Don’t-miss-it film alert!

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“Not One Less” is its title.  The regular teacher at an impoverished rural Chinese primary school needs to take a month off to care for his ailing mother.  The only available sub is a 13-year-old girl from a neighboring village.  What follows is a tale of making-do worthy of Frank Capra.  (Incidentally, the film would be an edifying experience for American children who may have lost touch with the bounty in material wealth they enjoy every single day.)  Highly recommended film.  Watched it (free for subscribers) on Amazon Prime last night.  Watching “Not One Less” also proved to be an interesting exercise in decoding and evaluating Chinese culture.

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A “Catch” in the NFL and in MLB

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Mookie Betts’s would-be catch (SOURCE:  ESPN)

The pro football season is drawing to a close and once again no little controversy has surrounded the NFL’s rules.

If I had to pick, I’d say the two biggest issues this past season have been (1) what defines a catch and (2) when has head-to-head “spearing” occurred?

Football is prone to superheated controversy over rules and significant rule changes year after year.  Baseball, on the other hand, not so much.

The biggest MLB rule change I can think of in recent years was the one that allowed pitchers simply to announce they were giving a free pass to a batter – i.e., without having to pitch four straight balls to a waiting catcher standing outside the box.  (Yawn.)

But why the difference between the NFL and MLB regarding rules? Continue reading

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Walking Back Flint’s Childhood Blood Lead Crisis

Published in the Shoshone News Press on Janurary 23, 2019.

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Chart borrowed from Mother Jones’ commentary on Gómez and Dietrich’s op-ed.

Because I took an active part in the public debate over childhood blood lead levels here in Shoshone County in the early 2000s — when the EPA proposed the expansion of the Box’s Superfund site to the entire Coeur d’Alene Basin — I had more than a passing interest in the blood lead crisis in Flint, Michigan when it erupted into headlines in the nation’s press in 2014-2015.

Although article after article lamented the regrettable lead contamination situation in Flint, I never seemed to be able to find accounts that included actual data on changes in juvenile blood lead levels there.  Hence, it was with no little surprise that I encountered, this past summer, an op-ed in The New York Times (July 22, 2018) saying, in effect, that there had been no juvenile blood lead crisis at Flint in the first place – that the juvenile blood lead situation had been grossly exaggerated. Continue reading

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1918’s Influenza Epidemic, Here — Part 2, The Forgotten Scourge

By Ron Roizen

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Soldiers afflicted with influenza being cared for at Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918.

Historical studies of the U.S.’s great influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 often note its relative historical unrememberedness.  Even as it was occurring Americans arguably downplayed the epidemic’s harrowing cost in human suffering and deaths.  More than a few reasons have been suggested.  For one, the influenza epidemic’s worst weeks, in October and November, 1918, coincided with the triumphal advances and ultimate victory of the Allied forces in World War I.  In the Wallace Press-Times, for example, war coverage dominated October’s and November’s news pages, reducing space available to influenza coverage.  The American war effort may even have harbored an implicit warrant that only upbeat, supportive, and positive news should emanate from the American homefront, thus also subtly muting the record of the epidemic’s devastating course.  The war’s progress, moreover, was indisputably a public drama playing out on a wide European stage whereas the epidemic’s stateside story was more often one of private tragedy shielded from public view behind the closed doors of afflicted and grieving households. Continue reading

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Time for Shoshone County to Get a Fair Shake From the U.S. Forest Service

Note:  This opinion piece will appear in the Shoshone News-Press as well.

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A not very optimistic article in the New York Times a few days ago (here) suggested that America’s rural economies are probably in a death spiral.  Something called “agglomeration,” said the author, was killing them.  High tech expertises, he wrote, like to co-locate with themselves, thus creating so-called agglomerations of fast-paced, well-paid technology centers in a few selected places around the nation — and leaving the rest of us essentially to make do with scraps.

Rural places are of course closer to nature – and the natural-resource bases of their economies – than are big cities.  Economic enterprises rooted in natural resources, moreover, have become routinely stigmatized in urban metropolises in recent decades.  Some of that stigma is deserved of course, but the larger part of it – the part that equates current natural resource practices with the excesses of the remote past — is not deserved.  Damaging consequences have flowed from this stigmatization.  One such consequence with hard implications for Shoshone County’s economic wellbeing in particular has been the collapse of timber harvests on our national forest lands since the early 1990s.  As public policy scholar Robert H. Nelson pointed out, the U.S. Forest Service’s shift from a “multi-use” philosophy to an anti-forest-management “ecological forestry” philosophy and ethos has wrought devastating consequences for rural communities hosting national forests.  Local communities, it may be added, played no role in the Forest Service’s grand philosophical transition. Continue reading

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The Courts at Clinton — Another Look

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A segment of the courts in Clinton’s North Yard, photographed by the late Josh Freiwald, Sep., 1972

I noted in a blog post, here, three years ago that I was curious about how much change and how much stability Clinton Correctional Facility’s “courts” had undergone since my 1972 study of that remarkable institution.  As my post reported, I found little help regarding my question on the web and had to settle for looking at Google Earth shots of Clinton’s North Yard from very high altitude to assess change.

More recently, word arrived that Ben Stiller had succeeded, after much effort, in gaining access to Clinton’s interior, including the courts, for shooting his Showtime series titled “Escape At Dannemora.”  Naturally, I was interested to see how much light might be shed on my question by his photographic work.

The first shot I saw was the one that appeared in an article on Stiller’s successful bid to gain access to Clinton, which appeared in Variety online on November 15, 2018.  It wasn’t a great shot for my purpose, but it still spoke volumes.

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A yellow haze hangs over the yard, but the furnishings downhill from Stiller’s production team suggests a much more standardized or uniform outfitting for the courts than I saw in 1972.  There appear to be two “heights” to the furnishings, tabletop height and chair height, the latter including storage units and stovetops.  Only the short smokestacks attached to stoves exceed the tabletop height.  Continue reading

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1918’s Influenza Epidemic, Here – Part 1, The View from Nine Mile Cemetery, Wallace, Idaho

By Ron Roizen and Dennis O’Brien

The authors thank Jennifer Backman, M.D., for her help deciphering a number of the death certificates used in this analysis.

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November, 1918 was the worst month, according to Nine Mile Cemetery’s mute but somber testimony.

The first eight months of the year, from January to August, saw an average of five new graves per month at Nine Mile.  Then, September saw eight deaths.  One, notably, was that of a soldier killed in action over in France; another was caused by lobar pneumonia, one of the typical diagnoses assigned to deaths occasioned by influenza.  The latter was possibly the first of the influenza epidemic’s victims at Nine Mile.

October saw a rush of new graves, thus also offering the first tangible evidence that the epidemic had now reached our area — there were 19 total deaths, 13 from influenza.  Ten of these 13 influenza deaths fell in that month’s final 11 days.  And then came November, with its 40 total deaths – eight times the graveyard’s typical monthly average – 37 from influenza.  As in October, November’s deaths were concentrated in one portion of the month – 33 of its 37 influenza deaths occurred between the 1st and the 14th.  Hence, the 25 days from October 20th to November 14th yielded the influenza epidemic’s greatest concentration of deaths, according to Nine Mile Cemetery’s record.  Continue reading

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