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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Fear can be a great motivator. Fear of failing a test can lead someone to study harder, to pay attention in class and to do whatever is necessary to learn the material.

In many movies, the lead character has to face his or her fears to accomplish something. Luke Skywalker from the “Star Wars” films had to face his father, Darth Vader, to become a Jedi.

Fear, however, can also bring out the worst in people, especially when that fear is misplaced and misdirected.

Last week, the University of California’s Tang Center, in Berkeley, listed a set of normal reactions to the new coronavirus on its Instagram account. Among other reactions, like feeling anxiety, worry or panic, the school suggested that xenophobia, or “fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia” was also normal. The Instagram post went on to add that having “guilt about these feelings” was normal, too. Chances are, if you’re feeling guilty about a feeling, it’s probably misdirected and uninformed.

Amid an enormous backlash from alumni at the school, whose current freshman class is about 43 percent Asian, the university has since apologized and taken down the post.

The school hopefully learned, and also offered a valuable lesson.

People in the United States are no more likely to contract a virus that currently has a 2 percent mortality rate from an Asian person than they are from anyone else who is sniffling and coughing.

In fact, at this point in the year, someone near you who is sneezing, coughing or looks sick is exponentially more likely to have the flu.

Yes, the vast majority of the almost 25,000 cases of the coronavirus — with about 3,200 critical — are located in China and, yes, many countries, including the United States, have taken strong steps to limit the possibility of turning this epidemic into a pandemic, causing the virus to spread to two or more continents.

Where someone’s ancestors come from, or where they themselves were born, is much less relevant than where they themselves have traveled in the last two weeks.

And, on top of that, even if someone — Asian, Caucasian, African American, Native American or otherwise — has been to Asia in the last month, if that person has been back in the United States for more than two weeks without showing any signs of illness, then he or she falls into the same category as anyone and everyone else with whom we ride the Long Island Rail Road, sit in a movie theater or stroll through a mall. The mandatory quarantine period for people returning from Wuhan, the Chinese center of the outbreak, is two weeks.

Fear of this virus shouldn’t encourage any of us to avoid people with a specific heritage because the virus doesn’t care about the small genetic differences that create races. It only seeks the receptor in our cells that allow it to get inside and cause respiratory infections.

So, how do we manage our fear of the virus? We tackle it the same way we do our fear of getting a flu. We wash our hands regularly, we try not to touch our face, and we don’t shake hands with anyone who has a stuffy nose or is coughing.

We can also boost our own immune system by getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

The coronavirus, for which there are currently no treatments or vaccines, has generated a steady drumbeat of horrible news, from the number of people infected to those who have died, which has climbed to almost 500 but with more than 1,000 recoveries.

Fear of the virus can be and is healthy, motivating countries to protect their citizens and limiting the spread of the virus. The fear, however, of any group will never be “normal” and certainly isn’t acceptable.

Image from YouTube

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This was the week that was. And what a week of atypical news it was. Let’s start with the coronavirus and its progression toward a pandemic. The global death toll stood at 492 as of Wednesday morning, according to NBC News, and confirmed cases top 24,000 in mainland China. More than 185,000 people are currently under medical observation, Chinese health officials said. Hundreds of U.S. nationals were removed from locked-down Wuhan and have arrived in the United States, as two more rescue planes landed at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California. Passengers will be quarantined for 14 days before being released. So far, there have been 11 cases in the U.S. Trailing China with confirmed cases are Japan with 35, Singapore with 28, Thailand with 25 and South Korea with 19. But the virus has definitely spread beyond Asia and has been found in Germany, France, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Finland and beyond. There are even 10 passengers with the virus from a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan. Another cruise ship, with 3,600 aboard, has been quarantined in Hong Kong. 

While there is talk of work on a coronavirus vaccine, health professionals agree it will take up to a year before such a vaccine would be available to the general public.

A traditional news event with an unusual twist was the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night in the House of Representatives that had voted to impeach him. Extreme partisanship was on display at the start when President Donald Trump (R) did not shake hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) — second in the line of succession to the highest office next to Vice President Mike Pence (R). Then the speaker tore up a text of the speech as the cameras were rolling immediately at the end of the president’s talk.

As residents listened for the results of the Iowa caucuses, the first indication of voter sentiment in a presidential election year, the new app relaying the results that the Iowa Democratic Party planned to use broke down, and those trying to log in or download it had no training for the task. Fortunately, there seems to be paper backup for the votes, but it takes time for the voting cards to be counted by hand. According to partial returns so far, still only 71 percent, former Vice President Joe Biden is trailing the other three leaders: Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and the youngest candidate at age 38, has a slim and unpredicted lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Even as people await the final results, the scene is now shifting to the second voting site and the first primary in the nation, that of New Hampshire.

Back in Washington, the vote in the Senate to impeach the president was another historic and unprecedented news item. The partisan wrangling in the House and Senate between the two major parties has been constantly on display throughout the impeachment hearings the past months. The drama was put forth with an eye to the coming elections and promises a hard and bitter fight from now until November.

A little bit of relief was provided by the annual football contest, the Super Bowl, this past Sunday evening. For those who watched, the fourth quarter provided much excitement and an intensity that blocked out even the loudest grim news. Three cheers for the 24-year-old quarterback, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who brought his team back from defeat and became the youngest winner of both a Super Bowl and a regular season NFL (2018) MVP award.

Then there is Harvey Weinstein and the trial that, for me, is too much in the news. The constant stream of rape details that are being eagerly reported is a nauseating backdrop for the aforementioned news. There will undoubtedly be a movie.

Speaking of movies, the Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are coming this Sunday, and they should provide distraction from the heavier events. And isn’t it interesting to learn from a recent news article, that there are probably more than 10 million American nudists? See, you can find happy news if you just try. 

John Bolton

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

What should the Republicans do about former National Security Adviser John Bolton? In this topsy-turvy battle in Washington, Bolton has become a lightning bolt with his claims about his recent boss, President Donald Trump (R).

So, the Republicans, particularly under Trump, have a playbook for dealing with disaffected former staffers. That’s not terribly surprising, given that the president’s previous job involved letting people know that, “You’re fired!” Here are my top 10 options for dealing with Bolton.

10. Pretend no one knew him and that he wasn’t significant. The president has used that approach with other people with varying levels of success. The problem is that there were far too many pictures and meetings. For crying out loud, the guy was the national security adviser. Disavowing any knowledge or contact with him strains the willing suspension of disbelief required for so many other excuses. Let’s pass on that one.

9. Claim he’s trying to make money on a book. That’s what some have suggested, ignoring that he might be trying to make money and be telling the truth.

8. Insist that the book is a national security threat. That’s a technique the president has said he’d use to keep everyone else from testifying during his hotly contested impeachment trial.

7. Suggest that Trump would “love” to have him testify, but that someone else — a lawyer, a member of the FBI or CIA, or someone in the shadows who the president and his staff feel has a valid argument — has suggested that his testifying would destroy the Constitution, ruin the presidency or alter the course of history in a negative way for everyone.

6. Create a new, outlandish and riveting conspiracy theory. Maybe he’s still John Bolton, but the Democrats, and in particular House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, got a hold of him and somehow figured out how to reprogram him. This is doubly delicious, like a cheeseburger with extra bacon, deep fried in lard, because it unites Bolton with Pelosi and suggests that he’s lying and has sold his soul to a lower form of political being.

5. Develop a diversion. (Don’t you love alliteration?) Come up with a Mideast peace plan, a Chinese trade policy, a cure for coronavirus or a way to provide energy that removes the hippy-dippy greenhouse gases and cools the Earth. The short attention spans will seize on this as the one and only part of the news that’s worth covering. Surely, with all the events of the world, the drama, the excitement and the immediate need to feed the news beast, there must be some way to send eyeballs elsewhere, turning Bolton into an afterthought.

4. Ban anyone with a bushy, white mustache from entering the Senate chamber. The Democrats and all their supporters picked on Bolton mercilessly when he became national security adviser, focusing on his facial hair. Surely it’s fair to suggest that this defining characteristic makes him untrustworthy?

3. Give him the wrong time and day to show up. When he doesn’t arrive, suggest that he must have had a change of heart and it’s time to move on with a process that has a predetermined ending anyway.

2. Someone to whom Bolton lied could claim that the former national security adviser didn’t always tell the truth, which would undermine anything Bolton claimed the president said. 

1. Let him testify. Bolton was always part of a Republican plan anyway. Once Republicans allow him to come before the Senate, he can deny the “leaks,” undermining the credibility of the media and the Democrats. In return, he can get another position, like maybe an ambassadorship?

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here is our first invitation for you in the new year. You are cordially invited to a lovely reception at the historic Three Village Inn in Stony Brook village next Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m., during which time we will honor the first prizewinners of our TBR Readers’ Choice 2019 contest. Tickets are $60 a person. Last year we asked you to fill in a questionnaire telling us your favorite businesses and professionals in some 100 categories, ranging from accountant, attorney and acupuncturist through the alphabet to winery, women’s clothing, yoga studio and veterinarian.

We supplied you with an entry form, a full page in our six newspapers — and only in our newspapers rather than on our website and social media — to encourage you to pick up the newspapers and see what you have been missing if you have only been reading us online. That meant you had to mail in or bring in the completed entry forms to our office, an added task in this age of transactions routinely completed over the internet. Most of the entries were mailed in via the U.S. Postal Service, what we have come to call “snail mail.”

We didn’t know what to expect.

To our delight, we received 2,525 nominations over the course of the weeks the contest ran. After we tabulated the responses from Huntington, Greenlawn and Northport, Smithtown, Kings Park, St. James and Lake Grove, Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station, Sound Beach, Rocky Point and Miller Place, Yaphank and Centereach, Stony Brook and Setauket and more, we were delighted to publish the winners in a special supplement at the close of the year.

Now we are celebrating those “No. 1’s” at the aforementioned reception next Wednesday evening. In addition to the individual businesses and services, we are celebrating much more. We are proudly calling attention to the fact that retail is not dead. That newspapers are not dead. That the Post Office is not dead. That communities, of which businesses are a central part, are vibrant. And that shopping locally is an important part of our residents lives.

I think we made a point. Several points, in fact.

Now comes “Thank You.” Thank You to all who took the time to express their appreciation for their favorite businesses, business owners and managers by sending in the entries. Thank You to those business owners and professionals who faithfully serve their clientele — the winners and the many who were also nominated but perhaps lost by a vote or two. We are mentioning the latter group in this week’s issue with their own supplement. And Thank You to the fabulous staff of Times Beacon Record for the many hours they put in to tabulate the results, design and send out invitations and certificates, field calls asking for information and countless other tasks, including selling advertising in support of the effort to salute local shopping.

So consider these two supplements — the winners and those also nominated — as lists of preferred local establishments whose services come recommended. And think of others who might have been improperly overlooked but who can be voted in for the Best of 2020.

While you are thinking, come to the party. There will be music, lights, camera, action and, of course, food. A red carpet will be provided for the winners to walk on as they come to the podium for their framed certificates. They will be videoed and then shown on our website for the next couple of months, photographed and appear in subsequent editions of our newspapers and otherwise be toasted. 

Best of all, this is another chance for the community to get together and enjoy each other. We, as the publishers of the community newspapers and digital media, work to enhance the sense of community in the areas we serve. This is the first of several events we plan to offer you this year.

We hope to see you, our readers, the winners, those also nominated, the many who sent in the nominations, and other members of the neighborhood at the party. Valet parking will be provided. Go to our website, tbrnewsmedia.com, or call us at 631-751-7744 and order tickets now. Thank You. 

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A blood sample with respiratory coronavirus positive. Stock photo

“Fear is the mind killer.”

It’s a recurring phrase found in the seminal writing of Frank Herbert’s 1965 book “Dune.” Despite the complicated jumbling of sci-fi jargon and galactic themes of power, religion and politics, the one phrase sticks out, touching on a basic fact of human existence, and the ever-present element of terror in the hearts of humanity.

We experience that same overriding fear again and again, such as now when reading about the current outbreak of the coronavirus from China. There have already been five people announced to have caught the virus in the U.S. That is out of 110 people who are currently being investigated for having the virus, where over 30 have come back negative. New York City has yet to have seen a particular person come forward with the virus, but city hospitals are making preparations knowing it’s only a matter of time, according to The New York Times.

Long Island is in much the same way making such preparations, with Stony Brook University Hospital and other Long Island health centers putting plans into effect.

This isn’t some kind of new, alien virus. The coronavirus has been around for many years, and causes respiratory illnesses in animals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This new strain of the virus is being called the 2019 novel coronavirus. Deaths, experts say, have mostly been the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. 

There’s something primordially horrifying of the prospect of disease, and despite our modern sensibilities we still have not eclipsed that fear. There was swine flu during 2008 and 2009. There was Ebola in 2018. 

However, the coronavirus is not something to simply tune out. The death toll has now exceeded 132 persons, all of them in China, and there have been a reported approximately 4,500 cases confirmed, with some scientists saying the number of infections could be higher. 

That is not to say these diseases do not kill people, nor that they did not have to be met by concerted efforts of government and civilian medical professionals. But panicked reactions to such outbreaks rarely help. 

Factcheck.org posted its own data points of misinformation spread about the virus, with some on social media inaccurately saying there are 10s or 100s of thousands dead, when that’s simply not true or at all confirmed. 

The U.S. has already strongly suggested canceling any nonessential visits to China. Transport within the epicenter for the virus is already heavily restricted by Chinese officials. The CDC has said the virus can travel from person to person, so the agency has suggested that if one must travel, then they should avoid contact with obviously sick people, as well as with animals, both alive or dead, and animal markets. A person traveling should also wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or with hand sanitizer if no soap is available.

Of course, we at TBR News Media will try to keep abreast of any new developments of the disease from the local angle and put any such updates on our website, but we also ask you don’t let the fear kill you, body and mind.

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File photo by Sara Megan-Walsh

As journalists, we share the frustrations of many residents in our communities who see the large number of empty storefronts — many left vacant for several years — while new developments seem to erupt out of the ground just a few feet away from derelict properties.

Imagine the grief felt by Huntington residents two years ago when Great Neck-based developer Villadom Corp. proposed construction of a 486,380-square-foot mall with retail and office space on the 50-acre property known as Elwood Orchard. Many residents feared overwhelming congestion on Route 25 and water quality issues. Meanwhile, empty buildings stood just to the east and west of the site.

Imagine the relief when the developer withdrew the application. Then think of the relief that Hauppauge residents felt last year when they saw a sign reading Relish restaurant, of Kings Park, was opening an additional location in the old Pizza Hut on Route 111. The blighted building had been vacant for decades.

Rows of vacant buildings spoil Port Jeff’s uptown vibe. The abandoned businesses along Lake Avenue in St. James and Main Street in Smithtown also point to serious problems. In Setauket, a former King Kullen still sits empty years after the chain closed those doors, and a decrepit building sits on the corner of Gnarled Hollow Road. Suffolk County was willing to buy the latter property with the Town of Brookhaven looking to maintain it as passive parkland. Some of these situations are examples of property owners holding out for more money. In which case, the only real victim is the community as a whole.

Elected officials need to ensure that these empty storefronts are filled to create vibrant shopping areas. It’s an important, even essential step to take to create stronger, cleaner and healthier communities. It also protects groundwater and can minimize roadway congestion.

Preserve that open space and fill the locations that are already set up for commerce first.

Local officials may be limited in how much they can dictate to developers but there are options. Take for example Decatur, Illinois, where the city recently hired a retail consultant to fill the vacant storefronts. Consultants or even town employees can be tasked in recruiting companies interested in entering the market. Businesses can be sold on the benefits of reconfiguration and renovation, rather than new construction.

Business owners can take responsibility, too, to maintain the quality of life in their neighborhoods where they do business. Recently, former Yankees star baseball player Mariano Rivera received an OK on a zoning change from the Town of Brookhaven to create a car dealership in Port Jefferson Station in an already developed space. While he plans to create one new additional building on site, he will expand on an existing one. The local civic and town board complimented him on his willingness to work with the local community. 

Many big businesses may come into an area focused on their branding, concerned with how their building needs to look, and insist on building from scratch in what they feel is an ideal location. We encourage elected officials to welcome businesses into structures that already exist. Quality of life should be considered first and foremost in our communities.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate was not the cause of Blue Monday this week. An idea first introduced to the world in a press release in 2005, Blue Monday was named the most depressing day of the year. Typically, the third Monday of January, but it can be the second or the fourth, Blue Monday is the confluence of several downers. We can certainly guess what they are.

For starters, there is the darkness and the weather. We are in the first full month after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That, combined with the traditionally coldest month, makes for a lot of storms, gloom and shut-ins. Even if we are fortunate, as we have been so far this year — there haven’t been so many storms — we know they are coming.

Then there are the holiday bills. This is when credit charges begin arriving, along with their urgency to be paid. We had a wonderful time, for the most part, during the celebratory days of December. Time to pay the piper.

Right around now is also when our New Year’s resolutions begin to fade. Reality sets in with an awareness of how truly hard it is to break bad habits. Easier to slip back into the old ways, especially as a treat during the awful weather.

As we look ahead into the new year, there are no big holidays to anticipate — nothing larger than St. Valentine’s Day, a Hallmark holiday after all. And then there are the coming taxes. Property tax deadline has just passed, emptying our bank accounts but April 15 will be coming up faster than our savings might grow. Not all of us get refunds — quite the contrary.

So here are five things we can do to offset the alleged challenges of the season. They are proposed by a Buddhist monk in his book, “Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection,” and they speak to self-care. Haemin Sunim, who has taught Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, according to a recent article in The New York Times, goes beyond the obvious advice of exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep.

First, start by taking a deep breath. As we think about our breathing, it becomes deeper, giving us a sense of calm no matter what is happening around us.

Next comes acceptance “of ourselves, our feelings and of life’s imperfections.” When we struggle to overcome difficult emotions, the struggle intensifies. But if we start by accepting those emotions, allowing them to be there, the mind quiets.

Writing is a third suggestion from the monk. This one, of course, speaks to me. Write down what is troubling or what we need to do, then leave the load on paper and get a good sleep. The list will be there and help to direct our actions in the morning. I have found this therapeutic when I wake up in the middle of the night herding a multitude of thoughts. I keep a pen and pad on the bedside table and I offload the burdens. In the morning, if I can read my writing, I can usually figure out how to proceed.

Talking is also important. How do I know what I think until I have heard what I’ve said? Somehow talking out a situation makes it clearer. There has to be a totally nonjudgmental and trustworthy friend who will listen, of course.

Last on the top 5 is walking: “When you sit around thinking about upsetting things, it will not help you. If you start walking, our physical energy changes and rather than dwelling on that story, you can pay attention to nature — a tree trunk, a rock. You begin to see things more objectively, and oftentimes that stress within your body will be released,” the monk said.

Even if we have no issues at the moment, we certainly feel better after taking a walk.

Alyssa Nakken is the first female coach on a major league staff in baseball history.

By Daniel Dunaief

There may be no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks famously said in the movie “A League of Their Own,” but there is, thanks to San Francisco Giants and Alyssa Nakken, now a woman in baseball.

Last week, for the first time in the 150-year history of the game, a woman joined the ranks of the coaches at Major League level.

The hiring of Nakken, 29, follows the addition of women in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

While it may seem past time that America’s pastime caught up with the times, members of the Long Island athletic and softball communities welcomed the news.

“I hope that it becomes more of the norm rather than the exception,” said Shawn Heilbron, athletic director at Stony Brook University.

For Megan Bryant, who has been the head softball coach at Stony Brook since 2001 and has collected more than 870 career wins, Nakken’s new job creates a path that others can follow.

“For the Giants and Major League Baseball and women in sports careers, that’s a big deal and is a step forward,” Bryant said. “It will open other doors for other women.”

Bryant said teams can and should recognize the wealth of coaching talent among men and women.

“If you’re a great coach, it shouldn’t matter the gender of the athletes you’re coaching,” Bryant said. 

Lori Perez, who was an assistant softball coach at Sacramento State University when Nakken played and is now head coach, said the news gave her “goose bumps.”

The hardworking Nakken, a two-time captain at Sacramento State, once asked her coaches to stop a low-energy practice so the team could refocus and flush their negative energy, Perez said.

Nakken’s parents had “high expectations for her but, even better, she had high expectations for herself,” which included doing well academically and helping out in summer camps, Perez said.

Patrick Smith, athletic director at Smithtown school district, believes these first few female hires in men’s sports are a part of a leading edge of a new trend.

“We will see more and more [women joining professional sports teams] as time goes on,” Smith said. In Smithtown, women constitute greater than half of all the athletes at the high school level.

Among the six senior women on Stony Brook’s softball team, three members are considering a career in sports after they graduate, Bryant said.

While the Women’s College World Series softball games have drawn considerable fan attention, attendance at women’s college and professional sporting events typically lags that of men.

The Long Island community can provide their daughters with a chance to observe and learn from role models at the college and professional levels by attending and supporting local teams.

“It’s frustrating that the women’s games aren’t drawing close to what the men’s teams are,” said Heilbron. The Stony Brook women’s basketball team, which includes standout junior India Pagan among other talented players, is currently 18-1. This is the best start in program history.

“I hope people will come” support the team, Heilbron said. “If you come, we believe you’ll come back.”

As for women in high profile roles, Bryant, who is looking forward to the addition of six new players to her softball squad this year, believes each step is important on a longer journey toward equal opportunity.

“Whether it’s in sports, science or politics, we’re making strides,” Bryant said. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Perez, who has two children, is thrilled that “women can dream of things they couldn’t dream of before,” thanks to Nakken and other female trailblazers inside and outside of the sports world.

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Thomas Spota file photo

Ethical behavior has always been required and expected of government officials. In the pages of our newspapers, we are reporting on corruption cases, conflicts of interest and varying degrees of unfair, immoral and in some cases illegal practices in government — all levels of government. 

As one elected official recently stated, there’s a lot of this going on. You see it on federal, state and local levels of both major political parties and we need to eliminate that. 

An administrator in the Village of Northport recently pleaded guilty to using village funds as his “personal piggy bank,” according to Tim Sini (D), Suffolk County district attorney. Former county DA, Tom Spota (D), and one of his top aides were convicted of obstruction of justice and witness tampering. 

We are learning that the New York State Public Service Commission lacks oversight of the Long Island Power Authority, which can easily lead to abuse. Lawmakers are now looking to address that omission. We are not saying LIPA is corrupt, but if fraud is detected through agency audits, officials say they currently can’t take action. And with impeachment proceedings moving forward in the White House, there’s no shortage of examples of issues that deserve our attention. 

What exactly is corruption? It’s when elected officials steer contracts or use public policies and practices for their own personal benefit rather than the public good. When a government agency steers contracts to its family members, clients and business partners or to family members affiliated with these groups, it’s a red flag.

Corruption can, and often does, lead to fraud, wasteful spending and higher operational costs for government that you ultimately pay for personally. The costs are hard to quantify, but said to be significant. The state comptrollers office reports that over 215 arrests have been made and over $60 million recovered. 

Citizens need to sit up and pay close attention. Attend meetings, file Freedom of Information Act requests, look at government contracts, look at campaign contribution filings, demand transparency and ask for town hall-style meetings from your elected officials. If they’re not responsive, elect new officials. 

Among the best remedies known to prevent and beat corrupt practices is keeping citizens informed and engaged.

It may be tempting to look the other way and give officials a pass. It’s certainly easier. But turning a blind eye on corruption only breeds malfeasance. It’s about the worst response there is. Corruption ultimately corrodes the fabric of society and undermines people’s trust in their political systems and leaders. According to Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, it can cost people freedom, health, money and sometimes even their lives. 

As governments struggle with budget deficits and aim to address urgent issues, the prudent thing to do is hold government officials accountable. We can’t fall asleep at the wheel. We the people need to make a point to stay engaged and informed in the new year and demand good government on all levels. 

State officials encourage the public to fight fraud and abuse. To report suspected abuse, call the comptrollers office at 1-888-672-4555 or email investigations@osc.ny.

The Barnes Foundation

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

During the recent holiday break, we took advantage of the free time to visit two delightful museums in Philadelphia: The Barnes Foundation and the Museum of the American Revolution. The Barnes is home of a huge collection of Impressionist paintings, among many other treasures, and the Museum of the American Revolution, not quite 2 years old, is dedicated to telling the story of our evolution from the historic center of America’s founding.

The Barnes started as the remarkable personal collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Born in Philadelphia in 1872 into a working class family, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school and went off to Germany to study chemistry. From his work there, he made his fortune by co-inventing a silver nitrate antiseptic, called Argyrol, with a German colleague Hermann Hille. 

Buying out Hille, he ran the A.C. Barnes Company from 1908-29 and in the process started to collect art. Ironically he didn’t much care for the Impressionists until his high school friend and artist, William Glackens, persuaded him otherwise. He sent Glackens off to Paris to buy some paintings, and when the artist returned with 33, Barnes became serious about collecting art and took over the purchasing himself, housing the works at his estate.

Barnes started the Barnes Foundation in 1922, a nonprofit cultural and educational institution to “promote the advancement of education and appreciation of fine arts and horticulture.” The foundation oversees the art, and since 2012 the collection has been located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in a splendid compound that honors both the founder and the masters whose works lie within its walls and in its gardens. There is even a parking lot on the premises that makes a visit so much easier.

The Barnes boasts the world’s single largest collection of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, with 181, and ditto for those by Paul Cézanne with 69. There are also 59 by Matisse, 46 by Pablo Picasso, as well as art by Modigliani, van Gogh, Seurat and Barnes’ friend, Glackens. Also in the dazzling museum are paintings by Old Masters El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Veronese. There are sculptures, masks, tools, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, manuscripts and one of the most outstanding collections of wrought iron, some 887 pieces, among so many other multicultural offerings.

A major exhibition, which sadly will end there this Sunday, Jan. 12, is 30 Americans. Featuring works of many of the most important African American artists of the past four decades, according to the museum’s curator, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw — herself a famous African American professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a top administrator at the Smithsonian — this collection “explores issues of personal and cultural identity against a backdrop of pervasive stereotyping — of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class.” 

The artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley and Barkley Hendricks along with 24 others, and some of the paintings are riveting. This is the 10th anniversary of 30 Americans and the first in the Northeast since 2011 when it was in Washington, D.C. Chatting with other visitors, we learned that many came from some distance to catch up with this exhibit of modern artists and their distinct perspectives.

Did I mention that there is also a wonderful restaurant inside the Barnes?

This doesn’t leave me much space to tell you about the Museum of the American Revolution, more the pity, which is also handsomely housed in central Philadelphia. 

Of particular interest is their first international loan exhibition, Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier, which will remain in place until March 17. By focusing on Richard St. George, born in County Galway to Protestant landed gentry and who became a soldier, artist, writer and extensive landowner, the exhibit tells us much about the American Revolution of 1776, the Irish Rebellion of 1798 — and life in the British army, which St. George joined. There are paintings, many sketches that St. George made himself, artifacts and weaponry in a comprehensive display of history from that era.

By the way, it is really easy to get to Philadelphia from here on Long Island with only a stopover in Penn Station if one takes the trains. If only for these two gracious institutions, it is well worth the trip.