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For all of my lawyer friends, this is the brief that we all wish we could have written. Snarky, sarcastic. If you are familiar with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you probably caught the recent episode where he discussed coal and a certain coal mine owner who does not like publicity. He threatened to sue, and in fact he did. The West Virginia ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief which is just … too darn good. Even my non-lawyer friends will get a few good chuckles out of this. To give you an idea of what you might be in for, there are section headings such as “All of John Oliver’s Speech Was Protected by the First Amendment. You Can’t Sue People For Being Mean to You Bob” and great legal points such as “Bob Murray thinks John Oliver was mean to him, and doesn’t want him to be mean to him again. While that is sad for Bob Murray, it is unconstitutional for a Court to order such relief.” ACLU Brief, P. 8

I encourage you to follow the link here and give it a read yourself. In addition to brushing up on your First Amendment law, it’s quite the read. Excellent job, ACLU, excellent job.

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DC statehood campaign sign Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

The state of New Columbia. Yesterday, the voters in the District of Columbia were given the opportunity to decide if they wish to become the 51st state in our union. According to the voters in the District of Columbia they voted 79% in favor of a petition requesting that Congress vote to permit Washington DC to become the 51st state. Yesterday DC voters said that they want (1) the State of New Columbia to be recognized by Congress as the 51st state in the union; (2) the approval of a state constitution; (3) the approval of the boundaries of the proposed new state; and (4) approval of elected representatives for the new state.

The approved petition will now be taken by the DC mayor to Congress with the hope that it will be presented on or before Inauguration Day for consideration. DC voters who do get three electoral votes have no representation in Congress. They hope that will change and that this petition for statehood is approved.

DSCN3175I love the autumn — the crisp air, the colorful leaves, the warmth of the wood stove with a cup of tea and a good book. What I don’t like very much is when it’s dark in the morning and then dark again early in the evening. Evidently, I am not alone. The state of Massachusetts is exploring time travel of sorts. Massachusetts’ Bill H4569 creates a legislative commission to study the proposal of moving time in the state of Massachusetts. Rather than remain in the Eastern time zone, the bill charges the commission with exploring the possibility of moving time zones to Atlantic Standard time for a period of four months starting in the middle of November if the proposal was accepted. This would mean that folks in Massachusetts would have light lasting longer into their day. According to the Portland Press Herald, a sort of “sunlight happy hour” while the rest of us are in the dark before we leave our workday behind us during those months. Don’t get all practical on me with things like “it will mess up the rest of us” or “what about business hours and flight schedules, yada yada yada….” A girl can dream can’t she?

Now, if they could just make it so that the hour happened in the morning instead of the evening, I would be totally on board.

I have never had a great love affair with the news industry. I can never understand why the news is generally laden with all the horrific things going on in the world and they sometimes can tuck a “feel good” story somewhere in the broadcast to justify that it’s not all bad news. Why don’t we hear more of the good that goes on in the country and the world?  Years ago, when we lived in New Jersey, our clock radio was set to a news station. I hated that before my eyes were even open for the day, I was bombarded with everything that was wrong with world and very little that was right. After hearing all the “news” I had little desire to even get out of bed and start my day – why bother? The world is a miserable place.

News reporting, in the present day, leans toward the sensational more than the factual. It seems to be the running fervently toward the “most sensational”, “most bloody”, “most outrageous” story. Our modern day news reporting in this country generally bears far more resemblance to the supermarket tabloid front pages of my younger days than to the noble art of journalism.

To that end, there were a significant number of of major newspapers in this country which ran various pictures of the person who was responsible for the Orlando shooting in yesterday’s front pages. His face was plastered across the news media outlets online and on television. I have a real problem with this. Why is his photo gaining this type of attention? This is not a manhunt, he is dead, therefore, no one needs to be “on the lookout” for him, no one needs to know what he looks like so he can be identified, captured and held accountable for his actions. There is absolutely no need, in my opinion, for the attacker to be personalized, for his name to spoken or written or his image flashed across the front page of newspapers and television screens. He gave little thought to the faces of the those that he killed, those that were injured, those who survived the deceased and whose lives will never be the same. Why does the media need to give him an identity and publicity? Give his cause publicity? Why was he not referred to as a “nameless, faceless” attacker? Why do media outlets feel the need to personalize him, to prop him up on the podium of front page news, giving him not only a picture, a name, but also a background, a story? There were interviews with his parents, interviews with those that knew him, why? He is a criminal, he is a barbarian, he does not deserve that media recognition. The publicity he receives, in my opinion, serves to only ignite others like him, who see that they also may be “celebrities” in their death for their cause, gaining front page access to major American newspapers. His name should not be mentioned, his face should not be shown. He did not do anything that earned him that honor.

There are many true heroes, good individuals who do noble things who will never, ever in their lifetime earn the distinction of their photo on the front page of the New York Times or any other major American newspaper. Their stories and their faces will never receive that journalistic honor and distinction. Yet, a person who horrifically and cowardly struck down innocent people who were caught by him inside a building earned that villain this distinction. Our society is fundamentally flawed, when our news media believed that showing his picture and telling his story was a better “scoop” than the hundreds and hundreds of people who stood in line to donate blood to the injured that day, or the gofundme campaign that raised a million dollars for those victims and their families in record time due to the donations by thousands of people or the local businesses and organizations that came out to provide food and drinks to those trying to help or waiting for news or the first responders who worked tirelessly to retrieve and treat the injured and identify the deceased so that their families would know the answer to the terrible question – did my loved one survive? The faces of those that were gunned down by a maniac didn’t get their pictures on the front page the day after the shooting, even though some of their identities were known at that time. Innocent people died simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet those people didn’t earn the distinction of front page news like the loathsome creature that slaughtered them. That, my dear friends, is just a small part of what irks me about news media and the way our society’s values lie.

Along with the many other changes that need to come from this horrific incident, perhaps maybe news organizations won’t give acknowledgement to those miscreants and their organizations, further fueling their fires. I can only hope.

While Oregon got a great deal of media attention when a young woman, Brittany Maynard, decided to use its law to end her life when she was dying of cancer last year; Vermont was actually the first state to have its legislature pass an aid in dying law. Vermont’s law permits a capable terminally ill adult to request and obtain lethal drugs which the person can self administer in an effort to hasten the patient’s imminent death.  Vermont’s law is a stepped version which has a series of patient protections in place that must be complied with that will cease to exist in 2016. Those protections put in place in the bill in an effort to garner the legislative support necessary to pass the measure provides:

— A requirement for a psychiatric evaluation if there is any indication that a patient requesting lethal medication has impaired judgment

— A 15-day waiting period between a patient’s first and second request for the medication

— A waiting period after the last request before the doctor actually writes a prescription for the lethal drug.

Upon the expiration of these so-called patient protections, the discussion regarding the end-of-life decision of a terminally ill patient becomes a private conversation between a patient and his or her doctor. There are those who are concerned that government should still be involved in the discussion, not really trusting that the patient-physician relationship would sufficiently address concerns.

According to articles written on the issue following the passage of Vermont’s law, “after July 1, 2016, the law will protect physicians from civil or criminal liability, and from professional misconduct charges.” Despite the changes that are set to occur in 2016, there still needs to be informed consent on the part of the patient so doctors are required to inform a terminally ill patient of all the options including hospice and palliative care. Ultimately, though, the issue is still a decision to be made by the patient in conjunction with his or her doctor.

The issue of whether or not the patient “protections” that are presently in place should be continued past 2016 is a discussion that is currently taking place in Vermont. If this issue touches you or someone in your family, perhaps now is the time to voice your opinion.

This week Tim, our youngest, is attending the American Legion’s Boys Nation at Marymount University. He was selected as one of the two Vermont delegates to attend on behalf of our state. It is a great honor and Tim of course is taking it all very seriously. I don’t need to say I am very proud of him. They campaigned and elected their federal officers which mirror the federal government including a President, Vice President and the like. We watched the elections which were streamed live and have been keeping up with the week’s activities. The group, consisting of 98 young men, have visited the monuments at Washington D.C., the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery. They will be visiting the Capitol where they will have the opportunity to meet their senators. They are even supposed to have the opportunity to meet the President.

Here is Tim’s Senate photo.

Timothy Heffernan of Vermont, Nationalist_0005

It is our understanding that he is the Senate whip, for those of you familiar with House of Cards. Go Tim!

A good friend of the family brought to my attention that if Tim gets the opportunity to shake the President’s hand, I should be a good mom and save those photos. Another Boys Nation participant in 1963 who had the opportunity to shake JFK’s hand, walked into the Oval Office in his own right decades later. One never knows, does one?

If you would like to peek in on what is going on in Boys Nation, here is the link to their website.

We have all heard the stories and perhaps, sadly, even know of people who are forced to eat cat food or dog food because they cannot afford human food. But have you taken a stroll through your local pet food store lately? The food is not inexpensive and the ingredient lists read like menus from your local restaurant. Trying to raise awareness about the diets of humans and pets, one pet woman is pledging to eat only pet food for 30 days. Dorothy Hunter, the owner of Paws National Pet Emporium in Richmond, Washington believed that the products she sells folks for their pets are actually better than human’s processed foods, so much so that she’s going to eat that herself.

It started when she just grabbed a bag of treats off the shelf while she was working and gave them a taste. Stating that the treats were pretty good, she thought this was something she could do.

Watch and listen as this lady explains ….. She is journaling her diet every meal on You Tube.

 

 

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Today is both a sad day and a happy day. It is sad because it is the day, 13 years ago that we lost my dad suddenly. Life changed and there is forever an empty hole in our hearts. Tom and I often talk about how we wish he were here, commenting how he would have loved our Vermont house and friends. We often came to Vermont to vacation when I was little and perhaps my dad was responsible for planting the seed that grew into a life that I absolutely love.

His passing was sudden and unexpected. I would give anything to give him one more hug. Those of you that know me, know exactly how much his death affected me, as well as my whole family. I often wonder what he would say if he saw the boys now, practically grown men, but I am sure that he would be very proud to call them his grandsons.

Here are pictures of my dad with each of the little men, in age order. Miss you, love you, Daddy.

daddy & tj
daddy & tyler

daddy & tim

 

Miss you, love you, Daddy.

Somehow, the universe has a way of helping ease the pain. The first little girl in our lives, my niece Emily, was born to my brother and sister-in-law on this day, six years ago. I’d like to think that she’s my dad’s way of sending us his love. Her beautiful big brown eyes are filled with love.

Happy Birthday Miss Emily!

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Yes, there is still snow on the ground. Yes, in fact on this first day of spring, we got even more snow. Another few inches of very wet snow fell overnight.

Here’s a throwback for my guy who is celebrating his birthday in a few days.

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Ask your bra. No really, ladies, your bra will know true love. According to a Japanese lingerie company which has manufactured what it is advertising as the True Love Tester, this bra can only be unhooked by true love. High tech meets Cupid — just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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Photo credit: New England Journal of Medicine and Livescience.com

Photo credit: New England Journal of Medicine and Livescience.com

Here’s an interesting story. A 42-year-old California electrician’s shoulder came into contact with 14,000 volts of electricity. His optic nerve was affected by the burst of electricity.  About a month after the incident, the man was complaining of vision problems and his ophthalmologist examined him and found something remarkable. The man had star shaped cataracts in both eyes which were a result of the optic nerve damage. The doctor, an ophthalmology professor at a California university said that the incident is unusual but not unheard of. Evidently, damages from electrical burns in animals show up initially as small bubbles which eventually turn star shaped.

As for the electrician, the cataracts were removed and new lens placed into his eyes however due to the damage to his optic nerve his vision has been detrimentally affected. You can read more about on Livescience or in the January 23rd issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Cola is usually colored dark brown using caram...

Cola is usually colored dark brown using caramel color (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t think that we need to worry about being struck by an asteroid or aliens invading our planet or becoming zombie food. No, it is quite apparent that humans will be the end of humans. I don’t mean by means of war, although that could be a possibility, no I literally mean we are going to kill ourselves.

In the news you can read about what’s going to kill you today. Everyday (or so it seems) there is something new and different that we are warned to avoid. Most of them are things of our own making – processed, chemically created and/or enhanced items (usually food products) that will surely knock us dead. Today’s product – caramel color. Yes, it’s true, today you can potentially be killed by the color of your soda.

Personally, I am not a soda drinker. When I had issues with allergies and rashes years ago, high fructose corn syrup was among the things that I desperately try to avoid. Trust me, it’s not easy because it seems as if it’s in everything…. and I mean everything. I can make a damn loaf of bread or rolls without either sugar or high fructose corn syrup but evidently commercial bakers cannot. It makes you wonder if it’s some plot to get us all addicted. But….I digress. 4-methyliminazole, or 4-Mel, which can be contained in caramel color – the stuff that gives your cola its brown color. Chances are you won’t find 4-Mel listed on the ingredient label of your favorite soda because it’s usually just referred to as “caramel coloring”.

Consumer Reports stated that the amount of 4-Mel in various cola drinks can exceed acceptable levels (this is a whole other rant, trust me as a law student I took Food and Drug Law just before lunch — a very, very bad idea, we skipped lunch a whole lot that semester). The WHO and State of California both believe that high levels of 4-Mel are dangerous so much so that they have issued warnings and California instituted a warning label on products containing the compound.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently looking into the issue.  For those of you interested in learning more about 4-Mel and its possible dangers you can look here. I’ve included some of the highlights from that page below.

1. 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) is a chemical compound that is not directly added to food; rather it is formed as a byproduct in some foods and beverages during the normal cooking process. For example, 4-MEI may form when coffee beans are roasted and when meats are roasted or grilled. 4-MEI also forms as a trace impurity during the manufacturing of certain types of caramel coloring (known as Class III and Class IV caramel coloring) that are used to color cola-type beverages and other foods.

2. Foods containing added colors must list them either by name or as “artificial colors” in the ingredients statement on the food label. Because there are other artificial colors, the presence of “artificial colors” on a food label does not necessarily mean that caramel coloring is contained in the food. Also, the presence of “caramel coloring” on a food label does not necessarily mean that the food contains 4-MEI, because the term “caramel coloring” also may be used to describe Class I and Class II caramel coloring. Class I and Class II caramel coloring do not contain 4-MEI.  

3. Eliminating 4-MEI in food is virtually impossible. However, in the case of caramel coloring, companies can take steps to reduce its formation during the manufacturing process. In fact, several companies have already reduced the amount.

4. To ensure that the use of caramel coloring in food continues to be safe, FDA is currently reviewing all available data on the safety of 4-MEI and is reassessing potential consumer exposure to 4-MEI from the use of Class III and Class IV caramel coloring in food products. This safety analysis will help FDA determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken. Such actions could include setting a limit on the amount of 4-MEI that can be present in caramel coloring. However, in the interim, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their diets because of concerns about 4-MEI.

So, that’s what may kill you today.  Perhaps we might want to think before we grab that can of soda.

 

 

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