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Sangria is a fruit punch-esque cocktail that’s best enjoyed on a sunny, lazy summer afternoon. METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

When it’s hot outside I’m looking for a beverage that’s light, refreshing, chillable, perhaps somewhat acidic to cleanse my palate, but most of all … it contains alcohol.

I enjoy wine and during hot weather I have found ways to convert that glass of wine into a “wine cooler.” Here are some of my summer coolers:

A spritzer (popular in the 1970s) is a tall drink made with a base of wine (white, red or rosé) and filled with a carbonated mixer (seltzer, tonic water, ginger ale) and sometimes garnished with lemon, lime, orange, a sprig of mint, or even a cherry. Spritzers are served on ice.

One of my favorite wine coolers is a kir. It’s an apéritif drink made with crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and dry white wine, named after the late mayor of the city of Dijon, France, Canon Félix Kir (1876-1968). Kir was the favorite drink of the mayor from the 1940s until his death in 1968.

Originally, kir was made by mixing Aligoté, a highly acidic white wine from Burgundy with a tablespoon of crème de cassis, served chilled. Nowadays, just about any white wine used as Aligoté is difficult to find.

To make a kir, pour 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) into 5 to 6 ounces of a dry white wine, add ice and stir.

There are many variations of this drink: Kir Royale, along with Cardinal (cassis and Beaujolais), Kir Communist (cassis and red wine), and Kir Imperial (raspberry liqueur instead of cassis and champagne).

An all-time favorite that is making a big comeback is Sangría, originally from Spain. Now you can buy premade versions or make your own, which is more fun and allows for your creativity.

Sangria is a refreshing apéritif made from a mixture of wine (red, white, or rosé), slices of citrus fruits (lemon, lime, and orange), sugar, and sometimes soda water. To make Sangria, take a bottle of a dry red, white, or rosé wine. Add one lemon, lime, orange, and apple (cored) cut into quarters, then squeezed. To this add 1/4 cup superfine sugar. Mix all ingredients (including the quartered fruit) and refrigerate for several hours. Add ice before serving and top with a Maraschino cherry.

One of my favorite ways to keep ice cubes from diluting the wine is to freeze left-over wine (red or white) in ice cube trays, then seal in plastic bags so you will always have a few cubes on hand for wine coolers. (You can even mix colors.)

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

Codfish Cakes

By Barbara Beltrami

Years ago up on the Cape, tucked way back from the side of the road, there used to be a little fish shack called Caleb’s. It was tiny, ramshackle and barely visible, but the natives and summer regulars all knew about it and crowded its half dozen or so stools and one picnic table set under a faded yellow umbrella.

At lunchtime it exuded the unmistakable summer aromas of oil, suntan lotion and frying. Caleb was the proprietor, cook, server, and quintessentially an iconic salty old New England cuss. The only things you could get there were fish cakes. And what fish cakes they were! Each day the special was written in crayon and posted on a piece of cardboard taped to the side of the shack next to the counter. It was most often cod, of course, but it could also be swordfish or tuna or clams or scallops or a blend of several varieties or anything over which Caleb could strike a bargain with the local fishermen.

The fish cakes were big, about the size of a large bakery cookie, plump and soft in the middle and crispy around the edges. They came on a Portuguese roll with a scoop of coleslaw, a dollop of tartar sauce and half a lemon.

Caleb is long gone. He seemed ancient way back then, and I know for sure that the fish shack is no longer there. It’s been replaced by a slick pizzeria with a garish sign and a huge parking lot. But the memory of his fish cakes lives on and while nothing will ever measure up to them, here are a few of my humble attempts.

Codfish Cakes

Codfish Cakes

YIELD: Makes 10 large or 20 small patties

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh cod fillets, skinned and boned

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, pared and diced

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

2 large eggs, well beaten

2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup minced flat leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

Season the fish with salt and pepper; place on rack of steamer over boiling water; cook until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. In a large pot, cook potatoes and onions in boiling salted water until very tender, about 13 to 15 minutes. Drain and puree with ricer or food mill or mash by hand (do not use electric food processor). Add eggs, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and parsley; combine and beat vigorously; flake fish with a fork, and gently fold into mixture. 

With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, spread onto a baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, about one hour. Remove from fridge and shape into patties; dredge with flour and shake off excess. Place half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; gently drop patties into hot oil (add remaining oil as needed) and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with tartar sauce, lemon and cole slaw.

Lobster and Scallop Cakes

Lobster and Scallop Cakes

YIELD: Makes about 6 medium patties

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 pound scallops

1/2 pound lobster meat

1 tablespoon minced flat leaf   parsley leaves

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 garlic clove, minced

Zest of one lemon, finely grated

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons or more extra virgin olive oil or more as needed

DIRECTIONS:

Place butter, scallops, lobster, parsley, chives, tarragon, bread crumbs, garlic and lemon zest in bowl of electric food processor and pulse a few times to chop the seafood but still leave small chunks. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add the lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and cayenne. Form into patties and place on platter or baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for one hour or until well set. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat; cook patties until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes each side.  Carefully remove to paper towels and let sit, gently turning once, for two minutes each side. Serve immediately with lemon or sour cream and potato chips.

Jade

MEET A JEWEL NAMED JADE!

This week’s shelter pet is Jade, a two-year-old female domestic shorthair mix currently up for adoption at the Smithtown Animal Shelter.

Jade was trapped along with her kittens as part of the shelter’s trap/neuter/release program. She instantly showed her affectionate side and trust for the staff and volunteers. Jade is a little ball of love, serving up sweetness to everyone she meets. She would do well in a home with children, making her a great family pet!

If you are interested in meeting Jade, please fill out an adoption application online at www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com. The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, call 631-360-7575.

Consuming four or more servings of legumes per week has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Stock photo
Even small dietary changes move us closer to being ‘heart attack proof’

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

We can significantly reduce the occurrence of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States, by making modest lifestyle changes.

Heart disease is a term that captures a number of disorders, from coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attacks, to valve issues and heart failure, which is a problem with the pumping mechanism. Here, our focus will be on coronary artery disease and their resulting heart attacks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 805,000 heart attacks in the U.S.  annually, and 200,000 of these occur in those who’ve already had a first heart attack (1). Here, I will provide specifics on how to make changes to protect you and your family, regardless of family history.

The evidence continues to highlight lifestyle changes, including diet, as the most important factors in preventing heart disease. Changes that garner a big bang for your buck include the consumption of chocolate, legumes, nuts, fiber and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Treat yourself – cocoa’s benefits

Preliminary evidence shows that two pieces of chocolate a week may decrease the risk of a heart attack by 37 percent, compared to those who consume less (2). However, the authors warned against the idea that more is better. In fact, high fat and sugar content and calorically dense aspects may have detrimental effects when consumed at much higher levels. There is a fine line between potential benefit and harm. The benefits may be attributed to micronutrients referred to as flavonols.

I usually recommend that patients have one to two squares – about one-fifth to two-fifths of an ounce – of high-cocoa-content dark chocolate daily. Who says prevention has to be painful?

Increase your fiber intake

Fiber has a dose-response relationship to reducing risk. In other words, the more fiber intake, the greater the reduction in risk. In a meta-analysis of 10 studies, results showed for every 10-gram increase in fiber, there was a corresponding 14 percent reduction in the risk of a cardiovascular event and a 27 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease mortality (3). The authors analyzed data that included over 90,000 men and 200,000 women.

The average American consumes about 16 grams per day of fiber (4). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 14 grams of fiber for each 1,000 calories consumed, or roughly 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men (5). Therefore, we can significantly reduce our risk of heart disease if we increase our consumption of fiber to reach the recommended levels. Good sources of fiber are fruits and vegetables with the edible skin or peel, beans and lentils, and whole grains.

Legumes’ impact

In a prospective (forward-looking) cohort study, the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS), legumes reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by a significant 22 percent. Those who consumed four or more servings per week, compared to those who consumed less than one serving, saw this effect. The legumes used in this study included beans, peas and peanuts (6). There were over 9,500 men and women involved, spanning 19 years of follow-up.

I recommend that patients consume at least one to two servings a day, or 7 to 14 a week. Imagine the impact that could have, compared to the modest four servings per week used to reach statistical significance in this study.

A nutty solution

In a study with over 45,000 men, there were significant reductions in coronary heart disease with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Both plant-based and seafood-based omega-3s showed these effects (7). Good sources of omega-3s from plant-based sources include nuts, such as walnuts, and ground flaxseed.

Your ultimate goal should be to become “heart attack proof,” a term used by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and reinforced by Dr. Dean Ornish. Ideally, this requires a plant-based diet. But even modest changes in diet will result in significant risk reductions. The more significant the lifestyle changes you make, the closer you will come to achieving this goal.

References:

(1) cdc.gov. (2) BMJ 2011; 343:d4488. (3) Arch Intern Med. 2004 Feb 23;164(4):370-376. (4) NHANES 2009-2010 Data Brief No. 12. Sep 2014. (5) eatright.org. (6) Arch Intern Med. 2001 Nov 26;161(21):2573-2578. (7) Circulation. 2005 Jan 18;111(2):157-164.

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.

Northern Mockingbird

By John L. Turner

A fact about living in suburbia is the presence of neighbors and we are blessed in having a bunch of wonderful neighbors in the Setauket neighborhood in which we live.

Lately though, I have become aware of, and begun to appreciate, another set of neighbors: those of the feathered kind. We are neighbors to the birds and this spring I’ve watched families of birds, going about their lives, amidst our property and that of some of our neighbors. Our human properties are embedded within the “properties” in which they nest.

In a side shrub a pair of Song Sparrows made a nest while in a front yard shrub it was a Robin. On an eye-level branch of a Norway Spruce located along a boundary of the backyard I watched a pair of Mourning Doves raise a pair of young that successfully fledged, and further back in a blackberry bramble was a Catbird nest.

We also routinely see several woodpeckers species feeding in the yard and have Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, for whom our property is a cafeteria. Most recently, we’ve been witness to a family of Screech Owls — two parents and three young — as they have begun, on silent wings, to expand their world.

But the most conspicuous neighbor of all has been a pair of Northern Mockingbirds. I haven’t located their nest but our property along with the neighbors that flank each side are within the pair’s territory as evidenced by the trees the male alternates flying to and singing from the tops of.

And, wow, do Mockingbirds sing. They are most well-known for “mocking” or copying the songs of other songbirds, with some birds having a repertoire of several dozen songs absconded from others. In total, Mockingbirds can sing hundreds of different phrases — a combination of unique calls interspersed with the mimicked songs of others.

About a month ago the male sat atop a tall Spruce tree along my northern border and enthusiastically sang continuously for 20 minutes. In his long song sequence I discerned songs that included the Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Killdeer, Great Crested Flycatcher and two different Blue Jay calls. On several occasions it quacked like a duck! (Many years ago I heard a Mockingbird singing along the edge of a field in Hauppauge making a sound that sounded exactly like a car alarm!! I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t directly witness the sound emanating from the open and moving bill of the bird).

Their scientific name — Mimus polyglottis — literally means “many throated mimic,” an obvious reference to their ability to sing other bird songs.

That the Northern Mockingbird is a feathered virtuoso has long been recognized by professional ornithologists and curious naturalists alike. J.P. Giraud in his seminal 1842 work “The Birds of Long Island” noted: “It is the nightingale of America, and according to those who have heard the native notes of both, its voice, both in variety and fullness, is superior to that of Europe’s sweetest songster. Its power of imitation is so great, that this highly gifted bird runs over the varied notes of all our songsters, and executes with so much skill, that it would seem as if Nature had so attuned its voice that it might exceed all of the feather choir.”

Frank Chapman, the longtime curator of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, and the father of the National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count, wrote: “The Mockingbird might be called our national song-bird; his remarkable vocal powers have made him famous the world over … He is a good citizen, and courting rather than shunning public life, shows an evident interest in the affairs of the day. He lives in our gardens, parks, and squares, and even in the streets of the town …” and in regard to his singing Chapman notes: “… if his song does not thrill you then confess yourself deaf to Nature’s voices.” — an opinionated but accurate statement if their boisterous singing fails to put a smile on your face!

But why is it that Mockingbirds, a rarity among songbirds in singing the songs of other birds, evolved this fascinating behavior of vocal mimicry? For the same reasons that other male birds sing — to defend a breeding territory and attract a mate. They’ve just taken it to a new level driven by the fact that females are apparently attracted to males with larger song repertoires.

This new level includes singing at night, especially on nights when the moon is strong. While I’ve not yet heard “our” birds singing at night, I had night singing Mockingbirds routinely while I lived for many years in Massapequa Park and before that during my childhood in Smithtown.

Mockingbirds are related to two other songbird species native to Long Island with which you might be familiar: the Gray Catbird and the Brown Thrasher. All three belong to the family Mimidae, the Mimic Thrushes, and they all mimic other birds, although the Mockingbird stands alone in its skill.

With a little bit of effort you can see them. The Brown Thrasher prefers wilder habitat. It is a fairly common breeding bird in the vast expanses of the Pine Barrens, where it prefers to lurk about in the understory while Catbirds and Mockingbirds frequent the suburban habitat around your home.

If you have a Mockingbird as a neighbor, perhaps the “Many-throated Mimic” will grace you with his night-time serenade on a moonlit night.

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.

Felicia Allard

By Daniel Dunaief

Stony Brook University recently added a wife and husband team to its Pathology Department. Felicia Allard and Eric Yee are joining SBU from the University of Arkansas.

Allard and Yee will “replace an individual who had moved to a leadership position at another institution and to meet increased caseloads in surgical pathology and cytopathology,” Ken Shroyer, the chairman of the Pathology Department, explained in an email.

Times Beacon Record News Media will profile Allard and Yee over the next two weeks.

Felicia Allard

Eric Yee and Felicia Allard. Photo by Joshua Valencia

A self-described “mountain girl” from Colorado, where she attended medical school and met her husband Eric Yee, Felicia Allard had only been to Long Island three times before accepting a job at Stony Brook.

She came once when she was interviewing for a residency and twice during the interview process.

Allard and Yee accepted the jobs in the middle of February and weren’t able to look at potential homes during the height of the lockdown caused by COVID-19.

For now, the couple have moved into temporary housing in Port Jefferson Station, as they look for longer term living options.

Allard, who will be an Associate Professor at SBU, said the move started with Pathology Department Chair Ken Shroyer, who was looking to fill two positions and reached out to Yee.

Shroyer was involved in a type of cancer work that interested her.

“The active pancreatic cancer research group was a big draw for me as I am hoping to expand my research career,” Allard explained in an email.

Allard said she was particularly interested in pancreatic cancer, in large part because of its intractability and the poor prognosis for most patients.

“It was clear to me that this is one of the areas where we had a lot of work to do in terms of being able to offer any type of meaningful treatment to patients,” she said.

Allard said she, like so many others in the medical community, entered the field because she wanted to make a difference. She searched for areas where the “greatest good could be done, and pancreatic cancer is still one of those.”

In her initial research, she studied the pancreatic neoplasm, exploring how cells went from pre-invasive to invasive to metastatic conditions. She is interested in how the tumor interacts with the patient’s immune system.

While Allard will continue to provide clinical services, she plans to collaborate with Shroyer in his lab. “I’m hoping naturally to be integrating into Dr. Shroyer’s group,” Allard said.

Shroyer welcomed Allard to the department and to his research team.

Allard is “a highly-qualified surgical pathologist with subspecialty expertise in GI tract pathology,” Shroyer wrote in an email. “She has a specific interest in pancreatic cancer, which will also complement our translational research program,” he said.

Shroyer expects that Allard will be integrated into several cancer research programs and he is “looking forward to having her join my team that is focused on the validation of prognostic and predictive biomarkers for pancreatic cancer.”

Shroyer’s lab, which includes Luisa Escobar-Hoyos, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology, will work with Allard to advance the translational aspects of keratin 17 research, building on earlier work to understand the mechanisms through which K17 causes tumor aggression, he explained.

As for her clinical work, Allard said she analyzes biopsies and resections from the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, and pancreas. She has also used cytopathology to look at pap smears and to analyze salivary tumor aspirations.

The time to consider any of these slides varies broadly. Sometimes, she receives a slide and the diagnosis is unequivocal within 30 seconds. Other times, a biopsy from a six-month old patient with diarrhea, for example, can have an extensive list of differentials. In that case, the diagnosis can take considerably longer, as a baby could be sick because of an autoimmune disorder, inflammatory bowel disease or an infection.

She said she can “perseverate for hours or even days” over the subtle clues that may help with a diagnosis.

Allard likened the diagnostic process to reading a detective novel, in which the reader might figure out the perpetrator on page three, while other times, the culprit isn’t discovered until page 300.

Allard said she and her husband have a similar clinical background.

Yee is “more of a tech geek than I am,” she said. “He understands artificial intelligence, computer science and bioinformatics more than I do. He is also interested in administrative and leadership to a greater degree.”

Allard said she and Yee may have professional overlaps, but they have unique interests, backgrounds and perspectives that they bring to work that give them each different strengths.

Allard said she knew she wanted to go into medicine in her junior year of high school. When Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, she recalls being impressed with that distinction.

In medical school, she said the field of pathology appealed to her because she appreciated the marriage of clinical care and basic science in the field.

She and Yee started dating just before medical school started for her. Yee was two years ahead in school. They continued their relationship from a distance while he did his residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. While she was a resident, Allard said Yee had the “distinct pleasure of trying to train me.”

She likes to explore the boundaries of diagnosis to understand the nuances and all the data that factor into interpretations, to tease the art from the science.

Outside of her work, Allard enjoys reading and calls her Kindle one of her favorite possessions. She hopes to learn how to sail while a resident of Long Island.

Allard is excited to start working at Stony Brook. Shroyer was “very persistent and once he got us up to New York to interview, he was persuasive with respect to the type of career growth we could both potentially have,” she said.

Photo by David Ackerman

When The New York Times recently published an editorial titled “Don’t Cancel That Newspaper Subscription,” it caught our attention. Not just because of the subject matter — anything about the general decline of local newspapers is, of course, something we’re very concerned about — but because of the struggles each reporter and editor faces while trying to do their jobs.

The beginning of the editorial tells the story of John Seigenthaler, initially a young reporter with The Tennessean who saved the life of a man he was interviewing back in the 1950s. Seigenthaler went on to become editor and then publisher for the local paper and was at the forefront of civil rights coverage in the heart of the segregated South. However, the piece is not a love letter to the local papers of the 20th century; it’s a cry for help for the publications of today.

The editorial touches on how newspapers and their newsrooms have become smaller over time, even before the coronavirus pandemic diminished the amount of advertising, the main source of revenue papers rely on. Over the years, local publications have been suffering as more and more readers take to the internet to get their daily or weekly dose of news. It also doesn’t help that the false moniker of “fake news” is thrown around by too many without a care for the consequences such an impetuous statement can create.

According to the editorial, newsrooms across the country lost half their journalists between 2008-19. Citing a recent Business Insider article, the writer Margaret Renkl, said “a staggering” 7,800 journalists lost their jobs in 2019.

The writer goes on to tell the story of how The Tennessean recently ran an ad that many found appalling and racist, but she urged people not to cancel their subscriptions. She not only cited how the publisher quickly tried to rectify the situation by pulling it from future editions and firing the sales manager that approved it, but she pointed out many other things, too. Despite the extreme lack of judgment in placing the ad, even with a shortage of journalists due to cutbacks over the years, the paper still covers and publishes a variety of topics that show it is still doing everything in its power to maintain a balanced and reputable publication.

We get this. There have been times when some may not have been pleased with an article, letter or editorial in our newspapers. That is perfectly fine, and we invite reasoned criticism from all in our letters to the editor. But as Renkl wrote in her editorial, “As the ‘first rough draft of history’ journalism will always be prone to mistakes.” We, perhaps beyond any other industry, not only invite justified review of our papers, but we also actively try to improve, working many, many hours to try to get the story of local happenings. We cannot be everywhere and cover everything, but we do our best.

Canceling your subscription to a newspaper only hastens the death of journalism. We’ve written it before on this page, and we’ll put it out there again: If newspapers and journalists didn’t exist, who would tell you what leaders are up to? Who would be there to challenge their responses when something doesn’t sound quite right? And this is even more important with our local leaders, especially as more news networks focus on the national side of our society.

Without local papers, where would readers go to find out what fun activities are going on right in their own town? Who would celebrate the academic and athletic achievements of our local students?

Unfortunately, the days of local newsrooms brimming over with editors and reporters, who could run out and cover every incident in town, may be over, but pulling out a newspaper from the mailbox or picking one up on the newsstand doesn’t need to end.

Let’s work together to keep local journalism alive. With each subscription, just like with each ad, we are empowered to continue and enabled to cover more of our communities’ activities for the benefit of all.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Look, we’re out of practice. It’s totally normal. We’ve spent so much time talking to kids who don’t listen, to pets who need a break from us and to computers that seem determined to sabotage our efforts to work from home that we may have lost a step or two in our social graces.

Slowly, like hermit crabs emerging from their shells, we are stepping out into the phased world, in which we can do this, but can’t do that and where we are seeing more three-dimensional people and not those two-dimensional figures who flash across all manner of electronic devices.

As a quick refresher, I’d like to offer a reminder of the things that should give us pause if we’re about to share them with others who may be a bit sensitive.

The following should serve as verbal red flags:

Not that I’m looking, but … if whatever comes next is something you shouldn’t be staring at, such as anatomical areas, private letters or emails, you shouldn’t finish the sentence.

Don’t take this the wrong way … well, if a part of you recognizes that what you’re about to say could be problematic or painful for the listener, consider saying it in a different way or not saying it at all.

Obviously … this can go in one of two directions. A truly obvious statement doesn’t need sharing. A statement you think is obvious but isn’t so clear to the listener becomes a way to offend that person, who may have a reflexive defensive response.

I’m no expert, but … we all often talk about subjects in which we have no expertise. We might be anywhere from slightly informed to ill informed. We should be able to share what we think we might know, but we may not want to challenge someone who designs buildings on the best way to put together a LEGO house.

This is such a minor point that I hesitate to bring it up … maybe instead of hesitating, you should just not. Correcting the day of the week on a story about an event that occurred over 10 years ago seems unnecessary and distracting.

I don’t want to take the wind out of your sails … you’re probably about to do what you say you’re not doing, so own it and say you disagree completely or let me continue to sail off into my happy sunset.

What do I know, but … This expression suggests that you are about to do one of two things. You’re likely preparing to deliver serious criticism, but want to couch it by suggesting that it might not be based on anything other than a disdain for you, your wardrobe choices, your career path, or anything in between. Alternatively, you’re about to say something that seems supportive — “what do I know, but your idea for submersible homes seems compelling to me”  — but that really suggests that you’re hiding behind false humility. If someone follows your advice, the “what do I know” expression is your way of dodging any responsibility for their mistakes.

I don’t mean to offend you, but … this is one of my favorites. It suggests that you know you are about to be offensive and that you don’t mean it, but you just can’t help it. You’re about to share something that may dress up as helpful, like a Trojan horse, perhaps, but that will likely cause damage.

Holding our tongues can be incredibly difficult, especially when we’d like to tell the person in front of us how we want to make a minor, but likely obvious point that we hope doesn’t take the wind out of their sails or offend them. We also don’t know what we’re talking about because we’re not experts. Still, it was sort of good to see them.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Those businesses that qualified for a paycheck protection program (PPP) loan have had a bit of a honeymoon from the novel coronavirus these last eight weeks. They were allowed to apply to the government for two months plus 50 percent of their labor costs. From that money they had to pay at least 60 percent to workers to cover payroll, with the remainder underwriting other expenses like utilities, payroll taxes and leases.

So the employers who received the payments could relax during those two months, and the employees could also stop holding their breaths, knowing that their salaries would be paid. And the government would keep the workers employed. At least that was how it was supposed to work, and it did, except when the weekly unemployment insurance payments were greater than the weekly salaries and proved too much of a temptation to the employee. In those cases, the employer was in competition with the government and, depending on the worker’s loyalty and long term concern about holding onto a job, the employer would often lose. 

But the program was essentially a good one. The funds, paid to the businesses and-in turn to their employees, kept the work force together and saved the workers from the frustrations of trying to collect unemployment. 

The original thinking was that the pandemic would probably lessen after two months and businesses could resume as normal. Well, we now know how that turned out. The pandemic is still with us, although New York is in a much better condition at the moment than most of the rest of the country, but economic activity has not returned to anything like normal, and with social distancing, looks unlikely to return soon. 

For many of those businesses, the PPP honeymoon is almost over. How do we prevent a return to the layoffs, loss of company health insurance and nail biting of the pre-PPP days? 

The good thing about a pandemic is that the whole world is in the same situation, and we can look around and see how other countries are coping or trying to cope. The U.S. has relied on an expanded program of unemployment insurance to tide over workers until the economy resurrects itself. Many European countries have prevented joblessness by essentially nationalizing payrolls and enabling workers to continue to be paid and businesses to resume whenever that happy day comes, without having to rehire and possibly retrain. Workers are often furloughed if there is no work at the shuttered shops and factories, meaning that their jobs will be held for them and they continue to receive their salary, although generally at a reduced amount. 

In short, Europeans have been pursuing an extended PPP. Workers have not overwhelmed the unemployment insurance system, caused websites to crash, phones to go unanswered, lost health coverage, nor have they stood the requisite six feet apart in the hot sun on long lines in parking lots, waiting to get into benefit offices. There is also the intangible but priceless advantage of workers not feeling jobless, with the fear and loss of identity that often brings. 

And today, many feel just that. The U.S. number in June for jobless was 11.1 percent. That’s an increase of some eight percent since February. In the aforementioned European countries, the jobless rate has increased by less than 1 percent. In human terms, that means some 20 million Americans are unemployed. While that’s better than 23 million in April, probably almost all of those people have families who also will feel the effects as tenants begin to be evicted and queues form for food banks. 

We don’t know what is going to happen in the next few weeks, as government programs for business and unemployment benefits run out if not extended. The $600 federal unemployment boost is supposed to end July 31. Congress is debating whether to extend the time or modify the payout, even as some worry that paying workers more than their salary is a disincentive to work.

Just remember, we are in this together. Hang on and stay safe.