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Vaping is a new health hazard. Stock photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It is hard to believe that summer is over and another school year has begun. This year the landscape for the opening of the new school year has been marred with another mass shooting and Hurricane Dorian, which has paralyzed the south eastern part of our country.

Schools around the country are beginning a new school year with intense anxiety around gun violence and the country’s inability to come up with reasonable, effective gun safety regulations that protect people’s safety and people’s Second Amendment rights.

The lack of decisive leadership on the part of those we have elected to lead is scandalous. The lack of clarity and the profound silence from the White House is deafening and shameful. Gun safety should be a priority issue that should not be buried in the political rubble of partisan politics. People from both sides of the aisle should be able to come together and pass legislation that protects the quality of life for all Americans. If they cannot, then simply vote them out!

As an educator and mental health professional, it troubles me deeply how those who lead us are quick to blame the mentally ill for all of our mass shootings. Every mass shooter has not been mentally ill. Yes, a number have, but our system for support of those battling mental illness at best is poor and honestly is so broken and fragmented that de facto it is useless.

We have an insurance system that sets people up for failure; when it should empower people to wellness. We must address the stigma we impose on people who need help with mental health issues and/or addiction issues.

Finally, we are holding the big pharmaceutical companies accountable for fueling the opioid epidemic. Will any of those billions of dollars be directed to long-term residential treatment or will they get lost in a bureaucracy that has lost its way?

We have to have the courage to do things differently, and the new school year is an excellent opportunity to live differently. Education is a gift, and our children should learn early on what a tremendous opportunity is being given them. Attending class, doing homework and excelling should be everyone’s expectation. We need to hold our children accountable; as parents we need to collaborate with teachers and school administrators to create the most life-giving environment for all of our children to grow and excel.

We also need to be concerned about our children’s social behavior. It is troubling that a growing number of our children in junior high school through college age spend more time on social media and texting than they do on face-to-face human communication and studying.

Ask your junior high and/or high school student if he or she could give up his or her cellphone for one month. Most will tell you no! Remember life before cellphones and social media? This present generation is not learning how to effectively communicate and build healthy human relationships.

One last concern as the new school year begins — vaping, e-cigarettes — are a new health hazard. Don’t be brainwashed by advertisements to believe that e-cigarettes and vaping are an excellent deterrent to smoking. They are not! Our children are not just vaping their favorite flavors, but cannabis.

These are not social behaviors that are healthy for our teenagers and young adults to indulge in. We need to take our blinders off and do our homework if we genuinely care about our children.

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

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Dogs are incredibly stupid. OK, now that I’ve got your attention, I realize that not all dogs lack intelligence. Lassie and Balto both saved the day.

I suspect many dogs, like mine who is now 1 year old, are only as smart as their training.

And they need something almost as often as a young child. What’s the matter, boy? You need to go out? Why are you barking, buddy? Do you see a squirrel? Is the neighbor out watering the grass again? That’s OK, you don’t need to bark at him every time he takes out the hose.

Recently, my wife made chocolate chip cookies. She says that we make them together, but my only job is to put them in the oven, wait for them to rise a bit, make sure the edges are cooked and then allow them to finish baking while they cool on the hot tray. She’s the master chef and I am the cookie flash fryer.

Anyway, the house was starting to develop that wonderful baked goods smell. My wife, son and I were eagerly awaiting the moment when I could bring the hot plate to the master bed, where we could make “mmm” noises at each other as we talked about the day and compared this batch to the ones we had a few months ago, as if we were reviewers on a cooking show.

The young dog has gotten used to the routine. He stands in the kitchen with his ears pitched forward, waiting for his best friend gravity to deliver something to him on the floor, which is, generally, his domain. He follows us back and forth to get the ingredients from the pantry and then to bring those ingredients back.

At 85 pounds, he is a large dog and his eye level has gotten closer to the mixer and the ingredients. We try to push everything to the middle of the island in the kitchen.

After doling out the hot cookies onto a plate into the shape of an edible pyramid, I left the room for a moment. When I returned, I shouted in astonishment. The dog had his front legs on the high counter and was reaching his long neck, tongue and head as far as he could. He had devoured half the plate.

After admonishing him for eating food that wasn’t his and that was dangerous, I locked him in a room without carpets and called the vet, who asked if I could give an exact number of chips he ate. Of course I couldn’t, which meant I had to bring him in, where the vet would empty the chocolate the dog had stolen.

My wife joined me for our evening adventure. After a few moments, the vet brought our surprisingly happy dog to us in a waiting room and told us he’d also eaten some plastic and a bottle cap. She allayed my embarrassment by telling me that her colleague’s dog — she’s a vet, remember — has had five operations because of the nonfood he’s swallowed that has blocked his system. Her colleague’s dog now wears a satellite dish around his head. While the reception is terrible, he doesn’t need emergency procedures anymore.

For all the frustration, the cleaning, the shedding, the wet dog smell, our dog is more than happy to have me, my family member, or the neighbor on the left with the garden hose or on the right with a howling dog, run hands through his wonderfully soft fur. He may not be the smartest or easiest dog on the block, but he is ours and we do get some perks here and there, in between rescuing half chewed flip-flops and slippers.

Hernan Cortes

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Anniversaries sometimes bring out interesting tidbits of history. One such anniversary involves events that happened 500 years ago. In September 1519, Hernán Cortés met the ruler Montezuma II in what was the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán that is now Mexico City. Records tell us that Cortés was greeted cordially, in part because his arrival happened to coincide with Aztec expectations of a god returning right at that time. To the Aztecs, the Spanish — 500 strong, with their pale skins, guns, canons and horses — must indeed have seemed godlike. The indigenous people had never before seen horses, nor had they any familiarity with gunpowder. Montezuma sent out envoys to meet the newcomers and welcome them to the city.

The Spanish conquistadors, for their part, had different intentions, as we know from elementary school history. For them it was the Age of Exploration. Christopher Columbus had shown the way in 1492, and young Cortés, bored studying law in Salamanca, western Spain, was eager to follow in those footsteps.

So who was Hernán Cortés?

He was born into a noble but not wealthy family in 1485 and was smart and ambitious. The original intention of the explorers was to find a passage to the Far East, from which they could bring back nutmeg, cloves, pepper and cinnamon, the spices so desired by Europeans. But Cortés wanted to explore the New World to seize more land for Spain and ultimately convert the natives in the Americas to Catholicism even as he plundered their gold, gems and made himself rich. The landscape in the 16th century was dramatically changing, with Afro-Eurasian trade connecting a global economy. Opportunity existed for acquiring great wealth.

In 1504, Cortés set sail for Hispaniola — now Haiti and the Dominican Republic — where he became a notary and farmer. In 1511, he joined Diego Velásquez on an expedition to conquer Cuba, where he eventually became the equivalent of mayor of Santiago. Then he persuaded Velásquez to enable a voyage to Mexico, and despite an order at the last minute canceling the trip, he set sail with 11 ships, 500 men and 16 horses, and landed in the Yucatán Peninsula, on the east coast of Mexico, in 1519.

He was, by all accounts, astounded by the gruesome rituals and human sacrifices he saw there, and he replaced pagan idols with crosses and figures of the Virgin Mary. Like so many of the other conquistadors, he regarded the natives as inferior culturally, technologically and religiously. When he encountered resistance in a place called Tabasco, he overpowered the opposition and was given, among other prizes, 20 women slaves.

One was La Malinche, who became an important figure in his life and in his eventual success in conquering Montezuma, for she was able to learn languages and translated Mayan and Aztec for him after she learned Spanish. She also bore him a son, one of the first children of mixed heritage. However, when eventually his wife joined him in Mexico from Spain, Cortés appears not to have acknowledged either his mistress or son.

The rest, as we know, is history. Cortés went on to conquer the Aztecs, with the help both of some of the dissident tribes the Aztecs ruled and smallpox, against which the natives had no immunity. An estimated  3 million indigenous people fell victim to the disease. Cortés sacked the sophisticated capital city and began rebuilding Mexico City on its ruins. Although he was eventually appointed governor of New Spain, he was removed from power by Spanish King Charles I in 1526. Cortés went on to discover Baja, California, in the 1530s. His first wife had died in 1522 and he remarried, fathering several children along the way. Ultimately he returned to Spain, where he died in 1547 in his early 60s, frustrated and embittered that he had not received the recognition and rewards he felt he was owed.

Another anniversary this week, the 80th, is of when Germany marched into Poland and launched the Second World War. But that is another tale.

Dr. Laura Lindenfeld will be the guest speaker at the 2nd annual Cooks, Books & Corks

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

You are invited on a date. The night is Tuesday, Sept. 24, the time is 6 to 8 p.m., and the place is the Bates House opposite the Emma Clark Library on Main Street in Setauket. On behalf of Times Beacon Record News Media — that’s us! — I am inviting you and your loved ones and friends to a fun community event. This one, the 2nd annual Cooks, Books & Corks, will feed both your body and mind.

Here’s the deal.

Some 18 fine restaurants and caterers are coming together to offer you delicious specialties from their menus, washing it all down with a selection of wines, and a dozen-and-a-half local authors are bringing their latest books for you to peruse and perhaps buy that evening. It’s Dutch treat at $50 a ticket, and the proceeds will go to a summer fellowship for a journalism student. In this way, you can help a young person take a paid step toward his or her ultimate career even as you help yourself to a scrumptious dinner and a literary treat that encourages local authors. And you will be helping us, the hometown news source, staff up a bit at a time when our regular team members tend to take vacations.

Here are some of the details.

The food will be supplied by these generous eateries: The Fifth Season, Old Fields, Pentimento, Elegant Eating, Sweet Mama’s, Zorba the Greek, Fratelli’s Bagel Express, Prohibition Port Jefferson, Toast Coffeehouse, Villa Sorrento, Lauren’s Culinary Creations, Sunrise of East Setauket Senior Living, Southward Ho Country Club, Sunflower Catering & Event Planning. Fishers Island Lemonade and Luneau USA will supply drinks. Desserts will be sweetly taken care of by, among others, Kilwins and Leanne’s Specialty Cakes. I’m salivating just typing the list. Start fasting. Come hungry.

Local authors include Jeannie Moon, Marcia Grace, Jeannine Henvey, Susan Van Scoy, Angela Reich, Ty Gamble, Dina Santorelli, Elizabeth Correll, Suzanne Johnson, Joanne S. Grasso, Rabbi Stephen Karol, Kerriann Flanagan Brosky, Michael Mihaley, Carl Safina, Mark Torres, Michael Hoffner and Linda Springer. People will be able to meet and greet with the authors and request book signings. Why would anyone want to write a book? How does one go about the process? Getting it published? Having it distributed? Would they recommend doing so to would-be authors? This is an awesome assortment of local talent to have in one room at one time.

A few remarks will be shared by Laura Lindenfeld, the interim dean of SBU School of Journalism and executive director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Gentle background music will be handled by the talented Three Village Chamber Players. And there will be the usual basket raffles.

A special and huge thank you to Laura Mastriano of L.A. Productions Events.

Now we need you!

To purchase tickets, please visit our website tbrnewsmedia.com or our TBR News Media Facebook page to pay with PayPal.

We also need sponsors who would like to support and be associated with this “high tone” event — as one of the vendors put it last year — to please contact us. Sponsorships may be had starting at $125 and will feature your name and logo in our newspapers, social media and our website, including a major “thank you” ad after the event. First one just in is Andy Polan, talented optician and owner at Stony Brook Vision World. And a big thank you to Camelot Party Rentals for their in kind donation. We would welcome your call at the newspaper office at 631-751-7744 or email events@tbrnewsmedia.com.

So come share in a delightful and satisfying event with lots of good food, good drink and good conversation. We hope you will follow up with visits to the participating eateries and caterers who have given of their time and specialties, and that you will enjoy reading your new books. We think when you leave the beautiful Bates House, you will be proud that you live in the area. And it certainly beats cooking dinner on a Tuesday night.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know that summer camp game where two or more teams line up with a spoon? The objective is to carry a tablespoon of water across a small lawn to the other side, dump whatever you can keep on the spoon into the cup on the other side, and race back with the spoon so that the next person can bring as much water as quickly as possible to your cup.

For me, parenting is about battling the urge to sprint at top speed, hoping that there’s at least some water to dump into the cup on the other side.

I had one of those moments when I wanted to share all the right pieces of advice for our daughter as we drove her to college. Would she even hear the pearls of wisdom I was trying not to drop from the spoon?

My first thought was to tell her that, “You get out of it what you put into it.” Of course everyone who passes the requisite classes gets a degree. What differentiates one set of experiences from another is the amount of energy, effort and dedication from the student. I scratched that one off the list because she’d heard it too many times before. If that lesson were going to make it into the cup, it had plenty of time to do so.

Then, it occurred to me to tell her to study smarter and harder, in that order. I wanted her to put in genuine effort — see the previous piece of unspoken advice — but I also felt that she needed to focus her efforts on specific chapters or concepts. Exams don’t tend to demand total recall of every word on every page in a textbook. Try to figure out, perhaps with some help from upper-class people or your resident adviser, what are the most important ideas for each class.

I considered telling her to appreciate and learn from her mistakes. I had suggested that homily in her academic life, on an athletic field and in her social interactions. I couldn’t possibly say that on the ride to college because her response, at best, would be some version of, “Daaaaaaaddd!” No, clearly, telling her to learn from her mistakes would be a mistake.

Maybe, just as I contemplated another recommendation, the clear skies on the drive ahead were a sign that I was on the right track. I wanted to tell her to get to know her professors, regardless of the size of the class. In fact, the larger the class, the greater the need to walk up to her teachers, introduce herself and express an eagerness to learn about a subject this person had spent a professional career teaching.

Maybe I should also tell her not to fall behind. Catching up becomes a regular struggle when the professor has moved away from the lessons you’re trying to process and commit to memory.

By the time we arrived at school, I hadn’t shared any of those words of wisdom or fortune cookie advice, depending on your perspective, because our daughter slept during much of the car ride. Carrying boxes, bins and bags up the stairs became the primary focus, as did trying not to sweat too profusely over everything I was lugging into her room.

As she was scrambling to figure out how to attach pictures of her friends to a wall, it was clear the timing wasn’t ideal to offer advice. Maybe it’s best this way: She’s now reached an age and a stage in life when she’s got to figure out how to fill her own cup with water.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Am I going to cry? That’s the question I get so often when I talk to other parents who, like me, are about to send their first child off to college.

I’m sure I’ll be more reflective than teary-eyed. I’ll probably think about expected and unanticipated milestones. Like a montage or a video, pictures and memories of my daughter at various ages will pass through my head.

I keep thinking about her fourth birthday. The night before her party, she could barely sleep. She came into our room several times to ask if it was time to get up yet. I told her to look out the window, past the streetlights of Manhattan, into the sky, where it was pitch dark. When it was lighter, she could get up and start preparing for the party.

As soon as we got to Jodi’s Gym, which was a wonderful padded room filled with age-appropriate apparatuses, my daughter raced around the room. The party planner asked us to wait in the entrance so we could greet her guests. While we were waiting, I chased her around the table, listening to the wonderful, happy screeches that came each time I either caught up to her or got close to her.

“You know,” the party planner said, “you might want to save some energy for the party.”

My daughter smiled at me, shook her head and ran away, expecting me to follow her. I continued to play the pre-party game, even as the party planner shrugged. After everyone arrived, my daughter led the way on every piece of equipment, delighted that she had the chance to run, jump and scream without waking Maryann and Frank, who lived beneath us in our apartment. Even though she can’t picture Maryann and Frank today, she knows that those were the names we used whenever she got too loud early in the morning or late at night.

I also think about how enchanted my daughter was by her first grade teacher. Mrs. Finkel delighted her students and their parents with her soft voice, her ability to focus on each student individually and the class as a whole at the same time, and her control of the classroom. While Mrs. Finkel died incredibly young after a short battle with cancer, I know her legacy lives on with the students who are preparing for college and with her husband and daughter.

I am also recalling the many moments when a book captivated my daughter’s attention, causing her to read late into the night; when she caught blue claw crabs at a dock; or when she played board games with her brother and cousins at my mother’s house during Thanksgiving.

Perhaps the most recurring memory, however, goes back to when she was learning to ride a bicycle. I pushed the bike for several seconds, let go, and watched her wobble unsteadily until she either fell or put her feet to the sides. Eventually, my back hurt so much that I couldn’t bend and run anymore.

“Let’s stop for now,” I gasped. “You don’t need to do it now. When you’re ready, you’ll do it.”

She paused and asked me to push her one more time. When I did, she slowly circled the parking lot and stopped, a triumphant smile plastered across her face. On the walk back home, I asked her how she was able to conquer the bike.

She told me she thought about how she wanted to be ready, so she did it.

While I probably won’t cry when I turn around and leave her at college, I will hope that she feels as ready as she did when she conquered her bike.

Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

If you want to see what your kids really think of you and have some fun in the process, ask them to come up with a profile for you if you are single to use on an internet dating app. My children and a couple of grandchildren were here for a visit this past weekend, and that was one bit of interaction we enjoyed. I have never filled out such a profile before, and I turned to them — the generation that started using apps to find partners — for help. Here are some words they threw out.

Beautiful: Well listen, if your sons don’t think you are good looking, what was the point of all that maternal sacrifice? This one is just a given.

Energetic: Of course. You have to have some measurable degree of energy in order to put yourself out there. It’s certainly easier to lay back and watch endless television or read a novel every night. And I am leaving off the comments they threw out about double chins and still having my original teeth.

Good conversation: Yes, OK, but it takes two to tango. Willing to offer opinions on just about everything. And listening is at least as important.

Loves to travel: That probably narrows the field to about 90 percent of the female population.

Enjoys theater: Ditto.

Sense of humor: If you have to brag, not much hope. I would hate to be asked to say something funny. Probably more of a way of looking at life.

Likes sailing: Although I no longer ski or play tennis, because of knees that are given to protest. That’s probably in a league with long walks on the beach. Not much personalization there. Come now, let’s find something unique.

Opera subscription: Only unique for the younger generation of Dunaiefs because they can’t imagine thousands of people gathering to hear some fat women screech. Little do they know that the women are no longer fat, and the human voice can be one of the most exquisite instruments delivering some of the most beautiful melodies ever written. Plus operas often have profound themes dealing with universal questions. What we have here is theater, concert and choir all in one offering. They are young yet, they may come upon the bargain that is opera one fine day.

Well read: That’s correct if measured by the amount of newspaper articles I feel it necessary to ingest every day. Books mostly have to wait for vacations.

Loves learning: Now we are getting somewhere. They say that journalists know things a mile wide but only an inch deep. That is true. From one day to the next, we have to leap from subject to subject, spending only enough time on each one to be able to write about its newsworthiness correctly before moving on to the next. And that suits me fine. Where I become more interested, I can always go back and dig deeper. Meanwhile there are endless facts to absorb as I move along.

Still working: Yes, that’s how one continues to learn.

Independent: You bet. That is definitely a truth about yours truly, and those children of mine are probably glad that I am. Being independent, not having to live up to anyone else’s expectations, including one’s own from long ago, is hard won and to be cherished. Not having to lean on anyone for support, unless by choice, is the ultimate liberation.

Loves raspberries and blueberries: Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. Yummy!

Adores flowers and nature in all its magnificence: Yes, yes, yes.

Good friends: You have to be one to have one. I certainly try.

Love my family: And I am close to them. A most important part of my life.

Optimistic and positive to a fault: I have always told my children that all things are possible. They just have to work hard to succeed. They are the CEOs of their lives.

Romance: Ah, yes. What is life without an adoring someone? Worth searching for, I think.

Stock photo

By Linda Toga, Esq.

Linda Toga, Esq.

THE FACTS: When I was 3, my parents adopted a baby and named her Mary. My mother died seven years later and my father remarried. My father and his second wife had two children together. My father recently died without a will. My half-siblings insist that since Mary is not my father’s biological child, she is not entitled to a share of his estate. 

THE QUESTION: Are they correct? 

THE ANSWER: Fortunately for Mary, your half-siblings are wrong. 

HOW IT WORKS: If your father legally adopted Mary, she has the same right to a share of your father’s estate as you and your father’s other biological children. The law in New York is quite clear on that point. 

Section 7(c) of the New York intestacy statute governs how an estate is distributed when someone dies without a will. It states that “the right of an adopted child to take a distributive share … continue[s] as provided in the domestic relations law.” 

Domestic Relations Law Section 117 explicitly states that “[t]he adoptive parents or parent and the adoptive child shall sustain toward each other the legal relation of parent and child and shall have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of that relation including the rights of inheritance from and through each other …”

In other words, the relationship between Mary and your father is legally the same as the relationship between you and your father and the relationship between your half-siblings and your father. As such, she is entitled to the same percentage of his estate as any of his biological children. 

In addition, if Mary had predeceased your father and had children of her own, her children would be entitled to share the inheritance that would have otherwise passed to Mary. 

It is worth noting that Domestic Relations Law Section 117 not only sets forth the rights of the adoptive child but also the rights of the adoptive parent. If Mary had predeceased your father without a spouse or children of her own, your father, as her adoptive parent, would be entitled to her entire estate. 

If you are going to be petitioning the Surrogate’s Court for letters of administration so you can handle your father’s estate, you should consult with an experienced estate attorney to ensure that the administration process is handled properly and proceeds smoothly despite the position taken by your half-siblings.   

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, real estate, small business services and litigation from her East Setauket office. Visit her website at www.lmtogalaw.com or call 631-444-5605 to schedule a free consultation.

American Gun Laws

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have an obvious question for the National Rifle Association: Why fight gun control?

Yeah, yeah, I get it. You and many others don’t want a repeal of the Second Amendment, which was written well before the creation of assault weapons that enabled deranged Americans to kill their fellow citizens
at an unfathomable rate.

But don’t gun manufacturers want gun control? After all, wouldn’t it be better to produce a product that stayed out of the wrong hands?

Let’s take a look at the difference between gun manufacturers and car manufacturers. On the one hand, you have companies producing vehicles where safety is a top priority. In addition to meeting the stringent requirements of the law, some car manufacturers add features like a way to block text or phone signals from getting into a car while someone is driving.

Wow, what a concept. The car manufacturers don’t make the phones. People have died doing all kinds of activities with their phones, taking selfies in dangerous locations and not paying attention to their environment in general because they are so focused on their phones.

And yet, some of these car manufacturers are protecting drivers from their own unsafe impulses that could harm them and others — sounds familiar? — by preventing the dangerous combination of phone use and driving. If we buy into the notion that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” shouldn’t gun manufacturers make an effort to find out which people are more likely to kill other people, and not sell these destructive weapons to them?

In 1996, three years before the Columbine, Colorado, shooting became one of the first in what has now become a painful and familiar collection of mass murders in locations ranging from schools to houses of worship to malls during back-to-school sales, Congress passed a budget that included the Dickey Amendment, named after U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Arkansas). That amendment prevented the government from funding research that might lead to the conclusion that gun control was necessary.

Say what? Yeah, but, in light of recent tragedies, a law was passed last year clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control can actually fund research about guns. And, yet, the CDC still can’t lead to any advocacy for gun control.

If guns make most people safer, why don’t gun manufacturers want to know which people, specifically, shouldn’t have a gun? The idea of background checks and red flags are all fine, but they may not be sufficient.

If a virus broke out anywhere in the country that threatened to kill a room full of people in minutes, we would want the CDC not only to understand how to treat those who might have that virus immediately, but also to provide warning signs to others about any symptoms that might lead to an outbreak of that virus.

The CDC is way behind in its research in part because that 1996 amendment effectively dampened any effort to conduct the kind of studies that would lead to a greater understanding of gun violence.

Sure, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could and should find people who might be a threat to society. With the help of the CDC, the FBI might have a better idea of where to look. 

The well-funded NRA, however, would do itself — and society — a huge favor if it put its considerable financial muscle behind an independent effort to understand how to recognize those people who shouldn’t have any kind of gun, let alone an assault rifle capable of mass murder in a minute. The NRA doesn’t even need to call it gun control, just firearms research.

We the people may have a right to own guns, but we also have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Wouldn’t gun control research, supported by the NRA, ensure that we could live our lives without fear of the wrong people owning the wrong guns?

Award winning author and conservationist Carl Safina was the guest speaker at last year's event. Photo by Rita J. Egan
Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

The world has changed for all of us since we entered the 21st century. While our computers didn’t blow up as the millennium turned, the horrific attacks on 9/11 forever, it seems, altered our sense of safety in our country and elsewhere on the globe. The arrival of the internet on desktop computers, the proliferation of cellphones, the rise of social media — they have upended the architecture of our lives.

Change has been no less dramatic in our work lives. For those of us in the news business, the basic business model is disappearing. Once upon a time the publisher brought together talented reporters and editors with an articulate sales staff, and together editorial and advertising were presented to the reader in an attractive format that informed and enriched the community. In the process, the news organization was also enriched, and there were newspapers everywhere. The biggest challenge was beating competitors to the “scoop” and gaining the greater market share of advertisers.

Today that simple business plan seems like a fairy tale. According to data in a special section of The New York Times on Sunday, “Over the last 15 years, about 2100 local newspapers — or roughly a quarter of all local newsrooms — have either merged with a competitor or ceased printing …About 6800 local newspapers continue to operate across the country, but many are shells of their former selves, with pared down staffs and coverage areas. About half of the remaining local papers are in small and rural communities, and the vast majority distribute fewer than 15,000 copies of each edition.” 

I could go on with the statistics, but here’s the point: If we don’t embrace change, we get left behind.

Chef Guy Reuge speaks about his latest book, ‘A Chef’s Odyssey,’ at last year’s Cooks, Books & Corks. Photo by Rita J. Egan

So it is that we at Times Beacon Record Newspapers have become TBR News Media, with the addition of a website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube platforms to accommodate the various demands for news and advertising. After all, we work for our customers and we must offer them what they want and need. By the same token, while maintaining those platforms has increased our costs, the revenue they generate is minimal. Further worsening the newspaper situation is the demise of the traditional mom-and-pop retail stores, the previous backbone of so many communities and community newspapers.

So we have changed, as the surviving retailers have changed. We, and they, are now building events into our offerings, much as we used to publish supplements to target specific subjects and advertising niches for our papers. Retailing now includes some aspect of entertainment with their event planning, and publishing companies, whether in print or digital, must also provide entertaining events.

Fortunately for us at TBR, we can make this fit with our mission statement to give back to the community, and indeed to endeavor to strengthen the sense of community where we publish. Since our first year in existence, over 43 years ago, we have held the Man and Woman of the Year event at the Three Village Inn, with the financial help of Stony Brook University and the Lessings, at which we have saluted those who go the extra mile offering their products, services or time to their neighbors in their hometowns.

For the last two years, we have produced and directed films with authentic Revolutionary War narrative at Stony Brook’s Staller Center to share pride in our Long Island history, explaining who we were at the dawn of our country and how we got here.

Coming next on the events list is Cooks, Books and Corks, a community-enriching program that features scrumptious food from some of our local restaurants at stations around the perimeter of a room at the Bates House filled with local authors and their books. We started this last year, and it was such a success that both restaurateurs and authors offered themselves on the spot for the next such gathering. They said they liked “the high tone.”

Therefore, the Second Annual Cooks, Books and Corks will take place in the same bucolic location, in Setauket, on Tuesday evening, Sept. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. The charge is $50 per person, and the money raised will go toward subsidizing the pay of a journalism intern next summer.

Please mark your calendars and join neighbors and friends at this event to share food for both body and mind.