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TBR Staff

TBR Staff
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TBR News Media covers everything happening on the North Shore of Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River.

Johnny Cuomo sings to a group of children at the 2013 Middle County Public Library Apple Festival in Centereach. Photo by Kristin Cuomo

By Sue Wahlert

It’s quite possible that Mount Sinai’s Johnny Cuomo lives, breathes and sleeps music. Added to his life’s obsession are his love of cultures, nature, children and storytelling. He is a multidimensional music man who is lovingly known to many as “Mr. C.” As he says in his online introduction video, he is “deeply connected with nature, music, children and stories for children.”

However, there is even more to Cuomo than his guitar or his penny whistle.  There is a wisdom that lives within him.  It is a culmination of family vacations to the National Parks, his time spent volunteering on Indian Reservations in California and backpacking and studying abroad in Ireland, his dedication to religion and his need to make music. With all of this information, he has made it his life’s work to share his knowledge with children and adults through his musical storytelling profession and his performances in Irish Pubs.

At a very young age, Cuomo’s Stony Brook family began laying the groundwork for the man he has become.

“My parents had me interested in wolves, birds and bears,” said Cuomo. In college, Cuomo discovered the world of bird watching and is now an avid watcher. He uses his knowledge to incorporates tales of birds into some of his early childhood education programs.

Because Cuomo was exposed to history at a very young age, he was open to the experiences of volunteering at the Vieajas and Barona Indian Reservations in San Diego. “At night I would hang out with the elders. This enabled me to learn about their cultures and share my culture,” reflected Cuomo. This was also the first time Cuomo had the opportunity to work with children. “It solidified my love of working with children,” he said.

Cuomo’s love of Irish music was ignited during the two months he spent backpacking in Ireland, where he carried his belongings and a guitar. “I wanted to learn stories, music and history of the Irish,” he said. Upon returning home, he knew he had to go back, but this time would be via a study abroad program.  During his eight months of study, Cuomo learned to play the tin whistle, banjo and mandolin, and began performing Irish music.

In the late 1990s, Cuomo formed the popular Irish band, Gallowglass. Although they are no longer together, the musicians sometimes collaborate.  Currently you can see Cuomo on most Sunday nights performing Irish music at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on 2nd Ave. in New York City.

Cuomo understands the vital importance of music in the life of children and adults. He offers private instruction and also has a wide range of children’s programs for Preschoolers through 12th grade. For more than seven years, Cuomo has been doing a weekly music program at the Chatterbox Day School in East Islip.

Director Lindsay Parker said of Cuomo, “The children look forward to their weekly music classes with “Mr. C.” They are fun, creative and exciting. Johnny brings a new dimension to children’s music that is rare to find!”
You might also find Cuomo on stage at the outdoor classroom at Play Groups School in East Setauket, strumming on his guitar while the preschoolers act out musical stories as they sing and dance.  Educational Director Maddy Friedman applauds Cuomo, saying “he is an exceptional music educator who brings his joy and love of music to our school.” Cuomo is scheduled to perform at the school’s annual May Fair on May 30.

Since 2000, Cuomo has also shared his talents at the Comprehensive Kids Developmental School, a public, special needs preschool on the lower east side of Manhattan. The opportunity to work with the special needs population has impressed upon Cuomo the importance of therapeutic music. “I can reach these kids with my music,” said Cuomo. “I have a special drum I use, where they can feel the vibration, and also a whistle, so they can feel the air move. It is a gift to be able to work with these kids.” Annemarie Fuschetti, the school’s former psychologist, said of Cuomo, “Everyone lights up when Johnny comes. Even those with the most difficult behaviors.”

One might wonder how one person can do all of this? Cuomo laughed as he said, “I have a number of part-time jobs that add up to more than a full-time job. I have traded sleep for time with my family.” His two boys, Johnny, 7, and Paul, 6, are also music lovers and have been to hundreds of their father’s gigs.  Recently, Cuomo was invited to play at Walt Disney World with a group of fellow Irish musicians. Fortunately his wife and sons were invited to be part of this journey, to experience the park and see Cuomo play an Irish music and dance show at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Downtown Disney.

More recently, Cuomo signed with manager Jean Marie Keevins of Little Shadow Productions. Keevins will serve as a liaison to other writers and companies with whom Cuomo might be able to collaborate and sell his original ideas to. The professional arena is wide open, from books to theater to animation. It is an exciting time for the artist.

Additionally, Cuomo is excited to be heading off to Alaska this July for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, where he will be teaching workshops and playing concerts focused on traditional Irish and American Folk music.

To top it off, the never weary Cuomo and his wife Kristin will be running their weeklong summer program, “Birds of a Feather Nature Camp.” Based out of the Setauket Neighborhood House, they have been running this outdoor program for more than 13 years. “We want to get kids to go outside and observe all that is here locally. It is an opportunity to see what’s in your backyard,” said Cuomo. The camp combines music, nature, crafts and hiking, all of which encourage kids to connect with nature and music.

Check out Cuomo’s website at www.johnnycuomo.com to learn more about his programs, listen to some of his CDs and check on upcoming shows. Any time spent with Cuomo is a time to remember, as his stories and music live on in the minds and hearts of many.

Lights out
Two men from Stony Brook were arrested in Stony Brook on April 13 and charged with first-degree burglary, using a dangerous instrument. According to police, the men, one a 23-year-old, and another, a 17-year-old, entered an Old Town Road home on March 29 at about 3 a.m., struck someone in the home in the head with a handgun and took money.

Lost time
A Stony Brook man reported to police on April 16 that his Rolex watch was stolen from Blueberry Lane in Stony Brook, sometime between Feb. 18 and Feb. 21. No arrests have been made.

Hospital heist
A woman reported to police on April 14 at about 1 p.m. that items were stolen from her purse while she was at Stony Brook University Hospital’s recovery room. No arrests have been made, and police couldn’t tell what was taken from the bag.

Nail [salon] cracked
Someone broke the glass door of Pro Nails on Main Street in Setauket-East Setauket and stole cash from the register, sometime around 7:30 p.m. on April 16.

Wallet woes
Police said a Poquott man reported that someone stole items from his wallet, which was left in a car that was unlocked and parked in the driveway of his Birchwood Avenue home. The incident was reported on April 16 at 9 p.m.

Feeling hot, hot, hot
Police said two men fled Walmart on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket on March 15 at about 6:35 p.m. with lighters and condoms. They were confronted at the door and told staff they didn’t take anything. They fled on foot.

The Bicycle Thief
A bike was stolen from a Terryville Road residence in Port Jefferson Station on April 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Pocketed
An unknown person stole a purse from inside a Piedmont Drive home in Port Jefferson Station between April 17 and 19.

How charming
Two males got into an argument at a Charm City Drive residence in Port Jefferson Station on April 17. According to police, one of the men hit the other with a closed fist. It is unclear if the victim needed medical attention. No arrests have been made.

Missing
A wallet was stolen from a 2008 Volkswagen Jetta parked at Danfords Hotel & Marina on April 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Played
An unknown person stole a PlayStation and game from a North Country Road residence in Port Jefferson on April 14 between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Still snowing?
An unknown person stole a snowblower from Agway in Mount Sinai at some point between April 18 and 19. According to police, the individual prised open a locked shed and removed the blower.

Sounding off
Two friends got into a spat on April 15 on Hallock Landing Road in Sound Beach. One man pushed the other.

Pod and pills
An unknown person stole an iPod and prescription pills from a 2010 Hyundai parked on Block Island Drive in Sound Beach on April 13 between 1:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Double the larceny
A 31-year-old Sound Beach man was arrested on April 14 on two petit larceny charges stemming from incidents in October and on Feb. 21 when he stole items from stores on the South Shore.

Rocking and rolling
An unknown person threw a rock at a truck’s windshield while it was parked on King Road in Rocky Point on April 18.

Cashing in
Cash, a cell phone and a debit card were stolen from a home on Broadway in Rocky Point at around 4 a.m. on April 15.

Moving you forward … to jail
A 28-year-old Bayport man was arrested in Centereach for criminal mischief after he damaged the windshield on a 2009 Toyota on April 19.

Binge watching
An unknown female left the Centereach Walmart on April 17 without paying for a flat screen television.

In a cell
Police arrested a 26-year-old man from Centereach on child pornography charges. According to police the man, who was arrested at his home on April 17, had the images on his cellphone.

Screen scene
A residence on Choate Avenue in Selden reported a screen had been damaged on April 19.

Wrecked
A 47-year-old female from Middle Island was arrested in Selden for leaving the scene of an incident. According to police, on April 17 at 11:05 p.m., while operating a 2010 Chevy, the woman was involved in a crash at Hawkins and Wireless roads. She then fled the scene.

Directions?
A GPS was among items stolen from a vehicle parked in a driveway on Glenwood Avenue in Miller Place on April 14 at approximately 6 p.m. A day earlier, personal papers were stolen from a Jeep parked on the same street.

Wrong department
Police arrested a 35-year-old Port Jefferson man on April 15 and charged him with second-degree harassment after he attempted to return stolen merchandise to Sears on Route 347. After employees questioned the man, he became belligerent, pushed a store manager and ran out of the store. He was arrested around noon.

Slap ‘n pepper
A 21-year-old from St. James was arrested in the Village of the Branch on April 17 and charged with second-degree harassment, physical contact. Police said he sprayed pepper spray into the face of another person on East Main Street at about 6:37 p.m. that day. He also slapped the victim in the face during a verbal argument. Police said the victim required medical attention.

Double-team punch
Two men were charged with second-degree harassment, physical contact, and arrested on April 13 in Smithtown. Police said a 32-year-old from Pikeville and a 31-year-old from Ocala were both charged with punching someone in the head on West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown at about 11 p.m. that day.

Stolen jewels
A West Main Street jewelry store in Smithtown was burglarized on April 13 at about 2:12 a.m., police said. The front door was smashed and assorted jewelry was taken from L.I. Gold Mine, according to police.

Wiped out
A 55-year-old man from Smithtown was arrested in Smithtown on April 15 and charged with criminal mischief with intent to damage property. Police said that at about 9:15 a.m. that day he broke off the driver side windshield wiper arm of someone’s red Chevrolet Impala on Route 111 in Smithtown. He was arrested on Plaisted Avenue in Smithtown that day.

Assaulter caught
A 23-year-old Commack woman was arrested in Smithtown on April 13 and charged with assault with criminal negligence, causing injury with a weapon. Police said she punched a female in the head after an argument over prior issues on April 6 at 11:43 p.m., causing the woman to have a fractured nose. The incident occurred on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, and the Commack woman was arrested at the precinct.

Package taken
Someone stole a package from an office building on West Jericho Turnpike at about 2 p.m. on April 13. The package included an employee’s credit card, which police said was later used.

Checks nabbed
Someone stole business checks from a car dealership on Middle Country Road in Nesconset and forged signatures on them. The incident was reported on April 18 and occurred sometime around 9 a.m. on Feb. 11.

Car break-in
Items from a 2012 Honda CRV parked at a 4th Avenue home in Kings Park were taken April 18. Police said an unknown person damaged the driver-side window and took a book bag, cash, credit card and driver’s license.

Identity stolen
A Saint James resident of Lake Avenue told police on April 18 that an unknown person used his identity to withdraw money from the bank on Jan. 26 at about 9 a.m.

Brutal beating
A 50-year-old St. James man and a 53-year-old Huntington man were arrested in Huntington on April 20 and charged with third-degree assault, with intent to cause physical injury. Police said the two grabbed a male victim and punched him in the face. The victim suffered a concussion, a broken nose and required stitches. The 50-year-old man was arrested on Stewart Avenue in Huntington, the 53-year-old was arrested on O’Hara Place in Huntington.

Knife threat
Police said a 16-year-old from Huntington Station was arrested in Huntington on April 17 and charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, with intent to use it. Police said he got into an argument with a male on West Pulaski Road in Huntington Station on April 17 at about 9:20 p.m. and threatened the person with a knife.

Toothbrush, baby formula stolen
A 34-year-old Mastic Beach man was arrested in Huntington and charged with petit larceny on April 14. Police said the man entered a Rite Aid on West Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station at about 8:03 p.m. on that day and took an electric toothbrush, replacement heads and baby formula.

Not-so-slick liquor thieves
Two women entered Angelina Liquors on Broadway in Huntington on April 20 and stole two bottles of liquor. Store staff told police the females went to the rear of the store and removed a bottle of tequila and went to another aisle and took a bottle of vodka.

Green Street punch
Someone was punched in the face in a parking lot on Green Street on April 19 at about 3 a.m. There are no arrests.

Beauty dash
Someone entered Sally Beauty Supply on New York Avenue in Huntington and fled with five assorted beauty items on April 16 at about 10:35 a.m.

Exclusive cream stolen
A woman pocketed a skin cream on display at L’Amour Spa on Fort Salonga Road in Northport on April 14 at 1:55 p.m. The product was an in-store trial-only sample.

Mowed down
An East Northport woman told police on April 13 that someone drove onto her 5th Avenue front lawn, causing damage sometime on April 12 at 11 p.m. There are no arrests.

Fill ’er up
A Cold Spring Harbor man told police he found his 2011 Chevrolet’s gas tank filled with salt. The incident occurred sometime at midnight on April 15 and the car was parked on Harbor Road.

Gold chain, meds stolen
A Centerport man told police he want for a walk on April 16 between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and didn’t lock the door to his Washington Drive home. Someone came in and stole a gold chain and medicine.

By Rita J. Egan

With the inventions of camera phones and social media, capturing the image of family members and friends is easier than ever. Even taking a photo of oneself is as simple as a quick click with a smartphone. Today’s version of the self-portrait, the selfie, has become so popular, reality television star Kim Kardashian has dedicated her soon-to-be released book, “Selfish,” to the art form, and last year the electric dance music DJ duo The Chainsmokers released their song “#Selfie.”

However, before social media and the Kardashians, even prior to the creation of the camera, artists have preserved the images of their fellow human beings and themselves for centuries. To celebrate the art of creating portraits, The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington offers two new portraiture exhibits starting April 25 — Before Selfies: Portraiture through the Ages and Poised Poses: Portraits from the August Heckscher Collection.

‘Self Portrait in Cape,‘ 1934, Heckscher Museum of Art, Gift of Audrey Webster. by Stokely Webster
‘Self Portrait in Cape,‘ 1934, Heckscher Museum of Art, Gift of Audrey Webster. by Stokely Webster

Lisa Chalif, museum curator, said it’s the perfect time for portraiture exhibits in this age of the selfie. “With the increasing use of social media, selfies stick in the news all the time. It’s so visible now, that it seems it sort of lends itself naturally to taking a look at portraiture historically. Before the age of your cell phone and the selfie, how did you get the likeness of yourself? Before the advent of photography really, how did you preserve your likeness?”

The Before Selfies exhibit, which includes both portraits and self-portraits donated by various individuals to the museum throughout the years, features approximately four dozen pieces by artists such as Thomas Anshutz, William Merritt Chase, Henri Matisse and 19th-century Long Island painter William Sidney Mount. Chalif said most of the portraits are from the 16th through 20th centuries with a few pieces from this century, and the pieces include oil paintings, pen and ink drawings on paper, chromogenic prints, bronze and marble sculptures as well as other mediums.

The curator said the exhibit not only focuses on the artists’ depictions of family, friends, public figures and character types but also takes a look at themes such as changing concepts of beauty and different approaches to depicting male and female subjects depending on underlying gender roles.

The Poised Poses: Portraits from the August Heckscher Collection exhibit complements the Before Selfies exhibit and features paintings from the museum founder’s private collection, which he donated in 1920.

Chalif said Heckscher had an extensive collection of historical European portraiture. The oil paintings on canvas and wood panels on display at the exhibit are by artists such as Sir William Beechey, George Romney, Antoine Vollon, Nicholas de Largilliere and Franz Wolfgang Rohrich.

When it comes to what she hopes visitors will learn from the exhibits, Chalif said, “A larger understanding of the portrait, of saving your appearance. What are you conveying when you are snapping a selfie, and how does that differ from historical portraiture? Just a larger sense of how to read a portrait, what does it convey beyond what somebody looked like? What can I learn about a period of history or the history of fashion? Just all the different ways that artists might convey something, information beyond somebody’s appearance.”

In honor of the museum’s two portraiture exhibits, there will be a selfie station for visitors where they can create their own portraits. Guests are also encouraged to share their images from the station on Instagram and use the hashtags #hmaselfie and #heckschermuseum.

Before Selfies: Portraiture through the Ages runs from April 25 through Aug. 9, and Poised Poses: Portraits from the August Heckscher Collection runs from April 25 through Aug. 2. The Heckscher Museum of Art is located at 2 Prime Avenue in Huntington and is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-351-3250.

George Hoffman and Laurie Vetere overlook Setauket Harbor, which their new task force hopes to protect. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

Setauket Harbor has a new best friend.

To speak up for this system of bays and ponds, residents have created the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Before the group met at the Neighborhood House Tuesday night, cofounders Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman said the task force can improve water quality and increase accessibility for all who love Setauket’s wetlands.

Stuck between Stony Brook Harbor and Port Jefferson Harbor, Setauket Harbor is an “orphan” that could use some of the attention given to its neighbors, Hoffman said. Stony Brook’s strong harbor advisory committee and vocal boating community, and Port Jeff’s commerce and ferry navigation, ensure that those harbors stay in good shape, Hoffman said.

“And in Connecticut, every harbor has an advisory group,” he said. “We want to be out there to help our harbor.”

Setauket Pond is the first order of business, said Vetere, chairwoman of the task force, and Hoffman, a trustee on its board. This area next to the Se-Port Deli on Route 25A has seen better days.

A walk across the footbridge spanning the pond revealed a silt-choked catch basin below.

The basin is supposed to protect the harbor by filtering oil and trash from storm water road runoff, they said, but it’s no longer doing its job.

Vetere gestured to debris and fallen trees littering the water. If the task force can clean up the pond, Vetere said, “I want to see increased boating, kayaking, paddle boarding. Maybe creating a blueway trail that could be historic,” in recognition of George Washington’s colonial spies, who snuck in and out of the harbor with secrets.The task force has formed a not-for-profit corporation so it can apply for federal and state grants, Vetere and Hoffman said.

The group also wants to train volunteers to become “water guardians,” monitors who would test Setauket waters regularly for bacteria and nitrogen levels. They said they want volunteers for a “visioning committee” on the harbor’s future.

Hoffman and Vetere said the task force could use volunteers to help with a planned “Setauket Harbor Day.” Getting a state-issued permit to cut back the phragmites — a non-native species of tall reeds that has all but taken over the shoreline — is another priority, Hoffman said.

About 45 people gathered Tuesday night at the Setauket Neighborhood House to learn about the task force’s plans and to hear what speaker Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, shared about successful efforts to restore water quality and shellfish harvesting there.

Hempstead Harbor is a success story, Swenson said, because its protection committee is a collaborative effort between citizens, villages, towns, county government, and scientists.

Advising Three Villagers to network in similar fashion, Swenson said, “You’re not a harbor unto yourself.”
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were at the meeting.

“Know that I am an ally and I will continue to work towards us improving the harbor,” Cartright said.
Hoffman said the Setauket Harbor group hopes to meet several times a year. Their harbor has its challenges, he said, but “it’s not too late to fix this.”

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Martian water, in a lab. Maria-Paz Zorzano, of the Centro de Astrobiologia in Madrid, Spain, recreates the conditions in which perchlorate salts would melt water during the Martian summer night. Photo from Maria-Paz Zorzano

By Daniel Dunaief

It’s not exactly an oasis filled with unexplored life in the middle of a barren dessert. Rather, it is likely a small amount of liquid water that forms during the night and evaporates during the day. What makes this water so remarkable and enticing, however, is that, while it’s in our solar system, it is far, far away: about 225 million miles.

The rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in the summer of 2012 after a 253-day journey from Earth, has gathered weather data from the Gale Crater on the Red Planet for the last year. That data has suggested the likely presence of liquid water.

“The cool part of this is the present-day nature of it,” said Tim Glotch, an associate professor at the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University, who studies the role of water in shaping the surface of Mars. “It’s there right now.”

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station  on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. Photo from Maria-Paz Zorzano
The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. Photo from Maria-Paz Zorzano

The liquid water is in the form of brine, which is a mix of water and salts. The perchlorate salts on or near the surface of Mars melt the ice that forms during the cold parts of the Martian night. It’s similar, Glotch said, to the way salts melt black ice during a frigid Long Island evening.

Curiosity, which is about the size of a small car, can’t detect this liquid water because its electronics don’t operate during temperatures that plunge at night to around 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The findings, which were reported last week in the journal Nature Geosciences, have competing implications. For starters, said lead author Javier Martin-Torres, who works at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden and is a part of the Spanish Research Council in Spain and a member of Curiosity’s science team, the water is in one of the least likely places on Mars.

“We see evidence of conditions for brine in the worst-case scenario on Mars,” Martin-Torres said in a Skype interview last week from Sweden. “We are in the hottest and driest place on the planet. Because we know that perchlorates are all over the planet — which we have seen from satellite images — we think there must be brine everywhere.”

Given the radiation, temperature fluctuations and other atmospheric challenges, however, the conditions for life, even microorganisms, to survive in these small droplets of water are “terrible,” Martin-Torres said.

Still, the fact that “we see a water cycle, in the present atmosphere, is very exciting,” Martin-Torres said. “This has implications in meteorology.”

Deanne Rogers, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook, said the likelihood of water bound to perchlorate salts directly affects her own research.

“Something I work on is sulfate minerals on Mars,” she said. “They can take on water and get rid of them easily by exchanging water vapor with the atmosphere.” She may incorporate perchlorates into future grant proposals.

Briny water, Rogers said, may also explain the dark streaks that appear on Mars at mid and low latitudes. These streaks look like running water going down a slope.

“People try to explain what these are,” she said. “It can’t be pure liquid water. It might be perchlorates taking on water vapor and producing dark streaks.”

By landing on the planet and sending readings back to researchers, Curiosity and other land-based vehicles can offer firsthand evidence of environmental conditions.

“Direct measurements are way more precise than what we can do from orbit,” Rogers said.

In the first week after the paper came out, Martin-Torres said he spent about 85 percent of his work time talking to the media, scientists or people asking questions about his studies. He has also received more than 10 times the typical number of requests from prospective Ph.D. students who would like to work in his lab while scientists from around the world have reached out to form collaborations.

Rogers explained that students might react to this kind of discovery the same way she did to other data and images from Mars in the early stages of her career.

“When Pathfinder landed in 1997, I saw the beautiful, colorful panoramas in the newspaper,” she said. “That’s when I knew what I was going to do. I hope that kids feel the same way.”

Martin-Torres, who said he has already submitted additional research proposals based on this discovery, described the current era of Mars research as the “golden age of Mars exploration.”

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By Leah Dunaief

To negotiate or not to negotiate, that is the question. At least that is how our mealtime conversations in the last week started on the subject of a possible treaty with Iran. It is a polarizing issue, and almost everyone I’ve shared a meal with has had a strong opinion on the matter.

“Don’t trust them. They cannot be held to any agreement they sign. Are we listening to what Supreme Leader Khamenei is saying or do we think it’s all rhetoric to rally his right wing?”

“We should definitely negotiate with them and at least try to postpone the production of a bomb in that volatile part of the world. We’ll be able to know if they are reneging because we have satellites and Israel has spies all over the country,” is another perspective. “What harm can negotiations do?”

“What harm? What is it that brought the Iranians to the negotiation table to begin with? The economic sanctions are having a real effect on their country. They just want us to lift them and to achieve that, they will agree to anything for now,” comes the retort. And so the back-and-forth goes.

This time in our 21st century has been compared, rightly or wrongly, to Munich and the Neville Chamberlain agreement with Hitler over the fate of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Chamberlain was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1937-40, as Hitler was ramping up his aggression, and he desperately wanted to keep peace and stability within Europe. To that end, he is widely remembered for his attempt at appeasement of Hitler with the Munich Agreement that both men signed. Chamberlain had worked hard to get that treaty, traveling to Germany three times to meet with the dictator before bringing back that paper, along with the words, “peace for our time.” Although Czechoslovakia was effectively sacrificed in the deal, most of the British population, including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, were ecstatically happy that Chamberlain had brought at least the possibility of peace to them.

One who objected strenuously was, we know, Winston Churchill, who declared that England had been offered a choice between war and shame at Munich. She had chosen shame, he continued, and will get war.

Indeed, Churchill felt that by Chamberlain’s drift and surrender to Hitler’s territorial demands, the prime minister had almost fatally delayed the need for Britain to arm and to pull together European allies. Chamberlain had also seemed to Hitler as being weak. “Our enemies are small worms,” Hitler later scoffed. “I saw them at Munich.”

Peace is an almost universal yearning; only aggressors want war. Can we condemn Chamberlain for striving to guarantee peace — or President Obama for that matter? While the world stage is not exactly the same now as in 1938, we know that Iran has fueled proxy wars in an aggressive attempt to increase its power in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia had launched bombing missions to push back Iran, and the United States has moved ships off the Yemen coast in an attempt to thwart arms shipments getting into terrorists’ hands.

Overhanging the horror of slaughter and brutality is the real prospect that Iran is on the threshold of developing a game-changing atom bomb, much as Germany was during World War II.

When von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister, objected to the Munich Agreement that Hitler had signed, pledging no further hostilities once he annexed Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, Hitler responded with, “Oh don’t take it so seriously. That piece of paper is of no further significance whatever.” Now as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lays out the terms of a possible agreement from the negotiations, Khamenei has stopped short of endorsing them. When Chamberlain was admonished by Churchill to arm Britain in the face of coming war, the prime minister refused to do so wholeheartedly because he feared that Hitler would think he was walking away from the Munich accord.

Yes, let’s negotiate. And let’s remember the key to any successful pullback is President Ronald Reagan’s famous line: “Trust, but verify.”

Let’s also remember that we broke the back of the Soviet Union by winning an economic war, despite the fact that both sides had the bomb. The Iranians are at the negotiating table because the economic sanctions are hurting — or like Hitler, they are merely stalling for time. Finally, we have learned what Chamberlain did not: That a well-armed and advanced nation is the best deterrent to war.

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By Daniel Dunaief

In the course of a month, two events have occurred that, perhaps some time in the next several decades, may help people make that incredibly long journey to Mars.

First, Scott Kelly went up in space. OK, so, that’s not such a shocker. Kelly is an astronaut and that’s what astronauts do. What makes Kelly’s trip different, however, is that he plans to spend an entire year at the International Space Station, setting an American record for the longest time away from Earth.

Kelly’s identical twin Mark, a retired astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will of course spend that same year on Earth. Having identical twins in two places for the same period of time presents an incredible opportunity. Mark is in reality the “control” in the experiment, giving NASA, doctors and anyone else interested in the effects of prolonged periods of time in space an opportunity to see how the two brothers react differently to different environments. Identical twins present that rare opportunity to rule out the nature part of the nature-nurture dynamic.

Some day, the information NASA records from the Kelly twins will help us understand the kinds of preparations necessary to safeguard any would-be space traveler from the harmful effects of higher radiation and no gravity for a journey to Mars that by current technology would take some 250 days. After all, our genes have evolved over thousands of years to life on Earth. Just because we’ve figured out to send ourselves deep into space doesn’t mean we can suddenly fine-tune the gift of our biological systems the way we might raise a heat shield on a space module.

A month after Scott Kelly returned to the ISS, where he’d spent considerable time on previous missions, a team of scientists, led by Javier Martin-Torres, a Spanish researcher who is a professor in Sweden and used to work in the United States at NASA, published a study based on a year’s worth of meteorological data from the Red Planet.

As it turns out, Martin-Torres and his team have determined it is highly likely Mars has liquid water — today. It’s not enough water to open a super-exclusive pool club or to plant a couple of dozen grape trees to cultivate a deep-space vineyard for the elite and refined palates of the world’s wealthiest wine lovers.

The scientists recorded readings through the Mars rover Curiosity of water that likely evaporates during the Martian day and forms again during the cold night as perchlorate salts melt any frozen water vapor.

This study, Martin-Torres suggested, may have implications for planetary protection policies. The Committee on Space Research may look carefully at places where spacecraft couldn’t land on Mars out of concern that any vehicle might contaminate the planet by introducing new organisms.

The presence of water speaks to us because it makes up more than 60 percent of our own bodies. Water also is a key element to life on our blue planet, raising the question about whether life, even in the form of small microbes, could use it to survive.

This Martian water, however, isn’t exactly a refreshing stream. It’s probably up to three-and-a-half times as salty as the water in the Dead Sea, Martin-Torres said.

The saltiness, radiation and numerous other factors make that water inhospitable to life, even on a microbial scale.

“The conditions are terrible,” admitted Martin-Torres. Still, “it’s better to have water than not to have it.” Besides, while it’s likely that any life on Mars would struggle to survive in that water, “nature always surprises us.”

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You know you’re from Long Island when …

1. You drive your car everywhere, including just up the road to the drug store or 7-Eleven. There is a car in your driveway or garage for every person in your house.
2. You water your lawn and plants even when it has recently rained because it’s on a timer and you just left it.
3. You pass at least one dead animal lying on the side of the road every day.
4. You have access to delicious foods imported from all over the country and the world.
5. You live in a terribly wasteful society.

Earth Day gives us time to reflect on what we do every day that affects the environment, both here on Long Island and the nation as a whole.

We burn up gas for every small trip we make, when we could walk or bike if we weren’t so rushed or lazy. We waste water by taking long showers or leaving the faucet on as we brush our teeth. We flush pills down the toilet or use a paper cup for coffee every morning or unnecessarily go through a ton of plastic shopping bags.
Almost all of us are guilty of at least one of these things, which all put strain on Mother Earth. But this is the only home we have — for now — so we should get our heads in the game.

Please join us in thinking about the impact of our everyday actions on the environment and make a commitment to cut out or reduce just one of those negative actions year-round — not just on a day like Earth Day.

A small change blazes the trail for larger ones, so it’s a good place to start.

Invited INN to hold annual walkathon on Saturday

Volunteer Giovanni Cassino, of Miller Place, helps set the table at the Invited INN soup kitchen at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point. File photo by Erika Karp

By Erin Dueñas

In order to raise funds to continue 23 years of preparing a warm and nutritious meal to those in need, the Invited INN soup kitchen of Rocky Point will host a walkathon this Saturday, April 25, at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville.

Every Thursday, volunteers at the soup kitchen cook and serve dinner to anywhere from 40 to 70 people who come seeking a fresh-cooked meal and the companionship that comes with eating together. According to Invited INN’s Director and President Carol Moor, the soup kitchen has a “no questions asked” policy on who gets served.

“We don’t check income or anything like that, some people come just for the company. Anyone who shows up gets a meal,” she said. “Everyone who comes is treated with dignity and respect.”

According to Moor, the guests of the Invited INN are a diverse group, including seniors and families with young children, as well as single adults. Although housed in the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, the soup kitchen is ecumenical and any and all faiths are welcome to dine.

The INN, which stands for Interfaith Nutrition Network, is a nonprofit that provides food, shelter and support services to Long Island residents.

Moor said she helped start the soup kitchen more than two decades ago when she was chair of social ministries at Trinity.

“The church recognized a need for a soup kitchen,” she said. “We had the pantry, but we needed something more.”

The very first meal prepared at the Invited INN was served to just six people.

“It’s really grown since then and it’s been very successful,” Moor said. “People aren’t aware that people in their community need this kind of help.”

This is the seventh year the soup kitchen will host the walkathon, the only formal fundraiser it does throughout the year, according to Moor.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck doing a walkathon, and we tend to do very well,” Moor said. “The shrine is a beautiful place to walk and we make some money so it is really a win-win.”

Registration for the walk will begin at 10 a.m. and Moor said walkers can walk as many or as few times as they want around the shrine.

Every penny earned Saturday will go directly to providing the food prepared each Thursday. Running with no overhead and completely by volunteers, any donations the INN receives throughout the year goes solely toward buying food to prepare the weekly dinner.

Donated food items come from organizations such as Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, but the bulk of Invited INN’s monetary donations come from private donors: the congregation at Trinity, as well as from the Rocky Point Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Rocky Point.

Rotary member Tom Talbot said his organization’s intent is to provide help to people and that they enjoy giving to the Invited INN.

“The volunteers are very nice people who are so grateful for our help,” Talbot said. “They run a very important facility in Rocky Point.”

Talbot, who has volunteered at the soup kitchen as a pot washer for 10 years, said that the people who eat there seem to enjoy the meals.

“They are usually very satisfied with the food and it gives them the chance to be social too,” he said. “Some of them come early to make sure they get the same seat they have been sitting in for years.”

Trinity’s pastor Jeffrey Kolbo said that although the Invited INN is essentially a free hot meal program, he has found that it provides much more than that.

“For those who live on a limited income, money saved by eating each week at the Invited INN can be spent on other necessities,” he said. “For those who live by themselves, a night out at the INN breaks the tedium of eating alone. Our volunteers know this and do what they can to build community and feed those who come for our meals.”

To participate in the walkathon or sponsor a walker, contact Moor at 631-744-8686.

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By David Dunaief

We know that inflammation is a critical part of many chronic diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is no exception. With RA, inflammation is rampant throughout the body and contributes to painful joints, most commonly concentrating bilaterally in the smaller joints of the body, including the metacarpals and proximal interphalangeal joints of the hand, as well as the wrists and elbows. With time, this disease can greatly diminish our ability to function, interfering with our activities of daily living. The most basic of chores, such as opening a jar, can become a major hindrance.

In addition, RA can cause extra-articular, a fancy way of saying outside the joints, manifestations and complications. These can involve the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, nervous system and blood vessels. This is where it gets a bit dicier. With increased complications comes an increased risk of premature mortality (1).

Four out of 10 RA patients will experience complications in at least one organ. Those who have more severe disease in their joints are also at greater risk for these extra-articular manifestations. Thus, those who are markedly seropositive for the disease, showing elevated biomarkers like rheumatoid factor (RF), are at greatest risk (2). They have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease events, such as heart attacks and pulmonary disease. Fatigue is also increased, but the cause is not well understood. We will look more closely at these complications.

Are there treatments that may increase or decrease these complications? It is a very good question, because some of the very medications used to treat RA also may increase risk for extra-articular complications, while other drugs may reduce the risks of complications. We will try to sort this out, as well. The drugs used to treat RA are disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), including methotrexate; TNF inhibitors, such as Enbrel (etanercept); oral corticosteroids; and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

It is also important to note that there are modifiable risk factors. We will focus on two of these, weight and sugar. Let’s look at the evidence.

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE BURDEN
We know that cardiovascular disease is very common in this country for the population at large. However, the risk is even higher for RA patients; these patients are at a 50 percent higher risk of cardiovascular mortality than those without RA (3). The hypothesis is that the inflammation is responsible for the RA-cardiovascular disease connection (4). Thus, oxidative stress, cholesterol levels, endothelial dysfunction and high biomarkers for inflammation, such as ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and CRP (C-reactive protein), play roles in fostering cardiovascular disease in RA patients (5).

THE YING AND YANG OF MEDICATIONS
Although drugs such as DMARDS (including methotrexate and TNF inhibitors, Enbrel, Remicade, Humira), NSAIDs (such as celecoxib) and corticosteroids are all used in the treatment of RA, some of these drugs increase cardiovascular events and others decrease them. In meta-analysis (a group of 28 studies), the results showed that DMARDS reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by up to 30 percent, while NSAIDs and corticosteroids increased the risk (6). The oral steroids had the highest risk of heart complications, approximately a 50 percent rise in risk. This may be one reason rheumatologists encourage their RA patients to discontinue oral steroid treatments as quickly as possible.
In an observational study, the results reaffirm that corticosteroids increased the risk of a heart attack in RA patients, this time by 68 percent (7). The study involved over 8,000 patients with a follow-up of nine years. Interestingly, there was a dose-response curve. In other words, the results also showed that for every 5 mg increase in dosage, there was a corresponding 14 percent increase in heart attack risk.

BAFFLING DISEASE COMPLICATION
Most complications seem to have a logical connection to the original disease. Well, it was a surprise to researchers when the results of the Nurses’ Health Study showed that those with RA were at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and of respiratory disease (8). In fact, the risk of dying from respiratory disease was 106 percent higher in the women with RA compared to those without, and the risk was even higher in women who were seropositive (had elevated levels of rheumatoid factor). The authors surmise that seropositive patients have greater risk of death from respiratory disease because they have increased RA severity compared to seronegative patients. The study followed approximately 120,000 women for a 34-year duration.

WHY AM I SO TIRED?
While we have tactics for treating joint inflammation, we have yet to figure out how to treat the fatigue associated with RA. In a recently published Dutch study, the results showed that while the inflammation improved significantly, fatigue only changed minimally (9). The consequences of fatigue can have a negative impact on both the mental and physical qualities of life. There were 626 patients involved in this study for eight years of follow-up data. This study involved two-thirds women, which is significant; women in this and in previous studies tended to score fatigue as more of a problem.

LIFESTYLES OF THE MORE PAINFUL AND DEBILITATING
We all want a piece of the American dream. To some that means eating like kings of past times. Well, it turns out that body mass index plays a role in the likelihood of developing RA. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, those who are overweight or obese and are ages 55 and younger have an increased risk of RA, 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively (10). There is higher risk with increased weight because fat has pro-inflammatory factors, such as adipokines, that may contribute to the increased risk. Weight did not influence whether they became seropositive or seronegative RA patients.
With a vegetable-rich, plant-based diet you can reduce inflammation and thus reduce the risk of RA by 61 percent (11). In my clinical practice, I have seen numerous patients able to reduce their seropositive loads to normal or near-normal levels by following this type of diet.

SUGAR, SUGAR!
At this point, we know that sugar is bad for us. But just how bad is it? When it comes to RA, results of the Nurses’ Health Study showed that sugary sodas increased the risk of developing seropositive disease by 63 percent (12). In subset data of those over age 55, the risk was even higher, 164 percent. This study involved over 100,000 women followed for 18 years.

THE JUST PLAIN WEIRD – INFECTION FOR THE BETTER
Every so often we come across the surprising and the interesting. I would call it a Ripley’s Believe It or Not moment. In a recent study, those who had urinary tract infections, gastroenteritis or genital infections were less likely to develop RA than those who did not (13). The study did not indicate a time period or potential reasons for this decreased risk. However, I don’t think I want an infection to avoid another disease. When it comes to RA, prevention with diet is your best ally. Barring that, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medications are important for keeping inflammation and its progression in check. However, oral steroids and NSAIDs should generally be reserved for short-term use. Before considering changing any medications, discuss it with your physician.

REFERENCES
(1) J Rheumatol 2002;29(1):62. (2) uptodate.com. (3) Ann Rheum Dis 2010;69:325–31. (4) Rheumatology 2014;53(12):2143-2154. (5) Arthritis Res Ther 2011;13:R131. (6) Ann Rheum Dis 2015;74(3):480-489. (7) Rheumatology 2013;52:68-75. (8) ACR 2014: Abstract 818. (9) RMD Open 2015.  (10) Ann Rheum Dis. 2014;73(11):1914-1922. (11) Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70(6),1077–1082. (12) Am J Clin Nutr 2014;100(3):959-67. (13) Ann Rheum Dis 2015;74:904-907.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.  For further information, go to the website www.medicalcompassmd.com and/or consult your personal physician.

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