Friday, January 02, 2009

For those reading this, or those who do not know me, but come to my blog here for the first time, thanks for visiting. But I have a new blog where I now post on fairly regularly, here.

The last major story I broke on my new blog can be found here-- which is about what soon to be ex-Vice President Dick Cheney told the special prosecutor and FBI, in part, during the CIA leak probe.

My last two stories in The Atlantic can be found here and here, my last story for ABC News here, and my last two investigatives pieces for the Huffington Post here and here.

And this is my favorite column which I wrote last year:

Somerville, Mass, June 28, 2008–

The rules are simple enough for the kids playing in the stickball tournament this morning in Kelly Park: There are to be three people to a team. There are four innings per game. Two outs per inning. You walk on three balls. You strike out on two strikes. The second strike can be a foul ball.

Any ground ball not stopped or caught is a single. If you hit the ball over the double court line without it being caught or stopped, you have hit a double. If you smack the ball hard off the fence, you have a triple. And if you hit the ball entirely over the fence, of course, you have hit a home run. If you hit a deep foul ball over the fence, it is unclear whether it is to be counted as a foul ball or home run. In that case, the final decision is left to the whim of a grown up or the good will of the opposing team.

If you are eleven years old, and get a chance to bat, there are traditions to maintain: You must wear an oversized Red Sox jersey with the name Papelbom on the back. (That is the Sox’s closer for those not literate in such things. In an earlier time your jersey would have had the name Garciappara on it.) You dramatically roll your head from side to side to get the hair out of the eyes. Then you check the stick to make sure you are hitting at the ball from the right end. (This is very important; however, you hope that nobody sees you doing this.) Then you dig hard into the pavement with your converse high tops, lean way way back on your heels, and then smack at the ball—eyes closed allowed—with all of your eleven year old might. Whether you hit the ball or not, all is right with the world.

You hope you hit the ball of course. But if you don’t, you still get to have your face painted, hang with the older kids, have a hot dog with anything you want it on it– and then if you are really, really lucky you get to sit on your big brother’s shoulder to watch the dedication of the square to an older boy in the neighborhood.

The corner of Cragie and Summer is to be renamed in dedication for another little boy who once played stick ball in this park. There are two honor guards, one of which will fire off live rounds, interrupting the morning quiet and send singing birds scattering. A representative of the mayor will say a few words.

This is the unveiling of the new street sign dedicating Spc. Nicholas Peters Square.

Nick served a tour of duty in Iraq and came home in one piece. He survived the war but not the peace. Stationed at Ft. Hood, in Texas, someone in a bar did not like the fact that he was wearing a Red Sox jersey, and killed him...

My second favorite column/post is this profile I wrote about Todd Graves, one of the nine U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration:

The first sign that crimes may have been committed was when the victims no longer felt nauseous and their hair stopped falling out. Also, it wasn't cold going deep into the vein the way it was before. They needed that hurt. And when it was too long in coming, they grew anxious. Their discomfort after all was their comfort. That was the only way that they knew that the chemotherapy was working.

When the FBI believed that they had enough to make a case, they brought the file to Todd Graves, the then-U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Missouri. Ultimately, Robert Courtney, a local pharmacist would be sentenced to thirty years in prison without parole for watering down chemotherapy prescriptions for thousands of cancer patients.

When the Bush administration ordered Graves to resign as U.S. attorney in Jan. 2006, the prosecutor wondered if it might have something to do with the Courtney case. Graves was the first of nine U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration for reasons that still are not entirely clear...
This can't be over the Courtney case, Graves thought.

Diluting drugs for at-risk patients had proved to be lucrative business for pharmacist Robert Courtney. At the time of his arrest, Courtney was worth $18.7 million. He owned two manses in the small exurban enclave of Kansas City known as Tremont Manor and was considering the purchase of a condominium in St. Croix...

When Todd Graves was twenty one, he discovered a lump in his groin. It turned out he had a rare form of lymphoma. And the prognosis was not very good: He was told to put his affairs in order, because it was unlikely that he would survive very long.

For a full eighteen years afterwards, he could not bring himself to touch-- even for a single moment-- the same place in his groin where the original lump was discovered out of fear that he might discover a new one.

In the end what likely saved his life was the chemotherapy.

A year of chemotherapy.

A cycle every three weeks.

At regular twenty-minute intervals for twenty six hours straight, like clockwork, the nausea and the retching and the severe pain became overwhelming. Short reprieves, then more pain.

"I would lay up in my room for twenty six hours straight."

At the time, he was attending the University of Missouri, and throughout it all, lived in a fraternity house.

"I had an open wound for a while that wouldn't heal," he recalled, "The chemotherapy didn't allow it to heal... I think some of the people in the house worried that I might just expire right there"

He met his wife during this time. He was bald and on the chemo and because he was on steroids, he was also thirty pounds overweight.

"She was a far better person then me to see past all that," Graves told me. The doctors also told him that the radical chemotherapy necessary would almost certainly make him infertile. Today he and his wife have four children, ranging in ages from four to ten.

When the street agents first came to Graves with a file on Courtney, Graves dreaded the possibility that if his personal story became known, for fear that would drown out what had been stolen by Courtney from his victims.

"I had a woman who missed the birth of a grandchild by three weeks," Ketchmark told me, "She didn't want a cure. She wanted those three weeks."

As best that can be determined, at least 4,200 cancer patients received diluted drugs. All together, those 4,200 patients in turn received at least 98,000 watered down prescriptions...

The column continues:

Somewhere today, there is another kid with cancer, like Todd Graves once was, lying flat on their back in a dorm room or a hospital room. And it will be cold going into the vein. The nausea will be followed by vomiting and when there is nothing left in their stomach the dry retching will start. If it's nitrogen mustard or methorexate, it will leave a metallic taste in their mouth. The open surgical wound will not heal because of the chemo, and even if they somehow survive, the physical and psychological wounds may never entirely heal.

They will be all alone attempting to make sense out of the senseless.

And they will wonder whether they should just give in, to succumb. What with the odds so stacked against them, is it worth that one more worth toxic violation of their person with nothing assumed and far less guaranteed?

But if you are Todd Graves, perhaps the senseless has long ago come to make perfect sense: When he looks at the four children he was never supposed to have; that he would someday stand up in court for Delia Chelston.

I hope you check out my new blog, if you are coming here for the first time! For those wanting to know more about me personally, here is my Facebook page, an interview I gave to U.S. News & World Report back in the day over a lunch where I probably drank a little too much wine, a professional biography here and a second one here, a personal essay of sorts about myself, and a collection of my articles. Two profiles of me, one by professor Jay Rosen of New York University of me, can be found here, and the other by Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, which can be found here. In the meantime, thanks for visiting with me here!