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Items filtered by date: Friday, 30 October 2020


When it comes to achieving confirmation of conservative judges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has good reason to be "tooting (his) own horn."


The Kentucky Republican admitted that's what he was doing when telling the New York Times on Tuesday that the judicial confirmations in a polarized Washington, especially those of three Supreme Court justices in less than four years, were more "consequential" than the accomplishments of any other majority leader. If he isn't right about that, he is close.


The raw numbers don't lie, and they tell much of the story. Indeed, the more numbers one peruses, the more impressive McConnell's record looks. Through Oct. 27 of a first term, no president has secured more judicial confirmations than the 220 confirmed for Donald Trump under McConnell's Senate leadership. (George W. Bush and Bill Clinton tie for second at 203.) More impressive still, 53 of those appointees were for the crucial federal courts of appeal. That's 11 and 18 more, or 20-30% more, than the next two highest, the elder and younger Bushes.


Then, there are the three Supreme Court justices, all of the highest professional qualifications, all pushed through with narrow majorities under difficult circumstances.


Those difficult circumstances are not only quantifiable but astonishing. Never in U.S. history has the minority party in the Senate gone to such extreme procedural lengths to block the confirmation of judicial nominees. Again and again, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's Democrats have forced lengthy debate and used procedural hurdles against even noncontroversial nominees, gumming up the works in the Senate in piques of sheer spite.


For 214 years, all but the most divisive nominees advanced to a final floor vote without even a threat of a filibuster, with no need for "cloture" votes to overcome minority opposition. Only one cloture vote was required for any of President Ronald Reagan's judicial nominees, one for the elder Bush, one for Clinton. Until the Trump term, the record for judicial cloture votes was 13. Schumer, though, has forced McConnell to take 174 cloture votes -- yes, 174, or more than 13 times as many as the prior record! -- in order even to allow final votes on Trump's nominees.


Still, McConnell persisted.


And McConnell won. He won for two years, with a mere 51-49 Republican majority, and for two more, with just 53-47. And he won for good reason: These nominees were outstanding. As the Congressional Research Service has shown, and as even liberal judicial analysts have admitted, the percentage of judges appointed by Trump and confirmed under McConnell earning "well qualified" ratings even from the hostile American Bar Association has been at the very top end of all presidencies.


Under the original constitutional design, courts and judges were not meant to be as consequential as they are today. Nonetheless, after 100 years of liberal judicial activism, judges effectively set the parameters for a large host of divisive social and economic issues. It is thus of tremendous importance for the courts to be seeded with judges who are willing to stay in their lanes, as it were -- judges willing to set aside their own policy preferences and instead be bound by the original public meaning of the actual text of the Constitution and laws they apply. In almost all cases, that's what the Trump-McConnell judges are doing.


The result will be an appropriate rebalancing of American government with elective branches or clear constitutional text, not hazy notions of some cosmic justice, predominating.


Against leftist Democratic obstructionism (and, oft-times, smears), it is quite an accomplishment for McConnell to have held his focus and his colleagues together to confirm 220 such judges, including Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. But McConnell needs not toot his own horn because constitutionalists will be tooting it for him.


The Washington Examiner


Published in Politics
Saturday, 31 October 2020 11:33

And Then There Were None



In the first months of President Donald Trump's presidency, the briefing room was standing room only. Around the room's 49 assigned seats for the press, with the front rows reserved for big media, reporters with smaller news outfits jostled for space and a chance to pose a question of then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.


Playboy's Brian Karem named those of us standing in the sidelines "the aisle people."


Trump was a full employment act for political journalists. Networks and newspapers couldn't get enough of a story that sold itself to news consumers. Trump himself has been more accessible to the press corps than predecessors who had nicer things to say about the Fifth Estate.


Three press secretaries later, the briefings have come to a standstill. What used to be a must-see spectacle has evaporated. Blame it on the coronavirus and Trump's idiosyncratic mandates.


Trump and Kayleigh McEnany, his fourth press secretary, both tested positive in early October, which made briefings untenable. After McEnany was able to return to work, she was focused on the campaign trail. There hasn't been a press briefing in about a month.


Not a first. Trump's third press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, did not preside over a regular briefing where she took questions during the nine months she held the prestigious post.


Enter the White House Coronavirus Task Force that brought energy and new characters to the Trump Show -- with Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx informing the public about a pandemic that required Americans to do things -- socially distance, stop working and stay home -- that went against their instincts.


They had a different approach than Trump, which added dramatic tension.


Partisans fault Trump for not taking extreme shutdown measures in January or February. They forget how skeptical many Americans were, that many blue state governors hesitated to close nonessential businesses and that local officials generally had a better sense of what they needed to do and could accomplish.


After taking the job in April, McEnany brought back the back-and-forth, but also COVID-19 changed how the administration communicated with the people.


The briefings got smaller because the White House Correspondents' Association, more concerned about the health and safety of its members than the White House was about its staff, worked out a plan that strictly limited who should work in the press area and when. The WHCA set up a rotation schedule for 14 seats, banned reporters standing in the aisles and discouraged members from working at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. unless they were in the press pool or had their turn in one of the 14 seats.


The new order worked well for folks such as me. To her credit, McEnany tried to call on everyone in the room -- not just the front rows - and that provided chances to ask questions about Las Vegas and an administration decision to deny Paycheck Protection Program funds to small casinos, which the administration revoked.


At the same time, The Washington Post and The New York Times stopped sending reporters to briefings -- despite journalists' designation as essential workers. Not a coincidence: The left wing had begun to call for journalists to boycott White House events during an election.


Where does it go from here?


If Joe Biden wins this week, the briefing room will be back in business and big media likely will flock to the center of power to lob softballs at the new president and his new press secretary.


But given Biden's limited press availability during the campaign, the often fawning questions directed at the Democratic nominee and his team's quickness to shut down any reportage on Hunter Biden's cashing in on his father's connections, the result could be more civility but less information.


If Trump wins, he will be governing in a shrinking bubble.


The 45th president doesn't talk to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He berates former stars in his White House team. Then he retreats to the warm embrace of his rallies rather than find a way to bridge divides. Is the now empty briefing room a metaphor for the Trump presidency? Figure it wouldn't happen to any other president.


Debra J. Saunders

Published in Politics
Saturday, 31 October 2020 11:27

Plastics May Be Wreaking Havoc on Your Health

How often are we told something is bad for us, yet we continue to keep it in our lives? Sure, a little bit every now and then won’t kill you, but it’s tough to say what is a little and what is a lot. The trouble for most of us comes down to convenience. It’s just easier to live our normal lives, not overthinking consumption habits—until the consequences are impossible to ignore. Take plastic.

A statement published earlier this year by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks identified 14 emerging health and environmental issues. Right near the top of that list was plastic waste. What was the nature of that concern? This was precisely the question raised by the statement, which emphasized the “urgent” need “for a better assessment of hazard and risk” associated with exposure to plastics of different shapes and form.

Plastic is made up almost entirely of hydrocarbon chains, which are an incredibly stable type of molecular bond. In cases where hydrocarbon chains occur naturally, that stability is a necessary component of an organism’s function and generally forms part of a greater ecosystem. Plastics, however, are synthetic, which means they’re no good as a food source for microorganisms (with at least one rare exception), and as we’ve so tragically come to learn, that is a major problem.

On one hand, there’s the obvious issue of what happens to all that accumulated plastic trash. We all know the answer to that one: it turns into giant islands of floating trash, it goes up into poor turtles’ nostrils, and is found in the stomachs of beached whales. In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s recent Living Earth 2018 report, 90 percent of the world’s seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, a figure that is expected to rise to 99 percent by 2050.

What is less well known are the implications this holds for human health.

Marauding Microplastics

Over the course of several decades, as plastic is exposed to the elements, it begins to decompose into smaller particles. While this process, known as photooxidation, does not affect plastic on a molecular level, it does eventually break it down to its nanoparticles. If you’re finding that hard to imagine, picture a grocery bag that’s been zapped by a shrink ray: It’s the exact same piece of plastic, only now it’s microscopic.

On the surface, this result may appear to be a good thing. Out of sight, out of mind, right? If only it were that simple. Plastic may actually be at its most threatening once it has broken down to the point it’s invisible to the naked eye because at that point, those little particles can travel a lot faster and further, and into the bodies of animals, including us.

Research conducted by the State University of New York at Fredonia found a significant amount of microplastics in bottled water. To be precise, 10.4 microplastic particles per one liter of water were recorded in a sample of 259 bottles representing 11 major brands across nine countries, including Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestlé Pure Life and San Pellegrino, reflecting twice the amount of plastic found in a previous study using tap water. Researchers suggested the plastic contamination could have partially come from the bottling process.

“That’s fine, I’ll just stick to municipal water,” you say? Think again.

“Substantial amounts of microplastics” were recently found in tap water and rivers throughout South Africa, according to a recent study conducted by scientists from North-West University.

Zoologist Henk Bouwman, a member of the research team, explained that the findings were conclusive, but the implications remain unclear. “There is no consensus yet on any health impacts as the science is still in its infancy,” he told Johannesburg’s Daily Maverick. “It might be benign, and it might not be. There are a whole lot of things we don’t understand at this stage.”

OK, so we may not have clear evidence on the direct health impacts of microplastics, but what about more immediate side effects?

Let’s start with the ocean. A recent study conducted by a team of Chinese scientists discovered a sizable portion of plastic was discovered in the Mariana Trench. Published in the journal Geochemical Perspectives, the findings reported a discovery of up to 2,000 microplastic pieces found in a quarter-gallon of water at the Challenger Deep, the world’s deepest point in the western Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, concluding it may be one of the world’s largest “microplastic sinks.”

For one, there’s the fact that microplastics are foreign particles entering our bodies. Inflammation, for instance, is a response triggered by the immune system to this sort of invasion, writes Rachel Adams, a senior lecturer in biomedical science at Cardiff Metropolitan University, in The Conversation. Another cause for concern is that these microparticles act as carriers for other toxins entering the body. Toxic metals like mercury and organic pollutants like pesticides are just two examples of hazardous materials that could enter the body attached to plastic particles. They can slowly accumulate over time in our fatty tissue.

“We do not currently have clear evidence that plastic microparticles in drinking water have a negative effect on health,” writes Adams. “But given the effects other particles can have, we urgently need to find out more about plastic microparticles in the body.”

Despite this lack of certainty, there’s enough cause for concern that governments have responded to this plastic plight. In recent years, legislation has been passed in Australia, Canada, the European Union and the United States restricting or prohibiting the use of phthalates in certain consumer products. According to a paper published by the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, these moves respond to the “variety of adverse outcomes” caused by the chemical, “including increased adiposity and insulin resistance” as well as “decreased levels of sex hormones, and other consequences for the human reproductive system.”

While it’s important to understand the health impact of plastic, perhaps a more pressing question is what happens when we tell ourselves that plastic is safe—and continue to produce it in ever greater quantities. According to Statista, a market research firm, global plastic production has grown from 50 to 335 million metric tons over the past four decades. Chances are likely that the ultimate consequence of our plastic consumption will be something far greater, and perhaps direr, than our current scientific understanding is able to predict.

Published in Environment
Saturday, 31 October 2020 10:48

Tommy Edward as Rod Stewart... Comes to Town

Tommy Edward was a young aspiring musician who sang lead, played the Saxophone, Mandolin and Keyboards in numerous bands... "Sparkplugs", "Lecompt" and "Summertime" to name a few, who like many other musicians was working his way around the touring circuit trying to "make it big"

His bands would cover a few popular Rod Stewart songs and after the shows people would tell him how much they enjoyed it, and how much he looked and even sounded much like Rod.

Everywhere they played it happened over and over.

If people had just quit nagging him about it, Tommy Edward would never have started impersonating Rod Stewart. "People would come up to me and say, 'Well, you sound like Rod Stewart, and you look like Rod Stewart,' But Edward was in his own band and said "I was trying to be my own star, like everybody else was trying to be," also, he personally didn't think he looked that much like Rod and tried to dodge the comparisons.

He grew a goatee. He let his hair grow long and even dyed it jet black at one point. It didn't help. He kept getting compared to Rod Stewart.

Finally, he gave in and focused his show on Rod Steward songs and started promoting himself as "Tommy Edward as Rod Stewart and the Young Turks". That was many years people have given him the nickname "Sir Rod"


His band would tour the Jersey Shore in the summer: Wildwood, Sea Isle City, Long Beach Island and Atlantic City, since then, he has played Las Vegas: The Aladdin, The Sahara Casino,Merv Griffins Resort and many other show rooms there. 

" We all grew up listening to the Stones, Beatles, Cream, Hendrix. Then there was The Jeff Beck Group featuring Rod Stewart. In Sept 1971 Rod released 'Every Picture Tells a Story' with Maggie May. The album was number 1 & Maggie May was at the top of the charts. I'll never forget how different it sounded then the Three Dig Night or the Temptations. I've been singing that song every day since I was 10 years old!" He told me.

He added, "I discovered Fort Myers a few years ago and fell in love with the area, did shows at the Edison, Coconut Falls, Sunset Grill, all the Moose Lodges and The American Legion"


From Maggie May to Forever Young, Tommy has been a favorite as a Rod Stewart Tribute artist. Still touring regularly from New York to Key West. His voice and deep song repertoire make him a hit every time. He has been entertaining for decades and performed at the Fort Myers Beach Moose Lodge#964 last year for the first time.

He will be appearing there again on Tuesday, November 3rd, the evening of election day in the main lodge from 6 pm to 9 pm for a
members only show which will be free to all Moose Lodge members. He will also be performing on Wednesday the 4th in the Moose Lodge Event Center which is just next door to the Main Lodge. This show is open to the public for only $10 per person!


(Performing live at the Moose Lodge 964 last year!)

On Wednesday the 4th, the Main Moose Lodge will be open to the public all day, so if you've ever wondered what the Moose was all about and what this particular lodge is like and perhaps wanted to possibly join, this would be a great opportunity for you to check it out! Also, they will be serving dinner starting at 5 pm as they usually do, so you can come in early, have dinner in the main lodge and then mosey over to the Event Center for the show.

So..... What do you have going on after this crazy election is finally over? Come to the Moose and enjoy yourself with a great show!

The Moose Lodge #964 is located at 19090 San Carlos Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
Seating is limited for the "Open to the Public" show on the 4th so get your tickets early by calling 239-463-2221


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Published in Lifestyle

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There are no words big enough,
there is not a hug strong enough
and there is not a smile wide enough
to thank these HEROES!!
So, let us all give them a day to remember!!

Published in General/Features

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