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By a 14-1 vote, the House Health Quality subcommittee approved a measure that would limit how Florida patients can use medical marijuana.

Not only would patients be prohibited from smoking medical marijuana, but they would also be barred from buying more than a 90-day supply. Edibles would be outlawed, and vaping would only be allowed for terminal patients. However, a limitation on types of ingestion is not the only issue within HB 1397.

The bill would severely curtail the market for medical marijuana. Only seven dispensaries would serve the entire state until 200,000 patients register. Only after the threshold number of patients is met would five additional treatment centers be permitted.

In November, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to expand the use of medical marijuana in Florida.

Now, lawmakers are going against this strong public support by ristrictiong the number of dispensaries and the possible types of Medical Marijuana available to recipiants that would be legal to receive it.

Simply put, this new bill, HB 1397 is too restrictive and is contradictory to the desire of 71% of Floridians.

While the bill still needs approval from two other House committees before heading to the floor for a full vote, now is the time to tell your representative to oppose this unduly burdensome implementation of Amendment 2!

This is exactly what we reported/warned about in our last Sun Bay issue.

Over $100K in "Campaign Donations" have trickled into the pockets of lawmakers from the dispensaries that have already been approved so lawmakers would limit the amount of providers in the state, looks like their tactic is working.

As Easter approaches, those of the Christian faith, by and large the largest religious faith in America, think about what it means to be resurrected. But there is another, more secular meaning to the word. Used outside religion the word is defined as "to bring back into use, practice, or reestablish something that has been lost."

Thanks to the heartfelt insight and patriotism of the Lani Kai Resort and its management and staff, here on Fort Myers Beach, this term has taken on a life of its own. This year, young people visiting our Beach for Spring Break or just to enjoy our hospitality, sun and friendly island folks will be treated to a gift designed to resurrect their pride in the USA.

It all started when "Mr. C" (a man who prefers to keep his actions out of the limelight) noticed a guest at the Lani Kai was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words - America the Beautiful.

"It made me feel a genuine love for our country and I also appreciated the young man who was wearing it so well," said Mr. C.

"I walked over, shook his hand, bought him a drink and thanked him for being so obviously proud of his country I also felt a deep desire, then and there, to help other guests at the hotel display their affection for our beautiful nation," he elaborated with conviction.

So after the hotel staff put their heads together, the Lani Kai commissioned their artist, Jason Fleenor of Brand 1 Ink out of Cape Coral, to put "God Bless America" on high quality T'shirts and give them away free to all hotel guests during this year's Spring Break. Staff members, immensely proud of this generous action, also decided to wear the T-shirt themselves during the month.

We visited Caity Simón, partner with "Dodo" in the Henna Shoppe. (Dodo is also the owner of the Beach's well-known Dodo's Gift Shop located in the thoroughfare underneath the Lani Kai, where as an added bonus for Hotel Guests, anyone who desired to personalize their shirt could stop by the shop and get their school or other distinctive, meaningful name or phrase printed on the T's also at no cost.)

Caity is an artist who does henna tattoos, creative artword and body painting. She also customizes T's, including the patriotic ones that the Resort is giving guests.

"Its really nice to meet so many great students and guests. They get really excited about having their T's customized and many of them have also expressed a love for their country - exactly what we hoped would happen. I'm happy to be part of such a cool effort to enhance pride in America," said the affable Caity.

Larry, the General Manager of the Lani Kai agreed.

"We have thousands of guests here for Spring Break during the month of March through the first half of April and these students really show appreciation for getting a T-shirt and personalization just for them," he told the Sun Bay Paper.

The Lani Kai has always been one of the more self-effacing enterprises on Fort Myers Beach. During my 12 years publishing both the Island Sand Paper and the Sun Bay Paper, I've had the opportunity to get to know "Mr. C" the owner and some of his staff, particularly management, quite well. They always insist on remaining out of the limelight. Heck, I'll probably get a call wanting to know why I even mentioned Mr. C or Larry. I'll take the call and tell them "I left out your full names." They'll most likely chuckle in a good natured way, share a personal moment with me and move on.

I'll willingly take the heat this time though because I've always left them out. But this time it's different for me. As a Vietnam era Veteran of the U.S. Army - one who volunteered, not drafted - I have a great deal of pride in my country I AM a Patriot. And I appreciate anyone else who is as well.

Far too often today disparaging remarks are being made about the USA It's almost as if some hate the very land of their birth.

It pains me when I remember those who have fallen to insure the freedoms we enjoy. By traveling extensively to other nations, I've come to more deeply respect those freedoms because they're absent in many places around the planet.

Once visiting a VA Hospital, I saw a sign that read: "The price of freedom is visible here."

How true that is.

Because of this The Sun Bay Paper and myself personally want to express our thanks to the Lani Kai for helping young people to remember what the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave really means.

If getting a patriotic T-shirt causes a single young person to reflect more deeply on the sacrifices made by those who went before them - if this simple gift brings a resurrected sense of belonging to the greatest, most generous nation on Earth - if it causes one guest at the Lani Kai to deepen their love for our country - then I say give the shirts out every year.

I know I'll be wearing mine with pride.

Article by Carl Conley. Emeritus Editor , Juris Doctorate:
Founder and Editor in Chief of
The Island Sand Paper 1999-2010
and later, Founder and Publisher of
The Sun Bay Paper 2015-2016

Thursday, 06 April 2017 23:00

Easter Egg Hunts

­HOP to it !! It’s spring and Easter is almost here! South West Florida has plenty of egg-tastic events for the family.

Looking for a fun Easter egg hunt for the kiddies? Here’s what’s happening this week on the egg hunt scene to celebrate Easter.

Centennial Park Annual
Spring Egg Hunt
More than 4,000 eggs will be scattered in the park for ages 6 and younger to collect. The Easter bunny will be there for photos. There will be a DJ playing kids hip-hop music playing and a sidewalk chalk area.
Where: Centennial Park, 2000 W. First St., Fort Myers
When: Sunday, April 9, 10 am.
Cost: Free
Details: 321-7524

North Fort Myers Egg Hunt
Egg hunt through the park for ages 10 and younger. There will be special tags in some of the eggs that can be redeemed for prizes. Refreshments to be served. Registration required.
When: Saturday, April 8, 9 a.m.
Where: North Fort Myers Community Park, 2000 N. Recreation Park Way, North Fort Myers
Cost: $5 per child
Details: 533-7200,

Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt
Hunt for glowing eggs. There will also be games, crafts and snack. For ages 3-6. Registration required.
Where: Four Freedoms Park, 4818 Tarpon Court, Cape Coral
When: Friday, April 7, 6-8 p.m.
Cost: $15 for residents, $18 for nonresidents
Details: 574-0804, Somebunny Loves Me
Egg hunt and crafts for "little" ones ages 1-2. Registration required.
Where: Four Freedoms Park, 4818 Tarpon Court, Cape Coral
When: Friday, April 7, 11:15 a.m
Cost: $10 for residents, $15 for nonresidents
Details: 574-0804,
Bass Pro Shops Easter Event
Easter egg hunts, free photos and crafts.
When: April 8-16. Photos are taken 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 6-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 2-8 p.m. Friday. Crafts are 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. The egg hunt is Saturday, April 15; registration begins at 1:30 p.m. and hunt begins at 2 p.m.
Where: Bass Pro Shops, 10040 Gulf Center Drive, Fort Myers
Cost: Free Details: 461-7800,
Golden Gate Community Center Family Easter Event & Carnival
Children can play games and do crafts and activities to win eggs. The Easter Bunny will be posing for photos with children and handing out eggs. There will be bounce houses, food vendors, face painting and a fire truck. This year there is also a carnival April 7-9, with carnival food and rides such as a Ferris wheel, fun houses and mini games.
When: Easter event is Saturday, April 8, 11 a.m.; the carnival is April 7-9 (7-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. -11 p.m. Saturday and 7-10 p.m. Sunday).
Where: Golden Gate Community Center, 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples
Cost: $3 for Easter event. Carnival admission is free; tickets required for rides. Look for coupons in local stores. Details: 252-4180.

Vineyards Little Bunny Garden Party
Fun and games, treats and a spring craft. Register by April 5.
When: Saturday, April 8, 9:30
Where: Vineyards Community Park, 6231 Arbor Blvd., Naples
Cost: $10 Details: 252-4105

Read to Rabbits
Learn more about real bunnies, and then meet some. Have your picture taken with an English Lop bunny, also get a chance to read to a rabbit. Registration required.
When: Thurs., April 13, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Collier County Public Library Headquarters, 2385 Orange Blossom Drive, Naples
Cost: Free Details: 593-0870

Bunny Make and Take
Crafts available. Registration not required.
When: Tuesday, April 11, 10 a.m.
Where: Estates Branch Library, 1266 Golden Gate Blvd., W.Naples
Cost: Free Details: 455-8088

Tween/Teen Eggstravaganza
Join an egg hunt on the lawn. There will be one special golden goose egg prize. For ages 11-16. Registration required.
When: Tuesday, April 11, 5-6 p.m.
Where: Vanderbilt Beach Library, 788 Vanderbilt Bch Road, Naples
Cost: Free Details: 597-8444

Braiding hair without a license could get you in trouble in Florida.

So could cutting and wrapping hair, manicuring fingernails, auctioneering property, landscaping, interior design and timekeeping at a boxing match.

If you want to earn money or start a business in dozens of job categories, Florida requires a state approved license – and they don’t come cheaply.

Barbers are required to complete 1,200 hours of training – equivalent to 25 hours a week for one year – to be eligible for licensure. Applicants then must pass an exam and pay a $223 fee.

A cosmetology license requires 1,200 training hours at an approved state Board of Cosmetology school, which costs between $5,000 and $20,000, according to

Interior designers need a combined six years of board-approved education and work experience under a licensed designer, then pass a three-part exam costing $1,065 to legally design commercial spaces.

Working without a license has its own costs: up to $500 fines per offense, restraining orders or court ordered injunctions against performing undocumented labor activities.

Critics say such regulations discourage would-be workers, and state lawmakers are considering a bureaucratic downsizing.

A bill that would rollback red-tape for nearly two-dozen professions passed an important House appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday at the Florida Capitol. The bill was approved with bipartisan support, 12-2.

“We’re trying to lower barriers in order to create jobs,” said Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, the bill’s sponsor.

The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, pegs Florida as the fourth most restrictive state in the country with respect to occupational licensing regulations. In a study called License to Work, it identified 45 of 102 low-and-moderate income jobs as having burdensome licensing requirements.

“Occupational licenses, which are essentially permission slips from the government, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise,” the nonprofit firm says. “Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition.”

‘Protect the public welfare’

About a dozen industry representatives appeared before the legislative committee, and stated independently that Florida’s occupational regulations ensure public safety and create jobs themselves.

“We regulate not to keep people out of business, or to create barriers to business, we regulate to defend the public and protect the public welfare,” said Owen Chad Johnson, secretary and treasurer of the Florida Auctioneers Association.

David Roberts, of the American Society of Interior Designers, told lawmakers that they’ll put people out of business if they deregulate. Stephanie Borras, owner of two Tallahassee salons, said the bill would increase the quantity of workers, but not the quality.

Curtis Austin, executive director of the Florida Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, said the bill’s proposal to reduce cosmetology training from 1,200 hours to 600 hours would cause a health crisis.

“We are moving in the direction not of red states and blue states, but in the direction of Turkey,” Austin told committee members. “If you look at those places where they deregulate these issues in cosmetology, up to 85 percent of people contract skin diseases.”

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said he thought some of the arguments made sense and some did not.

According to bill’s staff analysis, the state Board of Cosmetology issued 28 disciplinary orders against licensed hair braiders, hair wrappers and body wrappers during the 2012- 2015 fiscal years.

“These actions generally did not involve consumer injury, but were technical scope of practice violations,” such as practicing with an expired license or failing to timely renew a license, the analysis states.

Beshears’ bill would eliminate all Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation restrictions against interior designers, hair braiders, hair and body wrappers, boxing announcers and boxing timekeepers, and would reduce mandatory training hours for barbers, nail specialists and facial specialists.

The Department of Regulation would no longer regulate labor organizations, business agents, talent agencies and auctioneers, but established industry standards and civil and criminal actions would still apply.

Architects, landscapers, geologists and asbestos abatement contractors would no longer be required to obtain certificates of authorization in addition to obtaining their licenses.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, an outspoken critic of occupational regulations, said the bill doesn’t go far enough.

“I believe there are 366 occupational licensures in the state Florida,” Grant said. “I’ve yet to be compelled by any argument that any form of license or regulation is in any way as significant to make a consumer whole as an insurance policy.”

Insurance premiums are much less expensive than an entire bureaucratic scheme, he said.

‘A bunch of arbitrary hoops’

Grant also questioned the licensure education industry.

“One of the things aligned with occupational licenses that I have a very keen interest in exploring is the number of tax dollars that we spend subsidizing higher education for curriculums that are a requirement,” he said.

Lisa Waxman, chair of Florida State University’s interior design program, told lawmakers there are 19 design programs in Florida and urged the committee to “keep things as they are.”

“Florida is a model for the rest of the country,” she said.

Justin Pearson, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, offered that Florida is one of only four states in the country that requires a license for interior designers.

Inconsistencies were also noted. Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs, need 34 days of training, while massage therapists are required to complete 117 days of training.

“I represent first-generation Americans, minorities, and lower-income individuals who want to pursue the American dream,” said Pearson. “But they can’t take a year off of work to jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops.”

Sal Nuzzo, policy director at the conservative James Madison Institute, called the bill a “good first step,” and said that lowering employment barriers would help released prison inmates find work.

“What are the trades these individuals are learning when they’re incarcerated? They’re learning how to be barbers, cosmetologists and electricians,” Nuzzo said.

In his closing remarks, Beshears said his legislation would help people who can’t afford to pay $5,000 and take 1,200 hours of training before securing a job. “This is about giving that person an opportunity,” he said.

The bill has been referred to the House Commerce Committee. A companion Senate bill passed its first committee stop, and is slated for review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

William Patrick

During periods of greater Atlantic hurricane activity, a protective barrier of vertical wind shear and cooler ocean temperatures forms along the U.S. East Coast, weakening storms as they approach land, according to a new study by NCEI scientist, Jim Kossin. In his paper, “Hurricane Intensification along United States Coast Suppressed during Active Hurricane Periods” published in Nature, Kossin identifies this “buffer zone” and describes its relationship with both active and inactive periods of Atlantic hurricane activity.

Hurricanes depend on warm sea surface temperatures to power their warm cores with heat and moisture. But, vertical wind shear—changes in wind speed and direction from the surface to the top of the troposphere—removes the heat and moisture from a storm’s center, potentially breaking it apartcompletely. In the tropical Atlantic, where hurricanes develop, sea surface temperatures and vertical wind shear act together to either enhance or hinder hurricane intensification.

“During periods of greater hurricane activity, the sea surface temperatures are warmer and the wind shear is weaker in the tropical Atlantic,” says Kossin. “Likewise, during periods of low activity, the sea surface temperatures are cooler and the wind shear is stronger there. But, the opposite is true when we look near the U.S. coast. When conditions in the tropical Atlantic are good for hurricane intensification, they are bad for it near the coast and vice versa.”

So, when the environment is good for making strong hurricanes in the tropics, those hurricanes crash into more hostile conditions if they approach the U.S. coast, which weakens them. In this way, the pattern creates a hurricane buffer zone along the coast during periods of high activity. According to historical records from 1947 to 2015, hurricanes were roughly twice as likely to intensify along the U.S. East Coast when the buffer zone wasn’t present. And, they were two to three times more likely to rapidly intensify—by 15 knots or more in 6 hours—without the wind shear and ocean temperature buffer.

The absence of the buffer zone had an even greater impact on major hurricanes. Without it, major hurricanes were two to four times more likely to intensify and three to six times more likely to intensify rapidly. This presents major implications for forecasters, as rapid intensification near the coast is difficult to predict and shortens public warning time.

The period of high Atlantic hurricane activity over the past 20 years and the accompanying development of the buffer zone may help explain the present “drought” of major hurricane landfalls in the United States. The buffer also may have come into play when Hurricane Matthew headed toward the country. While Matthew’s rains were devastating for some areas, the buffer zone helped weaken the storm from a Category 4 as it advanced on Florida to a Category 1 when it officially made landfall in South Carolina. By keeping higher wind speeds at bay, the buffer zone likely helped prevent further compounding damages from Matthew.

In light of how the buffer zone affects coastal communities, scientists aim to further study its relationship with hazard risk in these areas.

Saturday, 01 April 2017 08:21

SoloTravelHer: Scotland

When the Delta Skymiles American Express sign up reward of 60,000 bonus miles hit my account, I immediately began plotting my next free adventure.

Though I’ve spent much of my time in the land I call home– home to my clan and my heart– I couldn’t think of a better way to spend some free miles. While most transatlantic flights cost 100k+ miles, by keeping my dates flexible and booking three months out I was able to get round trip from my home in Fort Myers to Aberdeen for that 60K. Three weeks in my favorite place in the world, the #1 safest place for a woman to travel alone? Absolutely! Let’s go!

I planned on camping most of the trip to conserve funds, but a distant cousin who was gun shy on solo travel and who had always wanted to go to Scotland asked if I would show her about during my time here, so I agreed. She picked up the tab for hotel rooms for herself with an extra bed, just in case I didn’t want to camp out the entire time, and I gave her an itinerary of my schedule.

While I always keep my plans fluid because I often indulge in whims, for the first week I planned to start around my favorite area -Inverness- and camp in a twelfth century castle known as Rait in the Highlands just south of Nairn on the Moray Firth, as well as my Cousin’s castle at Balvenie, then I planned on going to Orkney to visit neolithic sites and finally to the Hebrides and our home Isle of Skye as well as Lewis and Harris in the Western Hebrides. The standing stone circle at Callanish is a killer place to be on the Equinox!

Three months later, here we are. I’m camping Rait Castle outside Nairn. It’s a ruin dating back to the twelfth century which is now public access, coincidentally lying on the property of the Earl of Cawdor. Well off the beaten path, hardly anyone knows of the place, but its’ completely intact tower turret is an ideal place to shelter from the elements with a wee bit more protection from the elements than a tent, as Scottish weather is quite fickle in September. The views here over the Moray Firth are a huge bonus, especially during the gloaming and the autumn months.

Though in September I don’t have the luxury of the extended gloaming that occurs during the early summer months (18-20 hours of daylight this far north) there’s still plenty of time and warm weather left!

I’ve been lucky. The weather was exemplary, and thanks to my free second bag checking from Delta and American Express, I was able to cart over most of the things I’d need to camp successfully, and I bought the rest after I picked up my Peugeot at the Aberdeen airport. I’ll pass off the tent, sleeping bag and air mattress to a homeless person in Glasgow before I leave the UK.

So back to Rait. The castle is supposedly haunted, cursed; the MacKenzie clan and Campbell clans agreed on a banquet 800 years ago to end clan infighting and the Campbells, similarly to what they did at Glencoe, planned on murdering the lot of the Mackenzies. No one counted on the

MacKenzie heiress and Campbell Laird’s son trysting. When they were caught at it, the MacKenzie lass fled and was chased above stairs by her father. At some point during her attempt to escape she decided to go out a window and try to climb down.

Unfortunately the second story is quite high up with lots of rocks below, and her father decided to chop off her hands. She fell to her death and is rumoured to still haunt the place. The few locals who have either managed to spot Rait hiding in the woods off the B9101 or heard about it and trackedit down (It took me some effort the first time!) have either come up for an hour at night on a dare, or disregarded the fact that it’s one of the best preserved examples of a Scottish tower/hall-house left in the Highlands today. Ghost or not, it’s a special place and I’m happy to add it to my list of exotic locales camped! I made sure as always to leave a dead fire and a totally void space where I stayed.

I haven’t encountered the ghost, though. Not on any of my previous visits, nor the whole time I’ve stayed here, a Scottish American princess living in her very own castle. I can’t say I’m disappointed nor can I say it wasn’t a bit creepy a couple of times– that’s why building a fire is so important to boost morale, especially when you’re alone and staying in such a place!

Attached are photos of Rait, my tower room, and various other tidbits and from the Highlands around Inverness, including the Nairn beach and Balvenie Castle. I wasn’t joking about how not even locals know the place… most people I’ve met when I tell them where I’m camping do a double take and ask where, then say they’ve never heard of it. The only persons I’ve encountered during my stay at Rait were a photographer jockeying for shots of the Northern Lights when tipped off by AuroraWatchUK, and a sweet older gentleman who is set to show the place to some Americans with the surname of Rait at the end of the month. It’s been peaceful and quiet and beautiful, hadn’t cost me a nickel, and was the break from reality I sorely needed!

Waking up daily to gaze at ships coming into the Moray Firth from the North Sea… the birds singing and the mists rolling through the heather and gorse… it’s isolated yet enriching in a way I cannot describe. My cousin can have her hotel room in Inverness 20 minutes West. This is the way to see the Highlands! While I pride myself on camping in unusual locations, nothing, not even a deserted island in the Caribbean I camped on in 2012, could have prepared me for how wonderful this is. I highly recommend it… with the proper gear, protection and survival training. Things like gathering firewood in an area known for little timber… not easy. It helps to be as prepared as possible and to have contingency plans!

So far, though, it’s been utterly brilliant.

I remain the Princess in her very own castle. I can check this off my Bucket list now! Feel free to send me your travel bucket list at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. re: SoloTravelHer . I’d love to hear and perhaps pilfer some of them.-

Next week...part two: where to go and what to do in Scotland! Until then Saints Mhath! (Scots Gaelic toast to good health)

Sarah Nicholson

Friday, 31 March 2017 18:03

The Ryancare Route -- Winning by Losing?

Did the Freedom Caucus just pull the Republican Party back off the ledge, before it jumped to its death? A case can be made for that.

Before the American Health Care Act, aka "Ryancare," was pulled off the House floor Friday, it enjoyed the support -- of 17 percent of Americans. Had it passed, it faced an Antietam in the GOP Senate, and probable defeat.

Had it survived there, to be signed by President Trump, it would have meant 14 million Americans losing their health insurance in 2018.

First among the losers would have been white working-class folks who delivered the Rust Belt states to President Trump.

"Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan," said JFK.

So, who are the losers here?

First and foremost, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans who, having voted 50 times over seven years to repeal Obamacare, we learned, had no consensus plan ready to replace it.

Moreover, they put a bill on the floor many had not read, and for which they did not have the votes.

More than a defeat, this was a humiliation. For the foreseeable future, a Republican Congress and president will coexist with a health care regime that both loathe but cannot together repeal and replace.

Moreover, this defeat suggests that, given the ideological divide in the GOP, and the unanimous opposition of congressional Democrats, the most impressive GOP majorities since the 1920s may be impotent to enact any major complicated or complex legislation.

Friday's failure appears to be another milestone in the decline and fall of Congress, which the Constitution, in Article I, fairly anoints as our first branch of government.

Through the last century, Congress has steadily surrendered its powers, with feeble resistance, to presidents, the Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the regulatory agencies, even the bureaucracy.

The long retreat goes on.

Another truth was reconfirmed Friday. Once an entitlement program has been created with millions of beneficiaries, it becomes almost impossible to repeal. As Ronald Reagan said, "A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth."

Nor did President Trump escape unscathed.

Among the reasons he was elected was the popular belief, which carried him through scrapes that would have sunk other candidates, that, whatever his faults or failings, he was a doer, a man of action -- "He gets things done!"

To have failed on his first big presidential project has thus been an occasion of merriment for the boo-birds in the Beltway bleachers.

Yet, still, Trump's Saturday tweet -- "Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan ... Do not worry!" -- may prove prophetic.

Now that "Trumpcare" or "Ryancare" is gone, the nation must live with Obamacare. A Democratic program from birth, it is visibly failing. And Democrats now own it again, as not one Democrat was there to help reform it. In the off-year election of 2018, they may be begging for Republican help in reforming the health care system.

After what he sees as a wonderful win, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer now intends to block a Senate vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, and thus force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to muster 60 votes to halt a Democratic filibuster.

Should Schumer persist, Senate Republicans will exercise the "nuclear option," i.e., change the rules to allow debate to be cut off with 51 votes, and then elevate Gorsuch with their own slim majority.

Why would Schumer squander his political capital by denying a quality candidate like Judge Gorsuch a vote? Does he also think that a collapsing Obamacare -- even its backers believe is in need of corrective surgery -- will be an asset for his imperiled colleagues in 2018? The last time Democrats headed down that Radical Road and nominated George McGovern, they lost 49 states.

While the Republicans have sustained a defeat, this is not the end of the world. And there was an implied warning in the president's Sunday tweet:

"Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare."

What Trump is explaining here is that, if Republican majorities in the House and Senate cannot or will not unite with his White House behind solutions on health care, taxes, infrastructure, border security, he will seek out moderate Democrats to get the work done.

This humiliation of Obamacare reform may prove a watershed for the Trump presidency. What he is saying is simple and direct:

I am a Republican president who wants to work with Republicans. But if they cannot or will not work with me, I will find another partner with whom to form coalitions to write the laws and enact the reforms America needs, because, in the last analysis, while party unity is desirable, the agenda I was elected to enact is critical.

The health care defeat yet may prove to be another example of winning by losing.

Patrick J. Buchanan

Friday, 31 March 2017 17:45

Health Care Reform Calls for Simplicity

At last in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, Republicans wisely put a priority on additional health care reform.

Though hailed at the time as a triumph for liberals, Obamacare ultimately divided Democrats, some of whom had warned from the outset it would prove too cumbersome and unreliable for many Americans to navigate or support. But the GOP approach to fulfilling its promise of "repealing andreplacing" Obamacare has gotten off to a shaky start. Voters' justified frustrations and expectations should focus Republicans' minds around taking the right way forward before it's too late.

From the standpoint of politics as well as policy, the smart move is to make a few significant alterations to the current bill. As written, it dissatisfies in two directions -- bringing too little reform to Obamacare on the one hand, but shifting too many people out of coverage, with not enough of an alternative, on the other.

Americans are responding negatively. New polls indicate that, although the level of opposition to the bill is about level with Obamacare's unfavorables when it passed, only about a third of respondents like the new bill, while closer to 40 percent backed Obamacare as it became law.

That is a potentially huge problem for Republicans -- who owe President Trump's election to a small constituency of President Obama's voters willing to take a chance and flip their blue states red. What these and other voters want is clear: simplicity and catastrophic coverage.

Republicans should deliver before moving on to work through other potentially important reforms. After all, the most dogged criticisms of Obamacare -- outside the Beltway -- focus around the Byzantine process of choosing and maintaining affordable coverage that takes the risk of medical bankruptcy off the table. Bernie Sanders Democrats complain that a direct government entitlement would be an improvement, harking back to an infamous sign at a Tea Party protest urging government hands off Medicare.

Although much of Obamacare's limited success ended up coming through the expansion of Medicaid, too many Americans are stuck struggling for workable coverage that satisfies the individual mandate. This is an undue burden. The fact is, a well-tailored entitlement benefit is better for

Americans -- and better for America -- than a bureaucratic thicket working families must hack though at least yearly, uncertain of what new rules, restrictions and cost increases await.

To make good on this reality, some Republicans will have to make adjustments to their own political expectations. Beyond considering a straightforward new entitlement up front, they will have to recognize that pre-existing conditions also fall within the ambit of Americans' expectations around simple catastrophic coverage.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and others are not connecting with the public, including many in their own party, by touting instead the current bill's salutary impact on the size of the federal debt. Instead, they need to make the plain and credible claim that Americans' sharpest health care fears are going to be allayed.

That done -- and not before -- lawmakers can turn to the bells and whistles of reform, with the GOP's many dedicated and intelligent health care wonks making changes within a framework Americans can finally trust.

Friday, 31 March 2017 17:37

Colombia's Marijuana Trade

For decades, Colombia's rural poverty rate was so high that it provided the main fuel for Latin America's longest-running civil war. The nation's exploding drug trade pumped billions of dollars into the insurgency and blocked efforts to bring relief to the poor. Today, help is arriving from the unlikeliest of sources: legalized marijuana.

Colombia's experience suggests creative ways that American leaders might address our own rural poverty issues, provided politicians in Washington can overcome their lingering misgivings about expanded legalization of marijuana.

Marijuana has created massive new job sources and multibillion-dollar markets in states like Colorado, California and Washington where the weed has been fully legalized. In total, 26 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot in some form. Three others are on the verge of legalizing. Despite the doomsayers' worst forecasts about the evils conjured by easy access to pot, even die-hard skeptics are acknowledging the benefits of legalization.

Before 2015, Colombia's leadership had been equally fearful. Since the late 1990s, Colombia has partnered with the United States on a $10 billion military effort to bring down major cartels and halt the drug trade that was keeping guerrilla and right-wing insurgencies alive. Millions of acres of Colombian farmland were denuded by U.S.-funded spraying of herbicides to kill coca, opium and marijuana crops.

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the Clinton administration's drug czar and original mastermind of Plan Colombia, envisioned a rural job-creation program that would encourage peasant farmers to grow specialty crops, like baby corn and hearts of palm, whose market price could compete with the high incomes farmers earned from drug crops. The program was a complete bust, mainly because the farmers had too few ways to get fresh produce to market, and the payout didn't compare with what drug crops yielded.

The New York Times reports that a 2015 Colombian law allowing cultivation of medical marijuana, combined with a peace settlement, has vastly boosted hopes for rural employment. In the war-torn town of Corinto, the mayor estimates that two-thirds of the 32,000 inhabitants now depend on the legal cannabis industry for their living. Residents are even paying taxes, which used to be unheard of in the chaotic drug-war days.

For all of Trump's complaints about all the U.S. trade dollars heading south to Mexico, he should focus on the billions flowing to Mexico's cartels that could be diverted to legal cultivators here. Embracing a legalization model like Colombia's would do more to grow jobs in struggling rural areas, increase tax revenues and stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit that Trump championed.

Dear Doctor: My dad has just been diagnosed with vascular dementia. What is it? Can it be prevented?

Dear Reader: Dementia is a general term used to categorize symptoms that relate to the decline or loss of cognitive function. These include confusion, memory loss, impaired language skills, changes in personality or behavior, and the inability to think clearly or perform everyday tasks. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which accounts forbetween 60 and 80 percent of all dementia cases. The mental impairment of Alzheimer's disease results from a series of complex changes that take place within the structure of the brain itself.

Vascular dementia, which is also called vascular cognitive impairment, causes the majority of non-Alzheimer's cases of dementia. It occurs when the blood vessels in the body, known as the vascular system, become blocked, diseased or damaged and are unable to provide the brain with normal blood flow. This deprives the brain of adequate oxygen and nutrition, which causes brain cells to die. The resulting injury, which prevents different parts of the brain from communicating with one another, causes symptoms of dementia.

Hardening and narrowing of the arteries, a major stroke or a series of small strokes can cause vascular dementia. In the case of major stroke, symptoms of vascular dementia can appear suddenly. But quite often, the disease builds slowly. As blood flow to the brain decreases, mental impairment gradually becomes more pronounced.

At this time, vascular dementia cannot be reversed, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. Although the disease is rare before age 65, the cardiovascular problems that lead to it can begin to develop well before then.

One of the major risk factors for vascular dementia is high blood pressure, which also plays a role in heart attack and stroke. That's why it's important to know your numbers, and to monitor blood pressure on a regular basis.

To reduce blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight. It's wise to also keep track of your waistline measurements. Men who measure more than 40 inches at the waist and women whose waistlines measure more than 35 inches are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

Get moving. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of vascular dementia by 40 percent. Just 30 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity -- you'll be able to speak but not sing -- three times per week helps protect both your heart and your brain.

If you've been following this column for even a few weeks you know what's coming next -- don't smoke. If you do smoke, please stop. Yes, we know that's hard. We also know that your family doctor would love to help you.

Eat a healthy diet: lean meats, fresh fish, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Skip the sugar if you can. Limit simple carbs like pasta, rice, bread and processed cereals.

Limit how much alcohol you drink. Even in moderation, alcohol has been linked to dementia risk, particularly as we get older.

Eve Glazier, M.D.,
and Elizabeth Ko, M.D.