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Medical school follows new approach to opioid curriculum.

At Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine, a new generation of doctors and dentists are involved in a novel approach to managing the opioid epidemic. The training includes instruction from reformed narcotic users, who act as teachers.

A 25-year-old woman recently explained to the first-year students how she became addicted to opioids at the age of 15, when a friend came over with Vicodin prescribed by a dentist after a tooth extraction.

Addiction, she said, is like having a deep itch inside that desperately needs to be scratched.

“There was nothing that could stand between me and getting high,” said the young woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “Most of the time it was my only goal for the day. At $40 a pill, I quickly switched to heroin which costs $10.” 

The university’s Assistant Dean for Clinical Education Dr. Lisa Strano-Paul, who helped coordinate the session, said that “patients as teachers” is widely practiced in medical education. This is the first year reformed narcotic users are participating in the program.

“People’s stories will stick with these medical students for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Seeing such an articulate woman describe her experiences was impactful.”

Gerard Fischer, a doctor of dental surgery candidate from St. James, took part in the patient-as-teacher session on narcotics.

“You learn empathy, a quality people want to see in someone practicing medicine,“ Fischer said. “People don’t choose to become addicted to narcotics. So, you want to understand.”

After working in dental offices over the last several years, he’s noticed that habits for prescribing painkillers are changing.

“Dental pain is notoriously uncomfortable because it’s in your face and head,” he said. “No one wants a patient to suffer.” Pain management, though, requires walking a fine line, he added, saying, “Patient awareness is increasing, so many of them now prefer to take ibuprofen and acetaminophen rather than a prescription narcotic, which could be a reasonable approach.”

Hearing the young woman tell her story, he said, will undoubtedly influence his decision-making when he becomes a practicing dentist. 

An estimated 180 medical and dental students attended the training last month. Overall, Strano-Paul said she’s getting positive feedback from the medical students about the session. 

The woman who overcame addiction and shared her insights with the medical professionals, also found the experience rewarding. 

We respect her request to remain anonymous and are grateful that she has decided to share her story with TBR News Media. For the rest of this article, we shall refer to her as “Claire.” 

Faith, hope and charity

“I told the doctors that recovery has nothing to do with science,” Claire said. “They just looked at me.”

Claire was addicted to drugs and alcohol for seven years and went to rehab 10 times over the course of five years. 

“I did some crazy things, I jumped out of a car while it was moving,” Claire said, shaking her head in profound disbelief.

She leapt from the vehicle, she said, the moment she learned that her family was on their way to a rehab facility. Fortunately, she was unharmed and has now been off pain pills and drugs for close to six years. She no longer drinks alcohol.

“Yes, it is possible to recover from addiction,” Claire said. 

People with addiction issues feel empty inside, Claire explained, while gently planting her fist in her sternum. She said that once her counselor convinced her to pray for help and guidance, she was able to recover.

“Somehow praying opens you up,” she said. 

Claire was raised Catholic and attended Catholic high school but says that she’s not a religious person. 

“I said to my counselor, “How do I pray, if I don’t believe or know if there’s a God?” 

She came to terms with her spirituality by appreciating the awe of nature. She now prays regularly. Recovery, she said, is miraculous.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step regimen, first published in 1939 in the post-Depression era, outlines coping strategies for better managing life. Claire swears by the “big book,” as it’s commonly called. She carefully read the first 165 pages with a counselor and has highlighted passages that taught her how to overcome addictions to opioids and alcohol. Being honest, foregoing selfishness, praying regularly and finding ways to help others have become reliable sources of her strength.

Spirituality is the common thread Claire finds among the many people she now knows who have recovered from addiction.

People are relying on the traditional methods of Alcohol Anonymous to overcome addiction to opioids.  

Medication-assisted therapy

Personally, Claire recommends abstinence over treating addiction medically with prescription drugs such as buprenorphine. The drug, approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration since 2002, is a slow-release opioid that suppresses symptoms of withdrawal. When combined with behavior therapy, the federal government recommends it as treatment for addiction. Medication alone, though, is not viewed as sufficient. The ultimate goal of medication-assisted therapy, as described on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website on the topic, is a holistic approach to full recovery, which includes the ability to live a self-directed life.

“Medication-assisted therapy should not be discounted,” Strano-Paul said. “It improves the outcome and enables people to hold jobs and addresses criminal behavior tendencies.”

While the assistant dean is not involved with that aspect of the curriculum, the topic is covered somewhat in the clerkship phase of medical education during sessions on pain management and when medical students are involved in more advanced work in the medical training, she said. 

The field, though, is specialized.

The federal government requires additional certification before a medical practitioner can prescribe buprenorphine. Once certified, doctors and their medical offices are further restricted to initially prescribe the medicine to only 30 patients annually. Critics say no other medications have government-mandated patient limits on lifesaving treatment. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, considers the therapy to be “misunderstood” and “greatly underused.” 

In New York state, 111,391 medical practitioners are registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe opioids and narcotics. Only 6,908 New York practitioners to date are permitted to prescribe opioids for addiction treatment as at Aug. 31.

Strano-Paul for instance, pointed out that she can prescribe opioids, but is prohibited from prescribing the opioid-based drug used for addiction therapy. 

The narcotics education program is still evolving, Strano-Paul said. 

New medical student training now also includes certification for Narcan, the nasal spray antidote that revives opioid overdose victims. 

“It saves lives,” Strano-Paul said. 

In Suffolk County in 2017, 424 people died from an opioid overdose, which was 41 percent higher than the state average, according to a study titled “The Staggering Cost of Long Island’s Opioid Crisis.” The county is aware of 238 potentially lifesaving overdose reversals as of June 30 attributed to Narcan this year alone. Since 2012, Narcan has helped to save the lives of 3,864 people in the county. 

As for Claire, now a mother, she delivered her children through C-section. In the hospital, she was offered prescription opioids for pain. 

“No one will ever see me again, if you give me those pills,” she said.                

Canine heart disease is prevalent in larger dogs like golden retrievers. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

I recently had a pet owner come in and ask me what I knew about the list of FDA-banned diets for dogs. I felt I’d better not be behind the times, so time to do some research.

I took a quick trip to the FDA’s website and found the article to which all the hub-bub was linked. What I found was that the FDA did not ban any diets but did list 16 brands of dog food that were linked to 500 cases of a heart condition called dilatory cardiomyopathy, or DCM for short. The study ran from 2014 to 2019. I will not list the 16 diets, but they can be found on the FDA’s official website in the report.

I need to start with a disclaimer that there is no current evidence to link grain-free diets and heart disease, but here’s what we know so far: New studies have found that some dogs on grain-free diets are more at risk for canine DCM.

DCM is a heart condition where the heart muscle becomes thin and the heart dilates, or the chambers of the heart expand. Unfortunately, as the heart dilates, the heart becomes an inefficient pump and the patient goes into heart failure. The lung and abdomen then fill with fluid, making it impossible to breathe and, without treatment, is fatal. Even with treatment the patient’s life span is reduced dramatically.

Why would grain-free diets cause this? The link seems to be taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid, or building block of protein, that is essential for normal heart function. It is found in higher concentrations in muscle of animals including red meats, poultry and seafood. Plants contain very little to no taurine. The lowest concentrations of taurine are found in legumes (peas, chick peas), potatoes and other plants. Some dog foods are supplemented with taurine and some are not.

In 2018, A study led by Dr. Joshua Stern (a veterinary cardiologist at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine) found a higher number of DCM in golden retrievers. Stern also discovered that many of these patients were on a grain-free diet and had abnormally low taurine levels.

In June of 2019 the FDA released a report that found 500 cases of DCM related to 16 diets. Golden retrievers were the most common breed affected. All of the diets listed were labeled “grain free” or contained legumes.

An actual link between grain-free diets and DCM has not been definitively established, but research is ongoing and I will update everyone as soon as I have more information.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com to see his answer in an upcoming column

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Karen and fluffy at Northport Harbor Park

At Heckscher Park in Huntington, where families and community members regularly gather to listen to music and attend festivals and performances, leashed dogs are unwelcomed.  

More than 1,500 people want to see that policy changed. In the last few weeks, a petition has been circulating and websites created outlining all the reasons why they think the Town of Huntington is short-changing its residents with what they call “outdated laws.”

“Leashed dogs in Heckscher will keep Huntington’s tax-paying citizens, their families, and their dogs healthy and encourage tourism and businesses in the Huntington area,” Karen Thomas and Eva Yutani stated in a press release that’s been circulating via email. Thomas, a lifelong resident of Huntington, said that she feels obligated to try and change the rules for the benefit of dogs as well as dog lovers. 

The public relations team points out that Northport Harbor Park has allowed leashed dogs for years and has noticed that it’s a very busy park with happy dog owners socializing with other dog owners and enjoying events and music.

The petitioners in some cases see the law as unfair and biased.

“It’s time to let Huntington dog owners enjoy the wonderful public recreational resource just like every other person in town,” said Ginny Munger Kahn, president of LiDog, who is among residents who have signed the petition.  

Dog and dog owner’s behavior is often behind the no-dogs-allowed rules. So is fear. Some people think that their dog is so well-behaved that a leash is unnecessary, which can scare other park visitors, according to some park managers on Long Island. Some people worry that a dog can become aggressive if provoked by another animal or child. And it’s not uncommon for someone to hear the words, “He’s friendly” before being bitten. Then, there’s the poop problem.

At Frank Melville Park in Setauket and Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook and Head of the Harbor, dogs are welcomed, and park visitors are drawn to the spots often because of the open policy. But park management has said in interviews that it’s a constant challenge. They try to instill in park visitors the idea of protecting and enjoying the outdoors, while being very mindful of others. 

Whatever resistance there’s been against open park access to leashed dogs in Huntington, the rules have been evolving.   

Dogs were banned in all town parks and beaches up until four years ago, when, on a trial basis, they were allowed in five town parks. In 2017, the town’s Greenway Trails Advisory Committee recommended expanding park access to leashed dogs at all its parklands except at the Betty Allen Nature Preserve, where there’s fishing, and at Heckscher Park, which has high activity. The town board accepted those recommendations. 

Dogs remain banned from all beaches and playgrounds. 

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), who is running for re-election this November, has said in an email that she would support and perhaps even sponsor a resolution that would allow leashed dogs on a trial basis in Heckscher Park, then assess the program to see if the ban should be lifted. 

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci’s (R) office has a different perspective. 

“This has been an ongoing discussion in the supervisor’s office, with Public Safety/Animal Control, Parks and Recreation and the Town Attorney’s office for over a year now to accommodate residents on both sides of this issue,” the town’s Public Information Officer Lauren Lembo said in an email. “Most of our parks allow dogs on-leash but Heckscher was specifically recommended as off-limits to dogs (in the Town Code) by our trails committee for various reasons, including the protection of water fowl, water quality, and vegetation, and due to the narrow trails, which make escape from an unwanted interaction difficult. Dogs are already not allowed on athletic fields, active recreation areas, playgrounds and picnic areas (also in the Town Code), and all these conditions exist at Heckscher.”

 Lembo said that the supervisor is looking into establishing nearby dog-friendly alternatives. 

Photo from Northwell Health

Huntington Hospital has received a two-year designation as an Antimicrobial Stewardship Center of Excellence (AS CoE) by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The hospital is one of only 35 hospitals nationwide to receive this recognition.

More than 700,000 people die worldwide each year due to antimicrobial-resistant infections. The AS CoE program recognizes institutions that have created stewardship programs led by infectious disease (ID) physicians and ID-trained pharmacists who have achieved standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC core elements for antibiotic stewardship include seven major areas: leadership commitment, accountability, drug expertise, action, tracking, reporting and education.

Dr. Cynthia Ann Hoey and Dr. Adrian Popp, infectious disease specialists, worked closely with pharmacists Agnieszka Pasternak  and Nina Yousefzadeh to ensure Huntington Hospital met the rigorous criteria to be recognized by the IDSA.

“We are honored to have received this prestigious IDSA recognition,” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, the hospital’s executive director. “We are committed to fighting antimicrobial resistance through our comprehensive training and educational outreach program with all of our infectious disease specialists and pharmacists. The antimicrobial stewardship program will improve patient care and preserve the integrity of current treatments for future generations.”

Pictured from left, Nina Yousefzadeh,  Dr. Cynthia Ann Hoey, Agnieszka Pasternak and Dr. Nick Fitterman.

Vilma Rodriguez and Bea Ruberto holds a photo of Sound Beach from the 1930 in front of the La Famiglia Pizzeria. Photo by Kyle Barr

Ninety years ago in 1929, New York City newspaper The Daily Mirror offered subscribers the opportunity to buy a 20- by 100-foot parcel of undeveloped land between Rocky Point and Miller Place. The cost to purchase a plot of land through the subscription was $89.50 in 1929, equivalent to $1,315 in 2019.

In the trees and rocks of Long Island’s North Shore, a hamlet slowly rose from the earth.

Sound Beach is a hamlet of only 1.6 square miles and around 7,612 people, according to the last census. Stuffed in between Rocky Point and Miller Place, one of the North Shore’s smallest hamlets barely scrapes along the ubiquitously driven Route 25A. For those who don’t know the area, the hamlet boundaries are often mistaken for that of its neighbors.

Rocky Point has a historical society. So does Miller Place, combined with bordering Mount Sinai. Now prominent members of the Sound Beach community feel that’s something that needs correcting. 

in 1929, The Daily Mirror offered subscribers the opportunity to buy a 20- by 100-foot parcel of undeveloped land between Rocky Point and Miller Place. Photo from Bea Ruberto

Mimi Hodges, a near lifelong resident, is just one of the several women who are looking at Sound Beach’s past. She said that ad in the newspaper didn’t attract your average vacationers looking to take a break from New York City. They were working-class individuals, all of whom were looking for a change of pace during the depression era of the 1930s. They came with very little, sometimes only tents for their families, but still managed to build a small but safe town. 

“Sound Beach is unique in that it was a place created specifically for the working class,” she said. “People who didn’t have a lot of money and wanted to get away from the city — from Brooklyn and Queens. They put up their tents, they put up their own little houses, and eventually, in 1930, the Sound Beach Property Owner’s Association was born.”

The Sound Beach history project, which is being spearheaded by the Sound Beach Civic Association, is hoping to bridge that gap. Engineered by community leaders and longtime residents, local women are already uncovering several old photographs that show a much different Sound Beach, full of dirt roads and dusty buildings.

“It’s like a little mystery,” said Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto.

Vilma Rodriguez, another resident, said work comes in bits and pieces, but their group has been energized.

“Sound Beach had no roads, no streetlights,” she said referring to the olden days of the small hamlet. “It’s little bits of information, but it builds up.”

For many of its earliest decades, mail was sent and received through Scotty’s General Store on Echo Avenue or Moeller’s General Store on Sound Beach Boulevard. It wasn’t until June 1, 1946, the first post office opened in the hamlet. 

In the small shopping center off of New York Avenue, where La Famiglia Pizzeria currently resides, the locals used to go to M.B. Sweet Shop for lunch and candy. Next to it, instead of the Italian restaurant, was the Square Market Store. Local resident Florence McArdle attributed the local setting to a particular show.

“It was just like ‘Happy Days,’” she said. 

Back in the day, the building that now houses Bedrossian Real Estate on Northport Road once was a community house that hosted everything from dances to pingpong and knock hockey. In that time, lacking a church, McArdle, a resident from the 1930s, said local community members “would iron the tablecloth, flip it over and they would have Mass on Sundays in the bar, Boyles.”

Sound Beach once had its own police department, its own highway and sanitation department. People once gathered at the “pavilion” on the bluff, where kids could buy ice cream and hot dogs.

Local resident Stephanie Mcllvaine said she has been pouring through newsletters from the 1940s, which reveal just how much has changed in the 80 years since. She wrote that a May 1940 newsletter was the census results. John Mertz, the winter caretaker and “mayor,” found 61 families consisting of 185 people lived in Sound Beach year-round. There were four general stores, three gas stations, one restaurant, five general contractors, two masons, one electrician, two fire wardens and two deputy sheriffs. Many of the year-round residents were members of the fire department as well. 

Despite their deep dive into this local history, many things are still unknown. What locals call “The Square” was either called Journal Square or Moeller Square, though Ruberto did not know where Journal Square even came from. There was a Moeller of the general store fame, but she has had trouble getting in contact with the family. She learned there was a James Moeller who taught math at the Miller Place School District but learned from the board of education he passed in 2012. 

Barbara Russell, the Town of Brookhaven historian, said her office has only a few items and details in the way of Sound Beach, but she praised the women for taking on the task. She said with the enthusiasm the group is showing, they’re well on their way to creating walking tours or a historical society.

Many of the local women looking back at the hamlet’s history have a fondness for the way things were. They watched the area grow slowly, ever so slowly, from the working-class family’s retreat to what it is today. Back then, Sound Beach was the destination, and there was no need to drive out and plan visits to other parts of the island, they said.

“Most of us here, we thought we were growing up in a ‘garden of Eden,’” said Hodges. “It was just fantastic.”

For those looking to get involved in the history project or who are interested in donating old photos, contact Bea Ruberto at rubertob11789@aol.com or call 631-744-6952.

 

Helios

MEET HELIOS!

This week’s shelter pet is Helios, a 6-month-old potcake rescued from the Bahamas. 

This ray of sunshine is a fun little fella who would love nothing more than to have a home of his own. He loves to go for walks with our volunteers, and enjoys being petted and loved on!  

He’s just an all around nice little dog, weighing approximately 27 pounds; however, he still has a little bit of growing to do. This sweet boy comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on all his vaccines.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Helios and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

The Town of Huntington will host boating safety courses for residents. File photo by TBR News Media

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) is encouraging all residents who venture out on Huntington’s waterways to register for the advanced boating safety training course Emergencies on Board, presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron in coordination with the Town of Huntington, at Huntington Town Hall on Monday, Aug. 12.

“I am pleased to announce that the town is expanding the boating safety training provided under the Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program to now include advanced boating safety courses presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which address planning for and troubleshooting boating emergencies — information that can save lives,” said Lupinacci. Victoria Gaines was a 7-year-old who was killed in a boating accident in 2012.

The Town of Huntington offers free basic boating safety certification training in the spring season leading into the summer boating months. Those who register attend a full 8-hour course, and when they pass the test receive a NYS Boating Safety Credential issued by NYS Parks.

The courses now offered by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron at Town Hall provide advanced boating safety training, which complements the basic training course offered by the town. However, completing the basic boating safety course is not required to attend the advanced training presented by Neptune Sail.

Philip Quarles, education commander for the squadron, stated: “The Neptune Sail and Power Squadron was founded in 1938 and has been serving Town of Huntington for 83 years teaching boating safety and advanced boating courses. We are honored to be partnering with the Town of Huntington offering classes to residents. Emergencies on Board will be offered on Aug. 12. You can learn more by visiting www.neptuneboatingclub.com.”

“I want to continue to thank all that devote their time to ensuring the water safety of the boating community. I appreciate the unending support to my advocacy. One never thinks this could happen to them and it absolutely can! My hope is that boaters of all ages and experience levels continue to educate themselves. I believe this coupled with the new laws on the horizon will ultimately save lives,” said Lisa Gaines, Victoria’s mother.

The first presentation of Emergencies on Board at Huntington Town Hall will be on Monday, Aug. 12 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The course cost is $20.00, made payable on the evening of the event by check to: Neptune Sail and Power Squadron. Space is limited to the first 50 students. Attendees may register at neptune11743@gmail.com or by calling 631-824-7128.

The town held a presentation of Suddenly in Command, another advanced boating safety course presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron on Monday, June 24 at Town Hall.

Both Suddenly in Command and Emergencies on Board courses will be offered at Town Hall periodically throughout the year.

Learn more about the Town of Huntington Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program or register for courses: http://huntingtonny.gov/boating-safety.

 

 

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Shoreham-Wading River school district is considering converting the closed fitness center into a wrestling center. Photo by Kyle Barr Photo by Kyle Barr

Shoreham-Wading River’s ailing fitness center may see a new lease on life, should the puzzle pieces come together.

At a July 8 meeting, Superintendent Gerard Poole presented the idea to the school board that the district could convert the old Joe Ferreira Fitness Center and turn it into a wrestling center, while at the same time taking the auxiliary gym and turning that into a new fitness center.

Though the thought is still up in the air, the plan would require making major renovations to the old fitness center, located just to the east of the main high school building. The fitness center, built in the 1980s, was closed in July last year when an assessment of the building by the school district’s internal engineer showed the flooring was not up to code for constant physical activity. The building would require additional steel supports, toilet renovations to make it ADA compliant, new HVAC, emergency lighting and an upgraded fire alarm system.

Last October, the district said the renovations could cost upward of $200,000.

The district moved exercise equipment into room A101, right next to the cafeteria. Room A102 will also be used for fitness come September.

In a survey sent to students by the district about whether they would use a fitness center within the high school, 75 percent responded yes.

At the July meeting, Poole said the district had originally included the fitness center as part of its 2015 bond project, which is currently in the midst of renovating the high school parking lot. Though the school district could use additional funds left over to remake the fitness center, it won’t know how much funds it has left until the end of August, the superintendent said. There is no current funding in the 2019-20 budget to convert either the auxiliary gym or old fitness center.

Local residents who once extensively used the old fitness center for exercise during non-school hours have said they wished to be allowed to use the machinery, though Poole said they would have to look at hours and access for nonstudents on the off hours.

In addition the district said this change would potentially allow them to use the outside building as a polling place, instead of the usual gym space. School’s being used as polling places has been a sore spot for several North Shore school districts as they continue to look at security concerns.

Poole said, in speaking to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, there is no requirement that the district reuse the same space.

“It’s a matter of looking at the layout seeing where everything can fit,” Poole said.

 

'Some 1,300 communities in the U.S. now have no newscoverage at all.' - Pew Research Center

By Donna Deedy

It’s often said that a free press is a pillar of democracy, a fourth branch of government, capable of shining a light on corruption to reveal truth. History is full of cases where news stories have exposed unethical or criminal behavior, essentially helping to right a wrong. 

Consider the story on the Pentagon Papers, which showed how the federal government misled the public about the Vietnam War. When congressional leaders didn’t act, newspapers filled a role. 

Think of the news story about lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s water supply and the Boston Globe’s series that exposed the widespread cover-up of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Most recently, the Miami Herald’s series “Perversion of Justice” is credited for exposing the crimes and lenient punishment of Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly operated a sex-trafficking scheme with underage girls. 

These are just a few cases with incredible breadth and scope that show how journalism raises awareness and ultimately prompts change. Countless other stories underscore the value and impact of journalism, and the news is not always necessarily grim. Aside from exposing bad actors or twisted policies, journalists also celebrate all that is good in a community and can bring people together by showing the great achievements of ordinary people. 

Any way you look at it, news matters. 

In the last decade and a half, though, it’s become increasing difficult for newspapers to survive. Newsroom employees have declined by 45 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the Pew Research Center. Some 1,300 communities in the U.S. now have no coverage at all in what are called “news deserts.” This spells trouble for democracy. Thankfully, Congress is now opening a door to take a look at the situation. 

A six-minute YouTube video created by The News Media Alliance, the news industry’s largest trade organization, explains what people need to know about the situation. Entitled “Legislation to Protect Local News,” if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time. 

In summary, technology — think internet and smartphones — has had a phenomenally positive impact in increasing the demand for news by expanding readership and engagement. In fact, just 2 percent of the U.S. population in 1995 relied on the internet to get news three days a week, according to Pew Research Center. By 2018, 93 percent of the population accessed at least some news online. But while news is more widely circulated, this shift to online platforms is also at the root of the news industry’s struggle. 

Terry Egger, publisher and CEO of Philadelphia Media Network said in the video that he recognizes the power and beauty of the Facebook and Google’s distribution models, but he also sees in detail how they are eroding the news industry’s ability to pay for its journalism. 

“Facebook and Google are able to monetize their distribution of our content, nearly 80 to 85 cents of every dollar in advertising digitally goes to one of those two platforms,” he said. 

The bottom line: News is supported largely by advertisements. By creating and distributing content to an audience, news outlets essentially broker their reach to advertisers looking for exposure. Accessing news through Facebook and Google has essentially disrupted that business model.

Facebook and Google have generated over the last year $60 billion in revenue, explains U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), chairman of the U.S. House Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in the video. In contrast, news publishers’ revenue is down about $31 billion “over the last several years.”

Cicilline senses that something needs to be done to help local papers and publishers survive. He, along with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), have introduced in April a bill called Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019, H.R.2054. 

The bill provides a temporary safe harbor where publishers of online content can collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms about the terms under which their content may be distributed. 

Collins, ranking member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, called the bill a first step to see if the nation can bring fairness to smaller and local and regional papers. So far, the legislation continues to gain momentum. 

Danielle Coffey, counsel for the News Media Alliance, stated in a recent email interview that the journalism preservation bill is receiving voices of support from both sides of the aisle. The organization is looking for more sponsors to be added. “We aren’t asking for the government to save us or even for the government to regulate or change the platforms,” said David Chavern, president and CEO of News Media Alliance. “We’re just asking for a fighting chance for news publishers to stand up for themselves and create a sustainable digital future for journalism.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said that he is monitoring the bill’s progress.“A free press has been essential to the maintenance of our democracy and keeping people informed,” he said. “As the way Americans consume their news evolves, we must ensure that tried-and-true local journalists are receiving their fair share so they can continue to serve their readers for generations to come.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is equally in agreement. “Our democracy is strongest when we have a free and diverse press,” he said. “From national to local news, events and happenings, we need the quality journalism of the free press to keep the public aware of what is happening in their country, state, town and local communities.”

Residents are urged to contact their congressman, Zeldin (631-289-1097) or Suozzi (631-923-4100), and ask them to become co-sponsors of H.R.2054: Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019.

 

Caged migrant children at U.S. Mexico border

By Donna Deedy

Local U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D–Glen Cove), after visiting detention centers along the southern United States border July 13 with 15 other House Democrats, has returned to his Huntington office alarmed. The situation, he said, is awful.  

U.S. Immigration Detention Center. photo from Tom Suozzi’s Office

“We need to make the humanitarian crisis at the border priority number one,” Suozzi said. “The system is broken.”

The group toured and inspected facilities that are currently holding Central American migrants seeking asylum and met with several migrant families to hear, first-hand, their experiences and what can be done to help.

“America is better than this,” he said. “I have worked on this issue since before I was elected mayor of Glen Cove in 1993 and I will continue to fight for solutions consistent with our American values.” 

During the visit, Suozzi learned that only 20 to 30 migrants seeking asylum are processed each day. This provides an incentive for people to cross in between ports of entry, he said, and once apprehended, they then turn themselves in to seek asylum. In turn, this leads to their detention.

“My recent trip to the border makes it clear that this issue is incredibly complicated and has been for decades. The policies and rhetoric from this administration have exacerbated the problem, permeating a culture of fear that forces many immigrants further into the shadows.” 

 The congressman is calling for action, insisting that all delegates work together to:

•Address the current humanitarian crisis at the border.

•Secure borders in a smart and effective way.

•Create stability in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that account for almost 90 percent of current immigrants.

•Protect the legal status of Dreamers and people with temporary protective status and their families with renewable temporary protection and a path to citizenship.

The tour coincided with rallies held in Huntington village and across the country and the world in protest of the policies and inhumane practices at U.S. border with Mexico. 

Suozzi was a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on July 16, where he said that “the president has, once again, shifted the conversation away from important policy issues toward a racial divide in our country.”

The Rev. Duncan Burns, of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington, attended the Huntington rally “Lights for Liberty” and spoke to the crowd that gathered July 12. Suozzi’s trip to the border, the reverend said, has sparked greater concern.

“We encourage people to raise their voices and to call their members of Congress to urge them to work together to find solutions,” he said. “The Episcopal Church is completely backing both parties to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on his position on the issue.