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Let's stipulate from the start that yoga is, as Merriam-Webster states, "A Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation."

There's also a "No. 2 definition" in that renowned dictionary: "A system of physical postures, breathing techniques and sometimes meditation derived from yoga but often practiced independently, especially in Western cultures, to promote physical and emotional well-being."

We imagine the people who take classes in yoga studios, in Gadsden and elsewhere, are focusing on that second definition. They're focusing on the physical benefits of the practice, as noted by the American Osteopathic Association: reduction in chronic pain; increased flexibility; increased muscle strength and tone; improved respiration, energy and vitality; a balanced metabolism; weight reduction; cardio and circulatory health; improved athletic performance and protection from injury.

All of those are good things -- so why are we bringing this up?

A document recently was shared online -- we imagine by someone wanting to make the state look bad -- referencing what's permitted and what isn't in Alabama's public schools. That "no-no list" includes "any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga."

That document had been posted to the state Department of Education's website but has since been removed. State Superintendent Eric Mackey called it "outdated" and said it wouldn't be enforced as long as he's running the department.

We doubt that's not a green flag for teachers to try to mesmerize students into behaving or concentrating on their classwork.

There's one exception -- yoga. It remains verboten in the state's physical education handbook, which cites its Hindu and religious origins and connotations.

The same mindset is present with meditation. It's OK for students if it's "secular," defined as involving "alert, reflective and cognitive contemplation." It's forbidden if it's linked to the "mystical traditions of the East," and involves "focusing on deep breathing and a mantra, or repeated word or phrase." We imagine the buzz at the average public school in Alabama isn't "OMMMMMM" but is "please let me stay awake through this class" or "please let me remember what I studied so I can pass this test."

We really don't have an issue with the notion that public schools shouldn't be involved in religious indoctrination or proselytizing regardless of the denomination. (We'll go to the mat and stay there to defend the right of students to, of their own volition, demonstrate and practice their faith on campus.)

We do have an issue with something else contained in Department of Education documents. They say Alabama P.E. teachers may instruct students on yoga poses, exercises and stretches as long as the "course is not called yoga."

Huh?

So it's OK to use the physical benefits of the practice to help students feel better and get into shape (rewind to the multiple editorials we've written about childhood and adolescent obesity rates). Just don't use the "y" word.

We know folks who are fearful of kids having their heads turned by ANYTHING, especially when religion is involved, will disagree, but this is just silly.

Yoga has become about as generic as bubble wrap (yes, that started as a brand name). There has been no horde of yogis seeking converts in the exercise studios we referenced. There won't be any in Alabama's public schools, either, if people call what goes on every day by its name.

Look at it this way: Do you think some coach thought up the stretching exercises players do before every game?

 

Monday, 01 October 2018 17:25

Meteorological Versus Astronomical Seasons

You may have noticed that meteorologists and climatologists define seasons differently from “regular” or astronomical spring, summer, fall, and winter. So, why do meteorological and astronomical seasons begin and end at different times? In short, it’s because the astronomical seasons are based on the position of Earth in relation to the sun, whereas the meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle. The Astronomical Seasons

People have used observable periodic natural phenomena to mark time for thousands of years. The natural rotation of Earth around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar, in which we define seasons with two solstices and two equinoxes. Earth’s tilt and the sun’s alignment over the equator determine both the solstices and equinoxes.

The equinoxes mark the times when the sun passes directly above the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls on or around June 21, the winter solstice on or around December 22, the vernal or spring equinox on or around March 21, and the autumnal equinox on or around September 22. These seasons are reversed but begin on the same dates in the Southern Hemisphere.

Because Earth actually travels around the sun in 365.24 days, an extra day is needed every fourth year, creating what we know as Leap Year. This also causes the exact date of the solstices and equinoxes to vary. Additionally, the elliptical shape of Earth’s orbit around the sun causes the lengths of the astronomical seasons to vary between 89 and 93 days. These variations in season length and season start would make it very difficult to consistently compare climatological statistics for a particular season from one year to the next. Thus, the meteorological seasons were born.

The Meteorological Seasons

Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons, and that is what the meteorological seasons are based on. Meteorological spring includes March, April, and May; meteorological summer includes June, July, and August; meteorological fall includes September, October, and November; and meteorological winter includes December, January, and February.

Meteorological observing and forecasting led to the creation of these seasons, and they are more closely tied to our monthly civil calendar than the astronomical seasons are. The length of the meteorological seasons is also more consistent, ranging from 90 days for winter of a non-leap year to 92 days for spring and summer. By following the civil calendar and having less variation in season length and season start, it becomes much easier to calculate seasonal statistics from the monthly statistics, both of which are very useful for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes.

The natural rotation of Earth around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar, in which we define seasons with two solstices and two equinoxes.

Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar.

NOAA

Monday, 01 October 2018 17:19

I Love Female Docs!

Heart disease is an equal opportunity killer. It's the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women. But a new study of more than half a million cases of heart attack victims rushed to Florida emergency rooms between 1991 and 2010 suggests a person's sex plays a surprising role in whether they are likely to survive a heart attack.

Researchers divided the cases into four categories: male doctors treating men; male doctors treating women; female doctors treating men and female doctors treating women. Only one category was statistically distinguishable: men treating women, where the risk of the female patient dying rises roughly 12 percent.

The why remains unknown, but the study poses troubling questions about the treatment and health outcomes of women in emergency rooms.

But don't count on finding a female emergency room doctor: Women make up just 25 percent of emergency doctors in the U.S.

Scott La Fee

	It wasn't a normal Sunday in Catholic pulpits across America, as priests faced flocks touched by sorrow and rage after the release of a sickening grand jury report packed with X-rated details about decades of sexual abuse by clergy.
	At St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Decatur, Georgia, Father Mark Horak said he half expected empty pews, but was thankful that the faithful came to Mass. He openly addressed the crisis and urged the laity to speak out.
	"We should not be afraid to demand, of our leadership, fundamental reform," he said, wrapping up his homily, which was posted online. "Don't be afraid to demand it. But do it with love. Do it with love. Maybe with some anger mixed in -- but do it with love. Please."
	But something extraordinary happened in another Mass that day, according to a wrenching series of Twitter posts by Susan B. Reynolds. Reynolds is a Catholic studies professor at nearby Emory University's Candler School of Theology. One of her research topics: religious rites in the context of suffering.
	Reynolds posted about something that happened at the Mass she attended Sunday. After a sermon similar to Horak's, with the same appeal for the laity to act, "a dad stood up," she wrote.
	"'HOW?' he pleaded. 'TELL US HOW.' His voice was shaking and determined and terrified. His collared shirt was matted to his back with sweat," wrote Reynolds. "Jaws dropped. My eyes filled with tears. ... This is a big, middle-of-the-road parish in a wealthyish Southeast college town. In such contexts, it's hard to imagine a more subversive act than doing what that dad just did."
	One parishioner muttered, "Sit down." But the priest listened, and this unusual dialogue continued for several minutes.
	"I have a son," said the dad. "He's going to make his first communion. What am I supposed to tell him?"
	The posts by Reynolds exploded on social media on a day when many Catholics were posting commentaries on what their priests did, or didn't, say on the Sunday after the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
	Many Catholics were pleased that priests were candid and frustrated. Others were disappointed to hear bureaucratic "PR talk." Some were furious that all they heard was -- to use one common image -- "crickets."
	The wave of online reactions to "a simple plea by an angry dad" showed the depth of the pain many Catholics are feeling, said Reynolds, reached by phone. She received notes from friends about similar confrontations -- in Mass or afterwards -- in other parts of the country.
	In addition to her academic work, she said, "I am a mother and a Catholic. I am both of those things. I am a lifelong Catholic and this is what I do. ... This dad had the courage to stand up and speak for all of us."
	The drama continued the following day, when Pope Francis released a letter to the "People of God" about the grand jury report.
	"The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity," he wrote.
	"The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. ... If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history."
	The pope's letter -- after a painful silence -- declined to commit the church establishment to specific reforms or pledge that bishops and cardinals who hid crimes would suffer consequences, including being removed from ministry. The pope didn't name names or announce any resignations. He pledged that the church would repent, without saying how this would happen.
	People in the pews, said Reynolds, are listening and watching to see what their leaders are willing to do. Some are fed up. Some are ready to take action on their own. Something needs to happen.
	"Even the most faltering attempt to speak or to act is better than nothing, in a situation like this," she said. "Silence is not where you begin, with something this painful. Silence is what kills. Silence followed by more silence will be profoundly wounding."

Terry Mattingly
Thursday, 23 August 2018 23:37

THE PANTSUIT THAT CRIED WOLF

	If you've ever wondered how Russia became America's most fearsome enemy, long after that country gave up Communism, gulags, forced starvations and mass murder (all of which liberals were cool with), the answer is: This crackpot idea came from the same woman who blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy" for Monica Lewinsky.
	The Russia conspiracy is classic Hillary, as detailed in my new book, "Resistance Is Futile!" Throughout her long and blemished public career, Hillary has always blamed her troubles on bad people conspiring against her.
	When her husband's mistress, Gennifer Flowers, stepped forward as Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, Hillary blamed a former gubernatorial opponent of her husband, who "has now spent the last two years doing everything he can to try to get even, and it's a sort of sad spectacle."
	Bill later admitted to the affair.
	When Hillary callously fired long-serving White House travel office employees to make room for her friends' travel business, she responded to the public outcry by accusing the head of the travel office, Billy Dale, of embezzlement. To continue the charade, her husband's government criminally prosecuted Dale. The jury acquitted him after about three minutes of deliberation, but Dale was left jobless and nearly bankrupt.
	When Hillary's health care bill went down in flames, hurting the Democrats and leading to the first Republican Congress in 40 years, she blamed the media for having "bought into the right-wing attack." (You know how the media slavishly repeat conservative talking points.)
	As mentioned above, when her husband was caught for the millionth time molesting the help, Hillary blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy." 
	When DNA proved the story was true, she blamed the fuss in the media on "prejudice against our state" -- meaning Arkansas. "They wouldn't be doing this if we were from some other state," Hillary said. Even The San Francisco Chronicle hooted at that one.
	When she lost to Obama in 2008, she blamed the media's rampant sexism. In fact, a ham-handed liar like Hillary could only have survived in politics as long as she did thanks to the media's devotion to her.
	Quiz: When the Democratic National Committee's emails popped up on Wikileaks in July 2016, embarrassing her campaign and enraging Democrats, would Hillary:
	A) Apologize to Bernie Sanders for the DNC's horrible mistreatment of him;
	B) Demand an accounting of the inept computer security measures at the DNC;
	Or
	C) Invent a story about Russia conspiring against her?
	Answer: C. Russia had to become the next Linda Tripp, a mysterious enemy undermining our heroine.
	Hillary's campaign manager Robby Mook launched the Russia conspiracy theory on the eve of the Democratic National Convention on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" -- because who better to ask the tough questions than a former top aide to Hillary's husband?
	Mook explained:
	"Well, what's disturbing about this entire situation is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these websites. ... And it's troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by -- by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump."
	Stephanopoulos may not have burst out laughing, but, at the time, every serious journalist in America did. Right up until Trump drove liberals mad by winning the election, Hillary's Russia conspiracy theory was scoffed at throughout the media.
	A New York Times story described Mook's claim as an "eerie suggestion of a Kremlin conspiracy to aid Donald Trump." It was, the Times reporters said, a "remarkable moment." Even at the height of the Cold War, such an accusation had never been leveled by one presidential candidate against another. And yet, the Times dryly observed, Mook had cited nothing more than unnamed "experts."
	Los Angeles Times reporter Mark Z. Barabak also pointed out the unnamed "experts" and noted that Mook's "allegation" served two political purposes. It tainted Trump's boast that he'd get along with Russia and "also served the added benefit, from Clinton's perspective, of distracting from internal party divisions over the emails."
	Russian scholars and cyber-security experts dismissed the harebrained claim:
	"Experts: Hard to prove Russians behind DNC hack" -- USA Today
	"Why the Kremlin might not be the fan of Trump that it's said to be" -- The Christian Science Monitor
	A month later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a conference call with nervous Democrats, urging them to push the Russian conspiracy theory and also to put out the word that "the Russians" might have altered the content of the emails.
	President Obama took the alleged Russian hacking so seriously that he told Putin to "cut it out."
	It was only after disaster struck and Trump won the election that the media decided maybe there was something to that Russia business, after all. 
	As described in the book "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign," two days after the election, Hillary's communications team met for hours "to engineer the case that the election wasn't entirely on the up-and-up. ... Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument."
	The entire Russian collusion gag was invented to assuage the potty pantsuit's embarrassment at having lost a second election that was fixed for her to win. 
	In the two years since the media guffawed at Mook's claim, the public has been presented with no new evidence. All that's changed is that the media suddenly decided to demand that we all believe it. 


ANN COULTER
Thursday, 23 August 2018 23:18

Do Democrats Want an Impeachment Fight?

         

"If anyone is looking for a good lawyer," said President Donald Trump ruefully, "I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen." Michael Cohen is no Roy Cohn.

           

Tuesday, Trump's ex-lawyer, staring at five years in prison, pled guilty to a campaign violation that may not even be a crime.

           

Cohen had fronted the cash, $130,000, to pay porn star Stormy Daniels for keeping quiet about a decade-old tryst with Trump. He had also brokered a deal whereby the National Enquirer bought the rights to a story about a Trump affair with a Playboy model, to kill it.

           

Cohen claims he and Trump thus conspired to violate federal law. But paying girlfriends to keep past indiscretions private is neither a crime nor a campaign violation. And Trump could legally contribute as much as he wished to his own campaign for president.

           

Would a Democratic House, assuming we get one, really impeach a president for paying hush money to old girlfriends?

           

Hence the high-fives among never-Trumpers are premature.

           

But if Cohen's guilty plea and Tuesday's conviction of campaign manager Paul Manafort do not imperil Trump today, what they portend is ominous. For Cohen handled Trump's dealings for more than a decade and has pledged full cooperation with prosecutors from both the Southern District of New York and the Robert Mueller investigation.

           

Nothing that comes of this collaboration will be helpful to Trump.

           

Also, Manafort, now a convicted felon facing life in prison, has the most compelling of motives to "flip" and reveal anything that could be useful to Mueller and harmful to Trump.

           

Then there is the Mueller probe itself.

           

Twenty-six months after the Watergate break-in, President Nixon had resigned. Twenty-six months after the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta emails, Mueller has yet to deliver hard evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Putin's Russia, though this was his mandate.

           

However, having, for a year now, been marching White House aides and campaign associates of Trump before a grand jury, Mueller has to be holding more cards than he is showing. And even if they do not directly implicate the president, more indictments may be coming down.

           

Mueller may not have the power to haul the president before a grand jury or indict him. After all, it is Parliament that deposes and beheads the king, not the sheriff of Nottingham. But Mueller will file a report with the Department of Justice that will be sent to the House.

           

And as this Congress has only weeks left before the 2018 elections, it will be the new House that meets in January, which may well be Democratic, that will receive Mueller's report.

           

Still, as of now, it is hard to see how two-thirds of a new Senate would convict this president of high crimes and misdemeanors.

           

Thus we are in for a hellish year.

           

Trump is not going to resign. To do so would open him up to grand jury subpoenas, federal charges and civil suits for the rest of his life. To resign would be to give up his sword and shield, and all of his immunity. He would be crazy to leave himself naked to his enemies.

           

No, given his belief that he is under attack by people who hate him and believe he is an illegitimate president, and seek to bring him down, he will use all the powers of the presidency in his fight for survival. And as he has shown, these powers are considerable: the power to rally his emotional following, to challenge courts, to fire Justice officials and FBI executives, to pull security clearances, to pardon the convicted.

           

Democrats who have grown giddy about taking the House should consider what a campaign to bring down a president, who is supported by a huge swath of the nation and has fighting allies in the press, would be like.

           

Why do it? Especially if they knew in advance the Senate would not convict.

           

That America has no desire for a political struggle to the death over impeachment is evident. Recognition of this reality is why the Democratic Party is assuring America that impeachment is not what they have in mind.

           

Today, it is Republicans leaders who are under pressure to break with Trump, denounce him, and call for new investigations into alleged collusion with the Russians. But if Democrats capture the House, then they will be the ones under intolerable pressure from their own media auxiliaries to pursue impeachment.

           

Taking the House would put newly elected Democrats under fire from the right for forming a lynch mob, and from the mainstream media for not doing their duty and moving immediately to impeach Trump.

           

Democrats have been laboring for two years to win back the House. But if they discover that the first duty demanded of them, by their own rabid followers, is to impeach President Trump, they may wonder why they were so eager to win it.

           

Patrick J. Buchanan

 

 

A large percentage of college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed five years after graduation, earning the same income they would have earned had they not gone to college.

The National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET), in collaboration with its premier sustaining partner, Growth Development Associates (GDA), will make available two tuition-free online Workforce Development courses for up to one million students, alumni and professionals from colleges and schools across the U.S.  Their goal is to help students and alumni, as well as professionals in the workforce, develop skills to immediately qualify for open jobs or enhance their performance and qualifications in their current position.

There are two courses being offered for up to one million individuals where tuition will be waived. There is a registration fee of ten dollars ($10) per course. One course focuses on internal workplace communications and the other on consultative selling, which can enhance or open the opportunity for a high-level sales position in any corporation.

Course One - Workplace Communication - $599 tuition waived

The most direct impact on job performance is an employee’s skill in interacting and working with others in the workplace.  The course builds and integrates six skills necessary for effective workplace communication.  Participants will gain expertise to establish connection, gain engagement, understand perspective, propose solutions, resolve issues, and gain agreement.

Course Two - Consultative Selling - $599 tuition waived

The highest number of job ads in any category, within any city in the country, are jobs for professional salespeople.  Participants will build and hone the fundamental skills necessary for effective sales and customer support conversations.  They will also learn to build relationships, gain interest, understand needs, present solutions (not pitches), close for true commitment, and handle genuine customer objections.

These courses are also an excellent resource for veterans, those looking for advancement in their current employment situations, or developing new career opportunities. Anyone with the drive and desire to advance themselves should take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It is time for industry and academic leaders to work together to build a bridge to successful employment,” states Al McCambry, President. “NCCET is doing their part by offering two courses focused on the workforce development skills needed to enhance employee engagement and improve individual productivity through our partnership with GDA.”  McCambry hopes that by offering these courses, tuition free for a limited time, graduates and alumni can gain the mainstream, high-paying employment they deserve, and employers will reap the benefits of highly qualified new and existing employees.

“Anyone doing a local search in the community for open job positions, will find that one in four jobs are sales based,” states Eric Richardson, CEO, GDA. “Working with NCCET, we saw the need for individuals to be better trained. Acknowledging not everyone, especially students and the underemployed, would have the resources to gain access to these types of training, we felt a need and a responsibility to give people a hand up.”

The $599 course tuition is waived for anyone who enrolls between Monday, August 13, 2018 and Friday, September 28, 2018. Participants only need pay a $10 per course registration fee. Consultative Selling requires about 34 hours of training in which the participant will be qualified for open sales positions (one in four jobs in the marketplace are sales positions). Essentials of Workplace Communications takes approximately 26 hours to complete. Effective communication drives success and sustainability in any workplace environment. Participants may take the courses at any time until December 31, 2018.

Participants can enroll at www.growthdevelopment.com/labor-day

About NCCET and GDA

National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET) provides member institutions and continuing education professionals with proven best practices that help with the implementation and execution of effective and profitable programs. As an affiliate council of the AACC, NCCET advocates for prioritizing continuing education and training issues among policymakers and community college leaders to ensure the important work our members do is recognized, valued and supported.

Growth Development Associates (GDA) is a dedicated training company with an experienced and committed team that has been serving clients for the last 29 years. Though GDA’s customized consulting approach GDA helps organizations to improve their bottom line and achieve long lasting results.  Employing our nationally certified curriculum in Workplace Communication, Consultative Selling, Account Management, and Leadership, GDA assists individuals at all levels of the organization to improve their skills, as well as, assists students and alumni who are looking for a job. 

 

 

Attachments: Logo, Eric Richardson photo and bio, Course Masthead, 

Circus Transformus is a visually stunning, contemporary circus performance incorporating dance, acrobatics, aerial arts and other skilled acts. Locally produced with dozens of talented artists.

Circus Transformus aims to entertain AND inspire its audience to rise to the challenge of healing our planet earth. The show is created and produced by Southwest Florida circus artists, Carla Hyde and Christar Damiano, who have a combined circus experience of over 50 years. Circus Transformus is a celebration of the awakening of the human spirit.

This visually stunning, contemporary circus performance incorporates dance, acrobatics, aerial arts and other skilled acts. With dozens of talented artists.

This spectacular tells the story of a young girl who awakens to find her world on the brink of disaster. She teams up with an unlikely group of allies to combat the forces that threaten her planet.

 

But can they save it before it’s too late? This original story features a cast of local acrobats, aerialists, contortionists, fire performers and more and is a celebration of the awakening of the human spirit.

Join Broadway Palm as they inspire audiences to "Be That Change" with Circus Transformus.

Performances are Saturday, August 25 and Sunday, August 26. Doors open for the Saturday performance at 6 p.m. with a preshow in the lobby, Hors d ’Oeuvres are at 7 p.m., the performance begins at 8 p.m. and there will be an after party with DJ Groove Chemist and a dessert bar until 12 a.m.

Doors open for the Sunday performance at 4 p.m. with a preshow in the lobby, Hors d ‘Oeuvres are at 5 p.m. and the performance is at 6 p.m.

This production is intended for mature audiences; parental discretion is advised. Tickets are $50 to $65 and can be reserved by calling (239) 278-4422, by visiting BroadwayPalm.com or by stopping by the box office at 1380 Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers.

Friday, 10 August 2018 22:17

On Baseball, and Being the Best

Part of what makes baseball such a wonderful game is that it supplies answers in an uncertain world. Ask a group of people to identify the best novel, most delicious dessert or smartest president and you'll invite a debate that ultimately fizzles in a lack of measurable comparisons. No one can prove that Willa Cather used adjectives more efficiently than Philip Roth, or that chocolate cake is more satisfying than pecan pie.

But who is the greatest hitter to ever play in the major leagues?

Here we get help, because as much as baseball features drama and intensity, it's also a game of precision and repetition, which lends itself to statistical analysis. And therefore, this conclusion: Ted Williams, who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1939-60, is the best-ever hitter.

In the 1941 season, Williams -- an irascible perfectionist known as the Kid, the Splendid Splinter and Teddy Ballgame -- had a .406 batting average. That loosely translates into getting a base hit (including home runs) four out of every 10 times he faced a pitcher -- not counting walks. Hitting a major league baseball is a notoriously difficult act. Williams is the last big leaguer to break .400. Judged by today's depth of pitching talent, love of home runs and commensurately high strikeout totals, perhaps his feat will never be duplicated. Current stars struggle over the course of a long season to stay above .320, or even .300, while the entirety of the league hits about .250.

Williams was a gifted athlete with lightning-fast wrists, better than 20/20 vision and a graceful left-handed swing. "He was like a metronome," one biographer marveled. The Splinter was an imperfect person, quick to anger, who seemed to take out his frustrations on the little white ball. But he was also an obsessive who contemplated issues of technique and strategy so much that he wrote a revered book, "The Science of Hitting."

None of us will ever be able to hit a curve ball, so we won't rush to the library for a copy. What fascinates us is the documentary's character study of a proven perfectionist. "All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say, 'There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived,' Williams once said. He hit for a career average of .344, with 521 home runs -- and that was having missed three prime seasons for military service during World War II, plus more time away during the Korean War. Only Babe Ruth's hitting prowess compares to Williams.

In terms of personality, Williams was generous away from the game but picked fights with sports reporters and had such a tempestuous relationship with fans he swore off tipping his cap after home runs. He chose single-minded focus on swinging the bat over nurturing or repairing his relationship with the public. Even when he hit a homer in his last plate appearance before retirement in 1960, Williams refused to acknowledge the cheers at Boston's Fenway Park. "Gods do not answer letters," is how the writer John Updike explained Williams' stubborn aloofness in a famous New Yorker magazine article.

Does the attainment of a history-making achievement require such fanatical, even disagreeable dedication to craft? Maybe it doesn't, but the baseball record books suggest that maybe it does.

When asked why he chose baseball? Ted Williams replied: "Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer."

Friday, 10 August 2018 09:48

Working to Preserve Species

Florida residents experience the impact of the Endangered Species Act all around them: The sea turtles that nest on local beaches. The manatees that charm visitors to state parks in the winter. The wood storks that have become an increasingly common sight along local roadsides.

These species, and many others, were once considered potentially doomed. But decades of protection have turned things around. Sea-turtle nestings on local beaches have more than doubled from lows in the early 2000s. Florida's manatee counts have topped 6,000 for the last three years -- once, the population was thought to number just a few hundred. The number of wood storks in the southeastern United States was once declining at the rate of 5 percent a year, and scientists grimly predicted the species was headed for extinction. Now pairs of storks are visible throughout Volusia and Flagler counties, wading in roadside ditches and shallow lakes.

These are success stories, but the stories are not finished yet. Every day, birds, plants, fish and animals face competition for the resources they need to survive from the ever-increasing number of people who want to make Florida their home. The federal Endangered Species Act and the state's species-protection programs have nurtured these, and many other species: As The Daytona Beach News-Journal's Dinah Voyles Pulver reported, the state is home to 93 species considered endangered under the federal rules, and another 44 that are threatened.

Endangered species are considered in danger of extinction; the threatened status -- which the manatee was recently elevated to -- includes species that are likely to become endangered in the future.

There's little doubt, however, that the Endangered Species Act has levied a considerable cost for the protections it guarantees. The battles over preservation generally involve creatures that most people agree should be protected. But the history of the Endangered Species Act includes some episodes where the case was not nearly as clear -- such as the controversy over an undeniably endangered Mississippi frog that was "rebranded" as being from Louisiana, leading to a debate as to whether federal officials could designate private property as critical habitat for a species that hadn't been found in that area in more than 50 years, and might not survive there.

The Trump administration says it wants to revamp and streamline the Endangered Species Act, leading to cries of alarm from environmental groups. That pushback is a good thing -- conservation-minded groups should keep a close eye on the proceedings and call foul if endangered-species protections will be legitimately weakened.

At the same time, however, these groups should acknowledge that, after four and half decades, the Endangered Species Act might benefit from an overhaul that whittles unnecessary regulation.

If environmental groups work with federal officials in good faith, they might just produce a law that both sides can agree is an improvement.

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