Columns

From left, Lisa Miller with her research team Andrew McGregor, Alvin Acerbo, Tiffany Victor, Randy Smith, Ruth Pietri, Ryan Tappero, Nadia Hameed, Tunisia Solomon, Paul Panica and Adam Lowery. Photo by Roger Stoutenburgh, BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

Most of the people at the building that cost near a billion dollars are pulled in different directions, often, seemingly, at the same time. They help others who, like them, have numerous questions about the world far smaller than the eye can see. They also have their own questions, partnering up with other researchers to divide the work.

Lisa Miller, a senior biophysical chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, lives just such a multidirectional and multidimensional life. The manager for user services, communications, education and outreach at the National Synchrotron Light Source II, Miller recently joined forces with other scientists to explore the potential impact of copper on a neurodegenerative disease called cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA).

Miller is collaborating with Steve Smith, the director of structural biology in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University and William Van Nostrand, a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at SBU who will be moving to the University of Rhode Island. The trio is in the second year of a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Miller’s role is to image the content, distribution and oxidation state of copper in the mouse brain and vessels. Van Nostrand, whom Smith described as the “glue” that holds the group together, does the cognitive studies and Smith explores the amyloid structure.

In an email, Smith explained that Van Nostrand’s primary area of research is in CAA, while he and Miller were originally focused elsewhere.

Potentially toxic on its own, copper is transported in the body attached to a protein. When copper is in a particular ionic state — when it has two extra protons and is looking for electrons with which to reduce its positive charge — it reacts with water and oxygen, producing hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic.

Miller and her colleagues are working on a technique that will enable them to freeze the tissue and image it. Seeing the oxidation state of the metal requires that it be hydrated, or wet. The X-rays, however, react with water, causing radiation damage to the tissue.

To minimize this damage, the researchers freeze the tissue. At NSLS-II, a team of scientists are working to develop X-ray-compatible cryostages that will allow them to freeze and image the tissue.

Miller is trying to figure out where and why the copper is binding to an amyloid beta protein. This is the same protein that’s involved in plaques prevalent in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In Alzheimer’s patients, the plaques are found in the parenchyma, or the extracellular space around the brain cells. In CAA, the deposits are attached to the surface of the blood vessels on the brain side.

Lisa Miller and her dog Dora on a recent 100-mile trek from Hiawassee, Georgia, to Fontana Dam in North Carolina Photo from Lisa Miller

The current hypothesis about how copper becomes reactive in the brain originates from work Van Nostrand and Smith published recently. They suggested that the amyloid fibrils in CAA adopt an anti-parallel orientation and the fibrils in the plaques in Alzheimer’s are in a parallel orientation. The anti-parallel structure predicts that there is a binding site for copper that, if occupied, would stabilize the structure.

“We are currently working to establish if this idea is correct,” Smith explained in an email, suggesting that the NSLS-II provides a “unique resource for addressing the role of copper in CAA. The data [Miller] is collecting are essential, key components of the puzzle.”

The NSLS-II will provide the kind of spatial resolution that allows Miller to measure how much copper is in the deposits. Ideally, she’d like to see the oxidation state of the copper to see if a reaction that’s producing hydrogen peroxide is occurring.

A challenge with peroxide is that it’s hard to find in a living tissue. It is highly reactive, which means it does its damage and then reverts to water and oxygen.

As someone with considerable responsibilities outside her own scientific pursuits, Miller said she spends about a quarter of her time on her own research. One of Miller’s jobs during the summer is to host the open house for NSLS-II, which allows members of the community to visit the facility. This year, at the end of July, she “was thrilled” to host about 1,600 members of the community.

“Most of them wanted to go on the floor and meet the scientists and walk” around the three quarters of a mile circle, she said. While they are interested in the research, the surprising mode of transportation strikes their fancy when they trek around the site.

“The thing that fascinates them when they walk in the door is the tricycles,” she said. The NSLS-II can’t take credit for being the first facility to use these adult-sized tricycles, which number over 100 at the facility. “It’s a synchrotron thing.”

The previous NSLS at BNL was too compact and had too many turns, which made the three-wheeled vehicles, which, like a truck, need a wider turning radius to maneuver on a road, impractical.

Miller, who is a part of the trike-share program, is an avid hiker. This summer, she completed a 100-mile trek from Hiawassee, Georgia, to Fontana Dam in North Carolina. This section was located in the area of totality for the solar eclipse and Miller was able to witness the astronomical phenomenon at Siler Bald in North Carolina.

A resident of Wading River, Miller, who grew up in the similarly flat terrain of Cleveland, spends considerable time walking and running with her rescue mutt Dora, who accompanied her on her recent hike.

While Miller finds the research she does with copper rewarding, she said she also appreciates the opportunities NSLS-II affords her. “Every day is different and we never know what project will show up next,” she said.

There are many benefits to naming a minor as beneficiary of a tax-deffered retirement account.

By Nancy Burner, ESQ.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

Many of our clients have retirement assets held in a traditional IRA, 401K, 403(b) or other similar plan. It is important to periodically review the beneficiary designations on these types of plans. A review should confirm that the institution still has the proper designations on file, the clients’ wishes are being followed, the designations fit into the larger estate plan of the client and that the best interests of the beneficiaries are taken into account. This is of special concern if the beneficiaries are grandchildren or other minors.

There are certain benefits to leaving retirement assets to a minor who is a much younger beneficiary than the original account holder. When you leave retirement assets to a nonspouse, the beneficiary has the right to take it in an “inherited IRA.”

The beneficiary of an inherited IRA must start taking distributions the year after the death of the original account holder. These distributions are taken as a “stretch,” meaning they are determined by the life expectancy of the new IRA beneficiary. In that case, the account can grow tax deferred over a much longer life expectancy.

The rule of thumb is that the account will be worth approximately 30 times its value if distributions are taken over the life expectancy of a grandchild. For example, suppose you name your grandchild as beneficiary of an IRA account with a $100,000 balance. If your grandchild takes distributions based upon her life expectancy each year, then the account could be worth $3,000,000 over her lifetime. This is one of the great benefits of naming a minor as beneficiary of a tax-deferred retirement account.

The problem is that you cannot achieve the benefit of the stretch if you name a minor directly as the beneficiary of any account — you must name a trust for the benefit of the minor.

Since she is not an adult, the minor will be unable to take the distributions as required beginning the year after your death. The only way to access the account is for the court to appoint a guardian for the property of the child, usually the parent. First, this will be a costly and unnecessary proceeding. But the result is even worse.

The court will direct the guardian to distribute the entire IRA and pay the income tax. The income tax will be based upon the parents’ income if the child is under 14 years of age, also known as the “kiddie tax.”

In addition, the monies that are left after paying the income tax will be deposited in a bank account earning very little interest. If that isn’t bad enough, the account will be turned over to the child upon attaining the age of 18. This will obviously impact the child’s financial aid when he or she applies for college. This is a financial disaster. In addition to retirement accounts, you do not want to name minors directly as beneficiaries on IRA accounts, annuities, insurance policies, bank accounts or any other account. Any and all distributions for a minor should be distributed to a trust that is drafted for the benefit of the child.

The trust should be created as part of the estate plan, either through a last will and testament or in an inter vivos trust. Providing for the beneficiary’s share to go into a trust will ensure the benefits of inheriting a retirement asset are received.

The beneficiary can get the stretch on the account and the asset will not need to be held by the court. However, be certain that the trust you are naming for the benefit of the minor is drafted for the purpose of receiving retirement accounts; all trusts are not created equal in this respect. A trust must be properly drafted and meet certain requirements set by the IRS in order to accept the IRA distribution and receive the benefits described above.

Before naming a beneficiary on an account, one should check with the institution holding the account. Each plan has its own individual rules regarding the designation of beneficiaries. For example, the New York State Teacher’s Retirement system has certain benefits for which you can name a trust as beneficiary, while other benefits, including pensions, do not allow this type of beneficiary. Retirement savings can be the largest asset one leaves behind. Being sure it is properly designated can protect the best interests of your beneficiaries long after you are gone.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office.

People who are considered metabolically healthy may still have a higher risk of developing heart problems if they are obese.
Obesity still increases risks of many chronic diseases

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Have we entered a fourth dimension where it’s possible to be obese and healthy? Hold on to your seats for this wild ride. This would be a big relief, since more than one-third of Americans are obese, another third are overweight and the numbers are on the rise (1). In one analysis referenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average medical cost for obesity alone is 41.5 percent higher than for those of normal weight, based on 2006 numbers (2). Still, there are several studies that suggest it’s possible to be metabolically healthy and still be obese.

What does metabolically healthy mean? It is defined as having no increased risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) because blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammatory biomarkers remain within normal limits.

However, read on before thinking that obesity can be equated with health. Though several studies may suggest metabolic health with obesity, there is a caveat: Some of these obese patients will go on to become metabolically unhealthy; but even more importantly, obesity will increase their risk significantly for a number of other chronic diseases. These include osteoarthritis, diverticulitis, rheumatoid arthritis and migraine. There is also a higher rate of premature mortality, or death, associated with obesity. In other words, the short answer is that obesity is NOT healthy.

Metabolically healthy obesity

Several published studies imply that there is such a thing as “metabolically healthy obesity,” or MHO. In the Cork and Kerry Diabetes and Heart Disease Phase 2 Study, results show that approximately one-third of obese patients may fall into the category of metabolically “healthy” (3). This means that they are not at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, based on five metabolic parameters, including LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting plasma glucose and insulin resistance. The researchers compared three groups: MHO, metabolically unhealthy obese and nonobese participants. Both the MHO participants and the nonobese patients demonstrated these positive results.

There were over 2,000 participants involved in this study, with an equal proportion of men and women ranging in age from 45 to 75. The researchers believe that a beneficial inflammation profile, including a lower C-reactive protein and a lower white blood cell count, may be at the root of these results.

In the North West Adelaide Health Study, a prospective (forward-looking) study, the results show that one-third of obese patients may be metabolically healthy, but it goes further to say that this occurs in mostly younger patients, those less than 40 years old, and those with a lower waist circumference and more fat in the legs (4). The reason for the positive effects may have to do with how fat is transported through the body.

In metabolically unhealthy obese patients, fat is deposited in the organs, such as the liver and heart, potentially leading to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A theory is that mitochondria, the cells’ energy source, are disrupted, potentially increasing inflammation.

However, the results also showed that over a 10-year period, one-third of “healthy” obese patients transitioned into the unhealthy category. Over a longer period of time, this number may increase.

Premature mortality

To hammer the nail into the coffin, so to speak, obesity may be associated with premature mortality. In one study, about 20 percent of American patient deaths were associated with being obese or overweight (5). The rates were highest among white men, white women and black women. The researchers found this statistic surprising; previous estimates were far lower. Researchers reviewed a registry of 19 consecutive National Health Interview Surveys, from 1986 to 2004, including more than 500,000 patients with ages ranging from 40 to 84.9 years old.

Interestingly, obesity seems to have more of an effect on mortality as we age: obesity raised mortality risk 100 percent in those who were 65 and over, compared to a 25 percent increased risk in those who were 45.

Osteoarthritis

It is unlikely that any group of obese patients would be able to avoid pressure on their joints. In an Australian study, those who were obese had a greater than two times increased risk of developing osteoarthritis of the hip and a greater than seven times increased risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee (6). If this weren’t bad enough, obese patients complained of increased pain and stiffness, as well as decreased functioning, in the hip and knee joints. There were over 1,000 adults involved in this study. Patients who were 39 years or older demonstrated that obesity’s impact on osteoarthritis can affect those who are relatively young.

There is a solution to obesity and its impact on osteoarthritis of the knees and hips. In a randomized controlled trial of 454 patients over 18 months, those who lost just 10 percent of their body weight saw significant improvement in function and knee joint pain, compared to those who lost less than 10 percent of their body weight (7). So, if you are 200 pounds, this would mean you would experience benefits after losing only 20 pounds.

When diet and exercise together were utilized, patients saw the best outcomes, with reduced pain and inflammation and increased mobility, compared to diet or exercise alone. However, diet was superior to exercise in improving knee joint pressure. Also, inflammatory biomarkers were reduced significantly more in the combined diet and exercise group and in the diet alone group, compared to the exercise alone group.

The diet was composed of two shakes and a dinner that was vegetable rich and low in fat. The exercise component involved both walking with alacrity plus resistance training for a modest frequency of three times a week for one hour each time. Thus, if you were considering losing weight and did not want to start both exercise and diet regimens at once, focusing on a vegetable-rich diet may be most productive.

While it is interesting that some obese patients are metabolically healthy, this does not necessarily last, and there are a number of chronic diseases involved with increased weight. Though we should not be prejudiced or judgmental of obese patients, this disease needs to be treated to avoid increased risk of mortality and increased risk of developing other diseases.

References: (1) CDC.gov. (2) Health Aff. September/October 2009;vol. 28 no. 5 w822-w831. (3) J Clin Endocrinol Metab online. 2013 Aug. 26. (4) Diabetes Care. 2013;36:2388-2394. (5) Am J Public Health online. 2013 Aug. 15. (6) BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2012;13:254. (7) JAMA. 2013;310:1263-1273.

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, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

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Watching the 10-part Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS TV series, “The Vietnam War,” brought us back to the terrible ’60s. That decade began calmly enough; my husband had volunteered to be a physician in the service in 1963, through a little known program called the Berry Plan. I was thrilled at the prospect that we would get to travel.

Four years later, the United States was immersed in a brutal war in a place called Vietnam, on the other side of the world.

We were sent to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, where my husband became the chief of ophthalmology. Those injured, especially pilots, were flown in from ’Nam, refueling in the Philippines, and were in the operating room within the day. My husband would put their faces back together and try to save their eyes. The war was only 24 hours away from us, and we lived always on edge. We were further aware of the dangers and horror of the war the pilots in particular faced, because we were housed in the middle of their section on the base. Some served two and three tours, leaving their wives and children behind frantic with worry.

We returned home to New York City for a visit and were puzzled by the disconnect between the military and civilians. What was a desperate existence on the one hand was a seemingly unaffected population on the other. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson had promised the nation a life with guns and butter, and indeed that was what we saw. When we tried to tell friends what was going on, they seemed surprised, even annoyed by the fuss we were making. Stunned, we returned to base.

Which was the real world?

Then the domino effect theory, should Vietnam fall, began to be questioned. The gap between words and actions of government officials started to emerge. We were the innocents, believing that our president would never lie to us. We became, thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, caught up in a quantified body count to measure our successes. We wondered why it mattered how many of the enemy was killed if even one American died. Why were we there? The anti-war movement took hold, led by college students across America, labeled as communist-inspired and fiercely resisted by the Johnson administration. Mourning and anti-war protests were tearing the country apart.

My husband and I left the military in 1969, years sooner than the fighting men left Vietnam.

And some five years ago, I returned to Vietnam on a tour to see the country and try to make sense of what had happened there. I was overwhelmed. The weather was insufferably humid and hot, and I thought of the heavy backpacks the fighters had to carry as they moved through the jungle. The Vietnamese in the south, where our tour started, refer to the war as the American War in their museums and in conversation. Of course they do, I realized. They were unfailingly kind to us, welcoming us and, I suppose, our hard currency. In the north, near Hanoi, the older citizens were coldly polite. Most of the population was born after the war but, for the most part, those young people never knew their fathers. They were killed. And the country? The country was beautiful, with its mountains, rice paddies and deltas, scenic and peaceful.

We had known nothing of the history of Vietnam before the nation entered the war. The Vietnamese people had struggled against Chinese occupation for more than 1,000 years, followed by the French. The Vietnamese weren’t ideological communists; they just wanted their homeland to be free. And the Chinese entered the war not to spread communism but to keep us from their borders.

We learned finally but it cost us more than 58,000 American lives, untold wounded and an unimaginable amount of money. Have we learned enough to apply the lessons to Afghanistan and Iraq and to North Korea? We have learned never again to regard our leaders with trust.

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The next generation is afraid.

Can you blame them? They know about 9/11, as they should. When they’re not sending pictures of themselves and the food they’re eating to their group of best friends through social media, they read headlines and see pictures of people, just like them, who are living their lives one day and then becoming statistics the next.

This particular generation says it would pick security over freedom. Not all of them do, of course, but, in a recent discussion among some teenagers, I heard repeated arguments about how freedom is irrelevant if you’re dead.

That is a reflection of just how much the world has changed since I grew up. In my youth, I was aware of the Cold War. A nuclear war, although a possibility in the bilateral world that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union, seemed unlikely. After all, the biggest deterrent was the likelihood of mutually assured destruction. As Matthew Broderick experienced in the movie “War Games,” no one wins or, to quote the eerie computer from the movie, “the only winning move is not to play.”

In times of stress, Americans have historically pulled away from the ideals of freedom and democracy.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which ensures that someone can challenge an unlawful detention or imprisonment. During World War II, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established internment camps, where he held more than 100,000 people of Japanese decent, worried that they might be colluding with a government that had just attacked us.

At the start of the Cold War, Sen. Joseph McCarthy played into our worst fears, leading the House Un-American Activities Committee to question the beliefs and loyalties of its citizens. In the meantime, he ruined the lives of thousands of people and turned Americans against each other.

Many of these pursuits were designed to ease the minds of citizens about our friends and neighbors, some of whom might be working with an enemy and strike against us.

So, today, what are we willing to give up? And, perhaps more importantly, to whom are we surrendering these freedoms?

I recently watched a television reporter who was interviewing citizens in North Korea. He was asking them how they felt about their leader, Kim Jung-un, and the way he was rattling the saber against the United States and the rest of the world.

Not surprisingly, the North Koreans, or the translator with them, expressed unreserved support for the man who trades threats seemingly on a daily basis with President Donald Trump. Those interviewed were confident they were in good hands.

I doubt they felt comfortable expressing any other view. What consequences would they suffer if they publicly questioned their leader’s judgment? Their leader doesn’t seem receptive to opposing viewpoints.

On our shores, we can question our own leaders openly and frequently. We can gather in groups and protest.

Trump can bristle at the way the left-leaning press covers him, just as President Barack Obama shared his displeasure over the coverage from Fox News during his presidency, but presidents can’t shut down these organizations.

Early in our country’s history, our Founding Fathers, who had just emerged victorious in a costly battle with King George III of Great Britain and Ireland, didn’t want the leaders of the new nation to have unchecked power. The pioneering statesmen wanted to guarantee Americans protections from any government, domestic or international.

Every freedom we give up moves us further down a slippery slope.

For those of us who grew up before the fight against terrorism, freedom remains at the heart of the country we are protecting.

Turkey Surprise Wrap

By Barbara Beltrami

I remember that when I was a kid, anybody who brought anything other than a bologna or PBJ sandwich in her lunch box was taunted and humiliated. Generally an apple or orange could pass muster, but heaven help the kid whose mom put carrot and celery sticks or dried apricots in her lunch box.

Now that the kids are back at school, the challenge of what to pack in their lunch boxes renews itself. I would love to think that nowadays no child gets ridiculed for what’s in his lunch box (or anything else for that matter).

With child obesity recently at an all-time high and hovering around 17 percent, it’s no longer advisable to slap processed meat and cheese between two slices of spongy white bread and slather them with mayonnaise. Likewise, cookies and chips, candy and cake may be what a kid prefers, but many of those goodies have little or no nutritional value, and the sugar in them serves only to wind the kids up and fill their tummies with empty calories.

With media attention on healthful eating habits and revised menus even in school cafeterias, it is becoming incumbent upon parents to observe and encourage those habits by providing nutritious alternatives to convenience and junk foods.

Here are some simple suggestions for yummy and healthful alternatives whose prototypes I’d like to hope will become what the “cool” kids bring in their lunch boxes, but they should be merely models to inspire your own concoctions.

Turkey Surprise Wrap

Turkey Surprise Wrap

YIELD: Makes 1 serving

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap

¼ cup guacamole

2 thin slices low sodium deli turkey

¼ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and stems removed

4 large taco chips, crushed

DIRECTIONS: Lay the tortilla wrap on a cutting board; spread with guacamole to one inch from edge of wrap. Lay turkey slices evenly over guacamole; sprinkle with carrots, spinach and crushed chips. Starting at one end or side of the wrap, roll it and tuck opposite sides in as you roll. With a sharp knife, slice the rolled wrap into 2, 3 or 4 pieces. The surprise? The chips that give lots of crunch. Pack with a crisp apple or seasonal plums, juice or milk and trail mix.

No Nuts Granola Bars

No Nuts Granola Bars

YIELD: Makes 4 to 8 servings depending on size of squares

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1½ cups raw sunflower seeds

½ cup wheat germ

½ cup honey

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¾ cup dried fruit, diced or minced

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch by 9-inch glass baking dish. On a small baking sheet, spread oats, sunflower seeds and wheat germ. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from oven, lower heat to 300 F and pour baked dry mixture into liquid mixture. Combine thoroughly; stir dried fruit into mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish, spread evenly, then press down to pack tightly. Bake 25 minutes, remove from oven and let cool. Cut into squares. Serve with yogurt, juice, milk or fresh fruit.

Apple Chips and Dip

Apple Chips and Dip

YIELD: Makes 2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 teaspoons white sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 medium-large apples, cored and very thinly sliced

One 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt

½ cup applesauce

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 225 F. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Arrange apple slices on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with half the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake, turning halfway through and sprinkling with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture, until edges curl and apple slices are dried, about 45 minutes to one hour. With spatula, remove slices from baking sheet and place on rack to cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt and applesauce. If any of dip is left over, it can be served on its own or used with other ingredients to make a smoothie. Serve with graham crackers, toast, granola bars, trail mix or anything else that goes into the lunch box.

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Above, the flowers of the black locust tree, a native invasive tree that can wreak havoc to your yard. Stock photo

By Kyrnan Harvey

Do you love flowers and wish you had a garden full of many kinds? Frustrated because the peonies and roses and irises disappoint with few flowers, the phlox is floppy with powdery mildew and even the yarrow craps out? Did you plant a row of rhodies under some random trees, but they are starting to get leggy? Have you despaired because there is too much shade, and even where there isn’t the digging requires too much effort because of tree roots? You can have a garden with many beautiful flowers in light shade, but excessive shade and greedy tree roots are the most prohibitive obstacles to fulfillment for weekend gardeners.

Whenever I visit a new client, I will first evaluate which trees are beneficial assets, which should be removed, and which should be pruned to let in more light, to open up more volumes of airspace for other large shrubs and small trees or to eliminate root competition for water and nutrients.

Above, a sucker from a black locust tree. Notice how it is covered with thorns. Stock photo

I almost always keep oaks — red, white, black — and there are no-brainer keepers like ornamental cherries, dogwoods and magnolias of course. But most properties have trees that are far less desirable: not only native invasives like black cherry, black locust and black walnut, but also exotic invasives, most commonly the Norway maple. I value this last for its yellow fall color, and we have a very old, large one, venerable with bole, trunk and branching structure near our kitchen door. We eat al fresco all summer under the cool of its generous shade, no umbrella needed. I wouldn’t attempt to plant under it and of course the fallen leaves require a lot of blowing and raking, but they do make for a fun leaf pile for kids.

However, Norway maples typically generate hundreds of seedlings every spring. Give them a few seasons to root in and they will require effort to pull up. In a neglected side yard or corner of property these will grow into substantial trees even when still young. I often see groups of five or 10 or more of these “volunteers,” often misshapen and ugly because they are crowding each other, and often they are hosting suffocating vines like English ivy, bittersweet and grape.

Sure, these messes provide privacy from “that” neighbor or a buffer from the road, but, once removed, you will delight in views of the sky and you will enjoy the new light. I always recommend these weed trees be removed, the sooner the better, because the bigger they get the more expensive.

Above, the black walnut tree at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm. Photo from SPLIA

Sometimes one sees a truly wonderful and photogenic old black locust, gnarly in the winter landscape, or a black walnut, such as the one in front of the Sherwood-Jayne House in East Setauket, with horizontal lateral limbs the length of a schoolyard basketball court. But an old walnut will drop soggy catkins on your driveway in June and later many hundreds of green-rinded, golfball-sized nuts that need to be hand-picked off lawns. It had better be a truly awesome tree or else you will hate its nuisances.

The black cherry is especially worthy of contempt. It too becomes very large with inconspicuous white flowers. The leguminous white flowers of the black locust have underrated appeal, but their malodorous roots keep running dozens of yards from the trunk and throw up viciously thorny suckers. This is not an easy root to slice with a spade, because it, like the roots of mulberry (weed!) and wisteria (invasive but worth it), are of some kind of elastic constitution: My sharp steel-shafted spade literally bounces off the roots.

But back to flowers and gardens. Remove junk trees and you will have new opportunities, or “capabilities,” to dream and to plant. Get rid of them, with their beastly roots and unwanted shade and messy litter. You are not being anti-environment, or anti-wildlife, especially if you replace thickets of bittersweet, honeysuckle and Ailanthus from Asia with American dogwoods, or a sourwood (Oxydendrum), or Eastern redbuds, or even a grove of Japanese maples, which are in scale with smaller gardens.

In a client’s garden we have let many self-sown Japanese maples grow. Now, after a dozen years, they provide light shade and beautiful autumn tapestries of yellows and reds and oranges. It is much easier to underplant Japanese maples — or birches — with lawn or perennial ground covers than it is under mature Norway maples or to remove that suckerous tree of heaven and start planning your little sun-loving kitchen garden of quadrants of thyme and sage, tomatoes and dill, with a cute gate and brick paths.

Kyrnan Harvey is a horticulturist and garden designer residing in East Setauket. For more information, visit www.boskygarden.com.

MEET BIGGIE! Biggie recently arrived at Kent Animal Shelter after being rescued from a high kill shelter in the south. A handsome Lab mix, this sweetheart is about 2 years old, weighs 55 pounds and is such a delight! Biggie is currently being treated for heartworm at the shelter, but he is still available for adoption. If you are interested in adopting him and helping him recover, please come by the shelter to meet him! Biggie gets along well with other dogs but does not seem to be too fond of cats. He comes neutered, microchipped and up to date on all his vaccines.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. For more information on Biggie and other adoptable pets at Kent, please call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

So much has happened this past month. We painfully watched the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, ripping open the deepest wounds due to racism and discrimination. The rhetoric that erupted about that horrific event has been scandalous. Hate and violence can never be tolerated, no matter what the politics. There is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, white supremacists in the KKK and those protesting in support of racial and social justice for all.

As the nation finally settled down after the violence in Charlottesville, Hurricane Harvey ravaged the south of Texas and Hurricane Irma devastated south Florida and the Caribbean. They were two of the worst hurricanes to hit the mainland in a decade. We saw pictures of devastation everywhere. Thousands of people were displaced and lost everything. Families were traumatized throughout Texas and Florida. The aftermath and cleanup is overwhelming and it’s just beginning.

Despite that landscape of destruction and suffering, there has been an outpouring of compassion, love and community service from around the country. So many have stepped up to reach out to those who are suffering and struggling. There have been countless stories of strangers reaching out to strangers, people volunteering and risking their lives to rescue those who were stranded due to the dangerous flooding and amazing stories of people opening their hearts and their homes to those who have been displaced.

It is unfortunate that it takes a catastrophic tragedy like a hurricane to bring out the heart of our American spirit. Hurricane Harvey has become a rallying cry for unity in healing. So many are hoping that this spirit of solidarity and compassion can become contagious and continue beyond the relief efforts in Texas.

Hopefully, those who lead us will see the power of this life lesson, work harder at crossing over the island of separation and begin to build new bridges of understanding and dynamic cooperation for the sake of our nation.

The end of DACA was also announced at the White House through the attorney general’s office. Unfortunately, more than 600,000 undocumented young people must live their lives in limbo and anxiety, producing circumstances that no young person should be afflicted with.

These DACA youth did not choose to come to America — their parents did hoping to find a better way of life for them. For most of them, this is the only country they know. They are hard-working, and many of them are well educated. They definitely add richness to the fabric of our nation, which was founded on immigrants. Hopefully, Congress will step up, do the right thing and pass a law that will protect them and their future.

The summer’s end has also seen a real escalation in the heroin epidemic within our larger community. Unfortunately, with all that has been happening around the country, this national health crisis seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of life.

Within a 10-day period, I have buried five young people who have died from heroin overdoses. Each young person came from a fine family but was burdened with this horrific affliction; and I am only one clergy person in our area. In talking to other colleagues, they have seen much of the same.

Everyone is on the bandwagon saying we need to do more to confront this horrific epidemic. The politicians are claiming there are monies in the pipeline. Well it must be clogged because there are still no new beds for treatment, no new medical detox centers or any new long-term residential rehabs for those battling opiate addiction. Enough of the rhetoric! If you had a son or daughter burdened with a heroin addiction, what would you do? You need a bed now! Where would you go? There are no beds! In three weeks when a bed might be available, your son or daughter could be dead.

Outpatient treatment is ineffective. Heroin addicts need more than a 28-day program. For the record most insurance companies will only now pay for 11 days — that is scandalous and reprehensible! When are we going to hold our insurance companies accountable for all of the senseless loss of life that their internet policies have contributed to? The time for talking is long past. We need action yesterday to protect our children today!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Pam Green, executive director of Kent Animal Shelter. Photo from Kent Animal Shelter

By Heidi Sutton

Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton has been a haven for shelter pets for almost half a century. In 2016, under the helm of Executive Director Pam Green, the shelter placed a record-breaking 1,016 animals in new homes and recently received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. The Stony Brook resident recently took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about the shelter that has been her passion for 32 years.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, I have only a few pets. One small dog that accompanies me to work every day, Frodo; he is a puppy mill rescue that came to Kent in 2012; two cats, Wilson and Nellie, that were the offspring of a feral cat; and I added an equine to the mix in 2009, Ascot.

Pam Green

Did you have any pets growing up?

Yes, I came from a family of animal lovers, most notably my mother and father who had great love and compassion for all animals. We were always bringing some critter into our home including dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, a duck named Sam, a pony named Inca and a horse named Willy. If it needed a home, our doors were always open.

Did you always know that you wanted to work with animals?

Yes, as a young high school student my intention was to pursue a career in animal welfare, perhaps veterinary medicine.

How did you arrive at Kent?

I arrived at the Kent Animal Shelter in 1985. My intention was to continue my postgraduate education at the University of Kentucky. That did not seem to be in the cards as I responded to an advertisement for an executive director at the Kent Animal Shelter, a little-known animal shelter located on the east end of Long Island.

The organization was in dire straits financially at the time. There were very few animals, the spay/neuter clinic was closed and there were only two employees. I was introduced and interviewed by a volunteer board of directors, 13 members. In retrospect I believe they had their sights set on a candidate who they felt had the potential to lead and the background knowledge to help the shelter emerge from a critical situation. I decided to make re-opening the spay/neuter clinic a priority and went forth with that effort.

There was only a small list of donors actually hand written in a book, and so I began to write letters telling of the shelter’s plight and asking them to help. Donations slowly began to come in, and the list began to grow. We started taking animals from local municipal shelters that in those days also had a fairly high rate of euthanasia. The clinic didn’t take very long to get back into the full swing of things.

Today the shelter is financially secure and rescues animals from crisis situations across the country and sometimes internationally as well. The mission is the same as it was in 1968; however, the depth and breadth of the operation has grown enormously over the years. It still remains a smaller, personal organization. However, in 2009 it was honored as Shelter of the Year by North Shore Animal League and Purina for its innovative approach to adoption, rescue and population control.

Tell us about Kent’s spay/neuter clinic.

Last year 3,928 animals were spayed or neutered. The clinic is low cost to enable everyone to have their pets sterilized. Many pet owners cannot afford the service, and their pets are left to add to the overpopulation of homeless animals. Kent throughout the year receives grants from foundations such as PetSmart Charities and Pet Peeves Inc. and the ASPCA. These grants allow the clinic to perform these surgical procedures for just a $20 co-pay or in some cases not fee at all to the pet owner. The clinic, with the help of an ASPCA grant, is embarking on a campaign to help pet owners on public assistance or suffering from disabilities or financial hardship to have their pet spayed or neutered also for a minimal co-pay. Pet owners that would like to get more information can call the clinic at 631-727-5731, ext. 2.

I understand you took in homeless animals from Hurricane Harvey?

The shelter has taken in many rescues from Texas and the Carolinas previous to Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, the shelters there have high kill rates and are lacking in aggressive spay/neuter programs. However, the storms presenting this year are wreaking havoc in many places, notably Houston. The shelter was prepared to accept 15 animals from Austin Pets Alive, an organization working with animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Only six animals arrived on the recent transport, but more are scheduled to come in the ensuing weeks.

Why should people adopt a shelter pet rather than buy a dog from a pet store or breeder?

Potential adopters should elect first to adopt, not shop. Pet stores obtain their animals from puppy mills located in many places in the U.S., most notably Missouri. The public is often unaware of that fact and are finding that when they purchase a pet from a pet store, they are setting themselves up for getting a pet with congenital defects such as heart murmurs and/or diseases that present after the purchase. There are reputable breeders, however; those breeders do not sell their puppies to retail pet shops. There are many rescue organizations and shelters that have beautiful pets that have been vetted and neutered.

Tell us about your upcoming fundraiser.

On Sunday, Oct. 1 we will be holding our 5th annual Wines & Canines Run/Walk fundraiser. It is widely successful and takes place at Baiting Hollow Vineyard and Horse Rescue on Sound Avenue. This year, the proceeds will go to finance expenses incurred due to intake of rescued animals from hurricane ravaged states. The shelter also hosts a comedy night at the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead every year in the spring.

What’s next on the agenda?

We have hopefully found a perfect location for the construction of new kennel facility along with exercise pens, interaction rooms to acquaint potential adopters with a new pet, grooming room, storage etc. Over the next year, the board of directors and myself will be in negotiations with the Town of Riverhead to secure the needed permits. It is my goal to finalize everything and go forward in the planning and construction of the new building next year, which is a huge milestone for this organization, the 50th anniversary of helping homeless animals! The present facility will be kept intact minus the antiquated kennel building. That will also allow the shelter to restore the beautiful riverfront behind the kennel to its original state.

How can the public help?

Donations of blankets, towels, newspapers and money are all needed along with volunteers. There is an Amazon Wish List on Kent’s website, www.kentanimalshelter.com. We encourage anyone who wants to donate to take a look at the list and choose any items that they would like to send or bring to the shelter.

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