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Lucas Cheadle. Photo from CSHL

By Daniel Dunaief

One of the newest additions to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s neuroscience program, Lucas Cheadle, who is an assistant professor, is exploring the early environmental factors at a molecular level that shape the neurological development of the mouse visual system.

While nature and nurture combine to produce the individuals each life form becomes, Cheadle is focused on the ways nurture, specifically, shapes the pathways in the brain that affect the development of sight.

Microglia are an unlikely player in this environmentally-triggered development, as doctors and researchers previously saw these cells primarily as participants in neurinflammation.

That is not the case anymore, with Cheadle and other scientists demonstrating over the past decade or so that microglia play important parts in the healthy brain. Cheadle, specifically, has demonstrated that these cells play a role in experience-dependent circuit development.

Indeed, the process of circuit refinement in the developing brain, which Cheadle describe as being among the “most complex structures in the known universe,” is akin to a room full of half-full boxes, which represent synaptic connections between neurons.

The brain begins with numerous little boxes that make the room difficult to navigate. As the brain consolidates the important items into a smaller number of larger boxes and removes the smaller boxes, the room becomes more manageable.

This is consistent with what Cheadle has seen during refinement. A smaller number of synapses become stronger and are maintained, while others are removed. This promotes the efficiency and precision of neural processing, he explained.

When the contents of some of those boxes disappear, however, the result can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, in which a person struggles to find memories that may have been unwittingly cleared out.

Cheadle, who most recently was a post doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School, is exploring the way microglia shape the connections between the eyes and the brain between when a mouse is born and when it reaches one month of age.

His work has shown that microglial cells are required for the sensory-dependent phase of visual circuit development. Disrupting signals between microglia and neurons affects synapse elimination, akin to removing the smaller boxes, which is important for circuit function.

Indeed, prior to work Cheadle and others have done in recent years with these cells in the brain, researchers thought microglia in the brain were quiescent, or inactive, after birth, except for their role in brain injury, disease pathology and neuroinflammation.

Until the first week of life, microglia engulf and then digest synaptic connections between some neurons, in a process called phagocytosis. During the sensory-dependent phase of refinement in the third week after birth, which Cheadle demonstrated in a paper published this month in the journal Neuron, microglia stop phagocytosis and rely on cytokines to break down synapses.

The cytokine pathway Cheadle discovered, called TWEAK, which is a ligand expressed by microglia, and Fn14, a receptor expressed by neurons, becomes active between eye opening, which is around two weeks, and peaks at about four weeks old.

When mice don’t have exposure to important visual stimuli during this critical period, the circuit has too many synaptic connections, which reduces the effectiveness of the developing visual system.

While Cheadle is working on visual development, specifically, he is interested in the broader implications of this work in the context of the environmental signals that affect the development of the brain.

In that broader context, the processes involved in autism and schizophrenia could reflect a period in which individuals have an overabundance of synapses that weren’t sufficiently pruned and refined.

Despite the fact that researchers hypothesized that synaptic pruning may lead to these disorders decades ago, they still have a limited awareness of whether and how this might happen. Studying the way microglia contribute to healthy circuit development could provide important clues about these processes.

Some epidemiological evidence points to the linkage between immune activity and neurodevelopmental disorders. In 1918 and 1919, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, children born during that period had a higher incidence of an autism or schizophrenia later in life.

Other evidence shows an interaction between immune activation and neurodevelopmental dysfunction, including the genetic loci associated with such disorders and increased inflammatory markers in the blood and brains of people with such disorders. “There’s really no question that there is a link,” Cheadle explained. “The nature of the link is still poorly understood.”

While earlier epidemiological data raises questions about the current pandemic, it doesn’t provide a definitive answer because “we still don’t quite understand what the nuanced molecular factors are that link the immune activation to the increase in disease prevalence,” Cheadle suggested.

“There’s a real chance that having COVID during pregnancy may impact the development of the offsprings’ nervous systems as has been seen in other infections,” Cheadle wrote. “While it is not the current priority of COVID research, it certainly warrants studying.”

Cheadle hopes to understand the “underlying principals of disorders” he said.

A resident of Huntington, Cheadle lives five minutes from the lab. He plans to rent for now because he didn’t want to start a new lab and move into a new house at the same time.

Cheadle has hired a technician and is in the process of hiring another. A post doctoral scientist will join his lab in November.

Early on in his life, Cheadle said he was fascinated with the interface between the world and biology. He wanted to understand how human brains interpret the information that comes from our senses. Everything culminated, professionally, in his interest in neurobiological mechanisms.

Currently, Cheadle is also interested in the looming behavior of mice. In the field, when mice see a bird that is flying slowly overhead, they are more likely to make a mad dash for safety, running into weeds or for cover from a tree. When the bird, however, is flying too rapidly, the mice freeze.

“I’m intrigued to find out whether the dichotomy of fight or flight could be shifted by the function of microglia,” he said. “I like to understand something at a functional level and dissect it to a molecular level.”

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By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq., li

Making medical decisions for a loved one is extremely difficult, but making end of life decisions for someone is legally impossible without proof of his or her wishes. In New York, nobody may make end of life decisions for another — such as to forgo life sustaining treatments which only serve to artificially prolong one’s life — unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence of that person’s medical wishes. A Living Will document is the standard manner in which that burden is met.

A Living Will is part of a trio of “advanced directives,” which include a health care proxy and durable power of attorney, that help people plan for incapacity. Although you may name an agent to make medical decisions for you under a Health Care Proxy, that person cannot use his or her own judgment to reject life prolonging medical treatment for you — even if you are in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

The agent must provide sufficient proof of whether you would want cardiac resuscitation, mechanical respiration, artificial nutrition and hydration, antibiotics, blood, kidney dialysis, surgery or invasive diagnostic tests. A Living Will document specifically states what medical actions should be taken if you are in a terminal state with no reasonable hope of recovery and cannot communicate your wishes. Without it, your family members may end up in court offering testimony of why you would not have wanted to be kept alive if your quality of life was so poor. A video, a letter, a Facebook post — any such evidence could meet the “clear and convincing” burden.

A standard living will refuses all life-sustaining procedures if such measures only serve to artificially prolong one’s life. Such treatments are limited to making the patient comfortable and maximizing pain relief. However, this is not a requirement. A Living Will can and should be tailored to an individual’s specific needs and beliefs, even if it means that person wants all life-sustaining measures to be taken. Before executing a Living Will, you should consider what medical treatments are to be administered and under what medical conditions. Additionally, a Living Will can state your preference to be kept at home, if possible, rather than in a hospital.

It is important that when deciding who will act as a health care agent, you choose an individual who not only understands your wishes but is also willing to carry them out. Religious beliefs, for example, may prevent someone from “pulling the plug” even though you specifically instruct your agent to do so. A loved one may have a hard time carrying out your wishes for emotional reasons.

Before appointing an agent, you should have a discussion with them to ensure they understand your treatment plan and agree to follow same. If you cannot find an agent to carry out your wishes, the living will can be filed with your doctor or the hospital so that it is on record and provides instructions to your attending physician.

As you can see, a Living Will is a crucial estate planning document that all individuals should have in place. It is important to discuss your wishes with an Estate Planning attorney to ensure that your preferences will be carried out are legally valid.

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

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Focus on reducing pain and improving mobility

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Osteoarthritis has been diagnosed in over 54 million Americans, with 43.5 percent of them reporting symptoms that limit their activities and significantly impact their quality of life (1). Historically, the disorder was thought to be solely a wear-and-tear degeneration of the joint(s). However, Osteoarthritis (OA) also involves inflammation with the release of cytokines and prostaglandins — inflammatory factors — which cause joint destruction and pain (2).

The joints most commonly affected include the ankle, knee, hip, spine and hand. OA may affect joints asymmetrically, meaning that it affects a joint on only one side of the body.

Mainstays of treatment include analgesics and COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex). Common analgesics used are acetaminophen and NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve). A benefit of NSAIDs is that they have anti-inflammatory effects. Meanwhile, COX-2 inhibitors may also improve joint mobility.

There are adverse effects with NSAIDs, including increased gastrointestinal (or GI) bleed and, with long-term use, an increase in cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, with the elderly being most susceptible.

Neither medication type, however, structurally modifies the joints. In other words, they may not slow OA’s progression nor rebuild cartilage or the joint space as a whole. Are there therapies that can accomplish these feats and, if so, what are they? We will look at hyaluronic acid, glucosamine and chondroitin, and lifestyle modifications such as exercise and weight loss.

Chondroitin sulfate beneficial for hand OA

The results with the use of glucosamine and chondroitin have been mixed, depending on the joints affected. In the FACTS trial, a randomized controlled trial, chondroitin sulfate by itself showed significant improvement in pain and function with OA of the hand (3). The dose of chondroitin used in the study was 800 mg once a day. The patients, all of whom were symptomatic at the trial’s start, also saw the duration of their morning stiffness shorten.

There was also a modest reduction in structural damage of hand joints after three months, compared to placebo. The benefit was seen with prescription chondroitin sulfate, so over-the-counter supplements may not work the same way. Patients were allowed to use acetaminophen, and there was no change in dose or frequency throughout the trial.

Crystalline glucosamine sulfate

In knee OA, crystalline glucosamine sulfate showed reduction in pain and improvement in functioning in a randomized controlled trial (4). When assessed by radiologic findings, it also slowed the progression of structural damage to the knee joint. In other words, the therapy may have disease-modifying effects over the long term. The glucosamine formulation may work by inhibiting inflammatory factors such as NF-kB. The trial used 1500 mg of prescription crystalline glucosamine sulfate over a three-year period. Again, it’s not clear whether an over-the-counter supplement works the same way.

Glucosamine and/or chondroitin for knee OA

In a meta-analysis (group of 10 studies), glucosamine, chondroitin or the combination did not show beneficial effects — reduced pain or mobility changes — in patients when compared to placebo (5). It was not clear whether supplemental or prescription-level therapies were used in each trial — or whether that makes a difference. This study was published prior to the crystalline glucosamine sulfate trial of the knee, discussed above, which did show statistical significance.

There is not much downside to using glucosamine and/or chondroitin for OA patients. However, use caution if taking an anticoagulant (blood thinner) like Coumadin, since glucosamine has anticoagulant effects. Also, those with shellfish allergies should not use glucosamine. If there is no effect within three months, it is unlikely that glucosamine and/or chondroitin are beneficial.

Hyaluronic acid

In a meta-analysis (a group of 89 trials), the risks outweighed the benefit of hyaluronic acid, a drug injected into the joint for the treatment of OA (6). Viscosupplementation involves a combination of hyaluronic acid types that act as a shock absorber and lubricant for the joints. Some of the studies did show a clinical benefit. However, the authors believe that adverse local events, which occurred in 30 to 50 percent of patients, and serious adverse events, with 14 trials showing a 41 percent increased risk, outweigh the benefits. Since there are mixed results with the trials, it is best to discuss this option with your physician.

Impact of weight loss and exercise

Obesity treatment with a weight-loss program actually has potential disease-modifying affects with OA (7). It may prevent cartilage loss in the medial aspect of the knee. The good news is that, even with as little as a seven percent weight loss in the obese patient, these results were still observed. The study’s average weight loss was nine to 10 pounds, and results were seen on a dose-response curve — the greater the weight loss, the thicker the knee cartilage.

Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. David Felson observed there is an inverse relationship between the amount of muscle-strengthening exercise, especially of the quadriceps, and the amount of pain experienced in the knee joint. It is very important to do nonimpact exercises such as leg raises, squats, swimming, bicycling and on elliptical machines.

Fortunately, there are a number of options to prevent, treat and potentially modify the effects of OA. With weight loss in the obese patient, quality of life can dramatically increased. Glucosamine and/or chondroitin may be of benefit, depending on the joints affected. The benefits are potential improvements in pain, mobility and structural-modifying effects, which are worth the risk for many patients. When taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin in supplement form, ConsumerLab.com may be a good source for finding a supplement where you get the dose claimed on the box. I would also use formulations in the trials that showed results, even in supplement form.

References:

(1) MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017 Mar 10;66(9):246-253. (2) Rheumatology. 2011;50(12):2157-2165. (3) Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Nov;63(11):3383-91. (4) Ther Adv Musculoskel Dis. 2012;4(3):167-180. (5) BMJ. 2010;341:c4675. (6) Ann Intern Med. 2012;157(3):180-191. (7) Ann Rheum Dis. 2012;71(1):26-32.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.

Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises/Pixar Animation Studios

By Barbara Beltrami

Although many of us fondly think of Ratatouille as the Disney movie with the eponymous cute little rat, it is actually a French vegetable stew of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and fresh herbs that originated in Provence. It’s the best way I know of to enjoy late summer’s bounty all together in delicious mouthfuls of garden goodness. As with most regional dishes, each cook has her own adamant way of preparing her ratatouille.

Because it’s one of my favorite veggie dishes,  whenever I’ve visited France, I’ve managed  to come home with another recipe for ratatouille. Please note that these first two very traditional recipes call for cooking each veggie separately; that’s what makes them so colorful and preserves their distinct flavor and texture. The third recipe is a spin off of ratatouille, but equally savory. All recipes can be served hot, warm, at room temperature or cold. I think ratatouille goes well with almost anything!

Giselle Renouard’s Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound eggplant, sliced into 1/2” rounds

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Olive oil

1 pound zucchini, diced

1 pound mixed red and green bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 pound onions,  finely chopped

1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Leaves from several sprigs thyme

Leaves from one large sprig basil, julienned

DIRECTIONS:

Place eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let drain 30 minutes. Pat dry and cut again into small chunks. In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil; add eggplant, stir occasionally and when brown on all sides remove and drain on paper towels. Add a little more oil and cook the zucchini just until soft; remove and drain. Next, add a little more oil, if needed, and cook peppers; remove them when tender; add onions, cook until soft but not brown, then add tomatoes, garlic, sugar, parsley and thyme and simmer for about 30 minutes. Return the rest of the vegetables to the pan and, stirring frequently but gently, simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add basil, salt and pepper.

Mme. Marie Ouvrard’s Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced

1 1/2 pounds small zucchini, cut into 1/2” cubes

3/4 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2” cubes

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

5 medium tomatoes, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

In large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat; add onions and garlic and, stirring often, sauté, for a minute or two until onion softens and garlic releases its aroma. Stir in red pepper and cook over medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add zucchini and eggplant and simmer briefly. If mixture starts to stick to pan, add a little more oil or hot water. Stir in thyme and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper; simmer until all vegetables are soft but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add basil.

Lucie Durand’s Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 large onions, sliced thin

2 pounds eggplant sliced 1/2” thick

2 orange or yellow bell peppers

2 red bell peppers

4 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 slices

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 garlic cloves, halved

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray bottom and sides of a casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Make a layer using  half each of the onion rings, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and garlic in that order. Repeat and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and bake about 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbling and tender. Occasionally, using the back of a wooden spoon, press down on the vegetables to make sure they are cooking evenly. Remove from oven, garnish with parsley and basil before serving.

METRO photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

School has just begun. In our county, we have a wide range of educational opportunities and experiences. Each school district is attempting to respond responsibly to all families and their children. That is a very complex and challenging dynamic because every school community is so vastly different.

It continues to amaze me that very simple and basic practices that are evidence-based are so complicated to embrace for a number of people in our midst. We have allowed our destructive political rhetoric to impair our common sense and basic efforts to support some very basic common-sense practices that protect all of us.

My college students both on campus and online are an inspiration. They are open and insightful. They are hungering to learn and genuinely make a positive contribution to our community that will make a profound difference in the future.

This pandemic is a powerful opportunity for us to draw closer together. It’s an opportunity to build new bridges of understanding and compassion. It’s an opportunity to challenge the bigotry and hatred that has become so infectious.

These are challenging times. We can look at these challenges as burdens that are burying us under or we can see them as opportunities for change and transformation. There are so many life lessons to be learned, if we have the courage to take the blinders off and listen.

We will never return to the life we once knew before the pandemic. However, we have an opportunity to create a new tomorrow that is rich with opportunity and possibility that can be life-giving, if we have the courage to live differently.

There are so many life lessons to be learned. This pandemic has brought families together. People are talking and connecting in ways that were never imagined. Many of us have had to rearrange our priorities. A growing number of people have become more other-centered than self-centered. I have witnessed countless random acts of kindness that have changed people’s lives.

It has been refreshing to listen to the next generation of leaders talk about making tomorrow’s America better and stronger, more inclusive and respectful; a place where diversity and difference are seen as a blessing and not a curse.

The America that my students speak about is an America filled with promise and opportunity for all, grounded in a respect for the dignity of every human person. It is an America that will not tolerate hateful rhetoric; that will respect people’s right to peacefully protest injustice and give voice to the voiceless. It is an America that empowers every citizen to dream dreams and believes those dreams can come true.

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

The first evidence of coyotes appearing on Long Island happened on June 24, 2013, in Bridgehampton on the South Fork. Stock photo

By John L. Turner

In March of 1995 wildlife officials began a fascinating ecological experiment in Yellowstone National Park, one that is still playing out today twenty-five years later. For in that month they released fourteen grey wolves in the park. Wolves were, as recently as 75 years before, a key ecological component of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem but hatred and prejudice toward predators at the time resulted in their extermination.

With wolves eliminated from the park, elk populations flourished. Their abundance wasn’t such a good thing for the park’s vegetation though, especially in the richer, low-lying areas along rivers, creeks, and other wetlands where they overgrazed the vegetation, destroying habitat and creating erosion problems. The situation quickly changed with the reintroduction of the wolf and for the past two and a half decades wolves have fundamentally reshaped the park’s ecosystem, causing a series of expected, and a few unexpected, changes.

Elk became both less abundant due to predation and more dispersed in an effort to avoid wolves, allowing riverside forests of cottonwood and aspen to become reestablished. The return of these forests set the stage for beavers to increase. It also meant the growth of more berry producing plants which grizzly bears favored. Coyotes decreased as a direct result of wolf predation and less coyotes meant more foxes which, in turn, affected the abundance of birds, rabbits and other small mammals.

Changes in these species affected other plants due to changes in their grazing and eating intensity of leaves, fruits, and seeds. All of these ripple effects, created by restoring wolves to their rightful place in the Yellowstone ecosystem, underscores the brilliance in John Muir’s famous quote:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to

everything else in the universe.

Well, let’s fast forward to the present and focus locally for we have a similar ecological experiment involving the appearance of an apex predator unfolding before us — but its not Grey wolves and a western National Park but the Eastern coyote and the land mass we call Long Island, the last place in the continental United States the coyote was absent from.

The first evidence of coyotes appearing on Long Island happened on June 24, 2013, in Bridgehampton on the South  Fork. A potato farmer, working in one of his fields, spotted an animal that looked like a German Shepherd but it wasn’t any breed of domestic dog, nor was it a red or gray fox. He was able to snap a photograph and a review by experts confirmed it as an Eastern coyote, the first that had ever been sighted on Long Island.

Since then there have been several other conclusive sightings of coyotes in a few places and then, most notably, a breeding pair (and subsequent family) set up a territory near LaGuardia Airport. Unfortunately, people began to feed them. Adapting to human presence because of the feeding they became more visible and some neighbors began to view them as a safety threat. They were able to convince staff from the federal Department of Agriculture’s “Wildlife Services” Program (an agency that despite its innocuous sounding name kills wildlife as its main mission) to exterminate the family (save one fortunate individual that escaped).

This was a setback but through subsequent colonization attempts the wily coyote has established itself in northwestern Long Island where several breeding pairs now exist. These occurrences, and past efforts, suggest that it’s but a matter of time before coyotes extend their hold here and fully colonize Long Island. As they do, their presence will likely have far reaching impacts to both human and natural communities, as coyotes are likely to cause ecological effects that will ripple through the natural communities on Long Island and the wildlife species that make them up, not unlike what wolves caused at Yellowstone, although obviously involving different species.

Though generally shy and retiring and typically avoiding direct contact with humans, coyotes will, nevertheless, establish territories adjacent to, and within, suburban developments. This fact suggests Long Islanders should change some behavioral habits to minimize adverse interactions.

For example, coyotes are known to prey on pet and feral cats and small dogs in urban and suburban communities, so it is imperative that pet owners remain diligent and aware. Releasing a pet cat outside to “do its business” (a bad idea because of the ecological damage cats cause by preying on birds and small mammals) in areas where coyotes occur can put the cat’s life in peril. Letting small dogs out into the backyard unattended for the same reason may result in the same outcome.

There are a few strategies that can be employed to reduce the likelihood of coyotes visiting your yard in the first place. These include keeping pet dishes empty outside and securing household garbage.

Another potential source of conflict between humans and coyotes involves livestock and other domestic animals, although this is not likely to become a major issue here given the relatively few sheep, goats, and pigs. In view of the popularity of chickens though, predation might become an issue, so those who have free ranging chickens might want to consider another strategy like indoor enclosures, within which the birds can safely spend the night.

Coyotes have a highly varied diet and some of these diet items can be viewed favorably from a human perspective. For example, in addition to preying on feral cats (and pet cats as mentioned before) that have a devastating impact on backyard birds and small mammals, coyotes eat roadkill thereby helping to clean up roadsides. They also prey on white-tailed deer fawns which may help to reduce their current unhealthy population levels or at least slow down the growth in deer populations.

The current density of deer is having an adverse impact to Long Island forests by eating native plants to such an extent that many forest trees are unable to replace themselves, causing forests to lose their understory and overall diversity. One specific example is the loss of our native orchids such as pink ladies slippers which have become increasingly rare due to deer browsing.

Coyotes also prey on rabbits, opossums, reptile and bird eggs (including the eggs of the ubiquitous Canada Goose), and a variety of berries. Notably, they eat numerous rodents, the reduction of which may be positive in reducing the number of white-footed mice that play a fundamental role in the transmission of the Lyme’s disease spirochete.

Some studies have documented that coyotes often displace fox in shared habitat so one of the ecological effects scientists will look out for is the long-term impact of coyotes on fox populations. There will be interest in assessing their impact on other mammals, such as prey like woodchucks and mammalian competitors like raccoon and fox.

We’re not sure of these ecological outcomes and how precisely these ecological effects will unfold; such is the unpredictability and complexity of the natural world. Perhaps coyotes will have no impact in reducing deer numbers, no role in assisting in the recovery of Long Island’s forests, displacing foxes, or play no part in affecting Lyme’s disease. But like the wolves of Yellowstone National Park, coyotes by their mere presence, as part of the Long Island environment, WILL have an ecological impact and, likely, a broad and significant one at that.

The coyotes have begun the experiment and naturalists and ecologists look forward to seeing how it plays out both for their sake and for the two and four-legged occupants who live here.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Tyson
Tyson

MEET TYSON!

This week’s shelter pet is sweet Tyson who arrived at the Smithtown Animal Shelter when his dad fell ill and could no longer care for him. 

Tyson is young and energetic, he loves meeting new people and playing with any toy! He does not enjoy other animals and should be the only pet in the home.  Because of his energy level, he should only be with older children. He would love an active lifestyle or a big yard.

This handsome boy is neutered, microchipped and up to date on all his vaccines.

If you are interested in meeting Tyson, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with him in the shelter’s Meet and Greet Room. The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit www.smithtownanimalshelter.com.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It’s difficult to comprehend that women didn’t always have the rights that they have now, and many of those rights were only gained a few short decades ago.

Imagine when women weren’t able to open a bank account, have credit cards or a mortgage without a man’s signature until the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974. Considering a woman founded our media company in 1976 and still sits in the publisher’s seat, the thought is unfathomable to many of us.

One of the trailblazers who worked for women’s rights to manage their own finances and their own lives was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She accomplished this feat as the co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The void her death leaves behind is immense. Let us remember all the work that’s been done and is still being fought for true equality. Now with her seat locked in political turmoil, we believe her legacy needs to be respected more than ever.

What we need to remember is sometimes the champion for equal rights, Ginsburg, needed to represent men to work toward the goal of all being treated equally. In 1972, Ginsburg argued in front of the Supreme Court when she and her husband represented Charles Moritz, a bachelor who was unable to take a tax deduction for taking care of his sick mother as a woman or a divorced/widowed man would have been able to do. It was an ingenious tactic, showing how any discrimination on the basis of sex was harmful to the whole, rather than one select group. Throughout her career, Ginsburg was the champion of many causes that have had a positive effect on both men and women of all colors and orientations. She believed that everyone has a right to vote, to access health care including birth control, to obtain an abortion, and that when two people of the same sex fall in love, they have the right to get married just like everyone else.

Replacing Ginsburg will be no easy task, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. President Donald Trump (R) said he will nominate a woman to the seat and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is eagerly waiting in the wings for the process to begin, despite arguing in 2016 that Supreme Court nominees should not be put to the bench in an election year. He and other Senate Republicans did not even hold a hearing for former President Barack Obama’s (D) court pick Merrick Garland that year. It’s the kind of House Rules situation you would expect more from a shady casino owner than the highest legislature in the land. It’s the kind of political skullduggery that does irrevocable lasting harm to democracy itself.

Locally, vigils held by two separate left-wing groups on Long Island’s North Shore have called for Ginsburg’s replacement to wait until after the election, and we’re inclined to agree. The dangerous precedent the U.S. Senate has engendered goes well beyond politics, but to the heart of democracy itself. There cannot be one rule for one party and another rule for the other, effectively eschewing several basic tenets of the Constitution.

There is a reason Ginsburg held on for so long, much longer than any of us would have stayed in such a stressful and high-profile position despite having five bouts with the cancer that eventually led to her death. One of her last statements dictated before her death was, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

The American value of equality for all is one that seems to be lost in our divisive times. We must honor Ginsburg’s legacy by remembering this ideal by moving toward the future and not slipping back to the 1950s where it was believed that women were only capable of being, as the saying goes, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. If that were true, we would have never experienced people like RBG.

United States Supreme Court Building

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Republican senators have abdicated their responsibility for vetting a candidate for the Supreme Court.

President Donald Trump (who is a Republican, as if you didn’t know) could nominate a toothpick, a swimming pool, or a face mask and those objects, appealing though they may be, would become the ninth member of the Supreme Court, replacing the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The process was over before it began. The president, who is so fond of calling any event that might not proceed in his favor “rigged,” has exactly what he wants: a collection of at least 50 senators willing to rubber stamp the nominee to the Supreme Court, a lifelong appointment, for myriad reasons, not the least of which is to break a possible contentious election tie if and when the waters are muddy enough in the presidential election.

You have to hand it to them; they know a power grab when they see one, and this is a spectacular opportunity to reshape the court with Trump’s third nominee.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham didn’t say that his party agreed to consider the candidate when he spoke to one of the Republicans’ favorite publicists, Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

No, he said, “We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg’s replacement before the election,” according to a report in the New York Post.

That doesn’t preclude the infinitesimally small possibility that one or more of them might actually consider the merits of any candidate Trump, who is, in case you missed it, a Republican, might nominate, but it certainly suggests that the game is over well before it began.

Yes, I’m sure many people are as confident that the Democrats will all vote “no” on the candidate as that the Republicans will vote “yeah, hooray, yippee, we won.”

But that doesn’t make the votes from either party, and, specifically, the votes by each individual senator any more legitimate.

The Republicans have so effectively lined up the members of their party that none of them will question the magnificent incredible choice of the justice-to-be-named later.

They have so much confidence that the choice will be the best possible candidate for the highest judicial appointment in the land that they have no real need to consider the merits of her candidacy.

This has become an all out sprint to fast-track their candidate directly onto that important bench, without even the token consideration for her past decisions, her views on the Constitution, or her thoughts on important legal precedents.

If Republican senators have so much faith in the president’s choice, they should forfeit their salaries, go back home and allow the president to vote for them on every issue. I suspect the president wouldn’t object to adding such responsibility to his daily routine.

I understand that we live in polarized and divided times. I get that Senators reflect and amplify the differences that are pulling this nation apart. Each of them has an opportunity, no, a responsibility, to consider the job they are supposed to do, and not the party they are expected to support.

I don’t even need a Republican to vote against the president’s candidate to give me hope that someone in that esteemed chamber gets it. I just need a Republican to ask a genuinely difficult question. The hearings will go something like this:

Democrat: You’re unqualified and here’s why.

Republican: My Democratic colleague is wrong, offensive and disgraceful (see my last column for the search for grace). You’re the best person to protect the legal interests of every American.

Candidate: Was there a question in there?