Category Archives: Current Events

Bob Shell: Coronavirus and Prison Life

Prison

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Coronavirus and Prison Life

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Right now the prison I’m in is on modified lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means that we’re locked in our cells about 22 hours every day, and the two hours we’re not stuck in our cells, we can go out into the pod, our common area, for recreation and sometimes out on the prison yard for outdoor recreation like basketball, horseshoe tossing, or just walking around. But, due to the virus, only one pod can be on the yard at a time, while normally it’s the whole building. Each building here has three pods, there are four residential buildings, and we have two yards, so it is a logistical juggling act to give everyone some yard time. Pods have around eighty men each, for a total population here of just over a thousand men.

But, even though we’re isolated from other pods, and the pods are cleaned with disinfectant several times a day, there are no restrictions on comings and goings of the staff, who go freely from building to building, pod to pod, and go home at the ends of their shifts and interact with the outside world.

In an article in The New York Times, Amanda Klonsky says that prisons could be viral nightmares.

We have 2.3 million people in prison in this country, a ridiculous number by anyone’s measure. Klonsky says that prisons see a daily influx of staffers, vendors, and visitors who “carry viral conditions at the prisons back to their homes and communities and return the next day packing the germs from back home.” So far, other than putting us on modified lockdown, all Virginia has done is cancel in-person visits.

Klonsky goes on to state the obvious: Prison populations must be reduced. I would add the word drastically. Most of the men I know here in this prison could be released right now and pose no risk to their communities. Many, like me, were never any risk to our communities in the first place. Klonsky says aging inmates should be considered for compassionate release, because we have health issues that are not dealt with in prison and extremely low recidivism rates. We have many inmates here who have serious health issues, are too infirm to be dangerous, and are, in many cases, wheelchair-bound. In my case I get around with a wheeled walker due to long term effects from a stroke I suffered years before my conviction. I’m not a physical threat to anyone, but have been victimized by bullies, had my property stolen, even physically assaulted. Prison is no place for an old man (I’m 73).

Our governors need to act immediately to release prisoners who are at risk and harmless.

Here in Virginia we have no parole (it was abolished in 1996). But we do have “Conditional Early Release” for older prisoners, often called “geriatric parole.” So far since reaching age 65, I’ve been turned down seven times! Typically it is only granted to inmates who are literally at death’s door. Apparently, I’m just not sick enough! I worry about COVID-19 because I am diabetic and have other health issues. According to The New York Times, an authoritative 100 page government report says the pandemic “will last 18 months or longer,” and could result in “widespread shortages that would strain consumers” and the health care system. It also says that “State and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and communications channels, will be stressed and potentially less reliable.” The time for aggressive action is past, but much could still be done.

I’m hopeful that the current viral crisis will finally get the attention of those in power who can do something to fix this terribly broken system that can steal people’s lives for nothing. Keeping people like me behind bars just makes no sense, no matter what perspective you view it from. I’ve been imprisoned since September 1, 2007, for events that never happened, that existed only in the fevered imaginations of police and prosecutors.

If you want to track the spread of the pandemic, look at: http://coronavirus.jhu.edu . The map is updated in real time.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/marijuana/

 

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Dr. Michael Zapor: Covid-19

Novel Coronavirus Covid 19

Text by Dr. Michael Zapor, Copyright 2020

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COVID-19

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Being an infectious diseases physician, research microbiologist, and former deputy commander of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (which is in the business of identifying, researching, and mitigating infectious disease threats), I thought I’d make a few comments about Coronavirus Disease-2019.
 
Firstly, we’ve known about coronaviruses since the 1960s. Named for the crown-like arrangement of glycoproteins on their capsid, the coronaviruses comprise a family within the order Nidovirales and consist of four genera: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Coronaviruses are common in birds and mammals (with the greatest diversity in bats), and human infections are caused by two alpha- (i.e. HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63) and several beta- (e.g. HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1) species. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) are also beta-coronaviruses. Coronaviruses are ubiquitous and along with rhinoviruses, parainfluenza, metapneumovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus, cause most community-acquired upper respiratory tract infections (i.e. the common cold). As with other respiratory viruses, coronaviruses occasionally cause more severe illness. Individuals at the extremes of age (i.e. infants and the elderly), as well as those with comorbid pulmonary disease (e.g. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or immune compromising conditions (e.g. hematopoietic stem cell transplant or HIV infection) are at increased risk. Certain coronavirus species (e.g. HCoV-OC43, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV) also are associated with more severe infection. Except for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, there has not been much interest in producing coronavirus vaccines. This derives from the fact that most coronaviruses: 1) cause mild, self-limiting illness; 2) are difficult to replicate in tissue culture; 3) display antigenic variation (That is to say that the surface proteins against which protective antibodies would be made change); and 4) Vaccine trials with at least one animal coronavirus demonstrated a worse outcome upon challenge with the virus (a problem similarly posed by dengue virus). Although some medicines, including antivirals and chloroquine, have demonstrated potent in vitro antiviral activity against tested coronaviruses (i.e. SARS-CoV, HCoV-229E, and HCoV-OC43), there are no clinical trials assessing efficacy and treatment is supportive. As with other respiratory viruses (such as rhinoviruses), coronaviruses are transmitted by respiratory aerosol, and the mainstay of prevention is handwashing, respiratory hygiene (i.e. covering the cough or sneeze), and disinfection of fomites (i.e. inanimate objects which can become contaminated).
 
The coronavirus now in the news emerged in late 2019 as a novel variant out of Wuhan, a city in the Hubei Province of China—hence, its earlier designation 2019-NCoV (i.e. 2019 Novel Coronavirus). Since it is no longer novel and is genetically and clinically like SARS, 2019-NCoV was re-designated SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 has subsequently spread to other countries including South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan. Most cases have been among people who had either traveled from China or who had been exposed to someone known to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, several cases in the United States were recently diagnosed among people with no obvious risk factors, suggesting that community transmission is occurring. The incubation period for SARS-CoV-2 appears to average 3-6 days. Because viral DNA has been isolated from respiratory secretions of exposed asymptomatic individuals, it is believed that not everyone who is exposed will become ill. The extent to which these individuals transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others is not yet known. Epidemiological studies of the Wuhan outbreak suggest that most infected individuals will have mild disease (81%), and only a minority will develop pneumonia (14%) or pneumonia with respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction (5%).The overall estimated case fatality rate (CFR) appears to be ~2.3%, making it less deadly than some influenza strains and far less deadly than MERS. Moreover, the CFR was lower outside of Wuhan (0.7%) and as with other coronaviruses, risk factors for severe or critical disease include extremes of age, comorbid illness, and immune compromising conditions.
SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection is by means of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification, using an assay that is currently only available (in the U.S.) at the Centers for Disease Control and CDC-qualified labs. However, there is a push to make the assay more available (e.g. to state health labs). Currently, the treatment of individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 is supportive, but antiviral drugs including nucleotide analogues and protease inhibitors are being studied. As with other coronaviruses, the mainstay of prevention is handwashing, respiratory hygiene, and disinfection of fomites. Several labs, both in the U.S. and in Israel, are pursuing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, buoyed by the stability of at least some of the spike glycoproteins as well as sequence homology with several other human and poultry coronaviruses. It is also possible that as more and more people become exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and develop protective antibodies, transmission between susceptible individuals will decline (the “herd effect”).
 
Although the emergence of a novel pathogen is never a trifling matter, it is important for people to have a realistic understanding of the disease caused by it without succumbing to hysteria. To date, SARS-CoV-2 has shown itself to be a respiratory viral pathogen most commonly causing mild, self-limiting illness, with more severe disease limited to certain susceptible populations (in contrast, say, to the 1918 H1N1 influenza virus which disproportionately killed healthy younger people). Moreover, researchers are making progress in developing vaccines and therapeutics. I certainly don’t mean to trivialize SARS-CoV-2. However, I’ve seen far more lethal viral pathogens such as HIV, rabies, Ebola, and other viral hemorrhagic fever viruses; and unless something changes with the virus, I am only moderately alarmed by SARS-CoV-2.
On a positive note, the anti-vaxxers suddenly seem awfully quiet on social media…
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Dr.Michael Zapor

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About The Author: Dr. Michael Zapor is the Chief of Medical Services at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Virginia.
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Disclaimer:
1) Dr. Zapor did not write this essay in any official capacity.
2) Because the COVID situation is developing rapidly, some things included in the essay (e.g. case fatality rates) are a bit outdated.
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Alejandra Guerrero: Wicked Women

Photo: Alejandra Guerro, Copyright 2020

 

Photography and Text by Alejandra Guerrero, Copyright 2020

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WICKED WOMEN

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Wicked Women is my first solo book and a photographic monograph of 12 years of my works in erotica with emphasis in fetish photography. It presents my vision of sensual, strong and sexually confident women, with images full of narrative and erotically charged stark portraits. It presents my visual aesthetic, including elements of fashion and fetishism blending seamlessly together. Fetishism relies heavily on garments as symbolic elements of power and surrender which I delight in using in my work. It presents a type of woman I like to call a “Vamp”, a seductress, dark and mysterious with a bit of film noir, Femme Fatale. She is in tune to her desires and her fantasies, without apologizing. It flows sensually and provocatively. 

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Photo: Alejandra Guerrero, Copyright 2020

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The story of how this project came about happened in New York City in the Spring of 2018, when I met David Jenkins, the editor in chief at Circa Press, London, England. He had an interest in doing a book with me. I had some ideas, but then a section on my web site I had called “Wicked Women”, to group the more fetish oriented photos caught his attention as well as the title I  used for the body of work. We settled in the name quickly and then worked on selecting photos I had already shot that fit the theme of the book.  After we met,  I shot a few new photos to add to the portfolio, as well as the cover image, but the work was largely there from our first conversation. 

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Photo: Alejandra Guerreo, Copyright 2020

As a collector of books that have inspired and entertained me since getting into photography, I’m very excited and thrilled to launch my Wicked Women unto the world. Please support my Kickstarter campaign by clicking on this link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1649001578/alejandra-guerrero-wicked-women

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Photo: Alejandra Guerrero, Copyright 2020

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Portrait of Alejandra Guerrero by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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About The Author: Alejandra Guerrero is a photographer that has been establishing her unique vision for female empowered eroticism, fashion and fetish.  It is a vision that can be traced back to her early upbringing in Bogota, Colombia. A more conservative society, its constraints did wha  constraints so often do: the reverse of what was intended.  They filled her with a desire and curiosity that would eventually be satiated in the less judgmental underground communities in the US, where the erotic/fetish community would embrace her and show her that people could have more open minds about how they express their sexuality.  For Alejandra, this expression would take the form of a unique combination of seductive fashion, erotic fantasy and an unapologetic embracing of fetish as seen through the eyes of a powerful woman.

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Katie Kerl: Against All Odds

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Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2020

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AGAINST ALL ODDS

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As many of you know my father is my heart and soul. He has been dealing with cancer since 2009. Now most people hearing such news would stop everything and go right to the doctor for a treatment plan. Not my dad. At the time he was working 90 hours a week at Amtrak as a crane operator being sick. I could remember nights before he’d go to work. He’d basically be asleep at the kitchen table before he was ready to leave. I used to think to myself, “ how in the hell is he going to work like this?!” He always shocked me. It was like work brought him to life and continued to give him meaning through some really ruff periods of his  life. Not just sickness.

At the time the only treatment for cancer was chemo. He had just lost a brother to it and there was no way he was doing that. I never to this day fought him on any medical decision he made for himself regarding treatment. As time passed he continued to work and lived his life the way he wanted to.

He did not work all those hours for himself. He did it for me. My father solely lives for my happiness over his own. When I think about what that actually means; I’m not sure if there’s a greater compliment you can give another person. It’s very humbling.

Every time I fell down there he was picking me up off the ground and making sure whatever it was messing with my head booze , Boy’s , mismanaging money when I was younger; he didn’t ridicule me . He listened, not in a parental way he just listened, till whatever it was came out. Then we moved on with life. He always said it was ok to be down, cry but you do not do that too long because it changes nothing.

When I was a kid he had to gain seniority at Amtrak to hold a job in Philly . He’d be working in another state sleeping in a camper car all week. There was no such thing as per diem like there is now. Also, before they had machines doing the work today; these men in their twenties with families were doing it. They are now dying from breathing complications from all the broken up dirt and dust on the tracks in the 80’s.

From work experience alone my dad has seen more than enough for one person in a lifetime . The year he retired, that horrible accident happened where the train hit a piece of machinery and two men lost their lives. I remember that day and pleading to my dad not to go clean it up. I was immediately shut down and he said,  “I can’t Kate those were my friends, and now I have to go help my other friends clean this up.” He wasn’t afraid he just did it and didn’t complain once. They didn’t even clean the blood up from their fellow workers first before they sent them down there to repair the track .

That was the last year he worked . My father retired with 37 years under his belt. In that first year of being home his cancer worsened. He was forced to do radiation, and a battery of other tests. After spending a week in the hospital for his lungs. We couldn’t ignore it anymore. To say the summer was an emotional roller coaster is putting it lightly.

Doctors had opposing opinions it was very overwhelming. He got through that though like a champ. He never complained about it either. They put him on immunotherapy a chemo alternative, and steroids for inflammation. 

All of that really changed me . I was more of a destructive person when things went wrong. Realizing he’s going to need help at some point I was going to have to get it the fuck together. I had started writing these pieces , volunteering, and trying to do as many positive things as I can.

About a month ago we learned he has a new cancerous tumor in his throat. I’m very fortunate to have my cousin Mike continuing to help him  go to doctor appointments when I can’t take off work. I’m not sure how we’d be doing any of this without him .

I’ve never seen my dad worried about all this, but this time we were at lunch and he got very quiet. If you know my father the Kerl gift of gab usually gets stronger when we are nervous. He wanted a burger so we were sitting in 5 Guys. He looked out the window for a while and I had to ask a few times to get it out of him. He finally said to me,“ I just wonder if I’ve done enough.”

I immediately stopped eating and let my dad know that I’m aware what he’s going though is very scary. He’s going to question many things about his life. There were a few things I was going to tell him so that question is taken off the list.

I said you may not realize this, but you have the best life story and proceeded to make a list:

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You’re childhood was amazing growing up with 50-60 kids between one block

Every time you ever fell down you got back up even better just to prove a point.

You loved your job and were exceptional at it.

You lent tens of thousands to people who you knew couldn’t pay you back, but you did it anyway.

You’re very involved in our family

You own your house and car

You have a full pension from a 37 year career.

You Vacationed when you wanted to.

Took the time out to talk to my struggling ex with work when you were in fact getting sicker with this tumor. (My biggest fear at that time.)

There is not one person who came your way for help you refused.

You retired distinguished, and still see the men you worked beside in the union. You’ve known them longer than I’ve been alive.

You have given all of your time and energy to me, no matter the situation. You were the first to be on the scene of a SEPTA accident in your Amtrak vest before the first responders.

You paid me what I would have made working  every week when I was in a very serious accident, so I didn’t have to sit at home feeling sorry for myself not being able to work. ( You did get that back after my settlement lol) I still don’t know many parents that would have done that.

People want to be there for you because you have contributed so much positivity to their lives and you may not even realize it.

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DID YOU DO ENOUGH? You have done enough for ten people. You have exceeded what it means to be a father, a friend , co-worker, and someone to confide in. ALWAYS putting the ones you love above yourself.

Sometimes hearing things you forget about in stressful situations is very helpful. Cancer should not be in every sentence. It does not have to take over your entire being. My dad’s about to get a biopsy on the tumor in his throat, and we are going to go back down this road again. No one is ever prepared for this. There’s no way to be. You’re going to feel differently everyday.

Half the battle is mindset. Not letting your loved ones feel defeated, or feel as though they have one foot in the grave when they are in fact still alive. Talking about dying is ok, make arrangements etc. Do not make it your everyday conversation. Remind your loved ones,“ HEY YOU ARE STILL ALIVE!” Get them out of the house as long as they are able to. Make sure they are getting the proper nutrition to fight. Make the appropriate doctor appointments. If you do not like what they are telling you do not be afraid to get second opinions.

Part of me is convinced my father is Superman, and he’s my personal hero. If I turn out to be a quarter of the human he is I will consider myself very lucky to find that kind of strength inside me, as he does. I can’t wait to celebrate ending another round of radiation, or whatever this brings to our lives.  Thank you to everyone that continues to be there with us. Calls daily, and checks in with us. Support is the number one thing that makes someone feel better and David Kerl is a very fortunate man. You will never lose to cancer. You keep living, fighting , and helping others during your very long journey. That’s admirable, that’s what heroes do.

Thank you for being my Superman.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katie Kerl was raised in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She is currently living  in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Katie has a background in Psychology from Drexel University. She is a manager in the commercial/residential design field . Katie can be reached  on Instagram @kerlupwithkate 

For collaboration e-mail: Kate.kerl32@gmail.com

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To access additional article by Katie Kerl, click herehttps://tonyward.com/valentines/

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Huiping Tina Zhong: The Stories We Tell

Photography by Huiping Tina Zhong, Copyright 2020

 

Photography and Text by Huiping Tina Zhong, Copyright 2020

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THE STORIES WE TELL

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The Construction of Narratives Through Performativity of Emotions

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This is the first time for me to use an analog camera, hence every aspect of each strip of film fascinates me. The shape of the film reminds me of comic strips, which inherently signify the progress of a narrative, usually chronologically. I set the shooting space to be a space with arches, while each emotion is performed in a different arch, as if the arches are the frame of a stage or a painting, or a hole through which people peek through to view early forms of motion pictures. Different emotions are signified through different pieces of accessories on the same body, and sometimes even only through accessories, in other words, the absence of a body. In the schema, time proceeds both horizontally and vertically, and hopefully creating various storylines for each inspector.

In the first arch is sadness. The signifier of sadness is a pilot helmet. In my understanding, a pilot is isolated in the plane, and the helmet reminds me of war. In the first scene, the pilot is sitting by herself, and in the second round, she is embracing herself with sorrow. What happened? Maybe she has lost her fellow soldiers.

In the second arch is love. Looking out, she seems to be waiting for someone, and she seems to be enjoying her time. I chose a colorful skirt to represent the passion and the exuberance of young love. And when the lover arrives, she joyfully jumps in the air.

In the third arch, despair is represented through index, a trace of a body that was once here: gloves, shoes, a big coat, and a hat. It can be interpreted in various ways, but it can signify the loss of a life, which resonates with war, and even with love. Perhaps it is the lover that was lost to the pilot. The two scenes of despair is the same, because an absent body remains absent.

The last arch is happiness. She wears a pair of extravagant sunglasses with a golden frame, in the first scene she seems to be greeting someone happily, but in the second scene she is gone. Where is she? Is happiness now lost? It is open to the readers’ interpretations.

But let us return to the notion of the construction of a narrative. Although the inherent nature of an analog film strip is that it is indexical and chronological, life often does not have a clear plot line, and our memory of life gets entangled together to form our perception of the world, of our existence. This messy mixture of emotions and anachronistic events becomes the narrative that we construct for ourselves, while the difference between reality and performed memory becomes imperceptible.

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Portrait of Huiping Tina Zhong by Joy Bao, Copyright 2020.

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About The Author:  Huiping Tina Zhong is a senior majoring in Art History at Bryn Mawr College.

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