About Richard Nugent

I'm an old guy with lots of children, partners of children, grandchildren and their partners. I hope this blog will be fun for us all, a way to stay in touch.

Way to Go, Old Guy!

 

Elderly man crashes into license facility

By Ted Gregory and Suzanne Baker Chicago Tribune 10.10.17
A state driver’s license facility in Naperville has reopened after a 79-year-old Downers Grove man accidentally drove through the front window earlier this week.
The man had completed his road test shortly before noon Tuesday and had driven back to the facility at 931 W. 75th St., Naperville police Cmdr. Louis Cammiso said. With an Illinois secretary of state’s office employee in the passenger seat, the driver shifted the gear of his SUV to reverse and stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake, Cammiso said.
The SUV crashed through the front window and short wall of the state facility. No one was injured.
The driver, who failed his test, was not charged, Cammiso said.
Elburn resident Vince Szafranski said he was seated in the photo area behind a wall waiting for his name to be called in the final stage of renewing his license when he heard the crash.
The noise of the SUV crashing through the window sounded like a bomb going off, he said.
“Honestly, I thought it was a terrorist attack, with all that’s going on in the news these days,” Szafranski said. “All I could think is that this is going to be my last moment, and I’m at the driver’s license facility.”
As he peered over the wall to check what happened, his next concern was for people waiting in the lines by the door, he said.
“There are chairs right there. All I could think of was I hope no one got run over,” he said.
Realizing everyone was fine, Szafranski couldn’t help but laugh.
“You don’t see that every day,” he said. “I was laughing so hard when the lady tried to take my picture. I had to take 10 minutes to get my composure.”
The secretary of state’s office closed the facility after serving people already in the building, spokesman David Druker said Thursday. The building reopened Wednesday morning, he said.
“Thank goodness no one was injured,” Druker added.
Two years ago, an 87-year-old man who was taking his license renewal test crashed his vehicle into a wall at the driver’s license facility in Deerfield. No one was injured and the facility remained open.
Suzanne Baker is a reporter for the Naperville Sun.
tgregory@chicagotribune.com
subaker@tribpub.com

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A few years ago, I went to the Wilmette Public Library, parked in the lot beside the building, and  spent about 15 minutes inside.

When I came out I saw  fire equipment and police in the lot.  I was told a woman had driven her car into the library trying to park diagonally just outside the book processing office.  The front end of her car  was in the big windows of that office.  I didn’t learn her age.

I had heard nothing when this happened nor felt a tremor.

Now we have  a row of 4′ steel bollards guarding the building

That was not long after someone drove into the I-HOP here.

RJN

Whoops! More Good Folks

I love to report on good-deed-doers.

This morning as Alice was making pancakes, I told her I was going out to get the newspaper, one of my little morning chores.

Leaving the front door I saw the paper on the ground under the tree in the parkway where the ground rises a little and there are exposed roots.  Using my cane I got down the stairs and onto the sidewalk, but I didn’t take enough notice of the ground and went down on my face.

By now I think everyone knows that an old guy lacks the strength and agility to get himself up after a fall.  In warm weather, windows open, I would have called for Alice, but I knew she would miss me eventually.  It was only a little chilly this morning and I knew there would be passing cars, dog-walkers, others who would notice the old man down.

A couple of cars went by; a young man walked by on the other side of the street; I’m acquainted with him, don’t think he notices anything.

The the breakfast cook remember me,  She hurried out the front door in her robe.  In previous falls, Alice has been able to raise me with a handlock and a good pull.  Not this time.

 

Then two things happened at once.

— A car stopped along the curb about 30 feet away and a brown-faced young woman in scrubs started to get out.  I waved at her.

—  I felt strong arms close around my chest from behind and heard a voice say, “Relax” as he put me on my feet.  I turned around and saw a stocky man about 50.  I thanked him several times and shook his hand and he walked to his car.

The girl in scrubs watched Alice and me until we had gotten safely in the house.

Alice makes good pancakes, serves them with little sausages, and Canadian maple syrup from a jug marked with a price about the same as pretty good whiskey.

RJN

 

 

 

 

Nestle’s Sins

We eat/use lots of Nestle products, candy bars to dog food, and don’t often think about the evil that company has done.  In one bright move, they sent a sales force into Africa to dress as doctors and persuade women to stop breast-feeding and give their babies a Nestle formula which had to be prepared with questionable local water.  They ran a marketing campaign among the poor in Brazil by setting local people as dealers to push junk food

Here’s the story.

Maggi advertisement in Senegal  Wikipedia

 Why Nestle is one of the most hated companies in the world  

Child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating uneducated mothers, pollution, price fixing and mislabeling – those are not words you want to see associated with your company. Nestle is the world’s largest foodstuff company, and it has a history that would make even hardcore industrialists shiver. We’re gonna look at why Nestle has such a bad reputation and whether or not it deserves it.

Introduction

Nestle company

Just some of Nestle’s more well-known brands. Image via Rasica.

People love to hate, and they really love to hate on big companies – whether or not they have a reason to. I especially dislike it when the latter happens. Companies (big companies included) are the very backbone of our economy, and they often get a bad rep for little or no reason. But sometimes there is a reason, or as in this case, several solid reasons, as we’ll see below. Which brings me to the next point: why are we writing this article? ZME Science is a science website (crazy, right?), and this is not strictly science, at least not in the way our regular articles are. But we also write about environmental issues, especially when they affect many of us, and especially when we can make a difference.

Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company. According to Wikipedia, their products include baby food, bottled water, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, frozen food, pet foods, and snacks. Twenty-nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year and have over 8,000 brands. They have 447 factories across 194 countries and employ around 333,000 people. They truly are what you would call a giant. They’re also considered to be one of the best employers in Europe with six LEED certifications and sponsor numerous activities and sustainable projects. Looking at only these stats, it would seem that Nestle is one of the “good guys”… but then why are they so hated? Let’s take it step by step.

Baby Formula and Boycott

We’re in the ’90s, and this is a sad story about poverty, breastfeeding, and greed. Nestle aggressively pushed their breastfeeding formula in less economically developed countries(LEDCs), specifically targeting the poor. They made it seem that their infant formula was almost as good as a mother’s milk, which is highly unethical for several reasons.

Nestle ad. Image via Unlatched.

The first problem was the need for water sanitation. Most of the groups they were targeting – especially in Africa – didn’t have access to clean water (many don’t to this day), so it was necessary for them to boil the water. But due to low literacy rates, many mothers were not aware of this, so they mixed the formula with polluted water which put the children at great risks. Nestle seems to have knowingly ignored this and encouraged mothers to use the formula even when they knew the risks. Breastfeeding, one of the most important aspects for an infant, especially in unsanitized areas, was cast aside. Baby formula was “the nearest thing in the world”, and this “splendid triumph of care and science” is “so like mother’s milk that the tiny stomach won’t notice the difference”. But the tiny stomach did notice the difference.

“Breastfeeding is unparalleled in providing the ideal food for infants.The optimal way to feed a baby is exclusive  breastfeeding for the first six months followed by breastfeeding combined with complementary foods until the child is two years old…” –  a 2007 Save the Children report.

Many mothers were able to read in their native language but were still unable to read the language in which sterilization directions were written. Even if mothers understood the need to boil the water, they might not have had the facilities to do so. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child. Another problem was that mothers tended to use less formula than needed – to make the jar last longer, resulting in many infants receiving inadequate amounts.

But even if the water was boiled, and even if the formula was administered in the right proportion and in the right quantity, it is lacking in many of the nutrients and antibodies that breast milk provides. Breast milk contains the required amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development, and to some extent, protects the baby from many diseases and potential infections. According to the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Nestle used unethical methods to promote their infant formula to poor mothers in developing countries. But it gets even worse.

boycott nestle

Rachael Romero, San Francisco Poster Brigade
Boycott Nestle, 1978
poster
Courtesy Inkworks Press Archive, Berkeley, CA

IBFAN claims that Nestle distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards; after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. Nestle denies those allegations… sort of.

“Nestlé takes reports on non-compliance with the WHO Code very seriously and we have endeavored to investigate all allegations brought to our attention, despite the fact that in many cases we are not provided with accurate details substantiating the accusations. This makes it difficult for us to investigate how, where and when the alleged infringement could have occurred. Some of the allegations are several years old before they are brought to public attention, which also could complicate the investigation.”

Back then, Nestlé’s response was that their critics should focus on doing something to improve unsafe water supplies, which contributed to the health problems associated with bottle feeding. They also later used this approach to promote their bottled water. As The Guardian puts it, “its huge marketing budgets clearly influence peoples’ behaviour, even if direct causality can’t be demonstrated.”

Today, several countries and organizations are still boycotting Nestle, despite their claims to be in compliance with WHO regulations. There’s even a committee, the International Nestlé Boycott Committee that monitors their practices. Several universities and student organizations have also joined the boycott, especially in the UK.

There is no clear, public number of lives that were lost due to this aggressive marketing campaign, and of course, Nestle is not directly responsible for their tragedies. But it was easy for them, as it was easy for everybody to see the risks and the negative effects their formula was having. It was easy for them to save many lives, but they chose the money instead. Profits before children – check. Let’s move on.

Nestle and Water

Brown admitted that Nestlé currently wastes about 30% of the 700m gallons of water a year it draws from the ground in California. Image via Sum of Us.

Few people know it, but Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water. In fact, they’re so keen on their water business (which also involves many of their other products), that they believe water isn’t a universal right. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said:

“There are two different opinions on the matter [or water]. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Having access to water is not an extreme solution. It’s what we have called a basic need for centuries. Even Brabeck, after the media attack that followed, backed down. He said that he “believes that water is a human right” and “advocates for universal access to safe drinking water”. But his actions, as well as Nestle’s actions, show that that’s just greenwashing.

If you care about the environment, find out the latest news — join our community!
At the second World Water Forum in 2000, Nestle pushed for making access to drinking water from a “right” to a “need,” a defining change. Meanwhile, Nestle drains the aquifers it controls as much as possible, without any regards to sustainable usage or environmental concerns. A recent case is the California drought – an issue without precedent in the past 1,200 years. But Nestle doesn’t care. Even as Starbucks recently announced they would transfer their Ethos water bottling facility from California to Pennsylvania, Nestle CEO Tim Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase [water bottling operations], I would.”

Yes, if he could, he’d increase water bottling operations, even though Nestle has been working without a permit since 1988. Inhabitat reports that the company has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit and they’ve been recently been bumped to the front of the queue for permit renewal (which will take around 18 months), and they can keep working in the meantime as long as they pay a laughable $524 annual fee. Also, California doesn’t know how much water Nestle uses, because they have no legal grounds for making the company divulge this information, and Nestle hasn’t published any reports. An independent analysis puts all their water usage at 1 billion gallons a year.

Arguably, that’s not much when you considering that 500 billion gallons of water that will be saved under Gov. Brown’s new water restrictions, but there’s something absurd and immoral about a private company using as much water as they want while the rest of the state is facing severe restrictions.

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LATE BULLETIN
Richard,

We just beat Nestlé!

For nine years, we’ve worked with the community in Hood River County and people across Oregon to stop Nestlé’s plan to grab their water and build a water bottling plant.

The community never gave up the fight against Nestlé’s attempt to take their water — and they won.

After years of building opposition locally, the issue was finally put on the ballot last year. Voters in Hood River County overwhelmingly voted to ban water bottling in the area and keep Nestlé out. But the state still tried to move forward with a deal that would give Nestlé access to the area’s water. After more pressure from the community, Oregon Governor Kate Brown directed her Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop the deal!

This is your victory, too. Food & Water Watch supporters like you stood in solidarity with the community in Oregon, and many pitched in to help win the ballot fight last year.

This win is also a testament to the power of people standing together to stop corporations more interested in record profits than protecting our communities.

Forward this email or click here to share the good news on Facebook.

Victory over Nestle

We never doubted that a victory like this was possible. We’ve seen time and again that when communities stand together in the face of corporate interests, they can win. It’s not always easy, but it’s always possible, and we wanted to share this good news with you right away.

We know there will be more fights in other places, and we’ll be ready for them. But I wanted to let you know that your support makes victories like this possible.

Thanks for everything you do,

Sarah Spooner
National Email Program Manager
Food & Water Watch
act(at)fwwatch(dot)org

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But other areas in the world have it even worse than California.In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water maker Nestle, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water.

“The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)

water nestle

The small village of Bhati Dalwan is suffering a water crisis following the development of a Nestle water bottling facility. Image source.

Indeed, unsustainable usage of aquifer water can lead to a significant decrease in water levels, and can even exhaust the aquifer. That’s right, underground water isn’t the inexhaustible source many people believe it to be. In the case of Bhati Dilwan, people are getting sick because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestle of its money source – bottled water under the Pure Life brand. Greedily using natural resources for profits? Check.

But when Nestle isn’t trying to privatize water or use it without regards to the environment, it’s simply bottling… tap water. A Chicago-based business has sued the company (again), claiming that the five gallon jugs of Ice Mountain Water they bought were nothing else than tap water. It may come as a shock to you, but nearly half of the bottled water in PET plastic bottles is actually from a tap – though Nestle never advertised this. They know what’s likely going to happen though, as this is almost a dress rehearsal of a previous scandal. Twelve years ago Nestle Waters was sued over allegation of false labeling, and ultimately settled for $10 million in charitable contributions and discounts.

 

Child labor, abuse, and trafficking

Most people love chocolate, but few know the dirty deals behind chocolate production. The 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate brought attention to purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child slave labour. The children are usually 12 to 15 years old, and some are trafficked from nearby countries – and Nestle is no stranger to this practice.

child work Nestle

Children labor was found in Nestle’s supply chain. Image via Crossing Guard Consulting.

In 2005, the cocoa industry was, for the first time, under the spotlight. The International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against Nestle (among others) on behalf of three Malian children. The suit alleged the children were trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire, forced into slavery, and experienced frequent beatings on a cocoa plantation. In 2010, the US District Court for the Central District of California determined corporations cannot be held liable for violations of international law and dismissed the suit – a controversial decision which has since been appealed. But even if Nestle wasn’t legally liable for these abuses, they are, at least morally. But that wasn’t the only case of this kind.

A report by an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), says it found “multiple serious violations” of the company’s own supplier code. It was reported that Nestle hadn’t carried out checks against child labor and abuse. Additionally, many injuries caused by machetes, which are used to harvest cocoa pods, have been reported. Nestle’s excuse can be summed up broadly as ‘everybody does it’:

“The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” says Nestle’s Executive Vice-President for Operations Jose Lopez. “No company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but we can say that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

The FLA reported that Nestle was fully aware of where their cocoa was coming from and under what conditions, but did little to improve conditions. Child slavery and abuse? Check.

Health Threats

In July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned consumers to avoid eating any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a foodborne bacterium that causes illness). In the US, it caused sickness in more than 50 people in 30 states, half of whom required hospitalization. In particular, one woman had a fatal infection before the batch was reclaimed.

“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standards,” which sort of makes you wonder – why weren’t stringent testing and inspections implemented in the first place?

But this is just a minor incident compared to the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal. Six infants were killed and 860 were hospitalized with kidney problems after Nestle products were contaminated with melamine, a substance sometimes illegally added to food products to increase their apparent protein content.

In October 2008, Taiwan Health ministry announced that six types of milk powders produced in China by Nestlé contained low-level traces of melamine and were removed from the shelves.

The scandal quickly escalated, with China reporting over 300,000 victims, raising concerns about the security of major food companies operating in China. Two people were executed and several life prison sentences were issued, with the World Health Organization (WHO) referring to the incident as one of the largest food safety events it has had to deal with in recent years.

Nestle denied implication and claimed that all its products are clean, but the Taiwan government linked their products to toxic melamine. As a response, Nestle says it has sent 20 specialists from Switzerland to five of its Chinese plants to strengthen chemical testing.

Nestle’s CEO, Peter Brabeck.

Pollution

As with any “respectable” large company, Nestle has been involved in several incidents regarding pollution. A 1997 report found that in the UK, over a 12 month period, water pollution limits were breached 2,152 times in 830 locations by companies that included Cabdury and Nestle. But again, the situation in China was much worse.

While people in the US and Europe are slowly becoming more environmentally concerned and some are opting for more sustainable sources of water, Nestle has moved to another market – Asia. Alongside companies such as Kraft or Shell, Nestle made several environmental violations.

Nestle Sources Shanghai Ltd’s bottled water manufacturing plant also made the list for starting operation before its wastewater treatment facilities had passed an environmental impact assessment.

“These are only some of the water pollution violations committed by multinational companies in China, since our website has yet to cover information about air and solid waste pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. “The parent companies in their home countries are models for environmental protection. But they have slackened their efforts in China.”

Another article claims that Nestle capitalizes on China’s already-polluted waters to make a good profit, while Corporate Watch highlights the fact that Nestle continues to extract water illegally from Brazil for their Perrier brand. Although Nestlé lost the legal action, pumping continues as it gets through the appeal procedures, something which can take ten years or more.

Ethiopian Debt

Ethiopia was going through a nation-wide famine. Image via Wikipedia.

In 2002, Nestle made what turned out to be a colossal error: demanding that Ethiopia pay them back a debt of US$6 million. There’s nothing wrong with that per se… if Ethiopia wasn’t facing extreme famine at the time. For a company that has 29 brands that make over $1 billion a year, asking a famine-stricken country to pay you back 6 million seems questionable, to say the least.

Nestle’s claim dates back to the 1970s when the military regime in Addis Ababa seized the assets of foreign companies.

The public roar came almost overnight; with the company receiving 40,000 letters from outraged people, in one of the most famous cases of public opinion beat corporate greed. In the end, Nestle took a U-turn, settling for a partial debt which was also invested in the country’s bouncing back from famine. For Nestle, who initially insisted that the compensation issue was “a matter of principle” and that it was in the best interest of Addis Ababa to settle the demand to repair its record with foreign investors, it was a huge moral defeat. For analysts, it was an exciting case which showed that even giants can falter in the face of public opinion.

“This is a welcome result because it shows that Nestle is not immune to public pressure,” said Phil Bloomer, a senior policy analyst.

A Deal With Mugabe

Striking dubious partnerships to make a profit seems to be a recurring theme. The Swiss multinational made a deal with the wife of the infamous dictator from Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, buying 1 million liters of milk a year from a farm seized from its rightful owners by Grace Mugabe

Grace has taken over at least six of Zimbabwe’s most valuable white-owned farms since 2002, building a farming empire from illegally confiscated farms, which led to an international boycott, as well as EU and US sanctions. She is known for her ridiculously lavish lifestyle, which includes overseeing the construction of two luxuriant castles. In 2014, she was given a doctorate diploma only three months after signing up for the program. Nestle went forward with the deal though, even as the country’s agriculture-based economy was collapsing and inflation was reaching unheard of levels.

Price Fixing

The price fixing was arranged for Kit Kat and other chocolates. Image via Wikipedia.

In Canada, the Competition Bureau raided the offices of Nestlé Canada (along with those of Hershey Canada Inc. and Mars Canada Inc) in an investigation on price fixing. Nestlé and the other companies were subject to class-action lawsuits and ultimately settled for $9 million, without actually admitting liability. Furthermore, former president and chief executive officer of Nestle Canada is facing criminal charges.

In the US, another, larger trial was rejected, because even though it was plausible that the same thing happened in the US, there was no clear evidence of any foul play. The suspicion remained however and still lingers with the company.

Promoting Unhealthy Food and Mislabeling

That Nestle is promoting unhealthy food should come as no surprise, but the level at which they operate it is simply staggering. A recent report by the UK Consumers Association claims that 7 out of the 15 breakfast cereals with the highest levels of sugar, fat, and salt were Nestle products.

“Nestlé claims to be ‘the world’s leading nutrition, health, and wellness company’, but when it comes to food marketing to kids, Nestlé is a laggard, not a leader,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan.

Nestle dismissed all responsibility in promoting healthy food. To pour even more salt in the foods wound, mister Brabeck came out with a dismissive interview in the Telegraph, claiming that he is not obese yet ‘every morning I have a tablet of dark chocolate as my breakfast’ and that it is the perfect balance and contains everything he needs for the day. Hey, after all, who would actually think that Nestle’s cereals are healthy, right?

Image via Vevivos.

But while Nestle’s labels aren’t simply misleading, they have also been downright false. In November 2002, police ordered Nestle Colombia to decommission 200 tons of imported powdered milk, because they were falsely relabeled, not only as a different, local brand, but also with a different production date. A month later another 120 tons suffered the same fate, causing uproar among the Colombian population.

Nestle bringing old powdered milk from a different country and labeling as local and new is not only unethical and illegal, but it poses health hazards for consumers.

Drawing the Line

All major companies have incidents, accidents and scandals. When you have so many people working for you, it’s virtually impossible to maintain a clean sheet. Someone will eventually screw up, someone will eventually do something they should. As I was preparing to write this article, a friend actually asked me if other companies don’t have a similar record, and advised me to look at Mars, for example. What I found was that Mars and other big companies have indeed had their share of scandals (sometimes the same ones as Nestle), but not nearly on the same scale. Nestle has shown, time and time again, that they have few ethics and little interest in a real social responsibility. From promoting their formula to uneducated African mothers to lying about production dates, to using water without a permit to dealing with ruthless dictators, they have often gone the extra mile to make an extra profit – even when the extra mile meant hurting people, directly or indirectly.

 

 

Halloween 4 & 5

4–Alice worked hard to give kids a little extra fun.  Instead of having each one choose from a display of little stuffed animals and small toys, she tied a string to each and hid the them behind a table.  Each child would choose a string and the pull up the toy like a fish.  Some learned to pull hand-over-hand instead of just taking an end and walking back.  Only about 25 kids showed up.  I especially liked the one in a wolf’s head.

Cute Vintage Halloween Cat Image - The Graphics Fairy

5–John’s story--Each October 31st,  Halloween, over 1,000 kids descend on our Ravenswood Manor area in the Albany Park neighborhood, north side of Chicago. Their families  are from the Mediterranean to Middle East to Mexico, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Cambodia, Korea and elsewhere.  Parents walk and drive in to Ravenswood Manor from the surrounding neighborhoods with kids anxious to trick-or-treat at the nearly 400 classic Bungalow and Four Square  homes that comprise this National Historic District.

Neighbors decorate their houses (some elaborately) with orange lights, ghouls, goblins, and ghosts.  There is very little doorbell-ringing, because each neighbor plops a chair at the end of the walkway in front of the house, and children queue from the sidewalk while their parents proudly and patiently watch and wait. There are witches, and devils, and Power Rangers, and Minions, and princesses, Cubs players, and Harry Potters, and rock stars, and…teenagers.  Some of the Trick-Or-Treaters are wee and parents carry them up the walkway. Some get flustered and forget the Halloween protocol. Some are terribly shy.  Some kids offer their “Trick-Or-Treat” in newly acquired English. All are terribly cute.
Each year I survey the scene at the peak hour, as Beth and I sit side-by-side with a huge bucket of candy between us. I hear none on the typical city noises – police sirens, cars and trucks– I hear only  the sounds of excited kids running and playing and shouting, “I gotta Twix!”  I see that no street parking spot is free and I see hundreds of parents and children strolling down our street  visiting as many houses as possible. In the morning the neighborhood is again quiet.  The Halloween decorations are damp and still. I’m already looking forward to next year.       jpnugent   🙂

3 Halloween Notes

Clipart - Cat and Jack-O-Lantern

1–My sister Carol had a costume party in our basement when she was about 16.  Hard to understand why Dad permitted that and why Mom (RN) permitted each guest  be welcomed to a collapsing chair.

One kid, an uppity girl, came in a dress consisting entirely of little black beads which flew  all over the basement when her uppity butt hit the concrete floor. As she was put back on her feet, she wailed, “Oh, you naughty children!”

2–When Joanne and I were married, we set up housekeeping in a third floor apartment in a court building in south Evanston, Illinois.  She got very excited about our first Halloween there–bought lots of candy, devised costumes for both of us, decorated the front door of our apartment. And no one came!

We might have noticed there were few houses in the neighborhood, no kids in the park.   In1956, the black kids who lived across the street had no idea how welcome they would be at our door.

3–Alice loves Halloween and sees usually about 60 kids. They don’t get candy here.  They get to choose from a collection  of little stuffed animals and other toys Alice has won on the arcade at the Circus, Circus casino in Las Vegas.

One year, Alice passed up Halloween at home for a complex trip focused on a total solar eclipse in the South Pacific. I took it on myself to cover hero trick or treat job.

I had a long, gray, hooded robe for my costume. I drew red lines on a pair of examination gloves, and bought a black face mask.  I changed the porch lights to orange.  And I prepared to give away a lot of little pieces of  Vegas junk.

I enjoyed seeing all the kids and chatting with their parents.

Then came the headless butler, about 11 years old, alone except for an adult who tried to go unnoticed. From below the stairs, he said his “trick or treat”.  I pointed at him and said slowly in a gruff voice, “You don’t have a mouth.  You can’t eat candy.”

He said, “Oh yes I can” and started to pull off his costume.  I shouted, “Don’t do that” and took him in to choose a toy.

Alice told me later that I might better have said, “What a wonderful costume! However can you eat candy?”

 

 

 

New Apple Store Kills Birds

 

New Apple store to dim lights at night after group says birds are flying into its glass

Blair Kamin

Blair KaminContact ReporterChicago Tribune  10.30.17 (I like  Blair Kamin and his work on buildings and related matters in the  Trib. He’s written several books, a couple related to Chicago.  RJN)  See note below.

Facing criticism from wildlife groups who say its glassy new Chicago store is causing deadly bird strikes, Apple plans to dim the store’s lights Friday night, a company spokesman said, and will continue to do so during the fall migration season.

Members of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, a volunteer group that rescues migrating birds that collide with buildings, have said they’ve found dead birds at the Apple store since it opened Oct. 20. The group blames the store’s exterior glass walls and night lighting. At night, according to experts, birds often become disoriented by city lights, then crash into buildings and fall to the ground.

(See also article on bird workers with 2 video links in this blog.)

In response to the criticism, Nick Leahy, a spokesman for the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer-maker, said Friday: “Starting tonight, at least until we can get through the migratory season, we will get the lights down as much as can overnight.”

Located at 401 N. Michigan Ave., the store is on the north bank of the Chicago River and not far from the lakefront, a major bird migratory route.

The store’s manager, Leahy said, “acknowledged that there had been bird strikes, but it wasn’t a larger number.”

The city of Chicago has a “Lights Out” program that encourages the owners and managers of high-rises to turn off or dim decorative lights. The Apple store is two stories tall.

A city website describing the “Lights Out” program says: “Thousands of migratory birds are settling to rest in the early morning hours, seeking shelter and food after their long migratory journey. They can collide with lighted glass as they try to enter the space behind it. Research has shown that birds do not see glass.”

London-based Foster + Partners designed the $27 million store, whose facade consists of huge sheets of floor-to-ceiling glass. The firm’s chief designer on the project, Stefan Behling, said the architects had studied the possibility of bird strikes and had concluded that it would not be a problem.

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Blair Kamin is the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of Amherst College and the Yale School of Architecture, he holds honorary degrees from Monmouth University and North Central College, where he serves as an adjunct professor of art. Kamin has lectured widely and has discussed architecture on numerous programs, from ABC’s “Nightline” to NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He is the winner of more than 40 awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, the George Polk Award for Criticism and the American Institute of Architects’ Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement. He has twice been a Pulitzer Prize juror. Kamin lives in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette with his wife, Chicago Tribune writer Barbara Mahany. They have two sons, Will and Teddy.   Amazon.com 

bkamin@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @BlairKamin

Youth and Age

 

I dedicate this to my children who think I may have lost a step or two on the basketball court.  JC

The old crow is getting slow.
The young crow is not.
Of what the young crow does not know
The old crow knows a lot.

At knowing things the old crow
Is still the young crow’s master.
What does the slow old crow not know?
-How to go faster.

The young crow flies above, below,
And rings around the slow old crow.
What does the fast young crow not know?
-Where to go.

John Ciardi

Ciardi made a book called Limericks Too Gross with Isaac Asimov in which they say that a limerick must be just a little dirty.

For a long time, Ciardi had a 5-minute show  on  National Public Radio about words and meanings.  On one show he explained how his Italian name had evolved from the German Gebhardt–he was descended from the Germans who invaded northern Italy.

RJN

 

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I admire lithe young ladies
(especially their thighs)
striding by my winter window,
seriously postponing age and death                                                                                        or what may be.
And I’m so glad that I’m alive
this day and upstairs there’s
a warm and wise old woman,
seriously postponing me.

RJN

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Youth and Age

by George (Lord) Byron
THERE'S not a joy the world can give like that it takes away 
When the glow of early thought declines in feeling's dull decay; 
'Tis not on youth's smooth cheek the blush alone which fades so fast  
But the tender bloom of heart is gone ere youth itself be past.
 

Then the few whose spirits float above the wreck of happiness  
Are driven o'er the shoals of guilt or ocean of excess: 
The magnet of their course is gone or only points in vain 
The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never stretch again.
 

Then the mortal coldness of the soul like death itself comes down; 
It cannot feel for others' woes it dare not dream its own;  
That heavy chill has frozen o'er the fountain of our tears  
And though the eye may sparkle still 'tis where the ice appears.
 

Though wit may flash from fluent lips and mirth distract the breast  
Through midnight hours that yield no more their former hope of rest  
'Tis but as ivy-leaves around the ruin'd turret wreathe 15 
All green and wildly fresh without but worn and gray beneath.
 

Oh could I feel as I have felt or be what I have been  
Or weep as I could once have wept o'er many a vanish'd scene  
As springs in deserts found seem sweet all brackish though they be  
So midst the wither'd waste of life those tears would flow to me!

George Lord Byron

 

Where to Give in Disaster Relief

 

Members of the National Guard distributing water and food on Sunday in San Juan, P.R., after Hurricane Maria. CreditCarlos Giusti/Associated Press

First, there was Hurricane Harvey. Then came Irma, Jose and Maria. In between, there were floods, earthquakes and wildfires, too.

In the span of about one month, a large area of the world was hammered by natural disasters, leaving behind death and devastation. The rubble is being cleared, millions are without power, and drinkable water can be hard to find.

With such widespread need, it can be hard to know how to help. Who needs it? What do they need? Which groups can you trust?

The Times published a series of guides with tips on finding local charities and avoiding fraud as readers sought ways to help people in Texas and elsewhere after Hurricane Harvey, then Floridians and others in the path of Hurricane Irma, the victims of the earthquakes in Mexico and, most recently, residents of Puerto Rico and other islands hit by Hurricane Maria. Such lists are, by necessity, incomplete.

“It can be a lot for a donor,” said Katie Rusnock, who leads a team that tracks wrongdoing at Charity Navigator, which grades nonprofits on their financial health and transparency.

But there are ways to guide your thinking, she and others said. Here are a few things to consider as you decide how best to help victims of natural disasters.

Identify your values before donating

When considering how to give, it’s helpful to start by asking what motivates you.

“You pick the issue with your heart and you pick the organization with your head,” said Jacob Harold, the chief executive of GuideStar, a nonprofit that publishes information about charities in an effort to promote transparency.

People with ties to a region may want to give locally. Animal lovers may want to give to a shelter. Others may want their money directed to certain groups of people, like children, or causes, like public health.

Many opt to leave the decision to the charities themselves, which is sometimes best: “If you’re trusting them with your money, you should trust them to spend it well,” Mr. Harold said.

Decide how to spend your time

Your time is a resource, too, and you should decide how you want to spend it.

Some people prefer to deeply research the charities they support, while others simply want to know they’re giving to a trustworthy group.

For those who prefer the latter, Mr. Harold recommends groups like Global Giving, which collects donations and redistributes the funds to vetted, locally focused organizations.

Do your research before you give

Evaluating a charity is often the most daunting part of donating, but it doesn’t have to be.

In addition to GuideStar and Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch offer helpful resources.

Tax filings and other documents can shed light on a group’s operations, but donors should look beyond the numbers, too, experts said. That includes reviewing an organization’s website, annual report, governing board and mission.

“If the organization is only talking about the problem, but not talking about how the work they do leads to solutions to that problem, that is a red flag,” Mr. Harold said.

Ask questions about the charity, including how much experience it has in disaster relief, how long it’s been around, how it measures accomplishments, and how others in the field talk about it.

He also said that too much focus is often placed on overhead, a measure of administrative and fund-raising costs. While it can signal inefficient spending or, worse, fraud, some overhead is necessary to support a nonprofit’s long-term viability.

Cash is often the best way to help

It may feel impersonal, but money is often the most useful form of donation. Unlike goods, financial gifts have no associated transportation costs.

A $20 pair of jeans, for example, would cost about $165 to ship from Washington, D.C., to the capital of Honduras, according to an online calculator developed by the University of Rhode Island. That money could instead be used locally to buy 24 blankets, nearly 33,000 liters of water or a variety of other supplies, according to the calculator.

There are secondary benefits, too: With cash, relief organizations can support local economies, according to the Center for International Disaster Information, which was created by the United States Agency for International Development.

Follow up later. Recovery takes a long time.

Donations surge in the immediate aftermath of disasters, but recoveries unfold over a much longer timeline.

For that reason, donors should consider sustained involvement with charities, whether that involves checking up on how resources were spent and how needs have changed weeks or months down the line or making automatic monthly contributions.

“Becoming a repeated supporter is super helpful to the organizations,” Ms. Rusnock said.

Exotic Hunting in Texas

When  I said that I’d seen giraffe run along the fence line as I’d made my nearly weekly Harley run from Austin to San Antonio, I wasn’t exaggerating.   Jpnugent
Photo

A giraffe named Buttercup moved closer to Buck Watson, a hunting guide, as he looks on from a vehicle at the Ox Ranch in Uvalde, Tex. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

UVALDE, Tex. — On a ranch at the southwestern edge of the Texas Hill Country, a hunting guide spotted her cooling off in the shade: an African reticulated giraffe. Such is the curious state of modern Texas ranching, that a giraffe among the oak and the mesquite is an everyday sort of thing.

“That’s Buttercup,” said the guide, Buck Watson, 54.

In a place of rare creatures, Buttercup is among the rarest; she is off limits to hunters at the Ox Ranch. Not so the African bongo antelope, one of the world’s heaviest and most striking spiral-horned antelopes, which roams the same countryside as Buttercup. The price to kill a bongo at the Ox Ranch is $35,000.

 

Photo

Water buffaloes walked across a dam at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Himalayan tahrs, wild goats with a bushy lion-style mane, are far cheaper. The trophy fee, or kill fee, to shoot one is $7,500. An Arabian oryx is $9,500; a sitatunga antelope, $12,000; and a black wildebeest, $15,000.

“We don’t hunt giraffes,” Mr. Watson said. “Buttercup will live out her days here, letting people take pictures of her. She can walk around and graze off the trees as if she was in Africa.”

The Ox Ranch near Uvalde, Tex., is not quite a zoo, and not quite an animal shooting range, but something in between.

 

Photo

Mr. Watson points out a Roan on the Ox Ranch. Roan, originally from Africa, never shed their horns, making them attractive trophies for hunters any time of year. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The ranch’s hunting guides and managers walk a thin, controversial line between caring for thousands of rare, threatened and endangered animals and helping to execute them. Some see the ranch as a place for sport and conservation. Some see it as a place for slaughter and hypocrisy.

 

The Ox Ranch provides a glimpse into the future of the mythic Texas range — equal parts exotic game-hunting retreat, upscale outdoor adventure, and breeding and killing ground for exotic species.

Ranchers in the nation’s top cattle-raising state have been transforming pasture land into something out of an African safari, largely to lure trophy hunters who pay top-dollar kill fees to hunt exotics. Zebra mares forage here near African impala antelopes, and it is easy to forget that downtown San Antonio is only two hours to the east.

 

Photo

A worker replaces a light bulb at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The ranch has about 30 bongo, the African antelopes with a trophy fee of $35,000. Last fall, a hunter shot one. “Taking one paid their feed bill for the entire year, for the rest of them,” said Jason Molitor, the chief executive of the Ox Ranch.

To many animal-protection groups, such management of rare and endangered species — breeding some, preventing some from being hunted, while allowing the killing of others — is not only repulsive, but puts hunting ranches in a legal and ethical gray area.

“Depending on what facility it is, there’s concern when animals are raised solely for profit purposes,” said Anna Frostic, a senior attorney with the Humane Society of the United States.

 

Photo

Mr. Watson inspects an Axis buck shot the day before by an 8-year-old boy. Trophy carcasses are hung in a cooler room before being transported from the ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Hunting advocates disagree and say the breeding and hunting of exotic animals helps ensure species’ survival. Exotic-game ranches see themselves not as an enemy of wildlife conservation but as an ally, arguing that they contribute a percentage of their profits to conservation efforts.

“We love the animals, and that’s why we hunt them,” Mr. Molitor said. “Most hunters in general are more in line with conservation than the public believes that they are.”

Beyond the financial contributions, hunting ranches and their supporters say the blending of commerce and conservation helps save species from extinction.

 

Photo

Various bovine species, including Watusi cattle and buffalo, eat from a hay drop at the Ox Ranch.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Wildlife experts said there are more blackbuck antelope in Texas than there are in their native India because of the hunting ranches. In addition, Texas ranchers have in the past sent exotic animals, including scimitar-horned oryx, back to their home countries to build up wild populations there.

“Ranchers can sell these hunts and enjoy the income, while doing good for the species,” said John M. Tomecek, a wildlife specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Animal-rights activists are outraged by these ranches. They call what goes on there “canned hunting” or “captive hunting.’’

 

Photo

To ensure a healthy herd, the Ox Ranch introduces fresh blood lines using animals bred on other ranches. April Molitor watches with her father, Jason Molitor, the chief executive of the Ox Ranch, as newly arrived blackbuck antelope are released from a trailer. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“Hunting has absolutely nothing to do with conservation,” said Ashley Byrne, the associate director of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “What they’re doing is trying to put a better spin on a business that they know the average person finds despicable.”

A 2007 report from Texas A&M University called the exotic wildlife industry in America a billion-dollar industry.

At the Ox Ranch, it shows. The ranch has luxury log cabins, a runway for private planes and a 6,000-square-foot lodge with stone fireplaces and vaulted ceilings. More animals roam its 18,000 acres than roam the Houston Zoo, on a tract of land bigger than the island of Manhattan. The ranch is named for its owner, Brent C. Oxley, 34, the founder of HostGator.com, a web hosting provider that was sold in 2012 for more than $200 million.

 

Photo

Three kangaroos that live in front of the Ox Ranch lodge are mainly for attraction purposes and are not hunted. They greet arriving guests and are often fed corn by the newcomers and by guides.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“The owner hopes in a few years that we can break even,” Mr. Molitor said.

Because the industry is largely unregulated, there is no official census of exotic animals in Texas. But ranchers and wildlife experts said that Texas has more exotics than any other state. A survey by the state Parks and Wildlife Department in 1994 put the exotic population at more than 195,000 animals from 87 species, but the industry has grown explosively since then; one estimate by John T. Baccus, a retired Texas State University biologist, puts the current total at roughly 1.3 million.

 

Photo

A hunting blind stands among trees near a game feeder at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The Ox Ranch needs no local, state or federal permit for most of their exotic animals.

State hunting regulations do not apply to exotics, which can be hunted year-round. The Fish and Wildlife Service allows ranches to hunt and kill certain animals that are federally designated as threatened or endangered species, if the ranches take certain steps, including donating 10 percent of their hunting proceeds to conservation programs. The ranches are issued permits to conduct activities that would otherwise be prohibited under the Endangered Species Act if those activities enhance the survival of the species in the wild. Those federal permits make it legal to hunt Eld’s deerand other threatened or endangered species at the Ox Ranch.

 

Photo

Mr. Watson petted Buttercup the giraffe. Hunters are not allowed to shoot the ranch’s giraffes.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Mr. Molitor said more government oversight was unnecessary and would drive ranchers out of the business. “I ask people, who do you think is going to manage it better, private organizations or the government?” Mr. Molitor said.

Lawyers for conservation and animal-protection groups say that allowing endangered animals to be hunted undermines the Endangered Species Act, and that the ranches’ financial contributions fail to benefit wildlife conservation.

“We ended up with this sort of pay-to-play idea,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is absolutely absurd that you can go to a canned-hunt facility and kill an endangered or threatened species.”

 

Photo

Wildebeest run free on the Ox Ranch’s rangeland. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The creatures are not the only things at the ranch that are exotic. The tanks are, too.

The ranch offers its guests the opportunity to drive and shoot World War II-era tanks. People fire at bullet-ridden cars from atop an American M4 Sherman tank at a shooting range built to resemble a Nazi-occupied French town.

“We knew the gun people would come out,” said Todd DeGidio, the chief executive of DriveTanks.com, which runs the tank operation. “What surprised us was the demographic of people who’ve never shot guns before.”

 

Photo

A World War II-era M4 Sherman tank. The ranch also has a shooting range built to resemble a Nazi-occupied French town. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Late one evening, two hunters, Joan Schaan and her 15-year-old son, Daniel, rushed to get ready for a nighttime hunt, adjusting the SWAT-style night-vision goggles on their heads.

Ms. Schaan is the executive director of a private foundation in Houston. Daniel is a sophomore at St. John’s School, a prestigious private school. They were there not for the exotics, but basically for the pests: feral hogs, which cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage annually in Texas.

“We are here because we both like to hunt, and we like hunting hogs,” Ms. Schaan said. “And we love the meat and the sausage from the hogs we harvest.”

 

Photo

Joan Schaan takes a photo of her son Daniel Schaan, 15, as he prepares for a night boar hunt.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Pursuing the hogs, Ms. Schaan and her son go off-roading through the brush in near-total darkness, with a hunting guide behind the wheel. Aided by their night-vision goggles, they passed by the giraffes before rattling up and down the hilly terrain.

Daniel fired at hogs from the passenger seat with a SIG Sauer 516 rifle, his spent shell casings flying into the back seat. Their guide, Larry Hromadka, told Daniel when he could and could not take a shot.

No one is allowed to hunt at the ranch without a guide. The guides make sure no one shoots an exotic animal accidentally with a stray bullet, and that no one takes aim at an off-limits creature.

One of the hogs Daniel shot twitched and appeared to still be alive, until Mr. Hromadka approached with his light and his gun.

 

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Larry Hromadka, a hunting guide, fires his pistol to end the suffering of a feral hog shot and wounded during a night boar hunt. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Hundreds of animals shot at the ranch have ended up in the cluttered workrooms and showrooms at Graves Taxidermy in Uvalde.

Part of the allure of exotic game-hunting is the so-called trophy at the end — the mounted and lifelike head of the animal that the hunter put down. The Ox Ranch is Graves Taxidermy’s biggest customer.

“My main business, of course, is white-tailed deer, but the exotics have kind of taken over,” said Browder Graves, the owner.

Photo

Many trophy carcasses from the Ox Ranch are taken to Graves Taxidermy in Uvalde for mounting. Meg Rowland, a newly hired assistant, works on a customer order in the workshop.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

He said the animal mounts he makes for people were not so much a trophy on a wall as a symbol of the hunter’s memories of the entire experience. He has a mount of a Himalayan tahr he shot in New Zealand that he said he cannot look at without thinking of the time he spent with his son hunting up in the mountains.

“It’s God’s creature,” he said. “I’m trying to make it look as good as it can.”

 

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White stags and white elk graze on the ranch at sunset. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Small herds passed by the Jeep being driven by Mr. Watson, the hunting guide. There were white elk and eland, impala and Arabian oryx.

Then the tour came to an unexpected stop. An Asiatic water buffalo blocked the road, unimpressed by the Jeep. The animal was caked with dried mud, an aging male that lived away from the herd.

“The Africans call them dugaboys,” Mr. Watson said. “They’re old lone bulls. They’re so big that they don’t care.”

The buffalo took his time moving. For a moment, at least, he had all the power.

 

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An ostrich and grazing fallow deer are illuminated by the headlights of a ranch vehicle.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times
Correction: October 19, 2017 
A photo caption with an earlier version of this article misidentified the animals walking across a dam at the Ox Ranch. They are water buffaloes, not zebus.

 

 

Danger at the Ballpark

 

 

Image result for photo speeding baseball

Pitchers are throwing the ball 90 – 100 miles per hour now. A 90-mph fastball can leave the bat at 110 mph. source

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Anyone who pays some attention to baseball knows that it’s dangerous to get near a game.  That’s why batters wear helmets and pads.  And it’s one reason spectators pay attention to every pitch and protect themselves. Also they want the ball. Also the sharp pieces of broken bats fly into the crowd.

While I was driving past Louisville once, I heard on the radio a man from the Louisville Slugger company who said major league players use 80 bats in a season.

These dangers are greatest in the lower, very expensive seats, though we’ve seen  foul balls come toward us on the upper deck.

I feel sorry for anyone hurt anywhere, maybe especially kids; but I feel no support for lawsuits demanding damages from the team owners.

Why do people take small children and even infants into an area swarming with people, then into a park with 40,000 people, some drinking beer and/or margaritas, busy with hot dogs, tacos, and nachos ?  My authoritative belief  is that most kids under 9 or 10 can’t or don’t want to focus on the process of the game or to be alert to dangers of various kinds, including  hygiene in the busy washrooms.  Is that changing table clean?  The kids can learn the game from television as well or better than in the park.  Always with parental help, of course.

When a hot line drive heads into the stands, will you always see it coming?  You’d better.

You can’t expect to collect on an injury that is your own damn fault.

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From the Trib:

Spectators hurt by baseballs face long odds in court
State law shields teams from litigation

By Steve Schmadeke and Elvia Malagon,  Chicago Tribune 10.14.17
Juanita DeJesus never saw the ball coming.
DeJesus was sitting along the first base line at a 2009 minor-league baseball game in Gary when an infield fly struck her in the face just as she looked up to spot the ball. The impact broke several bones in her face and resulted in permanent blindness in her left eye.
Her injuries were strikingly similar to those recently suffered by John “Jay” Loos, a Schaumburg man who filed a negligence lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs this week after also being blinded in his left eye when he was hit by a foul ball while sitting in a seat down the first base line in the outfield at Wrigley Field in late August.
“I had no idea that you were subjected to such missiles and the rate of speed that a ball can come into the stands,” Loos, 60, told reporters Monday. “In the stands, you know, you are sitting behind the plate, you can’t tell when the ball is contacted, you can’t tell where the ball is going, you can’t tell the rate of speed it’s going until it’s on top of you.”
But like DeJesus, whose lawsuit was dismissed outright by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2014, Loos faces long odds of winning in court.
Not only have judges across the country thrown out such lawsuits, but Illinois is one of four states where the legislature enshrined into law the so-called Baseball Rule, which absolves stadium owners of liability so long as an adequate number of seats — largely in the area looking onto home plate — are behind protective netting. Fans who sit elsewhere are presumed to have willingly assumed the risk of being hit by a ball or bat, according to the rule, which is now more than a century old.
The debate over increased safety — versus fans enjoying unobstructed views and the chance to catch a souvenir foul ball — was reignited in September when a little girl was hit by a rocketing foul ball at Yankee Stadium, prompting Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, to say the league is looking again at extending protective netting.
“The events at yesterday’s game involving a young girl were extremely upsetting for everyone in our game,” Manfred said in a statement, adding: “We will redouble our efforts on this important issue.”
In 2015, the league issued recommendations that ballparks have protective netting between the dugouts for any field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate. Those recommendations prompted the Cubs to extend the netting out that distance at Wrigley Field before the 2016 season, a Cubs spokesman has said.
The team’s president of business operations, Crane Kenney, told WSCR-AM 670 The Score last month that the Cubs would add at least 30 more feet of netting before next season as Wrigley Field renovations move the dugouts farther down the foul lines. Last year the White Sox also extended netting at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Beyond the Baseball Rule, legal obstacles include difficulty proving that spectator injuries are so commonplace that the courts should intervene. Last year, a federal judge in California threw out a class-action lawsuit against MLB filed by two fans who argued protective netting should be strung up along the entire length of the foul lines at all stadiums. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show they and any other fans faced enough risk of injury to give them legal standing to sue.
In Loos’ case, his attorney argues there are two exceptions in the law that could allow them to win the lawsuit. He hopes to convince a judge that the MLB isn’t covered by Illinois’ stadium owner liability law and that the Cubs’ conduct in failing to install netting was reckless — both high hurdles. Another injured fan who alleged the Cubs recklessly removed netting behind home plate in 1992 to make way for skyboxes saw his case dismissed, records show.
“It’s obvious that the Cubs have known people are being seriously injured — it’s happened there before,” said Loos’ attorney, Colin Dunn. “It’s at least going to be a jury question as to whether this was willful and wanton conduct.”
But Dunn indicated the case may get settled. “I got a feeling that they want to talk to us,” he said of the Cubs, whom he reached out to before filing suit. “They do care about their fans. I’m hopeful that they’ll do the right thing.”
A Cubs spokesman declined to comment but directed a reporter to the statement issued by the team Monday that said “the safety of our fans is paramount to a great game day experience.”
It’s not publicly known whether these types of injuries are on the rise, though the class-action lawsuit alleged that they likely were, as pitching speeds go up and batted balls travel faster. A 2003 study found that about 35 fans were injured by foul balls per 1 million spectator visits to major league stadiums.
The risks of being hit by an errant ball or broken bat are low, according to lawsuits filed against other major league teams over injuries. But the injuries they cause can be catastrophic, especially to children.
A 7-year-old Cubs fan attending his first baseball game at Wrigley Field in 2008 was left with a fractured skull and swelling around his brain after being hit in the head by a line drive, the Tribune reported. There are no records indicating the family ever filed a lawsuit.
The Atlanta Braves reportedly settled a lawsuit recently filed by the father of a 6-year-old girl whose skull was fractured by a line drive in 2010.
But in an aside in her ruling to toss a California class-action lawsuit, the judge questioned why the league hadn’t done more to mitigate the danger to its youngest fans.
“Why Major League Baseball, knowing of the risk to children in particular, does little to highlight this risk to parents remains a mystery,” wrote Oakland U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in her ruling throwing out the class-action lawsuit over protective netting.
In 2014 a Bloomberg Businessweek report found that about 1,750 spectators are injured annually by baseballs that fly into the stands. Around 73 million people attend major league games each year.
Spokespeople for the Cubs and White Sox declined to provide figures on how many fans are similarly injured each year.
Figures unearthed in the class-action lawsuit show that during the 2015 season at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles an average of about two people were hurt by foul balls per game out of the 46,000 on average in attendance. In Seattle, about 300 people attending Mariners games were injured by errant baseballs out of the 10 million who attended games between 2005 and 2009, according to an appeals court ruling upholding the dismissal of another fan injury case.
This week, the Chicago City Council passed a toothless resolution calling for the city’s major league teams to surpass MLB’s minimum standards for protective netting and instead “lead the league.” The resolution also asks the teams to “reconsider” the Baseball Rule that transfers liability for spectator injuries to fans who sit in unprotected areas.
In the early 1990s, two rare legal victories for spectators injured while attending separate Cubs and White Sox games may have been the impetus for an Illinois law that now protects stadium owners from similar suits.
Delbert Yates Jr., a fourth-grader, was sitting behind Wrigley Field’s home plate in 1983 when he was struck under his right eye by a Leon Durham pop-up seconds after betting his sister whether Durham would get a hit, court records show. His attorneys at trial presented evidence that the screen behind home base was inadequate, and the family won a $67,500 jury verdict.
A state appeals court upheld the verdict in 1992. That same year, another appellate panel reinstated a lawsuit filed by a woman whose jaw was broken at a White Sox game when she looked up from her popcorn and was struck in the face by a foul ball, finding that the issue of whether the Sox had provided proper warning of her injury risks was a trial issue.
Just six months later, state lawmakers stepped in and passed the Baseball Facility Liability Act, shielding stadium owners from most lawsuits by turning the Baseball Rule into state law. James Jasper, who was struck by a foul ball at a Cubs game, filed a lawsuit over his injury and argued the new law was an unconstitutional handout to stadium owners. But in 1999 an appellate court upheld the law and the lower-court dismissal of Jasper’s lawsuit, essentially ending the legal issue in Illinois.
Outside of Wrigley Field during a recent scheduled playoff game, many fans sided with the Cubs organization on the issue of fan injuries. Among them was Naomi Rodriguez, 56, of Wrigleyville, who said spectators must pay attention to flying balls and bats.
“When you walk in the park, you have to know that this can happen,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just what happens, but I love my Cubbies. I back them up 100 percent.”
Others welcomed more protective netting at Wrigley Field. Mike Ford, 46, of Crown Point, said he believes fans are assuming the risk of being injured by sitting in areas where foul balls typically land. Standing outside of Wrigley Field with his 11-year-old son, Ford said the risk of being hit with one of the balls is one of the reasons why he buys seats in the terrace reserved outfield area.
He would like to see the spectator netting extended at the ballpark, which would expand his seating options.
“I’d be willing to go down to that section if I had the opportunity to,” he said.
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