Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Day I Paid to Have My Best Friend Killed

On May 31, 2013, I planned on writing this blog but I could not do it. I figured I'd give it a year. So now it is posted on May 31, 2014.  Every time I actually sat down to do it, emotions grabbed me and stopped me.  It was one of the worst days ever- but one of the best days ever.  Two extremes at one time and a harsh ride in between. I'll explain....

My dog Xeenah was exceptional.  Humans keep dogs, or they keep us, they are beasts in our home.  But Xeenah is a dog that became one of us.  She was sweet, strong, smart, funny.  She was with us through some of the worst of times and an ever present contributor to the best of times. The whole story of how I got her and my first farewell was posted on this blog a year ago, the day she died.  I couldn't write about what I'm preparing here- no way.  here it is 365 days later.

This is a story of putting a dog to sleep.  I was not "putting her to sleep".  She was not going to sleep, as she did 10,000 times before on my leg.  I was paying someone to mercifully kill a mammal that shared a home and a part of my life with me. I can candy coat it with sleeping, putting her down, etc. She was going to be gone from my life.

I witnessed her health declining, more accurately, crashing.  I knew for years her heart was slowing down, and for years I took her outside 2-5 times a night.  It was a complete loss of sleep, but I did it for her.  I did that for years.  She was an old dog, and had to get outside a lot. She still was a sweet as a companion could be.

Sometime in the spring late in her 13th year she developed huge salivary glands. I'd pet her head like I did every day and clearly there was something different, something wrong.  For years we knew that she had a bad heart, bad liver, bad everything.  But she just kept going, alive, sweet and tender. She was my girl.

Even in her last weeks she'd get fired up for a walk.  She'd start out just as fast as ever.  She had one speed-- on!  It just didn't last very long and I'd carry her home. 

After that she went into a rapid decline that seemed so fast. The night I knew she was done was when she walked across the floor and all four legs collapsed at once.  She was helpless.  I had to proceed forward.

The doctors at West End Animal Hospital were as good as you can get.  Dr. Stevens saw where it was going- the decline.  She suggested a last shot of a steroid that might limit pain and swelling, but after that she could recommend only going to the university for chemotherapy and treatment for pain. She gave the shot and things were better for a day or two.

But then that was it.  Roxy was out of town, I was home with Xeenah, and she was crashing.  Advanced chemotherapy was prescribed.

One night we somehow decided together that it was time. 

I declined.  I didn't want her fizzle out and suffer. I knew time was limited and asked about what happens, what a guy does to euthanize his dog.

The vet hands you a paper with a choice of cremation options and an array of vessels you can buy to store the ashes.  To me she was going to be gone.  No sense in keeping her powdered remains on a shelf. I took the price list and options, folded the paper neatly and put them into my pocket.  We went home.

That week I gave Xeenah her favorite food.  She went crazy for chicken. Chicken. Each day I'd prepare a chicken breast and cut it to pieces.  I'd include it with her special food and bathe the mess in chicken soup.  She'd dig in, the best meal she ever had in all her years.  I knew that I only had a short time before she'd be gone.

I'd watch her eat, loving every second of it.  She just loved it.

 That last week she enjoyed a special breakfast of chicken and veggies over her kibbles.  


The day I had to take her for that last ride it was more about me.  She didn't know what was happening.  I put on my most comfortable clothes.  It was Addias sweat pants and a soft oversized sweatshirt I bought in Zurich, Switzerland.  I had on a baseball cap and comfortable shoes.

I carried her to the truck for her last ride.  We sat together on front seat like we did thousands of times before, but I would go home without her. I petted her little head on the passenger seat, rubs behind the ears and warm massages to her read legs that she always liked.  And a belly rub.  To end her suffering, and to begin my suffering, was the best thing I could do for her. I carried her into the animal hospital.

You never know who is going to be the last vet in her life. The door opened, and to my surprise, it was Dr. Cottrell.  She was Xeenah's first vet in Gainesville, someone I really liked who rarely saw her in her annual visits.

The procedure was simple.  They would give two injections. I signed a form that said I understood the process. The first would make her comfortable, the second would stop the heart.

They delivered the first shot, suggesting that she might seem sort of, "out of it" while they left the room. It was a final time for the two of us. She sat in my arms like she always did, and the drugs crept in.. I rubbed her little neck and belly like I did a million times before.  She was tired and at rest, and obviously in retreat.

But then suddenly a surprise.  The drug was kicking in, and she must have felt some relief.  Life sprang to her eyes.  She sat up strong and certain.  She looked at me and panted, alive, alive, alive! It was my puppy again, the young dog that captured my heart 14 years before.  It was her again.  She had no pain, no problems, just a release from the shackles of age and pain and wanted to tell me she was okay.  It was my dog again, a friend I hadn't seen in years, back again to tell me it was okay.  Her mouth was breathing heavy but fast, she had a smile on her face and love in her eyes. It was my dog again. It was her.

Those moments were priceless.  Forever grateful.  She showed me that she was still there, but could not live within the broken frame.

After probably sixty seconds she slowly drifted back to sleep in my arms.  It was okay.  Minutes later Dr. Cotrell entered the room and asked if I was ready.  I was.

She laid Xeenah on a soft, olive colored blanket. The doctor looked at me, and inserted the syringe's needle into Xeenah's tiny little arm, pressed the plunger, and then placed the stethoscope on her heart. She listened for a few seconds.

"She's gone", Dr Cottrell said, her voice wavering.  She knew my little dog with the mohowak. Her voice quivered not for Xeenah, but for me.

I tried to not react, but sorrow exploded inside of me until I just did a massive exhale and burst to tears at once.

My dog, my little friend, was gone.

 I still rubbed her little head and gave her, and me, what would be the next chapter and a new time without each other.

The doctor and her assistant left the room and offered me time.  "Stay as long as you need to" they said.

I rubbed Xeenah behind the ears with no tears.  This time it was not for her, it was for me.  She was gone.  She laid there on that olive-green blanket, motionless and still.  She was really gone.


Probably five years before Dr. Cottrell said that Xeenah had a heart problem and might have another year and half.  Those extra years were golden. Xeenah was always so sweet, so gentle, so loving, with everyone.

I built up to that last day, figuring it was the best thing I could do for her, not me.  The last trip to the vet was natural, like I owed my dog a soft and simple exit, painless and happy.  She got that.

Those last minutes with her were so priceless. When the drugs relaxed her to where the little pup inside sprang out and told me all was well, that she was happy and okay, that she was glad to be there with me... I'll remember that forever.


A year later I struggle daily with the loss.  Every night she pushed up against me, every morning she got up with me.  She greeted me at the door when I got home and sat on my lap or at my feet while I went through my day.  She was a special creature.  I'm stuck between the joy of knowing her and the pain of not having her here.

I recently put on that same Switzerland sweatshirt and found the cremation vessel choices in my pocket. Looking more carefully the sweatshirt had her little white hairs on it.  When I think of the day that I rode home alone I just need to grab on to the minute or so that I got to share with her when the first shot kicked in and the pain left her body.  Silver linings.

There's no way to end this that makes sense.  One year ago I paid someone to kill my best friend.  While it was one of the worst days of my life, it gave me a few shiny, perfect memories that will be with me forever.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thank Goodness? How to Smear a Scientist

Here's a story that starts with a simple comment on a website.  It ends with insults, anger, and delusional defiance.

A graduate student funded by NSF (the same folks that have funded my work over the years) libeled me in a harsh way.  Complete lies and nonsense.  I got nowhere with her kindly through private correspondence, and therefore just want to make the conversation public. I didn't want it to come to this.

There is a level of professionalism that is lost and an unacceptable breech of ethics for an academic.  She overstepped many lines, refuses to correct her falsehoods, and I feel it necessary to tell my story to protect myself from libelous accusations that are simply not true.  I never wanted her to experience any harm or negative effects from her indiscretions.  She refuses to correct her libelous statements, she stands by them, so I'm happy to post my interactions with Valerie Goodness here for all to enjoy.

I also contacted her Dean.  His response was limp at best, turning me over the the Office of Equity, Diversification and Inclusion, which found they have no jurisdiction of her actions.  Duh.  I feel that the university does have jurisdiction over the quality of scholars they produce, and if this is acceptable behavior for someone in the their program, it leaves a lot to be desired.

A Quick Note on Mother Jones 

About a month ago COSMOS aired the story of a public scientist that blew the whistle on a corporate influence scam.  Of course, Mother Jones didn't see it that way.  They portrayed it as corporate influence buying off scientists, playing into the far-out-liberal and far-out-conservative concept that academic scientists are just paid stooges for whatever corporations want to say.

I was the first to post, and posted a thoughtful retort that simply stated that it was about an independent academic scientist bravely standing up to corporate influence.

Then the poopstorm rained upon me in the comments section. I"m only posting a few gems in this blog.  The whole thing can be viewed here. Within the hour a vicious thread assembled, telling me about the bought-off scientists and fake results.  Of course, being a non-bought-off scientist that only publishes highly reproducible results (like the rest of the scientists I know) I had to respond, and did so throughout the thread.

Nativegrl59 claims I'm a "paid subversive who receives his funding for his doublespeak... and pro-corporate science"

One commentor was particularly awful.  It was not just her bankrupt opinions.  Those I can deal with.  It was what she was saying about me.  Awful, mean, personal stuff. I didn't know her.  It was just a chance to smear me by making up false associations.

She went by the handle Nativegrl59.  Even in the sample above you can see that she's really blown a gasket.  She then goes on...

She's really going after me with no evidence.  Pretty mean.

I do take this rather personally because she claims that I have harmed the careers of "ethical scientists, fellows, and grad students".  That breaks my heart.  I have been recognized with highly competitive awards for my undergraduate teaching and my outreach.  I also received a wonderful award for postdoctoral mentoring and serve on a university-wide committee to enrich their experiences. 

Moreover, all of my former students contact me, send me baby pictures, and just about all of them found great careers.  A few of them give me big cred for helping them get to where they are today. 

She claims I have "Monsanto bedfellows" when I don't have any associations with them other than knowing people that work there.  And they moved there after I knew them from academic science.

She claims my funding comes from places-- well, that just are not true.  My record is all public.  I have no money from Jon Entine or Searle or Monsanto, or whoever she says.  It is her way of trying to hurt my reputation as an independent academic scientist, all which is public record.

It continues...

"I know Folta's work, I know the cyber bullies he hangs out with, I get threats from them on a daily basis, so do my children"

She's has crossed a line.  At the time I had no idea who she was, I certainly never threatened her or her children.   This is a horrible thing to put on the internet, no matter how much you disagree with someone- why try to harm him/her personally?   

Here in Gainesville I teach special science classes for children at the Alachua Public Schools.  I teach there, voluntarily, a few times a year (used to be more when I didn't have administrative work).  I judge science fairs, run programs for kids and coordinate grad student efforts in teaching at the schools.  At night I teach karate classes- don't get paid to do it- but do it because it helps kids and the organization. 

In today's world background checks are commonplace, and as a potential teacher you are guilty until proven innocent.  Having this information on the internet is truly harmful, and I can lose opportunities to help others. 

Again, more false smear.  No words can describe how this makes me feel- a complete blend of anger, disappointment and empathy for this deluded soul.  I'm disappointed that an NSF-sponsored fellow would do this.

My website states no such thing, and I never got anything from Jon Entine.

Who is Nativegrl59? 

The threads went on forever, others came on to discuss and defend my position.  Awful things were said about me and I do take it way too personally.  I didn't even consider to figure out who Nativegrl59 was.  Didn't care. Clearly someone that had it in for me.  But others did care, and in the middle of the night  I got an email from one internet sleuth that in a google search connected the dots. 

She's Valerie Goodness, a graduate student at SUNY- Buffalo.  Public information says that she's an NSF-IGERT fellow, so essentially the same people that fund my outreach activities, also fund her to trash me so I can't do outreach activities.

There's no question about it. I"m not publishing the screenshots that make the connection, but it is clear. Even her facebook page has the same "Non-GMO" icon. 

Corrective Actions? 

Now that I knew who she was, could I get her to kindly correct the content, especially about daily threats to her children?   I sent her a professional letter by email asking for correction and compliance. 

The letter was pretty soft and asked for her cooperation.  The overarching spirit was to simply make it go away, lesson learned, false information corrected.  But she had a different interpretation.  My simple request for an apology was taken as a threat.  This is the email I received from her. 

 I was kind of hoping for, "I'm really sorry and will fix it"

There was no action, no news for several days.  I prepared another letter, again, soft, kind, and just asking her to remove the horrible falsehoods she put into a public forum with great authority. 

My 4/28/2014 letter.

Maybe progress?  She seems to be getting reasonable, and backs away from the "threatening". 

Then, ****crickets**** crickets ***** crickets *****

Last Correspondence

It was something like three weeks since she decided to put vicious lies about me into a public forum and she clearly was not going to make any attempts to remedy them.  At this point I'm assuming she's standing by them as factual content.   I try one more time with a simple email...

One more try.  Can I appeal to her sensibilities?  Please?  

Apparently not.  Again, the blistering accusations of "threats" which appears to be a front-and-center claim in her arsenal.  Her response:

She's obsessed with being the victim of threats. I've continually said that I have no intention to be difficult and please just fix it.  That's a threat ?

Where it Stands

First off, it was simple to figure out who she was and I thank those that took the time to do it.  However, I request that nobody harass or even contact Valerie Goodness.  In a situation where unethical behavior is the central criticism, we must not adopt those behaviors.

I have been advised to go after her legally and have even been put in touch with attorneys that say that this is actionable-- slam dunk.  I just don't see how spending the time and money to go after a grad-school mother makes sense.  I don't want her to have personal hardship, I just want her to fix the website and apologize.  Hell, I'll even take fix the website.

This has had damages. How do you quantify cost to my career and reputation, especially over time?  In a way, it is nothing.  Most know me and what I do, who I am.  But that information could cost me opportunities, both professionally and personally.   

The easy solution is for her to fix it.  She won't do that.  I acted 100% in good faith and wished to keep this private.  I wanted her to realize her mistake and fix it.  Unfortunately that false information remains in the public domain from Valerie Goodness' doing, and this is my only realistic recourse. Valerie Goodness clearly stands by her statements that I'm at least associated with people that daily threaten her children and get my funding from big business.  She stands by her statements of my collusion with companies and journalists.  She even claimed that I show proof of this sponsorship on my website- which is false. This is not about affecting Valerie Goodness, it is about correcting her false statements about me.  I want the truth to be out there, as that is how I operate.  She could learn a lot by spending a semester in my lab, and I'd be glad to mentor her in professionalism and ethics.

Note her twisting my request for truth- into being a victim of threats.  Note that she has broadcast horrible falsehoods about a public scientist that works hard in independent scholarly research, community outreach, student/postdoc mentoring, and many other aspects of academic interactions.

In Closing

Science is not just about data and hypotheses.  It is a pursuit for the Truth. It is about trusting students and postdocs, trusting other scientists to live by tight ethical standards. If someone can say outright false information about a public academic scientist, then that person may not be trustworthy.  I would absolutely question any results, claims, or conclusions in any manuscript, grant proposal or professional interactions coming from someone that could manufacture false information, and then dig in their heels when asked for validation.

This is not allowed in academia.  When someone is willing to fabricate information to meet their needs, or harm others' careers if they stand in the way of ideology-- that's is unacceptable.

I really wish that my simple comment to add to a public discussion did not have to come to this.  However, gentle interaction and discussion failed, and it was a last resort to get the real information into the public domain. As always, I'm happy to answer any questions,

Special thank you to everyone who has given me such kind thoughts in light of her comments,


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Six Months Later- Still No Evidence

Back on November 12, 2013 I patiently sat through a talk by Dr. Don Huber.  Huber is a former professor at Purdue with a really good record.  He was recognized by many as an expert in plant mineral nutrition and disease.

Now he travels from audience to audience extolling the perils of glyphosate and GMO crops.  He states, in no unclear way, that even just the process of adding the gene makes the plants dangerous.  (I actually recorded his whole talk, will post it someday).  You can find it anywhere on YouTube.

During his presentation he talked about this new virus-fungus, an unknown life form that invades GMO crops.  The organism causes abortions in cattle and infects humans, causing a suite of diseases from autism to cancer.  When he talks about it he shows graphic images of dead calves.  Audiences are visibly shaken and viscerally moved by his presentation.

The list of diseases caused by GMOs and glyphosate from Don Huber. 
The same list caused by chemtrails, vaccines and fluoride! 

I've heard this tired scam for eight years and never believed this for a second.  First, there's no evidence presented.  Next, the claims are all based on top secret work by unnamed figures in other countries, and his home institution, Purdue University, and the Centers for Disease Control know nothing about this deadly threat to all humans.

After his talk I asked him if he'd share his cultures.  I told him I could have it sequenced and understood by Jan 1, 2014.   We'd have the sequence for this deadly pathogen for five months now.

But Huber declined.  In a rambling cloud of no direction, Huber spent 10 minutes telling the audience why it could not be done.  Eventually he got defensive when the crowd turned on him and asked him to share so we could solve the "emergency".  Read the whole story here. 

Huber responds!  Afterwords he sent a libelous letter to my boss, saying that I was "disrespectful and disparaging" and that I "need to seek professional anger management counseling".  He said I interrupted the whole talk.  He didn't know I recorded it, and upon playback we see that he's lying to discredit me and conceal his fake pathogen.  I'll post this all someday when I have time.  Plus I've been advised to keep it in my pocket.

But shame.  For a credentialed scientist to get in front of a public audience and lie to them without evidence, THEN to try to harm the career of another scientist for requesting evidence.  That gets no lower. 

Some things have changed.

1.  He's distancing himself from the organism, recently claiming that he didn't discover it and that he does not have much to do with it.

2.  It is all in the hands of "the Chinese"

3.  He does not answer questions after the talk, maybe answers a few safe ones.

4.  I heard that at his last talk he didn't even talk about the deadly GMO organism.

So Dr. Huber, how about an update?  Where is the deadly organism now?  Is it being published?  Where is the sequence, protein or DNA?

The offer stands, I can tell you what it is in a few weeks if you share your cultures, the cultures you claim obey Koch's postulates and are easy to grow.

I'll do the work, you get the Nobel Prize.   I'm not holding my breath.