We all know, or should know, the danger of global warming to our futures, but most people are unaware of another very real danger. Did you know that sperm counts are dropping and women are having more problems with egg quality? There are more miscarriages today and more genital abnormalities in infant boys. Girls are reaching puberty at an earlier age. These problems are not just in humans, but also in animals, fish and amphibians.
Shanna H. Swan, an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has sounded the alarm in her new book, “Count Down.” Swan states that from 1973 to 2011 sperm count fell by 59%. The question is why and Swan says that the problem is endocrine disruptors which are in chemicals that fool the body’s reproductive cells. This plays disaster on the sexual development of fetuses. These chemicals are in almost everything we touch, canned foods, cosmetics, even ATM receipts. Chemical companies lobby against safety testing of these endocrine disruptors and that leaves us unaware of the dangers we face.
There are those who have other theories about the reproductive changes seen over the past few years but the World Health Organization and other professional groups, such as the Endocrine Society warn about endocrine disruptors. Canada and some countries in Europe have regulated these chemicals but the United States has not. We need to let our representatives in the Congress know of our awareness and concern.
What else can be done to protect against these chemicals? Swan suggests storing food in glass rather than plastic, not microwaving in plastic, buying organic produce and avoiding pesticides.
“East of Eden” by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck is a journal about several families and two in particular that become close in a dark way. One of the families, the Trasks, is similar to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck’s characters are fascinating in many realms, such as love, mystery and murder.
Most people have read this book. If you haven’t I recommend that you do. It has entertained readers for over half a century.
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero
I believe this quote is true. I cannot imagine life without books or a room without books. As you’ve noticed I have blogged a lot of book reviews over the past several months. I cannot imagine a pandemic without books! This past year of being locked-down would have been unbearable without books to read.
What books have been especially important to you over this year of inactivity? Please share with us how books have helped you get through the COVID months since March of 2020.
Here are some other book quotes to think about.
“Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.” Susan Sontag
“Every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty . . . like a dry shell on the beach waiting for the tide to come in again.” Daphne DuMaurier
“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” Jessamyn West
“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” Katherine Mansfield
“Good books like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” Louisa May Alcott
“Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful and permanently personal.” Lenore Hershey
“Truly each new book is as ship that bears us away from the fixity of our limitations into the movement and splendor of life’s infinite ocean.” Helen Keller
“A Promised Land” is an autobiography by Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. It is a long, thorough account of the former President’s administration. Obama is honest and forthcoming about the trials, triumphs and failures of his time in office. He is very good at giving credit to those who worked with him. I found the interworking of the White House and all that is involved in leading this country fascinating.
Research by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) shows the total number of people exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death is 185.
The data from these 185 exonerations (see three case studies below) shows that particularly with people of color, innocent death row prisoners were convicted because of a combination of police or prosecutorial misconduct and false testimony.
It would seem that when this many people have been found innocent of the crimes that put them on death row, many others have been executed in spite of innocence.
Case Study #1:
Joe Ligon entered prison when Eisenhower was President. He was released 68 years later. His trial was one day and he was referred to as “colored.” He was a child of 15 at the time of his conviction.
Most of his family is now dead. He re-entered a world he didn’t know.
It has cost taxpayers $3 million to keep him for those 68 years excluding his treatment for prostatic cancer.
Case Study #2
Raymond Riles arrived on death row in 1976 the year Gerald Ford lost his re-election bid. Forty-five years and 8 presidents later he remains of death row having lived through 3 execution dates that were canceled.
Experts have deemed him extremely delusional and grossly psychotic. Texas may soon grant him a new trial where he could be placed in the general population of the prison rather than on death row.
Case Study #3
Pennsylvania death-row exoneree, Christopher Williams, was released from prison on February 9, 2021, after being exonerated in a second murder case. The second wrongful murder conviction had kept Williams incarcerated after he was cleared of the murder for which he was wrongfully condemned to die. As unlikely as it may seem this man was wrongly convicted of murder twice.
This novel is not my usual read, but it has much to recommend it. The story is about a nurse who joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1941. She was happy to be assigned to a base in Manila and for a while all went well there. When the Japanese later invade the Philippines she is taken prisoner for three years. The tale of horror includes abuse and near starvation. Although there is some romance, actually quite a bit, it is still a realistic story of what those in the military endured in World War II and how it affected their lives forever.
Have you ever considered what it costs to carry out an execution? Have you given thought to the fact that you and I pay for our fellow citizens to be executed? That’s right, it is tax payer money which makes it possible to take the life of a convicted prisoner.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons spent nearly $4.7 million dollars on the five executions carried in July and August 2020. With an average annual federal incarceration cost of $37,449.00, the burden to U.S. taxpayers for each execution exceeded the price tag of incarcerating a federal prisoner for 25 years.
Recently, I was on a camping trip with my daughter. I wondered whether I’d be able to sleep in a camper since it had been many years since I had camped. I needn’t have worried. I went to sleep easily in the crisp air of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. In the middle of the night there was a crunching sound near our trailer. I thought that it must be Allison’s dog, Jackson. Allison found the flashlight and bravely opened the camper door to find our midnight visitor!
“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand
This true story follows the life of Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) from his grade school years until his death at the age of ninety-seven. His was a life well worth the effort of reading this riveting, best selling book. In fact I have read it twice in seven years as well as seeing one of the two movies made of his life based upon this book.
Louie, as he was called, was a precocious young boy with a knack for getting into trouble. Somehow his family was always able to correct him without breaking his spirit for adventure. In high school he funneled his energies into running and while in college at the University of California he broke speed records which led him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he met Adolph Hitler and set a new lap record.
Leaving college to join the Army Air Forces he became a bombardier during WWII. He, the pilot and one other man were the only survivors after his plane went down in the ocean during a search and rescue mission. They survived Japanese attacks, sharks and near starvation aboard an inflatable raft for forty-seven days. Only he and the pilot remained alive when they finally landed on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands where they were captured.
The account of inhumane treatment in two different Japanese prison camps was difficult to read. The beatings and humiliations endured by Zamperini and his fellow prisoners of war are beyond my imagination. In spite of being singled out for the worst treatment because of his Olympic fame, he managed to survive. After discharge from the military Zamperini suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to alcohol abuse and a tormented life. He was, however, unbroken and through a spiritual encounter he recovered and found forgiveness in his heart for his transgressors. He then devoted the rest of his life to working with at-risk youth.
I recommend this book and would award it five stars out of five.
It had been about 40 years since I camped when my daughter, Allison, invited me to go with her last weekend. I hesitated for about ten seconds before saying, “Yes!” My hesitation was about my daughter’s ability to pull and handle the trailer. I didn’t know if she had done it before. She assured me that she was ready and she was right. She operated like a pro pulling that load up and around mountain roads and backing it into our campsite.
A little history is called for here. The trailer that we camped in was formerly a tool hauler. Allison and her husband, Stan, converted the trailer into a camper which they refer to as a “tramper.” It has a double bed, an air conditioner, heater that looks like a fireplace and space for Jackson, the big Red Heeler they adopted. Allison’s favorite feature is the large door in the back that accommodates her motorcycle.
Due to rainy weather, we didn’t take the motorcycle but we did take Jackson with us and he was a very good boy.
We left early Friday morning for the Great Smoky Mountains.
The trip was fun and we were soon at the campgrounds, unpacking our food and building a fire in a light drizzle of rain. The rain soon stopped and we explored our surroundings.
On Saturday the sun came out and we drove into the Smokies. We saw so many beautiful sights including a bear, many deer and wild turkeys. Unfortunately I was having such a good time that I forgot to take many photos. When the rain came at night we watched old movies and rested well. On the way home we stopped at Cumberland Falls Sate Park and enjoyed one of our favorite sights. We had a picnic for lunch beside the Cumberland River.
We arrived back in Louisville around 7 p.m. feeling tired and very happy. It was a great trip! I’m up for tramping anytime now.