Archive for January, 2007

The health of American children

Monday, January 15th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

After speaking with Jamey Mullen, the Director of the Norwich Family YMCA, I was astounded by the facts he told me about the effects of childhood obesity.
It is obvious that childhood obesity is becoming an ever growing problem in the United States and other parts of the world, but I was amazed when I heard that for the first time since we started keeping records, the life expectancy for children is shorter than that of their parents. Later that week I heard a public service announcement on television, saying that the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in recent years.

The facts are scary, and the toll that it will have on the lives of our youth is even scarier. I find myself wanting to point the finger at some group or organization. I want to place blame with someone, but there is no individual or individual group that has caused this unpleasant change, it is the culture as a whole.

As a whole, we need to look at the destructive lifestyle choices that are bringing about this unpleasant statistic. Portion sizes are out of control, soda is the number one beverage choice for children, fast food is replacing more and more meals a week and outdoor activity has been replaced by computer games, television shows and video games.

Even with all of these factors working against us, we as parents need to take responsibility. Children develop habits by watching their parents and doing as they see. There is a factor of control that goes along with raising children. When you see a bad habit, it is your responsibility to correct it.

As for me, these statistics have served as a wake-up call. My child may be far too young to be ingesting soda and sugary snacks now, but I know I am going to be much more conscious about my behavior around him. It is up to me to ensure that he lives a long and healthy life, and I intend to take responsibility for helping him do just that.

In response

Thursday, January 11th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

While I agree with Jill to a certain extent, I do have a couple points to make. More and more lately, I am noticing a similarity in arguments for and against increasing the number of troops being sent to Iraq. Everyone, on both sides of the issue, claims to be thinking of what is best for the troops.

I am not innocent on this issue. As a military wife, I am constantly imagining that I have a more clear perception of things than others, but that is far from the truth. The reason I want the troops home is not because I know what is best, but because I hate the situation that has separated me from my husband. I am willing to admit that. In my opinion, no one really knows what is best for the soldiers fighting overseas. The only people who can give definitive answers, are the soldiers themselves, and their opinions are as varying as the rest of ours.

Obviously it is not in their best interest to be in an unstable region fighting for an unknown cause, but no one really knows what the next step should be. Is it better to leave the number of troops fighting unchanged, that doesn’t seem to be working at present. However, who knows if increasing the number of troops will solve the problem or only draw out the fighting for a longer period of time, or intensify the violence. Maybe you think it best to draw the troops out all together, but that has the potential to make the entire country collapse into civil war, increasing the violence, and who knows what results that would have in the long run.

I am not saying there is no solution. Far from it, I am an optimist, and I hope the situation will be resolved quickly and with minimal bloodshed. My only point is that no one knows what is the best solution, or what is best for the troops on the front lines who have to deal with the repercussions of our actions. Why don’t we just call it like it is. Don’t try to safe guard your opinion by saying it is in the best interest of the soldiers, or anyone else. Stand by it for what it is, your opinion.

You’re Fired!

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007
Jeff Genung

As much of a caricature as he is, I’ve still got to admire a man like Donald Trump. His bizarre feud with Rosie and Barbara notwithstanding, I’ve always respected Trump’s awareness of his own tremendous ego, and the unabashed honesty which it engenders.

I’ll confess here to being a longtime fan of Trump’s network TV job interview, “The Apprentice.” It’s high on kitsch of course, but I can’t help but marvel at his business savvy, and the way in which he dismisses his hopeful job candidates …

“You’re fired!”

It’s become a popular catchphrase, but it’s not one you’ll hear in Chenango County – at least not on the record. You see, in the land of political correctness that we’ve apparently acquiesced into, no one in Chenango County gets fired anymore. At least from a public position.

They’re “dismissed.” Sometimes “let go.” Often they leave “for personal reasons” or to “pursue other opportunities.” It’s almost always a “mutual decision.” Once in a while it’s even a “parting of the ways” or a “change in direction.” But no one is ever, ever “fired.”

The few times I’ve dared to use that nasty word in the paper regarding a public official, I’ve been chastised for it, usually by the person who did the ax-lowering, sometimes by the person who got the ax.

Years ago, I got into a spat with a P&G public relations hack who insisted that a score of employees weren’t “fired.” No, it seems the people who lost their jobs were “involuntarily separated.” Lord love a duck.

Just recently, when the Chamber’s CEO was “let go,” I erred on the side of caution and did not use the word “fired” in the newspaper. Instead, a subhead said “ousted.” I’ve since been informed that “ousted” is also a nasty word. I can’t win.

I don’t know when we became afraid to call a spade a spade. Or when we started calling inmates “consumers,” for that matter. All I know is, I’m all for Donald Trump and his refreshing bluntness. A couple years back, an employee of mine who saw the writing on the wall said during our final closed-door meeting, “You’re letting me go, aren’t you?” “No,” I said. “I’m firing you.”

And it felt good.

Friends

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
Michael McGuire

Good friends are hard to find.

But if you already had them, they’re easy to re-find, and maybe it’s when we need them the most that we do.

These friends I speak of died in a car accident at Colgate University. Rachel Nargiso, Emily Collins, and Katie Almeter. REK. And They’ve probably been gone for longer than I was ever friends with them here on earth.

Six years after the accident, It’s taken me this much time to begin figuring out that understanding they are dead is different than understanding what their death means. I got that from their moms and dads.

For the parents, it means that one of the best of them is still one of the best of them, just gone to somewhere else, where we can only imagine what it’s like.

It means that although gone, the best of them left the best behind.

It also means that for whatever reason, our own lives might start to have more of a mystical quality when we believe that our future is uncertain, but life itself is beautiful, unexplainable, and precious – and what we make it.

Sorry to get all “Misty” on you, but that is what my friends called me when they were alive (it’s a really funny story that involves a certain menthol cigarette brand that’s marketed for, and popular among independent and classy women).

More on global warming

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Perhaps I should allow this topic to die, but I am unable to do so. Since I wrote an editorial on global warming two weeks ago, I have talked to several people who feel there is no such thing. I have no wish to argue with anyone over the reality or the fiction of this topic, however, I am going to.

Democrats and liberals have been preaching the effects of global warming for years, but recently even the Bush administration has jumped on board. The Bush administration has admitted that polar bears are in danger of extinction due to melting ice on the arctic sea, going so far as to say it is a direct result of global warming. There is a concerted effort being made to put the polar bears on the endangered species list as a result.

I have heard many arguments over the past weeks. People have many explanations for the recent weather and why global warming is not really an issue at all, however, I cannot believe that 73 degree temperatures in Central Park in the beginning of January is a natural occurrence. It is true that throughout history, temperatures have fluctuated, but is that really reason enough to stick our heads in the sand and say it has nothing to do with the huge hole in the ozone layer and the amount of damaging green-house gas emissions released into the atmosphere each year.

I’m not trying to preach or to convince everyone to become tree-hugging environmentalists. I just think it is important to be aware of what is going on in the world around us. Numerous scientists, who know much more than I, are convinced that global warming is having a serious effect on the planet, and now that the Bush administration, who has denied the severity of the issue throughout their entire tenure of office, has jumped on the band wagon, I see little reason to deny the likelihood of this concept.

Jasmine

Monday, January 8th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

To close ones eyes and see their legacy, to deeply breath your life and live the truth, to have ones heart beat in peace with lost dreams, to stand awake and smile at such sharp losses. One then turns to cry with smiles and face the future.

Cold rain fell fast onto hard concrete streets, like the lost memories that quickly came to my empty thoughts. Yet as time, my feet sledge me down that dismal road. The gray water streaked across; I looked up ahead through this lens to see it seize all the colors and the world acting disgusted stepped back leaving only me. In the storm did all transform into shrouds of gloomy shade.

Lightening sparked the world to life and for a hopeful moment it lit the way teasing me with the future, but in that same flare did thunder come crashing down behind. I glanced back to the dreary street as the past began to strangle me again. The storm spilled over me from above following in my footsteps. I silently understood that today’s despair flowed from back in time.

This world suddenly went spiraling as I shattered natural law and stopped. The steady rhythm of desperate footsteps laid still and the gentle patter of falling rain played a funeral’s tune. The darkness so long at heels began to creep into my soul believing that it had finally died. Despair thought that all men like time, only stopped for death but beauty it forgot brought back belief. I was taught that only the ticking hands of a clock could trace my age but I felt as if a thousand years had dragged by since my heart last beat. I looked down and between the slabs of hard concrete did a single flower riot against the storm. The weather worsened in retaliation as wind and rain started biting harder at my back but it could not reach my mind.

Her pale cream petals were slightly flushed with pink and she consumed my gaze, vanquished all my thoughts, my mind emptied, my heart began to breath. I had long blamed my heart for living in the past but with tranquil passion it suddenly drove me forward. I knelt before beauty as if god himself had risen up. Thunder beat the drums of fury as I suspended my mortality and reached out to hope. My fingertips trembled as I slowly grasped a thing so lovely I never had a right to touch.

The moment gone, time resumed and hell shook the earth with all its pain. Rain now cold as hate turned to ice. My past returned raging a bitter battle over my future. Fate and hope held the hands of all mankind and it was I that had let go. I lurched forward into the hail my footsteps trying to keep pace with my racing heart. I decided I would rather die with fear than live in it. I walked forward with devotion no longer staring at my feet I dared to look fate in the eye, through the gray I searched vainly for my horizon. The path traveled meant more to me than my destination. I refused to parish at the blooded hands of memory. As the storm surged I tucked the trinket of life inside my jacket pocket, and the petals laid before my heart like a shield protecting me against my own inner tempest.

The way was long and hard, and I had almost gone mad. I was forced to take the flower out three times so her beauty could return my sanity. I looked at where I had come and for the first time, it didn’t seem so bad. I stopped reality for the second time in my life as I stood still before the steps. It had destroyed her. The thing I had grown to appreciate and rely on couldn’t take the burden of my sins and wilted at the weight of my past. The storm had half given up but never would it surrender, and rain fell steadily perhaps sensing my moment of weakness. The cream petals had lost their flush and draped upon my hand like death’s shroud. My mind and eyes still could be tricked but never again could my heart. As the beating memory I had always condemned for holding past pains now refused to allow beauty to slip from my being.

The loved flower now gone, still lived; beauty never dies for those who have seen it. The hope and beauty it once held out to me was seized and now held within. I mourned with gratitude but did not despair. I laid it in the earth and never could have guessed such a small thing would start my life again. Although it was lost, her sacrifice gave me a chance to change the world. I wished I only knew my saviors name so I could say good-bye. Suddenly I felt my heart not my mind tease my memory with the first word that caused my new life to begin, “Jasmine.” I buried the shadow of what stilled lived. Perhaps far in the future, the past would return and grow into another hope. With my last grieved breath and bereaved tear, I place my hand over the tiny grave then uttered “Thank you and good-bye Jasmine.”

Saddam hung in mid-prayer

Friday, January 5th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Like previous efforts to bring a prior regime to justice, Saddam’s trial will be remembered as much for what it showed about those sitting in judgment as for what it proved about the accused. Saddam ruthlessly murdered, tortured and persecuted the people under his domestic sovereignty. His merciless actions were massive, premeditated atrocities. Those familiar enough to witness the blood-covered hand of Saddam at work may have found chilling similarities in the current government’s execution of the dictator. Saddam was villainous because his crimes set him apart from us morally; to act in parallel with his vile methods makes us accomplices to such immoral acts – and equally monstrous.

I do believe people who suffer at the hands of injustice despise it in all its forms and even if they do not, revenge is not a moral motivation for condoning the execution.
The word ‘us’ applies to the United States because we are the ones who invaded Iraq under false information then toppled Saddam. The U.S. handpicked the Iraqi government. Then after finding him in a hole, instead of handing him over to an international agency (U.N.) like most war criminals or holding our own trial we gave him to a government that still can’t even tie its shoes without killing an innocent person. The U.N. and U.S. have a long history of a fair judicial system, so why then not use them? Was a kangaroo court really the way to go? The Iraqi trial was a shameful mark on the history books of our nation. They changed judges in mid-trial because the first judge was too soft. Saddam had three of his defense attorneys murdered throughout the trial. On many occasions his defense team refused to come to court fearing for their lives, yet court went on without them. Ex-Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who worked with Saddam’s defense team, said the trial “was a tragic assault on truth and justice.”

Saddam’s trial was not fair, so at last we‘ve discovered the one person to be excluded from humanitarian rights. But let’s put the ideology aside for a moment and talk pragmatically. Iraqi leaders chose to be blinded by sectarian loyalties and a primal desire to eliminate their former tormentors; instead of moving forward they repeated history. They have not learned from Iraq’s tragic past where executions following brief and unjust trials feeds a spirit of vendetta and new violence. Rebuilding Iraq will require inclusiveness, forgiveness and experience all things the current government lacks and to a great degree the White House as well. Saddam’s legacy was in shambles and we have resurrected him into a symbol of defiance and American blunder. The old leader is laughing in his grave; truly his execution could not have been done in a worse way to further divide the country. At the end of World War II several countries came together and put many high-ranking Nazis on trial. The Nuremberg trials were seen as an incredible effort of both justice and fairness. Many were found innocent, more were not. Sixty years ago after millions of deaths and far more bitterness, we gave the Nazis a fair shake but today, not Saddam. Better we had our troops drag him out of that hole and put a bullet in his head like they do in China and in Nazi Germany. That is what people are saying isn’t it? Guilty before trial, kill him regardless. The past is soaked in blood so now will the future?

Grow up

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007
Michael McGuire

I had the pleasure of meeting Joshua Palmer this past Saturday.

Like me, Josh is 24, a high school graduate from the year 2000, and he’s strikingly handsome (I’m good looking – just ask my mom).

Unlike me, he’s a responsible father of two (I just look pregnant), a caring and loving husband (my nickname is couch and chain), and he’s a two-tour veteran of Iraq – who’s awaiting the word to possibly head back for a third.

When I first saw Josh I thought he was at least thirty. He looks and acts how I envision myself to be when I’m all grown-up, which apparently – going on his age (24), appearance, demeanor, and accomplishments – should probably have happened already. There’s nothing that can make you feel like more of a jack#@& than being in the presence of someone who is generally a better person than you, especially when you, and everyone around you, knows it.

Not trying to get to down on myself, but having an experience like meeting Josh Palmer can really help you to – and I’m sorry for using this played out phrase – put things in perspective. I think I’m a good person, don’t get me wrong, but when I feel bad that I have to work a 12 hour day, or go out at night to cover an event in bad weather, I really need to “put things in perspective.”

Josh has a six month old daughter, and doing some simple math (subtracting six months from his recently wrapped up one year in Iraq) I’m guessing he never met his daughter until a few weeks ago when he got home. He also has an 18 month-old, who he’s presumably only spent half a year with.

I get sad if my cats don’t pay attention to me. I can’t imagine being in the shadow of a war, having young children I barely know living a world away.

I can’t give enough credit, or even relate to men and women like Josh Palmer, who despite their fear and heartsickness, have faith enough in God, America, or whatever, to leave their families behind to enter into the darkest of places – in some cases for years.

I know my family is proud of me. Josh Palmer’s family is definitely proud of him. But my family doesn’t cherish the last time we watched television together. They don’t schedule their days to make sure they’re near the phone when I call. They don’t mark the minutes, hours and sometimes days I’m away from home. They’ve never had to say good-bye to me, reasonably unsure of whether or not they’d see me again. They don’t fear for my life each day. They’ve never had to describe to me a child I’d never seen, and possibly may not ever.

It’s because they take me for granted.

Just kidding.

It’s because even though my family is proud of what I’ve done, and they love me, it’s just not the same because they know I’m safe.

And I’m safe because of people like Josh Palmer. So thank our soldiers, because of them our families don’t love us like they should. Seriously, thanks for doing the things the rest of us can’t, we’ll be forever in your debt.