Friday, October 20, 2017

In Weinstein's wake


I knew enough to do more than I did.


– Director Quentin Tarantino on behavior of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein

We've seen the likes of Angelina Jolie, Gweneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Kate Beckinsale and the still unfolding list of glamorous actresses reporting run-ins with one-time power broker and alleged serial sexual predator, Harvey Weinstein. We're reading and debating op-eds by Lena Dunham, Mayim Bialik and Lupita Nyong'o.

Cue now to the lives of everyday American women, where the role of Weinstein has been played, repeatedly, by men who, by dint of their position and will, inflict unwanted sexual attention and selfish, often untoward and, alternately, illegal, gratification. These close encounters of the repulsive kind are, to the surprise of some and chagrin of many, plentiful.

Amid this emerging zeitgeist lies the question of whether this is a mere moment of confessional cleansing before the usual retreat to established norms or the dawn of a structural reordering as it relates to our society’s sexual harassment tolerance.

The Weinstein fallout has highlighted the consequences of the reverberated message of accepting how things always have been and just are. In the process, it has unearthed a litany of flashbacks that have transported women to times they most wanted to forget, when they lost command of their bodies. To that classmate in middle school. The teacher in high school. The co-worker at that summer job. That minister/rabbi/imam/priest after service. The supervisor on the first job. Or second. Or current one.

By freeze-frame recollection, girls and women are re-living when they were shown, by threat or by action, that how they felt or what they wanted had no bearing as far as the males in question were concerned.

Fondling. Grinding. Groping. Uninvited hugs. Insistent kisses. Demanded intercourse. Rape. The statistics are harrowing, and today social media campaigns are giving these numbers assigned faces.

The most heartbreaking aspect of these revelations is the stunning volume and frequency of their occurrence, as if an obvious but unspoken tax borne by women for the mere sake and misfortune of their sex. It lies embedded in the codified lore of the “casting couch.” Its attitude permeates psyches, joked and shrugged about as a cultural fixture. That same “couch” appears in boardrooms, stockrooms, classrooms, stairwells and other spaces where opportunity and dignity are snatched in equal measure.

So in this moment of awakening, rather than simply dismantling or packing it away, let’s torch this couch and all that it represents.

Awareness of the prevalence of these acts provides some kindling, and that's intensifying far beyond the Weinstein stories that are stretching from Hollywood to London.

The #MeToo effort is giving average Janes, Julias, Jing-lis and Jahans voice and conversation where both had been absent. Women talking to each other, shedding the embarrassment and shame these encounters spawn and finding strength in one another’s stories, serve as a necessary gambit. But the discussions, like the solutions, cannot be one-sided, or single-gender. Men need to actively help incinerate the attitudes that give rise to these unhealthy and dehumanizing experiences, generation after generation.
  

Failing to do so serves to ignore the unnecessary plight of more than half of our population – daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts and mothers alike. Settling back into our familiar constructs would continue constricting and crippling the full humanity of legions of boys, wriggling into manhood under the false assumption that the option to lord over the opposite sex is not only viable, but somehow ordained. Worse, it would ossify further the belief that this entitlement can be exercised whenever things are economically sour for men. There are no grounds to accept that men have no stake in this evolving conversation; some of them, also, bear the pain of unwanted sexual advances and assaults. But it shouldn't have to happen to you in order to recognize the evils that can and do emerge from unchecked, boorish behavior. And mansplaining has no place or currency.

Simply dismissing the stark reality of having to navigate debauched circumstances or feigning ignorance in light of this multitude of revelations neither engenders strength nor enshrines masculinity. Active listening, concerted empathy and a commitment to action, will.

Tarantino's quote unlocked that which had been churning in the background since this scandal erupted, an admission that hints at Martin Niemöller’s cautionary poem, a haunting epitaph for any conscience. Because there is enough known to do more, and for sure we know second-class citizenry for girls and women deserves no glow of nostalgia, or oxygen of the present.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

DVR Alert: A women-focused "Inside Story"

So you weren't one of the lucky -- or well-organized -- people who snagged a ticket for the 14th Annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, taking place on Oct. 3. And you're kicking yourself harder after realizing you'll be missing the chance to see powerhouse TV mogul Shonda Rhimes interview Michelle Obama, among dozens of other highlights at this year's confab.

Here's a consolation prize: Inside Story this week dedicates itself to the kind of insights and advice to be had at this event. Yours truly, along with a table of other outstanding and accomplished women, will dig in deeper to help you lean in harder.

Led by Tamala Edwards, it's an engaging conversation worth watching, and it starts 11:30A Sunday.

Busting the work-life balance myths and developing real tools to thrive. Bouncing back from life's blows. Finding the best way to push forward. Beating the challenges women in the workforce still face. Keeping yourself charged up. There's something for every working woman to hear and consider.

If your conference registration already is set, consider this conversation an appetizer for what's sure to be a nourishing day.

(l-r) Mastercard's Carol Lee Mitchell, Meeks, Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Nancy Hesse,
host Tamala Edwards, Penn Mutual's Ande Frazier, Bristol-Myers Squibb's Ann Powell Judge
and Jefferson's Donna Gentile O'Donnell bring real-world notes for women looking to succeed
But if for some reason you sleep this show, here's a final save: catch it online next week, part of 6abc's conference digital guide. Take advantage of it all, and soar higher!

Friday, August 25, 2017

TV Alert: On Rizzo, Nazis, Free Speech and more

Your favorite writer-thinker settles in for another round of observations on All That Transpires in the World, but in particular in Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley and aspects of life in Harrisburg and D.C. It's time for another visit to the Inside Story table!

This week is an exploration into the ongoing bruhaha surrounding the statue of the late Mayor Frank Rizzo, the faux pas of flirtations with neo-Nazis (or any kind, for that matter), legislative "remedies" for protest aftermaths and more.

Host Monica Malpass keeps us panelists in check, the conversation flowing and you, the viewer, informed. 

Of course, yours truly plays a proud role in keeping this program the most watched in its time slot in this, the fourth-largest media market in the nation. 

Tune in 11:30A Sunday. If you happen to miss it -- gasp! -- never fear! Check out the recap on the 6abc site posted Tuesday. Just click here

Monday, August 14, 2017

Racist rampage: Charlottesville, revisited

It really can’t be lost that those today decrying a preservation of whiteness are rallying around iconography that celebrates a rejection of the United States. Nor should the level of violence that broke out in Thomas Jefferson’s backyard come as a real shock. It’s been brewing for some time. 

Last weekend’s assembly in Charlottesville – Unite the Right – descended on the small liberal Virginia college town under the guise of protesting the proposed removal of statutes of leading Confederate figures.

But they actually came because they are racists and are desperate to retain the vestiges of power racism offers, especially as wealth and the world passes them by. Those excusing their behavior are participants by proxy. Period.

Defined, racism is the ardent belief that one race’s superiority – in this case, white people – not only exists, but should be exercised and maintained by every available social, legal, financial and policy means available.

The neo-Nazis, the white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan that gathered in Charlottesville hold this view. And these torch-bearing Neanderthals traveled from across the country to spew racist, anti-Semitic bilge under the guise of protecting “white heritage.”

Believing that the First Amendment prescription for hate speech is more speech, counter protesters met them, to defend their town and ideals. Mayhem and even death ensued. 
Heyer


Heather D. Heyer, 32, along with Virginia State troopers H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke Bates, days from  turning 41, lost their lives in the aftermath.
 That so-called conservatives are laying blame for the violence on the counter protesters besmirches America. There are others who say white nationalists have “legitimate” concerns. 

There is a shorter explanation for this alt-right placation: "Racism works for me, thanks. Just don't call me a racist."

You see, “racist” has taken on the connotation of the vulgar and ugly, and no one wants to be so linked. It’s so unsophisticated, so impolite.

Better to believe things just happen for certain groups, as if by osmosis, an inherent abundance or lack of fill-in-the-blank –  intellect, talent, ethic, breeding, looks, charm or so on.

And never mention any type of unspoken edge or “privilege.” That would assume some mindfully requested advantage, as opposed to self-determination (see above fill-in-the-blank).

Chris Rock famously pointed out back in 1999 that when it gets down to it, average white people wouldn’t want to change places with even rich black people. They’d prefer things as they are, with some folks on top. Since most of those on top look alike, that must be the natural order of things, goes the thinking.

In Jefferson’s day, it was understood that only white (Anglo-Saxon, if you please) men counted when it came to possessing power, and those who gathered in Charlottesville deeply hold that conviction. They were determined to exercise it on behalf of all white people, even those who are content to blithely enjoy the fruits of their racist labor.

So they swathed themselves in symbolism to demonstrate their contempt for anything other than what truth they hold to be self-evident. Like those Confederates before them, they stood in open rebellion to the values of the United States of America. Like the Nazis who stood in open rebellion to the world, seeking to divide and conquer.

Both are textbook definitions for enemies of the state. So are terrorists, except when those doing the terrorizing are white. Then, heinous misdeeds seem to find new nomenclature.

That split view wasn’t lost on those rally participants, declaring they were just there to defend against affronts to “white heritage.” 

Brandishing Nazi swastikas is a harder sell. There’s little that could be less patriotic, something pointed out vigorously by a range of people across the political spectrum, from U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, all more forcefully than the U.S. president.

It took this president two passes to address Charlottesville, the second landing 48 hours after the carnage and only slightly stronger than the first. Both came couched amid braggadocio regarding plans for the U.S. economy. To borrow from his vocabulary, “Sad!”

The president's party succinctly says what he couldn't manage
It confirmed what many suspected, even feared, with his election. There’s no evidence that he’s an ardent alt-right follower, though key administration figures such as Stephen K. Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller and others are near-celebrities in such circles.

But he’s clearly an opportunist, and the ways of this president bring
a heavy moral baggage that left unchecked will translate into more wink-nods of tacit consent to those wailing to “take their country back” – by any means necessary, including more American bloodshed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why ending hunger deserves your attention

In the midst of my typical morning routine, it hit. Slammed, actually.
That urgent growl rising deeply, rumbling and stabbing my stomach. That normal, albeit painful, signal letting me know I was empty and it’s time to eat. But upon deeper reflection, I realized I can’t call it hunger. Momentary discomfort, even a little listlessness, sure. But not true hunger

Hunger is a near-insatiable sensation wracking your entire body, beginning with your brain flashing messages of despair, crying on behalf of your weakened state, due to missing energy-inducing nutrients. It’s a yearning for the luscious delights of food, dreams held but rarely realized. 

Hunger is an all-too familiar feeling around the world and eight American aid agencies are drilling down on this fact, focusing attention on a famine set to engulf some 20 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. 

Courtesy: Global Emergency Response
The Global Emergency Response initiative is admirable in its scope and purpose. Rather than wrangle for the spotlight or individual dollar donations, these known NGOs – CARE, World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam America, Mercy Corps, Plan International, International Medical Corps and Rescue – are banding together to direct resources to this cause. 

In rallying Americans, and the world, they hope to effort to avert a horrible humanitarian crisis. And death by starvation among enough people to populate Canada is a looming crisis. And an avoidable one. 

This African-centered effort pinpoints one type of hunger in the world. But others just as horrific continue to unfold around us daily, as millions are displaced due to ongoing conflicts, both man made and natural. The devastation in Syria and the Middle East and the ongoing attempts to restore normalcy inHaiti are but two blaring examples. There, you have a hunger for food as well as a hunger for home, for safety and love. 

Stories of those struggling to survive – from treacherous seas to suspicious new neighbors in foreign lands – can break your heart, if you take the time to listen, to watch. Likely, that’s why many prefer the bliss of ignorance. Sometimes, the mind can only take but so much pain. Escapism is easier.

My escapes often are in the kitchen, as I relish the joys of food, both cooking and eating. The colors, textures, flavors and aromas long drew me toward pots, pans and plates, and continue to entice me there when life gets stressful, evident by my Instagram feed

Being without those comforts, both physical and emotional, is nearly unfathomable for a foodie like myself. Yet, that’s the reality for many, including millions of children. And the honest among us recognize that some of those kids and families are just a few doors down. 

Yes, the majority of Americans are “food secure,” meaning we have enough to supply basic meals. Still, hunger among our neighbors is one of our most oft-ignored facts. Some 1 in 8 Pennsylvanians don’t have enough food to eat, according to Feeding America’s latest tallies. In Philly, that number is closer to 1 in 5.  

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports there are 15.8 million “food insecure” households

Despite this down news, the up note is those numbers have been dropping, largely due to new policies and increasing philanthropy. Due to people like you. 

It’s the sort of infectious spirit we can stand to increase. 


There’s a food bank waiting for your drop off. A web site deserving of your clicked donation. A lawmaker’s office needing to hear your voice. Together, we can defeat hunger, in our neighborhoods and in the world. 

So let’s do this.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

DVR Alert: Latest media appearance

If you missed your friendly-neighborhood browngirl's one-day hit June 27 on WURD Radio, subbing for Steph Renee on the Midday MOJO, never fear! You can catch your favorite Philly pundit on 6abc-TV's Inside Story today at 11:30 a.m.

(L-R) G. Terry Madonna, the author, Tamala Edwards,
Sam Katz and Val DiGiorgio weigh in on the world.
Of course, if you're not in front of the TV or the DVR didn't record, you may yet be saved! On Tuesday, you should be able to retrieve the episode online here

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The face of privilege in America

There was a time that “kid” applied to a child who was not yet a legal adult, someone between the post-infant ages of 2 and 17. So it’s fairly perplexing to consider a 39-year-old man as a “kid.”

Or a 30-year-old man. 

Or even an 18-year-old, for that matter.

Then again, there tend to be convenient exceptions when reconciling poor judgment or criminal behavior.

Be wealthy, say, Donald Trump Jr., and flagrant actions that could be considered treasonous are tossed off as “mistakes” by a “nice young man,” a “good kid.” 

Be motivated, say, Edward Snowden, and impertinent activities may be considered “patriotic.”

Be sheltered, say, Brock Turner, and “20 minutes of actions” can be dismissed as a youthful yearning to “fit in.”

We claim to frown upon selling out your country or raping our women. But those standards clearly don’t apply across the board.  Our society can – and does, routinely – excuse the activities of those whom we value, even if those activities are antithetical to principles we have codified. 

Faces of American privilege (l.-r.):
 Donald J. Trump Jr., Edward Snowden and Brock Turner

Articles I and III of the U.S. Constitution give specific references and definitions for federal crimes, as outlined by the Founding Fathers – piracy, counterfeiting and treason. Given such prominent positioning, one could extrapolate that in the minds of the nation’s original framers, theft, even murder (which they got to in 1790), were considered of lesser gravity to the health of the republic than the other aforementioned infractions.

A traitor, then, would be deemed worst than a killer – or drug pusher – following Constitutional originalist theory, often attributed to conservative jurists such as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia,  Self-proclaimed political conservatives love to extol the views of these jurists. And traitors certainly wouldn’t qualify as people grinding to “Make America Great Again.” That may be why the unfolding case of Trump Jr. is marked as “a Democratic witch hunt.” The recriminations might make your head spin. In short: Nothing to see here!

Switch to Snowden, the infamous former National Security Agency contractor who leaked confidential cables casting the Obama Administration in a poor light, and find conservatives hailing him as a “patriot.” Ditto some liberals. The Kremlin extended his asylum last January through 2020, because of uncertainty about how the new administration would handle him. But these mink-cozy Russian relations fostered by the current president could mean an even earlier, jail-free return for Snowden.

When Turner’s father wrote to the judge presiding over his rape case and pleaded with him to release his son on probation, he argued that jail time would be too harsh for “20 minutes of action.” His mother sent her own save-my-tender-son letter, conveniently failing to acknowledge the Stanford swimmer’s arrest or disturbing behavior that predated the sexual assault charges. While his crimes could have landed Turner a 14-year sentence – or at least two years, according to minimum statutory requirements, Judge Aaron Persky defended his decision to release Turner after a six month stint in jail. After all, he did tack on three years of probation.

Yay, justice for all.

Except for average black boys in school, or walking down the street. They are instantly suspected of something, even if they demonstrate identical – and unpunished – actions of their white peers. Black boys as young as 10 are seen as “men” in the eyes of too many police officers. Teachers reflect the same biases, except the age of perceived guilt among black and brown boys drops to preschool level.

See, being privileged in America has many meanings. Being allowed to be a “kid” who “made a mistake” is one. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Verdict in Philando Castile slaying presents more heartache, cynicism and anger

Mid-week, America approved a $100 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, home to most of the 9/11 hijackers who visited the worst terrorist horror on our country in its history. During his recent state visit there, the current president assured Arabian leaders that the United States would no longer seek to impose our values on them, trifle matters like improving human rights records.

Instead, the new policy would focus on making deals and boosting “partnership.”

By Friday, this administration rescinded moves by President Obama to help normalize relations with Cuba. Citing “infringement on freedoms,” the current president attacked both Obama’s leadership and that of Cuba, and asserted that American values would reign again. 

Because America values human life and human rights. Except when black people enter the picture.

Philando Castile's life mattered.
Courtesy: Facebook

You see, later the same day, a Minnesota jury acquitted Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, the man who shot and killed Philando Castile in his own car last August. He was killed right beside his girlfriend as his 4-year-old daughter watched from the backseat, terrified.

Yanez wasn’t even being tried on murder charges; he faced manslaughter and endangering innocents.

He was cleared of it all.

By now, the shock and anger shouldn’t arise, right? Castile was only a black man, and our history shows black humanity remains a point of question, particularly when there’s an interaction with law enforcement. And it’s certainly difficult to see any justice arising in this verdict.

Licensed with a concealed carry permit, Castile had the temerity to tell Yanez that and he had a gun. Because not to tell the officer would, you know, be irresponsible. It’d cause him to risk posing an undisclosed threat and possible grounds to get shot.

So of course, Castile was shot anyway. While  trying to put up his hands. Demonstrating he posed no threat.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, had the presence of mind to jump onto Facebook to live stream what unfolded after he was shot. All the while, she worked to comfort their daughter, who watched a man armed by the state shoot into their car and kill her father for no apparent reason. She wanted to document an atrocity she saw happening.

Meanwhile, Yanez seemed to take his time in calling for help. Castile, the elementary school food service worker beloved by children, co-workers and family alike, bled out.

If you were waiting for the ever-boisterous NRA to file an amicus brief or even denounce this killing, you’re clearly still waiting – as are some of its members. The Minnesota jury didn’t focus on Castile’s standing under the Second Amendment, either.

Instead, jurors chose to fixate on the fact that Castile had smoked marijuana that night, the rationale Yanez gave for declaring his actions justified. The fact that white people with guns approach  police AND return home unharmed mattered not here.

Yanez wasn’t too moved by Castile’s humanity in the moment, nor the lifelong scars he’d inflict on Reynolds or her pre-school daughter. But in court, he was moved to tears as he described the incident, and made sure to demonstrate the sentiment so often cited by police officers questioned for killing black people – fearing for his life.

Because whenever a police officer in this country encounters a black person – male or female – there seems to be instantaneous fear, and quite often, acquittals, no matter the circumstances or even video caught by body cams or bystanders. 


Because juries empathize with them, that these officers feared for their lives.

There’s seldom such empathy for those who are terrorized by experiencing or hearing about such events, time and again. That’s despite the fact that America proclaims itself completely and totally vested in preserving human rights. 

Americans shake their heads when they read stories about destruction-bent suicide jihadists who want to inflict pain on others. So many fail to imagine a rage that would drive someone to such a desperate and despicable act.

Living as a black person in America could give you a glimpse into that level of despair. Guess that’s why our sense of patriotism often feels tenuous, especially when any passion we have for our nation of birth seems unrequited, at best. 


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Terror unfolds in Virginia, upon Congress

The pop of a gun is an all-too-frequent sound in America's cities, of all sizes, especially when the weather warms. But lawmakers and their staff had no expectation that such a sound would ring in their ears not too long after daybreak on a baseball diamond in a tony part of Alexandria, Va.

COURTESY: FOX News
But such a horror did visit upon U.S. representatives, senators and staffers, largely Republicans -- some of them longtime proponents of gun ownership under almost any circumstance. Democratic colleagues, also practicing on another field for the annual charity baseball showdown, grasped each other in prayer after getting the word.

Congress shut down for the day.

Today, people in the heart of power experienced the trauma that many children and young people witness and too often experience: an unexplained madman with a powerful weapon bent on delivering destruction and shattering any sense of security.

No matter their politics or bluster, public or private, the victims today did not deserve this experience. Their families did not deserve the uncertainty, the sheer terror and teeming tears after receiving news that gunfire erupted and their loved ones may not make it home. Their zip codes, income level or acquaintances should not make them, or anyone, targets.

Yet, so many unwittingly fall into such crosshairs. Now more members of the U.S. Congress intimately understand that, ferociously.

James T. Hodgkinson, an apparently embittered 66-year-old Illinois man, chose to take up residence in Alexandria, seemingly to use his guns to make an example of lawmakers he deemed as having sold out his American Dream for the highest bidder.

Hodgkinson was not a person of color. He was not Muslim. He was not an immigrant. He was not young. He was not any of the things Americans have been whipped to fear and hate in recent years.

Instead, he was economically hurting and desperate. He was a Bernie Sanders for President supporter, thinking his radial change would be the only thing that would save the nation. And what Hodgkinson saw happening under the current administration incensed and scared him. Enough so he traveled to Virginia, lived out of a gym bag for months, plotted revenge and chose to die in the process of exacting it.

His actions are not unlike the narratives we hear about suicidal jihadists. It would be equally crazy to simply dismiss this most recent incident as a mere aberration. It's time to look more deeply.
Fellow lawmakers say a prayer for the fallen in Alexandria, Va.
COURTESY: Twitter

We could all stand to abandon left-wing/right-wing castigation for actual conversation with others of opposing views. There is no honor among those who have jumped on social media to praise today's action as some sort of worthy comeuppance. There should be no delight in seeing this perpetrator as "evidence" against a set of beliefs. What should be unquestioned is that a searing tragedy occurred, and stands to reoccur without putting serious thought into what created the conditions for such a violent outburst.

Perhaps our lawmakers will hold onto that more closely moving forward, as they deliberate legislation and policies that impact our lives. Rather than assuming "us-vs.-them" stances, settling for win-at-all-costs gamesmanship, pray they will reflect on and remember their feelings at this moment.

U.S. Capitol Police Officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner took bullets as they battled Hodgkinson on that baseball field, likely saving countless others.

Mike Mika, a Tyson Foods lobbyist, suffered extraordinary bullet wounds to his chest and lungs.

Zach Barth, who staffs U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), was struck.

U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.

The nation is appalled by this latest public expression of violence, though we've been here too many times, as witnesses and survivors from almost every corner of the country can attest.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords knows this pain, as does her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly.

So do the members of Mothers in Charge, an organization of bereaved parents who lost children to gun violence.

And do the parents of Sandy Hook, Conn., who continue to grieve their babies, nearly five years after a murderer stormed in and slaughtered 6- and 7-year-olds and their teachers.

Across this nation, there are a scores of families of every shape, make and color who have been impacted by gun violence, who are still hurting, still working through the trauma.

Maybe today will begin a new era of compassion for them, for the circumstances that led to their pain. Maybe then, we can actually move toward real healing. As one nation, under God. .

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sweet irony, presented by Wal-Mart and the U.S. Congress

Wal-Mart recently unveiled both a solution and a problem wrapped in one neatly bio-engineered package: the Sweet Spark cantaloupe. This latest produce entry symbolizes so much of what is perilous for those without means or say in this nation today.
Even by the company’s admission, historically, winter cantaloupe in its U.S. stores tastes terrible. Perhaps it never struck anyone that may be because it's winter cantaloupe. Cantaloupes here are summer fruit, as nature intended it. Generally speaking, anything grown outside its designated season will taste terrible. Wal-Mart had other ideas.

As the world’s largest retailer – and sizable grocery chain, too – it has proudly produced a franken-fruit that is up to 40 percent sweeter than its previous cantaloupe varieties. Even Amazon Fresh hasn’t stretched that far, yet.

While U.S. society is promoting greater consumption of fruits and vegetables to help ward off ailments such as type 2 diabetes, Wal-Mart introduces a “natural” product that may help spike such diagnoses. Normal cantaloupe already outpaces other melons in sugar content; with this new confection, the unwitting could face some serious issues. Fruit as a gateway drug.

Maybe that’s a built-in incentive. Wal-Mart may yet catapult past Walgreens and CVS to finally become the nation’s biggest pharmacy chain, too.  After all, diabetes drug and treatment sales are soaring.

A disproportionate share of those with the disease are working class people struggling to make it. Coincidentally, so is Wal-Mart’s clientele. Funny how that works out.

But those shoppers  likely will be joined by a new ones soon, courtesy of a GOP-dominated Congress that continues to look at how to trample the protections of the Affordable Care Act. Particularly troubling is their tinkering with provisions that may force people with pre-existing conditions to pay even more for healthcare. While the current U.S. president is trying to duck the atrocity produced by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate is speeding ahead with the American Health Care Act.  That’s even as many senators, Republicans included, don’t know what’s in the bill or how much it will cost. New legislation regulating costs for pre-existing conditions and more could pass before the summer recess.

Conservatives contend the hoo-ha about pre-existing conditions is overblown, that only a “fraction of a fraction” of the population will be impacted. The Kaiser Family Foundation tallies say it’s more like 1 in 4 Americans who bear that designation, as defined in the pre-ACA/Obamacare days. But let’s not quibble over mere numbers or lives.

With jacked up insurance rates on the horizon, people with acne or arthritis, fibromyalgia or female body parts, or any of a host of other “pre-existing conditions” soon may be swapping runs to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for those to Wal-Mart.

And since their health status already would have wrecked their insurance rates, picking up some type 2 diabetes-encouraging fruit while browsing beneath that big yellow smiley face could just add to the joy. 

Would you like that in paper or plastic, ma’am?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trump climate rejection condemns America, poor, to post-apocalyptic future

The slavish submission to Luddite-like actions of the current occupant of the White House are more than disconcerting as we head toward a certain global isolation, now having shunned the Paris Climate Accord.

He’s been blathering and blurting about “Making America Great Again,” that he’s standing by his voters and means well by this country, in an “I did-it-for-the-kids” fashion.

By “kids,” in this instance, we’d be referring to those still clinging to the faltering notion that coal-based industries will come roaring back thanks to the current American president basically screaming “Screw you!” to leaders throughout the world, from CEOs to European presidents and prime ministers to environmental advocates to American governors and mayors.  

Those “kids” would be Trump voters desperate in the notion that no one cares about their concerns as a fading worker fighting to retain a place and dignity amid an industry that suffered massive disruption, faces certain change and is rapidly winding down. Their concerns are legitimate and deserve real answers, not faux policy, particularly in light of the fact that natural gas, more so than liberal-loved windmills, is on deck to replace coal permanently.

Shirking a comprehensive and elegant solution such as meaningful job retraining, where innovative pilots like shifting miners to computer coders are proving successful, this POTUS opts for antics. We get proclamations about job loss across sectors and he dragged out his decision for days, though nearly everyone knew this would be his big play, despite the cajoling and convincing campaign of movers and shakers worldwide. Perhaps another ratings ploy.

It’s even more disheartening that this man who claims to so love his family has no compunction about sentencing his grandchildren – hell, his own young son, Barron – to a world of diminished health, increased disease and amplified human misery. That’s what you get when you have rising sea waters, pollution-choked skies and disappearing ocean life. We’re already witnessing increasing climate refugees as nation-states are slowly being consumed by water. American ones are following, as are cities facing mounting costs to combat the tides that cometh. New Orleans? Miami? New York? Anyone?

With all the conspiracy chatter in the air, it’d be easy to lump this move into another instance of alleged collusion by this president with Russian leaders and their anti-environmentalism stances. After all, Russia loves big pipelines with all the power and dollars they deliver. But even the Kremlin got aboard the Progress Train from Paris. Not our current POTUS, though.

The man who screams about America’s leadership in the world chose to turn tail and join the ranks of such visionary thinkers as Syria and Nicaragua – the only other two nations that snubbed the accords. Even kooky and calamitous Kim Jung-Un signed up North Korea for the landmark global pact for humanity.

Accord signatories recognize “the need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge.”

President Obama was one of those signatories. Therein lies the ultimate cherry on top of Trump’s latest disruptive drama.

His constant gasps for greatness seem to always circle back to a White House whiteboard edict: reverse anything Obama was for. It’s sadly predictable, reflexive and compulsory, apparently. Reason be damned.

God help us all.