Health

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We didn’t make up that headline. That is the name of an actual recent military study, the second of its kind, that found at least 9 million American youths are too overweight to serve in the armed forces.

That’s about a quarter of our young people between ages 17 and 24, according to population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Being overweight or obese is the top medical reason preventing young people from enlisting, according to the military study. One retired Army general called childhood obesity “a potential threat to our national security” in the future.

In case anyone was unsure of whether we have a weight or obesity problem in this country, that fact should really hammer it home. The military study gives a snapshot of what is occurring throughout our entire nation.

The problem is parents.

Some may feel outrage to see this blunt statement in ink, but the fact is that parents are responsible for teaching their kids, partly by example and partly by directive, how to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity.

It’s true there is a degree of health and nutrition education in schools and, of course, schools should strive to offer healthy food in their breakfast and lunch programs. However, school districts should only be supplementing what parents are supposed to do in their own homes. An obvious reason for this is that children spend a tremendous amount of time with their parents and learn the most from them and their examples throughout their lives. And it is up to parents to raise their children and show them how to make good decisions, not the public school system.

Of course there are medical conditions that cause weight gain, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome, and complicate matters. But those conditions — both of which are much more prevalent in females than males, who are the primary target for military recruitment — certainly do not account for anywhere near all of the overweight young people. In fact, both conditions are more likely to affect older people than children and young adults.

Some may argue that it’s hard to teach kids about proper nutrition when they are bombarded by fast food ads, or when the parents are busy working to support the family. But we’re not saying parenting is easy — we’re saying it’s a parent’s job.

Teaching kids how to eat healthy and exercise is important and many parents need to step up their game, or it’s not just our military recruitment numbers that will suffer.

Community members take to the court in Hoops for Hope tribute

Local friends and community members come out to play 3 on 3 basketball in support of, and to pay respects to, Jake Engel during the Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Four years ago, Jake Engel of Miller Place lived in Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson. It’s to that same ministry that the Engel family is donating the proceeds from their first Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser on Tuesday, which they want to make an annual event.

Last Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, 22-year-old Engel died of a heroin overdose. Engel was born on July 18, 1993. Engel’s wake was on Friday at the O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place. The mass took place on Saturday at Saint Louis De Montfort church in Sound Beach.

But the Engel family wanted to do one more thing to remember their loved one. After the funeral, Engel’s younger brother, Patrick, wanted to find a way to remember his brother and raise money for a good cause.

Pat Engel dribbles the ball at the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Pat Engel dribbles the ball at the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“All the proceeds are going to Hope House … He lived there for about two years and it’s a great program,” Pat Engel said. “He made a lot of friends; [it was] probably the best years of his life.”

According to its website, Hope House Ministries aims to “provide compassionate, comprehensive and competent care for the poor, the marginal and the wounded among us.”

According to family friend Lisa Nordin, of Miller Place, various people in need seek shelter at Hope House. While the organization helps people in times of need, the community also wanted to band together in a time of need.

“After this tragedy, we just felt like, as a community, we have to get together and fight against drugs and drug dealers,” Nordin said.

About 15 small, self-appointed teams donated money to participate in this event, where they played half-court basketball at the basketball court at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

Brian Sztabnik was one of the many people who attended and participated in the Engel’s Hoops for Hope.

Sztabnik and several others said Engel “loved coming to the beach and he loved playing basketball.”

“They figured might as well put the two things together and have a benefit, and bring the community together, raise some money and celebrate his life,” he said.

Pat Engel said his older brother enjoyed the beach, adding that he was a clammer and spent 8 to 12 hours at the beach, daily.

Countless community members gathered to donate money and participate in the event. Many of them knew Jake Engel in high school. With their help, Hoops for Hope raised more than $5,000 for Hope House Ministries.

Pat Engel thought the event had a good turnout, especially considering it was planned in three days. He also thought this new, annual event was a good way to raise money and honor his brother.

“Jake, he had a wonderful sense of humor,” Engel said. “He could light up the room with his smile. He cared about everyone that cared about him. He loved his family, and his family loved him.”

To date, 80 mosquitoes and seven birds test positive for virus in Suffolk

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Nine more mosquitos and two birds have tested positive for West Nile virus in various neighborhoods across Suffolk County, Health Commissioner Dr. James L. Tomarken announced on Monday.

The mosquito samples, collected from Aug. 11 to 14, hailed from Huntington, Selden, West Babylon, Bay Shore, Holbrook, Farmingville and Watch Hill on Fire Island. A crow collected on Aug. 14 from Stony Brook and a blue jay, collected on Aug. 18 from Smithtown, also tested positive for the virus.

To date, this year Suffolk’s total West Nile count comes to 80 mosquitos and seven birds. No humans or horses have tested positive for the virus in Suffolk this year.

First detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk in 1999, and again each year thereafter, the virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

While Dr. Tomarken said there’s no cause for alarm, the county is urging residents to reduce exposure to he virus, which “can be debilitating to humans.”

“The breed of mosquito known as Culex pipiens-restuans lay their eggs in fresh water-filled containers, so dumping rainwater that collects in containers around your house is important,” he said.

Residents should try to eliminate stagnant water where mosquitos breed, in order to reduce the mosquito population around homes. That includes: disposing of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers; removing discarded tires; cleaning clogged gutters; turning over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when they’re not being used; changing the water in bird baths; and draining water from pool covers.

Most people infected with West Nile will experience mild or no symptoms, but some can develop sever symptoms including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. The symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent. Individuals — especially those 50 years of age or older or those with compromised immune systems, who are most at risk — are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Residents are advised to avoid mosquito bites by minimizing outdoor activities between dusk and dawn; wearing shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitos are more active; using mosquito repellant when outdoors and following label directions carefully; making sure all windows and doors have screens and that all screens are in good condition.

To report dead birds, call the West Nile virus hotline in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

For medical questions related to West Nile virus, call 631-854-0333.

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Participants dump buckets of ice water over their heads during last year’s event. File photo by Erika Karp

This challenge can’t get much colder, and for the second year in a row, Mount Sinai is looking for help icing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Last year, 500 participants from all over the North Shore came out to Heritage Park in Mount Sinai for the Ride for Life Ice ALS challenge, to raise money to help spread awareness and find a cure for ALS.

The disease affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing motor neurons to degenerate. People with the disease lose control over their muscles, leaving them unable to speak, eat, move or breathe on their own.

With events like the one at Heritage Park, people all over the world have brought attention to ALS, and on Aug. 26, Mount Sinai is doing it again.

Game booths, face painting, balloon twisting, dunk tanks and pie tosses are just a few of the events listed for Wednesday’s ice bucket challenge. Admission to the event, which begins at 5 p.m., is free, and T-shirts and other ALS awareness items will be available for purchase. Hot dogs, cotton candy and soda will also be available, as well as a limited supply of buckets.

To help support the cause, create a team or collect pledges for the Big Dump, which will begin promptly at 7 p.m.

“Last year, more than 500 people participated in the challenge and I expect to see a bigger crowd this year,” Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said in a press release. “We need all the help we can get from friends, family, businesses, sports teams and more to come together so we can find a cure for ALS.”

Paper pledge forms can be found on www.alsrideforlife.org. In the event of bad weather, a rain date is scheduled for Sept. 2. Email RFLoffice21@aol.com or go to Facebook’s ALS Ride for Life page for more information.

Huntington neurosurgeon touts procedure’s success

This diffusion tensor imaging shows the patient’s nerve, brain and other tissue matter surrounding the white mass, which makes it easier for surgeons to diagnose and treat their patients. Photo from Ericca Ardito

When Jean Noschese’s left hand started to go numb, she didn’t expect her doctor’s visit to lead to brain surgery at Huntington Hospital, where she met Dr. Robert Kerr, a neurosurgeon who had a new way of operating on the brain.

On Oct. 16, 2013, Noschese experienced a head-on collision while driving in Hauppauge. The car accident left her in need of several surgeries, including ones to repair her rotator cuff and replace her hip. But it was when she started losing sensation in her left hand, in 2014, that she went to a specialist. Noschese, who initially wondered if her issue with her hand was related to her crash, was rushed to the hospital after her hand specialist thought Noschese was experiencing a stroke.

But instead of a stroke, the doctors found a three-by-four-centimeter lesion on the right side of her brain that caused paralysis on the left side of her body. Her lesion wasn’t caused by the crash, but from Noschese’s breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. Noschese was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.

Doctors wanted to perform brain surgery the following day, on Dec. 22, 2014, according to Noschese,

“It’s overwhelming to hear that you need brain surgery,” she said.

A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain prior to the operation where Dr. Robert Kerr used Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito
A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain prior to the operation where Dr. Robert Kerr used Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito

But Kerr, who met with Noschese when she entered the hospital, reassured her and reviewed the procedure with her. A new brain-mapping technique, using the Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan product, involves several new tools, including a highly engineered tube that splits brain tissue fibers and allows neurosurgeons to access difficult and deep parts of the brain easily. The procedure also utilizes a fiber optic, high definition telescope that creates a “cone of visualization” that allows surgeons to clearly view all planes of the brain they are working on.

The technique also features a procedure called the myriad, which uses a blunt suction device that peels off tumors from dangerous or sensitive areas without damaging surrounding areas in the brain.

“Traditionally, surgeries for deeper regions actually involve destroying a certain amount of tissue to get to the target area,” Kerr said.

According to Kerr, in traditional brain surgeries, metal retractors are used to create a pathway so surgeons can access target areas of the brain. Doctors use the retractors to pull the edges of the brain apart and create a pathway.

Kerr said the issue with this technique is that, regardless of how careful a surgeon is, he or she may still push on these retractors, which widens the pathway the surgeon created from surface of the brain to the target area. As a result, the patient is left with a hole in part of the brain, which means the patient will take longer to recover from the surgery.

Stony Brook Medicine Neurosurgeon Dr. David Chesler said Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan procedure is only appropriate under certain circumstances.

“Tumors that come right to the surface, where they’re easily approachable, I don’t think there’s any benefit to using this technique, because the tumor is right there,” Chesler said. Chesler took a course for the procedure about two years ago. While he thinks the technique is beneficial, he does not think it is a be-all and end-all procedure for brain surgery.

While the procedure is minimally invasive, may decrease the chance of injuring the patient during the operation and allows surgeons to approach lesions or blood clots, Chesler said there are some downsides to the technique. He said that the technology of this technique is not new, but simply creates a new system that makes it easier for surgeons to implement.

Additionally, minimally invasive procedures double or triple the length of an operation, depending on the surgeon and the nature of the surgery. Surgeons who may not be very experienced may leave parts of lesions or tumors and blood clots behind because of limited visualization.

A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain has been removed with the use of Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito
A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain has been removed with the use of Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito

Surgeons can only see what is at the end of the tube, which is around the diameter of a dime.

Kerr said this procedure will decrease patients’ recovery time. Patients are usually tired following the surgery and require extensive amounts of rest before they are discharged from the hospital. Noschese, however, was alert and speaking two hours after the surgery. Not only did she regain sensation in her hand, but she was also able to grab and hold onto a variety of objects.

Chesler, like Kerr, said patients who receive traditional surgeries for deep-seated lesions or blood clots can do well. He said his patients’ deficits were more related to the “structures involved with the tumor,” as opposed to the approach used. Chesler has seen both good and bad outcomes from this technique

According to Kerr, few surgeons are using this technique.

“Neurosurgeons are skeptics and slow adopters and I think that’s appropriate,” Kerr said, explaining why more surgeons may stick to traditional brain surgery practices.

While Chesler said the procedure should be used for the right case and with an experienced surgeon, he said staff are looking to adopt this technique at Stony Brook University Hospital. Chesler, who does both pediatric and adult neurosurgery, said he is simply looking for the right case. Recently he hasn’t come across a case that calls for the technique.

Doctors must demonstrate the procedure and illustrate its benefits when introducing the technique to the hospital. Hospitals need to invest in the procedure for a surgeon to officially implement it.

Although Chesler said there are other systems that surgeons can use to reach a similar goal, Kerr said the technique is a glimpse into the future of this type of surgery.

“I think this technology reflects the future of neurosurgery and accessing deep-seated lesions in a kinder, gentler, more precise way,” Kerr said. “I think this is representing a future paradigm shift in the way that brain surgery is done, and I think that we will see many more adopting this in a very short period of time.”

Stony Brook’s 100,000th baby Luca Michael Picarella cries in his mother’s arms at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

It’s a boy. It’s also a major milestone.

Katie Picarella of Rocky Point was wheeled into the room with her new bundle of joy and her husband Mike and daughter Gianna, 5, to celebrate the birth of Stony Brook Hospital’s 100,000th baby, Luca Michael Picarella on Thursday, Aug. 20. And by the time she was wheeled out, she had much more than a new member to her family.

The hospital presented blue cupcakes surrounded several pink cupcakes that spelled “100K,” in the Stony Brook University Hospital’s lobby in celebration of the event.

Todd Griffin, chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, said he expected Katie Picarella to give birth near the end of August, and he was right. Attending OB/GYN and former Stony Brook student Julie Welischar delivered Luca the morning of Monday, Aug. 17.

Until a week ago the Picarella family was unaware of the news that Stony Brook was expecting its 100,000th birth.

Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley
Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

“A friend of ours told us [that they] had been following this,” Mike Picarella said. “I started looking at it and [the friend] said, ‘you guys are getting close. It’d be funny if you guys are the couple.’”

But the expecting father said he was still surprised when the doctors informed him that his newborn son was the 100,000th baby.

The family didn’t just leave with their new baby boy, they also left with a gift basket, which awarded the Picarella family with $10,000 scholarship from the Island Federal Credit Union, a $2,500 scholarship toward tuition at the North Shore Montessori School, a $500 shopping spree among other gifts for the parents and their newborn.

Luca’s older sister Gianna, who was also delivered at Stony Brook, was also awarded with a brand new American Girl doll.

“Truly from the bottom of our hearts and all of our family’s hearts, we greatly appreciate it,” Mike Picarella said.

The entire Picarella family said they were thankful for the gifts and shocked by the news that they were the couple who birthed the 100,000th baby.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to us,” Katie Picarella said when speaking to the media. According to Picarella, the birth was scheduled for Friday after doctors realized Picarella’s baby would come before the end of August. But Picarella rescheduled the C-section delivery date because she wanted to have enough time to recover in order to attend her daughter’s Kindergarten screening.

The family of four also had the opportunity of meeting Jeff Solomon, who was the first baby born at Stony brook University Hospital on May 28, 1980 at 8:15 a.m. Solomon’s father Bob Solomon and step-mother Hope also attended the conference and met the family.

Before the family prepared to go home, Griffin highlighted the importance of the birth.

“For years the number of births on long island have been going down,” Griffin said. “We’re actually starting to see in the last year or two that the births have been going up.”

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Paul Fick, center, poses for a group photo after the coin flip for the Major League Soccer game at Yankee Stadium. Photo from Liz Zarins

By Clayton Collier

Kings Park native Paul Fick has helped hundreds get “back in the game.”

This past Saturday, Fick had the opportunity to help 22 Major League Soccer soccer players get their game started with the coin flip at Yankee Stadium prior to the match between the New York City Football Club and the Montreal Impact.

Before a crowd of more than 27,000, Fick was selected for the honor by Coco Joy in recognition for his work with Back in the Game, an organization he co-founded that helps young cancer patients regain strength, balance, flexibility, and confidence in an effort to return the children to a condition where they can participate in sports and physical activities again.

“It’s really not about me at all,” he said. “I just have been the beneficiary of working with these children and getting to watch them progress through their treatment. It’s about the program; it’s not about one individual. I was the representative, but it was great to see Back in the Game get more awareness so we can help more kids throughout the area.”

Fick was also recently nominated as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year. Gilbert Salon, a volunteer for Back in the Game for the last five years, said the recognition is well-deserved.

“He’s been running that program for nearly 10 years,” he said. “His dedication, year after year, all the work he puts in, it’s really amazing.”

The program is run through Professional Physical Therapy in Garden City and is funded by the Miracle Foundation.

The idea for Back in the Game was started by Rob Panariello, a Professional Physical Therapy founding partner, and his friend Peter Menges. The inspiration for the program began when Menges’ son, Bobby, broke his leg on a relatively mild slope while skiing after doctors deemed him to be in remission from cancer. It wasn’t until after the fact that they realized that, while his son had responded to the treatment in getting rid of the cancer, his body had not fully recovered.

“His body wasn’t ready to go back to physical activities yet,” Fick said.

Paul Fick, a co-founder of Back in the Game, which helps pediatric cancer patients regain their strength, balance and flexibility, exercises with some of his young patients. Photo from Fick
Paul Fick, a co-founder of Back in the Game, which helps pediatric cancer patients regain their strength, balance and flexibility, exercises with some of his young patients.
Photo from Fick

Menges said at the time of his son’s injury, he realized that there needed to be a heightened focus on post-treatment life for children like Bobby.

“I think the disconnect was that the physicians were encouraged because the kids were responding favorably to the treatment and wasn’t that great, but what they weren’t seeing was a kid that used to participate in soccer or lacrosse or football, can’t even participate in gym class,” Menges said of his experiences following his son’s cancer treatment. “So yeah, they’re doing fine from a treatment standpoint, but they’re not doing well from a physical participation life standpoint.”

Menges said once the concept was organized, Fick was brought in to structure the program into what it is today.

“He was a real catalyst for taking the idea, figuring out how to make it work and bringing it to life,” he said.

To make the idea of Back in the Game a successful reality, the men presented the idea to Dr. Mark Weinblatt at Winthrop-University Hospital. Weinblatt’s endorsement was crucial to the program getting off the ground.

“Doctor Weinblatt was very supportive in recognizing the need for the program and referring the kids to us,” Fick said. “The trust that he had in Rob and myself enabled us to work with the kids. If we didn’t have that, it would have been very difficult.”

Nine years later, Weinblatt said the program is a terrific success.

“A lot of our patients, who really had a lot of difficulty in getting back to their usual routine, found it an immense help, not just in sports but in feeling good about themselves in day-to-day activities,” he said. “Walking around, going up stairs; the things we take for granted have been helped a lot by the program. They really do a terrific job with our patients.”

Through their work with the Miracle Foundation, the services provided by Back in the Game come at no cost to the families of the children recovering from cancer.

Though Fick doesn’t like to take any credit, Menges said the program, like Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium, couldn’t have occurred without Fick getting things started.

“Paul has embraced the concept and program from the beginning, and transformed it from an idea into a highly organized and professional program,” he said. “He is great with the kids and parents, and has continuously worked to grow and improve the program. His dedication and passion is incredible.”

Joseph Volavka, far left, stood alongside Dolan Family Health Center and Pink Aid members to celebrate the $25,000 grant. Photo from Dolan Family Health Center

Woman can receive free mammograms, sonograms and breast biopsies at Huntington Hospital’s Women’s Center and the Charles and Helen Reichert Imaging Center at Huntington with the help of a new grant.

On Friday, Aug. 7, Pink Aid, an organization that aims to help women receive and survive breast cancer treatment, gave the Dolan Family Health Center a one-year, $25,000 grant.

According to Joseph Volavka, senior administrative director of the Dolan Family Health Center, around 23 percent of the center’s patients pay out of pocket for their regular appointment. The purpose of the grant is to encourage women who may not have health insurance to receive free breast screenings, which can be costly. Most patients usually have enough money to pay for their regular appointments, so the grant gives more women the opportunity to get additional health care than they would otherwise receive due to financial limitations.

“We are very grateful for this grant, which will help so many women to get the medical care that they need, and it will also help their families.” Kathy Giffuni, RN, nurse manager of the Dolan Family Health Center, said in a press release.

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A military report has concluded that one in three Americans are currently too overweight to enlist in the armed services.

According to Still Too Fat to Fight, a military study, at least nine million Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to serve in the military. The Army Recruiting Station of Smithtown has witnessed this problem in some of their applicants.

Still Too Fat to Fight and its predecessor Too Fat to Fight, both released by Mission: Readiness, are studies that discuss the problems with overweight citizens and the military force.

“Being overweight or obese is the number one medical reason why young adults cannot enlist,” according to the study. “The United States Department of Defense spends approximately one billion dollars per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems.”

Mission: Readiness is a national security organization, and their mission calls for smart investments in America’s children. It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America.

“I’ve seen, in my experience, it’s been consistent that a certain amount of applicants have been too overweight to enlist,” Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Carmack said.

Retired Army Gen. Johnnie E. Wilson said, in Too Fat to Fight, that the threat could become much bigger.

“Childhood obesity has become so serious in this country that military leaders are viewing this epidemic as a potential threat to our national security,” he said. “We need America’s service members to be in excellent physical condition because they have such an important job to do.”

While Carmack said he does not foresee the issue becoming too threatening, he said it does “put us in a situation where we need to be more selective.”

Carmack, a senior ranking official at the Smithtown recruiting station, has been working in recruitment for the past four years, and has been on Long Island, at the Smithtown office, for the past two. He said he has found success with the Future Soldier Physical Fitness program.

The Future Soldier program is a training program that is “designed to get future soldiers ready for basic training,” Carmack said. The program includes information about basic training, general military orders, military time, and physical exercise.

The program is meant to make future soldiers more prepared, and also help motivate and train citizens who are interested in joining the military but are unable to due to issues like their weight.

“Most of the time, young ladies and men want to join the program, and they typically stay with us until they can enlist,” Carmack said. “I have worked with quite a few men and women to help them achieve their goal and get to that acceptable weight limit for Army standards.”

Future Soldier Anthony Troise, of Smithtown, has benefitted from this program.

When Troise was in high school, he discovered his interest in the military, and learned he would need to improve himself in order to enlist. He started training on his own, and once he was 17, met the standards and began attending the Future Soldiers program.

“I’ve lost a few pounds, and am benefiting physically and in my health overall from this program,” Troise said. “It’s a lot of physical fitness and a lot of cardio and core. Every time they want to improve different aspects.”

According to Still Too Fat to Fight, during the Iraq war, Congress expanded the number of military recruiters. The Army also experimented with accepting physically fit recruits who had more excess body fat than those previously allowed.

The Army discovered that overweight recruits were 47 percent more likely to experience a musculoskeletal injury, such as a sprain or stress fracture. Since then, the Army has stopped accepting overweight recruits.

Carmack said that the Future Soldier program is making positive success against this issue.

“A structured program is the best way to combat it.”

Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired senior military leaders, focuses on 17 to 24 year-olds in the Unites States that can’t serve in the military due to a variety of reasons including poor education, being overweight, and having a criminal history.

Tommy the chimp looks through his cage upstate. Photo from Nonhuman Rights Project

The two chimpanzees housed at Stony Brook University will not be granted the personhood necessary to allow them to challenge their captivity, a state Supreme Court judge ruled in an animal rights advocacy group’s lawsuit against the school.

Justice Barbara Jaffe ruled in her July 30 decision that Hercules and Leo, the two male chimps used for research at Stony Brook University’s Department of Anatomical Sciences, would not be granted a “writ of habeas corpus,” as petitioned for in the Nonhuman Rights Project’s suit against the university. The animal rights group had petitioned the judge with hopes of forcing the university to move the chimps to the Florida-based Save the Chimps animal sanctuary.

“The similarities between chimpanzees and humans inspire the empathy felt for a beloved pet,” Jaffe said in her decision. “Efforts to extend legal rights to chimpanzees are thus understandable; someday they may even succeed. For now, however, given the precedent to which I am bound it is hereby ordered that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.”

Jaffe cited previous suits the Nonhuman Rights Project had headed up, including one referencing a chimpanzee named Tommy who was being held through Circle L Trailers in Gloversville, NY. In that case, the Fulton County Supreme Court dismissed the Nonhuman Rights Project’s appeal to have the chimp released.

Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, said his group was still looking forward to appealing Jaffe’s decision to the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division’s first judicial department.

“Unlike Justice Jaffe, [the first judicial department] is not bound by the decision of the Third Department in Tommy’s case,” Wise said in a statement.

Despite the judge’s ruling, Susan Larson, an anatomical sciences professor at SBU, previously said both Hercules and Leo will retire from the facility’s research center and be gone by September. Larson did not return requests for comment.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, however, said it would work to ensure the chimps are released to a sanctuary nevertheless.

“We applaud Stony Brook for finally doing the right thing,” Lauren Choplin of the Nonhuman Rights Project wrote on the group’s website. “We have made it clear that we remain willing to assist Stony Brook in sending Hercules and Leo to Save the Chimps in Ft. Pierce, Florida, where we have arranged for them to be transferred, or to have an appropriate member sanctuary of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, as we did in Tommy’s case. We have made it equally clear that, if Stony Brook attempts to move Hercules and Leo to any other place, we will immediately seek a preliminary injunction to prevent this move pending the outcome of all appeals, as we succeeded in doing in Tommy’s case last year.”

New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana owns the chimps, and their next destination was not clear.

The court first ordered the school to show cause and writ of habeas corpus — a command to produce the captive person and justify their detention — but struck out the latter on April 21, one day after releasing the initial order, making it a more administrative move simply prompting the university to defend why it detains the animals.

In an earlier press release from 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project said the chimpanzee plaintiffs are “self-aware” and “autonomous” and therefore should have the same rights as humans. Hercules and Leo are currently being used in a locomotion research experiment in SBU’s Department of Anatomical Sciences.

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