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Items filtered by date: January 2017
Thursday, 16 February 2017 13:08


Without issuing an opinion -- no ruling on school desegregation, no decision on abortion rights -- the Supreme Court is at the center of perhaps its gravest constitutional crisis in eight decades. The stakes could not be higher, the implications could not be greater, the consequences could not be more far-reaching.

In the span of a few months the country has witnessed the high court nomination of a supremely competent jurist, Judge Merrick B. Garland, be ignored by a stubborn Republican-controlled Senate, followed by the prospect that another supremely competent jurist, Judge Neil Gorsuch, might be blocked by a recalcitrant Democratic minority; and, just the other day, a blistering critique of judges by the president followed by Judge Gorsuch's comment that the Trump remarks were "disheartening."

This whole contretemps is a substantial departure from American history. A Ronald Reagan appointee, Anthony Kennedy, won confirmation by a 97-0 vote. Two of Republican George H.W. Bush's nominees were confirmed by a Democratic Senate, once by a 90-9 vote (David H. Souter). As recently as 2009, nine Republicans voted to confirm the choice of a Democratic president (Sonia Sotomayor).

But last year Republicans refused even to take up the nomination of Garland, and now Democrats are threatening to return the favor and stall, if not defeat, the nomination of Judge Gorsuch.

"Now no one from the other party is acceptable," says Dan Urman, who directs the law and public policy program at Northeastern University. "This is the political equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys. Each side wants to get even for what happened the last time."

That could mean extending this dispute indefinitely, threatening the independence of the judiciary. "Prolonged civil wars," the Israeli historian Benny Morris once wrote about the Middle East, "tend to brutalize combatants and trigger vengefulness."

That's what's happening here today. There is no premium in asking who started this (perhaps a group of Democrats including future Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that killed the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987), or for refighting the war over whether a president toward the end of his term ought to make a high-court nomination (as Reagan did with his nomination of Justice Kennedy in November 1987, a result the GOP ignored last year).

At the heart of this crisis is how to interpret Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which says the president "shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint" justices to the courts.

Does that mean that the Senate has a co-role in the appointment of these jurists? Or does it specifically grant the predominant responsibility to the president, putting the Senate in a minor role? It depends on whom you ask, and what his or her interests are.

Overall the Senate has rejected a dozen Supreme Court nominees, including a George Washington selection, John Rutledge, who was engulfed in a complex political struggle involving the Jay Treaty of 1794. Two Richard M. Nixon appointees, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell, were rejected.

Generally, however, the president gets his way, and generally the Senate applies few ideological tests. But now we are in a cycle of revenge that imperils any nominee's efforts to win confirmation.

"The Democrats are understandably angry about the Garland nomination," says Kenneth Gormley, former dean of the Duquesne Law School and now president of the university. "At the same time, that does not change the fact that the Constitution says what it says, and the current Senate, including the Democrats, have an obligation to consider the president's nominee and consent to it if he is qualified. The fact is that President Trump won the election, and he gets to pick the justice."

But the fact also remains that many Democrats, including Senate minority leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, are determined to fight the Gorsuch nomination, their ardor heightened after Trump pilloried federal Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, as a "so-called judge" for putting a hold on his executive order on immigration. Schumer said the president's attack "raises the bar even higher for Judge Gorsuch's nomination."

The possible result is Senate, and thus high court, paralysis. Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who three times was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said seven years ago that Judge Garland would be a "consensus nominee" for the court, and yet the Judiciary Committee refused even to hold hearings. Schumer presumably was one of those who supported Judge Gorsuch's appointment as a federal appellate judge for the 10th Circuit in 2006, and yet he is threatening to hold up the Coloradan's confirmation.

"We could be entering a situation where one party consistently blocks nominees of the other party, waiting its turn to take over the White House," says Gormley. "Then each party will be obstinate. It turns the system upside down."

So is there a way out of this mess, the worst since President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court to preserve his New Deal legislation in 1937?

A start would be presidential initiative to reach out to leaders of the rival political party, to seek their views on Supreme Court appointments, and to get a sense of who is confirmable. President Bill Clinton did some of that, and it helped him win large margins for Ruth Bader Ginsburg (96-3) and Stephen Breyer (87-9), both of whom had strong ideological tints.

Or my proposal: Trump, facing a divided country with high emotions, seeks to mend fences and salve past injuries by offering a deal to both parties. He asks Democrats to join Republicans in giving swift and perhaps even unanimous approval to his nomination of Judge Gorsuch. He accompanies that with a vow to fill the next vacancy -- whether it is produced by the death or resignation of a Republican-appointed justice or one appointed by a Democrat, a gamble for everyone -- with Judge Garland, vowing to ask Republicans to support that selection.

About one in five Americans who voted in last November's election said that Supreme Court appointments were "the most important factor" in their choice; and more than half of those who selected that factor voted for Trump. The president would risk alienating part of his constituency by this offer.

But the president would stand above the public fray and would be aligned with the broad national interest at a time of partisan bickering. He would drain the Senate swamp of the choking woody plants of partisanship -- a boon to all who called in November for dramatic change in Washington and a gift to his successors.

David M. Shribman

Published in General/Features
Thursday, 16 February 2017 13:03

Background Checks are Absolutely Warranted

Could there be any good outcome from making it easier for seriously mentally ill citizens to buy guns? The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives apparently thinks so, voting 235-180 along party lines to overturn an Obama administration rule extending background checks for Social Security recipients who are mentally unable to work or care for their own finances.

The regulation was part of an effort by the Obama administration to strengthen gun control laws after the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association opposed it, but the former president finalized it in the last days of his administration. The House bill to reverse Obama's regulation now goes to the Senate.

Gun-control advocates say the expanded regulation, increasing scrutiny on about 75,000 recipients of Social Security disability benefits, would have had limited impact on gun violence. But limited impact in a nation with weak gun laws is better than nothing.

It also might have prevented the deaths of some seriously mentally ill people. Mental health experts say that between 6,000 and 18,000 mentally ill people kill themselves with guns every year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness cites research that about 90 percent of people who commit suicide have experienced mental illness.

Psychiatrists say the mentally ill are no more prone to committing violence against others than the population at large, despite highly publicized mass shootings by the likes of James Holmes in Aurora, Colo., and Adam Lanza in Newtown, who had histories of mental illness. They say about 4 percent of all violence in the United States is attributable to
serious mental illness.

Janet Delana of Wellington, Mo., near Kansas City, asked Congress to hold off on repealing the regulation, saying it would have prevented her mentally ill daughter from buying a gun she used to kill her father in 2012.

"She shot her father to death, and tried once again to take her own life," said Delana in an Associated Press story about the regulation. "She is now in an institution for life, and my husband is gone."

The regulation would not have denied guns to mentally ill citizens. It would have flagged them for the Social Security Administration to report to the federal background check system so their names would come up if they tried to purchase firearms.

The NRA and the American Civil Liberties Union argued the rule violates the Second Amendment rights of people with mental illness without adequate due process. But screening people with serious mental illnesses before they purchase guns doesn't seem like too much to ask.

A person who is unable to handle forms for disability benefits may be too ill to own a gun. The regulation didn't take away their right; it simply added a layer of protection for the rest of us.

Published in Business
Thursday, 16 February 2017 12:56


He clearly enough saw, given the trends of his time, and the people behind the scenes (who manipulated them for their own selfish purposes), where we were headed if there was not a collective awakening of humanity. His vision was most fully realized in his novel “1984”. Most Americans have read this book at one point or another, in school or afterwards. If it is not remembered, it should be reread. It uncannily mirrors much of the world we live in today. It was meant to.

Undoubtedly, the renewed interest in this book must be in part tied to the inauguration of Donald Trump, at least in America. It also reflects life in many other countries, many of them with similar socio-political phenomena to what we are experiencing here. Some have thoughtlessly proposed that the interest in this book now is entirely because of the rise of Trump.

This does not seem realistic. While there are some apparent correspondences between aspects of the Trump administration so far and elements of the book, these have more to do with Trump’s place in time, and global trends that he is only a part of and responding to, than with him being the prime cause of world conditions today.

While he is certainly contributing AN effect, he is not THE effect.

As a people, we have all been warned repeatedly, down through the centuries, by any number of wise and observant (and often connected) thinkers, writers, leaders and more. If we only cared to listen to those among us whom have labored so patiently and tirelessly to control us (as John Perdue noted, “The logo of the Fabian Society, a tortoise, represented the group’s predilection for a slow, imperceptible transition to socialism, while its coat of arms, a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, represented its preferred methodology for achieving its goal”).

Typically these shadowy, unseen people organize and operate through secret societies which the great majority of others are not invited into.

“Skull and Bones” is a notable one in this country, and if one chooses to believe that organizations like this one are simply harmless social clubs, then they will do so at their own risk.

Orwell was at one time a member of this English society called the “Fabian Society”, which like many secret societies, had many levels of membership, allowing in people with no real knowledge of (or interest in) the deeper workings of the organization, providing a good “cover story”. In Orwell’s case, he later repudiated the work of the organization and its members.

The Fabian Society remains globalist in nature, seeking one-world government under their own “benevolent” guidance. Many famous and prominent people were drawn to this organization, initially because of its stated interests in promoting what THEY called “socialism”. Members ranged from George Bernard Shaw to H. G. Wells to Oliver Lodge to Winston Churchill.

Simply, as member Annie Besant said, “A democratic Socialism, controlled by majority votes, guided by numbers, can never succeed. A truly aristocratic Socialism, controlled by duty, guided by wisdom, is the next step upward in civilization.”

Not surprisingly, the Fabian Society acquired and sealed the records of Eric Blair not long after the death of his wife. The Fabian motto, fittingly, is “Remold it Nearer to The Heart’s Desire.”

One book they have sought to suppress is called “The Road To Wigan Pier.” In this book Orwell states, “… the ugly fact is that most middle-class Socialists, while theoretically pining for a class-less society, cling like glue to their miserable fragments of social prestige… sometimes I look at a socialist--- the intellectual, tract-writing type of socialist, with his pullover, his fuzzy hair and his Marxist quotation--- and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It is often difficult to believe that it is a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people the furthest removed. The underlying motive of many Socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy; what they desire, basically, is to reduce the world to something resembling a chessboard. Take the plays of a life-long Socialist like Shaw. How much understanding or even awareness of working-class life do they display? … The truth is that, to many people cal themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which ‘we’, the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them’, the Lower Orders…”

Orwell’s take on Trump might be would be the subject of another entire article. It seems safe to say that while Trump enjoys a larger stage than most of us, he appears to be sincerely trying to use it to benefit as many people as possible. Let’s wish him luck!

Mark Stiggs
North Fort Myers

Published in Politics

Joe Bonamassa has been featured on the cover of virtually every guitar magazine multiple times. His name is notorious among guitarists not only for being a virtuoso, but also for his incredible collection of vintage guitars, gear and memorabilia.

One of the biggest names in Blues Rock, Bonamassa has sixteen #1 /billboard Blues Albums, almost every album Joe has produced instantly rockets to the #1 spot. His last studio record was even on Billboard’s Top 10 album chart, proving that a Blues album could debut next to the biggest names in popular music.

At 12 years old, Joe toured with B.B. King, opening for him with musicians three times his age.

He has played in some of the worlds best venues like Radio City Music Hall in N.Y., Royal Albert Hall in London and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.

His band is packed with seasoned musicians!

Reese Wyans on the Keys was a past member of the Second Coming, playing with guitarist Dickey Betts and bassist Berry Oakley, bothof which became founding members of The Allman Brothers Band. Wynans joined Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble in 1985, playing keyboards on Soul to Soul and In Step and played with the band until Stevie Ray Vaughn’s tragic death in 1990.

Anton Fig on the drums, spent the last 29 years as the drummer for David Letterman’s house band on the NBC and CBS networks. Fig is one of America’s most widely-heard musicians and has racked up an impressive session resume playing on albums by Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Rosanne Cash, Joe Cocker, and Ronnie Spector. During his Letterman years, Fig recorded or performed live with such legends as James Brown, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, and B.B. King.

Michael Rhodes on the bass; Some of the musicians he's recorded for include Mark Knopfler, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, and even the hottest star in the entire music industry, Taylor Swift.

Lee Thornburg on the trumpet, has played with many legendary artists and is also a former member of Supertramp and Tower of Power. Thornburg played with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders in the 1970s.

He then went on to tour with musicians such as Tom Petty, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, and Rod Stewart. In 1992, he joined the band Chicago for a show released on VHS cassette called And the Band Played On. He also arranged for and performed with Etta James and the Roots Band. For over five years Thornburg played Trumpet in Jay Leno’s house band.

You can hear Thornburg’s past work with Bonamassa on four of his #1 Billboard releases, including Live at the Royal Albert Hall, the Grammy-Nominated album Seesaw with Beth Hart, Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks, and Live at Radio City Music Hall.

Paulie Cerra on the Sax, a versatile and dynamic Saxophone player, spent years on the road touring the world over and recording with many of the top blues and R&B acts. These have included Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin, Lucky Peterson, Luther Allison, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, Billy Preston and Jimmy Johnson. Cerra joined Joe’s band earlier this year and you can hear him on the #1 Billboard Blues release Live at Radio City Music Hall.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see Joe and his band here this week at the Barbara B. Mann theater, Friday the 17th!

Al DiPasquale
Fort Myers

Published in Lifestyle
Thursday, 16 February 2017 12:49


Fort Myers is a gateway to the Southwest Florida region and a major tourist destination within Florida. The winter homes of Thomas Edison ("Seminole Lodge") and Henry Ford ("The Mangoes") are a primary tourist attraction in the region. The city is named after Colonel Abraham Myers.

It was the love of a woman that got Fort Myers its name, but that same woman’s tart tongue effectively ended its namesake’s career.

The name originated as sort of an engagement gift from General David. E. Twiggs, the commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa, who in 1850, was in charge of a fort on the Caloosahatchee, yet the Jewish Confederate who received it never actually visited the place.

Twiggs was not the kind of man you would like to invite home for dinner, yet he commanded the respect of his men. Staff officer, Abraham C. Myers born 1811 in Georgetown, S.C. (he did however like) an 1833 graduate of West Point and the scion of a prominent Southern Jewish family, Myers was the son of an attorney, and a descendant of Moses Cohen, the first rabbi in

Charleston, S.C. He’d fought with distinction in the Seminole and Mexican Wars before becoming the Chief Quartermaster of the Department of Florida.

Twiggs’ daughter fell in love with Myers, after meeting him in Texas. In honor of his future son-in-law and to make his daughter happy, he named the fort for Myers. The couple married in 1853 when she was 15 and he was 42.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis also liked Myers who had joined the Confederate Army in 1861. He appointed him the first quartermaster general and Myers remained in that post until 1853 when Myers had some “problems.”

Marion caused the problems, as she was “quite the gossip.” Beautiful and with “a wicked tongue” with her father’s temperament.

The final blow to Myers’ career came when Marion publicly described the olive-skinned Varina Howell Davis, the president’s wife, as a ‘squaw'.

Historians are unsure whether the colonel apologized to Mrs. Davis, yet Davis replaced General David E. Twiggs in 1863. In 1865, the Myers family left for Germany and returned in 1876.

Florida became a US Territory in 1821, the ensuing wave of settlers asked for protection from the native Seminoles. Fort Myers was built along the Caloosahatchee River, one of the first bases of operations during the Seminole Indian Wars. Fort Myers was named in honor of Colonel Abraham C. Myers, the son-in-law of the commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa.

The fort was abandoned in 1858 and reoccupied by Federal troops from 1863-1865.

The Southernmost battle of the Civil War, a skirmish between Northern and Southern troops occurred across the river in 1865 and is reenacted annually at the North Fort Myers Cracker Festival.

The fort itself was disassembled, and some of the wood used in construction of some of the first buildings in what would become downtown Fort Myers. No more than ten families lived in the original town when it was platted in 1876.

Published in General/Features
Thursday, 16 February 2017 12:47

79th Edison Festival of Lights

On September 15, 1878, a group of New York reporters traveled to Thomas Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, to hear his most startling announcement to date. In just six weeks, he told them, illumination by gaslight would be obsolete. He would create a vast, new industry to provide electric power that would light up America -- and revolutionize the world. "When I am through, only the rich will be able to afford candles," he said. Gas stocks plummeted overnight. J.P. Morgan hastily provided the 31-year-old inventor with the capital he needed to carry out his daring scheme.
The first electric lights cast their golden glow over Menlo Park on New Year's Eve 1880. Edison, the worker of miracles, had triumphed. Carolyn Marvin, Historian and Author says, “Victorians saw the electric light and the effect of electricity (or 'the lightning') as having an almost religious power. Edison was both godlike, because he could manipulate the lightning, and a very dark and satanic figure for the same reason. He could challenge God's order."
The time had come to start mass production, when Edison approached his investors, they turned him down flat. Nothing more, they said, before their initial investments had paid off. "The issue is factories or death!" raged Edison, and raised the funds himself. At 3pm on September 4, 1882, Edison threw the switch that would start up America's first power plant, serving a square-mile area that included some very wealthy and influential customers: J.P. Morgan, the Stock Exchange, and the nation's largest newspapers. "I have accomplished all that I promised," the inventor said.
In New York, Edison staged an "Electric Torch Light Parade" in which 400 men marched through Manhattan -- wearing light bulbs on their heads and power lines down their sleeves that were connected to a horse-drawn, steam-powered generator. The message came across "Loud and Clear" electricity was safe. In 1887 Edison set up the Edison General Electric Company, and J.P. Morgan paid nearly two million dollars to buy into it.
Edison, the world's greatest inventor had become a prosperous industrialist. No longer did his photographs show a rumpled, unshaven country boy, but instead, a smartly tailored, urban gentleman.
His wife, Mary, had died, leaving 40-year-old Edison with three children to raise. He soon married a beautiful young woman, Mina Miller. Edison's hearing had been deteriorating since he was 11; he taught his second bride Morse code so they could communicate by tapping on one another's wrists.
In the late-1890s, Edison and George Westinghouse (using patents made by Nikola Tesla) engaged in what’s known as the "Battle of Currents,” battling for popularity as the world’s electric demand grew. In a last-ditch effort to save the business he had created, Edison took advantage of an unusual opportunity to discredit Westinghouse. He gave his full endorsement to a plan to use 1,000 volts of AC - from a Westinghouse generator-to execute criminals sentenced to death in New York state.
The first execution turned into a grisly spectacle, damaging Edison's reputation. The board of Edison General Electric decided to adopt AC power, and dropped Edison's name; the company was now called "General Electric."
Courtesy of winter resident Thomas Edison in 1898, Fort Myers received electric light. Though many of the local folks didn’t like it because it kept the cows up at night.
In the second half of his life he would invent the first motion picture camera, improve his phonograph, and become America's first entertainment mogul. "People will forget," he stated with typical bravado, "that my name ever was connected with anything electrical."....
It’s that time again to cover yourself in glittering lights
"The 79th Edison Festival brings together the inventions and innovations of Thomas Alva Edison while celebrating our history and culture here in Fort Myers and southwest Florida from February 11 – 19," said Kevin Anderson, Board President. As homage to the famous inventor, the Edison Festival requires everyone in their Grand Parade to excite spectators by wearing some sort of illumination.
The Edison Festival of Light, Southwest Florida's largest and longest running festival announces its official event schedule:
Crafts on the River – Feb. 17 – 19, 2017 – 10 am – 5 pm Friday and Saturday, 10 am – 3 pm Sunday

Parade Celebration – Feb. 17, 2017 - 5 pm – 9 pm and Feb. 18, 2017, 11 am – 7 pm

Edison Festival of Light 5K – Feb. 18, 2017, 5:45 pm Centennial Park, Ft Myers

Grand Parade of Light – Feb. 18, 2017 – 7 pm – 10 pm, Fort Myers
Classic Car Show – Feb. 19, 2017 – 10 am – 3 pm, Edwards Drive, Ft Myers

For more information, visit or call 239-334-2999

Published in Outdoor
Thursday, 09 February 2017 16:54

The Great Manipulators at ‘Time’

Time magazine has singled out White House strategist Steve Bannon for its Darth Vader cover treatment. Shown is a picture of Bannon looking like a Marvel Comics villain and the title "The Great Manipulator." Bannon dared to identify the liberal media as "the opposition party." Time took offense and demonstrably proved him right.
Demonizing the president's aides is something Time and its liberal ilk have not done to Democrats since the days of President Jimmy Carter, when Time was liberal but not nearly as leftist as it is today. At this point eight years ago, the same magazine was profiling President Obama's aide Larry Summers as the "brash and brilliant economic adviser," the "economic wunderkind ... moving at flank speed" who speaks with "an almost poetic clarity."
Obama was always center stage. No evil wizard manipulated him from behind the curtains. That only happens under apparently "manipulated" dolts like President Reagan, President George W. Bush and now, President Trump.
The new article is headlined "The second most powerful man in the world? Steve Bannon has the President's ear. But he wants more." For Trump, Bannon is "a director who deploys ravenous sharks, shrieking tornadoes and mushroom clouds as reliably as John Ford shot Monument Valley."
Decades ago, Time shredded the notion that it is a news magazine, steadily becoming evermore politicized. It's a badly disguised journal of rampaging liberal opinion. But it is a stubborn pretender. It insists that its brand of liberal advocacy passes as acceptably objective inside today's news business, and it's right, of course.
Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs unfurled a nasty gram at Bannon in her "From the Editor" letter up front. She cited Bannon's "opposition party" comment and then spat, "To demonize the press, to characterize it as not just mistaken but malign, is to lay the groundwork for repression."
These people dish out criticism, but wow, are they incapable of taking it. Criticize Trump, and you are Honorable Dissent. Criticize the media, and you are Nazi Dictatorship.
Gibbs thinks her magazine is serenely centrist and objective, which makes her a fool. Lest anyone take offense, consider the alternative: If not a fool, she'd be a raging liar. She boasts: "At a time when the media is ever more fractured and siloed, and much of it partisan on both sides, TIME is one of the few remaining institutions that speaks to a broad and global audience. ... Our purpose is not to tell people what to think; it is to help them decide what to think about."
Someone should please make an appointment to meet with Ms. Gibbs for two minutes and simply show her the Time cover of Trump's face melting, and the cover of Trump's face melting into a puddle. Is one not to conclude a wee bit of hostility toward Trump? How traumatically gullible does Time think America is?
This kind of bloviation is especially nonsensical coming from Gibbs. Take her valentine to Obama after his first victory. She placed him on par with Christ, saying: "Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope." What a bottle of ipecac.
Then there's Gibbs on President Bill Clinton during the Monicagate scandal. She said: "In the gaudy mansion of Clinton's mind there are many rooms with heavy doors, workrooms and playrooms, rooms stuffed with trophies, rooms to stash scandals and regrets. He walks lightly amid the ironies of his talents and behavior, just by consigning them to different cubbies of his brain. It's an almost scary mind, that of a multitasking wizard."
Put a cork in it. The jig has been up for 30 years. No one's buying the outraged protests of nonpartisanship. What Time is claiming to be news is the very definition of fake news.

L. Brent Bozell III
and Tim Graham

Published in Politics

The health hazards of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, are well known to scientists, yet some fast food chains still use food wrappers, bags and boxes coated with these grease-resistant compounds, according to nationwide tests reported in a new peer-reviewed study.
“Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging,” is published in the current issue or the journal “Environmental Science and Technology Letters.”
PFCs are nonstick, waterproof, stain-resistant chemicals that companies have used since the 1950s in consumer products and industrial applications.
“PFC-based coatings are applied to food wrappers, bags and boxes to stop grease from dripping through. But the hot, often fatty foods served in those papers pick up the chemicals, and when the food is consumed, so are the chemicals,” write Environmental Working Group, EWG, senior scientist Dave Andrews and Bill Walker,
Scientists from nonprofit research organizations including EWG, federal and state regulatory agencies and universities collaborated to test samples of sandwich and pastry wrappers, french fry bags, pizza boxes, and other paper and paperboard from 27 fast food chains and local restaurants in five regions of the United States.
They found that of the 327 samples used to serve food, collected in 2014 and 2015, 40 percent tested positive for fluorine.
The paper samples were collected from restaurants in and around Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Fast food chains tested for fluorine in wrappers and containers ranged from zero to 100 percent of samples where perfluroinated chemicals were found.
The chains where all wrappers and containers tested positive for fluorine were: Taco Time, Quiznos and Jimmy John’s.
The chains where no wrappers, boxes or bags contained fluorine were: Carl’s Jr., Checkers, Culver’s, Domino’s and Round Table Pizza.
The other chains fell somewhere in between. On the high end were: Chik-a-Fil-A, Chipotle and Starbucks.
On the low end were: Arby’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, KFC, McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
The presence of fluorine does not automatically indicate the presence of PFCs, write Andrews and Walker. But one of the study authors is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expert who, in further tests of a smaller number of samples, found that the majority of materials he tested contained known PFCs, they explain.
Some, but not all studies in humans have shown that certain perfluroinated chemicals may affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior. They may decrease fertility and interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol, affect the immune system and increase cancer risk, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances.
Some, but not all studies in humans have shown that certain perfluroinated chemicals may affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior. They may decrease fertility and interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol, affect the immune system and increase cancer risk, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances.
PFCs are persistent in the environment and have built up in the bodies of people and wildlife worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found PFCs in the blood of virtually all Americans, and in 2005, tests commissioned by EWG were the first to show they are passed from mother to child through the umbilical cord and breast milk, Andrews and Walker explain.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved 20 next-generation PFCs for coating paper and paperboard used to serve food.
But EWG argues that these chemicals have not been adequately tested for safety, and trade secrecy laws mean that, in some cases, the limited safety data submitted to the EPA does not publicly disclose the identity of the specific chemicals or even the companies submitting them for approval.
What little information manufacturers have provided to regulators is “troubling,” write Andrews and Walker.
In documents filed with the EPA, DuPont reported that a next-generation chemical used to produce food contact paper, called GenX, could pose a “substantial risk of injury,” including cancerous tumors in the pancreas and testicles, liver damage, kidney disease and reproductive harm, they write.
EWG is advising that fast food companies stop using PFCs or other fluorinated compounds in wrappers, containers and pizza boxes or wherever they might come into contact with food.
“The FDA should further restrict the use of fluorinated chemicals in food or food contact materials. The FDA should close the loophole that allows companies to self-certify chemicals as Generally Recognized as Safe,” write Andrews and Walker.
PFC-free paper is easily available, and the tests found no fluorine in more than half of the paper samples.
Depending on where they are, individual fast food restaurants or regional franchise groups in the same chain may get their wrappers and containers from different suppliers. So parent corporations may not know if outlets are using PFC-coated paper or if suppliers are accurately disclosing whether their paper contains such chemicals.
Some of the containers that tested positive for fluorine may not have been intentionally coated with perfluorinated chemicals, but were made from recycled paper containing PFCs.
“Parent companies should exercise more oversight over their supply chains and the paper sources of their franchises,” Andrews and Walker recommend.
For consumers, exposure to PFCs in food wrappers can be reduced by eating fresh foods and preparing meals at home, they advise. Avoid the use of paper tableware and microwave popcorn.
For more tips on how to keep these chemicals out of your body and your home, see EWG’s Guide to Avoiding PFCs.

© Environment News Service (ENS) 2017. All rights reserved.

Published in Environment
Thursday, 09 February 2017 16:47


Dear Doctor: My daughter took her kids to the pediatrician the other day for their chickenpox vaccinations. Now, because I had chickenpox as a child, she's after me to get a shingles vaccine. What is shingles, and what's the connection to chickenpox?
Dear Reader: The same virus that causes chickenpox is responsible for shingles, a painful rash that can cause long-term problems. It's possible to get shingles at any age, but it's most common in adults 60 and older.
Here's what happens. Once the fever, rash and body aches of a bout of chickenpox have ended, the virus that caused the illness, called varicella-zoster, stays in the body. It lies dormant near bundles of nerve along the spine, known as the dorsal root ganglia. These are the nerves that pass sensory information -- a touch, a tickle, the pain of a bee sting -- from your skin to your brain.
Years after the initial infection, for reasons that still aren't entirely clear, the virus can become active again. As it begins to reproduce, the body reacts. Some people get flulike symptoms such as headache, sensitivity to light and a general feeling of illness. Others notice their skin is becoming tingly, itchy or painfully sensitive.
When the shingles rash appears, it's generally along only one side of the face or torso. It can look like a stripe, as it traces the path of the affected nerves. Tiny blisters form and re-form on the skin, and last for two to four weeks.
During this period the person with shingles is contagious. He or she can pass along a case of chickenpox -- but not shingles -- to anyone without immunity. The virus can be spread by direct contact with fluid from the rash. That's why anyone with shingles should steer clear of pregnant women, infants, unimmunized children and individuals with suppressed immune systems.
If shingles sounds like a difficult and unpleasant illness, you're right. During a case of shingles, even the touch of fabric on the affected skin can cause pain. The most common side effect is a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia, in which the severe pain of shingles persists for months or even years.
The good news (we imagine that you're ready for some about now) is that there is a shingles vaccine. It's made of live varicella-zoster virus that has been greatly weakened. It's enough to stimulate an immune response in your body, but not enough to cause problems in anyone with a healthy immune system.
We routinely recommend to our patients who are 60 or older, and whose immune systems are in good order, that they get a shingles vaccine. Protection lasts about five years. Some drugs, such as those for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as some cancer drugs, suppress the immune system. In these cases, the shingles vaccine should be avoided. There are other contraindications as well, so talk it over with your primary care physician to make sure a shingles vaccine is the right decision for you.
For those who do get the vaccine, it's important to note that it doesn't guarantee you will never get shingles. What it does is measurably lower your risk. And if you do still get shingles, the vaccine also reduces the likelihood of developing postherpetic neuralgia.

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

Published in Lifestyle

Doug Adler does tennis commentary for ESPN. Strike that. Doug Adler “used” to do tennis commentary for ESPN. After several years working matches for the sports channel, the former tennis pro was advised that his services would no longer be necessary.
Full disclosure. I've known Adler for 20 years. Before two back surgeries and a shoulder surgery put my tennis-playing days out to pasture, I hit balls with him at a neighborhood club. More precisely, he would hit the ball to me, and I would attempt to return it. At the club, Adler was well-liked. If there were a bad word said about him, I never heard it.
So what happened? While doing commentary for a Venus Williams match against Stefanie Voegele in the recent Australian Open tennis tournament, Adler made the following comment about Williams' strategy following her opponent's missed first serves: "(Voegele) misses a first serve and Venus is all over her. You'll see Venus move in and put the guerilla effect on. Charging."
For 36 hours, Adler said, "Nothing happened."
Then ESPN informed him, "There is a problem." Why, he was asked, did he refer to Venus Williams, a black woman, as a "gorilla"? Adler was told that, among other complaints, a tennis writer for The New York Times, Ben Rothenberg, tweeted: "This is some appalling stuff. Horrifying that the Williams sisters remain subjected to it still in 2017." He also tweeted: "And this is why it's so problematic. Innocent mistake or not, there has to be way, way more awareness and sensitivity."
ESPN issued this statement: "During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection. He apologized and we have removed him from his remaining assignments."
Adler insists that he did not say "gorilla." He says that he said "guerrilla," a word with no racial connotation. Other tennis commentators, he notes, use the word ‘guerrilla’ to describe aggressive, attacking-style play.
An April 2, 2012, Sports Illustrated story had the following headline: "Daily Bagel: Agnieszka Radwanska Playing 'Guerrilla Tennis.' The headline referred to a March 31, 2012, profile and interview of Radwanska by tennis writer Peter Bodo on, which included: "The adjectives that come to mind to describe Radwanska are: Implacable; remote; unflappable; leisurely; languid; measured. ... Hers is a game of the insurgent. It's “guerrilla” tennis -- especially against taller, more powerful, more physical rivals."
In an article dated Jan. 26, 2013, Bodo wrote about a five-set match between Roger Federer and Andy Murray: "Against Federer, Murray confirmed that his new, more aggressive game can bear up under world-class stress. The 25-year-old Scot dictated the tone and pace of that match. He forced his 31-year-old rival, the all-time singles Grand Slam champion, to fight a bitter ‘guerrilla’ war."
Despite believing that he did nothing wrong, Adler apologized that he "simply and inadvertently chose the wrong word to describe her play." The apology did not save his relationship with ESPN, and he soon lost another tennis commentary job with a different channel due to the Williams "controversy."
Williams, by the way, was asked during the tournament about Adler's comment. She said she was aware of the matter, but wanted to concentrate on winning and declined to give an opinion. Who knows whether she said something behind the scenes.
This is similar to what happened years ago to a former aide to the newly elected black mayor of Washington, D.C. David Howard, a white man, used the word "niggardly" in a conversation about funding with two of his staffers. After seeing their reaction to the word, Howard immediately apologized to his entire three-person staff, two of whom were black. But a rumor shot around City Hall that Howard used a "racial slur." Niggardly, of course, means stingy or miserly, and has nothing to do with race. No matter; the controversy cause the aide to resign.
Adler says that several fellow tennis commentators privately contacted him, and agreed that he said nothing wrong. None of these commentators, however, has spoken out publicly on Adler's behalf.
ESPN has standards. One of its football commentators, Ray Lewis, once pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a murder case. Director Spike Lee has worked with ESPN, despite the fact that we once said he disliked interracial couples: "I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street."
Adler's plight once again illustrates that America has zero tolerance for anti-black racism. John O'Sullivan, former editor of National Review, once wrote: "White racism does exist, but its social power is weak and the social power arrayed against it overwhelming."
But this was not a case of "white racism" -- it was a case of racial hysteria.

Larry Elder

Published in Politics
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