for ben roethlisberger august 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in Pittsburgh.(AP/Keith Srakocic)

SALT LAKE CITY — The quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers is questioning whether he should continue to play football and a Baltimore Ravens lineman has already quit after the publication of a new study that showed brain damage in 110 out of 111 deceased NFL players.
The study, published July 25 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has been construed by some analysts as the death rattle of football. "Could football ever end?" a columnist in The Wall Street Journal asked, while Forbes headlined an article on the research "The CTE study that could kill football."
With professional football players willing to walk away from millions of dollars in income because they fear football's long-term effects, parents of children getting ready to suit up for the fall season may be considering pulling their children out of school and community programs.
But is an occasional concussion in high school as worrisome as the decades of violent hits that professional football players endure? Another recent study suggests not.
In that study, also published in July in the same medical journal, researchers found no risk of later cognitive problems or depression among Wisconsin men who had played football in high school in the 1950s. Those findings may reassure parents, although the researchers acknowledge that football in the 1950s was different from football as it is played today.
Also, some analysts have said the findings of the study of deceased NFL players were skewed and overhyped because most of the brains were donated by families who were worried about brain damage while the men were alive.
In other words, we shouldn't necessarily be shocked that 110 men who had shown signs of cognitive decline had brains that appeared to be devoured by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.
As striking as the pictures are, they don't prove that every NFL player faces the same fate, let alone everyone who plays football in high school or in a community youth league. But there are other reasons to worry.
Here's what we know about the latest research on football and its implications for the youngest football players.
What CTE does
Football has always carried the risk of physical injury, but it wasn’t until 2002 that it was first implicated in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition first identified in the 1920s. CTE can cause problems in thinking, regulation of emotions, and other physical problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like Alzheimer's disease, it can only be definitively diagnosed after death.
Dr. Bennet Omalu diagnosed CTE in Mike Webster, the former Pittsburgh Steelers center who died of a heart attack in 2002 at age 50. Their story was told in the movie “Concussion,” in which Will Smith played Omalu, and in the book League of Denial.
For years, the NFL would not acknowledge any link between professional football and brain damage, but a senior NFL official conceded the connection at a congressional meeting on concussions in 2016.
The official, Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president for health and safety, said he was convinced by the work of Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neurologist and neuropathologist, who has studied the brains of former NFL players.
McKee is also one of the authors of the study published last month.
In that study, McKee and other researchers examined the brains of 202 deceased former football players, and interviewed relatives to compile histories of the players’ football careers, military service and known head trauma.
The median age at death was 66, and they averaged 15 years of playing football.
CTE was diagnosed post-mortem in 177 players, or 87 percent, a figure that McKee said researchers found “shockingly high.”
The greatest incidence and severity was found among the 110 NFL players in the study. CTE was also found in the majority of men who played football after high school. It was present in 48 of 53 college players (91 percent); 9 of 14 semi-professional players (64 percent); and 7 of 8 Canadian Football League players.
And in what may or may not be a relief for parents, it was least prevalent in men who had only played football in high school. Three of 14 high school players, or 21 percent, had CTE, the researchers said, and in those three cases, the symptoms were mild compared to that of the NFL players.
Among the high school players and others diagnosed with “mild CTE pathology,” 96 percent had behavioral or mood problems; 85 percent had cognitive symptoms, and 33 percent showed signs of dementia.
In contrast, of those with severe cases, 89 percent had behavioral or mood issues, 95 percent had cognitive symptoms, and 85 percent had signs of dementia.
Because many of the brains were donated for study by families who suspected their loved one had CTE, researchers said people should not assume the disease is prevalent in those percentages across all football players.
They also said that the presence and severity of CTE may be affected by other factors, including the amount of play, number of hits, the player’s position and the age at which the men first started to play football.
Implications for parents
A previous small study, published in the journal Neurology in 2015, found that memory problems were more prevalent in NFL players who first started the sport before age 12.
Only 42 players were part of this research, and all had already experienced some problems with memory and thinking at the time of the study. But the half who had started playing football before age 12 performed 20 percent worse on cognitive tests, the researchers found.
The players who had started earlier in childhood were less able to recall words from a list they had studied 15 minutes earlier, and they made more errors on a test of mental flexibility.
Such studies have caused some parents not only to reconsider whether they will let their sons play football, but also ponder whether it's ethical to even watch a sport in which people may be sustaining long-term damage to their brains.
In mulling the issue, Austin Meek, a sports columnist for the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, noted that most NFL players started football years before they're mature enough to thoughtfully consider the risks. He interviewed one California ethicist who said she's a huge football fan but has decided not to let her 11-year-old son play.
If other mothers are coming to the same conclusion, not only the NFL, but Pop Warner youth leagues may be in trouble. The Los Angeles Times reported Aug. 1 that participation in high school football has declined for the second straight year in California. But even with 3,000 fewer students playing, football still remains the most popular sport for boys, Eric Sondheimer wrote.
Among those most at risk for CTE — men who have already been playing professional football for years — some say that they will allow their sons to play football later when they are teens, but will restrict them to flag football before then. In flag football, players don't tackle each other, but instead pull off a flag attached to the uniform to stop the other team from advancing.
"It's one of the ways to learn the fundamentals and technique of playing contact football and doing everything right without the contact," Jordy Nelson, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers and a father of two, told ESPN.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, however, has said that he would have no problem with his sons playing football or any other contact sport. "I think contact sports teach you certain levels of discipline that other sports maybe don’t teach you. I have no problem with my kids playing football," Brady said in June. He noted, however, that his wife, model Giselle Bundchen, might not agree with him about that.
As for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the leading group of pediatricians said in 2015 that youth football players and their families must decide for themselves whether the benefits of football are worth the risk. The group said delaying tackle football until after age 12 could actually increase the risk of injuries among teens because of their inexperience. It stressed the importance of proper tackling technique and neck-strengthening programs.
Ironically, this was a departure from the group's position in the 1950s, when it said that tackle football, like boxing and hockey, "had no place" for children 12 and younger.
While making a decision about football, parents should also keep in mind that all sports carry some risks. In fact, among adults, it's horseback riding that accounts for the greatest number of emergency room visits for head injuries, according to an analysis of ER visits between 2003 and 2012.
Among children, however, football is the No. 1 cause of ER visits for boys; for girls, it's soccer.
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