Sunday, September 23, 2012

This news just in: Don’t let the election blitz block out the local stories you love.

During election season, it’s harder than usual to poke through the clutter with news. Especially if it’s not breaking.

For example, hockey fans, did you know that Detroit Red Wing Hall of Famer Ted Lindsey, will accept a Spirit of St. Nicholas Award from Michigan’s St. Nicholas Institute next week? That’s right. The new organization will honor Terrible Ted for his softer side at a banquet on Wednesday evening, October 3, in Livonia. Lindsey has been humble about the foundation he established in 2001, raising more than $1.5 million to combat Autism and several children’s neurological disorders. The hockey great has also actively raised funds for The Michigan Special Olympics, Canadian Special Olympics, Canadian Alzheimer’s Association and wheelchair hockey.

The same night, the St. Nicholas Institute will bestow its Lifetime Achievement Award on Irene and Wally Bronner, founders of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

If you’d like to attend the banquet and meet Lindsey and the Bronners, as well as a Santa Claus himself, you can learn more at:

No matter what you think about the recent political debates on the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes, there are thousands in the Detroit area who are slipping through the social safety net. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul  (SVdP) is holding its annual Friends of the Poor Walk this weekend so you can help make a difference by walking a mile or two in their shoes. There’s still time to be a walker, sponsor or donor or all of the above. This Saturday, September 29, more than 18,000 walkers across the country will take to the streets to raise money to support the SVdP and its work with the needy in 1,000 locations across the U.S. In Detroit, the walk begins at Milliken State Park downtown at 10 a.m. You can register to pitch in at:

Here in Dearborn you can call Sacred Heart Church at 313.278.5555 or Divine Child Church 313.277.3110 and they’ll be happy to help you get your donation to the poor and the SVdP.

Finally, don’t forget the historic Redford Theatre is showing Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds” this Friday and Saturday. One of the stars of the film, Tippi Hedren will appear in person at the event. She’s the mother of actress Melanie Griffith’s who starred in “Working Girl.” Ms. Hedren will sign autographs an hour before each showing of the horror flick. The Redford is a wonderful venue and attendance helps support the Motor City Theatre Organ Society. The group of volunteers saved and operates the theater.  For details, visit:

Now, wasn’t it good to forget about the elections for just a few minutes?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Smart phones create a head down approach to life.

Riding a bike can be hazardous to your health, especially if you’re around people who are connected.

I routinely ride a bicycle for exercise in the summer along the streets and off-road trails around my neighborhood in Dearborn, Michigan. I wear safety gear to protect my head and hands, but there’s no padding to deflect drivers on cell phones or school kids walking with their heads down and locked in on smart phones.

Last week, I took a late lunch and went for my usual 45-minute ride. I go about eight miles, and I’m used to carefully crossing busy main streets. Most drivers are courteous and will stop for me even when they have the right of way. But those on phones will roll right through stop signs. Many will be on the phone and looking in one direction, preparing to turn, while continuing to move right through an intersection and blowing the stop sign. I stay on the sidewalk until I’m confident it’s safe.

I don’t normally see too many young people at lunchtime, but my late departure last week changed that. It was amazing! High school kids can walk for blocks with their heads down, eyes glued to cell phone screens as they obliviously stroll through intersections or up sidewalks. Last week, I watched a long line of kids on their way out of Dearborn High School, each one alone, many looking at devices or listening to music on ear buds. It looked like a line of drones headed home in a trance. No jovial conversations, No one living in the moment absorbed with friends and natural surroundings. Just a somber stroll back to the hive, with an electronic buzz guiding them home.

I stopped my bike for a good minute and observed some 50 kids, no one talking to the other. But half of them were on devices in virtual conversations. Their expressions were glum despite the gorgeous weather on a brilliantly sunny and mild day.

All communications technology comes with its share of hazards. But I predict today’s small-screen hyper-connectivity will produce poor vision, sore necks and a decline in conversation.

Hopefully, the person-to-person contact doesn’t occur because people are literally running into each other. Heads up out there!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Food for thought: Organic vs. non-organic farm products battle for bucks and buzz.

The radio blared the morning’s headlines. The CBS network news on the hour is part of my daily wake up routine. This week I heard a story that stunned me.  “Study shows organic food no more nutritional than standard products. Little evidence it makes a significant impact on health.” Many newspapers and TV networks reported it, as well.

I couldn’t believe it. “How did that get past the editor?” I thought. Of course not, people don’t eat organic foods to increase nutrition, they pay more for it because it’s not chemically enhanced. Fewer pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or other “better- living-through-chemistry” additives. That’s why I eat them.

When you dig deeper into the recent Stanford University study, indeed the results are revealing. Organic food is 30 percent less likely to contain detectable pesticide levels. Also, when bacteria appear in poultry or pork, non-organic meats are riskier. They’re 33 percent more likely to be resistant to a variety of antibiotics. Organic foods not more nutritious?  Maybe not, but do you like more robust bacteria in your food?

Despite the details, for some reason, the headline said organic foods weren’t healthier. 
Was that the food lobby and marketers pushing the spin? Can’t say, but the real devil is in the details. Organic foods make up less than five percent of the retail market. Have you ever bought organic dairy products and wondered why the expiration date for them is several weeks away, while the abundant, standard dairy products usually expire in a week or ten days? It’s true. Could it have something to do with the hormones that cause cows to produce 15 percent more non-organic milk? I don’t know, but it’s a question I’d like to hear a journalist ask.

A PBS-TV special program, “The Blood Sugar Solution” reveals a theory that toxins in our environment, including foods, are contributing to childhood obesity, diabetes and adult obesity. Best-selling author, Mark Hyman, MD, has testified that these contaminants prevent the body from functioning and metabolizing foods properly. Hyman reports unborn children have more than 200 toxins in their umbilical cord blood. He believes these are playing a role in unhealthy, overweight infants as they grow bigger and fatter.

With so much attention on the cost of healthcare, this topic deserves more exploration. But we’re not likely to get it from media or medicine. There are too many ad dollars at stake and no profitable prescription drug or procedure to cure the problem. It’s simply about making good choices and preventative medicine. There are also major players in the chemical industry with a lot on the line. It’s up to us to read more than the headlines. Analyzing food-packaging labels in detail is important, too.

A Dow chemist once told me most people have such a high level of food preservatives in their bodies that they don’t really require embalming when they die. That’s one of the cost-saving benefits of eating chemically enhanced food.

Bon appétit. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Don't hedge your bets on the elections, pull the lever and make it a sure thing.

As we roamed around the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival and the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, my wife, Ellen, and I had a blast people watching.

But then a thought crossed my mind. How many of these folks will vote this November? How many of them are informed about the issues?

Last weekend, we spent some quality time with our two, twenty-something sons and a few of their friends. A couple of them said, “Why bother voting for President? A few states will decide everything in the Electoral College.”

There’s no arguing America’s founding fathers wanted a hedge on democracy. In fact, they didn’t want a democracy at all. The Constitution creates a representative republic. They really didn’t trust the voters to choose the President.

But state and local elections feature referenda that allow citizens to cast a ballot for or against specific laws. It’s our best example of pure democracy and a great reason to go to the polls.

The diversity of faces in the crowd this Labor Day weekend was impressive. Men and women in saris, a Turkish food stand, sizzling kielbasa and pierogi, Belgian beer, Latin and African-American jazz artists and a Bosnian buffet said more about the challenge of uniting America than any words I could string together. But the ethnic mix made me think of my own immigrant parents and how much they valued their American citizenship and the right to vote.

For those who don’t remember the struggle, voting seems more like a quant custom than the voice of the people. But it’s the people who choose the judge, the dog catcher, the county clerk, the state reps and the mayor and governor. And those are the folks who levy the fines, impose the fees, decide the zoning and impact the salaries and policies of local law enforcement. Now, if you don't’ care about those issues, don’t bother voting.

As for the Presidential election, the Electoral College is a peculiarity that deserves United Nations observers, but it’s part of our Constitution and has been since the beginning. If you don’t bother voting, there’s always the possibility that a powerful majority will one day amend the Constitution to eliminate voting for President as we know it.

Sound ridiculous? Sure, but freedom is something that must be protected and defended. There’s a lot of sentiment in this country about supporting the troops that sacrifice so much and risk everything to guarantee our freedom. To honor their service, we should seriously exercise our voting rights and do what we can to protect the inner workings of our nation. We owe it to them to be well-informed voters, too, on all the issues on our ballots.
Finally, Presidential elections are about more than who wins or loses. They’re about consequences like Supreme Court appointments and forward-looking legislation, even war and peace. The more votes a President receives, the more political capital and power he or she has. A squeaker election usually means a divided Congress that reflects a divided country. But that’s not how you get change, especially when change is required.

We’ve got two months to do our homework to prepare for the polls. Remember, we’re the change we seek.