5 Steps to Hit a Home Run in the Delivery Room

Baseball season is in full swing and the Boston Red Sox are starting out the season with a bang! They are currently in second place in the AL standings with a 27-17 record. Did you know birth is a lot like baseball? If you want to hit a home run during delivery, keep reading because I am going to give you my top 5 tips for hitting a home run in the delivery room! These tips can be applied to any type of birth and can even be applied to your pregnancy and parenting journey.

1. Scout out a strong (birth) team: A good team is essential on the field and during child birth. Find providers that are amazing, a doula that will be a strong support and a facility that makes you feel comfortable. Don’t forget to get your partner (or other family and friends) in on the action too.

2. Train: Becoming a professional ball player doesn’t happen overnight. Players train during the off season and you should too! I’m not saying you should go out and train hard at the gym (unless you were already doing so) but I am encouraging you to get some physical activity a few days of the week. Even walking or nesting counts! In addition, part of training is learning about the sport. It’s nice to have general knowledge about pregnancy and birth so that you can be prepared for the big day!


3. Practice: Taking a good childbirth education class and working with a doula can help you become more familiar with comfort measure techniques and customized strategies for you to use during labor and birth. Even if you’re having s scheduled caesarean, you can still practice a run through of the day and create a plan for your recovery.

4. Don’t be afraid to strike out: Not everything that you try during pregnancy, labor or childbirth will work for you and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to try new things or ask about things that you are interested in. If you go into pregnancy and birth with an open mind you will be sure to hit that home run during your birth experience!

5. Find a loyal fan base: Baseball wouldn’t be popular without the huge fan base that attends or watches their games and cheers them on (even when they lose)! This pregnancy and parenting thing is tough if you have to do it all alone so find a few loyal fans who are there to cheer you on during the ups and downs

I hope these tips inspired you to set yourself up to make some really great plays during your pregnancy, birth and parenting journey. As a doula, I encourage everyone to do whatever they need to do so that they can hit a home run in the delivery room and have a winning birth experience. If you feel supported and respected by your birth team and fan base, I will promise you that you will have a good experience no matter how your pregnancy or birth unfolds.

Ashley is the owner and doula of The Modern Mumsy
which offer doula services, information and resources to modern families both in Western New York and around the world. Follow @themodernmumsy on Instagram and Twitter for updates!

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New York State Legislature Gives Mute Swans Another Reprieve


Photo: Friends of Animals

The third time around may be the charm for New York State’s embattled mute swan population.

For the third year in a row, the state assembly and senate have each reintroduced a bill that calls for a two-year moratorium on a controversial plan to wipe out the state’s 2200 free-roaming mute swans.

The legislation also asks the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to provide solid research behind the proposed annihilation.

Are mute swans really the messy eaters that the DEC claims in its swan management report,
uprooting vegetation in such a way as to prevent plant regeneration? Are they aggressive toward people and other wildlife, as the DEC also claims? Or are they being unjustly persecuted for another reason?

The DEC isn’t talking. Nor is the Bureau of Wildlife, the little-known entity within the DEC described as responsible for managing the state’s wildlife.. However, waterfowl specialists, including Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals, a national advocacy group, say the accusations don’t hold up.

“Waterfowl generally eat vegetation and the swans are no different in that respect,” says Birnkrant.

The favored eelgrass, a flowering plan that swans devour, also periodically renews itself.

Birnkrant also points out that the state’s mute swan population is tiny compared to that of other countries where, she adds, the gentle creatures are also protected and revered.

New York is also the first of four states where there has been an organized fight by both the public and the legislature to protect its swans. (Michigan, Maryland and New Jersey are the others.)

“It’s simply inhumane to kill these swans without proof that they are dangerous to anyone,” says State Sen. Tony Avella, who reintroduced the legislation to the senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has twice vetoed the legislation. (The governor’s press office did not respond to inquiries about the possibility of passage of the current bill.)

However, given the universal popularity of the swans, New Paltz resident Peter Muller, founder of the League of Humane Voters, hopes the governor has a change of heart.

“The bill would halt a grotesque proposal to kill or cripple all the mute swans in the state,” he says. “It would also allow unbiased experts to weigh in on the DEC’s reasons for the removal of this beloved bird, but the governor is in tight with the Bureau of Wildlife, which is beholden to hunters.”

And therein lies what may be the real reason for killing the swans.

Waterfowl researchers, swan specialists and others say that the New York swan removals are part of a massive national effort to revive sports hunting.

Wildlife officials want to use its habitat to introduce the trumpeter swan — North America’s largest waterfowl — and a species that Sheila Bolen, one of the world’s leading conservationists, says is more conducive to trophy hunting.

“The trumpeter is the designated game bird,” says Bolen, adding why hunting has lost its appeal. “The economy is a factor, there is boredom with the sport and no real incentive to hunt.”

Once the mute swans have been exterminated, then the trumpeters, which currently roam Canada and the northern tier of the U.S., will be introduced into those habitats. Eventually, as their numbers increase, she says, the habitats will be opened to hunters.

A report from The Atlantic Flyway Council
backs the premise that the USDA’s Wildlife Services – in cooperation with local wildlife agencies – has been systematically planning to wipe out mute swan populations throughout the nation for more than a decade.

Karen Stamper, who is heading an effort to save thousands of mute swans in her home state of Michigan, says passage of the New York bill also carries implications for other states.

“The governor waited until the last minute to veto the bill,” she says. “Our wildlife should not be left in the hands of politicians or agencies whose salaries are tied to hunting,”

Both Shirley Bolin and Peter Muller, who is also active in a group in New York called The Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, say their individual research indicates that the bureau relies financially on sales from hunting, trapping and fishing licenses to survive.

The Bureau of Wildlife would not release a copy of its annual budget. (I have filed a Freedom of Information Act request.)

However, the DEC’s Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources,
which oversees the Bureau of Wildlife, lists primary funding — but no amounts — as sales from hunting, fishing and trapping license fees as well as a percentage from a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. The wildlife portion of the excise tax, known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, provides funding for wildlife conservation and sportsmen education. Funding also comes from federal grants and taxpayers.

And because mute swans roam public lands, taxpayers would also be footing the bill for proposed exterminations.

Swan brutality also comes into play. Aside from shooting, wildlife officials also maim (break the legs of) adult swans to contain them.

Sen. Avella says he was in disbelief last June when three wildlife agents shot two parent swans from an unmarked boat in a park in upstate New York.

“To say that this was a horrific and inhumane incident is an understatement,” he says, of the shootings that also took place in front of families.

Anne Muller who, like husband Peter is a wildlife advocate, says it would be tough for those young swans to survive without their parents to guide them.

“In addition to the emotional trauma of losing their parents, it leaves the youngsters vulnerable to predators,” she says.

When I asked the Bureau of Wildlife why the swans were killed, if the young could survive without their parents, and why the shootings took place in front of families, Lori Severino, DEC public information officer, emailed that ” DEC does not comment on pending legislation”.

Meanwhile Karen Stamper isn’t losing hope.

“If New York passes this bill,” she adds, “It will help save mute swans in other states.”

How you can help
The assembly has passed its swan bill (A09289) but the senate needs a nudge to get it to the senate floor (S06630).Contact Sen. Avella’s office: (518) 455-2210 or the district office (718) 357-3094, to urge passage by June. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who reintroduced the swan bill in the assembly, is urging people to sign a petition that “sends a strong message to the senate and Gov. Cuomo that New Yorkers don’t believe our mute swans deserve to be killed”.

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Teaching the Greeks and Critical Thinking – Part 3: No Right or Wrong Way of Teaching

Some Suggestions for Teaching Critical Thinking

Since this series is intended for teachers, I’d like to discuss a number of suggestions for those who might want to teach their courses more critically. You simply begin without fanfare by quietly working up a few lessons, which gradually become a small repertoire, which ultimately becomes the only way you know how to teach.

There will be successes and failures, and there will also be some question marks about how it all went, which is very normal when you’re breaking new ground. The important thing is a willingness to try, and if you make a mistake, to make it gracefully, and just carry on.

What’s even more important is the ability to forgive yourself if things don’t have their desired effect. It’s all part of the process of learning one’s craft and wanting to grow as a teacher. We’re all works-in-progress, still growing, still learning, and still making mistakes, which is as it should be.

The secret is, as with everything else in life, being comfortable with yourself as a person. You should naturally be well-read in your subject and adventurous enough to identify with all points of view. Work out the arguments and counterarguments, the strengths and weaknesses of the idea or theory, and be able to argue both for and against it.

If you find you have a bias toward the idea you’re presenting, never reveal it even by your manner lest you destroy the very thing you’re trying to do – encouraging students to think for themselves. There’s more to it, naturally, but once you begin, everything falls into place, and you’ll never view teaching the same way again.

What some teachers don’t realize is that it’s not only their subjects they’re teaching, but also themselves: what kind of person they are; whether they’re in love with their subject; whether they want the best for their students and will help them if needed; and whether they’re fair.

If, on the other hand, students see them as being afraid of presenting more than one viewpoint; beng closed to every idea except their own, and teach with a bunker mentality – this is the lesson students will learn, and they will have lost the class forever.

It’s also important to realize that there is no right or wrong way to teach critical thinking, or anything else for that matter. Every teacher has his or her own style, which reflects his or her own personality. It’s the right way for you if it reflects who you are, and your students are learning. All that matters is that you know your subject thoroughly, and can convey it in ways that will interest your students. Everything else is unimportant.

Since there are many right ways of teaching a course, what I’ll be suggesting is only the way that worked for me. These suggestions may not work for everyone, but if you do find something you might want to try, I would urge you to do so and see if it works for you.

English Teachers

How does this play out in English and the social sciences? English teachers are usually very flexible in teaching literature to begin with and rarely have a “one-truth” theory about anything. They listen to students and accept all points of view, being conversant with several interpretations that make the work come alive for students, who tend to read existentially, hoping for an author who will speak to them personally. They are imaginative and brimming with insights, which teachers encourage, even when they reflect contradictory readings of a text, as befits our ambiguous and dissonant times.

A teacher fosters the individualism, independence, and personal vision of students (see here
, here
, here
, and here
), the DNA of the young as they search for their own meaning and purpose. Teachers also understand that authors may sometimes be the last persons who can interpret their works in a way that will make sense to students and which helps them to grow. So they’ll work within each student’s understanding, so that the student can make that novel his or her own. It’s this accepting attitude that makes all the difference in the world to students. Teachers are validators, helping students to believe in themselves and to trust their own judgment.

Teachers also want to promote class discussions that stimulate thinking at its most creative and critical by having students listen to other meanings about the story; about what may be going on within the characters and what they may be saying outright or between the lines; whether they’re using language to reveal or conceal their true thoughts and feelings, wanting acceptance or courting rejection; and whether students agree or disagree with what’s being said or insinuated.

Do students think that the author is gently mocking the narrator’s perception of what’s going on, and expects the reader to pick up on what may be the shallow, naïve, or wrongheaded viewpoint of this narrator, who may be misunderstanding, misrepresenting, or rationalizing what is happening?

Is the story more about this unreliable narrator
than the story itself? And, dare I say it, about those readers who might be uncritically accepting at face value this skewed point of view? And, if so, what a delightful way of acquiring the art of worldly wisdom in learning to “read” people and their self-serving obfuscations about what they are doing on this great stage of life!

Teachers are connoisseurs of subjectivity, encouraging students not to be literal-minded, but open to a wealth of meanings, so that they can identify with all kinds of characters, motivations, and perceptions of what is happening and of what it all means, not to judge but to understand them and to savor the protean nature of that profoundest of mysteries, the human heart.

Others might want to judge the work as too severe or too lenient, too judgmental or too forgiving of what is happening, or why it is happening, or wish to take exception with the author’s understanding of the characters, or how these characters might have told their own story, which their creator garbled, and how, given their freedom, they would have made their own fate.

There are also students who form relationships with various characters and, far from judging these characters, have them judge them, the readers, asking them, the characters, for insight and counsel. As they get to know these characters better, they might even reciprocate, venturing suggestions and insights that might have helped these characters to have coped with their circumstances.

These are but some of the ways of relating to literature, where these fictional worlds can become more stirring, real, and alive than other fictions that pass for “reality” in a workaday world that proves “stale, flat, and unprofitable.” There are different ways of finding salvation in this world, and the art of reading literature creatively is only one such way that may enable some to breathe more amply within their story and find inspiration.

Social Science Teachers

Veteran teachers in the social sciences marinate for years in an ocean of theories that make up their field. This is only natural for those who have given their lives to teaching, have advanced degrees, and continually read. Younger teachers are at various stages of their professional growth, taking graduate courses, completing their master’s, or progressing with their reading as they warm to their subject and the art of teaching.

All of them constantly mull over their courses in devising ways of teaching more interestingly. Teaching history, for instance, is not just teaching history, but teaching teenagers history, and therein lies a distinction of transcendent importance, as well as the challenge of presenting the past in ways that students will want to learn it.

If the study of history were but a matter of teaching the who-what-when-and-where questions, it would be very easy – and very boring. What makes it interesting, however, are the how-and-why-questions, or judgment calls like “who was right and who was wrong?” or “did the good guys or the bad guys win?” Or who beat Napoleon at Waterloo – the British under Wellington or the Prussians under von Blücher? It requires little imagination to guess what answer you’ll get in Berlin or London. Or why did Rome fall? There are dozens of theories. How about the Mexican-American War? Why did it really happen, or which side was right? Was it Manifest Destiny or land grabbing? Or the American Civil War, did the good guys . . . . No, I better not go there.

But is history, then, nothing but national or regional propaganda? “Of course not! Propaganda’s what they do; what we do is truth!” That’s one theory. Another is, “Let’s look at the evidence and see what we find.” Then there’s, “We don’t have time for this nonsense. Just teach them what they taught us in the good old days, and have done with it!” And so it goes.

This is why history’s so boring to students – they’re taught only one theory! Not to mention that if you teach only one view or one side of a question, you’re brainwashing students, “but never mind that because whether you’re coming at them from the Left, Right, or Center, it’s all propaganda!” That’s another theory.

This is why many social science teachers prefer “teaching the controversy,” or presenting all sides of the question, fairly, without taking sides, but having the students decide for themselves. Teachers like this approach because it gets students thinking and wondering which theory’s right. It also creates excitement because drama brings ideas to life, and all sides get a fair hearing, which is what students love – not censoring anyone, but letting everyone come to the mic.

Some people call this “democracy.” Others call it “getting an education” by having to listen to ideas you may not agree with, that take you out of your comfort zone, and challenge you to be open-minded enough not to agree with the other side, but at least to give it the right to be heard, unless you’re so unsure of yourself that you’re frightened to do so! It’s being tolerant not about the things that don’t really matter, but about the important things you’d die for! Now, that’s a class act! “Teaching the controversy” and letting the chips fall where they may.

Teachers also like this approach because it prepares students for college by getting them used to dealing with controversies and not losing their cool. In too many high schools students who lack this training in critical thinking are so overwhelmed by having to do it in college that they’re in shock and leave, or spend precious time (and money) in remedial courses learning what should have been learned in high school.

If, on the other hand, all sides of the questions were taught in every high school, teaching the social sciences would revolutionize America! Can you imagine what would happen in this country if high schools were really allowed to teach critical thinking to their students? Now that would be real educational reform with a vengeance. But, alas, I do but dream. To see why much of this is today not allowed, as well as the remedies that would allow it if there were a public outcry, see here
, here
, and here

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Time Is Running Out For The Senate To Finally Do Something About Sentencing Reform

WASHINGTON — Senators pushing for bipartisan criminal justice reform are running out of time to pass the legislation through both chambers before the election year’s long summer recess begins.

If lawmakers don’t find a way to move the bill before they leave in July, the chances of it passing this year dwindle significantly. The legislation would reduce mandatory minimum sentences
for nonviolent offenders and give judges greater discretion when issuing sentences for low-level drug crimes.

Still, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who helped author the Senate package, said Tuesday that he and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are waiting for the House to move first. Cornyn wouldn’t say whether the two lawmakers had talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who dictates what comes to the floor, about the latest version of the bill.

“I think right now the best prospects for us are for the House to start,” Cornyn said, adding that he and Grassley spoke to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) two weeks ago about the matter. Goodlatte is hoping his criminal justice package will come to the floor and pass in June, Cornyn said. 

“That I think will give us some momentum over here,” he said.

So far, the House Judiciary Committee
 has pushed through a slew of criminal justice bills, but no floor time has been arranged by Republican leaders for the package despite the interest they have expressed in passing it

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), co-author of the criminal justice reform bill, voiced irritation Tuesday with Cornyn and Grassley for not pushing McConnell harder to bring the bill up for a vote.

“I’m very concerned, I want to talk to both of them today to find out what they’ve done,” Durbin said. “We’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do: passed it out of committee 15-5, made significant changes in the bill, drew additional Republican co-sponsors, and still no signal from Sen. McConnell that he would even consider calling it to the floor.”

Durbin didn’t like the idea of the upper chamber waiting for the House to move first, saying the Senate is waiting on the House on too many bills.

In an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this month, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), another author of the text, said he was growing frustrated with the lack of urgency. If Congress waits until after summer recess, Booker said, passing the bill, which he called “the first reversal of mass incarceration in the federal level” in his lifetime, would be extremely difficult. 

The Senate is scheduled to adjourn July 15
and reconvene in September, at which point it is scheduled to be in session just 43 days through the end of the year.

Late last month, proponents of the bill unveiled changes to the text, strengthening language applying to violent offenders to win over more Republicans and convince McConnell it has enough votes for passage. But after finalizing the latest revisions and announcing the new co-sponsors, talk of votes on the package has all but stopped in the Senate — an indication that McConnell hasn’t warmed to the idea. 

“There comes a point where we’re ready to go, and I don’t know why we’d be waiting on the House at this point,” Durbin said.

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Bernie Sanders Is Fundraising For State Legislative Candidates

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton frequently emphasizes that she is a “proud Democrat” who wants to help elect other Democrats, contrasting herself
with rival Bernie Sanders.

While Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, has set grassroots fundraising records for his own candidacy, Clinton’s campaign has criticized him
for not doing more to help raise the profile of progressive candidates for federal and state offices as he rallies his supporters. Sanders had previously said, “We’ll see
” when asked whether he would fundraise on behalf of other candidates.

But Sanders has begun to rebut that criticism, fundraising for three House candidates
in April, and for another this past week
. On Tuesday, Sanders went further, endorsing eight state legislative candidates “who embody the spirit of our political revolution.”

“No president, not Bernie Sanders, not the greatest president you could possibly imagine, can take on the billionaire class alone,” Sanders wrote in a fundraising email to his supporters. “And that’s because change never happens from the top down, it always occurs from the bottom up.”

The candidates Sanders named in his email are South Carolina state Reps. Justin Bamberg
and Terry Alexander
; Wisconsin state Rep. David Bowen
; South Dakota House candidate Clara Hart
; Illinois state Rep. Carol Ammons
; California state Senate candidate Jane Kim
; Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar
; and Vermont state Senate candidate Chris Pearson

Sanders noted that the next round of congressional redistricting in 2020 is approaching. Democrats would need to win back GOP-dominated state legislative chambers to have more of an influence on how districts are drawn, which is key to them taking back the U.S. House.

“Bernie believes that the path toward bold change requires leaders to take back control of state capitols around the country and ensure fair redistricting in 2020,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, said in a statement. “The leaders we’re raising money for today are the members of Congress, senators and presidential candidates of tomorrow.”

The House candidates Sanders had previously fundraised for, like Lucy Flores in Nevada
, have seen a flood of donations to their campaigns after receiving Sanders’ endorsement. Law professor Tim Canova, who is challenging Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida, received more than $250,000
from small-dollar donors after Sanders endorsed him in a fundraising email.

Clinton currently leads Sanders by roughly 270 pledged delegates
as the end of the primary season approaches.

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End of Days or Just Ordinary Preppers?

“I have a gun in my house and in my truck,” my brother-in-law announces at dinner. “So if anything happens, I’m ready.” What he has of value is a giant television. I don’t imagine many people hauling off with that. What do you have that you are willing to kill for? A Stradivarius or a one of a kind vintage car? Is that worth a life?

Americans like the idea of being ready for danger. If you have a gun in your house, you are the dangerous one in the neighborhood. Do you picture yourself in your home, shooting out the windows Western style at bad guys who want your food and water? If these bad guys are really dangerous characters, they would take your gun, shoot you, then make off with your cans of tuna, nuts and raisins.

Being prepared for emergency is a good idea. Many people in disaster-prone areas like New Orleans, California or areas of the Northwest that get snowed in have generators and food and water for days. If you do any camping, as we do, you probably have enough supplies to camp and cook in your back yard. We have a disaster pack in my car so that, if I couldn’t drive home in an earthquake, I could ditch my car and walk forty miles home. The backpack is uncomfortable, and when I think of myself walking alongside the fallen 405 toward home, I imagine that it would take a day or two. I carry old running shoes in the car.

There are religious people who believe in preparing for the End of the World. I grew up in such a place, in a cult in Southern New Hampshire that was prepping for the Tribulation. In long sermons on weekends, our leader George would explain that the Russians were going to attack, the Tribulation was coming and the world was ending. I wasn’t sure whether these would be separate events or would occur simultaneously, but it was best to be prepared. We had enough food stored up to last through the winter. We did End of Days training in which we would get up in the middle of the night, roll our belongings into a sleeping bag and disappear into the woods where we would survive for a few days. We learned to kill and eat animals that were not tasty like squirrels, snakes and raccoons.

Collecting guns as a means to protect yourself has come to seem fringe in a country with many violent deaths due to gunfire. Considering how long it’s been since we’ve had a war on our own soil, it’s amazing how many people die in this country due to gun fire…. The man who shot up Sandy Hook was a prepper who collected guns. Many Americans are fans of the Second Amendment which was put into the Constitution during a time when there still was a frontier, cowboys, Native Americans fighting for their lands, border wars with Mexico, and danger of wild animals. Carrying a gun around in your truck, outside of Texas, may make you feel manly, but given the number of accidental deaths due to guns in this country as well as passion killings, it seems hard to understand why so many Americans want to include a gun as a means of preparing for disaster. Americans love the idea of Clint Eastwood, the idea that you can be ruthless when it matters and that makes you a hero. When does being ready to kill someone make you a hero?

Americans like guns because of fear, because they like the frontier myth and also because we, as a nation have a tendency toward paranoia, toward an “us and them” mentality. Guns enforce the idea that we are right and “they” are wrong. In all the post-apocalyptic movies from The Road to Mad Max, there are wars over resources. Being prepared for a disaster is buying into the potentiality of the conflict you against nature. Most of us would agree that once the grid is down, having the ability to survive with your resources until help comes is a good thing. Where the possibilities get scarier is when you start to imagine the potentiality of man against man. There’s us. We have food and toilet paper. There’s them who don’t have food or Charmin. Ask yourself, do you feel lucky, punk?

I was in Los Angeles during the 1994 earthquake. Many Mexican Americans remembered the Mexico City earthquake and wisely moved out of their houses for a few days to be sure the aftershocks were over. They camped at the park near my house and Western Bagel gave out bagels and cream cheese. I walked by to get bagels, and there were Mexican families spread out on picnic blankets putting schmear on their bagels. The bagel store wasn’t worried about being robbed. Over fifty people died in that earthquake. We had survived; we were eating bagels. The sun was shining through the palm trees.

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Miami Heat

In Miami, the American city currently most vulnerable to climate change, a local university has supplanted skeptical politicians in confronting the environmental challenge.

The University of Miami launched a coordinated research effort emulated in scope by few, if any, educational institutions. The objective–to explore every facet of the existential climate change threat to South Florida and beyond. It could not come at a more fitting time. Consider that Florida’s governor and some other of the state’s leading politicians can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the true nature of the problem. The climate-related rising sea levels that are already swamping Miami Beach streets at unusually high tides are evidently not enough of a red flag.

For its ambitious full court press in behalf of the city (and society), the University enlisted all of its 11 schools and colleges to produce a multi-disciplinary report. The focus was on determining sustainable ways to mitigate and/or adapt to the rising tides that ultimately threaten to inundate most of South Florida.

Unfortunately, Governor Rick Scott has gravitated towards the view that the sea level rise is a result of natural fluctuations that humans are powerless to alter. [Hence, no added regulatory framework and accompanying costs opposed by powerful business interests.]Such detachment on the part of the Florida governor has not deterred the University from linking human activity to the culpability and potential solutions for climate change.

University departments you would not normally associate with a climate crusade contributed to the final report. A professor in the Music School, for example, created the accompanying score for the video introducing the document.

Miami’s famed School of Marine and Atmospheric Science worked on identifying types of corals most resistant to ocean acidification stemming from carbon pollution. Oceanic sediments were analyzed with the intent of uncovering clues to future global warming.

Research in the University’s College of Arts and Sciences was aimed at reducing our reliance on carbon-polluting fossil fuels through development of lighter streamlined solar panels. Prospective methods for storing solar energy for use in the absence of sunlight were also explored.

A geology professor conducted research on the migration of tropical disease-carrying mosquitoes that pose a health threat as they move further north in tandem with warmer temperatures.

In the College of Engineering, a professor retooled an automobile engine to run on methane recycled from landfills.

The School of Architecture contributed designs for energy-efficient housing. For its part, the University’s Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy concentrated on the politics of climate change and how to most effectively communicate the reality of this environmental threat.

The University of Miami’s comprehensive exercise provides a template for environmental protection. Should elected officials fail to lead, why not have academia step into the breach and through well-publicized research, embarrass dawdling politicians to get off their duff?
Hopefully, that is just what will happen as a consequence of the University of Miami’s report.

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Empty and Disgusting? Doubly Wrong…


Let me start by admitting that yours truly was wrong, doubly wrong. I’m talking about my initial response to the works of two extremely original artists who chose dramatically different ways of expressing themselves. When I saw the abstract, minimalist paintings of Agnes Martin (1912 – 2004) for the first time, I couldn’t understand why she was considered to be a major American artist. To quote Gertrude Stein, “there was no there there” for me. Martin’s medium-sized oil paintings have very simple, geometric compositions –most often consisting of several horizontal stripes. The colors are very pale, and only if you come close enough to the surface, will you notice thin lines drawn with graphite.


Years passed by before I slowly began to appreciate the subtlety and wisdom of Agnes Martin’s work. The current retrospective of her works at LACMA
, with its elegantly sparse installation, pays tribute to the silence and solitude of her art. I went to see it three times already, and definitely plan to see it again. Every time, I find myself standing longer in front of her paintings, hearing their voices louder and louder.


Reading the newly published biography of Agnes Martin by Nancy Princenthal, Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art
, you learn that her life was anything but quiet and simple. There was a lot of drama, a lot of instability, and a lot of pain. And, as with so many great artists, all that turmoil was transformed into poetic, poignant, philosophical artistic sermons.


And here is another exhibition that reminds yours truly how wrong he was in his initial response to the works of yet another artist. The Orange County Museum of Art is currently showing paintings, photographs, and videos by Marilyn Minter (b. 1948), with the appropriately provocative exhibition title: Pretty/Dirty
. To quote from the museum press release, “Minter has been embroiled in controversies over the relationship of her art to feminism, fashion, and celebrity.” From a distance, her gigantic enamel-on-metal paintings look like photographic color close-ups of the lips, eyes, and feet of beautiful young women caught –to put it mildly –in very peculiar and often provocative acts.


One of her iconic images, which initially might shock you, is a close-up of female feet in gorgeous, bejeweled, designer high heels. But again, there is something off about the image. Pretty it is not. You not only see, but almost hear the broken glass cracking under these heels. And drops of dirty water splash all over. All this is very strange, very sexual, and disconcertingly attractive. Definitely not an exhibition you want to bring your in-laws to…


In one of her oversized paintings, she zeroes in on a woman’s mouth, her long tongue sticking out in grotesque fashion. What happened to this woman? Is she drowning? Or throwing up? What are all of these silver bubbles floating in the air? But be brave and come close to the painting to discover the intricate texture of the brushstrokes and even traces of finger marks. This exhibition definitely helped me overcome my prior ignorant dismissal of Minter’s work. Just think about your first ever sip of whiskey. Wouldn’t you agree that it takes time to discover and appreciate the flavors beyond the initial bitterness?

To learn about Edward’s Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read The New York Times article about his classes here
, or an Artillery Magazine article about Edward and his classes here


Edward Goldman
is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward’s charming Russian accent, click here

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Hillary Clinton Blasts Donald Trump For Cheering Housing Bubble Burst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Hillary Clinton, seeking to dampen Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s growing appeal with working-class voters, on Tuesday accused him of having cheered on the 2008 housing market crash.

Clinton‘s campaign released an ad with audio the presumptive Republican nominee had recorded in 2006 for his now-defunct Trump University venture. Trump, a billionaire real estate developer, said of a “bubble burst” that “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy” property and “make a lot of money.”

Clinton‘s campaign and her surrogates have seized on the recording to argue that she would take better care of the U.S. economy. She is seeking to blunt the inroads that Trump has been making with voters in crucial states such as Florida and Ohio.

Trump, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, defended the comments as the mark of shrewd dealmaking, arguing that he would bring that sort of sharp business acumen with him to the White House.

“Frankly, this is the kind of thinking our country needs, understanding how to get a good result out of a very bad and sad situation. Politicians have no idea how to do this – they don’t have a clue,” he said.

Trump has never held elected office and often touts his history as a businessman in response to accusations that he is unprepared to assume the presidency.

Opinion polls in key states show Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and Trump are in a tight race ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. Nationally, Trump has been rising in polls to pull roughly even with Clinton.

Clinton surrogates from Ohio and Florida held a conference call with reporters about Trump’s statements. Her campaign also hosted related events in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada, which will all be battlegrounds in November’s general election.

“How could Trump possibly champion the collapse of the housing market and our economy?” U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio said on the call.

Clinton, meanwhile, is still fighting on two fronts as she seeks to wrap up her primary battle with Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.

Clinton and Sanders both campaigned on Tuesday in California, which is among six states holding Democratic nominating contests on June 7. California has more Democratic delegates than any other state, and Sanders has invested heavily there.

Clinton needs to win California for a strong finish heading into her party’s national convention in July and to dispel questions about whether she can unite the party after a drawn-out, increasingly bitter primary race.

Clinton on Monday turned down an invitation by Fox News to debate Sanders in California despite having agreed previously to a May debate. Her campaign said Clinton‘s time would be better spent meeting directly with California voters.

Sanders took Clinton to task, saying her refusal was an insult to California voters. In a television ad released by his campaign on Tuesday that will run ahead of California’s primary, Sanders says the state is a “long way to Washington” but voters can “send them a message they can’t ignore.”

Sanders on Tuesday also requested that the state of Kentucky review his loss there last week toClinton by fewer than 2,000 votes. Kentucky’s secretary of state, Alison Grimes, said in a statement that they will recanvass the results at all 120 county boards of election.


(Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Trump, Hillary Haters Take a Hard Look at the Constitution Party


Speaking in a southern drawl from Memphis, TN, Darryll Castle, Presidential nominee for the Constitution Party answered my questions:

JF: Why are you running for POTUS?

DC: I was the Constitution Party’s nominee; the party wanted me. That’s the obvious reason. But personally, I think that if the country could elect someone like me, the rule of law might possibly be restored. The rule of law is in serious jeopardy. I don’t think it’s deceased yet; it’s very important to me. It is the focal point of what I’m trying to do.

JF: What three things would you do first as POTUS?

DC: First, I would start the process of withdrawing the United States from the United Nations and NATO and explain to the American people why I wanted to do that. (He explains later in this interview.) Number two, withdraw the U.S. from the Federal Reserve or repeal the Federal Reserve Act, which of course Congress would have to do. I’d explain to the American people why that was necessary. And third, start the process of trying to do something about the debt that the country faces so that it would no longer be obligated to its creditors, because I want the country to be free and independent again.

JF: How are you publicizing your campaign?

DC: Just Monday, my campaign sent out 800,000 press releases to news organizations around the country. Of course, we have a website, Internet publicity, things of that nature. But word has gotten around about me on the conservative side of politics and that’s where my party is. People who know about us, know about me. The question becomes publicity on the other side. That’s where the press releases and more interviews like this one comes in. I did an interview with the Washington Journal with C SPAN
a couple of weeks ago that was well-received.

DC: Since the Indiana primary, we have had many, many people contact us, offering to volunteer and telling us they would support us.

JF: How many states are you on the ballot?

DC: Right now, I believe, that it’s 19. We’re working to get ballot access on the others. Frankly, unless we get some help, there are going to be some states we do not have ballot access in except as a write-in candidate. But we do believe we will have ballot access in enough states to theoretically win the election. In other words, we could generate more than 270 electoral votes if we carried all those states.

JF: How many states have you filed your letter of intent as a write-in?

DC: Texas, I know for sure, and the others we’re working on. There are people doing that for me, so I can’t honestly answer your question and be accurate. There are people who are in charge of doing that and I know they’re working on it.

JF: What is your international experience?

DC: I’m a former Marine officer. I was pretty international in those days. I have the advantage of never having held political office before. I’m not a professional politician, but I have studied foreign policy and talked about it, and it’s one of my interests. I have traveled extensively. 18 years ago, I started a foundation in Bucharest, Romania to minister to homeless gypsy children and it’s grown into Mia’s Children Foundation
. We founded that and we still maintain it.

JF: Do you know about the Trans Pacific Partnership?

DC: Yes I do. I’m very much opposed to it. I’m not necessarily opposed to free trade. I don’t think the TPP is about free trade. I really don’t see any need to turn the trade sovereignty, the authority of the United States over to foreign corporations. I don’t like the idea of giving international corporations, never mind foreign governments, them too, but foreign corporations, the right to sue the United States and demand that it change its trade policy. I want the United States to be a free and independent country. If we want to negotiate a deal with Mexico for example that says: you let us ship our goods to Mexico without import duties and we’ll do the same for you, I have no problem with that. But that’s not what the TPP is about so I’m dead set against it.

JF: You realize that the Investor State Dispute Settlement process is also part of NAFTA; would you repeal NAFTA?

DC: I do realize that, yes. Yes I would repeal NAFTA.

JF: You said you would withdraw from the U.N. and NATO. Please explain why.

DC: When NATO was formed, it has 28 members, the United States was one of those members. When it was formed, I would think there was probably some use for it. We were probably very concerned that Soviet tanks would come rolling across the German frontier at any minute and it was something that was supposed to prevent that. We had just come out of World War II and we encountered a new enemy and that’s really not the case anymore. The United States kind of entered into a deal with those other 27 countries, and that is, you won’t have to provide your own defense, we’ll do that for you. In return, you can use your entire GDP to advance your economies and fund your welfare states. And the United States can’t afford it anymore. It’s becoming a little too belligerent. Promises were made between President Reagan and President Gorbechev that NATO would not advance to the edge of the Soviet Union or the old Soviet Union, if the wall would come down. Then the European Union would not swallow up those states and NATO would not be right at the edge of Russia. Unfortunately, those promises were not kept. So I think that organization has outlived its usefulness and does more harm than good. As far as the U.N. goes, as I stated earlier, I want the United States to be a free and independent country, able to make its own decisions in the world. I don’t want it to be isolated, that’s usually the charge you get when you talk about things like this. But [the U.N.] is the center of many of things in the world that I don’t like. It’s the center of depopulation and it’s the center of the destruction of sovereignty of nations. It’s the center of this new global world that we seem to be building. For example, Mr. Trump says he wants to build a wall on the southern border supposedly to prevent immigrants from entering the United States illegally, but the same time he’s talking about that, the United States government is building a digital wall, an electronic wall around the entire world so that it can observe every human being on earth, 24/7, no matter where they go. I would like to start the process of taking that whole system apart.

JF: That would be quite a task.

DC: It would, but what better task for the President of the United States to engage himself in?

JF: What is your energy policy?

DC: I think that the United States should start trying desperately to produce its own energy. We’re doing that to some extent. We say we’re not going to, we don’t want to develop our own energy. We don’t like fracking and we don’t like the Keystone pipeline but we don’t mind doing it in other countries. In other words, if we buy our energy from Saudi Arabia, we don’t really care what happens to their environment. It’s kind of a silly argument to me; it’s something that has to be done. It causes a lot of violence in the world when we don’t produce our own energy because we have to humble ourselves. Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world according to our friends at the U.N., they beheaded 150 people last year, we have to go to those people and do deals with them as the President just did when he flew over there when they were all upset about the 28 missing pages from the 9/11 Commission Report. He told them that we would guarantee their security, them and the other Gulf monarchies. I’m completely flabbergasted and opposed to that sort of thing, and if we produced our own energy, we wouldn’t have to do it.

JF: What type of energy would you be going after; what sources?

DC: We could produce our own oil, and what we can’t produce, we can buy from friendly countries like Canada. And if there’s green energy available to be produced, I mean, there’s technologies out there that I don’t have the technical experience to understand. I think there’s new technologies. I would start with trying to develop our own petroleum energy and see where that took me.

JF: What would you do if or when the derivatives bubble burst?

DC: That’s a good question. It sounds kind of terrible, but probably nothing. In other words, I think what we did in 2008 was a horrible mistake. What we got out of it was 20 trillion dollars in debt. My philosophy, my set of principles is: let failing companies fail. There’s no such thing as “too big to fail”. Let them fail; that’s creative destruction. Newer faster banks will come along, younger banks. And they’ll stop doing this. As a result, the system is flushed, cleaned out. If you don’t do that, if you keep doubling down and compounding the debt and giving these people a license to say “look, this is a pretty good business you’re in because if you get to make a profit, you keep it, but if you don’t, the taxpayers will come along and bail you out.” That needs to stop and these companies need to start operating on a real, genuine free market system where there’s no one there to catch them when they fall.

JF: Do you think the derivatives market should be regulated again?

DC: Yes. I think there are far too many regulations and some of them should be stripped away from American business so that they can hire people again, but at this point, I don’t see any way to avoid regulating it, yes.

JF: That’s why it’s getting out of hand; there’s absolutely no oversight.

DC: That, plus the fact that we’re there with taxpayer money to catch them when they implode.

JF: There’s so many people who don’t like Hillary and don’t like Trump…

DC: I’ve met a lot of them recently. You’re absolutely right. They talk to either me or whoever the Libertarian candidate will be and they want to know what the differences are.

JF: What are the main differences between you and the Libertarians? That you don’t believe in legalizing drugs?

DC: The Constitution party’s official position is we don’t believe in legalizing drugs, you’re right. But me personally, I have said all along that I am an advocate of decriminalizing possession. I think it’s a liberty issue and a moral issue. We should not be putting people in prison for possessing these things. There are other ways of handling it and it’s causing the whole war on drugs to be a disaster. We differ on the subject of abortion. Our party is firmly against it. Their probable candidate, Gary Johnson, has said that he’s in favor of it. Most of the time, Libertarians take an open borders position and I don’t. I take a secure borders position.

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